Tuesday, September 29, 2009

So, so, so, so awesome.

Robert T. Balder at Partially Clips: Faceless Suit

See, I'm tired of being nice. We need to start using analogies for these things in the most outrageous terms possible, because that's what you have to do to get people's attention these days.

Hat tip: Joe


Christian Toto at Big Hollywood: HuffPo Goes All In to Defend Polanski, Readers Revolt

Yep, suck it up elite glitterati types: Your hero Roman Polanski drugged and raped a 13-year-old girl and then fled justice. You condoned this at the time and defended him in the name of art, probably because you couldn't care less about American girls being raped by European directors. Now that the chips are down and Polanski might get his ass dragged back here, you are panicking, because you realize people will again start wondering about your defense of the indefensible.

However, lamentably, they are accidentally right. I am furious about this, by the way. But let's examine the reasons why.

In 1977, Roman Polanski drugged and raped a 13 year-old girl named Samantha Gailey (who has since gotten married and changed her last name to Geimer). The fact he did this is not disputable--he signed a confession in order to accept a plea deal. The deal (hat tip to my friend Kat for pointing this out) was that he pled to a reduced charge and check himself in to the psychiatric facility in Chino, and then the judge determines the sentence based upon the recommendations of the medical staff there.

Unfortunately for him (and for the aims of justice), the judge said "fuck you, I'm not taking the plea deal", and in response, Polanski fled the country, where he has been on the lam ever since. So, while the root cause of this issue is Polanski raping a young girl, a judge's attempt to railroad him caused him to flee. And furthermore, the most he ever could've gotten under the statute at the time was 2 years in prison, anyway. That's it.

So, that's the first problem. The legal system has only itself to blame for this mess.

The second thing is that the only reason the LA prosecutors are suddenly getting motivated is that Polanski embarrassed them in a court filing. They've had 30 years to nab this guy, and they're just now interested because his lawyers insulted them?

No wonder Samantha Geimer has started saying things like this:

I think he's sorry, I think he knows it was wrong. I don't think he's a danger to society. I don't think he needs to be locked up forever and no one has ever come out ever — besides me — and accused him of anything. It was 30 years ago now. It's an unpleasant memory ... (but) I can live with it.

This is from the Wikipedia article on Polanski, by the way, but I'm reasonably sure it's legit.

So, we have two choices:

1. Spend millions of dollars trying to "bring Polanski to justice."

2. Let him get away with it.

As with everything, I think we should ask, "what is the benefit and who is harmed?"

Behind door #1 we have two very real harms. The first is that Geimer just wants to get on with her life. This has now gone on for 30 years, and she's just sick of it. Who can blame her? The window for justice has closed.

The second is that this is likely to cost the taxpayers of California millions of dollars. This is not in itself a problem--the most annoying thing about rich people who break the law is that their ability to hire not one but dozens of lawyers makes prosecuting them hideously expensive. Fortunately there aren't many rich people, and rich people often get a free pass on things anyway, so this isn't usually a problem.

But now, California is dead-ass broke. Prosecuting Polanski is now a zero-sum game. The money that goes for this will have to come from somewhere else. I don't know if I want to risk taking that money from a schoolteacher's salary or the prosecution of 100 other rapists.

What's the benefit? Well, Polanski goes to jail. I'm not sure for how long--the "man" is 76 years old and it's unlikely he'd live more than a few years in prison. Also, if he were locked up, he couldn't do it to anyone else. But, I also don't think that's a serious risk at this point. It's hard to say.

And we help the LA prosecutors out with their careers. Yay, or something.

An acquaintance of mine thinks that option #2 is horrid because it, in his words, "directly condones the culture of rape." Well, I can't argue with that. But is that seriously worse than the harms given above? I can't see how it is.

If what happened on Huffington Post was any indication, though, people will be fucking pissed. But I think this outrage is actually good, and maybe it would lead to more good than locking up Polanski.

For example, it's giving the Huffington Post a major black eye.

But get this through your thick skulls, you Eurotrash assholes: Yes, Polanski is a great director. So, what? Hitler built the Autobahn. What Polanski did to Samantha Gailey destroys human dignity just as much as Hitler's attempt to murder Polanski and everyone else who is Jewish.

I am not above burning everything Polanski has ever done and never mentioning his name again. Or, at minimum, the rightsholders to his works should recredit them to "Alan Smithee" and erase Polanski's name from history. Because we have to remember Hitler's name.

But Polanski? Fuck him, we can do without his memory.

Well, despite being a Democrat, Greg Nickels is a douchebag, too.

Sabra Gertsch @ KOMO: Upset homeless set up camp outside Nickels' home

Argue about the homeless all you want--seriously, if you are behind the policy of making it difficult for them to get to shelters, you are a douchebag. No, you are fucking douchebag. No, you are a fucking waste of air.

How hard is it for Nickels to pick up the goddamn phone and ask Metro to give these guys $50k worth of bus tickets? Account for it any way you have to. I mean, the King County government is so full of corruption and graft as it is, who the hell is going to notice $50k missing for humanitarian purposes?

Yeah, yeah, I know, what seems obvious and humane to me seems outrageous and career-threatening to you and other pseudo-liberals like Adam Smith. Well...oh...yeah...you just got voted out of office because you're an idiot when it comes to campaign strategy. Well, never mind, then.

This is also why I'm sad that the Very Rev. Robert Taylor (former dean at St. Mark's Cathedral and a local mega-advocate for the homeless) screwed up the Cathedral and lost the basis for his ability to be a useful activist. Robert was the kind of guy who could've picked up the phone and made a couple of calls and taken care of this, and you wouldn't have to bother with politicians who couldn't care less, because Robert had them all in his pocket. I mean, seriously, despite the horrid mistake he made by firing two of the clergy on Holy Week without asking too many people about it, losing him is a greater loss than most people can imagine.

The other other blog: Party like it's 1999.

What do I do for a living? Well, this summer, I hadn't been doing much of anything. But I've recently gotten a job as a software engineer, and I go back to work next Monday.

I'd like to blog about my geekery, but I'd like to do it in a politically-neutral realm so I could maybe use it in a professional context without upsetting people with my combative and divisive political stances. I mean, sometimes I like upsetting people, but it's not a good idea to upset the people you work with.

So, I announce: Party Like It's 1999!

I started this blog last year when I began work for a Web 2.0 startup, but my blogging career didn't get anywhere. Neither did the startup, unfortunately.

ED. iv. The HORROR of kids getting involved to bring...the Olympics...to...America...wait.

Part four in a series called "Elephantine Douchebaggery", and the second of such posts showing that although the term "douchebag" is almost never applied to women (as many people seem to prefer even more degrading and dehumanizing terms in such cases, and I'll let you guess [it starts with a "c"]), this does not mean women in the service of the most obnoxious forms of conservatism cannot engage in douchebaggery.

Michelle Malkin: Obamas using schoolkids as junior lobbyists for Olympics

Warning: The Michelle Malkin site is NSFAWASOD (Not Safe For Anyone With a Shred of Dignity).

But could any of you lacking in said dignity take a peek and take a guess at just what the hell the good Ms. Malkin is trying to do here? Because I can't figure it out. Honestly, I can't. But I'm sure douchebaggery is involved, because it's Michelle Fucking Malkin.

(Elephantine Douchebaggery is really just a subset of "What the Fucking Fuck?!")

EDIT: Malkin's priorities are pretty clearly evident in the post "Once in 70 Days".

Let's review:

1. Bringing a century-old symbol of international harmony (the Olympics) into the United States is corrupt because it happens to benefit the President's hometown (Chicago).

2. This is even worse because Obama is spending all of his time to bring us the Olympics instead of working with the Managers of the Global Beatdown Machine (my term for "military commanders.")

Yes, you are pretty goddamn awesome, Michelle. In much the same way that Josef Stalin was awesome.

WTFF. ix. You had it comin', babykillers. And more is comin'.

Judy Thomas in the Kansas City Star: Letter criticizes church for allowing George Tiller to serve as an usher

A Virginia anti-abortion activist has sent a scathing letter to the church of slain Wichita abortion provider George Tiller, telling pastors they “brought damnation” onto themselves for failing to rebuke the “babykilling.”


“If Reformation Lutheran Church had done its job and brought George Tiller to repentance, he would be alive and the babies he killed would be alive,” Spitz said in a phone interview. “But George Tiller received his just reward, and Reformation Lutheran Church is to blame for his blood, and the blood of the children he murdered is on their hands.”


The Rev. Lowell Michelson, senior pastor at Reformation Lutheran Church, confirmed receiving the letter. He said he didn’t intend to respond.

Rev. Michelson is smart. As Gavin de Becker tells us in The Gift of Fear, responding to crazy people who write you letters is a good way to get killed.

Let's just hope that someone in the government informs "Rev." Spitz that if something happens to anyone else in that church, it's his ass as well.

Or maybe even someone not in the government, nodeuhmean?

Hat Tip: Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs, of all people, who has finally totally lost the favor of the idiotic right and has now started returning to his roots as a Democrat. Well done, man. If we could ever convince you that killing people in the name of globalism is a bad idea, I'd consider you an important ally. But, then again, the enemy of my enemy is often my friend, too.

