Tom Snyder died of leukemia on Sunday. He was 71. I had no idea this happened until today, and while I'm not shocked by the news ("Death never takes the wise man by surprise, he is always ready to go" -- La Fontaine), I'm a little saddened to see another part of my youth fade away. For my generation, Snyder's "Tomorrow" was the only place you could see the truly off-beat on TV. Then there was Dan Aykroyd's impression of Snyder on "SNL", which was semi-iconic, though not appreciated by Snyder, who tended to take himself a little too seriously. (For the record, Harry Shearer did a more accurate Snyder, but Aykroyd's was funnier and at times stranger.)
Snyder interviewed many interesting people, not all of them celebrities or even apparently sane. His type of television is long gone; no one really talks at length anymore, and there's very little color in most contemporary exchanges. I've yet to see Snyder's confrontation with the National Lampoon's Doug Kenney from 1975, which I understand was quite tense, owing to Kenney's barely-hidden hostility and brain saturated with hashish. (If anyone has access to that tape, please let me know.) But I do own the DVD box set featuring Snyder's many interviews with punk and new wave artists from the late-70s and early-80s, and without doubt, the most entertaining segment is Snyder attempting to understand John Lydon and Keith Levene of Public Image, Ltd. This is emblematic of Snyder at his best and worst. From June 25, 1980.
No surprise here. Nothing I haven't seen many times before. But occasionally, the covering up of genocidal violence in the corporate press does get to me, especially when encountered before my first cup of morning coffee.
The New York Times' Seth Mydans, reporting from Dili, East Timor, informs us today that Portuguese is the now the official language of that small, battered nation, "a language that most people in East Timor cannot speak." As Mydans further explains:
"For a quarter of a century, Portuguese had been a dying tongue, spoken only by an older generation. It was banned after Indonesia annexed the territory in 1975 and imposed its own language."
"Annexed." This is how the American mass media describes what Indonesia did to East Timor from 1975 to 1999 -- that is, when the topic is raised at all. (New York Times-approved humanitarian scholar Samantha Power is a bit more critical, insisting that “the United States looked away” while the Indonesian military was on its killing spree.) And naturally, Mydans goes no further in his piece, leaving the reader to assume that some distant, geographical rearrangement took place, nothing terribly serious, it's happened before in global history, etc., y-a-w-n.
That Indonesia brutally invaded East Timor and wiped out a third of its population is not mentioned or even alluded to. And that the United States not only supported this mass murder, but actively aided the Indonesian military while lending diplomatic cover as a couple hundred thousand Timorese were slaughtered or starved to death seems to have escaped Mydans' journalistic attention, and that of his editor as well. Were Mydans in, say, Kosovo, he would doubtless fail to mention Milosevic when surveying that terrain. Right? Of course. I'm ashamed to broach something so obvious.
Now that's settled, let's see what's on the Sports page . . .
Another hour of geekoid comedy chat commences tonight at 9 PM Eastern, 6 PM Pacific, when I rejoin former "Carol Burnett Show" writer and sitcom producer Bob Illes, and "Fridays" writer and "Curb Your Enthusiasm" director Tom Kramer on "Funny Is Money". Go here, scroll down to select your player at the appointed hour, and enjoy. The show runs Mon thru Sat for the next couple of weeks, so you have plenty of time to catch it. And if you don't, the shame is all yours.
Saw "The Simpsons Movie" with the boy over the weekend, and though we both enjoyed it, this isn't the best "Simpsons" effort to date. There are a lot of truly funny and clever bits, inescapable when the likes of George Meyer, John Swartzwelder, Ian Maxtone-Graham, and Jon Vitti are contributing. But as a film, it doesn't really hold together. It may be that "The Simpsons" has been on TV for so long that a film version cannot compete with all the classic moments from the past. Had there been a "Simpsons" movie a few years into the franchise, perhaps it would've been fresher and edgier. For the boy and me, the best moments have already occurred (a few of which are paid homage to in the film), so there's not much left to work with. Despite this, "The Simpsons Movie" is still worth seeing. It's a lot funnier than 99% of current Hollywood comedies.
The one consistent element of "The Simpsons" that remains is the subtle -- at times, not so subtle -- Fuck You to American culture and Americans in general. I don't know if this is clearly seen or understood by the majority of Simpsons' fans, considering the popularity that Springfield family enjoys. The audience we saw the film with laughed loudest at the violence and slapstick. The political and cultural humor received a few titters here and there, a stray laugh, a snort. Then again, we watched this in the Midwest, not exactly a hotbed of satirical appreciation (to be fair, the same can be said of the more elite types on the coasts, as I'm reminded when submitting a particularly harsh piece to Huffington Post, say). "Family Guy" goes more for the throat than does "The Simpsons"; and should there ever be a "Family Guy" film, I suspect it will be a much darker effort. At least I hope so.
Hollywood has always sold shit to its audience, but after watching the previews of some upcoming comedies, I wonder if we're in an especially shittier period. "Alvin and the Chipmunks" and "Horton Hears A Who", the latter of which stars the voices of Jim Carrey and Steve Carrell, look witless and dreadful, more chum bait for addled parents to drag their bored kids through. "The Game Plan" with The Rock resembles those comedies that Schwarzenegger made in the late-80s/early-90s, and no doubt as hilarious. "Good Luck Chuck" is yet another Dane Cook vehicle, featuring Cook's standard screaming and leaping shtick as he tries to avoid fucking a willing Jessica Alba ('coz, see, every straight guy wants to fuck Jessica Alba, and not wanting to is funny). The audience guffawed through much of these previews, which made sense, given that the gags are recycled tripe and predictable from the jump. In these troubled times, mechanized laughter helps to ease the tension between mouthfuls of artificially-buttered popcorn and loud slurps of soda. Something Homer Simpson would appreciate.
