Guns aren’t lawful!


Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren’t lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.

Suicide has become a very popular option of late, among farmers in India and suburbanites in the Amurrican Sunbelt, and it’s not hard to see why. When I contemplate my own expectations from Social Security, Miss Parker’s list of modalities tends to scroll down my mental movie-screen. But I long ago concluded, with her, that one might as well live — driven, in my case, by a novel-reader’s or movie-goer’s stubborn need to know what happens next, even if the book is by Dan Brown or the film by Stephen Spielberg. Hell, even if the film is Sophie’s Choice. I almost never walk out, no matter how bad it is.

A kind friend recently sent along this item:

Gun suicides now outpace traffic fatalities in Colorado
Experts say suicide must be framed as public health issue

Gun deaths have outpaced motor vehicle fatalities in Colorado since 2009, but data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment indicate the state has passed yet another milestone in death statistics.

For the first time in 2012, suicides by firearm alone surpassed motor vehicle fatalities, with 457 Coloradans dying in fatal car crashes and 532 taking their own lives using guns.

Gun suicides experienced their biggest increase in the past 12 years between 2011 and 2012, jumping up nearly 20 percent. Experts say many of these deaths are preventable, but that prevention requires framing suicide as a public health issue….

… Gun suicides didn’t take the biggest chunk of the increase. Fatal, self-inflicted gunshot wounds increased by nearly 29 percent while suicides by other means increased by nearly 64 percent.

Of course the phrase ‘experts say’ in itself is an incitement to suicide — I want to hang myself every time I hear it. But leaving that aside, there is much to puzzle over in this story.

The reporter acknowledges, for example, that gun suicides have increased less rapidly than those consummated by poison, rivers, gas, nooses and the rest of Miss Parker’s morbid list. Yet the story is framed as one about guns. Why?

Then of course there’s the comparison with road deaths. It seems to be okay for people to die on the road — though how many of those deaths are suicides too? A lot, I bet. But it’s not okay to check out under your own volition, simply because the deal on offer from our advanced civilization seems less appealing than the endless velvety dark. That’s cheating. Why do you get to go home earlier than everybody else?

No; it’s a ‘public health issue’, crying out for a technical solution; as if suicide were something like cholera, a problem that might be addressed by better drains.

Actually, I suspect suicide is in fact such a problem. If nobody ever had to worry about living in a cardboard carton above a heating grate, for example, I daresay fewer people would blow their brains out, or hang themselves, or jump in front of a subway. On the other hand, as technical solutions go, this one is perhaps a bit more far-reaching than anybody wants to contemplate. Why, it’s… it’s Communism!

Pussy riot…

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot writing to Slavoj Zizžek

… is a great name for a band, but otherwise unimpressive. A kind friend just sent a link to a correspondence between one of the imprisoned Rioters and… wait for it … a person characterized as ‘the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek’.

A ‘Slovenian philosopher’! O Preston Sturges, thou should’st be living at this hour.

It’s pretty much unreadable, of course: windy, unmeaning self-importance and oily compliments on both sides. But there are some funny moments. This one comes from the ‘Slovenian philosopher’:

Since the 2008 crisis, this distrust of democracy, once limited to third-world or post-Communist developing economies, is gaining ground in western countries.

Clearly, Slovenia needs to teach its philosophers a little history. When, exactly, in the ‘West’ — and where exactly is that, by the way — when, I say, in this legendary ‘West’, was ‘democracy’ ever ‘trusted’?

Every sensible person, of course, understands that Zizek is a mountebank, an incoherent gasbag, a motormouthed buffoon, a bad joke.

That’s why I have written to my great and good friend Vladimir Putin, suggesting that he ought to let the Pussy Rioters go, preferably in honor of the Russian Orthodox feast of the Epiphany. They’ve had their fifteen minutes; they’re no threat to anybody; but please, please, Volodya, don’t let them give Zizek another opportunity for publicity. Imperial rivalry is one thing, but a loquacious bore is the common enemy of all mankind.

Eeyore locutus


I’ve always had to be on my guard, in social settings, about telling people what I really think. I don’t just mean about ‘issues’, like Palestine, or Obromneycare, or what have you, but something bigger: my sense of where our world is going, in what time I have left, and my kiddies’ time. I remember an innocent dinner party, twenty years ago in the Clinton days, when the subject came up. I shed a dark pall over the conversation and really wondered whether some of our guests might go home, afterwards, and cut their throats.

I’m glad to say they didn’t, and less glad to say they all ended up really enthusiastic about Obie. I’m moderately glad, in a sour way, to report that all my dark prophecies, made on that occasion, were quickly fulfilled, even before
the shameless dogfaced Mr Clinton left office.

So be warned: If you have suicidal tendencies, stop reading now. There will be a palely upbeat conclusion, but it won’t compensate.

