Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Little Leftover Christmas

My friend akaGaGa is on a blog sabbatical, but she's still emailing -- fortunately for me. Check this out -- it's definitely good for some serious laughs (please pardon the oxymoron).

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Some Modest Assistance for Our "Unofficial Envoy"

Anybody awake out there? The Empire has about twenty-nine thousand legionaries occupying South Korea, which is the part of Korea that's quite prosperous and ruled by a heavily-armed regime. There's also North Korea, very poor, and also ruled by a heavily-armed regime. These regimes are very, very different from each other: the southern one is corporatist, and the northern one is communist. Think of them as, you know, a red state and a blue state. Oh, yes, incredibly different. They've been cooperating, though; they've recently been doing their best -- or something close to it -- to get a good shooting, bombing, nuking war cooking:
North Korea, breaking from the restraint it showed this week during military exercises by the South, said Thursday that it was prepared to use its nuclear weapons if it was attacked.

The North is “fully prepared to launch a sacred war,” Minister of the People’s Armed Forces Kim Young-chun said in comments carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency and quoted by Western news media. North Korea’s comments are typically bellicose, but they had been low-key this week as South Korea staged military exercises across its territory.
Hmmmm, a sacred war. At least there can be areas of agreement between what would seem to be the bitterest of enemies; both the North Koreans' supervisors and ours seem to recognize the sanctity of war. But, to continue, farther down in the news story:
The outburst from North Korea followed comments by Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico warning that continued military exercises by the South threatened to ignite violence between the two Koreas. Mr. Richardson, a former ambassador to the United Nations, returned to the United States this week after spending five days in North Korea as an unofficial envoy to discuss the North’s nuclear program.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Mr. Richardson said the large-scale military drills by South Korea were another test for the North.

“The situation is still a tinderbox,” Mr. Richardson told the A.P. “There’s still enormous tension, enormous mistrust, and I believe diplomacy is what is needed to get us out of this tinderbox.”
I'm not sure who Gov. Richardson means by "us," but if he's talking about Imperial Americans and their legions, I have to disagree about diplomacy being what's needed to get out. No, what's needed are two things: a return to sanity, and some transportation.

The transportation is the easy part. The legions are equipped with many large aircraft and more than a few large ships. The soldiers can shoulder their rifles and get on board with no difficulty. Concerning the heavy weapons, trucks, and facilities: forget 'em. We're better off without those things anyway; they seem to inspire us to go out looking for trouble. Given sanity, the legions could be gone tomorrow, or the day after for sure.

But that return to sanity is more problematic. I can't say where that's coming from. Maybe from being out of money and out of credit -- the silver lining, perhaps, on a dark, dark cloud.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Christmas Miracle, DC Style

I'm pretty sure I just saw this on my monitor:
U.S. Senate negotiators reached agreement today on legislation to aid first-responders with illnesses linked to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York City.

"The Christmas miracle we've been looking for has arrived," New York Democratic Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand said in a statement. "We thank our Republican friends for coming together to fulfill America's moral obligation to the heroes of 9/11."
Ah, yes, the Heroes of the Holy Nine Eleven. Kind of like the Vet'runs: we're always told that no thanks can ever be enough -- but we're certainly encouraged to keep on trying, forever and ever, amen. But wait, there's more:
The revised bill as worked out closed-door talks provides for $4.3 billion in additional aid over five years, with $1.5 billion for health benefits and $2.7 billion for compensation, Coburn said. The House initially earmarked $7.5 million, and the original Senate version was a $6.2 billion bill.
Well, maybe that's the Christmas miracle: $4.3B, instead of $6.2B or $7.5B. (These lawfakers -- why do they hate the Nine Eleven Heroes, appropriating a mere 4.3 billion? Where's the full 7.5 billion? What's up with that?)

Let's see, about 2500 died in NYC ... $4.3E+09 ... that's a little over 1.7 million dollars per martyr. Still, that's chump change compared to the money flushed down the toilet in Iraq, and Afghanistan, and Yemen, and Pakistan, and ... yeah, maybe Iran's next. And there's the little matter of hundreds of thousands of people murdered. But they're just Musselman wogs, so I guess there's no point in cluttering our accounting with them.

If this is what passes for a "Christmas miracle" in Washington, let's just drop that First Amendment pretense of no established religion, and officially declare the US a Satanist state. Since it's increasingly true in practical terms, maybe the money should start saying "In the Prince of Darkness We Trust." Truth in advertising, you see.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Taking the High Road

Not that I'd want to start any unpleasant exchanges with mendacious trolls, but last holiday season, I chronicled here how I amused myself by accepting my employer's holiday gift, a $15 gift card for Wal-mart, and applying it there toward the purchase of a great big 36-roll package of toilet paper, which allowed me to smile numerous times during the first half of this year as I remembered that I was wiping my fundamental aperture on my holiday gift.

This year, the same holiday gift is on offer, along with the statement that anyone wishing to donate his or her gift card to "local charities" could do so by simply not claiming it. Sounds good to me. I'll just donate passively, and then go ahead and purchase my buttwipes in the conventional way in 2011.

Tiny Little Silver Lining

Thank God my state is near-broke. Finances may inspire them to lighten up -- just a tiny bit! -- in punishing malum prohibitum non-crimes:
... On a related note, Daniels announced the state has reached agreement with a private corrections firm to build a 512-bed, maximum-security addition next to the New Castle Correctional Facility. It’s expected to be completed by February 2012.

[ ... ]

Despite that announcement, Daniels wants to focus on ways to reduce prison-building in the future.

The Pew report found Indiana’s prison population has grown by more than 40 percent – or about 8,000 offenders – in the past 10 years. That is three times faster than any neighboring state, and the growth has come because more people convicted of property and drug offenses are being sentenced to prison.

With no changes, the state’s prison population is expected to grow from about 29,000 to almost 35,000 in 2017.

Daniels said the recommendations from the study, if adopted, would save the state $1.2 billion in future prison construction and operating costs and hold the prison population roughly steady in coming years.
There's no suggestion here, of course, that the state has been wrong to stuff people into cages for self-medicating with unapproved substances, as opposed to State-approved self-medication using booze, tobacco, and (some) gambling. Oh, no, heaven forbid! I'm certain the Guv would love to imprison all such offenders for even longer, or maybe execute some, pour encourager les autres, don't you see. But ... (sigh!) ... it's hard times, and our supervisors have to moderate their pleasures.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Now, and Then

My, how things do change. The Fagin of foreign diplomats' credit-card numbers, La Hillary, now:
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says the leak of hundreds of thousands of secret diplomatic documents is an attack not only on the United States but also the international community.

In her first public comments since the weekend release of the classified State Department cables, Clinton said Monday that online whistleblower Wikileaks acted illegally in posting the material.

She said the Obama administration was "aggressively pursuing" those responsible for the leak.

She said the leaks erode trust between nations. But Clinton also sa
id she was "confident" that U.S. partnerships would withstand the challenges posed by the latest revelations.
But, way back in the day, almost a whole year ago, then was then:
Now, in many respects, information has never been so free. There are more ways to spread more ideas to more people than at any moment in history. And even in authoritarian countries, information networks are helping people discover new facts and making governments more accountable.

During his visit to China in November, for example, President Obama held a town hall meeting with an online component to highlight the importance of the internet. In response to a question that was sent in over the internet, he defended the right of people to freely access information, and said that the more freely information flows, the stronger societies become. He spoke about how access to information helps citizens hold their own governments accountable, generates new ideas, encourages creativity and entrepreneurship. The United States belief in that ground truth is what brings me here today.

[ ... ]

In the last year, we’ve seen a spike in threats to the free flow of information. China, Tunisia, and Uzbekistan have stepped up their censorship of the internet. In Vietnam, access to popular social networking sites has suddenly disappeared. And last Friday in Egypt, 30 bloggers and activists were detained. One member of this group, Bassem Samir, who is thankfully no longer in prison, is with us today. So while it is clear that the spread of these technologies is transforming our world, it is still unclear how that transformation will affect the human rights and the human welfare of the world’s population.

On their own, new technologies do not take sides in the struggle for freedom and progress, but the United States does. We stand for a single internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas. And we recognize that the world’s information infrastructure will become what we and others make of it. Now, this challenge may be new, but our responsibility to help ensure the free exchange of ideas goes back to the birth of our republic.

