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Archives, January 2 to February 18, 2005

Friday February 18, 2005

Those Little Slice Of Life Stories That Blogs Were Always Supposed To Be About

The blog Unfogged has a generally good crew, and may well make my blog list next time I update it, if for no other reason then poster Alameida, who has a killer delivery:

The first time I ever saw my (then future) step-dad, he was passed out on the floor of my living room, and a dog was licking his face. The only thing he did during that time to particularly distinguish himself was get into a knife fight with my dad. But that could happen to anyone. After my parents split up, my mom started seeing Edmund, and for a while I thought he was pretty cool. He had a juvenile sense of humour and a talent for roughhousing.

...

I remember when he got arrested for assault when I was in college. He got out of his car during a traffic altercation and bashed the roof of the other guy's car in with a cinder block. I was just praying with all my heart he would be in the county pen eating cold grits on Christmas morning, but I guess the guy didn't want to press charges.

She says in another post that she was accused of pushing the Southern Gothic thing a little too hard in a high school writing class (and I was like, “I toned it down!”). Lady, don’t let anyone tell you how to write.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Friday Baltimore Blogging

[Update] Images for this week have been removed. Check this week’s postings for new images.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Ah…Welcome Back To Liesville Ari…

World ‘O Crap has a pretty good summary of the Guckart/Gannon story so far. It’s something somebody’s needed to do on this story now for a while, since it’s got a number of threads in it. And of course, the Bush gang is lying about it too, and you can always see how clearly they’re lying about something when you lay out the timeline of events (weapons of mass destruction anyone?).

And speaking of liars…Ari Fleischer is now part of the story. Why is this not surprising? John Aravosis is on it:

"I found out that he worked for a GOP site, and I didn't think it was my place to call on him because he worked for something that was related to the party," Fleischer said in a phone interview. "He had the editor call me and made the case that they were not related to the Republican Party. He said they used the GOP name for marketing purposes only."

He said he resumed calling on Guckert, who used the alias Jeff Gannon, after Bobby Eberle, owner of both GOPUSA and Talon News, "assured me that they were not part of the Republican Party." Eberle is a Texas Republican activist and served as a delegate to the 2000 Republican National Convention.

Yep, Ari went straight to the source and cleared the whole thing up.

I can’t imagine why John is skeptical of what Ari says there.

Well…yes I can actually. You can’t always expect the unvarnished truth from a white house press secretary, but Ari Fleischer’s brazen, in-your-face lies were spectacular even by white house press secretary standards. And it started the minute he stepped up to the podium. His first act as Bush press secretary was to feed a phony story that Clinton staffers had vandalized the executive branch offices before leaving. It was a story that Fleischer skillfully, masterfully, first coyly dangled in front of white house reporters, then fed day by day with small details alleging that the damage was even greater then previously thought, all the while insisting, Nixon style, that Bush wouldn’t make a big issue out of it, because Bush was, in his words “not going to come to Washington for the point of blaming somebody in this town. And it’s a different way of governing, it’s a different way of leading.”

For days Fleischer dropped hints at the vast scale of the Clinton staffer’s acts of vandalism, all the while denying he was making it an issue. Computers had been damaged, carpets torn, wires were cut, items were missing. The press had a feeding frenzy with it, all the while Fleischer kept coyly insisting that president Bush was not going to point any fingers or assign blame, because he was about changing the tone of government in Washington. By the time the GAO had reported back to outraged republicans in congress that there had, in fact, been no damage at all, plenty of damage had been done to a lot of hard working, decent Clinton staffers, whose only crime had been that of being democrats. It must have been sweet. Fleischer would later deny he had made any of the false claims he’d made about the vandalism.

One of these days, some time in the future, you can almost count on it, someone’s going to ask Fleischer something about his days in the white house, and he’s going to deny that he was ever Bush’s press secretary.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Thursday February 17, 2005

Perhaps One Of Those Nice Creationist Publishers Can Help You Out…

From our Department Of Unforseen Consequences…yes, we can outlaw honest, truthful discussions about homosexuality in the classroom…however, that means we might have to drop a few courses from the curriculum

SPANISH FORK, Utah (AP) Nebo School District officials want to replace their 7-year-old textbooks for psychology classes in high schools, but they haven't found any that don't discuss homosexuality.

State law does not allow the advocacy of homosexuality to be taught, and the Nebo district wants no discussion of it at all.

"I don't think Nebo's position is that unusual, but it's becoming more difficult to do both things: teach the subject and have up-to-date things," said Priscilla Leek, the psychology teacher from Springville High School who brought the matter to the attention of district officials.

...

District curriculum officials also realized the text for the AP psychology class the book essentially required for a student to pass the AP test and earn college credit not only addresses homosexuality, but takes an in-depth look at it.

...

For the regular psychology classes, the solution is not as simple. The district is now looking at as many options as possible to keep the psychology classes updated while steering clear of the unwanted content, said Nedra Call, the district's director of curriculum.

"We're still looking on that; we have people that are looking," Call said. "The teachers are thinking they may be able to find something, use parts of books, or maybe we don't need to adopt a text to meet the curriculum."

Some board members suggested staying with the old textbooks, but were told the books are falling apart.

Well you can solve that problem by just not teaching them to read…right? Then they won’t need textbooks, and even if they manage to get their hands on one, won’t learn anything from it anyway. I’ll bet a few folks in Utah are giving that idea some serious thought right now too.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

It Isn’t Harassment If You Deserve It

Judge Pamela Dembe in Philadelphia, has given gay haters all over America the green light to start riots at gay pride festivals everywhere:

(Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) A Philadelphia judge Thursday dismissed charges against four evangelicals who disrupted Outfest last fall.

The four members of Repent America were charged with ethnic intimidation, criminal conspiracy and inciting to riot. If convicted they could have been sentenced up to 47 years in jail.

The four, and 6 others who were not charged, marched to the front of a stage at Outfest and began to yell Biblical passages to drown out the events on stage.

Police attempted to get the protestors to move to an area on the edge of the site. Instead they went deeper into the gay crowd. Using a bullhorn they condemned homosexuality. They then got into an argument with a group of Pink Angels, who screamed back.

It was at that point police intervened.

The entire incident occurred as filmmakers were working on a documentary and was recorded on video tape.

Thursday, after reviewing the tape Common Pleas Judge Pamela Dembe said the charges were unjustified.

"We are one of the very few countries that protect unpopular speech," Dembe said.

Then why didn’t she? The unpopular speech that day was the Outfest, which was supposed to be a celebration of gay and lesbian lives. If you think that’s popular speech in America, you must have been on another planet during the last election. The Repent America rioters represented the popular feelings of a lot of Americans, particularly red state America: that homosexuals are little more then human garbage. See it here:

This isn’t religious proselytizing, it’s harassment, and in the context of Outfest, inciting a riot, or none of those words have any meaning. And it was the attempt that day of Repent America, to shut down the Outfest, to silence the gay community of Philadelphia, that Dembe felt she had to protect. She doesn’t give a good goddamn about unpopular speech. From the moment these legal proceedings began, she’s made it abundantly clear she feels her responsibility is to defend the right of the many to prey on the few, and to uphold the right of hate to have its way with the hated. The first amendment in her court, does not apply to homosexuals. The gay people at Outfest that day, had no right to speech. She said as much, when she give Repent America a green light to take over the festival at their pleasure, and provoke any violence they could.

If a group of gay people picketed a religious right gathering wearing t-shirts that said, among other things, that Christians masturbate with crucifixes, they’d be arrested on the spot, if they weren’t killed on the spot, and charged with the same crimes as the Repent America brownshirts were. The only difference is that They would be convicted. But it’s just speech when gay haters scream obscenities with bullhorns in the face of Pride goers, and shove signs in their faces telling them that they deserve to die of AIDS, that they have sex with gerbils, that god wants them dead. They have the right to spit in our faces. We have the right to take it.

This is so clearly, so obviously, about provoking an incident that justifies violence toward homosexuals, that there is no other possible explanation other then that this judge wants that outcome. Certainly certain members of the Pennsylvania statehouse want that outcome:

Following the arrests, a bill was been introduced in the Pennsylvania legislature to remove several classifications including gays, lesbians, and the transgendered from the stateís hate crimes law.

It’s not hate if you deserve it. Harassment is after all, a form of speech. And clearly, sickeningly, this judge believes that homosexuals deserve it. There is no way she could have looked at the evidence here, and ruled for the brownshirts unless she believes that freedom of speech does not apply to gay and lesbian Americans. Instead of actually protecting unpopular speech, which is what Outfest was in every way that the actions of Repent America were not, she gave gay haters all over America the green light, to go to their local Pride festivals, and try their level best to shut them down.

It could all so easily escalate. But that’s clearly the plan here. All it takes is one shove back, one angry gesture that could possibly, even remotely, be interpreted as a swing, and then the clubs, and the guns, come out, and gay people die. Without a doubt, that’s what Repent America is trying to make happen. And when it happens, it’ll be the gay community that’ll get the blame. Dembe has given Repent America the green light to do whatever they have to do to provoke an incident they can then use to justify a violent response, secure in the knowledge that whatever disturbance they cause, regardless of their actions, her court will not hold them responsible. That’s exactly how the brownshirts of the 1930s worked their magic, in the days before the ovens lit.

We can be peaceful, and resolved not to be provoked, and they will keep assaulting us until they either find an individual who can be provoked, or convince every gay hating thug in Philadelphia that they can have all the fun they want with homosexuals and we won’t fight back no matter what they do to us, thereby guaranteeing that more gay bashings will happen, and more gay people will die. And dead homosexuals don’t go to Pride fests, don’t speak out for their rights, don’t need freedom of speech.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

A Perfect Team

The same guy at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue who elevated a lawyer who wrote a paper saying the President could order the use of torture, pretty much whenever he felt like it, to the position of Attorney General, has now appointed the man who enabled death squads in Central America in the 1980s, to be the nation’s first National Intelligence Director:

As ambassador to Honduras, Negroponte played a key role in coordinating US covert aid to the Contra death squads in Nicaragua and shoring up a CIA-backed death squad in Honduras. During his term as ambassador there, diplomats alleged that the embassy's annual human rights reports made Honduras sound more like Norway than Argentina. In a 1995 series, the Baltimore Sun detailed the activities of a secret CIA-trained Honduran army unit, Battalion 3-16, that used "shock and suffocation devices in interrogations. Prisoners often were kept naked and, when no longer useful, killed and buried in unmarked graves." In 1994, Honduras's National Commission for the Protection of Human Rights reported that it was officially admitted that 179 civilians were still missing.

So the Death Squad Ambassador joins the Torture Attorney General on the new Bush second term Team. Swell. We can all sleep better at night now.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Dancing To Oblivion With George

Maureen Dowd today in the Times (registration, and so on…)

I'm still mystified by this story. I was rejected for a White House press pass at the start of the Bush administration, but someone with an alias, a tax evasion problem and Internet pictures where he posed like the "Barberini Faun" is credentialed to cover a White House that won a second term by mining homophobia and preaching family values?

At first when I tried to complain about not getting my pass renewed, even though I'd been covering presidents and first ladies since 1986, no one called me back. Finally, when Mr. McClellan replaced Ari Fleischer, he said he'd renew the pass - after a new Secret Service background check that would last several months.

In an era when security concerns are paramount, what kind of Secret Service background check did James Guckert get so he could saunter into the West Wing every day under an assumed name while he was doing full-frontal advertising for stud services for $1,200 a weekend? He used a driver's license that said James Guckert to get into the White House, then, once inside, switched to his alter ego, asking questions as Jeff Gannon.

Mr. McClellan shrugged this off to Editor & Publisher magazine, oddly noting, "People use aliases all the time in life, from journalists to actors."

I know the F.B.I. computers don't work, but this is ridiculous. After getting gobsmacked by the louche sagas of Mr. Guckert and Bernard Kerik, the White House vetters should consider adding someone with some blogging experience.

Does the Bush team love everything military so much that even a military-stud Web site is a recommendation?

Or maybe Gannon/Guckert's willingness to shill free for the White House, even on gay issues, was endearing. One of his stories mocked John Kerry's "pro-homosexual platform" with the headline "Kerry Could Become First Gay President."

With the Bushies, if you're their friend, anything goes. If you're their critic, nothing goes. They're waging a jihad against journalists - buying them off so they'll promote administration programs, trying to put them in jail for doing their jobs and replacing them with ringers.

Just so. And there’s something here you should consider. There must have been thousands, literally thousands, of bright, eager, clean cut fresh from the seminary religious right recruits they could have chosen from, who would have all thrown themselves at commander codpiece’s feet for a chance to be his sock puppet. But they didn’t go there. They went with Gannon/Guckert. Or maybe Gannon/Guckert’s willingness to shill free for the White even on gay issues, was endearing. A prostitute, not only in name, but in the very essence of soul. He would sell himself, and perhaps a few of his military buddies along the way, and then go to work for people who hate homosexuals with a passion, willingly kicking his fellow gay and lesbian Americans in the teeth for his masters. To the Bush Gang, he was the perfect American. When republicans talk about patriotism, this is what they mean. Someone who will become nothing, who will turn their soul into a blank slate, that the party can scribble its will upon.

Look at this. Its the republican vision for America.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday February 16, 2005

No…They Really Don’t Have The Votes For It

After running the most anti-gay presidential campaign in history, Bush and the republicans have decided that a federal amendment banning same sex marriage wasn’t so important after all

WASHINGTON - Republicans have abandoned banning gay marriage this year, the Senate's leader said yesterday.

A constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman grew less urgent because 13 states banned gay nuptials in November elections, said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.).

When asked if the legislation will be introduced, Frist replied, "Maybe not this year, but in all likelihood in this Congress."

"It may be this year," he added a moment later, sounding unsure during a "Fox News Sunday" interview.

But a Senate Democratic source told the Daily News the amendment isn't likely to be proposed next year either, since it's an election year.

Enacting the ban was a key issue in President Bush's reelection campaign platform. But Bush admitted in a recent interview that he doesn't have enough votes in the Senate.

Bullshit it won’t be introduced again in an election year. How else are the republicans going to turn out the bigot vote that they can’t win elections without?

You hear it said over and over, that Bush is only playing to the religious right on this issue,that he’s not a bigot at heart, that while Bush may talk the gay hating talk, he isn’t walking the gay hating walk. You hear this from Log Cabiners whistling past the graveyard. You hear it from the I was a liberal/democrat crowd, who keep voting for gay bashers all the while insisting that they really aren’t bigots themselves, they aren’t actually voting for an anti-gay pogrom in the United States, they just don’t like where the democrats stand on…whatever… They’ll reliably point to this as evidence that the republicans aren’t really in the pocket of the religious right. Oh really?

Washington -- A federal agency's efforts to remove the words "gay," "lesbian, " "bisexual" and "transgender" from the program of a federally funded conference on suicide prevention have inspired scores of experts in mental health to flood the agency with angry e-mails.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services that is funding the conference on Feb. 28 in Portland, Ore. On the program, at least until recently, is a talk titled "Suicide Prevention Among Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender Individuals."

Everyone seems to agree the topic is important. Studies have found that the suicide risk among people in these groups is two to three times higher than the average risk.

So it came as a surprise to Ron Bloodworth -- a former coordinator of youth suicide prevention for Oregon and one of three specialists leading the session -- when word came down from SAMHSA project manager Brenda Bruun that the contractor running the program should omit the four words that described precisely what the session was about.

Bloodworth was told it would be acceptable to use the term "sexual orientation." But that did not make sense to him. "Everyone has a sexual orientation," he said in an interview Tuesday. "But this was about gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders."

The title rewrite was one of several requested changes. Another was to add a session on faith-based suicide prevention, said Mark Weber, a spokesman for SAMHSA, who said he believed the brouhaha was all a misunderstanding.

SAMHSA prefers the term "sexual orientation" simply because it is more "inclusive " he said. And besides, he added, it was only a suggestion.

Asked how strong a suggestion, Weber replied: "Well, they do need to consider their funding source."

Neat. A Bush Gang science hating, gay hating twofer. The part about sexual orientation being more the inclusive term is delicious. Right wingers have orgasms when they can manage to use the language of tolerance as a way of destroying tolerance.

Frist would have written up the Federal Marriage Amendment for a vote first thing in the morning of the new congress, if he’d thought he could get it to pass. The only reason they’re not is because president junior doesn’t like loosing, so he only plays when he can win. They really know they don’t have the votes for it. This isn’t something they’re just trying to sweep under the carpet until the next election. They really want to make gay and lesbian Americans official state pariahs. But for now they know all the amendment is good for is winning the bigot vote. They’ll use it for that in the election, never doubt it.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday February 15, 2005

Mulling It Over

The lack of activity here is party due to schoolwork, and partly because I’ve been riveted lately (as I reckon many of you were) by the unfolding Jeff Gannon story. I’ll post something on it myself soon. I’m not pulling a John Aravosis here, I don’t have any amazing revelations to share. I just want to pull a few threads together here. There’s a confluence of events in this that’s really nagging me to make sense of it. Andrew Sullivan goes on hiatus, and then this creep who is, at base, everything ugly an rotten that Sullivan made of himself in his need to attack liberalism appears on the scene. Homophobe Alan Keyes, champion of the gay demonizing political base that was instrumental in bringing the Bush gang to power, disowns his openly gay daughter Maya, while a gay who, according to the evidence Aravosis pulled together, worked as a male escort and built M4M gay military escort sites, suddenly gets preferential treatment to get a white house press pass and into a presidential press conference, after writing anti-gay news articles for a Texas right wing billionaire’s faux news organization. The Bush gang greases the wheels to get this guy into the white house on a fake ID, at the same time they’re stoking anti-gay hate for political gain.

I’m still a bit stunned by all this, and still thinking it over. In the meantime…valentines day came an went.

And I’m still single. The day would have been a good one for going into a deep funk, except I am still a bit overwhelmed with work and school work together, so I didn’t have time. But I ran across these articles about how valentines day is celebrated in Iraq and Saudi Arabia…

Saudis Mark Valentine's Day Despite Laws

By Donna Abu-Nasr
The Associated Press
February 13, 2005

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- In gift and flower shops across Saudi Arabia, the flush of red has started to fade.

Each year shortly before Feb. 14, the country's religious police mobilize, heading out to hunt for -- and confiscate -- red roses, red teddy bears and any signs of a heart. In a country where Valentine's Day is banned, ordinary Saudis find they must skirt the law to spoil their sweetheart.

The Valentine's Day holiday celebrating love and lovers is banned in Saudi Arabia, where religious authorities call it a Christian celebration true Muslims should shun.

The kingdom's attitude toward Valentine's Day is in line with the strict school of Islam followed here for a century. All Christian and even most Muslim feasts are banned in the kingdom, the birthplace of Islam, because they are considered unorthodox creations that Islam does not sanction.

Beyond the ban, it is a challenge for unmarried couples to be together on Valentine's Day or any other day because of strict segregation of the sexes. Dating consists of long phone conversations and the rare tryst. Men and women cannot go for a drive together, have a meal or talk on the street unless they are close relatives. Infractions are punished by detentions.

