America's Rusty Knees, Creaking, Buckling

I sometimes wonder if the New York Times really understands just what it is they're reporting on:
MAUREEN SPILLANE, an executive at a shoe and handbag maker in New York, always thought a $100,000 salary equaled serious success. Like many professional people, however, when she finally broke the barrier, she was a bit deflated to learn that it was hardly salvation. It still took her several years of "hoarding away" and avoiding standard Manhattan indulgences - fancy food, fancy clothing - in order to afford a down payment on a one-bedroom fixer-upper on the Upper West Side.

"It's not the big shiny number that you think about when you first get out of college," said Ms. Spillane, who is in her mid-30's. "Don't get me wrong, I'm making a nice living, I enjoy what I do. I'm certainly in a better position than a lot of people."

Noble Black, 29, hardly considers himself living it up. He earned his law degree from the University of Virginia a few years ago, moved to New York and took a job in securities law in the Manhattan office of the firm McKee Nelson. His starting salary, he said, was $135,000.

"You think you're going to be making all this money, but it all goes so quickly," said Mr. Black, who left after a few years to work as a consultant to the television show "The Apprentice" (and is now an associate real estate broker for the Corcoran Group in New York).

Mr. Black didn't find much sympathy from his family back in Mississippi, where $100,000 is still a country club income. "You go home and tell them how much you're making, and they think you're doing so well, but then you tell them about the rent," he said, recalling the $4,650 monthly rent for the apartment he shared with a friend in Symphony House, near Columbus Circle.

It was only when his annual compensation began to approach the new affluence threshold that he began to feel he was building real equity. "A couple of years making close to $200,000 puts you into that good place," Mr. Black said.

I could summon outrage about pretty much every sentence in this article...but, well, I'll let it speak for itself.
Oh, just one - $4,650?!? AYFKM?!?
Btw - this was in the "Fashion & Style" Section.

(Tip o' the pin to Majikthise for pointing out this article).


About Now

I never did get around to a post about Hunter S. Thompson's death. I've read thousands of words about it, from more or less the moment it hit the wires, and the depth of passion that writers far more skilled than I have levelled at the good Doctor's passing has left me feeling like I have nothing to add. If you haven't already, go read Wolcott's short appreciation, Digby's and Steve Gilliard. Gilliard was the most affecting for me, as it tied Thompson's death into the state of writing today in a way that I had felt but not articulated:
What Thompson and his peers did in the 60's and 70's, we do today. But free of the constraints of editors and publishers and the need to hustle up work.


Because of two different trends in writing.

One is the coopting of journalists. The insiders beat back the challenges from the Sheehans, Halberstams and Arnetts. Those who played the game won, those who didn't became heroes and authors, and exiled from the newsroom. Arnett hung on longer than most, but most were gone from the daily papers by 1975. Or they became enamored of celebrity, like Bob Woodward. Some like Sydney Schamberg and Ray Bonner, following in their tradition, were booted from newsrooms the minute their bosses felt uncomfortable. Or exiled to "alternative" papers. The newsroom became the home of the tame dissident and the complient office holder. Carl Hiaasen saves his most brutal critques of Florida life for his crime fiction. Bob Greene wrote drivel for years, finally canned, not for a lack of talent, but an excess of hunting teenaged trim. The best writing in the Washington Post is Tom Boswell's sports columns.

If people are disheartened by this, they shouldn't be. Ernie Pyle died 60 years ago this week, because he loved soldiers and the stories of their lives. Edward R. Murrow was forced out of CBS. Thompson was lucky in that since he was never inside the tent, they could never kick him out. But most of the great heroes of journalism were and will be forced from the newsroom, because that is not a place for uncomfortable truths. There has never been a national columnist like Jack Newfield or Mike Royko or Jimmy Breslin, and never will be. Because they will never play the game, or even recognize it.

The other is the irrevelant nature of modern fiction writing. The worst thing to ever happen to writing was the writing program. Because it allowed people to focus on the trivia in their lives. The greatness of Heller and Mailer escapes these mindless twits nattering about their cheating dads and pill popping moms. It's not even a world of clever craftsmen like Thomas Pynchon, but of navel gazers like Dave Eggers. Eggers, a silly, irrelevant man in a serious time, draws only my contempt and scorn. I mean, his idea of struggle was living off inherentences. Not that his personal story wasn't tragic, but it's not Sophie's Choice. The problem is that Eggers and his little group of confederates are trivial people in a not trivial time.
Their self-absorption and lack of interest in the wider world. It is masturbation in print for the most part, and irrelevant. You would hardly know that men are hunting men in the mountains of Afghanistan and dodging roadside bombs in Iraq. The world of the vital has escaped our fiction, to be replaced by the world of the trivial and self-involved. Why? Because that is what drives the writing program, those who write well about themselves, but without the real introspection needed to be honest. The Naked and the Dead is a savage tale of men at war, Catch 22 lacking in any kind of larger heroism. These were not tales which made the authors heroic, but exposed their foibles and their fears. What is usually missing from the description of these modern novels is the condescension the authors feel for their subjects. These books are about revenge on imperfect lives, the failures of their parents and those around them. There is no honesty in them, because the honesty is bred out of them.

Their template is the Catcher in the Rye, but lacks the brutal self-analysis JD Salinger brought to it. But then, like his peers, his anger was driven by the war he had fought. These program-raised authors are angry because their lives were imperfect. They have never missed a meal, felt fear at seeing the police, much less rode in a truck past a bomb. They are angry at the safety and comfort of their lives.

So when you need a brutal, honest fiction to deal with lives in Bush's America, and it's contradictions, you get bitter drivel.
The outcasts are more unwelcome now than ever in newsrooms battered by greedy owners and vindictive politics, fiction created to explain the anger at middle class suburbia. Honesty and truth have no place in either forum.

