Back from the Burn + Meta

Hey everyone – I’m back from Burning Man.  It was awesome.  I’ll write more about the Burning Man community in my Tues night post.  Some favorite moments and a few pics below the fold. 

I still need to unpack the van so we can return it to Hertz.  I’ll be back later to catch up with blog business and what we need to do to get this place in better shape for launch.  My priority today is to get the Google ads setup.

I signed up at the Admin forum and my account was activated.  Can someone give me access to the private threads?  Thanks.

My husband and I started putting together a list of our favorite moments. 

(1) The fireworks
(2) The ginormous rig explosion
(3) Hanging out on the distant playa at night
(4) Inviting all the people into our tent with cold drinks – about 90% of people accepted!
(5) Making new friends – Now keep them!
(6) Everybody loving the music and drinks
(7) Griffin on the little trike
(8) The huge, incredible art cars
(9) The ping-pong balls
(10) The monkeys exhibit
(11) The birthday party on the art car
(12) Wonder t-shirt for dragon tapestry trade
(13) Rainbows, moonrises & sunsets

One morning I got up early and rode my bike around before it got too hot.  These people were still dancing, well past dawn.  There’s a DJ and sound system up on the dragon. 

A family out on their Zebra car.

Open Thread and Hurricane Watch

Howdy all!

After a seven hour drive through 100 degree heat and a Biiiiiiig stretch of pretty baren fucking desert  am now in my new home in on the western side of Baja! Its a nice little bungalow with mango trees etc in backyard. But no electricity (supposed to be hooked up today, but my motto down here is Forget it Jake, It’s Mexico) the Satellite guy who will be hooking me up seems to think the little Cat 1 Hurricane headed towards us might delay my hookup see lower left and here.

I have found an internet cafe three blocks from my house….the only bummer being that it is in the opposite direction from the great taco place three blocks from my house….life is tough! Even though I don’t now when I will really be back on, I will check in with updates every day…and hopefully we can launch soon. I probably won’t have time to monitor the site thoroughly but I will keep an eye on my threads and you can always mail me!

Talk to you soon….Hasta Luego!

The Truth About Iran Is . . . That The Road To War With Tehran Runs Through Baghdad

In a very fine post, Turkana concludes:

The truth about Iran is that the same people who gave us the Iraq War would love to give us an Iran War. . . . The truth about Iran is that we can’t trust our government, our military, their government, or the corporate media to tell us the whole truth. . . . We might start bombing Iran tomorrow. We might not ever bomb them.

The truth about Iran is that we need to keep our minds clear as we try to do whatever we can to prevent another immoral, illegal, and disastrous war. Be skeptical. Research. Know your sources. Agitate for peace.

(Emphasis supplied.) I submit that the way to avoid war with Iran is to end the Debacle in Iraq. Previously I wrote:

The chance of Congress authorizing military action against Iran is zero. Zilch. None. Bush will not even consider asking for it. Everyone must know this. How could they not? The ONLY reason Bush can even contemplate action against Iran is – surprise – BECAUSE WE ARE IN IRAQ! You want to stop military action against Iran? Then work like hell to get us out of Iraq.


pfiore wrote:

It might be helpful if we did more than just react to all the information flooding our brains every day. We need to sift through the data and assertions and predictions. We need to ask ourselves if what we are reading really makes sense.

There is too much at stake to rely entirely on emotional reactions driving our decision making. We all need to slow it down a notch. It’s difficult because it’s so easy to experience a constant low-level of anxiety about what is happening all around us… we feel out-of-control and all we have, sometimes, is our anger.

Very true. I submit that those who are rightly concerned that Dick Cheney wishes to provoke a military confrontation with Iran consider precisely the only true means at his disposal – the Iraq Debacle. You see it in every story written by  Michael Gordon of the Times – the Iranians and their IEDs, the Iranians and their training of Shiite militia (forget the fact that these same militia are supported by the IRAQI government), the Iranians and their Iraqi ambitions, etc.

Watch Petraeus and Crocker. Watch the leading questions from Republican lawmakers. You will see clearly that the road to military conflict with Iran runs through the Iraq Debacle. I implore Democrats and progressives to keep their focus on the real threat – the unending Debacle. That is what can lead us to conflict with Iran, Syria and the conflagration we all so rightly fear.

the Maccabee effect (or pf8’s 1st dKos diary on the rec list)

A commenter in DemMarineVet’s diary today made an interesting point:

Frankly, most of the people on that thread (Maccabee’s diary about Iran being hit big time) needed to step back and take a breather, and rediscover their critical thinking. Markos’ point: If a wingnut jackass can see the forest for the trees, so should we.

Take the jump…

also posted at dKos

The wingnuts, NeoCons, rethugs, corporatists et al are very good at seeing our forest from those trees. 

