Thursday, April 27, 2006

Books & Cartoons to Watch out For

One of my favorite cartoonists (which, granted, is a long list) is Alison Bechdel. Her major work up to this point has been a biweekly comic strip called Dykes to Watch Out For. The first few years of this strip were individual cartoons which, frankly, I don't find all that interesting. But in 1987 she introduced some regular characters and made the strip an ongoing serial -- "half op-ed column and half endless, serialized Victorian novel" Bechdel calls it. And it was at that point that it really took off. It's been collected in ten to twelve books so far, and I highly recommend checking it out.

Ten to twelve? Why not be more precise?

I hear you cry. Well, the first of her books, Dykes to Watch Out For, collects cartoons and strips from before the ongoing serial (but which were -- confusingly -- already running under the "Dykes to Watch Out For" name) -- so whether it counts or not is arguable. The ongoing serial strip begins in the second book, More Dykes to Watch Out For. Honestly, however, the strip gets better as it goes along -- both the narrative complexity and Bechdel's drawing improves dramatically. I'd recommend beginning with the third book -- New, Improved! Dykes to Watch out For -- but if your drawing-standards are exacting you might want to skip ahead a few volumes farther -- say, to book five, Spawn of Dykes to Watch Out For (although her drawing has continued to improve as time goes on).

The one other odd-woman-out so far as the collections are concerned is The Indelible Alison Bechdel: Confessions, Comix, and Miscellaneous Dykes to Watch Out For. This isn't one of the standard collections. It includes a lot of Bechdel's other cartoons (of varying quality). It also includes what are, basically, outtakes from the regular strips: the strips from a monthly calendar she produced for a number of years, and other oddities like that. It's a fun book, but read the main sequence first.

So: the main sequence of the serial is collected in ten books; the other two books with 'Dykes to Watch Out For' somewhere in their title are secondary, but bring the number to twelve. See?

You also don't have to buy the books to try the strip. Most of the recent strips are on the web. For a long time they were run on the web site Planet Out, and they have an archive of them here -- containing strips #303 - #480. (Actually, although they don't have links to them for some reason, three more strips -- 481, 482 and 483 -- are also online there.) In the last few months, however, Planet Out has -- for some inexplicable reason -- stopped running the strip. The last few entries have been posted on Bechdel's Flicker photo stream as she looks for a new online home for the strip.

So you can use the online archives to see if you like the strip -- although, be warned: it is an ongoing story, best read in large chunks, and you'll be coming in right in the middle of a lot of story lines, without the helpful recap that Bechdel includes at the opening of each of the collections. I, personally, really prefer reading them on dead trees. But it's a good way to sample, I suppose. For a sample of the sample, here are a few personal favorites of mine: 304, 374, 420, 434. Although, to repeat: it really works best in much larger chunks -- in the end, it's really one long work (with a slightly shaky artistic beginning -- and it is far from the only comics for which this could be said.)

But. The key words in the sentence "Her major work up to this point has been a biweekly comic strip called 'Dykes to Watch Out For'" are "up to this point". Because her first full-length graphic novel is coming out in two months or so. It's a memoir, titled Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, and based on the publisher's description it looks like it's largely about Bechdel's relationship with her father. All I've seen of it so far are the two sample panels that the publisher includes on the page. But I suspect that it may be Bechdel's best work yet, surpassing even her wonderful strip.

You see, in many of her later collections of Dykes to Watch Out For, Bechdel includes, after the regular strip, a "novella" featuring the major characters in a longer story (one which is usually referred to, but not narrated, in the biweekly serial) -- examples have included the birth of one of the main characters' child; a hectic day on which several of the main characters all move houses/apartments; a retrospective about how the characters met; and the story of a fundraiser held to help the bookstore run by one of the main characters (and worked in by several others) stay out of bankruptcy. And I've always thought that these novellas are the very best of the work -- that the greater length really allows Bechdel to shine.

Now, granted, I will dearly miss Mo & all the rest -- they're great characters, and some part of me would have preferred that Bechdel try a full-length novel about 'em rather than a memoir. But even so: it sounds like an extraordinary story, and I bet that the extra length will really allow Bechdel to do some fascinating stuff. (It's also more color-full than her normal work: instead of black-and-white, it will be two-color, i.e. blue-and-black-and-white, which is actually a wonderful look, I think, which has been used to good effect by many cartoonists.)

