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Thursday, May 26, 2005
SUNSHINE PATRIOTS 1; FREEDOM 0
or, HALFTIME IN "THE LAND OF THE FREE AND THE HOME OF THE BRAVE"
Thomas Paine wrote "The American Crisis" in 1780, and the preamble bears repeating:
THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.Does any of this sound familiar? Our summer soldiers and sunshine patriots are, of course, busily watching the "runaway bride," the Michael Jackson trial and the conclusion of a karaoke contest entitled "American Idol." It could just as easily be called "America Idle."
Our "news" outlets flood us with a surfeit of trivia, and our "leader" is simply a tyrant. Barbara Boxer made the right and critical point on the Stephanie Miller Show yesterday, noting that the Bush Administration insists on ruling but refuses to govern. (I am paraphrasing).
They lay down edicts without listening: neither to Congressional members, nor to citizens gathered to protest El Busho's policies. He will not allow protesters to be seen, and they are (and have been for years) confined to narrow areas, surrounded by chain-link fencing and police officers far from any possibility that Dubya the Younger will see them. His audiences are carefully selected, screened and rehearsed.
Petitions are ignored, requests for an audience with our Ruler are spurned, and the very rights of the people are mocked. These are the actions of a tyrant.
Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.We have esteemed our freedom far too lightly. The attack has been unrelenting. I will never forget the twin chills that passed up my spine when I saw uniformed combat troops in black berets in our airports, holding semi-automatic weapons; and on the day that I heard the tyrant stating that he would "create" an office of "Homeland Security."
I could not help remembering what happened in Germany in the 1930s, which is cliche, but I could also not help think of what happened in the city of Boston, Massachusetts in the 1770s, as "Lobsterbacks" were moved in to occupy the city, and were involuntarily quartered in private homes.
We have seen the former; we have experienced the latter.
But even though the Patriot Act was, finally opposed by dozens of cities (including Eugene, among the first), the court-appointed rulers paid no heed. Patriot II is on the block. You will have to have a passport to return from Canada and Mexico and even Puerto Rico in the very near future. You will, within a very few years, have to show a standardized ID card to travel by plane, bus or train.
And we have esteemed our freedom not at all.
Put narrowly: when Osama bin Laden's minions crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, they succeeded in "destroying America." But not without our able assistance.
We summer soldiers and sunshine patriots put up our flags (remember them? They were the fad right before the magnetic "yellow ribbons" -- a 'tradition' derived from a hideous song derived from a cornball READERS DIGEST story that I remember reading when it first came out). We chattered endlessly about how "scared" we were, and allowed our freedoms to vanish in a frenzy to protect our barbeque grills.
David McCullough, in his soon-to-be-released "1776" notes that in 1776, the American Colonies enjoyed the highest standard of living in the world. The Hessian troops and British regulars that landed on Staten Island in the spring of that year were astonished at the wealth and comfort of the Americans. They had seen nothing like it in Germany, nor, for that matter, in England.
So this idea that we have grown too self-satisfied, grown too comfortable in America is sheerest hogwash. They were willing to put their lives, fortunes and sacred honor on the line for the utterly revolutionary concept of self-governance.
And yet, what do we hear?
It's the media's fault.
We don't have the votes in Congress.
The Right Wing talk shows have stifled dissent.
We have failed to defend our own freedom. We have been unwilling to stand up for our own rights.
I wrote, of invasion of Iraq (Register-Guard, June 19, 2003):
After 80 days, it's time Americans confronted a grave question: If no weapons of mass destruction are found, then members of the Bush administration are guilty of war crimes.And now we have irrefutable evidence that the whole charade leading up to the war was a pretext for the unlawful invasion of a country which had nothing to do with 9-11. The so-called "Downing Street" memo clearly proves (and the Bush Administration has NOT even attempted to refute it, only changed the subject whenever it looks like it might be brought up, and the media has complied with the "NEWSWEEK scandal" the "Runaway bride" and other criminal ephemera) the crime.
Here is evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors, for which George W. Bush, incipient tyrant must be impeached, tried and removed from office. I believe that a third term should, nay, MUST entail 30 years to life at taxpayer expense in a maximum security facility.
The secret Downing Street memoOn December 28th of 2003, I wrote (Register-Guard):
Since all we liberals do is whine, I'd like to offer a constructive suggestion instead. This letter isn't protesting the sudden invocation of a high terror alert during the busiest travel time of the year - all without actually giving the average citizen anything to do except to be afraid.There can no longer be any excuse for refusing to defend our liberties. Here is what Tom Paine said (Common Sense, 1776):
The cause of America is, in a great measure, the cause of all mankind. Many circumstances have, and will arise, which are not local, but universal, and through which the principles of all lovers of mankind are affected, and in the event of which, their affections are interested. The laying a country desolate with fire and sword, declaring war against the natural rights of all mankind, and extirpating the defenders thereof from the face of the earth, is the concern of every man to whom nature hath given the power of feeling; of which class, regardless of party censure, is.It is chilling to recognize that the usurpations which I have ennumerated herein merely refer to the unjustified murder of over 100,000 persons both Iraqi and American, who had committed no crime, nor were other than innocent human beings attempting to exercise their unalienable right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
Osama bin Laden still lives, and is at large. Saddam Hussein still lives and, while confined, seems to live comfortably. Certainly more comfortably than the citizens of his country who get electricity only 8 hours a day in the best parts, and none at all in the worst; who have no purified drinking water; whose untreated sewage continues to flow into their rivers (from where many are forced to draw their drinking water).
