The blog incarnation of the Desperado mailing list, the voice of the apocryphalypse since 1978.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Who you callin' desperado? 

Another paranoid conspiracy nut, this time Mark Morford.

The last paragraph of this masterful rant:
And if BushCo has proven anything in the past four violent, budget-gutting, honor-molesting, nearly unbearable years, it's that there ain't no international law that can't be broken, no fear synapse that can't be hammered to death, no fraudulent power tactic that can't be abused. Anything is possible. You have been warned. God bless America.

Link per Suburban Guerilla. She calls them Desperados, but we know desperado means "hopeless", right?

posted by Tom  # 7/25/2004 10:30:00 PM

Good old fashioned animated propaganda film 

Anti-Bush, of course. Brother Can You Spare a Job? was one of the moveon finalists, expanded from 30 seconds to seven minutes. Corny, but touching and entertaining.
"We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people--whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth--is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill housed, and insecure."

- Franklin Delano Roosevelt

posted by Tom  # 7/25/2004 08:12:00 PM

Sword of Kerry smites king of vampires 

If President Bush is attempting to suck the life out of our country, he's going to have to stand down the lantern-jawed Swift-boat lieutenant.

Yep, the innovative comic book Sword of Dracula has an unnamed but unmistakable John Kerry in a 1968 flashback convoying a CIA agent up a Vietnamese river in his Swift boat to a hidden village that is lair of the undead.

Comic creator Jason Henderson says, "I chose Kerry because I am impressed with his background as a military man."

How about giving Bush a shot? "I believe in equal time. Just tell me where he was in 1968 and he's there. I just try to put things as they actually were and then with a little fantasy kick to it. I'm not going to invent a whole background for Bush."

Why not? He did.

Ed's Note: First alert from the Boston Herald

posted by Tom  # 7/25/2004 12:59:00 PM

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Karl Rove no worse than drunken arch-traitor 

According to Kevin Drum's Washington Monthly blog, the White House is floating the story that leaking Valerie Plame's identity as a secret agent just to get a dig in at her husband, Joseph Wilson, was no big deal because she had already been outed.

Indeed, she had, although the White House neglects to mention that said outing was done by Aldrich Ames, drunken arch-traitor who turned over the names of many CIA agents in the Soviet Union to the KGB, resulting in at least ten deaths.

posted by Tom  # 7/24/2004 12:30:00 PM

No time to wallow in bug mire 

Linspire runs with it, a Flash animation touting the virtues of their Linux system to the tune of "Light My Fire", that is, "Come on, baby, run Linspire".

It's not nearly so tedious as it sounds. I've been pushing the radio button as soon as the organ intro finishes on "Light My Fire" for many years. I'd have to say that this performance by one guy, John Idris James, working with a drummer, blows the doors off The Doors. He's as good an organist as Ray Manzarek and a way better singer than Jim Morrison. I particularly like the organ solo under the marketing list. Lyrics by Kevin Carmony, president of Linspire, who once worked in the music industry.

posted by Tom  # 7/24/2004 11:37:00 AM

Friday, July 23, 2004

Illinois Jacquet Flies Home 

The sound I love most is honking tenor sax. If you ever felt the same way even once, you owe a debt to Illinois Jacquet, the first ever to put that sound on a record. The International Herald Tribune has a nice brief obituary:
Only a handful of instrumental solos in jazz have inspired anyone beyond a small coterie of musicians and rabid fans to memorize them; one of them is "Flying Home," a lusty, brick-throwing solo by the 19-year-old Jacquet. Recorded on the first take in 1942 with Lionel Hampton's orchestra, his 80-second solo was carefully structured, building its energy precipitously and cresting on a single note, repeated 12 times in a row. The tune became a national hit, and was demanded of Jacquet night after night.

The article omits to mention that "Flying Home" was, if not the first rock and roll record, the first record to tap into the rock and roll impulse and demonstrate the existence of the rock and roll audience. (Bandleader Hampton, although a master of the form, did not realize it and dissed rock and roll all his life.)

I can't do better than suggest you listen to something by Jacquet. No point in my trying to evoke it, even though I am listening right now. Honking may be bold, but it is by no means crude, and he was an accomplished ballad player and bandleader besides giving voice to my best-loved sound.

To name but a single album, try The Kid and the Brute, in which Jacquet (The Kid) teams up with fellow honker Ben Webster (The Brute). It seems to be available in France and Poland.

Ed's Notes:

posted by Tom  # 7/23/2004 08:28:00 PM

"The system was blinking red." 

The media consensus is that President Bush wriggled off the hook to avoid the silver bullet from the smoking gun of the 9/11 Commission's report. This is apparently because the summary of the report, which is pretty much all any reporter read before filing a story -- and I did this stuff for years, I know -- did not include the statement
With every warning in the world, President Bush did nothing

However, anyone who reads the actual chapter of the report telling what the President and his toothy pal Cluefreezilla Rice actually were told -- lots -- and what they did -- nothing -- can only conclude that with every warning in the world President Bush did nothing.

