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Friday, August 21, 2009

Most Vile

The Nazis and prisoner-torturing and civilian-killing imperialist Japanese on Bataan and elsewhere in WWII were models of correct behavior compared to the jihadists we're at war with around the world.

- Dan Simmons, best-selling author of such award-winning books as Hyperion and Carrion Comfort

Last year, around the election, I was involved in a debate about Guantanamo, terrorism, etc. on the message board at Dan Simmons's website. Simmons described Al Qaeda-style terrorists as "unprecedentedly vile."

Vile, I'll agree with. "Unprecedentedly" though? So I challenged him on the characterization, and this sentence...which has stuck with me almost over a year later...was part of his response.

It was like a kick in the nuts, not only because the rest of the response was rather harsh, but here's a guy who I admire as a writer, who's intelligence and imagination (I thought) were without parallel, and yet he's spitting out stupid shit like this.

Now, granted, there is some room for opinion here. One's vileness is largely a subjective matter. Me, personally, I don't think the Lockerbie bomber should have been released to Libya. (It's a bit of a travesty actually.) But I saw the footage of him arriving on the tarmac and the Libyans were overjoyed by it. It was like the Super Bowl winners coming back home to their fans, cheering, chanting, waving. He probably got a parade, too.

So while I, James the American, thinks this guy is vile, the Libyans clearly think he's awesome.

But beyond that, I think there is still some objective way to gauge one's vileness.

Now, kidnapping westerners, tying them up, making videos of you sawing off their head, yes, this is vile. But more vile than a death camp?

And that's what I don't get. How can an intelligent person look at the jihadists, then look back in history at the Nazis, and conclude ...with no apparent irony... that the jihadists are more vile?

Let's just compare a few things:

Al Qaeda sought "safe havens" in weak Muslim countries like Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan.

The Nazis invaded and occupied most of Europe: Poland, Yugoslavia, France, Denmark. They installed their own puppet dictators in many of these countries: the Ustashe of Croatia, Vichy France, Fascist Italy, etc.

Conclusion: One of these had more power, reach, and territory than the other. Al Qaeda wanted benefactors to protect them, the Nazis wanted vassal kings that they could control. You figure it out.

Al Qaeda was behind several spectacular and deadly terrorist attacks: Khobar Towers, the USS Cole, 9-11, the train bombings in London. They killed thousands, injured thousands more.

The Nazis developed the concept of Blitzkrieg, perfected the art of death camps, and bombed London nightly for weeks on end. They killed millions in an industrial-strength genocide and destroyed a whole continent in the process.

Conclusion: One of these caused more damage, more casualties, and more terror than the other. Hint: They feature prominently in the award-winning film Schindler's List.

Al Qaeda snatched a couple guys off the street and made snuff films for the internet while beheading them.

The Imperial Japanese spent December and January of 1937 raping tens of thousands of Chinese women, killing hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians, beheading many of them for sport. For fun! Not to send a message, but to actually compete with their buddies. "How many did you get today?" "13." "That's an unlucky number. Better go get one more just to be safe." "Yeah, you're right. My sword's a little bent. Can I borrow yours?"

Conclusion: One of these groups gets a special wing of hell reserved just for them. The other gets thrown into general population with the rest of the evil-doers.

I don't think I have to mention the Bataan Death March, Mount Suribachi, Normandy Beach, Stalingrad, Joseph Mengele, or any of the rest of it. The winner of the "Most Vile" contest was decided a long time ago.

Contrary to what Dan Simmons wrote a year ago, "the Nazis and prisoner-torturing and civilian-killing imperialist Japanese on Bataan and elsewhere in WWII were NOT models of correct behavior compared to"...anything.

Their level of evil has yet to be matched, or surpassed. Actually, compared to the Nazis and the Imperial Japanese, it looks like Al Qaeda's not even trying.

Now You're Talking Some Sense

I'm not going to muddy up this guy's point with commentary of my own, but I will add this: YES!

This is what I've been saying for a long time.
I am a fierce proponent of free markets. Therefore I am a fierce proponent of government intervention in the market.

