Thursday, February 26, 2004
Gnarly Little Hope Springs EternalThe above picture shows a wolverine humping it across a frozen lake in Michigan. It was previously believed that fur trappers killed the last of this breed (in Michigan) back in the 1700s. This week I had the following happen to me: 1. Attempted coup attempt at work, people trying to get me fired. I subsequently am fighting back and will win. 2. The Secretary General of the U.N.--a role venerated for its peaceful intentions--had his phone bugged by our closest ally. This adds to the heap of evidence that we are the bad guys. I've come to the conclusion that I personally am a bad guy. That's easy enough to deal with. But when you realize that the flag you've pledged allegiance to is also a bad guy ... that can be quite a blow. 3. Thugs are converging on Port-au-prince as I write this. The world is watching but no one wants to help. 4. Just general malaise and the bullshit of life make me want to go "whaaaaaa!" Then I see this picture of this furry little critter, who was believed to have been snuffed out two centuries ago. God damn my fucking pessimism, and say hello to the struggle of life. Life always wins. Not only did this little bugger win the struggle, but if you were to cross him, he'd bite your arm off. GO WOLVERINES!!
Tuesday, February 24, 2004
Ring RingNader is running for President again. The gears in my head are whirring so fast they’re actually making noise. The guy in the next cubicle just prairie-dogged to check out what the sound was. When I was a little kid, there was a very irritating young kid named Gary who lived on our street. My buddy Mike and I were hanging out playing with our Hot Wheels in the garage. We were carefully setting up a scale version of “Le Mans” except it had a huge slope that had to generate enough inertia to get the cars all the way around to the checkered flag. Heady stuff. We were engineers hard at work. Gary rides up the driveway on his shiny new tricycle. Ring Ring! He rings the bell that is attached to his little handlebars. Just ignore him, whispered Mike. Good plan. We continued with Le Mans. Ring Ring! Gary’s mom lived right next door, and she was friends with my mom, so punching Gary wasn’t an option. He was only 4 after all. Ring Ring! “Hey Gary,” I said. “You’re only supposed to ring that when someone is in your way. It’s like a car horn.” Ring Ring! The bell gave Gary something he didn’t have before: power. The power to irritate. The power to interrupt the creation of Le Mans. The power to get attention. Power isn’t any fun unless you use it, so he did. Ring Ring! Gary is, of course, a metaphor for Ralph Nader. Ralph knows that by throwing his hat into the ring, he is ringing his little bell and irritating the Democrats. If he doesn’t ring the bell, he doesn’t exercise his power—and that wouldn’t be any fun! I’m sure that in Nader’s mind, he thinks that by being a potential spoiler he is increasing the chances of our political parties to stop offering bland non-leaders for public office (as I state in my “Over 290 Million Served” post). Maybe in some small way he is. But really … he’s just Gary ringing his bell.
Monday, February 23, 2004
Democracy’s StepchildThe story in Haiti is getting buried beneath the election hype and news out of Iraq and Iran. While Iraq's current situation might be a glaring result of American hubris in foreign policy, the situation in Haiti is a proving ground for lessons learned—or not. I’ve been watching with great interest as America proclaims its distaste for the bloody coup that is going on there, but does absolutely nothing to stop it. We sent in a “small number of troops”, yes. But the small number ended up being 50, and those are assigned to protect the American Embassy. In 1991, under Bush Sr., Aristide was ousted in a similar rebellion. Three years later, under Clinton, the U.S. backed up Aristide with a far more significant number of troops and their bullets, and restored him to power. Since then, the embers under Aristide have slowly grown hotter, and G. W., not to be outdone by his father, fanned them into a flame by blocking $300 million in loans that Haiti needed. Why did he block those loans? Apparently there was concern that Aristide’s election hadn’t been entirely fair. I won’t even begin to comment on this irony …. Needless to say, this action by Bush has created a precarious situation for Aristide. In a statement that can only be described as posturing—as it is inconsistent with the Bush