Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Goodbye to All That

I'm heading off to San Jose for a few days to the Organization of American Historians' annual meeting, so you'll just have to get your kicks elsewhere. I recommend taking a detour over to Your Logo Here and Lawyers, Guns and Money. I will endorse everything they have to say over the weekend. And if my plane goes down in a flaming spiral of death, my wife has permission to pursue her relationship with Brad Pitt to its fullest potential.

In the meantime, you have some blog-related homework assignments, so pay attention here. Before I return on Sunday, I expect you to to the following:
  • Read this touching poem and briefly explain why this is quite possibly one of the two or three worst poems ever written. (Extra credit if you can explain why anyone would be compelled to write a poem entitled "Our Love" in the first place.)
  • Read this passionate letter to the President of the United States. Leave a comment explaining why you agree or disagree with the letter's basic argument. (Extra credit if you correctly identify all the spelling and grammatical errors.)
  • Drop in on Kim Du Toit, voted this week by Lawyers, Guns and Money as "America's Worst Blogger." Decide if Du Toit's blog is better or worse than this one. Defend your answer.
  • Enjoy!

    Tuesday, March 29, 2005

    Oh, How I Wish I Were...


    Oh, Canada!

    Captain Canuck
    Originally uploaded by davenoon.
    My first blog review comes from an admittedly partisan source — my old pal Jonathan Sterne, who (along with his wife Carrie) represents the best of America's exports to Canada. Alanis Morissette recently became an American citizen, but Canada gets Jonathan and Carrie, their unrepentantly foul mouths, and their cats. That should soothe some of Canada's pain after the US fucked up the sport of hockey....

    UPDATE: Read Jonathan's recent essay on "Torture Chic" here. It's this sort of sedition that got him expelled from the US to begin with.

    Meathook Theology

    This comment was too good to leave tucked into the comments page... Thus spaketh "Some Guy," whose identity is known only to me:
    Thanks, David, for introducing me to Becki [ed. — see post below]. I feel like I have a new friend. A crappy, crappy friend.

    You missed possibly her most incisive lesson from hunger striking:
    "I'm still waiting on God to act, and what God does is what God does. It's His field, He can play ball like he wants. But I can tell who's a wussy in this game, and it's not me. I'm doing what I was called to do, and if some sappy chick no-name chick like me can go ten days without food then some freekin' suit in a mansion can get on his phone and call his people to swoop in and take Terri out of here just like they did good ol' Elian Gonzales. Don't like it? Talk to Mr. Special Agent's Glock."
    Words do not do justice, so much to admire.

    The incoherent chutzpah (can one say that about an uber-christian who likes to drop the word "glock"?) The snappy but disturbingly confused metaphors (Its his field, He plays ball the way he want to? Is god the ref, a teammate, the scruffy ne'erdowell mascot, the chubby kid nobody picks for their team, I am confused. And why would the almighty play in a game said creator invented?).

    Oh, and the complete disregard for facts or due process (Screw 30,000 pages of documentation, get in there and do what I fuckin' tell you to do).

    But I do not see hers as a shallow definition of life. I mean you have self-absorption in the name of life; threats of violence in the name of life; quixotic starvation in the name of life; endless perceived threats to life in the name of life; millions of suffering people ignored in favor of one fetishized human vegetable -- in the name of life; the warm glow of self-righteousness in the name of life . . . All in all, I'd say its pretty a pretty rich view of life, in the acrid stench sense of rich.

    So not shallow, but it is vulgar. Meathook theology; the kind you need from zealots when the time comes to take up arms, I mean "glocks," as the frikkin' suits don't do what you tell them god wants them to do.

    Question Authority. Live Extremely. Blog Your Narcissism.

    Via Jesus' General and Miss Poppy, we meet one Becki Snow, who is currently suspended in a dynamic tension of hunger and self-righteousness. Snow, in a bold gesture of authority-questioning and extreme living, is about a dozen days into a sympathy hunger strike for Terri Schiavo, during which time she has issued bulletins and manifestos to the frosted loons who read her blog. Here's a random sample of Snow's "witless witness" to the power of martyrdom:
    If I wonder what it's like to bungee jump, I do it. If I wonder what it's like to hike into the mountains and live there without anything but what I can carry in a backpack, I do it. If I wonder what it's like to have a child without benefit of medications, I do it. (It's not THAT bad. But then again...)

    However, there are those among us who are timid, shy, unable to overcome their fear of experiencing pain or exhilaration or humiliation. They are the ones who, in their fear of defeat, never experience victory. They would much rather accept the opinions of experts who will tell them how it feels to bungee jump, or how beautiful the mountains are, or how wonderful it is to be fully aware when a child is born of your body. These people are not to be condemned - they help the world to turn upon it's [sic] axis in an orderly fashion, unhindered by the curiousity of exploration.

    I am not one of those people.
    No, Becki, you're not. You're the kind of person who wonders what it's like to be brain dead, and then attempts to mimic that condition as accurately as possible with each stray thought. You're the kind of person who attempts to give voice, in blog form, to the experiences of a woman you've been persuaded to regard as the most recent face of God.

    Here's another laugher:
    No euphoria. At least "SO FAR." Thanks for the tip, Becki. Keep us posted on that euphoria thing.

    The entire blog gurgles with this sort of gross sentimentality, and — as if to underscore the bathos of it all — features an archive of close-up webcam photos of Becki's anguished, contemplative face. It also repeats the predictable and utterly bogus historical analogies (e.g., did you know the Nazis referred to useless eaters?!? Makes you think . . . . [Pause five seconds here for vacuous silence . . .]), while effortlessly invoking Gandhi, that fanatical vegetarian, about whom we can be reasonably certain that Becki Snow knows nothing. In Becki's mind though, here's how it works: Gandhi refused food; Becki refuses food. Gandhi believed strongly in his cause; Becki believes strongly in her cause. Ergo, Becki's hunger=Gandhi's hunger, and Becki's Cause=Gandhi's Cause.

    Becki might consider the following guidance from Gandhi himself:
    Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he gain anything by it? Will it restore him to a control over his own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to swaraj [freedom] for the hungry and spiritually starving millions? Then you will find your doubts and your self melt away.
    The so-called "pro-life" movement cannot answer Gandhi's question, because their construction of "life" is so ethically vacant and depthless that the entire question of "freedom" no longer appears to matter. I suppose we should get used to this.

    Monday, March 28, 2005

    Spot the Vulgarity; Win Valuable Cash and Prizes

    So as I was reading Front Page Magazine, catching up on the Vast Leninist Conspiracy afflicting my profession, I came across an article comparing the language of the so-called "Academic Bill of Rights" with the language of the American Historical Association's statement on professional conduct. (For background on David Horowitz and friends, see my post and links from a week or so back. And Michael Berube can always be counted on to make Horowitz cry.) In essence, the article claims that the ABOR is not the radical document its critics have claimed it to be, and that the AHA has "proven" this:
    In sum, the American Historical Association’s guidelines on professional conduct specifically endorse the key tenets of the Academic Bill of Rights, including the prohibition on persistently introducing irrelevant controversial topics in the classroom and the responsibility of faculty to expose students to a spectrum of scholarly views. Scholars and members of the AHA should welcome the Academic Bill of Rights as an attempt to see that its own statement of policy is actually put into practice.
    After reading the article I decided to post the following comment, which read as follows:
    The problem with your claim that the AHA or other organizations "endorse" key aspects of the ABOR is as follows: Whereas the ABOR includes statements and observations that are hardly controversial, and which are indeed central to the whole notion of liberal inquiry, it is accompanied and promoted by a group of organizations who — unlike professional bodies — draw systematic conclusions from anecdotal, incomplete, and frequently false information. Universities and professional societies have standards of research and teaching which they are entitled to enforce, using reasonable and fair processes. Because your organization is premised on the existence of a luminous conspiracy that floods every level of higher education, you choose not to accept the conclusions reached by those organizations and societies. Instead, you recommend the interference of state legislatures into those processes and invite disgruntled students to purge their anger and share their "discomfort" online, which you use to develop "cases" against individual faculty. The result is considerably less impressive than you assume.

    Initially, my comment was rejected; a window popped up explaining that FPM has new policies regarding "vulgarity" in their comments section, and that my submission did not meet their guidelines. Since I'm prone to swear a lot in these kinds of discussions, I scoured the comment to see if I'd slipped something in, like "you stupid fucks," "you pious dickweeds," "you sanctimonious asshats," or something to that effect. To my surprise, my language was immaculate!

