Archive for October, 2011

The Most Frightening Thing I Have Ever Heard


Take Two

The world was supposed to end on May 21, but things got fouled up, and it didn’t happen. However—take heart—the place is definitely disappearing, for good and for sure this time, on October 21. Which is, like, tomorrow.

So, whatever you wanted to do in this life: do it now. Time is definitely a-wasting.

I wrote of the previous end of the world, the May 21 version, at some length—length in fact commensurate with, say, War and Peace. Particularly those who are bedridden or imprisoned, and therefore have nothing much else to do, might want to go read the thing, here: should be time enough to peruse most of it, before everything winks out.

The world is ending because the deity according to 90-year-old electronic preacher Harold Camping is tired of the thing, and wants it to just go away. Said deity is in fact so sick of the place that, as Camping has explained, not only will the planet itself be vaporized, but also every memory of it, in every person, place, and thing. It will be as if it had never been.


The Keystone Of The Whole Convention

Video footage showed Gaddafi, dazed and wounded, but still clearly alive and gesturing with his hands as he was dragged from a pick-up truck by a crowd of angry jostling group of government soldiers who hit him and pulled his hair.

He then appeared to fall to the ground and was enveloped by the crowd. NTC officials later announced Gaddafi had died of his wounds after capture.

The modern laws of war begin with the sympathetic consideration of wounded bodies. In 1859, at Solferino in northern Italy, the Austrians fought the French, and after the battle a young Swiss man named Jean Henri Dunant toured the battlefield. Some 30,000 men lay in the dust and mud—shrapnel wounds, gangrene, the violently dead—and in response to what he saw that day he went on to form the International Committee of the Red Cross. The first Geneva Convention was adopted in August 1864, for the “Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field”: it holds that casualties shall be cared for, whoever’s side they are from, and protects all those who treat them. In 1906, this provision was moved to the start of the Convention; in the 1949 Commentary, the ICRC called the inviolability of the wounded “the keystone of the whole Convention.”

—Daniel Swift, “Conjectural Damage,” November 2011 Harper’s

Wounded in both legs?

Sound like he took one in the nuts.

Rec’d for making me laugh.

“Lefties” who celebrate the death of Gaddafi are not different from Bushies who celebrated the death of Saddam. “Lefties” who celebrate the death of Gaddafi are not different from those who celebrated the plane flying into the Pentagon.

They are the same.

Bertold Brecht: “Do not rejoice in his defeat, you men. For though the world has stood up and stopped the bastard, the bitch that bore him is in heat again.”

Yep. In heat in every heart that beats with joy, at the suffering and death of a human being.

Leaving Las Vegas

Ten times the GOoPers who want the American people to make them president in 2012 have appeared in nationally televised debates. And yet here it is, only mid-October of 2011.

Jeebus wept. All our trials, lord. When will they be over.

I had not viewed the first nine debates. But had begun to believe I should. Tune in to these people. At least once. For from what I had read, they are about establishing a new nadir in American political discourse. Too, as a person who has not yet returned to television, I had not actually seen several of these people in physical motion. And that can be vital. In determining whether or not a person constitutes a Menace.

I had a dream Tuesday morning set in Las Vegas. And Tuesday night’s debate would occur in Las Vegas. So. I interpreted that as a Sign. And so I watched. Here on my gnome computer. Below is what I experienced.

Act One

Things I notice right off. Newt Gingrich is fat. Ron Paul’s eyebrow toupees are, for the moment, properly affixed. Anderson Cooper is gay.

Cooper instructs the candidates to “take your podiums.” What does that mean? I assume it is some variation on “take your seats,” but it sounds stupid. Reminds me of when my brother and I would listen to baseball games on the radio, and the announcer would say “the runners are taking their leads,” and my brother would contort himself into the aspect of a rock guitarist blazing out a solo.

I would like it if the candidates would “take” their podiums and begin marching around with them through the audience. Like the time Desi Arnez took his congas out among the people on Saturday Night Live. That would be an interesting way to begin this debate.

But no. Instead there is the national anthem. I turn down the sound on my gnome computer, because it is against my religion to listen to the national anthem. The person singing it is apparently a veteran of Phantom Of The Opera, which seems appropriate: a play about a madman who terrorizes women and burns up in a fire.

I notice that Mitt Romney is breathing through his mouth. Literally a mouth-breather?

Cooper announces that the first question is a twit received via Twitter, and jibbers something about “hashtags.” I loathe the term “hashtag.” “Hash” is a cretinous food I sometimes had to eat as a kid, and “tags” are sticky things in colors not found in nature that you put on your car license-plate when you register it. What they have to do with a medium of communication that limits itself to 144 characters, thus rendering it impossible for anyone to really get anything across, unless they are Heraclitus or Lao Tze, beats me.



