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Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

"Bible and Sword"

Having a strong (and maybe inexplicable) interest in all things having to do with Palestine, both the Palestinian and the Israeli parts of it, I just finished reading another of the always remarkable books by the late Barbara W. Tuchman.

The theme of her "Bible and Sword" (1984) is the identification of the inhabitants of the British Isles with the many Hebraic leading figures in the Bible's Old Testament over many hundreds of years, and how this, along with a few other factors, especially Britain's relentless drive toward empire, inevitably led to the English taking over Palestine with thoughts of protecting the Suez Canal and incidentally also protecting their trade routes to the East, and also incidentally  providing a homeland for the Jews, who had been collectively experiencing some hard times ever since the Romans had expelled them from Judea at around the same time that Christianity got its start, and culminating with the Germans exterminating nearly all the Jews they could get their hands on in Europe during the Second World War.

I was disappointed in the book, though not at all by what Tuchman presented there.  Instead I thought that she had stopped short, with the end of World War I, --way short of what I had expected.

The state of Israel got going the year I graduated from high school and therefore started looking around more, in 1949.   And in all the 62 years since then there has been a continuous effort to establish a lasting peace between the Israelis and not only the Arabs they had displaced, called "Palestinians" but also all the surrounding Arabs.   (Tuchman mentions quite often, as if the Arabs should be completely satisfied with what they have, that the Holy Land part of Palestine, or Israel proper, the part west of the Jordan River, is only 1/100th as large as all the other Arab lands that were wrested from the Turks by the British and others and redistributed after World War I.)   And despite all these peace efforts, nothing much has changed except that rhe Israelis are sitting on somewhat more of Palestine than in 1949 and the Palestinians on considerably less.   Plus there are a great many high and ugly walls snaking over the West Bank that weren't there before, with more Israeli "settlements" going up on Palestinian territory all the time, while notions of peace sit all but forgotten, in the seeming reality that the Israelis are winning both the war and the peace, though whether they actually are or not, in the long run,  is in question.

I had heard of the Balfour Declaration and I knew, vaguely, that it had something to do with clearing the way for the founding of Israel, but I didn't know the Declaration's date, which was around 1920, much earlier than I had thought.  And so, though it said right on the front cover that the book was about "England and Palestine from the Bronze Age to Balfour," I had overed that, expecting Tuchman to cover events well past not only 1920 but also 1949 and at least into the 1980's.   And maybe she intended to, in a follow-up study, though nothing in this book says as much.  And whatever the case, mortality stepped in first.

So she left us just a few glimpses into the future, though not once does she mention that great overriding factor in the Middle East today, the oil!   Nor does she ever speak of "Palestinians."  Instead she just mentions, once or twice and then just briefly, that there were nomads, Bedouins, passing through and some Arabs who, in English eyes, had done a very poor job of farming the land, a situation that the return of Palestine's rightful people, the descendants of the expelled Judeans and mainly city dwellers, would be sure to correct (with a lot of money and other help not only from Jewish people left behind in other countries and from those other countries themselves), so that once again the Holy Land would overflow with milk and honey, just as in Biblical times.

She might have added, "and also with a lot of strife."   (As also in Biblical times.)

Toward the end of her Preface, dated 1983, Mrs. Tuchman does show her perfect awareness of that likelihood, when she says of Israel's experience thus far, "To become like other nations has become the tragedy of statehood,  the price of the greater tragedy of disappearance."  

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Incredibly Good Luck? Could Be.

After reading the news in some depth every day it's hard not to decide that a man can be in no better a situation than to be totally unknown.   Yet this condition is roundly despised throughout the known world.  This is way beyond my admittedly limited understanding. 

Maxim for Today -- Tools

No job is really finished until one makes a big point of putting all his tools and any leftover material back where he can easily find them on the next such occasion.  That comes first, ahead of any gratification that he might receive, because otherwise, on that next such occasion, the gratification is long forgotten while the aggravation is just getting started.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Lineup of Loonies

Juan Cole, proprietor of Informed Comment, the best site I know of on what goes on in the Middle East and North Africa, seems to be leading the effort to keep some of the generally good guys, namely the progressives, liberals, and the like, from getting their noses bent too far out of shape on the U.N. air operations in Libya, as with this message, addressed to the Left.