And that is not to mention the literally tens of thousands of American soldiers who have been maimed for life, and whose numbers are carefully screened from public view, lest we grow weary of an illegal and unjustifiable war against a people who never did us harm.
But we cannot, as free men and women, continue to sit on our obese posteriors and refuse to take to the streets, to demand that our so-called leaders recognize that government of by and for the people shall, as Abraham Lincoln so eloquently put it, not perish from the Earth.
The tyrant does not spread "freedom and democracy." He merely pays it lip service.
The Polish shipbuilders took to the streets and toppled the Soviet Empire. The people of Romania took the the streets in the Velvet Revolution and restored democracy. The people of the Ukraine overturned a rigged election by taking to the streets.
Will Americans, who STILL enjoy the highest standard of living in the world do less? Have so many died in our name, to preserve and defend our liberties that we would renege our sacred duty and deprive our children and their children of these liberties so hard won, and so gallantly defended?
I do not believe that we are less a great people than we once were. I believe that we have forgotten that, as Jefferson said in the Declaration of Independence:
"WE hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness -- That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."Dubya derives his powers from the just 'consent of the governed.' But he refuses to speak to the governed. And he has drawn us into an immoral, illegal and hateful war at the expense of our schools, our children, our veterans, our roads and our very Republic.
I do not advocate abolishing our government. We have, wisely, a system of checks and balances, which, if they were allowed to work, would operate properly.
But the final check (as the Supreme Court seems to not understand) is the people. Our votes are sacred and our will is absolute.
So to the Sunshine Patriot I say: it was never written that you must wait for your leaders or your press. In 1776, the people wanted "independency" while their leaders dawdled. Today, WE must take back our government. We must take to the streets and refuse to leave until the usurper is removed to prison.
No one is going to 'empower' you. No one is going to give you 'permission.' You have a duty to your ancestry, that provided you with the blessings of liberty, and a duty to your posterity, that comprises billions as yet unborn. Do you consign them to the yoke of tyranny? Or will you stand up for that which you have luckily obtained at no personal cost to you?
The "people" starts with you. Are you enough of a man or woman to stand up for it? Are you ashamed that the people of Poland, of the Ukraine, of Romania know more about freedom than you do?
Does that flag mean anything to you, or is it just bunting for your Fourth of July picnic?
There have been three Georges in American history. The first was George Washington, who through his absolute integrity and unwavering courage -- and not his intellect or brilliance -- brought us through revolution, constitution and the peaceful change of administrations.
The second was George H.W. Bush, whom history will judge harshly at worst, trivial at best, and no better or worse than many a mediocre president. But he was a patriot, and I do not question that he was legitimately the president.
Finally, there is Dubya the Younger. The usurper. The criminal. The tyrant.
[...]George the Third has got to go. Deja vu.
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SENATORS?
or, STRETCHING A METAPHOR TO MAKE A POINT
I am going to warn you in advance here. I am going to be traveling a bit far afield to make a point, and, if it doesn't seem at first blush that I'm going anywhere with this, I assure you that I really am, so bear with me.
Secondly, I am going to use a classic bit of American slang, and with apologies to my feminist friends and roots, I do not mean it in a sexist way. The term is "pussy" and I will be using it in the classic redneck football coach manner, without regard to the gender involved: meaning, a lack of intestinal fortitude, a want of spine, a fundamental cravenness and cowardice.
I use the term in the same manner that I use the term "balls" which means essentially the opposite. The irony that the only members of the Senate with any balls are women, I shall pass over. It is a metaphor. An outdated sexist metaphor of another age, perhaps, but utterly appropriate to our current conundrum.
So, be forewarned. And, forewarned, that I'm not even going to respond to PC criticism of my language. You've had the caveat lector, so let's move on.
That said, I watched a dumb action flick last night. I had wanted to see it, but didn't feel like seeing it in the theater, knowing that the smart monkeys of Hollywood would take one of my favorite Philip K. Dick short stories and turn it into dog meat. I know the workings of their alleged minds too well not to expect the worst, and my expectations were not contradicted in the least.
I was watching because I didn't want to hear any more psychobabble about how "great" the "victory" of the "compromise" in the Senate was. It was an historic day, all right, but not in the manner expected, and in a manner far worse than my worst case scenario, even though I predicted that this would happen.
The Philip K. Dick short story "Paycheck" is a straight "caper" story, or, at least, as straight as Dick ever managed to get. His original story notes read: "How much is a key to a bus locker worth? One day it's worth 25 cents, the next day thousands of dollars. In this story, I got to thinking that there are times in our lives when having a dime to make a phone call spells the difference between life and death. Keys, small change, maybe a theater ticket-how about a parking receipt for a Jaguar? All I had to do was link this idea up with time travel to see how the small and useless, under the wise eyes of a time traveler, might signify a great deal more. He would know when that dime might save your life. And, back in the past again, he might prefer that dime to any amount of money, no matter how large."
