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United States

Journal: Another One Intercepts the Dust 1

Journal by snjoseph
AFP: US missile defense test ends in fiasco, second in a row

Marx remarks somewhere that history occurs, as it were, twice: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce. He forgot to mention that sometimes it's farce the first time, too.

The test seemed to fail in an identical way to the December 15 trial, which was "aborted after a built-in internal check detected an anomaly." That is to say, in the event of intercontinental ballistic missiles being fired at the United States, everything will be fine so long as nothing unusual happens.

Star Wars doesn't work, but it's here to stay, just like every piece of Reaganite crankery that would have been laughed out of Congress 20 years ago. Gone are the halcyon days of American Liberalism, when Democrats could be counted on to oppose at least those things that were so stupid and wasteful that they probably did US imperialism more harm than good. I don't even know what the Democratic "critique" of Star Wars is these days; probably that some of it got outsourced to India or something.

As for me, I'm perfectly willing to accept the Politics of Realism on this one and endorse Bush's missile defense program. It's true that it's wasting billions of dollars, but unlike the rest of Bush's billion-dollar debacles, broken-ass missile defense at least can't make things much worse. Star Wars is the Lesser Evil!

The Media

Journal: Just a Little Values Vulture on the Dole!

Journal by snjoseph
Washington Post: Conservative Writer Had Gotten Federal Contract

I must admit to being really mystified by these commentator payola scandals. Whatever happened to the slick employment of indirect influence, revolving doors, and grey areas? Sonny Corleone had a more subtle touch than the Bushies.

In 2002, syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher repeatedly defended President Bush's push for a $300 million initiative encouraging marriage as a way of strengthening families....

But Gallagher failed to mention that she had a $21,500 contract with the Department of Health and Human Services to help promote the president's proposal.

In her defense, Gallagher is an extremely uppity crank who can't see that she's done anything wrong.

"Did I violate journalistic ethics by not disclosing it?" Gallagher said yesterday. "I don't know. You tell me."

Well, I'm not a journalist or an ethicist, but...YES.

I guess someone did manage to convince her that she'd screwed up, because in a column filed later that day, Gallagher apologized for not disclosing the arrangement, saying that she hadn't remembered it at the time. Well, that's credible. I know I'm constantly forgetting my five-figure contracts with the federal government. (By the way, I'm being paid $30,000 by the Labor Department to promote proletarian revolution. Sorry, slipped my mind.)

Gallagher claims that her situation is "not really anything near" the Armstrong Williams kerfuffle. That's very true: Williams got over eleven times as much. She should sue for sex discrimination.

In conclusion, Ms. Maggie has now jumped to first place on my list of Most Odious Gallaghers.

Education

Journal: Shitty Science Sez: Women Shitty at Science

Journal by snjoseph
UK Independent: Harvard president claims that women and science don't mix

During his tenure as president, Larry Summers has overseen a stunning decline in hiring of women faculty, repeated clashes with the Black faculty, and a handful of major plagiarism scandals. Although, in fairness, Harvard remains one of the nation's top schools in terms of how much you have to pay to go there.

With this fine record of success, naturally President Summers is qualified to speak on issues about which he knows nothing, or indeed less than nothing.

Dr. Summers...made a three-hour speech in which he said one reason for the shortage of women in senior posts were [sic] to do with the reluctance of women to work long hours because of their child-minding responsibilities.

Sure. It's hard work at the top. Why, Dr. Summers had to work over three hours that very day.

And furthermore:

He then argued that boys outperform girls on maths and science due to genetic difference rather than socialisation. He gave the conference an example from his own experience: a story of giving his daughter two trucks, which she treated like dolls, calling them mummy and daddy trucks.

Observe how Dr. Summers uses his innately masculine scientific predisposition to derive scientific theories from one anecdotal example. A woman would have probably needed a large statistical sample with strict controls and double-blind observation to reach the same sweeping conclusions. What waste!

What's interesting here is that in other countries, women comprise a much greater proportion of scientists and engineers than in the US. In Iraq, for example, women accounted for 50% of all engineering graduates. This was before Bush brought "democracy," though, so maybe it's gone back down to it's "natural" level.

My own thesis is that American males are so intellectually superb that it is unnecessary for American females to evolve much analytical capacity. I would enjoy having a luxuriant research grant to pursue this exciting line of inquiry.

