Deep Underground with Raul Groom

Friday, January 28, 2005

Social Absurdity

I haven't gotten into the Social Security thing much, because the whole thing is just absurd. It's a fake crisis, very dishonest, but among things Bush is trying to do it ranks pretty low. It doesn't really matter.

That said, it's obviously a big deal in the public debate right now, so I am linking to this Krugman interview that basically tells you what you need to know.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Sy Hersh is Scary

A chilling vision of our common peril. Not for the faint of heart.

Monday, January 24, 2005

George W. Bush is a Pompous Ass

Well, I got a few things done - dumped the backups, both regular and weird, and upgraded our last domain controller to Windows 2003. Now it's time for the real meat of the operation - cleaning my office. Always a major pain, it's worse than ever this time because I recently got a new desk, and the contents of the old desk are strewn about the place as bleached bones of purest lye (that one's for you, Greatness.)

George W. Bush is an Ignorant Sociopath

This is pretty corny, so I apologize in advance, but there are a couple last things at work that I've been putting off that I absolutely must get done. As a way to motivate myself and track my progress, I will be posting my exploits on the blog in lieu of political commentary. To tide you over I will be titling all the posts with vague, unsubstantiated opinions and linking the posts to articles that I feel will allow the reader to understand where I'm coming from.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Top 10 Signs of a Free and Fair Election

Longtime readers know I'm no fan of Ahmed Chalabi, but I think someone should have a talk with the Iraqi government about how it looks when you arrest a candidate nine days before an election. It's just not done.

Blog of the Week #2 - Whackademia!

This week's Blog of the Week is Whackademia, a group blog organized by the Albino Bloodsucking Striped Elf. The purpose of the site is still rather vague, since we have not yet ponied up a mission statement, but it would seem from popular usage that the point is mostly to post about weird science shit and then argue with each other about it.

The guidelines for the site include a soft ban on "politics," but since the four bloggers come from extremely divergent political points of view, it was inevitable that we would get into it over sources sooner rather than later.

And indeed, very early on The Greatness posted an article from the esteemed publication Tech Central Station. Tech Central Station is one of many, many apparently "libertarian-themed" websites on the internet that is actually under the direct control of the RNC media machine.

Indeed, from looking at the funding sources for much of the libertarian movement's media, one could be forgiven for wondering if what is these days thought of as big-L Libertarianism might not in fact be some sort of Republican PR campaign designed to inject radical noninterventionist (economic only, of course) ideas into the discourse without having to claim any real responsibility for them.

For those readers who are not aware, I was once a big-L Libertarian, and I was on a lot of email lists where every morning you would get a long menu of links to whatever anti-market outrages the overeducated liberal establishment was trying to foist off on meat-eating, god-fearing Americans that particular day. It was actually these lists themselves that drove me from the Libertarian party, since over time, much of what I was being told by these venerable organizations turned out to be false or at best extremely misleading.

To be fair, there are genuinely independent libertarian organizations. Cato Institute is one, though even they have close ties to Rupert Murdoch and other bastions of the RNC Mighty Wurlitzer. Reason Magazine seems fairly independent, though it is tough to get hard information on where their money comes from, and the Reason Foundation does happen to have a picture of Jeb Bush on the front page of their website.

But on the whole, particularly given the massive amount of funding available to Libertarians compared with the extremely anemic electoral representation of same (at any level of government), one has to wonder to what degree Libertarianism is itself a phenomenon distinct from the role it plays in advancing the Republican agenda.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Truth is Funnier than Fiction

Every blog in the universe is linking to this, but there's a reason for that - it's hilarious.

The Bloodbath Strategy

Over halfway through the month of January, it's become pretty clear that the U.S. is adhering to the strategy I predicted in this space a few weeks ago. Resistance bombings are way up, but American casualties are down - this is shaping up to be the lowest month for U.S. casualties since last summer.

What this suggests is that U.S. troops are planning a very low profile for the elections in two weeks, and that most of the casualties on election day, which could be massive, will be among the faceless Iraqi Defense Forces and not U.S. soldiers.

