Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Promised to the Night

Click on the image to exchange your soul
for momentary aesthetic gratification.


In preparation for the upcoming festivities and following up on a suggestion by Comandante Agi here's some music to burn souls by.
  1. Eternity's end -- Ron English w/ Tomorrow People
  2. Is she weird -- The Pixies
  3. Gingerbread coffin -- Rasputina
  4. Sheena's in a goth gang -- The Cramps
  5. The mariner's revenge song -- The Decemberists
  6. Love will tear us apart -- Albert Kuvezin & Yat-Kha
  7. You spin me round -- Marilyn Manson
  8. Brimstone rock -- 16 Horsepower
  9. Night of the vampire --Roky Erickson
  10. Venus in furs -- Velvet Underground
  11. Crack of doom -- The Tiger Lillies
  12. The end of the world -- The Avengers
  13. Doomsday averted -- Rasputina
  14. Nice day for a ressurection -- Nekromantix
  15. Tomorrow's child -- Ron English w/Daniel Johnston

Gothic Feng Shui

A panel from this week's Slowpoke on "Aesthetic Movements to Come."
Hey, that's me!

On degeneration

The New Yorker has a thoughtful in-depth profile/interview of famed Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci. Known for her biting interview style, she notably wrote an important eyewitness account of "the events of October, 1968, in Mexico City, when soldiers shot and bayonetted hundreds of anti-government protesters."

Today, she is a self -styled "Christian atheist" consumed with blinding rage against Islam, and plagued by an assortment of other bigotries.
The magnificently rebellious Oriana Fallaci now cultivates, it seems, the prejudices of the petite bourgeoisie. She is opposed to abortion, unless she “were raped and made pregnant by a bin Laden or a Zarqawi.” She is fiercely opposed to gay marriage (“In the same way that the Muslims would like us all to become Muslims, they would like us all to become homosexuals”), and suspicious of immigration in general. The demonstrations by immigrants in the United States these past few months “disgust” her, especially when protesters displayed the Mexican flag. “I don’t love the Mexicans,” Fallaci said, invoking her nasty treatment at the hands of Mexican police in 1968. “If you hold a gun and say, ‘Choose who is worse between the Muslims and the Mexicans,’ I have a moment of hesitation. Then I choose the Muslims, because they have broken my balls.”
An tragically common form of dementia in recent years.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Onward christian vidiots


In line with the growing trend* of virtualizing preexisting hostilities and fantasies of domination to stoke hatred and make violence more of a reflex, we now have Left Behind: Eternal Forces.
Imagine: you are a foot soldier in a paramilitary group whose purpose is to remake America as a Christian theocracy, and establish its worldly vision of the dominion of Christ over all aspects of life. You are issued high-tech military weaponry, and instructed to engage the infidel on the streets of New York City. You are on a mission - both a religious mission and a military mission -- to convert or kill Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, gays, and anyone who advocates the separation of church and state - especially moderate, mainstream Christians. Your mission is "to conduct physical and spiritual warfare"; all who resist must be taken out with extreme prejudice. You have never felt so powerful, so driven by a purpose: you are 13 years old. You are playing a real-time strategy video game whose creators are linked to the empire of mega-church pastor Rick Warren, best selling author of The Purpose Driven Life.
The game does at least have one nice feature. "You can be the Christians blowing away the infidels, and if that doesn't hit your hot button, you can be the Antichrist blowing away all the Christians." And then there is this nice bit of racist patriotsploitation.
As part of its marketing pitch, Left Behind Games hypes the realism with which it portrays the neighborhoods of New York City. There is, for the most part, a remarkable verisimilitude except for one detail - all of the ambulances have 911 painted on their roofs. In the reality-based world, most ambulances have a red cross on top. Yet the game designers make prominent use of these 911 ambulances to evoke the tragic events of September 11, 2001. The historical context of 911 is invoked as if to say, We are living in the End Times, and Muslims are among the kinds of infidels whom you should fear, whom you should be prepared to kill for your cause.
Some background: The Battle Cry of GI Jesus.

--------
* Another notable recent entry is Mercenaries 2: World in Flames which is "based around the overthrow of an imaginary Venezuelan 'tyrant'."

Links via Cursor.

All washed up

The Independent has an extended extract from Chomsky's new book Failed States. The section on recent developments in Latin America is of particular interest.