Buyer Beware

I am for sure believing that “a chaotic used car salesman, nicknamed ‘Scarface,’ with a string of failed businesses behind him,” is at the center of a Web Of Evil. The veritable vortex of a nefarious plot to blow up the Saudi ambassador to the US, as well as 120 or so other people.

Because this is just the sort of man I would want on my A Team, if I were about Big Badness:

“His socks would not match. He was always losing his keys and his cellphone.”

He was perennially disheveled, friends and acquaintances said, and hopelessly disorganized.

Many of his old friends and associates in Texas seemed stunned at the news, not merely because he was not a zealot, but because he seemed too incompetent to pull it off.

[H]e had no interest in religion or politics, and smoked marijuana and drank alcohol freely.

[H]e was hopelessly unreliable. Sam Ragsdale, who runs his own wholesale car business in Corpus Christi, had one word for Mr. Arbabsiar: “Worthless.”

[He] tried his hand at a number of businesses, selling horses, ice cream, used cars and gyro sandwiches, friends said. All of them appear to have flopped, and federal and state records show a trail of liens, business-related lawsuits and angry creditors.

But you know, in the intelligence biz, we just call this “good cover.”


We Are Devo

The traditional notion that hunter-gatherers must carry on a solitary, unremitting search for food, that they supposedly wake each morning not knowing whether or not they will find the day’s supply, and that they usually die young from famine happens to be untrue. Hunter-gatherers, who are not solitary but live in small bands and observe many intricate social rules for the distribution of food, are far from impoverished. The San in the bleak Kalahari Desert forage for food for no more than a few hours a day on the average; moreover, the unmarried young people and those older than fifty do hardly any work at all. Medical examinations of the San have shown that their diet, both abundant and nutritious, has enabled them to escape many of the health problems associated with diets that are common in modern societies: obesity and “middle-age spread,” dental cavities, hypertension and coronary heart disease, and elevated levels of cholesterol. And far from being short-lived, many of the San live into their sixties and seventies. An important point made by studies of surviving hunter-gatherers is that their generally excellent nutrition extends to all members of the society and not just to a privileged few—simply because the prevalence of sharing insures that everyone eats the same way.

[I]t is a mistake to suppose that modern societies allow people to work less hard for their daily bread. Out of the 1129 hours worked by one Chinese irrigation farmer in a year, only 122 were needed to grow enough food to sustain that farmer. A blue-collar worker in the United States, on the other hand, spends 180 hours earning enough money to purchase a year’s supply of food. Notwithstanding Western notions of the Chinese peasant’s incessant labor, it is plain that they actually need to work less by a third than North Americans or Europeans to keep themselves supplied with food. Moreover, although a mechanized farmer in the American Midwest need put in an annual total of only nine hours of work for each acre to achieve an astounding six thousand calories for each calorie of effort, that figure ignores the enormous amounts of human labor that go into manufacturing and transporting the trucks, tractors, combines, fuel, fertilizer, pesticides, fence wire, and everything else used by the farmer, not to mention transporting the food itself. For every person who actually works on a Midwestern farm, the labor of at least two others off the farm is needed to supply equipment and services directly to the farmer—aside from the very many more whose labors contribute indirectly to the final product. Altogether, a total of 2790 calories of energy must be expended to produce and deliver to a consumer in the United States just one can of corn providing a total of 270 calories. The production of meat entails an even greater deficit: an expenditure of 22,000 calories is needed to produce the somewhat less than four ounces of beefsteak that likewise produce 270 calories.

In short, present-day agriculture is much less efficient than traditional irrigation methods that have been used by Asians, among others, in this century and by Mayans, Mesopotamians, Egyptians, and Chinese in antiquity. The primary advantage of a mechanized agriculture is that it requires the participation of fewer farmers, but for that the price paid in machines, fossil fuels, and other expenditures of energy is enormous. A severe price is also paid in human labor. Once the expensive machines have been manufactured and deployed on the farms, they are economically efficient only if operated throughout the daylight hours, and indeed farmers in the United States often labor for sixteen hours a day. The boast of industrialized societies that they have decreased the workload is valid only in comparison with the exploitation of labor that existed in the early decades of the Industrial Revolution. If the prevailing forty-hour work week of North America and Europe were proposed to the San, whoever did so would be considered to be exploitive, inhuman, or plain mad.

—Peter Farb, Consuming Passions

When I Worked

October 2011
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