[ ... ]

As I speak to you today, government censors somewhere are working furiously to erase my words from the records of history. But history itself has already condemned these tactics. Two months ago, I was in Germany to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The leaders gathered at that ceremony paid tribute to the courageous men and women on the far side of that barrier who made the case against oppression by circulating small pamphlets called samizdat. Now, these leaflets questioned the claims and intentions of dictatorships in the Eastern Bloc and many people paid dearly for distributing them. But their words helped pierce the concrete and concertina wire of the Iron Curtain.

[ ... ]

Some countries have erected electronic barriers that prevent their people from accessing portions of the world’s networks. They’ve expunged words, names, and phrases from search engine results. They have violated the privacy of citizens who engage in non-violent political speech. These actions contravene the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which tells us that all people have the right “to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” With the spread of these restrictive practices, a new information curtain is descending across much of the world. And beyond this partition, viral videos and blog posts are becoming the samizdat of our day.

As in the dictatorships of the past, governments are targeting independent thinkers who use these tools. In the demonstrations that followed Iran’s presidential elections, grainy cell phone footage of a young woman’s bloody murder provided a digital indictment of the government’s brutality. We’ve seen reports that when Iranians living overseas posted online criticism of their nation’s leaders, their family members in Iran were singled out for retribution. And despite an intense campaign of government intimidation, brave citizen journalists in Iran continue using technology to show the world and their fellow citizens what is happening inside their country. In speaking out on behalf of their own human rights, the Iranian people have inspired the world. And their courage is redefining how technology is used to spread truth and expose injustice.
Good Lord. I could pretty much quote the whole wonderfully sincere speech here -- she just goes on and on -- but you get the idea.

My thanks Mr. John Naughton of The Guardian for bringing this to my attention, via

Sunday, December 05, 2010

The Corporate Media

In the previous post, I referred to them as "journo-harlots." I'm not going to do that again -- I have too much respect for actual harlots to lump them in with the propagandists who truly have become a fourth branch of the criminal conspiracy that masquerades as "our" central government. I mean, Rahab was a harlot.

Anyway, this arrested my attention:
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange continued his assault on U.S. government officials, calling for President Obama to resign if it is proven that he approved of spying on UN officials by U.S. diplomats.

Assange told El Pais, "The whole chain of command who was aware of this order, and approved it, must resign if the US is to be seen to be a credible nation that obeys the rule of law. The order is so serious it may well have been put to the president for approval."

Assange has also called on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to resign her post.

The State Department directive sent in July 2009 asked diplomats to collect basic contact information about U.N. officials, including Internet passwords, credit card numbers and frequent flyer numbers.

WikiLeaks documents reveal that the CIA was behind the State Department's directive to gather information on U.N. officials.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said that Secretary Clinton "is responsible, but she was not the author of that particular document, and the contents of that came from outside the Department of State."

"Our diplomats are just that, diplomats," Crowley maintained."They collect information that shapes our policies and actions."

The Department of Justice is considering bringing criminal charges against Assange.

Assange is thought to be hiding in the U.K. London police are expected to execute Interpol's arrest warrant to bring him in for questioning on sex crimes charges and possible extradition proceedings.

In the cat-and-mouse spy game, WikiLeaks' supporters a backup plan to disseminate data if anything untoward happens to Assange or the website. Thousands of encrypted files containing an uncensored version of the diplomatic cables have been sent around the world, and can be opened with a special "key."
"Assault." I mean, really. You have people (sort of) in the US government openly calling for Assange's murder, but for him to say what any reasonable person would -- that some resignations of the criminals involved, such as Madam Secretary of Identity Theft Clinton, and her sly and feckless capo, Barack Milhous Obama, are due -- to say that is an "assault?" And here's the US Department of Injustice "considering bringing criminal charges against Assange." Memo to you, goofballs: Assange isn't a US subject citizen. Of course, I'm forgetting: under the US empire, foreigners are subject to US law, but aren't entitled to the increasingly dubious protections of our poor dead constitution. Heads, the ruling class wins; tails, anyone else loses. Sweet. Sure is enough to make me want to go out and vote. Three or four times, maybe.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Going Through the Motions

I suppose the US is officially still claiming to the The Free-est Country Anywhere And At Any Time. I'll have to admit, though, that I'm a little surprised at what a small and shoddy effort they're putting into the maintenance of the charade, in these latter days.

Did you all see this crap?
In a classic case of shutting the barn door after the horse has left, the Obama administration and the Department of Defense have ordered the hundreds of thousands of federal employees and contractors not to read the secret cables and other classified documents published by Wikileaks and news organizations around the world unless the workers have the required security clearance or authorization.

“Classified information, whether or not already posted on public websites or disclosed to the media, remains classified, and must be treated as such by federal employees and contractors, until it is declassified by an appropriate U.S. Government authority,” said the notice sent on Friday afternoon by the Office of Management and Budget, which is part of the White House, to agency and department heads, urging them to distribute it to their staff

The directive applies to both government computers and private devices that employees or contractors might carry in their briefcases and pockets or have in their homes. It does not advise agencies to block WikiLeaks or other websites on government computer systems, a White House official said Saturday. And it does not prohibit federal employees from reading news stories about the topic. But if they have “accidentially” already downloaded any of these documents, they are being told to notify their “information security offices.”

[ ... ]

The Library of Congress has joined in the push, blocked visitors to its reading rooms, or anyone else using its computer system, from accessing the WikiLeaks site, noting that “unauthorized disclosures of classified documents do not alter the documents’ classified status or automatically result in declassification of the documents.”
And in other news:
Columbia University’s Office of Career Service is said to have passed around an email warning students that if they read WikiLeaks or make comments related to the releases it would render them ineligible for any government jobs in the future, based on a warning sent by a former student working at the State Department.

State Department spokeswoman Nicole Thompson insisted the warning wasn’t an official Department directive but added that making public comments or posting links to WikiLeaks content wasn’t “a good move for any US citizen.”

Efforts across the US government to restrict access to the documents are having limited success, although Sen. Joe Lieberman (I – CT) did succeed in getting the WikiLeaks website removed for a few hours following a threatening phone call to
Well, with all due respect (and that ain't much, for sure) to State Department spokescreature Nicole Thompson, let me say this about that:

1. The WikiLeaks organization has performed an essential service to the public -- the international public, at that -- that the big-time professional journo-harlots are no longer willing to do. What Mr. Assange and his associates have done is wonderful. Tragically, I suspect he -- and others -- will be paying a heavy price for disseminating the truth; and, at least in the US, I suspect further that the revelations WikiLeaks have made won't make much difference. If productive US public outrage is what was wanted, well, sorry -- after all, Christmas, New Year's, the BCS bowl games, and the NFL playoffs are all coming up. Still, in this, the most public comment that a nobody like me can come up with: three cheers for WikiLeaks! Hip, hip, hooray!

2. I won't post a link to WikiLeaks here, simply because it's currently useless, what with all the DDOS attacks and other cyberthuggery that our charming government and its overseas subsidiaries are doing. Right now, the best I can do is post a link to this article, which its author says he will update as often as he can with working links to mirror sites and other such workarounds. Three more cheers for, while we're at it!

3. Finally, your tax dollars at work: notice above how Joseph "the Weasel" Lieberman is spending his time: making threatening phone calls. Truly, a worthy son of the Stern Gang, and perhaps the most effective of the many US senators owned by the Israelis.

Seriously, folks, doesn't it seem to you that the whole US imperial enterprise is really starting to rip and run in more and more places, like a rotten old stocking? Things seem to be picking up speed quickly, like a boat on a narrowing river just above a high falls. Myself, I've got my fingers crossed for a Soviet-style collapse, without a huge bloodbath. Wishing isn't predicting, though.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Jesus on WikiLeaks ...

... and WikiLeaks' outraged accusers. Quoted in John's gospel, chapter 3, verses 20 and 21:
"For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God."
Dissenting is former Baptist preacher and 'Pubbie presidential candidate Mike Huckabee:
“Whoever in our government leaked that information is guilty of treason, and I think anything less than execution is too kind a penalty,” Huckabee, a likely presidential candidate, told reporters Monday during a stop at The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Library to sign copies of his new children’s book, “Can’t Wait Till Christmas!”
Well, there's at least two views about everything, and you takes your choices. Still, I have to wonder what sort of parent gives his children a copy of Chucklebee's "Christmas" book.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


I've been thinking about a post that the proprietress of Mimi's Musing wrote over at Dead Horse. An excerpt:
The New York Times is running one of their wonderfully patriotic and fat-headed series, this one on our military heroes who are such brave youth and who just incidentally, you understand, have signed up to slaughter other human beings. I commented:

What is it, in particular, these hired killers are fighting for? Not to protect our country; Afghanistan has never been a threat to this country. Not "our freedoms"; our freedoms have been eroding for years. Not "our way of life," whatever in the world that could possibly mean.
I certainly agree with the substance of Mimi's post. But there's something I get to thinking about, now and then: for instance, every Armistice Day Veterans' Day, when we're supposed to get all misty-eyed about how everything worthwhile about America only exists because somebody spent 1977 to 1983 as an avionics tech in the Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. It's the "hired killers" thing I want to get to here. It's certainly descriptive of what they do, but I don't think -- in most cases -- that it's what they are. That's not a distinction that's worth much of anything to the killers' victims, but it's worth something, I think, in terms of our efforts to understand our countrymen.

