Friday, February 25, 2005

Salt of the Earth? Not So Fast...

Leave me alone. For one day, let's not do this to each other. This health Nazi barrage done for fearmongering and shock has got to stop. Let's not make people afraid...LET"S TRY EDUCATING THEM FOR A CHANGE!!!

The worst enemy of fear is knowledge. To this I have dedicated my life. Let's hope we are not all to late.

Here is the article in question, calling for increased government intrusion into my snacking habits.

Pundits: Good and Good For You!

As I read across the collected week of punditry:
  • Arnaud de Borchgrave - Great commentary, as usual, on the situation in Israel/Palestine. He argues that the "peace process" looks stable and both sides are seeming to want to come together (an encouraging assessment with which I agree). He also says, however, that there may be violence started by the more fringe elements, displaced by the new togetherness. This sort of thing is to be expected as the insurgents/terrorists and their goals are met and the violence becomes obsolete. These groups may try a desparate attempt for survival, but this would be a short term problem in a long term problem.
  • Thomas Sowell - I knew that I should say something about this idiot Ward Churchill and his comments about 9/11. Sowell, as usual, provides keen insight in arguing that "academic freedom does not mean freedom from responsibility for what you say." Seems to me that this professor said these things to be provocative and make some people angry and he should not complain if he must face the consequences of his actions. No person should be free from this. I am an academic and I think that he was irresponsible and should probably lose his job.
  • John Leo - A funny yet thought provoking take on all of those people who want to run to Canada because life has become untenable here because we re-elected Pres. Bush. I am no huge fan of Bush, but he is not the anti-Christ as some would make him out to be. He is just another in long line of out-to-lunch politicos who will pursue their vision for America without bothering to ask the American people what they think (and not offering any alternatives). Canada always seems to be the promised land...not so.

Monday, February 21, 2005


The savage and brutal saga that was Hunter Stockton Thompson has ended. Thompson apparently killed himself at his "armed compound" in Colorado. Here is the story from the Denver Post (some of the better coverage of the event that I found).

HST has always been of great interest to me and an inspration of sorts. His most influential contribution (apart from years of honest and uncompromising sociopolitical commentary) was his idea of "gonzo journalism." Put simply, he wanted to blur the lines between the event and the reporter, between passive and active writing. To get the story, one must become part of the event.

I have always believed that life should be interactive. There should not be simple A to B transmission where words/music/images/ideas are inflicted on a subject. The audience is as much a part of any performance as the performers, and so it was for HST. He famously said "buy the ticket, take the ride." To really get at the core of any event or idea, one must actively engage it and let it become as much a part of you as you are a reflection of it.

HST advocated the blurring of the subject and object because it only makes sense to do so. The use of alcohol and myriad of mind-enhancing substances only serves to intensify, redefine and mold the experience. They help one to not be passive but act on repressed instinct and gut feeling without meddlesome rationality creeping in. This is perhaps the only way to confront the baffling ordeal that is modern (or arguably postmodern) life. Reduced to perceptions and emotion, the truth sears through the darkness like a thin flash of hot enlightenment. Few have ever understood and crystalized this notion better than HST.

Why did he do it? Who knows and it is not really the crucial element of the story. In a very real way, if there was no HST, the world would have to create him. He stands in time and suspended from it; a product of his time and a witness to the transcendence of time that is rarely achieved. He went in search of the American Dream, a search that drove HST to become the happy warrior of doom, a dark gallows prophet who stared the beast in the mouth and lived to tell the tale.

He is like us and unlike us. He represents the possibilities and the shortfalls of the 20th century in America. He is what we would all be if we were honest and truly sought the inner wisdom of the cosmos.

So, Doc, thanks for having the courage to keep the bastards honest all of these years. We will raise our Wild Turkey high and try to continue the good work.

The real ride lies before us...where the hell will we end up next?

Be Confused No More...Forever!

Ah, the internet is a wonderous presence. The following site is proof of that fact.

Suffering spiritual confusion? Dealing with religious questions that are so important that you cannot trust yourself?

Let the amazing Belief-O-Matic decide for you!

Just answer some simple questions and PRESTO! Your religious tendencies are decided for you, no hassle and no take-backs!

I guess that I am either a liberal Protestant or a Unitarian Universalist (neither of which being the religious tradition of my youth).

The things you learn about yourself...

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Now You've Really Done It, Blago...