That chapter of the report is titled "The system was blinking red.".

posted by Tom  # 7/23/2004 04:55:00 PM

Thursday, July 22, 2004

A good government won't put words in your mouth 

I'm all for freedom of speech, believe me, but I just saw a District of Columbia license plate with a slogan that struck me as more than a trifle dubious.
Taxation without representation

Well, let's see:

  1. Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17 of the Constitution says only residents of a state can vote. They aren't a state and they knew that when they moved there.
  2. In 1960 we tossed them the bone of the 23d amendment, which gives them three presidential electors. Are they really expecting to get another amendment?
  3. It's just possible that at least two or three citizens of the capital agree with the idea that the local citizenry is so entangled with the government that it would be a bad idea to make them a state, even if it means losing a sure additional Democratic Congressman. That could change, you know.
  4. And, even if they don't think that, they might think that it's better that license plates not be used for political propaganda.

Previous DC plates were in the grand old innocuous tradition -- The Nation's Capital; A Capital City; Celebrate & Discover -- all totally suited to ride the nation's bumpers along with Idaho's World Famous Potatoes, Colorado's Colorful, Georgia's Peach State (supplemented with ... On my mind), and South Carolina's The Iodine State (Go SC!).

The only remotely political slogans I can find are:

This is all, to my mind, closely related to the Under God business in the Pledge of Allegiance. Under God was stuck in there in the late 50s to annoy the communists or something. I wasn't a communist then or now, I was a good churchgoer kid back then, anyway, but I have never said Under God once in my life.

I'll furnish the opinions, let the government stick to promoting tourism and local products.

posted by Tom  # 7/22/2004 03:52:00 PM

Devil's Book of Quotations, 85º edition 

The popular mind is incapable of skepticism; and that incapacity delivers their helpless strength to the wiles of swindlers and to the pitiless enthusiasms of leaders inspired by visions of a high destiny. -- Joseph Conrad, Nostromo

A man has to be Joe McCarthy to be called ruthless. All a woman has to do
is put you on hold. -- Marlo Thomas

All purpose quotation (per JO)
"Seventeen!" shouted the bug, who always managed to be first with the
wrong answer. -- Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth

If Ulysses isn't fit to read, life isn't fit to live. -- James Joyce, letter to his sister

I can write better than anybody who can write faster, and I can write faster than anybody who can write better. -- A.J. Liebling

The human mind treats a new idea the way the body treats a strange
protein -- it rejects it. -- Sir Peter Medawar

common sense
Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at
different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing. -- Clive James

posted by Tom  # 7/22/2004 02:40:00 PM

Sometimes the Bible belts you back 

Evangelical Christians
are by no means entirely captured by the radical right. The following is circulating widely.

Hey Ladies I found this to be very interesting. It may confirm what you
already know.


The Lord has a way of revealing those of us who really know him, and those that don't!!!

Think about it!

Bush gave a big speech last week about how his faith is so "important" to him. In this attempt to convince the American people that we should consider him for president, he announced that his favorite Bible verse is John 16:3.

Of course the speech writer meant John 3:16, but nobody in the Bush camp was familiar enough with scripture to catch the error.

And do you know what John 16:3 says?
"And they will do this because they have not known the Father nor Me".

The Holy Spirit works in strange ways.

Now, Snopes says the current President Bush didn't say it and notes that the same story was told about Al Gore. However, and here it gets interesting again, Snopes cites conservative columnist Cal Thomas as having been present when this mistake was made by the previous President Bush.

See als this previous news note on religious hypocrisy.

posted by Tom  # 7/22/2004 01:19:00 PM

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

I like Bucky Pizzarelli better 

Speaking of the wonderfully great Buckminster Fuller, inventor of everything blah-blah-blah (and I do mean blah-blah-blah) the US Postal Service has issued a Fuller stamp.

The portrait of Fuller, in which a (not quite accurately rendered) geodesic dome replaces his own chrome dome, with his smug scowl and forbidding glasses intact, is the very image of the heartless scary antihuman future.

Now, I know, as I said, that I should be kowtowing, but I would rather kowtow to someone else, thanks.

posted by Tom  # 7/20/2004 08:01:00 PM

Giant tiny church made of Legos 

Amy Hughes, who has a very good sense of herself and her priorities and accomplishments, has built an imaginary church of Legos, 7 feet long by 5.5 feet wide.

It is amazing, and quite beautiful.

An extra pleasure for me is to see the many pictures of her cat lounging around in the church. The cat, named, I am afraid, Precious closely resembles my cat, whose name is . . . wait for it . . . Nick the Brick, after his solidity.

posted by Tom  # 7/20/2004 01:14:00 PM

Chicken Little seeks NC Congressional seat 

I don't like that blogging style that just says "This is wack" and then sends you off clicking to find out for yourself.

On the other hand, one doesn't want to spoil the joke with a lot of explaining and foreshadowing either. So
This is wack.

And, this, which I found in the course of resarching this item, is wonderful.

posted by Tom  # 7/20/2004 12:00:00 PM

Let Fox be foxy and faux 

I wrote a while back that every time I felt warmly towards the libertarians for their general stance that liberty is better than non-liberty, some idiotic libertarian pulled something that made me pull back. But then along comes some idiotic liberal making me wish I was somewhere else with someone else doing something different.

Like, say, MoveOn and Common Cause filing a lawsuit claiming that the Fox News trademarked slogan, "Fair and Balanced" constitutes a "deceptive business practice".

All I have for these whining liberals is a big warm comforting wooza-wooza-wooza.

