Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Chicken shit

For those, like me, who cannot keep pets, this might appeal. I've always wanted my own chicken.


A few months ago, I blogged on the phenomenon of women who post pictures of their breasts. I didn't come to any conclusions. Here's an example.

Did I just post a gratuitous link to what P claims are her own tits? No, I did have a point.

It's this. It occurs to me that men cannot do the same thing because we lack a "secondary sexual whatsit". We only have cocks. I could post a photo of my cock (and it makes a quite beautiful picture, I assure you) but it seems a step too far (from what, I can hear you say -- but steps too far are never really from or to anywhere or anything, they are just too damned far).

Young women can thrill men simply by exposing their chests. Somehow a topless man just doesn't have the same impact (not that they cannot look good with their top off).

P is a proud member of the "Bitch Club", a webring of girls who simply can't understand why a man wouldn't want a lasting relationship with a slut who thinks she looks attractive with her head down a bog, upchucking.

Did I really just write that? I haven't even had a drink. I meant to say ... a lasting relationship with a dullard who obsesses about her weight, thinks erudition is a perfume and couldn't hold a conversation with a particularly flattering mirror.

Shit, that was all downhill from the tits.


But I know that I like to look at tits all the same, and that that liking helps perpetuate an element of our culture that I do not like. I have never been able to reconcile the two notions: that it is wrong to sell cultural artefacts solely on the back of how good a person looks in a tight shirt and how good it is to look at a person who looks good in a tight shirt. I consume Britney while despising her. I would have no space in my consciousness, even, for Britney were she not attractive (I distrust men who claim she is not -- she may not be your type but she was after all chosen for stardom for her good looks; denying it just makes you sound bitter).

The resolution most thinkers tend to find for this is to retreat into a stern quasimorality. They banish uncertainty and confusion by adopting codes that prescribe what is right about everything and anything. (This of course makes them sound a great deal more consistent than they are.)

A code is not for Dr Zen. Wallowing in stupidity and working it out on the hoof will always make more appeal than having to remember which knife cuts which meat and which key opens which social door.

Straight up, no chaser

I found out the other day that the term "homosexual" is offensive.

You what? I first thought. Given its ubiquity, gays must spend an awful lot of time being offended.

So I rooted around on the web and I found that yes, it is now thought to be offensive. And not, as I might have thought, because it puts a limit on sexuality by pigeonholing people as one type or another. Oh no. It's because it used to be used in psychology to label a "deviance". And, of course, antigays on the American Right do not call gays gay; they insist on calling them "homosexual".

Well, okay, but here's the thing. Just fuck off.

No, really. No one on this planet is offended by the term "homosexual". What it is is a shibboleth. If you use it, you just don't know. You do not know the code, the correct word, and you are not allowed in.

Already I read in some places that "gay" is no good. One must say "gay man". I haven't yet been able to stomach reading the explanation but I'm thinking it must be because gay describes something about a person rather than the person themselves. Because it is not the totality, it is wrong.

(But gays call straights straights. And heterosexuals. Personally, I've never much cared for "heterosexual". It doesn't really capture how I feel about my own sexuality at all. Nor does "straight". As I've noted before, I feel satisfyingly curvy when it comes to sex.)

Dyke is out of the question, unless you are a dyke, in which case it's okay. Personally, I missed the part where dyke became anything like acceptable, so I don't use it. When it becomes okay, I hope someone lets me know, because I'd hate to "offend" the lesbians in my life whom I love dearly by not calling them dykes when I'm supposed to.

This use of shibboleths was pioneered in talking to and about blacks. I've never liked "blacks", because people who could be identified as nonwhite come in so wide a variety, from such an enormous diversity of backgrounds, as not to have sufficient in common (barring some African ancestry, unless they are indigenous Australians or negritos) to be considered one thing and not another. But I like it a whole lot better than "persons of colour". I've always felt that that rather made me a "colourless" and I don't like that. I'm not keen on "white" either but of course whites don't feel the need to be identified as homogeneous because we are too aware that we are not.

As for African-American, well, its silliness has been exposed enough times to puncture the pomposity that fuelled it. There are no white African-Americans, despite plenty of Americans' having come from Africa and being white. Many African-Americans are only a reasonably small part African; some actually are African; most would not like Africa if they were to go there -- the places that slaves were sourced from are pretty short on McDonald's and largely do not speak English, let alone Ebonics.

The word I like most is "people". If I need to call you anything else, well, lucky for us both, your mum and dad thought to provide you with a name, and, if you don't like that, you are free, as we all are, to present yourself under another name of your choosing.

I couldn't care less who fucks whom. Why should I? And I care even less about learning what is today's word for you if you fuck who you fuck. And, best of all, I've never really wanted to be in, so I can happily stay out here, "offending" anyone who wants to be offended, not giving a fuck about fucking.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004


How ordinary glory looks. How short the lives we throw away to make others rich and others poor.

And when it's done, we are nothing but the tears of those we left behind. When they are dried, nothing. Not a thing.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Bot fodder

I have made Lady Chatterly's radar. At last! It's the notice I've been craving Now if only she had cited my blog URL...

Feeling your Rage

I am watching the Rage Top Fifty (so named it seems because it is calculated to enrage anyone who actually likes music) and Britney is telling me that it is her prerogative to be "nasty". This doesn't seem to be the message parents would want their teens to hear, especially since "nasty" is pr0n talk for "promiscuous" (hey, I'm avoiding "slutty" -- no value judgments here). The film clip itself is semipornographic, displaying Britney to good advantage.

Here's a mystery that I've never quite got to the bottom of. Pop stars are hot. They display hard young bodies that their audience would like to have (no sniggering at the back, I mean they'd literally like to look like Britney). But they make music. Does the music inspire the same aspirations as the video? In this case, I can't see how. It's weedy, semi-urban chaff. Britney barks rather than sings (it's all she needs to do because her voice is just distinctive enough -- on her records she need only identify herself as Britney: my theory is that content is of no particular concern to the audience or creators for this kind of music -- you're buying Britney product and what it consists of isn't important (in the same way that you buy Coke and it doesn't matter that it's almost tasteless fizzy water). How else can a record in which Britney exhorts her man to hit her one more time be explained? Metaphors of hitting aside -- hey, maybe Britney likes blackjack -- it's clear that the song can be interpreted as the siren song of the woman who loves her man even though he's violent).

In the same vein, Destiny's Child ask their man if he can "lose my breath". To make this admirable sentiment scan, the words "make me" has to go. The skill of a poet, though, is to make all the necessary words fit or find another way to say what you want to. If I'm asked "can you lose my breath?", I'm confused. Well, no. Why are you asking? Don't you want it any more?

Beyonce is hot though. Without doubt she is the beyonce-est thing in pop music. If I were her I'd take a cast of my arse, and keep it in the garage, in the hopes that I could achieve a Dorian Gray type effect. Beyonce would strike 60 and be as pert as she is today. She wouldn't want to let anyone else park her car though.

The music will, of course, be feted. I recognise that it is produced by someone hot, even though I don't know who it is. But it is not actually very good. It's very thin, which a lot of contemporary R&B and urban is. Yes, the sounds are cutting edge and if pushed, these people probably would agree they are making the new Motown or perhaps the new Stax. Maybe. Maybe they're just making pisspoor Northern Soul though. I simply offer the possibility for consideration.

