Monday, January 31, 2011

Sentences that Sing

All writers love the language, and all writers love when other writers blow them away with great writing. I ran across a couple of Stanley Fish pieces recently that had several samples of great writing. The first was a column where he laid out his "favorite five sentences." Well, OK. This seems a bit much, but it is fodder for a column.* Of course such judgments are eminently challengeable. And I'm sure if you want to take the time to think about it or just start randomly looking up sentences from your favorite writers, you can easily come up with five of your own . . . which would be just as arbitrary as these are. But that's not the point. Anyway, here are Fish's five favorite sentences. He's heavy on the heavy classic stuff, you'll note.

  1. John Bunyan (from The Pilgrim's Progress, 1678): "Now he had not run far from his own door, but his wife and children perceiving it, began crying after him to return, but the man put his fingers in his ears, and ran on, crying, Life! Life! eternal life."
  2. Jonathan Swift (from A Tale of a Tub, 1704): "Last week I saw a woman flayed, and you will hardly believe how  much it altered her appearance for the worse." 
  3. Walter Pater (from The Renaissance, 1873): "To such a tremulous wisp constantly re-forming itself on the stream, to a single sharp impression, with a sense in it, a relic more or less fleeting, of such moments gone by, what is real in our lives fines itself down." 
  4. Ford Madox Ford (from The Good Soldier, 1915): "And I shall go on talking in a low voice while the sea sounds in the distance and overhead the great black flood of wind polishes the bright stars." 
  5. Gertrude Stein (from Lectures in America, 1935): "When I first began writing I felt that writing should go on I still do feel that it should go on but when I first began writing I was completely possessed by the necessity that writing should go on and if writing should go on what had commas and semi-colons to do with it what had commas to do with it what had periods to do with it what had small letters and capitals to do with writing going on which was at the time the most profound need I had in connection with writing."
Part of the game here is to figure out why he chose these sentences. So go figure, and then if you want to find out why, check out the full article.

This column prompted a flood of favorite sentences from readers. I'll post the three best (according to Fish) in another post . . . and I might even try to give you a few of my own--betcha can't wait for that, eh?

*Which anyone who blogs daily will understand is a very good thing. :)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Guilt Trip

Visitors are great things. And if you live in Oklahoma, just the thought of anybody leaving where they are just to come visit you . . . well, that's a warm fuzzy that's really hard to describe. January has been a great month for us. Just last week, my brother and his wife were here from Louisiana. And on Wednesday evening my sister who lives in Salt Lake City came over. She's still here, out with my wife, daughter, and granddaughter on an all-girl jaunt to Guthrie, OK, which for those of you wondering what's there--well, for women it's got "shops," which is usually all you have to say about a place to make it attractive to them. But it also has the distinction of the being the first capital city of the Territory of Oklahoma. So it just tickles me to death that I have such a loving family, people who love us enough to travel halfway across the country to land in . . . Oklahoma! Just to see us. Touches the heart, really does.

But you know what else it does? Causes one to fall behind on blog entries. It's guaranteed: because your attention is on your guests, not on the routine. And the routine is a blog entry daily. Now, I know there are lots of people who would consider this downright silly. After all, it's not like thousands are out there hanging on my every daily word. Hell, no. I'd be happy if there were one person out there who idly wonders now and again what I'm scribbling. But that's not it. It's the obsessive part of me that insists every day without a blog entry is a day for guilt. So yep, I confess, that even when you're not reading my drivel because I did not post that day, I'm feeling guilty for not posting another daily dollop of drivel. How pathetic is that?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Lest Any of Us Forget . . .

Sometimes scatological, 
politically incorrect commentary 
is exactly what's necessary.
This example would be good any day, 
but now that the Republicans are resurgent, 
and such madcap movements as the Tea Party insanity
are abroad in the land, it seems particularly appropriate.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Quixotic . . . what a fine word! I especially like it because it embodies the futility of  . . . what? Human endeavor? Planning for the future? American politics? War? All of the above? Yeah, probably. But what made me think of the word was this little article in The Smirking Chimp. All you half dozen regular readers know that I occasionally, and in fact just recently this time, go off on the idiocy of this country's drug policies. You all know the arguments: gargantuan waste of resources in a fruitless moral crusade that is failing at every juncture, overstuffed prisons, life's blood for the Mexican drug cartels, incubator of massive corruption up and down the government . . . well, the little piece in question has this short little plea (less than a minute) for consideration of legalization by yet another law enforcement official, who as a class are overwhelmingly in favor of legalization. They should know better than any of us how utterly futile our vaunted "war on drugs" has been.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The (Indebted) State of the Union

Susan wanted to watch the State of the Union address tonight. I wasn't particularly interested. I told her I knew what Obama was going to say. To wit: he'll brag about health care bill, he'll pump the war in Afghanistan, shout huzzahs for everyone in the military, and congratulate himself for getting out of Iraq (although we still have 50,000 troops there--I don't call that getting out. I call no troops there getting out.) He will also underscore the size of the national debt and propose ways to start lowering it. He will make it clear he will not touch social security and he'll be in favor of improving Medicare. Well, he said all these things, and to tell the truth he didn't say much more. The economy dominated the speech, and going on memory I cannot remember much in the way of specifics to deal with the deficit. He wants a freeze on federal spending for the next five years. That's not going to make the Republicans too happy. They want to take a meat ax to the budget. Obama says he will not sign any bills with earmarks in it . . . well, okay, but this is just nibbling.

