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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12/27/2004 -   1/2/2004
12/20/2004 - 12/26/2004
12/13/2004 - 12/19/2004
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11/29/2004 -  12/5/2004
11/22/2004 - 11/28/2004
11/15/2004 - 11/21/2004
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10/25/2004 - 10/31/2004
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12/29/2003 -   1/4/2004
12/22/2003 - 12/28/2003
12/15/2003 - 12/21/2003
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11/24/2003 - 11/30/2003
11/17/2003 - 11/23/2003
11/10/2003 - 11/16/2003
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10/27/2003 -  11/2/2003
10/20/2003 - 10/26/2003
10/13/2003 - 10/19/2003
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12/30/2002 -   1/5/2003
12/23/2002 - 12/29/2002
12/16/2002 - 12/22/2002
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11/25/2002 -  12/1/2002
11/18/2002 - 11/24/2002
11/11/2002 - 11/17/2002
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10/28/2002 -  11/3/2002
10/21/2002 - 10/27/2002
10/14/2002 - 10/20/2002
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 7/29/2002 -   8/4/2002
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  7/8/2002 -  7/14/2002
  7/1/2002 -   7/7/2002
 6/24/2002 -  6/30/2002
 6/17/2002 -  6/23/2002
 6/10/2002 -  6/16/2002
  6/3/2002 -   6/9/2002
 5/27/2002 -   6/2/2002
 5/20/2002 -  5/26/2002
 5/13/2002 -  5/19/2002
  5/6/2002 -  5/12/2002
 4/29/2002 -   5/5/2002
 4/22/2002 -  4/28/2002
 4/15/2002 -  4/21/2002
  4/8/2002 -  4/14/2002
  4/1/2002 -   4/7/2002
 3/25/2002 -  3/31/2002
 3/18/2002 -  3/24/2002
 3/11/2002 -  3/17/2002
  3/4/2002 -  3/10/2002
 2/25/2002 -   3/3/2002
 2/18/2002 -  2/24/2002
 2/11/2002 -  2/17/2002
  2/4/2002 -  2/10/2002
 1/28/2002 -   2/3/2002
 1/21/2002 -  1/27/2002
 1/14/2002 -  1/20/2002
  1/7/2002 -  1/13/2002
12/31/2001 -   1/6/2002
12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Sunday, November 7, 2004

So what the devil was that tonight on Adult Swim?

The long-awaited premiere of "Squidbillies" turned out to be (as I expected) a weird-ass joke, realized with invocations of Space Ghost, the ATHF crew, and assorted other products of a fevered imagination festering in the bloodbath that the "frank discussion" became. And then there was "Super Milk Chan", which nobody seems willing to take responsibility for, and "Tom Goes to the Mayor" next week, though somehow I'll be very surprised if anything occurs according to published plan.

Some weeks the Adult Swim guys play us like severely detuned violins; other weeks they give us stuff like "Stroker & Hoop" and make us wonder what sense of humor is actually present in this curious gang.

Oh, and did anyone notice, in the WingDings-font credits for the show they showed in the "Squidbillies" slot, in the first block of incomprehensible text there was a string of four symbols: the "No" circle-slash, a G, a lowercase omega, and a B. "No GWB".

Poor guys.

Saturday, November 6, 2004
03:00 - Newsweek eats its "golden boy"

You know, sometimes I think maybe it's just as well that I'm still getting Newsweek; this week, for example, the big honkin' cover story, an exposé on both campaigns behind the scenes, is an utterly fascinating read. And it pulls few punches, too:

The morning after the Feb. 3 primaries, which vaulted Kerry into a virtually insurmountable lead, the candidate was fuming over his missing hairbrush. He and his aides were riding in a van on the way to a Time magazine cover-photo shoot. Nicholson had left the hairbrush behind. “Sir, I don’t have it,” he said, after rummaging in the bags. “Marvin, f—-!” Kerry said. The press secretary, David Wade, offered his brush. “I’m not using Wade’s brush,” the long-faced senator pouted. “Marvin, f—-, it’s my Time photo shoot.”

Nicholson was having a bad day. Breakfast had been late and rushed and not quite right for the senator. In the van, Kerry was working his cell phone and heard the beep signaling that the phone was running out of juice. “Marvin, charger,” he said without turning around. “Sorry, I don’t have it,” said Nicholson, who was sitting in the rear of the van. Now Kerry turned around. “I’m running this campaign myself,” he said, looking at Nicholson and the other aides. “I get myself breakfast. I get myself hairbrushes. I get myself my cell-phone charger. It’s pretty amazing.” In silent frustration, Nicholson helplessly punched the car seat.

Many have been the jokes about Kerry abusing poor Jeeves on the campaign trail; little did we imagine, though, just how true to life those little jibes actually were. Kinda sucks all the humor out of it, doesn't it?