Harvard tenure, here I come!

United States

Journal: Be Like Unto the Children

Journal by snjoseph
Dallas Morning News: At inaugural youth concert, positive message trumps cool quotient

Man, if the Dallas Morning News thinks you're square, you're like hypercube. The article describes the "America's Future Rocks Today" concert, the "youth" component of the Bush inauguration festivities. I was, for my part, surprised that the Bushies would even have a youth-oriented event, since young people didn't do much to secure the Bush victory. An "America's Stupid-Ass Crackers Rock Today" or "America's Bush-Lite Democrats Rock Today" would have been more appropriate.

There's apparently something of a mini-scandal afoot because the lead singer of Fuel used a dirty word to express the superlative greatness of the United States.

"Welcome to the greatest [expletive] country in the world," Fuel singer Brett Scallions, one of the earlier acts, told to the crowd.

To employ a phrase current among Young People: whatev. I'm not sure what the "welcome" was all about, though, since there were surely no immigrants in the crowd.

The headliners were pretty solidly B-list, and I think the concert descended well into the depths of the P- or Q-list. If you want the real truth, the Bush twins were probably the hottest items at the party, and they wisely stayed off-stage.

If the concert fell short on the hip scale, it wasn't for lack of trying. Stephen Baldwin took the stage on a skateboard. "Are you guys rockin' or what?" he enthused.

Well, we all know how important trying is to being cool.

The unfortunate thing about these sorts of events is that they inevitably make the young look stupid and shallow, even though the damn things are organized by grown-ups, and pretty out-of-it grown-ups at that.

"I guess it would be a cool concert if you're a 17-year-old girl," said Roy Trakin, senior editor of Hits magazine.

Not really, said Millicent Bolin, 17-year-old from New Orleans. Many in the audience were on school trips, and some weren't thrilled that the concert was on their itinerary.

"We had to come," Millicent said. "I don't like these people...they're too fake and mainstream."

Well, maybe there's hope for us yet.

Editorial

Journal: Dear UK: Time to Kill the Royals 1

Journal by snjoseph
NYT: Prince's Nazi Costume Provokes an Uproar

Brothers and Sisters of Great Britain!

Warmest greetings from America. I would have hoped to find you well in the new year; alas, I see it is not so. It appears one of the high members of your aristocracy has decided that Nazi regalia is a fun thing to wear at parties. I am so sorry. As you know, most of our American politicians are, in fact, racist imperialists, but even they would not wear the Nazi swastika (or at least would not allow themselves to be photographed while wearing it). And the Nazis didn't even bomb the hell out of our largest city.

My friends, I know America is the last country in the world that should give advice to other peoples. But, honestly, your country is probably the second-to-last. So let us put aside the strictures of etiquette in the spirit of international brotherhood. People of Britain, the time is long past to execute your royal family.

I know this may appear extreme at first glance, but surely you see that the situation has become intolerable? You have an inbred claque of fools placed in permanence at the very pinnacle of your society. It's true that fools run the United States too, but they are less inbred (probably), and we get to switch them around every now and again. It's not great, but I wouldn't trade with you guys.

Perhaps you are afraid of the reaction. First let me assure you that millions, even billions, worldwide would consider the liquidation of your royals to be an eminently natural act. And even those who were initially shocked would get over it in time. Every nation with a king has killed him once or twice. You yourselves did so some 350 years ago, although you made the mistake of letting another one sneak in. Furthermore, with such inventions as video games and the Internet, no one is likely to get too worked up about a mere regicide.

I look forward to the day when the impure blood of your nobility waters your fields.

Best trans-Atlantic regards,
snjoseph
Concerned American

Entertainment

Journal: How Can We Live Without Them?

Journal by snjoseph
AFP: Pundits look for reason for Aniston-Pitt split

I didn't make the headline up. Apparently the Jen-and-Brad Question is a matter for pundits. Perhaps the Agence France-Presse is trying to tell us something about the quality of American pundits. Actually, it would be a great step forward for our society if our chattering class were to devote more of their attention to such piddle. For instance, if Tom Friedman began writing about celebrity sex lives instead of foreign policy, his column would become substantially less vulgar.