Or, to put things less inflamatorily, one thing that often bothers me about US defenders of free markets is how easily they (and we) forget that free markets are created, maintained and curated by, well, the government. Free market conservatives often behave as if free markets are like a state of nature in which ham-fisted government arrives after the fact and wrecks everything when, in fact, it is the opposite. In a state of nature, you have permanent war. Traders and entrepreneurs can only exist once you have a Leviathan to enforce things like private property, money and contracts — all things created and maintained by the State. The rules of the market are set by the State. And if the State doesn’t intervene — justly — in the markets, you cannot have a free market.

All Kinds of Weak

A dude named Challis McAffee up in Boise, Idaho was arrested after he pulled a gun on a guy named Robert Lutes during a verbal argument. Here's Lutes's side of the story:
"I'm unarmed, I'm an old man," Lutes, 51, told The Associated Press on Thursday. "I'm trying to find out why he's taking pictures of my house. I said, 'Knock on my door, let me know what you want.' Then, I think he's reaching for his business card and he pulls out a concealed weapon and I think he's going to blow my head off."
As it turns out, McAffee was taking pictures of his house because he works for a contractor hired by Wells Fargo, who holds the note on Lutes's house, to document the condition of homes in danger of foreclosure.

So both men had legitimate reasons for doing what they were doing. McAffee was just doing his job, taking pictures for his boss. Lutes was just protecting his property from a curious, perhaps creepy, interloper.

I imagine him walking down the driveway full of bluster, perhaps confused and a bit angry. "Get off my lawn," he shrieks, his chest puffed up, head thrown back. He's like one of those lizards that puffs out its flaps to look bigger, more intimidating.

McAffee perhaps tries to explain himself, or perhaps he doesn't. Perhaps Lutes is so angry he's in no condition to listen to any explanations. He's foaming at the mouth, spouting out lines from every Clint Eastwood movie he can remember.

However it works out, I can't imagine how McAffee would think it appropriate to whip out his .357 magnum instead of getting in his car and leaving. And this explanation from Ryan Davidson, McAffee's friend and defender, is less than convincing.
"Challis is one of the most mild-mannered, good-natured guys," Davidson said. "The conversation wasn't going anywhere, the guy smacked the car window. At that point, he (McAffee) felt threatened enough, he picked up the firearm in front of the seat that he carries for protection. The nature of the job is, you're going to run into some unhappy people."
He smacked the car window? This was the deadly threat that caused McAffee to reach for his pistol? Harsh language and a smack on the window?

Remember the old gangster lament: We used to be able to throw down with our fists, but now everyone just reaches for the AKs...

And then remember the old libertarian saw: An armed society is a polite society.

Seems to me, if that was true, McAffee would have knocked on Lutes's door. Or, as Lutes suggested, handed over a business card. But no, better to just pull out the weapon and settle it right now. "See? I've got bullets. I win. You lose."

By the way, McAffee is a Republican Party honcho in Idaho, described as "a backer of libertarian-leaning former GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul and an activist in this year's anti-big-government 'Tea Party' protests."

Although I'm sure none of that's relevant...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Santana DVX

My nephew turned me onto The Lonely Island, a record from SNL's Andy Samberg and some other peeps. It's got Lazy Sunday (a favorite), Natalie Portman's rap and, of course, Dick in a Box.

This one cracks me up too. (And it explains the Santana reference in the previous post.)

As a kid,
I used to lay awake and think,
when was Santana gonna make a drink?
But now I'm all grown and my dream came true,
Santana champagne from him to you.

Safe Home

I know the Anthrax guys want John Bush back in the band, but he's got a new Armored Saint record coming out and I hear they're going to be touring on it too. Too bad, really, but then again I'm biased. I love these guys.

This is footage of their brief reunion at Sonisphere. Will it be permanent? Doubt it.

For their next record, Anthrax should go the Santana route and hire a bunch of guest singers. They've got enough friends in the business to muster up one hell of a Supernatural record.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What About Me?

Ya know...