(You can find the original short story as "Paycheck" ; the story is available as part of the collection, "Paycheck and 24 Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick", published in 2003. Or, digging through used bookstores, you can find it in "The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick, Vol. 1" -- which the former title is a reprint of -- or "The Best of Philip K. Dick" which is where I first read it back in the '70s or the '80s).
Dick, it has always seemed to me, is a poor choice for Hollywood, which has butchered several of his books and short stories, including "Blade Runner" (1982) (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?), Screamers (1990), Based on "Second Variety"; Total Recall (1992) Based on "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale"; Confessions d'un Barjo (French, 1992) Based on "Confessions of a Crap Artist"; Impostor (2001) Based on "Impostor."; Minority Report (2002) Based on "The Minority Report"; and Paycheck (December 25, 2003) Based on "Paycheck."
I haven't seen the French film, but then again I'm not sure I want to. I have read a copy that Phil self-published and sent (autographed) to Theodore Sturgeon. It was his "real" novel, and, of course, no one was interested, if it wasn't SF (the "Mark of Cain" -- click to read more -- that Ted talked about), so Dick was forced to sit on it for years and finally publish it himself. He wrote, if memory serves, that Ted would "understand." I'm sure he did.
Philip K. Dick was a philosophy buff, and the basis of his stories tend to go beyond the standard "what if," "if only," or "if this goes on" nature of SF stories, because they're often based on a flip of some basic epistemological question (as in "how do I know what I know?") In his masterpiece, "The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldrich" the universe that you enter when taking the new drug "Chew-Z" (replacing the drug "Can-D" which requires a full Barbie house, characters, etc. etc. and is an absolute necessity to the sanity of Martian colonists) is Palmer Eldrich's universe, based on the mind of Palmer Eldrich. The protagonist for the company that makes Barbies and attendant paraphernalia (denoted here as "Perky Patty" to be purchased in conjunction with taking Can-D) is sent to "infiltrate" Eldrich's operation.
They have it pretty good: If you buy the Perky Patty hot tub and then set it up before taking your Can-D, you have a hallucenogenic, hypnogogic experience of hot tubbing with Barbie and Ken (you can be whichever one you choose). Not only do they have a great scam -- you have to keep buying Perky Patty crap like a good little consumer to keep the drug interesting, but they sell the drug as well. For the Martian colonists, living inside on a desolate world, it is the only experience that keeps life from descending into total despair, and Perky Patty's producers have the monopoly.
Naturally, this new drug "Chew-Z" is a danger to them. And they send their boy to Eldrich's company to get the inside skinny. The problem is that "Chew-Z" doesn't require endless buying of the miniature paraphernalia of consumerism (and the parody on Dick's part, both of the Barbie phenomenon and its wider unleashed mindless consumerism is as hilarious as it is understated). Naturally the Can-D people are worried. This could wreck their whole greedy scam.
I won't tell you the rest of it, but, as per usual, the resolution of the story is based on a fundamental tenet of what we call "reality."
Which is what Dick was obsessed with. In one novel, a fellow walks to the park to buy a glass of lemonade, and suddenly, the lemonade stand is gone, to be replaced by a slip of paper, twirling as it wafts to Earth. He reads the slip, and it says "lemonade stand." The mystery is logical and not magical in the least, but there is a REASON that the "lemonade stand" and the piece of paper are one and the same thing.
So, "Paycheck" is a fairly simple take on the question of determinism. A man wakes up from working on a secret project. His memory has been erased (as a condition of his employment, that he agreed to before taking the job.) He has exercised a clause in his contract that allows, in lieu of a huge payment for services rendered, his pay to be, in this case, with an envelope filled with trivial items.
Inside is a bunch of idiotic junk. A coin. A bus token. A feather. A piece of wire. A bus station locker key. You get the picture.
Naturally he is puzzled. He has been working for YEARS, and instead of being paid an exorbitant amount, he has an envelope of junk. He goes to leave, and his employers have second thoughts. This is too suspicious. He is confined in a room in the basement.
Being an engineer, he realizes that he can escape, if only he had a piece of wire. He realizes that he has the wire. He escapes. They chase. He gets to the corner just as a bus arrives. If only he had a bus token. Wait. He does.
And he realizes that he has been working on a time device. He has seen the future, and each piece of "junk" is critical.
I won't give away the rest of the story, except to say that it's pure caper, without redeeming social value, AND that it's my all-time favorite short story ending. Bar none. The ultimate O. Henry story, you might say.
Naturally, the ending was the first thing to go in the film. Which brings us to our extended metaphor (see? ain't ya glad I warned yas? Otherwise you might think that these are the ravings of an unhinged mind. OK. You ALREADY think that. But let's just move onward, shall we? Onward!)
Dick's short story is a mild jape on determinism, and the domino nature of a deterministic future. There is a fundamental contradiction in it (i.e. if time is determined, then how is it that having each "critical" piece of stuff creates the determinism, or, conversely, if free will changes the future, how is it that the dominoes are set up to fall in sequence?) It's too deep for the romp that the story is, and, had Hollywood played it as the roller-coaster ride that it is, they'd have been OK. But no, they had to find "deep" stuff in it.
Earlier, I alluded to the fact that Dick seems a strange choice for Hollywood. Why? Because he is about IDEAS. Deep, fundamental ideas. There isn't much in the way of "unforgettable characters" in Dick, because that isn't his interest. Most of his characters are interchangeable parts. Cogs in an idea machine. And the ONE THING that movies cannot do very well is communicate ideas.
