Friday, December 30, 2005

The Lazy End of the Prince of Darkness

I've been busy, but I couldn't yet the end of the year pass without noting something that I haven't seen mentioned anywhere else about the move of Robert Novak from CNN to Fox News.

First, a line from this story from Fox News itself (just a warning in case you normally try to avoid it's relentless fairness and balance...and steadfastness and resoluteness):
"He said he wanted to stay in TV, but do more limited work. FOX News Channel spokesman Brian Lewis confirmed his signing with that network." [italics mine]

And then there's this quote from The Washington Post:
"I will be 75 years old in February," Novak said. "I wanted to do a lot less."

He said that since all of his shows have been axed, "I didn't have that much to do and didn't ask for more to do."

Am I the only one inferring from this: "I still wanted to be on TV, but I didn't want to have to do any work, so I'm heading to Fox, which is the perfect place for such a thing"?

It made me think of this, which is from a February 1996 story by James Fallows in The Atlantic, "Why Americans Hate the Media" (its behind a subscription wall, unfortunately, but worth reading if you can find a way to get to it):
In the early spring of last year, when Newt Gingrich was dominating the news from Washington and the O. J. Simpson trial was dominating the news as a whole, The Washington Post ran an article about the pathos of the White House press room. Nobody wanted to hear what the President was doing, so the people who cover the President could not get on the air. Howard Kurtz, the Post's media writer, described the human cost of this political change:
Brit Hume is in his closet-size White House cubicle, watching Kato Kaelin testify on CNN. Bill Plante, in the adjoining cubicle, has his feet up and is buried in the New York Times. Brian Williams is in the corridor, idling away the time with Jim Miklaszewski.

An announcement is made for a bill-signing ceremony. Some of America's highest-paid television correspondents begin ambling toward the pressroom door.

"Are you coming with us?" Williams asks.

"I guess so," says Hume, looking forlorn.

The White House spokesman, Mike McCurry, told Kurtz that there was some benefit to the enforced silence: "Brit Hume has now got his crossword puzzle capacity down to record time. And some of the reporters have been out on the lecture circuit."

At the time, Hume was with ABC News. He left for Fox soon after. Is it any wonder why?

Fallows continues:
The deadpan restraint with which Kurtz told this story is admirable. But the question many readers would want to scream at the idle correspondents is Why don't you go out and do some work?

Why not go out and interview someone, even if you're not going to get any airtime that night? Why not escape the monotonous tyranny of the White House press room, which reporters are always complaining about? The knowledge that O.J. will keep you off the air yet again should liberate you to look into those stories you never "had time" to deal with before. Why not read a book--about welfare reform, about Russia or China, about race relations, about anything? Why not imagine, just for a moment, that your journalistic duty might involve something more varied and constructive than doing standups from the White House lawn and sounding skeptical about whatever announcement the President's spokesman put out that day?

What might these well-paid, well-trained correspondents have done while waiting for the O.J. trial to become boring enough that they could get back on the air? They might have tried to learn something that would be of use to their viewers when the story of the moment went away. Without leaving Washington, without going farther than ten minutes by taxi from the White House (so that they could be on hand if a sudden press conference was called), they could have prepared themselves to discuss the substance of issues that affect the public.

Which pretty much explains the rise of Fox News, where the story isn't the story, but the person delivering the story. You get to be on TV, but don't have to be bothered by, you know, facts. Besides, you're a pundit, you aren't delivering the news, you're interpreting the news. And you're simply interpreting it in a way to counteract the "liberal" interpretation of the mainstream media. You know, the dreaded "MSM," who actually expected something of value for all of the money they gave you.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

I'm Okay With This

you are Tom Waits!
Tom Waits... charismatic story-teller with a
penchant for freaky people and unusual
settings. You thrive on the concept of the
underdog coming out on top.

Which fucked up genius composer are you?

(Found via Slacktivist.)

Monday, October 10, 2005

Well, I've always wondered...

...and now it's been scientifically proven!

the Wit
(61% dark, 38% spontaneous, 21% vulgar)

your humor style:
CLEAN | COMPLEX | DARK

You like things edgy, subtle, and smart. I guess that means you're probably an intellectual, but don't take that to mean pretentious. You realize 'dumb' can be witty--after all isn't that the Simpsons' philosophy?--but rudeness for its own sake, 'gross-out' humor and most other things found in a fraternity leave you totally flat.

I guess you just have a more cerebral approach than most. You have the perfect mindset for a joke writer or staff writer.

Your sense of humor takes the most thought to appreciate, but it's also the best, in my opinion.

You probably loved the Office.

PEOPLE LIKE YOU: Jon Stewart - Woody Allen - Ricky Gervais

So there.

Monday, October 03, 2005

New Supreme Court Nominee

Bush Taps Harriet Miers for High Court
By DEB RIECHMANN, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - President Bush on Monday nominated White House counsel Harriet Miers to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court, reaching into his loyal inner circle for another pick that could reshape the nation's judiciary for years to come.

Oh good, because if the events of the past six weeks have proven anything, it's that Bush's political cronies are so very able to perform the jobs to which they are assigned.

Miers has no judicial record, which may complicate any Democratic attempts to block her nomination. It is impossible to predict whether Miers and Roberts will shift the court to the right.

Oh sweet Jeebus, it's not impossible. It's expected. Here's what she said:

"If confirmed, I recognize I will have a tremendous responsibility to keep our judicial system strong and to help insure the court meets their obligations to strictly apply the laws and Constitution," she said."

Hmm, I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that she's an "originalist," a misleadingly polite name for reactionary fucktard.

"We know even less about Harriet Miers than we did about John Roberts and because this is the critical swing seat on the court, Americans will need to know a lot more about Mier's judicial philosophy and legal background before any vote for confirmation," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., a member of the Judiciary Committee.

Are you kidding? Bush probably nicknamed her "Harriet the Spy" or "Miersy," and we're all supposed to find that endearing as hell and just trust that she'll have nothing but the best interests of the general public at heart. Why, her lack of experience is a strength, if anything. It's like how Mike Brown didn't have any experience as the director of emergency operations anywhere, not even as crossing guard or the guy in charge of the fire extinguisher, and it really freed him up as head of FEMA to conceive bold and visionary new plans for dealing with Hurricane Katrina, like "What if we just leave the really poor people behind?" (To be fair, Bush's Pioneers and Rangers managed to load up their SUVs at that point and get out of harm's way with their checkbooks dry and their credit cards intact, so the worst possible outcome didn't come to pass.)

If the Democratic party had a backbone, they'd fight her on the cronyism grounds. She has no record, and the man who nominated her has shown a blatant disregard for the American people in his appointment of unqualified people to positions of great importance. Why should they assume that this case is any different?

Friday, September 16, 2005

Sheesh.

High Stakes: Trent Lott's Bad Bet
Browner said that Lott was not alone among politicians in his disregard for the environment. “For fifty years,” she pointed out, “there’s been significant inattention to the environmental consequences of developing the wetlands.” But Lott was particularly single-minded in his support of casino development. “I had barely taken office,” Browner said, “when I discovered there was a ‘hold’ on a department nominee.” (Placing a hold, which is a common maneuver in the Senate, can keep a nominee’s name from moving forward to a vote.) “I didn’t have a clue who put the hold on the nominee. Then Trent Lott called me up and said that he had done it. He told me, ‘I figured I’d have a problem with the E.P.A. I don’t have one yet. But this is a warning to you.’ Then he lifted the hold. But the message was clear.

“A few years later, in 1997, Clinton nominated someone else to a job in the E.P.A. that needed Senate confirmation,” she recalled. Browner learned that a hold had been placed on this person, too. “It was a person who was perfectly qualified,” she said. “So the hold seemed odd.

“We called around to see what was the matter,” she went on. “And I found out that Lott had put a hold on this person. I then spoke with him about it, and he said, ‘It’s not about the nominee.’ He said, ‘It’s because I want you to fire another employee, because he’s standing in the way of wetlands permits needed for casinos.’

