Dear Dust

So Bin Laden is dead about nine minutes and suddenly everyone around me is all conspiracy this, perfect timing that. I’d say about half of my friends think Bush knew where he was all along, and the other half think Obama killed Osama to distract us from the birth certificate. I’m confused. Do any of these theories have merit? Please un-confuse me.

Miss Lu


Dear Miss Lu

My feeling is that it’s foolish to dismiss any conspiracy claims outright, because very often claims that are written off as totally implausible end up containing a relative amount of truth when new evidence comes to light decades later, usually through documents released under the Freedom of Information Act. For instance, in 1973 most people would have said it was conspiratorial nonsense of the highest order–even worse than saying Bush engineered a “controlled demolition” of the twin towers–to claim that we were secretly carpet bombing Laos and Cambodia. Especially when President Nixon repeatedly went on TV denying it. The country was not yet acclimatized to baldfaced presidential lying (“I…did…not…finger…that…woman!”) even though a decade earlier Eisenhower had denied all knowledge of Francis Gary Powers after the CIA pilot was shot down over Russia–the missile that downed him coming from an airbase in Peshawar, Pakistan. Just a timely little factoid–and when the Russians trotted Mr. Powers out on state run television (MSCCCP?) Ike was forced to eat serious five-star crow. Turns out Powers was under orders to commit suicide if captured, but when arsenic came to shove, politely declined. That incident set the stage for the sort of wholesale executive dissembling successive presidents have hit like a greasy glass pipe. But during the early days of Vietnam most Americans still assumed their presidents were relatively scrupulous. My point being that in 1973 no one believed we were illegally dropping nearly 3 million tons of ordinance on sovereign and neutral Cambodia–code named Operation Menu, presumably because the targets were classified as “unknown,” meaning they were primarily dropped a la carte on civilians–which completely destabilized the country and more or less paved the way for Pol Pot and the subsequent Khmer Rouge genocide. Those few who deigned to report on this atrocity were savaged as the worst sort of conspiracy theorists, if not treasonous dogs. Well, we now know that those war crimes absolutely did happen, which can be easily verified in much more shameful and horrifying detail with a few clicks of any non-partisan mouse. Yes, Henry Kissinger should be rotting in a supermax prison right now, instead of attending Washington galas, and if Nixon weren’t dead, he’d deserve to be in the very next cell, across from all the other terrorists, trading ass for snack cake.

On the other hand, I think a large part of conspiracy theory is really just an excuse to be pissed about certain events without doing enough reading to separate the foolish from the factual. It feels good to have the sense that you know a particular “truth” that others are just too brainwashed or conformist to see. There is nothing more intoxicating than a mix of self-righteousness and imagined prescience. See everyone from Nostradamus to Trump. But that sort of high requires ascribing the ability to manipulate events–Bruce Willis hires some kid to hack into DMV computers with his laptop and control traffic lights in order to catch a terrorist–in a way that may be cinematic, but simply isn’t possible. Does anyone really believe that George Bush, and the 500 still-silent people it would have taken to pull the job off, somehow was able to control all the millions of variables required to purposely collapse the twin towers and make it look like Osama’s gig? Sadly, the dumbest answer is usually the right one: events are fluid, rarely secret for long, and happen through human error, ignorance, avarice, or laziness. Not great tech skills and the will to enact pure evil. Evil is never pure. If it even exists.

So, was Sirhan Sirhan a victim of a CIA-style Manchurian Candidate program? Did Ronald Reagen cut a deal with the Ayatollah to have U.S. hostages released on the day of his inauguration? Did Hilary Clinton really have Vince Foster killed because he was about to leak their affair? Is Oliver North a cross-dressing black man named Peaches who works the Birmingham dance club circuit? Is our government, no matter how much money and power it wields even capable of intricate artifice, let alone a fathomless depth of cynicism?

Probably not. But I think anyone without access to high level confidential information who says they know one way or the other is fooling both you and themselves. Reading the paper or a few websites and then pretending you have an inkling about what goes on within government and why–that may be the real conspiracy theory. It’s the conspiracy of certainty, and certainty is almost always the realm of the aggressively dim: “I know there’s one God and it’s my God! I know the earth is five-thousand years old! I know Ben Affleck is a good actor!”

No one knows anything.

Except that the Knights Templar, the seven families, the Elders of Zion, and Marina Oswald are behind Scientology.

Are you unconfused now, Miss Lu?




Dear Dust

Man, I sure as fuck am glad Osammie is dead! Like, to the point that I’m writing your stupid ass this letter. Your column sucks! No, I mean it. It really sucks.