Stanley Kubrick tried through his entire career to communicate ideas in his movies, and it was almost all that the celluloid could bear to communicate ONE idea per movie.
So it seems strange that Dick would be so popular. Hint: basically it's because Philip K. Dick was the master of the mindfuck: the Klein-bottle/Moebius Strip story that turns itself back in on itself: The policeman who proves that HE is the criminal he's chasing. Et cetera.
But is seems even stranger that, given the intrinsic difficulty of filming Dick's stories, that they would try to ADD "deep" ideas to them. But add them they do, here.
There has to be a whole "meditation" on why it's a bad idea to know our future. Why it will destroy the world to know the future. And then, an equally contradictory bone thrown to the "free will" mania of Western Thought.
(Some other time, I'll go into how INSANE Western thought is behind the idea of "free will" in just the same way that Eastern thought tends to be inflexible and dogmatic on the subject of "determinism" or "fate." "It is written" versus "it is NOT written." It's a sticky wicket, and each side has evidence for its position, but in the West, you DO NOT question "Free Will" which places it in the category of "superstition" and not as a resolved, rational question.)
In other words, the producers felt that this fun-house-ride of Dick's should be "deep" and painted themselves into a philosophical corner while adding their "brilliant" thoughts.
I have never understood this.
Why? When you buy the story, it's because it worked. It was the work of a master, whether over a career or for that one story. But to make a movie of that story that the producer loved so much that he shelled out big bucks to buy, the story must be destroyed by the producer's minions.
It's the old Vietnam "We destroyed the village in order to save it."
Worse, the presumption of these monied morons is astonishing and outrageous. (I'm getting to that point I warned you about at the beginning, so be ready for it: this is your two-minute warning.)
This is intellectually vainglorious, inept and corrupt. If, in fact, they KNEW how to do it, they wouldn't need the story. But instead, they insist on "beefing up" whatever story they grab and wrecking it.
The most pretentious train-wreck, of course, is Francis Ford Coppola's horrifically mis-titled "Bram Stoker's Dracula." Why? Because Coppola REWRITES Stoker! He adds some bullshit story about Dracula's lost love, and throws in an equally bullshit subtext about an American Cowboy visiting London, so they can play cowboys & indians at the end. I have never left a theater in greater disgust.
How DARE he claim that it was "Bram Stoker's" when he himself gutted it? And wrecked it, by the by.
Which brings us by torturous digression to that mythological point that I said I was going to make. (by commodius vicus of recirculation to Howth Castle and environs, to quote James Joyce):
The "compromisers" of the Senate destroyed the filibuster in order to "save" it. We agree, in order to save the filibuster, not to use it. Or, if we do, you can return to the "Nuclear or Constitutional" Option. (The Constitutional Option is, evidently, what the Republican parrots have been told by "Polly" Frank Lunz -- who gave us "Death Tax" for "Estate Tax" -- polls well with morons. Well, that and "Up or Down" which, I suppose, makes Bill Frist the Master of the Teeter-Totter: up or down. Up or down. Up or down." To pursue THIS metaphor would take us into sexual and/or scatological imagery, so let's not go there.)
And all day yesterday, the Left crowed and the Right howled.
Which is akin to a man lying on the ground with his ribs kicked in expressing joy and happiness that his attacker hadn't kicked him harder. And his attacker angry and frustrated that HE hadn't kicked harder.
These Democrats are a bunch of pussies. There is no other word for it. And these Republicans are schoolyard bullies, pure and simple.
And by the pussies accommodating and appeasing the bullies, they've only emboldened the bullies further, if that would even seem possible.
Which is, to finish our metaphor, a Philip K. Dick mindfuck of the first magnitude.
Let the Democrats pay heed to the words of Massachusetts' Abigail Adams, in a letter to her husband, John, at the Continental Congress of 1776 deciding the question of "independency":
"We have too many high sounding words, and too few actions that correspond with them."
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
STOP ALL THIS POINTLESS BICKERING
or, WHEW! GLAD WE DODGED THAT BULLET ...
(A Skiing Uphill exclusive) BREAKING NEWS ...
... from Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid's midnight press conference on the compromise agreement on filibusters (this is just coming in over the wire as I write this):
"We, the Majority Leader and the Minority Leader, have had a further meeting today and are agreed in recognizing that the question of party relations is of the first importance for the Senate and for America.Whoops.
What I meant to report was Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's statement on successful negotiations with the Chancellor of Germany when he stepped off the plane after the conference in Berlin had ended on 30 September, 1939:
[From The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, by William Shirer]
There. Don't you feel better?
Karl Rove, when contacted for comment, was reportedly unable to come to the phone, indisposed, due to a near-fatal bout of giggling, whooping, hollering and back-slapping.
Dubya the Younger, meantime, was still puzzling over the answer to the conundrum "Who is buried in Grant's Tomb?"
This has been a Skiing Uphill breaking news report. We now return you to your regularly scheduled goose-stepping.
Monday, May 23, 2005
May 23, 1885
U.S. Grant dedicates memoirs
n. The act of accusing; accusation; charge; complaint.
A GALLEY SLAVE
or, STICKS AND STONES WILL BREAK MY BONES
BUT 451 PAGES WILL DEFINITELY HURT
The galleys for Volume 1 of Skiing Uphill arrived this morning.