Here is a pretty good article in Der Spiegel about the elections and how they are being contested. A couple of things stand out for me - one is that Allawi's party, which is known to have close to zero popular support, appears to be doing pretty well with its media management. This suggests to me that he has U.S. media consultants working for him, since it is hard to imagine where he would have picked up a lot of PR skills in his career as an Baath official and later CIA spy.

My hunch would be that in a lawless environment like the one likely to prevail on January 30th, the CIA will have an advantage over the DoD because the tactics the CIA can use are more diverse than what's available to the military. That should mean Allawi has an advantage over Chalabi, but...

The wild card in the whole situation is Porter Goss. The key question is this: to what degree has Goss taken control of the Agency? If he has gained a great deal of control (which is doubtful but not impossible) it's likely that the CIA will not interefere decisively on Allawi's behalf, and his party will be somewhat hamstrung during the Constitution-writing process.

It will be very interesting to watch exactly what unfolds on January 30th. The biggest mistake the U.S. has made so far is making the assumptions that the resistance will pursue the same sorts of tactics that the U.S. would pursue in a similar situation. Thus the military is probably prepared for a campaign of violence and intimidation at polling places on January 30th, since we have a long history of that kind of intervention in Latin America and elsewhere - it works pretty well.

But there are other options available to the resistance. They may choose, for example, to attack not the polling places themselves but the convoys that will be transporting the ballots to the counting locations. Such a tactic would be difficult to defend and presumably would expose American soldiers to attack.

Another big danger is that there is a significant fifth column within the Iraqi Defense Force that is planning a surprise reversal of loyalty on election day. This danger is particularly acute because the U.S., in the course of implementing the "hands off" approach in January, has had to recall large numbers of formerly disbanded Iraqi army battalions in a very big hurry. For the first time on January 30th, the IDF forces will have heavy weapons that would make them only a slight theoretical underdog in a direct confrontation with the Americans.

Of course, the potential also exists that the resistance will choose not to significantly disrupt the elections at all. Particularly depending on the degree to which the resistance is being supported by Iran, a Shi'ite-dominated constitutional parliament, particularly one significantly influenced by Ahmed Chalabi, might actually be their best shot at getting rid of the U.S. in short order. To know whether this is realistic, we would have to know the actual degree to which the resistance is truly dominated by Sunni ex-Baathists, which of course we have no way of knowing.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Blog of the Week #1 - The Poor Man

This week I bring you The Poor Man, a blog that will always be near and dear to my heart because it is butt-ugly, the guy obviously knows little or nothing about HTML, and yet the blog is widely read, somewhat respected, and often sidesplittingly funny. In other words, it's what I dream this blog could one day become.

The Poor Man, then, is a little like my virtual Brian Brennan. For those of you out there who are not up on your obscure Browns trivia, Brian Brennan was a wide receiver for the Cleveland Browns in the mid-80's, during what Browns fans refer to wistfully as "The Bernie Kosar Era."

What made Brennan so wonderful? Brian Brennan was goofy, Brian Brennan was white, and Brian Brennan was slow. He really had nothing going for him except that he could catch absolutely anything, which is a skill that can be cultivated with practice. Thus Brian Brennan inspired me to become the greatest wide receiver I could possibly be.

Of course, the greatest wide receiver I could possibly be was not particularly good. However, it did eventually result in the greatest moment of my adolescent sporting career - at a Thanksgiving Day pickup game at one of the local high schools, I actually got picked. Not "OK, we'll take this goofy white guy, you get the guy in the wheelchair" but "we'll take the goofy white guy, he has good hands."

I will never forget that moment, though it would be nice if I could forget the game, which called the talent evaluation skills of our team captain into considerable question. We got massacred. It got so bad that I, head swelled with pride from actually being selected, actually being preferred over other able-bodied people in a sporting event, took over the reins of our offense for three extremely ignominious drives, which ended fumble (mine), interception (mine - bad throw), interception (mine - bad decision).

But never mind all that. For one brief, shining moment, it was Camelot.

Just as Brian Brennan inspired me to become the best bad wide receiver I could be, so does the Poor Man inspire me to become the best bad blogger I can be. Thanks, Poor Man. Blog on with your bad self. Blog on.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

First you get the money...

