Monday, January 31, 2005

More On The Iraq Vote

Cooper's post today offers a fine summary of the good, the bad and the ugly on the Iraq vote. One point he makes, which we should remember, is that the ShrubCo plan for forming a new government in Iraq had no resemblence to what actually took place. The direct vote was a result of - dare we say it? - a popular movement instigated by Sistani. I would add that when you hear the predictable and irritating bleatings about how successful the ShrubCo foreign policy is, it should be our job to point out that those who say it are cynically taking advantage of the bravery shown by the Iraqi people in order to advance yet more partisan political garbage here at home. By doing so they shame themselves and denigrate the achievment of the Iraqis. There's some cautioning for us as well, with which I agree:

We need to find a way to escalate the politics and reduce the bloodshed and simplistic nostrums from triumphalists on the one side or lefitsh isolationists on the other will not cut the mustard. We owe a more sober response to the Iraqi people.

More politics and less bloodshed? Given the choice of either politics or bloodshed, I'll take politics.

Update:Hate to say it(especially twice in as many days), but BullMoose has gone and made some more sensible points along the same lines.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

We Agree!

This sentiment from the Moose says pretty much what we would. Reading this put the kind of chill in my spine I normally get only when I read a particularly beautiful technical paper. And we agree with Fixer at Alternate Brain.

The Sunni boycott is indeed troubling, and I don't like reading this:

Adnan Pachachi, a Sunni elder statesman and candidate for the National Assembly, said he believes the best hope for harmony lies in giving Sunnis a significant role in drafting the country's new constitution.

"The main thing, I think, is we should really have a constitution written by representatives of all segments of Iraq's population," Pachachi said. "I think it would improve the security situation."

It reads sort of like a little blackmail message. But be that as it may, the events today are very heartening, to say the least.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Warning! Explicit!!!

So over two months ago we wrote this to explain our thoughts on Gonzales' nomination to AG. Kos is compiling a list of blogs opposing said nomination, so we'll just make it a little more explicit. In our view, Gonzales is not fit to be Attorney General. Anyone who claims 9/11 is an excuse for a nation to act barbaric has no business in law enforcement.

Oh Happy Day

What's this? Atrios brings good news that after a woman wrote to her local paper insisting that liberals ought not be heard on the paper's editorial page, she recanted and apologized. Turns out she used bible quotes out of context and demonstrated her ignorance of the intentions of the founders. Many folks will think that this'll give them a reason to crow "Gotcha!" and say "in your face, conservative byotch!" But not me. As a lefty, I'm just happy that some form of reasoned discourse, coupled with "discussions with supportive members" of her church helped her understand the error of her thinking. Gives me hope that perhaps reason might actually be worth something on occasion.

Thursday, January 27, 2005


Tried to avoid comment on why "left leaning bloggers" aren't pissed that F9/11 didn't get an Oscar nomination. For some reason this has caused a discussion about what Democrats should do about "Hollywood". ARE YOU EFFIN' KIDDING ME? Sensible people, do not care if an industry engaged in self congratulation agrees with their political views. As for what Democrats ought to "do with Hollywood", perhaps they ought to point out that the real money makers in Hollywood ain't the idiot actors, but the guys who run the studios. And the guys who run the studios, just like the actors, get paid no matter who's in the Whitehouse because people keep paying them by consuming the dreck the industry creates.

Topsy Turvy

Dave G. and I had lunch today and I mentioned this article to him. I couldn't remember where I'd seen it first, but Gordon at Alternate Brain linked it today. Gordon registers some consternation that he's agreeing with conservatives. It's indeed a topsy survy world. Especially when the particular article written by the particular conservative is published in ZNet, the online version of the house organ of the actual far left(indeed there is one, Virginia, but you won't find it at The Center For American Progress). Yeah, that ZNet, where Chomsky blogs. It certainly is a cause for one to look at one's political affiliations and ask ARE YOU EFFIN' KIDDING ME?

Roberts' critique of the current state of the conservative movement is sensible. Even his beef with liberalism clearly stems from a reasoned viewpoint. But I'll have to take issue with the whole "strategic blunder" critique of the war itself. It's worse.

In the above linked article(registration required), Kaplan documents the growing rift between a democratic Iraq in the abstract and Iraq in reality. And why is anyone shocked? The policies enacted by the CPA were not concomitant with reality in the first place. They were part and parcel of the ideology at work, not in response to facts on the ground. Kaplan was a supporter of the war, but he, like so many others didn't seem to understand what would be the consequences of letting ideologues attempt to build a nation. Strategic blunder? Try moral failing, with escalating human costs.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Two Dear John Letters

Dear John,

Although I am quite pleased to see that you and Barbara and Ted showed some good sense in the votes against Condi today, my disappointment with our family leaves me no other choice but to say goodbye. Yes, after so much time, and so much personal investment I'm leaving you. You see, it just isn't working. We talk about improving things, we talk about being stronger, but that's the problem. All we ever do is talk, and I think after all the other disappointments, I just need some time away to think things over. I know Harry stood up and is working to change things, but I just don't think I can do this anymore. But who knows. Maybe after Alberto visits we can get together and see if we have a chance.


PS Can you please ask Joe what the hell his problem is? I mean, really. Could he please just shit or get off the pot?

PPS And our very own Barbara, who just won an election didn't vote no either? Darn.


Dear John,

Arthur's right. You are a jerk. An effin' jerk. For a long time I respected you as a straight talker and a real stand up guy, a guy that even though I disagreed with I could say "He's a good guy." Even when my friends said you were full of it, I stood up for you. But you keep letting me down. I know I've said it before, but this time I mean it. You know what they say - "Fool me once shame on you fool me twice won't get fooled again." Or something like that.

So this really is it. Eff you John, it's over. The kind of garbage you dish out only hurts worse when if comes from someone who one once respected. It would have been better if you'd just acted like Rick from the get go. I really thought you were above engaging in half witted armchair psychology. It's not even cleverly dismissive. It's just rude, disrespectful, and totally beneath the standards to which I thought you held yourself. So you really are full of it. And to think I thought you understood why courage mattered.