First of all, I didn't hear anything--or I don't remember anything--about the recommendations the president's own deficit reduction committee (a copy of its report is here). As I recall, that committee prescribed some strong medicine, much stronger than I heard tonight. One thing is for certain: the Republicans are not going to be happy with this.

And I'm not happy with it either. And I'll tell you why: all these cuts (and all the slashing the Republicans want to do, except they include social security) do not touch the defense budget (a huge monstrosity that is eating us up), the homeland security budget (and nobody has a frigging clue really how much this and all its ancillary programs and agencies is costing us), and any of the myriad spy agencies. Moreover, there's nobody talking about this stuff. Now, the DoD has tried to head 'em off at the pass on cuts. Gates has dumped programs that the military doesn't want, etc. But nobody raises the fundamental question of why we require an empire's military, and why have we let the terrorists succeed in terrifying us so out of our wits that we throw money into war and "homeland security" like there were no other priorities that we ought to be funding?

Make no mistake about this, my friends: the corporate beast is still going to be fed by the federal budget. Their bucks are sacrosanct. It's the little people who are going to pay, as usual.

Monday, January 24, 2011

My Favorite Malcontent

I love quoting James Kuntsler. He's a man after my own heart. Pretty positive about what he thinks and not afraid to say so. He's got what I consider a tremendous gift for words which means I not only agree with him, but I relish the man's sinewy vocabulary, his highly metaphorical approach to the writer's craft, his slashing sarcasm, and studied cynicism about politicians and corporations. Here he is in his regular Monday jeremiad about our general state of affairs.
  The bloodbath in Tucson completely obscured a momentous development in Mr. Obama's executive sphere, when he brought on JP Morgan factotum William Daley as White House Chief of Staff, for Gawdsake, and nobody in the news media so much as coughed into his (or her) sleeve. He also hired recent Goldman Sachs errand boy Gene Sperling to direct the National Economic Council. At Goldman, Sperling was charged with running self-esteem workshops for Third Worlders - an obvious public relations ploy. You wonder now whether he'll be carting American "99-ers" off to the Aspen Institute for weekends of buffet line cruising and "ideating" - to use a popular new vapidity from the lexicon of Big Business.
     Last Thursday, Mr. Obama actually flew up to my home territory to visit the headquarters of General Electric and sign on its CEO, Jeffrey Immelt, as yet another White House special economic advisor. Notice, by the way, that GE was the recipient of untold billions of TARP pixie dust. I wonder if the president got a good look at GE's home base, Schenectady, New York, a once-vibrant industrial dynamo now so sclerotic that it makes the former soviet Magnetogorsks and Traktorgrads sound like El Dorados.
. . . .
  The appointments of Daley, Sperling, and Immelt show not just the total "capture" of Obama's government by sociopathic corporate interests (which, after all, have the sole mission of rewarding their shareholders, boards of directors, and executives), but it also shows the astounding poverty of imagination at the center of American political life. This is a fatal vacuum that invites something like revolution, because the only thing this vacuum seeks to do is suck things outside of itself into its own darkness. 
Now there's a substantial portion of our population . . . I should say a massive majority of our population who consider guys like Kuntsler (and me) old fuddy-duddies at best (and thus by definition too addled by years to offer judgment worth considering) and hopelessly-out-of-touch pessimists and nay-sayers. Why, don't you realize that American know-how and technology are going to solve all our energy problems? That the USA is Number One? That God loves us more than any other country? That if the whole world were more like us, we would not be having all these difficulties (which are temporary anyway). Well, I don't mind being called either, or anything in between. And all the protestations and shouts of "USA! USA! USA!" ain't changing a damn thing. We're on a downhill slide. The future for our children and grandchildren is frightful. And wishing otherwise ain't gonna make it so.

A Rare Double Dip

It's highly unusual for me to post twice to the blog in one day, but I've got to make an exception here. First, because I didn't post yesterday and I missed a day last week with my brother and sister-in-law visiting. And second, because I just read this, and I'm revolted, disgusted, and chagrined, but not at all surprised. Let me list for you the key items on the Republican agenda. (You can read the source article here.) Now, remember, these are the oh-so-earnest people who trumpeted their desperate concern for the burgeoning deficit and their unswerving and fierce commitment to job creation for all those Americans still suffering under- and unemployment from the now two-year downturn in the economy.