The average age of first enlistment in the Army hovers right around 21 in recent years. That's certainly old enough for legal responsibility ... but I wonder how many of us were really doing a lot of serious thinking at that age? At the very least, I think we'd have to say that 21-year-olds tend to be pretty easily swayed by advertising, and by other forms of social pressure. And between one thing and another, it seems to me that we as a society are very insistent in telling the youngsters that signing up to kill is both a noble exercise, and a smart career move. (In today's hollowed-out US economy, it's about the only career move available to a whole lot of kids.) I'm sure that some of the recruits do have an insane urge to kill other people and destroy their homes. I'm inclined to doubt that the majority join up to become killers, though; I'm thinking that for most, the motivation is a good bit more mundane, and a good bit closer to innocent. America sells them on the idea; and America is well-equipped with astute salesmen.

As I say, a 21-year-old is responsible for what he or she agrees to do, and does. And the distinctions I'm referring to aren't very important to the people who are unlucky enough to live in places that our masters have decided to destroy, and unlucky enough to be the ones our masters have decided to murder. But the responsibility goes far beyond the torpedoes in uniform. It extends to everyone who pays taxes to the crime lords. When it comes right down to it, there's plenty of guilt to go around. I believe I'm wearing my share, too.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Some Do, and Some Don't

Vote, that is. I don't, as I explained at some length in this post; and my fellow Fort Wayne-area blogger Phil Marx does, as he explains at some length in this post. He writes well. You should check it out.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Depression-Proof Business

Maybe your job's already evaporated, or maybe you're still hanging on. Maybe your real income continues to decline (in fact, O American, there's not much "maybe" about that). Maybe your kids have gone through school, only to find that the only available jobs are low-paying service-sector ones, or none at all. Maybe the military is looking like their employer of last resort. But don't think that all is disaster, everywhere. There is one "industry" that seems to be depression-proof: Israel, Inc. In a few months, while you're preparing your federal income-tax return, consider the following:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presents his ministers with a multibillion-dollar incentive package from the U.S. to reopen peace talks with Palestinian leaders. He may have difficulty in winning their approval.

Under pressure from the Obama administration, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began nudging his Cabinet on Sunday toward accepting a multibillion-dollar package of U.S. incentives to restart peace talks with Palestinians.

But Netanyahu immediately faced strong opposition from conservative politicians and Jewish settler groups, who vowed to block the American proposal because it would reimpose building restrictions in the West Bank for three months.

U.S. officials hope to use the three-month window to focus talks on setting final borders for a proposed Palestinian state. Once both sides agree to borders, Israel could resume building in areas that will become part of Israel and halt construction in areas that will become part of the Palestinian state.

After a confrontational Cabinet meeting, Moshe Yaalon, a vice prime minister, rejected the U.S. offer as a "honey trap" that "will lead us down a slippery slope and into another crisis with the American administration after three months, or perhaps even sooner."

Netanyahu told ministers that the terms of the U.S. offer were still being negotiated and he pledged to bring it for a vote before the smaller security Cabinet when the details are finalized.

The package, discussed last week between Netanyahu and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in New York, includes 20 stealth fighter jets worth $3 billion and a promise to veto anti-Israel proposals raised in the U.N. Security Council during the next year, including a potential Palestinian bid to seek international support for a unilateral declaration of statehood.

In return, Israel would renew its partial West Bank construction moratorium for 90 days, including units that broke ground after the previous freeze expired in September.


Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, a key coalition partner, voiced opposition to the U.S. offer in private meetings, according to Israeli news reports. Lieberman and others oppose setting final borders before addressing other issues, such as security or the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

"We will not agree to focus on the subject of the border," Lieberman was quoted as saying by Israel Today newspaper. "That would be a bitter mistake."

But Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who had voiced opposition to renewing the building moratorium, indicated Sunday that his Shas Party might agree to abstain from the vote if Jewish building in East Jerusalem could continue unabated.

Palestinian officials said they had not been briefed on the plan by U.S. officials and would refrain from making a judgment until then. But some expressed concern that the building restrictions would not cover East Jerusalem, which Israel seized in 1967 and where it recently announced the approval of 1,300 new units.
So, despite the fact the we're broke, and all signs point to Uncle Sam's VISA card being declined on a worldwide basis, we're going to somehow kite some more debt to fix the Izzies up with "20 stealth fighter jets" -- no doubt, in addition to that other $3B that we send them annually. And we're going to use our power in the UN to silence any criticism of their war crimes and general thuggishness, thus identifying ourselves with them yet again, making even more dedicated enemies in the Middle East (which may not matter at this point, as our "enemy" status is probably saturated by now). Then, if we are successful in bribing the Chosen, the Palestinians will undoubtedly require a bribe of some sort also, although it will predictably be a pale ghost of the one we deliver to the sons of Abraham. After this, both sides will do what the hell they want anyway, and we -- having sown the wind -- will reap the whirlwind.

If the US suddenly retrieved any semblance of sanity, it would instantly withdraw its armed forces from Mesopotamia and southwest Asia (along with everywhere else, but that's another discussion), and would gently inform all states of the region that every form of assistance and all military "partnerships" are hereby discontinued; the very best of luck to all; see you later, boys; don't call us, we'll call you (not).

What do you suppose the probability of such a return of sanity is?

Yeah, that's about my guess, also.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Who'd Ever Have Thunk It?

The state has investigated its own coverup of its own crimes. The result: nothing to see here; move along, move along.
No criminal charges will be filed against CIA officials involved in destroying videotapes of harsh interrogations of terrorism suspects, the US Justice Department has said.

The CIA destroyed 92 tapes of al-Qaeda operatives Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Nashiri being waterboarded in 2005.

Jose Rodriguez, a former clandestine officer, approved the move out of concern the tapes could harm the CIA.

The investigation has spanned nearly three years.
The accused has investigated, and has concluded that there's no crime. As Gomer Pyle might say: surprise, surprise, surprise!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Rite of Consent

Some conversations I've had -- both online and in physical space -- since November 2 cause me to think I should lay out a substantial case for not voting. As I try to do so, please don't think I'm being smug: I myself am a very recently reformed former voter. Worse yet, it wasn't so long ago that I held an elected public office; not only am I a voter, I'm a candidate, and a winning candidate at that. (My shame multiplies.) So let's think of this as the equivalent of an AA meeting: "Hi, I'm Jim, and I'm a voter."

That said, here goes.

Voting as Communication

We're often told that our vote "sends 'em a message." The message that is sent, and to whom, varies considerably from one voting-exhorter to another. When Denise Democrat defeats Rick Republican for a congressional seat, what message did a particular voter (say, Vince Voter) send? He wants an increase in Social Security benefits? He's against the war? He likes legal abortion? He thinks Denise is a goddess of government, or that Rick is slimy? He thinks Denise is dead horrible, but Rick's even worse? He wants a better Republican than Rick in office, and voted for Denise based on a strategic calculation that it's more important to reform the Republican party through the cleansing fire of defeat than to win this particular election, this one time? He votes alphabetically, and "D" comes before "R?" Out of these and a thousand more possibilities, it's quite hopeless to decipher Vince's "message."

Voting is a bad way to send messages because of the information deficiency inherent in the mechanism: a "multiple" choice between two (or, rarely, three or four) alternatives. The information content is nearly zero. It's similar to displaying a flag -- what do you mean: you like America, or you hate everyone else? Or wearing a cross, which might mean that you love Jesus, or that you think Madonna was really, really hot when she wore one.

Want to send a message? Voting is an incredibly ineffective way to do so. Depending on the size and proximity of your audience, consider having conversations, giving speeches, or writing: a book, an essay, a blog, comments to someone else's blog, or letters. In these ways, you can -- with effort -- say exactly what you want to say.

How Does Your Voting Affect Others?

