Saturday, July 31, 2004

more gmail

For WindowsXP users, there's an open-source project called GMailerXP that does everything GMail does and more. It basically started as a project to duplicate the functionality of GMail's web interface on the PC, then they added additional useful features like unlimited filters (with more options than the originals), importing and exporting of emails and contacts, and handling multiple GMail addresses.

My primary email account is getting a little flaky (they just decided that individual procmailrc files would be prohibited, thereby killing the spam filters I've been developing for years), and I've never been too happy with Eudora's filters, so I'm thinking of switching over to GMail completely. With open-source projects like this one available, I can add any features I think would be useful - Bayesian spam filtering, full boolean and regexp filtering, whitelists/blacklists, challenge/response, you name it.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

absent friends

It's that day again, and once again I am having a tough time dealing with it. I'd like to request that in the future, nobody else do anything major on this day... it's a hard enough day as it is. It's all about beginnings and middles and ends, you see.

This day in 1964 was the beginning of Julie's life. (HBTYHBTYHBDJHBTY.) She's hit the big 4-0 with more spirit than many people have at half that age. I haven't seen her in person for like 15 years or so, but we email each other quite a bit and I feel like the love I had for her back in the day is still there, tempered by time and unencumbered by youthful stupidity and fear. I consider her to be family... though I think it will be interesting to see how that works when I meet her 'new' family, who I've never met.

This day in 2002 was also the end of Scott's life, a decision he made himself. If you didn't know him, you're probably not aware of how much less light there is in this world now that he is gone. He was the most human and humane person I've ever known - brilliant, funny, caring, and unfortunately under the impression that the 200% he was giving the world wasn't enough. His death was a wake-up call for me, because I hadn't spoken to him for a few years, and when I finally tried to find him, the first thing Google showed me was his obituary... I only missed him by a matter of days, and it just drove home the message about telling people how you feel while you still have time to do so.

This day in 2004 is just another day in my midlife crisis. I feel like I am on the middle of a line between Julie and Scott - with Julie on the life-affirming side, raising two kids and building a family, and Scott on the side of death, shuffling the deck to see if he gets dealt a better hand. My depression and physical pain keep swinging me towards one side, but the joy and love I share with Anne-Marie and friends like Julie keep swinging me back. All of that swinging is making me dizzy.

I talk to Julie all of the time, and if the world ended today I wouldn't have things left unsaid to regret. I talk to Scott a lot too, but it's mostly a one-sided conversation, and it's all the poorer for that. And it's not just other people - my life over the past 10 years or so has been a concerted effort to tell myself the things I need to know to be more whole, trying to convince my heart and head that the loose collection of traumas that previously defined who I am aren't me at all. That would be the real tragedy, believing forever in a personal fiction that limits who I am and can be.

If your world ended today, what would you wish you had said to the people you love? (Or the people you hate, if you have such people?) What would you wish you had told yourself? What would you wish you had let go of, and what would you wish you had kept? That maxim about living each day of your life as though it is your last isn't just some homily... it speaks directly to how much regret you are willing to carry around with you while you live, and how much unfinished business you are willing to leave behind when you die. John Greenleaf Whittier said that "...of all the words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these: 'It might have been'", but I think more particularly the saddest words are those left unspoken.

Anyway, here's to absent friends, those who have moved on and those who have merely moved away.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004


If you're using Google's GMail (it's the wave of the fyootcher, dontcha know), you might be interested in this collection of utilities that make GMail even better.

There are utilities that let you check your GMail account using any POP3 client [here & here], search your messages from the Mozilla search bar or the Windows system tray, a Python script for importing & exporting emails, and a couple of robust API's for doing all of the above or anything else you can think to code up [here & here].

Many of the Windows utilities require the .NET Framework from Microsoft [23.1MB]... you can get more info on what this is & why you need it here.

[via #!/usr/bin/girl]

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Here comes the sun

The SOHO (Solar & Heliospheric Observatory) project is cranking out some amazing data these days. The spacecraft, which was a joint project of the ESA and NASA, is the first of it's kind to not orbit the Earth... it is 1.5 million kilometers closer to the sun in a halo orbit around the L1 Lagrangian point.

the sun, 24 July 04

The SOHO site has some pretty impressive photo galleries; the Best Of SOHO is a good place to start, and if you've got the bandwidth for it check out the incredible movie [4.6MB MPEG] of this week's solar activity. The Latest Images page always has links to pictures and movies taken in the last 48 hours, as well as access to all other data the craft has collected since early 1996.