    Undeterred, I resubmitted the comment, adding the following (admittedly deceitful) addendum, just to see what happened:
    I say this as a conservative who loathes indoctrination and witch hunts with equal degrees of measure.
    God knows why, but this time my comment sailed through their filter. Evidently, dissent is permissible only if you announce that you're a conservative. Coulda been a glitch, but in the intellectual spirit of Front Page Magazine, I prefer to see this as a ruthless and ideologically-motivated effort to liquidate opinions that contradict the "politically correct" views of our conservative masters. Have they no sense of decency, at long last? Have they no sense of decency?

    Tax Loopholes, Bad Ass Fighting Techniques, and Other Cool Shit You Can Buy on

    A few weeks back, I posted a link to a website — which I discovered at David Horowitz' vanity publication, Front Page Magazine — encouraging us all to speculate on the future value of Iraqi dinars. The advertisement was repellant for many reasons, not the least of which could be found in its suggestion that by wagering on Iraqi currency, Americans might somehow make a bold declaration on behalf of free markets and self-government for "brown-skinned people." But since this war seems to demand little more than meaningless gestures from average American schlubbos, and since the profits from the conquest of Babylon appear mostly to be flowing in the direction of Americans anyway, at the bottom of it all there was nothing really incongruous about the ad, my own fulminations notwithstanding. In its pious appeal to the bogus altruism of a Red State readership, in its promise of spectacular (and virtuously-acquired) fortunes, and in its gentle poke at the soft, economically insecure underbelly of its audience, was indeed the appropriate expression of our current political unconscious. In the BushCo dreamworld, everything is a wager, and financial risk is the only thing confiscated from the hands of the rich and scattered like moldy cheese and biscuits to the unfortunate. Go ahead: Bet on Iraq. Halliburton will get paid anyway. You'll be underwriting their taxpayer-subsidized, no-bid, cost-plus profiteering for years to come, so why not recover your losses by gambling callously on the very nation those companies are getting paid not to rebuild?

    In any event, this whole meditation got me to thinking about the other kinds of advertisements one finds on right wing media sites — and what we might learn about the Right by exploring them. I went to, which is only a chromosome or two more advanced than the prehensile Talon News, and began poking through the sidebar ads to see how I might improve my life in some incremental, righteous, patriotic way. So many options! To wit: "Tax Loopholes for the Rich," a course from "attorney and successful businessman Drew Miles," offered me a lusty bit of fist-shaking, anti-Tax Man populism from the state-income-tax-free zone of Florida. Miles promises to show me all kinds of tricks, including:
    How the Super Rich Pay single digit taxes – reportedly as low as 4% - 5% while you are getting creamed.  Between Federal, State and Social Security taxes, the average American taxpayer pays about 50% in taxes.  Learn to recoup those losses and put that money back in your pocket - where it belongs.
    Rather than drawing the obvious conclusion here — namely, that if the fabulously wealthy are only paying 4-5% in taxes, we should sever their heads and confiscate their estates — Drew Miles recommends instead that we emulate (and not eat) the rich. And why not? Who wants to identify with poor? And who wants to go to the trouble of organizing them for social change, or mobilizing public resources on behalf of the common good? Nah, fuck everyone! If we can't actually be rich, we can at least mimic their venality. You heard Karl Rove — starve the beast, man! Stop funding activist judges and keep your tax dollars where they belong — invested in Iraqi dinars!

    This made a good bit of sense, but I wondered about the effects of Mr. Miles' 60-minute seminar if its lessons were writ large upon the body politic. How would we pay for all the life-sustaining medical treatments the Right will force us to accept, as feeding tubes and hamster-powered electric generators infinitely postpone our day of reckoning with a vengeful, angry God? What kind of a future could I anticipate when the federal Treasury collapses? Who would run the nuclear submarines? Not to worry. Once the public coffers have been depleted and the inevitable beer and bread riots have spilled forth into the streets, will continue to provide the important information and consumer guidance I'll need to survive in an atomized society red in tooth and claw. From TRS Direct, for example, I can purchase an "Amazing 'Real World' Fighting System Compiled By 19 of the Most Dangerous Men on the Planet." Check this out! I can learn "Stealth Domination," "8 Steps to Winning," "Realworld Combat," "Hardcore StreetFighting," "Explosive Cooler Tactics" (WTF?) and "VIPER Street Combat." Apparently,
    There is a nasty fighter hiding inside you… and we know how to wake him up and make him a part of you… fast and without hassle.
    Why is this system so effective? Well step off, dumbass, here's why:
    [American soldiers] use it because:
  • It works like crazy -- to dominate multiple attackers, control ANY attacker instantly, and open up "permanent" elimination of the threat whenever you choose…
  • It is so simple to learn and master, that soldiers can just watch the training in the afternoon… and USE it to save their lives that evening. There are only a FEW core moves, and they are all natural, instinctive, and based on the "gross motor skills" of your reflexes. (That means there are absolutely ZERO "fancy" moves, or anything you must practice at to get good. You learn these few easy moves, and BAM! You are instantly PURE BAD ASS.)

    Plus… once you use this new system in combat, there is NO DEFENSE another man can use, hand-to-hand, to counter you. It's that effective.
  • Holy crap! I've got a "nasty little fighter inside me?" And I've always wondered how — short of getting a Ph.D. in American Studies — I could become instantly pure bad ass. I've also always wondered how I might do this:

    No, that's not Jeff Gannon — that's Matt Furey "doing the side splits with ease." In Matt's new "Politically Incorrect Fighting and Fitness Instruction" course, I'll learn how to defend myself once the One World Armies assume control over our government and tattoo bar codes on our necks. Who needs an army when you can be a one-man missile of political incorrectness? As Matt himself explains, "I could do the splits, hold a gymnastic bridge with one arm, lie on my stomach, grab my ankles and jump off the floor only using my stomach muscles, and so on."

    Did he just say that? My goodness! This is getting interesting! It's like QVC for jingoistic, self-hating leather boys! Brilliant! Visit NewsMax today — buy gold, buy dinars, burn off your fingertips and change your identity, learn strangely compelling, represso-erotic hand-fighting techniques!

    Sunday, March 27, 2005


    So very, very sleepy...

    Ever wonder what Easter looks like to an American living in Warsaw? Sure you have! As Brother Dan explains:
    In Poland we have reached day three of the Easterpalooza and as you can see, the excitement and chaos are taking its toll on some of those involved.  In terms of sacrifice in the eyes of God, you have several levels of acts that can be undertaken.  Falling just a few spots below martyrdom and hunger strikes lies the under-appreciated glugging of the sacramental liter of potato vodka.  Our fallen brother pictured here took one for Christ's team this morning, showing the kind of commitment that few Christians nowadays can lay claim to.  For this, we salute you.

    After getting your fill of sacramental vodka, its time to rehydrate yourself with some holy water.

    This was the scene as I entered a church in downtown Warsaw earlier today. You are greeted with your usual collection stations so the desperately poor Catholic Church can take some more of your money; on special occassions such as the resurrection of Christ, you are also asked to give some money so you can have your very own little handy-dandy bottle of holy-water. It's useful for whatever holy needs you may have during the day — e.g., cuts, infidelity, pedophilia or even the occassional Satatnic possession. You can always count on pure Catholic Holy Water.

    After picking up your personal bottle of holy water there are three more things to be done at the church before leaving. 

  • Bless Your Eggs.

    Everyone brings their Easter basket to get some of their easter breakfast food blessed.  Differing greatly from my childhood tradition that was filled with Cadburry Eggs, Peeps and chocolate bunnies, people in Poland fill their baskets with kielbasa, chleb (bread) and jajko (eggs) and have them blessed by one of the holy men at the church. They call these miracle workers "Priests."
  • Confess Your Sins.

    Step into a very private and discrete meeting room with another Priest and recount all of the dirty little things that you've done in the last year.  That was always one of the more fascinating aspects of Catholicism: You can do whatever the fuck you want, tell a priest, do some Hail Marys and clear your conscience.  I didn't get a picture of the whole scene, but there were about 4 different confession stations to choose from, all of which had a line about 25 people deep. 
  • Give a big shout-out to JC. Last on the agenda is giving JC mad crazy props for dying for our sins.  Each Church sets up a mock grave site to re-create his death.  My inside sources tell me that this version [see photo at top] is pretty tame.

  • See this and more at Air Polonia — bringing you the culture shock of a vegetarian pacifist living in an Eastern Europe. As the American president reminds us, Don't forget Poland!

    Friday, March 25, 2005

    Jesus Charged with 23 Felony Counts
    after Little Boy Forced to Live under His Frock

    Feet Don't Fail Me Now, originally uploaded by davenoon.

    Via Air Polonia, the best Live Journal written by an American living in Poland. Uh, yes, he's my brother . . . what's your point?