Valentine's items descend underground, to the black market, where their price triples and quadruples. Salesmen and waiters avoid wearing red. Though taboo, Valentine's Day still gets a fair amount of attention in Saudi society.

"Female voices demand the release of the red rose," read a headline in Sunday's Asharq al-Awsat. Women complained to the paper no one had the right to ban flower sales.

Sheik Abdullah al-Dakhil, head of the religious police, known as the muttawa, in Thumama, a town outside Riyadh, told Al-Eqtisadiah newspaper that "despite awareness campaigns and the confiscation of flowers, chocolate and other items, there were 15 infractions" for Valentine's Day indiscretions last year.

In religious lectures at schools, teachers and administrators warn students against marking the occasion, noting Saint Valentine was a Christian priest, according to an educational supervisor speaking on condition of anonymity.

Saint Valentine is believed to have been a 3rd-century martyred Roman priest or bishop. Why the holiday became a celebration of lovers is unclear, but some theories say it stemmed from his Feb. 14 feast date falling close to a pagan love festival or that it was because mid-February was seen in Europe as the time of year when birds start mating.

The supervisor said that on Valentine's Day last year, girls lining up for daily morning prayer were inspected head to toe by teachers looking for violations of rules that ban wearing or carrying any red item on the day.

Ribbons, boots, jackets, bags and pen holders with a hint, stripe or pattern in red, burgundy and hot pink were thrown into a heap, and the school called the girls' mothers to pick up the offensive items, the supervisor said.

Valentine's Day Comes Under Fire in Iraq

By Omar Sinan
The Associated Press
February 14, 2005

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- For Adel Mousa, Valentine's Day is complicating an already delicate situation with his fiancee: He postponed their wedding planned for this month and has been looking for a safe way to make it up to her.

Mousa, a 28-year-old engineer, says he already has days he avoids his fiancee simply because water shortages leave him looking -- and smelling -- less than desirable.

So, setting aside his worries as best he can, Mousa's made dinner reservations Monday, Valentine's Day at a fancy restaurant. He'll rush Rana home before dark.

"It's unsafe for couples to stroll Baghdad streets -- car bombs and explosions are everywhere," Mousa said. "I don't want her to be hurt or kidnapped by gangsters."

Valentine's Day has never been a widely marked holiday in Iraq. Some Iraqis eye it suspiciously as a retail gimmick to get people to spend money they don't have; others say it's inappropriate -- a violation of conservative Islamic values -- or that it simply is not possible to find an appropriate place to steal a romantic moment.

These days, isolated corners largely out of sight are too dangerous -- crowded cafes are far safer, if less romantic. And in a time when Islamic extremists are fighting alongside loyalists of former dictator Saddam Hussein, public displays of affection are risky.

At City Center, a western Baghdad restaurant popular among high school and university students, a husky bouncer kicks out couples who cross red lines of propriety.

"No kisses, no touching and no hiding in the restaurants' corners," said Omar Mufeed, who tips the scales at more than 300 pounds.

"All the couples hate me. I am even known in all the universities," said Mufeed, 35. "But I would tell those who fear me, I am only doing my job."

Zaid Falih, a 24-year-old student, said he will buy a bouquet of flowers for his sweetheart -- against his better judgment. Valentine's Day, he said, is just an excuse to squander money. "It will be the cheapest thing I can buy," Falih said of his bouquet.

Martin Rowel, who sat inside a Baghdad ice cream shop with his girlfriend Wafaa, downplayed the importance of such a holiday.

"I don't need an official date to celebrate love," said Rowel, 25.

But sometimes, he acknowledged, he's needed a little help.

Rowel, a Christian who derided Islamic extremists as the scourge of Iraqi society, said he and fellow students at the nearby Technology University would gather at times in the same ice cream shop, pretending to be a group of casual friends.

But each privately would pay attention only to one special date, he said, giving Wafaa's hands a warm squeeze.

I wonder if Rowel would understand how it is that gay folk regard Christian fundamentalists in exactly the same way. Some days you really know that it isn’t sin the fundamentalists hate, it’s love.

You hear the I was a liberal/democrat once crowd use the term islamofascists quite a lot. Here’s why that’s a meaningless word. Take the islamic fundamentalist assault on valentines day, and apply it to the American religious right’s assault on same sex love, 365 days a year, and tell me what the difference is. There are no “islamofascists”, there are only fascists, and the I was a liberal/democrat once crowd has given American fascism the keys to America. If you don’t think they’re as bad as Islamic fascists, then you’re not paying attention. And that’s why those of us who still believe in Liberty and Justice for All, think you I was a liberal/democrat once guys are a bunch of drooling morons, not much better in your own way, then the guys like Sullivan and Gannon, who gave themselves to a bunch of right wing thugs who hate their guts, and who will cheerfully toss them in the ovens once they get the absolute power they crave. There’s a lot of selling out going on in America these days, and that’s exactly the kind of thing that makes fascism happen, that turns something as simple and sweet as giving a rose to the one you love, into a crime.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sunday February 13, 2005

Busy…Busy…Busy…

If you’ve noticed the lack of posts this weekend there’s a reason. I’m busy getting both a programming project and class homework done so I can turn them in by the end of the day. These little programming projects I’m finding, all have at least one little gotcha in them that takes me hours to resolve.

But I think I’m back on track for cartoons. There will be one for Monday as usual. And stay tuned…I’m working on a little “slice of life” cartoon project, which I hope to have done and posted up here before the end of the month. It’ll be something different from the editorial cartoons, and in a slightly different style…all line art, no charcoal shading. And multi panel. It’s working out to about five pages, comic book style, about a small event from my life as a gay teenager, back in the early 1970s, still very much bewildered by sex and my own sexuality. One of those, gosh, isn’t hindsight twenty-twenty kinda things. I have a whole story arc worked out about my experiences growing up back then, and if this first take works out, I may make it a regular feature.

But…back to my homework now…

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Friday February 11, 2005

Friday Baltimore Blogging

[Update] Images for this week have been removed. Check this week’s postings for new images.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Thursday February 10, 2005

Hubblewatch…(continued)

I need to say this up front: I don’t speak for the Space Telescope Science Institute. I only work for them.

It’s been noted that I haven’t posted much on the new Bush budget, and the decision not to include money for a Hubble servicing mission, robotic or otherwise. That’s partly because at the moment I don’t think anyone knows how seriously to take this budget. For example, there are cuts to farm subsidies, which nobody in their right mind actually thinks will happen. That’s cutting into the pocketbooks of their red state base.

But also, it’s party because I’ve never expected anything but a slow, steady, utterly determined course on the part of the Bush gang, to kill off Hubble. Yes, they’ve dallied with a possible robotic servicing mission…I won’t go into the reasons why I’ve always been deeply skeptical of that. The Lanzerotti committee findings that the robotic mission had less chance of success then a manned servicing mission, instead of giving a boost to a manned mission, simply gave O’Keefe and his boss the excuse they needed to trashcan the robotic concept. Now they can say for the cameras that they tried, they really tried, to save Hubble. But make no mistake, Hubble was slated for the block, the moment Bush took office.

Here’s the latest example of why:

U.S. scientists say they are told to alter findings

More than 200 Fish and Wildlife researchers cite cases where conclusions were reversed to weaken protections and favor business, a survey finds.

...

More than half of the biologists and other researchers who responded to the survey said they knew of cases in which commercial interests, including timber, grazing, development and energy companies, had applied political pressure to reverse scientific conclusions deemed harmful to their business.

...

"The pressure to alter scientific reports for political reasons has become pervasive at Fish and Wildlife offices around the country," said Lexi Shultz of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

...

One scientist working in the Pacific region, which includes California, wrote: "I have been through the reversal of two listing decisions due to political pressure. Science was ignored ó and worse, manipulated, to build a bogus rationale for reversal of these listing decisions."

More than 20% of survey responders reported they had been "directed to inappropriately exclude or alter technical information."

...

Sally Stefferud, a biologist who retired in 2002 after 20 years with the agency, said Wednesday she was not surprised by the survey results, saying she had been ordered to change a finding on a biological opinion.

"Political pressures influence the outcome of almost all the cases," she said. "As a scientist, I would probably say you really can't trust the science coming out of the agency."

...

One biologist based in California, who responded to the survey, said in an interview with The Times that the Fish and Wildlife Service was not interested in adding any species to the endangered species list.

"For biologists who do endangered species analysis, my experience is that the majority of them are ordered to reverse their conclusions [if they favor listing]. There are other biologists who will do it if you won't," said the biologist, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

There has never been an administration more hostile toward science then this one. What science it cannot buy or alter, it simply discards, and then defunds. They’re putting junk science about condoms on the CDC website now, because the Bush gang doesn’t want any actual science contradicting their religious right abstinence only programs. They’re altering environmental studies because the Bush gang doesn’t want any science that questions what their corporate crony’s are doing to the environment. You might think that Hubble, with it’s focus simply on the stars above, would be immune to all this, and you would be dead wrong. It’s about more then maximizing corporate profits. It’s about more then appeasing the religious right. I said the following just before O’Keefe first announced there would be no servicing mission, back in January of 2004. If anything, the election we had since then underscores it:

Lies are what brought them to power. Lies are what hope will keep them in power. Lies, and whatever fear of their power they can manage to instill in others. Theirs is the morality of thugs and criminals. The practice of science represents everything they loath and fear and resent about the human status, that they themselves have long since renounced. It empowers, because knowledge is power, whereas in their zero sum view of life and existence, any power gained by others, is less for themselves. Science proceeds from the evidence, not the dictates of authority. Science is a noble endeavor, encouraging and rewarding the best within us, curiosity, thoughtfulness, a desire to learn, a courage to follow knowledge wherever it leads, a habit of truth. More then the contradictions to their cherished dogmas, it is the vision of the nobility which is possible to the human race, reminding the thugs and cheats of the world of what they sold out, of the empty void they've made of their inner selves, that they hate about the practice of science. It's not just that they want the facts bent to suit their policies, it's that they want practice of science to be finally regarded as the heresy they have always regarded it as being: the heresy that says there is more to life, and to what it is to be human, then the gutter they live in.

And when you’re busy dragging America into the gutter, you probably don’t want people looking up at the stars.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday February 9, 2005

And Just Who The Hell Was It That Made People’s Private Lives A Battlefield Howie?

So I see media whore Howard Kurtz is bellyaching that “liberal bloggers” went too far in rattling the skeletons in Gannon/Guckert’s closet.

It's fine to disagree with his politics, but did they go too far, I think a lot of people are asking, in dragging in some of this personal stuff?

Gosh, you’re right Howie. People’s private lives shouldn’t be used as fodder for scoring cheap political points, should they Howie? That’s just pure wrong, isn’t it Howie?

Then again, if it’s your wife’s pals that are doing it, it’s probably okay. Isn’t that right Howie?

More from David E

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday February 7, 2005

Feh.

No posts today…maybe not tomorrow either. Bad day at work…bad results from my first class assignments… Feh. I’m feeling right now like I want to just go sulk in my room for a few days. Alas, grownups don’t get to do that.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sunday February 6, 2005

Busy…much too busy for my own good…

I had a great time finishing up my stage props for the Goddard community theater project the other day, but now I’m hard pressed for time to get my classwork for the week turned in. So they’ll be no cartoon for the week, and no more posts until probably sometime late Monday.

Viz, Sullywatch… Yes…I’ve noticed a tree fell… Did anyone notice when his conscience resigned? I’m just curious because I have a running bet with myself as to whether or not he ever had one to begin with. I heard he’d gone on hiatus a couple of days after, and other then Gosh, you know I still feel a tad dirty for actually having read his books once upon a time… I really don’t know what to say, other then “Where do I send the Good Riddance Card”? But he’ll be back. If I’ve learned anything about his kind in my fifty odd years of life, it’s that he’ll be back. Likely a tad uglier of soul, a touch cheaper, a wee bit smarmier then he was when he went away.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Friday Photo Blogging

So after I tell you that I work almost exclusively in black and white, and how much I love my old manual film cameras, my first Friday photo blogging turns out to be mostly color shots taken with a digital. These were all taken with my Minolta DiMAGE 7Hi, Last February in Rodondo Beach, California. I was out there for a software developer’s conference, and between sessions strolled around the area with the camera.

The Minolta is nice for a digital camera, but the main reason I took it along to the conference was that I was travelling by air. Weight considerations precluded taking any of my F1s, which friends of mine have dubbed The Brass Monsters. And going through airport security with exposed film would have been too risky. Though I love my old, manual film cameras, the Minolta still has its useful place in my tool kit.

ISA was set to 400 for these. I handle exposure on the Minolta by using spot mode mostly. I’m finding that digital is often so prickly in the high contrast backlit situations I gravitate to, that I sometimes have to sacrifice more detail in the highlights and shadows then I’d like. There may be settings in the camera that allow me to better compensate, but I haven’t stumbled over them yet. I usually work with the zoom at its widest angle, which is where all these shots were taken.

Fair warning: If you’re looking at these in the archive, and it’s more then a week past the date I posted this, then you’re probably seeing different photos. Check here for an explanation why.

Power Plant, Redondo Beach, CA.
Power Plant, At Dawn

Enjoy Pacific Lobster
Enjoy Pacific Lobster

The Sea Spray
The Sea Spray

The Best
The Best

Seven
Seven

All images copyright © 2005 by Bruce Garrett
All Rights Reserved.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Thursday February 3, 2005

Pissing On The Grave Of Edward R. Murrow…(continued)

I hate these hacks, these brain dead numbskulls, these drooling morons who call themselves journalists. I’m watching some lady yap, yap, yapping into the camera for CBS, a “corespondent” somewhere in Iraq. She finishes giving her spiel about recent casualties and then adds that there was at least some good news today too, as some U.S. military commander in some other Iraqi town issued a statement saying they had “shut down insurgent activity there”.

Now…think about that for a second. Why the flying fuck is it good news that someone has issued a statement saying they’d shut down insurgent activity? Oh yeah…it would be good news if they actually have, but this so called journalist doesn’t know for a fact that they have. All she knows is that they issued a statement. Why is that good news for bleeding Christ’s sake? They’ve been issuing statements about their wonderful progress over there ever since Junior gave the command to go, and things have just been getting worse and worse.

And whose job would it be to find out what the hell is actually going on over there…?

I’ve asked this before. Here…let me ask it again: what is the more morally reprehensible…a nation with no freedom of the press, or a nation with a free press that sells out?

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Photoblogging To Commence Tomorrow

I was looking over what I already had scanned in to start a Friday Baltimore Blogging segment, and got sidetracked by so many things I’d done elsewhere, that I’ve decided to just to a general photoblogging thing every Friday now. I’ve got some of my Baltimore stuff scanned, but it’s only a fraction of what I’ve got and I don’t have time right now to scan anything in before Friday. I’ve got reading assignments to deal with, class work to turn in, and most of the day Saturday at least, I’ll be helping out with the Goddard community theater project again (yay!). And it just makes more sense to post from my whole library, then only the Baltimore stuff. I have a good many things in my film archives, a thirty-plus year body of work so far, that I’m very proud of, but which I’ve never shown to anyone else.

I don’t have a lot of space to put photos up…so this is what I’m going to do: I’ll have graphic image files named something like “friday_photo_blogging_1.jpg” that I’ll update weekly with new images. That’ll mean that previous entries in the blog archive will always show the current image unfortunately. But until I get infinite space somewhere for storing photos, that’s how it will have to be.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

The Closet Is A Lie, Which Is Why Right Wingers Approve Of It

Signorile brings up an excelling point in his New York Press column this week: is it any wonder that the lives of right wingers who keep telling gays to go back into the closet, who keep telling us that the moral thing for us to do is hide, conceal, cover up our lives, enter into sham marriages, fake it for the sake of heterosexual sensibilities, is it any wonder their own lives are so damn full of lies and deceit? Take Maggie Gallagher, the right wing pundit who, along with Armstrong Williams, was outed recently as having been paid by the Bush gang to propagandize the Bush agenda. As Signorile writes:

In fact, Gallagher's crime is far more egregious than Williams', despite the latter having made $240,000 for his efforts, while Gallagher only made off with a little over $40,000 ($21,000 for writing the government's marriage initiative brochures, and a subsequent payment of $20,000). What few media reports noted last week was that Gallagher, in addition to writing the Bush administration brochures and pumping up its policies in her columns, testified before a Senate subcommittee in support of the federal marriage amendment that the White House eventually backed and pushed throughout the presidential campaign. But Gallagher was not identified before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary and Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Property Rights as the individual who wrote the White House's policy on marriage, but rather as the president of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, an independent think tank. She was thus a paid witness on behalf of the Bush administration, testifying before the Senate.

Moreover, Gallagher's stature as an "expert" before the committee was enhanced by her stint as an anonymous writer of Bush's policy a year earlieróa spectacular example of sleazy self-promotion. On his blog Soundbitten.com, Greg Beato explains how Gallagher actually promoted her own book by ghostwriting for the government.

"In return for the $21,500, Gallagher's primary task was to draft a 3000-word essay for one Wade Horn, assistant secretary for children and families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services," he explains. "Ultimately, the essay was published by Crisis magazine; in it, Gallagher, writing as Horn, exclaims: 'Adults, too, benefit from healthy and stable marriages. They tend to live longer, healthier lives and are more affluent. Married mothers suffer from considerably lower rates of depression than their single counterparts. Like a good education, a good marriage is a real asset. Married men earn between 10 and 40 percent more than similar single men, and married couples accumulate substantially more wealth. By the time they're ready to retire, married couples have, on average, assets worth two and a half times as much as their single counterparts. (The figure for married couples is $410,000, compared with $167,000 for those who never married and $154,000 for divorced individuals, according to Linda J. Waite and Maggie Gallagher in their book, The Case for Marriage.)'"

Dig it. Gallagher goes on the take, and in effect gets taxpayer money to promote her own book in the process. Not bad. This is how values work in the kook pews.

But there’s more. Gallagher, as it turns out, was an unwed mother herself for about ten years. As Digby puts it:

Maggie waited until she was 21 before she got knocked up by her kid's father whom she didn't bother to marry. By her own standards she was too selfish to marry for the next ten years. But she always finds others to castigate for their immorality and selfishness, rarely copping to what she would call a decadent lifestyle if another woman lived it. Her story remains vague and unknown to most people who read her material. Her close friends, the right wing think tankers and pundits in Manhattan and DC don't see anything amiss, however. (Falafels and strip poker anyone?)

Go read Digby for the links to the rest of that story. Seriously…how often have we all been here before. Right wing moralizer fulminates about the decline of civilization…right wing moralizer turns out to have belly flopped a time or two themselves into the sin pool. They expect homosexuals to lie about their lives, because lying about their own lives comes so easily to themselves.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Danziger!

