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Archive for November, 2006

November 30th, 2006

Offering

I needed to give you something. An offering. So I brought out a few things from my private treasure box. This and that I found along the way, that reached me where no one ever has, and I kept for myself. My own private gold and silver. It had to be something from there. Something for you. Something worthy.

Stars bigger then the orbit of Saturn. Clouds of ice and dust so big light from when I was born hasn’t seen the other side yet. Secret places tucked in the folds of dust between Orion and Betelgeuse, where new born stars emerge, perhaps one day to beckon new life into the universe. Galaxies, wheeling, colliding, dancing. Spirals. Barred. Ellipticals. And those small faintly glowing red ones, like beacons shimmering on a distant horizon, their light shining into my eyes from near the beginning of time.

They lifted me. They struck the silence into me. So did you once. So I gave them to you. An offering.

Please give me back a sign.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Offering


We Have A Free Press. Maybe Someday We’ll Have A Courageous One…

Dan Froomkin on calling bullshit…

Mainstream-media political journalism is in danger of becoming increasingly irrelevant, but not because of the Internet, or even Comedy Central. The threat comes from inside. It comes from journalists being afraid to do what journalists were put on this green earth to do.

What is it about Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert that makes them so refreshing and attractive to a wide variety of viewers (including those so-important younger ones)? I would argue that, more than anything else, it is that they enthusiastically call bullshit.

That’s part of it.  But more then that, there’s the issue of trust.  You really have to regard someone who can passively record whatever in-your-face bullshit a given white house operative wants to dispense at them, and not raise a single squeak of doubt as to the truth or falseness of it, as a fellow participant in the Bush assault on our democracy.  If you keep your mouth shut in the face of bullshit, then you’re not a neutral observer.  The stenography of lies only makes you a liar too.  But it’s even worse then that…you’re helping them bullshit the public.  And democracy can’t work if the voters don’t know what the fuck is really going on!  A truly neutral observer calls the facts as they find them.  They don’t help bullshitters hide the facts, by keeping their mouths shut when they can plainly see a lie for what it is.

I’m not sure why calling bullshit has gone out of vogue in so many newsrooms — why, in fact, it’s so often consciously avoided. There are lots of possible reasons. There’s the increased corporate stultification of our industry, to the point where rocking the boat is seen as threatening rather than invigorating. There’s the intense pressure to maintain access to insider sources, even as those sources become ridiculously unrevealing and oversensitive. There’s the fear of being labeled partisan if one’s bullshit-calling isn’t meted out in precisely equal increments along the political spectrum.

There’s the fantastic salaries of the top network news talking heads, and other celebrity "journalists" and pundits.  But you can’t live the cushy life if your business is disturbing power.  You have to understand that, going into it.  I think most of them just want the fame, and the glory, and most of all, the money…

Via This Modern World

As it turns out, “regular Joe” Thomas Friedman, who so frequently advocates economic policies with little regard to their impact on working Americans, is among the wealthiest human beings on the planet.

As the July edition of the Washingtonian Magazine notes, Friedman lives in “a palatial 11,400-square-foot house, now valued at $9.3 million, on a 7½-acre parcel just blocks from I-495 and Bethesda Country Club.” He “married into one of the 100 richest families in the country” – the Bucksbaums, whose real-estate Empire is valued at $2.7 billion.

Let’s be clear – I’m a capitalist, so I have no problem with people doing well or living well, even Tom Friedman. That said, this does potentially explain an ENORMOUS amount about Friedman’s perspective. Far from the objective, regular-guy interpreter of globalization that the D.C. media portrays him to be, Friedman is a member of the elite of the economic elite on the planet Earth. In fact, he’s married into such a giant fortune, it’s probably more relevant to refer to him as Billionaire Scion Tom Friedman than columnist Tom Friedman, both because that’s more descriptive of what he represents, and more important for readers of his work to know so that they know a bit about where he’s coming from.

Mind you, I don’t think everyone needs to publish their net worth. But Friedman’s not everyone. He’s not just “doing pretty well” and is not just any old columnist. He’s not just a millionaire or a multimillionaire – he’s member of one of the wealthiest families in the world, and is one of the most influential media voices on the planet, who writes specifically about economic/class issues. If politicians are forced to disclose every last asset they own, you’d think at the very least, the New York Times – in the interest of basic disclosure – should have a tagline under Friedman’s economic columns that says “Tom Friedman is an heir to a multi-billion-dollar business empire.”

