March 2007


Was it the columnist H.L. Mencken who said that a person would never know poverty by betting against the intellect of the average American? Well, regardless of who said it, one need look no further than the small city of Fairmont, Minnesota for an example of the collective idiocy sadly displayed here in America. It runs rampant particularly in those places known nostalgically as the “Heartland”.

I don’t want to upset the citizens of Fairmont. I suspect that they wont be bothered for two reasons: 1.) hardly anyone reads my blog 2.) I suspect based on listening to this story about the city’s reaction to the establishment of a U.S. Department of Peace, many in in Fairmont don’t bother reading at all.

National Public Radio did a fabulous job covering the fallout of the city council’s unanimous approval of a resolution supporting the creation of a Department of Peace. Nearly two dozen cities across the nation have done so, including Detroit, Newark and Chicago, so the small community in southern Minnesota was hardly breaking ground when, spurred on members of the Fairmont Peace Club, the city council passed a resolution supporting HR 808.

Two weeks after the resolution passed, the hue and cry of residents forced three out of five councilors to conciliate and rescind their votes on the non-binding and symbolic resolution supporting a bill that will likely never reach the floor of the House.

But why the furor over something that seems to be quite logical. After all, as Peace club member Judi Poulson pointed out to NPR, in a world of conflict, “peace is strategy, just like war…it takes a lot of hard work and skillful people that have been trained.”

 Turns out Fairmont residents such as Gene Hackett see it another way.

“I grew up under a time when my generation was involved with peace,” Hackett said to NPR. “The things that they stood for with that peace symbol were wrong. It was bad.”

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More than four years after the invasion of Iraq and subsequent occupation of a formerly sovereign–albeit corrupt and dictatorial nation–the United States has lost more than 3,100 soldiers, marines, airmen and sailors in the conflict. Compared to the numbers of my father and grandfather’s conflicts, Vietnam and World War II respectively, the totals of American dead are much less. In comparison to the the combined combatant deaths of the American Civil War (1861-65), the amount of armed forces personnel is miniscule, less than 1 percent, in fact.

Taken into consideration that the total loss of American life in Iraq, which includes armed forces personnel, private contractors, public officials and journalists,  is relatively low, Americans who support the war tend to write off the sacrafice that is paid in life.

On their syndicated radio programs, both Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity have used the comparatively low armed forces deaths as a rebuke towards the anti-war movement.

Limbaugh cites scurilous statistics to conclude that an Army soldier is safer in Baghdad than he or she is in the streets of crime-plauged American cities such as Los Angeles and Philadelphia.

Not only does this reasoning cheat Americans of a fair analysis of the War in Iraq, it is also wholly irrelevant. Our is a nation based upon the Enlightenment principles of reason and intellect, not simply emotion. Our joy and tears should take a back seat to the objective measurement of cost and benefit.

Wars are not fought with the consideration of the soldiers, airmen, sailors and marines fighting them, but of the compelling national interest that would motivate Congress to pay to send people into harm’s way–the Constitution in particular.

As long as a war in Iraq is fought the troops will and must be a consideration. The problem is however, that both sides treat armed forces personnel like children and until they stop doing that an objective analysis of the war and its costs will scarcely be considered.

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A good friend of mine is clearing out his house before it is sold. Last weekend I grabbed a book that his father, long deceased, had collected in the 1970’s. It is Inside the Company by Phillip Agee. I’ve heard his name before, but I’m not sure where.

  I think this book might be an entertaining read. I’ll suspend the urge to read criticism of it, be it on the Web or excerpted from old newspapers or journals because knowing what I do about the book right now, it seems like reading it’s reception could really hanker with my enjoyment of it.

  So far, I’m 30 pages in. It’s a breeze of a read so far. Maybe there are 400 pages altogether in the hardbound first-print that I have in my possession.

  Agee’s title is misleading. If a diary is something of a chronological recollection of events from a person’s day-to-day life, than Dick’s book is anything but a diary. I keep a journal most days and I don’t touch it. Once it is written in that’s it. Someday should my nieces of nephews or grandkids or strangers read it, they’ll find out some embarassing things about me I suppose.

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I love reading Jack Chick’s comics. They have always been a source of inspiration and humor for me. Being a Roman Catholic, I certainly don’t agree with Chick’s fundamentalist version of Christianity (in Chick’s view I’ll be in hell unless I convert), but I do enjoy reading and collecting his comics, which are distributed by various churches and sidewalk evangelists.

An Albanian translation of Chick's seminal This Was Your Life

When I lived in Boston and went to Emerson College, there was a mentally disturbed guy (he was mentally disturbed, not simply on fire with the love of Christ) who used to stand outside of the main building on 80 Boylston with an End is Nigh sandwich board, proclaiming God’s Kingdom. He carried the tracts, which depending on how you order, range from about .10-.30 cents a pop.

