Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Work will set you free

In the category of "saying it will make it so," comes news (belated to me) that the military has renamed 17 Iraqi bases:
The Army has renamed 17 of its bases in and around the Iraqi capital, dropping cocky names like Camp Steel Dragon for more benign ones like Camp Honor.

Gone also is Camp Headhunter, Camp Banzai, Camp Warhorse and Camp Gunslinger. Since mid-September, those bases have been renamed camps Independence, Justice, Freedom and Solidarity.

The new names have been given Arabic translations, which have become the official titles that now appear on signs and news releases.

Already, on Camp Victory North, now renamed Camp Liberty, signs declare that travelers have entered Camp Al-Tahreer or Camp Liberation.

If I didn't know better, I would truly believe this to be an Onion story. Camp Headhunter has become Camp Independence and Camp Gunslinger has become Camp Solidarity. You can't make this shit up.

Please tell me they were just checking spelling

By now most of you have heard that Merriam-Webster has declared "blog" the number one word of the year. Myself, I like CNN's definition "A four-letter term that came to symbolize the difference between old and new media during this year's presidential campaign" better than M-W's "a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments and often hyperlinks." If this were my online personal journal I surely would have written a post about my challenges with tasks such as getting my car washed and one titled "if you can't change your life, you can at least change your hair," but I have refrained.

In any case, the real news to me is in the rest of the list:
2. incumbent
3. electoral
4. insurgent
5. hurricane
6. cicada
7. peloton : noun (1951) : the main body of riders in a bicycle race
8. partisan
9. sovereignty
10. defenestration

It seems pretty dominated by politics and plagues, huh? Just please reassure me that people simply want to check the spelling of "electoral" or "incumbent" or "partisan." People know what those words mean, right? Why do I get the sense that most of the folks who needed to look up the definition of "incumbent" voted for him.

And defenestration? How great is that. That's always been one of my favorite words. I'm not really clear why it's the tenth most popular word to look up, unless the electoral college and the partisan politics of the incumbent have more people more upset than I thought.

Let's just not amend it right now, okay?

Of course, you all know that along with the desire to deny rights to gay citizens, another reason some folks want to amend the Constitution right now is to enable foreign-born citizens, or let's just call it like it is--Arnold Schwarzenegger--the right to run for president. My thinking on the former issue has been largely limited to "I hate bigoted people," and "I really fucking hate bigoted people," so it hadn't really occurred to me until just now that, were the bigots to get their way, it would be the first time we've amended the Constitution to deny a group of people rights based on their identity. I'm not even sure such an amendment has been proposed before. Wow. Good times everybody.

On a lighter note, Arnold's opposition is dusting off copies of the Constitution as well. A friend at work sent me this link yesterday. The more you look at it, the more hilarious it becomes. At first, you're trotting through some fairly familiar ground--the fact that Arnold's dad was an SS officer, A's reprehensible record for fondling women....Then you get to a line like this one, "Arnold was tapped for the Gubernatorial run at the occult-entrenched Bohemian Grove and rubbed elbows with the illuminati at the Rothchilds family home."

Can I tell you I laughed out loud all alone here in the apartment (well, with Nic the cat, but he's not a good mirth-sharer). The Illuminati are back!! No wonder everything's so fucked up. It's all making sense to me now.

Blame Canada

Here's a quickie I got from my sister via email.

Filed under: Humor— Techievampire @ 11:50 pm

The flood of American liberals sneaking across the border into Canada has intensified in the past week, sparking calls for increased patrols to stop the illegal immigration.

The re-election of President Bush is prompting the exodus among left-leaning citizens who fear they'll soon be required to hunt, pray and agree with Bill O'Reilly.

Canadian border farmers say it's not uncommon to see dozens of sociology professors, animal-rights activists and Unitarians crossing their fields at night.

"I went out to milk the cows the other day, and there was a Hollywood producer huddled in the barn," said Manitoba farmer Red Greenfield, whose acreage borders North Dakota.

The producer was cold, exhausted and hungry.

"He asked me if I could spare a latte and some free-range chicken. When I said I didn't have any, he left. Didn't even get a chance to show him my screenplay, eh?"

In an effort to stop the illegal aliens, Greenfield erected higher fences, but the liberals scaled them. So he tried installing speakers that blare Rush Limbaugh across the fields.

"Not real effective," he said. "The liberals still got through, and Rush annoyed the cows so much they wouldn't give milk."

Officials are particularly concerned about smugglers who meet liberals near the Canadian border, pack them into Volvo station wagons, drive them across the border and leave them to fend for themselves.

"A lot of these people are not prepared for rugged conditions," an Ontario border patrolman said. "I found one carload without a drop of drinking water. They did have a nice little Napa Valley cabernet, though."

When liberals are caught, they're sent back across the border, often wailing loudly that they fear retribution from conservatives. Rumors have been circulating about the Bush administration establishing re-education camps in which liberals will be forced to drink domestic beer and watch NASCAR.

In the days since the election, liberals have turned to sometimes-ingenious ways of crossing the border.

Some have taken to posing as senior citizens on bus trips to buy cheap Canadian prescription drugs. After catching a half-dozen young vegans disguised in powdered wigs, Canadian immigration authorities began stopping buses and quizzing the supposed senior-citizen passengers.

"If they can't identify the accordion player on The Lawrence Welk Show, we get suspicious about their age," an official said.

Canadian citizens have complained that the illegal immigrants are creating an organic-broccoli shortage and renting all the good Susan Sarandon movies.

"I feel sorry for American liberals, but the Canadian economy just can't support them," an Ottawa resident said. "How many art-history majors does one country need?"

In an effort to ease tensions between the United States and Canada, Vice President Dick Cheney met with the Canadian ambassador and pledged that the administration would take steps to reassure liberals, a source close to Cheney said.

"We're going to have some Peter, Paul & Mary concerts. And we might put some endangered species on postage stamps. The president is determined to reach out."

Joe Blundo is a Dispatch columnist.

Why it is good I am not a secret agent

It kills me that I can't write about the trial, let me tell you. It is quite the anthropological experience. Let me just say this...I really hope I never have a lawyer whose cell phone goes off repeatedly during a trial.

(And here's another thing...I'm away from my computer for something like 8 hours and I miss so much news. More rats deserting the sinking ship, more former military folks conscripted, more atrocities. Heavy sigh. If I got sequestered I might actually learn how to be an optimist again.)

Juror #3 is now going to take a nap before evening work and light blogging.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Utterly silly

There's no excuse for a post like this, I know. (Have I mentioned that I have a think about against the knitting craze?)

From the In Box

Below is the text of an email from the ACLU asking to sign their "I refuse to surrender my freedom" petition. And why not do that, huh? If you're skeptical or still nursing a grudge from Skokie, check out their Lost Liberty pages. It's really a good time to be an ACLU member (though don't make the mistake of thinking it will get you out of jury duty.)

Dear Friend,

Something extraordinary is happening.

In the last two weeks, thousands of people - deeply concerned about the
direction our country has taken - have spontaneously joined the ACLU. They've added their names to those of over 400,000 other Americans committed to defending the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Today our most fundamental freedoms are in jeopardy. Only a bold, spirited
movement of people like you who refuse to surrender your freedoms can protect our civil liberties.

On January 20th, George Bush will pledge to uphold the Constitution. Our
goal is to recruit 100,000 new ACLU supporters by that day to proclaim "I REFUSE TO SURRENDER MY FREEDOM."

Let's make it clear to those who seek to take away our freedoms that they
are on the wrong side of the law...the wrong side of core American values...and the wrong side of history.

The more forcefully we speak out and the more voices that join us the more
effective we can be -- in the courts, in the press, in Congress - in protecting our freedoms against those who would trample them.

Your active participation has been so important to our work, and we hope
you will help launch this campaign by doing two things right now:

1. Sign the "I Refuse to Surrender my Freedom" pledge.

2. After you sign, ask three of your friends to take the pledge too.

Right-wing extremists are more than ready to expand the Patriot Act,
attack the separation of church and state, expand their efforts to institutionalize discrimination against same-sex couples, and limit a woman's right to make her own decisions about her body.

Some of the most powerful politicians in America are determined to undermine our fundamental freedoms and the basic constitutional principles that define our democracy.

Please stand up, sign the pledge -- and defend the principles and values
that represent the best of America.


Anthony D. Romero
Executive Director

Where to shop and where to not

The Center for Responsive Politics "tracks money in politics, and its effect on elections and public policy." This page lists major retailers, how much they contributed during the 2004 election cycle, and to which party. I'll bet you can guess most of it:

  • Wal-Mart Stores contributed $2,005,516, 20% to Dems and 80% to Reps
  • Home Depot contributed $716,270, 6% to Dems and 94% to Reps
  • Target Corp contributed $314,588, 26% to Dems and 73% to Reps

It doesn't look too good for the dems at all until you get to the Gap and Barnes & Noble (the latter which contributed $103,850, 98% to dems and 2% to reps! there go those book readers again.)

