Sunday, July 25, 2010

All The Strange Things, They Come And Go As Early Warnings...

Batocchio of Vagabond Scholar wrote an excellent post today. It concerns the rampant class warfare in this country and how people from all over the political spectrum perceive it.

The main thrust of Batocchio's post is that, when it comes to how the way our government should operate as opposed to how it is operating, the conservative consensus is that you have to get what you can while you can because we're all participating in what amounts to a zero-sum game. The liberal consensus holds that we're all stuck here on this one boat floating on this vast and unpredictable ocean whether we like it or not, so maybe we should put aside our differences when it comes to making sure this damn thing doesn't sink before we find a harbor.

For the most part, I fall on the side of the liberals: plainly put, I want the ship to continue sailing indefinitely. I shrink in horror from the idea of drowning. But try as I may, I simply cannot picture any of us ever sighting a harbor. Thus, I can't find much fault with conservatives feeling the way that they do. I'm of the opinion that, if any of us do one say find a harbor to pull into, it will be from a badly battered lifeboat, not the once-magnificent ship that one day finally succumbed to neglect and historical precedent and went to the bottom with hardly a whimper.

Where I part ways with Batocchio is marked in bold, from the last paragraph of the post:

It's been astounding to see the petulant rage that's erupted from conservative politicians and their far right base in reaction to Obama's election and presidency. After ignoring or even cheering on all the abuses of the Bush administration, suddenly under Obama they started attacking even those policies more conservative than Eisenhower's or Nixon's or of the Republicans of 10-20 years ago as socialist. It may be because Obama broke the biggest unspoken rule of the game they thought they owned:You're not supposed to win. A similar dynamic drives all the reflexive hippie-punching and "center-right" blather from Beltway reporters. Liberal activists are very familiar with this rule, and have unfortunately seen plenty of it over the years, including during the current administration. Sensible policies have been denounced as too radical or "liberal" over and over again, watered down or completely eliminated. The conservative critique of Obama is that he's radically changed all the rules and is rigging the game against them – which might be poetic justice, but isn't true. The liberal critique varies, but it's generally that Obama has made some changes and improvements, but also has been too timid about changing the rules of the game, too accepting of how badly the game's rigged. The more sympathetic would argue he simply can't change things that much with an obstructionist GOP and other obstacles. The more critical think he's happy with a rigged game, or is making it worse, or is just too establishmentarian by nature (as with his economic team). If so, he's far from alone in Washington, more's the pity. But beyond any character assessments, the fact remains that good governance is not encouraged by the current rules of the game. Contrary to Brooks, the present set-up does not benefit us all, or anything remotely resembling a majority of Americans. When the dominant attitude in the Beltway is that liberals must always lose - and more importantly, that sensible, effective policy shouldn't guide decisions, especially if it's supported by the wrong sorts of people - it's time to challenge the rules, or change the game.

Let's start with "the present set-up does not benefit us all." Granted. But I don't think it should benefit everyone. Frankly, that's an impossibility, if only because there are those who cannot for the life of them picture themselves as being in the same boat as everyone else, a fact Batocchio tacitly acknowledges. But aside from that, I find the idea that the system we presently have should see to it that we're all covered objectionable. Two reasons: one, I think certain people deserve to be thrown overboard for the sake of everyone else, and two, even those who don't don't deserve that ought to at least have the option of whether or not they want to leave the ship and take their chances with the ocean.

The ones who deserve to be thrown overboard are the ones who don't give a shit if the ship sinks. Most diehard Republicans would fit that description. But there would still be others who wouldn't understand why they should be expected to save what they think cannot be saved. Most self-described teabaggers would fit that description.