“He wanted me to fire this guy who was handling the wetlands permits down in our regional office in Atlanta,” she said. “I couldn’t have done it if I’d wanted to. I told him I wasn’t going to. It’s the job of the E.P.A. to enforce Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, which covers all wetlands permits, and this guy was doing his job.” Browner said that she did not tell the employee in Atlanta, because she didn’t want him to feel pressured. “Lott thought the guy was working with the Army Corps of Engineers to hold up the casino permits, and he was determined to get rid of him.”

(Emphases mine.)

The disaster of Hurricane Katrina isn't limited to the immediate aftermath, the days lost by FEMA's useless and needless dickering over inane questions of jurisdiction, or by Bush's inability to grasp just how bad things were. This was a disaster years in the making. If it didn't hit Louisiana and Mississippi, then it would have hit somewhere else. Pundits and politicians can scream all they want about the uselessness of the government, but when the people who work in it do their damndest to do their jobs and serve the people in both the short and the long term, only to be ignored by greedy thugs, I know whose feet I'll lay the blame at.

Lott had better goddamned well enjoy that glorious new house that the president has promised will rise from the rubble of his old one. If there was any justice, the voters of Mississippi would vote in such a way to allow him a lot more free time to spend there.

Friday, September 09, 2005

I Didn't Know Any Of This

Chief Justice Rehnquist's Drug Habit
..[F]or the nine years between 1972 and the end of 1981, William Rehnquist consumed great quantities of the potent sedative-hypnotic Placidyl. So great was Rehnquist's Placidyl habit, dependency, or addiction—depending on how you regard long-term drug use—that by the last quarter of 1981 he began slurring his speech in public, became tongue-tied while pronouncing long words, and sometimes had trouble finishing his thoughts.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Somebody's Angling For A Promotion!

I noticed these two posts over at Atrios. I've extrapolated the links out a little bit.

First, this one:
Nothing that could make Dear Leader look bad must ever be shown.
FEMA Wants No Photos of Dead
From Reuters

NEW ORLEANS — The U.S. agency leading Hurricane Katrina rescue efforts said Tuesday that it does not want the news media to photograph the dead as they are recovered.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, heavily criticized for its slow response to the devastation caused by the hurricane, rejected journalists' requests to accompany rescue boats searching for storm victims.

An agency spokeswoman said space was needed on the rescue boats.

"We have requested that no photographs of the deceased be made by the media," the spokeswoman said in an e-mail.

And then there's this:
The fascist at FEMA:

On Monday, the Tribune says, some firefighters began to take off their FEMA-issued T-shirts in protest. A FEMA spokesman responded by questioning the firefighters' willingness to help in a time of need. "I would go back and ask the firefighter to revisit his commitment to FEMA, to firefighting and to the citizens of this country," FEMA spokeswoman Mary Hudak told the Tribune.

So, if you object to having yourself be flown across the country so you can be a human prop for the president instead of actually using your skills to help the citizens of this country then you need to revisit your commitment to "the citizens of this country."

Fascist.


I think it's a pretty safe assumption that the unnamed spokeswoman in the first bit is the named Mary Hudak in the second.

Just as long as we have a name to attach to the shilling.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Finally, Something Is Being Done

White House Enacts a Plan to Ease Political Damage
The effort is being directed by Mr. Bush's chief political adviser, Karl Rove, and his communications director, Dan Bartlett. It began late last week after Congressional Republicans called White House officials to register alarm about what they saw as a feeble response by Mr. Bush to the hurricane, according to Republican Congressional aides.

As a result, Americans watching television coverage of the disaster this weekend began to see, amid the destruction and suffering, some of the most prominent members of the administration - Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Donald H. Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense; and Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state - touring storm-damaged communities.

[snip]

Ms. Rice did not return to Washington until Thursday, after she was spotted at a Broadway show and shopping for shoes, an image that Republicans said buttressed the notion of a White House unconcerned with tragedy.

You know, as Secretary of State, Rice's involvement in rescue and clean up would have been minimal; picking on her is, at a certain level, unfair. But, as one of the most prominent faces of the administration, she should have just stayed in her hotel room, and her decision instead to go shopping and to see "Spamalot" is worthy of criticism. And now that she's being sent out to put a more competent face on the administration, it is even more so.

But really, I started to wonder what had happened to Karl in the midst of all of this. The events of the last two weeks are almost enough to make you forget his treasonous act of revealing the identity of a CIA agent two years ago. Almost.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

What They Say

Michael Bérubé: Not Your Father's GOP

Modern Republicans have left all that behind.  They don’t like government; they want, in Lovable Furry Old Grover Norquist’s famous words, to shrink government to the size at which it can be drowned in the bathtub.  Consequently, when they get into government, they quickly fill its halls with two kinds of people:  people who are charged with the task of destroying the agencies they run, and people who have no idea whatsoever about how their agencies work."


Pandagon: Libertarian Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

It's a strategy we all know--given a responsibility you don't want, one way to get out of it is to fuck it up so badly no one ever asks you to do it again. Basically, the Norquistian theory that the federal government can't do anything right became a self-fulfilling prophecy. From that viewpoint, FEMA's failure to evacuate New Orleans before the hurricane and their failure to respond quickly in order to save lives afterward went pretty much according to plan--I have little doubt that the spinmeisters are working on a way right this minute to use this as leverage to make the argument that asking for help from the federal government will fail you every time, not just when a bunch of heartless incompetents are in charge.


Corrente: Christmas Came Early

...[T]his is the age of laissez-faire government. The free market will determine how much aid goes to those in need, and the cost of gas will be determined by whatever the traffic can bear. The private sector knows best, and this government has become merely a spear-carrier and comfort woman to the CEOs of the world. And the private sector knows that the people imprisoned in the cauldron of New Orleans were the least of the consuming masses, and the least of assets to 4th quarter profits and bottom-line accounting. When government abdicates the very skeleton of its duties to private interests, are we surprised to find that even the most crucial, life-or-death things only get done if they balance positively against somebody's cost-benefit analysis? These are the people who brayed proudly how they were going to get rid of their own functions, then set about proving it time and again in Interior, Agriculture, Health and Human Services, and Housing. And now we are surprised that they sat on their hands while thousands died? This is their ideology in action. This is who and what they are. This is George Bush's gift to you.


China Miéville: The Politics of Weather

So why the tardiness, and the failure to learn lessons? Well, you know that thing about capitalism and the free market being the most efficient system available? Want to hear something hilarious? New Orleans' seemingly unintentionally accurately named 'catastrophic hurricane disaster plan' was privatised last year.
IEM, Inc., the Baton Rouge-based emergency management and homeland security consultant, will lead the development of a catastrophic hurricane disaster plan for Southeast Louisiana and the City of New Orleans under a more than half a million dollar contract with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Thanks to that, as Dewberry, a partner in this noble venture put it a while back, '[h]ad one of the devastating hurricanes targeted New Orleans and southeast Louisiana, state and local officials would have been ready'. So how's that working out?

IEM stands for Innovative Emergency Management. I guess 'Climb for your life!' and 'Run to the football stadium!' are pretty innovative. To be fair it must be hard to focus when you're so freaked by the impact on insurance, let alone oil prices.


And The Politics of Weather 3: The Shyness of Experts

You can still find the verbatim copy from the press release in the Insurance Journal. There are also details available from a New Orleans business provider, where we learn from IEM Director of Homeland Security Wayne Thomas that his company's 'approach to catastrophic planning meets the challenges associated with integrating multi-jurisdictional needs and capabilities into an effective plan for addressing catastrophic hurricane strikes'. Right. So, the IEM team's approach isn't to siphon off tax money, spout management shit, provide a demonstrably catastrophically inadequate plan, then fuck off like craven fucking caveworms and hide the evidence when the fucking corpses start piling up?

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Class Warfare? Fuck Yeah!

Cory Doctorow over at Boing Boing posted a link to this: Being Poor by John Scalzi. Some choice parts (and I've italicized some that I've found myself nodding at vigorously):
Being poor is having to keep buying $800 cars because they're what you can afford, and then having the cars break down on you, because there's not an $800 car in America that's worth a damn.

