Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The American Peace Movement Has Failed

The American Peace Movement failed. It failed to stop the war and the subsequent deaths of a million innocent Iraqis. It probably won't stop a war with Iran where the death tolls--after speculated attacks on nuclear power plant facilities--would probably start at one million. The White Rose Society, full of decent courageous people, didn't beat the Nazis, either. The appropriate model now looks more like The French Resistance, if you don't mind killing people. If you do mind killing people, you might try adopting the tactics of radical environment groups and start killing property, but not just SUV sellers. You would target critical infrastructure nodes. John Robb lays it all out in his book above and his website Global Guerillas. There are examples here, here, here, HERE and here. You would have to attempt to stop the machine. I hope that Obama gets elected and that he'll change the path but the Iranian war might have started by then. There's a chance that voting simply won't be enough. If they even count your vote....

Please contrast what I've written with this latest hard hitting piece by Samantha Bennett. Then ask why people are turning away from the corporate media and turning to the Internet. Plus I have more tunes.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Posts from May 1 through May 29

May 29

Above: What I would be reading online if I didn't have a book review to complete by Monday. Below: my old political activist buddy and ACT (America Coming Together) boss/partner Bob Harris is making some waves in Atlanta, where I understand there are some opportunities for the talented colored man. Bob is helping Ms. "Able" take on Civil Rights legend John Lewis but from what I've read she's no slouch and John has endorsed Hillary--even though he isn't a hard working and legitimate white person--so the "legend" might be in some trouble. Wish Bob all the luck. Bob is the skinny bespectacled guy on the left whispering helpful things into Mable's ear Lieberman/Machiavelli like...

From the Skeptical Brotha:

She becomes the second serious challenger to Lewis, the first being Markel Hutchins, a community activist and minister. This marks the second time Thomas has challenged Lewis. Representative Thomas lost badly in 1992 and won less than 25% of the vote. Able Mabel is a serious politician having served in both the Georgia House of Representatives and the Atlanta City Council. She is also a progressive legislator having twice passed legislation to increase Georgia’s homestead exemption to protect low income and elderly people from losing their homes. She, like Hutchins, frames the contest in generational terms, I believe that, at the end of the day, that my opponent is not only beatable, but my opponent should — right now — just get out of the race and let a new generation come forth.”

May 27

Go read now. Special six or seven page Alan Moore/Daniel Torres version of the Spirit. It's the far future.

Go watch. Great Tom Morello interview. Here is someone who, like Cory Doctorow, I like more as a person than as an artist, even though he is a great great guitarist. Funniest line: "As the other half Kenyan half Harvard educated person from Illinois who isn't running for president..." Run Tom Run. I hear there might be a senate seat opening up in Illinois...Related: Not that impressed with the acoustic Nightwatchmen vid at the end. He's not a bad singer and I like the lyrics but he sounds like a white guy from Illinois infected with just a touch of the Pogues. Hope that's not catching. Please keep attempting to create an American superband like U2...

Brother Mouzone from "The Wire".

People came to my door in Wilkinsburg on Memorial Day. I was hoping it was one of my sleazier girlfriends but no: it was 6 representatives from my friendly neighborhood Nation of Islam mosque, located just a couple of blocks from me. Now, usually, when I'm confronted with relatively unintimidating representatives of the Jehovah's Witnesses or the Mormons I just tell them flat out that I'm an Atheist. If its the Mormons, then I would probably point them to the Hitch history of The Church of Latter Day Saints here and here. If its the Jehovah's Witnesses, then I strongly suggest and/or hint that you're a moron if your religion doesn't allow you to vote especially if you're black and there's a good chance that you could elect a black man president you poor deluded and brainwashed fools. (On the other end of the galactic spectrum, my grandmother Willa who is at least 90 and should easily make a hundred and who might outlive me--have mixed feelings about that last point--actually used to and probably still does invite the Witnesses inside to talk because she ran a Bible school and she likes delivering the rhetorical beatdown. For her it would not be unlike the feeling a Grizzly bear gets when a nice juicy salmon jumps right into his lap...) But for some odd reason, perhaps it was because there were six of them and I seem to recall that they recruit from the prisons, practice and train in the martial arts and have gone into dangerous inner city Wire/Killadelphia project drug dens and beaten up criminals bare handed, that I was a bit less than my usual forthcoming self. Why, I even bought a paper. Who wouldn't want a brand new issue of The Final Call. Only a buck and good day to you too sirs! Much luck in all yer endeavors of ridding the black community of the yoke of servile Christianity and replacing it with an insane version of servile Islam that perhaps features better ties and better papers but still with the same self serving clergy and good things happen only after you die attitude. God knows you wouldn't want less of that in the community. Sigh. More on that paper if I have time later this week...