While the Y-Kos people have me slated to "speak on seeing the humor in the Mideast crisis," which of course is a bona fide, laff-filled riot, I'm actually going to talk about how Arabs are treated in American comedy, as opposed to Israelis. Jewish culture in general and the more arcane features of Judaism are regularly sent up (Larry David is particularly adept at this), but I cannot count on one hand the times an Israeli prime minister was portrayed as a murderous lunatic on "SNL" or "Mad TV", or Israeli aggression satirized on "The Daily Show", or Zionist settlers lampooned by Leno, Letterman, or Conan. Indeed, I can't recall any attacks on Zionism by a prominent American comic or comedy show. But there are plenty of comedy assaults on Arabs, Arab culture, and of course Islam, some of which are openly racist, and would never be done if the target was African-Americans, for example. On that front, I can come up with a dozen anti-Arab bits off the top of my head. But I'm having trouble finding the same consistent drubbing of Israel and Zionism by American humorists. Any help finding such routines and jokes on national shows would be appreciated, and will further enhance my presentation this Friday. Thanks.
Going away for a few days, so you'll have to quench your thirst for howling indignation and retro-pop appreciation elsewhere this weekend. I'll be revisiting some old stomping grounds, one of which is the weed-infested ruins of an old drive-in theater where I spent many childhood and teen summer nights. The boy doesn't really grasp the whole see-a-movie-in-your-car concept. What if the windshield's dirty? What if it rains? Why is the speaker so tiny? Clearly, growing up in the early 21st century has robbed him of such simple delights. Me, I watch the below, and it's 1974 all over again.
A friendly, older woman I see from time to time emerged from her office cube and sighed about wanting to win the lottery.
"More likely, you'll be hit by lightning while riding a unicorn," was my lazy, unoriginal reply.
She flashed a pained expression. "I'm serious," she said. "It's pretty much all I have to look forward to."
Glancing into her cluttered cube, a human veal crate like all the others, I realized that she wasn't kidding.
Pinning one's hopes on something miraculous pretty much sums up the current desire to see Bush and Cheney impeached. Sure, it's a fine idea, an overdue if understated stab at justice (war crimes trials better suits the two, followed by the requisite breaking of rocks under the midday sun, etc.), but you and I know that it's not going to happen. Not a chance. Not with the present-day Dems serving as "opposition." John Conyers made a few noises ostensibly in favor of impeachment, yet Conyers has little juice and even lesser enthusiasm to actively pursue such a thing. Some activists are angry with Conyers, but it's largely misplaced: Conyers simply lacks the political muscle and backing to make impeachment hearings a reality.
The Dems are waiting Bush out in the hopes of replacing him in '08, so making a serious criminal case against Bush and Cheney is the furthest thought from their minds. Besides, the Dem leadership can't wait to show that they, too, can wage war and bomb "rogue" countries like Iran, so really, what would be their complaint -- that Bush was reckless concerning Iraq? That Bush has hurt the U.S. global image? This is about a far as the Dems will go. They don't want to indict, much less dismantle, the present system. They want control of it, to prove that they're effective managers of empire. Think the global capital-religo war will end should, say, Hillary be elected? As her friend, adviser, and probable Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke put it:
"She is probably more assertive and willing to use force than her husband. Hillary Clinton is a classic national-security Democrat. She is better at framing national-security issues for the current era than her husband was at a common point in his career."
Straight from a top mule's mouth. And while some online libs cling to the hope that Obama or Edwards may overtake Hillary, the smart, inside, big money's on the former First Lady. Once Hillary is the established, undisputed frontrunner and inevitable nominee, the Obama/Edwards libs will come crawling into Hillary's well-fortified camp, ready to wave her flag. Thus does the American system balance itself.
Impeachment? Criminal trials? Clap all you like, kids. Tinkerbell's in a body bag.
Finally, a Nation cover story that's must reading.
If you haven't seen "In Their Own Words" yet, by all means take the time to read it. Chris Hedges and Laila Al-Arian provide a candid, disturbing look at how the Iraq war has brutalized the minds of some soldiers, sailors, and Marines, and after reading passages like this:
Veterans described reckless firing once they left their compounds. Some shot holes into cans of gasoline being sold along the roadside and then tossed grenades into the pools of gas to set them ablaze. Others opened fire on children. These shootings often enraged Iraqi witnesses.
In June 2003 Staff Sgt. Camilo Mejía's unit was pressed by a furious crowd in Ramadi. Sergeant Mejía, 31, a National Guardsman from Miami, served for six months beginning in April 2003 with the 1-124 Infantry Battalion, Fifty-Third Infantry Brigade. His squad opened fire on an Iraqi youth holding a grenade, riddling his body with bullets. Sergeant Mejía checked his clip afterward and calculated that he had personally fired eleven rounds into the young man.
"The frustration that resulted from our inability to get back at those who were attacking us led to tactics that seemed designed simply to punish the local population that was supporting them," Sergeant Mejía said.