Delta Goodrem is not at all beyonce and she's definitely not nasty. She's not aiming at the same audience as the other girls, although you'd be hard pressed to work out exactly who she thinks will like this run-of-the-mill emotopop (maybe her granny?). Delta is a nice-looking girl but she's not hot. She is poorly directed in the video, which she largely spends rolling around and pulling funny faces. Why do these people bother? I often wonder that. Yes, it's nice to have a career in popular music, to be famous and have famous boyfriends, but what is your contribution to our culture? What are you giving? I know, you make people happy. But let's face it. If you and others simply didn't bother, the people might discover Aretha and Marvin, and instead of watching you getting "nasty", they could do the sweet thang for themselves.

Mind you, there are worse things in life than useless soap stars who make dreary records. Some chav called Joshua Turner (and a band laughably named the Modernday Poets, just in case we don't understand how sensitive they are) lectures me for three minutes about how homeless young people are caught in a struggle. The problem is, I'm yelling at the loser in the video to lose the fucking lip ring and get a job, you lazy good-for-nothing. There is nothing like an earnest youngster to bring out my dad's genes in me. Joshua mutters and whines about life's unfairness and how, rilly, if we'd just open our hearts and shit, perhaps donate a large chunk of our royalties to shelter programmes or maybe just say, shit, let's not bother with this awful nonsense and give the two hundred grand the video cost to the guy on the street and his troubles are over... nah, Joshua's solution, as most teens is, is that "someone else" should do "something". But Joshua, do think about the video money solution, because with a bit of honest parsimony, two hundred grand would keep a teen off the streets for ten or more years. Surely the guy could find a job in that time? I had to go and make coffee at that point because not only had someone begun a 1980s guitar solo for absolutely no reason (except one presumes as a desperate and misguided attempt to broaden J's appeal to the rawk crowd) my scheme for pimping Joshua -- a nice-looking lad -- to make money to help the genuinely in need had grown to a fully costed programme and that's sick.

Worse than Joshua, by far, was the bilge they inflicted on me next. I have a hypothesis that no "rock" star ever improves once they pass 35. Indeed, decline is inevitable. In other areas (luckily for me) artists just get better with age. Picasso was brilliant in his twenties, and his genius did not flag for his entire life. The list of writers that become wonderful in their forties is very long. This is probably because painting and writing are arts of insight, which are only improved by experience (which we all know tends to bring more insight -- okay, that's purely theoretical in most cases, because no one with an IQ in three digits actually believes they grow wiser as they get older. Or is it just me? I knew everything when I was 25, now I'm confused. The more I know, the less I understand, in the wisdom sense of understand rather than the I know the words sense). But in rock, youth is all. It's about fire, energy -- and these are things you have at 25 but have to fake at 45 (there are compensations, don't get me wrong -- at least I hope so... perhaps 45 will be much bleaker than I'm thinking. To be honest, I'd settle for still having some teeth). Most older rock stars churn out just more and more turgescence (I was going to write "turge" because I thought, hey, "turgid" should have a noun for stuff that is turgid, so I dico'd it and bingo, it does and it's fantastic). They don't top the last record, they bottom it. Sometimes, recognising this, the rock star will do an acoustic album or "pay their dues" by murdering someone else's songs. Simply not bothering just doesn't occur to the idiots. Their loyal fans buy the stuff, of course, but let's face it, if you buy all of U2's output, you don't like music anyway. Yes, we are talking about the "mountain goat" and the dreary pub rockers who background his groaning nonsense. You know, it's unseemly for men of a certain age to wear shades and leathers. I don't believe in being "young at heart". I believe in acting your age. The Hindus believe each part of life should be lived, that there is an appropriate phase for each stage of it. I think they are right. Bonio disagreees (English injoke, don't fret about it if you aren't lucky enough to be one of us). He thinks his new record is exciting. You and I know it's more of the same. This is how far Bonio and I are from having the same conception of the world: he kicks off his new record by counting in "unos, dos, tres, quatorce"... what the fuck? What meaning does it have to count 1, 2, 3, 14 (insultingly badly pronounced), except to have people point at you and say "stupid cunt"? I mean, really? Tell me. Bonio, you're an artist, with something to say, right? Well, what were you saying? It's okay, I'll answer for you. You were saying, I was doing a silly joke. Everyone in the studio laughed. Bonio, you are paying everyone in the studio. They all think you're an arsehole. So do I. Now I can't turn on the radio, the TV or even risk going outside without being assailed by your (entirely misconceived) idea of what kick-ass rocknroll is. I am stuck at home for three months because you are the antichrist of rock. Hordes of youngsters in tight trousers should mob you and kick you to death. I'm not kidding. Look, do you see a smile, Mr Fucking Hola, here we go, I'm feeling dizzy?

Then Eminem comes on. There's a school of thought that Eminem is a modern-day commentator of note (well-meaning Hampsteadite wankers whose conception of the world could kindly be described as "cushioned" mostly). Some say he's a fine poet, a genius wordsmith, who dissects the modern condition and gives us profound insight into how young men face a world of hurt. Yes, and the emperor has a coat spun from silk so fine it's, erm, transparent. Dudes, he's not ironically hating women or espousing racism. He sings it because it sells. He's a novelty act, barely literate, no more coherent or insightful than his audience. Hello?

I turn the whiny fuckhead off. The programme worked. I'm thoroughly outraged. We live in a world that so treats our youngsters that they lap this shit up. I don't want them to sit quietly in the corner reading Proust, but fucksake, can we not love them a bit more than this? Yes, I am saying that if you encourage the likes of these, you hate children. I'll go further and say that if you encourage Eminem, you probably eat children. Bastids.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Quiet desperation

There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

We are all dying in parts and pieces. Some days you feel it more than others. Of late, I have been dying more quickly than I should. I am ground between a rock and a hard place. The rock is my life that I wake up to each morning, bemused that it can have led here, to this; the hard place is my self, the door that stands between me and freedom.

Freedom! I have often thought I knew what it meant and yet whenever I have had the opportunity to embrace it I have quailed. I have always been too scared to relinquish something important in doing so, and yet I don't have the least idea what about me is important and what is affectation.

Is that what it is? It seems like it sometimes. I know I am not a victim of my fate and I do not believe I am determined to be this way. I am sure I could change if I wanted, but I do not know how to want.

I cannot make sense thinking about it because it is something inchoate within me, it is who I am in a way nothing else about me is. What is it that I cannot feed, cannot negotiate with, cannot seem to undo; when I have hold of it, or think I have, I find before I can twist off a knot it is gone.


How can I tell C that I have agoraphobia and do not want to go out tomorrow night? I do not even understand why I don't want to. It is about him: I don't want to torture myself over whether he likes me or just tolerates me; it is about the place: I do not want to step into a new place in the Valley where I will not fit, where my clothes will be wrong, my face, just me (and it just does not help to say no one will notice -- it doesn't matter that no one will notice -- I simply cannot understand whether I am more afraid that no one will notice or that they will); it is about me: I do not want to have to be DR (I fucking hate him! I hate every inch of him! I despise the whining prick! I want to drag him outside and kick the living shit out of him! He can never fucking shut up! The idiot! Can he not just dissolve!).