On the way home, I was thinking about the loonies and the wingnuts going crazy over paranoid fantasies about the government killing retarded babies and old people. On a commute that takes an hour and a half, you have a lot of time to think.

And I was thinking, as they spin out these hypotheticals about "totalitarian take-overs" and "socialism" and "nazis" and all this weird bullshit that has no bearing on the day to day life of, well, anyone, I'm riding the goddamn bus.

With a suspended drivers license.

Because I got a letter from the government (state, not federal) that I didn't read and since I didn't read this letter, I didn't know I had to get an SR-22, which basically notifies the state of my insurance status, a virtual KGB informer for the Politiburo, if you will. "Ack, he canceled his insurance! Get 'im!"

Anyway, I'm thinking about how the government wanted to get all up in my shit a couple years ago and I ignored them as long as I could, until they got bitchy enough about it and yanked my driving "privileges."

And I was thinking about this new law they're trying to pass in Aurora, aimed, of course, at illegal immigrants. Unlicensed drivers get their vehicles towed and impounded, must pay a $2500 ransom, must get a drivers license (which would an illegal immigrant, or me for that matter, could not legally do), and then you get all the impound fees and fines to take care of. Let's not forget that thanks to the mandatory minimums, being convicted of driving without a license guarantees you five days in jail.

Now I'm thinking about this shit, and thinking how unfair, how draconian and authoritarian it all is. How this is Big Government staring you in in the face. This isn't some hypothetical "slippery slope" argument we're talking about.

This is literally happening to me now. The government (again: state, not federal) with its ham-fisted tentacles all over everything, not making my life easier but just the opposite. Not saving me money, but costing me money. Not providing me with freedom, but taking my freedom.

And I wonder why these brain dead morons chanting about freedom and the blood of tyrants have not taken up my cause.

Unfortunately, I feel these same elements, the ones so hostile to a government takeover of the healthcare industry, are actually quite comfortable with a muscular, vindictive government when it comes to so-called criminals (like me) and other undesirables (like mental patients, drug users, and illegal immigrants, among others).

You can't tell an insurance company to cover a guy regardless of his condition, but you can tell a guy to get car insurance regardless of whether he thinks it's a good use for his hard-earned money.

And if the insurance company screws up, say they give the CEO a bonus instead of paying for some kid's cancer treatments, you're not going to pull his charter and put him out of business. Oh no. That would be socialism.

But the guy who doesn't let his insurance company (if he had an insurance company) inform on him, pull his drivers license. Now! Threaten him with jailtime. Make him ride the bus. Don't worry, it's not socialism. It's justice.

And this is what I want to know. Where's my Tea Party?

Hazzard County, MN

In a coup that shook the NFL, the Minnesota Vikings signed Uncle Jesse from Hazzard County to be their lead signal-caller.

When asked for comment, Roscoe P. Coltrane said, "I love it, I love it, I love it."

Obama and Unicorns

You gotta see this. Kat left this for me in the comments.

These paintings are hilarious.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Ick Alert

I think this is why I don't like Heidi Montag/Pratt whatever-her-face-is-called.
Why didn't Heidi Pratt bare all in the September issue of Playboy?

"Always leave them asking for more," she said on Ryan Seacrest's KIIS-FM radio show Tuesday. "Next time, I'll have more to reveal."
First of all, she goes on Ryan Seacrest's radio show, which no self-respecting person above the age of fifteen would do, and talks about how she didn't show anything in her Playboy spread. Not a nipple. Not a pubic hair. Oh, her butt crack. Wow, a hands on the boobs shot.

I see, so you're just a fake slut then...

I saw this Jill Kelly movie once. She ate this girl's pussy, then let this dude fuck her in the mouth. Then she fucked the girl with a strap on and after that, she did anal with the dude. Now there's a real slut.

But you ain't gonna hear her on Ryan Seacrest's radio show. No sir.

Weird Scenes Inside the Garden

It's been a strange, wet ride this gardening season. It hasn't gone a week without rain, and for a while there, it was raining every day, torrential monsoons that flooded the ground and beat back plants. Many plants used the extra water to grow and grow and grow, and now they're tired. There were too many blooms to pinch off and now I'm rewarded with excessive amounts of spent stalks and loose seed. (Volunteer plants next year will be out of hand!)