Being poor is thinking $8 an hour is a really good deal.

Being poor is relying on people who don't give a damn about you.

Being poor is an overnight shift under florescent lights.

Being poor is believing a GED actually makes a goddamned difference.

Being poor is not taking the job because you can't find someone you trust to watch your kids.

Being poor is not talking to that girl because she'll probably just laugh at your clothes.

Being poor is needing that 35-cent raise.

Being poor is six dollars short on the utility bill and no way to close the gap.

Being poor is knowing you work as hard as anyone, anywhere.

Being poor is people surprised to discover you're not actually stupid.

Being poor is people surprised to discover you're not actually lazy.


Being poor is a six-hour wait in an emergency room with a sick child asleep on your lap.

Being poor is having to live with choices you didn't know you made when you were 14 years old.

Being poor is feeling helpless when your child makes the same mistakes you did, and won't listen to you beg them against doing so.

Being poor is four years of night classes for an Associates of Art degree.

Being poor is people who have never been poor wondering why you choose to be so.

Being poor is knowing how hard it is to stop being poor.

Being poor is seeing how few options you have.

Being poor is running in place.

Being poor is people wondering why you didn't leave.

I'd recommend reading the whole damn thing.

For another perspective, Riggsveda posts at Corrente some other, um, choice comments in reaction to the ongoing disaster in Louisiana and Mississippi, including:
It seems to me that the poor should have had the EASIEST time leaving. They don't need to pay for an extended leave from their home, they could have just packed a few belongings and walked away to start over somewhere else. What did they have to lose?

When the wealthy evacuate, they leave behind nice houses, expensive cars, possibly pets that they treat as members of the family, valuable jewelry, family heirlooms, etc. This makes it emotionally difficult for wealthy people to leave. But by definition, the poor do not have this burden: they either rent their homes, or they are in public housing; their cars are practically junk anyway; and they don't have any valuable possessions. This is what it means to be poor. These people could just pick up their few belongings, buy a one-way bus ticket to any city and be poor there. Supposing they even had jobs in NO, it's not like minimum wage jobs are hard to come by.

Sobering to consider how many of us have disregarded the plight of the rich and well-insured. Spoken like someone who has all the wisdom of a fifteen-year-old who's just read "Atlas Shrugged."

Friday, September 02, 2005

Nope, Not The Time For Politics At All...

Read this over at TPM:
What's that proverb? Every crisis is an opportunity? AP this morning: "President Bush has used a constitutional provision to bypass the Senate and fill a top Justice Department slot with an official whose nomination stalled over tactics at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, naval facility."

Unbe-freakin'-lievable.
Bush used a "recess appointment" Wednesday to name Alice S. Fisher to lead the agency's criminal division. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., had blocked the nomination because he wants to talk to an agent who named Fisher in an e-mail about allegedly abusive interrogations at the U.S. military prison camp at Guantanamo.

The agent wrote that in weekly meetings with Justice Department officials "we often discussed (Defense Department) techniques and how they were not effective or producing (intelligence) that was reliable." In the next sentence, the agent said Fisher, then the No. 2 official in the criminal division, was among Justice officials who attended the meetings.

Fisher has said she does not recall participating in the discussions, and Justice officials have said the agent did not intend to say she had. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales declined to let senators question the agent, saying it would violate long-standing policy.

It's a bunch of fucking sociopaths in charge.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Then And Now

Peggy Noonan, February 19, 2004:
Mr. Bush is the triumph of the seemingly average American man. He's normal. He thinks in a sort of common-sense way. He speaks the language of business and sports and politics. You know him. He's not exotic. But if there's a fire on the block, he'll run out and help. He'll help direct the rig to the right house and count the kids coming out and say, "Where's Sally?" He's responsible. He's not an intellectual. Intellectuals start all the trouble in the world. And then when the fire comes they say, "I warned Joe about that furnace." And, "Does Joe have children?" And "I saw a fire once. It spreads like syrup. No, it spreads like explosive syrup. No, it's formidable and yet fleeting." When the fire comes they talk. Bush ain't that guy. Republicans love the guy who ain't that guy. Americans love the guy who ain't that guy."


George W. Bush, August 30, 2005:

As New Orleans drowns, the president decides to take guitar pickin' lessons.



To be fair, I'm sure he'll promise to send money. He likes to do that. He doesn't actually send money, but by the time anyone realizes that, we're on to the next disaster.

I'd also forgotten about Noonan's line, "Intellectuals start all the trouble in the world." Yeah, ain't that the truth? Like pointing out that the levees that were supposed to be strengthened weren't because the money budgeted to do so was diverted to the war in Iraq, just as the National Guard troops who should have been on hand to respond to the crisis were. Or that FEMA, which should have been on the spot before the clouds cleared away, has been gutted by the administration in favor of moving its responsibilities to the Department of Homeland Security, but that DHS doesn't have anything in place yet to handle a disaster of this magnitude. Yeah, stupid intellectuals.

I'm sure that Crazy Peggy will be pointing out shortly that the guitar incident was not a case of Nero fiddling, but of Mr. Bush's steadfast (and resolute!) committment to the arts.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Pandagon: Busting out the tinfoil hat

Why does this seem entirely plausible?
"The victims of the flood will be portrayed via racist stereotypes as criminals and idiots. This will predispose the audience to disliking them. Then, after everything settles down, a few right wingers will start implying that the dead brought their own fate on themselves by being too stupid and/or criminal to evacuate. This focus will distract the pundits from discussing the real issue at hand, which is why the fuck we didn't have the resources on hand to evacuate a city that has Hurricane Target written all over it.">Pandagon: Busting out the tinfoil hat: "The victims of the flood will be portrayed via racist stereotypes as criminals and idiots. This will predispose the audience to disliking them. Then, after everything settles down, a few right wingers will start implying that the dead brought their own fate on themselves by being too stupid and/or criminal to evacuate. This focus will distract the pundits from discussing the real issue at hand, which is why the fuck we didn't have the resources on hand to evacuate a city that has Hurricane Target written all over it."

After all, didn't some opine that the tsunami in December was a divine act? It did hit right after Jesus's birthday and devastaed a bunch of Muslims.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Ambitious A--holes for Jesus

Grooming Politicans For Christ

"Nearly every Monday for six months, as many as a dozen congressional aides — many of them aspiring politicians — have gathered over takeout dinners to mine the Bible for ancient wisdom on modern policy debates about tax rates, foreign aid, education, cloning and the Central American Free Trade Agreement."

Sweet Jesus, are you kidding me?

If you believe in an afterlife, if you believe in a reckoning for the way we conducted ourselves in our time on this Earth, then these guys are leading us on the primrose path to damnation. Make no mistake, we don't get to distance ourselves after the fact. We don't get to plead our case as say that we never REALLY believed what they said, that we always thought they went too far.

If you want to boil Christianity and the teachings of Jesus down to their essence it would be this: Take care of each other, be good to each other, and love each other. That's it. It's really simple. And because it's simple, it's also really, really, really hard to do well. And yet, rather than devoting themselves to following that ideal (and failing, because we're human and that's what we do, but picking themselves up and trying again and again and again and again), they scour the Bible as though it were a contract, looking mightily for loopholes and exempting clauses that say that they don't really have to do what Jesus said they had to do.

"Homework includes readings from the Bible — but also from Nietzsche, Engels, Machiavelli and Henry Kissinger."

Because no one better exemplifies an emracing of the Life of Christ than Henry Kissinger. WWHD?

Oh, and then there's this:
(CNN) -- Bush administration officials Tuesday disavowed Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson's call for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Venezuela's vice president Vicente Rangel accused Robertson of inciting violence and demanded: "What is the U.S. government going to do about this criminal statement made by one of its citizens?"

Robertson told viewers of his longtime show, "The 700 Club," on Monday Chavez is "a terrific danger" bent on exporting Communism and Islamic extremism across the Americas.

"If he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it," Robertson told viewers on his "The 700 Club" show Monday. "It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war."

Really, He actually said that.

