Life is full of little ironies, one of them in my case being that I have more time than ever before, now that I have retired from practice, to read medical journals. I find the experience a little unnerving.
In the old days I glanced through the journals and naÃ¯vely supposed that the summaries of the scientific papers provided for busy doctors represented the content of those papers more or less accurately and, what’s perhaps more important, that the conclusions followed from the evidence. I have found, on reading the journals more carefully, that this is often not so: that the conclusions do not follow from the evidence or are presented in such a way as to be misleading.
I am not a thoroughgoing skeptic about modern medicine, and like almost everyone else I would take myself off to a doctor in the event of illness. If it were not for modern medicine, or comparatively modern medicine, I would have been dead a long time ago. Nevertheless, it is not reassuring that so much of what doctors do, and what I did myself, is less than scientifically sound or justified, and some of it is downright harmful.
Here, for example, is a little item from the back of a recent edition of the British Medical Journal. It comes from a column called “Minerva,” which supplies very short summaries of interesting papers in other medical journals. It reads as follows:
If patients knew how little the drugs they were taking were likely to benefit them, would they bother to carry on? In type 2 diabetes, tight blood pressure control is probably only of value above a certain threshold of cardiovascular risk, as shown by the ADVANCE trial, among others. But an analysis of the ADVANCE data … shows that even if you select the patients at the highest risk, you would need to treat 200 for five years to prevent one adverse event.
I should perhaps point out that controlled trials in medical research are often given acronyms or pseudo-acronyms, in this case ADVANCE standing, almost, for Action in Diabetes and Vascular Disease. And the event referred to in the above passage is a heart attack or stroke.
What this little paragraph is saying in effect is that untold thousands, possibly even millions, of people around the world are being treated with drugs with actual or potential side effects, at enormous expense and effort, all to no benefit whatsoever to themselves. They do not know or appreciate this, even if they have been told of the logic and statistics on the basis of which they are being treated: for patients often fail to listen to, understand, or retain the information given them by their doctors. (And some doctors give no information.)
The actual situation is worse than the paragraph conveys, for when trials such as the ADVANCE are carried out, the test patients” compliance with their medication”the degree to which they take what they are prescribed”is usually much better than in normal conditions. A half of patients prescribed anti-hypertension pills stop taking them within twelve months; the rest rarely take them precisely as prescribed. And most of the patients given the drugs in the first place will not even fall into the category at highest risk, two hundred of whom have to take the drugs for five years to prevent one stroke or heart attack. Only one conclusion is possible: the principal beneficiaries of this medical endeavor are the drug manufacturers, with the doctors a poor second.
This is by no means an unusual situation in modern medicine. Many screening procedures are doubtful at best; some do more harm than good, by arousing anxiety or by promoting unnecessary surgery, as well as through more immediate side effects. Increasingly, the patient is not so much ill as the bearer of risk factors for disease, whose statistical effect the doctor attempts to nullify.
In the same “Minerva” column, we learn that annual health checks on everyone between the ages of 40 and 75 are likely to be useless, at least as carried out in Britain, except possibly as a mild Keynesian stimulus to the economy. When the records of 130,356 people who had undergone such checks were examined, it was discovered that only about 20 per cent of those at high risk of cardiac disease were prescribed statins and even fewer of those with high blood pressure underwent treatment to lower it.
The leaves are falling nonstop, like names dropped in Hollywood, and it has suddenly turned colder than the look I got from a very pretty girl in a downtown restaurant. I had gone outside for a cigarette while dining with Gay Talese, the writer, when two men and a lady came out looking for a cab. The scene was straight out of an F. Scott Fitzgerald story: “I love you, I’ll take you home,” said one of the young men. “I love you more, let me take you home,” said the other.
Both were well dressed and spoke proper English. There was nothing else to do but for me to butt in and I did. “I love you the most, and I’ve got a car and driver waiting,” I said to her.
That’s when I got the cold stare, although to their credit, the two preppies laughed. The three of them wandered off into the cold night looking for a taxi. I went back in and had a very good evening with the writer and a beautiful African-American model. Such are the joys of the Big Bagel. Anything can happen at any moment.
Speaking of Fitzgerald, a new musical adaptation of his 1920 novel This Side of Paradise has opened on 42nd street, one I plan to see if I can find the girl that gave me the cold look on that freezing night in SoHo. She looked like an upper-class flapper, a perfect companion for a pre-jazz-age cocktail before we hit the Great White Way and enjoy Scott’s autobiographical novel set to music. In the review I read, the musical takes place in Princeton’s ivied halls, and if memory serves (I read the novel when I was in prep school), Amory Blaine, the hero, is in hot pursuit of a debutante named Rosalind.
