Thursday, November 27, 2008

To One and All:

... a very happy Thanksgiving Day. I myself will be out of town for a few days, after which I hope to increase the posting pace a little, at least to my usual sloth-like levels.

I was thinking, at church this past Sunday morning, about the persistence and the ubiquity of the love of God. Try as we might -- and we do! -- to avoid it, hide it, ignore it, drown it out, and distract ourselves from it, it's there, just because that's the way He is. This seems to me as good a theme as any for a Thanksgiving Day.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I Double-Dog Dare You, Infidel

Now, I'm not wanting to say that the Osama bin Laden crowd is necessarily overjoyed when our supervisors are baited into flushing whatever wealth remains in the Empire -- not to mention the odd Troop here and there -- down the proverbial toilet of unwinnable war and perpetual occupation. But how else do we explain an effort by the current al-Qaeda Number Two, of which there seems to be an inexhaustible supply, to get The Chosen One (all-glory-to-his-name) riled up?
In a message purportedly from Ayman al-Zawahiri, the al-Qaeda deputy called Mr Obama a "house negro" - a demeaning term implying he served white people.

Mr Obama's plan to bolster the US military presence in Afghanistan would fail, Zawahiri said.

If genuine, the message would be the first acknowledgement by al-Qaeda of the president-elect's victory.

The audio message appeared on militant websites.

Zawahiri, an Egyptian by birth, is often referred to as Osama Bin Laden's right-hand man and the chief ideologue of al-Qaeda.

In the short message he warned Mr Obama of failure if he followed Bush administration policies in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

He also criticised Mr Obama - whose father is Muslim - for abandoning his Islamic roots.

"You were born to a Muslim father, but you chose to stand with the enemies of Muslims," he said.

On Sunday, in his first television interview since his 4 November election win, Mr Obama reiterated his commitment to shift more US troops to war-torn Afghanistan.

Stamping out al-Qaeda "once and for all" was a top priority, he said, and capturing or killing Osama Bin Laden was "critical" to US security.
Memo to the presumptive president-elect: even if Chief Ideologue Zawahiri calls your mother bad names, don't do what your enemy wants you to do. Even if he says Michelle is ugly and your daughters lack charm. Even if he says your new shelter puppy has fleas. Your enemy has reasons for baiting you into renewing and intensifying your war fury. Don't do it. Do something else instead. If an attractive alternative does not occur to you, feel free to leave a comment ... I have several alternatives, ready and waiting. No charge, either. It's the least I can do.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Cruelly Deceived!

The news today reveals that our lawfakers are unhappy:
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and members of Congress clashed on Tuesday over the best use for the $700-billion financial bailout fund, with lawmakers demanding money to stem a national wave of mortgage foreclosures.

At a House of Representatives Financial Services Committee hearing where he was grilled over his handling of the program, Paulson said the bailout plan wasn't "a panacea for all our economic difficulties" and would be more effectively used by investing in financial companies to shore up the system.
Yes, shockingly, it turns out that the former executive of Goldman Sachs is more inclined to pour out the federal largesse on well-connected banksters than on Joe the Unwisely Mortgaged Plumber. Who would have suspected it? Apparently not our Congresscreatures, who clearly think the best of everyone.

But how sharply disappointed they are! Check out Baaohw-ney Fwank:
Rep. Barney Frank, the Massachusetts Democrat who chairs the panel, lectured Paulson, telling him mortgage relief was spelled out as an option under the bailout passed by Congress.

"The fundamental policy issue is our disappointment that funds are not being used out of the $700 billion to supplement mortgage foreclosure reduction," Frank said. "There, I believe, is an overwhelmingly ... powerful set of reasons why some of the ... money must be used for mortgage foreclosure."
Equally devastating is the realization that the financial "industry" is in line for all the swill it can eat, but other industries -- not so much:
Paulson was also pressed about possibly tapping bailout funds to help distressed U.S. automakers but again ruled that out. He said any solution for automakers, who are pressing their case in Congress on Tuesday, should be one that helped them to re-tool to make more energy-efficient vehicles, and that wasn't what the bailout fund was set up to do.