We heard a few reports, in one case corroborated by photographs, that some soldiers had so lost their moral compass that they'd mocked or desecrated Iraqi corpses. One photo, among dozens turned over to The Nation during the investigation, shows an American soldier acting as if he is about to eat the spilled brains of a dead Iraqi man with his brown plastic Army-issue spoon.
"Take a picture of me and this motherfucker," a soldier who had been in Sergeant Mejía's squad said as he put his arm around the corpse. Sergeant Mejía recalls that the shroud covering the body fell away, revealing that the young man was wearing only his pants. There was a bullet hole in his chest.
"Damn, they really fucked you up, didn't they?" the soldier laughed.
The scene, Sergeant Mejía said, was witnessed by the dead man's brothers and cousins.
You're left wondering what these people will be like if they make it back home alive. I tried satirizing this mindset last week, but many readers thought I posted an actual wire report, which shows that this madness is beyond such archaic devices. Tragedy is the only reality in Iraq.
If you need a laugh after reading the above, I recommend this clip from "Get A Life", Chris Elliott's strange sitcom from the early 90s. "Zoo Animals On Wheels" is of course a parody of "Cats", but Elliott's brand of absurdity takes the premise into another world entirely. This is Elliott in his prime. And the bonus here is that the show's laugh track was removed, exposing the discomfort of the audience as it tries to make sense of this ridiculous revue. With TV vets Bob Elliott and Elinor Donahue as Chris' parents.
Unlike many libloggers, I don't get bent over the latest rightwing media screech and shout. That's who they are. That's what they do. They are a distraction from more pressing political/social issues, which is why the corporate "liberal" media gives them a regular national platform. Consider it an institutional feature. Still, given all that, reactionaries can provide some passing amusement, and perhaps the most consistent clown on this front is David Horowitz.
I've tangled with DHo before -- he's none too bright and fairly easy to handle. But what's really funny is how DHo, when effectively countered or simply mocked, will assume the role of political victim. He'll complain about being ganged up on, that he's not operating on a level playing field, i.e., that he doesn't have the monopoly of media time. At bottom, DHo is a lightweight who cannot politically defend himself when the going gets rough.
Here's a perfect example of this, and I'm happy that my friend and former radio co-host Laura Flanders did most of the honors. Her laughter in the face of DHo's cry-baby bit says it all.
There are many brutal scenes and images I can take -- not entirely stomach or make sense of, but absorb without entirely losing my mind. When the beheading spree took place several years ago in Iraq and Afghanistan, I thought it was my duty as a public critic of the Terror Wars to watch the videos and immerse myself in the savage reality that was taking place In Our Names. If Camus could do it in person with a guillotine, I could do it from my office chair, half a world away.
Got through one video, barely; I wasn't ready for human slaughterhouse insanity, suffered a mild anxiety attack and spent the next few days offline until my nerves settled. What was a perfectly healthy revulsion seemed to me at the time as wimpish and hypocritical. An abdication. I actually felt ashamed that I couldn't watch a man having his head sawed off without wanting to puke.
When the next video was served up, I thought I was ready, that I knew what to expect. As a masked militant made his statement, flanked by other masked men, the kneeling, blindfolded victim, Kim Sun-il, a South Korean Christian missionary, began to cry out in fear. Clearly, he knew these were his final moments, and that his death was going to be a painful one. The sorrow I felt for him, the sickness that rose from my gut, overwhelmed me. When the militants chanted in unison and broke from their frozen stance (which seemed like a football offense breaking a huddle, I weirdly thought), a large knife was drawn and raised, Kim Sun-il's arms were grabbed, and I shut the whole thing down, shaking in my seat.
Another abdication. Such are the advantages of clean Western living.
I've been thinking about Kim Sun-il these past few days, what with the 23 South Korean Christian missionaries taken hostage by the Taliban, their lives hanging in the balance. While I hope that they are released unharmed, something tells me that another horror will soon be upon us. I hope I'm wrong. Since the Taliban supposedly rejects graven images, we here in the empire should be spared any video imagery of whatever brutality that may befall the missionaries. Another perk for us. For the Koreans, however, the immediacy of madness may be their last sensation on this plane of existence. God help them.
My feelings for them aside, I have to ask: Why the fuck did they not only travel to Afghanistan, but took a bus between Kabul and Kandahar, considered one of the most dangerous roads in that war-shattered country? From some of the reports I've read, they are there to help the Afghan poor, and not to convert Muslims to Christianity. Maybe so. We all know that Afghanistan is one of the poorest nations on the planet, a miserable situation that the Western presence has done little to alleviate. Parts of Kabul are doing well -- for those connected to the corruption and cronyism that is rife, anyway. For the rest of the country, starvation, thirst, disease, torture, violence, and death, whether from the Taliban or from U.S. missile strikes. Sending Korean Christians into this mix, for whatever reason, is simply crazy. What in their God's name were they thinking?
A couple of years ago, a born again Christian relative of mine decided, along with several of his churchmates, to go to Morocco and spread the Christian message to the Muslims. When the wife and I heard about this, we shook our heads and prepared for the worst. It seemed like a suicide mission. And for what? Their own bloated sense of righteousness? The relative in question is quite bull-headed when it comes to his faith. He and I have discussed the Middle East, a subject he knows very little about. But that didn't stop him from lecturing me about the need to Christianize the Muslim countries, for the good of the world if not for the good of their souls. I told him that this was an arrogant fool's errand, given the present state of affairs between the West and much of global Islam. He simply smiled and said that Jesus had it all figured out.
