Wednesday, April 01, 2015

10 Years After: 2006 -- Sunshine, Freedom, Immigration and Manifest Destiny

In the service of fundraising and nostalgia, I am using the occasion of my 10th blogiversary to bring some stuff out of the archives -- a few representational samples from each year. 

Writing is a gig from which no writer can truly be fired, but if you want to keep from shaming yourself, you gotta keep your knives sharp and your hands clear.  Which means practice, practice every damn day.  So whether I was working ludicrous hours for a sadistic creep at a job I considered to be important, or long-term unemployed and in financial free-fall, I wrote.  Every day.  I still do.

And since no one tells me what to write here, I get wander off into whatever topic pleases me.

Like immigration and how getting used to luxury has despoiled our national soul.

Live Free or Buy


In which Tom Friedman gets this one just about right as far as it goes, but never closes the circle and reaches the Conclusion That Dare Not Speak Its Name: specifically, that George Bush and his pet Republican Party couldn’t be doing a better job of destroying this country if they were the paid agents of a foreign power.

Friedman will never utter those words. Never, ever.

He long ago dropped anchor in the Neverland Lagoon where the problem with the President and his Posse is that – much to Tom’s consternation -- they just don’t realize the harm their doing. It is indeed a puzzlement! That if Captain Obvious could just arrange a 20-minute audience with Himself he could straighten ‘ol Dubya out and explain, for example, that his Iraqi Policy is causing problems, not solving them.

Friedman’s pervasive and fact-free theory is that this “Come to Moses Meeting” would somehow be followed by the thunder of hands slapping foreheads and scales falling from eyes as the GOP collectively comes to grips with their failures; he is stuck in the “technical fix” Universe where people still believe that Bush and his peeps are basically good guys with good intentions, and just suffer from poor execution and being poorly served by a rouge’s gallery of Uriah Heep underlings.

The Captain also treads as lightly as a chubby mouse in a catnip bomber-jacket navigating the main floor of the Lion House just around sup-sup-sup-suppertime, because far too much of his personal well-being is staked to his main gig -- delivering ten-year-old platitudes about globalization to twenty-years-out-of-date, Conservative CEOs. Rich, white men with Republican rock-ribs, who adore George Bush and have voted straight GOP-ticket since they were old enough to golf in ugly pants.

Men who live in First Class – sometimes, to be clear and fair, through dint of long hours and hard work, which are traits to be admired – and have deluded themselves into believing that they can outsource the rivets and steel that hold the plane together, the engines that make it go and the flight crew that navigates it safely though the storm…and yet somehow they will be able to fly on in comfort forever, fueled by consultants and canny financial valuation trickery.

10 Years After: 2006 -- Man Versus Spam

In the service of fundraising and nostalgia, I am using the occasion of my 10th blogiversary to bring some stuff out of the archives -- probably a few representational samples from each year. 

And then one Saturday in 2006, I got to wondering where all that spam came from.
Two days of intense research and several thousand words later, I had worked it out (Part I below.  Part II here.)

Actual journalism.  Whoda guessed?

Fear and Loathing on the Spam-pain Trail - Pt I

Part I - Spam and Punishment.

As you might have noticed, I’ve got an attic full of spam, and Evil Santa backs the sleigh up and unloads more every night.

It started out as a joke and an experiment – both of which are still going quite well I think (I’m both still amused and am apparently far more renowned in some quarters for my spamcatcher than anything I’ve ever written :-)

I do worry a little about the weight of them (the joists are moaning under their tonnage, and sawdust and drywall shake sifts down into my soup every time they squirm around up there) but I have grown attached to the little bastards. So as one of you has suggested, perhaps I’ll crack a bottle of something good and have a spam-e-que when the counter tops 1,000.

However, recently some new spamutation has been getting past the netting and not landing waaay downstream where I let the weeds grow high and the primeval spam prairie return to its natural state.

And its kinda pissing me off.

The one that has seen fit to track its scrofulous hooves thru this site is an offer from “Degree Programs-Online” to give you free shit if you do product testing for them.

Of course we all know this is a lie, and that people who spam schemes like this cry out for a benevolent Diety to seal their nostrils and ball-gag-strap them to a Hummer’s tailpipe until their toenail-beds turn a festive blue.

It also bears the true mark of a lazy criminal; some fat-assed slob who can’t even be bothered to rechristen the front company when he changes the con.

But what do we really know about the pod people who make a living flinging electronic poo at the rest of us? Inflicting wretched digital syphilis like “Degree Programs Online” on the rest of humanity?

Yeah, I could turn on the wards that Blogger provides. I may yet do so but honestly, where’s the Swinging, Penis Enlarging, Bad Face Lifting, Day Trading, Women Attracting Loosers (loosers? Hell, better pair that up with a Kegel Exercising site), Gastric Bypassing, Black Mold Testing, Debt Eliminating sport in that?

We’ll turns out it’s a longer story than I originally anticipated, and takes several turns – and that spam is grottier and more well-traveled than a globe-trotting crack-whore -- but I felt like taking a break from the political stuff for a day or two, and it felt to me like there might be the makings of a cool story here.

And a relaxing way to kill a few hours on a Saturday afternoon waiting for other pies to cool.

Judge for yourself.

So what do we really know about these barnacles?