Meanwhile, Cuba-Venezuela relations are becoming very close, each relying on its comparative advantage. Venezuela is providing low-cost oil while in return Cuba organises literacy and health programs, sending thousands of highly skilled professionals, teachers, and doctors, who work in the poorest and most neglected areas, as they do elsewhere in the Third World. Cuba-Venezuela projects are extending to the Caribbean countries, where Cuban doctors are providing healthcare to thousands of people with Venezuelan funding. Operation Miracle, as it is called, is described by Jamaica's ambassador to Cuba as "an example of integration and south-south cooperation", and is generating great enthusiasm among the poor majority. Cuban medical assistance is also being welcomed elsewhere. One of the most horrendous tragedies of recent years was the October 2005 earthquake in Pakistan. In addition to the huge toll, unknown numbers of survivors have to face brutal winter weather with little shelter, food, or medical assistance. One has to turn to the South Asian press to read that "Cuba has provided the largest contingent of doctors and paramedics to Pakistan", paying all the costs (perhaps with Venezuelan funding), and that President Musharraf expressed his "deep gratitude" for the "spirit and compassion" of the Cuban medical teams.

Some analysts have suggested that Cuba and Venezuela might even unite, a step towards further integration of Latin America in a bloc that is more independent from the United States. Venezuela has joined Mercosur, the South American customs union, a move described by Argentine president Nestor Kirchner as "a milestone" in the development of this trading bloc, and welcomed as opening "a new chapter in our integration" by Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Independent experts say that "adding Venezuela to the bloc furthers its geopolitical vision of eventually spreading Mercosur to the rest of the region".

At a meeting to mark Venezuela's entry into Mercosur, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez said, "We cannot allow this to be purely an economic project, one for the elites and for the transnational companies," a not very oblique reference to the US-sponsored "Free Trade Agreement for the Americas", which has aroused strong public opposition. Venezuela also supplied Argentina with fuel oil to help stave off an energy crisis, and bought almost a third of Argentine debt issued in 2005, one element of a region-wide effort to free the countries from the control of the US-dominated IMF after two decades of disastrous effects of conformity to its rules. The IMF has "acted towards our country as a promoter and a vehicle of policies that caused poverty and pain among the Argentine people", President Kirchner said in announcing his decision to pay almost $1 trillion to rid itself of the IMF forever. Radically violating IMF rules, Argentina enjoyed a substantial recovery from the disaster left by IMF policies.

Steps toward independent regional integration advanced further with the election of Evo Morales in Bolivia in December 2005, the first president from the indigenous majority. Morales moved quickly to reach energy accords with Venezuela.

Though Central America was largely disciplined by Reaganite violence and terror, the rest of the hemisphere is falling out of control, particularly from Venezuela to Argentina, which was the poster child of the IMF and the Treasury Department until its economy collapsed under the policies they imposed. Much of the region has left-centre governments. The indigenous populations have become much more active and influential, particularly in Bolivia and Ecuador, both major energy producers, where they either want oil and gas to be domestically controlled or, in some cases, oppose production altogether. Many indigenous people apparently do not see any reason why their lives, societies, and cultures should be disrupted or destroyed so that New Yorkers can sit in SUVs in traffic gridlock. Some are even calling for an "Indian nation" in South America. Meanwhile the economic integration that is under way is reversing patterns that trace back to the Spanish conquests, with Latin American elites and economies linked to the imperial powers but not to one another. Along with growing south-south interaction on a broader scale, these developments are strongly influenced by popular organisations that are coming together in the unprecedented international global justice movements, ludicrously called "anti-globalisation" because they favour globalisation that privileges the interests of people, not investors and financial institutions. For many reasons, the system of US global dominance is fragile, even apart from the damage inflicted by Bush planners.

There is quite a bit more, well worth a read.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Don't pray for me


I got accosted by some Jehovah's Witnesses last week who made the mistake of knocking on my door early Saturday morning. Let's just say that I put my best face on and gave them something to talk about in church the following week.

Scout Prime over at First Draft has a good post Momma, Don't let the Baptists pray over my dead body about another vile outfit called Victim Relief Ministries, which like a lot of Christian groups feeds off of the suffering of others, attempting to co-opt the meaning of other people's lives even after they are dead. And they have not the slightest clue as to how this might be offensive.

Speaking of particularly inappropriate prayers, the Pope, formerly of the Hitler youth, just finished offering prayers at Auschwitz. News reports are vague on the content of the prayers. Was he, like the Carmelite Nuns, praying for the souls of the murdered Jews? For their salvation in a Catholic heaven?