Anyway, it should be coming out some time soon. Watch out for it -- I know I will be. In the meantime, if you haven't read it before, check out Bechdel's ongoing strip.

[Update. I've been meaning to post a comprehensive review, but it's looking like I won't get around to it, so let me sum up and say that Fun Home is absolutely terrific, a truly marvelous book, and that I recommend it unreservedly to everybody.]

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Buying Books Online: Links and Notes

There are some things that one just assumes everyone knows. I've worked hard at learning not to do this over the years, but I still have a long ways to go (and I don't really ever expect to get all the way there). Chatting with a newly-made friend today, I found out that she didn't know about all sorts of online resources to buy books with that I sort of assumed everyone knew about. So here are a few links I know of that I find helpful when shopping for books. If anyone knows any I left out, please leave them in the comments!

The first and most basic tool I use are two sites which themselves aggregate other online search engines. There are more than these two sites, but in my experience checking too many one hits diminishing returns, since they all check more or less the same databases. But there isn't complete overlap -- sometimes one will have a surprising hole (e.g. not finding all editions of a book but just some, not finding a book on some site that the other metasearch engine will find it on, etc), so it's worth checking more than one. So I use these two:
These sites aren't perfect -- the errors mentioned above will sometimes occur on both -- but in general they do a fairly good job, I think.

Most of the rest of the sites I know of are ones which those two will point you towards. But still, for anyone who wants to check them directly, there are a number of sites which allow you to search many used book stores across the U.S. (and, often, in England & elsewhere -- pay attention to where it's coming from, as it may affect shipping time and/or price!). The biggest of these, I believe is:
--but another one is:
And, of course, does the same thing, as well as selling you new books (and barbecue grills and underwear and probably short-range missiles). Finally, while not strictly speaking just for used books, a lot of used books appear on:

The other thing to take into account, of course, is shipping cost. Most of these sites will give you a discount if you buy more than one book from the same store (i.e. the same actual, physical used book store, not just the same online portal) so it's worth searching around to see if you can combine books. In general, abebooks has somewhat higher shipping prices than alibris, which in turn is a bit higher than; and if you find a book on one, it's worth checking the others since the same copy is often listed on multiple sites. On the other hand, I often find that ordering books from multiple stores is cheaper than combining orders, even factoring in multiple shipping costs.

For new books, has Amazon-like prices on a lot of things, but only charges $1.40 per book for shipping, so if you're buying under $25 (the amount at which amazon will ship for free), it's worth trying that. In contrast, ebay often has outrageous shipping prices -- a lot of ebay sellers seem to fold a lot of their actual merchandise price into their shipping cost (presumably to hide it when sorting ebay by price or on search engines such as the above, or simply to try and sucker people who don't pay attention), so pay particular attention when buying books on ebay (this is even aside from the auction factor -- I'm talking now just about the ebay "stores" which sell you things immediately.)

Those are some of the web sites I use. Again, if anyone has any others, please leave them in comments!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Talking Blogging Heads

File under 'everyone is blogging now': David Byrne blogs -- yeah, that David Byrne. (via)

Update: When I posted this, it had escaped my attention that there really was something called "blogging heads" -- or, rather, BloggingHeads TV. David Byrne isn't involved in that, though.

And as an addendum to the "everybody's blogging" list, you can add John Crowley.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

History Might Be Kind to Bush

Now that's a headline that I suspect my at-the-moment-purely-hypothetical regular readers never thought they'd see from me -- and one which, with one possible exception (hi, Uncle John!), they would all object seriously to. But while I admit second place to no one in my horror at the damage that the Bush administration has done to my beloved country, I think that Bush, the ultimate gentleman's-C-student, might get away with less blame than we, now, would think warranted. Let me explain.

The thought arose because I read two excellent essays back-to-back. The first was the recent Rolling Stone article by the fine historian Sean Wilentz considering whether Bush really is the worst president in U.S. history. His answer, it will probably surprise few to learn, is yes. Or, more precisely:

No historian can responsibly predict the future with absolute certainty. There are too many imponderables still to come in the two and a half years left in Bush's presidency to know exactly how it will look in 2009, let alone in 2059. There have been presidents -- Harry Truman was one -- who have left office in seeming disgrace, only to rebound in the estimates of later scholars. But so far the facts are not shaping up propitiously for George W. Bush.