The craft was designed to operate 'for at least two years'... kudos to the engineers and scientists whose talent and vision are still bringing us such cool data about our sun almost 9 years after the launch date.

harshing marketing's mellow, one site at a time

Check out BugMeNot's 'compulsory' registration form... satire and irony and social commentary all on one web page. And you thought all the web was good for was pictures of nekkid people.

This company has liberated almost 17000 websites that require registration before you can view them... having their bookmarklet on my browser's toolbar reduces the amount of bullshit I need to go through to get information from the web. (There's also now a Firefox extension [and a great tutorial on how to make such extensions] over at Roachfiend.)

If companies are going to put something on the web, they should just put it on the web. Making you sign up so they can better target their advertisements at you is bullshit... marketing profiles ultimately just dehumanize. Any spanner in the works of the marketing machine has my support.

An earlier post has more information on bookmarklets in general plus one to get you into New York Times articles without filling out any forms.

Friday, July 23, 2004

28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes, and 12 seconds...

... until the end of the world. Again.

The directors cut of Donnie Darko was released in theaters in New York and Los Angeles today; hopefully it will do well enough to make it to the rest of the country. It's a complex movie, but if you pay attention it's pretty rewarding, and it has (for someone who was into goth/punk/newwave music in the 80s) one of the best soundtracks I've ever heard.

The original cut didn't compromise on integrity... no forced happy endings or tidy resolutions... so I'm interested in seeing what the director *really* wanted to do.

(One of my other favorite movies, 'Fearless', maintains it's integrity until the last 3 minutes of the film, when they fuck it all up with non sequitur action meant to give the viewers that warm fuzzy feeling inside so they'll act as viral marketers to get more poeple to come see the film. When I watch Fearless, I turn it off at the obvious original ending, right before the noncontextual ending comes on. When I get the DVD I'm going to edit those closing scenes out.)

Thursday, July 22, 2004

long time passing

The CBC Archives has a collection of television clips from the 60's documenting hippie culture. They've got Joni Mitchell in her pre-fame era and a bunch of people in robes talking about how groovy the future is going to be. Paraphrasing Lou Gottlieb:
We're going to have what you may call 'compulsory leisure'... the hippies constitute the first wave of the technologically unemployable... those people who have had jobs, and a voice has come to them and said 'this job can be better done by a machine'. When this happens to you, you're in the process of dropping out whether you know it or not, because the soul is withering...

Little did they know that the withering of the soul would become compulsory and people would become the new machines...

Before you sink back into your cubicle-coma, check out John and Yoko's Montreal Bed-In.


Tuesday, July 20, 2004

We win?

Well, we got a lot of points anyway. 900 so far. And the game's not over yet:

900th US soldier dies in Iraq.

idiot at the gates

The NYT reports that Bush is refusing to hand over to Congress the 1-page "President's Summary" of the CIA's 2002 National Intelligence Estimate regarding Iraqi WMDs. This summary contained the sum total of information Bush received from the CIA, and here Fred Kaplan nails the issue:

The "President's Summary" was one page? This CIA estimate was a 93-page document, filled with caveats, qualifiers, and footnotes of interagency dissent on several key points.

Some of this is a moot point in light of the evidence that Bush was planning on attacking Iraq *before* 9/11, but on other levels there are some important things to note:
  • our pResident is either willfully ignorant, misinformed, or not adequately informed (from here it looks like all three)
  • the bureaucracy has clearly gotten out of hand... it's like when the shuttle blew up and the engineer's reports said there was one chance in ten of such a thing happening, while senior management's reports said the chance was 1 in 300,000
  • and most importantly for me: all those hours I spent in civics class as a kid, studying things like "separation of powers", "checks and balances", and "congressional oversight"? I want those goddam hours back, as they obviously no longer apply if the administration just tells Congress to go fuck themselves when they ask for information

I've seen so many flags flying these past few years that I'm going colorblind, but people seem to have forgotten that those colors once stood for something, something very different from what the country is now. And because we've forgotten, this administration gets away with, well, murder, among other things. If that doesn't bug people, and the fact that this administration has destroyed some of the central pillars of our national ideology doesn't bug people, then sadly this is the government we deserve.

I never thought I'd find myself hoping that all good Republicans would get out to the polls and vote their consciences, but in this election it might be the only chance the country has. If they blindly fall in line behind Bush, I suspect we're fucked for good.

[links via SixDifferentWays, but the rant is all mine. I figure I should stick to what I am good at.]

Monday, July 19, 2004

maps and legends

Living Myths is a good introduction to many of the myths and oral traditions of the Greeks, Celts, Chinese, and Native Americans. It's not Joseph Campbell, but it's a good start.

This land...

The folks at JibJab have taken a fair and balanced look at the 'choices' we are being given for our next president. The jabs go in both directions, so in true democratic fashion everyone should be equally offended. (Shockwave flash animation).