Here's Katie Couric's take on this burning issue (by way of Wonkette ):

[E]verybody I know, they were very upset this weekend about this particular breakup, because it sort of made you feel like, "Gosh, can any marriage last?" And here they seemed really suited to each other. They were, you know, so attractive.

Well, there you go. How could two people who could easily obtain, at any given time, any sexual partner of their choosing not remain completely committed to one another for the rest of their natural lives? Plus they're both extremely wealthy and constantly surrounded by sycophants! This clearly has implications for us all.

And I actually called our news desk on Saturday and said: "I know that we have this tsunami going on, and--and all these people, but is it true that they broke up?"

Uh-huh. If I were running the NBC news desk, I would institute the following policy:

In the event that Katie Couric calls the news desk, you are instructed to answer: Katie who? That name sounds fake. Relinquish this line, madam, before I am compelled to involve the magistrate!

Music

Journal: Refluxed! 1

Journal by snjoseph
I usually don't like college football--it's more efficient to simply convert NFL to NCAA by halving the speed and quadrupling the score--but the Orange Bowl was pretty nifty this year. First of all, USC pounded OU, which was nice. Secondly, and perhaps with more universal appeal, "singer" Ashlee Simpson was booed off the stage at the halftime show. Awesome. A Google News search for "ashlee simpson booed" turns up 251 links as of this writing, with several international outlets picking up the story. Rationally speaking, this kind of debacle should kill a career, but our beloved country has a way of elevating the universally despised to the commanding peaks of society.

With no particular talent for music and no dancing skills to excuse the lip-synching, poor Ashlee is stuck between the Scylla and Charybdis of pop superstardom. To my mind, there is only one possible salvation: rap. This has always been the genre of last resort for has-beens from Steve Urkel to Vanilla Ice. I would suggest that Ashlee use her music to educate and inform the public about acid reflux disease (ie, gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD), to which her Saturday Night Live snafu has been accredited by polite convention. I offer the following as a token of my esteem for Ms. Simpson:

Go rock with me, you deservin' the best
Take a purple pill to stop the burn in your chest
They call me Ashlee
Pumpin' GERD in the truck
Funny how the acid starts to reflux.

Acid pain is serious shit
Make a Pavarotti have to sync to the lip
The name is A-Simp
And I bomb every track
Nexium OTC, now how heavy is that?

Republicans

Journal: No Hack Left Behind

Journal by snjoseph
USA Today: Bushies paid commentator to promote No Child Left Behind

Not the first time they've been nabbed spending taxpayer cash money on fake news propaganda. Armstrong Williams, a prominent Black conservative, was contractually obligated to use his connections to get pro-administration stories on Black media and plug NCLB on his show. He neglected to mention to his listeners that he was being paid $240,000 to do so.

For his part, Williams said, "I wanted to do it because it's something I believe in." I suppose $240,000 is merely the fee to get him to believe in something.

United States

Journal: The Year What Wuz

Journal by snjoseph
Ah, 2004. Here's a year I wouldn't mind saying goodbye to, if I had any confidence in the alternative. Dubya is the Time Man of the Year and Karl Rove--a Colorado native who neither lives nor works in Texas--is the Dallas Morning News Texan of the Year. That pretty much tells you where things are at in the fourth year of the third millenium anno domini, doesn't it? If a butterfly had flapped its wings in Brazil maybe Big Ketchup would be the Man and James Carville the Texan (he's from Louisiana!). Instead we've got the Bushies and a pan-Asian weather catastrophe. That butterfly's got a lot to answer for.

Actually, the election would have been a wash either way. Kerry is, in his own way, as much a product of the sickness and delusion of America as Bush. It was absurd to expect him to do anything about it, like declaring cold sores our best defense in the war against herpes. The rot in our society runs deep.

Culture, as usual, is the weathervane. The rule of cranks and hacks goes practically unchallenged. The singers can't sing; the writers can't write; the actors can't act--if they're even actors. The most uniformly competent entertainers in our society are professional athletes, and they're constantly harangued for being talentless prima-donnas, more victims in America's relentless War on Actually Knowing How To Do Shit.

Looking back on 2004, I am convinced both that things could hardly be worse and that things will get worse before they get better. Don't ask me how that works out.

Happy New Year!