Administration’s policy against Haiti—Colin Powell said that the U.S. could not support anything short of a democratic solution. Powell’s urgings won’t keep Democracy going in Haiti, however. As I write this, Aristide’s opponents are implementing a sort of “Spanish Inquisition” style of Democracy. According to one rebel, "The people show us the (chimere) houses. If they are there, we execute them." “Chimere” are what rebels call Aristide supporters. My my. Now there’s an approach that will ensure justice and create democratic good will in the long run. So now we are faced with this question. Should we help Aristide or shouldn’t we? Whatever opinion I might have about Aristide would be half-baked at best, so I won’t offer one. Not helping him, however, looks as if it would be a grave mistake. The rebels have no “vision” other than to get Aristide out. This is a recipe for anarchy and more blood. But helping Aristide might simply be a continuation of the U.S.’s intrusive and damaging foreign policy. If we hadn’t implemented such a foreign policy in the first place, none of this would be our concern. We would simply watch in Horror as Haitians murdered Haitians, but we wouldn’t do anything about it because it would be a Haitian problem. Unfortunately, however, the U.S. government has a nasty habit of sticking its nose where it ought not be whiffing. To compound the issue, it has the worse habit of obfuscating our true interests when doing so. The most notable examples, of course, would be our first and second invasions of Iraq. Our intent in both cases was to ensure stable oil prices. (Is this a bad intention? I’m not really sure it is!) In neither occasion did we come out and admit that we were simply protecting American interests. Instead, we mamby-pambied our way into derision on a world scale by pointing to Human Rights abuses or weapons of mass destruction when most people—in the end—knew the real reason for the bloodshed. It still looks very evident to me that Bush is not going to do anything about the situation in Haiti. We’ve sent in troops to protect the embassy but Aristide is on his own. In a better world, this might be the right approach; but, in a world where we’ve insinuated our politics without honesty, we’re opening ourselves up to criticism by our lack of "compassion" on our American neighbors.
Tuesday, February 17, 2004
Cash was king. Cash still is king.This story would have renewed my faith in humanity, but it is negated by the audacity of the ad-makers who Rosanne Cash rebuffed. Since consumerism calms us when we have angst, provides us with rewards for good deeds, assuages our fears, etc., it has firmly rooted itself as the true religion in this country. So the prophets of consumerism feels they have the right to appropriate various sacred icons such as Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" ... into an ad for hemorrhoid-relief products. Since they can't use this song now, I'm sure they'll be opting for Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl". Ad-makers feel they can do this because American's don't prize our icons as we should. You can't rape the willing, right? Why not appropriate our greatest songs and sacrifice them to our gods of goods? Here are some examples that ad-makers either haven't thought of yet, or haven't had the guts to propose: (OK, some of these might be British groups but the point still stands.) 1. Procol Harum "Whiter Shade of Pale" could sell flu medicine. 2. Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" could sell feminine deoderant. 3. Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing" could sell viagra. 4. Blue Oyster Cult - "Don't Fear The Reaper" could sell Laser Eye Surgery. 5. Barry McGuire - "The Eve Of Destruction" could sell the morning after pill. 6. Edgar Winter Group - "Free Ride" could announce new public toilets. 7. Filter - "Hey Man, Nice Shot" could promote The Lakers! (Funny if you know the song.) 8. Nine Inch Nails - "Hurt" could sell getting your pet fixed. 9. Carly Simon's "You're So Vain" could sell vericose vein surgery. 10. The Doors "The End" could sell mortuary plots. And I could go on, but this is only marginally funny. Here are a few other songs that I couldn't think of accompanying products. I obviously would make a poor ad consultant. Perhaps some of you can come up with some suggested products that these songs could sell? 1. Don McLean's "American Pie" 2. Led Zeppelin - "Stairway To Heaven" 3. Cream - "White Room" Or come up with your own ...
