"Once a bear is hooked on garbage there's no cure." -- Gary Snyder
ALL ALONG OUR WATCHTOWERS where our Princes of the Media tell us our views, things are looking very shaky for their latter-day plutocracy. Their ratings tank, their circulation implodes, and revenues auger into the ground like a one-winged Gulfstream. Like the once-popular Yogi Berra Restaurant, people are staying away in droves.
Extreme measures seem to be called for and extreme solutions are tried. Some once-brilliant network exec has a new thought to save the ratings, "sex!" Katie Couric's perky points are whipped out, rubbed with ice-cubes and back lit by the blaze of Baghdad. It doesn't help. Husbands cringe and wives run screaming from the plasma-screen wall. Faced with the continuing disaster, another never-brilliant New York Times publisher has his only idea for the 600th time: "Bash Bush!" Times editors from the last time the Publisher waved his stuffed moose around convene for their 5348th Sulzberger Suckupathon and decide to "save the newspaper" by..... redesigning the web site! Ad sales and staff continue in their mutual suckage. Heroin suppository prescriptions are renewed.
Across town, employees of cable news networks whose viewer-ship has fallen to rival the circulation of "The Nation" ponder a future without houses in the Hamptons, and their forthcoming inability to land jobs as spokesmen for Ginzu Knives at the North Dakota State Fair. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Or, as we used to say in the 60s in the drug-drenched pits of Berkeley, "If you are going to have a revolution, get ready to do revolting things."
Backs to the ratings wall, they pull out their thermonuclear weapon, and video tapesContinued...
Close to mom's hometown: Firefighters work to contain the Humboldt fire which started Wednesday, had grown to 19,000 acres and threatened more than 5,000 structures, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. More than 1,300 firefighters were trying to contain the blaze, which was only 10 percent contained late Thursday June 12, 2008 in Butte Valley, CA. California Fires - The Big Picture - Boston.com
The New-Coke Cola War recalled: After a mere 79 day furlough, the original-recipe Coke was back on the market as "Coca-Cola Classic."Damn Interesting Bite the New Wax Tadpole
Confusion on Osama by Obama. No confusion by John McCain "Let me be clear, under my administration Osama bin Laden will either be killed on the battlefield or executed."
Language twist of the day: "Left-wing talking pants."
The death penalty is working. "Every time I hear of one of these cases, I am impressed with the discretion and good judgment our justice system seems to show about putting people on death row."
Was the most important goal of WWII to bring Adolph Hitler to justice or to defeat Nazi Germany? The partisan theory of Osama bin Laden's freedom
ACLU to teens, "Screw early, screw often." FIRST THINGS: The War on Abstinence
This ain't no disco, this ain't no Mel Gibson movie. Michael J. Totten sez Don't Miss the Zohan
Canada: Giving you in loco parentis good and hard -- Is Canada the Stepford Nation? @ The Anchoress
Stuff White People Like... to do. What should you do when you find typos on a restaurant menu?
Screening for the gay gene and the hammer of unintended consequences: The Rise and Fall of Homosexual Culture: could science and judicial activism lead to the eventually eradication of homosexuality? .... but.... but....
"What is a 'gay gene' in a man is a 'superstraight gene' in a woman," "Gay Genes" May Be Good for Women -- ScienceNOW
Was it really "all about the oil?" Deals With Iraq Are Set to Bring Oil Giants Back - NYTimes.com At this point, you'd better hope so.
Energy costs up. Lumber costs down. Go Figure.Sippican Cottage: "I need pine to make furniture. And I paid 34% less for it this week than I did exactly one year ago. Same quality. Same vendor. Same everything."
THE FULL MOON is sliding down the dark sky over Catalina Island off shore. Slipping in and out of sheets of haze it throws a burnished orange path out from the silhouette of the island's steep hills and across the open slate water to the shore. Below me to the north, the winding lights of the village converge on the long dark strand of the Pacific Coast Highway arcing up and over the hills of Laguna Beach and on into the towns that string out towards LA, growing ever denser along that route until it fades into the bleak streets of the metropolis.
Driving that way towards the central coast, you'd be tempted to give up the highway for a quick transit through LA and out over the Grapevine to the featureless plain of the central valley and the torpor of Highway 5. But if you stay on the Pacific Coast Highway as it disappears into scuzzy sprawl of LA, you'll find, in time, you took the better route.Continued...
When you walk along this beach
You take all that you can carry --
Dog, shoes, shadow -- even,
If you are not very selective,
"The Ride of the Valkyries."
And you think that because
You walk this beach
So easy and so free
That you will always
Stroll upon this sand.
Look up. A large black dog
Shambles and sniffs
Along this wet, black strand.
Eight dark ravens
Settle at the surf line,
And the drunken crone
Paws in the sand for a sign
Where there are no signs.
