In remarks that surely had Martin Luther King, Jr. turning over in his grave, Pentagon lawyer Jeh (no, I don't know how to pronounce it either) Johnson claimed that if he were alive today, MLK would probably approve of our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (and Yemen and Pakistan, but oops, we're not supposed to know about those). It's really stomach-turning to read the DOD press release, trumpeting Johnson's speechlet and his "certificate of appreciation."
Thankfully, people all over the blogosphere are slamming this shameless PR stunt, including Justin Elliott and David Swanson, the latter who has just published a book called War Is A Lie. I heard Swanson speak recently and was impressed, so I picked up the book; just started reading it last night. Excerpt, by the way, of King's own words from his 1967 speech against the Vietnam War, in obvious opposition to the Orwellian nonsense spewed by Johnson:
"The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: ‘This way of settling differences is not just.’ This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more on military ‘defense’ than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
On the air right now, on the public radio program The Diane Rehm Show, former DynCorp employee Kathryn Bolkovac talking about how blew the whistle on UN peacekeepers in Bosnia who were engaged in sex trafficking and prostitution rings. Wherever you live, if your local public radio station carries the program, you can listen. (Audio will be on-line at the link later, after broadcast.) Readers of Cogitamus might remember litbrit's recent post that exposed more of DynCorp's criminal behavior. Bolkovac was also threatened after she blew the whistle; she talks about her experiences in a new book.
It's a new day, it's a new year, and there's still so much of the same old. So I thought it was worth revisiting this essay by Kurt Vonnegut called Cold Turkey, first published by In These Times in 2004. Though it's kind of stream-of-consciousness, it's full of lovely bits and bons mots that are still applicable today. A few of the major players may have changed, but the game is essentially the same. Old Kurt would've been saddened to see it. Or maybe not. After all, he foresaw so much.
Many years ago, I was so innocent I still considered it possible that we could become the humane and reasonable America so many members of my generation used to dream of. We dreamed of such an America during the Great Depression, when there were no jobs. And then we fought and often died for that dream during the Second World War, when there was no peace.
But I know now that there is not a chance in hell of America’s becoming humane and reasonable. Because power corrupts us, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Human beings are chimpanzees who get crazy drunk on power. By saying that our leaders are power-drunk chimpanzees, am I in danger of wrecking the morale of our soldiers fighting and dying in the Middle East? Their morale, like so many bodies, is already shot to pieces. They are being treated, as I never was, like toys a rich kid got for Christmas.
Charming story in today's Baltimore Sun about an 84-year-old just-post-WW-II veteran who's been living abroad all these years and is finally returning a book to the Enoch Pratt Free Library (first free library system in the country).
Reminds me of the hilarious Library episode from Seinfeld, where this actor, Philip Baker Hall, as "Bookman," does one of the best comic monologues in the history of television:
(Oops -- the embed code has been disabled, so you'll have to click on this link, which takes you directly to YouTube, to watch it.)
In a perfect melding of the Keystone Kops Meet O'Brien, Janet Napolitano is coming to a Walmart near you. Her video, urging "If You See Something, Say Something," is rolling out at W emporia all across the country:
The message will be continuously looped on TV monitors at the 588 Walmarts in the U.S. One can only imagine the hilarity that will ensue when one gun-buying customer doesn't like the looks of another. But then maybe Napolitano doesn't really know the People of Walmart that well, after all.
"Report suspicious activity to your local police or sheriff. If you need help, ask a Walmart manager for assistance.” Ah, yes, ask a manager for assistance! Next time you get in a tug-of-war with another customer over the last Game Boy in the store, just report that sucker to management for "suspicious activity."
Emily Dickinson was born on December 10, 1830, and alas, I missed commemorating the day. But I was reminded of it by the great, almost-godlike (in my book, anyway) Garrison Keillor, who did a tribute to the Belle of Amhurst on his show. Here is one of her most beloved poems:
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
Ballgame just brought this column by Naomi Wolf to our attention in another thread, but I think it deserves its own post. Excerpt (bolds mine):
. . . These two Senators, and the rest of the Congressional and White House leadership who are coming forward in support of this appalling development, are cynically counting on Americans' ignorance of their own history -- an ignorance that is stoked and manipulated by those who wish to strip rights and freedoms from the American people. They are manipulatively counting on Americans to have no knowledge or memory of the dark history of the Espionage Act -- a history that should alert us all at once to the fact that this Act has only ever been used -- was designed deliberately to be used -- specifically and viciously to silence people like you and me.
