Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Odometer of Time Rolls Over ...

... at least, in an extremely minor way. I'm sitting here, nursing a Diet Coke and typing up some problem solutions for my class, and it's about midnight. It's the beginning of AD 2007, more or less.

I wish I could predict some sort of wonderful upcoming year, here in the land of my birth. But I see no reason to think we'll have one, nor any particular reason why we deserve one. What we do deserve hardly bears talking about. So, I'll be hoping for some kind of chastening that might have the effect of waking us up and making us see what we have become, and what our situation really is. May the sun set on the American Empire very, very soon. May we all turn from our "culture" of death and idiocy even sooner.

Not going to happen, is it?

Friday, December 29, 2006

Here's an Idea, George ...

I see where your Mesopotamian puppet regime has dusted our former Iraqi employee. So here's what you do, George, you pathetic and vainglorious pup. You declare "mission accomplished" once again (better think of a new phrase, though), and you immediately withdraw the legions -- every last one.

Hey, now you can say you won and everything! You can be SO much more of a man than your old Dad, and settle up that Oedipal scenario that's been playing itself out in what's left of your coked-out and booze-rotted mind.

But act fast! The glorious moment won't last ... wait until next week, and attention will only tend to return to the blood-soaked chaos you've made out of the former Iraq. Get out while the gettin's good, boy!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

"Progress Death Is Our Most Important Product"

I see in the news where Our Glorious Wartime President will soon be able to trumpet yet another Imperial success: another death. Sometime in the next few weeks, Saddam Hussein will be hanged.

What for? Well:
His lawyers, who released the message, said it was written on 5 November, the day an Iraqi tribunal sentenced him to death for ordering the killings of scores of Shias Muslims in Dujail.
Hmmmm. "Scores." Let's see, a "score" is an archaic way of saying "twenty." So, someone who ordered the killing of "scores" must presumably have ordered the deaths of, say, two to ten twenties. Forty to two hundred people.

This, it seems to me, establishes -- or at least reminds us of -- a potentially-useful precedent. Any reasonable estimate of the numbers of Iraqi civilians killed in Bush's war is in the hundreds of thousands (or in the five thousands of "scores"). So: how many times does Il Duce deserve to be hanged for his misdeeds? How about his British lap-poodle, Tony Blair?

If only this precedent could be generally applied! What a peaceful world we might have.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Chimpy's Bedside Manner

OK, it's Christmas time. You're a soldier, and you've been wounded in what is now nearly universally acknowledged as a raw face-saving exercise on behalf of the draft-dodger who currently infests the White House. (That's as opposed to that other draft-dodger who was the previous tenant. Is there a theme here?)

Can you think of anything that would make you feel any better than to receive Official Comfort™ from the Chimp-in-Chief himself?

You have to wonder what the pre-Official Comfort™ screenings and briefings must have been like. After all, it wouldn't do for The Exalted to visit some ungrateful wretch's bedside and get some kind of dissent talk. I wonder what the pre-screeners and briefers say to those wounded folks? I wonder how explicitly the threats are made.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Democrats for Peace?

We can probably take for granted that no Republican who takes a principled stance against aggressive wars is likely to seek the GOP presidential nomination. After all, the only (quasi-)Republican officeholder that I know of who meets that standard is Ron Paul, the libertarian/Republican congressman from the 14th district in Texas, and he's not seeking the presidency. So that leaves the Other Major Brand. The Democratic Party "swept" its way into razor-thin working majorities in both houses of Congress a couple of months ago, propelled by some form of national disgust over the blood-soaked fiasco that is Iraq. Which Democrats seeking the presidency are actually anti-war?

Well, there's Sen. Hillary Clinton. Heh, heh, heh, heh, heh. Driven by a need (unfortunately, a realistic one, I don't doubt) to seem even more manly than the men, her public statements have rivalled Bush for bellicosity.

What about everyone's cuddly-clean non-racial / post-racial diversity celebrity, Sen. Barack Obama? He's condemned the war as "dumb." However, he's sure he can do it lots better. Nope -- no change there.

Really, I think Dennis Kucinich is about as good as it gets on the Democratic Party side; and that's not very good. His campaign web site suggests that his primary critique of the war is that it isn't being prosecuted by the United Nations. I'd need something a good bit more explicitly-principled from him before developing any enthusiasm.

Conclusion: we're screwed, again. As are a lot of foreigners who deserve being screwed again much less than we deserve it.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Supporting the Troops, Part N

The indispensable Fred Reed has a piece today at Lew Rockwell. As always, I'd recommend following the link; however, in case you'd rather not bother, here's the entire text:
Addendum to Clausewitz

by Fred Reed

It's all but official: The war in Iraq is lost. Report after leaked report says so. Everybody in Washington knows it except that draft-dodging ferret in the White House. Politicians scurry to avoid the blame. One day soon people will ask aloud: How did we let 3000 GIs die for the weak ego of a pampered liar and his desperate need to prove he's half the man his father was?

The troops from now on will die for a war that they already know is over. They are dying for politicians. They are dying for nothing. By now they must know it. It happened to us, too, long ago.

The talk among pols now is about finding an "exit strategy." This means a way of pulling out without risking too many seats in Congress. Screw the troops. We must look to the elections. Do we really want an exit strategy? A friend of mine, with two tours in heavy combat in another war, has devised a splendid exit strategy. It consists of five words: "OK. On the plane. Now." Bring your toothbrush. Everything else stays. We're outa here.

It is a workable exit strategy, one with teeth, and comprehensible to all. But we won't use it. We will continue killing our men, calculatedly, cynically, for the benefit of politicians. The important thing, you see, is the place in history of Bush Puppy. Screw the troops.

Face it. The soldiers are being used. They are being suckered. This isn't new. It happened to my generation. Long after we knew that the war in Vietnam was lost, Lyndon Johnson kept it going to fertilize his vanity, and then Nixon spoke of the need to "save face"—at two hundred dead GIs a week. But of course Johnson and Nixon weren't among the dead, or among the GIs.

I saw an interview on television long ago in which the reporter asked an infantryman near Danang, I think, what he thought of Nixon's plan to save face. "His face, our ass," was the reply. Just so, then, and just so now. Screw the troops. What the hell, they breed fast in Kansas anyway.

Soldiers are succinct and do not mince words. This makes them dangerous. We must keep them off-camera to the extent possible. A GI telling the truth could set recruiting back by years.

The truth is that the government doesn't care about its soldiers, and never has. If you think I am being unduly harsh, read the Washington Post. You will find story after story saying that the Democrats don't want to do anything drastic about the war. They fear seeming "soft on national security." In other words, they care more about their electoral prospects in 2008 than they do about the lives of GIs. It's no secret. For them it is a matter of tuning the spin, of covering tracks, of calculating the vector sum of the ardent-patriot vote which may be cooling, deciding which way the liberal wind blows, and staying poised to seem to have supported whoever wins. Screw the troops. Their fathers probably work in factories anyway.

Soldiers do not realize, until too late, the contempt in which they are held by their betters. Here is the psychological foundation of the hobbyist wars of bus-station presidents. If you are, say, a Lance Corporal in some miserable region of Iraq, I have a question for you: Would your commanding general let you date his daughter? I spent my high-school years on a naval base, Dahlgren Naval Proving Ground as it was then called. Dahlgren was heavy with officers, scientists, and engineers. Their daughters, my classmates, were not allowed to associate with sailors. Oh yes, we honor our fighting men. We hold them in endless respect. Yes we do.

For that matter, Lance Corporal, ask how many members of Congress have even served, much less been in combat. Ask how many have children in the armed services. Look around you. Do you see many (any) guys from Harvard? Yale? MIT? Cornell? Exactly. The smart, the well-off, the powerful are not about to risk their irreplaceable sit-parts in combat. Nor are they going to mix with mere high-school graduates, with kids from small towns in Tennessee, with blue-collar riffraff who bowl and drink Bud at places with names like Lenny's Rib Room. One simply doesn't. One has standards.

You are being suckered, gang, just as we were.

It is a science. The government hires slick PR firms and ad agencies in New York. These study what things make a young stud want to be A Soldier: a desire to prove himself, to get laid in foreign places, a craving for adventure, a desire to feel part of something big and powerful and respected, what have you. They know exactly what they are doing. They craft phrases, "Be a Man Among Men," or "A Few Good Men," or, since girls don't like those two, "The Few, The Proud." Join up and be Superman.

Then comes the calculated psychological conditioning. There is for example the sense of power and unity that comes of running to cadence with a platoon of other guys, thump, thump, thump, all shouting to the heady rhythm of boots, "If I die on the Russian front, bury me with a Russian c__t, Lef-rye-lef-rye-lef-rye-lef..." That was Parris Island, August of '66, and doubtless they say something else now, but the principle is the same.

And so you come out in splendid physical shape and feeling no end manly and they tell you how noble it is to Fight for Your Country. This might be true if anyone were invading the country. But since Washington always invades somebody else, you are actually fighting for Big Oil, or Israel, or the defense industry, or the sexual ambiguities who staff National Review, or the vanity of that moral dwarf on Pennsylvania Avenue. You will figure this out years later.

