Johnny Two-Cents

Johnny Two-Cents: The hard, bitter core of the squishy center.

Buckethead:
Ardent conservative and peerless obscurantist.

Kvetching about news, politics, culture, and things that explode, since 1896.


Current Terror Alert Level
Terror Alert Level


Thursday, July 17, 2003
 
[posted by Buckethead]:
Grand Re-Opening

Johnny Two-Cents is now experiencing what marketroids call rebranding.

From this point on, you can read the same penetrating analysis, effervescent wit, and banal restating of the obvious at a new home, The Ministry of Minor Perfidy. We thank blogger for providing a (free) home for our observations and bloviating, with (free) customer service and excellent (free) archiving.

Come see our new digs, graciously hosted by Bloghouse.




Wednesday, July 16, 2003
 
[posted by Buckethead]:
The Examined Life

From Buckethead and Johnny Two-Cents:

Farewell, Mike.

Johnny Two-Cents started as a fun project, three friends arguing about the world, as we had often done together over beers back in college. Johnny and I have enjoyed discussing with Mike the state of the world, things important and trivial, things comic and tragic. That this blog has become an engine for the clarification of beliefs and goals is an remarkable thing, and as we pause in our amazement, we are both happy that it has helped to give Mike new focus and a stronger belief in his capacity to do good in the world.

Since we have known him, Mike has ever been strong in his arguments, honest and honorable in his actions, and has always looked for the truth. His desire to act rather than speak demonstrates the depth of his commitment and the strength of his beliefs. He has challenged us in our beliefs and thoughts, for which we will always be grateful. As Johnny once said, having Mike on the blog means always having to bring your "A" game. We will dearly miss him.

We wish Mike the best in all things.

And Mike, if ever you are in the eastern reaches; be sure to seek us out so we can stand you to a beer or twenty, and hear you fiddle.




Tuesday, July 15, 2003
 
[posted by Windy City Mike]:
Catharsis
A Farewell Post


One cloudy, uncharacteristically cool spring day, as I was sitting in a bar with a friend, we discussed my participation in this newfangled Blog business. He offered an observation, that I seemed to get something out of doing this despite my near constant frustration with it and unending battles with one of the other members that drove me dangerously close to fits of apoplexy. I thought about what that was, what benefits I perceived from yet another net technology that allowed people to broadcast thoughts, opinions, and beliefs over this medium. I responded that the Blog allowed me to keep my writing and debating skills sharp.

But more and more, I returned to my early suspicions of the Internet, first experienced through listservs, usenet, and other such strange things that have been with humans for such a short period of time. It seems like only yesterday that our primitive ancestors wielded a bone for the first time to kill another of our own kind, a la the opening sequence of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Now we are increasing our technology a hundredfold with every revolution around the sun. Somehow, our primitive, atavistic impulse to smash the skull of another human with a blunt object, however, remains, despite our advances. Civilization, as the adolescent tome Lord of the Flies teaches, is a thin veneer that is rented asunder with but the slightest tug.

That impulse, I think, has been channeled into the primary function of Internet communications. With every online discussion group or listserv, I gave up in frustration as someone either misinterpreted what I had written or simply attacked me outright. The bone is still there. It’s a keyboard now. The urge to kill is right outside my window, in all its glory of primitive, naked rage. It’s in me, and every other human as well. We are by nature angry, savage killers who will smash the brains from the head of another human to possess his food, shelter, or his woman.

But the sort of thing that goes on the net is a different manifestation. It’s an opportunity for people who haven’t the guts to wield a bone in deadly combat, to square off with another shaggy, hunch-shouldered, human ape, when the prize is their own survival, and perhaps the meager possessions of the vanquished. The Internet allows people to mouth off at others with anonymous impunity, take all their frustration out on someone they cannot perceive with their senses over the vast gulf of cyberspace, hurling insults and vitriol across that same unseen chasm, physically as imperceptible as the air we breathe. Some people aren’t even taking out their frustrations on the faceless other, on the opposite side of the cable. They’re just mean, and they don’t have the balls to be mean to other people to their face, lest those they verbally attack take up the bone in lieu of the keyboard.

I return to the original question, why did I Blog? I came to understand that allowing me to polish my writing and argumentative skills was in fact but a penultimate objective. The Blog, in truth, allowed me to rediscover who I really am, what I think, and what I might believe.

In the last four years, I have been accused several times of being a sexist, racist, conservative, and lastly, a right-wing extremist. At an Irish studies conference years ago, I tried to make small talk with a conference participant. This is always a mistake. Conference participants are typically keyboard wielders as opposed to bone-wielders, if you follow my conversational drift. But I digress. The other conference participant and I got to talking about political perspective. When I offered that I had in my early adolescence fancied myself a Communist, but that age, experience, and increased knowledge had brought me to a perspective akin to that of Social Democracy, or a Social Democrat, the other participant rolled his eyes and rocked back on his heels, ensconced in expensive, glistening, leather shoes.

“Oh,” he drawled, the attempt at condescension left uncamouflaged, “so you’ve moved way to the right,” extending his arms widely to indicate that I had fallen far and fast, a distance traversing an entire ocean. I gave up trying to talk to this person, and most other people at the conference.

Since enlisting at a certain Jesuit university that shall remain nameless, I have been accused, in so many words and directly, of also being sexist, racist, ethnocentric, what have you, in addition to a right-wing extremist. I have puzzled repeatedly over how this could be true. Since I do not believe that all men are evil and should be castrated, by some people’s standards apparently, I am sexist. Since I am white, I am automatically a racist. The extent to which I am white could have been a subject, perhaps, of a discussion here, specifically whether or not near easterners and people of near eastern descent are truly afforded white status now. But the sun is setting with alacrity, and if that subject be discussed, I will be unable to weigh in.

Back to the matter at hand. My pale skin, a genetic takeover by Irish ancestry when in the past I had a robust olive complexion indicative of my coexisting near eastern descent, does not alone make me a racist. What has made me a racist in the recent past are the abominable thoughts that have entered my mind over the last four years as I have watched members of another ethnic group firing weapons at each other and indiscriminately, screaming at the top of their lungs in the middle of the night, threatening to kill me, attempting to kill me, trying to kill other people, trying to hurt other people, taking up the bone, leering with a maniacal grin at the prospect of a satisfying smash of bone against bone.

But just as I am not racist because I have pale skin, rather for other reasons, the people I have described do not engage in violent actions because their skin is dark, rather for other reasons. They do it because they are desperate, angry, poor, hungry, left out of the American dream. They also scream in the middle of the night because they have no consideration for other people. Not all members of their ethnic group stand on the intersection near my building screaming and shooting. Or perhaps, as my Dad once told me long ago, “There are only two ethnic groups. Assholes, and people who aren’t. Skin color and geographic origin has nothing to do with it.”

As I have written, for this Blog, however, I have noticed myself eschewing racist interpretations and statements. It was not conscious, so much as innate, a natural inclination. The disgusting racist, or at least prejudicial, thoughts creeping into my head as of late, were unnatural, and not really me.

