Friday, December 30, 2005

Iraq Alone!

Well, in an interesting spin on an old classic, it seems lovable scamp Farris Hassan has taken off for Iraq, Alone! AquaPundit says "heh, indeed and is McCauley available for the picture? Joe Pesci was born to play the bungling insurgent."

Is There Room In There For All Of Us.....

Or will some of us need to find alternate transport to hell? As Dissapearingink investigates the aftermath of Katrina we get to ring in the arrival of a new record baby, Tropical Storm Zeta is roiling along in the Eastern Atlantic. WooHoo! At this rate we'll be through the Greek alphabet and into Egyptian hyroglyphics by mid March. Are you ready for Hurricane Pharaoh Holding His Sandles? I think you are!

While I pitty you surface dwellers, we here under the sea find these things a hoot! We just bob along about 15 feet bellow the surface and ride the swells (get your minds out of the gutter). It is much like what you dry landers call Disneyworld.



Gray Line Tours is giving $3 for each $35 ticket it sells to hurricane-related non-profits.

What's the $35 ticket for? The "Hurricane Katrina, America's Greatest Disaster" tour.

"An eyewitness account of the events surrounding the most devastating natural disaster on American soil!"

"Drive past an actual levee that 'breached.'"

Ten percent?
I'm in Baton Rouge, about to head down to New Orleans for a few days. Depending on my Internet connection, I'll try to blog some of the stories I discover down here.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Remember, William Kristol Once Worked For Dan Quayle

If Kristol is one of those in charge of injudiciously directing history's actors, then he needs to learn the script a little better. Otherwise reality is going to keep heckling from the nose-bleed seats and there won't be a damn thing he can do about it.

Last week in reference to his op-ed justifying the wiretap program, we wrote:

The example Kristol gives - in which the Justice Department felt they didn't have enough to get a FISA warrant to monitor one of the 9/11 plotters - actually raises more questions about the competence of Ashcroft's Justice Department and thus Bush's leadership. It does not demonstrate a need for more executive power.

Looks like we were more right than we thought (and we thought were were pretty right). Via ThinkProgress, according to Coleen Rowley, the Justice Department never saw existing evidence that could have lead to obtaining a FISA warrant. Oh sure, you could draw the inference this was caused be that damned ol' bureaucracy (and those annoying checks and balances). However, there's another inference you could draw, which is that Ashcroft and his boss were incredibly ineffective at making the existing process work. One could go further and suggest that, after reading that infamous PDB of August 6, 2001, an effective executive would have done what Richard Clarke calls "shaking the trees". Bush could have gotten the heads of various agencies together and forced them to start collaborating and sharing information. That Bush didn't see fit to do this (and had to wait for planes to crash into buildings and kill 3000 people on US soil before taking any action) is yet one more reason not to give him more power. Presidentin' is hard, but it's harder when you're not up to the job.

One more thing struck us as we re-read Kristol's statement. Kristol is using pre-9/11 events to justify post-9/11 behavior that was - and this is being charitabe - extra-legal. What this suggests is that Kristol would have been in favor of giving the executive that kind of power before we had even been attacked. That Kristol would prefer an incompetent executive have more power than necessary in peace-time tells you all you need to know about his and his ilk's level of respect for the people of the United States and our Constitution.

Requests For Memeage

Gordon at the Brain called for volunteers to answer the new "Meme of Four". We love memes so here's my part to answer the call (other contributors feel free).

Four jobs you've had in your life: newspaper delivery, Espresso Jerk, Software Quality Assurance, Software Engineer

Four movies you could watch over and over: Next Stop Wonderland, A Shot in the Dark, The Long Goodbye, (the first 10 minutes of) Way of the Gun

Four places you've lived: Detroit Michigan, San Jose CA, San Francisco CA, Baltimore MD

Four TV shows you love to watch: Homicide, The Wire, the Sci-fi Channel's Battlestar Galactica, Spaceghost Coast to Coast

Four places you've been on vacation: I effin' hate traveling.

Four websites you visit daily: alicublog, Baltimore Crime, Duck of Minerva, Maxspeak! (and 50-odd more).

Four of your favorite foods: cheese-steak, ribeye, the Breakfast Quesadilla (with bacon) at Golden West, my very own version of rigatoni bolognese.

Four places you'd rather be: (see above) At home (I'm at work right now), sitting in front of the Washington Monument (the Baltimore one), at any one of several bars in Hampden, at the Ruth's Chris in the Inner Harbor

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Many Flavors of RUFNKM

You know, you don't have to ask it just when things are mind-meltingly illogical. You can do it to express happy suprise. For instance, via Steve Clemons("solutions oriented radical centrist"), we learn that The Nation (the Magazine of The Left) has named Larry Wilkerson (staunch conservative) it's Executive Branch Progressive of the Year. ARE YOU EFFIN' KIDDING ME? Happily, no!

In The Future...

When I lived in SF back in the heydaze of the dot-com frenzy - and the term "new media" had a slightly more amorphous meaning than "a bunch of self-important knuckle-heads sitting at computers acting like their opinions are journalism" - a few of my friends and I became convinced that the real use of the "new media" would be that of providing outlets for all possible perversions. On our train rides into the valley we would sometimes amuse ourselves imagining what some of those perversions might be: "", "" etc. In large part we were proved right, but never in our most fevered envisioning could we have predicted how right we were.

Today's Incredipunditry!

