Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Weather Underground

Apropos the comment thread below, I finally sat down and watched the fantastic documentary about the The Weathermen Underground, the radical revolutionary outfit of the '60s and '70s intent on overthrowing the US government. The movie had me at "Hello, I'm going to read a declaration of a state of war...within the next 14 days we will attack a symbol or institution of American injustice." Some fascinating stuff here that opens room for the sort of debate that we really ought to have more often -- namely about the nature of (and suppression of) dissent and revolutionary change.

Most of the former Weathermen agree that the revolutionary zeitgeist, notably that in America, can be attributed to the madness of Vietnam and the draft. As such, when both came to their end, so did the Leftist unity. There's probably something to this; and it is certainly something that the Left will want to consider, should the situation in Iraq turn into a civil war and thus require an American draft. Are moments such as these the Left's 'one shot' at getting shit done, those moments when madness & coercion are so palpably real; or is it the Left's version of a sale at Wal-Mart -- i.e., shitty goods at half-price?

This, to me, is the most important thing to consider . . . rather than any possible 'Rage Against the Machine' nostalgia I might want to feel for a time in which political change seemed on the doorstep, when radicals didn't need the key because they figured they could just bust down the fucking door.

Friday, June 24, 2005

'Different Philosophies'

In the spirit of Karl Rove's recent slander of liberals, and the subsequent defense by the White House that he was simply highlighting the 'different philosophes' at work in the war against terrorism this week, the DNC has helpfully provided us all with a supplement to this 'different-philosophies' hypothesis:

Believe capturing the person primarily responsible for the attack should be a top priority.

It's been four years, and Osama bin Laden is still free, even though Bush's CIA chief says he knows where he is.

Investigate the intelligence failures that led to 9/11.

Do everything in their power to block the 9/11 Commission from doing its work.

Propose creating the Department of Homeland Security.

Push tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

Believe we should have stayed the course in Afghanistan, not allowing the Taliban to resurge, the warlords to take power, and the opium trade to skyrocket.

Ignore Afghanistan as the situation worsens.

Believe that we should be honest with our troops about the reasons we go to war, give them everything they need to be safe, and make sure we go in with an exit plan.

Manipulate intelligence to trump up reasons to go to war, don't give our troops the support they need, constantly mislead the public about the direction the war is going, and fail to make an exit plan. And turn Iraq into the ultimate terrorist training ground.

Silly, Karl. He thought he had to highlight different philosophies by making up shit.

UPDATE: Son of a bitch, this kind of thing pisses me off.

The Department of Veterans Affairs told Congress that its health care costs grew faster than expected and left a $1 billion hole in its budget this year, lawmakers said Thursday.

House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Steve Buyer, the Republican from Indiana, said the department can meet this year's health care costs by drawing on spare funds and money from other operations, including building construction.

But next year's health care budget falls well over $1 billion short, said Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho.

"I was on the phone this morning with Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson letting him know that I am not pleased that this has happened," said Craig, chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee.

"This shortfall results from either deliberate misdirection or gross incompetence by this administration and the Department of Veteran Affairs," said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington.

The next person who tells me or somebody I know we don't have a moral obligation to call this kind of thing horsheshit can simply go to hell. All you who feed off the blood & guilty consciences of others, who unfalteringly support a government who does not give sufficient material support to troops presently IN COMBAT NOW or THOSE WHO HAVE ALREADY SERVED ... who will likely step over the homeless veterans, scarred for life by the mental and physical debilitation wrought by a war you wanted but wish to hear nothing about, sneering at their inability to 'get a job' and the reason your downtowns are dead. Fuck. You. All.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

A Little Perspective

For all the attention it evokes, terrorism actually causes rather little damage and the likelihood that any individual will become a victim in most places is microscopic. Those adept at hyperbole like to proclaim that we live in “the age of terror.” However, while obviously deeply tragic for those directly involved, the number of people worldwide who die as a result of international terrorism is generally only a few hundred a year, tiny compared to the numbers who die in most civil wars or from automobile accidents. In fact, in almost all years, the total number of people worldwide who die at the hands of international terrorists anywhere in the world is not much more than the number who drown in bathtubs in the United States.

-- John Mueller, Chair of National Security Studies at Ohio State University

Friday, June 17, 2005

Sympathy Extended

Long-time friend of Silentio Scott Martens has truly heartbreaking news re: his wife's pregnancy. Scott, from K. and I, the deepest of sympathies in this, the worst of times.

Favorite Songs A-Z

Pat had the brainstorm recently that he needed to establish his mark on the internet and start his own damn meme. Apropros Pat, of course, his meme is a pain in the ass. The rules: (1) List songs you like from A to Z; (2) Don't use the same artist twice. Easy enough, right. Pfft. Yeah. I gave up on it a few weeks ago, and finally knocked it out today -- yeah yeah, when I should be working on other things, I know.