And this article in the same issue, about the Swift Vets and their attack, and the devastating effect it had within the campaign itself (even if not in the public eye), makes scant attempt to sugar-coat anything. Nor do the articles looking into the Bush/Cheney campaign with just as much of a shadow-piercing eye. It's exhaustive and riveting narrative journalism, this issue, cover to cover. It's almost as though Newsweek is attempting to do some penance, to make up for its knowingly, admittedly biased coverage before the election was over. More power to them, I guess; its good to see they've got a conscience after all. I just find it creepy to imagine what must have been going through their minds as they so baldly promoted a guy that even they could apparently see at the time was so very loathsome.

19:33 - Best one yet

What Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is to 1939, The Incredibles is to 1962.

By which I mean this: for each movie's respective time period, it shows a world composed entirely of all the best archetypical visual styles that anyone imagines about that era in their most nostalgic flights of fancy. Whereas Sky Captain has giant Fleischer-esque robots and flying islands full of sleek prop-driven fighter planes, this latest Pixar outing—their best yet, I have to say—is packed full of the kinds of buildings, automobiles, monorails with egg-shaped cars, suburban houses with super-stretched horizontal layered-stone fascia and space-age slants, and plutocratic drawing rooms sparsely furnished with sweeping pointy tables and chairs and suspended staircases that have by now gone so far out of style that they look sharp as hell once again. As Kris and I watched it, all we could think was: Boy, is Lileks ever going to have a field day with this. Every time the camera panned to another hillside building in what the International Style was supposed to look like, or an ornithopter straight out of the NASA glory days, or a swoopy jet from the days before they became flying buses, or one of those Mercedes-300SL-lookalike sportscars that someone had just better build for the next concept-car expo, I felt a shiver go through me that must have been exactly what those guys inventing the look of the new world back in the post-war glory days must have felt every time they tacked up another Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired sketch of some new concert hall or skyscraper. In a word, incredible.

It's also Pixar's most mature movie, by far. Which is small wonder: they got Brad Bird to do it, he of the golden touch when it comes to writing rip-roaring convoluted stories with giant robots and subtle emotions and true-to-life dialogue and human interactions and gobsmacking humor and political motivations that we can all relate to, like in the nearly universally recognized masterpiece The Iron Giant. This one is a lot more frenetic, but it's all as carefully orchestrated and intricately woven as a Mozart opera: it hits the ground running, barely pauses to introduce any of the characters, and quite frankly leaves any kids unfamiliar with the intricacies of today's litigious society and our mistrust of pure and honest motives completely in the dust. But for them there's the slam-bang visual fun, and for all the adults in the audience there's a message of startling boldness in all its masked subtlety: some people have certain roles to play. We're not all alike, all equally special. Some people are heroes, and some people are villains who won't spare your life because you're a kid or pause to deliver a monologue before killing you. The recurring theme is: If everybody is super... then nobody is. It's an affirmation of a basic tenet of human life that is seldom echoed in today's media or movies, and it couldn't have come at a more opportune time as far as I'm concerned.

Word is that The Incredibles is expected to break $600 million, starting with another record-breaking opening weekend; I wholeheartedly hope it does. I was never very impressed with Finding Nemo, frankly; its plodding, linear storyline recalled episodic pap like The Jungle Book more than Pixar's accustomed crisscrossing plotlines from films like Monsters, Inc. and Toy Story 2, whose storytelling sleight-of-hand kept the viewer engaged and surprised with every shot. I was worried that Pixar had taken a discouraging turn into the world of fart jokes and "one disaster after another... underwater!" tales with Finding Nemo, and that they'd stick with such formluae encouraged by that movie's gargantuan profits. But if there's one thing I ought to know by now, it's that Pixar never follows the same formula twice. Especially not an underwhelming one.

Thoroughly exhilarating. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Oh, and awesome character concepts. Frozone is the best-executed new superhero in years.

UPDATE: Cox and Forkum's The Uncredibles. Via Steven Den Beste.

Thursday, November 4, 2004
16:33 - I was afraid this might happen

Riots and attacks on cops in San Francisco.

Let's hope this is as bad as it gets. And kudos to "zombie" for his intrepid (if gut-wrenching) photo-journalism. (Via LGF.)

09:48 - Everything's comin' up Milhouse

This sure doesn't look like the second day of Armageddon to me.

Word is that Arafat is dead (I sure hope his last conscious sight was Fox News reporting that Bush had won), and now apparently John Ashcroft is resigning. So much for the election being taken as a mandate for Bush to tighten his totalitarian grip on our civil liberties, huh? (Of course maybe he'll find someone even worse to replace him with...)

And the Dow is up 100.

Tra la la!

Wednesday, November 3, 2004
17:28 - Too bad he's not inspired like this every day

Heh. This is the funniest Boondocks I've seen in forever.

See? See? I knew he could do it! I knew he had it in him to generate a real, honest laugh.

Maybe he should take note of what it is that makes it funny, too: self-deprecation and a lack of partisanship. Huh: y'know, those are qualities that a lot of much better comics share.

16:41 - Stop all the fussin' and the feudin'

Megan McArdle on InstaPundit says:

A DEMOCRATIC FRIEND OF MINE JUST GOT A PHONE CALL from a Republican she doesn't speak to that often, allegedly to "say hi" but transparently to gloat. This is my plea to Bush voters to give peace a chance. If we have any chance of ending the sniping and bitterness that characterise the current political scene, it's going to start with Republicans being gracious winners. If you have to indulge your schadenfreude, do it silently by lurking on Democratic websites and reading hair-tearing left-wing editorials, not by alienating people with whom we'd like to eventually build a better America.

