Comments on life, the universe and everything from an aging Sixties survivor.

Location: Massachusetts, United States

Ummm, isn't "about me" part of the point of the blog?

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Beth ydy, Josef?

A while back I commented on the similarities between Massachusetts' diehard anti-gay activists and the late Joseph Mlot-Mroz. Well, I have to recant, partly. Joseph may have been crazy, but he wasn't stupid. He did his own signs. He usually managed to get as much text on them as there is in the Manhattan phone book, but it only cost him a few coins for markers and cardboard to avoid getting his message out clearly.

As I drove home today, eastbound on the Mass Pike, I spotted two small planes towing advertising banners. Struggling against the headwind, they were flying almost directly over the westbound lane, thus invisible to it. That's the chief Pike audience at that time of day. Worse, the messages were half in reverse type against a red background, making the reverse half virtually unreadable even in the eastbound lane.

Curiosity overcame my survival instincts for a second or two, and I ducked down long enough to discover it was none but our right-wing friends, apparently attacking the SJC.

Apparently they haven't grasped the lesson that Mlot-Mroz learnt 40 years ago: when you're engaged in a lost cause, cut your overhead. The world of marketing is full of people eager to part fools from their money, and it seems they were parted with a fair-sized chunk by these aerial marketers.

Cab-top advertising on the airport tunnel routes is not quite as expensive but even less visible most of the time. Maybe they should try that next. If that doesn't work they could buy space on the P-town ferry.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Mixed Feelings

So, Captain Brylcreem (nod to Mass Marrier) does have a future after all, as a pundit!

Apart from Mitt saying it's so, the best part of the Hilary candidacy is its very early peak. Yes, here's another chink in my liberal credentials. For one thing, Hilary strikes me as clumsy where Bill was slick. Democrats really don't need another presidential candidate with two left feet.

Far more important, to me, is a bit of heritage. When my family came to the US, it was in response to being shafted by the government of a constitutional monarchy. For the past several years, we've been getting an excellent lesson why hereditary (or familial) rule is a bad idea. You may draw three or four kings, or a king and a queen, but sooner or later you're gonna get a joker. I think we've had quite enough of this. Political re-runs are just as bad, and also a failure to think outside the box.

Now, credit where it is due. The British royal family has done a fair job of keeping the jokers out of the deck, or at least out of the top job, since George IV . They've also acquired the habit of putting their blood on the line when someone decides to have a war. That may be why Britons cling to the monarchy long after common sense says it's time to quit. The Royal family can be absurd and very expensive, but when circumstances require it, they can show some stones.

Shrub should take a long look at Prince Harry and consider if maybe that is why boozing one's way through the Texas Air Guard doesn't quite count.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Containing Pirates

OK, so modern pirates are far from funny. All the same, it is amusing to find the U.S. Navy scratching its head and trying to figure out what to do with pirates lately captured off Somalia.

Why, 'tis simple, matey! Hang 'em from the nearest yardarm!

Naval procedure has fallen off of late, I guess. Arrr!!!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

I could be missing something....

Thinking about this latest bin Laden tape. Again, it's the historian in me.

1. People who think they are winning don't even pretend to offer truce.

2. Bush, of all people, is least equipped to accept any sort of truce from the people who have kept him in office. Without terrorists, he is a worthless sack of snakeshit.

One more thing that could make the coming months extremely interesting.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Golly! I'm Safer than Ever!

Excuse me?

The FBI has no better idea today who sent anthrax through the mail than it did the first day it happened.

The administration can put infants on no-fly lists, and gun down mental patients who lose it on aircraft, but can't seem to find actual terrorists. After four years we still don't have a uniform national communications standard for law enforcement and fire departments.

I guess I know why now: because the FBI is busy protecting me from pornography.

The choice of targets, Web sites with sadomasochistic content, reflects the low animal cunning that links law enforcement from the end of Prohibition to the present. When you need a target, for whatever reason, choose a group you are sure won’t fight back. There were no “vice” squads before Prohibition ended, because Prohibition provided two required ingredients for successful law enforcement: moral rectitude and bribery. More often than not, “vice” meant homosexuality, and that's what replaced liquor law enforcement. Stonewall ended that racket as far as gay people went.

Gloriosky, what a sweet target for the law! The right wingnuts hate sadomasochism as they hate all sexual “vice.” But in this case, many left wingnuts hate it with equally irrational fury because they are convinced that it’s all about oppression of women, gratuitous violence, and yadayada. Gonzales (easily the biggest brown-noser ever to hold Cabinet office) and the FBI are doubtless sure they’ll have a free hand to get their headlines.

