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Exercising Free Speech

Crank Call


Published February 2, 2005 at 5:00 p.m.

"Of all insults, the temporary condescension of a master to a slave is the most outrageous and galling. That potentate who most condescends, mark him well; for that potentate, if occasion come, will prove your uttermost tyrant."

-- Herman Melville

Melville! Who reads Melville anymore, outside of school? And, even there, I suspect, Moby Dick is too long to hold the average student's attention, never mind the teachers', who are too busy testing kids to see if they can count to 10 in order to teach them anything.

Call me Ishmael. Call me a cab.

My ongoing -- and, I confess, ever more desperate -- efforts to avoid thinking about the nightmares of a second Bush regime have left me unsure this week of what to write about. I say this with all modesty, since readers of this column will know that I'm never at a loss for words when it comes to "Bush-bashing."

Right now, however, after the "resounding success" of Sunday's elections in Iraq, and with that foul squirt preening and yapping more cynically then ever about "democracy on the march," I just haven't got the heart for it. Many more Iraqis, not to mention American soldiers, will die before this monster's "mission" is through and, besides, so many people have been writing about it already better than I could. A short sampler:

Matthew Rothschild in The Progressive: "I guess when you believe you're driving God's car, and when you believe He's giving you global positioning, and when you believe He's right there in the back seat blurting out directions, you don't care so much if you run people over in the process, lots of people, even your own people."

Paul Craig Roberts on http://Antiwar.com: "The Bush administration is not establishing any democracies. It is starting a war that will last a generation. That is the neocon plan."

Sidney Blumenthal in the London Guardian: "For [the neocons], Bush's [inaugural] rhetoric about 'eternal hope that is meant to be fulfilled' was a sign of their triumph. The speech, crowed neocon William Kristol, who consulted on it, was indeed 'informed by Strauss' -- a reference to Leo Strauss, philosopher of obscurantist strands of absolutist thought, mentor and inspiration to some neocons who believe they fulfill his teaching by acting as tutors to politicians in need of their superior guidance."

And there I was thinking that Strauss had something to do with Viennese waltzes! So, you see, I'm not fit for this job and will have to turn to more personal matters if I hope to survive another exercise in punditry. I'll try to limit it to those human-interest issues of "health and science" that fill our newspapers and airwaves every week, day and night, since these have been much on my mind lately.

Shall we start with my colonoscopy, or my sprained back and broken toe? Both of these are worth columns in themselves. Or maybe I should just turn to the headlines, among them a report from Germany. That disloyal ally of traitorous France insists that, if you want to live a long time in good health, you should stop the dieting and exercising and just lie around on the couch eating bon-bons.

"Scientists in Germany have found that too much exercise is bad for you and that doing less could lengthen your life," according to London's Daily Telegraph. Depending on where you live, of course, you'd have to get out of the way of famine, malaria, cholera, AIDS, civil war, tsunamis and suicide bombers, but that's not much to ask, is it, if you really value your life? The Telegraph reports:

"In a new book called The Joy of Laziness: How to Slow Down and Live Longer, Dr. Peter Axt, retired professor of health science at Fulda University near Frankfurt, and his daughter, Dr. Michaela Axt-Gadermann, a GP, say that everybody has a limited amount of 'life energy' and that the speed with which it is consumed determines their life span.

"They argue that high-energy activities, such as pounding the treadmill at the gym, accelerates the aging process and makes the body more susceptible to illness." The only exercise that's really any good for you, say the Axt-Gadermanns, is laughing. Or "fidgeting." Or "daily chores."

Well, I knew that -- nothing could get me to "pound the treadmill at the gym," although American "health experts" still insist that running yourself ragged and starving yourself to death are the best way to ensure your survival beyond the statistical average. It's also recommended (in this country, anyway) that women over 70 walk all the time -- constantly, for miles, every day -- so as to stave off those few years of "dementia" that might hit them even without Bush in power.

Another story from Germany, the original Vaterland, reports on a new TV "reality" show, called "Sperm Race," in which the contestants -- all male, I assume -- vie with one another to see which one of them has the "fastest sperm." That is, the fastest in its movement toward "the egg," which the producers determine by freezing the stuff and sending it off to some lab, whereupon the "winner" receives a free Porsche.

"Three doctors, including a gynecologist, will be on hand to make sure the sperm behave correctly, while cameras will record it all" -- this from the Observer.

Somehow -- at least for the next couple of years, before standards of any kind disappear -- I doubt that it will "all" be recorded, especially the ejaculations that must necessarily take place in order to win the car. Just give it some time, though, and you'll see that happen, too.

Or maybe you really would rather hear about my colonoscopy? But that's for another column.

Speaking of Crank Call