May 21

A Special Everyone Who Reads This Site is Part of the 8 Million Main Corp List Due to Be Rounded Up After the Current Administration's Manufactured "Crisis" Around the Internets

Some of the ads over at Atrios are kind of right wing, with the worst being the Pro McCain ads. Here's an ad (that I borrowed) that's more on point although I don't think Atrios has ever written about the shocking writings of John Perkins. I don't know why he can't. Short version: before we murder the leaders of countries who don't play IMF ball we try to persuade them with bribes. John Perkins is the guy who offered the "Or Else" bribe. Read or watch all about it here and here. Related: Recent Ellsberg observation that we prefer dictators over democracies if that isn't patently obvious by now.

Okay, on the something big is up and they're planning to send everyone away who doesn't play ball front, we have two important stories. One, the US Government has a list of 8 million "troublemakers" who they would round up in case of what, I strongly suspect, would be a manufactured shock. After all, the people who conjured the shock have probably imagineered the aftermath.

Here's a scary bit of that:

Under law, during a national emergency, FEMA and its parent organization, the Department of Homeland Security, would be empowered to seize private and public property, all forms of transport, and all food supplies. The agency could dispatch military commanders to run state and local governments, and it could order the arrest of citizens without a warrant, holding them without trial for as long as the acting government deems necessary. From the comfortable perspective of peaceful times, such behavior by the government may seem far-fetched. But it was not so very long ago that FDR ordered 120,000 Japanese Americans—everyone from infants to the elderly—be held in detention camps for the duration of World War II. This is widely regarded as a shameful moment in U.S. history, a lesson learned. But a long trail of federal documents indicates that the possibility of large-scale detention has never quite been abandoned by federal authorities. Around the time of the 1968 race riots, for instance, a paper drawn up at the U.S. Army War College detailed plans for rounding up millions of "militants" and "American negroes," who were to be held at "assembly centers or relocation camps." In the late 1980s, the Austin American-Statesman and other publications reported the existence of 10 detention camp sites on military facilities nationwide, where hundreds of thousands of people could be held in the event of domestic political upheaval. More such facilities were commissioned in 2006, when Kellogg Brown & Root—then a subsidiary of Halliburton—was handed a $385 million contract to establish "temporary detention and processing capabilities" for the Department of Homeland Security. The contract is short on details, stating only that the facilities would be used for "an emergency influx of immigrants, or to support the rapid development of new programs." Just what those "new programs" might be is not specified.

Not scared yet? How about this.

These days, it's rare to hear a voice like that of Senator Frank Church, who in the 1970s led the explosive investigations into U.S. domestic intelligence crimes that prompted the very reforms now being eroded. "The technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny," Church pointed out in 1975. "And there would be no way to fight back, because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know."
UPDATE: Since this article went to press, several documents have emerged to suggest the story has longer legs than we thought. Most troubling among these is an October 2001 Justice Department memo that detailed the extra-constitutional powers the U.S. military might invoke during domestic operations following a terrorist attack. In the memo, John Yoo, then deputy assistant attorney general, "concluded that the Fourth Amendment had no application to domestic military operations." (Yoo, as most readers know, is author of the infamous Torture Memo that, in bizarro fashion, rejiggers the definition of "legal" torture to allow pretty much anything short of murder.) In the October 2001 memo, Yoo refers to a classified DOJ document titled "Authority for Use of Military Force to Combat Terrorist Activities Within the United States." According to the Associated Press, "Exactly what domestic military action was covered by the October memo is unclear. But federal documents indicate that the memo relates to the National Security Agency's Terrorist Surveillance Program." Attorney General John Mukasey last month refused to clarify before Congress whether the Yoo memo was still in force.

