Friday, September 27, 2002

Bigwig at the estimable Silfray Hraka site has an interesting and admirable take on what unilateral U.S. action against Iraq might mean for the U.N. ... and I admit it's one that hadn't occurred to me: that the U.N. might collapse and that something better might take its place. I suspect the odds of that aren't as high as he thinks, but it's an intriguing possiblity nonetheless.

Thursday, September 26, 2002

Depending on how old you are, you might or might not give much of a damn about the Berman-Coble bill now before the House Judiciary Committee. Basically, it would allow record companies and movie studios that make videos to hack your PC if they thought you were violating copyright law by duping CDs or videos or DVDs or sharing files with peer-to-peer (P2P) technology.

Now, don't get me wrong: As an occasional free-lance writer, I'm all in favor of copyright law. But what's really going on here, whether Reps. Berman and Coble know it or not (and given the money they've taken from the industry, they should have figured it out), is not copyright protection, which is certainly Congress' business, but business-model protection, which free-market Republicans are supposed to abhor.

In classical terms, P2P is "disruptive" technology, technology so different from, and so much better than, existing technology that it disrupts an industry's whole business model. I don't know so much about videos and DVDs, but I do know the recorded-music industry, and its business model, predicated on retail prices for CDs that have been artificially high ever since the format was introduced almost 20 years ago, has been in serious need of disruption. I could break it all down for you, but, conveniently, John Dvorak does it for me in PC magazine. Here's the gist of his argument:

If you had a machine that could make a new Lexus for $1,000, then why would you buy one from Toyota for $50,000? Because you had a moral obligation? You'd wonder why Toyota wouldn't use the same machine to make the car for $1,000.

Why, indeed?

I've been surprised that there have been, so far as I can tell, very few examples of people trying to capitalize on 9/11. But here's one: a guy who has pleaded guilty to securities fraud, money laundering and extortion in connection with a stock scheme that benfited the Mob (and who was taped planning to murder an informant).

He says he shouldn't be sentenced to prison -- he's looking at 10 to 14 years -- because he was traumatized by witnessing the events of 9/11 from his lower-Manhattan apartment.


Susanna Cornett of the excellent blog Cut on the Bias suggests an appropriate punishment: 10 years in solitary, watching the Naudet video on continuous loop. You go, girl!

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

So, will the next round of terrorists be coming from the formet Soviet republic of Georgia? Maybe, and there's a good chance it could be our fault.
Al Gore is hardly one of my favorite people, but by and large he's dead right on our so-called "war on terrorism." Let's keep our eye on the ball, starting by finding and punishing all the guilty parties involved in 9/11 and then moving on to those who supplied, funded or hid them. There's not a lot of evidence that Iraq played a big role in any of those activities, as opposed to, oh, say, our so-called "allies" in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
Says here that Jesse Jackson wants jokes about Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks cut out of future editions of the movie "Barbershop" ... a movie made by and primarily for African Americans, keep in mind.

Speaking of jokes, what happened to the joke where Jackson, after fathering a child out of wedlock, was gonna stay home, tend to his family and SHUT UP already ... ?

Friday, September 20, 2002

The executives who ran Tyco (into the ground) are likely facing a long, involuntary vacation on account of such indiscretions as fraud and conspiracy, but this suggests they ought to be imprisoned for life on the grounds of bad taste alone: Everyone knows Gray Goose vodka beats hell out of Stoli in blind taste tests.

Thursday, September 19, 2002

Would someone be kind enough to explain to me how this is any different in concept from "Pay up or I'll break your legs"? Thanks.
OK, here's someone who gets it. I don't necessarily think that war with Iraq is the only way to achieve what he advocates, although I'll concede it would be the fastest way.

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Perhaps you remember my earlier concern about the Bush administration's proposal to increase logging in national forests to prevent wildfires. Well, guess what? A sober review of U.S. Forest Service records for the past 50 years or so shows that wildfires have tended to increase, not decrease, in relation to the amount of logging going on. In other words, not only is there no reason to think the Bush proposal will work as advertised, there's reason to think it will do exactly the opposite of what it's intended to do.

Unless, of course, it was intended not to prevent wildfire, but to enrich the administration's logging cronies. But only someone really cynical would suggest that.