So, Fox News is a lying bunch of Cheneywads who are nothing more than conduit for deceptive Republican propaganda. Yeah, big Cheneying deal. It's all true, but so what?

The First Amendment way to fight lying propaganda is with truthful propaganda, not with frivolous lawsuits.

And, if your Vice Presidential candidate is a plaintiff's attorney who is being attacked unjustly as the fountainhead of frivolous lawsuits, then there's one thing you must not do.

Don't file any frivolous lawsuits.
This fighting idiocy and mendacity with idiocy and mendacity just isn't going to work out, you know.

posted by Tom  # 7/20/2004 10:19:00 AM

Monday, July 19, 2004

Weapons-of-arbitrary-linking-program-related activities 

RSL, M.D., reports:

Your blog comes up with two ads for flag makers today, and underneath that it suggests two "related searches": "President Bush" and "Nazi Flag".

Hmmm. It also had "President Bush" and "Confederate flag" at one time in the last couple of days...

posted by Tom  # 7/19/2004 10:07:00 PM

Bush was right, but will the liberals admit it?  

In the end, it will turn out that the administration was right after all, the responsibility for the torture will be laid at the feet of just a few bad apples, out of control: President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz, Under Secretary Feith, Under Secretary Cambone, General Myers, General Ricardo, some guy named "Scooter" . . .

posted by Tom  # 7/19/2004 09:49:00 PM

A black comedy just waiting to be filmed 

Jack Idema
, Special Forces soldier, crooked businessman, and free-lance jailer and torturer, well wired in the Pentagon, has his day in an Afghani court:

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Americans in combat fatigues kicked in the door at the home of the Afghan high court's chief judge, fired warning shots into the walls, trussed up the jurist and seven other men and whisked them off to jail.

There, one of the captives said, the men were doused with cold water, deprived of food and grilled about terrorism.

This was no ordinary raid, though. The men who nabbed the suspects are also in jail, accused of impersonating American operatives and imprisoning innocent people at a private jail during an illegal vigilante campaign in Afghanistan.

This is beyond strange, the sort of story where the truth never comes out.

Thanks Brother Dave for the link to the L.A. Times story.

PS -- Faces of 'Jack' Idema: black ops ace, nut case, an even more colorful story from the Raleigh New-Observer, local paper for the Special Forces.

"I liked him, but in my mind, I'm thinking, 'Who the hell is this guy?' He's clearly not a spy. Not military. He's one of those people who show up in war zones."

posted by Tom  # 7/19/2004 09:25:00 PM

Joseph Conrad on torture 

Here's another of our literary treatments of torture. This one is from Joseph Conrad's Nostromo. The novel is set in a South American country in a time of revolution and civil war. I'll be reviewing it soon, but this struck me forcibly when I read it today.

The subject is Dr. Monygham, an English doctor of the country, who seems a strange, hobbling, fearful, cynical fellow, a sort of respectable beachcomber. He had been tortured in a previous revolution, and has a flashback when another revolution begins.

Ed's note: I've altered the paragraph breaks and added emphasis for ease of online reading. Original text via Gutenberg.net.

First, how does it happen that a military force begins to torture its prisoners?

Many years ago both his ankles had been seriously damaged in the course of a certain investigation conducted in the castle of Sta. Marta by a commission composed of military men. Their nomination had been signified to them unexpectedly at the dead of night, with scowling brow, flashing eyes, and in a tempestuous voice, by [the dictator] Guzmán Bento. The old tyrant, maddened by one of his sudden accesses of suspicion, mingled spluttering appeals to their fidelity with imprecations and horrible menaces. The cells and casements of the castle on the hill had been already filled with prisoners. The commission was charged now with the task of discovering the iniquitous conspiracy against the Citizen-Saviour of his country.

Their dread of the raving tyrant translated itself into a hasty ferocity of procedure. The Citizen-Saviour was not accustomed to wait. A conspiracy had to be discovered. The courtyards of the castle resounded with the clanking of leg-irons, sounds of blows, yells of pain; and the commission of high officers laboured feverishly, concealing their distress and apprehensions from each other, and especially from their secretary, Father Berón, an army chaplain, at that time very much in the confidence of the Citizen-Saviour.

That priest was a big round-shouldered man, with an unclean-looking, overgrown tonsure on the top of his flat head, of a dingy, yellow complexion, softly fat, with greasy stains all down the front of his lieutenant's uniform, and a small cross embroidered in white cotton on his left breast. He had a heavy nose and a pendant lip. Dr. Monygham remembered him still. He remembered him against all the force of his will striving its utmost to forget. Father Berón had been adjoined to the commission by Guzmán Bento expressly for the purpose that his enlightened zeal should assist them in their labours. Dr.Monygham could by no manner of means forget the zeal of Father Berón, or his face, or the pitiless, monotonous voice in which he pronounced the words, "Will you confess now?"

This memory did not make him shudder, but it had made of him what he was in the eyes of respectable people, a man careless of common decencies, something between a clever vagabond and a disreputable doctor. But not all respectable people would have had the necessary delicacy of sentiment to understand with what trouble of mind and accuracy of vision Dr. Monygham, medical officer of the San Tomé mine, remembered Father Berón, army chaplain, and once a secretary of a military commission.