That was my first introduction to the Chick tract, I think.

In the hot and sweaty summer of 2001, after moving to Brooklyn, my roommate and I would collect them, usually from subway trains, although there was a magazine store that sold them for irony value somewhere on the Lower East Side.

It was at See Here, the store, that I was introduced to some of the finest works in Jack Chick’s cannon: Death Cookie, Dark Dungeons, Reverend Wonderful, and Where’s Rabbi Waxman to name a few. No longer did I have to wait to be prostelityzed to, but could purchase them and so I did.

I’ll share with you some of my favorite Chick Tracts and I’d like to start with Doomtown.

Doomtown is of course a statement on homosexuality and if a fundamentalist cartoonist was going to get his point across, there’s no better way than this one, with it’s over-the-top (I suppose depending on where you live) depictions of homosexual men. They’re not so much fabulous as they are predatory. They’re the kinda guys either Chick feared running into in rest stop bathrooms or intentionally ran into in reststop bathrooms.

Let me share some frames:

I really love this one. You don’t get the best view of them, but if you look closely you can see Chick’s attention to detail.

Check out the guy who is six from the left. He looks as if he’s wearing a sleaveless dress and long earings with Coke bottle glasses. I like him even better than the one who is second from the right, with the policeman hat (more on that later).

Here’s another two frames I like. I mostly like it for the hairy bear with the leather and spikes and the policeman hat, but the guy with Bible is cool too. He looks a little like Charles Bronson.

This one on the right is amazing and speaks for itself. I love the permed queen with the Rollie Fingers stache and the hook earings making out with someone who is either sweating or has horrid moles on his face.

And last but not least is this one.

You know, because homosexuals molest kids all the time.

Now, all of the joking aside (I’m not sure anything I’ve written is actually funny), I think these comics are funny but speak to a horrible paranoia on the part of the artist or artists. I’m not sure Jack Chick actually drew this one but if he did you can see it is inspired by a deep fear, basically a phobia of gay life. I love the backhair on that one guy!

If you’ve never read a Chick Tract, I suggest you do now. I think they’re a lot of fun!

I came across this picture today on the Internet. He’s not a real Roman Catholic bishop, but one in a splinter group called the Ecumenical Catholic Church. He rocks. 

 I’m a Catholic and will likely never leave the Church over social issues. The faith of the Church is enough for me.

I think that Catholicism is a great force in the world. It’s by no means perfect, but it’s also by no means a homogenous religion. There are so many different ways to apply the faith to the world and room for different ways to express Catholic life.

Catholicism is greatly misunderstood by  a lot of people, be them Christian fundamentalists or ultra liberal (and ultra obnoxious) people who lay blame on the Church for the poverty of the developing world.

I think I’ll stay with her though. I like being Catholic.

A neat column from the Web site antiwar.com encapsulates a lot of my feelings on Operation Iraqi Freedom. U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, a Republican from Texas reaffirms his longstanding opposition to this affair and offers a good critique of the spending bill passed last week by the House, which added more than $120 billion in spending to the mess. (more…)

I’ll start by saying that despite my being a New York resident, and a Democrat, I have never and will never vote for our junior senator, Hilary Clinton.

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It’s not my last day at this place:

 

I wish it were so that I could relax and recuperate from five months of some of the most boring days of my life. It’s strange, because when I look out the window I can see the street I was parked on January 6, 2006 when I phoned an obnoxious editor of mine and found out that I was being laid off. I was back home for the day in Albany and very dejected about the whole thing. Since then, I’ve worked nothing but annoyingly slow jobs, just boring. So boring. I can’t describe.

 Every second of your life is one that is closer to the end, whether you’re doing something good or not with moments, the finite amount given you. But spending those limited seconds and miliseconds doing something like what I’ve been doing, which is not much more than making some copies, writing some letters and sitting in on meetings that have little to do with my position, the time is even more squandered. It moves slower, as if to torture you with the fact that you’ll be going nowhere for the rest of the day.

 In the end the world will explode. That will likley happen millions if not billions of years after we are gone. Nothing any of us have done on Earth; Buddha, Ghengis Khan, Adolf Hitler Harry Truman, Ghandi, Stalin, Queen Victoria, Mussolini, Mao, Tom Cruise, Bob Saget and Pierre Turgeon included will matter one bit.

 There should be some beauty in that, although at first inspection, it seems kinda depressing. I have a spiritual side; a mildly transcendant side, that knows in my heart of hearts it’s the love in and of life that matters. All things, as St. Paul said will stay here and can’t be taken with you into the next world.

