Archive for November, 2005

i will bury you and your christmas II take 3

Monday, November 28th, 2005

The Swiss have the right idea:

Swiss Santa Clauses have been banned from sitting children on their laps because of the risk that they might be accused of paedophilia. The Society of St Nicholases issued the ruling to its 100 professional members after parents expressed concern about close contact between their children and the men.

“Samiklaus,” as he is known in Swiss German, turns up on Dec 6 rather than the night of the 24th. Large groups of St Nicholases parade through the streets that day before visiting children. They traditionally sit them on their laps before asking if they have been well-behaved.

“We want to counteract any possible accusations of paedophilia involving our members,” the Society of St Nicholas said in a statement. “We regret having to do this, but the public has become very sensitive about child abuse.”

Walter Furrer, president of Zurich’s Society of Nicholases, said the rule had been introduced after a flurry of calls to the society from parents.

“This measure is above all to protect our Nicholases,” he said, adding that the decision had provoked heated debate in the usually sedate world of Swiss Santa Clauses.

While we’re at it, we need to ban Catholic Priests and people who sit alone on park benches. They may be pedophiles as well.

Truly the spirit of the Anti-Clause is with us.

And since I’m a selfish secularist heathen who celebrates Holidays instead of Christmas, I now point to a disturbing story regarding the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade:

You know that accident involving the M&M float and the destruction and the whatnot? NBC choose not to run it, instead…

NBC did not tell viewers that a giant balloon had caught on a street lamp and injured two sisters.

At the point in the broadcast when the “M&M’s Chocolate Candies” balloon was supposed to have crossed the finish line, announcers Katie Couric, Matt Lauer and Al Roker stuck close to their scripts and the network ran footage of the balloon from last year’s parade.

Couric told the audience they were seeing old footage and bantered with Lauer and Roker, but there was no further mention of the accident.

Pre-packaged news that doesn’t change when actual (troubling) news happens? Imagine how that would work if you were covering a war or something…

Seduction of the Innocent

Saturday, November 26th, 2005

New York Times; February 5, 1955
Books No Better Under Code, Psychiatrist Tells State Investigating Committee
“Can’t Build Rome in a Day,” Says Murphy, and Promises Improvement Shortly
by Emma Harrison

A well-known psychiatrist brandished a bull whip before a comic books hearing yesterday. He said he had obtained it through an advertisement published in a magazine bearing the seal of approval of the new industry Code Authority.

The testimony was given by Dr. Fredric Wertham before the Joint State Legislative Committee, which is studying comic books. His assertion was challenged by Charles Murphy, code administrator. Mr. Murphy, a former city magistrate, had previously told the committee that advertisements for whips and knives had been banned from the books he approved.

Dr. Wertham repeated his statement under oath administrated by Assemblyman James A. FitzPatrick, chairman of the one-day hearing held at the Bar Association Building. This follwed Mr. Murphy’s challenge of the psychiatrist’s statement that he had clipped an advertising coupon from an approved book dated March 1955. Dr. Wertham did not produce the book but said he would send it to the committee.

Dr. Wertham cited the whip to bolster his contention that the comic books had not improved under the code. He used it also to support his belief that Brooklyn’s recently convicted teenage killers had been directly influenced by comic books.

The psychiatrist, who examined Jack Koslow, one of the killers, said there was not one crime they committed that was not described in detail in comic books. He cited the whipping, burning, drowning, and beating tortures used by the boys. He also produced a knife that he said he had obtained through a coupon in a comic book.

Mr. Murphy said he would like to know where the advertisement appeared. He assured the committee that he “didn’t recall of any such ad going through” and that had it been submitted to him he would not have approved it. Mr. Murphy then prodcued a pocket book that he said whould be “included in the ‘how to do it’ books” describing violence in detail.

He produced a reprint of Dr. Wertham’s book “The Show of Violence,” and asked that it be put on the record.

“It’s outrageous,” he shouted before Mr. FitzPatrick cut off the argument.

Police Commissioner Francis W. H. Adams testified that his department saw a “direct relationship between [published] obscenity and lewdness and juvenile crime.”

He asked the committee to consider more laws to enable the police to fight effectively against obscene books and pictures.