How can I begin to tell Mrs Zen that I cannot face my life being this and that it must change or I will cease to be able to survive it? How can I tell anyone anything? I'm in the fucking way. I cannot be honest because I do not know anything honestly.

I want to repent but I cannot think what exactly I have to repent, and I know that you cannot.

No one allows you to return the clock to zero. No one allows you the space to just cease to be for an instant. That is all it would take.

The greater part of what my neighbors call good I believe in my soul to be bad, and if I repent of anything, it is very likely to be my good behavior.


I know I have become incoherent. I have ceased to be able to think in sentences. I have lost my ability as a copyeditor. I cannot trust myself. When I look back over my work I can see that I no longer put enough into it and I cannot rely on it.

What has destroyed it? Is it lack of concentration? I know I don't concentrate. Maybe it's a mental thing.

Maybe it's age. Drugs (not many), drink (too much)... I feel like I'm stupider than I ever was. I feel unable to grasp anything. Of course, I'm agile still. Of course, I can work small amounts of material.

If I cannot edit, I'm unemployable. I'm nearly there already. How long could I fool people? I was a lot better than average so maybe I have plenty of decline left before I simply cannot pass as an editor.

What a fate! I was brilliant at something I despised and now I will be despicably poor at it and despise it all the more.


I want this to cease. But the door is locked and there is no key. I am too scared to open the door and I am pretending it is locked. I am holding the key.

I cannot just ring C up. It is impossible to articulate. Have you never felt fear that you could not describe?

Mrs Zen thinks it is what she has always been telling me, but she doesn't realise that she is complacent and unable to feel. Jesus, I don't want my kids to grow here among these people who do not feel. I cannot help myself. I cannot even articulate what I hate about them. I'm sure they're unobjectionable. I don't have a reason. If I had reason, I would not be biting the walls of my cage, screaming to be let out.

I need to start smoking again. I have barely ceased to hate myself since I stopped. I have been entirely unable to get my head straight. I have been bemused for four years. I need to be able to sit outside, wrapped in a cigarette. I need to be able to stop it, fucking stop it, stop it, just for long enough. I could count to ten but somehow I'm unable.


A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind.

I despair of Dr Zen. Nothing good can come of him.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

The Northern Lights

When I made my attempt to see the Northern Lights, it was a total failure. Stormy weather made it impossible. We tried. We drove to the very end of Seltjarnarnes and walked as far as we could into the night, to try to escape the city's lights, but the low cloud made it impossible.

I don't think I've ever been colder. Walking back, we struggled in the teeth of the wind. It had been ten degrees under during the day, according to the dash thermometer, so I can only guess what it was out in the storm. For a moment, I could understand why polar explorers and mountaineers sometimes feel the urge to lay down and give it up.

Reykjavik is a wonder, its centre like a toytown, a model. It does not seem at all like a real place to live. It is on a human scale entirely, a warm place. I often think about it because, for me, it is exactly how our towns should be, heartful, unaffected.

The first time I went to Iceland I found the people distant, rude even. It was summer, when there are many tourists. I don't know why we assume that people in service industries will be happy to serve. I suppose in my case I have become used to the almost entirely faked jollity of Australian shop staff, who trot through their days like Stepfordian robots, grinning like fools, wishing you a good day through gritted teeth. Often they are schoolchildren, earning pocket money, cowed by the fear of losing their jobs. I should think Icelanders have far less reason to be happy to be servants. They are generally well educated and need to work more than one job just to stay alive in a very expensive country.

When I went back in the winter, I found it a much warmer place. People seemed genuinely welcoming. Perhaps they were touched that people should visit them in times that drive sane men over the edge (the winter depression grips many in Iceland, the lack of sun bringing on a gloominess that they cannot shake).

I rarely return to a place, once I have visited it, because there are so many I want to see. The contrast in seasons made Iceland very much worth revisiting, and I so much wanted my family to share it. I knew -- and I was right to know -- that my mother would love it too. I wanted her to share that with me before I came back here. I couldn't begin to express what she means to me. Love does not cover it, or even begin to. Now I have three children of my own, I'm beginning to understand how much I owe her.

Of course, there are places I want to see again. There were opportunities I missed, understandings I did not acquire that I might now -- or perhaps not! I flatter myself that I have grown but I so often let myself down that I know I must not deceive myself about that too much. But I would love to walk again from Brin to Enampore, and stay in the impluvium, feel once more the perfect calm of the afternoon there. I would stay longer. And if I heard the villagers' drums, this time I would not be too shy to join them. Or if I was shy, I would force myself to face up to it, because I can, I have learned I can.

I would sit there and read Songlines, my bible, I suppose, a book I love without reserve:

'I have a vision of the Songlines stretching across the continents and ages; that wherever men have trodden they have left a trail of song; and that these trails must reach back, in time and space, to an isolated pocket in the African savannah, where the First Man shouted the opening stanza to the World Song, "I am!"'

We are! We still are despite all that! And not one of us has yet learned the whole of the map of who we are and what roads we should tread, no matter that many believe they have.

I would return also to Shimla and drink coffee once more in the main square. I was happy, truly happy then, and I have never been since. Yes, my world has changed too much to ever go back but I would go just the same, because it will remind me that you can always begin again, even if it seems you cannot, and that I must never lose faith entirely in myself, however low the flame flickers from time to time, and now it is so close to going out altogether.

Wherever we go, we gather a part of it into us, and, if we are lucky, we leave a part of us behind. Do I hope that if I return to this place or that I might find the parts I lost, or do I want a second chance at ridding myself of enough that I am fit for oblivion?

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

God bless Canada, the land of the free?

An alternative to secession would be for the reality-based sections of America to join up with Canada. Everyone would be happier. To begin with.

Without the powerhouse economy of California and with its market split (not to mention that without the progressives, Jesusland would face a dim future as a benighted demitheocracy), Jesusland, or Idiotica, as I'm beginning to think of it, would sink economically.

Of course, America is not quite so simply divided, as these maps show. Or at least the division is more readily understood as being between insular rural folk and outward-looking urban folk. It's no secret that countryfolk are more conservative than citydwellers, and to tell the truth, those areas in the midwest that are very red are a long, long way from anywhere. It's easy to understand why those people do not feel part of the world.

Not half as sorry as you're going to be

Okay, they're not all fucking idiots.

Liberate us next!

As this article shows, the Americans are going to have to liberate a lot more areas of Iraq. Who knew that Al Qaida had so many supporters in Iraq! And so many of them women and children too.

The truth remains that there is a broad-based insurgency, a resistance against the American presence in Iraq, and all that the US is achieving is a lot of rubble and plenty of dead Iraqis.

And that insurgency is growing, not becoming more controlled, the longer US troops are in Iraq, murdering civilians.

At this rate, there'll never be an election for them to duly rig.