You're weary of all you carry,
So you leave it behind
In a pile upon the beach,
Heaped with the crone,
The ravens and the dog,
Hoping it will fade
Forever out of reach,
Becoming just one more
Bonfire on the beach.
Nineteen-year-old Army Pfc. Aaron J. Ward, a Fort Lewis military policeman whose hometown was San Jacinto, Calif., was killed May 6 in Iraq's Anbar province when his patrol came under enemy fire. - Ranger, sub officer, MP with links to state died in war last month EDITOR'S NOTE: Each month, the P-I remembers the servicemen and servicewomen with ties to Washington who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"The American culture of cool has become a nation apart, an alternate-America..."
It was Easter Sunday in 2004 and we were two and a half years into the war. Good Friday evening was one of those nights when, in Southern California, the weather and the combine to create what are rightly called "balmy conditions." Balm, as in a kind of salve to the soul and the skin. The air is warm but not too warm. The skies are clear and the stars seem closer. My then wife and I had just seen some current comic book confection at one of the 20 screen multiplexes that are so numerous in this area that you can see the same movies 15 times within a ten mile radius.
We sat by a large sandstone and marble fountain in the stone circle between the vast theater and the vaster parking lot. It was date night and the beginning of Spring Break for the schools of Orange County. All around us kids from 11 to 18 were whooping and laughing and forming clusters of friends. They were dressed according to the upscale Goth-Surfer/Balkan Refugee dress-code common to the kid culture here on the coast. Most were too young to have tattoos or piercing, but you could see some were already planning where those lifestyle statements would go. They were slim, energetic and heedless of the future. In short, they were just reasonably rich kids in America in 2003. No different now in 2008, seven and a half years into a war they've been trained to hate or ignore.
The war was not and will probably never become these kids' concern. It isn't even something they consider outside of, perhaps, a few classroom exercises of dubious intent or merit. There is no reason they should consider war, nor do I wish that upon them. It isn't, in any real sense, their war. War isn't being asked of us or the affluent kids of Orange County, nor does it seem likely to be. Besides, war isn't what they're into.
If we betray the people who love us, what's to stop us from betraying the country that makes us possible?
Did you ever break a promise?
Did you ever break a vow?
Have you traded love for money,
And are you happy now?
Did you kiss him in the garden,
And then abandon him to fate?
Is your final sin forgiven,
Or is it far too late?
WHEN IT COMES TO DISCOVERING new ways to cheapen the human soul, the "professional intellectuals" of our society have cornered the market. So it was in 2006 when, timed carefully to cash in on the Easter holiday, the "serious" editors of National Geographic chose to release their gleanings from a sheaf of rags and call them "The Gospel of Judas."
Having risen through the echo chamber of "higher" education and survived the ruthless but quiet vetting process of their "profession," these editors knew full well that what they were putting out into the world was not a "gospel." They also knew that calling it a "gospel" would ensure greater attention and greater sales. Beyond that, the editors, secular cultists all, also got a quiet little tingle by having, in their minds, "stuck it" to the Christian church once again. As usual, such secularists love to stick it to Christianity. Addicts of auto-erotic spiritual asphyxiation, their onanistic pleasure in these deeds is only enhanced if they can be performed during the most holy days of the Christian calendar. Only then can maximum profit and pleasure be assured.
This dark thrill of denigration has the immediate benefit of pleasingly confirming them in their own Church of Zero, and the secondary benefit of being much, much safer than, say, sticking it to Islam, a faith that enforces its demands for respect with bombs and beheadings, and whose central message to all cowards is "Don't mess with Muhammad." The sad fact of our modern era is that if you denigrate Islam, you often have to bag up body parts and hose down the sidewalk, but when you denigrate Christianity the most you need to clean up after yourself is a warm washcloth.
Your gedankenexperiment for today is to ask yourself, regardless of your religious beliefs, if the editors of National Geographic, being given an ancient manuscript that "proved" the Koran was nothing more than the blatherings of some ergot-besotted Bedouin who had munched one too many hallucinogenic plants while hanging out in a cave near Mecca, would have published the same "proof" as loudly and as broadly? Would they have done so, or would they have issued a Press Release citing concerns for the "provenance" of the manuscript and their employees' safety? Regardless of your religious beliefs, you know the shameful answer.
But beyond these considerations, the publication of the "Gospel" of Judas has another, deeper and more lasting benefit to our neophytes of nihilism. It puts one of the final elements of their anti-morality play at center stage. It seeks to sanctify treason.
It was never a question of "if," but only a question of "when" our contemporary society would discover an avatar who would make treason acceptable. It only codifies the realities of their secular belief system. Treason against others or one's country has long been as common as adultery in this country. Like adultery the rate of treason is on the rise because, like adultery and similar forms of personal betrayal, it no longer has any consequences at all.
