Thursday, January 26, 2006


I suppose I should be giving positive reinforcement to Roxanne's continuing resolutions to average reading a book per week for the year. On the other hand, I am also sad to see anyone needing to urge themselves on to read so few. What does she have, a social life or something? But, inspired by the example of her ongoing reports as, at least, a way to fill blog space, I may post some interesting quotes I find in some of this annum's perusals.

Umberto Eco is the sort of person who can drown you in his erudition and in-jokes, turning otherwise readable tomes like The Name of the Rose into huge shaggy dog stories. Not long into his latest that I picked up, The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, I was ready to quit in frustration. This tale of an amnesiac struggling to recall his past seemed as grossly self-indulgent as Daniel Martin or Fools Die, but with a much more immature (even though older) protagonist. The innocence of the narrator lured me on a little, as the self-indulgence descended into childish memories of reading, movies, and music. For some reason it began to remind me more of The Number Of The Beast (but with no adventure), or a young boy's version of the movie All That Jazz. It became even more like that movie toward the end, which is such a disappointment here that I cannot recommend this one. What, I read through all this just for that? He does include one interestingly Dostoevskian character who propounds this rant:
"It's simple, it just never occured to anyone before: God is evil. Why do priests say God is good? Because he created us. but that's precisely why he's evil. God doesn't have evil the way we have a headache. God is Evil. Maybe, seeing as he's eternal, he wasn't evil billions of years ago. Maybe he became that way, like kids who get bored in the summer and start tearing the wings off flies, to pass the time. Notice how if you think that God is evil, the whole question of Evil becomes crystal clear." ...

And yet he was not mean, he loved the people around him. He had it in only for God, and that must have been a real chore, because it was like throwing rocks at a rhinoceros -- the rhinoceros never even notices and continues going about its rhino business, and meanwhile you are red with rage and ripe for a heart attack. (p. 351-353)

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

There Is A Goddess, And She's Pissed

At Shakespeare's Sister they spotted this tale of a vulture unlucky at playing living dice. They bought a dying AIDS patient's life insurance a decade ago, when she had two years to live, agreeing to pay her costs until death in return for a profit from the rest of her policy. Whoops!! She's still here, and their investors are losing cash. As the six-fingered Count said in The Princess Bride, I think that's the saddest tale I've ever heard. Poor vultures! Not finding any sympathy for their deeply felt need for morbid plunder.
"For all moves in consonance with a higher power that understands the meaning of the movement. And each moves the pieces before him in consonance with his ability. So the game is endless and ruthless: and there is merriment overhead, but it is very far away."
--James Branch Cabell, Jurgen

His Own Praetorian Guards

Found at Talk Left:
Section 605 of the House version of the Patriot Act renewal legislation ... calls for the creation of a Federal Police Force.
"A permanent police force, to be known as the 'United States Secret Service Uniformed Division,'" empowered to "make arrests without warrant for any offense against the United States committed in their presence" ... "or for any felony cognizable under the laws of the United States if they have reasonable grounds to believe that the person to be arrested has committed or is committing such felony."
Somewhere down the road, will this personal police be auctioning off the by-then meaningless title of President to a future Didius Julianus? At least they are started on the right foot, because the Secret Service already has the historically-appropriate initials.

Us And Them

The usually delightfully witty Molly Ivins is rightfully angry, but has decided to take it out not on the criminals oppressing us, but on powerless bystanders who don't denounce that as much as she would like. She attacks the enablers rather than the destroyers. The first target of her wrath is the junior Senator from New York.
I'd like to make it clear to the people who run the Democratic Party that I will not support Hillary Clinton for president.

Enough. Enough triangulation, calculation and equivocation. Enough clever straddling, enough not offending anyone. This is not a Dick Morris election. Sen. Clinton is apparently incapable of taking a clear stand on the war in Iraq, and that alone is enough to disqualify her. Her failure to speak out on Terri Schiavo, not to mention that gross pandering on flag-burning, are just contemptible little dodges.
Hill is hardly the worst of the pandering ilk, or even the worst such among likely Presidential contenders. Molly is just shooting at her because she is the biggest target at the moment. I sympathize with her resentment, but the real villains are in the Republican Party right now, and we need to throw everything we can at them to wake up the inert masses. If the public is aroused to demand impeachment, any ambitious Dems will go along or be left behind. Don't waste ammo on the spineless crowd-chasers.

