Saturday, February 26, 2005

Feeling a draft yet?

It has been getting a bit drafty lately, especially with all this talk of Bu$hCo's apparent plans to invade Iran this summer. What it all seems to boil down to is preserving the all-mighty dollar - in this case removing those regimes planning to trade oil in Euros. That was the impetus for war in Iraq and likely the impetus behind the intrigue in Venezuela over the last few years. If you think Iraq has been ugly thus far - and it has been - just imagine what Iran will be like.

Human Rights Watch: Questions....

Johnny Trauma of (subliminal punk) asks "how much evidence do you need?" in light of this story:
A US marine filmed apparently shooting dead an injured Iraqi in a Falluja mosque last year may not be formally charged, according to media reports.

Military investigators have concluded there is not enough evidence to prosecute over the shooting, US television network CBS news says.

Um. Military investigator critters. Here's a hint: the dude was caught in the act on video. That wasn't so hard, was it?

Of George W. (Junior Caligula) Bush's tour of Europe, Victoria Brittain asks Why Are We Welcoming This Torturer? Good question indeed. Especially in light of the various stories of torture at the hands or behest of the US (such as the case of Maher Arar) one wonders what it will take for European leaders to treat this prez and his henchmen like pariahs - or even better slap some cuffs on them and drag their sorry asses to the next available war crimes tribunal.

There's the world the way Bu$hCo sees it...

and then there's the real world. See Bush v. Facts, for an example of what I mean.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Bu$hCo Hates Disabled People

Skippy & Jill have the skinny on bush's section hate. Basically, while engulfing the nation into a state of perpetual war, Bu$hCo is proposing major cuts to programs that fund the building of housing for disabled and mentally ill people, and has been lowballing Section 8 portable vouchers that make rent affordable for persons with disabilities. Our disabled vets from the current Iraq war have so much to look forward to.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

If you were to read only one Daily Kos diary this week, read this:

I Think They Want Me Dead... opens up a discussion on the extremists who want to employ the "final solution" on our nation's gay and lesbian population. In addition to some excellent commentary, there are some links to what the whole Dominionist movement is about.

Right on target:

Fred Feldman in his column Lynching Ward Chuchill: Witchhunts to the Right; Witchhunts to the Left has this to say:
I am convinced that the current attacks on Churchill are not part of a government plot, but are a product of a tradition of blind factionalism that has plagued progressive struggles in this country for a long time.

Factionalism hurts us here in the US, just as it has in other leftist & progressive struggles historically. When fighting against the injustices we see around us, it's imperative that we remember not to destroy our own.

Malcom X

The Socialist Worker has a special supplement comemorating Malcom X that's worth a look see:

Malcolm X: ‘Show me a capitalist and I’ll show you a bloodsucker’
Malcolm X did not become a socialist. But he was a revolutionary, and that meant he had to look at how the oppressed and exploited could overthrow the system that holds them down.

He said, “You have whites who are fed up, you have blacks who are fed up. When the day comes when the whites who are really fed up learn how to establish the proper type of communication with those [blacks] who are fed up and they get some co-ordinated action going, you’ll get some changes. And it will take both, it will take everything that you’ve got.”

He believed such unity was desirable, but very difficult to achieve. The first step, he said, was to build a militant black organisation.

The movement against the Vietnam war and the black ghetto uprisings in the late 1960s showed the possibility for unity between blacks and whites and for a revolutionary organisation that included both.

No one knows how Malcolm’s ideas would have developed had he lived to witness that.

We do know he had no time for the idea that an “enlightened elite” could reform away racism or that the mass of black people should put their faith in the handful accepted into the establishment.

He said, “It’s impossible for a chicken to produce a duck egg. It can only produce according to what that particular system was constructed to produce. The system in this country cannot produce freedom for the Afro-American. It is impossible for this system, this economic system, this political system, this social system, this system period.”

So you have to fight this system — “by any means necessary”.

See also Malcolm X: ‘We are living in an era of revolution’ and Malcolm X: an inspiration to Muslims struggling for justice

Via Lenin's Tomb.