After all these years Dr. Monygham, in his rooms at the end of the hospital building in the San Tomé gorge, remembered Father Berón as distinctly as ever. He remembered that priest at night, sometimes, in his sleep. On such nights the doctor waited for daylight with a candle lighted, and walking the whole length of his rooms to and fro, staring down at his bare feet, his arms hugging his sides tightly.

He would dream of Father Berón sitting at the end of a long black table, behind which, in a row, appeared the heads, shoulders, and epaulettes of the military members, nibbling the feather of a quill pen, and listening with weary and impatient scorn to the protestations of some prisoner calling heaven to witness of his innocence, till he burst out, "What's the use of wasting time over that miserable nonsense! Let me take him outside for a while." And Father Berón would go outside after the clanking prisoner, led away between two soldiers. Such interludes happened on many days, many times, with many prisoners. When the prisoner returned he was ready to make a full confession, Father Berón would declare, leaning forward with that dull, surfeited look which can be seen in the eyes of gluttonous persons after a heavy meal.

Second, how is torture administered and what can be learned by torture?

The priest's inquisitorial instincts suffered but little from the want of classical apparatus of the Inquisition At no time of the world's history have men been at a loss how to inflict mental and bodily anguish upon their fellow-creatures. This aptitude came to them in the growing complexity of their passions and the early refinement of their ingenuity. But it may safely be said that primeval man did not go to the trouble of inventing tortures. He was indolent and pure of heart. He brained his neighbour ferociously with a stone axe from necessity and without malice. The stupidest mind may invent a rankling phrase or brand the innocent with a cruel aspersion. A piece of string and a ramrod; a few muskets in combination with a length of hide rope; or even a simple mallet of heavy, hard wood applied with a swing to human fingers or to the joints of a human body is enough for the infliction of the most exquisite torture.

The doctor had been a very stubborn prisoner, and, as a natural consequence of that "bad disposition" (so Father Berón called it), his subjugation had been very crushing and very complete. That is why the limp in his walk, the twist of his shoulders, the scars on his cheeks were so pronounced. His confessions, when they came at last, were very complete, too. Sometimes on the nights when he walked the floor, he wondered, grinding his teeth with shame and rage, at the fertility of his imagination when stimulated by a sort of pain which makes truth, honour, selfrespect, and life itself matters of little moment.

And he could not forget Father Berón with his monotonous phrase, "Will you confess now?" reaching him in an awful iteration and lucidity of meaning through the delirious incoherence of unbearable pain. He could not forget. But that was not the worst. Had he met Father Berón in the street after all these years Dr. Monygham was sure he would have quailed before him. This contingency was not to be feared now. Father Berón was dead; but the sickening certitude prevented Dr. Monygham from looking anybody in the face.

Dr. Monygham. had become, in a manner, the slave of a ghost. It was obviously impossible to take his knowledge of Father Berón home to Europe. When making his extorted confessions to the Military Board, Dr. Monygham was not seeking to avoid death. He longed for it. Sitting half-naked for hours on the wet earth of his prison, and so motionless that the spiders, his companions, attached their webs to his matted hair, he consoled the misery of his soul with acute reasonings that he had confessed to crimes enough for a sentence of death--that they had gone too far with him to let him live to tell the tale.

But, as if by a refinement of cruelty, Dr. Monygham was left for months to decay slowly in the darkness of his grave-like prison. It was no doubt hoped that it would finish him off without the trouble of an execution; but Dr. Monygham had an iron constitution. It was Guzman Bento who died, not by the knife thrust of a conspirator, but from a stroke of apoplexy, and Dr. Monygham was liberated hastily.


Saturday, July 17, 2004

Ichabod Crane rides again! 

Policies and actions aside, teeth-grinding stupidity and ineptness aside, smugness, nastiness, and criminality aside, the thing that bugs me most about the Bush administration is that it has turned me into the thing I have had the most distaste for in civic life, a paranoid consipiracy nut, sort of, not on days when my grandchildren are visiting or when I'm gardening or hanging in the library.

I do wish I could dismiss the article Terrorism and the Election: California is the Target! by paranoid conspiracy nut Wayne Madsen about how the coming election could also be stolen, not by delaying it, or because of another terrorist attack, but simply by continuing to issue scary warnings:

Here’s the scenario we must be all be prepared for:

If the pre-election internal tracking polls and public opinion polls show the Kerry-Edwards ticket leading in key battleground states, the Bush team will begin to implement their plan to announce an imminent terrorist alert for the West Coast for November 2 sometime during the mid afternoon Pacific Standard Time. At 2:00 PST, the polls in Kentucky and Indiana will be one hour from closing (5:00 PM EST – the polls close in Indiana and Kentucky at 6:00 PM EST). Exit polls in both states will be known to the Bush people by that time and if Kentucky (not likely Indiana) looks too close to call or leaning to Kerry-Edwards, the California plan will be implemented. A Bush problem in Kentucky at 6:00 PM EST would mean that problems could be expected in neighboring states and that plans to declare a state of emergency in California would begin in earnest at 3:00 PM PST.

The U.S. Northern Command, which has military jurisdiction over the United States, will, along with the Department of Homeland Security and Schwarzenegger’s police and homeland security officials in Sacramento, declare an “imminent” terrorist threat – a RED ALERT -- affecting California’s major urban areas.

