Sunday, December 30, 2007

Gotta wear shades

According to Peter W. Galbraith writing in the Washington Post, we may be doomed, doomed, when it comes to Pakistan, a failed state which possesses over 70 nuclear weapons and hates us.

But there is hope, he writes. The United States can do two things:

First, we can demand an international investigation into Bhutto's death.

The international investigation, I agree, is a bold move. But that, by itself, is not enough to ensure Pakistan's peaceful and prosperous future as a staunch American ally.

It's also crucial that:

President Bush should choose his words more carefully.

Insha'Allah baby. Any plan dependent on Bush choosing his words carefully is obviously doomed to miserable failure.

I'm not saying that he is incapable of carefully choosing his words, although I grant it's not his forté. No, he has proven over and over again that he will carefully choose incredibly stupid words backed up by incredibly stupid actions that will make any situation much worse.

So if an international investigation and Bush's loquacity are not enough to save Pakistan, what can we do?

How about a bold, bi-partisan congressional investigation to lay the groundwork for a sensible solution that would depend on multiple unlikely scenarios coalescing in a timely manner on which all sides, or at least Democratic presidential candidates, could agree?

Or we could go conservative and ask what Jesus would do. He would bomb them, of course, fo instant gratification if nothing else. When you're the Jesus blessed greatest country in the history of the universe, violence is always a good answer. It's more than that. its duh'vine.

Friday, December 28, 2007

A better idea

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee wants to build a fence to keep potential Pakistani terrorists out of our great and God blessed country. He doesn't specify where to build this fence, Mexico presumably, though to be realistic we'd need to build a fence around Canada too. And let's not forget Hawaii and Alaska. Those Pakis can be sly devils.

But I have a better idea, more realistic and in line with the general Republican world view. Instead of a fence, let's dig a giant hole in the ground. Then we can collectively stick our heads in it. The "hole" solution would work every bit as well as a crazy assed fence for keeping the terrorists and their hand-held ballistic missiles, or little vests of dynamite, at bay in Brownsville. And it would be much more cost effective. Much more.

The only drawback is that so many Republicans, the presidential candidates first and foremost, would mistake a hole in the ground for their ass. Then they would stick their heads up their ass to keep the terrorists out.

Nasty stuff, I know, but still, a hole in the ground is a better solution than a fence. And it's not like most Republicans don't have their head up their ass without the existence of a big hole in the ground to confuse them.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Sunday, December 23, 2007

News from the front

Interesting developments in the war on Christmas. More to come tomorrow...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A new low

Sorry, haven't been posting much lately. Sick of writing. Haven't had the gumption to take new photos. Most of my time has been spent working on videos, which is not good for providing content for an oft-publishing on-line magazine. The damn things are fucking slow to produce.

As an offshoot of that, I needed to learn a bit about creating 3D graphics in Illustrator, so instead of the usual form of masturbation, I worked on the chuckling logo instead. Kinda fun, but ultimately useless.

But on the positive side, you can look forward to my annual X-mas eve essay on It's a Wonderful Life. Serously, I'll have it on-line X-mas eve morn. Y'all come back now. No, I mean come back then.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Why we are doomed, part MXXXVI

Perhaps the headline is overstating it a bit? I don't know. You never can tell with these things. When it comes to identifying all of the little contributing factors to the end of the world as we know it, it's easy to overstate the importance of this one or that. But as a pundit in an on-line magazine, I persist. You can be sure that when the catastrophe is upon us, the deciding factor for its cause will be something that no one considered important at the time.

Yesterday, for example, I was researching point and shoot cameras for a colleague. She wanted one those sleek little jobs, the kind that you can carry around your neck on a lanyard. A camera functional yet fashionable, something akin to those giant medallions the rappers wear, only more for the Disney World, camera-totin tour bus type. Beyond size, the requirements were short recovery time between shots and and image quality. In that order.

Did you know that those tiny cameras now come in 12 mega pixel models? That means that each photograph will have 12 million pixels. A pixel is a small square dot. To get 12 million of them on a 1.25" chip is amazing. Those are small little buggers. It's very fucking impressive. Wowsa.

Of course I knew that was just a marketing gimmick, that stuffing that many pixels on a tiny chip would more likely fuck up the quality, and would definitely fuck up the speed. So I concentrated my research in the seven or eight megapixel range.

What I found was that they no longer make the camera that virtually all the professionals agreed was far and away the best in terms of image quality. And realistically, isn't image quality what it's all about? The newest 12 MP model with a veritable plethora of useless features sells for around $300. The discontinued 6 MP model whose only bell or whistle was incredible image quality now sells for a minimum of $399 on line.

So you can take away two things from that. One is that companies will produce what their marketers can sell, not necessarily the best quality thing they can produce. The second lesson is that a lot of people have their priorities all screwed up. We are easily suckered by superficialities. Educated people will almost always choose quality. The poorly educated are drawn to the bright ans shiny. Then we wonder why our purchase sucks.

In this case we just get crappy photos. And truth be told, even the best fully automatic ultra-slim camera will not produce good pictures in much of anything less than perfect lighting, but the same dynamic is at work all across the cultural spectrum.

That's why George W. Bush is president. That's why the most spectacular failures in our political and corporate society are so lavishly rewarded. That's why the rich eat 1.7 pounds of meat every week while the poor eat 2.2. It's why we shop at WalMart and eat at McDonalds. It tells us everything we need to know about the presidential candidates.

Substance is not much of a factor in our purchasing decisions. But once the sale is made, substance is all we've got.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A very good piece of writing

It's this kind of thing, along with MapQuest, that makes the internets worthwhile.

I couldn’t understand why the police were wearing brown, that’s all I could think when we entered the house. Two policemen wearing brown taking Ricky away, because he shot a very sweet neighbor who plays golf everyday. You look for clues to explain what’s happening, something to tell you it’s all a big mistake, something askew sticks out and that was it, police dressed wrong isn’t right, policemen wear blue uniforms, these police are dressed in brown, this must be a dream.

Great stuff. On so many levels.

It's a tough job...

In this morning's edition, the New York Times reports that the "Democrats" are pathetically weak and helpless. But it's not their fault. The Republicans are just way tooo strong.

Mr. McConnell and his fellow Republicans are playing such tight defense, blocking nearly every bill proposed by the slim Democratic majority that they are increasingly able to dictate what they want, much to the dismay of the majority leader, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, and frustrated Democrats in the House.

In fact, the Senate Republicans are so accustomed to blocking measures that when the Democrats finally agreed last week to their demands on a bill to repair the alternative minimum tax, the Republicans still objected, briefly blocking the version of the bill that they wanted before scrambling to approve it later.

The Democrats send out daily tallies of the number of Republican filibusters, which the Democrats say will set a record.

You may recall that it was not so long ago that the "Democrats" were the minority party and they were unable to block much of anything at all. When they had the temerity to threaten to use the filibuster, the Republicans just laughed and threatened to abolish it altogether, arguing that it was unconstitutional. The "Democrats," as is befitting their job description, promptly caved and gave the Republicans everything they demanded.

You may also note that the "Democrats" fail to use the same awesome power of the filibuster even now when they are the majority party and could easily defeat Republican diktats. But that's not gonna happen, now is it? Defeating Republican diktats is not their job. Quite the contrary.

It's actually much more difficult for the "Democrats" being in the majority. How can they constantly lose when they control both houses of Congress? Especially whey the Republicans just spent so many years getting every single thing they wanted when they were in the majority.

It's simply impossible for a political party to be that weak and strategically inept. The only rational explanation is that it is the "Democrats" job to be defeated. I think we can safely count on much hilarity to ensue if they win the White House and large majorities in the House and Senate. How will they manage to cave in to every single Republican demand then? Oh, I trust they'll manage. They have proven extremely resilient in their relentless pursuit of weakness. If it weren't for the comedic value, I'd have stopped paying attention long ago.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Nothing to see here, move along (enhanced edition)

Via the New York Times, some blogger asks a question:

Jay Rockefeller is constantly learning of legally dubious (at best) C.I.A. intelligence activities, and then saying nothing about them publicly until they are leaked to the press, at which point he expresses outrage and incredulity — but reveals nothing. Really, isn’t it about time the Democrats select an effective Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, one who will treat this scandal with the seriousness it deserves, and who will shed much-needed light on the C.I.A. program of torture, cruel treatment and obstruction of evidence?