About a week after he and his colleagues entered Morocco, there was no word from them. His wife didn't know where his group was, nor did their church. The whole family held its breath and waited for what many of us thought would be terrible news. Finally, a phone call came through. The church group was detained by Moroccan authorities, taken to Tangier and put on a boat to Spain with a stern warning not to return. While some in the family were outraged by this affront, I was relieved, and privately thanked the Moroccans for having more sense than my relative and his friends. Indeed, those authorities -- Muslims, no doubt -- probably saved their lives. If my relative was going out with a pro-Jesus bang, he'd have to find another outlet.
Such is the missionary mindset -- leading from the heart, blinded by faith, impervious to earth-bound reason. The sad thing is that whatever happens to those Korean Christians, more from their country, as well as from other nations, will probably follow suit. In other words, we'll see this scenario played out again. Better get used to it.
A certain malaise is spreading in our little corner of the 'sphere. The seemingly-tireless Arthur Silber, who has laid out the stark criminality of this system in great detail, is now laid out himself, suffering physical maladies. Jon Schwarz, who brings it from so many angles it makes your eyes sting, is currently questioning his online efforts and wonders if it's truly worth it. And as for your humble narrator, it's been a couple of weeks in a dark emotional tunnel from which I'm starting to emerge. Only Chris Floyd seems untouched, but when reading Chris' output, I don't see how he's not screaming in the dark.
Blogging from our positions has proved taxing. The deeper we dig into our present reality, the more depressing it gets. We're living in a genuinely terrible time -- in my view, a uniquely horrible time. And there's more horror on the horizon. Many bloggers avoid this by clinging to political fantasy -- in the lib case, that the Dems will save us and make it all better, if only we elect them and give them the chance. Others avoid serious political issues altogether and write about their favorite pop culture moments or about their personal lives. I don't blame them. Lord knows I do enough of that myself. But as you regulars are aware, I also dive directly into the madness and misery, trying to find a satirical angle that hopefully will make the poison go down without too much bitter aftertaste. I fail more often than not, but every once in a while, I achieve what I set out to do. When it works, it's great. But it takes a lot of effort, and one's sensitivities are constantly assaulted. Blogging is hardly a sweet, prestigious, much less profitable gig.
Please keep all this mind when reading Arthur, Jon, and me. There are other projects I'm pursuing, different outlets I'm hoping to use. But for the time being, I'll remain here and do what I do, when I'm not drinking grain alcohol under the blanket, 70s arena rock blasting from my stereo.
(UPDATE: Now cross-posted at HuffPo and newcritics, for those who like to comment.)
Here's something that has lifted my spirits -- "The Ronny Horror Show" from the December 12, 1980 edition of "Fridays." I haven't seen this since it originally aired, and it only aired once, due to the protests of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" producer Lou Adler, who felt that the parody would hurt his film.
This was perhaps the most ambitious sketch ever done on "Fridays" -- an 18-minute live musical/comedy take on the incoming Reagan administration. You'll immediately recognize Michael Richards, and Larry David plays a biker Richard Nixon. But the whole cast does a great job (though Darrow Igus stumbles on one of his lines -- too many "Ps" for live TV), and I always liked John Roarke's transvestite Reagan. Watching this again with older eyes, there are some politically naïve lines I didn't catch when I was 21; but overall, the feel was right for the time, and I missed Nixon's lyric about overthrowing Allende in Chile. That lesson, among many others, would soon be learned.
The sketch received a standing ovation, a rare thing in TV comedy. It brings back a moment when we who opposed Reagan were waiting to see what was coming down the road. "Ronny Horror" helped to ease the tension, for a few weeks, anyway, before the Real Production got rolling.
WASHINGTON -- The terrorist network Al-Qaida will likely leverage its contacts and capabilities in Iraq to mount an attack on U.S. soil, according to a new National Intelligence Estimate on dire, deadly threats to the American fatherland.
The declassified key findings, to be released publicly today, were obtained in advance by The Associated Press, in exchange for not questioning the validity of the findings or the true nature of any reported threat.
The report lays out a range of dangers — from al-Qaida to Lebanese Hezbollah to non-Muslim radical groups to Michael Moore and Rosie O'Donnell — that pose a "persistent, evolving, and useful threat" to the country over the next three years. As expected, however, the findings focus most of their attention on the gravest terror problem: Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network.
The report makes clear that al-Qaida in Iraq, which has not yet posed a direct threat to U.S. soil, could become a problem here.
"Of note," the analysts said, "we assess that al-Qaida will probably seek to leverage the contacts and capabilities of al-Qaida in Iraq, its most visible, capable, and profitable affiliate, and the only one known to have expressed a burning desire to attack the fatherland."
The analysts also found that al-Qaida's association with its Iraqi affiliate, also known as AQ2 (Return of The Base), helps the group to energize the broader Sunni Muslim extremist community, raise resources and recruit, hypnotize and program compliant operatives — "including for fatherland attacks."
National Intelligence Estimates are the most verbose written judgments of the 16 spy agencies across the breadth of the U.S. military/corporate state. These agencies reflect the consensus, long-term projections of top intelligence analysts. Portions of the documents are occasionally declassified to stir public fear and instill domestic obedience.
The new report echoed statements made by senior intelligence officials over the last year, but provided some exciting new twists on their thinking and concerns.
For instance, the report says that worldwide counterterrorism efforts since 2001 have constrained al-Qaida's ability to attack the U.S. again and convinced terror groups that U.S. soil is a tougher target.
