Fri Sep 24, 2004
|The past is a different, much flyer, country|
This summer while watching the Olympics, I was stunned to be reminded that the women's marathon event was a recent addition, and that as recently as 1984 there was heated debate over whether women should run marathons-- indeed whether women were actually physically capable of doing so.
When women's marathoner Gabrielle Andersen-Scheiss approached the finish line in Los Angeles in 1984, a half hour out of the lead, she was staggering horribly as if on the edge of death. Doctors very nearly removed her from the race, partly out of medical opinion, partly out of a vestigial chivalry that Title IX has almost completely obliterated.
Today, in the wake of Title IX, it is literally unthinkable that such a debate would take place. Doctors let atheletes tell them when they're done, and chivalry, where sport is concerned, is thankfully dead. Women run the hell out of marathons now, doing the murderous Boston course in 2:20 flat. The way the world works has changed so much in twenty years-- all of which I've been alive and sentient for-- that 1984 is in many ways totally unrecognizable. If you want a real future shock moment, watch "9 to 5" again, and look for the rooms full of secretaries-- all women-- at typewriters. You don't see that real often any more.
I only bring this up because I often wish I was born thirty years sooner than I was so that I could have rocked it like this:
You just can't do that any more, unless it's Halloween or you're Snoop Dogg. Something important has been lost.
|A Herkimer Battle Jitney?! That's the finest nonlethal combat vehicle ever made!|
I guarantee you when the giant space robots are our masters, the will use this new super-keen future-is-now nonlethal pain ray technology to keep us from escaping their tungsten mines.
Why, oh why do our military men insist on making it easier for our enemies, the robots?
|Deficits? We don't need no steenking deficits|
Something to raise the ire of our beloved Ross and the economic question, by way of relatively-new-to-blogging, just-moved-to-DC Clutch Pearls.
The idea shop's subtitle, "Where the dismal science gets groovy" seems like an impossible claim, on the order of Kerry's idea that Republicans will reinstitute the draft. But reading a few of the posts over there, it seems that they are making good their boast.
|My Teleprompter is Deadly|
Projecting American Strength Through Intricately Complex Nuance
Those Atrocity Stories? Dude, I Was Just Shitting You
Fear Not, America, I Have Deigned to Lead You
The Next Time America is Attacked, I Promise To Open Up a Carafe of Whupass
Thu Sep 23, 2004
|Where have all the cool aliens gone?|
In regards to GeekLethal's post, a necessary precursor to worrying about what to do once you've received a singing telegram from ET is worrying whether you have a telegraph machine to receive telegrams with.
I think that worrying about ET's message is pointless. It is clear that hyper-advanced aliens, wise with the knowledge of the eons, will completely endorse my worldview. Therefore, to prepare for their arrival, attend to my words and all will be well.
The fact that reasonably thorough searches of the sky have completely failed to reveal the existence of radio broadcasting, Dan Rather in the sky aliens leads us to several potential scenarios, all of which rather undercut SETI as it currently exists.
1) The cool aliens don't use radio. If we are going to be accepted by are social betters, we must move beyond attempting to speak with a hick accent on the radio waves. Quantum entanglement, even with our current, limited understanding of the laws of nature, holds open a possibility of FTL communication. Other quantum high wierdness may also be infinitely more efficient than radio. Some heretics even believe that relativity may be incomplete, and that gravity may propagate significantly faster than light. We have only recently become even marginally technologically competent. By galactic standards, we were born yesterday, and slept in late today for good measure. Are we to imagine that radio is the ne plus ultra of communication techniques forever?
2) There are no aliens, cool or otherwise. This would certainly explain why we haven't gotten any dancing ape telegrams on the white house lawn. It would be reassuring in some regards to know that we have the galaxy to ourselves. Given the rate at which we have lately been discovering planets, its feels unlikely to me that there is no one else out there, anywhere.
3) There is some compelling reason that the aliens are not communicating at all. Long time readers will know about the novel Killing Star, which set outs the Central Park analogy for life in the galaxy:
Imagine you're alone and unarmed in Central Park at night. From where you are, weapons are concealed and intentions hard to discern. The very last thing you do is wander around shouting, "I'm here!
That could attract the attention of decidedly unsavory types. What do you do? You hunker down, keep quiet; and wait for a policeman to come round or for daylight and walk out of the park. However, there are several unfortunate differences between the universe and Central Park:
- There's no policeman
- You can't leave the park
- Night never ends
If this scenario even remotely approximates reality, sending signals into space is just about the stupidest thing we could imagine doing. It's painting a bullseye on your chest, and screaming, "Shoot me!"
I don't think that SETI is at all likely to detect any signals. The energy cost to send a radio broadcast that would be coherent at distances greater than a few lightyears is absolutely enormous. And if aliens are sending narrowcast sigals, we would only pick them up by the thinnest of chances. The only remotely plausible radio broadcast would be the nearby deathshout of a species that had been wacked a la Killing Star, and no longer had anything to lose. At that stage, stealth is no longer a priority and having some memory of your existence better than no existence at all.
Life on this planet is scary enough. I don't think that life throughout the galaxy is going to be the big rock candy mountain, either. As we develop the technology to start moving around outside the cradle, we will have to be more than a little cautious.
|Honey, There's an Alien on the Phone... What Should I Tell Him?|
Sky and Telescope covers a recent conference at Hahvahd regarding the SETI program.
For the non-dorks among you...if there are any...SETI is the nifty-sounding acronym for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, a decades-long research program devoted to finding evidence of an alien civilization. In a nutshell, the plan is to search the skies with ridiculously oversized dishes listening for signals of certain type and strength to conclude they originated from an alien world. Conversely, an extraterrestrial society may one day be conducting similar experiments, and hear, say, Double Live Gonzo through the ether, and conclude that not only is there "alien" life out there, but it's gonna kick your ass.