But the point is this: It doesn’t matter what we say, write, or do… whether well-sourced, live-and-in-person facts, or CT theories in the form of questionable diaries. The spin machine, the powers that be, will double twist axle reverse spin with a dip any story any way it wants: John Kerry’s war record, Michael Fox’s Parkinson disease, down to John Edwards, the Breck Girl, politicizing his son’s death and wife’s cancer. I’m shaking my head even recalling this crap and yes, getting a little (well alot) angry.

But c’mon… to be alarmed that BushCo operatives are making fun of us or assailing our credibility is, well, like raging against a category bazillion hurricane. They do it with everything. To everything. To everyone outside of them. Macabees diary, which may be ludicrous, is no more fantastic in the telling than say remaking Max Clelland into the anti-Vietnam, anti-patriotic Vet.

In short, while it may be true that the wingnuts can tell the difference between the forest and the trees in our woods, they’d be hard-pressed to discern the stars from the galaxy in their own universe.

That said, for our own sanity, we need to heed these words by that commentor:

[ we need to] step back and take a breather, and rediscover -their- our critical thinking

It might be helpful if we did more than just react to all the information flooding our brains every day. We need to sift through the data and assertions and predictions. We need to ask ourselves if what we are reading really makes sense.

There is too much at stake to rely entirely on emotional reactions driving our decision making. We all need to slow it down a notch. It’s difficult because it’s so easy to experience a constant low-level of anxiety about what is happening all around us… we feel out-of-control and all we have, sometimes, is our anger.

I think it was srkp23 who asked: have you staged a vigil to end the war yet? You don’t need 10s, 100s, or even 1000s of people. Go and stand in your neighborhood or on a roadside with a sign. You can research how to spend your money in a way that supports your philosophy of corporate behavior. You can send $5 to an environmental group… even to your local pet shelter.

What we do very well here is give you the 1000 reasons to be mad as hell. What’s hard to do, where we’re all lost at this moment, is how to stop the madness. This is new ground for us.

But there are things to do. Every journey of 1000 miles starts with one small step. Take that step.

Oh, and one more thing. Think. Question. Don’t stop asking questions. This is your country. It is up to you to do what you can to keep her safe.

Peace to all and happy Labor’s Day…

ps… some great comments in the diary AND will share some more colors for our tables…

Bush Makes Surprise Visit to Iraq

Faux Noise is breaking a Bush/Gates surprise visit to Iraq.

Anbar (where else, Baghdad is too dangerous).

Commander Codpiece strikes again.

You have editing ability- throw me a bone.

Puddles of Goo

No promotion, no recs.

I’m not even here.

So dK is going through one of it’s periodic meltdowns.

Without dealing with the specifics, one of the issues is credibility on a blog.

A blog is NOT a source of news.  I sometimes link and quote them for Overnight News Digest but they’ve shown up in Google and are hosted by legitimate news organizations.

Heck, Keith Olbermann has a blog and we believe him, but he’s a paid professional journalist on a news site.

That is not the standard I aspire to.

I’m a critic, not a reporter Jim, and an anonymous one at that.  There is no reason at all you should believe anything I say.

If you can’t duplicate my results it’s not science now is it?

On the other hand you have my record of two and a half years of emotional honesty.  You know me.

Blogs are communities of like minded people and they react the ways communities typically do- compassion, sharing, humor, indulgence of personal quirks.

About my tab Sammy.  Next week for sure.  Now slide me another one.

Some people on dK aspire to more.  They really see it as alternative media and they’re right, but it’s not the kind of media they’re used to.

It’s Sam Adams running a clandestine press in the basement of his brewery with Tom Paine preaching revolution on the keyboards.

If it ever gets to be something else it’s the kind of game for which you and I hardly qualify and the gate keepers have won.  Just another tool for which you have to get a diploma which is better than a brain because the wizard says so.

No looking behind the curtain Toto, you’re not in Kansas anymore.

Neither are Hunk and Zeke and Hickory.

I don’t set policy here except by example and my example is this-

If we ever start worrying about our “credibility as a blog” we’ve already lost.

Community is more important.

The Truth About Iran

The truth about Iran is that their current regime is barbaric.

The Guardian, in July:

Iran is to defy western criticism over its human rights record by executing 20 sex offenders and violent criminals, days after a man convicted of adultery was stoned to death.

The Observer, two weeks ago:

Iran has hanged up to 30 people in the past month amid a clampdown prompted by alleged US-backed plots to topple the regime, The Observer can reveal.

Many executions have been carried out in public in an apparent bid to create a climate of intimidation while sending out uncompromising signals to the West. Opposition sources say at least three of the dead were political activists, contradicting government insistence that it is targeting ‘thugs’ and dangerous criminals. The executions have coincided with a crackdown on student activists and academics accused of trying to foment a ‘soft revolution’ with US support.

The truth about Iran is that their current president is belligerent and dangerously provocative.

