g r o t t o 1 1

Peeve Farm
Breeding peeves for show, not just to keep as pets
Brian Tiemann
Silicon ValleyNew York-based purveyor of a confusing mixture of Apple punditry, political bile, and sports car rentals.

btman at grotto11 dot com

Read These Too:

Steven Den Beste
James Lileks
Little Green Footballs
As the Apple Turns
Cold Fury
Capitalist Lion
Red Letter Day
Eric S. Raymond
Tal G in Jerusalem
Aziz Poonawalla
Corsair the Rational Pirate
Ravishing Light
Cartago Delenda Est

Cars without compromise.

Book Plugs:

Buy 'em and I get
money. I think.
BSD Mall

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 4/29/2002 -   5/5/2002
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 1/28/2002 -   2/3/2002
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12/31/2001 -   1/6/2002
12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Sunday, December 14, 2003
23:13 - Le malaise existential

You know, I've been weirdly irritable all day over the news of Saddam's capture. Every news report just makes me frown more, and grit my teeth more, and rub my forehead in more pain.

Why? Probably because of things like this (via LGF): an entry, not unrepresentative of the whole, at the official blog of the Democratic National Committee.

Well, tha capture of Sadaam takes the ‘failure to capture’ issue off the table.

Now that the economy is picking up (mall was packed yesterday), Iraq is getting better, prescription drugs on the way, education spending at an all-time high, no further terrorist attacks—what is left?

Oh, yes, the capture of Bin Laden.

If that happens, we are completely sunk.

Yeah? You wouldn't be sunk if you could bring yourself to express approval of just one extremely good thing that America does, in spite of the fact that it's a Republican who did it.

Has life in the post-9/11 world really become so petty? Can a victory this profound really mean nothing more to the Democrats than a big setback on their road back to power?

I've felt saddened all day by things like this (and there were dishearteningly many). It means that I can no longer even pretend to sympathize with the goals of the Democratic party, because those goals seem to have devolved into nothing more noble than getting into power. As a Democratic voter on most issues and in most elections for the first seven years of my voting eligibility, I feel heartsick that this is what the party has reduced itself to. I mean, they were honestly hoping we wouldn't catch Saddam, for God's sake.

I feel no vindictive joy over what now seems to be the imminent death or splitting-up of the Democrats. Rather, I feel as though the country's left arm has become paralyzed. Sure, I agree more with what the right arm does these days, and more so each day. But balance is crucial to this country's operation. Each party needs the other in order to remain hungry and to operate efficiently toward goals that are universally in the interest of America. On the one-dimensional political axis that we use, flawed as it may be, the two-party system is more than a means of creating busy-work for the country's political machine: it's the fundamental balancing act that invariably drags public opinion back to the center, rather than allowing it to swing to one of the bizarre poles and transform America into a Nazi Germany or a USSR or a Talibanistan.

I fear that following the catastrophe that will be the Democrats' bid for the White House in 2004, the party will splinter; surely a new party will arise in its place, probably bearing the same name, but in the interim we'll be badly unbalanced as a nation, without surety in where our moral compasses point. Half the country's people will still feel as though the current administration doesn't represent them, but they won't have anything to call themselves-- and that's when groups like International A.N.S.W.E.R. and the denizens of IndyMedia and Democratic Underground will have their chance to make a serious bid for the niche left vacant in people's hearts by what had been the Democratic Party.

I honestly don't want to see things get to that point. If more Democrats can rally to Lieberman's call:

Hallelujah, praise the Lord. This is something that I have been advocating and praying for for more than twelve years, since the Gulf War of 1991. Saddam Hussein was a homicidal maniac, a brutal dictator, who wanted to dominate the Arab world and was supporting terrorists.

He caused the death of more than a million people, including 460 Americans who went to overthrow him. This is a day of glory for the American military, a day of rejoicing for the Iraqi people, and a day of triumph and joy for anyone in the world who cares about freedom, human rights, and peace. . . .

This news also makes clear the choice the Democrats face next year. If Howard Dean had his way, Saddam Hussein would still be in power today, not in prison, and the world would be a more dangerous place.

... then there might be a chance for sanity to prevail. But unless more people remember that this country is firmly at war, and has been for two years and three months, and that today's achievement is a victory in that war more major than any invasion or nominal overthrow-- that it makes the world far safer and freer of brutal dictators whose defiance inspires terrorism against the West than it was before-- then yes, Virginia, I'm afraid you're sunk.

This world is not so dismal a place. Let's learn to appreciate days like today for what they truly are.

12:08 - Hoo-rah

Watching Bush's speech on CNN just now:

We have a message this afternoon for the Iraqi people:

You're welcome.

Okay, maybe not quite. But I wish.

UPDATE: Lemme get this straight. The "car bomb" that blew up outside the Palestine Hotel was actually a police car full of jerry-cans of gasoline, which were ignited by a bullet that had been fired into the air in celebration and had fallen back down?

The BBC and Reuters are rapidly running out of things to be happy about.

And someone's really got to popularize a better method of celebrating things in the Arab world.

04:29 - Greetings, comrade, from the Nerve Center

How do I get myself into these things?

