Thursday, October 27, 2005

IN MEMORIUM


Teresa Wright (1918-2005). She passed away this past March 6, but I heard nothing of it in the news.

She was one of my favorites from the black and white era, starring perhaps most famously as the outspoken Carol Beldon in the 1942 classic "Mrs. Miniver". My favorite of her performances, though, is in Hitchcock's "Shadow of a Doubt."

Beautiful. Classy. Intelligent. Witty. And a striking contrast to the trash we have today parading around on screen.

LOSING GAMBLE


Miers withdraws nomination to Supreme Court. Flanigan abandons bid for Deputy Attorney General. Brown gets hounded out of FEMA. Rove and Libby are likely to be indicted for leaking the name of covert CIA agent. And VP Cheney openly advocates torture, laying all his cards on the table regarding human rights and the dignity of human life itself. The house of cards seems a wee bit unstable.

It's a sad day for American political history and the integrity of our democracy.

EXQUISITE TORTURE

Paul Begala writes at TPM Cafe that the Bush/Cheney cabinet is deep in the throes of painful anticipation--I'm thinking of that stunning scene in Schindler's List when the SS officer attempts to shoot the rabbi in the head, but his pistol repeatedly jams. They are waiting, of course, for Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald to announce whether or not his grand jury will issue indictments. While I do admit to feeling a bit of Schadenfreude over the possibility that Karl Rove may be experiencing some much deserved low back pain, I have to agree with the Moose that ultimately the entire Plame Affair and the White House's trickery if and when laid open for all to see will not be a victory for Democrats or liberals, but instead yet another triumph of cynicism and distrust among voting Americans.

We now resume our regularly schedule revision of dissertation.

THURSDAY FUN WITH WORDS

As predicted here, Harriet Miers has withdrawn her nomination for the Supreme Court. CNN's John King reports that President Bush is "mad".

Would that be 'mad' as in American English mad, meaning angry or upset?
Or would that be 'mad' in British usage, meaning crazy, insane, mentally unstable?
You decide.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

TIPPING POINT

Back in 2000, author Malcolm Gladwell published a short book entitled Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. The title is self-explanatory. And his theory is applicable to everything from lice to levees. The maddening thing about a tipping point is that one doesn't know he's passed it until after the fact. Thus, critics of the incremental piling on can be and are branded pessimistic naysayers who are all talk and no action, a very effective strategy appealing to core psychological and emotional values about not just accomplishment but remaining in the arena of work and play. In other words, more than winning, we ultimately want just to stay in the game, not kicked out for whining.

With regard to the war in Iraq, advocates for invasion roundly silenced critics with the damning label 'unpatriotic', arguably one of the worst epithets that can be cast around in the public sphere. We've now reached the mark of 2000 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq, a number that is both arbitrary yet laden with emotional volatility. The patience for sacrifice is wearing thin among more and more Americans each day, and we may indeed be approaching the tipping point, tilting away for support to more and more dissent and perhaps even civil disobedience. But again, we won't know until after we've passed the point of no return.

It bears asking, though, how many young men and women have to die or be badly wounded before the Cheney Administration comes to the realization that we are indeed embroiled in an incremental war of attrition in Iraq? We now know that both President Johnson and his Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara kept ramping up American involvement in Vietnam for the sake of political image: Johnson did not want to appear weak in the Cold War or ambiguous on the question of communist aggression. At the same time, however, the limits of Johnson's commitment to the war--brought about by Republican isolationism, antiwar dissent, and simple economics--paved the way for a North Vietnamese victory. American involvement (timeline here), which began in 1961 and concluded with the inglorious departure of U.S. Marines from the rooftop of the U.S. embassy in 1975, reached its tipping point with the Tet Offensive in 1968. That's a sad and sobering seven years of costly descent down the mountain path of defeat.

Hawkish historians and political analysts like Michael Lind (who I often agree with on domestic issues), in his Vietnam: The Necessary War, have argued that U.S. involvement in Vietnam was a necessary and even vital aspect of the Cold War; it was a conflict that ultimately halted the spread of communism throughout much of Southeast Asia through the psychology of horror. I find this argument unconvincing. But even if this were accurate, had communism continued its relentless spread across Asia and South Pacific island nations, would such countries today still be communist? It's doubtful, as the economic collapse of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, as well as the reversal of socialism in India and other countries, demonstrates the unsustainable dynamics of a tightly centralized economy, to say nothing of the unscrupulous cronyism of a party of ideologues.

