Thursday, August 31, 2006

Using a grammatical imperfection is invariably better than remaining tongue-tied.

Mario Pei, Getting Along in Spanish

Eating The Loaf A Slice At A Time Is Better Than Starving or Choking

One of my favorite quotations from Emma Goldman is “Ask for work. If they won't give it to you, ask for bread. If they deny you that, take it!” One of my favorite scenes in a movie is the one in Modern Times when Paulette Goddard, The Gamine, jumps on the truck and throws bananas to other street children as the caption declares “She refused to go hungry”. What leftist could resist heroic women like that and the advocacy of direct action on behalf of others when it is necessary? It stirs my blood just thinking about it. “Refused to go hungry,” I love that phrase.

But notice that Goldman quote, it has a progression; work, bread, direct action. If you think about The Gamine’s radical food distribution program you have to assume that what is shown is the end phase, that other means of getting food weren’t permitted.

Incrementalism is a word that arouses the contempt of many leftists, and sometimes incrementalism has been nothing more than an excuse to do nothing, or at least not as much as could be done. But flipping incrementalism over, there is the side that is at least as ineffective because it insists on immediately having it all. Neither has been what the left needs, both have prevented progress. Almost every time you look carefully at what is presented as instant achievement of our aims, you will see that it was the result of a long period of preparation. You have heard me on that over and again so I’m not going to go on about it.

What we need isn’t a program of either/or. What we need isn’t really a program. We have to always be on the look out, to intelligently access the possibilities and take advantage of our opportunities. We have to face when conditions indicate that we are going to have to choose between what is possible now and what we will have to keep working towards. That is the kind of incrementalism that I’m advocating here. If you don’t like the word incrementalism you can try opportunism or practicality.

The only thing we can realistically insist on is that any progress is forward and that we never stop pushing in that direction. There’s no celestial railroad available in politics, we’ve got to take every step as it comes, all uphill, lots of turns, lots of bumps, few rest stops.

4 Trombones a CD review

High Anxiety Bones Trombone Quartet too scared to play: Albany, TROY 346

Last weekend the radio program “From the Top” featured four teenagers playing the Trombone Quartet of Walter Ross. Not knowing Ross’ music and not knowing the literature for trombone quartet I hadn’t expected such a substantial or interesting piece. Looking it up online I saw this CD, ordered it and am now recommending it for the Ross and the rest of the pieces on it.

Maybe I should tell you that my two best friends in college were trombone players. I’ve known lots of trombone players and have only ever met one I didn’t like. Could be that biases me, though I’m no brass fanatic. My experience with french horn and trumpet players is a mixed bag and tubists, best not to go there. Put them together and what has happened to brass quintet playing over the past two decades is sad. Hijinks more than high art.

This CD of the High Anxiety Bones contains ensemble playing at a very high and serious level. Being four trombones alone, the sound is somber and rich sometime but that’s only a small part of it. This is not monochromatic, not all velvety umber tones and charcoal smudges. Sometimes it is crisp and bright, sometimes blazing.

The playing on the Handle Suite, arranged by Ernst Miller, is a good indication that they cover a range of sounds and articulations. The Alfred Hornoff Suite that follows and Two Pieces by Jules Semler-Collery are 19th century romantic music and a sort of romantic-impressionist fusion played with remarkable elegance of the kind those idioms require.

The Walter Ross Quartet is a very fine piece. Edgy and pensive in the first movement, stoically melancholic in the middle Chorale and assertively disputatious in the concluding movement. I’ll be looking for more of his music.

There are two pieces by a member of the High Anxiety Bones, Raymond Premru who died in 1998; his Tissington Variations and In Memoriam which was recorded after his death with Andrew Hicks playing bass trombone. These are much more than just pieces written by a trombonist for his own instrument. The variations are some of the best music I’ve heard written for a brass ensemble of any kind. Premru was clearly a real composer, he is also famous for having played trombone on the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s and numerous other albums.

In addition to the Handel, other arrangements by Miller on the disc include 16th Century chansons by Jannequin and Duboys as well as anonymous. There is a surprisingly good arrangement of an Elegy by Grieg. I wouldn’t have thought would work but it does. These being trombonists you aren’t surprised to find the Jimmy Van Heusen song I’m Getting Sentimental Over You which comes right after Like Someone in Love. These are arranged quite well by another HAB member, the well known jazz trombonist, Paul Ferguson, played with not too much sentimentality, high art, not hijinks.

The other members of the High Anxiety Bones were Steven Witser and Edward A. Zadrozny.

This is the kind of recording you listen to and suddenly wonder why trombone quartet isn’t a more commonly heard ensemble anymore, they used to be very common. Maybe it’s because finding brass players of this ability and seriousness isn’t as easy as it should be today. I hope the teenagers who were on the radio last week aspire to play this well. They’re pointed in that direction.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Highest Recommendation a short CD review

The Merling Trio Performs Works By Curtis Curtis-Smith: Albany, TROY 148

It’s been a while since last listening to a composer I’d heard about but never heard. This time it’s Curtis Curtis-Smith who I had known before only because William Bolcom dedicated one of his Three Dance Portraits to him, he also has given him a recommendation as being an undiscovered treasure. Hearing this recording of chamber works it’s astounding that he isn’t a household name.

This is music that is distinctive, original and, though I hate the term, accessible. I suspect it might not be more often played because the rhythmic originality might give players some challenges but that doesn’t need to worry listeners. The harmonic language is tonal but unlike some tonal music written in the last twenty-five years, it lacks the mildew of an ideological agenda or impaired ingenuity. It doesn’t even get stuck on the entirely original rhythms.
This is strikingly good music about that is about itself, not it’s techniques.

It is worth noting that one of Curtis-Smith’s teachers was the late Kenneth Gaburo, one of the most un-repetitive composers in history, of whom Virgil Thomson said he “has the best ear among our far-outs.” I’d go off into a tangent about available recordings of his music but this is about his student. I suspect that the reputedly difficult Gaburo must have sometimes been quite pleased with his student.

The descriptions of the individual pieces begun for this review are being dropped because I can’t in good conscience do more than tell you that this is unlike anything you are likely to have heard. Fresh, maybe that will do for a start. Absorbing, personal, entirely musical. I am going to have to leave it at that. You should come to it unbiased.

The excellent playing is by the Merling Trio, the Stuttgart Wind Quintet and Dennis Russell Davies. The CD sounds almost like being in a recital room with them.

So, good news. The tonality wars are over. We can like whatever we like without having to worry about the neo-tonal, the 12-tone or any other sides. Composers can compose what they want to without worrying about ideology. We can like it all.

A Commentwhore

B1 Bummer, a Mockingbird, when you get 24hr news and the people are more uninformed than ever you know that the news isn't serving its function.

I've held the unpopular view for some time that unless the news media gives people enough facts so they can govern themselves then they have no reason to exist. It isn't that I'm in favor of suppressing them, its that they favor a corporate state that will silence them if they even threaten to inform the public.

They have given up the right of a free press, not with a gag but with a simper.


Posted two minutes ago on a thread at Eschaton

Conspiracy Theory, A Brief Look At An Effective Media Dodge

Through poputonian at digby's blog we get this piece about a book presenting some ideas about the Bush regime's possible role in the Sept. 11th attacks. Not having read the book in question (someone in the comment thread who has recommends it) I'll only point out that the resulting gains for the then failing Bush II regime are undeniable. They certainly crowed about that enough themselves to put it beyond challenge.

It's probably not going to catch on any better this time but I'm going to point out again that in any investigation of a real conspiracy the investigator has to come up with one or more theories to check out.

The phrase "conspiracy theory" seems to have come into widespread use surrounding the various ideas about the assassinations in the 60s. Its use became particularly widespread after Oliver Stones movie about the Kennedy assassination was released. A lot of theories are dead ends but that doesn't mean they all are or that they should be dismissed without a hearing by this phrase. In our media saying "conspiracy theory" is considered to be the end of the discussion. It is more often than not a term used to prevent investigation, not to define the quality of evidence produced.

And don't think they didn't plan it that way.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Tuesday Night Incoherent Spam Sentence Blogging


I have no idea what this is about and didn't bother to read the rest of it to see if it cleared it up.

Have You Ever Been Red-Baited From the Left?

You could have anticipated that other shoe to drop, but I didn't. An anarchist perceives in my recent post a sure sign of their sworn enemies, the communists. Let me ask at this point, doesn't this kind of thing make you all nostalgic for those old time fist fights over Proudhon and the the Grundrisse? Which anarchists and which communists I don't care about at all, not anymore than I care about cutthroat competition in men's cupstacking. And as attractive as your rococo arguments and accusations might be to you, sir, they don't go with my decor. So here is a quickly cobbled together, general answer.

