Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Barbarism Issue

There appears to be policy differences between the left and right on the barbarism issue.

The President recently made public certain documents in which barbarians from the previous administration discussed the kinds of barbarities they planned to commit. Prominent barbarians have reacted with outrage. Revealing our barbaric practices, they argue, makes it impossible to effectively practice them on our enemies.

Is barbarism effective? Experts in the cruelty community are divided. Many of them are arguing that civilization is better for our security in the long run, but proponents of barbarism are loudly accusing the President of putting us at risk by being a weak little girl.

“If your child’s life was at stake, you better believe that you’d rape whomever you had to, burn your enemies alive, eat their babies, whatever,” said talk show host Bill O’Reilly. “Hey, we were attacked. Descending into barbarism was what we had to do to protect the nation.”

Political observers are saying that the President is being torn between the urgings of angry civilized supporters and the caution of moderate barbarians who advise leaving the past behind and “moving forward.”

“Look, barbarism won’t come back. We’ve turned a corner now, and we shouldn’t waste time seeking retribution,” said an anonymous official wearing a moose pelt on his head. “These loony civilized people are just making it harder for us to deal with pressing issues.”

Primitive barbarism and bloodlust came back into fashion during the last eight years, and the President’s stance against them is perceived as a distraction by many pundits. On ABC’s This Week, Cokie Roberts said that she’s glad that videotapes of barbaric, cannibalistic rites have been destroyed, since they would be “great recruiting tools for our enemies.” George Will pointed out that no less an authority than Torquemada, one of the great intellectual figures of the Church, approved of the rack and the garrotte. Peggy Noonan appeared faint and said that her sensibilities were too delicate to discuss such things, and that these matters should be left in the dungeons where they belong.

“I’ve never seen such deep divisions in our society between civilization and barbarity,” said David Gregory of NBC. “People are worried that it’s being exploited for political reasons. There are many good Americans who think the President should be burned at the stake, or drawn and quartered. I don’t know what to think. You decide.”

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Twisting in the Wind

Sometimes I like to think that Obama is playing rope-a-dope with Republicans. It's probably wishful thinking. But the recent release of the torture memos, along with assurances that the Prez opposes prosecutions, seems like a prime example. Of course I'm in favor of putting Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove, and all the rest of the vicious thugs who ruled us illegally for eight years on trial. But let's say we don't. The release of the memos alone brings the stench of their crimes vividly into the public nostrils. Which is why our right-wing perverts and their media lapdogs seem more worried about revealing the truth than they do about the moral sinkhole of torture itself.

The truth has been known for some time, folks, This is just more detail, and further confirmation. And those who say we should keep it secret know full well that the goal is to conceal the truth from the American public, not from foreign enemies who already knew. George Will (who floated the attractiveness of torture early after 9/11), Peggy Noonan, Pat Buchanan, and all our good friends at the Zombie Channel--their concern is that YOU be kept in the dark, and that your knowledge not interfere with the elite's management of your government, your money, and your life.

Transparency is the enemy of the right, and of the national security establishment. The more transparency Obama allows, the more the rotting corruption of the political class that has dominated Washington for the last 50 years will be exposed.

So, Mr. Cheney and all your enablers, take your immunity, and your pardons, and your Nuremberg defense, and crawl into a corner while your crimes continue to be cataloged on the front pages. I hope you enjoy your "freedom."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tweet tweet

A friend of mine recently introduced me to Twitter. I’m not sure whether to thank him or not. Don’t get me wrong, I love Twitter. But I love it the way an addict loves crack.

Twitter is a social networking system in which a whole bunch of people post messages in short little bursts of 140 characters or less. When I first heard of this, it sounded unappealing. And if the messages are something like “Just stopped at the pizza place, ordered a veggie with olives,” then yes, it is unappealing, at least to me. And believe it or not, a lot of tweets are like that.

But if you are a political junkie, like I am, and you “follow” as many like-minded political junkies on Twitter, the result is an endless scroll of pithy comments, wisecracks, and pronouncements, seasoned with links to the latest news, blog posts, and general snark. If you add a few dozen very amusing people who say whatever is on the mind—well, you can end up spending hours on Twitter if you’re not careful. So far I haven’t been careful enough.

