Author Topic: Goddamnit  (Read 1471 times)

Cain

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Goddamnit
« on: May 25, 2011, 07:51:57 pm »
IOZ has quit.

Goddamnit.

Disco Pickle

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Re: Goddamnit
« Reply #1 on: May 25, 2011, 08:02:04 pm »
well, 2 posts into his archive and I'm hooked.  I like his writing style a lot.

shame I hadn't heard of him before.

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Cramulus

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Re: Goddamnit
« Reply #2 on: May 25, 2011, 08:45:10 pm »
I know, I'm so bummed about it. I loved reading that blog. He makes the kind of arguments against the left wing that I wish the right wing was making. More often than not, instead of he's actually got their number (as opposed to shrieking LOL SOCIALISM)

Kai

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Re: Goddamnit
« Reply #3 on: May 25, 2011, 11:54:19 pm »
IOZ has quit.

Goddamnit.

I just saw that. End of an era. Was going to post, but I thought the only people around here who read him, were you and me.
If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water. --Loren Eisley, The Immense Journey

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Cain

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Best of IOZ
« Reply #4 on: May 27, 2011, 05:07:37 am »
This calls for a Best of IOZ quote thread.

Part 1:

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Wiesltier didn't like Daniel Dennett's project of examining the origins of faith. "You can't disprove an idea by studying its origins," he cries. That may be true. But just this morning, one of the downtown homeless with whom I sometimes converse about the more pressing questions of space aliens in government and international Freemasonry gave me a piece of cardboard ripped from a box and scrawled with the equation, Bill Gates = Christina Aguilera. I examined its origins, and I decided it was disproved.

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Cock as a Political Virtue

Via Crooks and Liars: a clip of Bill Schneider on CNN giving mad props to Jam-Master Fine Gold.

For those of you more inclined to conspiratorialism, and I know you're out there, it's worth it just to watch Wolf "My Beard Distracts from My Preposterous Name" Blitzer in the opening seconds, as he stands in front of an image of the towering Freemasonic phallus of the Washington Monument and intones, Re: Sen. Feingold, "Could he skewer his own party with that lance of his?"

Pat Robertson should be all over this.

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V for Vendetta is a bad movie disguised as a good one and a morally simplistic movie disguised as a morally complex one. It's very skillfully produced, and it nods in the direction of the diffuclt task of rendering its murdering anarcho-revolutionary as, at least, unforgivably murderous. But it fails.

It fails in part because its imagined future dictator is a screeching, bad-toothed, Fu Manchu-ish British Hitler forever haranguing his high-ranking minions via a video feed. It fails because its "Finger Men"--secret police enforcing curfews and the like throughout London--are also bad-toothed British louts forever seeking to rape young girls. It fails because it proposes a coming totalitarianism that will resemble totalitarianisms past.

Of course, the moralizing religiophile currently turning Britain into the most surveilled society on earth has neither bad teeth nor portentous facial hair nor a hyperventilating style of speech. His party is not a rightwing Christian reconstructionist party, but a soft-center-left party that supports State-Capitalism and a culture of platitudinous multicultural tolerance toward all but the enemy-of-the-month: currently, Islam in some form or other. It isn't a rare surivivng industrial society in a post-plague world, but a wealthy, politically stable, first-world nation among many.

And in any event, future dictatorships will be so much more Madison Avenue. The High Chancelor's backdrops and insignia and party flags are downright hokey. Compare them to the on-message backdrops employed by Bush or Blair, and you realize just how primitive is the conception of future Authority in V for Vendetta. Scientific marketing has obviated the need for Big Brother posters; it's obviated the need for Big Brother.

I am, admittedly, a bit parochial as a student of literature and criticism, but it seems to me that what Americans, Britons, and the rest of the slow-drifting peoples of the world need is less a masked hero to bomb us back into awareness, but better education in the artful skill of close reading and the sciences of signs. Sadly, a vigilante savior is probably more likely.

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This naïve paternalism is the hallmark of the entire American occupation. Iraqis speak that funny language and can’t possibly have the political-historical sophistication of Western counterparts. What the military refuses to admit is not that the insurgency exists, but rather that an insurgency exists as a political actor whose goal isn’t simply to exact reprisals for American excesses, but to end the occupation and end the occupation regime, no matter how many goddamn town hall meetings and cultural exchanges your newly-sensitive officers commission in Iraq. Let’s not even mention civil war. Allah knows, we haven’t got a clue what to do about that.

Insurgents aren’t simply fathers radicalized by midnight raids; they aren’t simply sons radicalized by the imprisonment of their fathers. Those sorts of acts may be catalysts, but the political chemistry was already present. The core of the successful native insurgency is clearly comprised of men who are opposed to the occupation qua occupation, and who have further political ambitions besides.

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Anyway, the intersection between Kunstler’s tale and Jared Diamond’s Necromonicon of Most Disapperèd Civilizations occurs way out in the David Brooksian exurbs, where despite a few recent news pieces on shrinking houses, Americans go on building farther and bigger, not entirely unlike the Easter Islanders, who, Diamond explains, competed to erect the biggest monuments until, in pursuit of that preposterous end, they chopped down every goddamn tree on their island. Then they all died.

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Now, I’m not under the illusion that these people actually influence policy. Too often I see otherwise incisive minds acquiesce to the illusion that the ladies and gentlemen who populate newspaper op-ed pages and newsweeklies and the pontifical monthlies have some causal effect on the powers in our government, as if the gouty musings of Charles Krauthammer get rushed into the Oval Office in the morning for the President to sound out over his Ovaltine. While I’m sure that there are a couple of Intelligently Designed GOP backbenchers taken in by that sort of thing, the people who hold real institutional power in the government don’t take their cues from gelded journalists, failed psychiatrists, sob-sister papal fetishists, or any of the other subspecies writing all that shitty PR copy for Dow Jones and the Sulzberger clan.