Well, we know, for example, that the parent company of the “Degree Programs Online” scam are these guys:
“Consumer Research Corporation”
And that this is their address:
3830 Forest Drive, Suite 207
Columbia South Carolina 29204
Which looks like this from atop Mt. Olympus:

10 Years After: 2006 -- GOP GPS RIP

In the service of fundraising and nostalgia, I am using the occasion of my 10th blogiversary to bring some stuff out of the archives -- probably a few representational samples from each year. 

Sometimes I try to make a little funny, Whether or not I I have succeeded is entirely up to the taste of the reader (from June, 2006):

GOP OnStar 
May I help you? 
Citizen: Oh thank God. This car just came...came...plunging out of the sky right in front of me. It’s on fire and I think there are people trapped inside. 
GOP OnStar: Turn right immediately. 
Citizen: But...but, I said that I think there are people trapped inside. 
GOP OnStar: Yes, sir. I heard you. Are you a doctor? 
Citizen: No.
GOP OnStar: Well then don’t worry; someone will be along shortly to take care of it. We suspect...terrorists...are behind it, so you need to leave. Immediately.
Citizen: Terrorists? Really?
GOP OnStar: Yes sir.
Citizen: Ok, well I was trying to find a my way to a rational position on Iraq, and...
GOP OnStar: Turn right immediately.
Citizen (continuing): ...I got lost.
GOP OnStar: Turn right immediately.
Citizen: I’m also running a little low on gas, so I’ll need a good energy polic...
GOP OnStar: Turn right immediately.
Citizen: ...y.
GOP OnStar: Turn right immediately.
Citizen: It’s also getting pretty hot in here, so if you could tell me where I could find a scientifically sound environmental plan too.

GOP OnStar: Turn right immediately. 
Citizen: Are you sure?

GOP OnStar: Keep turning right.
Citizen: But the signs all say “No Exit Strategy”?
GOP OnStar: Turn right immediately.
Citizen: It, uh, doesn’t look like there’s a road there?
GOP OnStar: Keep turning right.
Citizen: It’s dark. I can’t see anything.

GOP OnStar: Turn right immediately.
Citizen: Look I’m driving through a fucking forest and I can’t see a damned thing.

GOP OnStar: Keep turning right.
Citizen: Is this even a person? Is this a recording?! There. Is. No. Road. Here.

GOP OnStar: No sir, this is not a recording. I am Karl, your GOP OnStar operator. Your destination is directly ahead of you, to the right. And the terrorists are directly behind you. They're gaining fast, so you need to keep accelerating and turning right.
Citizen: I swear to Christ, OnStar, if you're fucking with me I will never, ever...aughhhhhhhhhh!
GOP OnStar: Sir?
Citizen: Aughhhhhhhhhh!
Sound of a massive crash.
GOP OnStar: Sir?
GOP OnStar: Sir?
Gurgling sounds. Sizzling sounds of cooking meat. Signal ends.
GOP OnStar: Hehehe.
Long pause.

Phone ringing.
GOP OnStar: GOP OnStar. May I help you
Another Citizen: Holy shit! This car, it just came out of nowhere. Just...fell. Out of the god damned sky. Right in front of me. Right in front of me! 

GOP OnStar: Turn right. Immediately.

10 Years After: 2006 -- The Other Jesus

In the service of fundraising and nostalgia, I am using the occasion of my 10th blogiversary to bring some stuff out of the archives -- probably a few representational samples from each year. 

One of the upsides of not having a boss is that I can write about whatever catches my eye.

Sometimes I write about theology...

It reads...

“Get your fucking hands off my son!”

(Actually it’s a photo of the Coptic script of the Gospel of Judas via National Geographic)

File this under: The Real, True Adventures of Jesus and his Kid.

OK, none of this is original to me.

Some I’d read, some I’ve picked up talking to Jesuits and much of it I got through a series of letters that a good friend of mine assembled several years ago when he was getting his thoughts on paper.

No, I have never read “The DaVinci Code” (I started it and found it to be similar-if-not-outright-derivative of things I’d already read, and the writing was, well, turgid) so if this is too overlapful of that, skip it.

First, by way of setup, this fascinating story from the Los Angeles Time:
Manuscript Indicates Jesus Urged Judas' Betrayal
From Associated Press

12:47 PM PDT, April 6, 2006

WASHINGTON — For 2,000 years Judas has been reviled for betraying Jesus. Now a newly translated ancient document seeks to tell his side of the story.

The "Gospel of Judas" tells a far different tale from the four gospels in the New Testament. It portrays Judas as a favored disciple who was given special knowledge by Jesus -- and who turned him in at Jesus' request.

"You will be cursed by the other generations -- and you will come to rule over them," Jesus tells Judas in the document made public today.

The text, one of several ancient documents found in the Egyptian desert in 1970, was preserved and translated by a team of scholars. It was made public in an English translation by the National Geographic Society.

Religious and lay readers alike will debate the meaning and truth of the manuscript.

But it does show the diversity of beliefs in early Christianity, said Marvin Meyer, professor of Bible studies at Chapman University in Orange, Calif.

The text, in the Coptic language, was dated to about the year 300 and is a copy of an earlier Greek version.

A "Gospel of Judas" was first mentioned around A.D. 180 by Bishop Irenaeus of Lyon, in what is now France. The bishop denounced the manuscript as heresy because it differed from mainstream Christianity. The actual text had been thought lost until this discovery.