Is the war in Iraq winnable? If the U.S. were to commit more resources and implement real-world strategies instead scaling back troop numbers and continuing the short-sighted policies of political expediency, could we actually secure peace and leave Iraq a working representative republic with a healthy economy? (I'm not considering the possibility of simply nuking Iraq because it's much too extreme, impractical, and unconscionable and obviously would create far more disastrous consequences than imaginable.) Can the U.S. win the war in Iraq. I'm skeptical. Let's be realists on this issue. What democracy--or more accurately republic--was not established over centuries of gradual settlement and jolting civil war until reaching an acceptable measure of compromise tempered by oftentimes exploitative economics? The concept of representative democracy may be ancient, but the institution of the nation-state is young, a product of 18th-century liberalism throwing off the mantle of monarchy and over-privileged aristocracy. This was a gradual, violent process of reactionary and revolutionary extremes, well-illustrated by the American and French Revolutions and laying the ground for both World Wars.

The U.S. involvement in Iraq is an instance of imperialism, no matter how well one dresses it up in talk about freedom, democracy, elections or record-setting voter turn-out. The reality is that the term "Iraq" signifies not a viable nation-state enjoying political sovereignty and a working economy. Rather, it is little more than a U.S. colony currently under military occupation for the purposes of controlling its oil resources and for hawkish idealists like Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle implementing a regional experiment in Middle East democracy. The ultimate intentions of such idealists must, however, be framed within the wider context of American global hegemony and domination of the Middle East.

If the long-term goal for "Iraq" is indeed objectively the realization of a Middle East democracy with a strong economy, then it will take the hard work of the Iraqi people, without U.S. policy manipulation and especially foreign control of its natural resources. The problem, obvious to all, is defining and ultimately establishing a national identity regarding "the Iraqi people," in the broadest sense comprised ethnically of Arabs, Kurds, and Persians and religiously of Sunni and Shia Muslims.

Much like France's colonial rule over and rather ignoble departure from Algeria, the United States will most likely conclude its involvement with Iraq years from now, long after the tipping point, when the number of dead is so high a painful silence will weigh heavily on our collective conscience, the planners of the disaster will have amassed billions in wealth and vanished from the public stage, and more importantly, the reigns of power in Iraq will have been gathered up by a mighty few and the people--that boundless entity of national identity--will have grown so weary of death and destruction that they will resign themselves to just about any form of government so long as it succeeds in stamping out dissent and halting the senseless carnage.

The irony--as there always is in these matters--is that in Iraq's long struggle to re-establish all the trappings of a sovereign nation-state, the institution of the nation-state itself will already be in decline, as it is today, to be superceded by the power and prestige of multinational corporations and economic blocs like the EU and ASEAN. And we who love freedom and democracy so much will be drawn down the winding road to feudalism.

Monday, October 24, 2005

NEW OLD CLICHE

In the United States, we basically have only two political parties running the show. Cheap Labor Republicans and Tax and Spend Democrats...er...ah...I mean Republicans.

What this country needs is a third party: Backbone Democrats.

I can wish, can't I?

Sunday, October 23, 2005

MORAL OUTRAGE OF THE WEEK

Here's the headline at Columbia Christians for Life website:
"Christians: Pray God's Hurricane helps save America, and destroys Florida abortion centers."

As Bruce Lincoln alluded to in his important Holy Terrors: Thinking About Religion after September II, what's the difference between the rhetoric of Muslim terrorists and that of rightwing Christian militants?

Very little.

QUINDLIN GETS IT

Writer Anna Quindlin, always insightful, spells out the message, perhaps clearly enough so even the Jugheads of Hubris get it.
At least Johnson had the good sense to be heartbroken by the body bags. Bush appears merely peevish at being criticized. Someone with a trumpet should play taps outside the White House for the edification of a president who has not attended a single funeral for the Iraqi war dead.
Having barely graduated from Yale, legacied through Harvard Business school, bankrupted his oil venture, run the Texas Rangers into the ground, and rendered the Oval Office little more than fodder for parody, isn't it time for Dubya to strut off to fail at something else?

Saturday, October 22, 2005

PRIVILEGES

Cost of war in Iraq?
--202 billion dollars.
Current federal budget deficit?
--8 trillion.
Having a President who doesn't destroy the economy, wage needless war, appoint incompetent cronies to vital government posts, and pronounce the word 'nuclear' incorrectly?
--Priceless.