Dear Garth,

Well, I imagine after six years of dragging his robe around that “mansion,” locked on one floor with dirty cat litter and crates of Costco tamales and the endless beseeching of his many wives, Osama is glad he’s dead, too. Except maybe when you factor in the whole being-in-hell part. And while I’m not a theologian, my understanding is that the Islamic netherworld is not markedly cushier than the Christian one. In any case, I’d be willing to bet that whether Bin Laden’s hunkered down in the punishing fires of Sheol, Gehenna, Tartarus, Hades, Vitti, Peklo, or Jahannam, while Moloch flosses with his Salafist entrails, talking Mullah Omar into blowing up those huge Buddha statues outside Kabul seems like a really crappy idea right about now.

Ahimsa is a bitch.



Dear Dust


There’s just this endless bullet train of opinions and information on the death of Bin Laden, which I am starting to think of as the seminal event of my generation, even though I usually don’t look at things that broadly or use words like “seminal.” I’ve watched all the shows and read dozens of articles, and the further deep I go, the more I think everyone is talking out of their butt. More than anything what it has made me realize is that I need a sprinkle of Dust over the top.

Dust, I know this is impossible, but can you lay out what the death of Bin Laden means for those of us on the fence?

Please, some perspective.




Dear Alanna,

Yours is actually the easiest to answer out of the dozens of Targeted Assassination-related queries I received this week. Simply put, the death of Bin Laden means that, as of May 1st, 2011, if you identify yourself as a Republican, you’re either deluded or a fool. Or both.

Yes, go ahead and read that again.

The death of Osama Bin Laden, the totemic scare toy who spent eight years clenched between Dick Cheney’s filed teeth–at the hands of a black Democrat no less–means that the Republican party no longer has a single major issue they can claim as their own, and are now relegated to drunkenly neck-slapping each other over the minutia of cultural semantics. Think that’s too far reaching? Let’s put it to the test. Through the use of readily available facts, instead of occluded partisan bleating, every single bedrock Republican position can now be completely and demonstrably refuted. And with Threat Level Yellow having officially changed party affiliation, due to the eye-shot of Seal Team 6, there simply are no bacon-flavored patriot scraps left for Mike Huckabee to lick up off the floor.

Let’s take a look at a random few:

Foreign Policy- Dead wrong! This was the last domino to fall, but with the death of Bin Laden, it falls the hardest. Even after eight years of George Bush and his disastrous handling of Iraq, Afghanistan, torture, WMD, Guantanamo, North Korea, and Pakistan, people still more or less thought blundering right wing hawks were more likely to “keep us safe” than a democrat. Sorry, but George Bush declined to send Seal teams into Tora Bora eight years ago, when Bin Laden might have been killed at the outset of the war. He chose not to. Probably out of the totally legitimate worry that a backfire would ruin his presidency in the same way that the failed hostage rescue did Jimmy Carter’s. Either way, Bush had a chance at The Most Wanted Man on Earth, and passed. Barack Obama did not pass. He rolled loaded dice. It’s impossible to understate the political stakes of the mission. Can you imagine if Obama had failed, Bin Laden escaped, and Seal Team members were dragged through the streets by jeering crowds ala Black Hawk Down? A crucifixion would be taking place right now, and it would not end until the day of the 2012 election, when the tare weight of President Gingrich’s head would be announced to a grateful nation. Killing Bin Laden 35 miles from Islamabad, without permission, and without resorting to indiscriminate bombing was an incredibly courageous call. And no less important, it was the right one. Obama owns foreign policy, period. Dick Cheney’s mantra that despite eight years of ruinous policy decisions W. at least kept us safe is officially a platter of self-serving horseshit currently being forked down the collective disposal.


Health Care– Dead wrong! Forget the numbers, the speculation, or the claims of insurance company lobbyists. Healthcare is a right. A basic human right. Strip away everything else, and the side insisting that the ability to heal should be based on income is morally and ethically doomed. Yes, medicine should be socialized, immediately. If not sooner. In a orgy of capital-S Socialism. Even if it means re-naming the country Eugene V. Debbsland. Not a single person in the United States should suffer a single day because they cannot afford to be immediately seen by a medical professional, no matter what it costs. If the super wealthy need to be taxed back to the Stone Age, reduced to a state of mere largesse and searing their net-free bluefin over a stack of smoldering libertarian pamphlets, so be it. They’re paying for the privilege of waking every day in a country where the lower class is so cowed by reactionary propaganda that they don’t rise up with torches in hand and go full-Mugabe, nationalizing every cul de sac from Santa Barbara to Providence. Which, if justice were more than just a word, should probably have started happening sometime around the spring of 1983.