Frankly, I don't think that the U.S. government should do anything about this. Robertson is well within his rights to be an ignorant fucktard and say whatever fucktarded thing comes to his meager excuse for a brain. But I also think that those of us who disagree have every right -- and indeed an obligation -- to point out just how stupid and dangerous his thoughts are. I would also say that anyone who has any regard for Christianity has a duty to recognize how much Robertson and his ilk have twisted it from the charge to take care of one another, to be good to one another, and to love one another. Either that, or Robertson should have the balls to say what he really thinks: Jesus was a pussy.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Future Is ... Meh.

I downloaded iTunes 4.9 this morning, the latest and greatest iteration of the jukebox program. (And let me say, as someone who always thought it would be great to have a real Wurlitzer jukebox in his living room, this is the closest I'm ever going to get, and I'm fine with that.) The newest addition is support for Podcasting.

I don't think that I quite get the Podcasting thing. Presently, I'm mostly downloading NPR programming. So much for the stick-it-to-the-man quality that Podcasting is supposed to carry. Maybe there are some alternatives out there, but a lot of the podcasts are about as interesting as cable-access programming: A sort-of-clever idea that isn't fully fleshed out, is far too self-congratulatory, and goes on for waaaayyy too long.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Apple to Use Intel Microprocessors Beginning in 2006

Apple goes Intel.

It should be interesting.

I don't have all that much invested in what kind of processor is inside of a computer, x86 or PPC. I've owned and used Macs since System 7.5 -- but I've had my share of experience of Windows 3.1, 95, 98, and XP at work -- and OS X has been one of the most interesting and satisfying experiences I've had on a computer. That is probably what will continue to drive my computer-buying decisions in the future. When it came time to buy a new computer four years ago, I considered switching to a PC, but stuck with Apple and bought an iMac, and I haven't regretted it a bit. Once I loaded OS X 10.1 on it a year later, it would have taken a huge change to make me look at anything else. When I wanted to buy a laptop, the only choice was between an iBook and a PowerBook.

So while I'm curious to see how this is rolled out over the next two years, I'm not quite ready to panic yet. After all, my beef was really never with Intel, but with Windows. I heard arguments why the Power PC chip architecture was superior to Intel's x86 design, and I nodded along, but I admit that I understood only the most superficial elements of it. There may be reasons why this is a very bad thing, but I'm not the one to argue that case. In fact, right now I have more questions than anything, and eagerly await the shitstorm that is sure to ensure over the next 24 months until the transition is complete.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Dumbassery Watch

If David Brooks is the dumbest man writing for the New York Times, then John Kass is the dumbest man writing for the Chicago Tribune -- perhaps for the entire Tribune Corporation.

If you can't tell the difference between a subversion of the constitution and a blowjob, you aren't doing either one right.

Friday, May 27, 2005

It's All Showbiz

I liked how this was described on BoingBoing: Potemkin Potholes.

Governor digs fixing potholes / San Jose crews destroy part of road for staged event
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger traveled to a quiet San Jose neighborhood Thursday, and -- dogged by protesters -- filled a pothole dug by city crews just a few hours before, as part of an attempt to dramatize his efforts to increase money for transportation projects.

The choreographed press opportunity -- at least the governor's fourth recent event involving transportation issues -- seemed aimed as much at thwarting the demonstrators who have followed Schwarzenegger for weeks as grabbing new attention for his proposal.

Schwarzenegger strode toward television cameras on Laguna Seca Way to the sounds of the Doobie Brothers' "Taking it to the Streets,'' while flanked by 10 San Jose city road workers wearing Day-Glo vests and work gear. After speeches by the governor and city officials, a dump truck backed up and unloaded a mound of black asphalt and, as television cameras recorded the moment, Schwarzenegger joined the work crew, taking up a broom and filling the 10-by-15-foot hole, later smoothed over by a massive roller truck.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

So, what's new?

Things have been quiet, huh?

I eased up on some of the political blogs again, since I started to feel like I was walking around in a constant rage. That's not fun. And once you remove yourself from the echo chamber that constantly reinforces statements like "Blogs are changing the world!" you lose some of the competitive urge to post every little thought that crosses your mind. Blogs may be changing the world, but they've got a nasty tendency to reduce everything to a confrontation of Manichean viewpoints. Life's more complex than that.

But then again, what have I done to change that? Not much.

So I'm trying to think of ways to ease back into the blogging thing, finding something to keep my interest while refraining from calling too many people "fucktards." (Although sometimes it's the only word that will do.)

One of the things I've done is start to play around with Backpack, partly because I've wanted to keep a list of books I've been reading in a central location without having to go back and keep revising and linking to a woefully outdated post. And besides, it's always fun to play with a new toy. So, if you want to know what I've been reading in 2005, you can find it here. I'm also going to try and put a permanent link in the sidebar, but if all else fails I'll blogroll it. (Which reminds me: I need to shuffle things around a little bit over there. I have some new obsessions as well as a few sites that I've just grown less fond of. You'll have to check around later and see if you can spot which is which.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Good Stuff Never Really Goes Away

There's a trailer up for "Serenity", the big-screen version of the late and lamented Joss Whedon series "Firefly."

What can I say? It looks ten times more interesting than "Revenge of the Sith.".

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Everything You Thought You Knew Is Wrong

"Watching TV Makes You Smarter"
"Skeptics might argue that I have stacked the deck here by focusing on relatively highbrow titles like ''The Sopranos'' or ''The West Wing,'' when in fact the most significant change in the last five years of narrative entertainment involves reality TV. Does the contemporary pop cultural landscape look quite as promising if the representative show is ''Joe Millionaire'' instead of ''The West Wing''?

I think it does, but to answer that question properly, you have to avoid the tendency to sentimentalize the past. When people talk about the golden age of television in the early 70's -- invoking shows like ''The Mary Tyler Moore Show'' and ''All in the Family'' -- they forget to mention how awful most television programming was during much of that decade. If you're going to look at pop-culture trends, you have to compare apples to apples, or in this case, lemons to lemons. The relevant comparison is not between ''Joe Millionaire'' and ''MASH''; it's between ''Joe Millionaire'' and ''The Newlywed Game,'' or between ''Survivor'' and ''The Love Boat.''

What you see when you make these head-to-head comparisons is that a rising tide of complexity has been lifting programming at the bottom of the quality spectrum and at the top. ''The Sopranos'' is several times more demanding of its audiences than ''Hill Street'' was, and ''Joe Millionaire'' has made comparable advances over ''Battle of the Network Stars.'' This is the ultimate test of the Sleeper Curve theory: even the junk has improved."

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

What A Pathetic Protest

From the Associated Press via Yahoo!:Mo. Man Spits Tobacco Juice at Jane Fonda
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A man spit tobacco juice into the face of Jane Fonda after waiting in line to have her sign her new memoir. Capt. Rich Lockhart of the Kansas City Police Department said Michael A. Smith, 54, was arrested Tuesday night on a municipal charge of disorderly conduct.

...

Smith, a Vietnam veteran, told The Kansas City Star Wednesday that Fonda was a "traitor" and that her protests against the Vietnam War were unforgivable. He said he doesn't chew tobacco but did so Tuesday solely to spit juice on the actress.

"I consider it a debt of honor," he told The Star for a story on its Web site. "She spit in our faces for 37 years. It was absolutely worth it. There are a lot of veterans who would love to do what I did."

...

[Bookstore owner Vivian] Jennings said the actress never got up from her seat and continued autographing books after the tobacco juice was wiped off.

"The important thing is that she was so calm and so gracious about it," Jennings said of Fonda. "She was wonderful."

Jennings said that the man had a book to which the name "Jody" had been affixed as he approached to have it autographed. She said that when Fonda got the book, she looked up and said, "You're not Jody."

"At that moment, he turned his head quickly and spit a trail of tobacco juice," Jennings said. "He immediately jumped off the stage and started running down the aisle."


He ran away?

He waited 37 years for his chance, and after carrying out his terribly manly and warrior-like deed he ran away?

He fulfills what he calls "a debt of honor," and then ran away?

No standing his ground? No name-rank-and-serial-number? No pithy statement to accompany his grand gesture? He had 37 years to think of one, after all.