News of the ever derided smoker has now focused its hoary eye right in my own home state. Speaking before a joint session of the Illinois General Assembly, Illinois Governor Rod "Blago" Blagojevich has called for a seventy-five cent increase in cigarette taxes and tax hikes for other tobacco products. Please read the full article in the Chicago Tribune to get a sense of this idiot's plan before I slice him up.

This is not the first time that he did this. The taxes were raised statewide in 2003 and Cook County raised the tobacco tax last year. Smokers in Cook County (and even worse in the City of Chicago) are having their personal pleasure taxed for government enjoyment.

As if there needed to be another reason to make Blago a one-term governor.

Luckily, there is opposition. State Senate President Emil Jones (a Democrat from Chicago) has called the increase misinformed and a bad idea for small business. He also wisely points out that this would drive even more tobacco tax revenue to surrounding states like Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri and Iowa (Wisconsin has comparable taxes to Illinois). Jones thinks that funding should come through expanding casino gambling.

Well, now. Seems we got a problem here. When the leading light of the governor's own party calls his budget ideas bad for business, it is further proof that Blago is out of touch with the people of Illinois. For those that are not familiar with Illinois politics, not much gets done in Illinois without the nod of the Senate President, especially of the majority party.

Let's hope that people gain their senses because one thing you don't want is a bunch of smokers denied. As Denis Leary said "they're a drug and we're addicted." Black market deals will grow. Remember how well other prohibition ideas have worked in American history.

Blago, you are a complete fool and this is the latest in a line of moves that proves four years is quite enough. You know for a fact that you got elected because you came in on the heels of an utterly corrupt Republican criminal.

This is what an electorate gets with an "Anything-But-The-Incumbent" mentality.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Music is the Best

Frank Zappa once said that "rock and roll is the only religion left with any juice in it."

Right on the mark as usual, FZ.

Come out and let's discuss this notion over a few refreshing beverages and some well-and-true rocking with Second Story Collapse.

Friday, February 18, 2005.
The Edge
147th Street and Cicero Avenue
Midlothian, IL 60445.

Doors open at 9:00PM; SSC plays second.
21+, $3.00 cover.

Let's strap up and get it done! I know we can!

If not, what the hell. We'll be drunk anyway.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Confessions of an Occasional Revolutionary Socialist

I have something to confess.

In certain moments of rage, I turn into quite the violent socialist revolutionary.

These moments usually center around (wait for it...) television shows like "Cribs," or "The Fabulous Life." These people are the objects of my political confusion.

I guess that it may have started in my youth during the 1980's. With a show like "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous," I was caused to wonder "why do these people get all the stuff? Where the heck is my stuff?"

It seems like a logical conclusion that the top of our consumer and "ownership" society would be the group of people with the most stuff and the most land to showcase said stuff. It, further, could be taken as a tool of inculcation into the mindset of acquisitiveness and avarice that seems to be an integral part of the American civil religion.

Do I have a problem with people making money and enjoying it? Not on your life. Make as much as you can and blow it on whatever you want. I just don't get how this can turn into entertainment for people who have MUCH less. You are almost fueling their rage and preparing them for the violent uprising that will no doubt take place when your splendor is waved under their collective noses.

Oops. Forgot that the rage of the American people is dead and vapid entertainments are merely a function of this lack of desire to make real change and piss some people off. Keep 'em happy, fed and stupid by tricking them with visions of unattainable splendor.

Lucky for the "powers that be," no one listens to voices in the wilderness such as myself.

I must try, however, or I would become a symptom of this great and spreading malaise.

I sincerely hope you agree. You are Americans, aren't you?