What the naifs who populate the top echelons of our press and punditry fail to realize is -- as usual -- the obvious. Jay Rockefeller is an effective Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee precisely because he covers up these things. When you are a prominent member of a fake opposition party, the willingness to cover up for the bad guys is one of the most important qualifications for the job.

Look at any issue and you’ll find “democrats” following the same script. They use their positions in government to cover up the inner party’s high crimes and lesser misdeeds then blather fake outrage and do nothing when anything illegal or embarrassing comes to light.

And everyday the same old becomes new again:
For more than an hour, the bipartisan group, which included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was given a virtual tour of the CIA's overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.

Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised.

Objections were not raised? However could that be?

The press, which fulfills its function as a guardian of truth only slightly better than the “democrats fulfill their role as real political party, still has trouble calling torture torture. Beating, breaking bones, wiring genitals, drowning people; none of that is torture. Those interrogations may be harsh. They may be severe. But they are not torture. They are nothing more than techniques, methods and tactics. Good things all. And sometimes these techniques, methods, and tactics are enhanced! The goodness never stops!

But occasionally some truth slips past the gatekeepers.
Waterboarding as an interrogation technique has its roots in some of history's worst totalitarian nations, from Nazi Germany and the Spanish Inquisition to North Korea and Iraq. In the United States, the technique was first used five decades ago as a training tool to give U.S. troops a realistic sense of what they could expect if captured by the Soviet Union or the armies of Southeast Asia. The U.S. military has officially regarded the tactic as torture since the Spanish-American War.

Of course the fact that the US is aping the worst totalitarian nations in the history of humankind comes near the end of the article and the fact that it’s blatantly illegal comes far past the point in the piece where 95 percent of the readers will have stopped reading. Hmmmm, top government officials in both parties collude to commit horrible crimes against humanity in the worst tradition of Hitler, Stalin, and Torquemada. Big news, you'd think.

In journalism-speak that’s what's known as burying the lede. I suspect that pretty soon the powers that be will figure out that they’re in for a dime, might as well be in for a dollar and figure uncle Joe knows best. They’ll put an end to the journalists' practice of burying uncomfortable facts deep in the article and start burying the journalists who publish facts instead.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Another day in the life

I noticed that there was another mass murder event out in conservative christian paradise. A recent high school dropout got kicked out of his house, lost his job at McDonald's and took the only all-American path to fame open to him. The old murder spree at the mall. How prescient was Dawn of the Dead? Pretty prescient, huh?

On an entirely different note, I'll share another Brooklyn story. Yesterday my eight year old son and I were mildly surprised when a shirtless youth ran by us, torso covered with blood and yelling a challenge at another kid to take that knife out and stab him again (motherfucker). That was different, said John Bob. Yep. I said. That was different.

Although we'd never seen anything exactly like that before, Brooklyn being Brooklyn, it didn't seem that out of the ordinary. Still, I was going to tell the next cop I saw, but strangely enough, I didn't see any cops. No matter. The street was very crowded. I'm sure there were at least three cops in that block. John Bob and I got on the train and didn't comment on it again, not even at the dinner table.

You know, others have noted that violent ghetto youth don't walk into shopping malls or schools and gun down as many people as they can. That kind of mass murder is a conservative christian thing. The ghetto kids just kill each other.

Why? Who knows? Not me, but I'll speculate anyway and suggest part of the phenomenon is related to role models. The ghetto kids look around the city and see people who lead lifestyles they want to emulate. Their role models may be rappers, actors, sports stars, comedians, music executives, firemen, cops, pimps or drug dealers, but they all make good money, have nice rides, get laid whenever they want to and party in style. I'm not saying these aspirations are necessarily good, but city kids see them as attainable. They have a realistic hope of achieving some sort of fame without gunning down mall folk.

The poor christians in the sticks, however, look out over the suburban lawns and see a bunch of constipated hypocrites telling them to do as they say, not as they do, while feeling terrible guilt about what they do, and doing it anyway, and with a distinct lack of style. The only people these kids want to emulate are on the tv. They'd rather die than turn out like their dad, the insurance salesman next door, or the preacher down the block. The people they see living stylish lives on tv are far away. The red state kids see no hope of getting there. Not in this life anyway. Not without murder. Mass murder.

If only both groups could realize that they can have it all. Sex, drugs, rock & roll, a modicum of fame and a happy, life free from violence. It's really not that difficult, is it? All you need is a little education and understanding. Unfortunately, Republican talking points, the wisdom of the ganstas, and Jesus talking through the mouths of hucksters, hypocrites, and madmen have the opposite effect.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

More burning man video

Here's the continuation of Dan Webster/Gratis Productions Burning Man video. Enjoy.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Chuckling translation services

The New York Times reports that Iraq is the third most corrupt nation on the planet:

the extent of the theft is staggering. Some American officials estimate that as much as a third of what they spend on Iraqi contracts and grants ends up unaccounted for or stolen, with a portion going to Shiite or Sunni militias.

Please, allow me to translate.
American officials estimate that as much as a third of the billions of dollars of American taxpayer's money they flush down the toilet on Iraqi contracts and grants ends up unaccounted for or stolen, with a portion going to Shiite or Sunni militias.

It's unfortunate that we live in a one party state. If we had an opposition party they'd make a lot of noise about that type of grand larceny and things would change.

Atrios gets the first half of the equation when he questions why people like Hilary and Obama don't use their leadership positions in the senate to actually lead rather than just fly around the country and talk about what great leaders they will be someday?

What he misses is the obvious answer. They are not going to lead because they are not members of a real opposition party. If elected, they will change nothing, unless told to by the Republicans.

As everyone must

David Broder issues a fiat in today's Washington Post:

Both now acknowledge -- as everyone must -- that the failure of the federal government to secure the southern border has produced broad public outrage.

Must we? Must we believe, much less acknowledge, that it is the government's failure that has produced broad public outrage? For that matter, must we believe that the public's outrage is broad?

No, no, and no. We are free to form our own opinions and we can base them on facts if we are intellectually able. The outrage, such as it exists, is not created by the government's enforcement efforts, but by the government/Republican party whipping up hate because they think it benefits them politically. Is this outrage broad? No, it is as narrow as the minds that so easily fall for that kind of racist xenophobic hate crap.

The best evidence that the Republicans care about it only as a hate arousing tool is their efforts to derail any kind of sensible plan to deal with the issues. There are millions of illegal aliens in the country and more clamoring at the border. Employers need many of these people. Yet without background checks or any kind of formal immigration status, criminals can and do get in. It's obvious that some kind of guest worker program could alleviate the problems all around and allow law enforcement to focus more on violent crime and drug trafficking. But that's not going to happen because the Republicans benefit from violent crime and drug trafficking. It's long past time to stop rewarding Republicans for engendering violent crime and hatred, but unfortunately, the clock is ticking backwards these days. And with the permanent Republican lock on power, it's ticking straight for the middle ages.

I now acknowledge -- as everyone must -- that David Broder is a tool. And a useless one at that.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

In comic book news,

the New York Times claims that Judas Iscariot was not a hero for murdering Jesus, aka Son of God.

It was a great story. Unfortunately, after re-translating the society’s transcription of the Coptic text, I have found that the actual meaning is vastly different. While National Geographic’s translation supported the provocative interpretation of Judas as a hero, a more careful reading makes clear that Judas is not only no hero, he is a demon.

Yes, a demon, with horns and everything.

The back story is that the National Geographic Society translated the Gospel of Judas, an apocryphal Gnostic gospel from the 3rd century and found that Judas didn't betray Jesus and that he didn't go to hell.

The Times argues that National Geographic made key, and obvious, errors in the translation and implies they had nefarious reasons for doing so. Goddamned liberal media, always attacking God's Holy Word!!! And for what? Shock value? An entertaining lede? To deliver the world into the hands of Satan? It's all a bit unclear why they would do such a thing.

Nevertheless, I find these early Christian writings interesting because they illuminate just how wacky people were back then and how wacky so many people still are today. The content of the writings have little, if any, more connection to reality than the origin of Professor X. Yet people argue about them as if they a) are factual and b) matter outside of the arcane, intellectual realm of New Testament studies.