Once you are in the war, you can't get out. We couldn't either. While your commander in chief eats steak in the White House and talks tough, just like a real president, you kill people you have no reason to kill, about whom you know next to nothing—which one day may weigh on your conscience. It does with a lot of guys, but that comes later.

You are being suckered, and so are the social classes that supply the military. Note that the Pentagon cracks down hard on troops who say the wrong things online, that the White House won't allow coffins to be photographed, that the networks never give soldiers a chance to talk unedited about what is happening. Oh no. It is crucial to keep morale up among the rubes. You are the rubes. So, once, were we.
As is often the case, Mr. Reed's gift for expression is such that to copy, paste, and post seems like the only thing to do.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Post-Surgical Blogging

It's been over a week, and I'm finally in front of the machine again. I keep my computer in my basement "office," currently an unattractive place for me for several reasons: first, because I'm uncomfortable in the chairs I have to choose from; secondly, because it's a little chilly down here, and there's no bathroom facilities; and thirdly, because a visit costs me a round trip on the stairs -- rather low-risk, but a tiresome effort.

My quad-tendon surgery was last Monday, and I got home late Tuesday (they retained me overnight -- turns out it isn't an automatic outpatient deal). First time I spent the night in a hospital since '02, when my mother died ... and the first night I've spent in a hospital as a patient since '72, when I had a 24 hours' observation for a minor head injury I collected in a car crash. Anyway, the claim is that the repair went as expected, and that I can look forward to a full recovery in about three months' time.

In case any of you have as little experience as I had in getting sliced, some miscellaneous data:

1. Operating rooms are amazingly cluttered, and amazingly cold. I assume the temperature is chosen to depress eee-villl microbes, and also to enhance the comfort of those who work therein, covered extensively by sterile garments. Once they had strapped me in place, however, they gave me a blanket that had clearly just been removed from a warmer: very pleasant.

2. Speaking of "strapped down," the table actually has some minor upholstery, and is quite narrow: just wide enough for your torso. Once that is belted in place, they swing out some supports for your arms, and belt those down, too. The "cruciformity" of the whole setup was striking, and would have been more appropriate to Holy Week than to Advent, but who's quibbling? All I know is, I'd have been even more scared than I already was if some joker had come in, dressed in a toga and carrying a hammer and three large, crude nails.

3. The anesthesiologist (in my case, a lady-type doctor with a little bit of Australia in her voice) did not do any corny "count backward from 100" stuff. In fact, she gave me no indication of when she was shooting the juice into my tubes. Or maybe she did all of those things, and I just don't remember. I mean, how would I know?

4. Post-operative: yeah, orthopedic surgery hurts like ... like ... well, I don't know, name your favorite thing that hurts a lot, and that's what it hurts like. The flesh just doesn't like being cut apart, even if it does get stapled back together, and it is not shy about reviewing your gross mismanagement in having allowed something like that to happen. Couldn't you have run away? Couldn't you have fought them off? Couldn't you at least have talked them out of it somehow? No, I couldn't, knee ... shut up and enjoy this little intravenous morphine bomb that I'm about to pickle off with my "patient-controlled anesthesia" pushbutton. I was assured that it was programmed to dispense the big "M" at intervals as short as 10 minutes. I didn't use it nearly that often, as a push would tend to send me to sleep, and it would be more than 10 minutes later when I woke up again. They didn't tell me it was morphine (and I didn't think to ask) until I was near discharge anyway, and I'll admit to being disappointed. As far as I could tell, its effects were limited to fairly modest pain relief and some drowsiness; I definitely didn't notice any getting-high effect. The generic vicodin that they sent me home with a script for: same deal, and I only used about a third of what was prescribed. All in all, I believe that for my embarrassingly small recreational-substance needs, I'll stick with the occasional cold beer: more fun, much better for washing down pizza, and with the side benefit of frequent urinal calls.

So, here I am. I go back to see the surgeon on the 27th, at which time he's supposed to de-staple me and give me further instructions. I'm hoping those instructions will include at least occasional freedom from the knee immobilizer, which is what makes me uncomfortable at a desk: the accursed leg has to be as straight as a yardstick, and that's surprisingly hard to do unless you sit sideways on the very edge of the chair: not a viable long-term position. In fact ... I believe it's time for the end of this decreasingly-useful post. If I'm not back for another week, you'll know it's just because this is a little too much like work.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Something Different

Well, not something completely different, of course. That would be asking a little too much. I am feeling pretty uninspired to even complain about public affairs -- not that there isn't plenty to complain about, in the words and deeds of our current public nuisances -- and I've been sitting around brooding childishly about my upcoming surgery. It's a very minor surgery, as such things go, but I'm a horrible coward about needles. And apart from my tonsils being removed back in AD 1962 (I think barbers did that sort of work back then, using tame leeches and blacksmith tools), and getting vasectomy'd in late '85, I've been luxuriously surgery-free; so I'm nearly a rookie at this kind of thing. But I had e-mail yesterday from a woman who instructed me to post something about what I've been reading. I assume she means books, not online ephemera or paper periodicals.

I read less now than I once did. Anthony Burgess wrote somewhere (I think it was in 1985, but I'm too lazy to hobble over to the bookshelves and look it up) that reading is something you have to do when you're young, because the power to read seriously atrophies with age. I don't know if that's generally true, but it is something I've seen in myself. Not that I can't read "literature" any more -- just that I read less of it. In my case, I think it has something to do with the fact that, when I'm indoors in a comfortable chair in the usual reading setup, sleep tends to overtake me very quickly, no matter whether the book in hand is a good one or not.

Lots of them, regrettably, are not. (Good, that is.) The last book I read was a forgettable thing called Yes, We Have No Neutrons, which I picked up at the library because I'd browsed for a few minutes without seeing anything good, but I can't stand leaving emptyhanded. It was an exposé of several instances of bad science, by someone whose name I forget who appears regularly in "Scientific American." Before that was Jon Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven -- flawed but worthwhile.

What I've been reading over the past few years have been the novels of a Japanese writer, Haruki Murakami. I was introduced to him by my son, who had been assigned Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World at Purdue. An off-putting title ... but, once I got past that, a narrative steeped in the kind of bottomless sadness that I've since found is Murakami's stock-in-trade. Since then, I've read most of his books (haven't caught up with Sputnik Sweetheart yet). Overall, I think The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is probably his best, although his most recent, Kafka on the Shore, is also a strong contender for that distinction. Norwegian Wood, Dance Dance Dance, A Wild Sheep Chase, South of the Border, West of the Sun -- all excellent, all recommended. There are a couple of volumes of his short stories also out, and I haven't read either of them yet, but I'll catch up with them, too, at some point or other. Murakami's books are probably often assigned in literature courses, because they're all liberally provided with subtexts and analogies and embedded commentaries on philosophical and linguistic subjects (one of the dangers in Hard-Boiled Wonderland came from some creatures called "Semiotecs," for heaven's sake). But they're also affecting, and he makes you care about his characters. And there's that ever-present semi-sweet melancholy and tragic sadness. Powerful stuff.

So, that's what I'm reading. What are you reading?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Truly Ridiculous Excuses ...

... for not blogging, that is.

Tuesday evening, I was chasing my cat down the stairs when, for some unknown reason, my right quadriceps tendon failed. This is the attachment of the large muscles at the front of the upper leg to the kneecap. The immediate results were a snapping noise that I could actually hear, a brilliant burst of pain quite unprecedented in my experience, followed by merciful unconciousness. I woke up when the EMS guys arrived. After a set of X-rays at Parkview North, I was informed that the subject tendon was "avulsed" (med-speak for "nuked") and was sent home on crutches and in an "immobilizer," with a referral to an orthopedic surgeon. So I went to see him yesterday, was MRI'ed, and scheduled for reparative surgery early Monday morning. It's an outpatient procedure.

I don't know whether this means I'll be posting (even) less than usual, or more. Sitting at the computer is uncomfortable; standing at it, even less so. On the other hand, I have a good bit more free time than usual right at the moment. So we'll see how it goes.

A final note: do NOT do what I did. It don't feel good. (Of course, since I can't really tell you why it happened, that's not very useful advice, is it?)

Monday, December 04, 2006

Wrong? Or Just Stupid?

The conventional wisdom now has it that the eee-vill neocons are in full retreat, and the pragmatists and realists are fully dominant. The incoming Democratic congressional majorities and the Bipartisan Iraq Study Group (can't say the ISG without the B on the front!) are supposedly going to straighten out U.S. foreign policy. The grownups are taking charge, whether Little George likes it or not.

I think there's some truth to the conventional wisdom. I expect that the grownups are going to be involved, at least, in Imperial management. And the grownups are not nearly so gratingly stupid as is Dubya. They are nuanced. They are effective managers. They are somewhat efficient.

Regrettably, what they are not is, well ... principled.

Various grownups are prescribing substantial withdrawals of the legions from Iraq:
The debate roiling Washington cuts across partisan divides and has led to some odd bedfellows.

The troop reduction and pullback options suggested by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in a Nov. 6 memo reflected a convergence between the White House and positions long-advocated by staunch critics of the administration's policy.