I SAY ESSAY

I'm in the process of revising my dissertation, which is essentially a comparative analysis of indigenousness and promised land in ancient Greek philosophy and Hebrew scripture, as well as German and Jewish philosophy in modern Germany. Now, as you might expect, I have to do a lot of reading and research to support my obscure theory, and most of the...ahem..."scholarship" isn't well written. In fact, I think it safe to say that the bulk of academic writing is badly written. Very badly written. The tortured syntacs, heavy use of jargon and all around lack of style make reading it frustrating and even downright painful, engendering a kind of migraine that no amount of caffeine or aspirin can diffuse.

So, when reading academic "scholarship," I have to balance my mind's diet with good reading, either rich fiction or concise non-fiction, like histories or essays. I try to resist the temptation to watch much TV because when I do so I can actually feel huge sections of my brain shutting down, like factory lights turning off one stage at a time following the closing bell.

Yesterday I dropped by the local Barnes & Noble in search of good essays and a cup of coffee. I found one small set of shelves under the rubric 'Essays', which contained mostly names I didn't recognize (that's OK) and volumes filled cover-to-cover with book and theatre reviews (not OK). I don't know if the goateed floorwalkers who clerk the store know that a book review is not an essay or not, but I did point out to one several months ago that displaying the Koran on the bottom shelf is a big no-no, and that Houston does indeed have a very sizeable Muslim community, some of whom might take offense. He didn't heed my advice, and to this day Islamic scripture remains on the lowest shelf. They've been warned.

Now, when I want to read an essay, I want a sharp witted, thought experiment based on personal experience. It must be written by someone who has actually lived life, and not some idle bibliophile or armchair critic trapped in the mechanics of plot, character and narrative. What I don't want is a long-winded rant on the problems with "Gone with the Wind" or the accuracy of John Updike's characterization of middle class boredom. When I want to read a book or movie review, I'll turn to that section in the newspaper.

It seems, however, that my preference is not the prevailing view. And that what passes for personal experience these days is unimaginative encounters with characters in print and film media. Not passing references mind you, like when I say here we have a perfect illustration of Nietzsche's insightful passage entitled 'How the World Became a Fable.' Rather, these non-essays constitute a kind of enclosed textual world, where one writer drools incessantly on the work of another writer, stretching analysis well beyond the breaking point.

Herein lies the difference between a good writer and bad writer. The bad writer is something of a poser, either echoing the experiences of another writer or, worse, laboring over another writer's fictional characters as if he grew up next door to Lewis' Babbit or dated Tolstoy's Anna Karinina. This is the high-brow version of being a Trekkie. Like the Tolkiener, he is forever ensnarled in a neurotic world of make-believe, unable to grasp the grit and delicacy of the real world and make it his own. A rather sad, pathetic existence, in my humble opinion.

The good writer soaks up real life like a sponge, and when melancholy, sexual addiction or alcohol doesn't interfere, he hides away on occasion to put into words the follies and failures of his world. In other words, the experiences replay themselves, and he just writes them down.

Someday I'll draw up a list of good essays and post it. But until then, the search continues.

HIGH FRY


This post was originally going to be about the frustrations of finding enjoyable essays to read, but before I move on to that topic I want to put in a good word about local restaurant critic Rob Walsh.

Rob writes for the weekly Houston Press, and is always a fun read. Now, on the face of it, reading restaurant reviews may not strike you as particularly entertaining reading; I don't seek them out. And because I almost never eat out, the information they impart is hardly useful to me. Dining out is more the habit of the childless upper-middle class who want to see and be seen in the city's socialite circles and those not inclined to cook.

But Walsh's style and content is such a pleasure to read that with his first-hand experience and turn-of-phrase, he renders words into something like h'orderves, bite-size morsels of witty and tasty consumption. And even though he writes about restaurant food, he reminds me that no matter what I'm eating it should taste good--not simply be momentary filler to stave off a base biological impulse.

I'm reminded here of a roommate I had the displeasure of living with some years ago in Austin. I'll call him Fry Boy, to avoid any hint of libel. Now Fry Boy was a rich kid who rarely held gainful employment, preferring to live off his mother's fortune, play his electric guitar loudly in his bedroom, and stay high as a kite all day. When it came time to eat, he usually opted for the colon cork of burger and fries. But often, when the trust fund check was yet to arrive and he had already spent the month's monies on beer, burgers and pot, he was forced to improvise in the kitchen. He was a tall, big-boned lad who required above-average caloric intake.