My political orientation, like my impulse contrary to racism or prejudice has similarly been confirmed. It appears that accusations leveled at me by the keyboard-wielding members of the asshole ethnic group populating the Ivory Tower are patently false. I’m a union man. A son of the working class. Each according to her or his need, and I demand that need be met. I call for an end to foreign war, and an initiation of global peace. I call for justice for workers, and jobs for the unemployed. I call for an end to all forms of discrimination and injustice. I demand that the narrow wealthy oligarchy that dominates this country make themselves accountable, and pitch in what is their due. I call for the downtrodden to raise themselves up from their knees and spit in the faces of those who held them there in chains. I am, unflinchingly, a leftist, and I proudly puke bright red. I never thought I really believed in anything, but having done this Blog, there are ideals in which I have made a leap of faith. To shift gears slightly, as a leftist, I look forward to one of my part-time jobs because it’s akin to manual labor. It’s honest work.

I also look forward to my other part-time job as a teacher because society has left the underclass with little to advance themselves. Education is one of the keys that have fallen onto America’s dirty floor, forgotten by those who would keep the door locked tight. I also look forward to it as an ideological great grand-child of the Enlightenment. Reason above all else, and the dissemination of reason and knowledge. Liberte, Egalite, Franternite, et vive les droits des Hommes et Femmes.

I wish to wield no keyboard to vent my inconsequential frustrations against faceless others rather than having the balls to face them. As much as I often desire to wield the bone, with a flame so blindingly crimson as all of perdition burning behind my wounded eye, I choose not to do so. I will wield the education key, and help others through the door that I have entered, been ejected from, entered again, and ejected from once more.

Steve, I cast aside the bone that I briefly shook at you with increasing rage as my face sight-unseen twisted in murderous anger and hatred. We are enemies now, you and I. I invite détente, and in that interest, I will not throw more accusations at you or complain further, but I will never discuss matters political with you again. Like a job that I recently had briefly for two days, I simply don’t have the right personality for it. I do not want to wield the bone unnecessarily, or if I can help it, ever again. For that, and because I do not wish to wield the keyboard in a cowardly, undignified fashion, to become what I dislike, a simpering, insult-hurling denizen of this damnable Internet, whining about small matters on a luxury item while others much less fortunate starve and face suffering, war, and death, I withdraw from the discussion.

John, thank you for the opportunity, the forum, your patience, and the gentle kindness which I find so characteristic of you. But this I cannot do.

Adieu.

-Mike



 
[posted by Windy City Mike]:
Anger Rising, critical mass achieved

We both have engaged in a significant amount of moral finger pointing. This person is bad, this person is evil, this person is more diabolical than this other person, naughty, naughty. If you want to level such accusations, feel free. I’m just unwilling to continue it myself.

As to the leftist protestors, I see a consistent amount of vitriol directed at leftist protestors, in so many words liberals who do this, liberals who do that, liberal stupidity, idiot socialists, in actual words “Commie Tommie Daschle” (as if), leftist “ass-hatted fuckwits,” and so forth. Extremely negative comments are consistently directed at people whose ideas and statements fall to the left of the political spectrum, and it gets personal. Just because there are occasional caveats, fine shades of meaning, and distinctions, when someone in so many words or in plain language denigrates and insults a group of people to which I belong I am in turn and by extension denigrated and insulted. I don’t recall offering myself specifically as a punching bag. Nor do I recall making blanket statements about the stupidity or ass-hatted fuckwittery of conservatives, or people right of center, what have you, of any stripe.

I have made specific criticisms of Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan, and Margaret Thatcher, and much further outside the realm of credibility herself, Anne Coulter, but when have I extended those criticisms to any group of right-winged people? I have criticized Fox News, not for being on the right, but for reporting inaccurately, and for such instances as when they have a guest who believes that EYE-rack is “full of Buddhists,” without correcting that guest, or offering a retraction or correction. The New York Times, many of whose staff members appear to hold leftish beliefs, has also dropped the ball on accurate reporting. Have I defended the NYT and attacked Fox News solely on the basis of political orientation? If you can find evidence that I have done these things I claim to be innocent of, I’ll make a public blog apology.

I have after all, in times past, said, in so many words, “Okay, fine, fair enough, alright.” When have points ever been conceded to me? Are you still holding a belief that Nazis fell on the left of the political spectrum?Was there smouldering in silence without concession?

Back to the leftist protestors, personal liberties in America were not created in America, but rather maintained in America by people with leftist ideas and through protest. The American Civil Liberties Union is largely left in character, for want of a better term, and has defended personal liberty to the point of arguing that Neo-Nazis should be permitted to march in Skokie, Illinois. Leftish reporters who refuse to reveal their source protect freedom of the press. Anti-war protestors who seized control of Lake Shore Drive in Chicago defended their right to freedom of assembly while simultaneously protesting the war.

And where do those ideas about personal liberty really come from? America? Don’t make me laugh. Ideas about freedom of the press, assembly, and speech, as well as societal egalitarianism and responsible government with separate branches came collectively from Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who was Swiss, Voltaire, who was French, John Locke, who was English, and various other European thinkers, most of whom were your arch-nemeses as Frenchmen and women. And correct me if I’m wrong, but ardent supporters of those rights in the political field, such as Georges Danton, sat on the LEFT side of French assembly houses, hence the term. And let's see, Alexander Hamilton, a rightist of his time and place, OPPOSED the Bill of Rights! Hmm, gee I wonder, who, oh who must have pushed for that Bill of Rights? Well, if Hamilton the rightist opposed it, then maybe it was the left of that particular time and place? You think? Thus, both the creation in Europe and the maintenance in America of individual liberties come from the leftists of the past, the recent past, and even the current time, as I’ve argued, are thanks to filthy, puking leftists.

As foot-notes: 1) Morocco did not oppose, and technically invited, the American military presence in 1942. The World War II analogies don't work. That was there and then, this is here and now. History is not the present, it is the past. 2) The pronunciation of Iraq is not the same as Paris. Paris in English is Paris. Roma in English is Rome. Deutschland in English is Germany, Espana is Spain, (please forgive the lack of an appropriate diacritical mark), Eire is Ireland, Italia is Italy. Those things are all fine. EYE-rack is not the English word for Iraq. Saying EYE-rack is roughly the same as saying, “last night I had EYE-talian food at the Olive Garden.” Which has more than a grain of truth.

3) Hussein has been removed from power. Fine. But there was nothing altruistic about the U.S. government and military initiating his removal. When a consigliare wants a Capo whacked, he gets whacked. It had nothing to do with the fact that the Capo was selling drugs to children in his own mother’s neighborhood. All I’ve asked is that the administration, for once, tell the truth about why it went to war. Improving the lives of Iraqis no longer under Hussein wasn’t it. They could give a damn about the lives of Iraqis. That was an unintended consequence. I doubt, for that matter, the Iraqis killed by American bombs and various other American weapons of mass destruction feel all that liberated. Whether or not Iraq was truly liberated has yet to be seen. It depends on what follows. An American puppet state won’t protect the liberties of Iraqi’s, seeing as Hussein didn’t back when he was still taking orders from Washington. There’s good in this, and there’s also bad. How much bad remains to be determined. Bad in that the administration has lied to the American people and the world. Bad in that civilians were killed. Bad in that American military personnel lost their lives, and their families will never see them again.

