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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10/14/2002 - 10/20/2002
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12/31/2001 -   1/6/2002
12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Sunday, November 21, 2004
22:20 - Avert your eyes, children! It may take on other forms!

Is it just me, or does this op-ed on Fox News' imminent Canadian debut have a distinct panicked sound? As though the author were saying, All this time everybody up here has dutifully believed us when we told them Fox was evil... but now, through some egregious security breach or other, there's a chance that they might actually watch it and have to decide for themselves whether it's as bad as we've always said! Don't worry, citizens—don't let your curiosity get the better of you! You're too sophisticated to need to think for yourselves! Trust our assertions!

I'm pretty ambivalent on Fox myself; I don't watch it any more than any other mainstream news station, which means "not at all". But this column sounds pretty well spooked to me. When someone tries this blatantly to hide something by simply warning people against giving it a fair hearing, it's pretty safe to say that they're afraid of what people might find out.

Via Paul Denton, who handily fisks it.

Saturday, November 20, 2004
23:23 - A little Presidential Rorschach test

John Kerry: "That son of a bitch knocked me over."

George W. Bush: "You son of a bitch, let him in or I'll knock you over."

22:17 - Cute fuzzy dewy-eyed fish

So does this indicate that PETA is getting more confident, or getting desperate?

Called the Fish Empathy Project, the campaign reflects a strategy shift by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals as it challenges a diet component widely viewed as nutritious and uncontroversial.

"No one would ever put a hook through a dog's or cat's mouth," said Bruce Friedrich, PETA's director of vegan outreach. "Once people start to understand that fish, although they come in different packaging, are just as intelligent, they'll stop eating them."

For all the "science" these people claim to embrace, the one inconvenient fact that we've evolved the enzymes and gastroflora indicative of a carnivorous ecological niche never seems to figure.

Friday, November 19, 2004
16:43 - Do we detect a pattern?

So the Washington Post has finally dropped Ted Rall's comic strip... and look at what Dean Esmay identifies as the final straw:

So. The Washington Post finally dropped Ted Rall. This time for a cartoon displaying America as a profoundly retarded, drooling freak.

To which I can only say: so repeatedly drawing cartoons comparing America to Nazi Germany, accusing the late Pat Tillman of being a bloodthirsty racist, 9/11 widows as being money-grubbing opportunists--this was not enough?

Why do I suspect that the only reason the Washington Post really acted finally was not because Rall is vile and hateful, but because he made fun of the mentally handicapped?

Somehow I'm not surprised that it's this strip, not this one or this one, that finally did it—let alone this piece of reasoned and nuanced geopolitical analysis. No... he finally stepped on something the WaPo actually considers precious this time, even if accidenally, in passing as it were—mere collateral damage. Too bad.

Is this kind of thing rare, though? Not hardly. Not to look at Kofi Annan's coming vote of no confidence—not over the mounting billions of Oil-For-Blood money stolen on his watch by UNSCAM, not over failing to prevent genocide in Rwanda or Darfur... but over a sexual harassment scandal.

Are people actually, perhaps, trying to bring odious people like these to justice, using the only tools they have available to them—technicalities to which their peers are actually susceptible? Is this the equivalent of nailing Al Capone on tax evasion charges? My optimistic core sort of hopes this is the case, because it means that while the forces of good are marginalized and forced to argue in meaningless and petty terms in order to bring real evil to justice, at least they're being heard, however indirectly. The alternative—that honestly nobody cares about people spreading vile propaganda or condoning genocide—is too depressing to contemplate.

13:30 - Maybe I'll start leaving my door unlocked

Oh, the wondrous things we learn from movies! One was that America is a crime-ridden monstrosity of a nation, thanks in no small part to our guns and our lack of socialized medicine. It was in a really popular documentary, so it must be true.

Well, hmm...

Q. In your Ebert & Roeper review of Michael Wilson's "Michael Moore Hates America," you [Ebert] blurted out an erroneous opinion, expressing your doubts about the film's claim that the Canadian crime rate is double the U.S. rate.

I checked with www.statcan.ca, listed as "the official source for Canadian social and economic statistics and products," and with the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics. The bottom line: These sites agree with Wilson's assertion that crime in Canada is much worse than in the USA.

James Elias, Highland Ranch, Colo.

A. Astonishing. For the year 2003, per 100,000 population, Canada had 8,530 crimes, and the U.S. 4,267. For crimes of violence, 958 vs. 523. For property crimes, 4,275 vs. 3,744. Michael Wilson, director of the film, tells me: "There was originally a comedic segment in the film that attributed this to the proliferation of Tim Horton's doughnut franchises, but I could not make it work."

Maybe Tim Horton's could start giving out free guns, like that bank in Flint?

I really gotta stop getting my juiciest news tidbits via Frank J.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004
18:37 - Retrospective

One thing I've noticed from these last two or three years of being a news-hound is that there's simply so much data to process that the mental database rollups (as it were) occur way too frequently, purging items that happened way too recently, in favor of stuff that's even more recent.

And so, we've already forgotten some of the most gobsmacking moments of the months surrounding the tense few weeks of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Now we have people who are convinced that the whole Iraq war was for naught because the Iraqis "never wanted democracy anyway"; with Saddam's horrors slipping into memory already and spackled over with newer and flashier events like our election and Fallujah, we've forgotten the vindication that thrilled through the blogosphere a year and a half ago as we affirmed our commitment to that action, hard and gruelling though we knew it would be, and ultimately thankless at that.

It's time to remember a few things.

Remember Johann Hari's testimony of Iraqi exiles coming home. Remember Steven Den Beste's expansion on it.

Remember the "Human Shields" who went to Iraq, thinking they were doing the Iraqi people a service; and remember when they came home, shell-shocked, muttering "My God, what have we done?" after hearing to their dismay that the Iraqis wanted the invasion, and thought the "Human Shields" must have been on Saddam's payroll.

Remember Andrea vs. Mohammed, the infamous radio confrontation between a well-meaning peacenik and an Iraqi expat mocking her "simplistic Nickelodeon diplomacy".

Don't let these memes slip away into the bit-bucket of history. Lots of things have changed on the ground in Iraq since we went in last March; the moral muddle in which we find ourselves in the post-Abu-Ghraib, post-Saddam-capture, post-sovereignty-turnover, post-election, post-Fallujah world clouds our vision and makes doubters out of all of us. But we had better not let that render passé the fundamental rightness of what we undertook, or the necessity of seeing it through to the fruition to which we committed ourselves.

16:21 - Double-double with grilled onions and extra hippie

Yesterday morning I was driving up to Ukiah to pick up my folks for a shuttle maneuver to an early flight this morning. I stopped in for lunch at the In-N-Out Burger in Mill Valley, the one with no drive-thru and no outdoor seating, so a single diner is always forced to share a table with some other lone traveler who couldn't shoulder his way to the counter where people sit with their drinks and wait for their burgers to appear.

Next to me, on my left, was a young couple—college-age, it seemed. The guy was directly to my left, so I didn't get a good look at him beyond the baseball cap and hooded sweatshirt; the girl, diagonally across from me, had that skinny, pinched, stringy, beaded-hair sort of look that always seems to accompany a steely look in the eye and a torrent of truly bewildering words, the kind that no amount of research can prepare you for.

I guess they must have been co-workers or something, because they clearly knew each other well enough to be eating at In-N-Out, but they didn't know each other well enough to have discussed each other's political viewpoints yet. I was witness to the unfurling of two opposed positions entrenching themselves in increasingly raised voices over a couple of burgers.

The immediate subject was the prisoner shooting incident in Fallujah. The guy said that he had some friends who were over in Iraq, and he knew them—they wouldn't just kill someone out of hand for no reason. He said a good many other things, things that led me to believe that he's been paying a good deal of attention to news sources other than what's on broadcast TV at six: he said that in his opinion the mainstream media is unhelpfully biased against the war and actively harming our efforts by covering every possible negative angle like paparazzi. He even said that in war, there are some occasions where censorship is necessary in order to win.

She didn't like this at all. There's nothing that should ever be censored, she said. The news media "are all controlled by... America," she haltingly growled, as though she wanted to say something else instead of that final word. (The guy tried to interject questions about Reuters and Agence France Presse, but was interrupted.) In her opinion, the war is fundamentally unjust because "you don't fight a war to liberate a country, so that's a pile of sh-- right there." (I guess give me liberty or give me death was just a suicide note.) And she then told the guy that she'd been listening to an interview—where, she didn't say—in which the interviewee told of Westerners who had gone to Iraq to help reconstruct, and who were told harrowing tales of oppression and horror at the hands of the Americans, tales which they pleaded with the Westerners to take back with them and tell us. In particular, she related a lurid story (one of many, she said, that never show up in the hopelessly biased pro-war press) that went as follows:

An Iraqi family was on their way home from dinner after dark. On the highway between the city where they'd eaten and where they lived, they saw a pair of headlights approaching. They pulled over to give the approaching vehicle room; but suddenly it swerved, stopped, blocked the road, and a bunch of American soldiers jumped out of what was clearly a Humvee. They then without warning emptied their guns into the family's car, killing the father, the mother, wounding one of the kids (who escaped and crawled off the road and out of sight), and then proceeded to steal the father's wallet, the mother's jewelry, and the young daughter's earrings right out of her ears.

The guy to my left made some conciliatory noise like "Yeah, well... there will always be horror stories." Which, of course, made the girl triumphantly ski away on a tangent about how this proves we don't hear enough bad stories about what goes on in Iraq, and how we're told an overly rosy story about our actions there. It was at that point that I finished my burger and got up to leave; actually I wasn't quite done, either, but I wanted to get out of there before I jumped in myself to the guy's defense.

Why in the hell would American soldiers murder and rob an Iraqi family? What possible motive could they have? Iraqis aren't rich people; it makes no sense whatsoever to say that the soldiers in question would have accosted a passing family on their way back from the Baghdad Applebee's with the hope of committing some random murder and stealing a child's earrings. I mean, am I totally off-base here? Or does something smell funny about this story? I can only assume it was originally related by the kid (or whoever it was) who escaped; could he possibly not be telling a perfectly accurate account? Or is it possible that there are two sides to this story?

We all remember what happened with that incident about a year ago when the soldiers in the Bradley stopped a pickup truck and searched its passengers at a nearby bridge, with the result that one of them fell in and died, leading to a huge scandal that got the whole unit pretty heavily punished, as I recall. (It didn't just get hushed up.) And of course there's always Abu Ghraib for people who hunger for good dirt against our military to suck on. (I don't recall the Zionist-controlled media covering that one up, somehow.) It seems to me that for someone to believe unquestioningly this one-sided story, with no corroboration or indeed logical consistency, reveals an insatiable desire to believe only the worst about us and the best about anyone opposed to us, and an endemic lack of critical thinking. It's the same lack of logic that says Katherine Harris rigged the 2000 election by changing just enough voter registrations to make the election too close to call, rather than by making it one-sided enough not to be suspicious; it's the same lack of logic that says Diebold would set up its electronic voting machines for a clear Bush win by, uh, making it possible for an army of cloak-and-dagger hackers to physically break into every one of them across the country (especially in Ohio) and seed them with enough Bush votes to put him just ahead; it's the same lack of logic that says Bush "lied" about WMDs in Iraq by following the same intelligence that everyone else had in the 90s, and yet forgot to plant some WMDs for our soldiers to "find" after the invasion so as to retroactively justify it instead of subjecting himself to a carton of facial egg. I guess that really shouldn't surprise me these days, and it doesn't, frankly—it's just hard to hear it coming from across an aisle two feet away and not to be able to confront it. And to have to listen to it apparently being successful in browbeating the poor guy into submission.

Of course if incidents like this are actually happening, they're horrible and reprehensible; if they're happening with any frequency at all, and betray anything widespread about the things that motivate our soldiers in general, then it would vastly change my beliefs about said soldiers and their honor and the standards to which they're held. But so far I have no reason to believe that such a story, even if it existed only in rumor form, would not have made it to the headlines of the evening news within hours; or that there's any reason to believe these stories at all without any corroborating evidence to belie the logic under the accusation.

None of the charges the Left levels these days seems to hold up to Occam's Razor. As I've said a number of times here and in e-mail, my credo is that if a theory depends on a perpetrator of some misdeed being both an evil genius and an incompetent fool, then it's not a plausible theory—especially if the facts can equally well be explained by perfectly innocuous means. You get to pick either "evil" or "incompetent"—not both. Picking both just means your brain's going to be spinning in the mud until next Election Day.

Monday, November 15, 2004
20:29 - Museum-quality church

So tell me... is there not something very much awry with the juxtaposition of this picture and this story?

Tears of laughter rolled down audience members’ cheeks as National Public Radio (NPR) superstar Garrison Keillor related humorous stories of childhood and provided insights on the election results at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel Wednesday at 8 p.m...

“I am a Democrat—it’s no secret. I am a museum-quality Democrat,” Keillor said. “Last night I spent my time crouched in a fetal position, rolling around and moaning in the dark.”

Not one to shy away from speaking his mind, Keillor proposed a solution to what he deemed a fundamental problem with U.S. elections. “I’m trying to organize support for a constitutional amendment to deny voting rights to born-again Christians,” Keillor smirked. “I feel if your citizenship is in Heaven—like a born again Christian’s is—you should give up your citizenship. Sorry, but this is my new cause. If born again Christians are allowed to vote in this country, then why not Canadians?”

I've got an idea: Try speaking in a mosque next, Garry, and calling for the disenfranchisement of Muslims. All in fairness, right?

This is one of the many vaguely creepy little things that keeps me from listening to NPR these days. It's like a postcard from Keilloria, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the Christians are unwelcome in their own places of worship.

As long as they demurely view themselves only as legitimate targets of ridicule, though, it's all good.

12:54 - The breaking point?

It's been my sense for a while now that the unmistakably pessimistic tone struck toward the Iraq war by the mainstream news outlets (the evening news, websites, etc) owes as much to the fact that it's simply more sensational and ratings-friendly to show bad news coming out of Iraq than good news. The fact that for a more accurate, more hopeful view of the situation has to be obtained by people reading military blogs and first-hand accounts from men and women on the ground certainly has a lot to do with the slant we've seen documented in the media, but it's also simply because the news organs are only showing us what they think we want to see. Their market research tells them that their audience—the part that trusts them more—is the part that's naturally more amenable to their particular bias, and so they're just playing to the audience's expectations.

But if that's the case, what must it take for these news organs to start showing good news? Well, it would have to be some event that places good news into the "what the audience wants to hear" category. I think the media wants to start showing some more positive coverage; they're just kind of trapped by their ratings and market share numbers, and much like gas stations competing across an intersection, no individual player is going to be the first to intentionally sabotage its own market share by breaking from the lockstep. A gas station might lower its prices suddenly, and gain more customers than the guys across the street, but it might not be enough to offset the cost of the price drop. It's a gamble, and nobody wants to be the first to blink.

But I just heard on the radio that NBC is going to be showing a special called "Online in Iraq" (I didn't catch when exactly), billed as a look at the real story of what's going on there, through the eyes of the soldiers—and not filtered by the "mainstream media". (Yes, they actually used that term, and they leaned on it like they were saying "The Dark Lord" or something: Most people only know about what's going on in Iraq through the MAINSTREAM MEDIA. [ominous chords]) They played sound effects of modems connecting, and seemed to be suggesting that they'd be doing an exposé on military blogs and how different their view of the situation is from what's been relentlessly shown every evening by the talking heads.

Have we reached the breaking point, then? Has it come time for the news media to decide that it's in their interest after all to show an optimistic view of Iraq? If so, this is a really gutsy thing for NBC to do—it's deliberately pointing the finger of blame for dishonest reporting at the mainstream media (of which it, of course, is a part), and making a statement that the coverage of Iraq has been wrong all along. I can only imagine, if it's successful in pulling in the ratings, that the other networks will follow suit.

What's caused this sudden break, then? I wonder if maybe it's the Fallujah offensive. Suddenly we're engaged in a real, live shooting war again, one where the enemy is unmistakably evil—not even a tragic figure like Saddam's conscript army, against whom nobody really felt a great sense of honor in rooting. We knew those poor guys would get mowed down, and many of them didn't deserve it—Saddam had forced them to stand and die against their will—and our troops probably felt terrible pangs of guilt in driving through them. But now, in Fallujah—it's different. The bad guys are terrorists, pure and simple; they're the guys who have been kidnapping Westerners and other people who are in Iraq merely to help rebuild, then videotaping themselves beheading these poor hostages and broadcasting these gruesome images far and wide for all to see. It takes a Michael Moore not to see these people for the vermin they are, or to hold them up as some kind of honorable victims, much less as patriotic heroes fighting for Iraq's interests. Most Americans know better, and I think maybe the MSM is starting to feel it as well.

It's time for a little payback, and time for a little justified chest-pounding. Perhaps, too, the media—or at least NBC—realize that it's time to start showing an alternate side of the situation, one that will let us feel good about what we're doing in Iraq for a change.

Let's hope this is only the beginning.

Saturday, November 13, 2004
19:49 - The Ultimate Combo


This is truly an accomplishment: Kid Radd. An online pseudo-animated sprite comic (or is it "animated pseudo-sprite comic"?) that seems to have just finished its story recently and been archived for complete perusal from start to end.

It's like The Matrix for 8-bit game geeks... The Matrix except with more humor, a much better and more comprehensible plot, more genuine emotion, and no Keanu Reeves. What's not to like?

In much seriousness, this is astonishingly good. Make sure you've got a few hours to kill with extreme prejudice.

14:18 - We're snarkier and use fewer F-words

This is the perfect riposte to this. I knew there was one. (A much funnier and better-worded one, at that.)

Guys, guys—what ever happened to "waking up the next day as Americans"? Seems to me some people who supported him weren't worthy of John Kerry.

Via InstaPundit.

Friday, November 12, 2004
18:39 - If you look up "rant" in the dictionary, there's a picture of this post next to it

Mike at Cold Fury has put digital pen to virtual paper and come up with the perfect Total Perspective Vortex rant that I'd love to show to certain people if only I didn't care about them hating me afterwards. (Hell, I might anyway.)

Yep, it’s all true, every bit of it; the New Gulags, which we Nazified Tolkien geeks like to refer to as Barad Ashcroft, or just Shrubthanc, have been under construction since early 2001 and are almost ready to open for business. The ultra-right-wing corporate media establishment has known all along, and have been helping us cover it all up, and now it’s too late; there’s nothing you can do to stop us. You all are going to be fed into the ovens by the millions, and we’re going to destroy the environment and nuke the Third World, and it’s all going to be done because Jesus told us to, and that’s the only reason we’re ever going to need. Because hey, we’re stupid.

It's good stuff.

12:52 - Oh, for God's sake

Well, this sure as hell didn't take long:

From: suhafat@netscape.net
Date: November 12, 2004 4:22:44 AM PST
Reply-To: suhafat@netscape.net

Dear Friend,

This mail may not be surprising to you if you have been following current events in the international media with reference to the Middle East and Palestine in particular.

I am Mrs. SUHA ARAFAT, the wife of YASSER ARAFAT, the Palestinian leader who died recently in Paris. Since his death and even prior to the announcement, I have been thrown into a state of antagonism, confusion, humiliation, frustration and hopelessness by the present leadership of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the new Prime Minister. I have even been subjected to physical and psychological torture. As a widow that is so traumatized, I have lost confidence with everybody in the country at the moment.

You must have heard over the media reports and the Internet on the discovery of some fund in my husband secret bank account and companies and the allegations of some huge sums of money deposited by my husband in my name of which I have refuses to disclose or give up to the corrupt Palestine Government. In fact the total sum allegedly discovered by the Government so far is in the tune of about $6.5 Billion Dollars. And they are not relenting on their effort to make me poor for life. As you know, the Moslem community has no regards for woman, hence my desire for a foreign assistance.

I have deposited the sum of 20 million dollars with a security firm abroad whose name is withheld for now until we open communication. I shall be grateful if you could receive this fund into your bank account for safe keeping and any Investment opportunity. This arrangement is known to you and my personal Attorney. He might be dealing with you directly for security reasons as the case may be.

In view of the above, if you are willing to assist for our mutual benefits, we will have to negotiate on your Percentage share of the $20,000,000 that will be kept in your position for a while and invested in your name for my trust pending when my Daughter, Zahwa, will come off age and take full responsibility of her Family Estate/inheritance.

Please note that this is a golden opportunity that comes once in life time and more so, if you are hornet, I am going to entrust more funds in your care as this is one of the legacy we keep for our children.

In case you don't accept please do not let me out to the security and international media as I am giving you this information in total trust and confidence I will greatly appreciate if you accept my proposal in good faith. Please expedite action.

Yours sincerely,

Suha Arafat

Is there any man, woman, or child left in America who hasn't already been bombarded with enough of these to recognize what they are? Isn't there some point where the scammers will start to see diminishing returns and knock it off?

Or maybe someone's just doing a very subtle parody.

Thursday, November 11, 2004
14:04 - IANA-Security-Expert

Apparently the stink over Diebold voting system software is making a new set of rounds. I had an e-mail forwarded to me with a request for a voice-of-reason commentary from a technical perspective; the problem is that I don't know my facts well enough to be sure my response held water.

Here's the original e-mail, in part:

News Update from Citizens for Legitimate Government
November 10, 2004


Diebold Source Code!!! --by ouranos (dailykos.com) "Dr. Avi Rubin is
currently Professor of Computer Science at John Hopkins University. He
'accidentally' got his hands on a copy of the Diebold software
program--Diebold's source code--which runs their e-voting machines.
Dr. Rubin's students pored over 48,609 lines of code that make up this
software. One line in particular stood out over all the rest:
#defineDESKEY((des_KEY8F2654hd4" All commercial programs have
provisions to be encrypted so as to protect them from having their
contents read or changed by anyone not having the key... The line that
staggered the Hopkins team was that the method used to encrypt the
Diebold machines was a method called Digital Encryption Standard
(DES), a code that was broken in 1997 and is NO LONGER USED by anyone
to secure programs. F2654hd4 was the key to the encryption. Moreover,
because the KEY was IN the source code, all Diebold machines would
respond to the same key. Unlock one, you have them ALL unlocked. I
can't believe there is a person alive who wouldn't understand the
reason this was allowed to happen. This wasn't a mistake by any
stretch of the imagination."

That site (legitgov.org) is quite an eye-popper. (Check it out and see... whoof.) That in itself makes one wonder, as does the fact that I couldn't find this topic as a front-page post in any of the past three days at DailyKos.com; but we're talking about the specific charge here of the DES encryption being intentionally crippled. So here's my response that I sent:

Apparently the "F2654hd4" thing is legit. There has been commentary on this for a while now, dating back to at least February of this year.

One has to look, though, at what exactly the risks are that are involved with this code. What we're talking about is, essentially, broken encryption. A malicious outsider, in order to change voting results, would have to simultaneously gain control of all the voting machines in the country-- note, by the way, that these are not networked or available via the Internet or anything-- and install some kind of output-modifying Trojan.

I appeal once more to Occam's Razor: if someone were so nefarious as to hijack all these voting machines (which are hardly used in a large portion of the US-- their deployment is still quite limited, and mostly in urban areas that turned out blue anyway), why would they allow voting to be so close? What good is an evil genius plan to subvert technology if it's no more effective than a lurid headline on Election Eve?

The main reason I have a hard time taking any of this stuff seriously is that the final popular vote turned out to pretty closely reflect the pre-election polls, or actually to be rather closer than most (which showed a pretty consistent Bush lead by 4-5%). If there were a huge discrepancy, or a reversal in outcome from the polls to the election, then it would be suspicious. But if the election is one data point, the polls are a whole bunch more, and they all would seem to agree. To suggest that the election results were wrong is to suggest that the polls were also similarly wrong, and necessarily for quite different reasons. To suggest that the tampering occurred in Ohio suggests that whoever did the tampering knew beforehand that Ohio would be the deciding state, just as with Florida in 2000. Too much implausibility.