Rumsfeld's option to begin modest troop reductions to put pressure on the Iraqi government is very similar to an amendment sponsored by Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who will soon take over as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, although the defense secretary resisted the idea of setting a firm timeline.

The parallel between Rumsfeld's favored options and the Democratic agenda is so close that Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts senator and presidential prospect, has all but claimed credit for them. "Look, everything in the Rumsfeld memo is a summary of things that I and others laid out three years ago," Kerry said on CNN on Sunday. "This is rather extraordinary."
I recall hearing this from some of the Sunday teevee talking heads this week, too: withdrawals as a tactic for putting pressure on those accursed Eye-rackies. As the news article suggests, this realism encompasses what would seem to be some highly unlikely right-left combinations. This is golly-gee-whiz amazing -- always assuming that you think the "right" and "left" in modern America are really substantially different. If, however, you simply see two nearly-identical congregations in the Church of Statism, the amazement factor drops off very quickly.

Notice what we don't hear: anyone saying that we ought to get out of Iraq next week because we're wrong to be there. We don't hear anyone saying that what the Iraqis deserve from us is not pressure, but a sincere apology, delivered from over our shoulders while we march, double-time, out of their land.

Yes, everybody's against the war now. But the huge majority of the opponents are against it because it was stupidly mismanaged, or because we weren't sufficiently Klingonesque in prosecuting it (the "glassed-over Iraq" crowd), or because it temporarily made Republicans into a powerful, if befuddled, majority in Washington. For some, the lesson will be "keep the Democrats in power!" Others, remembering the post-Vietnam spin, will be busily preparing the Dolchstosslegende. All of which will pave the way for the next application of the Ledeen Doctrine: "Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business." There's no reason to expect the Democrats -- or the realist, grown-up Republicans -- to have any real problem with the application of that doctrine.

SCIRI George

Lo, how the mighty have fallen! Was it so long ago that Little George squinted and barked at the whole world that every government in the world would henceforth be required, at the point of U.S. arms, to toe the line of enlightenment? Liberal democracy, free elections, and a tender solicitude for the Rights of Wimmin: not optional, nosiree! But now, what the snuffing-out of 2900 American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of turban-wearers could not do, the election of a few dozen Democrats has done: the Decider will apparently talk to just anyone:
US President George W Bush has told one of Iraq's most powerful Shia leaders, Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, that he is "not satisfied" with conditions in Iraq.

[ ... ]

Mr Hakim heads the largest Shia party in Iraq's parliament, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri).

Sciri has ties to Iran, and its former military wing has been accused of fuelling sectarian violence.

Mr Hakim, a cleric, enjoys wide influence in Iraq because of his party's popularity among the country's majority Shia population.

He lived in exile in Iran in the years before the fall of Saddam Hussein, and retains strong links with Tehran.

His Sciri party joined forces with a host of other Shia groups to win a majority of seats in Iraq's parliament in elections last December.

The former armed wing of Sciri, the Badr Brigade, has merged with the army and police force, but it has been accused of taking part in the torture and killing of Sunnis.
Surely not even George W. Slow-Puppy imagines that the head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq is within shouting distance of an endorsement from Gloria Allred, or Kate Michelman, or even Laura Bush. So why does Dubya hate Amur'ka? He'll be a-cuttin' an' a-runnin', next thing you know.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Hearings! Oh Boy!

Well! The Empire's Iraq problems will soon be over. According to this story, the new Congress -- looking amazingly like the old Congress -- is going to hold hearings. You've got to hand it to the Representatives of the People: they can come up with the most ingenious and original alternatives to actually solving a problem. Hearings -- why didn't I think of that?

And if the hearings don't make everything better, there's always the Iraq Study Group:
But the most feverishly anticipated set of findings are those of the Iraq Study Group (ISG) - the commission headed by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Congressman Lee Hamilton.

The ISG is a group of veterans of Washington politics from across the spectrum which is expected to present a set of policy options to the Bush administration.

So President Bush can expect to receive a torrent of advice on how to proceed in Iraq, much of it contradictory.

The leaks which currently saturate the Washington media suggest the president will hear the following:

* calls for diplomatic dialogue with Iran and Syria

* calls for a phased withdrawal from Iraq

* calls for more troops to be sent to Iraq

* calls for Iraq to split apart into autonomous zones

* and calls for Iraq to hold together at any cost

Well-placed officials tell the BBC Mr Bush's task will be to identify the recommendations that stand a chance of bringing stability to Iraq, but which are also politically acceptable at home.

One intelligence official said Mr Bush will have to find proposals that are acceptable to the US military, to his own administration, to the state department, and, crucially, to Congress.
Yes, but that "intelligence official" omitted the really crucial requirement for any acceptable proposal. It has to be satisfactory to the Israel lobby and to its various and sundry U.S. functionaries.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Unplanned Hiatus

My posting productivity has never been my strong point, and it's been even less so lately. Illness has been a prolonged visitor at my household, and I've hardly been online in recent days. Tomorrow probably won't be any better, but I have hopes for Wednesday.

So, please be patient, and read some of the other fine material linked over at the right-hand side of the page.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Back to the Classroom!

About this time last year, I advised the physics department chair at IPFW that I wasn't going to teach again this year. I thought the day job was going to be requiring me to travel more; and -- I hate to admit it, but I might as well -- I was really, really tired of grading papers.

Boy, was I stupid. Lazy and stupid.

As it turns out, the demands for travel did not materialize in any troublesome amount. As for grading papers: well, any time you have a chance to teach physics -- that supreme monarch of the sciences -- well, grading some papers is a small price to pay. I spent the fall semester mostly twitching and sweating in classic withdrawal symptoms. Well, I had recruited my replacement at the day job, and she mentioned to me a couple of days ago that she's hanging it up. In her case, the day job really has been riding her into the ground. In a matter of minutes, I e-mailed the department chair; and in due course, he let me know that I could count on being readmitted to academic Valhalla. So: come January 8, 2007, I'm a part-time, evening, just-barely-sort-of-paid instructor again!

Later, I'll be tired. Right now, I'm just tickled. YIPPEE!!!!!

More on The Gun

My friend Mort Chien left a comment on an earlier post, which I thought called for discussion too extensive for a comment thread. Mort's comment:
How about outlining another piece of the puzzle for me as I am slow of brain, and ill suited to libertarian lingo. Does your Christianity modify your Libertarianism or is the reverse true? Since Paul in Romans 13:1-7 says that the state can legitimately use "the gun" (or the sword in 1st century non-libertarian lingo) are you debating about what the proper use of the "the gun" is? Or is the issue whether that text is to be dismissed? "it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God" seems pretty clear that some force has divine sanction. What limits do you see on that and how does it (or should it) apply today in the almost anarchistic USA?
A few observations:

1. As it happens, I know Mort by his real-world name in the real-world context. I say this so that the reader will know that I speak from a factual basis in saying that he's anything but "slow of brain."

2. I don't really know how to talk about my libertarianism, because I'm unwilling to accept the category label -- for a couple of reasons that I find sufficient. One is that it puts you into the sort of disreputable company that operates the Libertarian Party today: Republicans in drag, pretty much. Another is that it implies acceptance of the idea that there exists a political-philosophical "system" -- a body of theory -- that can always produce the right answer to the problems endemic to groups of people living together. With an old-school libertarian, I can find a fair amount to agree about, but that doesn't mean I am one; I'm not.

A Christian, on the other hand, is something that I simply am. I didn't "become" one under my own power or my own initiative; and I don't think I can stop being one now, although I concede that I may be mistaken about that. This is a rambling way of saying that I don't think there's any question about any sort of political-philosophical-scientific "-ism" modifying my Christianity; we're talking about things that differ in kind, not degree.

3. Now, for Romans 13 and the post on which you commented (and, perhaps, the previous post, which was about more or less the same thing). Does Romans 13 say that "rulers" and "governing authorities" are authorized users of The Gun? The verses you cited, from the NASB:
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience' sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.
Certainly, this passage says that the state is authorized -- assigned, in fact -- the use of The Gun. (It says some other things about the government that is so authorized, too; more on that later.) I do not dispute this, nor did I dispute it in my posts. What I was saying is that The Gun underlies everything the state does: free school lunches just as much as "dynamic entry" drug raids by the state's black-clad thugs. I say this because it is true, and because it is a truth that I think we should keep always at the forefront of our thoughts. Our rulers do not always aim for our good; indeed, a strong argument can be made that our rulers are quite seldom motivated by our good.

Which brings me to what else this passage from scripture says about legitimately-armed government. It says that the person who does good need not fear this government -- that, on the contrary, he or she can expect praise from it. The government being talked about here is a minister of God's justice, visiting wrath upon evildoers. This government's proper authority -- not power, but authority -- is established by God. This government is a dedicated servant of God. Seen a government like that around here lately?