Deficit- Dead fucking wrong! The Bush tax cuts, which lower the top marginal rate from 39.6 percent to 35 percent will cost about 4.4 trillion though 2018. Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan, which is essentially now the official Republican budgetary negotiating stance, and consists of draconian cuts that come almost entirely at the expense of the poor, the elderly, the environment, and those without medical insurance, will save 4.3 trillion through the same time period. Read that again. It’s a straight swap. To save the very richest people in this country a nominal amount of money, Republicans are willing to float the most vulnerable Americans out on a rational self-interest iceberg. This is not “sound conservative fiscal policy.” It is bald social engineering. Thirty years of the regressive tax policy that started under Ronald Reagan has given us ample and inarguable statistical information pointing to just one conclusion: cutting taxes to the rich does not create jobs or trickle down in any measurable way. It helps the rich be richer. Ryan’s plan has nothing to do with deficit reduction. It is really a calculated and cynical attempt to completely reconfigure the Johnsonian notion–which the majority of Americans actually support in polls not funded by Rupert Murdoch–that we have a responsibility to care for one another. Interestingly, Paul Ryan is on record as saying that the reason he chose to get into public service was because of the inspiration he felt after reading Ayn Rand in college. Really.

Evolution- Sigh. Ever been on a cobblestone street somewhere, maybe looking down upon a Mayan ruin or Aegean reef, and realize you’re ashamed to flash your passport? Essentially, the entire world thinks we’re a bunch of backward sister-fucking rednecks. And they’re sixty percent right. Evolution deniers, of which a frighteningly large number of 2012 Republican candidates proudly are, can be refuted with this simple sentence: “Google the Burgess Shale Formation, read for six minutes.” Is it really possible, amidst the uncoding of the pig genome, that those who doubt evolution are not only not relegated to the dunk tank at the Alabama state fair, but actually have a chance of being elected supreme ruler of this Baked Lay of a country? Speaking of which, what can be said of the 2012 Republican field, a flocculate of the most artless proselytizers and blank stares ever to grip a podium, each a sacrificial lamb strung up by the back hoof and awaiting the knife that is post-Bin Laden Obama. It would be funny if it weren’t so depressing. Every single republican candidate makes Mike Dukakis look like Peter Frampton spandexing his way through his second set at the Hammersmith Palais. Seriously, when a dangerous soft-on like Rick Santorum is one of the more viable choices on stage, it points to impending imperial fail. One unavoidable conclusion: smart people of all political persuasions would probably be wise to stock up on iodine, Ramen, and batteries.




So, Alanna, what the death of Bin Laden really means is that I have been put in the position of politely asking if anyone can name one issue that Republicans have been right about since Richard Nixon flashed his weird gang sign on the steps of the Impeach-o Chopper and whirred off into the night. Oddly, Nixon was right about any number of things, including arms reduction, the Chinese, and health care.

Just one issue since 1973. Lay it on me. I’m all ears.


Most sincerely,


The Dust




Ask Me Anything.

Talk Shit. Be Vulnerable.

Go ahead, I know it hurts.

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J. ANGELUS DUST is not much interested in biography. J. Angelus Dust wants to know where it hurts.

26 responses to “Ask The Dust – Vol. 24”

  1. Becky Palapala says:

    So. Hm.

    Are you saying you know health care is a right? I mean. You’re sounding like a guy who knows things.

    That one begged.

    I ignore your question willfully, I admit. Mostly because it requires a tedious discussion of assumption and how “right” (as in correct) comes to be “right.” History and retrospect, as they say, is written by the winners, and via that reality, so is the future written, in a way. Any decision that doesn’t end in calamity (itself relative) will become self-affirming and–incorrectly–people will assume it therefore renders all of its alternatives invalid or necessarily calamitous. You acknowledge this in acknowledging the fate that would have awaited Obama if the mission had failed.

    Like I said, tedious. The kind of conversation that only myself and maybe 2 other people on this site find interesting and worthwhile. You certainly seem like the kind of guy who has had the conversation before, or at least thought about it, since it’s sort of central when it comes to maturity of perspective when considering politics.

    On a more grounded level, it’s a trick question anyway. As you point out, no party, historically, is always consistently on one or the other side of a given issue, and then (though decreasingly, I admit) there is diversity of opinion within a given party. Your bifurcation here is all but a deliberate misdirection.

