Will the checks go out?

So there i was trying to enjoy my udon noodle bowl and read some St. Augustine on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately, Wolf Blitzer was there too, and he wouldn’t shut up. So i got to hear the latest updates on the crisis of the moment; insightful stuff too, like how i’m supposed to be offended because the Speaker of the House used the word “ass” in public. Oh dear… Sure, i laughed at the footage of the Tea Partiers marching with a sign describing the US government as a many “uttered” beast. And i shook my head in disbelief that we pay people like Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell a good salary for being ass-hatted dumb fucks. But the real kicker was Wolf worrying if “their checks will go out.” Continue reading

Torchwood – why global conspiracy plot tropes no longer work

In the final moments of Children of Earth, Captain Jack Harkness – sometime immortal, but really a “fixed point in time and space” – must make a terrible decision: sacrifice his grandson, Steven, in order to channel a transmission and destroy alien invaders.

In so doing he will save 10% of the world’s children whom the invaders, the 456, wish to use as living factories to produce recreational drugs.

At its best, science fiction confronts us with human choices against the stark contrast of an alien background.

Children of Earth asks us: would you sacrifice someone you treasure and love in order to save millions of others who you have no connection to and who may never know of your sacrifice?

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In memoriam

The Norwegian Church is an attractive 100-year old building in Rotherhithe, full of little maritime touches, south of the Thames. Back when London was a busy port, Rotherhithe was one of the main areas of port business. Whistler used to go there in the 1870s and 1880s to draw and paint. Today, it’s a pleasant enough lower middle class area, one of many in London, but it retains something of its maritime legacy. Including the Norwegian Church and Seamen’s Mission, right down the street from the Finnish Church. There are Norwegian Churches in all sorts of port cities, in fact. Liverpool has one. Cardiff. Edinburgh. Norwegians take their Christianity seriously. 80% of the country is a member of the Church of Norway.

So it was a fitting setting for today’s Memorial Service to the victims of a very evil man, Anders Behring Breivik, who last Friday blew up part of Oslo, leaving eight people dead and many maimed and injured. He then proceeded to spend 90 minutes stalking and murdering 68 teenagers at a retreat on Utøya island, all in the name of a some mythical armed struggle against multiculturalism. Continue reading

By wufnik Posted in World

What America needs now is Tricky Dick Nixon (no, I'm not joking)

Let me give you a definition of the word ‘liberal.’…Franklin D. Roosevelt once said…It is a wonderful definition, and I agree with him. ‘A liberal is a man who wants to build bridges over the chasms that separate humanity from a better life.’ – Richard Milhous Nixon

Richard Nixon was our last liberal president. – Noam Chomsky

S&R Fiction – "Mexican Radio Bulldozer" by Dan Hornsby

We could hear the Mexican radio through the floor above us. Laura and I lived in a basement apartment beneath her boss’s house. Aside from our three little rooms, the rest of the house was suffering heavy renovations.  Laura’s boss, a wealthy woman who made her living through an ever-expanding collection of “small” businesses, had a long list of whimsical retouches which required the all-but annihilation of the house. After I helped Laura move in, the boss walked us around, pointing her fingers like God on the Sistine ceiling.  Staircases would rotate. Walls would vanish, only to reappear on another floor. The existing colors were doomed to be replaced by their distant cousins and once-removed aunts. Laura and I snuck wide-eyed glances as we followed her through the house.

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S&R Nonfiction: "Sand Nigger" by Ashok Rajamani

So last Thursday I went, by myself,  to the post office to buy some stamps.  It’s early summer here in New York City.  Which means our city weather is in a schizophrenic state, not knowing whether to refresh us with spring breeze or scald us with relentless sweat-stewed heat.  On this special day it was the latter.  This afternoon, it was as if a citywide furnace had farted unseen fire into faux imported Manhattan air.   As always, I was in my standard June uniform: a white tee and khakis, accented with two-dollar flip-flops.  Looking just like your average Indian American boy walking in the Big Apple.  During the summer. Which as anyone of Indian descent might know, often feels like August in Calcutta.

Three blocks away from my destination, I saw two older, balding Black gentlemen strolling down the sidewalk.. Nothing special.  They were both conventionally dressed, in polos and shorts.  Walking past them, I now saw a group of white men and women, maybe four in total.  Oh. Damn it all to hell in a hand basket.  Wouldn’t you know, these folks looked like they just left the set of Friends.  The same show that gloriously depicted an all-white, melanin-free New York City.  Twenty-something, upper-middle-class privileged nightmares who probably just graduated from Boston University and were now living it up in the big city.  With their yuppie crapola, and with their wannabe-hip hairstyles and with their irritating young-professional attire and with their John Mayer music in their ipod’s.  I didn’t understand why they weren’t at their 9-5 jobs.  Lunch breaks, I guessed. Continue reading

'Oh, Congress! Oh, Congress! God mend thine ev'ry flaw'

When the national anthem is sung, I place my hand over my heart. I didn’t always. But I’m old enough now to appreciate, to be grateful for, what being an American citizen has afforded me.

