Saturday, December 29, 2007

Randoms: Covering Pakistan The Right Way

I tend to praise Philip Reeves on these pages quite a bit because, in spite of his colleagues, he refuses to give an NPR spin to his reportage from South Asia.

This morning it was sort of strange, in a good way, to hear him covering the jolting post-Bhutto events in Pakistan, because he sticks to what is known and what he has observed rather than getting mucked up in a bunch of speculative gobbledegook. I suppose that's old-fashioned. Works for me, though.

The NPR Spin always seems to try and have stuff 'figured out', as if they're one step ahead of the players in current events. It's always so show-offy and mock-clever. Is that what 'in depth' reporting is supposed to be? Can you imagine having Ari-Conditioned Shapiro or Mara-Mara Liarson in Karachi right now??

Contrasted with Linda Wertheimer's martini-glass-and-cigarette-holder drawl (who does she wannabe, Tallulah Bankhead??), Mr Reeves sounds traditionally straight-as-an-old-BBC-arrow in his objective reports. A clear and steady voice is needed in the current turmoil, and Reeves is the man. He's the only reason that I'm following Pak events on NPR right now. He isn't buying in to this Frank Luntz-ish 'Most Dangerous Nation' classification BS.

(I ask you, WHO is the most dangerous nation in the world?)

PS: As most of us would agree, there are worse chattering pieholes at NPR than Dame Linda, like, surprise, surprise, Little Bobby Siegel and his sickening attempts at sounding like some super-intellectual transatlantic don - or whuteveh. I know, you think I've got it out for Sir Robert, but I just had to squeeze that in.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Very Mafia Assassination - With A New PS


Fig 1. BBC Screen Shot, 27 Dec. 07

Benazir Bhutto's assassination is based on two forces in conflict in Pakistan.

The first is dynastic. As the daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the Prime Minster who was overthrown by Gen. Zia al-Huq, and subsequently hanged, Benazir had an imperative of avenging his death. After several years as Pakistan's Chief Martial Law Administrator, Zia was bumped off in a plane crash. Daughter Benazir then swept into power. After two terms of Benazir's premiership, and that of Nawaz Sharif, the reactive military regained power in the person of Pervez Musharraf. As his tenure has gone on though, the inevitable shift draws nigh.

The pattern is steady. It is emotional but logical. Cause and effect in the control of power. In India, the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty has gone through their own epic saga of similarities. But of course, power dynasties are to be found in every part of the world.

The second force is geopolitical. The bare facts are these: Bush's regional policies have destabilized Pakistan more than it has consistently been in the past. Higher stakes in the region have tempted power players into more overt action. Iraq, of course, is the most blatant example of this aggressive meddling. Failures in Afghanistan - at Tora Bora, which enabled the realignment of al-Qaeda, and the return of the Taliban, have transferred elements of higher-level conflict to Pakistan. This has allowed for violence to be portable and effective amidst a challenging physical environment, which has in fact never come under any consistent control, either by the British, or the Pakistani government. Also, the elimination of Bhutto as a potential alternative to Musharraf has solidified the latter's position, which is attractive to Bush & Associated Interests. Much more reliable than Saddam ever was as a partner, Musharraf can pose as a restorer of democracy, but in actuality can now bolster his power and remain Bush's malleable and cooperative partner.

The overarching movements here are primitive, though Shakespearean. Dynastic power. Overthrow. Revenge. Consolidation of power. Cyclical. Tit for tat. Primitive - but classic.

Colloquially, I refer to the current pattern as Mafia-istic. This is because it is a simple process of elimination of rivals and/or enemies if they are a threat, or could become a threat. Banal-but-true fact: Mafia tactics are employed by many forces in the world, both governmental and non-governmental. This elementary fact is essential to keep prominent if any understanding past media obfuscation is to be had.

George W. Bush essentially employed the same tactics with Saddam - who didn't stay 'bought' - as a reaction to his father's run-in with Saddam and the attempted assassination of Bush Sr afterwards, all in the name of justice and democracy. The same Mafia principles are in play. Corporate interests have naturally benefited, as well as the elites involved, who value power over anything else. Very little interpretation is needed to understand this.

I am simplifying a seemingly complex situation because it is, in fact, simple. Elements such as BushCorp and Associated Interests would have us believe that this is all part of their 'War on Terror', but it is actually yet another product of their obfuscation of grander strategies for control and dominance of important regions and nations of the world. If they are not directly culpable in events like this, they are certainly influential, based on their agendas.

Other regional conflicts tend to be overlooked by the west. The Kashmir situation with India has proceeded on and off for over 60 years. These days, in the western mainstream media, India is hardly mentioned in connection with Pakistan, except to note that the two are nuclear-armed. This is partly because of India's booming economy, which promises to be a growing market for western corporate interests. On the other hand, Pakistan seems to be regarded as an 'expendable' terrain, not so important economically, but certainly as an acceptable front for the deception and smoke screen actions of the 'War on Terror'. Such a war serves the purposes of larger interests, which one can only hint at, due to their sophistication in self-interested operations.

Finally, the assassination of Benazir Bhutto is a great loss. Condolences then, to her children and other family members, and all those who followed her in Pakistan. Every leader is flawed, but her presence as a political force was important and needful. The shock of such an event soon gives way to an apolitical sadness. Behind the loss, however, there are winners. It is vital to keep this perspective in mind.

PS: And now, with the JFK-like variations as to the actual cause of her death, suspicion and theories will only grow. They can certainly grow, but what can be done with them? The preposterous story that Ms Bhutto hit her head on the sunroof 'lever' is gallows humor at its blackest. What contemporary vehicle's electrically-operated sunroof has a 'lever'? Even 1960s VW Beetles and Peugeot 404s did not have 'levers'. They had cranks that didn't get in anyone's way. But explanations like this one are extremely typical of Mafia methods. And with Pervez Musharraf having done a Bush-like commandeering of the Pak courts, it is highly unlikely that her body will be exhumed for a proper autopsy. Such a procedure might reveal that, in the midst of external diversions, a bullet was coldly and efficiently pumped through her brain, probably from inside the vehicle. It's all very cinematic, isn't it? Choose your scenario. Not only was Ms Bhutto's wagon 'fixed', to use pop Mafia terminology, but all attendant evidence has been seen to as well. Thus was the Final Solution for the Bhutto alternative carried out with complete success. For the present, anyway.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Candidate Review! Mediocre, Dull Fred


Fig.1:
He: How do you like my manly bulletproof vest, Jeri?
She: Oh, what I'm really admiring is your manly head of distinguished grey hair!!
He: Lick my comb, baby! Your hair's actually greasier than mine! Birds of a feather...know what I mean?
Fred: (from offstage) But I thought you liked balding virile types, Jeri! Jeri? But, it's OK, your hand's in mine. Honey?
He: I'm free, now that Shaha's dumped me.
She: Maybe I can find your comb if I just...feel up your...vest a bit...oooh...!
Fred: (from further offstage) Jeri? Honey...? Where's your hand?



Fig.2: Now THIS is the kind of bald president to have!


Fred Thompson! You're an actor - actor/pontificator
And representative of all the race;
Although 'tis true you turned out a Neocon/Backwards-Facing/Shrunken-Minded Republican at
Last, - yours has lately been a common case;
And now, my Epic Renegade! what are ye at?

(With deep apologies to My Lord Byron)

Our casually-named prez selection is right on schedule. Fred, Freddy, Freddie, Frud, anything except Frederick. 'Frederick' sounds like a Prussian (and homosexual) king in the 1700s or something.

I don't believe I've ever seen Fred in anything on stage or screen. Scanning his IMDb list, I guess I have, but he scarcely stands out in my mind. There are those who say 'oh, he's been in everything,' but no he hasn't. Just because he's on that popular lawyer show, which I've never seen, DOESN'T MEAN he's 'been in everything'.

Even Ronald Reagan had 'King's Row' and 'Santa Fe Trail' under his belt ('Bonzo' needn't be mentioned, don't you think?). Fred Thompson? He's got 'Day-O' and 'Curly Sue'. (OK, he had small roles in Scorsese's excellent 'Cape Fear' and also 'Hunt for Red October', which was pretty good, but THAT'S IT.)

So Fred's largely a pontificator. I don't like him in the least. I don't care for his slag-pile appearance, his lousy attempt at feigning a hound-dog voice with it's folksy relaxed inflexions, and his supposed 'charisma' that leads people to think he doesn't have to prove himself.

Plus! He has nothing whatsoever to offer politically. Nothing original, or fresh, or helpful. He's a tiresome and worthless figure that was wheeled out on stage to supposedly pep a hopeless group up, but the effort is a failure, and Fred will have to drift back to San Fernando Valley where the gigs still are. But watch it Fred, due to your brief but lard-ass excursion back to DC, those kids running the studios now might not know who you are anymore. 'What's a Fred Thompson?' they're bound to say. Just like they did with Rod Steiger. No one knew who he was when he was looking for a job.

Now Rod Steiger - there's an idea. Rod Steiger would make a mucking FANTASTIC prez! He'd get us out of our heap 'a trouble, that's for sure. But Rod's dead! Do you hear me, ROD STEIGER IS DEAD.

Fred's trophy wife, Jeri, gets a lot of attention, natch. She may be an okay person, but I severely question anybody who would get cuddly with my good buddy Paul the Ersatz Wolf. Look at him in Fig.1! Jeri's got him by his holey socks, but he's obviously trying to hide his terror by, I don't know, puffing up or something. Failures tend to do that. Go, Jeri, GO!!
Oh, and where's Fred to defend Paul?

Forget Fred. Just download Fig. 2, put it on your desktop, sigh, and dream about what might've been...

