Tuesday, July 31, 2007

“Oh, for Heaven’s sake, why can’t you trust me? I’ll take care of her…” It was nice knowing you, Wall Street Journal. (Courtesy Mark Lennihan/Associated Press)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Above: the same general subject contiuned, namely my avatar at the old Avatavern.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Apu: is he a racist caricature or not? You decide. And then see the movie. Literally, been waiting for it my entire life.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Mr. Fantastic! Why? How could you?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

In Los Angeles until the 23rd. Hold down the fort.

Monday, July 16, 2007

“At the present moment, this Government has but three non-military tools with which to work in the Near East to place sufficient American impress on the region to win and hold it for the Western World. Those tools are: (a) Note-writing by the Department of State; (b) Propaganda regarding the high principles to which we claim to adhere; (c) Government loans made on a commercial basis and repayable in dollars. These tools are hopelessly inadequate. It is clear that unless the situation is handled firmly and adequately, a situation might well develop in the Near East which would result in another World War.”

— Gordon Merriam, Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs (State Department), August 1945, in Foreign Relations of the United States: Diplomatic Papers, 1945, Near East and Africa, p. 46 (my emphasis)
Thomas Jefferson, a figure inexplicably considered to be mighty in our history albeit his futile objections to the then-existing order, seemed to have been stricken with the disease of idealism. Indeed, how terribly naïve and foolish were his words concerning the American Revolution, whose declaration of independence we celebrated two weeks ago. Jefferson, in a letter dated November 13, 1787, to William S. Smith, wrote: “The people cannot be all, & always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty… what country can preserve it’s [sic] liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance?” Clearly a dangerous radical who needs to be bought out somehow before the rot he champions spreads until it is far too late.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

You learn something new everyday, it seems: the idea of youthful idealism, a natural yet ultimately futile process, refers to the sensible yet naïve critiques of how society appears to operate in transparently unfair and possibly amendable ways, best to be discarded as soon as possible once you learn to give up your alleged integrity and imagined autonomy as a free agent with free thoughts in service, without question, to the hands that will feed you into a lulling, fulfilling submission. It’s worthy of a lot of empathy, and leaves no room for the haughty contempt of know-betters and their lectures. You learn something new everyday.
Blogs have been around for ten years, apparently, according to this weekend’s Wall Street Journal, which has deemed “by widespread consensus, 1997 … a reasonable point at which to mark the emergence of the blog as a distinct life-form” (sec. P, p. 1). If my memory can be trusted (a dubious proposition), the hottest thing on the Web that year was the NASA Pathfinder mission, which had racked up a then-unprecedented number of hits. So these web logs, as they were initially known, didn’t gain much general appreciation until, say, 2002; that might be a more reasonable starting-point. This blogger didn’t get interviewed by the Journal, for very good reason, even though the Center has been here since 2003, when the medium was still quite young and the good people at Blogger were still operating a tiny, independent “push-button publish[er] for the people” that had yet to be acquired by Google.

In a similar vein, a recent item that has fancied my interest is this excellent compilation of “indecent” and “obscene” recordings from 1890-era wax cylinders created by the great Vaudeville-era performers of the day, only to be harassed and (in some cases) imprisoned under the rather theocratic police powers of Anthony Comstock and his — Saudi-like — New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, to be referred later as the infamous “Comstock laws.” In a way, it’s like the very early, and obviously different, sort of blogging; the Internet, infinitely more tied up and connected than the fairs, amusements and parlors of those days, had only been a commercial entity for two years preceding the apparent advent of the Blog, whose first author — quoting the Journal — is “regarded by many to be Jorn Barger” and his Robot Wisdom site. [Barger’s subtitles, in a very tiny print that run at the bottom of the top banner, have a curiousity of their own; according to the Internet Archive crawl, they’ve included colorful things like “stop economic satanism” and “smash with truth the lying machine,” along with “we are all palestinians now” and, as of right now, “judaism is racism is incompatible with democracy” — must he be the father of our craft?]

A very similar vein, it turns out; it is indeed quite profane to believe, no less broadcast, that an entire religion — particularly one that has suffered a terrible and obvious history of persecution at the hands of malevolent racists — is, irony of all ironies, racist(!) or is somehow “incompatible” with democratic governance, like some alien force. Fortunately, Actionable Offenses, that collection of cylindrical “smut,” is actually funny. And you’d never get my seal of approval for a band of witch-hunters seeking the suppression of blogland vice.