Going against the leftist instinct of more than a half century, today I am surprised to find that I don’t really feel much like defending the communists of the United States. Not except to defend them against the likes of the House Unamerican Activities Committee and various Republican front groups. That it takes about as much courage to slam communists in the United States as it would to slam Louis Farrakhan in a meeting of the Friends of Meier Kahane doesn't mean that they are above criticism.

No, I am not going to answer for their follies and mistakes, nor for their way too late eye opening to the crimes of Stalin. On the one hand, I’m not answerable for them. For another thing, they are notable for producing little of use. And that little cost the left a lot more than they gave. Every one knows the best leftist folk songs were the product of Wobblies.

What they could produce were countless factions both through splits and expulsions of people who differed on slight points of orthodoxy. Few of the myriad of communist groups have ever held back from the most vicious attacks on each other, sometimes resulting in bloodshed. Change a few words and names, you’d think they were Baptists. A rule of thumb, any political party that has produced more splinters than office holders defines “politically failed”.

I don’t respect many of the leaders of the Communist Party in the United States. Not much. A lot of them were more interested in guarding their tiny little patch of turf than in producing anything of material benefit for working class people or the destitute. Their favorite weapon, doctrinal purity, wasn’t good for much else. While that isn’t peculiar to the CP, they were supposed to be better than that. Some of them bought into the idea that making the poverty of the poor more grinding through inaction would more rapidly bring about the glorious revolution. And for that they can go to to hell*.

But I will give them the fact that for a good part of the early decades of the twentieth century they were active in efforts against racism and racist violence in the United States while others dithered. They were also early, if shamefully inconsistent, opponents of European fascism. They were active in a number of worthwhile activities. No honest person would deny them that. Would they deny that many other leftists and even their most hated enemies, liberals, deserve some credit for the same?

Communists' largely unjust persecution over the decades makes them somewhat sympathetic. And let’s be honest, they had a certain romantic cachet. But they also provided the political right with a rather willing straw man, one with a lead pipe in it that was used to bludgeon the entire left. While they idiotically argued, fought, split, fought with those who hadn’t already been thrown out, again fragmented, and spat venom between each of the contending groups averaging eleven members each, they weakened the left They provided the right with a specter to frighten the general population about foreign subversion and to so gain power.

I have known former Communists who freed themselves of the fixations of doctrine. They were good people. I’ve never known a former fascist and have only heard a handful who seemed to be decent. The former communists only had to dump the dogma and the cult while working to promote their original ideals. In order to become decent, fascists, klansmen and even the odd Nazi have to entirely change their personalities, their beliefs, their hearts, and their friends. Sometimes tattoos have to be removed too.

The massive and interesting writings of former Communists constitute an encyclopedia of eloquent regrets and reasonable defenses. I refer you to them, excluding the writings of such former Communists as who found their next career opportunity by becoming fascists. The number of those alone raise doubts about their originating organizations. I will not give fascists a reference anymore than I’m going to waste another second considering their rights.

I also fully believe that, to this day, there are current members of the CP and contending parties who are sincere and good, just not very practical.

So. What about Stalinists?

Oh, for crying out loud. Where? You got a Stalinist who’s picking on you I’ll make him put his head against the building till recess is over. That goes for Trots too.

* Just yesterday I had a self-proclaimed anarchist make a similar argument to me. Anarchists who feel that way can go to hell too.

Latest Evidence that America Has No Free Press

Read this and face that stiff wind of harsh reality:


Okay, on the anniversary of Bush's Katrina debacle, "Heck of a Job" Brownie tells all and reveals that Bush and the White House told him to lie and take the heat for the Katrina executive branch fiasco.

Although we never ceased to be amazed at how the mainstream media generally follows a White House script, we sometimes do become just a BIT jaded and cynical.

But if you have the former fired head of the Arabian Horse Association turned political hack appointee to run FEMA accusing the President of the United States of asking him (through WH staffers) to lie for "El Caudillo," that would appear to us to be pretty big news.

We're wrong again.

In fact, we could only find three non-mainstream sites with any reference to the accusation on Google, including one that we posted from a newsite from India!

The Most Important Thing To Know About That Karr Nutter

Before you let him go, ask him if he is a fan of A&E’s lurid, exploitative, titillating, serial killer and sensation killer programs. I’d like to know if we can add incitement of the marginally psychopathic to that list. From what I’ve seen, they’re like Entertainment Tonight for the homicidal set.

Come to think, do they let them watch A&E in prison?

Colorado, you really do need to do something about your criminal justice system. They watch too much TV too.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Not Goin’ to Take Your Pseudo-Science, Stereotyping, Stigmatizing, Aggravatin’ Talkin’ Blues

Ay, yay, yay. Where to begin. Leslie Stahl with that bogus gay gesture “study” again last night. Airing that piece of garbage once wasn’t enough, you’ve got to repeat it? If you didn’t see the crap, it was a “scientific study” that “proves” that gay men do act and sound “effeminate”. And Stahl went considerably past that.

Not science, not close to being tight enough to be science, using self-selected objects for starters. How do they know that those of us who can pass as straight would be willing to participate in this kind of stereotyping. I’m sure there are lots of other gay men who would refuse to participate in this kind of junk, having been the victims of stereotypes our entire lives. I wouldn’t anymore think of participating in that kind of “study” than an informed black person would for a study conducted under the auspices of Charles Murray. Self-selection and self-definition of the objects of observation does not science make.

Won’t continue on that except the speculation voiced that gay men result from some kind of toxic-allergic reaction to second and third pregnancies with a male fetus is no different than defining being gay as a birth defect. We are marked from and by the womb, and if we weren’t before, we will be if this kind of junk continues.

Why does Leslie Stahl do a piece like this? The “science” of it? I don’t think she’d know how to tell science from a handsaw when the wind blows North so I’ve got to believe it’s for some other reason. Why else would she cast her straight eye on the queer guy? How about it fits in with the Republican theme of winning the fall election through gay bashing. I don’t think that wouldn’t be realized at CBS if I realized it here in the hinterlands.

And since this is an angry stream of steaming consciousness piece, what next? How are similar ‘scientists’ going to study Black People, Jewish People? What nice trait from the rotten barrel of stereotypes are they going to pluck out and see if subjects can find it? Would Leslie Stahl be willing to be an object for a study? Can Jewish Women be picked out of a crowd? And to what end would someone do such a study? To see if there was some “genetic” aspect to behavior? I’m not going to go into the possible insulting stereotypes that they could impose, you know them much, much too well already. If you find this offensive, Les, well, how does it feel?

Want to take the guess work out of it? How about bottle blonds? Now, that’s a behavior about which everyone including your hairdresser knows for sure and it's your choice beyond a doubt. Is there a genetic predisposition to keep your hair an unnatural tint of yellow well into your very, very late middle age? Is there some self-delusion gene that keeps someone trying to pass themselves off as a very mature 29- year-old into their dotage? How about all the bottle blonds of TV be tested to see if there is some genetic predisposition for that particular look? Maybe it’s botox poisoning that could be treated with a good 12 step.

It’s time we all put our foot down. Stop doing studies that don’t have randomly selected participants, it doesn’t matter if your funding won’t allow it. Don't defraud the public with "studies" with an insufficient sample size. If you can’t do it right you shouldn’t be doing it at all. And there are a lot of “studies” that you shouldn’t be doing at all.

Stop “studying” people unless there is some purpose that will benefit them. There has to be a really good reason to consider people as things to study. This kind of thing can do untold harm in supporting negative stereotypes. Why, it could stigmatize some straight men who are percieved as feminine.

Making people into objects of study is always, to some extent, a violation of their dignity as individuals and had better only be done for a really serious reason. There is no reason to lump healthy people into a heap and assign them norms of behavior. If there is some real pathology, fine, as long as you define pathology as a health or behavior problem that really is a problem. Gay people are not a problem, lay off.

Note: Reading this over this morning I see I got it wrong. It would be a South and not North wind. But since Leslie Stahl, like just about any other media personality, is unable to tell science from fiction, it's all the same hot air.

Answer to a Silly and Now Deleted Comment

You can continue with pie in the sky but I would like some real progress made during my lifetime and for the next generation.

Wishing that we would evolve winged flight is about as good a reason to put off walking to the store as wishing for what is never going to happen is for not doing what can be done politically in the reality we find ourselves in.

Guess how long you can wait for relief is a matter of how much it costs you.

We Must Leave Failed Theories to the Past and Move On

You just have to regret the practical left’s loss of Emma Goldman to the sterile cause of anarchism. In an age with more than its share of great intellects and great hearts hers were astonishing.

