The Null Device
The clown prince of the American Left, Michael Moore, claimed a few days ago that Disney killed the distribution of his most recent film, Fahrenheit 911, to preserve tax breaks in Florida; a classic case of corruption, cronyism and corporate power suppressing free speech. Or it would be, if it wasn't an outright publicity stunt. Moore, it seems, knew all along that Disney had no intention of distributing his film, though found it more advantageous to strategically misrepresent the situation as Disney doing the Bush Junta's dirty work. The existence of the alleged tax breaks is also up for some debate. Then again, as Mel Gibson discovered, there's no such thing as bad publicity.
How much is your life worth? Well, if you're American or British (what, no Australians?), Al-Qaeda have allegedly offered to pay 1kg of gold to whoever kills you. I wonder what restrictions there are on claiming this; i.e., if you're suicidally despondent over your family's financial problems, could you off yourself and claim the gold for your next of kin? (Be sure to thank your political leaders in your suicide note for making it possible.)
Out of work? Got a Top Secret clearance and a sadistic streak? US military contractors are looking for an Interrogator/Intel Analyst Team Lead in Baghdad, to assist in interrogating recalcitrant Iraqis, under minimal supervision. Since the applicant will not be a US military officer, military codes of conduct do not apply.
Meanwhile, how much do you want to bet that Arab-torturing good-ol'-girl Lynndie England will be getting lots of marriage proposals from Little Green Footballs readers and the like? Step aside Lara Croft and Sigourney Weaver; there's a butt-kicking heroine for the Bush Era.
"To the country boys here, if you're a different nationality, a different race, you're sub-human. That's the way girls like Lynndie are raised. Tormenting Iraqis, in her mind, would be no different from shooting a turkey. Every season here you're hunting something. Over there, they're hunting Iraqis."
And Charlie Stross has weighed in on the Iraqi torture controversy. (Sorry, did I say torture? I meant abuse. Torture, like terrorism, is something only the bad guys can do.) Apparently the British did similar things in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, and the results weren't pretty.
Which is to say: I think the torture is symptomatic of a much deeper malaise at the heart of the neoconservative program to restructure the Middle East. It's the same disease that enabled another cultured, well-educated western society two thirds of a century ago to efficiently and systematically brutalize half a continent: the conviction that the Other is backward, ill-educated, unworthy of tolerance, brutish, must needs be governed for their own good and punished for rebellion against the self-evidently correct policies of the superpower ... you can't justify the invasion and occupation of other nations these days without espousing a belief that their citizens are morally, intellectually, or ideologically inferior. To view someone as inferior in one of these ways is to dehumanize them. And, once dehumanized, they become fair game for the most odious of practices: collective punishment, suspension of civil rights, torture, and finally mass murder of civilians -- whether by gas chamber or cluster bomb makes no difference.
This is a wake-up call. We aren't just on the slippery slope, we're two-thirds of the way down it and trying on the jackboots for fit.
Gee, it's a lucky thing that the US isn't bound by the Geneva convention; otherwise they may be guilty of war crimes.
Some time around 1980, Californian prankster John Trubee took some LSD, wrote some whacked out lyrics and sent them to one of those Nashville-based song recording companies, who sent him back a record of a country-and-western version of his opus, which became the "Blind Man's Penis" song, and a favourite on college radio. Now, someone has done a Flash-animated video for it.
Via the Viridian mailing list, of all places, a collection of H.P. Lovecraft prop fonts; or, more precisely, a handful of 1920s-vintage American typefaces with authentically rough edges, a few old blackletter faces, and some of Lovecraft's handwriting. These fonts are sold on a CD for role-players and the like to make game props with, and licensed for private use only (not including theatrical productions), though may be useful things to have around. Even if not, the type samples on the page are certainly entertaining.