Well, Illustrious Representatives and Senators, it is true that Lurch is pretty much telling you to go get bent. I have to ask you, though: what did you expect? I can't say it any better than Slacktivist did:
When in the course of human events a purportedly democratic official demands that the people give him $700,000,000,000 -- no strings attached, by week's end, or else -- then the duly elected representatives of the people have one and only one responsible response: Say "No."

Better yet, say "Hell no."

$700 billion. Seven hundred billion dollars. Dollar sign, seven, 11 zeroes.

Seven. Hundred. Billion.

You could never count to 700,000,000,000. You could never count to 700,000,000,000 by thousands.

If you were to take $700,000,000,000 in $100 bills and lay them end-to-end, well, it might turn out to be a better use of the money than if you just gave all those bills to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson in exchange for nothing more than his promise to put all that money to good use if we'd all just leave him alone.
You know, I don't think our Congressfolk are stupid. In fact, I daresay they average a good bit more intelligent than does Homo Americanus as a whole. For that reason, I have to suspect that all the "outrage" faced by Lurch Paulson today was highly synthetic in nature. I suspect it would be fair to characterize it as posturing. As I suggested a while back, there is much about the unfolding meltdown of Mammon that yields nicely to a good old-fashioned Bolshie class analysis. Hey, I don't like Commies either ... but even a blind squirrel finds the occasional acorn.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Meet the New Boss

In about nine weeks, The Chosen One (peace-be-upon-him) will assume office, and expectations are high:
The public thinks it's likely that Obama will improve race relations, improve economic conditions, bring stability to the financial markets, make the U.S. safer from terrorism, reduce the country's dependence on foreign oil, reduce global warming, win the war in Afghanistan and remove U.S. troops from Iraq without causing a major upheaval in that country.
Well, personally, I think the public is selling His Wonderfulness (may-he-live-forever) rather short. I expect him to not only take care of those things, but also to see to it that the streets are paved with solid gold bricks, grouted firmly in place with a thick paste made from the finest cocaine, and also provide daily showers of kittens, puppies, ponies, butterflies, and winning lottery tickets. And if Himself (may-success-attend-his-every-step) fails to hook us all up with every bit of that, I'm going to be seriously miffed.

So why do The Anointed (may-the-hair-on-his-toes-grow-ever-longer) and the Wee Emperor both look so bummed out? Maybe one is beginning to realize that he should have demanded a recount, and the other is looking forward to a retirement spent perforce in Crawdad, TX, where he knows he's at least not likely to be arrested by Interpol and spirited off to face justice at the Hague. Or maybe they've just heard the latest off-the-cuff trillion-dollar improvisation by Lurch Henry "Call Me 'Hank' But Keep Forking Over the Dough" Paulson.

As my old Dad (among others) used to say: "The more things change, the more they stay the same."

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Trouble With Symbolic Communication

The trouble is, it doesn't work very well.

I get the local morning newspaper in its old-school, dead-tree form on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. This is because my owner wants the supermarket ads, coupons, etc. So, I picked up today's paper and my eye was caught by this:
None of this attracted much attention until, shortly after Tuesday’s election, Townsend hoisted the flag, which has long flown in front of his shop, in the upside-down position, a distress signal protesting the election of Barack Obama and Joseph Biden.

It didn’t take long for the reaction to come. A 17-year employee told Townsend he was quitting. The phone calls started, about 300 in the past few days.

Almost all have been in support, Townsend said, but some clearly weren’t. Shortly after noon Friday, a woman called to raise hell with the employee who answered. There was no mistaking what the call was about.

No, the female employee said, it has nothing to do with the fact that Obama is black. It’s about abortion. Obama is a supporter of abortion, and the business owner is absolutely opposed to it, period.