So I would give the teabaggers a choice: stay and do your part, or leave -- and never return. I would allow them to opt out only on the condition that under no circumstances could they opt back in. The smart ones would stick around; the rest would eventually sleep with the diehard Republicans. No big loss -- the tasks facing those of us still on the ship would be much greater and far more demanding, but we'd be that much more focused on seeing them through and most likely would be that much more successful in our efforts, having shed the deadwood and thus improved our overall health. Let's face it: there are swarms of right-wingers who make eugenics look like a fantastic idea. The only reason I don't embrace eugenics is because, one hundred percent of the time, it is abominable when practiced actively, even when its victims are those who deserve to be exterminated. It makes monsters of everyone who engage in it. But I have no qualms about letting such people choose the option to exterminate themselves. That's the greatest service they can perform for the human race.

Now about this "challenge the rules, or change the game" stuff. Three weeks ago, I wrote my Mencken was right post -- you'll find most of my relevant opinions there. All I'll add to them here is, when the conservatives say that this is all a zero-sum game, they're absolutely right. You came to this mortal coil with your soul, no more, no less, and that is all you will leave it with. You want to try and change the world, more power to you, I won't stand in your way. I just think you're on a fool's errand.

I wish it were otherwise. Deep down, the only reason I'm not bailing this ship is because I want to see it sail into harbor one day, even though I strongly doubt that day will ever come. Old habits die hard, what can I say? And I act (and vote) accordingly. It's all about forestalling the inevitable, in the hope that some solution, however imperfect, will be found before all is lost.

Gotta admit, I don't like the odds right about now...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Three Strikes, You're Out...

Even if I live to be a hundred, I'll never understand what makes a guy like Andrew Breitbart tick. Nor will I understand why the mainstream media haven't cut him loose completely by now. He's a confirmed serial liar, and the more they continue to give him air time, the more credibility they lose -- assuming the mainstream media have any credibility left. From William Saletan:

First Breitbart and his acolytes falsely accused Sherrod of discriminating against whites as a federal employee, despite having no evidence for this charge in the original video excerpt. Strike one.

Then they misrepresented Sherrod's story as an embrace of racism, when in fact she was repudiating racism. They later pleaded ignorance of this fact because they didn't have the full video. Strike two.

Now, with the full video in hand and posted on their Web site, they're lying about the reaction of the NAACP audience.

The excuses are all used up, Mr. Breitbart.

Of course, this is as far as we can go with it. Breitbart is the newest right-wing noise machine tool in town, and for whatever reason, he's perfectly willing and happy to play that part. As for the media, well, they simply refuse to learn from their mistakes. All they have to do is, basically, their job -- fact-check the story inside and out before running with it, and keep the shenanigans from tools like Breitbart to a minimum.

And they won't do it...

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Hell With This Guy -- and the Pursuit Special He Rode In On, Too...

Three takes on that human slow motion train wreck known as Mel Gibson. One from Frank Rich:

...The Gibson tapes — in plain English and not requiring the subtitles of some of the star’s recent spectacles — are a particularly American form of schadenfreude. There’s little we enjoy more than watching a pampered zillionaire icon (Gibson’s production company is actually named Icon) brought low. The story would end there — just another tidy morality tale in the profuse annals of Hollywood self-destruction from Fatty Arbuckle to Lindsay Lohan — were it not for Gibson’s unique back story

Six years ago he was not merely an A-list movie star with a penchant for drinking and boorish behavior but also a powerful and canonized figure in the political and cultural pantheon of American conservatism. That he has reached rock bottom tells us nothing new about Gibson. He was the same talented, nasty, bigoted blowhard then that he is today. But his fall says a lot about the changes in our country over the past six years. We shouldn’t take those changes for granted. We should take stock — and celebrate. They are good news...

Every time Mel Gibson unburdens himself of a tirade against Jews or "n______s" or uncooperative females, there are commentators on hand to create a mystery where none exists. When he produced The Passion of the Christ, which lovingly and in detail recycled the bloody myth that all Jews are historically and collectively responsible for the murder of Jesus, it was argued by many mainstream Christians that his zeal for the faith might be a touch lurid but that the film itself was mainly devotional. When he was arrested on the Malibu freeway and screamed abuse at a police officer to the effect that Jews were responsible for all the wars in the world, pundits convened on page and screen to speculate whether our Mel had too much to drink that evening. Not long ago, I watched him go completely bug-eyed on television at a Jewish interviewer who asked him about the latter incident. "You've got a dog in this fight, haven't you?" he hissed. And now, in the wake of a Niagara of cloacal abuse directed at the mother of his youngest child, in which we were spared nothing by way of obscenity and menace and nothing by way of paranoid and sexualized racism, there have been those who diagnose Gibson's problem as a lack of anger management skills, combined perhaps with a touch of narcissistic personality disorder...