Which is why Hunter Thompson was a hero. He was honest to a fault and mean to a fault. In a world where journalism has become about asking questions politely and fiction about settling grudges with parents and schoolmates, he was about something far more important.
Thompson understood the danger of objective journalism, which was a creature of the post-war period, Roosevelt would have laughed at the concept, battered by Father Coughlin and the Chicago Tribune, which is that the dishonest and the disingenious can have their way with the honest and decent. He called for subjective journalism long ago and our temporary experiment of objective journalism is ending, because it only serves the status quo, which is not most of us. [emphases mine]
This is exactly it. It hit me cold, wet upside the head, because I am not innocent in this matter - this school of irrelevance cuts very close into the writers I read and, consciously or no, emulate. I do loath and cannot abide Eggers, and David Foster Wallace, but I have enjoyed reading Jonathans Franzen and Lethem, Hanif Kurieshi, because they are clever writers with real insight into human identity, and I do believe that there is something to be gained from their perspectives. But I do not attempt to gain any higher ground, morally or intellectually, in my choices of reading list. Gilliard is right - for the most part, today's writers are trivial people in a non-trivial time.

There are some who understand the name of the game: William Gibson, for one, understands the way the world really works, the paths of awful possibility we are going down, and concerns himself with these issues in his writing (Pattern Recognition is the first great novel of our new age). But mostly, contemporary American fiction concerns itself with individual depression and personal struggle at a time when it ought to be giving voice to the feedback loop of societal anxiety.

I take it as a challenge, and will do what I can with what I have.


The Naming of Things

Most of this post will be the latest installment of New Music JKD Listens To, but first, some Other Business.

Namely - Chris Webber was traded to the 76ers for a sixth man, an eighth man, and a fifteenth man. I really and truly hope this works out for him, and the 76ers, but it won't; C-Webb is easily one of the most underachieving superstars in NBA history. His own numbers - and even, for several years, his team's performance - were and are very impressive. But last year, when Webber was injured for most of the year, was the best illustration of what kind of player Webber is - the kind that makes his teammates better. Than him.

The Kings were far better before Webber came back than after - and then, even after, were far better when he was off the floor. It's tough to see how this trade doesn't help the Kings - gives them anonymous, unselfish rebounding muscle and defense, and allows the rest of the team - Stojakovich, Bibby, Miller et. al. to play the sort of pressure-defense, up-tempo-offense game that suits them so well.

Marc Stein disagrees with me. But, well, I don't care.

Now to the real stuff:
ALSO: (via Salon) what Bob sez -
"I know there are groups at the top of the charts that are hailed as the saviours of rock'n'roll and all that, but they are amateurs. They don't know where the music comes from."
Listen to the man, kiddies. Kinda knows whereof what he speaks.


Cracker Jacks


We honkies sure are out of touch, yo! The really excellent thing about "Race-O- Rama" (Monday at 9 p.m. EST on VH1) though, is that it'll demonstrate to you just how entertaining a show where black people talk about race is, which will lead you to momentarily imagine the horrors of a show where white people talk about race -- or anything else, for that matter. That's right, honkies! Listen to black folks riff on the subject of race -- or almost anything else, for that matter -- and you will find yourself marveling at just how bland and utterly tedious most white people are.

In fact, for an exercise in self-loathing, honkies, try this. Watch "Race-O-Rama," then switch to "Crossfire." We honkies sure are boring! Maybe that's why we're about to yield all of our minibars and down comforters and pricey watches and fish restaurants to the huddled masses of revolting, Molotov-cocktail-hurling revolutionaries of the world. Maybe our inability to tell stories and jokes that are entertaining and funny is the reason why the residents of the "House of Sand and Fog" gave up real estate for big practical jokes involving nuclear reactors.

The party's over
It's true. Some day soon, our leisurely high-capitalist kingdom will collapse and we'll be cast out into the cold, dark night without our cashmere sweaters, left to murder each other over half a box of stale strawberry Pop Tarts.

Yup. That's about the size and the shape of it. Speaking of awful white people talking awfully, Wolcott (as per usual) is on the ball, riffing on Digby (who follows):
Did anyone happen to catch the happy little hen party on Chris Matthews week-end show tonight in which Chris, Clarence Page, Kathleen Parker, Andrew Sullivan and Gloria Borger ripped Hillary for being a "castrating Bitch" and "Nurse Ratchet" replete with a full-on harpy imitation by Borger? I've never seen anything like this (at least where Ann Coulter and Nancy Grace weren't involved.) Then they sharpened their claws on Martha Stewart, Gloria saying that people will find her interesting because the less they see of her the more they like her. Everyone cackled wickedly as she went on to mock her potential good works on behalf of women prisoners. Andy snorted delicately.

Then they all pitched in on the Stalinists at PCU who are allegedly persecuting Larry Summers. Clarence tried valiently to make an argument but both Andy and Gloria were eyerolling and smirking to such a degree that Chris couldn't really keep a straight face. He told Gloria he liked the fact that she turned up her nose at this "PC nonsense." She lowered her eyes flirtatiosly, batted her lashes and veritably glowed with his praise.

I'm not exaggerating about the castrating bitch line either. Borger said that as the jews gave Joe Lieberman a lot of trouble so will the women give Hillary problems. (I don't remember the jewish community's Lieberman rebellion, do you?) And Chris agreed that the men sitting in their chairs watching television are all thinking "I'll never vote for this woman." He does admit, though, that women become less threatening when they get old.

What in the hell is wrong with these people? Are they regularly appearing on television drunk now? It was like watching a sketch on The Daily Show. Can we get Soros or somebody to pitch in and just pay them to stop? I'll donate.
Indeed. Also great - Olbermann.