Fitzgerald called himself the romantic egotist in the novel, one that put him on the map at an age when his contemporary, Papa Hemingway, was a starving unknown living in a cold flat in Paris. We tend to forget how unbearably young and attractive those writers were back before the booze got to them. And how well dressed! And what perfect manners they affected. Today’s scribes tend to equate slovenly dress and boorish manners with talent. The aforementioned Gay Talese is an exception, but he is, after all, 82 years of age.
Gay is a dandy, and during dinner he recounted how his father was an Italian immigrant who became a tailor but who never managed to save any money because he insisted on tailoring beautiful suits with very expensive material few people could afford. (His mother kept the family afloat.) I have never seen Talese in the 30 or more years I’ve known him without a perfectly cut suit and waistcoat, and always wearing a hat, the way men used to do when manners were still more important than money. One thing I’ve noticed recently on some more or less ugly types, is porkpie hats, things they never tip or remove indoors or in the presence of ladies.
That’s something Joe Alsop would not be caught dead doing. Alsop was an American aristo and a very powerful columnist of my political persuasion. A relation of Teddy Roosevelt, his Sunday night dinners in Washington were more sought after than a White House invite, and Joe, whom I met in Greece on a couple of occasions when he covered the Colonel’s coup d’état, was as charming a cosmopolite as there was on this side of the pond. He was also a closeted gay who, when honey trapped by the Soviets in Moscow, immediately went to the CIA and told the truth.
A sharp dresser, he was envied for his background and good connections by lesser hacks, and although he’s been dead a long time, here’s a review by one Louis Menand of a book about the Cold War period, when Joe and his brother Stewart reigned supreme in Georgetown: “When he showed up for work at the Herald Tribune in the middle of the Depression, he was wearing a bespoke suit, silk shirt, and hand-sewn shoes from Peal in London.” How to stick the knife in without getting blood on one’s hands, I call it. What’s wrong with wearing a bespoke suit or silk shirt, as the hack intimates? The hack also writes about an ostentatious air of upper-class refinement that Alsop affected. Well, not to me, and Joe liked me and thought I was cute 45 years ago. He once drank quite a bit in an Athenian taverna and started to look me up and down, and I said to him, now, now, Mr. Alsop, no funny business, it wouldn’t be fair to Greek girls, and he burst out laughing and bid me good night.
Riot fatigue “ Press conference poseurs “ Journalists meet gentle
giants “ Perjury’s a white thing “ An American family “ Tragic loss of
a creative talent “ The Talk! “ Chuck Who? “ Feminist Whack-a-Mole “ A
Ezra Levant is a journalist and TV host who is primarily known for fighting the totalitarianism and corruption of various human rights commissions. He’s one of the few with the patience and resources to call them out on their hypocrisy and expose them for what they really are: cultural Marxists determined to dismantle Judeo-Christian culture. He’s also Canadian.
WAIT! Don”t stop reading. I realize Americans get hit with a heaping dose of tryptophan at the first utterance of their neighbors up north, but Levant’s fight affects your everyday life. Along with Britain, Canada is the canary in the coal mine of free speech, and what happens there is a harbinger of what’s to come down here. We”ve already seen Canadian-style PC fascism affect Americans. In 2006, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission made a bar owner remove a sign that said “For Service, Speak English.” Soon after, the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations told a Philly cheesesteak shop to remove a similar sign.
Since then, the government and the social justice warriors have been working hand in hand to make censorship a viable industry. Last month, an Oregon bakery was shut down after refusing to bake two lesbians a wedding cake. They were fined $150,000 and simply couldn”t afford it. This month we learned of New York’s Cynthia and Robert Gifford, who have been fined $13,000 for refusing to host a lesbian wedding in their own living room. What I find most telling about this fine is that $10,000 of it will go to the state, while the lesbians are left to divvy up the remaining $3,000. Bankrupting citizens is good money for bureaucrats, and once they freeze one person out, the temperature starts dropping for all of us. Ezra Levant is one of the few who successfully fought this frost and he did it by standing his ground to the very end and making every detail public.
In 2006, Levant was “investigated” by the Alberta Human Rights Commission for daring to reprint the Mohammed cartoons. He decided to tape the investigation; it became an international story that brought the commission out of the shadows and into the scrutiny of the Canadian taxpayers (who were paying about half a million dollars for the case).
