February 8, 2013

War Crimes and Irony

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 1:28 pm

“Turnabout,” the 1931 novel by Thorne Smith was given a very strong recommendation that sparked a relentless search in used book stores from New York City to Los Angeles.  The story is about the struggles of a married couple who became the victims of an ancient Egyptian god’s practical joke when he magically (as ancient Egyptian gods are permitted to do) switched their minds into the other’s body.

Our quest to find that obscure literary treasure came to an end in Los Angels many moons ago.  The book delivered the expected level of entertainment and in an odd twist of fate that copy of that particular paperback was handed off to the fellow who had given the original recommendation because he wanted to re-read the hilarious antics again.

It turned out that the concept of two fictional characters trading minds had previously been used in an obscure short story, written by A. Conan Doyle, about a student and one of his professors.

The concept of two disparate personalities switching host bodies was used in the Tom Hanks film “Big” which told the tale of a father and young son who experienced that particular transformation.

In a week in which Republicans were castigating a Democratic President for not following the rules of warfare and the Dems were shrugging off the criticism with studied nonchalance in the “I can’t hear you” mode of saying “bugger off,” the entire staff at the World’s Laziest Journalist headquarters was coping with a strong attack of déjà vu . . .

President Obama let an opportunity to investigate the possibility that George W. Bush and his posse might have (subjunctive mood) exceeded the bounds of good taste slip away and then when Obama gave his acceptant speech at the Nobel Peace Awards, he sounded a tad bellicose.  Now, the Obama supporters approach the subject of impeachment and charges of war crimes with a very Karl Rove-ish sounding collective voice and the Repubs (does that word mean folks who visit a tavern for the second time in one night?) are snickering with fiendish delight.

Isn’t there an old legal adage that states “Silence Implies Consent!”?

So if Obama was silent about any possible Bush complicity in war crimes (and he was), then, at the very least, the possibility has to be considered that Obama was an accessory after the fact for any (hypothetically speaking) Bush War Crimes.

The German High Command in WWII went to great lengths to insure that the citizens of their country didn’t know what was happening and thus they had a legitimate claim to say to the members of the various allied armies that occupied Germany after the war was over that the average German in the streets didn’t know what was being done in their name by their leaders.

George W. Bush made goddamn sure that his policies were reported by America’s Free Press and thus insured that sooner or later Americans would be accessories before, during, and after the fact to his dirty deeds, if, indeed, there were any.

How many conservatives completely ignored the precepts contained in Robert Jackson’s opening statement at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial and cried;  “He (Bush) didn’t know that there was no WMD’s!”?  More than a few.

Any debate, at this point, over which Party’s guy did or did not commit war crimes is an exercise in futility.

The War Crimes Studies Center operates on the University of California Berkeley campus and since they haven’t made any headlines about launching an investigation into the possibility of any Bush war crimes, that aught to settle the question once and for all.

By a remarkable coincidence, John Yoo, who led the team of legal advisors that George W. Bush used to insure that he never, either deliberately or accidentally, did anything which might arouse suspicions of potential War Crimes, works on that same campus and perhaps the War Crimes Study Center could invite Yu to be a guest lecturer who would be able to suggest to other countries what effective measures could be used to insure that their leaders would never commit a War Crime.  Isn’t preventing War Crimes as the Yoo team did, just as important as studying other countries’ War Crimes?

On Thursday February 7, 2012, Senator Diane Feinstein explained to excitable, gullible political activists that their concern about civilian casualties from drone strikes are based on only seven or eight fatalities and that efforts to allay their fears and rectify their gross misperception, based on a regrettable clerical error, should be made.

The fact that the Dems now sound like Bush supporters and the Repubs sound like some old Berkeley peaceniks, might appeal to some people with a connoisseur’s appreciation for irony (Isn’t the dictionary definition of irony:  saying the exact opposite of what you mean?  Don’t many people often incorrectly use that word [irony] when they mean poignancy?).

The cavalcade of confusion this week on talk radio is what brought the old literary gem, Thorne Smith’s “Turnabout,” to mind this week.