I know that they produce saturating information that obscures the actions and operations of the apparatuses of government. That’s their purpose. That’s the source of their access to the powers of government, their friendships in the government, and their enmities in the government as well. Because they crave influence, they’re easily manipulated into endless squabbling over absurd ideological set pieces; the interlocutors of the ostensible ruling party goad themselves into revolution-in-permanence, and the opposition rallies itself into an equally permanent, if usually vapid, counterrevolutionary posture. Permanent, that is, until Americans, those famously ruminative folk, decide for no reason other than vague dissatisfaction with the “direction of the country” that it’s time to let the other bums steer for a while. It’s strictly verboten to talk about getting off the goddamn bus. Brilliant people turn into slavering lunatics when they defend the two-party system. The defense is always the same as well: to express some generalized regret and then snap out some defense of the absolute, ineluctable necessity of voting within the system, usually with the same haughty idiocy of Peggy Noonan defending a Doctrine of the Faith that she dreamed up on a Zoloft-fueled vision quest.

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If ever you doubt the indubitable truth that Republicans don’t wish to govern, but rather to wage a ceaseless campaign game-show in which victories pile up like the detritus of infinite catastrophe in the eyes of Walter Benjamin’s angel of history, then consider Hillary. She’s a perpetual target for derision by a ruling party with which she generally cooperates. She’s a pro-Israel hawk. She’s a supporter of the Iraq War—a stauncher supporter, if we’re honest, than many a wobbly GOPer. She appears to be a more regular churchgoer than George W. Bush, who is not, in fact, a churchgoer, and she’s on the vanguard of the movement to append Jesus to the Democratic party like some kind of prosthetic cudgel against the loosey-gooesey po’ black gals who simply do not pray hard enough that the Lord descend and run perpetual cock block. She used to be somewhat more liberal on economic policy, but that’s hardly an impediment to cooperation with the GOP, who, regarding the economy, have taken the phrase ad hoc, caged it, fed it on raw steak doused in human growth hormone and the blood of Barry Bonds, and poked it with a stick for ten minutes each morning in order to create a super-hypertrophied man-killing debt machine.

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Via Roy Edroso at alicublog, we find ourselves at The Corner, which, for my fellow urbanites, is not where you go at 6:00 AM when your coke dealer has stopped answering his cell and you need to score some rock to keep the party going, but rather is where you go to find Stanley Kurtz (a fellow native Pittsburgher, to our eternal shame) opining on "the most potentially stable form of multi-partner union: a man and two bisexual women."

I read that blog bit as well as Kurtz’s Weekly Standard piece, ”Here Come the Brides, and I still can’t figure out if he’s for or against or something darker, sicker, and altogether more likely. And by darker, sicker, and altogether more likely, I mean that I suspect Kurtz is twirling that Harvard-Divinity, social-scientist fancy talk around the more basic American male concept that fags are gross but lesbians are, like, totally hot, especially when they’re into dudes.

That is to say, I suspect that Stan manages to keep up that air of dispassionate inquiry precisely because, in the back of his mind, his hoity morality pixelates and is replaced by a soft-focus image of Stan Kurtz himself, in all his paunchy, tumescent semi-glory, bouncing into a bedroom already occupied by two purring cast members from The L-Word, who will look up from their cunnilingual divertissements and be so overcome by crypto-Freudian phallophilia that they'll drag him to carnal delights like a pair of Calypsos mounting Odysseus.

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Faith healing, which is the sort of backwater tent-revivalist claptrap currently on the upswing in America, is apparently the subject of some "scientific" inquiry. In some broad aggregation of positive indications of physical health, it seems, there is some minor correlation with some broad aggregation of prayer-related programs activities, as the locution might have gone a few years back. I eagerly await a study showing that vegetarian practioners of ritual Crowleyan sex Magick have longer mean life expectancies.

Honestly, though, religionists are so schizophrenic. On one hand, you've got Leon Weiseltier and his ilk inveighing against "scientism" and decrying "naturalistic materialism" or what-have-you as impoverished, inadequate, unfair applications of booooooring rational inquiry to the Great Mysteries. On the other hand, you have their coreligionists trying to make claims that the physical and social sciences prove that the hand-ah-healin' cures cancer and the love-uv-Geezuz prevents criminal recidivism.

Meanwhile, you nonbelievers, you'll be better off converting to Islamofascism, or whatever the going phrase is. At least if you do Little Suzy McHotpants' daddy will let you take her to the prom.

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Glenn Greenwald makes the case—again—that the dauphin and his chorus-line of Tzarettes in the various and sundry offices of the Executive have set the course for a previously discovered country called divine-right monarchy.

To which I respond: well, yes and no.

It seems to me an error to interpret the gaseous lawyering that reads Article II of the US Constitution like a piece of experimental fiction open to endless reinterpretation as an intentional program to remake this nation in the image of The City on the Hill as imagined by Pasolini. I’m alternately as frightened, appalled, angry, weary, resigned, and saddened as the next guy by the antipathy of this particular administration for the fruits of classical Liberalism, which is, if I might drop the pose of the cynically disinterested observer for just a moment, the only foundation of governance worth one goddamn in this world: the only value system that I admire; the only social compact I’ll sign onto; the only good and decent way to run a civilization and still let a sneering, self-superior homo like myself get up and do pretty much what he pleases with his life, his conscience, and his fortunes.

But people are venal and afraid. They desire security above all things. They’re averse to risk. They’re averse to responsibility. The precursors to modern liberal governments—and plenty of modern liberal governments themselves—all eventually collapsed under the weight of their own inevitable militarism and authoritarianism, not only because evil governors conspired to strip men of their freedom, but because men demanded that their freedom be taken from them. The archetype of the protective patriarch, the king who is benevolent at home and victorious abroad, is one of the most deeply embedded in the human psyche, and no ponderous declarations of limited government and universal rights will forever withstand the desire of the people to wake up knowing their enemies are being slain and their borders are secure. Men don’t tire of wars; they only tire of losing them.

What I’m saying is that George W. Bush is attempting to fulfill a popular wish, and his unpopularity isn’t the result of an American people slowly waking to the fact that their rights are being taken away by an ad-hoc dictatorship, but because their enemies aren’t being slain and their borders aren’t secure.