Shove it,

Shame 'em into Maimin'

So my friend just forwarded me an e-mail from one of his wingnut friends. The rails against opposition to specifically profiling young male Muslims at the airport. If you have wingnut friends, you've probably seen it too.

After I replied to my friend's e-mail, Yahoo's "message sent" page popped up, as usual. I noticed the advertisement that came up with the page:

"Service is one of the many ways we show commitment to our country. Air Force Reserve."

That's right, "we" show commitment to "our" country. Can you guess the race of the serviceman in the picture?

Pretty effin' somber. I can't believe they've sunk to fingerwagging as a recruiting strategy. What happened to all those rad Army of One commercials with dudes jumping out of airplanes and shit? Guess that doesn't work anymore now that there's no hiding from recruits what they're really in for (hint: the armed forces are not always like an early 1990s Mountain Dew commercial). Maybe they should just say, "Wouldn't you be proud to to have a flag on your casket? I bet that kid who used to push you around in middle school won't have a flag on his casket."

Sounds like the ad software got the gist of the message my friend forwarded me. I know I don't get recruitment ads after I send e-mails to Planned Parenthood.

At least the advertisement seems to be targeting the wingnuts, who I'm sure are in lines around the block at the recruitment office already.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Abu Ghraib was just a photo session

They show you six armed soldiers. They tell you the soldiers are going to kill you if you don't talk. Then they pull your shirt over your head and whale away on your chest. Then they load a 9mm in front of you. Then they stick your head in a barrel and fire the gun right next to your head into the bottom of the barrel.

One of many allegations in the news today that may have been insufficiently investigated.

This administration's psychopathic lack of empathy is going to provide them with exactly the opposite result they were hoping for with their whole advancingment of freedom's liberty and the denyment of tyranny's terrordom or whatever.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Egads! A "Read This!" Post

Anyone wondering why we blogroll Deltoid should read this post and wonder no more. It's a marvelous takedown of Tech Central Station and others of their ilk who like to pretend that matters of fact are really questions of ideology.

Money and Mouth Dept.

Please sign the petition against killing Iraqi Trade Unionists. I'm generally against anyone killing anyone, but as Cooper pointed out two weeks ago, the left has been a little too damn silent on this. Shall we begin to turn it around, comrades?

Sunday, January 23, 2005

A Moment of Silence, for someone who knew what it meant

Johnny Carson died today.

Perhaps you thought he was already dead. He's been off the air for, gosh, how long? (Since 1992.) If the limelight is addictive, wouldn't someone who spent 30 years there have found some other way to keep his mug in front of the camera?

No. He had been just fine. He was finished. He saw that things were changing, that he and his generation were being overtaken by the nihilism and sarcasm that would come to fruition in Friends and Seinfeld. He retired to Malibu, played a little tennis, sent off a paragraph here and there to the New Yorker, and that's it. That's where he had been for over 12 years.

What I admired most about Carson was his ability to act as a bridge between the hip and the square. He had one foot in each camp. He didn't pander to any simpletons who might have been watching his show just because they weren't ready to go to sleep, yet he didn't gloat when he knew he was sneaking one over their heads.

He figured out his role, and he stuck to it. He stayed behind the desk. Sure, he made comics' careers, but never he indulged in their hyperactivity and showing off.

Here's the last line of the online Washington Post obit (hopefully, they'll have the class to remove the typos before it goes to print, but at least the typos indicate that they waited till his corpse was cold to write it):

"His nephew said there will be no memorial service."

Cheers, Johnny.

Although Carson was classy enough not to inject himself into political debates, this is a blog. So here's Johnny's 1991 tribute to the former Soviet satellites:

"Democracy is buying a big house you can't afford with money you don't have to impress people you wish were dead. And, unlike communism, democracy does not mean having just one ineffective political party; it means having two ineffective political parties. ... Democracy is welcoming people from other lands, and giving them something to hold onto -- usually a mop or a leaf blower. It means that with proper timing and scrupulous bookkeeping, anyone can die owing the government a huge amount of money. ... Democracy means free television, not good television, but free. ... And finally, democracy is the eagle on the back of a dollar bill, with 13 arrows in one claw, 13 leaves on a branch, 13 tail feathers, and 13 stars over its head -- this signifies that when the white man came to this country, it was bad luck for the Indians, bad luck for the trees, bad luck for the wildlife, and lights out for the American eagle. I thank you."

Friday, January 21, 2005

Just Shows To Go Ya!

I always figured that part of conservative anger at liberal elitism and bias was predicated on an inability to understand context in language. In other words, the ones who tend to take most offense at perceived liberal bias are the ones who have the most trouble with comprehending English. The fact that these are often the same people who land in the "speak English or die!" camp has always made perfect sense to me. But clearly it's more a case of an under developed sense of humor. Poor Ann. Clearly she skipped classes on satire in literature at Dartmouth because they went under the course heading of "liberal arts". It's really our loss (since we're clearly stuck with her). She could have at least ended up funny instead of just shrill.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Democracy Submerged

The BullMoose has a post which suggests that today is a day for "noble sentiments" and "elevated aspirations". ARE YOU EFFIN' KIDDING ME?

This sort of sentiment demonstrates once again how little interest even the most engaged person has in democracy. The swearing in of any President is a cause for extreme ambivalence at best, mild irritation at most. Millions of dollars are spent, platitudes echo in the air, and hundreds of thousands of people are inconvenienced. All of this waste and spectacle to celebrate the fact that some scoundrel has managed to con the country once again. We'd be better off if, prior to being sworn in on inauguration day, the duly elected would place themselves in a dunking booth and allow all those assembled three good throws. It would be even better if it were a cold day like today, since the duly elected would stand a chance of having to take the oath with a spankin' new chest cold. This would accord the duly elected the respect he or she deserved.