It all turns out fine... when you own the machines

This is how bonkers rightwhinging liars (and their fellow-travelling "moderate" pals in the Democratic Party, who are now urging a rightward turn to try to appeal to the Neanderthal South) can be:

"If (as is usually the case) the polling places are operating below their capacity, then this technique will pick up two important aspects of the final total. First, it will accurately capture the relative vote for Bush and Kerry in each targeted precinct. Second, if turnout is higher than the past standard for that precinct, the poll will also show a higher count for that precinct, which gives the pollster a fighting chance to identify a turnout surge in one part of the state or another.

But suppose voting is much higher than expected. And suppose further that (for reasons to be discussed below), precincts are operating at their capacity--or, even worse, that their capacity has been reduced, relative to previous elections, because of a complicated ballot or shortage of machines. In that case, the exit pollster will not see the full increase in turnout during any fixed period of time. Instead, there will be a queue of voters, many of whom will actually vote only later, after the time window for the exit poll has closed. That element in the increased turnout will be missed. Since turnout did surge more in Florida's red than blue counties, this is a sufficient explanation for the failure of the exit polls there, unless something further and heinous comes to light. Don't count on it."

Did you read that carefully? The exit polls got it wrong because all the Republicans were still queueing!

That's what the guy is saying. The polls did not capture the increased turnout (all Republican) because they only worked for five hours. What Galbraith ignores, of course, is that the sample polled by the exit pollers is no more or less likely to be representative than the people in the queue!

His argument would only hold up if two things were true: first, that exit polls claim to poll everyone who votes all day long (they do not, of course; they claim to poll a sample) and that Republicans don't vote before midday (perhaps they are all late sleepers).

I note also that Galbraith's sharing of increased turnout is all done ex post facto! Hello? He says that Bush improved his share but he is basing this on the vote that we say is flawed! Of course he improved his share. We're saying his share was improved by Diebold. It's exactly because there was no corresponding increase in Republican registrations that Hartmann and others suggest that the increase was, erm, virtual.

What about his suggestion of vote by mail? It works in Oregon.

Well yes, but isn't Oregon blue? How long before red state election supervisors are accused of "losing" ballots. They have to retain them for some time in this kind of system, store them, etc.

Maybe it would work. So long as Diebold don't make the scanners...

More Falluja

The photo on this page alerted me to the new tactic that's being used in the war on the world, sorry, I meant to say terror.

Maim Moslems before they can become terrorists! Get them while they're toddlers.

Why was this child's house shelled? How is this fighting terrorists?

Is this peace? Is this how we bring peace to the world? Kill everything that moves, destroy the places people live in and maim children.

I am angry, fiercely angry, with the people of America who elected again the warmongerers who perpetrate this slaughter, this wanton destruction, this Schrecklichkeit. Let's call it what it is. Fucking murder and you voted for it.

This has always been a world for you, I know, in which destroying a living child's life by maiming him is more "moral" than allowing a woman to choose whether some of the cells of her body become a child or not. It has always been true in your world that murdering civilians as they run away from your troops is more "moral" than two guys who love each other being allowed to leave each other their estate.

And you have the world you want, one in which you feel you cannot sleep safely in your beds! Lucky you.

Murder in Falluja

We will never know how many died in Falluja.

The army did not allow aid into the devastated city, because it claimed it could take care of the civilians there. It is precisely their "taking care" of the civilians they do not want reported to the outside world. They know that the Red Crescent would tell us what they found.

Bombing and shelling neighbourhoods cannot be described as "precision strikes". The US had no idea where the insurgents actually were before they went in, but they still bombarded the town. They described what they did as "pounding insurgent positions" but guerrillas do not have "positions". These are guys who have an RPG in their living room and mobilise quickly. They don't sit around in barracks waiting to be killed.

The US claims it killed 1200 insurgents in Falluja. It does not have anything to say about civilian casualties. Allawi says there were no civilian casualties. However, there are plenty of eyewitness reports of civilian deaths, including those of doctors in a clinic, as reported in the Guardian. And Allawi seems to have ignored his own health minister's reporting the evacuation of civilian casualties.


At practically the same time that the Americans announced they had control of Falluja, we found out that Bush had sacked Colin Powell... sorry, let me rephrase that, that Powell had resigned "by mutual agreement". ("I think you should go, Colin." "I agree, boss.")

Powell was disillusioned by the "fucking crazies" that push the policy agenda in the States but he was still willing to front for them and lie on their behalf at the UN. He is thought to have been a moderating voice in the administration but I can only note that even when he found out that he had been used as a stooge, he stayed in the job. The loyal soldier aye, he was only followink orders right up to the end of the term.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Belief system

Of course, religions can be secular too. The Western capitalist orthodoxy is almost as entrenched as the Catholic church of the middle ages, despite its extremely shaky foundations. Most commentators, let alone the man in the street, could not defend it because they do not actually know what its basis is. It is perceived to be true without any analysis.

Is this a bad thing? Can we question everything? Must we not accept some things?

I'd suggest that there is a clear difference between contingent and absolute acceptance.

For instance, I accept that certain norms of courtesy and social behaviour are good things, although I've never particularly questioned them. I was surprised to find when I went to other places that I was rather upset that behaviour that I had taken to be basic was not universally thought to be so (imagine, if you will, the naive Dr Zen, boiling with anger at the sight of an old lady knocked into a puddle in Chennai by more able passengers keen to grab seats on a bus). Well, you live and learn but still I accepted that the norms I adhere to are in some sense right.

But this acceptance is contingent. I know that I have not reasoned it, that I have not analysed society and my place in it and worked out whether in fact those norms do aid its working or hinder it.

Another clear example is my belief that the pursuit of money is not noble. I've never really thought it through. I just sort of feel that way. I accept that greedheads are shitheads without thinking through the whole thing (which is not to say that I have never considered some elements of the question, such as whether corporations create jobs or suck wealth out of poorer nations, which is readily open for analysis; I am talking about a much more personal, elemental notion of greedheadedness -- the belief that would prevent me from pursuing monetary gain by playing the game in a career is what I'm talking about here). But perhaps given the short span of life, and how much more you can enjoy it when you have money, I am wrong to feel that way (but would I enjoy it, blah blah blah, long hours, soullessness, blah blah blah, you see how quickly you can embroil yourself in a discussion about it). Perhaps I should have pursued the dollar more fiercely, so that now I would not fret so much over the bills, the kids' futures, all that shit (but I'd fret over over things, wouldn't I, such as what it had taken to not have to fret and... gawd).

For my own sanity, I have accepted some of the melange of half-digested bullshit I have been fed, read and seen in my life. However, I do believe that I am capable of questioning it all (although whether I would have the strength to reject what I needed to reject is a whole different matter).

It is the unquestionable belief that I have always found hard to swallow. The belief that is its own reasoning. The belief in gods that defines all answers to questions about it in terms of itself; the belief in an ideology that cannot step outside itself to answer questions about itself (the sort of ideology that has my friend Hip Liz so firmly in its grasp, I'm sad to say, and more so as he spends more time in the company of those who do not share it, retreating into his shell of indefensible positions); the belief in institutions such as land ownership and marriage as unquestionable foundations of our society rather than constructs of questionable value (who ever asks themselves by what right they own their house? Yes, you worked to pay for it, but why does that make it yours? I promise you your head will hurt if you try to find an absolutely unquestionable answer to that question, and yet we take that right to be unquestionable); the belief that there are rights and not relations (the former is a legal fiction that describes the latter; but try to tell most Americans that -- so many believe that they are something mystical, which either God endowed them with or that somehow floated in from the ether); these beliefs are of course the ones people kill for, because they cannot be compromised. They cannot ever back down from them because they are not changeable (or if they are changed, it is done with such force that psychic damage results).

