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Tom Coburn is a Big Fat Jerk


Home of the Barking Moonbat


Saturday, January 01, 2005

A New Year, Apocalypse Now and Haints

An odd superstition of mine is that the state of things at midnight on New Year's determines the rest of the year for me. This superstition has refined itself over time --- it used to be I believed all chores left undone (buttons hanging by a thread, socks unwashed, dust in corners) would become physically impossible to complete during the following year --- and would, in fact, multiply exponentially. Meaning not just a sock or two unwashed, but filthy socks everywhere --- not just a button or two hanging, but no possibility of a button staying on anything. And dust everywhere. Mountains of it.

In recent years, this odd superstition has gone from chores to issues of unburdening myself and those around me. I'm never sure what form this will take. There have been New Year's Eves I've spent writing a short note of apology, for example, for unintentional (or even intentional) unkindness, or calling someone I've neglected just to let them know I think they're some kind of cool. But it's never planned in any way. It just happens.

This year's was the oddest yet, but also maybe the most important.

I opened up the huge closet in that one bedroom full of boxes and boxes of old letters, postcards, address books, writings, newspaper clippings --- and what in my family has been known as Jimmy's Box.

I've avoided the Jimmy Box for years now. Jimmy was one of my older brothers. He died some years back from causes and complications and reasons I can't even begin to explain here. He'd been drunk for so long, he had chronic hepatitis and cirrhosis and all kinds of liver things and alcoholic complications going on. He wasn't some old dude, either --- he was only in his thirties.

He haunted me for a long time after he died. I don't much care if you think I'm some New Age fruitcake for claiming that or if you just don't believe in haints. Trust me, even the most rational, earthbound, skeptical people I knew were convinced he'd died for the sole purpose of devilling me no end. Pearls lost years before would show up neatly tucked into new containers of scotch tape. Windows would fly open and unexplainable breezes not so delicately scented with whiskey and Hormel Tamales would waft in and wrap themselves about me. There was even a car wreck blamed on my brother by a Sioux medicine man in Colorado. Quite the trickster in death.

Today, I saw the Jimmy Box and realized it was time to unburden me, him and the rest of our family of the havoc life heaped upon him, and start trying to piece it all together.

My memories are a bit cloudy about exactly what happened because I was a bit too young. All that I know is that, sometime near the end of the Vietnam War, he enlisted, although he was only 17, I think. But they took him anyway. And true, he'd had some problems before, especially with alcohol. But whatever went on while he was enlisted scrambled his brain completely and forever.

I don't think he ever saw combat. I do know they put him in solitary confinement for a while, and there was some kind of mix-up with the Black Panthers going on --- I think. I know that, when he came back, he told me something about a rabbi and a chaplain interceding for him and gaining him an honorable discharge.

I was never quite sure if that were true. Until today.

You see, I found a name buried in the box, with a note saying "Thank him."

I Googled the name. And there he was --- the rabbi my brother had told me about all those years ago. And the little I read about him points to him being exactly who my brother said he was.

I read through everything in the box. It took most of the day. I don't yet know everything that I think or feel about what I read. But I do know that, while going through his things, I suddenly realized why Apocalypse Now resonates so strongly with me. Its sheer hallucinatory power has never been enough to explain my preoccupation with it. No, it's that Clean, Chef and Lance are all my brother. And somehow watching Apocalypse Now helps me to work my way through whatever it was that happened to my brother.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Time out

I'm taking a day or so off from blogging - I didn't intend to, especially as I've always found New Year's a fairly annoying holiday --- or at least, what we've done to it.

But I've hit a kind of overwhelm. Although I've seen none of the footage which I know is playing 24/7 --- I don't have television reception out here and my internet reception is too erratic to view online footage --- and although I've kind of studiously avoided the more sensationalist news outlets --- my mind has kind of frozen in shock at the sheer magnitude of the tsunami. I quite literally can't comprehend what these people are going through, which is kind of odd for me. Usually, I can empathize through a kind of odd sort of visualization of tragedies - even what's been happening in Iraq. And it might sound somewhat perverse, but that ability to kind of mentally set myself in various tragedies and atrocities has been an asset for me. It's always allowed me to understand and comprehend and assimilate, so to speak, whatever's going on.

But I'm unable to do that here. I quite literally can't wrap my mind around this or even begin to understand what the survivors are going through. I've hit overwhelm and disbelief.

But I am working on donations --- I've decided to donate to the Quakers through their service committee here. I've also cleaned out the closets and the kitchen cabinets, and hatched a flakey plan to send the stuff right to Indonesia. Apparently, however, aid agencies really dislike it when people do that, as it causes all kinds of unintentional havoc.