The media possibilities are better. (I may have to rethink my refusal to believe in the "liberal media.") Books always make a good gift.

I was always told, growing up, that a boycott is only good as its publicity, so if you chose to forego shopping at one of these places (say picking Costco over Wal-mart--please do), think about dropping a letter or email to them explaining why you're not shopping there or buying their products.

Or you could just boycott the holiday altogether

Me and my big mouth

Yes, I have been selected to serve on a jury. Of course, I can't say much about that except that I won't be blogging during daytime hours for the next few days. God help me if it lasts much longer than that. It's civil, not criminal so I'm cautiously optimistic. Next time I get called though, I'm wearing a black tee shirt with a big anarchy symbol on the front of it (though I love Gordon's approach--see the comments in the post below).

A few notable things. First, the Burbank court house not only doesn't have a cafeteria, it doesn't even have a vending machine that dispenses coffee. Given that we all had to assemble at 8:00 a.m., it was a bit like the land of the lotus eaters in the waiting room. The woman who led us through the orientation came off like the judicial equivalent of Nurse Ratchet (sp?). We watched two videos about being a juror (this is how you know the courthouse is in Burbank) both of which had people saying how unique and great America is because we get to be tried by a jury of our peers. Sigh. After the whole introductory rigmarole, Nurse R. softens up. She looks at us with big sad clown eyes and tells us about the comment/suggestion box. "If for example," she says in a desperate and beseeching kind of way, "If you want to suggest the Burbank courthouse get a coffee stand, you could fill out one of these cards." Poor woman. She's not a bitch; she's just under caffeinated.

So then we're sitting getting questioned by the judge who wants to determine what kinds of jobs and employers we've had and all of our family members have had. It was marginally interesting. It really is true that California has a disproportionate number of rocket scientists. I can't tell you how many Rocketdyne employee, semiconductor work-type answers there were. They come to this one guy, and the judge asks him what kind of work his oldest son does. "He's a bum," the guy says. "Hmm," the judge says, "And before he was a bum, what did he do?" "Before that he was in jail," the guy says. "And is he married?" the judge asks. "Hell no," the guy answers, "You think anyone would have that bum?" It's always good to have a comic moment, I say.

On a more depressing note, on the train on the way there, I sat across from this woman who, coincidentally, was talking about serving on a jury (I had not spoken a word). She's telling the woman next to her how horrible it was, how they brought in the defendant in all of these chains and manacles. When the jury went to deliberate, they took a vote at first, and ten of them said he was not guilty and two said guilty, she being one of the latter two. She says one of the other ten asked who thought he was guilty. "I told them I did," she says, "'Why would they have him in all of those chains if he was innocent??'" She raises her eyebrows and shrugs at her seat partner, as if to say "duh." Then she explains that the woman gave her the third degree. "So I just said fine he's not guilty. I don't need to be put through that."

Can you blame me for not having a faux seizure or breaking out into hysterical cackling or in some other way disqualifying myself? The woman's story was just wrong on every level. Sigh.

So I have no ghost-blogger to take the keyboard in case of a sudden civic duty. I'll be posting at night some, but of course, I have to actually work at night since I can't really just not do anything job-wise for a week, so it'll be intermittent. Don't forget about me.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Why it is good I am not a librarian

So I had every intention of revamping my links this weekend. Never mind that I am approaching HTML like those people who put together furniture without reading the directions and end up with a wobbly chair and a handful of screws. I accepted my limitations and was going to at least add links to the ugly list that now exists even if I can't yet make it look attractive.

But this is exactly the kind of task that stymies me. It's the categorization thing. (And here we begin to uncover some of why it took me lo-those-many-years to write my dissertation.) I had thought there are so many sites I like that I didn't want to just willy-nilly them into one impossible list. And some of them are places I read diligently, and some are places I not only visit several times a day, I feel the bloggers are my virtual friends or developing friends. And that seemed worth noting as well. So I'd thought something like "haunts" and "regular stops," but then what? Then I thought, maybe "those wild Athenians" should be called out as such, but how to categorize the rest of the planet? And then I thought maybe "inspiration" for those sites that buoy my spirits and "conspiration" for my buddies. But what else? Expiration? Perspiration?

If I use "fellow travelers" as a category, will the liberal but non-leftist folks get their feathers ruffled? Is "great stuff if you overlook the knitting/yoga" a legitimate category that anyone understands but me? These are the questions I ask myself.

All of which is to say, I have done nothing. I really must go to bed because even if I were to miraculously shed my insomnia and go to sleep this instant, I still run the risk of falling asleep in the courthouse tomorrow.

Revised link list coming soon (maybe).

Civic duty

So tomorrow I have jury duty, which means that I have be in Burbank at 8 a.m. This feels like a hardship for two reasons: I am not a morning person, even a little bit, and I am a bit freeway phobic (the latter reason being, in therapeutic terms, a wee minimization).

Though I know it is wrong of me to so completely not want to serve on a jury, I don't. Serving on a jury, right now, in my work cycle would mean that I spend all day in the Burbank courthouse and then come home to log into the network to do my waged work.

I am comforted my the knowledge that I almost certainly will be eliminated. (While this indicates much of what is wrong with the legal system, it is a comfort in the purely selfish sense that I will not have to work around the clock.) I'm sure that having written a dissertation about the Constitution and being a member of the ACLU for a couple of decades will cross me off someone's list.

Gift pick of the day

Think Geek is offering a USB Christmas Tree. You plug it into your USB port and it changes from color to color. A bargain at $13 really.

Making the world safer, one war at a time

On the front page of yesterday's LA Times (registration required) was a story titled "U.S. Lacks Reliable Data on Iran Arms." I know this is not new news (I guess we could call it "olds") and I've blogged about this before, but I continue to be astonished that we are choosing this combat Groundhog Day approach to international relations. Here is the first paragraph of the story:
Although convinced that Iran is "vigorously" pursuing programs to produce nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, the U.S. intelligence community has few sources of reliable information on any illicit arms activities by the Islamic republic, current and former intelligence officials and Middle East experts say.
I hate to keep banging on the same drums here, but does anyone else feel like we will eventually be able to do away with journalists altogether, and we can just take last year's stories and replace the country names with this year's wars? It's like 1984's Ministry of Truth but without the effort to even thoroughly erase the record. The vast majority people don't seem to even require the Commissar Vanishes approach.

Here's a bit more from the article:
"There are parts of the Iranian world that are not impenetrable," said a former senior CIA official who left the agency several months ago. The CIA and other U.S. spy services have been able to get a steady stream of reports on political developments inside the regime, he said, and have had some success tracking Iran's support of terrorist networks, including Hezbollah.

But Tehran "is particularly controlling and tight" in maintaining secrecy around its nuclear, biological and chemical weapons programs, the former official said.

"As with any country that may be pursuing WMD," he said, referring to weapons of mass destruction, "that's the most difficult nut to crack."
This is a total "have you stopped beating your wife yet" approach to the question of nuclear proliferation. And here I'd like to point out that while the left gets smeared with a characterization as a paranoid group of folks, prone to conspiracy theories, our nation's posture towards Iran seems to be: if we don't know anything about weapon-making, that's because such thing are always highly secret. In other words, the less we find out about "wmd" (which I am convinced has entered political parlance because W can't pronounce the word "nuclear"), the more reason to suspect Iran has something to hide. Let's throw the witches in the water; if they drown, they weren't witches after all.

And the article's epiphany:
The combination of the hard-line U.S. diplomatic stance and the scant underlying intelligence has prompted comparisons to the United States' flawed case for war against Iraq.
What can a person say here but "duh."

The article was inspired, in part, by the CIA report released last week "Unclassified Report to Congress on the Acquisition of Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Advanced Conventional Munitions." The report covers July through December 2003 and has this to say about Iran:
Iran continued to vigorously pursue indigenous programs to produce nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. Iran is also working to improve delivery systems as well as ACW. To this end, Iran continued to seek foreign materials, training, equipment, and know-how. During the reporting period, Iran still focused particularly on entities in Russia, China, North Korea, and Europe. Iran's nuclear program received significant assistance in the past from the proliferation network headed by Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan.