And how.

It's easy to be magnanimous in victory, true. But it's also a moral imperative.

I've been studiously avoiding striking up conversations with any friends or acquaintances who I know are deeply distraught about the election results. If they initiate a conversation with me, I'll be happy to talk, but even then—unless they're really revolting in their demeanor—I won't bring up politics. Like the guy I wrote about in this post: even though he sent out a grotesque "Obituary for the United States of America: Dead at 228" e-mail to his personal announcement list (which I'm on), and even though I'm taking this opportunity to enact the Great Unmasking, I'm doing it with the intent of keeping the bridges of communication structurally sound, not slashing his chest open with a swish and a swash of my rhetorical snickersnee. I have no interest in making fresh enemies, and while I can see the impulses that would force someone to do so after a humiliating defeat, to do it from the winner's seat seems unutterably low.

So I won't. Instead, I'm going to wait for his next e-mail where he'll flood me with another 30K of rambling prose in which he expresses shock at my revealing my true form, insistence upon keeping an open mind to other points of view, clever and intricate metaphors and references to musical theater and noir films and oddball stand-up comedians which circulate around some elusive point, and random sideswipes at previously unmentioned targets like Mel Gibson or H&R Block. And then I'll slowly start building up from my own terse, two-sentence communiqués and offers of links like this one to start putting things into my own, demonstrated non-confrontational words.

I'll start by pointing out that I voted for Gore in 2000, and was peeved (but only mildly) when he lost; I viewed the recounts as a waste of time, because I really didn't care, to be honest—the election that year was fought on the basis of dreadfully boring matters like health care and Social Security and environmental policies, and I just couldn't get interested. Yet for that first year I remained as I had through high school and college: fiercely, internally murderously liberal, entertaining all kinds of wild fantasies and pseudo-intellectual ramblings in which I eviscerated the religious, the business-centric, the environmentally unsound, the anti-"progressive" impulses I sought so hard and with such media-fueled certainty to see in everyone around me, even though they really didn't exist outside of movies and books. I just never seemed to notice, and school provided little counterexample.

But then 9/11 happened, and for a time—a couple of months—I was firmly in a camp Michael Moore would have found homelike, though I'd not yet heard of him: I resented that urban population centers had been hit, not places like the Deep South where the Islamists' true ideological rivals really lay. While I genuinely wanted us to go kick some ass in retaliation, the "Why do they hate us?" mentality held me in thrall. I fumed, I stewed. But then, and the glibness of this admission embarrasses me, but it's true: hungry, perhaps, for some small validation of the swirling patriotism I felt around me and in which I wanted defensively to take some active part, I started reading the opinions of the people I'd always considered so "evil", the ones who get literature with elephants on it instead of donkeys. And much to my shock I found that it was nothing like what I'd expected. It wasn't hateful. It wasn't lowbrow. It wasn't homophobic. It wasn't racist. It wasn't disdainful of the less fortunate. It wasn't even so religious as to be insipid. The only thing it had that I did expect was a greater tendency than I'd been used to to treat the American flag as something more than a symbol of ironic satire; when these people started to rhapsodize about the tenets for which it stood, and quoted idealists throughout history and events that supported them, they meant it. Suddenly, all those flags on people's bumpers and hanging from overpasses in those confused months started to make sense. And my mind, up till then torn precariously between wanting to believe those flags had been posted by good, decent, intelligent folks, and wallowing in guilty bile over how 9/11 had struck so unfairly against so many people who didn't deserve it—well, it all began to coalesce. Suddenly history stopped telling a story and started being coherent. Suddenly I understood the motives of the people who would vote according to how it affected their pocketbook or their family's safety. Suddenly self-defense and the right to bear arms became sensible, even crucial things. Suddenly all those outdated, retrograde opinions that I'd dismissed so readily in the past stood up and waved their unique stories at me, and I realized for the first time that history didn't begin with my birth, that people older and wiser than me had shaped the world I lived in, and that maybe I didn't have all the answers myself.

(And in none of my colloquy with right-wing writers have I ever encountered anyone fantasizing about murdering the opposition en masse, which is more than I can say for this acquaintance of mine.)

There's been no "climate of fear" in this country; only dire warnings of what would become of us under a second Bush term. There have been no knocks in the night. Our e-mails aren't being intercepted, our phone calls aren't being bugged. People are free to protest by the hundreds of thousands in our largest cities, and they have to actually start breaking windows and vandalizing cars before the cops even dare to step in. Filmmakers get away with publishing outrageous slanderous claims against the President and his staff and intentionally sapping the morale of our troops overseas and encouraging their enemies, and said filmmakers aren't charged with treason, they're awarded gold statues and placed in the high seat of honor at the DNC. The dire predictions of the people I used to identify with clash with the real world around me so starkly that I have to doubt either their sanity, or my own. But I know how much more sense the world has made since I switched ideological allegiances, and my mind is far more at ease with itself, because for the first time in my life I actually feel as though there's intellectual and practical precedent for the things I believe in, rather than having to rely on what always seemed like the fanciful tenets of storybooks: wouldn't it be nice if everyone thought the way we do...?