Levant refused to apologize or back down in any way and after paying over $100,000 in lawyer fees, he was exonerated. Since then, he has made it his life’s work to fight for free speech, and it’s all meticulously documented in his thrilling book Shakedown: How Our Government is Undermining Democracy in the Name of Human Rights. There have been some small victories in this war, but since 2006, we”ve seen the idea of thought control spread all over Canada and into America. I spoke to Levant on the phone to get more details on this massive cold front coming down from the north.
Takimag: Why should Americans care about Canada’s Orwellian slide into censorship?
Ezra Levant: Look at the number of people losing their jobs for perceived racism, sexism, and homophobia. It’s already in the culture. It’s only matter a time before it becomes law. There are already a lot of human rights commissions in the States.
Would you say your case is one of the more egregious in the history of Canada’s human rights commissions?
My case was expensive and irritating but many were much worse. There was the woman who called the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) on a coworker who was acting strangely after 9-11. He had been to NYC shortly before the attacks and brought back photos of the World Trade Center. She had been friends with him in the past but he was a Muslim who seemed enamored by what had happened and his travel dates were very suspicious. The country was on high alert so she did what she was told to do. He complained to the CHRC and they fined the company.
That’s interesting, because they are making us less safe in the name of protecting people.
That’s what they do. There was the case of the McDonald’s worker who refused to wash her hands. She said it irritated her skin. The company sent her to allergists and did their best to work around it but she kept refusing so they were forced to let her go. She complained to the local HRC and they fined McDonald’s while also insisting they change their hand washing policy.
So, did they?
They can”t. It’s against local health ordinances. The government was telling them to do two different things at the same time. It was a gross misuse of justice in every sense of the word.
In their utopia we”re vulnerable to everything from germs to terrorism.
And it only goes in one direction. There was a complaint in Alberta about a violent anti-Christian song lyric that the HRC refused to take because they claimed Christians cannot be discriminated against. They are not a “protected group.” So, the commissions are not anti-hate. They”re anti-Canada. They”re anti-America. They”re pro-hate in that they hate our society. They won”t protect Christians” rights but they”ll defend Islam no matter what. In that sense, they”re in cahoots with extremist Islam. It makes for a bizarre coalition.
Have they ever prosecuted a Muslim who was anti-Semitic or sexist or homophobic?
Never. Not once. There’s a guy named Al-Hayiti. It means “The Haitian.” He’s a Haitian convert who wrote an incredibly hateful book that translates into Islam or Integration? It condones stoning and death toward Jews and all the other tropes extremist Islam promotes. For the record, I think he should have the right to publish such a hateful book, but that’s exactly what it is.
The CHRC got a complaint about the book but they refused to pursue it. They are petrified of appearing racist and would rather let that kind of hatred slide. What’s amazing about this case is a terrorist later cited Al-Hayiti as an inspiration to commit acts of violence. The HRC’s job is to prevent hate speech that may lead to violence. This did exactly that and they ignored it.
It reminds me of Rotheram, UK where the police let an entire child prostitution ring go unpunished because it was run by Muslims and they didn”t want to appear racist.
Extremists are scary, so the HRC would rather go after someone like me. What am I going to do to them? Tape a conversation? They need someone they can safely dominate and they”re usually successful.
Today, they can force someone to apologize against their will. They did it to a priest who criticized homosexuality. Rev. Stephen Boissoin was ordered to write a letter taking back things he sincerely believed. Then, they demanded that he never repeat such things ever again, even in his own sermons.
They just tried to do that here in the states. A lesbian mayor in Texas demanded to see transcripts of everyone’s sermon because she was concerned about homophobia.
There’s something very Stalinist about forcing people to apologize against their will. This is something Mao used to do during the Cultural Revolution. It’s much easier to force an apology than to debate someone or convince him of your position. So, they cheat.
This idea you can legislate a human emotion like hate. It’s as ridiculous as regulating love.
Real courts don”t do this. Real courts don”t try to make the accused into a ventriloquist’s dummy. They don”t want to do that because remorse is part of the case. To compel a murderer to show remorse is to tamper with the evidence.
Well, that’s been a depressing few days, hasn”t it? Have you been watching the pictures on TV? Howling mobs of blacks throwing bottles; overturned cars; stores looted and burned; police in riot gear watching passively; black faces contorted with rage; furrowed-brow white liberals excusing, explaining.
Is there any way out of this wretched cycle? Any hope for an end of it? Any solution? Well, I”ve heard a few suggestions.
Separation. This idea is popular with white identity types. Here, for example, is Matthew Heimbach of White Student Union fame, in conversation with black separatist Brutha Dawah:
It’s much better for the white community, but also the black community, to be able to peacefully separate … No-one gets more resources than another. It’s a fair separation. And what that would do is, incidents of police brutality, the industrial prison system, which primarily affects black males, that wouldn”t be a problem any more, because the black community would be able to have its own prison system, its own police, its own justice system.
