Sunday, July 30, 2006

Karl Rove offers gentle advice

In an AP article headlined "Rove Critical of Media's 'Corrosive Role' in Politics", we see:

Rove told about 100 graduates trained to be political operatives that they should respect the instincts of the American voter.

"There are some in politics who hold that voters are dumb, ill-informed and easily misled, that voters can be manipulated by a clever ad or a smart line," said Rove, who is credited with directing President Bush's wins in the 2000 and 2004 elections. "I've seen this cynicism over the years from political professionals and journalists. American people are not policy wonks, but they have great instincts and try to do the right thing."

Rove said it is "wrong to underestimate the intelligence of the American voter but easy to overestimate their interest," adding, "Much tugs at their attention."

Wow, some gentle wisdom. Thanks, Karl. That one will go in the scrapbook.

Of course, this is from the man who started whisper campaigns in three separate races to spread these smears:
  • That Ann Richards, the unmarried governor of Texas, was actually a lesbian and her staff was filled with lesbians.
  • That Mark Kennedy, the incumbent democrat in the Alabama Supreme Court, who had had a long and honorable career as a protector of children's interests, was actually a pedophile.
  • That John McCain, father of an adopted child from Bangladesh, was actually having affairs with black women, and the dark-skinned child was the obvious product. Also, that he was mentally unbalanced from having been a prisoner of war during the time that Karl's candidate, George W. Bush, was safe in America, snorting coke, getting his girlfriends pregnant, and crashing Texas Air National Guard airplanes.
In a culture with honor, the only proper response I can conceive for Karl Rove, this smug, disgusting, penile-headed operative who has so thoroughly debased the political system, would be for everyone he meets to abruptly projectile vomit upon him for the rest of his life.

Ok, that's unlikely, but it's a pleasant daydream, you must admit.

Life is an endless unfolding

John Gardner, the founder of Common Cause, delivered an extraordinary speech called "Personal Renewal" in 1990. The speech has been copied and referred to in many different contexts.

Gardner is inspiring and funny in this speech, and it makes me want to check out his books. He touches on too many aspects of embracing change here to be easily summarized. He was 78 years old when he wrote this.

A small fraction:
You come to understand your impact on others. It's interesting that even in the first year of life you learn the impact that a variety of others have on you, but as late as middle age many people have a very imperfect understanding of the impact they themselves have on others. The hostile person keeps asking 'Why are people so hard to get along with?" In some measure we create our own environment. You may not yet grasp the power of that truth to change your life.

Of course failures are a part of the story too. Everyone fails, Joe Louis said "Everyone has to figure to get beat some time." The question isn't did you fail but did you pick yourself up and move ahead? And there is one other little question: 'Did you collaborate in your own defeat?" A lot of people do. Learn not to.

One of the enemies of sound, lifelong motivation is a rather childish conception we have of the kind of concrete, describable goal toward which all of our efforts drive us. We want to believe that there is a point at which we can feel that we have arrived. We want a scoring system that tells us when we've piled up enough points to count ourselves successful.

So you scramble and sweat and climb to reach what you thought was the goal. When you get to the top you stand up and look around and chances are you feel a little empty. Maybe more than a little empty.

You wonder whether you climbed the wrong mountain.

But life isn't a mountain that has a summit, Nor is it -- as some suppose -- a riddle that has an answer. Nor a game that has a final score.

Life is an endless unfolding, and if we wish it to be, an endless process of self-discovery, an endless and unpredictable dialogue between our own potentialities and the life situations in which we find ourselves. By potentialities I mean not just intellectual gifts but the full range of one's capacities for learning, sensing, wondering, understanding, loving and aspiring.