Although the polls in California will not be closed as a result of the declaration, the panic that sets in and the early rush hour will clog major traffic arteries and change the plans of many voters to cast their ballot after work.

Much more in the article. Or, see this animated cartoon for the quick and funny version. Funny ha-ha combined inextricably with funny peculiar.

Links thanks to Discourse.net.


Reading the tiny little tea leaves 

  1. What is your favorite word? skumgummi, which is Norwegian for "foam rubber".
  2. What is your least favorite word? Oh, chthonic, quotidian, praxis, hermeneutics, all that.
  3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? Is it interesting?
  4. What turns you off? Against stupidity the gods themselves strive in vain. -- Schiller
  5. What is your favorite curse word? Gee. Seriously, I cuss as much as anyone else, but when I really get sarcastic, Jesus's nickname does just fine.
  6. What sound or noise do you love? Honking tenor sax.
  7. What sound or noise do you hate? Buckminster Fuller lecturing. I know, something wrong with me, but if you'd been there, you'd have hated it too. See No. 2.
  8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? I've hardly grasped my own, and I never wanted any other. If the question were a little more interesting, I'd admit wanting to be a Fly Girl. As it is, I'll just keep typing away.
  9. What profession would you not like to do? There are so many boring jobs. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want to be James Lipton.
  10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? I went through all the others just so I could answer this one: The library is right over there.
Ed's note: The 10 questions that James Lipton asks on "Inside the Actor's Studio" were first heard on a French series, "Bouillon de Culture" hosted by Bernard Pivot.


Friday, July 16, 2004

Alfredo, is that you?  

Many many words in our language are metaphors , but most of them are dead, having lost their metaphorical meaning -- no one equates supercilious with "raised eyebrow" any more -- but sometimes those dead metaphors come back to life, as in this collaboration between the Boston Globe copy desk and the AP:

Philippines pulls out more troops from
Iraq, beheaded body found

Boston Globe - 55 minutes ago

BAGHDAD, Iraqa (AP) The Philippines worked Friday to meet the demands of kidnappers holding a Filipino truck drive, announcing it was withdrawing the head of its humanitarian mission in Iraq and a . . .


Thursday, July 15, 2004

Good question. Dick, your answer? 

Number Two Son asks why Vice President Cheney (pardon my French) doesn't simply step down, move to an even more secluded location and keep right on telling the President what to do. Instead of having the tiny particle of responsibility that comes with his office, he would be free to do Cheneyall without any hindrance whatsoever.


The smell of death 

A correspondent asked how to get the smell of a dead body out of his curtains. Naturally, I replied, not wanting to miss an opportunity to use one of my favorite product names.

An article about crime-scene cleanup strongly recommends Ex-Stink.

The most effective product she uses is an Australian one, a powder called Ex-Stink, produced in Queensland by Natural Resources Australia.

"It's very good stuff," she said, adding that she leaves a container after the job is done for the client "as a goodwill gesture".

Bonus: A huge plant that smells like a corpse ("a rotting-fish-with-burnt-sugar scent") so as to atttract carrion beetles, grows so fast you can almost see it, and looks like a giant penis.

I don't want my readers to miss anything. Also, those last two words are Google Gold.


Good morning, Judge 

The irrepressible JO urges that we all worship Mike Judge as a god.


Wednesday, July 14, 2004

What th-?! Ukh! 

Speaking of comics, I wonder how many University of New Hampshire involvees wind up at the UNH web site?


Strange visitors from another planet 

Gallery of Super-Dudes from the annual Metropolis, IL, Superman festival.

Display of dignified gents in Superman suits. One of them, inexplicably, has the Big Red S wrong. The last picture is a particular thrill.

Link via Number Two Son, who wore a Superman costume daily for several years.


Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Better pre-emption through inadvertent destruction 

Records detailing war crimes and political payoffs by the Bush administration were inadvertently destroyed this week so as to prevent any post-election investigations, indictments, or imprisonments.

The inadvertent destruction will not be made public until some prosecutor makes a move.

"The dog ate my integrity," former President Bush said in a statement prepared for later release, much later.


Thursday, July 08, 2004

Taking a week off 

I'm off to the woods of northern New Hampshire with dogs and other chums. We have a "compound" there, six shacks, a lean-to, the world's butchest fireplace, and the world's best outhouse. This week we're going to put in a dining shelter.

You folks watch the universe for me. If you miss me too much, poke around in the archives.


Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Suds and summer 

The perspicuitous JO just can't resist sippin them summery suds. He offers this pair of beery links:

Fun fact: Bert and Harry Piel didn't sell all that much beer.


Elvis Costello humor 

This is from Sal's highly amusing newsletter for his "record store" (as we ancients call them) NYCD-online.com:






Sal's newsletter includes usually enthusiastic, but sometimes hostile, reviews of albums he's selling, as well as intriguing looks at what's languishing on the shelves of his store at bargain prices.


US Flag law 

Afer having published the complaint about trivialization of the flag, I have spent the entire holiday weekend biting my tongue at misuse of the flag. Emphasis added.

