Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Requiem in wax.

My friend Rod Poole was murdered Sunday night.

I see him standing at the counter in the jazz room at the record store. His love was bootleg vinyl, and he would stand there with his stack while I opened them one by one, slicing the plastic bags with a box cutter. Out would come each plain black or white sleeve, often with the artist and concert written in cursive pen on the otherwise blank label. Rod would lift each one, and rotate them to find the best light, looking for any imperfection. He would find it, and his face would turn sour for a second. I would look and see nothing. He'd see the scepticism on my brow and would hold the vinyl up at just the right angle, until like an apparition the scratch or bump would appear.

"That'll make it pop."

Rod had the peculiar easy cynicism and sense of order that is only due the British. When I first knew him he had this long hair that fell in tight curls, that gave him the slightly ridiculous air of a member of Spinal Tap. Don't think he didn't know it. When he shaved it all off, it was a relief to see his face, but also a kind of defeat, like some long ago thing had given way in him. It took a while to adjust.

You would go to his apartment and he would make you tea and show you his records. He was a savant, a man of deep knowledge. His specialty was John Coltrane and Sun Ra and rare Led Zep bootlegs. At least that's what I talked about with him.

I didn't know Rod enough. I didn't know about his childhood, his school days, his long gone parents. I didn't know if he believed in god, though he didn't strike me as the type. I didn't know how he supported himself as a musician in Los Angeles, putting out an occasional rare vinyl pressing that might merit a small review in Wire, teaching others to manipulate a guitar with less talent then him. I didn't know what he really thought about America.

But I did know he loved his wife. And I did know his love of music. I saw him in his environment, in his temple, in the tabernacle of sound. I saw the way he held a record, and what it told me about his character. It takes a certain kind of character to love a vinyl record, a compulsion to love a thing that is destroyed a little bit every time you play it. The record collector is always looking for that one disc, that one perfect form of a disk, beyond even unplayed. Untouched by human hands, unsullied by this world. A record collector is looking for perfection.

Here's what the dusty words of the paper of record had to say:

Police have arrested a husband and wife on suspicion of stabbing a 45-year-old man to death in the parking lot of a well-known Hollywood eatery.

The incident occurred about 9:45 p.m. Sunday in the parking lot of Mel's Drive-In in the 1600 block of Highland Avenue. Officers answered a call of an assault with a deadly weapon and found Roderick Poole, 45, with multiple stab wounds. He was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where he died at 10:06 p.m.

Poole, of Hollywood, was walking with his wife when he got into an argument with a woman in a car, said Los Angeles Police Det. Larry Cameron. Witnesses told police the woman, with her husband, nearly ran over Poole.

They exchanged words and the couple allegedly attacked Poole, police said. Michael Sheridan, 25, allegedly stabbed Poole several times before the pair drove off, investigators said.

"This was incredibly dumb," said Cameron, referring to how a minor disagreement turned into a killing.

Detectives later arrested Sheridan and his wife, Angela Sheridan, 24, both of Los Angeles. They were being held in lieu of $1-million bail each.

Hollywood, among the city's safer areas, has seen a 5% increase in violent crime so far in 2007. Poole's killing was the sixth in the district this year.

Something tells me that Michael Sheridan doesn't own any vinyl records at all.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

No Coincedence.

Random headlines from today's NYTimes:

5 Dead and 3 Missing After Attack on U.S. Patrol in Iraq

Billions in Oil Missing in Iraq, U.S. Study Says

Ex-General Speaks Out Against Bush on Iraq

Majority of Iraq Lawmakers Seek Timetable for U.S. Exit

Crisis in Pakistan Over Judge Turns Violent

Civilian Deaths Undermine War on Taliban

So, how's that globalwaronterror going again?

You ponder the incompetence, you consider the abject history of failure, and you try to figure out how our nation went so very wrong. Then you see one additional headline:

Religious Groups Granted Millions for Pet Projects

Monday, May 07, 2007

Your Average Republican Voter.

This made me laugh and feel sick to my stomach at the same time. I love it when fascism is so damned cute!

The Last Remaining Superpower.

Andrew Sullivan points to this posting by a blogger from Baghdad who recently visited the United States. Where did he go?

New Orleans.

What shocked me the most in this trip was how the city looked like Baghdad. New Orleans looked like Baghdad after the war in 1991; I swear I kid you not. The devastation, empty houses, the people returning to their life in the city, the “rituals” people practice before they completely come back, the bumps in the streets and the smell of destruction [it has a distinctive smell people. Yes it does.]

I arrived to New Orleans Thursday. On the way to the hotel, I saw the same thing I saw on tv two years ago, destroyed buildings. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Two years later and the scene is the same? Where are we? A government that spent hundreds of billions of dollars on wars overseas is not capable of dealing with a crisis on its own soil! A crisis that all what it needed was money! (...)

In 1991, Iraq was destroyed, mainly Baghdad and other big cities like Mosul, Basra. The Americans made sure that the average Iraqis didn’t get water, electricity, or food. And they made sure to also bomb the communication buildings so the average Iraqis didn’t have a way to know about each other and what was going on. Within three months after the end of the war, most of the government building and services, including potable water, sewer system, paving bombed streets, phones and electricity. That was under the rule of Saddam Hussein, whom Bush’s administration accused of depriving his people from their share of oil revenues!

What about people in New Orleans. They don’t have a dictator to rebuild their city. They have a democracy that is fighting its way to spend 100 billion more dollars on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Who will help the people of New Orleans?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Pythagorean Secret.

I’ve never been especially good at math. Numbers get lost in my head sometimes, and I’ve always had trouble grasping much beyond the most simple of formulas. Calculus was always a mystery, and I never felt any particular interest in exploring mathematical language and concepts in any length. That is, until I learned about the Pythagorean secret.
St. John’s College, where I spent my freshman and sophomore years, requires a full mathematics course every year. I feared it, but I was surprised to find that because of the way that math was taught, I was actually able to grasp concepts more deeply then before. Because the college used no textbooks, we would read original texts, say Euclid or Ptolemy, and work over and argue over the proofs at the blackboard. It was a method of learning that eschewed rote formulas and valued placing everything that we learned in the larger context of knowledge.
It was in the course of this liberal arts approach to math that I came across the idea of irrational ratios. The Pythagorean school of philosophy was famous throughout ancient Greece for the skill of its mathematicians. They believed in, one might almost say worshiped, numbers, holding that the mysteries of life could be explained by understanding the ratios that existed between whole numbers. But then something happened to them when one of their own, Hippasus of Metapontum,. stumbled across a devastating secret. He realized that there was simply no ratio to √2. Or if you will, take a square and divide it diagonally:

The Pythagoreans believed that it would normally be possible to come up with a ratio that identified the relation of the diagonal to the side of the square. But in fact, there is no such ratio. The ratio between the diagonal and the side will always change according to the length of the side of the square, thus creating an “irrational ratio”, an infinite number like π that has no stable end. It goes on forever.
This shook the Pythagorean worldview. It also shook mine. My first semester at St. John’s I had read Plato and been impressed by his idea of the perfect form, the belief that Socrates articulates that for everything in the material world there exists somewhere the perfect form, or εἶδος, and that all material manifestations are but copies of this form. As a consequence, decisions in life are simple. How do we most closely manifest the perfect form in what we do?
But contemplating an irrational ratio sent a shiver through me. I had always assumed math to be absolute. Like the Pythagoreans, I trusted in the idea that all math could be resolved into a perfect form. But if it wasn’t so, what consequences did such an idea have? I thought of the square, and how we measure it. We say the side is one inch, but if there is no perfect inch, then how can we know for sure what an inch is? We might eventually round off, we might come to a general agreement and design a model inch at some government bureau, and such estimations may be useful in building bridges, but in the end, the inch was an arbitrary idea. In the end, the solid foundation I had once assumed wasn’t there, just what we collectively agreed to believe based on the evidence we had.
It was an epiphany that fundamentally changed my understanding of ideas of science, evidence and proof. I understood for the first time the provisional nature of all proof, how explanations can evolve. I felt a new admiration for the scientific method. Instead of pursuing some perfect form, science claimed only to have a theory, supported by observed information. Sure, there were theories, like the idea that 2 plus 2 equals 4, for which there was a great deal of evidence in favor and little in opposition. But a true scientist would always accept the possibility that, with new data, 2 plus 2 might indeed someday be proven to be something other then 4.
That is, if the scientist really understood and believed in the limits of his knowledge, and was truly dedicated to always advancing those limits. The Pythagoreans did not. They reacted to their discovery out of fear, and in one of the famous episodes of scientific history, they murdered Hippasus of Metapontum for discovering the irrational ratio.
The question then came to me this way. How would I react when faced with evidence that contradicted something I held to be an absolute truth? Would I respond with a defensive reactionary posture, or with an open mind? One of the great misunderstandings about the nature of science is that imperfections in a particular scientific theory somehow devalue science. They don’t. Point out a flaw in a theory to a true scientist and he will react not with dismay, but with the excitement of new data, new knowledge to expand his understanding. The dogmatist might cry “your theory has gaps!”. The scientist will respond by saying “I know. Let’s fill them in.”
I am not a scientist in the traditional sense. But I have come to believe in the skeptical and rational evaluation that lies behind the scientific method. I try to apply this skepticism to whatever new information comes my way, to weigh and understand it in the context of all the evidence. This is what studying math in a liberal arts program taught me. My calculus isn’t any stronger yet, but my mind is more open then before.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Fighting Words.

Christopher Hitchens is a frequently cruel alcoholic Brit who foolishly fell in love with the Kurds and thus ruined his reputation by supporting the Iraq war. He is also, in this solipsistic age one of the few biting critics of bullshit left. I wish he had a bit more humility in calling out his own foolishness sometimes (for his sophistry on the war, I'd like to see him march across Dupont Circle wearing a cilice and mortifying his flesh with a bullwhip) but there is no doubt that he is fearless in vivisecting the intellectual bodies of others, even those held in conventional esteem. This is after all a man who wrote a scathing book about Mother Teresa. He's the kind of guy who probably thinks he's doing his job well when someone calls him an asshole. Such is the contrarians lot.

He's picked the biggest fight of his career in his new book though. He's taking on God. God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything is the title, and like all good essayists, he sticks tightly to the point, or at least he does in the three parts excerpted this week in Slate. In the first bit, he attacks belief in general and lays out his ideal of the non-believer:

Most important of all, perhaps, we infidels do not need any machinery of reinforcement. We are those who Blaise Pascal took into account when he wrote to the one who says, "I am so made that I cannot believe."
There is no need for us to gather every day, or every seven days, or on any high and auspicious day, to proclaim our rectitude or to grovel and wallow in our unworthiness. We atheists do not require any priests, or any hierarchy above them, to police our doctrine. Sacrifices and ceremonies are abhorrent to us, as are relics and the worship of any images or objects (even including objects in the form of one of man's most useful innovations: the bound book). To us no spot on earth is or could be "holier" than another: to the ostentatious absurdity of the pilgrimage, or the plain horror of killing civilians in the name of some sacred wall or cave or shrine or rock, we can counterpose a leisurely or urgent walk from one side of the library or the gallery to another, or to lunch with an agreeable friend, in pursuit of truth or beauty. Some of these excursions to the bookshelf or the lunch or the gallery will obviously, if they are serious, bring us into contact with belief and believers, from the great devotional painters and composers to the works of Augustine, Aquinas, Maimonides, and Newman. These mighty scholars may have written many evil things or many foolish things, and been laughably ignorant of the germ theory of disease or the place of the terrestrial globe in the solar system, let alone the universe, and this is the plain reason why there are no more of them today, and why there will be no more of them tomorrow. Religion spoke its last intelligible or noble or inspiring words a long time ago: either that or it mutated into an admirable but nebulous humanism, as did, say, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a brave Lutheran pastor hanged by the Nazis for his refusal to collude with them. We shall have no more prophets or sages from the ancient quarter, which is why the devotions of today are only the echoing repetitions of yesterday, sometimes ratcheted up to screaming point so as to ward off the terrible emptiness.


Part Two is a disection of the inconsistancies in the foundation of Islam and the production of the Koran. Part Three, I must warn you if you are one of my old Mormon friends or family members, is entitled Mormonism: A Racket Becomes a Religion. Prepare to be offended, and don't say I didn't warn you.

I can't hardly wait to read the whole thing. Hitchens is great on almost any subject; when he's writing about George Eliot, when he's writing about the moral failings of Bill Clinton, when he's writing about his love of drink. I can only imagine the lather he works himself up into on this one.

Kiss and tell.

I love the term "six pack homo". A six pack homo is a ostensibly straight guy who, after a six pack of beer, will become flirtatious, and sometimes even more, with his gay male friends. Maybe he's a two or three on the Kinsey scale, or maybe he just loves all the flattery and attention. Whatever the reason, load the boy up with a little inhibition-lowering alcohol, and his inner fag comes right on out.

Rudy Giuliani is a six pack homo. And apparently he just went on the wagon.

After years of playing coy with the queers in the good-time happy hour of contemporary New York City, where even the outer-borough slobs love them some gays, Rudy is feeling a little hung over and regretful. Like any straight boy who maybe went a little too far, he's decided to re-affirm his masculinity with a new round of gay-bashing, reviving the whole "queers destroying straight marriages" canard. After all, aren't the gays ultimately responsible for his two messy divorces and public adultery?

Um, no.