But, the report quickly adds before you can enjoy what measure of safety the above statement may have given you, analysts are concerned "that this level of international cooperation may wane as 9/11 becomes more of a theme park concept and perceptions of how the real world operates diverge."
Among the report's other findings:
*Al-Qaida is likely to continue to focus on high-profile political, economic and infrastructure targets to cause mass casualties, visually dramatic destruction, economic aftershocks and fear, or what is called by officials "the Iraq invasion and occupation model." Al-Qaida "is proficient with conventional small arms, improvised explosive devices, Crocodile Dundee-type knives, hammers, letter openers, rocks thrown from moving cars, and chokeholds, and is innovative in creating new weapons like the torpedo shark and nerve gas-filled party balloons which can and most likely will overcome security obstacles."
*The group has been able to restore key elements it would need to launch an attack on U.S. soil: a safe haven in Pakistan's tribal areas where operational lieutenants and senior leaders plan future terror attacks in secret, expansive, well-lit underground labs and weapons factories that "boggle the imagination" and "put U.S. corporate military production to shame."
*The group will continue to seek weapons of mass destruction — chemical, biological or nuclear material — either on the open market or through remaining connections to Saddam Hussein's global terror network, and "would not hesitate to use" these weapons as there is no Arabic or Pashto word for "hesitate."
*Lebanese Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim extremist group that has conducted anti-American attacks overseas, may be more likely to consider attacking here, especially if it believes the United States is directly threatening the group by sending billions in military aid to Israel, or threatening its main sponsor, Iran, by bombing that country's infrastructure and killing untold thousands and maiming thousands more.
*Non-Muslim terrorist groups probably will attack here in the next several years, although on a smaller scale. The judgments don't name any specific groups, but the FBI often warns of violent environmental groups, such as Earth Liberation Front, the Green Panthers, Vegan Death Cult, the Environmental Protection Agency, and Monsanto, among others.
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - A Marine corporal testifying in a court-martial said Marines in his unit began routinely beating Iraqis after officers ordered them to "crank up the violence level."
Cpl. Saul H. Lopezromo testified Saturday at the murder trial of Cpl. Trent D. Thomas.
"We were told to crank up the violence level," said Lopezromo, testifying for the defense.
When a juror asked for further explanation, Lopezromo said: "We beat people, sir."
"What kind of people, Cpl.?" came the follow-up question.
"Well, I wouldn't really call them 'people,'" replied Lopezromo. "They were hadjis. Sand niggers. Y'know, camel fuckers."
"And you beat them?"
"Yes sir. Fists, rifle butts, boots, garbage cans, pipes. We used anything we could. Our CO told us that hadjis don't feel pain the way we do, and that they wouldn't respect us enough to cooperate unless we beat them into unconsciousness or just killed them."
Within weeks of allegedly being scolded, seven Marines and a Navy corpsman went out late one night to find and kill a suspected insurgent in the village of Hamandiya near the Abu Ghraib prison. The Marines and corpsman were from 2nd Platoon, Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment.
Lopezromo said the suspected insurgent was known to his neighbors as the "prince of jihad," the "mullah of car bombs," and had been arrested several times and later released by the Iraqi legal system.
Unable to find him, the Marines and corpsman dragged another man from his house, crushed his testicles by stomping on his groin, kicked in his ribs, tied him to the back of a Humvee and dragged him across rough terrain for about a mile, fatally shot him, and then planted an AK-47 assault rifle near the body to make it appear he had been killed in a shootout, along with a note, hastily written in English, that read, "I'm a terrerist," according to court testimony.
Four Marines and the corpsman, initially charged with murder in the April 2006 killing, have pleaded guilty to reduced charges and been given jail sentences ranging from 10 months to eight years. Thomas, 25, from St. Louis, pleaded guilty but withdrew his plea and is the first defendant to go to court-martial.
Lopezromo, who was not part of the squad on its late-night mission, said he saw nothing wrong with what Thomas did.
"I don't see it as an execution, sir," he told the judge. "I see it as killing a cockroach."
He said Marines consider all Iraqi men, most Iraqi women and children, some dogs and a few goats as part of the insurgency.
Lopezromo and two other Marines were charged in August with assaulting an Iraqi two weeks before the killing that led to charges against Thomas and the others. Charges against all three were later dropped.
Thomas' attorneys have said he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury from his combat duty in Fallouja in 2004. They have argued that Thomas believed he was following a lawful order to "get crazy primal" with suspected insurgents.
Prosecution witnesses testified that Thomas shot the 52-year-old man at point-blank range in the face after he had already been shot by other Marines and was lying on the ground in a widening pool of blood.
Lopezromo said a procedure called "dead-checking" was routine. If Marines entered a house where a man was wounded, instead of checking to see whether he needed medical aid, they shot him repeatedly to make sure he was dead, "like on 'The Sopranos,'" he testified.
"If somebody is worth shooting once, they're worth shooting 50 times," he said.
The jury is composed of three officers and six enlisted personnel, all of whom have served in Iraq. The trial was set to resume Monday, July 16.
I respect the doctor/patient confidentiality pact enough not to get too specific here, but this morning's session with my therapist revealed something to me that I've known, but have yet to fully accept or even acknowledge.
I'm going through a depressive stage.