I think a fair summary of his arguments might be that while the race is far from over, at the moment Bush is well ahead with no obstacles between him and the finish line. If any conservatives wish to object, they should at least consider Wilentz's considered argument and explain why they don't agree. He has a lot of evidence on his side. He's very persuasive. He persuaded me. (Although admittedly I already thought so.)

So why might history be kind to Bush? The answer, I think, lies in the two types of problems we face at the moment.

Now, I say "two types", but -- of course, of course -- there really are not two types, but a whole spectrum ranging from one extreme to another, quite possibly a multi-dimensional spectrum at that, one with wormholes by which problems on one side can leap instantly to the other and bridges which draw seemingly separated problems into a single whole. Granted. But of course the whole point of simplifications is to help us think through ungraspable complexities, and I think there's some use to this one, so bear with me.

The first sort are problems which we either would not have had had Al Gore ascended to the presidency which he had rightfully won or -- shading out on the spectrum -- which we might have made progress on with democrats in charge. The war in Iraq, the disastrous deficit, the erosion of long-held civil liberties and most of the other nearly-uncountable damages of the Bush administration fall in the first half of this category. The long-term issue of Jihadism, the issue of basic civil rights for our gay and lesbian citizens and the health-care crisis are (although this is category is harder to speak with confidence about) in the second half -- problems which Gore would at the least have quite clearly been better on, and problems which, had mainstream liberal thinking been pursued (respectively: 1) Get Osama without getting sidetracked, work on locking down nukes and other dangerous weapons, court rather than inflame moderate Muslim opinion; 2) just give them equal rights damnit; 3) single-payer) might well have been more-or-less solved. Of course the political Gore was a cowardly creature, hardly the courageous figure that emerged after his loss, and of course he would have had a hard-right Republican congress (and VP) to deal with, all of which would have limited his options. But there would have been hope.

And, frankly, on these issues there still is a great deal of hope. Iraq is likely going to be a horror for a generation to come, blood which will forever saturate Bush's hands, but America might well extract itself from that situation soon after Bush's term -- little consolation to the people of Iraq, but some to us. As for all the other problems, I have high hopes that the present full-scale meltdown of the all-conservative government might just possibly lead to a resurgence of muscular American liberalism, which might actually make some progress on them. So on these issues we can, at least, hope -- and fight to make hopes real.

But then there are the second set of problems -- problems which no mainstream American political thinking has any reasonable answers for. Problems which even when given lip service by the left, there is little chance of achieving anything on in the foreseeable future. These are the problems that make me think that we are living in the period of the Decline and Fall of the American Empire -- if not of our civilization. I am, I know, a pessimist, and given to apocalyptic thinking. Nevertheless, the words of Hari Seldon often ring in my ears:

The appearance of strength is all about you. It would seem to last forever. However, Mr. Advocate, the rotten tree-trunk, until the very moment when the storm-blast breaks it in two, has all the appearance of might it ever had. The storm blast whistles through the branches of the Empire even now. Listen with the ears of psychohistory, and you will hear the creaking.

What problems are these? Well, there are many, and detailing them is more than I can do here and now. So let's just take one: global warming.

Global warming, Noble Reader, is a serious !@#$%ing problem. Scientists are increasingly convinced that we may hit a "tipping point" at which beyond efforts to mitigate it will be, frankly, too late. Al Gore is reportedly saying in his new movie that we may have only a decade to act before reaching that point. Some scientists are saying we may not even have that long -- that we might already have reached it. (You won't hear too much of that, because people tend to want to inspire action -- since, after all, we can't be sure that it's too late. But the whispers are there, if you listen.)

This is where the second essay which I read comes in. It's a blog post by Brad Plumer (via), who talks about what would be needed, practically, to slow global warming -- and how, while it might well be technically possible, is currently beyond the political pale -- "the goal looks attainable in theory, but in practice may be far out of reach," in his words. Simply because of the level of change in our society -- and in every society, worldwide -- which would be required.

And the actual results could be disastrous. -- I haven't the heart, right now, to go into the details. But this could be an epoch-making change in human history -- even apart from fears of peak oil, or any of the other large-scale problems that seem to bear down on us.

It seems likely -- or, as Dr. Wilentz might put it, "there are too many imponderables still to come... to know exactly... but so far the facts are not shaping up propitiously" -- that our era will seem in retrospect to be one long, slow-motion disaster, where ecological damage accumulated, and we collectively fiddled as our planet burned.