Now, you'll get no argument from me that voting machines are a big risk to the very core of our democracy. Any security expert would be horrified at the very *concept* of voting machines, simply because they have no paper trail, no way for the voter to audit them. At my polling place, they activated a card with my voter ID on it, which I stuck into the machine to start the process; when it was done, it told me it had written out the data to the machine's internal hard drive and to internal paper tape. But how do I know what it's written? It's not like I have a punch-card in my hand where I can line up the holes and tell what number I punched out, or a box with a #2 pencil X in it next to the name of my guy. It's all faith with these machines: faith that the names I voted for are the ones that are eventually, after many transformations of physical media and data transmission and encoding, reported to the registrar. There is no assurance of this. None.

However, suppose you're in the shoes of a voter action group after 2000, incensed over hanging chads and the impression that human interaction-- biased or incompetent election officials-- presented an unfair risk to your PAPER ballots, by inadvertently "losing" them, leaving boxes of them in trunks of cars, outright making up numbers for the final tally, et cetera. What kind of voting-machine reform are you going to push for? A return to *more* dependence on paper and human interaction, like in the good old days? Or would you want to latest and greatest cutting-edge technology, one that's seen as a closed black box that humans can't tamper with?

It's that latter impulse that has ended up rushing machines like the Sequoia/Diebold ones onto the market before they'd been properly subjected to auditing. It's possible that the DES flaw shown in the code is the result of just some sloppy programmer's coding, putting in a hard-wired key so that early development testing would work, and then later forgetting to take it out. I know I've done stuff like that in my own code, especially when I'm on a deadline.

But let's be clear about this: the risk of voting machines is in their insidiously reassuring black-box nature. They *seem* like they're immune to human interaction, when in fact they could be little more than interactive Flash games that report nothing at all to anybody, while assuring voters that they voted. It's a far more complex charge to level, and far, far less likely, that there was any kind of malicious tampering that leveraged a flaw in the encryption algorithm to oh-so-subtly tweak the numbers in certain districts so that the results, uh, turned out all over the map, resulting in a very nearly half-and-half split outcome. Again: if you have to assume that the perpetrator is both an evil genius and an incompetent fool, it's not a plausible theory, especially if the results can be explained equally well by NO malfeasance on anybody's part.

I don't like the idea of electronic voting machines becoming the norm in our elections. It reduces accountability and verifiability to an unacceptable degree, for a much less (I think) important increase in convenience for the vote-counters assuming all works correctly. But if they're going to be adopted whether we like it or not, then they MUST be subject to source auditing at the public level. I think that's probably coming in the next few years; certainly the outcries I'm seeing seem to demand it. In the meantime, we have to remember that the results, to be frank, seem to reflect everybody's expected outcome more than any evidence of tampering.

Let's focus on getting these things right so we don't have to go through this again the next time around.

Now, I don't know enough about DES to know how seriously to take these claims. I was quite surprised to see terms being thrown around like "F2654hd4 was the key to the encryption", which sounded incredibly bogus to me; but I googled it and found six pages of scholarly papers on DES and security breakage, many focusing on voting machine software, presumably this same problem. Apparently it's been floating around for some time now, but Snopes has nothing on it.

So what I'm wondering is, what kind of official statements have been made about this, from Diebold or anyone else up the responsibility chain? What's the current analysis from the security-nerd community? Is there any evidence of any kind of preplanned plot to subvert the electoral process inherent in this, or is it a red herring that causes us to lose sight of the real gotchas of dependence on electronic voting? The above Occam's-Razor arguments for skepticism aside, what's the response to this development?

It's best we get this question out into the open, if purely in the interest of pushing for whatever kind of accountability in electronic voting can be gleaned.

UPDATE: Here's the original analysis of the code, from last June, by Avi Rubin et al. Whatever the implications, it seems this has been under discussion for some time. As this guy says, "One thing I’m still not clear about: Are these polling machines actually getting used yet?" If it's the one I voted on, I guess; but I know that those machines were connected to each other only by a daisy-chained power cord. No UTP cable. These things weren't on the Internet, that much is for damn sure.

UPDATE: Frank J's all over this, of course.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004
17:45 - I'm meeting you halfway, you stupid hippies

I'd never heard anything about Alberto Gonzales, Bush's new nominee for John Ashcroft's Attorney General spot; it's a name that's escaped my attention this whole time. So who is he? Is he worse than Ashcroft, as one might be forgiven for suspecting? Are we on the verge of the Age of the Jackboots?

Well, if this gloomy analysis of his positions by social-conservative NRO editor Ramesh Ponnuru, posted last year when Gonzales was being scoped out for a potential Supreme Court appointment, is any indication, no:

Gonzales opponents say there are two strikes against him. The first is that he weakened the administration's brief to the Supreme Court in the University of Michigan racial-preference cases. Solicitor General Ted Olson wanted the administration to say that the use of racial preferences to achieve diversity is constitutionally impermissible. Gonzales overruled him.

The second strike is Gonzales's record on abortion as a justice of the Texas supreme court. The state had passed a law requiring parents to be notified before a minor could get an abortion. That law, like most parental-notification laws, allowed judges to waive the requirement if observing it could be expected to lead to the abuse of the girl in question. In its first cases dealing with the law, the court read this judicial-bypass provision broadly — so broadly that one dissenter furiously charged that the law had been gutted.

. . .

So far, the White House campaign for Gonzales has found few takers among social conservatives or legal conservatives generally. Some of the former are regularly discussing what to do if Bush nominates Gonzales.

Sounds like a fairly permissive, secular left-centrist to me. How'd he ever get to be legal counsel to Bible-thumping arch-conservative Bush?

UPDATE: Of course, this is likely to come up in the confirmation hearings, ya think?

The White House was undeterred. By Jan. 25, 2002, according to a memo obtained by NEWSWEEK, it was clear that Bush had already decided that the Geneva Conventions did not apply at all, either to the Taliban or Al Qaeda. In the memo, which was written to Bush by Gonzales, the White House legal counsel told the president that Powell had "requested that you reconsider that decision." Gonzales then laid out startlingly broad arguments that anticipated any objections to the conduct of U.S. soldiers or CIA interrogators in the future. "As you have said, the war against terrorism is a new kind of war," Gonzales wrote to Bush. "The nature of the new war places a —high premium on other factors, such as the ability to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists and their sponsors in order to avoid further atrocities against American civilians." Gonzales concluded in stark terms: "In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions."

Other places where I've found this memo quoted seem to leave out the preamble explaining how the nature of war has changed, and paint Gonzales as a federal-law-circumventing schemer of Ashcroft's projected mold. A case could be made defending what he said in these memos, and I'm sure he'll defend them quite eloquently himself when the time comes. But I guess this won't be such a "peace offering" to the Left as I'd hoped.

Tuesday, November 9, 2004
18:33 - Popular vs. Electoral

This is kinda interesting. I stuck the electoral vote figures for the fifty states into Excel and did two pie charts: one showing how the relative influences of the states break down if judged purely by population, and another showing what happens (particularly to the smallest slices) once the ratios are adjusted by adding the two Senate seats to each of the states' House seats to come up with the electoral total.

It's like a golfer's handicap: raising the floor a little so everyone is just a little closer to even. Not much. But probably as much as it should be.

15:48 - How to win friends and influence people

Is anyone else getting this new spam from "GWB@whitehouse.gov"? The one that starts out like this?

From: GWB@whitehouse.gov
Subject: How I stole your election (ha ha ha ha!!!)
Date: November 9, 2004 10:50:25 AM PST
Reply-To: GWB@whitehouse.gov

How I Stole Your Election
by George W. Bush

The first thing I did to steal your election was to make friends with ALL the manufacturers and code-verifyers of the Electronic Voting Machines. They were really nice, especially Diebold who gave me $600,000 for my campaign. Wow, thanks dude!


Next, I had my attack dog, Karl Rove, convince these companies to either alter the vote totals on the central tabulator machines (simple PCs running windows using Remote Access Server -- RAS), or reprogram (via a downloadable software patch) the voting machines themselves so that they would give the advantage to ME! Isn't America great?!? A little money and some religious zealotry goes a looooong, loooong way. Oh, the religious zealotry thing? That's just a cover. I'm not really a Christian -- or at least I don't act like one. Anyway, I digress.

(I'd link to the whole thing if I could find a copy online, but as yet it appears only to exist in the evanescent medium of e-mail. And on some Comcast virtual-IP machine identifying itself through HELO as "whitehouse756.com", though that's just a rotating identifier that doesn't resolve to anything.)

The silliest thing about this prank is that its perpetrator, now that there isn't an election that he thinks he can influence coming up, is relinquishing all attempts to actually say anything that might change anyone's mind. If Democrats receive this spam, they'll agree with it; and if Republicans receive it, they'll interpret it as yet another excellent demonstration of their opponents' irrationality. I guess maybe the author thinks there's some nonzero chance of getting Bush impeached over something or other if he can make enough people mad enough, but really, how do you top this? I think "mad enough" is a term that gets diluted more with every passing day.

I don't suppose a little study of history would be out of line at this time.

Monday, November 8, 2004
16:30 - Red states, blue states, and blowed-up states

Whoa. Now this is cool.

How "purple" is the country? Pretty damn purple, it seems. And pretty strange-looking.

Of course, this kind of skew is intended to give a visual representation of the election results as reflected by population, and as such it's a whole lot more sympathetic to the Democrats than other maps, especially the standard old red/blue undistorted state map. But, just as with any kind of cartography, any kind of visual representation is a distortion—you just have to figure out what kind of projection gives the least misleading results.

As best I understand it, the point of the electoral college is to make the election depend not so much on population, but on geographical regions' collective wills, regardless of how populous those regions are. Just as the Senate overstates the importance of sparsely populated states by giving each one two Senators, the House—whose representation is wholly population-based—overstates the impact of populous regions with respect to rural areas. Advocates of a pure popular-vote system would seem to have the interest of fundamental democracy at heart, but there's more to representation than the number of votes a state can cast: there's also the desire to give a farming town of 1,000 a voice that can be heard amid the clamor of cities of millions. So rural areas' importance has to be overstated beyond their raw population numbers.

Hence the electoral college, which gives each state a "weight" based mostly on population, but not quite—the number of Senators and Representatives for each state added together. Some states' importance is barely affected by this (California, New York); others' is as much as doubled (Wyoming, Alaska).

So cartograms like the ones presented at this site are useful, but they're not actually the most accurate representation of electoral will, from the perspective of someone trying to advocate for the overrepresentation of rural areas in the same way that the Senate aims to balance the influence of the House. At one extreme of the axis of interpretation is to show each state according to its population or its electoral vote count, as these cartograms do; at the other extreme is to use the flat geographic map we're all used to. The reality of the nation's will, as designed to be represented by the architects of the electoral college, is somewhere in the middle.

Via James A., writing from Australia, who says:

I'm still seeing similarities between Bush's win and Howard's win a month
before. Howard's win was put down to his promise/scare campaign to keep
interest rates lower than they would be under Labor, which won him the
outer-suburban new homeowner vote, while Labor campaigned on a bunch of
"values" issues, including betraying the timber workers union in Tasmania
(Labor being the traditional party of the workers and unions) which lost
the party two seats in that state alone, but did cement its hold of the
inner-cities. However, the "middle australia is stupid" meme didn't get
much play here, unlike in the US, which implies the US Dems are not going
to be electorally competetive for some time.

Not if it keeps on getting worse now that the election's over.

12:39 - Strong Bad DVD!

There's a DVD of all the Strong Bad e-mails!

Is this the happiest day ever, or what?

11:58 - Delicious Library Delicious Library Delicious Library


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Delicious Library 1.0 is now available for download from the URL above. (Once you've download the application you can buy it via its built-in store, assuming you're so inclined.)

Thank you for your interest! We hope you love our software.

The Delicious Monster
Lead Monster, Delicious Monster Software

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.

05:00 - 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.

Thursday, November 4, 2004
18:33 - 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.)

11:48 - 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
19:28 - 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.

18:41 - 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.

17:38 - 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...

15:18 - 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.

12:02 - 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
01:35 - [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?

18:24 - 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.)

17:14 - 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.)

14:55 - 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.

13:56 - 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
03:31 - 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.

16:14 - 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.

Friday, October 29, 2004
15:49 - Oh, what now?

Oh, for Pete's sake:

WASHINGTON—The Arab television station Al-Jazeera is broadcasting a new tape from Al Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden.

Multiple sources told FOX News that the 18-minute videotape is authentic and said its release was timed to coincide with Tuesday’s presidential elections. Bin Laden makes reference to recent conflicts in Iraq and addresses the American people directly, sources said.

U.S. officials saidthe tapeappears to have been made recently. Bin Laden is speaking from a lectern and he talks about threats to the United States and he says that President Bush will not protect the American people.

So after nearly three years of complete video silence and the release of only a few unconfirmable audio tapes, bin Laden heaves himself up out of the nether reaches of our collective memory to issue a brand-new, authentic video on Halloween?

A video where he argues in the same vocabulary as Michael Moore, Democratic Underground, and John Kerry against reelecting Bush?

What, so finding out that the UN was taking bribes from Saddam and the Russians smuggled WMDs into Syria, Kerry accusing our military of incompetence based on flabby non-evidence, Kerry's "honorable discharge" from the Navy getting called into doubt, and all the rest of this crap swirling up out of the bowl in the last three days wasn't enough? What the hell kind of election is this?

Got any more "October Surprises" for us? C'mon, out with it. Let's just get it over with.

UPDATE: Is it just me, or has the atmosphere suddenly been kicked back to the "supervillain holding the world hostage" theme of the post-9/11 days? Here we have bin Laden (for all we know until we have an impartial translator analyze his actual words—it's entirely possible that this is a hoax using an old tape and a new "translation") speaking directly to America, proudly claiming responsibility for 9/11 and yet telling us that Bush "deceived America" and that "If he'd been more clever, he could have stopped me... mwa ha ha haaah!" —or words to that effect. It's almost like he's honestly trying to give us helpful advice on fighting terrorism, while at the same time taking credit for being exactly what we're fighting. This is just way too surreal.

A case can be made for this being a hoax perpetrated by Kerry supporters or by Bush supporters. I know I don't know who ends up looking better for it.

UPDATE: Wretchard's analysis is that Osama's video is a plea for surrender.

If so, then our answer is, "What? Did someone say something?"

13:36 - Take a bow, Mr. Army Man

Power Line is rapidly gaining a reputation as Scandal Central. Here's today's big news on the Big Scary Iraqi Munitions Disappearance:

Major Pearson says that his team removed around 250 tons of munitions and other materials from Al Qaqaa. He doesn't recall any "sealed" areas and can't say exactly what the munitions were, but the Pentagon says they believe some of the destroyed material was RDX.

Is this enough, from President Bush's standpoint? It certainly should be. The obvious conclusion is that the New York Times and John Kerry shot from the hip, accusing the Army of incompetence when they didn't know the facts. They relied on a patently self-serving and anti-Bush letter from Mohammed El Baradei, a less-than-honest U.N. bureaucrat. It is quite likely that the allegedly missing explosives have been accounted for; around half disappeared before January 2003, according to the IAEA's own records, and the remainder was most likely destroyed by American troops. (The total amount at issue, 377 tons, represents less than one-tenth of one percent of the munitions the U.S. Army has destroyed in Iraq.)

. . .

HINDROCKET adds: This could be the death knell for the Kerry campaign. He has staked a lot on this story without having any idea whether it was true or not. If the evidence is that 200+ tons were destroyed by our forces, then, along with the 100+ tons that disappeared while they were being "guarded" by the U.N., the 370 tons are accounted for, and Kerry has falsely accused our Army of incompetence.

Oh, but this is totally consistent with what these guys have been saying all along: We're the real terrorists! The U.S. Army took the explosives? Oh no! Can you imagine those weapons in the hands of the U.S. Army?! President Bush's incompetence is made all the more starkly obvious by his allowing the munitions to fall into the dangerous hands of our own troops!

It would be interesting to know how many Kerry supporters will take into serious consideration the implications of how Kerry handled this breaking news story before all the facts were known, and what kind of President it indicates he might be.

I hope for the sake of my sanity that there are some.

Thursday, October 28, 2004
22:25 - Does this count as child abuse?

Okay... I can appreciate the humorous intent of this site. I can giggle at a few of the costumes, even. I can offer kudos for the quality of the presentation and the work that clearly went into it.
The Littlest Prisoner at Abu Ghraib

Your child will be the hit of the neighborhood costume parade in this recreation of the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal's most indelible image. As an added bonus this easy-to-make costume will remind everyone on your child's trick-or-treat route of our national shame! Simply roll a cone from a sheet of 24"x38" black cardstock, making sure to cut out a hole for the face. Drape with two yards of black felt, and add leftover wires from your last lamp-rewiring project. VoilÀ! So easy, so quick, and so terrifying!

Total cost: Under $20.
Total time: Under two hours.

... But I find I just have to wonder what these kids will think of this, say, ten years from now, after they've had a chance to mature and learn some history on their own.

I've just gotta say I'm getting really tired of having to point out yet again that of the DNC and the RNC, only one herded its protesters into a razor-wire-guarded "free speech zone", and its first initial was not R.

Ah well. It's not like anybody cares about those stupid fact things. We may as well just get used to it: the more pervasive instant communication and documentation gets, the more pervasive instant fraud gets too, and truth is no closer to being objective even with cell-phone cameras and blogging typography experts working the trenches.

At any rate. One more observation about the costumes: many of the kids clearly have no idea what's going on; but the kid in the Richard Reid costume looks like he gets it all too well...

12:52 - Those Wacky Kennedys

Heh. Look who else is turning to SPAM as the preferred method of stumping for a vote: John Joseph Kennedy.

The most critical truth is that the four primary candidates for the highest offices in our land, Mr. George W. Bush, Mr. Dick Cheney, Senator John Kerry and Senator John Edwards all voted for the war in Iraq. Period. Each man had an opportunity for greatness and they failed.

John Kerry and John Edwards are followers. They are not leaders! They failed the American people and the world. Their names are forever etched in history along with Ms. Hillary Clinton and all the so-called leaders who voted for the war in Irag and for the Patriot Act, thus raping the American people of our Constitutional Rights, especially our rights to personal privacy.

I am just one man; one proud American citizen with a political legacy that began 125 years ago. Although many American's were afraid to speak out, or were crucified for standing up against this war, I strongly spoke out against it as loud as I could. I warned of the perils it would bring to all of us. I sent letters to the Oval Office, Mr. and Mrs. Cheney, Senators and members of Congress. I had it circulated to more than 10,000 people around the world and to the media. I appeared on television, “Voices Over Violence” and warned of the danger to America if Mr. Bush proceeded with this evil war.

That's from an e-mail I received from him, quite unsolicited. See, this is what I mean when I talk about setting an ugly precedent. What kind of world are we signing up for, when our political views are to be shaped by spam flooding our content channels and bullying at the polls?

Frickin' Kennedys. I guess Arnie's not having much luck bringing sanity to the dynasty.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004
03:49 - Genius

Somehow, the musical selection for this video is even more inspired than the actual star of the video.

Looks like that thing is easier to fly than crash, though... yikes!

UPDATE: Sweet! You can by the kit for the thing here. (Thanks to James S.!)

12:40 - Hesh the Bunny

Hey, wanna see some completely awesome animation?

This guy sooo needs a big-time contract. Too bad feature animation is a thing of the past nowadays...

(The two versions are the same, except the "Album Edit" is in widescreen and has more at the end, and the "Radio Edit" is cropped to 4x3. The former's better.)

UPDATE: Oh no! I've been Lileksed. Okay, in the interest of hammering a wedge into the Slashdot effect and sending WaPo-originating cascade link-through-ers to multiple places instead of just pounding one flat, here's the Flash version, which reveals the name of the gifted animator/director (Bernard Derriman), and is much more satisfyingly detailed if you've got a machine that likes exercise and a nice big monitor.

Oh, and regarding James' comments about the song's content:

I just want this song to mean nothing to her when she's 14, you know? NOTHING. I want it to make as much sense as someone singing the periodic table in Esperanto, backwards.

You know, that may be a moot point: the lyrics pretty much mean nothing to me. But that's just because (aside from the main chorus and title lines) it's kinda hard to make them out through the Compressed Pub Strine algorithm...

Must be new, too—the lyrics aren't here, or anywhere, yet.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004
13:05 - Okay, this isn't funny anymore

So let me get this straight:

Sent to me by a source in the government: “The Iraqi explosives story is a fraud. These weapons were not there when US troops went to this site in 2003. The IAEA and its head, the anti-American Mohammed El Baradei, leaked a false letter on this issue to the media to embarrass the Bush administration. The US is trying to deny El Baradei a second term and we have been on his case for missing the Libyan nuclear weapons program and for weakness on the Iranian nuclear weapons program.”

Which means:

News of missing explosives in Iraq — first reported in April 2003 — was being resurrected for a 60 MINUTES election eve broadcast designed to knock the Bush administration into a crisis mode.

Jeff Fager, executive producer of the Sunday edition of 60 MINUTES, said in a statement that “our plan was to run the story on October 31.”

. . .

An NBCNEWS crew embedded with troops moved in to secure the Al-Qaqaa weapons facility on April 10, 2003, one day after the liberation of Iraq. According to NBCNEWS, the explosives were already missing when the American troops arrived.

. . .

CBSNEWS’ plan to unleash the story just 24 hours before election day had one senior Bush official outraged.

“Darn, I wanted to see the forged documents to show how this was somehow covered up,” the Bush source, who asked not to be named, mocked, recalling last months CBS airing of fraudulent Bush national guard letters.

So CBS is not only not chastened by the Rathergate business, they're doing more of the same.

And they're just as incompetent about it, too: they couldn't wrangle this story into the time slot they were hoping for (the same one as the Bush DUI story from 2000), so it got out too early—early enough for everybody to instantly expose it as another big godddamned fraud.

Why does CBS still have a broadcasting license?!

This isn't even about typewriter fonts and thin wheedling excuses that certain kinds of Word documents might possibly, given the right alignment of planets and a National Guard officer with a sufficiently insane high-end typography hobby, have been produced in 1970, an argument that could just peter out over the course of weeks and fall out of the public consciousness as they got lost in details of kerning and superscripts. No... this is about an easily verifiable story that they are baldfacedly lying about with the explicit purpose of influencing the election. The difference between this and, say, claiming on Halloween evening that Bush was never in fact the governor of Texas and instead spent those years drinking rum in Tahiti while an inflatable version of himself received fellatio in the Texas State House is now reduced to mere vocabulary.

This is absolutely ridiculous. It's making a mockery of our electoral system, once the envy of the world. Small wonder the UN thinks our election is worth monitoring, while they can't even bring themselves to find fault with the one in Afghanistan. These media organs have become so blatantly partisan, and so disingenuous about it, and yet so convinced of their own immunity from doubt or scorn, that they quite literally think they can get away with anything. If one manufactured scandal doesn't work, well, just make up another one, a bigger one. Who's gonna doubt them, a bunch of Web-surfing geeks in pajamas?

CBS's credibility has been living a charmed life ever since Rathergate, somehow miraculously not crashing through the thin ice. Now they're jumping up and down and cackling.

It probably still won't break.

UPDATE: Oh, and note that in that first article, John Kerry couldn't wait to use the original leak of the story to grab a microphone and blame Bush for somehow being responsible for letting these 380 tons of explosives go missing.

Kerry said terrorists could use the material “to kill our troops, our people, blow up airplanes and level buildings.”

“This is one of the great blunders of Iraq, one of the greatest blunders of this administration and the incredible incompetence of this president and this administration has put our troops at risk and this country at greater risk.”

Couldn't even wait for your own fact-checkers to give you the green-light, could you, John? Care to issue an apology?

Maybe admit your collusion with CBS, or something?

UPDATE: Someone should get MoveOn.org in on this whole Internet thing:

Every day, the tragedy in Iraq deepens. On Sunday, newspapers reported the execution of 49 members of the Iraqi National Guard, who were lined up and executed at the hands of insurgents. And yesterday, the New York Times reported that hundreds of thousands of pounds of deadly explosives in Iraq have gone missing, looted from a facility that was left unprotected by the U.S. Army. Yet George Bush says everything's going fine.