Says Fixer(and you should read the whole thing):

This war is ruining a whole generation of young men and women to enrich people who give not a damn about them. It is illegal and immoral and anyone who supports it is devoid of any 'moral values' they claim to have. I wish I could let them share my dreams...just once.


Hampden pictures

There are so many pictures of The Avenue and Miracle on 34th Street that I had to go show some love to West Hampden (Jones Falls Valley). Check out the Flickr set.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Freedom Fries

Check out this photo essay on Iraqi civilians who have thus far survived the war. Must be nice to sit behind a desk and start a war.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Our Eagle Eyed President

It heartens me to see our president on the front lines, scanning the horizon for any possible threat. His excellent vision honed as a fighter pilot surely will spot any trouble. I must say, this photo warms the cockles of my heart. I know that I am safe now. Wait a minute, ummm, are the lens caps still on those binoculars? I believe they are.

Man I wish this was a video, I want to see how long he spent adjusting the focus before he decided to just pretend he could see.


Friday, December 23, 2005

A Not So Holiday Message

We so rarely ever do it that it's a pleasure when we can - favorably link to Hitchens, that is. To wit:

But there are millions of well-appointed buildings all across the United States, most of them tax-exempt and some of them receiving state subventions, where anyone can go at any time and celebrate miraculous births and pregnant virgins all day and all night if they so desire. These places are known as "churches," and they can also force passersby to look at the displays and billboards they erect and to give ear to the bells that they ring. In addition, they can count on numberless radio and TV stations to beam their stuff all through the ether. If this is not sufficient, then god damn them. God damn them everyone.

Amen, baby, Amen.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

all hail disappearingink again!

It doesn't matter if the visit only lasted one single second. If only I could write something that would bring people here from searches like this.

I Hope This Case Sets Precedent

Via Dispatches From The Culture Wars (up till just now absent from our blogroll - a truly criminal omission on the part of the blogroll-master who will shortly be shot dead). If the case described does set precedent I have a whole effin' list of people who will soon be hearing from my attorneys.

Outrageous O'Reilly!!!1!1!!

Media Matters documents O'Reilly baiting us "left-wing smear sites" into commenting on his statement that a cab-driver who demanded $300 to drive a friend's daughter to the airport "should be shot dead". Allow us to take the bait. This statement is totally outrageous, but not for the reason you think. What's outrageous is that O'Reilly is a free-market kinda guy and yet he's complaining about an entrepreur making a pretty decent business decision. Why shouldn't the cab-driver, operating in a free market, demand whatever he thinks it's worth to drive to the airport? What, you want a break because there's a transit strike on? You think that's "price-gouging"? Eff that. I call it "the market at work".

I think this points out that O'Reilly isn't really pro-market. It's more like he's "pro-whatever-benefits Bill O'Reilly at the moment" - or, as we called it on the playground in Detroit, "a big effin' whinin' cryin' baby".

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Only The Plant That Goes Into Fruitcake

Look, I like the Bull Moose. I'll even go farther and say that some of my best friends are Bull-Moosers. So I'd never accuse him of being a Republican Plant. In fact, given the world view he espouses on his blog I'd say that - like his hero Teddy - his politics lean more benevolent-totalitarian. Despite that, I think many of his populist impulses on domestic policy are spot-on, and generally he is consistent in his principles. However, his latest two posts pooh-poohing the domestic spying issue are so logic-defying in their attempts to justify executive over-reach (and thus adding more evidence to support my assesment of his politics) that it's only fair to call them the result of fruitcake reasoning. In other words, you gotta ask, "ARE YOU EFFIN' KIDDING ME?"

In the first, he writes:

What we do know is that we have not suffered another attack on the Homeland since 9/11. That is a miraculous fact. And President Bush should be applauded for protecting the country rather than excoriated, to say nothing of impeachment which is on the lips of some Democrats.

While it is true we haven't had a terror attack in the continental US since 9/11, the jury is far from out on why that's the case. Based on the evidence available there are far too many other possibilites - some frightening, others reassuring. The one which I find the most pleasing, however (and which can be "deduced" using the same logic the Moose uses), is that it is my presence in the Maryland Free State which has prevented further attacks. Think about it. I moved to Maryland shortly after 9/11, and now, no more attacks. No need to thank me - I moved here for the weather, not to prevent terrorism - but if you feel like expressing gratitude, I'd say the best way would be to spend more money at Atomic Books.

Later on he writes:

When it comes to the War Against Terror, there is no room for right wing or left wing libertarianism. Of course, we should guard our freedoms and be vigilant for excesses. But, our robust democracy is not endanger[sic]. If international phone calls by terrorist suspects were monitored, good and fine. What is in question is whether some of our elites continue to believe that we are actually at war with a devious foe. Memories of 9/11 are fading and many act as if the threat has gone away.

Dude! I live in Maryland now! We are safe! You can forgive the elites their complacency. That is unless you're talking about the Bush Administration pre-9/11. In all seriousness, it is not "good and fine" if the monitoring of such phone calls was illegal and the means to make it legal existed and yet the President either didn't understand or blatantly ignored the law.

In the second post, he writes:

It was not an "unreasonable" search and seizure for the NSA to detect international phone calls of terrorist suspects. The key factor is that we are at war against a foe that is seeking to kill us. Congress passed a force resolution authorizing the President to defend the nation against Al Qaeda. Agility and speed was essential to exploit the information that was obtained from intelligence sources. It is now clear that the FISA law was an anachronism that was intended for Cold War espionage - far different from the post 9/11 era.

Actually, the FISA law being an anachronism is far from clear. In fact, the only person I've read so far who thinks this is the Moose himself. No evidence exists which supports the claim that the existing law inhibited either agility or speed of action.

