Saturday, December 31, 2011


News of Newt Gingrich's weepiness at least affords me a reason to post Godley and Creme's song "Cry."

Imagine what Beavis and Butt-Head would say if they watched the Iowa caucus coverage.

Janus, Part One: Cockburn Looks Back at 2011


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Two Choices: Ron and Non-Ron

Statists in the GOP might be able to tolerate some of Ron Paul's economic and limited-government views, but never his views on foreign policy.--Laurence Vance,

Why the Establishment is Terrified of Ron Paul"

...That said, sometimes it all comes down to a couple of big issues, and in the unlikely chance that the election next November were to end up being the choice between Barack Obama and Ron Paul (and assuming no emergence of a viable Third Party progressive candidate like Rocky Anderson and his Justice Party), while I might have a hard time pulling the lever for Paul unless he can really make it clear he has no truck with White Supremecists and their ilk, it would be easier than pulling a lever for Obama.

Why? Because with President Obama we would get more war, increased military spending, and at the rate he’s been going stripping away our Constitutional rights, there wouldn’t be any of those after another four years. We would also be electing someone who we now know lies through his teeth, who takes money from some of the biggest corporate thieves in human history, and who has appointed some of those very criminals to most or all of the key economic policy positions in his administration.

With Ron Paul as president, at least we’d be done with all the wars, the people of the rest of the world would be finally free of US military interference, including attacks by US drones. The long-suffering Constitution and its Bill of Rights would mean something again. We might even get a Supreme Court justice or two who actually believed that Congress should declare any future wars before we could fight them, and that citizens who were arrested had an absolute right to a speedy trial by a jury of peers. And we’d be electing someone who appears, especially for a politician, to be that rare thing: an honest man who says what he means and means what he says — and who doesn’t seem to be owned by the banksters.

We’d have a hell of a fight on our hands in a Ron Paul presidency, defending Social Security and Medicare, promoting economic equality, fighting climate change and pollution, defending abortion rights and maybe fighting a resurgence of Jim Crow in some parts of the country, but at least we wouldn’t have to worry about being spied upon, beaten and arrested and then perhaps shipped off to Guantanamo for doing it.

DAVE LINDORFF is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, the new Project-Censored Award-winning independent online alternative newspaper. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, forthcoming from AK Press.

31 December update:
Mike Whitney.

Ron Paul is the only antiwar candidate who has a (microscopic) chance of winning in 2012. He’s also the only candidate who will make an effort to restore the Bill of Rights and reverse Congress’s decision to allow the president to “indefinitely” imprison American citizens without due process. For these reasons alone, Paul should garner the support of leftists, liberals, and progressives. But he won’t, because liberals are convinced that Paul will try to dismantle the social programs upon which the elderly, the infirm, and the vulnerable depend.


The resemblance lies in the faint and shaven eyebrows, respectively.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Big, Big, Big!

In partial response to Hattie's post "Big, Bigger, Biggest":

Blubberland: The Dangers of Happiness, a book I've heard about a few years ago but haven't yet read.

The anthem of Blubberland:

Autistic Student Stuffed Into Duffel Bag, Left in Hallway


And, as I find them, I'll provide updates on the Wyoming Republican state legislator who assaulted his mentally disabled son.

And this.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Jive


They get uptight about Saturday Night Live's Tim Tebow skit and Ron Paul's Friday interview with Jay Leno, among other things.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Every Gasbag Springs a Leak

Max Blumenthal helpfully points out an excerpt from his book Republican Gomorrah about Newt Gingrich.


Kunstler Goes to the Movies

The Fourth Wall
By James Howard Kunstler
on December 19, 2011 9:48 AM

This week, with a nod to the onrushing holiday, and various freight trains of dread barreling down the track at us, I want to take a break from the usual concerns and talk about something else: why Hollywood exemplifies our worst collective blunder of the historical moment: our techno-narcissism.

I went to the cineplex at the mall late yesterday afternoon - also a break, after a month of moving and shlepping to another house - to see the new Martin Scorcese movie, Hugo. The story told is a sort of frame for an homage to one of the pioneers or movie-making, Georges Méliès, a French "illusionist" (magician) who made over 500 films at the turn of the 20th century, most of them now lost. He was an innovator, also, of what we now call FX, special effects, employing stop-motion, puppetry, and many optical tricks borrowed from his stage magic act in order to portray wild, dream-like fantasies on the screen. His best-known surviving movie is the Jules Verne-inspired A Trip To the Moon, in which several Edwardian Age explorers make the journey in a giant artillery shell fired from a colossal cannon. The movies of Méliès possess great child-like charm, consistent with a new art-form in its infancy: exuberant, surprising, and often self-consciously silly.