However, we have enough poverty around here that our thrifts and local organizations will more than welcome all this stuff.

In any case, I'll be back on the 1st --- next year. ! I'll be watching all you fellow bloggers --- and to everyone out there, have a good New Year's --- and be sure to donate, as much as you can.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004


Last night, I watched the 1976 movie 'Network', thinking that it might be a good movie to show my students next semester.

Well, I really had no idea.

Although Network fits quite comfortably into a general theme of the course, I won't be showing it because I suspect it requires a bit too much background knowledge.

However, I'm putting it on their *highly recommended* list.

If you haven't seen Network, you should. It is brilliant, and amazingly prescient --- or maybe not. Maybe just telling things as they were and still are and getting more so every day.

Surge protectors

I just had surge protectors put on my electric meter and phone lines. I belong to an electric cooperative, so the cost was minimal --- $250.

Even if the cost were higher, though, I would have done it. We had insane storms here last spring (like we do every spring). During one, there were lightning strikes everywhere around me --- it was an extraordinarily beautiful storm --- I sat on the front porch throughout it, completely mesmerized --- but it blew out my computer, despite surge protectors inside and the computer being off. A few days later, a tornado went just south of a house my sister and I owned --- apparently lightning hit somewhere in the vicinity and caused a giant surge, which caused the wiring in the house to catch on fire.

If you live in an area that gets lightning or any other kind of violent storms, you might consider getting these protectors on your outside meter. My electric company allows you to either buy or lease (I chose to buy because the longterm costs are cheaper). And they're guaranteed for 10 years.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Regarding the Torture of Others

By Susan Sontag, 1933 - Dec. 28, 2004

" ... Considered in this light, the photographs are us. That is, they are representative of the fundamental corruptions of any foreign occupation together with the Bush adminstration's distinctive policies. The Belgians in the Congo, the French in Algeria, practiced torture and sexual humiliation on despised recalcitrant natives. Add to this generic corruption the mystifying, near-total unpreparedness of the American rulers of Iraq to deal with the complex realities of the country after its ''liberation.'' And add to that the overarching, distinctive doctrines of the Bush administration, namely that the United States has embarked on an endless war and that those detained in this war are, if the president so decides, ''unlawful combatants'' -- a policy enunciated by Donald Rumsfeld for Taliban and Qaeda prisoners as early as January 2002 -- and thus, as Rumsfeld said, ''technically'' they ''do not have any rights under the Geneva Convention,'' and you have a perfect recipe for the cruelties and crimes committed against the thousands incarcerated without charges or access to lawyers in American-run prisons that have been set up since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

So, then, is the real issue not the photographs themselves but what the photographs reveal to have happened to ''suspects'' in American custody? No: the horror of what is shown in the photographs cannot be separated from the horror that the photographs were taken -- with the perpetrators posing, gloating, over their helpless captives. German soldiers in the Second World War took photographs of the atrocities they were committing in Poland and Russia, but snapshots in which the executioners placed themselves among their victims are exceedingly rare, as may be seen in a book just published, ''Photographing the Holocaust,'' by Janina Struk. If there is something comparable to what these pictures show it would be some of the photographs of black victims of lynching taken between the 1880's and 1930's, which show Americans grinning beneath the naked mutilated body of a black man or woman hanging behind them from a tree. The lynching photographs were souvenirs of a collective action whose participants felt perfectly justified in what they had done. So are the pictures from Abu Ghraib.


Even more appalling, since the pictures were meant to be circulated and seen by many people: it was all fun. And this idea of fun is, alas, more and more -- contrary to what President Bush is telling the world -- part of *the true nature and heart of America.* "

James Dobson beats his wiener ...

... dog, a post title I've been trying to resist lifting from Majikthise --- and obviously I have failed. It's just much too good to pass up.

Majikthise's post references the original at Digby's, "Raising The Future Fascists of America." It is definitely worth a read. I've known for years that Dobson was insane --- but I never, ever realized just how crazy, until now.

Homeless in America

Mainstream Baptist is reporting that the National Coalition for the Homeless has released their latest report, including the meanest cities for the homeless. You can read the full report here and see if your area is on the list.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn Oklahoma's treatment of the homeless is relatively benign, especially in comparison to so much of the country.

Tornado shelters, heating devices and other matters

I know that I'm failing to uphold the mouthy end of the agreement, but I'm spending my time worrying over wood and pellet stoves, particulate emissions, tornado shelters, energy costs and how to squeeze the last dollar out of building a back porch.