4. Your final question seems to me to assume something that is not in evidence. You describe the USA as "almost anarchistic." The dictionary defines "anarchism" thusly:
Main Entry: an·ar·chism
Pronunciation: 'a-n&r-"ki-z&m, -"när-
Function: noun
1 : a political theory holding all forms of governmental authority to be unnecessary and undesirable and advocating a society based on voluntary cooperation and free association of individuals and groups
2 : the advocacy or practice of anarchistic principles.
I don't recognize the land where I live in those words. Where I live, we're up to our necks in "governmental authority." I live in a land where, increasingly, anything not forbidden is compulsory. Now, that doesn't mean that life is pleasant and orderly, by any means. Life is, in many places in the United State, disorderly to the point of chaos. (And I don't mean to quibble about word choice here; I'm guessing that "chaotic" goes closer to what you were thinking of.) For at least half a century now, we've been getting more and more and more government, while the tendency toward social disorders and pathologies has multiplied.

How are we to understand this? I think the passage from Romans that we've been looking at suggests an explanation. If we were living under a bad government -- a 1 Samuel 8:10-18 sort of government -- a lawless government: well, I wonder if this isn't the kind of result we might expect. How, the reader asks, can I describe our government as "lawless," when it takes a strong man to lift the Federal Register for a single year, and you'd need a pretty solid mule to haul the volumes of the tax code? By "lawless," I mean this: the federal government is supposedly created, defined, and strictly limited by a document: the U.S. constitution. And that constitution is today nothing better than a bad joke; it is routinely ignored by our masters, who have long since realized that words on paper are a poor match for The Gun, whether the words in question are those of the constitution or the scriptures. In short, I think we are ruled by a tyranny, an end to which is to be hoped for.

Monday, November 20, 2006

A Monday Folly Assortment

The Washington Post has a sort of catch-all piece online, offering a remarkable compendium of various sorts of knavery. Let's start with Senator John McCain, the inspirational leader of ... well, someone, I guess:
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a likely presidential contender, leveled one of his harshest assessments yet, saying U.S. troops are "fighting and dying for a failed policy." He renewed his call for more U.S. troops in Iraq and said it is immoral to keep them fighting at the current deployment levels.
The article, regrettably, does not give Senator McCain's estimate of the "deployment level" at which it would be morally acceptable to keep The Troops fighting. I'm not hard to get along with; I would agree with Sen. Straight Talk that such a level exists. I doubt, though, that I could get him to agree with me about what that level is: exactly zero.

Wait, though -- there's more:
On ABC's "This Week," McCain reiterated his argument that the United States faces a catastrophic setback in Iraq unless it deploys more troops to reduce sectarian violence and stabilize the country. "We have to have additional forces, or we will be playing whack-a-mole," he said.
Here, too, the story is frustratingly incomplete. It fails to tell us whether any of the "This Week" sages asked Mr. McCain to identify the classic arcade game we'd be playing with the requisite additional forces; we're left to guess. I'll guess "Death Race 2000," or maybe the unforgettable "Space Invaders."

And then there's Congressman Charles Rangel:
Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) has long advocated returning to the draft, but his efforts drew little attention during the 12 years that House Democrats were in the minority. Starting in January, however, he will chair the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. Yesterday he said "you bet your life" he will renew his drive for a draft.

"I will be introducing that bill as soon as we start the new session," Rangel said on CBS's "Face the Nation." He portrayed the draft, suspended since 1973, as a means of spreading military obligations more equitably and prompting political leaders to think twice before starting wars.
Now, there's a man who really has a way with words. "You bet your life?" No, not your life; more likely, some callow 19-to-26-year-old's life. Yes, yes, I know he doesn't really want the draft back; he just sees this as a way to make "political leaders" (i.e., presidents) "think twice" about optional foreign wars. Would I seem ungrateful to Rep. Rangel if I suggested that there are more straightforward ways to induce that second thought? You might try refusing to fund such a war, Congressman; after all, the purse strings are supposedly in your institutional hand. You might try removing war criminals from the offices that they infest. Oh, but that's just not practical, is it? No, much better to bust out the Ironic Gesture. Besides, remember that there's the Non-Military Alternative Slavery Service for the kids; Rep. Rangel may not actually want the military draft back, but I'll bet he's quite sincere about involuntary domestic servitude. The enthusiasm for slaveowning pops out in other quarters, too.

Finally, one of the New Bosses illustrates the deep commitment of the Democratic Party to the principles of peace:
And Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), incoming chairman of the Armed Services Committee, repeated yesterday his view that troop withdrawals must begin within four to six months.

The varying proposals underscored the extent to which key policymakers remain at odds two weeks after voters registered deep discontent over the war and restored Democrats to power in Congress.
I don't get this one either. American soldiers are either in Iraq to accomplish some particular task, or they are not. If not, complete and immediate withdrawal is an obvious imperative; there's no reason in the world why it should start later than this afternoon, or why it should take more than two weeks at the outside. If they are: the only "mission" which will definitely be accomplished by staying for six months is, well ... staying six months. What, Sen. Levin, do you say to the survivors of the numerous soldiers who are regrettably certain to be killed during your six months' "grace period?" What do you say to those who are merely maimed -- have their arms or legs blown off? The questions, I admit, are rhetorical -- we already know what he'll say. The content-free stuff of a thousand Memorial Day speeches, no doubt.

Here's hoping for bad dreams and indigestion for many of our public nuisances this week.

Friday, November 17, 2006

It's a Gun, All Right

Stefan Molyneux, had an interesting post up at Lew Rockwell yesterday -- the day after I posted this about the fundamental nature of government. An excerpt:
One of the most difficult – and essential – challenges faced by libertarians is the constant need to point out "the gun in the room." In political debates, it can be very hard to cut through the endless windy abstractions that are used to cover up the basic fact that the government uses guns to force people to do what they do not want to do, or prevent them from doing what they do want to do. Listening to non-libertarians, I often wish I had a "euphemism umbrella" to ward off the continual oily drizzle of words and phrases designed to obscure the simple reality of state violence. We hear nonstop nonsense about the "social good," the "redistribution of income," the "education of children" and so on – endless attempts to bury the naked barrel of the state in a mountain of syrupy metaphors.

It is a wearying but essential task to keep reminding people that the state is nothing but an agency of violence. When someone talks about "the welfare state helping the poor," we must point out the gun in the room. When someone opposes the decriminalization of marijuana, we must point out the gun in the room. When someone supports the reduction of taxes, we must point out the gun in the room – even if one bullet has been taken out.

So much political language is designed to obscure the simple reality of state violence that libertarianism sometimes has to sound like a broken record. We must, however, continue to peel back the euphemisms to reveal the socially-sanctioned brutality at the root of some of our most embedded social institutions.
Now, the "we" talk puts me off a little; I'm not a libertarian, and the only category title that I claim at this point is "Christian." But I do like the linguistic approach that Mr. Molyneux takes here -- reminiscent of my hero George Orwell in "Politics and the English Language". It is shamefully necessary to choose or invent alternative terms for robbery and murder, if we insist on robbing and murdering, and simultaneously pretending that we aspire to being good people.

Mr. Molyneux might want to avoid saying "we" while talking about libertarians. Libertarian is like conservative in that both have lost any real, concrete meaning, owing to their adoption -- or, rather, their co-option -- by the unprincipled.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Secretary of Peace?

Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.

--- George Washington
I was at IPFW (Indiana University - Purdue University, Fort Wayne) last evening. Before this year, I taught physics there; one of my former students, of whom I think very highly, is involved in Phi Theta Kappa, a service and honors organization. They conduct a series of "satellite seminars" during the fall semester, and last night's was the final one for this year. At these events, there's an hour's worth of satellite TV linkage with the main speaker, a host, and a studio audience; then there's a second hour at each local site with a local discussion panel. (I was a local panelist one evening last year, having been recruited by my student.)

So, as I say, I attended last night mostly so I could renew acquaintance with my star former student, which was agreeable. The speaker, as you may have seen from the link above, was Arun Ghandi (Mohandas K.'s grandson), who had some interesting things to say -- some of which I agreed with, and others about which I was dubious, to varying degrees. All in all, well worth an hour of my life. The local panel was something else. With all due respect to my friends of a liberal persuasion, I'll just say that a formidable load of good, classic, all-assuming, self-satisfied lefty claptrap was duly delivered. By now I'm sure it's all been shoveled out of Walb G21, and much of the, uhhh, aroma will have dissipated, so no harm, I suppose. Add to that the fact that the local panel featured Kevin Knuth, and I have to admit that my review might not be particularly objective. Well, so it goes; one man's meat is another man's etc., etc. Your mileage may vary.

One lady sitting in the local audience said something, at the end of the "local" hour, that provoked a thought in me. She was describing her own thoughts during the days following the Holy Nine-Eleven, during which she was wondering what sort of counsel Dubya was getting -- considering that the Pentagon constitutes a huge voice that was presumably urging war-war-war. Where, she wondered, was that part of the government that would be institutionally inclined to counsel peace, as the Joint Chiefs and so forth would be to counsel war? Leaving aside the extremely low probability that it made any difference what sort of advice The Great Chucklehead -- who, by all accounts, had long since decided that invading Iraq would be super-keen and was looking for any excuse to do so -- might receive, that was a good question. Where, indeed, is the Peace Department?