Wednesday, February 11, 2004
Porchlight PoliticsEver notice that they don’t build houses with front porches anymore? They don’t. You know why? Because people don’t use their front porches anymore. More specifically, at one time they did use their front porches. The front porch was an extremely important place. Each night after dinner, the man of the house would retire to the front porch, or would wander over to his neighbor’s front porch, where they would look out over the night, smoke their cigars, and talk about … you guessed it … shit. So, in the age of the front porch, people had an opinion about shit that was somewhat influenced by their neighbor's opinion about shit. Mostly, the shit was politics and religion. But the shit was probably also a lot to do with local gossip, crops, folklore, and other shit. Elections were won and lost on the basis of these porchlight conversations. Sometimes a man would get pissed off at his neighbor’s opinion about shit, and would punch his neighbor in the nose. It wasn’t exactly the Hegelian dialectic, but it was close at least. So the national opinion about shit varied from place to place, based on the continuum of people and their various thoughts and feelings about shit. Oh yeah, and there were newspapers. Until radio came along, newspapers were the only “broadcast” medium. People would listen to the radio, and read the newspaper, hear about shit, and talk with their neighbors about it, and sometimes a pug would end up bloodied. If you were to draw a picture about the transfer of ideas in this paradigm, it would look much like a somewhat random network of ideas being exchanged in both directions. Thesis, anti-thesis, and synthesis. Hegel. In this drawing, the people who traveled a bit more could pass on the juicier items of shit to other neighborhoods, and of course the newspapers and radio were broadcasting their shit, but it was only a one-way transaction. Then came TV. Tragically, these tiny glowing tubes brought people in from their front porches and they stopped talking about shit, and only got their shit from the T.V. Men even stopped smoking cigars, because their wives would say “put that shit out, or go outside.” But the shit on the T.V. was very very good shit, so the men would put their cigars out and listen. Porches became obsolete. Porch builders, porch manufacturers, and all manner of people employed by porch swing industry lost their jobs. These people all entered the television industry. In a fantastically short period of time, the picture we drew earlier changed dramatically. Now there were just a few points from which ideas about shit came. ABC, CBS, and NBC were the biggies. Then radio. Then Newspapers. No one noticed this change, and no one cared, because the shit they were seeing was too intoxicating. The shit on the T.V. was far funnier and more interesting than the shit they heard on Smarmy Willson’s front porch. The shit on T.V. was glitzy shit like what you would get if you ate an entire box of 64 Crayola crayons. No one questioned the shit on T.V. because it looked far too credible to ever be wrong, and god knows Smarmy Willson was an idiot democrat with his own twisted perspectives anyway. Over time, the opinions about shit didn’t vary much from town to town anymore. Oh sure, it varied a little but not much to speak of. Even the two political parties smooshed together to get closer to this massively similar perspective that everyone had about the various shit that people talked about. T.V. really helped the country get its shit together. Except that no one knew their neighbors anymore, and it became “out of fashion” to talk about religion or politics, or any other shit that might cause one man to punch another man in the nose. Lawsuits, you know. Then came the internet. Never was a more divisive invention introduced into our communication paradigm, as it exposed how pitifully immature we were. People had no sense of manners at first, and started saying the rudest, damnedest things, like air being let out of an over-inflated tire. Married men used the internet to carry out their prurient desires. Married women did the same. Racists used the internet to express their stupidity. Child molesters did the unthinkable. Pornographers cashed in big-time, like they always do. The internet also enabled people to actually form their own opinion about shit and share it with others—with no fear of obtaining a blood-spurting schnozz. Not only that, but their opinions were void of all the qualifiers we used to get on our front porches. On the internet, no one knows that you are Smarmy Willson. No one knows if you are a male or female, black or white, gay or straight, Republican or Democrat, left-handed or right-. All they know is what you have to say about … shit. This allows them to actually form an intelligent opinion that is devoid of the racist, sexist, and generally crappy opinions that we usually form about people’s ideas. Readers of this blog can safely assume that I am a male since my name is Jim, but no one knows if I am gay or straight, single or married, black or white, or how I smell. I plan to keep it that way. For lots of people, this became a liberating experience. We could now spout our own opinions in chat rooms, then instant messages, but now on home pages and blogs. Some of us have a hundred people reading our opinions about shit. Some of the people I link to have even thousands of people reading their shit. They’re not exactly “broadcasting”. Dare I coin the term “narrowcasting”? No, I dare not. If you're wondering if this is a blog about blogging, it is. Call it blogsterbation if you want. The fact is this: society has, gosh darn it, improved. We have bumbled and stumbled on our capitalist asses, tripped, and backed accidentally into improvement. The networks' reign as the single source of opinions are over. Praise Jesus. We are actually talking again.