What people dislike about Geroge W. Bush isn’t that he’s reinventing himself as an American potentate, but that he’s an impotent potentate, and that the violence he’s projected onto our perceived enemies isn’t awesome and victorious but tawdry and pathetic, enacted on the bodies of helpless prisoners with a brutality made worse because it’s so damnably sophomoric.

Cain

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Re: Goddamnit
« Reply #5 on: May 27, 2011, 05:47:50 am »
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"Everything Gets Worse"

As the hopeless, hapless American political establishment prevaricates and squabbles internally over the proper nomenclature for Iraq’s inexorable death-spiral into bloody chaos, and as Howie Kurtz and Co. pull their chins and ponder whether or not the Media, whoever or whatever that is, is working hard enough to report on the girl scouts and puppies and kittens and spelling bee champions and rainbows and rock-candy mountains, it’s perfectly clear to every thinking human being that the problem isn’t a matter of balance between so-called good and so-called bad news. The problem is that just as the American military is totally incapable of effectively prosecuting Fourth Generation Warfare, the American press is totally incapable of conveying the magnitude and true nature of the unfolding disaster, a task that would require a discursive capacity completely beyond your average journalist, let alone your average journalistic institution, both of which are simply staggered into dissipation by the pace, scale, and changeability of The Situation in Iraq.

The same can be said for our domestic political (ahem) process, by the way. I don’t discount bad faith and bad intent on the part of our government, neither before the war as in the linked article, nor currently as, for example, every time that Dick Cheney opens his carnivorous maw. But that sort of broad, generic dishonesty is to be expected: the enemy is always in his last throes; he is always whomever we happen to be fighting at a given moment; he is always seeking to undermine whoever is our partner; his situation is always hopeless; the process, such as it is, will always prevail. Antiwar folks who spend their waking hours dissecting the specific dishonesties of the administration and its pro-war allies are playing their rôle perfectly by frittering away their own energy on the—you’ll pardon the expression—birdshot rhetoric of lies blasted indiscriminately to pollute the sea of information. Meanwhile, the incapacity of any politician to appreciate the scope of the Iraqi debacle is dispiriting, to say the least. Listen to Ted Kennedy list the lies of Dick Cheney, and consider that he does so as if the lying is the point. Of course Dick Cheney is lying. But when he returns to the coffin full of his native soil and Don Rumsfeld beams back up to the mothership, there will still be a former nation known as Iraq, and if today’s reporting has any predictive value at all, then I’d like to quote a good artist friend of mine, who a year or so back made a series of pins emblazoned with plain white text: "Everything Gets Worse."

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Oh, lordy. These men are U.S. Senators . . . and doing a bang-up job representing our nation in China with all the skill and sophistication of a couple of Midwestern Rotarians demanding the non-smoking section at a Parisian café and telling their austere server (who does indeed par-lay-vooz Ahng-glaysh) that they don’t eat that horse meat.

Did Tom Coburn really tell a group of University students that "a man by the name of Jesus" was his model for leadership? It’s difficult to ignore that he’s claiming, in essence, to adopt as a model for political leadership an itinerant preacher with a rag-tag collection of societal cast-offs as disciples. Unless he’s proposing that he, too, shall remake the ethics of the world, in which case I hope at least one student referred to "a man by the name of K'ung-fu-tzu."

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So Jim Sensenbrenner, a man who has inherited a fortune based largely on Kotex feminine hygiene products, wants to, uh, stem the flow of illegal immigration? The joke writes itself.

My question. Here's a guy who, along with his supporters, wants us to believe that illegals are crashing the border and sucking at the public teat, eating up money for education and health care and whatever the hell else. His solution? Throw them, their families, their employers, and their priests in jail. That will apparently reduce their total economic burden on society in the same way that the "Bush" "Economic" "Policies" will save our nation from its crushing debt--by adding to it. Never let it be said that these gentlemen aren't imaginative in their policy prescriptions, though a more colloquial locution might be to say that they are totally fucking crazy, every goddamn last one of 'em.

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The first post on this blog dealt with the government's fantastically inept prosecution of Zacarias Moussaoui, a man for whom the term "death wish" is insufficiently connotative of delusionally suicidal anomie. Now, despite as impressive a record of screw-ups as any prosecuting team has managed to amass in recent memory, they get the head on the platter because the attorney for the defense failed to keep his whacko client from mounting the witness stand and claiming his place as the most fearsome Muslim warrior since Saladin, or something.

Yep, just him and Richard Reid, the shoe bomber.

These two are like the Groucho and Harpo of international terrorism, and the idea that, in Moussaoui's words, he was "supposed to pilot a plane to hit the White House," and that Richard Reid was, "one definite member" of his crew" is on its face absurd. Was he going to blow up the hijacked aircraft with his shoe prior to reaching its Executive target? Inquiring minds want to know

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Can someone expalain to me why American neo-Nazis model themselves on the brownshirts? Because it seems rather odd to me that your desires for the glorious birth of a racially pure America would be, uh, sublimated to your desire for a violent, ignominious demise amidst a flurry of sodomitical accusations.

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A nuke for you, and two for me, a nuke for you . . .

Victor Davis Hanson, the Baby-Boom Thucydides of the National Review, goes out to the paddock and finds not one, but dozens of dead horses, and rather than merely beating them, he actually rides the fuckers, like some vast, interminable, equine Weekend at Bernie’s. It occurs to me that we could save many lives by simply dropping him out of an airplane somewhere over the Middle East, from whence landing site he could go town to town, like Paul, preaching the Gospel:
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    So let us have far less self-serving second-guessing, and far more national confidence that we are winning — and that radical Islamists and their fascist supporters in the Middle East are soon going to lament the day that they ever began this war.

Really. He wrote that.

The bogeymen are familiar—the Left, the Media, "unreasonable" dissent, the Left, the Media—although the latest round of retired military men finally squawking back at Don "The reeds give way to the wind / and give the wind away" Rumsfeld sets Vic Dave’s teeth a-grindin’, since those good-for-nothing book floggers have never . . .