    A party’s stance on anything, especially since Nixon, is about 80% determined by the position the opposition takes and making sure to not have the same one, so as to maximize general bloodthirstyness and polarization in the voting public.

    Or maybe some kind of campaign by the National Association for the Promotion of Creative Public Derogation and Needless Inflammatory Verbosity. (Their title reflects what they do!)

    Equally as annoyingly, I will point out that evolution is a religious issue, not a party issue. I can’t say it’s not political because it is, but there are plenty of Republicans who have no problem with evolution, just as there are plenty of Democrats who do. This must be the case, if a recent stat I heard is even close to correct. It said only 39% of the American population “believes in the theory of evolution.” (Against impulse, I’m leaving a number of objections to that phrasing just laying there on the ground.)

    I don’t think Republicans account for 61% of the population; if they did, not even the death of OBL and a lackluster GOP candidate field could save Obama in 2012. If they did, we would not be having this conversation because he would not be president in the first place. It always seems to me that in politics, partisan adherents are consistent on maybe two things: Their contempt for the other guy and their total inability to decide, at least in their rhetoric, whether or not that other guy is completely, pathetically, laughably impotent or the the most serious, evil, and dire threat to civilization and leadership since Caligula, since Hitler, since giant asteroids.

    Anyway, I DO think it’s possible, that people who are one or more of the following account for 61% of the American population: Religiously zealous, ignorant, undereducated, purposefully divisive, and/or just plain stupid.

  2. Greg Olear says:

    Wow. Bravo, Dust.

    1. I fail to see how the government’s #1 job as per the constitution, providing for the common defense, does not include a common defense against ill health. It’s the government’s fucking JOB to provide health care. It says so in the fucking founding documents.

    2. I fail to see how the public could continue to buy the “Republicans keep us safer” argument as of lunchtime EDT on 9/11/01.

  3. Joe Daly says:

    Letter 1: Sort of agree.

    Basically I agree with the entirety of the Dust’s consideration of conspiracy theories, save for a glaring omission regarding human nature. That is, many people are constitutionally incapable of accepting, let alone admitting when they are wrong. Where political and religious views are concerned, the exposure of the smallest fallacy can impeach an entire system of beliefs, which puts the ego on Preservation Code Red. And so we often see that when presented with a seemingly unimpeachable fact, the ego requires one to dismiss the evidence before them and to create sinister and circumstantial scenarios that allow them to continue feeling correct.

    Letter 2: Agree.

    Letter 3: Disagree.

    Why can’t a Republican support President Obama? The Dust’s entire platform presumes that the grandiose failings of Republican party leaders mean that people who hew to the conservative side of issues are fools. While I just so happen to agree with the Dust’s take on all of the sub-issues in his response, the larger issue is that the Dust is happy to just stay inside the box and play by the “Us vs. Them” rules which have brought our country to its knees. Why can’t someone belong to one party and support various solutions proposed by the other party? I understand that practically that’s now how things work around here, but that’s nothing more than a limiting thought. Republican leaders who might try to detract from Obama’s balls-to-the-wall victory last week are most certainly playing fools, but I’m not prepared to color half of the country with the same brush. Perhaps I’m naive, but this bleeding heart Democrat from California respectfully reserves the right to allow people to belong to a political party without considering them fools.

    “Partisanship is our great curse. We too readily assume that everything has two sides and that it is our duty to be on one or the other.”– James Harvey Robinson (1863–1936)

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Everyone is into teamwork provided the team way is their way, aren’t they?

      I mean, I don’t know a single politician (or citizen or pundit, for that matter), Republican or Democrat, who would openly advocate for balkanization and belligerant partisanship.

      But unsurprisingly, they WILL all suggest it is the other guy’s duty to do the compromising.

      And I think there probably are otherwise conservative people who support a number of Obama’s initiatives and positions.

      It’s important not to confuse “Republican” and “conservative.” Though, you’re right. There are undoubtedly even Republicans, perhaps many, many of them, who agree with various Obama positions.

      Though “Obama’s positions” is operative. I think it’s important, too, to remember that no one, not ever a Democrat, is obligated to support Obama. Like, the whole guy, personally. It is allowed to support one thing he says or does and not another. That kind of thinking, as much as partisanship, is detrimental to clear thinking, I think. If people feel some kind of need to defend (or for that matter attack) him personally, their inability to think clearly and critically about policy and politics is a foregone conclusion.