Today he has another good post on Libya, in which he summarizes what Obama said in his speech to the American people about why he ordered U.S. forces to take part in that operation.   And Cole follows that up by giving the decidedly shaky reactions to the speech by five of the Republican lineup of loonies who have been testing the 2012 Presidental waters: D.Trump, N. Gingrich, S. Palin, M.Baumann, and M. Romney.  The contrast demonstrated how, for all his sometimes questionable stands, B. Obama is still head and shoulders above anyone that the Repubs can throw against him, and how, in a sane world, no one would have a chance of unseating him in 2012.  But I know how rarely the word "sane" applies when it comes to the world of human affairs.

In the title to the post Cole seemed to promise posting the reaction also of a sixth loonie, named "Carrot Top," but I was unable to find that in the post.   Maybe I have missed the reference there.   Anyway, as a result, I still don't know who he meant by "Carrot Top."

Also strangely, in the summary that Cole gives, it doesn't seem that Obama made any points that he hadn't already made clearly and in detail on the day that he ordered in the cruise missiles and then the planes.  But I guess he felt that at the time too few Americans were listening.

In general the failure to keep one's eyes and ear flaps open is even worse than the failure to communicate.

I doubt that very many will be mollified -- or edified -- even now.   When people get on an out-of-kilter kick, it's hard for them ever to straighten their nostrils or to lend an ear.  It must be a physical thing.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Companions Thru Life, of a Sort

I wonder if this is peculiar to me, or whether it is shared by nearly everyone else on the planet.   I just know that so far I haven’t heard or read of anyone else doing this.   I mean mentally connecting one's self with a couple of big celebrities purely because they happened to have been born close to the same moment or at least within a year of when you were -- and if, of course, you felt that in some chance encounter, they wouldn't brush you off for at least 10 seconds.

In my case it was Teddy Kennedy and Elizabeth Taylor, even though in my mind both were tainted at the beginning by circumstances that were not in any way their fault, Kennedy by having been a rich kid and Taylor by having had a sir-name that was the same as that of my stepfather, a man with whom I never saw eye to eye, except for the remarkable house that he moved us into.

Notwithstanding Chappaquidick, I greatly admired the way that Kennedy always took the same stands in Congress that I would have and by so doing constituted a permanent red hot poker shoved up the nostrils of the right wing, even if in his later years he looked as if he had thrown back a few thousand too many, though I never heard that that was indeed the case.

Similarly, I  never shared the universal opinion that  Ms Taylor was the most beautiful woman in the world -- I thought that she fell a bit short of the Italian line of Manganos, Lollabrigidas, and Lorens.  And her only movie that I thought worth going back to see a time or two was her defining film, "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf."   But she did have great eyes, and her performance in “Who’s Afraid” was definitely a greatest moment in cinema, for in it she exuded true bitchiness so easily and gracefully that she was either giving one of the greatest acting performances of all time or she was just doing what came naturally and that would help account for her multiple marriages.

But, whatever the reasons, this pair and their widespread acclaim long ago came in handy as good company and also as measuring sticks of a sort, against my own totally uncelebrated "grand fantasies" and the course of my life.

Now it has worked out that both have skated out of here for good, Kennedy so long ago that it feels as if his birthdate couldn't have really been that close to mine, and Taylor just the other day, and therefore this post.. 

Later now, Eliz!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Keep It Clean -- Libya

Along with many others, including Russia's V. Putin and the African Union,  the Angry Arab has come out strongly against the intervention that is being made mostly by the U.S,. Britain, and France in the  fighting in Libya. 

Angry is a longtime Arab.   I don't find anger to be any kind of a virtue, and also I am a much longer-time something else.   Nevertheless I feel confident in saying that Angry, Putin, and the others have grabbed the sow by the wrong teat on this one for sure, especially when they use rhetoric like Angry's, "Western military intervention in Libya was intended to “legitimize the return of colonial powers to our region."

The regions where Angry Abu-Khalil has now spent the better part of his life are in the U.S. instead of in his native but accursed Lebanon, and lately he has been teaching in the balmy climes of California.   And in the course of that he tends to get on a number of kicks that he pursues with great dedication but while wearing a huge pair of blinders or blinkers or whatever they were called -- those big black flaps that in the old days were put on the sides of horses' heads, I guess to keep them from being distracted by ideas coming in from anywhere other than the desired direction, while they blankly clopped along,  pulling their deadweight loads of baggage, people, and other gear that meant nothing to them.