The Chief's Ding Dong School


Fig 1: Real Learning Starts Here

99's got it right, 86. And the Chief looks like he's got some pondering to do.

Seriously:

I think this whole tape destruction of interrogation sequences at Gitmo story is a White House plot to punish the CIA/intelligence community for delivering the credible report, just a few days earlier, regarding Iran's non-nukes. The tape destruction story, odious as it is, pales in comparison. Dick & Co wanted war badly. Now THEY've been hornswoggled, so now CIA must pay. The premise for the tapes falling into the wrong hands is absurd. Security storage, even at the leaky CIA, can no doubt be maximized to sci-fi dimensions. Just think of the stuff being stored at the CIA that we HAVEN'T seen yet! The media should not be deceived by this 'shocking' tapes story. BushCorp wants everybody to get hung up on it while the real biggie, Iran, looms in the background.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Candidate Review! You Keep Sounding The Alarm, Dennis!



Fig 1:
She: If you do all the things you promise, you may take me to the fair.
He: Impeach!
She: If you can carry out your program, you may guide me to the show.
He: Withdraw!
She: I do applaud your noble goals, now let us see if you achieve them.
(with apologies to Lerner & Loewe)


As a Mosaic character, Dennis Kucinich has little in common physically with Chuck Heston. But the power that emanates from that little guy could, or should part the Red Sea, for crying out loud.

I'm not going to run on about Dennis. Because, I don't really think it's appropriate to give him equal mockery or the playful time that I give others running for prez right now. It's because, when you examine the actual substance of DK's agenda, statements and causes, he emerges as not only sensible, but he is proof that we need someone with his depth of understanding to actually steer the country away from the corrupt lifestyles and agendas that have overwhelmed the corridors of power more than ever. He's so right-on that, as far as his rivals are concerned, he must and shall be portrayed as a kook and an oddball who is nothing more than a Don Quixote to chuckle at (if anyone knows who Don Q is or what he was trying to do...). Ever since the Reagan years, which were a backlash against the '60s, conventionality has been the comfort zone; fitting in is where it's at. Curiously, this runs counter to the Great American Tradition of Individualism. Enlightened individualism, combined with responsible independence, is where transcendent advancement is born. Not to elevate Dennis on too high a plane, but his progressive stance on many issues is true forward thinking. It's actual planning ahead, instead of gamboling in what I call Lunge Methodology, that is, getting all you can as fast as you can, and the hell with everybody else. American civilization was founded on E Pluribus Unum, not gimme, gimme, gimme. Dennis isn't the only one who seems interested in sticking to our needful guidelines, but boy, look at his record. He's hung right in there in all the right progressive issues. He makes Dubya's much-vaunted resolute factor look like the delusional cosmology of a goofus who can't even run a popcorn machine, let alone a massive ship of state.

Did anyone see Dennis give Donny Rumsfeld a very fine tongue lashing in one of many hearings last year? You had to go to C-SPAN and dig it out, but I tell ya, Rummy was rendered almost speechless by Dennis' pit bull interrogation, and he accomplished this excellent task without resorting to 'controlled drowning'.

Yes, he's got an impressive trophy wife, a lustily-elegant Renaissance fair of a lady (and a helluva lot sexier than all of, say, Ghouliani the Mug's grotesque seraglio plastered together). But the thing is, Elizabeth K. is really cool. Has anyone heard her talk about stuff? Her depth and quality of understanding issues and trends and overviews is a comfort and a joy. For example, given the opportunity, she could advise about India and Africa, health care, and North/South matters much more helpfully and coherently than any jackass 'specialist' now on the scene. She stands about three feet higher than Dennis the Squirt, and they were married in beautiful downtown Cleveland (plenty of pictures of that not unpleasant-looking event are viewable), but their non-conventionality refreshes more than it inspires jocularity. Boring they are not. Their dialogues, together or independently, are intelligent, well-researched, and reasonable. A joke they are not. DK has a twinkle in his eye though, and that's often why the media pigeonholes him as a curio. But we have the web, and we can leave behind the MainStream Media in about two shakes of a cyber-lamb's tail in order to check out Dennis more fully. I humbly suggest that more caring Americans get to work in doing so, rather than relying on the lazy-ass couch-hog's consumerist devouring of media drivel when it comes to sizing-up this here prezzy mule-race.

Don't brand me as a Dennis-oid. I just have an old fashioned wish for this nation to succeed, especially at this crucial juncture. As Joseph Cotton said in 'Duel in the Sun', 'I'd like to give back something to this country rather than just take from it'. The great Lionel Barrymore, who plays his ultra-conservative dad, explodes: 'Jesse? I don't know what you're talking about!!!'

We know that Dennis will not be president. But he could be, and yes, he should be.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Candidate Review! Ron, Or Paul?



Fig. 1: This is Kate Walsh; she was in the same room as Ron Paul for a time, and she’s better looking than he is, too.

In a town that I know but shall not name, there's a sleazy junk food drive-in called Ron's Taco. The parking lot is stained with upchuck and other unmentionable signs of distress in the lower tract. Makes you wonder what Ron's serving up, though the customers seem to keep coming.

Question: is Ron Paul a Ron's Taco-grade candidate for the high office of president of these United States?

Superficial thoughts first. Name game again. Casual is still the name of that game, isn’t it? Not Ronald, but Ron. Ron Paul it is. (Reagan would flip; despite his many deserved epithets, his team's decision to keep him Ronald was an effective coat of teflon that kept things relatively presidential.) We have had a president named Ronald, so it is conceivable that we could have a president named Ron. We will not, however, EVER - as I’ve said before – EVER have a president named ‘Mitt’. Nor will we ever have a president’s son named ‘Tagg’. Boy, I’m glad we can put THAT controversy to bed!

So, this here Ron Paul guy . . .

Ron Paul looks like he might have been sketched, sans the doughboy attire, by Bill Mauldin, but he has one effective touch to his appearance: plenty of Potomac Grey in that Stewart Granger-like 'do'. As a matter of fact, Granger could play Ron in a biopic. He'd really give the guy a dignified flair. Alas Stewart is no longer with us. All the actors are in DC now.

Anyway:

The existence of Ron Paul as an active candidate for president is as sure a sign as any that the decline of the USA is in full process, and it is probably irreversible.

In other words, he's a fellow speaking up about all sorts of matters that need truthful examination, yet he has no chance whatsoever of attaining the office he seeks. That's a sheer sign of a great nation in decline. When said great nation is reduced to having its controllers connected to high-level networks of corruption, and others without the connections but bold enough to come forward (e.g. Ron), the practice of free speech is being enacted on a token level only, as the unconnected candidate is merely being tolerated for the moment. The connected candidates know that these pesky fleas will soon run out of money and then the big boys (Hillary included) can get on with their hog race unencumbered by truth-flinging fuddy-duddies.

For Ron's got the guts to spread some unpleasant truths before the public. To me he will always have a special place of endearment by flat-out condemning the Iraq War, and he occupies a special category of shocking the garter belt off of Rudy Ghouliani by truthfully declaring that 9/11 happened as a result of American foreign policy. (And American foreign business practices, I might add.)

Now listen up, folks. Ron's an interesting guy, plainly a kindly guy, a bold and refreshing guy - for a politician. He's saying stuff that's welcome to both sides of the aisle. He's a skinny OB/GYN doc to boot (though after Doctor Bill 'Frist-Fry' Frist's pollution of the Senate, physicians do not necessarily heal the weeping sores of Congress, nor themselves, either). Doctor Paul, MD. No doubt he's brought many a plump and bawling baby into the world. Drama he knows. But he doesn't want gun control.

But that's not the point here. He can talk about all these things, but he will be contested, shot down and quickly forgotten. Remember John Anderson? Ross Perot? John Anderson was a Republican who was decent, responsible, humble, and straight-talking. It was during the (Ron) Reagan years, and I voted for him, I’m proud to say. He would have made a good president. Perot? He shook things up, but that's all he did. Ron Paul? He said stuff that other Republicans wouldn't say. That's because Ron's a Libertarian, and is a Republican in label only. Libertarian. He's open about it, and that's good, but people should understand what Libertarian really means.

I saw Ron on 'The View', and he was asked what he thought of abortion rights, given that he doesn't want government involved in our lives. Of course the conditions of this non-involvement (and the very mention of it is crowd-pleasing), are circumscribed by his own personal tastes. Ron danced around the Roe v. Wade issue with all the grace of a Ray Bolger - scarecrowish, but rubbery. He has a brain, though. (Guest co-host Kate Walsh - seen in the attractive Art Nouveau-ish colour plate above - didn’t even have a chance to verbally beat him up. Keep trying, Katey-lass!)

But here’s the bottom line about Ron Paul. Ron wants government out of our lives. Got it. There’s a whole other mega-side to this anti-gov thing though. He also wants it out of the business world. The latter is of much greater importance – exponentially greater – than those trifling social issues that get most of the media attention. WARNING: Ron Paul is playing with hydrofluoric acid; he doesn’t have any idea of what he’s getting into. Big government is certainly something to be concerned about, especially after Dubya’s triumphant success in inflating our government with more Bloat Factor ™ pork material – everything except the oink – into the government’s sclerotic veins, making it the biggest single entity in the history of the universe. HOWEVER, removing any regulative training wheels or shock collars that barely keep the hydrophobic hyenas of big business ostensibly in line is sheer madness. He is a na├»ve fellow and should be spanked, then sent to his chamber without his dinner or his pudding.

Verdict: Ron is a Ron’s Taco-grade candidate.

Sorry Ron.

Next!

Candidate Review! Hillary-Hill-Tra-La-Tra-La!