Get that finger out of my face, bitch, I'm fucking the president

I was surprised by the details of the U.S. offer to Hezbollah
Politically, the centerpiece of the plan requires Hezbollah to surrender the military force and formidable weapons arsenal it spent 24 years building, and which has given it special standing both in Lebanon and well beyond its borders. As the only Arab force that has ever made Israel retreat in six decades of regional warfare, Hezbollah would effectively have to give up being a regional player and make its own retreat to local Lebanese politics, where it would be just one of 17 recognized sects in a country 1,000 square miles smaller than Connecticut.
Hell, why are we low-balling them? Why not just start off by asking the Hezbollah representatives to shoot themselves in the head? That's an even more effective tactic. Why, just the other day, a large dog sought to hump on my leg. I was stern, but fair, when I said, "This is unacceptable behavior. I require that you castrate yourself!" Damn me if he didn't do just that, right away. Good doggie.

So, the U.S. negotiation to halt the war is in bad faith. It is a transparent attempt to let Israel completely win this misbegotten war, which it can't. Seeing this kind of imbecilic incompetence must be hard on the professional staff at Foggy Bottom. It will take a decade or more for the U.S. to recover from this reckless support of Israel in the opinion of much of the world, and many people will never forget and never forgive. Sigh. I need a Canadian t-shirt, or hat, or something...

If you want more rational analysis of the current crisis, the non-partisan Congressional Research Service has a report released on 21 July called "Israel-Hamas-Hezbollah: The Current Conflict" (25 page pdf)

(AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Cremastered potatoes

The cremaster muscle appears only in men. Its function is to raise and lower the testicles in response to heat, cold, and assorted emotional states. When highly stimulated, the cremaster can actually yank the testes entirely inside the body (ouchie).

Matthew Barney is an artist who has made a three hour movie called The Cremaster Cycle. (He is also Bjork's boyfriend.)

Friends, I'm here to tell you, I just don't get it. I finally watched part 3, which is a 30 minute excerpt from the larger, 3-hour piece. Part 3 is an intriguing series of images consisting of various interactions between these components:
  1. Four, perfectly lovely, half-nude ladies, who appear here and there throughout the piece, either walking around or in a large bubble bath.
  2. Two different speed metal/punk bands, and perhaps a hundred followers who form a mosh pit. I don't remember their names, but trust me: it doesn't matter.
  3. Terrible music. The punk bands were just ok, but the rest of the film is filled with tinkly crap that raised my blood pressure.
  4. The Entered Apprentice (Matthew Barney himself), who is dyed pink, wearing a large pink drum major's hat, with a large, pink, rubber mat grotesquely stuffed into his mouth. As one closeup makes clear, the stuffing has injured his mouth. It's also clear that it's make up -- was this amateurish, or did he want the viewers to know that he wasn't actually injured? I cannot say. His costume also half-reveals his body, which is athletic and strong.
  5. Aimee Mullins, a lovely actress who has twin, below-the-knee amputations highlighted by clear lucite boots. The clear boots make it clear how damaged her legs are, and they are no substitute for her normal prostheses: she walks awkwardly about. At one point, she makes out with the Entered Apprentice. At the end of the movie, she is badly injured, although no assault was shown. Her lucite boots are shredded into useless curlicues of plastic, and she sits glumly, waiting for something.
  6. A half-woman, half-cat creature who mewls and looks about nervously. Unlike the Rockettes below, she is more fully depicted as a cat, with body makeup that is the color of fur. However, she also is naked from the waist up. She is later bludgeoned to death by the Entered Apprentice for no apparent reason.
  7. Richard Serra, the well-known sculptor. He first sets up a miniature sculpture not terribly different from other pieces of his, like his much-loathed Tilted Arc installation. Once set up, he uses industrial equipment to heat a large kettle of petroleum jelly. Then he spatters the sculpture with large ladles of the molten jelly. Over time, in many separate steps, the jelly recongeals into a gelatinous snow drift. It is neither attractive nor ugly, just unusual.
  8. About twenty to thirty young women dressed in revealing, half-Rockettes, half-"hello kitty" outfits. That is, they have little floppy kitty ears on, with cat makeup, but they also wear short-shorts, stockings, and high heels. They do Rockette-like routines through the piece, including several fun bits where they kick the museum wall in near simultaneity. They smile continuously, some apparently in near hilarity at what they are doing. They all have fantastic legs, and may, in fact, be Rockettes. The Entered Apprentice considers them repeatedly, from different angles.
  9. The Guggenheim museum in New York. The museum is a character in this piece, where it serves as stage, gym, and prop. The Entered Apprentice rock climbs from the floor to the top of the museum, using pre-built holds that are temporarily fastened to the inner walls. As a former rock climber, I can assure you that he did some righteous climbing. For at least two sections, a mistake could have injured or killed him. By the end, the walls have been climbed, used as a drum, walked on, leaned against.
The images shown throughout these piece are striking and memorable. Even though I mostly hated this film, they still have a power over me two days later. However, it's frustrating that there was no easily accessible theme to this art. Clearly, he's endlessly concerned with women. But is that it? Is that the cremaster connection? With the relentless cat imagery, was he saying something deep? Or was he just making a visual pun about pussies? (including his own pink costume?) Why was his mouth injured? Why he did severely injure the cat/woman? Was Aimee Mullins the cat/woman? Why have a goddamn bubble bath on the floor of the Guggenheim?