Molly goes further, denouncing the whole DC Dem establishment:
What kind of courage does it take, for mercy's sake? The majority of the American people (55 percent) think the war in Iraq is a mistake and that we should get out. The majority (65 percent) of the American people want single-payer health care and are willing to pay more taxes to get it. The majority (86 percent) of the American people favor raising the minimum wage. The majority of the American people (60 percent) favor repealing Bush's tax cuts, or at least those that go only to the rich. The majority (66 percent) wants to reduce the deficit not by cutting domestic spending, but by reducing Pentagon spending or raising taxes.

The majority (77 percent) thinks we should do "whatever it takes" to protect the environment. The majority (87 percent) thinks big oil companies are gouging consumers and would support a windfall profits tax. That is the center, you fools. WHO ARE YOU AFRAID OF?
She may be right about how the public feels, though I have doubts. Polls always show almost no one is really a bigot, and yet I keep meeting them. Could it be people *gasp* LIE to pollsters about what they believe?

In any case, some of those views are WRONG even if a majority does hold them, which makes their support out there irrelevant, if being right matters to you. More importantly, most "swing voters" don't decide who to vote for by sending candidates a questionnaire on issues. They vote on a general feeling about how the candidates feel about them. Hence we have tons of pandering, like very public church attendance by people who are agnostics or less, and so on. Talk about motherhood and apple pie and put a flag pen in the lapel. The politicians who win know this well.

Molly doesn't have to run, so she doesn't have to kiss anyone's rear. An enviable position, but one that leaves her with a blind spot for the awful burden pols feel to be liked, so that they can be elected, so that they can make changes. Molly is not only better company, but has a purer soul. We can all praise her consistency when they haul her away to Guantanamo. Or, we can just wave to her from the next cell.

She does have one bit of great advice though, for those accused of treason by the servants of the powers that would be forever. The classic example of the best way to respond to that kind of imtimidation is Patrick Henry's "make the most of it". Molly's tale may not be historically accurate, but it makes the point clear:
Bush, Cheney and Co. will continue to play the patriotic bully card just as long as you let them. I've said it before: War brings out the patriotic bullies. In World War I, they went around kicking dachshunds on the grounds that dachshunds were "German dogs." They did not, however, go around kicking German shepherds. The MINUTE someone impugns your patriotism for opposing this war, turn on them like a snarling dog and explain what loving your country really means.

Battening The Hatches

The Bush administration is bracing for impeachment hearings in Congress. "A coalition in Congress is being formed to support impeachment," an administration source said.

Sources said a prelude to the impeachment process could begin with hearings by the Senate Judiciary Committee in February. They said the hearings would focus on the secret electronic surveillance program and whether Mr. Bush violated the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Administration sources said the charges are expected to include false reports to Congress as well as Mr. Bush's authorization of the National Security Agency to engage in electronic surveillance inside the United States without a court warrant. This included the monitoring of overseas telephone calls and e-mail traffic to and from people living in the United States without requisite permission from a secret court.

Sources said the probe to determine whether the president violated the law will include Republicans, but that they may not be aware they could be helping to lay the groundwork for a Democratic impeachment campaign against Mr. Bush.

"Our arithmetic shows that a majority of the committee could vote against the president," the source said. "If we work hard, there could be a tie."
The sycophants at the White House understand the danger they are in. Fortunately for them, their biggest threat comes from the Democratic Party, which has developed moral cowardice and appeasement of political thugs into a fine art. Don't count your chickenhawks before they fry.

Notice that this concern by all the Prez's men is directed toward the Senate. If a real attempt at impeachment is made, it will have to come from the House, where the iron triangle of corruption has junior Repubs too imtimidated to breathe without permission. The House will not pass a bill of impeachment until the Democrats retake it. I've predicted for some time that impeachment will not be tried until 2007.