4) I do not believe the UN is a cesspool. I think it’s a good step toward a single word government. The kinks have yet to be worked out, but these things take time. 5) World opinion is not irrelevant. Americans, though many of them seem to think so lately, are not on this planet alone. We live with other nations. I think we should work with them rather than against them. 6) Dictators are problematic. Perhaps working with the international community might alleviate that.

7) As to salving the fragile egos of the Middle East, it’s got nothing to do with that. I’m just tired of people who reveal and indeed revel in their ignorance with gratuitous mispronunciation.


 
[posted by johnny two-cents]:
On Marriage

A question for opponents of marriage/civil unions for homosexuals. If, as I often hear, the only true reason for marriage is to procreate, then what of all the couples in the world who choose to remain childless? Let's posit a heterosexual, standard-issue young married couple who do not intend to have childen though they may adopt at some far future date. Moreover, let's posit that their marriage ceremony contained not one reference to a higher spiritual power. As these people did not get married under the auspices of a religion, and as children are neither expected nor wanted except through possible future adoption, the marriage is indistinguishable from what's being called a "civil union" such as is legal for homosexual couples in Vermont.

So I ask you. Based on that information, how is this marriage, between a man and a woman, different in any way from a civil union between homosexual partners?


 
[posted by Buckethead]:
A comment

ZM should get a fair trial. If they were going to go the route of military tribunals, they should have gone that way from the start, and then it wouldn't have the feel of a Kafka novel, where rules change randomly, and never to the benefit of accused. The accomplices of the Rosenbergs weren't brought to trial at the same time because the gov't didn't want to reveal the fact that we were reading the Soviet's communications. (Btw, McCarthy and Cohn began their hearings to try and get info on those same people.)




 
[posted by johnny two-cents]:
An Answer

Since I'm not a lawyer (my degree is in video game testing), I can't say with 100% accuracy, but probably not. It would be worse. The DoJ may refuse to comply with the standards of the civilian court in which they wished to try him, and then move the proceedings to a military tribunal.

At least in double jeopardy you get a real freaking trial, albeit twice. The filthy terrorist Zacarias Mossaoui won't get the one which our fundamental principles say he deserves.

[moreover] Calpundit has more punditry:

This whole thing is way too much like the Salem witch trials for my taste, where guilt is preordained and nothing a defendant can say will prove otherwise. I don't have much sympathy for Moussaoui, who's certainly an al-Qaeda terrorist of one kind or another, but considering what we've learned lately about the quality of U.S. intelligence in matters like this, I'm also not inclined to simply accept the government's word that he was a participant in the 9/11 conspiracy. Moussaoui should be allowed a fair trial.



 
[posted by Buckethead]:
A question

(comments weren't working) Is it double jeapardy if he was never tried in a civilian court?




 
[posted by johnny two-cents]:
The Consta-what-tion?

I see via South Knox Bubba that the Federal Government have ruled that Zacarias Moussaoui may not bring a witness in his defense. Well, great!

Even better, if this ruling results in dismissal of all charges-- because, after all, in a court of law, you get to have witnesses-- Atty Gen Johnny A has promised to declare ZM an enemy combatant and start a military tribunal. Hey, now that can't fail! Ha haaaa! We'll get this bastid! Double Jeopardy? Fair and Speedy Trial By One's Peers? Fifth Amendment? Sixth Amendment? Our dignity? What use have I for these? I am John Ashcroft! The Law Is My Plaything!

Why not have a damn regular trial, bring a solid case, and convict him? This military tribunal BS smacks of the third world.


 
[posted by johnny two-cents]:
On Cesspools

The problem with cesspools is that there are so many of them, and the temptation to try to drain them all is so strong. You can try all you want, but you'll just end up covered in filth.

Mmmmm, pithy!

Mike, in my opinion the case for libervading Afghanistan was much, much more compelling than that for Iraq. In September '01 all that was clear was that al Qaeda had planned the attacks, that they were currently being housed and supported by the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan, and that swift action was called for. Fair enough. Ass-whupping and libervasion to follow. And, despite what I have said in the past about the US's role in muddling the situation in Afghanistan, I'm willing to count many things as total improvements there. Life is better. That being said, the libervasion of, and the improvement of life in, Afghanistan are two separate issues. The improvements are merely welcome side-effects to the real mission of crippling al Qaeda and their backers.

The same applies to Iraq. The difference is that, in the case of Iraq, the stated reasons for needing to invade at the moment have not, in my opinion, proven compelling.

Buckethead, I disagree with you on three fronts. First, you wrote in response to Windy City Mike, "Is it impossible for you to imagine that there might be good in this, and that the effect on the Iraqi people is net positive?" That's not the point. Of course there is good in this! But the effect on the Iraqi people is not the question at hand. The question is, was the President being straight up about the threat that the Hussein regime's Weapons of Mass Destruction posed to the US and other nations, and was he being straight up about Iraq's deep and abiding connections to Islamic terrorism? As I've said before, the net postive effect on the Iraqi people is a fabulous boon, but diplomatically, and for the purposes of whether Bush's case to the world was sizzle or steak, it doesn't enter into the question, for us or Bush. In his State of the Union address, the President devoted two paragraphs to Hussein's human rights violations. He devoted sixteen-- about 1,200 words-- to Weapons of Mass Destruction.

On that matter, you write, "But remember, this is not a court of law. We simply do not have to prove, beyond all reasonable doubt, that these nations are threats. So, the fact that we haven't found (yet) ironclad evidence of WMD is not that significant." I disagree totally. The Weapons of Mass Destruction were the main reason that Dubya offered to the American people and the world in the SOTU. Bush was careful to frame his argument in the context of Hussein's noncompliance with the UN, but also expressed certainty that Hussein was intending to use his WMD's shortly. His closing statement was "We will consult. But let there be no misunderstanding: If Saddam Hussein does not fully disarm, for the safety of our people and for the peace of the world, we will lead a coalition to disarm him."

Fine. We led the coalition. Now where the hell are the 30,000 warheads, 25,000 liters of Anthrax, and the 38,000 liters of Botulin toxin? And why did he cite the "significant quantities of uranium from Africa," knowing as we now do that the intelligence behind it was shaky? I find it disturbing that the President may have overstated his intelligence for the sake of a Grand Middle East Plan (as you posit), and horrifying that absolutely none of the material we went into Iraq to find has been located. 25,000 liters of Anthrax is pretty damn significant, whether diplomatically or otherwise.