    This is an Easter Card that was being sold at the post office here in Poland. As I have noted, Easter is the Big Dance, the World Series, The Super Bowl of Catholicism and if you count the feet on Jesus then you will realize that he would have been able to hit the game winning home run, [hit] a buzzer beater and thrown the immaculate reception all at once with that kind of physical advantage.  Imagine the uproar...
  • "Republicans seek to preserve the sanctity of Jesus' extra legs"
  • or perhaps it would have been more like, "Jesus Christ — Son of Man or Four-Legged Freaky Alien? We report, you decide"
  • |

    Scenes from Terri's Revolution, Part IV

    PRINCE, originally uploaded by davenoon.

    Circumstances in Florida took a turn for the truly bizarre today, as the violence and looting outside Woodside Hospice were momentarily calmed by sexually-explicit pop music sensation Prince, who brought his bandmates — "The Revolution" — to lend his assistance to Terri's Revolution. The Purple One, caressing his groin and sucking on one of his own fingers, arrived outside the hospice center to give an impromptu, soulful, a capella performance of several of his greatest hits. "I believe I speak for all of us," Prince softly and uncharismatically explained to the assembled faithful, "when I say that I'm not a woman — I'm not a man. I am something that you'll never understand. I'll never beat u, I'll never lie, and if you're evil — like those awful, awful judges — I'll forgive u by and by. U, Terri - I would die 4 u, yeah. Darling if u want me 2 . . . ."

    Laying down their brickbats and muskets, the crowd swayed approvingly for a few quiet moments before the orgy of desctruction resumed.


    Scenes from Terri's Revolution, Part III

    Terri's Revolution, originally uploaded by davenoon.

    Spurred on by the GOOD WORD of The Weekly Standard, the Armies of Terri's Revolution hath descended into the Countryside today, scorching the earth with REASON and RIGHTEOUSNESS, the happy merger of which the Venerable Lord hath seen fit to swing like a CUDGEL against the THICKE SKULLS of the BASTARD SPAWN who theaten Libertie. At yonder Hospice, a humble FARMER — ragged in feature yet noble in speech — was moved to bring his viewes forward in PUBLICK:

    "'Tis surprising to see how rapidly a panic will sometimes run through a country. All nations and ages have been subject to them. Britain has trembled like an ague at the report of a French fleet of flat-bottomed boats; and in the fourteenth century the whole English army, after ravaging the kingdom of France, was driven back like men petrified with fear; and this brave exploit was performed by a few broken forces collected and headed by a woman, Joan of Arc. Would that heaven might inspire some Jersey maid to spirit up her countrymen, and save her fair fellow sufferers from ravage and ravishment! Yet panics, in some cases, have their uses; they produce as much good as hurt. Their duration is always short; the mind soon grows through them, and acquires a firmer habit than before. But their peculiar advantage is, that they are the touchstones of sincerity and hypocrisy, and bring things and men to light, which might otherwise have lain forever undiscovered. In fact, they have the same effect on secret traitors, which an imaginary apparition would have upon a private murderer. They sift out the hidden thoughts of man, and hold them up in public to the world . . . ."

    YEA! And YEA AGAIN, we say!


    Scenes from Terri's Revolution, Part II

    Off the Pigs!, originally uploaded by davenoon.

    At Woodside Hospice today, protests escalated. Protestors kicked over street signs and heaved newspaper stands into the streets, creating a diversion while a small cadre of revolutionaries attempted to scale the walls of the hospice center. Michael Ford, a registered nurse keeping vigil outside the facility housing Terri Schiavo, ascended a makeshift podium and read a prepared statement to the assembled crowd:
    "It is important to emphasize that guerilla warfare is a war of the masses, a war of the people. The guerilla band is an armed nucleus, the fighting vanguard of the people. It draws great force from the mass of the people themselves. The guerilla fighter needs full help from the people in this area. This is an indispensible condition."

    Ford was followed by his wife Cheryl:
    "Any kind of action that fucks up the pigs' war and helps the people to win is a good kind of action! What we have to do is is organize and fit things together so that more people can get into the fighting in more and heavier ways - and so the people who are already fighting get the back-up help they need. This relation ship between 'illegal' (by pig law when done by non-pigs) action and legal public motion is one of key importance."

    She then grabbed a brick and heaved it through a window, as a skirmish line of police descended upon her, batons swinging furiously in the Florida sunlight . . .

    UPDATE: God bless Jesus' General for linking to this post and helping to set new records here at the Axis. As long as you're here, check out the WMD auction taking place on Yahoo. All proceeds go to Halliburton. Let's all pitch in!

    Who Says Blogging is a Waste of Time?

    My wife will be pleased to see that I've made productive use of my blogging labor, as today's Juneau Empire attests. This brings me .25 points closer to the holy grail of tenure, after which point I will lie around and smoke marijuana until I die.

    Thursday, March 24, 2005

    Scenes from Terri's Revolution

    Terri's Revolution, originally uploaded by davenoon.

    Demonstrators at Woodside Hospice decided this morning to stop singing and "fuck some shit up," according to Tim Bayly, a Presbyterian pastor from Indiana. Turning over cars and hurling flaming bags of feces at "jack-booted Nazi pigs," protestors traded their Dixie Cups of water for bottles of kerosene.

    "The agents of true revolution have decided the time for talk and song is over," Bayly shouted into a bullhorn. "We must confront and kill the Fascist Insect that Preys on the Life of the People!"


    Neocons for Terri

    The Weekly Standard goes hog wild for Terri Schiavo today, with no less than five stories from the neoconservative magazine that brought you the Iraq War. William Kristol, who sees nothing but genuine democratic indignation in this foul mess, anoints the fruitcake-bearing throngs at Woodside Hospice:

    [Americans] deserve a judiciary that is respectful of democratic self-government and committed to a genuine constitutionalism. The Bush administration should nominate such judges, and Congress should confirm them. And the president and Congress should lead a serious national debate on the distinction between judicial independence and judicial arrogance, and on the difference between judicial review and judicial supremacy. After all, we are a "maturing society," as the Supreme Court has told us. Perhaps it is time, in mature reaction to this latest installment of what Hugh Hewitt has called a "robed charade," to rise up against our robed masters, and choose to govern ourselves. Call it Terri's revolution.

    I'll tell you what Americans deserve to debate — how about a debate on false dichotomies, red herrings, question-begging, and other elementary logical fallacies? How about a debate on vacuous alliterations? Is Kristol's column being ghost-written by Peggy Noonan now? (Credit here to LG&M for the links to Noonan, who is of no relation.) "Terri's Revolution." Oh, fuck off, Bill! When did the neocons get so goddamned schmaltzy? They must be getting envious of all the fun taking place in Lebanon and Kyrgyzstan (which of course helps them not to think about all the fun taking place in Iraq). As Trotskyites at heart, they can't stand the thought of missing out on the Permanent Revolution.

    The Standard goes truly off the rails, though, when it explains that the whole Schiavo case is actually about abortion and national identity. Pounding the theme of American exceptionalism, this article explains how the theological views of a frothy minority somehow affirm the nation's founding creed:

    It was a substantive policy victory for forces opposed to the right to life (it doesn't seem accurate, in this instance, to describe these forces as "pro-choice"), but it may be a victory they come to regret. For one thing, in content it was far more an extension of the implications of legalized abortion than of assisted suicide.

    Of the whole array of anti-life agenda items, assisted suicide receives the greatest level of support in public opinion polling, undoubtedly because it is seen as the least coercive. But in the end game of the Terri Schiavo case, the longstanding assertion by her husband that Terri would welcome what was being done to her seemed at most a formality. The courts all but made explicit that the killing was not really about her wishes but only about those of her husband and legal guardian. The implication that Terri's fate was to be the choice of the husband, and of him alone, followed the form of abortion law, which puts the choice in the hands of the mother, and of no one else.

    This matters because abortion, not assisted suicide, is the mother of all American social issues. We say American, and not Russian or Chinese or British, because it is the American founding document that guarantees the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and asserts as its only authority that of the Creator--the authority of Nature and of Nature's God. If you had to pick one reason that there is a pro-life movement in America and not Europe, it is the nature of our founding.

    Did we actually need more proof that the neoconservatives (who descend from a decidedly secular intellectual tradition) are still satisfied with their gay marriage — no, not that kind of gay marriage, you activist-judge-loving deviants — to the Christian right? It's a traditional arrangement, of course. The Neocons leave home at the start of the day to run the world, while the Christians stay behind and govern the homefront. Cute couple — they've been going strong for about a decade now!