As for the Moose's question:

Can the President unite the red-state, blue-state America as he did briefly after 9-11? Can this President inspire Americans, as John McCain eloquently puts it, "to enlist in causes greater than their self-interest."?

Well, we offer our usual rabinical response.

Von Dribble

If I see one more anthropojournalistic feature on the Red States, I'm going to vomit in my latte.

I'm not surprised that a totally hilarious parody popped up within 48 hours. (Caution: conservative content.)

Brooks Attempts Empathy Toward Vagina-Havers, Steps on D**k

I'm sorry, I keep saying "no more teeing off on David Brooks," but he just tossed the juiciest softball yet. When Brooks goes for empathy, it's watching someone's car stall on train tracks.

In "Empty Nests, and Hearts" (can we give an award for that title?), Brooks argues that women should consider marrying and having kids much younger.

His heart, what's left of it, is in the right place. He sees women trying to balance careers and parenting in a society where employers make this very difficult. We all know the story (as recently presented in a slobbery "women decide that careers aren't worth it and go back to full-time mothering" segment on 60 Minutes). A woman begins a career, then has a child. Her husband keeps working full-time, so she cuts back her hours or takes a leave of absence for a few years. When she returns, she finds that her colleagues have advanced their careers while she was raising her kids, and her employer won't give her much opportunity for advancement now because she hasn't shown dedication to the company. This explains much of the current wage gap. That, and the fact that women who make the decision to put parenting over a career and end up divorced rarely get compensated for the time they could have spent making themselves more marketable. They make a deal with their husbands--"I'll put education and career aside for the kids, and you bring home the bacon"--then the husband takes the bacon elsewhere and the wife loses 5 or 10 or 20 years she could have spent building a career.

Anyway, it is in this context that Brooks begins his fec--sorry, thesis. Since our social institutions put up so many barriers to women who want to raise children and have a career, he argues, women should change. Get married and have babies in your twenties, then in your 30s you can attend a...[snicker]...sorry, you can [chortle]...haha, sorry. He says that then [CACKLE!]...HAHAHAHA [trying not to pee pants]...Eff it, I'll let Brooks say it himself:

"For example, it might make more sense to go to college, make a greater effort to marry early and have children. Then, if she, rather than her spouse, wants to stay home, she could raise children from age 25 to 35. Then at 35 (now that she knows herself better) she could select a flexible graduate program specifically designed for parents. Then she could work in one uninterrupted stint from, say, 40 to 70."

HAHAHAHAHA!!! Mommy U. Breeder College of the Reproductive Arts. Learn Here Bitch.

R U F N K M???

For Brooks, it's as simple as that. Get your MRS degree, then the next degree (I guess that would be a Pamper's Degree), then go back to a [snicker] "flexible graduate program specifically designed for parents" once the rugrats are off to college.

It didn't occur to Brooks, even after asking lots of Credentialed Men, that maybe we as a society should push for more flexible workplaces? That we should have a culture that doesn't economically penalize (as it were) women for learning? That maybe it would be nice if, say, companies could accommodate husbands and wives (or husbands and husbands or wives and wives for that matter, but that's another battle) who each wanted to work half-time?

Maybe Lawrence Summers will start a "flexible graduate program specifically designed for intellectually inferior genders" at Harvard.

Is Brooks married? He better hope his wife didn't read Lysistrata in her flexible graduate program.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Firebombing in Charles Village

Well, it happened again. Five effing oxygen thieves tried to firebomb the home of a neighborhood activist. You'd think after what happened to the Dawson family, that wouldn't happen again. Put them away for life. Forever. In solitary. That's a line you don't cross. That's terrorism.

And anyone in Baltimore who feels like wagging their fingers at the mayor, or the cops, or the prosecutors, or the "culture," or feels like blaming anyone or anything, first ask yourself, "How am I part of this?" You live in Baltimore, too. What are you doing to tie the loose ends of civic life that the government and non-profits aren't able to get to?

This is why I actually like the BELIEVE campaign. It's essentially a conservative message: the government can't do everything for you, so GET INVOLVED. Become a cop, mentor a kid, turn in drug dealers anonymously, get treatment if you're a junkie.

You don't have to be Edna McAbier or Angela Dawson or Bea Gaddy or Philip Berrigan or Rebecca Yenawine to build a better city. We wouldn't need heroic community activists if everyone did just a little bit. It's not always easy. What small business owner wants to pay a living wage or take a chance on a former addict? What first time homeowner wants to live in a neighborhood with boardedups and robberies? Who wants to report drug dealers after seeing this terrorism? What mother wants to send her child to a school where her child is exposed to more arson than arithmetic?

None of these things is appealing if we do it on our own. But they'd be very easy to do if we were all doing it. How we get there I don't know. And I'm no saint--I don't have kids, and I bought a house in a fairly safe neighborhood (although I tried to find a house in Charles North but couldn't find one). But we all have to do something.

Please do something. Anything. No matter how small. It's not *what* everyone is doing, it's the fact that *everyone* is doing something. Sheer numbers.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Notes From A Generally Good Monday Night

DI missed a good one. But seriously, can we please put a curse on all the misbegotten offspring of Nick Drake and Elliot Smith? Ya'll make my head hurt, and also make me want to vote Republican.

Did I See Him In Atomic On Saturday?

Probably not, just some guy who looked like him. However, today I do see Yglesias making some very thoughtful points on the evolution issue, and the culture war in general. The, err, well, not gonna use that phrase, but:

Important political fights are won on the airwaves, on the op-ed pages, in the streets, and at the ballot box. The "culture wars" fights are largely winnable, but only if you play the game and learn to play it well.

Dovetails nicely with our values obsession right now, I think.

Even More Values

New Donkey wrote a very insightful post on how to use "values language" effectively. I have to say that it should come completely naturally to many of us to speak on those terms. We may just be out of practice. I know I am.