It is true that the federal crime of treason is not easily established and is rarely if ever charged. But the formal crime of treason is not what I am discussing here. Rather the more common, garden variety of treason as understood by plain people -- the rabid and unremitting hatred, expressed in word or deed, of the country that gives you the freedom express your hatred. It is the treason of the ingrate, the soul-dead, the politically perverted, and the bitter; it is, as Roger Kimball at The New Criterion discusses, the treason of the intellectuals and "the undoing of thought."
It's a fact of our self-centered contemporary existence that betrayal has become one of the common forces that shape our lives. For when our own desires ride us like a drunken demon lodged on our shoulders, betrayal is the first order of the day when others seek to thwart our desires, or even when others become a mere inconvenience to our wants and whims.
We've long permitted greater and greater levels of betrayal in our society. We've codified them as law, policy and custom as far as the wishes of the individual are concerned. It is no longer sophisticated or fashionable to speak of selfishness as betrayal. That word is so harsh when, after all, we are only speaking of "differing needs," aren't we. When the betrayal of others is glossed over with phrases such as "I needed to be me," or "I needed my space," or "I needed more money,"or "We were just on different paths," then the elevation of this disease of the soul from the betrayal of another into the larger realm of treason against all is only a question of degree.
The problem is that shame, a vestigial thing in many shrunken souls, persists, and shame must be driven out of the soul if the secular is to thrive. Both betrayal and treason are still weighted down by a lingering sense of shame within at the same time they are made safe from the onus of blame without. Both are permitted by our cults of personal freedom and "sensible" selfishness, but both are formed of dark matter and not easily expunged from one's soul no matter how reduced it may have become.
There was, perhaps, only one moment in history when humans "knew not what they did." In all other times we know, at the deepest level, exactly what we do when we betray another, or others, or ourselves, or our country. We know it clearly and so we bury the ugly deed deeply. Still it persists, remains and rots in the tomb of our souls. A wiser culture called this "sin" and sought to have it confessed and forgiven as meaningless in the shadow of the greatest sacrifice. Our therapeutic culture calls it "guilt" and seeks to palliate and expunge it so that we may live a guilt-free life regardless of our acts. More and more of us live in the latter culture and seek a life forever free from sin, from guilt, from the consequences of our betrayals. And yet this final freedom eludes us.
What is needed, in this secular age of self-intoxication, is a Saint who will remit our sins of betrayal; who will by his very existence sanctify treason. And who better fits this role than the man who betrayed the greatest love for the smallest change, Judas?
The worshipers of the Church of the Self need Judas today more than they need Christ, and they need Christ more than they can know. They need Him so much that they are compelled to reject Him utterly lest their shabby Church be seen as it is, a hovel made of mud and wattle, of empty objects, shabby dreams and promises broken. A statue of Judas would blend right into the niche above their television; a household god whose only requirement is an offering of silver, from time to time, or a shopping spree at the mall to secure his love and blessing; our "Saint Judas of Perpetual Extortion."
Betrayal is a common catechism in the Church of the Self. Hymns to Me are the hosannas it hurls at an empty heaven. The politics of such a church require as First Things a rejection of all things not of, by, and for the self. A religion or a country of the people, by the people, and for the people is high on the list of things to be abhorred since it requires an allegiance that is other than to the self. The Church of the Self effectively mandates treason, and we see it now manifested daily in the bright robes of "unstiffled dissent" which shroud an increasingly vicious anti-Americanism that has its roots, not in reasoned criticism, but in unreasoned hate. We hear the hate but what we have not been allowed to see is the treason behind it.
That is now "changed, changed utterly."
Now our traitors to God and Country have found a sheaf of rags that "prove" that the greatest treason was really "all good;" that Judas was really the greatest friend Jesus ever had and was, with a kiss, doing him the greatest favor ever done.
Treason, done with the kiss of "my personal freedom," proves that you do not really hate your country, you love it. You are, in the final analysis, your country's best friend. In these "new" old tales about Jesus we read that Judas betrayed the Son of God because Jesus told him to do it. Really? Or did his betrayal come, not from any request that may or may not have been made, but from humanity's persistant lust to sin freely and without even the thin penalty of remorse? Was this final treason done because this sin had been secretly blessed by God, or for the sheer dark thrill of asserting the self at the expense of life in the light?
"I betrayed my friend, because he gave me the freedom to do so. Feel my love for him."
"I betrayed my country because it gave me the freedom to do so. Feel my love for it."
Black is white. Hate is Love. Slavery is Freedom. Treason is Loyalty. That last phrase fits right in to the secular catechism, doesn't it? All it needs to become holy writ is an avatar, a solid historical personage with the power to turn darkness into light, lies into truth, and betrayal into something that was, in the final analysis, "all good."
Saint Judas, step right up to the Gates, ring that bell, and don your halo -- you the man.