"Perhaps more now can be said," he commented. The document "implies that Judas only did what Jesus wanted him to do."

Christianity in the ancient world was much more diverse than it is now, with a number of gospels circulating in addition to the four that were finally collected into the New Testament, noted Bart Ehrman, chairman of religious studies at the University of North Carolina.

Eventually, one point of view prevailed and the others were declared heresy, he said, including the Gnostics who believed that salvation depended on secret knowledge that Jesus imparted, particularly to Judas.

"Step away from the others and I shall tell you the mysteries of the kingdom," Jesus says to Judas, singling him out for special status. "Look, you have been told everything. Lift up your eyes and look at the cloud and the light within it and the stars surrounding it. The star that leads the way is your star."

The text ends with Judas turning Jesus over to the high priests and does not include any mention of the crucifixion or resurrection.
So you want to know the really-real story of Jesus?

Well, settle down and bring me a scotch and I will reveal all.

Now is this little story I'm about to tell true?

How the hell should I know? It is to my mind, however, no less riveting an explanation of the Jesus Story than the cartoons they pass off as genuine coin in Sunday School, or either the Abattoir Christianity or "JC, CEO" faiths that are pimped by various hucksters on the Right.

In other words: We Purport, You Decide.

So once upon a time…

The Kingdom of Judea was in upheaval as is had been for years. The Romans had conquered the region and had tried to bend in into becoming another distant province of their empire.

Their success was…mixed.

The Occupiers were militarily superior to the locals in every way, and there were a lot of advantages to being a client-state. And, yes, they had effectively co-opted many of the local elected officials, but everyone knew what the score was.

The Occupiers said “jump” and their proxy government said “how high.”

And the locals – who had been conquered and pillaged many times before and who would have found our modern notion of separating Church and State incomprehensible – existed in various of states of high-pissoffery.

The Occupiers were almost uniformly seen an affront to their God and despoilers of their holy places.

Some people just wanted to be left alone. Some thought cooperation was the lesser of many evils; the only way to stave off something much worse. Many were seething with rage. And a few of them took up arms against the Occupiers and those they saw as collaborators.

And those who drew blood in their cause saw it as a sacred thing.

It was a cauldron of faith, politics, family, tribe, righteous fury, military power and insurgency, always gurgling away at a low boil and kept in check by compromise when possible, and massive shows of force when not.

And I don’t think it is exaggerating the situation by a whole lot by describing it as an on-again-off-again form of urban warfare taking place in the context of a low-grade civil war.

Say, does ANY of this sound familiar?

Does anyone fail to notice that if it were air strikes vs. carbombs instead of legions vs. daggers, this is exactly what the front page of the New York Times looks like every single day?

The reason I mention it is I am always surprised when devout Christians are oblivious to the context in which their central stories take place.

In a city in the grip of factional fighting that shuddered and bled for years before JC came along.

A city that was all but wiped off the map in the denouement of that Long War, 40 years after Jesus was supposed to have been killed.

So instead of the Disney Christ, existing outside of time and space in a Neverland of shepherds and parables, wise men and stock-character Romans, just imagine it as it really was.

In a city in the middle of a guerilla war, where leaders desperately rose up again and again only to be killed, again and again.

And then a young warrior-priest hit on a new strategy.

He is well-educated in both tactics and law. He is of royal blood, and like true royalty feels quite at home talking to people of every station in life. The Essenes know him, as do the Zealots. Even to the worshipers of Mithras he would not be a stranger.

He has developed what we would call a broad constituency, and he also has a duty. The same duty every Jewish lead bears in his turn: to drive the Romans out.

As a rabbi and a royal, he has also taken a wife. Seriously, who in those times would have trusted a wifeless, childless leader? They were married at Cana (you may have read about it), and had a son, then entering his teens.

The son is a royal and a rebel like his old man, but has fallen in with the armed, hard-core, “Revolution Now” crowd. His dad worries about him, but he’s a strong-willed and righteous kid who’s been listening to dad's anti-Roman kitchen-table-talk his whole life, so what can the old man really say?

The uprising Jesus had planned was, of course, both spiritual and political -- two concepts which would not be teased apart and thought of separately for millennia. To craft and trigger his rebellion he made an underdog's careful use of the agitpropic power of “prophecy fulfillment” to fill the streets with followers, perhaps using the radical idea that in the true fulfillment of Jewish Law the revolutionaries could literally love their enemies into making concessions to capture the imagination of the war-weary residents of Jerusalem.

Maybe the streets were too narrow?

Maybe the crowds were too large?

Whatever happened, at some point the wheels came off, and the massed power of the Roman military moved in. It was soon obvious that the uprising had failed, and seeing that the tide was turning and they were all now (or would soon be) wanted for capital crimes, Jesus and his team went into hiding.

Which leads to what I think of as one of the central, unanswered question of New Testament.

Why didn’t they just put their boogie shoes on and scram?

Live to fight another day?

C’mon, you’ve got a city full of followers presumably willing to hide you. Friends in high and low places. Pals among the Essennes down the coast. I mean, who the fuck plans a rebellion without an escape route?

Without a Plan B?

It's 106 miles to Chicago! You've got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark and we're wearing sunglasses.

So hit it!

But they stayed.


Don’t think supernatural; don’t think stilted or scripted or Cecil B. DeMille.

Just think like a smart, compassionate leader of men during a time of war and ask yourself, "What would make me blow off my chance at retreat and regrouping?"