Scorcese conveys Méliès's story through the frame of another story about a boy, the orphaned son of a watchmaker, who lives in the attic of one of the great Parisian train stations in the 1920s. Hugo goes about his daily business winding the great clocks of the station, pinching croissants and bottles of milk from vendors, and evading the sadistic Station Inspector (Sacha Baron-Cohen, a.k.a. Borat). Hugo's doings also come to involve the owner of a toy shop in the station, who turns out to be the movie-maker Méliès (Ben Kingsley), now completely disillusioned and forgotten. The boy, of course, becomes the agent of Méliès's resurrection to glory and public honor for his pioneering work.

Scorcese, a leading film historian in his own right, chose to tell this story using the latest movie technology of our day: 3-D and CGI, computer-generated imagery, to wow a contemporary audience. Here, things get dodgy. It turns out that there is a curious relationship between movie technology and the art of cinema story-telling, and it can be expressed in terms of diminishing returns. The more clever we get at applying computer magic to the movies, the worse our story-telling abilities. It has gotten to the point where Hollywood is just about incapable now of telling a story because so many technological tricks are cluttering up the screen that the nuances of human behavior are sacrificed to them.

In the case of Hugo, Scorcese's use of 3-D violates one of the cardinal rules of staged dramatic action in its insistence on dragging the viewer through what is called "the fourth wall" in a relentless attempt to induce the illusions of speed and vertigo. The fourth wall refers to an old convention of the proscenium stage, in which the audience is presumed to be viewing the action through an open wall of a sort of magic box. This boundary between "real life" and the life depicted on stage, or on-screen in our time, allows another convention to happen: the willing suspension of disbelief, so that we become emotionally involved in the action beyond the wall. The fourth wall was respected through the glory days of Hollywood and all of the movie classics that Scorcese has paid homage to over the years. Breaking it has impoverished movie-making, a result that was obvious in James Cameron's ponderous hit, Avatar, which reduced human emotion to a level below the average cartoon of the 1930s while it piled on the dazzling computer-generated images. In Hugo, Scorcese's camera, or "camera" in the case of all the whopping 3-D CGI shoves the audience through the fourth wall and into the magic box in order to stimulate (or simulate) a sense of wonder about the proceedings inside it. But it only has the effect of wearing you down psychologically, and making you constantly aware of being manipulated.

One of the ironies of Hugo is that a major sub-plot in the story involves a mechanical automaton - sort of an early robot, animated like a clock with gears and escapements - which Hugo's dead father had been working on before his tragic death in a fire. Automatons were popular devices in the magicians' parlors of the early industrial age. They were wondrous machines for their time, but they really couldn't do much more than deal out a few cards or wave their arms about. The automaton in the movie doesn't really do much, either, but the story of Hugo hinges on the emotional attachments that the automaton inspires in him and the other characters. And it does illustrate, inadvertently I believe, one of the crucial primary relations of the human project to technology in our time: that the virtual is just not an adequate substitute for the authentic. This will be a hard lesson for us to learn.

Hugo worships at the altar of his father's broken automaton, just as the American public at all levels worships at the alter of technology, and it is sure to disappoint us. So great are the comforts and conveniences of our time that we are terrified by the prospect of losing them and, as the hyper-complexities around us unravel, we Americans are willing to believe any preposterous story that promises to keep the cars moving and the lights on. I call this state of affairs technological narcissism. The leading current expression of it can be seen in the incessant propaganda from politicians and the corporations telling the nation that we have "hundreds of years worth of oil and gas" available in North America and that we can easily become "energy independent" if we only drill-drill-drill. The public will at first be disappointed by these lies, and then they will become murderously enraged. Just watch. How it unfolds will be a story really worth telling generations from now.

For the moment, though, Hollywood has forgotten how to do the one thing that made the American movie industry great: to tell a story. Another irony of the day is that the biggest critical hit of the holiday release season is a silent movie, The Artist, made in France by director Michel Hazanavicius, another homage to Hollywood history, made by outsiders and going back to the basics* - just as American life will have to go back to the basics when reality drags us kicking and screaming out of the box we've crawled into.

[* "It's so old it's new."--Marlene Dietrich in Touch of Evil--P.Z.]

Friday, December 16, 2011

I'm expanding and rewriting my recent post on "Rush Limbaugh, et al. vs. Paul."

Christopher Hitchens Has Died

I first heard the news while browsing on and reading a comment by Coozledad.

What I'm interested in is Cockburn's reaction, which hasn't yet appeared on CounterPunch. (update: Now it has.) Louis Proyect has a good post today on Hitchens's death and the feud between him and Cockburn.

More later.

I'm trying to find (online) a James Wolcott column in Vanity Fair from 1988, in which The Nation, The New Republic, and National Review are compared. It quotes Hitchens on his friendship with Cockburn.