I do not think that the piece was meaningless, but I do think that it was pointless, because there is no real entry point to let anyone start to consider whatever meaning it might have. It's almost as if Barney had made a movie for his close friends.

My meaning may not be clear; let me find a better example. Velazquez's Las Meninas is one of the most sublime pieces of art ever made. When you look at it, you first see a pretty girl, surrounded by attendants. Then you might notice that some of the attendants are dwarfs, or perhaps you see that they are following a story of their own, ignoring all the other action while they choose to bother the put-upon dog. Or you might notice the artist himself, Velazquez, who is painting the "other" picture, or perhaps the King and Queen, who are the ones "really" having their portrait made in the other picture. Perhaps the indulgent gaze of an attendant who leaves the room, filling it with light, will catch your eye. What, exactly, does the expression on his face mean? Perhaps none of this will draw your eye, but your head will instead spin as you consider the different angles that Velazquez is depicting perfectly, all at once. What were the political chances he took by creating such a unique, slightly disrespectful portrait? Could he he have been banned or even killed after its creation?

It is as complete a capturing of a single, rich instant in a royal family's life that I can imagine, and it includes the artist itself in a fun, heisenbergian way. I could look at it for hours. Yet it is still a painting with a pretty girl in the center. That is the beginning. This painting will always lure the admiring gaze so that it can later intrigue the admiring mind. It is one of the greatest works of art ever made.

The Cremaster Cycle, eh, not so much. On his own, Matthew Barney entirely re-makes Tom Wolfe's point about modern art being weaker, because it frequently has to be accompanied by explanatory texts.

Roe vs. Reality

The NEJM has a good article summarizing the current state of affairs with regard to abortion rights.

The darker the color on this map, the higher the ratio of women to potential abortion providers. Using the per capita ratio in this way highlights the destructive combination of rural life, with its already poor doctor-patient ratio, with the hysteria and physical threats to the physicians that anti-abortion forces create.

The article discusses the nationwide scene, and how Roe is being gutted from all directions, such as South Dakota's recent law defining abortion as murder commited by a doctor. The article particularly highlights one brave Nebraska physician, LeRoy Carhart.

In the United States, nearly 20 percent of hospital beds are in facilities with religious affiliations, most of which prohibit physicians from providing abortions. According to the Guttmacher Institute, although nationwide about 1 in 14 abortions is sought for health reasons, only two hospitals in Nebraska offer pregnancy terminations, and they do so only under rare circumstances, such as intrauterine fetal death; each of these hospitals performs fewer than 10 pregnancy terminations per year. Nevertheless, in 2004, women from many other states traveled to Nebraska for abortions — at Carhart's clinic. Occasionally, when a hospital refuses, Carhart is asked to terminate a pregnancy that threatens a woman's health. In a recent case, a woman with severe pregnancy-associated renal failure traveled 200 miles by ambulance for an abortion. She arrived with her hospital identification bracelet and an intravenous line in place, underwent the procedure, and was shipped back to her hospital bed.