Spaghetti was one of his 'specialties', the preparation of which goes like this: boil water in a medium-sized sauce pan, preferrably an old, not-so-clean piece of Revereware missing the Bakelite handle and coated on the inside with water-spotted lime residue. In the boiling water drop a bundle of the cheapest spaghetti, snapped in half so as to fit completely in the pan. While the pasta boils down to a sticky mass, place an empty frying pan--yet another piece of weathered Revereware--on a high-flaming burner. When the frying pan's copper bottom begins to glow faintly orange, pour in half a bottle of Hunt's Ketchup. For a slightly thinner 'sauce' add water as needed. You'll want this pasty concoction to sizzle and spit all over the stove, evidently a sign that the necessary fission of tomato molecules is taking place. Now drain off the excess water from the pasta, then dump it into the frying pan with the special sauce. Stir the molten mass around for about one minute. Remove from stove and plop it on a cold plate. Best served while standing and shoveled into the mouth in four to five large bites. Bon appetite.

It's only fitting that Fry Boy had and proudly displayed a plastic 12-inch replica of Kip's Big Boy, complete with pompidou hair and that recognizable tray hoisted overhead, reaching not for the stars but...what else, a greasy cheeseburger. Icon of days-gone-by.

Friday, October 21, 2005

JONAH'S WAR



Obviously, Jonah Goldberg has joined the rank and file of so many academics of our great nation, arguing that abstraction trumps empirical reality. Calling attention to political correctness and suppressed language on college campuses, the National Review writer spins a causal narrative from Adolf Hitler to Hillary Clinton, from Nazism to welfare entitlement, from totalitarianism to liberal social justice.

Now, I'm no big fan of Hillary, largely because she didn't speak out against the completely unnecessary and increasingly catastropic war in Iraq. But I have to say that the conspiratorial vitriol foisted upon her name and persona by the right isn't just bordering on delusional paranoia, it is delusional paranoia. Is this because they need a scapegoat for the failures of a Republican-controled Congress during the Clinton years?

Historically, there is, of course, a connection between working class socialism and Nazism, but not one of cause and effect. If Jonah had done his homework--instead of political handiwork--he would have learned that the Nazis exploited the ire of disenfranchised workers and rural farmers for the purposes of political gain, turning them against the middle class and in particular Jews.

That he argues this when there are thousands of neo-Nazis and White Supremists in the U.S. who are by any measure on the far right of the political and social spectrum makes his argument all the more tortured and just plain idiotic.

HURRICANE WILMA


(Thanks to Bob O)

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

BAIT AND SWITCH

Just a quick note before I get back to the business of revising my dissertation and negotiating my salary for a technical writing position--both very laborious endeavors.

It appears the Pentagon, in another Orwellian move to 'support' the troops, has suddenly decided not to honor its earlier promise of paying $15,000 bonuses to national guard soldiers who return to active duty. After hundreds return to active duty with the promise of this money, having been sent back to Iraq they've been informed that the bonuses will not be forthcoming.

Trust the government? Yeah, right.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

WHOPPER AND SHAKE, PLEASE

According to this AP story, 78-year-old Rouland Steppert of Wisconsin crashed his car into the front of a Burger King restaurant, backed up, parked, went inside, and ordered a meal. When police arrived, he was seated at a table eating lunch, with broken glass all over the floor. No charges were filed.

No word yet if Steppert was heard humming the old jingle, "Have it Your Way."

Monday, October 17, 2005

BOYHOOD AND TRICKLE-DOWN ECONOMICS

My son and I just returned from the hobby shop with a model airplane, specifically a P-51A Mustang, the real one of which was arguably one of the best World War II fighter plane on the Allied side. (The P-51D was a vast improvement.) The model was priced at $27.99. Fortunately, we were able to appeal to the cashier's inner child and buy it for half off, taking advantage of a sale that actually ended last week. But the money was his, not mine.

As you may know, plastics are made from petroleum, meaning the price of crude oil affects the price of plastics, thus leading to higher prices for model planes, cars, ships, etc. Now, I'm just as annoyed at the recent hike in gas prices as anyone else, but I also know that we Americans are still paying much less than our European counterparts, who average about $5.00 per gallon. But $30.00 for a 1/48 scale model airplane is pretty ridiculous, no matter how accurate the replica may be. It's not as if this particular model comes complete with glue, paint, and a brush. That's extra. So, it looks as though not only are we parents being hit at the gas pump by the diminishing supply of oil and the greed of the industy, so are the kids. A dose of hard realism for the young.