Fig. 1: Junior Senator - ready to govern, ready to care

There are those who hate, Hate, HATE, Hate, hate Hillary Rodham Clinton, but I'm not one of them. She isn't interesting enough to hate or even spend much time critiquing. Hers is the blandness of a Chevy or a Ford, an evening at Applebee's or County Buffet. Everything is mid-range, average, unmemorable. Oh sure, the media makes her into some kind of controversy lint trap, but she's pretty dull. But I'm sure even her most toxic-slimed-fanged haters might concede that she is pretty smart, though. That's usually reason to hate a person even more.

Smart like the lawyer she is. Attention to detail - details never fail to impress. During a case, juries get pretty pliable if a lawyer can pull a Ruthenian Barking Hare out of a hat, as opposed to the same pink-eyed bunny seen on both Ted Mack's Amateur Hour and American Idol. Hillary's got the stuff to do that, plus she's built like a vanadium shithouse. That gal's got stamina. Hell, she could probably bat dainty Rudy's clogged up little prostate right out of Yankee Stadium. But that sort of persona really freaks men out. I think Rudy starts lisping uncontrollably if he thinks about her too much, as he can't quite enunciate 'stupid, scary bitch!' effectively as he cries into his pillow each night. Rudy stares over at his frock hanging on the closet door and wonders if he really should consider pant suits, to compete more effectively...

Where was I?

I remember seeing Hillary on TV when she was at the funeral of Mother Teresa in Calcutta. She just sat there, sweating, doing nothing, but the solemnity of the occasion didn't even seem to occur to her. She projected the feeling of 'I'd rather be ANYWHERE but here right now, so I'm just going to faux-zen my way through this thing...' - or something. I didn't feel sorry for her because she looked like she was doing the gig as a tiresome duty rather than experiencing something extraordinary from being in the same room with a departed saint. Must've been a long flight. And the ride in from Dum Dum airport is enough to blow even a health caring First Lady's fusebox out of commission. Healthcare? For all those . . . beggars? It's the economy, stupid! Besides, it takes a village. It certainly does in Calcutta. I'm not so sure about DC, though. At any rate, she's a bore.

She's a Chicagoian, from that metropolitan mixture of reasonableness (Kurt Vonnegut! Sy Hersh! Susan Sontag!) and neocon horror (U. of Chicagah's creepshow includes Paul 'The Comb' Whatsitswitz, 'Not-so-Norm' Podhoritz, 'Uncle' Miltie Friedman, Tony 'The Claw' Scalia, 'Modest' John Ashcroft, David 'Snaggletooth' Brooks, Leo 'Godfather' Strauss...and you can look up more in Wikipedia, like I did). At any rate, she did her Peace Corps gig in Arkansas, as First Lady of that place, then got the hell on up to DC, and then NYC, faster than a hog takes to its wallow. All very calculated, all very successful. What's wrong with that? Gotta climb ladders in this world, especially if you're wielding a Chicago Pneumatic jackhammer to bust a glacier-thick glass ceiling without plummeting into the River Styx below.

However, when it comes to Hillary, I'm really not too interested in all the gobbledegook I've outlined above. It's her representation that I'm wary of. That is, the interests she represents. I know any prez candidate is going to disappoint me by all of their corporate and other, more shadowy connections, but Ms Clinton's are simply gigantic. Naturally, her connections to supporters are the ones who eschew the BushCorp side of things, but that doesn't mean that they're squeaky and wholesome and straight-arrow. You've got to have Big Money behind you if you want to see (either for the first time, or as a returning resident) what's in the vanity cabinet of the presidential bedroom's bathroom, but you don't have to get there by sugar daddies alone. She just isn't Capra-esque in the least. Too bad. One priggish dynasty in the White House has been enough for this thousand-year reich, thank you very much. But Jimmy Stewart never ran for president. Instead we got Ronald Reagan.

But I digress. Let's talk about more gossipy stuff.

She has chipmunk cheeks and a big bottom - though early daguerotypes of her indicate that she had (has?) a 'pretty nice rack'. But I just can't get into the circus-like tamasha over the clothes and the hair and the Margaret Hamilton cackle analysis (notice how 'The Wizard of Oz' sneaks into these candidate reflections; curious!). No, that's all part of her boring side.

Smartness is important for a president to have. Being boring doesn't matter so much. They made a big deal out of trying to portray Al Gore as a bore, when he's obviously a fascinating dude. Hillary's a bore who's actually a bore, but that doesn't invalidate her. She just wants to be president so bad that nothing else matters. THAT's at the core of her boringness, and that implies that power is all that matters, and that is what she lusts after. Her supporters, both shadowy and sunny, know this about her. That's why they'll go with her, because they know that she'll stop at nothing to get to her goal. Once she does that, then they can dominate her. Sounds pedantic and gothic and about as credible as a higgildy-piggildy rant from a washed-up kindergarten story-teller, but THAT is why I'm wary of Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Paul W. To Hang His Comb Under Condi's Care

Great news for me! I still have Wolfie to kick around! Seems he'll be heading up a mega-high quality groove-thang over at State, in order to ADVISE Condi on all the thing's Paulie's so good at.

Question: now that his girlfriend (what the hell was her name again? Oh yeah, Shahahahaha) is at the World Bank (is she?), can she have her old job back at State, or would that be a conflict of Swingers' Etiquette now that Paul's a dippy-lomat again?

At any rate, exciting times for those of us who wish Paul only the best in his stellar string of failures.

So celebrate!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Candidate Review! I Like Mike!



You don't know him. You don't love him. Yet.

It's Mike Gravel, rapping for your political pleasure. Directed by Timothy Leary.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Candidate Review! First Up: Willard!



Fig.1 The free-wheelin' Romneys; I KNEW it wasn't a Rambler, but where's Seamus' prison? They had to run the babe through the carwarsh three times to get rid of the puppy plop.


Well, friends, the unpleasant reality of the moment has reared its ghastly head to me, as if in a nightmare. And the reality is - uh, ahem (throat clear here) the reality IS: it's time to WEIGH IN ON THE CANDIDATES for the high office of PRESIDENT OF THESE HERE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

OK, that's Step#1 - recognition of the problem.

For it is a BIG problem. What the hell do you do when, in seeking out a leader, you have months, if not mucking YEARS, of being bombarded with promotional publicity from persons who really, really want the job of most powerful person in the world? They really, really want it, and part of this Democracy thing is to Be Involved, so's that we can, you know, do the We The People thing, which, incidentally, I'm all for.

I could certainly yak on and on about what a tedious, disappointing and massively overblown mess the whole election process has become, but that would generate more tedious, disappointing and overblown yakking than the excess that already exists, so, let's get right to the razorback gravy of the thing.

In accordance with ancient Chinese courtesy, in any competition of values, your enemy goes first. The GOP is not the oldest party to be considered here, but it is the most curious 'n controversial. I've run into an extremely refreshing array of satirical and playful explanations as to what the GOP acronym stands for, but now is not the time to have too much fun in the mockery zone about that little tidbit. We're only using 'GOP' as a label because it's easier than writing out 'Republican'. So, on with the show.

NOTE: Candidates are listed by (known) party, but beyond that, in no specific order. Random yakking does not require too much structure, so readers should not interpret order of appearance as indications of favoritism or preference. So, now, on with the show.

WILLARD MITTKLOPSCHRUZZKLENKL 'MITT' ROMNEY

Back in the 70s, the term 'plastic' was heavily used as a label to slap on persons who displayed an artificial or shallow personality. I like the term, but it's sort of a California-dreamin', stoner, Jerry Garcia sort of thang. Anyway, Willard's pretty plastic, in the completest sense of the word. Plus, anyone who's going with 'Mitt' as his make-or-break moniker has made a fatal error right at the get-go. No President of the United States will EVER, EVER be named 'Mitt'. As Howard Cosell used to say, 'i t's ovah!!' Yes, it is, Willard. Now, if he'd gone with 'Will Romney', he might've been a serious contender. American's like 'Will' as a name of promise. Nobody today remembers the great Will Rogers, but I do, and everybody loved Will Rogers.

I remember when Willard's dad George ran for Pres. He was a Mormon too, but he had another crippling problem that sealed his fate. He was at one time president of American Motors. They made the Rambler, remember? Foregone conclusion: anyone who presided over prolonging the life of Ramblers, a make (with its' blue stream of oil smoke) that really got Global Warming going in the first place, does not have the marks of a good administrator. Willard, alas, has that legacy as well. He is a Rambler-like candidate: cheap (not affordable, just cheap), with poor quality substance, hidden by ersatz GM styling, with faulty mechanics inside. He strives to be a conservative that can pick up the busted pieces from Bush's 'compassion' BS and glue the mismatched pieces into something to worship.

He's also pushing the 'nice guy' package to its limits. It's all for show. I saw a YouTube clip of this 'nice guy' ignoring the questions offered up by a cripple. A really skilled politician would have just slopped on some mock kindness and pretended to be interested. Willard, crazy scared that he'd actually have to face some flawed person in a wheelchair, defended himself by saying he'd already answered his questions, and moved on, plastering the plastic smile and 'how're ya doing?' on others in a desperate move to GET AWAY from the ugly and sick-making disadvantaged masses within the nation he hopes to run. Even Dubya would've probably knelt down to BS with a wheelchair cripple for a few minutes, to show off if nothing else. Willard is too dainty and too easily spooked. Plus, he's Mormon.

I can't get into a critique of Mormonia here, but one of the reasons why people think it's a cult is that that particular organization is so secretive. As in, what are they up to? As in, we have plans, plans for the universe, and we're in on the ground floor, and you aren't. Now WHO says the promises made to Muslim suicide bombers, of numerous virgins in paradise etc., is wacky? Why, the Mormons claim that - Egads, I caught myself. I said this wouldn't be the place to critique Mormonism. But you see, with a critter like Willard, it's going to come up, time and again. Do we want that albatross? I don't care if George Washington WAS a Mason.