Again, there’s positively nothing wrong with people being rich in general, or Tom Friedman being a billionaire scion in specific. The problem is that so few of his readers know this, even as he aggressively uses his platform to justify policies that almost exclusively benefit his super-wealthy brethren – all under the guise of supposed objectivity.

Then again, the fact that we know so little about who is actually making opinion in this country isn’t surprising. Even looking at this kind of information as it relates to the most important opinionmaker in the world is looked down upon by Washington insiders/elites/politicians. To paraphrase Jack Nicholson from “A Few Good Men,” deep down in places they don’t talk about at parties, they want billionaires like Friedman dictating the debate because they need someone creating public rationales for policies that enrich Big Money interests, sell out America and guarantee the next fat campaign contribution.

More here.

It isn’t merely that the mainstream news media has been bought out by corporate interests.  It’s that the most widely read and listened to journalists these days are vastly more wealthy then even an average upper middle class American, let alone a two-job a week just to meet the bills working stiff.  People that rich, might as well be living on another planet.  You need to realize this, when you’re reading their opinions about things like, oh, the minimum wage, or college tuition, or the cost of living, or unions, or public education, or the rights of minorities…let alone their opinions about taking America to war.  You can damn well figure none of their kids will have to pick up a gun in a fire fight in some distant land, let alone themselves. 

The big names in the mainstream news media are so damn wealthy, their interests and the interests of the big corporations that give them a pulpit are just about one and the same anyway…no need to pressure them to take a particular stance on an issue.

by Bruce | Link | React! (3)


Profiles In Virtue Trading Cards…Collect Them All…

Card 18 – Milt Romney:

Milt – while running against Ted Kennedy in the 1994 Massachusetts senate race

When Romney ran…for the Senate in 1994, he wrote a letter to the Mass Log Cabin Club in which he pledged: “[A]s we seek to establish full equality for America’s gay and lesbian citizens, I will provide more effective leadership than my opponent.” During the same campaign, when he was accused of having once described gay people as “perverse” during a religious meeting of Mormons, Romney’s campaign issued a forceful statement decrying the accusation as false and reiterating that Romney respected “all people regardless of their race, creed, or sexual orientation.”

Milt – February 2006…while campaigning for the 2008 GOP nomination for President of the United State

SALT LAKE CITY — Speaking before an adoring audience of Utah Republicans last night, Governor Mitt Romney drew a link between America’s prestige around the world and the legalization of same-sex marriages in Massachusetts.

”America cannot continue to lead the family of nations around the world if we suffer the collapse of the family here at home," Romney said, calling the Supreme Judicial Court’s legalization of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts ”a blow to the family."

Milt – while running for governor of Massachusetts in 2001…

During his 2001 run for governor, his campaign distributed bright pink flyers at the June Pride parade declaring “Mitt and Kerry wish you a great Pride weekend!” During his inaugural speech, he said it was important to defend civil rights “regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or race.” He appointed eight openly gay and lesbian people to high profile positions in his administration. And before he decided to run for president — that is to say, before he needed to establish some strong anti-gay bonafides — Romney doubled the budget line item for the Governor’s Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth.

Milt – Last May…while campaigning for the 2008 GOP nomination for President of the United State…

This would be the same commission, mind you, that Romney tried to disband in highly public fashion last May.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Profiles In Virtue Trading Cards…Collect Them All…


Just Fuck Off George

Via Steve Gilliard.  The manipulative spoiled brat president meets a grownup

At a recent White House reception for freshman members of Congress, Virginia’s newest senator tried to avoid President Bush. Democrat James Webb declined to stand in a presidential receiving line or to have his picture taken with the man he had often criticized on the stump this fall. But it wasn’t long before Bush found him.

"How’s your boy?" Bush asked, referring to Webb’s son, a Marine serving in Iraq.

"I’d like to get them out of Iraq, Mr. President," Webb responded, echoing a campaign theme.

"That’s not what I asked you," Bush said. "How’s your boy?"

"That’s between me and my boy, Mr. President," Webb said coldly, ending the conversation on the State Floor of the East Wing of the White House…

That crap used to get you a slap on the back and a drink at the frat house didn’t it Junior?  Well…those days are over now… 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Just Fuck Off George

November 29th, 2006

The Ender Diaries.

