Friday, September 29, 2006


So the elections are six weeks away and looking at the push being made by the pachyderms I think reports of their demise are premature. I'm hoping we can capture the house, but I don't know now.

Here's how the Dems can capture the house: repeat everywhere they go "do you feel safer now than you did two years ago? If so vote republican." They can't loose if they do that one simple thing.


I caught Bill Oreily the other night yelling at the skelleton that was James Carville about how Fox News is not conservative. Oh, Bill, give me a break! Bill said "look at our guests, right down the line we have an even balance between conservatives and liberals." Bill: it doesn't matter if the moderator is biased and the "debate" is framed to give the conservative an advantage. And you know it.

The New York Times this week ran a great series on New York's town and village courts, where elected, part time judges often have nothing more than a high school education, know little about the law, and run their courts like fiefdoms. Often they don't know the law and on occasion they ignore it because they just don't like it. The point of the Times series is that the system is outdated and unjust. In this the Times, often accused of caring only about national and international affairs, is performing one of the most importnat functions of the newspaper: to act as "the watchdog of liberty," to shine light into the dark places and to direct the public eye toward abuses of power and toward poor governance. It's a good series and it makes good points.

But I got news for the Times: the people don't care. As the Times points out, various agencies and governors have been trying to reform the justice courts for years with no success, and reasons most often cited are the right of the people to elect their judges, the connections the justices have to the community, and the common mistrust of lawyers.

I say it's more than that: lots of people want this kind of medieval justice. People understand, sometimes instinctively, that the law is not about right and wrong. The law is a set of rules designed to maintain order, but it is not always right and it is not always just. It is a game, and people who are good at the game can win even if their cause is wrong or their client guilty. Nothing wrong with that: inherent in our system-any system-of laws is the acknowledgement that justice can never be perfect so you've got to have rules. But the people don't like that. They want what the justices give them--not law but "common sense justice," where if you know somebody's bad you lock them up regardless of the evidence, or if you know somebody's a good person you give them another chance regardless of guilt. Yes, this makes the law capricious and gives friends of the judge advantage over people he or she doesn't like, and makes the judge's whims more important than the law, but people upstate would rather have it that way, and the Times is sure to be seen yet again as a bunch of big-city elites coming in to tell real folk how they should live their lives.

Many people would rather have a king than a court, a government of men not of laws. They wouldn't admit it because they're Americans, but they nonetheless harbor a mistrust of the State government and often a hatred of the Federal government, where lobyists and lawyers are the only ones who have a voice, and legislatures run rough-shod over the rights of everyday people. In the oft-quoted line from Henry VI the pesants say "first thing we do is kill all the lawyers." Never mind that Shakespeare wasn't advocating this, and that it comes from the mouth of a villain (in every sense of the word). It is a battle cry for rural communites all over America (and in some parts of the cities as well).

I'm reminded of Sean Conery in The Man who would be King saying "I've discovered how good it feels to sit in judgement over which peasant get's a cow," or Paul Newman in The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (law west of the Pecos), tearing pages out of his lawbooks saying "I don't like that law," and dispensing justice with a gun and a bear as he saw fit. These are the courts that many Americans want, not ones that let movie-star murders get away with it, or release pedophiles because they weren't read their rights, or spend more time protecting the criminals and the rich (who in most poor people's minds are the same thing) than protecting the people.

A lot of people would prefer a warrior king with a benevolent heart to a system of law.

But, in theory anyway, that's why we have a democracy.

And it's also why I'm in the SCA.


Just out on the wires: Jeff Cooper died today. My liberal bretheren won't know who this is. My mom will, as will J.P. Jeff Cooper invented modern combat shooting. He was a columnist for Guns and Ammo for many years and the greatest proponent in the world for the Colt 1911A1 .45 auto pistol. And he was a good writer too. He will be missed.

Friday, September 15, 2006

On to more important things...

Before the big Michigan vs. Notre Dame showdown this weekend I want to say something I might have already said on this site but it bears repeating: everybody on ESPN falls all over themselves to lick Charlie Weis's shoes, calling him a genius for what he did last year in his first year as the golden dome's coach. THey are a legitimate contender for the national title this year. They are a great football team.

And they owe it all to Ty Willingham. Charlie Weis should mail Willingham a box of chocolates, a bottle of champagne, and a ring should they win.