In which case Bush might actually get off easily. After all, while the Democrats would clearly be better on Iraq, on terrorism, on the economy, on health care, on civil liberties -- on a whole host of issues -- it seems unlikely that the corporate-beholden party could have done enough on global warming to make a real difference. Oh, they might well have pushed forward with Kyoto -- if the Republican congress would have let them. But even Kyoto was just a start: and it seems unlikely that they would have done more.

(Maybe -- maybe -- Al Gore, who has cared about this issue more and longer than almost any politician of national reputation, would have made it the defining issue of his presidency, had he secured it, as he has of his non-presidency. But he certainly didn't run on it. And, now, we'll almost certainly never know.)

In this case, Bush is likely to be remembered as simply one more disastrous leader who failed to lead. Oh, sure, worst than most -- probably worst than all. But who remembers which of the late Roman emperors was the worse? It is the vast rush of decline, not the short-term problems of any particular rule, that we recall. The Iraq war will be seen as simply one of the more egregious examples of the global tribulation that energy problems caused; the U.S. budget deficit will be seen as the almost-inevitable consequence of a global empire of military bases; signs of theocracy will be seen as the expected reaction to a declining civilization. Bush will fade into the background of horror -- a large figure in it, but still simply another one.

Bush, in short, might be saved from being damned by history because we might all be judged, collectively, so harshly that any individual looks small in the overall picture. Bush might be saved because the genuine disasters of his rule might fade into the background of larger and more permanent disasters.

But not to worry. If we assume Bush is, at this point, shooting the moon (as in the game of hearts), and -- figuring he can't possibly be good, at least trying for first-place in the worst-ever sweepstakes -- there is hope for him yet. At this point Bush looks like he might simply fade into the background of general waste and destruction. But if he goes ahead with his rumored plans to start an unprovoked, aggressive nuclear war against Iran, I suspect the consequences will be dire enough that they will stick out even amongst the general problems that future historians will see. Or if his utterly reckless disregard of actual U.S. security, combined with his active pissing off of the entire world, particularly of the Muslim world, lead to another devastating terrorist attack -- even, to fixate on one of my most serious and longest-running nightmares, a nuclear terrorist attack -- then that, too, will vault him over the top of the genuinely awful. So there is -- after a fashion -- hope for Bush yet.

For the rest of us, I'm not so sure.

More Iran Links

Since I published my first two posts on the possibility of Bush attacking Iran, lots of people have said good stuff on the topic. Here are links to some of what I've seen, read and thought worth reading.

Matt Ygelsias makes the basic case against war.

• The Union of Concerned Scientists has an animation explaining why nuclear 'bunker buster' bombs are likely not to work. (via)

• Billmon followed up his first post with a lot more on this topic; in particular This is Not a Drill, The Flight Forward and The Spiral Conflict.

• Glenn Greenwald notes that Bush thinks he has the authorization to attack Iran and talks about how the script for Iraq is being run again without any authorization in the aptly titled 'Lucy, Charlie Brown & the Football'.

• File under 'great minds think alike': both Glenn Greenwald and Billmon have written about right's use of the Neville Chamberlin metaphor.

• Digby speculates on whether Bush has already covertly begun the war; Majikthise, in contrast, speculates that the current retired general's rebellion aginst Rumsfeld might be an attempt to prevent the war. Digby also reminds us of the connection to neoconservative beliefs.

• Arthur Silber in anger and despair: Morality, Humanity and Civilization: "Nothing remains...but memories" and Lunatic World.

William Rivers Pitt is scaring a lot of people with his essay about Iran's blowback capacity. Read and see why.

Paul Krugman. 'Nuff said.

• Finally, here's something funny to chear you up after reading all that.

(Update: links added.)

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

"What if we started a nuclear war and nobody noticed?"

