Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Thoughts on Getting Out of Iraq

I'm not the only one who wants a concrete plan for getting out of that desert nightmare. The Guardian asked eight notables to offer their best ideas, and it makes for provocative reading.

 3:14 PM

Monday, November 24, 2003

Hacking Amazon

It's not exactly a "hack," because anyone who wants to can recommend items "in addition to" an item that Amazon sells, but these recommendations are classic. It just goes to show that the sarcasm of America will make itself known.

 11:27 AM
Dubya: Voice of Ecumenism

The Religious Right has recently gone ape over Dubya's comment that Christians and Muslims "worship the same God." Of course, they've only gone a little ape, seeing as Dubya is otherwise considered the best thing since sliced bread at Communion.

Hilariously, the Muslims don't see this as a problem:

Sayyid M. Syeed, secretary general of the Islamic Society of North America, responded to Bush's statement with a single word: Alhamdullah, Thanks be to God.

"We read again and again in the Koran that our god is the god of Abraham, the god of Noah, the god of Jesus," he said. "It would not come to the mind of a Muslim that there is a different god that Abraham or Jesus or Moses was praying to."

You know, even under the most rigid version of Christianity that is out there, Bush was right. Both Christians and Muslims do worship the same God -- the God of Abraham and Noah. It's just that they rather firmly disagree about how to worship Him. Or what He wants. Or what His name is.

Here's the rundown for those of you keeping score at home:

Judaism: Abraham, Moses. Everyone that came later is lying.

Christianity: Abraham, Moses, Christ. Everyone that came later is lying.

Islam: Abraham, Moses, Christ, Mohammed. Everyone that came later is lying. And Christ wasn't such a big deal.

Mormonism: Abraham, Moses, Christ, no Mohammed, Christ II: Injun Messiah.

Jehovah's Witnesses: Abraham, Moses, Christ, no Mohammed, Christ II: Return of the Invisible Messiah, Christ III: Revenge Of The Invisible Messiah, Christ IV: He's Coming, We Really Mean It This Time

Unification Church: Abraham, Moses, Christ, no Mohammed, Sun Myung Moon, the Republican Party

I hope that clears things up for everybody.

 8:04 AM

Friday, November 21, 2003

Johnny Hart, Master of the Subliminal?

Fascinating article in the Post today, about the debate over whether Johnny Hart intended an insult in a recent comic strip.

Johnny has been known to piss people off with his heart-on-his-sleeve cartoons that take the primacy of fundamentalist Christianity as a given. (For instance, his Easter 2001 strip featured a menorah withering away to leave only a cross.) The fact that Hart uses cavemen to deliver his Christian message is just one of those delicious ironies that make life so much fun.

I strongly recommend that you decide for yourself. Read the strip first, and then read the article about it.

(If there's a problem with the link to the strip, go here and choose the archive for Nov. 10th.)

My vote? I'm with Berke Breathed. The strip makes no sense without the insult. But I would be very interested to hear what other people think.

 8:39 AM

Thursday, November 20, 2003

After an interesting e-mail from Mom, I would like to back off my "shut the hell up" stance. There is some value in pointing out Bush's lies. And it is always safe to say that your alternative is "to not lie."

But if you're bitching about his lies and disastrous policies without offering an alternative -- that is, without putting your ideas into the ring for comment and criticism -- you're not being one tenth as effective as you could be. You're starting down the road to becoming one of the "nattering nabobs of negativism."

And this isn't just political candidates I'm talking about -- though it especially applies to them. I want every living American to try to figure out what we should do in Iraq.

Basically, I'm fed up with the negative viewpoint. I have little use for people that are willing to oppose something without believing in something in return.

"A man's got to believe in something. I believe I'll have another drink." W.C. Fields

 2:42 PM
More Historical Revisionism

I note that Adam's blog has mysteriously changed its name from "A violently executed plan" to "A violently executed blog." The change happened without any explanation, as if we wouldn't notice.

Watch this space for more information as it develops. We'll get to the bottom of all this vacillation and revisionism.

 9:27 AM
Once again, Tom the Dancing Bug hits the nail on the head. I'm just getting tired of the administration's attempts to pretend that the very recent past never happened -- not so much disgusted as just tired.