In closing the Romney file (and I'd rather talk about Romney Marsh in England instead of this political kluck), I have to mention that other, darker side of Willard that came out recently. His dog abuse. You know the story, about how he had the family Irish Setter ride in that gulag box on the roof of the family station wagon (I'll bet it WASN'T an American Motors product! - see colour plate above - Chevy Caprice wagon, I should think), and the poor pooch plopped a drizzly stream of liquid poop that spoiled their all-American vacation that was nowhere near finished. Can you imagine the scene at the nearest gas station, as dad's hosing off the fecal matter, and blaming it all on doggie dear - who he never wanted, but the kids did, and now that the kids are older, nobody cares for the dog except dad, and dad's gotta clean up the shit - with the shitty end of the stick no less, and by the way, why, oh why did we have so many kids to begin with, and . . . Man, was dad mad! Stupid, stupid dog. The shit was scared right out of the petrified pup. Oh, but supposedly Seamus (pretty good name choice) loved riding up there, and he'd always just hop right up without question. Now, I ask you, what sincere hound WOULDN'T do what his master told him to, even if terror treatment from oh-so-casual Willard resulted? In telling the story about the dog on Fox News (as well as talking in general), Willard had that constant smiling-with-his-eyes look. It's the equivalent to what Wallace Shawn calls 'chuckling', as in, they chuckle when they're talking about death and destruction. It's not like the Wizard of Oz, who 'chuckled at catastrophe', meaning, he would fight any danger that came his way. On the other hand, these Neocons, and I group Romney with them, chuckle at catastrophe because they don't have to mess with it. They can order it up, then let others sweat through it. That was Willard's main outcome from his puppy plop experience. The chucklers are detached, and thus, joyful at that fact. Neocons do not carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. They merely profit from it.

But getting back to the dog story, even Chris Wallace of Fox News was offended at Willard's casual attitude about the family pet. They talk about character in presidential candidates. Willard is devoid of character. He didn't even treat his own dog fairly. He wants more Gitmo-ization to satisfy a primitive need for sadistic acts, all in the name of the "War on Terror". His is not a civilizing force. It is a stepping backwards. Plus, he has the afterlife all figured out. Why should he care that much about a solid future for America? Along with Dubya, there is an undercurrent of apocalyptic pleasure in his amateurish grasp of foreign policy. He is a twit, and should be drummed out of the campaign, pronto.

Stay tuned for more candidate reviews! Aren't you relieved that we got Willard out of the way first?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Surely The Experts Know More Than We Do

You know those segments on NPR News, where they haul in some 'expert' from think tanks (almost always conservative ones; to them the Brookings Institution is patently liberal!), and then they chatter on about some geo-political issue, always in the genial surround of an inviting and accommodating host, and some not very well-rounded opinions go out over the airwaves, to be taken as fact? Well, BEWARE, listeners!

I think this kind of segment on NPR bothers me the most. When both host and 'expert' blatantly select what they want history or facts to be, and then come across as edifying the public, the result is, as we all know, nothing short of propaganda. We can joke about it, complain about it, write NPR and unload about it (and get back the same form message that says 'how difficult' it is to tell the news - never mind the simplicity of truth), but the acute problem is, NPR continues to indulge in propagandistic practices, and with increasing frequency and depth.

As Bush/Cheney should be impeached for gross abuse of power, NPR News should also undergo a similar treatment for similar offences. First, it should be spun off into the private sector, where it could go to the highest bidder, probably Murdoch. Unlike the WSJ, he would probably gut it and discard 90% of it as it now exists. I know I would. Failing that, a Democratic administration should scrap the existing structure, de-network-ize it, and return the service to individual stations. Taxpayers would approve. Any of these and other plans would give NPR their deserved comeuppance, and we wouldn’t have to be exposed to their toxic propaganda ANY MORE.

Why Can't They Understand Gustav Mahler and Keith Olbermann?



NPR's Morning Edition (Mourning Addiction - ha ha) is starting to bog me down again. After the relentless bossiness of being told to hog out at the T'giving table (and then maybe take a walk or something afterwards), and the stentorian commands to SHOP on this, the day after (we have a local announcer that's cuter than Missy Block), I can only respond to two stories.

One I found insulting in the extreme. Smirks 'n giggles accompanied a clever segue from bloated chow-downers at holiday tables to 'bloated' classical music works. Some clown chose Mahler's 8th symphony as something to laugh at. Fortunately, the greatness of Mahler's music doesn't have to be proven to people at NPR who can't even begin to understand it. Hostess Renee Montagne feels more comfortable with 'circus music'. Probably because she's ringmaster in one. Some twit, who's an actual musician, helps Renee through early 20th century composers with a definite 'Classical Music Can Be Fun! - Well, Some Of It Anyway' tone, and it's all just a shameful waste of soundwaves. Now I ask you, what the hell was the actual PURPOSE of this pathetic mess of a segment? I have my own private CD of Mahler's 8th, and I will interpret it without any help from 'It's Morning Edition', thank you very much. Proudly then, do I feel myself culturally superior to these waste-of-time broadcasting peasants!

And briefly, if there's one single reason to abandon and abolish NPR News, it was the appalling 'profile' of Keith Olbermann that was another attempt to poke fun, NPR-style at someone of value. I won't waste any more time in trying to describe something really awful. Yes, it made me spittin' mad, mainly because of the stupid attempt to 'outsmart' Keith's Countdown format. In short, it didn't work. NPR obviously hates Keith. Renee gave a little 'let them eat cake'-style exit remark, that was meant to show her disapproval of the increasingly popular Olbermann.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A Thanksgiving Tradition

Rue de Ghouliani: A Street To Be Avoided At All Cost


Headline:

NPR JOINS PAT ROBERTSON AND THROWS IN ITS LOT WITH GIULIANI

At least that's what it sounded like on that there 'All Things Considered' today. There was the usual chucklesome review of those darn Democrats, and then a CrunchTime (TM) segment on Ghouliani. It was nothing short of reverent. Their soundbyte that demonstrated the epic heroism of the Mayor had something to do with 'people south of Canal St. should walk out to the south' - or something. Moses he ain't. Oh, sure, there was a sentence or two of lite criticism in the piece, but the upshot was that most criticism 'wasn't sticking'.

To me, Rudy is a mere retread. He's today's version of Bush2: a figure with minimal background but all the right connections.

This is not are era of great leaders. Great minds exist, but they are not in power. When I saw TV coverage of Bush and Rudy on the scene during the 9/11 saga, I was waiting for some sort of extraordinariness to emanate from them, whether it was manufactured or not. Even their handlers and scriptwriters couldn't come up with remarkable material. So these two figures came off, at least to me, as rather ordinary inspectors who were just doing their obligatory jobs. No poetry was necessary, but what we got was about as inspiring as a leftover eggroll. It was left to the media to build up the 'bullhorn' and 'podium' moments. On repeated viewings, Bush looks like he's merely inspecting a construction site, but no one would dare make fun of his 'nukular-isms' now. And Rudy, in his golden moments of screen time, sounds like he's dealing with a transportation strike or something. No one would dare make fun of his lisp now. In the meantime, the people down in the trenches were doing all the work while these pinwheels took all the credit. I just don't know why people were so impressed with Rudy's performance, even now. Letterman's emotionalism was to be expected, but it looks pretty feeble today.

I have to admit, contemporary real-life heroism has been spoiled by the movies. The power of the cinema has more 'stuff' than real life persons, but leaders are at least supposed to fake something impressive. Bush could have learned a lot about crowd control if he'd caught the last hour of DeMille's 'The Ten Commandments' in the chopper on the way to Ground Zero. He could have taken his pointers from Chuck Heston instead of God. A portable DVD player was all he needed. And Rudy, why hadn't it been required viewing for every big city mayor to watch Irwin Allen's 'The Towering Inferno' at least once? Steve McQueen was the guy to pay attention to. If you had, Rudy, not so many firemen would have needlessly perished, you contemptible fool. And now, you're supposed to be the one to lead this immense nation to a state of 'safety'?

As Lord Byron said, 'I want a hero: an uncommon want, when every year and month sends forth a new one . ..' Well, in media-managed America, and in such an emergency as 9/11, heroes had to be created, and fast. Who better than Hizzoner, who, despite his flaws and botches, his balding skullface, his history of transvestism, and yes, his lisp, was nevertheless readily available for hero-dom. Keeping cool is part of an actor's skill, and apparently, Rudy wowed 'em on his stage. He failed to wow this child though, and I don't trust him further than I could spit in a hurricane. It is a sad fact that most of the heroes of 9/11 . . . are dead.

Plus, I still think 9/11 was preventable, but we'd better not get into that here. Freedom of speech still ostensibly provides for us to theorize, but not necessarily as part of a conspiracy. 'Conspiracy theories' isn't the only term for variant possibilities in town.

As far as Rudy's world view is concerned, he fits in nicely with wacko/toxic opinionist Tom Friedman's feeling that, in order to fight terrorism, you have to have leaders who are crazier than the terrorists. It's a hollow comfort zone, a veritable hallucination for a public that wants to be swayed. To keep us safe. Hell, I feel more vulnerable walking to work, dodging SUV-driving, backwards baseballcap-wearing, cellphone-dialing goofballs than the prospect of the looming Islam-o-fascists, who are waiting to pounce. But - how petty of me.

As the 'thinking' - (ha-hah; ha-ha-ha-hah!) part of the mainstream media, NPR is happy to go along with all of this. They have prospered under Bush, and it is certain that Rudy's machine would keep them a going concern. With a more 'liberal' administration overseeing public broadcasting, things might revert to the bad old days of low ratings and indeterminate audiences out there in the wilderness somewhere.