      • dwoz says:

        “…I mean, I don’t know a single politician (or citizen or pundit, for that matter), Republican or Democrat, who would openly advocate for balkanization and belligerant partisanship.

        Allow me to introduce you to the names “Tom DeLay, Eric Cantor, Bill Frist, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, John Boehner” for a small sample of men who have actually stood in front of microphones and cameras and in as many words or fewer, said “our job is to make the other party fail. Our only business is to block them.”

        I would also mention the name Judd Gregg, a republican senator from my home state, who on the eve of the swearing in of the 2006 congress, wrote and distributed white papers on how to use obscure, often centuries-old archaic parliamentary rules to halt the senate’s business. For 150 years the office of the Senate Parliamentarian was a dusty, cobwebby ceremonial post, until that January 3, 2007. Then suddenly the entire country discovered that we have one.

        Did you know that since the 2008 elections, a bill in the US Senate has been under filibuster or anonymous hold EVERY SINGLE DAY? Even stuff that didn’t matter. Everything. Anything.

        I mean, this is not opinion. This is not interpretive analysis. This is simple verifiable fact.

        Now, for the interpretive part: This all from a party the year earlier that screamed bloody murder for a “simple up-or-down-vote” for blocked judicial appointments that were, to be fair, not mainstream, middle-ground jurists.

        So, I’m not sure if that’s what you meant, but I thought you might be able to use those examples.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          No. Not really helpful, but I appreciate your enthusiasm.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Alright, I’ll elaborate.

          I can’t tell if you genuinely don’t understand or if you’re being deliberately obtuse. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, but it’s on extremely short loan.

          The question is not whether or not there are individuals acting in a openly balkanizing or partisan manner.

          That goes without saying. That is a fundamental premise of the conversation. We all, as far as I can see, accept that.

          The point is that even those guys–all those individuals you mention–will hold that they have been forced to do this not out of a love for divisive politics but because the other guy refuses to hear them out, give their solutions fair consideration. Refuses to act in a manner consistent with their constituents’ interests. That they would love a compromise, but that the other guy is making that impossible.

          It’s not a question of what, but why. They will always say they are forced to behave in this way because of something the other guy has done.

          They will not say, “Because they’re the other guys and we’re us guys.” They don’t make it that easy. They don’t say, “my contempt for that other guy generating contempt among the people for that guy allows both of our entrenched, corrupt parties to thrive and all but guarantees that we will never suffer the inconvenience of true opposition.”

          There’s nothing partisan in my response to Joe, so I can only assume your contemptuously partisan response is not your fault, but rather a habit of some sort, or some involuntary pavlovian response spurred on by too many decades of buy-in to the very balkanization of which I speak. I bet you’d say you don’t like being balkanized or contemptuously partisan; the other guys just make you be this way.


        • dwoz says:

          actually, though I appreciate your attempt at explaining, particularly to someone as helpless to break the shackles of my indoctrination as I am, I feel like I still disagree.

          Here in my seat, I view the political process as being the red team and the blue team facing off in a sausage-making contest. But the goal isn’t to make sausage, the goal is to stop the other team from making sausage.

          I really deeply wish this wasn’t the case. I am actually heart-sick about it.

          And it isn’t like I think one of the teams is somehow trapped in this, without culpability. They’re both complicit. But I also can’t help but notice that one team seems to consistently employ clothesline tackles, late hits, blind hits, and sucker-punches when the refs aren’t looking.

          Of COURSE they cannot say they’re in it for the bloodsport. They will always say they yearn for bipartisanship. But damn if that halitosis doesn’t pass the smell test.

          Let me cite one more example. One “team” in the house of representatives just recently blocked a resolution introduced by the other “team.” The resolution that required that block? The last surviving US soldier to have fought in WW1, Frank Buckles has died, the last guy. The resolution was to allow his casket to lie in state in the rotunda of the capitol building, a very nice honor and something that would induce a national cathartic sense of closure to the whole mess of that war.

          That resolution was blocked because the “wrong team” introduced it. The resolution itself is not without precedent, it was well within the common bounds of SOP. Other examples abound.

          I know personally another one of my state’s newly (re)elected congressmen. He is on one of the “teams.” I know his wife and kids, and our families have been around each other since before either of us were born. That man is a good man, personally an upright kind of guy, but I will say here and also say to his face that I firmly believe he could give a rat’s flying fuck about doing the right thing in congress, he will be voting strictly as the “team captain” directs him to.

          “Compromise” is a word entirely without meaning anymore. The Red Sox and the Yankees don’t compromise. They win or they go home. The game never ends in a draw.