Later on there's this:

The President made a judgment - maybe it was not the best one. But he was clearly attempting to defend America against Jihadists. He was not attempting to nail or harass political enemies. He was not attempting to strengthen his hold on power. It might have been the wrong decision, but it was certainly not a venal one.

It's sad to see a once proud mammal descend into such moral-relativism. And here I thought we're all supposed to stand on principle, that we are a nation of laws etc etc. Actually, we have no idea why Bush authorized the program he did. And we will probably never know why since the executive order is secret.

In order to keep his bipartisan cred up, he writes:

In the nineties, the Moose defended the Clinton ordered attacks on Al Qaeda, Iraq and the Balkans when some of his conservative colleagues suggested that it was just a "wag the dog" attempt to divert attention from his personal problems. He was no more a shill for Clinton then than he is an apologist for Bush today.

I wouldn't call the Moose a "Bush Apologist" any more than I'd call him a "Clinton Apologist". I would first say that the Moose loves him some strong executives especially when it means executives give themselves more power. I would also say that he's making a totally apples and oranges comparison here. Despite what people think, Clinton's actions were legal. Look, we can't boil everything down to "the Right was pissed when the Left did This and that was wrong so if the Left is pissed that the Right did This then it all evens out". Perhaps instead we ought to look at the available evidence and decide what's what. However, this is clearly too complicated, and this "balance" crap is so much more comforting.

Finally there's this:

The Moose has no desire to win the acclaim or favor of the fever swamps of the right or the left. It is far, far more important to defend America against Jihadist terrorists who seek to do us harm than to slime a President.

This here's what we call a "false choice". You can actually do both at the same time. And if Bush is half the President that Clinton was, he ought to be able to fight this never-ending war of his while the "fever swamp" steams.

Update: In the interests of fairness, I'll say that, when it comes to Moose-Cry, this is more like it.

Speaking of Executives Who Consolidated Power

I'm not the hugest fan of Parris Glendening - the Free State's most recent former Governor - but he has a fairly compelling op-ed on the reasons behind his moratorium on executions and why he thinks Ehrlich's reinstatement of them is "simply wrong". Link via Bmore Crime.

Not Secret Anymore

Incredipundit!'s slight return: For truly "Indeed!" worthy material (and more links to even more "Indeed!" worthy commentary) on the administration spying on US citizens, see this series of posts by Daniel Nexon at the Duck of Minerva. It includes some "Heh" worthy snark at this piece of sub-Straussian hackwork by William Kristol and Gary Schmitt.
Incredipundit! exits stage Left.

On a more serious note, I wish I could say I was shocked at these developments. However, you don't get raised by parents whose entry into political activism coincided with the advent of COINTLPRO without developming a healthy skepticism about what the executive branch will do in its own best interest. Also, you don't grow up where I did and work in the industry I do without some direct exposure to the "national security culture". Those who know all four verses of "My Heart's In San Francisco (But My Brain is In Fort Meade)" will know what I'm talking about. For those who don't, direct exposure to the "national security culture" means that many of your friends (and most of your coworkers) either know or are related to someone (always law-abiding, almost always a civilian) who has had their phone tapped and their background checked - sometimes multiple times. This is because said people, either directly or indirectly, work or have worked for (or sometimes failed to have been employed by) the NSA. In other words, you get familiar with the ability of government to monitor.

This doesn't mean I'm not appalled. And you should be too. It's not just because freedom-loving individuals ought to distrust their government (and I do hold steady to that ol' chesnut about them's what give up liberty for the sake of security deserve neither liberty or security). There are entirely practical reasons why it's a terrible idea to let the executive branch run wild. For that, I turn to Col. Lawrence Wilkerson(warning, pdf), former chief of staff to Collin Powell. Discussing the intentions of the framers of 1945 National Security Act, he says:

They did not want another Franklin Delano Roosevelt. They even amended the Constitution to make sure they didn’t get one for more than eight years. But they didn’t want the secrecy, they didn’t want the concentration of power, they didn’t want the lack of transparency into principal decisions that got people killed, even though they’d been successful in arguably one of the greatest conflicts the world has seen. And so they set about trying to ensure that this wouldn’t happen again.

I don’t think even his critics would have argued that FDR wasn’t a brilliant politician and a brilliant leader. But let’s think about it for a moment, if you are one of the framers. How often does America get brilliant leaders? Put them down on paper. I can count them myself on one hand. You can perhaps count them on two hands and make persuasive arguments for the additions. I prefer one hand.

So we need a system of checks and balances and institutional fabric that can withstand anybody – or at least nearly so. (Laughter.) You know, you laugh, but I’m not trying to solicit your laughter. I think it’s a real problem in our democracy. You have to have a system that is so elastic, so resilient, so able to take punches that at one time one branch can supplant another, or one branch can come up and check another. It’s the old business of checks and balances.

If you concentrate power and you do it in a way that is not that different from the way Franklin Roosevelt concentrated it, but you don’t have someone who is brilliant at the utilization of that power, you’ve got problems. You’ve got problems. You may have problems even if you have someone who is brilliant. Go ask people who’ve written about Woodrow Wilson – although I wouldn’t say Woodrow Wilson had concentrated power quite the way FDR did...But too much power, too much secrecy – they wanted to get rid of that.