Sunday, July 18, 2004

wrong division

I've been thinking about how far this country has slid in the past few years, how hateful and misinformed everyone has become. I tend to consider Bush to be incompetent, but in truth I have to give him credit for a number of brilliant accomplishments:
  • alienating our allies
  • destroying the economy
  • making 'Big Brother' look progressive
  • completely failing to pursue Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan while coming up with specious reasons to go after Saddam in Iraq
  • turning the Republicans into neoconsfascists without them even realizing it
  • actively disenfranchising those who do not agree with his policies
  • uniting the Islamic world against us, thereby ensuring that his 'War on Terror' will go on forever
  • and dividing this country, turning even family members against each other

That last one is the real kicker... the amount of rabid hatred people are showing each other over issues they don't even understand. Suddenly the whole country, which looked so united in the days after 9/11, looks irreparably damaged.

Check out this conversation between a mother and her son... this sort of stuff is happening everywhere.

Bush has told a lot of lies in his time in office, but the worst one of all was the one about being "a uniter, not a divider". Unless, of course, he was talking about the Muslims or his rich buddies.

Friday, July 16, 2004

checkmate, in 12 years of moves

Bobby Fischer might not be the sanest human around, but he was a goddam good chess player who was a grandmaster at age 15 and who became the first American world chess champion.

His last public chess game took place in Yugoslavia in 1992, a rematch of the epic 1972 match versus Boris Spassky. Fischer won that one too. He also won the attention of the US government, who claim he violated UN sanctions which had been imposed against Yugoslavia for 'provoking warfare' in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Fischer has been 'underground' ever since... until Tuesday, when he failed to notice that his passport had expired as he tried to board a plane in Japan. He's been taken into custody and plans to fight extradition to the US.

It would be easier to support his cause if he wasn't such a whackjob (he's rabid most of the time), but on the other hand I think of all of the evil shit this country does and think 'they want to imprison this 61-year-old genius for playing a fucking chess game?' Surely his violating of the Yugoslavian sanctions is of less import than, say, Reagan selling weapons to Iraq, or Bush defying UN resolutions to deal with Iraq diplomatically when Hussein started using those weapons in ways we didn't like.

Fischer has essentially been in a state of permanent nervous breakdown since the 70's... I say leave him alone. As if I had a voice in this country.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

trampled underfoot by the rise of the right

I've previously written about the possibility (however paranoiac) that the US is becoming a theocracy (Deities and Demagogues, 2 July 04). This isnt just tin-foil hat stuff - though if the Bush administration isn't scaring you with their 'faith-based initiatives' (against which it can and hopefully someday will be argued that the Constitutional separation of church and state has been violated) perhaps you need to be more paranoid. If you're just in need of more information on the subject, is well-informed and not particularly rabid.

I know perspective is in short supply here in the US, but even if you support the faith-based initiatives think about this: what if the government was giving all of that money to some religion other than yours? Personally I believe this sort of thinking is the cornerstone of a successful democracy... in any situation, imagine what would be the result if the tables turned... because they *do* turn. Currently (not just this administration, but throughout most of my life) we've got short-sighted politicos who feel that they should turn their prejudices into law, reap the short-term benefits while they can, and then try to keep the other guy from using it against them when the pendulum swings. (Remember the line-item veto?)

So: suppose the Sufi's made a concerted effort to take over a political party the way the Christians have. Suddenly social systems formerly overseen by the government are cut, and all your tax money is being routed to yoga centers and health-food stores. Federal government isn't the answer to society's ills - they are too far removed from your life - but if the money is being given to specific groups in your community that exclude people who don't belong to their belief system, the problem turns from one of ineptitude to one of near antagonism.

The whole thing reeks of fascism and an intentional creep towards theocracy. If the situation were reversed, the average Christian would be horribly offended by what is happening now... but since it is happening to their team, they smugly accept the destruction of some of the basic principles the country was founded on in their headlong dash to turn us into the same kind of country we left Europe to get away from in the first place.

And if you're one of those who believe that the US was founded to be a Christian nation, listen to Thomas Jefferson...

"I am for freedom of religion, and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendency of one sect over another." --Thomas Jefferson to Elbridge Gerry, 1799.

"History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes." --Thomas Jefferson to Alexander von Humboldt, 1813.

... or Ben Franklin:

"If we look back into history for the character of the present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers of persecution. The primitive Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the Pagans, but practiced it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England blamed persecution in the Romish Church, but practiced it upon the Puritans. They found it wrong in Bishops, but fell into the practice themselves both here (England) and in New England." - Benjamin Franklin

In this, as in all things, the fairness of a principle can be determined by how fair it looks from the other end. In that light the Christianization of the US government doesn't even come close to being a good thing. We fought a war of Independence, in part, to gain freedom of religion. Now we have a government that funds and legislates in favor of a specific religion. Where is the freedom in that?