The answer, it seems to me, is not a cheerful one. As our first and best president warned us, the fundamental nature of government is force and compulsion. Violence, and the threat of violence, is the very grammar of government. Take away the euphemisms, and the essence of government is a gun, held to your head and mine, because we can't otherwise be trusted to be good boys and girls. Why does neither the political left nor the right understand this? "Conservatives:" you know that government that you like so well when it builds stealth airplanes and nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and uses them to stage splendidly-patriotic little wars? That's the same government that regards the wealth that you earn as its natural property, and makes careful calculations about what fraction that it might choose to allow you to keep. "Liberals:" you know that government that you like so well when it sets mandatory fuel-economy standards and minimum wages, and determines what classes of private property that smoking may be permitted in? That's the same government that enacted "PATRIOT" Acts 1 & 2, and whose "war on drugs" has made the Fourth Amendment into a balled-up scrap of paper in the trash can. Averaged over time, government is scrupulously neutral concerning the left-right argument; what it does consistently is to increase its own power. More guns, larger caliber.

To expect an entity organized around coercion and violence to adopt a meaningful institutional mechanism promoting nonviolence is like expecting an organized-crime "family" to start sincerely promoting modest living and hard, honest work. It's like expecting to get milk from a steer. It's just not happening.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

That's a Little Better

I'm not happy with it yet, but at least the links are back. In alphabetical order this time, too.

I'll continue to tinker.

First Problem ...

I see that somewhere in the process, I shed all my links. Hmmmmmm. Regrettably, I'm about to leave for Indianapolis, so I don't have time to restore them now -- but they'll be back as quickly as I can manage it.

Shouldn't have started this with five minutes' time ... what a ma-roon!

Might As Well Rearrange the Furniture a Little

As I mentioned previously, I decided to give in to the temptation of novelty for its own sake and make a couple of changes. While the URL is the same, the name has changed. I still wish to honor the excellence of George Orwell, but also to be a little less obscure about it. A blog could be described, metaphorically, as a place of sorts -- it has, after all, an address -- and so I took from Chapter 7 of 1984 the name of the Chestnut Tree Cafe. This was a place where persons on their way to unpersonhood could sit all day, drinking Victory Gin and playing chess, waiting for the bullet in the back of the head, more or less, while the telescreen played the song:
Under the spreading chestnut tree
I sold you and you sold me:
There lie they, and here lie we
Under the spreading chestnut tree.
I also have decided that, while it might well have been a good idea to blog under a nom de net, I may as well include my offline identity here, since the GOP hackmeister Mitch Harper has seen fit to reveal it to the world. I left a polite comment at his blog-whose-name-shall-not-be-mentioned-here, thinking that the usual practice would be used: that my signature would show up as "Bartleby," and would link to this blog. Well, wrong again. I had entered my email address in the appropriate field, from which Little Mitch ("Big Mitch" being the current governor of Indiana), like his nominally-opposing hackmeister Kevin Knuth, was able to divine my name. So Little Mitch appended my actual name to my comment -- complete with middle initial, no less -- and made it a link to this blog. I'm booted from the closet! I'm outed! I sent Little Mitch the following email -- still reasonably polite, I thought, although I'll leave that to the reader's judgement:
Mr. Harper --

Last night, I posted a comment to a thread on your blog:

Nowhere on your blog is a warning that posting a comment gets the commenter's name published. And -- amazingly! -- my name turns out to be a link to my blog! So now, I don't suppose there was any point to my blogging under a pseudonym.

A couple of questions, and a couple of requests:

Q1. How did you learn my name? With the middle initial, yet ... I certainly did not type my name anywhere in your comment fields.

Q2. Have you ever been introduced to the concept of "manners?"

R1. Would you kindly remove my name from your blog?

R2. Would you kindly remove the link to my blog from your blog?

Jim Wetzel
Well, Little Mitch couldn't be troubled to reply to my email, much less to apologize for his egregious lack of online etiquette, so I suppose my second question has been implicitly answered. He also honored my second request -- I no longer exist, not being linked anymore from the Official Northeast Indiana Blog of Record And If You Don't Believe Me Just Ask Him -- but not the first; my name and my blog link are still in his comment thread. So, may Little Mitch have both some severe indigestion and some bad dreams; and beware, O Reader, of leaving comments on his blog.

And enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Camp Now, Change Later

Well, friends, now that I've voted just the way Osaddam bin Hussein wanted me to, I'm heading out tomorrow for the 2006 edition of the Men's Fall Campout. No, we don't beat drums ... but we will fart, belch, pee on the ground, practice over-the-fire haute cuisine, and cull some of the stale, slow brain cells from the herd by loosing that ferocious predator, beer. It'll probably rain and rain ... but it's been on the calendar for months now, and off we go, no matter the weather.

When I come back, I plan to change the look-and-feel of this blog a little. I'm thinking I'll give that Blogger Beta thing a try, and I'm becoming heartily sick of this template, which I've been using for very nearly two years now. Maybe I'll dream up a new name that makes a little more sense (and maybe I won't, I guess).

Meanwhile: enjoy the weekend, and I'll do likewise.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Me & Ted Haggard

So: the Rev. Ted Haggard says: "There is part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I've been warring against it all of my adult life."

Well, that's one thing I have in common with him. And at lunchtime today, I left my workplace and gave in to my own Dark Side. As my first step to recovery, I need to simply be clear and honest and transparent about just exactly what it was that I did. I voted for Hayhurst.

Now, in an earlier post, I tried to get all cute and deceptive about this. I said that I wouldn't really be voting for Hayhurst, although the machine would probably think I did. What a laughable attempt at avoiding responsibility! I might as well have said, a la Haggard, that I'd gone to a hotel room with a sodomite prostitute for a "massage." Uh huh, oh yeah, a massage. I might as well have said, sure, I bought some crank, but only so I could throw it away. My trash cans always work better with some methamphetamine ballast, right?

No, I've got to get real. It's the only possible first step toward getting clean. I pushed the button on the ol' MicroVote next to the Hayhurst name. I saw the "X" show up onscreen, in the box adjoining his name. And, in due course, I pushed the big red "cast vote" button. And so, in the reality-based world, I voted for Hayhurst.

The shame, the shame. Damn.

Why did I do this? Have I bought into that "lesser of two evils" nonsense?

No, I have not. My real motivation is where that Haggardesque "dark side" comes in. In fact, I voted for Hayhurst because that's the closest I could come to smacking Marky-Mark Souder right across his triple chins. And that ain't very close. How cheaply I've sold my integrity!

There's one saving grace for me here. Hayhurst is not, in fact, going to win. Thus, I bear no responsibility for whatever it was that he might have done in office. (Continued the Iraq War, unless he was lying, which I doubt.)

OK, I'm off to rehab. Maybe I'll blog a little from there.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Gallows Vote

If this is supposed to be the Bush administration's November Surprise, well ... it seems pretty weak.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Joker

Yes, yes, yes: I know Senator Kerry was talking about Bush when he said that those who don't work hard in school end up stuck in Iraq. Of course Dubya isn't personally in Iraq; Kerry was using the same sort of metaphor that Dubya's folk use when they credit the Wee Emperor with "fighting terror," even though his closest brush with personal involvement was limited to a series of frantic dashes from one secret, secure spot to the next on 11 September 2001. And of course Prexy's handlers and minions are feigning outrage at their simulated misunderstanding of Kerry's "joke." I get all that, and I'm sure everyone else does, too. Everyone this side of the mouth-breathers in Limbaugh's audience, that is.

It occurs to me, though, that the source of Kerry's difficulties is that he can't simply speak the truth in plain language. Instead, he must denigrate the Chimp-in-Chief with little Pseudo-Zingers for Halfwits. And what is that truth? Well, Kerry's been at this game long enough that I basically have no idea what he really thinks -- or whether he really thinks anything, beyond the White House would look much better with me living there. If I were to guess, I'd guess that Kerry's plain truth would sound like: "Bush is a bungler; he's the nominal head of the Stupid Party, and they have a tough time whenever they're occasionally placed in power. You all should be sure to elect Democrats -- me in 2008, for example -- because we're more competent in handling the levers of the Big Machine: the permanent government. The Machine won't do anything fundamentally different; it will just do what it does more effectively, bigger 'n' better. Under Democratic leadership, for example, the U.S. won't be stuck in Iraq; instead, we'll be going through those Ay-rabs like shit through the proverbial goose."

He can't say that, though, because it would alienate the antiwar part of the Democratic Party base. (I suspect they're vastly overestimating the size and power of that part; I suspect it basically doesn't exist. But I could easily be mistaken.) He also can't say what I think is true: "Bush is a tyrant and a war criminal. If my party achieves power, American soldiers will be out of Iraq by next week, and will be home and being discharged the week after. They'll be in a tight race with the American soldiers in Afghanistan, Korea, Germany, Japan, and wherever else we have more than a token-sized embassy honor guard. As for Dubya and his henchmen, they're Hague-bait as far as we're concerned; if the World Court wants 'em, we're happy to extradite." He definitely couldn't say that; it wouldn't sit well with the magnetic ribbon and flag crowd on their way to the Toby Keith concert.