I argued above that voting is a poor way to communicate. When you vote, though, you do tell government something: that you buy into the state's basic scheme, and that any disagreement you have with the state concerns only the small details -- which is the kind of disagreement that's easy for them to live with. You tell them that you're engaged in their game. And that's fine with them: the nominal two parties (one party, in reality) have arranged things so that no third party, even a sellout like the Libertarian Party, will ever be relevant to the way in which business is actually done. No matter whom you vote for or against, your vote tells your supervisors that you're a happy camper ... or, if not actually happy, that you're at least going to continue camping on their campground, by their rules.

Secondly, when you vote, you add peer pressure to the general pressure exerted by the respectable media on your fellow-subjects to vote. You're serving as a bad example.

Thirdly, your voting lends a spurious legitimacy to the state. The more people vote in an election, the easier it is for the victor in that election to claim that his or her ascension to power is the Will of the People. Imagine an election in which 99% of the eligible voters don't vote. Sure, one clown or another will receive a larger share of the 1% than the other clown, and will therefore be awarded the driver's seat in the clown car. But he'll certainly sound silly -- even more so than usual -- when he talks about having a popular mandate for his particular brand of buffoonery. As the number of voters increases, so does the clown's plausibility; and that's not good.

How Does Your Voting Affect Yourself?

I'm assuming here that I'm talking about the reluctant, nose-holding, lesser-of-two-evils voter: someone who realizes that things have gone badly wrong in American political life, and is considering his or her vote as a mitigation, a limitation of damage, an effort to salvage something from a bad situation. To the cheerful person who can wholeheartedly "get behind" a major-party platform, I have nothing to say, really; that person is dealing with a version of reality that I'm not familiar with.

First, voting uselessly consumes your time and mental energies. It requires that you become familiar with the mechanics of politics at a tactical level, as you will often be deploying your vote in some indirect way; voting for an unusually-egregious clown in Party A's primary in order that Party B's candidate will find it easier to win the general election is a classic example of this. (I say "uselessly" because the probability of a single vote changing the outcome of any election at a higher level than Assistant Township Dogcatcher is negligibly small.) It requires that you study the chicken entrails endlessly, trying to divine the true intentions of candidates who will try hard to prevent you from doing so accurately.

Secondly, the effects of tactical, nose-holding compromises are cumulative. What you repeatedly do, you incorporate within your mind; to an extent, you become what you do. Compromise becomes a habit. Eventually, your very ability to think and act in a principled way has to be compromised, along with everything else.

Finally, there's the "Stockholm Syndrome." A hostage, held at gunpoint, is compelled to compromise, accepting the wrongful status of prisoner in order not to be shot. After some time, he tends to start identifying or sympathizing with his captor. Similarly, if you cast enough lesser-of-two-evils votes for Congressman Doe, you're apt to excuse, or at least to overlook, some of his misdeeds. Having voted for him so many times makes you complicit, to a degree, with those misdeeds -- so they must not be so terribly bad. Your thinking has become distorted, and that's not good.

What's the Real Meaning of Your Vote?

In the Declaration of Independence, we read:
That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
Please don't misunderstand: I'm not saying that voting makes you a party to an explicit legal contract. I do claim, though, that in most people's minds, when a group decision by voting is embarked upon, the expectation is that each person who votes expresses, through the act of voting, his or her willingness to abide by the outcome. The "consent of the governed," as the text of the Declaration puts it, is signalled and marked by the performance of some action by the people.

What is that action, that consent ritual, if not voting? Commonly-understood expectation makes it that; and I would suggest that there isn't really any other thing that we're urged to do that would qualify. Voting ratifies the state's claim that what it does, it does rightfully in our names, with our consent. "You've had your say; now, let's get on with it."

And it's a bad bargain that we get: exchanging our consent for an entirely illusory voice in the process, an entry ticket for a fully-rigged game. Look, objectively, at what actually happens. Republican "conservatives" in power, Democratic liberals out? Government gets bigger and more powerful, and our liberties shrink. Throw out the Republicans, and vote in the Democrats? Government gets bigger and more powerful, and our liberties shrink. Let one party control Congress, and the other the White House, in so-called gridlock? Government gets bigger and more powerful, and our liberties shrink. Sensing a theme here? As Emma Goldman said, back in the day: if voting actually changed anything, it would be illegal. Instead, it's recommended to us as a solemn duty by those who certainly would not welcome fundamental change. Obviously, it's sublimely harmless to the powers that be. With apologies to that great philosopher, Bob Seger:
Ooooooh, they love to watch her ... vote
Ooooooh, they do respect her but
They love to watch her vote.

The Bottom Line

To sum up, voting doesn't "send them a message" -- at least, not the message you may have had in mind. It's bad for your fellow citizens, and worse yet, it's bad for you. Voting is used by the state to bolster its own spurious claims of legitimacy. It's a bad habit, and one that we'd all do well to break.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Mystery Solved!

Most of us, I'm sure, are perpetually asking ourselves just what the problem is with America these days. That question has now been answered. The problem is me, and maybe a few others who just aren't well-adjusted.

Those few "others" seem to include this guy, with whom I disagree on some of the particulars -- I'm not a Commie, and he is, I think. But, as I've remarked from time to time, class analysis is a powerful tool for understanding what we see going on around us. (Via Mr. Oxtrot.)
When the political tricksters fail and the voting public actually gets a little bit upset, it is time to send in the clowns, and so most recently a couple of late-night TV comedians have joined the fray, holding a massive rally to “restore sanity.” This new sanity is epitomized by the following family portrait: daddy is a “Conservative Republican” mommy is an “Obama Liberal,” the son is a “Libertarian,” the daughter is a “Green,” and the dog (the only one of them who is sane) is trying to run away. Meet the Losers: they are the ones who have no idea what class their family is in, or what their class interest is, and as far as their chances of making successful use of democratic politics to collectively defend and advance their class interest, well... they are the Losers—that says it all, doesn't it? All that blood spilled in the name of liberty and democracy, and to show for it we have a country of insane Losers and the odd sane stray dog, free to a good home.

But it is all a waste of time: the Losers may vote or not vote, they may flap their gums at the breakfast table or twinkle their toes up and down the street holding signs, where they may take part in peaceful protest or get teargassed and shot with rubber bullets—the result will be exactly the same.
Wow -- I guess I shoulda voted! Because, as we all know, voting changes things.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Heresy Against Democracy

There's a worship service in America's established religion coming up Tuesday. I'm a heathen -- I won't be voting. I've withdrawn my consent.

For those of you who are faithful believers, though, here's some advice. Thank you, James Bovard, for bringing it to my attention:

Emergency! We're at War!!!

Oh, no! I'm not safe! Yumpin' Yemeni, them Al Qaeda in Yemen guys is mailin' bombs over here!

Please, government, make me safe! I demand that you remove some more of my few remaining liberties! I insist that you porno-scan and grope my carcass before I can drive my car on the public streets. Shut down this blog, so I'll be perfectly safe. In fact, if you were to jail me, I'd be surrounded by security, would I not? Let's get to it, then! Remember, the only important thing is that I must be perfectly safe and secure.

I've got an idea -- cancel those elections next week. Elections are just a way of disrupting government. Don't you know there's a war on?

SAFER, I TELL YOU -- I MUST BE SAFER!!! I don't care what it costs. Safety first. And last. And always.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Some Voodoo Health-Care Economics

So, the O'Bomber shows up on Jon "Sucking Up to Power" Stewart's show to do a little campaigning, and the Peace Laureate has this to say:
"Jon, I love your show, but this is something where I have a profound disagreement with you ..." Obama said, leaning forward and intently tapping his finger on the desk, "this notion that health care was timid."

"This is what most people would say is as significant a piece of legislation as we have seen in this country's history," the president continued, saying the Affordable Care Act will provide health coverage for 30 million people, introduces a Patient's Bill of Rights and will cut the deficit by over a trillion dollars.
You know, when the redshirts and the blueshirts have their little "let's pretend" fights, every couple of years, I absolutely have no little make-believe dog in those little make-believe fights. But the details do often amuse. Just let an Evil Rethuglican suggest that the solution to American economic ills is to lower anyone's tax rates, and the pwoggies explode in derision: voodoo economics! But the Historic First Sort-of-Kind-of Black President suggests that 30 million more people are going to get health coverage, and the national budget deficit is going to decrease by a trillion (that's a thousand billion, folks) bucks ... uh, yeah, okay. The only way I see that happening is if those Death Panels not only exist, but are tremendously busy. Them grannies is gonna be droppin' like flies. Either that, or Obummer's talking some serious crap.