There are many reasons for this, which I won't go into, but it helps to explain my recent inability to write anything decent or extensive. I stare at the screen, my hands numb, and nothing, n-o-t-h-i-n-g comes, at least nothing worth spending a couple of hours composing. I read the headlines, scan the horror and sadness, and remain frozen. I have trouble going into public lately; anxiety floods my body and brain while standing in line at the store, and soon the whole scene becomes something like this --
Or this --
And since it's not drug-induced, I have no idea when the crazed images will stop, or if they'll stop. The Fear grabs me and throws me to the ground. It's Shock Corridor time -- everything is lunacy and violent death. Sleep is no escape, as this bullshit seeps into my unconscious and turns my dreamscape into a killing ground.
But I've been here before, and can navigate through most of it. So, please excuse me for a couple of days while I try to find some emotional balance and recharge myself for the next phase, whatever the fuck that will be. For now, I'm going outside on my porch and watch the clouds drift by on this beautiful day. Hopefully, the weather is nice wherever you happen to be.
Here's something you probably won't see again any time soon -- me cited at Daily Kos. It comes via Juan Cole, who put together the Middle East panel for the upcoming Yearly Kos convention in Chicago, and Juan couldn't resist mentioning my criticism of Digby, perhaps hoping to stir the pot a little. While nothing was said in the comments, the Kos diarist, Mark in San Fran, noted:
"This should prove interesting, especially if Digby is in attendance."
I don't know if Mark is anticipating fireworks, but if Digby does attend our panel and introduces herself to me, I will be friendly and courteous. As I've said, I hold nothing personal against Digby. The more online, the merrier -- or in my case, the more miserable, frustrated, and bewildered.
A minor clarification: While I will be discussing Israel/Palestine, my presentation will be about how Americans create or deal with satire of Middle East issues.
Speaking of laughs, here's a rare, ragged clip of Charles Rocket from his brief time on "SNL" in 1980-81. This "Rocket Report" segment anticipates the kind of street bits that David Letterman would make famous just over a year later. Rocket is much more animated than the deadpan Letterman, but he's not bad. The guy had more talent than was ever really acknowledged.
Overwhelmed with many things, some creative, some emotional, and I'm having trouble revving the engine for yet another knee-slapping parody, lib-slamming polemic, or extended pop cult meditation (my dissertation on "Lidsville" gathers more dust and moss, and Charles Nelson Reilly's passing hasn't helped matters). There are times when I'm simply tapped out, and this is one of them.
No matter. It will pass. And since there's no lull in the surrounding insanity, there'll be plenty of ripe topics for me to bite into and break my aging teeth on.
I've been reading a lot about the commando raid on Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, in Pakistan. Talk about your utterly depressing, no-win scenarios! And this is just one corner of the global religious/capital war currently being waged. Bush becomes even more isolated from reality, the Dems talk about "bringing the troops home," but aren't all that urgent about it, and like the administration, Dems are also blaming the Iraqis for their misery, which should prove a winner in '08. Why ask Americans to take more responsibility for allowing this carnage to continue when you can dump it all on a bunch of wogs who don't live anywhere near Iowa or New Hampshire? Hillary is particularly good at this, and though it makes me vomit in my mouth to admit, she's really smooth and politically effective. It wouldn't surprise me at all if she buys -- er, "wins" the nomination, nor would it stun me if she became president. It would sadden me in many ways, but not throw me for a loop.
Blargh. That's it for today. Hopefully, I'll wake tomorrow with a mega-post bursting Alien-like from my chest and running its tiny, blood-coated claws over the keyboard. Maybe this will stir the savage little bastard:
Imagine someone writing this for a British political magazine before World War II:
"The Berlin regime . . . has a leader — Adolf Hitler — who has sprung from being an underground revolutionary gunman to perhaps the first visionary European statesman since Napoleon.
"Dining with an old man in a cafe in central Berlin, I discovered that he inadvertently embodied the history of modern Germany. He had been imprisoned in 1913 for opposing Kaiser Wilhelm II, again in 1927 for hostility to Wilhelm Marx and finally in 1934 by the present regime.The last of these had, he said, been easily the worst. He was personally interrogated by Heinrich Himmler, then head of the secret police. There had been torture and brutality of a far worse sort than his previous incarcerations. And yet he declared that he thought the present government the best German Administration he had seen. Why? ‘Because it has made us strong and respected.’ There seems no getting round this point. From the festeringly poor and politically dependent nation of a generation ago, Germany has become a power in every sense — military, economic and ideological.
"Adolf Hitler will rise more clearly to the top. Make a note of the name."
Then imagine that this same scribe eventually changed his tune, turned violently against "the first visionary European statesman since Napoleon," advocated regime change, slandered anyone who didn't share his gusto, but failed to mention in all of his outbursts that he once wrote favorably about the fascist regime, providing juicy pull quotes that had anyone else written them, he would use as a club every time the subject arose.
Imagine no more -- the self-described anti-fascist Christopher Hitchens wrote such a piece, only about Saddam Hussein's Iraq in 1976. No doubt this will be excused as some kind of youthful indiscretion (Hitch was just turning 27, after all). But still, considering all of the bile he has heaped on those who differed with him over Iraq, not to mention the many lies he's told about his political past, it makes sense that Hitchens would ignore this part of his collected work. His upcoming rationale for once publicly hailing Saddam as "perhaps the first visionary Arab statesman since Nasser" should be amusing.