And one from me.

Have you ever noticed how often, just from knowing where a person stands on one or two political, constitutional, or social issues, you can usually guess what his or her stances on most other issues are? Trainloads of people who would describe themselves as liberal or left-of-center fit this description (perhaps myself included), but for some reason, this trait is much more striking among their conservative counterparts. I wouldn't say it's the conservatives' defining trait, but at times it does seem pretty close to being that -- and when you look at a piece of work like Mel Gibson, it's real hard not to unfairly tar all right-leaning people with the same brush you're using on him. People on the left can be anti-Semitic, or racist, or sexist, or homophobic, or sadomasochistic, but Gibson is all five. I defy you to name one self-described, self-respecting liberal who can make that same claim.

In Gibson's case, the strongest indicator was his sadomasochism. He practically gave the whole damn game away with his direction of the film The Passion of the Christ in 2004 -- it's just that very few of us realized it at the time. If you haven't seen that movie and you're not into whips and chains, don't bother seeing it. I saw it, and I found it appalling. S&M as the road to salvation -- how this qualifies as spiritually uplifting at all is a mystery I will never solve. But for Gibson, that's par for the course on the One True Path.

And that's the skeleton key here: his adherence to a strain of Catholic faith that isn't merely old-school, it's medieval-school. That was the tip-off that he wasn't just drawn to S&M, but also racism, sexism, anti-Semitism (another unsavory element of Passion on full display in the film) and homophobia.

And frankly, as a fellow human male, I can't blame Gibson for revealing himself for what he is. That is the defining trait among male humans, as far as I can tell -- this inexplicable desire to be as much of an open book as possible. (I plead guilty, your Honor. The difference between me and Mel Gibson, however, is that I haven't tried to spin shit around the truth. I make no apology over who and what I am.)

I don't feel the least bit sorry for Mad Mel. Lots of people like him have devoted the bulk, if not the totality, of their adult lives acquiring as much "fuck you" money as possible, only to find out that once they have enough of it to do, say, and act however they please, that their money has an uncanny way of saying "no, fuck you" back to them.

There's a reason the love of money is considered the root of all evil, you know...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

One Thing I Occasionally Give Thought To...

From the Culture Ghost:

...Look at the way we refer to learning: "I'm going to get an education." Not "I'm going to become an educated person." There is a huge chasm between the two. Frank Zappa was right: If you want to get laid, go to college. If you want to learn something, go to the library...

This from a guy who works at a community college. Apparently, its library isn't brimming with students.

I'm pretty sure it isn't just the community colleges, though. Going to Harvard for a year may cost ten times or more than spending one year at a community college, but don't tell me you end up ten or more times as educated at Harvard as a result. Harvard University is as much a high-recognition brand name as it is an Ivy League school. Except for Yale, every other American college wishes it was Harvard, because that is where you want to go if your ambitions include helping to run America one day (unless you go to Yale, which you would do for the same reason).

I've never attended Harvard, but I've visited Harvard Square a hundred times or more, and thus been in direct contact with more Harvard students than I care to remember, and you know what? They made no impression on me at all. Nor did the one time I visited the university itself, many years ago. It was no more, no less amazing to me than the lowly Muskingum College in New Concord, Ohio, which I did attend for one year. In fact, I liked Muskingum's campus atmosphere a lot more than I liked Harvard's.

Then again, I was never much into the idea of trying to run America. I guess you have to be a Larry Summers or a Robert McNamara for that. Or a guy who lives in his father's shadow, like George W. Bush did for decades. I learned so much more about the way this world works in factories, subways, and Greyhound men's rooms than I ever learned in school...