Monday, September 28, 2009

ED: iii. Not so fast, Liz Cheney

Adam Serwer at TAPPED (American Prospect): The Irony of Liz Cheney.

Gosh, I wish I had stood up more firmly against our use of torture. I feel quite embarrassed about it. Oh well, at least I can say I never defended the indefensible. I think.

Anyway, the choicest bits:

For the GOP, torture is no longer a "necessary evil." It is a rally cry, a "values" issue like same-sex marriage or abortion. They don't "grudgingly" support torture, they applaud it. They celebrate it. Liz Cheney's unequivocal support for torture methods gleaned from communist China has people begging her to run for office.
Over the past couple of months, events have conspired to prove the Cheneys wrong. The recently released documents Dick Cheney said would unequivocally prove that torture saved American lives did not. While professional interrogators and military leaders have argued against torture, the apologists have had to rely on anonymous pleadings filtered through the same people who brought us Saddam Hussein's connection to al-Qaeda. A scientific survey recently proved that torture is counterproductive. Despite the fact that Cheney and his daughter have been claiming the Obama administration's abandonment of torture has made America less safe, the past month or so has seen the U.S. eliminate al-Qaeda leader Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan in Somalia and Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud in Afghanistan. In the past week alone, the FBI foiled three bombings, one of which appears to have been a very serious threat.

Wow. Do read the whole thing, of course.

While I agree with Adam that having the support of torture proposed as awesome by a major political party is not such a great development, this gives those of us who are not Republican douchebags a great opportunity to constantly call them out on it. Though, I think we might think strategically as well and wait until the election season next year to spring it on them so it does the most political damage.

It's nice to have choices. On the other hand, if too many Americans agree that torturing people is an awesome idea, we are just simply totally fucked.

[Hat tip: Atrios]

WTFF. viii. Christian nation?

Goldy at HorsesAss: God Bless Our Anti-Christian First Amendment

Gosh, Goldy hits one out of the park again. Just read it.

My take: If sticking guns into the faces of other people so you can grab their resources isn’t a violation of the 10th Commandment, I don’t know what is! Where is that violated? Oh, I don’t know, maybe throughout the entire history of Europeans in the Americas?

Friday, September 25, 2009

WTFF. vii. FED! Or, Is That You, Aldo?

Goldy at HorsesAss: Better Dead than Fed?

I mostly agree with Goldy on most things, including this. This incident is, of course, horrifying. What the Fucking Fuck-level horrifying. However, there's an angle he hasn't considered. I don't want to go into it in too much detail, lest I be misunderstood and attract the wrong kind of scrutiny, but I gently suggest that Goldy and the rest of you reread about Prohibition and Appalachia, more especially the origin of the term "Revuhnoor" (Revenuer, as the responsibility for enforcing Prohibition was placed in the hands of the Treasury Department.)

I think that might be the dynamic at play here rather than anti-Obama racism or typical right-wing anti-government sentiment. That's all I'm saying.

For a quick fix, see the movie Inglourious Basterds. You can probably imagine that Aldo and/or his family had strung up a few Revuhnoors over the years as a necessity of the nature of their family business--that is, smuggling "moonshine," illegal homemade liquor, and the Revuhnoors didn't leave the moonshine boys alone even after the repeal of Prohibition. The only reason Aldo is in France to begin with is that he probably had to choose between the Army and prison. He chose the Army because he decided the Nazis pissed him off even more than the Revuhnoors.

But how did you think Aldo got so goddamned ferocious to begin with? Hm?


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Robert Reich sticks his finger in the eye of the supply-siders.

Robert Reich in Huffington Post: Why the Dow is Hitting 10,000 While Everyone Else Is Cutting Back.

I basically agree, I'll add a couple of things later. For now, just go freaking read it, because it's good.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

HCR. ix. Letter to Adam Smith

I sent the following letter to Representative Adam Smith, who is my Congressman.

Dear Representative Smith--

I'm a little bit behind, but I did find out that you appeared on the show of a local talk-radio host named Dori Monson (noon-3pm, KIRO-FM). I wasn't able to find out exactly what you said on the show, but I have heard a few disturbing things about it.

First, going on Monson's show and being "buddy buddy" is the Wrong Thing to begin with, as Monson is kind of an idiot who uncritically parrots Republican lies. So, unless you are into that sort of thing, you might want to give some more thought about appearing on shows like that.

Secondly, it appears that you are really upset about ACORN. Maybe ACORN is corrupt and maybe it isn't, but given the actual depredation upon this country and the entire planet by nearly every company in the Fortune 500, this shows a disturbing skew of priorities. I'd hate to think you were doing this just to appear "moderate."

Finally, you seem uncomfortable with the idea that we should do something about the 18,000 people who die in this country every year solely because they have no access to health care. That's a 9/11 attack every 2 months, by the way, every single year. To date, 48 times as many people have died from this problem as 9/11, if you don't count the death caused by our *response* to 9/11, of course.

Rep. Smith, you're going to have to decide whose interests you are going to serve. Are you going to decide to serve the interests of the health care industry executives? I mean, I understand, that's the safe choice. They certainly can help you keep your seat safe against relentless assault from Republicans, especially those who live in that area between Puyallup and Olympia. Our district has a difficult demographic to serve, and I can appreciate some of the positions you find yourself in.

On the other hand, you could think about what is right. People in your district and all over the country are dying from treatable diseases because they can't afford the treatment. So, you might consider at least *thinking* about their interests a bit before you do something stupid like appear on Monson's show again.



HCR. viii. Those poor health insurance executives!

This video is an example of why the Republicans are basically screwed in general right now. People have figured how which interests they gleefully serve. It is so bad it has quite literally become a joke.

Democrats serve these interests, too, but at least most of them have the good sense to feel bad about it. Well, sometimes. Unless he's my representative, Adam Smith, who went on the show of the biggest douchebag in local talk radio and bashed on Obama's "outrageous" idea that everyone should have health care coverage. And on Obama in general. But anyway, watch this.

Hat tip: Like, everyone, especially State Rep. Dave Upthegrove (via Facebook).

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The rural brain drain.

Patrick J. Carr and Maria J. Kefalas in the Chronicle of Higher Education: The Rural Brain Drain

An interesting article showing that the problems of the cities are nothing compared to the problems of rural America--many small towns across the heartland are quickly becoming ghost towns, because their brightest residents are moving to the cities. There is nothing new about this, but it has gotten so out of hand that rural America itself is becoming a new kind of ghetto of poverty and despair.

And that's not good, because that's where all our freaking food comes from right now.

(Hat tip: Cheryl)

A sub-blog: Now We See The Violence Inherent in the System.

Even though I'm having a lot of fun with this blog discussing current events, I think there are a lot of deeper problems with the world that demand discussion. I have been preparing my...er...mojo to this end over the last few weeks, and I think I now am ready to begin sharing these thoughts with the world.

However, I rebroadcast this blog into my Facebook feed, and the things I post here are combative and controversial enough as they are. I certainly don't want to throw around words like "anarchism" and "global collapse" in my blog, especially if they're going to be retransmitted to something bearing my real name.

So, therefore, I will just give you a pointer to it from here, and you can decide whether or not you can stomach it. You will be disturbed by it, but I promise that it will not be used to actually advocate anything actually illegal.

The blog is: Now We See the Violence Inherent in the System.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

Yankee pwnination.

Friday, I was in downtown Seattle running errands, and because I no longer like driving my beat up piece-of-crap car, I was using transit as much as possible. I was boarding Central Link to head back to the South End. It was a sunny day, so I was wearing my Mariners cap to avoid sunburn.

I boarded the train at Westlake, the northern terminus, and walked by a guy in a Yankees T-shirt who sorta stared at me and nodded and said "good luck, buddy." Not realize he was actually trying to be a dick, I smiled back and said, "Yeah, and also to you. Must be nice to back a winning team, right?" The Yankees were apparently in town last weekend, and we have a few Yankees fans in town (I grew up as one), so I thought he was being friendly.

No, he was just being a prick and frankly admitted that he was just trying to get a rise from me. I attempted to engage him in friendly conversation anyway, since I was bored. He said dismissive things about how much the Mariners suck, and I was saying things like, "Oh, sure, we're disappointed that they were not good enough to make the playoffs, but you have to admit a team that has a winning record is much better than a team that lost 100 games." And, "Jeez, we were thinking 88 wins was going to be enough to take the division, and who the hell expected the Angels to be this good?" And stuff like that.

He was so irritated with my friendly ground-standing that he jumped off the train at University Street, one stop from Westlake. AWESOME.

And EVEN MORE AWESOME: The Mariners went on to take two out of three from the Yankees, the team with the best record in baseball.

SWEET. Take that, you Yankee prick!

WTFF: iv. v. vi. Give me trains or give me death, Obama is Hitler, and I <3 Goldy

Parts four, five, and six in a series titled "What the fucking fuck?!"

Not much on my mind lately, but I did pile up some things from last week, so let's clear the backlog:

iv. Back to the "million mullet march" or whatever it was on the 12th, there were apparently lots of people a little upset that the trains were running behind:

WSJ blog: Tea Party Protesters Protest D.C. Metro Service

OK, seriously, WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK? You are going to a protest that is fundamentally ANTI-GOVERNMENT in nature, and you are complaining that the GOVERNMENT-RUN trains are not getting to your protest on time.