So buck up, I'll tell the guy. It's really not so bad.

There's plenty of work to be done, but I'd much rather get people like this to see into my world and why I've made it my home, than to alienate them and make them all the more dead-set on fighting everything I stand for.

Deep down, I think we share the same values: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We might interpret each of those things differently: while I might believe those things stand for self-defense, self-determination, and the ability to make one's children healthier and wealthier than oneself, he might claim they mean safety, security, and ever-increasing ease. I can understand those motivations. But I've been there to see both sides, and I know where I'm more comfortable. I think the onus to change lies on those who refuse to even unshade their eyes to see what the other side looks like.

It's worth a try.

15:38 - Shake me down and write me a Flash

Hey, maybe that Beeb is worthwhile after all. Check out this Flash hickamajig that gives interactive graphical statistics on the US elections, both this year and for past years, as well as by-state analysis and historical comparisons. Really quite excellent, and better than anything any of the US networks have produced.

Note that I'm not saying I'm eager to see an aerial-laden van from MSNBC or Fox pulling up outside my house to collect their fee...

13:18 - The post every Democrat ought to read

And everyone else too, for that matter. It's by Michele at A Small Victory, and it's simply perfect.

What does the (presumed) election of George Bush mean to you, as a member of the left? It means you and your party have four years to get yourselves together and figure out exactly what you stand for. It means you have a couple of years, max, to come up with a viable candidate who represents the majority of you and doesn't pander to every knock off group of your party. It means you have time to get your act together and decide once and for all what you stand for and produce a leader who will stand up for your ideals. It means you better find a candidate who is someone you can vote for with conscience, and not just vote for out of hatred for his opponent.

What did you all believe in this year? Hate? Anger? You ran your own campaign, one filled to the brim with bile and acidic spittle and you wonder why you feel so black today? You were pinning your hopes on the the wish that the rest of America harbored the same intense hatred as you and would vote with their clenched fists. Now that you are left without the hoped for victory party as an outlet for your rage, you have to direct it somewhere else. If not at the candidate, then at his voters, right? What I am seeing today makes me pity you, and it's a pity tinged with disgust and should not be mistaken for empathy.

It means the same things for us moderate Republicans. Maybe in this time we can produce a candidate who doesn't alienate the social liberal in us, yet speaks to our concerns about defense, security and the war on terror. I am not completely enamored with the Republican Party. There's a lot of work to be done within the ranks. I'd like to see a full stop of the move towards the religious right.

Perhaps there is the perfect candidate out there for both of us, someone just making his or her way up the political chain right now. With any luck, there will be a day when a president is elected who is liked by both sides of the fence, who is respected by everyone.

And that's the great thing about waking up today. See, the world is still here. The sun has risen, there were no great floods or earthquakes or visits from Lucifer during the night. We have the future. We can all - Republicans, Democrats and everyone else - learn a lot from this election and use those lessons to move this country forward.

The spittle-flinging is over now. It's time to make the decision either to carp and backbite and self-destruct like the Palestinian leadership or the rebels in some banana republic, or to stand and rebuild and fight like Americans.

Earn my vote back.

Or line up to emigrate, and I'll send along some crowns for convoy to put into your purse.

10:02 - Combine emotions in large bowl; mix thoroughly

Well, that's it then: it's all over. Everything we've all been working toward for the past three years or so, regardless of which side of the aisle we supported: it's finally done. This is the finish line. Of course it's another starting line too, but not after a breather.

I'm both encouraged and disappointed by the results. Disappointed because 51-48% really is nobody's idea of a "landslide", and because it still means half of America disagrees pretty strongly with the other half. But then again, historically speaking, a margin of 3% is nothing to sneeze at, as strange as that sounds. I really should be very reassured by the fact that the popular vote is so firmly in Bush's favor, especially since it so neatly defuses not just any complaints of "selected not elected!" for this year, but renders the ones from 2000 just so much hot air. Anyone who believes Bush never should have won in 2000 now has to swallow the idea that he won over a bunch of Americans who hadn't voted for him back then, and convinced them to do so now.

It's still no "mandate", though. This is no consensus.

True, we've never had consensus; we've always been a country at our own throat, a house divided against itself to one degree or another, my earlier agonizing notwithstanding. We've always had division like this to deal with, and the Founding Fathers themselves had their own solutions to it—namely the Electoral College, among other things. I mean, say you're a blue-state voter. What sort of thought process leads you to be able to look at a map like this and contend that it represents a victory?

But that's how the electoral system works. It restores the balance in a country divided between rural and urban areas, cosmopolitan port cities and agrarian farm communities. If all we had to go on was the popular vote, all those red states would vanish into the noise, and we wouldn't have even the psychological sense that geographically, a big majority of the country still thinks far differently than the city-dwellers on the coasts do.