Nuclear. The United States remains convinced that Tehran has been pursuing a clandestine nuclear weapons program, in contradiction to its obligations as a party to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). During 2003, Iran continued to pursue an indigenous nuclear fuel cycle ostensibly for civilian purposes but with clear weapons potential. International scrutiny and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections and safeguards will most likely prevent Tehran from using facilities declared to the IAEA directly for its weapons program as long as Tehran remains a party to the NPT. However, Iran could use the same technology at other, covert locations for military applications.
And so on. I'm not sure we can make it another four years with W in the oval office without World War III.

W stands for...

The post below inspired me. During the campaign, those wretched "W stands for women" placards made me a bit nauseated, and when I saw them I would think

"W stands for wicked"


"W stands for weasel"

Now I'm thinking

"W stands for World War"

What do y'all think?

Saturday, November 27, 2004

My new shirt

Yes, I know; I'm not the target audience. Nonetheless I love it.

Loquacious fuselage

No, not a new art band. These are among the 70 most beautiful words in the English language according to the more than 40,000 folks surveyed by the British Council. Respondents were living in non-English speaking countries, though it seems clear that they were learning English from Britishers; note "smashing" at #55 and "oi" at #61, for example.

I'm not sure how scientific the survey is, but it's interesting. The BBC has a couple of brief pieces on it, and here's the list:

1.Mother 2.Passion 3.Smile 4.Love 5.Eternity 6.Fantastic
7.Destiny 8.Freedom 9.Liberty 10.Tranquillity 11.Peace 12.Blossom
13.Sunshine 14.Sweetheart 15.Gorgeous 16.Cherish 17.Enthusiasm
18.Hope 19.Grace 20.Rainbow 21.Blue 22.Sunflower 23.Twinkle
24.Serendipity 25.Bliss 26.Lullaby 27.Sophisticated 28.Renaissance
29.Cute 30.Cosy 31.Butterfly 32.Galaxy 33.Hilarious 34.Moment
35.Extravaganza 36.Aqua 37.Sentiment 38.Cosmopolitan 39.Bubble
40.Pumpkin 41.Banana 42.Lollipop 43.If 44.Bumblebee 45.Giggle
46.Paradox 47.Delicacy 48.Peekaboo 49.Umbrella 50.Kangaroo
51.Flabbergasted 52.Hippopotamus 53.Gothic 54.Coconut 55.Smashing
56.Whoops 57.Tickle 58.Loquacious 59.Flip-flop 60.Smithereens
61.Oi 62.Gazebo 63.Hiccup 64.Hodgepodge 65.Shipshape 66.Explosion
67.Fuselage 68.Zing 69.Gum 70.Hen-night

Those of you also interested in the "wordiness" of words should check out Motherless Brooklyn. It's a great novel about small time gangsters told from the point of view of a man with Tourettes Syndrome.

Friday, November 26, 2004

The limits of the law

Who doesn't love Howard Zinn?
The nation then, was founded on disrespect for the law, and then came the Constitution and the notion of stability which Madison and Hamilton liked. But then we found in certain crucial times in our history that the legal framework did not suffice, and in order to end slavery we had to go outside the legal framework, as we had to do at the time of the American Revolution or the Civil War. The union had to go outside the legal framework in order to establish certain rights in the 1930s. And in this time, which may be more critical than the Revolution or the Civil War, the problems are so horrendous as to require us to go outside the legal framework in order to make a statement, to resist, to begin to establish the kind of institutions and relationships which a decent society should have. No, not just tearing things down; building things up. But even if you build things up that you are not supposed to build up-you try to build up a people's park, that's not tearing down a system; you are building something up, but you are doing it illegally-the militia comes in and drives you out. That is the form that civil disobedience is going to take more and more, people trying to build a new society in the midst of the old.

But what about voting and elections? Civil disobedience-we don't need that much of it, we are told, because we can go through the electoral system. And by now we should have learned, but maybe we haven't, for we grew up with the notion that the voting booth is a sacred place, almost like a confessional. You walk into the voting booth and you come out and they snap your picture and then put it in the papers with a beatific smile on your face. You've just voted; that is democracy. But if you even read what the political scientists say-although who can?-about the voting process, you find that the voting process is a sham. Totalitarian states love voting. You get people to the polls and they register their approval. I know there is a difference-they have one party and we have two parties. We have one more party than they have, you see.

What we are trying to do, I assume, is really to get back to the principles and aims and spirit of the Declaration of Independence. This spirit is resistance to illegitimate authority and to forces that deprive people of their life and liberty and right to pursue happiness, and therefore under these conditions, it urges the right to alter or abolish their current form of government-and the stress had been on abolish. But to establish the principles of the Declaration of Independence, we are going to need to go outside the law, to stop obeying the laws that demand killing or that allocate wealth the way it has been done, or that put people in jail for petty technical offenses and keep other people out of jail for enormous crimes. My hope is that this kind of spirit will take place not just in this country but in other countries because they all need it. People in all countries need the spirit of disobedience to the state, which is not a metaphysical thing but a thing of force and wealth. And we need a kind of declaration of interdependence among people in all countries of the world who are striving for the same thing.
From Zinn's The Problem with Civil Obedience (1970).

Dog chi

Today's gift pick, Feng Shui dog toys, comes from Postmodern Pets.

Catalog description:
You can promote balance and harmony in your dog's environment with these symbolic Feng Shui toys. Feng Shui is an ancient Chinese science that aims to create a balanced and harmonious environment by balancing Yin (cold and darkness) and Yang (heat and light). One way to promote such balance is through the use of certain symbolic objects.

The Lotus Bud symbolizes continuity, harmony, and purity. The Lucky Carp symbolizes abundance. The Cloud Ball with its auspicious cloud pattern symbolizes never-ending fortune. The Bamboo symbolizes longevity, courage, and resilience. Items can be combined to enhance the symbolic power. For example, the combination of the Lotus Bud and Lucky Carp would symbolize successive years of abundance.
At once I am thinking: 1.isn't one of the most endearing qualities about pets their very non-postmodern consciousness? and 2.my cat needs his chi balanced more than I can say.

As if you didn't get enough email already

World Movement for Democracy has a page devoted to email newsletters and listservs about human rights and activism. It's a pretty handy one-stop place to get sub information actually, with sources divided into global and regional information.

Letter from my dad about activism

So I was going to post something about Thanksgiving (even though it's over now). It being past two a.m., I was going to title it something witty like "the thankful insomniac," but posting about my dad made me go dig up some old papers, and despite the fact that it is very long and also personal, one of his letters is worth sharing. It's written in 1967 to my sister who was 20 at the time (I was two and apparently on my dad's lap when he was typing because at one moment there is a line of gibberish with "Travis' interjections" typed after it). By the time I was 20 my dad was way too sick to write such letters, and so my sister shared some of hers with me, which is how I come to have a copy.

I am delighted that you are deeply involved in the current peace demonstrations. The curse of the sixties is the commonly-encountered attitude that "I don't want to get involved." We are in danger of becoming a nation of voyeurs. I would much prefer to see you get involved and stay involved. I hope you don't lay down your protest placard until you are too weak to carry it. Believe me, at the Peace March in D.C. I was overwhelmed to see the number of grey-haired garment workers from New York whose feet started hurting when they paraded against Sacco and Vanzetti's execution for criminal syndicalism a half century ago.

Some people feel one is not worth his salt unless he is a radical at 20 and a conservative at 40. This is a vile canard propagated by the pusillanimous. One need not become a fat cat at forty. See e.g., Norman Thomas whose big manly voice, turning again to childish treble, pipes and whistles in his sounds, to quote the Bard, but who preaches the same revolt against oppression that he sounded with stentorian speeches at the turn of the century. See also Bertrand Russell, William Douglas, and Jake Podofsky. (Jake runs the delicatessen at 14th and Irving Sts.)

I would not suggest that you espouse every random cause that you are asked to join. You will, through life, find people anxious to demonstrate for or against anything that comes along. Some people would try to make an agnostic out of a praying mantis. It is much more effective to be a high powered rifle than to scatter your fire like a shotgun. But I hope you will not shrink from raising your voice whenever injustice is obvious to you, even at the risk of money, prestige, or person.

I do not hold with those who attack all our institutions. I am not blind to the virtues of other ways of life but I personally feel that what we have in this country is the best way of life thus far evolved by man as a functioning society. I am 100% American. But I am not like those Southerners who loved the Confederacy so much they would not wear a union suit. I want my country to present a favorable image, to maintain a posture that I find admirable, and will not yield my right to criticize it when I think it is wrong. I want America always to be the land of the three "P's"--Peace, Prosperity, and Pfreedom, for myself and my pfosterity. I want America to stay healthy because I know that when the United States sneezes much of the rest of the world catches pneumonia.