So what are these Republicans about? Well, they are all about cutting government spending. Everybody knows that this is going to provide jobs, right? That government spending is why the country is experiencing a so-called jobless recovery, i.e., more money for the filthy rich fat cats, in fact, more than before. And nothing for the middle class and working people but more squeeze on their already-scrimped budgets. So here's the GOP program to fix things for these suffering people. Ready? A spending bill that will eliminate these programs:
When did the arts and humanities and PBS get redefined as something a civilized society should not support? Well, friends, these things have been anathema to the religious Right for a long time. They are secular, you see, and by definition anti-God. Moreover, "people who support Republicans see little value in the arts, science, or education. Republicans have successfully made the connection between arts programs and the liberal elite, and in fact, eliminating programs like PBS and the Arts are programs that Newt Gingrich targeted in 1995." 

And it's certainly no surprise that the Republicans are kowtowing to the energy industry--why else go after the Energy Star program and fuel efficient cars? This is payback for all those millions of dollars the Koch brothers have poured into GOP coffers. And lest you think the liberal elite, whom the Republicans hate with a burning hatred, is the only target, be aware that Title X is aimed almost solely at low-income people.

From the article again: "The Republicans’ efforts are little more than a culture war meant to destroy an entire way of life in America at the behest of the energy industry and religious right. Republicans promised to create jobs during the midterm campaign, but the reality is they are only interested in eliminating programs that help the disadvantaged and enrich the oil industry. Although the American people said their priority was economic recovery and job creation, Republicans have not made any attempts at either."

We're in for the Bush years on steroids with these people. This is not what the American people voted for in November. But the American people were never the ones the Republicans were intent on helping.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

This Is a Good Thing

In its entirety, a post from Boing Boing with news of how the most daring drug policy in Europe is working:
Here's a good Boston Globe report on the first decade of Portugal's bold experiment with drug decriminalization and increased treatment. Ten years ago, Portugal -- whose drug problem had been spiraling out of control -- decided to treat drug addiction as a public health matter, not as a criminal matter. They decriminalized possession of drugs, and increased treatment available to addicts, and experienced an immediate, dramatic and sustained drop in negative effects from drug use -- though the use of some drugs went up.
In this sense, one drug policy expert noted, the Portuguese experiment has become a sort of Rorschach test -- in the dark blobs on the page, people can see whatever they want to see. But Tom McLellan, the former deputy director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President Obama, said he's happy for the conversation. While not in favor of decriminalization, McLellan believes that the American debate over drug reform has become too polarized, with one side calling for incarceration and the other for legalization. "And I just don't buy it," McLellan said. The answer is likely somewhere in the middle, he believes, and perhaps that's where we can learn something from Portugal, a country that at least tried something new.
"I like that approach to drug policy," McLellan said. "Policy is really a product. And like a product, policy can be made better with experimentation and honest evaluation, rather than stupid polemic polarization of ideology."

Friday, January 21, 2011

Bye Bye, Keith

Many nights I watch Keith Olberman's "Countdown" show on MSNBC. Tonight I did not because after my brother and sister-in-law left this morning for home, after several days Susan and I were in catch up mode with recorded shows. So I didn't see the bombshell he dropped tonight: he is leaving his program on MSNBC effective immediately. I'm sure the reason for this abrupt departure will be forthcoming soon. For the moment all there is a bare announcement that the network and Olberman had ended their contract.

I will miss him. I've heard the guy on the radio also. I can say this: a really forceful voice for the progressives of this country has been silenced. I cannot but think that the executives of Comcast, which recently purchased MSNBC had something to do with this. I'm sure the new guys really couldn't abide his outspoken and biting presentation of the news and his frequent "special comments" on major events. In other words, there's obviously been some kind of break between Olberman and his future bosses. One of the things that makes me fairly certain of this is that the network is vociferously denying it.

Good luck, Keith. I feel sure you're going to be landing on your feet somewhere, and I hope to hear and see you again soon.

Here's what Olberman had to say about the recent killings in Arizona:

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Not So Much

I just stumbled upon this piece.

I must confess that I'm not an accomplished movie critic. But I do know more than a little about the American Civil War. So let me say this about the following list. It is seriously flawed. Seriously, folks. It it were me, I'd include only two movies on this list, Glory and Gettysburg. Ken Burns' Civil War series is excellent, but it ain't a movie. Shouldn't even be on this list. Gods and Generals is a truly awful movie. How can anybody that saw it think otherwise? My recollection is that I could not wait for it to be over. It was that painful. I agree that Robert Duvall is a fabulous actor, but ten Robert Duvalls could not save this turkey.