Tuesday, February 10, 2004
UpdateSince writing the post below, I just read today's edition of the Los Angeles Times. The headline reads "Haiti is Urged to End Revolt". Apparently, our government has been doing some posturing, saying to the folks in Haiti "Can't we all just get along?" Later in the article, however, Los Angeles Times staff writer Carol J. Williams is kind enough to the rebels to tell them where and when to meet, and also the size and weaknesses of their opponents. Here, let me quote directly: "Mainstream political opposition groups in Part-au-Prince, the capital, plan a massive demonstration Thursday with the apparent expectation that the momentum to drive out Aristide will have built throughout the country and the government will be too overwhelmed by the myriad challenges to contain them. (New Paragraph) The government is believed to have no more than 5,000 poorly equipped police officers." The article then explains that there is no army. Exactly what is going on here? The LA times prints a posturing headline asking for peace, and then basically draws a map for the rebels on how to overthrow the Haitian government. "Hey everyone, grab your weapons and come to Port-au-Prince on Thursday. All we need is 5,001 people and we'll have them outnumbered!" Has the U.S. media become so powerful that is has unwittingly invoked a new sort of Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, wherein no event can go unreported without influencing that event's outcome? Maybe the rebels didn't need the L.A. Times' help. If Aristide will find help anywhere, it better come before Thursday ...
Haitian Coup d'etatOne of the more remarkable moments in history happened in 1804, when an uprising of black slaves actually defeated its oppressors and became the first independent black nation outside of Africa: Haiti. Haiti’s history began with a bang, and continued banging into this week, when it is suffering from it’s 30th coup d’etat attempt. I was an English major, but I think that rounds out to about one coup every seven years or so, give or take a few months. One might think that political insurrections have become part of Haiti’s natural process. So commonplace have they become, in fact, that the incumbents are actually spinning the press to encourage the coup, possibly hoping for a slot in whatever new regime emerges. At least that’s how it seems to this non-expert when Prime Minister Yvon Neptune told The Associated Press "The national police force alone cannot re-establish order in St. Marc”. Why the hell would he say that, unless he wanted to infuse the rebels with vigor? Do you think he was requesting outside assistance? Maybe ... it's not arriving however. The press naturally managed to squeeze in the fact that the rebels looted various appliances. This always seems a rather ham-fisted insinuation at the rebels’ motive, which it very probably wasn’t. Haiti’s recent politics are pretty interesting, and recounted here. The US helped Aristide regain power in Haiti in 1994, after the coup du jour ousted him. Since then, however, it would seem that he has fallen out of our graces, since in 2000, we blocked our humanitarian aid to the country. Then in 2001 President Bush decided to put all Haitian boat people in jail. This limited the choices of the coup-happy Haitians, and in effect we were writing “Lynch me” on Aristide’s forehead. Even Kofi Annan seems to be playing along, since his promise of U.N. intervention will happen “soon” … but “not yet”. I am no fan of Aristide. The violence being suffered by his police—dragging through the streets, beheadings, pulverizing of corpses—hints to me that his police have not been seen as nice guys. In fact, the rebel were allegedly Aristide supporters who were turned sour by Aristide’s political machinations. Aristide’s police are scrambling to regain control of the country. My crystal ball says that the battle is over already, and that he has lost. My blog’s point is, I suppose, that this tragedy is yet another small indicator that the U.S. is extremely consistent with its foreign policy: our interest in a country is in direct proportion to its influence over our economy. Human Rights and its abuses are not a factor in our foreign policy; they are only used in the spin. We're not offering aid to Aristide, another man whom we placed into power. Instead we are allowing his regime to topple amid horrid violence.