    Weird-Ass Blog of the Day

    The other day I mused about a blogger named Chris, whose wanted to "enlarge your vision" by offering a kick-ass blog sermon. I sincerely hope he succeeded in his wish to enlarge your vision. My vision, I must say, has grown especially large. In any case, it appears that I erred in my thinking that Chris was one of those bloggers who disappear quickly from the blogosphere, as if raptured by Angels. (The word "rapture," I recently learned, is derived from a Greek phrase that means "The Great Snatch." I'm not kidding.) In any event, Chris is more prolific than I thought, so I give you the URL now in hopes that you'll follow in his journey toward prosperity and promotions. Do yourself a favor and find the poetry he posts now and again. It will slay you.

    With my error in mind, I'm now interested in blogs that plod along triumphantly, with no discernible message or readership. Today's ode to derangement comes from a guy named Paul in New Jersey who writes a blog called "30 Second Magazine," which appears actually to be written in 30 second increments, most of which are incoherently preoccupied with trade or the deficit. To wit:
    Two-word seminar: dump bonds.
    Special note to foreign investors: dump Venezuelan bonds - We have lousy relations with Chavez who threatens to boycott USA trade (i.e. oil). Methinks he's on the wrong side of history and could use a compass... 

    If only I'd read this before spouting off the other day about Chávez and the Monroe Doctrine. Ah, well.

    The rest of his postings appear to be lists of his favorite people in particular states, augmented by unspeakable acts of generosity. To wit:
    Merry Christmas -- these are the names of my favoite people in Colorado: Joanna, Susanna, Brian, Benjamin, Lydia and Julia. These are the names of my favorite people in Nebraska: Lanny and Martha Rose. Tidings of Comfort & Joy are hereby bestowed on EVERYONE!

    So Paul bestows tidings of comfort and job on your asses — every last one of you — and you don't have the common decency to bestow them back? He says explicitly that EVERYONE gets comfort and/or joy, not just from anyone, but from him. (Note the formality of it all. These things are bestowed "hereby" — in other words, whatever you thought was comfort and joy before now, just fucking forget it. You are hereby on notice that your joy and your comfort — in whatever order you prefer — are insignificant compared to what has bereby been bestowed by Paul.

    I've perused this fellow's archive and have yet to come across a post with comments. This kind of persistant brilliance and generous bestowing should not go un-rebestowed. Drop in and give the man some love OK?

    Wednesday, March 23, 2005

    Auction Update

    The WMD auction over at Yahoo continues to trudge along. Bidding has risen to $57, although site visits have slowed down to a trickle. The rumors are evidently true — no one gives a fuck about Weapons of Mass Destruction. That's soooooooooooo 2003! Maybe I'll have to start selling Democracy(tm) instead.... Hmmmmm....

    Tuesday, March 22, 2005

    Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs

    More gems from The New York Times on the Schiavo case:
    Conservatives, already disdainful of the way judges have handled subjects like same-sex marriage and abortion, say the court treatment of the Schiavo case illustrates a judiciary that is willing to ignore the will of the public and elected officials.

    So let me get this straight. The "will of the public and elected officials," according to some of these conservatives, is somehow supposed to hold meaningful water in all this? What kind of populist, reality-TV view of the judiciary are these boneheads promoting? Assuming that we could effectively measure "the will of the public" on this one — and disregard the obvious point that most polls indicate that "the public" sees things a little differently than Frist and Friends — how precisely would that collective public opinion generate a desirable outcome in this case? Should we put this to a vote? Only right-wingers and people (like myself, sadly) who pay attention to right-wing media had ever heard of Terri Schiavo before last week. Are these the people whose "will" we're being asked to acknowledge?

    The significant part of that quoted passage comes in the clever elision of "the will of the public" and "elected officials." As everyone seems to have figured out by now, "the will of the people" may be translated as "the will of the Christian conservative base," and "elected officials" may be translated as "the elected officials who suckle the virgin teat of that base." Only in this sort of distorted atmosphere could Congressional conservatives pretend that this recent court decision — which was, I remind you, prompted by an unprecedented law forcing a case into federal courts— was the Satanic spawn of an "activist judge." What the fuck?

    All of this is so fucking depressing. These people don't want to overturn Roe v. Wade; they want to throttle Marbury v. Madison while they're at it. (Note to self: Next year, in History 131, spend more time discussing the Marbury case and the argument for judicial review as a necessary check against popular democratic wingnuttery.) They're going to go utterly beasty when the next round of judicial nominations come before the Senate. Feed them all to the lions, I say. That's the only kind of populist spectacle I could endorse right now.

    Sounds Like Someone Needs
    to Enlarge His Vision

    In most states, humping an unresponsive patient like this would be considered a felony:

    "One thing that God has brought to us is Terri Schiavo, to help elevate the visibility of what is going on in America," Mr. DeLay told a conference organized by the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian group. . . .

    "This is exactly the issue that is going on in America, of attacks against the conservative movement, against me and against many others," Mr. DeLay said.

    Mr. DeLay complained that "the other side" had figured out how "to defeat the conservative movement," by waging personal attacks, linking with liberal organizations and persuading the national news media to report the story. He charged that "the whole syndicate" was "a huge nationwide concerted effort to destroy everything we believe in."

    You can read all about it in The Paper of Record. Elsewhere, these guys provide a good post and discussion of the Constitutional issues involved with the Schiavo case. And for further elaboration on DeLay's remarks, you might consult this important video.

    Monday, March 21, 2005

    He's as shallow as he is devout.
    And he wants to enlarge your vision.

    So this blogging project is getting fuck-all out of control. I've been on Spring Break for the past ten days, hovering indecisively between two book projects — long story, don't bother with the details — so I've used my time (and this space) to do a little non-academic writing while I wait for an editor to give me the thumbs-up or thumbs-down on my semi-revised dissertation. As always with matters technical, I'm several years behind the curve in discovering the blogosphere, but now I'm hooked. I read Michael Bérubé with great devotion now, and I'm a big fan of Laywers, Guns and Money, and so on and so forth — you see the blogroll to your right, you're not idiots. In any case, I also just like to poke around and see the weird shit that other people toss into the vortex. Like my Uncle Fred, who pokes through baseball encyclopedias to find the guy who struck out in his one major league at bat, I seem to be fascinated today with people who write once or twice and then evaporate.

    I was in sort of a sacreligious phase last week, posting unintentionally crude sculptures of Jesus and mocking the student moral minority at my university. I have nothing specific against religious faith; as I see it, religion is a means of organizing social behavior, and as an institution I grant it no more or less validity than, say, graduate school, which also produces states of grace and wisdom, to say nothing of its soul-distorting pathologies and interpretive pettiness. And like any graduate school, American Christianity seems to encourage bad writing. So as I was pissing away my last night of Spring Break, I came across a blog so unendingly, pricelessly wretched that I can't even bear to give you all the URL. I just can't. You'll just have to trust that I'm not making this up. I can only tell you that his name was Chris. Imagine the dimmest, most ungrammatical cascade of schlocky, middle-class, self-help, corporate Jesus-chatter you've ever encountered, then add a few stray comments from someone named Lindsey — who appears to have been the only person ever to read this spool of electronic toilet paper — and you maybe get a slight creak of insight into the sort of supplicating, God-felching yoga poses this poor fool assumed with each post. From top to bottom, this fellow's contribution to the enlightenment of our world was so feeble that even he seems to have recognized that three or four posts were too many. This beatnik haze of non-sequiturs could only last so long.

    So without further meddling, I give you the comic stylings of "Chris":

    Glory to God the most high. We have got to start enlarging our vision. I started reading that Joel Osteen book tonight and I am fired up. So here we go. Do you find yourself seeing big houses nice cars, having more money, a better job, a good husband or wife. Well I am hear to tell you stop thinking it will never happen, don't be satisfied with what your parents had or what you have now. Strive for more. God wants to raise us up. He wants us to go for more. He wants us to live happy joy filled blessed lives in him. Praise God he wants you to stop that negative thinking and start believing in yourself. Lift your head up high you are a child of God. He wants us to prosper and have the very best. I am taking a stand tonight I want more from my life, I want all that God has to offer me. I am sinking my teeth in and hanging on for the ride. Are you with me. Lets see what Jesus is gonna do with us. I see my self being that supervisor, I see my self having those big family Christmas parties in my big house with my loving wonderful wife and family. I see myself doing more for Jesus. I am going on, being premoted. Are you with me do you want all God has to offer. Start speaking it start believing it. Praise God I am ready to be promoted. Lord thank you for your promotions.

    Go ahead. Just try to pick your favorite sentence there. I fucking dare you. "Praise God I am ready to be promoted." Are you kidding me? "I am sinking my teeth in and hanging on for the ride?" Go ahead — read it out loud. You'll shit yourself.

