Spy v Spy
Original by Ward Sutton at the Village Voice.
some of the stuff worth buzzzing about
some of the stuff buzzzing around in my brain
some stuff that just buzzzes hither and yon ... and other musings from the deep dark scary south.
Original by Ward Sutton at the Village Voice.
To read a better accounting and honoring of Corretta Scott King than anything I could ever write about this strong, committed, pro-peace, anti-violence, pro-justice, anti-war, civil rights icon and role model for ANY era (now more than ever), please follow this link.
Essayist, author, thinker, philosopher, historian Vidal gets after the "ill-starred presidency of G.W. Bush" seeking parallels in both the Old Testament and the Roman Empire. In part of this section he quotes "Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire" by Morris Berman, a professor of sociology at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.:
"We were already in our twilight phase when Ronald Reagan, with all the insight of an ostrich, declared it to be 'morning in America'; twenty-odd years later, under the 'boy emperor' George W. Bush (as Chalmers Johnson refers to him), we have entered the Dark Ages in earnest, pursuing a short-sighted path that can only accelerate our decline. For what we are now seeing are the obvious characteristics of the West after the fall of Rome: the triumph of religion over reason; the atrophy of education and critical thinking; the integration of religion, the state, and the apparatus of torture--a troika that was for Voltaire the central horror of the pre-Enlightenment world; and the political and economic marginalization of our culture... The British historian Charles Freeman published an extended discussion of the transition that took place during the late Roman empire, the title of which could serve as a capsule summary of our current president: "The Closing of the Western Mind." Mr. Bush, God knows, is no Augustine; but Freeman points to the latter as the epitome of a more general process that was underway in the fourth century: namely, 'the gradual subjection of reason to faith and authority.' This is what we are seeing today, and it is a process that no society can undergo and still remain free. Yet it is a process of which administration officials, along with much of the American population, are aggressively proud." In fact, close observers of this odd presidency note that Bush, like his evangelical base, believes he is on a mission from God and that faith trumps empirical evidence. Berman quotes a senior White House adviser who disdains what he calls the "reality-based" community, to which Berman sensibly responds: "If a nation is unable to perceive reality correctly, and persists in operating on the basis of faith-based delusions, its ability to hold its own in the world is pretty much foreclosed."Complete text at Truthdig.
...Tiberius ... upon becoming emperor, received a message from the Senate in which the conscript fathers assured him that whatever legislation he wanted would be automatically passed by them, he sent back word that this was outrageous. "Suppose the emperor is ill or mad or incompetent?" He returned their message. They sent it again. His response: "How eager you are to be slaves."
The Chinese zodiac dates back more than 3,000 years. There are various legends as to how the twelve animal signs arose.Source here.
According to one version, the twelve animals quarreled one day as to who should head the cycle of years.
The gods were asked to decide and proposed a contest: whoever reached the opposite bank of the river first would be lead the cycle, and the rest of the animals would follow according to their finishing order.
The twelve animals gathered at the river bank and jumped in. Unbeknown to the ox, the rat had jumped on his back. As the ox was about to reach the bank, the rat jumped off the ox's back, and won the race. The pig, who was lazy, came last. That is why the rat is the first year of the animal cycle, the ox second, and the pig last.
Another story has it that Buddha named a year after each animal and declared that people born under that sign would take on certain characteristics of the animal.
According to Chinese folklore, people born in the year of the dog have a deep sense of loyalty, are honest and hate injustice. Dogs fight for equality and freedom, making them good leaders -- although they do have an acute desire to please.
Famous dogs include pop stars Jennifer Lopez and Madonna, business tycoon Donald Trump, former U.S. President Bill Clinton and current U.S. President George W. Bush, along with his father. South Korea's President Roh Moo-hyun, born in 1946, also comes under the sign of the dog.
Dogs can be stubborn, defensive, and vicious if provoked. They strive to be the top dog and will do anything to stay there.
Being born in the Year of the Dog usually signifies friendship with people born in the years of the rat, ox, snake and pig. But there could be difficulties with people born under the signs of the dragon and horse -- such as China's President Hu Jintao (horse), Premier Wen Jiabao (another horse) and former premier Zhu Rongji (dragon).
Dana Milbank of WaPo issued the ultimate online chat challenge. We simply couldn't resist.
"Seems to me that, in these days of Photoshop, there's no reason to wait for the White House to release photos. We can make our own. To that end, I have asked the web wizards to post alongside this chat the Fedora-adorned head of Abramoff and various possible locations for it: The State of the Union, the aircraft carrier, and the World Trade Center. Please feel free to add your own images, and send your best Bush-Abramoff photos to me..."