But what's funny about this little controversy is that while Christians are all upset that the Gnostic gospels might possibly portray Judas as a hero, it doesn't seem to bother them at all that the very same writings portray their Christian God as evil.
So what does the Gospel of Judas really say? It says that Judas is a specific demon called the “Thirteenth.” In certain Gnostic traditions, this is the given name of the king of demons — an entity known as Ialdabaoth who lives in the 13th realm above the earth. Judas is his human alter ego, his undercover agent in the world. These Gnostics equated Ialdabaoth with the Hebrew Yahweh, whom they saw as a jealous and wrathful deity and an opponent of the supreme God whom Jesus came to earth to reveal.

I find it amazing that we're in the 21st century and people argue about demons and their place in this demon haunted world. In the first century, they had an excuse. Today, not so much.

When the levee breaks...

If you were unaware, or had any doubts, that we are facing an immanent economic tragedy, read this tease from the New York Times and tremble.


Wall St. Sees Silver Lining in Economy

Investors appear to be taking comfort in the notion that the economy is so imperiled that it is forcing the government to mount an aggressive rescue effort.

Wall Street believes that the economy is so imperiled that only massive government intervention can save us? And the Bush administration is on the case?

Me? I'm putting all my money in Ron Paul Dollars. How could that go wrong?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Bring in the belly dancers

I had planned to make a comment about the Arab investment in CitiCorp, something along the lines of how the xenophobic, particularly Islamo-hating Bush dead-enders continue to slavishly support Him while He sells the country to terrorist-supporting Arabs, Chinese, and other less-than-Norman-Rockwellish-folk from around the globe. Yea, yea, them so stoooopid. Tell me something I don't know.

More and more it looks like things are going the way Vonnegut foresaw in Hocus Pocus:

Mr. Vonnegut still finds abundant metaphors for our current situation. Hartke compares the land of the free and the home of the brave to a vast plantation, the soil and labor of which has been exhausted. The owners, whites of European descent, are selling it off, dispossessing the laborers.

As that comes to pass, those poor conservatives will be learning to love Allah in the vain hope of getting a job while Bush’s real buddies and the bozos on the Washington Post editorial page will retire en masse to the beaches of Bahrain, or perhaps the Arab Emirates. In fact, that's already happening (see below).

But on my way to bashing the boneheads about CitiCorp, I got sidetracked by the supporting evidence. Recently General Electric sold their plastics division to a state owned Saudi Arabian company. One of their largest plants, which is also an insanely dangerous chemical factory, is located in southern Indiana, a hotbed of right wing ignorance, hate and stupidity. This is the place where, a few years back, the local conservatives blew a gasket because the highway signs had inventory code on their backsides which the right wing geniuses interpreted as secret directions for the UN invaders when they came to take all of America’s guns.

A lot of the comments are what you would expect:
Posted by gdubord on May 22, 2007 at 4:36 a.m

Boy! What A bonehead move that is. All in the name of Money!! It's not good enough to be at war with them...Now we sell our souls to them!

Posted by SGT_SHLITZ on May 22, 2007 at 5:50 a.m.

Fools! Now we will have tent people here. You are right, gdubord. We should be at war with the Saud's.

Posted by tonkaboy on May 22, 2007 at 5:50 a.m.

What happens when they hire thier extremist countrymen to come in as "consultants", and they turn out to be suicidal? Most people know (I think) what kind of large tanks of volitile chemicals they store on site. Not a very good idea for our area!!!!

Posted by 81VETT on May 22, 2007 at 6:28 a.m. (Suggest removal)

We just sold the potential for the biggest "Dirty Bomb" in the world to the people who brought you 9/11?

Posted by Anonymous on May 22, 2007 at 6:46 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Does anyone know what the nationality was for the majority of the 9/11 homicide hijackers?
Take a guess.

Posted by SGT_SHLITZ on May 22, 2007 at 6:58 a.m. (Suggest removal)

They were Saudi's, Anon. Guess who else was a Saudi citizen? Osama Bin-Ladin.

Posted by hardestnose on May 22, 2007 at 7:35 a.m. (Suggest removal)

And George Soros, billionaire liberal Dem, bought Halliburton and moved the company to Dubai after thousands of his minions bad-mouthed the company and drove down the price of the stock.

Interesting? Aside from the enlightening Soros info, no so much. We've seen this kind of thing all too often. But it gets deeper. Southern Indiana is one of the last blue collar/union strongholds:
Posted by toeped on May 22, 2007 at 6:18 a.m. (Suggest removal)

When the cutbacks and layoffs start these GE employee's who have been getting all the benefits with none of the cost of the union plants will find out why they should have been union instead of coat tail riders. Bring out the ax, its time to downsize and consolidate.

Posted by Blackstone on May 22, 2007 at 7:59 a.m. (Suggest removal)

"There are products that are made in the USA that would be just as good. Check the products you buy, lets support our neighbors and buy American owned and made products. Shop around and save a job for an American."
Looks like you won't be shopping at Target, WalMart, TJ Maxx, Lowes, Home Depot, Best Buy or Circuit City anytime soon.
I never knew this board hosted so many Ph.D.s and MBAs. Wow.

Posted by kmalongway3 on May 22, 2007 at 8:51 p.m. (Suggest removal)

cat,no i never applyed at GE,i haul coal down there,now what?

A few have a sense of humor:
Posted by moogoogaipan on May 24, 2007 at 1:32 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The town can make up the any losses with car sales, and by the looks of the people on the ads, food and beverage sales have great futures.

Posted by imanidiot on May 24, 2007 at 3:39 a.m. (Suggest removal)

As a long time resident of Mt. Vernon and a 25yr employee of GE, I can honestly say that this could mean some great opportunities for the community. After SABIC takes control, I plan to re-open Gundi's restaurant. It will of course be renamed Gandhi's and will be a full service mosque and drive-thru kufta establishment. Peerless will have to bring in some belly dancers. The ones there now on 185lb. night don't count. Everyone will prosper until the first plant accident wipes out 250 square miles.

Posted by courier_studio_audience on May 22, 2007 at 12:10 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Message Board Posting Concepts:

The Law of Human Homogeny: 
This is the concept that all people are CREATED in GOD’S image which, of course, is white, Christian, heterosexual, American, and politically conservative. Anyone who doesn’t fit that image has made the conscious decision to deviate from God’s plan. The only way for these freaks, perverts, and sinners to avoid eternal damnation in Hell is to act white, Christian, heterosexual, and politically conservative – in a word, ‘merican - because that’s the way God intended. It is clearly spelled out in the Bible, which God has translated into English for us.

And those who have those high paying jobs and want to keep them? Or just want to get one? Somehow they are a bit more rational:
Posted by sodapop on May 22, 2007 at 10:27 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I have been employed by GE for over 20 years of shift work.The last 10 yrs I have made over $110,000 per year.Not bad for someone with just a high school diploma. I will continue do the best job for whomever owns the Plastics division. After reading Sabics financial report from last year.I actually can't wait to start investing in thier company. GE stock has been virtually flat for 5 yrs. Sabic' stock has doubled in the last 3 years. 
Most of the bashing I have read is probably from people that really don't know what the heck is going on. Sabic is a premeir employer.
If I may dispell a few myths..not all rednecks are racists..not all Catholics preists are molestors and not all Saudi's are terrorists.Hope this helps out the narrow minded.

Posted by rileysmom on May 23, 2007 at 3:40 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I am ashamed to be from southern Indiana right now. I work at GE right now, and I can say that without them, I wouldn't have half of what I do. I think it is safe to say, that there are some people who work there that are scared....not because of the SABIC but because of the sale in general. Who knows what is going to happen. I do believe that SABIC wouldn't pay almost 12 billion dollars to turn around a bvlow it up. Come on now people, lets get realistic. Yes we do have very dangerous chemical, but we also have very well trained people to deal with these chemicals. I believe we need to be looking within our own country too for so called terriorists. Its seems that we tend to forget the Timothy Mcveighs. He was an american citizen, that killed hundreds of innocent people. We need to stop hating. What is that teaching our children? I bet haf of the people who are saying negative things have never even worked witha a muslim person. If you try and boycott GE, the only thing you will end up doing is hurting your own family, and friends that work there now. What I suggest is people grow up and stop being biggots.