Meanwhile, I'm sure that Licensed Iconoclast Stewart's going to call our glorious progressive leader on that nonsense right away. But maybe I won't hold my breath while I wait.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Word for Wednesday, October 27

Today, I'm looking at Galatians chapter 4, verses 1 - 11:
Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave although he is owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father. So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world. But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.

However, at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? You observe days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.
Paradoxical, it is, but true: we naturally prefer slavery to the liberty that we have in Christ. We want a card of rules. We'd rather tithe by formula than come to grips with the idea that it's all His, every cent and every possession and every family member. Why?

Well, the rules and regulations provide boundary lines. Maybe 23 hours of the day are God's, but the twenty-fourth is ours, in which we can do as we please. Maybe 10% of my paycheck is God's, but that means 90% is none of His business. Maybe I have a set of rules to obey, but that saves me the labor of thinking about principles and their application, and what I can do in a positive sense to please Him. I might be living under the Law, but at least I have no worries as long as long as the Law's not barking at me. Growing up and entering into Christian liberty is hard, and scary. But He bought that liberty for me, at a very high price. Should I throw it away? Will that please Him? I don't have to wonder; Paul answers the questions succinctly.

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Those Who Can, Do; and Those Who Can't ...

... or won't, try to change the subject.

With Julian Assange's WikiLeaks having again published "our" government's secrets, it's interesting to see how the big media respond. Here's an example. By all means, have a look at the whole article. What jumps out at me is that there's no claim that the revelations aren't authentic. Instead, the emphasis is on whether Assange himself is a nice, winsome guy or not:
Much has changed since 2006, when Mr. Assange, a 39-year-old Australian, used years of computer hacking and what friends call a near genius I.Q. to establish WikiLeaks, redefining whistle-blowing by gathering secrets in bulk, storing them beyond the reach of governments and others determined to retrieve them, then releasing them instantly, and globally.

Now it is not just governments that denounce him: some of his own comrades are abandoning him for what they see as erratic and imperious behavior, and a nearly delusional grandeur unmatched by an awareness that the digital secrets he reveals can have a price in flesh and blood.

Several WikiLeaks colleagues say he alone decided to release the Afghan documents without removing the names of Afghan intelligence sources for NATO troops. “We were very, very upset with that, and with the way he spoke about it afterwards,” said Birgitta Jonsdottir, a core WikiLeaks volunteer and a member of Iceland’s Parliament. “If he could just focus on the important things he does, it would be better.”
Yes, I suppose Mr. Assange's primary concern should have been to make our hired collaborators perfectly safe. Or maybe not. If collaborating with the invader (the "Coalition," that is) is known to be very dangerous, perhaps the Coalition won't be able to hire collaborators. And that would be very, very bad. Or maybe not.

In any case, there's no such thing as a legitimate government secret, and Mr. Assange should go on doing what he's doing. If he's not an agreeable fellow, perhaps he should also work on his people skills. But meanwhile, the false "journalists" (i.e., corporate/government whores) working for the respectable media should start doing their proper jobs, instead of hatcheting someone who's doing what they should be doing -- but won't.

The Last Days, October 25 Edition

One of the infallible signs of the arrival of the apocalypse, I think, is that it scares all the (literate) copy editors away from the big-time newspapers. Here's the Boston Herald:
Childress proceeded Favre into the same room and proceeded to vent about the officiating.
That Childress was doing a whole lot of proceeding, there. I wonder what it looks like when the coach proceeds his quarterback into a room? Somehow, I have a picture of him taking a firm twist-grip on the Favre ear and propelling him by pain compliance. Of course, I did watch that game on the teevee, and I believe I saw several of the Green Bay defenders proceeding the Brettmeister into the playing surface at Lambeau Field, with a certain amount of firmness and emphasis. Oh, well.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Word for Thursday, October 21

I'm on the road right now, doing some day-job travel. (Today, the day job is more like the night job, and I'll be going back there soon; meanwhile, I'm catching up a little with online matters.) In many ways, it's good to be sent away. When we're removed from the familiar "furniture" of our daily lives, our perceived security is decreased. The perception was always illusory; it has to do with being surrounded by what we know well, and is misleading. We have no real "security" at all, except for the faithfulness of God ... and what security more should we need? In any case, the fourteenth chapter of the gospel of John fell under my eye today:
"Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going." Thomas said to Him, "Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?" Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.

"If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him." Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." Jesus said to him, "Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip ? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, 'Show us the Father '? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.

"I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him." Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, "Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us and not to the world ?" Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father's who sent Me. These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. You heard that I said to you, 'I go away, and I will come to you.' If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. Now I have told you before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe. I will not speak much more with you, for the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me; but so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me. Get up, let us go from here."
Well, what can I say, except: I love that Man. Can't wait to be with Him in the place that He has prepared. And I'm grateful that He gave the Spirit, and that He's reminding me all the time of what Jesus said and did. It's good -- really, really good -- to have all that you need. And I do.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Yes, It Must Truly Be the Last Days

Isn't one of the signs of imminent Armageddon supposed to be the absence of literate copy editors on big-time newspapers? Here is the famous Chicago Tribune in action:
And Patriots' safety Brandon Meriweather was fined $50,000 for a viscous hit on Ravens tight end Todd Heap.
I suppose a "viscous" hit must be one that takes a long time to pour. The Trib will probably demand that the National Football League specify the maximum allowable viscosity of hits in football games. 5W30 hits will be OK, but 10W40 will result in suspensions, maybe?

Why Ask, and Go Ahead and Tell: Swell!

Do you suppose this will be bad for Unit Cohesion?
The Pentagon said on Tuesday it had told U.S. military recruiters to allow gays and lesbians to apply for service, as gay veterans tested a court order striking down the military's ban on openly serving homosexuals.

California-based U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips ordered the military a week ago to stop enforcing the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and on Monday tentatively refused a Pentagon request to re-instate the 17-year-old ban.

Phillips issued a final decision late on Tuesday affirming her order.

Although government concerns about military readiness and cohesion are important, "these interests are outweighed by the compelling public interest of safeguarding fundamental constitutional rights," she wrote in a six-page opinion.

A former Iraq war veteran who was discharged for revealing his sexual identity appeared on Tuesday at a recruiting station at New York's Times Square to re-enlist, and obtained an Army application.

"In the recruiting station," Daniel Choi wrote on his Twitter feed. "Apparently I'm too old for the Marines! Just filled out the Army application."
So ... will this "break" the US military? Or will it just make life even more, ah, interesting for swarthy detainees in places like Bagram, and Guantanamo Bay, and Abu Ghraib? Maybe it just means that the interrogator who threatens them with homosexual rape will be all done up in his studded leather off-duty kit. Anybody want a few months at Camp Bondsteel?

Any way the American military can be "broken" is a good thing, net. Between this and the general mega-bankruptcy of our glorious world-straddling former republic (sort of), the Empire just has to start rolling up like a defective window blind. Doesn't it?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Free-est Country in the World

This requires no comment, really. It speaks for itself:
Stepping up the Obama administration's opposition to Proposition 19, the nation's top law enforcement official promised to "vigorously enforce" federal drug laws against Californians who grow or sell marijuana for recreational use even if voters pass the legalization measure.

U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric Holder's response to the initiative comes as the administration has been under pressure to campaign against it more forcefully. Last week, Mexico's president, Felipe Calderon, chided the Obama administration for not doing enough to defeat it. And last month, nine former heads of the Drug Enforcement Administration publicly urged Holder to speak out.

In a letter sent Wednesday to the former DEA administrators, Holder wrote, "Let me state clearly that the Department of Justice strongly opposes Proposition 19. If passed, this legislation will greatly complicate federal drug enforcement efforts to the detriment of our citizens."


In an Aug. 24 letter and a Sept. 13 news conference in Washington, the former DEA chiefs asked Holder to make it clear that the initiative would be preempted by federal law and would put the United States in violation of international drug treaties, warning about "the unfortunate message that this silence conveys." Holder, responding two months later, did not mention either issue.

Instead, he noted that prosecutions under the federal Controlled Substances Act remain a "core priority" and wrote, "We will vigorously enforce the CSA against those individuals and organizations that possess, manufacture, or distribute marijuana for recreational use, even if such activities are permitted under state law." He did not say how he intends to do that, but said the department "is considering all available legal and policy options."

