Monday, June 30, 2014

This is why we can't have nice things. This. Is fucking why.

And, surprisingly, it's not "Short Time" Sam Alito's Himalayan-massif-like mountain of stupid that is the Hobby Lobby v. Burwell decision.

And, yet, it is, but not for the reason that most of my friends are furious about it.

Yes, it privileges one sect of Christianity over others, including other non-fundie Christian sects, thus violating the Establishment Clause. Yes, it's a remarkable dick-slap in the face of women and especially women not born to the two-yacht family. Yes, it's hypocritical, given the business' owners support of other contraceptive manufacturers. Yes, yes, yes...

But you know what the REALLY insidious thing about this gelatinous mass of fucktardry is?

That it equates ignorant credulity with intelligent reason.

Here's the deal. One of the main points that the Jesus-pesterers who own this outfit objected to was that several of the forms of birth control purchaseable under the ACA were, in their opinion, "abortifacients" - they popped little blastocyst-Americans out of their proto-mommy's womb like teensy pry-bars and thus made Baby Jesus cry or something.

The facts were completely in opposition. These things - including the "Plan B" pill and a couple of IUD's - prevented implantation rather than "aborted" an actual fertilized zygote. Doctors and researchers from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists noted "...there is a scientific distinction between a contraceptive and an abortifacient and the scientific record demonstrates that none of the FDA-approved contraceptives covered by the Mandate are abortifacients."

Pretty straightforward, right? You can get to fight this because you don't want to pay for your employee's birth control (and good luck with that, given both the case law and popular opinion...) but not because you don't like the idea of funding her post-hootchie time abortion...because what you're paying for is NOT abortion. You just BELIEVE it is.

Now Sam Alito comes along and makes his bid for the imperial crown of Emperor-for-Life of the Stupids:

"It is not for the Court to say that the religious beliefs of the plaintiffs are mistaken or unreasonable."

Got that? Your "belief" may be completely in opposition to cold, hard, established fact. You may believe that dogs are ducks. You may believe that the Sun is a giant heat-lamp in God's bathroom. You may believe that women are life-support systems for a womb. And...if you really, really, really believe that, then Sam Alito's Supreme Court, the highest seat of legal opinion in our nation, isn't going to tell you you're as full of shit as a three-day-old-diaper and to knock it the hell off and grow another brain cell.

Now. What's interesting to me about this is that on the comment thread about this on my Facebook page, one of the wingtards opined: "Labeling the people who disagree with you "stupid" is as bad as labeling the people who disagree with you "immoral"." Which is basically what Short-Time Sam is saying. You want to believe something impossible? Something ridiculous? And, more importantly, you want to make people who are dependent on you, who may not believe in that stupid ridiculous belief act in line with your stupid belief? Fine. We, the highest court in the land, are not going to tell you that you are a fucking idiot and that you need to smarten up, stop doing stupid things, and stop trying to make smarter people around you do those stupid fucking things.

No. We're going to tell you to go ahead and go Full On Stupid, because Jesus tells you to.

I have NO problem labeling that "stupid". It IS stupid. When my ignorant opinion is accorded the same weight as your fact? That's stupid.

That's one reason we can't have nice things; because a pantsload of our fellow citizens are doing Full Stupid because they believe Jesus (or whatever the heck they worship; God, Allah, Zoroaster, Mammon, Ayn Rand, who the hell knows...) tells them so.

As Ruth Ginsberg said in her dissent: "Would the exemption…extend to employers with religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions (Jehovah's Witnesses); antidepressants (Scientologists); medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin (certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus); and vaccinations..?"

Based on Emperor Sam of the Stupids, yes, apparently.

So that's all very idiotic and depressing but, no. Here's the thing that really depresses me. Here's the real reason that the rest of us can't have good things:
Okay, this is the last point: What are the costs? What are the consequences of this, other than just that it’s an oppressive system and it sucks to live in a small town where Wal-Mart is the only retailer, and it sucks to be a farmer who’s having your livelihood crushed. What are the costs?