Many of Smith’s comic novels were turned into classic movie comedies and later TV series.  His novel “Topper,” became a hit movie for MGM in 1937 (with Cary Grant as the ghost George Kirby) and later a popular TV series in the Fifties.  Smith’s “The Passionate Witch” ultimately became the 1942 hit movie “I Married a Witch” and subsequently that morphed into the TV series “Bewitched.”

Smith’s novel “The Bishop’s Jaegers,” which told a story about a rich geek accompanied by his adventurous secretary and recounts their reactions when they land in a nudist camp.  It was ahead of its time when it was published in 1932.  Apparently it is still a little too edgy to be adapted into a film script today.

The acquisitions librarian at the World’s Laziest Journalist headquarter’s tried for twenty years to acquire a copy of “The Bishop’s Jaegers.”  At one point he balked at the chance to purchase a collector’s hard back edition for a hundred bucks.  Ultimately, at a used bookstore on Wilshire Blvd., in Santa Monica, he stumbled across a used paper back in the bargain bin for a dime.

Isn’t it rather poignant to note that Germans are not afraid of nudity but they are ashamed of their country’s participation in war crimes while Americans are terrorized by the concept of a nudist camp but are completely unfazed by the remote possibility of any hypothetical involvement in War Crimes.

At this point, some of this columnist’s faithful readers might expect this column to segue into a column’s end quote using Australian outlaw Ned Kelly’s final words, but that, like a War Crimes trial for an American leader, aint’ gonna happen.

In an opinion piece titled “Fear and Loathing in the Bunker,” published in the New York Times on January 1, 1974, Hunter S. Thompson predicted:  “ . . . an American invasion, seizure and terminal occupation of all oil-producing countries in the Middle East.”

Now the disk jockey will play “The Age of Aquarius,” “Springtime for Hitler,” and Randy Newman’s “Let’s Drop the Big One Now!”  We have to go dig up a new wedge issue.  Have a “no foul, no harm” type week.

March 22, 2011

Pundits doing a Turnabout?

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 4:12 pm

Thorne Smith’s 1930 novel, “Turnabout,” was recommended to this columnist, before the Vietnam war began to spin out of control, as a hilarious romp for several reasons and, since the suggestion to add it to our reading list came from “a reliable source,” we commenced an effort to locate a copy of the book.

When it looked like a win in the California primary would give Bobby Kennedy a big boost in momentum and a good chance to win the Democratic Party’s Presidential Nomination, we were seized by a strong premonition while entering a used bookstore in downtown Los Angeles. We were certain that we would find a copy of the sought after novel there. As we left, we noted that our hunch had been bogus, but then we suddenly rekindled our effort by going back in and looking in the “humor” section. Success!

The book tells the story of a married couple whose spirits, due to a mysterious magical statue, exchange the host bodies. The man is in the wife’s body and she finds herself inside the man’s body. The guy is immediately paralyzed by the prospect of becoming pregnant and enduring the challenges of childbirth. The woman is plunged into the world of bonding with the other “guys” at work.

Smith had a short but productive career and many of his novels were turned into profitable films. To the best of our knowledge, “Turnabout” wasn’t filmed. The basic plot-line has been turned into a Hollywood cliché, but in all the examples of mind-exchange films, “Turnabout” has been overlooked.

Some time after reading “Turnabout,” we learned that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had written a short story about a similar mystical event that involved a college professor and one of his students, who had a school boy crush on his teacher’s wife.

[Smith’s “The Bishop’s Jaegers” is still too far ahead of its time to be movie-ized. Perhaps some avant-garde French director will show Hollywood, how it can be done.]

What brought this to mind while we were hypnotized by a tea kettle making ominous seductive noises at Oh-dark-thirty in the morning was the recent bit of political philosophy disorientation produced when a nominal member of the Democrat Party used a page right out of the Bush Family White House Instruction manual and sent thousands of bombs and cruise missiles into Libya to protect that country’s citizens from being killed by its leader.

The Democrats are recycling all the Republican pro Invasion of Iraq arguments to answer the Republicans’ recasting of the old “Bush is a war monger” Democrat talking points from earlier in this century. Talk about bringing “Turnabout” to life on the evening news broadcast.