Looks like Kevin Drum stirred up a hornet's nest

Via Carol Avedon Avedon Carol of the excellent blog The Sideshow, we find that Kevin of Political Animal fame really stuck his foot in his mouth when he contended that women are fundamentally turned off by the aggressive nature of opinion writing, and hence the supposed dearth of female political bloggers. From a cursory look at the comments sections of just about any major blog, or just from looking at the posts themselves, it's pretty obvious that blogtopia is a rough and tumble environment. What I find funny about Drum's comments is that he's stuck with the antiquated notion that women are just not up to being aggressive to the same degree as we men. I'd advise Drum to do a little research next time he decides to let loose with such generalizations - not only by taking a look at what's actually happening in blogtopia but also some solid empirical research in the social sciences. Just a quick example, my dissertation advisor, Ann Bettencourt, co-authored an article published in Psychological Bulletin that presented the results of a meta-analysis on the interaction of gender and provocation on aggressive behavior (Bettencourt & Miller, 1996). In this meta-analysis, a large number of laboratory experiments and field studies were examined and synthesized. Hers and Miller's basic findings suggest that when provoked, women respond statistically as aggressively as do men. From what I understand, when provoked (whether via verbal attack or physical assault or frustration) women are every bit as willing and capable as their male counterparts in responding aggressively. And from what I've seen of the responses in the comments to Drum's offending posts and among a number of the women bloggers who've had their say on the matter - women can hold their own just fine in the sometimes vicious domain of political commentary. All one has to do is open one's eyes.

Academic Freedom Watch: It's Always Something

Let's start with a relative oldie but a goodie from September of last year (in the Princeton Progressive Review): The New McCarthyism, which examines the wingnut behind Campus Watch, Daniel Pipes.

Following up on that, the Princeton Progressive Review looks at the latest victim of the right-wing campaign to silence professors whose views they dislike in More Grenades in the War against Intellectual Freedom:
The NYC department of Education recently dismissed Professor Khalidi from training NYC high school teachers how to teach Middle Eastern History, presumably due to pressure from those who disagree with Khalidi's politics. One of the foremost scholars in the history of Arab nationalism and the emergence of the nation-state in the Middle East, Khalidi has for some time openly criticized Israel's policies towards the Palestinians as inhumane, illegal, and profoundly unjust.

The case at hand is especially egregious for two reasons: First, it illustrates the extent to which crusading, ideologically-driven, and nonacademic forces intend to frame the parameters of intellectual inquiry. Rather than contest Khalidi in an academic arena, these forces remain hell-bent on purging the entire arena of voices like Khalidi's. Second, and even worse, it allows these very forces to essentially choose which pieces of knowledge can be extracted from a contentious (and still ongoing) intellectual debate and be transmitted to the impressionable, young minds of New York City.

Via Counterpunch, "Did you make the blacklist? Why not?" The collection of people who've made hatemonger David Horowitz's hit list are a rather varied bunch - many of whom I wouldn't even call remotely leftist. Horowitz has certainly got a screw loose, but in these bizarro times such wingnuts get taken seriously.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

This about sums it up

America Blog posts this Mark Crispin Miller commentary regarding the Gannon/Guckert scandal: Media double standard, an analysis. The money quote:
The point of going after Gannon/Guckert for his day job--and outing all his rightist clients--is not an anti-gay move. Rather, it's a way to demonstrate the bad faith of the homophobes, and, still more important, the psychological impossibility of their position. To note that this whole gay-baiting movement is itself the work of closet cases is to illuminate the pathological dimension of that movement.

Works for me.

The state of perpetual question-raising

What's the Question, Again?, looks at the torture death of Abu Ghraib prisoner Manadel al-Jamadi, and quotes this from an LA Times article:
WHO DIED: Manadel al-Jamadi, a suspect in a bombing in Iraq, died in 2003 during CIA interrogation in the Abu Ghraib prison shower room. A military pathologist ruled it a homicide.

HOW IT HAPPENED: Army guards found him suspended by his wrists, which were cuffed behind his back. The position, known as "Palestinian hanging," is condemned by human rights groups as torture.

WHAT IT MEANS: The death raises new questions about CIA interrogation practices.

To which zeynep correctly retorts:
Okay. The CIA is disappearing people and torturing them to death. This is an acknowledged, widely reported upon fact. And all that does is "raise new questions." What needs to happen before we can move beyond perpetually "raising new questions?"