Meanwhile, congressional sources tell Radar that Congressman Peter DeFazio has apparently abandoned his effort to get to the bottom of the White House COG classified annexes. Penny Dodge, DeFazio's chief of staff, says otherwise. "We will be sending a letter requesting a classified briefing soon," she told Radar this week.

Okay, go read the whole scarier than Clive Barker thing. Then, or two, combine it with these two vids by Mark Crispin Miller. Scary scary stuff as Count Floyd used to say. (Did you catch the West Mifflin reference from Pittsburgher Joe Flaherty?) Short version: if the republicans can't get McCain within 10 points in order to steal an election then this administration would probably cancel that election with a manufactured shock. Why would they do this: because they're guilty of war crimes and possibly breaking every meaningful law that we have. They simply know no bounds when it comes to evil. Remember: the Bush/Cheney crew stole two presidential elections and murdered up to a million Iraqis and counting in order to steal their oil. These are bad bad people. Worst ever, possibly.

From Mark:

There's no doubt that the GOP is in big trouble, facing catastrophic losses in the House and Senate this November. But if you believe that Bush and Cheney will observe the law and honor the traditions of American democracy, and therefore let themselves be forced from power, you're living in a world of happy dreams.

The fact is that this criminal regime cannot afford to drop their guns and walk out here amongst the rest of us; and there's much evidence that they do not intend to let that happen--ever. So we had better face that evidence (i.e., unearth it, since the media has largely played it down, or tuned it out), and brace ourselves for a protracted fight; because those men are capable of anything that will maintain their death-grip on the US government.

In this new vlog, I talk about that evidence (or some of it), and what we may expect before Election Day



You know, on second thought, I would be a little disappointed if I wasn't on the main core list. I mean, come on. I'd like to think that I would "roam the earth like Caine" and fight the evil corporate theocratic regime which will have elections when things have quieted down or "never". I use a flexible definition of "fight" that also includes "running" and "hiding". Or the Brave Sir Robin approach to insurrection. Need to bone up on my survivalism skills. Might have to do some running. Or I could just buy a lot of guns. I think everyone should go out the way the deaf girl did in Jericho. I also think that when Ravenwood Blackwater comes into your home uninvited then shooting them with a big shotgun is the appropriate answer. Related: There is the possibility that there will be a new Kung Fu movie that will hit theaters and torrent sites. It wasn't until I saw "Dragon: The Bruce Lee" story that I found out that Bruce Lee was up for the role. I certainly hope that the black directors cast an asian or asian american into the lead role but in retrospect David Carradine was probably a better actor than Bruce Lee. In fact, his performance as Caine was one of the best performances on television ever.

May 18

One of the arguments against Atheism is that some very smart people are religious. Furthermore, it is usually argued that a lot of those smart people happen to be scientists. Exhibit one in that argument is usually Einstein, who in his writings (So I've read.) talks about God somewhat. I have heard of the "God does not play dice" line. The Richard Dawkins argument, which he makes in this Youtube vid, is that Einstein didn't embrace religious thought in, say, the way of your average pope or street corner preacher. It turns out that Dawkins was right according to a recently disclosed letter written by Einstein. By the way, I think the reason a lot of scientists and doctors and lawyers and candlestick makers are religious is that they go through the same brain washing as the rest of us. In fact, since scientists are often awarded for their superior intellects why would they rebel against false ideologies? The system, and therefore God, usually works effectively for them. They usually do quite well. Go ask Ales Rarus.

Pharyngula on what Einstein said:

Hey, we've heard theists cite the authority of Einstein in service to their superstitions often enough: practically every colloquial mention of a god by Einstein seems to get reiterated to support a claim that he was a fellow believer. There's an obscure Einstein letter going up for auction that's got some juicy stuff to fire back, though.

Keep this one in mind next time someone tries to tell you that Einstein was on their side:

The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.

This comment will start a few flames:

For me the Jewish religion like all others is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything 'chosen' about them.

Note, please, that Einstein's views are not a final authority here, and you're nuts if you decide you should be godless because Einstein was — this is simply more useful information to oppose arguments from authority.

I have to be honest: after reading that what would Einstein think of Jews with power, or a Jewish state with nuclear weapons? He would probably sound a lot like Chomsky.

May 17

Will Elder, one of the legendary EC/MAD artists, has passed away. Best written obit for him is here (Bad link: try here and here.)at the Comic Reporter. Gene Colan is still with us.Update: And Marvel is paying for Gene's health care costs. Good move from the big evil corporate behemoth for a change...