Last night I jumped at the opportunity to see a concert in downtown San Francisco-- a concert of Prof. Peter Schickele and the music of P.D.Q. Bach. I'd never seen it visually before, and in that lies its charm-- without the visuals I'd never really understood the appeal. Classical music-- with weird instruments! And the occasional unexpected bizarre chord or odd lyric! Huzzah! But it makes much more sense live. The guy's pushing 70, but he still makes quite an acrobatic little show of it-- he's a bearded little gnome of a man, and his absent-minded-professor act is the centerpiece of the whole show. None of it comes across on CD.

We enjoyed the show in the Davies Symphony Hall just off Van Ness, right across from City Hall. Gorgeous building, gorgeous concert hall. (The pipe organ in back is made of glass, for God's sake.) And when the good Professor came stomping in with a rickety wooden ladder which he used to clamber up onto stage, we knew it was gonna rock.

But that was only part of what made the evening so entertaining. See, I got to enjoy the concert-- and the car trips up to the city and back-- in the company of a friend, Van (who is generally pretty open-minded and willing to listen to reasoned arguments, for a world-traveling Europhile who intends to stay in academia for the rest of his life) and a friend of his... from France. This friend, whom I'll call Jean-Marie-Françoise-Sainte-Jacques for short, is a college student who has apparently lived here for most of his life, judging by his almost completely Valley-ified accent (in which only a vague sort of clipped timbre can be detected); and yet he's as close as I've ever seen to a dyed-in-the-wool French Socialist of the haughtiest caliber. It was quite the experience.

The first clue I had that the trip would be this interesting was when Van mentioned that the guy we were waiting for was a "Frenchman". (Van, refreshingly enough, has little more appreciation for the French than I do.) After the obligatory Sid Hoffman/Sid Fwenchman jokes, and after introductions were made, we piled into Jean's Jetta and headed north along 280.

The Jetta, it turned out, was intentionally bought as a political statement. "If you want a good example of this stupid American capitalist system," he said, "Car dealers always have this one car on the lot that's got like no features, which they can point to in the ads to say Look, these are the kinds of prices we have-- so they can get you onto the lot and then try to sell you a more expensive car. But I insisted on taking the teaser car; I don't need anything more than the basic transportation, so I got to screw with their system."

I was immediately fascinated. I sat silently in the back seat, imagining what the ideal car lot would be like in the Worker's Paradise. Oh yes: you might get lured onto the lot by the blue Lada, but the red Lada would prove irresistible.

All the way up the peninsula, Jean regaled us with P.D.Q. Bach music from his Discman, punctuating every odd chord or choral trick with a gush of praise for the man's sheer comedic genius. "Why hasn't this been published outside the U.S.?" he wondered. "There's hardly anything in it that even has any English lyrics. They could sell this in France or Germany without any trouble. Or someone else could do this sort of stuff." Uh huh, I chuckled to myself. Could is such a wonderful word.

Driving into San Francisco on 101 from the south, Jean sniffily pointed out how bad the traffic was and how dingy and run-down the city looked. "And this is the nicest city in the country," agreed Van. Jean simply exhaled huskily.

We reached the parking garage, parked, and walked out into the rain to grab a quick bite to eat before the 8:00 concert. The block of Hayes between Franklin and Gough is full of little cafés; we walked to the end, and saw a place across the intersection called the Pendragon Grill. As we neared it, though, both Van and Jean slowed their steps-- they'd seen the big American flag and eagle painted on the wall between the sidewalk and the awning. "On second thought, that place looks pretty scary," they muttered to each other, and turned on their heels to find another, less American place to eat, like "Absinthe" on the near side of the street. (If we hadn't found a suitable place, like the nearby little hole-in-the-wall staffed by Chinese folks who served Italian-style sandwiches and French baked goods under paintings of bare-breasted Hindu goddesses by some inept local artist, I would have gone back to the Pendragon just out of spite. But there was no need. I pictured what that would have been like. "It's okay-- they're with me," I'd have said, making the secret VRWC hand gesture which gained me entrance to this hive of jingoistic running dogs who dare to profane the sacred Market Street zone with their presence.)

Through dinner, I tried plying the humor. "Somehow I'd be just as happy if we had a resurgence of the kind of art that we used to think of as Art," I said, gesturing at the yellow-and-gold piece covering the wall behind me with the title Woman Birthing Herself. "There comes a time when you have to wonder whether postmodernity can be carried just a hair too far, y'know?" They smirked and nodded. There would be far too much ground to cover for me to try to make any real progress with these guys in one night, but I thought I'd at least try to plant a few seeds.

We went into the concert hall, where paintings of identical-looking clusters of flowers were prominently sold at the concession booth. My esteemed companions immediately took to mocking the paintings' pretentiousness, unoriginality, unimaginativeness-- at least the meme seemed to have stuck, I guess.

We ascended a flight of delicately-lit stairs circling the rounded inner sanctum of the concert hall. The broad curving window wall faced directly upon the San Francisco City Hall building, a gorgeous neoclassical structure that looks rather like the Capitol except with lots of gold leaf and an azure finish on the dome. It's stunningly beautiful, as a matter of fact. We all stopped at the window to admire it, between two tall Christmas trees hung with cards signed by local kids.