Friday, September 13, 2002

In its ongoing campaign to prove that you can never go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people, the GOP has been running ads in the Kansas City area calling Social Security payments to white people "reverse reparations." A rhetorician from the area breaks it down.
This country's drug policy and drug laws are fucked up, and anyone with a lick of sense knows it. Which, of course, excludes just about all our elected officials.

Case in point: Noelle Bush, daughter of Florida Gov. Jeb and niece of the president. She was caught this week with cocaine while in drug rehab after previous offenses. This is her third offense. In most other circumstances, she'd be looking at seriously hard time, perhaps even life in prison. But not Noelle. She'll get rehab -- again -- because of who she is and, more importantly, who her family is.

Now, nothing against Noelle personally; I'm delighted she's going to get the help she needs. But why don't all offenders get the help they need? Why do we persist in the illusion that it's cheaper to imprison drug users than to treat them? Because it's not -- not up front and not in the long run.

It's one more example of people preferring to look like they're doing the right thing about a problem, rather than actually doing it.

Thursday, September 12, 2002

So here we are, the day after One Year After.

Which is where?

I went to church last night -- yeah, I know, sounds weird, but I've been doing it a long time -- but the service felt curiously detached from any real emotion. Part of that stems from where I went: It's the church where I belong, a fairly large congregation for this city, part of a mainstream Protestant denomination in a medium-sized American city. No one in our congregation was lost on 9/11, no one in our congregation lost any close friends or relatives (although a former co-worker of mine lost a nephew), so there wasn't the kind of raw grief evident that there was in the ceremonies you saw on TV.

The service was divided into four parts, each devoted to one theme: Grief, Comfort, Hope and Reconciliation. Each section included a scripture reading, a musical selection, a prayer and a responsive reading.

The Reconciliation section was the only one that interested me, and only because parts were a tad ambiguous. The scripture reading was Matthew 5: 38-47: 38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. 42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. 43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? 48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

This command of Jesus' indicates that our response toward the murderers -- for so they were -- of 9/11 should be to offer them the opportunity to kill more of us. It's counterintuitive, as so much of Jesus' teachings are, but it's also one of the best-known tenets of Christianity.

The responsive reading, however, was a tad more ambiguous. I don't have the text or a link or even a cite, so I can't reproduce it here, but it threw some notions of "justice" into the mix, perhaps -- perhaps -- suggesting that we might not be entirely wrong to want to go to Afghanistan and kick al-Qaeda ass and whatnot.

Intellectually, I know what Jesus is saying, and I know why he's saying it. I understand why the future of the human race depends upon our complying with it.

But my response to what happened a year ago has not been fully intellectual. For that matter, I'll grant, it hasn't been fully rational. But it is what it is, and I deny that to myself, and to you, at my peril. If the five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, well, I hit Stage 1 at 8:46 a.m. 366 days ago, got to Stage 2 about 16 minutes later, and have been sitting there, unmoving, ever since. I have been pissed. I am still pissed. I will be pissed for the forseeable future. Someday I will no longer be so angry, but that day is not here yet.

I want the people who did this found, humiliated, made to suffer. Ah, shit, who are we kidding? I want them dead.

But beyond that, I want those who supported them broken, financially, socially, culturally, emotionally. I want the spiritually and politically corrupt House of Saud and their Egyptian counterparts scattered to the four winds, their assets confiscated for the benefit of the families left bereft by their greasy game of patsy with al-Qaeda. I want the Muslim fundamentalist schools shut down, then reopened with a new and more constructive curriculum, one that does not distort Islam to justify the deliberate murder of innocent civilians and encourages fairness, equality and creation over destruction.

Do not speak to me of America's sins and misdeeds in the world. I am more cognizant of them than most of my countrymen, but they don't mean shit. For all its sins, America has saved more lives, created more commerce and culture, fed more hungry, freed more oppressed and nurtured more religious activity than all other civilizations in the history of the world combined. Com. Bined.

But we also have fought as relentlessly and savagely as any people in the history of the planet. Shoot POWs? "Saving Private Ryan" didn't make that shit up; it happened. Drop the Bomb on Japan? Won't lose a minute's sleep. Cut off the Iraqi army from supplies, communications and support and then drop firebombs on it until the world's 7th largest army has been reduced to the world's 18th largest? "Cut off its head and then kill it," said "dove" Colin Powell, and so we did.