Here is the law:

Sec. 8. Respect for flag

No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America; the flag should not be dipped to any person or thing. Regimental colors, State flags, and organization or institutional flags are to be dipped as a mark of honor.
(a) The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.
(b) The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.
(c) The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.
(d) The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free. Bunting of blue, white, and red, always arranged with the blue above, the white in the middle, and the red below, should be used for covering a speaker's desk, draping the front of the platform, and for decoration in general.
(e) The flag should never be fastened, displayed, used, or stored in such a manner as to permit it to be easily torn, soiled, or damaged in any way.
(f) The flag should never be used as a covering for a ceiling.
(g) The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.
(h) The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.
(i) The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard. Advertising signs should not be fastened to a staff or halyard from which the flag is flown.
(j) No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations. The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. Therefore, the lapel flag pin being a replica, should be worn on the left lapel near the heart.
(k) The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.

Editor's note: The first point, that the flag is never dipped, leads to the requirement that when the flag is flown at half-staff, it is always raised to the top of the pole, then lowered for display. When taken down, it is raised to the top again. This assures that the flag will never even seem to have been dipped.


Monday, July 05, 2004

Freedom-loving military crushes Bush coup 

Dr. Bob crossed his tweed-clad legs, glanced at the depleted decanter, drew thoughtfully on his pipe, and, with a weary, worldly wise sigh, imagined next year's Fahrenheit 9/11:

I had been discussing the coup scenario and why the military wouldn't go for it (because they're more upstanding and law abiding than Bush), I made this comment a few days ago:

Come to think of it, a freedom-loving military crushing an attempted coup by Bush et al. would make a great movie plot. I picture spectacular FX in the terrorist attack (hijacked B-1 with nuclear bombs? -- echoes of Dr. Strangelove) and the later street fighting in Washington between opposing military factions. Richard Myers (Tom Hanks) gets one humiliating order too many from Rumsfeld.... Colin Powell (Denzel Washington) is a canny double-agent working not-so-secretly with the righteous Joint Chiefs.... Treacherous Condi Rice (Halle Berry) kills Powell after a steamy seduction scene in the Situation Room.... Bush, Cheney, Ashcroft, and Rumsfeld are held in Guantanamo awaiting trial for treason.... This is gonna pack 'em in.


Post Number 201: Fun-loving founding father 

Reason magazine, the stimulating, if sometimes over-stimulated, libertarian magazine reviews two books about

The Fun-Loving Founding Father
Gouverneur Morris, the first modern American.

It is well worth reading just to learn about the one founding father who hasn't been fawned over and mythologized and written about until virtual disappearance in a mire of adulation and revisionism. Except for one biography (by Teddy Roosevelt), Morris, a dancing, adulterous, money-happy, peglegged aristocratic gent, has been pretty well ignored in spite of being the principal author of the Constitution.

The most striking note in the review, however, concerns Morris's opposition to counting slaves in apportioning the legislature:

In debates over the rules of representation, Morris set forth arguments against slavery of powerful verbal fluency, moral clarity, and withering wit: "Upon what principle is it that the slaves shall be computed in the representation? Are they men? Then make them citizens and let them vote. Are they property? Why then is no other property included? The houses in [Philadelphia] are worth more than all the wretched slaves that cover the rice swamps of South Carolina....The admission of slaves into the representation when fairly explained comes to this: that the inhabitant of Georgia and South Carolina who goes to the coast of Africa and, in defiance of the most sacred laws of humanity, tears away his fellow creatures from their dearest connections and damns them to the most cruel bondages, shall have more votes in a government instituted for the protection of the rights of mankind than the citizen of Pennsylvania or New Jersey who views with laudable horror so nefarious a practice."

Morris makes it impossible to lightly dismiss the grievous hypocrisy of the slaveholding Founders on grounds that "it was a different time." If they didn't know exactly what they were doing, Morris made it abundantly plain. Morris often lost his arguments, as he lost this one, but he was tenacious in making whatever marginal improvements were possible.

Snob, opponent of universal suffrage, who believed the Senate should be a life appointment, friend of liberty and enemy of the worst hypocrisy that attended the founding of our nation.

As for that pegleg, the review recounts the story:

At age 28, Morris shattered his leg in a carriage accident. The leg was amputated. Morris displayed his unflappably upbeat temperament and sly sense of humor in response to friends who assured him that the pain and struggle would build character: "you...point out so clearly the advantages of being without legs that I am tempted to part with the other," he wrote. Morris, who also had a maimed arm, seems never to have sulked. The peg did not appear to have cramped his style on the dance floor, or with the ladies.


Sunday, July 04, 2004

Patriotic day, patriotic motto 

If you can't get drunk and shoot off fireworks, the terrorists have won.

--WBCN radio, Boston


Michael Moore waves the flag 

I finally replaced my flag holder this morning. The Star Spangled Banner is gallantly streaming again. It was flying September 11, 2001, and had been flying since Flag Day that year (the rules on 24-hour display had changed by then).

Then the flag holder went kerflooey, and what with Bush, and all that, I had thought I would return to my practice of the Reagan years of flying my flag privately, in the back yard, rather than the front, from fear of being taken for one who believed swapping arms for hostages was just a grand idea.

This was wrong, and I find Michael Moore in agreement with me. He went through some of the same doubts I did before coming to the same conclusion I did:

Let's create a world in which, when people see the Stars and Stripes, they will think of us as the people who brought peace to the world, who brought good-paying jobs to all citizens and clean water for the world to drink.