Similar events have occurred in many other states. In 1998, the Louisiana State University Medical Center in Shreveport refused to provide an abortion for Michelle Lee, a woman with cardiomyopathy who was on the waiting list for a heart transplant, despite her cardiologist's warning that the pregnancy might kill her. Hospital policy dictated that to qualify for an abortion, a woman's risk of dying had to be greater than 50 percent if her pregnancy was carried to term; a committee of physicians ruled that Lee did not meet this criterion. Since her cardiomyopathy made an outpatient abortion too dangerous, she traveled 100 miles to Texas by ambulance to have her pregnancy terminated.
In other words, this latter woman had a heart so unhealthy that she couldn't even drive to Texas on her own: she had to contract an ambulance. But the Louisiana hospital still would have required that she carry her pregnancy to term.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

pug bowling

so wrong.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Firing missiles at ambulances

For fuck's sake. These are war crimes, not accidents.
On Saturday, Israeli forces struck two ambulances outside the town of Qana, injuring six Red Cross volunteer medics as well as the three wounded passengers they were carrying, Red Cross medics said. The ambulances were flashing blue lights and had illuminated the Red Cross flag, the medics said.

"I fell down," said Qassem Shalaan, 28, one of the wounded medics, who was standing about three feet from the first ambulance when it was struck. "I opened my eyes to make sure I could still see, then I checked my body and I was okay."

He had three stitches below his lip and cuts on his leg. His eardrums were bruised.

As the medics in the other ambulance called for help, a second missile hit it less than a minute later, wounding the three other medics, they said.

The medics, all wearing flak jackets and helmets, kept working despite their injuries. They took the wounded -- a 14-year-old boy, his father and his grandmother -- into a nearby home. There, in the basement, they used their shirts as bandages amid shelling that lasted throughout their two-hour wait for help.

"I'll speak for myself, but I feel like I have no cover even as a Red Cross worker," Shalaan said from his hospital bed.

Hezbolla is monstrous, they are indiscriminate killers. Now, however, Israel has taken on the role of judge and executioner. This is collective punishment. They are deliberately killing civilians. This is wrong, disastrously wrong.

Do the Israelis think they will destroy Hezbollah? They can't. How did they catch the American disease of hubris?


Here's a tight loop of Weezer's "Island in the Sun" song (the hip-hip song) on top of wallpapered versions of pictures.

Despite the fact that it's a short loop and despite the too-fast speed of the picture rotation, you can really while away some time looking at this page. How long, exactly, I would (cough) prefer not to say.

On Saturday, returning late from a flight, I spontaneously decided to see The Raconteurs. It worked out wonderfully: I missed the opening band and still got a great spot. Being by myself, it was easy to work down into the pit before the stage so I could check out the show with the true believers.

I was going blind into the show. (Deaf into the show?) I haven't bought the album (Broken Boy Soldiers) yet, and while "Steady as She Goes" appears to be getting a lot of airplay, I haven't heard it. I do love the White Stripes, however, so my hopes were high. I don't think I was alone in my feelings: the crowd seemed to be wild only for Jack White

It was a fine show, with some astonishing solos by White. It's not a solo band; it's just that he's noticeably better than all of them, the Derek to their Dominoes, if you like. Like Clapton, White can just play the shit out of the guitar. In truth, though, he reminded me more of Richard Thompson. (Albeit with a greasy mop on his head, and a demented leer. How this talented troll ever married a lovely sylph like Karen Elson is beyond me. Just buy the CDs, honey. You'll thank me later.)

Good show, though. I will buy the new album.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

ah em bahk

Er, ah, hello there. [cleans glasses]

To my four regular readers, I've been off dealing with family things, and I'm a little too depressed over the Middle East and our idiot, frat-boy president to say anything snarky.