Richard Spencer (a former editor of Taki’s Magazine) shares the dream:
The ideal I advocate is the creation of a White Ethno-State on the North American continent.
I know both these guys: Richard’s been a personal friend for some years. I have to say, though, I find separatism hard to take seriously.
Matthews’s view is the more naÃ¯ve of the two, unless he’s being disingenuous. What would be the condition of blacks post-separation? The odds are: not good.
Blacks have created viable nations: Barbados, Botswana, and Ghana get good press, for example. These are exceptions, though; and Barbados, the best of the bunch, with a tiny population (same as Newark’s) and flourishing tourist and offshore-banking enterprises, still only manages a South European level of prosperity (with a distinctly non-European homicide rate). Most black nations are fragile and very poor. Black populations simply don”t have enough of a smart fraction.
Assuming that the white ethnostate will be sharing North America with one or more black ethnostates, the latter will be poor and dysfunctional, certainly more so than their white neighbors. Imagine a midrange black-African state next to a midrange European state: say, Uganda (2013 GDP per capita $1,500) abutting Belgium ($37,800). I see major issues of border control.
The problem with separatism is that blacks would be nuts to want it. With all the real or imagined indignities of minority status, life is far better for them in a white nation.
Michael Hart has proposed an interesting variant of the separatist idea: a three-way partition of the U.S.A., comprising a black separatist state, a white separatist state, and an integrated state:
All American citizens who do not explicitly choose to become citizens of the BSS or the WSS will remain members of the integrated USA. Therefore, just after the partition, the tangible wealth of the integrated USA will be proportional to the number of people who choose to remain its citizens.
That’s cute, but it suffers from the same problem as before: relentless pressure on the borders of the WSS and IUSA from blacks desperate to escape the poverty and disorder of the BSS. So separatism looks like a no-hoper.
There’s a bit more to be said than that. Richard Spencer, for example, has his eyes fixed on the far future (“It would be a state for the 21st century”or 22nd …”) and seeks only to plant the idea of a white ethnostate, taking 19th-century Zionism as his model. This century’s absurdity may be the next century’s popular cause, he”d say.
I suppose it might. After all, there have been cases of the converse being true. There was, for example …
Repatriation. In my grandfathers” grandfathers” time, the idea of sending American blacks back to Africa was hugely popular with elite whites. Abraham Lincoln was friendly to “colonization” schemes, and appointed a commissioner of emigration to implement them.
The problem was that very few blacks wanted to be repatriated.
Yet despite their leaders” support for colonization, the common [black] people [of Philadelphia] unequivocally rejected the notion.
Blacks didn”t see why they should uproot themselves and move to a distant continent just for the convenience of white people. They especially didn”t see it in the 1860s, when a dramatic improvement in their condition seemed to be just over the horizon.
Of the era’s four million American blacks, only 15,000 signed up for colonization. If they”d known how Liberia would turn out, the number would have been even smaller.
Making fun of millennials is all kinds of fish-in-a-barrel fun. Their creepy, dehumanized fixation on their smartphones reminds me of lab rats, pushing the Tweet button to light up the ego centers in their brains.
Perhaps this smacks of an uncharacteristic faith in human nature, but I want to believe that only people who came of age in the hive-mind of social media could have gone along with something quite as insane as the recent “shirtgate” farce”in which Twitter nation mob-harassed a scientist who landed a space probe on a comet into tears because he did a press conference in a shirt patterned with pretty ladies. If the stupidity weren”t so cruel, it would be hilarious.
But amusement at others often betrays a vague feeling of our own shame.
The cognitive changes that come about over the course of an electronics-mediated existence are insidious. And as I recently read Todd Ehler’s self-published novel, Ready or Not, I was reminded that those lousy kids” selfie addiction is only the extreme end of a process that’s been going on for longer than I”ve been alive. Almost everyone who’s now below senility age was raised, to some degree, a creature of the media.
The twinned plot of Ready or Not charts the coming of age of two small-town youngsters in the year 1985, when their community was busy trading in its rabbit-ear television reception and dinner-table chat for cable TV and porn on the VCR. Despite the gentle bizarreness of the book’s style, the creeping heartlessness it describes rings true. It’s a book written with the death of the book”and of face-to-face conversation”uncomfortably in mind.