 Regardless, I’d like to make a dent somehow. I did get a little gift today from one of my bosses, who after about an hour, I will likely never see again.

It was nice of her. She’s a great lady. A successful antiques dealer, actually. Out of necessity, propriety or just kindness, she stopped on her way to work to get me something this morning.

It was nice, a gift card, the quintesential easy-to-please gift. It was for $20, which is nice. Now it has $14.52 on it!

I can walk away from here with not much, but at least I have that, which is pretty cool. Who knows how long it will take before I exhaust it.

I suppose it can be. After a late night ice hockey game (I scored!), I still feel beat up and exhausted. Not really sure that there is much I can do right now.

I’m getting a little down about the whole situation as far as searching for jobs is concerned. There are a lot of really shitty jobs out there. Even in the Albany area, which can boast one of the best economies in the Northeast–outside of the major cities–there are just a lot of really boring, mind numbing jobs that are posted.

I see a counselor for anxiety and other issues and he is a career counselor as well. He works for the Diocese of Albany and is a really neat guy so far. Anyway, he’s suggested that I read What Color is Your Parachute on the side of another book he has assigned me.

Never have I been able to apply too well the wisdom doled out in those types of books, but as I know where to get a free copy, I’ll give it a shot. I deserve to help myself.

The last 18 months have been rough. I’ve been through a lot. I was laid off from my job as a newspaper reporter, which in itself wouldn’t have been so bad had it not hurt my chances of getting back in the field. I was going through a lot of anxiety unrelated to the job, when I began working there. I’d uprooted after graduating and basically said goodbye for good to a four-year relationship. Never did I have much guidance, as I was assigned to a field office. I just hated it in general. But I’d like to be a reporter again at some point.

I can get mad or see the situation for what it is. Some things aren’t meant to be and that’s alright. Maybe everything has a point and a purpose. I love to write but I love to write about things I love to write about, not village board meetings in shitkicker locales or whatever new thing an editor wants to exploit to stay hip.

This last year has been punctuated by shitty jobs. I made it to the third round of what could have been an awesome government job, but was passed over for a more qualified candidate. I’m going to send my resume over again in case. Just in case she’s moved on to greener pastures.

Well, maybe I can do something interesting tonight. Hell, when all else fails, just get loaded!

With the Internet connecting people from every walk of life and every social and political perspective, this item has certainly been around a lot so likely if you’re reading this, you’ve heard of it before. I’ve yet to break a story!

 Two nights ago CNN’s Paula Zahn invited Aspen Baker, the founder of the post-abortion counseling organization Exhale on her show to talk about a new and controversial  sympathy card, one you’re not likely to find in the stationary section at CVS or Walgreens.

It’s an abortion sympathy card and you can send them through the Internet. An e-card! Awesome. But there’s others. Awesome!

I’ll begin by saying that I’m pro-choice. By default. I don’t like abortion. I think it’s pretty revolting. I also think it is the proverbial red herring in politics. Both camps throw it out when in my belief abortion effects our collective society much less than the global climate, war and the economy. I am convinced making it illegal is about as effective as the war on drugs. Pro-choice activists—I hate that term because anyone can call themselves an activist these days—have a valid point. It will just go underground. My solution is not giving it any public subsidies, of which it receives very few. Fair enough.

 People must face the consequences, whatever they may be, bodily or spiritually of having a living thing removed from their body.

 And that’s why I find these cards so incredibly tacky. Because the people who are so gung-ho about abortion are generally speaking the ones who want things to be both ways.

They would like the right to terminate a pregnancy—which is offensive to some—but they would also like their decision to be seen as sacrosanct and beyond question.

It’s a free marketplace of ideas and some people can handle abortion better than other. As a social worker, my mother told me there were several women she came across in her time working in an inner city hospital who had numerous ones

I generally believe that God is merciful. There’s no reason to believe He’d be any less merciful to a woman with an abortion than he would to a common criminal or someone who watches pornography day and night. I fully support the ideas of forgiveness, redemption and personal growth in life.

But something about wanting things both ways just seems like a joke. If an abortion is such a serious decision, then why how is a sympathy card–printed or downloaded–going to mean anything. It’s an empty gesture like a yellow ribbon on a tree or one of those Lance Armstrong wristbands. Just idiotic in my opinion. Birthdays and anniversaries and graduations and promotions already mean very little. And meaning very little, a cottage industry of card makers swoops in to grab up the cash of those who are too lazy or to insincere or dishonest to admit that these are boring events in life. Therefore, a card in the mail with a $5 bill will suffice. Awesome.

<——————–I love this one for it’s intense emotional detachment.

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