Monday, July 12, 2004

Moore sources

Whatever else you might think he is, Michael Moore is apparently an optimist. He's published the sources from which he got the hotly-contested information in his newest film... which sort of implies that he believes that the people who outright reject the film (many without even seeing it) are capable of rational thought and revision of beliefs in the face of well-documented evidence. Ok, so maybe he's not just an optimist, maybe he's high.

He's reactionary, got his own agenda, willing to use 'tricks' to make implications that aren't obvious from the facts (you think FOX News doesn't do that?), and prone to making incendiary remarks that give people reason to doubt the rest of what he says. He's also intelligent, well-informed, and unafraid to air out our country's dirty laundry. Most of the facts in his film are incontestible... so the people who are filled with hatred over the film must be so because they don't want our dirty little secrets out in the open, they want to go on believing that we are the Good Guys, that our government is the embodiment of the principles we supposedly stand for, and that we are the righteous wounded party here so all attention should be directed elsewhere - and Moore's film, which turns the cameras back on us, challenges those beliefs.

I wish those people would put as much energy into *being* the good guys as they do into angrily claiming that they *are* the good guys.

he doesn't kick puppies

You've got to give this guy credit for the effort he put into his singles ad... a post in outline format that contains diagrams, graphs, and flowcharts. Hopefully there is someone out there who has been looking for someone just like him.

graph of puppies kicked

Best of luck to you, my friend.

[via SixDifferentWays]

The Mailinator

Ever want to download something or sometimes even just get into a site, but the doors are locked until you fill out a form, get a confirmation email, and click on a link to 'activate' whateverthehell it is you want to do? Personally I've got a few hotmail and yahoo accounts for these, because I don't need any more junk mail on my personal mail account, and nowadays you can't fill out a form without ending up in a database somewhere that gets sold to marketers.

There's a new service called Mailinator that sidesteps this problem neatly. When you go to that page, there will be a random autogenerated email address over on the left side. Copy that email address and use it for filling in the forms. You can then go back to the same page at Mailinator, paste in the email address you used, and see what mail has arrived. In a couple of hours, the email account disappears.

As far as security goes, there are no forms to fill in, no passwords, nothing. This shouldn't matter too much, since you'd mostly be using the service to feed bullshit data to the marketing machines, but it also means that (theoretically) anyone could read the email sent to that address. If, that is, they could figure out the address...

It appears to me that they use a randomly generated string of 10-14 letters for the username. That means there are 2610 + 2611 + 2612 + 2613 + 2614 = 6.70903*1019 unique addresses, so it would be pretty hard for anyone to even find a Mailinator address that was in use, let alone one that had your email in it. If every person on the planet was simultaneously trying to discover your secrets, they'd have to each try more than 11 billion addresses, and the account only lasts for a few hours...

... but then again it's possible (not probable mind you) that someone could hit it on the first try. So use this tool to fuck the bozos, but protect sensitive information... if you use Mailinator to join a group or register at a website, after going through the confirmation process change your password on that site (this is a good idea any time a password is sent to you in plaintext email).

Sunday, July 11, 2004

a bird in the hand is *mumble* *mumble* Bush

This guy is my new hero.

His smile faded, and he raised his left arm in our direction. And then, George W. Bush, the 43rd president of the United States of America, extended his middle finger.

Read that last sentence again.
I got flipped off by George W. Bush.

A ponytailed man standing next to us confirmed the event, saying, "I do believe the President of the U.S. just gave you boys the finger."

It's not like we needed Cheney's 'go fuck yourself' or Bush giving citizens the finger to know how they feel about the people of this country, we already knew they were fucking us. It's just amusing to see them not trying to hide it anymore.

scared yet?

So the Bush camp is still talking about ways to delay or even cancel the next presidential elections in the event of a terrorist attack. They're so excited about this possibility that they've basically given any potential terrorists a calendar to follow: the August surprise, or Sept 11, or the week before the elections. I've never seen this administration more happy than when they talk about possible future terrorist attacks.

Speaking of schedules, they've even told Pakistan that it would be just peachy if they could deliver up top al-Queda people during the first three days of the Democratic National Convention, to steal the thunder from Kerry's bid. Isn't freedom and democracy *fun*?