Monday, November 19, 2007

PakPanic - PakPanic - PakPanic, or, A Yak About Pak

Recently I heard Andy Rooney on '60 Minutes' make a funny and accurate statement about Pakistan stories dominating the western media these days. He doubted that any of them even really knew anything about Pakistan. Not only do I think it's a true statement, but it is a woeful indicator of what happens when the media spotlight is turned on a 'hot zone' and every newsie in Christendom descends, looking for glory.

In the old days, an editor would say, 'get out there, kid, on the double, and bring back a story!' The kid would bust ass to get there, but if they were worth anything, the route to the story would be taken up with cramming any info that was available in order to achieve some kind of background status in order to deliver a credible story. Today it seems that reporters just show up and expect the story to present itself for convenient packaging.

Such is the status of Pakistan in the western media's impatient eye. I've hardly heard any reports from or about Pakistan that really deliver much depth of understanding or even displaying much interest. (Philip Reeves, who supplies stories for NPR, is a rare exception.) The wretched branding of Pakistan being the 'world's most dangerous place' is now the rallying cry. East Timor or Rwanda in all their awful turmoil presented no perceived threat to the world at large, regardless of the fact that they were, for their inhabitants, right up there with hell as being on the most dangerous list. But you see, they aren't nuclear nations, so who cares?

Pakistan: nuke nation. Run by a dictator. Overrun with jabbering fanatics. Dealing nukes on the sly. Surrounded by either hot conflict (permanently-ruined Afghanistan) or simmering potential conflict (kooky Iran, lurking India, further-but-still-lurking China). A returning challenger immediately deported (Nawaz Sharif). A returning challenger almost bumped off (Benazir Bhutto). Trouble. Trouble. Trouble. Trouble. Everywhere you look. Trouble in River City. That's what the western media thinks about Pakistan.

Well, I guess some of that stuff can't be denied. Far be it from me to be an apologist for Pakistan's current situations. I am, however, irked, annoyed, and consummately pissed off by much of the western media's choices in covering this misunderstood entity in the world. 'Misunderstood' is too easy a label to slap on it, but in an era of sloppy-seconds coverage of the world's affairs, a sloppy term might be appropriate.

Without turning this into a bloody thesis, let's get right to the essentials:

- Pakistan is not the Middle East. It is not Central Asia. It is Indic. For only 60 of its multiple thousands of years amassed as a cultural hearth, the territory now delineated as Pakistan has been Pakistan. Before that it was as diverse a part of India (and I'm not at all referring to greater India, but India as a cultural unit) as anywhere in the subcontinent, with the subcontinent's myriad of variations appearing under the Indic super-category, as it were. In addition to these regional basics, the long era of British domination (which for Pakistan really only extends back to the mid-19th century) brought with it English language medium in education, British-created modern infrastructure, and, very importantly, a British-model military. Since the military crisis of 1857, the Indian Army was intentionally crafted to be one of the most disciplined in the world, and this tradition survived Partition in 1947 intact. It is precisely this tradition of discipline that has enabled it - the military - to run Pakistan for many of its 60 years.

- Pakistan is 99% Muslim. The enveloping culture though, is Indic, not Arabic, nor Persian. Taxila and Harappa are sites that are among the world's most ancient civilizations. There are extensive and highly-honored ancient Buddhist remains throughout the land. Alexandrine associations abound. Hindu and Sikh influences are built into daily life. Urdu is the language of the majority, but it is basically Hindi with Persian script. Other languages (to mention only a few) are Punjabi, Sindhi, Baloch, Pushtun, Kashmiri and Afghani. Like India, diversity is what Pakistan is all about. But the Indic culture, combined with British and post-British modern systems, with widespread English-speakers, all combine to form a considerably durable entity. Despite its current duress, Pakistan is in no way a failed state.

- Women in Pakistan encounter adversities which are worthy of criticism and ripe for reform. Yet, Pakistan is one of the more liberal Muslim societies regarding women. Indic culture has had strong matriarchal traditions since time immemorial. Pakistan has elected a woman as prime minister twice. So has India. So has Bangladesh. So has Sri Lanka. This is the Indian subcontinent. It is different.

- Most of the conventions that westerners apply to terms like 'dictator' do not necessarily apply to Pakistan. Pervez Musharraf is no Saddam, or Hitler, or Stalin, or Bob Mugabe or even Marcos. When Mrs. Gandhi declared a state of emergency in India in 1975, she was immediately branded as a dictator. But after the crisis passed, she was still Mrs Gandhi first, and the dictator label faded, but not completely. Musharraf has without a doubt performed dictatorial gestures, but with variations that are simply not compatible with western journalistic interpretations. On the other hand, just because Musharraf appeared on 'The Daily Show' and seems not to be a snarly bastard doesn't mean he's a dictator that we can feel wholly comfortable with. Dubya's cuddled up to him because of his dumbass but precious War on Amorphous Terror, but for wholly opportunistic reasons.

- Much of Pakistan's very being has to do with the most important factor in its daily existence. More important that Afghanistan, Kashmir, Iran, the USA and terror put together. That factor is: India. Three wars, losing East Pakistan and seeing it become Bangladesh, and yes, because of the nuclear issue, India has everything to do with how governing Pakistan is handled. And it's not all bad. India and Pakistan are part of the same super-family. A high percentage of people in both countries have or have had relatives in the other. The Indian subcontinent was a house divided, but the house has essentially stood, with annexes, so to speak. Back in the days when the US didn't give a shit about the subcontinent except how it affected the Cold War, letting things drift didn't matter so much. Now that India is more 'OK' with the US, and Pakistan is more important to the Bush Machine's immediate needs, the western media has landed. And they are generally dumbos who treat the place as if it's Iraq or something.

- Pakistan's army, efficient instrument that it is, is oriented to India, whether in the defensive or offensive mode (it has usually been offensive). Kashmir is officially unsettled, but it is a stalemate that has gone on so long it will probably add up to a settlement to new generations who have known nothing else. The Pak army is not geared to fighting a bogus 'war on terror.' The Tribal Areas on the Northwest Frontier were never conquered by anybody. The British were still dusting up with them right up to 1947. The Pakistani government has had agreements with them that have been relatively functional, until recently.

These factoids, among many others, are extremely important, because they add up to a considerably complex and sophisticated array of challenges that must be dealt with carefully at any one moment, and most of them cannot be reduced any further into sound bytes. Indeed, there is so much to keep in mind in this part of the world that the average journalist is not up to the task. Yet the dabblers are at it, packaging the Pak puzzle for public consumption, and perpetuating misunderstandings right and left with the greatest of ease. Lost in the frenzy are, surprise, surprise, the Pakistani people, who have been reduced in western sensibilities to non-entities, largely in stock shots of autistic-appearing kids in madrassas and other generic cliches. 160 million can be reduced to a convenient barcode, so to speak, I suppose. It's nothing short of disgusting.

When I heard NPR's Jackie Northam, a proudly seasoned reporter supposedly used to Asiatic climes, refer to a particular area in northwestern Pakistan as 'something called the Swat Valley', then blithely called it a 'tourist zone', I thought, stupid, stupid people. They make my eyeteeth curl. A minor detail, perhaps, but it speaks volumes of the dismissive tone of some of these worthless hacks. Philip Reeves never would have engaged in such a blatant lack of meticulousness, in a region where meticulousness is absolutely required. This 'thing' called the Swat Valley is, or was, a profoundly beautiful region with a hospitable populace, whose splendid isolation has been ruined by Bush's mobile 'war on terror'. Oh, and a busy Jackie also says 'the Islamists' are coming, and that they're heading to all the cities in Pakistan. Never mind the 160 million other Pakistanis, engaged in their daily lives, hardly affected at all by Musharraf's state of emergency, who might have something to say about that.

My point being: more depth of understanding is required from the western media if they are going to take on the subcontinent. It seems that in the western media's view, the essentials that I have only started to outline above, are not really attended to, or even acknowledged. If the media are not up for the job, they had best stay home and cover the region via Google Earth and just make cell phone calls.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Randoms: Boy, Am I BUGGED By NPR, Or What??




NOTE: Particularly prurient readers may want to jump directly to Random #5, just below. – (signed) Your Editor, representing The Melmoth

1.) Daniel Zwerdling, occasional reporter for NPR, has guts. He's doing important work in following stories dealing with shameful treatment of US veterans and their situations. But I get the feeling that Zwerdling might be somewhat of an embarrassment to the more cheerleading members of NPR. He has obviously been sidelined, though I'm sure the managing editors keep him in semi-circulation to appear 'fair and balanced' to those 'thinking' masses that make up their aging audiences. Zwerdling might even have to fight to get his stories aired. In any case, he doesn't seem to be in on the palsey-walsey comraderie that, say, Sunday morning's Liane Hansen seems to enjoy with that David Welna character (you know, the guy with the extremely distracting nasaly voice). Though Zwerdling seems relegated to token status, as NPR's reporter of stories few others wish to take on, he maintains his integrity with a real sense of responsibility. I think he probably feels he's reaching a wider audience than if he was on some website or Air America, but his findings are generally surrounded by swill. Meanwhile, most of his colleagues at NPR are luxuriating in their cushy candy store gigs.

2.) I find the bland and nonchalant approach that these weekend morning hosts apply to their interviews with important people in current events extremely curious. Scott Simon cops an interview with Al Gore, but botches it entirely by treating him like he's some tiresome insurance salesman or something. Liane scores a phone interview with Benazir Bhutto, yet puts about as much journalistic energy into it as a dry slug who's run out of slime. It's as if they're too cool to show that they're either impressed by the magnitude of their guests, or a refusal to employ reasonable (not to mention interesting) journalistic practices of merit. Yet, they get all wiggly and giggly and drooly interviewing some boring novelist or dogcatcher with a funny story that they can tut-tut about between smirky laughs.