The New York Times, in February:

Iran’s president remained defiant today on the eve of a United Nations deadline for his country to stop enriching uranium, as tensions between Iran and the United States continued to mount in various ways.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said his country will halt its uranium enrichment program, a prerequisite for building nuclear weapons, only if Western powers do the same. The U.N. Security Council has imposed limited sanctions on Iran, and has said it would consider further sanctions if the enrichment program is not stopped by tomorrow.

The truth about Iran is that they are not close to having nuclear weapons.

The same New York Times article:

Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency… was quoted as saying, American and British intelligence services estimate that Iran is still 5 to 10 years away from developing a workable nuclear bomb.

The truth about Iran is that they have again begun cooperating with the IAEA.

The Guardian, in July:

The UN nuclear watchdog said today that Iran had agreed to lift its ban on inspectors visiting a controversial nuclear facility, and was ready to answer questions about its past plutonium experiments.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said a deal had been reached on the designation of new inspectors, a visit of inspectors to the heavy water research reactor at Arak by the end of July, and the finalisation of safeguards at the Natanz uranium enrichment plant during early August. The plant is the focus of US concerns about Iran’s nuclear programme.

Tehran insists it wants to develop an enrichment programme for peaceful purposes, but the US and EU fear it could enrich uranium for nuclear warheads.

The truth about Iran is that they have been edging back from the brink.

RIA Novosti, in July:

Iran is prepared to consider the UN nuclear watchdog’s proposal to hold direct talks with the United States on its controversial uranium enrichment program, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said.

The truth about Iran is that their nuclear processing program is operating well below capacity, and is not close to producing significant amounts of nuclear fuel.


Iran’s uranium enrichment program is operating well below capacity and is far from producing nuclear fuel in significant amounts, according to a confidential United Nations nuclear watchdog report.

A senior Iranian nuclear official said the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) report showed U.S. suspicions about Tehran’s nuclear intentions were baseless.

The truth about Iran is that the Bush Administration and its allies and servants are claiming Iran is arming Iraqi insurgents.

The Boston Globe, in February:

US military officials in Baghdad, presenting long-awaited evidence that Iran has been providing weaponry to Iraqi militants, said yesterday that Iranian security forces linked to the “highest levels” of the Iranian government have been smuggling explosives into Iraq for at least the past two years.

The officials , who refused to be identified at the press conference, said the Iranian-supplied munitions had killed more than 170 coalition troops and wounded more than 620 others.

The truth about Iran is that these claims are lies.

The Washington Post, a day later:

The top U.S. military officer said Tuesday the discovery that roadside bombs in Iraq contained material made in Iran does not necessarily mean the Iranian government was involved in supplying insurgents.

The comments by Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called into question assertions by three senior U.S. military officials in Baghdad on Sunday who said the highest levels of Iranian government were responsible for arming Shiite militants in Iraq with the bombs, blamed for the deaths of more than 170 troops in the U.S.-led coalition.

The truth about Iran is that John McCain apparently thinks the potential of a war with them is funny.

The Sydney Morning Herald, in April:

Republican US presidential contender Senator John McCain’s joke on how to deal with Iran is not making everybody laugh.

He responded to a question from an audience in South Carolina on Wednesday by breaking into the melody of the Beach Boys song “Barbara Ann” but changing the lyrics to “Bomb Iran.”

“That old, eh, that old Beach Boys song, ‘Bomb Iran’,’ McCain joked and then added: “Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb … anyway, ah …” The audience responded with laughter.

The truth about Iran is that Joe Lieberman likes to makes threats, based on lies.

CBS News:

he United States should launch military strikes against Iran if the government in Tehran does not stop supplying anti-American forces in Iraq, Sen. Joe Lieberman said Sunday on Face The Nation.

“I think we’ve got to be prepared to take aggressive military action against the Iranians to stop them from killing Americans in Iraq,” Lieberman told Bob Schieffer. “And to me, that would include a strike into… over the border into Iran, where we have good evidence that they have a base at which they are training these people coming back into Iraq to kill our soldiers.”

The truth about Iran is that Bush likes to make threats based on lies.

The Telegraph, in February:

On Tuesday, President Bush dramatically stepped up his war of words with the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whom the US government accuses of overseeing a covert programme to develop nuclear weapons. In a speech to war veterans, Mr Bush said: “Iran’s active pursuit of technology that could lead to nuclear weapons threatens to put a region already known for instability and violence under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust.”

He went on to condemn Iranian meddling in Iraq, where America increasingly blames the deaths of its soldiers on Iranian bombs and missiles. Mr Bush made clear that he had authorised military commanders to confront “Iran’s murderous activities”.

This was widely taken to mean that he is set on a confrontation with Iran that will culminate in a bombing campaign to destroy Iranian nuclear facilities, just as Israel bombed Saddam Hussein’s Osirak reactor in 1981.

The truth about Iran is that the Pentagon has drawn up detailed plans to attack them.

The London Sunday Times:

THE Pentagon has drawn up plans for massive airstrikes against 1,200 targets in Iran, designed to annihilate the Iranians’ military capability in three days, according to a national security expert.

