"It is easy to confuse what is with what ought to be, especially when what is has worked out in your favor."
- Tyrion Lannister

"Lannister. Baratheon. Stark. Tyrell. They're all just spokes on a wheel. This one's on top, then that's ones on top and on and on it spins, crushing those on the ground. I'm not going to stop the wheel. I'm going to break the wheel."

- Daenerys Targaryen

"The Lord of Light wants his enemies burned. The Drowned God wants them drowned. Why are all the gods such vicious cunts? Where's the God of Tits and Wine?"

- Tyrion Lannister

"The common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends. It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace. They never are."

- Jorah Mormont

"These bad people are what I'm good at. Out talking them. Out thinking them."

- Tyrion Lannister

"What happened? I think fundamentals were trumped by mechanics and, to a lesser extent, by demographics."

- Michael Barone

"If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to."
- Dorothy Parker

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Kinky Republicans
I for one would have voted for him. Jack Ryan, the Republican candidate for Illinois's open Senate seat, has dropped out of the race. The Republican establishment withdrew support after a judge granted the request of both the Chicago Tribune and a Chicago TV station that the court documents pertaining to his divorce be unsealed. They revealed he had a penchant for "sex clubs" and that he repeatedly tried to get his wife at the time to engage in exhibitionist behavior at said clubs even though she wasn't into that sort of thing. The last straw for her occurred when he brought her to a Paris sex club (those French!) without telling her ahead of time exactly where they were going. ("Surprise!") She was reduced to tears according to the court documents. Apparently Ryan wasn't forthcoming with the Republican leadership either, or else - unlikely - they knew and doubted his divorce papers would ever be released.

Ryan defended himself in Clintonian and legalistic terms by first saying he didn't want to release the court documents in order to protect his 9-year-old son. (From what? No wonder the press took the time and energy to find out what his son needed protection from.) His peccadilloes on display, Ryan argued that, hey, he hadn't broken any laws or marriage vows. Furthermore he hadn't broken any of the Ten Commandments. Yes there is no Commandment that Thou Shalt Not Engage in Coitus in Front of Strangers, but no doubt it would encourage others to covet his attractive wife. And encouraging others to break Commandments is frowned upon amongst the faithful, so he had to go. (Painful admission: Ryan's highly covetable former wife, Jeri Ryan, played a humorless, skin-tight uniform-wearing cybernetic "Borg" named "Seven of Nine" on the TV show Star Trek. I used to affectionately refer to her as "Two by Four" when discussing with friends and family members her character's quest to find out what it means to be human.)

Ryan's real sin was that he's a paid member of the Upright Citizen's Brigade and valuing sex in front of strangers at Le Club de Sade isn't "Family Values" to your average Republican voter. Part of his campaign stump speech was a charge that his opponent didn't represent the mainstream values of Illinois voters. Live by the sword, die by the sword.

It's been a great week for Illinois politicos. The mainstream media picked up on a story Salon broke that Rep. Danny K. Davis, D-Ill., gave Rev. Sun Myung Moon - fruitcake extraordinaire and owner of the Washington Times and UPI wire service - a bejeweled crown at a March 23rd "coronation ceremony" held at the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Also in attendance were many politicians from both parties who quickly resorted to Ryan-like excuses for participating in the bizarre event.
Afterward, Moon told his bipartisan audience of Washington power players he would save everyone on Earth as he had saved the souls of Hitler and Stalin -- the murderous dictators had been born again through him, he said. In a vision, Moon said the reformed Hitler and Stalin vouched for him, calling him "none other than humanity's Savior, Messiah, Returning Lord and True Parent."
Persepolis 2
Entertainment Weekly reports:
Artist-writer Marjane Satrapi, 34, follows her debut about growing up in Iran during the Islamic revolution - heraled as the most relevant comic-book memoir since Holocaust masterpiece Maus - with an equally witty graphic novel (out Aug. 31) about her stoner school years in Europe and feisty return to her homeland. HER MAUS PROBLEM "I called [author Art Spiegelman] to apologize - to tell him that's it's not me who is comparing myself to him. I said, 'If I were you, I would hate me.' That's the way we became friends." NEXT Embroideries, in which a group of women sip tea and talk about sex; directing an animated Persepolis for early '07.
Icepick to the back of the head
One concept I've struggled with is that of human rights organizations and NGOs as the medieval "mendicants" of our globalizing age. It's a charge that they really don't solve fundamental problems or get at the root of things. They just ease the pain. But is that all they do? By easing the pain, do they also keep a chaotic, Hobbesian world from fully emerging? Over forty years ago, Alasdair MacIntyre wrote in Out of Apathy:
Two images have been with me throughout the writing of this essay. Between them they seem to show the alternative paths for the intellectual. The one is of J. M. Keynes, the other of Leon Trotsky. Both were obviously men of attractive personality and great natural gifts. The one the intellectual guardian of the established order, providing new policies and theories of manipulation to keep our society in what he took to be economic trim, and making a personal fortune in the process. The other, outcast as a revolutionary from Russia both under the Tsar and under Stalin, providing throughout his life a defense of human activity, of the powers of conscious and rational human effort. I think of them at the end, Keynes with his peerage, Trotsky with an icepick in his skull. They are the twin lives between which intellectual choice in our society lies.
In St. Petersburg, Russia the other day, a 64-year-old anti-fascist received an icepick to the head, so to speak. Unlike Trotsky, Nikolai M. Girenko might have been considered an informant for the state, but like Trotsky he was a foe of Russia's "White" xenophobic, anti-Semitic tradition.
A year and a half ago, Nikolai M. Girenko wrote a booklet to guide prosecutors and police officers investigating the explosion of ethnically motivated crimes by skinheads, neo-Nazis and other hate groups. It may be needed to solve his killing.

On June 19, two young men came to his apartment here and rang the doorbell. When his daughter Katerina asked from the other side of the door what they wanted, they asked for him by name. When he approached, they shot him through the wooden door. He slumped to the floor of the apartment's small foyer and died within minutes. He was 64.

Through the peephole, Katerina saw only the shadowy silhouettes of her father's killers, but she had little doubt who they were.

"It could only be these fascists," she said.
"When I tried to talk him out of getting involved in politics, he said, `If not me, who else?' " Mr. Girenko's wife, Valentina, said in an interview in their apartment, where he was born and lived most his life.
"Nikolai," she said, "was one of the last of the Mohicans."

She said Mr. Girenko had received threats in the past, so many that he no longer bothered to report them to the police, who ignored them anyway. His other daughter, Sophia, pregnant with Mr. Girenko's fifth grandchild, said her father was always calm and understanding, rarely speaking with anger. "Even if there were threats," she said, "Father would never have told us."

Sunday, June 20, 2004