Great article in the NYT today by the sometimes-good Frank Rich, who comes through with one of the most caustic (and on-target) mainstream criticisms of the modern media that I've seen in a while.

The money quote is here:

"[T]he press portray themselves as objective observers of the passing scene, when they obviously are not objective."
- Dick Cheney, 2003, appearing as a guest on Armstrong Williams' show during the same month in which the Bush Administration offered Williams hundreds of thousands of dollars in clandestine payola in return for promoting their education initiative on his TV show.

You could make this stuff up, but no one would believe it.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Bad Blog of the Day - Deep Underground with Raul Groom

After giving the matter much thought, I have decided to discontinue the Bad Blog of the Day feature. I got some negative feedback from readers and no positive feedback, and as Dan pointed out, I can't afford to antagonize my readers as there are only a handful of you.

So it's out. The final Bad Blog of the Day is Deep Underground with Raul Groom. On this blog, some crazed libertarian socialist idiot is just ranting on and on about nothing. There are no pictures and no interesting features except a Bad Blog of the Day which everyone agrees was a bad idea. The only way you would ever find the blog interesting is if you were actually interested in what this wanker had to say.

In any case, I think I'll change the feature to simply be a "Blog of the Week." This is something I wanted to do a while back but couldn't due to trouble with the template. I'll put one blog in the Blog of the Week box and then at the end of the week I'll move it to the Links box.

Meanwhile, I'll be returning to pillorying (that's really how you spell it) professional right-wingers, as in the next post concerning some deranged rantings I found stuck to the bottom of the Web's shoe, or, as the editors prefers I refer to it, at the National Review Online.

Monday, January 10, 2005


Vampire Elf pointed out to me that, had I looked a little closer at CAO's blog, I would have noticed that the "he" pronoun is probably not appropriate; CAO seems to be a woman. The Underground regrets the error.

Bad Blog of the Day - CAO's Blog

The Bad Blog of the Day comes to us in a nomination from alert reader CAO, who nominated his own blog Friday in a fit of sudden cognitive clarity. At least, I think he was nominating his own blog. It was not particularly clear exactly what he was trying to say in his comment. However, the charitable interpretation is that he was nominating CAO's blog for today's Bad Blog of the Day.

CAO's blog is a smorgasborg of poorly thought-out interpretations of standard right-wing claptrap, mixed with the occasional undecipherable screed. It is right purty, I will admit.

CAO's most recent post is a reproduction of a piece of RNC Dupemail currently clogging the world's mail servers. For those not familiar with Dupemail, it's an email that's produced and forwarded to mailing lists of sympathetic Dupes who immediately believe what it says because it fits into their normal modes of thinking so effortlessly that it simply must be true.

Thus CAO's blog is particularly apropos given the topic of the day. Note the many fine propaganda points in this clearly made-up story about liberal bitchiness:

The article [in the 'company newsletter'] then continued, listing employees who had a family member serving in Iraq and Afganistan. From what I remember, we’ve got about a dozen of those. There’s a pretty good spread too. From the lowest manual labor job, up through managers and Department heads, there are folks who’ve got a son, or brother, or husband serving in a war zone. That’s what made what I saw later the same day all the more amazing.

How heartwarming. It's not just the poor saps who have family in harm's way, goodness no. Everyone's taking a hit, from those lowly manual labor types up to "Department heads." I suppose alleging that the family member of a CEO was off in Iraq would strain even virtually limitless Dupe credulity.

Later we find out some silly liberal chick has an anti-recruitment poster up at her desk saying that "You can't be all that you can be when you're DEAD" and reminding readers that there are other ways to get money for college than enlisting in the military.

Leaving aside the question of what exactly is wrong with the idea expressed in the poster, let's examine the chances of this story actually being a true account of events that really happened on this planet. First of all, according to the story this company has "about a dozen" employees with a family member serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. Since there are about 144,000 such soldiers with family in the states (the remainder are actually foreign nationals offered citizenship and other incentives to join, though I am certain they come from all across the socioeconomic spectrum in their home countries, just like their U.S. counterparts), that means that about 1/12,000th of the soldiers currently serving in Iraq are related to people who work at this company. We can thus conclude that this is a large workplace (or has an unusually high incicence of servicepeople's familymembers), employing many hundreds, even thousands of people. If that's the case, why don't we learn the name of the company? There's no risk of identifying the lone tech support guy who penned the email. Of course, maybe the guy is just a little paranoid.

