Sunday, February 28, 2010

Why did some societies have serfs or slaves and others not? You could talk about culture and national character and climate and changing mores and heroes and revolts and the history of agriculture and the Romans and the Christians and the Middle Ages and all the rest of it; or, like Krugman’s economics teacher Evsey Domar, you could argue that if peasants are barely surviving there’s no point in enslaving them, because they have nothing to give you, but if good new land becomes available it makes sense to enslave them, because you can skim off the difference between their output and what it takes to keep them alive.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Spaniards, who were hot-blooded and didn't think too far ahead, mixed with the Indian women, raped them, forced them to practice their religion, and thought that meant they were turning the country white. Those Spaniards believed in a mongrel whiteness. But they overestimated their semen and that was their mistake. You just can't rape that many people. It's mathematically impossible. It's too hard on the body. You get tired. Plus, they were raping from the bottom up, when what would've made more sense would be raping from the top down. They might have gotten some results if they'd been capable of raping their own mongrel children and then their mongrel grandchildren and even their bastard great-grandchildren. But who's going to go out raping people when you're seventy and can hardly stand on your own two feet? You can see the results all around you. The semen of those Spaniards, who though they were titans, just got lost in the amorphous mass of thousands of Indians.
-Roberto Bolano, 2666, p 288

Monday, February 22, 2010

But objective reality does not change because you refuse to accept it. The fact that you refuse to acknowledge a wall does not change the fact that it's a wall.
And you shouldn't have to hit it to find that out.
-Leonard Pitts, Jr.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

And whether you, like Good Professor Sartwell, object to the use of your money in funding the world's preeminent wardeath machine or you object to the use of your money to feed imaginary inner city crack faggot Kenyanites, a fundamental truth remains: our government is a huge, implacable, rapacious, imovable death god into whose insatiable maw we are damned to make perpetual sacrifice. It is not unusual that this is going to raise some hackles.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Posted Without Comment

What's being tested here is not just our ability to solve this one problem, but our ability to solve any problem. Right now, Americans are understandably despairing about whether partisanship and the undue influence of special interests in Washington will make it impossible for us to deal with the big challenges that face our country. They want to see us focus not on scoring points, but on solving problems; not on the next election but on the next generation. That is what we can do, and that is what we must do when we come together for this bipartisan health care meeting next week.
-Barack Obama

Posted Without Comment

[T]he term Terrorist plays a central role in our political debates.  It is the all-justifying term for anything the U.S. Government does.  Invasions, torture, due-process-free detentions, military commissions, drone attacks, warrantless surveillance, obsessive secrecy, and even assassinations of American citizens are all justified by the claim that it's only being done to "Terrorists," who, by definition, have no rights.  Even worse, one becomes a "Terrorist" not through any judicial adjudication or other formal process, but solely by virtue of the untested, unchecked say-so of the Executive Branch.  The President decrees someone to be a Terrorist and that's the end of that:   uncritical followers of both political parties immediately justify anything done to the person on the ground that he's a Terrorist (by which they actually mean:  he's been accused of being one, though that distinction -- between presidential accusations and proof -- is not one they recognize).
-Glenn Greenwald

Friday, February 19, 2010

Python vs. Alligator

This is just awesome. Wish I could embed this.

(hat tip Camilla M.)

He Stares at Me Blankly...

The sheer bullheaded stupidity of some people never ceases to amaze me. Even after some fourteen years of tending bar off and on, I still just don't understand how some people just don't get it.

Take tonight's case in point.

So, it's eleven or so at night. Not the busiest night, but the band is playing, people are dancing and ordering drinks; it is, as they say, going on. I'm in the second well making drinks, and there's this yahoo frat boy signing his tab on the lightbox in the middle of the bar, which is our service area. In addition to being not so bright, he's clumsy, and as he goes to grab his card from the check presenter he misses, or drops it, or something. Long story short, I see his card fall off the light box onto my side of the bar. I go to retrieve it for him, but he's managed to drop it in such a way that it's fallen through the crack between the ledge where we make the drinks and the bar itself. I can see it, there down the crack, leaning against the back wall of the space under the light box where the wiring is. It's gonna be a bitch, but I'm pretty sure I can get it out with the proper tools. I hold up my finger, the universal signal for 'just wait a minute and I'll deal with this' and I go over to the POS where there're some random tools and suchlike among the various and assorted useful things that we keep over there. After digging around for a couple of seconds, I come up with a screwdriver and a pair of pliers and I go back over.