There are plenty of misguided people - like William Kristol, Ann Coulter, whoever - who will argue that "Bush is a brilliant leader, so quit your worrying, shut up, and let the man do the job we paid all this money to get him to do". But if it's the case that Bush is such a great leader, then why did he circumvent a law which was constructed to make it easy for him to do what he wanted to in the first place? If you're conspiracy minded, see Brad DeLong for one possible reason. However, please do not justify this with "BECAUSE WE'RE AT WAR WITH ISLAMIC FUNDAMENTALISTS AND THEY DON'T FOLLOW OUR LAWS YOU CLUELESS LIBERAL MOONBAT" because that isn't an answer. The law was designed to make it easy to do exactly what he wanted to do. If he and his lawyers couldn't, in the wake of 9/11, make a convincing case to a FISA court, then he is not only not brilliant, he is incompetent, and he really ought to think about getting new lawyers. The example Kristol gives - in which the Justice Department felt they didn't have enough to get a FISA warrant to monitor one of the 9/11 plotters - actually raises more questions about the competence of Ashcroft's Justice Department and thus Bush's leadership. It does not demonstrate a need for more executive power.

It gets worse. When a president does something like this, it undermines the credibility of the institutions invovled and undermines the important work that members of those institutions do. Think about how many people distrust the CIA, think about what Hoover's machinations did to the credibility of the FBI. And when the public distrusts these institutions, it makes doing the jobs that much harder. But don't take my word for it. A sitting member of the FISA court resigned today for what appears to be that reason.

On a more philosophical note, I have to say I am sick and effin' tired of the neo-cons and their worship of "great leaders" and their justifications for this kind of behavior. Every time you see a Kristol or a Brooks or a Powerliner or some other Straussian instance Lincoln, Churchill, FDR (and now Bush) as examples of "brilliant leadership", it should send a chill down your spine. Straussians don't admire noble ends. They admire willingness to use extreme means to acquire power. I've spent the last 6 months reading Strauss, Bloom, and analysis of their work, and what I've come away with is that they worship power and they consider facility with "great politics" to be nothing more than an aptitude for concentrating power in the hands of a few select people. There is nothing esoteric or deep about this (and if these people weren't the largest influence in our politics right now it would be funny that there's an industry and community built around endless discussion and mystification of such a simple premise). It's time to take this crap out of government and send these people back where they belong - to the Ivory Tower, where they can spend endless nights surrounded by classical texts, drinking fine wine and engaged in tiresome pontification on the finer points of Machiavelli, the significance of the number 43, and what secret messages Plato has sent from beyond the grave. This crap does not belong in government, where real decisions effect the lives (and sometimes cause the deaths) of millions of real people.

Update: Incredipundit! enters stage right: Incredipundit! isn't sure if this post by Larry C. Johnson deserves "Indeed" or "Heh". Probably some of both. But Incredipundit! urges you to "Read The Whole Thing" because what he says is "Shocking, if true."

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Encouraging signs

A judge in Pennsylvania wrote a 139-page opinion banning Intelligent Design from Pennsylvania biology classrooms, and the transit workers of New York City went on strike.

Now I just need to find a ride downtown to see Tom Piazza's reading of Why New Orleans Matters.

Friday, December 16, 2005

all hail disappearingink!

Why? Because of him we get readers who stay longer than 2 minutes even if they arrived here because of searches like this.

Update: While we're appreciating our members for their abilitity to bring interesting searches to RUFNKM I must also congratulate S.O.L. for this one. All this self congratualtion will cease come Monday. Promise.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

What's the Etiquette on Bomb Shelters?

So, an aquaintance showed me his bomb shelter. Now I'm not sure Emily Post ever got around to this, but is that an implied invitation? Like, if the shit hits the fan, come on over. Other wise, it's kind of a dick move, I mean, just taunting me like that. If armageddon happens and Bruce Willis is unable (or unwilling) to stop it, should I just mosy over, or should I call first? What do I need to bring? Six pack? Hot dip? Is there an expected plus one? I mean, I'm not seeing anybody now, but I bet I could get a date to a bomb shelter at the end of the world.

Any help would be appreciated


Warranted Poster-Children

In a comment S.O.L. pointed out that Tookie Williams was not exactly the best poster-child for the anti-death-penalty movement. I agree. To that end here's a case that is worthwhile, and it turns out blogs (both left and right) may have an effect on the case. It describes the case of Cory Maye who is on death row in Mississippi. This story has been swamped by the Tookie Williams case and deserves more attention.

And Now To Destroy Any Potential Good Will...

This morning NPR aired a story about a boycott of American Girl products by the Pro-Life Action League. The boycott comes as a result of a charitable donation from American Girl to Girl's Inc, which the League claims condones lesbianism and promotes abortion. Normally this story wouldn't have raised an eyebrow with me since it's standard Holiday-time fair - not only is it the season to be jolly (bah! humbug!) but 't'is also the season to be self-righteous. However, a clip from the executive director of the PLAL, one Ann Scheidler, describing her objections to Girl's Inc provoked a slightly more severe reaction than mere eyebrow-raising:

As a friend of mine pointed out, if you baked a batch of brownies with sugar and eggs and all kinds of good stuff and you put just a teaspoon full of dog-poo in there, who's gonna want to eat'em?

"No she didn't," I thought, "she did not just make an analogy between tolerance of lesbianism and dog-poop. ARE YOU EFFIN' KIDDING ME? When are these people going to learn that you don't 'condone' being a lesbian any more than you 'condone' having 5 toes on each foot?" I was about to smash my clock-radio in disgust when I realized she had described exactly how I feel about public discourse when this new crop of busy-body know-nothings participates. For example, visit the Girl's Inc website and you won't easily find anything which either supports abortion our condones (or even mentions) saphic-pleasure-related-program-activities.