Baca, Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley and the other law enforcement officials insisted the initiative is unconstitutional because it conflicts with federal law. Baca also said he would not uphold the measure, if it passes, and would arrest anyone with a 25-square-foot plot.
Be sure to vote, now. Voting changes things. Besides, it's so safe; it's absolutely foolproof. If you mess up and vote wrong, don't worry ... it didn't mean anything. Peace Laureate O'Bomber and his minions will set everything straight. It's all good!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Great Expectations

If you've noticed the FedGov TARPing off the odd trillion freshly-created bucks every now and then, over the past couple of years, to take care of their fellows in the Corporatist Class, it might surprise you to learn that there's no inflation to speak of in the near-dead US economy. And if you've been buying anything besides slave-produced electronic gadgetry -- groceries, for instance -- you might again be astonished to learn that we're Officially Inflation-Free. And this freedom from inflation is troublesome to those who suck down the Social Security:
Social Security benefits will not automatically increase next year for 58 million Americans because of the low U.S. inflation rate, the Social Security Administration announced on Friday.

This is the second year in a row that retirees and millions of disabled workers and survivors of deceased workers will not receive an automatic cost of living adjustment.

It comes at a time when retirees' savings -- often their only other source of income -- are earning poor returns because of low interest rates.
Not to worry, though, my on-the-dole boomer masters. His Glorious Excellency O'Bomber I is going to fix that, through one of his key minions:
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke on Friday laid out a case for the central bank to take further action to bolster growth, citing the risks of prolonged high unemployment and a U.S. economy slipping into a deflationary spiral.

In a much-anticipated speech in Boston, Bernanke did not spell out details of how and when the Fed would take action. But the first option that he mentioned was a program of buying additional assets, namely government bonds, in an effort to drive down long-term interest rates and stimulate economic growth.

The central bank is widely expected to announce such a program, known as quantitative easing, at the conclusion of its next policymakers' meeting on Nov. 2 and 3.

"There would appear to be a case for further action," he said at a conference sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

As Bernanke spoke, the government released statistics showing the so-called core inflation rate, which excludes volatile energy and food prices, was unchanged in September and is now running at an annual rate of 0.8% — well below the Fed's informal desired target of 1.5% to 2%. Separately, there was better-than-expected news on last month's retail sales activity as total sales rose 0.6% from the prior month, boosted by higher auto sales.
Now, maybe I'm underestimating the Emperor's Fed czar. His Sufficiency Bernanke may be able to calculate another amazingly microscopic inflation rate after a few more terabucks are firehosed outward. We can read about it, over a sparing cupful of ten-dollars-a-gallon skim milk.

I can't wait.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Word for Wednesday, October 13

On the 13th of the month, we consider 2 Corinthians 13. (At least it's not a Friday!)
This is the third time I am coming to you. Every fact is to be confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses. I have previously said when present the second time, and though now absent I say in advance to those who have sinned in the past and to all the rest as well, that if I come again I will not spare anyone, since you are seeking for proof of the Christ who speaks in me, and who is not weak toward you, but mighty in you. For indeed He was crucified because of weakness, yet He lives because of the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, yet we will live with Him because of the power of God directed toward you. Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you--unless indeed you fail the test? But I trust that you will realize that we ourselves do not fail the test. Now we pray to God that you do no wrong; not that we ourselves may appear approved, but that you may do what is right, even though we may appear unapproved. For we can do nothing against the truth, but only for the truth. For we rejoice when we ourselves are weak but you are strong; this we also pray for, that you be made complete. For this reason I am writing these things while absent, so that when present I need not use severity, in accordance with the authority which the Lord gave me for building up and not for tearing down.

Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.
This chapter, it seems to me, centers on self-examination. "Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!" Just as the people of the Corinthian church needed to do this, presumably we do, too. So, what are the criteria? What is true of me if I am "in the faith?" Well, if I am, then I have company; someone lives with "me," in my body and my soul, and that someone is the third person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit. But that just moves the question: how do I know if I have the Holy Spirit? Is it a matter of how I feel? Couldn't I be entertaining some other spirit (generically, perhaps, the Unholy Spirit)? Time for the book of James, chapter 2, verses 14 - 19:
What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, "You have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works." You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.
Does this mean salvation is produced by good works? Certainly not. It's like a stove and a thermometer. You're trying to heat some water. The stove is what heats the water; the thermometer tells you whether the stove's getting the job done, or not. Faith is what saves; the faith is what we must be "in;" faith is the stove. Our works are the thermometer, telling us whether we're in the faith.

So, to be in the faith, we have to be doing every good work, and no wicked ones? Again, not so. We're unfinished, and our lives show that. But we should be looking for the trend. In absolute terms, I'm dirty; but am I cleaner than I was last month? Last year? If the Holy Spirit lives here, He's at work, and stuff's getting fixed. If nothing's getting fixed, I have to wonder if the Spirit really lives here or not.

Click here for more Words for Wednesday.

Monday, October 11, 2010

I Knew It!

But, since I failed to post at the time, I have no hard evidence of my prescience. If you looked online this past weekend, though, I'm sure you saw the news stories about how this poor British aid worker, who had been kidnapped by the Musselmen, had been slaughtered by them as the heroic American Troops™ were just about to rescue her. Hmmmm, I thought, this sure has a Pat Tillman kind of smell to it. I wonder if she actually got dusted by The Troops™? And then, this morning, sure enough, there it was:
As the family of the 36-year-old raised concerns over the failed rescue mission which led to her death, David Cameron confirmed that Miss Norgrove may have died as a result of so-called 'friendly fire'.

The Prime Minister announced that a full investigation is being launched into the circumstances of the tragedy.

It had initially been reported that Miss Norgrove died after her rebel captors detonated a suicide vest as American troops closed in on them.

The victim's parents have demanded a full explanation for the events surrounding her capture and failed rescue, amid claims that her release could have been negotiated.
Good luck in pressing your demands, victim's parents. Might as well just relax and Support the Troops.

Friday, October 08, 2010

They Are Blas-pheeeee-mers!!!

How can anyone blaspheme that which is already contemptible?
The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo was "blasphemy against the peace prize" that could harm relations between China and Norway, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said Friday.

The spokesman said the award is supposed to be given to "promote national harmony, international friendship" and those who work to pursue peace.

"Liu Xiaobo is a convicted criminal sentenced to jail by Chinese justice. His acts are in complete contradiction to the purpose of the Nobel Peace Prize," spokesman Mao Zhaoxu said.
The dictionary defines "blasphemy" as irreverence toward something considered sacred or inviolable. (Actually, that's the second definition; the first is exclusively theological, and wouldn't -- I hope! -- apply here.) Surely, after the Dynamite Peace Prize was awarded just a year ago to Drone Warrior and surge artist Obama, it's been thoroughly demonstrated that there's nothing sacred or inviolable about it.

Mr. Liu should be the one complaining about being awarded this "prize." And perhaps he is. Since his supervisors have him on ice, I don't suppose we'd hear him.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Stuck in the Middle With You

Obviously, I can't stop it, but maybe I can laugh at it:
Oct. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Warlords named for characters in a Quentin Tarantino movie and rocks used to simulate guards at untended posts illustrate mismanagement of U.S. security contracting in Afghanistan, a Senate investigation found.

The Senate Armed Services Committee, in a report issued today after a yearlong probe, detailed cases of private security contractors funneling U.S. taxpayer dollars to warlords tied to murder, kidnapping and bribery. Some of the people paid with U.S. funds worked with the Taliban or took part in actions directed against the U.S.-led coalition fighting the war, the committee concluded.


ArmorGroup referred to two of the warlords as Mr. White and Mr. Pink, the names of characters in Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs” film.

“Despite reports linking ‘Pink’ to the Taliban, ArmorGroup continued to employ his men for more than a month” after “Mr. White” was murdered, allegedly by “Mr. Pink,” according to the statement. ArmorGroup eventually fired the men in part because of “Pink’s” links to the Taliban.

The report concluded that the case demonstrated a failure of contractors such as ArmorGroup to vet and properly supervise their personnel and ensure compliance with regulations.

ArmorGroup engaged workers from two local villages “only upon the recommendation and encouragement of U.S. Special Forces,” said Susan Pitcher, a spokeswoman for G4S, in an e- mailed statement. The committee reported that an unnamed U.S. military “team leader” recommended “Mr. Pink” as a point of contact to steer villagers looking for work at the air base and didn’t recall suggesting “Mr. White.”
OK, I have just one question at this point:


You are, by the way, advised not to respond by asking "What?"