Political action was the farthest thing from a hobby for her. She lived the life of a working woman, knowing what it was like to be poor and to work as a factory drudge. She saw the destructive force of poverty and the brutal working conditions of her time. She devoted herself to improving the lives of workers, the destitute and the dispossessed. Why would Emma Goldman, of all people, pass up any possibility of effective participation in politics; abandoning the possibility for improving millions of lives through existing means, for what turned out to be so obviously futile? How could she stick with anarchism as long as she did after seeing how its excesses had been used successfully against the left, setting back progress for decades?

I suspect that she was a victim of the truth, or of one truth that must have stunned her. The state is a beast that is always dangerous, seldom harmless, and almost never beneficial. Given the politics of her time she might have stated the case as its never being beneficial. Did that one truth overtake any consideration of the possibility of using politics to mitigate it’s evils or to do good? Anarchists tend to believe that the only way to deal with an animal like that is to kill it. But a state isn’t an animal. It can’t be killed once and for all. Although no metaphor is suitable, the state is more like the hydra, one head killed yields a more dangerous animal then before. Something will always spring up in its absence. As seen today in Afghanistan or inner cities around the world the chances are excellent that it will be worse than an ineffective attempt at democracy.

Anarchism is right about the state being dangerous but it is also wrong in assuming that it never can be anything but evil. We have numerous examples of the state being harnessed to be less harmful and even to do good. Emma Goldman had examples during her lifetime. It isn’t easy to make government work but since it is always going to exist in one form or other the only morally justifiable course to take is to try to make it work to the common good.

What does Emma Goldman leave us except some of the best political writing in our history? Can we learn from her even if her formal politics were as realistic as the movement to revive the French Royal House? If you think that’s too harsh, face the truth. Neither will ever happen. The results of either would be predictably awful. Though at least Goldman's motives were pure.
Maybe more can be salvaged from her than a few beautiful lines. Maybe we can learn from her in ways that she wouldn’t have imagined or even found flattering. Wonderful as she is, Emma Goldman is a great example of what we have to avoid. We have to face the reality of the situation as it is, now, during our life. We have to face the fact that there is not going to be an end to the potential dangers of the state. We have to participate in politics. We have to do whatever is possible to protect people from its dangers and to harness its potential to do good. If we don’t control the state others are eager to turn it on us. If we don’t do what is necessary to take it from them they will continue to use it for thier corrupt ends. We have to give up the impossible ideal for what can be done. For a real improvement in the conditions of people now. Near the end of her life, as she saw the rise of Naziism, even after her long and passionate advocacy for anarchism, she must have realized her mistake. She acted bravely and as selflessly as always, at her advanced age doing what she could to join the fight in Spain. If nothing. else her work against fascism gloriously capped a life of struggle.

We can also learn a direct lesson. Emma Goldman was a poet of the truth as she saw it. There is more poetry in just about any sentence she wrote than in all of the blather that Peggy Noonan put into the empty mouths of all her paying clients put together. Emma Goldman spoke truth to people about their lives directly and beautifully. She moved thousands of people in a way that all of the learned theorizers put together never could. People won’t listen to people they don’t understand. They will listen to people talking about things that matter to them who don’t talk down to them. We also have to listen with respect. Those of us without the ability to speak like her can at least do that. We will be out of power as long as the majority of voters can’t see the truth. And we have to keep in mind the seduction of brilliant ideas that blind us to the limits of real possibility. The limits of possiblity are more real than the ideas ever can be.

Sunday, August 27, 2006


"Men like to substitute words for reality and then argue about the words," Edwin Armstrong, inventor of FM transmission*

That is one of the wisest sentences ever spoken about the law. Referring obliquely to the lawsuits and court rulings handing his inventions to people who couldn't even understand the science behind them, Armstrong said precisely how our judges and legal scholars do those things that earn them the contempt of millions.

That's the how of it, the why is to uphold the profit of their patrons. Judges say the stupidest things in the most elegant language in service to corporate oligarches. The excuse is "originalism", "federalism" or whatever fashionable verbal distraction has been cooked up in the interest of privilege and wealth.

But it's not all sherry and aphorisms at the top. This week's ruling on wetlands was inconvenient for John Roberts, the Chief of the Republican majority. Anthony Kennedy went off program, issuing an opinion producing less than the full gutting of wetlands protection laws that his patrons wanted. Kennedy's opinion holds the balance on the issue until Bush and the Republicans appoint another hack. No doubt Roberts, being the very model of the Republican golden boy, wants to deliver as fast as he can and get the pat on the head he craves.

In the year after Hurricane Katrina, for their empty words to endanger the entirely real and vitally important wetlands is nothing short of a crime against the People of the United States. Even as they make national security an excuse to suspend the Bill of Rights they will allow developers and others to destroy the environment, leaving us all in peril. Remember the dead in New Orleans if you think that's overblown.

It would be interesting to know how the legal thinking of those taking what is clearly the ascendant position will leave what's left of the natural barrier protecting the Gulf Coast and other areas. I mean an accurate scientific assessment based on physical facts, not Bush science, not judicial bushwah. Now, wouldn't that be a really interesting legal analysis, for a change. The real world has such a way of making it all so real.

Through the PR environmentalism like what now could sadly become know as Blue Smoke Hawaii, look for more permits to plunder. The Reagan-Bush legacy will be more distruction of wetlands and as sea levels rise we will see more of what last summer brought. Say good-bye to many more people, species and maybe the entire biosphere. With their dying gasps, turning blue, these robed hacks will be consulting the Federalist Society over the best way to cover environmental plunder in the age of gigadeath.

* My thanks to Tom Lewis and Ken Burns for pointing out this revelatory quote in their "Empire of the Air The men who made radio,".

First posted on olvlzl Tuesday, June 20, 2006. Reposted as a comment on the Republican's attempt to use the anniversary of Katrina in their fall campaign.

Going through my old files there was this piece which was intended as the first post on this blog. While I was trying to get my courage up I saw Echidne had written a better piece on the same study so it was posted as a comment on her blog that day. It is given here as light End of Summer entertainment.

The Smell Study as reported on by the AP

Is this another case of a very preliminary, very small study finding a very small difference about which the authors make very modest claims but which the American press reports as conclusive and earth shaking? And if it is first reported by the researchers with some discretion, will it be one of those studies inflated out of all recognition by the fellows of well known think tanks in their future, bulk-buy, bestsellers about the evils of feminism? I don’t know but considering that the study consisted of 12 subjects each of straight women, lesbians and straight men - who we are reassured are “healthy, unmedicated, and right-handed” - I doubt that the sample is large enough to represent a significant part of the respective populations over a significantly long period of time. The media reporting, the real focus of my piece, doesn’t give any numbers so we don’t know. The brain scans done as part of the study are interesting but the researchers apparently relied heavily on reporting by the subjects to come to their conclusions.

One of the problems going into this study would be that the period for testing individual subjects be sufficiently long to account for possible variations in response over time. This would seem to be obvious. People often don’t respond to the same smell in the same way on different occasions. Sometimes there are changes during different times of life. When I was a child ham smelled wonderful to me, now it drives me out of the house. And just about everyone finds some smells alluring one day but disgusting the next. Scotch, for example. There is a very commonly observed situation which may have direct relevance to this aspect of the of the subject. Most of the subsequently declared straight women I’ve known report at some point during their childhood that “boys stink”. Boys who turn out to be straight often report a reciprocal sensory stimulus.

What does this all mean in the end? I haven’t noticed that most straight women are repelled by close and confined association with other women in their social lives. Many of the straight women I’ve known have seemed to derive more pleasure from their close social interactions with women friends than they do with men. Often their own husbands. Especially on long car trips. If, as the AP report says, heterosexual women found male and female pheromones about equally pleasant any difference in gender preference for social interaction would seem to be due to reasons not tested for.

But straight men and lesbians are reported to find male hormones more irritating than female ones. This is puzzling. I’ve never noticed that straight men living in close proximity have a demonstrated need for a heightened level of personal hygiene or fresh air in their shared abode. This might lead to a suspicion that the pheromone samples used in studies of this kind, isolated and, perhaps, concentrated don’t mimic real world conditions. Could it be that even with sufficiently large numbers of test subjects superbly chosen and observed over a long enough period that this highly artificial sensory situation tells us relatively little? To be fair, most lesbians I’ve known do not seem to enjoy prolonged associations with men. Bur there are more obvious emissions than highly dilute moles of “male” pheromones sufficient to explain that result.

Also as reported, all three groups indicated that the male hormone was “more familiar than the female one”. One really wonders why two-thirds of the subjects would find their own hormone less “familiar” than those of the other gender. And if it was due to some kind of sensory habituation why the males would find “their own" hormone “familiar”. Could a variation the level of self-absorption account for this difference?