It's just crappy radio, that's all.

(I feel like Kevin Phillips, who once stated on PBS’ ‘Now’ that he was their Resident Curmudgeon.)

3.) You know it's a flop of a morning show when the most sickening element is Liane's goopy interaction with the Puzzlemaster's guest of the week, and she tries in vain to vary the horribly predictable scripting of the whole Puzzle segment . . .

3a.) PLUS: I hate the story-telling nature of the scripted bridges between stories, those tiresome background summaries for dummies, the same sort of schlock that's taken over Time and Newsweek, yet they'd like you to think they have the sophistication of The Economist or reasonable equivalent. (Maybe the National Review would be a better example - though these days I kind of like Bill Buckley, who's spending his Golden Years quite alienated from the Gang of Frankensteins he created.)

4.) We have a new local weekend host who's pretty amateurish, I'm afraid. I kind of feel sorry for him, yet he's not easy to endure. He hasn't even learned how to properly engineer yet (if he ever will), and says stuff like: the 'Voices in the News' bit is his favorite part of the show, as it gives him 'chills' to listen to! Funny, I always thought it was annoying, because it's just a jumble of sound bytes spliced together with an impatient music track behind, and it always leaves you in the lurch, as if, 'so there!' I guess it's supposed to stimulate your early Sunday morning by bringing up conversation points for you and your Starbucks-gulping Dockers-wearing, FloMax-popping SUV-driving mates to chew over, like pieces of foodie gristle.

5.) And finally, perhaps most importantly, has anybody noticed how NPR refuses to descend to the level of reporting on most of the Republican SEX SCANDALS that keep popping up with breathtaking regularity? I suppose that after Scott Simon’s elegant and Lincoln-like defense of Larry Craig, the bar has remained at its high and noble level – intact. They don’t ‘do’ SEX SCANDALS apparently, unless you’re Mara ‘Zombie-Eyes’ Liasson and Bob ‘Pursed-Lips’ Siegel, in hot pursuit of Bill ‘Blow-Job’ Clinton.

[You see, listeners to NPR do not know who the gentleman in the before-and-after photos above is, or what he did, although they might assume that he is a Republican.]

Well, I'd better leave off before I really start hating myself for dissecting this interminable blah-blah-blah radio matter to such an extent . . . !

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Cheerful Imperialistic Condescension Advantage

One of the reasons why NPR is so worthy of contempt is because so many opportunities to examine truths in the world are squandered, if not downright rejected.

I promise I'll be brief. But when I heard Gwen Thompkins' little feature on the 'new' Libya, and how it's opening up, I was dumped upon with fetid garbage that reminded me how much I can't stand the 'new' NPR. What could have been a trenchant and valid exploration of a nation that succeeded in normalizing relations with the US in spite of the current occupants of the White House, Gwen prefers to stroll though her Libyan experience by being coy, imperialistic, and worst of all, cute. I can say no more, because my heart is broken at the abject failure of Americans to take up the responsible role of inspiring through integrity, given opportunities that no one else may care about. Instead, many have chosen to reduce the world to Wal-Martish packaging, where nothing matters but the consumers' damp dream of self-fulfillment.

In Thompkins' report from this formerly-closed nation, trivializing, condescension, mockery, and smug ridicule color her thoughts of this country, long alienated, but now, according to Thompkins, ready to open itself up to sleazy sub-capitalists, the kind of Africans she feels most comfortable with. And, she implies, we should feel comfortable with them, too, despite their whimsical and Saturday Night Live-ish quirks.

I can never forgive Thompkins for displaying African perspectives in such a disgusting manner. I consider it a misfortune that I chanced upon her insipid report.

Problem: Thompkins is having sex with her own voice, which fits into the narcissistic verbiage of NPR perfectly. You can imagine her concluding her report of the day with a little self-pat on the back and the thought: ‘Am I hot, or what?’

Gwen's next stop: Missy Dana Perino's post, or 'Entertainment Tonight'!

The Begats

This morning, I heard one of the stupidest science reports I've ever run into on NPR. It was part of their grudging recognition (a la Frank Luntz) that global warming actually exists, and now, with reports like this one, NPR can't be accused of only using the term 'climate change'.

I'll try not to run on. Christopher Joyce reports about burning the rainforest in the Amazon region. OK, most of us (especially first graders on up) know about the risks to the rainforest. Well, Joyce's report sounds like it was done in 1987 instead of 2007. Apparently, he and the team of amateur-hour 'scientists' he interviews are just discovering that yes, the Amazon forests are at risk, and that may have something to do with climate change - er, I mean, global warming - a term they actually use.

Of course this is all a big deal; the degradation of the Amazon is one of the world's great crises, and it's gotten a lot of publicity, but the way Joyce’s whole report is couched, this is a new discovery! And in my opinion, the whole activity that these alleged scientists are up to is contemptible, and downright unnecessary: they burn tracts of the Amazon forests to see if it contributes to global warming! If fact, their leader has been doing it 'for years'.

The high purpose of this ersatz mission is to see if foresty-type stuff, uh . . . burns. Especially during the dry season. Scientific method will hopefully prove that 'fire begats fire'. A Biblical concept if there ever was one.

Sure enough, after these firebugs have sprayed their fuel and struck a match and devastated who knows how many hectares of vulnerable forest, yup, sure enough, it's official: 'Fire begats fire.'

Sounds like all they're doing is burning up grant money (from religious right organizations, maybe?) and not just valuable forest, while posing as frontline researchers who will save the world.

And of course, in great NPR white-bread tradition, Reporter Joyce tags along, reveling in his gullibility, snazzing the story up by mentioning snake bite kits (but neglects to say if anyone's ever been bitten), and offers no insight, irony or critique of anything at all. He DOES use the term 'promethian' though, which makes things a bit more sophisticated.

The whole enterprise of this so-called research sounds about as stupid as that awful museum of creationism, or whatever it's called, and just as damaging. In the process of re-learning what they already know, who can say how much wildlife they destroy, how much torched vegetation, and how much these 'tests' themselves contribute to, uh, global warming? And this NPR 'report' comes so recently after the devastating S. California fires (no reference/connection made there, either). These idiots should be arrested for arson. Christopher Joyce, catching them red-handed, could have at least made citizen's arrests!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Mr. President, We Can Damn Well Catch 'Em With Their Pants Down!


Like most bloggists, sometimes I wonder why I devote irreplaceable time to such matters as NPR. But the thing is, it's important to ventilate if something really bugs you. So I wobble onward.

No need to get too detailed, but there was a segment this morning that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt (as if those who have been paying attention are still doubters), that NPR aids and abets those with a neocon agenda. It was hosted by Great Scott (Simon - everybody's favorite NPR 'humanist', who's actually pretty steeped in the fuddy-duddyness of neo-conservatism, though he may not even know it yet).

Well, this particular segment was a little showcase for two neocons - I don't even need to name them, as they are standard-issue types without one iota of profundity between them, though they 'differ' on a couple of dilettante-ish issues from the stale smorgasbord of failed neocon junk food that's so casually marketed to the masses.

Anyway, one of them said that Iran had nuclear weapons already, and the other boldly and patriotically said that they didn't but implied that they would soon, so we better catch 'em, to paraphrase George C. (truly Great) Scott in 'Dr. Strangelove', 'with their pants down!' This dude advocated bombing Iran as if there would be no consequences, as if doing so was akin to picking up some consumer item at a big box store or something equally self-centered. As if, 'I want what I want and I want it now.' Classic American Enterprise Institute-speak, where scholars and consultants labor day and night for the world's benefit. Because, as that first-class bastard and bulldozer Robert Moses, who single-handedly rendered New York City car-dependent and car-dominated, was wont to say, 'You can't make an omelet without breaking eggs.'

As for humanitarian Simon, he dealt with the two bozos with ever so much grace and gentleness, posing only the most daintily-worded 'challenges' that were about as imposing as a 5th grade introduction to putting together a class newsletter. Predictably, there was absolutely NO contrasting or opposing debate to the two guests' inane offerings, nor was any such thing promised. No matter, NPR was simply fulfilling its mandate of acting as publicist for neocon concerns, part of its diligent and years-long program of infiltrating the educated middle and upper classes of the nation, and doing in those old Commie-pinko-fag professors once and for all. Or something like that . . .

Thursday, November 01, 2007

I Can Get It For You, Cheap!

The Blackwater horror of September 16 in the year 2007 has sinister repercussions that spread past its contemporary impact. Among other examples, both infamous and obscure, it is particularly reminiscent of the Amritsar, India, massacre of 1919, when the British open-fired on a peaceful crowd and over 1000 civilians were killed. There were investigations, of course, as many good Brits were outraged. However, after much deliberation, the commanding officer, Gen. Dyer, was actually acquitted. In a British court. Amritsar became a seminal rallying point for the Independence movement, with Mahatma Gandhi's Congress party gaining a major foothold, though 1947 was a long way off yet. Michael O'Dwyer, the Governor of the Punjab, who approved of the action that led to the massacre, was later assassinated. It's not as if the people who are affected by things like massacres just move on and forget about them. If anything, the seeds of revenge are planted, and very deeply.

It will be interesting to see how the Iraqis themselves will respond to any outcome of the Blackwater case, and just how tolerant they will be to any acquittals that might result.