How about if the Romans had your kid?

Your child, who is not just your flesh and blood, but the heir to a royal line.

A teenaged boy who had been name after his father, and since people didn’t have last names in those days, he would have been called something like “Jesus, Son of the Master” or “Jesus, Son of the father”.

But where in the New Testament do you find a second man named Jesus?

Hey baby, you’re soaking in it!

This site sums it up as well as any...
Now the gospels tell us the name (title) of the robber Pilate offered to the crowd for release in Jesus stead was "Barabbas" or Bar'Abba Mk 15:6-15, Mt 27:15-26, Lk 23:17-25, Jn 18:39-40.

(This is not a personal name. It's a title - in Aramaic it means "the Son of the Father"). Some ancient manuscripts of Matthew, confirmed by the writings of the church father, Origen (250ce), reveal the full name of the criminal as " Jesus Bar'Abbas " , just like the "Jesus Bar'Abbas" ( Son of the Father "God" ) that Christians worship .

The church father Origen was appalled by the use of "Jesus Barabbas" in the manuscripts he was familiar with because he held the conviction that no "sinner" should bare the name and title of "Jesus the Christ " .

"…scribes deleted the name Jesus from Jesus Barabbas out of reverence for Jesus Christ ." D. A. Carson, Matthew, in vol. 8 of The Expositor's Bible Commentary, edited by Frank E. Gaebelein, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p574.
This site covers the basics pretty well too...
In the Christian story of the passion of Jesus , Barabbas, actually Jesus bar-Abbas, (Aramaic Bar-abbâ, "son of the father"), was the insurrectionary murderer whom Pontius Pilate freed at the Passover…

"Jesus Barabbas"

According to the United Bible Societies' text, Matthew 27:17 reads: "...whom will ye that I release unto you? Jesus Barabbas [Greek: Iesous ton Barabbas] or Jesus which is called Christ [Greek: Iesous ton legomenon Christon]?"

Some early Greek manuscripts of Matthew present Barabbas' name twice as Jesus bar Abbas: manuscripts in the Caesarean group of texts, the Sinaitic Palimpsest, the Palestinian Syriac lectionaries and some of the manuscripts used by Origen in the 3rd century, all support the fact that Barabbas' name was originally Jesus Barabbas, though not all modern New Testament translations reflect this. Origen deliberately rejected the reading in the manuscript he was working with, and left out "Iesous" deliberately, for reverential considerations, certainly a strongly motivated omission. Early editors did not want the name Jesus associated with anyone who was a sinner.
So word gets back to you via intermediaries that the Romans have your son and have charged him with being a member of the sicarii (An armed, militant sect dedicated to overthrowing the Romans by force.)

He had committed a capital crime (Mark 15:7 says that he had committed a murder during an insurrection) and was soon to die…but the Romans would be willing to trade.

The Father for the Son, and the clock is ticking.

You see how with a little context we’ve moved this along from a child’s badly staged Sunday School pageant to an episode of “24”?

"My name is Jesus of Nazareth...and this is the longest day of my life!”

Your rebellion is fucked, your movement is in ashes and as you and your posse pack fast and get ready to blow town, word reaches you that your son and heir is rotting in a Roman prison awaiting execution.

What do you do?

Well if you read the story of the Last Supper without changing a single phrase -- only shifting the context and the emphasis -- according to scripture, you call an Emergency War Council.

You make some brutally hard decisions, share a Passover meal and a prayer with your dearest friends and loyal lieutenants -- men who have sworn to live and die by your word -- and then pick out two of them to do the hardest things they will ever be asked to do.

As their leader, you start issuing orders.

Mercy first, so with staunch-but-not-very-bright Peter, you keep it simple. You tell him to escape. To lie his ass off, deny he ever knew you, and get out of town.

Pete doesn’t want to -- in tears he says, “If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise” -- so you have to insist.

Then onto the shoulders of your ferociously loyal security chief, Judas Iscariot -- Judas of the Sicarii? -- you place the heaviest burden of all; the life of your child. Judas will handle the exchange, including personally turning you over to the authorities, and since the Roman offer came strings attached including an insistence on secrecy, he can never, ever breathe a word about the real story to anyone or the deal is off.

You know it'll destroy him and his good name for all time -- “The Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born." -- but you also know it has to be done, and only the strongest of your men can handle that burden.

"Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me."

For god’s sake, these aren’t prophecies. They’re final commands, given to a platoon whose heart had already been shattered once that day.

And then you lead your brothers in a prayer, and walk out into the night and into history.

To save your son.

10 Years After: 2006 -- We Bid Goodbye To A Terrible Year

In the service of fundraising and nostalgia, I am using the occasion of my 10th blogiversary to bring some stuff out of the archives -- probably a few representational samples from each year.

In 2006 we looked back at 2005 with nearly inconsolable sadness.  From New Years Eve:

Bye bye, 2005

I know that nobody but a damned fool would go and tamper with “American Pie”. Even a little bit.

And I know this isn’t literally what happened in 2005. Not the order in which things happened, or their relative importance.

This is just my own set of Emotional Flashcards to be tucked away for future use should I ever need a vivid reminder of how it felt -- in the belly -- to be alive right here and now. A sense of how it felt to look immediately back in on that receding, centerpunching year just past and mourn it for what it might have been.

