"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"

Saturday, March 19, 2005

I love the smell of schaedenfreud in the morning, it smells like...well, you know.

Christian radio personality arrested on kiddie porn charges. "Suffer the little children to come unto me" indeed.

Friday, March 18, 2005

More Wolfowitticisms

Billmon at Whiskey Bar reads the Long Island Iced Tea-leaves on the future of the World Bank under the Wolfman

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Hank returns

I posted this link about a month ago, but it is now way down in the backlog. It is an absolute must see

"Hank wants to give you a million dollars, but first you have to kiss his ass. If you don't kiss his ass, he'll kick the shit out of you"

Me: "And you just took his word for it when he said there was a Hank, that Hank wanted you to kiss His ass, and that Hank would reward you?"
John: "Oh no! Karl has a letter he got from Hank years ago explaining the whole thing. Here's a copy; see for yourself."

From the Desk of Karl
1.Kiss Hank's ass and He'll give you a million dollars when you leave town.
2.Use alcohol in moderation.
3.Kick the shit out of people who aren't like you.
4.Eat right.
5.Hank dictated this list Himself.
6.The moon is made of green cheese.
7.Everything Hank says is right.
8.Wash your hands after going to the bathroom.
9.Don't use alcohol.
10.Eat your wieners on buns, no condiments.
11. Kiss Hank's ass or He'll kick the shit out of you.

Also, check out the FBI investigation of gay cartoon characters

Rant du jour

I see the moderates are already claiming US President George W. Bush's nomination of Paul Wolfowitz as president of the World Bank is is just a sop by Bush to the far right. When will these people wake up and realize that neither this appointment, nor the appoint of John "the UN does not exist" Bolton, nor the appointment of Al "it's not torture unless it causes organ failure" Gonzales are sops to the right, but the actions of a right-wing extremist president. What is it going to take? The appointment of a Falangist to the office of faith-based initiatives? A new Kristalnacht?

Since the Reagan and Thatcher years (and I'd include Mulroney in this too) the strategy of the right whenever and wherever they have held power has been to push the center to the right by means of fear-mongering, bribing the people with their own money, campaigning against government and the neo-con game of "starving the beast" through tax cuts and pandering to strident patriotic nationalism.

Since the early 1980's we've have been treated to politicians on the right constantly wailing in alarm about street crime, violence and drugs that are destroying our cities. About the proliferation of WMD and so-called rogue states and creating domestic crises to push their own policies - the coal strike in the UK that was used to break the British trade union movement, the various ill-fated attempts at constitutional reform in Canada under Mulroney, the current social security "emergency" cooked up by Bush the Younger - these are all "crises" created by the governments in question to allow them to further their own agenda in the solution.

A right-wing government cuts taxes and promises to cut spending and "waste" and "red tape" that is handcuffing free enterprise. They trot out the most extreme cases of govt funded research into obscure fields, or funding given to narrow-focus advocacy groups they can find and ridicule it. They make a sweeping promise to cut the civil service ("everybody knows how lazy those darn bureaucrats are - govt should be run like a business") and turn hundreds, even thousands of govt employees out into the street. When the remaining staff can no longer deliver adequate services due to lack of manpower, they decry this as further proof of government inefficiency and impotence.

Meanwhile the tax cuts are all to aid the corporate sector and the wealthy. The "waste" that is cut is usually in fields like education and social service spending: "useless" things like support for teachers and social workers, halfway houses and drug treatment programs. Mental health facilities in particular took a huge hit in the Reagan era, leading to the current epidemic of homelessness among the borderline and often not-so-borderline mentally ill.

Often these cuts are ideologically driven. Subsidization of post-secondary education is cut "because it favors elitism" when in reality it is now only the elite who can afford university. Health care subsidization is cut and private care encouraged, because socialized medicine is "socialism" and doctors deserve to take part in the free market system as much as anyone else. The red tape that gets cut are things like environmental standards and enforcement (see Ontario under the Harris government, the USA under Bush) corporate oversight and financial regulation.

The right campaign on a platform of fiscal responsibility and keep hammering on the size of the public debt to scare the electorate into voting for "fiscal conservatism" and when they get into office, reduce the government's income by cutting taxes while reallocating (and often increasing) spending to pay private contractors to provide the government services they have cut at a higher cost and with less accountability. If the government-run agency screws up, the politicians take the heat, but if the private contractor screws up, the politicians can wring their hands and say they didn't know about it, it was a private firm and so they had no control.

With less money coming in, the deficit gets bigger, giving the right wing politicians further ammunition to cut more government programs. Most schools in Ontario used to have good art, music, sports and drama programs. Not anymore, they werer cut in 90's as "too expensive in the current dire financial climate" Most provincial parks in Ontario replaced government employees (with living wages and benefits) with private contractors (much lower wages, no benefits) for all but senior management jobs.

The use of misinformation and outright propaganda is essential to the task of moving the center. When conservatives railed against crime in the streets and the need for getting tough on crime in the 80s and 90s, the crime rate was actually lower than it had been in the 70s and going down. Since they couldn't rely on statistical evidence, they would dredge up anecdotes about the most brutal crimes they could find and then act as though brutal crime had not existed before 1965, Jack the ripper and Lizzie Borden notwithstanding. The media ran with the anecdotes rather than the scientific recording of actual trends because gory anecdotes always make better copy than dry statistics. Sins of ommission are the most common type of media offense - telling us all about American Idol or Martha Stuart or Michael Jackson's day in court rather than the bankrupcy bill that just handed credit card companies the right to seize people's homes or the debate over social security reform. I'm sure when the U.S. congress eventually introduces a bill calling for a military draft, the lead story on CNN is going to be Brittany Spears miracle baby or the discovery that some mental defective in Utah who has cooked and eaten the babysitter.