Posted by cjworks on May 31, 2007 at 7:37 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The union didn't save my job at Whirlpool. It's hard to find a job in this area with equal pay. I have an interview with GE. I'm a single parent looking to support my family. This is the best way to accomplish that. If offered a job, I have no qualms accepting. Just think how devastating the Whirlpool layoff has been to this community. We don't need another big employer packing up shop. If nothing else, be supportive of those of us who are desperate for decent jobs.

To me, that’s all a great example of the beauty of the internet. It’s like a good literary work, filled with different characters with different points of view. There’s drama, pathos and bathos, humor and human suffering. It gives us insight into both current events and the timeless human condition.

This type of thing will have to be outlawed, of course, or at least priced out of the reach of normal people, but for now there are still opportunities for enlightenment.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Leaves fall in brooklyn

That's a Brooklyn tree, huh? I think it's fifty something. Vain, it tried to lighten its leaves and they turned orange. It's wearing leather pants. And maybe a silver chain.

I've been working on this technique for quite awhile now. Much as I dislike nature photography in general, it is good practice. Someday I'll take that same shot in a crowd of angry people and it might be great art. Leaves, unfortunately, are decorative at best and not the greatest challenge. On the positive side, though they often move but rarely attack.

As mentioned in a short article a few days ago, these days I'm kind of into busy photos with no particular point of focus. More of an intellectual challenge than anything.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A strange, vulnerable place

Today’s New York Times Magazine has an interesting article about a new breed of scientists who firmly believe that the earth is eight thousand years (or so) old. They believe this because they have read the bible and added up the lives of the biblical characters. It’s not as easy as it sounds since some of those ancients lived as long as 900 years. You see? Honest scientists may disagree. The planet could be 7990 years old. It could be 8010. More research is needed. All reasonable people agree.

According to the Times, this new breed of scientists are a heroic bunch. Like cowboys, “laconic but certain” and “deeply committed.” these intellectual outlaws, outlaws in a good outlaw kinda way of course, are “taking on the central tenets of the field” by “resisting mainstream science.“ Beyond that, they are hung like Harvard: “a gathering of elites, with an impressive wall of diplomas... master’s or Ph.D.’s in the sciences from respectable universities.”

You know the type. Total dumbasses.

And like total dumbasses in all walks of life, they have a total dumbass answer to every question. Unlike your average dumbass, however, these folk are scientists, so they have higher standards. They must use fancy words such as ”hypothesis.“

“Among available hypotheses, creation by God is the most reasonable hypothesis,” writes Kurt Wise, who got his Ph.D. in paleontology from Harvard.

Wise shows off his Harvard-trained mind elsewhere. “The evidence from Scripture is by far the best evidence for creation. No better evidence can be imagined than that provided from Him who is not only the only eyewitness observer, but who also is the embodiment of all truth.”

Unlike evolution, Creation isn't a theory, he says. “The fact that God created the universe is not a theory—it's true.”

“Even if it’s wrong, it’s a starting point,” he tells the Times.

Me, I’m thinking maybe Harvard isn’t the best place to send the kids to college and I’m not so sure they should be reading the New York Times. Oh well. Ivy Tech and the Daily News for them. We ain’t no stinkin elitists, but that’s a different story.

What really caught my attention in the Times article was the reference to Kentucky's Creation Museum. Longtime readers may recall that I took the kids there on a family outing last year, but the less said about that little adventure the better.

The Times was impressed with the museum, if not my visit to it:

With its wide-open spaces and interactive exhibits, the place feels like a slick museum of natural history, updated for the Hollywood age.... Lifelike models of Adam and Eve (who looks like the Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bündchen) frolic in a lush garden among the animals, including several dinosaurs.

The museum expected about 250,000 visitors in the first year. Instead, despite its $20 entry fee, it has had that many in six months, according to Michael Matthews, the museum’s content manager. Almost every day, minivans and buses from Christian schools fill the parking lot, sometimes after 10-hour road trips. The museum’s target group is the 45 percent of Americans who, for 25 years, have consistently agreed with the statement in a Gallup poll that “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.”

The museum sends the message that belief in a young earth is the only way to salvation. The failure to understand Genesis is literally “undermining the entire word of God,” Ken Ham, the founder of Answers in Genesis, says in a video. The collapse of Christianity believed to result from that failure is drawn out in a series of exhibits: school shootings, gay marriage, drugs, porn and pregnant teens.

Funny how they always come back to that. If people only believed more fervently in verifiable stupid religious nonsense, then they would give up all forms of intoxicants and most pleasures and the world would be a happy place. Humans and dinosaurs on Noah’s ark? That’s your ship to salvation Bub. Forget about beer and sex. Forty-five percent of Americans agree. And the number is growing.

But we're talking about scientists not priests. It’s okay to ask the difficult questions. How did (600 year old) Noah round up the entire animal kingdom wand stuff it in a big wooden boat? How is radioisotope dating flawed? How was the Grand Canyon formed? And if all those animals died in one cataclysmic event, why do their fossils appear in such distinct order?

Difficult questions but the intrepid Creation Scientists are on the case. Of course the answer is always God and it all happened in the last 8000 years, but there's still a lot of work to be done on the details.
We don’t subscribe to this idea of the ‘God of gaps,’ meaning if you can’t explain something, then blame God,” Whitmore told me before describing a method that hardly seemed more scientific. “Instead, we think: ‘Here’s what the Bible says. Now let’s go to the rocks and see if we find the evidence for it.

But don’t get the wrong impression. These noble idiots suffer for their beliefs. They suffer the torture of the martyrs (if not the damned). And it’s not just their failure to get laid when they were teens or their exclusion from the cool crowd:
But as he told a friend, he couldn’t reconcile the geologic ages with what he read in his Bible. So he set about figuring this out: every night, for months, he cut out every verse of the Bible he’d have to reject to believe in evolution. “I dreaded the impending end,” he writes in a collection of essays called “In Six Days: Why 50 Scientists Choose to Believe in Creation.” “All that I loved to do was involved with some aspect of science.”

When he was done, he tried to pick up what was left. But he found it impossible to do that without the Bible being “rent in two,” he writes. “Either the Scripture was true and evolution was wrong or evolution was true and I must toss out the Bible.” In the end, he kept his Bible and achieved his unattainable dream. But it left him in a strange, vulnerable place. “If all the evidence in the universe turned against creationism, I would be the first to admit it, but I would still be a creationist because that is what the Word of God seems to indicate.

The circle always closes. They’ll believe what they believe because the Bible says so. And if it doesn’t, well, that’s just your interpretation.

And if the Bible is no more accurate than the Illiad as a historical document? Don’t even go there.

Friday, November 23, 2007


I always take a nature walk on Thanksgiving morning. Don't get me wrong. I put no stock in the holiday. I am always thankful for this life. I don't need no special day to remind me of it. The only thing I'm extra thankful for is that I don't have to go to the job, but Martin Luther King Day functions just as well for that. I do, however, enjoy the meal.

The day, for me at least, has become the gateway to winter. That was an unequivocally good thing back in Arizona. Here in the east, not so much. Of course I'm happy that the insufferable heat and humidity have come to an end, but there's also a grim realization that there will be long cold grey stretches when I will find myself under-dressed for the weather and a long way from warmth.

Yesterday, unfortunately, was warm, at least in the morning when I took my walk. The fall foliage was just on the backside of its full glory, so I snapped a few pictures with the toy camera. At this point I usually point out that I am not a nature photographer and that I don't really consider nature photography much of an art, but I've put so much thought and effort into nature photography over the past few years that I might as well admit to what I am. It's not all of me, but it is a part.

The typical, ultra-beautiful nature photography you normally see is very expensive to produce. It requires professional cameras and lenses and a lot of patience. In addition, it often requires the expense of going to some incredibly beautiful place. If you really want a fantastic nature shot, it's so much easier to go to Iceland and rent a helicopter. That's what the pros do.