If you feel like checking out some IRC funnies, here's's top-100 list:

ben174: If they only realized 90% of the overtime they pay me is only cause i like staying here playing with Kazaa when the bandwidth picks up after hours.
chrislmb : If any of my employees did that they'd be fired instantly.
ben174: Where u work?
chrislmb : I'm the CTO at
*** Ben174 ( Quit (Leaving)


Rabidplaybunny87: Okay, so my neighbors officially hate me
GarbageStan23: why?
Rabidplaybunny87: Well, me, david and andrew were having a bonfire in the backyard, and we were making s'mores and all... and suddenly we here sirens, and see a firetruck turn into the street in front of us.
Rabidplaybunny87: So we all went running to see what was up, and our neigbor's house was on fire!
GarbageStan23: oh shit!
Rabidplaybunny87: Yeah, and when we got there, the wife was crying into her husbands arms, and we were just kinda standing there, and then she saw us, and then like for 10 seconds, gave us the dirtiest look ever
Rabidplaybunny87: Turns out, we were still holding our sticks with marshmallows on it, watching the fire....
Rabidplaybunny87: talk about bad timing...

Saturday, July 15, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

Man, if I could have Billmon's baby, I would. Here's what he wrote about An Inconvenient Truth., turning it into a larger essay on the press.

Ralph Peters wants to help the terrorists

I was horrified to read this blood-thirsty editorial from Ralph Peters in the New York Post:

Violent Islamist extremists must be killed on the battlefield. Only in the rarest cases should they be taken prisoner. Few have serious intelligence value. And, once captured, there's no way to dispose of them.

Killing terrorists during a conflict isn't barbaric or immoral - or even illegal. We've imposed rules upon ourselves that have no historical or judicial precedent. We haven't been stymied by others, but by ourselves.

The oft-cited, seldom-read Geneva and Hague Conventions define legal combatants as those who visibly identify themselves by wearing uniforms or distinguishing insignia (the latter provision covers honorable partisans - but no badges or armbands, no protection). Those who wear civilian clothes to ambush soldiers or collect intelligence are assassins and spies - beyond the pale of law.

Traditionally, those who masquerade as civilians in order to kill legal combatants have been executed promptly, without trial. Severity, not sloppy leftist pandering, kept warfare within some decent bounds at least part of the time. But we have reached a point at which the rules apply only to us, while our enemies are permitted unrestricted freedom.

What Ralph Peters manifestly does not understand is that the terrorists want you to kill them. They want you to overreact. It is necessary for the giant to become angry, and try to swat the terrorists, because that is the way that they can recruit more people to their cause, by us killing and torturning innocent people. If they live, they become our enemy. If they die, their friends and family are converted.

In many ways, this mock-conservative rhetoric is only a slight variation on the whining that conservatives have engaged in for decades now concerning the mollycoddling of prisoners. Instead of welfare mothers and black criminals released on parole, they can complain about this wacky Geneva convention, preventing us from waterboarding a bloodthirsty terrorist, when in fact, this is just a random guy who was given to us by his political enemies in afghanistan.

It is sad how those darn rules are always standing between us and the utopia that awaits once we are allowed to do whatever our id requires. It's funny, the left and the right both have instinctive responses around the id, but one leftist response is basically "I should be able to fuck anyone I want" while one rightist response is "I should be able to shoot anyone I want."

In any case, this fierce rhetoric is unacceptable. It's illogical. It's ahistorical. It hurts real American values. During World War II, our opponents in the Axis were fanatics who killed and tortured in the millions, from Nanking to Dachau. After the war was ended, we could say, with justifiable pride, that we had remained true to our principles. Certainly, there were many moral failings, from unnecessary civilian bombing to years of collaboration with former Nazis during the cold war. When Dachau was first uncovered, there was a spontaneous massacre of the guards, after all. These were genuinely awful times.

In the end, however, we did the right thing, on the whole. We're not in that position now. We have invaded the wrong country, tortured the wrong people, and backed the wrong players in Iraq and in Israel. Our president is a callous boob who chortles on about eating pig while the Middle East is exploding.

We need to be a country of laws, and a country of principles. It is completely beyond me how someone can be called a conservative, and be willing to chuck all that in the wastebasket.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

All criminals have friends

Ken Lay was eulogized as a "straight arrow" and a "boy scout" at his funeral yesterday. I'm sure his friends and family loved him, and I am sorry for their loss. In his personal life, he was probably a sweet guy.

However, he wasn't a straight arrow in his business dealings. He was a white collar criminal, whose malfeasance and nonfeasance cost real people hundreds of millions of dollars worth of real money. That's just the truth, most recently confirmed by a jury verdict.