As the Bruce Cockburn song says "the trouble with normal is it always get worse" - the more of these changes that are made, the more people accept them and the more willing they become to accept even more heavy-handed measures. What would have been completely unacceptable to most people in 1975 or even 1985 (The Patriot Act, machinegun-toting National Guardsmen in airports forcing people to take off their shoes, "free speech" zones away from Presidential speeches, the hate rhetoric of Ann Coulter, the ten commandments in court rooms and the teaching of creationism in schools to name a few off the top of my head) is no longer even blinked at. The political pendulum swings back and forth from left to right, but in the 80s, Reagan, Thatcher and Mulroney managed to move the top of the pendulum itself to the right, so when it swung back to Clinton, Blair and Chretien, it didn't go very far to the left, but stopped just to the right of what used to be the center. Now as it swings to the right again, the center is being pulled with it, ensuring a sort of creeping facism will be with us for years, perhaps generations to come.

Germany, Italy and Spain did not become facist states overnight - the facists created the conditions for their seizing of power over a number of years before provoking unrest and even civil war to allow them to impose a military solution to "protect peace."That is what we are watching right now in the United States.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

My favorite record

Enough good things cannot be said about Austin, Texas' legendary Asylum Street Spankers. Buy their records, videos, download all their stuff off itunes and watch these concert and interview clips taped last fall for a Kansas television program called Turnpike

flipping the bird
Just in case the world didn't realize what dubya was saying when he appointed John "The United Nations does not exist" Bolton as ambassador to the UN, the commander-in-chimp has now held up his owther middle finger and nominated Paul Wolfowitz to head the World Bank

testing testing 1..2...3....is this thing on?

Nice to see one finally admit it

"That’s me, a marine, a murderer of civilians" This interview with U.S. Marine Jimmy Massey by Patrizio Lombroso of Il Manifesto appeared the day before Giuliana Sgrena was released and shot. It’s an interview not calculated to win love and friendship in official Washington circles.‘

“I’ve seen the horror that we were causing every day in Iraq. I have been part of it. We are all just murderers.“We kill innocent Iraqi civilians all the time. That’s the way it is. I believe they need to withdraw all foreign military troops in Iraq right away. And I say this about other soldiers: to avoid punishment or reprisals by the military, they don’t want to talk and admit that killing terrorists is not our mission. It’s to kill innocent civilians.”

useful information
Or at least something to read while waiting for the vodka in your freezer to get cold can be found at the home bartenders best friend Droogle and all manner of splendid reading for boozehounds everywhere can be found at Modern Drunkard magazine, where they put the "fun" in "functional alcoholic"

Oh, that Ann
Ann Coulter L'il Junior Miss Conservative Club - PATRIOTIC POSTERS - WHITEHOUSE.ORG

Monday, March 14, 2005

Alexander's next target for conquest: your coffee table
Kevin Wood / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer
Alexander the Conqueror
By Laura Foreman
Da Capo, 211 pp, 35 dollars
As Hippocrates, a near contemporary of the subject of Laura Foreman's new book, famously wrote: "Life is short, art is long, the crisis fleeting, experience perilous, decision difficult."
This wisdom is reflected both in the life of King Alexander III of Macedon and in Foreman's biography Alexander the Conqueror.

Alexander's life was certainly short. He died just weeks shy of his 33rd birthday, but his legacy had a long-lasting effect on the world.

Ascending to the throne of Macedon in northern Greece at 20 after his father was assassinated, Alexander conquered an empire that stretched from Greece to modern-day Pakistan and Afghanistan and included Egypt, Libya, the Middle East and Persia. He conquered what to him would have been most of the known world in just 12 years. His adventures were unquestionably perilous, and he was badly wounded half a dozen times before his mysterious death, possibly at the hands of a poisoner.

Decisions were rarely difficult for the man who cut the legendary Gordian Knot with a single sword-stroke and went on to fulfill the prophecy that the man who contrived to undo it would become lord of all Asia. He proved himself a master tactician in battle time and again, defeating his enemies with a combination of surprising maneuvers, cunning deception and audacious feats of engineering. Alexander had little capacity for self-doubt and the charisma of a natural leader of men.

But journalist and pop historian Foreman also shows us a man who was obsessed with outdoing his famous father, who presided over numerous massacres and the bloody sacking of cities, and who murdered one of his best friends in a drunken brawl.

Like life, the text of Foreman's book is short, with large type and wide margins. She has proved that art is long by balancing the brevity of her concise but elegant text with a wealth of lavish illustrations: Not a single page goes by without a color photograph of a statue or other artifact depicting Alexander. His lasting legacy of inspiration is reflected in the wide range of color reproductions of paintings from across Europe and Asia. Numerous photographs of battlefields and ruined palaces also serve to bulk up this elegant volume.

This is not a scholarly work, but more of a popular history--classics for the coffee table. Foreman's descriptions of events and critical analysis is fleeting. She often relegates important issues--such as the fate of the citizens of Thebes, one of Alexander earliest and bloodiest conquests, and Alexander's possible role in his father's death--to one- or two-page inserts that interrupt the main text, making it an attractive book to browse through, but a difficult one to sit and read at length.

Nor does she make decisions or draw conclusions about her subject. Instead, she shows the reader a dual view of Alexander, listing his accomplishments, virtues and lasting influence, but never shying away from his occasional misjudgments, murderous excesses or hubris.

Alexander the Conqueror makes no clear judgment about whether the remarkable ancient Macedonian should be remembered as great or terrible: "Having accomplished so much and died so young, Alexander set a standard for achievement that endures to this day...His greatness, therefore, is beyond doubt. His goodness is another matter."

Copyright 2005 The Yomiuri Shimbun