Um. Uh. Argh. What?

v. Lots of people are trying to say that Obama is a communist, socialist, fascist, and Nazi at the same time. Someone pointed out that especially with this last, you manage to be an antisemite and racist at the same time, good job.

Seattle Times: Hitler poster provokes Edmonds incident

So, anyway, there's this dude named Henry Gasparian who survived the Holocaust and saw some "Obama = Hitler" signs (a pretty disturbingly stupid idea in its own right), freaked out a little that Hitler was being invoked so casually, and started beating the faces against some of the LaRouche douchebags handing out the flyers. OK, maybe he didn't beat face, but it wouldn't bother me if he did. Read the story for more.

(Hat tip: Cheryl)

vi. I <3 Goldy. Just read this. Seriously.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A post about RFID.

I have slowed down a bit--life has intruded. I have an impressive backlog of things to discuss, though, and I intend to follow through. Until then, though, here is what I posted to an online discussion forum concerning RFID technology. I will follow up later with a more thorough explanation.

My post is part of a discussion concerning the growing trend of governments proposing the placement of RFID transponders in things like inspection stickers and license plates, ostensibly to measure travel down to the mile and tax people on their movement. That's annoying, to be sure, but it doesn't take much imagination to think of even more nefarious uses of these devices.

Well, there's a way to fight back--figure out where the chips are and shield
them so they can't be read. Fairly easy to do, FOR NOW. But we shouldn't even
have to fight back--people should be asking our consent and explaining what the
benefit is *to us*.

FOr instance, I *consent* to having an Enhanced Drivers License so I can go to
Canada with a minimum of hassle. (Of course, few bother to ask why I need
permission to cross a boundary that exists only in people's minds and not in
reality, but asking those sorts of questions is clearly too much for most

I *consent* to having an ORCA pass, because using one allows me to use transit
in order to save money (more unasked questions there, too, but you're tired of
hearing them by now).

I *consent* to having a RFID-readable debit card, because I am both too lazy to
demand a debit card not containing a chip, and I can also see how it might
occasionally save me 30 seconds, which might be important in some cases (don't
even get me started about the questions concerning this).

But I only *consent* to having my chips read *when I want them read*, and at
*no* other time. This is why I want an RFID-shielding wallet so badly (and
hopefully I'll have one soon, it's supposedly en route).

Here's one more unasked question, though: I am educated concerning these
issues, but SO FEW other people are. Walk into a Nordstrom and ask someone if
they sell RFID-shielding wallets. Most of them will be like, "wat?" The
people who make these devices fucking *know* this, too, so what do you think
they're going to do with the pervasive availability of this technology?

Not to mention the increasing frequency in which these devices are foisted
on us against our will. We have very limited ways of fighting back, too, but
there are ways, and I suggest we avail ourselves of them and tell as many
people as possible.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

ED: ii. I'm taking your "thinker" card away, fella.

Second in the series called "Elephantine Douchebaggery".

American Thinker: 9/12 demonstration a record DC turnout: National Park Service

You forgot to mention that Dan Bana was talking about Barack Obama's inaguration. I don't think that was the point you were trying to make, there, dude.

I have to give a hat tip to another Charles, the one who runs Little Green Footballs. For obvious reasons, he is not really an ally of mine, but he knows EPIC FAIL when he sees it.

If you want to see the acres of fail that is this misattribution, try this query. Holy failgasm, Batman!

Or, for posterity--

By the way, you might applaud the teabaggers for packing out their litter, but their success is more evidence that THERE JUST WASN'T THAT MANY OF THEM.

Put that tea bag away before you hurt someone.

Glenn Greenwald @ Salon: Who are the undeserving "others" benefiting from government actions?

(That is, if you can handle all the freaking pop-up ads jumping all over your browser. Salon has gotten rather sad. Anyway.)

When you worry about the redistributive aspect of government spending, you might think more carefully about who usually benefits from such spending (4 words of hint: douchewaffle. Wall Street. suit.) And, therefore, pipe down a bit when substantially less money goes to people who, on balance, need your help.

And, then, when that tea bag calls your name again, think this: Are you really willing to throw overboard the people who genuinely need help in the name of not being "taken advantage of" by those who cheat the system?

Hat tip: Cheryl

HCR: vii. Here's what opponents of health-care reform are defending.

I got yer "death panels" right here:

When you fight against a sane, compassionate governmental response, this is what you are defending. Good luck sleeping at night, douchebags.

Hat tip: Goldy at HorsesAss.

The end of 9/11: iii. Oh, yeah, the conclusion.

I was supposed to conclude this Friday, but I never got around to it.

This is not going to be very long like the other two were. This concerns our reaction to 9/11 over the last eight years. I could go on and on about how our reaction did nothing to protect us and in fact made the situation even worse, but instead I'll just leave you with the following.

I read in a book once (forgot which book) that in the early days of the war in Afghanistan, we spent something like $1 billion per day bombing the crud out of the country. If you divided up the $1 billion equally amongst the Afghans whose country we demolished, you'd have the tidy sum of $40--every man, woman, and child, $40. Doesn't sound like a lot, but in Afghanistan, $40 buys roughly what $1800 buys here.

Now, imagine if one fine sunny day, you heard the vague noise of aircraft overhead, and then suddenly your entire neighborhood started blowing up around you. You somehow managed to shelter yourself from the explosions, but you look across the street and see the children of your neighbor destroyed by overpressure waves, their little bodies turned into pink pulp in the blink of an eye. More explosions. You hide.

When you are convinced the bombing has stopped, you emerge from the rubble that used to be your house and look around at the burning ruins of your neighborhood. You hear people screaming--not sure whether they're begging for help, but they're definitely screaming. With what little strength you have, you clench your fists into balls and your face turns purple with rage. Rage at those idiots in the planes that just turned your neighborhood into a smoldering ruin. You don't really care why they did it, only that they did it, and now most of your family, friends and neighbors are dead or dying.

Imagine that, instead of bombs, you see flyers fall to the ground. You pick one up, and it tells you that a foreign power wants to give you a helping hand. Starting tomorrow, they will send you and everyone you know a check for $1800. Every day. For the forseeable future. Spend it however you want--but remember who sent it to you, and think about helping them root out the people responsible for the recent violent attacks on their country.

Sure enough, the next day a plane flies overhead, and a pouch falls to the ground in front of your house. You open the pouch, and inside are hundreds of neat little envelopes, each containing a check for $1800. There's one for you and everyone else in the entire neighborhood. You're like, "Holy shit, no way." You help spread the checks around the neighborhood and take yours to the bank and deposit it right away to see if it actually clears. It does, and now you have $1800 more. But in the meantime, 6 more checks have dropped from the sky. You remember what the flyer said, and come to think of it, you do remember some dude three blocks over talking about how he was training with some strangely dressed men speaking Arabic. . . .

I'm not terribly certain the second scenario is perfect by any means, but at least you can see the madness that is our response to 9/11 and how different it could've been had the money been spent on helping the people of Afghanistan rather than destroying their country. The amount of money spent on humanitarian concerns in Afghanistan the first year amounted to less money than was spent on the first three hours of bombing it.

9/11 was just an excuse to ramp up the beatdown machine, not to think about how the beatdown machine makes people angry enough to destroy our buildings and kill our citizens. I wonder what else is going to blow up in the next 20 years, as the orphans of the war in Afghanistan grow to adulthood and agree that violent jihad against the people of the United States is the best outlet for their rage.

And this is just the war in Afghanistan, the war that nearly everyone in the country feels was justified. The war our new President feels that we should continue--even expand into neighboring Pakistan. Do I really have to say a single word about the madness that was the war in Iraq? No, of course I don't.

(I do have to admit that I never once spoke up about how wrong the war in Iraq was. Not once. Might've even backhandedly justified it on occasion. I guess I'll bear the shame of that for quite some time, but I guess waking up eventually is better than never waking up.)

This is the last I will ever say about 9/11. But do you think I'm going to stop asking the sorts of questions I asked in this post? No, my friends, I'm just getting started.

Random silly thought: i. Technology and poorly-designed coasters.

Here I am at not quite 4AM, not able to sleep. I get up and pour myself a glass of cold beverage and sit at the kitchen table in the dark seeing if there is anything interesting going on or anyone interesting to talk to (there isn't--it's 4AM after all).

I have these stupid but cool looking coasters like so:

The point of a coaster is to keep from leaving ugly wooden rings on your table that eventually damage the finish. However, the problem with these coasters is that the surface is not quite level. Thus, stumbling about in the poorly lit table for my beverage, I fumbled it and knocked it over, causing a gigantic flood over the rest of the table that damaged two books, ruined a bill, and nearly got whatever-the-beverage-was on my other laptop.

I am reminded about technology in general--ostensibly, it makes our lives easier in some ways, but what it really does is cause a flood of fail all over the world. I wonder if there's anything we can do about it.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The alternative to Jesus causing a riot in the temple?

This post is dedicated to my friend Sally.

Some days I wake up, thinking the thing I need to do is to go into every gathering of people I can find, flip everything that isn't nailed down upside down, and berate all of them about how they're all already walking around half-dead, and if they don't start thinking and questioning the world around them, they're going to be all the way dead. And soon.