I admit I don't fully understand all the implications of the electoral system. But I do know that it's there for a reason, and it's there to address certain issues that are as relevant today as they were in 1789. Those guys were smart—far smarter than me. I'll defer to their insight.

And I would almost have been just as pleased with Bush winning the popular vote handily, but losing the electoral—because then we'd have the satisfaction of seeing people try to justify their earlier statements that the electoral college was outmoded and needed to be abolished because it's so clearly unfair.

But I do say almost. Because it's clear that intellectual consistency is not among a lot of people's priorities.

Charles Johnson, for example, has started a post where readers can submit examples of the worst electoral derangement spotted at Leftist sites across the Net; and Stephen Green has posted the definitive Nelson Muntz "HA-Ha!" gloating list; and for the most part, the people on it are exactly the people who deserve to be there. Moore, Soros, McAuliffe, Rather—the movers and shakers, the ones who dedicated their lives and their fortunes to what's now a vanished cause, and whose dishonesty and perilous rabble-rousing has caused our democracy to seriously be shaken on its foundation. True, no riots—but plenty of cases of slashed bus tires and sign-waving mob scenes outside polling places, all fomented by private funding of a truly loathsome campaign that if it hadn't had that support behind it would have struggled to break the 40% mark. I think these guys are who are primarily to credit (or blame, as you prefer) for Kerry's getting as far as he did. They almost won.

But it's the others, the ones who bought into their propaganda, our friends and co-workers and colleagues, whose disappointment is not at all gratifying to see. People whose opinions I've come to respect and whose company I enjoy who say things like:

It is 9:35 local time here in Houston, Texas. The early results show a terrifying leaning toward placing George Bush back into the White House. I state, unequivocally and for the record -- and yes, you Secret Service twits, this means you too -- that, should I awaken tomorrow morning and discover that Bush has usurped this throne for a second time, there will be a truly fascinating LiveJournal entry appearing later on Wednesday afternoon.


Be careful -- I may take you up on that. "America" no longer exists, and the dream of what America was supposed to be is dying a horrible death. I'm already working on my French, as well as saying, "eh?"


It's a beautiful day ... It's hard to believe it's the first day of Armageddon.


Well, here's to praying that this election is actually ran totally legit... albeit we all know Shrub is going to cheese-dick it and steal the election anyway... the bastard.

These quotes are not pleasant to read. I thought today would be a day of relief and bliss, but really it's not—every one of these quotes I run across from someone I otherwise enjoy being around or talking with, I'm all the more reminded of the depth to which this unaccountable strain of Moore-itis has enveloped even totally rational people, to the point where no conspiracy theory is too outrageous, no factual evidence hard enough to convince them that maybe their outlook on the world is what needs adjusting, and other people have figured out something they haven't.

It's going to be a while before the wounds that these past three years have dealt to us heal; but the good news, the best news, is that the President is no longer subject to them. We can pick up where we left off. We can resume the task that's before us; the green light is lit, and the people have spoken. The bastards.

I'll choose to be encouraged by the results. Last night, reader Christopher M. mailed:

Whatever happens--and I have high hopes--I feel like a foot soldier in a historic battle. Over the top, I know, but that's how it feels. Never felt this way about any election before.

It's not over the top. It's very accurate. Every one of us who has spend these past few years writing what we feel about politics— whether on the Left side of the aisle, the Right, or neither—and submitted it for peer review and honed his or her opinions based on the unfolding facts and independent research and study has broken a sizable chunk off the long-standing edifice that is the idea that Americans are thoughtless, sheeplike morons who vote the way they're instructed to and don't question or stray from their prescribed party lines. It's clear from the very explosion of the blogosphere that people in this country have a great, unslakeable thirst for pursuing the Truth and for disseminating it to all our friends and anyone else who'll listen. We're active players in this game once again. We're taking back control, to an extent unseen since the days when people shouted from soapboxes in village squares. We—all the people who have chosen to write our way through the campaigns and the election, whichever side we chose, and all the people who gathered what they read to help convince their friends and families and to solidify the all-important why of their own beliefs—are now veterans, and everyone who's on the winning side has a very real share in the credit for that victory.

That's the extent of the triumphalism in which I'll indulge. But I believe it's justifed. I believe it's a vindication of everything this country stands for, irate LiveJournalers notwithstanding. Our Republic rode the ragged edge of risking its own life over these past few months, quite seriously—we may never fully realize how much danger it was in—but now, this morning, it's arguably stronger than it's been in a very long time.

There's a light cool cleansing rain falling this morning... and it is a beautiful day.

Tuesday, November 2, 2004
23:35 - [adults really]

So what's going on with Adult Swim tonight?

We hope you exercised your right to vote.
Or didn't.
See, that's the genius thing about democracy:
For instance, we've chosen to show a new episode of Harvey Birdman twenty-four times.


They're up to three so far. Three repetitions of "Guitar Control", with subplots about election finance and campaign scandals. And the cable scheduler shows it all the way through till 5AM. It looks like they're not bluffing.

Is someone at Williams Street having a tantrum?

16:24 - If you only look at one link about this Election Day...

...This is the one.