Well, suffice to say I’m reminded of the scene from Patton where George C. Scott as the general describes Carthage to a subordinate who, impressed by the visceral quality of the description, says, "You talk as if you were here."

"I was here," says Patton. (Caveat lector: in no other way am I comparing Patton and Hanson. Full stop.)

What really bemuses me is this bit:

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    Iran's nuclear ambitions did not start in 2006. Like Pakistan's, they were a decade in the making. Indeed, they are the logical fruition of a radical Islam that hates the West as much as it is parasitic on it — and, in lunatic fashion, screams that past American appeasement was really aggression.

What on earth can this mean? If nuclear weapons are the “logical fruition” (a phrase whose meaning is, admittedly, somewhat hazy to me) of “a radical Islam that hates the West as much as it is parasitic on it,” then what, I wonder, aren’t they telling us about the boys on the Manhattan Project. Oppenheimer enjoyed the Vedas personally, but perhaps there toiled somewhere deep in the bowels of Los Alamos a cadre of jihadis muttering inch’Allah with each successfully designed trigger mechanism component.

The case of Israel and its bombs, needless to say, because even more perplexing; likewise, France.

Perplexing is par for the course. Earlier, Hanson says, Re: Scary Iran:

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    The second tact was live with a nuclear Iran as if it were a Pakistan — and perhaps hope that something like a nuclear democratic India emerged next door to deter it.

Is he suggesting that now that Iraq is a you’ll-pardon-the-expression democracy, now its time to give them the bomb? We’ve wasted an awful lot of blood and money in the interregnum, haven’t we? The other countries I see on the border are Armenia, Azerbijan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and, well, yes, Pakistan.

That’s some fuckin’ plan you’ve got there, Victor, that’s some fuckin’ plan.

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Steve Soto asks, and is probably not alone in asking, "Will Democrats do another 'ostrich' routine on Iran?"

The short reply is: Yes.

The long reply is that Democrats' pathological hatred of Ralph Nader for "losing" the 2000 presidential election blinds them to the institutional failure of their party. And let's be clear about the totality of that failure. Having weathered the Boy Prince's brief period of fear-catalyzed popularity, the institutional Democratic Party is now in as enviable a position as an opposition party can find itself in an election year. George W. Bush is one of the most unpopular presidents in history, and even many of those who continue to express support in opinion polls will be unmotivated to vote given his terrible numbers across the board. The current Republican Congress is one of the most unpopular congresses in history, and Democrats now far out-poll them in generic congressional races. Despite the best efforts of government propagandists, there's no plugging the drip-drip of terrible news from Iraq, the continued upheavals in Israel and the Occupied Territories, the sectarian violence now spilling into places like India, the mess that is our "victory" in Afghanistan, the potential devolution of the political and military situation in Pakistan, the (understandable) intransigence of the Iranian government, the continually exploding debts and deficits, the uncooperative Chinese and Russians, the bungled immigration plans, ad infinitum. The GOP has virtually nothing to commend itself to the voting public: no program, no plans, no issues. Reactionary laws in places like South Dakota haven't galvanized the public against abortion, and recent stories like the New York Times Magazine piece on outlawed abortion in El Salvador (complete with Forensic Vagina Specialists, or some such Atwoodian nonsense) will have the opposite effect in all likelihood. Gay marriage is a loser issue; you'll pardon the expression, but they shot their wad on that one the last time around. Species Plebiscitic referenda is ultimately of limited utility; it won't drive people to the polls forever. Nothing is going well for the Republican Party.

Against this, the Democrats likewise have absolutely nothing.

On the level of detail, many self-professed Democrats make the same damned critiques of their party as the much-hated Nader: that it is too in a thrall to corporate interests and money; that it is too willing to parrot the GOP's hollow jingoism; that it is too timid on environmental and social issues, where it has a natural advantage; that it willfully and willingingly colludes on such horrors as recent credit-industry-written bankruptcy legislation, on the PATRIOT Act, on medievalist Court nominees; that it can't get it's goddamn act together on meaningfully opposing the Iraq war.

But the sythesis of all this indicates a non-representational party totally invested in the institutional goals of corporate-military-industrial interests, which are the government. In the absence of any true centralizing authority, the various independent imperatives of the military and its contractors, of transnational energy firms, of other immense corporate entities, filter piecemeal to bought policymakers, who enact legislations and regulations willy-nilly, with no particular thought of or interest in any kind of big picture. Into this mix add the apocalyptic ineptitude of the dauphin and his various Richelieus. Then add the further meddling of a series of mind-numbingly backwards Christian sectarians whose devotion to a 2,000-year-old syncretic messiah cult impels them to advocate for a semi-demi-quasi theocracy, in fact if not name, in which the whole nation must devote the same endless time and energy to the impossible divination of which Levitical proscritions are and are not in force on any given Monday morning.

Politics, in other words, won't save us, certainly not from war with Iran. Now, I remain somewhat skeptical about any actual intent to make war on that country. I still suspect that, unlike Iraq (at which point, recall, our military capacity was both untested and intact), this current jingoism is in the service of PR, a bone thrown to the bloodthirsty GOP base, a bogeyman pushed on everyone else. That said, I do not discount the eminent plausibility of such a war, given the character of the men involved. They are not good men, nor trustworthy, and least of all wise. But should they choose to prosecute another aggressive war, appeals to Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton will not help any more than they did the last time around. These are people who have been coopted by forces more powerful and, of course, much better funded than you and me.

Depending on the Democratic Party to stop a war is like depending on the driver of the getaway car to take the guy who just burgled you to the police.