And guess what Rudy? The thumpers ain't gonna be impressed. They know a whiff of faggy when they smell it. John Aravosis channels the church lady for ya:

Sorry, Rudy. You're an adulterer. You cheated on your wife - which wife was that? - blatantly, flagrantly, publicly. And now you want us to believe that you're the great defender of marriage. You don't get the right to defend other people's marriages when you can't defend your own. How serious a moral crime is adultery, Rudy? Well, since you're doing this flip-flop in order to curry favor with America's Taliban, let's check the Bible, the King James version, to be precise (it's the version my people use), and see what God has to say about adultery:
Leviticus 20:10 And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.
Hmmm... surely put to death - now, no one is suggesting that you and your lover need to be put to death, Rudy, but the Bible makes it pretty clear that adultery is a big no-no. The kind of no-no that disqualifies you from suddenly, a few years after that adultery, becoming the great moral defender of marriage.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Signposts to Hell.

So Naomi Wolf makes the "slippery slope to fascism" argument in the Guardian. She identifies ten behaviors that are the hallmarks of tyranny:

1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy
2. Create a gulag
3. Develop a thug caste
4. Set up an internal surveillance system
5. Harass citizens' groups
6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release
7. Target key individuals
8. Control the press
9. Dissent equals treason
10. Suspend the rule of law

She points out ways in which all these behaviors are being carried on by the administration.

To her list I would add one other:
11. Purge the doubters from the movement

As the conservative movement becomes meaner and more narrowly focused on power, it has been throwing off those in the movement who are true believers in actual conservative principles, as opposed to hacks dedicated to authority. You see this in the Bush doctrine of rewarding loyalty over competence, in the alienation of true actual committed conservatives like Dick Armey, Patrick Buchanan, and Bob Barr, and the purging of the Republican U.S. attorneys who refused to politicize justice and attack the election system. These multiple mini "Night of the Long Knives" are yet another sign that the conservative movement is morphing from a large populist political program gatherered around ideals of limited government and traditional morality into a power-obsessed pseudo-faith of fake victimology and imagined devils. It also explains the antipathy amongst conservatives to John McCain. He's one of those silly conservatives who still tries to apply conservative principles (however flawed), instead of the pure instinct to power, to the issues of the day.

Tyranny is always about tribe, clan, and the will to power. Those who actually believe the propaganda are useful for a while, but in the end they are an impediment to that agenda.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Back in black.

Ok, I took a hiatus. No explanations, I had my reasons. If you are still checking in on this blog, I thank you, and find you a bit scary as well. I've decided to pick it up again though, and I hope that someone cares, but it was always about therapy anyway.

As for my mood the past few months, it's best summed up in this Lucinda Williams song. You just know that she can go to Slidell and look for her joy all she wants, but she'll never, ever get it back:

Don't worry though, I've started finding my joy again. It's just taking on some strange new forms.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Okie truth.

Fifty years ago there was as much freedom in San Quentin as there is in the streets of New York today, with obvious exceptions. You’re just as likely to have a police officer throw down on you with a .30-30 [rifle] in New York as you are in San Quentin.
Merle Haggard, who went to prison fifty years ago this year.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The new Chevrolet Adobe.

Dammit, the environmentalists have just gone too far this time!

Thanks to the NYTimes.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Paying the piper.

Here's a lovely little chart for ya:

Monday, January 08, 2007

Another one bites the dust.

A Googie masterpiece in an L.A. suburb gets torn down on a Sunday afternoon without a permit.

Someone should do jail time for this. A demolition with no permits, no asbestos abatement, not even a proper fence in place. What fucking lawless place is this, Baghdad?
I'm so goddamned sick of this city being treated like a movie backlot.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Truth in advertising.

Friday, December 22, 2006

A Plan For Victory

In Iraq, from the Republican Congressman Robin Hayes, just narrowly re-elected by a few hundred votes:

“Stability in Iraq ultimately depends on spreading the message of Jesus Christ, the message of peace on earth, good will towards men. Everything depends on everyone learning about the birth of the Savior.”

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

United We Stand

A letter to a constituent, from Republican Representative Virgil Goode:

Dear Mr. Cruickshank:

Thank you for your recent communication. When I raise my hand to take the oath on Swearing In Day, I will have the Bible in my other hand. I do not subscribe to using the Koran in any way. The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran. We need to stop illegal immigration totally and reduce legal immigration and end the diversity visas policy pushed hard by President Clinton and allowing many persons from the Middle East to come to this country. I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped.

The Ten Commandments and “In God We Trust” are on the wall in my office. A Muslim student came by the office and asked why I did not have anything on my wall about the Koran. My response was clear, “As long as I have the honor of representing the citizens of the 5th District of Virginia in the United States House of Representatives, The Koran is not going to be on the wall of my office.” Thank you again for your email and thoughts.

Sincerely yours,
Virgil H. Goode, Jr.

For some of these assholes, United We Stand always came with an asterick.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Why I don't live in New York.

I love the NYC, and I've long thought of moving there.

Then I go on Craigslist.

This apartment is way the hell out in Bushwick. I won't tell you the price. But what I really loved was this picture, captioned with the headline:


Stunning indeed.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

B.S. Detector

From Dan Froomkin, on bullshit:

Mainstream-media political journalism is in danger of becoming increasingly irrelevant, but not because of the Internet, or even Comedy Central. The threat comes from inside. It comes from journalists being afraid to do what journalists were put on this green earth to do.

What is it about Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert that makes them so refreshing and attractive to a wide variety of viewers (including those so-important younger ones)? I would argue that, more than anything else, it is that they enthusiastically call bullshit.

Calling bullshit, of course, used to be central to journalism as well as to comedy. And we happen to be in a period in our history in which the substance in question is running particularly deep. The relentless spinning is enough to make anyone dizzy, and some of our most important political battles are about competing views of reality more than they are about policy choices. Calling bullshit has never been more vital to our democracy.

It also resonates with readers and viewers a lot more than passionless stenography. I’m convinced that my enthusiasm for calling bullshit is the main reason for the considerable success of my White House Briefing column, which has turned into a significant traffic-driver for The Washington Post’s Web site.

I’m not sure why calling bullshit has gone out of vogue in so many newsrooms — why, in fact, it’s so often consciously avoided. There are lots of possible reasons. There’s the increased corporate stultification of our industry, to the point where rocking the boat is seen as threatening rather than invigorating. There’s the intense pressure to maintain access to insider sources, even as those sources become ridiculously unrevealing and oversensitive. There’s the fear of being labeled partisan if one’s bullshit-calling isn’t meted out in precisely equal increments along the political spectrum.