Maybe it's the Times that's lying, you freaks, not Bush.

UPDATE: And now Kerry is running an ad centered on this "story".

Geez louise. Are we in a race condition here? Is the Kerry campaign specifically, cynically trying to get as many bogus memes into the water as possible in this last week before the election, just to be as loud and chaotic as possible so there won't be any chance for the administration to post a defense in time, or for the public to absorb it if they do?

If they win, how will they live with themselves once everything calms down and they start to reflect on what precedent they've set this year?

Do they even care?

UPDATE: Bob P. e-mails:

How news travels....on the main 6o'clock news yesterday the missing 380 tons of explosives was the lead story on New Zealand's channel one, and they even claimed that the explosives "could be used to trigger a nuclear device"

And the dems say that it's *Bush* trading in fear....

I seriously don't know if I can take another week of this...

Monday, October 25, 2004
23:30 - "Droopy Dog stretched out on a torture rack"

This is a rare treat: Zack "Geist Editor" Parsons of SomethingAwful.com has weighed in with one of his trademark "serious" articles, the kind that the site's usual patrons probably find annoying and tedious but which end up being quite relevant to the issues at hand. It's a unique perspective, not least because Parsons apparently has first-hand knowledge of both candidates, but also because he's, well, a SomethingAwful writer above all else.

Back then Kerry was near the bottom of a pretty thick pile, two days ago when I met him for the second time he was fighting desperately to stay on top of a much smaller heap. I wasn't looking to meet John Kerry, I was working on a story about his operatives. Most strikingly, when I shook hands with him again he looked like a faded piece of cloth. The pace of non-stop This is the Fucking End campaigning had taken its toll on him. His grip was firm, but he barely even glanced at me. I and the rest of the crowd were just meaty appendages on a good will conveyor for him. If it had been possible I think he would have continued talking to one of his aides while kissing the baby being extended to him.

Granted, he's no partisan—which is good, but which also means he's a little irritatingly credulous of hyperbolic accusations regarding Bush (like the "loyalty oath" thing and the "dissenters will be crushed" thing), but I have to wonder how much of that is just the usual "For the SA Goons' consumption" stuff. It's even-handedly hyperbolic, though, so no complaints here.

Quite a few giggles, though.

17:08 - I guess we're officially in the home stretch now

C'mooooon, next Tuesday.

Are we there yet?

Saturday, October 23, 2004
02:26 - It's quite simple, really

These people must not win.

Seriously. Come on, people.

Friday, October 22, 2004
20:59 - If Kerry wants to murder someone, now would be the perfect time to do it

Check out this very good post by ThePie of Sgt. Stryker's Daily Briefing. It sure does seem like Kerry's enjoying an immunity that diplomats double-parked on 42nd Street might envy, doesn't it?

- How can Lurch go around shooting defenseless geese and the PETA folks not get mad? Imagine if Bush had gone hunting and bagged a goose. He’d be about as popular as Daniel LaRusso when he first moved to LA. My other favorite part of this story was that even the AP, a truly liberal news organization, called it a pure photo-op. They didn’t even try to disguise this as something Kerry loves to do. It’s so obvious now that he is out of touch with the rest of the common men and women of the United States that even his own supporters can’t bring themselves to lie anymore. Oh, and just so you liberals don’t have too much of a moral debate about your candidate shooting animals with guns, no one in the media actually saw Kerry shoot the 12-gauge shotgun he was carrying. And judging by his 40% hit rate at a skeet range several months ago, it’s doubtful he actually hit anything if he did shoot the thing.

There's plenty more. Oh, and Powerline has the Photos from the Opportunity.

The man could drive a Hummer through a protected wetland while shouting racial epithets at bewildered spectators standing on shore, and the Left would still be floundering after him, grins fixed like bayonets, holding his banner high out of the muck.

UPDATE: You know, it occurs to me that if Kerry loses, given all the bizarre gaffes and foul-ups and transparently obvious incidents where his campaign has tried so bumblingly to manufacture some kind of even marginally plausible opportunity for him to scrape up a few more votes from this group or that demographic or the other bunch of sports fans, the story of his campaign from behind the scenes is going to make one hell of a book.

Hell, I'd buy it. It'd probably be side-splitting. Especially if Kerry grows a sense of humor, somehow, after the election's over. It worked for Bob Dole...

17:14 - Action Hank isn't rugged enough to be on this page

This is the coolest thing I have seen in an extremely long time: The World Beard and Moustache Championships.

Beard categories from "Fu Manchu" to "Musketeer" to "Freestyle".

That just cracks me up. It so rocks.

11:33 - Taking a step back for a moment


11:30 - Don't get in his way

I tell you, it's downright unnerving to see Arnold Schwarzenegger appearing on TV in the middle of The Simpsons, putting on his best steely Terminator face (you know, the one where you can only see his lower teeth), and denouncing the untaxed proliferation of Indian gaming.

It's cool, but it's unnerving. (And it particularly would be if I were a casino owner.)

Thursday, October 21, 2004
00:50 - It helps when the chorus is reading from the same script

In response to this post from earlier today, reader B.I. Simpson e-mails:

I think there's one point that's being forgotten.

That point is, as far as the press is concerned, Democrats can do no wrong.

If you look back, you see:

1. "Clinton was a draft dodger." MSM: Cut the man some slack! No one wanted to go to Vietnam! Let's focus on today, instead!
"Bush was a draft dodger' [which I don't believe]. MSM: He's unfit to lead!

2. "Bush was kind of wild in his college days." MSM: He should be thrown out!
"Clinton was kind of wild in his presidency." MSM: That's not important, that's a distraction. Partisan attack!

And so on. Granted, Clinton was granted an astonishing love by the press that I have never seen before or since. He could simply do no wrong, so he may be a bad example.

But my larger point is that, should Kerry win, and he decides that we need to stay the course in Irag, and move on to Iran and Syria, the press will shower these actions with accolades and talk about how he has "the courage to face the tough challenges," "he's not afraid of the hard road," "he's leading this nation so we can bring peace and democracy to the world," etc.

That opens up a very interesting discussion. What if, let's say, 9/11 had occurred on the watch of a Democratic president that the press already liked, and who was as evangelical about American ideals as Bush is? What if the media had actually been a cheerleader for that President's aggressive vision of exporting liberty and democracy to the Middle East in order to smother terrorism in its cradle? What if we'd had no internecine battle to fight between the Administration and the mass media, always obstructing and gainsaying each successive step in the War on Terror? I have to imagine we'd have chewed through Afghanistan and Iraq in half the time as actually happened, and perhaps moved on to yet more ambitious projects, all with as much popular support as the Kosovo action or the Gulf War.

Now, this isn't to suggest that I think switching to Kerry at this point would help in this way even slightly. It's a prerequisite for said hypothetical Democratic President to believe viscerally in those American ideals we're trying to push on the world's Muslim theocracies and megalomaniacal dictatorships. I just don't get any sense that John Kerry has any such beliefs—the extent to which he believes in the transformative power of liberty is the extent to which he can leverage the PR points of "free speech" during popular political movements to further his own career, and little more; like so many Leftists I've known, and like myself all through high school and college, it seems as though for him to speak in frank tones about individual liberty and inalienable human rights is so much uncomfortable play-acting, like putting on a dress for an authentic Shakespearean role. He's an opportunist and a phony, and I can't see him as a champion advancing any American ideals beyond our borders because, well, he's embarrassed by them: they get in the way of his adopting other people's trendy ideas imported from the fashionable parts of the world.

Besides which, the very act of switching Presidents is going to be dangerous in itself. In the eyes of the rest of the world, for us to swap out Bush for anybody is going to make us look conciliatory and unsure of our footing; even if we voted Pat Robertson into office, or Tom DeLay, or a reincarnated Reagan, the terrorists would still see it as a victory—the man they attacked would be gone, and they'd still be operating. That's why Saddam Hussein fashioned himself a victor over the U.S. in the Nineties: he was still in office after Desert Storm... and Bush wasn't. Who in his part of the world could argue?

No, we can't change horses now. This isn't World War II, where our opponents were whole nations with sophisticated international diplomats and modern cosmopolitan populaces; this isn't a total war of attrition where every citizen of every involved country is effectively part of the armed forces, where the President serves as the General and might be swapped out for reasons as simple as gastroenteritis, and the military machine would still go on, pursuing the greater goal that everyone clearly sees. This is something much more personal, more visceral: a war between figureheads, where there's no point in coming up with vague racial stereotypes ("Nips", "Krauts") for the various players as we did back then, and where everything is centered to some extent or other on the movements of Bush, Blair, Anzar, Howard, Saddam, al-Zarqawi, bin Laden. Any one such figurehead disappearing from the stage and being replaced by another fundamentally changes the rules. Victory is assured, in part, by keeping our figurehead in the game longer than the other guys can keep their figureheads in the game.

Perhaps it's true that Bush is a far from ideal person to have had in office on the morning of September 11th, if only because of the inevitably hostile media; maybe things would have gone far more smoothly and successfully, and maybe indeed the world would be a much improved place already, if John McCain or Joe Lieberman or, say, Zell Miller had been in office at the time. But it could also have been far, far worse: just think, for example, if Jimmy Carter had had to give that address on September 20th.

But just the same, such speculation is pointless. We're in the situation we're in, and all that remains to us is to make the best decisions possible with the hand we're dealt, to borrow from Jackson's Gandalf. Right now that means proving to the world that we care about victory on our current course more than we care about popularity on the world stage or with the talking heads on the evening news. What we need is to plant our feet and insist that we'd rather do the right thing than the popular thing, just as Bush said during the second debate; and since we have a choice between a man who feels comfortable saying those words on national TV, and a man who can barely bring himself to talk about God or hunting or fighting Communism in order to curry needed votes, it would seem that the choice is a no-brainer.

"Change" is a fine anthem to chant if we don't believe in what we have aready. But some of us do believe... and we can't afford any change just right now.

16:18 - I've never seen the air so clear

This morning and yesterday followed the weekend's unseasonable storm, which dumped a huge amount of rain on the Bay Area and then skittered off, leaving the roads to slowly absorb the puddles out from under the piles of startled leaves heaped in the gutters. There are still lingering clouds jetting across the still-chilly sky, as though trying to catch up. It feels like winter. And as is so often the case on days like these, the views across the Valley are spectacular. You can see up to the San Bruno Hills and Mt. Tamalpais from any unobstructed perch in the Santa Cruz Mountains, where I bike on weekends; and not just that, but the air is so cracklingly clear and crisp, it looks like someone's just wiped the whole region with Windex and turned up the color saturation to eleven.

I haven't lived in the Bay Area long enough to know how unusual days like this are; yet somehow I keep getting the feeling that this kind of thing is getting more frequent, not less.

Apparently it's not my imagination, either:

2004 has had the lowest ozone smog levels since states began measuring the stuff back in the 1970s. Based on preliminary data from around the country, days exceeding EPA's tough new 8-hour ozone standard declined an average of about 50 percent below 2003, which was itself a record year.[1]

A combination of continuing emission reductions and favorable weather explains the improvements. Weather is the single largest factor affecting year-to-year variations in smog levels. All else equal, cool, wet, and windy years will have less ozone than warm, dry, and calm ones. But weather is only part of the story. During the last 30 years most of the country has had several years that were cooler and/or wetter than 2004, but never have smog levels been anywhere near this low.

. . .

Overall, 8-hour ozone exceedance days declined an average of about 50 percent between 2003 and 2004, meaning that 2004 is not only the best year on record, but the best by a large margin.

In The Day After Tomorrow, it took the cataclysmic destruction of the world's civilized regions by freak murderous weather changes for the stain of wretched humanity to be wiped clean from the skies. It is, after all, an article of faith that everything is getting worse with time; nothing ever gets better.

Doesn't news like this just suck?

(Via .clue.)

15:06 - It's the most wonderful time of the year

Pomegranate season!


13:41 - But it was all, you know, a mistake

Omar got a passport.

I should’ve written about this some days ago but I had to spend a week in Basra...Anyway, I feel it’s still worth writing about (at least from my point of view):
last week, I crossed the borders for the first time in my life; something may sound less than regular for most of you but for an Iraqi dentist or doctor it was a beautiful dream becoming a reality.
Countless numbers of Iraqi doctors, dentists, officers and professionals carrying Msc or Phd ended up in prison or even lost their lives for trying to get passports (faked ones of course and at a very high cost) to get out of Saddam’s hell.

This time, it wasn’t hard for me at all to get my passport (a real one) and it cost me practically nothing; just two personal photographs and after five days I had my passport in my hand. No Mukhabarat asking why, where to and for how long, no 400 000 Dinars exit tax, no bribes to border guards...etc

. . .

This may sound silly but It’s really something nice to be able to move freely, leave your country whenever you want and come back whenever you like and I can’t describe to you what I felt when I saw the word “EXIT” printed on one of the passport’s pages; I was sad for what we missed and at the same time optimistic and happy for what’s waiting for us in the future. Life seemed normal for me for the 1st time in my life. Soon after the war we could sense freedom immediately but this time we experienced it in a way that we haven’t before. It was an amazing feeling!
Despite all what’s Baghdad is going through, nothing can match the peace I felt when I walked down from the airplane in Baghdad's airport.

13:32 - Money well spent

Wow. This needs to be read, like, a lot. It cost a guy $104,655.60 to run it on a full page of the Washington Post, and he had better get his money's worth. Internet to the rescue!

WHAT I AM … is an American who understands the difference between “censorship” and “choice”. Evidently, these individuals do not, because when these same “celebrities” receive public ridicule for their offensive actions, the first thing they yell is “Censorship!”. What they seem incapable of understanding is… the right of free speech and dissent is shared equally by those offended… as well as those who offend. I support and will continue to support those films and performers whom I choose to … and refuse to support those I don’t. It is my right as an American … a right I will continue to enthusiastically exercise.

That's only one of several dozen such paragraphs. Do read 'em all.

Via Cartago Delenda Est.

12:59 - Hah!

Waiting in the left-turn lane onto Bandley just now, I saw in my rear-view mirror a silver Ferrari 360 Modena coming up on me in the lane immediately to my right.

As it passed me, I saw that the license plate said HI DEBT.


12:20 - Not that there's anything wrong with that

Dean has it right:

If Kerry wins, the American people will have spoken definitively, and for all time so far as I am concerned. They will have, in effect, said, "We will not support pre-emptive wars or large-scale efforts to democratize other nations any longer. We simply haven't got the stomach for what's required."

Because let's face it: by any rational measure, the Iraq war has gone better than any operation of its type and scale has ever gone in history. And yet the piddling cost and the incredible work of our people is now routinely viewed as a disaster. The press is content merely to report the negative, without any rational or historical context, and the American people are (apparently) content to let them get away with it.

And that's okay. If that's what the American people want, it's what they want. If anyone proposes such a task in the future, I'll simply say "Look to the Iraq war. It will end in disaster because the press will only report failure and death and excuse that with phony mealy-mouthed claims of "objectivity," and within a year or two the American people will go wobbly. It's just who we are as a people."

That's what this election will mean. I don't think Kerry's going to win, but I'm bracing myself nonetheless. I'm bracing for condescending, patronizing head-patting from European acquaintances, which is a good deal worse than such acquaintances simply ignoring me out of disgust. I'm bracing for Michael Moore riding the wave of celebratory euphoria and becoming a political celebrity of unprecedented stature for someone from the filmmaking industry, rather like Oliver Stone winning a Senate seat, only with the added bonus of making our philosophical leaders look like the stereotypical fat, loud, obnoxious Americans we're already seen as. I'm bracing for Barbra Streisand, Janeane Garofalo, Arec Bardwin, Martin Sheen, MATT DAMON, Bruce Springsteen, and a thousand other actors and artists being filled with giddy joy and the sense that through the power of movies and songs and petulant theme concerts and appearances on The Daily Show they can change history, even if they haven't given a moment's thought to what they're fighting for except "change". I'm bracing for our troops (who support Bush by a margin of something like five to one) waking up in their barracks two weeks from now to find that the man who flew to visit them on Thanksgiving, who called them by name and saluted them and shook their hands until the tears streamed down their faces, has been kicked out of office by the American people in favor of someone whose promise to bring the troops home by any fixed date speaks more loudly and reassuringly to the enemy than to our soldiers or their families. I'm bracing for history books ten years from now to refer to the brief Bush II years as an unmitigated disaster during which the economy crashed, 9/11 occurred, and America embarked upon an inexplicable series of hideously unpopular foreign wars that were mercifully cut short before anyone could see any long-term results to prove what they were intended to achieve.

It won't be the end of the world, no. But it will suck. Especially if, as I'm also bracing for, the radical Islamists and rogue dictators all over the world (who have to a man endorsed John Kerry in a flurry of anti-Semitic vitriol, Eurocratic condescension, and screenings of Fahrenheit 9/11) take the election's results as a sign that the American people's righteous outrage over 9/11 has flagged and dissipated—and therefore that even an unprecedently audacious and bloody attack on the heart of America's premier city, forever rending its skyline and the Americans' sense of security in their homeland, will provoke only a couple of years of aimless thrashing before the beast lies still and goes back to sleep. If that's the worst America will do in response to an attack like 9/11, then what do the terrorists have to fear if they mount another? They're patient. They've waited six hundred years. They can take their time.

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.

This country won't be the last one on the planet to slip over the edge into the postmodern, postnational, gray-and-shabby Nerf-padded peacefulness of apathy already embraced by Europe. The Middle East is younger, for all its history: it has the fire that we once did, and it will eat us alive if we have no heart to fight back—and meanwhile China and the Pacific Rim will come into our inheritance while we stare blankly at the wall of the convalescent hospital of nations. We can kid ourselves that it's better that way, that jacking into a virtual-reality paradise while our corporeal bodies wither is no different from paradise itself; but if we do, it'll be the end of any argument in favor of the experiment that is this country: the idea that freedom, human liberty itself, is a force greater than any other one on Earth, and once truly secured for its posterity by a people, they'll die before they let go of it.

We aren't ready to let go yet, are we?

Tuesday, October 19, 2004
13:36 - Fall hits with a splash

Whew. Big rainstorm suddenly blew in last night... the kind where huge raindrops pelt against the windshield so hard it sounds like they're about to come through.

It's the first real rain of the year, and it's already got lots of streets flooded and drains clogged; the weather services talk about "unseasonably severe cold fronts" in the advisories that are being circulated all around Northern California, and the temperature has dropped precipitously. Even Capri didn't ask for a walk this morning; he knew it was no good out there.

I'll bet Roland Emmerich could explain what's going on.

Monday, October 18, 2004
13:05 - Debates summarized

The debate aftermath, in Frank J's world:

"Beyond this incident, though," Barnes commented, "I think Bush helped himself by showing a great command of the facts in the debate."

"I believe you are referring especially to this instance," Hume said, and a clip started playing.

"Now, I know how Edwards keeps talking about 'two Americas,'" Bush stated, "but I looked it up. On a world map, there are two Americas - North America and South America - but that's not my fault. According to scientists, it's the result of tectonic shifts breaking apart the Pangaea supercontinent... way before my administration. Kerry and Edwards need to stop lying about me!"

If Bush had actually used this line during the debates, he'd be up 70-30% by now.

Sunday, October 17, 2004
00:52 - Now spell out those signs by lying naked in fields

This is the must-see of the day: Tim Blair's tour of the latest incarnation of moonbat delusions of relevance.

Be sure to follow every one of the links in his updates, too. It just gets better and better.

Friday, October 15, 2004
16:09 - Until Then

Excellent Flash-based photo-log done as a tribute to our troops in Afghanistan. Definitely a must-watch.

It's the kind of thing that, while you're watching it, makes your brain suddenly flip over to the protesters and naysaying intellectuals, and you involuntarily think, Oh, just shut the HELL up.

15:45 - Say it with me now: D'oh!

NASA, NASA, NASA... we've got to stop meeting like this.

Sensors to detect deceleration on NASA's Genesis space capsule were installed correctly but had been designed upside down, resulting in the failure to deploy the capsule’s parachutes. The design flaw is the prime suspect for why the capsule, carrying precious solar wind ions, crashed in Utah on 8 September, according to a NASA investigation board.

The sensors were a key element in a domino-like series of events designed to release the parachutes. When the capsule - which blazed into the atmosphere at 11 kilometres per second - decelerated by three times the force of gravity (3 Gs), the sensors should have made contact with a spring.

"It's like smashing on the brakes in your car - you feel yourself being pushed forward," says NASA spokesperson Don Savage.

The contact should have continued as the capsule peaked at a deceleration of about 30 Gs. Then, when the capsule’s deceleration fell back through 3 Gs, the contact would have been broken, starting a timer that signalled the first parachute to release.

"But it never made the initial contact because it was backwards," Savage told New Scientist.

The sensors, which are estimated to be less than an inch (2.5 centimetres) wide, were apparently installed in a circuit board in the wrong orientation - rotated 180° from the correct direction. But the problem stemmed not from the installation but the design, by Lockheed Martin, based in Bethesda, Maryland.

"They still have to find out why that design error was not caught," says Savage. The mission's Mishap Investigation Board will continue to investigate the problem.

This from the same people who brought to you Mars Climate Orbiter: Here Comes the Metric System!

I can't help but sense a common element here. Is it just me, or is Lockheed Martin not doing the best job at keeping its image clean in recent years?

You know, when our QA processes in the software industry are all modeled upon the space program as the paragon at the far end of the price/performance spectrum, we seldom take into account the overriding prevalence of human dopeyness that manifests at crucial times. Like when you learn all about contour integrals but forget how to do long division. Or when you have to stop and squint for a moment before you really have a clear picture of which direction the Earth rotates: Okay, so the sun goes down in the West, so it spins... uh... right-hand rule... carry the one...

...Or is that just me?

UPDATE: Ow. My brain.

14:53 - Let them eat white raisins in gin

You know, if this election were to be decided on the basis of the First Lady candidates (instead of, say, on the basis of the candidates' daughters), it'd be a landslide of volcanic proportions. Like, of the 80-20% variety.

I mean, when it's a choice between "honest, loyal, and sweet" and "rich and totally gibbering insane", what can even a Dan Rather do to spin it?

(...For that matter, what is it that we as a country have against nominating any Presidential candidates with male children? I mean, what gives?)

Thursday, October 14, 2004
13:44 - A JibJab Well Done

CNet has an interview with the duo behind JibJab, the darlings of the political Flash-cartoon world.
So that's where the animation style used in "This Land" and "DC" comes from?

Yeah. Even though it has chop jaws, I think it looks great.

(The puppetlike jaws are) also a part of the joke, and that's what Evan and the guys do. They understand the limits of the technology and make that part of the joke. It's crude, but the art looks great, and the crudeness is part of the joke.

We could use Flash to make perfectly fluid, Disney-quality animation, but it's just that bandwidth and processor constraints come into play. Even with "DC," we ran into a lot of constraints. It has a lot more animation than "This Land," in terms of movement. And processors can choke if you don't have a newer machine.

These guys really can animate well... and as South Park proved long ago (and continues to re-prove every week), there's a real place for talented animators in the world of paper-cutout and puppet-jaw cartoons. I still believe, for instance, that more emotional subtlety is conveyed by the little one-second twitch of Saddam Hussein's eyes as he unconvincingly says "I love you..." to Satan in bed in South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut than in any full half-hour episode of Father of the Pride.

I think Trey & Matt, the Brothers Chaps, the Space Ghost-derived clip-art shows on Adult Swim, and the JibJab guys are all really blazing a new trail here; while traditional feature animation is floundering without a champion, they're showing us that if the writing is good and the heart is solid, you don't even need your animation to look like it's rotoscoped on ones. You can make your stories "read" just as well with a pair of scissors and some construction paper, and create the "illusion of life" just as satisfyingly.

13:24 - I have misplaced my pants

Aarrgh... this is going to drive me absolutely bonkers.

I'm positive that in the past 24 hours, somewhere, I saw a mention (by a commenter in a blog, most likely LGF or Tim Blair by the visual style I remember) of one of those "fever swamp" discussions on Democratic Underground or IndyMedia, where people were talking seriously about leaving the country if Bush gets reelected.