The Espionage Act was crafted in 1917 -- because President Woodrow Wilson wanted a war and, faced with the troublesome First Amendment, wished to criminalize speech critical of his war. In the run-up to World War One, there were many ordinary citizens -- educators, journalists, publishers, civil rights leaders, union activists -- who were speaking out against US involvement in the war. The Espionage Act was used to round these citizens by the thousands for the newly minted 'crime' of their exercising their First Amendment Rights. A movie producer who showed British cruelty in a film about the Revolutionary War (since the British were our allies in World War I) got a ten-year sentence under the Espionage act in 1917, and the film was seized; poet E.E. Cummings spent three and a half months in a military detention camp under the Espionage Act for the 'crime' of saying that he did not hate Germans. Esteemed Judge Learned Hand wrote that the wording of the Espionage Act was so vague that it would threaten the American tradition of freedom itself. Many were held in prison for weeks in brutal conditions without due process; some, in Connecticut -- Lieberman's home state -- were severely beaten while they were held in prison. The arrests and beatings were widely publicized and had a profound effect, terrorizing those who would otherwise speak out.
. . . I call on all American citizens to rise up and insist on repeal of the Espionage Act immediately. We have little time to waste. The Assange assault is theater of a particularly deadly kind, and America will not recover from the use of the Espionage Act as a cudgel to threaten journalists, editors and news outlets with. I call on major funders of Feinstein's and Lieberman's campaigns to put their donations in escrow accounts and notify the staffers of those Senators that the funds willonly be released if they drop their traitorous invocation of the Espionage Act. I call on all Americans to understand once for all: this is not about Julian Assange. This, my fellow citizens, is about you . . . .
from “Experiencing Death”
I had imagined being there beneath sunlight
with the procession of martyrs
using just the one thin bone
to uphold a true conviction
And yet, the heavenly void
will not plate the sacrificed in gold
A pack of wolves well-fed full of corpses
celebrate in the warm noon air
aflood with joy
Litbrit quoted Hannah Arendt by way of Driftglass yesterday. Among the many celebrated essays Arendt wrote, a catch-phrase from one of them has become most famous: "the banality of evil."
Today, Chris Hedges quotes a different Arendt work, though one with essentially the same message:
“Each time society, through unemployment, frustrates the small man in his normal functioning and normal self-respect,” Hannah Arendt wrote in her 1945 essay 'Organized Guilt and Universal Responsibility,' “it trains him for that last stage in which he will willingly undertake any function, even that of hangman.”
Periodically I've suggested that readers wander on over to Crispin Sartwell's blog, Eye of the Storm, for thoughtful, provocative, sometimes infuriating posts. Crispin teaches philosophy at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa. He's an anarchist, though of which variety I can't say as I can't keep all the nuances straight; you can ask him if you want to go there. Crispin has also (rarely) commented here at the Cogblog. In my opinion, he can be quite contrarian, whether out of genuine principle or just plain cussedness. In any case, he writes thought-provoking, even poetic, stuff, such as this op-ed style piece on environmentalism.
Well, I've been saying it from the beginning. But what the hell.
Because in a world of so much horror we still need hope, the voice of Nicholas Kristof is always welcome. For years he has been stepping out of the role of cold-eyed, dispassionate journalist and using his columns in the New York Times to educate us on what we can do, in tiny ways, in our tiny little lives, to lessen that horror. His book, Half the Sky, co-written with his wife Sheryl WuDunn is by now famous. Yet he still finds new stories of fire in the belly to tell. Books, schools, medical clinics? Yes. But also banana fibers and menstrual pads. Read about it all in his latest column.
Lifting this entire post from Attytood, the website of Philadelphia reporter Will Bunch (who's also author of fab new book on the teabaggers, The Backlash):
George W. Bush is finally cleaning up mess the mess he left behind -- well, OK, .0.00000000000000000000001 percent of it:
George W. Bush says now that he's left to walk his dog alone around his Dallas neighborhood, he realizes how much he misses the perks of the White House.
"I miss being pampered. I miss Air Force One. I miss being commander in chief of an awesome group of [people]," the former president told a whistling, fist-pumping crowd of 2,000 supporters in Texas this past Tuesday, according to the Tyler Morning Telegraph.
"Ten days out of the presidency, there I was with a plastic bag in my hand, picking up that which I had been dodging for eight years," he said, describing how he suddenly had to clean up after his dog Barney himself. The crowd erupted into laughter, and at one point someone yelled, "Bring back Bush!"
So, Bush's idea of NOT being pampered involves retiring as a millionaire to a Texas mansion and enjoying baseball games and God's fresh air. That's a lifestyle -- OK, "life" would probably be more accurate -- that the thousands of victims of his reckless and criminal decision to invade another country without justification -- from the wounded Iraq war vets cluttering VA hospitals deep in the heart of Bush's Texas to the thousands of innocent orphans from the "shock and awe" that he rained down on Baghdad -- could not today fathom. How many people ended up not in a lush Texas subdivision but in a graveyard as a result of Bush's immoral war of choice?