Other relevant election bits: once Florida was forced to make public the voter expulsion list that was used to fuck up the last elections, it was discovered that the list was so error-filled that they just threw the whole thing out. Turns out (mere coincidence, I'm sure) that the list of 47000 people largely consisted of people who were black, likely to vote democrat, erroneously labeled as felons, or all of the above, while another known list of thousands of hispanic (who tend to vote republican in Florida) felons was somehow 'accidently' left out. Jeb Bush is being praised for repairing this glaring problem in the voting apparatus by a press that has somehow managed to forget that he's the one who fucked it up in the first place.

And, to no thinking person's surprise (and therefore to the disbelief of much of the US), the Senate's report on the 'intelligence failures' (which inexplicably fails to mention the most important intelligence failure, the president himself) shows that there was no, as in zero, legitimate information that justified the war in Iraq. This was even pointed out at the time by White House analysts, who were told by senior CIA officials that the administration didn't really care if the information was true or not, the war was going to happen either way.

Anyone surprised?

Saturday, July 10, 2004

notes from in-between: (portland to eugene)

I'm sitting in the train station, waiting to embark on an ill-advised and poorly-coordinated trip down to Eugene to go to the Oregon Country Fair and see Anne-Marie, who I otherwise wouldn't see until next week sometime. Physically I don't feel up to the trip, but my body is a secondary concern right now - it always says the same thing anyway, so I feel like I can (try to) ignore it for a few days.

Train stations are weird... not proper places at all, but in-between places, points that hold down the ends of long straight parallel lines. Portland's Union Station is a large hall of marble from a different age, with wooden church-pew seats and vaulted ceilings. You'd think it would be a majestic place. It's not.

I started riding the trains when I figured out that there was a huge cultural divide between the average Greyhound rider and the average train rider. Unfortunately, either someone let the secret out or (and I'm being charitable here) the average traveler in this country has degenerated into a rude loud cellphone-using cigarette-reeking dipshit. I am the only one in the station that doesn't have a cellphone, and therefore the only one that isn't loudly broadcasting the sordid details of their pathetic little lives. (Instead I'm quietly posting the sordid details of my own pathetic little life, but somehow that seems more polite... you don't have to come here and read this stuff, whereas if I want to get on the train I do in fact need to stay here.)

The woman on the bench behind me is describing in intricate detail the punishments she is going to inflict on 'you little fuckers' when she gets home; occasionally she laughs and displays a sardonic grin. After ten minutes of this I'm not sure if she's abusing her children or running a phone-sex line for clientele with, ummm, very specific needs.

There is a smell in the in-between places, this ashen grey brimming from the lungs of people who have spent their lives smoking, hacking black-spotted sputum into the corners *inside the building* as they return from smoking outside. I hate humans.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Reality trumps the RIAA, yet again

When Steve Winwood recently released a track from his new album onto the peer-to-peer filesharing networks, the recording industry thought he was insane. Then his record sales jumped by 800%.

They Might Be Giants decided to sell their two most recent CDs online as MP3s... $0.99 per song, or $9.99 for the whole album (which costs $18+ in stores).

Indie musicians have been doing this forever... I got turned on to quite a few bands in the early days of, and indie recording sites like Perishable Records put one or two songs from each artist online for free... it's viral advertising. So many indie bands do this that there's even a service that scours the web for them and collects them all in one place... it's a great way to get turned on to new tunes.

It is ironic that the greed of the recording industry is actually bringing in less profits through their unwillingness to deal with the new technological reality made possible by filesharing. The smart bands, for the most part indie bands who don't have a major label breathing down their necks, are adopting the technology as a free advertising service, and the increased exposure yields increased profits.

William Gibson's book Pattern Recognition talks quite a bit about viral marketing, and how those who adopt such techniques will be so far ahead of the pack. Lately his ideas are becoming reality.

For everyone except the RIAA, that is.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

These guys make me sick

The Portland Archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church announced today that they are taking the rather worldly step of filing for bankruptcy because they can't afford the cost of all of the of sex abuse lawsuits that have become pandemic recently. Yup, yup, here in progressive Portland we're way ahead of the rest of the country on the social issues. How these people can even pretend to have some 'higher calling' when every month there are more allegations of kiddy-fiddling is beyond me... there seems to an inordinately high amount of physical ministrations going on for an organization that claims to tend to the spirit.

The Archdiocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy today to forestall the current civil trials involving the late Rev. Maurice Grammond, who was accused of molesting more than 50 boys in the 1980s. And he's just one of the priests on trial. This one Archdiocese has already paid more than $53 million to settle 130 previous molestation claims, and the two lawsuits active right now are asking for $160 million. And that's just one Archdiocese... there are similar cases all over the country.