No, he ran away.

Like a little boy who did some annoying and mischievous thing, he gallumped down the aisle thinking that he could outrun mommy.

Jeeee-sus, what a pussy.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Weirdness

Neil Gaiman pointed this out on his blog -- a review of a book called "Leah's Way" at Steph's Book Reviews that the publisher didn't like, so they told her...and that she put up as a post script to the review. My favorite parts are when the publisher's representative writes things like:
And, unbeknownst to you, it helps us when "politically correct, hate anything Christian" liberals choose sides as you have done in the culture wars. By the way, we're winning. And for your sake, I hope you can come to some resolution of your inherent bitterness and realization that for all your talent you haven't accomplished much. Wouldn't it be a better world if you went out and did something instead of trashing others?

and
But if you claim to be as professional as you are, you would at least volunteer to remove the negative review of Leah's Way from your website.

and especially this little non-sensical bit
You picked on Leah's Way solely because your biases predispose you to hate it. That's not a critic, that's a propaganda machine like Goebbels was under Hitler. The only good news is that people like you, and you specifically, don't matter. You're so inconsequential that it is like you simply don't exist. Don't bother responding. I won't bother reading your response, and you'll have your attention hoping nature's worst nightmare come true--you'll be ignored. Enjoy the rest of your miserable life. You should; you're the only one who cares about it or who will notice.

I was all ready to make a point about the publishing company being a Christian imprint, but then I found this through this (and that was based on a Google search of "Windstream Publishing"):
"I did a little digging into "Windstream Publishing," Sue Eccleston's imprint, and discovered just why she's so intent on defending the publication of Leah's Way. It seems that Windstream only publishes the one book, and does it from Danville, California...which just happens to be where the book's author, Richard Botelho, lives. In fact, Botelho's also the contact person listed for Windstream in the PMA directory. Looks like the book's self-published--and while the full extent of Eccleston's connection to Botelho is not clear to me, her unprofessional conduct in "support" of the book is nevertheless a little less mind-boggling."

So it sounds less like some Christian publisher acting not only in an un-Christian manner but an unprofessional one at that, than it is a case of someone who hoped to jump on the Chrstian publishing bandwagon and self-published something (and I suppose you can draw your own conclusion about the quality of it from that little tidbit) and decided to make up a new persona to fight on his behalf (I feel like I should put ironic quotes in there somewhere, but I can't decide between "fight" and "his"). It's less enraging and more sad and pathetic.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Tons and Tons of Scary Fun

Patriot Games - "Spinning the invalidation of the government's spy laws," by Robert Poe -- fresh from Slate.

Oh, that's just lovely.

The New York Review of Books: Welcome to Doomsday. Thanks a lot, Bill Moyers. Good old-fashined nightmare material, that is.

Monday, February 21, 2005

The State of the Blogosphere

Anil Dash posted this last week.
We're just barely into the phase where normal people have heard the word "blog", and the zealous political bloggers who form a loud, obnoxious minority of bloggers have decided they want their grandmothers to think of blogging as "that thing that gets journalists fired". That sucks, and it's going to limit the number of people who join into our medium. And the zealous tech bloggers who form a loud, obnoxious minority of bloggers have decided they want their grandmothers to think that blogging is "that thing that gets regular people fired". That's not better.

You can't make a medium where there's absolutely zero tolerance for being human and making mistakes. Every political blogger crowing about Eason and Gannon is just sealing the fate of us all when large journalistic organizations start to reciprocate. I know I couldn't stand up to the scrutiny of even the smallest news network or newspaper focusing all its resources on finding my weaknesses, flaws, inconsistencies, or misstatements. Hell, I'd have to eliminate about 90% of the jokes I make from my daily conversations.

Within the comments, someone named "soopa" wrote this:
Being negative is the easiest way to get attention in this medium and others. Anyone can be negative. It is HARD to be constructive. If we continue to build-up foundations built on negativity, there will be no stopping it and it will destroy this medium.

It's something that has stuck with me for the last week and something about which I'd like to write more when I have a chance.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Oh my...

Author Hunter S. Thompson Kills Himself

If he couldn't make it through another four years of Bush & Co., what hope do the rest of us have?

Rest in peace, good doctor.

Effective Dismissal of "Intelligent Design"

And witty, too. New York Times Magazine: "Unintelligent Design", by Jim Holt.

Also worth reading, although scary as hell, "The Crusade Against Evolution" from the October 2004 issue of Wired.

(The scariest letter-to-the-editor over the piece? This one:
The struggle between evolutionists and intelligent design proponents has, in reality, very little to do with science. The absence of intermediary species in the fossil record proves evolution a bust. If ID is truth, then the human race is accountable to a higher moral power. If evolution is truth, then we are accountable only to each other in terms of morals, ethics, and behavior. [Emphasis mine.]

Evolutionists cling so fervently to their outmoded beliefs because ID is the only viable alternative.

Paul Black
Saluda, North Carolina

Yes, because that would be terrible, wouldn't it? Accountable only to each other rather than trying to curry favor with the great referee in the sky. I also love the notion that evolutionary theory is "outmoded," and by implication that "intelligent design" (a term that should always, in my opinion, be surrounded by ironic quotes) is the cutting edge of science. Because, of course, no one ever thought to posit "It is so because God made it so and who are we to question His wisdom?" before now.)

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Oscar Fever Strikes! (Just lie down with a cool cloth on your brow)

David Edelstein is right. Either cut the tortuous “banter” between presenters -- letting Bruce Vilanch have the night off for once -- or just cancel the whole damn show altogether. I mean, if you want the thing to be shorter, just have someone read off all of the winners in a quick five-minute press conference before the Barbara Walters Special.

You know, with each and every passing year I care less and less about this stuff.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Woodstein Online

The University of Texas at Austin has started putting Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's Watergate notes up online here: Ransom Center: Exhibitions & Events: Online Exhibitions.

Alas, still mum on who Deep Throat was.

(I'm always amused when some Watergate-era figure who is on the long list of possible Deep Throats dies and political junkies across the country stop in their tracks and wait for some sign from Woodward or Bernstein. It's like waiting for the white smoke to indicate the election of a new pope.)

What the -- ???


(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)


And the poor kid probably thought that the pictures in the bathtub were going to be the most embarassing ones. Nope, it's going to take a lot to top the time mom scrawled on his face with a magic marker in the hopes of a photo-op.

This kid is going to grow up to be Jack Black in Bob Roberts.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

It's Back!

Air America is back on the air in Los Angeles! Woo-hoo!

That means I don't have to set a timer through Audio Hijack to (hopefully) start the live stream of Al Franken's show, convert it to an AAC file through iTunes and eventually put it on my iPod to listen to later on anymore.

The downside is that I have to listen to all of the commercials. And to Mark Luther's defense of Rush Limbaugh.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Book Review: "Life of Pi"

(Who am I kidding? It's not really a book review as much as a rumination over a book that I've read. Need a real review? Google the title; you'll find something better somewhere else.

If you haven't read the book and intend to do so, please stop reading now. I have no desire to ruin things for you, but I also have no desire to write a bland, vague paragraph about the book and follow it up with all sorts of CAPITALS and exclamation points!!! and bold-faced warnings telling you that beyond this point there be spoilers. OK? Check back later, there might be something for you then.)

I don't know what the point is. That religion is a kind of storytelling, and that both are primal urges in human beings? That the major religions are the same? That the major religions (or maybe all religions) are comforting hokum?

Pi becomes a carnivore while adrift, much to his initial Hindu horror. Is this a sign that religions can be comforting but not always practical in the real world? That anyone, under the right circumstances, can shed his morality?

It's about explaining the unexplainable. How did we get from point A to point B? If no one was there to see it, how can we know? We imagine, we invent, and we fill in the blanks as best we can. The only one who knew what really happened on that life boat was Pi, and he has two different stories. Which one is the best one? As he says, neither one explains to the Japanese gentlemen what happened to their ship. So which is the better story.

The one with the tiger, they agree.

When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.