The male protagonist, Allen May, starts off as a charming dork with an improbable dream: when he finds four straw boater hats in an antique shop, he’s inspired to talk his three best friends into starting a barbershop quartet to try to get girls. This may sound ridiculous even for the now-old-fashioned 1980s. But aside from the fact that Al grew up steeped in his sad but loving mom’s fixation with old-time musicals, Ehler finesses the idea by modeling the boys” dialogue not on the novelistic tradition, but on the call-and-response legerdemain of works like The Music Man:
“It could work. For girls. You know, really. In secret, of course.”
“Just for fun. Just for kicks,” said Hock.
“… A big secret! Just to fool around once!”
The style’s oddness isn”t so much avant-garde as it is desperately nostalgic, and despite the impending tragedy, it has a charming feel.
The story of the female protagonist, 11-year-old Ann Lambert, is a harder sell. Her loss of innocence almost seems random till it’s tied in to the other themes of the book, and on the surface it sounds heavy-handed, so bear with me. In the opening scene, Ann is visiting her best friend’s family, led by an old-fashioned and loving couple; she wishes she belonged to them, as her family is dominated by her cold, social-climbing mother. Duty sends Ann home, but on the way she’s assaulted and violated by a stranger.
With, certainly, all due respect for the pain of rape victims, sexual assault in literature these days is too often presented in a manipulative, politically charged fashion. Ehler writes it differently, but a smart marketing person would have glossed over this hot-button issue. (In Ehler’s DIY promo copy, it’s front and center; yet another example of why it’s regrettable that authors now have to be their own marketers.) At least here the victim is female while the author is male, taking the story back a step from the “argument from me” fallacy that has come to dominate modern storytelling. The rapist is never given a line of dialogue, much less a political party affiliation”he’s a faceless manifestation of human darkness. And Ann is never idealized; she’s something of a grumpy kid to begin with.
The experience makes her painfully sensitive to the increased sexualizing of the culture around her, but what’s saddest about her story is that she has no one in whom to confide. Her best friend seems like a baby to her now, and her mother, Tammany, is less interested in finding out why Ann is acting so strange than she is in sleeping her way to a comically illusory chance at fame and fortune.
Tammany is angling for the attentions of a Hollywood producer who’s come to town, filming a big-time video for a band called Gazm. She’s snared a role as his local coordinator, and he hints that she can get a cameo in the video if he can get her in bed. She gladly chases her husband and kids out of the house in order to oblige.
Months of egging on the mob in Ferguson, Missouri by the Obama Administration, the Democratic Party, and the national media in order to goose turnout in this month’s midterm elections have culminated in the Night of Undocumented Shopping.
An entire row of businesses on West Florissant Avenue, a major thoroughfare, was engulfed in flames. … Many business owners will return to their shops to see their livelihoods in ruins. Looters broke into a beauty supply store and stole hair weaves and wigs, leaving the heads of mannequins strewn in the middle of the street.
The executive branch, the Democrats, and the press had flogged the narrative of yet another white racist killer stalking baby black bodies to enrage low information potential voters. To their credit, large numbers of respectable black voters stayed home on election day, perhaps depressed that this latest media obsession over white male racist violence had once again turned out to be a factual fiasco.
You and I have known since August 15 that the conventional wisdom about gentle giant Michael Brown being gunned down in cold racist blood was contrived. For over three months, we”ve been able to watch security camera video of the enormous black man setting off on his fatal crime spree by first roughing up the little Asian storekeeper from whom he was stealing cigars. Shortly afterward, Brown attacked the police officer in his own cop car and tried to grab his gun”behavior so far out of control that I”ve almost never heard of that happening before.
That doesn”t mean the policeman subsequently behaved impeccably. But that’s what you have laws to determine.
In 2010 I read a short police blotter item about a Drug Enforcement Agency officer fatally shooting an 18-year-old in a parking lot near my favorite Barnes & Noble bookstore. The spokes-cop implied that the lot was notoriously infested with drug dealers, which I knew to be false.
I started poking around in the official story and found it didn”t make much sense. I visited the parking lot exactly 168 hours after the killing to see if the news accounts were more plausible at that time of the week. While there, I saw a mournful middle-aged woman looking about. She was the dead man’s mother.
I told her to sue. Three years later, a judge awarded her family $3 million.
I”m proud to say that members of my family later participated in a protest march down the Ventura Boulevard sidewalk. But, you know, afterward they didn”t sack the Banana Republic or torch the Chipotle.
Nobody in Washington or New York subtly encouraged them to, either. You”ve probably never even heard of this particular law enforcement shooting. Why not? Because in a vast country, bad things happen every day. And the victim was white, so the case was of no use to the narrative molders.
In America, riots happen mostly when rioters know they, not the police, have the power structure’s sympathy. For example, 1960s race riots didn”t take place in the Jim Crow South, they took place in liberal northern cities, and not until after the passing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Similarly, the 1992 Rodney King riot in Los Angeles happened after a year of prestigious badgering of the LAPD by establishmentarians such as future Secretary of State Warren Christopher.
