Saturday, February 28, 2009

Does he mean it, or is this simply bluster and bombast to keep progressives placated? They are, admittedly, strong words: threat to the status quo, their descriptive of populist crusader, etc. Not sure how credible it is but it is a good start at least rhetorically. But it will not be enough until sufficient, organized popular pressure builds to match his words with deeds that will have an impact.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The federal government budget for next year is projected to be equivalent to over a quarter of U.S. gross domestic product (about $3,600 billion). It is worth keeping in mind that, according to Joseph Stiglitz, the ultimate cost of the Iraq war is projected to be around $3,000 billion.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Speaking of racism, recently (while in Columbus, Ohio) I’ve found some confirmation that a part of Hunter S. Thompson’s childhood involved little race wars. That’s right. Now, Thompson is a beloved gadfly to me which makes this all the more distressing and puzzling. I first chanced upon this unsavory aspect of his early life in the recent book Gonzo (compiled by Jann Wenner and Corey Seymour), a couple of years ago; my denial had persisted ever since.

“Hunter would go over to another friend’s house, and behind the street where this friend lived was Bear Grass Creek and a culvert. A lot of African Americans lived on the other side of the creek. Hunter and his group would shoot these guys with BB guns and hurl racial insults, and the black guys would finally have enough and swarm down into the culvert and up the wall, and Hunter and the others would retreat into their friend’s house and hide. They’d start these little mini-race wars.” (Neville Blakemore, quoted on p. 5)

In Columbus (to be specific, the Easton Town Center), I picked up a cheap copy of E. Jean Carroll’s book Hunter: The Strange and Savage Life of Hunter S. Thompson. It appears biographical but it is quite apparent that Thompson himself may have been the author, although it quotes his friends and acquaintances — which were legion.

Blakemore is quoted here, too, and the friend in question is named Walter Kaegi. Blakemore is quoted as saying: “the thing I remember about going over to Walter Kaegi’s when we were about ten or eleven is that Hunter used to say, ‘Let’s go over to Kaegi’s and fight the niggers’” (p. 18). He added: “for some reason there were black guys on the other side of the culvert. I don’t know if they lived there or not. But there would be taunts and bricks and stuff thrown. And then somebody would charge” (p. 19).

Gerald Tyrrell gives this account more corroboration (quoted in the same page): “Beargrass Creek was a concrete culvert going through Louisville. And black dudes would be walking down there and we would ambush them. We’d have BB guns with us. When they’d come down the creek, we’d shoot at them. And well, of course, the result was absolutely predictable. They’d come boiling up out of the creek, and they’re much bigger than us. They’re black guys, and, of course, we’d run like mad, screaming and hollering, into Walter Kaegi’s house and lock the door. And we’d hide in there.

“And that became part of the Hunter mythology. ‘Let’s go shoot ’em in the creek!’”

Here’s one fan of Thompson that hopes it’s just a myth.
Tourists are just not safe in anyplace where the fundamentalist and fanatical Islamists prey on Muslim societies that have a high Western presence. Very sad.

This has gone way too far. I do not see the racism in the cartoon — poorly done, anyways — nor, much less, incitement to violence. Maybe I simply have a very narrow definition of what constitutes racist, per se, or maybe a (dumb) cartoon is just a dumb cartoon. And nothing more than that. How can the NAACP not have bigger targets? Seriously.

(Above: a cartoon that appeared in 2007 that was actually racist, against which there was hardly any protest at all.)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Change we can believe in: more war, less development. In all seriousness, Beitullah Mehsud is a worthy target, but it is time to retire the illusion that Obama is a peacenik. He is simply fulfilling a major campaign promise.

Meanwhile, Bagram AFB remains a black hole.
In lieu of seeing the film (have not yet done so and may not be able until it comes out on DVD), I just received the graphic novel version of Waltz with Bashir today. The first thing to notice is that as a work of art people of any political persuasion should be impressed. More later.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Big Brother for Kids:

“I applaud Playmobil for attempting to provide us with the tools we need to teach our children to unquestioningly obey the commands of the State Security Apparatus,” wrote one Amazon reviewer pseudonymously. “But unfortunately, this product falls short of doing that. There’s no brown figure for little Josh to profile, taser, and detain?”

The commenter, who goes by the name Gen. JC Christian, adds (what is not quoted): “Where are all the frightened plastic Heartlanders pointing at the brown figure as they whisper "terrorist?" Where are the hippy couple figures being denied boarding passes? And shouldn't someone be forcing a mother figure to drink her own breast milk?”
In an anti-democratic move today, 54 percent of Venezuelans freely voted to give Chavez the power to run for office indefinitely, striking down term limits. If my ironic voice is too subtle, my apologies. It is transparently absurd to describe this as anything but democratic; the will of the people, that is a clear majority in this case, made a decision on executive power in a popular referendum. I welcome the opposition, another cornerstone of a healthy democracy. But it is ridiculous to continue the charade that the caudillo of Venezuela, though autocratic, is a dictator. One need not be a Chavista to make this point.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

So who won, exactly?

Image courtesy Ha’aretz.
Bibi and Livni are in a dead heat. Exit polls have come in:

“The Channel 1 poll gave Kadima 30 seats, Likud 28 seats, and Labor 13 seats. Yisrael Beiteinu is predicted to win 14 seats...”

Does an Israeli left remain?
History repeats.
So the British hate the Jewish state, eh? Balloting began about two hours ago. Bibi is expected to win, with proto-fascist Lieberman at third place. I choose my words carefully; he is by any definition such a political figure. He has made explicit, avowed rhetoric to make a swap between Arab-dominated areas of Israel for (illegal) Jewish settlements in the West Bank. In other words, kick out the Arabs — or at the very least make them sign a Stalinist loyalty oath — and annex more Palestinian land, further pushing any prospect for peace to the farthest reaches of oblivion. Not that with Netanyahu it will be much better, viewing this whole thing as a non-Israeli I hasten to add, but perhaps more sane.

In completely unrelated news, Walter Isaacson of Time wants to have newspapers charge readers a small fee to read articles online. On one hand, my inclination is to oppose such a move because I feel that information should be free and open to the public; yet, on the other hand, whatever it takes to ensure the survival of the industry may take precedence. At least for the short term — and if I am to have a chance in print media, it may be what is needed.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

US soldiers stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan are committing suicide in record numbers and the military doesn’t know why?

Could it be due to the possibility that they have no discernible mission and are posted in dangerous war-zones indefinitely? Just asking.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

“Is peace out of reach?” Yes, according to this courageous report.
The wealthy no longer get to set socially acceptable norms of moral behavior for the rest of us? Sweet.