Friday, February 06, 2004
Over 290 Million ServedA commenter on this-here blog said the following: "By saying you won't vote for Bush, please tell me that you are not a proponent of what seems to be the new default philosophy for a good lot of non-Republicans: "We're going to vote for the guy who can beat Bush." That tells me that most non-Republicans don't give two shits about their candidate's character or beliefs. Watch, as the U.S. swirls down the toilet." - Dread Dread, my old friend, your point is as right as the angles on my tofu. It recalls a point made on a Saturday Night Live skit several years ago. The actor said something like "I remember the good ol' days when we voted for the man we liked the most. Then we started voting against the man we didn't like. Then we started voting for the man we disliked the least. Now we vote against the man who won't be able to beat the man we dislike the most." I think I'm butchering the quote, as is my style. But the point is hopefully made. The fact is that the two political machines in this country, the DNC and the RNC, have been expertly tuned over the years to produce success on a McDonald's-sized scale. These machines produce candidates that are apprehensible, digestible, and agreeable to everyone from New York City to Pocatello, Idaho. The quality of this product is about equal to that of a Big Mac: predictable, malleable, and you can choose to eat it here or to go. The second fact is that, like McDonalds, these machines wouldn’t have seen such success if it weren’t for the fact that so many people buy Big Macs. We drooling Americans actually go to the voting booth and make decisions that reward the behaviors of these giant masters of spin. The DNC and RNC no longer care about providing us with an actual good candidate. They only care about which template of which man will fit well into their spin machine, so that he can be transformed into something “presidential”. Presidential. Where the fuck did this word come from? What the fuck does it mean? Pardon my French but, this word pisses me off. By today’s standards, Abraham Lincoln would be so far from “Presidential” that he wouldn’t even be considered “City Councilmanial”. Furthermore, if Abraham Lincoln actually made it to office, Americans wouldn’t be able to listen to a wise word he said because they wouldn’t be able to get past the enormity of his ears. There isn’t a word in the English language for how sad this makes me. It was for this reason that I became disenchanted with the DNC and RNC. I believe we need a leader from outside of the machine in order to get anything worthwhile done in this country. Some people might assume that since I so vehemently dislike Bush that I’m a staunch Democrat. Not so. In fact for 12 years I was a Libertarian. I even went to a Libertarian meeting where I shook hands with and spoke to the 2000 Libertarian candidate for President, Harry Brown. I must say it was a weird moment. The meeting was sparsely attended, and mostly by odd-balls at that. I grabbed a glass of sparkling cider and turned to see Harry Brown standing perfectly alone. I thought “shit, why isn’t anybody talking to this guy?” I walked up, smiled, and shook his hand. As we began making smalltalk, my hopes went flaccid like a macho barfly who just found out that his one-night-stand is actually a man. As much as I stood behind their ideals (and I still stand behind many of them) the Libertarians were incredibly unimpressive to me. In fact, they seemed downright kooky. Harry Brown wasn't exactly presidential, and I knew at that moment that there was no way the American populace would elect him—or anyone the Libertarian party might produce. It was just so saddening. So now I find myself in the political DMZ where I think most people imagine themselves. I don’t like the stereotypical Republicans because they are too intrusive into our private liberties. I don’t like the Democrats because they allocate too many powers to the federal government. I don’t like the values Americans apply to elected officials because it prevents us from electing the very type of man or woman this country needs. However, the optimist in me hopes that what we’re going through now is the adolescence of the Television Age. After all, few Americans who voted for Abraham Lincoln ever actually saw him. They judged him by the content of his character not the … size of his ears. Howard Dean was able to garner a large amount of support for himself based on his words published on various pages of the internet. Once the qualifications of is “presidential-ness” became weighed on television close-ups and radio re-runs of his over-the-top high-pitched speech in Iowa, the voters balked. But the fact that his campaign did gain some momentum based on mere words, ideas, and abstractions, is a glimmer of hope that I will carry with me for awhile. Maybe the content of a candidate’s character still means something, and maybe … just maybe … we will one day grow more mature and elect men and women into leadership who actually belong there. In the meantime, Dread, yes, I am going to vote against the man that I dislike the most. I hate to say it, but it’s true. And no, I don’t want fries with that.