And hey, who ever said I wasn't a damned fool anyway?

So with great respect for Don McLean's original, epic poem (and fair warning that the graphic load on this means it might run slow) here's a very lightly edited version, along with my wish for a Happy and Peaceful New Year to one and all...

A long, long time ago
I can still remember how that music

used to make me smile

And I knew if I had my chance
that I could make those people dance

and maybe they'd be happy for a while…

But February made me shiver with every paper I delivered,
bad news on the door step, I couldn't take one more step,

I can't remember if I cried when I read about his widowed bride

but something touched me deep inside, the day, the music, died. So...
Bye, bye Miss American Pie
drove my Chevy to the levy

but the levy was dry

an them good ol' boys were drinkin whiskey and rye singin

We’re just gonna let it all die
We’re just gonna let it all die.

10 Years After: 2006 -- A Future Predicted

In the service of fundraising and nostalgia, I am using the occasion of my 10th blogiversary to bring some stuff out of the archives -- probably a few representational samples from each year. 

And so, on we go to 2006 -- a year during which my Photoshop skills improved -- and a year in which  I predict exactly how the last nine years would go with depressing accuracy (excerpted):

Anatomy of a fuckup.

Because the Stupid Men at the top cannot admit failure and, oh, say, fire Don Fucking Rumsfeld without loss of face. They can take no corrective action because to do so they would have to confront the fact that everything their critics and opponents said was true, and everything their allies and friends have told them has been a lie.

And the dread of copping to that level of incompetence and cupidity -- of having to own up to being every inch the dribbling, inept idiot that the rest of the world outside his bubble already knows he is -- is a thing no Stupid Man with Power will ever, ever do.

They would rather die first. Or, more accurately, they would let the world die first.

So instead they redouble the bet, pour more money down the rat-hole, and fire the last, few, honest men within the organization who still dare to speak the truth and who still might be able to salvage the situation if given half a chance.

I have seen, up close, whole companies go under because of this scam. And, in the end, the parasites survive and scuttle on to leech the life out of yet another fat, dumb CEO and leave behind bankrupt pensions and ruined lives.

But of course, there is no bigger Hunny Pot than the United States Government, which is why the Bill Kristols of the world are calling for ever wilder, more insanely reckless action: They're going All In, because they know that after they're burned off of the flesh of this nation like the tics that they are, there is no place left for them to go.

For a long time there will be no more rich, bloated dimwits Preznits on which they can safely prey after the subpoenas start flying and George Bush and Neoconservativism vanish under weight of the blood-dimmed tide they created. Cast down, down, down into eternal infamy as the twin pillars of the worst Administration in American history.

This is the dawning realization that is scaring the fucktard rank-and-file of the GOP into ever more hysterical public behavior.

This is the sinking ship from which George Will and Tom Friedman are desperately trying to flee.

This is the existential kill-box of their own making that the Republican Party is now frantically trying to weasel out of, because of fucked projects and politics I know these six things to be true:

First, a fucked project at a bank for 100K, at the DMV for $5 million, at the FBI for $170 million, and in Iraq for $2 trillion are all depressingly similar in every characteristic except for order of magnitude of the costs and the scale of the consequences of failure.

Second, the oiliest “process reengineering consultant” or “visioneer” is no different from Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh, because there will always be Big Cake to be made pouring comforting lies into the ears of stupid, hateful people.

Third, these disasters take wing because Stupid Men with Power will always listen to flatterers and liars who tell them what they wish were true, and will always scream “Traitor!” at those who try to tell then what is actually true and stop the division/company/country from being stampeded into the abyss.

Fourth, as the project collapses, the criminals who created it will strive mightily to blame their failure on those who tried to warn them that this was a bad idea from the start. On badthinkfulness and a lack of sufficient corporate piety and prayer. God knows if they’re actually stupid enough to believe that a deficit of Tinkerbell Clapping is what’s driving their organization into the grave, but other than immediately admitting their error and atoning, this is the only card they have left to play.

Fifth, eventually they fall. They always fall, and they take lives and treasure down with them in an arc that was as predictable as the sunrise from the first moment they decided they could bribe Reality into changing the rules just for them.

Sixth, the funding that will be available to clean up the GOPs rubble and ruin will be vastly less than the cost of the original misadventure.

And the same people who broke the bank and spared no expense on hooch and hookers for the Big Iraqi Cakewalk Party, will be the first to bitch and whine over pennies and taxes when it comes to cleaning up the ocean of blood and vomit, debt and tragedy their short and despicable reign will leave behind.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

10 Years After: 2005 -- Which One's Pink?

This one went around the world and back in September, 2005.

Damn but I really did do a lot of writing that first year.

Oh by the way, which one's Pink? *

* (I will rarely do a modification to an existing post, but this seemed too sadly appropriate not to add.)

This is a graphic-intensive post, and be advised the last few images are rather strong.

They are tragically nothing you won't see on your local news, but some people may find them disturbing, and my intention is not to be gratuitous.

I'm simply furious.

("Us and Them", from "Dark Side of the Moon" by Pink Floyd, 1973)


and Them

And after all we're only ordinary men

10 Years After: 2005 -- Sunday Morning Came and Went

In case you were wondering, yes, I was one of the originators of the "Deconstructing the Sunday Shows" genre too.