But you and I reader, we are out there with toy cameras. We can all look at nature and see great beauty, but photographing it is not as easy as seeing it. Think of all the boring photos of hills and trees you have seen, and probably taken. The scene was beautiful. The resulting photograph, not. The problem goes beyond our lack of expensive equipment, though expensive equipment definitely helps. To get a nice photo in an everyday location with a toy camera requires a different way of communicating the visual aspects of nature. Toy cameras cannot capture reality in all its resolution, but when understood, they can communicate an impressionistic representation of reality. The picture above, for example, works for me in that respect. It was taken with a toy camera and it accurately communicates a large part of what I saw on my traditional Thanksgiving morning walk. With extended scrutiny, I believe, you can discern many different ways of looking at it. Of course the critic inside says that one way of looking at it is that it sucks because the tree splits the picture more or less down the middle. Yes and I could crop it to fit the classical guidelines of effective composition, but in this case I found I preferred the results of the broken rule. It's more challenging to appreciate, but more rewarding as well.

Ah, but photographs be damned. I'm not working on Thanksgiving. I'm walking, resting, contemplating the coming winter. I wish it were cold, gray, drizzling, with perhaps a few snow flurries. That would be my kind of Thanksgiving.

Here is another photo from yesterday that takes advantage of the inherent limitations of the toy camera. Some days I guess I just like busy, poorly composed photographs. Weatherwise though, it's a much better harbinger of what's to come.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Chuck and me

As I’ve said on several occasions, I think Charles Bowden is one of the best writers working today. I don’t know you, reader, so am curious to know if you have ever heard of him? I would guess not. Bowden is all over the place and so are his books. Most are found in either the environmental section of the book store, or in crime. I don’t know about you, reader, but those are not aisles I usually frequent.

Most likely. I only know about Bowden because I lived in Tucson where he is a well-known local writer. But it’s remotely possible I would have noticed him anyway. He’s a regular contributor to Harper’s Magazine, which I read cover-to-cover each month so I would have read him there. Would that have led me to go out and buy his books? Probably not.

I first came across his work when I was writing about water issues in the southwest. Bowden had written book called Killing the Hidden Waters which, although slim, is a definitive work on the subject.

Later, I worked at the same newspaper where he had been a reporter. By that time I had read Blue Desert and Desierto, both of which contain a lot of great writing, so I was interested in the work he had done at the paper. Nothing in those books prepared me for what I was to find when I read his clip file. Sitting in that library, reading those words, was a harrowing literary experience similar to getting punched in the stomach repeatedly only much more unpleasant. If you’ve ever wondered what woul happen if you put one of the world’s greatest word smiths on the sex crime beat, I can tell you from experience that you probably don’t want to know. There are a lot of soul sickening facts in them there clips.

Bowden writes about those days in Blues for Cannibals. Even at that great distance, it’s still one of the most powerful stories I have ever come across and I think it’s obligatory reading if you want to understand where Bowden got his depth. Hell, it should be obligatory reading for any number of reasons. And it’s also interesting that it was during this time that Bowden went on long desert walks and wrote the essays that would end up in Blue Desert and other early works.

I had plenty of opportunities to meet Chuck, but never did. When I lived in Tucson we had mutual friends at the newspaper and mutual interests about the desert and border. I was writing about those things and Bowden is God on the subject. People often encouraged me to call him up and ask about various issues, but I never did. I would have liked to have got to know him personally, but asking him to tell me about NAFTA would have just been a pretext to meet a famous person and I am not the fan-boy type.

But that combination of local hero, near colleague and personal connection, however slight, does make me question my objectivity when it come to commenting on the quality of his writing. We often fail to see the flaws in those we feel close to, including distant celebrities. Or we exaggerate their good qualities.

Although Bowden’s writing abilities are not exactly trumpeted far and wide, he is well-respected by those who read him. William Langewiesche, writing in the New York Times Book Review, does a good job of explaining his appeal:

Is ''Down by the River'' an exposé, a history, a biography, a memoir, an adventure story, a philosophical musing? It is all of those things, reportage on the highest level, and it moves between the categories without hesitation or apology. It is a sort of poetry, too. When Bowden lets loose, he writes as if in a fever...

The result is certainly much more than a crime story: it is a mature, deeply felt exploration of the hidden connections binding two very different parts of North America, as well as of the ties that bind a family. The narrative is masterly...

Who else writes like that? Is the process instinctive or calculated? Whatever his method, the images and rhythms are beautifully chosen. Indeed, how better could anyone convey the textures of the shadow world? Bowden calls himself a reporter, and in a pure sense of the word he really is one. He is also an authentic talent. Even at his most stylistically extreme, he does not seem strained or self-indulgent...

Yes. Highest level reporting. Moves between categories. Poetry. Fever. Hidden Connections. Masterly. Stylistically extreme. Those are apt descriptions of Bowden's work.

But you, reader, may feel differently? It’s not uncommon to find that Bowden’s books hang together by the slimmest of narrative threads. Most of them are collections of essays, many written on assignment, that have some level, often difficult to discern, of thematic consistency. Blood Orchid is a very good example of how Bowden may impose a unifying theme long after the individual parts have been written. Nevertheless, for that kind of thing to work, there must be an underlying thematic constancy. That underlying constancy, and its nature, is what elevates Bowden as a whole so far above the parts. That, and the incredible writing talent he displays at the sentence and paragraph levels.

And beyond writing ability, you have to give him credit as a reporter for going far, far deeper into the Mexican drug trade and living to write so well about it. Down by the River is one of the scariest books you could ever read.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Down by the border

If you came here hoping to read a long article about illegal immigration, I've got just the thing. Me? I tend to read the writer rather than the topic. Normally, I would rather poke additional holes in my head than read a 10 click piece about the Mexican exodus, but Charles Bowden is to my taste the best non-fiction writer working today and this article he wrote for Mother Jones is an excellent piece of journalism.

It is a somewhat uncommon piece of work for Bowden because it is more or less straight journalism. Unlike so much of his work, there is nothing wild or exhilarating in the prose, narrative or story. It is journalism, plain and simple. Well, plain perhaps, okay relatively plain, plain for Charles Bowden, but not so simple. In addition to his great skill as a writer, Bowden is one of those rare individuals who clearly sees the future. He sees it in much greater detail than other seers. He's been seeing it for years.

Nearly 15 percent of the Mexican workforce now resides in the United States. When the dust settles, this exodus will influence us more than the Iraq war. The war is who we are; the migrants are who we will be.

Bowden, like all good journalists, puts a human face onthe grand, impersonal forces of history:
A pair of Border Patrol trucks sit empty, the agents off on ATVs hunting Mexicans. Two kids sit nearby. The girl is 22; her brother, 16. They've been trying to flag down Border Patrol units that roar by, but no one will stop. They came up from Oaxaca City. They're Zapotec Indians, but because they haven't been raised in an Indian pueblo, they see themselves as city kids, as Mexicans. For 16 days, they've been on the road.

First they took the bus up to the border. Then they paid a coyote $800 to guide them across. The first time, they got caught and deported. This time, they got separated from their group and they say they have now wandered the desert for four days. I don't believe them about the four days––they look too clean––but clearly they are broken in spirit...

He weighs maybe 110 pounds, and she not more than 85. They are small–boned and their skin is dark and shines with life. Both move with the light tread of cats. An hour ago, I found a shawl out in the desert of a pattern and style made only in Yucatán. Everyone is moving.

I give the girl $40 and tell her to hide the money because Sásabe is not an easy place. They climb in and I take them to the border crossing and wish them good luck. The agents manning the U.S. station watch them climb out and walk into Mexico.

They ask me if the pair worked for me, and I say no, that they are two kids from Oaxaca sneaking into the United States, that they said they'd wandered in the desert for four days and were very thirsty and hungry.

They tell me what I have just done is illegal and could cost me a lot of money and put me in jail.

I say I know that fact.

They look at me with sad eyes and wave me on.

It's not easy for anyone in the future.

One of Bowden's strength's is his ability to gain the trust of so many different types of people on both sides of the border. Like Hunter S. Thompson, he is able to "wallow with the eagles and soar with the pigs." Not that all of the criminals in Bowden's stories are eagles. Many of them are pigs. Pigs, to you and me at least. Bowden tends to see them a bit more sympathetically. I'm sure that has something to do with why they talk with him.
We talk for hours. He laughs easily, but not for a single second does he ever express sympathy for the pollos. After they get off that bus and start north into the United States, they fall between two worlds, and people such as him wait in this space.

He is not a bad man. The Border Patrol agents are not bad people. The Minutemen, the polleros, the human rights folks putting water bottles out in the desert, well, I've met them all and they are not bad people.