The costs are the end of democracy, the costs are the end of liberty. The real issue with Wal-Mart is not that it sucks to live in a small town, it’s that the Walton family now controls as much wealth as 41.5 percent of all Americans. One family with as much wealth as 130 million Americans. Now, who’s gonna get listened to when they show up on Capitol Hill? Or in the State House? Or the Town Hall? Is it Mrs. Smith? Or is it going to be the Walton family?

Of course.

And all this accumulation continues still. This accumulation of wealth and power is getting worse and worse and worse. So, the cost is the loss of our democracy and the loss of our liberties.
So: this is how the great populist period of the 20th Century ends; not with a bang. Not even with a whimper, but with the sound of a cash drawer closing on the nation we grew up in.

What's infuriating to me is that this isn't a surprise, this isn't a black swan. We've been here before, been under the boot of the plutocrats and the malefactors of great wealth. We know that that's bad, for us, anyway, and we know how to change that, and we're choosing not to, we're choosing instead to slide restively but quitely into the New Feudalism, the New Gilded Age, rather than to fight...because there IS nowhere to fight. The popular press is owned by the same people who own everything else, and there is no other path to public attention; the failure of Occupy proved that. If you cannot gain the licking of the lickspittle press you will be drowned out, turned away, ridiculed, and emasculated. You cannot hope to gain the attention, let alone the furor, of the huge unmoving slorg that is the American Public.

The gates are high, and the gatekeepers are all paid to keep us out.

And the alternative is what the People gave the Bourbons and the Romanovs. And we know how those ended; with Men on Horseback, ruin, and merciless hatred.

It's late, and I'm tired, and unhappy, and dispirited. I wish I could see another end to this story, a happy, sunshiny ending full of rainbows and sparkle ponies. But I can't and I don't. All I can do is rail at the blind stupidity of people like the Walton clan and Short-Time Sam Alito, Emperor-for-Life of the Stupid People, and the owners of the Hobby Lobby and the Teabaggers who love them. They are dragging us down to a damnation of their own making in the name of Freedom! and salvation and though I will be safely in my dirt bed by the time their promises are fullfilled all I can see is the yawning Pit and the fire and the hell that await my children.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Big soccer fun

I took my 8-year old daughter to the Portland Thorns women's professional match this past Sunday.

Here's her match report:

“Well, soccer is so much more fun when you’re there! On TV it’s really boring, but when you go there there’s so much to do. I liked the singing, and the colors were pretty (she was talking about the Pride Week tifo I've shown below that the Rose City Riveters unveiled before the match). I liked watching the people run away when the rain came. And the C'mon, Guy (Khao Man Gai) chicken wings were really super tasty, and riding the MAX train was fun. And I want to go back again, because it was really fun and nice.”

“What did you think about the game, sweetie?”

“Well, I didn’t really care much about that. It was OK, I guess.”

I let her know that I thought the game was much more than OK (and it was, a solid 2-nil win for the home team...) and she conceded with the casual carelessness my kid uses when she gives in to me over something that matters to her not a whit. It didn't matter, really. In the words (between mouthfuls of cotton candy) of Stumptown’s youngest soccer reporter: “That was really fun!”

It was a very sweet day. The Girl was her usual cheerful, bubbly self and she loved everything; she loved the train, and the people, and the food, and the colorful tifo that I helped construct, and just being with her Daddy. I looked down at her glossy head and she skipped alongside me back to the truck to drive home and wondered how I had been so lucky to find this sweet and loving little person.

No disrespect to the players, but I think I have the real Pride of Portland sleeping in the little bed in the shed-roofed room at the back of my house.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Out of the gloaming

When I was twelve my father and I used to go out back behind the big house in Chicago and throw the baseball back and forth, me with my "Ernie Banks" model first-baseman's glove and my pop with his 1940's style "giant puffy Mickey Mouse hand" mitt.

We would throw the ball until the light began to fade, in those long summer evenings, enjoying the small conversations, and good stretch of arm muscles, and the pop of the ball into the glove.

But the light would fade, and I would begin to lose track of the ball in the gloaming, until one evening the inevitable happened and the grimy gray ball sailed over my mitt and popped me square in the face.