If I wish, I can own a firearm. I can assemble peaceably with others. I can criticize the government. I can practice a religion — or not — without governmental dictation. The Constitution protects me from unreasonable search and seizure (Patriot Act not withstanding). When I was a journalist, the government could not abridge the freedom of my press. I can own property. I can depend on contracts being enforced. I have more constitutionally guaranteed rights as an American than any citizen of any other country.

Yes, I have duties as well. I must pay taxes for the general welfare and the common defense. I must be willing (and able) to stand in judgment of a citizen charged with a crime by the government. I ought to be sufficiently knowledgeable and intelligent to vote wisely.

I love my country. Most of us do. But I no longer have faith that my elected leaders love it as much as they love power and the ability to demean those they oppose. I don’t like, respect, or trust my elected leaders any more, and their public personae and political actions show they don’t give a damn about me in any way beyond my ability to cast a vote.
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Debt ceiling follies

Last January we expressed some concern about the potential mischief that could arise when Congress had to get around to dealing with the debt ceiling. That was, what, six months ago? As anyone following recent developments in this area knows, this has not been going well. Through an interesting combination of Republican stupidity, mendacity and willful ignorance, Democratic miscalculation (mainly by Obama, driven by his need to prove he’s “bipartisan”), and Treasury sloppiness, we—that is, the United States of America—now face the prospect of defaulting on our debt, and losing our triple-A credit ratings, if there is no agreement to raise the federal debt ceiling. Now, what are the odds of these two events? Default? Frankly, not likely. As Paul Craig Roberts (hardly a raging leftie) has stated:

The US government will never default on its bonds, because the bonds, unlike those of Greece, Spain, and Ireland, are payable in its own currency. Regardless of whether the debt ceiling is raised, the Federal Reserve will continue to purchase the Treasury’s debt. If Goldman Sachs is too big to fail, then so is the US government.

That pretty much sums it up. And you can be damn sure that Treasury Secretary Geithner is making certain that, whatever else might not get paid in the event that there is no debt ceiling increase, US government bonds will be paid, no matter what.

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Reinventing ourselves again

Look! Up in the sky, it’s a bird … it’s a plane. Nope, it’s Super Congress. Where caped, congressional crusaders will wage the battle between good and evil far above the heads of mere mortals and senior citizens living on Social Security. It will be where the “leaders” of both parties (and they’re not leaving any room in this Super Congress for a desperately needed third party) get together to make the big decisions, so it will also function as a reward for years of dedicated ass-kissing, lying and soul-selling. There’s a good reason why the leadership of both parties is for this Super Congress idea; they always manage to find common ground when it’s time to screw you and me. And the best – by far – way to grind the American people into destitution is to enshrine the oligarchy with extra-political rights.

Never let a crisis go to waste, even if you have to invent the crisis to seize.
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3x3x3: Amy Winehouse joins rock & roll's celebrated 27 Club

If there’s a rock and roll heaven, you know they’ve got a hell of a band. – Alan O’Day and Johnny Stevenson

British neo-soul superstar Amy Winehouse joined The 27 Club yesterday. If you haven’t heard of this select group, the term refers to all the musicians who have died at the age of 27. It’s a pretty famous crowd.

  • Janis Joplin, dead of a heroin overdose in 1970, was regarded as perhaps the preeminent female rock vocalist of her generation.
  • Jimi Hendrix, still regarded as one of the greatest guitarists in history, had died less than a month earlier.
  • Brian Jones, the brilliant and multi-talented co-founder of the Rolling Stones, died under suspicious circumstances in 1969. Continue reading

Making history click

I have a new clicker. The box calls it a “4-digit display tally counter”—a compteur manuel in French, according to the box—but we just refer to them as clickers.

I’m working today at the Spotsylvania battlefield, one of the four Civil War battlefields that comprise the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park in central Virginia. I’ll give battlefield tours later today, help visitors with questions, and keep track of visitation with the aid of my new clicker.

The old one, held together by heavy-duty packing tape with string in it, had started to skip. Dependably, it would jump from 35 to 46. As a writer and historian, math might not be my strongest point, but I’m pretty sure that there are some other numbers in there somewhere between 35 and 46. A hand clicker that doesn’t count properly isn’t much good as a clicker. Continue reading

"Then, the explosion": a Pulitzer-winning journalist recalls the Challenger disaster

Twelfth in a series

by John Hanchette

All day long, the Internet and television have been full of sound and no little fury over the moth-balling of our shuttle fleet and, realistically speaking, the dismantling of our space program. National Public Radio has been bleating all day for called-in recollections of our rocketry and space adventures, and asking for commentary on whether this indicates “American decline.”

Who can tell? Continue reading

The Shuttle program rolls to a close – now what?: one scientist remembers his winding path and thinks about the future

Tenth in a series

by Michael Pecaut

For most people, there seems to be a period in life when they have to decide what they really want to do. Become a doctor or lawyer, poet or teacher, soldier or fireman. For me, there was never any doubt. I wanted to be an astronaut. Sure, I had other interests. Coming from Hawaii, I thought about becoming a marine biologist. After seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark, I wanted to be an archeologist. Who didn’t? But all of those ideas were secondary to exploring space. Setting foot on the Moon or Mars. Floating in microgravity. Those dreams were constant.

My first real interaction with anyone involved in the Space Shuttle program occurred at Wahiawa Elementary School. Continue reading