Thursday, September 18, 2003

Nuke Daddy Was Jerk

Last week Edward Teller died, and I was reminded what a truly monumentally shallow guy I am.

You should all know who Edward Teller was. In case you've forgotten, he was the so-called father of the H-bomb who may also end up being called the father of the forthcoming anti-missile system. Either of those two facts would make him an extremely important figure in modern history, but what do I think about him? I'll tell you what I think about him. I think he didn't have good manners. That's what I think about him.

It's all because I'm so incredibly shallow and the fact that I only care about what happens to me.

OK, that's not entirely true. I am interested in the events in Liberia, even though I have never been there and have no personal connection to the place. But, on the other hand, would I be so interested if the new president there wasn't named President Blah? I think not. So that example only proves again how shallow I am.

I am so shallow, I am more interested in how shallow I am than I am in whether Seattle gets an espresso tax or not, or whether the police will make marijuana use a higher or lower priority than unlicensed flag pole sitting, for example.

I am so shallow that yesterday when I was talking to someone about Issaquah I got wrapped up in trying to guess what people from Issaquah should call themselves and it ended up being the high point of my day. You know, if you're from Seattle you're a Seattleite, if you're from New York you're a New Yorker, if you're from San Francisco you're a San Franciscan, if you're from North Bend, you're a Bender. What are you if you're from Issaquah? An Issaquant? An Issaquator? I didn't really want to know, I just wanted to make up answers for an hour or two, but the guy I was talking to got annoyed and shut me up after a minute.

That sort of thing happens a lot when you're as shallow as I am.

One time in college I was required to take a physics lab course. They gave me things like Bunsen burners and oscilloscopes and expected me to perform serious physics experiments with them and prove that I could be the next Edward Teller. Instead I set fire to stuff and tried to make cool designs on the oscilloscope screens. Later they let me at an air table, one of those tables where you can slide things around almost without friction. I took the hockey pucks they provided and crashed them repeatedly into each other. It was great until one of them flew off the table and nearly beaned the lab instructor. Boy, what a snoot he turned out to be. You'd think I had nuked a city or something.

Speaking of nuking cities, did I mention that Edward Teller also had a hand in getting Roosevelt to set up the Manhattan Project? So he wasn't just the H-bomb daddy, but he was also kind of at least a godparent to the regular A-bomb. Talk about your weapons of mass destruction.

But I'm so shallow I won't even try to judge Teller for that. Nor would I try to judge him for any of his other well-known traits, such as that he was a good piano player, or that he kicked ass at table tennis, or that he was a great teacher.

One night years ago, at a time when Teller was in Seattle promoting his anti-missile ideas, I was homeless and happened to be walking dejectedly along a path on the UW campus when a group of five or six men in suits came charging straight toward me shoulder to shoulder. I was in danger of being run over. I had no time to get out of the way. But the guy in the middle of the pack, the one with the bushy eyebrows, looked me right in the eye and yelled, "GET OUT OF MY WAY!!"

It was Teller. Fortunately the reporter following next to him separated from Teller at the last minute so they could pass around me.

Now, finally, Teller himself is stepping aside for all the rest of us, too late.

Thursday, September 4, 2003

No Shortage of Scapegoats

I have a real challenge this time. It has been suggested by none other than our Production Manager and writer Molly "What's That Accent?" Rhodes that I talk here today about those attacks on homeless people that occurred in Cleveland about three weeks ago.

Molly reported on those attacks in our North American Newsbriefs last issue. Four kids, aged 16-19, videotaped themselves using a stun gun to paralyze sleeping homeless people. They then urinated upon them, among other things. How funny is that? Not very.

It's even less funny than we reported. For instance the authorities only charged the kids with misdemeanor assault charges. That in spite of the fact that they attacked at least six people with the stun gun and at least one person was also struck on the head with a rock. This was a terrorist attack on people who were sleeping, who were harming no one.

Even less funny: three days after the kids were caught and the story was all over the Cleveland news a radio co-host at Extreme Radio WXTM/92.3 FM in Cleveland went to the site of the attacks and exploited homeless people à la "Bum Fights" by offering them $10 and free pizza to be shocked with a stun gun. Three let themselves be shocked and ten more were desperate enough to get in line for it, and the majority of callers to the show thought it was funny, according to the other co-host.

Last night fellow editor and writer babe Anitra Freeman was riding a bus and wished to enter a conversation but for the first time in possibly years she was unable to butt in, because the people talking were so engaged. What stirred their passions so much? They were convinced America was headed toward fascism and there was no stopping it.

There sure are a lot of the signs. I see three sides of fascism coming into place. On the one side you have a government that only cares about you if you are a corporation. That's your basic idea of fascism, government for the corporations. Mussolini really promoted the hell out of that aspect of it.

You also have the side represented by these four teenagers in Cleveland. These aren't rich kids we're talking about. They lived in a slum. They may have been nearly as poor as the people they attacked.

Did you all read very carefully what we wrote about Lyndon LaRouche's campaign? Polly Keary wrote: [LaRouche] wants to create an "International Youth Movement" in order to build "a large cadre of deployable youth" to reverse what he calls a decadent Baby Boomer culture.

Well isn't that special? Can you say, Brownshirts? So it will be Baby Boomers this time, instead of Jews? How pluralistic of him.

This country is full of recruits for the new Brownshirts. There are plenty of poor desperate youth ready to believe any message scapegoating any segment of society. Why not Baby Boomers? The media has already convinced everybody that Baby Boomers invented decadence. Never mind that there's plenty of decadence to go around in every generation and that the Boomers just got the big spotlight on them. That's what they get for growing up during the rise of mass media and television.

And of course, why not homeless people? Hell a lot of them are the same people anyway. Besides they're easy to find, and if you get them with a stun gun while they're sleeping they can't fight back, unlike some of those nasty Baby Boomers who have money and lawyers.

Where was I? Oh yes, I've been witnessing the rise of three sides to fascism. The third: the glorification of the masses. You have to convince the majority that they are superior to the scapegoated minorities. Let's see, the masses are Christian, let's pander to that.

Who will put these ingredients together and do to America what Hitler did to Germany? Does Bush have the charisma? Is LaRouche too sidelined? Stay tuned.