In his pontification at the former death camp--I kid you not--he claims that Auschwitz is the place where Hitler tried to kill god. An odd interpretation that demeans the actual victims by attempting to colonize the meaning of their deaths for a theological cause the vast majority did not share at all.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Recycling an implausible narrative of persecution

The New York Times profiles a group called the Seekers which are infiltrating NY high schools. The group promotes a "Jesus day" at the schools, the main purpose of which is evangelism.

The rather long article quotes many of these Jesus promoters about their feelings of persecution, about how in the past pushing their religion on others received no official sanction and how some people laughed at them and treated them with contempt. No actual critics of the group or the change in policy allowing them to evangelize on campus are ever quoted or even named, as apparently is required by the Times new style sheet.

It would of course be too impolite to note that the overall narrative of overcoming discrimination just isn't very plausible in a nation that is overwhelmingly Christian and hyperreligious. Christians love to wrap themselves in the lie that they are a persecuted minority and to paint the attempt to convert others not as a form of psychological assault, but as a right of free speech. Whenever someone pushes back, they squeal persecution. But does the newspaper of record really have to uncritically regurgitate this pathologically self-centered tale of woe?

And to top it off, here is how the Times treats rising Christian hostility to science:
"There are a lot of people who respect that you're religious and you're involved in Seekers," Miss Chan said. "And there are also a lot of those who just kind of see you as someone who's a religious fanatic, that we don't care about science, that we're ignorant."
And that's it. Without evidence, we are expected to draw the conclusion that these people who feel compelled to witness to their fellow student and try to colonize their personalities are not fanatics. Without evidence, we are expected to believe that Christians do in fact care about science, never mind all the evidence to the contrary we see around us every day.

Heck of a job.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Fairy Tales

Juan Cole and a number of other intrepid bloggers caught a particularly blatant piece of war propaganda this weekend about a supposed new Iranian law "forcing Jews and Christians to wear colored badges." Turns out the source was a bit suspicious, as was the paper that published it.

And now the Telegraph runs this utterly implausible story, unsourced of course, that seems scripted straight out of neocon fantasy.

US sets up £215m deal for Afghan arms - from Russia
By Thomas Harding, Defence Correspondent
(Filed: 22/05/2006)

American defence officials have secretly requested a "prodigious quantity" of ammunition from Russia to supply the Afghan army in case a Democrat president takes over in Washington and pulls out US troops.

The Daily Telegraph can disclose that Pentagon chiefs have asked arms suppliers for a quote on a vast amount of ordnance, including more than 78 million rounds of AK47 ammunition, 100,000 rocket-propelled grenades and 12,000 tank shells - equivalent to about 15 times the British Army's annual requirements.

The Bush administration is said to want the deal because of worries that the next president could be a Democrat, possibly Hillary Clinton, who may abandon Afghanistan...

Just a couple of problems with the story. Hillary Clinton has been positioning herself as even more of a bloodthirsty warmonger than Bush, in order to suck up to the values voters in the heartland. Any evidence at all for this claim? And then there is the problem that it is beyond plausibility that Bush actually cares about Afghanistan, other than as an oil pipeline. He has shown not the slightest interest in anything that happens after he leaves office, let alone the long term future.

I think I smell a plant.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

The incorruptable baby jesus

"Even baby Jesus accepted gifts and I don't believe it corrupted him." -- Rep. Drew Saunders, D-Mecklenburg, in support of an amendment to the legislative ethics bill that lowers the monetary threshold on gifts lawmakers may receive from neighbors and state employees.
The Charlotte Observer 5/17/06

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Lo! --for a sign has appeared...

A recent inspiration of Ron English
click on picture to enlarge

"...holy terror
2000 years in the tomb
9 months in the womb
I'm back...."

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Like bringing radiation to Chernobyl

The Guardian reports that Bono gave George Bush an ipod and a bible...

WTF is the matter with Bono. Dropped on his head? Fell down a well? I had always known he was a total wanker, but really...

Great Satan Park


'Great Satan Park' planned

Tehran - The former US embassy in Tehran could soon see a new chapter in its troubled history, with a top Iranian commander calling for the downtown compound to be turned into a "Great Satan Park".

"We would be able to nicely show off the American crimes to citizens strolling in the park," General Mir-Faisal Bagherzadeh told the official news agency IRNA.