The call dragged on for several minutes, and it wasn’t friendly.
Now, at my first glance at the headline ("Decatur abuzz over flipped flag"), since we're talking about Decatur and all, my initial assumption was that the source of Mr. Townsend's unhappiness was probably Sen. Obama's non-Caucasian ethnicity, and that goes to the point I'd like to make here: that we're lazy and/or post-literate, and we want to substitute symbols for a sufficient number of carefully-chosen words that, while laborious, offer a chance of communicating ideas that may be complex, conditional, subtle, or nuanced. Fly a flag, or maybe fly one upside-down. Wear a flag lapel pin. Wear a crucifix necklace. Display a "peace symbol." Affix a magnetic "ribbon" to your car. Wear gang colors. All of these are much less work than writing down a few coherent paragraphs, or speaking the equivalent; but they are also easily misunderstood, and it does seem to me that all such misunderstandings are really the responsibility of the symbol-displayer.

To a substantial degree, I agree with Mr. Townsend's expressed displeasure with Mr. Obama as the presumptive president-elect ("presumptive" because the Electoral College has not met to discharge its duty yet, as far as I know). What's mysterious to me is why Mr. Townsend would only now be getting around to inverting his flag, given Mr. Bush's clear identification with the American death culture. I certainly don't think that American babies should be hacked apart and vacuumed from their mothers' wombs; but I also don't think there's any excuse for Muslim babies being ripped apart by American high explosives. And, while Mssrs. Bush and McCain were allegedly "pro-life" (at least where American babies are concerned), even there it's easy to see how low a priority their supposed "convictions" had in terms of influence on policy and agenda: none. As I have observed in this space before, the god of contemporary American conservatives is war. They absolutely insist on "getting their war on," no matter what else has to be abandoned in order to get on with that. Well, guys, you got your war. Now pay for it ... and quit whining.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Monday, November 03, 2008

Not Votin'

In the comment thread of a recent post here, two people for whom I have vast respect took me gently to task for its content -- specifically, I think, for the sarcastic tag line that I used in closing: "Be sure to vote, now. Voting changes things." Both commenters imply that I'm suffering from apathy.

I don't want to be misunderstood: apathy (1 : lack of feeling or emotion : impassiveness; 2 : lack of interest or concern : indifference) is not my problem in the American political context.

Apathy is why I don't go online and vote for the newest "American Idol." Apathy is why I don't send in a ballot for players to be named to the major-league basball all-star team. These are things that I don't care about at all, and that do not affect me.

The buffoons, the wannabe tyrants, and the real for-sure tyrants who infest positions of political power in America: those folks do indeed have a great, and baleful, effect on me. They rob me materially; they usurp my liberties; and they commit mass murder in my name, making bitter and dedicated enemies for me all over the globe. Then, adding insult to manifold injuries, they seek to subvert my will through childish sales tricks. Rather than simply ask, do you want to buy the car?, they instead ask, would you rather have it in blue or green? We're never asked whether we consent to the hypertrophied welfare/warfare state; instead, we're asked which of two essentially-identical managers we prefer.

And I would like to suggest that, each time we make that choice, we're seen as endorsing the basic system. We're giving it a spurious legitimacy. Suppose that there's a miraculous 100% voter turnout tomorrow. Whichever of Oh-Bomb-'Em or McInsane is elected, he'll be able to claim a mandate.

I think a much more useful outcome tomorrow would be a zero-percent turnout. To me, that would be an eloquent statement that we the people have no further interest in the rancidly maggot-corrupt "two-party system," and that we correctly regard it as illegitimate. Next would be a general refusal to pay taxes, serve in the armed forces or police, or to heed any orders or instructions from any who do participate in the State's uniformed murder gangs. I don't think there'd be much bloodshed. I think the hollow and rotted corpse of the state would pretty much collapse soggily in place.

Not that I think any such thing's going to happen this year, or next ... I don't. But, as the economy collapses into the swamp of debt, the chances are getting at least a little bit better. Meanwhile, I'll do what I can: I'll tell the truth as I see it; and I'll make fun of our supervisors as the opportunity presents itself, which is practically all the time. And I'll deliberately, intentionally, and passionately refuse to play my assigned part -- one of the 300 million or so "extras" -- in Tuesday's farce. Not that I'm any better than those who do vote -- far from it; I've voted, oh, something like half a hundred times myself. But, like smoking, it's a bad idea; and I do believe I'm quitting.