There are more problems with the story. Personally, I work in one of the most liberal corporate cultures in the country. Several very important senior people at my office are out lesbians. Democrats probably outnumber Republicans at least 5 to 1, and I would imagine Greens probably rival Republicans. Yet I know that even in my office, a poster like that would cause a major stir. The poster is potentially offensive, for the reasons the email alludes to. I am confident that if I put up such a poster in my office, I would soon be asked to take it down, probably by the sculpted ex-Marine (and staunch Democrat) in the office across the hall.

So where exactly is this enormous company with a dozen military family members that has such a liberal office decoration policy that it allows materials that would be considered out of bounds in one of the most liberal workplaces in the country?

Like the settings for innumerable other Dupemail stories, the office doesn't exist. The poster itself might - it was probably spotted at some antiwar protest or another.

Using made-up stories to illustrate pleasing points is a time-honored tradition among politicians of all stripes. But the technique has become so pervasive on the right that a bona fide alternative reality has been created, in which true believers have their worldview shaped largely by fictional events. You'll notice this bleeding over into right-wing logical systems in unexpected ways. In tomorrow's Bad Blog, we'll take a look at a surprising and humorous manifestation of this alarming trend.

The Doctrinal System

Bring up Noam Chomsky with an educated person and you will soon have a freak-out on your hands. If the person with whom you are trying to discuss Noam's work is to the right of center, the freak-out will begin when you utter the words "Noam Chomsky" and will include much screeching and rending of garments. This can be enjoyable to witness, but it's not a good starting point for an interesting conversation.

If, on the other hand, your victim is to the left of center, you'll be able to travel pretty far down Noam Avenue without inducing a freak-out. In fact, mainstream lefty types will generally tolerate a little Noam, as long as you stick to safe topics like why the Iraq war was an enormous idiocy perpetrated my an enormous idiot.

The trouble begins when you begin to venture toward Noam's ideas about what he calls the "doctrinal system" (not his term), that is, the acceptable boundaries of mainstream debate and the mechanism of their enforcement.

The reason this is a sore subject is that most people are very attached to certain ideas about how they form their own opinions. It is painful to be confronted with evidence that the underpinnings of so-called "rational" debate might come from somewhere other than our culture, our values, or free thought based on dispassionate evaluation of the available evidence.

The discussion of indoctrination is difficult, because we are all implicated. Even radical leftists, who are well acquainted at least with the concept of indoctrination, have trouble with this idea. I remember once having a heated discussion with a friend in the antiwar movement who had just held forth at length about the importance in overcoming indoctrination. Unfortunately his rememdy, which to his credit he described in detail right alongside his description of the problem, was essentially to re-indoctrinate people with the "right" beliefs. In the activist community this propaganda activity (which has its place) is commonly called "outreach."

Eventually I was able to get this friend to admit that what he was recommending was not de-indoctrination but re-indoctrination. The part that I couldn't convince him of, that he indeed appeared willing to start a fistfight over in the little Adams Morgan Salvadoran place where we were eating, was that we ourselves also hold indoctrinated beliefs, and cling to a certain doctrinal system from which we find it difficult to escape.

In normal life, one's own indoctrination is, by definition, invisible. It is the set of assumptions we use to evaluate the universe, what Robert Anton Wilson and others call our "reality-tunnel." But the analysis and investigation of one's own doctrinal system is the very essence of the evolution of human thought, both within a particular individual and through the generations. However difficult it is to examine the underpinnings of our thought systems, we MUST do it. On this all depends.