    And Now, a Shameless Promotional Stunt

    Hey, check out this amazing deal on Yahoo Auctions! Wowee!

    UPDATE: Nearly six hours into the auction, 80-odd people have taken a gander and bidding has climbed to $20, as my brother and one of my colleagues duel each other for the right to give even more unearned cash to Halliburton. A dubious honor. I'm hoping the bids stay sane this year. Last March, bidding reached $27,000 before eBay pulled the plug. hut. Don't believe me? Would my brother lie? No.

    Sunday, March 20, 2005

    The Dialectic of Unenlightenment

    David Horowitz is a fucking moron. The left-wing-nutjob-turned-right-wing-nutjob is — for those who don't follow the topsy-turvy world of higher education and politics — the driving force behind recent efforts to "diversify" academia, urging states like Colorado and Minnesota to mandate ideological diversity on university campuses by (among other things) "protecting" conservative students from the agony of hearing "uncomfortable" ideas. Flogging the trojan horse of "diversity," Horowitz and his supporters propose that states adopt some version of his "Academic Bill of Rights," which is (to quote a recently-proposed piece of legislation in Ohio) "dedicated to restoring academic freedom and educational values to America’s institutions of higher learning." In Ohio, according to state Sen. Larry Mumper, "80 percent or so of them (professors) are Democrats, liberals or socialists or card-carrying Communists" who — instead of just trading cheap, furtive sex for grades — apparently insist that students adopt their political and religious (oh, sorry, anti-religious) views before receiving their monogrammed copies of "The Little Red Songbook" and The Noam Chomsky Reader.

    As Russell Jacoby points out in The Nation, these sorts of claims lack evidentiary grounding; to use a term of art, they're bullshit. (Mumper's quote reminds me of my friend Eran, the funniest hydrologist you'll ever meet, who once told a local newspaper reporter that "73 percent of statistics are just made up on the spot." Sadly, the reporter chose not to quote this important observation.) In any event, Horowitz and friends like to argue (on the basis of very thin evidence, as Jacoby points out) that most humanities and social science faculty are "liberal" or that they tend to vote Democratic, and they suggest — but would never directly claim — that such political preferences will tend to generate a biased learning environment that makes conservative students feel, well, "uncomfortable." At places like Front Page Magazine and Students for Academic Freedom, Horowitz displays his preference for anecdotal evidence and bloviated reasoning, generating a homemade echo chamber that feeds directly into the tent revival universe of Fox News and right wing talk radio. On the SAF website, for example, Horowitz posts an open letter to the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) insisting that students' academic freedom has been "abused on an unprecedented scale" by the ogres of "political correctness"; as evidence for this mighty assertion, Horowitz invokes four anecdotal cases — two of which have been severely called into question — and a handful of unscientific opinion surveys pertaining to faculty voting preferences, which Horowitz uses to suggest the existence of a "hiring bias" against conservatives. There's no need here to review the multiple degrees of stupidity that would allow someone to draw a straight, declarative line between unscientific, anecdotal evidence and unscientific survey data. The stupidity should speak for itself. (But if it doesn't, read the Jacoby article. If that doesn't work, look at this. No, that website isn't a parody, but this is. And now that I think about it, Gargamel — yes, the bad guy from the Smurfs — was clearly promoting a right-wing agenda....)

    As Horowitz' career would suggest, he is a renowned master of adapting one rhetorical structure — that, for instance, of student radicalism, or civil rights, or liberal democracy itself — to suit the purposes of its malignant inversion. A few years back, Horowitz created a stink by taking out ads on college newspapers to propound his view that any discussion of reparations for slavery was ipso facto racist, given that black descendants of slaves never had it so good. Apparently, by taking a long enough view of things, we might conclude that the Middle Passage itself was a form of reparations, saving generations of African descendants from the brutalities of European colonialism and its foul aftermath. The recent debate about "academic freedom" is typical Horowitz, as he merely takes the most ham-fisted versions of affirmative action rhetoric (which conservatives so despise) and twists them to construe Young Republicans as the most aggrieved minority of them all. Indeed, as Horowitz sees it, the rights of students are so poorly protected on university campuses that remedial action can only come from beyond the university walls, via popular indignation and legislative intervention. To facilitate this process, Horowitz maintains a complaint form on the SAF website, where wounded conservative students can appeal for relief by describing instances in which professors crossed the line into political indoctrination.

    Your homework assignment, dear readers — all twenty of you — is to visit the complaint form and take a stand for academic freedom. And while you're there, if you can think of something else to complain about, go ahead! Maybe you can ask Horowitz why he's not concerned about the corporate dependency of higher education in an era of decreasing state support. Does Horowitz worry at all that public institutions, by relying on private sources of revenue, might somehow create an environment in which "acceptable speech" precludes criticism of their benefactors? Why does Horowitz question the "liberal bias" of disciplines like sociology or literary studies and not, say, the equally-"obvious" conservative bias of MBA programs? Or maybe you can complain about cases outside the academic world in which you've been made to feel "uncomfortable" or "threatened" by public employees — like, oh I don't know, Presidents or Secretaries of State — who manipulated "facts" in ways that promoted a political perspective that sharply differed from your own. Maybe these employees (to paraphrase the law proposed in Maine) "persistently introduce[d] controversial matter into [public discourse] that ha[d] no relation to the subject of study and that serve[d] no legitimate pedagogical purpose." Maybe, say, in a debate about Weapons of Mass Destruction, a public employee began talking about "building democracy"; or maybe someone began arguing, without a shred of sustaining evidence, that Social Security was going to be "flat busted" in less than two decades. Or maybe your public employees began producing fake news reports, and your local television station chose to broadcast them without clearly identifying them as government-sponsored propaganda?

    If not to Horowitz, to whom may we turn in defense of truth, reason, and open inquiry?

    Saturday, March 19, 2005

    "Sure, I think Wake Forest
    will make the Final Four!"

    All signs point to victory for me in the NCAA tournament pool. Sure, it's early — but I feel pretty confident that I'll walk away with the spoils a few weeks from now. I'm not sure if my brother — the one kickin' it Alberto Gonzalez style in this photo — has my current address where he can send my trophy, but it takes a while for mail to arrive in Juneau, so he should probably send that forthwith. Chop chop!

    UPDATE: My brother's wife requested that I remove the previously-posted photo from this blog. I tried to find an equally-humiliating photo of my brother, but I couldn't. So instead I offer you this porcupine, whom my dogs chased up a tree last week.

    Friday, March 18, 2005

    NC State 75 Charlotte 63

    NC State 75 Charlotte 63, originally uploaded by davenoon.

    Guess who just lost a Sweet 16 pick?


    Thursday, March 17, 2005

    Don't Be Fooled

    st pat 2, originally uploaded by davenoon.

    That's right. She's not even a year old, but already we're locked in a ferocious contest of basketball knowledge. Izzy, as she is known to the rest of the world, picked 15 out of 16 opening-round games correctly — apparently through some sort of complicated system involving Cheerios and fruit puffs — earning her top spot in the Your Logo Here group of ESPN's NCAA Tournament Challenge.

    My brother James is currently tied with me for second spot with 14 correct picks, but — just between us — he's really not much of a competitor. (How many times did I kick his ass in whiffle ball when we were kids? How many times did I simply kick his ass? Fuck off — that whole thing, it's not even worth describing.) So anyway, I figure he's toast, and the rest of the league appears to consist of, well, pinheads and speed freaks mostly, so all this makes for the predictable showdown between me and my niece, who's about 34 years younger than I am.

    And so we move toward endgame. Mark my words, Izzy. No one's fooled by this "Oh, I'm just a baby, I can't even walk yet, my brain's all mushy and growing, isn't it adorable that I picked some fucking tournament games" bullshit. "Cute," my ass. No, no, no — fuck that. No kisses for you. Defeat for you instead.

    You hear me? No kisses! Defeat!


    You Forgot Venezuela!

    It's refreshing to know that in these days of Glorious Democratic Uprising, we continue to inhabit a world in which Old Skool Imperial Skullduggery can find a festering little nook. Amid all the hub-bub about the ANWR budget provision, the Washington Post reports today that Hugo Chavez, the twice-elected Venezuelan president who speaks well of George Bush, has new cause to suspect the US of plotting to make him sleep with the fishes. Chavez, you may recall, survived a Spring 2002 coup that was quite clearly supported if not organized by the Bush Administration and most definitely celebrated by the American press, which has proven itself quite obtuse on matters of democracy and human rights. (For a good look at the NY Times on this general problem, see this book.)