I remember that the person pointing out the discussion commented that someone in the thread had noted that he hadn't seen any Republicans anywhere talking about leaving the country if Kerry gets elected. Apparently this mystified the DUer in question.

I'd predictably have some things to say about this, but I can't find the original reference, even using Safari's feature of archiving an organized list of all the sites I visited yesterday. So all I'm left with is a confusing third-generation piece of hearsay. Tarnation!

Anybody happen to see what I'm talking about?
UPDATE: Kenny did:

I think it's quite telling how one of the DUs notes how they don't see discussion on conservative bboards of leaving if Kerry becomes president. That's because we think all other countries suck (apologies to foreign readers... and pity). Where would we flee to that has even a tenth of the grandeur of America? Even with Kerry as president and Democrats controlling both Houses of Congress, they couldn't ruin America if they tried. Americans kick ass, and they will for all my lifetime. If the fire that is the American spirit starts to fade, there is no retreat. This land is the battleground from freedom in the world, and, while there is a drop of the blood in my body, I will reside in the front lines of the fight for civilization as we know it.

Of course, the battle would be easier if we deported all the whiners.

Yeah, I shoulda known it was Frank J.

The point, though, stands: ought we to be deferring our opinion to those Americans who threaten to become huffy expatriates if the election doesn't go their way, or those who believe the Republic will survive even a President we don't agree with?

The former group is fond of becoming indignant over their patriotism being questioned, too. If you ask me, it's beyond question.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004
18:04 - Better add this to the ol' sidebar if Kerry wins


If we're interested in avoiding "nuisances", that is.

Full-size version at the site linked above.

15:32 - His Elf-Friends at Halliburton

Damien says that this is going to be "gigantic", and I do believe he's right. It is, after all, #1 on the comedy listings at iFilm right now: Fellowship 9/11.

Brilliant. No other word for it.

13:43 - It's not even creative

I remember when the image featured in the poster Bill Hobbs points to here was circulating through message boards; I believe I have a copy of it dating back to around 2000, probably originating on Fark or Something Awful or someplace similar.

It used to say "Arguing on the Internet is like running in the Special Olympics". Now it's been cleverly updated to "Voting for Bush is like running in the Special Olympics," complete with a Bush face plastered over the kid's. Everything else is unchanged.

I though Democrats were supposed to be the creative ones? ... To say nothing of the sensitive ones...

13:14 - No Votation With Representation

Um, Guardian readers? Kindly keep your grubby hands off our voters, thank you very much.

We have come up with a unique way for non-Americans to express your views on the policies and candidates in this election to some of the people best placed to decide its outcome. It's not quite a vote, but it's a chance to influence how a very important vote will be cast. Or, at the very least, make a new penpal.

It works like this. By typing your email address into the box on this page you will be sent a name and address of a voter in Clark County, Ohio from the most recent publicly available voters roll. You may not have heard of it, but it's one of the most marginal areas in one of the most marginal states: at the last election, just 167 votes separated Democrats from Republicans. It's a place where a change of mind among just a few voters could make a real difference.

Writing to a Clark County voter is a chance to explain how US policies effect you personally, and the rest of the world more generally, and who you hope they will send to the White House. It may even persuade someone to use their vote at all.

Look, I know you guys are feeling left out. I know you're mad that you're not being allowed to take part in what you rightly see as a very important election.

But we've fought wars over stuff like this before.

12:57 - Let me put it this way

I guess I'm a three-issue voter, because this election, I want the outcome to do the following three things:

1. Empower our military psychologically by making them feel that a mandate from the American people is firmly behind them

2. Spite Michael Moore, all his Hollywood toadies and college-age sycophants, and France

3. Make the terrorists crap themselves on November 3, not dance around whooping and firing into the air in celebration

I have a hard time seeing how electing John Kerry would make any of these things happen, or how electing Bush would do anything but. Yet very little else matters to me right about now.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004
13:32 - Nothing's more infuriating than an enigmatic smile

Matteo has posted a followup to his earlier "What's Bush's Game" post, mentioning my response and Bill Whittle's "Deterrence" and tying them all together as they seemed to converge through serendipity.

At issue is the whiplash we all got from the contrast between the Bush of the first debate and the Bush of the second one: from bewildered, tired, and out of his league right to the dynamic, arm-waving, joke-popping ringleader from Thursday. Maybe he just stayed at a Holiday Inn Express on Wednesday night or something. Or it could be the "poker metaphor" we've seen a number of times, coming back into play:

In 1994, during the Texas gubernatorial campaign, it is my understanding that Bush simply stuck to his guns, being his polite and friendly self, not responding to negative attacks from the incumbent, Ann Richards. Out of frustration that she wasn’t having an impact on Bush or his campaign, Richards finally made a public statement in some venue or other that “George Bush is an idiot!” This immediately swung the election in Bush’s favor and he never looked back. Ah, that was a kindler and gentler era!

. . .

There will be ironies if the Democratic Party and left manage to destroy themselves during this election. They could have looked at the overall strategic situation and said “You know, we lost the roll of the dice on this one. Bush was President during 9/11, we’re at war, and it is more important to support the President than to win an election. That’s the way the cookie crumbles. Americans get tired of having one party in the White House after awhile, and we’ll get back in there. For now, let’s run a decent campaign, like Dole did in 1996, and be as helpful as we can to assure victory in this war.” If they’d done this, they’d probably have a great shot in ’08. If there were agreement on the importance of victory, ’08 would come down to a choice of personality and domestic policies. But, alas, the Democrats prefer a failing (I hope!) kamikaze attack.

I'd really be impressed if this were all demonstrably part of a plan. Somehow I have to imagine that a lot of it is dumb luck and faith (which, hey, are important in poker too); but if the real Karl Rove strategy here is to let Dubya stand there silently grinning like the Master Chief and wait for all the irritating but ultimately harmless little Flood globule-guys to hurl themselves ineffectually against him until they explode with fury yet do nothing but get him all sticky (while not wasting any of his ammo), then I'll have to defer to a better campaign planner than I could ever be.

Once this is all over, it'll be one of those periods in history that I would just love to be able to revisit in a time machine and see how it would have turned out if things had been run just a bit differently. Like, for instance, if they were to run this attack ad...

Monday, October 11, 2004
03:43 - The third debate will be "open-mike" style

Seanbaby, writing in The Wave, has evaluated Bush and Kerry and rendered a judgment based on which one's the better comedian.

Bush ranks pretty close to zero out of ten by his estimation... but he comes off way better than Kerry does. And rightly so, judging by the Kerry/Letterman Top 10 list that he alludes to. Yikes, those are some groaners. Quite leaving aside the "Halliburton BAD!" and "Ashcroft destroy Constitution!" memes, which are rather disturbing in themselves, knowing that a potential future President is spouting them; it's also quite eye-opening in that this is how Kerry aims to win Americans' hearts through comedy.

I'd love to have seen Seanbaby cover this ongoing train-wreck of a joke in this article... not to mention Thursday's "Need some wood?" quip. I think they'd have skewed the numbers a fair bit further.

23:33 - You will be assimilated

Ahh, the dangers of the all-Mac household.

But all ends in happiness and hugs. As you knew it would.

23:01 - JibJab's got company

Woo-hoo! This one's not quite as lavishly produced as the JibJab shorts, but it's still a laugh riot, I think. Go see.

19:36 - Can't have that

Just remember: free speech is what people have who speak out against Bush. People who speak out against Kerry, well, they must be silenced.

Sinclair Broadcast Group, owner of the largest chain of television stations in the nation, plans to air a documentary that accuses Sen. John Kerry of betraying American prisoners during the Vietnam War, a newspaper reported Monday.

The reported plan prompted the Democratic National Committee to file a complaint against Sinclair with the Federal Election Commission.

Sinclair has ordered all 62 of its stations to air "Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal" without commercials in prime-time next week, the Washington Post reported, just two weeks before the Nov. 2 election.

. . .

"We have received thousands of e-mails, people outraged by the very idea a company like Sinclair would direct stations to air a partisan film," said Wes Boyd, founder of political watchdog MoveOn.org.

"If they do air a partisan film, we'll challenge the FCC and the licenses of the local stations that broadcast the film because local stations have a responsibility to the community to air real news, not partisan messages," said Boyd.

Yeah, Wes. You just keep standing on your principles, there.

Lance says:

Did the Democrats complain about Farenheit 9/11? or about the timing of
its DVD release (and associated advertising)?
Did the Democrats complain about Dan Rather's use of "60 Minutes" to
spread forged propaganda?
Did the Democrats complain about widespread bias shown by tthe vast
majority of media outlets?

But now, when a single media chain announces plans to broadcast a movie
that questions them, they cry "foul".

The DNC lost its right to complain about media bias a long time ago. And
they certainly must have contempt for the average voter if they feel that
the audience makes up its mind based on movies... on the other hand, given
their behavior, I'd say that the DNC -does- have just such a contempt, and
-does- use movies and media manipulation to sway those stupid,
knuckle-dragging vote-puppets.

I've said it before: if, deep down, you harbor the suspicion that "Middle America" is composed entirely of stupid people whose vote should be feared rather than welcomed, then you have no respect for—or belief in—democracy. Democracy isn't just some easy-cheese default state where everybody agrees with one another in happy harmony; it's a very precarious condition of human governance that depends on the ability of people with wildly differing values and backgrounds to respect each other's voices to carry exactly the same weight, irrespective of how much each party feels the other is "entitled" to express it. If you don't believe in that principle, then you're an elitist who probably rolls your eyes at the very concept of "democracy" being peddled to other countries, and probably harbor thoughts like Well, maybe democracy doesn't really suit Those People or Hey, if a dictator provides free education and health care, then I like that dictator.

In which case, go right ahead and vote: I won't stand in your way. Heaven forbid winning should outweigh my desire to set a dogged example in these trying times.

Just get outta my way when it's my turn to vote. And no whining about "partisan films". It's a little late for that.

11:52 - Um...

Would it be too terribly unfair of me to say that Japan has problems?

An old article, but...

UPDATE: Then again, I often find that I have no idea what kinds of things are controversial in other countries. Sunday shopping? What century is this?

11:41 - It is accomplished

Finally! After all this time, I think I can officially declare my master suite "completed".

At least the sitting-room half of it, anyway. The shelves are now in place on either side of the arch doorway, and there's a corn stalk plant in the corner where it'll hopefully be able to benefit from indirect light all day long, at least during the winter when I can keep my curtains open. And the armoire is done; all my shirts are hung up now, Mom. No more draping them all over the back of the couch. Which means the couch is now useful as, well, a couch. What with the finished bookshelves and the new peace I've made with that table as a TV stand (all the A/V components will fit just fine up the left-side stack), I can start entertaining in here for real.

Yeah, this is pretty silly as a subject for discussion. But this project has taken a while, and I'm very satisfied indeed.

Sunday, October 10, 2004
22:26 - Spammers for Bush

Okay, so it's not just anti-Bush moonbats sending out exhortations via spam. I just got one from these guys too.

Granted, this one is funny... and well-laid-out, and includes the company's full name and address and everything. Quite above-board, except it is spam.

So it still wins!

Saturday, October 9, 2004
06:16 - They're Back

Everybody rise! JibJab has released the sequel to "This Land": "Good To Be In D.C.". Just as well animated, just as well voiced and scored, and just as funny. They're selling them both on DVD, and have them available for $3 downloads.

These guys are goood.

Friday, October 8, 2004
00:16 - I can honestly say that was the best episode of "Impy & Chimpy" I've ever seen

Good debate. Goooood debate. I do believe that InstaPundit reader is right: Bush does better when he can talk directly to his audience, and stomp around on the stage waving his arms, instead of having to stare out into the darkness at a camera lens.

Plus he had the benefit of the Duelfer Report, armed with which nobody could be expected to lose. I was gratified to see that Bush pounded on it after all, early on in the debate, in the Iraq segment (which he carried most convincingly, even though he had to defend admitting Iraq had no WMDs). He stopped short of explaining to everybody that France and Germany and Russia refused to join us because they were on the take from Saddam, because that would have been tantamount to severing diplomatic ties; but everything else, he did cover: Saddam was gaming the United Nations toward getting the sanctions lifted, upon which he'd be free to resume his WMD programs! Kerry didn't have much to fall back on but "Well, uh, we didn't have enough troops! So I'm going to call for more troops! And then pull them out!" and so on. Oh, and "I don't waffle. What could have ever given you that idea?"

I didn't see the first debate, but from all accounts this was a completely different ballgame. Bush didn't win on all counts (he screwed up a few things, like prescription drugs from Canada and Supreme Court justice appointments), but Kerry had nothing but tired economic statistics that can be turned on their heads by explaining them more fully, and threadbare appeals to "allies" that are getting more laughable by the day. Bush didn't let up on it, but Kerry kept yammering on like he hadn't heard a word.

I wish Bush had remembered about Australia, though, especially in that outburst where he interrupted the moderator. The Aussies ought to be first out the gate in some of these lists.

This is getting fun, though. "Need some wood?" Heee. Bush had it to spare.

18:08 - Solving the ID10T problem

Damien has offered an excellent example of how to respond to someone who's convinced himself that anyone who disagrees with him is either evil or stupid.

At some point in life, you will come to respect others' points of view. Perhaps you will be convinced through personal experience, or through argument, or through simply coming to love someone with different viewpoints, in whom you are interested enough to listen and understand.

You're not an idiot, and neither am I. Yet we disagree, and this fact alone should compel you to give a little more thought and respect to the "other side". You gain nothing as a person by cocooning yourself in comfortable and unchallenged views - it is through interaction, understanding, and substantive argument that one becomes more enlightened. And, of course, experience.

Granted, if I were a high school student receiving a message like this, it would simply make me angry—I'd dismiss it as so much sanctimonious, word-twisting hoo-haw, because I'd still know I was right. One person disagreeing with me and my righteous beliefs? Pshaw.

But the seed would have been planted; so the next time something like this happened...

UPDATE: Somehow I doubt it would work on these people, though. They've grabbed up a degraded facsimile of the truth and run so far downfield that it's not worth even going after them.

13:05 - I can dream, can't I?

Kerry on Darfur:

WASHINGTON - Democrat presidential candidate John Kerry says he would not send U.S. forces to stop the genocide in Sudan if they continued to be needed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I’d do everything possible,” he said in a taped interview broadcast Thursday night on Black Entertainment Television, citing logistical support and money to help the African Union intervene in the Sudanese crisis.

Asked whether he’d send troops, Kerry said the United States would “have to be in a position in Iraq and Afghanistan” to allow that to happen. He said his options as president would be limited because President Bush has overextended U.S. forces.

“Our flexibility is less than it was,” he said. “Our moral leadership is not what it ought to be.”

You know what I'd love to see?

Once—just once—for any reporter interviewing Kerry to, at this point, say:

"Yes or no, please, sir."

Wouldn't that just be devastating?

Such a simple question, such a simple answer they're looking for: Assuming we had them available, would you send troops to Sudan? Yes or no? Just trying to find out whether he thinks it's something we should do or not. But no, the answer is a pointless ramble about Iraq and Afghanistan and Bush and moral leadership.

Yes or no, please, sir. Imagine what a sound bite that would make.

I guess we know what four years of Kerry press conferences will look like.

12:05 - Spammers For Kerry

Now that's a constituency Kerry doesn't need. Some enterprising soul has taken to emitting an anti-Bush tract via spam. I've received about nine copies of it so far:

From: GEORGE W. BUSH <pndxqzfk@yz.com>
Subject: I approve this message
Date: October 8, 2004 6:29:05 AM PDT
To: undisclosed-recipients:;



Law Enforcement:
I was arrested in Kennebunkport, Maine, in 1976 for driving under
the influence of alcohol. I pleaded guilty, paid a fine, and had
my driver's license suspended for 30 days. My Texas driving
record has been "lost" and is not available.

I joined the Texas Air National Guard and went AWOL. I refused
to take a drug test or answer any questions about my drug use.
By joining the Texas Air National Guard, I was able to avoid
combat duty in Vietnam.

I graduated from Yale University with a low C average. I was
a cheerleader.

. . .

...Blah, blah, blah.

It's all canards and innuendoes (with whatever fragments of truth mixed in as could be found), and nothing we haven't heard before. But it's being spewed scattershot across the Internet now, using the same low-budget means of delivery that spam has always benefited from.

I suppose it shouldn't surprise me, given what other tactics are being increasingly employed of late by those convinced that another four years of Bush will cause the planet to explode, or whatever. But I have to wonder: will the number of people potentially swayed by this message be greater than the number of people utterly pissed-off at being told what to think politically by a piece of spam nestled in between the "The original HGH Longevity from Germany" and "Get Ciälis Välium Ambinën 62% Off Retäil" missives?

Thursday, October 7, 2004
18:26 - They Know Stuff

Behold the artistic glories of our intellectual betters:

It didn't take a nuclear physicist to realize changes were needed after a $40,000 ceramic mural was unveiled outside the city's new library and everyone could see the misspelled names of Einstein, Shakespeare, Vincent Van Gogh, Michelangelo and seven other historical figures.

"Our library director is very frustrated that she has this lovely new library and it has all these misspellings in front," said city councilwoman Lorraine Dietrich, one of three council members who voted Monday to authorize paying another $6,000, plus expenses, to fly the artist up from Miami to fix the errors.

Sweet deal, huh? Maybe it was all part of the plan. Maybe this artiste is a mad genius.

Reached at her Miami studio Wednesday by The Associated Press, Maria Alquilar said she was willing to fix the brightly colored 16-foot-wide circular work, but offered no apologizes for the 11 misspellings among the 175 names.

"The importance of this work is that it is supposed to unite people," Alquilar said. "They are denigrating my work and the purpose of this work."

...Okay, perhaps not. She's just a Moore-pattern freak.

The mistakes wouldn't even register with a true artisan, Alquilar said.

"The people that are into humanities, and are into Blake's concept of enlightenment, they are not looking at the words," she said. "In their mind the words register correctly."
True artists aren't bound by such inane concepts as spelling, y'see. This work, It is actually a commentary on our shallow society with its fixation on being "correct" or "accurate" or "true". A pox on the pedants who would question such a work of genius as this!

What utter, astonishing gall. That'd better be some frickin' mural, if they're still willing to give this Being of Ephemeral Light six extra grand to fix these mistakes.

Via Brian D. And apologies to Tim Blair for lifting his subject line; it's a meme that should be free, Tim! Fie on your corporate fat-cat "copyright" and "property"!

UPDATE: How did I know her "murals" would look like this? Sigh.

You've got to catch these people in the act or they'll never learn.

Thanks to Corsair, who has more on this moron.

UPDATE: Kimberly Swygert appears to have the definitive roundup of this matter, including the fact that this incoherent master of ugly art with an overinflated sense of ego is a former schoolteacher. I'm not sure which word surprises me less: schoolteacher, or former...

17:11 - Let me hammer him today

So now the Duelfer Report is out, which despite headlines by mainstream media outlets fixated on perpetuating the idea that Bush somehow "lied" about WMDs, now firmly establishes a number of very uncomfortable conclusions for those who have placed all their chips on the BUSH LIED!!! side of the table.

Not only were Saddam's WMD programs evidently quite well poised for a resumption at any time, that resumption was confidently expected—by Saddam—to occur hot on the heels of the sanctions being dropped by the UN, whose French and Russian and German delegates he had been sweetly bribing for years toward the end of keeping the Americans off his back.

Glenn Reynolds has been keeping this front and center:

SADDAM HUSSEIN believed he could avoid the Iraq war with a bribery strategy targeting Jacques Chirac, the President of France, according to devastating documents released last night.

Memos from Iraqi intelligence officials, recovered by American and British inspectors, show the dictator was told as early as May 2002 that France - having been granted oil contracts - would veto any American plans for war. . . .

Saddam was convinced that the UN sanctions - which stopped him acquiring weapons - were on the brink of collapse and he bankrolled several foreign activists who were campaigning for their abolition. He personally approved every one.

To keep America at bay, he focusing on Russia, France and China - three of the five UN Security Council members with the power to veto war. Politicians, journalists and diplomats were all given lavish gifts and oil-for-food vouchers.

Tariq Aziz, the former Iraqi deputy prime minister, told the ISG that the "primary motive for French co-operation" was to secure lucrative oil deals when UN sanctions were lifted. Total, the French oil giant, had been promised exploration rights.

And what did Saddam bribe the French and Russian diplomats with? Why, that ten billion dollars that went missing from the Oil-For-Food scheme, that was supposed to pay for Iraqis' food and medicine.

In exchange for which the French and Russians and Germans pledged Saddam that they'd do everything in their power to prevent the Americans from taking him out.

Sound to you like someone that would have jumped on board with us if only we'd spent a little more time haggling at the UN, like Kerry says he would have done?

Sound to you like someone we would want to get involved in the Iraq reconstruction, or who would agree to do so even if we did, as Kerry plans to ask them to?

Sound to you like anyone whose opinions on this matter we should be taking any more seriously than we did Saddam's?

This is far uglier than any simple "smoking gun". This is exactly what Steven Den Beste suggested, last January, sick at heart, might in our darkest dreams be at the core of the controversy:

Suppose we win, which is absolutely certain.

And suppose, once we've done so, and have occupied Iraq and have full (really full, not UN full) access to Iraq's records and can truly find what they have, that we find that everything we've been saying about their WMDs is really true; that they have chem and bio weapons and banned delivery systems, and are near to developing nukes, which I also think is extremely likely.

One more and the most important: suppose that the records also show that during the 1990's companies in France or Germany (or both) actively and deliberately broke the sanctions and sold equipment and supplies to Iraq which helped it to create these things, and that the governments of Germany and France knew and approved of this and actively helped. That's the biggest and most speculative suppose.

. . .

If they (Chirac and Schröder) know that they face the scenario I described above after we invade, that would definitely explain their behavior, because preventing Anglo-American occupation of Iraq is the only conceivable way they could prevent it. If this is the case, then since no other way exists to avoid this fate and since the consequences of it are dreadful, it would make sense to continue the lost cause of trying to prevent our attack.

So the more they persist even as it becomes ever more hopeless, the more I find myself worrying that they are trying to cover up something really, really big.

Only the French and Russians weren't even doing business with Saddam, which would have been bad enough. They were taking bribes from Saddam, bribes funded by humanitarian aid money paid for by Iraqi oil and stolen by Saddam and ignored by UN officials, and accepting promises that in the future they'd be right at the top of Saddam's buddy list, in the on-deck circle to drill a bunch of new wells and secure their own private oil stash with which to become a new European superpower independent of American influence.

If that isn't the absolute lowest of lows, I don't know what could top it. I mean, at least Hitler was honest about what he was doing. At least we knew Saddam was a dictator of a Stalinist police state. But these guys? They must have known what these actions were doing to innocent Iraqis, and where they would fit on the totem pole of morality if ever called to account; but apparently, through soothing diplo-speak and polysyllabic euphemisms, they managed to convince themselves that what they were doing was excusable, even justifiable. These guys are the Zyklon-B manufacturers, the guys who built the ovens, the contractors laying the pipe. They knew what they were doing, they could have opted out, but... all in a day's work, right? A buck's a buck.

What a perfect picture of the post-modern, post-human "world beyond morality". Nothing is right or wrong anymore; it's all just a mathematical equation, a cynical calculation which either comes out positive or negative. What a great illustration of the Earth we stand to inherit once we're all dispassionate, scientific apostles to reason. It'll kill a hundred thousand people? Well, yeah, but it'll also make us billions of euros. Can't make an omelette without breaking oeufs.

Remember when we blamed huge corporations for thinking like this?

I guess that's what happens when you run your country like a corporation, with a board of directors and several thousand employees and a few million shareholders. Complete with a corporate logo and a brand identity. And market penetration statistics.