One other point: Nixon would probably not have been impeached if Agnew had still been Veep. Cheney is far worse. If you want to take down Bush, you've got to get Cheney out of the line of succession first. Take the evidence and quietly offer him a chance to resign for "health reasons", and he'll go. Otherwise, you'll have to impeach him first.

I've been rereading history about the final collapse of small-"R" republican institutions in ancient Rome. Legally, the old structure remained. In fact, it had been usurped by extra-legal powers. Our Congress still has much more power to stop these tyrants than the old Roman Senate, but they are letting it slip away each day they do not use it.

You know, for most people in Rome, or Italy, or much of the rest of the Imperial world, the rule of Augustus wasn't too bad. Gibbon even wrote of it as perhaps the happiest time in western history. You may not even need to flee to foreign lands, if you keep your head down and don't become guilty of treason by criticizing the Great Leader. Relax, watch the circuses on TV, and don't worry about the trouble-makers being rounded up. Broken eggs for omelets and all that.

Before too many generations, no one will any longer believe there ever was a country where people really ruled themselves for two centuries. Dormez bien.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Unbearable Whiteness Of Being There

Doghouse Riley ponders the only Prez we've got as Sacrificial Defecator in a consumerist world. Key quote:
"Kissing a toilet seat? Young man, if you go around kissing toilet seats, getting VD is the last thing you should be worried about."
Something to read on the throne at James Lileks in the Amazing Battery-Powered Foaming Bowl-a-Rama.

Redoubling Effort When Blind

Former South Dakota Sen. Tom Daschle is weighing the possibility of running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008.

"I have received a lot of encouragement," Daschle said in an email today to the Argus Leader.
Which brings up another great quote from Pogo, when someone suggested calling their group the "reform school of political thinking": "We can lose in easier ways". (Found at the Sideshow.)

A Letter From Dirty Jerry

I know what you're thinking. "Is it worth a smiting or will I just get plagues?" Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I've kind of forgotten what in Christ's name I was supposed to do to you. But being as this is a Smitemaster 5000, the most powerful fiery sword in all of Heaven, and would cleave thee clean in two, you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky?
View the entire angelic epistle at Jesus' General.

Job Applications On The Web

Alan Dershowitz just wrote an article about the pointlessness of the recent spectacle of Senators pretending to inquire into the intentions of Bush's latest catspaw:
In four full days of questioning, the Senate Judiciary Committee was not able to elicit much useful information from Judge Samuel Alito. To be sure, Alito deserves part of the blame for his evasiveness.
What Dershowitz is leading up to is a proposal to turn the interrogation of nominated Extreme Court members over to "outside counsel" instead. I am reminded of an old line from Pogo: whenever some thinker comes up with an idea to fix unemployment, the first one to get a job turns out to be the thinker. So Alan wants to be doing the grilling himself. You know, considering some of his expressed views about how to pry info from reluctant witnesses, that might be fun to watch as long as Bush is making the appointments.
"But placing a sterilized needle under somebody’s fingernails for fifteen minutes, causing excruciating pain but no permanent physical damage -- is that torture?"
Of course he only suggests this for "ticking bomb scenarios". This certainly qualifies. There is no doubt that such a looming catastrophe exists, prepared to explode at some future date and destroy women's Constitutional rights (or at least their penumbras) to control their own bodies. He specifically said privacy was settled precedent (meaning, in the relevant case, no bans on contraception for married women), but equally clearly refused to say the same thing about abortion. Give him a shot, and he'll slap it down. But those nice, polite Senators and gushing media clones refuse to admit the obvious without his actually saying so. They all seem to live in horror of syllogisms. Concluding that "Socrates is mortal" would look partisan. Logic is always so one-sided.

Very well, if you won't use your own mental tools, then by any means do turn Sammy the Searchmonger over to the tender mercies of "questioning" by Alan the Enabler. We know the flack for the famous do-badders will enjoy it, thanks to the latest studies. Nor would only men be willing to buy tickets to the spectacle....

Reports Of My Absence...

...were obviously correct. The problem was not lack of material or failure of nerve, but holidays and ineradicable illness -- minor itself, and now almost dried up, but the kind which disenables the mental acuteness because of the medicine. Ugh. The head is now clear enough to dive back in. Let us begin....