Wednesday, June 24, 2015


This past June 19th was the 150th anniversary of the United States Army's glorious victory over the fascist trash that called itself the Confederacy. Sadly, it was overshadowed by a white terrorist trying to keep the Lost Cause of the South alive - and, for the really thick among you, that Cause is terrorizing African Americans.

Let's get that perfectly clear right off the bat: Dylan Roof is a flag-burning, anti-American twerp who is one tan away from being another ISIS shovelhead. He explicitly killed the three men and six women of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church because they are black and he had appointed himself the vanguard of an expected race war. And every single pol and pundit who has tried to distance his crime from that hideous Confederate rag is a fool, an enemy, or both.

If you've been here before, you may have noticed a fondness for Grant and Sherman and the other brave boys in blue who battled the worst fascist state in history from 1861 to 1865. That's because, for all it's ridiculousness and mindless cruelty, the United States is still leagues better than the Confederacy and fer chrissakes, those treasonous creeps started a war to preserve chattel slavery! No, it was not something more nuanced or "states rights" or whatever other lies you've heard:

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.

Straight from the monster's mouth. The Confederacy was of, for, and by the slave-holding class of the South who didn't want to grow up and join the modern world. The vain dream of rich imbeciles who wanted to preserve their feudal demesnes and compliant serfs. And the best thing that ever happened to them was Sherman burning down their sad little kingdom.

We don't need no water, let the motherfucker burn!

Though clearly it was only temporary. The sore losers of the South, even in the wake of a blatantly Neo-Confederate terrorist attack, are still crying that old saw about "Heritage Not Hate." Claiming that removing their precious traitor's flag from the South Carolina capitol is some sort of "cultural genocide." Even asking the stupid question of "Are white people safe in black churches?" because they are perpetually scared of warmer, browner, and more industrious peoples. They're even trying to call the suckers who fought for the Dixie Dumbass Dream "brave" and "Americans."

Rot all of that. The Confederates, from the lowliest private to Robert E. Lee himself were at best dupes and more commonly vicious reptiles disguised as human. Nathan Bedford Forest, who pioneered the concept of war crimes, spent his years after the war forming the Ku Klux Klan. A dozen other Southern "gentlemen," magnanimously spared from the gallows by a too forgiving Union, endeavored to re-create slavery in everything but name: blacks were barred from suing or even testifying against whites, blacks could be "bailed out" of jail by whites in exchange for indentured servitude, and black men were lynched en masse for the crime of merely existing. A greater reign of terror than the Jacobins ever managed and all because these dumb crackers still couldn't accept that they'd lost.

Monuments to this grand state of denial exist in all the former traitor states. Statues and monuments to the American ISIS who fought for slavery and tortured even other white people at the infamous Andersonville POW prison. Taking down their flag should be just the first step, followed by toppling these edifices of treason and fascism. Just like Saddam Hussein's statue in 2003, Old Glory wrapped around their ugly mugs. To all the cries of "heritage" and who cares what else these dead enders might offer, there is the reply voiced by Sherman 150 years ago:

All the powers of earth cannot restore to them their slaves, any more than their dead grandfathers. Next year their lands will be taken, for in war we can take them, and rightfully, too, and in another year they may beg in vain for their lives. A people who will persevere in war beyond a certain limit ought to know the consequences. Many, many peoples with less pertinacity have been wiped out of national existence.

The Confederacy is dead. Good riddance. Now let's see it buried.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Children of the Famine Queen

You've probably read the Vox article "I'm a Fussy Yuppie and I'm Scared of the Same Things as Your Racist Uncle." It's been all the rage on the interwebs, so much so that Vox published a counterpoint that is getting much less traction because it talks about labor rights among academics, rather than how the feminazis are taking over the world. Which is a shame because the rotten career prospects for academics is screwing up higher education way more than a few touchy knobs.

But that's exactly why so few people care - Americans, liberal or conservative, are always more concerned with propriety than people.