Alexis Debat, director of terrorism and national security at the Nixon Center, said last week that US military planners were not preparing for “pinprick strikes” against Iran’s nuclear facilities. “They’re about taking out the entire Iranian military,” he said.

Debat was speaking at a meeting organised by The National Interest, a conservative foreign policy journal. He told The Sunday Times that the US military had concluded: “Whether you go for pinprick strikes or all-out military action, the reaction from the Iranians will be the same.” It was, he added, a “very legitimate strategic calculus”.

The truth about Iran is that the Bush Administration tried to use the British sailor crisis as a pretense to ramp up military provocations.

The Guardian, in April:

The US offered to take military action on behalf of the 15 British sailors and marines held by Iran, including buzzing Iranian Revolutionary Guard positions with warplanes, the Guardian has learned.

In the first few days after the captives were seized and British diplomats were getting no news from Tehran on their whereabouts, Pentagon officials asked their British counterparts: what do you want us to do? They offered a series of military options, a list which remains top secret given the mounting risk of war between the US and Iran. But one of the options was for US combat aircraft to mount aggressive patrols over Iranian Revolutionary Guard bases in Iran, to underline the seriousness of the situation.

The British declined the offer and said the US could calm the situation by staying out of it. London also asked the US to tone down military exercises that were already under way in the Gulf. Three days before the capture of the 15 Britons , a second carrier group arrived having been ordered there by president George Bush in January. The aim was to add to pressure on Iran over its nuclear programme and alleged operations inside Iraq against coalition forces.

The truth about Iran is that Bush won’t hear anything positive about them.

The New York Times, last month:

President George W. Bush and President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan found much to agree on during their two-day summit here, with one major exception: the role of Iran in Afghanistan.

Mr. Karzai characterized Iran as “a helper and a solution” in a CNN television interview broadcast on Sunday. But when the two men greeted reporters here today, Mr. Bush pointedly disagreed with Mr. Karzai’s assessment, saying, “I would be very cautious about whether the Iranian influence in Afghanistan is a positive force.”

The truth about Iran is that our corporate media is catapulting the propaganda, based on unsourced claims.

The  Associated Press, today:

As explosions boomed in the distance, a Kurdish woman stood outside her house and pointed to where shells scorched parts of her father’s grapes and plum orchards.

“It was a bad day when some 20 shells hit our village in a single day last week. We were crying as we prayed to God to protect us from the bombs of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” said the 33-year-old Serwa Ibrahim, one of the few remaining villagers in Mardow, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Iranian border….

Iranian troops have been accused of bombing border areas for weeks against suspected positions of the Free Life Party, or PEJAK, a breakaway faction of the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party. Iran says PEJAK – which seeks autonomy for Kurds in Iran – launches attacks inside Iran from bases in Iraq.

The truth about Iran is that our rogue government has been provoking them, despite international opposition.


An escalating crackdown by the US on foreign companies and banks doing business with Iran is provoking opposition in Britain and Europe, where diplomats say the action could lead to a trade war.

Congress wants all international companies to end their investment in Iran and is pushing through a bill that would penalise companies which fail to do so. The British, along with other European governments, see the US approach as draconian and are lobbying against it.

The truth about Iran is that our current vice-president is belligerent and dangerously provocative.

The Guardian, last month:

The White House claims that Iran, whose influence in the Middle East has increased significantly over the last six years, is intent on building a nuclear weapon and is arming insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The vice-president, Dick Cheney, has long favoured upping the threat of military action against Iran. He is being resisted by the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, and the defence secretary, Robert Gates.

Last year Mr Bush came down in favour of Ms Rice, who along with Britain, France and Germany has been putting a diplomatic squeeze on Iran. But at a meeting of the White House, Pentagon and state department last month, Mr Cheney expressed frustration at the lack of progress and Mr Bush sided with him. “The balance has tilted. There is cause for concern,” the source said this week.

The truth about Iran is that our current “president” is belligerent and dangerously provocative.

The Guardian, last Tuesday:

George Bush today ramped up the war of words between the US and Iran, accusing the Iranian regime of threatening to place the Middle East under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust and revealing that he had authorised US military commanders in Iraq to “confront Tehran’s murderous activities”.

In a speech designed to shore up American public opinion behind his increasingly unpopular strategy in Iraq, the president reserved his strongest words for the regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which he accused of openly supporting violent forces within Iraq.

The truth about Iran is that, even if they were as dangerous as our warmongers claim they are, the Bush Administration’s incompetence is only helping them.

Associated Press, a month ago:

The Pentagon accidentally sold to the public more than a thousand aircraft parts that could be used on the F-14 fighter jet — a plane flown only by Iran — after saying it had halted such sales, government investigators say.

In a report obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, says the Defense Department has greatly improved security in its surplus sales program to prevent the improper selling of sensitive items.

However, GAO investigators found that roughly 1,400 parts that could be used on F-14 “Tomcat” fighter jets were sold to the public in February. That occurred after the Pentagon announced it had suspended sales of all parts that could be used on the Tomcat while it reviewed security concerns.