Anyway, some pics.

The tire tiers. Just as the marigolds and aster start to get going, the columbines and the shasta daisies and johnny jump-ups are done.

Herbs in bloom. (No, not that kind of herb. Here we have dill, mint, and thyme. Used in the kitchen? Not hardly.)

This area just went nuts. Nuts, I tell you. All these love-lies-bleeding plants are volunteers from last year, and even then, I had to thin them out considerably to make room for the marigolds. Actually, as it turns out, the marigolds are the only thing I transplanted here. Otherwise, it's all returning perennials or self-seeding annuals.

The "three sisters" method has had mixed results and I suspect it's because I'm doing it wrong. The squash plants are stunted, the beans not trailing the way I think they should. The corn, though, the corn is doing alright, despite repeated punishment from hailstorms.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Legalize It

Expect to hear a lot about illegal pot farms and the Mexican gangs that tend them in the near future. A pot-growing operation just caused a massive wildfire in California.

It's not good.

Of course, there's a lot about the marijuana industry that's not good. It's illegal, for one, controlled by drug lords, for another. These gangs who grow the pot on public land basically ruin it. They ride the soil hard, injecting it with fertilizers that will later run off downstream, possibly contaminating water supplies miles away. Their campsites are strewn with trash and detritus from their operations, plastic and PVC and all kinds of other toxic materials that will be left for the archaeologists of the future to find and puzzle over.

Like I said, it's not good.

And after four decades of interdiction and eradication and enforcement, it's only getting worse.

I say, we sell them fallow fields in hard hit areas. We let them operate in the open, subjecting themselves to Federal regulations and inspections. It's taxed, some of the money set aside to restore the damage they've done to protected areas, and legalized. Marijuana laws will be repealed. Prisoners will be set free. Records will be cleansed. Pot cafes will open. Whole communities will become vibrant, economic miracles. The gangs will go out of business, or better, go into business as farmers, forgoing cutting throats to cutting costs.

And then, just maybe, the unicorns will come back.

Nuts

I'm glad that I'm not the type of guy to go to these things. Because if I saw some pussy with an assault rifle strapped to his back, I might call him names.

Like pussy.

And I know, I know, that wouldn't be very smart. The guy's got an assault rifle, so don't call him names.

But that is precisely why I would call him a pussy. He's not carrying the assault rifle to protect himself. (From what? All the grown ups who left their deadly weapons at home?)

No, he's carrying his assault rifle to threaten and intimidate people. A fucking AR-15 at a political event? Jesus Christ.

Sofa King We Todd Did

Ideological fundamentalists can be so ignorant. Another e-mail from my aunt in Texas, trucking in yet more over-simplified political bullshit.

It's a divorce agreement between American liberals and American conservatives. The premise:
Our two ideological sides of America cannot, and will not, ever agree on what is right; so let's just end it on friendly terms.
Um...tried that already. You can go visit Gettysburg to see just how "friendly" it was.

But wait...aren't you taking this a bit too seriously, James? It's supposed to be humorous!
Our two groups can equitably divide up this country by landmass, each taking a portion.
Ah, yes, figuring out ways to divide the United States is oh-so-fucking hilarious.

But okay, let's not treat this seriously. Let's treat this as comedy.
We don't like redistributive taxes, so you can keep them. You are welcome to the liberal judges and the ACLU. Since you hate guns and war; we'll take our firearms, cops, NRA and military. You can keep Oprah, Michael Moore and Rosie O'Donnell (You are, however, responsible for finding a bio-diesel vehicle big enough to move all three of them).
Oh, man, you gotta be kidding me. Oh wait, you are.

You don't like redistributive taxes? Um, all taxes are redistributive, so you don't like taxes. To that, I say: Get over it.

And really...Oprah, Michael Moore, and Rosie O'Donnell? A couple liberal celebrities, with a fat joke at the end? Comedy-wise, that's just lazy. It's like the old "White people do this/Black people do that" routines on Showtime at the Apollo. Tired cliches that inspire more yawns than yucks.