"The former American Den of Spies should become the park of Great Satan," said the general, who heads the Sacred Defence Foundation - an influential propaganda body set up to commemorate the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.

Following Iran's Islamic revolution in 1979 that toppled the US-backed shah, the former US embassy was seized by Islamist students and 52 of its staff were taken hostages for 444 days.

The prime city centre property is now used for military training by Iran's powerful ideological army, the Revolutionary Guards, while the main building also serves as a museum to display the "documents of American espionage and crimes against the Islamic Republic of Iran".

The spin machine goes off cycle

I. Happy Gitmo: Pentagon launches Guantanamo PR campaign

Good Morning Gitmo!

The Pentagon has launched a public relations campaign to offset the negative publicity about its terrorist detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Officials from the Joint Chiefs of Staff Detainee Affairs Section have worked up a new briefing and made presentations in recent months to some 3,000 people, including media representatives and members of Congress, stressing the strategic value of detainees at the prison camp. The briefings present a benign picture of life at Gitmo, noting the presence of decent food, healthcare, and literacy training for the inmates. Notwithstanding allegations of psychological and physical torture, officials say the biggest threats faced by many detainees are in fact frequent sports injuries on Gitmo basketball courts.

The briefing notes that many of the remaining 480 detainees continue to provide useful intelligence, including help in identifying current al Qaeda operatives and supporters and in revealing favored bomb-making techniques that use pagers, cellphones, and watches. One prisoner described a complex encoded "dual tone multifrequency" detonation system used first in the Chechen conflict and now by insurgents in Iraq. The information, officials say, has given U.S. forces a chance to combat the technique.




III. The GOP iPod


tristero at Hullabaloo has the pre-loaded song list.

And from Editor & Publisher 'Acid' Queen? Condoleezza Rice Picks Her Ten Top Musical Favorites -- for Bono's Newspaper

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Homersapiens meet Mt. St. Helens


On tonight's episode of the Simpsons:
Lisa is arrested for defying the new law in Springfield against teaching evolution after Reverend Lovejoy is appointed by Mayor Quimby (at Ned Flanders' request) to be the town's new "morality czar" in charge of promoting creationism; can a comment made in the show's first season come back to save her? Guest stars Larry Hagman and Melanie Griffith. --via Panda's Thumb


As it happens, I went up to Mt. St. Helens yesterday, and on the way passed this creation museum shack touting an unusual interpretation of the meaning of volcanic activity. I rather prefer the interpretation of volcano as a god.

click on image to enlarge

Tough to propitiate, but I have a few ideas.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Iraq War Dividend

Iraq: the common factor in two tales of unpopularity

There is a single issue that unites George Bush and Tony Blair. It is Iraq. The two leaders speak with the same voice. They have an identical policy and exit strategy. Both repeat the mantra that US and British troops will stay in Iraq to see the job through and will be pulled out only when security conditions are right so the Iraqi army and police can take over. That strategy was dealt a new blow yesterday when the Iraqi President, Jalal Talabani, acknowledged that the 1,091 people killed in Baghdad in the course of last month represented the tip of the iceberg. "We feel shock, dismay and anger over the daily reports of the discovery of unidentified corpses and those of others killed" around the capital, Mr Talabani said. "If we add that to the number of corpses not discovered, or to similar crimes in other provinces, then the total number ... reflects that we are confronting a situation no less dangerous than the results of terrorist acts."
But before we break out the champagne, there's this:
Concern is building among the military and the intelligence community that the US may be preparing for a military strike on Iran, as military assets in key positions are approaching readiness...

According to military and intelligence sources, an air strike on Iran could be doable in June of this year, with military assets in key positions ready to go and a possible plan already on the table.

Speculation has been growing on a possible air strike against Iran. But with the failure of the Bush administration to present a convincing case to the UN Security Council and to secure political backing domestically, some experts say the march toward war with Iran is on pause barring an "immediate need."

***

Other military and intelligence sources are expressing concern both privately and publicly that air strikes on Iran could come earlier than believed.

Retired Air Force Colonel and former faculty member at the National War College Sam Gardiner has heard some military suggestions of a possible air campaign in the near future, and although he has no intimate knowledge of such plans, he says recent aircraft carrier activity and current operations on the ground in Iran have raised red flags.

Gardiner says his concerns have kept him busy attempting to create the most likely scenario should such an attack occur.