In the morning session, Mr. FitzPatrick presented a display of approved books. He pointed out where the committee considered “excessive Violence” still existed.

Closely questioned by Mr. FitzPatrick, Mr. Murphy said he “couldn’t destroy a business overnight.” He said it was a “process of education” of the comic book industry.

“We won’t have this by April or May,” Mr. Murphy promised. “You can’t build Rome in a day. Give me a little understanding and realize we are in the growing-up process.”

February 13, 1955 New York Times
Murphy Says He Has Ordered Them Barred in 47 Books His Office Had Approved
Stricter Curbs Sought
Head of Joint Legislative Unit Charges Material Has Bearing On Delinquency

A psychiatrist’s contention that bull whips and throwing knives were obtainable through comic books approved by the industry’s new code authority was substantiated on two fronts yesterday.

Charles F. Murphy, code administrator, revealed that his office had found advertisements for catalouges containing such weapons in forty-seven books bearing his seal of approval, and that he had ordered the ads discontinued.

From his office in Plattsburgh, NY, State Assemblyman James A. FitzPatrick, chairman of the Joint Legislative Committee studying the publication of comic books, said that the psychiatrist, Dr. Fredric Wertham, had verified his testimony made before the committee last week here. […]

“We find that these articles are advertised along with other novelties,” he reported. “We further find that the catalouge obtainable through the advertisment has on its cover a large bull whip.”

The Assemblyman, whose committee will present legislation within two weeks based on its year’s findings in the study of pocket books, comic books, obscene pictures, picture books, radio and television, said that his committee was dissatisfied with other findings on the comics.

“We have also found in our independent examination of books bearing the seal that violence and brutality continue to be portrayed to an intolerable degree.” He added that the committee was in the midst of its final report to be presented to the Legislature and expects to introduce “new and stricter legislation.”

He said the committee had found the newsstands of the state flooded with books and publications, including comic books, full of “horror, terror, brutality, and perversion.”

“It is our considered opinion that this material has a direct bearing upon the increase in juvenile delinquency,” he asserted. “We see no reason why those who persist in exploiting obscenity, vulgarity, brutality, and sex should be permitted to do so at the price of the welfare of the children of this state.”

Following the sending of telegrams forbidding publication of the catalogue advertisements to the twenty-nine publishers who comprise the Comic Magazine Association of America, Inc., Mr. Murphy said its publication had been an oversight by his office.

He said that in the advertisments of the Johnson Smith Company of Detroit the whips and knives were listed in small print among numerous other “novelties.”

“You need a magnifying glass to read it,” he said, adding that he felt the inclusion of the advertisments by two of the twenty-nine publishers had been an oversight rather than an attempt by them to circumvent code regulations against such advertising.

The former city magistrate who took over his job as “czar” of the comic books last October said this was another example of the “growing up” process of his office.

“Seventy per cent of the material is out,” he declared. “It’s just a question now of refining it.”

New York Times, February 1, 1956
Psychiatrist Also Denounces Crime Comics in Talk at Urban Episcopal Meeting
The psychiatrist said that most of the reasons assigned to the rise in delinquency — emotional disorders, broken homes, hostility — were “all cliches, alibis, and rationalizations.”

He singled out crime comic books as the worst offender. Fifteen years ago, he said, these books began their meteroric circulation rise. Since then, Dr. Wertham observed, there has been a parallel rise in murder by children and the youthful use of extortion.

He said children extort quarters from their playmates with knives. Such episodes are repeated “over and over again in millions and millions of comic books,” he told the conference.

I wish I could post the image found in the New York Times on December 29, 1954 of Charles Murphy standing before a blown-up giant “Before” and “After” panel of how the Comics Code cleaned up an image. The “Before” features who I suspose to be the detective declaring to a ghoulish looking woman (think Graham Ingels) “There Must Be Someone More Mean and Heartless Even than you, and someday you’ll get yours, Sarah Harper!” The After Panel: the ghoulish woman (Sarah Harper) is completely cleaned up, and looks like… an ordinary woman. I suspect that changes the story a tad.

In honor of Rose Mary Woods… it was 32 Years ago today.