Listening to most of the pundits these days is a pretty surreal exercise. They're penguins on a continually-calving iceberg, floating out into a South Atlantic full of killer whales, and they can't stop squaking about the last pieces of dried herring, and whose feathers look best. Meanwhile, the sea gets warmer and the orcas hungrier.



'Kay, so apparently my readership is more than the half-dozen of you; I got the following comment (since hidden by moi) on "Permanently Screwed":
funny how i can say the same thing; onLy because i dated an aRab and one of my close aRab guy fRiend said deep down they really CAN'T be trusted.
Riiiight...so, clearly, this isn't that kind of party.

That aside, it is pretty impressive how the poster makes such efficient use of not one but two age-old cover tools of bigots in the space of one sentence - both "Some of my best friends are black/gay/aRab/etc...." AND the infinitely esteemable tactic of "My asshole ex was a ____ and he was an asshole so all ____s are assholes."

Thanks, but NOW?!?

via Tapped, I read the following lede in an article in The Hill:
Outgoing Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman Terry McAuliffe has given the House and Senate political committees access to “Demzilla,” the massive computer voter database that has brought the DNC closer to information parity with the Republicans.
Over the last half year or so, I have at many points found myself in the previously-unimaginable position of defending Terry Mac, and his tenure as DNC Chair. I won't get into that whole spiel now - short version, he did a great job raising money, putting together the aforementioned database, and giving candidates a high degree of freedom in setting their own messages - but Jesus Christo, he's only passing around this information now?!? Wasn't there an election or something recently where this information might've been, um, useful?

Just sayin' is all.

Promise I'll try and stop talking about politics, but damn...

Robot Hummingbirds

Again, more with the robot soldiers:
Robots in battle, as envisioned by their builders, may look and move like humans or hummingbirds, tractors or tanks, cockroaches or crickets. With the development of nanotechnology - the science of very small structures - they may become swarms of "smart dust." The Pentagon intends for robots to haul munitions, gather intelligence, search buildings or blow them up.

This brings to mind one of the great movie dialogues ever, wherein Ray Stantz, terror-struck, attempts to explain to Peter Venckman just why he thought up the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man as the form of Gozer the Destroyer - "I tried to think of something that could never possibly cause us any harm."

An army of robot hummingbirds. Somehow, I don't think I'll ever look at those adorable little birds the same way, again.

Read the whole article - there's some pretty damn terrifying stuff in't.

Permanently Screwed

Salon's lead story today is about the Kurds, with the headline,
"They are Arabs and you can't trust them."
This is clearly set up to be a semi-counterintuitive lede - having something a U.S. right-winger might say, but coming out of the mouth of a Kurd. On this count, it's pretty sloppy journalism - because as long as the "you" in the speaker's quote refers to a Kurd, he's right. He could also substitute "Turk," "Persian," "Syrian," "Briton," or "American" for "Arab," and would still be correct, because the Kurds have a long history of being oppressed and/or sold out by, basically, everyone.

The article continues to paint the picture of the Kurds as brutal and revenge-seeking, with the Sunnis their hapless victims; the author (Ferry Biederman) scoffs as Arab suspects who are "almost certainly not terrorists" are apprehended. Pretty irresponsible for Salon, which normally does a good job of contextualizing its coverage of foreign affairs, to print Biederman's largely unsubstantiated opinions as news; but the article is worth a read, as it does give a good look inside the leadership of the Kurdish military, which is important to understand, as they're one of the things standing between us and WWIII.


Faith and Hopelessness

David Kuo, former Deputy Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, offers up what is mostly a stinging indictment of the duplicitousnh-based initiatives that help poor people. Having worked for William Bennett and John Ashcroft prior to working for the White House, it's fair to say that though Kuo clearly cares sincerely about these issues, he is also a partisan. Which makes the following passage pretty damning:

In December 2001, for instance, Sen. Daschle approached the Domestic Policy Council with an offer to pass a charity relief bill that contained many of the president's campaign tax incentive policies plus new money for the widely-popular and faith-based-friendly Social Services Block Grant. The White House legislative affairs office rolled their eyes while others on senior staff yawned. We had to leave the offer on the table. They could afford to.

Who was going to hold them accountable? Drug addicts, alcoholics, poor moms, struggling urban social service organizations, and pastors aren't quite the NRA. Charities haven't quite figured out the lobbying thing yet. More significantly, over time it became clearer that the White House didn't have to expend any political capital for pro-poor legislation. The initiative powerfully appealed to both conservative Christians and urban faith leaders - regardless of how much money was being appropriated.

Conservative Christian donors, faith leaders, and opinion makers grew to see the initiative as an embodiment of the president's own faith. Democratic opposition was understood as an attack on his personal faith. And since this community's most powerful leaders - men like James Dobson of Focus on the Family - weren't anti-poverty leaders, they didn't care about money. The Faith-Based Office was the cross around the White Houses' neck showing the president's own faith orientation. That was sufficient.
Right. Keep in mind that the above passage was written by a man who, until recently, worked in the White House. Something about working there these days and actually caring about doing the work of governing doesn't seem to mix.

Remember, though, that this guy is first and foremost a Republican, and so ad hominem attacks on Democrats need follow, even if he's already acknowledged that Tom Daschle was the only good guy in this story:
The moment the president announced the faith-based effort, Democratic opposition was frenzied. Hackneyed church-state scare rhetoric made the rounds; this was "radical" and "dangerous" and merely an "attempt to fund Bob Jones University."
At the end of the day, both parties played to stereotype -- Republicans were indifferent to the poor and the Democrats were allergic to faith.
Except, of course, for the fact that Democratic opposition to the initial iterations of the bill was due to the fact that it would've allowed blatant discrimination by service agencies. But whatever - once a hack, always a hack. Continuing:

Secular liberal advocacy and interest groups attacked every little thing the faith initiative did. When Executive Orders were issued permitting an organization to simply display a cross or a Star of David, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State called it "a crusade to bring about an unprecedented merger of religion and government."
Had these liberal groups or an alliance of charities held the White House accountable for how little was being done -- especially compared to what was promised -- there is no telling what might have happened...or what might still happen.