My list:

America Is (Violent Femmes)
Best Imitation of Myself (Ben Folds Five)
Cold Hard Facts of Life (Porter Wagoner)
Dark End of the Street (Flying Burrito Brothers)
Ellis Unit One (Steve Earle)
Flower (Liz Phair)
Going to Town (Afghan Whigs)
Hang My Teeth On Your Door (16 Horsepower)
I Am Stretched On Your Grave (Kate Rusby)
Jerusalem (Dan Bern)
The Killer (Twilight Singers)
Lilac Wine (Jeff Buckley)
Mr. Mudd & Mr. Gold (Townes van Zandt)
99 Problems (Jay-Z)
The Outdoor Type (Lemonheads)
Promises (Lyle Lovett)
Quality Control (Jurassic Five)
Ruby Don't Take Your Love To Town (Kenny Rogers)
Striptease (Hawksley Workman)
This Drinking Will Kill Me (Dwight Yoakam)
Under Your Breath (Whiskeytown)
Via Chicago (Wilco)
Windfall (Son Volt)
Xplosion (Outcast)
You've Got Me (The Roots)
Zapata's Blood (Rage Against the Machine)

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Looks Like I Picked the Wrong Day to Quit Believing in God

Oh ... doesn't it just figure. I misplace my theism right when I need it the most:

So it's 2005 and this is the academic question that has driven the Daily News and the right-wing New York Sun into apoplectic fits, and caused heartburn all over CUNY: Should Tim Shortell, an atheist, be allowed to assume the chair of the sociology department of Brooklyn College? You know, an atheist--someone who doesn't believe in God. An anticleric. A disrespecter of religion. A mocker of Christianity. Someone like, oh, Diderot ("Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest"). Or Voltaire ("The truths of religion are never so well understood as by those who have lost the power of reasoning"). Or Bertrand Russell ("The Christian religion, as organized in its churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world"). Actually, Russell is a particularly relevant example here. The appointment of one of the twentieth century's greatest logicians to a professorship at City College in 1940 set off a hysterical campaign against the "Godless advocate of free love" on the part of the Episcopal and Catholic churches, the Hearst papers and Tammany Hall. A flagrantly trumped-up lawsuit was fast-tracked through the system, Russell was denounced in the state legislature and the job offer was withdrawn.

Unfortunately, Shortell is no Bertrand Russell, whose Why I Am Not a Christian did so much to enliven my teenage years. For one thing, Russell was an energetic antireligious propagandist, while Shortell's low opinion of God and his fans is confined to a brief essay, "Religion and Morality: A Contradiction Explained," posted at, an obscure website with a vaguely Situationist flavor. For another, Russell was a terrific writer, while Shortell's essay is self-satisfied adolescent twaddle. Believers are "moral retards," "an ugly, violent lot": "In the heart of every Christian is a tiny voice preaching self-righteousness, paranoia and hatred. Christians claim that theirs is a faith based on love, but they'll just as soon kill you." Moral retards? Well, at least he can't be accused of linguistic PC.

*SIGH* Too little religion = Too much religion = UNEMPLOYMENT.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Cult of Ana

Over two years ago, on this very blog, back when it was, um, something worth reading, a Lonestar guest blogging friend introduced us to the disturbing world of Ana. Over the years, it has proven to be one of the most frequently hit posts, mostly via Google, in Silentio's short history.

I call your attention to it today because, apparently, it's not gone away. Maybe it was naive to think it was only a passing fad. Mark Morford explains:

Just when you thought you'd seen it all, now comes the news that teenage girls are forming new, secret online clubs.

Not just any clubs, mind, but sassy nutball cultlike clubs whose leaders tell their followers what to eat and how to think and how to hide their big ugly secrets, their neurosis, their imminent damage, and they even have a unifying fashion symbol: they all wear little red wristbands to show their weird solidarity, their allegiance to a warped and unhappy goddess who goes by the name of Ana.

This is true. This is happening now. And you may, at this point, think it's all cute and good and Net-friendly and you might say, aww, how great is that, lonely lost teenage girls finding each other online and making new friends and worshipping some celebrity named Ana, sharing secrets and diet tips and advice and isn't that just the coolest thing? Isn't that just the way of young girls, socializing and sharing and emoting? Isn't that the genius of the Internet?

Why, sure it is. It's all special and warm and funky until you learn, of course, that Ana is short for -- wait for it -- anorexia.

Yessirree. This is what the girls call it. Or, rather, her. Ana is their secret best friend. Ana is their salvation. They draw pictures of her, send her their prayers, recite her creed.

These girls, they love Ana and they want to be with Ana all the time and they have bizarre little support groups who rally the sad and the faithful to love and follow Ana no matter how hungry or sick or shriveled they get (Ana mocks them if they succumb to food), and if they choose not to befriend Ana they can also take a liking to Mia (bulimia) or find a new boyfriend in a totally popular guy named Ed (eating disorder).

This is not a joke. This is not a gimmick.

If only it were.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Tag ... You're It

I have been tagged, and am thus morally obligated to spread an internet meme one blog further. So ... here we ago:

(1) Total Number of Books I've Owned: A rough guess... 300-400. I gave a lot away just prior to moving to Scotland. I'm down to around 100 now, I guess. Would probably be a lot more if (a) I didn't move so often, (b) if I was a bit more brawny and moving boxes filled with books was not a problem, or (c) I was not an extraordinary tightwad.

(2) Last Book I Bought: Suttree (Cormac McCarthy)

(3) The Last Book I Read: From cover-to-cover, it was David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas. In addition to assorted introductions, conclusions, and indices.

(4) Five Books that Mean A Lot to Me (in no particular order): The Recognitions (William Gaddis); Kleinzeit (Russell Hoban); Minima Moralia (Theodor Adorno); Blood Meridian (Cormac McCarthy); Rings of Saturn (W. G. Sebald)

(5) People to Tag: Pat Rock, Julia Rock, Mike Riggs, Brad Pickens, Brannon Hancock.