I know you view this with a bit of horror. And I do, too. Obviously, I'm not going to do any of this. This blog is about the only vehicle I have to do something similar. And since no one reads it yet, it isn't going to do much.

I'm reminded of a man who did similar things. You can find this story in any Bible. My favorite is the telling in the Gospel of John (2:12-25), but the story is told in all four Gospels. Apparently the religious leaders in Jerusalem didn't want to accept Roman money, so the faithful had to convert their money into shekels so they could donate to the temple. The money changers, therefore, set up shop right there in the outskirts of the temple. And, of course, they made a tidy profit off of the money that was supposed to be going to glorify God.

This understandably incensed Jesus (being God himself, as you usually believe when you are a Christian), so he flipped everything not-nailed-down upside down and beat as many moneychangers as he could halfway to death. Then he said something like "Get your things out of here! Stop turning my Father's house into a shopping mall!"* The Jews responded, something like, "WTF? Who the hell do you think you are?" Jesus said instead, "Tear down this Temple and in three days I'll put it back together."*

Imagine what would've happened if Jesus had tried to do that today. There would be a standoff as one of the moneychangers dialed 911. Next thing you know, there's 15 guys in SWAT gear outside the temple. If Jesus survives long enough, the next thing you know they send in a negotiator. Jesus probably rants at him the way he is known to rant. The negotiator nods to himself, satisfied that Jesus is certifiably insane. A tranqulizer dart emerges from nowhere and pierces Jesus in the throat.

Jesus awakes in the acute psychiatric ward of the county hospital, struggling to understand where he is in a thorazine-induced haze. Eventually he figures out that to get out of where he is he has to cooperate with his captors. He "levels up"** until he is in the standard ward, where he meets with a social worker and a court-appointed lawyer. He learns that he made quite a showing on the 11 o' clock news and the blogosphere, but in the weeks since he was captured everyone seems to have forgotten about it.

His social worker and lawyer inform him that he could be charged with all kinds of stuff, but if he submits to the wishes of the doctors and takes the drugs they prescribe as ordered, he will merely have to endure "community supervision" indefinitely. He would also have to submit to electronic monitoring, random drug testing, and all sorts of other court proceedings. Finally, he had to stay away from that group of 12 troublemakers he has been recently associated with. If he failed to comply, he would be charged with several counts of felony assault and malicious mischief and face a few years in prison.

Jesus considers, thinking as best he can that if he could stay out of prison, maybe he could find a way to circumvent these orders. But because of the heavy doses of atypical antipsychotics they placed him on (Jesus remembers the word "Zyprexa"), he can't for the life of him remember what he was originally trying to do.

We now see Jesus six months later. He has gained 100 pounds from taking the Zyprexa. He has become diabetic, so he now has to take Metformin and some other drug he doesn't remember. He's sitting on a friend's couch in an increasingly ill-fitting robe, watching "The Rachel Maddow Show" or some damn thing. He's not really sure what she's going on about, but the noises and flashing images from the box soothe him strangely. A tear slowly rolls down his cheek, as he remembers vaguely that he was trying to save the world.

"Oh well," he half-sadly thinks to himself, "this world probably doesn't deserved to be saved."

He might be right. In any case, God coming to us in the form of a man isn't going to work this time. He might have tried to do that again--if so, he's probably stumbling around with antipsychotic-induced Parkinsonism somewhere among us.

No, we laughed him off the first time, and his tactic of becoming one of us and suffering and dying obviously didn't take very well. We spat on his gift and turned it into death. It's going to take something different this time.

*These quotes are from Eugene Peterson's paraphrase of the Bible called The Message.

**To explain this, most inpatient psychiatric hospitals use something called the "level system" to control patient behavior and offer incentives for participating in group therapy. You usually start at level 1, where you cannot leave the ward. If you are in an acute ward, it might mean that you must be restrained and cannot leave your room. As you comply, you gain levels giving you more privileges. If you step out of line, you lose levels.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Bush II era accidentally the middle class. Is this awesome?

NY Times: As Jobs Are Lost, So Is the Middle Class.

Yep, we sure did paint ourselves into a corner this time.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

ED: i. Obama's speech to the kids.

The first of probably zillions of installments in the series: "Elephantine Douchbaggery". The purpose of this series is to point out the most obnoxious lies of Republicans and their allies.

Factcheck: Obama's speech to schools.

Two big whoppers being spread around by nearly everyone on hate radio:

1. The President wanting to make a special speech to schoolchildren is a novel, outrageous idea.

2. In reaction to the outrage on the first point, Obama altered his speech to be less overtly political.

Sorry, Republican douchebags. The avatar of your True God, Ronald Reagan, gave such a speech in 1988. Not only that, it was intensely more partisan and political than Obama's speech (or, to his credit, the first George Bush's similar speech).

And, no, Obama doesn't adapt ANYTHING to your criticisms, because you are totally irrelevant. At times, I am not sure he fully realizes this. But I do. I am not sure he fulI'm not even sure why I bother to start blogging about your irrelevant nonsense, except that it amuses me in some way.

Oh, I remember now: Because your lies sometimes confuse people who desperately want to do what is right but are too afraid to embrace certain ideas. For example, realizing that being afraid of a man talking to their kids because he happens to be black. Although they seem to be willing to allow it if he is, say, an obnoxious evangelical minister. (And if Ken Hutcherson is talking to your kids, you SHOULD be concerned.)

Like I said, confused.

Hat tip: Cheryl

Friday, September 11, 2009

HCR: vi. Intercalary thought.

USA Today from 2002: 18,000 deaths blamed on lack of insurance.

In avenging the 3,000 people who died on this day eight years ago, we spent...how much?

This report says $941 billion. $941 billion. Approximately $313 million per victim of 911. Every year, about $35 million for each person dying that day.

This is merely the direct fiscal cost--in terms of fighting the war and the health care costs (meager though their benefits are) for the maimed veterans of the war TO THIS POINT, not in the future. It doesn't count the other costs imposed upon our economy, which are easily tenfold. Easily. It also doesn't take into account the thousands of our soldiers killed, nor does it take into account the tens of thousands who are horribly maimed and will need physical and psychological care for the remainder of their lives. Or the knock-on effects of those psychological problems. NOT TO MENTION the thousands and thousands of Iraqi and Afghan civilians we have zorched and the economic damage we have done to THEIR countries!! But, you know, fuck that, right?

We are assured by the pro-war crowd that it's worth the cost. It's worth it! No more attacks after all, right? We've toppled Saddam! (Don't ask us to remind you what he had to do with 9/11--we've forgotten.) We're mopping up Afghanistan! (Yeah, just ask the family of LCpl...oh, never mind, that's just crass.)

Do you feel like it's been worth the cost?

But now we're told that spending money on ensuring that everyone has access to health care is, what, too expensive?

Look, assholes, EIGHTEEN THOUSAND people die every year because they can't afford health care coverage. That's SIX 9/11s every fucking year. That's 11/11, 1/11, 3/11, 5/11, 7/11 as well. And then ANOTHER 9/11 every 9/11. If we spent merely $100 billion per year as a nation on this problem, it would go a long way towards alleviating the pain.

But if 3,000 lives are worth $941 billion, what are 162,000 lives worth? Hm?

The jig is up, Republican douchebags. It's clear you don't care about the people who died on 9/11. You just like making your buddies rich with the global beatdown machine. You LIKE making people die, because it makes you powerful. That is your primary motivation. So, why would you be motivated to save these 18,000 people? Probably lazy, shiftless assholes anyway, right? Fuck them, let them die--DEATH IS GREAT!

In his book, Crunch!, Jared Bernstein's very accessible argumentation made me more clearly aware of the absurdity of this sort of moranity. It was almost an aside in that book, however.

But you Republican assholes are on notice, now--I'm cramming this down your throat every day I talk about health care reform! And if you moderates get in my way, I'm cramming it down your throats, too! Liberals? You too!


We now interrupt our 9/11 angst for an important announcement to all Republican douchebag politicians from South Carolina...

Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States:

Thank you. We now return you to your regularly-scheduled victim fetishism.

Hat tip: April

The end of 9/11: ii. The Bonfire of the Vanities.

i. Well, at least we're all feeling.

"United we stand."

"Never forget. Never again."

"What the fucking fuck?!"

"I knew Arabs were fucking subhuman animals. Fucking kill them all. Before they kill us. Shit, kill all the other goddamned Mulsims while you're at it."

On that day, by 2PM on the East Coast, pretty much everyone in the country was on the same page. They were feeling a lot of really strong emotions, emotions they'd never felt as Americans before. Emotions they would never imagined they would feel. The exact thoughts varied, of course, but everyone had a several emotions in common. Shock. Fear. Despair. Rage.

But, finally, we were feeling.

ii. What you need right now is a good beating.

Oh, America. You don't know how lucky you were.

Since the crazy Canucks sacked DC in 1812, America had been pretty safe from the depredations of aggressive, or even defensive, foreigners. Oh, yes, Pearl Harbor. But, despite what you think of the tactics of the Japanese on that sleepy December morning in 1941, Pearl was a legitimate military target. And that was pretty much the extent of America's exposure to the ravages of violent conflict. The rest of it was self-inflicted--when we didn't inflict it on each other, we inflicted it on the indigenous peoples who didn't quite agree with our nationalist ambitions.