So this really isn't any worse than what we most darkly suspected, but it's still infuriating to see it right there in black and white—and yet to see some people still stubbornly taking the side of these slughearted villains, pledging to the kid with his hand stuck in the cookie jar that we'll reward him with all the cookies he can eat. We know they'll doggedly fight to the bitter end, because nothing's worth changing one's mind for—not even new facts coming to light. But by rights, John Kerry's entire case for the Presidency, centered now around Iraq's missing WMDs and the holy blessing of France and Russia and the UN, now revealed as Saddam's boot-licking, wholly-owned accomplices, ought to wither and die overnight.

But it won't. Not unless Bush is willing to hammer on this with every breath in his body from now until Election Day.

As Dean Esmay says, in his own comments:

If Bush cannot make the point, then he deserves to lose.

Yup. If he's too squeamish to point the finger of moral righteousness squarely in the faces of those who need to be on its receiving end, then he's apparently not bothered by being mistaken for just another accomplice. He did take out Saddam, yes... he did put his money where his mouth was, and his gun is now loaded again. But he'd better not get cold feet now that he has perfect license to pull the trigger.

Wednesday, October 6, 2004
15:13 - Whittle's election essay

Looks like Bill was up late writing this; seems it was worth it:

We don’t want [9/11] to happen again.

We want to deter it from happening again.

And all of this rage and fury and spitting and tearing up of signs, all of these insults and spinmeisters and forgeries and all the rest, seem to come down to the fact that about half the country thinks you deter this sort of thing by being nice, while the other half thinks you deter this by being mean.

Exactly. See the MoveOn.org post below about how they want to spin the debate: Cheney was mean, so he sucks. Edwards was warm and charming and nice, so he rules.

Maybe if we were fighting bunny-rabbits or fields of sunflowers or an invasion of Darth Vaders that feed on wrath and hatred and use it to grow ever stronger.

But not if we're fighting people who laugh at our "tolerance" and call us weak and subhuman for it. It's not by being nicer that they'll change their minds and become nice in return. These aren't Pokémon villains; they're the reincarnations of the Nazis and the imperial Japanese, and there's only one way to deal with such people.

Once upon a time we understood that.

UPDATE: Oh, and he also covers what I and Matteo had been writing about: what is Bush's game plan? Why hasn't he told us about it? Why are we the ones tasked with keeping his September 20, 2001 speech's fire burning?

UPDATE: It's rather spooky how closely today's rather excellent Bush speech echoes Bill's essay in places.

If Americans can understand how the MAD doctrine kept the world from getting nuked, they can grasp how it's more important and effective to deter people who come from a completely different universe than to please people who are already from ours.

15:03 - Mac OS Xbox

Wow. OS X on an Xbox.

Via Steven, who says, "Why? Why? Why would anyone DO this?"

Beats me, but I'll bet Edmund Hillary could tell you...

UPDATE: Bah! I knew I was putting my foot into it, there. It was George Mallory who said the bit about climbing a mountain because it was there. Thanks to Paul for setting me straight.

13:28 - That's some ironclad testimony right there

Here's MoveOn.org's mass mailing in response to the Cheney-Edwards debate, which most people seem to be describing as a Cheney win:

Dear MoveOn member,

We're on a roll. In last night's vice presidential debate, Dick Cheney was angry, misleading and petulant; Edwards took him on with warmth, clarity and the facts. CBS News reported this morning that Edwards "continued the Democratic ticket's winning streak," beating Cheney by 13 percentage points in a post-debate poll of uncommitted voters.[1]

Again and again, Cheney tried to mislead the public about the war in Iraq and our economic problems here at home. He even claimed that he’d never met Edwards before when he had, in public, twice. But John Edwards wouldn't let him get away with it: when Cheney tried once again to link al Qaeda and 9/11, Edwards said, "Mr. Vice President, you are still not being straight with the American people," and explained that there was absolutely no connection. We've compiled a bunch more of these misleads -- and the facts -- below. And we captured that strong rebuttal on tape: you can check it out at www.moveonpac.org.

The problem is that Cheney lies with utter conviction, so for some of the folks who are just tuning in to the presidential contest, it's difficult to tell who was fabricating and who was telling the truth. But if we all just take one of Cheney's false statements listed below and write to our local paper about it, we can debunk Cheney's distortions and demonstrate Edwards' commitment to the truth.

Never mind all the rebuttals to those "explanations", like about Iraq/al Qaeda, that followed from Cheney. Those facts don't count. But, hey, it's not like MoveOn.org is interested in being rigorous with its methods here. Who do we think they are, FactCheck.org?

Man, I ache to see what these people mail out on November 3rd.

UPDATE: By the way, here's some more important information about Halliburton you should know.

Tuesday, October 5, 2004
00:58 - Voting with one's guts

You know, I keep telling myself that I have better reasons to vote for George W. Bush than to prevent these people's tactics from paying off.

But, well, some days it's the only one that matters.

UPDATE: See, because there's a word for people who do this sort of thing: terrorists.

Vote Bush, or the terrorists win.

19:36 - Rope-A-Century

Matteo at Cartago Delenda Est is another Silicon Valley blogger with a beleaguered-conservative bent (and a very attractive site to boot); a couple of days ago he posted some interesting thoughts about what Bush may be up to in this election season, and indeed throughout his term:

Think about it. Bush does not run a 24/7 media war machine or “permanent campaign” like Clinton did (and the Dems and MSM still do). A victory for him via such methods is not a victory at all, for himself, or the country. During his presidency he has held back. The result? It’s staring us all in the face right now. Look at the Blogosphere. Look at the renaissance of discussion, analysis, and just plain thinking that is taking place. This is politics at the “grass roots”. This is engagement, this is involvement, this is a revolution!

I was just thinking about this the other day, actually. What has he held, twelve press conferences since 2000? Part of what's so befuddling about this whole political football game that's been raging since we saw the smoking towers on TV and wondered just what the anchorpeople meant when they said this changes everything is that the level of vitriol raised against the Bush administration has gone so stunningly unchecked. How many baseless accusations against him has Bush seen fit to go on TV to refute? Why has he not given any evening addresses to defend his National Guard service? Why hasn't he explained the role of Halliburton in Iraq, giving historical context and industry statistics describing why they have the contracts they do, and just how tenuously their fortunes are connected with Cheney's? Why, for Pete's sake, hasn't he thought it necessary to explain the overall long-term strategy of the War on Terror to the American people? And how much grief and approval points could he have saved himself if only he had? If this were the Clinton era, or even the Reagan era, there'd be an explicit Administration line on every controversy of the day. There'd be no chance for anyone to write up a sign calling the president Hitler, much less convene a 150,000-strong protest in San Francisco, because he'd have taken the stage on day three to dispense a carefully worded rationale for any action that anyone might find objectionable.

That hasn't happened this Presidential term. Like, at all. And this is supposed to be a fascist dictatorship, remember, where we're all told what to think on a daily basis.

So there's next to no defense coming out of the White House for any of the actions that anyone has attacked it for, from not signing Kyoto to being in bed with the Saudis to supposedly cutting veterans' benefits to the entire strategy of the Global War on Terror, including Iraq and future political and/or military steps involved therewith. The Administration has just gone about its business, going through all the proper legislative and procedural channels and all, but leaving the American populace curiously out of the loop. And who's been left to pick up the slack here? Well, who did I just link to several times? Bloggers. Random people on the Internet with a penchant for being thoughtful and long-winded. Average Joes have taken up the task of defending the President's agenda, because he doesn't seem to have any interest in doing so himself. They've been doing the research, spending the money, and putting in the tireless effort to propound rationales and defenses for Bush that the President doesn't seem to want to issue himself—and that are, for all the analysis behind them, mostly guesses. Why is that the new standard for discourse over our nation's committed direction? Is it a good thing or a bad thing? I mean, what the hell kind of President is it who says not a single word in response when a local headquarters of his re-election campaign is sprayed with bullets?

You'd think that with the tone of the anti-Bush slogans rising in a seemingly endless crescendo, unchecked, unchalleged, there would eventually come a time when the charges the Left raises would have to be answered. But Bush isn't doing so, not even in the debates. He's backing off of the tough questions, not going for the easy kill. It's like he doesn't even care about defending his actions. We don't even know why. It could be because he doesn't believe in his own agenda himself. It could be because he sees the criticism to be a completely meaningless distraction. Or it could be because of some ingenious plan to empower individual Americans by inducting them into the political process on a completely populist level, leaving himself completely open to attack because he knows that some people will see the method in what he's doing and take it upon themselves to be his banner-bearers, voluntarily and on their own recognizance, painstakingly building up their own credibility as they go.

This last possibility seems freakishly remote. But there was once a time when we believed our government was easily capable of such intricate and century-long-lasting social engineering projects, wasn't there? Remember the CIA of the 60s? The Pinkertons? NASA? The thick-rimmed-glasses-wearing spooks to whom the guy from A Beautiful Mind reported? That's not completely gone today, is it? We know how dunderheaded the FBI has become... or is that just what they want us to think?

I don't even know what the most likely explanation for this phenomenon is; all I know is that it's extremely strange, and a little bit unnerving. It certainly explains why people like Michael Moore exist and are so popular, and yet have such an amazing lack of an irony gland as to claim their dissenting opinions are being crushed by an overbearing government enforcing a party line. The reality is so unbelievably far in the opposite direction, with near-silence coming from the White House even when it's under the fiercest attack, that it's easy to imagine that something sinister must be going on. What else can explain it?

Occam's Razor would tend to tell me that this silence isn't complete disinterest nor an intricately orchestrated conspiracy; I think it's mostly just extreme discipline and focus on the job at hand, and a refusal to involve the White House in the quagmire of the scurrilous charges raised against it, because to answer them would be to legitimize them. Even that possibility seems a bit far-fetched, though. Certainly it seems as though ignoring the Moores of the world hasn't made them go away, and so the strategy may have backfired.

I hope it's not too late. It's possible for the White House to have restored too much dignity, I suppose.

By the way, Matteo has a couple of other posts—here and here—that discuss the ins and outs of running a GOP voter-registration table in Silicon Valley. Maybe showing restraint in responding to insults is a systemic feature after all...

Monday, October 4, 2004
18:02 - "He's killed people"

Wow. Via Corsair comes this charming little story of crushed dissent. South Brunswick, NJ? I was just there this weekend:

Pillai-Diaz, 33, a volunteer with the Bush campaign and an English teacher, has had a publicity picture of the First Couple hanging in her classroom since the start of the school year, she said.

The photo became an issue last week.

Parents e-mailed an assistant principal accusing Pillai-Diaz of suppressing free speech because the teacher refused to talk to pupils about why the color photo hung in the room.

"Students said, 'You like George Bush? He's killed people,' " Pillai-Diaz said. "As a rule I don't talk about my politics in the classroom."

Which you have to say these days if you're a teacher. If you don't want to lose your job, you'd better be prepared to explain yourself if you put a picture of the President up in your classroom. Or else cower and plead that it's not meant as a political statement.

This is about as close as it gets these days to the old stereotypical gym coach/civics teacher who would make you memorize the preamble to the Constitution or do thirty push-ups. I'm not convinced that this is an improvement.

Meanwhile, Michael Moore gets to post on his website about his gleeful plans for Fahrenheit 9/11 DVDs to be pirated and sent to American soldiers in Iraq so that they'll become demoralized and die and thus come home sooner... and nobody bats an eye. Indeed, they give him gold statues for it. For what in an earlier age might have been called something as gauche as giving aid and comfort to the enemy in time of war.

Pillai-Diaz told the assistant principal to take the picture down himself. Then she sought Principal Jim Warfel, who gave her an upbraiding.

"He said, 'You've caused more disruption, hatred and anger than anyone I've ever known,' " she said.

The teacher said the principal told her to "get out," so she left and headed to the South Brunswick Police Department.

That's hatred for ya. Putting up a picture of the President in your classroom. That's what gets a teacher fired these days.

I wonder what the school would say about posters of Mao or Che?

No, I don't either.

UPDATE: God... this makes it even worse:

The White House-issued photo of the Bushes was pinned to a bulletin board that held portraits of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and a copy of the Constitution.

"I wouldn't touch politics in my classroom with a 10-foot pole, but [the principal] felt I was making a political statement," said Shiba Pillai-Diaz, 33, a seventh- and eighth-grade English teacher at Crossroads South Elementary School in Monmouth Junction.

"It was meant to be a picture of the current president, nothing partisan about it," said Pillai-Diaz, a Republican mother of one who volunteered at the party's convention in Madison Square Garden.

The principal et al. are trying to get her to either take down the photo, or add a photo of John Kerry. They want to shift the point of the photo from the fact that Bush is the sitting President, to the controversy of the coming election.

She's considering this President to be a part of U.S. history, just like every other President. The people asking her to take the photo down, however, seem to be trying to erase him from history. To turn his term into a memory, and to define him only in terms of being the guy running against Kerry. To transform him into something temporary and fleeting, like Prohibition.

To say nothing of that making it into a Bush/Kerry thing would force her to have the in-class debate, which she clearly doesn't want to do. I think she's simply shocked that putting up a picture of the President in a public school classroom these days is something you have to justify, or explain, or discuss... or defend.

Thanks to Kenny B. for the link.

13:33 - "The Navy didn't send Republicans to Vietnam; they sent men."

Dean Esmay managed to get a lengthy phone interview with Van Odell, a gunner's mate from John Kerry's unit and member of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. He asked questions that commenters had suggested, and really drove to the heart of the matter in a lot of key areas.

DW: If President Bush were to publicly call for your group to pull its ads and to stop campaigning against Senator Kerry, would you stop?

VO: No. No. No. We're not part of the Republican party, we're not trying to elect Bush, we're Democrats and independents and Republicans across the board. The Navy didn't send Republicans to Vietnam, they sent men.

All 60 of our group who served with Kerry in Vietnam, and the others who served there and have joined us, we want the American people to hear our story. Personally, I also want this story to be known to historians....

We're not tied to any campaign. We're a group of private citizens who've formed a 527. We're going to tell our truth to the American people up until November 2nd. We don't want his lies recorded as truth in the history books.

This is about as classy as a campaign to attack an individual person can ever be expected to be.

After all, we've all seen what their counterparts on the other side look like...

Saturday, October 2, 2004
01:47 - Go Team Venture!

Behold the glory that is the extent to which Venture Brothers rocks.

This link (which is probably not safe for work, though nobody felt the need to add that caveat in the show) is featured as a plot point in the episode aired tonight. And of course they got the domain and, uh, fleshed it out appropriately.

UPDATE: View the source. Scroll to the bottom.

Thanks to Keith & Fred for catching that. I looked, but I neglected to scroll...

00:49 - This time it was right, it would work, and nobody would have to get nailed to anything


Now that is more like it.

I sure hope it isn't too late for this to get pitched for real.

Friday, October 1, 2004
01:02 - It's even more so by day

A few more random New York thoughts, after another day's worth of experiences...

Driving in the city is an adventure indeed, but it's really not that bad. Parking is even less heinously expensive than I was led to expect. See, movies and TV had shown me that all of New York's streets—the ones in Times Square in particular—were perpetually jammed with unmoving traffic, bumper to bumper and honking ceaselessly, and made up almost entirely of endless streams of taxis, private cars being all but unheard-of on the city streets. Well, now I know that the reality is quite a bit different. At any given moment, Times Square is full of a lot more people than cars. That goes for pretty much the whole part of the city that I've seen thus far: pedestrians rule the roads, which is really the major thing cars have to watch out for. Eight million people is a lot to be out and about on the sidewalks, and they've all come to know the patterns of the traffic signals down to a finely tuned science. They know exactly when a light's about to go yellow, at which time it's okay to start barreling across; and they know that as soon as one person starts the trek, you're safe to do so as well, because most cars will defer by politely hitting the brakes before they run you over, even if they have the green. (The notable exception is if a big-rig truck ends up wedged the wrong way down an alley or something and has to be backed up with the aid of several harried handlers directing foot traffic and telling the truck driver to just floor it and not worry about the idiots crossing behind him. I saw this twice, and it was fascinating enough in the first place just to imagine big-rigs in Manhattan at all. But there they were.) The sidewalks are an unrivalled exercise in high-speed collision avoidance, and one learns very quickly how to move in and out of the flow, where its eddies and currents are, and so on.

I discovered one interesting effect of having an iPod: with headphones in your ears, you give the impression of being a local—why, you're confident enough in your knowledge of the streets that you're listening to music!—which exempts you from a lot of the free tickets to comedy clubs or Falun Gong awareness flyers that people would otherwise try to press into your hands. I wondered if this, perhaps, was what accounted for the fact that I saw some three dozen iPod People walking around today alone; but on every one of these people, representing all walks of life, those telltale white earbuds led to an actual iPod held in the hand or on the belt. I swear, I have never seen so many iPods. I'd thought CapLion had to have been exaggerating when he told me how many New Yorkers had them, but he was dead-on right. Perhaps even more usefully telling is that among those people who had earbuds or headphones leading to music players of any type, the iPods outnumbered all others (chiefly disc-based players) about three to one, or perhaps more. I've never seen anything like that ratio, in any other city. Welcome to New York; here's your iPod.

Now, I might be getting a somewhat distorted picture of the city as a city, by basing my impressions of it on Times Square; but what has struck me hardest of all about it is that while the throngs of people milling through the sidewalks are quick-moving, brusque and businesslike, and while there are plenty of street artists and musicians and people selling framed art from stands on sidewalks, I didn't see a single panhandler—and, indeed, only one homeless person. I constantly felt hurried, but I never once felt nervous for my safety or that of my various possessions. This would be unheard-of in, say, San Francisco on Market Street, the closest parallel I can think of. Similarly, at midnight the sidewalks become lined with piles of garbage bags as the curbside restaurants finish cleaning up from the night of business, open up the trap-door in the sidewalk, and toss out the day's trash; but during the daylight hours, the area around Times Square has got to be one of the cleanest big-city areas I've seen. Especially considering the sheer vast number of people that pass through it on any given afternoon. The fact that the sidewalks and gutters aren't filled to overflowing with eddying soda cups and hot dog napkins turns my every preconception on its head. I'm really very impressed, and whoever can be credited with turning Times Square into this well-balanced a high-revving machine deserves accolades.

The kid who worked the ticket line for The Lion King confided tongue-in-cheekily in me and a Canadian couple behind me that the theater had put him in that job because he's so naturally anti-social; as a native New Yorker, when he says Thank you, and have a nice day to a departing customer, he's really saying I hope I never see you again; have a shitty day! We all chuckled, and I pointed out that we'd have to bear that in mind for all future occasions when service-industry people said that to us. But I never got such a vibe from anyone I encountered; from parking attendants to Jamba Juice employees to waiters, everybody seemed far more laid-back and easygoing than I was expecting. I even got into a little impromptu verbal sparring with a toll-booth operator at the Lincoln Tunnel who ended up laughing uproariously as he counted my change back to me. And I never once heard 'Ey! I'm walkin' heeah! in all my travels.

(And yes, the actual original Broadway production of The Lion King is notably better in just about all regards than either of the two other versions of it I've seen, in Toronto and in San Francisco. The actors put way more elaboration into their performances, and the sets are a good deal more involved—mostly just because since these guys have been doing it the longest, they've got every last move down to its quintessence and know just how to time things. Even when the cast isn't having their most "on" night, it's still as good a show as it gets. ...Next time I do this, I'll make sure to have plenty of advance, so I can get into a showing of Avenue Q.)

We saw Thoth in Central Park, playing his violin under a bridge. I'd seen him a couple of times before, once at a convention in LA and again at a Pride Parade in San Francisco. This was his natural habitat, and he looked at home in it.

Back to the subject of driving: the road system, particularly in the environs leading into the city, is so tangled from so many years of evolution that it's a wonder any of it has any consistency at all. There's a kind of disorienting nature to the circulating exit ramps that wind around the tool plazas, and to all the expressways with their "jug-handle" turn lanes (which turn out to work pretty sensibly, as a matter of fact) and their left-hand exits that make it impossible to simply sit in a lane and turn your brain off the way I'm used to in California. I now realize how spoiled we are out West: signage is austere, consistent, predictable; exit lanes are leisurely, always on the right, always giving you plenty of warning. Here, you've always got to be on your toes, lest the fast-lane on the left suddenly turn into an exit that leaps off a skyway bridge into Weehawken or Rahway or some other such quaintly named town, with nary a "San" or "Santa" or "Los" to be seen. I took Highway 1 back from the city tonight instead of the Turnpike, to avoid the tolls as well as to get a better view of what New Jersey looked like at street level. It's far from the industrial wasteland I'd been led to believe it was; it's quaint and charming, and you'll never fall asleep while careening down those narrow lanes trying to keep your place in line and avoid being peeled off into some exit to a town with a Chaucer-esque name that you had no intention of visiting.

Tomorrow I hit the Upper East Side for lunch at a recommended restaurant, then over to JFK to see what all the fuss over JetBlue is about. And then it's back to the wide open spaces and modestly two-story-at-most business districts of San Jose, which is going to look one hell of a lot different to me now.

The various regions of the country may be growing more similar with time; but there's still plenty of distance to go yet, and the remaining differences are so well-established and cherished by the respective locals that they'll probably be with us a long time yet. Thank goodness.

Thursday, September 30, 2004
02:19 - Back in one piece

Guess what the in-flight movie was on the way up to Newark? The Day After Tomorrow.

After that set of images, laughable even if I weren't seeing them on an eight-inch screen ten feet away, was hardly sufficient to prepare me for what the real, intact, non-snow-drowned Manhattan would look like.

Driving down the West Side Highway along the water's edge from the George Washington Bridge, the overwhelming feeling I had was: frickin' unbelievable. Some cities, and I've been in a lot of big ones, make pretense of being in the same class as New York; but there's just no comparison. We're talking about an island that's wall-to-wall skyscrapers, from river to river. Every block of Manhattan is as tall and as dense as the downtown of any other city. I drove in to the parking garage a couple of blocks from Times Square, and though pictures really don't do it justice, here's one anyway:

Whatever it may have been in the past, Times Square is a theme park today, an unabashed showcase of the advertiser's art—an anti-capitalist's nightmare, the kind of thing to make scruffy bearded college sophomores clutch their faces and melt, shrieking, like the guy in Raiders of the Lost Ark. And as CapLion says, who met me there, the city's just, well, like that: it's constantly changing, always being reinvented and reimagined by each successive wave of visitors and residents. You can leave for a weekend, come back, and find that something has changed. A building has a new façade, or a bar has moved down the street, or the Times Square billboards have all been rearranged, or the Chevy's is now a Virgin Superstore...


It's hard to know what to feel, seeing this for the first time, first-hand. It's in a state now where the impact, especially for someone who hasn't even been here recently enough to really remember what it once looked like, is dulled to the point of guilt by the neatness of the trappings, the shiny fencing devoid of memorials except for a few scattered flowers pinned to the bars, the crisp new PATH train station with an acre of spotless underground halogen-lit concrete parkland, and the inspirational messages of rebuilding and remembering and celebrating diversity and so on plastering the walls. There's a kiosk at the entrance to the station with info on the Freedom Tower, whose foundations are currently being begun in the pit that now looks like nothing so much as a benign construction site. And, well, I've got to agree with Mr. Lion who says that the ideal solution, for him, would have been to build the towers back exactly as they had been... except ten feet higher.

It's not just a psychological thing, either. This isn't San Diego, where they go out of their way to make the skyline out of buildings with significant non-90-degree elements, where buildings like the Freedom Tower and the attendant Libeskind quartz fragments wouldn't look out of place. This is New York. It's a city that, more than any other I've seen, is built of grids: firm, solid, rectilinear patterns that supported each other as they built themselves up over each other's shoulders, culminating in those two huge impenetrable blocks at the south end. Now that I've walked the streets, I know why the WTC looked the way it did: it's because Manhattan itself, the street plan, is built like a skyscraper. Tall, narrow, rectangular; the avenues the sturdy columns, the streets the lissom cross-pieces, Broadway the diagonal brace holding it all steady, and all of it anchored in a tangled root-ball of concrete in the financial district, the Village, SoHo, and everything south of Little Italy where we ate at Lombardi's, the First Pizza Place Ever (seriously, the very first pizzeria to open in the United States, the one against which all others have been subconsciously modeled, the one with the thick-cut slabs of fresh mozzarella instead of shredded cheese—mmm. But anyway...)