Perhaps I am lucky not to be ensnared by such beliefs. Perhaps I simply fool myself that the beliefs I think are contingent are less mutable than I hope. Perhaps it is cowardice not to choose.

The latter I doubt, because contingent beliefs can be broad enough and firm enough to form a worldview. I accept that the scientific method is a successful means of inquiry and that its core is, if not true, workable as a contingent truth. (Antiscientists often make the mistake of thinking that because the core theories of science are falsifiable they are readily challengeable. They are not. They are extremely difficult to falsify, and even if they were falsified, they would most likely be damaged rather than destroyed. What is beyond question is that it takes more to make them false than simply to claim they are false in one small specific and think that that does any more than make that specific false. For instance, Newton's planetary theory was falsified in its detail by Einstein, but it is not, for all that, in the dustbin.)

Well, I do not know. Strangely, I find that comforting. Not knowing. I will never have to hurt another person for my beliefs if I do not have any.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Abandon hope

This is why I find it impossible to believe that God sent down his only son to pay for my sins.

I am an ape. A type of African ape, fairly closely related to the other types. Not only was I descended from monkeys, I am a monkey. I look at people on the bus sometimes, and I think, you know, fool yourself all you will, but we do look a lot like chimps.

So as a being I am nothing special.

I live in a city, which is nothing more than an accretion of the burrows of those apes, on a smallish, rocky planet with a thin gas covering, spinning round a small fireball on the outer edges of a smallish galaxy.

It is 93 million miles to that fireball. That's quite a long way. It takes 13-14 hours to drive to Sydney from here, and that's only about 700 miles. You'd need a lot of gas to get to Mars, let alone the Sun.

It's another four light years to the nearest star. That doesn't sound like very far.

Only four! Yes, but turn it into miles and it's 5,880,000,000,000. That's nearly as many miles as America owes the world in dollars! It's more than 63,000 times as far away from Earth as the Sun is.

I can see, when I look up into the night sky, stars that are a *billion* times further away than that (give or take a bit).

This is a commonplace, that we are so insignificant against the backdrop of a truly enormous universe. But here's the thing.

Life is a billion billion to one chance, or some such odds (forget what it actually is, it's not important). But there are trillions, quadrillions, pentillions, bazillions of stars (okay, I admit it, I'm lost after four, but how many things do you count that you need *that many* zeroes) and an almost equally large number of planets.

If something is a million to one chance, there need only be a million chances for it to be a certainty. That's what probability is.

Are you willing to claim that a certain type of ape is special enough that the chances against it are greater than the number of planets in the entire universe?

If you are, you know nothing about probability and you are doubtless the kind of person credulous enough to believe in a personal god in the first place.

We would never know. There would be no way to find out. No message from them to us or us to them will ever make its target -- the chances are the universe will run out of steam long before then (I'm using steam entirely metaphorically -- the universe will continue to power us or our descendants, in the broadest sense (which means descendants of whoever's left standing on our planet, if anyone, billions of years from now; it's pure vanity to think that our twig will still be flourishing on the tree of life), long after it is so cold that getting the energy into one place to create steam would take so much effort as to be impossible (yes, that day will come; that's what heat death will be like)). But they are there, you can be fairly certain.

So this is the thing. A universe on a scale that was utterly inconceivable to Bronze Age nomads sitting in their tents, clinging fiercely to their piece of land, their identity, with at times nothing but their god to keep them going, which uses almost all its energy on things not much to do with us (although everything, in a tiny way, and that's a tininess equally inconceivable to us, let alone them, does have something to do with everything), in which our specialness is a construct of our own fear and has not a whit of evidence for it (but much, much evidence for the universe's callous indifference to us, which it is liable to display by sending an asteroid towards us, as it has in the past, which will destroy not just us but everything else that lives on this planet, as it may well have done in the past, leaving us to have to evolve all over again, as... well, we didn't, but life might well have done).

And this is the thing. Yes, a god might have created all that. Yes, he might have had some idea that there would be a universe spring from the nothingness. He might even have been able to do what the laws of physics say he could not, and read the future (although it's hard to believe that even a god can ignore the uncertainty principle because it is not a law in the sense of the laws we have against murder or theft, but is written into the universe, part of *how it is*) and he may have known that there would be on this planet (and on many others) apes that would walk, talk, send him messages (not powered by steam but by prayer, which even on the last day of a universe that has died, we will still be using, I daresay, although what we will pray to I don't know) and perhaps even sing at him once a week.

But while I can believe that Allah made us, I can believe that Jehovah wanted a universe to adorn him (can but don't, if you know what I mean), while I can believe that Brahma has this wonderful plaything, that he turned the key, I cannot believe that he would care, with this enormous toy that he would care whether an ape like me is a naughty boy.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Letters to the editor

This is my blog.

Well, dur. But I mean more than that says on the face of it.

It's my blog. For me. I am my intended audience. I never make any pretence otherwise and only occasionally address anything to anyone else (as if to prove that I am not as consistent as I might be). By focusing so tightly on an audience, I can write easily and fluently precisely what I know that audience will enjoy. If anyone else enjoys it, that's a byproduct. A welcome one, I hasten to add. I love having readers.

Sometimes those readers comment on what I've written or something vaguely connected. Clearly, I welcome that too. I stuck them in there after all.

But here's a curious thing. Because the blog is for me, I believe the comments are for me too.

A sharpeyed, time-rich reader might have noticed that a comment has been refactored. I did it for fun. The comment was for me, so I made it a communication from me. It's a wiki thing, if you like. I've said before I won't be trolled on my own blog and I won't be. Usually, I would ignore a troll. I know enough about how trolling works to know that that really is the only way to deal with them. But it's a kindness to the boy not to leave him swinging.

Now. Someone has told me they feel this doesn't square with my firm belief in free speech, which I've often stated. I don't agree. I haven't banned any users from commenting. Anyone is free to.

I think of it like a newspaper. At first, I was going to say that it was like a letter to the editor, because we do not dispute that a newspaper might edit your letter or refuse it, and yet that is not taken to be censorship as such.

But it is more like this: a newspaper does not have to print an article you write. If it does, it is free to do with it what it chooses. That's how I look at my comments.

Did I just bend the rules?


Perhaps. Is there a rule that says that all media must allow any expression whatsoever and may not set limits on it? Is that what freedom of speech means? Must I protest whenever a newspaper is biased, because it will not publish the opposing view?


Well, of course there is no "must" about it. I make my own rules and they do not have to be solidly inflexible edifices. They can if I choose be as wishywashy as "freedom of expression is a good thing".

Now, if the means of dissenting were denied to those who held the opposing view, this is something I would protest. While each individual newspaper might have discretion over who gets published and who does not, and can edit you how they choose if that is the agreement between you, there ought not to be restrictions on who can have a newspaper. Anything that reduces the restrictions is by extension going to be a good thing.