Ken Lay had always been willing to overlook criminal or merely stupid behavior if it looked to be profitable. As the superb book Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron details, in the 80s, Ken Lay was well-briefed on an scam that nearly lost hundreds of millions and ruined his company.

In that case, some crooked commodities traders were allowed to bet much more in futures than their entire company was worth. Luckily for Enron, their overleveraged maneuver was never uncovered. Someone more skillful was brought in to clean up the mess; he was able to unwind the trades without anyone being the wiser. The key point is that Ken Lay knew these two were wrong before things turned sour. He had been briefed in exquisite detail. He knew they had actually set up an account in the Cayman Islands to store their money. Unfortunately, he also knew that they were the only profitable arm in Enron at that time. After a meaningless investigation, these two crooks were sent forth with a mere "sin no more" warning from him, then they proceeded to literally bet the farm. (NB: the movie "Smartest Guys in the Room" is excellent too, although I was quite surprised to see some of the bad guys in the book are actually in the movie, cheerily telling anecdotes about Lay and Skilling. I guess they didn't read the book.)

The point is repeated a million times over. If you rob a bank and take 1,000 dollars, they'll throw you in jail for life. But if you steal hundreds of millions of dollars through complicated financial chicanery, you get to die in your sleep, in a comfortable house in Aspen, Colorado.

As the song goes,
Them that's got shall get
Them that's not shall lose
So the Bible said and it still is news
Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that's got his own
That's got his own
I actually met the guy who wrote "God Bless the Child" at the Columbia U. Folk Crypt. A cheery little marxist sprite, he was. Now I can't find his name. It looks like people think Shania Twain wrote that darn thing.

Straight shooter misfires again

The indefatigable Dan Froomkin takes a good look at the coverage of the two-page memo just put out by the Pentagon on whether the Geneva Conventions apply in all occasions, or just when convenient. He was unable to find a consensus view. The new policy could literally mean anything, and is likely intended only to ease the public mood, in the U.S. and abroad.

Gullibility: it's not in the dictionary, you know

Sadly, this blog gets about 1,000 times less traffic each than this one-trick pony does. Maybe because that's because mine has a weird name, maybe because I update it only once or twice a day, or maybe because I don't stay on one topic for more than a post or two. The low traffic bugs me sometimes, even though I really enjoy writing here. My brother, my family, and a few good friends read it, so it's just an online diary for folks I know, mostly. Fortunately, I'm chatty, and this blog is probably saving some poor friend of mine from a three page letter about formic acid and les fourmi and whatever the hell.

It is truly awesome to look in the reference logs for my blog, and find that some guy in Iceland has found this blog after midnight while looking for some random string (on the Icelandic version of google, no less. (Hey, "I'm feeling lucky" is apparently "Vogun vinnir vogun tapar." I'll have to try that out if I ever meet Bjork. Then maybe she'll drop that creepy Matthew Barney fellow. (I keed, I keed. I actually have Cremaster as #1 in my netflix queue. The odds are 50-50 that I will hate it, but it should be quite novel. (If this were real prose, I couldn't possibly have four nested parenthetical remarks. So, clearly, you're imagining this.)))).

In any case, the reference logs are usually interesting. I was very surprised to see that if I put "irrumatio" in a post, it brings in all kinds of people, no doubt frustrated and looking for blowjob photos. Sorry, guys — and now, I've done it again, so I'll get even more random horny surfers. Well, if you cannot find porn on the internet, I cannot help you.

In any case, this blog of mine doesn't get much traffic, alas. On the plus side, at least I'm not an gullible idiot.

(Green Fields photos from this cycling place.
The highly processed photo of Sydney is by my talented friend Tibor.)

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Thong of my heart

Here's a sweet acoustic song called "I Miss Monica." It goes on a bit too long..

Monday, July 10, 2006

Ratking starts to separate

A ratking is an agglomeration of many rats, each joined in the center by their knotted tails, each unable to separate from each other. The idea may be a fictional one, although the powerful metaphor has inspired a number of novels, including a dreary mystery set in Italy by Michael Dibdin. (Sorry, Roscoe.)