22 December update: I have a print copy of Wolcott's column but it's somewhere deep in my files. Maybe after Christmas.

CounterPunch has just added this remembrance of Hitchens which is anything but touching.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Friday, December 09, 2011

Rush Limbaugh, et al. vs. Ron Paul


I've tried to do remain giddy and lighthearted, it's Friday, and I've tried to have one day here of just not lackadaisical, but lightheartedness, but let me get serious here for a second. I appreciate a lot of you are suspicious of Trump. What's happening with Ron Paul is something to which I think we need to pay attention. The media is understandably excited, and they are pushing Ron Paul. They're very excited. Ron Paul was just on Megyn Kelly on Fox. But he's all over everywhere and he's being discussed with total credibility, and it's a problem -- and I'll tell you why it's a problem for me. Pure and simple, it is Ron Paul's foreign policy. This is what Ron Paul said recently:
"Think of what happened after 9/11, the minute before there was any assessment, there was glee in the [Bush] administration because now we can invade Iraq, and so the war drums beat."

Ron Paul said this Wednesday night, "before a packed room of a thousand students and supporters," and he said, "That's exactly what [this administration is] doing now with Iran." I know a lot of people like Ron Paul's domestic policy. He's very tough talking on budget cuts and shrinking government and individual liberty, and that's attractive. But, folks, this foreign policy is disastrous -- and to sit there, to attack the country this way, to say that the Bush administration was in "glee," the Bush administration was happy? This is Democrat talk, to say that George W. Bush was happy, that Cheney was happy after 9/11 because, "A-ha, there's our excuse to attack Iraq!"

This is the reason that there are a lot of people who are uncomfortable with him. Now, the long knives continue to be out for Newt today all over. It's exactly what I told you yesterday. I hope you were here yesterday. George Will has a column coming on Sunday -- I'm just gonna tell you -- that warns that Ron Paul will probably give Obama the election. [Here.--P.Z.] Ron Paul might go third party. This foreign policy, it's just nutty, folks! The Republican establishment wants no part of Newt for the reasons that I detailed yesterday. ...

RUSH: Yeah, but that's not gonna go anywhere. I mean to advise people to write in "Herman Cain" when he's gonna end up as a commentator on Fox News? I didn't mean to let anything out of the bag. I don't know that. I just know the career trajectory here on failed candidates. I just know where they end up. I don't know anything, folks. "I know nuthink," as Sergeant Schultz once said, "I know nuthink." But no, I mean to write in somebody's name that's pulled out of the race. We don't need a write-in. This third party business, a lot of people are worried Trump's gonna do it. I think Ron Paul would do it, and if Ron Paul does it -- look, we know that anybody after this nomination process is over is ticked off enough that goes third party, that's it. You split the Republican vote, no third party candidate's gonna win, no third-party candidate is gonna win beans in this election.

All the third-party candidate is going to do is secure victory for Obama, and if that happens, if somebody on our side goes third party, as far as I'm concerned, that's what they're trying to make happen, reelect Obama, for whatever reason, anger at the electorate on the Republican side for not nominating them, anger at other people for what happened to 'em, what was said during the campaign, whatever. But I think it's one of the reasons why the GOP is afraid to get tough and tell Ron Paul, "Look, you're not polling anywhere, get out of this debate, you don't belong here." They're not gonna tell him that. They don't want to upset him and have him go third party. That would really upset. What they're doing is boosting his fan base. They think Ron Paul can split the conservative vote. Folks, I'm here to tell you, there is no conservative movement in the Republican Party. By this I mean the establishment, the inside-the-Beltway crowd. The consultants are trying to split the conservative vote in the primaries, not coalesce around it.



[Newt is part of the Republican establishment!--P.Z.]

10 December update: From Cockburn's latest:

Meanwhile supporters of Ron Paul eagerly devour reports of his campaign’s diligent grass-roots organizing in Iowa and New Hampshire and scan their crystal balls for omens for a January surprise on the order of Gene McCarthy’ ambush showing against LBJ in New Hampshire in 1968, followed by victories against Bobby Kennedy in Wisconsin and Oregon.

One of the strongest arrows in Paul’s quiver is his anti-imperialism and anti-interventionism and so some were shaken by an interview Paul recently [had] with the right-wing Newsmax:

Newsmax: What then, if anything, should we do for Israel?

Ron Paul: We should share intelligence for mutually agreed-upon goals. We should honor our pledge to refuse any arms sales that would undermine Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region.

But we should stop interfering with them. We should not announce bargaining positions even before she begins her negotiations. We should not dictate what she can and cannot do. We should stop trying to buy her allegiance. And Israel should stop sacrificing their sovereignty as an independent state to us or anybody else, no matter how well-intentioned.