Saturday, November 26th, 2005

In the back of the the Nixon library, a dusty tape falls out of a high placed cabinet. This is the first time anybody has ever been aware of this particular item, and the denziens of Nixon Central all huddle around, wondering what it reveals.

So, the two men in charge of operations set up the equipment, go to a secluded and locked room, and have a listen. The tape lasts 18 and a half minutes. At the conclusion, they take off their head-phones, staring at each other, jaws open.

“OH MY GOD! It’s the missing tape!”
“And… it completely exonerates Nixon!”
“Puts all those other tapes into a totally different perspective.”
“Yeah. Woodward and Bernstein were total assholes for bringing Nixon down like that! It was all a left-wing conspiracy that blew up a third rate burglary into nothing Just LISTEN TO THIS”
“Who woulda thunk?”
“Who could have imagined that those 18 and a half minutes of lost tape would so completely exonerate Richard Nixon like that?”


“You realize the ramnifications of this? What it would do to America’s understanding of history?”
” … The total shock and jolting to the already fragile American psyche?”

Silence. Both men shake their head, and look down forlornly.

“Better burn the thing then.”
“I’ll hide it in my jacket. Throw it in the fireplace tonight. That will be the end of it.”

Defeating Christmas: The Battle Is On for the Soul of Toys R Us.

Friday, November 25th, 2005

Bill O’Reilly has thrown the first shot in the ring. He will try to bring down this (hee hee hee hee) HOLIDAY Season.

O’REILLY: “Back of the Book” segment tonight: We continue our reporting on which American stores are using “Christmas” in advertising this Christmas season and which are not. So far, here’s the list. Again, our litmus test is which operations are using the greeting “Merry Christmas” in their advertising and which are not. OK, using — you can see JCPenney’s, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Dillard’s. Not using, there they are. Now, Kohl’s, still giving us a hard time, but their advertising has been all “Happy Holidays” so I don’t know what they want. The company says the clerks are free to say “Merry Christmas.” Yeah, OK, that’s nice. Again, this investigation is designed to spotlight retailers who have knocked the word “Christmas” out of the Christmas season. We’re not too interested with the word “merry.” Don’t really care about “merry.” On the toy store front, here’s what we found out. Toys “R” Us simply is not going to answer our questions, so we assume that means they’re not using “Merry Christmas.” Not using for sure, KB Toys and FAO Schwarz. But FAO Schwarz says that their people in the store can shout “Merry Christmas” as loud as they want.


O’REILLY: Yeah, but surely they understand, because they do understand. We called Toys “R” Us. They knew right away — […] OK, that they’re in waters they don’t want to be in. So surely, they understand the anger that’s going to be engendered by millions of Americans who believe that their cherished holiday is being denigrated, disrespected.


I commend Toys R Us for destroying Christmas, and what America thinks of as the Christmas Season. We shall see how Bill O’Reilly’s list-making of stores that use the phrase “Merry Christmas” verses stores that use the phrase “Happy Holidays” measure up. Hopefully, Toys R Us can sustain Bill O’Reilly’s and his cretins’ frontal attacks against this washed up holiday.

Worse than you thought? They’re onto us, by Golly! They know about this blog and its sort of beneath the radar screen attack on Holy Christmas!! Well, then… I guess I’ll just have to stop using the pawns and move on to the knights. (Those are the horsey pieces, right?)

[Note: It appears that Toys R Us the corporation was bought by some big corporation a year or two ago, which makes it useless to stick up a graphic of how the stock is doing. Ah well.]

Looking for the official song of Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2005

Some historians take on Thanksgiving here. Or you could go with this. Doesn’t matter much.

If Thanksgiving be a fake holiday, why don’t we hand out cards, like on the fake holiday Valentine’s Day? (Thanksgiving: not q conspiracy from Hallmark. Is it a conspiracy by Butterball?)

Okay. Here’s the theme song for your Thanksgiving. Just to annoy you. If you know the song, or even the artist, the bombasticity and pomposity of it will inflict you. Yes. Iron Maiden. But in my mind it goes more like: “WHITE MAN CAME! Took our LAND!”:

White man came across the sea
He brought us pain and misery
He killed our tribes, he killed our creed
He took our game for his own need
We fought him hard we fought him well
Out on the plains we gave him hell
But many came too much for Cree
Oh will we ever be set free?