No fucking kidding! If you've read Ratner and Ray's Guantánamo: What the World Should Know, you'd know that we're way beyond merely raising new questions - unless those questions include "When will Bush and the rest of his torture-loving cronies be tried for war crimes?." Any answer short of "now" is simply not good enough.

Today's History Lesson

When Democracy Failed - 2005: The Warnings of History by Thom Hartmann marks an ominous anniversary (72 years ago this coming Sunday). Here's the first part of the article:
This weekend - February 27th - is the 72nd anniversary, but the corporate media most likely won't cover it. The generation that experienced this history firsthand is now largely dead, and only a few of us dare hear their ghosts.

It started when the government, in the midst of an economic crisis, received reports of an imminent terrorist attack. A foreign ideologue had launched feeble attacks on a few famous buildings, but the media largely ignored his relatively small efforts. The intelligence services knew, however, that the odds were he would eventually succeed. (Historians are still arguing whether or not rogue elements in the intelligence service helped the terrorist. Some, like Sefton Delmer - a London Daily Express reporter on the scene - say they certainly did not, while others, like William Shirer, suggest they did.)

But the warnings of investigators were ignored at the highest levels, in part because the government was distracted; the man who claimed to be the nation's leader had not been elected by a majority vote and the majority of citizens claimed he had no right to the powers he coveted.

He was a simpleton, some said, a cartoon character of a man who saw things in black-and-white terms and didn't have the intellect to understand the subtleties of running a nation in a complex and internationalist world.

His coarse use of language - reflecting his political roots in a southernmost state - and his simplistic and often-inflammatory nationalistic rhetoric offended the aristocrats, foreign leaders, and the well-educated elite in the government and media. And, as a young man, he'd joined a secret society with an occult-sounding name and bizarre initiation rituals that involved skulls and human bones.

Nonetheless, he knew the terrorist was going to strike (although he didn't know where or when), and he had already considered his response. When an aide brought him word that the nation's most prestigious building was ablaze, he verified it was the terrorist who had struck and then rushed to the scene and called a press conference.

"You are now witnessing the beginning of a great epoch in history," he proclaimed, standing in front of the burned-out building, surrounded by national media. "This fire," he said, his voice trembling with emotion, "is the beginning." He used the occasion - "a sign from God," he called it - to declare an all-out war on terrorism and its ideological sponsors, a people, he said, who traced their origins to the Middle East and found motivation for their evil deeds in their religion.

Two weeks later, the first detention center for terrorists was built in Oranianberg to hold the first suspected allies of the infamous terrorist. In a national outburst of patriotism, the leader's flag was everywhere, even printed large in newspapers suitable for window display.

Within four weeks of the terrorist attack, the nation's now-popular leader had pushed through legislation - in the name of combating terrorism and fighting the philosophy he said spawned it - that suspended constitutional guarantees of free speech, privacy, and habeas corpus. Police could now intercept mail and wiretap phones; suspected terrorists could be imprisoned without specific charges and without access to their lawyers; police could sneak into people's homes without warrants if the cases involved terrorism.

To get his patriotic "Decree on the Protection of People and State" passed over the objections of concerned legislators and civil libertarians, he agreed to put a 4-year sunset provision on it: if the national emergency provoked by the terrorist attack was over by then, the freedoms and rights would be returned to the people, and the police agencies would be re-restrained. Legislators would later say they hadn't had time to read the bill before voting on it.

Immediately after passage of the anti-terrorism act, his federal police agencies stepped up their program of arresting suspicious persons and holding them without access to lawyers or courts. In the first year only a few hundred were interred, and those who objected were largely ignored by the mainstream press, which was afraid to offend and thus lose access to a leader with such high popularity ratings. Citizens who protested the leader in public - and there were many - quickly found themselves confronting the newly empowered police's batons, gas, and jail cells, or fenced off in protest zones safely out of earshot of the leader's public speeches. (In the meantime, he was taking almost daily lessons in public speaking, learning to control his tonality, gestures, and facial expressions. He became a very competent orator.)