REVOLUTION 101

In the conservative movement's ongoing process of dismantling all the entitlements and reforms of the New Deal and Great Society, the future of the United States seems to me to be growing more and more bleak by the day. (Please pardon my pessimism; I'm tracking a certain political logic here.)

The powers that be in D.C. are slow to respond to natural disasters affecting the poor and the newly-made homeless.

They want to pay for hurricane relief by rolling back aid to the poor.

They want to dismantle Social Security.

They want to dismantle Medicare and Medicaid.

They want to impose a disproportionate flat tax on the underclass.

They continue to negotiate trade agreements that transfer jobs overseas.

They refuse to mandate a working wage that is in step with the rate of inflation.

Their short-sighted economic policies are further antagonizing the already eroding race relations between black and white.

And they continue to refuse to legislate gun control or even modestly regulate the arms industry.

It seems to be that the powers that be in D.C. actually want to bring about a bloody revolution in the streets of America.

In 1989, much of the world championed the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the beginning of the end to communism. Perhaps I'm wrong, but given the logic I've outlined above, we may not have seen the last of class warfare and the seduction of Marxism on the global stage. Such idealism, despite its past failures and misapplications, has a way of making a forceful comeback. Like the revolutions of 1789, 1848, 1905, 1917, and 1918, all that's needed is an economic crisis, and the rest, as the old saying goes, is history. Class not dismissed.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

JUDY GATE

In light of the buzz and flurry in the blogosphere about NY Times reporter Judy Miller, I feel the need to weigh in. On this issue, Occam's Razor is surely most applicable.

Fire Judy Miller. Fire Bill Keller. Send Judy to Iraq to find the WMD she so enthusiastically claimed were there. Send Keller to Gitmo to 'edit' inmate mail--which is to say, nothing, not a word, is excised from letters.

Use all the money that Miller gets for her speaking engagements to launch a government assistance program constructing and distributing port-a-potties for hurricane relief workers. Call it the Judy Miller Doodoo Tiller. Hopefully, within about two years, a new phrase will enter popular discourse: when one has to take a crap, he or she will say "Judy calls." Eventually, a virtual laxative will be marketed. Simply look at a picture of Judy Miller, and one's bowels will quickly release the unwanted blockage.

Perhaps, over time, the New York Times will once again become a respectable newspaper, instead of the Stalinist propaganda party rag it is today.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

FRITZ

Born in 1844, today is the birthday of German philologist and philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.
Today also happens to be the birthday of my daughter Talya, born in 2002. Happy Birthday Talya!

There is an odd synchronicity to this coincidence, as Nietzsche is the figure who moved me to return from Italy and go to university to study philosophy and religious studies. More than any other philosophic works, his are the writings that I have studied the most. His critique of Western morality and theism lays the ground for much of what follows in the twentieth century, for good or bad.

Because Nietzsche went "insane" in 1889 and was beridden for most of the time leading up to his death in 1900, the prevailing view is that he contracted syphillus as a young man working in the medical corp during the Franco-Prussian war. Others contend he contracted the disease from a prostitute, as he neither had a long-term relationship nor married. There is no physiological evidence to prove Nietzsche suffered from syphillus, only speculation given his deteriorating mental and physical condition.

Throughout his life, Nietzsche suffered from severe migraine headaches and daily bouts of nausea--which he frequently tried to alleviate through the use of chloroform (popular in the 19th century). Nevertheless, he wrote feverishly and prolifically, in spite of his pain. (I find this particularly fascinating because I have difficulty composing a single sentence when I have so much as a head cold.)

My own theory is that Nietzsche did not have syphillus. Rather, I believe he suffered from temporal lobe epilepsy, a rare disorder that causes severe headaches and trance-like siezures that move the afflicted to obssesively ponder philosophical and religious phenomena and engage in hypergraphia, the insatiable need to write in a speculative manner and court an overinflated sense of self-importance.