This is why "identity politics" and "political correctness" are such bugaboos of the American rightwing. As the most terminally Victorian people since the Pontifex family, they just can't abide any higher education that isn't on Jesus or "practical" things like bricks. Really, so much of rightwing criticism of academia in America boils down to "We're stoopid and we likes it!" So any sign that university culture might be bad - real or imagined - is paraded around on social media as just more proof that the world is going to Heck in a handbasket.

They're morons, but you knew that already.

But what to make of all the earnest liberals decrying identity politics in the classroom? That very earnestness is the clue - like their neovictorian cousins at Fox and Brietbart, many a white American progressive isn't so much concerned with progress as politeness. It's why they initially jumped on the PC bandwagon, not out of sympathy for those oppressed by the systemic racism of an inhuman capitalists system, but because words like "spic" and "queer" are uncouth. Not the sort of thing you want to say in a job interview.

And that's what really has Anonymous Yuppie Proff's pants in a knot - how an offended student may damage his career prospects. As Taub points out - with actual statistics - getting sacked for not putting enough trigger warnings in the syllabus is practically unheard of, despite the supposed powers of the PC students' lobby. Yet Anonyprof lives in terror of this bogeyman for precisely the same reason of any other muddling American - his career is the be-all-end-all of his existence. Not the pursuit of knowledge, not teaching waterheaded undergrads, but the comfort and security of the tenure-track.

Careerism is the unspoken, bipartisan principle of all Real Americans. That's where this united front against "PC Totalitarianism" is coming from. Much like the original Victorians, these modern Southeys are more offended by threats to their careers, to the imagined security of their dull middle class cages, than by the very real bigotry and suffering that still goes on in America. Like Tennyson traveling Ireland in a sealed carriage, desperately ignoring any sights of "Irish distress."

History's greatest monster.

As the past seven years have shown everyone, America is still a very un-enlightened place. A whole political movement was birthed out of Calvinist contempt for the poor and blatant racism. The most recent Supreme Court cases have all been about limiting access to contraception - a fight most sane people considered finished - and income inequality is fast turning the celebrated City on the Hill into Russia circa 1997.

There is certainly a lot of distress in America today. Not just in the systemic racism laid bare by one police abuse after another, but also in that the crux of Anonymous Pisser's original article is the lack of labor rights in academia. That bit should have tipped everyone off it's not the oversensitive undergrads who are the problem but rather university administrations running their schools like a business, complete with squeezing workers for more labor at less pay. That the white liberals are trying to sneak out of this particular conflict now through hand-wringing over the very "language policing" they pioneered should really come as no shock though. If they had the stomach for a real fight, they wouldn't have abandoned Marx half a century ago.

UPDATE: "I'm a professor. My colleagues who let their students dictate what they teach are cowards" by Dr. Koritha Mitchell.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

What A Lovely Day

Mad Max: Fury Road is an opera wrought in fire and chrome. A delirious western at the end of the world, with more nuance and intellectual rigor than anything to be celebrated by the Academy Awards in at least a decade. And best of all, it utterly takes the piss out of all the macho crypto-fascism poisoning modern culture.

The connections to the previous films is tenuous at best. It begins with Max still driving his suped up muscle car from the first film and a half, only to have it wrecked in the first few minutes and find himself a captive of the War Boys. Max doesn't do much for the next half hour or so, as director George Miller has a far vaster story to tell than the angst of one shell-shocked survivor.

Enter Immortan Joe, one of the greatest film villains since Peter Ustinov's Nero. A warlord bedecked in medals and a death's head mask, commanding the War Boys and leading them all to Valhala. Ruling the Citadel with an iron fist, doling out water rations as he deems fit and using women as livestock, either to breed his degenerate sons or slaved to industrial milking machines. An impotent, incompetent old hag who throws away everything in the doomed pursuit of his escaped wives.

The very first time the audience sees Joe is in all his scabrous and flabby mortality, being bundled into armor that never sees real fighting anymore. "Immortan" Joe is a walking corpse, kept alive by the suffering and sacrifices of the poor and desperate who crowd around the Citadel - an aquifier he seized through conquest back when he could walk without a cane. Even his iconic mask is nothing but a respirator, doing the breathing for him.