My father came over to see why I was lying around not throwing the ball, checked me out to ensure I wasn't really hurt, and then picked up the ball and his son with the other hand and remarked, as we headed indoors to find my mother and a baggie of ice:

"Next time just make sure you keep your glove up."

That was good advice and I've kept my glove up ever since, Pop, thanks. Happy Father's Day.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Tings Bruk Down

In an utterly shocking, completely-unforeseeable development, the shambolic "government" that United States animated in Iraq, its rent-a-goon Army, and its paramiliary police force are washing away like sand before the incoming tide of angry Sunnis.

What the hell is there to say, really? Other than what I've said over and over again?
"...that sucker was shot in the head eight years ago, when a clown-car full of rage-drunk idiots and cynical thieves tried to sneak into a foreign land and steal it on the cheap, justifying their theft with lies and evasions, muffing the thievery with ignorance and arrogance, and then taking years and years to accept that they couldn't change thousands of years of human history and hundreds of years of poverty, misgovernment, sectarian hatred, and Ottoman incompetence by their pure will alone. The entire mess was doomed from the start, it just took eight years for the fantasists in D.C. to recognize it was walking dead, and the only beneficiaries of its zombie progress since then have been the various outfits that have made millions looting the Occupation and the Malikist strain of Iraqi Shia who now stand to consolidate their kleptocracy with the help of the pals to the northeast.

It's not "over" for the ordinary Iraqi, mind you. The mess that Dubya and Dick created when they knocked over the Baathist toybox in the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates won't be "over" for years, or decades. The social, economic, and political disaster that the idiots who truly believed that they "made their own reality" will haunt the poor bastards that live in that haunted land for generations."
One thing that the usual idiots and the reliable-liars-of-the-Right are saying that makes my jaw drop is that it's time to get our war back on to go shovel this water, again, like somehow it's going to work out any better than it did the last time.

To which I have no better reply than to quote the section of Zee Edgell's work Beka Lamb that pretty much sums up in 131 words what happens to those who have tried to hustle the Valley of the Tigris and Euphrates since the Fall of the Abbasid Caliphate in 1258:

"I know. But nothin' lasts here, Beka. Tings bruk down."

Her Gran leaned the fork carefully against the frying pan, pushed the window over the back stairs and propped it open with a long pole. Then she said:

"I don't know why, Beka. But one time, when I was a young girl like you, a circus come to town. I can't remember where it was from and don't ask me what happened to it afta. The circus had a fluffy polar bear - a ting Belize people never see befo'. It died up at Barracks Green, Beka. The ice factory broke down the second day the circus was here."

Beka's Granny Ivy was crying. Her apron tail was over her face, and she said again and again,

"It died, Beka. It died."

Friday, June 06, 2014

Over the shore

Seventy years ago today - as I'm sure you and everybody else within sight or hearing of some sort of broadcast implement knows - about 150,000 Allied troops landed on the north coast of the Normandy peninsula and reopened the Western Front of World War 2.

By dawn that morning my old unit, the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, had already had a hell of a shitty day. The unit was badly scattered - note the little black dots on the map to the left each representing a C-47-load of paratroops - and many of the troopers had landed in the swampy fringes of the River Merderet invisible in the dark fields below and had been drowned by their equipment without firing a shot.

Worse, the Third Battalion of the regiment had been dropped directly on the small town of St. Mere Eglise whose garrison were out of their fartsacks already, what with all those C-47s flying around overhead and all, and tore apart the guys as the descended. For the young men of the 505th, and a hell of a lot of other guys 6 JUN 1944 really was a long day full of suck.

But...they hung on, and by nightfall the Western Allies had a toehold on the European continent they never relinquished. Before another June would arrive those armies would be along the Elbe and the war in Europe would be over.

That is a peculiarly American myopia to see D-Day as - in the words of LTC Bateman - "...on this day, this morning, 70 years ago...the world began to change."