Monday, January 17, 2005

M is for Mettle, L is for Love, K is for Kinetic

WPFW in Washington, D.C. is broadcasting King's speeches throughout the day. You can listen on line at

Take a listen, and then think about the last time a sound moved you.

Stanford has archived King's speeches online.

We have not seen since an American with such colossal charisma and unflappable moral mettle, and no one since has changed society so profoundly and quickly. I don't know if this is because no one has had what it takes, or because our society is in such a state that even the mightiest can't reach us.

"I criticize America because I love her and I want to see her stand as the moral example of the world."

Shed a tear today, brothers and sisters. Then figure out what you're going to do.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Value Size Me

E. J. Dionne has a nice summary of Ted Kennedy's speech yesterday - a speech that has generated a bit of commentary in the blogosphere. Yesterday I listened to it streamed from C-SPAN, but the fact that he talks funny made it difficult for me to understand him, so I didn't get all of it. Specifically, when he says Vahlyoos, I think he's talking about some sort of Swedish candy(I didn't figure out what he was really saying till I read Dionne's column). Ok, IMFNKY.

I really really like the suprisingly novel notion that liberals have Values. I guess that's the part of the Religious Right critique of American Culture that has always made me ask, ARE YOU EFFIN' KIDDING ME? All of the examples of the decline of our culture that are blamed on liberals and their lack of values can more accurately be placed at the feet of the market. The Culture Industry is for the most part agnostic as to what it produces, as long as it's consumed in high volume. If people stopped buying, they'd stop trying to sell it. I've never quite understood how that's FDR's (or Bill Clinton's) fault.


This Bob states the obvious too, but he doesn't get a pick-axe in the back.

Correcting misstatements by major officials is part of a journalist’s job description! And they shouldn’t feel they have to find a Democratic spokesman to contradict Bush; that is their job as reporters....Objective reporters don’t need third parties to interject simple matters of fact.

Oh yeah, add him as one more reason we heart Baltimore.

Goddamn Young People

Via Atrios we learn there appears to be some sort of controversy a brewin' about blogs and disclosure and relation to political campaigns. It appears that right wing blogs are acting as if there's some sort of corelation between Armstorng Williams taking taxpayer money and hyping NCLB in his column(I won't provide links, ya'll oughtta know about it by now) and Kos having worked on the Dean campaign(Atrio provides link to Kos who provides link to Instapundit). ARE YOU EFFIN' KIDDING ME?

Seems to me there are several issues being conflated here, and loud mouth jerks on both sides don't want to clear it up(although Kos comes closest). So we'll just jump in.

  1. Kos got private funds and Williams got public funds. Kos disclosed the fact that he was getting private funds, Williams didn't disclose that he was getting public funds. Kos is the apple, Williams is the orange. There is nothing else to say about that.

  2. Somehow this has sparked some sort of conversation about ethics, standards and whatnot on blogs, because somehow people are totally convinced that blogging = journalism.

    As far as the ethical uses of communications technology goes, this problem was solved nearly 20 years ago when users came to general semi-agreement on posting etiquette on the USENET. As another example of the same type of thing, there's Wikis and their guiding principles.

    For all the pretentious jerks out there like Instapundit and Sullivan who insist on acting like blogs are somehow revolutionary(no, they are Wikis with some of the features disabled), it goes like this: People get sick of the signal to noise ratio and figure out how to filter it. Then the community involved eventually settles on a few general guidelines on how best to prevent a huge amount of noise. If the Blogs Are The Revolution crowd knew anything about the evolution of the technology they champion, they'd know this already.

    By the way, I'm not a libertarian, but I don't want my blogging - and therefore my forum for being a loud mouth jerk - regulated(unless the people providing the free service I happen to abuse decide they'd prefer not to have me use their hardware and bandwidth for free). I also don't want people who have no knowledge of the history or the technology involved deciding what's ethical for me to post or not post. But please, feel free to come up with yet more wonderful ways to both inflate the importance of the internet and then destroy the things it's good for.

  3. Here's an idea for everyone who's all concerned with the ramifications of what get's posted on blogs: Start your own consortium and make people register for it. Then you can filter the membership based on whatever criteria you have. For instance, my consortium would be the "Anyone but Instapundit And Sullivan" consortium, and everyone else in the whole blogosphere could join and get a cool logo on their site, and everyone would know that if that logo was on a site, Instapundit and Sullivan weren't allowed to post there. Oh wait, people already do stuff like that. The point of this silly paragraph is to point out another problem already solved.

It always amazes me how people spend so much time on thinking about problems that don't exist when there are plenty of real problems that do. Now, all of you get back to the real partisan snarking so I can enjoy my blog-reading.

Update: The non-evil Roger Ailes has a a far better(as usual) post on this same topic.

What's the big idea?

I propose a contest for RUFNKM. No, I am NFNKY. You must answer a question: "What's the big idea?" That would be the big idea driving George Bush and his administration. Sorry, "God" and "Jesus" are not acceptable answers. We need at least 25 words. (And no, "god god god god..." is not acceptable either.)

Bush is not a practical president. He thinks long term, and he sells this vision as a strength. Consider No Child Left Behind--our education system has been in decline for a long time, and Bush argues that small bureaucratic reforms will never change anything. We need big changes, he says. And he's not finished. Perhaps he knows his big idea might fail here, but it's worth it to him to take that risk--better to try big and fail than to keep making little changes to make us feel like we're doing something.

And Social Security. Maybe he doesn't expect his plan to go through. Maybe he thinks that it's a Big Question in need of Big Answers, and he just wants to force us to do something Big about it. That's admirable. But again, it's a Big Risk, and could lead to Massive Hemorrhaging. He's willing to take that risk.

Poverty, too. Bush just proposed massive cuts in HUD's budget. The poor will certainly suffer for it, but he sees "duplicative" and "ineffective" programs (of course, we can always funnel over $1 billion to faith-based organizations). He's willing to dismantle what we consider a safety net because he thinks that net is tying us down, holding us back from grander solutions.