This bankruptcy filing is the first of it's kind, but other dioceses are considering doing the same. Chapter 11 bankruptcy frees an organization from the threat of creditors' lawsuits while it 'reorganizes'. The Diocese of Tucson, the Archdiocese of Boston, and the Archdiocese of Santa Fe have all either taken steps to file for bankruptcy or pillaged church resources to handle abuse claims.

The Roman Catholic Church has spent the last 1400 years using guilt and fear as advertising tools to swindle the sheep with the promise of 'salvation', building up an economic base that rivals many governments. And now some parts of their organization can't afford to continue to exist because too many of their priests took the 'laying on of hands' thing a bit too literally. The dumbfucks should have stuck to their prayers... they're going to need them now.

facts, schmacts

This morning's New York Post confidently declared that John Kerry had chosen Dick Gephardt as his running mate, just hours before Kerry announced that Senator John Edwards was in fact his choice for VP. The Post did a quick turn-around that would have made the Ministry of Disinfomation proud, but as usual The Smoking Gun managed to snag a copy before it all went into The Place of Forgetting.

Two things come to mind:

In the last election, the sheer weaseliness of BushCo might not have been enough to give them the edge, but when FOX News declared him the winner all of the other newspapers in the country figured if FOX said it, it must be true, so they said it too. After that the damage was done, the people were strongly divided and turning against each other, and even if Bush's daddy didn't own most of the Supreme Court they'd have had to give Bush the win. Think about the Rodney King thing - popular opinion can sway a court's decision, especially if the populace in question is burning a whole bunch of shit down while the court is thinking about what to do.

It's a pity that just as the court can be swayed by popular opinion, so too can popular opinion be swayed by the media... FOX News is just a legitimized version of the National Enquirer as far as factual content goes; they're the granulated white sugar of news media.

The other thing is, and I say this with whatever respect Dick Gephardt may or may not be due: we've had a Dick as VP for the past 4 years. (And more abstractly, one as pResident as well.) It's time to get the dicks out of the White House.

Monday, July 05, 2004

So come the storms of winter and then the birds in spring again

You know the part that sucks the most about being the one person I know that doesn't have a life? More than one day goes by without any email and I feel like I fell off the fucking planet. Granted, everyone's on trips or going to see the splodeyworks or enjoying the three-day weekend or just caught up in their own lives, I'm not begrudging anyone. My point is really about the perceptual nature of time, the way it passes (or obstinately chooses not to) at variable speeds.

I don't remember how I got to here from where I was 18 months ago... that stuff feels like it could have been last week. But I know where I was 18 hours ago, and it seems like *ages* have passed since then. So my head contains a nonlinear representation of time in which the last day started before the last year. Maybe it's all of that acid I did in the 60s. (Ummm, that's a joke, if you don't know me well... I was *2* in the 60's).

Yesterday I was 15... today I am 35. Tomorrow I will be 55, and by next weekened, I will be dust. But there are so many hours and minutes packed into each day, way the hell more than they taught me in preschool, that the thought of 'tomorrow' seems like an idle threat... there's no way it will ever get here if time keeps going this slow. Sometimes it's hard for me to believe this is really happening... I wake up, look around, think 'bullshit... this has *got* to be a dream', and lay my head back down to sleep, but somehow I never wake up to anything more promising.

And you lot (who are just part of my dream anyway, you non-emailing wankers) are always wondering why I'm so cranky :/

Sunday, July 04, 2004

the madness of king george

So I was just about to launch into this year's tirade about the shithead in the White House, wherein I would point out yet again that the 4th of July is BULLSHIT, how the irony that we would even bother to celebrate the day we won Independence from the mad King George III, who thought the people of his country existed only to pay taxes to fund his wars, makes me want to puke.

Fortunately for you, you lucky bastards, Writermama found an article by Barbara Ehrenreich that manages to say it all without causing me to have a goddam ANEURYSM, so I'm going to just calmly point over that way and spare you the bilious invective I was preparing to unleash. Not that my rant would have done any good in the larger scheme of things, mind you, but it tends to make me feel better.

I feel like I am living in a parody of the country I thought I was in, some sort of Truman's Show make-believe land where Congress destroys the 'separation of powers' that was the keystone of the Constitution by giving the president (who thinks god is talking to him) the power to declare any war he chooses, where the vice president (who is played by Mr. Burns from The Simpsons) tells Congressmen to go fuck themselves, where the major media make 1984's Ministry of Disinformation look like a liberal rag, where anyone who dares to challenge the consensus narrative gets shouted down (or worse) by people with flags and jesus fish on their bumpers. Hooray for freedom and democracy, motherfuckers.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Nation clueless, news at 11

Why don't you turn off FOX News for awhile and go check out the Newseum's collection of today's front pages from 297 newspapers in 40 different countries. It's not only interesting to see the different viewpoints and priorities offered by other places and cultures and languages, it's also useful for pointing out the biases each paper has.