That's not to say that D-Day wasn't a major event in World War 2, or a major historical event. That's not to say that the men - and women - who came ashore didn't play an important role in defeating the Axis.
But it was less than three weeks later that the Soviet Army opened up Oперация Багратион (Operatsiya Bagration). Operation Bagration destroyed an entire German Army Group and unhinged the Eastern Front. In that operation, lasting from June to July 1944 Armeegruppe Mitte...
"lost about a quarter of its Eastern Front manpower, similar to the percentage of loss at Stalingrad (about 17 full divisions)...included many experienced soldiers, NCOs and other officers, which at this stage of the war the Wehrmacht could not replace. An indication of the completeness of the Soviet victory is that 31 of the 47 German divisional or corps commanders involved were killed or captured. Exact German losses are unknown, but newer research indicates around 400,000 overall casualties. Soviet losses were also substantial, with 180,040 killed and missing, 590,848 wounded and sick, together with 2,957 tanks, 2,447 artillery pieces, and 822 aircraft also lost." (Wiki 2014)
I don't think we, that is, the people of the United States, have ever come to terms with the fact that the "Greatest Generation" of World War 2 was, very likely, the Soviet subjects born in the Teens and Twenties who fought, and died in millions to roll back the Nazi invasions. What destroyed the fighting strength of Germany was, largely, the Soviet Union. So when you read all the veneration of this day in the Western popular press, it's well to pause and consider that.


My father's generation, and the Western world they helped create, was shaped by days like this day seventy years ago. The importance of D-Day to them, and thus to us, is hard to elide...although we, at this remove, might do well to listen carefully past the speeches and paeans to the invasion beaches for the distant thunder of the guns in Ukraine and Belorussia. Those caught in the firestorm can't afford to spend time looking at the horizon; it is for those of us with space and time to be thoughtful and mindful that for all that what happens to us is the Most Important Thing in the World it is often our own viewpoint that distorts the size and shape of events, and that viewpoint is often skewed by hate, or fear, or lust, or simple ignorance.

As for my father and his cohort...this year is probably their last big anniversary; ten years from now I doubt more than a handful will remain. In twenty, the Longest Day and their war will be just a history story, different only in proximity from Verdun, or Shiloh, or Hohenlinden, or Cannae.

Out of the barrel of a gun

I won't kid you; I've been actively avoiding posting here for a while now.

Part of this is purely the pressures of work and worry. I've had a damn busy month and it's not getting less busy. The Boy is being a trial and so there's work to be done at home as well, and there's my own entertainment, ramping up now in anticipation of the World Cup.

But a huge part of this is also just not really having anything to say other than my usual grousing about the fucking Himalayan mountain massif of Stupid that seems to ever more characterize my country.

I could begin with the New Gilded Age and go from there, but, frankly...all it would do is raise my blood pressure and for what?

If you're here reading this you know what I'm talking about. And if you don't agree, I'm not going to convince you.

Take, for example, these fucking nimrods. In The Great Penguin's own words:
"At which point the Open Carry Texas web site sums it up as, “our intent is to make people as comfortable with guns as gay pride parades made people comfortable with gays.” Uhm. I’m not aware that gay pride parades have ever killed someone. Unlike chain saws. Or guns. Just sayin’.

The Stupid, it is dense in these people…"
To begin with, just the sight of these their-brain-cell-is-lonely idiots' rifles leaning unattended with the magazines locked in place?

Makes my hands itch for a nice, juicy piece of dimension lumber and a room with thick walls and a sturdy door so I can do a little wall-to-wall counseling. You're one of my troops and you do that shit? You'd best thrust your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye. And that's a trained troop, not some fat bastard whose "weapons training" consists of snarfing down a Whopper with his rifle slung over his back.

These fucking people...and the thing is, this "democracy means that my ignorance is the equal of your knowledge" seems to extend to every damn topic under Heaven. Prisoner exchanges. Climate change. Tax and tariff policy. Health care.

It's piling Ossa on Pelion, and I have no idea what the hell I can do or say to change anything. For example. Nobody with a functioning hindbrain could look at the U.S. electoral system circe 2014 and conclude the the "problem" is that rich people can't influence the political process enough, rather than the brutally obvious fact that the entire magilla has been captured by malefactors of great wealth. And yet the consensus is that the sad little attempt to change the process back closer to that of a less-oligarchic United States is fucking doomed.

