Archive for December, 2004

Doolittle on Bush’s Response to the Tsunami

Friday, December 31st, 2004

I recently had a mini-debate with J.A.Y.S.O.N. over the question of whether Bush’s response to the Asian tsunami disaster has been inadequate. I asserted that it had been; he responded that I was just being a Bush-hater, and that whether or not Bush was guilty of being callous or self-centered, for me to harp on it would be bad tactics, since it would cement Bush supporters in their belief that people like me just hate Bush irrationally.

He may be right. But having considered his argument, and having tried to figure out where my views come from, I still think Bush is an asshole, and that the particular ways in which he’s an asshole were very much on display over the past week. Anyway, I probably would have written a very long post (actually, a bunch of very long posts) about this if I were still in that pre-election bubble when I labored tirelessly to expose what a Very Bad President was George W. Bush indeed, but I don’t have the heart for that at this point. There’s been some good coverage of the issue on other weblogs, though. I especially like this item from Jerome Doolittle: The terrible twos.

Carter and West on Iraq and Vietnam

Wednesday, December 29th, 2004

Long-time reader Rodrigo sends word of this interesting piece from Slate: Iraq 2004 Looks Like Vietnam 1966 – Adjusting body counts for medical and military changes.

Since lots of people seem to want to see such a comparison (based on the comments on my monthly Vietnam/Iraq deathtoll graphs), there you go.

WaPo Calls Bullshit on Rumsfeld, Bush; I Wax Religious

Friday, December 24th, 2004

The editorial writers at the Washington Post are not happy: War crimes.

This isn’t my country acting this way. These people do not govern in my name. They are fucking Nazis who have seized power for their own sick, twisted purposes and are destroying everything noble and true about America.

You people who voted for them have exactly two excuses: You were ignorant, or you were immoral. Way to go, guys.

I don’t know how, or when. But there will be a reckoning for this. Sadly, that reckoning will fall upon the just and the unjust alike; my children will inherit the same fucked-up country and fucked-up world that the religious right (among others) are creating for their own kids. And no, there will be no Rapture that will save your virtuous asses from the upfuckery.

The people you are following are Pharisees. If Christ were here, he’d expose them as such. He’d direct your attention to the poor, the weak, the innocent victims of their violent schemes of domination. If you read the Gospels you’d see that. But no; you listen to televangelists and Bible-thumping con men who focus almost exclusively on the writings of Saul of Tarsus, since his words make it so easy to justify all manner of sins.

Sigh. You people are really thick, you know?

Let’s stipulate, for the sake of discussion, that Christ was infallible. He was the Way and the Light. But his followers were not infallible. They were human. They erred. They erred even when they had Christ around to admonish and correct them. And those errors compounded once Christ left the scene.

Let’s put this in terms you can understand. Let’s talk about Satan.

Satan is a deceiver. He’s a nasty, clever adversary. Sure, he lost a round against Jesus. But he didn’t go away. He bided his time. Soon enough, Jesus left the earth, leaving his followers to do their best to carry on His work.

And Satan deceived them. He turned them into the wrong path. He twisted Jesus’ teachings. Steadily, he perverted the message. And Saul of Tarsus was the perfect instrument for that.

Who do you think really appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus? It wasn’t Jesus. It was Satan. And here you are, blindly following his teachings, so smug in your righteousness, so superior.

Like I said; way to go, guys.

Dating Advice (Or Not) for Michael Williams

Friday, December 24th, 2004

He claims he’s not looking for advice, just confirmation of the fact that the more time he spends in relationships with women, the more “slick moves and mad skills” he acquires. So Michael Williams asks for his older, married readers to confirm or deny that observation.

Yeah, well, I think he doth protest too much. Anyway, I pulled out my false teeth long enough to give him some advice from Gramps. Then I felt guilty to be writing long comments on his weblog when I’d been neglecting mine so much, so I figured I’d better link to it: Slick moves and mad skills.

Barlow’s December 16 Hearing

Saturday, December 18th, 2004

You may recall hearing about John Perry Barlow’s ongoing battle to get some misdemeanor drug possession charges against him thrown out on Fourth Amendment grounds. (Barlow was arrested after a Transportation Safety Authority baggage screener found a small quantity of marijuana, some mushrooms, and some ketamine in an ibuprofen bottle in his checked luggage before an airplane flight.)