According to the tracking meter with DHL, they actually arrived in Eugene and were available for delivery at 10:31 AM Saturday, but no delivery until Monday.
Oh well. T'was worth waiting for.
There is always a sort of magic to seeing your words typeset and on paper. They don't really seem like your words anymore. This singular, pleasurable experience has been alloyed by the ubiquity of desktop publishing, I suppose, but ever since I first saw a piece of mine in print (in the fall of 1973), the joy has never diminished.
And you thought I got into writing for the big bucks, right?
There's a nice dual synchronicity in getting the galleys today. 120 years ago, on May 23, 1885, Ulysses S. Grant wrote the dedication to his memoirs (signaling, essentially, their completion). "These volumes are dedicated to the American soldier and sailor," wrote a mortally ill Grant. Finishing it literally on his deathbed, having been bankrupted by a Wall Street sharpster (kind of like a generation was fleeced in 2000-2001 by same, or in 1929 by same), Grant, with terminal throat cancer (probably from all those cigars) accepted a contract from The American Publishing Company to write his memoirs, and, thus, to provide for his family.
He finished the book sitting in a special leather chair (because he could not sleep lying down) in excruciating agony. In many ways, Grants' Memoirs were the ultimate act of courage in a life filled with extraordinary acts of courage.
He approved the final corrections and died. He was, to answer that question that George W. gets wrong so often, buried in Grant's Tomb, ironically enough.
This historic quirk ranks with Lou Gehrig coming down with Lou Gehrig's disease and poor Mr. Parkinson's affliction.
It is estimated that over $450,000 in royalties were paid by Grant's publisher, one Samuel L. Clemens of Hartford, Connecticut (whom you probably know from his pen name, Mark something-or-other. Deuce? Doublet? Something like that.)
Grant's memoirs also, it is generally agreed, are an astonishing masterpiece, ranking with Caesar's as the greatest military memoirs in history. You can FIND them for FREE through the Gutenberg Project, and it is the best free reading you will ever do.
The opening line ranks as one of the great openings in literature, and is as powerful a truth about the Human Condition today as it was when he wrote it 120 years ago:
"There are but few important events in the affairs of men brought about by their own choice."
Which is how I feel about these galleys. (I am NOT comparing my feeble chicken-scratchings to his masterpiece, please note. Just noting a coincidence.)
There is a sensual pleasure in holding a perfect-bound, high-gloss, rust-colored edition of one's work. I have felt this pleasure three times before (if you count books; innumerable times if you count magazines). It is a rare feeling, and an indescribable one. It is one thing to accumulate electronic ephemera, quite another to see that not-quite-real/not-quite abstract state of being (fitting neatly into a "blind spot" in Western epistemology) suddenly neatly paginated, a real honest-to-gosh BOOK. (Errata and all.)
I never set out to do a blog. I had zero interest in hobby writing, especially given the poorly elucidated, shabbily written and mercifully short nature of the entire online vanity publishing industry called blogging, or, the "blogosphere" (a more recent coinage).
But, suddenly, this phenomenon -- with which I was familiar, but, as I say, unconvinced as to its utility -- was the perfect vehicle for a project in citizenship. So I started a blog, tweaking the cascading style sheet appropriately, and correcting the .html coding -- years of webmastering coming in handy. Within an hour or so, I had a blog up and running.
I thought it would be a valuable campaign tool, and a way of accomplishing my task of exposing the chicanery and, frankly, corruption that had attended the replacement of our House District Representative when he jumped up to the state Senate in the winter preceeding the 2004 Primary.
Ironically, that 2004 Primary was the centennial of the Primary in America. The first primary was held right here, in Oregon, in 1904. The idea spread from here, thereafter. But no Oregon newspaper seemed to notice this important centennial.
And neither were they interested in the corruption that had all but destroyed the primary as a valuable tool of representative democracy. Prior to 1904, party leaders and political hacks had chosen the candidates who would run. By 2004, party leaders and political hacks choose who will run through an elaborate shell game that almost makes you think that the election is fair and above-board.
Well, I lost by a discouraging margin. But, more discouragingly, none of the local media was even interested in the election. There were only two "contested" races, and of the two local papers, the "establishment" paper had their stringer in SALEM cover the local races -- a gentleman who, to my knowledge only showed up in Eugene once during the primary season, and that was to schmooze his way to the front of the line when John Kerry and his wife spent the night before going to the "real" rally up in Portland. The other paper, the advertiser-driven "free" Eugene Weekly, true to form, and KNOWING that the "incumbent" candidate was receiving over 92% of his funding from outside the district (and 70% from out of state, 40% of his expenditures made out of state, and running on a "don't outsource Oregon jobs" platform) went ahead, suppressed this knowledge, didn't bother interviewing any of us, and, seemingly made their "endorsement" by consulting a Ouija board.
Perhaps not: Traditionally, for some mysterious reason, they endorse whomever buys the biggest ad, and guess what? The Union Goon bought the biggest ad. The "high-mindedness" of the Weekly was confined to bashing the more conservative of the two Democrats running for Mayor by endless exagiminations of campaign financial statements, "proving" that she was in the thrall of her "corporate" contributors.
Fine for one week, but for the WHOLE campaign?