The return of Democrats to political power and relevancy gives us the opportunity to call bullshit in a more bipartisan manner, which is certainly healthy. But there are different kinds of bullshit. Republican political leaders these past six years have built up a massive, unprecedented credibility deficit, such that even their most straightforward assertions invite close bullshit inspection. By contrast, Democratic bullshit tends to center more around hypocrisy and political cowardice. Trying to find equivalency between the two would still be a mistake – and could lead to catty, inside-baseball gotcha journalism rather than genuine bullshit-calling.

If mainstream-media political journalists don’t start calling bullshit more often, then we do risk losing our primacy — if not to the comedians then to the bloggers.

But here’s the good news for you newsroom managers wringing your hands over new technologies and the loss of younger audiences: Because the Internet so values calling bullshit, you are sitting on an as-yet largely untapped gold mine. I still believe that no one is fundamentally more capable of first-rate bullshit-calling than a well-informed beat reporter - whatever their beat. We just need to get the editors, or the corporate culture, or the self-censorship – or whatever it is – out of the way.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Dictionary Definition

Gay Republican: N A person who loves the sin and hates the sinner. e.g. Foley, Mark; Haggard, Ted.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Give Til It Hurts Baby

Hey guys,
I hate to bug people about politics, I know that it is a personal issue for many folks, and that it isn’t always an appropriate conversation for work, but I’m going to take this one moment to talk to some of my friends here and ask you for a favor.

Marilyn Musgrave from Colorado is one of the most reprehensible members of Congress. The original author of the Constitutional amendment against gay marriage, Musgrave is a smug, raving bible-thumper who holds an exaggerated importance in national politics. The darling of the religious right, she is an endless campaigner against equal rights for gays and lesbians, a reflexive defender of the hideously incompetent leadership in Congress, and was recently named by C.R.E.W. as one of the thirteen most corrupt members of the House. I’ve no love for lots of politicians, but Musgrave is as bad as it gets, a deeply stupid, self-righteous and petty woman who, amongst other crimes, spearheaded the Republican intervention into the case of Terry Schiavo and spoke lovingly and longingly of Tom Delay after he was indicted for money laundering. Musgrave was asked recently at a forum of the religious right in Washington what the greatest threat to America was, and her response was gay marriage. That’s right, forget terrorism, forget Iraq, forget economic insecurity or the deficit or corporate corruption, what matters to her more then anything is the sex life of queers.

She’s got to go.

Fortunately, unlike most of the truly bad actors in Washington, Musgrave does not have a secure seat. Her mostly rural Colorado seat has been drifting somewhat more Democratic, and with the forming tidal wave against the Republicans this year, she might be knocked off. Luckily, she has a great opponent, a woman by the name of Angie Paccione. Angie is a former pro basketball player from the South Bronx and a public school teacher who is the Democratic leader in the Colorado House. She’s not as liberal as I might be (hell, she is from Colorado) but she is a true progressive leader in that state, with a proven record of support for everything from better education to environmental protection to minority rights. How can you not love a woman who dresses like a high school basketball coach?

The really good news is that she can win. A poll was released yesterday showing her up three points against Musgrave, and every recent poll in the district has shown this to be a dead heat. So here’s where the hard pitch comes in. Today is the last day that you can effectively give money to a campaign. Campaigns across the nation will be making their final ad buying decisions this weekend, so money after today will not be helpful before the election. The Republican National Committee has dumped 1.5 million bucks into this district, because they are so worried about Musgrave losing. Please consider making a donation to Angie’s campaign. I don’t care if it’s five bucks, or five hundred. This is something you can do, a direct action that will positively impact the direction of this nation. Musgrave’s loss would carry huge symbolic importance. This is a woman who carved out her name on gay bashing. Sending her back to Colorado in disgrace would send the message loud and clear that thumping queers as a political strategy no longer works. Here’s the link:

And remember, early voting has already started! You can vote at the L.A. Central Library from now until the Sunday before the election. It only takes a few minutes, and you get a sticker!

Spencer Windes
P.S. Please feel free to forward this message to anyone you think might care about it.
P.P.S. I promise not to bug you for at least two more years.

Friday, October 20, 2006


Kevin Tillman, who, like his brother Pat, famously left pro sports to join the army after 9/11 (Pat died from friendly fire in Afghanistan) says it all:

It is Pat’s birthday on November 6, and elections are the day after. It gets me thinking about a conversation I had with Pat before we joined the military. He spoke about the risks with signing the papers. How once we committed, we were at the mercy of the American leadership and the American people. How we could be thrown in a direction not of our volition. How fighting as a soldier would leave us without a voice… until we get out.

Much has happened since we handed over our voice:

Somehow we were sent to invade a nation because it was a direct threat to the American people, or to the world, or harbored terrorists, or was involved in the September 11 attacks, or received weapons-grade uranium from Niger, or had mobile weapons labs, or WMD, or had a need to be liberated, or we needed to establish a democracy, or stop an insurgency, or stop a civil war we created that can’t be called a civil war even though it is. Something like that.

Somehow our elected leaders were subverting international law and humanity by setting up secret prisons around the world, secretly kidnapping people, secretly holding them indefinitely, secretly not charging them with anything, secretly torturing them. Somehow that overt policy of torture became the fault of a few “bad apples” in the military.

Somehow back at home, support for the soldiers meant having a five-year-old kindergartener scribble a picture with crayons and send it overseas, or slapping stickers on cars, or lobbying Congress for an extra pad in a helmet. It’s interesting that a soldier on his third or fourth tour should care about a drawing from a five-year-old; or a faded sticker on a car as his friends die around him; or an extra pad in a helmet, as if it will protect him when an IED throws his vehicle 50 feet into the air as his body comes apart and his skin melts to the seat.

Somehow the more soldiers that die, the more legitimate the illegal invasion becomes.

Somehow American leadership, whose only credit is lying to its people and illegally invading a nation, has been allowed to steal the courage, virtue and honor of its soldiers on the ground.

Somehow those afraid to fight an illegal invasion decades ago are allowed to send soldiers to die for an illegal invasion they started.

Somehow faking character, virtue and strength is tolerated.

Somehow profiting from tragedy and horror is tolerated.

Somehow the death of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people is tolerated.

Somehow subversion of the Bill of Rights and The Constitution is tolerated.

Somehow suspension of Habeas Corpus is supposed to keep this country safe.

Somehow torture is tolerated.

Somehow lying is tolerated.

Somehow reason is being discarded for faith, dogma, and nonsense.

Somehow American leadership managed to create a more dangerous world.

Somehow a narrative is more important than reality.

Somehow America has become a country that projects everything that it is not and condemns everything that it is.

Somehow the most reasonable, trusted and respected country in the world has become one of the most irrational, belligerent, feared, and distrusted countries in the world.

Somehow being politically informed, diligent, and skeptical has been replaced by apathy through active ignorance.

Somehow the same incompetent, narcissistic, virtueless, vacuous, malicious criminals are still in charge of this country.