The 5 best American Civil War movies capture the essence of our country's bloodiest war. The American Civil War is a filmmaker's gold mine. Bloody battles, families torn apart, gruesome medical scenes, and famous political figures. Plus, hoopskirts. What's not to love? 
  1. "Glory" - Stellar performances by Matthew Broderick, Morgan Freeman, Cary Elwes, and Denzel Washington make this historic flick about heroism and racial tension within the country's first black volunteer regiment a home run. The 1989 movie nabbed three Oscars, including a Best Supporting Actor award for Washington.  
  2. "Gods and Generals" – Made as a prequel to the wildly successful "Gettysburg", this movie trails General Stonewall Jackson. Jeff Daniels returns to reprise his role of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain alongside Robert Duvall as Robert E. Lee. Duvall's performance as Lee is the only thing that outshines the original "Gettysburg."  
  3. "Gone with the Wind" – You can't write a top American Civil War movie list and not include "Gone with the Wind". Fiddle-dee-dee! While the movie centers around feisty Southern belle Scarlett O'Hara instead of battlefields, the movie still provides an intimate look at the war-torn lives of those left behind.  
  4. Ken Burns' "The Civil War" – While this may not be a fictional movie, this documentary film provides the best and most fascinating historical account of the Civil War. Burns masterfully makes the wealth of historical documents seem riveting. A must-see for any history buff.  
  5. "Gettysburg" – In addition to being a moving account of the turning point of the American Civil War, the movie delivers some of the best monologues in film history. Don't let the movie's 261-minute length scare you away from one of the best war movies ever made.
Gone with the Wind is a kind of special case. As a movie, it's pretty damn good. But as history it's terrible. The moonlight and magnolias South that Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara inhabit never existed except in the minds of people who had to explain to the world and most of all to themselves that slavery was OK. There are more erroneous stereotypes in this movie than Carter has liver pills: happy darkies, evil carpetbaggers, malevolent Yankee drifters with naught but rapine on their minds, heroic Confederates, heroic Klansmen, etc., etc.

Bottom line: there aren't a whole bunch of good Civil War movies.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Pearls of Great Price
All Different, All Precious
My brother Ben and his wife Margaret arrived yesterday from Baton Rouge for a four-day visit. I'm really pumped. It brings me deep joy to see them, be with them. A good occasion for me to state that after chasing a lot of other stuff around for lo, these many years, wasting my time, I've finally reached the only conclusion it seems to me a sensible person must arrive at. There are only two important things in this life. Just two. Family and friends. There's no traditional treasure that comes even close in value. Not fame, fortune, or even health. Health you may have, even for a long time, but you will lose it. It's inevitable. Your family, your friends . . . these are lasting. These you do not lose. They are the pearls of great price. My dear family, all my dear friends. You are the blessings in my life. You grace it and lift me up.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Definitely a Good Thing

Who out there among us doesn't think the impending release by Wikileaks of a huge chunk of Swiss bank records is not a good thing? According to a story today in Raw Story, data from thousand of Swiss bank accounts will soon be released into cyberspace. Rudolf Elmer, a former employee of the Swiss bank Julius Baer "released two optical discs he said carried files showing massive, unmitigated tax evasion by American, Asian and European individuals and corporations. He said that many of the records dealt with accounts held by organized criminals, politicians and celebrities around the world." He says he opposes "the system [of secret banking]" which damages society. Well, I would think so.

Well, let me guess who doesn't think this is a good thing: Swiss banks, all banks, organized crimes, and the thousands upon thousands of fat cat tax dodgers. Now, I haven't yet seen reaction to this news--it's pretty fresh right now as I type. But can you imagine the howl of anguish that's going to arise from people who are about the be exposed? And the law suits? This in itself will be proof positive that the data needs to see the light of day. I shake my head almost daily over the myriad ways ordinary people are being screwed by rich people who refuse to acknowledge any debt whatsoever to the common good and who do everything in their power to avoid contributing to that good.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Didn't I Say . . .

Organized Idiocy
. . . that nothing would happen in the wake of the shootings in Tucson, Arizona, last week? Didn't I? Well, brothers and sisters, I was wrong. Way wrong, because the state of Arizona is taking definite steps in response the tragedy. A host of new bills expanding already insane gun laws are being proposed in the state's legislature. "I don't think it really changes anything," Republican state Sen. Ron Gould said of the mass shooting. "I don't see how gun control could have prevented that shooting unless you take guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens."

The head of the Arizona Citizens Defense League decried the "Nervous Nellies" who are concerned by a proposed law that would allow faculty and students to carry concealed weapons on campus. The Arizona Republicans, who control the state legislature, also have proposed laws "barring landlords and homeowner groups from restricting the right to bear arms in self defense, and expanding the current law that allows gun owners to display a weapon in self defense." And according to a spokesman the AZ Citizens Defense League, its "priority bill" hasn't been unveiled yet. Oh, goody! Can't wait to see that one.