The Weekly ran virtually nothing on the OTHER, three way, contested campaign.
And neither did anyone else.
The local TV stations' coverage was a joke, with the local radio stations right at their heels (pun intended).
A week before the primary, the sex life of former Governor Neil Goldschmidt thirty years ago became more important to the press than the immediate election -- which proves, I suppose, that the election didn't really matter after all, and that the cheap, salacious sideshow of a man's quarter-century-old affair with his babysitter (and its subsequent mischaracterization as "rape" rather than "statutory rape" which means that while both parties consent, the State does not, QUITE a different thing) was MUCH more important than the pointless spectacle of the centenary of the Primary.
Nigel Jaquiss, by the by, is receiving his Prurient Pulitzer in New York City, at Columbia University today, for exposing a story FAR more important than the lack of weapons of mass destruction, the fraudulent march to war, the stolen election, or any of the other "meaningless" stories that the media forgot to cover.
And so, in the aftermath of that election, I devoted myself to Lane County for Kerry, of which I was one of three founders in July 2003. After spending a winter in "Valley Forge" of only three of us meeting every month, suddenly, with Kerry's victory in Iowa, the sunshine patriots (to quote Thomas Paine's "Crisis" which he wrote on a drumskin by firelight, as an aide to General Henry Knox during the miserable retreat through New Jersey in the winter of 1776 following the disastrous loss of New York -- "These are the times that try men's souls" wrote Paine) and summer soldiers suddenly showed up and by the election, we were a huge organization.
[Note: I was interviewed and on the front page of the paper after Iowa, because, the reporter explained, he could only FIND we three Kerry supporters and the other two were at work. I used the term "sunshine patriots" in my sound bite, and little old ladies called me up, to ask what I meant. Read Thomas Paine, said I. They probably didn't. Ah, the joys of insulting the illiterate with "obscure" references. If they didn't know what I meant, they had no business calling themselves "citizens." But then again, the whole electoral exercise of 2004 was, from local to national, a monumental fraud and jape. It remains the winter of our discontent. Hopefully enough to put down the remote control and DO something.]
By my count, and raising funds purely as private individuals pooling their monies (I ended up acting as treasurer and quartermaster, and, though I kept books, I was trusted enough that no one ever asked to see them. I gave out copies anyway.) I collected and disbursed something over $4000, bought and gave away FOR FREE nearly 25 pounds of bumper-stickers (2000+), designed, printed up and gave out a stack of double-sided lawn signs over ten feet high, and handed out (free) nearly 4000 Kerry buttons weighing in at well over 100 pounds.
Not much time for blogging.
And, we tripled the plurality for Kerry over Gore in 2000. Gore won Lane County by 10,000 votes and carried Oregon by 6700 votes. Kerry won by over 30,000 votes, with a 93% turnout in some instances.
So I DID my job. I sucked it up and made it happen, and when I see all the bumper stickers I see every time I go out, I know that I actually DID something. Neither Clinton in 1996 or Gor in 2000 was much in evidence on our bumpers (gee, suppose it was because we were SELLING the stickers for $1 apiece?)
But as of November 3, and through the offices of one of our LC4K volunteers, whose boyfriend had been hired by a new newspaper and literally brought the name and phone number to my front door, I began writing for "AVA Oregon!" the extension of "the most famous small town newspaper in America." I started writing the blog again, as a way of getting in the extra stuff I was writing, and, with the failure of Bruce Anderson's paper in early February, I started blogging full time, as it were.
And I changed my registration to "independent" because I believe that any journalist's credibility requires it. You cannot be a partisan AND pretend to report impartially, nor be a pundit and be expected to have an opinion not already known in advance.
Independence of mind is my habit, and muzzling myself in cause of the greater good for nearly a decade chafed ... it TRULY did. I remain a progressive, but it is as much Teddy as Franklin.
I was producing 1000-2000 words a week for "AVA Oregon!" Now I was producing that much a DAY, and more.
But it is a critical time, and with the media on permanent sick leave (mental disability, seemingly), someone has to do it.
And, today, the first part of the blog, printed and formatted and checking in at 451 pages, arrived in the mail: bound galleys for correction. (I barely have the heart to contemplate how that number will inflate when I include the AVA articles, my letters to the local papers and some of my Kerry correspondence.) But if thrown with any gusto, it is a tome that could cause not inconsiderable injury.
As good a measure of the "weighiness" of a book as any.
The title ought to explain it just fine: Skiing Uphill, Volume 1: The Death of Democracy.
The second bit of synchronicity is that it's the Wesak Festival, the Full Moon of May. As per usual, the Eugene Weekly managed to announce that LAST month's full moon was Wesak, and were duly corrected by locals-in-the-know. (Not me. I don't bother anymore. The Weekly couldn't even figure out that it was 2005, printing a giant 2004! on their back cover at the end of December, so I don't bother: "Facts? Facts? We don' got to show you no steeenking facts!" -- Tokely Bogart, as "Pea C. Snobs" in Treasure of the Pulitzer Madre, 1946)
This day, according to my Tibetan Buddhist lineage (passed from teacher to student, orally and personally for over 2000 years), the dimensions, high and low, are in closest contact.
So maybe they'll throw me something on the order of a T-bar. Meantime, I've got uncorrected galleys to correct. (Where's that blue pencil?)