Within the first months after that terrorist attack, at the suggestion of a political advisor, he brought a formerly obscure word into common usage. He wanted to stir a "racial pride" among his countrymen, so, instead of referring to the nation by its name, he began to refer to it as "The Homeland," a phrase publicly promoted in the introduction to a 1934 speech recorded in Leni Riefenstahl's famous propaganda movie "Triumph Of The Will." As hoped, people's hearts swelled with pride, and the beginning of an us-versus-them mentality was sewn. Our land was "the" homeland, citizens thought: all others were simply foreign lands. We are the "true people," he suggested, the only ones worthy of our nation's concern; if bombs fall on others, or human rights are violated in other nations and it makes our lives better, it's of little concern to us.

Playing on this new implicitly racial nationalism, and exploiting a disagreement with the French over his increasing militarism, he argued that any international body that didn't act first and foremost in the best interest of his own nation was neither relevant nor useful. He thus withdrew his country from the League Of Nations in October, 1933, and then negotiated a separate naval armaments agreement with Anthony Eden of The United Kingdom to create a worldwide military ruling elite.

His propaganda minister orchestrated a campaign to ensure the people that he was a deeply religious man and that his motivations were rooted in Christianity. He even proclaimed the need for a revival of the Christian faith across his nation, what he called a "New Christianity." Every man in his rapidly growing army wore a belt buckle that declared "Gott Mit Uns" - God Is With Us - and most of them fervently believed it was true.

Read the rest. Does history repeat itself? We have a choice.

Gilliard on the Guckert/Gannon Fiasco

The day pass and the man whore. First the news clipping:
So the mystery remains: How did Guckert, with absolutely no journalism background and working for a phony news organization, manage to adopt the day-pass system as his own while sidestepping a thorough background check that might have detected his sordid past? That's the central question the White House refuses to address. And like its initial explanation that Guckert received his press pass the same way other journalists do, the notion first put out by White House officials that they knew little or nothing about GOPUSA/Talon News, its correspondent Guckert or its founder Eberle has also melted away. Instead, we now know, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer personally spoke with Eberle about GOPUSA, so concerned was Fleischer that it was not an independent organization. (Eberle convinced Fleischer that it was.) Additionally, Guckert attended the invitation-only White House press Christmas parties in 2003 and 2004, and last holiday season, in a personal posting on GOPUSA, Eberle thanked Karl Rove for his "assistance, guidance, and friendship."

Now some of Steve's commentary:
This, not the lurid issue of his pay-for-sex sites, is at the core of the controversy. The question is simple: how does a manwhore who may have never strung a sentence together on a computer, get into the White House for two years to ask friendly questions. A cursory background check would have turned up that this guy didn't have a regular source of income. much less a credible news organization to work for. But what is truly amazing is that the Press Pool had this fraud in their midst for two years and said nary a word.

Of course, the saddest part is that the right is covering for this guy because they don't have the intellectual strength to actually realize that this whole fiasco is going to blow up on them. Guckert is so stupid that he used his man whore name to work in the White House.

Indeed.

The rich get richer, and the poor? Well you know the score.

Widening Gap Between Rich and Poor: Nothing earth-shakingly new to those of us who've been paying attention, but worth repetition nonetheless. Some snippets that caught my attention:
The gap between the rich and poor in the United States grew at the same pace as the economic growth. Statistics show that the richest 1 percent of the US citizens own 40 percent of the total property of the country, while 80 percent of US citizens own just 16 percent.

Since the 1990s, 40 percent of the increased wealth went into the pockets of the rich minority, while only 1 percent went to the poor majority.

From 1977 to 1999, the after-tax income of the richest 20 percent of American families increased by 43 percent, while that of the poorest 20 percent decreased 9 percent, allowing for inflation. The actual income of those living on the lowest salaries was even less than 30 years ago.

[...]

A great number of Americans suffer from poverty and hunger. According to the statistics of the US government, over 32 million citizens, or 12.7 percent of the total population of the country, live under the poverty line. The incidence of poverty is higher than in the 1970s, and higher than in most other industrialized countries.

An investigation by the US Department of Agriculture in March 2000 showed that 9.7 percent of American families did not have enough food, and at least 10 percent of families in 18 states and Washington D.C. often suffered from hunger and malnutrition.