So, as you hear this and similar studies cited to explain the enormous gulf between the brain structures of the genders and gender preferences and why women don’t make as much as men for work of similar value, ask these embarrassing questions. And consider the further possibilities for business and economics. If further testing found a variation in odor preference, it could justify a pay cut for south paws.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Things that drive me wild are:

The willingness of leftists to let them get away with rolling back progress by Supreme Court ruling. No, it isn't over just because the Supreme Court says that it is. It is only over when the problem is fixed and the solution to the problem is secure. If the courts, and let's go all the way, legislatures and the New York Times-Wall Street Journal declare that the problem will not be fixed it doesn't make the problem go away. The Equal Rights amendment wasn't passed, the problems it was designed to fix are still here.

Income inequality has never been worse in our entire history and the theories of the kinds of economics that are respectable are there to insure that the inequality will continue.

Then there is the selfish, lazy and stupid assumption that fixing the problems of everyday life is less important than striking a pose of moral or intellectual distinction and purity. Politics is about lives, not the careers of the elites or the clawing climbers who want so much to join them. It is about the lives of people who the elites have never even heard of or considerd. I've ranted on that at length here recently so I won't give more examples.

The media, especially the DC and New York media, are just about uniformly more interested in themselves than in the lives of other people. Any leftist who is not more interested in the general welfare than in their career and social advancement isn't a leftist, they are a Republican in the bud. No, your career is insignificant as anyone else can tell you. No, your pose of constitutional purity isn't important unless it is effective in producing better living conditions.

We have got to stop ignoring the fundamental necessities of democracy. You can't have democracy without them. An uninformed public not dedicated to the COMMON good will not produce a democratic government.

Democracy is the ONLY form of government that will produce solutions to the kinds of problems that threaten life on this, the one and only planet we are going to get. Oligarches, despots, do not have the moral fiber to look past their own greed and power. Selfish individuals are a fact of life. It is only the entire People through their collective wisdom who will produce a result that might, given enough information and good will, just save us all.

We will govern together as mature adults or we will die as spoiled brats. Those are the choices.

NOTE: This piece has been revised to make a point clear that was confusing when originally posted. Other revisions might be desireable but I'm going to be out for the afternoon. Thanks to H.H. for pointing out the problem.

End of Summer

You were warned there would be a patchy quality this summer and looking over my production for the past few weeks, I delivered as advertised.

With the end of my summer employment, soon, I hope to get back to a more consistent level of writing, if things go as planned.

Thank you for your patience, if you still have any. If you haven't you probably aren't reading this.

If you've stuck with me through thin, thank you.


Friday, August 25, 2006

The Republicans aren't only friendly with fascists, they're in bed with them.

Illinois Republican Jerry Weller is one of the most powerful men in Congress when it comes to Latin America. His wife is the most powerful woman in Guatemala’s controversial FRG party.

By Frank Smyth
August 25, 2006

JERRY WELLER WAS running for his sixth term as congressman from Illinois’ 11th District in July 2004 when he announced that he was engaged to Zury Rios Sosa, an outspoken third-term legislator in Guatemala’s congress and the daughter of former dictator General Efrain Rios Montt. “I am thrilled to have found my best friend and soulmate,” Weller stated in a press release. “Our love knows no boundaries.” In the same release Sosa said, “With Jerry, I am starting an eternal springtime. I admire his character, his commitment to his responsibilities, and his honesty.”

Their mutual admiration notwithstanding, the announcement raised a red flag. Weller, who would be the first congressman ever to marry a member of a foreign national legislature, sat on the International Relations Committee and its western hemisphere subcommittee--would his votes be influenced by Sosa?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

On Tuesday, the U.S. Marines announced it is beginning an involuntary recall of inactive service members to return to duty and go to Iraq and Afghanistan. This marks the first involuntary recall by the Marines since the early days of the war. As many as 2,500 inactive Marines will be initially recalled.


I wander thro' each charter'd street,
Near where the charter'd Thames does flow,
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every man,
In every Infant's cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban,
The mind-forg'd manacles I hear.

How the Chimney-sweeper's cry
Every black'ning Church appals;
And the hapless Soldier's sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls.

But most thro' midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlot's curse
Blasts the new-born infant's tear,
And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse.

William Blake 1791

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Yes I Know I said I Wouldn't Answer Any More E-Mail on the Subject

But I just got Betty Bowers' most recent tract and it contained this argument clincher.

I will warn you that the second link is both disturbing and disgusting.

Don’t Blame Liberals For Soiling The Thing

The confederate flag is the American swastika. It doesn’t matter what you want it to be. It doesn’t matter what it’s alleged to be. It doesn’t even matter if you pretend that it is a harmless symbol of a charming past that exists only in technicolor epics and bodice rippers.

The confederate flag is a symbol of hate and violence because that is what its supporters made it. Its devotees used it as a symbol of white supremacy, of American apartheid, of the terror and lynching used to keep black people and others from exercising their rights as citizens of the United States. It was waved and paraded in defiance of Civil Rights decisions of the courts and Civil Rights laws passed by the Congress and signed by the President. It was adopted by bikers and klansmen and murderers and thugs and the genteel supporters of segregation. It was often coupled with Iron Crosses and it wasn’t the Kaiser that they were remembering when they married the two.

If those who loved the confederate flag didn’t like what it was becoming they should have taken it away from the segregationists and made it a symbol of non-discrimination and equality. But they didn’t try and that opportunity is lost for as long as the use to which it was put remains in memory.

To pretend that the confederate flag wasn’t deliberately used as a symbol of segregation and discrimination is a lie and as lies go it is a whopper. To pretend that it still isn’t being used the same way today is an even bigger lie. It was explicitly used and adopted into the flags of several states for that reason as black people struggled for the most basic rights of citizens. It was white racists who made it into the American swastika, not black people, not yankees, not liberals. White racists around the country, yes, in the South too, turned it into what it is today, a symbol of hate and violence. In the latest variation on this theme it is a crude wedge tool of election politics for Republicans, the party of Rutherford Hayes and Jesse Helms.

If you don’t like that fact, you can blame the people who made it what it is today. We didn’t get it dirty, its foremost fans did. If you want it cleaned, make them do it. Don’t bill us.

The Exchange: New Frontiers in Comment Whoring

From a thread at Echidne's blog, edited to protect the innocent.

I had occasion to read several of the Homer Price stories to three girls today, ages 10 and 11. When I read the story about the ball of yarn when I came to Miss Terwilliger they all thought that the title "Miss" was a mistake until I showed them the book and explained that it used to be what people called women who weren't married. All three thought it was "weird".

I thought this could be of interest here.
olvlzl | Homepage | 08.21.06 - 9:51 pm | #

Re: the disappearance of "Miss", I think unfortunately it has simply been largely replaced by "Ms.", at least around these parts. That is, when I'm in a position to know what title women prefer (mostly as concerns teachers at school), it's almost always "Mrs." if they are married (even if they are politically liberal, which teachers tend to be).
Alan | Homepage | 08.21.06 - 10:31 pm | #

Alan, what's unfortunate about adult women being able to decide what they want to be called?

The only people I can imagine who would be inconvenienced by the universal use of Ms. are men who want to know if a woman would be available to him without taking the bother of getting to know her. Such men, it is almost certain, would find it inconvenient mostly because such men would be less likely to be successful if women got to know him.
olvlzl | Homepage | 08.22.06 - 7:37 am |

Alan if you are reading this, I await your answer.


Alan and Alberich point out that I misread the original. I plead exhaustion from watching bored, feisty kids who had spent too much time together this summer all day yesterday. I withdraw any aspersions I may have cast on Alan. But I don't withdraw the joke.

Monday, August 21, 2006

"Connecticut for Lieberman" As In "It's All Mine"

Does anyone know? I've looked and have not found a single other American political party named after a single person before. Lieberman will go down as a massive ego in service to itself.

Pin Joe down on supporting the Democratic leadership to run the Senate, make him promise on pain of leaving politics that he won't support the Republicans. Make him promise in no uncertain terms.

With Apologies to the Late Don Knotts

We now know what it would be like to have Barney Fife's charmless and evil twin brother as president. The building irrational panic in George W. Bush today was one of the weirdest things I've ever seen a president do. And that includes Nixon's "Sock it to me?". It even includes Ford ripping pages off a calendar. Do you think someone finally broke the news to him that Hezbollah is better off this month than it was before the war started and that the entire world knows it except Americans who get their news from cable?

The emperor has no clothes, the media has no clues.

A family obligation will keep me from posting again today. It's a happy occasion this time so I'll post this piece as a rerun.