Did you know that Arizona is one of three states allowing people to carry concealed weapons without getting training and a background check? It boggles my mind.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Who Could Doubt It? Even Then.

In a new book about his father the president, Ron Reagan says that he began exhibiting symptoms of Alzheimer's disease three years into his first term in the White House. This article has some excerpts from the book.

It turns out that the American people were lied to by the White House. (Now there's an unprecedented occurrence.) "President Reagan was said to have not experienced the 'tell-tale' signs of Alzheimer's until 1993, before his official diagnosis in late 1994. But if his son is correct, the history of a president lionized by virtually all of today's Republicans could come to be seen under a very different light."

Ya think? I thought the guy was half senile when he was elected in 1980, much less three years later. And I have to confess that until the advent of George W. Bush, the vile little pretender who occupied the White House for two long terms, I considered Reagan positively the dumbest guy ever to be president. I guess I'm going to have to cut him a little slack now. And then remember with a shiver that we had a really unstable guy at the helm for at least five years. Scary.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Word of the Day: Words Matter

"Words matter." You bet your sweet bippy they do. Hell, any poet, any serious writer, can tell you that. They matter a great deal. They can lift or lower, enrage, frighten, raise to the heights, bring one to tears, take you away to worlds that don't exist. "Words matter." We've been hearing this a lot lately. The news and blogosphere and TV are all still full of chatter about the horrific shootings in Tucson last Saturday. Among other things, the pundits, scribblers, and talking heads are considering the question of the quality and tone, especially the latter, of political discourse in this country. What we need they say, is more civility. To tell you the truth, I'm getting sick of hearing the word civility. We don't need more civility, although more of it would be nice; civility is nothing more than good manners. Good manners aren't going to get to the heart of the problem in this country. The heart of it is hate. And it ain't going away, I greatly fear. Sometimes I think we hate our domestic "enemies" more than we do all our invented foreign enemies.

Here is an article my son Stu sent me some days ago that I just got around to reading. This writer, William Rivers Pitt, says better exactly what I would say. And he minces no words. Here's the way his piece begins:

To:       Palin-lovers, Fox "News," the "mainstream" media, and the Far Right, et al. 
From: William Rivers Pitt
Date:   Monday 10 January 2011
Re:       The blood on your hands
Here's a key paragraph:

You false patriots who bring assault rifles to political rallies, you hack politicians and media personalities who lied through your stinking teeth about "death panels" and "Obama is coming for your guns" and "He isn't a citizen" and "He's a secret Muslim" and "Sharia Law is coming to America," you who spread this bastard gospel and you who swallowed it whole, I am talking to you, because this was your doing just as surely as it was the doing of the deranged damned soul who pulled the trigger.  The poison you injected into our culture is deeply culpable for this carnage.

There it is. The share of blame, the huge share, that the hate-mongers in this country have earned for this tragedy. I could not agree more with Pitt's assessment of this situation. Plus he points out something that may have escaped you. And that is the complicity of the mainstream news media in this horror. Have you noticed how swiftly the "truth" about the killer got out there, i.e., he is a deranged loner? Certainly not the inevitable spawn of the hate-churners on Fox and right-rant radio. Naw.

Think about it. How many times have you heard or read the commentators explicitly make the point that blaming the right-wing crazies of the media and their incessant hate speech, their never-ending stream of lies and distortions, their vicious character assassination of anyone on the left . . . how many times have these media mavens intoned the mantra that our poisoned, hate-twisted political speech had nothing to do with these killings? That it was the work of crazy man.

Well, yeah . . . but the lunatics are listening, Fox News, Beck, O'Reilly, Limbaugh, Coulter, and the rest of you despicable, opportunistic liars. And like Pitt, "I'm talking to you, "mainstream" media people, who created this atmosphere of desperate rage and total paranoia out of whole cloth because of your unstoppable adoration for spectacle, and ratings, and because the companies that own your sorry asses agree with the deranged cretins you helped make so famous and powerful." 

And those deranged cretins spew their hate bile into millions of minds. Every day. All day. It is a relentless stream. And this has nothing to do with atrocities like Tucson? Are you serious? Those of us who realize what's really happening have a good reason to be fearful. First of all, I think we're seriously outnumbered. For the pathetic yet dangerous population of dupes just seems to grow exponentially. And you better believe that this armed-to-the teeth bunch is getting more frustrated and angry by the hour. Do you think these post-Tucson bromides are going to cool them down? Do you think all the talk about "civility" is going shut Limbaugh, Savage, and Hannity up? How long before we have another Jared Lee Loughner with a Glock stride into an office building or crowd or church or school and blow people away right and left just for the sheer hell of it? For as sure as God made little green apples (as my Mom used to say), this is going to happen again. Count on it.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Conservatives Don't Like This
Tonight there was a house-packed memorial service on the campus of the University of Arizona in Tucson to honor the six people slaughtered, and the fourteen wounded on Saturday by a crazed shooter in that place. The place was packed. I forget the name of the building, but it's where they play basketball. About 13,000 people were there. All the political luminaries, including the president and Ms Obama, the entire Arizona congressional delegation, the state governor, Janet Nepolitano, former governor, Sandra Day O'Conner, former Supreme Court justice, and so forth.