"I would expect two or three aircraft carriers would be moved into the area," Gardner said, describing what he thinks is the best way air strikes could be carried out without disengaging assets from US fronts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Two air-craft carriers are already en route to the region... The USS Abraham Lincoln, which recently made a port call in Singapore, and the USS Enterprise which left Norfolk, Virginia earlier this month, are headed for the Western Pacific and Middle East. The USS Ronald Reagan is already operating in the Gulf...

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

A gang of anarchist Robin Hood-style thieves

German 'Robin Hoods' give poor a taste of the high life

The Scotsman 5/9/06

A GANG of anarchist Robin Hood-style thieves, who dress as superheroes and steal expensive food from exclusive restaurants and delicatessens to give to the poor, are being hunted by police in the German city of Hamburg.

The gang members seemingly take delight in injecting humour into their raids, which rely on sheer numbers and the confusion caused by their presence. After they plundered Kobe beef fillets, champagne and smoked salmon from a gourmet store on the exclusive Elbastrasse, they presented the cashier with a bouquet of flowers before making their getaway...


stolen from Counago and Spaves

WP wanker explains how opposing a war prolongs a war

From Salon's War Room:

Cohen: Colbert was rude, and his defenders are dangerous

When we last heard from Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, he was declaring Stephen Colbert "not just a failure as a comedian but rude." Cohen has now heard back from those who disagree with him. He says that they're rude, too.

In the sort of thin-skinned response we've heard from the Post before, Cohen says that the e-mails that flooded his in box after he trashed Colbert last week were nothing less than a "digital lynch mob" that was "egged on" by various liberal bloggers. The messages show that e-mail is "too often a kind of epistolary spitball," Cohen says, and they prove that the Democrats are doomed in 2008.

How's that again?

Maybe we should just let Cohen speak for himself.

"The e-mails pulse in my queue, emanating raw hatred," he writes in his column today. "This spells trouble -- not for Bush or, in 2008, the next GOP presidential candidate, but for Democrats. The anger festering on the Democratic left will be taken out on the Democratic middle. (Watch out, Hillary!) I have seen this anger before -- back in the Vietnam War era. That's when the antiwar wing of the Democratic Party helped elect Richard Nixon. In this way, they managed to prolong the very war they so hated.

"The hatred is back. I know it's only words now appearing on my computer screen, but the words are so angry, so roiled with rage, that they are the functional equivalent of rocks once so furiously hurled during antiwar demonstrations. I can appreciate some of it. Institution after institution failed America -- the presidency, Congress and the press. They all endorsed a war to rid Iraq of what it did not have. Now, though, that gullibility is being matched by war critics who are so hyped on their own sanctimony that they will obliterate distinctions, punishing their friends for apostasy and, by so doing, aiding their enemies. If that's going to be the case, then Iraq is a war its critics will lose twice -- once because they couldn't stop it and once more at the polls."

We're not suggesting that anybody e-mail Cohen today; it would be rude, it seems, and we wouldn't want to be accused of "egging" anyone on. But in the hypothetical scenario in which a War Room reader might want to send a message to Cohen, one might want to point out -- gently, of course -- that Cohen wasn't exactly a model of polite debate in the run-up to the war in Iraq. In a column on Feb. 6, 2003, Cohen said that there was no longer any room for argument about Saddam Hussein's WMD. Colin Powell's U.N. presentation had established "without a doubt" that the WMD existed, Cohen said, and "only a fool -- or possibly a Frenchman -- could conclude otherwise."

It's so rude when people remember your history. What a worm.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Funny arguments

I.

P1. If Bush doubted there was good evidence of WMDs in Iraq, he would have planted a throw-down.

P2. There was no evidence of WMDs found in Iraq, not even a throw-down, despite every opportunity (even now!) to throw evidence down.
_____________________________________________________________
C. Bush did not doubt that there was good evidence of WMDs in Iraq.

(via but not endorsed by William Edmundson)

II.

P1. If the Holocaust had really happened, Pope Pius XII, in his infinite goodness, wisdom and infallibility, would have like protested or at least said something.

P2. There is no evidence that the pope ever acknowledged, much less protested the Holocaust.
__________________________________________________________
C. The Holocaust didn't happen, and must be a hoax.

(Final chapter of The Hoax of the 20th Century)

III.

P1. If someone pursues policies that increase the size and power of the federal government, they must be a liberal.

P2. George Bush has pursued policies that increase the size and power of the federal government, perhaps to an unprecedented degree.
__________________________________________________________
C. George Bush is a big time liberal.