For the record, as much as I find Nietzsche's philosophy and life engaging, beyond the coincidence of the same birthday there is no related life-path or fateful connection between him and Talya. If as she grows older she finds Nietzsche as engaging as I have, that's fine by me. But I shall continually counsel her that his philosophy is not without risks. He questions all values, all foundations, and all boundaries. To read him is both exilarating yet dangerous; he inspires but also engenders cynicism and despair. In this regard, Nietzsche is a sober yet painful realist. Echoing the infamous Delphic oracle of ancient Greece, Freud said, no other human being knew as much about himself than Nietzsche--no small compliment from the father of psychoanalysis. Introspection is surely the engine of authenticity and integrity, but it can also lead to self-doubt. Yes, know thyself. But know the world around you too, and especially the others of your world.

Thus spoke the Aardvark.

WHAT HE SAID

Billmon over at Whiskey Bar has a thoughful post this morning, speculating on the consequences of Bush's hubris. In short, the U.S. has isolated itself from the international community to such an extent that potential regional threats (e.g. Iran, Syria, Venezuela) can act badly with impunity because Bush has squandered the capital of influence and bargaining. In other words, the arogance of the current administration has made the world far more unstable with little chance of achieving strategic balance via global leadership or intimidation.

Thinking this over, it occurs to me that the Bush loyalists (growing fewer by the hour) probably don't care what the international community thinks, given their barroom bully posturing masking deep insecurity and ignorance. Some years ago I had the pleasure of hearing Kurt Vonegut speak at a commencement at Rice University. One line of his stuck in my head, and I think of it often: "Only a fool says he doesn't care what his neighbor thinks." Indeed.

Friday, October 14, 2005

POTEMKIN PR

It appears the Washington Post is finally declaring Emperor George's new clothes are...well, not so regal. (internet subscription required)

Turns out the President's video press conference with G.I.s in Iraq was not only scripted, but also rehearsed. All while cameras were rolling. Whoops.

Could this signal the return of the repressed (media)? Just asking.

WONDER IN EXILE-LAND

The inimitable Eric Hobsbawm has a really interesting article entitled "Benefits of Diaspora" over at this month's London Review of Books. For those of you with computer screen dyslexia (like me), save yourself a headache and print it--it comes to about 9 pages. (Eric Alterman gets credit for finding it.)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

I KNOW THIS GUY

My professor and member of my dissertation committee, Shaul Magid, has an excellent article in this month's Cross Currents about war and non-violence. One thing you should know about Shaul, substantially different than most academics and scholars of religion, he has a brain AND and a heart. Go read.

BERTIE'S BIG IDEA

I'm a sucker for all things Einsteinian. For those of you likeminded and hungry for yet another tale about the most famous equation of all, take a look at professor Brian Greene's clear-headed explanation over at Edge, surely one of the best science websites around.

HONEY GLAZED


Red Rover
Red Rover,
Roll Karl Rove Over.


CRYSTAL BALL IMAGE OF THE DAY

One way or another, Miers' nomination to SCOTUS will be nixed. Democrats are not doing the country a service by signing off on her bid. I'm sure she's a nice person, but geez people, this is a woman who has no experience with constitutional matters whatsoever. Zero. Zip. Zilch. And whose praise for her Dear Leader includes the juvenile, "You're the greatest president ever..."

Like, you know, it's totally awesome bein' a supremo justice. I mean, like, I get to wear this cool robe and stuff, and, like, sit way up high.

TRUTH IN ADVERTISING

Via Josh Marshall at TPM, this is funny. Yet tragic. And accurate. Yet pathetic. I could go on.

TALES FROM THE BROOM CLOSET

Just when you thought it was safe for trick-or-treating once again...

In India, a suspected witch was burned to death.
In London, a schoolgirl was assaulted because she was thought to be a witch.
And elsewhere in London, an 8-year-old orphan girl was tortured by adults for, again, being a witch.

Thank God we live in the Age of Reason. I hate to think of what the American Puritans would be doing with Supreme Court justices. Come to think of it...

BOOT SCOOT

Looks like VP Cheney's chief of staff 'Scooter' Libby is taking the fall in the never-ending Plame affair.

Timid prediction: W's chief of staff Andrew Card will roll over on Rove, who will go down kicking and screaming. Watch for it.

Karma.

EARTHQUAKE RELIEF

For those among my readers who can afford it, here's a link to organizations accepting donations for the earthquake victims in Southeast Asia.

Compared to the Katrina hurricane victims, the folks in Asia have it much, much worse. Literally millions are without shelter, in the dead of winter, in the Himalayans, without food or drink.