*wheeze* *hack* *wheeze*

Alongside the Bullet Farmer and the People Eater, Joe is the apotheosis of everything wrong and stupid in the world. A saber-rattler, emboldening the gullible to ugly and meaningless death from the safety of his Citadel. A self-absorbed whiner who goes to war to preserve his nightly booty calls, Joe sees everyone and everything as his own property but cannot see his own impermanence in the world. After he's gone, his empire comes apart faster than that of Alexander.

Fury Road marries visuals and music in a way rarely seen outside the films of David Lynch. Hammering drums and grinding guitar surround the extended chase sequence that forms the core of Fury Road, often accompanied within the film by the ludicrous Doof Wagon - a military truck decked out in war drums and a post-apocalyptic Buckhethead thrashing away on a flaming guitar. That's not hyperbole, it's a literal goddamn flamethrower!


This is the drummer boy of Immortan Joe's army. The bagpipers who play the War Boys into battle, keeping their spirits up. That it's a horrible waste of resources for people trying to survive in the wasteland is entirely the point, as are the yearning strings that constantly rise above the doof metal in the film's score. Everything about the War Boys is extreme, over the top, and pure artifice. For all their macho bluster, it is the softness of humanity that triumphs in both the story and the music.

Much has been made of the film's feminism. Much should be made, as it's both readily apparent but not preachy - Joe and his War Boys are every macho stereotype in a muscle car and drinking Jägerbombs while Max and Furiosa work together in more of a buddy cop formula with no romantic or sexual tension at all. But even more revolutionary is the implicit contrast between Max and Joe, between the nomad and the warlord.

A good analogy would be that Immortan Joe is Leonidas, leading his 300 War Boys to glory. Max is the Scythian, the nomad of the Steppe, hardened and confident from a life in the wilderness. While Joe needs to dress up in his medals and skull mask, needs to rule the Citadel and lay with only the choicest females, Max simply gets what he needs to survive and keeps moving. And so Joe's insecurities and grasping desperation are laid bare through contrast with the elegant simplicity of Max.


Just as the quaint and old fashioned violins of the chase music endures more than the thunderous electric guitar, so do Max and the many free women of the film endure better than Joe and his screeching adolescents. They endure not through some innate superiority or deus ex machina, but rather through working together. In this way do we see the single greatest and most important contrast between the two male leads - Max changes while Joe remains static.

Max doesn't even change all that much, but just enough to recognize the common humanity between himself and Furiosa and the wizened biker grannies - another Steppe nomad analogue. His plan to charge back through the pursuing war bands and take the Citadel is presented calmly, with no rousing talk of the "glory of battle." War is a serious matter that requires sober consideration, as well as cooperation. Max, Furiosa, the wives and the Scythian grannies are all keenly aware of their mortality, all desire to live and find some little bit of peace in this world of fire, and the film clearly argues that only by working together can they hope to achieve any of that. You may call that socialism but I call it survival. And so does Max.

And survival is really the defining theme of Fury Road, just as it's been for every Mad Max movie. Joe and his orcs are a tempest in a teapot when placed against the awesome, unconscious forces of nature. Which George Miller does frequently, in shot after beautiful shot. Fury Road presents a world after climate change, where all the denials and excuses are so much pissing in the wind. The world is bigger than you and doesn't care about your feelings.

"Fuck you." ~ Nature

Against such forces, an individual is just so much paste. Joe rages against this reality in everything he does, more petulant child than bold warrior. His boys do the same, being paint-huffing screwheads with more testosterone than brains. Max accepts the reality of the situation, and so accepts the aid of Furiosa because he knows he can't win all by himself. What could he "win" in this blasted hellscape anyway, other than a few more precious days of life?

Mad Max: Fury Road is the greatest film of 2015 and the greatest film of George Miller's career. In all its bombast and fire, it tells a very human story with more pressing concerns than whatever happened in the last seven Marvel movies. And best of all, it eschews the sterile computer animation so endemic to modern action films in favor of good old fashioned pyrotechnics. Go see it twice.