Reading Leonard Peltier's letters in bed last night, I was struck by his simple and essentially irrefutable description of a major portion of the United States' doctrinal system. I paraphrase it below, but I will warn you in advance - you will not like it. It reveals a part of our reality-tunnel that is something approaching psychotic, and yet I would be surprised to find a single editorial or news article in the Washington Post or New York Times that did not adhere very closely to this convention:

When the United States military slaughters essentialy defenseless people, this is called "intervention."
When those people resist to the best of their limited ability, inflicting nominal casualties on the United States (compared to massive casualties on the side of the people on whose behalf we are intervening) this is called "war."
The soldiers who fight on the side of the United States are called "heroes." It is universally accepted that no matter what our feelings about the motivations or justifications for the war (that is, whether the war is right or wrong), we owe these people a great debt. Those who fight on the side of the people being slaughtered are called "terrorists." It is universally accepted that no matter what our feelings about the motivations or justifications for the resistance, we owe these people nothing but death.

What is to be done about this? The very question is a trap. Nothing can be done about it, at least not directly. It is easy to see the indoctrination of others. It is also useless. The psychotic bleating of those withing the doctrinal system should serve only to remind us that if we could see ourselves as we truly are, we would realize that this is also what we are like.

What is frightening about this is that to most people, the above implies that there must be some sort of top-down conspiracy to indoctrinate people into these insane beliefs and conceal the reality of the situation. This is considered (correctly, in my view) to be absurd.

Indeed, if Chomsky himself has a weakness, it is that he seems to cling to a few tattered pieces of the idea that there is someone or some group of someones at the top of the doctrinal system beaming these ideas down consciously to the population through the educated classes. This model cannot easily be refuted (though as many have found, it is blissfully easy to dismiss it out of hand) but it has long been my belief that this model is unnecessary. There are certainly those who capitalize on the doctrinal system, and even encourage it. But this tyranny is primarily a conspiracy of ignorance that we perpetrate against ourselves. It comes from inside us.

At one point in human history, belief was a means to a laudable end. Thus it was considered virtuous to say "I believe X because X is true." A tautology, to be sure, but it was once a useful one. It allowed us to build the world we find ourselves in today, with its endless possibilities and endless peril.

In this time, and in this place, belief had become a cancer. Instead of a stepping-stone to knowledge, it has become a stone around our necks, drowning us. And yet still your mind wanders to those you disdain, the easy targets. Religious people. Fools. No, friends. I mean us. What do we believe? Why do we believe it? How are we to pass beyond belief towards certainty?

On this all depends.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Inaugural Bad Blog of the Day

Over Sophia's strenuous objection, I am instituting a new feature on Deep Underground - the Bad Blog of the Day. As we all know, I am prone to going several days without posting, so it will probably be more of a Bad Blog of the Several Days to Perhaps a Week or More, but the point is, it will be a Bad Blog.

The criteria for a Bad Blog of the Day are simple - the blog must be unoriginal, ignorant, and dull. Nominations are welcomed as of course I cannot visit every bad blog on the Internet by myself.

To mitigate Sophia's complaint that this feature is rather mean-spirited, I am also making a semi-solemn pledge to hoist up only blogs that are themselves mean-spirited in some way. I say this pledge is "semi-solemn" because of course I reserve the right to nominate a blog that is not mean-spirited but which is so Bad that to fail to report it to my Dear Readers would be a crime against comedy.

No such question arises with regard to today's Bad Blog, however, Hollywood Hater, or I Hate Hollywood, depending on whether you go by the URL or the title.

Hollywood Hater is devoted, as one might surmise from the title, to Hating on Hollywood. Specifically, anyone in Hollywood who dares say anything bad about Our Great President, George Walker Bush.

Some recent targets include (I hope you're sitting down) Whoopi Goldberg, Paris Hilton, Richard Gere, and for nonpolitcal reasons, non-Hollywood resident and freakishly tall hurler Randy Johnson (this last in a post titled Yankee's Johnson can Yank my Johnson. Classy.)

My favorite post, though, is the one about Bette Midler, because it answers a question I've had for a long time. Some people are not outraged by illegal wars, White House sanctioned torture, endless lying by government officials, disenfranchisement of black voters, abandonment of the poor, etc. So the question arises, what do these people get outraged about?

I almost fell off my chair last night as I was watching I Love the 70's on VH1. They named Bette Midler one of the 3 Foxy Ladies of 1979. I know that drug use was prevalent in 1979. I would like to know what the producers of this show were smoking back then and even more importantly, are they still smoking it today?