Somehow this is tolerated.

Somehow nobody is accountable for this.

In a democracy, the policy of the leaders is the policy of the people. So don’t be shocked when our grandkids bury much of this generation as traitors to the nation, to the world and to humanity. Most likely, they will come to know that “somehow” was nurtured by fear, insecurity and indifference, leaving the country vulnerable to unchecked, unchallenged parasites.

Luckily this country is still a democracy. People still have a voice. People still can take action. It can start after Pat’s birthday.

Brother and Friend of Pat Tillman,

Kevin Tillman

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Yes, I know, I've been neglecting my blog. I've been swamped with work lately. But I just couldn't pass up this editorial from the New York Times. I find it terrifying to know that I'm more well informed then the people in Washington who are overseeing our war with Islam. Not knowing that Iran in Shiite, and what that means for stability in, say, Lebanon or Saudi Arabia, is just goddamn criminal. Here ya go:

FOR the past several months, I’ve been wrapping up lengthy interviews with Washington counterterrorism officials with a fundamental question: “Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?”

A “gotcha” question? Perhaps. But if knowing your enemy is the most basic rule of war, I don’t think it’s out of bounds. And as I quickly explain to my subjects, I’m not looking for theological explanations, just the basics: Who’s on what side today, and what does each want?

After all, wouldn’t British counterterrorism officials responsible for Northern Ireland know the difference between Catholics and Protestants? In a remotely similar but far more lethal vein, the 1,400-year Sunni-Shiite rivalry is playing out in the streets of Baghdad, raising the specter of a breakup of Iraq into antagonistic states, one backed by Shiite Iran and the other by Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states.

A complete collapse in Iraq could provide a haven for Al Qaeda operatives within striking distance of Israel, even Europe. And the nature of the threat from Iran, a potential nuclear power with protégés in the Gulf states, northern Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, is entirely different from that of Al Qaeda. It seems silly to have to argue that officials responsible for counterterrorism should be able to recognize opportunities for pitting these rivals against each other.

But so far, most American officials I’ve interviewed don’t have a clue. That includes not just intelligence and law enforcement officials, but also members of Congress who have important roles overseeing our spy agencies. How can they do their jobs without knowing the basics?

My curiosity about our policymakers’ grasp of Islam’s two major branches was piqued in 2005, when Jon Stewart and other TV comedians made hash out of depositions, taken in a whistleblower case, in which top F.B.I. officials drew blanks when asked basic questions about Islam. One of the bemused officials was Gary Bald, then the bureau’s counterterrorism chief. Such expertise, Mr. Bald maintained, wasn’t as important as being a good manager.

A few months later, I asked the F.B.I.’s spokesman, John Miller, about Mr. Bald’s comments. “A leader needs to drive the organization forward,” Mr. Miller told me. “If he is the executive in a counterterrorism operation in the post-9/11 world, he does not need to memorize the collected statements of Osama bin Laden, or be able to read Urdu to be effective. ... Playing ‘Islamic Trivial Pursuit’ was a cheap shot for the lawyers and a cheaper shot for the journalist. It’s just a gimmick.”

Of course, I hadn’t asked about reading Urdu or Mr. bin Laden’s writings.

A few weeks ago, I took the F.B.I.’s temperature again. At the end of a long interview, I asked Willie Hulon, chief of the bureau’s new national security branch, whether he thought that it was important for a man in his position to know the difference between Sunnis and Shiites. “Yes, sure, it’s right to know the difference,” he said. “It’s important to know who your targets are.”

That was a big advance over 2005. So next I asked him if he could tell me the difference. He was flummoxed. “The basics goes back to their beliefs and who they were following,” he said. “And the conflicts between the Sunnis and the Shia and the difference between who they were following.”

O.K., I asked, trying to help, what about today? Which one is Iran — Sunni or Shiite? He thought for a second. “Iran and Hezbollah,” I prompted. “Which are they?”

He took a stab: “Sunni.”


Al Qaeda? “Sunni.”


AND to his credit, Mr. Hulon, a distinguished agent who is up nights worrying about Al Qaeda while we safely sleep, did at least know that the vicious struggle between Islam’s Abel and Cain was driving Iraq into civil war. But then we pay him to know things like that, the same as some members of Congress.

Take Representative Terry Everett, a seven-term Alabama Republican who is vice chairman of the House intelligence subcommittee on technical and tactical intelligence.

“Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?” I asked him a few weeks ago.

Mr. Everett responded with a low chuckle. He thought for a moment: “One’s in one location, another’s in another location. No, to be honest with you, I don’t know. I thought it was differences in their religion, different families or something.”

To his credit, he asked me to explain the differences. I told him briefly about the schism that developed after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, and how Iraq and Iran are majority Shiite nations while the rest of the Muslim world is mostly Sunni. “Now that you’ve explained it to me,” he replied, “what occurs to me is that it makes what we’re doing over there extremely difficult, not only in Iraq but that whole area.”

Representative Jo Ann Davis, a Virginia Republican who heads a House intelligence subcommittee charged with overseeing the C.I.A.’s performance in recruiting Islamic spies and analyzing information, was similarly dumbfounded when I asked her if she knew the difference between Sunnis and Shiites.

“Do I?” she asked me. A look of concentration came over her face. “You know, I should.” She took a stab at it: “It’s a difference in their fundamental religious beliefs. The Sunni are more radical than the Shia. Or vice versa. But I think it’s the Sunnis who’re more radical than the Shia.”

Did she know which branch Al Qaeda’s leaders follow?

“Al Qaeda is the one that’s most radical, so I think they’re Sunni,” she replied. “I may be wrong, but I think that’s right.”

Did she think that it was important, I asked, for members of Congress charged with oversight of the intelligence agencies, to know the answer to such questions, so they can cut through officials’ puffery when they came up to the Hill?

“Oh, I think it’s very important,” said Ms. Davis, “because Al Qaeda’s whole reason for being is based on their beliefs. And you’ve got to understand, and to know your enemy.”

It’s not all so grimly humorous. Some agency officials and members of Congress have easily handled my “gotcha” question. But as I keep asking it around Capitol Hill and the agencies, I get more and more blank stares. Too many officials in charge of the war on terrorism just don’t care to learn much, if anything, about the enemy we’re fighting. And that’s enough to keep anybody up at night.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


Brownie. Bushie. Foley. Yikes.

Friday, September 29, 2006


Florida Republican Congressman Mark Foley, chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, in an IM exchange with a sixteen year old boy:

Do I make you a little horny?

Boy: A little.