So this conference was held to discuss where the project is, what they've found (not much), what they've not found (everything else), how they'll improve the search process, and the like. One interesting twist was the faction that asks whether alien civilizations have been trying to reach us for centuries, but we are too ignorant to understand the means of communication. I'm not talking crop circles here- kinda hard to believe that a civilization that can build interstellar conveyances would choose to express itself in corn- but subtle consistent signals that exist in frequencies or energies we're only beginning to comprehend.
What none of these people ask though, and which I find extremely unsettling, is what the holy hell we're supposed to do the morning after we get a telegram from ET. How about some conferences discussing the repercussions on our country, indeed our world, in that event? What happens to our livelihoods, our foreign policy, our belief systems, our self perception, the day after Kang and Kodos get a listing in the phonebook?
|The distant whap of black helicopters|
Madness is incremental, and it's so very hard (isn't it?) to know when you've crossed the line from healthy paranoia into deranged ranting. Loyal reader #0017, EDog, is edging away while nodding politely at this skeptic, who believes that gmail, combined with Carnivore/Total Information Whatever They Call It Today*, will be the ruination of us all. He's right... gmail is too creepy!
(As an added sop to insanity, why not give your obsessive tendencies a soothing backscratch with this fun game? Thanks again to Edog.)
[wik] *I have it on good authority that the "Total Information Awareness" program now appears in Congressional budget packages as "070220- Misc Funds 0688a: Puppies (cute)."
Wed Sep 22, 2004
|The most expensive peepshow in history|
In a stunning display of unmitigated fuckwittery, the FCC has fined VIACOM more than half a million smackeroos for the Great Janet Nipple Event of 2004.
That's right. In a superbowl that featured dozens of nearly naked cheerleaders filmed at close range, countless swimsuits in commercials, and an astonishingly unfunny ad whose punchline was a farting horse, the possibly accidental and entirely unprurient exposure of one nipple is WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!, so wrong in fact that the network in question has to pay a gigantic fine. Worse yet, two members of the FCC's Star Chamber thought the fine was far too lenient considering the millions of tots now hellbound.
Where's the fine for the farting horse? That's the shit I don't want my kids seeing.
[wik] In fact, I didn't even know it was possible to make a farting horse unfunny. That takes a notorious lack of talent.
|Thank heavens his name isn't "Killde Infidel"|
If your name is this:
Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens)and you say this:
"No right thinking follower of Islam could possibly condone [the September 11 attacks]: The Quran equates the murder of one innocent person with the murder of the whole of humanity."expect this:
Homeland Security officials said Yusuf Islam — formerly known as singer Cat Stevens — will be deported Wednesday after being denied entry to the U.S. Stevens had recently been placed on a government "no-fly" list after U.S. authorities received information indicating associations with potential terrorists, a government official said.Laying aside the puzzling and unnerving proposition that the governmental"no-fly" list is still a going concern after repeated assurances by that very same gubmint to the contrary, I have yet to hear exactly what Mr. Islam (I love that name!!!) did to deserve deportation. He is an orthodox Muslim. Whoopee doo. Moreover, he's an orthodox Muslim who has consistently spoken out against terrorism, especially of the Islamic variety, something that prominent Muslims may be excused for not doing very often what with the short lifespan it seems to lead to. He isn't guilty of a crime. He hasn't even been charged with anything. But since his name is on a list somewhere-- a list we're not allowed to know anything about-- he's a persona non grata. Heck, if it's names that's the problem, my good friend Tommy Axemurder really better watch his ass.
|What I Did On My Summer Vacation|
I have alot of trouble being in the right place at the right time.
It usually has nothing to do with me, or my efforts to do well. It's simply the Unfathomable Forces that Govern Our Universe (UFGOU) paying undo attention to fucking with me: I was a soldier during wartime (right time), but served in the only heavy division in Europe not to fight (wrong place); I spent a long weekend in Berlin (right place), but couldn't get there until two years after the wall fell (wrong time); I'm writing this here (wrong place) and now (wrong time), and not drinking in a Munich beer tent during Oktoberfest (right everything).
But for the first time in a long time, the UFGOU smiled upon me as loyal wife Lady Lethal and I spent 10 days with family in Germany.
Way too goddamned much perfidy»
If you've never flown to Europe, it's a long flight. If it's been a while since you last flew to Europe, it's longer than you remember. Alot of Frankfurt airport is new and shiny, alot is old and smelly, most of the rest of it flows between the two, and about none of it is open at 5 a.m, when we got in. The only people around seemed to be an inordinate number of bathroom attendants. What was odd was that the number of bathroom attendants in no way reflected the actual cleanliness of the bathrooms. We took a pic of ourselves looking quite haggard that we find funny but will nonetheless not share.
The German border police were nominally dour but well within predicted norms. Absent were the security teams I remembered, with one man with an MP5 and a sidearm, and a kamerad with a sidearm and a German shepherd. Instead were uniformed kids with pistols who managed to both be highly visible yet not actually move around much. They must train for that. Anyway, the unamused chap who stamped my passport gave me the first exposure to sustained spoken German I've had in years, so it was a good intro for the next few days.
Got our connecting flight to Amsterdam, which from Frankfurt is akin to getting the shuttle from JFK to Hartford. Lady Lethal, me, and two dozen working stiffs in suits. Nice suits, but shabby shoes. To a man. I'll have to explore that more later.
Schiphol airport in Amsterdam is cleaner, brighter, far less smelly, and an all around better space than Frankfurt's. Thumbs up. Minor quibble though for the powers that be: do please reconsider the recording that implores in a caring, sing-song, female voice to "mind your step". I heard it about every 6 seconds when I was within 100 feet of every conveyor-belt sidewalk. After the 6 or 700th time, I got it. Thanks for looking out for a brother though.