For a long time, Billmon was hands-down my favorite blogger. Nowadays he's been more or less on hiatus, save for the very occasional posted quote. But recently he posted a long piece on Hersh's reporting on Bush's war planning, and it is really worth a read. He begins by wondering why it hasn't attracted more attention --

...I've been at least a little bit surprised by the relatively muted reaction to the news that the Cheney Administration and its Pentagon underlings are racing to put the finishing touches on plans for attacking Iran – plans which may include the first wartime use of nuclear weapons since Nagasaki.... Even by the corrupt and debased standards of our times, this is a remarkable thing. The U.S. government is planning aggressive nuclear war (the neocons can give it whatever doublespeak name they like, but it is what it is); those plans have been described in some detail in a major magazine and on the front page of the Washington Post; the most the President of the United States is willing to say about it is that the reports are "speculative" (which is not a synonym for "untrue") and yet as I write these words the lead story on the CNN web site is: "ABC pushes online TV envelope"...

-- adds a few remarks on why we should take this seriously, and then goes on to speculate how it might be received by the U.S. public:

Never again would American rulers (or their foreign counterparts) be able to hide behind the comfortable fiction that the United States is just primus inter pares – first among equals. A country that nukes other countries merely on the suspicion that they may pose a future security threat isn't the equal of anybody. America would stand completely alone: hated by many, feared by all, admired only by the world’s other tyrants...

[But] It’s entirely possible the near-term consequences wouldn't appear as cataclysmic as you might expect from such a world-shaking event – except, of course, for those poor souls unlucky enough to be living near or downwind from one of Iran's suspected nuclear weapons facilities... But barring another 9/11, or a worldwide financial meltdown, the day after a nuclear strike on Iran might not look that much different than the day before, at least to the folks back home. ...

What I'm suggesting here is that it is probably naive to expect the American public to react with horror, remorse or even shock to a U.S. nuclear sneak attack on Iran, even though it would be one of the most heinous war crimes imaginable, short of mass genocide. Iran has been demonized too successfully – thanks in no small part to the messianic delusions of its own end-times president – for most Americans to see it as a victim of aggression, even if they were inclined to admit that the United States could ever be an aggressor. And we know a not-so-small and extremely vocal minority of Americans would be cheering all the way, and lusting for more.

More to my point, though, I think it's possible that even something as monstrously insane as nuclear war could still be squeezed into the tiny rituals that pass for public debate in this country – the game of dueling TV sound bites that trivializes and then disposes of every issue.

We’ve already seen a lengthy list of war crimes and dictatorial power grabs sink into that electronic compost heap: the WMD disinformation campaign, Abu Ghraib, the torture memos, the de facto repeal of the 4th amendment. Again, why should a nuclear strike be any different? I can easily imagine the same rabid talk show hosts spouting the same jingoistic hate speech, the same bow-tied conservative pundits offering the same recycled talking points, and the same timid Beltway liberals complaining that while nuking Iran was the right thing to do, the White House went about it the wrong way. And I can already hear the same media critics chiding those of us in left Blogostan for blowing the whole thing out of proportion. It’s just a little bunker buster, after all....

It’s possible, of course, that I’m dead wrong about the short-term effects of a strike on Iran. It could quickly lead to economic catastrophe and a wider war, or evolve into a full-fledged U.S. invasion and occupation of Iran – i.e. “regime change.”...

But my thought exercise – What if we started a nuclear war and nobody noticed? – is still useful, if only as a reminder of how easy it can be to lead gullible people down a path that ends in a place no sane human being would ever want to go. A nation that can live with the idea of launching a nuclear first strike isn’t likely to have much trouble with the rest of the program – particularly when its people, like their leader, are convinced they’ve been chosen to save the world.

I've only offered a bit of it here. The stuff I've cut is all good too. You really ought to go read the whole thing. It's worth it.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Party On, Snow Monkeys!

So I'm at home, busily cleaning for Passover (which starts tomorrow night), I decide to take a break, open a blog, and -- via Majikthise -- come across this wonderful story by Carol Vinzant about snow monkeys in the New York City Zoo having a (pre) holiday feast:

Security has been tight this week at the Central Park Zoo, with ticket takers, staff, and guards on the lookout for suspicious packages of cookies, pretzels, hot-dog buns, and pound cake. Observant Jews have till Wednesday to clear their houses of hametz (leavened products) before Passover, and every year many of them take their castoffs to the zoo. Baffled zoo staff note that the snow monkeys are the main beneficiaries of the pre-holiday pig-out, apparently because the polar bear’s glass wall is too high and the sea lions would only be interested if offered gefilte fish. “If a big group comes in carrying bags, admission is going to notice,” says zoo spokesperson Kate McIntyre.