I'm sorry but this fixed wing jet maaaaan story is cool. He's cool. This is cool.

Really good writing from around the Internets. Featuring Katha Pollitt:

Where were the tough questions about the church's absolute ban on contraception, condoms, divorce and abortion--even to save a woman's life? If it was up to Benedict, we might be more stylish than the plural wives of the FLDS, but we'd be trapped in marriage and have fifteen children just like them. In the United States the Catholic church has lost some of its moral authority--thank you, pedophile priests--but it has more temporal power than you might think. Around 12 percent of US hospitals are church-affiliated, which entitles them to refuse modern reproductive healthcare to women. The church is the major opponent of the drive to make health insurance plans cover birth control, forcing women to pay up to $600 out of pocket every year for contraceptives. Along with evangelical Protestants, it is the main force behind every attempt to restrict abortion, defeat prochoice politicians, make contraception and the morning-after pill harder to get, promote false and sexist abstinence-only education and discourage the use of condoms to prevent HIV by spreading unfounded doubts about their effectiveness.

Catholic charities do a lot of good, but the Vatican is a major obstacle to the advancement of women's human rights. In Nicaragua and El Salvador it recently won a total ban on abortion that has already led to dozens of deaths. In Chile it defeated President Michelle Bachelet's plan to give out emergency contraception gratis. In Italy, Poland and elsewhere in Europe it works night and day to make abortion illegal or hard to obtain. In AIDS-plagued Africa its opposition to condoms, contraception and abortion rights has cost millions of lives. None of this is as titillating as pastel-swathed "sister wives" and their vast log-cabin dormitories, but it affects almost everyone on the globe. FLDS men have many wives and the Pope has none, which goes to show there's more than one way to keep women pregnant and in their place.

May 15

The Great Gene Colan is suffering from ill health. I still hate that kid down the street who stole my classic Wolfman/Colan Draculas.

May 13

The great science fiction artist John Berkey died yesterday. He specialized in these massively detailed space ships. You've seen his work even if you don't know his name. More gallery stuff here.

Award for best piece of online writing of the day goes to: Terrance from the Booman Tribune.

Here's a snippet but read the whole thing.

And those are just a few of the kids who are dealing with the consequences of our war in Iraq. A war we didn't have to fight.

Hey Valerie, how about the kids you don't see? Would you object to snapshots of the kids who are suffering war-related trauma? How about the kids who are suffering fro cholera, and will for the next two years, because their cities and towns are swimming in raw sewage? How about the kids who are burned when the come across our left over WMDs? You might prefer pictures of schools being painted, but how about the children trying to learn in ruined schools; schools ruined as a consequence of our war, that is? How would you feel about pictures of the Iraqi children turned out into the sex trade, to relieve the grinding poverty our war plunged them and their families into? Would you be offended by pictures of the Iraqi children forced to sell their bodies as a means to support their families? If a picture of a dead two-year-old offends you, would you prefer a picture of a live 16-year-old boy, trapped in the Baghdad sex trade? Would you rather see a picture of the two dozen orphan boys found starving and neglected in an government run orphanage? (We can't blame Saddam for this one, either, since this happened just last summer.) Speaking of orphans, How about pictures of the children whose parents have abandoned them, out of desperation for their own survival in the U.S. occupation of Iraq? If their owners will allow it, maybe we could get a snapshot of the children who have been sold by their families, just to get them out of Iraq and give them a chance at a better life.

Here's the clip show that came with this story. Remember: the Iraqi war is a war of evil. We're the Germans this time. Think and act accordingly.

May 12

A Special Blog Until You Die Around the Internets

Found this over at Fred Lapides porn site, which is one of the better porn sites out there. Fred, though, oftentimes serves as an apologist for Israeli atrocities. You will see him cry over dead horses, but not murdered Palestinians. How American.

Apparently, when you murder the hot blond cylon and the hot blond cylon remembers that you murdered her in a particularly cruel and ghastly way she's not entirely happy about that. Not happy about you killing them like an insect or mouthing off about how you would be happy to do it again. Didn't know that. That was the short version of last week's Battlestar Galactica (Faith) Related and hinted at: When you create the creepy multiple-haired clones of oneself there's a possibility that versions of you will be more than just friends. Edison Hate Future.