You will find another pleasant incidental benefit from a course of political activism: A deep sense of comradeship or camaraderie with those with whom you manned the ramparts. A sense of spiritual kinship develops between people who have faced a common foe or danger. I well remember how close I felt in my Army years to the other men who had bivouacked with me or shared a watch on guard duty with me. You also build up a store of exciting memories. I don't remember any particularly successful business deal I made in 1964, but I well remember marching in the Civil Rights demonstration with R. and 100,000 others. One of my vivid memories of my own college days was the time when the Nazi German Ambassador to the U.S. was a guest speaker at a tea sponsored by the German Dept. and we in the then American League against War and Fascism (spiritual ancestor of your own SDS) picketed on campus.

Finally, let me only remind you that you ought not get yourself so involved that you jeopardize yourself in your studies. It is essential that you get decent grades, continue your education, and work assiduously toward your career. Sorenson in the Saturday Review last week did not say anything much different from what many other pacifists have said in the past few weeks but his article was read by millions because he achieved such eminence in his field that his voice was effective. At the big peace march we listened intently to what Dr. Spock said largely because more than half the people there had taken castor oil when Spock told their mothers to administer it. On the other hand, I'll bet you didn't hear one word Tillie Gockenheimer said, did you? And Tillie has been marching in protest demonstrations since Kemal Pasha besieged the poor Armenians in 1916 or whenever the hell it was. But that is because Tillie Gockenheimer dropped out of high school in Pottstown, Pa. when she was 16 and has been working in a brassiere factory in High Point, N. Car. ever since.

It's funny. Before rereading this letter and without calling it to mind, I was thinking tonight about how one of the things I am most thankful for is that all of those prognostications from my youth have not come true. I am not a conservative. I have neither found god nor lost my ethics. I can't think of a reason worth compromising the principles of liberty, equality, or justice. And I am cynical only because of my frustrated idealism.

One more reason to be grateful

The ACLU is defending a Missouri High Schooler who was sent home for wearing a gay pride tee shirt. The NYT has the story. This is what Brad Mathewson's mom said:
All he wants is to wear his T-shirts. He's a typical teenager, so he's angry that they're trying to tell him what he can and can't do. We had a meeting at the school to talk about it, but we didn't get anywhere with them. They talked, I listened, and I got more and more mad. At the end I just took him home with me.
Aside from the most obvious bits of gratitude 1. I do not live in Missouri, and 2. I am no longer in high school, the story made me think about my what good parents I had too.

I think I must have been about 12 years old when I when I wore a tee shirt to school that my radical sister had given me when she was at the University of Wisconsin in the 70s. The front of the shirt had Bucky Badger, the UW mascot, in a hat with a red star on it, brandishing a submachine gun over his head. "Go Big Red" it said under the picture. I was sent to the principal's office and they called my dad at work to report that *gasp* I was wearing a Communist shirt in school. My dad's response: "Last I checked my daughter had a Constitutionally guaranteed right to free speech."

I really had a great dad. I wish I believed in heaven so I could get together with him again one day and talk to him about stuff. Though I'm also grateful he didn't live to see what a fucked up mess things are these days. He lived through enough shit--McCarthy, Nixon, the riots... but he never stopped loving America for what it could be.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

How does something like this happen?

This is all over the Internet by now, but it does bear reposting. Photos are from BBC. Yushchenko's people say his facial scarring is due to ricin poisoning. (As an aside I recently found out that the other member of an ill-fated relationship I was in many years ago has apparently become one of the country's foremost experts on ricin. Ew.)

The Yush* guy

In the course of reading up on the situation in the Ukraine, I came upon this post at Le Sabot Post-Moderne (a blog from Kiev):

Reading through my comments, I'm seeing that the situation really isn't clear to some in the West. Discounting the reflexively silly Bush-haters, there are some normal people who are viewing this simply through the lens of election corruption. That's only the surface.

You have to understand the situation in Ukraine. The country is run by a series of oligarchic clans that actually found their beginnings in the Soviet Union, and then grew fabulously rich during the early days of "privatization".

Compare the situation to Russia, where an authoritarian Putin faced off against corrupt oligarchs. In Ukraine, authoritarianism and oligarchy are fused. Yanukovych isn't just another unscrupulous candidate, he's the main man of Akhmetov -- the duke of Donetsk and the richest man in Ukraine. The current president, Kuchma, is the head of a different clan, Dnepropetrovsk. The presidential administrator is Medvedchuk, who happens to run the Kiev-based Medvedchuk-Surkis clan. He also owns the two biggest Ukrainian TV stations, which is awfully convenient.

While there is jockeying for control among these clans, the overall effect is for them to sustain one another in power. They all depend on the same system for survival, and actively collaborate to keep it in place.

A good example of the clan system in action was the recent privatization of the Kryvorizhstal factory. Western firms offered 2.1 billion dollars. It was sold to the presidents son-in-law for 800 million. His son-in-law is Pinchuk, the head of the Pinchuk-Derkach clan.

Do you start to see how life works here? This isn't about a few stolen votes. It's about an entire system of fine control over the political, social and economic life of the people. Economics and politics are incestuously fused here in a way that is difficult to imagine for those in the West.
Yes, indeed, it is hard for this blogger to fathom the incestuous fusing of economics and politics. A system of nepotism that results in unfair competition in awarding recently privatized contracts?! Collusion to maintain the power status quo?! Over our heads to be sure.

Then there was this comment on the thread:

I think in the West, we are missing a frame of reference here. I had to look up the woory [sic] oligarchy in the dictionary just to make sure it meant what I think it meant. The situation is Russia is totally alien and I think we have no idea what that is, so it doesn't make a good comparison. Now I have to go look up authoritarianism. Such strange concepts in government.

But now I understand. You're saying that power and wealth is controlled within a small, elite, inbred group. The good old boy's network, as it were. Although there are actually various clans of good old boys.

So, it isn't just about election fraud. That's almost a given. It is about an entire system that is being tipped in the balance of a few small elite groups.

The Yush* guy was some sort of democratic like candidate. Or at least, one less well connected, we are to understand?...
God will punish me I am sure but I couldn't stop myself from responding that if she needed to look up the word "oligarchy" or "authoritarianism" it wasn't because she is a westerner, it was because she wasn't very well educated. (Though I did encourage her to keep learning.)

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to draw spurious connections. It just was one of those moments in blogland that made me go "hmmm." But then, I am a reflexively silly Bush-hater, so take it for what it's worth.


Yesterday in front of the presidential office.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

In the spirit of the holiday

American Progress Action Fund (via After School Snack) reminds us all that we really do have reasons to be grateful.

Right...term limits. I'll give thanks for that.

Jefferson says

From a letter to Miles King September 26, 1814
Our particular principles of religion are a subject of accountability to our god alone. I enquire after no man's and trouble none with mine; nor is it given to us in this life to know whether yours or mine, our friend's or our foe's, are exactly the right.

From a first draft letter to Horatio G. Spafford January 10, 1816
You judge truly that I am not afraid of the priests. They have tried upon me all their various batteries, of pious whining, hypocritical canting, lying & slandering, without being able to give me one moment of pain. I have contemplated their order from the Magi of the East to the Saints of the West, and I have found no difference of character, but of more or less caution, in proportion to their information or ignorance of those on whom their interested duperies were to be plaid off. Their sway in New England is indeed formidable. No mind beyond mediocrity dares there to develope itself. If it does, they excite against it the public opinion which they command, & by little, but incessant and teasing persecutions, drive it from among them. Their present emigrations to the Western country are real flights from persecution, religious & political, but the abandonment of the country by those who wish to enjoy freedom of opinion leaves the despotism over the residue more intense, more oppressive. They are now looking to the flesh pots of the South and aiming at foothold there by their missionary teachers. They have lately come forward boldly with their plan to establish " a qualified religious instructor over every thousand souls in the US." And they seem to consider none as qualified but their own sect. Thus, in Virginia, they say there are but 60, qualified, and that 914 are still wanting of the full quota. All besides the 60, are "mere nominal ministers unacquainted with theology." Now the 60. they allude to are exactly in the string of counties at the Western foot of the Blue ridge, settled originally by Irish presbyterians, and composing precisely the tory district of the state. There indeed is found in full vigor the hypocrisy, the despotism, and anti-civism of the New England qualified religious instructors. The country below the mountains, inhabited by Episcopalians, Methodists & Baptists (under mere nominal ministers unacquainted with theology) are pronounced "destitute of the means of grace, and as sitting in darkness and under the shadow of death." They are quite in despair too at the insufficient means of New England to fill this fearful void, "with Evangelical light, with catechetical instructions, weekly lectures, & family visiting." That Yale cannot furnish above 80. graduates annually, and Harvard perhaps not more. That there must therefore be an immediate, universal, vigorous & systematic effort made to evangelize the nation. To see that there is a bible for every family, a school for every district, and a qualified (i. e. Presbyterian) "pastor for every thousand souls; that newspapers, tracts, magazines must be employed; the press be made to groan, & every pulpit in the land to sound it's trumpet long and loud. A more homogeneous" (I.E. New England) "character must be produced thro' the nation." That section then of our union having lost it's political influence by disloyalty to it's country is now to recover it under the mask of religion. It is to send among us their Gardiners, their Osgoods, their Parishes & Pearsons, as apostles to teach us their orthodoxy. This is the outline of the plan as published by Messrs. Beechef, Pearson & Co. It has uttered however one truth. "That the nation must be awaked to save itself by it's own exertions, or we are undone."