So now Americans United is to blame - even after acknowledging mere paragraphs before that
...the White House didn't have to expend any political capital for pro-poor legislation.
Like I said - once a hack, always a hack. But never moreso than in his conclusion:

I'm writing this now because there is a lot of time left. There are more budget supplementals to come for Social Security and Iraq totaling scores of billions. The White House can still do a great deal for the poor. It can add another few billion to insure every American child has health care. It could launch a program to simply eliminate hunger. Groups like America's Second Harvest have the plan. Bump up the Compassion Capital Fund to $500 million a year and be marveled by change.

Given new budget realities, climates, and conditions it is easy to dismiss these suggestions as naive. But no one ever said faith was easy...or cheap. In 2000, Gov. Bush said, "I know that economic growth is not the solution to every problem. A rising tide lifts many boats, but not all." He then went on to propose a new approach to those who were still stuck behind. The promises are still there and I am trying to keep the faith.

It's admirable, to a point, that Kuo was able to serve up the initial indictment of the White House's Christmas-and-Easter (or in their case, every-other-November) approach to faith, even if he remarkably later attempts to blame the failure of an initiative created by a White House with Congressional majorities on the opposition party.

But what's even more remarkable is how much of a mark Kuo admits himself to be in those last paragraphs - he musters up enough courage and honesty earlier to say
...[Christian leaders influential in the White House] didn't care about money. The Faith-Based Office was the cross around the White Houses' neck showing the president's own faith orientation. That was sufficient.
but he can't admit that they never cared about money going to the poor, and never will care about money going to the poor because neither this administration nor the powerful Christian leaders don't want money to go to poor people. Because - as Kuo, remarkably, notes mere paragraphs before the close of his article -
From tax cuts to Medicare, the White House gets what the White House really wants. It never really wanted the "poor people stuff."
But he has "faith" that these people will ever actually do anything to help poor people. David Kuo is clearly a man with compassion. I would advise that he take a serious look at his judgement, because at this point the only logical conclusion is that this administration is perfectly content to wear the rhetoric of compassionate conservatism as a "cross around [their] neck," and nothing more.

He is a mark, and an easy one for this administration - a point the Moose is fond of making of evangelicals on most occasions, but curiously, not this one. Rather, he also takes a scrape at Dems for being insufficiently subservient to Christ:
...the left often puts a theological dedication to "church-state separation" before helping the poor in innovative ways.
Well, we wouldn't have to have to find so many "innovative ways" of helping the poor if Republicans didn't gut our social safety net at pretty much every opportunity - but putting that aside, there are some pretty damn good reasons why we worry about "church-state separation."


Jeff Gannon

If you haven't already, check out AmericaBlog's latest scoop in the developing Jeff Gannon story. Um, maybe wait until getting home from work for this one - very serious ManDate material. It's just...amazing stuff. Also, go back and read Rigorous Intuition's Thursday and Friday posts on the GOP and its history of sexual blackmail and male escorts .

ALSO: our boys over at RawStory have a scoop.

Weekend WaPo Reading (Retroactive)