I was reminded of a ratking when I stumbled upon this story today. The National Socialist Movement, a prominent white power group, is completely disintegrating, with wild accusations of Satanism and child molestation being thrown about. I have absolutely no idea what is true in this story, other than they are all still filled with hate, previously for Jews and non-whites, and now for each other.

The central issue that seems to be dividing them is: can you be a good white power advocate if you are a Satanist, or must you be a Christian? Well, I have no idea how to respond to this stumper. Humorously, one prominent actor in this drama is a group called Joy of Satan. Their theology can be boiled down to: Satan! He can be your buddy, too! (I'm mildly worried that just by linking to them, the NSA has already classified me as a dumb-ass.) But come on, who could read about the "Teens for Satan e-Group" without giggling? Rock on, little Satanist dudes.

Here's the blog that represents the point of view of one of the main Nazi's involved in this feces-throwing party: Overthrow88. (Satanists? he's agin 'em.) Nota bene, gentili amici, that it is a genuine Nazi blog at Overthrow88 here, so don't be surprised if your gorge rises at some point.

(Ratking photo by Katherina Fritsch)

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Holiday texts

On certain holidays, I like to read or meditate on something related to the holiday, perhaps an MLK speech, a JFK biography, an essay on Christmas, etc. In modern America, all holidays are designed to trigger an impulse in you to buy something, but that is surely unnecessary in nearly all cases.

Here are the Federalist Papers, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, if you feel like a little reading on the Fourth of July. We live in a great nation: great in its conception, great in its history, and great in its stop-and-start attempts to live up to its own ideals. May we always seek to improve ourselves.

... for a dog, it's like climbing Mount Everest

My wife is a much more evolved creature than I am, so she declined to watch "The Best of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog" with me this evening.

But come on, Robert Smigel is a freaking genius! Not just for Triumph, but also for SNL's TV Funhouse, Ambiguously Gay Duo, and the Synchro-Vox interviews with Bush/Clinton on Conan (moving lips on static picture). And he was kicked out of The Westminster Dog Show twice! Nobel Prize worthy! Definitely read these two interviews if you like his work, and also like hearing the back story on assorted comedy show goings on. It will be too "inside baseball" for many, however.

Here he is in the first DVD's best bit: he showed up at the lengthy line for Star Wars: Attack of the Clones where assorted nerds waited in costume. He eviscerated them, and they loved it. Fantastic stuff, about 8 minutes of streaming video.

Here he is with a much briefer interaction with J-Lo.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Better to keep one's mouth shut...

In all fairness, there are morons and lunatics on both sides of the ideological gulf. When I lived in Berkeley, for instance, I heard all manner of nonsense: conspiracies, pacificism to the point of suicide, Lyndon LaRouche theories about the Queen of England. Still, most people on the left can easily tune out the complete non-thinking, Renaissance Faire, hug-a-bunny type of liberal. I can only hope that people on the right can recognize Ms. Atlas Shrugs as — how can I say this kindly? — an uninformed embarrassment. She has a great body, and a great smile; but when she speaks, it is in an angry shorthand of talking points and bumper sticker slogans, a Fox News broadcast pureed into nonsense.

I wonder if this vlog entry is her attempt to test the waters for more television appearances, since she might imagines herself as a brunette Ann Coulter. If so, check out this 2.5 minute disaster on before a friend of hers convinces her to yank it, as it is the classic television career torpedo.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

NY Times recursively involved in yet another story

When Howard Kurtz points out that you've taken on an idiotic editorial position, you should really hang it up. Your position is hopeless.
For the Wall Street Journal editorial page, there may be no more juicy target than the liberal press appearing to undermine the Bush administration's war on terror.

The White House and congressional Republicans, after all, have spent the past week attacking the New York Times for disclosing a secret program targeting the banking records of suspected terrorists.