While Jerry Stahl's new LA Weekly piece is ostensibly about James Frey's recent escapades into fiction-land (originally brought to public light by The Smoking Gun), to me the best zingers are reserved for the Imperial Prez & company:
No. 1 seller Frey has transcended literature. He's embraced the "non-reality based media" concept with as much vigor as the president's own reality managers. Like the commander in chief, he has freed himself from the bondage of fact. Indeed, the parallels with George W. Bush are somehow heartening. Because no other author seems willing to step up and sign on with the truth that hunkers like the proverbial elephant in America?s living room: The truth that there is no truth.
....The president, after all, has long had a wavering relationship with the truth. .... It's not about honesty, anyway. It's about maintaining one's own mythology.
It's no picnic working a white [male] privileged existence into a world of pain. On some level all writers want to control what their readers think of them. Self-invention is part of the gig. ...the whole endeavor can morph into something closer to strategy than story. A kind of literature as self-promotion that's pervaded the American pantheon as far back as Whitman -- and to the Father of Our Country before that.
"Working a white privileged existence into a world of pain" connects rather seamlessly with the right-wing/conservative myths of 'reverse racism', 'our big tent welcomes everyone', 'ownership society', 'you can be anything you want to be', 'meritocracy', 'free press', 'colorblindness', 'we're all equal' ad nauseum and among other aspects of the American mythology.
Howie Kurtz at WaPo gives his take on it here evoking Stephen (Comedy Central) Colbert's recently created term "truthiness." The entirety of Stahl's composition here. Fleischer's here. Beachy's NYMag piece here.
What a breath of fresh air this guy, Dan Froomkin, is and how wonderful to have him back at the Washington Post (sleep-deprived as he may be). He jumped right into the fray with a rip-roaring live-online chat here and he's not afraid to engage with WaPo readers about what concerns them (see the conversations and links there about the recent skirmishes regarding the so-called 'ombudsperson' who seems less to espouse readers' concerns than those of WaPo management). With no excuses for the cuss-heavy personal attacks (most of which could have easily been filtered out with the right comment-filtering software used at many sites), as usual, Dan has an insightful, reasoned and alternative take on the whole matter.
...what is on the one hand [a claim of] individual empowerment is on the other an attack on collective values that are key to a society's ability to protect its weakest and most vulnerable members.Read his entire colum "Another Shot at the Safety Net" here. Welcome back, Dan.
Jonathan Weisman of the Washington Post reports today on still more evidence of the growing reality that if we ever did, we no longer live in a 'Democracy' (or 'Republic' for the pedantically inclined). The article is entitled "Closed-Door Deal Makes $22 Billion Difference" whereby "a change to Senate-passed Medicare legislation ....would save the health insurance industry $22 billion.."
In November, as part of a broad budget-cutting bill, the Senate approved a measure to save billions of dollars by reducing Medicare reimbursements to private insurers. Most of those savings disappeared after the final bill emerged from House and Senate negotiations last month.
Accompanying text to graphic details here.
The change in the Medicare provision underscores a practice that growing numbers of lawmakers from both parties want addressed. More than ever, Republican congressional lawmakers and leaders are making vital decisions, involving far-reaching policies and billions of dollars, without the public -- or even congressional Democrats -- present.
Must call attention to a noteworthy NYT editorial, likely to be either un-noticed or ridiculed by right-wing blogs/news/etc:
The war sermons rallied the evangelical congregations behind the invasion of Iraq. An astonishing 87 percent of all white evangelical Christians in the United States supported the president's decision in April 2003. Recent polls indicate that 68 percent of white evangelicals continue to support the war. But what surprised me, looking at these sermons nearly three years later, was how little attention they paid to actual Christian moral doctrine. Some tried to square the American invasion with Christian "just war" theory, but such efforts could never quite reckon with the criterion that force must only be used as a last resort. As a result, many ministers dismissed the theory as no longer relevant.
The single common theme among the war sermons appeared to be this: our president is a real brother in Christ, and because he has discerned that God's will is for our nation to be at war against Iraq, we shall gloriously comply.
Such sentiments are a far cry from those expressed in the Lausanne Covenant of 1974. More than 2,300 evangelical leaders from 150 countries signed that statement, the most significant milestone in the movement's history. Convened by Billy Graham and led by John Stott, the revered Anglican evangelical priest and writer, the signatories affirmed the global character of the church of Jesus Christ and the belief that "the church is the community of God's people rather than an institution, and must not be identified with any particular culture, social or political system, or human ideology."
...What will it take for evangelicals in the United States to recognize our mistaken loyalty? We have increasingly isolated ourselves from the shared faith of the global Church, and there is no denying that our Faustian bargain for access and power has undermined the credibility of our moral and evangelistic witness in the world. The Hebrew prophets might call us to repentance, but repentance is a tough demand for a people utterly convinced of their righteousness.