For some perspective, strip naked, whack on your skull with a ballpeen hammer three or four times, then lie down in a bathtub filled with ice and clorox.

IS IT CLOUDY OR BRIGHT?

Beyond UFOs, subsonic sounds, blackhawk helicopters and pretty much every word out of the mouths of G. Gordan Liddy and Oliver North, what would be the granddaddy of conspiracy theories? How about the KGB and the Japanese controling the weather.

Weatherman Scott Stevens, who describes himself as "just the first of a group of very bright individuals," claims he has proof that the Japanese, in retaliation for the A-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, created the hurricanes that struck the Gulf Coast. The Russians developed the technology, then handed it off to the Japanese--because as we all know, these two countries love each other and have consistently shared top-secret knowledge throughout the ages. My favorite tidbit? Ivan and Katrina are, after all, very Russian-sounding names.

Does this mean hurricane Rita was named after a Tokyo meter-maid?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

HI HO STEVERINO

Comic Louis Nye, who coined the salutation "Hi Ho Steverino" on the Steve Allen Show has checked out.

With Don Adams (Agent 86) gone, that makes two.

Hollywood deaths seem to always come in 3s. So, who's next?

GOT BALLS?

What every neutered K-9 needs, a set of artificial dog testicles. Proving once again that there really is a sucker born every minute.

THE COMING STORM

Or, HOW TO SAVE YOURSELF FROM THE COMING ECONOMIC DISASTER THAT IS AS INEVITABLE AS A BOMB ON AN ISRAELI BUS.

I'm not too keen on giving advice, except to my own kids. I generally subscribe to the wisdom proffered by Henry David Thoreau, that if I knew someone was on his way to my doorstep with the intention of doing me some good, I'd run for my life. We, however, are not living in ordinary times, but rather extraordinary, perhaps even surreal times.

Let me take this opportunity to suggest to all my family and friends that they read this sage economic advice, and heed it well.

QUESTION OF THE DAY #2

The Bush Administration articulates its conservative compassion once again. As we pour billions of dollars a day into Iraq (for the nation-building that W. campaigned he'd never do), federal relief for Gulf Coast hurricane victims eventually much be paid back by the recipients.

Where is the compassion among these conservatives?

Or, why aren't fiscal conservatives expressing outrage over Bush's irresponsible and unprecedented spending?

QUESTION OF THE DAY #1

In popular and civic discourse, why is Christianity reduced to vitriol over homosexuality and abortion?

Or, we could rephrase this question thusly: Where is the moral outrage among authentic Christians that their religion has been hijacked by the right wing political establishment?



Sunday, October 09, 2005

RELATIVE KNOWLEDGE

My brother-in-law offers a thoughtful speculation.

Historians and archaeologists often wonder, "What happened to Mayan civilization? It seems to have simply faded away for no apparent reason."

And then there's this: hurricanes kill and displace thousands along the Gulf Coast, in Mexico, and in Central America. Mudslides bury entire villages. Flood waters wash away every vestige of human existence in their path.

Now we know what happened to Mayan civilization. Kudos to brother Rolando.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

PUNCH AND JUDY

NYT reporter Judith Miller, jailed apparently because she refused to give up her source on the Valerie Plame case, has been release. The official story is that she finally received a waiver from her source, VP Cheney's aid "Scooter" Libby. But Libby's lawyer claims they provided Miller with a waiver almost a year ago. Those of us following the story from day one already knew it was Libby.

So, was Judy sitting in jail because of bureaucratic foul-up? Not likely. The emerging concensus among those following this story, notable Arianna Huffington, is that the meglomaniac Judy was simply posturing for a bit of First Amendment fame, hoping to surpass the record of Venessa Leggett as a journalist bravely refusing to expose her source. How noble!

"Excuse, Mr. Wells, may we borrow your time machine? Thank you."
"Right this way Ms. Miller, watch your head."
"Do I still have to serve time in jail for not revealing my source?"
"Oh, yes, absolutely. But not in Virginia or Maryland."
"No?"
"No."
"Mr. Wells, could you take us to the Guatanamo Bay Prison camp? We have a new inmate."

THE LITTLE GUY

So cute, unspoiled and irrepressible. Long before misguided but egotistical liberals and right-wing religious wingnuts fill his head with stupid notions of "salvation", "social utopia", and "a better tomorrow."

"I'm an earth-pig, people. Don't talk to me about heaven, hell, or the price of time-shares in Cancun."