So, since he can't say anything coherent, he's reduced to working the comedy circuit, trying to zing il Duce with carefully-calibrated one-liners. Well, to paraphrase: you live by the dishonest sound bite, you die by same. A plague on both their houses.

Wednesday is Keyboard Kommandos Day

At least this Wednesday is, anyway, at The Poor Man's place. Have a look at this one. Put the coffee down first.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

En Fuego

So: the Democratic Party can taste it! The times, they are a-changin'! Well and good, if you are primarily a partisan. But if you oppose the Works of Dubya on principle, rather than just because the Pubbies are the ones doing them, here comes Arthur Silber with some water for your fire:
Point One: Even though they had several years to prepare for the battle, the Democrats offered only last-minute opposition to the Military Commissions Act. Their campaign against this abomination -- what Jim Bovard accurately calls "the torture/dictatorship law" -- was completely ineffectual. This law guts the basis of our now-dead constitutional republic in as fundamental manner as possible, and the Democrats and their supporters barely even mention it any longer. Assuming they have majorities in both houses, will the Democrats repeal this vomitous legislation? No, they will not. Their eyes are upon 2008. God forbid that their opponents will be able to accuse them of being "soft" on terrorists, or of depriving the executive branch of the "tools" it allegedly needs to fight our enemies.

I'm sure some will tell me that the Democrats are being "smart" politically. They can't talk about repealing the Military Commisions Act now, but all will be well once they're back in control. If I had any money, I'd bet a very large sum that this delusional belief is complete crap. We'll find out soon enough. If I'm wrong, I will apologize profusely for my cynicism. In fact, I think I am merely being realistic. The Democrats have given no one any reason at all to believe they will seek to eradicate this atrocity from the books. Given the fact that this legislation has already vanished from public discussion entirely, it doesn't even appear that the Democrats begin to appreciate its momentous importance.


Point Two: We will still be in Iraq in two years, and probably in five, and even ten. The Democrats will do nothing to speed up our exit from this immoral and illegitimate invasion and occupation. Howard Dean announced as much yesterday. (It helps that Rahm Emanuel made sure that only prowar Democrats were running in the first place.) And take a look at the Kerry-Feingold Amendment. In touting this amendment -- which garnered all of 13 Senatorial votes, contemplate the blinding glory of it! -- Kerry's website proclaims:

"It is essential to fight to set a date to withdraw American forces. That’s why this June with Russ Feingold, we fought for an up or down vote on the Kerry-Feingold amendment to withdraw US combat forces from Iraq by July 1, 2007. We made it clear that our soldiers have done their job. It is time for Iraqis to do their job – it’s time for Iraqis to stand up for Iraq. It’s time for Iraqis to want democracy for themselves as much as we want it for them. Click here to read our plan."

I have commented before on the absolutely nauseating paternalism, condescension and arrogance conveyed by statements such as this one: "It's time for Iraqis to want democracy for themselves as much as we want it for them."


Point Three: The Democrats do nothing but ensure the inevitability of an attack on Iran ... Ah, but the Democrats will investigate the Bush administration's endless crimes. The investigations will restore honesty, decency and "true" American values to government. All the universes will be saved! Do people actually believe this nonsense? All such investigations will be exactly like all other government investigations of itself. People seem congenitally incapable of grasping that all politicians are now part of the same corrupt system, which aims only to protect itself and its existing prerogatives, as it simultaneously seeks to expand them. (The exceptions in the political class are so few that they don't matter.) In the end, all such investigations and committee hearings will end just as the 9/11 investigation ended (and any other investigation you care to name): some criticisms will be made, general fault will be found but no one in particular will be condemned in terms that might cause distress, and some new guidelines and regulations will be proposed and enacted. Neither party wants to judge the other too harshly or cause irreparable harm: they don't want to, because they count on the same consideration in return. Both parties are happy to accede to this deal, for it is precisely how their system continues on its merry course, guaranteeing their lives of immense comfort and privilege, together with their hold on power. Many of the rest of us, both here and abroad, will be screwed, maimed or dead -- and just when exactly did that concern the governing class?
In his excellent novel The First Circle, Solzhenitsyn talks about how the functionaries of Stalin's security apparatus tried to look out for other security apparatchiks, when they fell from Stalin's good graces and were themselves arrested. "It's you today, and me tomorrow." Yeah, sure, those triumphant Democrats are going to bring Republican criminals to justice. Su-u-u-uure.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Infinitesimal Value of Voting

I have said (here) that voting for Hayhurst was not an acceptable option for me this time around. Indeed, at various places where I habitually do my online reading, people for whom I have some respect have written some well-reasoned pieces (like this one, or this or this or this) in which they argue that voting is a bad thing to do. I do not altogether agree with these people. Voting is unavailing? True. Voting is psychologically dangerous to the voter, through giving him or her a sense of having "bought into" the result? The potential is certainly there. Voting is a waste of time and effort? That's pretty much correct also, I think; it's certainly a waste of effort that is directed toward bettering one's town, one's county, one's state, or one's country. It only encourages our supervisors to imagine that they have some legitimacy? Too true, and more's the pity. But I've been making another sort of mistake about voting: I've taken it too seriously. I think it's more appropriate to view the act of voting as an entertainment choice. I sometimes pony up some dollars to see a movie, or attend a sporting event. In the narrowest of utilitarian terms, those are wastes of my time and resources; but they occasionally represent a reasonable value in terms of having some fun. I'm choosing to look at voting in the same way. Yes, there is danger that I'll erroneously conclude that, having voted, I'm somehow obliged to "support" the outcome. But I'm tough ... I'll reject that notion.

So, come November 7, I'm not going to vote for Hayhurst. But the voting machine will probably think I did. What I will be doing is taking a minor little swat at Souder. Indeed, I will vote against not only Souder, but against every single Republican that I can. (This, by the way, doesn't mean I'll have to even appear to vote for that prodigious donut-munching virago for sheriff; there's an independent whose name I've forgotten who is said to oppose the Drug War -- what a deal!) I have been assured that a vote for Hayhurst is a vote for Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House, leading me to reflect that a vote for Souder is probably a vote for Dennis Hastert, or a pachyderm equivalent, for Speaker. Which leads me to a lengthy piece in Rolling Stone by Matt Taibbi which chronicles the quality of Congressional leadership that Mr. Souder's party has been providing. It goes 8,000+ words, but I do recommend it to your reading. Meanwhile, here are a couple of excerpts:
Anyone who wants to get a feel for the kinds of beasts that have been roaming the grounds of the congressional zoo in the past six years need only look at the deranged, handwritten letter that convicted bribe-taker and GOP ex-congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham recently sent from prison to Marcus Stern, the reporter who helped bust him. In it, Cunningham -- who was convicted last year of taking $2.4 million in cash, rugs, furniture and jewelry from a defense contractor called MZM -- bitches out Stern in the broken, half-literate penmanship of a six-year-old put in time-out.

"Each time you print it hurts my family And now I have lost them Along with Everything I have worked for during my 64 years of life," Cunningham wrote. "I am human not an Animal to keep whiping. I made some decissions Ill be sorry for the rest of my life."

The amazing thing about Cunningham's letter is not his utter lack of remorse, or his insistence on blaming defense contractor Mitchell Wade for ratting him out ("90% of what has happed is Wade," he writes), but his frantic, almost epic battle with the English language. It is clear that the same Congress that put a drooling child-chaser like Mark Foley in charge of a House caucus on child exploitation also named Cunningham, a man who can barely write his own name in the ground with a stick, to a similarly appropriate position. Ladies and gentlemen, we give you the former chairman of the House Subcommittee on Human Intelligence Analysis and Counterintelligence:

"As truth will come out and you will find out how liablest you have & will be. Not once did you list the positives. Education Man of the funding, jobs, Hiway funding, border security, Megans law my bill, Tuna Dolfin my bill...and every time you wanted an expert on the wars who did you call. No Marcus you write About how I died."

"How liablest you have & will be?" What the fuck does that even mean? This guy sat on the Appropriations Committee for years -- no wonder Congress couldn't pass any spending bills!

This is Congress in the Bush years, in a nutshell -- a guy who takes $2 million in bribes from a contractor, whooping it up in turtlenecks and pajama bottoms with young women on a contractor-provided yacht named after himself (the "Duke-Stir"), and not only is he shocked when he's caught, he's too dumb to even understand that he's been guilty of anything.
CAFTA actually went to vote early -- at 11:02 p.m. When the usual fifteen-minute voting period expired, the nays were up, 180 to 175. Republicans then held the vote open for another forty-seven minutes while GOP leaders cruised the aisles like the family elders from "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," frantically chopping at the legs and arms of Republicans who opposed the measure. They even roused the president out of bed to help kick ass for the vote, passing a cell phone with Bush on the line around the House cloakroom like a bong. Rep. Robin Hayes of North Carolina was approached by House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who told him, "Negotiations are open. Put on the table the things that your district and people need and we'll get them." After receiving assurances that the administration would help textile manufacturers in his home state by restricting the flow of cheap Chinese imports, Hayes switched his vote to yea. CAFTA ultimately passed by two votes at 12:03 a.m.
Yes, that's the same Dennis Hastert who might be replaced by Nancy Pelosi if Souder's party is deprived of power. Yes, that's the replacement that's supposed to have me wetting my pants with fear. Hmmmm.