And you know what? Right here, right now, I don't have a problem with that. I don't give a fuck what the French think, I don't give a shit what the Arabs think. I. WANT. THEM. DEAD. and I don't care much how it happens. I've had a year to think about this, and my position has not changed.

When and if it does, I'll let you know.

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Oh, for cryin' out loud, they've even got Casual Fridays in the Arctic now.
Someone e-mailed to ask why I'm not writing about 9/11. Because I'm not wallowing in my emotions, that's why. All I want to know is how many terrorists' asses, or terrorists' supporters' asses, are being kicked today, and where, and when, and how hard. That's it. I want to know that the House of Saud is being informed in no uncertain terms that if it's going to continue its hypocritical lifestyle of whores, cocaine and Mercedeses, it's going to hand over every fucking bin Laden on the peninsula, and all their assets, today. I want Egypt told that if it doesn't do the same, it can spend the next millennium eating sand for breakfast. And that's all I have to say. The Punk Kittens can say the rest. Cheers.
Nacho Cheese Doritos are for wusses. Here's a manly snack.
You think you have problems at work?? Pshaw!!, I say!

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

I have no idea who Vodkapundit is, but he certainly has his head on straight.

Either we eliminate terrorism in general, and radical, medievalist Islam in particular, as a threat to our safety and well-being, or we will -- not might, will -- lose many of our freedoms.

Note that that's not the same thing as saying, "Let's invade Iraq," despite what the current tenant of the White House seems to think. It might mean we 1) achieve energy independence and then 2) tell the Saudis, the Iraqis and all the other i's to go fuck themselves (and turn anyone who invades Israel into a glass parking lot). But the people who started this a year ago aren't going to go away until we make them go away. This is a worthy, just war. Maybe it's beyond the capabilities of the current crowd in Washington, but that doesn't make it any less worth fighting.
My skepticism regarding the current administration's motives is obvious, but never doubt for a minute that I understand what we are fighting for ... and fighting against. We're fighting for freedom, our own and other people's; we're fighting for the freedoms of people who are now not free and for people not yet born. We're fighting against the worst kind of medieval, patriarchal, brutal authoritarianism, and make no mistake: It is a good, just fight.

Wednesday, September 04, 2002

You might think that, because inept (or corrupt) Florida officials handed the 2000 presidential election to the U.S. Supreme Court to in turn hand it to Bush, Florida election procedures would've been revamped. In fact, they're getting worse, in ways even Republicans ought to worry about.

Tuesday, September 03, 2002

OK, I've been away for a bit, so I'm only now getting around to commenting on Bush's proposal to fight forest fires. In a word, it's asinine -- ketchup-is-a-vegetable for our time -- but, by now unsurprisingly, it's also just another thinly disguised way to line the pockets of this administration's supporters at the public's expense.
In a little more objective terms, the biggest problem contributing to forest fires is the presence of smaller (i.e., shorter and thinner) trees that act as "fuel ladders" and carry the fire up to the crowns -- the tops -- of the bigger trees. But clearing such smaller trees out, leaving the larger trees well-spaced, costs roughly $3,500 an acre.

Now, if the feds were going to pay someone to come in and do that kind of work on all the federal lands, that'd be one thing. (Lord knows the Forest Service can't afford to do the work itself.) But what they're proposing to do is to let timber interests come in and log the larger trees -- the ones we're supposed to be trying to save from fire. Why, you ask? Because trees smaller than about 9 inches in diameter have no commercial value.

Add to this the fact that if you want to protect homes from forest fire, you start not by fixing the forest but by addressing the homes themselves, plus a circle around each that's about 150 feet in diameter -- about the farthest that fire could leap to ignite a home. And nobody is even talking about how to do that.

So, basically, we've got a policy proposal here that's 1) stupid on its face; 2) is being advertised as making us safer when in fact it will do nothing of the kind, and 3) will funnel more wealth from the taxpayers to this administration's corporate supporters. I guess this is what Bush means all the time when he talks about winning the trifecta.