Saturday, September 26, 2009

I don't want to be in that number...

The naked, gagged, bound body of William E. Sparkman, census worker, was found hanging from a tree in an isolated cemetery in Clay County, Kentucky, but no one is saying he was murdered. Asphyxiated, yes, with "FED" written on his chest, but the state troopers will go no farther than "not a natural death." The investigation continues. What is not in question is the seething hostility to all things relating to the federal government, particularly next year's scheduled census, among the fringe right. Census workers who have survived report being greeted with racist epithets and loaded shotguns in rural areas, and spokesmen for the tinfoil helmet community have made no secret of their conviction that the fascist socialist Kenyan Nazi in the White House plans to use data gathered by his minions to further oppress white people, a/k/a "real Americans." If this is found to be murder, I think we can rule out the Weather Underground, the Black Panther Party, and the Wobblies.

Clearly Mr. Sparkman's terrible death is not covered by that condescending cliche "teachable moment," i.e., an opportunity to learn and grow from police imbecility (the Gates case) or thuggish behavior (the Joe Wilson episode). This does not mean, however, that some good may not come of it, in the same way that the murder of Emmett Till energized the civil rights movement in the 1950s. I don't believe the teabigots have thought this all the way through.

Contrary to the voices in many people's heads, the census is not a terrorist plot but a regular event mandated by the Constitution (Article I, Section 2). The founders wanted to be sure that, within the very narrow strictures they had created, the apportionment of Representatives would be as democratic as possible. Anticipating population growth and westward expansion, they provided for a census every ten years. Today the census determines not only representation but federal funding for the states. So what happens if (hypothetically speaking) the people who keep electing Michelle Bachmann decide they don't want to be counted? They don't have to be counted. The Constitution says the government has to conduct a census, but it provides no legal penalties for refusing to cooperate. All that happens (still hypothetically speaking) is that when the census is published, the Minnesota legislature studies the numbers and re-draws the map, and Bachmann's district disappears. Michelle goes back to spritzing perfume at Nordstrom, or whatever she did before. I'm fine with this. More money and power for reality-based America.

Let's conduct the 2010 census entirely by mail. Make forms available in post offices and other public places for people who don't get mail. Hire some of the millions of unemployed clerical workers to assist the non-reading and weed out the joke submissions. Let's see if white Americans become a minority even sooner than predicted.

An accurate idiot count is not worth even one more life.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

More light!

Lamps are going out all over Europe, or at least getting harder to read by. The European Union, intent on becoming the most hated institution on that continent since the Gestapo, is phasing out the use of Edison-type incandescent bulbs in order to conserve energy. These will be replaced by compact fluorescents (those curly things), halogen lamps and, eventually, LEDs. The new devices are appallingly expensive but last for years and use less electricity. The lower electric bills should help to offset the depression brought on by gloom and creeping shadows, especially in places like Scotland and Scandinavia, where the sun is an infrequent visitor.

Darkness of another kind is coming to the city where America was invented. The Philadelphia Public Library will close its doors on October 2. Main building, branches, research library, bookmobiles, classroom outreach, all gone. The Pennsylvania legislature declined to vote enough money to keep them open. I have no idea how much money it would take, but I guarantee it's a lot less than the bonuses AIG paid its incompetent executives last year with the collaboration of the United States Treasury. Every city once blessed by the benevolence of Andrew Carnegie has seen hours cut and librarians laid off, but to lose the entire system is something new and terrible. And every city has seen library use increase dramatically in the last year, as people use its resources to look for work, improve job skills, read books they can no longer buy, or just keep warm. It makes no sense. It is madness. It makes me understand, dimly, why people get angry enough to tie teabags to their hats and carry semi-literate signs full of outrage. At least the media pay attention.

I don't see anybody stepping up to be the Carnegie of the 21st century. Bill Gates could easily afford it, but he'd want to digitize the collections. J.K. Rowling is reputedly the richest woman on earth, thanks to her talent as a writer, but American libraries are not her problem. Oprah doubtless has a prior commitment to the Chicago Public Library. And why the hell should we expect individuals to get out their checkbooks when the state legislature won't, and the federal government won't? Would the legislators find a way if the Eagles threatened to move to Omaha unless they got a stadium full of flashy things and sky-boxes bigger than my first apartment? You know the answer.

I'd be even angrier, but my old cynicism got a boost when I read this amazing news from the Telegraph UK:

US distributors have resolutely passed on a film which will prove hugely divisive in a country where, according to a Gallup poll conducted in February, only 39 per cent of Americans believe in the theory of evolution., an influential site which reviews films from a Christian perspective, described Darwin as the father of eugenics and denounced him as "a racist, a bigot and an 1800s naturalist whose legacy is mass murder". His "half-baked theory" directly influenced Adolf Hitler and led to "atrocities, crimes against humanity, cloning and genetic engineering", the site stated.

The film has sparked fierce debate on US Christian websites, with a typical comment dismissing evolution as "a silly theory with a serious lack of evidence to support it despite over a century of trying".

Jeremy Thomas, the Oscar-winning producer of Creation, said he was astonished that such attitudes exist 150 years after On The Origin of Species was published.