Here we were in our little bastion of New World dominance--safe to make massive changes all over the world without having any of it bite us in the ass. Oh, what a great thing, to unconsciously embrace a death-driven machine of globalist capitalism and never have it bite you in the ass! America, land of the free, home of the brave--and we never even had to prove our bravery unless we wanted (or were forced) to put on a uniform and become part of the--well, I'll explain that, actually.

Oh, sure, we had to get involved in the World Wars, because the wave of global fail that was Modernism would eventually show up on our doorstep and tear things up. And, because Americans, flawed as we are, are also capable of serious levels of awesome, we succeeded in keeping the worst of the violence out of our country. After that, though, we got so drunk on our own power that we lost our touch--the next thing we knew, the only thing we were really good at anymore was putting a royal beatdown on people in far away lands. Much of our economy dedicated itself to supplying the means of delivering that beatdown. But the reasons for the beatdown began to become confusing.

For those paying attention, though, the beatdowns were necessary because it was the quickest path to wealth for a few. Well, also, because we sorta told another very powerful nation that if they fucked with us we would level their country and murder their people with the power of a million suns. They didn't take very kindly to that and pointed the same power right back at us. That kind of painted us into a corner for a while.

But that nation was worse at that particular standoff than we were, so eventually our beatdown machine was without a clear purpose. But certain other people still had a use for it. Imaginative energy research is hard and expensive--best to just send our beatdown machine around the world so we can grab that bubbling goop out of the ground wherever it might be. This way, we can cart it home and BURN it, because burning it results in fantastic wealth. For a few, anyway. If we scatter a few crumbs of it to the rest of America and ply them with mindless entertainment (a lot of which centers around the worship of death and the subjugation of female sexuality), we can probably keep this up for some time.

What if the people who live near the sources of the bubbling goop decide they want to be fairly compensated for it? Well, that's no problem--we have the world's best beatdown machine. If anyone gives us any shit about our control of the bubbling goop, we'll send the beatdown machine to give them what-for. That gets boring, of course, and if we use it too much a few Americans start to feel really rotten about it, so we'll also install puppet regimes friendly to our interests so we don't have to constantly administer beatdowns. But, the ever-present threat of the beatdown will be there, and don't you forget it.

iii. The Arabic word for "oops."

Except the best-laid plans of those who wanted the bubbling goop went awry. People didn't much care for the puppet regimes we had put in place to keep them in line. Further, those lands were full of ambitious, exploitative men who had their OWN designs on the bubbling goop. Some of them might have had noble ideas at first--use the proceeds from the bubbling goop to spread the wealth among ALL the people. Oh, shit, well, that sounds like communism, and communism is bad, so we can't have that.

Eventually such men say, "fuck it--how do I seize control of the goop so I can become fabulously powerful at the expense of my own countrymen? Oh, wait, we have this religion everyone in these parts seems to believe in--Islam. Maybe we could use that as a tool to make things very difficult for the Yanks. How do we do that?"

Rather than a global conspiracy (eg, "Al Qaeda"), this movement sort of emerged as a bunch of men in diverse places thinking the same series of thoughts--

Fuck those American assholes and their fucking beatdown machine. We're Muslims! We beat down the entire fucking known world from the west coast of Africa to fucking Indonesia. We would've had Europe, too, had a few things gone a little better for us.

But instead of beating down the world so we can ogle titties and watch football, we do it for the glory of our God. It's not just any God--it's Allah to you, motherfucker. Allah. A word that made Christians shit their pants for centuries. And a phrase, "Allahu akbar!" that, when yelled, made them turn their shit-encrusted backsides to us and run for their lives.

And not only do we now have a common goal that is much more compelling than tits on a screen, a beer in your hand, and a gathering of friends to watch sports rooted in pointless violence--but we're not even racist about it! Yeah, sure, Arabs think they're the shit--but we're not just Arabs. We're Turks. Persians. Many, many Indians. Indonesians. Bosnians. Albanians. Chechens. And so on, and so forth. A billion and a half people of vastly different ethnicities capable of working together for one common goal--glorifying Allah.

We could get by just fine by kneeling on our mats five times a day and getting together for communal prayers every Friday. That glorifies Allah pretty well. But, there's another way Allah likes to be glorified--giving punk-ass infidels like yourself a serious ass-kicking. Allah really likes it when we beat down infidels. You might say it's what we're best at, even though we haven't done it in quite some time. Allah likes it so much he will give us additional eternal rewards, so unlike you, we're quite willing to give up our own individual lives in the process. We'd rather live, of course, but we're going to live on our terms, NOT YOURS. Sending several of you at once to suffer eternal anal rape at the hands of Iblis is definitely worth dying for. If we could get 150 of you for one of us, that would be even better!

Yes, back in the day we had our own royal beatdown machine, and you Yanks have just given us the motivation we needed to put it back together.


What is the Arabic word for "oops?"

iv. The beatdown machine you didn't know about.

It's a beautiful morning up and down the East Coast of America. Disturbing this beauty is the roar of a lot of jet planes. A lot of them. Yes, the sky is teeming with these things.

The jet plane itself is a powerful symbol of the situation I described above. It's not good enough that we can now easily cross our country by land in a few days by burning a few pounds of that goop I was talking about. No, we can burn tons of that goop instead and get you there in a matter of hours! Aren't we fucking awesome? Yes, yes we are.

Why do we need to get there so fast? Oh, no good reason. Well, maybe it's so we can visit our family but not waste a lot of time getting there. See, the men in charge of the goop and everything else don't like it when we have a lot of free time to ourselves. When we get too much of that, we start to think that the world they have created for us kind of sucks, and we can't have that. So, instead, we'll stuff you into this tiny tube filled with jet fuel and you'll be there in a few hours. Yes, of course, there is the small risk that you might instead die suddenly in a ball of fiery death, but, you know, small price to pay for EFFICIENCY.

It wasn't lost on a few people, however, that there was another name for a metal tube with powerful engines, and with tanks full of an explosively combustible chemical. A bomb. It wasn't lost on Tom Clancy--in 1994 he wrote a book called Debt of Honor. It's not a terribly good book so I'll spoil the ending for you--at the end, there was a deranged Japanese airline pilot who was upset at the way the American government had humiliated his nation, yet again. In response, he crashes a 747 full of fuel into the Capitol during the State of the Union Address, destroying nearly the entire government of the United States in one bold stroke. A creative idea, to be sure.

(Clancy's previous book was about Arabs who had the unmitigated gall to blow up the Super Bowl with a nuclear bomb the Israelis lost track of. Oh, silly, silly Tom. Everyone knows that Arabs don't have any balls. Well, at least we knew that until 2 years later, when Arabs took the first whack at the World Trade Center. Oops, I guess you were right, Tom. Certain Arabs are capable of coming here and blowing up our shit. But they're not very good at it. Pretty laughably inept in fact. Stop scaring us.)

So here we are. About 6AM on Tuesday, September 11. Just another day. The economy is not doing so hot, because The Man got a little too obnoxious about offering us services we didn't know we needed. People weren't terribly interested in having pet food shipped to them via UPS by a sock puppet, for instance. Further, we just elected a goddamned Republican--who wants to invest in geeks creating e-commerce gadgets when we can invest in finding more goop and sending in the beatdown machine to defend our access to it?

So, because the economy is in WTF mode, the planes are not very full. And it's also a Tuesday. But they're still flying anyway, because we're Americans, goddamn it, and we'll fly our shiny planes whether they have a reason to be in the air or not. Nineteen Arabs board four rather large jetliners--3 Boeing 767s and 1 Boeing 757. The 767 is a wide-body plane built for hauling large numbers of people from coast to coast, or even to Europe. It's not the largest plane in the world, but it's pretty goddamned big. The 757 is more modest--it hauls an impressive number of people, but not quite as far. When full of fuel, though, both of them make pretty good bombs.

These Arabs are armed with utility knives--"box cutters," some call them. Less than $2 each at any office supply store. With practice, you could easily kill someone with one and threaten others, especially if you scream at them in heavily accented English in an enclosed space with no possible route of escape. But, these men knew they wouldn't have to use them too much. No, the infidels on board these planes would happily go along with their plans until it was too late to react.

You see, in the past, Middle Eastern peoples have grabbed planes to make some kind of a political statement. They land the plane somewhere and use the passengers as hostages to get their way. Because, you know, if they did anything else stupid with it they'd die as well. Most Americans were not aware of the fact that some people from that region had stopped caring about that. If they'd only known.

v. The Bonfire of the Vanities.

Most of you remember The Bonfire of the Vanities as a novel and a movie made from that novel. The name comes from a practice that was popular in late 15th century Italy, the most famous of which occured in 1497.

The closest thing that the late Renaissance had to a hard-core Christian-rock star with millions of devoted fans was a Dominican priest named Girolama Savonarola. Father Giro was so popular that the Florentines made him mayor when the Medici got kicked out by the French. He made people feel GOOD about being Christian. He was so good at it that he got them to burn anything that MIGHT tempt them--you know, things like art, books, fancy clothes, playing cards, mirrors, and so forth. But he got a little too egoistic about things and the Florentines became bored with him. He ended up getting himself executed by the Pope. Bummer.