It really pisses me off. Willingham got run out of town two seaons ago. Last year, the year when everyone on the team had been recruited by Willingham (when it truly was his team), they were nearly unstopable. But Willingham didn't win fast enough for the alumni and so, over the objections the University president as being against the spirit of Notre Dame, Willingham was dumped. It was shameful. It showed that Notre Dame truly does *not* hold itself to a higher standard. They are slaves to their alumni and winning is more importnat than integrity.

And it was racist. If Willingham were white he would have been given more time. There's no way you can seriously argue otherwise.

Yes, I've said it before, but it still makes me mad.

I told you so

So I see the Pope has insulted the entire Muslim faith. He quoted a 14th Century Byzantine emperor in a debate over Islam. Remember, this was an empire that had stood for 1000 years (actually 2000 when you note that it was actually the re-located Roman empire) that was about to be destroyed by the Ottoman Turks. He didnt' have a lot of nice things to say. He spoke in the spirit of the Crusaders (who, yes, had sacked his capital, but none the less he was calling to his aid). He said Islam was, basically, repressive and evil.

This is what you get when you elect the Grand Inquisitor Pope.

And leave us not forget that, within Catholic doctorine, the pope is infallible: therefore what he says must be taken as doctorine by all good catholics.

Remember that: all Muslims are evil. Now go sew a cross on your chest.

Makes me glad I'm a Unitarian.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


President Bush addressed the nation on the evening of September 11th to mark the 5th aniversary of the World Trade Center attacks.

President Bush looked the nation in they collective eye and lied to us.

First of all he lied when he said his speech would not be political. The president's speech capped off a series of speeches he had made about the war in Iraq, beginning when he admitted that the CIA has been using secret overseas detention centers to interogate top level Al Queda operatives, and then essentially dared the world to do anything about it. In his speeches he sought once again to link the war in Iraq to his so-called war on terror. The speeches are part of an effort by Bush and Karl Rove to keep control of congress, an all out full court campaign press (it also included Dick Cheney's appearance on Meet the Press, wherein he said that is they had it all to do over again--the invaxion of Iraq--the administration wuld do it again exactly the same way: they wouldn't change a thing). Bush's 9/11 sppech was the culminating moment of this portion of the campaign. It was blatantly partisan and political. It was misleading and deceptive. It was pure politics. He should be ashamed.

He also lied--or at the very least was guilty of ridiculous hyperbole--when he said that this was "a war for civilization." That's right. If we pull out of Iraq civilization as we know it will fall.

What a bunch of bullshit. His rhetoric is getting stronger and scarier because he knows the country has stopped swallowing his traditional level of bullshit, so he's had to tuen the bullshit up.

Civilization will fall. This is just more of the same sort of lies he's been telling us for ears to scare people into voting for him and to give up their freedom. This is a false war (the war on terror, not the war in Iraq, which is painfully real). There is absolutely no way, none in the world, that Osama Bin Laden and the Islamic movement can conquor America. They are not soldiers. They are cockroaches. The nature of terrorism is that it is a tacitc of the weak. Until they get a country on their side strong enough to fight us in a conventional war, or until they get enough strategic missle capability to wipe us out, they can't beat us. It is ridiculous to suggest that they can. That is why this isn't rally a war. They are not a threatening enemy. If they managed to get hold a nuclear weapon, take it to the top of Rockafeller Center in a suitcase, and set it off, killing me and my fellow New Yorkers, they would still not destroy the USA. Not even close. They can't. It's that simple.

Not that they actually want to destroy us, or that they hate us for our freedom. Those are other lies the president tells every day. They dont' give a damn about our freedom. Al Queda has stated their goals again and again. They are clear to everyone who pays attention. They want to destroy Isreal, they want non-Muslim troops out of the Gulf, especially Saudi Arabia, and they want to be left alone. That's it. They have absolutly no desire to destroy America. Like all terrorists their goal is to frighten a stronger enemey into going away, pulling out, leaving them alone. And like all terrorists they are weak--so weak that they cannot possibly win a fight against us. They can kill some of us, scare us, panic us, but they cannot ever destroy us. They havent' got that power. Bush can destroy us, but that's the subject of another post.