    Whether or not the Chavez assassination rumors prove true — they've been reported off and on since February — the plausibility of it all is hard to miss for anyone familiar with the history of US-Latin American relations, which remain premised on variations of the Monroe Doctrine (which was largely based on the thinking of that other Presidential Son of a President, John Quincy Adams). Here's the relevant passage from Monroe's annual address to Congress in 1823:
    In the wars of the European powers in matters relating to themselves we have never taken any part, nor does it comport with our policy to do so. It is only when our rights are invaded or seriously menaced that we resent injuries or make preparation for our defense. With the movements in this hemisphere we are of necessity more immediately connected, and by causes which must be obvious to all enlightened and impartial observers. . . . We owe it, therefore, to candor and to the amicable relations existing between the United States and those powers to declare that we should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety. With the existing colonies or dependencies of any European power we have not interfered and shall not interfere. But with the Governments who have declared their independence and maintain it, and whose independence we have, on great consideration and on just principles, acknowledged, we could not view any interposition for the purpose of oppressing them, or controlling in any other manner their destiny, by any European power in any other light than as the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States.

    In other words, the corrupt, Old World nations of Europe -- mired in superstition, monarchy and sin -- must forever renounce the further colonization of the Western Hemisphere, where virtue and republicanism reign supreme. Stay, as it were, the fuck out; we, the United States, have a preponderant interest in what takes place in our backyard.

    By the beginning of the 20th century, the US had stripped the carcass of the old Spanish Empire, adding (officially or unofficially) the Philippines, Cuba, and Puerto Rico to its roster of possessions. With a renewed imperial confidence, Theodore Roosevelt -- hand resting as always on his gigantic ball sack -- saw fit in 1904 to amend the Monroe Doctrine (which, it should be noted, never achieved the status of anything more than the bulbous declaration of American Presidents and Secretaries of State. International law does not recognize these sorts of assertions with any kind of validity. But who cares about international law anyway?) In what became known as the Roosevelt Corollary, TR insisted that the independent nations of Latin America must abide by certain norms of "civilization," norms whose violation would invite swift response from the Yankee hegemon:
    It is not true that the United States feels any land hunger or entertains any projects as regards the other nations of the Western Hemisphere save such as are for their welfare. All that this country desires is to see the neighboring countries stable, orderly, and prosperous. Any country whose people conduct themselves well can count upon our hearty friendship. If a nation shows that it knows how to act with reasonable efficiency and decency in social and political matters, if it keeps order and pays its obligations, it need fear no interference from the United States. Chronic wrongdoing, or an impotence which results in a general loosening of the ties of civilized society, may in America, as elsewhere, ultimately require intervention by some civilized nation, and in the Western Hemisphere the adherence of the United States to the Monroe Doctrine may force the United States, however reluctantly, in flagrant cases of such wrongdoing or impotence, to the exercise of an international police power.

    As I frequently suggest to my students, we are living beneath the wings of an administration that has effectively globalized the Monroe Doctrine and its 1904 corollary, with consequent disregard — not to say outright disdain — for the discomforts of international law. Not all of this is Bush's doing, of course; the extension of the Monroe Doctrine into the Persian Gulf actually took place in 1980 with the Carter Doctrine, which announced that "an attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force." But while the Monroe Doctrine has been updated for the new millennium (and its new Middle Eastern battlegrounds), the old "sphere of influence" arguments with respect to Latin America still apply. Venezuela has enormous oil resources, upon which the US depends for 15% of its imports (about 1.5 million barrels a day), and has indicated that it would prefer to diversify its oil exports by selling more to nations like China. Chavez, to the unending irritation of the Bushies, is also on reasonably good terms with Castro.

    So while the US continues to insist that it will support legal, democratic measures to dispose of Chavez, more traditional scenarios — rooted, of course, in the selfless pursuit of stability and order in Our Hemisphere — are not difficult to imagine.

    For perspectives on the Venezuelan issue, see here and here.

    Wednesday, March 16, 2005

    Insert Catchy Title Here

    I'm determined not to piss away the morning, as I did yesterday, sifting through Gallup Poll charts and doing narcissistic searches on Google. Instead, I'll direct you to an interesting entry on Juan Cole's "Informed Comment," where the Professor suggests an array of blogs written by (among others) Iraqi, Iranian, and Syrian women.

    I'll also recommend Dahr Jamail an Alaskan-based independent journalist who's been writing from Iraq for the better part of the last year. He spoke last night on campus to a reasonably large crowd -- given that we're on Spring Break here, the half-full auditorium was an impressive turnout -- and spoke mostly about the two sieges of Fallujah, about which he has written quite a bit, and the "embedded" media's failure to report sufficiently on the scope of the crisis in Iraq. Altogether, the talk was quite good, though I get impatient when speakers read from previously-published material. I also get impatient with audience members who -- almost predictably at these kinds of events -- revert to the "What can we do?" line of discourse that never ceases to produce boring, unsatisfying answers. Aside from being the least interesting question you can ask someone, it's also depressing in its implications. On the one hand, these queries are symptomatic of the disenfranchised, asymmetrical relationship between ordinary citizens and the foreign policy that claims to speak in the name of their values, ambitions, lifestyles, and aspirations for humanity. (Who among us does know what to do, especially in a month that's witnessed the nominations of John Bolton and Paul Wolfowitz to positions like UN Ambassador and chief hit man for the World Bank? It's the second anniversary of the invasion of Iraq; do you know where the neocons who pimped this war are?) On the other hand, our willingness to grant oracular powers to anyone with a clip-on microphone and a PowerPoint presentation is just mystifying. Jamail was a trail guide in Denali before all this happened; he got fed up with the jingoistic reporting of the corporate media, quit his job and flew off to Baghdad. You wanna know what you can do? Be half as creative and courageous as this guy, for starters.

    Tuesday, March 15, 2005

    Evel Knievel Weighs in on the War on Terror

    So I finally did a Google search for "Axis of Evel Knievel," just to see what turned up. As expected, I was not the first person to come up with the phrase. Here, for example, are some directions from an Irish anti-war website:

    2. A piece of street theatre on the war

    'Evel Knievel' street theatre
    The street theatre can be proceed by a die-in but this is optional
    Some 'dead' are (re-)arranged in a row.
    Evel Knievel appears (figure wearing US flag is introduced by a commentator:)

    Commentator: "Oh, you know how the phrase 'axis of evil' was used by Bush, well, we have here today a representative of 'The Axis of Evel Knievel' - this includes Bush/the government of the USA, Blair/the president of the UK, and any of their allies who go to, or support, the war on Iraq. " Why 'Axis of Evel Knievel'? - Because they are trying to do some fancy but dangerous stunts to impress people, - the risks are great, - it's all up in the air (which is where the bombs would come from too), with lots of showmanship, - and a major part of it is impressing people and not losing face. - We am not impressed and neither are the bulk of the population of this globe. - Just look at the crazy stunt Evel Knievel's going to do, jumping over all these dead bodies."

    Evel Knievel on (push) bike gets set up to 'jump' over the dead bodies. Roll of drums Evel Knievel cycles towards bodies.

    Just as gets close to bodies Evel Knievel brakes to almost stop as simultaneously 3 - 4 people jump in front of the bodies, grab bike, lift him off and hold him - and the dead get up and walk because Evel has been stopped.

    Commentator; "Evel has been stopped! If we work together we can stop Evel!" (or some other possibly less cringe-making comment!)

    My lack of originality was hardly surprising. I did not, however, expect to discover that Evel Knievel himself stands firmly with the 27% who advocate dropping the bomb. Thus spake Evel:
    Bomb ’em! Bomb the bastards! We have to do that. Now, military question: When it is time to bomb, people say we should let all of the women and children go. All right, so let’s let all of the women and children through the lines of containment. So when it’s time to drop the bomb, the American soldiers run for the desert, behind the women and children, so that they don’t get bombed, right? But that’s not the real problem. What are we going to do with those women and children that we sent into the desert with no food and no water? We have to be responsible human beings. But I say, unless we drop the bomb—and I know this is a horrible statement to make—and kill them all and set a precedent, they are going to kill us.

    And to think — when I was six years old, I wanted a lunchbox with him on it!

    Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

    Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, originally uploaded by davenoon.

    Gallup Rorschasch blot here -- do you see this as GOOD NEWS or BAD NEWS?


    When all you have is a hammer,
    everything looks like a nail

    This latest bit of good tidings comes from the good folks at Gallup, who observe that while most Americans oppose military action against the New and Improved Axis of Evil (North Korea, Iran, and Syria), Republicans continue to lead the charge in our Great Selfless War for Democratic Globalization. (Note: You can access this poll and others by setting up a free 30-day subscription. Or you can take my word on this.)