Not The Boomer I Thought I Was

All these years, and I thought I was trailing edge boom. Come to find, via Digby, that I’m actually leading edge boom:

My ex-boyfriend is trailing edge. Boy…is he getting fucked over by Bush. But then, we all are.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Another Mission Accomplished Moment

Okay…it’s been a few days since the so-called elections in Iraq, and now the questions that should have been asked then, are starting to trickle out shamefacedly now. This from Editor and Publisher, via Digby:

I'll be delighted if the turnout figure, when it is officially announced, exceeds the dubious numbers already enshrined by much of the media. But don't be surprised if it falls a bit short. The point is: Nobody knows, and reporters and pundits should stop acting like they do know when they say, flatly, that 8 million Iraqis voted and that this represents a turnout rate of about 60%.

Carl Bialik, who writes the Numbers Guy column for Wall Street Journal Online, calls this "a great question ... how the journalists can know these numbers -- when so many of them aren't able to venture out all over that country." Speaking to E&P on Wednesday, Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post -- one of the few mainstream journalists to raise questions about the turnout percentage -- referred to the "fuzzy math" at the heart of it.

[...]

"Election officials concede they did not have a reliable baseline on which to calculate turnout," Kurtz concluded.

He also quoted Democratic strategist Robert Weiner as saying: "It's an amazing media error, a huge blunder. I'm sure the Bush administration is thrilled by this spin."

Reporters can’t travel in much of Iraq without a military escort. They seldom venture outside of the protected zones in Baghdad. Yet they all knew that eight million Iraqis voted. Uhm…how?

And the sickening answer is: they didn’t know. They just passively accepted and passed on what the Bush gang told them, because that was the script, because to do otherwise would cast aspersions on a war, they themselves were instrumental in getting America into. They looked the other way while Bush lied about weapons of mass destruction…you think they’re going to check out anything he says about Iraq now? Fat chance.

And when the offical figures are announced…hey…guess who’ll be announcing them? The same people who announced that Saddam was on the verge of deploying nuclear bombs, that’s who.

And Digby notes something we all need to look at, really look at, regarding American attitudes toward the people of Iraq:

As I watched the news shows last Sunday, I was struck by the lockstep maudlin sentimentality of the coverage --- a sure sign that it is complete bullshit. Apparently, the word went forth that the tone was to be "proud parents" --- America herself had just birthed the Iraq democracy in the back of a humvee. The purple thumbs evoked a collective "awwww" as if the Iraqi voters were sheet swaddled newborn babes or a big ole pile 'o kittens.

One of the most disturbing (and embarrassing) aspects of this entire enterprise is the air of cultural superiority emanating from Americans as we enlighten the primitives, dahling...

This, is what makes it so easy for people to shrug when they hear stories about innocent Iraqis being tortured, women and children being shot and killed by our soldiers. We’re playing with dolls dressed up in exotic middle eastern garb. And never mind that the civilizations those dolls are descended from predates America by thousands of years.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tales Of The Smirk…(continued)

You can’t believe a word they say. Nope, nope, and nope. You can’t believe a word they say. Via Atrios, Bush unveils his “fix” for Social Security and…no… it’s not what he says it is. And that’s leaving aside the obvious fact that Bush and the republicans don’t want to fix Social Security, they want to kill it, like they’ve always wanted to kill it, since FDR and the democrats established it. Bush says that

"You'll be able to pass along the money that accumulates in your personal account, if you wish, to your children . . . or grandchildren...and best of all, the money in the account is yours, and the government can never take it away."

Well…no…

The plan is more complicated. Under the proposal, workers could invest as much as 4 percent of their wages subject to Social Security taxation in a limited assortment of stock, bond and mixed-investment funds. But the government would keep and administer that money. Upon retirement, workers would then be given any money that exceeded inflation-adjusted gains over 3 percent.

That money would augment a guaranteed Social Security benefit that would be reduced by a still-undetermined amount from the currently promised benefit.

In effect, the accounts would work more like a loan from the government, to be paid back upon retirement at an inflation-adjusted 3 percent interest rate -- the interest the money would have earned if it had been invested in Treasury bonds, said Peter R. Orszag, a Social Security analyst at the Brookings Institution and a former Clinton White House economist.

"I believe you should be able to set aside part of that money in your own retirement account so you can build a nest egg for your own future," Bush said in his speech.

Orszag retorted: "It's not a nest egg. It's a loan."

Under the system, the gains may be minimal. The Social Security Administration, in projecting benefits under a partially privatized system, assumes a 4.6 percent rate of return above inflation. The Congressional Budget Office, Capitol Hill's official scorekeeper, assumes 3.3 percent gains.

If a worker sets aside $1,000 a year for 40 years, and earns 4 percent annually on investments, the account would grow to $99,800 in today's dollars, but the government would keep $78,700 -- or about 80 percent of the account. The remainder, $21,100, would be the worker's.

“The Government”, being these days, the republicans. Another way to look at this, is that you’re loaning a portion of your Social Security money to the republicans and their Wall Street friends, under terms that don’t even guarantee you an interest return at all. In fact, they get to keep any interest return to the rate of inflation or three percent.

Of course, they’ll still have to pay back the principle. Uh…won’t they?

[Edited a tad…]

[UPDATE…] Now the Bush gang are saying that, oh no…the entire amount of the private account will go to the worker when they retire. What they’re not saying is that everything but a portion of the interest will be deducted from your regular Social Security benefits. They’re playing a shell game in other words, giving you the money in the privatized plan, but taking it from your regular Social Security benefits, and claiming that means you get the whole amount. But you still don’t. You don’t even get all the interest it accrued.

Brad DeLong has more, here.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday February 2, 2005

Ka-flumph…flumph

Took the Hasselblad out for a test run today, strolling around the Hopkins campus during lunch, looking for a good shot to start a Friday Baltimore Blogging run with. I discovered two things about Hasselblads. First, using one is as smooth as I thought it would be. It’s bigger then my Canon F1s, but not by so much that it’s clumsy to do stroll about street photography with. The 45 degree prism finder is bright and easy to focus with, and adds next to nothing to the camera’s bulk. I still need to work with a separate light meter, which makes firing off a shot a bit more time consuming, but I think with a little practice I can deal with that.

The other thing I’ve learned already is that this is not a stealth camera. That’s fine…in its day the Canon F1 wasn’t either. For a while in the early 70s, it attracted some attention and I got used to keeping it slung around me in such a way as to keep it innocuous, until I started using it. I’m not sure I can manage that with the Hasselblad. And its shutter mechanism, while not loud, is a noticeable, Ka-flumph…flumph. I think it’s mostly the sound of the mirror flopping up, and the rear film curtains flopping open and then closed again. You can barely hear the sound of the lens shutter going off over it. I’m not going to get away with sneaking off any shots with this camera, unless I’m someplace where the ambient noise level is already loud. It calls attention to itself. I’ll have to be careful about where I take it, because of that.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Rabid Eeyores And Babbling Numbskulls

Via Eric Alterman, some righteous venting at a more then deserving target:

How to be a McCarthyite, part II. Let us welcome Jeff Jarvis into the club together with Rush, O'Reilly, Coulter and Little Roy. He writes, "The worst of them -- the rabid Eeyores, the Coles and Altermans -- exhibited utter disdain to the point of hate toward anyone there who dared to say positive things about their freedom and America." I don't know what an "Eyeore" is in this context, and I don't really care, but I'll venture a guess that it has something to do with someone who thinks maybe the Bush administration was not telling the entire truth about its desire to invade Iraq. Here.

That's how it works, folks. The Bush administration/big media Master Narrative on the elections has been defined as follows:

* Democracy, good.
* Democracy = election. Elections, good.
* Democracy = elections = invasion of Iraq. Invasion of Iraq, good.

* Questioning, bad.
* Bad = disloyal = "hate America, hate freedom."

Question any part of the Master Narrative, regardless of its relationship to reality and you are branded a traitor. The Jarvises of the world could not be doing the job better if they were placed on the Rove payroll. (Hmmm, I wonder....)

(We note for the record that Jeff Jarvis, with a background in EntertainmentWeeklyTVGuidePeople, enjoys no specialized knowledge with regard to Iraq and Iran and is therefore easy prey for the Bush administration's propaganda ploys. Juan Cole, on the other hand, has spent his adult life studying the region, knows its history and cultures, speaks and reads its languages and literature. Because Cole's understanding leaves him suspicious of the administration's specious claims, the belligerently ignorant Jarvis tars him as someone who hates "freedom and America." We recalled that Joe McCarthy purged the State Department of Asian experts because he and his cohorts did not like what they were saying about China. This helped pave the path for the tragedy of Vietnam. The tragedy of our misadventure in Iraq was paved with an ignorance no less belligerent...and dangerous. And this time, we don't even need a McCarthy. We've got Coulters, Sullivans and Jarvises to do their dirty work for them.)

Let it be said along with this, that in addition to purging the intelligence community of everyone who refused to tell president whining rich boy jackass what he wanted to hear about Iraq, namely that there were no weapons of mass destruction, that Saddam didn’t have a nuclear program, and after years of sanctions, and no fly zones, was no threat to his neighbors, let alone the United States, the Bush gang have been busy tossing out of the military, more gay arabic linguists then previously acknowledged, apparently on the grounds that telling Junior what he wants to hear is more important to homeland security then correctly assessing a potential threat, and fighting the religious right’s war on homosexuality more important then fighting the war on terror. Clap your hands for freedom and America Jarvis…

This Jarvis "blood libel/Get on the bus or else" bluster reminds me of the day the Marines tore down the statue in Baghdad. I had just questioned Paul Wolfowitz's contention that "we will be welcomed as liberators" in The Nation. What happened on that day? Little Roy demanded that I take it back on his blog. David Brooks announced that my entire world view had collapsed. Bill O'Reilly showed my picture on Fox - the last time my face has been up there...as some kind of Wall of Shame type thing. And the Weekly Standard included me in their collections of idiotic statements, or whatever it is they call them. What else happened? Well, I was right. More than 1300 dead Americans and 11,000 injured Americans and who knows how many tens, if not hundreds of thousands of Iraqis would tell you that, if they were still alive to do so. We were "welcomed" as not as liberators but as occupiers. A bunch of marines pulling down a statue didn't change that; proclaiming "mission accomplished" didn't change that; pretending your found WMDs won't change that; and elections, unfortunately, won't change it. Thousands more will die for Bush's ignorance and arrogance. And the Jarvises, Sullivans, O'Reillys, etc. will do their damnedest to make sure that the rest of us stick to their stupid script. Well, not this time, bub.

Rabid Eeyores… Gotta love it. There are dweebs, there are pathetic geeky pimple-faced pocket protector dweebs, and then there are the Iraq chickenhawks. Rabid Eeyores, Venomous Care Bears, and Fanatical Elmos, oh my. Toto, I think we’re still in Kansas.

On his web site, Jarvis adds, “Reasonable people can agree. Reasonable people should agree that the exercise of freedom and democracy in Iraq is good for the Iraqi people.” Gosh, you’re right Jeff. And reasonable people hope that someday the Iraqis will get that chance. But reasonable people, which is to say, those of us in the Reality Based Community, understand that as long as they are an occupied people, as long as it’s the Bush gang picking their leaders and writing their laws, they’ll never get that chance. Alterman is right: we’re seeing all these heart warming images of democracy in Iraq from the same goddamned sources we once saw what we now know were completely staged acts of tearing down statues and welcoming American troops. Democracy! Whiskey! Sexy! Oh…and Bullshit! How many more images like…oh…I dunno…this…

…do drooling morons like you need to see before even your kind gets sick of listening to your own stream of conscience-free babbling about how good this splendid little war is for the Iraqis, and the cause of democracy, let alone the security of America. Democracy! Whiskey! Sexy!…

"There is only one traffic law in Ramadi these days: when Americans approach, Iraqis scatter. Horns blaring, brakes screaming, the midday traffic skids to the side of the road as a line of Humvee jeeps ferrying American marines rolls the wrong way up the main street. Every vehicle, that is, except one beat-up old taxi. Its elderly driver, flapping his outstretched hands, seems, amazingly, to be trying to turn the convoy back. Gun turrets swivel and lock on to him, as a hefty marine sargeant leaps into the road, levels an assault rifle at his turbanned head, and screams: 'Back this bitch up, motherfucker!'

"The old man should have read the bilingual notices that American soldiers tack to their rear bumpers in Iraq: 'Keep 50m or deadly force will be applied.' In Ramadi, the capital of central Anbar province, where 17 suicide-bombs struck American forces during the month-long Muslim fast of Ramadan in the autumn, the marines are jumpy. Sometimes, they say, they fire on vehicles encroaching with 30 metres, sometimes they fire at 20 metres: 'If anyone gets too close to us we fucking waste them,' says a bullish lieutenant. 'It's kind of a shame, because it means we've killed a lot of innocent people.'"

Democracy! Whiskey! Sexy!

"I decided to swim ... but I changed my mind after seeing U.S. helicopters firing on and killing people who tried to cross the river." He watched horrified as a family of five was shot dead as they tried to cross. Then, he "helped bury a man by the river bank, with my own hands."

Democracy! Whiskey! Sexy!

It started when a young boy hurled a sandal at a US jeep - it ended with two Iraqis dead and 16 seriously injured.

I watched in horror as American troops opened fire on a crowd of 1,000 unarmed people here yesterday.

Many, including children, were cut down by a 20-second burst of automatic gunfire during a demonstration against the killing of 13 protesters at the Al-Kaahd school on Monday.

Democracy! Whiskey! Sexy!

It appears the killings started as the troops were searching the building and as motorists approached the barbed wire which the soldiers had placed without warning across the road. Witnesses said the first car contained at least two men. "The second contained two children about 10, their mother and their father who had been wounded in the Iran-Iraq war - he was a cripple," a local shopkeeper told me. "They all died. The man's legs were cut in half by the bullets," he added. A third car then approached the Americans, who opened fire again. One of the occupants fled, but the other two remained in the vehicle and were killed.

I know…I know…better to throw pathetic insults at those of us who have been right time and time again about this war, then look at yourselves in the mirror of the recent past. And when it all comes crashing down in Iraq, that’ll all be our fault too, won’t it Jarvis, because we didn’t care enough about America, to keep our mouths shut while your kind were busy wiping your collective asses on everything fine and noble America once stood for. Reasonable people don’t think you teach the values of liberty and justice and democracy by rounding up people at random and torturing them to see if they know anything, kidnaping children and threatening them with rape if their parents don’t cooperate, killing scores of innocent people like they were so many expendable targets in a video game instead of real flesh and blood fathers and mothers and sons and daughters, and then wrapping yourself in the mantle of the Great Liberator and claiming you did it all for them. Reasonable people think you have to live by the values you preach. But let’s face it Jarvis, you probably can’t remember the last time you and reason, let alone your conscience, were on speaking terms.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday February 1, 2005

Hasselblad!

[Camera Geek Alert]

I’ve been casting around for something to compete with all the Friday Cat Blogging going on here and there, and thanks to Tom Tomorrow, I think I’ve found it. He recently linked to a New York blogger whose photoblogging he said, almost makes him miss Brooklyn.

Well…that should have made one Brooklyn photographer very happy, and it got me to thinking I could do a Friday Baltimore Blogging thing. It’s not as if Baltimore is lacking for interesting subjects, and I sure don’t need an excuse to take pictures of it, just motivation to post some of it. And I have a new camera, which I need to take out and run a few test rolls through.

I got the first camera of my dreams back when I was a teenager in high school, a Canon F1 that I’d spent the summer working in a fast food joint to buy. I got the second one just last weekend, a Hasselblad; a camera that I’d practically given up on owning, because even used they are so damn expensive. But last weekend a dealer made me an offer on used, but cherry condition 501c, with 45 degree finder and a lens hood, that I could not refuse. I’ve had it now for a few days, my eyes and fingers getting to know it, something deep inside of me thrilled at the prospects ahead, like I haven’t been since I got my first F1. I’ve been wanting to do more medium format photography recently, and nothing in that format beats the lenses on a Hasselblad.

I’ve been a shutterbug since I was a little kid. As soon as I was old enough to understand how they worked, I would attempt to monopolize the family camera every time it came out of the closet. I got more successful at it, the more pictures I was allowed to take. Even my sour grandmother, who almost never gave me complements on anything I ever did, liked the pictures I took. In fifth or sixth grade, Mom bought me a Brownie Fiesta, and I took it with me when my class went on a field trip to the C&O Canal. I still remember the complements I got on those pictures, from family and teachers alike, and more, the tinge of adult surprise in the complements. Oh…these are Good pictures…. I think I started realizing then, that I had an eye for it. But praise, while very much welcome, wasn’t why I wanted my own camera.

I’ve always had this hunger, this need to make visual imagery, that all my life has been almost impossible to put into words. That’s largely, I am certain now, because it comes out from a non-verbal place inside me to start with. Imagery is the only language I have to say the particular things that come from that part of me. Over time I’ve tried to put this or that set of words, this or that set of verbal explanations, to the images and I’ve never, to my own satisfaction, managed to explain what I am doing. But I know exactly what I’m doing. When I sling a gadget bag over my shoulder and go out for a stroll, I know exactly what I’m looking for, whether I’m walking through Monument Valley, or Philadelphia. I can see the same themes developing over time in my photographic imagery, surely and certainly as if I’d set out with a well defined plan of how to go about doing it, instead of a need to express and explore something I just can’t describe. Once upon a time I thought I might try to make a living as a working photographer. I worked as a freelance newspaper photographer for a short time, and made money on the side doing weddings. But after a few years of it, I realized that I didn’t have the temperament for earning a living at it, and now I just do what I do, not precisely for the love of it, but simply because I have to.

I got my first 35mm camera in 10th grade, my first SLR, a Petri, in 11th. By then I’d converted the one bathroom in our apartment into a part-time darkroom. I probably stank up the apartment with my chemicals, but Mom supported and encouraged me in it like she did all my creative endeavors. Also by then I’d become recognizable in school as the kid who always carried a camera with him everywhere. The summer before my senior year, I worked at a fast food joint to get enough money to buy the first camera of my dreams, a new Canon F1. Its five-hundred, seventy dollar plus pricetag was dear in a time when fast food wages ran around a buck seventy-five an hour, but the moment my fingers first touched one in a camera store I knew I had to have one. There are good reasons to be careful of materialism in one’s life, but some things are precious to us not for their status value, but for the power they give to our imaginations. Tools that free our imaginations, that fit their forms to our hands, and our minds, perfectly, are rightly regarded as magical. The moment I first picked up a Canon F1, something inside me said This will take you there…

I do lightfooted, mostly environmental photography verite. I work almost exclusively in black and white, and I gravitated early on to the 35mm SLR camera, for its totablility, speed, and what you see is what you get composing. What’s kept me from investing in a Leica all these years, despite their wonderful lenses, is that I just cannot get used to composing a shot in a rangefinder’s viewfinder. There is always a slight parallax, even in landscape photography where there are important foreground elements. And you have no sense of depth of field. An SLR uses the taking lens as the viewing lens too, and so you see things exactly as the film will see them. So I can compose with what I’m seeing, without juggling things in the back of my head like parallax and depth of field while I’m doing it. Metering through the taking lens adds to the seamlessness of the act of composing a shot. I typically stroll around a place that seems interesting, and when I see a good shot, put the camera up to my eye and go with it. The camera has to work with me.