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Little Bit of My Furry Artwork...

I put this up on my Fur Affinity page a while ago. It's called "On The Job"...

For the record, I'm the one in the middle. And a couple of my overseers really are that much bigger than me, since I stand but a measly six feet and about two inches tall in real life.

Nothing I can do but, well, "bear" it...

About This "Perfect Citizen" Crap...

I'll let BadTux handle this one:

As a network administrator, I have an informal description of what a computer connected to my network needs to look like in order to be a "good citizen". Its networking must be properly configured (with the proper netmask and etc.) so that it is properly routable and does not create ARP storms or routing loops. It must have a currently-supported operating system on it (that is, one whose vendor still provides critical security fixes), and must have those critical security fixes applied. It must be properly licensed (i.e., the OS is not pirated), and all software on it must be properly licensed. All unnecessary services should be shut down, and it should have current antivirus protection and no spyware or viruses installed on it. If it contains critical information, firewall software must be running on it that restricts access to information to only those systems that have a "need to know", and there should be no extraneous user accounts on the system other than for those users that absolutely need it.

In short, it must comply with the NSA's security configuration guidelines as well as with my own personal guidelines. And I will regularly run network scanners looking for open ports (that may be viruses or unauthorized services) as well as run the Big Brother SNMP monitor program, which will verify that the systems are properly running and alert me if something goes wrong. And if everything is completely and properly set up... well, a system connected to my network might well be a Perfect Citizen...

Personally, I have nothing on the portly-but-well-tailored one when it comes to computers. Not even close. Reading English, typing on a QWERTY keyboard, and using a mouse (or in my case, the touch pad behind the space bar) are all second-nature to me, but everything else I've learned about and in relation to computers in the six and a half years I've been online has been acquired through trial and error -- with heavy emphasis on the error part. In fact, I'm so ass-backwards when it comes to this stuff (and new technology in general), it took me more than five years just to figure out how to cut and paste.

Yes, that is correct -- before I learned how to cut and paste, I spent all that blogging time typing out my blockquoted stuff, my HTML stuff, and my URLs one character at a time. I keep telling people I'm not as smart as I'm occasionally made out to be, but no one ever listens...

Anyway, so why am I even linking to BT's post? Because, although in many ways I may be stuck in the days when floppy disks were actually floppy, I've still lived through, and remember living through, the administrations of Bill Clinton and Bush the Lesser, and now this ongoing imbroglio presided over by Mr. Obama. That's seventeen years plus change. In those seventeen years plus change, I've been force-fed so many stories of baseless and reckless paranoia about the powers that be, I'm just about ready for wearing a portable septic tank that will pump this endless stream of tinfoil-laden waste out of my system for me while I go about living my life, as the Flying Spaghetti Monster meant it to be. I don't have time for this shit anymore. You got a conspiracy you think I need to know about? List the facts that support it, and then go away. I'll take it from there, hypotheticals and all.

Otherwise, you have come to the wrong blog. Piss off...

Saturday, July 10, 2010


This is an old idea for a song I wrote in the 90s. It's a one-syllable title, pronounced, "Ee-ah-ohm" -- I think. I don't really remember. Somewhere around here, there are lyrics for it.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Noo Rool: No YooToob...

Well, that's not quite right. That was an old rule at the old Medley, one I managed to hold onto for a year or so. I believe my blogging there slowly went downhill after I abandoned the rule. I'm reconstituting it here. In just about every other blog you go to, the main page is loaded with video clips. I'll have none of that here.

Video clips are useful in some ways, but that medium and the printed word medium require the viewer/reader to engage them in two separate ways. It's a lot like television versus books, respectively. When you read a book, you have to devote at least enough attention to its contents to make sense of what you're reading. As you gradually work your way through the pages, assuming it's a good enough story, you tend to become more absorbed in it. That's what the printed word does -- it compels you to focus your attention, it compels you to think. And an interesting, salubrious side-effect of this is, you tend to block out things that might distract you from your reading. Personally, when I'm reading a book, or even writing a blog post, there is no music playing, no television in the background. Much as I love music, I don't listen to it all the time. In fact, I probably listen to it a lot less than most people, if only because I'm doing something other than chores at the time, and I don't care much for background noise. I like to concentrate on what I'm doing. Books encourage that.