Riding through dustclouds and barren wastes
Galloping hard on the plains
Chasing the redskins back to their holes
Fighting them at their own game
Murder for freedom a stab in the back
Women and children and cowards attack
Run to the hills run for your lives

Run to the hills run for your lives
Soldier blue on the barren wastes
Hunting and killing their game
Raping the women and wasting the men
The only good Indians are tame
Selling them whisky and taking their gold
Enslaving the young and destroying the old
Run to the hills run for your lives
(repeat to end)

What else could you go with? Would you rather go with Alice’s Restaurant? (You can get anything you want at… Alic… let’s stick with the Iron Maiden absurdity.)

Point. Counterpoint.

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2005

Holy Cow! Eason Jordan was right!
Nay. Like the Bush administration says “We are not going to dignify something so outlandish with a response.”
Why is the British government suing under the Official Secrets Act, then?
Bush was joking. It’s like Reagan with “the bombing begins in five minutes” clip. Hilarious!
Can we get Jerry Harrison to do a song about it, then?
Wait. What are you talking about? Who’s Jerry Harrison? Who’s Eason Jordan?
Eason Jordan was drummed out of CNN for suggesting to an international audience the insane conspiracy theory that the US military was targetting journalists.
Yeah. That’s insane.
Then how is it that al Jazeera has been bombed on more than one occasion? Seems statistically unlikey.
Say it is so. They deserve it. They’re terrorist sympathizers.

Reaching out to the Sunni Arab community, Iraqi leaders called for a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S.-led forces and said Iraq’s opposition had a “legitimate right” of resistance. Meaning what? The Iraqi government’s official position is that America needs to leave, and that it is okay if people kill the troops.
That’s just the Sunnis
The Sunnis, the Shiites, and the Kurds all agreed to it.
…To placate the Sunnis
And yet… the Sunnis, the Shiites, and the Kurds all agreed to it.

Hey! I just googled Jerry Harrison and Ronald Reagan. He can’t do a Bushian “Let’s bomb al Jazeera” because Bush was never taped saying that. DUH, IDIOT!

exploring Democratic alternatives

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2005

You may or you may not remember this puzzling story of miseducating immigrants from August of 2004:

California has joined other states in acting against a private school that claimed to award high school diplomas while teaching its immigrant students a curriculum riddled with errors, including the wrong years for World War II and the wrong number of states.

The California Alternative High School in Los Angeles targeted Hispanic immigrants, charging $450 to $1,450 for a 10-week course it said would lead to a valid diploma and help them get into college, find better jobs and get financial aid, California Attorney General Bill Lockyer said last week.

But the school’s certificate isn’t recognized as a high school diploma, Lockyer said, and school officials ignored a previous court order that banned them from telling consumers it was.

Lockyer said the curriculum consisted of a slim workbook riddled with errors, including:

The United States has 53 states but the “flag has not yet been updated to reflect the addition of the last three states” — Hawaii, Alaska and Puerto Rico.

World War II began in 1938 and ended in 1942.

There are two houses of Congress — the Senate and the House, and “one is for Democrats and the other is for the Republicans, respectively.”

The school’s chief executive officer, Daniel Gossai, claimed to have a teaching credential and two doctorates, but prosecutors said they found no evidence that he does. He was a teacher at Victor Valley Community College in the late 1970s, but was fired for immoral conduct, dishonesty and being unfit for service, Lockyer said.

The organization claimed to graduate 1,500 students every 10 weeks from 78 schools across the country.

Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter is investigating six complaints received since May, said spokesman Staci Schneider. “All of them focus on misrepresenting the terms of a contract, or the school’s courses,” she said.

Judges in Nebraska and Iowa ordered the school this year to stop enrolling students.

A consumer protection lawsuit filed by Lockyer last week seeks full restitution for students who paid for the course, civil penalties of $32 million and a permanent injunction against school chief executive officer Daniel Gossai and other school officials.

There was no comment from the school or Gossai. Messages left at school offices in Lomita, Los Angeles and Huntington Park last week were not returned, and Gossai’s attorney, Scott Furstman, also didn’t return a call.