When cops feel that doing their jobs could get them in trouble, they tend to go spend their shifts in the doughnut shop. That’s what happened in New York City during the liberal Lindsay Administration (1965-1973). NYPD officers realized that you can”t get in trouble for abusing anybody’s civil rights while you are partaking of New York’s amazing abundance of sit-down food and beverage establishments. The least talked about way that Rudy Giuliani and William Bratton finally brought down the crime rate was to get the police out policing for more than half of their shifts again.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, a Vietnam war veteran and the lone Republican on Obama’s national security team, has been fired.
And John McCain’s assessment is dead on.
Hagel, he said, “was never really brought into that real tight circle inside the White House that makes all the decisions which has put us into the incredible debacle that we’re in today throughout the world.”
Undeniably, U.S. foreign policy is in a shambles. But what were the “decisions” that produced the “incredible debacle”?
Who made them? Who supported them?
The first would be George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq, a war for which Sens. John McCain, Joe Biden, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton all voted. At least Sen. Hagel admitted he made a mistake on that vote.
With our invasion, we dethroned Saddam and destroyed his Sunni Baathist regime. And today the Islamic State, a barbaric offshoot of al-Qaida, controls Mosul, Anbar and the Sunni third of Iraq.
Kurdistan is breaking away. And a Shia government in Baghdad, closely tied to Tehran and backed by murderous anti-American Shia militias, controls the rest. Terrorism is a daily occurrence.
Such is the condition of the nation which we were promised would become a model of democracy for the Middle East after a “cake-walk war.” The war lasted eight years for us, and now we are going back—to prevent a catastrophe.
A second decision came in 2011, when a rebellion arose against Bashar Assad in Syria, and we supported and aided the uprising. Assad must go, said Obama. McCain and the neocons agreed.
Now ISIS and al-Qaida are dominant from Aleppo to the Iraqi border with Assad barely holding the rest, while the rebels we urged to rise and overthrow the regime are routed or in retreat.
Had Assad fallen, had we bombed his army last year, as Obama, Kerry and McCain wanted to do, and brought down his regime, ISIS and al-Qaida might be in Damascus today. And America might be facing a decision either to invade or tolerate a terrorist regime in the heart of the Middle East.
Lest we forget, Vladimir Putin pulled our chestnuts out of the fire a year ago, with a brokered deal to rid Syria of chemical weapons.
The Turks, Saudis and Gulf Arabs who aided ISIS’ rise are having second thoughts, but sending no Saudi or Turkish troops to dislodge it.
So the clamor arises anew for U.S. “boots on the ground” to reunite the nations that the wars and revolutions we supported tore apart.
A third decision was the U.S.-NATO war on Col. Gadhafi’s Libya.
After deceiving the Russians by assuring them we wanted Security Council support for the use of air power simply to prevent a massacre in Benghazi, we bombed for half a year, and brought down Gadhafi.
Now we have on the south shore of the Mediterranean a huge failed state and strategic base camp for Islamists and terrorists who are spreading their poison into sub-Sahara Africa.
The great triumphs of Reagan and Bush 41 were converting Russia into a partner, and presiding over the liberation of Eastern Europe and the dissolution of the old Soviet Union into 15 independent nations.
Unfulfilled by such a victory for peace and freedom, unwilling to go home when our war, the Cold War, was over, Bush 43 decided to bring the entire Warsaw Pact, three Baltic states, and Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia into NATO. For this project, Bush had the enthusiastic support of McCain, the neocons and the liberal interventionists.
Since 1991, we sought to cut the Russians out of the oil and gas of the Caspian basin with a pipeline through the Caucasus to Turkey, bombed Serbia to tear off its cradle province of Kosovo, and engineered color-coded revolutions in Belgrade, Tbilisi and other capitals to pull these new nations out of Russia’s sphere of influence.
Victoria Nuland of State and McCain popped up in Maidan Square in Kiev, backing demonstrations to bring down the democratically elected (if, admittedly, incompetent) regime in Ukraine.
The U.S.-backed coup succeeded. President Viktor Yanukovych fled, a pro-Western regime was installed, and a pro-Western president elected.
Well before I wrote these weekly screeds, I was”God help us”a poet. One of some tiny renown, in fact.
Luckily for everyone, poetry, like smoking and drinking, is among those youthful pastimes in which I no longer indulge. (Had there been national awards for those last two, I flatter myself that I”d have made their short lists as well.)