          Again, you have no idea how vehemently I wish this were not true, and that I could scrub these words off the page and denounce and defame them as garbage. I truly wish that. But then I’d be over in Paul Toth’s thread, talking about insanity and alternative reality.

        • dwoz says:

          maybe partisanship is just a form of tourettes?

        • Becky Palapala says:

          If we disagree, then we do, but what I have here is just another obviation. More “proof” that something is happening that we all already seem to agree is happening.

          Here, you in fact reiterate what I’ve already said twice as if it’s an argument to the contrary:

          Of COURSE they cannot say they’re in it for the bloodsport. They will always say they yearn for bipartisanship. But damn if that halitosis doesn’t pass the smell test.

          So I guess I don’t know who you think you’re arguing with.

          If you’re looking for a simple debate about who is more obstructionist, you’ll have to have it with someone else. It’s a come-on to rhetorical slumming and, indeed, a highly partisan impulse that, if anything, only reinforces my point in that partisanship allows/encourages us to find valor and therefore relief for our own cognitive dissonance in things like shades of contemptability.

        • dwoz says:

          It’s really painfully simple.

          If what you’re saying was true, then we’d see voting tallies in congress with a much different cross-section of support, a far more orthogonal relationship to party.

          But we don’t.

          Ergo, it isn’t.

          We can dare to dream, but that’s what we’ve got. A “wouldn’t it be nice” scenario.

          To Joe Daly’s original point, castigating The Dust for perpetuating the partisanship, the “Us vs. Them” rule that Joe describes. The sentiment is a given, who wouldn’t want to back away from that ledge? But it’s like continuing to leave food on the stove, while time and again the dog jumps up and steals it, and every time the same thing happens. We can wish for the better world where the dog does not steal our dinner every time, but realistically we have to start factoring the dog’s actual actions into our own calculus.

          The other part of that is that the dream of cross-party cooperation is based on a false assumption, the assumption that we’re (the citizenry) major stakeholders in much of the business going on.

          I also disagree that you’re being non-partisan. I believe the premise of “balance” in today’s political context is a false premise. There is no such thing as balance, the null hypothesis doesn’t exist or at the very least it is nowhere near where ‘the middle’ would normally be found. Inferring a presumption of balance just moves the frame of discussion. It allows that both sides have equal competing axioms and assumptions, and that’s just false right out of the gate 90 percent of the time. I will not have a “non partisan” discussion on the merits with someone (Rick Santorum) who thinks that the earth was created by the sky man six thousand years ago, nor will I have a discussion on the merits with someone (Paul Ryan) who is looking to dismantle and destroy medicare and public education. Their fix is not a fix, and STARTING from the “non-partisan” premise that it deserves to be called a fix is already a gross distortion.

          I’m sure it would help if the information that we rank-and-file citizens receive about this stuff was actually even remotely related to the actual process and substance of the work of government. So in service of non-partisanship, I would submit that perhaps we BOTH have no idea who we think we’re arguing with.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          If WHAT THING I’m saying is true, dwoz?

          The thing you’ve already agreed with or some thing the spectral opponent in the argument you invented said?

          STARTING from the “non-partisan” premise that it deserves to be called a fix is already a gross distortion.

          You just march around declaring shit, dwoz. Shit that is highly debatable at any number of levels. Then you declare that it is not debatable.

          I mean, there’s not much to say that except that you are clearly comfortable in your trench, and eager to announce it. I mean, what is the appropriate response to that? Congratulations?

        • dwoz says:

          If we are to debate, I suppose some ground rules are in order. Shall I assume that pronouns are discouraged, and direct quoting will be required?

          Let’s see if I can illustrate this concept of non-partisan balance a little bit more aptly than I have so far.

          I state that the very concept of non-partisanship is mostly false on the face of it in our current political context in the USA (if not across the entire globalized economy…but let’s stick with Washington DC for simplicity’s sake.)

          Let’s take a current hot-button issue. Net Neutrality.

          The “non partisan balance” view of the issue states that on one side we have a faction, the “pro-net-neutrality-change” side that wants to “get government out of the business of controlling consumer’s access to the internet” (their words, not mine). The other side of this “non partisan balance”, the “con-net-neutrality-change” side states that “the proposed rule changes will hurt consumers.”

          Now, that seems like a reasonable statement of balance, right? It’s non-partisan, it fairly lays out both side’s points in a neutral way. Both claim the high moral ground vis a vis the consumer’s interests.