[...]

The number of homeless Americans has continued to increase. A study in the mid-1990s showed that 12 million US citizens were or had been at some time homeless. According to a survey of 26 large cities conducted by the Conference of Mayors, the urgent demand for housing increased in two-thirds of the cities in 1999 over previous years.

[...]

Serious infringements upon worker's rights have been reported. Compared with other developed countries, the working hours of laborers in the United States are the longest, while their social security benefits and rights are the worst. According to a report in US News and World Report in March 2000, the average working time of US citizens was 1,957 hours annually, longer than in other developed countries.

[...]

The education situation in the United States is surprisingly poor. According to a report in USA Today on November 29, 2000, illiteracy is still a serious problem in such a highly developed country.

One in five high school graduates cannot read his or her diploma; 85 percent of unwed mothers are illiterate; 70 percent of Americans arrested are illiterate; 21 million Americans cannot read.

[...]

Statistics from the US Census Bureau show that the income of middle class families increased only 10 percent from 1989 to 1999, while the college tuition increased 51 percent during the same period. The average college tuition in 1999 was 8,086 US dollars, accounting for 62 percent of the income of low-income families.

The average tuition fee of private colleges was 21,339 US dollars in 1999, up 34 percent over 1989, accounting for 162 percent of the income of poor families, but only making up for four percent of the income of rich families. More than 30 million low-income families could not afford to send their children to community colleges.

See also here and here:
The Gap between the rich and the poor seems to be continuously growing. "From 1986 through 1997, the latest year for which detailed figures are available from the Internal Revenue Service, the average income of the richest one percent of Americans soared 89 percent to $517,713 from $217,562. . .During those same twelve years, the bottom ninety percent of Americans, meaning everyone who took home less than $80,000 after paying federal income taxes, did not fare nearly as well. In 1997, the average income for the bottom ninety percent was $23,815, up a scant $364, or 1.6 percent from 1986."

Connect the dots.

Clifford Thornton

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Thornton is one of those cats who just vanished into thin air after leading a few recording dates (issued on indie labels) during the late 1960s through the mid 1970s, as well as appearing as a sideman on sessions led by Sun Ra, Joe McPhee, Archie Shepp, Sunny Murray, and Marzette Watts. He's primarily known as a cornet and trombone player who also dabbled with electric keyboards. Those extant recordings show a cat who was visionary - creating pan-African art music by weaving European, African-American and African elements into a rich tapestry. His 1967 album, Freedom and Unity (originally released on his own Third World label - and reissued a few years ago by Atavistic as part of its Unheard Music Series) is rightly considered a classic. I'm also quite partial to Ketchaoa (recorded in 1969) and The Panther and The Lash (1970 - and recently reissued in Europe). Free jazz gets unfairly stereotyped as noise for the sake of noise. While Thornton's albums could kick out the jams, there is also plenty of open space along the way. His work won't exactly cause you to get up and dance, nor will it clear out a party. Instead, it invites you to chill out and think, to meditate on some uncomfortable realities. His music also confronts the racial prejudice that he saw all around him - sometimes implicitly, occasionally explicitly as in the spoken-word accompaniment to the number "Festivals and Funerals" (from the 1972 album Communications Network). He had good reason to be angry, and he channeled that anger into some beautiful and largely overlooked recordings.

Free jazz had to exist in an increasingly hostile environment in the US in the immediate post-Coltrane era, and Thornton, like many of his contemporaries, ended up living and working in Europe during the 1970s and 1980s (up until his death). There is a dearth of information on Thornton. However, I have been able to stumble on a couple bios, here, and here; you can read some cat's recollection of Thornton and his times here.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Too funny

A message from John Cleese to all Americans: Notice of Revocation of Independence gave me the best laugh I've had in a while. Certainly it covers many of my own non-political gripes I have about US culture, including our collective disdain for bawdy humor (something the Brits do so wonderfully) and our inability to produce a decent beer (The Monty Python crew once referred to American beer as like making love in a canoe: fucking close to water). On the other hand, the thought of having Tony Blair as Prime Minister is nausea-inducing and may cause me to have some really ugly nightmares.

Ever wonder what a town hall meeting between a bunch of neocon theorists and regular working folks would look like?