Unlike most poets I knew and read, however, I didn”t write fiction, too. I”ve completed two short stories, neither much good. A third never grew beyond an idea that invaded my brain more than 25 years ago, along with a title: “Teaching Men to Bleed.”
The plot sprang from my purgatorial stint in the 1980s anarchist left, when I was, I now realize, more of a right-wing libertarian all along. (And I wondered why I was so ticked off all the time …)
To their credit, though, the “group” I “belonged” to”such pretentious punctuation seems, well, obligatory when you”re trying to describe a tribe attempting to live without rules”agreed with me on one nonnegotiable point in this mid-Solidarity, pre-fall-of-the-Berlin-Wall era:
Communists were creeps.
That’s probably why the first “poem” I ever wrote”the one that, when published, made what you”ll forgive me for referring to as my “name””was really nothing more than a furiously speed-written account of a real-life brush with one such creep in particular.
“Contacts With Trotskyites“ mocked that new-to-me mutant species of progressive, feminist, pacifist men who turn out to be”stop me if you”ve heard this one“passive-aggressive, hypocritical (and very horny) narcissists.
(And yes, I wrote breathlessly about this life-changing discovery as if I were Darwin trudging across the Galapagos”if Darwin had been a clinically depressed, alcoholic 23-year-old wearing Doc Martens, a baby doll dress, and black bike shorts. Sorry.)
As I met more unsavory “men of the left,” I conceived of a short story that would, I hoped, emerge as a cross-pollination of Heathers, The Edible Woman, and Arsenic and Old Lace.
The main character”a Valerie Solanas clone”is deeply disillusioned. Why, her male “comrades” are just as misogynist as the right-wing men of her radical feminist fever dreams, if not more so. (See also “Ghomeshi, Jian,” who by all accounts put the “stud” in “women’s studies.”) Then the Montreal Massacre erases the last trace of sanity our antihero has managed to retain.
In a city where Learning Annex catalogs are piled up just inside every other cafÃ© doorway”flogging new age men’s movement/inner child rebirthing seminars”her new workshop fits right in. The all-male class for “[Men]Struation 101″ will be dosed with what’s advertised as a harmless, all-natural herbal formula designed to simulate cramps and very light bleeding, thereby midwifing participants onto a higher plane of wimmin-ly empathy and suchness.
The workshop sells out. In fact, she finds herself turning away a larger number of smug, spindly vegan white men of all ages than she ever anticipated, especially since this class doesn”t offer participants a chance to cruise for easy, young, and demi-cute (if hairy) left-wing sluts.
Of course, our antiheroine really just poisons these gullible doofi with an intestinal bleeding agent, leaves them to die on the United Church basement floor, and absconds with their tuition money to … well, I never got that far.
Over the last quarter-century, up until today, this aborted work of fiction was never anything more than that title, an opening line (“At first, they”d planned to throw blood on the Embassy”), and a long-lost scribble of painful puns; the word “issues” topped the list.
I made excuses to myself about why I didn”t really start, let alone finish, this story. Only now can I can admit the biggest reason of all: I was chicken.
Here’s the thing: I have a coal-black sense of humor, a barely embryonic inner censor, and an almost psychopathological indifference to criticism.
But my idea scared even me.
Make that “scares,” because every so often a real-life story crops up that reminds me of my fictional miscarriage.
For instance: The Shanghaist reports, “Men in Shandong brought to tears while “experiencing” pain of childbirth”:
The aim of the “Pain Experience Camp” was to give men a taste of the pain women endure while going into labor so that they might gain a better appreciation and respect for what they go through.
Nearly five hundred years ago, as the story goes, those sexually repressed Pilgrims”wearing tight religious apparel that restricted crucial blood flow to their genital regions”gathered one autumn day to thank Jehovah God for giving them sustenance.
After scarfing down their fire-roasted turkeys, they proceeded to wipe their chins clean before setting out to dominate, depopulate, and decimate the local Indian tribes”this, despite the fact that Squanto had taught them how to catch eel and grow corn. That’s the thanks that Squanto gets”none! I don”t frankly care much for either eel or corn, but had I known Squanto, I would have thanked him just for being named “Squanto.”
Hundreds of years later, for heaven knows what reason, a disturbing quotient of the Pilgrims” descendants feel apologetic”rather than thankful”about winning those fundamental American turf wars. I mean, it’s not as if they”re going to invite these so-called “Native American” families into their houses for Thanksgiving, but it’s the thought that counts. They keep America’s indigenous people close to their hearts, and that’s what truly matters.