Monday Spam-Blogging

Unknown Sender

À¯Åë°ü¸®»ç À¯Åë°ü¸®»çÀÚ°ÝÁõ Ãë¾÷1À§ ÃÖ°íÀαâ¾÷Á¾ Feb 141KB

Unknown Sender

ÆĴнº üÇ迵¾î ¹ßÀ½±³Á¤Ã¥ÀÚ! ·¹º§Å×½ºÆ®! »ùÇÃCD ±îÁö ¸ðµ... Feb 145KB

Unknown Sender

Delivery & Confirmat... Your Confirmation #1912-HDq625o8so8p75 Feb 143KB

Unknown Sender

¿µ¾î ¹ßÀ½±³Á¤Ã¥ÀÚ ¿µ¾îCD È®½Ç¹«·á! Feb 141KB

Unknown Sender

ÆĴнº üÇ迵¾î ÆĴнº¿µ¾î ¹«·á·Î(»ùÇÃCD+¹ßÀ½±³Á¤Ã¥ÀÚ+·¹º... Feb 143KB

Unknown Sender

Stock Radar Monday Newsletter - Friday's Pick Went Cr... Feb 145KB

Unknown Sender

New_Diet Magic_herb Feb 14111KB

Unknown Sender

ViaG4Co:ck Strong_erectus Feb 14109KB

Unknown Sender

D-iet--pi-lls D-iet--pi-lls Feb 14116KB

Unknown Sender

Five Thousand Dollar... Congratulations to Jacob Kramer-Duffield,... Feb 132KB

Unknown Sender

World Wide Cigars -Premium- Sampler and B0NUS Gifts! Feb 134KB

Unknown Sender

±¸ ÈñÃá 6°³¿ù¾È¿¡ 4³âÁ¦ ÇлçÇÐÀ§ Ãëµæ! Feb 131KB

Unknown Sender

ºü¸¥´ëÃâ 20ºÐ¾È¿¡ ½ÂÀÎ /Á÷ÀåÀδëÃâ/½Å¿ëÄ«µå´ëÃâ/ Feb 131KB

Unknown Sender

ShËd: WËight in 1 Hr hey there Feb 131KB

Unknown Sender

ºü¸¥´ëÃ⠽ſë´ëÃâ/Ä«µå´ëÃâ 20ºÐ¾È¿¡½ÂÀÎÇص帳´Ï´Ù,... Feb 131KB

Unknown Sender

Vicky GetSteals onMedz Feb 133KB

Unknown Sender

Skinny Mini B Thin Today! Feb 13113KB

Unknown Sender

Skinny Mini (none) Feb 121KB

Unknown Sender


Unknown Sender

Abby Liz houseowner, future-2005 Feb 122KB

Unknown Sender

¹ÏÀ½&¼Ò¸Á&»ç¶û ³²°ú ºñ±³Çϸé ÇູÀº ¸Ö¾îÁý´Ï´Ù Feb 124KB

Unknown Sender

Platinum Romance If You're -Lonely- 2nite Feb 125KB

Unknown Sender

Hot.Adult.Dates Fw: season's pleasures Feb 121KB

Unknown Sender

REI Gearmail REI Winter Clearance Going on Now Feb 119KB

Unknown Sender

A Grãnd å Day Hi Feb 111KB



I would often say, in the run-up to last November's elections, that it wasn't 1939 yet, but it was getting close.

Over the past few days and weeks, I have come closer and closer to thinking that maybe we've crossed a threshold.

[John] Yoo also argued that the Constitution granted the President plenary powers to override the U.N. Convention Against Torture when he is acting in the nation’s defense—a position that has drawn dissent from many scholars. As Yoo saw it, Congress doesn’t have the power to “tie the President’s hands in regard to torture as an interrogation technique.” He continued, “It’s the core of the Commander-in-Chief function. They can’t prevent the President from ordering torture.” If the President were to abuse his powers as Commander-in-Chief, Yoo said, the constitutional remedy was impeachment. He went on to suggest that President Bush’s victory in the 2004 election, along with the relatively mild challenge to Gonzales mounted by the Democrats in Congress, was “proof that the debate is over.” He said, “The issue is dying out. The public has had its referendum.”
It is the very core of the Commander In Chief function to be above the law. And Americans are assumed to have approved this by electing George W. Bush to a second term. That's what the president meant when he said, "We had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 elections."
We are disappearing people, rendering them to friendly governments that aren't afraid to put the electrode to genitals and threaten with dog rape. And we are building our own infrastructure of torture and extra legal imprisonment. It is a law of human nature that if you build it, they will come. This infrastructure will be expanded and bureaucratized. It's already happening. And when they decide, as Professor Yoo has already decided, that an election is a sanctioning of anything the President chooses to do in the War on Terror, it is only a matter of time before internal political enemies become a threat.

And then it will be us.
And then there's this:
...as Oregonian Rep. Earl Blumenauer said on the floor yesterday:
If this provision, the waiver of all laws necessary for quote improvements of barriers at the border was to become law, the Secretary of Homeland Security could give a contract to his political cronies that had no safety standards, using 12-year-old illegal immigrants to do the labor, run it through the site of a Native American burial ground, kill bald eagles in the process, and pollute the drinking water of neighboring communities. And under the provisions of this act, no member of Congress, no citizen could do anything about it because you waive all judicial review.
....Amidst it all, though, here's possibly the most bizarre part: Smuggler's Gulch is apparently extremely secure according to the Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Patrol. I was just told by their public affairs office that it was "not on a very high priority"; since Operation Gatekeeper in the early to mid-'90s, they've "put a stop to the vehicular traffic" and where "it used to take 15-20 agents to have an impact in that area, today we benefit from having possibly one or two agents."

So why the focus? Beats me. As I was told by a House aide:

I’d have to say that that really baffled us. Just trying to imagine what could possibly be the reason -- there’s got to be a reason here other than the border fence. They’re trying to set a precedent here. … The reason for this coming to Congress is much larger than 3 miles in San Diego. … It’s just inconceivable that we’re using all of this might for these three miles [emphasis added].
It's not inconceivable - these people are not particularly subtle and, as noted previously, are without honor or shame - but it's not the case. This is a precedent. A precedent for the government to, using an obscure Constitutional provision, declare all laws null and void in their pursuit of their goals. Just as, above, they are creating a precedent for the President to be entirely, eternally, above the law and unaccountable to anyone. This is what is happening.

Things are closing in, and just as a proud few righteous warriors are throwing back the curtains for the world to see what is happening. Sinclair, Armstrong Williams, "Jeff Gannon": propaganda; politically-motivated IRS audits; torture and extra-legal detentions, again and again- the noose tightens ever more.

Where do we go from here? It is as bad as I had feared; indeed, it is worse than even I feared. Will there be a moment when it is all, finally, too much? Will it be that obvious, or universal, or is this a more existential kind of terror, with each of us potentially reaching that point alone. If there's no breaking point, if each day is a marginal diminuation, each day an inch until one day there's nothing there, and we didn't even see it blink out.

I have food in my belly, a roof over my head, a paycheck for a while and a reasonable assurance that another one won't be hard to find; a modern city, infrastructure, a train to my front door, a wide range of advanced, abstract financial instruments at my disposal for continued comfort; the highest technology tools for personal entertainment and productivity; friends, family, education.

When do you say that all of that is worth giving up? The answer, at the end, is that you willingly give up all of that when you can see that it could all get taken away tomorrow, by forces that are not just out of your control, but hostile to your continued existence, happiness, success.

We're not there yet. Keep your eyes open, kids, go have a beer and a laugh.



Link-heavy, and just heavy.
The always-excellent Wolcott directed me this evening to a blog I had not previously read, Rigorous Intuition. Wolcott's particular link was to a story on the whole Jeff Gannon/J.D. Guckert affair, and the rather more salacious, and very overlooked, previous examples of government media manipulation mixing with gay blackmail. Stuff I hadn't known, and important to put the current story in context. And all pretty straightforward.