Bertrand Russell

The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

If I Can Talk About Myself For A Minute

At the risk of falling into a pool of narcissism, I must say that I love this photo. It was taken last month when I was down in Austin for my friend Cody's birthday. I love this photo because it isn't a "good" photo. Oh, it's beautifully shot, but it also is an image that shows many things about my appearance that have long made me insecure. The thick chin, the receding hairline, the crooked teeth, the bulbous nose, the deepening lines around my eyes, all are things that I would often try to avoid in a picture where I was trying to impress.

I'm a single gay man who works in the fashion industry, for god's sake! Aren't I supposed to be striving towards a low-body-fat, firm-jawed, tight-bodied, perpetually youthful image? In this picture, my age, my weight, my round-faced thickness, all the things that since puberty have alienated me from my own body and made me awkward with my physical nature, all the shortcomings that made me jealous of my peers and horribly shy about my own flesh, all the things that drove me as an adolescent and young man away from sports and leisure and sex and into a cocoon of books and a Cartesian rejection of the body for the life of the mind, a false dichotomy that continued without interruption until I was almost thirty, all these elements are on display here.

But in this photo, I'm blissfully happy.

I'm blissfully happy because I am with real friends. I'm blissfully happy because I am in a beautiful place. I'm blissfully happy because I'm healthy. I'm blissfully happy because at a certain point in my life those insecurities started to fall off.

It started with sex. Or rather, with the desire for sex. When I decided to come out, I knew that I couldn't continue to neglect my body. At first, I tried to radically change my self, losing weight and spending a lot of spare time in the gym. After a few years, it was evident to me that I would never be that cliche of fit that floated above Los Angeles like an imaginary god. I was stuck with my white trash/native American gene pool, with the kind of body that an axe-wielding Saxon foot soldier would be proud to own. So I played to my strengths and started playing rugby.

I'm not a great rugby player. I didn't take up the game until I was 31, after all. But I loved instantly the sheer, almost drug-like physical bliss that rose from using my body at it's limit. Out on the pitch was the first time that the fake wall between my mind and my body tumbled, and I felt my two sides come together. That analogy that Socrates created about human beings searching for the other half we had before the gods split us with their lightning? It was like I had found my other half.

I still have some of the old ghosts haunting me. I don't like taking off my shirt at the beach at Laguna. I'm not yet happy with my weight (though I'm getting there, thanks Cedars-Sinai!) and I still feel like a defendant in the dock every time I step within the city bounds of West Hollywood.

But I don't go to West Hollywood that much anymore. Instead, I go to Texas and float down a river with my friends. Instead, I hang out with the Australians at bars that we pick for the music. Instead, I accept that this is the only body I will ever have. Lots of burly gay men embrace the label of "bear" as a way of defining themselves and creating a tribe. I don't. Yeah, I'm a bear, in that I fit the physical requirements. I use the term sometimes as shorthand, but I also find it incredibly silly. I don't need to be part of an exclusionary culture based on fitting a physical type, even one that I happen to meet to the T. I may be the beariest bear in beartown, but in the end, I'm just me, Spence, the guy in this snapshot. Either you get it or you don't.

Either way, I love this photo.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Circling The Bowl

A letter posted to Andrew Sullivan that describes how America is now perceived in the world, from a grunts-eye perspective:

I was deployed in my reserve unit (USMCR) as part of operation Desert Storm and Desert Shield. Marine infantry, and we were on the front lines, supposedly to guard a gunship base, but really, though, the gunships guarded us.

Not too much later, it was time to take prisoners. One of the platoons went north, and when they came back, there were stories about how Iraqi soldiers lined the roads, trying to surrender. I spent a week guarding Iraqi men in a makeshift prison camp, a way-station really, and more than I could count. They didn't look like they were starving or dehydrated. Apparently, once the ground war began, they just pitched their weapons and headed south at first opportunity. The more I've thought about it, the more I realize that they knew bone deep that they'd get fair treatment. We gave them MREs (with the pork entree's removed) but almost immediately some Special Forces guys arrived and set up a real chow line for them. We gave each man a blanket, (I kept an extra as a souvie) and I think I saw a Special Forces doc giving some of them a once over.

Once, only once, one of them got all irritated and tried to get in one of the Corporal's faces, loud. (I was a lance-corporal). He wouldn't back down, so the Corporal gave him an adjustment, a rifle butt-stroke to his gut, not hard, but he went down. The Corporal sent me for the medic. The guy was ok, and now calm (or at least understanding the situation), and hand-signed that he was out of smokes and really, really needed one... Not a bad guy, just stressed-dumb and needing a smoke. None of the others prisoners in the camp even registered it.

We went north to mop up not long after that. I saw the Iraqi weapons: rocket launchers a little smaller than semi-trailers, hidden in buildings, AKs in piles, big Soviet mortars and anti-tank mines, everywhere but unarmed. They had food too. Pasteurized milk to drink, but most gone bad by then. Some of the mortar rounds were still in crates. They had long trenches that were hard to see in the dunes, bunkers with maps, fire-plans laid out, and blankets, all placed with decent vantage for command and control. They even had wire laid for land-line communications. The point is, they could have fought. Not won, no they couldn't have won, but they could have fought. Instead, they chose to surrender.

Looking back, I think that one of the main drivers in these men's heads was that they knew, absolutely, that they'd get fair treatment from us, the Americans. We were the good guys. The Iraqis on the line knew they had an out, they had hope, so they could just walk away. (A few did piss themselves when someone told them we were Marines. Go figure.) Still, they knew Americans would be fair, and we were.

Thinking hard on what I now know of history, psychology, and the meanness of politics, that reputation for fairness was damn near unique in world history. Can you tell me of any major military power that had it? Ever? France? No. Think Algeria. The UK? Sorry, Northern Ireland, the Boxer Rebellion in China... China or Russia. I don't think so. But America had it. If those men had even put up token resistance, some of us would not have come back. But they didn't even bother, and surrendered at least in part because of our reputation. Our two hundred year old reputation for being fair and humane and decent. All the way back to George Washington, and from President George H.W. Bush all the way down to a lance-corporal jarhead at the front.

Its gone now, even from me. I can't get past that image of the Iraqi, in the hood with the wires and I'm not what you'd call a sensitive type. You know the picture. And now we have a total bust-out in the White House, and a bunch of rubber-stamps in the House, trying to make it so that half-drowning people isn't torture. That hypothermia isn't torture. That degradation isn't torture. We don't have that reputation for fairness anymore. Just the opposite, I think. And the next real enemy we face will fight like only the cornered and desperate fight. How many Marines' lives will be lost in the war ahead just because of this asshole who never once risked anything for this country?

Is That A Mustache?

So surging Democratic Senatorial Candidate Jim Webb of Virginia is being haunted by a comment he made 27 years ago, referring to female Midshipmen at the Naval Academy as "thunder thighs". In his defense, I used to live in Annapolis. Imagine a steroidal Russian power lifter dressed up like an ice cream man, and you get a pretty good idea of the average female Middie.

