July 31, 2005

Something Else I Didn't Know, Combined With Something I Did Know

Until today, I didn't know that SF writer Alice Sheldon—better known by her pen name James Tiptree, Jr.—worked for the CIA from 1952-55. Apparently she and her husband were both recruited by the fledgling agency at the same time, and he continued to work for them after she left.

This webpage about Sheldon mentions something often forgotten—that before the CIA was moved to Langley, Virginia, it was located in temporary buildings near the Reflecting Pool on the Mall in the Washington, D.C. So it was there that Sheldon first worked for them, although later she was stationed in the mideast.

I knew about this because a few years ago I was driving around the Mall in Washington with my uncle, who also started working for the CIA in the early fifties, and he mentioned the old CIA headquarters as we went by where they'd been. And Lewis Lapham, in one of his books, mentions this as the place he went to be interviewed when he applied to work at the CIA in the fifties.

Anyway... it's difficult to imagine the author of "Houston, Houston Do You Read?", "Love is the Plan the Plan is Death," and "We Who Stole the Dream" working for the CIA. I wonder if anyone reading this also likes these stories, and is as surprised by the CIA connection as I am.

July 28, 2005

Unfucking The Donkey

I enjoyed this analysis of the Democratic party a great deal just for the title alone. But it's filled with interesting information. For instance, note these two Free Republic comments Rick Perlstein located from the same person:

On gay rights:

We are going to see a day, in our lifetimes, when schools force children to engage in homosexual acts as 'projects' or 'homework' for sex-ed.

Same guy, on the bankruptcy bill:

The newly amended bankruptcy law is a criminal act perpetrated, bought and paid for by commercial pirates masquerading as legitimate businesses.

Huh.

As many people say, it often appears the Democrats are the Washington Generals of politics—ie, paid to lose. And I'm not to prepared to say that's wrong. But I don't know if it's right, either. It's an interesting subject.

Via.

July 27, 2005

Reading This Website Will Make You "Happy"

I recently bought some soy milk that has a recipe on the back for what it calls "Yummy" French Toast.

I know the misuse of quote marks is well-plowed comic ground. But I found this instance particularly funny; I think it's something about a cheery phrase rendered suddenly ominous by quotes around one crucial word.

Here are a few other examples:

• I do solemnly swear to "uphold" the Constitution of the United States
• Before your intestinal surgery, we will give you "anesthesia"
• I "love" you
• These robots are programmed to always "protect" humans
• I love "you"

July 25, 2005

"Heads On Pikes/Are Extra Nice/When Hoisted Twice"

I learn something new every day. This is easier than it may seem, given that most of the space in my brain is used to store the starting lineups of the 1979-85 Washington Redskins.

So, one thing I learned today is the gruesome history behind the pretty song "Loch Lohmond":

Oh, ye'll tak' the high road
and I'll tak' the low road
And I'll be in Scotland before ye

It seems so sweet, doesn't it? But it actually is about decapitated heads stuck on pikes.

I found this out via National Public Radio, which makes me rethink my zero tolerance policy toward them. Any publicly-funded institution that provides this type of information is A-OK with me.

According to NPR, the song is about the aftermath of the 18th century Jacobite Rebellion in Scotland against the British. The Jacobites were finally crushed at the Battle of Culloden on April 16, 1746, and the British took prisoners back to London. Their wives, girlfriends, etc. traveled there on the "low road"—ie, on public roads by foot—to witness the trials.

Of course, the Scottish prisoners were found guilty of treason and executed. To discourage other troublemakers, the British government decided to exhibit their decapitated heads on pikes in every town between London and Glasgow.

The heads got to travel back to Scotland by the "high road"—ie, traveling by carriage on fancier roads. Meanwhile, the families of the executed trudged back to Scotland by the low road.

Oh, ye'll tak' the high road
and I'll tak' the low road
And I'll be in Scotland before ye

BUT HERE'S WHAT THEY DON'T TELL YOU

I've been authorized to reveal that "Loch Lohmond" is but one of many tunes secretly about decapitated heads stuck on pikes. Here are just a few of the others:

• "Ooops! I Did It Again"
• "The Way We Were"
• "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)"
• "Won't You Be My Neighbor" by Mr. Rogers
• "Happy Birthday to You"

July 24, 2005

More Radio

To my surprise, I'm going to be on Sunday Salon with Larry Bensky on KPFA 94.1 FM in Berkeley, KPFK 90.7 FM in Los Angeles and KFCF in Fresnco at 1 pm ET... about eight minutes from now.

Whew

Well, I've rarely worked so hard as during the last week helping prepare for the 3rd Anniversary Downing Street Memo events. And happily, it appears to have been worth it. All of the big town hall meetings—in Detroit, Oakland, Los Angeles, New York and elsewhere—had to turn people away. The smaller house parties seem to have gone well, too. If you're curious, you can read dozens of posts on the After Downing Street site.