I know I”m in the minority with this, but I think the invading blue-eyed pale-skinned hordes made far better use of the American continent than the pre-Columbian indigenous yam-diggers were ever able to manage, despite their visually striking feathered headdresses and admittedly catchy war chants. There are plenty of worse places to live than the USA”so sure, yes, I’m here to declare that this Thanksgiving, I”m thankful I don”t live in any of those places.
I”m also thankful for Thanksgiving itself because it acts as a preparatory sensory salve for those dead winter months that I”ll wind up hating. Eating oneself into a languid, tryptophan-induced coma is a yearly American self-doping ritual, that rare collective ceremony in which I”m eager to take part. I”m grateful that such a potent triple cocktail of Big American Holidays is packed tightly together over the course of those dark five weeks”from Thanksgiving to New Year’s”when the weather really starts to turn shitty, bleak, and depressing. Driving west one late afternoon last week I was looking into a barely lit sunset, a specter so dismal that the little spots of clouds reminded me of cancer cells. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s serve as a triple injection of narcotics to numb the senses for the slo-mo nightmare that is that dead stretch of winter starting on New Year’s Day and mercilessly crawling along until the first flower blooms.
So no, I am not thankful we are descending into winter’s dark frozen bowels. As my own silent and very personal form of protest, I continue to buy and eat watermelon throughout the winter”no matter how costly or difficult to procure”so I can desperately clutch on to even a vague sense memory of Georgia’s gloriously humid summers. But these winters, even down here in Dixie, where we”ve already seen single digits in the morning and it’s not even Thanksgiving yet? No thank you, thank you very much for asking.
If there’s any group that shouldn”t be thankful for Thanksgiving, it’s the turkey community. I find it curious and even a trifle queer that in this unforgivably sensitive world where nary a day goes by when we don”t hear about slave ships and concentration camps, no one seems to care about the poor doomed turkeys themselves, who truly get the shit end of the Thanksgiving stick. Untold numbers of blacks and Jews eat turkey every Thanksgiving, yet you never hear of turkeys eating blacks or Jews. Have you ever stopped to think about why that is? If not, have you ever stopped to ask yourself why you never stopped to think about it? Makes you think.
The sad and shameful truth is that Thanksgiving is a holocaust for America’s educationally impoverished and economically disadvantaged turkey community, with an estimated 45 million turkeys”young, hopeful animals who had their own families, their own circles of friends, their own hobbies, and who likely harbored the same sort of dreams that you and I do”ending up dead and scorched on tackily adorned dining-room tables somewhere on the outskirts of Bluewaffle, Kansas. That’s forty-five million turkeys of all 56 genders who will never know what it’s like to celebrate Christmas. Forty-five million turkeys…every year, my friend.
Still, it’s almost impossible to argue that turkeys are good for much of anything besides being eaten by humans. And based on the numbers I just quoted, they’re great at that.
That’s why on Thursday I”ll be power-baking a proud and decidedly impenitent 23-pound turkey alongside a pair of shy and reserved Cornish hens. I”ll also be whipping up a bucket of cornbread stuffing speckled with celery and onions, a big tray of sweet potatoes with brown sugar and melted marshmallows, cranberry sauce with the whole berries, a jug of apple cider, perhaps even a jar of store-bought gravy”the whole schmear. I”ll even strategically place several kinda-gay scented candles around the dining area that will emanate the cozy, late-autumn aromas of such familiar family-friendly odors as “Golden Maple Waffles” and “Salted Pumpkin Espresso.” So when it comes to life’s basic necessities, I am thankful that I have the luxury of ritually stuffing my face to the point of vomiting in an agriculturally bounteous country that probably has far more food than it needs or even deserves.
Among a tiny group of select guests I will lovingly and meticulously create a warm and magical Thanksgiving environment, however fleeting, for which they will at least pretend to be temporarily grateful, the rest of ye be damned. In the end, I will end up even thanking myself for the Thanksgiving that I have so thoughtfully thrown myself and a handful of secret associates.
But despite the many things for which I will privately give thanks, I find myself generally ungrateful to the world in which I live. Since this is a public forum, I choose instead to complain.
I really need to get this off my chest, so here goes: I refuse to pay homage to a world that allows Kanye West and Kim Kardashian to be successful. Was that too harsh? What sinister confluence of doomsday indicators allowed this to happen”and to persist? I”m surely not the first to point out that there are three combined “Ks” in their names, but I may be the first self-described “journalist” to go on record saying I honestly believe that the creature known as “Kimye” may be more of a direct threat to the nation’s youth, black and white, than the Ku Klux Klan. Furthermore, I believe that this can be quantified, preferably using Microsoft Excel, assuming you can find me a bootlegged copy that doesn”t keep crashing on my laptop.