Friday, July 13, 2007

The big news of this past day was the frighteningly lax licensing rules at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), under which two fake companies were able to (almost) acquire enough radioactive material for a so-called dirty bomb — technically known as a “radiological dispersion device” or RDD. But is that true? Looking at the report itself, from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), what is actually discovered is that the investigators “could have acquired [enough radioactive material] … to reach the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) definition of category 3.” (p. 3)

This is right in the middle of the IAEA scale of nuclear apocalypse*: “Category 3 sources include byproduct material, which is radioactive material generated by a nuclear reactor, and can be found in equipment that has medical, academic, and industrial applications,” to quote the GAO report. What about the dirty bomb idea? Here’s where the news media fearmongering comes in; both the Washington Post and New York Times led their stories with the mention that their NRC license “enabled them to buy enough radioactive material from U.S. suppliers to build a ‘dirty bomb,’” or “would have allowed them to buy the radioactive materials needed for a so-called dirty bomb” (respectively). The Times is actually slightly more accurate; it indeed would have, as nothing was enabled. Also appreciated is the use of “so-called” for the ridiculous descriptor of death — at least not as bureaucratically cumbersome as “radiological dispersion device,” which emotes no (reasonable) fear at all.

But it’s semantics to say more accurate in that sense, since both reports displayed an unnecessary bit of fright to their readers and, as well, the national agenda. The work of the NRC and the Energy Department is cited — from 2003 — which “identified several radioactive materials … as materials at higher risk of being used in an RDD, describing these as ‘materials of greatest concern,’” in the GAO report (p. 4). The specter of dirty bombs is mentioned in the “background” section, but there is no clear connection. What the papers accounted from this amounts, seemingly, to the fabrication of the very “fear and panic” (p. 3fn) such crude weapons would create.

*For ironic effect only.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Have been following the events surrounding the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) siege, before the massive government-military crackdown began, as it happens, when it was just a fringe, violent ascetic cult. The whole impression of it does remind one of Waco and the Branch Davidians, and some comments about that comparison would be here had not a Google search shown something on the order of 650 hits making that very parallel. Ah, well.

The happenings at Lal Masjid caught my attention some months ago with news of a women-led demonstration outside of the mosque, whose leadership is especially misogynistic, for Islamabad. (Odd, then, how the lead cleric made his escape shrouded in a hijab.) Hopefully it is not considered insane to wonder if, globally, Islamist jihadi fundamentalism is on the wane. Personalities like Fareed Zakaria can expound at length that this may be case; at least he did a couple of years ago. The threat from al Qaeda is reported to be up so, well, seal the border. The one the hijackers traversed, i.e. the northern one. Why not wall off the Canucks?

Saturday, July 07, 2007

The documentary “Muslims Against Jihad” inspired me to pen my own anti-jihadist thoughts (as an infidel, admittedly) that do not fall into the trap that the cause celebre surrounding it seems to require, i.e. the irrational corralling of Islamic people — everywhere on all fronts — into an interesting, though infuriatingly simple-minded, dichotomy of “moderate” and “radical.” It is clear that we, as free people of the West, can look into the eyes of the puritanical, absolutist and fanatic strains within the political manifestations of Islamism and call it for what it is, while not succumbing to the wicked notion that all are suspect, prone to the same brush, within our gun-sights at the wrong moment’s notice. To borrow the words of David Grossman, an Israeli novelist, we must not condemn ourselves “to this absolute, fallacious and suffocating dichotomy — this inhumane choice to ‘be victim or aggressor,’ without having any third, more humane alternative.”

It is also clear, certainly this far along in the global terrorist war, that a truly fascist or at very least fascistic Islamic tawheed, that is world-view, threatens by its existential nature, throwing its weight around with a literalist rejection of any deviations of interpretations of its scripture and history. It constructs an ideology of clashing worlds in which the “laws of war” ought be thrown out at the command of uncompromising patriarchal figures claiming immutable holiness. Jihad is “struggle,” with murky origins. Most troublesome is its obvious co-option by these mindless extremists whose worldly presence we continually see. A corpus of commentary that has carefully delineated what is and what is not fair game in warfare suffers the habitual abuse of commandants who brutishly seek the total surrender of common humanity and good reason to their delusional righteousness. The hope of mankind is great.
The seventh day of the seventh month of the seventh year of this new century greets us all tomorrow, that three number string of lucky 7s to designate a once-in-a-lifetime date. Unless any of you plan on living until 2107. (Probably not.)

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Happy Independence Day. Meanwhile:

The New York Times caption reads, “Iraqi boys staged a mock execution yesterday in Baghdad, with a 4-year-old, center, playing the role of the condemned. Children in Iraq have been heavily influenced by the violence in the country.…”(Courtesy Hadi Mizban/AP)

Not to spoil the fun, though; again, happy Fourth. You couldn’t take away the irrepressible grin of the hadji at the left. Let’s hear it, Jesse!