As for you and me, the jury is still out.

I don't think Bowden really believes that the jury is still out. No, the verdict is in and we were found guilty and sentenced to the future. Can anything be done to stop the wave? Bowden discusses the possibilities throughout the article, but this little quote sums it up:
A few days earlier, I was staying at a ranch an hour south of Austin. A local white guy came out to spray the buildings for termites. He'd spent his life in nearby Gonzales, a town of 7,000 where the Texas revolt from Mexico began. He asked me what I was doing there.

I said, "I'm a friend of the owners. I'm down here writing about migrants."

He looked puzzled for a moment and then asked, "When you say migrants, do you mean wetbacks?"


"Well, what do you think we should do?"

"You might as well ask me what I think we should do about hurricanes."

And that future? Couldn't be more obvious:
We want an answer, a solution. But there is only this fact: We either find a way to make their world better or they will come to our better world. At the moment, we insist on the wrong answer to the wrong question. And so, the Border Patrol will grow.There will be a wall. Tougher laws will be passed by Congress. And the people will keep coming.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Jesus camp

Kinda putting an unintentional coda to the recent articles that touch on evolution, I watched Jesus Camp last night. Jesus Camp is about how elements of the Christian right go about indoctrinating children to be warriors for “Christ.” I put Christ in quotes because nothing they say has anything to do with the common conception of Christ. It’s uncomfortably funny how they make up everything as they go along. The construction “Jesus told me to” is so common you stop hearing it after awhile, which is unfortunate because the things “Jesus” tells them to do are often downright wacky and include taking over the military and the government so they can punish sinners such as ourselves. I wasn’t looking for the movie, it’s not like I want to think about these dangerous shits, I just came across it at the library and chose not to resist.

Of course it’s always been convenient for people on the make to imagine Jesus telling them to do whatever it is they want to do whether it’s killing people, taking their money or just taking out the trash, but it’s a little more enlightening to see that insane nonsense come out of the mouths of brainwashed children. You think with all you know about right wing religious kooks you’re prepared for it, but odds are good it’s worse than you think.

I don’t use the term “brainwashed” lightly. The methods these Christian nuts use are identical to those described by William Sargent in the classic Battle for the Mind: A Physiology of Conversion and Brainwashing. In short, Sargent details how new beliefs can be instilled in the mammalian brain when it buckles under extreme duress. He leans on Pavlov’s dogs and the wave of religions conversions instigated by the 18th century fire and brimstone preacher John Wesley to explain how people’s deepest beliefs can be changed in an instant and stay changed for the rest of their lives. Wesley used tales of eternal damnation to excite people to the point of collapse, at which point he would give them new things to believe in. You see the exact same thing happening in the movie. The children are scared with theatrical talk of the devil and a world gone terribly wrong. They start shaking, mumbling and rolling their eyes. They collapse on the floor. Then they’re told what they have to believe, what they have to do to be saved. It is genuinely sickening. If you ever see Becky Fischer talking to your kids, get them away from her as fast as you can. She is one truly dangerous individual. What she does to children is a horrible form of child abuse.

Beyond the enlightening content of the movie, I have a few qualms about the way it is presented. The filmmakers do an excellent job of giving the nuts all the rope they need to hang themselves and the nuts happily oblige. But not content to let their words and actions speak for themselves, they bring in an anti-right -wing-Christian-nuts radio host to lecture us about how bad the right wing Christian nuts are. Someone with no grasp of the facts could think he was no better than the brainwashers. His methods aren’t really that different.

That, and they use the audio and video to influence the audience perception of the Christians. Disturbing music often plays low in the background while the Christians are talking. Strange video sequences heighten the sense of dread beyond what the people are actually saying, which is bad enough. The content of this film is disturbing enough on its own. The cheap tricks took my mind off the content and undercut the message. On the positive side, I was very impressed with the cinematography. The camera people took a lot of chances and got some great images.

The Christians in the movie don’t spend a lot of time talking about evolution, but when they do you see how disgusted they are with the fact that we humans and apes are closely related. That’s what it really comes down to when all the other lame rationalizations are brushed aside. They just can’t bear to think of themselves as monkeys. As noted below, they were created in the image of God, they think, and it hurts them to accept that God looks more like King Kong than Charlton Heston. But that’s the logic, isn’t it? If their religion is true and evolution is true, then God is monkey.

Makes no difference to me either way. God or not, I realized I was just a monkey man a long time ago. And I trust you are a monkey, too.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

No country for good movies

Do you ever go to a movie you have good reason to believe you are going to hate? Not me, at least not normally. But I was pretty sure I would not like No Country for Old Men and I went anyway.

Why? It’s still hard for me to understand. I knew going in that it was a pointless, violent movie and I don't like pointless, violent movies. On top of that, I had read the book and hated it. I’m not exaggerating. I didn’t feel wishy-washy about it. I didn’t just “not like” the book. I genuinely hated it. If Cormac McCarthy is a serious novelist, then No Country for Old Men is one of the worst books ever by a serious novelist. Not that it is poorly written. McCarthy is an excellent wordsmith and the narrative is innovative and well structured. But it’s a monumentally stupid story in a Hollywood action movie kinda way.

It is one of those “super bad guy” stories. You know the kind I mean? Like The Terminator only less believable. In No Country for Old Men a very odd looking guy is on a killing spree in a remote part of west Texas. He walks around in public carrying a shotgun with a big honkin silencer, he kills cops, he kills random motorists, he kills Mexicans by the dozens, he walks into a Dallas skyscraper and guns down a big businessman, he blows up a car and robs a drug store in broad daylight, he gets in extended gun fights in small Texas towns--he couldn't be more fucking obvious--yet the police never come close to finding him, no one seems to call the cops during the gun fights, the cops don’t notice on their own that gunfights are happening on Main Street, they never put out an APB, no road blocks, the feds are not called in, strangers are not questioned, they don’t even take fingerprints. Only Tommy Lee Jones makes an effort. And all Jones does is whine. He doesn’t do anything that might actually help catch the killer.

Is there a point to any of this? In the book, it’s hard to find one. The movie, as bad movies tend to do, tries to tack some meaning on at the end, but it’s not particularly deep or insightful.

As I said, I knew all this going in yet I went to see it anyway. Why? I still haven’t figured it out. Normally if I know I’m going to see a film, I make it a point not to read the reviews. But in this case I’d read the book (and hated it) so I made an exception. Although the reviews were generally glowing, nothing in them made me think the movie would be significantly different than the book. Essentially they said it was a smart, very well-made and acted film that was true to the novel.

And yes, I agree with that. Just as the book is very well-written, the movie is very well-made. The screenplay, the direction, the cinematography, the acting--all first rate. Unlike the typical “super bad guy” movie, the filmmakers clearly respect the intelligence of the audience. There are numerous examples where we are left to figure things out for ourselves solely based on subtle visual clues.

But ultimately, all the great acting, direction, writing and cinematography in the world cannot rescue a plot that is essentially hollow. Maybe there's some kind of lofty joke that the story is as empty as the landscape, but that would be even more pathetic.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Middle ages in a handbasket

Coincidentally, after going off on Gregg Easterbrook last night, I watched a PBS show about the recent Intelligent Design trial in Dover, Pennsylvania. I was struck by how closely those Creationist wackos mirrored Easterbrook’s insecurity about his ancestry. They all get so het up over the indisputable fact that we are closely related to apes and chimpanzees.

That’s sadly understandable I guess. They are raised with a high-falutin sense of their own importance in the universe. They may not be Gods, but they are at least God-like, created in the His image no less. Now it turns out they’re just a bunch of monkey boys created from the image of Bonzo. The very idea makes them so angry that they bare their teeth and howl.

Beyond the monkey stuff, it’s interesting how they see science only as a means of justifying their superiority to everything else in the universe, not as a means of understanding their place in it. Not only were they created in God’s image, the earth is God’s creation, the center of the universe, obviously the only inhabited planet. In Easterbrook’s football column, he regularly reports any evidence he can find that suggests earth is the only planet among the 200 billion galaxies each with 200 billion stars and who knows how many gazillions of other planets. Nope, life can only happen here, just like the Bible implies.

But what’s really funny is the way link scientific progress to moral degeneracy. The literature is full of whining about the horrible social consequences of science.