NOTE: Late breaking news. A "compromise" has been announced in the Senate. Bush gets three more of his most objectionable nominees (even though he already had a 95% success rate) and the Democrats get nothing ... except a "promise" not to have a showdown on the Senate floor tomorrow (and other "guarantees" that mean nothing). The weak bladders of the Democrats in Washington D.C. must surely feel relief. Disgusting, to quote John Adams.
Sunday, May 22, 2005
THE ORIGIN OF THE TERM "BARKING MOONBATS"
NOTE: I have loved this phrase since I first ran across it, and have waited a few years for a subject worthy of its use in a title. Credit where credit is due. So, from the blog glossary of Samizdata.net:
noun. Someone on the extreme edge of whatever their -ism happens to be.
(coined by Perry de Havilland)
Usage:"Definition of a 'barking moonbat': someone who sacrifices sanity for the sake of consistency"
The Bloviation of the Barking Moonbatshart williams
Part 1: Meretricious Moronics
a. SOME FOLLOWUP ON THE SCHENK SHUCK REDEMPTION
Here's a little item on WHO 'twas that gave brother Paul Chaim Schenk his "honorary Doctorate of Divinity" degree (from sombody named Burton Bollag, in The Chronicle of Higher Education, 4/9/2004) :
" ... A similar phenomenon had already occurred in Protestant higher education early in the 20th century. As America's majority religion and its colleges adapted to the relaxed mores of modern life, some conservatives grew dissatisfied. Biola University, in La Mirada, Calif., established in 1908, and Bob Jones University, in Greenville, S.C., established in 1927, were created at a time when "Protestant fundamentalists broke off and started their own institutions," says William D. Dinges, an associate professor who specializes in Catholicism and culture at Catholic University of America, in Washington. "Now that Catholicism is becoming more accommodating to modern culture, some Catholics are doing something similar." The late 1960s and 1970s saw the founding of four colleges with a staunchly conservative Catholic character: Christendom College; Magdalen College, in Warner, N.H.; Thomas Aquinas College, in Santa Paula, Calif.; and Thomas More College of the Liberal Arts, in Merrimack, N.H."You'll be happy to know that if you put "Thomas More College" &c into Google, your second hit will be Paul Schenk, and your THIRD hit will be "Stormfront White Nationalist Community" -- and the neo-Nazis speak lovingly about what a great place Thomas More is.
By their fruitcakes shall ye know them.
All right. I'm not being fair. The neo-Nazis are only QUOTING an article from "Insight on the News," self-described as a "Conservative current events magazine published by Washington Times." So it's not REALLY from the skinheads; rather, it's from the Moonies.
Feel better? (We strive here at Skiing Uphill to be fair, even to Barking Moonbats).
Well, as noted yesterday, Paul's "National Clergy Council" (whose name belies their narrow affiliations and negligible membership) hands out honorary Doctorates of Divinity, as well.
Here's another one:
"On January 21, 2003 Richard Exley was awarded the Doctor of Divinity honoris causae by the Joint Academic Commission of the Methodist Episcopal Church USA and the National Clergy Council Board of Scholars. The degree was awarded after a review of Richard's life's work? ? is sic) (ministry and writing). The ceremony was called The Joint Honors Convocation of the National Clergy Council and The Methodist Episcopal Church USA and was held in the conference center of Georgetown University. There were a total of eleven people who received honorary degrees Tuesday evening. The Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, the Honorable Roy S. Moore, was the guest speaker."From Exley's ministry website. (He's out of Tulsa, Oklahoma, by the way. Isn't it GREAT how they award those honorary degrees by renting a hall at Georgetown University and implying that this is some kind of BIG ACADEMIC DEAL?)
You can also get PhD.s without studying a day, online. They will even provide documentation and a contact so that prospective employers can "verify" your Doctorate. Still, only a curmudgeon would argue that handing out phony doctorates to advance one's political agenda was an outrageous con job, or that the Brothers Schenk via their self-originated Faith In Action and National Clergy Council (and the associated "P&R Schenck Associates in Evangelism, Inc., who "own" the FIA website -- among other assets -- are somewhat, er, questionable.)
And it's really heart-warming to see that hyper-fundamentalists have made buddies with hyper-conservative Catholics. For a long time, the pope was AUTOMATICALLY the AntiChrist, in most fundamentalist circles. Then again, the fundies have made common cause with the hyper-conservative Mormon Church (the LDS), whom they have long despised as heretics. (Remember, the Mormons moved to faraway Utah because their founder, Joseph Smith, was lynched in Nauvoo, Illinois, following years of violence against their adherents and beliefs).
Come to think of it, as late as the 1950s, "papists" were the object of violent confrontations here in the Christ-blessed Yew Essay. (But it's forgotten, just like the longstanding signs that said, for over a century: "NO IRISH." THAT racism, no longer advancing any minority agenda is as neatly shoved out of our social debates as the six million victims of the Holocaust who WEREN'T Jewish.)
Whence this new "ecumenicism" from the least tolerant sects of conservative Christianity?
And does anyone seriously think it will last beyond the defeat of all social liberality? Or will they turn on one another to rip themselves to shreds?
In conjunction with the equally obscure Methodist Episcopal Church, USA, Mid-Atlantic Division -- evidently a former football conference -- that is. When the above is Googled, MEC-USA/MAD only shows hits pointing to Rob Schenk, interestingly enough.
