Sunday, February 28, 2010

far right 'patriots'

Frank Rich quotes a Republican Representative in congress rationalizing the suicide attack on the IRS building in Texas:

Representative Steve King, Republican of Iowa, even rationalized Stack’s crime. “It’s sad the incident in Texas happened,” he said, “but by the same token, it’s an agency that is unnecessary. And when the day comes when that is over and we abolish the I.R.S., it’s going to be a happy day for America.” No one in King’s caucus condemned these remarks.

Besides justifying a terrorist act, what I see in such sentiments is an argument against government per se -- an odd stance for an elected official. Such people fantasize that 'America' could exist as a nation without a government. For without the IRS, there would be no taxes -- and without taxes, where would there be money for government, including the beloved military bureaucracy, the Pentagon?

The Right's anti-tax diatribe reveals a selfish attack on government itself, a wish for return to a (non-existent) Hobbitt-land of farmers and herders shut up in their little houses, with no connection to one another. There is no America there. From the start, 'America' was defined as a political entity. Without a government, there would be no America. An odd position for so-called 'patriots.'

Attacks on taxation in general are really attacks on participation in broad political units -- states -- and are calls for a selfish, do-it-yourself return to the woods.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

peanut butter

the other night my dad told me that when i was little and they took me to disney world (or land?) i had just learned the word 'peanut butter.' as we walked about the park, i kept repeating the word, sometimes shouting it out.

i laughed hearing this. glomming onto new words and then randomly and annoyingly using them in any possible situation is exactly how i learn them. i remember as a second grader annoying classmates with the teacherly rejoinder to whatever they said to me at recess, 'that's not necessary.' or with the neighbor kids one day, repeating over and over the 50's-english phrase, read in a tintin book, 'its a rum thing, mr. Mate, the longboat has vanished.' ('crab with the golden claws,' i believe)

i do it a lot in foreign languages when i am trying to learn them. and this habit leads to me usually learning the weird sounding, quirky words (like 'rum thing' and 'peanut butter), faster than the solid, useful words. like korean 'posong-posong hada,' for fluffy, or madurese 'apukulu-puk,' for flip and flop, or arabic 'kerkedeh,' for that deep red flower that brews into a delicious drink. . can't think of the name now. right, hibiscus. sara has regretted telling me some of her dad's crusty, crass taiwanese expressions, used inevitably to blast bureaucratic namby-pambying or absurd unreason. i grab up a funny sounding word with the delight of a little boy picking up a shiny new toy. and whatever it's meaning, i invest the very sound of the word with my own delight.

assassination cool

it is amazing how the mainstream media casualizes murder -- when the murder happens to be of someone seen, however vaguely, as 'anti-american,' or 'anti-israel.' murder is made casual, a sport to be chatted about calmly and indifferently, or with small appreciation for style and flair. these media personalities and the 'experts' they invite in pose in their special cool: look how calmly and emotionlessly we can regard murder, says their demeanor: look how rational, tough, hard-headed, ahead of the times. we'd make a good Jack Bauer, goes their vibe. imagine me in a leather jacket.

today Wolf Blitzer and a woman now working for Baker Botts (?) and previously in government discussed the killing of the Hamas agent in Dubai. Blitzer, as is his wont when referring to people the media (implicitly) judges guilty and deserving of death without trial, referred to the team of killers 'taking out' the Hamas man. (why doesn't he just use the term 'offing'? if he wants a really cool pose, might as well go all the way). then, in a stunning switch away from the facts of the story, Blitzer proposed that the Hamas man is analogous to Bin Laden. the rest of their discussion revolved around this absurd conceit, which rests on the assumption that we = Israel, and al-Qaeda = Hamas. and, of course, anything is justified, damn the laws. the woman proved her tough credentials by lecturing Blitzer on the fact that 'all the world's intelligence agencies do this kind of thing,' so we ought to just get used to it and take the British government's protestations with a grain of salt.

i don't care how bad this Hamas man might have been, i object to the immediate assumption that we = Israel. we are not. our country is not reserved for one ethnic group. and i resist the erosion of civilization that accompanies occupation of other's lands, as is happening in israel. they are progressively turning themselves into immoral brutes the longer they persist in their stupid game of land-grabbing (from which, like Brer Rabbit with the Tar Baby, the further they push the harder it is to extricate themselves). it is instructive that neoconservatives and liberals who fall in love with the Israel pose (tough, sexy, no-illusions, like the woman on NCIS) also swallow the lie that indifference to human death makes for sophistication.