How important this was to me was driven home by two other cameras I bought in the past few years. With my first digital camera, I found that the electronic viewfinder was constantly getting between me and what I was taking a picture of. At the time that camera, a Minolta DiMAGE 7Hi, had more pixels in its viewfinder then other comparable digital cameras, and yet it was not nearly enough. Detail was simply lost in the pixilated image my eye saw. You could not use it to manually focus the camera at all. When I turned back to my SLR film cameras, I felt as if a gauze curtain was taken away from my eyes, and I could see what I was taking pictures of again. With the Mamiya C330 I bought recently, I discovered once again that parallax can kill a good shot. The C330’s parallax indicator just doesn’t cut it. It’s accurate as far as it goes, in showing you where your true frame is, but the relationships between the objects in the field of view are not quite what you think they are, what you see them as being, through the separate viewing lens.

I really regretted that, because I’ve been wanting to do more medium format photography recently, for its greater detail and precision. In just over thirty years of darkroom work, I think I can now squeeze about the last little bit of detail possible from 35mm tri-x. I reckon that if I applied that to a 6×6 negative I can achieve very eye pleasing results. But medium format cameras that work for the kind of photography I like to do are expensive, and the one I really wanted all these years was fantastically expensive.

A few years after high school, a friend and fellow photographer splurged recklessly on a Hasselblad, and the day he showed me the first pictures from it, my jaw practically dropped in amazement over the richness and detail the Zeiss lens on it was capable of. He let me examine the camera, and it was that same feeling as I once had with my first F1. This will take you there… They’re about as small as you can make a medium format SLR, almost as totable as a 35, and exceptionally well made. But christ almighty they’re expensive, even used. For nearly thirty years I just couldn’t get my head around that. So last year I bought the Mamiya, and last New Years I had it with me at Ocean City, right along with my very first F1, but making a point to use the Mamiya most. But was a struggle. There was the reversed image you get in a waste level viewfinder, and there was parallax on top of that. It needed a prism viewfinder. But I’d looked at Mamiya prism finders, and they made the camera unacceptibly awkward, and they were far too dark to even focus properly.

I knew what I needed to really get into medium format photography. But Hasselblads were just too damn expensive. Then the other weekend I saw a little black 501c at Service Camera, the store that moved dangerously close for my wallet to where I live. It was in nearly new condition, and breathtakingly affordable. Well…for a Hasselblad. I took a look at my budget, which was already suffering from my computer crash last December, and took a deep breath. I’m fifty-one. I’ve been wanting one of these since I was twenty. Time was I couldn’t possibly afford it. Now I’m just negotiating with my budget. What I really need to decide now isn’t whether to put if off for a while longer, but do I want to just forget about medium format photography altogether. Do I want to finally see what I can do with the format, or do I want to stick with 35mm, which I’m good at, for the rest of my life..? I know I’ll never be a large format photographer. I’m not the kind who likes dragging around a view camera and setting up for hours just to take one or two shots. I’m an explorer. Medium format is as big as I can get, and still do what I do. Maybe. Or maybe not after all. Now I have to decide if I want to really try or not.

Next morning I bought the camera. Between that, and the new computer hardware, and tuition for this semester, I’ll have to live lean for quite a while. The dealer said the camera sat mostly in a rich man’s closet. That could be the photo shop equivalent of the little old lady that every used car once belonged to. But this camera will not pine for someone who will use it like it was built to be used. By the time a great camera has taken its last picture, it should have lots of stories to tell. My first F1 sure does.

[Edited a tad…] I need a real film scanner that I can focus…

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday January 31, 2005

Tales From George Bush’s America…(continued)

It’s little stories like this, that really tell you all you need to know about the republicans:

...I was monitored for about half of the inaugural party I was covering for The Post. For the first couple of hours of the Independence Ball, I roamed the vast width and length of the Washington Convention Center hall dangerously unescorted.

I had arrived early to get a head start on mingling among the roughly 6,000 people eating and dancing to celebrate the president's reelection. Unaware of the new escort policy (it wasn't in place during the official parties following the 2001 inauguration), I blithely assumed that in the world's freest nation, I was free to walk around at will and ask the happy partygoers such national security-jeopardizing questions as, "Are you having a good time?"

Big mistake. After cruising by the media pen -- a sectioned-off area apparently designed for corralling journalists -- a sharp-eyed volunteer spotted my media badge. "You're not supposed to go out there without an escort," she said.

I replied that I had been doing just fine without one, and walked over to a quiet corner of the hall to phone in some anecdotes to The Post's Style desk.

As I was dictating from my notes, something flashed across my face and neatly snatched my cell phone from of my hand. I looked up to confront a middle-aged woman, her face afire with rage. "You ignored the rules, and I'm throwing you out!" she barked, snapping my phone shut. "You told that girl you didn't need an escort. That's a lie! You're out of here!"

With the First Amendment on the line, my natural wit did not fail me. "Huh?" I answered.

Recovering quickly, I explained that I had been unaware of the escort policy. She was unbending and ordered a couple of security guards to hustle me out. I appealed to them, saying that I was more than happy to follow whatever ground rules had been laid down. They shrugged, and deposited me back in the media pen.

There I was assigned a pair of attractive young women, who, for the next hour or so, took turns following close at my heels. I thought about trying to ditch them in the increasingly crowded hall, just for the sport of it, but realized it was pointless. They never interfered with my work. I found I was able to go wherever I wanted, and to talk to whomever I desired. The minders just hovered nearby, saying nothing. They were polite but disciplined, refusing even to disclose their full names or details about themselves.

...

Consider that the escorts weren't there to provide security; all of us had already been through two checkpoints and one metal detector. They weren't there to keep me away from, Heaven forbid, a Democrat or a protester; those folks were kept safely behind rings of fences and concrete barriers. Nor were the escorts there to admonish me for asking a rude question of the partying faithful, or to protect the paying customers from the prying media.

Their real purpose only occurred to me after I had gone home for the night, when I remembered a brief conversation with a woman I was interviewing. During the middle of our otherwise innocuous encounter, she suddenly noticed the presence of my minder. She stopped for a moment, glanced past me, then resumed talking.

No, the minders weren't there to monitor me. They were there to let the guests, my sources on inaugural night, know that any complaint, any unguarded statement, any off-the-reservation political observation, might be noted. But maybe someday they'll be monitoring something more important than an inaugural ball, and the source could be you.

[Emphasis mine…]

We know who you talked to. We know exactly what you said. Just remember…we’re watching you comrade. Always…always…watching you… These are the people who say they have brought democracy to Iraq.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Fatigued

I had an invite to help out on a community theater project this weekend. Once upon a time I used to build architectural models for a living, and being that I still draw and paint (though not nearly as much as I’d like to), I’m still good enough at creating an effect of, among other things, stone with paint, that I was asked to help build a faux stone fireplace for a stage prop. I had a great time helping out, but broke a simple basic safety rule…the one about not putting your finger in the path of the blade, and slashed my left had a good one with a razor knife, while cutting some styrofoam for the stones.

It bled pretty badly. I bandaged it up and kept working. There was almost no pain…razor cuts can be strange like that…but it would not stop bleeding. That is, as soon as I took off the bandages to clean and re-dress the wound, it bled like it had just been cut. Twelve hours later it was still doing it, and concerned that my bandages might come off while I slept, I ended up going to the ER. I reckoned I’d need stitches, but they glued it instead, and sent me home with a prescription for antibiotics, which they were insistant I take. I questioned it, because you hear the warnings that antibiotics are being over prescribed, but the ER folks were absolutely insistant that I must take all the antibiotics they prescribed for me. So…okay.

So I’m feeling very tired and worn out right now, like I’ve just gotten over some big illness. Which I haven’t, but antibiotics do that to me. And I didn’t get to do as much as I wanted on the theater project, partly because of the bad weather yesterday, but also partly because I had a hand that was still half numb from the trip to the ER (they numbed it down so they could go in and clean the wound), and I was feeling too poorly to drive in sleet and snow because of the antibiotics. Rats. It was fun while it lasted.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Friday January 28, 2005

We Have An Office In Siberia, For Queers And Queer Lovers Like You…

Remember that jolly guy president I’m A Uniter, Not A Divider appointed to head the Office of Special Counsel…the federal government office charged with protecting federal employees from discrimination? The guy who once worked for that right wing think tank, the Claremont Institute ? You know…the folks who say, among other things about homosexuals, that “what proponents of same-sex marriage do not seem to appreciate – or willfully ignore – is that for centuries the social normalization of homosexuality has been resisted because for good and sufficient reasons people have considered it to be a threat to the common good, morally objectionable, and a violation of ancient and honored injunctions“…? [my emphasis] The guy who…as one of his first acts as head of OSC, took all references to sexual orientation discrimination off of the OSC Web site and from OSC complaint forms? The guy who said he did that because he did not believe federal law protected gay federal employees from job discrimination? The guy who said he would put it all back after Congress pitched a fit and Bush issued a statement reiterating the Clinton policy of banning discrimination against gay federal employees…and still hasn’t…? That guy?

Right. That guy. Well…surprise, surprise…he’s purging OSC of gays and anyone who thinks they’re not human garbage:

Scott J. Bloch, the controversial head the U.S. government office charged with protecting federal employees from discrimination, has threatened to fire 12 high-level employees - two of whom are gay - unless they agree to be reassigned to positions in other cities.

Three government watchdog groups called Bloch's action another in a series of moves aimed at packing the Office of Special Counsel with religious, right wing cronies and threatening its longstanding mission of protecting federal employees from harassment or intimidation for exposing corruption or incompetence.

...

A source familiar with the OSC said the only two openly gay staffers at OSC are among the 12 employees chosen by Bloch for the involuntary reassignment. The source said a third person picked for the reassignment is an OSC attorney who adjudicated and reached a settlement favorable to a gay federal employee who filed a discrimination complaint against his supervisor in 2003.

...

Insiders believe one possible reason for opening the Detroit office, said Bruch, is that it is close to the Ann Arbor, Mich., based Ave Maria Law School, a conservative Catholic institution with ties to Bloch. A number of OSC attorneys hired by Bloch are recent Ave Maria graduates, Bruch said.

According to the three watchdog groups' letter to Collins and Lieberman, Bloch "has broken with past OSC practice" by hiring all of his new high-level officials, including the Ave Maria graduates, through a non-competitive process that circumvents the traditional civil service hiring process.

"Not a single one of Mr. Bloch's personal picks, so selected, is being forced to move" in his staff reorganization, the groups stated in their letter.

...

The three watchdog groups stated in their letter to Collins and Lieberman that Bloch has refused to allow other OSC employees to volunteer for the 12 newly assigned posts. The groups also point out that there are at least 11 current vacancies at OSC headquarters in Washington. Bloch has chosen not to move the vacant positions to the field office posts and to fill them with residents in the three cities, a move that would save OSC money to help pay moving expenses for the 12 employees he wants to transfer, officials with the groups said.

"In fact, the way that the 'reorganization' is being implemented leads to the inescapable conclusion that existing career staff are being purged..."

Why is none of this surprising?

You can’t have homosexual witch hunts and purges, if someone in government keeps insisting that homosexuals have rights, now can you?

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Pissing On The Grave Of Edward R. Murrow…(continued)

You should read this post on Steve Gilliard’s blog. Particularly if you watched Nightline’s “Town Hall Meeting” on Iraq. It was phony as all hell, in the way that most mainstream news is phony. Gilliard, at the end of his post quotes, this from Daily KOS, from someone who was there, and saw a lot of stuff you didn’t get to see on your TV:

Then, during the third commercial break Rabbi Waskau stood up and loudly said, "I was invited hear to speak, but then was told I could you would not allow anyone from the religious community to sit in the front row and that I would be allowed to make a comment later if I would take a seat in back. But now I have been told that I will not be allowed to speak at all."

(upon hearing that, I realized that nobody had spoken from a religious/faith based perspective, and wondered if that was indeed intentional).

He went on, "So I will ask my question now during the break so as not to cause embarrassment to you Mr. Koppel"

Ted Koppel said, "Thank you, go ahead"

The Rabbi spoke: "You do not want the religious community to speak because we DO see the BIG picture (referencing a marine who had spoken earlier saying that people who were for ending the occupation in Iraq di not see the big picture) "We know the story of the Pharaoh, who tried to hold back God's people, and that the Pharaoh's lust for power was so great that we pushed his army against the Hebrews again and again no matter how many time's he failed... he continued to deny the circumstances until the army of Egypt was beat down and depleted at the expense of his subjects." (I wish I could communicate the eloquence with which he spoke)... "President Bush is the Pharaoh, and he has stripped the American people of basic social services such as healthcare and education in order to arrogantly keep up his holy war. I will no longer stand for the U.S. government and the media denying the religious community our voice. The common people of the Untied States and of Iraq and elsewhere are suffering."

Then he said he was done, (there was definitely some applause during parts of his speech) and he was escorted out the church where the Nightline episode was being taped.

[Emphasis mine - BG]

...

As I was waiting to filter out with everybody else, I heard one of the Iraqi's, who was very upset, talking to a producer: "This is not what we expected, we were told we would get a chance to speak in the press release you sent us, and you did not give us the chance to say what we came to say."

The producer just kind of appeased him... nodded and stuff.

People are waiting for some big Tet Offensive moment to happen, where the news media finally starts admitting the whole shit can isn’t winnable, that people have been lied to from the beginning, that the rational for war was a crock of bullshit all along…and let’s face it…that isn’t going to happen this time. Baghdad Bob is laughing in our faces. The saving grace of it is, that when it all comes crashing down in flames in Iraq, at least they won’t be able to blame dissent here at home for it, because dissent wasn’t allowed a voice in the mainstream.

Well…yes…they will anyway… Of course they will anyway…

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Well If Jesus Didn’t Say It, He Should Have

From Atrios comes today’s lesson on why religious right biblical proof texting is a tad unsound, theologically. The Ridgecrest Daily Independent got this cheerful letter from a reader, who said:

...Why does The Daily Independent print the degenerate views of poisonous Liberals who hate freedom?

As Mr. Scott points out, the glorious Constitution is there to protect the rights of Christians to profess their faith. This country was founded by good Christians and the Constitution guarantees our right to express our religion.

It just is completely beyond me how we have allowed Liberals to deny us this guaranteed right.

Oh, they raise ridiculous arguments like other (false) religions would be "upset" if they were forced to pray alongside the righteous in schools or council meetings.

Surely those others would appreciate the opportunity to be saved. As God's chosen people, we Christians have the right to express our religion and praise tolerant, patient and merciful God, and I don't want to read any more letters from Liberals suggesting non-believers should be allowed to express their superstitions just because we Christians can express ours.

The Founding Fathers were God-fearing men and never intended the first Amendment to promote other superstitious beliefs.

Ridgecrest used to be filled with right-minded, polite and decent people.

I can't believe the vicious slander of some people who have the nerve to portray or suggest Jesus behaved as a Liberal.

Jesus makes his position very clear. The wisdom of an "eye for an eye" would never occur to a Liberal.

And…yes…Jesus did say “eye for an eye”. But…well…you really have to read the fucking whole thing…!

Ye have heard it said, an eye for an eye: a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, that ye resist not wrong. But whosoever give thee a blow on they right cheek, turn to him the other. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever will compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh, and from him that would borrow turn not away.

Ye have heard how it is said: thou shalt love thine neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies. Bless them that curse you. Do good to them that hate you. Pray for them which do you wrong and persecute you, that ye may be the children of your father that is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to arise on the evil, and on the good, and sendeth his rain on the just and the unjust...

The Book of Matthew, chapter five - Translation by William Tyndale

Not a liberal? I’d like to hear Ann Coulter, that ersatz defender of all that is western and Christian say those words without gagging like she was trying to pass a horse. I’ll bet if she actually said anything even remotely resembling the above she’d turn into a pillar of salt.

Christianity is a hard road to hoe, and reading those utterly decent, noble words above just makes you really realize how hard, in this day and age, it is to be an actual Christian, and perhaps also, an actual liberal. Too many years, of too many gay bashing right wingers, too many indifferent bystanders who have cheerfully voted away my basic human rights, have left me decidedly in Edgar W. Howe’s camp: “Instead of loving your enemies, treat your friends a little better.” But I know where Christ stood, because I’ve read him, not simply picked this and that out of his hide to make some excuses for myself. The man who once said it is harder for a rich man to enter god’s kingdom then for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, was no friend of today’s conservatives, or the religious right.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Control Of The Government, Hollywood And The News Media, Tons Of Money, Thousands Of Sex Partners, And Now They Tell Me I’m Supposed To Have Super Powers Too…

Somewhere out there is a guy who got my share of the fabulous gay lifestyle. And when I get my hands on him I’m going to throttle him.

From the kook pews, comes the aptly titled Rant with a column about The Rise Of The Homosexual Super Citizen. Justin Darr’s complaint is that Repent America wasn’t allowed to disrupt the Philadelphia Pride Day Festival, as they had attempted to in past years. You can read the Philly Pride account of the actions that led to their arrest here. Basically, they tried to take over the stage, and the Pride Fest organizers blocked them from doing that.

After protests were made to the police that the vendors had paid for their spaces and were prevented from conducting any activity by the presence of the demonstrators, the police asked the demonstrators to move north on 13th Street. The protestors stated that they wanted to move, but would only move south on 13th in the direction of the main stage. The police then gave the protestors a direct order to move, and, unlike the Pride volunteers who had obeyed the police directive given them, the demonstrators refused to move.

Repent America has been claiming ever since that their first amendment rights were abridged by the police. But since when did the first amendment give you the right to take over someone else’s stage?

Here’s a few pics of what Repent America, and Justin Darr, are pleased to call reading “Bible verses to America’s untouchable elite, homosexual activists”:

This is familiar ground to anyone who has been a part of the gay rights struggle. To the religious right, any law, any court, that treats gay Americans the same as straight, gives gays Special Rights. Equality in their reckoning means denying gay people the right to march in Saint Patrick Day parades, denying gay kids the right to be part of the Boy Scouts, but allowing gay haters to march in gay rights parades, and take over gay rights festivals. Without any apparent irony, Darr says:

The duplicity and elitism of the homosexual activists is undeniable. They see the law as something applying to others, but never themselves.

Right. Marriage instance. It apply to heterosexuals, but not to us. But there were laws that only applied to us. Sodomy laws, such as the one in Texas for instance, only applied to us. Colorado once had a state amendment that forbade laws that protected us, and only laws that protected us, from discrimination. It’s a safe bet that Darr would not only approve of all that, he would deny it is discrimination. In the rhetoric of the religious right, treating gay Americans equally, means discriminating against them. They have a right to bash us. We have the right to be bashed.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Natural Allies, Against Liberty And Justice

You hear the religious right bellyaching a lot about how Islam is the enemy of Christianity. It’s just a lot of posturing. I’ve said here before that the fight we’ve been facing ever since 9-11 has been not so much between radical islam and the west, but between fundamentalism and liberal democracy, and that we cannot fight that fight until we fully recognize that we have a fundamentalist threat here at home, as well as abroad, and that threat is the far greater danger, since it now has its hands firmly on the levers of power.