Freeze frame this sentence: There are two houses of Congress — the Senate and the House, and “one is for Democrats and the other is for the Republicans, respectively.”

For a moment, I thought that would be an interesting experiment in representative government… see: you have the two houses of Congress, and what gets decided every two years when the people vote is how much power is apportioned to each house.

But, when I think about it for a minute, I think it’d just essentially devolve into the British system — where the opposition party has a shadow government shadowing the party in power, and the party in power acts more or less as an Elected Dictatorship. (An endearing term that is not quite right, as Tony Blair received his first defeat from the House of Commons a week or two ago on some anti-terrorism bill.)

Anyway, I guess the United States can implement some Regime Change somewhere, install this experimental government system, and see if and how it works. (Though, it’d have to be a government whose political parties would not simply be competing ethnic groups. Unless we find a way to make the 2-parliament system work to give the two factions a certain measure of autonomy within the nation-state. Hm. Curious tidings.)

I. F. Stone on the Kennedy Assassination; (9th December, 1963)

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2005

There was a fairytale quality about the inaugural and there was a fairytale quality about the funeral rites. One half expected that when the lovely princess knelt to kiss the casket for the last time, some winged godmother would wave her wand and restore the hero whole again in a final triumph over the dark forces which had slain him. There never was such a shining pageant of a presidency before. We watched it as children do, raptly determined to believe but knowing all the time that it wasn’t really true.

Of all the Presidents, this was the first to be a Prince Charming. To watch the President at press conference or at a private press briefing was to be delighted by his wit, his intelligence, his capacity and his youth. These made the terrible flash from Dallas incredible and painful. But perhaps the truth is that in some ways John Fitzgerald Kennedy died just in time. He died in time to be remembered as he would like to be remembered, as ever-young, still victorious, struck down undefeated, with almost all the potentates and rulers of mankind, friend and foe, come to mourn at his bier.

For somehow one has the feeling that in the tangled dramaturgy of events, this sudden assassination was for the author the only satisfactory way out. The Kennedy Administration was approaching an impasse, certainly at home, quite possibly abroad, from which there seemed no escape. In Congress the President was faced with something- worse than a filibuster. He was confronted with a shrewdly conceived and quietly staged sitdown strike by Southern committee chairmen determined to block civil rights even if it meant stopping the wheels of government altogether.

The measure of their success is that we entered this final month of 1963 with nine of the thirteen basic appropriation bills as yet unpassed, though the fiscal year for which they were written began last 1 July and most of the government has been forced to live hand-to-mouth since. Never before in our history has the Senate so dragged its heels as this year; never before has the Southern oligarchy dared go so far in demonstrating its power in Washington. The President was caught between these old men, their faces set stubbornly towards their white supremacist past, and the advancing Negro masses, explosively demanding `freedom now’. Mr Kennedy’s death, like those of the Birmingham children and of Medgar Evers, may some day seem the first drops portending a new storm which it was beyond his power to stay.

In foreign policy, the outlook was as unpromising. It was proving difficult to move towards coexistence a country so long conditioned to Cold War. Even when Moscow offered gold for surplus wheat, it was hard to make a deal. The revolt in Congress against foreign aid illustrated how hard it was to carry on policy once tense fears of Communism slackened even slightly. The President recognized the dangers of an unlimited arms race and the need for a modus vivendi if humanity was to survive but was afraid, even when the Sino-Soviet break offered the opportunity, to move at more than snail’s pace towards agreement with Moscow. The word was that there could be no follow-up to a nuclear test ban pact at least until after the next election; even so minor a step as a commercial airline agreement with the Soviets was in abeyance. The quarrel with Argentina over oil concessions lit up the dilemma of the Alliance for Progress; however much the President might speak of encouraging diversity, when it came to a showdown, Congress and the moneyed powers of our society insisted on `free enterprise’.

The anti-Castro movement our C.I.A. covertly supports was still a spluttering fuse, and in Vietnam the stepping up of the war by the rebels was deflating all the romantic Kennedy notions about counter-guerrillas, while in Europe the Germans still blocked every constructive move towards a settlement in Berlin.