I'll admit that I've been curious for some time. Jake Turnrose takes that curiousity to the next level and creates a fictional vignette of such a meeting in Projects, Clashes and Think Tanks for the 21st Century. Jake hits it right on the head: people who go through their lives trying to survive day-to-day have no use for seemingly brilliantly-worded abstractions, aspecially when those very abstractions have devastating human consequences. Regular folks also don't have much tolerance for b.s. jargon-laden non-answers to concrete questions. They see it for what it is: someone trying to pull one over on them. As I may or may not have mentioned before, I'm a big fan of Vonnegut, and especially a line from the book Cats Cradle (which I will paraphrase) - any scientist who cannot explain his work to a nine-year old is a charlatan. I'll extend that to any of us who lay any claim to being "intellectuals". The basic gist is that it's easy to hide behind one's jargon in academic and think-tank contexts - bit too easy, perhaps. Those who hide behind their jargon are either unable or unwilling to share with the rest of us what implications their work has. I find that to be personally unacceptable.

I especially like this passage:
"Your intellectual brilliance ain't no damned Stratego game where you wear yourselves out patting each other on the back. You ain't gonna shape or determine the face of the world for long if you think we'll keep producing war babies for your killing machines just because you can string together big words and think we don't know what the hell you're talkin about!

We might be a little slow on the uptake and distracted by American Idol, Survivor and the car races. But we'll wake up. And when we do, y'all better buy yourselves the best armored Humvee you can afford. You'll need it if your intellectual brilliance hasn't changed its mind."

Amen!

I'm not exactly a huge AARP fan

after the organization sold its constituents down the river a couple years ago when Bu$hCo wanted to screw with retirees prescriptions. That said, this ad appearing on the American Spectator website is disgusting:

The ad itself links to the USA Next homepage. AARP's reward for "playing footsie" with the GOP back then? A stab in the back. That's why you never ever give those GOP fuckers an inch...they'll take as many miles as they can, leaving the rest of us as sharecroppers. Props to Kos for the tip.

Another favorite HST quote

"People who claim to know jackrabbits will tell you they are primarily motivated by Fear, Stupidity, and Craziness. But I have spent enough time in jackrabbit country to know that most of them lead pretty dull lives; they are bored with their daily routines: eat, fuck, sleep, hop around a bush now and then... No wonder some of them drift over the line into cheap thrills once in a while; there has to be a powerful adrenalin rush in crouching by the side of a road, waiting for the next set of headlights to come along, then streaking out of the bushes with split-second timing and making it across to the other side just inches in front of the speeding front tires."

-- Hunter S. Thompson
Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72

Deep down, that cat was a street-level existentialist who knew all too well the fragility and absurdity of life. No wonder many of us drift over as close to the edge as possible. As I think about it, we're all damaged goods - some of us more damaged than others. More often than not, existence is filled with long stretches of tedium that maybe - maybe if one is lucky gets broken with some success or excitement. If only the buzz of success would linger a while longer. But like all good buzzes, eventually the sensation wears off, and it's back to the usual mind-numbing tedium and the sensation of being kicked when we're down. One approaches one's 40s with the realization that there's really nothing more to life than that. Hence, thrill seeking. Some of us perhaps have more macabre fantasies and thrills than others. I was a horror buff as a young child, and the edge between life and death continues to fascinate me. I won't go into my particular brand of thrill-seeking, but suffice it to say there's a lot of Hemmingway and HST in my own personal makeup such to where I'll likely meet a sudden and violent end before too many more years of seeing how far to the edge I can get without breaking on through to the other side. Eventually, Later becomes Now. The other choice is numbness, and I don't do that particularly well.

In the meantime, I blog, I work, I wonder where the next meal will come from, and plan that next thrill ride. I'll hold off for a while, but like that rabbit I find that those headlights look awfully tempting...

Two columns: one final, one eerily prophetic

Hunter S. Thompson's last column for ESPN:
Shotgun Golf with Bill Murray

By Hunter S. Thompson
Page 2

The death of professional hockey in AMERICA is a nasty omen for people with heavy investments in NHL teams. But to me, it meant little or nothing -- and that's why I called Bill Murray with an idea that would change both our lives forever.