When The Clowns Laugh At You Make Them The Joke

You laugh at her, I laugh at her, we all laugh at Ann Coulter and have since her nicotine reeking dementia was made a major part of our political discourse by the Republican media. Now that even she knows she crossed the line there's word she's trying to reposition herself as a comedian. Yeah. She's a regular Totie Fields.

After the six minutes that it takes for her act to get boring there is Rush and Mona and Bill and Blanquita and Michael - Savage, Medved, Novak, -.... and the rest of the conservative clowns that are the brain trust of the the trademarked "party of new ideas". Funny thing that their media doesn't get the joke, isn't it. They're all about entertainment all the time. Seems that they've got other jokes to tell.

No matter what we do, no matter how we do it, no matter how much sense it makes, the Republicans and their media ridicule everything about us. If we don't' do anything they do us the favor of making stuff up to ridicule us with. When they can't make the charge of irrationality and kookiness stick they ridicule us for being pokey brainiacs and ineffective sticks in the mud. They do it to drug the political atmosphere to ensure that Democrats and leftists will not be taken seriously and so destroy any chance of us being a danger to their hold on power. Since we don't and aren't likely to have control of the media, what can we do to counter this obvious campaign to turn us into a late-night joke?

We can stop feeling so self-conscious about it. They're the idiots. We can trust our own judgment and the facts that support it. Another Michael of the crackpot right has said that footnotes don't lie even as he lied about his. If we check ours for accuracy why not trust them? We can use them to expose their undocumented lies as we present our facts. One word about show biz, though. Always keep a number of your facts in reserve as needed. Don't put it out all at once. Timing, remember.

After our arguments are sound, I say we just keep repeating them. Throw them constantly right into their smirking faces. Don't let them change the subject. Don't let them make you stop giving your message by playing on your self-consciousness and sense of politeness. They didn't sell their enormous lie that the press was liberal without constant repetition. We should give truth at least as much of a chance, shouldn't we?

We have to vary the delivery to keep the attention of the public. All of us have had our ability to concentrate compromised by too much TV. Most people don't go for long and complicated explanations. The given conditions of effective public information are the only paper we get to write our arguments on and it's strictly one side of the page only.

If the sell-outs on late night keep laughing, we can turn it around and laugh back. Few of them are that far removed from Dennis Miller, than who there is no bigger joke outside of government in America today. Here is the chance for leftists to get creative. Their stock and trade is ridicule and caricature. Turn it around. Find their weak spots, get under their skin. Some of the greatest minds in TV had debilitating weakness and we're not talking great minds here. Jay Leno is no Jack Paar. He's not even Steve Allen. Is this nice? No. But TV isn't a nice place these days and, thanks to them, that's how it is in the medium where we have to get our message out. They made fun of Jimmy Carter for being nice, remember.

Before ending maybe I should clear something up. Though I didn't think her act was very funny and there was that time she dissed Abbie Hoffman on Carson, Totie Fields was mightily courageous in her tragic decline. Coulter is no Totie Fields.

Connecticut, Please Don't Send The Republican Back to the Senate

Connecticut voters shouldn't be in any doubt now. Joe Lieberman is already a Republican. Like Olympia Snowe he is a Republican from a moderate state so he has to walk a line, voting on many issues in a way that his constiuents will tolerate while posing no problem for the reactionary and corrupt Republican leadership. His actions around the confirmation of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court are the model of "moderate" Republicanism. His actions, as opposed to words, then may have been somewhat more accommodating to the Federalist Societies worst than Lincon Chafee. His refusal to join a filibuster effectively killed that option to keep a Republican presidential royalist from being the crucial swing vote on the court. His refusal would have carried far less weight if he had been a Republican. Lieberman's action only highlights the advantage his pretense of being a Democrat has been for the Republican success in the Senate.

Joe Lieberman left the party a long time ago, maybe even before he was nominated for Vice President. He betrayed the party over and over again during his Senate career, showing much more loyalty to George W. Bush than he ever has any Democrat, including Al Gore. Yet he's still acting out over Gore's not endorsing him for the presidential nomination.

The Voters of Connecticut should pin him down on the questions of party loyalty since he is still keeping up the pose of being a Democrat, at least as long as the election make that necessary. Please pin this guy down. Don't give him any wiggle room because he'll certainly take it. Force him to make a binding and very public promise to support Democrats or to stop pretending that he is one.

With Joe Lieberman it's all a one way street, and all roads lead to him.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

A Few Words of Explanation and a Request for Input

I try to read all the comments and to answer them but, as you probably know sometimes the comment thread meter indicates 0 comments when comments have been made. If I miss reading or answering a comment it is probably due to that. Sometimes the meter reverts to 0 after showing a number. I haven't got a clue as to why.

One of the comments suggest that I try a different blog format that includes HaloScan. Do you have any preferences?

Not going to mention the victim's name.

Let's Just Call It The Boulder Case

It is a symptom of the psychological damage that opinion polling has done that people, on the basis of no facts, seem to think they have an opinion of who killed that poor girl ten years ago.

No, when it's based on cabloid gossip and tabloid titillation it's not an opinion. It's just sick.

For the Love of Mike, what is it about the electronic media and the bodies of dead and near dead females? This isn't news it's national necrophilia, America's shame .

Friday, August 18, 2006

Whew! What a Week!

My annoying liberal niceness angel, Nat, is nagging in my ear that this topic has been played out. He thinks it makes me to mean and aggressive. So I will not be answering any more insulting e-mails on the topic. Nat is a real pain in the neck and I want him to go away.

I'm taking the weekend off after a long, long work week. I might post a few small things of interest but am not planning on a long post this weekend.

Just looked at the calendar and noticed I missed my three-month anniversary, so on the slowest day of the week, here goes.

The quite rude e-mail challenges .....

“ ... you are against freedom of speech how can you call yourself a liberal ..."

I am the kind of leftist who has left behind the comfortable world of easily repeated ideas for the much more troubled and confusing world of real life. When I see inequality and preventable suffering and early death in real, living people and other beings it somehow seems more urgent to me than if a commercial opportunity is lost in a movie or book deal. NOT that I’m unconcerned about book burning or its more modern equivalent, it just isn’t my FIRST priority.

As stated in one of my early posts, I don’t even get to considering if fascists and Nazis are given every courtesy. I don’t wake in the night and worry that there is a liberal somewhere suppressing their freedom to advocate destroying other peoples’ freedom along with many lives. You can add the commercial lives of pornographers, pimps, stockbrokers, executives, board members, think tank dross, media whores and many others to the bottom of my list of concerns. Maybe there will be time to worry about their rights to publish their lies and junk once we’ve secured the non-commercial right to tell the truth effectively, in the mass media. That day isn’t coming anytime soon, though.

By the way, it might shock or even please you to know that I don’t advocate suppressing any kind of non-photographic depiction of even the most immoral sex act, provided no living beings or photographs are used in its production and the exhibition is to consenting adults only. It’s the use of people and animals I’m opposed to, not sexual stimulation, no matter how much it might disgust me. I won’t delay a letter supporting nutrition programs or barrier island protection to spend time defending the ‘artiste’s right of expression’ but I don’t advocate suppressing it either.

Writing this blog has forced me to think out and write out a lot of ideas that just went randomly through consideration before. It comes down to what is most important in real life and what will put the left in power. Many blogs are based in repetitions of the Liberal Code of Ethics, no one needs another one of those. We have been following The Code into failure for the greater part of a century. Time is short, we have to try new things. You’d think that would come naturally to liberals.

As leftists, as believers in equality, in the common good, as believers in democracy and liberty we need to act in the most effective ways possible for the good of living beings. Anything else is political pulp. Leftism, liberalism that puts more value on theories than it puts on real lives turns sour. Those kinds of liberals and leftists are the ones who get book deals, who get their faces on TV and their voices on radio. Their ideas are unchallenging and easily digested, much easier to take than real life. You’re more likely to get that from listening to a public health nurse or minimum wage sales clerk

In addition to a quick read or listen, the standard theories can provide a lifetime of intellectual diversion. Their alleged ideals can make you feel good about yourself as you sit in your middle class or higher level abode, far above the suffering mass of humanity who, good liberals regret, are suffering. The regret of the comfortable theorists doesn’t extend to regretting that they aren’t really going to do a damned thing about it if it means making themselves in the slightest bit unpopular among the gate keepers of progressive propriety and thus unmarketable.

Then there are the great liberal thinkers who turn out to be conservatives, most typically under the cover of theoretical revelation. They usually didn’t exhibit much concern for people without power or connections as leftists, being more interested in their intellectual tinker toys. It is too little noted how much better most of them do for themselves as conservatives. The rewards of apostasy are great.