Abroad, as at home, the problems were becoming too great for conventional leadership, and Kennedy, when the tinsel was stripped away, was a conventional leader, no more than an enlightened conservative, cautious as an old man for all his youth, with a basic distrust of the people and an astringent view of the evangelical as a tool of leadership. It is as well not to lose sight of these realities in the excitement of the funeral; funerals are always occasions for pious lying. A deep vein of superstition and a sudden touch of kindness always lead people to give the departed credit for more virtues than he possessed. This is particularly true when the dead man was the head of the richest and most powerful country in the world, its friendship courted, its enmity feared. Everybody is ‘anxious to celebrate the dead leader and to court his successor. In the clouds of incense thus generated, it is easy to lose one’s way, just when it becomes more important than ever to see where we really are.

The first problem that has to be faced is the murder itself. Whether it was done by a crackpot leftist on his own, or as the tool of some rightist plot, Van Der Lubbe style, the fact is that there are hundreds of thousands in the South who had murder in their hearts for the Kennedys, the President and his brother the Attorney General, because they sought in some degree to help the Negro. This potential for murder, which the Negro community has felt for a long time, has become a national problem. But there are deeper realities to be faced.

Let us ask ourselves honest questions. How many Americans have not assumed – with approval – that the C.I.A. was probably trying to find a way to assassinate Castro? How many would not applaud if the C.I.A. succeeded? How many applauded when Lumumba was killed in the Congo, because they assumed that he was dangerously neutralist or perhaps proCommunist? Have we not become conditioned to the notion that we should have a secret agency of government – the C.I.A. – with secret funds, to wield the dagger beneath the cloak against leaders we dislike? Even some of our best young liberal intellectuals can see nothing wrong in this picture except that the ‘operational’ functions of the C.I.A. should be kept separate from its intelligence evaluations! How many of us – on the left now – did not welcome the assassination of Diem and his brother Nhu in South Vietnam? We all reach for the dagger, or the gun, in our thinking when it suits our political view to do so. We all believe the end justifies the means. We all favour murder, when it reaches our own hated opponents. In this sense we share the guilt with Oswald and Ruby and the rightist crackpots. Where the right to kill is so universally accepted, we should not be surprised if our young President was slain. It is not just the ease in obtaining guns, it is the ease in obtaining excuses, that fosters assassination. This is more urgently in need of examination than who pulled the trigger. In this sense, as in that multi-lateral nuclear monstrosity we are trying to sell Europe, we all had a finger on the trigger.

But if we are to dig out the evil, we must dig deeper yet, into the way we have grown to accept the idea of murder on the widest scale as the arbiter of controversy between nations. In this connection, it would be wise to take a clear-sighted view of the Kennedy Administration because it was the first U.S. government in the nuclear age which acted on the belief that it was possible to see war, or the threat of war, as an instrument of politics despite the possibility of annihilation. It was in some ways a warlike Administration. It seems to have been ready, soon after taking office, to send troops into Vietnam to crush the rebellion against Diem; fortunately both Diem and our nearest Asian allies,notably the Filipinos, were against our sending combat troops into the area. The Kennedy Administration, in violation of our own laws and international law, permitted that invasion from our shores which ended so ingloriously in the Bay of Pigs. It was the Kennedy Administration which met Khrushchev’s demands for negotiations on Berlin by a partial mobilization and an alarming invitation to the country to dig backyard shelters against cataclysm.

Finally we come to the October crisis of a year ago. This set a bad precedent for his successors, who may not be as skilful as he was in finding a way out. What if the Russians had refused to back down and remove their missiles from Cuba? What if they had called our bluff and war had begun, and escalated? How would the historians of mankind, if a fragment survived, have regarded the events of October? Would they have thought us justified in blowing most of mankind to smithereens, rather than negotiate, or appeal to the U.N., or even to leave in Cuba the medium-range missiles which were no different after all from those we had long aimed at the Russians from Turkey and England? When a whole people is in a state of mind where it is ready to risk extinction – its own and everybody else’s – as a means of having its own way in an international dispute, the readiness for murder has become a way of life and a world menace. Since this is the kind of bluff that can easily be played once too often, and that his successors may feel urged to imitate, it would be well to think it over carefully before canonizing Kennedy as an apostle of peace.