Furthermore, our failure so far to find them has concrete results-- for example, India's decision not to send troops to Iraq to relieve the 3rd Infantry, currently in their 10th month of continuous deployment. India will send troops only under an "explicit UN mandate." Oooh-- burn!! That's not to mention the heat that Tony Blair continues to take for his bold decision to back the US. When you say that international opinion simply doesn't matter, you are simply dead wrong. We needn't be slaves to it, but it bears remembering that those once bitten bite back.

Buckethead, you also wrote: "We were attacked, and we are taking steps to assure that it does not happen again. If, in the process, we violate some nations' soveriegnty, so be it. If, in the process, we sledgehammer some fascist regimes and liberate their people, great. Eliminating international terrorism is doing a favor for the world. Like eliminating the international slave trade was when Britain did that in the nineteenth century." What are we, the Incredible Hulk? "Hulk smash! Napster bad!" Like the Onion put it, you are limiting our choices to two: blind rage, or measured, focused rage. Are these really our only choices? Besides, does defining our mission in this way excuse us from attending to the complexities of the situations we create? In the past, you have conceded that "with great power, comes great responsibility," adhering to the Spider-Man thesis of American foreign policy. Why ignore that now?



Monday, July 14, 2003
 
[posted by Buckethead]:
Dander up, Mike?

I was unaware that I was guilty of moral finger-pointing. I was careful to limit my comment to the pathetic leftist protestors, not merely leftists in general. I notice that you did not challenge the other parts of that sentence, so I assume that you agree with the fact that the UN is a cesspool, and world opinion is irrelevant in regard to the cynical European governments and third world dictators.

And, I was unaware that leftists had anything to do with all those liberties I like so much. Did socialists write the Constitution and Bill of Rights? I imagine it would read rather differently if they had. Socialists didn't exist until after Babeuf (and weren't even called that until Owen), and the left began with the French revolution. The Constitution was written two years before that began. The only significant "new" rights since then came out of the civil war, and that was hardly a leftist enterprise. Abolition and Civil Rights were largely Christian in their origins. And, it seems odd that all these people are mistakenly calling themselves leftists and communists despite your conviction that they are not.

As for Iraq, why did we ruthlessly invade Morocco in '42? They had never invaded us. As for Afghanistan, it was the home of all those Al Qaeda training camps, and the Taliban was in tight with bin Laden. Afghanistan did not attack us, true, but it harbored those who did. And I guess we were completely wrong to liberate Iraq. We should find Saddam, apologize, and reinstall him in Iraq, so his son can go back to feeding dissidents into wood chippers feet first. Is it impossible for you to imagine that there might be good in this, and that the effect on the Iraqi people is net positive?

Most of the hijackers were Saudis. And I think the time or reckoning for Saudi Arabia is long overdue.




 
[posted by Windy City Mike]:
Angry Retort

Buckethead wrote that, "The UN is a cesspool, and world opinion is irelevant when it is being generated by cynical european governments, third world dictators and pathetic leftist protestors." Really, do tell? You know, a lot of those freedoms you're fond of might not exist had it not been for leftist protest at various points in recent history. Admittedly, there are people these days masquerading as leftists who want to restrict various freedoms and make us wear helmets, but as I'm reiterating, those people constitute le gauche faux.

Buckethead also wrote that, "We were attacked, and we are taking steps to assure that it does not happen again." Indeed? When did Iraq attack the United States?

For that matter, the U.S. appeared unable to offer any solid, hard evidence that Afghanistan in fact had a hand in attacking the United States. Most of those hijackers were Saudis. What the attackers of 11 September 2001 did was extremely wrong, but I will not belabor this point as I've tired of this moral finger-pointing that tends to go on with this blog. But I'll point my finger one last time and say that what the U.S. did was wrong, too. There was no verifiable evidence that the nations the United States has attacked had anything to do with the attack on the U.S. itself.




 
[posted by Windy City Mike]:
Iraq

The justifications that the administration offered for going to war with Iraq were smoke. Here's an organized crime analogy. Think of the United States as a crime family. Hussein was a Capo working for the family who got out of line and refused to do things the way the boss, IE the first Boss Bush, dictated. Therefore, more eager underbosses, street bosses, and the consilgiare, not so much loyal to the boss as they were to a previous boss (IE Reagan) wanted Hussein whacked. When the first Boss Bush attacked Hussein's crew, Boss Bush 1 employed some restraint and just cut down his crew. But Bush left Hussein alive, and even letting him earn at subsistence level provided he kicked more upstairs.

When leadership passed to Bush's son, the underbosses and consilgiare remained in power. Pressured by attacks from rival families, the underbosses, etc. who wanted Hussein whacked before saw an opportunity to clean their own house and try to whack Hussein for good. Instead, they stepped on their dick, the other heads of the five families lined up against them, and they succeeded only in purging more of Hussein's crew. But Hussein went on the lam when the U.S. decided to go to the mattresses, and they can't find Hussein to whack him. Not to mention they can't even find the head of the rival family who started all this shit in the fist place, and he remains unwhacked as well. It's a good thing the U.S. isn't really an organized crime family, or they'd be out of business quickly.

While I'm on the subject, something else that's been annoying me lately deals with the pronounciation of Iraq. Many people, including the current boss of the U.S., pronounce it "EYE-rack." It is in fact "Ear-ACK," dumbasses.


 
[posted by Buckethead]:
Springer's campaign ticks off Hicksville

God, do I love that headline.

Much as I dislike George Voinovich (who is stalking me), the Springer cure is far worse than the disease. Btw, Springer only got busted in the writing checks to prostitutes incident after the check bounced. This apparently pissed off the hooker.




 
[posted by Buckethead]:
Heh

The New York Times, all the news that's print to fit.




 
[posted by Buckethead]:
Free speech in Palestine

In an interesting tidbit in the UK Independent, a political scientist in Ramallah was assaulted, and his office trashed, by a mob of 100 refugees when word when out that he was about to publish the results of a recent poll his organization conducted.

Why were the Palestinians so exercised? The rioters were delivering, "a message for everyone not to tamper with our rights." This, because the poll demonstrated that only a small fraction of actual Palestinians actually wanted to return to Israel. Khalil Shikaki's survey showed that five times as many refugees would prefer to settle permanently in a Palestinian state than return to their old homes in what is now Israel.

The poll, conducted among 4,500 refugees in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Lebanon and Jordan, was the first to ask where they would want to live if Israel recognized a right of return. Only 10 per cent of the refugees chose Israel, even if they were allowed to live there with Palestinian citizenship; 54 per cent opted for the Palestinian state; 17 per cent for Jordan or Lebanon, and 2 per cent for other countries, and 2 per cent didn't know.

Interestingly, 13 per cent rejected all these options, preferring to wait for the destruction of Israel.

In a related news item, the Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad warned yesterday they would end a truce announced last month if the Palestinian Authority continued to try to disarm them. I guess they're serious about the roadmap to peace.




 
[posted by Buckethead]:
Happy Bastille Day

Today is, of course, the French Equivalent of Independence Day. Of course, French Independence day should properly be celebrated on June 6th. Casual sniping aside, the French are a race of smelly perfidious backstabbers. Happy Bastille Day!