Yes, the most outrageous thing that happened in Hollywood Hater's life that day was the composition of VH1's "Foxy Ladies of 1979" roster.

Also, to all lame people - can we please retire the "what are they smoking?" joke? It may have been witty and edgy once, like, many years before we were born. It's not anymore. It's lame. It's unoriginal. It's ignorant. It's....

The Bad Blog of the Day.

Attempt II

OK, apparently the Tequila Puke color was part of the background and couldn't be suppressed, at least by someone with an HTML background as impoverished as mine. So I have switched to this deeply boring template for now. I trust no one comes here for the layout anyway, given the state of the old blog.

Papa's Got a Brand New Bag of Tequila Puke

Yeah, I know, it's pretty different. But after experimenting endlessly with trying to create my own sidebar in the template I had, I finally decided to punt and switch to a friendlier template. This one should allow me to add a few features I've been wanting for a long time, such as a weekly poll and a Bad Blog of the Day (Sophia objects to this rather mean-spirited idea, but I'm adamant.)

The big problem that seems to have arisen is that the comments have all disappeared. This is unfortunate, but in order to get them back I would have to go back to HaloScan commenting, which I didn't like much. I may go back to it anyway; I don't want the recent comments chill to become permanent.

Also, I know this green color is horrible. I have a particular color scheme in mind, so as soon as I find the codes for the colors I want, I'll get rid of this god-awful Tequila-puke color.

The New York Times Goes Large

Yesterday, after listening to Alberto Gonzales' frankly sickening testimony on the subject of whether the president can violate the law if he doesn't think the law is constitutional (he can, but only after thinking about it for a while), whether the president can allow torture (maybe, but George W. never would, so don't worry), and what effect Gonzales' opining on behalf of the White House that any tactics short of causing organ failure and death were acceptable in interrogations of prisoners overseas had on the behavior of troops who used tactics short of causing organ failure and death in interrogations of prisoners overseas (none), I sank to an undiscovered low in my faith in this nation and its democratic process.

My worst fear was not that Gonzales would be confirmed - after all, the control of our government by far-right ideologues who believe that no tactic is too illegal or insane to be used in the pursuit of our righteous goals was recently affirmed by the voters, and therefore the installation of Gonzales is perfectly legitimate, from a purely democratic perspective.

No, my fear was that this morning, no major newspaper would be brave enough to call the Gonzales nomination what it is - a major mistake and a terrible direction in which to take the country. The Washington Post rode the fence, citing "grave concerns," but the New York Times' editorial page today is a massive broadside against Gonzales, the sort of thing I have assumed was dead in modern journalism.

Let the Times know you appreciate their ability to tell it like it is, and suggest they keep up the good work. Letters to the editor can be sent here.

On the Op/Ed side, Bob Herbert is his usual unrestrained self, and Krugman is witty and on target, if a bit unfocused in his outrage (who can blame him?) In all, one of the best single-day editorial pages I've seen in a major newspaper, ever. The editors of the Washington Post should take note.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Department of Unintentional Irony

WorldNetDaily brings us a nice fawning article about a guy who charges $8.98 a month for his awesome insights into world affairs. Apaprently WorldNetDaily gets some of this money, though they find nothing wrong with running a news article about how great the guy and his service are. Nice.

Anyway, the funny part is right in the lead paragraph:

Dr. Jack Wheeler, creator of an acclaimed intelligence website dubbed "the oasis for rational conservatives," predicts Christian civil disobedience is going to become a major social movement in America, "with refusal to obey pro-ACLU edicts more and more widespread."

That's right, repressed Christians are going to use civil disobedience to resist the ACLU. But it gets better.

On his website, To the Point, Wheeler makes the prediction in an open letter to opponents of Christmas...

Actually, fuck it. Let's go through the whole WND article. It's practically a grand tour of the conservative blacklash mindset so accurately described by Thomas Frank in One Market Under God and What's the Matter with Kansas? Let's go.