As for their "mecusa.org" website, it has been "temporarily deactivated" (for failing to pay their bill perhaps?) since 2003. Must be a HUGE church, right?
Check that. Even though the Faith and Action website listed "MECUSA" fairly recently, a WHOIS search now provides "Congratulations Domain is available. Click here to register. Domain name is available and may be registered today!" (So, grab it while you can! How often can you get an entire denomination's URL for your very own? Only slightly used by a little old pair of D.C. twins who only drove it on Sundays.)
b. HOW TO GET YOUR DOCTOR OF DIVINITY (honoris causae*) for only $100 down and easy monthly payments of $50 for 22 months! (Such a deal!)
(* honoris causa: "honorary; bestowed in recognition of merit" -- Dictionary of Foreign Terms ... i.e. worth about as much as the paper it's printed on -- The Hart Williams Lexicon)
But what's even more interesting is the "St Paul School of Christianity of Indiana."
Here's how YOU TOO can become a minister! (from their website):
Bi-Vocational/Small Church Course of StudyBut SURELY this is a fine, accredited institution, right? Well, not so fast. Here is their statement of accreditation:
"Saint Paul Christian University, Inc. conforms to Indiana Code of 1971 Sections 20-1-19-1 through 20-1-19-24. Article 1, Sections 2, 3 and 4 of the Constitution of the State of Indiana, as well as the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, as a private Bible College exempt from State Private School Accreditation."In other words, er, they aren't accredited.
A Christian diploma mill? How could anyone be so crass as to suggest this? Surely the St. Paul school is a fine and upstanding institution. You can see this by going to http://www.faithandaction.org/DoctorofDivinity.htm, where there is a fine and upstanding photo of Mr. Schenk (now perhaps we understand WHY he identifies himself as "Mr." and not "Rev."?) Here is the caption to the photo that shows six whole persons comprising the honoree, the "officers" of MECUSA and muckymucks of St. Paul:
"The Reverend Dr. Rob Schenck, president of Faith and Action in the Nation's Capital, was conferred the Doctor of Divinity, honoris causae, by officers of the Mid-Atlantic Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church USA (MECUSA). The honor was given in conjunction with St. Paul Christian University of Indiana, which houses the MECUSA seminary program."But perhaps this is better than brother Paul who merely notes that "he attended a missionary bible college" and had been "a pastor."
You know, a thought occurs to me that is probably unworthy. But, given the barking moonbat nature of the New Christian Right, and the lack of pastoral credentials of many of their leading lights (Dr. James Dobson, a shrink; Pat Robertson, a "businessman" et al), you wouldn't think that, given the tax-exempt status of the books, and the lack of necessity for "bible colleges" to obtain proper accreditation, isn't it possible that this would be a fertile field for charlatains, con artists and swindlers?
Naw. Forget that I ever mentioned it. It's just too cynical and unworthy. After all, they're "defending" the "45 million babies" that have been "murdered." And collecting your donations to hand out fake stone tablets of the Ten Commandments and to get a "Ten Commandments" postage stamp -- a stamp that will undoubtedly strike postal carriers and recipients of letters so stamped like Paul on the Road to Damascus with the blinding light of hyper-conservatism and its attendant desire to remove the motes from the eyes of those with whom they disagree, while blessedly obscuring their own ocular planking.
But I digress.
The President/Founder of St. Paul's is one Dr. Michael Layne, who seems to be a member of something called The Lutheran Evangelical Protestant Church (hmmm. Sounds a LOT like the Methodist Episcopal Church USA, don't it?). Here is their "origin story" abridged from http://www.angelfire.com/pa5/epconline/history.html:
"The immediate history of the Lutheran Evangelical Protestant Church (LEPC) began in 1912, in the Ohio Valley. The LEPC is the successor to the General Conference of Evangelical Protestant Churches, The Evangelical Protestant Church of North America and the Evangelical Protestant Conference of Congregational Churches. The LEPC is historically rooted in the Protestant Reformation. The Protestant Reformation was a European movement of protest against many teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. "Gee. They somehow manage shove their 1912 church back to the reformation. That raises a red flag. Let's see what they say later on down their webpage:
"A NEW BEGINNINGAh. Why does this sound so ... familiar?
But we have traveled far afield. After all Layne is ONLY the President/Founder of the unaccredited school that "Mr." Rob Schenk credentials his "Doctorate" through. The fact that the LEPC is less than five years old (though they manage to trace themselves, proudly to the anti-Catholicism of the Reformation via some highly questionable reasoning; and HOW COME they didn't just take it back to Jesus Christ himself?) is a matter that shouldn't be probed too deeply, in all probability.
After all, these moral "Ten Commandments" types are all fine, virtuous, upstanding guardians of the faith, defenders of 45 million theoretical "babies" and radical opponents of the "unelected."
I guess I only wonder one thing.
Who elected THEM?
NOTE: ALL correspondence relating to the blog will be considered as a submission for possible posting. Submissions may be posted and subsequently published without compensation. Identities of posters will be suppressed to protect their privacy. The rabid snarling of the barking moonbats requires that comments be moderated. We certainly and respectfully ask your indulgence in this matter. Thank you.
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* O T H E R S T U F Fo There is no other stuff at this time. There might be someday, though. One can always hope.