As the baby boomers age, more and more Americans will either be enduring chronic pain or taking care of someone in pain. The Republican Party has been reaching out to them with a two-step plan:
1. Do not give patients medicine to ease their pain.
2. If they are in great pain and near death, do not let them put an end to their misery.
The Republicans have been so determined to become the Pain Party that they?ve brushed aside their traditional belief in states? rights. The Bush administration wants lawyers in Washington and federal prosecutors with no medical training to tell doctors how to treat patients.
Sharing the delusional path of most power filled men, he led his nation into multiple foreign misadventures of immense consequence.
I love what Michael O'Hare so eloquently wrote at The Reality Based Community in his column "A Piece Missing" about Samuel Alito (the next Supreme Court justice without a doubt):
"He doesn't have a screw loose; what he has is a piece missing, conspicuously, radiantly, displaying the absence of any sense of, well, justice. Not a case came up for discussion in which he registered that one or another outcome was just wrong, outrageous to a sense of decency, or to him. He's on record in a memo as believing that to shoot an eighth grader, known not to be armed, who was trying to climb over a fence in escape, is a proper use of deadly force by a policeman. In a discussion of immigration cases that have been regularly occasioning inexcusable, vile, un-American heartbreak on people who missed obscure deadlines or violated arcane requirements, all he could say was that the courts get bad transcripts and it was hard to find translators for some of the plaintiffs, but that was a problem for Congress. It wasn't exactly Pilate washing his hands, but the man appears to be completely comfortable dealing with frightful social wrongs by moving the issue down the hall to another office . . .Thanks to Howie Kurtz at WaPo for the heads up on the O'Hare column. It deserves wide circulation and discussion -- (although I think O'Hare was being ultra-generous by calling Alito 'decent' given his vociferous defense of the status quo in favor of all entities strong, rich and powerful).
...A smart, decent, small man....He will focus enormous rational power on issues not central to the cases before him, and solve problems peripheral to the work we need the court to do."
I only caught the smallest sliver (that's really all I could stomach) of the Golden Globes, the beginnings of another unending season of self-congratulatory Hollywood Narcissorgiafests.
Writing this as it happens: after several hours of 'miracles happen' pronouncements to family members starting approximately 11:50 PM EST, the media and the public that 12 of 13 West Virginia miners survived -- and that they would be soon be reuniting with family members at the Baptist church once released by the hospital. Church bells rang, the governor gave the thumbs up signal and people were celebrating (mostly) with euphoria, relief, joy and gratitude.
The spokesperson acknowledged that he and company reps knew within 20 minutes that this 'miscommunication' was not correct -- although he stated that he did not know the exact numbers of survivors, only that it was between zero and twelve. When asked why they waited 3 hours to correct the misconceptions, he said they did not want to upset family members even more by telling them incomplete information. There was no explanation about why they couldn't put out a statement immediately that early reports were incorrect and incomplete and for family members to not believe what they had been told.
While seeming to be genuinely remorseful, he simultaneously conveys a poor sense of propriety (or what is referred to as Emotional Intelligence and empathy) as he also speaks about the 'benefits that coal miners enjoy' and the 'improvements' the company has made, instead of keeping the tone and content focused on the grief and loss of the families and community -- a feeble attempt and contemptible, inappropriate attitude of 'seeing the silver lining, glass-half-full', as well as an attempt to communicate the devastation. He has an unenviable position.
Even now after 3:15 the NYTimes.com, WashingtonPost.com and CNN.com still show "We Got 12 Alive" or similar headlines, although a Breaking News banner above is stating despite earlier reports 12 are dead. (additional captured images to be posted).
At just after 3:30 the governor is now speaking; he also believed the miners were alive. He also knew much sooner that early reports were incorrect or at the very least muddled. He said he didn't know who told the families that there were 12 survivors. CNN is now showing USA Today print version (incorrect, reporting 12 survivors) story and saying it states that the governor announced to the gathered families that there were 12 survivors.
Stunning, shocking, deeply heartbreaking.
Families and community members are extremely upset, angry, bitter, devastated. Understandably so. They are angry that their hopes and expectations were raised and then so cruelly dashed, with such deliberate, intentional delay (and cowardice). They feel lied to, betrayed, desperate for truth and answers . They deserve it. What a nightmare, literally and figuratively. A heartwrenching debacle at the very least. Public relations seminars, journalism classes, corporate and organizational communications professionals will be discussing and analyzing this for years to come.
The NYT is reporting: "A relative at the church said a mine foreman called relatives there, saying the miners had been found." Some are speculating that from there the 'miscommunication' spread rapidly with news the families wanted to hear.
A big question remains: why did it take almost three hours for the mining company (or the governor) to CORRECT the 'miscommunication'?
Power By Ringsurf