After a moment, Jean piped up. "It's really an un-American architecture, isn't it?" Van agreed, and Jean continued. "It's like something European. Look at those colonnades... that dome... it's really beautiful. Nothing American about it." We turned to go. He dug in one last stroke: "Good for them."

You've never been to Washington D.C., have you? I thought really loudly to his retreating back.

The concert got started inauspiciously enough. The assistant to the Professor warmed up the crowd by making derisive statements about "Mr. Schwartza-- whatever his name is," which elicited a chorus of hisses from the three rapidly filling tiers of seats; then, when Schickele took the stage, he opened with a description of George W. Bush's upcoming book (Profiles in Courage, which covers some of Bush's most admired historical figures, such as Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Napoleon, Attila the Hun, and so on), which he would purportedly be presenting at the University of Southern North Dakota "just as soon as the troops come home from Iraq". (Next Thursday, we're led to believe, he said.) Appreciative chortles all around. Likewise when Schickele introduced the "Freedom Horns".

In the intermission, while Van was in the bathroom, Jean tried to ply me with disgusted observations regarding "Altria", a company whose logo adorned one of the art exhibits advertised in the program booklet. "It's a front for Philip Morris," he said. "This company has gone around buying companies like Kraft, Nabisco, Maxwell House, Oreo... now you can't even give your kids a candy bar without the money going to fund cigarettes." I tried to humor him by making fun of the company's logo (which looks even dumber in grayscale), but he was not to be deterred from his main point, which I neglected to point out was rather silly in light of the fact that America is far and away more smoke-free than, say, France. He ranted on for a few more minutes about the evil of Philip Morris, its intransigence, the necessity for its destruction, Jean's inability to find any products he was comfortable buying anymore, and so on. Finally I said, "I guess it'd be better if those products didn't exist at all, then, huh?" He winced. "I dunno," he snapped, and settled sullenly into his seat to wait for Van to get back.

The concert went on. At last it ended, and we thronged out with the happy crowds of old rich bourgeoisie, against which we looked like ragamuffins off the street. (The usher, on showing us into our nosebleed seats, had welcomed us through the doors by saying, "Can I help you guys find your seats? Um.. I mean... gentlemen?") We found our way back to the car, snickering over the worst of the puns. (How are piccolos made? They're cooked over a bonfire on a Sicilian beach, in a cauldron filled with olive oil, in what's known as the Mediterranean Flute Fry.) One of the long, rambling stories about the finding of a certain P.D.Q. Bach piece had ended up with the Professor standing in a room in a building that was being demolished; at one end of the room was a safe with the door standing open; next to it there was an Indian woman who appeared to be hiding something in the folds of her robes. Deciding which to search first, Schickele decided, "better the safe than the saari." Groans and giggles alike had ensued, of course; but in retrospect, Jean said, "I was wondering why he said Indian woman. I was thinking, is this the kind of racism that's normal in New York, but that he wouldn't realize isn't welcome here in California?" Phew. I'd hate to see this guy watching South Park.

As we drove back down 101, after Van had idly remarked about Canada being "just like a State, except bigger and cleaner," Jean burst out with "I really envy Canada's political stability. There's only been one political party in power for like ten years now, and even though the current PM is more conservative than the previous one, they're still from the same party-- so same-sex marriage will still be passed and so on. There's no actual opposition to worry about." Uhhhh... huh. "Yeah, I hate those damn opposing viewpoint things," I growled from the back seat. Jean visibly recoiled, but went on. "At least they get to accomplish things without having to argue so much." Or words to that effect. (It's over a day ago now; the memories are losing their coherence in my synapses. "That's stability for ya," I said, and settled back into my seat to let my mind wander far away from the People's Republic of San Francisco. I was only dimly aware of the conversation's turn a few minutes later, when Jean expressed dismay at the fact that there was a mall called "Fashion Island"-- including locations bearing the same name in Los Angeles, no less. "I mean," he said, "I can see fashion in San Francisco... but Los Angeles?" I tried to interject something about 'Scuse me, I sorta thought there was this thing about, like, all those movie stars and stuff in LA?, but they had already moved on to the next topic.

Said topic was a tirade on Jean's part about some tutoring program sponsored by UC Berkeley, which competed with the tutoring program he himself was participating in on the side now that classes at De Anza have let out for the term. Apparently, from what I picked up, the evil UC can afford to pay its tutors $14.50 per hour, whereas the community college can only afford more like $10. The tutors had gone on strike, evidently; and Jean said that the UC had reached a deal with them. But apparently the deal was struck too late for the tutors to call off their strike, so it went ahead as planned-- "And now," Jean fumed, "The evil capitalistic UC gets to gloat that it has the moral high ground because the tutors went on strike even after the deal was agreed upon." Somewhere deep in my nose a tiny little violin played a sad, sad tune upon a thin silky hair. The evil capitalistic UC Berkeley. I love that concept.