The Stupid seems to be dense...well, everywhere.

My "fellow citizens" seem content with their bread and circuses or whatever as their nation literally burns its way through the atmosphere, sqanders blood and treasure in idiotic foreign advantures, romps back to the social, political, and economic tenor of 1890...and all the while seems fixated on who's fucking whom and how, and Jesus-pestering, and homos. This seems to be the "Will of the People" circa 2014. I know that the Public has always been an Ass, but...

The fuck..?

And that brings me back full circle to the goddamn guntards.

Because here's the thing. That rifle is a tool, but less of a tool that the person carrying it if that person is all hopped up abut their "need" to wander around in the peaceful public square carrying it. I've talked again and again about how an armed society is NOT a "polite society" but the functional equivalent of a lawless society, with every armed citizen being, in effect, the ultima ratio regis. Being armed in a civil society makes you the dangerous arbiter of any sort of public dispute, and forces me to arm myself if I have a disagreement with you or face the reality that you will always have that ultimate argument to use against me.

And as a tool, it's not a really useful one. It's useless for hunting unless you're hunting people, and it's useless for "defending yourself" unless you're walking around with a round in the chamber ready to flick the selector lever to "fire" at the slightest hint of danger, in which case I don't want your paranoid ass within 450 meters of me and mine.

And in terms of an "armed citizenry resisting tyranny" it's useless, too. Bob Farley has a pretty good summation of why, on this week that an UNarmed citizen held up a column of tanks on their way to Tianenmen Square twenty-five years ago:
"The thing is, Tank Commander is far more dangerous than Tank Man. Tank Man can simply be shot; most seem to believe that Tank Man was later executed, far out of sight of the international media. The regime survives if Tank Man dies, even if the death of Tank Man isn’t the optimal outcome. The regime dies, however, if Tank Commander refuses to run over Tank Man. Eisenstein used the Odessa Steps to demonstrate the corruption of the Czarist regime, but the regime didn’t die until the soldiers refused to shoot the demonstrators. The successor regime didn’t die until Boris Yeltsin climbed on a tank in August 1991. While there’s some mystery as to the fate of Tank Man, I don’t doubt that the CCP found Tank Commander and put a bullet in the back of his head at the first opportunity."
I can tell you - you and your pissant little rifle? A wet spot under my tank treads. There has never been a rebellion in history that survived suppression when the suppressor didn't run out of money or the regime troops didn't turn on it. What comes out of the barrel of a gun has typically been oppression, not freedom.

And trust me; you're better off armed with a couple of shopping bags, like Tank Man. If I catch you a rebel in arms you're toast, my friend, and don't think you'll have a chance to die gloriously. If not me, My Little Droney will fly over you and drop some ordnance on you in the dark. Ka-blooey. Game over, thanks for playin'...

Now. That was a nice little rant. If you're out there reading this sucking the muzzle of your AR-15 like a little black metal binkie, is it going to change your mind? Did I tell you anything you probably don't really know, if you were willing to stop fondling your rifle for a moment and admit it?

Of course not. Because none of this is really about "facts" or "knowledge" but about that some people just want cool rifles n' shit, and are more than willing that some other poor sonofabitch is gonna die because in order for one person to have cool rifles n' shit another person - some utterly fucked up bastard - has to be able to get one, too.

So - no different from my going on and on about Citizens United, or offshoring and outsourcing, or the hypocrisy of sending other people's sons to war and then roaring and bleating when they're ransomed by releasing some raggedy-assed Afghan POWs. I just don't want to try and swim upstream against this tide of rancid stupidity. If the people backing this moronity, or the people backing the morons, can't see what this is doing I can't save them and I can't change them.

I've watched from afar as my friend Labrys drives herself slowly bugnuts getting spun up about this shit, and I've told myself; not going there. I'm not going to spend a bunch of time and energy battering the ignorance and carelessness of fucktards.

So I'll be back in just a bit with some more reminesences of Panama and this month's "battle", the Philippine Sea in 1944. And maybe some kiddo and family stuff.

But politics? Why would I want to jam my intellectual dick into that meatgrinder? Again?
I've really got better things to do.