My wife's brother and father picked us up and we made our way to the house, which is just over the border into Germany. Not that there's a border anymore. It's not even delineated in any obvious way, beyond a smallish sign. Little different from the "Connecticut Welcomes You" signs hereabouts, and that's kind of frustrating in its entirely anticlimactic, pedestrian manner. Go all the way there looking for good pics and mild adventure and it looks like rural Connecticut- even the signs. Only thing missing was a Home Depot and a Wal Mart.
The village where we stayed is outside Kleve , in the northwest corner of the country. Saw plenty of Kleve and environs. It and the surrounding towns lie on what the regional tourism marketeers promote as the Via Romana, an old Roman road that is still in use. The road connects all these towns and suburbs, and has done so since those towns were Roman garrisons. There's a fair amount of museum displays, signage, and and ancient burial mounds to make it quite an interesting region.
And that Roman heritage is not limited to the east side of the Rhine. Nearby Nijmegen and Arnhem in the Netherlands also promote their Latin history. The Museum Het Valkhof in Nijmegen devotes a significant amount of its space to ancient art and artefacts. And let me add that America by no means has a monopoly on unruly children. The Het Valkhof was inundated with some sort of field trip from a local school, and unsupervised guttersnipes abounded. But we managed to enjoy ourselves despite the unceasing hand-under-the-armpit farting noises and relentless giggling.
Arnhem too had its share of ancient museums and curios, but we opted instead for the touristy, expensive, pungent yet thoroughly enjoyable Openlucht Museum. We didn't get tired of seeing all the nifty windmills of all sizes and function, working shops and trades, and the extra-yummy yummies from the bakery. For more recent events of historical import, we located the Airborne Museum as well as the Frost Bridge, better known as "the bridge too far".
And of course no trip to Europe would be complete without an obligatory visit to the local castle. Castle Moyland is an old fortification that is now an art gallery, but in its checkered past has served as vacation spot for Voltaire and headquarters for the British 3d Infantry Division.
We finally did get around to having a christening- remember that? The reason we were there? The local church was fairly unremarkable as such things go, and only about 130 years old. It had been spared major damage in WW2, which is remarkable because we saw a photo of Kleve proper the morning after a serious bombardment. From the view of an RAF recon plane, the city looked like 10,000 blackened toothpicks scattered and piled around a few scorched bits of masonry: beams from homes and buildings clinging to a few standing stone walls and chimneys. Doubly creepy was that town landmarks are readily visible- kind of like having a picture of Hiroshima the day after with an arrow pointing to a pile of rubble saying "you are here".
As it happened, the baby was christened on September 11th. The significance of the date completely escaped me until the priest's sermon (is that the right word?) before the actual ritual. My German is fair on my best day, but from what I could understand at the moment and from what I can recall today, his piece was rather stirring. He described the September 11 attacks in some detail, and tied them into the atrocities in Beslan. The running theme of course was children, and how important it is for Christians to continue bringing their children to Jesus, and involving them in the religious community, and that because our civilization values our children as we do, will ultimately prevail over terrorists. He had alot more on this theme, but when he said it it wasn't at all cheesy- believe me at that moment, in that place, it was moving.
The ensuing festivities back at the house saw my father in law and I enjoying some Cohibas (note to eavesdropping government agency: I absolutely did not bring any contraband back with me), lovingly sipped with Tucher hefe weizens and later, a smooth Erdinger pilsner thanks to good neighbor Tobias. Tons of food, tons of drink, music, dancing, and general frolic. These are primarily Poles, remember, who do not celebrate with one drinking hand tied behind their backs. One new experience was a thoroughly disagreeable Bulgarian spirit papa brought from Poland. Not sure what in the Bulgar character compelled them to create not simply a potent brew, but a spiteful one, but the lesson is clear. Safety tip for loyal readers: if it originated in Bulgaria, keep it out of your mouth- that counts double for liquor.
Although the weather soured on us and we didn't make it to Amsterdam, we weren't that disappointed. Everything else came together in a pleasant, memorable, and refreshingly uncomplicated manner. We balanced family stuff with nerdy tourist stuff pretty well. And somewhere in there I turned 33.
Right place, right time.
We will plan to go a little later next time though- we flew back 2 days before the first keg was tapped for Oktoberfest.
« You're right, that was way too goddamned much Perfidy. My eyes have been seared from my head, already!
|Didn't meet the laugh test|
Howard Wolfson, a representative of the DNC, was just interviewed on Fox News. He was attempting to explain how a Kerry-run Iraq war would ease the burden on the United States. Fox News' Linda Vester asked for details. How, exactly would Kerry do this? I kid you not, the man said, "We can bring in our allies." Vester: "Like who?" Wolfson: "Like France."
You could hear the entire audience doubling over in laughter.
Tue Sep 21, 2004
|David Thomas and Two Pale Boys: 18 Monkeys on a Dead Man’s Chest|
Autumn comes as a real downer to where I live. The rest of New England is blessed with dying leaves in fiery colors, gorgeous sunsets, and crisp weather that promises warm hearths and snacks from Martha Stewart’s wet dreams. Not so for me. Where I live on the coast in Salem, Massachusetts, the weather turns cold and then it rains. The leaves go from green to dead in a matter of days only to get turned into stinking muck by the feet of thousands of mouth-breathing tourists come to town to gawk at “witches.” The grass on the common turns brown and the town hunkers down for another busy Halloween season and a long, cold winter.
