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.


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: (

"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...

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

A Long, Long Way From 'Long Dong Silver', But Look Who's Bringing It Up Again!

That's right - Clarence Thomas! The most obscure of the Nine Old Personages now sitting on the Super-Supreme Court has written a memoir for the big bucks. Now we can re-live one of our nation's most tedious sagas, in which equality finally arrives on the high bench, not of the racial kind (Thurgood Marshall beat you to it, Clarence, and with distinction), but for once, a justice will be as medicre a mind as many of those he is trying.

The chief highlights in Clarence's 'trial' though, are the dandy references to that classic 'first date' film (perhaps suggested by Travis Bickle), 'Long Dong Silver'.

Clarence has always struck me as an opportunist who's always trying to come across as the Tom Robinson character in 'To Kill A Mockingbird'. Despite that character's legitimacy as a victim (framed for supposedly raping a white woman), Clarence plays the victim card every time, especially in his recent '60 Minutes' interview. He may not have had Greg Peck to defend him, but he had Poppy Bush to champion him, PLUS he got the white woman to marry in the end. What's he complaining about?? I know, I know, it's a great American touchy subject, but the obviousness of Clarence's grandstanding (in order to sell a book), is contemptible, especially in light of ongoing racial problems in this country. Speaking of contemptible, Michael Medved (who's actually more sickening than Michael 'Savage' Weiner) wrote a 6-point essay saying that slavery in America wasn't really that bad! Clarence, you've come a long way, baby...

Ick. Just Ick.

As you very well know, the thing on the right in this Duo-Portrait Plate above is Derek - I mean Debbie - Cagan, who does stuff under Bob Gates in the Imperial War Dept. But have you seen the suave side of the Cagan? You will if you pan over to the left and behold the distinguished profile therein. She's in her 'Snidely Whiplash' mode, and is just about to attach a vaudeville mustache (unfortunately concealed by the dark background) to the region above her mouth with spirit gum. Her hobbies include fantasizing she's a silent movie matinee villain, publically (and privately) hating Iranians, as well as standing in dark exterior doorways, waiting for anybody to take flash snapshots whilst she is applying waxy foundational makeup and cold, scummy hair oils.

Monday, October 01, 2007

One Week On: And I'm Not Referring To Columbia Pictures

More yaks concerning Columbia Univ. Prez Leee! Bollinger. As Fredric March said to Spence Tracy in 'Inherit the Wind' when referring to a pesky and cynical reporter (Gene Kelly), 'I don't like that fella.' It's true, gang, I don't care a fig for Bollinger. He has shown that he is the same kind of megalomaniac that he attempts to either coddle (the Pervster Musharraf) or roast (Ahmadinejad). Dean Martin he ain't, but that Captain Kangaroo hairstyle is almost as attention-getting as his whacked-out vanity show of 'telling off' his Iranian guest. Bollinger is a perfect example of the neocon dream of dumbing-down academia and replacing its thinking heads with ambitious corporate/power-mad CEO types, who can pose, especially in the spotlight of the media, as liberally artistic, free speechifying democratizers. Instead of applying wisdom and insight to the occasion by letting Ahmadinejad play himself, state his case, and then open a 'frank and cordial' dialogue, Bollinger botched the whole thing by turning it into a crude strut of egotistical self-righteousness which ended up sounding like a Soviet show trial. What an amateur-hour bozo. No, what an ASSHOLE! His haughtiness reminds me of his probable buddy and fellow failure, Paul Wolfowitz.