Objective reporting has all but disappeared in the mainstream US press, and you don't even need to look at other country's papers to find that out: often a story will be reported in two (often opposite) ways just going from city to city. Even so, they all tend to stick to rather conservative lines - journalists know that if they piss off the government they won't be let back in to the press conferences, or at least won't be called upon to ask questions.

Sometimes I think The Onion and Jon Stewart are the most 'fair and balanced' news sources available in this country.

i was the victim of a vast right-wing conspiracy...

... and all i got was this lousy president.

The Stop Bush Project documents "anti-Bush sentiment from around the world expressed through graffiti, placards, flyers and other spontaneous, 'guerilla' means".

Check out the photos there, or better yet, get your art on and go make a statement of your own.

Fuck the bozos.

personal downdate 3 July 04

On Thursday one of my expensive prescriptions ran out, and I decided to try a similar, cheaper version of the drug... chemically it was exactly the same as the expensive one except for one little hydrocarbon chain at the end that was right-handed instead of left-handed. Nevertheless within 24 hours I was in pain approximately similar to that of a few months ago, and today I was unable to get out of bed without a stabbing pain in my side, and even in bed I felt like my guts were foreign organisms. I made a damn quick call to the doc to get the other prescription refilled, hopefully it will kick back in soon.

Even after all this time, I am still resistant to the idea that I can't function without medication. I made the choice to not take anymore narcotics (a choice that was not without repercussions, first the withdrawals and then the increased pain), but the other stuff, the stuff I apparently need just to function, has it's own problems. In the meantime my pain level is high enough that a valium and two sleeping pills haven't knocked me out tonight... I've been sitting here for 5 hours wanting to sleep, with enough drugs in me to fell a large beast, but sleep will not come.

On the bright side (such as it is), there are some interesting things going on. As I meet more of my neighbors and get to know some of them better, I feel like we made the right choice buying this house... our People are here. Strangely, a block or two in any direction moves into less appealing neighborhoods... this block is like an island of friendly creative people. The only problem is that there's some kind of breeding frenzy going on, so the adults are usually too busy to 'hang out'.

Another interesting thing is that I've just about finished reading all of the old posts on Tina's blog, 2+ years of very personal posts, and they are helping me with my own problems... it's not so much what she did to fix her problems, it's the honesty she used to come to know herself well enough that a solution became apparent. Personally I try to be pretty honest; my biggest dishonesty is that I'm disproportionately harsh on myself, and I often compare myself unfavorably to other people my age. (Which is completely bullshit, of course, when I look back and see how far I've come, but somewhat valid in terms of cultural expectations... which I never respected before, but somehow became diseased with during college and professional work.) Hearing someone else tell of their own path through life gives me some perspective on my own, and perspective is sometimes in short supply given the limited view of life I can see from this bed.

Friday, July 02, 2004

deities and demagogues

In 1940 Robert A. Heinlein, the 'dean of science fiction', wrote a story in which a relatively unintelligent religious whackjob named Nehemiah Scudder managed to take over the US and turn it into a theocracy. It was a good story, perhaps a bit blustery and reactionary at times (as Heinlein himself could get sometimes... it's hard to believe that some of his wartime stories were written by the same guy who wrote Stranger In A Strange Land), but it's ultimately a work of fiction. Which makes it very unfortunate that it reads like today's newspapers...

Heinlein's story was in essence just an extrapolation of thoughts expressed by Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin regarding the need for separation of church and state, and what might happen to the US if that separation was breached.

From Robert A. Heinlein's postscript to Revolt in 2100:

Nehemiah Scudder... teamed up with an ex-Senator from his home state; they placed their affairs in the hands of a major advertising agency and were on their way to fame and fortune. Presently they needed stormtroopers; they revived the Ku Klux Klan in everything but the name -- sheets, passwords, grips and all. It was a 'good gimmick' once and it still served. Blood at the polls and blood in the streets, but Scudder won the election. The next election was never held.

In the story, Scudder declared himself above the rule of law because he felt that God was working through him. Recent events have shown anyone with more than two functioning neurons that the Bush administration has outright contempt for the rule of law, and Bush's belief that God guides his hand (L.A. Times, if you're not registered there use 'sparklebottom' as both username and password) has been well-documented, usually in adulatory terms by our wanker propaganda news sources. (I suspect that given the fact that Bush can't read very well, his religious readings probably never got past the Mosaic Law of 'an eye for an eye'... and from his actions as president I'd say he pretty clearly skipped from there straight to Revelations.)

If God is Bush's copilot, I'll just take the train, thanks.