Oddly, I like it this way. If I want scenic panoramas and hearthwarmed idylls, I just need to drive an hour north. At home in Salem, the gross weather and the ersatz festival mood suit my listening habits. I tend to key my music to the seasons. Spring is funktime, summer tends to mean power-pop and loud rock, and in the autumn I pull out my downer records—Tom Waits, Nick Cave and his Bad Seeds, Neil Young’s heartsick ‘70s work, the Black Heart Procession, and German operas about men and women doomed to horrible fates they cannot escape. It’s not that I court depression. That’s a louche pursuit for tortured teenagers in black eyeliner who carve their initials in painful places. But autumn in New England seems the right time for high weirdness straight out of some fetid basement in Peyton Place.
David Thomas, formerly of high punk priests Pere Ubu and punk prototypes Rocket from the Tombs, has been making music of surpassing high weirdness for thirty years now, and age treats him well. These days he records as David Thomas and Two Pale Boys, the two pale boys in question being Andy Diagram (trumpets & electronics) and Keith Moliné (guitars, violin & electronics). The stripped-down instrumentation that these three not-boys bring to their third release, 18 Monkeys on a Dead Man’s Chest (in stores October 19), allows Thomas’ chameleonic voice and bizarre lyrics to shine through a bed of heavily processed trumpet and guitar, sometimes softened by the lilting wheeze of Thomas’ melodeon.
Way too goddamned much perfidy»
The music on 18 Monkeys on a Dead Man’s Chest defies fair description, featuring layers of sound, lurching rhythms, and Thomas’ own elliptical lyrics. The opening track, “New Orleans Fuzz,” clumps along heavily under a lurching beat while disconnected impressions float by: “There are monsters in the rain,” “The river’s in the air, there’s nothing else to breathe,” “Live free or die, live free or die.” Even without drums of any kind, the following track, “Numbers Man” manages to swing like a lost Ventures recording, albeit a lost Ventures recording bent on murdering your family. And so the tension builds, until smack in the middle of all the ugliness sits “Brunswick Parking Lot,” one of the most luminously beautiful songs I have heard in a long while. With just his melodeon as accompaniment, Thomas croons (in his own broken way) a long and heartfelt apology to a girl named Deborah. The second half of the album is more atmospheric and leans more heavily on Andy Diagram’s tape loops and trumpet. “Nebraska Alcohol Abuse” barely moves, covering Thomas’ downcast murmur in gentle noises like falling snow, making the subtle groove of “Golden Surf” seem positively energetic by comparison. A few lyrical hints point to some of the songs being linked into a story, but if that is true I have yet to figure out the plot.
By the time the album winds down with the seven-minute long minimalist tour de force “Prepare for the End,” all the building unpleasantness of the previous forty minutes dissolves into a pale sunrise tinged with, if not exactly hope, than at least resignation that things might be okay. David Thomas and Two Pale Boys have created a beautiful album of downcast music that finds solace in desolation and redemption after despair.
Recommended for fans of: Tom Waits, Pere Ubu, Johnny Dowd, Nick Cave, Kurt Weill and Bertold Brecht, Black Heart Procession, that depressing high-school crap we all loved back in the 80s.
Dave Thomas and Two Pale Boys record for Smog Veil Records.
See them on tour in (fittingly) October:
Thu 10/14/04 San Diego, CA- Casbah
Fri 10/15/04 Los Angeles, CA- Spaceland
Sat 10/16/04 San Francisco, CA- Bottom of the Hill
Mon 10/18/04 Portland, OR- Lola's- Crystal Ballroom
Tue 10/19/04 Seattle, WA- Tractor Tavern
Fri 10/22/04 Minneapolis, MN- 7th Street Entry
Sat 10/23/04 Chicago, IL- Empty Bottle
Sun 10/24/04 Pittsburgh, PA- Brew House: Space 101
Mon 10/25/04 Cleveland, OH- Beachland Ballroom
Wed 10/27/04 Cambridge, MA- Middle East Upstairs (*I am so there*)
Thu 10/28/04 New York, NY- Knitting Factory
Fri 10/29/04 Baltimore, MD- Talking Head
Sat 10/30/04 Chapel Hill, NC- Local 506
Sun 10/31/04 Atlanta, GA- The Earl
Also posted to blogcritics.org.
« You're right, that was way too goddamned much Perfidy. My eyes have been seared from my head, already!
Mon Sep 20, 2004
|I accept full responsibility, but not the blame|
Watched the CBS evening news for the second time in ten years today. The first time was last week. I think that Rather's performance can be summed up thusly:
I accept full responsibility, but not the blame.
The good faith bit at the end seems really out of place considering the complete lack of thoroughness or even common sense CBS displayed. Even cutting them maximum slack, you have to assume that they thought this story was so sexy for its potential to damage Bush that they ignored all the warts, VD, and surplus-to-requirements facial hair. Call it the partisan journalistic analog of beergoggles. They ran with it in spite of all their friends telling them, "hey, that chick's really fat!" And now, the inexorable logic of beer goggling leads them to the coyote ugly moment. But Rather is still trying to pass it off, "No dude, she is hot."
While I was watching, I snorted my Diet Dr. Pepper when I heard the Dan say that they went to Burkett. Oh really? Then the big question is of course, if you went to Burkett, who told you to go there? Who is the unimpeachable source that you are protecting? Why are you protecting anyone? Not that any sort of journalistic ethics (even the rather thin and underfed ethics CBS has exhibited so far) would prevent you from turning on a source that rolled you.
The fact that two high level Kerry aides have now admitted to speaking with Burkett before the 60 minutes piece suggests some stinky going on. A lot of evidence is pointing in the direction that at least some in the Kerry campaign knew of the material that ended up in the 60 minutes report before CBS did. The timing of the "Fortunate Son" campaign that even used footage from 60 minutes suggests foreknowledge. If memogate gets connected to the Kerry campaign, he's really, really toast.
