You may only read this site if you've purchased Our Kampf from Amazon or Powell's or me
• • •
"Mike and Jon, Jon and Mike—I've known them both for years, and, clearly, one of them is very funny. As for the other: truly one of the great hangers-on of our time."—Steve Bodow, head writer, The Daily Show

"Who can really judge what's funny? If humor is a subjective medium, then can there be something that is really and truly hilarious? Me. This book."—Daniel Handler, author, Adverbs, and personal representative of Lemony Snicket

"The good news: I thought Our Kampf was consistently hilarious. The bad news: I’m the guy who wrote Monkeybone."—Sam Hamm, screenwriter, Batman, Batman Returns, and Homecoming

January 01, 2008

Happy New-ish Year

Before January 1st expires, I want to wish a Happy New Year to all of Tiny Revolution's visitors, commenters, book-purchasers and emailers. This site is one of the most enjoyable things I've ever done, and I'm in everyone's debt. Just please be aware I'll be requiring a kidney from each of you during the next 52 weeks. (See #2, below.) Don't whine, you knew what you were getting into.

Extra special thanks to Bernard for agreeing to post here. It seems unfair he knows not just five times as much as I do about politics, but approximately 100,000 times as much about math. However, I accept this unfairness, because his presence makes me look so good.

Here are my New Year's resolutions for 2008:

Expand the Tiny Empire

Look for video here as well as stage performances by me in 2008. I may also walk the MySpace/Facebook path, if I can figure out the point. Any suggestions in this area are welcome. (Remember I am 98 years old.)

Also, Bernard's contributions here have been so appreciated, I'm considering how to turn this into a slightly larger cabal of like-minded weirdos. To start with, I have high hopes Mike will show up more often.

Accentuate the Positive

At all times in history, there have been zillions of people doing wonderful things with little recognition. 99% of the attention goes to various monsters. Even when the attention is extremely negative (i.e., people like us yowling about Dick Cheney or Thomas Friedman) it suggests the monsters are the only ones doing anything important, and the rest of us have nothing better to do than talk about them.

This is empirically wrong. And it saps our capability for independent thought, because it orients us toward reacting to the powerful, rather than acting ourselves.

This is especially pernicious in a period when technology is opening up ways to build new and better institutions. While I understand the visceral appeal of dumping a bucket of pig excrement on Fred Hiatt, this takes time away from what will have a longer-term impact: nurturing our own fledgling efforts.

Beyond this, I also think negativity (at least for someone like me) is deeply immoral. I'm a white American man with a fancy college education. On top of that, I've gotten a million lucky breaks. Few people in history have had less reason for feeling powerless than me. So whenever I'm grumpy, I imagine telling my woes to a Gaza woman whose children are being slowly starved by our foreign policy, or a Baghdad man who's fled Iraq because his brother was tortured to death with an electric drill paid for with my withholding tax. Then I imagine them responding: "Huh. Well, fuck you."

So this year I vow to focus on the world's endless profusion of good people, books, articles, and miscellaneous. In particular I want to highlight anyone taking action I consider fruitful and underappreciated.

Of course, my ever-more treacly sweetness may cause Dennis to puke. Even worse, I will then find a bright side to him puking, thus making him puke again. And on and on, in a deepening Esher-like spiral of optimism and vomit.

Be Less Agitated by the Negative

It's pointless to get angry at individual cretins like Kenneth Pollack. It's like getting mad at a mole for eating worms. The cretins are just filling an evolutionary niche. Far better to focus on changing the overall ecosystem.

This isn't to say it's never worthwhile to point out the cretinous behavior, just that the only worth comes from using it to illustrate the larger problem. If you saw an extremely rich man with a yappy little poodle which he rewarded with doggy treats whenever it bit people, you wouldn't get mad at the poodle. Likewise, I don't want to get mad at yappy little Bill Kristol.

(I note even Professor Chonky struggles with this issue: "the only thing I ever get irritated about is elite intellectuals, the stuff they do I do find irritating. I shouldn't. I should expect it. But I do find it irritating.")

Don't Mess with Mister In-Between

I don't know what this means, but it's part of the lyrics.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at January 1, 2008 10:46 PM

happy new year jon!

Posted by: almostinfamous at January 2, 2008 12:18 AM

Here's a little bit of something that we can be hopeful about in Iraq:

Iraq's Civil Resistance

Although it is eclipsed from the headlines by the ongoing carnage, there is an active civil resistance in Iraq that opposes the occupation, the torture regime it protects and the Islamist and Baathist insurgencies alike. This besieged opposition--under threat of repression and assassination--is fighting to keep alive elementary freedoms for women, leading labor struggles against Halliburton and other contractors, opposing the privatization of the country's oil and other resources and seeking a secular future for Iraq. They note that what they call "political Islam" dominates both sides in the conflict--the collaborationist regime and the armed insurgents. Both seek to impose a reactionary, quasi-theocratic order.

…..On July 4 the leader of a popular citizens' self-defense force in Baghdad was executed. According to the Iraq Freedom Congress (IFC)--a civil resistance coalition--a unit of US Special Forces troops and Iraqi National Guard forces raided the home of Abdel-Hussein Saddam at 3 am, opening fire without warning on him and his young daughter. The attackers took Abdel-Hussein, leaving the girl bleeding on the floor. Two days later his body was found in a local morgue. Since late last year Abdel-Hussein had been the leader of the Safety Force, a civil patrol organized by the IFC to protect their communities. Like many IFC leaders, he had been an opponent of Saddam Hussein's regime and was imprisoned for two years in the 1990s. His death was mostly ignored by the world media. But on August 3 some 100 activists from the Japanese antiwar group ZENKO, an acronym for National Assembly for Peace and Democracy, gathered near the US Embassy in Tokyo to protest the slaying. One banner read: Do US-Iraqi security forces promote civil rights or Big Brother thuggery? Abdel-Hussein found out! …. The IFC was formed in 2005, bringing together trade unions, women's organizations, neighborhood assemblies and student groups around two demands: a secular Iraqi state and an end to the occupation.