So Orson Scott Card has written a book about a new American Civil War

When the president and vice-president are killed by domestic terrorists (of unknown political identity), a radical leftist army calling itself the Progressive Restoration takes over New York City and declares itself the rightful government of the United States. Other blue states officially recognize the legitimacy of the group, thus starting a second civil war. Card’s heroic red-state protagonists, Maj. Reuben "Rube" Malek and Capt. Bartholomew "Cole" Coleman, draw on their Special Ops training to take down the extremist leftists and restore peace to the nation. The action is overshadowed by the novel’s polemical message, which Card tops off with an afterword decrying his own politically-motivated exclusion from various conventions and campuses, the "national media elite" and the divisive excesses of both the right and the left.

Well I can’t imagine why someone who once wrote that for most homosexuals, "…their highest allegiance was to their membership in the community that gave them access to sex", and  "However emotionally bonded a pair of homosexual lovers may feel themselves to be, what they are doing is not marriage. Nor does society benefit in any way from treating it as if it were", might find himself being shunned as if he were some kind of gutter crawling bigot. 

It is chilling to note that this man, who detests homosexuals down to the bedrock of his being, wrote the Hugo Award winning novel Ender’s Game, which as it happens, attempts to elicit sympathy for someone who commits genocide (he didn’t really mean to, you see…) against an alien race that just happens to be called throughout the novel "the buggers".  Gosh…I guess I shouldn’t read anything into that.  And here he is now, thumping a novel that begins with the premise that liberals and progressives intend to start a civil war.  You can read the first few chapters online Here.  Have a sample, via Alicublog:

"You look pissed off," said Malich.

"Yeah," said Cole. "The terrorists are crazy and scary, but what really pisses me off is knowing that this will make a whole bunch of European intellectuals very happy."

"They won’t be so happy when they see where it leads. They’ve already forgotten Sarajevo and the killing fields of Flanders."

"I bet they’re already ‘advising’ Americans that this is where our military ‘aggression’ inevitably leads, so we should take this as a sign that we need to change our policies and retreat from the world."

"And maybe we will," said Malich. "A lot of Americans would love to slam the doors shut and let the rest of the world go hang."

"And if we did," said Cole, "who would save Europe then? How long before they find out that negotiations only work if the other guy is scared of the consequences of not negotiating? Everybody hates America till they need us to liberate them."

"You’re forgetting that nobody cares what Europeans think except a handful of American intellectuals who are every bit as anti-American as the French," said Malich.

But Card, who is apparently planning an entire media empire of his own on this new novel, with tie-in video games and everything, wants everyone to know that he really, honestly, honestly doesn’t look forward to civil war with the liberals and homos

What the good guys are fighting for is to get the war stopped before it’s fully started. To enable the country to bind its wounds and end this horrible division, so one of the key decisions I made was having Maj. Reuben "Rube" Malek be a true-blue, red-state soldier, but he’s married to a committed blue-stater who is politically active and involved in Congress but is able to speak the language of both sides. She’s a conciliator. In the novel, her sensibility becomes vital to establishing the nature of the resolution, so that we have a happy ending no matter which camp you’re in.

It’s the same way in the game. When you’re fighting, you’re definitely fighting one side against the other. There are situations that you’re only fighting that way because they’re shooting at you. And all along, you want this sucker to end. It’s a war between brothers, it’s a civil war, but our people never forget that they’re brothers with the people on the other side.

Oh really?  Bind its wounds did you say?  Brothers is it?  Well here’s what brother Card was saying when the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled for same sex marriage

If America becomes a place where the laws of the nation declare that marriage no longer exists – which is what the Massachusetts decision actually does – then our allegiance to America will become zero. We will transfer our allegiance to a society that does protect marriage

So much for binding wounds and brotherhood.  But it’s not civil war, or genocide for that matter if you thought it was just a game.

[Edited a tad…] 

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)


Techno Geek Dieting – It’s All In The Hardware

[Geek Alert]

We Techno-geeks seem to naturally turn every new interest in our lives into a collection of shiny new gizmos. When I was a teenager, only half my bright new interest in photography was for its artistic possibilities. The rest was about all the neat finger candy you could play with. Cameras, lenses, light meters, enlargers, grain focusers. The possibilities both artistic and techno were endless. Poor as I was, I managed to satisfy my inner techno-geek by haunting the used equipment bins, and working nights at a fast food joint.