Just as soon as I promised that I may soon return to optimal posting density (or "OPD, yeah you know me!"), I remember that tomorrow is the release day for The System of the World.
I called today and had a copy held for me at my local bookstore. It's cheaper than Amazon, and I get to walk right out onto Massachusetts Avenue carrying that gold covered bricklike tome in all its prominent eggheadedness, as if to say to the world around me "that's right. Geek right here."
For those of you who have read and enjoyed the previous two instalments of Stephenson's trilogy, I highly recommend Davis Liss' The Coffee Trader, set in the same eighteenth-century Amsterdam that Stephenson reconstructed for Eliza, Countess de la Zeur.
|California uber alles!|
The homunculi down in the Department for Endogenous Perfidy Tracking (known internally as the DEPT Dept.) have clipped this little piece of stink and sent it upstairs for my review.
Campaign mail with a return address of the Republican National Committee (news - web sites) warns West Virginia voters that the Bible will be prohibited and men will marry men if liberals win in November.Shit, Phyllis! They're onto us. You conservative toads have literally no idea what you're in for if the Liberal Party wins in the Fall. And I do mean Fall for those of you of a pentecostal bent. Our hate for this nation will go unchecked like a drunken slavering invert bound for perversion on a Saturday night in lower Manhattan. Nothing but wall to wall gay sex (and bondage!) on TV 24/7. Public schools will teach nothing that has not been thoroughly cleansed (some would say purged, but that's such an ugly word, don't you think?) of all racial, ethnic, religious, or non-New-York regional overtones. Private schools will be banned-- in fact, isn't private property as a concept just a bit louche these days? Abortions on demand for everyone! Little plastic flags for the rest! Congress will become a rump for the International Homosexual Caucus (get it... rump?). Your guns will all be rounded up and melted down to make prisons for fundamentalists. With bondage.
The literature shows a Bible with the word "BANNED" across it and a photo of a man, on his knees, placing a ring on the hand of another man with the word "ALLOWED." The mailing tells West Virginians to "vote Republican to protect our families" and defeat the "liberal agenda."
Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie said Friday that he wasn't aware of the mailing, but said it could be the work of the RNC. "It wouldn't surprise me if we were mailing voters on the issue of same-sex marriage," Gillespie said.
The flier says Republicans have passed laws protecting life, support defining marriage as between a man and a woman and will nominate conservative judges who will "interpret the law and not legislate from the bench."
"The liberal agenda includes removing `under God' from the Pledge of Allegiance," it says. . . .
Gillespie said same-sex marriage is a legitimate issue in the election. President Bush (news - web sites) has proposed amending the Constitution to ban gay marriage. Democratic Sen. John Kerry (news - web sites) also opposes gay marriage but said a constitutional amendment is going too far.
The RNC also is running radio ads in several states urging people to register to vote.
"There is a line drawn in America today," one ad says. "On one side are the radicals trying to uproot our traditional values and our culture. They're fighting to hijack the institution of marriage, plotting to legalize partial birth abortion, and working to take God out of the pledge of allegiance and force the worst of Hollywood on the rest of America."
"Are you on their side of the line?" the ad asks before making the plea to "support conservative Republican candidates."
It's not you we hate. It's your freedom.
Within ten years, every city from Biloxi to Boise will become a haven for the expensive-coffee-and-cardigan-over-the-shoulders-oooh!-oooh!-are-those-John-Fluevog-shoes crowd. In fact, you will all be that crowd. The national language will be French. The national sport will be volleyball. Men's volleyball. Your precious "700 Club" will be yanked from the air and replaced with a daily "666 Club" hosted jointly by Michael Moore and Barbra Streisand (with musical guest Michael Jackson). We plan to introduce legislation outlawing heterosexuality forever and mandating the more esoteric sides of BDSM. The national currency will feature an engraved depiction of the "dirty Sanchez." We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. Your kids will meditate in school. Your kids will meditate in school. Your kids will meditate in school. Your kids will meditate in school.
[wik] ... or maybe the mouthbreathers who circulate this tripe are the right's equivalent of the Larouche Democrats, and nobody takes it seriously. Is it too much to hope that absolutely nobody will take this stuff seriously?
[also wik] Why oh why do I hate freedom so dang much?!?
[also also wik] Not that I'm all that much of a flaming liberal anyway. Indeed, I'm a self-described economic centrist and social libertine (... I mean libertarian), but if some part o' the GOP designed the foregoing noxiousness to be exactly on message for some portion of the country, then I should probably revise my notion of where exactly the center is.
[wei not trei a holiday in Sweden thi year?] In fact, does it make anyone else a little ill that Ed Gillespie, the administrative head of one of our two major political parties purporting to represent half of all of us and what we all think in a normal non-hallucinatory state, did not run screaming from this dose of poison, but rather shrugged complaisently and said "sure. maybe. It sounds like something we'd do."? As Patton said in the comments, "May a pox descend on all their houses, the fuckers."
[See the loveli lakes] Then again, the GOP let Sheri Dew open their national convention. Sheri "At first it may seem a bit extreme to imply a comparison between the atrocities of Hitler and what is happening in terms of contemporary threats against the family—but maybe not" Dew. That's some big-ass tent the GOP have got if they can make room for the terminally insane. Yay, America!
[The wonderful telephone system] Buckethead has since posted on the possibility that "memogate" may be linked to the Kerry campaign. Query: would that be worse, or just different, than telling the voters in West Virginia that the Liberals, who are apparently the true backers of John Kerry, are dead set on banning the Bible?
[And mani interesting furry animals] I should have mentioned before that Norbizness is the fount of this outrage. Thanks, Texas, for giving us a President, a Norbizness, and Kelly Willis!
|Not Florida! That's America's wang!|
An old friend of mine from Ohio who for some reason up and moved to Florida after she got married just sent me an image of a brand new postcard honoring that beleagured, storm-battered state.