(Jonah Goldberg)

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Thank you for not breeding

This photo actually appears above the UPI story.

A local story nicely illustrates the maxim that not everyone should have children.
Ratbitten baby's parents jailed

The parents of a 6-month-old Medford, Oregon boy who police say was bitten as many as 200 times by a rat they took home have been jailed.

Robert Horsfall, 21, and Maegan McCleary, 19, said they found the rat at a creek and put it in a cage in their bedroom, the Oregonian, a Portland, Oregon newspaper, reported. The animal got out during the night and repeatedly attacked the child, police said.

The couple has been jailed on criminal mistreatment charges.

A second child at the home has been placed in foster care, police told the newspaper.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Fin du volcano


Mt. St. Helens is growing a spine. Maybe it can teach the Democrats something!
Short video here (May 3rd).


From the Washington Post:

If the skies are clear as forecast, volcano watchers who turn out for the reopening of the Johnston Ridge Observatory on Friday will get a spectacular view of a hulking slab of rock that's rapidly growing in Mount St. Helens' crater.

It's jutting up from one of seven lobes of fresh volcanic rock that have been pushing their way through the surface of the crater since October 2004.

The fin-shaped mass is about 300 feet tall and growing 4 feet to 5 feet a day, said Dan Dzurisin, a geologist at the U.S. Geological Survey.

The rock in the crater began growing last November, steadily moving west and pushing rock and other debris out of its way as it goes.

Mount St. Helens, located in the Cascades of Washington, has been quietly erupting since a flurry of tiny earthquakes began in late September 2004. Scientists initially mistook the quakes as rainwater seeping into the hot interior of the older lava dome.

But it soon became clear that magma was on the move, confirmed by the emergence of fire-red lava between the old lava dome and the south crater rim a few weeks after the seismic activity began.

The volcano has continued pumping out lava ever since. Eventually, scientists expect the volcano will rebuild its conical peak that was obliterated in the May 18, 1980 eruption that left 57 people dead.

The current growth of the new lava dome has been accompanied by low seismicity rates, low emissions of steam and volcanic gases and minor production of ash, the USGS said.

"Given the way things are going now, there's no hint of any sort of catastrophic eruptions," USGS geologist Tom Pierson said. "At any time, however, things can change."

Scientists flew a helicopter into the crater late last week to adjust equipment and take photographs that will likely be used to determine just how much the new lava dome has grown the last several months.

The Johnston Ridge Observatory, which closes down every winter, is the closest observatory to the 8,364-foot peak. It is named after David A. Johnston, a volcanologist killed in the 1980 eruption. It sits about five miles north of the mountain and offers the closest views of the volcano's horseshoe-shaped crater.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Cole v. Hitchens

The most prominent difference between Hitchens and the people at
Little Green Footballs is that Hitchens gets published in Slate.

Juan Cole has an amazing piece up about Hitchens hacking and posting some of his private communications in yet another despicable smear campaign. The goal: Hitchens wants a war with Iran. Of course Hitchens' interpretation of the messages he pilfered doesn't pass the smell test. What a despicable man.

Update: Brian Leiter has an excellent background piece on Hitchens' genocidal dementia, which has afflicted him for a lot longer than most people realize and is by no means limited to Islamic people.

Tuesday Comics

A panel from Crap I Drew on My Lunch Break 4/4/06

A panel from The Boiling Point: "It's My Religion!"

A panel from Slowpoke: Wall*Bank

On the interpretation of silence

Apologies for continuing to harp on Stephen Colbert's performance at Saturday's White House Correspondents dinner, but as much as I liked his act, the reaction of the mainstream press has been even more interesting. As I pointed out in my previous post, it was mostly a non-reaction, beautifully documented in all its lock step uniformity in a very nice piece at Media Matters.

As many have pointed out, in the era before the internet, few would have ever heard about the event. But the huge response on to the video clips posted on the internet by the left has forced out a belated, grudging response from the mainstream media, of which this rather childish piece in the Washington Post is a pretty good example.
What's more, you may be interested to know that there's a MEDIA COVERUP of the Colbert performance. The MSM don't want you to know about how the Comedy Central man made them look bad! (Never mind that the thing was carried on C-SPAN and the video is widely available online. I played two clips of Colbert on my CNN show, so apparently I didn't get the memo.)
Such a well used straw man. Any criticism of the media's failure to report on something is dismissed as a conspiracy theory, hence not worthy of serious consideration. Nonetheless, as Leo Strauss was so fond of pointing out, silences can be significant.