The small, pink-faced snow monkeys (Japanese macaques) may not mind the interruption to their grooming routine and carefully prepared diet of fruits, greens, and nuts, but their caretakers sure do. Standard protocol is to politely ask food-throwers to stop. If they persist, security hovers and asks again (last year, one food-flinger said, “I don’t answer to you; I answer to a higher power”), but they are rarely ejected. “They really don’t know why they shouldn’t do it,” says one zoo volunteer. “They think they’re doing a good deed. I can’t say they like it when I tell them to stop. My answer to them is to take it to a shelter.” Other volunteers aren’t so tolerant. “If we see them do it, we should either frisk them for food or throw them out,” insists one.

But Yula Kapetanakos, an assistant curator, notes that the observant visitors don’t throw anything that bad. The real risk for the animals in eating too much people food is that they will get fat and lazy. Often the monkeys become so sated after their pre-Passover feast that they won’t go inside later for dinner.

Rabbi Moshe Elefant of Orthodox Union says there’s no religious imperative to give the food to animals. Still, “our tradition is not to waste food,” he says. “If we could give it to some animals to eat, that’s the best.” And since the run-up to Passover is so busy, Elefant says, the zoo’s just convenient. It’s more common for Orthodox families to go to city zoos in the middle four days of Passover, when the kids are out of school. Kapetanakos says the main things thrown by the big crowds then are bananas and matzo, that Passover staple. But Rabbi Elefant says, “I’m not sure how many animals are up for matzo.”

I just love that the monkeys are getting a pre-Pesach pig-out. And the fact that New York Magazine managed to come up with the Nabokovianly-named "Rabbi Elefant" for a story about Jews and the Zoo is just icing on the kosher-for-passover cake.

Happy Passover, everybody!

Monkey Eating Cake Like Object In Bundi
Disclaimer: this monkey is not in the New York
Zoo, is probably not a snow monkey, and almost
certainly was not given this cake before Passover.

A gorilla enjoys (?) a matzah. (Image source.) As
David Carter would say, standard disclaimer
about gorillas not being monkeys applies.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Will Bush Nuke Iran?

According to an article by Seymour Hersh in the forthcoming issue of The New Yorker, Bush is seriously considering attacking Iran to eliminate its purported nuclear weapons program. Attacking Iran with nuclear weapons. I haven't kept a scorecard, but my impression is that Hersh's reporting has been rather reliable over the past few years. And I do know that the Bush administration has been serious about developing "usable" nuclear weapons -- in particular the bunker-busters they are reportedly considering using against Iran.

I think that Hersh's article is probably the scariest thing I've read in a good long while. Possibly even the scariest thing I've read during the entire Bush Administration. Obviously, Iran getting nukes would be a bad thing.* But that hardly means that bombing Iran would be a better option. (Sometimes there are no good options.) The horrific possibilities -- Iranian loss of life, the reaction of the rest of the world, the likelihood of terrible retaliatory attacks on Americans (in Iraq, in the "homeland" through terrorism, or elsewhere), to say nothing of increased support for the Iranian regime and increased Iranian determination to develop the bomb -- are so numerous that it boggles the mind. So even if Iran is on the verge of getting a nuclear weapon, I don't think we should bomb them. (We should negotiate seriously and in good faith, which it's hardly clear we've been doing.)

But of course these are the people that brought you the Iraq war, complete with we'll-be-welcomed-as-liberators, Mission Accomplished and all the rest. These are the people who are talking about bombing Iran causing the fall of the (Iranian) government, rather than a rallying around the government (which has traditionally been the response to bombing -- bombing has over and over again rallied civilians to even terrible governments; the thought it would work this time is nuts -- but then, these people are nuts). I hope no one dismisses this because it's simply too crazy. These people are crazy. I don't know if they will do this, but it's quite clear that they might. His poll numbers are low -- but that to them might be an argument for not against. Our army's bleeding in Iraq -- but since they seem to genuinely believe that there won't be retaliation, that the government will fall, they may think we can do both. There are systems of self-reinforcing thought at play here that may lead them to do it, blind or oblivious to the horrors they will unleash.

The one ray of hope in the article was the possibility that protests by senior military officers might force the batshit crazy civilians to back down. God I hope so. It's like Dr. Strangelove in reverse -- the loonies are the civilian government, the few sane people are the military.