For example, when a fellow member of the Berkeley Brigade of Bloggers (at the Berkeley Press Club?) asked this columnist to explain why Barry Bush (AKA code name “Obama”) had authorized the use of depleted uranium ammunition in the new jingoistic military adventure, before we could take a deep breath, we had blurted out this question: “If the American goal is genocide, doesn’t it make sense to use radiation to sterilize the males that can’t be killed?”

All the confusion brings up a question with disturbing psychological implications: “Are the Republicans being hypocritical when they use old recycled anti-Bush material to disparage Obama?

If some Republicans assert that Obama should be impeached for ignoring the Constitution which specifically states that Congress should vote to authorize any new wars rather than letting the President use the military in a “king’s army” capacity, do they realize that they are opening themselves up to the allegation that Bush committed an impeachable offence when he ordered up a search for Iraq’s non-existent WMD’s?

If the Republicans are using old Democratic talking points inadvertently, then they would seem to be blissfully ignorant of the nature of Bush’s offences, but if they are fully cognizant of the fact that they are spouting old Democratic talking points then that means they could be doing so with extreme sarcastic intent.

Are Democrats that anxious to believe that the Republicans who, under the direction of Field Marshal Karl von Rove, have spent years preparing for the time when a conservative majority judicial system might come in handy, have now made an inept and impulsive error? Could it be that plans for a Democratic party dupe (knowingly or unknowingly?) who would use the Bush strategy to start a new and unauthorized (by Congress) war, were at the ready when the first day of “Shock and Awe” was presented on network Television?

Perhaps the recycling of old Democratic talking points was part of a long term strategy and it is being implemented now with an extra added amount of “rubbing salt in the wounds” enthusiasm just for spite?

At this point giving Republicans credit for being sly as a Fox (news?), while playing “dumb,” to make a subtle point might remind some fans of the comic strip “Peanuts,” of the series where Charlie Brown, on the pitcher’s mound, tries to out-think the opposing team’s batter. “If he knows that a fast ball would work well now, but he knows that I would figure out that a fast ball would work well now, and I know that he knows that I would figure that out . . .” Strategy gridlock? Isn’t war for completely humanitarian reasons a bit of an oxymoron?

On Tuesday, March 22, 2011, Uncle Rushbo was asking if any listeners could tell him why the United States is “in Libya.” If the Democrats and Conservatives run the emotional level of discussion up enough, could there be a Twilight Zone type twist ending waiting in the wings? When the Democrats start delivering fever pitch defenses of the Obama decision to defend Libyans would it be a Rod Serling ending if the Conservatives suddenly say: “We fully agree with the Democrats, we just wanted to hear them enthusiastically promoting a new war in the Middle East.”?

If America uses a private company to provide support services to the military and if a new war will produce greater gross revenue for such a private company, what (if any) are the drawbacks for a new and profitable military venture . . . especially if it can become a perpetual war providing that company with an infinite supply of profits?

Isn’t it time for some clever editor to write a “Yes, Virginia, Americans are still ‘the good guys’” editorial? Of course a conservative might want to wait until a Republican is elected President to “straighten out the Obama mess” before running such a hypothetical opinion. The Republicans have all the time it will take, if the wars become perpetual.

Isn’t a perpetual war a lot like increased radiation levels? You either learn to live with it or die in the attempt.

In “the Bishop’s Jaegers” (Pocket Books Inc. November 1954 17th printing paperback edition [25 cents for “the complete book” {“Illustrated with many wonderful drawings by Herbert Roese”}]) on page 64, Thorne Smith wrote: “It was this latter possibility that brought Peter to a full realization of his position. For the first time he saw himself as indubitably he would appear in the eyes of others. He saw himself not as an innocent man but simply as a stark naked coffee importer dazzlingly greeting his guests at the door of his ancestral home.”

Now the disk jockey will play “Lady Godiva,” “Night train,” and Janice (“It’s all the same f*****g [Remember what Col. Kurtz said about that word?] day, man”) Joplin’s “Get it while you can.” We have to go apply for press credentials for this year’s Nudestock Music Festival. Have a “let it all hang out” type week.

Powered by WordPress