The truth about Iran is that, even if they aren’t as dangerous as our warmongers claims they are, their president is every bit as crazy as ours, and is playing chicken with his people’s lives.

Today’s Los Angeles Times:

Iran claimed today that it had reached its goal of running 3,000 centrifuges for uranium enrichment, a much higher number than recently estimated by the United Nations’ atomic agency. If true, the accomplishment might allow Iran to produce enough nuclear material for a bomb within a year, military experts have calculated.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was quoted by state television as saying that despite economic sanctions by the United Nations, his country had “taken another step in the nuclear progress and launched more than 3,000 centrifuge machines.”

It could not be independently verified whether Iran, which the West has often accused of exaggerating its nuclear capabilities for domestic propaganda, had reached it long-sought-after objective. Centrifuges spin at high rates of speed to enrich uranium and are critical to generating electricity or building a nuclear bomb.

The truth about Iran is that the same people who gave us the Iraq War would love to give us an Iran War. The truth about Iran is that their government deliberately provokes ours. The truth about Iran is that such provocations do not come close to justifying attacking them. The truth about Iran is that we can’t trust our government, our military, their government, or the corporate media to tell us the whole truth. We have to patch that together for ourselves out of the best available information. We might start bombing Iran tomorrow. We might not ever bomb them.

The truth about Iran is that we need to keep our minds clear as we try to do whatever we can to prevent another immoral, illegal, and disastrous war. Be skeptical. Research. Know your sources. Agitate for peace.

“I mean, she’s a woman. Why would I not vote for a woman?”

“Well, I hope you’d vote for the best candidate, regardless of gender or race.”

“She is the best candidate. She’s smart, she knows how to play the game, she has visibility, she’s been through shit and survived, she’s someone who would have made it on her own, without her connection to her husband. I really believe that – she’s made me believe that.”

“What do you think about what many liberals are saying, the ones who write on the blogs I frequent? That she’s a corporatist, that she takes lobbyist money, that she’s beholden to big money?”

“Well, how does a candidate win with the way things are currently set up? Most of her voters are wage earners and even with massive amounts of voter contributions, she can’t compete against what corporations and groups can provide. I think that unless we make laws about this, that this is the only way to go, that the money has to come from somewhere and that we can’t fight fire with small sticks and stones.  Most of the voters work for a corporation – are we going to tell them to quit their jobs because it supports an evil system? It’s unrealistic.

And you are a corporatist, Mom. You work for a corporation, because it has the best benefits. You quit ten years ago, and now you are working for them again. Why have you gone back? You told me it’s because you have to secure the future for you and for us. I think she has to do the same thing, for now, and I can’t criticize her if I see nothing wrong in what you have to do.”

I have to think about this. This was a conversation I had a few weeks ago when I stole away from home with my oldest daughter, who was oldest enough to vote in the 2004 election, having turned eighteen that year. She’s too young to really remember the Clinton years, and some of her exposure to the Clinton story has been persuaded by her first long term boyfriend of a few years ago, a Bosnian immigrant, whose family had great things to say on how Clinton and Wes Clark were heroes and rescued the Bosniaks from genocide. Her other impressions probably come from my liberal commentary or my insistence that my daughters watch the occasional Clinton speech, like Bill’s elegy at Corinna Scott King’s funeral. Because, you know, he can really grab an audience when he doesn’t ramble too long.

My daughter’s opinion on Hillary isn’t colored by the negatives of the Clinton administration much, due to her age in the time of Clinton. What she sees now is a viable woman candidate, and frankly, I had no idea that it would mean so much to her.

“You remember how you always had to tell Dad to look behind things, like behind the milk jug in the refrigerator for the jam? Well, you always look behind things, Mom, before you ask for help.”

“You know how you never have a problem asking for directions when we travel? And you pay attention when you get directions? Dad still doesn’t and I have no idea how he ever drove taxi years ago, because he thinks his sense of direction is great, but it’s not.”

“I think women know how to use their resources and they know how to communicate. I don’t really understand why this country has never elected a woman President.”

“So, do you see this as a woman thing versus a man thing?”

“Maybe it is. Maybe it should be.”

She graduated from an all girls high school in 2004 and she reminded me of the school’s motto, “Giving voice to young women”.

How much of the young female voter does she represent?

Here’s an interesting thought. If we elect a woman now, does this make it a better possibility that I will have the chance to vote again for a woman for President before I exit this life, assuming I live another 20, 30 years?

The question can easily fit the parallel of voting for Obama. If I vote for a black President now, what is the impact on upcoming generations of youth who will vote for the President in the future, who may run for office on the basis of the changing political reality that they can win? If we elect another white male President now, what are the chances that we socially and psychologically decrease the number of future possibilities for President in the future – of all races and genders?

I think these are questions that, if answered, are not the only deciding factors on who we vote for in 2008. But make no mistake, these are critical issues in play this time around.