Just before these revolts started, he posted a list of as many as a dozen Arab countries, a majority of the Arab world, whose leadership, he thought, was on the questionable side.   So his point must be that only Arabs should make those changes.   But in Libya it was beginning to look as if the rebels were only days away from being smashed flat, and soon enough the old tyrannical ways would be back in operation, and those trying to rid Libya if not the world of Gaddafi had greatly hoped for this kind of help, regardless of anti-colonial principles.

In addition, other countries that were never colonial powers were eager to see the U.S. et al impose the no-fly zone, and that was how the U.N. ruling came about.   And I believe that those three western countries are taking the lead mainly because they like the role of being the leaders, plus they're the ones with the equipment, and when you have the military equipment the temptation is always great to use it, especially when you can do so with little risk of backfire.

Pure logic and history says that there's no way that the U.S., Britain, and France have any interest in reinstituting colonialism, in North Africa or anywhere else.  It turned out to be too much trouble, and also lately there's been the resulting blowback of the immigration from the former colonies, in full accordance with Newton's Third Law of Motion.

   But those powers do like the smell of oil, and Libya has a lot of it.   Tunisia has a little, and Egypt even less.   Therefore the U.N. and the West didn't take a hand in those revolutions, and Bahrain, despite the U.S. naval base there, is just too small and so is of little interest, other than that its oil giant immediate neighbor, Saudi Arabia, likes the current leadership there just fine, though, as in the case of Saddam's Iraq, Bahrain is a matter of minority Sunnis lording it over majority Shias, by force.

But Libyans of any stripe would still be eager to sell the oil, and instead there appeared to be a bloodbath in the making, some of which had already been carried out by Gaddafi, and he had vowed to shed a lot more, if the rebels didn't bow to his rule.

So I believe that this intervention was just the West's way of telling Gaddafi to "keep it clean, and let the best man win."   And it should have been have been clear to Putin, Angry, and everyone else that Gaddafi, for decades, has never been the best man.

Were the critics of the intervention content just to let the blood bath go on?  Would that have been good for Arabs in particular?

The U.N. is in place to prevent such things from happening, and it should be applauded for availing itself of this most recent chance to show its stuff.   And this effort is especially convenient for the parties involved, logistically speaking.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Pity "The" "Poor" "White" Male

In the title of this post the "The" is in quotation marks because I'm not talking about everyone in a group but just a small segment thereof.   At least I greatly hope that that is the size of the segment.   In addition the "Poor" is in quotes not because it refers to economic status; instead I used the term here to convey pity.   And the "White" is in quotes because that word can't possibly apply to any group of men or women, unless they work non-stop in a badly run lime factory.   To my lifelong observations the people who are so widely referred to as being "white" are in no sense the color of or as pure as the freshly fallen snow, any more than any so-called "black" person is a child of the soot inside a chimney.

The other day a man that certain circumstances have led to me seeing quite a bit lately was analyzing himself and in the course of citing an animus that he held toward a certain group, though I had warned him that those women in my wife's book club were going to be a mite bit different from his captive high school students of yore, he said that actually he didn't like white males either.

"They're always whining about how they're being discriminated against" was the reason he gave.

I wondered if he told me this because I am not a "white" male, while he, on the other hand, is very much a "white" male, and he associates with others of that description all the time..  Most likely he wanted me to be sure of how deeply liberal, progressive, and impartial he is.

Naturally I was well aware that certain kinds of European-derived people or what I call "Euros" have deeply begrudged every advance that Rainbows have made in American life since the end of the overt Jim Crow days, with "reverse discrimination" being a popular term to fling around.   But, as if to back up what this acquaintance said,  a recent CNN article revealed that, among the  many other manifestations of B. Obama serving as U.S. President, a movement has started that aims to highlight the way that certain "white" males feel that their group is being badly discriminated against, just as Rainbows were in the good old days of racial segregation, and naturally these men don't like that one bit, to the point that they even feel that such a situation is against the Will of God.