They are natural allies, the American religious right and the radial islamists. In this article, the London Guardian shows us that even instigating violence against American soldiers, is no barrier between them, that cannot be overcome:

In common with many Muslim states, Qatar rejects basic family rights legislation such as the international Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw), using "religious precepts" as an excuse.

Qatar is a small but rich Gulf emirate that looks both east and west, and its relations with the United States are simultaneously warm and frosty. It provided a temporary home for Centcom's military headquarters during the invasion of Iraq while, from a studio just a few miles away, al-Jazeera television - owned by the Qatari government - criticised the war and broadcast tapes from al-Qaida.

In preparation for its family conference, the government of Qatar appointed the World Family Policy Centre to arrange a series of preliminary meetings in Mexico City, Sweden, Geneva, Kuala Lumpur, Manila and Strasbourg "to collect the best scholarship on the current state of marriage and family life" and make recommendations.

The Doha conference website gave few clues about the organisation that had been assigned to this important task beyond saying it was based in Utah. In fact, the World Family Policy Centre is an offshoot of Brigham Young University - run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons).

A week after the Doha conference, the government of Qatar put forward a conservative resolution on the family to the UN General Assembly which was approved without a vote, much to the dismay of the European countries and several others.

"For the first time at the UN, we had the anti-family powers scrambling by surprising them," the Mormon magazine, Meridian, crowed.

"Anti-family" and "pro-family" are code words embracing a number of issues.

"Pro-family" (as the conservatives call themselves) usually means anti-abortion, anti-contraception, anti-gay and iffy about sex education. The "anti-family" side (as the conservatives delight in calling their opponents) usually take the opposite view on all of that and strongly support women's rights as well.

The Doha conference, and the resulting UN resolution, provided a striking example of growing cooperation between the Christian right (especially in the United States) and conservative Muslims - groups who, according to the clash-of-civilisations theory, ought to be sworn enemies.

It was the religious right who swept George Bush back into the White House for a second term and the Mormons played a bigger part than most.

Almost 90% of America's 4 million Mormons voted for Bush last November and Utah, where the Mormon church is based, gave him the biggest majority of any US state. Indeed, Bush was so sure of winning Utah that he didn't even bother to campaign there.

Among the Mormons' Muslim allies, Qaradawi believes that "resisting the invaders" of Iraq is a religious duty. He has been banned from the US since 1999 on the grounds that he advocates violence and more recently has been accused of supporting suicide bombers.

Last year, his visit to Britain aroused much controversy, mainly because of his statements about wife-beating and the death penalty for sodomy. Less controversially, in 2001 he visited the Vatican as a guest of the Pope.

I’m sure they had a friendly little chat. It’s well worth remembering that in the last great worldwide conflagration, rightist elements in both the Catholic church, and among American protestants, supported the Fascists wholeheartedly, even to the point of helping some escape judgement for their war crimes. Those fascist friendly strains are still very much alive and well. The liberal democracy hating islamists are their natural allies, in that struggle.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

The Gang That Stole America

I don’t like New York Times pundit Tom Friedman. He was a big cheerleader for Smirk’s Excellent Adventure, and doggedly remains on the Well, He May Have Been Lied Through His Teeth To Drag Us Into It, But It Was A Worthwhile Cause Anyway roll call. But that makes the following observations all the more interesting:

Let me put this as bluntly as I can: There is nothing that the Europeans want to hear from George Bush, there is nothing that they will listen to from George Bush that will change their minds about him or the Iraq war or U.S. foreign policy. Mr. Bush is more widely and deeply disliked in Europe than any U.S. president in history. Some people here must have a good thing to say about him, but I haven't met them yet.

Friedman has been travelling in Europe, and he says that the smirking jackass should put a muzzle on, and just listen to the Europeans. As if. But this part is worth paying attention to:

What would Mr. Bush hear? Some of it is classic Eurowhining, easily dismissible. But some of it is very heartfelt, even touching. I heard it while doing interviews at the Pony Club, a trendy bar/beauty parlor in East Berlin. And more and more I think it explains why many Europeans dislike Mr. Bush so intensely. It's this: Europeans love to make fun of naÔve American optimism, but deep down, they envy it and they want America to be that open, foreigner-embracing, carefree, goofily enthusiastic place that cynical old Europe can never be. Many young Europeans blame Mr. Bush for making America, since 9/11, into a strange new land that exports fear more than hope, and has become dark and brooding - a place whose greeting to visitors has gone from "Give me your tired, your poor" to "Give me your fingerprints." They look at Mr. Bush as someone who stole something precious from them.

Tim Kreutzfeldt, the bar owner, said to me: "Bush took away our America. I mean we love America. We are very sad about America. We believe in America and American values, but not in Bush. And it makes us angry that he distorted our image of the country which is so important to us. It is not what America stands for - and this makes us angry and it should make every American angry, because America lost so much in its reputation worldwide." The Bush team, he added, is giving everyone in the world the impression that "somebody is coming to kill you."

Stefan Elfenbein, a food critic nursing a beer at our table, added: "I know many people who don't want to travel to America anymore. ... People are afraid to be hassled at the border. ... We all discuss it, when somebody goes to America [we now ask:] 'Are you sure?' We had hope that Kerry would win and would make a statement, 'America is back to what it was four years ago.' We hoped that he would be the symbol, the figure who would say, '[America] is the country that welcomes everybody again.' [But] now we have to wait four more years, hopefully for somebody to give us back the country we knew and liked."

Let it be said that this is exactly why Bush is so intensely disliked here in America. Friedman ends his column with the claim that there are “legitimate counters to all these points”, but the very fact that he has to make a case for Bush to listen, is self evident proof that there aren’t. Bush is every bit the cheap thuggish self centered despot Europe sees him as. But it is a terrible mistake to personalize what has happened to America recently, as simply a reflection of the inner squalor of George Bush. Remember, he got votes.

The last remaining American believers in the Dream, along with the bewildered Europeans, are only now coming to terms with the reality that Bush won a majority of the vote last November. Are the Americans really that stupid, or have they really decided to turn away from everything they once stood for, from everything they once fought a war to liberate Europe for? And the sorry truth is that if they came here to see for themselves, and especially took a drive through the heartland with their car radios on…they’d know. We are more like the Germany we once fought, then the America we once were, and the only question now is how far into that Pit are we willing to bellyflop. You have to know the religious right and the Neo Con(federates) are willing to go all the way. Can they hold onto their bare majority long enough, to get us far enough down into the Pit that there is no going back? That is the question.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday January 26, 2005

A Scout Is…

I did this cartoon back in 2002, after the Milwaukee County Council of the Boy Scouts of America signed a United Way Pledge not to discriminate, after crossing out the words, ‘Sexual Orientation’. I thought the episode was telling, in how prejudice and hate eventually corrode the very moral values a person, or a people, once fiercely defended. It’s a simple and relentless truth, that you can be a moral person, or you can be a bigot, but you can’t be both.

And one it seems, the BSA is determined to prove:

The FBI is investigating the Boy Scouts of America amid allegations the organization is inflating its membership to gain funding.

Membership in the BSA has declined since a 2000 Supreme Court ruling that held that the Boys Scouts and its affiliates can prohibit gays. The high court said the constitution gave scouts the right to choose its members. The Scouts also prohibits atheists.

A number of cities banned the scouts from using public facilities, and charitable groups like some United Way chapters cut off the scouts.

But, in cities where agencies like the United Way continues to fund the BSA it is alleged that troops are being encouraged to list fake names as members to boost enrolment making the group eligible for more money.

Federal agents are probing local councils in at least three states - Alabama, Georgia, and Texas.

Deep in the heart of the bible belt. How…unsurprising…

In Birmingham, Alabama, boy Scout volunteer Tom Willis said he knew something was wrong when he saw that 20 youngsters on the list for a scouting program all had the same last name: Doe.

"It was just so blatant, Willis told the Associated Press. "They didn't even try to make up names," said Willis, a dentist from Decatur and a former Eagle Scout who serves on the board of the Greater Alabama Boy Scout Council, which runs scouting programs in northeastern Alabama.

The FBI refused to comment on its investigation. Greg Shields, a spokesman at the Boy Scouts' national office in Irving, Texas, said the organization has numerous policies meant to ensure the accuracy of its membership rolls, and is "dedicated to the accurate reporting of membership."

The Greater Alabama Council claimed 10,000 new Scouts that year, and tax forms show it had revenue of $6.5 million, including $100,709 in government grants. In a United Way funding application, the group said it served almost 120,000 youths and adults in 2003.

"I would say the numbers are probably inflated 30 to 40 percent in our council," Willis said.

There came a moment in their lives when they had to stand for what they always said they had stood for. There came a moment in their lives when they had to choose between the virtues and moral values they’d pledged themselves to, and everything those virtues, and those moral values, told them they could not be. It was the moment they saw that they were weak. It was the moment they found that they were never really worthy to bear the banner they once held high. It was the last moment of truth they would ever see. The rest all came slowly, not all at once, but inevitably…

by Bruce Garrett | Link

You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught…(continued)

The Bush gang are going after another cartoon character, this time one on PBS, for daring to treat lesbian Americans as something other then human garbage:

The nationís new education secretary denounced PBS on Tuesday for spending public money on a cartoon with lesbian characters, saying many parents would not want children exposed to such lifestyles.

The not-yet-aired episode of ìPostcards From Busterî shows the title character, an animated bunny named Buster, on a trip to Vermont ó a state known for recognizing same-sex civil unions. The episode features two lesbian couples, although the focus is on farm life and maple sugaring.

Such lifestyles… No. The problem is that the same sex couples were portrayed as people, not predatory child molesting monsters. Some parents object to that. But that cartoon show has also portrayed jews as people, and some parents would object to that too. THe question is, government in a decent society doesn’t encourage people to hate each other, but to respect and live peacefully alongside each other. But that’s just what the religious right is determined not to allow government to do. Their cheapshit hatreds must prevail over any and all efforts to cultivate civility and decency in American society.

With her letter, Spellings has made criticism of the publicly funded programís depiction of the gay lifestyle one of her first acts as secretary. She began on Monday, replacing Rod Paige as President Bushís education chief.

Spellings issued three requests to PBS.

She asked that her departmentís seal or any statement linking the department to the show be removed. She asked PBS to notify its member stations of the nature of show so they could review it before airing it. And she asked for the refund ìin the interest of avoiding embroiling the Ready-To-Learn program in a controversy that will only hurtî it.

In closing, she warned: ìYou can be assured that in the future the department will be more clear as to its expectations for any future programming that it funds.î

Again, to be clear, this isn’t about cartoon characters. Children must be taught that homosexuals don’t belong in society. That includes the children of parents who believe otherwise, and are offended by the prejudices and hate of the religious right. Censoring images of gay people in everyday life serves the purposes of hate, and even where censorship is ineffective, raising a stink about the presence of gay people in any small part of popular culture serves the purpose. Gay people are to the religious right, as jews were to the Nazis. Earlier in the week, the religious right announced that the price of its support of Bush’s social security plans was for him to push for an anti same sex marriage amendment to the U.S. constitution. Government must officially regard homosexuals as pariahs. Nothing less will satisfy them. And the republicans owe their power to them.

It is not even a week into the second Bush term, and already the anti-gay witch hunts have begun.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday January 25, 2005

The Party Of The Rich And Powerful

As if there was ever any real doubt…

Though there was no official poem for the occasion, impressionist Rich Little, emceeing the Constitution Ball at the Hilton Washington, did provide a bit of inaugural doggerel.

The gist of it was: "Let's get together, let bitterness pass, I'll hug your elephant, you kiss my ass!" And the crowd went crazy.

Little said he missed and adored the late President Ronald Reagan and "I wish he was here tonight, but as a matter of fact he is," and he proceeded to impersonate Reagan, saying, "You know, somebody asked me, 'Do you think the war on poverty is over?' I said, 'Yes, the poor lost.' " The crowd went wild.

Dashing and Dancing - The Washington Post

Dig it. They’re laughing at the poor in most expensive, lavish, glittering inaugural ball ever.

And it’s altogether fitting and proper that Rich Little should channel Ronald Reagan to mock the poor for them. Reagan, the man they all look to, their emancipator who delivered them from the political wilderness, held lavish inaugural balls of his own, distinct in tone from all previous republican presidents, in it’s celebration of excess. Columnist Mary McGrory wrote of it then, that the republicans were free, free at last, from the loathsome hypocrisies of Nixon’s respectable republican cloth coat. The republicans had figured out what southern democrats had known for generations; that heartland voters would reliably vote against their own interests, so long as their bar stool prejudices were held in esteem.

They’re going to bring desperate poverty back to wide swaths of America that haven’t known it for generations, including the heartland, that is voting its hatreds and its fears over the welfare of its own. I’ve driven across the heartland many times in the past few years, and I’ve seen the growing poverty in the most rural, isolated spaces. And the republicans are going to throw billion dollar parties while they do it.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday January 24, 2005

A Small Twinge Of Shame They’ll Never Admit To

From USA Today comes this little tidbit, about why the exit polls were so wrong on election day:

One reason the surveys were skewed, they say, was because Kerry's supporters were more willing to participate than Bush's.

Ya think? Yeah…I’ll bet a lot of them knew what they had just done to America, and didn’t want to admit it to anyone’s face.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

A Deadly Serious Undercurrent

David Neiwert over at Orcinus, does something I wish more commentators would do: take Dobson seriously.

If you go over to the We Are Family Foundation -- the immediate object of Dobson's wrath -- it's pretty hard to find anything that even remotely mentions homosexuality. Moreover, if you click on the link to the "Tolerance Pledge" that Dobson says is the source of his allegation, you'll see that the pledge is actually the product of Tolerance.org, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

In other words, Dobson appears to be attacking the SPLC by proxy. That should give people a little clearer picture of what we're really talking about here. Dobson isn't just condemning cartoon characters, he's attacking the basic concept of secular tolerance as a democratic cornerstone. That is, he's actively promoting the tolerance of intolerance. There's a simpler word for that: hate.

Just so. Go read the rest of David’s post. It gives this whole episode the serious consideration it deserves. This isn’t about children’s TV characters, and people who just point and laugh at hate mongers like Dobson are not getting it. This was another attack on basic democratic values, by the religious right. It is only incidentally about cartoon characters.

This is what was wrong with all the laughter some years ago, after Jerry Falwell complained that the Teletubbies character Tinky-Winky had a gay positive subtext. People laughed, but it was no laughing matter, any more then this attack by Dobson is. Falwell’s complaint wasn’t about a children’s TV character, but that kids might be taught not to hate people who are different. And that’s Dobson’s complaint now.

They don’t deserve ridicule. They deserve the contempt and loathing reserved for child molestors. In a world of violence and bloodshed and war, to take a kid’s heart, and wrap it in barbed wire, is a crime against humanity.

You've got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You've got to be taught
From year to year,
It's got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught before it's too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You've got to be carefully taught!

Oscar Hammerstein - South Pacific

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sunday January 23, 2005

You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught…

New cartoon’s up.

I had to re-share Mowgli’s data drive before I scanned in the artwork for the cartoon, only to marvel at how Windows XP service pack two has yet again changed the process of configuring a Windows share, just enough to make you spin your wheels for a few hours figuring it out. Why do they do this? I guess Microsoft thinks that the customers have nothing better to do with their lives then struggle with their software.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Krugman!

Read:

President Bush is like a financial adviser who tells you that at the rate you're going, you won't be able to afford retirement - but that you shouldn't do anything mundane like trying to save more. Instead, you should take out a huge loan, put the money in a mutual fund run by his friends (with management fees to be determined later) and place your faith in capital gains.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Still Tweaking

Tried installing DVD support last night before bed and gave up. I got an ASUS DRW-1604P drive, on the promise that it was multi-format, and so in theory could play back the DVDs I’d produced on my Mac. But getting it to work on XP took some fussing.

I’d bought a copy of WinDVD along with the player, but when I installed that software it would not initialize, complaining that I had my color depth set too high. Hey…this is what I have my display set at…deal with it… So I tried the Windows Media Player, which came up, but gave me problems too. Sometimes I would get sound, sometimes I would get the DVD info screen, but never a picture.

I uninstalled WinDVD, but Windows Media Player doesn’t come with its own DVD codex, which is odd. So deinstalled WinDVD rendered Windows Media Player completely useless for playing DVDS. Windows helpfully directed me to a Microsoft page where I could download a third party DVD codex. I decided to try the nVidia one, on the grounds that they’d made my video card. But that one performed no better then the WinDVD one. So I quit for the night, thinking that the Windows system would be useless for viewing DVDs, but hopefully not useless for creating data DVDs for archiving data (like my digital camera images).

This morning I started installing the Nero OEM suite that came with the ASUS drive, and noticed that there was an ASUS DVD player in the install menu. At first I thought I was hosed again, because the ASUS software demanded a CD key, which wasn’t there on the package I got, in order to install (which I think is ludicrous for software like this because, I mean, what the hell is the point of pirating software that won’t work on any other hardware but the hardware its made for? You have to buy the hardware, in order to use the software). It turned out to be a confusion of terminology. It wasn’t a CD key the installer wanted, but the serial number printed on the CD.

After I installed the ASUS DVD player I tried playing some DVDs again. Everything played fine, including the ones I’d made on the Mac. Go figure. I’ll try burning some data DVDs later.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Saturday January 22, 2005

About Right…

I was just going over my previous posts on my troubles with Mowgli. It started the morning of December 28. At the time I said it would take me weeks to recover. And now here it is January 23, and I’ve only now got a working Windows and Linux workstation again. And I’ll probably be tweaking the new Windows setup for weeks more…

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Now I Know Why That First Moses Wine Story Seemed So Lame…

I bought the paperback version of The Big Fix back in the mid 70s. It seemed like a good concept; the great American hard boiled detective novel, only the main character was a hippy Sam Spade:

If Sam Spade were reincarnated in L.A. today. what would he look like? He'd look like Moses Wine. A shaggy Scorpio with a nose for trouble, Moses Wine has been through the Free Speech Movement, Civil Rights, Peace, the Hell's Angels, LSD - even law school. Now he's a dropped-out, debt ridden, divorced, dope-smoking dick.

Or so the back cover said. What was between the covers was somewhat less then promised. Raymond Chandler, for all his cheap shit misogyny and homophobia, could at least write absorbing prose, with passages that stuck with you years after put the book down. Dashiell Hammett created classic stories of his genre. Wine’s creator, Roger L. Simon, took a nice idea and married it to utterly forgettable verbiage. The David Byrd cover illustration told a better story then Simon.

Via TBogg, I learn that Simon is now numbered among the I Didn’t Leave The Democrats, They Left Me sell-out gallery. I didn’t even recognize the name. It was only when I read his blog that I discovered he was the guy who took a good idea and made it stale before the 70s were even halfway over. He’s resurrected the character of Moses Wine in a new story, as if smothering a good idea with a pillow once wasn’t enough. And apparently he’s also working on an autobiography, explaining why he sold his soul to the gutter and why you should too. He had some difficulty selling it apparently…

When my agents were circulating the proposal for the book I'm writing - which is in part about my political migration - one rather famous editor at a big publishing house rejected it by saying "I don't understand why he changed."