Agent Ska, my fake virtual girlfriend who even now is starring in my lurid fantasy "Texas Atheist Compound" ("Well, all the girls wear brown shoes and pink/blue dresses here...It's our way Laura. Now as your husband/father it's time for you to come to bed, but not before I've tilled the field with the 1993 version of Bjork...." as read by the late Lorne Greene.) has a new blog. I'll probably read it occasionally. Nice piece of writing here. Now, has she really outgrown the ex-POG boyfriend or is she just working her way toward selling out?

Very scary article about Hillary Clinton's new best publisher friend Lex Luthor Richard Scaife. Related: I should probably proclaim, in a loud and public way, once again that I'm not a suicide. I may have many good reasons to commit suicide but I'm a hopeless optimist. More related: Very public statements that you won't commit suicide aren't always helpful.

First test for Obama: Say no to Hillary as the VP. I mean, come on. I don't care if there are powerful forces that want it. Related: Barack Obama would not commit suicide. He's full of hope, not to mention the hot wife and the beautiful kids.

May 7

By the way, barring involvement with brothels with nazi paraphernalia and the usual bad things that happen to black leaders, Barack Obama is the Democratic Party nominee.

Its the math. Obama might be able to win it with pledged delegates if he gets a big win in Oregon. I also agree that Bill Richardson, or "Judas" as he's known in Clinton quarters, makes sense as the VP. He's likeable, shores up Latino support and he puts New Mexico in the win column. That would be a real change ticket. I think Hillary has run a disgraceful campaign which should disqualify her for the VP spot. Not to mention that it would not be unlike having Lady Macbeth as your VP, always with helpful advice I'm sure. But never say never in politics. My other VP pick is Sherrod Brown, the new senator from Ohio.

Let's face it: the wife of my blood cousin on my father's side might be some kind of frackin' artistic genius. Her latest paintings are also a tribute to the novels of Jules Verne. The one above is called "Captain Nemo". Might try a more contemporary science fiction writer though. Say, Greg Egan. Related: She has also made the Youtubes. Very talented woman. Somewhat Related: Mother's Side cousin Leonce Gaiter, more masculine than Michael Jackson but probably not more masculine than Prince, has removed his vids from the Youtubes. I wish he hadn't done that. They were very thoughtful and sort of serve as a historical record. Ah well.

Can't stop looking at the video above. Can't stop listening to the video below.

May 6

(Review by Joan at Oped here.)

Nuns and students without valid photo ID turned away from the Indiana polls, according to Bradblog. Not an accident and thank you so much my neo Jim Crow Supreme Court. Atrios doesn't get the magnitude of this. It kind of is a grand magnificent conspiracy. Writer at Booman Tribune correctly sees nature of grand magnificent conspiracy in a piece titled: "The Republican War on Voting Rights". Here's a snippet:

The real basic take away here is that if you are going to tip elections, you aren’t going to be able to do it “one vote at a time” as these voter id, anti-voter laws purport to combat.

You do it by rigging the system from the inside - by massive voter roll purges that are designed to purge the very demographics that are most likely to hurt the other party, by challenging districting in order to “make it more fair for people’s votes to be reflective of the district”, by implementing laws that are meant to keep millions of people who are likely to vote for the other party from voting and by stacking the deck in the positions where the voting machines are selected and monitored, where the federal and state election laws are “interpreted”, where the decisions are made with respect to voter registration and how the elections are run and even having cousins in the very media outlets who are calling the races for their candidate-cousins.

Make no mistake - this is a more than just a major partisan initiative. This is an all out assault on the voting rights of millions of potential Democratic voters and therefore, votes. This is a premeditated, long term, wide ranging attack against millions of Americans’ voting rights. But it isn’t just an assault on Democratic voters. It is an assault on the most basic right that a democracy affords.

And it should be referred to accordingly.

May 4

One more issue of one of the best comic series I have ever read. Two quick short reviews: "You killed Dom! You bastards!"

And two: Most comics don't end with what looks like a nuclear explosion....I also agree with Wikipedia and the fan page at White Chapel: Tom Noir is still alive. He faked his death.