But here's the thing that is starting to bother me. For right now, it seems like it's enough for the Left to play the role of the loyal opposition -- pointing out the lies, saying "I told you so," preventing the Bush administration from rewriting history. But that isn't enough. As Shannon has said to me several times, "It was so easy being mad at Clinton. You didn't have to say what you wanted him to do."

I have not heard any significant figure on the Left explain what we should now do as a nation. We've screwed the pooch by going into Iraq, but we're there now. The toilet has backed up, and there's crap all over the bathroom floor, and it's useless to talk about how you would have called a plumber yesterday.

So, now what? Is the solution another Saigon, 1975? Pull out now and let Iraq fall?

And here's the more difficult problem: Bush's hurried "Iraqification" plan has all the earmarks of a cumulative disaster, but it's not the sort of plan that can be easily opposed without a firm plan of your own. After all, the "loyal opposition" doesn't seem to be urging a longer stay, or higher troop counts. That's why the "Iraqification" plan is a brilliant political move by Karl Rove. He understands that the Left is being reactionary instead of proactive. The administration wants to get out of Iraq! We want Iraq for the Iraqis! So, what do you want, lib'rul? Slower withdrawal? More troops? A draft?

I want someone to propose a concrete, plausible, non-cowardly, non-idiotic strategy for disentangling ourselves from the slow-motion disaster that is Iraq. No points for any answer that begins with "we should never have..." or "I wouldn't have gone in the first place." Start from the present moment.

And I'm sick of the pathetic platitudes about how we should be "multilateral" or should "cooperate" with the international community. How do you plan to achieve that? To return again to the excessively graphic metaphor, Iraq is like when your toilet backs up and overflows onto the floor, and the "international community" are (metaphorically) our house guests. Only your very closest friends would help you clean up that kind of turd garden. So what makes us think that they will send hundreds of billions of dollars and risk their troops to clean up a mess that we made?

So, you heard it here first. I'm sick of sniping from people that don't have a solution, because it's pathetically easy. Irony and dissent are easy if you don't put your own ideas on the line. It's not enough to call Bush a liar -- though he is a liar and a cheat and unworthy of our respect -- you have to explain what he should be doing differently.

And if you can't do that, shut the hell up.

And I don't know what to do in Iraq. So this is me shutting up.

 8:38 AM

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation has finally released the finalists in the competiton to design the World Trade Center monument. It's worth a view, especially the animated versions. It's a sobering view into the real-life difficulties inherent in trying to pick an artistic representation of a tragedy.

I cast my vote (for what it's worth) for Votives in Suspension.

 1:51 PM

Monday, November 17, 2003

And you think you have it bad...

This is the summary of the background facts in a new opinion from the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, U.S. v. Helton:

In 1999, from June 2 to June 3, Helton and three others (Harold Dean McCarty (“McCarty”), Mildred Stanley Slusher (“Stanley”) and Molly Minix Shepherd (“Minix”)) used cocaine at Helton’s residence while Helton and McCarty prepared half-gram packages of cocaine for sale. Realizing that they needed to restock their supply of cocaine (in view of the amount they had consumed), Helton and McCarty decided to exchange Helton’s television for a half-gram of cocaine and $400. Stanley drove McCarty to a prospective seller. On the way, Stanley watched McCarty hide nineteen cocaine packages behind a traffic sign.

After agreeing to terms with the cocaine seller and after returning to Helton’s residence to load the television onto his truck, McCarty left to make the exchange. While he was gone, Stanley retrieved five or six of the recently-hidden packages for Helton, Minix and herself—all of whom were suffering from cocaine withdrawal—to consume. When McCarty learned that no cocaine remained at the hiding place, he accused Stanley of stealing the packages. She denied any knowledge of their whereabouts, but McCarty did not believe her and proceeded to shoot her. The bullet passed through Stanley’s shoulder and exited out her lower back, but did not kill her.

At this point, Helton and McCarty drove Stanley to the hiding place behind the traffic sign where McCarty threatened her with the gun, again demanding that she tell them where the cocaine was. She again disclaimed any knowledge about the location of the cocaine, and McCarty fired at her head, missing her.

Helton and McCarty then drove Stanley to a strip mine where they tied cement blocks to her body and threw her into a nearby pond. In a fortuitous application of Murphy’s Law, the pond turned out to be waist deep. Stanley did not drown.