Then I kept reading.

Now, everyone has their own particular BS filters for this sort of stuff, and a lot of what I'm about to link to probably gets screened out. But.

This guy weaves a pretty damned convincing set of interlocking narratives, from papal assassination to the never-explained $100 million transactions through WTC computers moments before the planes hit; some pretty audacious stuff. But it's stuff that unsettles me, because of the ways in which certain things have been falling into place with my understanding of the world - the bought-and-paid-for news media, the fact that there are far greater forces at work in determining the course of American politics than the banal evil of the GOP. Summed up:
Corporate espionage, US Intelligence, High Crime, Big Money - you can't talk about any of them, without talking about them all. "We are not talking about only governmental levels. And I keep underlining semi-legit organizations and following the money," says Sibel Edmonds.

Who is Sibel Edmonds? Conveniently, Rigorous Intuition provides a primer there, too.

As I said, evaluate for yourself.

Also? Some of that blog's biggest fans:
Army Information Systems Command
Air Force Systems Command
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base
Fort Benning
NASA (Office of the Chief Information Officer)
Thales Defense Ltd
United Defense Armament Systems Division
Northrop Grumman Data Systems

Yeah, hmm. G'night, and welcome to my new fans!

Required Reading

ITEM! American Auto Industry Wants to Kill Pedestrians!

From the same people who fought seat belts, cars that fall apart and explode, air bags, and pretty much every other sort of consumer protection you can think of for their products, now comes word that, really, they don't give a shit if you die because of their products (which are not guns, but cars, whose primary purpose is locomotion, not killing):
Fairfax police Sgt. Pat Wimberly sees it at least once a month: A pedestrian steps into traffic and gets hit, and the outcome is always one-sided. "Whoever designed and implemented the human body never intended that to happen," Wimberly said.

Now the auto industry is debating whether it can change the equation, designing cars and trucks that are less deadly in collisions with pedestrians. At least one major supplier has developed an air bag that deploys on the outside of a car, to cushion the impact on a person's head. Honda Motor Co. has led the industry by redesigning its entire fleet of vehicles to make the hoods more forgiving to pedestrians.

Beginning this fall, the European Union will require manufacturers to meet pedestrian safety standards on all new models of vehicles, with stricter requirements on the way in 2010. Japan is not far behind.

But the rush to act is meeting resistance in the United States, where industry and government regulators alike say making automobiles more pedestrian-friendly is not a priority. Carmakers argue that such changes add cost and alter vehicle appearance in ways consumers might not like -- rounding off hoods and shortening front ends to lessen the danger to the human body. They also contend that driving is different overseas, where pedestrians are more likely to come into contact with automobiles in crowded cities.

"...add cost and alter vehicle appearance in ways consumers might not like." Much, much more important than stopping people from dying unnecessarily because of their products.

What freakin' jerks. Especially because:

Detroit's manufacturers will incorporate the new technologies and designs on vehicles they sell overseas, but not domestically.
Let's be clear - American carmakers like killing Americans. They like making money, and they like killing Americans, and they like making more money by killing more Americans. They always have and, it seems, always will.
And even more remarkable - more remarkable than the fact that they like killing Americans, you say? Yes, more remarkable - is American carmakers' (and their associated proponents of American-death) defense of killing Americans: humans are selfish and evil.

Consumers might not be willing to pay more for pedestrian safety, which, after all, is aimed at protecting someone outside the vehicle, [Adrian] Lund [chief operating officer at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a safety center funded by the insurance industry] said. "We're not sure how much attention even people in Europe are paying to those [pedestrian safety] ratings because what they're most concerned about is protecting their own families inside the vehicle."
Gaaahh! Basically - "Who cares if people die? We don't."


Department of Obviousness Dept.

WaPo online headline:
NBA Insider: Controversy Around Trail Blazers



Joel Achenbach nicely sums up my feelings on the whole steroids-in-baseball thing, almost to the letter, so I don't have to do it m'self. King Kaufman's earlier comments on Barry Bonds can stand in for what I would've written about that, but didn't, since he did it better (and yes - Barry is a different case).

Breathin' Fire

As the absurdity of the present has continued to increase, the sharpest minds around have somehow found ways to offer ever-sharper, more insightful, and more devastating analyses.
I'm glad that as our society is led to the gallows, there are at least a few people out there who see the hangman's noose for what it is.

Also, read this again.


Redistricting Idiocy

In his typical, incompetent style, Adam Nagourney addresses redistricting efforts in several different states. The problem? He treats all the redistricting efforts as being neutral, so the Arizona nonpartisan commission (modeled on Iowa, one of the very few redistricting processes that actually works) is the same as the California proposal (which it's not) is the same as the Texas brute-force, mid-decade redistricting (which it's really, really, really not). A sample of the idiocy:
"The self-dealing quality of legislators drawing districts for themselves or for their partisans has basically collapsed the enterprise," said Samuel Issacharoff, a visiting professor at New York University Law School and an expert on redistricting. "There's an increasing sense of revulsion among people at this self-dealing. It is somewhat scandalous that there are no competitive elections anymore."

The 2002 Texas redistricting effort, during which Democratic lawmakers fled the state to stop the Legislature from getting a quorum, lent some spice to what even proponents acknowledge can be an eye-glazing subject. The next year, Republicans tried to do the same thing in Colorado, but the effort was challenged in a lawsuit filed by the Democratic attorney general.

"Some spice" is all he can say - no comment on the fact that the Texas redistricting was exactly the problem Issacharoff is talking about. And "proponents" - is he talking about proponents of more representative redistricting? 'Cause baby, that ain't what Texas was about, and even DeLay would acknowledge that.

