Archive for September, 2011

With the announcement that American citizen Anwar al-Awlak has been assassinated in an American drone attack the power of the president has expanded far beyond anything that Bush and Cheney had attempted. Sure, al-Awlak was a nasty character. It’s not like Obama ordered the assassination of Ron Paul. But that is how precedent is set. Will there be massive outcry that the president of the United States may now order the assassination of an American citizen? Capital punishment with no trial? And from a purported man of the Left? Or are we so far gone, so wrapped in fear, that this seems justified?

Lord have mercy.

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Little Nemo

When I wrote yesterday that Calvin and Hobbes was “perhaps” the best comic strip ever, my friend Maclin Horton said that he would remove the “perhaps”. Another person commented that Krazy Kat wins in that category.

I admit that while I have seen Krazy Kat my whole life I don’t recall ever reading the strip. I also admit that my use of Krazy Kat being hit by a brick was done only because I liked the image for the accompanying article, and it is apparently out of context.

However, I threw in the “perhaps” because I was thinking of Winsor McKay’s “Little Nemo”. He drew it from 1904 until 1915 and it would be innovative even today. They tell the tale of Nemo in Dreamland and are unrivaled in imagery, sometimes nightmarish. The strips are too small to read, but you can see the graphic excellence of the strip from them:

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Seeing Anew

Since my cataract surgery last week I have been amazed at the fine detail that I had been missing. It’s not that my eyes were terrible before; it is more like everything was slightly faded, or just a little less precise. I don’t have Blue Ray, but I have seen it in the stores, and it is almost exactly like switching to it from regular DVD. Indeed, I am wondering what Blue Ray will look like with my new left eye.

In particular I am taken with the beauty of clouds, the subtle colors and intricate shapes. It is almost visionary, and it was such a relatively small change; I can only wonder what things will be like when we finally see things as they are, when our eyes are awakened to the unseen realm.

And I can hardly wait until my other eye is done, when I can take it all as a blessing without squinting.

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(Thanks to Joseph at Byzantine TX)

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Indict the Criminals

“Impeach Bush” has morphed into “Indict Bush”. A good idea, even if the chances are small:


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Virtue Needs Cheaper Thrills

Calvin and Hobbes was perhaps the best comic strip ever. I sure miss it, but you have to give Bill Watterson credit: not only did he quit before he got stale, he never cashed in on the strip, never got royalties from Calvin and Hobbes junk. Those “Calvins” that you see urinating on Ford logos are not by Mr Watterson; they are rip offs. And Calvin’s creator also has enough character that he never sued the usurpers.

This is one of my favorites (click to enlarge):

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No, it isn’t that hardworking postal employees are overpaid:

“The deep hole of debt that is currently facing the U.S. Postal Service is entirely due to the burdensome prepayments for future retiree health care benefits imposed by Congress in the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006,” Nader wrote last week in a letter to Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-Connecticut) and Congressman Darrell Issa (R-California.)

“By June 2011, the USPS saw a total net deficit of $19.5 billion … [this] deficit almost exactly matches the $20.95 billion the USPS made in prepayments to the fund for future retiree health care benefits by June 2011. If the prepayments required under PAEA were never enacted into law, the USPS would not have a net deficiency of nearly $20 billion, but instead be in the black by at least $1.5 billion.”

More: http://www.counterpunch.org/2011/09/27/corporatizing-the-post-office/

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Max and the Bogeyman

I am about half way through a book by Max Blumenthal, Republican Gommorah, that I stumbed upon the other day at the library. I had casually opened it and ran across random information that I had never seen before. Did you know that Ted Bundy, before his killing spree, had been active in Republican politics? Or that Pat Robertson had abandoned his first wife and child? Me neither, and I thought it might be interesting to see what else the book revealed.

The book, which is a few years old, purports to chronicle the rise of the Christian Right in the Republican Party. I would like to clarify that I have not much use for either the religious Right or the Republican Party. But I also must say that I have considerable experience, during my brief time as an evangelical, with the folks Mr Blumenthal is writing about, and that in the 80s, when I was involved in the antiabortion movement, I felt a certain uncomfortable kinship with them. Since then, as the Christian Right has lined up behind every aggressive American war, and as it asserted a weird apocalyptic Zionism, I have grown more and more estranged from that worldview.

That said, Blumenthal’s book is patently ridiculous. Everything about the Right is seen in the most sinister terms imaginable. Evangelicals are “sadomasochistic”, spanking is child abuse, everything about evangelical subculture is sick and evil. When James Dobson calls someone a “friend of the family” Blumenthal changes it to “friend of the Family”, as if Dobson is speaking of some sort of weird shadowy cult. To anyone who has spent time around evangelicals, the picture he paints is an unrecognizable cartoon. Political evangelicals may have some strange and dangerous ideas, but by and large they are not the sort of insidious hypocrites Mr Blumenthal portrays. There are scoundrels and people of good will on both Left and Right, and no one has a monopoly on hypocrisy.

The book, in short, reminds me of Right wing demonization of the Left, where anyone not marching in lockstep with the Tea Party is a nefarious enemy of America, and a sexual pervert to boot. Republican Gommorah is an example of the trouble we are in these days, yet another case of people with blindfolds on, throwing bricks at each other from either side of a  wall. God forbid that anyone try to understand what motivates one’s erstwhile enemy, let alone show any sympathy for them. Of course, to follow the path of dehumanization is to follow the path of hate.

I’ll probably finish the book; the guy has done his homework and there are a lot of revealing connections made, but I will do so holding my nose. It’s a shame that Max Blumenthal preferred to create a bogeyman; however much information his book contains, he remains ignorant of the subject he has chosen to write about.

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“In a South Carolina prison sixty-six years ago, guards walked a 14-year-old boy, bible tucked under his arm, to the electric chair. At 5′ 1” and 95 pounds, the straps didn’t fit, and an electrode was too big for his leg.

The switch was pulled and the adult sized death mask fell from George Stinney’s face. Tears streamed from his eyes. Witnesses recoiled in horror as they watched the youngest person executed in the United States in the past century die.”

And he may have been innocent:


(Thanks to Mark Shea.)

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This story appeared in the second issue of Caelum et Terra, the magazine, in 1991. It was in a letter to the editor from the late Dr John Senior. I have been unable to trace its origin, and indeed cannot find a reference to “St John of the Desert”. For all I know Dr Senior made it up. Either way, if it isn’t true, it should be:

An angel came to St John of the Desert commanding him to spend his life watering a dead stick. Day after day at Lauds he carried handfuls from the trickle in the rock he lived by when, on his hundredth birthday, it burst into flowers and he died. A young man hearing the story emulated him. The angel appeared commanding the same and on his hundredth birthday he simply died saying to a disappointed disciple, “We aren’t in it for the flowers.”

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