(I very nearly posted this under "Crazy Foreigners" since my experiences within the Sunshine state have uniformly been of the queer, unsettling, accidental-touristy kind. No offense.)
Sat Sep 18, 2004
|Special Edition Star Wars|
Everyone knows that the new DVD version of the original Star Wars Trilogy will be released this coming Tuesday. Like all the other hapless suckers, I have already reserved a copy. However, there has been some impressive investigative reporting digging into the changes that Lucas has made to the films for the new edition. Here are some screenshots of a few of those changes:
We all figured that Lucas would take advantage of advances in CGI to clan up some of the special effects from the original films. Some of the shots of monsters and creatures were especially bothersome. Here are a couple impressive updates:
Some of the more controversial changes involve beloved characters. Lucas shows some questionable judgment in replacing them with CGI "improvements":
The change that convinced me that Lucas is smoking the crack, though, is this alteration to the battle scene on the ice moon of Hoth:
If you haven't already ordered your copy, better start planning to stake out a place in line at Best Buy. These babies are gonna go fast.
|Beer or cod liver oil; or a predictive metaphor for us presidential elections|
From Silflay Hraka, a post short and pithy enough that I will excerpt the whole damn thing:
Why John Kerry Is Doomed: An Exercise in Metaphor
Jimmy Carter in 1980: "America needs to take its cod liver oil."
Walter Mondale in 1984: "America needs to take its cod liver oil."
Mike Dukakis in 1988: "America needs to take its cod liver oil."
Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996: "Ya'll want a beer? I'm buying, and you have got to see the jugs on this waitress."
Al Gore in 2000: "America needs to take its cod liver oil."
John Kerry in 2004: "America needs to take its cod liver oil."
|Second Civil War|
Over at the Smallest Minority, I found an interesting discussion about possibilities for a second American civil war. Sadly, the comment thingy there would not let me post my comment, and so you are perforce subjected to my thinking here. I try to lighten the burden, but it doesn't always work.
We discussed this not long ago on this very blog, in the comments somewhere, and I'm too lazy to dig it up. There's some interesting thinking in the post I linked, and it gives context to what I say below.
Way too goddamned much perfidy»
The reason is economic. In the first civil war, issues of states' rights and slavery were claimed as the motivating causes for the two sides to start slaughtering each other. However, for those causes to reach the point of bloodshed, they had to be supported by deep economic divisions as well. The proto industrial north v. the agrarian/slaveholding south. The West by and large joined the north, although not uniformly, witness bleeding Kansas. That economic division gave substance to the philosophical and religious differences.
Our divisions today are more geographically dispersed, and also there is no major economic divide that lines up along ideological divides. People on both sides of most ideological divides are living the same lifestyle as each other - or at least the same spread of lifestyles. Rich, poor, worker, industrialist whatever.
Not to say that this can't change, but unless it does, I'm pretty sure we'll muddle through. The wingnuts on both sides are largely (largely) isolated from the power centers of either party, and government is still from the center. No one except the wingnuts is even remotely pissed enough to think about armed rebellion.
I would think that we would need at least two of these three things for a real civil war: an opening economic divide that happened to line up along an existing or new serious ideological divide; or a new movement that powerfully motivates and gains followers while simultaneously scaring the bejeebus out of everyone else; or an honest to god coup, which leaves many with divided loyalties.
Economics, ideology, and wars of succession are the big three historical causes of civil war.
Barring a world wide depression and a spectacularly poor response to it, I don't thing we'll see the economy tanking dramatically enough, or changing enough to support the first probability. Communism might (barely) have been a force like that here a most of a century ago, but now, no chance. Islam has never really spread except by the sword, and I don't think that will happen here. It would have to be something new. It can always happen, and has often in the past - the thirty years' war in Germany, countless third world civil wars in the last century, and our own civil war. Our system, for all its flaws, is pretty good at preventing the last one, even when its poked real hard like four years ago. Not to say it couldn't, but it isn't necessarily enough.
And, as a side note, bleeding Kansas situations only happen when there is a general breakdown in civil order, like when there's a civil war going on. I don't think most grabastic leftist groups, tempted into terrorism, would last very long against our pretty formidible law enforcement agencies.
« You're right, that was way too goddamned much Perfidy. My eyes have been seared from my head, already!
Fri Sep 17, 2004
|We love you, Michael!|
Aside from the obvious truth that any parent that allows a child within a mile radius of clearly strange Michael Jackson should be immediately be prosecuted for child endangerment; the scene outside the courtroom made it clear that many, many people are really screwed in the head.
Watching the throng of congenital morons and paint chip eaters chant, "We love you Michael!" was frankly horrifying. We can set to the side the fact that the King of Pop has not had a decent record in almost a quarter century, and has not looked human for almost as long. We will allow the subhuman chanters their musical taste.
But you are outside a courtroom chanting approval of a 'man' who is for the umpteenth time facing serious charges of child molestation. He has not been convicted, sure. Innocent until proven guilty and all that. But shouldn't your no doubt sincere admiration for the man's musical genius and the glories contained in his catalog be outweighed by at least mild moral repugnance and a wish not to be associated with someone who at a guess is at least as guilty of pederasty as OJ Simpson is of murder?
Thu Sep 16, 2004
I know this has been circulating in the blog world for a while, but for the benefit of my dear 'ol dad, here is lgf's magic blink comparison of the CBS memo and the version he created in five minutes in Microsoft Word using the default settings:
There is no way that a typewritten document from 1973 would match a computer generated document from 2004 so perfectly. Different technologies, different methods, same result. My bullshitometer pegged instantly.
|Don't ask me|
KERRY: I mean, what you ought to be doing and what everybody in America ought to be doing today is not asking me; they ought to be asking the president, What is your plan? What's your plan, Mr. President, to stop these kids from being killed? What's your plan, Mr. President, to get the other countries in there? What's your plan to have 90 percent of the casualties and 90 percent of the cost being carried by America?