We don't have too many people like Father Giro anymore, but we do have a few. However, even someone like the good lead pastor of Mars Hill Church wouldn't do something wacky like tell you to burn all your toys. No, fuck that, you should feel GOOD about watching the Seahawks beat down the Raiders, because that's the sort of thing JESUS would do. Just make sure you come to church first and give us 10% of your income and watch our garage band play, OK? I'll even bring the beer.

No, we don't have anyone like Father Giro telling us to burn down all of our temptations. But there are millions of pissed-off Muslims who would like nothing better than to do it for us. And nineteen of them came to our country to do just that.

Three very prominent symbols of our vanity were burned that day. Four jetliners, for instance. Yes, pretty vain all by themselves. But those pale in comparison to the Pentagon--a modern wonder of the world, no less. This huge Modernist structure is the place where all our beatdowns are orchestrated. And that day, they got their own little beatdown. I guess the attackers realized they would need dozens of planes to destroy it, so they just sent the one. They may have had something else in mind, though--more about that in the next post.

But even that little bonfire pales in comparison to the World Trade Center. Those gigantic pillars representing global finance, the ultimate source of American ambition in its most obnoxious and destructive form. Iconic, they were. They anchored one side of the skyline of Manhattan and became very much a part of New York City's self-image. They represented raw, unchallenged American dominance!

Two impacts from nearly-fully-fueled 767s traveling at near the speed of sound, and they were gone. A prominent symbol of our vanity, suddenly consumed in fire.

vi. Horror and fetish.

It's tempting to see as a a good thing the bonfire of three symbols of the system that leads to the internal oppression of Americans and the external oppression of other peoples. Yet, there's a tiny problem. No, really, a serious problem--there were people on those planes, in the Pentagon, and in the World Trade Center. Thousands and thousands of them--and nearly 3,000 of them didn't live to see the next day, much less 2009. They didn't have the luxury of penning a self-indulgent screed from the safety of their suburban Seattle home 8 years later.

No, they died. Some died quickly in the impact. Others jumped 1000 feet to their deaths. Some burned to death. Some slowly suffocated from the smoke generated by the fire. A few huddled in terror on the 106th floor, screaming at a hapless 911 operator for help as they felt the doomed building shake, knowing that in a few seconds they would be crushed under millions of tons of concrete, steel, glass, and the detritus of global capitalism. Others died in the stairwells as they desperately searched for anyone else they could save--just one more, there might be time for one more.

Let's not forget the people on United 93, either. They somehow found out what was going on and realized they had nothing to lose by counterattacking. If anything, the enraged Muslims of the world know that hijacking jetliners and crashing them into things isn't going to work anymore.

Anyway, these people died. Some painlessly, some horribly, some alone and in terror. They had people who loved them. Douchenozzles like Ward Churchill may gleefully call them "Little Eichmanns", but despite their complicity in our oppression, most of them were simply trying to survive and carve out a little comfort for themselves. Besides, we're all complicit. Every single last one of us. Even you, Ward Churchill, you fucking douchebag.

Their loved ones, I'm sure, try to hold on to their memories, but I didn't know any of them. To me, they are just names on a list. I tried to learn as many of their stories as I could, but I really just cannot imagine the way they suffered and their families suffered.

New Yorkers are still reeling from it. The pride of their city--the financial district--viciously attacked, smashed to pieces, hundreds and hundreds of their friends and neighbors dead. The disruption to the economy led to more joblessness and despair, despair that spread throughout the country and touched even me. I have only now recovered from it completely, to be honest.

Yes, 9/11 really fucked us up. Good job, there, Muhammad Atta and your band of inglorious bastards. You really did get 150 of us for every one of you, and you made the rest of us go collectively insane. Not bad for a day's work. Enjoy your 72 virgins or whatever it is you got in exchange for them.

Do we really serve the people who died that horrible day by fetishizing them, though? Do we serve their families by doing that? Do we serve each other? Are we going to make the world better as a result, or are we simply going to provoke more beatdowns on our home turf by angry Muslims? Or, even worse, Mother Nature? Or are we even focusing on the right priorities?

I'll explore that in the final post I will ever make on this subject, which will be the next one.

The end of 9/11: i. My final memory of 9/11.


September 10, 2001. A Monday.

I had recently been diagnosed with a couple of distressing illnesses. I was treating them both with vicious, hepatotoxic medication. One made me want to eat everything in sight. The other--methotrexate--constantly made me want to constantly vomit, and though I took it only once a week, the feeling for the next three days was like being pummeled mercilessly with baseball bats. But, that was better than being unable to move from psoriatic arthritis.

To minimize the disruption on my work schedule, I generally took my dose of methotrexate on Friday evenings. This, of course, obliterated my ability to enjoy the weekend. Mondays were especially rough--I went to bed every Sunday night wracked with anxiety, knowing I would have a miserable, miserable day at work the next day.

The reason I knew this is that I worked at a travel agency on a stupid project run by martinets who all served together in Delta Force. I am not fucking kidding. And while my part of the project was always fastidiously on time, the project was indeed lagging, and because of their obnoxious military background, the management liked to collectively punish us, usually by imprisoning us in a conference room and yelling at us about how incapable we were. This painful exercise took place every Monday morning.

I can't remember if it was the 10th, or the 3rd, or the week before that in late August, but I had been recently required by my management to take on more responsibility. I had pleaded with them not to do this to me--it was bad enough doing my own job being as sick as I was. But, you know, Delta Force. Any sort of decency or humanity or compassion had been forcibly purged from them, I am sure.

So, needless to say, I had an awful Monday. The office was on Harbor Island and I lived in Lynnwood. In peak rush hour, this was a morning commute of 50 minutes and an evening commute of 75-90 minutes. I got so tired of sitting in traffic after a long day of work that I would frequently work from 10-7 or even 8pm. However, Mondays required my presence at 9AM. Regardless, I ended up working especially late that night--perhaps 8:30 or even 9. Many Monday nights I arrived at home so exhausted that I fell into bed without even undressing. I'm sure this was one of them.


Even though on days other than Monday I didn't routinely arrive at the office until 10, I had been setting my alarm for 8. But at 7:45, the phone rings. I groggily grab the phone and check the caller ID--it's my boss, probably. What the fuck could he possibly want at 7:45?



"Don't bother coming into work today, we're sending everyone home company-wide."

"Why is that?"

A pause. "Oh, right. Turn on your TV. Something awful happened in New York." Then he hung up. The company headquarters was in New York. Hm.

Too tired. Yay, anyway, day off. Maybe I'll just sleep.


8 AM. Click, radio comes on. 710 AM, KIRO, at the time a news-talk station (now it's an ESPN affiliate). Network news music.

"The latest from New York is that both World Trade Center towers have collapsed."

What? What the fuck?

I'm so tired I'm hallucinating, I think. I hit the snooze for 30 minutes.


8:31 AM. Click, radio comes on again. I only half hear it. Planes crashing into the World Trade Center. Two of them. A catastrophic fire. The buildings couldn't handle it and collapsed. Also, apparently, a plane hit the Pentagon. Another crashed in Pennsylvania.

Obviously, something serious is going on. I guess that's why the brass at the company sent everyone home--the company's headquarters is in downtown Manhattan, and I bet downtown is absolutely fucked right now with, what, the largest office space in the entire world lying in ruins.

Jeez, that's not good. I wonder if everyone got out?


9:00 AM. I've been glued to CNN for the last half hour. Note that it is now noon on the East Coast--they're really beginning to piece this thing together. This is so incredibly bad. I have become somewhat estranged from my good friends G and B, and my ex-wife, C, who is currently living with them. But, I feel like this is a bad day to be alone, so I call B. She says, "Yes, definitely, come over. G and C have to stay at work anyway, and I have to stay here with the kid. I don't want to be alone, either."


6:30 PM. No one in New York is sleeping anytime soon. As the sun sets, I finally realize the world we live in was about to go from mostly stupid to downright moranic.

I would not be disappointed.


October 5, 2001. A Friday. About 4PM. I'm sitting in the office with a reasonably attractive co-worker named Liz. She's a tech writer. We're the only two left. We had been told earlier in the day that as a result of the events of 9/11, the future of the company was uncertain, and all projects had been suspended. One by one, coworkers had been disappearing from the office into the HR office. We didn't see them leave. We had been around the block a few times. We both knew what was happening. But we tried to talk about anything other than that or 9/11. Anything. I wish I remembered more about the conversation--she was a bright woman, so I'm sure it was interesting.

"Liz, you're next."

Alone again. This is not a good day to be alone, either. But now I am. It was my last day of work for 17 months. Had I known that, I definitely would've at least gotten Liz's number--I don't think either one of us wanted to be alone that night, but in our nervous chit-chat we forgot to exchange numbers.

I never heard from Liz again. I hope she's OK.

This is my experience of 9/11, from thousands of miles away. Fortunately, no one I knew was injured or killed.

Therefore, I give you my memory, so I can now let go of it. In the next post, I'll explain why.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

HCR: v. NO U

Fifth in a series on health care reform.

T. R. Reid in the Washington Post: 5 Myths About Health Care Around the World

Hat tip for the article goes to a friend of mine on Facebook.

In case something happens to the article, here are the five myths.