Punditry In Motion

Scanning the words of the pundits this week...
  • Arnaud de Borchgrave (The Washington Times) - An interesting perspective on one of the roots of terrorism and a glance into the process of terrorist "beginnings." It is not Islam at all; it is a radical, politicized form of Islam that is proposed by the Saudis and their seemingly endless funds for "education." de Borchgrave argues that this kind of Wahhabist rhetoric is not absent in the United States and might find a ready audience. How far can we go in following the free flow of information, especially religious information? Is this a good indication of terrorist formation/support? I suspect that this is another roadblock and issue of contention in our difficult relationship with Saudi Arabia, a relationship that we must reassess and work to repair. The Saudis are a valuable ally in the region but, as the 9/11 Commission report pointed out, we neeed a relationship not based only on oil.
  • Larry Elder - His column this week (and most other weeks) proves that he is one of the few sensible people in America and is not afraid of the taboos or reservations of an over-sensitive society. There should be no issue that is so dangerous that it cannot be discussed. Elder is fearless. C'mon, Larry! Give up the trashy talk shows and Moral Court and go legit! The people must be told!
  • Christopher Hitchens - Hitchens confronts an issue this week that I feel is important for people to understand. Iraq and Vietnam are really apples and oranges. They cannot really be as closely be conflated as they are. I suspect that feelings of failure and lack of purpose stand at the center of this analogy. We seemingly failed in Vietnam and it seems that we are doing the same in Iraq. Many think that it is a "created situation," where we have no business intruding. Vietnam is a synonym for failure in war and foreign policy that has become a part of the American cultural imagination. This does not make right, just popular. I guess it is just more convienent to use an analogy than actually probing the causes and facts. Sad but true.

Keep watching the wonks!

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Standardized Horror

Within the last few months, me and several of my friends have taken the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) in hopes of advancing our academic careers. Our scores are not important; what is at issue here is how this greuling psychological terror exercise plays games with your usually cool head.

The test is simple, really. There are verbal, math and analytical writing portions that are supposed to test basic skills. All they really test is your ability to take standardized tests. They should just be a pointless formality in the more complex process of getting into a graduate program.

This is not how most react, at least this is not how I reacted. Even though I knew that this is simply part of the application, I put a great symbolic weight on this one event. It came to the point that the GRE became a referendum on my entire academic career and a crucial measure of my self worth.

The first time that I took the test in November of 1998, I did quite poorly due to several factors but I suspect that the mental factors had a large part to do with it. These factors almost drove me to hurry through the test and drive to the then self-fulfilling failure. It was this test that drove me off of my life-long career path in 1999, sidetracking me into the business world from 1999 to 2002. It was only after corporate and market meltdown in late 2001 and a further nine months of unemployment that I refound my path and I couldn't be happier.

What is the use of these tests. The authors, the evil wizards at the Educational Testing Service of Princeton, NJ, would tell you that it is a universal method for assessing candidates and their ability to complete graduate study. Hmm...sounds to me like there already is a measure of this that gives a much better picture of the individual behind the numbers. This is a mind-boggling new concept called THE STUDENT'S GRADES!

All students are graded on their performance on some sort of numerical scale that can easily be converted to the same basis. This would be a much fairer way to "screen" candidates and pick only the best for admission. Certainly better than some standard list of possibly related tasks and materials.

Who ever said that education had to make sense and have a purpose?

This is a question we all must answer for ourselves.

The Coming Epicurean Diaspora

In following the Wyeco situation, and musing on the feelings of the majority of Americans, I have came to some disturbing conclusions.

I fear that I will see tobacco and alcohol either severely resrticted or outlawed before I die. I realize that Prohibition was a complete failure and represented all that is wrong with government and legislation of morality (I am a historian after all). What I worry about is that there may not be any Al Capones to save us. We live in more restrictive times where most sectors of our lives come in contact with state regulation and scrutiny. True patriots and lovers of freedom may be more reticent to step up and face down "the Man." We cannot let this happen.

We must fight for our right to drink and smoke at every corner and with every chance. Keep informed...this could be the sort of legislation that a state legislature, city council or county board could slip through without much notice. They don't care if you know; it will be the law and that will be that. Look at what happened in California or Ireland if you don't believe me.

This must be a constant battle fought not only against actions but against ideology, religion, values and attitudes. We must engage in PsyOps against these Puritan devils. Engage them where they live, lay out our side of the story in such a way that you would have to be a fool or an evangelical not to see the reasoning. We must fight by persuasion and diplomacy. If this does not work, we must not flinch to take to the streets (drunk, naturally) to defend ourselves.

If they muster the stronger force (judging by the 2004 elections, they may have us cornered), there is one last great hope for all of us smokers, drinkers, recreational drug users, overeaters, fornicators and all who enjoy the fin-EST things in life.

We must all move to the last place that has any chance of accepting us.

I am, of course, talking about Las Vegas.

This seems to be the last place where our favorite activities are not only condoned but encouraged. Whatever your pleasure, be it booze, butts, buds, broads or bouncy-bouncy, Las Vegas can accomodate us all. Think of the "new age" we would establish, killing for good the pretensions of "Vegas-as-a-family-destination."