"That's what we're up against. In 2009. It's amazing," he said.

See? We've had free public libraries for over a century, and free public schools even longer, and this country still teems with people who are dumber than a California jury. Fine, close the libraries! Kill the remaining newspapers! Fill every minute of TV time with reality shows, no-talent contests, infomercials and Glenn Beck! Bring on the Dark Ages 2.0!

I have to go hide my books and lightbulbs.


Sunday, September 06, 2009

Brain dead

Mark your calendar. The right is now officially beneath contempt.

The insurance lobby and its shameless bodyguard are spreading the story that Natasha Richardson's death was caused by the godless Canadian healthcare system. (Quebec has no med-evac helicopters, neurosurgeons weren't hanging around the hospital waiting to examine her, etc., etc.) When they lied about Stephen Hawking and the UK's National Health, Hawking told them they were full of shit. Much less risky to violate a dead woman.

Fact: People die every day of subdural hematoma. Kurt Vonnegut died in New York City, home to some of the world's most expensive private medical care. Garrison Keillor's brother David died in Minnesota. Chances of survival diminish when you don't seek immediate care because you feel fine. Time is the significant factor, not having Dr. House on speed-dial.

I don't know why I should be surprised. Since when have the right cared whom they caused pain? A week ago their radio arm was soliciting fresh Chappaquiddick jokes from mouth-breathing listeners and, no doubt, getting them. But this is different. Natasha Richardson's young sons don't need to hear that their mother would be alive but for incompetent Canadian doctors and their health-care-rationing politicians, even if it is crap.

Somebody produced a TV spot promulgating this garbage, and somebody is buying the time. I hope Liam Neeson hires the scariest lawyer he can find and sues them for every dime they haven't stashed under the floorboards.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Midnight cowpie

From the Moonie Times:

"We are witnessing a slow, steady takeover of our true freedoms. We are becoming a socialist nation...if we permit [Obama] to raise our taxes to support unconstitutional causes, then we will be in default. This great America will become a paralyzed nation." (italics mine, jeremiad Jon Voight's)

Interesting choice of words. I'm no Freudian, but I think Mr. Voight is unconsciously recalling his last good movie, Coming Home (1978). He also states that Obama wants to start a "civil war," which is even more revealing from a racial standpoint. Not as bad as the Missouri congresslady who calls for a "great white hope," but definitely off the same menu. It's good to be in the ultrarich bracket whose taxes Obama proposes to raise, isn't it? Unless of course you don't think you should have to pay taxes at all.

And the quest for the next Reagan continues.


Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Warning: crude satire ahead!

Today is the seventieth anniversary of the German invasion of Poland, the beginning of Adolf Hitler's six-year effort to bring universal health care to the world. (The strenuous work of the liberal media had prevented most Germans from knowing that Hitler was actually an Austrian.) Only England resisted, fending off socialized medicine until 1945. In the wake of the SS Panzer divisions came doctors like Josef Mengele, forcing safe, legal abortion and stem-cell research upon the enslaved peoples of Europe. Beyond the dark and roiling waters of the Atlantic, nothing stood between freedom and single-payer tyranny except Ronald Reagan, John Wayne, and their comrades in the 101st Chairborne ("The Screaming Chickenhawks").

I am clearly labeling this as satire because I don't want it to find its way into Wikipedia or otherwise take on a life of its own, like Mencken's bathtub hoax and the Kenyan birth certificate created by that guy in Australia. The Right has really taken the fun out of blogging. There's a website (find it yourself) which offers photographic "proof" that Barack and Michelle Obama are human-reptilian hybrids, and I'm damned if I can tell whether it's serious or not. Gotta love the First Amendment. In Thailand, you get hard time for cracking wise about the king, and he doesn't even have any power.

I'm told that in certain quarters, August 29 has been proclaimed Sarah Palin Day, honoring the day in 2008 when John McCain sprang her on a largely unsuspecting nation. Surely this is meant to be funny, like Talk Like A Pirate Day, only instead of "Aarrrgh!" and "Prepare to be boarded, wench!" we'll all speak in Klondike gibberish and carry toy assault rifles. I need to believe this. I need for a microphone to pick up Limbaugh muttering to his producer, "I can't believe they're buying this shit." I want Sean Hannity to rip off his rubber mask and reveal that he's Weird Al Yankovic. I'm almost certain that Orly Taitz is a Sasha Baron Cohen character, something he threw together after the failure of Bruno. (He could have put more thought into the name. "Let's see...LaGuardia Schwartz? Tempelhof Bernstein? Heathrow Horowitz? Ah! Orly Taitz! Makeup! Pile it on!")

Do you really think liberalism, fascism and socialism are identical? That people rode on the backs of dinosaurs? That the Holocaust is a myth? That FEMA, which couldn't deliver bottled water to the Superdome, is even capable of operating a gulag? That there are WMDs somewhere in Iraq, and pretty soon we'll find them? Or are you, for financial and political reasons of your own, just pretending to be a stone idiot?

If anybody wants me this afternoon, I'll be attending a tea party with a white rabbit and a dormouse. Leave a message.