Saturday, February 20, 2010

Winter Olympics....OF DEATH [chat]!!!!!!

If you didn't hear about the LUGE OF DEATH you ought to go read about it. If only because you'll be treated to sentences such as:

With that, tears began flowing across the close-knit sliding world and throughout the Olympic family.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Rachel Maddow and the John Birch Society

Maddow is wondering around CPAC and stopped by the John Birch Society's booth for a chat. In the end, like all JBS related discussions, it turned to the fluoridation of water and our precious bodily fluids.

Joe Stack: Planes are Ineffective Tools of Change

It is probably not the case that flying a plane into a building solves any problems. This is, of course, unless the building has become sentient and is running amuck, destroying downtown Tokyo. However, in the case of Joe Stack, while no problems were solved...I hesitate to label this as the senseless act of a madman. And, maybe, Joe Stack's flying his plane into a building housing IRS employees merits some thought and consideration.

If you have not read a copy of what Joe Stack posted on his website prior to flying a plane into a building you may want to take some time to read it. It contains the usual bits of self-indulgent crazy and appeals to martyrdom couched in a somewhat sympathetic personal explanatory narrative. I do not know if I would call it a "manifesto", but it definitely has the feel of a "call to arms" or, more appropriately, a "call to planes". The ending has a nice little rhetorical flair to it, too:

I saw it written once that the definition of insanity is repeating the same process over and over and expecting the outcome to suddenly be different. I am finally ready to stop this insanity. Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let's try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well.

The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.
You do have to give him a bit of credit; that little capitalist creed is somewhat creative.

It would be incredibly simple to cast this aside as the writing of a madman who acted as a madman and who flew a plane into a a madman. We could mock the writing, recoil in horror at the actions, and then simply move on. The problem is that in order to ignore this and move on, to cast aside the incident and words as naught but the ramblings of a madman, we need prove that Joe Stack was, in fact, a madman.

The difficulty with the "madman" diagnosis is that, apparently, his friends did not think him a madman. And if you read what he wrote there is a degree to which it is, in part, reasonable; it articulates a coherent narrative. Yes, he does call the IRS "big brother" and invoke tea-part-esque anti-government rhetoric, which is somewhat juvenile and silly. But, again, he tells a coherent narrative; he provides an explanation for his actions. And while his actions were terribly problematic I hesitate to call them "wrong" or "crazy".

Take note of this passage from his post:
I know I'm hardly the first one to decide I have had all I can stand. It has always been a myth that people have stopped dying for their freedom in this country, and it isn't limited to the blacks, and poor immigrants. I know there have been countless before me and there are sure to be as many after. But I also know that by not adding my body to the count, I insure nothing will change. I choose to not keep looking over my shoulder at "big brother" while he strips my carcass, I choose not to ignore what is going on all around me, I choose not to pretend that business as usual won't continue; I have just had enough.
Yes, it has a nice bit of racism with that "blacks and immigrants" line. It does have a bit of self-pity at the beginning. But the passage is written in a deliberate rhetorical style: "I know. I know. I know. I choose. I choose. I choose." An absence of sanity would not result in that writing style; the insane do not manifest rhetorical prowess.

This is not to say that Joe Stack was brilliant and correct. He writes that "I filed no return that year thinking that because I didn't have any income there was no need." He then complains that he was fined for not filing a return, which is a somewhat asinine complaint given that, you know, people need to file tax returns. So he made some mistakes. He maintained something of an overly developed victim complex. And, yes, he flew a fucking plane into a building.

But the guy had reasons. And for fuck's sake, he takes the time to explain Section 1706 of the IRS 1986 Tax Reform Act. Crazy people and madmen do not take the time to articulate and provide links to explanations of tax legislation!

I am not saying Joe Stack was right. Nor am I saying that Joe Stack was wrong. What I am saying is that we need not maintain a knee-jerk reaction to violence such that (violent act = crazy); Joe Stack may have had a point. And at the risk of being "that guy" I am going to invoke the American Revolution. Yes, I know, that is what the Tea Party dipshits do. But it is relevant.

I am not saying that Joe Stack is our time's Thomas Jefferson. But the United States came to be as a result of 13 colonies saying "I have just had enough" and so fighting a war for their independence. We exist as we do today because in 1776 a group of guys did something that was, by all accounts, crazy; our ancestors told Great Britain to go fuck itself. Our ancestors recognized a problem and so reacted to it. That being said...

The IRS is not Great Britain.
Joe Stack is not Thomas Jefferson.
Flying a plane into a building is not writing the Declaration of Independence.

But our country is founded upon the notion that if a government is composed of assholes we throw aside the asshole government and start a new one:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
When we have a visceral and negative reaction to violence, when we recoil at the thought of a disruption to normalcy, when we shun and cast aside extremists we fundamentally forget who we are.

Joe Stack may have needlessly killed innocent people. He may have over-reacted to his economic disenfranchisement. And he may have thrown his life away in a symbolic but, ultimately, futile gesture.

But the man recognized where he came from. And, at the very least, Joe Stack recognized that when words fail, you have to fucking do something.

He just misunderstood the "something".

Wednesday, February 17, 2010