IMUS: We're asking you because you want to be president.
At least someone gets it.
Imus later said,
"I was just back in my office banging my head on the jukebox," Mr. Imus said. "This is my candidate, and ... I don't know what he's talking about."
Mr. Blair also regales us with this story:
Emerson College professor Jeffrey Seglin is frightened by blogger exposure of Memogate:
"The mainstream press is having to follow them," said Jeffrey Seglin, a professor at Emerson College in Boston. "The fear I have is: How do you know who's doing the Web logs?"
Beats me. Read them? Would that work?
|Blog Pimp Alliance|
|That about sums it up|
I'm Dan Rather, Bitch!
Saying it that way just tickles our soft spot for the sadly passed on superfreak.
And in the comments, See-Dubya channels Happy Gilmore:
Dan: "I eat pieces of shit like you for breakfast!"
Blogosphere: "You eat pieces of shit for breakfast?"
|The Clinton All-Stars|
I don't think that means what you think it means. Everyone raves about the political savvy of Begala, Carville, and all the other ex-Clinton campaign consultants who have recently joined the floundering Kerry team. But think about it - these people never got Clinton as many votes as Gore received in '00, and never even close to a majority. In '92, the man who beat the elder Bush was Perot, who took nearly a fifth of the electorate - mostly by poaching Republican voters. Clinton managed 42%, a bare plurality. Perot's support in '96 was much lower, but still significant and a major drain on Dole's support.
Perhaps Kerry should consider hiring Perot to run for President.
|No longer sedated|
Punk legend Johnny Ramone has died of prostate cancer. Johnny was the third of the original Ramones to die in recent years - Joey Ramone died in 2001, also of cancer; and Dee Dee Ramone died in 2002 of an overdose.
In the wake of the truly horrific terrorist attacks in Russia, it seems that Putin is letting the terrorist win. At least in the sense that he is apparently abandoning many of the more democratic features of Russian soceity in an effort to a) fight terrorism or b) consolidate his personal power.
President Vladimir Putin announced plans Monday for a "radically restructured" political system that would bolster his power by ending the popular election of governors and independent lawmakers, moves he portrayed as a response to this month's deadly seizure of a Russian school.
It seems that merely taking measures to more effectively combat terrorism is not sufficient to meet the crisis:
"Under current conditions, the system of executive power in the country should not just be adapted to operating in crisis situations, but should be radically restructured in order to strengthen the unity of the country and prevent further crises,"
Putin has often in the past raised concerns regarding his commitment to any kind of democratic ideals. His treatment of the press, in particular, has been the subject of much criticism. But it has not been limited to attempts to control the press. When he gained power, he kicked the governors out of the Federation council, and set up a a system of Putin-appointed presidential envoys to control them. Moving to eliminate independent governors and replace them with his appointees entirely would further centralize power in Putin's hands. The fact that the current governors are not making much of fuss suggests that they are think Putin's plans will succeed, and they are hoping to retain their jobs in the new dispensation.
Restricting the state parliament or Duma to only party list delegates would further restrict democracy. Right now, half of the delegates are elected from individual districts and the other half are selected from party lists based on the percentage of the vote that the party receives in the election. Given the cut-off for representation, many parties would fail to have any representation at all in the new system. In a nation like Germany, this is not a terrible arrangement - but in Russia, it means that getting into parliament would require the approval of often corrupt party apparatchiks, again centralizing control. As the article mentions, some parties are very nearly selling slots on their lists.
The newest moves take a vision he calls "managed democracy" to a new level.
"Managed democracy" sounds like a soon-to-be-unpleasant euphemism. Russia has had exactly two periods of democracy in its history. The first lasted only months and ended with the Bolshevik coup and subsequent terror. The current experiment has been longer, but always on a shaky foundation.
Putin seems to be relying on his KGB instincts. However, I don't think that this presages a return to a communist state. Despite the fact that the Communist party still holds many seats in the Duma, Putin's moves seem much more in line with traditional authoritarian government rather than outright totalitarianism. If pro-democracy forces in Russia are unable to contain Putin (and it seems very likely indeed that they will fail to do so) the result will be a more or less typical authoritarian government along the lines of Pinochet in Chili, Chiang Kai Shek in Taiwan, or the regime of Syngmann Rhee in South Korea.
While not a happy thought for the near term, an authoritarian government in Russia does hold out some hope for the future. Authoritarian leaders are not generally concerned with micromanaging the economy for ideological reasons. In each of the three nations listed above, stable representative government eventually emerged as economic progress created a middle class. Which means that Democracy might reappear in a few decades.
Wed Sep 15, 2004
|Digging Deeper, Indeed|
I have watched from the sidelines as many members of the blogosphere (or pajamahadeen as some are now calling themselves) have taken aim at the tiffany network, and put shot after shot right through the unwinking eye. Within hours of the broadcast, the nitpicking had begun. By midday Thursday, most of what we know about the memos had already been determined - that there were a wide array of inconsistencies and anachronisms that could be sorted into three broad categories - typological, formatting and character. The story in infinite detail can be found all over, in fact you can hardly swing a cat in the blogosphere without hitting minutely detailed commentary on Rather/Memogate. I’ve been following it mostly at Allah Pundit, Wizbang, Ace of Spades and The Kerry Spot. Here are the highlights:
The first began with the superscript "th" but quickly metastasized. Bloggers focused on the font - Times New Roman, the proportional spacing of the letters, evidence of kerning, and most of this was captured in LGF blogger Charles Johnson's experiment. He typed the text of one of the memos into Microsoft word, using the default settings, and the result was a near perfect match. While I can't personally vouch for the validity of other criticisms of the memos, these analyses are compelling to me. I am a professional technical writer, and I work with this stuff every day. The likelihood that any typewriter in 1973, no matter how capable and advanced, would generate an exact match of the settings of a word processor from three decades in the future is vanishingly slim.