          But is this a neutral statement? a level-playing-field description of the problem? It sure LOOKS like one.

          But it is not one. It is, in fact, highly imbalanced, dangerously misleading, and requires one side (the con side) to refute many many false assumptions before you can even begin to assess the two positions in an apples-to-apples way. The core principles and architecture of the internet an it’s design and implementation put the lie to the “pro” position.

          It is, in other words, a bald faced lie. A DELIBERATE lie. The REAL discussion set up by that “non-partisan” premise is should we keep the internet or not. That’s not the discussion that the premise leads us to believe we’re having. Any consumer-user of the internet who supports the “pro” position is doing so because they flat out don’t understand the issue. No other possible way to mince those words.

          I will not burden the discussion with a blow-by-blow dissection of the merits of both sides, that’s what google is for (a very ironic statement in this context, by the way).

          But what happens is that the “neutral, non partisan” statement of the problem says “on this side we have a position, and on this other side we have a position.” In reality, on one side we have a lie, and on the other side we have a position.

          Of all people Becky, you can recognize a false equivalence.

          If you force me to assume the lie as being a valid starting point, then you’ve adopted a non-neutral partisan position. A false equivalence cannot by definition be neutral.

          This example is just like the creationists vs. the evolutionists. We don’t have to have the discussion, because the false balance involves equating a position of faith with a position of scientific method. If you want to debate reliance in faith vs. reliance in science, that’s one thing. If you want to debate biblical derived fact vs scientific derived fact, that’s quite another, and I’m going to walk away from that discussion. Utter waste of time.

        • Becky Palapala says:


          You are talking to yourself.

          I’m going to tell you right now. I only made it as far as the first mention of “Net Neutrality” before I stopped reading, as it signified yet another in a growing litany of incomprehensible tangents in a discussion that has mostly consisted of you trotting out unnecessarily elaborate metaphors and analogies that do more to bore and confuse than clarify.

          I said nothing controversial to Joe, and I have no idea what is making you feel compelled to invest considerable energy and keystrokes in this endeavor, but whatever it is, I am, at this point, 100% certain I want no part in it.

        • dwoz says:

          yeah, probably getting a little off the reservation here, aren’t we. That’s one of the problems with Net Neutrality as a topic as well…as soon as you get into the gritty details, people’s eyes roll back into their heads and they start wondering why God is being so stingy with his lightning bolts.

          I’m aware that the phrase “Kill me, now” comes into people’s heads when I’m going on about stuff…the only thing that keeps me going is that deep in my heart I believe that the sum total of human suffering is not being increased because of me. At least, I hope that’s the case.

  4. dwoz says:

    On Evolution:

    Did you know that we humans share approximately sixty seven percent of our genome with corn?

    On Things Republicans Have Done Right Since 1973:

    “estimate the stupidity of the American electorate.”

    I win.

  5. Zara Potts says:

    I don’t understand how some American’s equate free heath care as being the first step in a long slippery side towards calamity.

    I don’t have much to say about Osama except for he was an asshole.

    • “I don’t understand how some American’s equate free heath care as being the first step in a long slippery side towards calamity.”

      I live here and don’t understand how some consider providing health care to every citizen a long, slippery slope towards, gulp, socialism. Unless someone is a billionaire, everyone in America is one catastrophic (heck, not even catastrophic in many cases) illness away from being shit broke and in debt. I look at health care as a very personal issue, not from a political bias. My dad was on his deathbed dying of leukemia and, unfortunately, one of his major concerns (like most people on their deathbed) is that his illness would send his family to the poorhouse — sort of how it did when he was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer ten years prior. The next-to-last time I saw my dad alive, he had a stack (and I mean a stack, a tower) of bills piled high on his stomach, and he was going through each one. An individual should be able to die in as much peace as can possibly be garnered given the situation. They shouldn’t have to worry about whether they can afford to be sick, afford to be treated, and not leave this world with a huge bill for their family. I find it repulsive that my state’s Attorney General is fighting health care reform in court. That guy can go fuck himself.

  6. dwoz says:

    It can be compellingly argued that improper air intake filtration on a marine helicopter allowed enough sand to get into the engine to destroy Jimmy Carter’s presidency. Proximate cause. Say what you will about the October surprise and Paul Volker’s high interest rates, it was a missing goddamn air filter that did in that presidency.

