Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Serious Request (UPDATE)

Item - a list of attacks on abortion clinics. Please note how many of these cases remain open.

Item - Dr. George Tiller, while acting as head usher at his church is murdered by pro-lifer Scott Roeder.

Item - Dr. Barnett Slepian is murdered in his home by James Kopp, an anti-abortion activist.

Item - Eric Robert Rudolph is apprehended in western North Carolina. Rudolph is linked to a string of attacks on abortion clinics across the south as well as the bombing at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.

Item - Timothy McVeigh and accomplices detonate a truck filled with homemade explosives outside the Murrah Federal Office Building in Oklahoma City, killing 186 people, including worker's children attending on-site day-care.

Item - Jim Adkisson enters Knoxville, TV Unitarian Church during a Children's Sabbath celebration and opens fire, killing two. Adkisson later said it was his intention to kill liberals and Democrats.

Item - After a bombing of part of the national government building in Oslo, a gunman, identified as a right-wing Christian, opens fire at a youth camp, killing 84 people.

As the bodies continue to mount, it might be necessary to do more than just wonder, in some vague way, about all this violence. It might be necessary to demand of those official Christian bodies - the Southern Baptist Convention, say - that they not only denounce specific acts of violence, but denounce the resort to violence as an illegitimate expression of political dissent, regardless of context. I would further demand that any individual, group, or body that donates money or time to an organization or body that promotes or defend terrorism in the name of Christianity be sent, immediately and without a hearing, to Guantanamo Bay Prison. Further, I insist that there be no civilian trials for any perpetrators of right-wing violence against churches, women's health centers, or public buildings; instead they should be tried as illegal enemy combatants.

If we're gonna be serious about terrorism, we should set aside security at airports, and install metal detectors at the entrance to any church who's pastoral leader has shown consistent rhetorical opposition to abortion, state or federal elected officials, gays and lesbians, or other minority groups. IRS protection in the form of tax-exempt status should be revoked on any such body that refuses to co-operate, because such lack of co-operation obviously means they are guilty.

At some point, the real enemy needs to be called out. This international conspiracy of right-wing Christianity clearly poses a threat to our way of life.

UPDATE: Pat Buchanan stands for Breivik:
Offering his take on the horrendous terrorist attacks in Norway, Buchanan joined the Wall Street Journal and the Jerusalem Post in arguing that the far-right extremist perpetrator Anders Breivik may have had a valid point. Arguing that Breivik was bringing attention to his cause, “a Crusader’s war between the real Europe and the ‘cultural Marxists’ and Muslims,” Buchanan declares that, on the “climactic conflict between a once-Christian West and an Islamic world…Breivik may be right“
This is from The Wall Street Journal.
There is reason to be deeply concerned about all these things, and to want to see them addressed forcefully by government leaders who care about the preservation of individual liberty and human rights. But this cause has been seriously damaged by Anders Behring Breivik.

In Norway, to speak negatively about any aspect of the Muslim faith has always been a touchy matter, inviting charges of "Islamophobia" and racism. It will, I fear, be a great deal more difficult to broach these issues now that this murderous madman has become the poster boy for the criticism of Islam.
And The Jerusalem Post:
While there is absolutely no justification for the sort of heinous act perpetrated this weekend in Norway, discontent with multiculturalism’s failure must not be delegitimatized or mistakenly portrayed as an opinion held by only the most extremist elements of the Right.
I just love it when right-wingers circle the wagons around one of their own.

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Lesson From LOST

I've been re-watching the TV show Lost, from start to finish, all six seasons, and the end of Season 2 kind of reminded me of the current fake "debt ceiling crisis" going on in Washington. First, I should explain what I put the description or title or whatever it is in quotes, and prefaced it by calling it fake. Really, all that needs to be done is for Congress to pass a bill that says, "The credit of the United States is extended by 'x' dollars." Period. That's it. Except, of course, the Republicans who control the House refuse to do so. For reasons beyond imagining, rather than stand up and say, "Just pass the credit extension," the President agrees with the idea that "something must be done" about federal spending (kind of the same way he accepted the idea that "something must be done" about the Libyan civil war and we all know how well that's working out). There is only a "crisis" because all sides and the co-dependent Washington press corps all agree there is a crisis, and that "something must be done", rather than just passing a bill raising the debt ceiling and moving on.

