Only 6 Years to Go

Matt Taibbi chews up the Tea Party and spits it out:

Beneath the surface, the Tea Party is little more than a weird and disorderly mob, a federation of distinct and often competing strains of conservatism that have been unable to coalesce around a leader of their own choosing. Its rallies include not only hardcore libertarians left over from the original Ron Paul “Tea Parties,” but gun-rights advocates, fundamentalist Christians, pseudomilitia types like the Oath Keepers (a group of law- enforcement and military professionals who have vowed to disobey “unconstitutional” orders) and mainstream Republicans who have simply lost faith in their party. It’s a mistake to cast the Tea Party as anything like a unified, cohesive movement — which makes them easy prey for the very people they should be aiming their pitchforks at. A loose definition of the Tea Party might be millions of pissed-off white people sent chasing after Mexicans on Medicaid by the handful of banks and investment firms who advertise on Fox and CNBC.

The individuals in the Tea Party may come from very different walks of life, but most of them have a few things in common. After nearly a year of talking with Tea Party members from Nevada to New Jersey, I can count on one hand the key elements I expect to hear in nearly every interview. One: Every single one of them was that exceptional Republican who did protest the spending in the Bush years, and not one of them is the hypocrite who only took to the streets when a black Democratic president launched an emergency stimulus program. (“Not me — I was protesting!” is a common exclamation.) Two: Each and every one of them is the only person in America who has ever read the Constitution or watched Schoolhouse Rock. (Here they have guidance from Armey, who explains that the problem with “people who do not cherish America the way we do” is that “they did not read the Federalist Papers.”) Three: They are all furious at the implication that race is a factor in their political views — despite the fact that they blame the financial crisis on poor black homeowners, spend months on end engrossed by reports about how the New Black Panthers want to kill “cracker babies,” support politicians who think the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was an overreach of government power, tried to enact South African-style immigration laws in Arizona and obsess over Charlie Rangel, ACORN and Barack Obama’s birth certificate. Four: In fact, some of their best friends are black! (Reporters in Kentucky invented a game called “White Male Liberty Patriot Bingo,” checking off a box every time a Tea Partier mentions a black friend.) And five: Everyone who disagrees with them is a radical leftist who hates America.

The Tea Partiers are unique in that they’re the first protesters in history who want the government to do less for them. Taibbi’s article is great reading, not just for the well-earned invective but to really get a crystalline view of what the Tea Partiers stand for: absolutely nothing. It’s not just narcissism and bigotry that fuels them, but nihilism. If they got what they wanted, millions of people would starve or worse, including themselves, but they just don’t care. They’re willing to suffer on behalf of the rich elite of the GOP, who are more than happy to use their impotent rage at having to look at a black man in the White House, to further the same old oligarchical agenda of corporate welfare and unregulated greed.

Like the color-coded Alert messages after the 2004 election, I fully expect the Tea Partiers to evaporate like dew once they’re no longer useful. I just hope we don’t have to wait until January 2017 for that happen.

Papal Bull

The Pope and I have never really seen eye to eye. More specifically, none of the Popes — neither the sinister smirking creep currently ensconced on the golden throne, nor the kindly-eyed cretinous gent who preceded him — have ever spoken to me or for me. One of the perks of being not-Catholic is that I remain blissfully unburdened by the demands put upon the faithful by weirdos in fancy hats. I’m also free to eat cheeseburgers on Friday. My life is enchanted, I tell you.

Generally, I tend to regard the Vicar of Rome’s pronouncements with a mixture of sporting man’s curiosity and chagrinned disinterest. Oh look, the nonce in the skirt is putting on his little morality play. Wonder what the theme is this week? Ah, it’s the evils of homosexuality and condoms. A rerun then. Yawn.

Still and all, the Pope’s words, as feeble, defensive and garbled as they are, have an indirect affect on me. We live on the same planet you know, and for whatever reason, a good chunk of my fellow humans regard this baffling jerk as an authority figure worth listening too. Worse than that, world leaders listen to this gnarled little pederast-defending knob of a man and so I must as well.  It’d be one thing if he only had influence over the occasional garbage man or obnoxious twit at the end of the bar but for better or worse, this dick has the ear of Presidents and Queens, and so his ramblings shape world events.

This week, Pope Joey Ratz was lousing up Merry Old England, doing his best interpretation of the creepy uncle who shows up at your cousin’s wedding and ruins the festivities by muttering obscenities under his breath to your underage cousins. The Pope’s topic for this visit was how Atheists were to blame for the Holocaust:

“Even in our own lifetime, we can recall how Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live,” he said.

“I also recall the regime’s attitude to Christian pastors and religious people who spoke the truth in love, opposed the Nazis and paid for that opposition with their lives.