First things first: after months --- years, actually --- of consideration, I've decided against getting a wood or pellet stove. Oh sure, I'm disappointed, but I simply can't justify the initial cost with overall savings, because the savings over time isn't that great, even with current oil prices and the likelihood these prices will continue to rise and rise and rise.

Worse, although the emissions from pellet stoves are pretty low (much lower than wood stoves), they're not low enough. I have a bad enough time with all the dust and pollen, not to mention dog hair from the two huge, hairy beasties. Why would I want to complicate things by adding the particulate matter from a pellet stove to the mix?

I think that money would be better spent adding on a nice sleeping porch, covered and screened in, and continuing to insulate, just as I've been doing. Those kinds of improvements pay off in almost no time. I put on a tin roof, for example, summer before last --- a lovely green thing --- and it's already paid for itself in lowered heating and cooling costs. The covered front porch I put on --- ditto. And I've been working on getting heavy drapes on every window --- same thing there --- the difference is immediate.

Besides, our problem around here is summer, not winter, although thanks to the quake/tsunami and the speculation it may have altered the earth's rotation, that might have changed.

In any case, I'm now back to one of my original harebrained schemes: solar. The plan is to, bit by bit, get solar going here. First, solar to run one air conditioner. Then, solar to run the computer. Then, solar to run the refrigerator. One a year or every six months, whatever, because solar is very, very expensive.

I've also finally decided on a tornado shelter. This has been a major problem, as I have to have one --- I will not go through another tornado season here without one! But the water table is very high here --- and that creates major problems for any kind of underground structure, although earthmounded structures do just fine.

In any case, I'm currently emailing with a company which manufactures FEMA compliant shelters --- in the shape of steps. The odd shelter has even passed those wind tests that the place in Texas gives, and withstand winds of 300 MPH. I could use the steps for my sleeping porch to be. And they're offering me a substantial discount of several thousand dollars, including shipping and installation. I'm not sure why they're offering such a discount, but I suspect it's because it's off-season and they've apparently never sold any in my neck of the woods. The discount, by the way, knocks the price of the shelter a good $1-2,000 lower than anything I could get locally.

They're even asking me if I want a job as a local rep selling the things. !

So ... hmm.

I should know by the end of the day if this is the shelter for me, although it's sure looking like it. I may even have another job --- truth be known, however, I'm a horrible salesman and I doubt I ever actually sell any of them.

Monday, December 27, 2004

The South-East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Blog

A number of bloggers in the affected areas have come together to create The South-East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Blog, or SEA-EAT blog, for short. They've doing an excellent job of posting relief agencies, help needed, info (including 60,000 missing at this point), etc.

They're asking the URL be passed around to all interested parties. So please bookmark and post - they're doing a great and much needed job.

Earth's rotation affected by yesterday's quake?

An Italian scientist, Enzo Boschi, who is head of Italy's National Geophysics Institute, says that yesterday's quake was so powerful, it has affected the earth's rotation. Other scientists say whether the rotation has been affected remains to be seen. But still ... pretty extraordinary.

The event, I might add, has finally motivated me to get serious about a tornado shelter. Getting a shelter in here has been quite a dilemma, as our water table is so, so high, the ground is rock with boulders scattered between and the cellar would likely become a haven for critters of every imaginable type.

So I've been looking at above ground storm shelters, and think I have finally found a reasonable solution --- the cost is right and it won't take up space I could use for gardens or whatever. It's a stairwell shelter which will be used as the steps to the porch I'm building out back.

Oh and, by the way

Fuck you, Tom Coburn. Simple fact is, Schindler's List didn't go nearly far enough.

What kind of a perv are you for decrying this movie for *irresponsible sexual activity"*?

Maybe the real problem is the movie hits a bit too close to home, eh, Tom.

Diet for a Dead Planet

Why am I buying Diet for a Dead Planet: How the Food Industry Is Killing Us? Do I think I'll necessarily believe everything in it? No. Do I actually believe I can ever manage to ingest only organic foods? No.

I'm buy it because the primary critique of this book is funded by Republicans, drug companies and agribusiness, including Ag Processing Inc., American Cyanamid, Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, Ciba-Geigy, ConAgra Foods, DowElanco, DuPont, Exxon Mobil, HJ Heinz, Lilly Endowment, McDonalds, Monsanto, National Agricultural Chemical Association, Novartis, Proctor & Gamble, Sunkist Growers and United Agri Products.

Relief for Tsunami victims

A couple of South Asian blogs, The Acorn and vichaar.org have good listings of relief agencies for Tsunami victims. I'm sure there are many other blogs, as well as newspaper and other sources listing ways to contribute aid to the affected countries. The important thing is to make sure your donations will get to those who need it.