Don't let these photos be covered up. They need to be shown far and wide.

Yes, it's true what Frank J. says:

Of all the things I hear going up to today's election, the one that annoys me the most are people mentioning "voter intimidation." Monitors are placed to make sure made up people like Mary Poppins, Dick Tracy, and Eminem don't vote, and somehow that's "intimidating."

(Say this in whiniest voice possible) "Oh! Someone looked at me funny! I can't vote now!"

People died so you can vote, dingus! If you can be intimidated from the vote, then you don't deserve it!

And I keep hearing how it's worst against minorities. So let me get this straight: the Republicans are sending some white guy in a suit into a minority district to intimidate all the black people.

Either I'm missing some major mechanics here or people are just being whiny little bitches. I know what answer I'm leaning for.

...But this is really, really beyond the boundaries of what anybody ought to consider reasonable.

I had planned not to post anything about the day's goings-on except for my own personal experience; but considering what an absolute world of difference apparently exists between what voting in suburban San Jose and voting in Lower Manhattan looks like, I really have to call attention to just how bad it's gotten, in case anyone think my neighborhood's experience is representative of the whole country.

Apparently it's nearly as bad in other places too. We'll be hearing more details soon enough, from first-hand observers...

(Via LGF.)

15:14 - The Disappointment Never Arrives

Attention, Venture Brothers fans!

Jackson Publick, creator/voice-actor/director of the show, and close relative—it is to be hoped—of someone named John Q. (or perhaps Drunk In), has a LiveJournal. In it, he records all the grotty details of the production of every single episode, and more! It's like... it's like a behind-the-scenes special DVD feature, produced and distributed in real-time!

Also, via IGN:

After the penultimate events depicted in "Trial of the Monarch" left the titular supervillain with a one way ticket to the hoosegow and the relationship with his beloved Dr. Girlfriend in shambles, the season finale finds Team Venture on a course destined to bring only death, destruction, and questions aplenty.

Before you head into the final stretch, we've got an exclusive for you, direct from our shadowy, barely legal network of sources and informants – the actual recording of the Monarch's prison phone calls to Dr. Girlfriend and his henchmen.

Go ye and listen. The Monarch's fragile ego requires those precious, precious web-counter hits.

(I actually missed the big finale, though. Stupid Halloween ATHF marathon. Okay, well, no, it was cool. Still, damn.)

12:55 - Your votes are now his, by way of our actions

Oh, right: John Kerry wants to remind us to vote like "the rest of the world" wants us to. (Of course we know who he means.)

Kerry wound up his two-year quest for the presidency with an 18-hour marathon that took him from Florida in the south to Wisconsin in the upper Midwest. “This is you chance to hold George Bush accountable,” he told supporters as he crisscrossed the battleground states. “The hopes of our country are on the line ... and the world is watching.”

Well: I hope they can see this, because I'm doing it as hard as I can.

11:56 - Well, that's done

Long lines at the Vineland Library. Very civilized. I recognized a lot of faces from around the neighborhood, including the guy who drove his Ferrari F360 to the polling place. (How does the Ferrari-owning demographic poll, I wonder?)

The touch-screen machines (by Sequoia Voting Systems, not Diebold) were actually very slick. They activate a card with a little embedded chip, which you stick in the machine; when you're done checking your little circles, it writes the results to the card, and you take it back to the guy and get your sticker. ...Or at least that's what we're led to believe it does; no paper trail and all. That's what's so insidious about these systems: they're so cool and efficient and seem so foolproof that people tend to blind themselves to the huge glaring inherent flaw: there's no way to audit what actually gets reported of your ballot to the registrar. For all you know, each machine just writes out a bunch of scrambled garbage to the card when you're done voting, and as long as the software tells you you're done, who's to know? It's not as though we've never dealt with software bugs like that before.

But, well, if you're a voter advocacy group that's all up in arms over butterfly ballots and hanging chads in Florida, you and your group are going to demand a massive overhaul of the system to make it more foolproof—and are you really going to demand that they whip out the Scantron forms or the photocopied sheets with the boxes for check marks and #2 pencils? Or are you going to demand the latest and greatest, highest-tech systems just entering the market? What's your dues-paying group going to tell you to push for? What are people going to viscerally think is a better system, when what they're worried about is a perceived risk of human election officials tampering with the ballots, "losing" them selectively, leaving boxes of them in trunks of cars, et cetera? Will they press you to ask for a system that increases reliance on painstaking human interaction, or decreases it to the fullest extent possible?

Beh. We'll see how it works out. I'm sure a whole bunch of people will suddenly realize the folly of computerized voting in a flash of insight sometime around 8:00 PM tonight.

Monday, November 1, 2004
01:31 - Ho ho ho

I guess this is how you know you've become a grown-up: you have trouble getting to sleep on Election Eve, rather than on Christmas Eve.

14:14 - Have we already lost?