The problem: The Journal itself had published a front-page story about the classified program on June 23, the same day as the Times.
I have never been able to fully reconcile the contradictions between the Wall Street Journal as a newspaper, with its smart, hard-working reporters and its trogdolytic editorial board. I know, as someone who has spent quite a few years working for finance companies, that nothing would tank the paper as quickly as the reporters taking on the same "don't trouble me with the facts" attitude that the editorial board uses every single day.

David Brooks, who is unique in his prominence and in having worked for both papers, believes that a large part of the fire-breathing response to the SWIFT story is literally that it came from the New York Times, and not, say, the Washington Times. After all, the SWIFT story had been released in pieces multiple times over the last few years, and it appeared on the front page of the WSJ and the Los Angeles Times. Still, it is the New York Times that is demonized by President Bush.

Brooks commented on the News Hour:
[...] the Times has become a symbol. If you remember, the president attacked the Times in his convention speech in the last election when we were in New York. And the Times has sort of become a symbol.

And I personally face it when I go in and interview people in the White House, the venting, the rage, and the, "How can you go to work for those people?" And I don't know what explains it, but it is a remarkable political attack.
On a political level, the White House is trying to find a demon that will resonate with the American people. They've tried gays. They've tried immigrants. Long ago, they tried Bin Ladin, but he's fat and sassy now, pumping out videos so often he should be setting up his own podcasts, and filing video shout-outs on

On an emotional level, the political masters are also letting Bush shout out his anger at being contradicted by the reality-based community, presumably hoping that his petulance will be mistaken for authenticity. Recall the words of the anonymous aide that Ron Suskind quoted in October 2004:
The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." ... "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."
That's how that the Bush/Cheney administrations wants to be thought of: as history's actors, as real men like Dirty Harry who are not troubled with legal niceties like the U.S. Constitution. They want to kick open the door and shoot the bad guys right between the eyes. They are naturally enraged to find stories that, instead, depict them as panty-sniffing keystone kops who have learned how to spy on Americans, but not how to stop hideous terrorist attacks in Bagdad.

Stick figure's flying fists of fury

Here is a 2-3 minute flash movie, featuring fight between a human web/flash designer and a just-designed stick figure. Verily, he has sown the wind and he reaps the whirlwind.

NB: it is very loud.

Our Cuban Gulag Archipelago

Karl Rove, speaking under a cloak of anonymity, decided to try out this meme in response to the Supreme Court's Hamdan decision:
A senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the issue is still being debated internally, seemed to hint at the potential political implications in Congress. "Members of both parties will have to decide whether terrorists who cherish the killing of innocents deserve the same protections as our men and women who wear the uniform," this official said.
It's framed by a genius of propaganda. I suppose it would have been more artful if he could have gotten in children in there, like "terrorists who cherish the killing of innocent children." And he didn't mention the orphans who deserve tax cuts, or young, freckle-faced farmers who love their mothers.

But this is nitpicking. See how wonderfully the phrase "deserve the same protections" brings up reflexive responses: "why, terrorists don't deserve anything!", or "my god! terrorists don't deserve protection!" Many people will not even have to read the entire sentence before they start getting their rage-on. It's nicely done.

Unfortunately, the facts are biased once more — O treacherous world — and the rich, emotional argument that Rove is trying to weave will be snagged on one simple thorn: no one knows how many of the 450 people being held at Guantanamo are terrorists, because they have had no trials that would determine these facts. The administration was content, in their simplicity and blood-thirstiness, to seize several hundred people on a battlefield, determine through some manner that they were terrorists, and then proceed to torture them for four years while maintaining that they were unworthy of any Geneva convention protection, any protection that our own military affords to prisoners of war, any protection that we would demand that our own soldiers be given if held by a regime of any kind.

If they are terrorists, prove it. It is merely "proof" that is the "protection" that Karl refers to above. Once the charges are proven, then you can shoot them, feed them fish heads, or hold them in a prison cell until they die — I don't care which. But if you cannot prove it, then the keeping of anyone in these torturous conditions is a monstrous sin. We have elected a president, we do not have a king whose imperial judgement cannot be questioned.

Our actions towards the worst people will show our values. Bush's lack of judgement in Guantanamo has tainted America, and will do so for years to come.

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