Finally we arrived back home, and Jean took his leave. There wasn't much to say. I'd done my part-- tried to bridge the gap, though I'd given no reason for them to suspect that there was a gap at all, by (for instance) pointing to a poster taped to a lamppost south of Market that said Free government-run health care for everybody, and intoning "Free health care for some, miniature American flags for others!" .... but it was clear that I was some kind of stubborn kook who refused to see the light embraced by this enlightened 19-year-old. And the fact that I have friends who treat the word "capitalist" as a good thing would only ensure that I'd be hitchhiking home.

If nothing at all else, I can take comfort in the fact that one day this guy will have to get a job. And if he loathes America so much, there's clearly no reason for him to have come here to go to community college, is there? Surely there are ample opportunities elsewhere.

But no P.D.Q. Bach. Isn't that a bitch?

Thursday, December 11, 2003
13:05 - The KaZaA lobby in action

Canada wants to put a 20% tariff on the iPod.

Not just the iPod, either, but all digital-music players, writable DVDs, and anything you can use to store large amounts of data (like, oh, hard drives).

In whose interest? A body called the Canadian Private Copying Collective, who apparently purports to be protecting recording artists' rights.

Yeah, that's the way to do it: prevent consumers from making the move to purchased digital music and the new Walkman generation, by making it too expensive for them to buy the devices to play them on in the growing digital-music store market. Keep 'em stuck in 1999, collecting MP3s and ferreting them away on their machines' built-in drives so they can KaZaA them to friends, with a financial barrier between them and the Better Way the rest of us are moving towards with legal music downloads and functional, capacious portable players.

Presumably the levy is designed on the premise that MP3 players like the iPod encourage more piracy. Look, guys, piracy was at a fever pitch in the days of 5GB hard drives. We have a chance now to reduce it, not by passing laws and taxes, but by altering the very incentives that drive music fans to either spend their money or not spend it. They'll get their music one way or another. All you're doing is making sure that none of their money goes to the companies making devices designed to play legally bought music, or into the pockets of the artists themselves, rather than being fed into the economy track-by-track as it would be if you let them feel like it was permissible to do so.

Meanwhile, a group called the Canadian Coalition for Fair Digital Access, or CCFDA, is preparing for the worst. Members include big-name retailers, such as Wal-Mart, CostCo and Staples Business Depot, and high-tech powerhouses such as Intel Corp., Dell Computer Corp., Apple Computer Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co.

"It's a significant potential hit," said Kevin Evans, vice-president with the Retail Council of Canada and CCFDA co-chair. If the levy does get approved, "we believe it's going to be the (retail) sales clerk that's going to get the full blasting from consumers."

Under the proposed levies, a pack of 50 recordable CDs that have 700 megabytes of capacity will have a 49-cent levy on each disc. Today, that pack costs $29.99, but the levy would impose an additional financial burden of $24.50 if approved.

The general argument against the levy is that it subsidizes the Canadian music industry by treating anyone who buys blank recording media as a potential music pirate, when in fact these same products can be used to store computer files, backup data, software and self-created music and video content.

"What you've got here is a levy that does not sufficiently target its purpose," said Geist.

No kidding. Way to go, CPCC. Treat everybody as a music pirate, and everybody will be a music pirate. Brilliant.

12:49 - Can we get an "amen"?

Via InstaPundit:

I don't want to take any more static from well-meaning friends who think that anybody who watches Fox News is a brainless dupe because Fox is so hopelessly slanted.

Because if, as it seems, Fox is the only news service to cover this rally, and even organs like the New York Times bury news of it in tiny little one-sentence "even as" comments in the tailings of a story about 2 GIs being killed (Glenn has it), I'd say it's obvious whose side most of the news services are on, and what Fox is actually about.

Slant me, baby.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003
02:25 - Get 'em up against the wall...

Via LGF, where the news has been getting both far more encouraging (e.g. the anti-terrorism protests in Iraq) and more bleak, comes this:

Likewise, in Iraq, both the violent resistance and the so far fence-sitting Shia clerics are learning that the U.S. only understands force. The White House decided to have "elections" in June, not because proconsul Bremer suddenly remembered that Iraq belonged to Iraqis, but because the tenacious armed resistance was beginning to threaten Bush's 2004 election.

The rising death toll of American soldiers finally got the White House to set a date for "elections" in Iraq. But the White House is still trying to get away with a sham process in which proconsul Bremer will get the final word about who gets elected to the new Iraqi National Assembly. (It's an American tradition -- sham elections -- and who better than Bush to know it.)

The Shia leadership's insistence, in the teeth of White House opposition, on real and free one-person-one-vote elections, is embarrassing to the U.S. It is exposing the hypocrisy of Washington's claim to "export democracy." But Washington's capacity to absorb embarrassment is infinite. The Shia clerics are likely to discover that only when their threats become dead serious will the U.S. cave in.

Given how much the Pentagon wants to maintain Iraq as a new vassal state and a strategic military base, threats probably won't be enough. The Shia leadership will have to demonstrate a capacity for organizing effective resistance.