If you haven’t heard about it, it’s time you did. That’s the sound of your Constitutional freedoms fluttering away…

Anyway, there was a hearing this past Wednesday on the matter. Seth David Schoen has an interesting (if maddening) write-up of it: In the Superior Court of California, County of San Mateo. You can also check out Barlow’s pre-hearing description of the original incident: A taste of the system, and if you’re feeling really masochistic, you can read some of the relevant court documents: “The Man” vs. John Perry Barlow.

Nielsen on What Users Hate About Web Ads

Saturday, December 18th, 2004

From Jakob Nielsen, knight errant of web usability: Most hated advertising techniques.

David Sedaris’ Boil

Saturday, December 18th, 2004

I’ve felt a certain bond with David Sedaris ever since he almost got me killed. I was driving to work on the 405 freeway, negotiating the South Bay curve on the southbound side, in the fast lane next to the concrete divider (this was before the carpool lane was added — there’s a carpool lane there now, right?). And I was listening to Morning Edition, and they were playing Sedaris reading from The Santa Land Diaries. (I’m linking here to an expanded version of it that was part of a later This American Life episode. It’s a RealAudio stream, which I hate, but in this case it’s worth putting up with the technological suck to get the hilarious content. Sedaris begins at 4:41.)

It was the funniest thing I’d ever heard, and I came fairly close to slamming into the center divider, which would have been interesting, in that I would have made a scuff mark matching the one I’d made on the northbound side shortly after getting my driver’s license a few years earlier. But I guess that’s a story for another time.

One more digression before I get to the actual link this item is about: I finally saw Elf, with Will Ferrell. It was actually pretty good, thanks to (as Adam pointed out in his review at Words Mean Things) Will Ferrell’s complete commitment to selling the joke, at whatever cost.

David Sedaris’ little sister Amy is in the cast of Elf (as Adam also pointed out), and since the movie could well be taken as a riff on Sedaris’ earlier comic mining of his department store elf experience (though they were careful to mix things up by putting Will Ferrell in Gimbel’s, rather than Macy’s), I was alert for any explicit references to The Santa Land Diaries.

And there it was! It came when Ferrell’s Buddy was meeting Zooey Deschanel’s Jovie, as she was decorating the tree. At one point she shoots him a suspicious glance and says, “Did Crumpet put you up to this?” (Crumpet was Sedaris’ elf name at Macy’s.)

Okay. I think I’ve purged most of the mental debris that crowded into my brain when I saw this item by Sedaris in The New Yorker: Old faithful. It’s got nothing to do with elves, or Christmas, but it’s good stuff. Go read it! Thanks.

Moyers on Threats to the Environment

Saturday, December 18th, 2004

A greet speech by journalist Bill Moyers, on the dangers of letting theology and ideology trump reason in our collective attitude toward the environment: Battlefield Earth.

One of the biggest changes in politics in my lifetime is that the delusional is no longer marginal. It has come in from the fringe, to sit in the seat of power in the Oval Office and in Congress. For the first time in our history, ideology and theology hold a monopoly of power in Washington. Theology asserts propositions that cannot be proven true; ideologues hold stoutly to a world view despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality. When ideology and theology couple, their offspring are not always bad but they are always blind. And there is the danger: voters and politicians alike, oblivious to the facts.

The Tokyo Sewer Gallery

Friday, December 17th, 2004

I’m actually not sure if that’s what this is, but it’s pretty hypnotic stuff: Photo gallery. Some of them really look like they belong in a video game.

Blodget: You’re Not As Smart As You Think You Are

Friday, December 17th, 2004

Henry Blodget has this brief but interesting item in Slate: Born suckers – The greatest Wall Street danger of all: you.

Family Values: The War, and the FCC

Thursday, December 16th, 2004

Two items in today’s SF Chronicle caught my eye. The first was Jon Carroll’s weekly column in which he points out a disturbing trend in american media since the election: The war is getting less attention even as it gets more deadly. Why? Because the media failed to understand that faith and family are important. Bush may feel like he earned policital collateral in the election, but just because he got elected for his values, doesn’t mean we aren’t still fucked in Iraq — and it sure as hell doesn’t mean we should stop asking questions about how we can fix it.