In one last effort to “put her under,” Helton took aim at Stanley three times and tried to shoot her three times. Each time, he missed the cement-laden Stanley. Apparently stymied, Helton and McCarty dragged Stanley from the pond and moved her to a nearby woods. In a conversation that history regrettably does not fully record, Helton and McCarty discussed what to do with Stanley next.

Happily for Stanley, they did not have a chance to follow through on their next plan. Helton left the scene and sleep overcame McCarty, allowing Stanley to escape to a nearby residence where she was airlifted to the University of Kentucky Medical Center. There, she underwent surgery and eventually recovered.

 8:32 AM

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

This is a great summary of the plot of "Alias," which Shannon and I watch faithfully these days. It misses some of the subtleties, but it's a good way to get up to speed.

 5:07 PM

Monday, November 10, 2003

Fascinating Discoveries

It never ceases to amaze me when I discover that Jonah has some of my traits. I mean, it's logical and everything, but it's a little disconcerting to see yourself in an eleven-month-old. Just three days ago, I saw the boy furrow his brow exactly like I did in a photo of me as a baby. It's exceedingly strange to see an expression on your child's face that you associate with your own, powerful feelings.

The most recent discovery is that Jonah likes back rubs. A lot. And in particular, he likes to be massaged in the same spots that I do. While we were at the grocery store, I started rubbing his back right around the shoulder blades and the kid started twisting and squirming and laughing like I've never seen. It was like I had found baby catnip. A gentle massage at the base of the neck was almost more than the little guy could stand, and he started kicking his legs just like I do when I'm getting massaged.

I just hope that he's enjoying the sensation of massage, and not already suffering from tension. I just keep thinking about that Paula Poundstone routine, where the kid says "Oh, man, I am beat. I have been at the blocks all day." And I've seen at least one parody commercial for Ben Gay for Kids. I mean, he's not tense, right? Maybe I should watch him really carefully for a while and take him to the doctor three or four times to make sure that he's not tense.

I mean, I have no idea where he would get tension from. Or a furrowed brow. Maybe it's from his mother's side of the family.

Oh, yeah: he has mastered the bilabial fricative, known to the rabble as the "raspberry" or the "Bronx cheer." That's not just lip buzzing, either. He has mastered the full-on, tongue-rattling raspberry. I'm so proud.

 1:45 PM

Friday, November 07, 2003

Friday Five

Gord asks:

"To your mind, which five other innovations in history are those which were basically inevitable? Which events do you think were simply bound to happen, and if they'd not happened as they did in our history, would eventually have happened elsewhere or elsewhen, even in the face of something like one of the major world civilizations (along with its technical contributions to the long and intercultural ferment of the development of technologies) having been completely wiped out?"

It would be easier for me to list the things that I think would not have happened, but here are five "would have happened anyway" ideas that I find intriguing:

1. Nuclear weapons. No matter who invented them, humanity was going to create these. It's like kids that try to "outbid" each other until one finally breaks down and says "infinity."

2. The Internet. The Internet seems positively inevitable to me as an outcropping of the human desire to get information instantly. Ironically, I was reading today that bin Laden probably communicates using handwritten messages conveyed by personal messengers, because he knows that any use of technology could pinpoint him.

3. God. I think that anyone who looks at the natural world will deduce the existence of God. And I think that anyone who contemplates humanity's role in nature will deduce the Fall -- both our God-like nature and the evil that hampers it.

4. The domesticated dog. People will always need companions that aren't human, because humans will always have issues with other humans.

5. The merkin.

Other F5 participants are: Melissa, Adam, Merideth, Will, Chris, Gina, Dave, Craig, Gord, Adrienne, Nanette, Marvin, Rob, Laura and Jon, and it seems like we're adding more and more people whom I have never met. Excellent!

 5:30 PM
He's a flat caricature of a human being, and he's in the Oval Office.

And that guy he's with is Flat Stanley.

 8:54 AM

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Don't Bother To Vote

It's Election Day today, but it doesn't matter. It's not even an important election -- it's an "off" year, so you won't be voting for President. You would just be choosing the people that make your city run. You know, educate your kids, pick up your garbage, police your streets, build your highways. Boring stuff.

So don't bother to vote.

This message brought to you by Informed Voters Who Don't Want Their Precious Vote Diluted By The Apathetic.

 8:49 AM

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