The above are offered in the service of pointing out that, in fact, "our founding fathers" did not intend America to become one nation under the Ten Commandments. Though I know I will be typing into the abyss, as everyone seems to be leaving their screens for the holiday weekend, I may yet post more thoughts on the myth that there even is such an entity as "our founding fathers" and the complication that is the Enlightenment. I've been pondering this for some time, but am having difficulty being concise about it.

Oxymoron of the day

Contemporary Latin Poetry

For my poet friends who are feeling oppressed by excessive exposure and a broad readership, know that the dead language option is always open to you.

They just need oxygen!

It's all coming clear to me now. The rise of the radical religious right is a public health problem. (With thanks to MacRaven for the link.)

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Some kind of city on a hill

They just failed to mention what kind of hill. Dung? Beans?

If Britain continues under Labour leadership, governmental anti-terrorist provisions being proposed will parallel the siege against civil liberties in the United States. The UK Times reports the bill would permit wire-tapping evidence in court and allow drug testing of all arrested subjects. If passed, it would institute an ID card system including "secure database of addresses and biometric identities based on facial or iris recognition or fingerprints of everyone in Britain." (There seems to be some flip-flopping about whether carrying an ID would be mandatory, but it would at least be required to garner a passport.) The proposed bill would also create a sort of UK FBI and institute "new police powers to crack down on intimidation and harassment by animal rights activists" as well as other protestors.

At least the war against civil liberties is a war the UK and US can win. Can you say "Pyrrhic victory"? I knew you could.

I don't know how the great writers retain such poetry when they write about these things. All I can think is "Oh stupid fucking brave new world."

LA weekend picks

X and the Blasters at House of Blues on Sunset. Friday night.

Leni Riefenstahl's Olympia at UCLA. Sunday.

Honestly, I don't know if I can take a Nazi movie right now; I really don't. I went to the Holocaust Museum in D.C. last month and I think that was a sufficient dose. But X...that's a whole nother thing. Early punk rock is just the best, you know?


One of the pieces of advice you sometimes get in 12-step fellowships when you are feeling particularly sorry for yourself is to make a "gratitude list." It's the sort of advice that can really rankle a person. It's just a little too "shiny, happy people" for some of us (yes, I am outing myself, but the story is good enough to warrant it). So one night around this time of year ('tis the gratitude season here in the US after all), I'm in a meeting and this new guy is talking about trying to write a gratitude list after it was suggested to him. He says he sat in front of the paper for a long time and couldn't think of anything. Then he finally writes down "I'm alive." Then he thinks about that for a little while. And then he crosses that out. Finally he writes "At least I'm not on fire."

It is in that spirit that I refer you to Popular Science's Worst Jobs in Science, pointed out to me by those crazy Athenians, Eponymous and yelladog. Now when people urge you to be grateful on this day of thanks, you can say "At least I'm not on fire, and I'm not a landfill monitor."

Offerings from the Atomic Museum

You may or may not know that Albuquerque, New Mexico is home to the Atomic Museum, a Smithsonian affiliate. They are in the process of renaming themselves the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History because I guess that is easier to promote. Yet despite the face lift, the following items are available from their gift shop:

Tee shirts commemorating the first A-bomb explosion, Trinity (Revelations, anyone?)

A set of five bomb blue prints including Fat Man and Little Boy

A variety of DVDs about the history of the bomb and bomb testing sites narrated by William Shatner (click here to listen to Shatner's latest venture, including his collaborative piece with Henry Rollins).

And inexplicably, under the category "Fun Stuff," with the description
Let your imagination run wild! You or someone you know (perhaps the child in you?) may love optical tricks, magnetics, glow-in-the-dark toys, mobiles, robots, or other intriguing items. Check out these selections that will keep you playing. Whether you're shopping for a child or for someone who has almost everything, you'll want to keep these for yourself!
there is a category for posters: "Decorate your bedroom, classroom, dorm room, or office with these neat and unusual posters!"

with items including a poster of the Nagasaki bombing

"Neat," huh?

Maybe people are just stupid

I know it doesn't have much to do with anything, but I need to just say I find the fact that the notorious Virgin Mary toasted cheese sandwich has been purchased for $28,000 one more bit of mounting evidence that a lot of people are in fact painfully dumb.

Top ten reasons blogging beats writing a dissertation

10. You can cite yourself even if you're not the foremost expert.
9. It's okay just to write "what he said."
8. You can drink coffee while you're in the "archives."
7. ADD is an asset, not a handicap.
6. You don't have to revise after you get comments.
5. It's perfectly acceptable to write "What the hell is wrong with people?" as many times as you like.
4. You can do all your research in your pajamas.
3. Sometimes people read what you wrote.
2. You can use the word "fuck" if you want to.

And the number one reason blogging is better than dissertating...
1. No one asks you "are you done yet?"*

*(A comment which A explains "couldn't be ruder if you were having sex.")


According to a study by The Chronicle of Higher Education reported here (because I no longer have a sub. to the chronicle), the percentage of college students voting for Kerry was higher than the percentage among non-enrolled 18-19 year-olds. The data seem not terribly conclusive to me, but this quote was a gem:
College Republicans Vice Chairman of Events Jeremy Williams said he viewed the Chronicles' findings to be "an indication of the liberal bias in today's colleges among professors."
Sure, Jerry, that's it...it's the liberal stranglehold we're witnessing in education and the media. It's so oppressive isn't it?

Another organization, Declare Yourself, also has survey results about youth voters. They report that the Internet was the first source of information for 25% of young voters, and "Among those who cited the Internet as their primary source for news, a sizeable 62% voted for Kerry, while only 36% backed Bush."

The Declare Yourself survey report ends with a comparison of how informed youth (voters and non-voters) are versus the rest of us fogeys. They use the survey to argue that youth voters are almost as informed as adult voters. So, for instance, 90% of youth voters could identify the Vice President of the United States, versus 91% of adult voters; similarly 86% of youth voters knew who Kerry's running mate was versus 88% of adult voters. The numbers on Supreme Court Chief Justice are more skewed with 32% of youth voters and 52% of adult voters being able to answer that one. Is it so wrong for me to think if you don't know who the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is, you should have to take a class before you can vote. I mean, c'mon...9% of voters didn't know who the fucking Vice President is?

Monday, November 22, 2004

Anybody want to meet in Washington

Plans for the Counter-inaugural are afoot. I think I'm going. My sister says she'll bail me out of jail if need be. Did you know the Department of Homeland Security has designated it a "National Special Security Event"? I didn't. That just sounds so festive. Who would want to miss such a thing?

Language is a virus from outer space

You know the old saw about the Inuit having so many words for snow? Well, they have no word for "thunderstorm" or many of the other phenomena they are witnessing with global climate change. Reuters has a fascinating article on this month's report released by Arctic Climate Impact Assessment. In particular, they talk about the degree to which indigenous people are, quite literally, at a loss for words to describe what is happening to their environment:
In Arctic Europe, birch trees are gaining ground and Saami reindeer herders are seeing roe deer or even elk, a forest-dwelling cousin of moose, on former lichen pastures.

"I know about 1,200 words for reindeer -- we classify them by age, sex, color, antlers," said Nils Isak Eira, who manages a herd of 2,000 reindeer in north Norway.

"I know just one word for elk -- 'sarvva'," said 50-year-old Eira.
What a clear indicator that the world is changing too fast...when the pace of events has outstripped a language's capacity. It made me think about American English. Perhaps we need more words to talk about mass mediated democracy or the millennial economy. Maybe the reason our guys can't win an election is they lack vocabulary to even be able to construct a sound bite.

41 years ago today

Where were you when Kennedy was shot? Now you can relive the moment from Oswald's perspective. Due to be released today, the video game JFK Reloaded, asks you to fire the three shots from the Texas Book Depository. The company is calling it an educational game, designed to disprove conspiracy theories. I'm calling it Sim Assassination.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Che nesting dolls!