And the environment. And human rights. And the "culture war." And. And. And.

Foreign policy is the ultimate example of Bush's Big Idea. Today, the National Intelligence Council released a report on "long term global trends." It says that Iraq is the new Afghanistan as far as terrorist training goes. It also reports on trends--such as growing global inequality, declining American dominance in technology, and the 500-pound elephant in the room, China-- that Bush has put on the backburner in hopes that the War on Terror is going to make everything okay...eventually.

That's a big idea. He's willing to ignore most everything else presidents have traditionally concerned themselves with because one idea can fix everything. And I think this idea is so big that it's driving everything I've mentioned here--policy changes regarding the economy, domestic social problems, science and the environment, treaties, human rights, everything. It's all tied together by this Big Idea.

So we look forward to your responses: What's the big effin' idea?

Thursday, January 13, 2005

RUFNKM Loves Porn!

Not really. I don't think we have an official position on porn. Could someone else please stake one out? We might need it later. In any case, Wonkette is really effin' funny today.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Looking Back In Horror

John at By The Bayou has an excellent post about "Hotel Rwanda" and Rwanda itself. I haven't seen the film because the whole subject makes me despair. In any case, read his post if you haven't already.

Not the Change in Tone Jay Was Looking For

Oops. I posted that last entry before reading Jay’s Declaration of a Change in Tone. Sorry. I’m halfway into a bottle of wine, I just had a cup of coffee, and my Internet connection is frustratingly spotty. Not to mention I’ve been very far from America—in more ways than one—for the last few days and I’m still feeling around in the dark for my rocker.

And being this far away from America, at Disappearingink’s International Undisclosed Location, means it’s more difficult to change America for the better when I see what’s wrong. I planned this move a while before the election, and to tell you the truth, after the election I wanted to stay and fight. But I didn’t. I left. Now when I see Bush say these things, more smoke shoots out of my ears than usual. I don’t think I’m alone.

So I’d like to pile on the Baltimore love fest. I love, love, heart Baltimore. Hate it sometimes, too, but that’s because I grew up around there. You have to get away from Baltimore, I think, or be from somewhere else to fully appreciate it.

It’s small. After a couple years, it’s the same people, the same culture, the same bars, the same museums, the same drama. It’s not a city, like New York, where you can be relatively anonymous, discovering some new scene or place every day. Wait, that’s not true. You just have to work a little harder to find it, that’s all.

We’re all on top of one another. Rich and poor, black and white, sophisticated and stunted, cosmopolitan and provincial, conservative and liberal. Not like DC, where everyone in NW agrees with each other and says—in complete ignorance of the rich culture in the other quadrants—“it’s so trannnnnnsient.” Nope. We’re right on top of one another.

And the result? People say awful things about one another. There’s conspicuous racist conversation. But you know what? As much shit as they talk, white and black working class people in Baltimore actually get to know one another. They’re friends. They’ll say ugly things about race behind each others’ backs, but they’ll always step up for their friends no matter the color (insert Obligatory Official RUFNKM "Only a Pawn in Their Game" Nod to Class Trumping Race here). Of course, this is the lesser of two evils, but it’s less evil than in other places.

And you can walk into any bar and talk to anyone. Those of us who decide to stick around Baltimore are weird, we know it, and there’s nothing we can do about it. A city of eccentric strangers, talking. No pretension. We see through each others’ bullshit, and if you don’t understand Baltimore, we certainly see through your bullshit.

We crank up the weird factor pretty high. High Zero. AVAM. Just look at our exports: John Waters, Frank Zappa, David Byrne, Oprah Winfrey. Many more I’m forgetting, plus the fact that there are tons of great, more-creative-than-weird artists, musicians, playwrights, dancers, etc. in the city right now. And they do it because they love it, and they don’t need a lot of money, honey.

And we have a history of talented iconoclastic artists and philanthropists. Cone, Holiday, Mencken, Tupac, Hopkins, Barth, Key, Marshall, Pratt, Peabody, Fitzgerald, Ponselle, Glasses Philip and Ira, Drs. Carson and Carter.

We don’t climb, but we know what matters. There’s no pretension. Baltimore has more working class renaissance men (and women), more barfly savants than any town you’ll find.

And although Baltimore has many problems, we have a history of fighting for solutions: Philip Berrigan, Catonsville Nine, Bea Gaddy, and tons of young people like Gin Ferrara, Rebecca Yenawine, and David Miller who are using the arts to give the children of Baltimore the equal opportunity they should have had in the first place.

The reason I like Baltimore—and I’m presuming this is why Jay likes it, too—is the same reason anyone could like any city. You have to do something, get involved, if you are going to get anything out of living here. You can’t just show up and be entertained. It’s a weird little place, and it draws a certain kind of person. So no matter what we look like or what we do, we all have something in common, and I think we get along pretty well.

The Needle-Scratching-Across-The-Record Heard Round The World

President Bush told the Washington Times yesterday he doesn't "see how you can be president without a relationship with the Lord."

"I fully understand that the job of the president is and must always be protecting the great right of people to worship or not worship as they see fit," Bush said.

"That's what distinguishes us from the Taliban. The greatest freedom we have or one of the greatest freedoms is the right to worship the way you see fit.

"On the other hand, I don't see how you can be president at least from my perspective, how you can be president, without a relationship with the Lord."


So, alright, we're not the Taliban. Let's take a minute, reach around, [pat pat pat], congratulations, we're not the Taliban. If we keep trying hard, perhaps tomorrow we won't be Saudi Arabia or Iran.

The Enlightenment, if it wasn't already, is officially effin' over.

"I don't see how you can be president at least from my perspective, how you can be president, without a relationship with the Lord." Okay. And? And? That statement is just floating around out there among the other 11,000 pieces of orbital debris, connected to nothing, no b for its a, no words, not even a sound, just a non sequitur, "can't be president IF don't know Lord" huff huff scratch spit screech throw feces. I'd be upset if some stale-beer-smelling turd at the bus station said that to me, but The President of the United States?!? Effin' come on!