The MSM covered every virtually every other aspect of the event, including long bits on the guests entering and the afterparty. But they didn't cover the keynote speaker. It seems just a little odd. And, looking at past coverage of such events, they have tended to cover the keynote speaker, in particular when the jokes were pointedly critical of Clinton.

I will take this guy's word for it that he did actually show some clips, but uniformity of non-reporting remains well documented across an very wide range of media outlets. And as far as CSPAN goes, they cover everything but lack in the way of an audience.

So this silence still seems significant enough to me.

It is not so much a matter of conspiracy as it is of "the hive mind thinks alike." Colbert managed to trip their switch.

In part, it was a hard story for the media to report because most of the jokes and all of the humor of Colbert's presentation depend on a view of reality that they have largely neglected to report. In this case in fact, it is undoubtedly the majority view of reality.

Much has been made of George Bush's plummeting poll numbers. But, as bad as those are, that is not what I am referring to. I mean the majority view of reality, globally. In a poll of this constituency, Bush would be lucky to poll a whole number.

So, never having reported much about this reality in which our leader is an incompetent and venal sociopath who talks to god, lies as a matter of routine and reflex, is bankrupting the future, and blows up countries without really giving it too much thought, it is a bit much to introduce all this via a comedy act which inconveniently, embarassingly even, all points this out. And then in one of the best part of his act he has the temerity to go on to explicitly tell the press to its face that it has become little more than a stenographer to power. Such bad manner hit a little too close to home.

I'll be your mirror

Much of the press and the entirety of the right wing didn't see the humor in Stephen Colbert's "blistering comedy tribute" to President Bush at the White House Correspondents dinner on Saturday. In their report on the event, the New York Times didn't even mention his keynote perfomance in their coverage of the event. Down the memory hole, literally.

Editor & Publisher, which has had some of the very best coverage of the event from the beginning, has a good run down on the significance of the failure to react:
Certainly, deciding what's funny is subjective, sometimes a matter of taste (or tastelessness), but increasingly, also, partisan. We bring our politics to everything nowadays, although some may be more open to good satire than others, even when someone on "your side" is hit.

Still, with the knocks on Colbert increasing, I have to ask: Where was the outrage when President Bush made fun of not finding those pesky WMDs at a very similar media dinner--in the same ballroom--two years ago? It represents a shameful episode for the American media, and presidency, yet is rarely mentioned today.

It occurred on March 24, 2004. The setting: The 60th annual black-tie dinner of the Radio and Television Correspondents Association (with many print journalists there as guests) at the Washington Hilton. On the menu: surf and turf. Attendance: 1500. The main speaker: President George W. Bush, one year into the Iraq war, with 500 Americans already dead.

President Bush, as usual at such gatherings of journalists, poked fun at himself. Audiences love to laugh along with, rather than at, a president, for a change. It shows they are good sports, which many people (including the president) often doubt. It's all in good fun, except when it's in bad fun, such as on that night in March 2004.

That night, in the middle of his stand-up routine before the (perhaps tipsy) journos, Bush showed on a screen behind him some candid on-the-job photos of himself. One featured him gazing out a window, as Bush narrated, smiling: "Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere."

According to the transcript this was greeted with "laughter and applause" from the audience.

A few seconds later, he was shown looking under papers, behind drapes, and even under his desk, with this narration: "Nope, no weapons over there" (met with more "laughter and applause"), and then "Maybe under here?" (just "laughter" this time). Still searching, he settled for finding a photo revealing the Skull and Bones secret signal.

There is no record of whether Dana Milbank attended that dinner, but his paper the following day seemed to find this something of a howl. Jennifer Frey's report, carried on the front page of the Style section (under the headline, "George Bush, Entertainer in Chief"), led with Donald Trump's appearance, and mentioned without comment Bush's "recurring joke" of searching for the WMDs.

The Associated Press review was equally jovial: "President Bush poked fun at his staff, his Democratic challenger and himself Wednesday night at a black-tie dinner where he hobnobbed with the news media." In fact, it is hard to find any immediate account of the affair that raised questions over the president's slide show. Many noted that the WMD jokes were met with general and loud laughter.