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Joe Klein posits that while use of force against Iran would be counterproductive, use of force, up to and including so-called tactical nuclear weapons, should not be "taken off the table." Word to your mother:

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    I think that when you're dealing in a negotiation you can't take stuff off the table before it starts.
I, admittedly, have never negotiated with a nuclear power, nor yet an Islamic state, but I am now a veteran of labor negotiations, which is a damn sight more than anyone can say about Joe Klein and most of the rest of the beltway boys, all comfortably passing their dues to AFTRA so they don't have to worry about that sorta thing. Of course you "take stuff off the table before it starts." The apparently common belief otherwise is exactly the sort of rancid bien-pensant bon-bon that passes for smarts in our nation's, ahem, capital, as if negotiators, let alone ambassadors and special envoys, walk into white rooms with tabulae rasi, ready to build the fucker from the ground up, anything goes.

None of this is to say that you never ask your negotiating counterparts for terms you know you'll never get. It's common for parties to start at far-opposing positions and gradually work their way toward some sort of mutually agreeable center. Hence "negotiation."

But while you might ask your union for a three-year wage freeze, or hell, even a give-back of some sort or other, you don't say to the President of the Local, "Well, buddy, what we're looking for is for you guys to work for free for the term of this CBA." That's off the table. You don't propose to fuck his sister on Tuesday in exchange for lower copays on the health package. That's off the table. You don't ask him to dissolve the union, turn over the welfare fund, and spend his uncompensated early retirement writing panegyrics to your totally awesome management style. That's off the table.

So this notion that we can't "take it off the table" because the negotiating hasn't started yet is what the boys over in the hiring hall would call world-fucking-class bullshit.

But I digress. After telling Klein that using nukes is insane, Stephanopoulos says that we (who?) know Iran might have 40,000 suicide bombers. Is this number meant to represent some kind of inventory? Are they warehoused? It's indicative of the insurmountable vacuity of our discourse in this country that we even talk this way, as if a suicide bomber is a piece of military hardware like a tank or a plane, possessed by a nation, able to be mobilized by some chain of command, useful as long as the barrel doesn't overheat, etc. The implication, clearly, is that should we do something crazy like, say, lobbing a megaton bomb at an Iranian bunker in the vain hope of destroying the thing, then President Kill-the-Jews and Ayatollah Hates-America will launch wave after wave of mad suicide bombers, so fearsome they'll massacre us all, like a page ripped from David Lynch's lame Dune screenplay. How will all those suicide bombers get here? Who cares!

Kai

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Re: Goddamnit
« Reply #6 on: May 27, 2011, 05:50:41 am »
I wouldn't even know how to start going about finding the best, since they're all so damn witty, and even the ones that piss me off are good.
If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water. --Loren Eisley, The Immense Journey

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Cain

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Re: Goddamnit
« Reply #7 on: May 27, 2011, 06:17:51 am »
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So while Glenn Greenwald does his usual yeoman’s work on leaks, leaking, and leakers, he accepts too willingly the model of the-thing-is-broken. The Republican Party has abandoned its principles. The Democratic Party has lost its principles. The Press has been co-opted. The administration is going after leakers. The leakers are circumventing politicized authority to give information to the people. Whistleblowers act in contravention of authority. Authority punishes them for causing embarrassment. It’s perhaps a depressing narrative, but nonetheless an important one. It’s important because it permits Glenn Greenwald, democratic bloggers, certain libertarians, and a clutch of other groups to believe in an essentially straightforward remedy. While they understand the relationship between power, money, policy, access, and information to be deeply Byzantine, they can persist in thinking that the press, properly independent, can be retrieved and made to monitor the government; they can persist in thinking that the government, properly monitored, will act as it should; they can persist in believing that the people, properly informed, will punish the politicians and the powerful who stray from faithful protection of our essential freedoms.

Good luck with all that.

I wonder if it occurs to Glenn Greenwald, who’s fantastically intelligent, or to the fellows at Digby’s Hullaballo, who’re likewise quite brilliant, that the system (for lack, I admit, of a better or simpler term) is functioning as it should, or at least as it was designed to—or better yet, as it was redesigned to function, circa 1947 and the establishment of the national security state. I wonder if it occurs to them that the whole kabuki of leaks and counter-leaks, of secrets upon secrets, of commissions and congressional inquiries, of press sniping and press silence, in short, of everything that I and every other blogger bitches about daily has been designed and fed to us for the purpose of obscuring the true operations of power. Because the truth is that a society of 300 million people consuming a quarter of the world’s resources probably requires exactly the behaviors we despise in order to go on: the wars, the intrigues, the foreign governments deposed, the brutality, the irrationality, the posturing. I’m not sure that we appreciate just how rapacious a society we possess, and just how much fuel is required to feed the fires of the American Way of Life™.

I don’t claim this is an admirable or acceptable state of affairs. I think it’s reprehensible and unjust. We haven’t the right to sit like a ruling vampire above the other nations of the world. We ought to change ourselves into something more modest, less obsessed with consumption, more local, more decent, and more civil (and more civilized). Putting aside that sort of grand pronouncement, though, we are, at the moment, what we are, and it would do well to recognize that you don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist of the “Earth is run by space-alien reptiles” variety to appreciate that behind the interchangeable marionettes of government, behind the petty scandalizing press, there does exist a nexus of moneyed interest that doesn’t give a damn whether the dauphin is at 90% or 30% percent in the polls. George W. Bush is just an instrument; fired CIA whistleblowers are just an instrument. Political squabbling is the instrumental tool through which our discourse is dissipated and diverted. It drives Glenn Greenwald to wonder why the press does what it does. It drives me to write endlessly on the foibles and flaws of the current administration. It distracts from the most frightening knowledge, which many of us possess as an inescapable intuition, which many of us likewise ignore as paranoia: not that everything is broken, but that everything is going according to plan.

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The sane among us note that if Iran were truly on a civilizational jihad against the apostates and infidels of the world, it would hardly pursue close relations with the world’s largest ancestor-worship cum animist cum atheist state, particularly one which viciously suppresses its indigenous Muslim population. It’s a testament to our bizarre combination of cultural myopia and imperial expansionism that we presume all other peoples are as convinced as we are that their society is the apogee of human development and that it must therefore be evangelized throughout the world, at gunpoint if necessary. So far as I can tell, the Iranians seem essentially unconcerned with what the Chinese do within their borders; the Chinese likewise seem unpredisposed to lecture the Iranian government on the necessity of giving up god in order to pursue quasi-semi-demi-post-Maoist-reconstructed-Marxian-pseudo-State-planned capitalism.