It was 3:30 on a dark Tuesday morning when I heard the phone ring on his personal line in New Jersey. "Good thinking," I said to myself as I fired up a thin Cohiba. "He's bound to be wide awake and crackling at this time of day, or at least I can leave a very excited message."

My eerie hunch was right. The crazy bugger picked up on the fourth ring, and I felt my heart racing. "Hot damn!" I thought. "This is how empires are built." Late? I know not late.

Genius round the world stands hand in hand, and one shock of recognition runs the whole circle round.

Herman Melville said that in the winter of 1914, and Murray is keenly aware of it. Only a madman would call a legend of Bill Murray's stature at 3:33 a.m. for no good reason at all. It would be a career-ending move, and also profoundly rude.

But my reason was better than good ...

* * * * *

BILL: "Hello?"

HST: "Hi, Bill, it's Hunter."

BILL: "Hi, Hunter."

HST: "Are you ready for a powerful idea? I want to ask you about golf in Japan. I understand they're building vertical driving ranges on top of each other."

BILL (sounding strangely alert): "Yes, they have them outdoors, under roofs ..."

HST: "I've seen pictures. I thought they looked like bowling alleys stacked on top of each other."

BILL: (Laughs.)

HST: "I'm working on a profoundly goofy story here. It's wonderful. I've invented a new sport. It's called Shotgun Golf. We will rule the world with this thing."

BILL: "Mmhmm."

HST: "I've called you for some consulting advice on how to launch it. We've actually already launched it. Last spring, the Sheriff and I played a game outside in the yard here. He had my Ping Beryllium 9-iron, and I had his shotgun, and about 100 yards away, we had a linoleum green and a flag set up. He was pitching toward the green. And I was standing about 10 feet away from him, with the alley-sweeper. And my objective was to blow his ball off course, like a clay pigeon."

BILL: (Laughs.)

HST: "It didn't work at first. The birdshot I was using was too small. But double-aught buck finally worked for sure. And it was fun."

BILL: (Chuckles.)

HST: "OK, I didn't want to wake you up, but I knew you'd want to be in on the ground floor of this thing."

BILL: (Silence.)

HST: "Do you want to discuss this tomorrow?"

BILL: "Sure."

HST: "Excellent."

BILL: "I think I might have a queer dream about it now, but ..." (Laughs.)

HST: "This sport has a HUGE future. Golf in America will soon come to this."

BILL: "It will bring a whole new meaning to the words 'Driving Range'."

HST: "Especially when you stack them on top of each other. I've seen it in Japan."

BILL: "They definitely have multi-level driving ranges. Yes."

HST: (Laughs.) "How does that work? Do they have extremely high ceilings?"

BILL: "No. The roof above your tee only projects out about 10 feet, and they have another range right above you. It's like they took the façade off a building. People would be hanging out of their offices."

The prophetic:
It was not Hemingway's wave, and in the end he came back to Ketchum, never ceasing to wonder, says Mason, why he hadn't been killed years earlier in the midst of violent action on some other part of the globe. Here at least, he had mountains and a good river below his house; he could live among rugged, non-political people and visit, when he chose to, with a few of his famous friends who still came up to Sun Valley. He could sit in the Tram or the Alpine or the Sawtooth Club and talk with men who felt the same way he did about life, even if they were not so articulate. In this congenial atmosphere he felt he could get away from the pressures of a world gone mad, and "write truly" about life as he had in the past.

From such a vantage point a man tends to feel it is not so difficult, after all, to see the world clear and as a whole. Like many another writer, Hemingway did his best work when he felt he was standing on something solid--like an Idaho mountainside, or a sense of conviction.

Perhaps he found what he came here for, but the odds are huge that he didn't. He was an old, sick, and very troubled man, and the illusion of peace and contentment was not enough for him--not even when his friends came up from Cuba and played bullfight with him in the Tram. So finally, and for what he must have thought the best of reasons, he ended it with a shotgun.