In anticipation of that day, I am putting my flag out today, with hope and with pride.

Me too, and you should too. This usurpation of our national symbol has gone too far.


Oh, Brother! 

George Bush, the Herbert Walker one, tried to stick us with Dan Quayle, but it didn't take, so he stuck us with George Bush, the Walker one.

My own Number two son observes that, however corrupt, Jeb Bush actually seems of normal expected nominal competence at his job, leading to the inevitable conclusion that we have ended up stuck somehow with Ed Nixon, Roger Clinton, Sam Houston Johnson, Neil Bush, or Billy Carter.

PS -- My sons are both fine men. Neither has any interest in the presidency, however, so keep looking.


Flags of the Fourth 

For a stirring protest against commercialization and trivialization of the American flag, see Flags of the Fourth

I long for the day when the flag is treated with the respect it deserves. I would rather see a hundred flags burn because they symbolize the American government or its democratic ideology than see a single paper plate flag rot in a waste bin never to have evoked a feeling in anyone.

This came from the commentary section of The Raw Story. The site set out to be the progressive version of the Drudge Report, but has gone far beyond that modest goal.


Get yourself a flag pin and wear it proudly 

Why should we think politician, probably Republican, likely rightwing every time we see someone wearing an American flag pin?

You should wear one, I should wear one, everybody should wear one.

I had some tenants from Spain who observed after seeing Fourth of July with the Boston Pops on the Esplenade that the United States flag belonged to everybody.

It does, but as a political symbol it has been usurped by politicians, definitely Republican, thoroughly rightwing.

So, get yourself a flag pin and wear it proudly. The flag stands more for the Bill of Rights than it does for supporting Bush. If it means that you back the troops, well, you do back the troops, don't you? You don't have to like a single thing the administration has done to wear the flag.

Everyone write to Jon Stewart urging him to wear an American flag in his lapel, yet another way to put Bush in his place. And maybe someday we can wear our American flag pins proudly anywhere in the world. For now, better keep them at home, but wear them. This is the country we want back.


Saturday, July 03, 2004

CIA plot to topple Bush? 

The CIA has been practicing its coup d'etat expertise all around the world for decades. Is it possible that all this will come to a head in a coup (counter-coup?) in the United States?

Be that as it may, an article in The Nation by William Greider about the source of those leaks that have been so devastating to the Bush administration the past few weeks (and likely to continue right on up to the election) has pretty much cheered us all up here at Rancho Desperado.

Election Matters

The most intriguing story in Washington these days is a subterranean conflict that reporters cannot cover because some of them are involved. A potent guerrilla insurgency has formed in and around the Bush presidency -- a revolt of old pros in government who strike from the shadows with devastating effect. They tell the truth. They explode big lies. They provide documentary evidence that undermines popular confidence in the Commander in Chief. They prod the media and the political community to ask penetrating questions of the Bush regime. Doubtless, these anonymous sources act from a mixture of motives -- some noble, some self-interested -- but in present circumstances one might think of them as "embedded patriots."

If that isn't explosive enough, chew on this doubtless irresponsible, if not baseless, but nonetheless entertaining, speculation from Politics.com:

Based upon recent developments, it appears that long-standing plans and preparations leading to indictments and impeachment of Bush, Cheney and even some senior cabinet members have been accelerated, possibly with the intent of removing or replacing the entire Bush regime prior to the Republican National Convention this August.

May you live in interesting times.


Friday, July 02, 2004

BOOK REVIEW: King Leopold's Ghost 

Taking a break from my own country's misbegotten adventures on the slippery slope of imperialism -- slippery because covered with blood -- I just completed King Leopold's Ghost by Adam Hochschild.

King Leopold takes his place with the greats, Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, the Aztecs, having reduced the population of the Congo Free State -- literally his private fiefdom -- from twenty million people to ten million in forty years. All for nothing but money, money in the form of rubber, red gold. This wasn't rubber cultivation with indentured labor on plantations as in other colonies, this was ripping the rubber vines out of the trees with slave labor under the whip.

Although the Congo Free State ended its existence just before World War I, just in time for rapacious, murderous Belgium to be transformed into raped, murdered Belgium for propaganda purposes, the oppression of the Belgian Congo continued into modern times, modern enough that 80 per cent of the uranium in the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was mined in the Congo by forced labor.

The story is terrible. Leopold never went near the Congo. All he wanted was the money. The Anglo-American reporter/explorer Henry M. Stanley, now more famous for presuming to find Livingston, who was not even lost, led numerous expeditions of militaristic conquest into the Congo. Torture in the Congo and favorable publicity in Europe and North America was the formula for success, and it succeeded greatly.

Not that there weren't heroes:

  • George Washington Williams, an American Negro writer, the first ever to report the atrocities in the Congo.
  • William Shepherd, another American Negro, a Presbyterian missionary who led European and American missionaries, virtually the only independents in the Congo, in a steady attack on Leopold and his policies.
  • Edmund Dene Morel, a shipping agent who observed that while millions of dollars worth of rubber and ore were coming out of the Congo, all that was going back was rifles and chains. From this evidence, he intuited that the Congo was a slave state, and devoted the rest of his life to destroying it.
  • Sir Roger Casement, British diplomat (and later Irish martyr), who put the force of the British government, itself a somewhat less bloody oppressor, behind the international protest against the Belgians.
  • Joseph Conrad, Anglo-Polish sea captain assigned to a Congo steamer who was so sickened by what he saw on a single trip up the river that he quit on the spot. Eight years later he wrote Heart of Darkness.