I think this may be our only option. I will make the plans in concert with a directly democratic body. We must plan and look foreward to establishing our heaven on Earth (kinda like those scary, possibly alien Mormons).

What Happens In Vegas, Stays In Vegas. Truly words to live by.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Light Up For Freedom!

Well, the Wyeco story rolls on and there is some positive movement afoot.

According to the Lansing State Journal on 2/7/05, a Michigan State Senator by the name of Virg Bernero has taken up the cause of the four fired smokers. He intends to introduce a bill in the Michigan state legislature to make it illegal to fire an employee for engaging in legal leisure activities such as smoking or drinking.

It is sad that it had to come to this...more legislation. But huzzah for Sen. Virg Bernero for standing up for the rights of constituents when they are threatened.

Readers of this blog, let's help out. Let's write Sen. Bernero and voice our support of his advocacy of the "Weyco Four."

Here is his contact information:

Virg Bernero
Democrat of District 23
Office Phone: (517) 373-1734
Office Location: 415 Farnum Building
E-mail Address:
Mailing address:
Senator Virg Bernero
Post Office Box 30036
Lansing, MI 48909-7536

Stand up, light up and show your support!

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Harmony Joy Bus Music

A fine weekend of music for all tastes...and all performed by dear friends of this author (who needs to temper the commentary with some Power of Rock and Majesty of Funk!)

First, Second Story Collapse (check their website...they rock)

February 4 (this Friday)
R&W Lunge
336 N. Locust
Manteno, IL
Doors open @ 10:00. No cover. 21 and older. With Firearm and The Evil Us's

And when you have had your socks rocked off, take off the rest and groove out with...

Jassy Grazz
Saturday, Feb. 5, 2005
The Red Line Tap
7006 North Glenwood (Glenwood and Lunt)
Chicago, IL 60626
773/338-9862 OR 773/465-8005

Doors open at seven, show at nine. 21 and older.

(For you other carless Chicagoans, take the Red Line to Morse, walk to the north end of the platform, go down the stairs, and it is right around the corner from the Heartland Cafe).

Get out there, support local music and drink deeply, of the music and otherwise...

Al Jazeera and Freedom of Speech: Oxymoron or Necessity?

I was intrigued by a piece written by William F. Buckley, Jr. in the online version of the National Review.

In it, Buckley argues that Al Jazeera is a font for anti-American propaganda and gives undue publicity to the savage people that behead others for their own ideological reasons. He also argues that the idea of free speech should not apply here because of the inflamed situation.

Well, Mr. Buckley, you got it about half right.

Granted, that particular news organization does not fairly portray, well, much of what is going on in the region. It tells its viewers what they want to hear and shows them what they want to see. Wait a minute...we do that too! Shame on both of us.

I do not support the horrid acts of these craven cowards who hide behind masks, guns and an ideology that preaches hate and destruction. It is despicable and wrong by any code of morals, ethics or religious standards.

In fighting this factor, it must be remembered that terrorism and the media are made for each other. Terrorists seek maximum shock and maximum dispersal of images of their actions for the minimum effort. Terrorism is a media-driven event. If it were not for the influence and spread of the global media, terrorism would not be what it is today. People would not be effected by it in the same way that they are our days of news bombardment.

If we want to fight this phenomenon, here are a few suggestions:
  • Remember Radio Free Europe, our voice to the Warsaw Pact during the Cold War? Let's fight fire with fire! If this is a war of media images and fights for "share" of a world audience, let's use our time and talents in an all out shock-and-awe media blitz. We are the ones that invented modern advertising, reality shows and celebrities who are famous because they are famous. If we can turn those impossible feats of mind, why not blasting our story to the television audiences of the Middle East? Everyone who gets Al Jazeera also should be hit with our version. Then, like us, the poor people can be totally confused about what to think. From confusion comes understanding (or changing the channel).
  • Wanna be a persuasive news organization and get your message in front of millions, Al Jazeera? Take a lesson from American television news. First, I am afraid that the beheading videos have to go. No good trying to convince people of your point of view when their countrymen are being beheaded over your airwaves, is it? If you want to persuade people in the West that the Bush administration is evil and after the Islamic world, playing up the violent parts is the worst way to do this. A lot of people here may agree with your message...dress it up in some tropes of Western journalism, and you may surprise yourself.