In regards to abortion, what you will instead find is a description of a program devoted to preventing adolescent pregnancy. While a component of the program includes both reproductive health services and contraception, neither of these is code for "abortion", unless somehow "making sure you, including your sexual organs, are healthy" has taken on meanings beyond the obvious ones. I'd really like to ask Mrs. Scheidler "where ya getcha information from?" but I don't have to. If you google "girl inc abortion" you discover that this story is paradigmatic of the Wingnut Echo-Chamber: Some wingnut makes the claim, it gets passed around to all the usual wingnut sites, and because the same phony claim is made in so many places wingnuts pretend it's true - and then some good-hearted journalist thinks it's a story. In this case, though, the echo-chamber has one too many feedback loops. The claim which Mrs. Scheidler makes originates with...the Pro-Life Action League.

On the lesbian front, a google search of "girl inc lesbian" will lead you to some of the same wingnut articles, as well as a few porn forums. If you refine the search to "girl's inc. lesbian" you will actually find one document (warning - pdf) on the Girl's Inc. website which is a broad annotated summary of girl's health and sexuality issues and it does contain one small section relating to homosexuality. In that section, they offer statistics which ought to scare anyone. No, not that 80% of all girls are being brainwashed by liberals into becoming lesbians, but that lesbian teenagers are 3 times as likely as their heterosexual peers to be threatened with a weapon at school. The section closes noting that girls who recognize their orientation at an early age have generally high self-esteem. While this could be construed as "condoning lesbianism", it could just as easily be construed as an attempt to provide accurate information to parents so they can make good decisions. Like it or not, some children, maybe even yours, will be born homosexual. Knowing how that effects their upbringing and their lives might just be helpful to you as a parent.

None of this will matter to the Scheidlers of the world. In Wingnut-Land dispassionate dissemination of useful information is just too much dog-poo in their brownies if it doesn't condem something they wish didn't exist. It's the same rhetorical twitch in so many fronts. "You don't condemn something I disagree with, so you must be for it!!!!!" If only life were that simple.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Ass Transit

Baltimore's mass transit may be pretty bad, but at least Baltimore doesn't have to worry about strikes.

New York City's bus and subway workers might strike Friday morning. The city's plan is to require at least four to a car below 96th Street. I wonder if there will be a line of hitchhikers at 96th. Good day to operate a pedicab.

The Audacious Return of Incredipundit!

Incredipundit! notes that Max Sawicky, one of our favorite "far left" economist/bloggers, is in the midst of a series on our beloved HLM at TPMCafe. Incredpundit! finds every paragraph of the first installment "Indeed!" worthy, so he recommends you "Read The Whole Thing."

Journalism 1, John Harris 0

After reading John Harris's latest screed, I am spinning in my grave.
Posted by: Katharine Graham | Dec 12, 2005 7:56:33 PM

First, kudos to for leaving the comments section open for everyone to see on political editor John Harris's condescending defense of his remarks about Dan Froomkin.

Second, go read the comments to see hundreds of people unload on the paper that broke Watergate.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Apropos Klipper's Most Recent...

Last night, while driving back from The Dullest Place in Maryland, my engineering manager asked me what I thought of the then-impending "Tookie" Williams execution. I thought it was a weird thing to bring up since he's a fairly right-wing kinda guy who also is professional enough not to talk politics at work. He also knows that I'm a fairly left-wing kinda guy who also is professional enough not to talk politics at work unless someone provokes me. I asked him why he wanted to know my opinion, and he said, "Well, you're from California, for one thing. I guess I just don't understand why all these people are out there supporting him. I mean, he killed 4 people." I took this, despite the insult of being called "from California", as him giving me an opportunity to represent The Left in a polite and reasonable way. I figured I may as well give it my best shot because I was going to be stuck in the car with him for at least an hour.

I responded that I personally didn't know the facts of the case well enough to say with any certainty who Williams did or didn't kill. Nor did I know anything about his life once he got into prison except that he'd become some sort of "anti-gang activist", and I had no idea about who was or wasn't supporting him - although I suspected Susan Sarandon and Tim Roberts where among the "supporters". I then explained to him that there are plenty of people who, as a matter of principle, oppose the death penalty. I count myself as one of those people. I went on to say that lots of those people think the best way to get out the message is to make a visible show of protest when the case has high media visibility. He responded that he could understand that, but he felt people like Jesse Jackson were somehow hurting the cause by using it as an opportunity for self-advertisement. I took a deep breath and said, "Yes, some people are media-hungry and self-obsessed, but that doesn't change the principle." He responded saying, "Ok, but, you know, some of these people, they seem like they're really supporting Williams, I mean, like, are trying to say he's some kind of good guy." I took another deep breath. Then I said, "Well, yes, there are probably people who really do believe he is innocent. And there are other people who probably honestly believe that he is a changed man. But again, that doesn't change the principle." He finally relented and asked me how I could be against the death penalty. I went down my usual list of reasons: it's not an effective deterrent, it's only about retribution and I don't think retribution actually helps anything, state-sanctioned murder is still murder, etc. I asked him how he could be for it. This is when things got really weird.