So naturally, the first thing I did when I made up my mind that I needed to loose weight and get my body back into some semblance of its former trim, was go on a hunt for the right bathroom scale. Should be simple…right? Ha! Because I am a techno geek, I had to first go and absorb information about the technology of weighing things. Which hasn’t really changed much since the time of the ancients, but I didn’t take any high school physics classes because those involved calculus. It’s still basically compressing a material of known resistance, like a spring say, or more traditionally, comparing a known weight against an unknown one on a balance.

Most bathroom scales use a spring and (here comes the physics), a series of levers to reduce the load of the thing standing on the scales (you) on a small precision spring. The spring is known to compress a given amount for a given weight, and as it’s compressed another lever turns a dial, or in the case of the new digital display scales, adjusts some electrical device that changes the characteristics of a circuit which generates the number on the display.

The problem is the spring. Its compression characteristics can change over time, and with other environmental factors like temperature. And it’s a coarse measure. Notice how the tick marks on the dials are all jammed together. That’s because your typical bathroom scale uses a smallish spring for both cost and to keep the size of the scale small. Even the digital scales have this issue. I’ve never used one, but people who have often complain that you can step on and off them repeatedly, and keep getting different readings.

The bathroom scale I already had was giving me that problem. Every morning I’d walk into the bathroom and glance at the scale and have to readjust its zero point again. I’d step on, and off and on again, maybe half a dozen times, and mentally average the readings I was getting. And I’m at that stage in a diet now, where the weight losses over time are small. I lost my first eight pounds in about five days, but that was because my body was horribly out of where it naturally wants to be. The weight is coming off more slowly now, and I don’t want to do this in a way that puts my general health at risk. So I needed a better scale to measure my progress on.

And a better way is to use a balance. This is how the scales in a doctor’s office generally work. Those things with the beam at the top, and the little sliding weights the nurse flicks over until the beam rests in a level position again, as shown by the pointer at one end of the beam. All those things are, in essence, are a balance. Again, using levers between one side of the balance (where you stand) and the other (the weights on the beam – the beam itself is one of the levers), such that it only takes a small weight on one side of the balance, to balance out a larger weight on the other side. The little weights that slide across the beam are of a known weight. The rest is math that I never learned, regarding force applied across the length of a lever and where its pivot point is. But the physics of it is constant, and all it needs to work is gravity. A balance scale will always be accurate regardless of climate, or how often its used, provided you set it up properly. And it will give you a consistent, and more precise reading.

But who wants a doctor’s scale in their bathroom? (pointing to myself) I was the kind of guy who would have put a large satellite dish in his back yard and found it beautiful for the sake of the technology behind it. In fact, I have a dish on my roof now, but they’ve grown smaller since the 1980s. So after I’d convinced myself of the technological superiority of the balance type scales, I shopped around for a good one, and finally settled on one sold at Amazon. These things are a tad pricey, but I justify it on health grounds. I need to take more responsibility for managing my weight at this stage in my life now. And I want to look attractive. At least for my age. And I’ve had it proven to me rather dramatically now, how simple changes in my eating habits affect my weight, and my energy levels. So a good bathroom scale is a good investment in my overall health, so long as I make a commitment to use it and pay attention to what it’s telling me. Which I probably will. It’s a pretty neat gismo after all.

It came in the other day and setting it up was a breeze. It’s in my upstairs bathroom now, up against one wall, and big as it is, it really doesn’t take up all that much space. It occupies only a tad more floor space then the little scale I had did. And I can say for a fact that it’s amazingly accurate. I weighed myself shortly after I had it set up. Went downstairs and drank several ounces of ice tea, then immediately weighed myself again and saw the additional weight right there on the scale. I could never have done that with the old scales…which are now off to Goodwill.

Five weeks ago I was pushing 170. Now I’m hovering close to 150. And I’ve done nothing more radical then eliminate the between meal junk food, and watch my calorie intake during the day. I still occasionally feed from my deep fryer, but I keep a close calorie count the rest of the day. When I get the urge for something sweet and sugary I take a walk. That actually kills the urge pretty well. I allow myself one small snack during the morning, and one in the afternoon, but not of junk food snacks. This weekend, if I’ve managed to drop below 150, I’ll go have myself dinner at my favorite rib joint. I get hungry in the afternoon and late evening, but not horribly so. And I feel so much better now. More active. More mentally alert. It really does make a difference.

I still need to get with a muscle building program though. Hey…more gismos!

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

November 28th, 2006

Where’s The Off Switch? Where’s The Goddamned Off Switch…?!?!