 
[posted by Buckethead]:
"I did it!" "No, I did it!"

Further muddying the water (or sand) in Iraq, Armed Islamic Movement for Al Qaeda, the Falluja Brancha is saying, "We have attacked the US, not those lying Saddam bitches." Actually, they said, "I swear by God no one from his (Saddam Hussein) followers carried out any jihad operations like he claims...they (attacks) are a result of our brothers in jihad,"

In a pro forma statement, they also boasted of, "a new anti-U.S. attack in the days to come which would "break the back of America completely." Yeah, right. The group also is, "Calling on U.S. forces to leave Iraq," and warned that "the end of America will be at the hands of Islam."

Remember kids, Islam is a religion of Peace.




 
[posted by Buckethead]:
Iraq

Our justification for invading Iraq was not centered on the certainty that, after we invade, we would find all the evidence we wanted. This is not analogous to law enforcement, or a "fishing" warrant. We had intelligence estimates, we had a history in Iraq of WMD use and manufacture (ask the Kurds!) and an assessment of our risk. You make risk assessments based on capabilities, not intentions. Iraq had the capability to develop WMD, this is incontrovertible. (And he had shown willingness to use them - bonus insight into intentions.)

In the wake of 9/11, our tolerance for risk, well, plummeted. The risk of having a chemical or nuclear attack on the United States is intolerable. Look how damage was done with three airliners. Al Qaeda operated with state support - Afghanistan certainly, Saudi Arabia and Iraq likely, Syria and Iran possibly. But remember, this is not a court of law. We simply do not have to prove, beyond all reasonable doubt, that these nations are threats. So, the fact that we haven't found (yet) ironclad evidence of WMD is not that significant. Saddam is gone (though sadly not to his eternal reward) and if we can be even moderately succesful in creating a decent soceity in Iraq, we have gone a long way toward winning the war on terror.

I've mentioned before that right after 9/11, Bush did not declare war on Al Qaeda. He declared war on Terrorism. This is different. Iraq is unquestionably a state supporter of terrorism. (And so is Iran, and Syria, and Saudi Arabia, and Libya...) I believe that Rumsfeld, Perle, Wolfowitz and their teams of pointed headed strategic planners have come up with a plan to transform the Middle East. Bush has signed off, Powell perhaps with reservations, but it follows the general outlines of take out the low hanging fruit of Iraq, and then use that as a lever to destabilize the middle east. Owning (for the moment) Iraq gives us a tremendous strategic advantage. We can use it to influence neighboring states that support terrorists that attack the US.

At the time, I felt that going to the UN and going off on WMD was a mistake. The UN is a cesspool, and world opinion is irelevant when it is being generated by cynical european governments, third world dictators and pathetic leftist protestors. We were attacked, and we are taking steps to assure that it does not happen again. If, in the process, we violate some nations' soveriegnty, so be it. If, in the process, we sledgehammer some fascist regimes and liberate their people, great. Eliminating international terrorism is doing a favor for the world. Like eliminating the international slave trade was when Britain did that in the nineteenth century.

I think that most of our diplomacy for the last couple years, and for the near future is purely tactical. We have allied with the military government of Pakistan. We continue to profess our love for the Saudis. We talked to the UN (though not so much anymore.) We have extended our ties with Italy, Spain and Eastern Europe. Those who help us now will get some consideration. Those who hinder us are on our list. But relationships, even long standing ones, will not prevent us from pursuing the war on terror.


 
[posted by johnny two-cents]:
Speaking of true believers

So why was it again that the President said that Iraq needed a spanking? No Weapons of Mass Destruction (yet!, we are assured). No compelling, systemic links with Al Qaeda. No building of nuclear rockets. No yummy yellow cake. No smoking gun of any kind to warrant such an action.

I have been waiting for months, albeit skeptically, for the President's assertions about Iraq's role in international terrorism to be vindicated. I'm now long past giving up on the whole affair as a lofty-minded attempt to reshape the world never mind the reasons. Kevin Drum at CalPundit referred to Iraq as "low-hanging fruit," and that assessment seems more fair every day.

Buckethead, I'm interested in your thoughts on this matter. I know how I see the events currently unfolding, but I'd like your take. Do you feel that the last few months of findings stand up to the President's stated reasons for libervading Iraq? Aside from the happy collateral fact that Saddam Hussein no longer rules (never offered as a central reason for libervasion), does the current evidence justify the President's case made in January and early February?


 
[posted by johnny two-cents]:
On North Korea

Buckethead, good point. It does say something about the perfidy of the NK regime that an expatriate recommends starting over from a glassy, radioactive tabula rasa.




Friday, July 11, 2003
 
[posted by Buckethead]:
North Korea

I wasn't necessarily offering an endorsement of the Korean exile's opinion. Nevertheless, for someone to think that the people in charge of his native land are so entirely bugfuck that they would recommend that we nuke it; well I think that says something about the nature of the regime. In the bit excerpted in below, I think that that is entirely lipservice. What person working for one of the world's last authentically Stalinist (tm) states would say to a foreign journalist, "Psst, we all really love America here, and btw, Kim is a complete nutbag who likes to bang twelve year olds." People, no matter how cut off from the rest of the world, are not stupid. Some Noerth Koreans would remember the days before Communism, and those stories would be remembered. Those few fortunate enough to have TVs or Radios would get South Korean broadcasts much as the East Germans did.

Certainly, there are those who are true believers, and those who go along because they benefit from the status quo (though they are few - most North Koreans are by all accounts severely fucked and near starvation most of the time.)

They may not know much about us, but I feel sure that they know that their system is inhuman, evil and farcical.


 
[posted by johnny two-cents]:
North Korea

I don't know much about North Korea as a place (after all, how much can one really know about a nation that has sealed itself off from the rest of the world?), but the lead article in this week's Boston Phoenix comes to the opposite conclusion as Buckethead's citation below. According to this piece, North Korea is an Orwellian nightmare in which all ills-- poverty, fear, etc.-- are all attributed to the USA. Result: a nation of fanatical America-hating militarists, as if we needed another one of those. . . . Read on!

Air-raid drills are a fact of life in Pyongyang, along with scheduled blackouts that plunge this city of two million into an eerie darkness through which even the trams ghost along without lights. This may be the most militarized nation on earth, but people here believe the nuclear threat comes from the outside. "The Americans were the first to threaten a pre-emptive nuclear strike," says my guide, O Jin Myong, as he leads me through the cavernous subway passages decorated with enormous glass chandeliers, Romanesque arches, and huge murals extolling the country’s founder, Kim Il Sung. The platforms, carved more than 100 yards underground, will serve as shelters in an attack, Mr. O tells me. "Here the American bombs can’t get us."

At first, the talk of nuclear bombs and first strikes sounds premature, even paranoid. But during my weeklong visit to the world’s most isolated nation last February, I hear this mantra so many times that it takes on a logic of its own. "Tell the world we are not afraid of nuclear weapons," says an elderly female guide, Ri Ok Hi, after finishing up a tour of a monument to the Workers Party. "We will fight to the death for our leader."