The article's quite new, so so far the blogospheric response has been minimal -- at least in terms of substantive posts: most of what I've seen so far are basically expressions of horror. Digby and Tristero say a bit more; Jonathan Schwarz at This Modern World points us to this Washington Post article which adds a bit to Hersh's piece; and Think Progress points us to this summary of Hersh's article. The last link came from Atrios, who also drew my attention to the article in the first place; he points out the scale of likely world reaction. If I get a chance -- and see any additional good blogosphere discussion of this -- I'll try to add links.

Absa-fracking-lutely terrifying.

Update: P. Z. Myers comments (& follows up); as does Mahablog. Also Kip Manley. Matt Stoller has a brief comment. Also, two important pre-Hersh posts on this topic: Steve Clemons says that Israel is calmer than the Americans about Iran; and Kevin Drum mentions a few other articles discussing the increasing likelihood of a U.S. attack on Iran.

Additional Update: Crooks & Liars has the video of Hersh on CNN; TalkLeft quotes highlights of the transcript of the CNN interview, and the conclusion of a briefing paper about what the consequences would be. Hersh's interview made the bombing seem quite likely, but a specifically nuclear bombing rather unlikely -- due to military pressure on Bush. And, via Andrew Sullivan, the Times of London has a source confirming Hersh's reporting on the planning for a strike.

Still More: Josh Marshall explains why Bush administration denials mean "absolutely nothing"; Amanda also thinks of Dr. Strangelove. James Fallows in this month's Atlantic talks about why attacking Iran would be a bad idea. More commentary from: Max Sawicky; Todd Gitlin; Matt Yglesias; Helmut.

*I actually think that anyone having nukes is a bad thing, and that the nuclear non-proliferation treaty should be pursued in good faith, i.e. that the nuclear powers (including us) should be getting rid of their weapons. That they should be illegal, just like chemical and biological weapons are, with intrusive inspections (of everyone, including us) to verify. And that this would be the best way to prevent the ultimate terrorist scenario, a nuclear attack on a city. But that's a different post.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Music of Pain, Music of Anger

I clicked through because of politics.

I'd heard of the Dixie Chicks before -- frequently, of course, due to the public uproar around their (incredibly mild, really) comments about Bush -- but I'd never heard them before. Oh, I'd had a vague sense that maybe I ought to, but that feeling was basically all about politics: feeling that I ought to support people where the

...words that I said,
Send somebody so over the edge,
That they'd write me a letter sayin' that I better,
Shut up an' sing or my life will be over?

But I had no real impulse to listen to them because, well, they sang country music. And I didn't listen to country music. Oh, I liked the song I heard after Johnny Cash died, but I didn't have any big impulse to go find more. Just wasn't on my radar. One might think it should be, since it is (as Xander called it) "the music of pain" -- and there were certainly times in my life when I needed that. But it wasn't.

So when I saw Atrios's post on the Dixie Chicks's upcoming album, I clicked on the link to listen to a single from the album because of their politics -- and I thought, what the hell, if I can listen online, I might as well give it a try. I didn't even notice the single's title.

The first thing I noticed was that the song, "Not Ready to Make Nice Now", was awesome. So I started paying attention to it because of the music.

And I listened to the lyrics. I thought, instantly, based on just the chorus, that it was a subtle reference to the controversy over their anti-Bush remarks -- probably allegorized to a love affair, these things were, but still that it was about them. Then I went and read the lyrics -- and, no, there's no allegory, the lyrics are !@#$% about that controversy, straight up.

It also didn't sound like country music. And I saw that one of the band recently said that "We don't feel a part of the country scene any longer, it can't be our home any more... we now consider ourselves part of the big rock 'n' roll family." Indeed, a fan site said that the single "bear[s] little resemblance to the Chicks' original bluegrass/Western sound."

The musicians of pain are now playing the music of anger: rock.

And yeah, I love the lyrics --

I'm not ready to make nice;
I'm not ready to back down.
I'm still mad as hell,
An' I don't have time,
To go round and round and round.
It's too late to make it right;
I prob'ly wouldn't if I could.
'Cause I'm mad as hell:
Can't bring myself,
To do what it is you think I should.

-- but I haven't played it over and over for more than an hour because of the lyrics. I listened once because of the politics, but it's not the politics any more. It's the music -- the piece -- the entire song.

So give "Not Ready to Make Nice" a listen
. It's just awesome.

Hell, I may need to buy the whole album.