But that's a good thing, no? Who wouldn't want a battle-ax like that next to you in a fox hole?

Google Hearts Republicans

Guess who's standing up for endangered New Mexico Republican Congresswoman Heather Wilson? Why, it's the company whose motto is "Don't Be Evil".

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Stephen Laffey, writing in a Bowdoin College paper in the 80's:

"I have never once seen a happy homosexual. This is not to say there aren't any; I simply haven't seen one in my lifetime. Maybe they are all in the closet. All the homosexuals I've seen are sickly and decrepit, their eyes devoid of life."

Stephen Laffey, failed wingnut Senate candidate, yesterday:

Um, happy much Stevie?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Henry Rollins Hearts Ann Coulter

As much as I love this, I still want to kick Henry Rollins' Ass.

The Olbermann Commentary

Monday, September 11, 2006

Seven Things Democrats Should Love About The Path to 9/11

Ok, I'm gonna play devil's advocate here. I caught a lot of inaccuracies in this controversial show, and I generally agree that it was a hatchet job, but here's a few points about it that, to the filmmakers credit, Democrats could love:

1) Terrorists hate Bill Clinton. I mean, they call him Satan and mock-execute him. If he was so soft on terrorists, why did they hate him so much?

2) Bush's T-shirt. Bush is shown on the morning of September 11th, having just finished a run, standing in a dorky yellow sweat-stained t-shirt talking about how "this whole day is about education". He looks hopelessly out of touch.

3) Richard Clarke is a badass. This Clinton Administration holdover seemed to be about the only dude in the Bush Administration who had any balls. Whether it's giving orders on his front porch or rushing to the White House the morning of the attack, he certainly comes off better then Condi, George, or Dick (who appears to be a senile 90 year old in the film)

4) Colleen Rowley is a badass. The current Democratic congressional candidate from Minnesota is the Cassandra of terror, ringing the bell over Moussaoui.

5) The Bush administration sits on it's hands. This is the major theme of the second half of the movie, and White House higher-ups ignore warnings from the Northern Alliance and from their own FBI agents, doing nothing but infighting while the attack approaches. Generally, the second half is almost as hard on the Bushes as the first was on the Clintons. Not quite, of course, but almost.

6) The shot of Condi Rice holding a report entitled "Bin Laden determined to attack within the United States" and sitting at her desk doing nothing.

7)Probably most damaging of all, the coda at the end. Text at the very end announces that of the 44 recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, the government, i.e. the Bush Administration, received almost all failing grades last year in the Commission's follow-up. This is a point that Democratic politicians have been hammering home, and that last bit of text that closed the film could have been written by Howard Dean's office.

I bring these points up only because, while I generally found the film disingenuous and downright mendacious at points (Bush didn't give his "moment of silence" speech until after all the planes had crashed, to cite just one example from the last five minutes) I also didn't find it to be the blunt instrument of propaganda that I expected it to be. I can't stand the Administration, and I loved Olbermann tonight, but the greatest sin I saw in Path to 9/11 was the cheap cynicism of melodrama.

Oh, and the way that ABC made it's own reporters out to be heroes. That must have been the hook in the pitch meeting for sure.

Kieth Olbermann, Tonight From Ground Zero

Half a lifetime ago, I worked in this now-empty space. And for 40 days after the attacks, I worked here again, trying to make sense of what happened, and was yet to happen, as a reporter.

All the time, I knew that the very air I breathed contained the remains of thousands of people, including four of my friends, two in the planes and -- as I discovered from those "missing posters" seared still into my soul -- two more in the Towers.

And I knew too, that this was the pyre for hundreds of New York policemen and firemen, of whom my family can claim half a dozen or more, as our ancestors.

I belabor this to emphasize that, for me this was, and is, and always shall be, personal.

And anyone who claims that I and others like me are "soft,"or have "forgotten" the lessons of what happened here is at best a grasping, opportunistic, dilettante and at worst, an idiot whether he is a commentator, or a Vice President, or a President.

However, of all the things those of us who were here five years ago could have forecast -- of all the nightmares that unfolded before our eyes, and the others that unfolded only in our minds -- none of us could have predicted this.

Five years later this space is still empty.

Five years later there is no memorial to the dead.

Five years later there is no building rising to show with proud defiance that we would not have our America wrung from us, by cowards and criminals.

Five years later this country's wound is still open.

Five years later this country's mass grave is still unmarked.

Five years later this is still just a background for a photo-op.

It is beyond shameful.

At the dedication of the Gettysburg Memorial -- barely four months after the last soldier staggered from another Pennsylvania field -- Mr. Lincoln said, "we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."

Lincoln used those words to immortalize their sacrifice.

Today our leaders could use those same words to rationalize their reprehensible inaction. "We cannot dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground." So we won't.

Instead they bicker and buck pass. They thwart private efforts, and jostle to claim credit for initiatives that go nowhere. They spend the money on irrelevant wars, and elaborate self-congratulations, and buying off columnists to write how good a job they're doing instead of doing any job at all.

Five years later, Mr. Bush, we are still fighting the terrorists on these streets. And look carefully, sir, on these 16 empty acres. The terrorists are clearly, still winning.

And, in a crime against every victim here and every patriotic sentiment you mouthed but did not enact, you have done nothing about it.

And there is something worse still than this vast gaping hole in this city, and in the fabric of our nation. There is its symbolism of the promise unfulfilled, the urgent oath, reduced to lazy execution.

The only positive on 9/11 and the days and weeks that so slowly and painfully followed it was the unanimous humanity, here, and throughout the country. The government, the President in particular, was given every possible measure of support.

Those who did not belong to his party -- tabled that.

Those who doubted the mechanics of his election -- ignored that.

Those who wondered of his qualifications -- forgot that.

History teaches us that nearly unanimous support of a government cannot be taken away from that government by its critics. It can only be squandered by those who use it not to heal a nation's wounds, but to take political advantage.

Terrorists did not come and steal our newly-regained sense of being American first, and political, fiftieth. Nor did the Democrats. Nor did the media. Nor did the people.

The President -- and those around him -- did that.

They promised bi-partisanship, and then showed that to them, "bi-partisanship" meant that their party would rule and the rest would have to follow, or be branded, with ever-escalating hysteria, as morally or intellectually confused, as appeasers, as those who, in the Vice President's words yesterday, "validate the strategy of the terrorists."

They promised protection, and then showed that to them "protection" meant going to war against a despot whose hand they had once shaken, a despot who we now learn from our own Senate Intelligence Committee, hated al-Qaida as much as we did.

The polite phrase for how so many of us were duped into supporting a war, on the false premise that it had 'something to do' with 9/11 is "lying by implication."

The impolite phrase is "impeachable offense."

Not once in now five years has this President ever offered to assume responsibility for the failures that led to this empty space, and to this, the current, curdled, version of our beloved country.