Here I can answer another e-mailer a couple of months back, no, I’m not a contrarian. I don’t oppose ideas just to be a jerk, to preen in a pose of rugged individuality. I don’t want to have anything in common with Christopher Hitchens. And, please notice, I’m anonymous. There are exactly two other people who know who I am in real life and they’re not always impressed. They tell me.

I don’t care much for theory. Tried it, found it wanting, found its social milieu fraught with dishonesty. The ease and fun of rearranging ideas was a temptation when I was young but when I noticed the first intimations of mortality the urgency of actually leaving a better world for younger people eclipsed them. The left has had decades of failure chasing theories and purity. Until it puts real life before theory it will continue to fail.

There is a story that, settling in Southern California after having to flee the Nazis, Arnold Schoenberg was approached by a movie producer who had been told, with epic understatement, that he was a great composer. The producer wanted him to write music for a movie version of “The Good Earth”. While discussing the project the producer described the wife going in from the field, giving birth and then returning back to work. Schoenberg is reported to have said, “Who needs music at a time like that?” . The great ones know that life is more important than even the greatest art.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Someone on the Blogs Asks

Is it Republican racism week?

The Answer

Aren't they all?

Thinking Over the Morning Conversation, Remembering Lu Xun’s Medicine

for ql and Moonbootica at Eschaton

The Chuans, owners of a small tea house, had a son in the advanced stages of tuberculosis, or consumption as it was often called when Lu Xun’s 1919 story, “Medicine” took place. The story begins with the couple getting ready to open their tea house for the day. But it isn’t an ordinary day. The wife gives her husband a packet of silver coins to buy the medicine that is guaranteed to cure their young son.

Old Chuan, happily goes out to the place where he is going to buy the medicine, a crowded place where he sees soldiers are gathering. After a loud noise a man rushes up to old Chuan, demands the money and hands him a warm package. Someone in the crowd asks him who in his family needs the medicine.

The father hurries to the tea house where the morning customers are coming in. His very sick son innocently eats the roll soaked in the warm blood of an executed revolutionary, his cure. As the regulars chatter one comes in loudly asking if the Chuans had taken his valuable tip of where to get the medicine, a guaranteed cure not like the other remedies.

The customers talk about what a fool the executed man was, the son of the widow Hsia. He had been such a fool that he tried to tell people that the empire belonged to them and he had tried to convert the brutal jailer, Red eye. It was the revolutionaries third uncle who had turned him in and gotten a reward and also shielding himself and his family from imperial retribution. The consensus seemed to be that his cleverness was admirable.

In the last section of the story the Chuan’s son has died and when his mother goes at the Ching Ming festival to burn paper money at his grave and leave offerings she encounters the mother of the man whose blood became the ineffective medicine.

The only person who profits in the end is the uncle who collected the reward for turning in his nephew.

This morning on a thread at Eschaton, ql posted a link about Douglas Feith mentioning just one of his academic honors. He now holds positions at Stanford, Harvard and Georgetown Universities. Douglas Feith, one of the architects of the Iraq disaster may be best remembered as memorably discribed by Gen. Tommy Franks ‘the stupidest guy on the face of the earth’.

In the discussion that followed, Moonbootica pointed out that Euan Blair, Tony Blairs’ son who last summer interned in the office of David Drier, R California, was headed to Yale on full scholarship.

I didn't ask but doubt anyone there would think feeding on blood cures a deadly illness. I didn't listen to Morning Edition today.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

All Things Are In Flux:

Changing Realities Bring Unavoidable Disagreement Among Friends

I knew re-posting the piece about protecting children against the predations of adults who hide behind the language of rights would be controversial and I’m glad it is. It is good that leftists’ attention is aroused because speech rights are always under attack. I am glad to see that my statement about being willing to give up D.H. Lawrence’s book didn’t go unchallenged. Even if I suspect it was not entirely understood. Maybe I could have been clearer. But this presents more than an occasion to argue the traditional position of free speech absolutism.

Our usual thinking about the speech issue is mostly a reaction to attacks by conservatives on free speech. But the actions of conservatives shouldn’t determine or limit our thinking and actions. We are fully able to look at the situation in ways that are more than just a reaction to them.

We are so used to thinking about freedom of speech in terms of absolute defense and slippery slopes that an attempt at a nuanced discussion can easily be misunderstood. The issues are more complex than one person can even define. But it is because the issue is so complex, the conflicts of different rights so frequent and serious that the discussion can’t be avoided. The political right will not stop in their attempts to destroy personal freedom while using the language of rights to give more privileges to the powerful. I’d rather have us come up with decisions on free speech than them. At least our mistakes will be made out of good will.
Let me tell you that I not only value freedom of speech but am so jealous of it I think it should be restored as a People only right. To extend it to corporate entities has greatly endangered it. Our courts were not only stupid to have done so but I belive that some of the judges have intentionally used this “extension of liberty” to curtail the rights of real people. If the free speech rights of people have to contend with the rights of corporate entities, many of them with enormous financial resources, the rights of real people are diminished.

Short of impinging on the rights of other people the right of free speech is absolute and equal. No one individual person has more than anyone else. Equality of any right is at least as important as its being absolute. The Supreme Court has financially conditioned freedom of speech with the support of much of the professional civil liberties lobby. I don’t accept that corporations have equal rights of speech, I don’t believe that someone with more money has more of a right than someone with no money.

But even given that, I have to point out that free speech is not the only right, in some contexts it isn’t even the most important right.
Rights don’t exist outside of people. Every person is born with intrinsic rights. I think it was the philosopher Paul Weiss who once defined a person as a “locus of rights”, a politically interesting way to say it but not nearly adequate. Rights exist for people not the other way around. Rights don’t exist in the absence of people. Rights aren’t abstract they aren’t merely an expression, they are the actions and protections essential for the individual to live a free and full life. Rights are an exertion of needs even more than they are an expression of desires. I will say in passing that I believe animals have rights too.

People don’t live in solitude, they live in societies and communities and their lives impinge on the lives of others. The interactions between people involve conflicts of the rights that those people have. A person, if they are at all decent, will consider the rights of other people. Decent people don’t unnecessarily deprive other people of their rights. There are rights based in need and rights based on desire, there isn’t a bright line separating the two but I feel confident that distinction is an important one. People have a right to insist that their needs are met, they don’t have a right to insist that their non-vital desires over-ride other peoples’ needs.

Realizing that it’s just another rough metaphor, what is called the slippery slope is real. We live on it and there is no way to gain an absolutely secure foothold. People are entirely right to question my assertions because in bringing up the limits of freedom of speech I am bringing up dangerous stuff. But our lives are dangerous, the dangers to our rights and freedoms are just one of the areas of life needing constant attention and adjustment. We can’t avoid it. If we turn any part of our thinking about rights into an automatic response we are in danger of not seeing and taking into account changing conditions and newly discovered aspects of the situation. If we don’t hold our actions against real life we will find it is impossible to retain our rights. To ignore that there are limits that have and will be imposed while insisting on an absolutism that has never existed is unrealistic.

To confuse a discussion of the inevitable clash of rights, needs, and desires with the dangers intentionally posed to them by the enemies of freedom is too common on the left. But, again, we can’t avoid the clashes, they happen as a result of humans coming into contact with each other and those clashes will have to be resolved. They have and will result in modifications of the exercise of rights, the courts have done so in the past and they’re not about to stop now. Quite plainly I would rather have us making the necessary distinctions and drawing the conclusions than the Republicans. I trust us to at least make mistakes out of good will, I know they will use the language of rights as a tool to destroy them and enslave people. There is no better proof than hearing Bush use the word “democracy”.

I am just about as confident as I can be, based on the history of the past thirty or so years, that to pretend that free speech is always the most important right and that it isn’t conditioned by different situations is unrealistic and dangerous. The power free speech absolutism gives to corporations and the wealthy under prevailing conditions is the greatest danger we face today. I don’t accept for a second that corporations or individuals who violate the rights of people - most brutally those of people without power - have a free speech right that is more important than the lives and rights of their victims.

I absolutely reject the idea, stated or tacitly accepted, that the vital rights of children, workers in sweat shops, third world women, or of many other groups and individuals are not more important than the right of a large corporation or freelance pimps to lie about their activities. I am at a loss to understand how anyone cannot see that is the case. Children, other people who are powerless aren’t just sliding down a slope, they’re being thrown off a cliff.