The second article was Tim Goodman’s weekly TV column, in which he returns to the issue of the FCC and the PTC (for those of you who missed it, it seems that 99.9% of the “indecency” complaints the FCC receives are all from one conservative advocacy group). As Goodman points out, the FCC doesn’t initiate investigations of TV networks. They wait for the public to complain — one or more complaint — and then check to see if there’s merit.

For example: NBC was asked by the FCC to turn over tapes of the Opening Ceremony of the Summer Olympics. It seems that someone — maybe even just one person, or some folks at the PTC, perhaps? — thought there was too much dirty dancing from the Greeks. So Goodman proposes that people who think things over at the FCC are getting ridiculous should take matters into their own hands. Tell the FCC what you think of their policies; “clog the system” by telling them what shows you think they should investigate for (artistic) indecency.

Le Guin: Sci Fi Channel’s Earthsea Sucks

Thursday, December 16th, 2004

Ursula K. Le Guin doesn’t think much of the Sci Fi Channel’s Earthsea adaptation: A Whitewashed Earthsea – How the Sci Fi Channel wrecked my books.

A Little Christmas Carol

Saturday, December 11th, 2004

So, my sister mentioned to me in email the other day that could do with some holiday spirit. And then Hiro mentioned this item, and it seemed to me that it made a nice counterpoint to that recent Henry Waxman report about the disinformation being spread in government-sponsored abstinence programs. So here you go, sis: The 12 STIs of Christmas.

Happy holidays from!

Scoblic on Rumsfeld’s Tapdancing in Kuwait

Friday, December 10th, 2004

J. Peter Scoblic has an excellent analysis in The New Republic Online, on how thoroughly Rumsfeld punted the question during his Q&A with National Guard troops in Kuwait the other day: Incorrect answer.

And the no-fault Bush presidency chugs merrily along…

Pandagon on Waxman on the Lying Abstinence Programs

Sunday, December 5th, 2004

You probably already saw a mention of this, but if not it’s worth a look. Congressman Henry Waxman has a new report out that shows that 11 of the top 13 abstinence program receiving federal funding (funding that has doubled under Bush) include blatantly false educational tidbits as part of their outreach efforts. Anyway, I’m linking to it via Pandagon because I like their title: Lies, lies, lies.

The Fulcrum, Unfogged on Betraying Our National Principles

Sunday, December 5th, 2004

A couple of items noting the ongoing shift of the US government in the direction of totalitarianism. From Charles2 of The Fulcrum: Fascism by degrees. And from Unfogged: Howdy, comrades.

Making Light on Common (DoublePlusUn)Good

Saturday, December 4th, 2004

It’s been a while since I’ve pointed to a good, juicy business lie. So here’s a nice one: From Making Light: Common fraud. It exposes the corporate underpinnings of the allegedly “grassroots” organization Common Good, an advocacy group looking to promote the idea that we desperately need to expand the legal rights of corporations and curtail those of individuals if we are to preserve our way of life.

Never doubt that it’s worth their while to lie to you. When you’re talking about really big corporations and really big money, it’s worth their while to lie to you very, very elaborately.

Irresponsible Speculation About Dick Cheney’s Shoe Size

Saturday, December 4th, 2004

This is the kind of weblog knavery I live for. From Joshua Micah Marshall: This is a delicate topic. But I think it’s worth asking…

Boing Boing on MSN’s Inept Blogcensoring

Saturday, December 4th, 2004

A fun item on what did, and didn’t, pass muster with MSN’s automated blog censors: Seven dirty blogs.

In Which I Admit It for My Factious Purposes

Friday, December 3rd, 2004

A brief reading for the season, courtesy of Dickens, who I’m told undertook A Christmas Carol mainly for the money, being in desperate need of cash in the fall of 1843. But then, like all good obsessives, he got caught up in the venture, and the rest is history. Anyway:

Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude.

‘Spirit, are they yours?’ Scrooge could say no more.

‘They are Man’s,’ said the Spirit, looking down upon them. ‘And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!’ cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. ‘Slander those who tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse! And abide the end!’

Ignorance and Want