On one hand, this was all politics 101: finding people interested in something and bringing them together. But on the other hand, it would have been significantly more difficult without the internet, cell phones and conference calls. Organizing would have cost much more and taken much longer. As Doug Henwood says, new communications technology isn't everything, but it's also not nothing. And as I like to say, I'm sure the Defense Department really regrets inventing the internet. It hasn't worked out like they planned.

Now I'm hoping to slack off some and make more frequent appearances here. However, there's much more After Downing Street to come—so if you're not involved already, I urge you to become so. Definitely write me if you'd like suggestions about where best to direct your energy.

July 19, 2005

Christopher Hitchens: Not So Brave

I can see why Christopher Hitchens has refused to debate Dennis Perrin.

July 15, 2005

Bob Hope: Even Funnier At 4 Degrees Celsius

Dennis Perrin made me laugh quite hard with his announcement that the cryogenically-preserved remains of Bob Hope will soon be performing in Iraq:

Bob will have to stay in his freezer while onstage. And of course, Bob will remain unconscious. There's no way he could physically operate in that sub-zero environment. But despite these limitations, we've found a way to bring Bob's unique humor to a new generation of warriors!

Audio tapes of Bob's previous shows in Korea, Vietnam, the Dominican Republic and Saudi Arabia will be edited and revised by veteran gag writers Sol Manklebaum and Izzy Blitzstein to include topical references and fresh jokes, fleshed out with the vocal talents of master impressionist, Mr. Fred Travalena! Here are a few samples:

And fellas, just to give you a taste of what you're fighting for, I've brought along with me the beautiful and talented Miss [Jessica Simpson]! Grrrrowwllll! Yeah, [Jessica]'s a real classy lady! I've never seen a nicer [pair of Fallujas on a] gal!

Speaking of [car bombs], the other day I asked my cabbie the fastest way to [Paradise] and he said "Drive two miles straight ahead, take the first left, then [detonate a large amount of potassium chlorate]. You can't miss it."

July 14, 2005

We White People Really Need To Fix Our Brains

Whenever you see someone online defending the Bush administration on Iraq, you may not know whether they're young or old or male or female. But you know one thing for sure: they're white.

This is because, frankly, white Americans are on average much stupider than other Americans. Now, I'm not saying white people are naturally stupid. I'm no bigot. But white people have more power in America, and power tends to make people into idiots.

For instance, it seems extraordinarily difficult for many white people, particularly white men, to believe the government of the United States might lie to them. By contrast, this comes somewhat easier to African-Americans:

Wait a minute! You're saying that rich white men on television have been lying? That's crazy talk, my friends. If there's anything black people have learned in hundreds of years of historical experience, it's that rich white men ALWAYS TELL THE TRUTH.

Anyway, the alarming dumbness of (some) white people is explained in numerical form in an excellent piece by David Swanson in the newest issue of the Black Commentator:

Eight percent of the members of both houses of Congress (43 of 535) are black, one percent of senators (1 of 100), and 10 percent of House members (42 of 435).

But 44 percent (27 of 62) of the members of the newly formed Out of Iraq Caucus are black, including five of the eight co-founders, and the chair, Maxine Waters. The numbers for the Progressive Caucus, out of which this caucus formed, are similar.

When Congressman Conyers held a hearing on the Downing Street Minutes on June 16, nearly half of the 35 Congress Members who squeezed into the small room in the basement of the Capitol - the only room the Republicans had allowed - were black. As were five of the seven members who then delivered a letter to the White House and spoke at a rally in Lafayette Square Park organized by the After Downing Street coalition. The letter, written by Conyers, asked Bush five simple questions about the Downing Street Minutes, and had by that point been signed by over 560,000 Americans and 123 Congress Members.

Of the 123 Congress Members who signed Conyers' letter, 30 percent (37) are black. Of the 52 who signed a more recent, and yet to be answered, Freedom of Information Act request (also initiated by Conyers) demanding information from the White House, State Department, and Defense Department related to the Downing Street Minutes, 27 percent (14) are black...

In the last congress, 50 percent (13 of 26) of those backing a resolution by Congresswoman Lee to disavow the doctrine of preemption were black, as were 39 percent (18 of 46) of those backing a Lee resolution to create an independent commission or select House committee to investigate U.S. intelligence relating to the war...

July 12, 2005

Things

1. Apparently Matt Taibbi will be on the Daily Show tonight.

2. According to Mark Cooper, Dennis Perrin is engaged in "nothing except self-flaggelation."

3. Robert Parry is saying stuff about Joseph Wilson, Karl Rove, Valerie Plame, etc.

4. I wish to join the King of Zembla in plugging Arvin Hill's Carnival of Horror. Of course, if we're honest we can admit that everyone has their own, personal Carnival of Horror.

July 10, 2005

Gavage Gavaged Gavaging

As I say, I'd never heard of the word "gavage" until the Bionic Octopus introduced me to it. For anyone still in the dark, it means "feeding that consists of the delivery of a nutrient solution (as through a nasal tube) to someone who cannot or will not eat."

However, despite not knowing the word, I was familiar with the actual gavage process. I first learned of it many years ago when I watched Titicut Follies, one of the most horrifying and upsetting movies ever made.