As one of the first Western journalists allowed in since North Korea’s latest nuclear crisis with the United States began last fall, I experience firsthand the paranoia that marks everyday life for North Koreans. For seven days, I am watched, followed, and fed propaganda. From doctors to parsons, everyone I am introduced to — and I have no choice about whom I meet — parrots the same line: hatred of the Americans, matched only by their love of the "Great Leader," Kim Jong Il. . . .

At the Grand People’s Study House, North Korea’s national library, two huge reading rooms are dedicated to the works of Kim Jong Il, including treatises on filmmaking, journalism, architecture, agriculture, and, of course, military strategy. Some are so well thumbed that the tattered pages look ready to crumble. The young librarian, Hwang Sun Ryol, insists that her country’s leader wrote 1500 books during his university days. When I doubt that anyone could write a book a day for five years, she does not hesitate: "He is the most outstanding theoretician. No one can match his creativity and enthusiasm." (I thank her and, in the spirit of cultural exchange, donate an anthology of George Orwell’s essays and a video of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.)

Certainly, some of this overwhelming Kim-love can be chalked up to lip service, but how much? In a nation where radios must be left on at all times, where air-raid drills are a daily occurence, and managed starvation-- blamed on America-- is a way of life, one wonders just how Orwellian a place can possibly be.

Also, Buckethead, I would like to point out that the North Korean emigre you cite recommended that we preemptively nuke another nation. Your arguments a few months ago about nuclear fears being overblown notwithstanding, is that man on effing crack?


 
[posted by johnny two-cents]:
Ohio!

I don't like to pick on my home state, but they make it so damn easy!

Yes, Jerry Springer is running for the US Senate in 2004. Oh, good. Finally someone to bring some dignity and restraint to Washington! I wish that wasn't so true! I need another Martini!

Jerry: word of advice, son. This time, when you get a hooker, please be sure not to pay her with a personal check. Senators carry cash for that.

The CNN article linked notes that Springer, who was born in Engaland, is therefore not eligible to run for President. Pity.


 
[posted by johnny two-cents]:
On the bass

Buckethead-- totally agreed. There are, however, certain exceptions. Prince, one of the great musical geniuses of the last twenty-five years, rarely uses a traditional bassline. "When Doves Cry" has no bass of any kind, and few of his songs have a funk bass line like one might expect from the direct heir to Sly Stone and Rick James.

[moreover] His recent work notwithstanding, Prince is a genius. Anyone disagreeing with me is not only foolish, but cruising for a world-class ass-whipping. I'm a pretty big Prince fan, as is Goodwife Two-Cents.


 
[posted by johnny two-cents]:
A caveat

I've been drinking vodka this evening. Please excuse me, for it gives me Russian moods.


 
[posted by johnny two-cents]:
On pestilence

My favorite old-timey disease name of all time: dropsy.

My favorite made-up disease: the staggers. As in, Q: "Buckethead, you look a little rough. What happened to you?" A: "Oh, I'm ok. Just a fifth of Beam and a case of the staggers." Of course, I made this one up shortly before our cat died to describe her inability to walk straight, so it's not really that funny when you look at it that way. *snif* I really miss little Iron Chef Chen Kenichi.

I think, Buckethead, you shouldn't ask for too much in the way of excellent disease names. Just look at the last few years. Sure, "I got the SARS" doesn't sound half as good as "Poor Jim's got a case of the hoof-and-mouth," or "I had to put down grandpa like a cow with the aftosa," but "ebola" is a great name for a disease that eats your flesh and makes you die, and likewise, Monkeypox is a perfect name for a disease that comes from pet prairie dogs. MONKEY POX! And it's FATAL! HAW!

I knew a prairie dog once. His name was Stinky. Guess what he did?

I leave you with this: Ten cases of the bubonic plague in Algeria, two of them the almost certainly fatal septicimic variety. Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice. I say it will end coughing blood, weeping, and cursing God for his twisted sense of humor. But me, I'm an optimist.


 
[posted by Buckethead]:
Bass

I have noticed that whenever a band comes along that has interesting bass lines, I really like it. And most music that I don't like, lacks good bass. Substantial overlap. Big exception is a lot of the blues and (very) early country that I listen to - a lot of that is voice/guitar, voice/banjo, or something equally sparse.




 
[posted by johnny two-cents]:
Apologia and Nu-Metal

Having spent the morning today exploring the outer limits of my caffeine tolerance (verdict: 12 oz. premium drip coffee not enough, 24 oz. of same far, far too much), I have been in no condition to read, much less string words together in a clear, engaging, and trenchant fashion such as my dear readers have come to demand. I think I may be dying.

But whatever. I'm a wuss.

Be assured I am working on a giant, blockbuster post about the role of the bass player in modern rock music. The Boston Globe had an article this weekend about the decline of the electric bass in pop music that simply cried out for me to respond, so I'm-a-gonna. I shall attack Nu-Metal as a tool of satan, and compare bassless pop music (the White Stripes, the Black Keys, most things these days) to the porn industry. Also be assured I shall proceed with the utmost taste and discretion in my dissertation on same, yeah right.

For now, I will just offer this screed.

Nu-metal is terrible and nu-metal musicians are monumentally stupid [nothing like an easy target, eh? -ed. [stop that, a-hole! -kaus]] I might be old, and I might not be "hip" or "jiggy," but these are immutable facts. In fact, nu-metalers are so stupid, they even get their own lineage wrong. Ask them and they will cite Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, etc. as heavy bands to copy. They claim these bands as their fathers. Well, that's wrong. Know how you can tell? Listen to the bass. Metallica (ver. 1.1, featuring Cliff Burton), not to mention Megadeth, Anthrax, Slayer, Motorhead, Iron Maiden, Sabbath, Deep Purple, Alice In Chains, etc. etc. featured competent-to-excellent bass players who frequently played lines distinct from the guitar parts (no!!). Moreover, the bass contributed swing and what I like to call "thwack" to the sound.

Nu-metal on the other hand, devalues the bass player. There are several reasons for this. First is the bassiness of modern production. Rather than elevate the role of the bass to prominence, modern production combined with detuning allows guitars to take up the frequency range formerly inhabited by bass players. This same detuning hedges bass players in. If the guitars are chunking along in C#, a mere major sixth above the bottom of the bass' range, this leaves no room to break out, and requires the bassist to double the guitars. Additionally, even with a low-B string, any deviation from the guitar line would result in sonic sludge at such low frequencies. Second, modern basses with their newfangled low-B strings don't sound as good as older 4-string models. As a matter of physics, low-B strings are flappier and less tight-sounding than the EADG strings. Pickups designed to compensate for these shortcomings seem to detract from the overall sound of the bass. Third, "heavy" music places a premium on unison playing to increase the "heaviosity" of the riff, and also tends to value unison stops. Hence, the bass follows the guitar.