At the end of Season 2, John Locke has become convinced through a combination of duplicity from without and gnawing doubt from within that the whole button-in-the-hatch is little more than a psychological experiment. His doubt has become so deep, despite walking after four years in a wheelchair, he doubts there is anything special about the island, or his relationship to it. He connives to get the computer room locked out, and not push the button. Swinging from belief to absolute conviction, he insists that the whole button-pushing process is fake, and goes further and insists that his life has been pathetic, meaningless, and once the curtain is raised on the fakery going on in the hatch, the survivors of Flight 815 will operate on a more even keel.

Then, the counter reaches zero, the room starts to vibrate, the magnetic anomaly begins to suck every metallic object in the hatch toward it, and Desmond Hume, the half-crazed last button-pusher goes beneath the hatch to operate the fail-safe, which implodes the hatch. Before Desmond goes underneath the station, Locke looks at him and says, with both fear and sadness, "I was wrong."

Many new members of the Republican caucus are convinced of several things. They are convinced our President is a clear and present threat to the American way of life. They are convinced not only that they have a mandate to oppose him, but that granting even the most basic request he makes, even one in the national interest, will only further the President's agenda of destroying our country. To that end, they are convinced, in the words of a videotape released by Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), that the President is "lying" about the consequences of defaulting on our sovereign debt.

As the country begins to implode on August 3, how many of them will come to realize, as John Locke did once it became too late, that everything they had been told was real? When the debt ceiling is raised - and it will be one way or another, even if it is far too late to mitigate the tremendous damage done to the economy, and the working of every aspect of the federal government, from defending the country to delivering the mail - will any of them admit they were wrong?

Liberals want to put all the blame on the Tea Party. While they do shoulder the responsibility for the prestidigitation, pulling a crisis out of a hat as it were, the President, too, shares much of the same responsibility. His desire "to do something" is as much to blame as the Tea Party Caucus' devotion to the idea that destroying everything is far better than giving Pres. Obama anything.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

In Need Of Music

Little known in the US, Van Der Graaf Generator was one of the more interesting bands to emerge in the London milieu of the late-1960's, early 1970's. The band was led by Peter Hammill, who was a huge influence upon John Lydon of The Sex Pistol's/PIL. I read an interview with Hammill, in which he said that he was not a confident guitarist, which is why on the first several VDGG recordings, the guitar is played by Robert Fripp.

Trying to classify them is almost impossible. Usually tagged "prog", they sound nothing like classic prog. While some lump them in with the more jazzy-influenced Canterbury bands - Soft Machine, Matching Mole - really, they are just their own band. Their songs tend to be pretty depressing; if you listened to the whole song I just posted, you might note a bit of light toward the end, but by and large they tend toward the truly dark. They can make Pink Floyd sound like a church choir at times. Their mix of sounds, including saxophonist David Jackson (who has recently done work with The Tangent), was unique. While the certainly having a jazz influence - if you listen to the drumming, the way the songs often just cease for some expansive improvisation - there was also a strong element, surprisingly, of Roman Catholic hymnody (Hammill was raised Catholic). This churchiness is what gives the songs their depth, I think. Neither jazz nor fusion have that sense of liturgy that Van Der Graaf Generator can bring.

After breaking up in 1971, the band reunited in the mid-1970's for a couple albums - Godbluff, Still Life - then fell apart, only to re-emerge in 2005 for a series of reunion dates around Britain. Peter Hammill looks a bit like a fading Old Testament prophet, his voice adding that edge of not-quite-all-thereness one associates with folks like Ezekiel. They hadn't lost their edge, though, despite being, at that time, thirty years older than their prime:

Something random this way comes.

Ququag en Transic/ Naon/ Transic to - Jon Anderson
Loose Heart (Live) - Riverside
Pacific Haze - Steve Howe's Remedy
Baba O'Riley - The Who
Falling Farther In - October Project
How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You (Live) - Marvin Gaye
Lark's Tongue In Aspic, Part 2 (Live, 1984) - King Crimson
Accolade II - Symphony X
Kindred Spirits - Liquid Tension Experiment
Darn That Dream - Miles Davis

Because I can . . .

Virtual Tin Cup

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