1. It's all socialized medicine out there. Sometimes, but not usually.

2. Overseas, care is rationed through limited choices or long lines. NO U. The situation is not really worse in other countries than it is in the United States. Managed care and...gee...not having health coverage limits choices too, even at the cost of your own life. Internationally, the situation is either no worse or substantially better.

3. Foreign health-care systems are inefficient, bloated bureaucracies. NO U. As if the typical American health insurance company was a model of efficiency and compassion. Most people in other countries are way more satisfied with their health care coverage than the typical American who HAS what we would consider good insurance.

4. Cost controls stifle innovation. That's why Japanese labs can still be profitable by charging $98 for an MRI (in the USA this costs you or your insurance $1500). Try again, pal.

5. Health insurance has to be cruel. This one is beneath the dignity of a response, but the Reid demolishes it anyway.

Read it. Now.

HCR: iv. Hope fades.

The good Prez stands up before Congress and tells them to STFU and pass the damned thing already. Sort of. Except he is all wishy-washy and crap. Some douchebag from South Carolina heckles him, calling him out as a liar in front of everyone. Republicans are so classy. But, anyway, not a very impressive speech.

What is on the table right now is a double-edged nightmare. Not only does the public option appear not likely, but the government is thinking about fining you $3800 if you have the gall not to be able to afford health insurance. I mean, talk about a gigantic load of fail.

Let's get one thing clear--there's not much point of changing anything without the public option. Saying "at least we have some reform" doesn't make any sense without it.

The other thing is that I'm tired of people (Republicans usually) saying "how are we going to pay for it?" Why do they ask this? No one seems to ever ask how we're going to pay for our military misadventures, and we have paid dearly for them: fiscally, in terms of human life, and in terms of foreign policy failure. Why we would suddenly get so concerned about fiscal responsibility when it comes to a policy that would actually save so many American lives is a mystery to me.

Actually, it's not much of a mystery at all--Republicans simply don't care whether you can afford health care. Destroying other countries and thousands of people along with them is fun to them, so they'll spare no expense. But making sure everyone has access to health care? What fun is that, really? Democrats are somewhat guilty of this as well, but at least they pretend to feel bad about it. I think they feel like merely promising it is enough. If they truly believe that, they have a pretty rude shock awaiting them, too.

The problems are deeper, of course: Our culture venerates suffering and death. The motivation for creating a national, government solution to health care gives our culture the middle finger in this regard, and malignant beast that "it" is, "it" fights back.

More about this tomorrow. Oh, I cannot wait.

Edit: Oh, hell, let's point the finger at Democrats, too, while we're at it.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

YKW?!: i. LCpl Joshua Bernard

First in a series: "You know what?!"

So, here we have the latest teapot-tempest. My understanding is the following:

1. Someone working or contracting for the AP snaps this photo and AP decides it has journalistic merit. The photo depicts one Lance Corporal Joshua Bernard, a Marine, being tended to by fellow soldiers. He was mortally wounded when his unit was attacked by an rocket-propelled grenade wielded by one of the...er...well...whoever it is we're trying to suppress in Afghanistan.

2. AP contacts LCpl Bernard's family, saying "Hey, we took this picture, let us know when you've buried him so we can publish this." Bernard's family said, "What?! Hey, please don't publish that!" AP replied, "We told you this as a courtesy, we don't need your permission."

3. Right-wing blogosphere and talk radio erupts in a cataclysm of foaming outrage. Defense Department erupts in mock outrage to keep right-wing blogosphere from TOTALLY losing its shit.

Now that we have the background, here it comes:

YOU KNOW WHAT? None of you right-wing motherfuckers or the government asked LCpl Bernard's family if it was OK to send their son into a sewer of pointless violence! Where were you then, you assholes? (For that matter, where was I? Hm.)

Yeah, sure, he signed up for that when he became a Marine. But, so what? Even Marines, traditionally the first to fight, are not pieces of shit to be splattered against the wall of anti-terrorism, hoping that they'll stick.

Did any of you clueless fucks ever stop to think that we're trying to occupy fucking AFGHANISTAN, a country the fucking SOVIET ARMY couldn't handle? The SOVIET ARMY. You know, the best organization in the history of the world at invading countries and occupying them--even better than the Roman Legion. Those guys sent in MILLIONS of troops and got their ASSES handed to them. And you idiots think if we send in a few Marines we can hold the country? Are you fucking stupid, or what? More on this in a couple of days--there's a certain annoying anniversary of something coming up that I'm really going to piss you off ranting about. But you can wait.

And, of course, President Obama seems to think we can clean up Afghanistan (and the border regions of Pakistan LOL LOL LOL). There is nothing that can be done about Iraq or Afghanistan. Anything we try to do will make the problems we face as Americans worse, not better. And, in the meantime, we grind up young hopefuls like LCpl Bernard like so much meat.

So, you claim you want to embargo pictures of dying Marines because you want to "respect the wishes of their families." You know, I think the Bernards would rather have Joshua alive, using his talents at something that actually helps America, perhaps also helping produce granchildren for them (or raising them if he already had a couple). Suppressing a photo doesn't really do them a solid, even though you've convinced them that you're actually concerned for them and Joshua.

No, I know the REAL reason you want to hush this photo--it makes people THINK about what is going on and if it's worth the price we are paying. And you can't handle this, because it thwarts your sick policy goals. And President Obama can't handle this, because too much heat from the anti-war crowd thwarts his political ambitions in other arenas.

And even the Associated Press doesn't care about any of this, really. They're just looking to make a fucking buck. But, aside from that, yeah, I am SO glad they published this picture. And I hope they publish every one of these they can. Because you pro-war assholes need to be shown for what you are.

So, while I can't imagine what the Bernards are going through losing Joshua, I CAN tell them this: Publishing this photo isn't going to make your pain any worse in the long run. Covering up Joshua's final battlefield experience isn't going to bring him back or make your sorrow any less. What it will do is enable the government and the pro-war crowd to grind up another family's young boy or girl WITHOUT critical scrutiny.

So, fuck that. Suck it up. Allow the world to see what you have lost and how you lost it. You might as well, because we don't really need your permission, anyway.

As for the rest of you assholes--I'm watching you, and I'm going to call you out on this stuff incessantly. And even though no one is listening yet, eventually they will start listening. And when they do, they'll start calling you out on it, too. And then there will be no place for you to hide.

(Edit: Clarified paragraph third from end.)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Note from the editor: What the hell, Charles?

You might've noticed I made four posts today (five counting this one). Do I have some form of mania? Possibly. But actually, I've had these piling up in my brain since about last Thursday and only today could find the time to write.

This sort of time crunch is what caused me to stop blogging to begin with, among other things, which was a shame. To combat this problem, I now carry a Molskine notebook at all times along with my other effects, which are also now arranged neatly in a "murse" (or "mursenger bag", if you will). So, when I get the urge to rant about something, I jot down some notes to help me remember what I was thinking at the time I got so outraged.

My memory is suspect, but it's also very associative, so I can recall what it was I wanted to do in this way. It is very effective--I suggest all budding bloggers adopt the practice. You COULD try thumbing it out on your cell phone to 40404 to remind you and the world you were about to blog about something, but in my view nothing beats good old fashioned pen and paper for jotting down a few notes.

Because I'm trying to recover my daily routine and, among other things, find a job, I suspect this blog will generally operate in bursts like this. It is bad, because the best way to get a solid readership is to post constantly. But, being able to post like this is better than nothing.

Do the machines serve us, or do we serve the machines?

I went with a friend to see the entirely awesome Quentin Tarantino offering Inglourious Basterds on Sunday. We decided to see it at the Cinerama at 4th & Lenora. I ordered the tickets in advance, intending to pick them up "will call." The movie started at 3:30, so I wanted to be there about 3:00 to have time to park, get tickets, and get good seats.

Well, I ended up running a little late--I pull into the lot behind Cinerama at 3:10. No problem, still plenty of time. But it's a pay lot, so I head to the machine to pay. It used to be that you'd just grab the cash required for the fee, fold it up, stuff it in a slot corresponding to your numbered space, and then go on your merry way. But now you have to put money or a credit card in a machine that gives you a ticket that you place on your dash.

I reached the machine in horror as I see a line of no fewer than eight people waiting to beg the machine permission to park. The process was going VERY slowly. Then I had a sickening flashback.

I have frequent doctor's appointments near 1st & Virginia. Parking in that area on the street is usually a problem, so what I used to do is park in one of the near pay lots. Invariably, there is a line of six people waiting to pay, and all of them are ENTIRELY CLUELESS about how to operate such mindbogglingly complex technology as a parking meter. So, despite arriving 10 minutes early, I end up 10 minutes late to my appointment. Tiring of this, I eventually bought an ORCA pass and took the light rail into the city and, OMG, walked to the doctor's office. Cheaper that way, too (but not as much as you'd think).

Back to the present, I realize the problem this time is not with slack-jawed idiots, but with the machine itself. It is SLOW. It stops to consider life's possibilities for several seconds before proceding to the next step. It takes a full 60 seconds to get a parking ticket if you follow its instructions with alacrity. SIXTY SECONDS. Multiply this by ten people, and you can see this could be a serious problem. Not counting the time it would take to return to the car and place the receipt on the dash, I might add. Whereas, it took all of twenty seconds to drop cash in a box in the "good old days".