    Republicans Most Willing to Back Military Action

    For all three countries, opinion of military action varies along partisan lines. Republicans are significantly more likely than independents and Democrats to say they would favor military action:

    Forty-six percent of Republicans would favor military action in North Korea, compared with 26% of independents and 23% of Democrats.

    Forty-three percent of Republicans would favor military action in Iran, compared with 23% of independents and 17% of Democrats.

    Thirty-nine percent of Republicans would favor military action in Syria, compared with 23% of independents and 13% of Democrats.

    *These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,008 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Feb. 25-27, 2005. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

    The people responding affirmatively to these questions are also -- as Gallup demonstrates elsewhere -- are also the folks willing to sink the nation even further into debt by privatizing Social Security (62% of Republicans think this would be a "good idea") and making Bush's tax cuts permanent. These are also the people who live in Gumdrop Forest, where magical Neo-Liberal Free Market Fairies sprinkle the world with a fine, sugary coat of denial.

    Monday, March 14, 2005

    Back Pain and Class Warfare

    So my wife and I are both enduring some back pain today -- mine from sitting at the computer too much, my wife's from snowboarding for the first time this past weekend. Both of us have, in the past, made extensive use of the services of a local chiropractor. This fellow helped me tremendously my first year in this little town. A month after we moved here, I injured my back while throwing myself across a couch in a desperate, thoughtless attempt to kill our cat Herbert, and after several rounds of thrice-weekly visits, I was once again able to move around without screeching in agony. For the next year, I gratefully dropped by his office for regular "maintenance adjustments" and the occasional massage from a guy who sported the most cavernous chin divot I have ever seen, an awesome puncture that created a permanently-unshavable wad of fuzz half an inch below his lower lip. These were eminently decent people with whom I shared utterly nothing in common aside from a mutual interest in the alignment of my L4/5 and C2/3 vertebrae; the place was staffed largely by Mormons, three of whom out of four nationwide supported George W. Bush in the past two elections. When the office's annual Christmas letter arrived in our mailbox, it was larded with wholesome, reverential holiday clichés and updates on his son's efforts to banish heathen spirits from Maui and other lairs of tropical sin.

    Like a lot of people who find out that I teach US history, my chiropractor tried repeatedly to engage me in conversations about military history and the nation's founders, which are two of the three predicatable default topics — the third one being the Civil War — preferred by ordinary shlubbos (mostly men) who enjoy the diarrhea-spray of mass-market historical writing. I spent as much time as possible deflecting these questions, mostly because I know little (and care even less) about military history, and because my approach to the founders is perhaps illuminated best by the student who creamed me on a course evaluation once for not sufficiently emphasizing their "greatness." It's all quite simple: I am suspicious of foundational moments and military campaigns alike because they invariably liquidate alternative possibilities for envisioning a decent and egalitarian world, and because we use atrocious words like "destiny" to validate and preserve those moments in amber. It is difficult, however, to say these sorts of things to people who are relentlessly cheerful about the direction of the universe, much less to large men whose job it is to pound your spine back to health. (Besides, many Mormons wear magic underpants, a fact that I could never get out of my head when we were speaking.) So we'd chat amiably and vaguely about World War II planes or the latest biography of John Adams, and that would be that.

    For reasons that have nothing to do with religion or World War II, however, I stopped seeing the chiropractor sometime in the Spring of 2003, and I have yet to return. We have sworn off the care of this doctor because he used one of George W. Bush's abominable tax incentives to write off the Humvee he now uses to drive around town. Although Congress tightened the loophole in 2004, small business owners can still write off gigantic, useless vehicles to the tune of $25,000. As near as I can tell, my chiropractor purchased the Hummer while the cap was set at $100,000. This is, I remind you, a small town in Alaska. We have a mere 40 miles of roads and nothing to justify the purchase of a vehicle that symbolizes the worst hybrid of arrogant militarism, loathsome status-consumerism, and appalling disregard for the future of everything. In a place like this, at a time when the US is ready to drill pointlessly into the Arctic — all the while a war roils onward in the Persian Gulf — my former chiropractor toodles around in his magic underpants, flushing a shit-stream of tax savings downhill, his middle finger extended triumphantly from a vehicle that begs to be interpreted as an instrument of prosthetic masculinity.

    Meantime, my back is curling into a mighty hump.

    Sunday, March 13, 2005

    So Many Memories...

    Well, this dessicated little blog has been moping along for a full week now, and I'm a few clicks away from topping 600 hits -- a third of which have probably been my own, as I neurotically repost entries after microscopically fucking with the wording and sentence structure, or as I pop in to see if anyone cares about Greek drama or has taken the time to contribute a sacreligious caption yet.

    I haven't yet clarified the identity of this project, but I have decided that each Sunday, I will change the AEK banner description in honor of the pithiest comment left the previous week. In addition to getting mad props, each week's winner will receive a pig's breakfast of prizes, including the home edition of "Axis of Evel Knievel," and $100 worth of Iraqi dinars, whose value this detestable website promises will rise with the emergence of democracy and free markets in Babylon. Oh, and I will tattoo your name on my ass jailhouse style.

    And this week's winner is...

    "Some Guy," who offered this bit of devastating wisdom in response to Wednesday's Lysistrata/Red State moral values post:
    "Don't ask me about how to fairly grade someone who is opposed to the basic civil arrangement of the entire post-industrial world, let alone how one comments on flaws in logic to someone who willfully suspends the need to offer reasons."

    Fucking brilliant, my friend. I may have to steal this for use on all subsequent course syllabi. Way to go, "Some Guy." You're on the road to blogospheric fame. Now where's my rubbing alcohol...?

    You Forgot Poland!

    Coalition of the dwindling.

    Saturday, March 12, 2005

    My Wife Calculates the Demerits of Blogging

    My wife — as suggested in an earlier post — has profound suspicions about the consequences of this blog. The other day, she framed those doubts ever-so-selflessly by contending that my long-winded, profane musings might distract me from my research projects, each of which chips away like an ice-pick at the base of my skull. Yesterday, however, the truth disclosed itself, desperate and unvarnished, when my wife conceded that my blogging activity was more likely than anything to interfere with my husbandly duties, which apparently include all sorts of ridiculous obligations such as:

    1. Rubbing her feet.
    2. Preparing food and coffee.
    3. Composing impromptu sonnets attesting to my wife's charm and beauty.
    4. Making up bedtime stories about our dogs.
    5. Wheeling her around in a rickshaw.
    6. Dancing for nickels on her command.

    All of this, apparently, is covered by the segment in our wedding vows that promised something to the effect that we would "tenderly care" for each other. Sounds like a bunch of fucking bullshit to me. I want a legal interpretation of that phrase.

    Now the wife has threatened to "go nuclear," as they say, and outsource these responsibilities for which I am clearly no longer suited. So the other night, while I wrote about my teenage pot-haven disappearing in a ball of crystal meth-fueled flame, Angela squirmed uncomfortably on the couch and announced that she was going to find someone else to do my job. As she so gracelessly put it, "I should find someone on the internet. Some fucking lunatic will want to rub my feet all day long."

    Any takers?

    Friday, March 11, 2005

    Christ's Love:
    The Only Renewable Resource You Need

    Yesterday, I noodled a bit about the seeming incongruity between Alaska's performance as a traditionally Western political space and its membership in (as the famous post-2K4 election map put it) "Jesusland." I mused about the Alaska Republican Party platform and its vocal commitment to "Creation Science" as an alternative to, you know, reality. And I wondered why the state, which depends so much on the fossil-fuels left behind by, uh, dinosaurs, would put itself on the straight line of scientific ignorance that connects anti-evolutionary trailer parks like Texas and Georgia. Historically, there have been important political differences between the resource-driven, "extractive" cultures of the Trans-Mississippi West and the heavy-duty Protestant evangelical regions of the so-called "Bible Belt." While they share certain features -- for example, the Bible Belt has always relied on "extractive industries" of its own (cotton and wheat farming, for example, or iron in Alabama and Virginia) that produce "Western"-like dumbells of wealth distribution -- the South and the West have always maintained unique and distinctive political cultures. Historically, they have often shared little more than a mutual resentment toward the "Northeastern elites" who rule them from afar. Sometimes they join hands, but the union is wider than it is deep, which is why those idiotic "Red Nation" maps disguise more than they reveal. Usually.