First…check out this article from Joel Spolsky on how pointlessly complicated the Vista shut down menu apparently became…

Every time you want to leave your computer, you have to choose between nine, count them, nine options: two icons and seven menu items. The two icons, I think, are shortcuts to menu items. I’m guessing the lock icon does the same thing as the lock menu item, but I’m not sure which menu item the on/off icon corresponds to.

 
…Then go to this guy’s blog (he’s an ex-Microsoftie who actually worked on the shut down menu) for an explanation of why it turned out that way…

My team’s raison d’etre was: improve the experience for users on laptops, notebooks and ultra-mobile PCs. Noble enough. Of course the Windows Shell team, whose code I needed to muck about in to accomplish my tiny piece of this, had a charter of their own which may or may not have intersected ours.

My team had a very talented UI designer and my particular feature had a good, headstrong program manager with strong ideas about user experience. We had a Mac that we looked to as a paragon of clean UI. Of course the Shell team also had some great UI designers and numerous good, headstrong PMs who valued (I can only assume) simplicity and so on. Perhaps they had a Mac too.

In addition to our excellent UI designer and good headstrong program manager, we had a user-assistance expert, a team of testers, a few layers of management, and me, writing code.

So just on my team, these are the people who came to every single planning meeting about this feature:

  • 1 program manager
  • 1 developer
  • 1 developer lead
  • 2 testers
  • 1 test lead
  • 1 UI designer
  • 1 user experience expert
  • 8 people total
  • These planning meetings happened every week, for the entire year I worked on Windows.

    In addition to the above, we had dependencies on the shell team (the guys who wrote, designed and tested the rest of the Start menu), and on the kernel team (who promised to deliver functionality to make our shutdown UI as clean and simple as we wanted it). The relevant part of the shell team was about the same size as our team, as was the relevant part of kernel team.

    So that nets us a conservative estimate of 24 people involved in this feature. Also each team of 8 was separated by 6 layers of management from the leads, so let’s add them in too, giving us 24 + (6 * 3) + 1 (the shared manager) 43 total people with a voice in this feature. Twenty-four of them were connected sorta closely to the code, and of those twenty four there were exactly zero with final say in how the feature worked. Somewhere in those other 17 was somebody who did have final say but who that was I have no idea since when I left the team — after a year — there was still no decision about exactly how this feature would work.

    And this, especially…

    In small programming projects, there’s a central repository of code. Builds are produced, generally daily, from this central repository. Programmers add their changes to this central repository as they go, so the daily build is a pretty good snapshot of the current state of the product.

    In Windows, this model breaks down simply because there are far too many developers to access one central repository — among other problems, the infrastructure just won’t support it. So Windows has a tree of repositories: developers check in to the nodes, and periodically the changes in the nodes are integrated up one level in the hierarchy. At a different periodicity, changes are integrated down the tree from the root to the nodes. In Windows, the node I was working on was 4 levels removed from the root. The periodicity of integration decayed exponentially and unpredictably as you approached the root so it ended up that it took between 1 and 3 months for my code to get to the root node, and some multiple of that for it to reach the other nodes. It should be noted too that the only common ancestor that my team, the shell team, and the kernel team shared was the root.

    So in addition to the above problems with decision-making, each team had no idea what the other team was actually doing until it had been done for weeks.

    Wow.  Just…wow.  Check out the comments section on moblog (Moishe Lettvin).  There are a few other former and current Microsofties in there sharing his complaints and wondering where it’s all leading for Microsoft (and a few who think Joel Spolsky is full of it).  It’s interesting to read them comparing what Microsoft is doing with what Apple and the Open Source community are doing. 

    Remember that YouTube in-house parody of how Microsoft would have marketed the iPod?  I guess that wasn’t satire at all, really.

    by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Where’s The Off Switch? Where’s The Goddamned Off Switch…?!?!

    November 26th, 2006

    Says It All

    The Freeway Blogger strikes again!

     

    by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Says It All


    Accountability

    Who?  Us?

    Anyway, if one goes to Mission Accomplished Day at Whitehouse.gov and then clicks on the video link there’s something interesting.

    Notice anything weird? The black bar at the bottom of the video?