First of all, I want to see this open letter, just to see if it starts out "Dear Opponents of Christmas" because boy howdy, that would be some funny shit. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, the "open letter" is only available to subscribers. I wonder how many opponents of Christmas subscribe to Jack Wheeler's $8.98 a month website. Perhaps he assumes all liberals have a secret code key that allows us to do whatever we want. But no matter. We press on.

Most Americans, Wheeler says, "haven't lost the moral courage to be proud of their country and their civilization."

Just how much moral courage does it take to be proud of your own country and civilization? A lot. Seriously, the key to understanding the predicament this country is in is to understand that in the mindset of the people who read WorldNetDaily, this actually makes sense. It's not actually that hard to understand if you're willing to accept a few basic assumptions - for example, that Congress is constantly handing down "pro-ACLU edicts" to harrass the people and eat out their substance.

"America has always been a Christian country," he tells opponents of Christmas, "and – open wide now, because you’re going to have to swallow this – it will continue to be."

I never grow tired of the unending dick-insertion innuendo that pervades the roots-level right-wing "discourse." You get the sense that conservatives are walking around with their cocks perpetually rigid, ready to take revenge at a moment's notice on some unsuspecting liberal anus.

Besides writing for To the Point, Wheeler heads the Freedom Research Foundation, which currently is working on what he calls the Free Iran Project. The project applies "Reagan Doctrine strategies toward the liberation of Iran," he explained.

I am a little frightened by the idea of "Reagan Doctrine strategies toward the liberation of Iran." Not surprising that the author of the article doesn't elaborate - if you'll recall, Reagan's principal strategy for the liberation of Iranians was to encourage Saddam Hussein to invade and gas them repeatedly over the course of about 8 years (in Ronnie's defense, he also used the conflict as an opportunity to raise some cash for an illegal war in Central America.) Again not having access to the site, I can only assume that since Saddam Hussein is no longer in power, Wheeler is advocating some sort of modified Reagan Doctrine strategy, perhaps involving brutally sodomizing Iranian liberals.

Wheeler goes on to offer some friendly advice to the religion of Islam (Warning: Safire moment approaching - prepare shudder shield)

"Quite frankly," he said, "there are a lot of extinct religions in the history pages, and Islam is going to become extinct unless it's reformed.

"When you start blowing yourself up, when you get that kind of insane desperation, you're history," he said. "This is a religion without a future unless it reforms."

On his site, Wheeler includes a subscription article comparing the Aztecs with Arabs: "Both the Arabs and the Aztecs invented a religion of jihad as a rationale to justify their imperialist empires. …"

"War – Holy War – became the purpose of the Aztec state. All soldiers in the Aztec army were holy warriors, warriors of the gods. Peace was dangerous. No war meant no prisoners to sacrifice, no food for the gods, which risked the destruction of mankind and the universe itself. The only way to avoid cosmic disaster was for the Aztecs to accept the burden fate had given them and wage perpetual war for the salvation of humanity.

"All in all, a pretty clever rationalization for a monstrous imperialist tyranny, wouldn't you say? Sounds like they were taking religion-inventing lessons from the Arabs."

Where to start? First of all, as an accomplished Googler and a dabbler in the technique I'm about to describe, let me admit I'm the pot, and Wheeler's the kettle. But for any of my readers thinking about subscribing to this guy's site, here's a tip - he came up with the idea for this article, then Googled around to find some shit about the Aztecs to throw in there. He doesn't know anything about the Aztecs, or Islam. Nothing wrong with that, exactly, but doing it well requires asking yourself some tough questions, such as:

A) Am I completely full of shit?

Actually, this one alone would have saved us from these "ideas." Remember, we started out with a lecture about what happens to a religion that resorts to suicide attacks. Then we jump to comparing Arabs to Aztecs, because the Aztecs created a culture based around perpetual war.

Now, I have to admit a slight bias here - I think Aztec mythology is really cool. Did you know that in Aztec mythology there was an age when the world was ruled by a woman in a turquoise skirt? Or that the earth was once destroyed by jaguars? That's just smooth mythmaking right there. But never mind all that.

The point is, the Aztecs had some problems - they sacrificed tens of thousands of people per year to appease the gods of natural disasters. So I would agree, this was a religion that probably needed to go. But what does this have to do with suicide bombings? With Islam? Anybody home in there?