These sonic and musical considerations are only half of the story, though. The other half is this. When you listen to nu-metal, the bass tends to play very simple figures over and over. It may as well not be there, but for the need for increased heaviosity. This was NOT the case when Bruce Dickinson fronted Iron Maiden, my friend!! But this WAS the case when Kip Winger fronted, er, Winger. All that has changed is the musical vocabulary. Whereas hair/glam metal bands would have had the bassist play a pedal tone eight hundred times underneath the intro riff to song (for example Judas Priest's "You Got Another Thing Coming," or Van Halen's "Running With The Devil," or almost every Poison song ever) while the band sings about guitars, women, parties, or touring, nu-metal bassists play E-F-E-Bb over and over while the band sings about fury, rage, anger, or angst. New wine, old bottles. Bo-ring. Nu-Metal bands are nothing but Poison in a post-grunge world. Except without the hair or entertainment value. Or quality.

I don't know why I care so much; and I can't think of why you should. I actually LIKE hair metal, a lot. A lot a lot. But hair metal bands labored under no illusions that they were making art, much less a statement. It was fun! Nu-metal, on the other hand, tries hard not to be fun. And, as Lisa Simpson once said, "making teenagers feel angst is like shooting fish in a barrel."

Up next: the death of the bass in indie rock: the porn connection.


 
[posted by Buckethead]:
News from N. Korea

A defector from N. Korea, Park Gap Dong, is suggesting that the US mount preemptive strikes on that nation's nuclear facilities, to forestall Kim Jong-il's regime from arming its missiles with miniaturized nuclear warheads.

The article has some interesting quotes:

"U.S. strikes against North Korean targets would force Kim Jong-il to seek asylum in China. Kim is a coward. If attacked, he will flee. The North Korean army would not fight after the regime collapsed."

"Many North Koreans believe that the United States is their savior and the only nation that can liberate North Korea," he said. The flood of hate-America propaganda from North Korea represents only the relatively small number of people around Kim Jong-Il."

Park also warned that the North, given the opportunity to develop nuclear weapons, would use them against the south, Japan and even the United States.

Park heads the National Salvation Front, a group of high-ranking North Korean exiles that includes five former generals of the North Korean army, the former vice minister of home affairs, the former vice minister of culture and the former superintendent of the North Korea Military Academy.




 
[posted by Buckethead]:
Some old disease names

BILIOUSNESS - Jaundice or other symptoms associated with liver disease; may also have been any upset leading to vomiting bile or just vomiting
BLACK JAUNDICE - Wiel's Disease; Black Water fever (deadly form of malaria)
BLACK POX - Black Smallpox
BLOODY FLUX Bloody stools
BREAKBONE Dengue fever, Infectious fever endemic to East Africa
CORRUPTION Infection
EEL THING Erysipelas
FRENCH POX Syphilis
KRUCHHUSTEN Whooping cough
LOCKJAW Tetanus or infectious disease affecting the muscles of the neck and jaw. Untreated, it is fatal in 8 days
MORMAL Gangrene
RICKETS Disease of skeletal system
SCRUMPOX Skin disease, impetigo





 
[posted by Buckethead]:
Disease Names

I have noticed a disturbing trend lately. Names of diseases no longer sound like disease names. Long gone are the days of scurvy, gout, consumption, scarlet fever, yellow fever and plague. Now we have antiseptic acronymic disease names like AIDS, SARS, HIV, CFS. We have even ruined good disease names like herpes by adding -simplex I and the like.

The only decent new disease name is hemorrhagic fever. We need to come up with better names for our diseases. Names with bite, names that sound like you are slowly dying in agony.




 
[posted by Buckethead]:
Re: Summer Reading

Despite the derivative nature of your post, there is a reason why many people do it. Its fun. (Except for ripping off Kaus, which is annoying. -ed) I have had little time to read lately, which is painful as I have read three books a week for most of the last twenty years. The addiction is strong for me.

Nevertheless, I have managed to read a couple books this summer.

  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay Johno has been bugging me to read this since the dawn of time. I should not have waited so long. (btw, this book got the record for most comments from other people who see me reading a book, at five. The previous record was for Huntington's Clash of Civilizations. I do live in DC.)

  • The Long Goodbye, Raymond Chandler. I read this book about once a year. I still don't know what the plot is, but what is plot when the writing is this beautiful?

  • A Princess of Mars, Edgar Rice Burroughs. I love, love, love this book. Thoats, Zitidars, and Calots, oh my.

  • Heaven on Earth, by Joshua Muravchik. Still reading this one. A history of socialism by a red diaper baby who lost his faith. He still has sympathy for the figures involved, and it seems a balanced account. It is amazing how everything in modern communism was prefigured in Babeuf back in the French Revolution. Good book.

    Johno is right, I do like the hard sf. One reason I stopped reading fantasy was the depressing sameness of it all. The engineering/scientific outlook on life does lend a certain flavor to hard sf. But it certainly doesn't suppress the imagination. Working under the constraints of hard sf forces some writers to greater flights of imagination than more open formats might.

    [btw]My favorite part of killing star was the central park analogy. Read the book, it is one of the more chilling things you'll read. Because it could be true.




  • Thursday, July 10, 2003
     
    [posted by johnny two-cents]:
    On Liberty

    Randy Barnett of the Volokh Conspiracy has an excellent, penetrating, and informative piece up at the National Review about the SCOTUS decision in Lawrence v. Texas. Here's the opening paragraph and two of the conclusion.

    The more one ponders the Supreme Court's decision in Lawrence v. Texas, the more revolutionary it seems. Not because it recognizes the rights of gays and lesbians to sexual activity free of the stigmatization of the criminal law — though this is of utmost importance. No, the case is revolutionary because Justice Kennedy (and at least four justices who signed on to his opinion without separate concurrences) have finally broken free of the post-New Deal constitutional tension between a "presumption of constitutionality" on the one hand and "fundamental rights" on the other. Contrary to what has been reported repeatedly in the press, the Court in Lawrence did not protect a "right of privacy." Rather, it protected "liberty" — and without showing that the particular liberty in question is somehow "fundamental." Appreciation of the significance of this major development in constitutional law requires some historical background. . . .

    In the end, Lawrence is a very simple ruling. Justice Kennedy examined the conduct at issue to see if it was properly an aspect of liberty (as opposed to license), and then asked the government to justify its restriction, which it failed adequately to do. The decision would have been far more transparent if Justice Kennedy had acknowledged what was really happening (though perhaps this would have lost some votes by other justices). Without this acknowledgement, the revolutionary aspect of his opinion is concealed, and it is rendered vulnerable to the ridicule of the dissent. Far better would have been to more closely track the superb amicus brief of the Cato Institute which he twice cites approvingly.

    If the Court is serious, the effect on other cases of this shift from "privacy" to "liberty," and away from the New Deal-induced tension between "the presumption of constitutionality" and "fundamental rights," could be profound. For example, the medical-marijuana cases now wending their way through the Ninth Circuit would be greatly affected if those seeking to use or distribute medical marijuana pursuant to California law did not have to show that their liberty to do so was somehow "fundamental" — and if the government was forced to justify its restriction on that liberty. While wrongful behavior (license) could be prohibited, rightful behavior (liberty) could be regulated provided that the regulation was shown to be necessary and proper.