    The presence of oil in Alaska, I would argue, complicates this big time. Since the 1973 embargo, a certain segment of the Christian Evangelical movement in the US has become utterly obsessed with the relationship between the oil-rich resources of the Middle East and the End Times as prophesied in Daniel, Ezekiel, Thessalonians I and II, and Revelation. Just check out any of your favorite nutbag prophecy and current events websites and see for yourself. On the basis of NO CONCRETE EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER, I am willing to hypothesize that there now exists a "political unconscious" in the US that grants the oil fields of Alaska a certain theological status -- and I mean that quite literally. This goes beyond the obvious free-market genuflections and sacramental displays of nationalism that have always defined our peculiar civil religion. Now that we're about to fuck the caribou in ANWR (and I mean that quite figuratively), the traditional secular view of natural resources is perhaps ready to get all scrambled James Watt style.

    So if Jesus is coming soon, why fear the environmental damage that inevitably follows the extractive industries of the West? And if Jesus is coming soon, why bother to teach a biological perspective that suggests a natural world loping ever-onward, bearing and adapting to the vicissitudes of human action and undesigned circumstance? Marginalizing evolutionary science, ripping up the Arctic? It all brings us Closer to Thee, my Lord.

    Thursday, March 10, 2005

    Just Speculatin'

    In October 2003, I appeared on "Talk of Alaska," a statewide radio call-in program that deals mostly with public affairs and issues of broad interest to Alaskans (e.g., where to find more oil, where to go shoot wolves from helicopters, where to lure bears with Twinkies so they can be shot and turned into rugs, where to spend the cascade of federal dollars that keep this state afloat, etc.). The topic that morning was the USA Patriot Act and a rather toothless joint resolution passed the previous May that clarified the state's opposition to any federal law infringing upon the privacy rights of Alaskans (rights which are specifically enshrined in the state constitution). One of my "opponents" during that program was a Republican representative from the Anchorage area -- the most populous region of the state -- who voted against the resolution for all kinds of nutty reasons unworthy of anything more than fleeting mention. At one point in the discussion, this fellow announced that he had heard some things coming out of my mouth that sounded "subversive of the government." However, this doddering sap was the lone voice of McCarthyite paranoia in the entire Republican delegation; the rest of his colleagues, under the suasion of the Black Helecopter quadrant of the Republican Party, voted with all the hippies to limit the power of "Big Guv'mint," perceived here less as a threat to the civil liberties of immigrants, library patrons and global justice activists than as a looming peril to the mighty Individual who collects assault rifles, grudgingly pays his taxes and fantasizes about living off the grid. This was the only way an anti-Ashcroft city resolution could be passed in a city like Fairbanks, where the local chapter of the NRA shared bong hits with the ACLU on their way to victory. That was a real Conan O'Brien "If they Mated" moment.

    But there's one aspect of Alaska's Republican political culture that kneels in beneficent supplication to a power higher than the monadic Individual. I have just spent the last hour reading innumerable state Republican Party platforms, just to see if any come close to topping the cavernous stupidity of the Alaska Republican party stance on education. More specifically -- apropos of James' links to Dr. Dino's Creation Science page -- I was curious to see how many state GOPs vaulted the teaching of "creationism" to the highest levels of political sanctity, an idea as worthy of defense as the rocky, oil-stained shores of the Motherland itself.

    In Alaska, this is what the GOP platform has to say about science:

    "We support giving Creation Science equal representation with other theories of the origin of life. If evolution is taught, it should be presented as only a theory."

    My own unsystematic research has turned up very few comparable statements in state GOP platforms around the nation. Missouri offers the following bit of guidance:

    "[The state Republican Party supports] Empowering local school districts to determine how best to handle the teaching of creationism and the theory of evolution."

    Here's Texas:

    "Scientific Theories: The Party supports the objective teaching and equal treatment of scientific strengths and weaknesses of all scientific theories, including Intelligent Design, as Texas law now requires but has yet to enforce.  The Party believes theories of life origins and environmental theories should be taught only as theories not fact; that social studies and other curriculum should not be based on any one theory."

    Iowa's 2004 GOP platform reads:

    "We believe that the local choice to teach creation science, or intelligent design science, should be allowed in government schools rather than exclusively teaching evolution as the only viable theory. We also believe that tax funded libraries should include creation science materials on the shelves.

    And finally, Oklahoma's 2004 GOP platform reads:

    "We believe that in public schools where evolution is taught, creationism should be taught as well. We support disclaimers on any state-funded science textbook that treats evolution as fact rather than theory."

    But few other states -- even the ones I would consider among the most pious, the ones most likely to retain steady population data after the Rapture -- have anything comparable. (Then again, isn't five enough? What if five states mandated that anthropologists teach Pliny as valid ethnographic "theory?") Kansas, at least today, does not have its official platform up on the state party website, so we can only imagine what kinds of Young Earth frothings might appear there. Nebraska and Colorado didn't have working sites, and Ohio, South Dakota, Florida, Georgia and North Dakota don't have links to their platforms at all. (Which leads me to wonder how someone like myself might actually find out if my beliefs harmonize with those of the Florida Republican Party.) But as for Idaho, Wisonsin, South Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Indiana -- just a few of the states that posted their platforms online -- nothing from 2004 had so much as a whisper about evolution.

    To paraphrase Thomas Frank, "What's the matter with Alaska?" Why would a state whose political hue is so firmly derived from the predictably cantankerous, irreverent, crotch-grabbing political culture of the Trans-Mississippi West find itself so visibly committed to the proposition that Noah brought baby velociraptors onto the Ark? (Is that, incidentally, what happened to all the unicorns?)

    I have a few unresearched, non-tested, lunatic theories of my own, but I'll save them for later. In the meantime, feel free to offer your own....

    Wednesday, March 09, 2005

    They Don't Believe in Dinosaurs

    I teach at a small, public, liberal arts university, where a diverse student body eagerly pursues an ever-proliferating range of degrees. We have a library; we have a computer lab; we have dormitory buildings and a student activity center; we have data projectors and audiovisual carts in every classroom; the campus is fully wireless, and students can be seen writing papers, dowloading porn and bum fights as they build their minds for the 21st century. We are, in other words, fully and unapologetically modern. Here, faculty and students collaborate in the pursuit of excellence with cutting-edge technology and millions of dollars in federal aid.

    At our fair university, however -- hip and solid and right on though we may be -- we aren't afraid of dropping knowledge Old Skool style either. That's why we're putting on a performance of Aristophanes' Lysistrata, the final act in a trilogy of plays about a war that drags on for twenty-one years. In Lysistrata, the women of Athens -- fed up with the killing and the burning and the father-stabbing and the mother-raping -- decide to bring the war to a swift conclusion by witholding sexual favors until the men comply. It takes little imagination to recognize the continuing relevance of all this, especially in a nation that has committed itself to an open-ended war on a noun, and which has moreover committed you and me to spending $5-6 billion a year developing new forms of weapons including "baby nukes" (1 megaton each) and "robust nuclear earth-penetrators" (fallaciously described as "bunker busters"), all of which promise to sow discord and anguish farther into the future than even the Greeks could conceive.

    Plus, it's fucking Aristophanes, who's always good for a laugh, 2500 years after the fact. (Full disclosure: While I have read Lysistrata, I once wrote high school book report for the now-deceased Mr. Robert Brill about Aristophanes' Frogs, which I did not in fact read.)

    One might think that the combination of (a) social relevance and (b) general awesomeness of the play would be sufficient to earn Student Government support in the form of a little extra cash to offset production and promotional costs. Not, however, when your student government imagines itself as midwife to the Holy Republic. Evidently, some of the UAS student government leaders -- those who are avowedly Christian and pro-Bush -- have determined that the anti-war and sexual themes of the play render it too controversial to merit funding; they met yesterday to decide the issue, and after much debate, sobriety held sway and the play was given $500. The wider issue, of course, has to do with the manner in which this little flap touches ground with the obnoxious "moral values" discourse -- enveloping everything from Janet Jackson's breast to John Ashcroft's blue-draping of Lady Justice's own wardrobe malfunction -- as well as the recent push by wingnuts like David Horowitz to mandate the "protection" of conservative ideas on college campuses. None of this has emerged in any full-blown, organized way, but who knows what may be wrought on our tiny little campus? An e-mail from a colleague (who spoke in favor of the play at yesterday's meeting) puts is thusly:

    On a more sober note, there's been a creeping fundamentalism among the student body over the last couple years. Last fall I had a student tell me she couldn't read or watch Lysistrata for "moral" reasons. I let her read an alternate play (I was caught off guard), but decided that's not how to deal with this kind of thing. Now I put a clause in my drama syllabus advising students not to take the course if they think they'll have problems with controversial issues and pointing out that grappling with such issues through artistic media is a way of exploring and understanding them. I think the students got a lot more than they thought they were voting for with this SG: a self-appointed panel of censors. I hadn't realized it at the time, but they didn't support the Vagina Monologues performance last month for "moral" reasons. It's scary and needs to be combatted.