Just read The Big Fix and it’ll all come clear. Tony Hendra was right…a walk through the ocean of most souls would scarcely get your feet wet. I remember the only reason I even finished The Big Fix was I was certain nobody could write a completely lame story on such an interesting premise. But…yeah…it’s do-able. If you’re shallow enough you can take any good idea and make it look old and tired.

But I can’t say Simon’s never given me a moment’s entertainment. Browsing through his blog, I had a real good laugh at this:

I listened to some of their Inauguration coverage this evening while stuck in traffic. For nearly ten minutes the only Bush supporters they interviewed sounded like they just stepped out of a Holy Roller tent and couldn't think of anything else to say about the occasion than "Thank you, Jesus!" It was almost comical. That's one helluva revival meeting. That real, live agnostics or even normal garden variety deists could have voted for Bush seemed outside the realm of possibility to the woman doing NPR's commentary.

You need to give those Holy Rollers a great big kiss on the ass Simon, because without them president codpiece would be sulking his way back to momma now. If Rove hadn’t whipped those Holy Rollers into a frenzy over same sex marriage in several key states, John Kerry would be president today. Republicans cannot win elections without them. If they’re acting like they owned the day, and the news media were acting like they owned the day, the reason for that is that they owned the day. Oh…and they own you too. They’ve made their paranoias, their fears, their cheapshit hatreds, yours. Well, it’s not like you could have had any passions of your own.

Savor your Chickenhawkishness Simon. It’s all that’s keeping your soul from completely imploding in its own vacuum. Dashiell Hammett took heat from McCarthy for his ideals. You’d have kissed McCarthy’s ass. And Hammett, though he initially opposed U.S. entry into World War II, changed his mind in 1941 after Pearl Harbor…and Enlisted Dig it. He was 47, his body wreaked by alcohol and tuberculosis, and the army, quite naturally, turned him down. Twice. The third time he applied they relented. Just how old are you Simon, and why haven’t you enlisted? I know…I know…you’re no Dashiell Hammett…

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Well I Knew I Wasn’t Doing Much Outside Today Anyway…

Snow, but not a hell of a lot of it here in Baltimore. I’d say we got around four inches, but I haven’t been out in it yet. It’s not killer accumulation, but enough to make driving, especially in a little Geo Prism, out of the question. I’m within walking distance of two big supermarkets, and a handful of drug stores and food joints, so if I ran out of anything important I could put my boots on and go get it. But I have a tradition of stocking up on supplies before winter sets in, and I have no need to go out in it. Besides, I have plenty to keep me occupied at home. If there was ever a kind of day made for computer rebuilding, a good snow day is one.

I’ve spent pretty much the entire day rebuilding Mowgli’s software base. It’s a task somewhere between boredom and frustration. Insert CD, install, reboot, repeat. That was the boredom part. The frustration part came when I tried to copy my data files over from my backup drives, and then update them from the copies on Bagheera. What I discovered is that Mac OS would not copy directories and files back into my USB backup drives with their date stamps intact. I had four directories I’d copied from Mowgli’s old data drive over to Bagheera, including the directory I keep this site’s html source in, one with all my cartoon files, and the one with all my email folders in it, so I could work with them while I rebuilt Mowgli. After I got Mowgli back up, I figured I’d just restore Mowgli’s new data drive from the old one, then copy the files from Bagheera back to a backup drive, and then walk the backup drive to Mowgli, plug it in, and use my directory sync utility to finish updating Mowgli. That’s when I discovered that all the files in the directories I’d just copied from Bagheera had today’s date on them.

I couldn’t sync without knowing which files were actually newer then what was on Mowgli’s old data drive, and no matter what I did, Mac OS/X insisted on datestamping everything it copied across the USB port with today’s date. I even tried manually copying the directories over in a terminal window, and that didn’t work. It was weird, because when it had copied the directories from the USB port, it copied them with their date stamps intact. I was able to solve the problem by opening up a share on Bagheera and syncing across my network. But now I have another reason to dislike Mac OS.

All I needed to get SuSE Linux running again was just pop its drive in the bay and boot. There were no kernel panics, the new hardware read the drive just fine. When SuSE came up, it detected all the new hardware automatically and asked me if I wanted to configure it. It was a simple process and I had a working Linux system again in just a few minutes, with everything just as it was before the big crash. That’s a trick I wouldn’t have dared hope to manage with Windows, particularly XP, which brands itself to a specific hardware configuration. That’s why I went to the trouble to just repartition the old XP drive, reformat and re-install Windows. I’ll probably have to do the same on the Windows 2000 drive, but that can wait. I know I’ll be tweaking the XP system for about another month until it’s all where I had it before the big crash.

It’s good to have my main workstation back in my home office, and out of my art room. After trying to use Mac OS as a business and software development platform for a couple of weeks, I am enormously relieved to have a box to run Windows and Linux on again. But besides that, having my main workstation in the art room was too distracting. The office is where I do Institute work, develop and debug software, read the online news, write letters, pay bills, and other miscellaneous household chores. The art room is for painting and drawing, and various other creative projects. I want to keep those spaces separate.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Friday January 21, 2005

Friday Computer Blogging

A few days ago I got the stuff for my project to rebuild Mowgli, my main computer workstation which suffered a major hardware failure a couple weeks ago. I’ve been spending some evenings refurbishing his case and slowly putting the pieces together. I got the AMD 64 and the SOYO CK8 Dragon motherboard, and a gig and a half of memory, only to find as I looked through the motherboard documentation, that I can only use two PC3200 memory sticks, not three, even though the motherboard has three memory sockets.

Here’s a shot of Mowgli right after my first power-up test…

The hard disks and the CD/DVD burner aren’t connected yet…just the floppy. All I wanted to do was make sure the basic motherboard components worked, before moving on. The case is a Lian Li aluminum tower, and I drilled out the old case fans and put new quiet fans in (the original ones were quiet too, but a couple of them had developed rattles over time…), and mounted them on vibration dampening gaskets. The new power supply is an Antec 480. You can see the Zalman CPU cooler…it’s that friggin big fan with the copper fins radiating around it in the top middle of the motherboard. It moves a lot of air yet it’s quiet. It’s also a heavy dang thing. It needed a backplate behind the motherboard to mount on, since there is no way the CPU socket itself could support its weight.

Yes, I’m doing this down in my art room, on my drafting table. You can sorta see my easel in the background on the left hand side of the picture.

When you build your own computer, you have to go into it with a mind set that, whatever happens, you will not panic. About half a dozen times already, I’ve either switched on the new Mowgli and nothing’s happened, or it has hung while booting. You build your now box one step at a time, going from simple to more complex configurations, and you resolve the problems one step at a time. The first time I switched on Mowgli during the rebuild, I got a strange set of POST (Power On Self Test) beeps and then nothing…no video, no floppy activity…nada. Turned out to be the memory stick in the third socket. The new motherboard just doesn’t want one there if the others are PC3200. I took it out, and then Mowgli booted right up. After installing the hard drives and the CD/DVD burner, Mowgli again refused to boot. That problem turned out to be a mis-setting of the primary/secondary (I really hate using the terminology Master/Slave) jumpers on the backs of the drives. My eyes are not what they used to be.

Once I got everything together I began installing Windows XP, on the XP disk pack that was previously unreadable on Mowgli. There were no problems reading and repartitioning and formatting the drive this time, which went to prove to my satisfaction that the original problem was indeed the old microprocessor. Probably something in its DMA circuitry went bad. After installing Windows XP, I discovered that the on-board LAN wasn’t working. I suppose installing the drivers that came with the new motherboard would have fixed it, but I wanted to re-use the old LAN card anyway, because I knew it was Linux compatible. So I put that in and after a few reboots got Windows to see it and configure it. It wouldn’t seat right in the first PCI slot I put it in, for some reason. Rather then figure out what the hang up was, I tried another slot, which worked fine.

I performed the odious task of allowing Windows XP to “brand” itself over the Internet. Understand, I am not a software pirate. I earn my my living as a software engineer, and unlike many other expenses in my life, what I spend on software (and hardware) I mostly reckon as spending on tools of my trade. But when you buy software that requires branding, you’ve bought nothing, as I found out painfully when the Institute bought me a copy of Borland’s J-Builder, which required branding. Borland had hosed up the licensing, had produced multiple copies of the product with the same license number. So when I went to “brand” my copy it insisted I’d already done so on another computer, and simply refused to run. I eventually straightened it out with a Borland tech rep, only to face the idiotic process all over again when the Institute got me a new workstation. When it wouldn’t install again I flatly refused to bother with tech support, and now use NetBeans for all my Java development work.

Branding may help prevent software theft, but it gives the software maker too much control. Microsoft could decide one day not to allow branding on older versions of its software, so if you happen to be happy with your old version of XP, or feel the new versions aren’t really worth the price and hassle, and decide to forgo the upgrade, you might be SOL. They could force you to upgrade anyway, just by remotely turning off your copy, or not letting it brand during a re-install, and justifying it with some excuse about not supporting older versions with security updates. Or they could just make the process of keeping your old license so frustrating that you upgrade anyway.

So I pretty much loath branded software. If it weren’t for the fact that I make a living developing software on Microsoft platforms, I’d have nothing to do with it. Between Linux and the Mac, I can do everything I’d even need.

And re-installing Linux on Mowgli will be my next step, after getting all my old data migrated back. Right now Mowgli’s old data drive is in a USB case, connected to the new Mowgli, running XP for the moment. I’m copying everything back onto a new, slightly larger data drive, and after I re-install a few Windows programs, I’ll pop in the SuSE Linux drive and boot it to see what it makes of the new hardware. I might not have to re-install anything on it. But we’ll see. I’ll keep Mowgli’s old data drive in that USB case, and recycle it as a backup drive.

[Edited a tad…]

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Smells Like…Like…Victory…

To mark the inaugural day of infamy, Steve Gilliard posted some images from a recent BBC broadcast. The images are from Iraq, but they are in fact, the heart and soul of Bush America. See it:

A car is shot by U.S. troops

Inside was a family

This is a four year old child, covered in the blood of her parents and siblings

This is her sister being given first aid by a U.S. soldier

Why is this happening? Well…there’s the smirking Caligula who took the oath of office yesterday for one. But let’s be real here…he’s not the only one responsible for all this either. There’s the press, that willingly went along with the Bush gang’s grotesquely transparent lies. In a column in the New York Press that you should read, Matt Taibbi says it all here:

As for the second question - how it could have happened - I have an answer. It is an answer that will not require the convening of a special symposium at the Columbia Journalism School, the commission of a new study by the Brookings Institution, or a poll by Poynter. The answer is this: You lied!

It's really as simple as that. Everyone knew it was bullshit. I defy Bill Keller to stare me in the face and tell me he didn't know the whole Iraq war business was a lie from the start. Whether or not there were actually WMDs in Iraq is a canard; this was essentially unknowable at the time. It was the rest of it that was obviously idiotic, yet even the pointiest heads in the business, like the folks at the Times, swallowed it with a smile.

There was the idea that Saddam Hussein, a secular dictator whose chief domestic enemies were Islamic fundamentalists, was somehow a natural potential ally for bin Laden. There was the supposition, credulously reported for months, that if Saddam "disarmed," we would back off (we were going in anyway, everyone could see that; all of the "inspections" coverage, that whole drama, was a pathetic fraud). There was the idea that Bush and Co. were sincerely moved to grave concern by "intelligence" about Saddam's weapons (on the contrary, there was a veritable mountain of evidence that the Bush administration was turning over every couch pillow in Washington in search of even the flimsiest fig-leaf to stick on its WMD claims; the source of the WMD panic was clearly the White House, not Langley or any other place). There was the idea that a preemptive invasion was not a revolutionary idea, not illegal, not an outrage. And so on.

The problem wasn't a small, isolated ethical error, like Judith Miller's Chalabi reporting. The error here was not a mistake of fact. The problem was that a central tenet of our system of news reporting dictates that lies of consensus will never be considered punishable mistakes. In other words, once everyone jumps in the water, a story acquires its own legitimacy.

And now we get papers like the Times wondering aloud why they didn't feel the ground under their feet. Answer: you jumped in the water. And you knew what you were doing.

They knew what they were doing. And this is part of the reason why the Bush gang will not be held accountable for…well…anything, in the near future. There’d be no escaping their own culpability, their own failure to do the most fundamental job a free press has in a democracy: keep the voters informed, tell them the truth.

Then, there are all those otherwise good folks in the government, who sold out America for a spot on George Bush’s lap. People like retiring Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, who is quoted in Road To Surfdom Thusly:

"I'm disappointed that Iraq hasn't turned out better. And that we weren't able to move forward more meaningfully in the Middle East peace process."

Then, after a minute's pause, he adds a third regret: "The biggest regret is that we didn't stop 9/11. And then in the wake of 9/11, instead of redoubling what is our traditional export of hope and optimism we exported our fear and our anger. And presented a very intense and angry face to the world. I regret that a lot."

I’m sure you do Rich. Don’t let regret slap you in the face on your way out…okay?

[Edited a tad…]

by Bruce Garrett | Link

How Dare You Bring Facts Into This

I hadn’t realized it, but probably for years now, I’ve been depending on my monthly delivery of Consumer Reports to not only give me the facts I need to make wise household purchases, but also remind me that there is another America…one in which facts matter.

I’ve been a careful reader of Consumer Reports since high school, growing up in a household that never had much in the way of spare cash at the end of the month. We just couldn’t afford to buy things that didn’t work, or broke down frequently. Sometimes the publication’s relentless focus on the needs of the average buyer irritated me, such as when I discovered photography, first as a hobby, then an art, and found their reviews of cameras and equipment much too limited in scope for my purposes. But when it came to common household appliances and automobiles, I always followed their recommendations religiously, and have never once regretted it. Well…okay…I bought the Kirby against their better judgment. Good vacuums, but far too pricey is their opinion. But the Kirby is practically bomb-proof, and when it comes to things made of cast metal parts verses plastic, I’ll reliably buy the cast metal every time.

Last week the February 2005 issue came in the mail, and as I was idly flipping though it, I noticed that there, among the reviews of Family Sedans, Cell Phones and Washers and Dryers, was a review of condoms and other contraceptives. Which condoms don’t work? Plus CR’s Guide to Contraceptives: pill, patch, right, IUD, and more. Ratings Page 35

Well, thinks I, this is going to make the kook pews howl. Yet something inside of he sighed in delight, and also a deep longing too, that took me by surprise. Why can’t life in America always be like this? What the hell happened to my country? Where the hell did all the decent people go? There was a short article on the Best Pizza For Football Fans, comparing the product of the big pizza chains. Another article tested the anti rip and tear claims of trash bag makers. There were ratings of microwave ovens, and an article on how to decipher cell phone bills. There was notice of a recall of Black Cat power washers. And there nestled among them as if it was nothing special or out of the ordinary, was an article and a ratings chart, for condoms from many different makers.

And somehow it seemed entirely proper that it would be Consumer Reports that cut through the right wing echo chamber bullshit regarding condoms. In our tests, all latex condoms passed minimum industry standards (no such standards exist for polyurethane models)…We found no correlation between performance and price… Accepting no advertising, for decades Consumer’s Union has been an independent, impartial source of facts about things businesses try to sell us.

It’s something I’ve wished for ages now, that we had with regard to one of the most necessary products sold to consumers in a democracy: news and information. We compared the coverage of the president’s social security bill in newspapers sold at most national retail chains, and in major television news networks. Ratings were based on accuracy, depth of coverage, and clarity of presentation… Once upon a time, Steven Brill aspired to produce a magazine, Brill’s Content that was just that. But in the end his magazine couldn’t live up to its simple credo, Non-fiction should be true, without succumbing to right wing pressure for “balance”. When I read Brill complaining that Jerry Falwall’s 1999 rant about the Teletubbies character Tinky-Winky (Falwell accused the makers of the show of using the character to secretly promote homosexuality) was unfairly mischaracterized in the press, on the basis that Falwell had never specifically accused the character itself of being gay, I knew that his magazine would never live up to its promise. When it folded shortly afterward, not many people seemed to care.

The Right’s complaints about the “liberal news media” have always had one purpose and only one purpose: to silence its critics. And while it was busy silencing them, it was investing millions in its own mighty propaganda chorus…a vast right wing echo chamber, in which any lie the Right wishes to make common wisdom, is relentlessly pounded into the public discourse, as an indisputable fact. Its a machine that takes its lessons from Madison Avenue, but one which Madison Avenue must envy.

The right wing propaganda about condom use being ineffective in preventing either pregnancy or disease is a case in point. The Right uses half-truths, junk science and outright lies to make a case that no scientific study has ever supported: that condoms don’t work. But in the right wing propaganda mill, anything can be sold to the public, no matter how untrue.

And then here comes Consumer Reports, which has been dispassionately examining Madison Avenue sales pitches in their labs for decades now. Okay…here’s what the ads claim…and here’s how well the product lived up to them in our tests… Their Comparative guide to contraceptives takes a single page, to utterly deflate hundreds of millions of dollars in right wing billionaire funded junk science, and religious right hyperbole.

Nor do they stop there. Consumer’s Union has long championed Federal consumer safety regulations. In a sidebar to their review of condoms, they take note of the fact that the online fact sheet at the CDC’s website is now omitting vital information on how to properly use a condom, and is downplaying their efficacy, and Consumer Reports tells its readers where else to go to get accurate information.

Well, of course that had to get noticed in the kook pews. Via Sadly, No!, I learn that winger Jane Jimenez is bellyaching on the aptly named right wing site, The Rant, that Consumer’s Union is missing the all important real life “context” of condom use, a complaint which rings an awful lot like Isuzu’s complaint that CU’s rollover test doesn’t reflect how people actually drive:

The context for Consumers Union's chart on condoms...in a magazine generally devoted to toasters, automobile radiator caps, and power drills...clouds the truth about condoms and why they fail. Condoms are not mechanical devices submitted to uniform stress. And when they fail, you don't get to return the toaster for a refund.

Actually, toasters have killed people, in fires and in electrical accidents. In normal real life use, a toaster shouldn’t cause a fire, or and electrocution, but it happens. Defective products can get into homes and cause disaster when they do. Underwriters Laboratories tests for product safety, but Consumer’s Union actually buys what they test right off the same store shelves you and I do. I remember seeing a picture in the magazine many years ago, of a CU tester checking a toaster for electrical leakage. It’s exactly the kind of thing they have always done. Though they are obviously made for different uses, product safety is not different in any essential way for a toaster, or a condom. Given their use, you can devise safety standards for condoms, just like any other product, and test offerings from various manufacturers to see if they meet those standards. The problem for Jimenez isn’t that condoms can’t be tested and rated, but that someone is letting facts get in the way of their propaganda.