What doors will be opened, or closed once more, based on who we vote for next?

What do your voting age daughters think?

Jesters, Fools, and the Big Wheel

(Another meditation – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Once while out engaging in wood oven pizza consumption, and beerage at our local micro brew with the spouse and his nihilistic, libertarian friend, from his days as a fly boy, we got chatting about relationships and I asked Mr.Undercovercalico why he married me. He said: because you are a smart ass. My epitaph. Actually, the truth does not hurt.

The truth is that I am not a very profound person. When the big questions come up, I have a tendency to flail around like a  dancing, drunken, middle aged guy at a wedding who thinks he has the moves. My brain congeals, I look for an exit.

I often hear from pundits and ordinary people that we ought to bring back some form of national service to instill a sense of community and citizenship. I would like to add something to chew on, everybody should, before they are too far into adulthood have to personally witness both birth and death.

I am not certain of the moment I decided I was not a Christian. I did not have a moment, I had a slow process of feeling completely disconnected while in church, and while listening to others discuss their beliefs. There was obviously some secret being withheld, a hidden button that needed to be pushed that I was not privy to. I still cannot decide if the universe is being controlled by an inebriated jester, a watchman calmly ensuring the wheel keeps on turning, or nobody in particular. I am clear that I do not think anybody is going to come and save my sorry ass. I have no particular contempt for those with those who do believe that.

Being an RN, I have a certain advantageous access to both birth and death. I started out working with adults and even though I don’t have kids and don’t want them, I now work with children. Nothing I have witnessed has brought me any closer to conclusions about the big questions. I know quite a bit about what I don’t know. I have seen gentle deaths in which the child was whisked away like a soft breeze. I have been there for the expected but fearful and painful deaths despite all of our efforts to alleviate it. I have seen blood come out of every orifice, and I recall one time when we had to kick the parent out and apply pressure everywhere and all of us saying,” Stop the fucking blood, dammit.”, yelling at one another because we wanted to make the child look like the child that once was for the mother to come back in and grieve privately. I can remember every child who died when I was at work.

One night my fellow supervisor and I were hunting for a fresh pot of coffee when we heard the ominous announcement,” Harvey Team, to room 4007.” We don’t say “code blue” in my joint. I ran up the stairs ahead of my colleague who never runs anywhere and is a superb nurse. I burst in the room with the other responders. Just seconds before the father came out of the room and told the nurses something was wrong with his child. The child wasn’t breathing and we found no pulse so we drove into our routine. Suddenly, inexplicably, the child regained consciousness and pushed away the ambu-bag. ” What happened”, he asked,” Am I alright ?” We all sighed and chuckled a bit, some of us said,” Everything is alright.” His mother was in the room. She smiled and gave him some reassurance. Then, snap, he stopped breathing, his heart stopped beating and for just a moment we all looked at one another and said WTF. His mother collapsed and screamed,” God bring me back my baby.” We pounded on him, gave the meds, somebody took the mother outside and we heard her scream the entire time. Finally one of the RNs, it might have been me said to the doctor. Enough. Everybody in the room was thinking the same thing: we lied to that kid, we told him everything was going to be okay. We didn’t do it on purpose. I saw a hardened, bitter, mean, but brilliant RN fall into tears. She was pushing the meds and when that second collapse happened we were all convinced we were going to bring him back. When we took the child to the morgue, we had to peel the mother off the gurney. Whenever we have training sessions and refresher courses that moment when we were wrong comes into the conversation. Everybody who was there is haunted by it. Of course, the Christians at work believe that God brought him back for one moment to see his mother. Just as many other people see the incident as a cruel joke, we told him everything was fine.

Death is the great equalizer. Yes, I have felt that moment of infinite aloneness when I shut the door to the fridge where we place our children after they have gone from us and are awaiting the arrival of the funeral home. I always say good-bye either out loud or in my head.

Living a good and healthy life does not guarantee you a good ( peaceful and painless) death. Being a consummate tyrant with the blood of innocents on your hands does not mean you will have a karma tinged unpleasant death because ultimately we never know karma, I believe until it finally greets us. Death will met us all but it won’t necessarily be a just one or a fair one or a comprehensible one.

I am not brave. I fear death, not for what will happen to me, where I will go, or what I will hear or rest my eyes on in the moment between one place and the next. The universe does not require my existence specifically, it will move on without me as effortlessly as the rhythmic flapping of a bird’s wings. I fear what I will miss in the world right now: the sounds of birds, the soft fur on my dog’s ears, the voices of those I love, the weird ass things kids do and say in unguarded moments, good R and B music and a whole list of unconnected non-material things and beings.

So, plant a tree, hug your child, throw a ball for your dog, and shout your passions to the world. There is no Judgment Day. There is now.