This is the part where I start to realize that I'm not dealing with the sharpest knife in the drawer here.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Posted Without Comment

The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.
The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.
-Joe Stack

Posted Without Comment

If constitutional conservatism means anything, it has to mean that the executive branch does not have wide, sweeping, inherent powers derived from the President’s (temporary) military role. It has to mean that all these conservatives will start arguing that the President cannot wage wars on his own authority, and they will have to argue this no matter who occupies the Oval Office. It has to mean unwavering conservative hostility to the mistreatment of detainees, and it has to mean that conservatives cannot accept the detention of suspects without charge, access to counsel or recourse to some form of judicial oversight. Obviously, constitutional conservatives could in no way tolerate or overlook policies of indefinite detention or the abuse of detainees. They would have to drive out the authoritarians among them, and rediscover a long-lost, healthy suspicion of concentrated power, especially power concentrated in the hands of the executive.
-Daniel Larison

Monday, February 15, 2010

Tea Baggers, in Their Own Words

(hat tip Bob Cesca, film by Chase Whiteside)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Posted Without Comment

Their movement is as much a matter of identity and tribe as it is politics. This tea partier may believe that he's part of something "unique" and "fresh" but the American far right is the same as it ever was: angry, resentful, bigoted, xenophobic and nativist, afraid of change, anxious to blame those who they perceive to be undeserving and the elites who defend them.


Having to defend your position in the face of direct and personal opposition is healthy for democracies and other living things. The worst ideas, the worst ideologies, always insist that they have a sole lock on the truth of things and always act in such a way as to undermine or suppress debate. And that is as un-American as a thing could be. The greatest of the ideas underlying America, what makes us truly special among nations and among experiments in governance, is that America is a place where the free marketplace of ideas is not only enshrined in the national consciousness, it's actually built in to the system.
-Me, a bit over two years ago, just before the Iowa caucuses

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Quick Note on Populism

I actually am a populist, but not in the usual sense. I do think that the vast majority of people are getting screwed and that the shit has got to stop. I just don't think the answer is to elect regular folks to positions of power. I think you have to elect really smart folks who are on the side of regular folks to positions of power, because the issues and political minefields to be negotiated are, frankly, beyond the understanding of the average person.

Which I guess makes me a populist elitist, so put that in your pipe and smoke it.

The Moderator of Moderatism Takes a Shine to Radical Right-Wing Dingbat, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Dumb

Those who want to stop her will need more ammunition than deriding her habit of writing on her hand. The lady is good. 
-David Broder

If you'd like a brief encapsulation of just how fucked the Republic is thanks to the degeneration of our adversarial press corps into a coterie of court-scribes and bootlickers, you need look little further than this piece by longtime respected Washington Post columnist and conventional wisdom Pez dispenser David Broder. It's all about Sarah Palin, and how good a retail politician she is. And indeed, give her a script and she can deliver the fire and brimstone, no small trick given the gratingness of her voice (and her ideas, such as they are, really more like feelings, or something like that, something altogether squishier and lacking in the sort of precision and clarity that you might expect from something usually symbolized as a light bulb appearing above someone's head).

The piece is all about how we all have to take Sarah Palin seriously, because she gave a speech at Tea Bag Nation (for $100k, to people that paid like $500 a pop for the privilege) and then answered some softball questions on the Sunday Morning Blabfest Circuit on Fox News, where I'm pretty sure they give her a backrub during commercial breaks and all the hard candy she wants, which "showed off a public figure at the top of her game -- a politician who knows who she is and how to sell herself, even with notes on her palm."

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Quick Note

If you think the continued existence of winter and snow disprove global warming, you are a fucking idiot.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Whitey Knows Best

This is Laura Silsby. She's a member of a Baptist Church in Idaho and the ringleader of a kidnapping ring.

That's what the Haitians say, anyway.

What's known for sure is that on Saturday January 30th, she and nine other members of her church were arrested at the Haitian/Dominican border with a busload of 33 Haitian children that she and her group claimed were orphaned by the earthquake. They had no documentation saying they were legally empowered to do such a thing, and, in fact, few to none of the children appear to actually be orphans (none of the ones old enough to speak have said they are, and the relatives who gave them to the Americans say that the missionaries said they'd be taken to a better place).

A couple of days ago, they had a hearing, at which, apparently, they fully expected to be released. They were, apparently, surprised and dismayed when they were not.

"We simply wanted to help the children. We petition the court not only for our freedom but also for our ability to continue to help," said Silsby.

Although nine of the ten really didn't know they were doing anything wrong, at least according to their lawyer Edwin Coq, Silsby, the leader and organizer of the expedition, did. "I'm going to do everything I can to get the nine out. They were naive. They had no idea what was going on and they did not know that they needed official papers to cross the border," Coq said. "But Silsby did."

Tuesday, February 02, 2010