I don't expect to be able to say anything intelligent about politics between now and the election, so I'm not going to try. However, there's one thing that's been nagging at my mind for just the last few hours. It's been somewhere in the back of my skull for a long time, but I've been refusing to acknowledge it. Bill Whittle puts his finger on it:

I will be able to live with a Kerry Presidency. But what tortures me is the thought that this country is no longer capable of doing hard, dirty work -- that we have reached the point where nothing difficult is attainable because the cost is something less than free.

This is similar to what I've been saying off and on for many months now, and many other writers I've linked to in trying to crystallize just why I think this election is so important. Just the other day I said that:

But terrorist attacks don't worry me all that much, really. What worries me is what we show of our character in response to such an attack. Any country can be happy in time of peace, after all—it's only in those periods of trial, like World War II, or Vietnam, that we really see what each country is made of. Now that Jimmy Carter has repudiated the Revolutionary War, blithely throwing away the two-hundred-year legacy of this country's fighting spirit that would never have existed if America had somehow gained its independence peacefully (which would not have happened, Jimmy), we see that shamefacedness over what this country has come to stand for has reached even into the uppermost echelons of our leadership, into the mind of someone who was once our President, and someone who now shares a box seat at the Democratic National Convention with Michael Moore, endorsing a philosophy that says the world would be better off without an America gumming up the works. If a sizable proportion of the populace comes to agree with Carter, or with the people who think like him, then we truly have left behind any traces of the generation that hurled itself into the forests of Belgium or the jungles of the South Pacific, let alone the one that tore itself to pieces on Little Round Top, each man believing deep in his heart that the cause for which he was taking a bayonet in the gut was right, right, right, and to hell with anyone who would tell him otherwise.

And I wasn't talking about the election. But at the time, somehow, I thought I was: I thought that I was equating the outcome of the election with how we would as a nation react to another potential terrorist attack. I wanted to believe that because this election is de facto a referendum on our War on Terror and whether it's worth fighting, we could use the election's results to determine whether our national character still had the fight in it that we did on 9/12/2001, or whether we're a completely different people than we were fifty or a hundred years ago.

My fears would have been assuaged by a Bush victory with a large margin; it would have told me that a clear majority of us are still united behind a stark task that we all agree needs doing, no matter how difficult or bloody. That's what it looked, for some time, like what we'd get.

But you know, it really doesn't depend on the outcome of the election after all. The polls have spoken.

This election has come down to a dead heat. Everybody agrees on that by now: a dead heat between a vote of confidence in our path as set by the 9/11 attacks, and a repudiation of all we've done since that day.

If we as a country really are divided right down the middle on that seminal question of our age, then the election will decide nothing. Whether Bush wins or Kerry wins, it'll be the same deal as in 2000: the winner won't have a mandate from a clear majority. His policies won't be what gave him victory. Neither candidate, if he wins, can claim that what he stands for is a representation of what the majority of Americans wants; it'll all come down to flukes of turnout, weather at polling places, peer pressure, vote-counting vagaries, and early calls by the network news stations (as detailed here). When the popular vote is decided within the margin of error, a butterfly's wings flapping in Beijing—as the saying goes—will spell the difference between whether America is a tiger or a poodle, and whichever one wins, fairly or not, is what will define the whole of the country's character in everyone's estimation. The winner takes all. But it won't reflect reality.

The reality will be that we're now a nation perpetually undecided. We can't make a decision anymore, even with the clearest of threats before us and the most well-defined courses of action demanding only our signature. Once upon a time the numerical difference between the people on one side of an argument and the people on the other other would direct our policy with a voice as strong as every head counted above parity; but now, half of us cancel out the other half, leaving only whispers of decisiveness one way or the other.

I'm disappointed by this... dreadfully disappointed. Whether Bush wins or loses tomorrow, the outcome as far as the people are concerned is meaningless— the very fact that after all we've been through we're still divided down the middle means we've resigned ourselves to making politics itself our primary battlefield, rather than a tool through which we choose how to fight the real war.

Jay Nordlinger (via Cold Fury) said:

A little story: Some time ago, England had what was called "the Metric Martyr." This was a fellow — a grocer or a butcher, I forget which — who sold his goods in imperial measures: pounds, ounces, etc. But because England is now beholden to Brussels, he was prosecuted for not using the metric system (hence, Metric Martyr).

I asked our senior editor David Pryce-Jones (a Brit), "How could the British people permit this? I mean, it's their system — the imperial system, or the English system — to begin with." David answered, "The British people wouldn't permit it. The question is whether they remain the British people."

I have thought about that story in the last few weeks.

I suppose it's still possible for the election to break strongly one way or the other; obviously I'd prefer one way a lot more than the other, but either direction is more palatable than a 50/50 split that will doom us to four more years of "missing mandates" and "stolen election" claims and legislative paralysis that can't be shaken loose by anything shy of another 9/11. Which, by the way, I'm feeling more and more as though is the only thing that can reawaken our interest in the war on which we embarked on 9/12, seemingly unaware that three years later we would have shelved it to the backs of our minds in favor of reality shows and celebrity worship and the rest of the lotuses that we stuff down our throats whenever we can possibly get away with it.