Then there's television. The ultimate distraction. All it requires you to do is sit and stare at it, or, at the very least, have it on in the background while you're doing something else. I know people who turn on the TV when they get up in the morning and leave it on until they go to bed at night, even though they only watch it for three or four hours of the day. Often, there's a radio on as well -- and that's for background noise, too, as if television wasn't sufficient for that purpose. Makes me wonder what they're trying to block out of their minds. I'm glad I don't live with people who do these things. That environment would drive me nuts.

Now, I don't have anything against visual media per se. The Internet is sort of a cross between TV and books -- you read words on a screen. I love the Internet. It's just that when blogs started out, and in Usenet before them, they were largely extensions of the printed word. As such, they compelled you to engage them the same way books compelled you. To pay attention, to think. Blogs had a power they no longer have today when they were all words. Pictures played a small hand in the diminishing of this power, but it was moving images that did the real, lasting damage, in exactly the way television did lasting damage to books.

So... no video clips here. I'm not trying to be an A-list blogger here, nor am I trying to be a purist. I'm just trying to figure out where I lost my way on the old Medley. It has little to do with blogging, and just about everything to do with reorienting myself. I'm trying to do that in many other spheres as well, and lately, I've made noticeable progress.

Thought I'd apply it to blogging, too...

Sunday, July 4, 2010

I Think My Notions on This Independence Day...

Are almost identical to those of Father Tyme at BlondeSense. Almost, but not quite. I'll explain after this:

Will someone PLEASE tell me why I should celebrate this day any longer? Independence from England and its tyrannical rule? To be thankful we replaced one tyranny with another run by craven, heartless unimaginably avaricious representatives of Corporate America?
People we elected and trusted stood by as Bush/Cheney raped the country and now the Democrats under Obama, Reid and Pelosi are denying a morning after pill.
When a fascist regime decided on ethnic genocide, we were appalled. You can’t simply kill of millions of people. It’s bad for publicity donchano? But if you deny those people food, shelter, clothing, healthcare and the basics of life with the excuse that “people have to make some sacrifices for the good of…” who; then you no longer represent the people who elected you.
In the 20s, our parents and grandparents fought to eliminate child labor and sweatshops so their children could enjoy an American Dream, and that’s all it was, a dream that disappeared as we awakened to a new century.
The party of the people has entreated Americans to a country run by corporations, for corporations and supported by callous, cold-hearted unsympathetic sycophants.
So what DO you call someone who surrounds themselves with bootlicking, ass-kissing, covetously cannibalistic, remorseless examples of the dregs of humanity? The answer seems to be, “Mr. President!”...

He goes on at length and in plenty of detail.

The late H. L. Mencken used to say that the concepts of liberty and democracy were in opposition to each other. During Bill Clinton's presidency, it seemed to me that Mencken was probably right. To me, at the time, NAFTA was the most glaring example of what the Democrats really thought of the people they claimed to be the party of, but there were plenty of other examples.

By the time 2000 rolled around, I considered myself a moderate conservative, though not (and never) a Republican, but I think now that I was then, and am now, more of a libertarian than anything else. That word gets slammed regularly by an untold number of liberal bloggers these days, often correctly so, and sometimes it begins with a "g", but right-wingers have been trashing the word "liberal" for decades (again, often correctly so), and none of it stops me from calling myself a liberal, so I guess what I've become is a liberal libertarian. (There, now everyone can trash me. :-P) Wikipedia defines libertarianism as a "range of political beliefs that advocate the maximization of an individual's ability to think and act with few constraints from large social structures, such as government, and the minimization or even abolition of the state." I stop at the abolition of the state, having never acquired the taste for anarchy.

The point I'm trying to make? Patience, i'm getting to it, and I'm way out of practice here, bear with me...