Also, can I sign up for some of these "religion-inventing lessons?" I can see the flow charts now. "Does your religion have no god, a single god, or many gods? If no god, sorry, religion exists - see atheism. If single god, how does god feel about sex? War? Hokey vitamin supplement schemes?"

We skip ahead a little:

"My intellectual adventures began when I read Ayn Rand, Ludwig von Mises and Aristotle, inspiring me to get a Ph.D. in Philosophy," he said. "I explored Africa, the Gobi, Mongolia, Central Asia, Tibet, the Himalayas, the Andes, Borneo and the South Pacific, discovered lost tribes in New Guinea and the Kalahari, took elephants over the Alps in Hannibal's footsteps, skydived onto the North Pole, roused anti-Marxist guerrillas from Angola to Afghanistan and helped get rid of the Soviet Union."

This part is pretty telling. Looks like your basic self-promotion until you get to that last part. What does it mean that Wheeler "roused anti-Marxist guerillas from Angola to Afghanistan?" Doesn't that mean he trained terrorists? Good terrorists, though, anti-Marxist terrorists who were fighting the nig-, er, I mean the communists in Angola. And also the glorious mujahedeen in Afghanistan who with the help of the great statesman Osama bin Laden threw out the evil Soviets and their hated infidel toadies, the Northern Alliance! Wait a minute...

"No lion, sitting underneath an acacia tree in the Serengeti, asks himself, 'What does it mean to be a lion? What is the purpose of my existence?' A lion has no choice but to unselfconsciously follow his genetic program. But human beings have to figure out how and why to survive, they have to choose a rationale that gives purpose and meaning for their lives. My choice has been to try and make my life, and now the life of my son, a thrilling adventure."

This quote isn't quite up there with the rest, hilarity-wise, but it provides the perfect note on which to end this piece...


Something odd - I don't seem to show up in the "recently updated" listings on Blogspot. Conspiracy!!! Conspiracy!!!

I have removed my most recent post because it was too damn depressing. I've got to get my sense of humor back. Maybe I should hit the Renew America site a la the Poor Man and the Apostropher. They seem to have found quite a wellspring of humor there. Hmmmmm...

Monday, January 03, 2005

Watched Lyons and Conason's The Hunting of the President this weekend - it's recently come out on DVD. It was OK, but it really gave me a good reminder of how hard it is to make a really good documentary. Stylistically, Hunting wasn't bad, but there were a lot of problems. They used a LOT of stock footage that had nothing to do with the subject matter, except for symbolism - when they'd be talking about graft and corruption they'd show some clip of an old mob movie, that sort of thing. It was an interesting idea, but it was used too much and it was distracting.

There also wasn't a good sense of proportion - the film moved at about the same pace through all the stages of the story without really pausing on the really dramatic parts. We weren't given enough time, for example, to really digest the enormity of what was done to Susan McDougal, while there was a lot of wasted space, like the recounting of the experiences of some Kiwi writer living on a right-wing nutjob's houseboat. I was waiting for there to be some sort of revelation about something that happened on the houseboat, but in the end there wasn't.

All in all, it was fine and much better and more interesting than most political documentaries, but it made me appreciate Michael Moore, whose films are extremely well put together and incredibly engaging from start to finish.

The big thing I think was missed was the conclusion, in which all these Democrats who got pissed on during Whitewater were saying things like "Is this the kind of society we want to have where this big slime machine can almost destroy an elected president?" Now, I'm somthing of an iconoclast, and I admit I have no particular love for Clinton, but can't we think of a more frightening possibility than that the U.S. president, who I think we can all agree can take care of himself, might be hamstrung by an unscrupulous far-right media machine.

Like, I don't know, what if that same media machine were somehow employed in the service of power? What if instead of ginning up fake scandals, the machine were engaged for the purpose of shouting down and covering up real scandals? What if one party took over all three branches of U.S. Government and used this media machine to stamp out dissent and entrench their power by crippling the discourse through constant propaganda and endless lying?

I mean, it's pretty far fetched, but filmmakers are supposed to be creative guys.