Now, let's consider the ideas upon which this country was founded. Why were 17th and 18th century philosophers so enamored of reason, of observation, of knowledge? Because they fought for it, and they got it. Knowledge used to come from the Church. The Church had authority over knowledge. Then we got it. We got it! It's ours! We reason and observe, and we improve. Take that, Church--you can keep your rituals, but no one is going to look to you for knowledge anymore. Protestantism split the Church, peasants moved to town and changed the society and economy, and the philosophers lit the fuse of Enlightenment. Things changed!

All of this doesn't mean, although Bush would probably accuse us of this fallacy, that everyone who abandons the church as a source of authoritative knowledge becomes an agnostic or an atheist. No, that's what's great about it! You can have faith and still be guided by reason. You can have a personal relationship with God and still be critical. (Your mileage may vary.)

What's great about America is that we took the ideas of these French and British philosophers and put our money where our mouth was. To the New World! Huzzah! Religious freedom for all! No state church. We kept, for the most part, religion out of politics.

But Bush isn't one of these people who can have a relationship with God and be critical. No, he and God have a nasty, codependent relationship. Bush can't do a thing without asking God what he should do. Bush dropped the bottle and picked up the chalice. Can't do a thing for himself. What's he afraid of?

We in the Reality-Based World always worried that this is what he was thinking. Now we know. Scary stuff. Scary, scary stuff. Bush is lucky the Reality-Based World doesn't believe in pre-emptive strikes.

A Temporary Change In Tone

Some people have commented on the increasingly querelous tone on the blog. Last night I was told by our good friend Steve that I'd become apoplectic - yeow! hey, is that a good thing? - and on monday my very own father called me long distance to ask why I've been verging on incoherent rage. ARE YOU EFFIN' KIDDING ME? We're mad because there's way too much to be mad about and it's hard to both angry and reasonable. Be that as it may, if one's parent makes a long distance call on their own nickle to query one's mental state, something may indeed be up(one thing I've learned is my father is right way more often than I'd like to admit). So to provide some contrast, today I will offer up a change in tone and talk about something I like instead, especially since there's an anniversary of sorts approaching.

In one week it will be three years since I moved to Baltimore. Even now, when a local hears I've moved from San Francisco to Baltimore, I'm met with a baffled look followed about 5 seconds later by said local spluttering "Wh...why???" I have a pretty standard riff about how the DotBomb ruined SF far sooner than most people realized and in far reaching ways people don't always consider(this riff is really long and dull and has probably been posted elsewhere on this blog at least once, so I won't repeat the rest of it here - and this is supposed to be a positive post dammit!). After recovering from severe eye glazing, baffled local then replies, "Yeah, sure, that makes sense, but why Baltimore?" I normally reply that it was the only place I had an employment opportunity that I had never been before, and that my brother lives in DC, so I'd be near family without being unbearably close. Also, Homicide is a better show than Law&Order. Baffled local gives up, gets frustrated because I've given them the reasons why I left, why I've come, but haven't answered the penultimate. At this point, local gasps, "BUT WHY ARE YOU STAYING?".

I have to admit I'm normally stuck for an answer that doesn't sound terribly cliched, so I normally make positive noises about the quality of the people and architecture. I'll mention the truly interesting American history (my favorite period in American history is the War of 1812, and Baltimore comes out of that episode looking damn good, I must say), as well as the complex labor history. I'll say good things about the food, the museums, the harbor. I'll get a chuckle over the fact that Baltimore has one of the last and best old-fashioned machine-style politics in the country. I'll say that it's great to live in a city both Thurgood Marshall and David Hasslehoff called home. If they're of a literary bent, I'll point them to Mencken's "On Living In Baltimore", which time has rendered inaccurate in letter, but not in spirit. I normally leave out John Waters and Barry Levinson, but they are both good film makers(although personally I could live without Waters being the tastemaker for all that's hip, but that's a minor quibble).

Still, this mishmash of positive stuff doesn't quite do it justice. Baltimore is a charming city, but it's more than that. I've never felt like much of a booster for any particular city until I moved here, and I don't know the words to describe what it is about Baltimore that flipped the civic pride switch in me. At one point Jo Mama - who Dave G. once described as "the other half of the Baltimore Boosters Club", and he should know, they're married - and I decided it had something to do with "vibrant idleness", but that is only part of the story. I've had both locals and recent transplants say to me "I don't get it. I wish I could see Baltimore through your eyes." And it frustrates me that people can't.

It turns out you can. As a (very) early birthday present, yesterday my girlfriend bought me an autographed copy of Perry's Baltimore Adventure, by Peter E. Dans. Yes, it's a children's book, and it's sort of cheesy and full of the sort of uplift at which someone of my temperment would normally vomit. But the illustrations by Kim Harrell capture in pictures what I can't in words. If you want to see Baltimore through my eyes, take a look at the view she renders of Mount Vernon, spread across two pages. It's the view from the sky of what I saw the first time I was taken through Mount Vernon. That's what made me think to myself, "this is a beautiful city, and I'm staying here." If you know me personally, ask to see the book next time you're over, and I'll show it to you.

By the way, I know there's tons and tons of horrible effed up stuff about Baltimore, but you can see that on The Wire, and read about it every day so you don't need to read it here, at least not today.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Wow, I'm Happy About Something Rummy Said...

Full disclosure: Pre-9/11 I loved watching Rumsfeld give press conferences. If we are going to have a phony politics, I thought, here's the guy I want to see on television. He was always funny, and he reminded me of my grandmother in the way he could make you feel silly for bothering him with all that nonesense, but nurtured by the attention none the less. Post 9/11 it's been a different story.

This item makes me breathe a sigh of relief, even if it's possible he's lying, or at least covering tail. Note he says "The Pentagon doesn't do things like that."(Emphasis mine).