Here, too, the lesson of the steel tariffs is not without merit. While Iraqis have every right to shoot and kill occupation soldiers, that isn't necessary the most effective way to influence George Bush. Quite a few of the people who fund Bush's election campaign are involved in the latest corporate gold rush ("reconstruction") in Iraq. Attacking their interests might be a quicker way to get the president into listening mode. The lives of American soldiers are dear, but four more years in the White House are priceless.

This, and Eminem writing songs encouraging the assassination of the President, and Ted Rall actively encouraging the Iraqi insurgents to kill Americans, and regular protests in our cities' streets increasingly brazenly waving the banners of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden as righteous martyrs lying however futilely across America's senseless path of destruction... where's it all leading?

It's getting harder and harder to imagine that these kinds of sentiments-- that our troops' lives and even those of the domestic and foreign reconstruction contractors are nothing more than casino chips to be stacked on Red and cast against Bush a year from now-- are the province of the wacked-out far Left. These ideas are seeing currency in longer and larger and more reputable-looking articles, graduating day by day from the fuming and incoherent message-boards where they were espoused with the same swaggering adolescent bravado that typically accompanies a righteous frag in Quake, and gaining in linguistic dexterity and intellectual "rigor" with each new medium it infects. By the time next year's election rolls around, how far will the one-upmanship have gotten? With another year of this seemingly out-of-control feedback loop of hatred and bile to come, where one's sincerity is judged upon how much he hates Bush and to what lengths he's willing to go to unseat him... what are the campaign ads going to look like?

If they don't openly endorse assassination on prime-time TV by that time, I'll be very pleasantly surprised. But I worry about how far they will go.

Sooner or later, one of these people will in fact legitimately commit treason. More accurately, hundreds and thousands of people will push well into the realm of the definition of the word, seeing no reason to stop the advance of their rhetoric, and the authorities will do nothing to stop it-- because they know full well that the most vitriolic of the Leftists are on a hair-trigger to accuse anyone who calls them on it of McCarthyism, fascist police-statism, and crushing of dissent. They'll continue to do so well beyond the point where what they're doing can, in fact, no longer legitimately be called "dissent".

But it'll have to crack sooner or later. Something will happen, someone will finally go too far, and out will come the billy clubs. And what then?

The revolutionaries will have their martyrs. They'll have their righteous cause (Look! Crushing of dissent, just like we've been saying all along!). They'll have the spark, and they've been busily piling up the tinder now for three years.

They're itching for real, honest-to-God Revolution. And they may well get it.

"John Locke" in the LGF comments:

If violence will advance their cause, and Ash is clearly advocating that, have they not abandoned the democratic process, the rule of law, and the protection conferred by civilized discourse?
Josh is exactly right, these power-crazed rhetorical nihilists are hell-bent on forcing a violent showdown. That will be the end of them, and their leaders know it, but the evolution of their rhetoric and the script of their fantasy ideology both require a violent climax.

It's a terrible choice that we who would be the defenders against such a Revolution face: a) tolerate the affronts of the revolutionaries to the point where they're actively causing damage to our country and its citizens and soldiers, out of fear of the consequences if we... b) fight to put them down, thereby becoming everything they accuse the Right of having been all along.

And honestly, I have no idea which choice I find more palatable.

Both choices suck, from my perspective. But from the Left's perspective, both choices are winners.

This is what spurs them on.

They know they can't lose. Either they get free rein to pursue whatever mad goals they want, or they get the excuse to rise up in violent self-defensive war. Either way they get what they want-- whether by extortion, holding us hostage to our scruples, or by justified violence once they've pushed those scruples into the margins. Either way works.

(The fact that these are precisely the reasons why terrorism works-- it depends on the West's insistence upon fairness and unwillingness to tackle declared threats sensibly and effectively, things terrorists can always count on-- is what makes these people's tactics all the more galling. They learn from the best.)

There's got to be a third choice. It's got to be real, and it's got to be the one we as a country choose, because it's the only way we can remain a unified nation, I fear. Either of the first two choices would change America forever, and for the worse. There has to be a third way out that doesn't give away the farm.

* Bush could resign. But no, that gives away the farm-- it appeases the Left and assumes unearned blame for what in more sober eyes has been a great success, not a bloody failure.

* We could catch Saddam, and he could reveal incontrovertible proof of complicity in Islamic terrorism, plus active French and German and Russian subversions of US interests and UN mandates, eternally shaming them before the world and vindicating the US. But that's just a pipe dream.

* Iraq could stabilize, a pacifist Democrat could win the White House, Britney Spears could have some sex scandal or something, and the war could leave the public radar screen, and the Left would gradually lose steam and fade from the streets. But that too would give away the farm-- another 9/11 would be our reward for the inevitably decreased vigilance.

I don't know. All ways out of this mess look bleak or unrealistic, and I genuinely fear for what the coming months will bring.

16:42 - Payday

Will someone please explain to the popular Western media that this is important for America and the world to see?

"Our people are for the reconstruction", reads the sign. And "Terrorism is humanity's shame". How much more clearly does it need to be spelled out before the anti-war protesters realize what they've been doing? Just how deeply ironic it is that while they fill the streets of their own home countries to try to stop the war and the occupation, these people in Iraq are just as fervently in favor of them?