Posted by: Susan - NC at January 2, 2008 02:32 AM

Yes, I'm hopeful that technology can help build new and better institutions. But at this moment, I'm not clear how that will come about. Maybe by exposing the ways technology is currently being avoided or abused to extend the old, crappy institutions? For example, can we use these blurgs to really help the people who so desperately need help against our institutions, not just the people who get caught up in the more grotesque and terrifying forms of militant authoritarianism, like those poor saps who are disappeared or tased or rendered or just plain shit upon by the New Anti-Terror People? How about the people who are mentally ill or disabled and who try so hard to get SSI only to find out that yeah, they'll get that, but you won't get Medicare until you've been on SSI for 24 months even though the reason they're on SSI is because they have huge medical problems. Or the people who drop out of highschool, because they can't deal with the testing and the lack of skilled instruction necessary for their particular problem and who then find themselves with very little to hope for in the future.

Or how about those young men and women who've come back from Iraq pretty much ruined in ways that make it next to impossible for them to help themselves? Living in their parents' basements, if they're lucky, in places like Glen Burnie. The basements part is the luck, not Glen Burnie.

I just don't know, Jonathan. But I'm with you on this.

Posted by: Aunt Deb at January 2, 2008 05:50 AM


Posted by: at January 2, 2008 07:54 AM

Don't mess with Mr In-Between, but do listen to more Go-Betweens.

Posted by: bdr at January 2, 2008 08:06 AM

I think "Don't mess with Mr. In-Between" is a plea not to vote for Barack Obama, but I could be wrong about that.

Posted by: SteveB at January 2, 2008 10:37 AM

oh, btw please do let me know about the whole kidney thing wellllll in advance.

Posted by: almostinfamous at January 2, 2008 10:49 AM

You can have my kidney when you pry it from my cold, me put that another way:

Don't involuntarily de-kidney me, bro'.

Posted by: DBK at January 2, 2008 02:29 PM

Happy New Year ATR.

I think "Don't mess with Mr. In-Between" is a plea not to vote for Barack Obama, but I could be wrong about that.

And why would Kucinich throw his support to Obama???

Posted by: Ted at January 2, 2008 03:18 PM

Funny, you don't look newish....

Posted by: konopelli/wgg at January 2, 2008 04:59 PM

Hear, hear for Jon's "accentuate the positive" New Year's resolution. The System may be a big machine, but it's made by fallible humans, so it's riven with cracks and weaknesses. If we all thought that nothing could change for the better, we'd still be a society of slaves and slave-owners, watching prisoners get eaten by lions for our amusement.

Posted by: Ian G. Mason at January 2, 2008 06:02 PM

And why would Kucinich throw his support to Obama???

Well, he threw his support to Kerry last time around, so maybe he's just getting an early start. Isn't that his function within the Dem Party? Round up the liberals in danger of defecting to the Greens, and deliver them to the One and Only Party's nominee?

Maybe Rahm Emmanuel sent him the "Execute Plan B" memo six months early by mistake.

Posted by: SteveB at January 3, 2008 01:01 AM

According to, Mr. In-Between is the title character in a 2001 movie:

Jon Bennet is an ideal employee: neat, efficient and conscientious. Nobody would guess that this self-conscious introvert kills to earn his living, but for those who understand his trade Jon is more than just a journeyman murderer, he is an artist of growing reputation. Jon works for The Tattooed Man, an awesome figure whose taste for cruelty is only outweighed by his erudite learning and penchant for philosophy. The Tattooed Man takes care of Jon. He feeds, clothes and educates his protege, asking for nothing in return but unquestioning loyalty. By chance Jon encounters Andy and Cathy - old friends from school, now married with child - and the cosy normality of their lives awakens him to the unsatisfactory nature of the twilight world he inhabits. As Jon finds himself drawn towards Cathy in a way he has never experienced before, he begins to question everything he has become. Torn between Cathy and The Tattooed Man, he is Mr In-Between. But the Tattooed Man cannot tolerate any form of rival. Jon must act, and act fast. Everything is at stake. Not just the safety of his friends, but also the redemption of his soul.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at January 3, 2008 02:48 PM

Since you brought it up, I never realized how scary this song is. Set it to a dark Wagnerian melody, and it changes from saccharine to frighteningly like a theme that President "With us or against us" might embrace -- especially if you emphasized the "eliminate the negative" part.

But there I go violating your resolution for you. I like your interpretation. Happy New Year.

Posted by: Whistler Blue at January 3, 2008 07:06 PM

Oh dear. I want to nurture. I need to nurture. I ache with suppressed nurturance. But, doctor, I really really really need to dump bucketloads of swinish fecal matter on Fred Hiatt's head! Somehow, I must reconcile these two deep drives, which Freud recognized in his classic tome, Jenseits der Dumpenen der schweinisten Matie ueber der Dummkopf der Hiatt, jahwohl!

Posted by: roger at January 5, 2008 04:48 PM