Imperialism inevitably involves conflict between the conquering force, which parades itself as 'good guys' and the anonymous, faceless victims of the conquered, who often happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and in numbers that render them, en masse, as virtually 'expendable'. Life becomes especially cheap when it is anonymous. So, the less the US knows about these victims as persons, the better for the neocons and their ilk. Imperialism has very little to do with humanity.

America's nouveau dabbling in Empire is not only a complete failure, it puts much of the world at toxic risk. If the US embraced a benevolence (or at the very least, respect) instead of bellicoseness, other nations would not be so compelled to seek out so-called weapons of mass destruction. The US is driving various nations into this posture, but that's what the neocons want, so as to justify their insane agenda.

We can identify this process, but what is to be done?
Chimpeach! Time is running out.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Gals of Monday Morning

Now listen gang, I'm all for women in the media, but from 5AM onward, NPR's 'Morning Edition' was almost a non-stop 'Today' show of featurettes featuring their finest lineup of female reporters, covering everything from playing around with polygraphs to noting the 'nasty perfume' hanging over a Libyan conference on Darfur, to tromping about the Vermonty Fall Colour in search of sappy maples under the pretense of a Global Warming angle. Plus, there were plenty of cutesy-pukey little pause fillers, from Annoying Music to insufferable anecdotes too brutally awful to mention. Grand Central Stationing it all was a cheerily chirpy Renee Montagne, who just about outdid them all in making your Monday morn a darn super experience.

But - but - why was I lying there in the pre-dawn gloom, tense, tightened up, instantly in a bad mood, despite a restful night with pretty positive dreams, my wife nearby, and our faithful hound, curled up, tuckered and grunting with pleasure? BECAUSE, the whole dumpster full of audio slop that I'd been subjecting myself to, in search of straight news, was entirely drenched in narcissistic, smug, self-absorbed, Mall-minded, dumbed-down, Fox-ified, blathery CRAP!

(Two horrific car bombings in Iraq, and Porter Wagoner expired . . .)

I know, I know, Nationalistic Puffball Radio's demographics have surely shown that the rising audience for NPR is probably (white middle/upper class) women in their 30s-40s (i.e. ranging from Annette Bening's character in 'American beauty' to Volvo-driving Sudoku moms), while the guys in their lives either prefer Rush and Michael 'Smeghead' Medved, or else 24/7 ESPN. So, NPR's gotta get boutique-y right fast if them corporate sponsors are gonna make NPR truly bloom and boom.

Know what I feel like doing? Watching 'The View' every morning. I think Barbara Walters and her gang probably provide more sanity and insight than the ding-dong dullness of the Mall-rat-run radio station from hell, once known as National Public Radio.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Briefly: Torture

There was a recent report from NPR's Anne Garrels, describing some 'renegade Sadr militiamen' who were tortured, and now, because of their torture, were supposedly telling truths about being trained in Iran. Garrels seemed to believe their confessions, which had been delivered under torture, and so based her report on their 'testimony'.

In the 'NPR Check' blog, Mytwords wrote to NPR, stating that Garrels' report was barbaric in its assumptions and in its acceptance of torture victims as a valid source of information.

I praised Mytwords for these statements. I suspect that if there is a mechanized response to them from NPR, then that will probably certify that they are dreadfully afraid of the questions posed. If a personalized reply happens, they will probably defend 'General' Garrels to the limit, equating her with Ed Murrow during the London blitz, or some such delusion.

As I've intimated before, I can't help but wax cynical over Garrels and her ilk, who seem to be buccaneering the war for their own kind of perverse profiteering. Sure, there will be book deals, but a film contract or a video game deal is where the big bucks lie.

No matter how much the issue of torture is decried in public, the fact is, the US has embraced such savage techniques. Their excuse: in 'asymmetrical' warfare, one must fight fire with fire. Journalists like Garrels, whose objectivity has been sacrificed for the sake of their egos, now have mutated into voyeurs to a world where torture is normal and thus, taken seriously. It is a fact that torture doesn't work. IT DOES NOT WORK. So how can it be taken seriously as a tool of warfare? If journalists lack the insight to discern this persistent truth, then they fall prey to torture's wider effects. They buy into the whole illusion: that torture can indeed work, and that it can be accepted without too much question. How can we possibly rely on them to separate realities from illusions?

There is also a blatant racial issue attached here. The US tortures predominantly non-Caucasian people, people that the US does not intrinsically care for. This is not the place to expound on this subject more, but it is a matter that is completely sidestepped within the public debate on torture.

Never has Arthur Miller's 'The Crucible' (to mention only one examination of conscience) been so timely.

PostMortem:

Hell, I think the world is now divided (to put it in Bush/neocon terms!) into those who are against torture, and those who are for torture. Many who are for it WISH it would work, so as to ease their fears, but those of us who are against it, KNOW it doesn't work, so our fears are increased.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Sen. Paul Wellstone Died Five Years Ago

The first thing I thought when Paul's plane went down in 2002 was: they got him. They took him out.

Honestly, how could that not be a possibility? It's not just a movie plot notion or a cheap conspiracy theory. These things do happen in America - all the time. But many Americans just don't think it's possible, or it's pretty improbable. People like to put on the 'dubious act' when a movie-like plot presents itself in current events. They think it's not very plausible. Like a movie: 'oh, that wasn't very realistic; that couldn't have happened . . .'

But for over six years, we've had a significantly overflowing dumpster-full of examples from which form our not unreasonable line of questioning. The Bush Machine is entirely suspect, on many, many levels. Mafia tactics are employed every day, and there's plenty of proof. They bank on the fact that people will respond to their acts with 'oh, that couldn't have happened . . .' or some such reaction. People expect that power players, working with high stakes, are going to be as rational and as decent as they are. They tend to think that the standards and rules are based on fair play, if not the honor system. When the stakes increase, standards change and degrade. There is no shortage of evidence of this, on many levels, from small town corruption to shady deals involving the new near-billion dollar US Embassy in Baghdad. Of course, many people expect corruption in places high and low, but I'm addressing specifically here those who scoff at the idea of political figures in contemporary America acting like players in a Martin Scorsese movie.

The posit of Wellstone being bumped off is not a paranoid interpretation; it's perfectly reasonable to entertain the idea that Wellstone was taken out for any number of reasons. To the Bush Machine and the neocons, Paul was a growing threat, one who could possibly spearhead a genuine grassroots movement in America that promised to pose major headaches and roadblocks. He had to be taken out before he really got going. This is Mafia Tactics 101.

America is awash with crime shows, reality crime shows and websites, mysteries and whodunits. The realism of 'The Sopranos' should have taught people about the plausibility of applying mafia techniques to all sorts of situations in life. The Wellstone case is a mystery that isn't too hard to figure out. The thing that's particularly galling about it is that we can't expect the truth to be revealed because it's too highly connected, like so many cases today, from Abu Ghraib to Blackwater.

The question, of course, is: who exactly did the deed. then? Well, after limp 'investigations' and pat explanations from presumed authorities, cases like Paul's are quickly shut down or pronounced resolved. Real facts are supressed and information is impossible to obtain. Now it's my turn to say 'oh, that couldn't have happened . . .' when I hear the half-baked statements about what supposedly went wrong with Paul's plane. Like JFK, Jr., such explanations are extremely suspicious. But the deed is done, and protection is always in play for the deed-doers. Thus, the corollary leads to assumptions of extraordinary forces, such as the Bush Machine, as the authors of such missions. Covert power pulls off covert action. Yes, it really is like a movie, for art imitates life.

RIP Paul Wellstone. You will never be forgotten.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Vultures of Righteousness

Governor Bush (I like George Carlin's preference in calling Dubya Governor, seeing how the gubernatorial election in Texas was the only election Bush ever won) has just made a silly old speech about Cuba, and how 'their day will come' in returning to Bush's Mafia Democracy. (Yes, returning; remember the Cuba sequence in 'The Godfather Pt II'?) NPR responded by limply parroting Gov. Bush's tiresome rhetoric.

Yes indeed, just like Iran, the American vultures are getting impatient to take back 'their' Cuba. And also like Iran, there will be NO negotiation. The terms are: the vultures win all, take all. None of this 'sharing' business. For their part, NPR (Nationalist Propaganda Radioactivism) and the MSM (MainStream Media, Inc. TM) in general want to be on the 'right side' when such takeovers occur. They want to be in the first wave of glory - whatever that entails. It sounds corny, but the stakes are just too high for journalists to really get investigative about these kinds of political situations. There's much more in it for them to be parrots than true journalists, with a goal of getting at the truth of the matter. Truth-seekers will undoubtedly be shut out of future cushy deals, because corporate management is all about cushy deals. When Cuba is 'restored' to being the cash cow of the Caribbean, plenty of plummy media opportunities will open up, and the hell if media empires are going to miss out by supporting some fancy-schmancy truth-digger. Thus the ongoing kowtowing and sucking up to the Bush Machine and other neocon enterprises, worldwide.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Place Your Bets, Poets

Dubya is tireless in his publicizing of the dubious mis-translation of Ahmadinejad's 'wipe Israel off the map' statement.

To quote Juan Cole: (http://www.juancole.com/2007/06/ahmadinejad-i-am-not-anti-semitic.html)

"As most of my readers know, Ahmadinejad did not use that phrase in Persian. He quoted an old saying of Ayatollah Khomeini calling for 'this occupation regime over Jerusalem" to "vanish from the page of time.' Calling for a regime to vanish is not the same as calling for people to be killed. Ahmadinejad has not to my knowledge called for anyone to be killed. (Wampum has more; as does the American Street)."

Now Iran has long been a poetic culture. Rumi and Omar Khayyam are most known in the west, and they are often referred to as 'flowery'. Well, if Dubya could handle perusing FitzGerald's Omar Khayyam, he would note a tone of nostalgia, a sweet sadness, yet a zest for the moment that permeates Omar's observations of life . . . and death.