If this is a war for civilization, why don't we act like it? Why haven't we mobilized the way we did in World War II? If it actually were a war for civilization, wouldn't we have everybody involved in the war effort? Instead of telling us to book vacations to Florida or to shop at Macy's, (or else the terrorists win) shouldn't the President be rationing gas and telling us to buy war bonds? Shouldn't we have a draft?

It would be laughable if it weren't so absurd.

I assume the president and Karl Rove and Dick Cheney are smart enough to know all this, and with that in mind there is only one other conclusion: He's lying.

He's lying to maintain his grip on power. It has been their strategy ever since 9/11. It is the rason so many people are beginning to believe (like most folks at Vox Pop) that Bush either aranged the attacks on the world trade center or else knew they were coming and let them happen. I mean, let's face it: 9/11 is the best thing that could ever have happened for Bush.

And once again, as Paul Edwin Zimmer pennned long ago, "Orwell was right."

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Sepember 11th

Here it is, five years later, and here is what September 11th taught me: I'm impotent. Not sexually, but politically and in some ways socially.

You see, in America we are raised on melodrama, on the idea that the good guys win in the end. We have also believed in the myth of us (or U.S.): that we are the guardians of freedom; that we are the greatest nation on earth; that God so loves the American people that he put us here on Earth to lead the rest of the world to political, economic ans social salvation. That has been our myth for a long time now. It is implied by the phrase "The American Dream." It is at the heart of the idea of manifest destiny, the idea that we as a nation were destined by God to settle Norht America from sea to shining sea (kicking out and subjugating the indians who were already here and stealing or buying the land from the French, Russians and Mexicans who had already stolen it from the Indians before us as we did so). And why not? We had won every war we'd been involved in up to Viet Nam, and even that we were able to say wasn't really a war any way.

As I've written before, the European paradigm is not the melodrama but the tragicomedy, where no matter what good thing happens there is something bad waiting right around the corner, and vis versa. It is a wold weary, cynical view of life, devoid of the optimism and sense of purpse that is the birthright of every American. 9/11 has forced us into that Eurpoean paradigm, a world where life is really just a sick and twisted joke, a world where God is not watching out for you, where there is no inherent justice in life. In otherwords, a world of French and Italian post-war cinema. We are not John Wayne in the Sands of Iwo Jima anymore. We are now Marcello Mastrioni in *8-1/2,* or Lamberto Maggiorani in *The Bicycle Thief.*

We don't always get to be heroes. We dont' always get to save the day. Life isn't that well scripted. It isn't that clean.

We are fighting a war in Iraq that the Administration insists is a war but refuses to treat as a war. Our friends have become our enemies and our enemies have become stronger, not weaker (yes, they like to point to Libya as a success, but Libya was neutered when Regan bombed Quadafi's kids). We have been led by the nose into an Orwellian nighmare that seems to go on forever.

But you know all that.

Here's what it did to me. Before 9/11 we had a nice little SCA household going. It was getting bigger. We were having fun. Imediately after 9/11 Dave and cyna boke up. Then Ed and Beth bought a house in Jersey, and Beth filed for divorce a few days later. Charlie decided he had to do something to save the world and dropped out of sight to try to get into the fire deparmen, then when he wasn't accepted he and Bethany decided to have Kenna. Not too long after that Ben and Kahmile moved out of NYC back to San Francisco, and Mitch moved to Florida. John, whom we didn't see much at the time, was at Ground Zero durring the attacks. Recently he took a transfer to Floida as well. Sure, all of this might have happened anyway over the last five years. I didn't link it to 9/11 till just recently when Hanna pointed out the time line. But I think it makes sense. It is a moment that ripped us apart--the whole nation and our little corner of New York.

Maybe it's all bullshit, but we've gotten into the habit of defining everything by 9/11.

And I still cry sometimes when a fire engine goes by.

Friday, September 01, 2006

The New Semester

I've been back from Pennsic almost two weeks but I just haven't been able to find something to write about. considering I left durring a real war, which experienced a cease fire, and that the midterm elections are in full swing, and that some looney tune claimed to have killed Jon Benet Ramsey, I should have fund something! But I just couldn't. Burn out, I guess.

But the semester started yesterday, and in the course of discussion I discovered that none of my Media Studies students--not one out of thrity of them--had any idea wfo Karl Rove is. Now that is plain scary.