(Link via Raw Story).

Heck Yeah!

Amid news that Howard Dean will indeed run for the DNC chair (was there really any doubt? And by the way, I still think it would only be a good thing if he won), BOP brings gossip that is far more exciting. I doubt Wes would really have won this past election, but for me he was - and remains - the most exciting thing about the Democratic Party.

Monday, January 10, 2005

True Dat

(That would be our version of "indeed.").

Marc Cooper has an excellent post for us anti-war folks. I have to admit that my personal objections to this war were based more on the fact that it was Bush's, and therefore bound to devolve into what it has become, rather than being against regime change per se. So to me this scolding is well taken. As for other bloggers' challenges to me personally and to "the left" in general about lack of specific policy for Iraq, guilty as charged. I'll cop to being one of those whose main complaint about Iraq is a lack of same from the administration and what horrors this has wrought. Since I'm not paid(by anyone, least of all the American People) to figure that stuff out, and they are, I assume that's reasonable. I often wonder why the same people who think that government should be run like a corporation are the same people who complain when some of the consumers don't like the product said corporation is dishing out.

Whatever his post may have meant to me, I think Cooper is actually taking swipes at people like Naomi Klein, who he thinks support the insurgency. I agree that it's completely ridiculous for those of us on the left who are against the war to go so far as to offer anything resembling solidarity to the insurgency as a whole. I have no sympathy for these people. My severe worry, though, is that the harsher and more indescriminate we are, the more we will send the populace into the arms of people who have even less interest in Iraqi democracy than Dick Cheney does. That's why I keep complaining about what we're doing. It's not any particular love for the revolutionary possibilities opened up by a bunch of religious fundamentalists armed to the teeth(if I wanted that I would have been far more in favor of the Militia movement here in the late 1990's). It's when we do things that are guaranteed to sully us morally and swell their ranks that I object.

Elitism and Such

Kevin Drum has a great post about Wolfowitz, who will be staying on in his role as "idealogue mathematician who can't count and doesn't bother to figure out how a culture works before invading it, but is really a smart guy". The thing that REALLY effs me off about this is that on the right, being a "smart guy" is supposed to be a bad thing, isn't it? All you're supposed to need is moral clarity and vision, yeah? I remember the 1990's so well, when I would see speeches given to Heritage and Cato about how we really need to watch out for the smart guys, because they're the ones who cause all the damage. What we really need is character. However, being a "really smart guy" is the defense always offered to Wolfowitz.

Wolfowitz is a smart guy, in the sense that he speaks more than one language and has fantastic academic credentials. What's interesting to me is that his idealistic side is pretty right on. He has a passion for ideas, democracy and human rights - there's a reason this wonderful book is dedicated to him. But his realpolitik is broken. He doesn't mind a few wrongful deaths here or there in service of his aims, and he's willing to embrace policies that completely subvert his aims and simply wave his hands. I think this may be because his blind democratic ideaology is in complete conflict with his blind economic idealogy. To me, all this means that he belongs not in government, but in a thinktank. He's well suited to advocating certain large scale policy(he was very right about Kosovo and his reasons for war with Iraq follow the same line), but the implementation ought to be left up to competent policy people. Too bad ShrubCo ain't innarested in competent policy.

Elevating The Discourse Some More

This here quote via MediaMatters got me thinkin'. Recall that those of us who work in its proximity call the Sinclair headquarters "the Sin Lair" because of their notorious CEO. It's a really ugly building too. But that's not what I want to talk about. It's this:

HYMAN: I wasn't going to address this, and then I thought, "what the heck?" Several days before Christmas -- and please note, I said "Christmas" and not "the holiday season," and that alone will anger the liberals --

ARE YOU EFFIN' KIDDING ME? Every time I hear a commentator say something like "anger the liberals", I imagine a three year old saying "poop!" over and over because he/she knows it'll piss off their mom. Well, we ain't your moms. But since the level of discourse you guys want to pass off is for 3-year olds, allow me to elevate the discourse somewhat. I speak, of course, of elementary school playground taunts - Detroit, circa 1979 version, wherein someone insists on doing something really annoying "just to piss you off" The correct reply in these situations was: "Bitch, you ain't come close to pissin' me off. Still walkin' and breathin' aintcha?" That would be my Point. There are plenty of us who live and work quite close to Mr. Hyman, and he's still walkin' and breathin', right?

Winning Hearts&Minds

Oh great. I assume that over at The Corner and LGF and on Limbaugh - and everyplace else populated by chickenshits who never have had their lives in any sort of jeoprady, yet somehow think it totally appropriate to instruct all of the rest of us on "the nature of war" - they're already talking about what a brave and timely move this is, and how they can't wait to hear the belly-aching from the left. Allow us to oblige.

Certain things are right and certain things are wrong. The more we officially engage in morally reprehensible acts, the less moral our supposed cause there becomes. Anyone who doesn't understand that is engaging in moral relativism and nuance, and has no business at the grownups table.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Professional, Personal And Political

So why is it in my professional life the people who are the staunchest Republicans - more often in management than anywhere else - always have the mentality of the cliched Republican version of a Union Shop employee?

For example, the producer on my current project decided to get in my face the day after the election about how my "faggot and welfare loving money wasting liberal" candidate lost. However, this is the same guy who is completely unable to quit wasting time and therefore money on dysfunctional development processes. He's not smart enough to figure out that we're wasting time and money, so therefore he's not smart enough to figure out how to fix it. The people who do that are the engineers. And when the engineers figure out how to save time, he actively resists the improvement because he's "too busy", never mind that to actually explain the new process or tool would take less time than it takes him to explain why he's "too busy". As near as I can tell, he performs no function. So why do we pay his salary? I'm not sure, but I wish they'd fire him and divide the money up among the people who not only perform their own jobs, but his as well.