Anyway, then Bush came along, and by 2004, I'd become all but a card-carrying Democrat. I never liked the guy to begin with -- he spent way too much time talking about being a born-again Christian during his first run for the presidency, and my own experiences when dealing with such people proved unpleasant at best, more often than not. He rubbed me the wrong way. But it took an ongoing Iraq war and finally the Abu Ghraib horrors to make me reconsider my opinion of the Democrats. 2004 was the year I started up the first Medley, and I really did come to believe that having Democrats in charge would start changing things for the better. I even donated money to the Democratic Party -- and I'm probably still receiving solicitations from those bastards today at the AOL e-mail address I no longer use and cannot delete. So be it.

Fast-forward to America's 234th birthday. I'm re-reading my Mencken Chrestomathies, and it's perfectly clear to me now: Mencken was exactly right. I guess I had to live under a couple Democratic presidents to genuinely understand why, though. George W. Bush was a dreadful, dangerous fool -- it was impossible not to conflate democracy with liberty during his reign.

But while Mencken scoffed at the idea of Democracy, he also saw it as the best kind of government to live under. He believed all efforts to improve it would ultimately prove futile; on that count, I think he's been vindicated. That's pretty much where I'm at now, and where it seems Father Tyme and I diverge. I've written hundreds of posts that had the very same indignant, almost snarling tone expressed in the blockquoted excerpt above. I wrote them that way because, furious as I was, deep down I was still convinced that my government could be improved. I would look to the past and find example after example of how we as a society made advances that have benefitted nearly everyone involved. We're seeing it in action today when it comes to gay marriage, a subject I harbor mixed feelings toward (which is interesting due to the fact that I'm a gay man), but if it were all up to me, the damn thing would be legal across the country already.

Where I screwed up in citing examples of progress as evidence that our government can be improved was in failing to see that in case after case -- the Equal Rights Amendment, Social Security, the end of Abolition, the Civil Rights Act, you name it -- the government had to be dragged against its will the entire long, painful way. This same stubborn nonsense is going on with its refusal to grant gays all of the equal rights everyone else already has -- the government will finally grant them after it has run clean out of methods and excuses not to. Nothing new there, and certainly nothing suggesting that this situation can ever be improved -- if anything, it's just one more validation of H. L. Mencken's claim.

Still, I'll be voting Democratic in November. Why? Because the one alternative to having Democrats in charge is giving the government back to the Republicans. Been there, done that, moving on. At least when the Democrats rape you, they use condoms and lube. I'll deal with that.

So, on this 4th of July, no celebrating for me. No fireworks, no parades, not even a little gluttony. Just me sitting here, typing away, and as I wrap this post up, finally remembering the real reasons I took up blogging in the first place. That isn't much to smile about, but every little bit counts -- even if it's a sad one. I'm not a happy man these days. Definitely not as happy as I was on this day last year.

But I am a hell of a lot wiser. And that counts for a lot.

Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne"...

I did a collaboration with a guy named Max. He supplied the vocals, I arranged the music, and both of us liked the result.

Why I Started Up Another Medley...

Because I felt like it, mainly.

But also, 1) because the old Medley was the only blog I ever had that was worth so much as a quarter of a damn, so I gave this one the same name for that and some sentimental reasons; 2) because the Gulf of Mexico is ruined for at least the rest of my life, assuming I reach the average lifespan of today's American males, and I'm only 39, 3) because I'm pissed of at, ashamed of, tied to, and worried half to death over what's in store for my country, not just over the second reason, but for many others as well, and 4) if this is the best I can do, I might as well do it -- anything less won't do.

And besides, this webpage is a lot nicer to look at than the old one was. I've half a mind to paint the walls of my apartment this same sky blue color...

"16 Wooden Life Boats Instead Of 64"...

Great Orange Satan diarist Park Ranger compares the BP oil spill to the wreck of the titanic -- and explains why she's voting Democratic in november, too.

And as much as I hate to say it, I can't find a single fault with her argument. I'll be voting for Democrats, too, though I'll be calling it "voting against Republicans" from now until then...

{Cross-posted at the big roo's place...}