Now I know that this is an atrocious use of inference, but does the reader? Unless they followed the Texas case, and remember it - no. And Nagourney makes no effort to educate them.

He does, however, make room for Republican diktat to create the illusion of a permanent and inevitable Republican majority:

"You basically have 400 seats in Congress that are decided long before the general election - and Republicans have a 15- to 20-seat advantage," said Matthew Dowd, who was a senior adviser to President Bush's re-election campaign. "That puts them in a position where it's very hard to lose the House of Representatives."
In a piece about electoral reform, in a country where Republicans dominate govenment at the national and state levels, Nagourney quotes or cites proposals from six Republicans, five nonpartisan experts...and one Democrat, a state senator for Maryland, near the bottom of the article.

Read the whole thing, for an education in just how atrocious coverage of our national political discourse has become. Given a rare chance to address actual substance rather than mere political gamesmanship - indeed, in the case of electoral reform, substance defined as in opposition to political gamesmanship - Nagourney is entirely unequal to the task.

Linky Monday


Apples and Windows

Good piece at Salon from earlier in the week on the invigorated Apple Computer. One passage in particular, got me back to dreaming:
Does Hertzfeld have any real hope that Apple, which guards its code just as closely as Microsoft holds Windows, may go the free software route? "I don't predict they will," he says, "but I don't predict they won't, either. They're smart people." What he means is that they may eventually see that it's in their interest to do so.
I've always hoped that, one year, no leaks beforehand or nuthin', Steve Jobs gets up at Macworld and announces that the MacOS has been ported to run on Windows machines, with heretofore unimagined cross-platform application hosting (i.e., it plays Windows games). And that they're making it open-source. And free.
To be sure, that would shake some shit up. But given how undeniably better their suite of home digital software - iTunes, iPhoto, GarageBand, iMovie - are than Microsoft's crap, that's a plan so crazy it might work.
Aw, shaddup and leave a man with his dreams.


Cognitive Bigotry

Um...shouldn't this be causing a couple million Republican heads to explode?
[Mel] Martinez, Republican of Florida, made his debut speech on the floor in both English and Spanish, telling Hispanic Americans that Alberto R. Gonzales, President Bush's nominee to be attorney general, is "one of us."

The speech appears to be the first made by a senator on the floor in Spanish or any language other than English, said Donald Ritchie, a Senate historian.

Seriously...talk about the shoe on the other foot test...

More Robots Thursday

As promised, more robots - Mother Jones' blog does us the courtesy of several robot links, all with fantastic mechanized killinggoodness.


HAHAHAHAHAHA! Man, sorry for that, but days like this are the ones that make life worth living. Real life is just too fucking ridiculous to make up. What am I talking about? Oh, only this:
Top Iowa Democrats threw their support for chairman of the Democratic National Committee to Howard Dean today, putting the one-time presidential candidate near the threshold of support needed to win.

Gov. Tom Vilsack and Lt. Gov. Sally Pederson, Iowa Democratic chairwoman, were among eight of Iowa's nine voting members of the Democratic National Committee to endorse the former Vermont governor.

Pederson said the key was Dean's demonstrated support for the Iowa caucuses, evidenced by his two-year campaign for the lead-off nominating contest last year.

The backing comes as support for Dean as chairman is nearing the majority of the DNC's 477 voting members. The election is Feb. 12 at DNC's annual winter meeting in Washington, D.C.

Joining Vilsack and Pederson were Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald, national committeewoman Sandy Opstvedt, national committeeman Ken Rains, state party Vice Chairman Rob Tully and Grinnell College student Grant Woodard, president of College Democrats of America.
This...really just couldn't be any funnier if the entire Daily Show staff cloned a thousand hybrid monkeys with part of their DNA and chained the hilarious hellspawn to typewriters for a million years. I'm sorry for those who weren't in Iowa, for whom this only has the whiff of "Huh. How 'bout that?" irony, but this is just amazing. Can we go back to my favorite part? Sure we can:
Pederson said the key was Dean's demonstrated support for the Iowa caucuses, evidenced by his two-year campaign for the lead-off nominating contest last year.
HAHAHAHAHAHA! Dean's candidacy was partially sunk because of his opposition to the caucuses - or at least, the media's fevered scandalmongering a week out from the caucuses over a tape - a tape, mind you that was four years old, widely available, known of - given them by Chris "Sleaziest Democrat this Side of Bob Toricelli" Lehane that showed Dean expressing real and principled opposition to the Iowa caucuses' first-in-the-nation status. And the man also says he's gonna, if not move them, at least add other primaries to the first date - but mainly, that the current system is deeply flawed.

And Vilsack? Whoo...whoo...this is just perfect.

Russia, Sudan and China

An AP story today reads, "Russia Might Send Peacekeepers to Sudan." This is, in and of itself, a pretty good thing - any peacekeepers in Sudan is a good thing, and long, long overdue (I'm talking way back even before the current horrors of Darfur overdue). The story itself is very short, and short on specifics, but is more informative in the light of two other facts.
Fascinatingly, the detail of the Chinese troops didn't make it into the otherwise lengthy and excellent WaPo account (though its immense military aid and supplies were mentioned - just not the boots on the ground), and seems to only have made much of a splash in the right-wing media and blogosphere (NewsMax, WorldNetDaily, WaTimes, etc.). Their knee-jerk anti-China paranoia, in this case, serves them well. Indeed, I think increasingly that libruls have a lot to learn in terms of informing their feelings about China from a lot of people with whom they would otherwise find no common ground.

RE: fact one above - the Beeb continues, reporting:
The Kremlin said on Tuesday that the $6bn which Russian state bank VEB lent state-owned Rosneft to help buy Yugansk in turn came from Chinese banks.