He said that he doesn't believe in the death-penalty in theory, and that it did, in some ways, contradict his Christian faith. However he also thinks that if someone were to harm his wife or his child, he would want to kill that person. He didn't think it was fair to insist society follow rules that he couldn't follow. Then the clincher: "Wouldn't you feel the same way if someone did something to jaynieinbmore?" I don't know how these words fell out of my mouth, but fall they did: "Well, if that happened then I would hope there is a God and pray that God would grant me the grace to forgive. If that didn't happen, well, I'd probably end up a murderer too." He looked about as shocked as I felt. We drove on for a few minutes after which he said, "Well, you know, you're right. I guess if we're supposed to have faith..." I'm hoping it sticks.

Moonbats Still Big Iraq Party Poopers

Juan Cole links to a CSM report which concludes that, due to the severity of the security situation, candidates in the elections in Iraq can only campaign via television. One upshot of this is that only wealthy parties are able to effectively campaign. Both the Monitor and Cole fail to note that this is in fact an instance of completely successful - though possibly unintentional - importation of American style democracy to Iraq. Shame on both of them for denying this good news.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Yankee Doodle Dandy

I've been wondering for some time if President Bush would ever use the American Revolution analogy for Iraq. He did it today.

It is disgusting, disingenuous, and duplicitous of Bush to make this comparison. We started our revolution. Iraq did not start theirs. Our Revolution, our Declaration of Independence, and our Constitution are what make us a nation. When we ask ourselves, "What is America?" we can look to the events that founded our nation.

What will be the Iraqis' "Fourth of July"? What will be their American Revolution? What "nation" is represented in their constitution? Where will they find the pride that sustains a nation?

I doubt Iraq--qua nation--will look back with pride on March 20, 2003. I doubt "the 20th of March" will have the same ring for them as "the 4th of July" has for us.

Harold Pinter's Nobel acceptance speech was incredibly vitriolic, but anyone listening to Bush compare the debacle in Iraq to the American Revolution ought to read it.

Update: Pile on.

Maybe we misunderstand our colonial history, but — what with a government far away attempting to manage its colonial outpost, an insurrection by the locals against those foreign rulers, a king named George who may well be crazy — doesn’t that analogy make us the bad guys?

Let's meet and talk.

We have to stop reacting to the incendiary comments of right-wing rabble-rousers in the liberal blogosphere. It’s hard, the comments are designed to get a reaction; they hit you right in that spot where you wanna scream “Why... you ... dumbass motherf****r! How dare you say something so goddamn stup...I can’t believetheresjustI’msomadIcould ...ARE YOU EFFIN KIDDING ME!!?!!!” Next thing you know, you’re writing a three page diatribe about some 16 year old kid in Winnamucca, Nevada and forgetting why we’re here.

We’re here to talk through our problems, not just talk about them. We’re here to accomplish something, not just vent. We have to be better and stronger than those who would seek to de-rail us. The potential of the blogosphere as public forum is immense and every time we react to an Iggy Dude we’re wasting valuable energy. Too many times I’ve seen interesting important threads disintegrate into screaming matches that ignore not only valuable insight or information, but also any kind of “Ok, what can we do about it” dialogue.

It’s Ok to bitch, but it’s better to plot and plan. The time is fast approaching for some kind of action. For years, my government has been doing things in my name that make me sick, and I’m about sick of feeling sick. I’m about sick of complacently going through the motions of my comfortable life while MY government makes me sick. In America, our government is beholden to us, not the other way around.. Government is not something we look to to cure our ills, it’s something we made to help us get along. If it’s not working then it’s our responsibility to stop it. I don’t know why such a simple concept is so difficult to grasp, but it really is. We’ve put government on a pedestal and it’s time it comes down – crashing down if necessary.

The blogosphere is an incredible public resource that very quickly needs to be utilized to it’s fullest potential.

“Public talk can create reservoirs of public energy. It can define and redefine problems. It can yield knowledge of what interests are shareable. It can foster movement from public opinion to public judgement. And it can help the public develop its own options –“

The person who wrote this, David Mathews (not the singer, Jay), writes earlier in the paper that the public is more than the populus, more than just a bunch of people. He writes“We are a public when we are connected to one another in ways that enable us to appreciate our independence and that join us together with some degree of fellow feeling.”

We are the public here in our “liberal” blogosphere. We have to use this forum to develop our own options; and to do that we need to focus our dialogue on our means and our end. And ignore those that would have us speak in monologue.

Incredipundit! Rides the Local

He also stares slightly toward his own bellybutton. RUFNKM's own Dave G. has an excellent post at Hampden Heritage regarding class, history, and gentrification. He writes:

Places become worth something not because they are associated with a particular person or event, but because they have “something about them,” “character” or “style” that speaks to the aesthetic sensibilities of middle class gentrifiers.

Increidpundit! says "Indeed". He also says "Read The Whole Thing."

Technical Difficulties

Skrrr...Whiskey and Blogger do not always mix appropriately. Please stand by whilst we adjust the portions.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Richard Pryor: 1940-2005

Well, the world has lost a great one. Richard Pryor, sixty-five and no more. People will call Pryor the greatest comic who ever lived. Maybe, that's pretty subjective, but no one has been more influential. Richard Pryor and George Carlin hit like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones of comedy and everything since has been a reaction. Nearly forty years later and people aren't just doing his style; they're still telling his jokes.

I was thinking a moment of silence might be a nice thing, then I realized a five-minute, gut wrenching belly laugh would be better. Then, when that's fully sunk in, weep for an hour as all that pain floods in. Then laugh again till you're too tired to do anything but that nearly orgasmic gasp-chuckle-sigh that only happens at those earth shakingly funny moments. Those moments that come when the laugh is coiled around something so tender and true right at the core of us, cause that's what watching Richard Pryor was when he was at his best.