As you may or may not know, there's a split over at 2 Political Junkies. Dayvoe backs Obama and Maria backs the Clintons. It's getting a little testy. They might be down to one political junkie in the future. Anyway, I left this comment at one of Dayvoe's posts where I speculate what would happen to the always dependable black vote if Hillary were to steal the nomination:

At 11:40 AM, Anonymous Philip Shropshire said...

Thank you for setting the record straight as usual. I might note that Keith Olbermann is the most courageous newsman on the air today. That he still has a job shocks and surprises me. That isn't to say that he's beyond criticism but he's one of the few real friends in the MSM, (but) if you're reduced to attacking him and not seeing that Scaife/Hillary lovefest ...not to mention that his paper is playing up the Wright thing (Obama knows a scary black man didn't you know how awful...)

Question for Maria: Okay, so Hillary pulls out all the stops, maligns Obama until he's left a bleeding corpse, buys off the remaining superdelegates (she has the money of course being that she made 100 million off the Jimmy Carter honorable...) and wins the nomination. The black vote, of which I am one, will then dutifully vote for the rich old white lady, who thinks lobbyists is people too?

Well, I don't think that would happen. There would be a huge backlash among arguably the most loyal constituency that the dems have. It would split the party if she were to muscle the superdelegates into violating the popular will.

I might also note that every African American knows that if the positions were switched Obama would be out of the race. Period. On the other hand, I suppose I've always wondered if Obama has actually faced real bigotry, or a kind of irrational hatred that reverts to stereotype no matter Obama's personal resume of excellence. I guess he's learning about the kind of "america" most african americans live on. Or: when you have a shot at winning we'll change the rules.

Philip Shropshire

PS: Appropriate youtube vid:

Why Richard Dawkins, for no good reason, continues to be a mean ol' atheist. I mean, where does the man's hostility come from. Who knows. Reality perhaps?

Interesting conversation about science featuring hot woman who looks like a hot woman I used to date (Or as I used to joke about Christine: We both thought she could do better.). If you really enjoyed the film Mindwalk, then this is for you...

From Treehugger, say it ten times fast: How much gas can Switch Grass switch, if we could switch gas with Switch Grass?

May 1

My favorite Move On Ad.

Quantity isn't the only reason people prefer the Internets over traditional media. A lot of the time the quality is better as well. For Exhibit One: the often incredible writings of Agent Ska's brother, who's been traveling all over the world and he's not visiting safe places, either. He's a Year of Living Dangerously kind of guy. I might note that what he does sounds like a cover for a spy (in the movies anyway) but I'm sure he's not. (See torture scene in latest Bond movie...) Contrast and compare this piece that he wrote with, say, Ruth Ann's latest:

As much as I like Sri Lanka, I’m not going to miss this stuff - it was a cheap, guilty thrill at first (look! guys with guns! posters of dead people! boy I ain’t in Kansas anymore!!) but it fades very very quickly into dull apathy, occasionally broken by revulsion and, to be honest, sometimes even real fear - standing alone on the side of a road as stressed, heavily-armed police prepare for an oncoming motorcade, you look around and idly ponder just how many ways you could die or lose a limb in the next minute. Bomb or claymore mine in that open drain or that pile of trash or tucked into the concrete lane divider; car coming from that lightly-guarded alley ramming the motorcade as it passes by you; bodyguards panicking and firing wildly as a sniper unloads from a rooftop.

Usually just a bloody-minded mental exercise, but sometimes it escalates beyond as the time trickles on and there’s nowhere you can go; the imagination accelerates its speculations, the brain imagines how upset friends and family will be, if you get yourself killed, that you stupidly put yourself in harm’s way instead of simply going by a different route, and the pit in the stomach starts to overcome the professional’s interest in the security preparation, convoy and escort packages, etc. Myopic, cowardly, selfish, paranoid, ridiculous, melodramatic, sure, but that’s life. Then the Hummers and troop trucks and motorcycle outriders and ambulances and armored SUVs and darkened-windows limos blaze by, horns honking and lights flashing and guns pointing, and disappear into the distance. And there you are again on the other side, a bit sweatier, a little later in the day, looking for a place to reload your cell phone account and pick up some cookies.

I also fast realized that much of the intellectual interest one can take in the place is completely dependent on the fact that you have a ticket out - for actual normal people with nowhere else t