"Cluck 'Til October" by Devilshampoo. Cymbals hit with ball peen hammers mesh with a bullet-riddled saxophone and a trio of dented fuzz guitars to create an unsettling wave of sound that can send chimps into murderous rages. Lead singer Lamont Means brings some texture to the mix, when he isn't trying to swallow the mike or slamming it against a pile of gravel while yelling about the trilateral commotion in his brain. The three-minute echo chamber screamfest that closes the song could've been cut to a minute forty-five without any loss of resonance.
"Jelly Ur Stain (Make It Quizzical)" by Treb Gee Featuring Mrs. Random. Recurring loops of sneezes and yodels provide the bass line for an accelerated rhyme duet that reaches a vocal apex of braggadocio and desperate pleading before crashing into charges and countercharges of petty theft and excessive fondling. Church bells add some depth, but are overwhelmed by Treb Gee's porno grunts and Mrs. Random's ostrich calls, which culminate in a flood of profanity and promises of retribution before the duo settle into a smooth "baby baby" groove.
"Watch Out, Mr. Ahmadinejad" by Hummer Perkins. Patriotic country singer Perkins follows up his 2003 hit, "Get A Runnin', Saddam," with this "message" to the current president of Iran. Essentially, this is the same song, with a few changes in names and nations. Still, Perkins really sells it, and his fans will delight to lyrics like, "Shia, Sunni/Don't know the difference, so sue me/You're goin' down real soon/Gonna turn Tehran into the moon" and "American bombs will find you/Ahmadinejerk, and fry you/And the other towelheads, too/Roasted Iranian beef stew/Goes fine with cold American brew." Reportedly, Hummer Collins is back in the studio working on his next song, "Chavez, Hugo Straight To Hell."
"Clarion Kitchen Mice" by Towers Of Bile. A novelty song of sorts, in which mutant rodents commandeer a rural kitchen using LSD-laced Ding Dongs and subliminal suggestion. The lead guitar at times sounds lost and off tempo, as though Ric Carve is walking into an atonal dimension. But lead singer Jass Lorde holds it all together with her signature siren sound, and thanks to her, the mice become sympathetic characters, until their kitchen scheme falls apart due to vehement tactical differences, which gives the humans enough of an opening to capture and subject them to hours of pro-Scientology rants and occasional electric shocks.
"Route 14 Ain't Sizzlin' No More" by Charley Rufus III. The folk-rock wunderkind returns with another tribute to two-lane highways of the southwest, as a steel guitar played with welder's gloves guides the melody along with sudden bass bursts, an acoustic guitar solo that sporadically jumps from flamenco to raw honky tonk, incredibly slow drumming that sounds as if the kit is being shoved through pus-soaked gauze, an electric fiddle/harmonica fusion which conjures mental images of drunken cowpokes gang banging a dying mule, topped with Rufus' craggy baritone that, as always, gives off a I've-been-dragged-through-the-gutter-so-many-times-that-I'm-starting-to-feel-as-if-sanity-is-a-drug-induced-illusion-that-must-be-shattered-by-a-spree-of-mindless-violence-that-would-make-Richard-Ramirez-retch-in-horror feel.
"Recall That Anomaly, Candice?" by The Floating Bee Delusion. Cut-rate, warmed-over psychedelic retro-noise from this Scottsdale quartet that seems so obsessed with late-60s acid music, they never really learned to play their instruments or develop any semblance of lyrical cohesion. The result is a mish-mash of stolen sound effects from old science fiction movies, an out of control metronome, maniacal laughter, what sounds like a rake being shoved into an electric fan, doors slamming amid a child's screams, and the line "Thrust thy brick henceforth to the 'morrow" electronically distorted and repeated at various sound levels. While the name "Candice" is in the title, the actual song makes no mention of her, referring only to a "lady grasshopper" as glass breaks and a goose hisses over a poorly-played piano.
"Loving You To Death (This Time I Mean It)" by Luci Kyle. A soft pop ballad about emotional instability and disturbed romantic obsession by one of the true masters of the form. When Kyle whispers "If I can't have you, then I'll have you stuffed in my attic," she is very believable -- so believable, in fact, that several concertgoers have taken out restraining orders against Kyle after seeing her perform live. Kyle's no less intense here, and when she sobs about the cruelty of unrequited love, then giggles about how she'll slowly "teach you the meaning of tough love" with the shades drawn, the phone disconnected, and electrical tape across her would-be lover's mouth, you feel like locking yourself in a closet for several hours until Kyle's melodic threats fade in your mind.
"You suck. You have no talent. Fuck you and fuck that crap you 'write'."
These are some of the mash notes I've received since writing about Digby and supine libs in general. I've been called many things by rightwingers over the years, but for sheer hatred and viciousness, few reactionaries can match an enraged liberal. I suppose it's because liberals are so passionate. I mean, you are passionate, right mules?
I won't spend a ton of time on this, but let me clear up a few things. First, all of you who worship Digby and consider her some kind valorous saint are welcome to your faith. I learned long ago that fundamentalist outlooks are nearly impossible to penetrate. Still, I have nothing personal against Digby; I'm happy that she expresses herself politically and defines her own political space. I simply think that her views are about twenty steps behind what's really going on, that she's locked into an archaic romantic mindset which does little to help clarify and advance matters in this genuinely awful time. My objection to Digby is on political grounds, nothing more.
"If you despise liberals so much, then why are you going to appear at Yearly Kos? Pretty hypocritical."