TPM reports that the tee-shirt you see there on the left gave conservatives the red-ass. OK, now you tell me . . . what's so offensive about a blue tee-shirt that says "Together We Thrive Tucson & America"? I have to confess I'm so dense I just didn't appreciate the deep offensiveness of this tee-shirt until I read the piece and some of the comments thereto. I append the "explanation" for your edification.
The University Of Arizona did not immediately respond to requests for more information on the shirts, which are drawing fire in the conservative twitter- and blogosphere tonight. The White House did not respond to a request for comment. A person familiar with the event confirmed the university put the event together, and was responsible for t-shirts, tickets, fliers, etc.
"I'm having a physical reaction to the T-shirts," Amanda Carpenter, a speech writer for Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) tweeted tonight. "I'm tearing up. This feels wrong."
(The tweet has since been deleted.)
Other conservatives on Twitter shared in the sentiment. Some have already speculated the shirts were paid for with taxpayer dollars.
Michelle Malkin had earlier raised a rukus about the event's logo on her blog.
"Isn't the churning of the instant messaging machine a bit, well, unseemly?" she wrote. "Can't the Democrat political stage managers give it a break just once?"
Right-wing media star Tammy Bruce had some of the harshest attacks on the event and the crowd here in Tucson. She likened the event to the 2002 funeral for Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-MN), which conservatives at the time claimed was unfairly turned into a political rally by Wellstone's supporters.
"Massacre Rally Theatre is a complete abomination. Absolutely obscene," Bruce tweeted Wednesday.
I have just one question. WTF is wrong with these people?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What a Country!

What a country we are. What I'm about to tell you won't surprise those in class who have been paying attention. In the wake of the horrific shootings in Arizona on Saturday, guess what's one of the hottest selling products around in Arizona and other states? That's right: the Glock semi-automatic pistol that a lunatic used to kill six people and wound 14 more last Saturday.

According to one Arizona gun dealer: "When something like this happens people get worried that the government is going to ban stuff."

Chew on this:
One-day sales of handguns in Arizona jumped 60 percent to 263 on Jan. 10 compared with 164 the corresponding Monday a year ago, the second-biggest increase of any state in the country, according to Federal Bureau of Investigation data.
Handgun sales rose 65 percent to 395 in Ohio; 16 percent to 672 in California; 38 percent to 348 in Illinois; and 33 percent to 206 in New York, the FBI data show. Sales increased nationally about 5 percent, to 7,906 guns
I'm telling you, people, this nation is certifiably nuts.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Stand Up and Salute, You Patriots!

Is it not comforting to know that there are 270 million guns in this country--all wielded by 
lovers of the Constitution and the flag. Gives me the chills.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

This Insane Country

We are an insane society. After Saturday's shooting in Arizona, of which I'm sure you are all aware--Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, D-AZ, shot point-blank in the head by some miracle survived. She is in critical condition. But the shooting rampage killed 6 other people including a beautiful 9-year-old girl, only a year older than my beautiful, precious granddaughter. Here's pictures of the victims.

The shooter was a 22-year-old right wing nut case. It doesn't matter how many people madmen kill with guns, nothing is going to change. There will be the usual laments about violence--"There's no place for violence in a free society," the president says. But the insane sale of guns to perpetrate the violence to anybody who wants one will continue. On "60 Minutes" tonight there was a story about the mayor of some small city in Mexico being kidnapped and killed by one of the drug cartels. He left behind a wife and three children. The cartels are buying their weapons--military grade automatic weapons, plus everything lesser--in the U.S. We're drenched in killing, brothers and sisters.

I'm so upset about all this I'm incoherent.

UPDATE I: The New York Times has a host of articles on the Arizona shootings here.

UPDATE II: Somebody on FB posted this quote from Michael Moore: ""If a Detroit Muslim put a map on the web w/crosshairs on 20 pols, then 1 of them got shot, where would he be sitting right now? Just asking."

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Seize on Good News

I say grab onto it when you can. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates today announced that the Pentagon's gigantic, obscene, swollen, and fat-filled budget is going to slashed by $78 billion over the next five years. (See stories here and here.) That's about $15.6 billion a year, and for a budget of $553 billion--for FY 2012, and that doesn't include the special appropriations that pay for the obscene wars in the Middle East--that doesn't seem like much. At least not to me.