NOTE: When using the word’s people, person, individual and their plurals, I like any other honest person am referring to a living member of the species H sapiens. Anyone who can mistake the results of a contract as a “person” shouldn’t be allowed to carry money, nevermind writing the law of the land.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Restoring Virility With Goat Glands Selling Nazis Air Time

“Dr.” John Brinkley A Father of Conservative Talk Radio

John Richard (nee Romulus) Brinkley (1885-1941) was a Kansas based quack with an operation to sell. For $750 he restored a man’s virility by surgically implanting goat "glands" in his scrotum. Though you might have your legs tightly crossed as you read this, many men who found that they couldn’t rise to the occasion eagerly opened themselves up to “Dr.” Brinkley’s helping hands. Selling the promise of sexual potency to our forefathers, he made a very large fortune. There seems to have been a lot of that wrong with Kansas.

Flush with the kind of respectability that much money buys, Dr. Brinkley took a trip to the west coast and received the praise of the LA Times . While there he got a look at the paper's radio operation and saw its potential for his sort of business, stupid he wasn’t. Back home in Kansas he set himself up with a transmitter. Soon Dr. Brinkley had a path breaking medicine show promoting his practice complete with gospel tinged country music* and helpful advice to listeners who wrote in. His advice came in the form of drugs identified by number and bought from a chain of mail order drug stores linked to Dr. Brinkley.

Hearing a recording of his voice on a Public Radio International program recently, it was entirely familiar. The phrasing, pitch, accent and content reminds you of most of the right-wing pitch men you’ve ever heard. Paul Harvey could have been his son.

Now, even if the authorities might cast a mild eye on someone with the sort of trade he engaged in, there was one thing that went beyond endurance in that more innocent age, he advertised. “Dr.” Brinkley ran afoul of the AMA in the form of Dr. Morris Fishbein who got his license to practice in Kansas revoked. The Federal Radio Commission revoking his broadcast license was probably even more of a blow. Not being willing to take it lying down, he ran an lost two campaigns for governor in an attempt to change the licensing board but fled for the more fertile opportunities that Texas promised.

Eventually even Texas was forced to discourage Dr. Brinkley’s stabile medicine show. But he was far from over. He saw that Mexico, furious with the transmission policies of the U.S. government, might allow him to set up an enormous broadcast facility pointed North. Have I mentioned that he wasn’t stupid? Unregulated, clear channel, boarder, radio was born in all its gaudy, dishonest and bizarre corruption. This is where he sold radio time to Nazis, forcing the U.S. government to finally negotiate better transmission agreements with the Mexican government to get them to shut down the Nazi loving radio Doctor.

Modern, unregulated cable TV, which will sell anything, not having been born yet, “Dr” Brinkley ended badly in lawsuits, other legal trouble, bankruptcy and death.

So, we have it. A huckster with dodgy credentials selling a bogus sex operation to ignorant people through pop music, attempting political manipulation to allow him to further swindle people and renting himself out for the promotion of Nazis. The model of conservative talk radio.

* A song played on the PRI program praising the sexual habits of buck goats apparently figured heavily in the repertoire of his house band. Being a farm boy myself and having once kept goats, including a breeding buck, I’ve got to tell you that while indeed sexually relentless, they are about the stupidest, smelliest and most obnoxious animals in the barnyard. If Dr. Brinkley’s customers were familiar with buck goats their willingness to have the operation says something far more than I care to think about in detail.

Wikipedia has an article about “Dr. Brinkley”. I leaned on it along with my notes of the PRI program to produce this piece.

Return to Sender

Dear x,
Thank you for your kind offer but I really can't see any practical advantage to needing a crane to lift any part of my anatomy. And that particular one would lead to some inconvenience. You see, I make my own coffee in the morning and I'm afraid that a crane would break the French press. I go through enough of those as it is. Please send no more offers.

yours truly,


Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Boston Globe Provides Today's Jawdropping Irony Too:

Joan "Kerry is covering up his Jewish Grandfather" Vennochi calls for people to be fair to Healey. It's not really her fault that she is the person selected by Mitt Romney to be a part of his "prolife Mormon faking it as a prochoice friendly"* charade.

*Romney adviser Michael Murphy

In Today's Boston Globe

This article provides ammunition against anyone who talks about Zionism being any one thing and a lot to think about:

Like his foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, Olmert was born into the political tradition known as Revisionist Zionism, founded by Vladimir Jabotinsky. A brilliant and intensely controversial figure, Jabotinsky split the Zionist movement in the 1920s, preaching a ``Greater Israel," with a Jewish majority outweighing the Arab population, to be won by force and guarded, in his famous phrase, by an ``Iron Wall." In the words of the former State Department adviser Aaron David Miller, Olmert is ``one of Likud's princes from a prominent Revisionist family." And if Olmert is a prince, Livni is a princess: Both are children of the Irgun, the armed rightists who followed Jabotinsky and fought both British and Arabs. Livni is one of the few prominent Israelis who can still quote from ``Jabo's" works, and her father's gravestone bears a map of that Greater Israel.

Jabotinsky did not live to see the creation of the Jewish state-which was not, in any case, the one he had dreamed of. And indeed the situation today is paradoxical. In his lifetime, Jabotinsky's appeal to his followers was his apparent realism and rejection of compromise, rather than the evasions and denial of other Zionists. As it turned out, Zionism found, like any other political movement, that realism itself means compromise, and that it may be better to accept what you can get rather than hold out for what you want. It will be a supreme irony if the ultimate compromise-and the final abandonment of Jabotinsky's ideal-is made by his direct ideological heirs.

I would like to call attention to the passage above which I put in bold. It is worth noting no matter what political movement you are a part of.

I wonder if Jabotinsky's followers, when they were attracted to his "realism", weren't really attracted to a macho vision of themselves as part of a ruling class over a subject population. That is certainly not unknown in other political movements as well. Being violently macho, a mean SOB is so often confused with realism in politics and out. While brutality and crushing violence can often get the ruler able to impose it what they want long enough for it to be a success FOR THEIR PURPOSES, it is often true that they will take the spoils and leave other people to pay the price when the tables turn.

We have got to stop running our countries on the basis of machismo and piracy.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Extended Play Version of an Answer to a Critic of The Eternal Boy

So much in the consideration of gender politics is a matter of perspective, of where you are positioned in the argument. If you are a conservative male, such as you identify yourself to be, then you might differentiate between males of the upper and ruling class and males of the non-ruling class. Some of us can see it too, though your motive other than a willful misunderstanding of my point isn’t clear. The condensation necessary for a piece of this length precludes the complete statement of all points. I rely on the intellegence of the reader to fill in, perhaps too much.

The example I gave you in my response on Echidne’s blog is, I think, as good an illustration as possible that one can be the victim of violence at the hands of a more powerful group containing both ruling class and lower class individuals which constitute one effective oppressor group. Nothing prevents the ruling class from lording it over their lower status confreres while using them to oppress even lower class people for their own ends. Black people were the recipients of murder and terror at the hands of both aristocratic whites and poor whites. I am quite certain that they were fully aware of the difference between white people who were dangerous to them and those who chose not to be.

If you need a simpler example, think of an axe. If you are looking from above you can make out two sides of an axe. If it’s coming straight for your skull you might or might not see the two sides or not. But it’s really all the same axe to you. I guess you’d have to be looking at the blade pointed at you to appreciate what it really means, or to think hard about what it might mean to other people. Conservatives don’t tend to be good at that, which is what I suspect makes them conservative.

We've Got To Stop Pretending There Are Nice Guys Available To Make Peace In The Middle East

Israel is not going to disappear, it is not going to be driven into the sea. Just as importantly, Palestinians are not going to melt into the surrounding populations. They have remained a cohesive presence in diaspora for as long as Israel has been there. They may not have a real state and the military technology that Israel has but they are not going to disappear either. The assumption that they would was based on racism just as was the assumption that Jews, as a people, would disappear. The latest appearance of this kind of racism is found in the insane speculation that Iranians will stop supporting their despots with the encouragement of a bombing campaign against them, it is based on an assumption of innate Iranian cowardice and lack of patriotism. One thing Persians or Moslems in general have not proven to be is cowardly. Persians were patriotic before there were countries. It is to be regretted that all sides in the Middle East are too brave for their own good.

Israel will not allow itself to be destroyed, certainly not without consequences too horrible to contemplate. Israel has THE bombs. Many more than one. Whatever vicissitudes result from that fact, it is a fact. And it is almost certain that another Islamic country, if not an Islamic State will have one eventually. If they are determined they will find a way to do it even under attack, money is the only limiting factor. Pakistan, has it already and only an a psychotic would take actions that could impel that country towards rule by those who could feel divinely justified to use it.