In this instance, if you feared that your marvellously well-reasoned "Dr Zen is a cunt" might transform itself by the magic of my editor's pen into "Dr Zen is brill", there is a means to express yourself without my totalitarian interference. Call me a cunt on your own blog. I'd defend your right to do so.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Fire it up

Okay, I'm not the first. I'm not even the eight millionth. But I've never claimed to be a trailblazer (which is just as well, otherwise I'd be laughed out of the virtual room). But I have switched to Firefox and I say Fuck you very much, Mr Gates.

It has a few problems (it seems to need to think things over from time to time, freezing up my whole machine) but it does have the features I need, above and beyond that piece of shit that masquerades as a browser but works as a revolving door for spyware, trojans and other bastids who want into my PC, IE. I'm particularly going to enjoy tabbed browsing (open everything! spend all day reading nonsense about nothing much in particular) and it's handy that I can get the RSS feed of favourite blogs and my Haloscan comments in my toolbar. Now the wit and wisdom of my beloved readers will never pass me by. There is all sorts of other functionality, so they say, although I'm too lazy to find out about much of it (with a bit of luck Father Luke will be along to tell me what I really need to know).

What makes Firefox great? Forget the functions. Forget everything. It was done for nothing. That's what. No one makes a fortune out of it.

For a believer in community, in the commonality of the human race, in giving as well as taking, it is a monument, a wonder.

How they might have rigged it

Is it really this breathtakingly simple?

Those who are not technically minded (which, even in a world that is wired, linked and connected up, down and sideways, is nearly everyone) would conclude that no, it couldn't be.

But of course it is. If it turns out to be true that Diebold's machines run an Access-type database, then this duplication of tables is child's play to have programmed in. You could have a reporting tool that systematically cheated.

How would we ever know

I find it rather unlikely that anyone at Diebold is going to confess. It would have only taken a few people. And these people are fiercely loyal to one another. The prize is what counts for them...

Speak and spell

M is worried about her daughter's spelling.

She tells us that last year she was doing very well in tests but with a change of teacher, her results have dropped off. She spoke to the teacher and he didn't seem concerned. We're focusing on expression this year, he has told her.

M's daughter is switching schools for next year for unrelated reasons. I'm going to ask them, she says, what they think about spelling.

What does it matter? I say to her. The child's only 8. In any case, I say, what counts in literacy is how good you are at saying what you want to say, not whether you can spell it.

M is, of course, a rightist. She's not politically aware enough to know that that is what she is (the distinction between right and left is lost on most people, and they are none the worse for that.

But surely spelling is not a political issue, I can hear you saying. Surely right and left agree that it is a good thing that children should be able to spell? Well yes, but it's a question of emphasis.

The right sees in a fall in scores for spelling the ruination of the education system. In the same way, M sees her daughter's no longer being able to reliably spell near as a symbol of the school's going downhill. She does not ask herself whether there are any other factors in her daughter's seeming lack of progress (whether perhaps children are better able to spell when their English-learning effort consists solely of learning how to spell a few dozen words than they are when they are called on to make sentences out of the words they know how to write; whether an 8-year-old has a different set of abilities in memory than a 7-year-old; whether her child is otherwise tired or stressed -- perhaps because she is a talented gymnast who trains for 25 hours a week or because her parents have marital problems). Rightists do not, it seems to me, look beyond the obvious answer when they consider these or any other issues.


As it happens, a lot of effort is put into learning to spell to very little reward. It seems to me that I can spell because I read. In most of my classes that focused on spelling, I knew the answers before I was posed the questions because I was an avid reader. It is impossible to learn English spelling entirely by rule because there is no straight correspondence between sound and spelling. (This might seem obvious to the literate but it is the entire problem. Learning to spell Polish or Italian is easy and a child need only learn the rules of correspondence. And note that the problem with English spelling is often misstated. People complain that letters do not represent the same sound (the famous ghoti example springs to mind, but that is not a problem -- one would simply learn the 1 to M correspondences and have a slightly longer but no more complex task in learning to spell -- rather it is that when you hear the sound "i:", you cannot know how to spell it by rule. Should you write "ea", "ee", "i", "y"? It depends entirely on the word.) When M's child hears "near", it is saying to her "spell me 'neer'". (As an aside, perhaps in the previous year, when she spelled "near" correctly, she had not encountered "deer"; and, having now met that word, has generalised its spelling. This is what children are hardwired to do with language, as those with toddlers who make endearing errors with the past tense know -- I particularly like "ated". We learn, in time, and with greater exposure to the language, what cannot be generalised. In any case, "ea" vs "ee" is a minefield, complicated further by "eCe". There are confusing homophones that frustratingly do not make complete sets(dear, deer; sear, seer, sere; meat, meet, mete; beat, beet).)

What is the solution? Have the child read. When she sees enough times that "near" is so spelled, she will not err. Chinese schoolchildren learn by associating shapes with words, and in fact, when you teach literacy, you begin by teaching the student to do the same with English words. Readers do not as it happens spell out words. They recognise them in batches. Nor in writing is it likely we spell out what we want to say. We call up the word entire. (Of course, in typing it, our fingers must be instructed how to proceed, but does that mean that we spell it out as we think it? I don't think so.) I doubt many people who read a lot have many problems with spelling. (Even editors such as Dr Zen occasionally write "their" for "there" and forget how many a's are in "separate" -- my bogey word for many years because I could not dissociate it from "desperate"!)

M's child might well come to hate learning if for her it is a process aimed at scoring in tests rather than a means to open windows on the world that surrounds her. That would be a pity but, as is so often the case, a rigid insistence on "values" that drift without foundation in any broader view of the world or how it works and can work will likely lead to a bad end.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Destroying Falluja

How will destroying Falluja end terror?

We can, city by city, make the entire Arab world into rubble. But they will not love us for it. They will not suddenly acclaim us as liberators, abandon Allah and worship our god, Mammon.

In the article I have linked, Madeleine Bunting, a commentator whose work I seek out, correctly notes that Falluja could become the ghastly mirror image of 9/11. Most of those killed will be civilians. Many of Falluja's citizens could not or would not escape before the destruction of their city by the Americans. As Bunting notes, this is the idea. We show the "militants" that we have the resolve to murder thousands and destroy whole cities if they defy us. (Of course, we are showing the militants nothing. We are showing the people of Iraq that if they dare support those who oppose us, this will be their fate.)

These people! Do they believe that you can crush dissent? That if you destroy enough of the world, it will come to love you? That we are errant children, who, if chastised hard enough and long enough, will not just do your will but agree with you that it is right?

Do they believe that the route to love is to destroy people's homes, their schools, their places of worship, everything dear to them?

It has cost $100billion plus to destroy Iraq and it will cost the same again before the Americans have finished. For that $200billion they will have created a mass of rubble and made their nation hated in places that once at least were neutral.

Yes, they will kill some of those who oppose them but they will have created many more. The broad opposition to them will continue, probably with increased ferocity. The rightwing press will be jubilant. For them, it's all about the bodycount. They don't care how many women and children die in the process. They are all "enemies".

Friday, November 05, 2004

What is space?