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If it were David Koresh, now . . .

Despite the dessicated corpse of the One True Church's current moral standing, our official media treat the news out of Rome as if it is indeed but one spokesman removed from Gabriel. So today the Times rather breathlessly reports that Pope Hitler-Jugend I might-just-possibly-maybe-but-not-necessarily be considering some piecemeal reversal of Catholic lunacy doctrine on condoms. The church's biggest growth is now in Africa. Africans are beset by the specter of AIDS. Etc., etc., etc. The theology, we're told, is complicated.

Imagine that you had some David Koresh-type figure operating in the intermountain boondocks. Imagine that his cult was in the midst of a relatively rapid expansion. Imagine that it was awash with sexual infidelities and indiscretions. Imagine that 50% of the adult population of his compound was infected with HIV. Imagine that High Priest Joe McWorshipme refused them condoms because his "complex" theology indicated that the invisible sun god wouldn't countenance the spilling of seed.

Janet Reno and a SWAT army would descend on that fucker faster than you can say John Ashcroft. We'd set the place on fire and send tanks through the walls. The FBI would surround the place with snipers and pick off the adult males.

I'm just sayin . . .

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RETREAT!

In my neck of the woods, The Corner is a place where you can get some cheap crack and a cheaper lady friend, but out there in yon internet, The Corner is a place where you can find Stanley Kurtz opining that the real problem with Americans is that war makes them tired, unless they’re conservatives, in which case the affliction is more a case of psychic enervation brought on by the “taunts of the left.” “America’s domestic divisions are paralyzing us at a critical moment!” Lions and tigers and bears!

The student of 10th-grade history in me wants to point out that if Kurtz bothered to read the Constitution and the goddamn Federalist Papers, he’d better understand that a little paralysis was built into the damn system. I suspect that sort of thing would fall on deaf ears, however.

The truth is that these gentlemen long for war because the current one is going badly and the specter of peace is boring. Hence Bill Kristol’s cracks about the salons and drawing rooms of Georgetown and Paris, or what have you. The business of diplomacy bores them. The business of domestic politics, ye gods, even more so. Neither Stan Kurtz nor Bill Kristol ever could or ever would fight in a war, no more than the fat slob at the other end of the bar ever could or ever would play in the NFL. But in both cases, it makes them feel like better men, bigger men, manlier men, if they can bitch about the coaching and complain that the hometown crowd is made up of nothing but fair-weather fans.

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Obligatory Shelby Steele Post with Requisite Joseph Conrad Notes

It seems to me that folks are getting a wee bit too worked up about Shelby Steele's exterminate the brutes number over at the Wall Street [you'll forgive the expression] Journal. Steele isn't saying anything that Michael "Savage" Weiner hasn't been saying on his call-in show since long before the current round of genocidal fanatasism infected the fever dreams of America's inexhaustible supply of Monday-morning generals. I suppose it's always dangerous to live in a powerful society in which such vicious prattle passes for political commentary, but all the worrying seems to me to buy into the very same overestimations of our might and military wherewithal as Napoleon Steele. That is to say: the imminent danger of the US prosecuting wars as the genteel Ghostface Killah desires isn't, well, imminent.

Steele actually does a favor in laying bare the self-similarity of conservative social and military . . . thought. Just as social conservatives engage in the backward-forward projection of an idyllic social order located in the vaguely recent past, the war hawks image a past order in which wars were fought as wars ought to be fought. Why, it was practically part of the social compact! No dithering around in World War II, no way, no how--the Greatest Generation launched itself against the shores of Normandy and killed as many damn Germans and razed as many damn cities as it took to win. Hoo-ah! Their pansy boomer children, meanwhile, not only undermined two thousand years of Western moral consensus, but also pussified war by limiting it, nevermind that pussification occured pretty well and thoroughly under Truman and a bunch of WWII generals in a lil' ol' peninsual called Korea, wherein I'm informed a Evil Axis still resides.

Of course, the sort of war whose passing Steele laments was a function of the enemy we confronted. So is it true that "today the United States cannot go to war in the Third World simply to defeat a dangerous enemy?" Our Third World enemies aren't entire mechanized societies arrayed against us. In World War II, immense armies fielded by industrial nations whose entire national industries and populations were realigned and reorganized for total war clashed across whole continents and oceans. That's hardly the C.V. of our more recent conflicts, in which the rulers of United States, in order to placate the hallucinogenic madness of certain domestic constituencies, concoct theories of abstract danger and attempt to insert their clumsy fingers between one falling domino and its still-standing neighbor.

Steele's prescriptions for victory are galling only insofar as they suggest some propriety in the notion of devestating an entire nation and civilization based not on some attack or danger to the territorial integrity of the U.S., but rather upon the designation of some hapless third-world dictatorship as a "dangerous enemy." Dangerous how? Don't expect an answer.

Anyway, there's a lot of incoherent babbling about how white guilt for the sins of our imperial past proscribe manly, passionate war-making. The unintended irony is that, having made this diagnosis, Steele and his admirers propose to commit further sins of an imperial present--that we eliminate white guilt by eliminating the very peoples whose suffering at our hands in the past apparently emasculates us today. And therein lies the psychology at work throughout Conrad's work. "Exterminate the brutes!" Why? Because they are the evidence of our brutishness.

Here's the final paragraph of the article:

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    This is a fact that must be integrated into our public life--absorbed as new history--so that America can once again feel the moral authority to seriously tackle its most profound problems. Then, if we decide to go to war, it can be with enough ferocity to win.