Titicut Follies is a 1967 documentary by Frederick Wiseman about the State Prison for the Criminally Insane in Bridgewater, Massachusetts. The name comes from the musical revue shown in the film that was put on by the inmates and staff each year. If you haven't seen Titicut Follies, you really should. Then, if you are like me, you will never ever watch it again.

I won't describe much about it, because I would rather die. But the reason I bring it up is because there's a scene in it in which an inmate who refuses to eat is gavaged. As you see, the Mengele-like doctor sticks a tube up through his nose and down his throat, and then uses it to drip some kind of liquid food into his stomach. Later on he dies anyway and we see him lying in the morgue.

All right; I think this is all the human degradation I can handle for today.

July 09, 2005

A Note Of Appreciation

I would like to formally thank Harry of Scratchings for bringing the Bionic Octopus into my life.

Now that that's taken care of, I would like to thank B. Octopus for (in particular) this and this, and for introducing me to the word "gavaged," which I had never heard of before in my life. Look for it to begin making frequent appearances here.

BONUS OCTOPUS-THEMED INFORMATION: Apparently (non-bionic) octopi are fairly intelligent animals, about as smart as a house cat. Some marine biologists like to call them "house cats of the sea." This is turn has led Mike Gerber and his wife Kate refer to their cats as "octopi of the apartment."

About London

I'm relieved to see Chris Floyd is okay. He apparently was at Heathrow when the bombings occurred on the seventh:

The hour of destruction and fear in London, and a day of partial paralysis (already easing as I write, at 5 p.m.), while terrible in its own right, especially for those left grieving or injured, again pales in comparison to the daily horror Bush and Blair have engendered in Iraq, particularly Baghdad, where the simplest actions of daily life have become a dance with death, where the people live and breathe fear, ruin, terror and strife every day of their lives.

Bush has done this. Blair has done this. They didn't have to do it. There were no compelling reasons of national security or national survival that compelled them to launch this murderous action - a war of aggression in the very heart of Islam, a war that the US-UK intelligence services admit has engendered more terrorism. They have made senseless, violent, barbaric war on others; and now others make senseless, violent, barbaric war on them.

As soon as I get a second, I'm going to explain for all the world what it is "the terrorists" actually want. Then we'll see whether humanity is smart enough to listen to my extraordinary insights. I am not kidding about this.

In the meantime, here's a brief preview:

Obviously terrorists aren't motivated by a hatred for freedom; I'm sure even Bush and Blair, despite their public claims, aren't so stupid that they believe that. But terrorists also aren't motivated by the things THEY claim they're motivated by. For instance, in the case of al Qaeda, they aren't actually trying (at least directly) to get the US out of the mideast.

I really hope I have time to write this soon, so that mankind can start benefitting from my wisdom.

July 08, 2005

Two Funny Little Stories About The Democratic Party

I would like to tell two funny little stories about the Democratic party.

1. Some time ago, when computerized fonts were in their infancy, I received a letter from the National Democratic Party asking me to give them money. They utilized a trick I think used to be common in direct mail: when printing my address, they used a font that looked like handwriting, but also included a few computerized scribbled out letters. The idea, of course, was to fool recipients into opening the letter by making them think it had been hand addressed to them.

That has always summed up the Democratic Party to me. I would have preferred if they had simply sent me a letter saying this:

Dear Idiot,

Give us your money. You are very stupid.

fuck you,
the Democratic Party

I actually might have contributed to people who were that honest.

2. I've been reading a new book by Norman Solomon called War Made Easy. Solomon points out something I'd forgotten: that the notorious "babies thrown from incubators" hearings in 1990 were co-sponsored by San Francisco Democratic congressman Tom Lantos.

Solomon quotes John Stauber:

Tom Lantos knew that the lying 15 year-old girl who claimed to have seen Iraqi soldiers kill 15 newborns by tossing them from their hospital incubators [in Kuwait] was in fact the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the U.S., a member of the royal family. Lantos kept her identity secret, and this PR scam became the defining event that convinced the U.S. Congress to support the war.

Again, I would have been happier if the hearings had gone like this:

Greetings, my fellow Americans. My name is Tom Lantos, and you are unbelievable morons.

Saddam Hussein eats puppies. NUKE HIM. Dead! Cute! Puppies! [Pause] NUKE!

Right this second as I speak to you cretins, the Emir of Kuwait is giving me a very pleasurable handjob. I am Tom Lantos.

Why don't we have any politicians who will level with the American people like this?

July 05, 2005

HuFu

I've been impressed by the texture and taste of Hufu(tm), the only product currently available for vegetarians who miss the experience of eating human flesh. If you are among our ranks, I recommend you check it out.

July 02, 2005

The Viciousness Continues

Just two days ago I pitilessly infected Dennis Perrin with the internet book disease, and he's already broken out with many interesting symptoms.

As Dennis notes, I am extremely cruel person. Some wonder whether I act this way in order to be, in the long run, kind. No: it is so that in the long run I can be even crueler.