I'm a stand-up comedian and people always ask me who my influences are. I'd have to say Richard is up there. I don't do his kind of comedy, but he's where I got my freebasing. Sometimes I light my hair on fire and run down the street. When I do, that's for you, Rich.

If you thought that was in bad taste at this moment, then you probably weren't a Pryor fan. Richard Pryor's gift was his ability to bring out the funny parts of pain all the while never hiding how much it hurts. His 1976 album Bicentennial Nigger was a revolution, just think that title went platinum in 1976. In a year of celebration, Pryor wasn't about to be white washed. His 1982 album Live On Sunset Strip is the single greatest comedy album ever. That may sound like hyperbole, kissing up to a dead guy, but listen to that album. If you doubt comedy can be art, listen to that album. There is not a word wasted.

His stories are dense, rich and always hilarious. The ramblings of Mudbone, one of Pryor's greatest characters and the pseudo-Italian banter of his Mafioso club owners belie an economy, a craft that remains as elegant as it is hilarious. Live On Sunset Strip marked Pryor's return to the stage after his near deadly free-basing accident. I can imagine what it was like in that audience before Richard Pryor went on. "Is he going to talk about it? He's gotta say something, but what? How funny can it be, running down the street with your head on fire?" Well, it's probably the funniest thing I've ever heard.

Pryor's first sentence sets that scene. He starts at that moment so dark, "am I gonna die? Should I?" and then takes us back, his biography and man what a ride. Every comic has a story of a club trying to stiff you, I'm not aware of anybody else where that story ends with a gun in you're hand in a room full of mobsters. Of course, not many comics would have been funny enough to survive that story.From there, Rich takes us to Africa. The man who had embraced the word, had gone along way to claiming it realized on reaching Africa, "Ain't no niggers in Africa." That's what he was about.

Some will say it's a shame he had his demons. It's a shame there was so much pain. You're missing it. We're talking about a man who lay burning in the street and he never lost hope, never quit, never ignored the pain and the hate and the shit in the world but never took an eye off that prize. Oh, and he never missed just how fucking funny it all is.


Thanks Rich


Friday, December 09, 2005

Friday meme: mutatis mutandis

Here is the task: name the English word or phrase currently in use that sounds and functions most like a magic word. Justify your word by showing how it can act magically. Hocus Pocus and Abracadabra don't count. Do the dishes probably does, but only if it works.

My example is the phrase mutatis mutandis, which the OED online defines thusly:

With the necessary changes; with due alteration of details (used when comparing two or more cases or situations).

I presume it to be magic because it acts algorithmically to dismiss (disappear) rhetorical difference when comparing similar cases.

I have found it most recently in Spivak's Critique of Post-Colonial Reason (1999).

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Wordf of the prophetf are written on the fubway wallf

Dave G. will like this one. While digging a subway tunnel under Battery Park, MTA found what may be the oldest wall still standing in Manhattan.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Taliban Family Photos

Check out these Taliban Portraits from the Magnum Photos collection at

I wish I could get a hold of the third picture, blow it up and frame it. I would sneak into SuperOceanLads house one day and hang it on his wall.

Adult Cereal

From Health Matters:

Food companies first started to pitch breakfast cereals to kids in the 1950s, adding sugar to make it taste better, pressing them into amusing shapes, adding artificial colours, and putting cartoon characters on the box and prizes inside.

These are lots of good fun but a nutritional disaster.

Most kids' cereals are so highly processed they no longer resemble the grain they started out as, says Choice. They're high in added sugar, and they're also high in fat and salt. One of the worst was Kellogg's Coco Pops which, Choice says, is over one-third sugar. On the whole, adult cereal products are healthier.

At Super Fresh this summer, I noticed that the "adult cereals" were set apart on the shelf from the sugary stuff. There was actually a sign: "Adult Cereal."

Later that summer, as I was driving down Route 40, the seediest road in Central Maryland, full of cheap motels, seedy strip clubs, and "adult" bookstores, I realized how versatile the word "adult" has become. It is a synonym for maturity ("Act like an adult!") and depravity ("adult bookstore").

"We suggest parental guidance for this movie--it has adult content."

"Can we please be adults, here?"

But the next time I saw the "Adult Cereal" sign at Super Fresh, I couldn't shake the baser connotation. I told a friend about this, and we decided to start a line of adult cereals. Victoria's Secret Cereal. Cereal in the City. Tantric Chex.

For our racier line, we knew immediately to turn to RUFNKM for suggestions. So far, we've got Gilbert Grape's Nuts, Cocoa Muffs, and Leerios.

Any suggestions? This may revolutionize breakfast.

Snow in the desert?

Next time the tank's on "E" and you're leaning against your car thinking about work or school, or maybe you're trying to do the math on the pump in real time in your head, think about this.
Maybe it's just me, but...

All is well in the world when an Arab can ski in the desert.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

In all seriousness...

What happens to an agnostic in a foxhole?

More Incredipunditry!

Incredipundit! wonders if the people who perpetrated this are who James Robison had in mind as God's people coming out of the closet. PZ Meyers thinks so:

Fundamentalists: ignorant thugs with a bible.

Incredipundit! responds with "Heh".

Michael McDonald Had a Farm

I know I'm not the only RUFNKMer with an unhealthy obsession with Michael McDonald. If you do, too, go listen to the clip of Tim Wilson's "Michael McDonald Had a Farm." And go to iTunes and download it.