“As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the 20th century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society …”

We’ll side step the irony of a former Hitler Youth member pointing fingers about the Holocaust and focus on the weird subtext here. And it’s barely subtext. Joey Ratz doesn’t have nearly as artistic a command of innuendo as his predecessor did. Old JP could damn you all to hell and make it sound like a come on.  Joey Ratz studs his pronouncements with invective the way a wino’s ramblings are punctuated by ripple-flavored belches.

We are to believe, as the Pope so subtly hinted at, that the world would be a better, more Holocaust-free place if there just weren’t so many damned atheists stinking up the place. Perhaps someone could organize a movement to round them up and relocate them someplace. Maybe to a farm or camp where they could perform useful work.

Nevermind the long tradition of True Believers killing Jews, gypsies, communists and atheists in the name of God, it was all those Atheists locking themselves up for being, oh, yeah the argument kind of falls apart there doesn’t it? Maybe someone should have given that a minute’s thought before adding it to the Pope’s message. Can we get a rewrite ver here?

Joey Ratz was making some half-assed ecumenical pass at our Jewish friends, to commemorate the Day of Atonement, which just passed. Given this Pope’s rather ambivalent view of Jews (and anyone else who’s not a leering pederast in holy frocks) this comes off as not just empty but resoundingly hollow. Go ahead and thump that sucker. It’s rotten to the core.

Time and again, this Pope has dodged the moral high road. Life isn’t easy and humans make mistakes, repeatedly and sometimes catastrophically. The Holocaust happened because we let it happen. And that WE is a big one. Picture it in 10,000 point type, big as the moon in the night sky. Everyone is to blame, from the Gestapo agents who rounded up innocent men, women and children, to their neighbors, true believers and secular humanists, who stood there and let it happen. And since this world is round and there’s no corners to hide behind, we’re all neighbors, every last Franklin, Delano And Roosevelt. Americans are to blame. Brits are to blame. Everyone is to blame for that stain our historical record, because millions of poorly regarded lives had to end before someone would stand up and say no. And sure, a few priests and lay folk of the church were among the few early muffled voices who did try to warn the world. But you know who didn’t listen? It wasn’t just the kings and Queens of Europe and the Presidents of benighted former colonies. Pope Pius XII did nothing. He could have but like the rest of us, chose not to until it was too late.

And now, his successor a few hats down the line goes around and points fingers at one of the popular scapegoats of the day, saying it was our fault. The unbelievers. Those same unbelievers bullied for not having the guts to kill and die for abstract causes or invisible friends. Way to cast the first stone there, padre. You read that Bible or just use it to beat people you don’t like?

So the Pope’s words ring hollow, like they always do and his calls for a return to the good old faith of our forefathers falls on deaf ears. Why did the Pope go to one of the most unchurched countries in the modern world and start laying golden turds where everyone could step in them? Who knows. One of those mysteries of the faith we hear so much about. Like all such mysteries, it’s just the result of laziness and cowardice on the part of an ancient, rigid caste of deeply neurotic and scared old men who can’t face a world where their pronouncements are laughed at and their very presence a source of mocking disdain, if it’s even acknowledged at all.

The New Cacophony is Old Again

Dumping this here for later reference.Because I seem to have wandered into that haunted house and want to think more about why the mirror turn the way they do, what flavor of smoke is being used.

(Link via Bruce Sterling) trend spotting in sci-fi:

in this same anthology (Jonathan Strahan’s Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy) was a story by Eileen Gunn and Michael Swanwick called “Zeppelin City,” which at first looks like a simple exercise in steampunk, featuring characters with names like Radio Jones and Amelia Spindizzy, but is also a classic screwball comedy and includes mad disembodied brains, Heinleinian moving sidewalks, and a complete alternate-world Marx Brothers version of Chaplin’s Modern Times.

The chaos and cacophony of a Marx Brothers movie seemed like a good signature for this new trend in gonzo fiction which seems not to fit neatly into any particular subgenre, but to simply borrow anything it damn well pleases from anywhere-near-future SF, alternate history, steampunk, space opera, pulp adventure, hard SF, film, mainstream fiction, surrealism, fantasy, horror, etc. Paul di Filippo’s “Yes, We Have No Bananas” from last year’s Eclipse Three is another example that came to mind, but there are many more.

At the end of that review of “Zeppelin City” I wrote that Swanwick has “always been one of the ringmasters of the new cacophony,” so the New Cacophony is the name I’m choosing for my movement-not fiction in the interstices, not slipstreamy cross-pollinations with the mainstream, not reinventions of old subgenres, but all of the above and more. If I wanted to come up with a more academic sounding name, it might be something like genre dissonance, but New Cacophony is more fun. It’s using any toy in the sandbox, plus any more you want to bring up from the basement. The only rule is that they have to somehow work together in the story.