The End of the End of the World

According to one way of telling this story, the world began in 1641 with the following words, as translated from the Latin:

Some years ago now I observed the multitude of errors that I had accepted as true in my earliest years, and the dubiousness of the whole superstructure I had since then reared on them; and the consequent need of making a clean sweep for once in my life, and beginning again from the very foundations, if I would establish some secure and lasting result in science.

— Rene Descartes, 1641

The world ended — again, on one way of telling this story — as follows:

On or about December 1910, human nature changed.

— Virginia Woolf, 1924

In this essay I want to explore the meaning of those two passages, and to think about where we stand now in relation to them.  Let’s ask what we should do after the end of it all, here at the end of the end of the world.

(Pictures, too!  Below the fold.)

The beginning, here, as quoted above, was the beginning of Rene Descartes’ Meditations On First Philosophy.  The end was marked by Virginia Woolf, upon the occasion of visiting an exhibition of post-impressionist art in 1910.

The world began like this:

Descrates, after famously musing upon the question of what he could be certain, decided that his foundation, his rock, was Cogito ergo sum — I think, therefore I am.  That Descrates was anticipated in this by St. Augustine and 1300 years is beside the point.  Nobody needed the cogito in 380 a.d.  In 1641, they did.  By 1641, religion had rather demonstrably and violently failed to ground the world in certainty.  So . . . Descartes started again, closer to home.  With me.  With you.  I think, I am.  You think, you are.  The rest had better follow from there.

And follow the rest did, in spades.  From this foundation, this certainty in the stability and sufficency of the individual human, we get among other things the novel, the industrial revolution, capitalism, and the scientific method of verification.  If I can see the carbon atom, and you can see the carbon atom, then it doesn’t matter if God can see the carbon atom.  (And given the rate at which we see that atomic sucker decaying, it might be just as well if God doesn’t see it — the planet’s a bit too old for His liking.)

But then, if the world is based upon the stability of the subject — the human subject, the arbiter of all things, the standard measure, what are we to make of Nude Descending a Staircase #2 by Marcel Duchamp, at the beginning of the 20th century?

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Where is the stability there?  The center upon which to build Descartes’ lasting superstructure?  What kind of life form sees itself like that?  Who does that person think he, she or it is?

“On or about December 1910, human nature changed.”

There are other ways of telling this story.  We can begin, if we want — if we prefer the concrete to the literary — with the English Civil war in 1642, and end with the Germans crossing into Belgium in August 1914.  We can note, too, the eerie prescience of the poets, as if they saw the end of the world coming.  As if they knew of the fragility of certainty and of the vacutiy of the solitude upon which it had rested. 

Ah, love, let us be true

To one another! for the world, which seems

To lie before us like a land of dreams,

So various, so beautiful, so new,

Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,

Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;

And we are here as on a darkling plain

Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,

Where ignorant armies clash by night.

— from Matthew Arnold, Dover Beach, circa 1851

A point about the historical tide noticed, as usual, by the poet before the general.

Our soldiers are individual.  They embark on individual little enterprises.  The German . . . is not so clever at these devices . . . He has not played individual games.  Football, which develops individuality, has only been introduced into Germany in comparatively recent times.

Lord Northcliff’s War Book, 1917

It is a symbol, I suppose, of the ignorance with which armies crashed into the oncoming darkness, that the Brits of WWI kicked footballs towards the enemy lines as they advanced.  At least at first.  But, to vary Woolf’s phrase: on or about August 1st, 1914, human nature changed.

We can wonder about the very notion of progress built upon that sand.  We can marvel at the fact that the British kicked soccer balls — soccer balls! — into the nightmare no-man’s land, the barbed wire between the trenches of WWI, as a sign of “good sportsmanship”. 

What we cannot do is doubt that something happened.  However you want to begin this story, with Rene Descartes or Oliver Cromwell, with Hamlet or Adam Smith; however you want to end it, with Archduke Ferdinand or with Virgina Woolf.  Something happened.

So what do you do at the end of the world?  What do you do when you find, in end, only empty space, only nothing?  What do you do when there is nothing left to say?  Well, one answer, and it’s certainly not a bad answer, is: make a joke.

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That was Andy Warhol’s answer, and, on one way of telling the story, we call this answer, “post-modernism”.  Post-modernism is like the well-timed joke, the beat of the drum, the holding action until we figure out: what next?

What comes next?

This brings me to the phenomenon of George W. Bush.  Or, rather, the phenomenon of his followers.  George Bush, famously, does not get the joke, or that there is a reason to tell one.  He is not post-modern.  He is, if anything, pre-modern.  He never got as far as Descartes did, in 1641.  He never: “observed the multitude of errors that I had accepted as true in my earliest years, and the dubiousness of the whole superstructure I had since then reared on them”.  Or if he did, if he did “sweep it all away,” he did it in the decidely humorless way, the retro-fit of the paleolithic, that we call being “born-again”.

“Born again”: a way of not getting the joke; a way of missing the point.  A way of coping with the failure of the Modern that fails to grasp exactly why anyone was making a joke to begin with. 