The proposition that human beings are created in the image of God is one of the bedrock principles on which Western civilization was built. Its influence can be detected in most, if not all, of the West's greatest achievements, including representative democracy, human rights, free enterprise, and progress in the arts and sciences.

Yet a little over a century ago, this cardinal idea came under wholesale attack by intellectuals drawing on the discoveries of modern science. Debunking the traditional conceptions of both God and man, thinkers such as Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud portrayed humans not as moral and spiritual beings, but as animals or machines who inhabited a universe ruled by purely impersonal forces and whose behavior and very thoughts were dictated by the unbending forces of biology, chemistry, and environment. This materialistic conception of reality eventually infected virtually every area of our culture, from politics and economics to literature and art

The cultural consequences of this triumph of materialism were devastating. Materialists denied the existence of objective moral standards, claiming that environment dictates our behavior and beliefs. Such moral relativism was uncritically adopted by much of the social sciences, and it still undergirds much of modern economics, political science, psychology and sociology.

Materialists also undermined personal responsibility by asserting that human thoughts and behaviors are dictated by our biology and environment. The results can be seen in modern approaches to criminal justice, product liability, and welfare. In the materialist scheme of things, everyone is a victim and no one can be held accountable for his or her actions.

Finally, materialism spawned a virulent strain of utopianism. Thinking they could engineer the perfect society through the application of scientific knowledge, materialist reformers advocated coercive government programs that falsely promised to create heaven on earth.

Funny, isn't it? From a moral, even a prudish perspective, today has to look pretty good compared to the history of western civilization before science. Considering our history from the ancient Greeks’ man boy love to the Roman Bacchanal and the Christian sex cults all the way through the violence and oppression of the middle ages, what self-respecting right wing religious nut case would want to live in those times? Our modern world is as relatively chaste as it is just.

But there was a time before all that, when man not only looked like God but was as innocent as the newborn Jesus. Then that bitch ate the apple and people have been fucking ever since. Fucking like monkeys. To hell with science, with education, with the constitution, we gotta do something... anything to stop the fucking. Then all will be well.

It's hard to believe we've regressed to the point where these fucked up nutbags are taken seriously.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Monkey boy talk sports

Gregg Easterbrook interrupts his somewhat entertaining sports column (tmq at to comment on science. This is not at all unusual, it's actually part of his shtick along with ogling cheerleaders in their skimpy costumes. It's hard to tell which is creepier. The old nerdy guy obsessing about young pussy or the way he takes superficial science news and harnesses it to borderline right wing nutcase talking points. Witness today's nonsense about the percentage of genes we share with chimps. One percent? Six percent? 25 Percent? Who fucking cares? The Liberal media, obviously.

I point this out because the new study got zero play from the mainstream media because it tends to support the idea that genus Homo really is superior to the rest of the animal kingdom. Mustn't have that in the news! Any scientific finding suggesting there is little genetic difference between people and yeast would, by contrast, be heavily promoted by big news organizations.

First, what kind of wacko nut job looks obsesses about the "superiority" of the human genus? That's just your insecurity talking, monkey boy. Second, señor Easterbrook fails to understand one of the important cornerstones of journalism. Dog bites man is not a story. Chimps, not to mention yeast, sharing a good part of their DNA with humans is man bites dog. If our DNA were entirely different and much more complex, that would be dog bites man. Who the fuck would care? Hey, I know the answer to that. Right wing nut cases care. They care about superiority and are always looking (in vain) for evidence of their own. The thirties taught them nothing. Pathetic, they are.

Monday, November 12, 2007

More fall colors

Here's my little goof of a photo project I've been "working" on for the past couple weeks. Strange how grey is not generally considered a fall color.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


There was an interesting article about “race” and education by Will Okun in yesterday’s Times. Okun is an apparently nice young man who teaches in an inner city school in Chicago. His article discusses the question of whether it’s better for “black” students to have “black” teachers. Early on, he quotes Barak Obama:

In Charles Barkley’s book “Who’s Afraid of a Large Black Man”, Barack Obama recalls a few college professors asking
him, “Man, why are you pretending that you’re not smart?” Obama continues, “And coming from black professors, especially, that was important, because I couldn’t throw back at them, ‘Oh, you don’t understand.’”

Looking back at his own educational experience, Obama concludes, “That’s a big part of the reason it is so important to have black teachers, especially black male teachers. I’m not saying exclusively, but in many situations you need someone who can call you on your stuff and say… that it’s not ‘acting white’ to read a book.”

Half his class thought that yes, “black” kids benefit from “black” teachers and half thought, cue string music, that the color of a person’s skin didn’t matter a whit when it came to teaching effectiveness. Personally, that’s not an argument that I wish to engage in, but I did find it interesting that Obama was making it.

I am a member of a poor “African-American: family living in Brooklyn. Although that statement is factual, it is misleading. We are not ”African-American“ in the common sense of the phrase. None of our ancestors were ever slaves on southern plantations. We do not speak Ebonics. We have never been to a Baptist church. We are only poor in the middle class New Yorker sense of the word.

The point is that we have a lot of superficial things in common with Obama, so I take a little more interest in his career than I do the other politicians. And I was surprised to read that he would ever pretend that he was not smart. I know that mindset is a problem in what’s commonly referred to as the ”African-American“ community, but Obama was not raised in that crowd. His mother was a white woman from Kansas. His stepfather was Indonesian. He grew up attending an American school abroad and then a tony independent school in Hawaii. From there he soon went to Harvard where he was an academic superstar. He is ”African-American“ only in the sense that his father is from Africa and his mother from America. That’s not to say anything against ”African-Americans.“ It is a fact.

Same thing with my family superficially. The kids have spent time abroad and go to a very good college preparatory school, but as far as I know they have never experienced even a hint of racism and they certainly do not show any of the endemic effects suffered by many of those who do. They actively participate in class, ask probing questions, do well on tests and are fully, and effortlessly, integrated in the social life surrounding the school, as are the other ”black“ kids who go there. Did Obama really have it that bad? Was there really strong pressure to act "black" in Indonesia? In Hawaii's premier prep school? That would certainly suck.

Of course I am aware that my little family unite lives in a utopia-like bubble and cannot compare our experiences with those of people in most of the rest of the country. So I worry some about what will happen when the kids move on. I’ve read horror stories about racist segregation at elite liberal colleges. I remember one article (can’t find the link) that detailed how kids on college visits were segregated by ”race.“ ”Blacks“ were given one tour, Asians another, Hispanics still another. ”Whites,“ it seems, were not recognized as a group and no special activities were planned for them.

That is the kind of thing I fear and I suspect it is the kind of thing that warped Obama. Although I know the education establishment categorizes kids based on ”race,“ it is possible for them to get through high school without having to classify themselves. Apparently many universities force people to make that declaration. That is a travesty.

Imagine if you’d spent your whole life in a healthy, integrated environment in which nobody gave a shit about your melanin levels and then you go on a visit to Harvard and they put you in a particular group, fenced off from your regular social group because you are "black." Do you refuse to participate in the apartheid? Do you go off with the ”whites?“ Might there be social repercussions?

In the comments section of the Times article, a commenter gives some insight into what it’s like to be categorized solely based on your outward appearance:
Race is a complex subject. So is class. They are often, but not always, inextricably intertwined. However, as a Black and Latina teacher who grew up middle-class and went to Yale, it is frustrating when people assume that I have something in common with my students because I look like them. Mr. Okum asks what he knows of the challenges of his students’ lives. This is a legitimate question. But it’s also one that I have to ask myself. What do I know about abusive parents, or a limited future, or hunger? I’m the fourth generation in my family to receive a Master’s. Going to college was not an option; it was what you did.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

If wishes were fishes

A quick scan of Alternet's headlines provides a few laughs.

Will Democrats Restore Our Liberties Stolen in the Bush Era?
That's an easy one. No. Duh.

Dems Lead in Counterattack to Stop Iran Conflict
As if. They'll cave. You know they'll cave. They always cave.

Olbermann & Maddow: Why Are Democrats Afraid toImpeach Cheney?
Ummm, because they are a) pathetically weak or b) A paid foil for the Republicans, not a real political party. I go back and forth on that one.

America's Shocking Nuclear Hypocrisy
What could possibly be shocking about American (shining beacon of democracy and human rights) hypocrisy? Hard to imagine being shocked by anything these days (unless of course you get disappeared and carted off to a secret prison).