And like the David Brooks beat, covering the Mouse Circus back in those days -- especially before embeddable video, quickly accessible transcripts and fast-mass-reaction tools like Twitter -- meant tilling some hard and desolate real estate every week with hardly another soul in sight.

So now, with only a little more ado --

-- Sunday Morning Comin' Down circa, July of 2005:

Sunday Morning Comin’ Down… 

Now with Extra Santorum!

By popular demand (Ok, technically, “voices in my head”, but they are very persuasive) here is the phosphor-dot pointillistism of a completely inaccurate, biased and profoundly unjust blur that passes for what I saw during my coffee fueled rampage through commercial teevee’s Sunday Morning Mouse Circus...

...made longer, longer-lasting and more manly in every way by the late addition of special, herbal "Actual Santorum Transcript" supplements from “This Week...” via and courtesy of Steve Gilliard.

Foxy Nude?


Sorry. Sooo Sleepy.

Fox News.

Well fuck Fox New, because Al Green is on CBS. The good Reverend’s singing the dirty stuff again. I mean, “secular”. Yeah. Sec-ul-ar, baby. Gimme some more of that!

Local ABC telling me that the Chicago River is clean again. Or cleanish. Or at least if you’re fishing you’re not 50/50 to hook into the corpses of cattle or horses or shoe salesmen who couldn’t make the vig three months running. And all kidding aside, it is cleaner. The number of fish species has jumped from 10 to 68 in the last decade.

What they don’t tell you is that 20 of the new species are eleven feet long, pissed as hell, and they swarms ashore and feed on the big men who slink in shame in the pre-damn hours to walk their girlfriends itsy-bitsy teacup dogs.

10 Years After: 2005 -- The Simple Majesty of Small "d" Democracy

Over the last ten years, I have written about a fairly wide number of subjects.

For example, the beauty of the town hall meeting.

Here's the 100% voluntary Blogiversary Tip Jar --

-- and here's the post from July, 2005:
Get Up, Stand Up...

...stand up for your right.
Get Up, Stand Up,
don't give up the fight

Thanks, Bob.

Holy crap what a long day yesterday.

I was using a nail gun to keep my eyes open by the end of it, and the evil trolls of Increased Productivity seemed to have somehow found a way to tap extra work hours into a 24-hour day with their tiny, terrible troll-hammers.

But the second-to-last thing I did last night was go to community group meeting. A public hearing.

I love community meetings.

Doesn't matter what the topic is, the breakdown is always the same.

Experts with blueprints who tell you more than you’ll every want to know about whatever to subject might be.

Wanna know about berms, or beetles or the regs governing the signage, sidewalk-access and smoking restrictions at bistros? Go and ask.

Then there are the ramblers: the guys who do all 18 minutes of their own, personal Alice's Restaurant.

Then the business guys. Suited up and on the prowl for government sugar...and want to also be sure to tell the government to fuck off if anything that's being planned might bump up against their bottom line.

The ranters. Always amusing.

The fat guy with a sheaf of grubby paper who takes an hour to make it to the mike while the temperature seems to rise one degree every minute. Then he gets to the mike and rants about whatever the fuck happens to be romping through his mind at the moment.

Proving definitively that humans don't possess telepathic or telekinetic powers because if we did, Horton would have heard all us Whos’ mentally shouting, "Shut up. Shut Up. Please, Holy Mother of God, it's 170 degrees in here and why won't this asshole Shut The Fuck Up!"

Also his head didn't explode.

The Community Activists, for whom every forum is a Nail for their particular Hammer.

You always see it coming.

There's a few moments of frosting where they talk a little -- very little -- about the reason the meeting was called in the first place...then on to the Bitch List.

Don’t misunderstand, it’s often a valid Bitch List – or at least portions are – but every meeting is an occasion for telling whomever is gaveling the session that the neighborhoods are getting screwed. Whatever’s on the flyers – a dog park, a bond issue, bike trails or mosquito abatement – you’re going to hear 30 seconds of symbolic abatement chatter, and the rest is how they’re getting screwed in various ways by the allocation of government money, or gentrification, or The Man generally.

Then somebody rises to tell us that his cousin was arrested on totally trumped up charged. Didn't have anything else to say; just setting the record straight on that particular matter, in case we were interested.

Then there's the fragile, old woman that also take a long while to make it to the microphone, and then tells a story that breaks your heart. I remember one such woman who began her remarks at a large hearing with the Mayor present, "Your honor, your father and mine were both Sons of the City..."

Brought the fucking house down.

And for anybody who thinks that the Left is secular, Jebus-hatin’ monolith of queers and abortionists, you will hear more “Tell it!"’s at a community meeting and exactly as many “Amen”’s as you’re likely to hear in church on any given Sunday.

And I wouldn’t have any of it any other way.

It’s raw, pure, unstepped-on democracy, which is why I love it. It draws the committed and the “should be committed” both, and if you’re not used to them, committed people can make non-political, I-don’t-wanna-get-involved, day-to-day muggles feel very uncomfortable.

"Cause" people: They don't blink much, and you're either useful to them, an impediment, or furniture.

If you’re a community leader or activist, you know everybody on your block and in your area. The Alderman knows you by your first name, and maybe to Mayor does too. Most likely you’re in the pew every Sunday because you grew up “church” and that’s where you got your mission and your vision of public service and activism: it’s the pivot around which action often turns.

These kinds of meeting are a singular opportunity; your chance to make your government listen to you. You can hold the floor and make them pay attention to you.