The appeal for me is that Twitter simulates an experience of being part of a very smart and talkative community, or a never-ending cocktail party, take your pick. Blogs go into much more depth, but the comments sections on blogs don’t have the same sense of immediacy and back-and-forth engagement between people. So if in your everyday life you don’t have that much opportunity to talk casually about politics, or culture (my other area is film), or whatever, Twitter is almost like the real thing.

Whether the short form dumbs everything down, or instead forces you to clarify and tighten your thoughts into a more potent expression, depends on the tweeter. In my case I think it does the latter. On this blog, I tend to go on at length, unraveling whatever subject I’ve tackled to the end, or what seems like an end. It’s my style, and it usually feels like my duty. That takes work, and unfortunately I don’t always feel like working, so I end up posting here only four or five times a month. But when I twitter, on the other hand, I can just go in there, write what I hope is a nice little bon mot, and then go on to something else. Instant gratification. Plus all the other little bon mots end up stimulating my imagination, and so on.

Like I said, crack.

It remains to be seen whether this development will be a good one for me as a writer, or…otherwise. But in any case, you can follow me here.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009


Alex Jones appeared on Judge Napolitano’s Fox show a few weeks ago, talking about “globalists” and how Obama is taking away our freedom, and how finally Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and Michael Savage (!) are catching on to what Alex Jones has been saying for years, etc.

But do you know what Alex Jones never mentioned? 9/11. He said not a word about how the 9/11 attacks were an inside job.

Now, if you’re at all familiar with what Alex Jones has been saying and doing for the last eight years, you know that 9/11 is a central aspect of his thinking. For him to go on Fox and not mention 9/11 is an unbelievable bit of theater, because it means not mentioning the most important aspect of his own stated world view in the last decade.

It’s self-evident at this point that Fox wouldn’t put Alex Jones on the air to talk about how Obama and Hilary Clinton are part of the scary globalist conspiracy unless he promised not to say anything about 9/11 being an inside job. For those who are new to Alex Jones, he therefore comes off as another soldier in the wingnut rebellion. But those of us who aren’t new to Alex Jones are supposed to think, I can only suppose, that 9/11 no longer matters now that Bush is gone. It would take a severe case of myopia to believe such a thing, but readers of Alex Jones are not generally known for their critical thinking.

I am actually a 9/11 skeptic. I don’t believe the official story, and I don’t think that atrocity has been properly investigated. The collapse of the WTC7 building still makes no sense to me, and there’s a lot else that stinks about the case. Nevertheless, I could always tell the difference between a sincere investigator of the facts like David Griffin, and a self-promoting huckster like Jones.

It may seem ridiculous for me to be even spending time discussing Alex Jones, but the fact is I’ve know many people in the online community who follow him and send me links from his Infowars sight. Occasionally, very occasionally, there’s been some good information in the links. Naively, I assumed he was on the left, albeit of the deranged variety. But his willingness to go on Fox without mentioning 9/11, and implicitly praising neofascists like Glenn Beck and Michael Savage to boot, proves me to have been woefully mistaken.

Alex Jones is a right wing troll. And a whore. Not mentioning his belief that 9/11 was an inside job, so that he could get on Fox, proves him to be a whore. The truth, as it turns out, doesn’t matter to Alex Jones. The only thing that matters to him is Alex Jones.

He’s also the worst thing that could have happened to the 9/11 truth movement. It seems inevitable nowadays, though, that conspiracy, even when the suspicion of one is well-founded, is going to attract the unscrupulous exploiters of fear, who end up discrediting everyone else involved. The larger issue involved here is that conspiracy, such as it is, represents only a symptom of a systemic problem rather than a cause.

Meanwhile the incredible hysteria of the hard right drives the Republican Party further into the ground, possibly destroying it forever. I don’t have any interest in preserving that institution, but at the same time we shouldn’t underestimate the mischief that brownshirt-style rhetoric and a lynch mob mentality can cause in this country. Every civilized person should be speaking out against this barbarism, but instead the maniacs seem to have an open mike on the national stage.