Christmas Cheer

Journal: The Hotness of the Christ

Journal by snjoseph
The New York Times reports that Eminent Scienticians working with the Italian police have reconstructed the face of Jesus from impressions left on the Shroud of Turin. Yes. You'd think in a country where the prime minister is a notorious fraudster, the police would have their hands full with useful work. But no, apparently the cops had a squad of forensic investigators free to work on the digital reconstruction at the request of Italian television. CSI: Rome must be a boring show.

The article notes that there's been a small outbreak of pseudo-scientific documentaries into the life of Jesus in Italy, declaring the country "awash in crèches and sensationalism." I hardly think that's fair to the Italians. American culture is littered with similar wastes of time; as recently as 2000, ABC News aired a special report on The Search for Jesus.

I call these endeavors wastes of time not because research into the origins of Christianity isn't interesting--it is--but because most of the recent stuff is at an incomparably lower scientific level than acheived a century ago by people like Bruno Bauer and Karl Kautsky. There's more to be gained, in terms of serious historical knowledge, from reading Kautsky's Foundations of Christianity than from watching Peter Jennings inteview some Professor of Theology as he desperately defends his tenure in the age of practical atheism.

In any event, you're probably dying to see what the Lamb of God looks like. Check it out. Here's the article's description:

The image shows a 12-year-old boy with fair, smooth skin, glassy blue eyes, fleshy lips and waves of dirty blond hair streaked with just enough purple and pink to suggest a sprinkling of cosmic dust.

Cosmic dust, eh? Looks like the King of Kings was, in addition, King of the Faeries. Also, Jesus may have been the most Aryan Jew in Palestine until Ashkenazi from Brooklyn started kicking the natives out of Judea some 2000 years later.

In conclusion, if you are going to commit a crime, why not do so in Italy? With their police on the case, you are surely not in much danger.

United States

Journal: Very Friendly Fire

Journal by snjoseph
AP: Rumsfeld Gets Friendly Questions in Iraq

Indeed he does.

"How do we win the war in the media?" asked one soldier in Mosul. Another soldier in Tikrit wondered why there is not more coverage of reconstruction efforts going on in the country.

So the best question a soldier in Mosul could come up with was how do we win the media war? Yeah, alright. I think the media might be more willing to show pictures of new playgrounds if two dozen people aren't getting blown up on the same day.

In any event, I'm glad we're winning the War on Message Indiscipline.

Democrats

Journal: Also sprach Kos 3

Journal by snjoseph
Liberals have begun to notice that Bush is a basically unpopular president who has majorities of the American people arrayed against him on almost every major policy issue. This would normally be a cause for much rejoicing, except...Bush just won the election. With Nader reduced to a non-factor and foul play an irrelevance in the popular vote (there weren't three million ballots worth of fraud), Kerrycrats are being driven by the iron laws of deduction to the very heart of the darkness: Big Ketchup himself!

With a widely-despised opponent, a Party united to Stalinoid perfection, unlimited cash money, and a zombie-like Left in the grip of lesser-evilism, Kerry still managed to snatch defeat from the wide-open jaws of victory. Indeed, against Big Ketchup the gods themselves did contend in vain: Mars and Pluto did their worst in Iraq; Mercury disrupted the national commerce; Neptune intervened to make the Atlantic an impassable rift; and Minerva seemed to abandon poor Dubya altogether. But no ill turns of fortune for Bush could dispel Kerry's fierce determination to lose, his awesome Joementum.

And thus spake Kos:

[W]hat makes me angry was Kerry and his gang's inability to take advantage of the situation. I may regret saying this later, but fuck it--they should be lined up and shot. There's no reason they should've lost to this joker. "I voted for the $87 billion, then I voted against it." That wasn't nuance. That was idiocy. And with a primary campaign that consisted entirely of "I'm the most electable," Kerry entered the general without a core philosophy or articulated vision for the job.

It is altogether too tempting to remind oneself of one's own analysis, which can perhaps claim to be more insightful as it preceded the election:

Kerry...hasn't acheived much more than being the "anybody but Bush." Far from effectively fighting Bush, he is constantly disorienting and depressing his own supporters with his repeated statements of agreement with Bush. Not only have I not met a single person who is enthused by Kerry, I have not met a single person who does not ritually express their disgust with Kerry.... This is not even to raise Kerry's idiotic tactical errors (the "voted for it before voting against it" line, the McCain gambits, etc).