This is such elementary stuff to understand. "To bribed Arab stations:Killing Iraqis and destroying their civil facilities is NOT resistance". Does this mean nothing to our domestic Left? Are you listening, Ted Rall, you bastard?

Someone explain to the AP and Reuters that this is an extremely beautiful picture:

And while you're at it, explain to France, Germany, and Russia that if they don't want to put their soldiers' lives on the line to free these Iraqis, or even to just contribute money to the reconstruction, American taxpayers have no interest in lining the pockets of their corporate contractors. We paid for this war; we are paying for the reconstruction. We're not paying to reconstruct Europe's economy too. Go fish.

My disgust with European greed and arrogance knows no bounds today.

UPDATE: Hey, Reuters: Y'think maybe this looks like something you should think about covering?

Nah, I know-- the answer's in your slogan: No. Now.

Tuesday, December 9, 2003
22:38 - Ldoch

Just thought this was kinda cool...

When you buy a standalone iPod dock, it comes with two top plates-- one for the thinner 10/20GB models, and one for the thicker 30/40GB models. You snap it on over the heavy, rubberized base.

Each top plate is wrapped in a plastic sheath that says, in several languages, "Make sure to use the correct cover to match your iPod!" Because once it's snapped on, it's really difficult to get it off. The manual says you can remove it by pressing on the connector tongue (which sticks through the slot into the divot) while pulling on the sides with your fingers, but this doesn't work very well (and risks damaging the connector). "Apple does not recommend that you try to remove the cover!" says the manual, directing you to a knowledge-base article about it.

That said, though, the presentation of the pieces, in their styrofoam coffin, is impeccable-- just like all the other iPod-related accessories that are out these days, and of course the iPod itself.

Yep-- I've got a new 20GB one. Christmas came early this year. And now I've got a dock for both home and work, so I can recharge at work as well as at home. (You can't sync the iPod with more than one computer, though, so it'll just be to recharge when I plug it in at work.) I had to get a second cable for it, but that's no problem-- the Dock Connector->FireWire cable is now available on the ubiquitous iPod Stuff shelf at Fry's or any place that sells the little buggers. So are spare power adapters, spare docks, Dock Connector->FireWire/USB2 cables, and so on.

Notable, by the way, is that when the new iPod is plugged in to your computer and finished synchronizing (as long as you don't have FireWire disk mode enabled), it no longer says "OK to disconnect"-- it actually reboots back into player mode, right in the dock. This has two neato positive effects: a) you can play audio through the dock, using the handy audio-out connector; and b) you can pick the iPod up out of the dock and immediately begin playing, without having to wait for it to reboot. Obvious in retrospect; very slick.

I'm still not wild about the four small touch-pad control buttons below the screen; the spatial purity and symmetry of the original design and its annular ring of buttons around the scroll wheel are gone (you can't find the button you want by feel alone anymore, as the new buttons' shapes are identical and give no tactile indication as to which is which), and you can no longer touch a button without "pressing" it. Similarly, making the scroll-wheel into a trackpad-style control has the drawback that the control no longer moves with your finger-- your finger slides along the surface, making motions somewhat less positive (and if your finger is wet, it's even worse due to stiction). But the upside is considerable: No moving parts, a thinner enclosure, and no way for sand to get into the wheel, as was a common problem reported by beachcombers with the first-gen iPods.

But all the new software doodads are just great. I love the "Music Quiz" game. Yeah, yeah, there's the old "Bricks" game (which started life as an Easter egg, if you can remember back that far); and they've added an interestingly-designed Solitaire game and the rather macabre "Parachute" (in which you shoot down helicopters and then plug the survivors as they drift to the ground). But Music Quiz is an outstanding idea: when you start it, it grabs a random ten-second clip of a random song from your library, and the names of four other random songs, and it displays all five titles for you while the clip plays. You have to select the correct song title as quickly as possible, as the incorrect answers disappear one by one and the timer runs down. The quicker you answer, the more points you get. It's genius. There's no goal, but I could sit there playing it for hours.

Star-rating songs through the iPod is da bomb, though On-the-Go Playlists I haven't had much use for yet. I'm still just getting used to the idea that all my music, and all my playlists, fit on my iPod now. Hot damn.

The remote rocks too, by the way. No more digging the iPod out of its hip-holster to control it or skip to the next song. There are only two drawbacks to the remote: a) its keys are symmetrical, meaning you can't tell which way is up by feel (unless you're really clever about which side has the clip lever); and b) the extra cord which connects the remote to the iPod is hard to get under control. I poke it through my belt loops, but now I've got this mass of white wires across my front as I try to pay for lumber at Home Despot. Ah well-- life in Utopia is so hard, innit?

Mmm. Music.

20:10 - Dear Santa

A couple of gift ideas, in case anybody should happen to be interested:

"Hunger is the Best Pickle." — Benjamin Franklin
Grafton Four Star Cheddar

If these are anywhere near as good as they sound (particularly together), CapLion gets to be my personal Jesus.