But, hey, it is in this time when the yahoos are taking over the House, the president is hiring a frigging banker as his chief of staff, and the country is about the be handed over lock, stock, and barrel to the corporations that we should be most grateful for the small favors.

These cuts are going to reduce the Army and the Marines. And they are going to also deep six several hugely expense and hugely unnecessary weapons systems.

So guess who's upset by the cuts? You guessed it. Those budget-cutting Republicans. What? they say. With China out there and Iran? and two wars going on? Why we need to keep the Pentagon bloated, they say. And so here we are. My guess is they are going to put as much of a monkey wrench in these plans as possible. Welcome to Republican rule, boys and girls. (And did you notice we already have potential enemies primed and waiting in the wings? This is why we will always be at war.)

Update I: Well, on second thought, I'm not all that thrilled. Oh, it's better than no cut at all, but it's really just a token. I discovered via an interview between SecDef Gates and Jim Lehrer on TV last evening that the Pentagon's budget, even with these cuts is still going to go up every year, just not by as much. And the troop level cuts, well, Gates says the number of troops are still going to be higher in both the Army and Marines than when he took over. So what this amounts to is a mostly-politically motivated move to forestall deeper cuts that would be required whenever this country decides it's time to get serious about saving its financial neck. And actually, it may never do that. I'm already sick of the Republican House and its posturing. What a crock!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Klee's Angel

Paul Klee's Angelus Novus (1920)
I came across this art while I was reading a lengthy piece on Truthout by Henry A. Giroux called "In the Twilight of the Social State: Rethinking Walter Benjamin's Angel of History." (It's quite good and it makes the point that you already have observed. I will summarize: a market-driven society is a heartless and cruel one. You can find the article here.) I was drawn to it by the overall thesis of the piece, which began like this:
By eviscerating public services and reducing them to a network of farmed-out private providers, we have begun to dismantle the fabric of the state. As for the dust and powder of individuality: it resembles nothing so much as Hobbes's war of all against all, in which life for many people has once again become solitary, poor and more than a little nasty.
But then Giroux shifts to a discussion of the German Jewish philosopher Walter Benjamin who wrote a "now famous" book, Thesis on the Philosophy of History. Are you wondering when I'm going to get to the angel? Here it comes.

In Benjamin's ninth thesis he comments Klee's angel. Thus:
"Angelus Novus" shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The Angel would like to stay, awaken the dead and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.
 I thought this was a really fascinating interpretation of this work. And that's why I'm sharing it with you. By the way, I went looking on the Net for additional interpretations, and after about five tries I gave it up. Everybody cites Benjamin.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Burn Baby Burn

Have you all heard that in the name of political correctness and trendy sensitivity, the word "nigger" is going to be taken out of Mark Twain's classics Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Read the story here. It will be replaced by the word "slave." This is the modern-day equivalent of the Puritanical/Victorian practice of covering innumerable marble and stone penises with fig leaves, in my humble opinion. Listen, there is always going to be somebody offended by great art. It's quite inevitable. Great art doesn't care. People with little bitty narrow minds care. Salacious, vulgar, and obscene material is one thing: society has the right to protect itself from these things in certain cases. But should censorship be imposed on writing because it contains words that the purveyors of taste consider offensive? I don't think so.

Ray Bradbury, the sf writer, who penned one of the most memorable works in that genre, Fahrenheit 451, which was about a society that ordered all books burned had this to say when he was asked whether his book should be sanitized so as not to offend the young readers of today. Here's part of his response:
There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches. Every minority, be it Baptist / Unitarian/ Irish / Italian / Octogenarian / Zen Buddhist/ Zionist/Seventh-day Adventist/ Women’s Lib/ Republican/  Mattachine/ Four Square Gospel feels it has the will, the right, the duty to douse the kerosene, light the fuse. Every dimwit editor who sees himself as the source of all dreary blanc-mange plain porridge unleavened literature, licks his guillotine and eyes the neck of any author who dares to speak above a whisper or write above a nursery rhyme.
This is what any author would say, isn't it? Tart, but true. Oh, Lord, preserve us from the True Believers who are bound and determined to make us all holy, even if it kills us.