Holding the claims of the Right up to scrutiny is not really their job, but it was a pure delight seeing Consumer’s Union giving them a back handed swipe. Their main interest is in the claims of producers, that their products perform as advertised, and in the needs of consumers to have the facts. But to evaluate a thing, whether it is a law of nature, or a political ideology or a toaster, is at heart, to believe that a claim of truth can and should be tested, against actual experienced fact. This is what was claimed would happen when we did such and such…and this is what did…and this is what did happen… To do this, is to take sides against revealed truth, in favor of experienced truth. Or in other words, to side with reality, against self justifying authority. It is a way of life that is anathema to the fascist Right, precisely because it denies their ultimate authority, because it suggests that reality is a higher authority then they, and worse, that everyone can experience it for themselves, can take its measure for themselves, can discover what is true for themselves.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday January 18, 2005

Dancing With The Stars

Brrr. Fifteen degrees on my deck this morning, and I drove in, rather then get a sub zero wind chill blasting my face all the way to work. I threw some clothes on, started up my car and let it warm up while I shaved and dressed for work. Not very green of me, but since most days I walk to work I think I’m still greener then most commuters here. We’re supposed to get snow here in Baltimore tomorrow, so I’ll probably walk in to work in the morning, with my snow boots in my day pack.

Got my photo taken for my five year anniversary at Space Telescope. I’ve actually been there longer then five years, but January 2000 was when I stopped being a contractor, and became staff. I had the job offer letter framed. We had a staff meeting on the latest plans to service Hubble via robotics, and I sat through it still amazed that I’m part of it. We’ve harvested light from closer to the beginning of time then anyone has seen before, and brought back images of the first galaxies. Whatever else happens to me in this life, being a part of the Hubble team will always remain the stuff of my fondest, most cherished dreams, since I was a little space cadet, playing with toy rockets, and spending long summer nights flat on my back in the field behind our apartment, staring up at the stars. In second grade mom gave me a small field guide to the stars. I still have it, though it’s getting delicate with age: Stars – A guide to the constellations, sun, moon, planets and other features of the heavens by the Golden Press. I remember how amazed I was by the pictures of nebula, and the Andromeda galaxy. Not every space cadet gets their wish. But I never dreamed that one day I’d not only see light from the early universe, but would be part of the team that gathered it for future star books.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Accountability

If there was ever a person who avoided accountability more then Bush I can’t imagine how they managed it. His entire life has been ducking and dodging and running away from responsibility the moment it got anywhere near him. Which makes his puffing about how the election was an “accountability moment” on Iraq, where the voters took his policy’s measure and gave their approval, pretty much in the same ballpark as a mobster gloating after he’s silenced all the witnesses that the court pronounced him clean. For an election that was about accountability in Iraq, a whole lot of it sure seemed to be about same sex marriage. Paul Krugman, as usual, makes things crystal clear:

A charming man courts a woman, telling her that he's a wealthy independent businessman. Just after the wedding, however, she learns that he has been cooking the books, several employees have accused him of sexual harassment and his company is about to file for bankruptcy. She accuses him of deception. "The accountability moment is behind us," he replies.

Last week President Bush declared that the election was the "accountability moment" for the war in Iraq - the voters saw it his way, and that's that. But Mr. Bush didn't level with the voters during the campaign and doesn't deserve anyone's future trust.

I won't belabor the W.M.D. issue, except to point out that the Bush administration, without exactly lying, managed to keep most voters confused. According to a Pew poll, on the eve of the election the great majority of voters, of both parties, believed that the Bush administration had asserted that it found either W.M.D. or an active W.M.D. program in Iraq.

Mr. Bush also systematically misrepresented how the war was going. Remember last September when Ayad Allawi came to Washington? Mr. Allawi, acting as a de facto member of the Bush campaign - a former official close to the campaign suggested phrases and helped him rehearse his speech to Congress - declared that 14 or 15 of Iraq's 18 provinces were "completely safe," and that the interim government had 100,000 trained troops. None of it was true.

Now that the election is over, we learn that the search for W.M.D. has been abandoned. Meanwhile, military officials have admitted that even as Mr. Bush kept asserting that we were making "good progress," the insurgency was growing in numbers and effectiveness, that the Army Reserve is "rapidly degenerating into a 'broken' force," and oh, by the way, we'll need to spend at least another $100 billion to pay for war expenses and replace damaged equipment. But the accountability moment, says Mr. Bush, is behind us.

I’d say it was behind all of us, not just Bush. And someday, it’s going to catch up with us.

The rest of the Krugman column, which you should read, deals with Bush’s second term Social Security scam. It’s Weapons Of Mass Destruction II. They’re going to save Social Security, like they’ve saved Iraq.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sunday January 16, 2005

Back To Reality…

Since this is inauguration week, might as well start remembering that we’re going to have to be living with another four years of smirking president Caligula. I see (via Brad DeLong) that Jonathan Rauch is arguing now that even if Social Security isn’t really facing a crisis, bringing elder poverty back to America is the moral thing to do. Sorta puts a whole new shine on his arguments for same sex marriage doesn’t it? Marriage means letting your mate share the steam grate with you in your twilight years. Somehow, I don’t know why at the moment, I expected a tad more of him, when push finally came to shove. Ah…well…

Expect to see more people you would never have dreamed would, loose their nerve, and belly flop with the other fifty-one percent of America who voted last November, into the gutter. Expect to loose more respect for more people, then you thought you still had. Expect to utter prayers deep in the dark still soul of the night, along the lines of Christ Almighty God Where’s The Fucking Bottom To This Gutter?? We Gotta Be Hitting It Hard Sometime Soon…Right?? Right??? But at the end of this four years, we’ll all know who really had a conscience, who really had morals, who really had values, and who was just posing. That’s at least something worth dragging yourself through a four year wide swamp of bullshit to see.

New cartoon’s up.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

The Road To Recovery

I’m feeling better today…not fully well, but not feverish and sick either. I’ve got a cartoon for Monday on a drawing board, and between working on that I’ve cobbled together the parts I’ve received so far, and built a basic AMD Thunderbird box. In addition to the AMD 64 motherboard, I ordered a Soyo SY-KT600 Dragon Plus, which accepts the AMD Thunderbird 1.3 ghz processor I had on the other motherboard, and also its memory. I swapped the processor, power supply and memory out of the old motherboard and installed them in the Soyo. Then I added the floppy drive, CD-ROM drive and a hard drive from Mowgli’s old case, connected everything together and brought it up for a test. The new motherboard came up just fine, booting DOS from a floppy. But trying to boot from the Mandrake 10 hard drive caused Kernel panics, even in single user mode.

I tried booting from the Mandrake install disks. The install program couldn’t mount the root partition of the hard drive. I tried doing a full install, telling the install program to go ahead and erase and repartition the drive and even that failed.

It’s possible that all that kernel panicking and rebooting in the middle of booting I did to that drive last week hosed it up in some critical spot. Or the drive itself could be hosed, or the problem all along was the microprocessor, not the motherboard. I booted DOS again, and ran the Western Digital diagnostic program. It insisted that there is nothing wrong with the drive. Right now I’m letting it do a low level format of the drive. Once that’s done I’ll try to reinstall Mandrake. If I can’t, then I’ll need to consider the possibility that it wasn’t the motherboard, but the microprocessor that was at fault all along. I’ll know for sure when the AMD 64 motherboard and processor come in, and I get that box put together.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Saturday January 15, 2005

Fever

Wednesday I felt myself coming down with something, and by Thursday morning knew I had at least a bad headcold, if not a flu. On top of all the pressures at work I’ve been feeling this week, and the fact that I can’t really do any work at home, this was not what I needed.

I’ve been able to finally get Bagheera, the Mac G5 tower, running with CVS, and NetBeans, although the new project explorer in NetBeans 4 is different enough from 3.6 that it was yet another source of confusion and frustration, at a time when I didn’t really need it. On the whole, I’d rather have had another week at the beach.

The parts I’ve ordered have finally started to trickle in, and I have enough now that I can make a start at building a new machine, though not the AMD 64 one that I plan on making my next primary workstation. But I’m not well enough yet to pull some long hours concentrating on computer hardware. So Bagheera will have to remain in use as my backup workstation for at least another week, and realistically two, because it will take me at least another week of after hours work getting Windows and all my applications reinstalled and running.

I’ve made a good start at disassembling Mowgli and getting his case ready for re-use. But I have to go get some more anti-static bags for the parts I want to re-use, like the video and sound cards, to protect them while they’re between cases. Pack rats like me are in a state of constant struggle with their inner instinct to save everything because you never know, and the practical necessity of living in whatever space you actually have. In a fit of conscientious housekeeping a few years ago I pitched out a lot of anti-static bags I’d saved from parts of previous computer projects. My inner pack rat has been giving me I Told You So’s all week as the parts for this new project started trickling in. What I really need is a nice anti-static pad to work on.

Right now I’m just taking it easy and trying to get over this bug, which I seriously hope is not a flu because flu tends to hang onto me for days and days, and I can’t afford to be away from work next week. Today was looking good…I’m feeling much better then yesterday, but not quite over it yet. Hopefully I’ll wake up tomorrow morning and it’ll be pretty much gone. I hope.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday January 12, 2005

Behavior

TO TED RALL:

I was reading your blog the other day, and got interested in the conversation you seemed to be having with readers Mike and Russell, regarding the democrats and gays. Mike avers that “Americans WILL NOT ACCEPT” homosexuality, among other things, to which you respond that the democrats can and should fight for gay rights, and so forth, “without demanding approval for what many Americans view as unacceptable behavior.” To which Russell says that you can’t fight for gay rights without demanding at least acceptance. You say acceptance might be a sell, but approval is too much to ask for.

I’m a gay man, out to most people in my life since my early twenties, which was back in the 1970s. I still look on these conversations with a mixture of bewilderment and, when they occur among politically friendly folks, a degree of frustration. Acceptance. Approval. Behavior. Unacceptable Behavior. What is being talked about here? What do our friends see, when they look at us? Do they see people much like themselves, or people with an unfortunate difference? Do they see couples in love, or sexual behavior that makes them squeamish? People get squeamish thinking about their parents, or their grandparents having sex, but they don’t dwell on it in their company, and they don’t talk their parents or grandparents feelings for each other as some sort of odd behavior.

Behavior. The fact is that there is nothing that same sex couples do, that opposite sex couples don’t. Nothing. From the simple, elegant, beautiful gesture of holding hands to whatever sex you can name or imagine, it’s something that heterosexuals can, and at least some, do. There is a kind of sex only heterosexual couples can do, and that is the only behavioral difference between same sex and opposite sex couples. So the behavior of opposite-sex couples can be different from same-sex couples, but the behavior of same-sex couples cannot be different from opposite-sex couples. There is a physical difference between same sex and opposite sex couples, but gender is what you are, not what you do.

This isn’t sophistry. Behavior is what you do. Is it a different behavior, if a mixed race couple do something two people of the same race do? Is it a different behavior if it’s two people of different nationalities, or ethnicities, verses two people who are alike in those ways? No. Small minded people may think such relationships are immoral, but they don’t refer to them as behaviors.

Behavior as it applies to the discussion about gay civil rights, is a concept from a time when homosexuality was considered some kind of perverse, possibly dangerous and addictive habit. In those days, in that light, homosexuality was a habit you picked up, like masturbation, an unhealthy practice that could weaken a person both morally and physically. Watch William Windom’s character in The Detective confessing his homosexuality (and why he murdered another homosexual man), and you see a man torn apart by a dirty habit that dragged him into a dark and dirty world. It is the same in Advise And Consent. And that was 60s Hollywood, trying to be a tad compassionate. We were poor, sick slobs with a disgusting habit we couldn’t kick. Behavior.

Some people still genuinely see us that way. Others, I am convinced, use the word “Behavior” as a rhetorical device to trivialize our relationships. Homosexuals don’t love, they just have sex. It’s probably true that some people will never accept us. But I think more people are reachable then Mike would like people to believe, and the path for doing that is, for those of us who are gay, is to resist, always, the impulse of others to trivialize our feelings for our mates and the wholeness of our lives, and for our friends to resist it too. In a time of violence and war, religious, racial and ethnic hatred, we have a right to demand support for, and social approval of human love, not mere acceptance of it. This world is drowning in hate. But no…we don’t have to demand approval of homosexual love specifically. That approval will naturally come, when homosexuals are seen as whole people.

When republicans talk about homosexual behavior, democrats should talk about the lives of real gay and lesbian people. The fuss over Kerry mentioning the name of the vice president’s lesbian daughter was precisely about stopping democrats from talking about people, so they could keep talking about behavior. Here’s a few other names democrats could mention, whenever republicans talk about homosexual behavior. And there are many more, but democrats need to go out and look for them. They need to resist the republican terms of the discussion, in which the word Behavior substitutes for People.

One last thing so you know, I’m posting this to my blog as well as sending it to you, because there are thoughts here I want to share with my readers too.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday January 11, 2005

Male Citizens Whose Cocks Are Longer Then Glorious True Leader’s Will Also Be Appropriately Trimmed…

What the hell is it with Stalinists and long hair on guys? Seriously

STALINIST North Korea has stepped up its campaign against long hair and untidy attire which its media says represents a "corrupt capitalist" lifestyle, reports said.

North Korean state television, radio and newspapers have led the grooming drive, urging people to cut their hair short and to dress tidily, the BBC said in a dispatch citing broadcasts from Pyongyang.

Men were asked to have crew cuts with hair growing up to five centimetres in a twice-a-month visit to the barber, it said.

Not only health and hygiene but also intelligence was cited by the North Korean media as reasons for the crackdown on appearance.

Pyongyang television noted long hair "consumes a great deal of nutrition" and could thus rob the brain of energy, according to the BBC.

Clearly North Korea has a brain problem. And clearly it’s not long hair that’s robbing North Korean brains, but that stifling conformity totalitarians the world over just love.

My ponytail reaches down to the middle of my back, which is about as long as it will grow. I think long hair is beautiful and sexy, but I’ve dated short haired guys too, who I thought at the time were also beautiful, and I understand that it’s a thing everyone can have their own preferences about. But I also regard this sort of thing as a good indicator of a person’s willingness to give other people living space. I’ve found it to be one of the advantages of wearing my hair long, that uptight jackasses will sometimes pitch a fit about it, and then I know what an uptight jackass they are without my even having to let them know that I’m gay, or even worse, voted twice for Bill Clinton. It spares me the time it would otherwise take to find out how uptight they are. If hair style bothers you that much then you are clearly someone who is far, far too controlling for anyone’s good. People need to give you a wide berth because in the grand scheme of things hair is really, really trivial.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday January 10, 2005

President Caligula

Mark Kleiman, via Brad DeLong:

It figured.

Eventually, an administration willing to embrace torture to fight terror was going to embrace terror as well: especially an administration populated by moral monsters like John Negroponte, who had embraced terror before, and gotten away with it.

Death squad activity is terrorism. Its purpose is never merely the assassination or kidnapping of a small number of leaders, but always the cowing of entire populations.

This case is no different. Note the language carefully:

One military source involved in the Pentagon debate agrees that this is the crux of the problem, and he suggests that new offensive operations are needed that would create a fear of aiding the insurgency. "The Sunni population is paying no price for the support it is giving to the terrorists," he said. "From their point of view, it is cost-free. We have to change that equation."

The target isn't a few dead-enders or foreign terrorist; the target is "the Sunni population," which needs to be taught a lesson.

I'm not saying this is wrong as a military matter. Threatening everyone in a village with death, or worse, if the village is used for enemy operations can be a very effective technique, whether the perpetrators are the SS in occupied Czechoslovakia, ARENA in El Salvador, or whatever new force we invent in Iraq. It probably would have worked here if Lord North had been willing to order it.

Indeed there may be no other way to win the sort of war we're now fighting. It appears that the Bush Administration has managed to make a large proportion of the Sunni population of Iraq into our enemies. If you really want to occupy (sorry, Sen. Miller, "occupy" is the word) an area against the enmity of a large slice of the population, and you can't or won't do what's necessary to make them like you, then you have to make them fear you.

But is that who we want to be...

To fight the terrorists who attacked America on 9-11, all we had to be was what we’d always aspired to be, what we always idealized ourselves as being…the defenders of liberty and justice. But to fight the war in Iraq, which was never about defending freedom and justice so much as right wing dreams of empire, this is what we had to become. And that was okay with the Right, because that’s what it is. The same people who once upon a time cheered on the dogs of Birmingham, can be reliably trusted to embrace terror as a means to political ends and to, eventually, make America synonymous with those means in the eyes of the world, and count that as righteous. Some of us vigorously opposed the splendid little Iraq adventure precisely because we saw this Pit down the road. Anyone with half a brain and half a conscience saw it with crystal clarity here:

Every now and again Shrub W. Bush will stop you faster than pullin' on the whoa reins. You can go along for long periods thinkin' to yourself, "Don't agree with him about dog, but he seems like an amiable fellow." And then he says something that sort of makes your teeth hurt.

...

Probably the best known of the "whoa" moments with W. Bush comes from an interview with Tucker Carlson printed in Talk magazine, concerning the execution of Karla Faye Tucker. Bush has now signed more than 100 warrants of execution, but, as you may recall, the born-again Tucker drew attention both for being female and for having an extensive prison ministry.

In the weeks before the execution, Bush says, Bianca Jagger and a number of other protesters came to Austin to demand clemency for Tucker. "Did you meet with any of them?" I ask. Bush whips around and stares at me. "No, I didn't meet with any of them," he snaps, as though I've just asked the dumbest, most offensive question ever posed. "I didn't meet with Larry King either when he came down for it. I watched his interview with [Tucker], though. He asked her real difficult questions like, "What would you say to Governor Bush?" "What was her answer?" I wonder.

"Please," Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, "don't kill me."

I must have look shocked - ridiculing the pleas of a condemned prisoner who has since been executed seems odd and cruel, even for someone as militantly anticrime as Bush - because he immediately stops smirking.

Tucker also reported that the exchange mimicked by Bush never took place; Bush made it up.

Well, that was a moment.

Molly Ivins, The Nation, December 1999

There it was. Not just the man, but Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, torture, rape and death squads…and not just in Iraq.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sunday January 9, 2005

No Cartoon This Week…

Way, way too busy with my real job. And with my main home workstation on the fritz, this was just the right weekend to have a deadline breathing down my neck. Was I at the beach a week ago…?

Lecture Us Some More On Moral Values, Why Don’t You?