In response to a request, I am posting my favorite gift ideas as I run across them (see the scrabble rug and crazy cat lady action figure entries below). Today's find comes from RussianLegacy.com. If you prefer, you can get a Che and Castro set, US Presidents and Putin, or blank matryoshka dolls to create your own cast of nested heroes or villains.

News that isn't news

Does it come as a suprise to anyone that the enforcement of civil rights laws is down? Newsday has the story on a report released today by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University (I looked on TRAC's site but couldn't find a free link to the whole report). TRAC tells us the feds brought charges against 159 alleged civil rights violations in 1999 and only 84 in 2004. (I guess the world is getting better and better, huh?) Here's a blurb from the report:
Civil rights cases made up a tiny fraction of the Justice Department's total of 99,341 criminal prosecutions in 2003. The study found, however, that only civil rights and environmental prosecutions were down from 1999 to 2003 as the total caseload rose by about 10 percent.

By far the biggest criminal prosecution category is illegal drugs, at about 33,100 cases last year, followed by immigration, weapons violations, white-collar crime and others. Of the 84 civil rights cases brought in 2003, almost half involved allegations of violations by police officers, with 17 involving racial violence and nine others some form of slavery or involuntary servitude.

Update on ombudsman

While I know that Michael Getler got plenty of mail about the Post's obscene advertising (see Action and fashion below), it seems they were largely concerned with online cartoons today. Silt has the story.

All lost in the supermarket

I always doubt myself when I blog "discoveries." I wonder, has everyone already seen this? Am I like the person forwarding that same tired list of medical or legal jokes that the recipient has deleted 14 times already? I do try not to be stale.

In any case, TrueGoods is a site that pretty much scares me. It's modeled after a shopping site, but instead of buying things, you tick off your values and put them in a shopping cart. If you get stuck, you can browse other folks'
value statements. I'm a big fan of metaphor. I really am, but I'm just thinking the shopping cart doesn't really work for things like Equality and A World at Peace.

Most of the Value Statements are along the lines of Patti's, "There are many things in life that will catch your eye; But only a few will catch your heart ~ pursue those," if more long winded. A lot of people talking about loving people and treading lightly on the earth (for more on that topic, see below). But then, there are the occasional odd balls. The Phenomenologist:
Meaning is a human invention. Life itself is (only) a phenomenon and the realisation of this should be considered a liberation from imagined and imposed demands. The only things that are real are people (though they may be meaningless), who can not be totally ignored by your own psyche.
The missionary:
We must each find Jesus and make Him our personal Savior. When we keep Him in our hearts He will direct us through life. Then we will have the peace that is beyond understanding.
And the Lost Soul:
I walk the planet alone, looking for something more than I have been given. But, it does not exist in this world and I can not find it. All of my life, I have been drowning in the Sea of Sadness, filled by my tears.
I'm sorry we're all out of the single servings of Personal Fulfillment. We only have the economy pack in stock. Is there anything else we can help you with today?

Saturday, November 20, 2004

A quiz

Okay, guess which organization's mission statement the following quote is excerpted from:
encourage land use consistent with the guidelines set forth by the Tread Lightly! organization; ... and primarily be a social and educational entity, encouraging its members to be active in land use advocacy and community service.
Sierra Club? Nope. Conservation International? Nope.

Give up?

The Hummer club. I know...that was going to be your next guess wasn't it?

Well, treading lightly on the earth is not the only lofty goal these folks aspire to. They have partnered with the Red Cross in their new HOPE program--HUMMER Owners Prepared for Emergencies. GM is giving the Red Cross $4 million in support of the program. Mike Morris, HOPE's founder explains, "The HUMMER Club has a lot of people who care about helping others and are willing to give up their personal time because it's the right thing to do," You can't make this shit up, I tell you. It's amazing The Onion still finds anything to create parody from.

These are not the people I want rescuing me.

Action and fashion

Just getting on board here with what everyone's blogging (Eschaton, Alternate Brain, Hullabaloo...)

First, the Washington Post distributed an appallingly anti-gay magazine with its Friday paper. You can read about it and download the .pdfs at AMERICAblog. The substance of the feature article is that blacks were given civil rights because they were being discriminated on the basis of traits that are immutable while homosexuality is a choice, and a bad one indeed, according to Both Sides magazine. In fact, given the fact that the median age for a gay man without AIDS and with a long-term partner is 41 (watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat, Rocky), as opposed to the 75 years a married hetero lives, to make gay marriage legal would "institutionalize a lifestyle that would cut the lives of our young men by nearly a third." Nuff said. It's appalling. This is the contact information for the Post's ombudsman:
Mike Getler:
- ombudsman@washpost.com
- (202) 334-7582

Here's my favorite line from my email to him:
Happily, I no longer live in D.C., a fine city, but hamstrung by a press with an editorial policy that apparently could have been drafted by a cheap whore (or Tom DeLay).

Even when I'm most pissed off, I do crack myself up sometimes.

Okay now that you've gotten angry and depressed, go to Oliver Willis' site to check out his cool tee shirts. I like this one:

When you say "spin," they think "spin cycle"

Okay, I really do have things to do today, but before I hit the road...

There's a great piece on "the undecided voter" at The New Republic. [My thanks to Safe As Houses for pointing it out.] You have to register, but it's worth it. It's almost got a sort of anthropological participant-observer feel to it: what I observed from my time living with the tribe. Christopher Hayes spent the seven weeks preceding the election in Wisconsin talking to undecided voters, and here he writes about what he learned. Among the gems: undecideds view politics like laundry, an onerous chore that they put off until they have no more clean socks.

Here's a slice:
But the very concept of the issue seemed to be almost completely alien to most of the undecided voters I spoke to.... At first I thought this was a problem of simple semantics--maybe, I thought, "issue" is a term of art that sounds wonky and intimidating, causing voters to react as if they're being quizzed on a topic they haven't studied. So I tried other ways of asking the same question: "Anything of particular concern to you? Are you anxious or worried about anything? Are you excited about what's been happening in the country in the last four years?"

These questions, too, more often than not yielded bewilderment. As far as I could tell, the problem wasn't the word "issue"; it was a fundamental lack of understanding of what constituted the broad category of the "political." The undecideds I spoke to didn't seem to have any intuitive grasp of what kinds of grievances qualify as political grievances. Often, once I would engage undecided voters, they would list concerns, such as the rising cost of health care; but when I would tell them that Kerry had a plan to lower health-care premiums, they would respond in disbelief--not in disbelief that he had a plan, but that the cost of health care was a political issue. It was as if you were telling them that Kerry was promising to extend summer into December.
You know, I used to teach composition (argument, rhetoric, etc.) and American literature in Wisconsin, and it is only this morning that I really am grasping what a tough task that was.

Palast on sums

Nanovirus pointed me to Greg Palast's Monday math lesson. It's short:
Monday Nov 15, 2004
by Prof. Greg Palast

Today's New York Times, page 1:
"American commanders said 38 service members had been killed and 275 wounded in the Falluja assault."

Today's New York Times, page 11:

"The American military hospital here reported that it had treated 419 American soldiers since the siege of Falluja began."

Questions for the class:
1. If 275 soldiers were wounded in Falluja and 419 are treated for wounds, how many were shot on the plane ride to Germany?
2. We're told only 275 soldiers were wounded but 419 treated for wounds; and we're told that 38 soldiers died. So how many will be buried?
3. How long have these Times reporters been embedded with the military? Bonus question: When will they get out of bed with the military?

Today's New York Times, page 1:
"The commanders estimated that 1,200 to 1,600 insurgents had been killed."

Today's New York Times, page 11:
"Nowhere to be found: the remains of the insurgents that the tanks had been sent in to destroy. ...The absence of insurgent bodies in Falluja has remained an enduring mystery."

"Every time I hear the news
That old feeling comes back on;
We're waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the Big Fool says to push on."

- Pete Seeger, 1967
Readers who have been following may be reminded of Winston Smith's words
"Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows."
[As an aside: This being one of the many reasons why the blogosphere is better than academia--It's not necessarily vulgar to cite yourself.]

Loving my country and hating my government

I'm not a flag-waving nationalist, but hell, I did write a dissertation on the Constitution and the flag. I really do love America for lots of reasons too complex to detail here. Walt Whitman, James Dean, Thoreau, the vastness of the great plains, greens and corn bread, the House on the Rock, SoHo, the fucking Constitution, for all its limitations... There's a lot to love about the United States. But I am really, really hating my government today.