The Freedom Tower, in short, doesn't match anything else in Manhattan. There's nothing else around it that's diagonal, triangular, tapered, or (least of all) peters out halfway up to give way to a steel spiderweb that shams its way up to a prescribed height like the false head on an overevolved moth. It just doesn't make sense here. True, it may have been the least bad of the choices the Port Authority had to pick from; but none of the freakish postmodern proposals had the one crucial element a rebuilt WTC so desperately needed: to be more ambitious and audacious and businesslike and quintessentially New York than the original. No matter how many symbolic feet it attains at the height of its pinnacle, the Freedom Tower is going to always represent a sidelong cough and a muttered "Sorry—best we could do."

Ah well. I guess we'll get used to it. But I'm an out-of-towner, so my opinion isn't quite what I'd call "meaningful"—not in the way that one's would be who spent his whole life staring at those towers, knowing friends working high up in them, and then one day to have them erased from existence with only a gaping pit and a surgically-sterile PATH station to remember them by. I have no context by which to imagine that kind of loss, or the attendant need for justice to be done, or the inevitable frustration that the ones who carried it out are forever beyond the reach of our gavels or our fists. Mine's a loss in principle, a loss of an actor in the pop culture miasma that defines my consciousness, a loss that manifests itself in a need to reaffirm certain sureties about what this country stands for and how to fight for it. But it's all pretty empty compared to what someone would have gone through who now has to imagine those brick-paved streets buried under a foot of lung-shredding dust, every time he walks through them on the way from one mundane daily chore to the next.

But, well, I'm glad I at least got to see it for myself... I don't imagine I'll see it again while it still looks the way it does today. If New York is a microcosm of America at all—and it really is, I've got to say, as the first thing I thought when I exited the George Washington Bridge and got on the West Side Highway and saw the billboards and the names on the streets was no matter what Spalding Gray says, Manhattan is not just some island off the COAST of America; it IS America, all its commerce and energy and history all rolled into one sharp-edged gridwork that could serve as the seed for a whole new America if transplanted to another planet—then Lower Manhattan will be changed before we know it to another painting of glass and steel against the sky, and we'll have to consciously make time to reflect and remember, just as the signs exhort—because we have no time to pause or look back. There's work to do.

I've got more to see, tomorrow and part of Saturday. I haven't wrecked or lost the car yet, so I guess I'm ready for another go...

16:38 - But it's unfair to call him a flip-flopper

Hey, maybe tonight he'll suddenly, miraculously solidify his positions on everything from Iraq to Iraq and back again. But wouldn't that just be a shame for all the people with whom John Kerry currently agrees?

Via Dean Esmay.

15:02 - The Contrabulous Fabtraption of Professor Horatio Hufnagel (pictured, left)

Mark sent me this picture:

...Which is really a hoot. But then he sent me a self-correction in the form of this page, which contains the photos from which the above picture was hoaxed.

You know, I've just got to say... if the Rather memos had been created by someone with even a fraction of the technical skill and sense of wit as the creator of this picture shows, we'd probably still not suspect any hijinks.

Doesn't that just go to show something or other about the spectacular ineptness of the actual forgers? It's mind-boggling, when you think about it.

Good think Fark.com isn't a 527 group. A potential risk to the nature of truth and fraud in the digital age, anyone? How lucky are we that the big examples of it thus far have been so foolish?

UPDATE: What on earth is wrong with these people? Guys, look, you don't have to keep trying to prove what bumbling muttonheads you are. We already know.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004
23:03 - Joyzie

I'm posting from my hotel in New Jersey, where I'm staying as part of a work-sponsored visit to a customer site. I'm supposedly the "expert" on the software we hope they'll buy a lot of. I'm sure I can fake it. (Or at least I know where my lifelines are, if I need to call someone.)

This is my first trip to New York in over ten years; the last time, I wasn't old enough to really take it in properly. I've got a fellow-blogger friend to drop in on, though, so this promises to be as much an unexpected vacation as it is a business trip. I'll be sure to take in as much as I can. Broadway, the Met, Ground Zero... whatever's within walking and subway distance. (I've been lectured as to the folly of driving in the city.) I may also need to get a new CompactFlash card for my camera. They start at a gigabyte now? Ye gods.

But thanks to the magic of Wayport, I'll at least be tapped into the online IV. So if the world goes to hell, I'll not only be in the place where it's likeliest to happen, I'll be able to find out about it from the usual far-flung vantage points...

Tuesday, September 28, 2004
21:49 - Nearly as trusted as The Daily Show

You know, after Rathergate, I'm never going to be able to watch this scene without breaking up in giggles:

Well, this reporter was...possibly a little hasty earlier and would like
to...reaffirm his allegiance to this country and its human president.
May not be perfect, but it's still the best government we have. For
[notices "HAIL ANTS" sign taped up, tears it down]
Oh, yes, by the way, the spacecraft still in extreme danger, may not
make it back, attempting risky reentry, bla bla bla bla bla bla. We'll
see you after the movie.
-- Kent Brockman, backpedaling furiously,
"Deep Space Homer"

And yet those underground sugar mines still need slaves, Dan...

Monday, September 27, 2004
17:30 - What would you do for the Flying Car?

Egad. Sounds like some people are really getting aggressive about this.

''You can say our goal is to make the second car in every driveway a personal air vehicle,'' says Andrew Hahn, an analyst at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. Hahn's engineers are already committed to a 15-year time line for three successive generations of flying cars. The first will resemble a compact Cessna with folding wings that converts to road use; it should be available as a graduation gift when this year's freshman class leaves high school. The second, with a rollout planned for 2015, is a two-person pod with small wings and a rear-mounted propeller. The third will rise straight up like a mini-Harrier jet and should be on the market by the time your newborn has a learner's permit. The first of the three vehicles shouldn't cost more than a Mercedes.

An affordable flying car within five years is a dizzyingly fast evolution -- for everyone except Yoeli and other do-it-yourself auto pilots. They've been preparing for this future for decades, and unlike NASA, they can't afford to wait much longer.

There are some interesting packaging and marketing problems associated with bridging between cars and planes, as the article goes on to explain. Pilots who have inculcated themselves with the mentality that couches itself in fail-safes and redundancy and ever lower-tech and higher-reliability backup systems will recoil in horror at the idea of flying "smart cars" with GPS-guided automated landing scripts and collision detection systems, but a $1000 accreditation is hard to turn away from.

Does this mean we'll see flying cars within our lifetimes after all? To a Jetsons kid, they're way overdue; but to the cynical and desensitized post-space-race generation, this stuff seems as remote and fanciful as shrink rays and eye lasers and movies that aren't mere parodies of older, more sincere works of art.

13:31 - Don't speak up, or you'll crush his dissent

This morning on KFOX, Greg Kihn talked about his recent curmudgeonly streak, growling about how much everything (by which I have to assume he must at least in part refer to John Kerry) sucks, which is turning off listeners. I guess this all must happen in the hours before I wake up, because after 9:00, he's always sunny to a fault, and introspective and apologetic and constantly talking about how he's trying to be positive about things, in response to reproachful e-mails and calls from listeners.

So then this guy calls in—"Brad", evidently someone Greg knows and has a history of irreverent, heckling calls—who says with great cheer and jocularity, "Well, there's already so much bad stuff going on in the world... this whole election season is so full of lies! I mean, you're sounding like a guy who served in Vietnam, and now is having his patriotism questioned! HAW HAW HAW HAW!"

Greg didn't respond at all to the bait; he just kept talking about how great it was to have a radio show, to be out of the hospital—he mentioned that he and Brad were now diverticulitis pals, both having had it. And in what has got to be the winner of the non-sequitur-of-the-year award, Brad goes, "Hey, careful—George Bush might have you arrested for saying things like that! HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW!"

Still no response from Greg; he rapidly changed the subject. And I just had to wonder: where is this curmudgeon he keeps talking about? No response to these dull-witted barbs, just easygoing self-effacement and rueful chuckles. I mean, if I were behind the microphone, I'd be asking exactly what lies were being told about Kerry and his Vietnam service—though the mainstream media seems convinced that the Swift Vets' claims have all been "debunked", the blogosphere is now issuing challenges to try to get them to explain just what the Swifties are "lying" about. Not that it's likely to get any traction; for most, including this Brad guy, it's enough to hear someone on the evening news dismiss them as just the "right-wing" equivalent of the Dan Rather memos. Hey, I mean, that makes it balanced, right? They're both lying! Let's not entertain the notion that one side is lying and the other one isn't, m'kay? That would be so curmudgeonly.

I guess that's why I don't have a radio show. Well, that and the fact that listening to me talk is about as much fun as watching Manos: Hands of Fate without Mike and the 'bots.

Sunday, September 26, 2004
01:05 - Sky Captain

In a couple of words: thoroughly cool. In fact, I can hardly think of any complaints.

True, the movie is rife with little technological implausibilities (for example, sorry, you can't just converse at a normal level inside the cockpit of a fighter plane—and much of the technology, such as the floating airships, would require a power source not of this earth in scale); but the whole movie is one big technological implausibility, so I'm not going to fault them for that. It's one of those movies that takes place in a universe that's juuuust a bit parallel to our own—where happenstances like giant robots and apocalyptic plots by mad scientists are just sort of taken in stride, where city traffic still hurries people to and from work even as airplanes swoop through the streets at breakneck speed blasting away at each other from ten feet above your head. It's much, much larger than life, and as such it's pulp... and, hell, it's good pulp.

The movie is very deliberately vague as to the year it actually takes place; careful examinations of newspapers (yes, they come spinning out toward the camera over a backdrop of a churning printing press) reveal that it's a very kooky 1939. Everything from the New York skyscrapers to the Radio City Music Hall seem larger than they should, somehow. Even the cars are in shapes that never quite existed. It's not obvious what's different in this universe from the 1939 of our own. The year is never made any clearer in the dialogue, nor is there much else to indicate the geopolitics of this strange version of history; Hitler isn't mentioned, for example. It's a setting that's detailed enough in technical and historical matters to be fascinating, but vague enough that they don't have to worry about tedious explications of just how all this stuff works. It's the only way a pulp piece like this could work, and it's pulled off very well.

Even so, the movie plays quite loosely with anachronisms. I'll forgive things like holographic radar screens and levitating guard robots as part of the fun of the thing; but other stuff, such as the repeated references to "World War I" and "The first World War" are harder to excuse, as is the fact that Sky Captain flies a P-40 Warhawk, which first entered service in 1940. I can't help but think that these must be oversights. It's not like the movie is without errors; in one scene toward the beginning, when Sky Captain is striding into the humungous hangar on his base as the hundred-foot-high doors slide open, you see that up above the doors have those huge banks of dusty-opaque windows in grids like you saw in old factories, some of them punched out and shattered so as to give a very realistic, lived-in look. But, startlingly, I noticed that every one of these banks of windows had exactly the same pattern of broken and missing windows; it was repeated over and over, block after block of identically broken-out windows. They even appeared in that same formation elsewhere in the hangar. It's like they only bothered to make one bitmap of "factory windows" for every possible use; considering that the only things that weren't computer-generated were the actors (every single scene was shot in front of a blue screen), and considering how lavish and realistic every shot was, this erratum is particularly shocking, in a "gee that's silly" sort of way. An error that could only have come from careless computerized world-building, in a shot that's otherwise 100% convincingly real, tweaks the brain a bit, like the black cat/deja-vu effect in The Matrix. I'm sure there are other, similar flubs that I missed this time around, too.

But those are small things, and they don't detract at all from the story, which is told in excellently punchy fashion (I was sort of at a loss to think what role in the evil plan the kidnapped scientists played, but that's about the only thing I had trouble with). It isn't a funny movie, but there are four of five moments of such genuine humor—and administered with such zest and timing—that they deliver far more than their fair value in punctuating the narrative. (Polly's eye-roll at "Are you still glad you came?" was priceless. And the movie's very last line of dialogue can hardly be beat.) It seems to me that as an experiment in moviemaking technique, Sky Captain does much more successfully what Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within tried to do; where that movie fell down (the characters, being CG, still just didn't ring true enough to be believable), this one shines, because the actors are real and everything else is rendered (using Pixar's RenderMan, it should be noted). I fully expect to see more movies using this technique in the near future; it might just open up a region of storytelling that was inaccessible in the past. The current miserable state of Hollywood is to do remakes of old movies, even good ones, because there just aren't any new ideas that fit into the traditional medium. CG makes the execs look at 2D properties like Garfield and Scooby-Doo with the voracious eyes of those who see a new unmined field of ready-made ideas that haven't been done before because it was too expensive to animate them in 2D. But this is the first time I've seen CG actually successfully break open a whole genre of filmmaking. It's everything that was so wonderful about the Fleischer Superman cartoons, sharing with them a lot of DNA, as well as tapping into that steam-punk League of Nations vibe that seems so tantalizing even today. Perhaps it's just serendipity that the movie that does it is itself a remake of a particular film genre; but it's a really good one, regardless, and superbly worth one's time.

(Oh yes... wouldn't the radiation in that cave have ruined all of Polly's film anyway? Not that it really matters from a plot standpoint, I guess, but I kept expecting them to make a big deal of that little detail...)

(Oh, and that Michaelangelo-esque statue in Totenkopf's office, of the guy pulling out the other guy's brain, was a work of inspired genius.)

18:28 - Run with the dogs tonight

To the lady standing with her young son on the corner of the road leading up to New Almaden, holding an armload of large flags and a big sign saying HONK TO SUPPORT OUR TROOPS, all I could do was yell, "I'd honk if I had a horn!"

A smile and a chuckle exchanged with a stranger. You get that walking a dog, too. And it makes it hard to listen to Pet Shop Boys songs sniveling about "suburban hell" on one's iPod headphones, when suburban life is so very fulfilling on days like this.

(Of course, it should go without saying that five miles down the road, at the Almaden Art and Wine Festival in the park, the people on the streetcorner were waving signs of an entirely different nature.)

I think I'll go take in Sky Captain tonight. I haven't been to a movie in a long time, and this seems like as good an excuse as any.

Thursday, September 23, 2004
17:16 - Fill in the blank

This is bound to come in handy someday. Sure seems like it would save a lot of time and effort in a lot of discussions.

UPDATE: Brian sends this noteworthy addition.

Oh, and for no particular reason, here's this one again. Quite possibly my favorite single page on the entire Internet.

17:05 - And capital wealth is thereby created, somehow

Okay, now this is novel, I gotta admit. Give me money or I'll eat this cute bunny-rabbit!

It doesn't look good for poor Bernd...

14:12 - Either that, or the SETI@home of journalism

JMH sends this rather well-done piece on blogging from a journalist's perspective, using a metaphor that a lot of us will probably appreciate.

Weblogs aren't nearly so malevolent, and most bloggers get the warm fuzzies when they think about online content. But allow me to share the flip side of the story: if you're a journalist trying to break news, Blogs are the new Borg.

Blogs relentlessly track down every scrap of news, assimilating it into the Blog Collective hive-mind with stunning efficiency. It doesn't stop there: individual blogs each add a small insight to the story, drawing on their personal experience and contributing to the conversation. Then the conversation takes over, exploring every possible implication and insight with a ferocity that astounds.

When all is said and done, what is the role of journalists in breaking news? Are journalists relics of a golden era, now useful only as a conduit to pass along the whispers of the hive-mind to the unplugged masses? Or have we been reduced to Stamps of Approval, as we validate blog-based trends with the imprimatur of the New York Times or the Washington Post?

. . .

To use a crude metaphor, if you think about covering a story as putting together puzzle pieces, then the Blog Collective tends to shine when it's finding new puzzle pieces, and putting together simpler puzzles.

Journalists, on the other hand, tend to do their best work with really tough puzzles, or in finding puzzle pieces that demand primary research: phone calls, interviews, and the like.

Sounds a lot like distributed multiprocessing to me, a computational method for which some problems are better suited than others. And I guess that can be the source of another thought experiment: does the Borg itself function as the logical conclusion of the distributed multiprocessing concept, with all the strengths and weaknesses associated with it?

With that in mind, the synergistic relationship that Hiler describes here sounds like a very likely projection of what the journalistic landscape will look like in the not-so-distant future.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004
17:07 - A discriminating customer

J Greely has a post in defense of discrimination. Seriously.

There's "progress" afoot, and it ain't always good.

15:30 - It's not vandalism if the good guys do it

Hey, New York? Howsabout showing some of that old-fashioned spirit and busting some heads?

Unless, of course, this is the kind of publicity you want to have.

Via Paul Denton.

11:34 - You'll be letting out your own right names if you're not careful

I got an e-mail from someone claiming that the following quote from Dick Cheney was equivalent to Microsoft-esque FUD:

"The danger here is without a very firm commitment on the part of the president of the United States to put in place a vision to make a decision and live with that decision ... what you get out there on the other end is confusion, weakness, uncertainty and indecision," the vice president told about 200 people at a town hall meeting.

Because, you know, calling a position that flip-flops 180 degrees every two weeks "confusion, weakness, uncertainty and indecision" is such a slanderous misrepresentation.

If Microsoft were this honest and straightforward about Linux, there'd be sports stadiums named after Red Hat by now.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, there's real Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt being peddled about Iraq.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004
18:12 - What do they make telephone wires out of in Texas?

File this one under "Far too implausible to be fiction":

Upon arrival, the engine company found a vehicle still running, hanging on the telephone wires by its right front tire.

Witnesses reported that the car had been traveling westbound on Alief-Clodine when the driver lost control of the vehicle, crossed the median, and made contact with the guide wire from the ground to the telephone pole, propelling the vehicle upward onto the wires.

Witnesses also reported that the driver jumped down from the vehicle and ran to catch a bus prior to the arrival of Engine 2 and the Harris County Sheriff's Department.

The vehicle ran for over an hour until the oil had completely drained from the motor and it seized.

That'll be something to tell the grandkids about...

15:35 - Okay, now I feel silly

I keep hearing about "pilates". Exercise videos, classes, memberships—they all talk about "pilates" now. And all this time, I'd had no idea what the word referred to. I'd assumed it was a new muscle group that the health-fad manufacturers had identified, somewhere in your lower back region (or so I imagined), that if you exercised them they would make your whole body better, or that it was imperative to give a thorough workout every day.

I was picturing people doing these sets of weird sideways crunches all evening in the aerobics rooms of gyms, working those pilates; after a few weeks, they'd have developed these huge pilates, sticking out of the sides of their lower backs, and they'd have to buy whole new sets of clothes to fit over the huge slabs of pilate muscles they'd built up.

It was only today that I discovered that that's not what Pilates is at all.

Hey, c'mon—it wasn't that stupid a misunderstanding! ...Was it?

13:23 - Once in a lifetime

Politics is by its nature a very subjective game. A lot of the time, it seems, you can use the same set of facts to "prove" completely opposing points of view. Touchy-feely, human interest anecdotes—whether the sob story of some oppressed worker, or a soul-stirring tale of capitalism and entrepreneurship making a dream come true—carry a lot of weight with people and do more, perhaps, to sway a person to one side of the aisle or the other than a table of statistics ever could. It's a rare occasion indeed when one side turns out to be 100%, unequivocally right about something.

Which is why the CBS/Memogate scandal is such a "big deal". No matter what one might think of the bloggers who ran it to ground and relentlessly pushed it until CBS could no longer breathe, they turned out to be right, and nobody can take that away from them by calling them "partisan hacks" or muttering darkly about imagined political ties. They were right, and they proved themselves to be both more technically competent and more scrupulous than one of our largest and most trusted journalistic banner-bearers, and cast doubt by extension upon the honor of the entire mainstream media. By whatever objective scoring system you use, these guys—Powerline, LGF, INDC Journal, and others—ought to revel in the well-earned spotlight that's now turned on them (though, hey, by the look of that one dude's desk, it might be more of a desk lamp...).

And this is why it's so pathetic to see some people still trying to complain that the bloggers who unmasked CBS for what it is—little more than a bought-and-paid-for partisan propaganda machine—are somehow lessened by being politically motivated. As though there's something political about the truth! This is, again, one of those rarest of things: an event in political history where there's an incontrovertible truth, and a set of people who recognize it as such and another set who were lying. There's no "interpretation" here, no question of "credibility" or "uncertainty". Those damn memos were forged, and you either saw them as such or you tried to contribute to the lie. There's really no middle ground. And it doesn't matter in the slightest what the political motivations were of the people who staked out their claim on that piece of coveted land called Truthsville; they could have been neo-Nazis, or they could have been Communists, or they could have been invading space mutants—it doesn't matter, they were right, and those who opposed them were wrong. You can't throw out a proof because you don't like the look of the guy proving it. And if the bloggers who did the leg-work here all happen to share a political goal (it should be noted that not all of them even identify as Republicans), well, so what? Rather than stamping your foot and wailing like a kid who doesn't understand why his mother won't buy him candy, maybe it would be worthwhile to think about what else these guys might possibly be right about.

I've been waiting for a volta in this turbulent discourse for some time now: the turning point, the event at which the media realizes that its own bias might make a bigger, more saleable story than stumping for John Kerry. So far nothing's been sufficient. But Memogate might just be it. The Washington Post has turned on CBS and produced nice flashy glossy timelines comparing the fake memos to real ones from the same time period. Time has the above-linked blog-pumping cover story, and Newsweek might follow suit. The pressure to cover this story of internal pathology within the mainstream media has been growing, though to do so would be to turn away from the Kerry cheerleading that's at the center of the debate, and so it's not happened yet; but now this story is so big, so hard to keep out of public discourse, that to ignore it is to abdicate any pretense of "keeping the public informed". This might, in other words, be that volta we've been waiting for.

It seems that Kerry is trying desperately to shift the discussion to Iraq, and much good may it do him—but with Memogate now as deep into the public consciousness as it is, and with it having reached the critical mass necessary to sustain a journalistic chain reaction that keeps it alive in the headlines for more than a couple of days, Kerry's entire campaign is now poisoned. Who can say they trust him now? Who can say they trust his campaign? How can Kerry advertise in such a way that paints him as a trustworthy good guy and makes it stick? I think it's really too late for him in this election; he's as good as gone, by all the electoral polls, and his party really ought to concentrate now on figuring out how to rebuild itself into a body with some credibility and some reasoning power, rather than ad-hominem attacks, petulant whining, and hypocritical screeching about an imagined "evil" that the rest of the country now sees only in that party's own tactics.

UPDATE: Yes, I know "truth" and "fact" are not the same thing... or so some smart bearded people in universities say. That's sort of my point.

Anyway, Matt H. e-mails the following thoughts:

The lefties and the Dems seem to treat opinions as facts and facts as
opinions. I've noticed that the MSM, if it wants to "report" on inconvenient
truths, simply encapsulates them in quotes from Republicans. "Republicans
say the memos are forgeries." "Republicans say the sky is blue."
"Republicans say the sun will rise in the east tomorrow." The idiots
comprising the 15% that Jonathan Alter talked about will read this as "The
documents are not forgeries." "The sky is not blue." "The sun will rise in
the West tomorrow."

And the opinions that are facts : "Bush did not fulfill his National Guard
duty." "Halliburton has done something nefarious and Cheney has benefited."
"Iraq is a quagmire." "Less than 1000 combat deaths is a military

Due to the way the MSM's and the Dems are acting, truth is
_starting_ to become political. It's becoming necessary to vote against
these guys, because of their lack of respect for truth! It's getting so
absurd that who else _except_ Republicans would be worried about the truth?

What's that word again? Oh yeah: indeed.

UPDATE: Geez, there are examples of this all over.

Monday, September 20, 2004
20:38 - Let's not go there

Kevin has quite the pithy comment about European domestic politics. Sounds about right to me, from what little I hear.

I guess it stands to reason that this is what "the world after history" would look like. Funny—to me, it doesn't sound much worth living in.

15:29 - Throwing Strikes

You've got to see this video that Mike found. See it, and wonder how deeply buried the sentiments expressed in it really are anymore.

And then see what he's dug up as a rejoinder to it.