13:02 - Please Update Your Slogans

The other night in the parking lot at Home Depot, on my way back to my car with a cartload of 2x4s, I passed a parked car whose back window was full of weird little banners, stuffed animals, and other gaudy items. In pride of place was a large sheet that said, in big colorful letters:


If only I'd had a piece of paper, a pen, and some tape on hand, I'd have scribbled up a note that said HELP STOP THE RECOVERY or something and taped it below her sign. But I didn't. Ah well-- lessons learned for the future.

It's like people who still drive around with "Dukakis '88" bumper stickers on. C'mon-- read the news, will ya?

Monday, December 8, 2003
03:42 - Talk about freedom not being free...

I'm continuing my long series of e-mails with that person I mentioned some time ago, dancing ever so gently around the fact that he and I are about as politically diametrically opposed as two people can be. I have only to read his online journal (in which he links with goggle-eyed sycophancy to this piece of Eric Blumrich-spewed drivel) to know where he stands; he as yet doesn't know where I come down, because he only knows me through a pseudonym, and I fear that should the veneer slip, the game will be well and truly up.

My missives to him are always long, carefully thought out, and studiously apolitical. Every attempt he makes to draw me into a snicker of agreement at Bush's stupidity or the evil of the born-again Christian South, I deflect it by subtly changing the subject. Sometimes I can't resist a tiny little dig at the more outrageous of his claims (such as that he is risking arrest and imprisonment for the very crime of disagreeing with the administration, to which I said merely, "Yeah, I'm sure they're casing you out even as we speak. Sigh."), but so far the extent of my attempts at wearing him down have been of a much more roundabout nature.

To wit, I've been setting little rhetorical traps. I let him go off on a tirade about how stupid the people are around him, how ignorant they must be to have these red-white-and-blue bumper stickers and to actually be proud of the fact that the President came from their home state, or how benighted and unworthy of fair consideration their views obviously must be. And then I respond by saying simply that I make it a point not to judge people so quickly. That every human being's life is a story, full of years and years of decisions and rational choices and love and fear and joy and death and dreams. I talked about how I deal with maddening SUV drivers on cell phones: I remind myself that some woman driving a $50,000 SUV has to have arrived at that financial position through some means or other, and that means is unlikely to be that of barking idiocy. You don't get to drive Cadillacs wearing suede suits by being a feckless moron; you don't get to pull down a six-figure salary by accident. And in any case, who among us hasn't made the odd mistake in traffic-- pulled out into an intersection briefly, mistakenly, a few feet before stomping on the brake upon realization that it was the left-turn arrow that went green and not the straight-through light? I give each person the benefit of the doubt, at least until I can determine more fully whether the person is really in fact a dunce and unworthy of my attention-- unless I'm in their blind spot.

Thus do I sow the idea that to dismiss huge swathes of the population as too stupid to live is just a trifle contemptuous. There's more rationality in the world than one might think who sees the majority of the country laid out against one's political leanings, and far more people are rational on the micro level, seen up close, than are irrational. Henry Rollins put it this way: "The powers that be, that make up all these TV shows, are under this weird misconception that we're stupid. They think you're *dumb*, they think I'm *dumb*-- that's just so much bullshit. No one's *dumb*, man. They just get dumb media. This being 1998 in this country, you can't be dumb-- if you're dumb you're dead. You just can't even hack it if you're stupid. You know? You can be *stupid*, but you're gonna be reeeal tough, to still be alive. If you've done eight years working Burger King, you may be a dumb motherfucker, but you're one tough sonuvabitch."

And it may be working. He's agreeing with the things I say, finding reason in them, and no hostility or evil. If I come at this from a few other tacks-- like, say, the ones Bill Whittle uses in laying his foundations of credibility-- I'll eventually have tricked him into believing the tenets of what I believe, at which point I'll break the horrible news.

I hope he'll take it well.

Anyway, in the meantime, the ammunition builds itself up with hardly any human labor necessary. BC at the Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler winds up and takes a big swing at the socialist paradise that is 35-hour-workweek France-- but his work is already done for him, by this article which demonstrates just what a travesty it's all been. If anyone doubts the monstrous nature of the State as a beast that grows to feed itself all the more the larger and more powerful it becomes, we've got the proof right in front of us: the French PM has said himself that France is on a one-way course to becoming a vast Holiday on the Riviera for the well-to-do... but a hideous totalitarian wasteland for the lower-class plebs who were supposed to be the beneficiaries of socialism in the first place.

Though France has gotten the most attention for its short week, it has company in Europe. Since the 1940s, Europeans have expanded their annual time off by about one week, said Lawrence Jeffrey Johnson, chief economist of employment trends for the International Labour Organization, a branch of the United Nations.

In the United States, a 40-hour workweek is standard and the government doesn't regulate vacation time.

"The U.S. labor market is much more flexible that way, to allow people to work out individual accommodations in how they want to organize their lives," said Paul Swaim, an economist specializing in labor market issues for the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

And you know what? I had never before even considered an idea like "the government regulating vacation time". Absurd! What business does the government have in telling my company when it can (and must) bar me from working? Lately I've been thinking a lot about how I demand the right to fail because without it there is no right to succeed... but it seems that in France, even the right to succeed-- the right to put in the hours you want to put in, to go above and beyond duty, to work two or three jobs, to write a book in one's off-hours, the right to claw your way up through your own teeth-gritted efforts-- is denied its citizens. Isn't that the worst of both worlds?