I am mindful of the danger of saying that it can't get any worse. I said that during the Clinton regime, and just look what happened. But now, I'll say: it either can't get any worse than this -- or it can, and that will bring on the Revo. In any case, I'm really not voting for Hayhurst. I'm just going to use him to entertain myself, and have a little gnat-bite at the elephant.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Bloody Puzzles

I think it's probably pretty safe to assume that when the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee comes to town to speak, that everything he says is a lie. And that's a pity, in some ways. Congresscreature Pete Hoekstra came to town this past Wednesday to address the local elephants, and he covered the usual Imperial bases:
America needs to stay vigilant in the global war against “radical Islamists” to break their will to fight, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee says.

Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., addressed the Allen County Republican Party on Wednesday evening at the group’s annual bean dinner. The dinner serves as a fundraiser for the party and as a way to energize party faithful a few weeks before Election Day.

Hoekstra spoke for about a half-hour and discussed the challenge of fighting a war against an enemy spread across the globe. He mostly discussed the importance of keeping Republicans in power because of the party’s resolve to fight the war – which he believes began in 1979 with the takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran, Iran – until it ends. He said President Bush has been instrumental in beefing up the U.S.’s spy network after it was reduced during President Clinton’s term.

He also defended Bush’s domestic surveillance program and detainee interrogation programs as necessary to getting information about the enemy.

“We need to destroy the will of radical Islamists to engage the U.S. militarily,” he said.

Hoekstra even said he hoped the U.S. Justice Department would jail newspaper reporters who didn’t divulge their sources for stories that revealed classified information about different intelligence programs.

“They are traitors,” he said.
Ho, hum, the usual bloodthirsty stupidity. But wait -- here comes the good part:
But Hoekstra said to put the Democrats in power would lead not only to a reduction in domestic tax cuts, but a reduction in funding for the efforts to fight the war. He said if the United States were to leave Iraq too early, radical Islamists would equate that to the Soviet Union’s being forced to leave Afghanistan decades ago.
Reduction in war funding if the Dems take power? Now, there's something I wish I could believe. The Democrats, for the most part, say they will continue to prosecute Bush's war, with better and more-efficient management. I'd like to believe they're lying ... but that would require believing that Hoekstra's being truthful. This feels like one of those "liars and truthtellers" brainteaser puzzles. What to believe, what to believe?

Here's what I believe. I believe the fix is in. I believe that no matter which collection of posing puppets nominally is placed (or retained) in power, we're screwed. Is the Revo ever going to get here?

George the Slow and His Debt

The Wee Emperor had a press conference the other day -- a painful experience for all sentient beings, for sure. The Great War Decider took advantage of the occasion to complain yet again about his excessive workload:
I've met too many wives and husbands who've lost their partners in life; too many children who won't ever see their mom and dad again. I owe it to them and to the families who still have loved ones in harm's way to ensure that their sacrifices are not in vain.
No wonder El Supremo spends half his time on vacation. How many wives and husbands and children have you met, O Dread Sovereign? Too many.

Meanwhile, what passes for American public discourse gets crazier and crazier, because of the imperative necessity we feel to tell whopping lies to each other. Some truths are too awful to speak. Here's one, appropriate to the occasion:

Their sacrifices have indeed been in vain.

The only question is: how many more will join those already dead and maimed? Our dolt president assures us that there'll be many, many, many more. You see, he owes it to dead people to provide them with company. And Dubya will pay his debts, if it takes the last drop of your blood to do it.


I am pleased to announce that the repainting of the sanctuary of my church is complete. A bunch of my fellow congregants are at least as pleased about that as I am, since we all spent our evenings the first part of this week doing said painting.

Funny thing about a big painting project. Most of us seldom get involved in painting, so it seems that our painting skills are just starting to get sort of good again when the project is over. That's OK, though ... I'm just glad we're done.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Excuses, Excuses

Accursedly busy this week. Nothing to say anyway. Back in a day or two.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Hayhurst on the War: Meet the New Boss

Mr. John Good is the proprietor of Left in Aboite, an excellent blog which -- unlike this one -- gets quite a bit of traffic. Of course, part of that is undoubtedly due to his posting something every day, and several things most days. He's a real blogger, and I'm more what you'd call a real slacker.

Anyway, he was kind enough to leave me a couple of comments on the previous post. In the second, he left the URL for a post on Fort Wayne Left which lays out the Hayhurst position on national security. This was by way of helping me on an extended quest (here, here, here, and here) to find out where Hayhurst stands on The War (on Turr'r, on Afghanistan, on Iraq, etc.). My reason for trying to find out was that the incumbent is the sort of person who more or less demands a good smack in the piehole; I needed to know whether a vote for his opponent is an acceptable act, from my point of view.

It isn't.

The more-substantial part of Mr. Hayhurst's position statement is reproduced below. You can read all of it here; I don't want to waste space on the lighter-than-popcorn parts:
Born of mis-information, built on mistakes, Iraq is a questionable war gone bad.
No, it was never a "questionable war;" it was, from the day the Bush regime first started promoting it (Sept. 12, 2001, if not earlier), nothing more or less than a criminal act.
But it is the war we made in a distant place with people we are now beholden to. We need leaders who will not shrink from this harsh reality. We need leaders who will live up to the values we profess, strive to find a path that protects America's interests, and refuse to flinch as we find a way to bring this mission to an end.
I must interrupt this drizzle of crapola to ask: what the hell does any of this mean? "Beholden to?" I'm guessing, of course, but I betcha that means no immediate end to the war. "Strive to find a path?" Here's an idea, Dr. Hayhurst: find the path first, then describe it concretely, and then ask me to vote for you. "Refuse to flinch?" Again, a code phrase meaning "stay the course," I'd guess, although he doesn't exactly say so. That's the trouble: he doesn't exactly say anything at all.
Debating the merits of going to war in Iraq must not distract us from this conflict's undeniable, horrific realities. We have troops on the ground and a country on the brink of civil war. Our soldiers need our help, and they need a plan. We need leaders in Washington who will demand a strategy that upholds the integrity and stability of Iraq as well as the security of the United States.

When I am in the U. S. Congress, I will:

* Make sure that everything possible is done to defend the citizens of this great country from any threats - whether external or internal.

* Stand firm in our war against terrorism and extremism.

* Work with the international community to stabilize Iraq, establish measurable goals for concluding the war, and promote the rebuilding of the country with Iraqi workers and Iraqi companies.

* Actively promote the adoption and implementation of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations, the most concrete way we can make our nation more secure - a nation left vulnerable by five years or wrangling and inaction.
As far as I can tell, the first and fourth bullets mean: even more Department of Homeland Security, TSA, and the rest of the Security State apparatus. Second and third bullets: stay the course, with maybe some marginal tinkering with the details.

Not that any of this matters; Marky Mark's going to get elected yet again. And since Dr. Hayhurst is unwilling to say anything that the Soudermeister couldn't say pretty comfortably himself -- and tries to be sly about it -- there's no way I can vote for him. Not even to hurt Marky's feelings. And believe me, I'd walk far out of my way for a chance to hurt his feelings. As it is, I simply won't be voting in that particular race. In this way, my vote will have exactly the same effect on matters that it always does: none.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Sure Hope the Starter's No Good

For some time now, there have been claims that the U.S. military -- or the Army, at least -- is a "broken" force. Spread too thin, lots of people getting out, few (desirable) people joining up, equipment and supplies decimated, and so on and on.

I don't know if it's true or not, since I pretty much live a mushroom's existence at the output end of everyone's misinformation chute, subsisting on info-crap. But I kind of hope it's true ... true in a profound enough way that even the delusionists of the Bush regime can't ignore it.

Why would I hope for such a thing? That's like asking why a man would ever hope his car won't start. He might reasonably hope for that if his teenage son is out with the car, has just gotten staggering drunk, and is about to hop in and buzz the local preschool.

So, am I implying that the U.S. military forces are under the sketchy "control" of the equivalent of drunken teenagers? Yup:
The US has warned that it will back its allies with the full range of its military capability against any threat from North Korea.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said everyone should know that the US would act fully on its defence treaty obligations to Japan and South Korea.

She was speaking in Tokyo on the first leg of an Asian tour to rally support for enforcing the sanctions.

Pyongyang's test has raised concerns over an arms race in the region.

Ms Rice's hastily arranged trip to Japan, South Korea, China and Russia is aimed at rallying support to implement sanctions fully in line with the UN resolution passed last week.

South Korea, and to a greater extent China, are still thought to have concerns over some parts of the new UN sanctions.
So, Americans should be ready and willing to kill and die to further the policy decisions of the Japanese and South Koreans? Or to prevent an "arms race" in Asia? I don't think so.