Wednesday, February 04, 2004
Mass AppealFrom Yahoo! News: The Massachusetts court said any civil unions bill that falls short of marriage would establish an "unconstitutional, inferior, and discriminatory status for same-sex couples." Kudos to Massachusetts for being reasonable and level-headed. This decision is excellent evidence for why we live in such a great country. Our judges are appointed and do not require any voter support for the duration of their career. This makes them ostensibly immune to the shrill nonsense spouted by homophobes (or non-homophobes who are trying to curry favor with homophobes). It doesn't protect gays from homophobia in states where the judges are homophobic, but at least it allows for states to improve over time. Massachusetts is ahead of the pack here. Picture this: a member of a gay couple whose state will not allowed them to marry is in a car accident and is in a coma and on life support. The infirmed person's family rushes in and "takes over" regarding all medical decisions. His gay lover of 20 years sits helplessly by in the hospital and has absolutely no say in the matter. Not fair. As a reforming Libertarian, I should explain why the state needs to recognize marriage at all. Even though marriage is mostly a spiritual (and sometimes religious) instutition, there are good reasons why a couple needs the state to recognize their commitment, rather than some other institution. You need the state to formally recognize a union--at a couple's behest--in order to prevent any yahoo who is living with someone else to claim marriage under some weird non-recognizable institution and thereby take responsibility (over medical decisions, non-will deaths, child custody issues) when there really isn't an intended context for it. For those who live together and want to grant legal powers to their significant others, there are means to do this short of actually marrying. Namely, you can file separate legal powers of attorney regarding each of these elements. But marriage is a catch-all and everyone should be allowed to use this state-provided convenience. In spite of my constant ranting, I am an optimist. I do think that things in America are getting slowly better. For every battle lost it seems that one and a half battles are won. This is one of the wins. [Pops a champagne cork.] Now back to my day. I'm having a huge party on Saturday and I need to clean my damn house.
Tuesday, February 03, 2004
Spurious George Spins a YarnCritics are decrying the inquiry into Bush's bad intelligence. They claim it shouldn't merely examine the sources and intelligence-gathering methods, but also the political spin put on the information by Washington politicians. This seems like a good idea on the surface, but think about it. Proving the motives of spin is like proving a universal negative: it can't be done. Listening to the he said/she said on the news commentaries would be like those painful conversations with your now ex-girlfriend in which you rehash certain events and conversations in excruciating detail. None of it matters. We will never be able to prove that Spurious George lied about Iraq to make his intent to invade more palatable by the average drooling American. Move along. In the same way, Republicans will not be able to say for sure why a hell of a lot of Americans (or at least me and a few of my friends) aren't going to vote for George W. Bush. They won't know for sure, but if they "really want to know the facts" and were to launch an inquiry, they might discover that George's web of lies had a "wardrobe malfunction" and that his naughty bits are being exposed. Hey George ... your balls are showing.
Monday, February 02, 2004
[yawn] Janet Jackson flashes [/yawn]Perhaps Janet Jackson was aware of exactly how tired her act was going to be. I forced myself to watch it, and commented on how "yesterday" it was. I remember Paula Abdul doing the same stuff back in the 80s. As I was chatting with my friends, I saw them focus a bit more intently for a moment on the screen. One of them said "Janet just flashed her boob on teevee." I looked back at the screen. Missed it. Oh well. It's not surprise that today the FCC and right-wing groups are gasping in horror. Congratulations Janet on mastering the "if you poke it it will flinch" school of media manipulation. But face it. Few people really cared about seeing Janet's boob. Men who enjoy seeing the female form have for more effective means of obtaining these visuals. In fact, many of these men were probably watching the lingerie bowl. The right-wing groups that are officially expressing their outrage aren't outraged at all. People who cling to television as being the last vestige of family entertainment need to hear this important message from me: "You lost this battle long ago. Set the boobies free." Some people expressed how ashamed they were that other countries saw this stunt as a reflection of poor American morals. They are using this lame stunt as a chance to posture, and they know it. I am personally far more ashamed that other countries saw how unimaginative her routine, her stunt, and our reaction all are. It's all so "yesterday".
Sunday, February 01, 2004
Hajj StampedePilgrims just stampeded 244 to death at the Stoning of Satan. Apparently, trampling deaths at the Islamic Holy pilgrimage are an annual event. So as to not risk a holy Fatwah, I'll just say I find this an amusing metaphor. And the quote that just pulls it all together: "All precautions were taken to prevent such an incident, but this is God's will." Watch out world, here comes Allah.