Now that we’ve cut through that level of nonsense let’s get some other things straight. Neither what substitutes for a Palestinian government nor the Israeli government has clean hands. This isn’t an attempt at cowardly and labor saving self-absolution from favoring a side in the dispute, it is the truth. As Howard Zinn* has pointed out, governments lie, all of them do awful things. That’s just the fact of it. Extra-governmental entities also do awful things. But it is among these awful people that ways, temporary or millennial, to stop the killing in the Middle East will have to be found. It will be a deal among killers, thieves and liars because that’s the only kind of people who are in charge. Arguing degree of rottenness is a waste of time, it’s who has the power that matters. Anyone who aspires to make peace in the Middle East had better get over their fussy and dainty sensibilities or they shouldn’t waste peoples’ time. .

Today the United States has no credibility as an honest broker in the Middle East. Some past presidents had more. After Iraq and now the Bush regime’s role this past month in Lebanon it has none. It has none because it clearly and solidly has favored one side, Israel and the Bush regime appears increasingly likely to have done so for ends not necessarily in Israel’s interest. There is little rational reason for Israelis or Arabs to trust Bush.

I am beyond caring if there was a reason for supporting one side or the other in any particular action in the past. If someone can tell us a way to go back and change what happened in the past it might be worth thinking about, but there isn’t one. Bringing it up is a stalling tactic, a way for cheap politicians and others to curry favor by appealing to grievances and the desire for revenge. It’s the present we can deal with and the invasion of Lebanon was dumb assed and I believe, as one of my regular readers put it so well, the Olmert government didn’t have a clue it was going to go like this. The facts now are what will have to be dealt with, not what was believed a month ago.

As we began, no one side is going to disappear but many individual people are being killed as you read this. My entire interest in this is to have as many Israelis, Palestinians, and others in the area, live to be old and to die in bed of natural causes surrounded by their intact families and their friends. It is in that spirit that I am going to say the unspeakable and voice some, though far from all, of my deepest fears.

As the generation of the Second World War and it’s children pass on there is a strong danger that the Holocaust will fade from consciousness and it’s lessons will fade from peoples’ thoughts. Huge numbers of dead when viewed in the inverted telescope of history look smaller than they were close up. Our claim on the attention of the future will compete with the entire past and will be, I’m afraid, far less compelling than their present. We will not be there to press the case. The best we can do is leave a written record of what we have known. We can’t guarantee that the future won’t repeat the evils of the past.

As time goes on, as more recent piles of bodies and other horrors block them from view, even the Holocaust will fade in its meaning to those who are not part of the groups that were murdered. The relatively forgotten Armenian genocide is one example of this and the mass graves of those murdered in Central America by terrorists funded by the Reagan administration are entirely faded from the collective, active memory of the United States. The innocent Druz, slaughtered by the USS. New Jersey in retaliation for the bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon never got into Americans minds having been effectively blocked out. Even where distance is not a factor, the memory of the thousands lynched here, in the United States itself, is always in danger of slipping from the attention of white people.

I am posting a anxious warning based on what I am hearing. Israelis should dump the neo-cons who are bringing them to disaster. Those idiots, from their comfortable perches in the American establishment are going to get a lot more Israelis and others killed. Let’s face another reality, a lot of them, Gentiles and Jews alike, are pretty unsavory characters who market themselves as “supporters of Israel”. Some seem to have made a very nice living for themselves based on this. Would peace be as profitable for them?

Their alliance with fundamentalist “christians” should be all the evidence you need of their stupidity if not duplicity. End timers have only two uses for Jews, especially Israelis. Jews are either to be converted to “christianity”, perhaps by force eventually, or they are extras waiting to die in their pre-enactment battle fantasies based on the Book of Revelations. As the events around Lebanon this month show, the fundamentalist ghouls can hardly wait for the real slaughter to begin. Their script calls for Israelis to die in the millions.

Failing the fundamentalists’ favorite wish, Americans of future times will grow weary of supporting Israel if it is engaged in endless wars, endless conflicts and, especially, if idiocy on the level of this war in Lebanon continues. A constantly attacked Israel will become increasingly militarized and isolated and paranoid. With that will come the destruction of democracy. A nationalistic, perhaps theocratic and despotic Israel is certainly nothing that the vast, vast majority of Israelis or Americans want to see. If someone can convince me that isn’t where it is headed I’d really really like to believe otherwise.

I have every confidence that these ideas have been thought about in Israel. I can’t believe anything I’m writing here hasn’t been more fully considered there where investigating every contingency is a matter of life and death.

* See the excellent essay:
The View From History, What Nation Can Be Trusted?
Vietnam, The Logic of Withdrawal; Howard Zinn 1967

Note: The order of in which paired groups are mentioned in this post was decided by coin toss just so I could point it out for those who might be reading this through their bias detector. Even so, I’m sick of “sides” in this discussion. Sides are getting people killed. .

Moral Aphorisms As The Bombs Fall and The War Spreads
or Deep Thought

In the latest Israeli-Lebanese war a lot of revolting things have been said. The most disgusting have been the refusals by the Bush administration and others to try to stop the killing from the lofty heights of principle.

Ah, principle. Ideals. So like their deceptive and slippery academic cousin, theory, but so much more deadly in the hands of someone who wants to use them for gain. I come by my suspicion of theory quite honestly, having spent untold hours in sterile labor bringing forth useless harmonizations of figured base lines from Piston’s Harmony - on paper*. The best that can be said is that no one had to hear them.

Unfortunately the same can’t be said of the principles and ideals of the politicians, the only ones who have it in their hands to act to get a cease-fire agreement. The various pitch lines that Condoleeza Rice and her titular boss use to prevent peace so that principle might live on are a good opportunity to look at what happens when abstraction is placed over the blood and lives of real people. We haven’t had such a good current events illustration of the problem since Kissinger used the shape of the “peace” table to prolong the war in Vietnam for political advantage. That was the first nail in the coffin of principle, for me.

The principle at stake in a cease-fire in Lebanon is that of endurance. Only a lasting peace that is guaranteed to endure through the ages is worth Condi’s time. Having, with only spotty success, pointed out for the past four years that Condoleeza must have been using quite a lot of that time practicing piano, I’ll let that pass for now. That such an eternal peace has eluded all but the dead in the Middle East for the past sixty years, doesn’t deter our Secretary of State from mouthing the empty words.

Why does anyone accept such a lame excuse to allow killing to go on in a clear attempt to cover up the disaster in Iraq? Why is anyone listening to their prissy statements of principle when it is growing ever clearer that these criminals are trying to expand the war into Syria and Iran? These people are criminally insane. You might as well get your ethics from a freelance knee-capper you meet in your local dive. He’ll have less blood on his hands.

Why is it when a politician or their hired hacks use the word “principle” that a curtain falls on reality? Not that our media has been focused on reality since Bush took office. His selection really did have an effect on American morality, bringing a massive revival of this kind of principle. Seldom have we been more principled. To death, even.

There might be principles and ideals that are worth dying for, I am less confident that there is a single one that is worth killing for. Theories, principles, ideals, these are all abstractions, they aren’t a substitute for life. Professional thinkers and those who are supposed to be thinkers are in the habit of talking and acting as if their ideas were superior to real life, the Platonic ideal. Unfortunately no tally of their accuracy is kept, you are more likely to find yourself out of a job for getting it inconveniently right than profitably wrong. In the distant future a lot of these catch phrases will look exactly like what they are, self-serving fantasies and even more self-serving lies.

Our media, ever star struck by those with a reputation for being smart, are impressed. Such deep thinking has largely replaced mere reporting in our “news”. In one of the supreme ironies of the age, deep thought is the daily bread of the cabloids, a fact alone that should impeach its worth. You would think that the pictures of peoples’ bodies and the screams of the wounded and surviving would break through the lyin’ curtain but they don’t very often. Not often enough to make much of a difference.

* If any of you are aspiring musicians, I beg you, spend your time studying harmony at the keyboard or your guitar. If you can’t hear it, you won’t learn from it. It’s just a penmanship exercise without the sound.
For scientists who might object. I’m not using the word “theory” as real science uses it but as non-scientific disciplines use the term. In my field, music, almost all theory is a waste of time better spent on dealing with and producing actual music. “Theory is slovenly,” Roger Sessions said. And in music, it is.

Posted yesterday at Echidne of the Snakes where I am helping out while she is on vacation.

Update: A note to the various conservatives trying to trap people on the leftist blogs into revealing their inner anti-Semite. Stop projecting. If you want to have an old fashioned Semite bashing session look to your far right blogs where you have your choice of which Semites to bash.

A note to people who want to enlist me on any side of the Middle Eastern disasters. I will not take a side, I don't happen to live in any of the countries over there not only do I not want to take a side but I have no right to. If Americans taking a side was going to solve the problem there would have been peace fifty years ago. As it is, Americans taking a side from the comfort of North America hasn't really helped much, now has it?

If you insist, how about I take the side of the common people who are getting killed.

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