So, are the owners of the sites in the FBI crosshairs all exploitative oppressors of women? Hmm...some are, no doubt. If we proscribe every form of expression that includes a portion of exploiters, we won't have much left. Still, it appears a number of them are women, and women on the giving end of the sexual equation. A determined left-wing ideologue can certainly perform some fascinating intellectual gymnastics to account for that fact and resolve it
with a contrary ideology. Why not? That's just what Alberto and Minions are doing from a different angle.

One could also accept the obvious, that rough sexual conduct between consenting adults is fun for some people. We could further suggest that those people, and not curious kids or prurient adults, form a significant part of the audience of such sites. If that be so, who is the FBI's target? The offending Web sites, or a what they hope is a socially outcast population? Since this new group of sexually different people popped out of the closet, law enforcement has been right there, nightstick in one hand and an open palm in the other. They’ve been standing there for years on the local level: the FBI is a bit late getting its piece of the pie.

What we're discussing seems to be neither casual prurience nor domestic violence, but the primary way some people (givers and receivers) enjoy sex, just as sex with someone of the same sex is the primary expression for gay people. The left gave up equating gays with child molestation 35 years ago. Liberals have accepted consent as part of the gay equation. So far, it has been impossible for most liberals to do the same when it comes to consensual sadomasochism. Despite this popular animosity, when the psychiatric profession brought out DSM-IV around ten years ago, this principal diagnostic tool of psychology opened the door a crack to the idea that sadomasochism was not always vile and evil, and could form part of a healthy sexual life. When the fifth edition comes out in a few years, it is likely that the profession will throw that door wide open.

A few years back I interviewed a therapist who, as it turned out, had made sadomasochists a lifetime study. His experience was that they were a prudent, responsible, and badly misunderstood group of people, not abusive, not dangerous, and no more deserving of their stigma than gays.

One reason I maintain my independence from the left as much as from the right is my distaste for what I call “The Phil Ochs Liberal.” This issue is a classic example. Raise the topic of such Web sites with a Phil Ochs Liberal, and you will soon drill down to something like “I’m for free speech, except….” Raise the issue of sadomasochists in our midst and you’ll get to “I’m for freedom of sexual expression, except….” I don’t admit either exception, making my lefty credentials somewhat flawed. I loathe Nazis from the depths of my soul, for personal as well as ideological reasons, yet I admit that even they must have the right of free expression or there is no free expression at all.

Now, we wonders, just how carefully did Alberto choose his target this time? Apart from the doctrinaire of either wing, and those directly affected, does anyone really care about this latest Bush crusade? Does anyone else even know? In 2002, media stories disclosing the sadomasochistic activism of UN weapons inspector Jack McGeorge became the biggest flop of the year. McGeorge acknowledged his orientation. No one could prove any connection between what he did in public and what he did in private. The rest of the world, unimpressed, yawned, and so did most of the American public. The story had no legs and was dead even before the bloggers got to it.

Apparently the administration has forgotten that. This lot claim to act on moral principle, but actually move only when there's some change to be made with the media or the "base." Well, the "base" is shrinking lately, and in any case (oops!) there are Christian practitioners of consensual sadomasochism, with their own strange twist on the question. The media? Well, it's been a tough slog finding anything to link to, let's just say that. No legs and, perhaps, no convenient target of social outcasts. Sorry, Alberto: it's another Bushie fuckup.

Sadomasochists are definitely in our midst. Studies over the past decade indicate that as many as one third of all adults have at least experimented with consensual sadomasochism. One tenth of the adult American population reportedly practises it regularly. If you compare that statistic with those for domestic violence, you’ll discover that the abusers are far more numerous. That therapist told me it’s because consensual sadomasochists, being acquainted with the topic of control far more closely than most people, are exceptionally vigilant against domestic violence. They don’t buy the denial that the mainstream does. It could be time to think about what that therapist has to say: he might be right.

When Alberto the Wimp finds it necessary to move from perverted Web sites to perverted people, where does he intend to jail 27 million people? Will the NSA monitor suspects? Will they be held without trial? Oh yes, Phil Ochs liberals, this is your problem: The FBI's next target may live next door, and because of that, they may want to monitor your sex life. (Act now and get your story straight ahead of time. That blindfold in the nightstand just helps you fall asleep on summer evenings, right?)

At any rate, the idea of regulating the Web in this fashion is absurd to anyone at all familiar with its construction. This is like grabbing a rope of smoke, not raiding a bookstore. Anything on the Web is there because it has a market, or it would not survive. What's happening now? The sites with the most artistic merit have obligingly self-censored. The more extreme sites seem to be moving offshore. Will we invade the countries that host them?

