Thursday, December 28, 2006


As a teacher of history, I have to take some of my far out views of reality and pack them deep in my personal luggage, underneath the official clothes of my “professionalism.” I’m not real professional, but I try to give the appearance of normalcy to my charges on the off chance that one of them is some sort of psychotic punk who might report my leftist leanings to the wrong authorities. Such are the candy-assed fears of the “successful” American citizen.

One benefit of taking on the appearance of one beholding to the great civilizing banality that rules the consumer-citizen’s mentality, is that I can slip dissident thoughts into the minds of my charges within a well-camouflaged persona, one that does not raise “red flags” if you will. I still remember the words of a professor of public health I knew at San Diego State who when queried as to why he appeared so conservatively normal and unthreatening while promulgating rather radical shit to his students replied, “guerilla warfare. If you want to change the system from within, you have to blend in.”

I blend in. But there is always the risk that the wool pulled over the pelt of the wolf will begin to alter the creature inside. You know we’ve all seen dogs eat grass and frankly there’s a fair amount of cereal in commercial dog food. I stopped eating red meat years ago. Things are at a stasis and I know it.

Reading Alexander Cockburn’s book “Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs, and the Press” reminded me that history training itself has its own heuristic dangers. We who get paid for telling plausible stories censor ourselves down to easier and easier levels of proof. But reality follows no such path. And the larger lesson probably should simply be that paranoia and suspicion has its place in all healthy minds. Go ahead, read the paper, watch the news, and enjoy you various states of consciousness. But keep your credulous powder dry. The fucks who run the world are playing by dirty rules. And few if not none of the things they tell you they care about that you should care about are right. War on Drugs? War on Terror? How about a war on billionaires, that one would get my vote. Because they have the biggest responsibilities for the shit that we step in.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Covering the Spread

Winning or losing? Bush has finally started to cant towards the reality that we are losing in Iraq. Losing what should be the damn question but that is so far away from Washington media dogpack mentality that they won't ever get to that part of the story. As a society we are losing, and we have been losing ever since Vietnam and frankly ever since the beginning of the Cold War. We have been stupid bullies for so long we now fail to recognize that we have a goiter the size of a football hanging off the side of our precious necks. So fuck it. We are finally getting some neo-truths from our frat boy president. If you feel satisfaction, well, . . . . . . .

John Stewart played the bit in Bush's newsconference whereby he pointed to the words of that pencilnecked fuckhead General Peter Pace who said, "we're not winning but we're not losing either." Stewart then put in, "are we covering the spread?" No. Even though the Iraqis have spotted us something like half a million deaths, we are still behind. What we need is a Goldwater to come in an start pushing for a tactical nuke strike or two, like those good old days in the 60s. If a old bastard like Robert S. McNamara can point out that "proportionality should be a guideline to war" maybe some day it will actually come to pass that we will start keeping a real score in the war on terror. We are terrorists too, and we have been using the threat of terror to keep our place in the world for a long time. Technology being what it is there is a terrifying chance that the chickens are going to come back to roost some day. I feel pretty fucking bad for my kids.

As Noam Chomsky pointed out, if you happened to read the newspapers in Central and South America on September 12th, 2001, they all pretty much said: "this is a terrible thing that happened in New York, but . . ." The media can suck my ass for not knowing about the "buts" and for not standing up to this pathetic little frat shit until now. We need to start covering the spread of terror if we want to win "the war on terror." Victory begins at home.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Bullshit Detector

Americans are a funny sort. They are best defined by what they forget rather than what they remember. I had an interesting breakthrough in class the other night. I was showing the students a segment from Ken Burn's documentary series, Jazz. The interesting part to me was that even in the 1930s all the aspects of black musical authenticity, white mimicry and its attending patterns of shit and shinola were in play. Benny Goodman was a hell of a player. But he was no Duke Ellington and he was only a echo of Louis Armstrong.

The point is not how white folks copy black culture. I love Elvis for Elvis and I don't really care too much about the thievery. But I do think that if you don't train your brain to tell the difference between copy and original, or at least play around with all the different shapes that define a genre, you will have a hard time building a functioning bullshit detector. And that was the point that fairly jumped out at me when my dull obedient students refused to engage with what they had just seen presented by Mr. Burns. They don't have functioning bullshit detectors, or they have just turned them off because its plainly easier to get through the waves of crap being dealt to us culturally, socially and politically if you just say "whatever."

To some extent the last election was bracing in that it appeared for a moment that a fair number of Americans turned their BD's back on and said enough is enough. We need to start talking with our enemies. As Lee Hamilton pointed out the other day, we talked to the Soviets, why can't we talk to the Iranians? The answer is that we got so arrogant and so self-righteous that we thought we don't need to talk to them, they need to come to us. Well, an few thousand IED's later and we are beginning to realize that we'd be better off talking. No bullshit.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The truth about Iraq

I haven't felt much like writing, and its partially because many of the things I think about provoke pain and anxiety about the future. Toward the top of this list of frets is the situation in Iraq. It has gotten so bad there that to contemplate it is to despair that there is hope for our nation and the one we have so recklessly unhinged.

Listening to the common wisdom, left or right, about the situation can only further unhinge me as both sides talk past it each with the self-righteousness of bullies. I cannot find comfort in knowing that the lies of the Bush administration and their over-weening hubris have come to a political reckoning. The Democrats are saying nothing smart at the moment. They seem only to be fantasizing about their time in front of the great American feed trough. Their lack of a narrative that might carry us toward a fairer better place in this world only confirms my bleakest cynicism about our future prospects as a nation. Glad as I might be that the Republicans had their wings clipped I am not buoyed by the first cloying grabs of Pelosi and her ilk.

What I meant to mention however was a something I did read today that while not buoyant and full of positivity, does contain the seeds of truth about what is actually taking place at this moment in Iraq. Truth from the perspective of one person, a soldier at that, might seem in scope and lacking the required gravitas of our political architecture, but if you have a decent bullshit detector, it can work. It takes me a constant reminder that there are people everywhere who are doing good and decent things. I hope someday to vote for one of them.