This shows what a terrible thing it is for a member of a certain group, especially one distinguished only by a trait as superficial and as problematic as skin color, to have had a longtime dominion over everyone in another group or groups.  This perceived superiority over other people whom they so easily see as being their natural-born inferiors becomes an addiction that is obviously almost impossible to kick.   This kind of thing can be seen to have happened all over the world, and that's what we can see happening here amongst these "good Americans."

I wouldn't think that these guys, however much they presume to speak for all "white" males, will be able to get much sympathy for their stand, because you don't have to look far before the inevitable question arises as to what in God's name are they talking about?   One need not look any farther than the current President.   All the other 40=some Presidents that  the U.S,. has ever had have been "white" males.   So you get just one who is not "100 percent"  and instead is only 75 percent and automatically the world as we know it is over?

(Contrary to the stupendously dumb statement that is always made that B., Obama is half "black" and therefore  he's "black" as opposed to being "white," the truth is that he is much more "white" than he is "black," unless you conveniently dismiss the enormous importance that environment has in forming us all, to the point that it probably counts much more than genes..   The circumstances of Obama's upbringing should always be kept uppermost in mind, and meanwhile I would think that people would have more respect for the strength and vitality of so-called "white" blood than to imply that it is so weak and insipid that it can so easily be completely rendered null and void by just that fabled "one drop.")

Everywhere you look, from all three branches of government outward, "white" males are still in the great majority, as they are in the financial sectors, the military, the police, industry, the media, and even in the movies where they are still the preferred heroes.  And yet these guys cry about how they're losing their major share of everything, and that they're no longer even being seen as being "the American," when in fact they rarely were, except in their own minds.

A lot of groups have had a hand in forming the U.S., a proces that  didn't stop in the 1780's and is still an ongoing thing..   And each citizen sees this country in his or her own image.   .

In fact, something I saw in Barbara Tuchman's book "The March of Folly"  may illustrate why it was so relatively easy for the American colonists to throw off the British reins.   The British public of the 1770's was not all that interested one way or the other about keeping a grip on Ben Franklin's 13 rings of ruffians, and she quotes a high British minister as saying that according to his information, two-thirds of the British public believed that "Americans were Negroes."

This is quite an astounding statement.   Surely it is a misprint, or a misquote, not to mention a towering misperception,  because even then the British should've known that Americans instead were a collection of several hundred non-African tribes, usually led by great eloquence and spread out over the whole continent in just the right proportion to the available flora, fauna, water, and air, and it would not be until the next century that the illegal immigrants from Britain, Spain, France, Ireland, and other European countries would nearly complete their mission of completely extinguishing those native populations.

Meanwhile these male descendants of those immigrants need to watch themselves, because they could be in much more trouble than they're claiming.

  I'm certain that these "white" males who feel themselves so pitiably under the hammer that is so familiar to "Rainbow" males, especially those who remember, are more in a minority than they think, even among other "white" males, because the latter would not want to share any of what they would take to be such a great lack of self-respect.   And as for cultivating the sympathy and the regard of  "white" females, they can forget it.   These females may be married to a dismally large number of these guys, and they will suffer themselves to appear to be listening to those whimpers and moans, but that will be it.  It will be for appearance's sake and for the sake of the children, and that's all. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Obama and Libya

When it comes to perceptions of President Obama, for a while now the formerly progressive site, "Common Dreams," has become almost indistinguishable from how I imagine teapub and other regressive sites to be, at least from the comments that appear there.   The day after the U.N. approved trying to put a clamp on the way that Gaddafi was trying to obliterate the forces rebelling against his longtime, dictatorial rule, Common Dreams, in reporting that Obama had already ordered flinging 110 Tomahawk missiles into Libya, had a large headline declaring with equal speed that it was the start of "Obama's War."

But not so  ...not yet ...so far.

First of all, I thought that the Tomahawks, for all their number and lethality, were not nearly as significant as the fact that the French were already taking a hand.   It seems to me that it's been years, since De Gaulle's time or before, since France had collaborated in a significant way militarily with the other western countries.   Usually they've gone it alone, in modest ventures usually involving their former colonies in Sub-Saharan Africa.   But here, no sooner was the ink dry on the U.N. resolution than French Mirage jets were flying over Libya and taking out a few of Gaddafi's tanks along the way.