And if you, as either the teller of the story or the one being told, can successfully hold contradicting accounts in your head and derive comfort from the friction that results (a kind of heat to keep you warm, I suppose), then what's the harm?

I don't know if I can agree with such a conclusion. I don't know if I can object to it, either. Before he tells his story, Pi says that it will make you believe in God, and this is perhaps the part that is rubbing me the wrong way. On the one hand, Piscine is a practicing Hindu, Muslim, and Christian, all at the same time. He sees the stories of each as comforting and challenging, pushing him to be the best practitioner of each religion that he can be, which would in turn make him a better person. (And you can't help but like him. He's a terribly precocious scamp, full of moxie and all that.) Sometimes the stories of each faith contradict one another, sometimes they compliment one another, and sometimes one or another will fill in a mysterious silence on a topic that the third chooses not to address. He finds harmony where others find discord.

Okay, that's fine so far. But maybe only if you're the one who is being told the story.

If you're telling the story, you need to fill in those gaps. You need to have explanations, even if the point of the story isn't to explain that particular thing. If you're listening to a story, you've got some wiggle room. You can take what you like and discard what doesn't work. If you decide that the wrap-around beginning and ending of "Saving Private Ryan" doesn't work for you because isn't logically possible, then you can ignore it and focus on the parts of the movie that were good. When Pi stitches together the pieces of three different faiths into something that suits him, that's his right as the collector of those stories.

His adventure with Richard Parker, though, marks his transition from a listener or a collector to a storyteller, and with that comes a higher responsibility. This holds especially true when telling stories about faith, which Pi's story undoubtedly is about. Although in what I am supposed to have faith, I don't know.

"Any Day Above Ground Is A Good One"

Hm: National Museum of Funeral History. That's an interesting way of killing some time. (Found at Boing Boing)

I especially like the die-cast models of hearses available in the gift shop.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

That didn't take very long

I filled up my Flickr quota for the month.

Hm.

I might need to make my uploaded pictures a little smaller.

Politically Incorrect has become the new Politically Correct

The Difference Between Politically Incorrect and Historically Wrong

I have to say, I don't understand why, in this attempt to fight "bias," there isn't a serious attempt to create an accurate record instead of just bombarding the public with a lot of claptrap that is obviously biased from the opposite direction.

"Shafer doesn't get it."

Just kidding.

Blog Overkill - The danger of hyping a good thing into the ground. By Jack Shafer

I've never understood the idea that blogs would up-end traditional media outlets. Most of what blogging -- especially political and news blogging -- entails is linking to some "Old Media," a.k.a. "Mainstream Media," a.k.a. "MSM" (ugh!) piece either approvingly or disapprovingly and providing (if lucky) some pithy piece of commentary in the process.

Kind of like what I've done with this piece...except for the pithy part.

Otherwise, what a lot of people are doing with their blogs ranges from the prosaic but personal -- posting running family newsletters rather than the photocopied summary stuck in with the Christmas cards in December -- to the ecclectic and seemingly uncommercial, like posting photographs or short pieces of fiction that would seem to have no outlet elsewhere. I don't see that blogs are necessarily a revolution in the making as much as they are going to be a sometimes-interesting addendum to the rest of the media noise that we have to filter through.

Addendum: In the Kenneth Tynan profile of Johnny Carson I linked to below, there was this short passage that I have to admit made me think about our current blog-obsession (remember, it was from 1978...and the emphasis (emphasises? emphases?) are mine):
Before I go, Carson takes me down to a small gymnasium beneath the module. It is filled with gleaming steel devices, pulleys and springs and counterweights, which, together with tennis, keep the star’s body trim. In one corner stands a drum kit at which Buddy Rich might cast an envious eye. “That’s where I work off my hostilities,” Carson explains. He escorts me to my car, and notices that it is fitted with a citizens-band radio. “I had one of those damned things, but I ripped it out after a couple of weeks,” he says. “I just couldn’t bear it—all those sick anonymous maniacs shooting off their mouths.”

I understand what he means. Most of what you hear on CB radio is either tedious (truck drivers warning one another about speed traps) or banal (schoolgirls exchanging notes on homework), but at its occasional—and illegal—worst it sinks a pipeline to the depths of the American unconscious. Your ears are assaulted by the sound of racism at its most rampant, and by masturbation fantasies that are the aural equivalent of rape. The sleep of reason, to quote Goya’s phrase, brings forth monsters, and the anonymity of CB encourages the monsters to emerge. Not often, of course; but when they do, CB radio becomes the dark underside of a TV talk show. No wonder Carson loathes it.

Monday, January 24, 2005

The road to hell...

...is paved with good intentions: Exploring the Law of Unintended Consequences.

I can't imagine anything going on right now to which such an idea could apply.

(Link found at kottke.org)

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Johnny Carson Dies

carson_slide9
Douglas C. Pizac/Associated Press

Johnny Carson, 1925-2005.

The New York Times (Also: David Thomson, Steve Martin, and Verlyn Klinkenborg.)

The Los Angeles Times

Roger Ebert: In Memory of Johnny Carson

David Edelstein:Slate

From the New Yorker's archives: Kenneth Tynan, "Fifteen Years of the Salto Morale" (link found at kottke.org)

(Photo found on the New York Times' website.)

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Blasts from the Past

I found this piece by Kurt Vonnegut from 1971 residing in the depths of the New York Times' servers: Torture and Blubber. Sure it's a little dated, and the references are to a different time and place, but the underlying sentiment is still on target. Thirty-three years later and what have we learned?

Friday, January 21, 2005

Lying for a reason?

I found this Esquire story, "The American Dream," this morning while reading Bookslut. It's about an Iraqi woman who had been imprisoned and tortured by Saddam Hussein's government who helped the Americans and the coalition government by naming names and leading them to sites of torture and mass graves. Only her stories started to fall apart when the writer of the Esquire piece checked them out in preparation for writing a book. Not only did the stories of torture and rape not hold up to scrutiny, not only did military investigators who'd been assigned to follow up her claims quietly close the investigations once the sites of mass graves turned up nothing but cow bones, but she'd even been lying about more mundane things like where she'd gone to school. And it all blows up in a terribly melodramatic way when the writer decides to ask the mother about it:
Now Hanna walked in the door. She looked at her mother and, sensing the mood in the room, asked what was wrong. Jeanne d'Arc said something, and Hanna shrieked, "I did go to Oxford! I did! I did go to Oxford!" Her pupils shot straight up into her head. "I will write to them," she announced, and sat down at the computer. She tried typing a few words, but her agitation was too great. Enraged, she gave the computer mouse a few good thwacks against the table, then flung it at the ceiling.

"I will call!" she cried, running into the kitchen. The recorded message informing her that she had misdialed played—one, two, three times—until, in frustration, she threw the phone hard against the kitchen wall.

"You ruined my life!" she screamed at her mother, who sat shaking in her favorite chair. "I will never forgive you. You betrayed me once, and now this is the second time!"

Jeanne d'Arc's face had turned blue. "No, no," she protested. "I didn't say you never went to Oxford. All I said was that I forgot where you went exactly."

But Hanna had already begun throwing things: a crystal ashtray, a brass candleholder, a greeting card welcoming her to America, several framed photographs, an almost full cup of coffee. She made a clean sweep of everything on the coffee table, hurling the objects straight at her mother.

The book was finished, she said. She wanted nothing more to do with me.

Apparently the Washington Post has retracted their original story.

But I couldn't help it -- it made me think of this:
In fact, the most emotionally moving testimony on October 10 came from a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl, known only by her first name of Nayirah. According to the Caucus, Nayirah's full name was being kept confidential to prevent Iraqi reprisals against her family in occupied Kuwait. Sobbing, she described what she had seen with her own eyes in a hospital in Kuwait City. Her written testimony was passed out in a media kit prepared by Citizens for a Free Kuwait. "I volunteered at the al-Addan hospital," Nayirah said. "While I was there, I saw the Iraqi soldiers come into the hospital with guns, and go into the room where . . . babies were in incubators. They took the babies out of the incubators, took the incubators, and left the babies on the cold floor to die."