And also:

In politics, inertia is a not insigificant factor. If the electorate can't tell the difference between Bush and Kerry, Bush will surely win by the simple principle of conservation of energy.

Naturally I do not claim any particular gifts of prophesy for myself, as these statements are merely elaborations on themes developed by many on the anti-ABB Left, including and especially by Ralph Nader. The only reason we were able to forsee this outcome was because we had an understanding of the Democrats as a bosses' party, part of the establishment and totally committed to its survival and strategies, up to and including the Iraq War.

Will the ABB Left now see what a mistake they made by backing Kerry and attacking Nader? If Nader had received five or ten percent, it would have at least sent a certain kind of message to the Bushies, and injected Nader and his platform into the post-election scene. Instead the mainstream political discussion is characterized by suggestions as to how far the Democrats (and all the liberal organizations) ought to capitulate to Bush. The antiwar movement has to relearn how to walk, and the Green Party may have been fatally wounded by the Cobb debacle--at the very least they will require a punishing internal struggle and purge to survive.

The objective conditions for the development of a strong, independent Left are excellent; the subjective conditions are poor. We will make great strides as regards the latter if we get the donkey off our backs. Will the circle not be broken?

United States

Journal: Projectile Dysfunction

Journal by snjoseph
AP: Missle Defense System to Miss Deadline

In an earlier Journal Entry, I wrote:

Rumsfeld expressed righteous indignation that "some folks still argue that missile defense can't work." But no one argues that it can't work--people merely argue that it doesn't work, which is less of an argument than a simple statement of an objective fact.

One of the nice things about living in the Bush Era is that it makes repeating the transparently obvious seem like a prophecy of profound wisdom.

The latest missile defense test failed due to an "unknown anomaly" which kept the interceptor from launching. I think this is actually a good strategy, since the chances of a missile hitting the interceptor while it sits in the silo are, if you think about it, a lot greater than the chances of the interceptor hitting a missile in mid-air.

In any event, since Star Wars is a terrible idea which shreds even the crackpot nuclear balance that prevails today, not putting it into operation is probably the greatest security success the Bushies have managed to date.

United States

Journal: (Medals of) Freedom Ain't Free 1

Journal by snjoseph
CNN: Medal of Freedom awarded to troika of failures

Franks, Tenet, and Bremer. Hey, why not? When the next generation writes the history of this one, these three will be considered the leaders of America's Golden Age in Iraq. Not because it was particularly golden, but because all it did was get worse.

I discussed these important developments last night with AE:

SNJ: Why don't they just call it the Medal of Fuck-Ups? That would be more honest.

AE: That Bush is generally a straight-shooter.

SNJ: Plus I'd have a chance at winning one. I fuck stuff up all the time.

AE: Yeah, but your fuck-ups don't kill thousands of people.

SNJ: Well, I don't see why that should count against me.

Democrats

Journal: Tough Love Is in the Air

Journal by snjoseph
The Nation is running a piece by Kathryn Schulz examining why so many liberals use the language of relationship break-ups to describe their despair over the election debacle.

By the time I got MoveOn.org's message, I'd gotten scores of others, and they generally read like this: "My heart aches," "This feels like a breakup," "I'm utterly broken-hearted," "I don't remember feeling like this since my wife left me" and (my favorite), "The atmosphere in my office today feels like everyone was dumped on the way into work."

Schulz asks, "why, in the aftermath of last week's elections, did so many progressives turn to the metaphor of heartbreak?"

Now, the easy answer is: because the sort of folks who like MoveOn.org and the Nation are mostly navel-gazing post-hippies who can't speak about anything without using the language of adolescence. That's the easy answer--although, strangely, Schulz doesn't seem to consider it--but I don't think that alone gets it.

Schulz decides that it's because liberals really love America, and they're sad because America, apparently, doesn't love them back. She then engages in a dithyramb to America too embarrassing to even quote. Personally I find it sickening to lavish praise on what is easily the weirdest, least sustainable, most externally violent, and most internally predatory society on the planet. In any event, I consider it quite unnecessary. Only an idiot would claim that liberalism in power has been any less rapacious than conservatism in imperial piracy on the service of capital.

The real reason liberals use relationship language is because their attachment to the Democratic Party is like an abusive relationship.

This system will self-destruct in five minutes.

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