And also the Anti-Obama raggers failed to see what he was doing.  Though the rebels begged for the West to set up a no-fly zone, for starters, against Gaddafi's  superior military hardware, Obama waited first for others, especially France, Britain, and the Arab League, to commit themselves to going in with him on restraining ol' Daffydoo.  And second, he was waiting to see if the rebels could hold back Daffy themselves.  And when it wasn't looking as if they could and when the U.N. voted "Go!" and especially when it was reported that Daffy had promised the rebels that if they didn't give up right now, he would wipe them out to a man, without mercy, I think that that kind of language destroyed the last vestige of Obama's customarily huge amount of forebearance.   It wasn't civil, and so he punched the button on the cruise missiles, a la Bill Clinton into the Afghanistan airways after the various indignities of the Middle Eastern terrorists of the early 1990's.

Meanwhile the BBC has kept saying that Britain has for a while had covert ground teams moving around in Libya, spotting good targets and the like, and they've also been overflying Libya with their fighter jets.

  All operations like this have to have a good name, and the British have been calling it "Operation Ellamy."   But that falls a bit short to what Americans are calling it, "Odyssey Dawn," though, when you think about it, that doesn't make any sense either.   Hopefully the French have something better.   I don't know what the Arab League has.   In fact I haven't read what they they've contributed as yet to try to bring on "Daffy's Discouragement."

Nevertheless, with support like that in mind, Obama has vowed to keep the U.S. strictly in the background, or as understated as having over a hundred cruise missiles on the wing can be, though the pressure on him by his friends overseas will be great to get more use out of all that military hardware that the U.S. has been driving itself to the poorhouse collecting over the years.

Joshua Holland, one of the principal writers over at Alternet, and who once took it on on himself to actually post a comment on my site here when I didn't agree with something he said, has a very good article on the various ramifications of all these shots over Daffy's bows.

I can't resist adding here that also meanwhile the Regressives, in their undying efforts to hit Obama with anything that they possibly can, have been charging him with spending more time on predicting the results of the current NCAA men's basketball tournament than he has on such pressing issues as the deficit, Japan, and Libya.   But as so often, they haven't been able to get any traction with that either.   And why should they?   What do they think a great many rock solid Americans are taking time out to do these days as well?   Trying to see if they can beat the Prez in scoping out the road to the Final Four, that's what.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Radiation Escape in Japan

I have been following closely the results of the huge 8.9 earthquake that popped loose a few days ago, with its epicenter just off the northeastern coast of Japan's main island, Honshu.   As if the quake wasn't bad enough, it has been followed by deadly tsunamis and most threatening of all, in the short and the long run, the possibilities of meltdowns in several nuclear power plants at a place called Fukushima.

As it weirdly happens, Japan is the only foreign country that I am somewhat familiar with, that is, the Japan of 50 or so years ago and not at all as it exists today.   This is because it is also the only foreign country where I have ever been.   (To me Canada is far less of a foreign country than are Mississippi, Texas, or, in recent times, Arizona.)   And I was in Japan, counting Okinawa, not once but three times, the first time in 1959 while in the Air Force, the second while on a college fellowship in 1959, and the third time with my wife in 1966.  And during that third trip we checked out the northernmost of what the Japanese call their "Three Scenic Wonders," the wooded islands at Matsushima, far north of Tokyo, and that is close, by U.S. standards, to Fukushima, still farther up the coast.

Knowing how easily and how often big disasters can happen, I had always wondered at the wisdom of the Japanese, who normally are so savvy, in putting so many nuclear power plants all over the place, which is not that big a place.  As is well known, sitting right there on the rim of the Pacific volcanic cauldron, they have earthquakes all the time, with the worst one till now having been in 1923, which just about took down the whole city of Tokyo.   But I suppose that, in economics more than in any other wise, they couldn't have gotten as far as they have without those plants, and that really puts them between a rock and a hard place, where they always have to keep their fingers crossed while appearing to look inscrutable.

Knowing what could happen if Fukushima becomes as bad as Chernobyl, or worse, this catastrophe is opening wide all sorts of crucial questions not only for Japan but also for the rest of the world, given all the other countries that have likewise  invested so heavily in nuclear power generation.