Then you can come back in a few weeks and make them listen again.

Government goes where the people push it, and absent the constant pressure (translation: bitching) any government will wander off into the weeds and start fucking with you and telling you what to do.

But your rights and freedoms don’t come from them; their freedom of motion comes from you. Its hard fucking work, and Big Money talks, but at the end of the day (sometimes a very long day) the government moves where we will it to move.

See the guy in the Rockwell painting of the “Freedom of Speech” above?

He’s nervous. Really nervous.

By his tan and his hands and his clothes, you can tell he’s a working man. Everyone around him is wearing a tie; his collar is open.

Those are his remarks there in his pocket, which he probably spent a long time writing out, tossing out, and then rewriting.

He probably told his family that tonight he’s gonna go down to the meetin’ and give those Big Guys what ‘fer.

His wife was probably very proud of her man; he can swing an ax or drive a dozer, but he’s never been too good with words. Maybe she helped him with his remarks; maybe he didn’t want his woman to see him struggling with something that he has trouble mastering.

His kids are bustin’ out loud proud of him. He’s been talking about what degenerate asswipes the politicians are for years (of course, he reserves the “degenerate asswipe” talk for the tool shed, or maybe the bar.) Now he’s really going to march down there and kick a little ass around.

Way to go Pop!

But now he’s there, in his laborer’s clothes, and all his neighbors are looking at him, and his wife and kids and the warm comfort of his home are across town.

He stands.

He grabs the pew in front of him for dear life; sinks his nails into the wood.

It’s something solid. Something real. He perhaps gains strength from hanging on to something hewn and boned and made straight and true by honest hands. This is something he understands in his skin.

This, and that come what may, he’s a goddamned American Citizen, and has every right in the world to be there, to stand, and to be heard.

When did we forget that?

His remarks – toiled and sweated over as much as anything he’s done at any job site – stay rolled up in his pocket.

He doesn’t need them.

All he has to do is plant his feet, stand straight, tell the truth like he sees it, and speak from his heart.

At the end of the day, that’s all any of us are called to do, but we must do it. Even if yours is a quiet voice, or is falters, or you don’t have all the just-right words laying around at your finger tips to make your points perfectly and in perfect, pear-shape tones...fuck that.

Just get up. Stand up.

Stand up and speak your mind.

And don't give up the fight.

10 Years After: 2005 -- Gilly and Me

Ten years ago, Steve Gilliard was still with us.  He was one of blogging's heavy hitters, and I was a noob freshly kicked from the nest of his comment section out it the big, scary world.  He and Jen were very kind to me, tossing me links every now and then and putting me onto their blogroll.  Over the course of time we had a few online back-and-forths of this kind (from June, 2005.)

I still miss the guy and I still wonder "what if?"

This from Mr. Gilliard 
got me to thinking...

Here's a bit of it: go read the rest here.
Willful blindness

We are blind until we can see

People need to realize something: the only way the vast majority of Americans will turn against the Iraq war and agitate for an end is an unmistakable disaster.

You can protest Congress, waste your time talking about the Downing Street Memo, but that isn't going to change anything.

Congress is a conconspirator with Bush and many, on both sides of the aisle, live in fear of being seen as soft on terror. No matter that his policy is a disaster. Renditions, secret prisons all of these things people would have once screamed murder about are now just background noise. People don't care, and they especially don't care about Arab lives. People still think if we kill enough Arabs we'll get them to come to heel, in the spare moments when they think about Iraq.

I saw this posting on Kos for this protest next week about the Memos and demand Congress do their job and I'm wondering what planet they're on.

This Congress is so disinterested that they wanted to change the rules for combat to restrict the role of women in an Army with no people to spare. They were more interested in making points with their fundy backers than actually supporting the Army.

To think this Congress, which is deeply and convincingly indifferent to the plight of our servicemen and women, will investigate a British memo is best defined as a pipe dream.

We are now hostages of events. People will defend the war until the fuckups stare them in the face. Until some camp is overrun or an Iraqi battalion turns on US troops and ambush them, the way they have been ambushed by the resistance.

Congress abdicated their responsibility long ago. Asking for them to assume it now, before the next election, is unlikely, as sad as that may be.

Because no one gives a damn. Iraq is the news, it isn't real, until tragedy enters every home like 9/11 did.
Overall, as with a lot of Steve’s stuff, a simple "right on the numbers" will suffice. I do, however, disagree with two particulars.

I’ll stick to rambling on about one of them

It’s not true that the Conservatives I know don’t give a damn so much as they are terrified that they were wrong.

Deeply, primally terrified. Their whole psychological infrastructure is cobbled together out of half-baked conservative bumper-sticker ideology, gun lust, socially illiterate hatred of “welfare cheats” and other largely fictional or apocryphal lazy people (read: niggers and other swarthy folk) who want to leech off of them while they work harder and harder for less and less. Despite a lot of bluster about Freedom and Individuality they are, at heart, happiest when they are conforming to the wishes of the Strong Man; when they know exactly their place in the hierarchy.

Security and Enforced Orderliness is their idea Heaven and Doubt is their Hell, which is why they swarm like mayflies towards simple-minded sloganeering instead of actual, y’know, thinking…and why many of them fall madly in love with Fundamentalism. It’s this anti-Faustian bargain where they get the perfect peace of mind that comes from absolute, swaggering certainty that they are completely right about every single thing. And thrown in at no extra charge, they get Paradise after they die, with the promise that they’ll get to see my sorry ass screaming in agony in a lake of fire on Basic Cable for all eternity.