Looking at this list of questions reminded me how difficult to express the answers to some of the fundamental questions are, although that is not to say that there are no answers. By difficult to express, I mean that they are hard to state in a way that doesn't simply prompt more questions. Naturally, it's easier for the guy posing the questions. He can simply say "God made it so".

For example, the space in the universe is created as matter expands away from itself. It is fundamentally a property of the matter itself, not a background into which it expands. Well shit, I can barely get my head round that, although I do believe it to be true -- and verifiably so, let alone explain it.

Some of the answers are far more trivial than the guy thinks, but not "provable" in any real sense. When, where, why, and how did life learn to reproduce itself? It happened roughly three and three quarter billion years ago. Where is impossible to answer at this point because life has dispersed across the whole planet. Why implies that physical processes are purposeful, which they are not necessarily (I say not necessarily rather than not at all because I certainly cannot prove that they do not have a purpose -- it might add nothing to our understanding of them to say that they do, but that doesn't mean they in fact do not have one). How? Well, no one is sure. Probably a molecule of RNA picked up the ingredients to make its counterpart from the waters that surrounded it and bang! How that RNA was formed is a complex question that does not have a simple answer. There are several candidate mechanisms. If we are left with, say, three mechanisms that are all tolerably plausible, we cannot with confidence say which created our precursor.

With what did the first cell capable of sexual reproduction reproduce? One of the problems that antiscientists have is that they do not understand that evolution happens to populations, not individuals, and that, as with many areas of science, there is not this thing and that thing but this kind of thing and that kind of thing. The answer, of course, is itself. Sexual reproduction involves some of the same processes as asexual reproduction. It's far more reasonable to assume that it evolved piecemeal than that suddenly sexually reproducing cells sprang into being. Perhaps a cell ingested a bacterium or caught a virus and reproduced with that? This is more possible. We believe our genomes have included bacterial DNA and we know that we live in symbiosis with at least one type of bacterium: mitochondria.

How can mutations (recombining of the genetic code) create any new, improved varieties? (Recombining English letters will never produce Chinese books.) This is a poor analogy. English letters in the recombination called pinyin actually can produce Chinese books.

Anyway, let's ignore the poor analogy and answer the question. First, the notion of improvement is alien to evolution. Evolution does not create absolutely better organisms, only relatively better ones. Good today is bad tomorrow (if the world were inundated with water, gills would be at a premium and lungs, well, if you only had lungs you'd better be a good swimmer). How can it make new varieties?

Well, English has 26 letters. It can only be combined in so many ways. Some just don't work. Kngrph. You see? But not only does it contain over a hundred thousand words, new ones are coined every day. What is more, it has "evolved". It has changed over time. Not to become better, but to fit its circumstances. Hmmm. The genetic code has billions of combinatorial possibilities. How can it make new things? By creating proteins that work on each other and on cells in a myriad ways with an awesome synergy that makes the whole incredibly complex and diverse.

Is it possible that similarities in design between different animals prove a common Creator instead of a common ancestor? You what?

The fact that *all* life shares a basic pattern despite its apparent differences would show that its creator used a very limited palette. Similarities in design strongly suggest a common ancestor. But it runs deeper than that. That the differences systematically reflect differences in the code that builds the different organisms, we can say with confidence that they share a common ancestor.

Why would it show a common creator? That's a crazy thing to suggest. Surely God could have created any kind of thing he liked? Why would there not being much variety at base prove that he created it?

Natural selection only works with the genetic information available and tends only to keep a species stable. How would you explain the increasing complexity in the genetic code that must have occurred if evolution were true?

You know, it would be a damned sight harder to explain there being no complexity! This question is of course of two parts, with little or no connection between them. Natural selection works with the genetic information available -- true. I don't know what "keeping a species stable" is supposed to mean. I presume the guy means that it tends to destroy mutations. Yes, it does. Harmful ones. That's the point. If you grow an extra leg in the middle of your forehead, natural selection will tend to weed you out. You won't survive long enough to have progeny and so the extra leg allele will tend not to be passed on. But if, say, you had a mutation that made you a tad stronger than other organisms, so that you had a kid or two extra, well then...

I don't know that evolution, if it were true, requires increased complexity. The guy is too wrapped up in notions of progress. Yes, it's quite clear that less complexity means fewer possibilities for different types of organisms, and fewer different organisms means fewer niches that can be filled, so complexity will be selection-positive. But this is simple common sense, not evolutionary theory as such.

Whales, it might astonish "Dr" Hovind, evolved from something a bit like a hippo (they had been thought to have evolved from something like a wolf but in recent times the case for artiodactyls and particularly hippo-like ones has become much stronger). It's thought it was a dweller of the water margin that evolved to become amphibian and, in time, marine. Whales have a fairly clear fossil record, which is very interesting, so much so that one would have to ask Hovind "if God created all the 'kinds', what the fuck are those whale-like fossils?"

Is it wise and fair to present the theory of evolution to students as fact?

Evolution is, without question, a fact. You can see it happen in a lab. Of course, Hovind uses a very broad definition of evolution that makes it mean "any naturalistic explanation of the world or anything in it". But science *is* in large part, and biology entirely, the description of the world as a natural system. That doesn't exclude God but he must fit science's schema to be included in it.

What Hovind wants is to deny science. He wants *his* prior explanation of the world and what's in it to be given equal footing with science, and to be taught to children as equal to it. But science is not a creed. It is a framework for explaining the world around us. It doesn't claim to be *true* or *right*. It simply claims to be a means of description. It is a powerful tool for a child. It can be used to build an understanding of things. A belief in God cannot. This is not to say that it does not have its place -- I would never say that. But "God did it" is not as powerful as an explanatory mechanism.

Do you honestly believe that everything came from nothing? Why not? Hovind does. Because God was not created. He is turtles all the way down and as such he didn't come from anything either.

The thing is, it makes no great difference to our understanding of cosmology whether the universe came from nothing or from God's hand. So long as he created it in a Big Bang about 17 billion years ago, no worries.


Computer security expert Avi Rubin suggested dangers in touchscreen voting before the election.

Dr Rubin had previously testified that the Diebold systems were bad.

He makes it clear that given the complexity of the systems, malicious programming would be reasonably easy and very difficult to spot.

Wally O'Dell, boss of Diebold, promised to deliver Ohio's votes to Bush in a fundraising letter, shortly after visiting the preznit.

Exit polls put the Democrats several points ahead in Ohio. They lost by three points. Exit polls are not perfect but they are equally as predictive as regular polls. The Republicans complained that the polls underrepresented them.

The problem is, you can be underrepresented for one of three reasons: either the pollsters just happen to ask your opponent's voters who they plumped for, or your voters simply lied about who they had voted for (which is possible -- although there doesn't seem to have been any concerted plan to lie about voting intentions to pollsters) or your vote doesn't represent the voters' intentions.

It is no use whining about it. The Democrats simply did not believe that the Repugnicunts would rig the election. They cannot investigate it now without simply being dismissed as suffering from sour grapes.

But it remains true that there cannot be any confidence that the election was fair, nor that Bush actually does have a mandate (even the rather slim one he was afforded), nor that the Democrats can ever win an election whose votes, thrown into a black box, are counted on machines programmed by Republicans for Republicans.