Three months passed between Nayirah's testimony and the start of the war. During those months, the story of babies torn from their incubators was repeated over and over again. President Bush told the story. It was recited as fact in Congressional testimony, on TV and radio talk shows, and at the UN Security Council. "Of all the accusations made against the dictator," MacArthur observed, "none had more impact on American public opinion than the one about Iraqi soldiers removing 312 babies from their incubators and leaving them to die on the cold hospital floors of Kuwait City."

At the Human Rights Caucus, however, Hill & Knowlton and Congressman Lantos had failed to reveal that Nayirah was a member of the Kuwaiti Royal Family. Her father, in fact, was Saud Nasir al-Sabah, Kuwait's Ambassador to the US, who sat listening in the hearing room during her testimony. The Caucus also failed to reveal that H&K vice-president Lauri Fitz-Pegado had coached Nayirah in what even the Kuwaitis' own investigators later confirmed was false testimony.

If Nayirah's outrageous lie had been exposed at the time it was told, it might have at least caused some in Congress and the news media to soberly reevaluate the extent to which they were being skillfully manipulated to support military action. Public opinion was deeply divided on Bush's Gulf policy. As late as December 1990, a New York Times/CBS News poll indicated that 48 percent of the American people wanted Bush to wait before taking any action if Iraq failed to withdraw from Kuwait by Bush's January 15 deadline. On January 12, the US Senate voted by a narrow, five-vote margin to support the Bush administration in a declaration of war. Given the narrowness of the vote, the babies-thrown-from-incubators story may have turned the tide in Bush's favor.

Following the war, human rights investigators attempted to confirm Nayirah's story and could find no witnesses or other evidence to support it. Amnesty International, which had fallen for the story, was forced to issue an embarrassing retraction. Nayirah herself was unavailable for comment. "This is the first allegation I've had that she was the ambassador's daughter," said Human Rights Caucus co-chair John Porter. "Yes, I think people . . . were entitled to know the source of her testimony." When journalists for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation asked Nasir al-Sabah for permission to question Nayirah about her story, the ambassador angrily refused.

No, it's not the exact same thing. Jumanna Hanna's stories didn't start until after the war had already begun, at least not as far as the Americans were concerned. But there is something Ahmad Chalabi-ish about it. She knew that people wanted evidence to prove the conclusions that they'd already drawn and she provided it.

What is it? What do people like this think that they're doing? Do they think that by lying they're serving some larger truth? Or is it really just a manifestation of their own narcissism?

(Edited on 1/22/2005 for grammar, punctuation, and the sake of general clarity.)

All Hail...Oh, It's Too Easy

bush_satanic_sign_ny117
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhgite)

OK, I'll go with this one: The family that worships the anti-Christ together, stays together.

JennaBushHailsSatan02
(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Begin this Culture War has...

Are you frickin' kidding me? Washington > Conservatives Pick Soft Target: A Cartoon Sponge.

But what about all of the ways in which "Sponge Bob" embodies the conservative ideals of the Republican party? He likes to work long hours for little or no pay! Isn't that the very can-do spirit that made America great? His boss loves money to the exclusion of almost everything else, the only exception being -- his daughter! What better example of family values is there? And Sandy Cheeks is from Texas! A shout out to our Dear Fearless Leader if ever there was one!

And didn't George H.W. Bush try and tangle with "The Simpsons" and end up looking really stupid? I mean, they're cartoons, for pete's sake. Of course, Dobson may not be as stupid as we'd like to make him out to be. If I remember correctly, the "Sponge Bob" TV show has ceased production. Dobson makes his stink and will get to go around proclaiming, "Since I revealed the insidious gay agenda of fictitious animated undersea creatures, not one single new episode has been made! We are all powerful! Bwahahahahaha!"

Or something like that.

(Found at James Wolcott by way of Atrios.)

Doings in Digital Photography

David Pogue reviews iPhoto 5 and Picasa 2 in the New York Times today. I have to admit that Picassa always sounds like a great program, but alas.

Meanwhile, with my almost-three-year-old digital camera, my copy of iPhoto 4, Graphic Converter, I posted some pictures that I took last week.

IMG_0779

From the "Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral" set.

IMG_0741

From the "Disney Concert Hall" set

Happy Inauguration Day!

bush_jesus_christ

The Poorman says:
Everyone in America had a pretty tough day on 9/11, and in the days and weeks and months that followed, I'd say most of us said, or at least thought, things that we wouldn't even try to stand behind today. It was frightening, and it didn't really make much sense, and a lot of people found certainty and security by making themselves believe that the universe had suddenly become a totally different place, where the President - yesterday, by everyone's admission, a man of no particular accomplishment or substance - had become this messianic figure, capable of resolving the world's most tortuous and least resolvable problems with one neat and decisive stroke. With such a figure, you don't have to worry about the corrupting influence of power, and a prudent doubt is not a virtue, but something close to heresy or sin. Naturally, such a great and good man requires great and diabolical enemies, and these enemies became anyone who doubted - liberals, Democrats, foreigners, reporters, academics, professionals, whoever. It makes you feel better. It's intoxicating. But it doesn't have much relation to reality. When reality conflicts with fantasy, you can either abandon the fantasy, and deal with the hangover that follows, or burrow deeper into fiction. And the harsher the reality, the nastier the hangover, and the deeper you need to go to avoid it.

And before that, he wrote:

A few steps more and we’ll be wondering aloud about the likelihood that an intellectually incurious failed businessman who couldn’t name the leader of Pakistan 5 years ago and who considers the free press a distorting “filter” has come up with a cunning plan to defuse generations-long tensions in the Muslim world and our relationship with it. From there it’s but a short step to wondering why, only 3 years after learning the hard way about the danger of fanatical international terrorists, we are so focused on fighting impotent “evil”, and so unconcerned with little matters like destroying al-Qaeda, stopping nuclear proliferators, and not giving dissatisfied young Muslim men 50,000 new reasons to hate the shit out of us. And then all that’s left is to get down to brass tacks and ask yourself if Victor Davis Hanson’s nocturnal emissions are really a sound basis for a foreign policy. Turn back, before it’s too late!

It's amazing what you can get away with achieve with a campaign based upon the threat that a failure to vote for you will lead to your loved ones being slaughtered by terrorists, and oh yeah, doesn't my opponent look French? your simple, folksy charm.

BushOffstage

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Apple Store - Kuwait

Weird.

(Found via Gizmodo)

Innovation Shminnovation

I laughed out loud (and so-help-me, I'm not going to write LOL'd...except for that one there) when I read this:
"So if Apple wants to abandon floppy disks or sell computers in funny colors or shapes, it can. In contrast, PC makers have been trying since 1999 to get away from the beige tower and legacy features. So far, they haven't even managed to get rid of parallel printer ports."

That's the drawback that Microsoft has with "owning" 95% of the world's desktops, isn't it? On the one hand, you've got users who spend every weekend pulling apart their computers and rebuilding them, making them bigger, faster, and more powerful. Then you've got some corporate IT schlub telling you that you have to support an obsolete dot matrix printer in their warehouse because it's the only way they can print out their packing slips. And somehow, the newest PC purchased has to work with the oldest on the network, regardless of which version of Windows each is running. I wonder if Microsoft could ever do with Windows what Apple has done with OS X: Create a new, forward-looking operating system that almost completely eschews backward-compatability? "Longhorn" once promised to be such a beast, but the features keeping being cut. It's times like this that make the small market share a blessing.

The piece also made me wonder if I'd ever linked to this excellent post at Daring Fireball about the Macintosh platform and the number of people who use it. A grand mythology has sprung up about the missteps that Apple made back in "the day," many of which just aren't true:
The idea being that the Mac’s relatively low market share, in the face of its superior usability and design, is because the corporate market was and is resistant to buying proprietary hardware. And so thus Apple should have developed and licensed a version of the Mac OS that ran on Intel PC hardware. Then you do a little hand-waving, and boom — Apple could have been Microsoft.