The work of these people led to the establishment of the very first international human-rights campaign, direct ancestor of the Anti-Slavery Society and Amnesty International and other such groups.

Hochschild tells the story well, with closely controlled rage and impeccable documentation. The documentation was not easy to come by, the furnaces in Brussels burned papers for two weeks when Leopold turned over his private Congo to the Belgians. Most of the information about Leopold's torture-murderers was accumulated by his enemies.

One peculiarity: While Heart of Darkness is the most reprinted and studied short novel of the 20th century, its psychological and moral truths are so profound as to overshadow its literal truth. Hochschild even found two likely models for the insane villain Kurtz -- heads on sticks and all -- who have been ignored by Conrad scholars.

In all, a moving book, an interesting book, and a story still alive today.


Fireworks for the Fourth 

Celebrate with fireworks the declaration of American independence, you know, the day we decided we'd had enough and declared the right of revolution, the most fundamental of all our rights.

Not to be too serious here -- after all, we think all it will take this time is an election -- click on the fireworks link for a nice piece of web fun.


BOOK REVIEW: Lynda Barry's One Hundred Demons 

The Demons here are childhood memories, lovingly rendered in all their horror and glory by an honest memoirist whose cartoons are among the very best ever done.

I don't know that I need to say any more, but I will add that although the cartoons are reprinted from Salon, they are presented in color and in a book that is genuinely designed, and not just a series of pages with cartoons on them.

She is, indeed, the funk queen of the royal mounted.


BOOK REVIEW: Terry Pratchett's Men at Arms 

I've just finished my first Terry Pratchett book, on the recommendation of First Granddaughter, and, as Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs used to say about Martha White flour, "Goodness gracious, it's good."

I'm sure you're all ahead of me on this, but Terry Pratchett is the kind of writer who gives pastiche a good name. His Discworld novels take, or, I should say, the single Discworld novel that I have read takes, well-worn-out themes, in this case, a police procedural murder mystery, the threat of technological innovation, the return of the lost king, the rivalry of dwarves and trolls, an enticing werewolf, the Asssasin's Guild, talking dogs, and slams them all together inside a meticulously worked out plot to produce what can only be called, as this is all British, rum fun.

He's written dozens of these things. Oh, boy!


Bush = Deserter 

There's no need to unredact those raddled* records from Texas Air National Guard, the guilty verdict is in.

The AWOL Project has released a draft report that proves that it is possible to be plodding and cautious and careful and dry as dust and yet still be sarcastic and entertaining.




An examination of the Bush military files within the context of US Statutory Law, Department of Defense regulations, and Air Force policies and procedures of that era lead to a single conclusion: George W. Bush was considered a deserter by the United States Air Force.

After Bush quit TXANG, he still had nine months of his six-year military commitment left to serve. As a result, Bush became a member of the Air Force Reserves and was transferred to the authority of the Air Reserve Personnel Center (ARPC) in Denver, Colorado. Because this was supposed to be a temporary assignment, ARPC had to review Bush’s records to determine where he should ultimately be assigned. That examination would have led to three conclusions: That Bush had “failed to satisfactorily participate” as defined by United States law and Air Force policy, that TXANG could not account for Bush’s actions for an entire year, and that Bush’s medical records were not up to date. Regardless of what actions ARPC contemplated when reviewing Bush’s records, all options required that Bush be certified as physically fit to serve, or as unfit to serve. ARPC thus had to order Bush to get a physical examination, for which Bush did not show up. ARPC then designated Bush as AWOL and a “non-locatee” (i.e. a deserter) who had failed to satisfactorily participate in TXANG, and certified him for immediate induction through his local draft board. Once the Houston draft board got wind of the situation, strings were pulled; and documents were generated which directly contradict Air Force policy, and which were inconsistent with the rest of the records released by the White House.

It goes on and on from here, and the parent website goes on even longer.

*Raddled => painted up like an old whore.


Thursday, July 01, 2004

They had a paper chase, and Ashcroft lost 

Is the Attorney General actually a lawyer? His comments on the recent Supreme Court decision that lock-'em-up-and-throw-away-the-key is unconstitutional betray a reckless and profound ignorance of the law, and even, presumably, of the habeas corpus cases his own Justice Department presented to the Supreme Court.

At least I hope the Justice Department didn't present the case that having your day in some sort of court, however jumped up, is a new right. But that's what this horrible, sniveling hymn-singing lost-to-a-dead-man hypocrite said to the Associated Press:

"The Supreme Court accorded to terrorists, in a variety of cases this week, a number of additional rights," he said. "We're digesting those opinions in terms of making sure that we adjust or modify what we do, so that we accommodate the requirements as expressed by the Supreme Court."

Yetthir, as soon as we figure out how to get around this habeas corpus thing we'll get right back to you. First, we'll look it up in Black's Law Dictionary and try to figure out what it's all about. Kinda confusin' to us country boys, letting the guilty go free on their new terrorist rights just because they technically haven't actually been found guilty. 1679 is barely 300 years ago but the lizard brain is millions of years old.



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