Paredolia? I Hardly Know Ya

I was getting pretty burnt out on the nominally monotheistic superimposition of humanity’s longtime practice of observing the winter solstice. Wow, that looks so liberal.  The music is horrible, and there are really only a few songs. The marketing alchemists have done such an amazing  job of transmuting human decency into gold and they seem to start mining our hearts earlier and earlier every year. Expending a ridiculous amount of resources in the winter seems pretty counter-intuitive, but most cultures have done it or do it, except Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Love can make one generally less bitter, and age can sometimes impart wisdom, especially in the choosing of battles. Christmas is invulnerable under current US realities, so I meekly go with the flow, the tide being inescapable. Being no fan of winter, I’ll celebrate anything that means the days are getting longer. My new favorite seasonal mainstay though, is the “War On Christmas“.

Right-wing culture warriors and pundits can be hilarious, since their whole shtick is based on removing as much context as they can, from the subject. The refusal to acknowledge the role of the US in fattening Saddam Hussein and what would be come al Qaeda, is a good example. Like all alleged attacks on Christianity in the US, the removal of the reality that the dominant culture in the US is both Christian and Consumer leads me to wonder if their “War on Christmas” is the classical right-wing anti-Semitism bubbling to the surface.  Some of them want the world to end and need the IDF’s help to do a little urban renewal on the Temple Mount among other things and the antagonism between state of Israel and its Arab neighbors appeals to the 21st century Crusader mentality. Another removal of context takes place, when criticism of Israeli policy is labeled as anti-Semitism.

Bill O'Reilly-Going French On Us?

Bill O'Reilly-Going French On Us?

With the economy in a downturn, the “War on Christmas” rhetoric has been sadly but not mysteriously turned down. We even witnessed a good old timey human scarifice to Mammon. There’s still tons of crap you can buy, to make people squirm, and O’Reilly is generously donating a strange bumper sticker with the purchase of his latest book. The ire is pretty much squarely focused on one toy, a talking baby doll that allegedly exhorts toddlers to convert to Islam with it’s baby babble.

A few years ago, there was a movie released with electronic voice phenomena (EVP) at the center of the plot. EVP refers to people who think that dead people are communicating with them though radio and TV static and the like. I’ve also seen a talk show with some of these cases on it, and the sounds were definitely creepy, but much like the backwards masking conspiracies of my childhood, I just couldn’t hear the words they alleged that the static was “using”. It’s the same with the doll, which allegedly says “Islam is the light”.I couldn’t hear it and neither could some audio expert.

I’m not sure when it was released, but an  review of the toy from earlier this year makes no reference to the conspiracy, but as soon as the tinfoil hat types decided the jihadis at Mattel were converting their children, the comments section began to fill up with this sectarian hysteria. Like many conspiracies popular amongst the right-wing, it doesn’t stand if you return it to the big picture. Why would a big US toy company try to convert its customers (and future customers) to religion that has proven to be hostile to US style consumer capitalism? Why would Mattel possibly think no one would notice and make a fuss? How could such a secret be kept with the kinds of communication technology most in the US have access to?

Were I a sociology grad student, I’d be all over this one. It could be neat to track the epidemiology of a pareidolia, a big, new word I learned today. This century has been quite a disappointment.


Catching Up: (Part 1.) September 1-8

Apparently life goes on whether I remark on it or not, and I feel half guilty taking September off, so I’ll try and catch up. There’s some big stuff in the works, including a collaboration with a dear comrade and little brother, on a piece about the folly of ethical consumption and an overblown commentary on Mike Vick and his sporting dogs.

  • September 1 : It wouldn’t be a long weekend, if we didn’t celebrate “our freedom” with Taliban/Carry Nation checkpoints and police crackdowns.
  • September 2: Pittsburgh Food Not Bombs hosted what was apparently a great block party.
  • September 3: Labor Day is May 1, you big dummies.
  • September 4: The Pittsburgh Organizing Group began it’s “End War FAST“, in an alleged effort to close the Forbes Avenue recruiting station. I hope no one really believed that the US military cares who eats and who doesn’t, and that blue-haired liberal ladies got out their checkbooks, which seems to be a more realistic goal for a hunger strike. For some reason, their use of all-caps in the word “FAST” drove me crazy.
  • September 5: Suburban golden boy, whose family used their City address, turned Mayor, Luke Ravenstahl, dropped by the Zone 3 police station, to get his picture taken using the City’s new cyber-snitch website.
  • September 6: The dollar fell. I hope it hits the ground before it wakes up.
  • September 7: The region’s second-worst “badge bunny“, head-trauma patient, and “Man of Faith” (don’t worry Mr. Zapalla, you’re still #1) donated money to buy shit for police dogs in Cleveland. Ben, you may or may not know this (or be able to read this), but police dogs have managed to bite black folks just fine, long before morons like you thought they needed body armor. Anti-American Idol, Osama (that’s Usama for you FOX viewers)bin Laden, releases a new tape and unveils his new look. I like it better than his old stuff.
  • September 8: Minor skirmishes outside the APEC summit in Sydney, Australia result in arrests.