Even Bush's supporters acknowledge that this administration's actions and policies are somewhat fascist (Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, 'unlawful combatants', military tribunals, wiretaps, breaking of treaties, if you don't already know this shit tell me how exactly is it that you get the internet to your little shack in the woods?), they just think it's a good thing. Ignoring the Geneva Convention, circumventing Congress (thereby fucking up the whole 'checks and balances' thing), denying due process, torturing prisoners... there *might* be one or two lines in the Bill of Rights and the canon of international law that this administration hasn't violated, but there's still a couple of months until the elections, so just be patient, I'm sure they'll get around to the other bits eventually.

Regarding US treatment of prisoners enemy combatants (calling them such makes us feel better about ourselves - we're not actively holding anyone prisoner, we're just passively detaining enemy combatants), here are some observations from a guy who fought in Normandy and was held in a German POW camp [via tacitus]:

Al Gore takes the position that the impetus for torturing prisoners comes right down from the top. I agree.

Why do you think the Administration has managed to con the entire press and media corps into referring to the people held at Guantanamo and the prisoners at Abu Ghraib as "detainees," never as "prisoners of war?" I think the bastards reason that if the people we are holding are not prisoners of war, we are free to mistreat them any old way we want...

I was a prisoner of war... when I was captured, I gave my name, rank and serial number. I was asked my age, and I declined to give it. But in a German hospital shortly thereafter, I was asked my religion and I bellowed "Jew!" "Jude!" I added in case he didn't get it in English.

I suffered no mistreatment whatever. I was starved. I had to march many weary miles, wounded and sick, but I got the same medical care they gave their own walking wounded infantry. It wasn't much, for Germans or Americans, but what there was, I got.

The Goddam Nazis did not do to a Jewish American POW what this Administration suffers to be done to the hapless people it imprisons!

That's something to think about when you're waving your fucking flag this weekend and affixing 'I support our troops' bumper stickers to your SUV. (Funny how none of the bastards support the troops enough to get them out of harm's way, they only support them enough to get them killed.) We'll all watch fireworks and sing about bombs bursting in midair, while our soldiers watch tracer bullets and try to avoid bombs bursting in their immediate vicinity.

The whole point of the Geneva Convention was that if you think it's ok for you to do something harmful to someone else, you've implictly accepted that they can do the same to you if they can manage to turn the tables. Abu Ghraib - hell, our presence in Iraq at all - is going to be biting us on the ass for a long time. Or beheading us, as has been the sad case recently. (And if you're thinking "they started it with 9/11", you're... well, you're not thinking. First off it's the wrong 'they', and second off we [with the help of our fellow empires Britain and France] started it in the beginning of the last century when we took warring bands of nomads with distinctly separate cultural heritages and drew a circle around them and declared that they were now a country. Everything since then has been 'an eye for an eye', to the point that both sides are blinded to even their own motivations).

None of this is secret info - there are even movies you can watch that will help fill you in: Lawrence of Arabia to see how it all started, and it's sequel A Dangerous Man to see how it all went to hell. Or read anything you can about Gertrude Bell (Desert Queen was good), the writer, archaeologist, and spy who was the only female Political Officer in the British forces during World War I. BTW if you haven't heard of her, it's not some kind of sexist conspiracy... as a spy she made an effort to keep a low profile, while Lawrence did the exact opposite. Once her contribution became known, she was recognized as a key player in the creation of the modern Middle East.

Which is part of the problem, right? 'Creating' the Middle East is like 'discovering' the Americas... there were already people there with cultures and traditions of their own, and all of a sudden a bunch of white folks come in and start divvying everything up. Now jump forward to today (not that the rest of the intervening time is without further incident), where many Americans can't figure out why they hate us...

So, where are we now? We've got a unilateral war with no end in sight, an obviously corrupt administration (that believes that "authority to set aside the laws is inherent in the president") running for a second term, the systematic and willful dismantling of the Constitution by the republicans, a faltering economy, a growing defense budget, political scandals everywhere, increased instability throughout the world, alienation of our former allies, a 'cold war' mentality president who feels that nukes are just peachy (think 'bunkerbusters'), and we're unnecessarily pissing off large parts of the world (under the guise of 'promoting democracy') while creating (and ignoring) bigger (yet perhaps less telegenic) problems in China and North Korea...

...fucking hell, it's 1972 all over again. Only this time, the president doesn't just think he's above the rule of law, he believes he's acting for a higher law, one that allows the breaking of all other laws to achieve it's goals. And that's just fucking scary.

Heinlein was fond of writing 'future histories', stories of our possible futures... I only hope his tales of Nehemiah Scudder turn out to be more fiction than prediction.