If the indifference of the political and religious right to the catastrophe that swept across the Indian Ocean is still surprising anyone out there, they have less cognitive ability then roadkill. How does anyone reasonably expect the people who have cheerfully tainted America forever with the horror of Guantanamo Bay, to feel an honest shred of compassion for anyone, or anything? It’s like asking a concrete block to solve Fermat’s last theorem. And the fifty-one percent of American voters who backed Bush have certified Guantanamo Bay as not just reflecting Bush’s character, but the American character. Digby cites a little of one report on Guantánamo Bay here:

During late 2002, FBI Special Agent [blank] was present in an observation room at Gtmo and observed [blank] conducting an interrogation of an unknown detainee, [blank] was present to observe the interrogation occurring in a different interrogation room)[blank] entered the observation and complained that curtain movement at the observation window was distracting the detainee, although no movement had occirred. She directed a marine to duct tape a curtain over the two-way mirror between the interrogation room and the observation room [blank] characterized this action as an attempt to probinit those in the observation room from witnessing her interaction with the detainee. Through the surveillance camera monitor [blank] then observed [blank] position herself between the detainee and the surveillance camera. the detaiunee was shackled and his hands were cuffed to his waist. [blank] observed [blank] apparently whispering in the detainee's ear and caressing and appluying lotion to his arms (this was during Ramadan when physical contact with a woman would have been particularly offensive to a moslem male.) On more than one occasion the detainees appeared to be grimacing in pain and [blank] hands appeared to be making some contact with the detainee. Although [blank] could not see her hands at all times. He saw them moving toward the detainee's lap. He also observed the detainee pulling away and against the restraints. Subsequently, the marine who previously taped the curtain and had been in the interrogation room with [blank] during the interrogartion re-entered the observation room. [blank] asked what had happened to cause the detainee to grimace in pain. The marine said [blank] had grabbed the detainee's thumbs and bent them backwards and indicated that she also grabbed his genitals. The marine also implied that her treatment of the detainee was less harsh than her treatment of others by indicating that he had seen her treatment of other detainees result in detainees curling into a fetal position on the floor and crying in pain.

Well…there’s always the, well I don’t have any sympathy for terrorists and if you do then you’re a fucking traitor crowd. Except…

A veteran interrogator at Guantanamo told The New York Times in a recent interview that it became clear over time that most of the detainees had little useful to say and that "they were just swept up" during the Afghanistan war with little evidence they played any significant role.

"These people had technical knowledge that expired very quickly after they were brought here," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

"Most of the emphasis was on quantity, not quality," the interrogator said, adding that the number of pages generated from an interrogation was an important standard.

Digby starts a post on all this, with a WWII political cartoon from one of the great masters of the political cartoon form, David Low, and then cuts right to the heart of the matter here:

So let's have another lecture on morality and values. I really need to hear one. Let's hear some more talk about how liberals are leading this country down the path to perdition with our lack of restraint and our inability to draw lines between right and wrong and good and evil. I need to bask in the glow of republican righteousness and beg for forgiveness for sinfully indulging gays in their quest to form families and cleanse myself of the shame of forgiving a man for committing adultery. God help me, I need some moral clarity and I need it damned quickly because I'm really wondering just who in the hell is evil in this war on terror and who isn't. It's getting hard to tell the difference here. It's getting really hard.

Read the whole post, but not if you can’t handle being a tad more angry about what the republicans and their we heard the rumors but we didn’t believe them enablers are doing to this country. And then scroll down a tad more to this:

Newsweek has learned, the Pentagon is intensively debating an option that dates back to a still-secret strategy in the Reagan administration's battle against the leftist guerrilla insurgency in El Salvador in the early 1980s. Then, faced with a losing war against Salvadoran rebels, the U.S. government funded or supported 'nationalist' forces that allegedly included so-called death squads directed to hunt down and kill rebel leaders and sympathizers. Eventually the insurgency was quelled, and many U.S. conservatives consider the policy to have been a success-despite the deaths of innocent civilians and the subsequent Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal. (Among the current administration officials who dealt with Central America back then is John Negroponte, who is today the U.S. ambassador to Iraq. Under Reagan, he was ambassador to Honduras.)

Yah…Reagan had a few things to answer for in the next world, besides his response to the AIDS epidemic. And now you know why Bush wanted John Negroponte ambassador to Iraq. Family Values, Jesus, Baseball, Apple Pie and Death squads anyone…? Digby has it right. The next time a Bush voter starts yapping at you about moral values, laugh in their face.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Saturday January 8, 2005

Major Geek Alert…

Well I ordered a new motherboard and CPU, and decided to try an AMD 64 bit chip instead of sticking to 32. I may have compatibility issues down the road but there are at least two Linux distros now that support that chip, and it’s supposed to run Windows just fine. I’m thinking of getting another cheap motherboard and processor though, just for a general backup box, and to maybe work as a basic file and print server. That’s down the road though. Right now, I need a replacement Windows/Linux work machine.

I’ve set up Akela, my laptop, as a partial stand-in up in my office. Akela runs Windows 2000, but as it’s a 1998 vintage, it has a hard drive and core memory that are way too small for the software development work I do. And I can’t easily make it dual bootable with Linux. But I can at least run my personal accounting software and pay bills with it. I was able to transfer over all the old accounting files from Mowgli’s old data drive over to Akela, and when I looked everything was there. Whew! I had backups and would have only lost a week’s worth of entries if Mowgli’s old drive was hosed, but it was nice not to have to deal with it.

In the meantime I tried one last thing to see if I could get Mowgli back up. I downloaded the latest BIOS from ASUS for his motherboard, and re-flashed it to see if that might clear the problem. It didn’t. Mowgli would still crash randomly while doing heavy hard disk access. In Linux it would often throw a kernel panic. In Windows I got the Blue Screen. So I gave up and ordered the new parts. There is nothing wrong with those drives, because I can read them just fine on both Akela and Bagheera when I put them in USB drive cases. So I’ll probably re-use them when I get Mowgli’s new motherboard installed.

I’ve got a Soyo SY-CK8 DRAGON Plus, and Athlon 64 and a gig and a half of memory for it on order. I hemmed and hawed over whether or not to take a plunge into water cooling, and decided on a big ass Zalman CPU Cooler instead. While I was at it, I ordered some more trays for my Lian Li removable hard drive mount. I have four on hand, and they’re being used by Windows XP, Windows 2000, SuSE Linux 9.0 and Mandrake Linux 10. It’s fiddling with various Linux distros that make me need more, and especially if I’m going to be experimenting with distros that support a 64 bit CPU. So I ordered four more. Plus a tube of Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Compound for mounting the cooler to the CPU, and an ASUS DVD CD player/burner.

For now, Bagheera is serving as my main workstation. For some reason I can’t fathom, Apple likes to make its machines a pain in the butt to set up as developer’s machines. What I needed was CVS (which is the software version control system my division at work uses), which is just installed as par for the course (along with Open Office) on just about any Linux distro you can name. You run Linux, you can probably open a terminal window and type ‘cvs –version’ and see it. All along I was told that “oh yes…cvs and all that stuff comes with Mac OS…” Well…I reckon that depends on your definition of “comes with”. To get CVS on my Mac G5 tower, I had to first re-install the operating system, and specify I wanted Apple’s X-Windows API installed too, then re-run all the software updates, then go to an Apple website and sign up as an Apple Developer, then download the latest x-tools CD image (a couple hours over my DSL connection), and then install it. Now I have CVS. Oh…and now I can run Open Office on the Mac too. Why the hell would Apple make it so difficult to use an alternative to MS Word on the Mac?

Over the weekend I’ll try to get the software I’m working on, and my current Java IDE, NetBeans running on Bagheera. Fridays are my usual telecommute day, but yesterday I was in the office working because I don’t have a setup here at home to work on. Hopefully I can get that solved by Monday.

I’ve got Mowgli down in my basement workshop now. His case is a really nice Lian li aluminum full tower. It was pricey back when I bought it, but if you’re the kind of guy who fiddles a lot with the hardware it’s a joy, because everything fits together. All the slots line up nicely with all the tabs, and all the screw holes line up correctly, and case doors just side on and off. The case never fights you when you’re trying to fix or install something. And it’s lighter then some baby AT cases I’ve picked up. You don’t feel like you’re lifting weights every time you move your computer. After years of use it still looks as sharp as it did when I first put Mowgli together. I was sorely tempted to buy one of the new ones because they’re so nice looking, but couldn’t justify the expense when I had one that was in such great shape after years of use. All it needs is a little cleaning and dusting.

So my project for the week is going to be disassembling Mowgli and getting the case ready for the new motherboard. When the new hardware comes in, I’ll bother you some more about my adventures putting it together.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Thursday January 6, 2005

Coming Next Week: Part One of The Protocols Of The Elders Of The Castro…

Via Sadly, No…for those still needing one, Renew America’s, Mary Mostert explains why no friend of mine votes Republican:

We know how AIDS is transmitted and avoiding it is actually quite simple. People who avoid homosexual sex, do not share needles while injecting illegal drugs and who abstain from having sex until marriage and remain faithful to their spouses rarely contract AIDS. They also tend to live 40 years longer than people who get involved in homosexual sex, share needles while injecting illegal drugs and heterosexuals who have sex with numerous partners. While we are being subjected to lots of media stories that attempt to identify God or Nature, insufficient technology or some lone person somewhere in a lab as the villain responsible for the 155,000 deaths from the tsunami, I haven't seen ANY end-of-the-year articles identifying and scolding those responsible for the 3.1 million global AIDS' deaths in 2004.

And, just who, or what, IS responsible for the AIDS deaths? In the United States, 60% of the AIDS infections acquired in 2004 and the more than half-million AIDS deaths in the past 15 years were caused by homosexual sex, 25% are caused by sharing needles in illegal drug use, and the remaining 15% are caused through heterosexual sex with numerous sex partners. Obviously, since we know what is causing it, stopping the AIDS epidemic should be easy. Millions of lives could be saved if those who participate in homosexual sex, share needles in illegal drug use and have promiscuous heterosexual sex with many partners were quarantined. After all, people with tuberculosis can receive a quarantine order issued by their County Department of Health that requires them to remain in an institution for at least 6 months, while taking anti-tuberculosis medicines, until they are no longer contagious. Why aren't we doing the same with those infected with HIV?

...

Could it be because we'd have to quarantine so many people in government and in the media and they would rather die than to admit they are personally responsible for their own, and possibly other people's, deaths?

Maybe we could make them all wear Pink Triangles as a first step…

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday January 4, 2005

Christ What An Ass!

Andrew Blockhead Sullivan, Via Atrios:

QUOTE FOR THE DAY I: "I'd much rather be doing this than figthing a war," - helicopter pilot Lt. Cmdr. William Whitsitt, helping the survivors of the south Asian tsunami. Earth to Whitsitt: you're a soldier.

Earth to Sullivan: sane people don’t kill other people because they rather be doing that then something else. The word for someone who does isn’t soldier, and last I heard our army doesn’t (knowingly) take them on.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday January 3, 2005

And Speaking Of Short Life Spans…

Wayne Besen discusses the passing of Reggie White:

Reggie White, a former football star and preacher who took part in a 1998 ad campaign that said gay people have short life spans, died this week. He was 43 years old.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sunday January 2, 2005

What Does This Man Bring To The Times That A Black Velvet Painting Of Dogs Playing Cards Wouldn’t?

In case you thought you’d never see a dimmer bulb who thought more of his incisive powers of intellect then George Will, here’s the best David Brooks can muster after the most deadly tidal wave since 1964:

Human beings have always told stories to explain deluges such as this. Most cultures have deep at their core a flood myth in which the great bulk of humanity is destroyed and a few are left to repopulate and repurify the human race. In most of these stories, God is meting out retribution, punishing those who have strayed from his path. The flood starts a new history, which will be on a higher plane than the old.

Nowadays we find these kinds of explanations repugnant. It is repugnant to imply that the people who suffer from natural disasters somehow deserve their fate. And yet for all the callousness of those tales, they did at least put human beings at the center of history.

In those old flood myths, things happened because human beings behaved in certain ways; their morality was tied to their destiny. Stories of a wrathful God implied that at least there was an active God, who had some plan for the human race. At the end of the tribulations there would be salvation.

If you listen to the discussion of the tsunami this past week, you receive the clear impression that the meaning of this event is that there is no meaning. Humans are not the universe's main concern. We're just gnats on the crust of the earth. The earth shrugs and 140,000 gnats die, victims of forces far larger and more permanent than themselves.

Most of the stories that were told and repeated this week were melodramas. One person freakishly survives while another perishes, and there is really no cause for one's good fortune or the other's bad. A baby survives by sitting on a mattress. Others are washed out to sea and then wash back bloated and dead. There is no human agency in these stories, just nature's awful lottery.

Well golly pope Urban, we’re not the center of the universe after all. And that’s too bad if we have to be the center of the universe to matter. But we don’t. All we have to matter to, is each other. In the end, Carl Sagan said it best at the close of his novel, Contact:

She had studied the universe all her life, but had overlooked its clearest message: For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only though love.

We may not be the center of the universe, but we are dear to each other… But of course that gets us into that bleeding heart humanist liberal stuff that’s a dirty joke to the likes of Brooks, who thinks neo-confederacy values are charming. Better the angry god, then the long haired hippy telling you to love your neighbor. The angry god at least, accepts human sacrifices, and the heartland has plenty of candidates for that.

The nature we saw this week is different from the nature we tell ourselves about in the natural history museum, at the organic grocery store and on a weekend outing to the national park. This week nature seems amoral and viciously cruel. This week we're reminded that the word "wilderness" derives from the word for willful and uncontrollable.

No, no, and no. Christ what an ignorant ass you are Brooks. A visitor to your basic dinosaur museum will usually come away with the knowledge, unless they’re as stubbornly dense as you, that all these different kinds of dinosaurs once roamed the earth and now…well…they are all uhm…extinct you Jackass! Yeah…whole branches of the tree of life on earth have perished over the ages. That’s a fact that your average dinosaur loving nine year old can tell you about Brooks. And the one that got the dinosaurs wasn’t even the biggest of the mass extinctions. People know these things have happened. This isn’t exactly news to anybody. Well…except maybe you. Say…you remember that little spurt of all those Oh My God An Asteroid Is Going To Hit The Earth And Wipe Us All Out movies a few years ago…or were you out studying bobos then?

And that impulse to learn from, and adapt to nature that you mock, is all there is between us, and the next catastrophe. But maybe you prefer the old flood myths to that science that knocked us out of the center of the universe…

This is a moment to feel deeply bad, for the dead and for those of us who have no explanation.

This isn’t rocket science Brooks. By some estimates, seven-hundred miles of faultline under the Indian Ocean moved about fifty feet. Ask the people who survived the aftermath of the Alaskan quake of 1964 what happens when the sea floor moves. For further enlightenment, go find yourself a nice encyclopedia and sit for a spell with the entries on plate tectonics. Ah…but that’s that science stuff that knocked us out of the center of the universe though, isn’t it?

So its back to the angry god scenario. Or at least, the indifferent god. You could wonder why a creator allows such things to happen, but people have wondered the same about war, disease, and genocide. Some of us keep thoughts like that mostly to ourselves, not because we are timid about asking the big questions, but for the simple reason that discussing it openly with others can quickly devolve into theology, a practice H.L. Mencken once rightly called an effort to explain the unknowable in terms of the not worth knowing.

I’ve seen art that comes close to doing the question justice, Frederic Church’s Coast Scene Mount Desert being one that resonates with me, whenever I find myself wondering if a brutal universe means an indifferent creator, (Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?). Albert Einstein wanted to know God’s thoughts, and he was at least someone who was plausibly able to comprehend a few of them. I can only look around and wonder. But that’s more then you’ve ever done Brooks, if the words you make your living writing are any clue.

Whatever God feels towards us, if attributing emotion to God isn’t itself being hopelessly anthropomorphic, this good earth, our only home in this vast universe can, as we have seen, shrug, and hundreds of thousands can die in an instant and the only things in this universe that we really know for a fact give a damn about that…are us. Maybe there is a Reason for that. Maybe we’re supposed to take care of each other, protect one another from danger, support one another when the worst happens, learn from observation and experience how nature works, learn to manage the things we can and keep ourselves safe from what we can’t. Maybe. But…let’s face it, the superficial jackass who wrote Bobos In Paradise isn’t looking for explanations, just the right cheap bromide that sounds heartland enough to pass as the Plain Wisdom of the Plain American Folk without any of the shitcan ignorance that might make his readers cringe. Didn’t find one this time, did you?

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Slouching Toward My Lai…(continued)

From The Economist, via James Wolcott, comes this little slice of life from our Splendid Little War:

"There is only one traffic law in Ramadi these days: when Americans approach, Iraqis scatter. Horns blaring, brakes screaming, the midday traffic skids to the side of the road as a line of Humvee jeeps ferrying American marines rolls the wrong way up the main street. Every vehicle, that is, except one beat-up old taxi. Its elderly driver, flapping his outstretched hands, seems, amazingly, to be trying to turn the convoy back. Gun turrets swivel and lock on to him, as a hefty marine sargeant leaps into the road, levels an assault rifle at his turbanned head, and screams: 'Back this bitch up, motherfucker!'

"The old man should have read the bilingual notices that American soldiers tack to their rear bumpers in Iraq: 'Keep 50m or deadly force will be applied.' In Ramadi, the capital of central Anbar province, where 17 suicide-bombs struck American forces during the month-long Muslim fast of Ramadan in the autumn, the marines are jumpy. Sometimes, they say, they fire on vehicles encroaching with 30 metres, sometimes they fire at 20 metres: 'If anyone gets too close to us we fucking waste them,' says a bullish lieutenant. 'It's kind of a shame, because it means we've killed a lot of innocent people.'"

Ya think?

We had Saddam Hussein contained. Containment, we had ample reason to believe before the war, and more then enough evidence to convince anyone but a concrete block or a republican, was working. But containment was a policy that was insufficiently hairy chested for the Fox News audience. Containment was liberal wimpness. Well, here’s the alternative to containment. Saddam we were told, was flouting the will of the civilized world, was making us look foolish and weak. We had to bring him down, to show the world what we’re made of. Well…here’s what we’re showing the world. And last November, fifty-one percent of American voters told the world that not even Americans believe in their own political ideals, let alone in a moral code that separates us from the likes of Saddam.

Values. I’m laughing in the face of everyone who voted for Bush and said later that values were an important part of why they voted. I got your values right here:

Their contempt for Iraqis is undisguised and dramatically expressed: a soldier, confronted by "jeering schoolchildren," fires canisters of buckshot from his grenade-launcher at them...

Values. They’re things you live by, not decorate your gutter with.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Back

I’m back from Ocean City, and just getting unpacked and settled, checking on mail and stuff. Thanks to the junk mail filters at POBox.Com I only had about a hundred and six emails waiting for me when I got back, and most of them were real. There was a discussion going on the Queer Comics mail list when I left, about the homophobe Orson Scott Card’s being hired to do some scripts for Marvel Comic’s Ironman series, and most of the mail waiting for me was from that mail list, so I’ll have to see later how the discussion went.

I pretty much unplugged from the world when I got to OC. I needed the break, and OC is such a great place to relax by the beach. It has a beautiful shore line (a very nice view of which can be had on the upper floors of the Port O Call), and a really great boardwalk. And being a dry town, OC isn’t nearly as rowdy, particularly on New Years Eve, as some other resort places. (There’s one OC tradition I keep forgetting about that really sticks in my craw though…I’ll write about it later) I had a good time, took many pictures, walked many miles of boardwalk and shoreline, and I feel very refreshed. I’ll write more about it later.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Visit The Woodward Class of '72 Reunion Website For Fun And Memories, WoodwardClassOf72.com


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