But in exchange for all of this wonderfulness, they have to hand over their souls to truly evil men.

They must agree that they will never, ever, ever question Their Master’s Commands. To blindly obey and to never do the math and never read the fine print. In other words, to tear from their own body and slaughter of their own volition and with their own hands the one capacity that actually makes them fully human: their capacity for free and independent thought.

This is the ancient, unbridgeable and eternally hostile schism between their template for humanity and ours. This is, I believe, why sometimes we fundamentally cannot understand each other; because we are running two radically different and incompatible O/S's.

Out there, deep in the dark, -- they are told – are bearded madmen who worship a Death God that they cannot possibly understand who live just to kill them and their children for no rational reason. Not that there are not bad people in the world who really do need killin’, and real enemies that I want stopped, but they are sold this campfire escaped-lunatic scare-story version of the Ay-rab Terminator which, as it turns out, also happens to be the perfect outward projection of their own deeply perverse ideology.

And in closer, right next door – they are told – are the Evil Liberal Elite who live to sell their great nation out into polyglot slavery to a band of international appeasers, Socialists and faggots. Who are either too stupid to see the threat, or hate their country so much that they cheer on American failure and need to be protected from themselves.

Most of these people are not Nazis, but they are the perfect raw material for our own, homegrown American Rightwing Demagogues; obedient, stupid, bigoted and easily frightened.

And because everything – their very souls – rest on the foundation of the infallibility of Dear Leader, they’ll happily kill anyone in any numbers who might force them to face up to the fact that Dear Leader is a duplicitous, lying sleazebag who has played on their fear and ignorance and patriotism to turn them out like $2 crack whores.

Me? I’m wrong all the time. Make all kinds of mistakes and from time to time get overly attached to something that’s just plain dumb (Does listening to “Snoopy’s Christmas” back-to-back with “The New Shit” by Marilyn Manson at The Ride of the Valkyrie volume count?) And when I do, it’s hard to let go of it, but I do (mostly) and my mom taught me early on that when your wrong, you own up and say you’re sorry.


But I remember one woman I lived with once. A knockout brunette. Very bright. Thunder God sex. Hated Fundies but, as it turned out, for exactly the same reasons Conservative Evangelical Fudnamentalists hate Wahabi Muslims. See, she had problems. LOTS of problems, one of which was that she was congenitally unable to apologize.


(insert sexy, flashback fadeout here)

She was always full of very pointed advice about how everyone else should live (Funny how 12 years of strict Freudian therapy, god knows how many 12-step programs and a bookshelf full of self-help manuals will do that to a person) but could not bring herself to admit when she had fucked up.


Anyway, it’s a long, sad story, but the gist of it is that one evening she was being an utter bitch about something which she had clearly done wrong. I’d finally had enough, shrugged off my Easygoing Guy togs, strapped into my Full Metal Logician armor and went after her. Just verbally backed her right up into a corner and wouldn’t let up.

“Here’s what you said, and here’s what you did. You were wrong. Apologize.”

“But I…”

“Here’s what you said, and here’s what you did. You were wrong. Apologize.”

“I really think you are the problem here, and…”

“Here’s what you said, and here’s what you did. You were wrong. Apologize.”

“I don’t think this attitude is very…”

“Here’s what you said, and here’s what you did. You were wrong. Apologize.”

And then she lost it. Completely, utterly lost it. Started shrieking like she was being knifed.

“Fine! Fine! FUCK YOU! You want to Crucify me! You want my BLOOD! Fine! I’m sorry you cocksucker! There! You happy now!”

As I remember it, she threw a plate – one of those patterned, Pier One oversized things that you use under a centerpiece and that humans never actually eat off of – but it was many years ago and I am as susceptible to the Dynasty-ization of memory as anyone.

I do remember that she cried for an hour, went out, didn’t come back until the next day and never forgave me for it.

Built in to the Right Wing DNA is the same congenital defect, and since they will happily burn the world to the ground before they admit they might actually have been wrong about Bush, it falls to us to keep them backed into a corner as best we can, because once events out here in Realityland begin to pound through the perimeter denial defenses, what comes after ain’t gonna be pretty.

Not to scream blindly into the void for the impossible – Steve’s quite right about that – but to keep patiently repeating: “Here’s what you said, and here’s what you did. You were wrong. Apologize,” in every venue available.

The bad news is, until they wake the fuck up, these people are slaves, and there is no one so ferocious as a brainwashed thrall defending his owner.

The good news is, we are still 49% of the game; wake up and pick off a mere 100,000 and we can begin to turn a lot of thinks around. The more gooder news is that our O/S thrives best when saturated in pure, clean Reality, and theirs rust and rots and flies apart at the seams when the lies that insulate it are peeled away.

The sheer weight of simple things like time and gravity and causality itself are our natural and incorruptable allies. They are merciless, and recognize no Geneva Convention niceties when meting out justice to arrant fools who try to fuck with them.

Oh and the brunette?

She moved to Nevada, married money and now thinks muggers and food-stamp recipients should be imprisoned for life or, mo’ better, executed. After all, she had to work hard her whole life, so why should these shiftless scumbags get any help.

Yeah, really.