Can we have Chuck Norris and Jon Voight, too, or are you keeping the conservative celebrities all to yourself? (Conservative celebrities? I know! You thought they were all liberals...)
We'll keep the capitalism, greedy corporations, pharmaceutical companies, Wal-Mart and Wall Street. You can have your beloved homeboys, hippies and illegal aliens.
Bwah-ha-ha! See, that's where you're wrong. You think that "greedy corporations" are good for capitalism; they are not. Corporations are fine and dandy, but greedy corporations cause more problems than they solve. Let's go back to the days of "I'll give you this for that" instead of "You give me money and I give you nothing." Yeah, fuck your ATM fees, your extended warranties, your two-year contracts, and your convenience charges.

The second part is hilarious, though. "You can have your beloved homeboys, hippies and illegal aliens." My "beloved homeboys" embody the entrepreneurial spirit much more completely than your average tea-bagger ranting about socialism. In fact, I know one that will not only hook you up, he will drop it off at your front door. Now that's customer service.

The hippies? Dude...it's 2009. If you're still worried about the hippies, you need to get with the 21st Century.

And ya know, I'm so sick of the constant vilification of illegal aliens. An illegal immigrant stole your job? Oh, I see...so you were a janitor then? Fuck off. Don't be such a dick.

(Question: why is it that the "small government" "freedom-agenda" type conservatives are the ones who are always slagging on illegal immigrants? You'd prefer they remain poor in their corrupt countries? That "governs best/least" crap only applies to you? Funny when people's prejudices meet people's principles it's usually the principles that get chucked first, huh?)
We'll keep the hot Alaskan hockey moms, greedy CEO's and rednecks. We'll keep the Bibles and give you NBC and Hollywood.
You've got a deal, only the Bibles you'll be keeping...will be in the original Greek/Hebrew. Yeah, I know, I know. Jesus didn't speak English, motherfucker.
You can make nice with Iran and Palestine and we'll retain the right to invade and hammer places that threaten us.
Like...Iraq? Who threatened us with non-existant weapons of mass destruction? You're probably one of those dumb fucks who thinks Iran is an Arab nation too, huh? Fool.
You can have the peaceniks and war protesters. When our allies, or our way of life are under assault, we'll help provide them security.
Oh, how nice of you. You mean you won't be like the asshole who beat up on little girls because they're part of Code Pink? Nice to know. And all those guys showing up at Obama town halls with loaded weapons? They're protecting democracy, right? They're not trying to intimidate people? Oh no.....
We'll keep our Judeo-Christian values. You are welcome to Islam, Scientology, Humanism and Shirley McClain. You can also have the U.N., but we will no longer be paying the bill.
This clearly indicates that this chain e-mail has been been making the rounds for a while. Shirley McClaine??? WTF? Out on a Limb came out in 1984.
We'll keep the SUV's, pickup trucks and oversized luxury cars. You can take every Volkswagen you can find.
No, you won't. You'll ditch that F350 as soon as diesel prices go up. I've seen it happen.
We'll keep "The Battle Hymn of the Republic and the National Anthem". I'm sure you'll be happy to substitute "Imagine", "I'd Like To Teach the World to Sing", "Kum Ba Ya" or "We Are the World."
This is just stupid. You can sing the words "Land of the free and home of the brave" but I know you don't really believe them. You're afraid of gay marriage, illegal immigrants, black people, and healthcare reform. The lily-livered scaredy-cat shaking in his boots doesn't get to call himself "brave." As for free...

When I can get on a plane without proving I don't have bombs in my shoes, then we'll talk about that one.
We'll practice trickle down economics and you can give trickle up poverty your best shot. Since it often so offends you, we'll keep our history, our name and our flag.
I see, you'll keep the history, the name, and the flag...but divorces don't work that way. You get to go back to your maiden name: The Confederate States of America, but you do get to keep the history if you want. Too bad it's the history of slaveowners, white supremacists, and defeated losers.

Deal?