It's been the same everywhere I have worked. The movements to increase productivity and keep costs down always come from people who tend to vote Democratic (if they bother voting at all). The Republicans in the office - engineer, artist or manager, it doesn't matter - are always more willing to waste the company's money and time standing around the water cooler discussing Rush Limbaugh, the evils of liberalism, how unfair it is they pay taxes to government fatcats who don't do anything. But when it comes to rubbing some brain cells together or producing some results, you can count them out, and if they might actually have to learn a new skill, you may as well forget it.

Of course there are exceptions to this, my engineering manager being one of them. He spends all day listening O'Reilly and Hannity and Limbaugh, and has Fox News as his homepage. But he never gets in anyone's face, and he works hard and thinks clearly, is results driven, and generally sets a civil tone for the office. But these exceptions are rare.

I'm not sure what it is about the software industry that attracts such lazy misbegotten creatures. I've heard stories about smart, hard working financiers and stock brokers who wish Ronald Reagan had lived and been president forever, but I've never met anyone like that in software. The people I know who wish for the Reagan Utopia have no interest in doing - and very little ability to do - any of the lifting, never mind the heavy part.

I thought being a Republican meant always striving for greater efficiency, greater productivity, greater profits, greater achievement. I thought it was the Democrats who wanted free money for doing nothing. But in my professional life, the general trend is completely the opposite.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Local Post Warning: Happy Effin' New Year Edition

The Baltimore Sun reports our first two homicides of the New Year. And just this morning I heard O'Malley on the radio claiming his greatest accomplishment is the reduction in the homicide rate, and his greatest failure is not reducing it enough.

Not that it matters much, but if he decides to run for Governor, I'm voting against him in the primaries, and if he gets the nomination I'll be voting Green. If I were BullMoose I'd probably say something slightly moralistic about political ambitions and civic duty and the conflict between them. I might even observe that O'Malley's threat to run demonstrates why no one takes politicians (in general) and Democrats (in particular) seriously as anything other than opportunistic jerks dead set on furthering their careers over serving the public interest. But I'm not. I just love my adopted home, and O'Malley made me B'lieve Hon, at least a little. I'd just like him to do the same.

Monday, January 03, 2005

You Don't Want To Come Home And We Don't Want You, But...

It's a New Year, and one of my resolutions was to be more tolerant and open-minded. (I do that every year, so now I've managed to expand the number of people I like to someplace between 50 and 100). In that spirit, on I go with Hitch watching because I can't help myself, but this time with a little bit of pleasure...

An interview with Hitchens on FrontPage(or "The Toilet Stall Of Internet Polemics" as we like to call it) finds him in rare form, or at least rare these days. In other words, there's a good paragraph or two in there. He manages a defense of Chomsky(I also prefer Noam's old stuff, for what it's worth). I suppose he has to be the "contrarian" and make sure to disagree with whomever is interviewing him. Tres' Punque!

I think he might have put his objection to Abu Gahrib a bit better though. I wish he'd point out that the same crowd that is so up in arms about moral relativism is the same crowd that feels it necessary to make the comparison between our actions at Abu Ghraib and Saddam's in order to say "it's not that bad." He does a great job on Iraq otherwise.

Babble babble, slow work day. It's worth a read to see the old man hasn't completely lost it.

Locking Them Up Today...

Via the always informative War and Piece we find some comments on the yet again attempted revival of the defense of internment(no links to Malkin, but you can read this at DemVet instead. I should point out that my girlfriend is Filipino so I don't agree with his modest proposal - also, I know he's effin' kidding). This time it's coming from Daniel Pipes. Mr. Pipes claims that it's liberals and polite society that have conspired to create the "reality" that prevents internment. We say, ARE YOU EFFIN' KIDDING ME? (We're providing a link to his homepage, not the article, strictly so you can see his picture. Why? You'll have to wait and see...) Unlike many bleeding heart liberals who are all up in arms because proposals like that are fascist in nature - an objection with which we obviously agree - we're going to object on one or two practical grounds, if only to show that it's not just our bleeding hearts that are offended by trash like this, but our sense of reason as well.

The reality has nothing to do with liberal bleeding hearts or polite society or people being unwilling to accept "radical proposals"(RUFNKM? Aren't we in the middle of an occupation of a foregin country - a pretty radical notion, right? - with the supposed popular support of the majority of the American people as well as all those polite liberals over at the NYT?)The reality is that to intern all the Muslims, you have to find them, and that's an intractable problem.

You might say you know a Muslim when you see one, but is it really that easy for ShurbCo or anyone else to spot Muslims on sight? After all, they only had to spot 19 of them on 9/11, and they had some of them on watch lists and all that. Of course, 9/11 has made us all sensitive and suspicious(but wait, haven't we had problems with radical Islam since at least 1979? err....), so we really ought to be more careful and learn to spot them.

Here's how I do it: You look for facial features less aryan than Bob Odenkirk's hidden behind big black beards. See why we linked to the picture of Pipes?

We suggest that being Muslim, unlike being Japanese(or Filipino) is less an ehtnic affiliation than a religious one. It is true that many Muslims come from the Middle East and may indeed have certain physical characteristics in common, but going strictly on that basis will cause way too many non-Muslims to get unfairly locked up. And you can forget about catching white Muslims like John Walker. So something other than "racial profiling" will have to be used.

Perhaps a database of all self-identified Muslims would work, except you might find it hard to find all self-identified Muslims if you announce your intention to lock them up. They'll probably all suddenly turn Jewish or something(or maybe Sihk).

No, the best we can do is to suspect and check up on the entire population. This means all the usual stuff normally used to keep guns out of high schools and drugs out of government employees, except instead of metal detectors we'll need Muslim detectors, and instead of drug tests, Muslim tests. This will of course require a huge investment in core technology to detect religious affiliation. It may have unintended consequences like revealing to Baptists that they are in fact Unitarians, but if you need to make an omlet, you gotta break some eggs. I'm sure the DHS can figure out a way to fund it.

What's He Doing Quoting James?

Screw the incongruity, William Gibson has a nice New Year's message.