Mis-translation of poetic phrases for political purposes can come in handy for hegemonic powers. Interpreting Nostradamus' rather abstract poetry as a blueprint for our times has always been a stretch, yet such an effect has oozed into the subtext of society as far as expectations for 'End Times' are concerned. Never mind the Book of Revelation, which is too obvious to mention here. On a different but nevertheless non-trivial plane, Hugo Chavez' reference to Bush as 'a sulphurous presence' at the UN was in the Latin American tradition of theatricality, something that uptight Americans would take as an insult, rather than a touch of levity. Ahmadinejad is not dabbling with levity, but his statements would be best addressed with subtlety rather than with a sledgehammer.

The thing is, there is no such interest in poetic interpretation in the Bush Machine's tactics. Conquest is on their minds, and it will not go away. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that Bush keep such lies alive. The last thing he wants is conciliatory gestures from Iran. The longing for a new, fresher war he can 'win' is now moving toward high gear. Such a war with Iran could, in the Bush/neocon view, vindicate themselves 'out' of Iraq, as it were. Such grasping for a 'win' in Iran seems to be the final, climactic crap shoot of the Bush Administration. The great question is whether they will or can pull it off. To Bush, Cheney & Co., the stakes are high, but it's go for broke time, baby.

'A jug of oil, a loaf of bread, and thou - and it's on to Teheran!' - presumed battle cry, if Bush reads Omar.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Little Lecture About Burma That Will Clear Everything Up

Well, hardly. It won't do a thing for the appalling degradation of a rather remarkable nation and culture that's been happening for many a decade now. On the other hand, it could improve western perception of 'the Albania of Asia'. That epithet, by the way, isn't meant to degrade; it merely implies an unknown or underknown subject, in this case, Burma.

When I visited Burma in 1986, it was the 100th anniversary (decidedly NOT celebrated), of the British conquest of Upper Burma. King Thibaw in Mandalay had been deposed, and all of Burma now came under British control. I remember dining in a restaurant in downtown Rangoon and sharing main courses and rice with a fellow American. He was sincere in his admiration for things Burmese, but his nervousness was palpable. 'This place is gonna blow up any minute now,' he said. At the time, I thought I knew what he meant, but I wasn't exactly sure. Something was in the air - or under it. He turned out to be right, but it took about two years to happen. In 1988, all hell broke loose, and then things went back underground. Until, basically, a few weeks ago.

I'm not taking on the whole issue here - that is, the latest unrest in this most unique of countries. But the name game being played out in the western media needs a tad bit of corrective attention if basic understanding of Burma is going to get anywhere, here in the west.

Which name to pick in referring to Burma? Despite being officially unrecognized in the US and the UK, American media seems to prefer 'Myanmar', the name chosen by the ruling junta as an act of defiance to world opinion. Why is this? Apparently, the name 'Burma' is linked to the general notion that it is a product of that country's colonial past. Thus, to be politically correct, the media choose the supposedly 'real' name for Burma: Myanmar, the 'native' name (apparently), the name for a people who threw off the yoke of imperialism and now live in the sunlight of freedom. A name specifically chosen by a corrupt, paranoid and utterly ruthless group of self-serving, not to mention bizarre, military freaks who control their Buddhist subjects by decidedly non-Buddhist methods. That reason alone is sufficient not to honor this spelling preference.

Other Burmese names have also been altered when rendered into Roman script: Irrawaddy, Moulmein, Prome, Rangoon, Pagan, and many others. I won't even bother to show their preposterous 'corrected' versions, spellings that even National Geographic has sucked up to (while retaining some of the previous spellings in parentheses). However, Myanmar as a spelling and a term indeed has legitimacy, as Burma expert David Steinberg has pointed out, but the decision to name the country that was hardly a people's choice.

Ironically, when all is said and done, 'Burma' and 'Myanmar' are pronounced, if you are Burmese, almost exactly the same. The 'm' and 'b' enunciation is subtle, as is the 'r'. In any case, Burma's name in its variations is merely a Romanization and an Anglicizing of the Burmese language and script. It is extracted from one of the world's more cheerful and even playful-looking scripts. Old Burmese hands affectionately say it looks like 'eggnog-eggnog', with its ancient but progressively-graphic lines of interlocked and connected circles. In a more abstract sense, even a chemical formula or calculus problem comes to mind. Further, the junta-official Romanized spelling of 'Myanmar' is 'Myanma'. Say it fast, with imagined subtleties that you think a Burmese speaker might include . . .

Also, I'm awfully darn sick of hearing, hither and yon, that there's no oil or 'anything we want' in Burma, so there's no reason why the US should invade, like we did in Iraq, in order to 'bring democracy' and set the inhabitants free. There IS oil in Burma. In the UK there is an oil company called Burmah (even the Brits streamlined their 19th century spelling to the one we know today), and while Burmah is not particularly associated with Burma any more, Burmese oil is still tapped and is still considerable in its deposits. Vast forest reserves, which are only now really starting to be decimated, make Burma the next grab-zone after Indonesia has been exhausted. Considerable natural gas and mineral deposits also lie within Burmese borders. During the British era, one district up-country was called Ruby Mines. Burmese gems are still a big deal. Also, Burma used to be Asia's largest rice exporter, so this is not a country without self-sufficient potential. It's just that, certainly in a neocon frame of mind, it's potential is not worth fighting over, like Angola, or any number of disadvantaged countries. Burma is also not particularly strategic in US interests. Why spill US blood over it? Like Afghanistan (which IS strategic to US interests), Burma is a major producer of illicit drugs, particularly opium. Remember the Golden Triangle? Most of it is in the Shan States of Burma, a zone similar to the untamed Tribal Areas of the Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan. There are still ganglords who are running the show who escaped over the hump from China in '49, old Nationalists from the defeated Kuomintang, who have prospered in their fiefdoms of absolute feudal control of these outaback locales. Like Darfur, the US can instantly get sluggish when it doesn't have supersalesmen like Richard Perle or Paul Wolfowitz to sell a war that interests only them and their corporate superiors.

Maybe I am taking on the whole issue here . . .

The thing is, Burma as a resource country has already been 'claimed' by its surrounding regional powers - mostly China, while Iraq, run by uppity Saddam, who didn't stay bought, with far, far, more oil deposits than puny Burma, was determined by US neocons as up for grabs, and must be claimed before anybody else, whether Iran or China or Russia got grabby.

I also find the 'effort' put into the usage of 'Myanmar' to be quite condescending, even a vestage of colonialism. Perhaps the sentiment is correct: it's 'Thailand' now, not 'Siam'; it's 'Iran' now, not 'Persia'. Nevertheless, it's still 'India' to us, though 'Bharat' is the official name, and 'Hindustan' is used in widespread fashion. Plus, we say 'China' and not 'Chung Kuo', and perhaps the most significant example of western preference: 'Japan' instead of 'Nippon'.

So, unless media mouths are ready to start saying 'Wien' for Vienna, 'Roma' for Rome, 'Sankt Peterburg' for St Petersburg, 'Ciudad Mexico' (with proper pronunciation) for you know what, let's drop the 'Myanmar' preference, and note that name secondarily, and make it clear as to why. Some already have, as they have slowly discovered the truth behind this most flimsy reason to honor a totalitarian government's international gesture.

One final example of the looniness of Burma's military sociopaths. Back in the 70s or thereabouts, Burma, like most formerly British possessions, drove on the left. Out of the blue, an edict came down that all vehicular traffic in the nation would, from the next day forward, keep to the right side of the street. The deed was done, and without question. Now admittedly, Sweden did the same thing, and without one traffic mishap, by the way. But their reasons for doing it were basically pragmatic: to join the rest of continental Europe, and also to sell Volvos and Saabs to growing left-hand drive markets. In Burma, the joke went around that Ne Win, who led the country at the time, was perceived as moving a little too far to the left in his thinking. So, what to do? Make a corrective statement! Move traffic to the right! Statement made. Control established.

Many a politician is wont to say today that to do something, it should be done because it's morally right. Well, it's morally right to call Burma 'Burma'. And the thing is, it really is. One of Buddhism's chief tenets is right action. For those who are repressed in Burma, it still is.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Barney's Got It

He's One Of U.S. Now

Nationalist Perverse Radio strikes again! American media of all kinds just loves Chris(topher) Hitch(ens). That voice, that erudition, that sophistication! And he's American! Yup, just tied the knot with US citizenship, so he's got a right to say 'us' and 'our' instead of 'you Americans', etc.

Well Chris, I lived in the UK for two years, and exotic you ain't. If fact, Chris is viewed as rather banal in his ex-country. Idea! Glom onto the US of A and do a road show. Keep 'em coming. Out-do the Americans at their own game, but slather on the Brit refinement and wow 'em with your vocab. Hey, they loved Tony B's performances every time, it's a sure bet. So Chris plays the morose-but-infinitely-urbane pooh-bear role, and no one can touch him. He can even inspire gullible young boys to go fight his wars, and only a droll, pudgy response is called for. What a deal!

Chris has always aspired to the level of Robt. Hughes or James Wolcott, but his pint-sized packages of deeply disappointing dart-throwing signify that our civilization really is in decline. And at those points in history, there's always been big bucks in filing past the remains and mounting pretentious commentary on all that went wrong. Hitchie (and I won't dignify any referral to Chris as 'Hitch' as that is the exclusive property of Alfred Hitchcock) is going for the gold NOW, before the full-scale dottering sets in.

There used to be a dignified tradition of Brits becoming Americanized (e.g. Alistair Cooke; the other Christopher - Isherwood, et al), but now we only get their left-overs.

Give me your burn-outs, your washed-ups and your third-string rejects...