it does not. it leads to barbarism. and i don't care which expensive law firm you work for.

if the moral argument means nothing to these people, then how about the historical argument? israel has been murdering since before it gained independence, and they are no more secure than when they began murdering. this one fact ought to speak volumes. but i assume neither wolf nor Baker Botts have read any books of history.

as for our country: whenever our government aligns itself with governments or movements which endorse extrajudicial murder and torture -- or when we ourselves do it, a rare moment of not outsourcing -- our country gradually becomes defined as 'the enemy' by citizens of countries so victimized. argentina of the 1980s, iran of the 1970s, pakistan of right now . . .

no lawyer can really argue persuasively that making ordinary people hate us with our illegal and extralegal murders advances the national interest. one militant dead = 100 middle class citizens galvanized by our turning our backs on the rule of law.

we have lived (and continue to live) by the sword. and we are falling by the sword: slowly, inexorably, the cruel steel of militarism pierces our guts. and even as the titanic slides beneath the waves, weighed down by the massive 'defense' costs that never decrease, those Mossad wannabes -- yes, the lawyers and bureaucrats who have never held a gun in combat -- cannot give up the cool titillation and chic of extrajudicial murder. it must be like a perfume for these people. i wonder how many call themselves Christians.

go, wolf, go.

Monday, February 15, 2010

the rigidity of 'security' paranoia

the security imperative takes the simple-minded idea that certain things -- words or objects -- are in themselves dangerous. while seeming to be merely a rigidly equal approach that avoids ethnic profiling -- 'we confiscate all sharp objects, not just those carried by ethnic-looking men' -- in fact this rigidity opens the door to utter paranoia and unreason, stoked by ethnic fear.

there have been several instances where men speaking a foreign language on a plane (israeli business men, in one case) or doing anything that appeared vaguely 'muslim' -- have been hauled off the plane. people seem to forget that if someone really wanted to hijack a plane, they do not announce themselves as different: don't you remember the bland polo shirts and forgettable appearances of the 9/11 hijackers? only in the cartoon worlds of '24' or 'NCIS' do bad guys oblige us by playing the part, announcing themselves via menacing facial hair and accents.

last week i read of a college student not allowed to board his plane because he had arabic flash cards in his bag. the foreign alphabet itself was thus invested with a magically dangerous power. and paranoia can hide behind vague pronouncements about 'an abundance of caution.' but no one ever takes responsibility for these panicked absurdities.

facial hair, arabic alphabet, ritual prayers: the presence of one or all of these things does not indicate terrorism. but panic in their presence does indicate terror. the terrorists have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams -- rather than us having the confidence in our own good judgment and alertness (that young nigerian guy, jittery and hiding under a blanket, seems suspicious), we resort to absurder and absurder bans on particular acts or objects. therefore, a child may not hold a teddy bear in his lap. passengers may not use the bathroom -- even that grandmother with the Readers Digest -- for the last hour of flight. are our 'guardians' determined to make flying completely intolerable?

let's hear it for alert, reasonable, flexible responses. 'flagging' certain objects, words, or people as inherently dangerous, regardless of circumstances, is worse than stupid -- its insane.

na'vi in bilin?

a few days ago, palestinian protesters at the village of Bilin dressed as the blue people from the movie Avatar, attempting to claim that narrative of resistance as their own.

pasta, passion, and pistols

this is the name of a mystery/detective game i saw in the local Goodwill store. the things you can see in a Goodwill -- all the failed, bizarre stabs at entrepreneurial success.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Ehud Barak uses term 'apartheid'

It takes oppressors a long time to use the most proper term for what they are engaged in -- not due to lack of intelligence, but to lack of moral courage. Or maybe they can only open up when they have painted themselves into the most desperate of corners, as this regime has certainly done. After all, they could have accepted Palestinian statehood 15 years ago, when less of the West Bank was stolen by settlers. Taken from a news story posted on a blog:

Israeli leaders rarely use the term "apartheid" in connection to the Palestinians. The term, however, has been used by Israel's harshest critics to accuse it of using apartheid tactics against the Palestinians.

"The simple truth is, if there is one state" including Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, "it will have to be either binational or undemocratic. ... if this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state."

The use of the word 'harsh' is funny. The word 'apartheid' is not harsh but merely descriptive. The reason this article feels compelled to call the word 'harsh' is simply due to the delicate, pro-Zionist sensibilities of the mainstream (even much of the liberal) media. Let me say this: if Ehud Barak can use the word, then its reasonableness can be assumed.