The revelation came as the Russian government said Rosneft had signed a long-term oil supply deal with China....

The deal between Rosneft and CNPC is seen as part of China's desire to secure long-term oil supplies to feed its booming economy.

China's thirst for products such as crude oil, copper and steel has helped pushed global commodity prices to record levels.

"Clearly the Chinese are trying to get some leverage [in Russia]," said Dmitry Lukashov, an analyst at brokerage Aton.

"They understand property rights in Russia are not the most important rights, and they are more interested in guaranteeing supplies."

Add all of these to the fact that Chinese and Russian troops are training together, and a pretty clear picture emerges: these countries have a very basic mutual understanding of the importance of access to, and control of, energy and other natural resources by national governments in an increasingly unstable world. Further, their understanding is one which explicity ignores the rule of law when it becomes inconvenient - see the whole sorry Yukos debacle, or any one of many examples of Chinese banks' and factories' corruption - and just generally laughs at the whole idea of free elections, open society or human rights.

And all of these things, taken together, get back to the central point of why it's so heartbreaking that the United States is daily destroying its moral (not to mention financial) credibility as a world leader. Namely - the United States has always been something of a hypocrite, an idealistic child who spouts great notions while also violating them. But we have, through history, three steps forward, two back, one forward, one back, progressed, and been, as recently as four years ago, a model of what a nation and people can be, and a recipient of the good wishes and sympathy of the world.

Russia and China represent an opposite vision - a crass, heartless grab for resources, control and power. Unfortunately, over the past four years, this has also widely - and not incorrectly - been the view of the rest of the world about the United States as an international actor.

It is important that we all realize the world and potential worlds that are taking shape around us, for many reasons, not the least of which is to remind us why we are fighting to make the United States into the kind of country that can set an example for a better world.



The Great Robot God of Us All, Google, has a new thingy. Use it - type slowly (tip o' the pin to Dr. Thinky for the find).


Brought to our attention by loyal reader EJL, an article in today's LATimes has on-the-record quotes from the major intellectual authors of the Real Republican Agenda that are damn near shocking. Not shocking in what they're saying - if you've been paying attention, I've been pointing out what these people are actually up to for some time - but in that they're out in the open proclaiming their evil, cynical agenda for what it is. The headline says it pretty well - "Dominance on GOP Agenda," but I'll also let messrs. Norquist, Moore, etc., say it for themselves:
President Bush's agenda for the next four years, much of which he will highlight in his State of the Union address tonight, includes many proposals that would not only change public policy but, the GOP hopes, achieve an ambitious political goal: Stripping money and voters from the Democratic Party and cementing Republican dominance for years after he leaves office.
"If we could succeed in getting some form of tort reform passed — medical malpractice reform or any of part of that — it would go a long ways toward … taking away the muscle, the financial muscle that they have," said Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), who ousted Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle last fall despite a heavy flood of trial lawyer money backing the Democrat.
Bush's plan to alter Social Security, for example, would allow younger workers to divert some of their payroll taxes into privately owned retirement accounts. GOP strategists hope it would also foster a new "investor class" that would vote Republican.

Republican support for free trade undermines labor unions which, like trial lawyers, are a bedrock of the Democratic Party, strategists say.

The president's faith-based initiative, which encourages government funding for religious social service agencies, and his opposition to legalizing same-sex marriage are popular with socially conservative African Americans, who have for decades leaned Democratic but are increasingly viewed as potential GOP voters.
"Are we doing it because it creates more Republicans? Or are we doing it because it's the right thing to do, and by the way, it also happens to create more Republicans?" asked Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform and a frequent advisor to Karl Rove, Bush's chief political advisor. "It's both."

And with the money shot, none other than the Club for Growth's Stephen Moore:
"Every one of the ideas for the most part has merits on its own, so … they're defensible," said Stephen Moore, a conservative activist who plans to raise $10 million this year to advertise on behalf of Bush's Social Security plans. "But I think, altogether, this was devised as a Karl Rove grand plan to cement in place a Republican governing coalition that could last for a generation or more."
"Defensible...but...a Karl Rove grand plan."
Stephen Moore, a thoroughly detestable piece of slime, at least does us the courtesy of saying out loud what their real thinking is - namely, they're dressing up blatantly partisan political lawmaking in the guise of responsible policy. But make no mistake - there's one goal, and one goal alone, in all of these proposals, and it ain't the well-being of the American people.
Read the whole article - if you weren't already thoroughly aware of just how evil these guys are, you will be (also look for the great quote by our ol' buddy Newt).

I'll say it again - it's clear that these people are without honor or shame.



As background to this post, understand that at this hour it appears Howard Dean is, basically, a lock for DNC Chair, Martin Frost having dropped out earlier today and more or less conceded to Dean.

I've had trouble figuring out the right tone for this post, but here goes: to anyone out there who's saying that that Howard Dean will "destroy" the Democratic Party, or who has "grave concerns" about "what might happen," or some similarly-phrased tut-tutting, please feel free to try and shut the fuck up. I'm going to go slowly and use small words, to best encourage understanding.
Kindly, kindly, tell me how things can really get worse, and how Tim Roemer was going to keep those things from happening.

Moving on - tomorrow, more about robots.

Internet in the Air!

Making a post, finally, from my apartment. No, Verizon hasn't installed the DSL yet, but finally - finally - someone in my building is being kind enough not to put security protocols on their wireless network. Naturally, I spent the afternoon, um, catching up on reading.

Okay, seriously - wireless broadband internet? That shit is just so ridiculous. Maybe I'm just getting real, real old in that I remember 1200-baud modems and BBSes, and still think that WordPerfect 5.1 for Dos and Telnet were the high point for software, ever, but...no, no, that's about it, I'm just getting real old.

Also - A-Train. That was a great game.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?