I finally get the parking ticket and now it's 3:19. My date and I run down Lenora towards 4th and see that the ticket window STILL has a huge line 11 minutes til showtime. I quickly remembered that there was a kiosk at the corner of 4th & Lenora. So, we scrambled up there and found a line of about 12 people waiting for that!

It turns out there are two purchase/will-call kiosks at the corner, but only one of them actually permits you to obtain tickets! The other one lets you....browse? WHAT THE FUCK?! THERE'S ONLY ONE MOVIE EVER SHOWING AT THIS PLACE AND THE SHOWTIMES ARE CLEARLY DISPLAYED ON THE MARQUEE. WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK?

Not to mention people are having trouble operating the kiosk efficiently. I have to wonder about that. This is one of the most tech-savvy cities on the entire goddamned planet. Do you expect me to believe that the average person in THIS city, of all cities, is too stupid to operate ticket-dispensing machines? I have a hard time believing it--a more plausible conclusion is that such devices are poorly designed.

Finally it's 3:33 and we have convinced the almighty machine to dispense us our tickets, and we have to scramble to find a seat. We do find a pretty good couple of seats and eventually are able to relax enough and enjoy the movie.

But later, I got to thinking--this wonderful technology that everyone claims empowers us and saves our time actually ended up WASTING my time and making me COMPLETELY MISERABLE. Now I know how King Ludd must've felt. He would collapse into a ball of sobbing madness if he had to live in today's world, though.

The rest of us just deal with this with numb acceptance, shrug, and put a stupid "don't worry be happy" grin on our face. But, THAT DAY, I got angry, and felt the urge to smash every kiosk I could find. The power of Ludd compels you....

WTFF: iii. The latest vomitus from the Tornado of Fail

Third in the series: What the Fucking Fuck?!

Washington Secretary of State: Initiative Measure No. 1033

Yeah, how long did it take for YOU to get bored and overwhelmed trying to read that bullshit?

As I said earlier, this is what HorsesAss proprietor Goldy had to say about it:

For all my reputation as a foul-mouthed muckraker and agitator, I’m not sure that any political observer in Washington state has written more substantively on a broader number of issues than I have over the past few years, and on no issue have I focused more acutely than those concerning government revenue and spending. Yet if you think my lengthy and wonkishly obsessive essays on, say, Washington state’s regressive and inadequate tax structure, can be boring to read, just imagine how painful they can be to research and write. That is the type of relentless effort necessary to adequately explain and refute I-1033, but the problem is, it simply doesn’t deserve it.

You see, I-1033 is a joke, totally undeserving of serious scrutiny, not because it stands no chance of passing (it does), or because its impact on our state and its citizens wouldn’t be devastating (it would), but because as an act of policy it is a capricious, vindictive, ridiculous, cynical piece of legislative bamboozlement based totally on lies, falsehoods, fabrications, distortions and lies, and thus any effort to discuss its provisions on substance—even on a lowly blog named HorsesAss.org—would be an insult to the public debate.

There you have it--straight from the horse's...ass'...er, mouth. Or something.

This is the latest offering in a series of fail by a local agitator named Tim Eyman. Tim Eyman has become a master of abusing the initiative and referendum process in Washington State.

A long time ago, when I first moved here, Washington got a substantial amount of income from something called the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax, or MVET. MVET was a pretty annoying and occasionally brutal thing, but it was a huge component of state revenue. Let me relate my experience concerning the MVET.

In 1998, while still living in Texas, I bought something called a Mazda Millenia S, which is no longer in production, but in many ways is similar to a Mazda 6. There was all kinds of exchange rate weirdness between the US and Japan at the time, so the list price of this car ended up being $40,000. But, no way this car was worth anything near $40k--most people actually bought theirs for around $28k, which is about what I paid. That may have still been a little too much, but what the hell, I was making really good money at the time and needed a new car. Plus they gave me $6k on my damaged and piece-of-crap used Toyota Tacoma. Yay.

When I moved to Seattle the next year, I found out that to license my car I had to pay MVET. Because the car was newer than two years old, I had to pay excise on the FULL LIST PRICE of the car. Which was $40,000. That's right, to get my tabs, I had to pay nearly $1000. This was nearly 2 extra car payments per year. I also found out that when I even qualified for depreciation, it was some ridiculous figure like 2% a year--I would be paying hundreds and hundreds of dollars per year to register this car. If the tax still applied today, I would still be paying $500 in excise taxes on a car that barely runs and makes horrifying "clicking" noises when I steer it.

Hardly seems fair, right? Well, I was not alone in my NUCYULAR rage. And apparently some bonehead in Mukilteo by the name of Tim Eyman had channeled that rage into a new citizen's initiative. Given the designation I-695, it promised to repeal the MVET and cap all registration fees at $30.

At first, I was like, AWESOME! But then I actually began to think about it--Washington's roads were actually pretty good back then. When things needed to get fixed, they got fixed. When recession hit, the MVET bolstered fluctuation in sales tax and property tax revenues. And Washington has no income tax, so you know, paying an extra $1k for a guy making six figures didn't seem like a serious burden. So, I was like, yes the structure of this tax is annoying and unfair, but Washington would be a much worse place without it.

The Democrats (who still ran things back then) had a chance to intercept this rage and do something reasonable, perhaps suggesting, "Yes, I know, everyone hates the MVET. We need the money, though--and look how great our roads are! We need to develop transit infrastructure, too. And some of our bridges need work. I'll tell ya what--if you vote against I-695, we'll change the formula for depreciation so the tax is not quite so unfair to people who buy highly-depreciating cars. We'll give people who live in their recreational vehicles a tax break. And we'll even provide an equalization process for people who feel their cars are grossly overvalued. But we need this revenue. Will you work with us?"

Oh, no, but they didn't do that. They said, "Tim Eyman, you suck. You go to hell. You go to hell and you die." And, thus, I-695 passed in a landslide. The government managed to get it thrown out on a technicality, but that simply increased public rage. So, the Democrats knuckled under and repealed the MVET anyway.

You might ask, what was the technicality? A second clause--ANY tax increase proposed by the legislature had to be ratified by the people in a plebiscite. I believe it had to pass by a supermajority (60%) as well, but I cannot remember exactly. Anyway, this violates the rules concerning initiatives--they must contain a single subject. Because, after all, this was Eyman's goal all along--he used the outrage concerning the unfairness of the MVET to try to worm through an initiative hamstringing the government's ability to raise revenue.

And now it's 10 years later, and parts of I-5 and I-90 are now so worn you can see the rebar sticking through in the pavement. Among tons of other things crumbling around us. Yeah, way to go, Timmy Baby! Not to mention huge surpluses in boom times becoming small ones which then gave way to tremendous structural deficits that threaten to destroy the efficacy of trivial things like, I don't know, higher education. I'll post more on structural deficits later--suffice it for now to say that Tim Eyman is pretty much THE reason we have structural deficits in this state.

Grover Norquist likes to talk about how he wants to make government so small he can drown it in a bathtub (an older friend of mine suggests this thought originally came from Thomas Dewey, but I think it was actually Norquist who coined it). Tim Eyman is the one actually filling the bathtub with water, though. You'd think that wrecking our roads would be enough of a lifetime accomplishment, but Eyman will NEVER quit until he can fit the Washington State government in his bathtub so he can drown it.

And that's what I-1033 is about. The bathtub is full and ready for the drowning. All you have to do is pass it, and Tim can get busy.

And to that, I say, What the Fucking Fuck? Especially given how people will just go "yeah, taxes bad, grrr" and vote for this piece of shit. God, I'm going to have to move away, but where the fuck will I go?

WTFF: ii. What's the frequency, Kenneth?

Second in the series: "What the Fucking Fuck?!"

Snohomish (WA) Times: FBI Investigates Snohomish Tower Toppling

Snohomish is a bedroom community about 30 miles northeast of Seattle. Apparently, some whackjobs decided they could no longer abide KRKO's radio towers standing in the outskirts of town, so they stole something called a "track-hoe" and dragged the entire tower down.

I chose the local paper as the source of the story, because its amateurish and horridly biased reporting his hilarious. As well, the locals seem to think that the ELF was not behind it at all, but rather annoyed locals hoping to improve their view. Because we have gorgeous vistas all over the place around here that trees and radio towers have the unbridled GALL to block, people occasionally act out and illegally remove those impediments to their views.

But, here we go: ELF definitely takes credit for this.

"Due to the health and environmental risks associated with radio waves emitted from the towers, we applaud this act by the ELF," stated Jason Crawford, a spokesperson for the North American Earth Liberation Front Press Office. "When all legal channels of opposition have been exhausted, concerned citizens have to take action into their own hands to protect life and the planet."

I suppose you shouldn't try to argue science with people like this, but that is...just weird. So weird, it reaches WTFF status.

Maybe BOTH are true. Locals toppled the towers, blamed it on ELF, and ELF was too happy to go along. But, seriously, WTF? Mediumwave transmission has been happening for, gee, I don't know, 90 years now? I think if it caused massive environmental degradation we'd notice something like that by now.

It might be more understandable if KRKO was, say, dedicated to vomiting right-wing moranity over the airwaves. But it's not--it's a sports radio station! I mean, sure, hardly a bastion of intelligent discourse, but who does it hurt, really?

Seriously, man, what the fucking fuck?