The deal-makers have hammered out the last bits of their spending deal, which will seemingly get railroaded through Congress tomorrow in a soul selling frenzy to adjourn. Among other appalling features of the bill is the elimination of language that would attempt to mitigate Bush's war on labor (the "new rules" on overtime pay and the hunger to privatize more public sector jobs) and the addition of a provision that will limit access to abortions. (DemFromCT at Daily Kos has a post on the abortion issue for those of you with the stomach to engage.) I guess Barbara Boxer is threatening to try to slow the train with some Roberts Rules tai chi. Kudos to my Senator, I may not love her as much as my last one, Feingold (who really is the most liberal person in the Senate) but she's fighting the good fight.

And then there's the raising of the debt cap to an unbelievable $8.18 trillion. That's two-thirds of the value of the NYSE. According to the Washington Post (registration required), "Just the increase in the debt ceiling over the past three years is nearly 2 1/2 times the entire federal debt accumulated between 1776 and 1980."

In short, it's all just sick-making. I feel myself losing ground, shifting from "it's time to stand up and fight" back to "it's time to look further into emigration." If anyone has anything marginally uplifting, feel free to post a comment. Please refrain from reminding me that Canada has winter.

Rice cakes

Controversy reigns in my last hometown. This past Wednesday, Sly, a "radio personality" in Madison, Wisconsin, called Condoleezza Rice an Aunt Jemima and said she was incompetent. Perhaps needless to say, he's getting a lot of grief for it, and his remarks are being conflated with those of the Milwaukee DJ who used the word "wetbacks" a couple of weeks ago. The radio station has a survey up, and as of this post, 82.7% of respondents say Sly should apologize. And so on Friday's show, he did:
It is with a heavy heart that I apologize this morning to Aunt Jemima. She wasn't a self-serving hack politician who got up in front of Congress and lied. Aunt Jemima didn't kowtow to Don Rumsfeld or Dick Cheney.

Friday, November 19, 2004

I'm liking this one

Courtesy of LEFT is RIGHT. (With apologies to my new found friends in Georgia.)

Ignorance is Strength

Rowan-Cabarrus Community College in North Carolina suspended one of its faculty members for showing Fahrenheit 9/11 in class. Yahoo's AP has the story on the suspension, which happened because March, the teacher, was in violation of a memo ordering staff to be non-partisan in the classroom. March teaches rhetoric, and I for one, wonder how a person can teach rhetoric and argument without actually discussing rhetoric and arguments. Um...articles on stem cell research? Nope. Articles on war? Nope. Foreign policy? Nope. Better construct a syllabus that discusses TV and pop music (oh, but no West Wing or Eminem please). It's a slippery slope and universities and colleges really must err on the side of academic freedom.
"If I'm wrong about this, I've been wrong my entire career," said March, 54, who has taught at the school for two decades.
Go here for the American Association of University Professors' Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure:
Institutions of higher education are conducted for the common good and not to further the interest of either the individual teacher or the institution as a whole. The common good depends upon the free search for truth and its free exposition.
Academic freedom is essential to these purposes and applies to both teaching and research. Freedom in research is fundamental to the advancement of truth. Academic freedom in its teaching aspect is fundamental for the protection of the rights of the teacher in teaching and of the student to freedom in learning.

A call for new phraseology

When I was listening to KPFK this morning, they announced that the next story would be about "election irregularities." I'm not a conspiracy theorist...well, not all the time, anyway...but I'm thinking we really do need a new phrase here. "Election irregularities" sounds so much like "Just take some democracy immodium and everything will be fine." At least progressive media should be calling this something like "subversion of the democratic process" (I know, that's a little clunky). How about "vote erasure" or "ballot theft"? Any suggestions?

(I really hope I'm not turning into some bizarre Andy Rooney left wing blogger. I feel like so many of my posts could begin "you ever wonder?")

Why it is good that I have no children

I present my obese and highly medicated cat.

War is Peace

So what really got me thinking about 1984 was not Margaret Atwood's book so much as Colin Powell's statements about Iran. I'm sure you all have heard about this by now...some unverified source apparently tipped US intelligence that Iran is advancing its nuclear weapons capabilities:
If the information on Iran were confirmed, it would mean the Islamic republic is further along than previously known in developing a nuclear weapon and the means to deliver it.
What is that quote about history repeating itself? The second time is tragedy; the third time is farce. The fourth time is dystopic novel? I just feel like we really are in 1984 with its endless war against a shifting yet constant enemy.

My coworker Jeff wrote this morning: "From yellow cake in Africa, to WMD in Iraq the ravenous eye now turns towards Tehran." What rough beast, indeed.

It's in the air

My virtual buddy Eponymous, ghosting at yelladog was apparently also thinking about 1984 this morning.

Two Minute Hate

Perhaps inspired by the fact that I am reading a dystopic novel right now, Oryx and Crake, I found myself thinking this morning about driving in LA and 1984. I am from the east coast, and I have lived in the midwest, and I must say, LA is super-friendly compared to anywhere I have lived. But get these folks into cars, and holy mother of god look out. Total personality schism. So this morning it occurred to me that driving in LA is, in fact, like Two Minute Hate:
The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but, on the contrary, that it was impossible to avoid joining in. Within thirty seconds any pretence was always unnecessary. A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, ... And yet the rage that one felt was an abstract, undirected emotion which could be switched from one object to another like the flame of a blowlamp. Thus, at one moment Winston's hatred was not turned against Goldstein at all, but, on the contrary, against Big Brother, the Party, and the Thought Police; and at such moments his heart went out to the lonely, derided heretic on the screen, sole guardian of truth and sanity in a world of lies.
Which goes some way to explain why I must restrain the urge to drive into oncoming traffic at times when I have the news on the radio.

So those thoughts led me to look up 1984 and this passage seemed worth sharing:
That was very true, he thought. There was a direct intimate connexion between chastity and political orthodoxy. For how could the fear, the hatred, and the lunatic credulity which the Party needed in its members be kept at the right pitch, except by bottling down some powerful instinct and using it as a driving force? The sex impulse was dangerous to the Party, and the Party had turned it to account.
This is perhaps one of the most cogent explanations of the connection between the antigay amendments on so many ballots and the "war against terror" I've seen.

More great gift ideas for the ladies in your life

Archie McPhee action figures!

my own personal ghost of Christmas to come: the crazy cat lady action figure

Thursday, November 18, 2004


Okay, I know this happened days ago, but what can I say...I'm getting caught up. From Bush and Blair's joint press conference

Q: Mr. President, first. The Prime Minister is sometimes, perhaps unfairly, characterized in Britain as your "poodle." I was wondering if that's the way you may see your relationship? And perhaps, more seriously, do you feel for the --

Blair: Don't answer "yes" to that question. If you do, I would be -- (laughter.) That would be difficult.

Q: Do you feel, for the strong support that Britain has given you over Iraq, that you have to pay back Britain for that support in some way?
Bush jumps in with a fervent defense of Blair ending with:
These are troubled times. It's a tough world. What this world needs is steady, rock-solid leaders who stand on principle. And that's what the Prime Minister means to me. [At least he didn't say anything about it being "hard work"]
Then Blair tries to defend himself, saying he backs the "war against terrorism" because it's the right thing to do, not just because he's Bush's whipping boy. To which, Bush says:

Good job.

Signs you've been working too much

A genuine conversation with my best friend tonight:

A: I love that quote from Edward Sevareid.

Me: Eric

A: That's what I said, isn't it?

Me: No, you said "Edward."

A: Oh, I meant Eric. I hate being dyslexic.

Me: That's not dyslexic. It's....what's that word?

A: Aphasic?

Me: Um, yeah.

Google scholar

Bless Google. Their newest beta just searches scholarly works. Bummer I'm done with my dissertation...not. Great tag line: Stand on the shoulders of giants.

If you've never been to their catalog site, check it out. A good way to waste time when you really should be looking for scholarly works.

Too funny

Found this over on Transblawg. It seems that a former royal secretary, Elaine Day, is claiming Prince Charles' assistant sexually harassed her. That's not the funny part, of course. The Guardian covers the story:
A former royal secretary told an employment tribunal today that Prince Charles is the head of a "hierarchical and elitist" workplace where staff are expected not to "rock the boat."
It's a monarchy, for Christ's sake, Elaine! The whole system is predicated on an elitist hierarchy.

The story goes on to explain that Day suggested that personal assistants with degrees should be able to train for spots as private secretaries, a notion apparently ghastly to Charles who responded with this memo:
"What is wrong with everyone nowadays? Why do they all seem to think they are qualified to do things far beyond their technical capabilities?

"This is to do with the learning culture in schools as a consequence of a child-centred system which admits no failure. People think they can all be pop stars, high court judges, brilliant TV personalities or infinitely more competent heads of state without ever putting in the necessary work or having natural ability.