Oh, man.

Sunday, September 19, 2004
15:49 - Denial of the conspiracy is the surest sign that it exists

Huh boy... I really don't know whether I should laugh or cry. As long as I can be sure that this really is the form the Left's death throes will take this election season, and that they won't be rewarded for this kind of insanity with a victory at the polls.

See, what's apparently happening is that now that all the big media outlets (except for CBS) have acknowledged that the Killian memos are fakes, they're shifting to a hysterical wave of finger-pointing, to try to figure out where they came from—and of course it couldn't have been one of their own, pure as the driven snow that they are. The prime suspects, of course, are Bush and Karl Rove, in an ingenious insidious ploy that has used the blogosphere and the mainstream media both as musical instruments in the hands of some Satanic virtuoso.

How does one come to believe that this is how "the other side" works? How does one come to believe in the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy? How does a magazine like Time descend so far into madness to headline an upcoming exposé, "Bush Campaign Keeping Close Eye on Blogs, Using Them To Mainline Information to the G.O.P. Faithful" (via LGF)? I mean, I know I have never been contacted by dark-suited operatives offering to feed me information manufactured or illegally purloined so as to thwart the Kerry campaign. I can't imagine Powerline or LGF or InstaPundit being similarly "mainlined", mostly because these guys write the way they think: carefully. Maybe I'm just isolated in some odd islet of unconventional thought with the rest of these guys, but I've always been under the impression that the widely-read right-wing bloggers are such because of their own reasoning, not because of what they're being told to believe by GOP operatives.

After all, LGF points out that the likes of Matthew Yglesias see nothing wrong with explicitly mentioning the names of people in the Daschle office and Kerry campaign who are "mainlining" the Left side of the blogosphere with powdered dirt. So apparently it's just assumed that there's a similar force directing the right-wing blogs like marionettes, but it's just too shadowy and sinister for us to give it its name. We couldn't, of course, have been clever enough on our own to, say, recognize the Killian memos as fakes without a "highly technical" dossier on them being fed into the Freepersphere by a top-hatted undercover agent by the name of "Buckhead". Without that analysis we'd never have seen those stupid Word printouts for what they were.

I could choose to be insulted that the other side would think us so gullible and dependent upon outside help; or I could choose to be disappointed that they think the things we believe are so untenable that we have to have superiors feeding us intravenously with distilled "talking points" to regurgitate; or I could choose to be saddened that they apparently do have to have such top-down direction, without which their narrative rapidly shakes itself to pieces, between calling a scandal "no big deal" and then jumping up and down about the conspiracy that must be in charge of such a devastating blow to their credibility.

What is there to do but sit and slowly shake one's head back and forth?

Saturday, September 18, 2004
01:59 - Arrrr

The day be upon us, says I.

00:57 - A little down-home cookin'

Captain Ed has a real masterpiece of a post up. It seriously must be read to be believed.

I wouldn't sully its perfection by presuming to excerpt it.

23:03 - The trap is sprung


"There are a lot of questions about the documents and they need to be answered," Bush told the Union Leader newspaper of Manchester, New Hampshire, after a week in which some experts questioned whether the documents had been fabricated by those seeking to damage Bush in his re-election race.

"I think what needs to happen is people need to take a look at the documents, how they were created, and let the truth come out," Bush added.

You don't suppose George W. Bush is more familiar with the output of Microsoft Word than Dan Rather is, do you?

19:40 - Celsius 41.11

I doubt this will hit screens like F9/11 did; but check it out online, at the very least. Celsius 41.11, a refutationof Moore's movie—one of many in the works, it seems—has a trailer that's pretty dang powerful. Go and see.

Check out the protester woman explaining why she likes Saddam Hussein:

When you talk about a "dictator", well, there's pros and there's cons.
If a dictator provides free health care, then I like that dictator!
If a dictator provides university and education for everyone, then I like that dictator!

Ah, the old free-health-care-and-literacy argument in favor of socialist dictators everywhere. People love 'em because the socialist part is so attractive that it makes them forget all about the dictator part. The promise of free admittance into hospitals and universities excuses all else.

Isn't it amazing how cheaply some people are willing to sell their humanity?

UPDATE: Paul Denton has comments.

12:24 - That eye no longer seems like a reassuring symbol


Friday, September 17, 2004
11:32 - Okay, that's just weird

Going through my spam this morning, I saw one message that talked about "married women looking for discrete encounters". I chuckled inwardly—all right! Multiple times!

And not three seconds later, Greg Kihn, in one of his sponsorship ads, said, "If you're a discernible customer, you're gonna want to go to Stevens Creek Toyota..."

Boy, not many continuum fans this morning, huh?

Thursday, September 16, 2004
22:29 - Saves us all a lot of effort

This just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy somehow: a local political ad, currently airing on many different cable channels, for State Assembly candidate Ira Ruskin.

What makes it so cool is that it's just so forthright. It doesn't pull any punches; it doesn't make any empty promises. It ends with the tagline: We know where he stands. And indeed we do.

Which means the ad has the interesting property that for people who oppose the things Ruskin says he stands for, the ad is as powerful a case for voting against him as it is for people who agree with him to vote for him. If Ruskin's opponent wanted to run an ad telling his base why not to vote for Ruskin, he may as well just pay to have Ruskin's own ad aired more frequently.

It really is a marvel of honesty, and for that—if for nothing else—I must tip my hat to Mr. Ruskin.

13:31 - Now that took guts

Looks like Kevin Drum, one of the Left's most widely-read bloggers, has come out in favor of retreating from the Memo War:

I think it's time for everyone to give up on this. The memos are almost certainly fakes, they're sucking up media bandwidth that could be better used elsewhere, and Dan Rather is toast. Besides, there was really nothing in them that told us anything new.

Time to move on.

Go to Tim Blair's site to see a collection of the reactions from his readers that he must have known he'd receive. It's really quite breathtaking. As EvilPundit says in Blair's comments, "The poor bastard is trying to plug the holes in a sinking ship, and the other crew members are beating him with baseball bats."

It really took some balls to go ahead and say it, in light of these comments... and it really illustrates what peril one must be in, as a big-time Lefty writer, to know what kind of readers you have and what they expect from you.

Drum ought to be applauded for his clear vision, and more so for his courage. I wouldn't want to be in his shoes right about now.

UPDATE: Joshua Marshall of Talking Points Memo was similarly applauded for his intellectual honesty by a long-time fan. Phew, boy. These guys are really tolerant of dissenting points of view, aren't they? Right up until you express one. (Via John N.)

UPDATE: USA Today has a roundup of reactions from both sides of the blogosphere. Looks like a consensus to me, if there's a divergence in how happy it makes people. (Via Jonathan H.)

Wednesday, September 15, 2004
13:09 - Well, at least they're being honest now

One interesting side effect of the CBS/memo-forgery thing is that now that everyone is spinning madly over it, with every news organization but CBS holding interviews with bloggers demonstrating the memos' falsity, and CBS itself continuing to insist upon their authenticity and calling their opponents "partisan hacks" and such, is that it's seemingly made a lot of people lower their guard. There's no longer any pretense being made about media bias, or the purported lack thereof: it's all a given now, now that what we're discussing is so much more focused on a single event and person.

This past weekend, for example, we had the release of the Democrats' "Fortunate Son" video, which is founded upon the forged documents and features Dan Rather (as though anyone could possibly imagine that a coincidence). Under normal circumstances, wouldn't a news organ trying to dispel accusations of bias refuse to put its most prominent anchorperson in such proximity with a political party and its advertising? Wouldn't it shy away from anything that even looks like an endorsement? But that seems not to even matter anymore—everybody knows Dan Rather is staunchly opinionated toward one side now, and the only question in the air is whether he has any actual journalistic integrity left at all. It's really quite a stunning development, I think.

In other words, the edifice of the "impartial media" really has fallen, very suddenly. The mask has dropped. And of course there'll be no putting it back on.

So now that these bodies of authority over the information we consume are no longer hiding the fact that they're hiding things from us, we get stuff like this stunning admission—nay, taunt—by members of the Borders Bookstore employees' union, instructing employees to do everything in their power to prevent customers from buying the anti-Kerry book Unfit for Command.

You guys don’t actually HAVE to sell the thing!

Just “carelessly” hide the boxes, “accidentally” drop them off pallets, “forget” to stock the ones you have, and then suggest a nice Al Franken or Micheal Moore book as a substitute. Borders wants those recommends, remember?

I don’t care if these Neandertals in fancy suits get mad at me, they aren’t regular customers anyway. Other than “Left Behind” books, they don’t read. Anything you can do to make them feel unwelcome is only fair. They are the people pushing retailers to cut costs, don’t forget. And they would censor your speech, your books, your music in a heartbeat, so give them a taste of it!

Don’t get mad, get even!

We've been increasingly suspecting that the bookstores might be doing something like this, but it seemed far too far-fetched to be more than a conspiracy theory; after all, the first commenter at Kevin's site said (several weeks ago), "I'm a little surprised by this, that a huge conglomo-mega-corp would do this. I'm sure it had more to do with whoever stocked that table than corporate guidelines if I had to guess."

Well, I guess sometimes one can't overestimate how weird reality can be.

Don't you just love it, though? "And they would censor your speech, your books, your music in a heartbeat, so give them a taste of it!" Where have we heard this kind of language before? They'll kill you as soon as look at you! Don't feel bad, they're not even human! They don't feel pain!

Just remember, this isn't censorship, because it's by the good guys. For a good cause. With good intentions.

I swear, the more hysterical these people get about how evil their opponents are, the more people they're going to end up driving away from their side of the aisle for good. Not everyone is so willfully blind as to forever ignore the discrepancies between what they see and what they're told.

UPDATE: Kevin found an official statement from the Borders Union website that's just a scream to read. Unintentionally so, I think... but it's so hard to tell.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004
17:50 - Dueling Truths

Go check out this LGF thread, where members give play-by-play commentary not only on Dan Rather's continued nutcase stonewalling on the document-forgery case, but of Brit Hume on Fox interviewing Scott Johnson (of Powerline fame), mentioning Charles Johnson and LGF numerous times, and showing the recreation-overlays.

One TV audience is being fed a line of what another TV audience is now learning first-hand is bullcrap.

I don't ever want to hear anyone tell me that Fox is "too biased to be useful" again. Ever.

16:49 - Hurricane warriors defend humanity

Here's the latest creative outpouring from the Ar-Rahman list:

I could write you a poem
With my aching tears.
Aching tears don't repair scars.
I must place my blood on my palm
Regardless of my old age.

Young Iraqi boys fight like lions,
Iraq’s neighbors watch soccer.
Iraq’s puppets
Fire American weapons;
They kill Iraqis
In vengeance for dead U.S. soldiers.

Iraq! I've built cuts and bruises
Around my heart to feel your pain
Until you're free.
I wish I could be there with you.
My back can still take a bomb or two.
I'd rather bleed to death
And not see you bleed.

My last hope is I die for you…
Burry me in Baghdad,
In Fallujah,
In Najaf,
In Sammarra,
In Ramadi;
Burry me
Inside every grain of your soil.

Iraq, you fell to your feet before.
Each time you pursed out from your wounds
Before your enemies dug their heels.
They all fled like wild creeps.

George deceived you:
He entered your home
From the back door.
He paraded your prisoners
Like sick dogs;
He raped your daughters and mothers;
He disintegrated your pride;
He dismantled your joints;
He severed your heart from your soul;
He bombed your mosques and libraries;
He robbed your galleries and museums;
He stained your earth;
He polluted your air;
He poisoned your water;
He spoiled your food;

Every drop of blood George spilled
Will clot his brain
And sicken his heart.
His nights shall become dreams
Of Hell Fire.
His subhuman followers
Shall be reduced to talking pigs.

George commits war crimes,
Victims return on flights of hurricanes and storms;
In seconds they sweep
What B52 carpet-bomb in days.

Hurricanes, Charlie and Frances invaded Florida.
Iraq is holding on its last breath.
Najaf, Fallujah, Sammara and Baghdad
Cannot dig enough graves
Under hails of U.S. bombs.
Is God giving us a sign?
Could this be just a mild warning
For the worse is yet to come?
Hurricanes, Charlie and Frances
Ruined millions of homes;
Nearly 6-million homeless
Join their Iraqi peers.
George W. Bush claimed God is on his side.
Believe George or God,
The choice is yours.

Islam weeps when humanity bleeds.
Hurricanes and U.S. Zionists
Are enemies at war:
Hurricane warriors defend humanity;
Zionist killers kill Arabs and Muslims.

America and Israel reduced Palestine
To concentration camps.
Hitler giggles in his grave,
His grandchildren carry his name.
Today they murder Afghanis and Iraqis;
Tomorrow they will bomb Iran and Syria.
Israelis, Palestinians, Afghanis and Iraqis
Prepare more cemeteries;
United States ships coffins free of charge

Saddam? Who?

04:01 - Life on the urban frontier

I just witnessed the freakiest thing I think I've ever seen in the hallowed halls of suburbia.

About fifteen minutes ago, sitting in my comfy upstairs chair watching Lupin the Third, I heard outside my window a sudden flurry of caterwauling and rustling leaves. It sounded like a typical cat fight, coming from the hedges and brush at the far side of the house on our right at the end of the cul-de-sac; and I was about to dismiss it as such... except that the yowling and the tumbling in the dry leaves lasted for nearly half a minute, sounding particularly strained and earnest. When it died out, it did so quickly, as though a bag had suddenly been thrown over the participants. And, as I realized a few moments later, there had only been one cat's voice in the fracas.

An unsettling thought therefore ran through my mind on spindly legs, but I hustled it out and went back to the TV-watching. Cat fights can be weird, I thought.

Then, a moment later, Capri came into my room, making those little whimpery noises he makes when he wants a walk—or, more generically, when he'd like to go outside please. So I pulled on some shoes and went downstairs with him, put on his collar, and we headed out the front door.

Capri tugged forward immediately, and I could immediately see why: right in front of me, about forty feet away, a taut, loping, canine shape, about knee-high with tall pointy ears, trotted out from behind the car parked at the sidewalk on the right, looked at me, and then glided briskly leftward across my field of vision and then away from me down the road. And it was followed immediately by three others, each emerging from some nook between cars... and one carrying something heavy and limp and, well... cat-shaped.

Coyotes. Four of them. Hunting in a pack... in my cul-de-sac, right outside my window.

And they just made off with one of our next-door neighbors' cats!

I've heard coyotes yelping and howling in the ravine behind the power station down where I walk Capri, late at night; I've known they come within vocal range of my bedroom window, but I'd never known they'd become so brazen as to take the hunt right down the middle of a suburban cul-de-sac. Apparently the local coyotes have begun to evolve into the ecological niche vacated by wolves, and now hunt in packs very similar to their larger cousins; their quarry is necessarily smaller, but a cat is quite a prize, especially for something as small as a coyote.

I tried running after the hunting party as they paused at the end of the cul-de-sac, where it opens onto the major avenue; they stood there, seemingly unconcerned, surveying the situation, and knowing I couldn't follow them because Capri was far more interested in sniffing the ground where they'd left their various calling cards than in giving chase. (Probably just as well.) But I likewise couldn't drag him back inside so I could grab a Mag-lite and go running after them; so I had to just let him finish satisfying his olfactory curiosity, myself watching passively as the coyotes turned and vanished into the night, and then took Capri back inside the house where he lay down seemingly exhausted from the night's sleuthing.

I grabbed the flashlight and ran out in the direction where I was pretty sure the coyotes had gone—left turn at the avenue, down to the vacant lot that abuts the wooded ravine with Guadalupe Creek at the bottom—but the trail was long cold. Again, it's probably just as well.

Our neighbors are going to have an unpleasant surprise tomorrow morning; I guess it's up to Lance to tell the story.

But it's something to have witnessed it first-hand, lemme tell you.

Monday, September 13, 2004
00:42 - Today is a great day for democracy!

Oh, and I would appreciate it if anyone who thinks that Bush is guilty of waging war on our democracy and exploiting 9/11 for his own political purposes would please take a look at this.

We're not doing any setting of the bar here, folks.

Saturday, September 11, 2004
21:54 - "We were supposed to get the TNG future, not the B5 one"

I'm not going to post anything today, or at least about today... partly because I'm just too swamped in projects, and partly because I don't think I have anything original to say this time around.

But Paul Denton does; and though it is his own unique tale, he may as well have been speaking for me, because his perspective is one that's quite close to my own heart. He makes observations that I wish I'd thought of making. And he describes a mental process, shaped by pop-cultural forces I find all too familiar, that I underwent in parallel.

So just go read it already.

Friday, September 10, 2004
18:48 - Now that's some irony

Powerline, which has been one of the big movers in the memo-forgery scandal still being unwrapped, has discovered that the handwriting-analysis expert that CBS got to verify the authenticity of the memos is this guy.

It's so surreal, I keep expecting to wake up any moment now. I mean, read the article... and then consider the context.

I swear. I am just sitting here with my face in my palms, slowly weaving side to side as the credibility of the news organization I spent every evening of my pre-college life with crashes to earth.

Every minute brings some new revelation. I don't have anything to add—just posting something because I have the feeling this will be one of those moments I'll want to look back on from the comfortable distance of several years in the future, so I can see what I was doing when...

15:15 - Good start

If this holds any water, it's exactly what I and so many of us have been wanting to see for three years now.

This September 11 marks the third unforgettable anniversary of the worst mass murder in American history.

After September 11, many in the Muslim world chose denial and hallucination rather than face up to the sad fact that Muslims perpetrated the 9-11 terrorist acts and that we have an enormous problem with extremism and support for terrorism. Many Muslims, including religious leaders, and “intellectuals” blamed 9-11 on a Jewish conspiracy and went as far as fabricating a tale that 4000 Jews did not show up for work in the World Trade Center on 9-11. Yet others blamed 9-11 on an American right wing conspiracy or the U.S. Government which allegedly wanted an excuse to invade Iraq and “steal” Iraqi oil.

After numerous admissions of guilt by Bin Laden and numerous corroborating admissions by captured top level Al-Qaida operatives, we wonder, does the Muslim leadership have the dignity and courage to apologize for 9-11?

. . .

Only moderate Muslims can challenge and defeat extremist Muslims. We can no longer afford to be silent. If we remain silent to the extremism within our community then we should not expect anyone to listen to us when we complain of stereotyping and discrimination by non-Muslims; we should not be surprised when the world treats all of us as terrorists; we should not be surprised when we are profiled at airports.

Simply put, not only do Muslims need to join the war against terror, we need to take the lead in this war.

As to apologizing, we will no longer wait for our religious leaders and “intellectuals” to do the right thing. Instead, we will start by apologizing for 9-11.

We are so sorry that 3000 people were murdered in our name. We will never forget the sight of people jumping from two of the highest buildings in the world hoping against hope that if they moved their arms fast enough that they may fly and survive a certain death from burning.

. . .

We are so sorry.

For more information visit our website at: www.freemuslims.org

This had better be for real. I'd hate to have gotten my hopes up for nothing. Right now, though, the server linked above isn't responding to pings, so who knows. This might or might not be earnest, or it might or might not represent a statistically significant number of Muslims. I'll have to wait to find out, though; after all, as we know, stuff can be forged.

But this is the solution we've all wanted: Muslims taking the lead in weeding out their own ranks, perceiving it as being in their own interest to confront their rogue element and present a benign face to the world. Any corporation or government body would aggressively subject itself to rigorous vetting to maintain moral consistency and honor; CEOs step down, Senators resign, maverick employees are fired. It's a system that's served the Western world very well: in a free market of ideas, it's in your own interest as an organized body to hold your members to strict standards, to expect every member to be a good representative of your group, and to own up in good faith to failures on that count. It's a system, however, that has until now eluded the Muslim community, whose leaders prefer instead to chant mantras of Islam being a "religion of peace" and the perpetrators of terrorist attacks being "not really Muslims" and the victims of such attacks being "legitimate targets" (often all in the same breath). In a culture where admission of culpability is the worst possible failing, these kinds of reactions can possibly be seen as rational, which is not to excuse them. ("The soft bigotry of low expectations", anyone?)

But this is the modern world, and it's ruled by modern notions such as the free market of ideas to a degree far greater than we really realize, without the benefit of first-hand historical context. In the age of mass media and light-speed communications, the world's most repressed societies are far more aware of how different life can be in other parts of the world than even the enlightened societies of the Middle Ages were. It's in this environment that it has to sink in that applying Western-style standards of conduct to one's own religious group, no matter how huge or decentralized, is the only way to resolve this clash of civilizations without the world erupting into a conflagration. (I'm not sure how this can be accomplished without a mechanism such as excommunication by which members, if they value their faith, can be kept in line—but at least nobody's ruling out the adoption of a more flexible, possibly more centralized form of Islam that's still considered "legitimate", which seems necessary in any case.)

The War on Terror has been a bleak prospect, though a necessary one, these past three years: regardless of successes in Afghanistan and Iraq, and in decreasing terrorists' power worldwide and defending our own borders against any major attacks since 9/11, there's always been a vague feeling that we weren't going to get out of this without at least a couple of cities, somewhere, going up in a mushroom cloud. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not next year, but within our lifetimes.

I really hope this "Free Muslims" group is for real. Because they've got the right idea, and their position catching on is what our world's future depends upon. They need all the encouragement they can get. And so from them at least, if not from the entire Muslim world yet (for clearly they don't speak for all of it), I say—with full awareness of the gravity implied—"apology accepted".

12:01 - I'm dyin' here...

Just unearthed! Secret memo proving John Kerry was in Cambodia for Christmas!

Thursday, September 9, 2004
16:24 - Sir, we have achieved total meme penetration

Aaron McGruder once more deftly demonstrates the depth of his logical and critical thinking skills, and his estimation of those of his readers:

Boy, I sure can't wait till the animated version of this stomps its way onto Adult Swim.

12:56 - "Senator, I direct your attention to this damning Flash animation dated March 3, 1971..."

Boston Globe, CBS, you goddamn putzes.

You call yourselves "journalists".
Wednesday, September 8, 2004
02:46 - Cola Wars '04

Now, I'm not prepared to make a taste judgment on Coke vs. Pepsi. I've got my own preference, but growing up in the 80s taught me that while Democrats vs. Republicans and Macs vs. PCs might be perfectly reasonable and enjoyable topics for discussion, Coke vs. Pepsi is well beyond the pale for polite conversation.

But I'd just like to note something about the current "half-diet" cola race. Pepsi has Pepsi Edge, and Coke has C2—essentially the same thing, regular cola with half regular sugar and half Splenda. Cool, fine; you get to market it as having half the bad stuff and all the taste of the real thing, and it's totally legit. Perfectly above board.

But look at the two ad campaigns. Coke is marketing C2 as being "half the carbs, half the cals, all the taste" of Coke Classic; the ads show people dancing around and being athletic and having fun. They compare the new product to the original Coke (a tacit disparagement of Diet Coke if I've ever seen one, but that's an aside), and don't even mention Pepsi.

Whereas the Pepsi ad shows a guy with a house full of Coke paraphernalia and collectibles—an irrational zealot—"cheating" on his chosen cola by drinking a Pepsi Edge. And the voice-over says that Pepsi Edge has half the sugar and carbs of Coke.

Not of Pepsi. Of Coke.

Once again, I'm making no value judgments about the relative tastes of these drinks. But one of these ads, it seems to me, is taking a teensy bit of a dishonest tack here.

18:40 - It had to be said

I didn't even watch the second episode of Father of the Pride; I figured I'd learn everything I needed to know about it from friends within five minutes of it being over anyway, and I was right. As for reaction, I'm hearing quite positive and quite negative, plus everything in between. In other words, the jury's still quite far out.

Now, I know it's silly for me to keep posting about something I don't have that much interest in, but I just have to say something to Siegfried and Roy:

Lose that ridiculous name Sarmoti. Just... drop it. Yes, yes, I get it—it's your little acronym for your show; very cute. But I've seen your show, live... and endlessly braying this nonce word, and using it as a character name in property after property after property, does not magically serve to turn it into a hip cultural meme that kids shout to each other across the schoolyard and get embroidered into their backpacks. It's just not gonna happen. Give it a frickin' rest, all right?