There are ancestors of this movement going back decades-Philip José Farmer is among the most notable. But the reason I chose Swanwick as an example can be found in The Iron Dragon’s Daughter and especially The Dragons of Babel, in which nearly every marker that seems to give you genre bearings is undercut by another that seems wildly out of place-not just those famous afterburner-assisted mechanical dragons, but a Babylon with Frank Lloyd Wright lounges in which palace courtiers check their Blackberries, saloons decorated with pictures of Muhammad Ali, Kawasaki motorcycles and Mercedes and BMW cars, Pepsis, subways, Grand Central Station, McDonalds, Marlboros, Zippos, Duke Ellington songs, brownstones, Hermes bags (for carrying runes), Hard Rock Café t-shirts, Givenchy gowns, living stone lions who read Faulkner and wise women who quote Mary McCarthy.

The Beasts of Heaven and Earth

Akira Kurosawa wanted to direct a Godzilla movie.

The director of such classics as Rashoman and The Seven Samurai was a fan of kaiju flicks. I imagine they fit well with his dreamlike imagery and fascination with nature and weather. Godzilla — and all of the giant monsters — are manifestations of natural forces beyond human comprehension or control.

The bean counters at Toho sank the idea, as Kurosawa was notorious for going over budget. That he was also notorious for being brilliant made no never mind. And so the world is short one amazing monster movie.

Lamenting the lack of Godzilla films may seem silly, as there are  over 60 but it still makes one wonder a bit at what could have been.

Someone who did direct several Godzilla movies was Ishiro Honda, friend of Kurosawa and director of classic sci-fi/monster movies as Matango, The Mysterians, and The H-Man. Pick a your favorite Japanese monster movie form the 60s and 70s and chances are Honda was the director. About giant monsters he said, “Monsters are born too tall, too strong, too heavy, that is their tragedy.”

About the same time Kurosawa was trying on a rubber monster suit in Japan, Sherwood Schwartz, in America, was plotting ways to strand a bunch of idiots on a deserted island. The island was in the South Pacific, or so we’re told. That’s a large area and Weather can be weird. It’s never been stated just where our castaways ended up but it’s possible that they were blown further off course than even they suspected and ended up in the Polynesians.

There are numerous tiny volcanic islands there and it’s easy to get lost. One such island has, for generations of locals, been the home numerous tales of strange creatures and monstrous shapes looming in the mist.

Anyone familiar with the Mothra films knows that one of these islands is home to a unique indigenous culture with some peculiar religious icons and a secretive caste of tiny priestesses. It’s possible our castaways could have landed there instead. If they had, Giligan’s shenanigans would have been the least of their worries.

A major concern among island nations today is the rising sea levels and erratic weather caused by global warming. The changes in sea temperature have upset the migration and breading patterns of fish and other animals and seen an influx of non-native species, drawn further afield by warmer climates and changing weather patterns. A few years ago, all the bees started to go missing. Not just die off, but vanish.

No one ever did find a satisfactory explanation for this.

I bet Sherwood Schwartz and Ishiro Honda would find this all very interesting. I know I do. Kurosawa would too of course, but he would probably be distracted by other matters, leaving the rubber suits and dreams of nature gone mad for others to play with.

Either Or

Fred over at Slacktivist plays a round of everyone’s favorite game, Evil or Stupid? with the latest hollering out of the GOP noise machine:

Today’s contestants are the 52 percent of Republicans who claim to believe that President Obama secretly wants to impose Sharia law.

I find it hard to believe that anyone is stupid enough to really believe such a thing. The Newsweek poll was conducted via telephone, so respondents would have had to recognize the sound of a ringing phone, be able to locate it, pick it up and converse with the pollster on the other end of the line. All of that would be beyond the capability of someone stupid enough to really believe that Obama is secretly trying to impose Sharia law. If you’re smart enough to be able to work a telephone, you’re too smart to believe that nonsense.

The stupidity required here is just too vast, too disabling, for it to be a plausible or a possible explanation.

And that only leaves one choice: More than half of Republicans are evil. They’re lying. And lying out of malice.

His reasoning is sound but there’s always a third way. In this case, Grey’s Law: “Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.” I’m not saying all of the GOPers who claim to think Obama is a stealth sharia-law enforcing socialist. But there’s a thin wedge in that pie chart where malice and incompetence mix into a tart little slice of incompetence/malice that is indistinguishable from genuine stupidity. I think that’s what we’re dealing with here.

This position seems to be the exclusive domain of a certain slice of 1st world demographics. The sort of people who can afford to be disconnected from reality because they have enough money to insulate themselves from the consequences of their mendacity. That they mange to infect a certain percentage of the low information, high anxiety population who are not so well insulated financially with this meme is a testament to just how insidious some ideas can be. Or Just how stupid many of my fellow Americans can be. Your pick.