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The Word for Wednesday, October 6

The end of 2 Corinthians approaches. Here's chapter 12:
Boasting is necessary, though it is not profitable; but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago -- whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows -- such a man was caught up to the third heaven. And I know how such a man--whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows -- was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak. On behalf of such a man I will boast; but on my own behalf I will not boast, except in regard to my weaknesses. For if I do wish to boast I will not be foolish, for I shall be speaking the truth; but I refrain from this, so that no one will credit me with more than he sees in me or hears from me. And because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me--to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

I have become foolish; you yourselves compelled me. Actually I should have been commended by you, for in no respect was I inferior to the most eminent apostles, even though I am a nobody. The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles. For in what respect were you treated as inferior to the rest of the churches, except that I myself did not become a burden to you? Forgive me this wrong!

Here for this third time I am ready to come to you, and I will not be a burden to you; for I do not seek what is yours, but you; for children are not responsible to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less? But be that as it may, I did not burden you myself; nevertheless, crafty fellow that I am, I took you in by deceit. Certainly I have not taken advantage of you through any of those whom I have sent to you, have I? I urged Titus to go, and I sent the brother with him. Titus did not take any advantage of you, did he? Did we not conduct ourselves in the same spirit and walk in the same steps?

All this time you have been thinking that we are defending ourselves to you. Actually, it is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ; and all for your upbuilding, beloved. For I am afraid that perhaps when I come I may find you to be not what I wish and may be found by you to be not what you wish; that perhaps there will be strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip, arrogance, disturbances; I am afraid that when I come again my God may humiliate me before you, and I may mourn over many of those who have sinned in the past and not repented of the impurity, immorality and sensuality which they have practiced.
As with the previous chapter, a good part of this one is concerned with Paul's relationship with the church at Corinth; and that has the quality of a conversation of which we hear only Paul's side. It is good to see the gentleness with which he answers what we can only assume were accusations of some kind of misconduct. The boasting that he does is arresting in a different way. I, he says, boast only of my weakness (again, the signature Christian way of turning expectations on their heads); but he will boast of "a man" (clearly, Paul himself) who was caught up to Heaven, in a vision of some kind, I think, although he explicitly disclaims specific knowledge ("whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows"). How would you like to see and hear what he did? Well, we're fortunate: even the longest human life is instantaneous in the context of eternity, and we're going to know God even as He knows us. And with that thought, the worries that seem significant to me now shrink to their true size -- infinitesimals, that is -- and there's no reason to do anything but smile.

I won't even write a carping political/cultural post until tomorrow. Guaranteed.

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Saturday, October 02, 2010

Back to the Nonsense Word

A month or so ago, I read Blogger's boasting about their automated spam detection, and how spam comments just weren't going to be an issue any more. So I turned off the "word recognition" on the comments, thinking it wasn't going to be needed. Ha! In the last couple of hours, I've gotten nine obvious spam comments. I don't know how Blogger's miracle tool was supposed to detect spam, but I think it's not very good at it. So, I'm sorry to say, the nonsense word is back on the comments. Sorry about that.

Joseph Sobran, RIP

Today, the Lew Rockwell site reminds me that I haven't remarked on Joseph Sobran's death earlier this week -- something I had intended to do. Obviously, no remark from me is particularly called for; and, now that I think of it, I don't believe I'll make one; Mr. Sobran spoke very well for himself. Excerpted here is the concluding portion of an essay in which he explained his journey from Buckley-style "conservatism" to the realization that we live under a somewhat-organized evil:
My fellow Christians have argued that the state’s authority is divinely given. They cite Christ’s injunction “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” and St. Paul’s words “The powers that be are ordained of God.” But Christ didn’t say which things — if any — belong to Caesar; his ambiguous words are far from a command to give Caesar whatever he claims. And it’s notable that Christ never told his disciples either to establish a state or to engage in politics. They were to preach the Gospel and, if rejected, to move on. He seems never to have imagined the state as something they could or should enlist on their side.

At first sight, St. Paul seems to be more positive in affirming the authority of the state. But he himself, like the other martyrs, died for defying the state, and we honor him for it; to which we may add that he was on one occasion a jailbreaker as well. Evidently the passage in Romans has been misread. It was probably written during the reign of Nero, not the most edifying of rulers; but then Paul also counseled slaves to obey their masters, and nobody construes this as an endorsement of slavery. He may have meant that the state and slavery were here for the foreseeable future, and that Christians must abide them for the sake of peace. Never does he say that either is here forever.

St. Augustine took a dim view of the state, as a punishment for sin. He said that a state without justice is nothing but a gang of robbers writ large, while leaving doubt that any state could ever be otherwise. St. Thomas Aquinas took a more benign view, arguing that the state would be necessary even if man had never fallen from grace; but he agreed with Augustine that an unjust law is no law at all, a doctrine that would severely diminish any known state.

The essence of the state is its legal monopoly of force. But force is subhuman; in words I quote incessantly, Simone Weil defined it as “that which turns a person into a thing — either corpse or slave.” It may sometimes be a necessary evil, in self-defense or defense of the innocent, but nobody can have by right what the state claims: an exclusive privilege of using it.

It’s entirely possible that states — organized force — will always rule this world, and that we will have at best a choice among evils. And some states are worse than others in important ways: anyone in his right mind would prefer living in the United States to life under a Stalin. But to say a thing is inevitable, or less onerous than something else, is not to say it is good.

For most people, anarchy is a disturbing word, suggesting chaos, violence, antinomianism — things they hope the state can control or prevent. The term state, despite its bloody history, doesn’t disturb them. Yet it’s the state that is truly chaotic, because it means the rule of the strong and cunning. They imagine that anarchy would naturally terminate in the rule of thugs. But mere thugs can’t assert a plausible right to rule. Only the state, with its propaganda apparatus, can do that. This is what legitimacy means. Anarchists obviously need a more seductive label.

“But what would you replace the state with?” The question reveals an inability to imagine human society without the state. Yet it would seem that an institution that can take 200,000,000 lives within a century hardly needs to be “replaced.”

Christians, and especially Americans, have long been misled about all this by their good fortune. Since the conversion of Rome, most Western rulers have been more or less inhibited by Christian morality (though, often enough, not so’s you’d notice), and even warfare became somewhat civilized for centuries; and this has bred the assumption that the state isn’t necessarily an evil at all. But as that morality loses its cultural grip, as it is rapidly doing, this confusion will dissipate. More and more we can expect the state to show its nature nakedly.

For me this is anything but a happy conclusion. I miss the serenity of believing I lived under a good government, wisely designed and benevolent in its operation. But, as St. Paul says, there comes a time to put away childish things.
Please allow me to suggest that you read the whole piece.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Ah, Yes ... Everything We Stand For

A few days old, this is, but I don't think it's all that time-sensitive; it was already rotten when it happened:
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Campaigning for Democratic candidates in New Hampshire, Vice President Joe Biden said Monday the party's base should "stop whining."


He said Democrats can win both races if they draw clear distinctions between themselves and their Republican opponents, and he urged Democrats to "remind our base constituency to stop whining and get out there and look at the alternatives. This president has done an incredible job. He's kept his promises."


When asked to comment further about his "stop whining" remark, Biden said: "Those who ... didn't get everything they wanted, it's time to just buck up here, understand that we can make things better ... but not yield the playing field to those folks who are against everything we stand for."
As I can remember from my increasingly-distant past, this sort of talk is not exactly unknown to the Republican "base," either; particularly to the cultural-issues folks. Political parties -- aren't they wonderful? The playgrounds of vote-gathering technicians, like our illustrious Veep, the former senator from the great state of MasterCard Delaware. These people -- the political realists from both corporate-whore parties -- never met an idea, or a principle, that they didn't hate. Who needs that stuff? It just gets in the way of the real business of state: winning, and cutting up the swag.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Word for Wednesday, September 29

Today: 2 Corinthians, chapter 11.
I wish that you would bear with me in a little foolishness; but indeed you are bearing with me. For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully. For I consider myself not in the least inferior to the most eminent apostles. But even if I am unskilled in speech, yet I am not so in knowledge; in fact, in every way we have made this evident to you in all things. Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached the gospel of God to you without charge? I robbed other churches by taking wages from them to serve you; and when I was present with you and was in need, I was not a burden to anyone; for when the brethren came from Macedonia they fully supplied my need, and in everything I kept myself from being a burden to you, and will continue to do so. As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be stopped in the regions of Achaia. Why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do! But what I am doing I will continue to do, so that I may cut off opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the matter about which they are boasting. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.