One receives a lot of exhortatory rah-rah stuff in one’s inbox about good ideas like stopping global warming, rolling back the police state, and so on.

My view is that none of these good things will happen in my lifetime.

Our rulers will reel, for the foreseeable future, from one mad folly to the next and end up killing who knows how many of us. It’s way too late to do anything about global warming, even if anybody who mattered wanted to — and they don’t. The seas will rise; Venice and the Jersey Shore will drown. That is, as they say, a done deal. The smart money is going into property that will soon be beachfront. Somewhere in the foothills of the Appalachians.

Time was, I thought that the public Internet might be something like the invention of printing — an immense expansion in the means of human communication. And of course so it has been, as long as you want to tweet about some starlet’s boob job. The minute your tweets become in any way troublesome — as if they could — the cops will come to your house and do a Bradley Manning or an Aaron Swartz on you.

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition; but they show up anyway. Technology will not save us, whether it’s Gutenberg’s or Vint Cerf’s.

Things are going to get worse — much, much worse — before they get better.

Did I promise a palely upbeat conclusion? Oh, fuck it. As Scarlett O’Hara says, I’ll think about that tomorrow.

Not to be sectarian or anything…


… But I couldn’t help recalling Wilde’s line about Caliban seeing his own face in a mirror. This particular Caliban seems undisturbed by the reflection, however.

I’ve been buttoning my lip for months now, but what is it about Trots and Syria? They just can’t wait to send in the drones. It was the same with Libya, if memory serves. They’re really happy to line up with AIPAC and Netanyahu and the Saudis, on the principle that some abstract idea — like ‘tyranny’ — must be ‘resisted’. No matter who’s resisting it, or who’s supporting them, or why.

One can’t help remembering that the original neocon ranks were extensively populated by ex-Trots. Is there something about that abstract, schematic way of thinking that makes it psychologically easier to just reverse the sign?

I don’t know. I don’t get it. The appeal of Leon Trotsky for me is nil. I’d rather be a transsexual, than whom Trotskyites are the only class of people more tedious.

As if poor people didn’t have problems enough…


… Michelle Obama wants to make ’em go to college.

I have to admit, I can’t stand Michelle and never could. I think I dislike her even more than I dislike her husband. He seems to me like a glib con-artist of a familiar type; he can be engaging when he wants to, though his more Presidential manner — sanctimonious, didactic, in a word, Wilsonian — is extremely repellent. But at bottom, he runs on jive, and that’s not the worst type of human character. One has known plenty of jivers, and they’re more fun to be around than your average professor(*).

But Michelle … Michelle really seems convinced of her own righteousness, her own deservingness; of the credit entirely due to her for her own undoubted, blazing success. This note of self-congratulation, mixed with censure for everybody else, booms like a basso ostinato through a recent talking-to she gave to a hapless captive audience of Washington teenagers, at a facility oddly called the Bell Multicultural High School (as opposed to a monocultural high school?).

Note her admonitory, accusing finger, always a dead giveaway:

michelle obama

Here’s a sample of her treacle-and-brimstone style:

I’m here today because I want you to know that my story can be your story…The details might be a little different, but so many of the challenges and triumphs will be just the same….

I couldn’t afford to go on a bunch of college visits, I couldn’t hire a personal tutor. I couldn’t enroll in SAT prep classes. We didn’t have the money.

… Some of my teachers straight-up told me that I was setting my sights too high,” she continued. “They told me I was never going to get into a school like Princeton…. [Once there,] There were times when I felt that I could barely keep my head above water.

She terrorized her audience with the usual dismal forecasts: by 2050 a PhD will be required to run a cash register at Wal-Mart, etc. etc.

My story can be your story. Every one of those kids at the Bell Multicultural Indoctrination And Prison Prep Center can, and should, come to live in the White House. All at the same time, in fact, having all graduated from Princeton in the same class and with the same GPA, all tied for valedictorian.

No doubt she’s right that credential creep will continue; it creates a considerable wealth transfer to the credentialling sector, after all, which is now an important industry, though it sells a very mediocre product. But it is surely obvious to the meanest intellect that although anybody can get on a bus — or, judging by some recent tenants, into the White House — everybody cannot get on a bus. A bus isn’t big enough for everybody. Not even the White House is that big.

So Michelle’s message, correctly generalized, is that you will have to work ever harder, and spend ever more time in one pedagogical feedlot after another, if you want to be declassed a bit less rapidly than your less compliant or energetic schoolfellows. We’re going to shaft you all, she’s saying; but some of you are going to get shafted worse than others; and you’d better get that nose to the grindstone, and burn that midnight oil, if you prefer the slightly smaller shaft.

(*) Of course there are exceptions. I’ve known plenty of likable professors too. Though none of them were law school, or “Political Science”.