    The debate over privacy has long been misguided. The question germane to our Constitutional rights is not "does [state action x] violate our right to privacy?" Although the ninth amendment could be construed to contain such a provision, it's not clear that it does and I'm sure real actual legal scholars, of which I am not one, would be able to tell you why.

    The germane question in any case-- be it bedroom behavior of any kind, medical marijuana, or the right not to be videotaped in your home-- is rather, "does [state action x] violate our right to liberty?" Barnett does an excellent job splitting the difference between liberty and license, for which reason alone you should read the article. But the more important point he makes, from where I sit, is that the Constitution includes clear instructions on how to cope with questions of thou shalt/not when it comes to consensual, individual action, and those who would fight for liberties they find important would do well to stand on that firm ground.


     
    [posted by johnny two-cents]:
    Summer Reading

    It's well known that we do things our own way around here.

    (Actually sir, that's not so well known. Nobody reads this blog. And you're about to do something that everybody's doing. Not to mention you're ripping off Kaus. -ed.)

    Well, whatever. Since I've been reading at the steady clip of about three books a weeks for the last few months, I thought I'd share some recommendations.

  • Jarhead, Anthony Swofford. Is to the Gulf War what The Things They Carried was to Vietnam, in every way possible, including being much easier to read.
  • Founding Brothers, Joseph Ellis. Joe Ellis might be a liar and a cheat, but his history is good. For all of my degree-having and claimed expertise, it was this book that really made me begin to understand the men who shaped the United States' destiny.
  • The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakame. The only points of comparison I have are Thomas Pynchon, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and perhaps Milan Kundera. Wierd, masterful, and breathtaking.
  • The Long Goodbye, Raymond Chandler. I read this book about once a year. I still don't know what the plot is, but what is plot when the writing is this beautiful?
  • Everything on Buckethead's Science Fiction List. I'm almost through it, and have not been disappointed yet.

    And finally, beautiful irony. I think Buckethead likes more than I do science fiction written by scientists and science-advocates, e.g. Gregory Benford, Jerry Pournelle, Charles Pellegrino. Their writing tends to share a certain cant, much as police procedurals, outbreak novels, and spy novels do. It doesn't appeal to me too greatly, but I read it for passages like this one, from a point in the Pellegrino/Zebrowski novel "Killing Star" after the aliens have found Earth and tried to wipe it out but before anyone knows why:

    "Got it!" he announced triumphantly. "The Intruders seem to be rebroadcasting what remains to this day the loudest, most highly synchronized electromagnetic shout ever sent out from Earth. On April 5, 1985, as part of a publicity effort to bring aid to the starving children of Africa, every radio and television station on every continent began brodcasting the same message at the same moment-- a composition called "We Are The World," by one Michael Jackson. I'm not trying to sound ironic, but I think the Intruders are trying to tell us what first drew their attention to our species."

    "So this Michael Jackson became the first definitive sign of intelligent life on Earth," Sargenti said acidly. "And the Intruders are throwing it back at us. Whatever for?"

    "To mock us?" General Stoff asked. "But of course that can't be true."

    "So what did they do all these years?" Sargenti said. "Just wait around replaying this tune to themselves until they could build starships and come finish us off? They must be insane!"

    "Or very determined music critics," Isak said.

    I appreciate cruel symmetry wherever it exists.


  •  
    [posted by johnny two-cents]:
    Awe-Inspiring Kung Fu

    Via the New Republic's weblog, witness the unstoppable majesty of Ari Fleischer, speaking at a news conference yesterday:

    I think the American people continue to express their support for ridding the world of Saddam Hussein based on just cause, knowing that Saddam Hussein had biological and chemical weapons that were unaccounted for that we're still confident we'll find. I think the burden is on those people who think he didn't have weapons of mass destruction to tell the world where they are. [emphasis added]
    We are but grasshoppers.


     
    [posted by Windy City Mike]:
    Things that have annoyed me lately

    The fact that no person or news agency other than PBS' Frontline has been honest about the very simple reasons for going to war with Iraq, and that removing a dictator with things that go boom wasn't one of them. There are reasons, and then there are excuses.

    Being told that it's a-okay to have me teaching part-time, but that I might be overqualified to work as a full-time instructor during the course of the interview for said full-time position. The fact that I won't get the full-time position because they'll probably give it to a jug-head who has no business being in a class-room as a student, much less a prof.

    Realizing that other, similar colleges might consider me overqualified while knowing that the next step up will most likely consider me underqualified.

    Referring to Hispanics (a term that the U.S. government invented) as though they were a single ethnic group. If that's the case, then the whole of the European continent, Britain, Ireland, the near east, and north Africa are all peopled by members of the same ethnic group.

    Speaking of Africa as though it were a country and not a continent.

    The scratch in my eye that keeps reopening to leave me in blinding pain every morning, including the one I had the aforementioned interview.

    Not to sound like a populist demagogue, but banks have my goat at the moment.

    The sad lack of free alcoholic beverages distributed by the government to people who work part-time and have difficulty acquiring full-time employment, or unemployed people with no employment, in a poor economy with a national unemployment rate over 6%.

    Just the unemployment rate by itself, and that people are having difficulty paying rent and buying food, much less a luxury like booze.

    Dealing directly and extensively with people I dislike, especially pain in the ass co-workers.

    Women who turn their noses up at men who make less than $100,000 a year. That's roughly 98% of them in this town. The other 2% are already married to guys who make less than $100,000 a year, leaving me pretty much out in the cold.

    That the odds of being shot, stabbed, or bounced repeatedly off the front windshield of a speeding taxi attempting to swerve through traffic with its passenger side wheels on the sidewalk are better than experiencing even moderately good fortune.

    That by next year, the only good show on HBO will be Six Feet Under. An excellent series, but my life has so little. How 'bout just one more season of The Sopranos after this next one, Gandolfini? What do you say?

    Finally, the very last thing that's annoyed me lately, television commercials where one character pretends to accept the meaning of a word or phrase spoken by another character except the second character deals in reality and the first character has his own language and lives in his own little world. Like the one where that rich asshole who made his money the old-fashioned way he inherited it and never worked a goddam day in his privileged life in the pickup with his gold-digging wife and whiny children with a sense of entitlement, hauling a fucking boat, the total monetary value of both vehicles being more than most people will see in their entire lives represents himself as a trucker to an actual trucker and the rich jag-off thinks he's a trucker because he has a fucking pick-up!

    I almost feel better. Except something else will piss me off tomorrow, and I'll be back where I started.


    Wednesday, July 09, 2003
     
    [posted by Buckethead]:
    Things not so bad in Afghanistan

    While we have come to expect media doommongering as the default view of any world situation, things are not always so bad as they seem. While conditions are not up to western standards in Afghanistan (nor have they been any time recently), according to actual Afghanis, things are getting better since the removal of the Taliban.