    They clipped off the top quarter of the video, and pushed the rest up, in order to hide the Mission Accomplished banner.

    by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Accountability


    The New Zune Review…

    …coming right at you. Okay…sorry…but watching this guy’s review of the new Microsoft Zune music player has made me a tad giddy…

    Regards that Universal Music “Pirate Tax” as Nate calls it. Actually, the bad precedent was set back in the days of the compact cassette. The music industry pitched a fit in the 1970s about people taping music off the radio, and off of other people’s LPs with cassette recorders. In the 1980s the same sort of deal was struck regarding blank cassette tapes, and ever since then the price of a blank tape has included in it a “pirate tax”. Later, the Digital Audio Tape formate (DAT) died before it could get off the ground due to RIAA bellyaching about it’s potential for making clean copies from CDs. Even after they got a “serial copy management system,” included on every DAT recorder exported to the U.S., the RIAA bitched for royalties on each and every DAT machine and tape sold. So the precedent for Microsoft’s deal with Universal is, alas, already there. But Nate (who did the YouTube above) lives in Austrialia, where the situation may be different.

    Bear in mind, that the first version of Microsoft Windows was an unmitigated piece of junk. By version 3.1 they were raking in the market share. On the other hand, Windows was able to monopolize the desktop market in a number of ways that I don’t see them being able to pull off in the consumer music player market. Sure, they own Windows, and Windows still has something like 90 percent of the desktop market. But music isn’t software. I know it’s techie to think of it that way, and in a sense you can think of it that way. But it’s not software. It’s content. Output, if you like.

    Microsoft might be able to lock-in buyers to its own proprietary DRM formats, as Apple does, but the content itself is independent of all that. Even making exclusive deals with the record labels won’t lock people in. If the RIAA lawsuits have proven anything, it’s that locking music up doesn’t work. What Apple’s been proving for the past couple years is that if you make using digital music easy, convenient, and inexpensive, and the DRM unobtrusive, people will support it. Steve Jobs has said that piracy is a behavior issue, not a software issue, and I think Apple has struck the right balance by only making it hard to pirate iTunes music, not trying to make it impossible. Because then you end up locking everything down so tight you’re just pissing off your customers too.

    But Microsoft’s business model has always been about locking users in. Extend And Embrace… That’s what that “Zune Points” crap is about. Not so much making the music look less expensive then it is, but locking you in. Microsoft doesn’t know any other way of doing business. That’s why they’ve never been successful outside of their core software business. So I don’t think they’re going to get very far here either.

    by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The New Zune Review…

    November 25th, 2006

    Memo From The Reality Based Community

    In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn’t like about Bush’s former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House’s displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn’t fully comprehend — but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

    The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. "That’s not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

    -Ron Suskind, Without A Doubt

    If you read nothing else this weekend, you should read this article by Mark Danner in The New York Review of Books.  Reprinted with permission by Tom Engelhardt on his blog, TomDispatch, it’s the best account I’ve seen yet of how that right wing separate reality that Ron Suskind was writing about in that New York Times Magazine article above, dragged this country into the war in Iraq.  Read it if for nothing else, to understand that the people responsible for the worst military debacle in U.S. history are Still living in that fantasyland.

    …the War of Imagination draped all the complications and contradictions of the history and politics of a war-torn, brutalized society in an ideologically driven vision of a perfect future. Small wonder that its creators, faced with grim reality, have been so loath to part with it. Since the first thrilling night of shock and awe, reported with breathless enthusiasm by the American television networks, the Iraq war has had at least two histories, that of the war itself and that of the American perception of it. As the months passed and the number of attacks in Iraq grew, the gap between those two histories opened wider and wider. And finally, for most Americans, the War of Imagination — built of nationalistic excitement and ideological hubris and administration pronouncements about "spreading democracy" and "greetings with sweets and flowers," and then about "dead-enders" and "turning points," and finally about "staying the course" and refusing "to cut and run" — began, under the pressure of nearly three thousand American dead and perhaps a hundred thousand or more dead Iraqis, to give way to grim reality. 

    Why was there no plan for what to do After Saddam fell?  The only figment of a plan existed at the Pentagon, and that was simply to install Ahmad Chalabi and his exiles as the new Iraqi government.  But President Junior vetoed that plan as running too Obviously counter to his professed goal of spreading democracy in the region.  It just wouldn’t do to be Seen imposing a new set of rulers on the Iraqi people.  So plan A was discarded, and they never came up with a plan B. 