Monday, December 05, 2005

December 12th Talk Like Bendis Day

So this might be just for me and Jay, but December 12th is Talk Like Brian Michael Bendis Writes You Day.


Shots Fired In The War On Christmas!

We here at RUFNKM hate Christmas so much that 4/7s of the staff (and the spouse of another) braved the sudden Sunday temperature drop to attend the Mayor's Christmas Parade. The original plan involved standing on Falls Road drinking cups of hot spiced rum, striking elitist disaffected poses, and screaming "Bah, Humbug!" and "Boo Sucks To Your Corporate Sponsored Celebration of Religious Oppression!" at everything that passed - especially the high school marching bands and the Charm City Roller Girls because we effin' hate those (especially the CCRG, because among their number is miss jaynieinbmore and there's nothing that makes us more livid than significant others getting more attention than us) - but the plans fell through. Instead, we had coffee and Bailey's, cans of Guiness, and a grand old time. Digital pictures were snapped and solemn pledges were made to blog the event.

I've got a bunch of pics to pull off the camera (including some rough and tumble action from the CCRG), but I did manage to get few uploaded in real time. These few are from some of my favorite parts of the parade.

As one friend of RUFNKM put it last year, "The reason the steppers effin' rule is because they are just awesome at what they do, are incredibly talented and don't make any stupid camp statements to justify their existence. And they are so totally Baltimore. They aren't cool because John Waters said so, and they aren't cool because they're rich kids being clever. They just effin' rock!"


Here's a post in which RUFNKM, in an effort to bolster readership and combat our continued devolution, tries to act just like one of the big time bloggers. No, we're not going to claim fealty to some political party that went extinct in the 1800's just to make it easy to duck contemporary political labels (and thus avoid guilty-by-association with people who otherwise totally agree with us). We're just going to link to something written by someone smarter than us and offer minimal analysis. To that end, for the duration of this post I will not be known as "jayinbmore", but instead will take on the identity of "Incredipundit!". I can already tell this is so totally going to rule.

Incredipundit! notes that the most compelling reason for the US to continue to have a presence in Iraq is to prevent Iraq from becoming a failed state. Over at the The Duck of Minerva, Rodger Payne makes the case that Iraq could very easily be on its way to being a failed state. But then he makes the following statement:

Of course, the key question is whether the US troop presence increases or reduces this risk. Unfortunately, none of the information I've gather in this post can answer that question definitively.

Incredipundit! says "Indeed."

Friday, December 02, 2005

Egads! The Sun is in Trouble!

No, not the great golden orb which lights our days and, cruelly, abandons us each night. The Baltimore Sun is getting the bitch slap from corporate headquarters. Chicago's Tribune Company owns the Baltimore Sun and they plan to strip it of 75 local reporters even though it's turning great profits.

A newspaper is far more than simply a cooperate franchise, it's part of a cities history, its landscape. It is an important community service.

Baltimore has a proud news paper history spanning over two centuries. The Sun itself has been printing in Baltimore since eighteen-thirty-seven. It's given us H.L. Menken (try to hide the chubby, Jay) and fifteen Pulitzer prize winners and, for a medium sized city paper, it's really played above its head.

Of course, if you simply wanted a National paper, the Washington Post is a clear choice. While it's exciting to read world news written by Baltimore based reporters. The strength of a paper like The Sun is its connection to the community it serves. What makes The Sun relevant is the window and watchdog it provides on the world right out the window. Cutting seventy-five reporters will gut this capacity.

If you are like me, the recent format change was bad enough. Dumbing down the presentation and giving it that USAToday McNews feel sucked. A step like this, turning The Sun into essentially a small Maryland section of the Chicago Tribune is a slap in the face of proud Baltimore.

If you feel like I do let them know. Sign this petition and tell the Tribune Company that if they take the service you've come to expect and rely on, you'll take away the one thing they want, your subscription and circulation number.


Thursday, December 01, 2005

To Paraphrase Eazy E:"Happy Mother Effin' Holidays!"

I'm briefly poking my head up from deep deadline related hellishness (in Rockville, the Dullest Place In Maryland) to offer our good friend Bill O'Reilly a little holiday cheer. Unlike S.O.L.'s neighbor, O'Reilly's hastened mental decay - brought on by his ever-increasing proximity to the grim-reaper - has resulted in the dullest form of muddled paranoia. Bill has discovered the existence of a grande conspiracy united in their insistence on quoting him and disagreeing with him. On O'Reilly's Crazy-Moon-World, this shadowy sect's nefarious goals can only be achieved by a protracted assault on what every true-blue-red-blooded American knows is the most holy of holidays; in other words, a War On Christmas. To combat this evil, O'Reilly has published his Enemies List to expose those evil-doers and let the rays of the sun burn those evil bastards to cinders. If you bothered to clink the link, you're probably thinking the same thing we are: "Only 3 enemies, one of them the St. Petersburg Times, and you call that an 'enemies list'? ARE YOU EFFIN' KIDDING ME?"

Despite the vitriol above, we here at RUFNKM are at root kind-hearted, caring, sensitive liberal souls. As a result it pains us to see an old man making a fool of himself. It's not easy growing old, and besides, since the falafel incident his wife probably isn't even sleeping in the same room with him, so the guy really deserves a break. To that end, we have joined the vast-left-wing-secular-gay-anti-christmas and pro-hanging-toilet-paper-in-an-overhanded-fashion conspiracy and given Bill a Christmas present, a real live no WRNFNKY enemies list. Help warm Bill's desolate winter and join too.