The reporters covering the gala were apparently as swept away with laughter as the guests. One of the few attendees to criticize the president's gag, David Corn of The Nation, said he heard not a single complaint from his colleagues at the after-party. Corn wondered if they would have laughed if President Reagan, following the truck bombing of our Marines barracks in Beirut, which killed 241, had said at a similar dinner: "Guess we forgot to put in a stop light."

The backlash only appeared a day or two later, and not, by and large, emerging from the media, but from Democrats and some Iraq veterans. Then it was mainly forgotten. I never understood why Sen. John Kerry did not air a tape of the episode every day during his hapless final drive for the White House.

In any case, another 1900 Americans have died in Iraq since Bush's ha-ha home video. As it happens, the Downing Street memo, and a similar British document that surfaced recently, suggested that Bush doubted WMDs existed and "fixed" the intelligence to take the nation to war. What a riot.

At that same Downing Street memo forum at the Capitol last year that Milbank mocked, former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, after cataloguing the bogus Bush case for WMDs and the Iraqi threat, looked out at the cameras and notepads, mentioned the March 24, 2004 dinner, and acted out the president looking under papers and table for those missing WMDs. "And the media was all yucking it up ... hahaha, McGovern said. "You all laughed with him, folks." Then he mentioned soldiers who had died "after that big joke."

Dana Milbank, who seems to like a good laugh, did not mention this in his hit piece the following day.
As to the real significance of the event itself, Billmon had the best take, at least to begin with:
Colbert's routine was designed to draw blood -- as good political satire should. It seemed obvious, at least to me, that he didn't just despise his audience, he hated it. While that hardly merits comment here in Left Blogostan, White House elites clearly aren't used to having such contempt thrown in their faces at one of their most cherished self-congratulatory events. So it's no surprise the scribes have tried hard to expunge it from the semi-official record -- as Peter Daou notes over at the Huffington Post.

Colbert used satire the way it's used in more openly authoritarian societies: as a political weapon, a device for raising issues that can't be addressed directly. He dragged out all the unmentionables -- the Iraq lies, the secret prisons, the illegal spying, the neutered stupidity of the lapdog press -- and made it pretty clear that he wasn't really laughing at them, much less with them. It may have been comedy, but it also sounded like a bill of indictment, and everybody understood the charges...

Colbert's real sin wasn't lese majesty, it was inserting a brief moment of honesty into an event based upon a lie -- one considered socially necessary by the political powers that be, but still, a lie.

Like its upscale sibling, the annual Gridiron Club dinner, the White House Correspondents dinner is a ritual designed, at least implicitly, to showcase the underlying unity of our Beltway elites. It's supposed to demonstrate that no matter how ferocious their battles may appear on the surface, political opponents can still gather in the same room and break bread, with the corporate media acting as the properly neutral host...

The underlying message, never stated or even acknowledged, is that there are no disputes that can't be resolved within the cozy confines of our "democratic" (oligarchic) system. Friends don't send friends to jail -- or smash their presses or abolish their political parties or line them up against the wall and shoot them.
Salon has more:
It's not just that Colbert's jokes were hitting their mark. We already know that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, that the generals hate Rumsfeld or that Fox News lists to the right. Those cracks are old and boring. What Colbert did was expose the whole official, patriotic, right-wing, press-bashing discourse as a sham, as more "truthiness" than truth.

Obviously, Colbert is not the first ironic warrior to train his sights on the powerful. What the insurgent culture jammers at Adbusters did for Madison Avenue, and the Barbie Liberation Organization did for children's toys, and Seinfeld did for the sitcom, and the Onion did for the small-town newspaper, Jon Stewart discovered he could do for television news. Now Colbert, Stewart's spawn, has taken on the right-wing message machine.

In the late 1960s, the Situationists in France called such ironic mockery "detournement," a word that roughly translates to "abduction" or "embezzlement." It was considered a revolutionary act, helping to channel the frustration of the Paris student riots of 1968. They co-opted and altered famous paintings, newspapers, books and documentary films, seeking subversive ideas in the found objects of popular culture. "Plagiarism is necessary," wrote Guy Debord, the famed Situationist, referring to his strategy of mockery and semiotic inversion. "Progress demands it. Staying close to an author's phrasing, plagiarism exploits his expressions, erases false ideas, replaces them with correct ideas."

For those of us outside the halls of power, it was a moment of liberation cutting through all the polite lies and pretense that make the everyday murder and oppression of this regime possible. For those in power it was a brief, involuntary look in the mirror of the reality based world view, a dim vision of how we see them--in the reflection of the guillotine.

Just kidding, right?