The fact to which Steele refers is something about the West's great moral transformation, achieved by getting kicked out of the non-West, or something. The closing paean to ferocity is telling, though. What Steele and plenty of other total victory advocates on the right ultimately regret is that by failing to crush our so-called enemies, we permit the propagation of countervailing narratives; our victor's history isn't complete. "Minimalism," in their estimation, permits the virus of doubt to grow back from the mouths of the recently defeated; it allows the societies that we invade and try to remake to retain the capacity to speak about our crimes and our injustices. Steele wishes that we'd use sufficient force to coerce our victims into believing the great lie: that it was their wickedness which brought our retribution, not ours which brought their suffering.

For better or worse, the enemy seems unwilling to grant Steele's hypothesis that "no one--including, very likely, the insurgents themselves--believes that America lacks the raw power to defeat this insurgency if it wants to." For better or worse, the insurgents seem to believe precisely that. For better or worse, we'll find out, one of these days, whose assessment was more accurate.

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Re: Goddamnit
« Reply #8 on: May 27, 2011, 01:33:42 pm »
I would pay money to read that stuff.  Since I can't access his site at work, what are his reasons for quitting?

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Re: Goddamnit
« Reply #9 on: May 27, 2011, 02:35:34 pm »
Thank you Cain, both for linking in the first place and for consolidating some brilliant commentary.
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Re: Goddamnit
« Reply #10 on: May 27, 2011, 03:18:57 pm »
:mittens: to cain for pulling those!

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Re: Goddamnit
« Reply #11 on: May 27, 2011, 06:11:48 pm »
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So while Glenn Greenwald does his usual yeoman’s work on leaks, leaking, and leakers, he accepts too willingly the model of the-thing-is-broken. The Republican Party has abandoned its principles. The Democratic Party has lost its principles. The Press has been co-opted. The administration is going after leakers. The leakers are circumventing politicized authority to give information to the people. Whistleblowers act in contravention of authority. Authority punishes them for causing embarrassment. It’s perhaps a depressing narrative, but nonetheless an important one. It’s important because it permits Glenn Greenwald, democratic bloggers, certain libertarians, and a clutch of other groups to believe in an essentially straightforward remedy. While they understand the relationship between power, money, policy, access, and information to be deeply Byzantine, they can persist in thinking that the press, properly independent, can be retrieved and made to monitor the government; they can persist in thinking that the government, properly monitored, will act as it should; they can persist in believing that the people, properly informed, will punish the politicians and the powerful who stray from faithful protection of our essential freedoms.

Good luck with all that.

I wonder if it occurs to Glenn Greenwald, who’s fantastically intelligent, or to the fellows at Digby’s Hullaballo, who’re likewise quite brilliant, that the system (for lack, I admit, of a better or simpler term) is functioning as it should, or at least as it was designed to—or better yet, as it was redesigned to function, circa 1947 and the establishment of the national security state. I wonder if it occurs to them that the whole kabuki of leaks and counter-leaks, of secrets upon secrets, of commissions and congressional inquiries, of press sniping and press silence, in short, of everything that I and every other blogger bitches about daily has been designed and fed to us for the purpose of obscuring the true operations of power. Because the truth is that a society of 300 million people consuming a quarter of the world’s resources probably requires exactly the behaviors we despise in order to go on: the wars, the intrigues, the foreign governments deposed, the brutality, the irrationality, the posturing. I’m not sure that we appreciate just how rapacious a society we possess, and just how much fuel is required to feed the fires of the American Way of Life™.

I don’t claim this is an admirable or acceptable state of affairs. I think it’s reprehensible and unjust. We haven’t the right to sit like a ruling vampire above the other nations of the world. We ought to change ourselves into something more modest, less obsessed with consumption, more local, more decent, and more civil (and more civilized). Putting aside that sort of grand pronouncement, though, we are, at the moment, what we are, and it would do well to recognize that you don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist of the “Earth is run by space-alien reptiles” variety to appreciate that behind the interchangeable marionettes of government, behind the petty scandalizing press, there does exist a nexus of moneyed interest that doesn’t give a damn whether the dauphin is at 90% or 30% percent in the polls. George W. Bush is just an instrument; fired CIA whistleblowers are just an instrument. Political squabbling is the instrumental tool through which our discourse is dissipated and diverted. It drives Glenn Greenwald to wonder why the press does what it does. It drives me to write endlessly on the foibles and flaws of the current administration. It distracts from the most frightening knowledge, which many of us possess as an inescapable intuition, which many of us likewise ignore as paranoia: not that everything is broken, but that everything is going according to plan.

That's my favorite one so far, mostly because it's full of things I need to remind myself any time I start thinking like that.



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"sometimes someone confesses a sin in order to take credit for it." -- John Von Neumann

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Re: Goddamnit
« Reply #12 on: May 27, 2011, 07:52:39 pm »
I would pay money to read that stuff.  Since I can't access his site at work, what are his reasons for quitting?

from his last post:
Quote
No revoir

I'm so over this.

his few prior to that don't seem to hint that the end is nigh, but then I'm working from past to future, so maybe his disillusion will become more apparent?

there's a lot of material here.
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"sometimes someone confesses a sin in order to take credit for it." -- John Von Neumann

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Re: Goddamnit
« Reply #13 on: May 27, 2011, 08:42:40 pm »
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Tilda Swinton was in Pittsburgh last night to give a University-of-Pittsburgh-sponsored talk. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend. I haven’t enjoyed most of her recent films--The Deep End and Thumbsucker for their skittering irrelevance and phony quietude and Narnia for its unintentionally hilarious moral pretensions. But I always enjoy Tilda Swinton, who is one of the finest actors of her generation. Who else could wrest dignity from the godawful film adaptation of Orlando?

But her presence in town got me thinking about Narnia and the predictable (and predictably self-assured) pronouncement that Narnia is a Christian story, thinly veiled. Which is true . . . in the same sense that the New Testament is a Buddhist story, thinly veiled.