You'd think that Bush would just want to keep his mouth shut and be glad that he's not sitting in a docket somewhere. Picking up dog poop is way too good for him.
Posted by Will Bunch @ 10:02 AM Permalink |
Created by graphic designer Tom Gabor.
This is a smaller-than-life-size image of one of the pages in the book The Affected Provincial's Companion, a compendium of -- how to describe it? -- aesthetic musings, sartorial suggestions, historical anecdotes, philosophical levity, personal tidbits, political implications, botanical info, witty illustrations, helpful diagrams, and general silliness. It's the work of the sweetly twisted mind of Lord Whimsy (not to be confused with the fictional Lord Peter Wimsey of Dorothy L. Sayers fame), one of whose blogs is listed on the Cogblogroll to the left, but whose work I've long wanted to highlight yet didn't dare do during the deadly serious election season.
Lord Whimsy is actually Victor Allen Crawford who, with his wife Susan, runs the graphic design firm Plankton Art Co. If you want to engage him professionally, you can get him there. But if you just want to drink in his perfumed peculiarities, you're better off going to his alter ego's website, where you can find, among other things, his manifesto, pictures of strange lichens and fungi, colors, textures, and other images of beauty, and even political statements such as this:
Okay, in deference to my friend and colleague Crispin Sartwell, with whom I often disagree on matters political and social (such as his fondness for anarchism and love of rap, to name but two), I'm posting his challenge. He's still a brilliant guy with often compelling arguments, and I'm as happy to throw down the philosophical gauntlet as the next person. So here's his manifesto and challenge to you, gentle readers (he also has a video challenge up on YouTube, and if I could remember how to embed it I would):
Think slavery in the U.S. ended when the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1862? Yeah, I did, too. Until today, when I listened to author -- and Wall Street Journal Atlanta bureau chief -- Douglas Blackmon being interviewed about his book Slavery By Another Name.
It was eye-opening. As eye-opening as learning about sundown towns.
And no, I'm not talking about the legacy of slavery, I'm talking about actual slavery.
Oh, and lest I forget, this book by Benjamin Skinner about slavery worldwide -- now more pervasive than ever before in history -- is also worth checking out.
Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not yet sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favor; a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defence of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason.
These words open Thomas Paine's first pamphlet, published anonymously in 1776, called Common Sense, a call to action by the American colonies against the tyranny of the British monarchy.
Now, over 230 years later, Paine's words are being invoked again, against a different kind of tyranny. Five writers who have worked on, among other things, the stellar HBO series The Wire, the finale of which will air on Sunday night, have written a column for Time magazine decrying the so-called war on drugs. Ed Burns, Dennis Lehane, George Pelecanos, Richard Price, and David Simon declare that if they were ever to be seated on a jury in a non-violent drug case, they would automatically vote to acquit.
Yes, of course, that declaration now guarantees that none of them will ever be seated on a jury in a drug case -- or probably any other kind of case -- but the point is that they have come out publicly against the idiocy of the drug policy in this country, and will, perhaps, prompt other citizens to likewise examine it. As they correctly point out, no politician, Democrat or Republican, has the guts to do it.
One, I recall, though, did. And was pilloried for it.
Today is National Grammar Day! Only a few insufferable schoolmarms such as me would revel in such a thing, but revel we do (care to chime in, litbrit?). Though my husand affectionately (I hope) refers to me as the Word Wench, I did not invent National Grammar Day. No, that credit goes to The Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar, specifically a watchful woman named Martha Brokenbrough. You can read more about the good Martha in Nathan Bierma's hilarious column.
Of course, at times like these we mustn't forget McKean's Law, developed by the ever witty and frighteningly articulate Erin McKean (full disclosure: a friend of mine), who, in her spare time, though god knows where she finds it, also runs the inspirational beauty blog, A Dress A Day.
Then again, there's always Lynne Truss, whose book of a few years ago inexplicably shot to the top of bestseller lists all over the English-speaking world.
We're a weird bunch, I know, but we mean well. It's hard to convey the excitement we feel upon discovering an etymology, observing a new linguistic phenomenon (no matter how annoying it might be), coining a neologism. And some of us will go to our graves insisting on the clarity and correctness of the serial comma! Onward, Grammar soldiers!
I often find myself turning to Ellen and Julia Lupton's blog, Design-Your-Life.org, for inspiration. They are celebrated designers and academics, and I've learned from them how design affects every aspect of our lives. In fact, the whole notion of design is too broad and expansive to encapsulate in a few words or a single definition.
A recent posting by Julia addresses the phenomenon of blogging (about which I, for one, feel deeply ambivalent). Both she and her commenters bring up some good points that should provoke spirited discussion. We hear all the time about how the blogosphere has created a new kind of community -- it's that word "community" that gets bandied about the most -- but does it really? One wonders.