Can Green Jobs Save the American Middle Class?
No. We'll fight for the last drop of oil. More likely, only Sweden and Canada will be able to save the middle class.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Burning man video part II

Here's the continuation of Dan Webster/Gratis Production's Burning Man video. Enjoy.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Fall Colors

Every year I try to get out of the city and take a trip up the Hudson, usually to Bear Mountain, to see the fall foliage. This year I stayed on the train and ended up in Poughkeepsie. Strange town, that.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Burning Man Part 1

Here is the opening for Dan Webster/Gratis Production's Burning Man video. It should look considerably better than the last one, though it may load slower.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Washington generals blow big lead, again

The Times reports:

The confirmation of Michael B. Mukasey as attorney general appeared to be all but certain on Friday after two key Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee announced they would support the nomination despite complaints over Mr. Mukasey’s refusal to clarify his views on what amounts to torture.

The announcements by the senators, Dianne Feinstein of California and Charles E. Schumer...

"Democrats" abjectly surrendering to Republicans is easily predictable, but I'm curious about the process. Do they draw lots to see who will pull down their pants and lie down in the middle of the road or is there some other mechanism to determine which ones will throw the game on any given issue?

Is there any significance to the fact that New York and California "representatives" tanked on Bush's new torture guy? Do big states have to succumb on big issues?

Friday, November 02, 2007

World premier video, gratis

You may recall that chuckling on-line magazine commissioned some projects for this year's Burning Man festival in the Black Rock desert. This is a clip from the video, which was shot and produced by Dan Webster, an artist and videographer living somewhere circa de San Diego. In the coming weeks we will be premiering the rest of the video, likewise in small chunks. Fascinating stuff.

The video quality in this example, however, is not remotely as good as the original, due to fairly extreme compression necessary to show it on the web. Personally, I like the effect, but you certainly can't trust my aesthetic when it comes to photography. It does not do justice to the original.

If you missed the still photography, see it here. I had some complaints about the audio accompaniment and have made the player visible so you can turn it off.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Earth to media

The media gravely report that President Bush's nominee for Attorney General, Michael B. Mukasey, is in danger of not being confirmed by the Senate because of his refusal to acknowledge that waterboarding is, indeed, torture.

But here at chuckling on-line magazine we can see the future as though it were the fourth quarter of a Harlem Globetrotters show. Bush will stand firm. The Democrats will crumble. Torture guy will be Attorney General.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sports note

According to ESPN, the New York Yankees are prepared to offer Alex Rodriguez a contract that would pay him $230 million over the next 8 years.

That's two hundred and thirty million dollars to a guy for playing a ball game.

If the top income tax rate were 70 percent he would still get $69 million. If it were 91 percent, like during the Eisenhower administration, he would get nearly $21 million.

$69, even $21 million? With that kind of money, a person could do whatever he or she wanted on this earth. Is A-Rod really worth a quarter billion dollars? Compared to so many normal decent people who won't make .001 percent of that over eight years?

Or are there better things that society could do with that kind of wealth. Of course there are. Time to tax those fuckwads back to reality. Well, if not reality, at least sanity. And to reality for sure for their children and grandchildren. Let them work like everyone else. They get more from America, they should pay for what they get. A Meritocracy can be a good thing.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Stupid is...

It's well established that rank and file conservatives are functionally stupid. Witness this quote from an article about right wing evangelists in the NY Times Magazine:

But just as many people ruled out Obama because they suspected that he was not Christian at all but in fact a crypto-Muslim — a rumor that spread around the Internet earlier this year. “There is just that ill feeling, and part of it is his faith,” Welsh said. “Is his faith anti-Christian? Is he a Muslim? And what about the school where he was raised?”

“Obama sounds too much like Osama,” said Kayla Nickel of Westlink. “When he says his name, I am like, ‘I am not voting for a Muslim!’ ”

Or watch the stupid, if you dare, in this video via TBogg.

Yes, stupid they undeniably be, but our understanding of why they have become so stupid is incomplete.

We know all about the conservative leanings of the Washington Post and the New York Times. We are familiar with Fox News and their stable of demagogic blowhards. We have second or third hand knowledge of the big fat fool infested hate radio. We know that hate spewing right wing evangelists are out there spewing right wing evangelism. And those things explain a lot, but they do not explain all of it. There are plenty of people out there in the heartland who don't read the Times, who don't have cable, who don't listen to the radio, who don't go to right wing nutzo churches, yet they are just as functionally stupid, if not more so, than their more conventionally indoctrinated brethren.

As I've noted before, there is an anonymous organization working down deep in the conservative cesspool that crafts sophisticated screeds and distributes them through email networks throughout the heartland. You can see it referenced in the Times Magazine quote above - a rumor that spread around the Internet earlier this year. Yes rumors spread about the internet. This much is true. Where do they come from? No one knows, or at least no one says.

Actually, I think the more interesting question is "who do they come from?" The best of the right wing internet chain mail is very well-written, poisonously sophisticated rhetoric. I've seen a lot of them and believe that they all come from the same writer. It is strange, very strange if not unprecedented to find a conservative with both high level writing skills and rhetorical sophistication. Personally, I don't believe that the writer is actually a conservative. It's possible they are paying someone with incredibly low moral values to do it. Or there are darker possibilities. They could be blackmailing some poor creative sap to produce these emails, or they may have even kidnapped someone who they waterboard until they cough up an email. I don't know, and I don't want to speculate. It will, however, be interesting when the true story is finally told.

In the meantime, here is another one. Witness and learn:

I know it doesn't mean anything yet but....................

By the time you read through this YOU WILL UNDERSTAND 'TENJOOBERRYMUDS'...

In order to continue getting-by in America (our home land), we all need to
learn the NEW English language! Practice by reading the following
conversation until you are able to understand the term 'TENJOOBERRYMUDS'.

With a little patience, you'll be able to fit right in.
Now, here goes...

The following is a telephone exchange between maybe you as a hotel guest and
call room-service somewhere in the good old U S A today......

Room Service : 'Morrin.. Roon sirbees.'

Guest : 'Sorry, I thou ght I dialed room-service.'

Room Service: ' Rye. Roon sirbees...morrin! Joowish to oddor sunteen???'

Guest: 'Uh..... Yes, I'd like to order bacon and eggs.'

Room Service: 'Ow July den?'

Guest: '.....What??'

Room Service: 'Ow July den?!?... pryed, boyud, poochd?'

Guest: 'Oh, the eggs! How do I like them? Sorry. scrambled, please .'

Room Service: 'Ow July dee baykem? Crease?'

Guest: 'Crisp will be fine.'

Room Service: 'Hokay. An Sahn toes?'

Guest: 'What?'

Room Service: 'An toes. July Sahn toes?'

Guest: 'I... don't think so.'

RoomService: 'No? Judo wan sahn toes???'

Guest: 'I feel really bad about this, but I don't know what 'judo wan sahn
toes' means.'

RoomService: 'Toes! Toes!...Why Joo don Juan toes? Ow bow Anglish moppin we

Guest: 'Oh, English muffin!!! I've got it! You were saying 'toast'...
Fine...Yes, an English muffin will be fine.'
Room Service: 'We bodder?'

Guest: 'No, just put the bodder on the side.'

RoomService: 'Wad?!?'

Guest: 'I mean butter... just put the butter on the side.'

RoomService: 'Copy?'

Guest: 'Excuse me?'

RoomService: 'Copy...tea..meel?'

Guest: 'Yes. Coffee, please... and that's ev erything'

RoomService: 'One Minnie. Scramah eg g, crease baykem, Anglish moppin, we
bodder on sigh and copy ... rye??'

Guest: 'Whatever you say.'

RoomService: 'Tenjooberrymuds.'

Guest: 'You're welcome'

Remember I said 'By the time you read through this YOU WILL UNDERSTAND
'TENJOOBERRYMUDS' '.....and you do, don't you!

Now go out and hate some foreigners!

On a side note, people are starting to catch on. But what needs to happen is for someone to use these right wing hate networks to spread truth. The people creating this shit are immoral twats, but the people spreading it are not. They can be co-opted.

Update: Via comments on this article at Making Light, here is a blog that collects those emails.