This is why we should never dismiss so airily the worst things that can happen.   The worst ones are so bad that, unless we are all stark raving mad, they only have to happen once in anybody's ordinary lifetime.

Encapsulation in the Comics

A few days ago  I was crumpling some newspaper while getting ready to build a little fire in my workshop's heating stove, and suddenly, after having paid no attention to any comic pages since I don't know when, suddenly my eye snagged on a comic section.   It was just as if somehow I knew there was something in there that, for a change, I really needed to note.  And no sooner had I started what I thought was going to be just a quick, cursory scan, when I settled on the only strip that had no speech balloons.  It was the work of a man named Brian Basset, and it appeared in the 7 November 2010 issue of the Washington Post.

It showed a dog sitting on the ground and looking up at a small tree branch in full leaf.   The next panel showed a leaf or two falling.   And then in the next few panels more leaves fall, till finally the branch is bare.   Yet the dog still sits there, patiently waiting for something else to happen.   Finally the twig breaks off and it, too, falls to the ground.   The dog picks up the twig and trots off happily.

I stuffed that page into the stove while thinking, Wait a minute here!   Actually some people could take that to be the story of my life, couldn't they?  And with good reason.

And I pulled the crumpled sheet out of the stove, carefully straightened it, and added it to one of my several boxes of interesting newspaper clippings.

I wondered if there had been something else just as meaningful in those same comics, and I thought that maybe I should see.   But I long ago learned the dangers of being greedy, and instead I went ahead and started the fire -- though not a big one.   Every day it still gets a little nippy in my workshop..   

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Some Householding Needed

I have to pull myself together and edit the template for his site, so as to move that "about me" statement about staying home that awkwardly starts off this weblog the same way every day.  I need to move it over into my sidebar, and to put it in smaller print, too, and I also need to update the list of neat sites there.   But I haven't gone into the template for as long as five years, and I am desperately afraid that I'll have to go through figuring all that out all over again.

...But that is not actually supposed to be done today, is it?

Getting It in the Neck Every Time

A lot of people would call this post playing the "Victim Card,"  but that charge is always made by those who are confident that they will forever be in the ranks of those who victimize the usual targets, rather than being the targets themselves.   It is the same as the current fashion to revile "judging," though the difference between a judgment call and an honest opinion about the worth of another person is not clear to me.  Isn't that done all the time anyway?  But anyway it has always struck me with chilling force to see how, during any major disruption in the ordinary course of daily life all over the world, the anger is always turned first and most severely on those standing nearby who appear to be different in any way, regardless of anything approaching simple reason, and the easiest and most common indicator of that difference is skin color.  In other words, what I am daring to say here is that Rainbows ("black" people) always get it in the neck first.

Those who use the Holy Bible to inform their minds as well as to wipe their behinds would say that this is the curse of Noah's son, Ham, at work as it should be.  Though the validity of that charge ought to have lapsed thousands of years ago, and actually that story should never have been put out at all, it does so often seem to be that as a people we are indeed cursed, and are always sitting crumpled between a rock and a hard place, even when there's no one but us around, as events numerous countries in Africa have shown, anot just recently but dating from long before the London and Paris and Brussels boys showed up with their claim that, "Guess what, Sam?   Everything here now belongs to us."  

In the most recent history that we know about, because the writing has survived, it was always the Jews who were set upon first in Europe, during such frequent catastrophes as the Plague, the Crusades, and every other disaster where ignorance came in handy.  That was before really visible so-called "black" folk were invented, or at least imported.  Now, interestingly, some descendants of those who survived all those European pogroms have become citizens and also leaders of the colony of Israel, and as such they can enjoy the great luxury of having the inhabitants of all of the neighboring Arab countries to serve in that function.

The most recent example of the theme here involves Libya, where, in the course of the wave of protests now sweeping North Africa the Middle East and resulting in two longtime despotic leaders having so far fallen by the wayside, with a long string of others waiting and watching anxiously, the Arab protestors are having the toughest time in any of these places so far, in throwing off the yoke of a man whose name can apparently be spelled in a thousand ways, though we are told that it means simply "Spitter," or sometimes "Spitter of Mud" -- Gaddafi, or Quadaffy, or whatever. 