The only restraint against BushCo's launching yet another Excellent Adventure is the possibility that the car won't start. This illustrates clearly just how far gone things are in our alleged constitutional republic.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Legendary Spit

Everyone knows that soldiers returning from the Vietnam war were spat upon by evil antiwar scruffy-type hippies. Whether it's true or not, everyone knows it anyway. There's an worthwhile interview by Stephen Philion of Jerry Lembke posted at Rockwell today. Mr. Lembke's done some looking into this salivary legend, and has some interesting thoughts to offer.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

We Interrupt the Truly Vital News of the Day ...

Sorry for the interruption. Quick news item: a couple of non-millionaire, non-celebrity, non-pro-athlete-type Americans have ceased to draw breath.
Gunmen kill 9 at Sunni TV station in Baghdad

POSTED: 9:54 a.m. EDT, October 12, 2006

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Gunmen stormed the offices of a Sunni satellite TV station Thursday in Baghdad, killing nine people, police said.


Two U.S. soldiers were killed Wednesday in separate incidents.

One was killed and two others wounded in northern Iraq's Tameem province "as a result of enemy action," according to a military statement Thursday.

The dead soldier was assigned to the 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team and is a member of Task Force Lightning, the military said.

The other soldier died when a roadside bomb struck his patrol in central Baghdad, the military said.

There have been 39 U.S. military deaths in October. The number of U.S. troops killed in the Iraq war stands at 2,746. Seven American military contractors also have been killed in the war.
It seems that the names of the two who were killed yesterday are not important enough to claim any of our attention. And -- obviously! -- we can't be wasting any space listing names for the 39 "U.S. military deaths" in October, nor for the seven "military contractors."

Thank you for your patience.

And now we return you to our regular 24-hour wall-to-wall coverage of the tragic death of Cory Lidle. In this hour, we'll reveal the hat size of Cory's Little League coach.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Either Compulsory or Forbidden

From the Washington Post:
Once upon a time, a "monetary architect" named Bernard von NotHaus decided to make his own money.

He put a beautiful Lady Liberty and a majestic flaming torch on the silver and gold coins, and he named them "Liberty Dollars." On his Web site, , he said: "It is fun to use REAL money. Liberty Dollars are a proven and profitable currency that protects and grows the purchasing power of your money!"

True story, phony money. So says the U.S. Mint, which would like to remind Liberty Dollar users that since the United States already has its own currency, the only thing Liberty Dollars buy in these parts is a jail term.

Liberty Dollars were coined by von NotHaus and an Evansville, Ind.-based group called Norfed, which stands for (sort of) the National Organization for the Repeal of the Federal Reserve Act and the Internal Revenue Code. In the late 1990s, the group began hawking its money as a hedge against inflation, and as a way to compete with the Fed. Von NotHaus makes the pitch online, using a raft of statistics and graphs that he says show the greenback is well nigh worthless.

Norfed Executive Director Michael Johnson says the group isn't aiming to overthrow the American monetary system. "We're not locking horns with the Fed. I mean, that's crazy," he said. Norfed simply wants "to offer a solution to the Federal Reserve Note," a.k.a. U.S. dollars.

Norfed struck the first gold- and silver-backed coins -- which, to avoid charges of making its own money it calls "rounds" -- in 1998 at its private mint in Idaho. Today the group claims to have more than $20 million in Liberty coins and notes in circulation, and about 2,500 merchants who accept Liberty Dollars for goods and services from doughnuts to tattoos.

But there's a potentially more sinister side to all this. A 1999 report by the Southern Poverty Law Center calls Norfed a far-right anti-government group that has "long claimed that American dollars are . . . part of a vast conspiracy by international bankers to defraud the rest of the world." The center links some Norfed devotees to far-right hate groups.

"That definitely is not the philosophy of the organization," Johnson said. "I've been a Republican for most of my life. . . . We are focused on the mainstream. . . . I guess we are libertarian. But definitely not anti-government."

The U.S. Mint acted after federal prosecutors around the country began forwarding inquiries about the coins. "We don't take these consumer alerts lightly," said spokeswoman Becky Bailey. "Merchants and banks are confronted by confused customers demanding they accept Liberty Dollars. These are not legal coin."

Norfed responded to the Mint on its Web site. "Here it is in plain sight . . . the Liberty Dollar is not a coin, not legal tender, and backed with inflation proof gold and silver!"

"Goliath just introduced David to millions of Americans as a nationally recognized underdog," the site continues. "Just as Pepsi went up against Coke with their 'take the Pepsi Challenge' campaign, the Liberty Dollar will take it to the people to decide which currency they should use."

Norfed encouraged people to keep doing "the drop," referring to its advice to drop the coin into merchants' hands so they can feel its weight.

That could land the dropper in prison, Bailey warns, for up to five years.
So, let's see: if you offer to trade someone a disk of gold or silver for some goods or services that they're selling, Uncle is offering to toss your butt in jail.

What possible justification -- other than simply raw power, that is -- can there be for such a thing?

Yes, But ...

Here's another stirring call to arms from James Bovard (at the Future of Freedom Foundation site). It's good, and I include it here in its entirety. I have only one problem with it. But more on that later:
President Bush has once again decreed that his personal pen is the highest law of the land. In a statement issued on October 4, 2006, he announced that he would ignore many provisions of the Homeland Security appropriations act he signed earlier in the day. His action vivifies that the rule of law now means little more than the enforcement of the secret thoughts of the commander in chief.

Bush’s postsigning statement declared that he would interpret many sections of the new law “in a manner consistent with the president’s constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch.” In plain English, this means that many of the limits that Congress imposed on Bush’s power — and that he accepted when he took the money Congress appropriated — are null and void. Why? Because the president says so.

The new law declared that only the Homeland Security Department’s privacy officer could alter or delay the department’s mandatory report on how its actions and policies affected Americans’ privacy. Congress included this safeguard because of the Bush administration’s long record of intruding into Americans’ lives — from the Total Information Awareness system, to vacuuming up information on airline passengers, to stockpiling phone records of millions of citizens.

After he signed the bill, Bush announced that he is effectively entitled to edit the report as he pleases. But his “right to edit” means that he is entitled to delete information and thereby prevent Congress from learning of how the feds continue to shred privacy.

Bush pulled the same trick in March after he inked a renewal of the USA PATRIOT Act, announcing that he would scorn notifying Congress on how the feds are using PATRIOT Act powers. Bush declared that he would interpret the law “in a manner consistent with the president’s constitutional authority to ... withhold information.” Bush is apparently convinced that he is entitled to govern in secrecy, and any provision of a law to the contrary violates his imperial prerogatives.

George W. Bush has added more than 800 “signing statements” to new laws since he took office. Earlier presidents occasionally appended such comments to new statutes, but Bush is the first to use signing statements routinely to nullify key provisions of new laws.

The “unitary executive” doctrine assumes that all power rests in the president and that checks and balances are an archaic relic. This is the same “principle” the Bush administration invoked to deny Congress everything from Iraqi war plans to the records of the Cheney Energy Task Force. Bush has invoked the “unitary executive” doctrine almost 100 times since taking office, according to Miami University professor Christopher Kelley.

The American Bar Association recently declared that Bush’s signing statements are “contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional separation of powers.” The Congressional Research Service reported last month that Bush is using such statements as part of his “comprehensive strategy to ... expand executive power.”

Apparently, the government is no longer obliged to obey any law that Bush does not personally approve. At a June congressional hearing, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) asked Justice Department lawyer Michelle Boardman for a list of all the laws that Bush has declared will no longer be enforced. Boardman replied, “I cannot give you that list.”

How can we know which laws Bush approves of? It’s a secret. Bush’s personal thoughts thus become the ultimate law of the land. No one can know whether the government is violating the “law” because Bush has not publicly declared what the law is.

Americans may have to wait many years to learn what the rule of law meant in 2006. The truth may be suppressed until Bush’s aides begin publishing their memoirs or until the Supreme Court has a change of mood and decides that the executive branch is not entitled to boundless secrecy.

So what is the meaning of “limited government” in the Bush era? Merely that the courts and Congress must be prohibited from limiting the president’s power. Bush’s signing statements are building blocks for dictatorship. The longer he builds, the darker America becomes.
The problem I see with this is that Mr. Bovard seems to be buying into a "devil theory" here -- with Bush being the diabolical element. That's fine, as far as it goes ... anyone who wants to say that El Supremo is winded from a long out-of-the-pit ladder climb and smells like smoke will get no argument from me. The trouble is that it lets the Congress off the hook. If Congress were discharging its collective constitutional responsibility, the Bush regime would long since be no more than a greasy memory -- or at the very least we'd have a real, unmistakable constitutional crisis, complete with tanks rolling toward Capitol Hill, to make it clear where we stand. Instead, Mr. Bovard is basically the cop telling the beaten woman that she should press charges against that drunk in the sleeveless undershirt. And the Congress is the woman with the split lip and the black eye, telling the cop that it's all her fault, and that Gee-Dub would never have hit her if she hadn't said the wrong thing and made him do it.

Congress is Bush's enabler: a collection of cowardly careerists who break their oaths of office a dozen times before morning coffee, and many more times afterward. And no -- voting does not help.