Again I say, let no one think me foolish; but if you do, receive me even as foolish, so that I also may boast a little. What I am saying, I am not saying as the Lord would, but as in foolishness, in this confidence of boasting. Since many boast according to the flesh, I will boast also. For you, being so wise, tolerate the foolish gladly. For you tolerate it if anyone enslaves you, anyone devours you, anyone takes advantage of you, anyone exalts himself, anyone hits you in the face. To my shame I must say that we have been weak by comparison. But in whatever respect anyone else is bold (I speak in foolishness) I am just as bold myself. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? (I speak as if insane) I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern? If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, He who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. In Damascus the ethnarch under Aretas the king was guarding the city of the Damascenes in order to seize me, and I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and so escaped his hands.
Corinth was (and is) in Greece; the Corinthians were Greeks, at least the majority of them. How's that for saying the obvious? But where I'm going is this: the Greeks were proud (with considerable justification) of being the pre-eminent philosophers and mathematicians of their world. As far as it goes, that's a good thing; I'm certainly not here to disparage learning or the life of the mind. Still, because something is good doesn't necessarily mean that it's the highest good. Paul is finding fault with the Corinthians here because they are quick to follow erroneous teachers, provided that they have the appearance of wisdom (verses 4-6: For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully. For I consider myself not in the least inferior to the most eminent apostles. But even if I am unskilled in speech, yet I am not so in knowledge; in fact, in every way we have made this evident to you in all things.). The believer is to cultivate his or her mind, pursuing excellence in this way as in all others. But, as somebody said (sorry, I'm feeling too lazy to try to look it up), "the purpose of having an open mind is to close it -- on the truth." Our understanding of the truth of the gospel, and of its applications to what we see, hear, and do, are always to be open to refinement and correction; however, such refinements and corrections must be consistent with the written word of God in the scriptures (" ... the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" -- Jude 3).

In the remainder of the chapter, Paul seems to be dealing -- somewhat sarcastically -- with what I assume was some criticism of him among the Corinthian believers, based on his lack of dazzle, perhaps, as an orator and generally charismatic figure. What jumps out at me here is the nature of wqhat Paul presents as his important credentials or decorations: labors, beatings, imprisonments, whippings, stonings, hunger, thirst, cold, exposure, and so forth. Again, it's the inversion of the "natural" order of things that is the signature of true Christianity: the last being first, the first being last, the greatest as servants of the least, the innocent dying so that the guilty might live. All thought of getting what I deserve is to be dumped, and quickly. I won't get what I deserve -- God be praised!

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Why Do They Bother?

The Peace Laureate Administration must be short on ways to occupy its collective time. Why are they expending any effort toward making a legal figleaf for themselves? Last time they wanted to simply inhale the entire internet, emails, etc., didn't they Just Do It?

I'm sure that Carnivore or Omnivore or the successor beast, by whatever name, is still munching up absolutely everything related to telecommunications. And will continue to do so, regardless of what laws or regulations they do or do not imprint on toilet paper. Who cares? Just assume they're listening. And that they're stupid. Both are, I think, very good bets.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Little Colbert Rapport

Ordinarily, I have very little use for Mr. Colbert. Like his fraternal twin on Comedy Central, Jon Stewart, he's one of the many snarky proggies who can't bring themselves to condemn Peace Laureate Obama for continuing the warmongering and corporate harlotry of the Bush administrations without even the slightest breach of continuity. Pretentious partisan hacks, in other words. Still, I regard it as a good thing that Stevie C. "testified" in character before a sorry collection of Congressional buffoons last week. Some say Stevie's performance was an affront to the dignity of our great national legislature. Obviously, that's not true; what can possibly constitute an offense to a dignity that doesn't exist? This was just a matter of one clown performing for others. This is like Jesse "the Body" Ventura being elected to a state governorship: it shows, for those with eyes to see, how idiotic our governance really is. Hooray, say I, for all such demonstrations.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Heartland Speaks

This is about a week old now, but I think the subject matter is pretty nearly timeless. At least, it's certainly applicable to any time in the past decade or so. And Elkhart, Indiana is only about seventy-five miles from where I'm typing this.
ELKHART, IND. - The Afghan war began more than half a lifetime ago for the teenagers in Adam Meyers's world history class. Some of his students think the terrorist attack that prompted the war was an airplane accident. To them, al-Qaeda remains a mystery, the Taliban an enigma.

The American battle for Afghanistan? "It doesn't register," Meyers said.

"We should just end it. Bring the troops home," said Ashley Ivory, 17, who thinks the war is doing nothing to stop terrorists. "They're just sneaking in here while we're over there. We don't have enough eyes."

The views of the students and the community around them echo a growing national skepticism about U.S. involvement in a distant war that will soon enter its 10th year and register its 1,270th U.S. casualty. A majority of Americans say the war has not been worth its cost, an opinion voiced frequently in Elkhart, a hard-luck town that sees the conflict through the lens of loss and economic hardship.
Skepticism about US involvement in a distant war? So far, so good. Maybe there's hope. Or, reading on ... maybe not.
Views in Elkhart tend toward exasperation, a collective throwing-up of hands, rather than the competing emotions of anger and pride over the Iraq war at its combustible peak. Even people who think U.S. troops should keep fighting tend to say so in reluctant tones.

"We're stuck. I just wish we could pull out, but we can't," said Becky Cole, an office manager having a drink recently at the Bulldog, a restaurant in east Elkhart. "The one thing I hate about it is we've been there nine years."

On the next stool, her friend Richard Meyers, a plant manager who lost his job in a downsizing four months ago, was drinking what he called a poor man's martini - Miller Lite with four olives. He was more blunt.

"We send our kids over there and bring them back in body bags. The answer? Japan," Meyers said, suggesting that the United States should drop a nuclear bomb. "The longer we're over there, the more we're going to pay."
I'll give Ms. Cole the benefit of the doubt, in that I'm not sure whom she means by "we." If she means ordinary subjects of the Empire, such as herself or me, that's true; we definitely can't get The Troops out of Afghanistan, nor any other segment of the Empire. If she means our national leadership, my question is: why not? Of course they could. They just don't want to. As for Mr. Meyers, I don't suppose it occurs to him that he's given a rather incomplete picture of the process: we send "kids" to Afghanistan, where some are installed in body bags, and some kill lots of the swarthy natives and don't trouble about body bags. Some, indeed, form gangs and hunt the wogs for sport and trophy body parts. Others -- the lucky ones, for sure -- merely repair some trucks or cook some meals, and eventually return in one piece, more or less. Since the natives aren't real to Mr. Meyers, it's easy for him to prescribe a nuclear remedy for the problem that their existence seems to pose for we Americans, who are the crown and center of the universe. To which I can say only: may he choke on his poor man's martini.

It doesn't get better:
From the front door of his secondhand shop down the street, Don Fisher watches the comings and goings at the Shoecrafts' home. He was fond of Justin and considers Blue Shoecraft a real friend. But he has not stopped by.

"I need to go down and hug him, and I just can't bring myself to do it," Fisher said. "Because I know that when I do, I'm going to cry, too."

Fisher is an Army veteran who voted twice for George W. Bush and backed Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) over Obama. Although polls show stronger support for the war among Republicans than Democrats, Fisher says he always considered the Afghan war unwinnable. The billions in taxpayer dollars should be spent on "people who are sleeping under bridges or living out of food banks," he said.

Yet he is torn between withdrawing now and fighting toward some sort of equilibrium.

"We've been there too long, way too long. I just think it's a useless war," said Fisher, a soldier from 1958 to 1967. "But we can't really pull out now, because the other nations would think we're cowards."
Difficult to think of an adequate reply to that. It's a shame we can't call a pre-action briefing for the next few hundred Afghan women and children who are going to be ripped into bloody pieces by American high explosives. We could explain to them why they have to die: because otherwise, America's global public image (as ferocious and merciless warriors) might suffer. I'm sure they'd understand the necessity.

But Mr. Fisher's just a man. Maybe if we hear from a gentle, nurturing woman, we can be encouraged. Here we go:
Sue Glaser is among those who think the war must be fought and fought hard, for the safety of the United States and the future of women in Afghanistan. A retired furniture designer, Glaser feels "sick about the boys," but says she believes a military pullout ahead of Obama's 2011 timetable would amount to surrender.

"We should go in with both barrels and see if we can win it. We've got to get the Taliban out of there," Glaser said. "If we let them get away with it, our children are going to be fighting them."
Don't you just love the way people can use metaphors to avoid actually saying what they mean? "Go in with both barrels." What does that really mean? The only thing it can mean is kill. Kill more. Kill lots more. Where we once murdered one, murder ten. Or a hundred. Maybe a thousand. Otherwise, "our children are going to be fighting them." Well, don't worry, Ms. Glaser, your children will indeed be fighting them. Please don't pretend to be distressed at the idea. You wouldn't have it any other way.

The great American economic collapse: it can't come soon enough.