Well, I don't "despise" liberals, since I hold many liberal beliefs myself. I do have little patience with what passes for "progressive" blogging, as most of it is too closely tied to and too uncritical of the Democratic Party as a corporate/war making institution, and I've made my reasons clear oh so many times. As for being a hypocrite because I accepted an invitation to speak at Yearly Kos, I see nothing contradictory about my decision. I'm looking forward to speaking directly to those who disagree with what I write, and with whom I politically differ. Plus, appearing on a Middle East panel with Juan Cole is simply too tempting to pass up. I may even twist some balloon animals for the kids and sing a few Irish ballads. Should be fun.
Again, if what I write angers you so, then don't read me -- unless you get off on rage, in which case I wouldn't dream of denying you pleasure. I'm here to entertain.
Is my latest post, but it does exist, under several truckloads of gravel and a generous helping of quicklime. It's about my good friend Barry Crimmins, who honors The 4th of July as only he can. Go read it, or I'll post a bunch of Dane Cook videos.
The squeaky whine of online libs got turned up to 11 yesterday, after Bush allowed Scooter Libby to avoid any prison time. Outrageous! Contemptible! Disgraceful! Downright un-American! Man, there's nothing like the bald, unflinching face of our corrupt system to send star spangled mules braying to the sky. Of course, for most of them, said corruption is exclusive GOP property, something that rarely if ever happens when a Dem is in the White House, most especially Bill Clinton. Then the machine of state can trample and mangle what's left of the Constitution with little liberal protest. Hyperbole? Think back to when Clinton set the table for the Patriot Act by signing into law the Antiterrorism Act and allowed the FBI to expand its watch over the domestic population. Where was the liberal outrage then? And if Hillary is elected, expect more of the obedient same.
What a gift Bush gave to libloggers, who'll faithfully gnaw on this bone for days if not weeks. Not that Bush cares or even thinks about those online who tap furiously away about "rescuing" America from the clutches of Evil Republicans. But it is a gift, another distraction from what's really going on, the roots of which liberals have no real interest in investigating, much less actively protesting. They are in on the same con, establishing the boundary of acceptable outrage, beyond which only Naderites and kindred lunatics roam. Liberals take their cues and talking points from the very people they claim to oppose. They may not be Scooter Libby, but they are his liberal cousins.
A suspicious looking SUV idled in a Midwestern mall parking lot yesterday, its driver supposedly dashing briefly inside to get cash from an ATM. Several onlookers gasped and held their breath, hoping to run past the terrormobile before it exploded. Local police were called in, and they carefully approached the ticking time bomb on wheels, risking their lives for the sake of public, and national, safety. The driver then emerged from the bank, stuffing cash in his wallet. He casually walked to his car/weapon, said hello to the police, got in and drove off, presumably to blow up a more populated target. The police cleared the area, checked a small oil puddle where the SUV had been, then declared the mall lot to be safe.
"It was nip and tuck there for a few minutes," said Captain Carl Beerson. "You can't be too careful these days."
In a related story, federal agents have been keeping a close eye on Citgo stations throughout the country, searching for any detectible signs of terrorist activity.
"You must remember, Citgo is owned by the Venezuelan government, which is currently held hostage by an anti-American madman," explained FBI spokesperson Celia Graves. "It's clear that the Chavez regime is planning something big, and their gas stations are the logical starting point for any terrorist bombing spree."
What precisely is the FBI looking for?
"SUVs or Humvees getting filled-up," said Graves."That costs a lot of money, which many people simply don't have, so some foreign financing is obviously taking place. Do you know what a Humvee with a full tank of gas can do to a business area or an airport entrance? The Glasgow airport explosion was just the beginning. And if you own a Jeep Cherokee, keep it in your garage, or face the full penalty of the law."
Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission reports that U.S.-led air strikes have killed more Afghan civilians recently than have the Taliban. Air Force Gen. Rick Westen conceded that this might be true, but said that the disparity in body counts must be taken in context.
"We're using cluster bombs, while the Taliban are still shooting people in the back of the head, so obviously we're way out in front. But when it's all said and done, who would you rather be killed by: Religious fanatics who ban music? Or democracy-loving pilots who watch HBO? I think the choice is clear."
Weeks after Ali Hassan al-Majid, better known as Chemical Ali, was convicted for genocide against the Kurds in northern Iraq, his cousin, Ali Yassin al-Majid, has also been charged with war crimes. The younger al-Majid earned the nickname Comical Ali for his cruel but accurate impressions of Saddam's political enemies, and was known to play numerous practical jokes on political prisoners sentenced to die or be tortured.
"Comical Ali's sense of humor was very dark," said terror expert Lance Kerr. "He performed nightly in Abu Ghraib, and poked his microphone into the open wounds of prisoners, staging what he called 'screaming contests.' He was the Ba'athist Don Rickles, and the only man in Iraq who could throw zingers at Saddam and not be executed. Saddam loved the guy's act."
Comical Ali is sentenced to have a pink lapel carnation spray sulfuric acid in his face.
I'm the author of "MR. MIKE: The Life and Work of Michael O'Donoghue, The Man Who Made Comedy Dangerous," "AMERICAN FAN: Sports Mania and the Culture That Feeds It," and "SAVAGE MULES: The Democrats and Endless War."
I wrote jokes for Bill Maher and countless other comics, some of whom ran for public office. I've done the media/public speaking thing, pounding podiums when not singing and dancing for tossed coins. Once upon a time I wrote Red State Son, the archive of which can be found in the blogroll below.