    And if you’re asking why Junior didn’t notice that there was no plan B, you probably weren’t paying attention back when he was running for president in 2000 either.  This entire debacle is what happens when you give a pampered jackass who never learned the value of a dollar and never had to fix anything he ever broke, responsibility for something.  His entire skill set in 2000 consisted of knowing how to bully people into giving him what he wanted, and getting them to clean up after the messes he made.  That’s all there was on his resume, because that’s all he’s ever had to do in his life to get by.  And when the republicans on the Supreme Court short circuited the electoral process to get him in, Bush brought his skill set right into the White House with him.  That he’s made an unmitigated mess of everything he could get his hands on in the Executive branch since, plus everything he could bully his rubber stamp republican congress into giving him, should surprise no one.  There was no plan B for Iraq, not because of overconfidence, but because in Bush’s entire life failure was always someone else’s fault, and someone else’s problem.

    Subtract Iraq from the books, and you have a disaster.  There’s the wreckage he’s left in the constitutional balance of powers.  There’s the wreckage he’s left of the rule of law.  There’s the wreckage in the arts and sciences.  There’s the wreckage of the City of New Orleans.  We Lost A City On His Term.  This Thanksgiving nearly one-hundred thousand refugees from an American City were still living in FEMA trailors.  There’s the staggering debt he’s piled up in just six years, dispensing favors to cronies.  There’s the wreckage of the health care system.  And not just domestically.  In Africa, the rates of HIV infection have started to rise as a consequence of Bush’s ideological opposition to condom use.  And there is the wreckage of the American political landscape.  Republican scorched earth politics have made it nearly impossible for Americans to talk with each other across the isle.  The cold war has turned inward.  Subtract Iraq and you still have a disaster of mind boggling scale.  Factor it back in and you have an unmitigated nightmare.  And that nightmare will be running its course long after he is out of office.

    We are well down the road toward this dark vision, a wave of threatening instability that stands as the precise opposite of the Bush administration’s "democratic tsunami," the wave of liberalizing revolution that American power, through the invasion of Iraq, was to set loose throughout the Middle East. The chances of accomplishing such change within Iraq itself, let alone across the complicated landscape of the entire region, were always very small. Saddam Hussein and the autocracy he ruled were the product of a dysfunctional politics, not the cause of it. Reform of such a politics was always going to be a task of incalculable complexity.

    Faced with such complexity, and determined to have their war and their democratic revolution, the President and his counselors looked away. Confronted with great difficulties, their answer was to blind themselves to them and put their faith in ideology and hope — in the dream of a welcoming landscape, magically transformed. The evangelical vision may have made the sense of threat after September 11 easier to bear but it did not change the risks and the reality on the ground. The result is that the wave of change the President and his officials were so determined to set in course by unleashing American military power may well turn out to be precisely the wave of Islamic radicalism that they had hoped to prevent.

    How did it come to this?  The blame for it cannot rest entirely on Junior’s stooped shoulders alone.  It isn’t as though anyone with half a brain couldn’t see him for what he was back in 2000.  There’s talk since the election about how Bush fooled a lot of people.  Perhaps.  But not the majority of those who voted for him.  It is worth bearing in mind that the changes that swept through congress and the statehouses last election day, came largely on very thin margins of victory.  In the face of one major Bush administration scandal, one disaster after another after another, these voters simply cannot be taken for chumps.  No.  They know what they’re voting for.  

    The politics of resentment has a large constituency.  The fact that Al Gore was the more qualified candidate in 2000 counted against him with that voting block.  His intelligence and wonkish grasp of the issues was like nails on a blackboard to them.  They liked Bush precisely for his know-nothing sense of entitlement, his cheapness of spirit, and all his simmering resentments which were theirs too.  He was their ideal man, living the good life they’d always dreamed of.  A life of power over others, new toys every day, and the canned respect of doting sycophants who always have to smile at you, and do whatever you tell them, and never ever ever tell you that you’re wrong about anything, because you never are, everyone else is.

    The support the Bush republicans have today now rests on nothing more profound then a desire to put a thumb in the eye of everyone who can deal with the world as it is, not as they might wish it to be. The more their imaginary world collapses around them, the more they’ll be blaming the reality based community for it.  And when the bills come due, the constituency of resentment will blame everyone else for the mess it made, probably including Bush too. 

    Government teeters amid Iraq bloodshed

    BAGHDAD, Iraq — Iraq’s civil war worsened Friday as Shiite and Sunni Arabs across the country engaged in retaliatory attacks following coordinated car bombings that killed 215 people in a Shiite slum the previous day.