17:47 - That's what I'm talkin' 'bout

Via B.C.:

On July 29, 2004, it happened. John Forbes Kerry came to the podium at the Democratic Convention and uttered three words that made many Viet Nam vets skin crawl: “Reporting for Duty!” At last the time had come for these long-suffering veterans.

The past was staring back at these wrongly disgraced vets from their television sets. The face it bore was that of John Kerry, the man who had shredded their honor without a thought and climbed over the bodies of their fallen friends to launch a political career. Kerry had stripped them of their dignity the day he sat before Congress in his fatigues and portrayed them as “baby killers” and “murderers.” Kerry did the unspeakable. He had publicly turned on his fellow vets while they were still in harm’s way and American prisoners were still in the hands of the enemy. Kerry accused them all of being out-of-control animals, killing, raping, and pillaging Viet Nam at will. The anti-war movement--the protesters--had their hero and he was a Viet Nam War veteran, an officer, a medal winner, a wounded warrior: John Forbes Kerry.

. . .

All across America, soiled uniforms and memories of being shamed and humiliated have resurfaced and Vietnam vets demand their rightful place in history. John Kerry seems bewildered by the reaction of his “fellow vets.” He has become defensive and angry because now his service and honor are being questioned. Kerry seems oblivious to the pain he caused three decades ago when he stole all honor and dignity from those same “fellow vets” for personal gain. Now he wants to use them again, for the same reason.

All across America, Viet Nam vets are smiling. At last, perhaps they can bury their demons. These angry vets are demanding that this man who sentenced them to being shunned as criminals, tell the world that he was wrong and that he is sorry for what he did to them. Kerry must admit that he lied about them.

For many, it would still not be enough. Satisfaction and hopefully peace will come when Viet Nam vets see and hear John F. Kerry give his concession speech the night of November 2, 2004 with the knowledge that it was their votes that helped defeat him. There are approximately 2.5 million Viet Nam veterans in America and they have not forgotten.

Kerry might serve an invaluable purpose to history after all.

13:15 - Now do it without looking

While the Kerry campaign runs around in circles devouring its own and contradicting itself and throwing bigoted tantrums and covering its tracks, it seems all Bush has to do to gain points in the polls is sit back and ignore the campaign entirely, because if he gets too close all he'll end up doing is getting his hands muddy. But, y'know, sometimes you just can't help yourself... if the ball is at thigh level and just floating in firm and straight, how can you not take a swing?

"When the heat got on in the Democratic primary, he declared himself the anti-war candidate. More recently, he switched again, saying he would have voted for the war even knowing everything we know today. And he woke up yesterday morning with yet another new position. And this one is not even his own. It is that of his one-time rival, Howard Dean. He even used the same words Howard Dean did back when he supposedly disagreed with him."

Talk about bringing a gun to a slap-fight.

Now if only he can do stuff like this in the debates, where the remarks aren't prepared in advance...

Tuesday, September 7, 2004
18:38 - Don't tell me they're losing SA

SomethingAwful's Lowtax is mad... and he's fun to read when he's mad.

It's very refreshing, too. I love the smell of backlash in the morning.

15:24 - Prank Politician

First (well, not first, but less recently) there was this, the page where the Kerry campaign helpfully listed all of Bush's accomplishments, with a tacit and unspoken disclaimer that they forgot to include that presumably would have said that they were all lies (including such gems as "John Kerry is Weak on the War" and "Bush Good for Immigrants"), except that instead of bothering to write such a disclaimer, they eventually deleted the page. Sort of. Or not. Who the hell knows.

And then there's this:

"Everybody told me, 'God, if you're coming to Canonsburg, you've got to find time to go to Toy's, and he'll take care of you,'" Mr. Kerry said, dropping the name of a restaurant his motorcade had passed on the way in. "I understand it's my kind of place, because you don't have to - you know, when they give you the menu, I'm always struggling: Ah, what do you want?

"He just gives you what he's got, right?" Mr. Kerry added, continuing steadily off a gangplank of his own making: "And you don't have to worry, it's whatever he's cooked up that day. And I think that's the way it ought to work, for confused people like me who can't make up our minds."

Reynolds says, "Is there anyone running this campaign?" I've been suspecting, for some time now, that this isn't a campaign at all. It's an Ivy League frat party. It's a self-congratulatory bunch of mutual back-slappers who are so convinced they deserve to win the Presidency that none of them has even given any thought to the notion that anyone might need to be convinced of it. It's like a guy with a physics degree applying for a job at Barnes & Noble: "What do you mean, I don't have the qualifications? Haven't you seen my credentials?"

I'd always been under the impression that Presidential campaigns, more so than just about any marketing or PR genre on the planet, were so carefully and spotlessly run, and the candidate so well-rehearsed and groomed and prepped with can't-miss material, that you expected that whichever candidate won, you'd be getting a package as shiny and smoothy shrink-wrapped as to put a Mac box to shame. By comparison, Kerry's looking like a six-year-old Pentium II machine cobbled together from nameless generic junk you found in your garage. Not pretty, but without any substance to redeem its appearance either. If I had to put a name on it, I'd say that Kerry seems to have built himself up with self-aggrandizing fantasy and cadres of sycophants to the point where if things don't go his way, he's too utterly floored by the very possibility that he freezes up and babbles. We already know that he assumed the media wouldn't allow the Swift Vets to score any points against him, so he was staggered when they did; now that his defenses are thrown wide, he's running out of people to blame for these failures, which seem to be coming closer and closer together.

This is just historically inept. Hell, Perot embarrassed himself less often. If I were a Kerry supporter, I'd be so mortified right now I'd be taking down all my bumper stickers and yard signs and planning a nice, long vacation on some island somewhere so I wouldn't have to face my neighbors' stares until all this had blown over.

UPDATE: The man is really beginning to make me nauseous.

The betrayed ghosts of Vietnam are restless and hungry, and this whole election and all its bile might prove to be worth it if by Kerry's sacrifice they can be laid peacefully to rest at last.

UPDATE: Oh, and let's not forget this gem. If Kerry thinks making fun of Southern accents is the way to campaign, John Edwards might not even vote for him.

You know how a twelve-year-old who knows he's in the wrong will "defend" against his opponent by mimicking his speech in a nasal, high-pitched, Cartman-like voice? "You said I could have it this weekend!" "Yyw syyyw yyy haayy yyy wwwkwnd!" Isn't that all that Kerry's defense has turned out to amount to? I mean, how stupefyingly juvenile can you get?

13:04 - How I Spent My Labor Day

This was a momentous crisscrossing of ley lines on the calendar, because finally—at long last—I've made some headway in getting my custom master suite under control.

These bookshelves are second-hand, bought from a couple of friends who have a mansion in Scotts Valley—seriously, I think their house is too damn big for these shelves or something. But they're very serviceable; quite heavy-duty, attractive, and modular. I can expand them with gear from the Organized Living store at the Valley Fair mall, and I think I'll be doing just that later today, to get a couple more of those short shelves for the stack on the left. I may also see if they have this set in waist-high varieties, so I can add another unit along the arch wall.

When all this is done, I'll have organized all my shelvable goods such that the attractive stuff—large hardcovers, boxed sets, encyclopedias, etc—will be out here on these shelves, with lots of space around them set off by nice bookends that I need to go track down; and the less picturesque stuff, like the software boxes, will go into seclusion in the better hidden bookshelves in my bedroom.

And this is really only the first step of the dressing for this wall. I fancy one of these for the TV to sit on, instead of this too-tall table with all its useless space underneath; that'll bring it down by eight inches and let me make still better use of the shelf space above. And this matching armoire will sit off to the right, solving my clothes-storage problems quite attractively. But that's a $450 outlay all told, and I can wait till next month before plunging. Right now I'm still reveling in the uncommon joy of not having piles of books and boxes and CDs and other assorted crap covering every square inch of carpet in the north side of the room. I can walk around the couch on all sides now! I can sit on the floor! Capri can sprawl in front of the TV, instead of wedging himself between the coffee table and the chair I'm sitting in! Woo-hoo!

I think it's serendipitous how well the stereo unit fits on that shelf, too, don't you? I am so very very happy.

Monday, September 6, 2004
03:24 - I've worked myself into a nice little rut here

Several acquaintances have mentioned that they might move to Europe if the November elections should go a way they don't approve of; it's so much more "progressive" there, don'tcha know. It's all about the progress. Now crank up that Progressive Rock and pour me a Progress Cola.

They'll find themselves in a paradise where their toilets verbally admonish them to observe proper hygiene practices and castigate them for peeing standing up; and where words like "thin" and "hard-working" are banned from dictionaries because they discriminate against lazy people and mock the underweight.

Some days, to overanalyze the old joke, I'll take Congress over progress in a heartbeat.

UPDATE: And it's from the land of nuance that we get things like this. This must be some of that "humor" stuff that I've heard so much about.

But, hey, I console myself with the knowledge that I know more about the etymological history of the word aluminum than he does.

Sunday, September 5, 2004
18:16 - Just a note on multiculturalism

Via LGF, this one's worth reading.

But it's just an excuse for me to note: when I was in Toronto, the guy driving me to the airport on the last day (in a conversation where I talked about my 1991 trip to Russia, where the only language that we and our host family shared was Spanish, between me and their oldest daughter, making me the interpreter) issued a curious statement:

"My workplace," he said, "is so diverse that I can walk from one end of the office to the other and hear English, French, Hindi, Gujarat, Arabic .... and I'm like, all I speak is English! It's the only way we can communicate... I suck!"

And what I didn't say was: No, you don't suck. If you were, say, to move to another country where you didn't speak the prevailing language, and you didn't bother to LEARN the prevailing language, THEN you would suck.

Maybe I was in a weird mood after being heckled on the sidewalk by Arabic-speaking youths on the way back to my host's apartment, leading to dreams that night wherein old acquaintances of mine had turned out to have converted to Islam and joined al Qaeda, and were now waylaying travelers in mountain passes and mimicking their speech and mocking their clothes from horseback.

Or maybe I shouldn't let strange dreams affect my waking thoughts.

UPDATE: And for God's sake, the word is spelled HAMSTER, not HAMPSTER! Aarrgh! Not even Disney can grasp this. What is so hard about this?!

Damn kids! Get offa my lawn!

17:46 - The sky is green, and all the leaves are blue

It's easy to see how people get so they don't want to watch TV anymore. Sometimes it gets so that you can't even turn it on without feeling like you're peering into a freakshow, a Stargate to another dimension where everybody behaves according to the most cultured illogic imaginable, like Kirk in that one old Star Trek episode where he and Spock and McCoy foiled the evil robot of the Ron Jeremy villain by dancing around acting as incomprehensibly as possible until its head exploded.

I bring up Star Trek because two nights ago, in the wee hours, an episode came on that I can't imagine anyone even pitching today: The Omega Glory. If you're not familiar with it, just read the synopsis and think about how hard they'd laugh at you if you tried to submit this script in Hollywood today. Imagine what kind of world it must have been in 1968: one where intoning the preamble of the Constitution in a sci-fi show wasn't part of an irony-filled parody of McCarthyism or an indictment of American propaganda as being worse than anything the Stalinist state ever dreamed up. Imagine it being sincere.

For that matter, imagine an age where a utopian idealist like Roddenberry, committed to the idea of the abolishment of money and personal property and national identity, nonetheless produced this episode, which ends with Kirk smiling and exiting as the camera fades out over the faded and tattered Stars and Stripes. It's so cheesy and overdone it's distinctly embarrassing to watch, even for me; how did audiences react to it? I can't even begin to guess, as the concept of a world where a show like this can even be broadcast is utterly alien to my modern eyes. Nothing would surprise me.

Because flipping around the channels, I keep landing on things like Jay Mohr finishing up "Last Comic Standing" with a monologue about how "We'll be back after the Republican convention... yeah, those wacky Republicans..." to raucous catcalls from the audience; and other comics taking the stage to issue tired routines about how Bush stole the election by rigging the polls in Florida with the help of his brother, which elicits deafening cheers from the audience. Now, I know all too well that it's possible to laugh at a funny joke even if you disagree wholeheartedly with the logic underlying its premise. But have I completely lost my ability to find things like that funny? Or is it just that I'm too bowled over by the idea of whole roomfuls of people who see nothing wrong with the comedian's reasoning, and too frightened by that prospect, to toss it off with a giggle?

I wasn't quick enough to the remote on Friday, and the first few seconds of The Daily Show blared behind me before I had a chance to turn it off. Jon Stewart and his comic troupe of reporters were covering the convention, and the first thing they sneered about was how tight the security was—"which shows you just how dangerous they thought WE WERE." Which is such an insultingly disingenuous piece of misleading language as to make me want to claw my eyes out: which convention was it that put all its protesters into a razor-wire-topped "Free Speech Zone" cage? And which one let the protesters run amok in the city? And which convention's protesters mobbed the downtown of the city all week long, causing vandalism and violent attacks and kidnapping flags (and planning much worse, like barrages of urine bombs and throwing marbles under the hooves of mounted cops' horses) until they had to be arrested by the scores, not to mention infiltrating the actual convention to be repeatedly within weapons range of the speakers? "There was a distinct feeling of fear in the air at this convention..." said the reporter, flashing a shot of a big projection screen saying FOR A SAFER AMERICA AND A FREER WORLD or something. And I wonder, just what kind of cataclysm would it take before our lionized and implicitly trusted comedy organs should start to suggest that maybe, just maybe, it's possible to be funny without cramming reality through a garlic press first? That it's possible to entertain without lying? When our first national impulse is to see the word FREE and read it as FEAR, hasn't the spirit of this country become completely obscured and banished from polite discourse? And shouldn't something be done about that?

I mean, just flipping on the radio is fraught with peril these days. I stepped into Lance's car to go get lunch because my own car was boxed in; he has KCBS running, and the only times I hear it are occasions like this. But I can't listen to five minutes of KCBS without hearing something that makes me furious. Last time it was the uncritical, ten-minute long promotion of Fahrenheit 9/11 put on by the on-scene reporters interviewing exiting moviegoers. And this time it was some guy from the "Progressive Democrats of America" (anyone wanna bet his favorite band is Rush?), responding to Henry Kissinger's remarks about the War on Terror by saying that "The way to make America safer is to make friends, not to make new enemies." I wanted to slam on the brakes and scream at the radio: So what you're saying is, we should have made FRIENDS with Saddam? We should be making FRIENDS with Bin Laden? Since when the %^&$ was Iraq a NEW enemy?! ... Not that it would do any good, of course. Just as it would do no good to shout at the author of this cartoon and ask him exactly how it's possible to be neither "with us or with the terrorists". But that's futility in its most distilled form, since we're talking about someone who can make Bush look like some kind of mutant rodent and Kerry resemble a square-jawed superhero, replete with halo and beatific grin.

Maybe I'm doing something to attract things to my senses that infuriate me. Maybe I've got some sort of magnetic field that starts right outside arm's reach that pulls freaky things into view, shows them to me just long enough to make me mad, and then clears them off and makes room for the next one. I really don't know. But if the alternative is sealing myself off in a little box, only to emerge for November 2nd and then re-ensconce myself like a groundhog, I'm not convinced that it's a worse choice. At least as far as my mental health is concerned.

Friday, September 3, 2004
15:56 - I did not use Capri as the model

Frank J. has unveiled the new Chomps t-shirt, with design by yours truly.

Also be sure to look here, here, and here, as Frank chronicles the journey of a dozen sketches that led to the final Chomps. His recollection of the politeness level of the exchange is very much in the "fevered" category, though now in retrospect I wish I'd sent him one joke sketch of, like, a French poodle yapping or something, right about at #10 or so. Ah well.

Best of luck to Frank as the marauding hurricane seeks for his hidden underground base.

13:46 - Now that that's over...

I didn't see Bush's speech live, but here's the transcript, and CapLion and Stephen Green (among others) liveblogged it. Sounds like it was a pretty good one, with some really choice moments (Bush winking at a protester being dragged out of the hall? Jokes about his own walking and speaking abilities?); I'll have to catch the video tonight.

Then apparently Kerry came on stage somewhere at midnight to issue this oh-so-measured response:

"We all saw the anger and distortion of the Republican Convention. For the past week, they attacked my patriotism and my fitness to serve as commander in chief. Well, here's my answer. I'm not going to have my commitment to defend this country questioned by those who refused to serve when they could have and by those who have misled the nation into Iraq.

The vice president even called me unfit for office last night. I guess I'll leave it up to the voters whether five deferments makes someone more qualified to defend this nation than two tours of duty.

Let me tell you what I think makes someone unfit for duty. Misleading our nation into war in Iraq makes you unfit to lead this nation. Doing nothing while this nation loses millions of jobs makes you unfit to lead this nation. Letting 45 million Americans go without health care makes you unfit to lead this nation. Letting the Saudi royal family control our energy costs makes you unfit to lead this nation. Handing out billions of government contracts to Halliburton while you're still on their payroll makes you unfit. That's the record of George Bush and Dick Cheney. And it's not going to change. I believe it's time to move America in a new direction; I believe it's time to set a new course for America."

So let's see here: Kerry's already said that he himself would have gone into Iraq if the decision had been his; I guess he's saying he's just as unfit to lead as Bush, huh? Brilliant move. Does Kerry have ADD or something? How can he contradict everything he says so breezily, so regularly? Does he maybe just honestly not remember what he himself said?

Cheney's four student deferments make him unfit to defend the nation. Or maybe it was the one he got because he'd just become a father. Got it. And Bush was only in the National Guard; he didn't actually blow himself up throwing a grenade into a rice stash or get a thumbtack in his ass or anything medalworthy like that. From now on, only people who fought in Vietnam are capable of making military decisions for this country. Right, Clinton?

And from there one just has to wonder whether Kerry actually researched any of the barbs he flung at midnight, or if he knows full well that he's being disingenuous, but trusts the American people to be too stupid and the news media to be too biased for him ever to get called on it. For instance, Kerry must understand that Cheney is not on Halliburton's payroll; he has deferred compensation, on terms that were laid out at the plan's inception such that the amount he gets paid cannot change regardless of Halliburton's corporate fortunes; and on top of that, he gives all his deferred compensation income to charity. Does Kerry not know this? Or does he just hope people will blindly believe him without looking up the facts?

Facts, Mr. Kerry, appear to be your enemy. Holy damn, though—you need to listen to your handlers once in a while.

Everybody has weighed in on Kerry's little diatribe, focusing on one point and another: Ann Althouse finds it disturbing that Kerry's response to questions about his leadership abilities is to say that he will not have any such questions. Boy, that sounds like a guy I want to have accountable for running the country. And "pouncer" in Stephen Green's comments points out the idiocy of conflating "health care" with "health insurance", as well as of suggesting that anyone who doesn't stand up to the Saudis on oil matters is unfit to be President—which includes everybody who's been in office since OPEC was formed. But Kerry doesn't have to come out and say, somehow, that his presidency would "put the Saudis in their place", or whatever we're to assume the alternative is. It's sufficient, apparently for the New York Times and the rest of the media machine, for him to say things like "People die of cancer" and "Not everybody on the planet is happy", and everybody just implicitly understands that the only thing standing in the way of unspoken, ineffable solutions to those things is that John Kerry is not President yet.

Is there anything he said last night that wasn't a stupid, easily deflated conspiracy-theory-ridden canard? If that's what Kerry's running on now, I've got another word for it: fumes.

Oh, but MoveOn.org has already proclaimed, shockingly enough, that Bush's speech was a failure and Kerry's was a hard-hitting masterpiece:

Republicans hoped that their convention would strike a ringing tone that would echo through the media for the next week. But between the speakers' nastiness and belligerence, John Kerry's swift and tough response, and our hard work, the momentum they're banking on is nowhere to be seen.

At a midnight rally last night, John Kerry stood up to Bush's attacks. "For the past week, they attacked my patriotism and even my fitness to serve as commander in chief," he said. "Here is my answer to them: I will not have my commitment to defend this country questioned by those who refused to serve when they could have and who misled America into Iraq."[1]

Now that the convention bubble has burst, we have an opportunity today to focus the media on the soap scum that remains. Commentators have been surprised at how ruthlessly negative and bitter the convention was - from the Purple Heart band-aids that Karl Rove's mentor handed out on the stadium floor [2] to Zell Miller's rabid attack on John Kerry [3]. Whether or not that perception solidifies into conventional wisdom depends on the conversation in the nation's editorial pages, where our letters to the editor can make a big difference. We've loaded up our letter to the editor tool with all the information and talking points you need to write a letter -- all it takes is a few minutes of your time.

"Letter to the editor tool". Could it be any more perfect? I'm gonna go call someone that right now.

UPDATE: Oh, and eat this, MoveOn.org.

Wednesday, September 1, 2004
13:31 - That's what I get for not watching the news

JMH sends this Telegraph editorial by former Vietnam protester Janet Daley, titled "In the 1960s, we marched for a reason":

But the biggest difference between then and now, of course, is that we marched against our government when it supported dictators, not when it removed them. The logic of the anti-Vietnam War movement was that America, in its ferocious determination to hold back the spread of communism, was prepared to back the tyrannical Diem regime in South Vietnam even to the extent of thwarting democratic elections when they threatened to put communists into power.

Our complaint was that America's foreign policy was deeply hypocritical and self-serving: committed unswervingly to democracy and liberty at home, while supporting any murderous despot abroad who was prepared to be "our son of a bitch" rather than the other side's. The ultimate paradox is that the country that still behaves in this way - prepared to do business with pretty much any murderous regime or criminal dictator who will cater to its interests - is France: the nation that today's anti-war protesters regard as the epitome of wisdom and restraint.

But the "warmonger" Bush, supported by the "liar" Blair, is doing precisely the opposite in Iraq, where a peculiarly vicious tyrant has been overthrown and subsequently arrested with due legal process, in the hope - idealistic and even naïve, perhaps, but unquestionably sincere - of introducing democracy and freedom to his country.

She also describes the televised back-and-forth between John McCain and Michael Moore thus:

I watched Michael Moore's buffoon-ish reaction when he was attacked by John McCain at the Republican convention, over and over again yesterday.

Fox News showed it repeatedly, probably figuring that the sight of Moore behaving like a snotty 10-year-old defying the headmaster was the best gift the anti-war movement had presented to George W Bush since Howard Dean's "I Have a Scream" speech. (The BBC, which also ran it time after time, was presumably just overcome with admiration.)

And as I watched this puerile performance from a man who is regarded as the spiritual leader of American, and now British, conscientious protest, I thought "Has it come to this?" Is this how it ends, the great modern tradition of American dissidence launched by my generation of students in the 1960s?

I'd love to know what gestures Moore offered the camera (though I suppose I can guess). Time for me to do some Googling...

Tuesday, August 31, 2004
01:47 - Happy thoughts

After one thing and another, and the post from Monday night, and reading the work of the true master (start there and read the whole week—it's prime cuts), I've come to the conclusion that I'm rapidly sliding down a slippery slope of negativity, where to read these posts here, one would easily be forgiven for thinking that I hated everything except for Macs and Capri. So I'm gonna have to do something about that.

I don't know what, though. I imagine it'll have something to do with trying harder to find things to be happy about, like when I used to write about clouds and architecture and stuff. I guess that won't be too hard, right? My memory's not that truncated.

Or so we'll see. And for the record, I'd like to say that the Monday post notwithstanding, my vacation totally rocked. Seriously. And it's worth mentioning, though I had avoided it for fear of committing some grievous national-security faux pas, that I shared a cabin with a guy serving in the Army unit in charge of Camp Delta at Guantánamo Bay. He had some stories to tell, mostly to do with how ridiculously lacking in fact or reality the media's stories about life at Gitmo have all been. I think he may have disseminated a bit of sanity and wisdom through osmosis, too. And I hope we conveyed plenty of appreciation to him, as much as I hope he had a good and restful vacation before he ships back to his post there as soon as he gets home.

So, yeah. Sorry about the last few weeks, everybody. I'm gonna do better.

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© Brian Tiemann