Sending me this exchange, Jeffrey Blankfort commented: “Maybe the Republican Zionist Coalition will give the old boy another look.” John Walsh, an ardent Paul fan strove to reassure me:

“Of this a friend writes me: ‘It’s a tack he has taken for years: calling for non-intervention in Israel’s disputes by saying it’s bad for Israel. He may be right about that; he may be wrong. I’m just interested in the non-intervention.’

I tend to agree. I think the Jewish Republicans knew exactly what they were doing when they told him he was not welcome to their debate today. That with RP’s call for friendship with Iran and his consistent non-interventionism is about all I can hope for now.”
16 December update: Another anti-Paul rant.

M.T. is the mirror image of B.F.

M.T. is a grouch.

Considering the source.

16 December, 11:27 P.M. update: Rush Limbaugh falsely claims Ron Paul had nothing to do with the Tea Party.

19 December update: Rush rants about Ron Paul possibly winning the Iowa caucus.

No Saint Nicholas

Max Blumenthal tweets that Robert Nicholas, a Republican state representative from Cheyenne, Wyoming, was
arrested in Florida
for beating and kicking his mentally disabled son in the ribs.

Nicholas sees his assault as merely the administration of corporal punishment, and so refuses to resign.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Kunstler: Suspended Civilization

Note: I added a link to a recipe for cinghiale ai frutti di bosco, should you want to make it yourself.--P.Z.

Suspended Civilization
By James Howard Kunstler
on December 4, 2011 6:23 PM

Question du jour: why is Jon Corzine still at large? In what fabulous Manhattan restaurants has he been enjoying plates of cockscombs and lobster with sauce hydromel and cinghiale ai frutti di bosco, while less well-connected citizens of this degenerate republic have to order their suppers from the dumpster in the WalMart parking lot where they have been living lately.

Is there still an Attorney General in this country? Will somebody please follow Eric Holder down a hallway and see if he leaves a trail of sawdust on the floor. Or did congress just retract all the fraud statutes by stealth in the same way that the Federal Reserve handed out $7.7 trillion in bailouts back in 2008 (much more than the generally accepted figure of the $800 billion TARP) without anyone finding out until three years later when some Bloomberg reporters rooted the numbers out of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) filing. And by the way, what is the US Federal Reserve doing handing out billions of dollars to the Royal Bank of Scotland? Was Scotland admitted to the Union by stealth, too? Or did Jamie Dimon just buy it as a birthday present for Barack Obama, who likes golf.

This is what life in the USA is like nowadays: shit happens and shit un-happens, and you find out about it years later. Only a desperate and hopelessly degenerate nation would choose to live this way, in a law-optional society, in which money means everything, and yet nobody even knows what money is (or where it goes, and what it does when it goes there.)

Jon Corzine has not revealed the destination of the loot (somewhere between $600 million and $2.5 billion, estimated) that vanished from the "segregated" accounts of his many clients at MF Global. The rumor is that it went to cover a rude margin call from Jamie Dimon's bank, JP Morgan, after JC took some unfortunate positions in European sovereign bonds in a bad month. Beyond the question of why Mr. Corzine is not in jail (as a flight risk, just like DSK) is how come the Department of Justice has not so much as issued a statement saying that they were looking into the matter, so as to reassure both the victims and the financial markets that this is not a culture that just makes shit up as it goes along - i.e. that we have predictable rules and formal procedures for doing stuff.
The clowns and villains who run America have accomplished something really epic: they have vanquished meaning. Nobody knows what anything means anymore. Anything goes now. All bets are off. It's not reassuring. It leads to bad things happening like blood in the streets. When nothing means anything anymore, some people will actually strive, make an effort, to reestablish meaning in practical economic and political life, because civilized life is impossible without it. So, in those historic moments when civilization is suspended, people will work like hell to restore meaning. Sometimes though, like Germany in the 1930s, you discover that the suspension of civilization is itself intoxicating, and you ride with that for a while.
Things are really flying apart now, and just in time for Santa Claus. The European bond rollovers are about to come in fast and furious during the season of Advent and nobody can make their interest payments. They will be skipped or postponed and promised for "next Tuesday," and yet the bizarro universe of credit default swaps will not be triggered - is there a counter-party on God's green earth who could afford a pay-out? Of course not. It was all a charade. So we'll just learn that there actually is no "insurance" on all this paper. Yesterday's "hair-cut" will be tomorrow's "throat cut" as the middle innings of suspended civilization play out.
There are heroes as-yet-sung-and-unsung in America, people who prefer reality over reality-TV, people with a taste for meaning in life, which often requires the recognition that some things are true and some not so true, and you're better off with what's true. What appears to be true is that the old order is finished and a new disposition of things is coming along. The Long Emergency will beat a path straight to the Great Re-set. Sign up for it. Roll up your sleeves. There is so much to do in this country. If you are young, especially, it's all waiting for you.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Eddie Long

Do you remember "Bishop" Eddie Long? His wife is leaving him. He should leave his weave.