Religious adherence necessitates an ahistorical understanding of religious texts and traditions, sometimes at the exclusion of true lineage, and sometimes with a sort of separate-spheres on-one-hand-on-the-other-hand-ism. Many Christians I know are perfectly willing to acknowledge that Christian metaphysics and the Christian mythos owe to tribal sun worship, Mithraism, Manicheism, Osirianism, Zoroastrianism, and a whole host of other -isms that propagated throughout the Mediterranean world from well before even the Old Kingdom in Egypt. Many Christians I know are perfectly willing to accept that the Christ figure is himself a recycled Buddha, right down to the time in the wilderness and the apostles, just as Buddha is a recycled image of Eastern guru figures with an immensely ancient religio-spiritual history in South and Southeast Asia.

Simultaneously, they propose that Jesus was nonetheless the son of God, and was God, and did redeem Fallen Man by dying on the cross, and was resurrected, and so forth and so on.

Liberal Christians in particular are guilty of this sort of impossible dualism, and it infects their every political interaction in a secular state. Although believing Christians (at least, self-professed believing Christians) compose an undisputed majority of the Democratic Party and of the nation in general, they’re constantly, pathetically whining that their goofy, eschatological messiah cult must be accorded even greater deference by that small minority of non-believers and agnostics who ask simply that religion not intrude on governance and public policy-making. Republicans, they say, have convinced God-fearing America that Democrats are the party of Gidean amoralists intent on razing the houses of God and erecting, what, abortion clinics or something in their place. The remedy, therefore, is to talk more Jesus-talk, since Jesus, you see, was really a liberal. (He was also really black, according to a former weed dealer of mine, but I suppose that’s another conversation for another day.)

You might recall that Article VI of the US Constitution prohibits any “religious test” as a requirement for office, but what do we have in this country right now if not a de facto religious test for virtually every position of influence in the land? I’m sure there are some very nice atheists serving in city council somewhere, or sitting on some godless Northern school board. But from state houses to the US Senate to the Oval Office, political candidates are required by these very Christians just as much as by their conservative counterparts to avow beliefs in invisible powers operating outside the bounds of the natural universe. They must acknowledge that our species has a “Creator”; they must speak of their own habits of prayer.

In the mostly phony Dutch Muhammad cartoon “controversy,” amidst all the madness, a few commentators sensibly pointed out that tolerance for alien beliefs, including according believers free practice thereof, isn’t the same as acquiescence to the moral or spiritual commandments of those belief systems.

The GOP’s candidates often speak of America as a Christian nation. At least they’re honest about their intent. Religious Democrats, meanwhile, decry such talk while concurrently advocating for precisely the same ends: the de facto elevation of Christianity (and some Jews; we think there are some Jews!) to the status of State Religion.

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First a stipulation: I support a national health-care program. So far as I can tell, the best argument against it boils down to "people in Canada and the UK have to wait." Ye gods! Because queues are unknown in the American system. I lived in France for a time, and with the exception of the top-flight American transplant programs (speaking of waiting lists), I would much rather seek treatment for illness, injury, or other infirmity there than anywhere else in the world. The facilities are superb. The staffs are superb. Tout est bien. I say this as someone with a better health plan than 99% of Americans. Do you still have 100% coverages? I do. And still . . .

"But IOZ, aren't you a self-professed libertarian?" Well sure, but I'm not a dogmatist. Doxologies are for intellectual pansies (says the gay guy). As my favorite uncle told me when we used to carpool to work together: "Every libertarian is a hypocrite the moment the back wheels of his car leave the driveway and hit the city-maintained road." Hear, hear. Regarding health care, I'll say this much: I susbscribe to John Rawls doctrines (perhaps the wrong word) of fairness and justice. For most of human history medicine was primitive and ineffective, and therefore hardly a predicate for reasonably equitable opportunity. But ever since the advent of universal vaccination in the West—and more acutely every passing year since—access to medicine and the fruits of medical science has become a fundamental element of a free and fair society. Besides which, modern medicine is phenomenally expensive to develop and to deliver, and I’m a realist: I believe in the power of economies of scale.

I digress.

Regardless of your personal beliefs about the desirability and viability of state-run (or at least state-funded) healthcare, the essential fact remains: the State is in the healthcare racket. More specifically, the states are in that racket. Don’t believe me? Go spend an hour in the billing and coding department of your local hospital. Like any other racket, the racketeers may be dishonest, they may be incompetent, they may be bureaucrats, and they may be sons of bitches, but they still have some obligation to protect the folks paying the protection money. Ergo, this nonsense really pisses me off, because the states are also in the welfare and social service racket, and every unwanted kid born to a poor single woman is an additional set of costs, as well as an additional precious, extra-special, unique, et al. soul worthy of rights and dignity and so forth and so on.

What’s particularly galling is the tone of moral uplift adopted by the opponents of contraception. Were that Mencken were alive today to hurl cats at these Pharisees. Promotes promiscuity? Please. I’ll tell you what promotes promiscuity: penises and vaginas, often if not exclusively in combination. The notion that denying contraceptive access to the poor will somehow positively reinforce the values of chastity and continence is so laughably stupid and so ignorant of basic human nature that I’m tempted to throw my standard politic speech to the wind and pronounce it, in my best cracking middle-school voice, totally retarded. If it didn’t work for Augustine, it’s sure as hell not going to work for some poor woman in a menial job with a deadbeat boyfriend who says he loves her and then leaves her post-quickening. What kind of deranged Puritanical revanchist proposes simultaneously to rid the world of abortions and to rid the world of any means to prevent unwanted or unplanned pregnancy short of the total suppression of the sexual drive? It’s a moral monstrosity.

Perhaps beyond the shadows on the walls of the cave, the perfect forms of the poor caper through fields in abstinent, loin-less joy. For those of us still chained in the cave and watching the silhouettes thrown by flickering firelight, however, the only possible outcome of this dunderheadedness is the further perpetuation of generational poverty, which we all pay for, and which, as a goddamn libertarian makes me pretty goddamn mad.

Two good ones I found from 2006.  I have a feeling I'll be spending a lot of time here this weekend. 
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"sometimes someone confesses a sin in order to take credit for it." -- John Von Neumann

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Re: Goddamnit
« Reply #14 on: May 28, 2011, 12:34:21 am »
Thank you for posting all of those, Cain.  I'm sorry I had not heard of this blog before.
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