Pornographic material existed online before the Web, and the means of transmission still exist. Such media are formless and centreless, shifting day to day. The FBI could spend its entire budget trying to legislate Internet morality and be no nearer success than it was when it started. Extreme pornographic material was well-regulated by the price of admission before Alberto and the stooges stepped in, and it is paid sites that inspire the Bureau’s wrath. Any kid who could fake identities, or crack Web portals, well enough to get onto a smut site has been doing more profitable things with the skills. Now paid sites are closing, copyright protection offshore is shady even for legitimate business, and all that content is floating around cyberspace. Know what? The extreme smut will shortly become available to any 12-year-old with enough technical wit to use a decoder-enabled newsreader, and we can thank the FBI for that.

It is no surprise that an agency that had to be dragged against its will away from longhand memos fails to understand how little they’re accomplishing, and how much of that is bad.

Oh yeah: how much is this costing? Can the FBI honestly justify the expense when so many far more urgent priorities are being neglected? The era of the vice squad is far behind us, but that is lost on men who still like white shirts and fedoras.

Web porn doesn’t threaten my life. Hurricanes do. So does white powder in the mail from a source still unknown. So does a government drunk on power and out of control. As the bumper sticker says, “enough is enough.”

Friday, January 13, 2006

The bad news of the week seems to be that Alito comported himself with dignity (albeit not full disclosure) before the Senate hearings. Worse, numbers of Democratic Senators were rather less than dignified: Talk about helping the other guy!

This stuff always makes me recall a responder on about a year ago, who suggested we must put up with the Democratic Party until we can get to the garage and compose a better vehicle for progressive thought.

But then, it would appear that Pat Robertson has finally put one toe over the line. That can't possibly be bad!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Scratching One's Head

Just in case you had lost sight of the idea that politics and farce have common roots:

BOSTON (AP) -- Opponents of same-sex marriage announce legislation to provide hospital visitation and other rights to gay couples.

The bill is meant to counter claims that banning same-sex marriage would deny certain rights to gay couples.

Claims? Alas, AP, your editorial skills have gone to hell in a handbasket. Read the fucking laws.

Now, if you're wondering what genius is standing behind this gesture...

It was unveiled at the Statehouse by Rehoboth State Representative Philip Travis.

Under the "Benefits Fairness Act," couples unable to legally wed would be able to enter a legal arrangement which provides rights for hospital visitation, after-death decisions, inheritance and estate designation and mental health decisions.

A ballot question that would amend the state Constitution to outlaw gay marriage is currently making its way through the Legislature.

Travis' bill would apply to gay couples and other family relationships such as siblings or cousins living together.

In other, saner quarters, "Benefits Fairness" is known as civil union or civil marriage, depending which side of the semantic fault line you're on. My ill head thinks this has the scent of an attempt to whitewash a pre-acknowledged defeat. Can someone tell me if this has really happened, or am I just hallucinating again?

More proof that this lot are marginalising themselves faster than the snow melting in my back yard.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Living with disease and novelists

Alright, trigeminal neuralgia isn't AIDS. You only die from this if you get an attack whilst driving or if you just fucking give up. I've now experienced the first, so I know you can hang on long enough to find a parking lot. After several weeks of trying it on, I also know that I can hold the beast at bay. I appear to be part of the lucky one-third who don't respond to medical treatment. Fine: I know what to expect now. I can live normally for seven or eight months a year, have a life that sucks for one or two months, and get on with drugs the rest of the time. It's better than the other ratio. Sooner or later, there's surgery.

This does put other conflicts into perspective.

I've been reading E.L. Doctorow's "The March" during the festivities. I once had a subject matter expert (consult your local technical writer for translation) who was a Georgian and who--although 20 years younger than me--could be counted on to bristle at the mention of the name "Sherman." I'm not entirely a Doctorow fan...too much bravura at times...but he carried this off quite well. The jury may be out. I should re-read it when I'm not on anti-convulsants, to see if I react the same way. He struck the essential chord, which is that the "march" (from Atlanta to the peace in 1865) had a life and essence of its own, separated from the previous existence of either side. The historian in me doesn't think he got Sherman quite right. He got the rest perfectly, or so it seems to a drugged mind.

According to a bit of wisdom sent me for New Years', in the 1960s, people dropped acid to make the world seem weird. Now the world is weird and people take Prozac to make it seem normal. I take Tegretol to make living bearable, and E.L. Doctorow understandable.