In France, says the article, nobody even wants to work what extra hours they're allowed to, because earning more money just gets them taxed at ridiculously high levels. So why bother? Never mind that this is tantamount to the State punishing the achievements of the best, the brightest, and the hardest-working-- the ones whose efforts have given us the automobile, the airplane, the transistor, and a million other advances that could never have come about if not for the allure of monetary reward and personal acclaim for reaching beyond the State's expectation of a person's mathematically-calculated ideal work output.

That's what freedom is. Not merely the ability to travel from place to place without having one's papers inspected everywhere. Not merely the ability to speak one's mind in the village square without fearing the Gestapo. Not merely the ability to cast a vote in a public election. I'm talking about much more visceral, psychological, human concepts. The things we don't even think about as "basic human rights" anymore, because they're so deeply ingrained into what we expect out of life.

Freedom is the ability to try a new career just because it sounds fun.

Freedom is the ability to watch whatever TV shows we want, without having to worry about Beavis being stopped from saying "Fire" or South Park from making fun of Mohammed because of some pressure group donning the mantle of the Offended-American.

Freedom is the desire to own a house and a plot of land, to build a deck out back, and to build a fire in the fireplace while scoffing at rumors of attempts by the city government to fine and tax those things away.

Freedom is the ability to train for a private pilot's license, volunteer for the Civil Air Patrol to do drug interdiction at the San Diego border zone (freeing up law enforcement to handle anti-terrorism activities), strap on a .44 revolver, and fly to another State just so you can enjoy sitting on the tarmac in your own piece of sovereign territory, immune from the gun-control laws of whatever State you landed in (until, at least, you set foot on the asphalt).

And freedom is the ability to obtain the means to pay for all these things by putting in the effort of two-and-a-half European workers in their proletarian paradises; pounding away on overtime hours and in second jobs into the wee hours, working evenings and weekends and holidays, not merely putting in the time, but excelling at making new things to contribute to the employer's financial well-being, and in so doing creating out of thin air the inventions that will define the technological advancements of the coming decades.

Sylvain M'Boussa, 30, was recently leaving the "Big Sky" mall in Ivry, a gritty suburb on the outskirts of Paris, with his wife and small children in tow. They had shopped at Carrefours, the French answer to Wal-Mart. M'Boussa, who works as a dispatcher for a messenger service, said the short workweek is great for his family life but disastrous for his wallet.

"I can't save money. I'm thinking of leaving France" to seek better opportunities in Canada or elsewhere, he said. "There, maybe you wouldn't get good health care or pension benefits, but at least for those who want to succeed, there are real opportunities. Here, you're just blocked."

Leaving aside the remark about "good health care", and omitting to note that Canada's prime minister flew to the US for his own surgery last year, and that all the prepaid health care in France's non-air-conditioned hospitals could do nothing to stem the deaths of 15,000 elderly citizens during the course of the heat wave this past summer...

Canada's a place that gets it-- at least, more so than France does. But Canada would do well to remember that, as France's example so vividly illustrates, once one feeds the Beast, it only grows larger; it never stays static or shrinks once its job is done. It must justify its own existence, and once given the tether it so badly desires, it never voluntarily comes back to the post where it's tied.

It's so easy to treat a defense of this concept of "freedom" as the simple, jingoistic rantings of a Montana survivalist. Yet how else to respond to such clear and obvious vindications of that very conviction?

As Whittle says,

Those that fear American power in the future might stop to consider that if current trends continue, we will – again – have no need to go forth into the world, because what good ideas that do come from outside our borders – and they are legion – are cooked up by individuals who almost universally want to come to America because here we admire and respect innovation, here ingenuity is rewarded – in cash! – rather than strangled and buried under ever-thickening, Kudzu-like mats of bureaucracy.

It’s like oil loading itself on tankers and making their way to Galveston, or entire counties of prime farmland cutting themselves into sod and stowing away in container ships, to be opened and unfurled in Long Beach harbor complete with sheep and shepherds.

We've got something good going on here, and I'd hate to see it allowed to wither because we'd somehow managed to convince ourselves that the Beast was friendly after all.

18:41 - Reinstall the Internet

Now here's a meme that's grown some unexpected legs...

Such was J.R.R. Tolkien's legacy; and perhaps it would not have displeased him.


12:48 - Double-take

Sometimes I wonder whether those History Channel shows are written by people with more of a sense of irony and humor than they usually let on.

Yesterday, the narrator on one of the Pearl Harbor shows, when discussing the events leading up to the Rape of Nanking, said: "The Japanese people thought that they were freeing the Manchurians from the chains of colonialism. They also believed that Japan needed Manchuria's rich material resources to help build their empire."

Delivered perfectly straight, without further embellishment, and giving way immediately to the next historical point.

I don't know whether I'd prefer it if it were intentional or fortuitous...

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© Brian Tiemann