"This is the result of social utopianism which believes humanity can be genetically and socially engineered to contradict the lessons of history." The memo concludes: "What on earth am I to tell Elaine? She is so PC it frightens me rigid."

How funny is that? Prince Charles complaining that people believe they can be competent heads of state without credentials. Um...and you're qualified why? Oh, right, birth and lineage, that's it.

Can I tell you how nice it is to be reminded we're not the only fucked up country in the world.

Economic recovery in Afganistan

The UN released a report today on opium production in Afganistan:
Afghan annals will record 2004 as contradictory. On the one hand, the political progress towards democracy culminated in the near plebiscite election of President Karzai – the country’s first-ever leader chosen by the people – whose courage and determination I salute. On the other hand, opium cultivation increased by two-thirds, reaching an unprecedented 131,000 hectares. Bad weather and disease lowered the opium yield per hectare resulting in output of 4,200 tons, an increase of only 17%, thus preventing a bumper harvest. Opium cultivation also spread to all 32 provinces -- making narcotics the main engine of economic growth and the strongest bond among previously quarrelsome populations. Valued at $2.8 billion, the opium economy is now equivalent to about 60% of Afghanistan’s 2003 GDP ($4.6 billion, if only licit activity is measured).
Apparently, along with the growth in the crop has come a reduction in price (down 67%). I admit I don't know much of anything about economic matters (I've tried; I really have but it's like water off a duck's back in my brain), but it just seemed worth noting here if only for the sadness of the ways economies try to rebuild themselves.

The BBC has more:
Doris Buddenberg runs the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime in Afghanistan.

She says many farmers have little option.

"Afghanistan is a very poor country and particularly through the war the rural areas were very affected," she says.

"They need cash for very simple goods and needs, school books for children, clothing, tea which is a staple here. Opium is the cash crop."

Growing opium is a low-risk occupation and selling it is rarely punished by the authorities.

Lucky number 13

That's the US's rank in The Economist's survey that asked "Where will be the best place to live in 2005?" I'll be damned if I can find a link on The Economist's website, but here is the BBC's summary. The top ten:
1 Ireland
2 Switzerland
3 Norway
4 Luxembourg
5 Sweden
6 Australia
7 Iceland
8 Italy
9 Denmark
10 Spain

Quote of the day

So I just got out of a two-hour meeting on "infrastructure" and was talking to a coworker about why I love the Internet (in brief, it has something to do with my frequently thwarted desire to like people, as a species). He just sent me this:

“I understood the paradox and the tragedy of so many liberals and radicals on the "intellectual" side, who believe that men must work in groups, yet who cannot bear a committee meeting themselves. We were social by conviction, but intensely individualist by nature.”

-Eric Sevareid (who also happens to be my coworker's grandfather)

The quote comes from Sevareid's Not So Wild a Dream.

Bummer it doesn't come with tiles

More proof that I am a geek. This rug, available from the National Scrabble Association, is $115, and I really, really want it. I may actually buy it for myself for Hannukah.
I admit even though I told Mike the other day that I had way too much work to do to waste my time going on dates, if I were to find a handsome, leftist chef who played scrabble I would find the time

Fifteen years ago

The latest release from the National Security Archive contains 10 cables from the US embassy in Prague to the State Department during the Velvet Revolution. Maybe you have to be a bit of a geek to appreciate recently declassified documents; I don't know. I find them pretty fascinating anyway, but heck, I am a geek.

I especially liked this from a November 18, 1989 cable:
There is a final bit of cruel irony to last night's events. Started officially to commemorate a heroic student act of protest against the brutality of Czechoslovakia's Nazi occupiers, they ended yesterday in brutality and apparently at least one student's death at the hands of the Czechoslovak authorities.

What happens when you post before you've had enough coffee

Um...link and spelling now fixed in last entry. The sad fact: I make my living, in part, as a copyeditor.

Lets hear it for the libertarian left

Thanks to eponymous for the tip that Political Compass has updated their site. Some of you may remember it's the site that asks you all of those questions like "I'd always support my country, whether it was right or wrong," and then at the end graphs your overall position on a grid with a "left-right" axis and an "authoritarian-libertarian" axis. Anyway, they have new questions.

I'm hoping I am not the only one who seems to be on a leftward march these days. Come join me in the corner! Me: Economic Left/Right: -8.25, Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -7.59.

They also graphed the 2004 candidates, which explains a thing or two about some of our feelings of...um...dissatisfaction with the choices. No matter how I tried, I couldn't get much past an "anybody but Bush" feeling about the election. Maybe if we could just find a Dem who wasn't in the upper-right-hand quadrant I could muster more enthusiasm.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

City of Angels, indeed

Billy Graham is coming. Tomorrow. He's going to save us. If it's not bad enough that I live in a state where the governor has six hummers, I live in a city where the mayor et al are rolling out the red carpet for the crusaders:
Los Angeles Councilwoman Janice Hahn presented a joint resolution signed by the mayor, city attorney, city comptroller and all council members. "The Los Angeles City Council doesn't agree on everything but on this we all agreed," she said. "We hereby acknowledge and commend the wonderful ministry of Billy Graham, commend him on his consistent desire to bring the good news to all people and declare this day 'Billy Graham Crusade Day' and wish him the best for his November 18-21 crusade at the Rose Bowl."
Well thank god the city council has learned to get along. Praise the lord.


Maybe someone else who is smarter than me can make sense of Goss' instructions to his new super secret staff. In an email to staff this week, Goss wrote
We avoid political involvement, especially political partisanship...We support the administration and its policies in our work...As agency employees, we do not identify with, support or champion opposition to the administration or its policies. We provide the intelligence as we see it — and let the facts alone speak to the policy-maker.
Let me see if I get this: We're not political partisans...we only support the Republican agenda...we shun the opposition...we are neutral.

Is that clear everyone?

Porter Goss

You know, the new CIA director. Yeah, well...check out this clip where he talks about his qualifications.

Oscar nominees

The not-so-short list for the best documentary oscar came out today. The five nominees will be chosen from these twelve films:
  • "Born into Brothels"
    "Home of the Brave"
    "Howard Zinn: You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train"
    "In the Realms of the Unreal"
    "Riding Giants"
    "The Ritchie Boys"
    "The Story of the Weeping Camel"
    "Super Size Me"
    "Tell Them Who You Are"
    "Touching the Void"
    "Tupac: Resurrection"
    "Twist of Faith"

Um...hello? Michael Moore anyone? I mean, the film did win Cannes' Golden Palm. You'd think it would at least make this cut.

End times

Okay, now the rapture people are really going to be packing. Apparently, the plagues have begun. Locusts are swarming in Egypt for the first time in 50 years:
The FAO described the insect clouds as a "medium density swarm of locusts numbering several million, if not a billion," covering several square miles.

What...you only talk about politics?

This made me laugh: Yiddish with Dick and Jane.

Journalists in Iraq

A 27-year-old KnightRidder reporter writes about life for a reporter in Iraq:
As the close calls grew, the Iraq we knew shrank. The northern mountains and southern marshes are off-limits now because the roads out of Baghdad are lined with bombs and gunmen. Even a jaunt to the grocery store is a meticulously planned affair. Do you have a radio? A flak vest? A second car to watch for kidnappers?

Some of my colleagues have left, their blond hair and pale skin too inviting for militants out hunting foreigners. Other reporters plan to move inside the Green Zone, the American compound that "protects" you from the people you came to cover.

This year may turn out to be the deadliest journalists have ever know. More than 100 have died as of last week.

Fish empathy

That's what PETA is calling its new ad. They have a whole campaign set up including tips on becoming a pro-fish activist. I don't want to be nasty here, but don't we have bigger fish to fry right now? (Forgive me...I couldn't resist.)

Anger is an energy

I heartily recommend this video at What We Know. Be aware you should close your office door lest someone hear the f-word issuing from your speakers. Go watch it right now. It will make you feel better; I guarantee it.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

When the rapture comes, can I have your car?

Okay, I am loving corrente to which I am grateful for my trip to rapture ready. It's definitely worth a visit. Check out the End Time News Bites (a sort of newsblog apocalypse-style), The Dead Frog Report ("examples of unnoticed decay"), and of course, the Post-Rapture Survival Guide (for those of us left behind).

A sigh is just a sigh

Caption contest here

Monday, November 15, 2004

It would be nice if they could call it something different

I don't get why The Paris Review has chosen to call their Writers-at-Work interviews "the DNA of literature," but be that as it may, the interviews from the 50s are available online now, and they'll be rolling out the rest of the decades over the next seven months.

Thanks to Gordon for pointing out Syracuse Cultural Workers' version of the war poster blogged below.