HST National Observer, May 25, 1964

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Gannongate

Justin Raimondo nails it:
If we follow the slime trail left by Gannon and his sponsors all the way to the end, we'll stand face-to-face with the real authors of the Iraq war, and the full record of their crimes in the reckless pursuit of power and imperial glory. Gannon may be a minor player in all this, but then so was the Watergate burglary a minor escapade – the unraveling of which eventually led to the resignation of Richard M. Nixon and a general disillusionment with the neoconservative agenda of global interventionism.

What I wrote last winter about the Plame case applies equally to l'affaire Gannon:

"This case is about much more than the outing of a CIA agent: It's about a cabal of ruthless liars who stopped at nothing – not even treason – to achieve their goals, and kept lying (and committing forgery) even after they were caught. It's about a bogus war fought on account of faked 'evidence.' It's about the hijacking of American foreign policy on behalf of interests that are neither American nor morally defensible."

RIP HST

Apparently Hunter S. Thompson committed suicide. That's the breaking news. Certainly very sad news. I think it's safe to say that the great Doctor of gonzo journalism had his share of baggage. Hell, all one had to do was spend some quality time with any one of his books, articles, or columns to notice that he was wrestling with some seriously pissed off and deranged demons. That was the charm of his writing, actually - that a person as messed up as he was could still manage to write with the clarity and wit that he was able to muster on a fairly consistent basis (perhaps less consistently in his later years, but man when he was on, he was on).

I first came into contact with the world according to HST sometime in early 1985 when some friends and I rented this Bill Murray flick Where the Buffalo Roam, loosely based on the life and times of HST. In retrospect, it was a pretty lousy flick, but it did make me want to know more about the author. Before too long, I'd managed to read through The Great Shark Hunt (a compilation of his writings from the 1960s and 1970s), Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72, and Hell's Angels. In fact I still like to refer to Hell's Angels in my research methods classes when we discuss participant-observer research - which to be sure was what gonzo journalism was all about. Amidst the madness that characterized his writing and his life were some of the most profound thoughts that I had yet experienced back in my late teens/early 20s. Perhaps my favorite quote is one from the aforementioned Hell's Angels book:
"...The Edge...There is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over. The others -- the living -- are those who pushed their control as far as they felt they could handle it, and then pulled back, or slowed down, or did whatever they had to when it came time to choose between Now and Later.

"But the edge is still Out there. Or maybe it's In..."

--- Hunter S. Thompson (1967) , from "Hell's Angels"

He knew the edge as well as any of us. Now he knows what is on the other side. Rest in peace. Mahalo.

The survey says:

Americans want an opposition party!
"Americans want Democrats to stand up to Bush," the Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire reports. "Fully 60%, including one-fourth of Republicans, say Democrats in Congress should make sure Bush and his party 'don't go too far.' Just 34% want Democrats to 'work in a bipartisan way' to help pass the president's priorities."

Digby hit's it right on the mark when he notes that Democrats can readily handle the "obstructionist" label by simply stating that they are preventing the GOP from "going too far." A confrontational opposition party has some opportunities that aren't available otherwise, such as giving potential voters an idea of what the opposition actually stands for - and as I'm always fond of saying, if you don't stand for something you'll go for anything. Let's face it, folks respect those who show some courage. The good news is that everyonce in a while the Dems actually act like a real opposition. They've got a long way to go, of course, but at least some baby steps have been taken.

"Social Security Put Me Through College"

Here's a personal testimonial worth checking out:
What about the impact that privatizing social security will have on children whose parents die when they are still minors? Social Security isn't just for the elderly!

My own personal experience makes me notice this omission in public discussion of private accounts. My father died before I was born. My mother, orphaned when she was eight, only had a high-school education. She never made more than $25,000 a year in her entire life.

You might think that, as a child in such a household, I would have had fairly restricted educational opportunities. But after my father died in a car accident, my mother received monthly social security checks from my father's accumulated benefits. Every month, she put the check in the bank in order to save for my education. Thanks to FDR and the generosity and farsightedness of my mother, I went to Oberlin College and Yale Graduate School, and am now a professor. (I also have student loans, but they're not debilitating.)

Clearly a child in a private-account future, whose family also suffers financial hardship due to the death of a parent, will not have the same opportunities I did 20 years ago when I started college.

We must demand from every proponent of privatization an explanation as to how the new, market-dependent personal accounts will take care of children whose parents die untimely deaths.

No child left behind?