UPDATE I: Here is another good article on this whole subject of bowdlerizing Huck Finn and other classics.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Justice Denied

James Kuntsler, with whom I agree on many things, was his usual bitingly sarcastic self this Monday. And I quote:
The larger riddle of life-in-our-time surrounds the absence of the rule of law in money matters. To say that people are actually running things out there doesn't mean that are running them effectively or optimally. The US Department of Justice, for example, appears to be led by a zombie, Attorney-General Eric Holder, somebody of this world but no longer quite in it, who is pioneering a new method of Zen law enforcement based on a maximum of doing and saying of nothing. Of course, my ongoing theory since the national election of 2008 is that Barack Obama has been warned repeatedly by many credible figures that any move to disturb the operations of banking would bring down such a wrathful ruin on this nation that he had no choice but to keep his hands off the levers of enforcement. In fact, it's the only theory that explains adequately the yawning gap between reality and the representation of it by those assumed to hold authority.
I've not been able to figure out why there's been no move by this Justice Department to prosecute much of anything really. Come on, quickly now. Tell me what the US Department of Justice has done since Obama took office? Not only is the rule of law absent in money matters, but also in the conduct of foreign policy. Think about it, for two years after the close of a virtually criminal administration's two terms, not only has there been no move to impose justice on the criminals, instead we have the spectacle of a supposedly Democratic administration embracing many of the Bush-era policies. That in itself should be a crime.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

And Now the Nopes

Continuing from yesterday with the same source, here's a list of predictions of science fiction writers for 2010 that did not come to pass. Just as an aside, you could probably list 100 things here. These guys are wrong more than they're right.

  • Flying cars--possible technically, but not socially
  • A Moon base (supposed to have this before the turn of the century or a couple of years later. The new target date for such a base is now 2069. I'll be 126 years old then, so I don't think I'll be around to see it.)
  • Anti-ageing pills (I'm not sure I would want to take them, if they existed. Little teeny repair robots courtesy of nanotechnology may be coming, but would you trust them messing around in your aorta?)
  • Trips to Jupiter (a long way off, at best)
  • Nuclear holocaust (This is the one I'm most happy about seeing on the list. The possibility of a general exchange of these weapons between the forces of light (USA) and the forces of darkness (USSR) is no longer with us, but now we have to be concerned about little gaggles of madmen [and women] terrorists who are itching to get hold of a nuke. And then use it.)
  • Virtual reality (We're a long way from Neuromancer.)
  • AI robot butlers and self-driving cars (Would be nice, don't you think?)
  • Computer overlords (no apparent danger of this for a long, long time. Humans will probably make the planet uninhabitable before something like this comes to pass. But maybe if not, the world will be perfectly habitable for them.)
  • Commercial supersonic air travel (My God! Can you imagine the airport and security hassles that this would cause? Actually we had this at one time--the Concorde. But the return of such elegant, hyper expensive birds is to say the least, not likely soon.)
  • Cheap, clean, unlimited energy (" Nikola Tesla’s dream of free and unlimited electricity seems even more impossible today than when he first proposed it in the early 20th century. Many of the wars on this small blue marble we call home are in large or small part over energy resources. Global climate change is intrinsically linked to the ways in which we produce energy. Whether it’s gas for your car or electricity for your house, we all spend a lot of money on energy. A limitless, non-polluting, inexpensive (or even free) energy source could completely transform humanity, taking us out of the energy dark age we live in now, and leading to a true peace on Earth and good will between all mankind. That’s my wintertime wish for the future. Do you have one?")
Yeah, I have one. World peace. If we did not spend such staggering amounts of money devising ways to kill fellow human beings, resources would be ample to hurry a lot of these unfulfilled predictions into reality.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Yeps . . .

This is the time of year for predictions. (And resolutions.) I ran across this article on Newsvine, and I thought it was interesting. Two lists: 10 things that science fiction predicted would happen that did and 10 things that science fiction predicted would happen that didn't. First the YEPS . . . did happen.
  • Airport x-ray scanners (And you know what an advance I think these are.)
  • Video phones
  • Alien life (Yes, I did a double take too . . . but what we're talking about here is a life form that's not carbon based, i.e., "a microbial life form that thrives on arsenic.")
  • 3D TVs (I'm not rushing out to get one.)
  •  Big Brother (Everybody's business is public, thanks to the Internet. This is not exactly Orwellian, but it's scary enough.)
  • Telepathy "Got a mobile phone and Bluetooth headset? Then you’re a telepath. Stay with me on this one. Telepathy is the ability to broadcast your thoughts across small or great distances to another persons mind instantaneously, seemingly without using your normal senses. With a wireless headset you can send thoughts (through speech) to anyone in the world almost instantaneously. Implant the headset behind your ears and mic at your throat, learn how to sub-vocalize (speaking with only your throat) and no one around you would hear. For all intents and purposes, telepathy. It makes me wonder if all of the crazy people wondering the streets muttering to themselves aren’t just early adopters." (a stretch)
  • A permanent space station
  • Tablet computers (Apparently, if my daughter and her family are any indication, as addicting as smart phones, too.)
  • The Web ("2010 has seen the widespread deployment of some important new technologies that will fundamentally change the way you view the Internet’s most popular offspring. “Web 2.0″ was really just a marketing ploy compared to how HTML5, CSS3, and the new web typography are shaking things up.")
  • Cyber Wars (Information warfare is a reality . . . but presently pretty hidden.)
Tomorrow, the NOPES. . . didn't happen. Happy New Year, everybody!