Quad, having been chased into holing up in one corner of Tripoli, the capital of the country that he has ramrodded for 40-odd years, is busy fighting as if there is no tomorrow, because actually the way he has reacted to the protestors means that there's a big likelihood that there will in fact be no tomorrow for him, or for those who have done the fighting for him, no matter what happens.   And there are reports that among those shooting at the protestors with deaths amounting to as many as 2,000 have been mercenaries from Sub-Saharan Africa.   But over against that you also get reports that there are from .5 to as many as 1.5 million migrant workers from Mali, Chad, Niger, and other such countries directly to Libya's south, brought into Libya to work in the oil fields and other industries, and also some to do various enforcer things for Quad.   But now they are in hiding and in severe risk from the protestors because of such reports of Rainbow mercenaries firing on the crowds from Tripoli rooftops in Quad's behalf, and hundreds who were dark-skinned or didn't speak perfect Arabic have already been killed in retaliation for such alleged deeds.

Whether or not all this is just nasty rumor, there's no reason not to fear the worst.  The numerous volumes of the past tell us so.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Let's Hear It for Sound Tracks

Someone at Time Magazine has published one of those ubiquitous and iniquitous lists of the (some number) best of something, in this case the 25 best movie sound tracks of all time.   This compiler can seem to speak with authority by being able to launch his view all over the world through an organ with such prestige as Time.  Nevertheless, by defining movie sound tracks as collections of songs, he is all wet, and as a longtime fan of movie sound tracks, I hereby firmly register my complete disagreement.

The best movie sound tracks consist instead of orchestral music written by one individual composer per film, with the human voice being only one of the many music instruments employed and usually not even the most important one.. 

My attitude can't be surprising, considering that through all the decades of its much esteemed existence, I have resolutely avoided ever seeing or hearing "The Sound of Music."   Instead at or near to the top of my list I would put the music for "Citizen Kane," as composed by Bernard Hermann, followed closely or tied by John Corigliano's score for "The Red Violin."   But there have been many other close contenders and distinguished composers.   

In fact, film scores make up a large part of the best classical music, and, for instance, it is not generally known that, though he ended up writing 15 symphonies, most of them on the major side, the great Russian composer, Dimitri Shostakovich, probably wrote even more music for films than he did for the more usual classical forms.   As he spent a lot of time being in trouble with the Soviet authorities, he probably did it mostly to pick up a crust of bread here and there, though he also knew quite well what was the good stuff.

Requiem for Dead Soldiers

The current U.S. Supreme Court, showing once again that often both common sense and wisdom are at best unwelcome guests at its deliberations, ruled a few days ago that a supposed Baptist church called Westboro, located somewhere in Kansas, can continue to show up uninvited at selected funerals for dead soldiers, albeit at a distance of a thousand feet or so.   Their purpose is not to display respect for the deceased and the loved ones that they left behind, though that respect is by far the chief purpose of all funerals that I have ever heard of.   Instead these church members from Kansas, who never even knew or heard of the deceased or his or her family and friends, display picket signs that say stuff like, "God hates dead soldiers."

All but one of the justices, a normally questionable bird named Alito, voted in favor of the ruling.   The majority's thinking, such as it was, was that the Westboro Baps' freedom to engage in free speech had to be upheld.

Thus the  Court operated on a narrow, so-called legal basis.   But sometimes, and far too often, what is legal is not right.   Legality was not right in having the slavery laws, it was not right in having the Jim Crow laws, it was not right in denying women the right to vote, it is not right in the main when it comes to the "drug war" laws, it is not right in many of the "war on terror" laws, and it is not right here.

The main thrust of the Westboro Baps is supposed to be against gay sexual behavior, and that's shaky enough.   What that antipathy is supposed to have to do with the funerals of dead soldiers is beyond all understanding.

I thought that dead soldiers have always been among America's demigods, and so I'm amazed that the patriots among us have not long ago mounted a huge drive against this behavior.

Meanwhile, ordinary human decency at the Court would at least have decreed that the Fred Phelps rooster and his flock display their views at a minimum of a mile away from the funeral, if they just had to be anywhere around at all.

I wonder if the Westboro Baps have ever collected in the middle of the Arlington National Cemetery to do their thing?   Somehow I very strongly doubt it.  What do you think?