Lastly, on freedom of speech. It is one of the most sacred rights that humankind possesses. It should not be restricted in any way, shape or form. The way to a free and just society is through robust and open public debate. All voices must be heard for there to be progress.

Mr. Buckley, I still think that John Stuart Mill and John Milton (Aeropagitica) may have a slight advantage over you. Your commentary is good and insightful and you are an innovator in American political commentary (at least in the twentieth century). I admire you a great deal.

Can't recall, however, college freshmen reading your books to acquaint themselves with the basic ideas of liberty and freedom...A supplement, possibly, but never a required text.

Ain't nothing like the real thing, baby.

Michael Moore: When Prophecy Fails

There was recently a big deal made of the fact that Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 was passed over completely for the 77th Annual Academy Awards. Many of the commentators/pundits/wonks/professional liars seemed shocked that this film was not even considered for the award.

I don't understand where this shock came from. This film, timely though it seemed, was an utter failure.

To put it quite simply, everything that Michael Moore was up to since about 2001 was aimed at unseating George W. Bush. Well, Mike, you failed. In some ways, pretty badly.

If you look at his books Stupid White Men and (clearer still) Dude, Where's My Country and of course "F911 (as he calls it on his website," the main thrust of his entire polemic, of all of his invective, was to destroy the reputation and support for George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential elections.

You failed to do this, Mike.

Why so long after the elections for these comments? Saying that I am not timely? Well, I figured that I would give the guy time to respond to this crushing defeat. Check out Michael Moore's website...nothing in sight. What's the deal, Mike? Shy of your own camera now? Kinda hard to be smug when your pants are around your ankles, isn't it?

Do I think that you are a bad guy? Not at all. As two big guys from the Great Lakes states (you from Michigan, me from Illinois), we share a regional esprit. You also make very entertaining films, ones that leave the audience scratching their heads. Good on 'ya. I can't wait for the next one...just plain good entertainment. I guess that's what film is all about, make you laugh and think.

Do I love George W. Bush? Not on your life, so in a way, I was with you there, Mike.
I wouldn't have minded it either. But it didn't get done. And you talked a pretty big game in your three year blitz to make this happen? So what say you?

I am asking nothing more of you than what you asked of the Bush administration:

Explain yourself to the American people.

Explain why you said that you would make George W. Bush lose and you didn't do it.

I am sure that your partisans are awaiting the explanation from their leader as to why the campaign fell apart.

Ahh, the cold anaseptic sting of failure. Good for 'ya sometimes. Keeps you honest.

Now you know how it feels.

Socialism or Death? Castro's Hobson's Choice

Upon viewing the American Experience special on PBS featuring the life of Fidel Castro, I had a few comments, mostly criticisms.

While the program did do a decent job of outlining the life and genesis of Fidel Castro and his personal ideology, and also a great job of putting Castro and his Cuba in the larger context of the Cold War, they missed a huge part of the story. What is happening in Cuba recently, y'know, since about 1994?

The series failed to point out what an utter shambles all of Cuba has become gradually since Castro's seizure of power in 1959. Cuba lost the Cold War and it really shows.

To get a better perspective, check out an excellent book, Eat the Rich: A Treatise on Economics by P.J. O'Rourke. In his chapter entitled "Bad Socialism: Cuba," O'Rourke tours through Cuba in 1997 and details the level of disaster that exists there. There is no money, but that dosen't matter: there is nothing to buy.

People are watched by the police, controlled in their every move and restricted in their economic freedom. The people that O'Rourke talks to leave no doubt why Cubans will risk death to leave the place.

Castro used Cuba as a stepping-off point for his ideas on international communism and socialist destiny. While he was fighting in Angola and kissing Soviet ass to get more handouts, his people were starving, living in hovels and completely captive of his legendary whims.

Can the ravages of socialism (at least Castro's brand of this pernicious ideology) ever be undone in Cuba? Can we go back to the good old days when the Mob ran Havana? Why, as O'Rourke points out, does it seem that Albania is in better shape than Cuba? Albania, the new "sick man" of Europe is nothing to be compared to...

PBS didn't lionize Castro...they indeed pointed out his personality flaws and their deleterious effect on Cuba. They didn't go far enough.

In these days of international fights against terror, we must not forget those in peril and suffering just 90 miles from Florida.

Viva Cuba...but it's time for Castro to step aside.