UPDATE: mihirbhatia at Kos has posted a diary for relief URLS here Hopefully, it won't get buried under the usual mania of Kos.

UPDATE AGAIN: Kos now has relief info front page via this post. Please contribute if you can.

I'm planning a small cash contribution, but this also provides extra impetus for my normal avenue of charity. I usually have a donation box going for the local thrift and teachers at the school down the road --- I live in a profoundly impoverished area and our teachers literally feed and clothe many of their young students. It's possible agencies offering relief for tsunami victims will eventually be asking for good clothing --- after the OKC tornados flattened the city, agencies were desperate for clothing for all the people who had lost everything.

Just remember, if it comes to this (which it probably will), the clothing needs to be good and wearable. Don't contribute rags. And get in the habit of always having a donation box going --- it's a good thing.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Tom Gets Diddly

Mother Jones has awarded Tom Coburn the top Diddly, the Gay Old Party Award [which] honors Republicans whose relationship with homosexuality is conflicted at best.

Needless to say, Tom was a shoo-in, given (in the words of Mother Jones' author Jack Hitt) Tom "... followed up his talk of rampant teen lesbianism with the exhortation, "Now think about it!"—without realizing that most men have been thinking about it since they were 15."

Nice shot, Mr. Hitt.

Friends and Hope

I received a note this morning from a very conservative Christian friend expressing concern that she and I might lose touch with one another. You see, she and I belonged to a group, an online farming group, and quite naturally became friends. We're amazingly alike, sharing similar backgrounds and interests and concerns. Even beyond those things we shared, however, I developed respect for her because she is singlehandedly raising a profoundly autistic girl --- and she adopted this girl, knowing perfectly well what she was getting herself into.

I always knew she's a conservative Christian --- and she always knew I'm very liberal. But it never mattered. She's of the old fashioned variety of Christian, the kind who believe their actions and words do matter, that we will be known by our fruits, and that beating people about the head and shoulders in self-righteous fury is as wrong as wrong can be, not only because her God isn't a god of hatred, but because she knows it isn't her place to judge --- she's not God and doesn't pretend she is.

She's what I consider a true Christian, in other words.

In any case, one day, I looked up to realize the group had been flooded by especially noxious Radical Right types --- truly evil people --- and my friend was nowhere to be seen. So, some months ago, after posting a message asking where she was and getting no reply and setting the stage for my departure by launching assault posts on the Nut Squad who'd taken over the board, I simply left.

Then, I received a note from her last night asking where I was and explaining she'd lost internet access some months ago, due to a lightning storm. And I responded quite honestly - I said that I had missed her terribly, but that the people who had taken over the board were, IMO, insane and dangerous and toxic, and I wanted nothing to do with them and their vile pronouncements upon the heads of anyone who isn't a Dominionist or Reconstructionist or Zionist or Whatever They're Calling Themselves Christian.

I assumed I wouldn't hear back from her - she'd said she'd run a search on my name, so I knew she had seen posts I'd made calling these so-called Christians 'Instruments of Satan' (he he :=D ) and worse. And although I knew her to be what I consider a true Christian, I figured her greater allegiance would likely be with The Nut Squad.

But it isn't. Her response to me was that I am one of her true friends and she doesn't want to lose touch with me, and she continued with a lengthy and chatty account of her last few months.

And this gives me hope, not only because she's my friend --- but because every time I see what I believe to be a real Christian diverging from the path of the monsters who've hijacked the country, I see us as a country moving a little further away from the craziness and a little more closely to sanity and justice and all of those things we pride ourselves on being.

Warming up

I hope that all of you had a good holiday. Mine was really quite nice, with a single exception, all my fault. I spent most of the day suffering the consequences of gulping down a tall glass of eggnog without thinking --- it filled me up so quickly and so completely, I couldn't hardly eat anything else, or move, for that matter --- in fact, I was a bit concerned I might explode.

But now, life is returning to normal. Sure, New Year's is on its way but I don't particularly like New Year's and never really celebrate it. Other than that, however, the cold has passed, I've turned the propane off, it's sunny out, a neighbor just went by riding a beautiful, prancing, sassy white horse --- like something out of a picture book --- and all is well with the world.

At least here. The American media and adminstration are, of course, ignoring the state of Fallujah. Somewhere, in fact, I read that the residents of Fallujah are thrilled the have their city back and damage is minimal. If I can find the link to that absurd propaganda, I'll post it. That sunny outlook stands in very stark contrast to what the residents themselves are saying. But their words are dismissed as so much leftist, anti-American propaganda. Lies.

What have we come to?

Meanwhile, the freeper response to Fallujah? Some things in life are simply too important to be left to Iraqis.