The first problem with this idea, as stated earlier, is that IBM-compatible PCs simply weren’t capable of providing a Mac-like user experience in 1984, and it was many years later until they were. And by the time PCs were capable providing a Mac-like experience, Microsoft’s MS-DOS was already entrenched as the monopoly OS.

The second problem is that it’s based on the dubious assumption that the corporate IT market is innately resistant to proprietary single-vendor hardware platforms, but has no reluctance whatsoever to tie themselves to proprietary single-vendor software platforms. That the corporate market has in large part chosen an open hardware platform (x86 processor IBM-compatible PCs) and a closed software platform (DOS/Windows) is quite possibly just the way things turned out, not necessarily the way things were destined to be.

It's worth reading the whole thing, as well as this follow up about market share and the iPod/iTunes Music Store.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Getting up on my soapbox and clearing my throat

I'm considering going public.

I don't know if anyone else reads this, but if you do, I have no idea how you found it. I've never made the blog a public one because I wasn't sure if it was something that I would keep up. I still don't know that, but I'm growing increasingly suspicious of myself for writing things, posting them on the web, and then never letting anyone else read them. What's the point?

It isn't that I think that other people need to read what I've written, or that a great audience is going to beat a path to this blog, but that if I'm going to do this thing, I should do this thing, all of it.

So I'll probably flip the switch and go public sometime in the next day or two. It's now possible for emails to be sent to me, and I'm considering whether or not I want to turn comments on. (The answer, for now, seems to be "no." I know that some blogs want to create a sense of community, but that seems like such a grand aspiration for such a teeny-tiny corner of the blogosphere that I'm occupying here, don't you think?)

And if nobody is reading this, then I guess this is sort of an introduction. An awkward one, yes, but what can you expect from these things?

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Accidental theft and the unreliability of memory

This post about unconscious plagarism and the reliability of web-based information made me think about somethig that has bothered me for a while: I keep forgetting where I read things.

This is due to:
1.) My indiscriminate reading habits. By this I mean both my tendency to read a lot of different things online, but also my slapdash way of doing so. There's a lot of ALT + TABbing that goes on in my day, and I can often become confused even while reading something about where I am and how I got there.

2.) My use of an RSS reader (or whatever you want to call Bloglines). I remember reading something that accompanied an exhibit of illuminated manuscripts at the Getty museum that explained that the drawings along the margins were sometimes used to illustrate the text, but more often were used as mnemonic devices. You would read something and later recall that it was on the page with the picture of the rabbit in the lower left-hand corner, or the pertinent passage had a bird swooping past it on the right margin. Blogs and websites have a similar way of working by making a sort of subconscious imprint of their layout and color scheme in my mind, so that I can sometimes recall an annoying pop-up ad or flash animation to lead me back to where I found it. But because the feeds all look alike, I remember that I read it in Bloglines, which means that it was on a blog, but which blog is sometimes lost completely.

3.) Information and ideas continue to percolate long after I first read them. I rarely have a fully-formed response to something when I first read it. I usually turn it over in my head for a while as I go about reading other things, and those things add to the mix and make me think of relations between topic A and topic B. I ponder these things as I work, eat, watch TV, listen to the radio, converse, drive around, and generally live my life, and by the end of the day it's turned into something completely different, but it's still based upon what I read earlier that day, earlier that week, or even sometime last year.

The added problem of the unreliability of one's own memory is the unreliability of the web itself. I spent time this past weekend hunting down online versions of articles that I had printed or clipped over the past several years. In some cases, I had a URL printed at the bottom of the page that was still good. In others, the URL led to a pay-only archive, or told me that the address was no longer current, or in a few cases led to a totally defunct site with a domain name up for sale. Where I didn't have a URL to start from, I had to Google a combination of title and author and hope for the best. Sometimes I found reprints on other sites, or the author had put the piece up on their own site. But for a significant number, I was completely out of luck.

So what if you find something on the web, diligently note it and bookmark it, but when you go back to find it again, it's gone? A book can go out of print, but copies still exist. It may not be easy to find, but it can be found. Where do web archives go when no one wants to maintain them? What to do when a mass of articles exist solely on a hard drive somewhere?

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

More Experimentation

Roots

So, I'm trying to see if I can add a variety of pictures with the cutting and pasting of some code, or if I have to add them one at a time from Flickr.



Tree Through A Rainy Window

If I did that right, then there's a picture of the roots of a tree a the top, followed by some text, then a shot of another tree through a rain-speckled windshield.

And if it's REALLY right, then all of this text will show up in my RSS/XML/ATOM feed, or whatever the hell it is that Blogger uses.

Interesting

When my last post appeared in my Bloglines feed, it cut off the text. It should have posted everything -- the whole post. What I fooled around with was the caption that Flickr attached to the picture, which I didn't really like. I may have messed something else up in the process. Hmmm....

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Rose After Rain



I'm just trying something out. Enjoy this pretty picture I took while I do so.

The New Mac Mini


Nice. And tempting. If I hadn't already spent $2,000 on a PowerBook, this would be a serious consideration. As it is, I'll probably pop for the iLife '05 upgrade for $80.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Wankfest: Explained

I realize what it was that really bothered me about the Slate Movie Club: The cheap psychoanalysis.

The thing soared when people waxed rhapsodic about the movies they loved, or even about the moments they loved in the movies they could barely stand. There was even some pleasure to be had when the critics tried to take apart what didn’t work and figure out why not. What really bugged me, though, was when someone hated a film, and then proceeded to either analyze the director (this happened a lot with Lars von Trier and “Dogville” and Alexandre Payne and “Sideways”) and address his misanthropy (because, of course, there could be no other explanation for making a movie that a critic doesn’t like than utter hatred and contempt for all of mankind) or to analyze the critics who DID like a movie and to pronounce them all brain dead and accuse them of slowly killing cinema (OK, that was mostly the doing of Armond White, aforementioned ass).

If you want to denounce “Before Sunset” as being dull and give a list of movies that did the same thing before it and did it better, fine. Always glad to have a list of movies to see that I haven’t seen already. But to skip an analysis of the film’s faults and missteps and to instead rail against critics who liked it and their “destructive effect of praising offal like Before Sunset” without explaining what, exactly, that destructive effect is is just a lot of posturing.

I think the problem lies in White’s insistence that he reads reviews for “information.” You can look up titles on IMDB for information. You’re supposed to read reviews for interpretation and opinion. And that’s where he’s going wrong, by thinking that what he’s writing is pure information and not his opinion. Anyone who disagrees isn’t seeing clearly, is in the thrall of some sort of interest-group’s “agenda” (he’s got something about Almodovar and gays), and is incapable of questioning his or her own preconceived notions.

Natural disasters and God's will

You’re on shaky ground when you try to interpret natural disasters as God’s will

Does it mean that the righteous can live on the edge of a cliff and nothing could ever possibly happen to them? We’re human; we sin. And punishments may not always seem just. Doesn’t anyone remember the book of Job?

To say that we can’t know God’s will while speaking for Him is to contradict one’s self.

Maybe the test wasn’t to flood the beaches and kill the “sinners.” Maybe the test is going on now, challenging those of us who’ve survived or watched from afar to see how well we respond, how compassionate we can be, how Christ-like a state we can rouse ourselves into. Can we help and provide comfort without judging? Looks like we can’t, and it looks like we’re failing.

Last year, four hurricanes hit Florida in quick succession. How many of the smug assholes who claim the tsunami in Asia is a sign of God’s will urged Floridians to repent?

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Another year, another wankfest

Slate's Movie Club 2004 is really quite atrocious. A bunch of critics bemoaning the state of criticism -- the establishment critics who all forced them to praise "Dogville" and "Birth," except that they didn't -- while never actually saying anything about movies.

And I never heard of him before, but Armond White is really an ass. The kind of guy who'll spit in your food and tell you that he only did it because the food was so bad already. Spit in his food, though, and watch out. And anyone who can get that offended by "Before Sunset" has got serious problems. Just because it's dark doesn't mean you're in a movie theater; your head might just be jammed up your ass.

What about plate tectonics don't they understand?

Arthur Silber catches Franklin Graham giving further support to the arguments of Bertrand Russell.