I'm sorry if this is uncharacteristically morbid. Maybe I'm just driving down my expectations, so tomorrow won't be too painful even if we lose. Maybe if it weren't election season, the American people would indeed speak with a more unanimous voice on the subject of Islamic terrorism, and maybe we would prove we're still who our movies say we are. But to me, nothing's more disheartening than after all we've collectively been through, after all the suffering and all the pain and all the joy and all the remarkable transformation we've all witnessed, seeing the election come down to another toss-up.

Please, please let me be proved wrong.

UPDATE: Reader Thom T. expands on this thought:

You stated that, even more important than confronting the terrorists, the worst thing that could happen is that this nation finds itself incapable of making a decision in times of turmoil, and displays itself as such to the world. You are absolutely right. I would put it a different way, though: the worst thing that could happen tomorrow, for the long-term health of the republic, is a repeat of 2000.

I have several friends who are fellow Republicans/conservative/people of the Right who still do not understand that we are in a tripartite war, and that the Islamist are the latest entrant, not the second. These people also still trust the Big Media model for their news, disparrage blogs, and at least one or two of them will be voting for Kerry. The first battle in this war was the one between Alger Hiss and Whitaker Chambers; all HUAC activity before that case was a series of skirmishes. Chambers framed it perfectly in "Witness", his autobiography: communism succeeded to the extent that it did for one very basic, primal reason. It inspired people to DO SOMETHING. What was being done was incidental, until the other side responded. Thus, freedom, and free people, could only win to the extent that freedom was able to awaken its supporters to do something in response, with at least the same degree of passion that communism had roused its supporters.

And it was only at that point that the precise temporal ideological battle would matter, because in essence, communism was nothing new, not even when Marx and Engels published "Das Kapital". Freedom and Communism were only the two terms currently being applied to a battle that went back to the beginning of humankind: the battle of Man vs. God (or, as Thomas Sowell put it, in a way which I prefer, the constrained vision vs. the unconstrained vision). And that, to me, is what this election is about. It is the latest battle between those who think they know best, and will stop at nothing to depose one who disagrees with them, and those who have no such delusions of their own infallibility, and who will do what IS in their power to do to secure our safety, and will thus take the most direct route possible toward that goal, even if that route is a horrible one, because it is also the route that is the best of a bad lot.

Chambers believed that the reason that liberals of the time could never bring themselves to condemn the likes of Hiss is because in their minds, Hiss was only half-wrong. I believe that we are now seeing the seeds that were planted then come to full bloom, and that we have, since that time, been in a war against the type of people who would support Hiss, and now support Kerry, and, more importantly, themselves, because they believe they are so wise and infallible that they can solve the terrorism problem if THEY could just sit down with all the relevant parties and talk it all out.

And it is their intransigence regarding the reality of the situation that has created the current deadlock, America's inablility to either fuck or die, if you will. This war, since the late '40s, has been more truly between those in the West who would rise to their own defense, and those in the West who would remain asleep, than between all of us and any third party, such as the Soviet Union or al Queda.

And that is why you are absolutely correct: the worst aspect of this election is the deadlock between the "Men of the West", if I may borrow from Tolkein. :) And that is why the best outcome of this election is a decisive victory, NO MATTER WHO WINS. You're absolutely right: we can survive a Kerry presidency, although the cost in blood and treasure will be higher than if Bush wins. What we can't survive is another 2000, Bush-Gore type result, something that will tear both the U.S. and the West apart. Even if Kerry wins, the sleepers can still be roused to rise and fight. If we tear ourselves apart, however, we do al Queda's job for them.

Central to this argument is the question of whether the fundamental struggle between the abovementioned opposed forces that have manifested themselves differently over the centuries is a pendulum-like affair, or a one-way deal. In our current terms, once a society is committed to the gray senescence of socialism and the bartering of freedom for safety and security, can it ever be turned around and rolled back through formal means, without bloody revolution?

I really don't know, but from my perspective it sure doesn't look like it. That's why I'm so dead-set against giving up any ground now, irrational though it might appear to friends and acquaintances who wonder just what could have driven me so far off the deep end.

And Christopher M. mails:

FWIW: I think President Bush will win, by a comfortable margin in the popular vote and a wide margin in the Electoral College. Just my "gut feeling," plus a suspicion that many will choose him in the privacy of the polling booth, no matter what they've told friends, pollsters....

In the long term however, I have the sinking feeling that we may be losing. That is to say: unashamed love of country, service to the nation, valor, steadfast devotion to the cause of freedom--all these seem to be slowly dying. In Britain we see the near future--a land that fought the Nazis alone in 1940 under Churchill is now a place where Tony Blair is reviled for the crime of standing up to Islamic terrorism. We are only millimeters behind them.

(Actually the rot was already there when Churchill took power--read the biography by William Manchester. Lord Halifax was just the most prominent of the urbane voices sneering at Churchill's lack of sophistication, urging the Government to sue for peace with Hitler. Heck, read Orwell's commentary on the times.)

What to do? In the short term: fight at the ballot box. Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Long term? Better minds than mine are needed....

Exactly. Even if we "win", what will we have won?

Just so everyone knows, I'm not predictin' jack. Sorry if that disappoints anyone.

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© Brian Tiemann