Or perhaps, “born again” is post-modern at one remove.  For example, here’s an attempt at post-modernism that somewhat fails to convince:

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This is the celebrated “Jesus Horse” at the recently opened Creation Museum in Kentuky.  And it is not a joke (even though it’s hilarious).  It is, however, and however oddly, post-modern. 

The Jesus Horse is part of the pause, the caught-breath before diving, the beat in the joke, that we call post-modernism.  The joke about progress.  The questioning, not of science but of scientism.  The weeping over that football kicked into no-man’s land.  That the proprietor of the creation museum doesn’t know this, is, again, beside the point.

George W. Bush is, in this way, the ultimate post-modern president.  His fans are the apotheosis of accidental kitsch.  Kitsch-value is what made the 60’s love the 50’s, the 90’s love the 70’s, and no one at all love the 80’s, except the idiots who don’t know that they really ought to be kidding when they say Reagan was a great President.  George Bush is what you get when you don’t know what to do; he is the world-historical hiccup before the Next Big Thing.  This is what I believe.  If Virgina Woolf told us about the end of the world, then George W. Bush is telling us about the end of the end of the world.  The last gasp of the modern era.

What do we do now?  What do we do at the end of the end of the world?  It’s not enough, anymore, to make jokes about the past.  We have to actually try and make a future — a much scarier proposition.

Although I certainly hope the future has jokes in it, too.

Sitting alone in his house, with his table and his quill pen and his thoughts, the best Descartes could do was “I think, therefore I am.”  Of course it was the best he could do — and good on him for trying.  Descartes was, after all, thinking to himself.  But in the blogosphere, we think to each other; just I, now, am thinking to you.  The “We think, therefore we are” of the blogosphere is not the death of individuality.  We are individuals, but our presense to each other has an immediacy and a meaning not present in other forms of writing.  We are here.  We are here, together.  As individuals.  Together.  And we are not afraid to say so. 

We feel, as did Descartes, “the consequent need of making a clean sweep for once in my life, and beginning again from the very foundations”, but we do it together, because we feel no worry, no need to re-assert, yet again, that we are ultimately alone.  Maybe in the end we are: death will have its dominion.  But for right now we are here, and we are doing our best.

The banner for Docudharma reads, “Blogging the Future”.  This is what I take that to mean.  Blogs are where we try, through rough draft and re-draft and re-re-draft; through comments and essays and snark, to think of the Next Big Thing.  To try our best to see what it is we are supposed to do, here at the end of the end of the world.

Pissing People Off

I still got it.

Evidence in this thread.

25 best things ever said

(re-posted from dailyKos)

Given some of the other diaries up today, I thought this would be a nice addition.  Add your own favorites in the comments

They aren’t in order, but I’ve saved my favorite for the end

  25.  If two men agree on everything, you may be sure that one of them is doing the thinking.

  — Lyndon Baines Johnson (1908-1973)

(I have seen this attributed to Truman, as well)

  24. It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God.  It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

  — Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)

  23.  Music is the pleasure that the human soul encounters from counting without knowing that it is counting.

— Leibniz

  22. To give pleasure to a single heart by a single act is better than a thousand heads bowing in prayer.

  — Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)

  21. When I get a little money, I buy books; and if any is left, I buy food and clothes.

  — Desiderius Erasmus (1465-1536)

20. It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.

  — Epictetus (c.55-c.135)

19.  He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would fully suffice.

  — Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

18.  As I would not be a slave, so I will not be a master.

Abraham Lincoln

17.  No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

  — John Donne (1572-1631), Meditation XVII

16.  If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.

  — Noam Chomsky (b. 1928)

15.  “My Country, right or wrong” is a thing no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case.  It is like saying, “My mother, drunk or sober”

  — Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936)

14.  This above all, to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not be false to any man.


13.  The gods are amused when the busy river condemns the idle clouds

  — Rabindranath Tagore

12. Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.

  — Niels Bohr (1885-1962)

11. Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.  It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.

  — William Pitt (1759-1806)

10.  Pain shared is lessened, joy shared, increased

  — Spider Robinson

9.  The good old days.  I was there.  Where was they?

  — Moms Mabley 1894-1975

8. All models are wrong but some are useful.

  — George Box

7.  The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not “Eureka!” but “That’s funny…”

  — Isaac Asimov (1920-1992)

6. That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.

  — Hillel

5.  If I am not for myself, who is for me?
  If I am for myself alone, what am I?
  If not now, when?

  — Hillel

4.  Those who would give up a little freedom to get a little security shall soon have neither

  — Benjamin Franklin

3.  If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.  Let each man march to his own rhythm, however measured, or far away

  — H. D. Thoreau

2.  There is nothing so horrible in nature as to see a beautiful theory murdered by an ugly gang of facts

  —  Benjamin Franklin

and, my favorite

1.  Most men worry about their own bellies, and other people’s souls, when we all ought to be worried abut our own souls, and other people’s bellies

— Rabbi Israel Salanter 1810-1883

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