I do think they stole it. I think they would have done anything to win. It was a huge, huge surprise. Now bloggers and commentators are saying "but of course it was obvious they would win". But it was not. Everyone, including the Repugnicunts, expected a Democrat win.

You know, elections are rigged all the time in other countries. We have convinced ourselves so well that we are beacons of rectitude that we simply cannot bring ourselves to believe it could happen in our "democratic" nations.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

La lutta continua

Inspiring words from Arundhati Roy.

I note particularly her clever allusion to 1984, when she asks what peace means for the oppressed. Peace is war.

Peace without justice is war. It is not always waged with tanks. Sometimes those waging it use laws, sometimes ballots. It's easy to cheat a vote when winning is everything.

Roy is not alone in thinking that you cannot distinguish morally between terrorism and warmaking. What after all makes it okay to murder just because you have put on a uniform?

It is not, she points out, with us or against us.

No, but it is us against them. Fuck them all. Fuck those who believe humans are just so much meat for their sausage machine. Fuck them whether they are masquerading as Islamists or corporatists. And bless Arundhati Roy for never ceasing to use the platform she has to speak for those who have none.

Heads up

Naughtyman has plagiocephaly. It's not serious, merely the outcome of eight months of squeezing in the womb and a tendency to lie with his head turned left.

He will have to sweat his way through the summer in a polypropylene helmet. I can picture him in it. It will put a damper on these wonderful months of growing and becoming, I know it. He has soulful eyes and spends a lot of his time with a puzzled look, verging on pleading with the world for solutions. It can't be easy being a twin. You can never quite get the attention a singleton does.

I am not complaining though. To have three healthy children is a blessing not afforded to many on this planet. They are unlikely to be struck down by disease or hurt in civil strife or war, because I live in a place of peace and prosperity.

I am thankful. It is because I am thankful that I believe in equity. I wish the world to share the good life I have.

Naughtyman's head will grow into something approaching symmetry and he will be a beautiful boy. The soulful eyes will make him a hit with the girls (or boys).

I will love him regardless. He will always be beautiful to me.

Children are a lesson in what love is. It's a word much bandied about, used and abused, sometimes degraded into nothing much more than a desire to fuck someone (not in itself a bad thing but hardly the noble, inspiring emotion that we might hope love would be). But I understand it now. I understand it in the heartbreaking truth that the moment of my death will be when I cease to know them; I understand it in the pain that failure brings when I know they will suffer for it; I understand it in knowing that beauty and ugliness are things that can be felt and not just seen.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Poll axed

It does not gladden the heart to say it, truly, but our American friends are, it turns out, fucking idiots.

What did the guy have to do to lose their confidence: break into their house, kill their wives and kids and steal all their silver?

He'll keep us safe, they bleated. Those nasty turrists must be fought over there so they don't kill us over here. Well yes, but America has only been attacked by turrists once in the last ten years, and guess who was preznit then? His method of "keeping us safe" is to invade nations with no connection to turrism and blow the shit out of the natives. To the rubes this counts at least as doing something, and they very much approve of preznits who do something rather than sit around jawing with those cheese-eating bastids, the Germans (hey, if they knew a goddamned thing about the world and the people in it in places like Iowa, they'd have voted Kerry without hesitation).

It's depressing to learn that in exit polls the top-ranking concern was "moral values". Why depressing? Surely an upstanding citizen such as Dr Zen would welcome a concern for morality. Well yes, but if your idea of "morality" is that a guy in a trousseau is more immoral than carpet-bombing innocents then you and I are not just working with a different code, we're on a different planet.

I find it hard to hate anybody. It's a big word for what is most usually simply a grudge, a nagging dislike, an emptiness. But I do seriously feel a deep and abiding contempt for those who voted for Bush. You voted for hatred. You voted for bigotry. You voted for a liar who in turn has contempt for the rest of the world. You voted to be hated by us, to be hated by all of us who want justice to prevail in this world.

I know they lied to you. I know how difficult it can be to separate the truth from the tons of bullshit you are fed. But the truth was there, it was knowable. You simply hid away from it.

The legacy of Bush will be a long night for the American people. It will be, I fear, a recognition that you are bigots, that you hate gays sufficiently much actually to constitute your nation to exclude them; it will be a supreme court that will no longer feel obliged to look for balance, to protect your rights, to defend the traditions of your nation (it chills me to the marrow to hear that one of Bush's favourite justices has opined that he does not believe the constitution necessarily forbids the establishment of religion by the states); it will be a nation that has turned its back on science as an explanatory framework for the world, with those who wish fairy stories to be taught in classrooms emboldened, with an administration who wish to ignore global warming and continue to rape the planet without restraint, but sees that same science merely as a tool in its continued repression of dissent and control of resources by force; it will be a nation afraid, hating the world around it, utterly unable to understand why the world hates it back.

Worse, instead of a beacon of liberty, of justice, of the good things that we wish to see in our world, it will empower and strengthen vicious, extreme right demagogues the world over. The John Howards, the David Blunketts of this world will no longer feel there is any restraint on them.

What is worse is the possibility that hangs over the election that it was stolen yet again. Exit polls in every state came fairly close to matching the on-paper outcome, except for two. One has its election run by Republicans who tried to disenfranchise many voters, using machines made by a man who said he would make every effort to deliver his state's votes to Bush. The other has largely used electronic voting machines that leave no paper record (are you fucking kidding!?) and bizarrely saw the close race of four years ago turned into a wipeout. Ho hum.

Maybe it's just sour grapes (with a huge lead in the popular vote, it's hard to feel that America didn't get the preznit it wanted -- but there were only 111 million votes, not the forecast 120 million...). Maybe they did steal it (do I seriously believe that the electronic machines burned hundreds of thousands of votes by showing "You voted Kerry" but recording "You voted Bush"? Yes, actually, I do. Why not? The Republicans were willing to go to any lengths to win. They stole it in 2000 and they were responsible for many dirty tricks this time. I think Bush might well have won the popular vote but stolen at least Florida and probably Ohio too. Fuck it, I'll go one further. I think that if you control the voting machine, you control the election). We'll never know. In a couple of weeks Senator Kerry will call on his supporters to get behind the Bush administration and work to unite the nation. But that cannot happen. There are far too many Americans who, like me, are horrified by where America is being led, what sort of nation is being built.

The world will be sorely disappointed by this election because we believed in you. We believed that enough of America would turn away from the selfishness, the insularity, the xenophobia, the greed of the Bushistas and would show itself to be part of us still. We were wrong. You're fucking idiots after all.

An indictment

Sobering reading for those among us who believe that it's okay to break a few civilian eggs to make a freedom omelette.

Is liberty worth more than life? Well, someone else's maybe. But, although things might improve in time to come, at the moment the Iraqis have traded relative stability with some political murders but no real effect on many for chaos and a hundred thousand deaths.

And we're still killing. We're not fixing the place. We're not even aiding the process. While the US focuses on storming Fallujah (why? it is not a "hotbed" of turrism, merely a focus of anti-American resentment) and killing everyone in it, man, woman or child, the insurgents readily and easily stymie most efforts at reconstruction.

The solution is obvious. It was suggested to us before the war even began. Let the UN pick up the pieces. Yankee, go home and let the rest of us sort out your mess.