Domestic Terror Groups Running Low on Ammunition

One of the good things about the 21st Century crusades, is that occasionally, glassy-eyed, flag-sucking morons engage in combat with their lunatic Muslim counterparts, and both sides take casualties. I do fell genuine sympathy for ordinary Iraqis and Afghanis caught in the crossfire, and to a lesser degree, the Crusader mercenaries noble volunteers who are only seeking to elevate their own economic conditions and get a formal education, but it is ridiculous, after a certain point in time, to pretend that they did not know what they were getting into when they enlisted. At the risk of being branded “insensitive” the fewer “care so much about the flag or holy book that I’ll kill you” or whatever types that I have to share a planet with, the better. An imperial army, composed of slaves and/or mercenaries, is a formula that dates back to the days of Roman conquest, and like Rome and other imperial powers, the US empire is in decline, due in large part to it’s attempt to control large territories far from the Belly of its Beast.

I wince when liberals bleat about “supporting the troops”. What in the hell does that mean? I used to “support the troops” when I was paying federal taxes, but other than that, and magnetic ribbons (which support the troops in Red China), they’ve lost me. Are they guarding rear supply lines? Mending torn uniforms? Reloading ammunition? Knitting desert camouflaged I-pod covers?

Same with the “bring the troops home now”; I say leave them there. We have enough deranged cops running around as it is. The last thing us lower class folks in the US need is a bunch of shell-shocked 20 something cops, who can’t tell the difference between Sadr City and Kansas City. At least after Vietnam, they used their civil service points to work for the post office, and most of their combat took place in jungles, not urban environs. I’d take the random individual “going postal” over thousands of PTSD cases resuming their domestic role as the occupying army of Capital, as members of an increasingly militarized police force.

We have more than enough uniformed, licensed, specialists in suppression of the poor, that we should be in no hurry to subject ourselves to new ones. On a positive note, the Crusades are limiting the capacity for State terrorists to train and wage violence against US civilians.

Infighting Erupts Amongst Regional Terror Groups

Two (temporarily demoted) City detectives reacted violently, to counter the assertion that they were not “above the law” when confronted by country cops at a Toby Keith concert, of all places. They even tried to grab the uniformed terrorist’s weapon. If you or I tried that, it’s no mystery how that would have ended.

Amazingly, the City is pretending to discipline them, even stripping them of their titles, but no reduction in wages. Compare the reaction with that to the handful of murders of black civilians, committed annually.

Police Accountablity: Pittsburgh Trailing Saudi Arabia?


I have never seen a situation so dismal that a policeman couldn’t make it worse.
Brendan Behan

The recent revelations by the City of Pittsburgh of an apparent clause which requires male officers seeking promotion to have a documented history of battering their loved ones or run the risk of never wearing the white shirt would barely register as news, if not for a bit of strangeness from Saudi Arabia:

Three members of Saudi Arabia’s powerful religious police face trial Saturday for the death of a man who died in custody. The case is the first of its kind in this conservative nation. The trial involves the death of a Saudi man the police arrested for being alone with a woman who was not a relative – an act considered an offense in the kingdom. It will be held in the northern city of Tabuk, close to the Iraqi border.

It isn’t clear how long the trial will last or what punishment the men might face if found guilty.

Police trial? Punishment? Guilty? Having lived in Pittsburgh for the majority of my life, the notion of police accountability seems as strange as cardamom in your coffee, ritualized hospitality or archaic alcohol laws. OK, not so much the latter.

Of course in many ways, we’re light years ahead of the Saudis. After all, our local religious judge (Mullah? Mullette?) is an unveiled woman and the State subsidizes gambling, as well as an independent body charged with high school debate matches regarding police misconduct (with its own myspace profile).

A government is the gang with the monopoly on violence for a given area, and the police are entrusted with carrying out the violence, in exchange for betraying their social class, like any other low-level manager. This doesn’t change, except by degree. The NYPD is the Stasi, is the RUC, is the Saudi Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, is the mellow Dutch cop who patrols the red light district. Pittsburgh cops have a reputation for corruption and violence, even amongst US police forces, who are considered by some to be the worst in the world. You wonder about the ‘land of the free’ when Egyptians and Chileans and Turks, express horror at the conduct of US cops.

The thin blue line is very thick in Allegheny County, with countless municipal fiefdoms, and a DA, who will do damn near anything to avoid charging police with violent misconduct, even engaging in comical conflict of interest duels with the coroner. If DA Steven Zappala Jr. were merely being realistic, and correctly pointing out that a cop’s job is violent misconduct by definition, but his hardline against police accountability comes across as that of a groupie or political opportunist, who needs the police support to be attorney general or federal prosecutor or senator.

Is it any surprise that cops like George T. Trosky, Charles Rodriguez, and Gene Hlavac abuse their loved ones? No more surprising than in any of the professions where violence is rewarded, such as the military or professional sports. This is even less surprising to those of us who are related to cops or live with ill-behaved dogs or in a base town. What is surprising that someone risked their lives and freedom by dialing 9-1-1 despite the threat of retribution by one who can kill you, if they happen to have the right uniform on.

Personally, I can’t fault George Trosky for his videotaped beating of Grateful Dead fans in 1989. Who hasn’t considered wading through a Dead show parking lot, swinging sticks? Apparently, Trosky’s lack of self-control paid off, since he was hand selected to be Jerry Garcia’s personal bodyguard for the 1995 Pittsburgh dead show. Or was it Trosky’s access to heroin?

Bureaucracy make take on local characteristics, but it’s still the same animal, and the the trial for the Saudi religious police has been postponed, as court proceedings often are, but what is remarkable is that regardless of the outcome, charges were filed in Saudi Arabia, something that is still a dream in Allegeheny County. Just ask the families of Charles Dixon, Bernard Rogers, Michael Ellerbe, Damian Jordan, and thousands whose names we will never know.

UPDATE (now with Video): Gene Hlavac is the asshole who attacked a group bike ride in Pittsburgh last Spring