    Within a very short time after the USS Cole was hit off the coast of Yemen, actionable intelligence on the whereabouts of OBL were available. President Clinton hesitated 4 hours before launching two cruise missiles at the now-stale location. He was subsequently VILIFIED in the political arena for what was “clearly a wag the dog” mission to distract the country from the stained blue dress, while being simultaneously vilified by the rank-and-file military for hesitating and considering the political ramifications, and therefore missing the prize. This misfire allowed the dialog to shift, turning an attempt to stop genocide in Serbia (not an ignoble cause) into a political liability.

    Make no mistake. If Obama’s operation last week had failed…i.e. OBL had left his compound in the custody of some other entity than Allah or Seal Team Six, then Obama would have been smothered in barbecue sauce, covered in tin foil, and slow roasted in the hot coals of hyper-partisan recrimination. Thankfully they had a spare helicopter and enough gas to get back home.

  7. gloria says:

    Letters 1 and 2: agree all the way.

    Letter 3: no comment, except to say I’m fascinated by all that you’ve said, appreciate a heads up on the Burgess Shale Formation, and am delighted to now be able to now work soft-on into conversation willy-nilly. (Get it? Willy-nilly? Get it?)

  8. Richard Cox says:

    My problem with conspiracy theories and their believers is not necessarily their occasional accuracy. Of course people are going to posit alternative explanations for certain public events, and sometimes they’re going to be right.

    What I don’t understand are people who consider conspiracy theory their fall back position. The worst of the lot seem to believe almost everything reported by the “mainstream media” is a conspiracy of one kind or another. I suppose the reason for this distrust is the elites who are secretly controlling the world constantly feed us bad information to throw us off the scent.

    I’m not sure of the source of this paranoia, and it’s not just limited to the U.S. ZaraPotts has repeatedly told me the story of Ken Ring in New Zealand who “predicts” earthquakes based on tidal forces of the Moon. He’s caused mass hysteria there by announcing additional earthquakes for Christchurch, and he’s sometimes been correct…primarily because there have been a shitload of quakes over the past several months. Scientists refute his claims at every turn, but the public chooses, even wants to believe the alternative explanation. I find it both horrifying and fascinating.

    To me it seems that fervent belief in conspiracy theory is analogous to spiritual faith. In fact, sociologists have identified the search for meaning as a primary driver of conspiracy theory, and I’m sure they’re onto something. To me this relates to the strange and yet undeniable propensity of humans to prefer romantic notions to verifiable facts. It’s my opinion that humanity does not want everything to be knowable. They want room for magic, in whatever form it may take.

    Einstein became famous when observations of light from distant stars were shown to bend around the sun in the exact amount predicted by general relativity. In this case, demonstrated fact was accepted by the public, whereas, say, with evolution, despite overwhelming evidence, some people choose not to “believe” it. I suspect one of the reasons for this is because relativity, even though it was built with mathematics, seems exotic to the general public. It seems magical that a man proposed an elegant equation that explains how the universe works on large scales. Quantum mechanics also seems exotic, in large part because it’s incomprehensible to most of the world…in fact it’s so counterintuitive to the daily world as experienced by humans that we feel free to insert magic into it. But evolution doesn’t seem very magical. It seems more mechanical and accidental. And many of us don’t want the world to be accidental, because maybe then there’s no good reason for anything.

    Blah blah blah. I’m boring myself. Read The Demon-Haunted World. Carl Sagan is more eloquent about this subject that I ever will be. 🙂

    • dwoz says:

      what a great comment.

      In another virtual internet place that I post, I have a signature tagline, “…never attribute to magic, that which can be explained by conspiracy.”

      Which is, of course, a sarcastic expression of just what you’re saying here.

      My own sense is that 99 percent of what is called conspiracy is just taking astute and timely advantage of events as they play out. All the 9/11 conspiracies come down to (in my estimation) a series of random events that lined up expeditiously. Then it becomes easy to work backward through the chain of events and imagine connections.

  9. gloria says:

    Did Fabian get sick, Dust? Is that what’s happening here? I’d be happy to send chicken soup.

    • Fabian says:

      Hi, I’m Fabian, The Dust’s personal assistant. Thanks for your query, Gloria! Mr. Dust was out of the country on assignment last week and so was unable to answer any questions. Thanks for your concern! I will pass it on to him, as well as your kind offer of soup.”

  10. […] The Dust adds: “I’d be willing to bet that whether bin Laden’s hunkered down in the punishing fires of Sheol, Gehenna, Tartarus, Hades, Vitti, Peklo, or Jahannam…talking Mullah Omar into blowing up those huge Buddha statues outside Kabul seems like a really crappy idea right about now.” […]

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