Other bloggers with experience of matters military weighed in on other inconsistencies. Improper formatting of titles, incorrect references to regulations, and improper use of acronyms were among the many factors that led them to independently conclude that the documents were bogus. Finally, both bloggers and non-CBS mainstream media have tracked down witnesses who have something to say about just how improbable it was that Bush's superior officer would have composed (let alone typed and saved) a memo like this. Among the critics were Killian's widow and son, along with several other guard officers.
Over the last week, many newspapers and networks have hired their own document forensics experts, and the consensus is that they are indeed forgeries. Most recently, CBS' own experts have also come forward saying that the memos are bogus. Yet CBS and Dan Rather persist in defending the authenticity of the memos. [Pauses to check a couple blogs –ed.] This in spite of the fact that in just the last few minutes, it has been discovered that the memos were faxed from a Kinko’s in Abilene, Texas. Bill Burkett – a prime suspect in the eyes of many bloggers – lives very near Abilene, and in fact has an account at that very Kinko’s. Will wonders never cease?
This story gets worse for Rather and CBS every five minutes. But what is the final answer? What will come of all of this? Blogger Beldar has taken a hard line on the Rathergate scandal:
CBS, through its affiliates' licenses to use broadcast frequencies that belong to the public, is a repository of the public trust. Its employees, acting within the course and scope of their actual and apparent authority, have deliberately and knowingly abused that trust for the most venal of motives - motives that are antithetical to the function of the press in a free and democratic society.
For all the focus on the minutia of the forged memos, the larger story is really this: a major media network - possibly with foreknowledge and intent - passed a forgery on the public intended to defame a sitting president and influence an election. Dan Rather’s bias is well known, but up until this point I never allowed myself to believe that it would lead him to forego all journalistic integrity just because the story had to be true. CBS’ most recent defense of the story is basically that no matter what issues are raised about the authenticity of the documents, they remain essentially accurate. This is so lame that it almost beggars description. The fact that the story is based on forged documents invalidates the story, period. Just because you really, really believe that the story must be true does not make it so. If that were the case, I would have a billion dollars in my bank account, a light saber hanging on the wall in my office and Ingrid Bergman waiting patiently in bed for me to finish blogging.
This gets us to the interesting bit. Even if the source of the memos is never connected to the Kerry campaign (though there are rumors that Kerry staffers knew about the memos before the original broadcast) this scandal would at minimum totally discredit any further attacks on Bush’s service in the guard. But, in a stunning display of pigheaded stupidity, the Kerry campaign linked itself to the scandal by beginning a series of ads using clips from the CBS story.
It is completely beyond my comprehension why the Kerry campaign insists on lashing itself to the mast of a sinking ship. It has been evident for some time now that focusing on Vietnam was not doing Kerry any good. Besides the fact that most of the voters don’t care about what happened thirty years ago, that focus actually opened Kerry up for massive criticism both on the basis of his service and much more significantly on his actions after returning from the ‘Nam. Compounding that stupidity by trying to convince the electorate that Bush’s service in the guard somehow disqualifies him from getting the job he already has is even more pointless. Attempting that right after some democratic hack attempts a thumbfingered forgery to drive home the point is stark raving insane. Double plus uncunning, in fact.
A broad coalition of the pathetic is vying for the title of least helpful Kerry supporter. The smart money was originally on the unknown forger, who by rendering a whole line of attack on the incumbent politically radioactive through his transparent forgeries seriously hindered the Kerry campaign. But coming up on the backstretch is Dan Rather and CBS, who (at best!) through daydreaming gullibility combined with mulish arrogance first ran the story and then refused to admit that they had been rolled. In so doing, they kept the story front and center for a full week. Combined that with a convenient Karl Rove masterminded media hogging hurricane, John Kerry has barely appeared on the TV at all. This with only weeks left before election. But entering the final turn, several others are leaving the pack and gunning for the lead: the Clintonistas who joined the Kerry campaign and seem to be the driving force behind the foolish ‘fortunate son’ attack campaign, any Kerry staffer who knew about the CBS memos ahead of time and made any record of it, and finally Kerry himself, who can’t seem to focus his campaign no matter how dire the need.
New polls are showing that Bush might have a lead in New Jersey, and that Minnesota and even fricking Illinois are in a statistical dead heat. If Kerry is to have the slightest chance, he can’t have his base moving into the ‘battleground state’ category. And if he wants to prevent that, he’s running out of time to try something else besides running a campaign based in the early 1970s.
|Did you vote for Barry, or is that just the crack talking?|
It's time once again to head down to the bar and ask for a Marion Barry. Equal parts Coca Cola, Kahlua, Bourbon and Jaegermeister. Invented by Jonah Goldberg, who described it as a drink intended to be, "So black, not even the man can keep it down."
Hizzonner, Mayor-for-life Marion Barry, has been elected to the DC city council for ward 8. It's not every city that regularly elects convicted ex-con crack smokers to high office, but then DC is a special kind of place.
Not to encourage stereotypes, but the interviews with Barry supporters on the news was quite a collection individuals who did not look like they were unfamiliar with drug use. Whod've thunk that crack smoking could bring a community together like this?
Mrs. Buckethead's excellent band, Dead Men's Hollow, has just posted a bunch of new live MP3s on their site. If you like bluegrass and old school country, take a listen here. Or even if you don't.