Still, there is a last snapping flame from a final candle of respect and fairness: even his most virulent critics have never suggested he alone bears the full brunt of the blame for 9/11.

Half the time, in fact, this President has been so gently treated, that he has seemed not even to be the man most responsible for anything in his own administration.

Yet what is happening this very night?

A mini-series, created, influenced -- possibly financed by -- the most radical and cold of domestic political Machiavellis, continues to be televised into our homes.

The documented truths of the last fifteen years are replaced by bald-faced lies; the talking points of the current regime parroted; the whole sorry story blurred, by spin, to make the party out of office seem vacillating and impotent, and the party in office, seem like the only option.

How dare you, Mr. President, after taking cynical advantage of the unanimity and love, and transmuting it into fraudulent war and needless death, after monstrously transforming it into fear and suspicion and turning that fear into the campaign slogan of three elections? How dare you -- or those around you -- ever "spin" 9/11?

Just as the terrorists have succeeded -- are still succeeding -- as long as there is no memorial and no construction here at Ground Zero.

So, too, have they succeeded, and are still succeeding as long as this government uses 9/11 as a wedge to pit Americans against Americans.

This is an odd point to cite a television program, especially one from March of 1960. But as Disney's continuing sell-out of the truth (and this country) suggests, even television programs can be powerful things.

And long ago, a series called "The Twilight Zone" broadcast a riveting episode entitled "The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street."

In brief: a meteor sparks rumors of an invasion by extra-terrestrials disguised as humans. The electricity goes out. A neighbor pleads for calm. Suddenly his car -- and only his car -- starts. Someone suggests he must be the alien. Then another man's lights go on. As charges and suspicion and panic overtake the street, guns are inevitably produced. An "alien" is shot -- but he turns out to be just another neighbor, returning from going for help. The camera pulls back to a near-by hill, where two extra-terrestrials are seen manipulating a small device that can jam electricity. The veteran tells his novice that there's no need to actually attack, that you just turn off a few of the human machines and then, "they pick the most dangerous enemy they can find, and it's themselves."

And then, in perhaps his finest piece of writing, Rod Serling sums it up with words of remarkable prescience, given where we find ourselves tonight: "The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices, to be found only in the minds of men.

"For the record, prejudices can kill and suspicion can destroy, and a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all its own -- for the children, and the children yet unborn."

When those who dissent are told time and time again -- as we will be, if not tonight by the President, then tomorrow by his portable public chorus -- that he is preserving our freedom, but that if we use any of it, we are somehow un-American...When we are scolded, that if we merely question, we have "forgotten the lessons of 9/11"... look into this empty space behind me and the bi-partisanship upon which this administration also did not build, and tell me:

Who has left this hole in the ground?

We have not forgotten, Mr. President.

You have.

May this country forgive you.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Oye, Bubeshko!

So. Damn. Jealous.
One of my favorite buildings, the 1941 Schindler-designed Bubesko apartments in Silverlake, is renting out the grandest top floor unit. Private backyard and terrace included, only $3650 a month. All those bad things I've said about being rich? I take them all back.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

So Much For The Dialectic

I've actually met Hugh Hewitt, the right-wing radio host, after a lecture at my college. He seemed to be a nice enough guy, a bit long-winded and given to a creepy sentimentality in regards to Richard Nixon, but hardly a moron. Like with so many true ideologues, the main thing that struck you about him was the way that, when launching into a spiel, he already seemed to have it in the can; he got that blank look that people sometimes have when they are trying to remember everything on their grocery list, except in his case it wasn't mustard and shampoo but talking points he was dredging up from the shadier recesses of his mind. I think the word for this is didactic.

But like so many other conservative academics who used to pay lip service to ideas and conversation over naked power partisanship, Hewitt seems to have been driven around the bend by his fear after September 11th. Or maybe his ascension to the blunt instrument of the radio forced him to new unpleasant extremes. Whatever the reason, he has, in the ensuing years, devolved into the worst sort of apologist, a stiffnecked and clumsy cheerleader for a political movement that has little to do anymore with the ideas that once supposedly animated it. He is a kitten-strangler, the kind of true believer for whom no act carried out by his liege would be beyond the pale (including the aforementioned cat asphyxiation).

So it's not at all shocking that he was actually asking his listeners to call into his show yesterday to repeat on air and verbatim this trite, boring, worn-out little piece of wet noodle sophistry:

"Any vote for any House or Senate Democrat is a vote against victory and a vote for vulnerability. Vote for Victory. Vote Republican."

This is what it's come to for the bitter enders. We need to remember that when Tricky Dick himself (whom Hewitt once served in his post-Presidential days) left office in disgrace, a full quarter of the electorate still had his back. There are always those who will believe no matter what, like the Jehovah's Witness I once spoke with who, after admitting to me that I had soundly refuted an erroneous biblical claim he had made, repeated the exact same point word for word just ten minutes later. Reason was impervious to his catechism.

The tragedy is that, from what I little I have witnessed of Hewitt, he isn't that stupid.

I guess that's why we have the phrase "willing tool".

Whistlin' Dixie

Gee, it must be an election year, cuz the code words are flying. First, fake GOB George Allen lets loose with an ethnic slur he must have learned on his mother's Pied-noir knee, an incident that reminds people of his good old days hangin' with the back-of-the-bus crowd and remembering Dixie at Palos Verdes High School. Then some cracker in Florida informs us that blacks can't swim. And now we get Conrad Burns, second-most-endangered member of the Senate, doing his best to make sure that we are pissing ourselves whenever the need arises to hail a taxi:

At the campaign event with [First Lady Laura] Bush, Burns talked about the war on terrorism, saying a "faceless enemy" of terrorists "drive taxi cabs in the daytime and kill at night."

Mind you, while hailing taxis at 2am, I've frequently been about ready to piss myself, but not because I'm afraid of teh terr'ists!

A Series Of Rubes

Poor Ted Stevens. First, the Ted Stevens Memorial Bridge To Nowhere becomes the shining symbol of pork-driven Washington corruption. Second, well, teh internets turn out to be a series of tubes. And now, he's been revealed to be the lone senator holding up a bill that would actually make the government post a list on said series of tubes explaining where, exactly, all our tax money is spent. Don't want folks knowing that, now do we?

Small. Government. Conservative.
Words Ted Stevens should never be able to say without a laugh track playing in the background.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Whisky, Women, and Song

This year Sunset Junction has been reading my I-pod. Unlike last year's suckiness (was it The Donnas?) this year we got our bad-ass country on, with Hank III, Drive By Truckers, Dave Alvin, Mike Stinson, etc. I'll be there working the Rebellion Rugby booth on Sunday afternoon and taking in the show Sunday evening. I might even wear my boots. Cowboy, not rugby.