    They’ll say Bush deceived them.  He didn’t.  He promised them their dreams would come true.  They have.

    by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Memo From The Reality Based Community


    Well Gosh, I Didn’t Know That…

    Andrew Sullivan has apparently never watched Latter Days

    by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

    November 24th, 2006

    We’re From Microsoft And We’re Here To Help You…

    From Slashdot…

    "Just because Richard Stallman is paranoid doesn’t mean Microsoft’s not out to get you. For a hint about the possible end-game of Microsoft’s Trusted Computing Initiative, check out the patent application published Thanksgiving Day for Trusted License Removal, in which Microsoft describes how to revoke rights to render based on ‘who the user is, where the user is located, what type of computing device or other playback device the user is using, what rendering application is calling the copy protection system, the date, the time, etc.’ So much for Microsoft’s you-should-have-control assurances."

    If it wasn’t for Microsoft I wouldn’t have the job and the house and the life I have today.  But it’s this sort of utter betrayal of the Personal Computing revolution, and it’s promise of power to the individual, that’s the reason I want as little to do with them now as possible.  If all you glean from this is that Microsoft wants tighter control over piracy you need to think about it a little more carefully.  What this is about, stripped of all the careful rhetoric about security, is taking control of your computer, what you can do with it, away from you.

    by Bruce | Link | React! (2)


    Thanksgiving Dinner

    Yesterday…alone again as usual.  But I have a lot to be thankful for, despite the relentless singleness.  I have the job of my dreams.  No…I did not even dare to dream I would ever actually be a part of the space program, let alone a part of it that images the first galaxies, and gathers light from near the beginning of time.  I have a house of my own.  That was a dream I’d almost given up on.  And great neighbors.  And I have an audience, small though it is, for my cartoons consisting of viewers from all over the world.  And I can definitely see improvement in my drawing skills over the past few years.

    So I made myself a little feast of my own.  I filled the deep fryer with fresh peanut oil and bought some fresh hake at the local Whole Foods and made a fish fry.  A couple organic potatoes.  Butter and half and half. Some ready made gravy.  Corn and lima beans.  Some Yuengling and a quart of High’s Eggnog.  I made up my usual beer batter and did a fish fry, made some mashed potatoes and gravy, and succotash.  One of these days I’m going to have to experiment with making my own tartar sauce.  Right now I just buy the Hellman’s.  

    I stuffed myself happily.  And since my neighbors on both sides of me were away at their own Thanksgiving dinners, I was able to crank my stereo up for a change, and I put on my favorite performance of my favorite Vaughan-Williams symphony, and just let the music soar.  After dinner I took a walk with a fine cigar, and then came back and made myself some dangerous eggnog.  High’s is but a shell of it’s former self, but they still sell the best ready made eggnog around.  A little rum and cinnamon and you’re all set.  Despite myself I had to look at the calorie list.  Oh My God…  Just half a darn cup of eggnog is 200 friggin’ calories!   And that’s not counting the rum.  I’d made myself a tall glass of it anyway.  It’s Thanksgiving.  I savored it while working at my drafting table as Bagheera, my art room mac, played this and that from my iTunes collection.

    I want to relax and let go this holiday weekend.  So I’m staying away from my computers mostly.  I want to finish up episode 8 of acos…and hopefully a couple political cartoons so my page doesn’t look neglected.  But weather permitting I might take a trip into Pennsylvania tomorrow or Sunday…and just wander around with my cameras.  Life is good.  It could be better.  I’m too damn lonely.  But I’ve lived with that for so long now the longing is just part of the background anymore.  I can get on with things.  I can appreciate the luck in my life I’ve had, and I’ve had amazing luck.  Life is good.

    by Bruce | Link | React! (1)


    Pencils Done

    Just FYI for those of you waiting for another installment of A Coming Out Story…(and there are actually quite a few of you…I’m very grateful you’ve all stuck with it while I try to get these out…)  I just finished the pencils for episode 8 – Wherein our hero tries to actually speak to the object of his affections.  This one has taken me a while due to work pressures at my real job.  But I have the rest of the Holiday Weekend to finish this and it looks like I might have it up by the end of the day Sunday.  Stay tuned…

    I could put a graph up on the right hand sidebar, showing my progress on these, like some other web cartoonists do.  One bar for the pencils, one for the inks, and one for the finishing up stuff (Photoshopping the captions, word balloons and touching up…)

    I have another Mark and Josh one in the works too…

    by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Pencils Done

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


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      This page and all original content copyright © 2015 by Bruce Garrett. All rights reserved. Send questions, comments and hysterical outbursts to: bruce@brucegarrett.com

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