June 09, 2004
Well, Ashcroft Said It Was OK!!
Here's some reading on the whole torture thing.
Memo Says Bush Not Restricted by Torture Bans;
Bush Didn't Order Any Breach of Torture Laws, Ashcroft Says.
If you don't want to read it, here's the quick sum-up: Ashcroft has said, this week, that the President "'made no order that would require or direct the violation' of either the international treaties or domestic laws prohibiting torture." Good. Last year, Ashcroft's department published a memorandum that said the President has no obligation to follow such treaties or laws. So Ashcroft's not saying "the President didn't order the torture," he's saying "the President didn't order any torture that, in our opinion, he's not allowed to order." That's a big difference, especially since he's said the President can order any torture he wants to. Given the circumstances of a slipping Presidential approval rating and upcoming election, wouldn't you think that, if Bush hadn't ordered any torture at all, Ashcroft would've said "President Bush never ordered torture," instead of "President Bush never ordered torture that violates treaties or laws," ESPECIALLY in light of the recent discovery of this memorandum? Certainly...if that were the case.
The justification for allowing the President to order torture that would otherwise violate international treaties or domestic laws seems pretty tenuous. Actually, it seems barely justifiable, and if it weren't for having seen this administration try to justify an entire war on shaky evidence, I'd have trouble believing Ashcroft could actually get up in public and pretend to be serious in his legal assessment. We're at war, and the President is in charge of the conduct of the war, so he's not bound by treaties prohibiting torture. OK. Surely we can't hold Saddam Hussein accountable for his torture either, because Iraq was at war when he committed those atrocities. Surely we can't hold Hitler responsible for the Holocaust, because Germany was at war. Some may counter that those nations deliberately and wrongly went on the offensive to create those wars. So did we. Ah, but they were...evil! So are we. Seriously. So what's the difference? Why is ousting Saddam a good thing? Why isn't anyone invading our country to oust Bush? How can we justify the prosecution of other nations' leaders for war crimes? Is the President, by virtue of being in charge of a war he created, bound by NO law or treaty? It would seem the case.
Here's another thought: we're not at war. We haven't declared war in 50 years. Not in Nam, not in Iraq, not in Somalia, Kosovo, Iran, Nicaragua, anywhere. So you don't get to say "he's in charge of the war:" there's no war to be in charge of. There's undeclared military action without provocation or justification. Ah, the high moral ground we possess. Thank God Saddam Hussein's out of power: the world's much safer now!
Here's another thought: Clinton wasn't impeached for adultery, remember? He was impeached for lying, because the other side couldn't stand him. Why hasn't the other side decided to do the same to this guy? Have we the beginnings of a one-party state? Hyperbole? Perhaps. But why? Why don't we fight? Why did we learn the wrong lesson from the Republican surge? Who's running this goddam show?
Here's another thought: five days of mourning for Reagan? Constant news coverage? Why don't we just have the richest 1% mourn for five days and let it trickle down?
Here's another thought: I'm right, and you're either with me, or you're for the terrorists and all the sushi-eating Howard Dean-buttfucking Vermonters.
Here's another thought: If we're just going to sacrifice all the liberties we're supposed to be struggling to protect, we might as well just save the lives and money and surrender now, convert to Islam, buy stock in veil companies, and learn Arabic.
Here's another thought: Bush hasn't done anything to reduce the problem of terrorism. In fact, he's cut funding for first responders (police, EMTs, and firepeople of either or both sexes) across the nation. The Homeland Security Agency has failed to do anything at all except to point out that duct tape makes you immune to radiation, and red is a scarier color than orange. Invading a sovereign Arab nation is unlikely to endear many Arabs to our cause. Picture if Saddam had invaded Canada last year. Would you have converted to al Queda? So I'm curious: what exactly has he done that makes him so strong in the war on terror? Cut funding for anti-terrorism and invaded a state that posed no national or terrorist threat to us. Sweet! If the war on terror is nearly as important as Bush makes it out to be, voting for Bush is morally indefensible.
Here's another thought: fuck Diebold.
Here's another thought: during Reagan's funeral, George W. Bush will be sitting next to Bill Clinton. On Clinton's other side will be George H. W. Bush. Then Carter and Ford. Picture Clinton sitting between those two Bushes! That's a once-in-a-lifetime entertainment opportunity!
I'm out of thoughts. That's it.
May 14, 2004
Can I Put You On Hold?
Ever have someone call you, and then ask to put you on hold? Sure is irritating! But when it happens, hide that irritation: this is opportunity knocking. It's best to agree to their request with a cheerful tone, and when you hear the line click off, cheerfully hang up on them.
The smart ones will get the hint and learn their lesson. "Hey, I called that guy and then put him on hold; that was a dick move. I feel really bad about that and will alter my conduct in the future." The other 99.5% of the population will call you back:
They: "Hello, I just called? We got disconnected."
You (Act innocent): "I know. I thought they fixed that! That seems to happen when people call in and then put us on hold. I'm glad you called back. So what can I do for you?"
They: "Well, I...."
You: "I'm sorry, can I put you on hold a second?" Hang up.
By now all but the dumbest and rudest will give up and leave you alone. But there are still those out there who either can't or won't help themselves: "Wow, disconnected twice! That's a really unreliable phone system...I'd better call back! They must be frustrated!"
You (with fake Middle-Eastern accent): "Hello, White House switchboard, Hakamel speaking."
They: "Oh, sorry, I must have the wrong number...uh...well, that's strange...I hit redial!"
You (briskly, with Scandinavian accent): "We change this number on a regular basis, for security purposes. Please hold." Hang up.
The rude ones will give up at this point: clearly, you're the victor. You're unstoppable: they cower at your feet. But the dumb ones remain. They're too stupid to beat: their lack of intellect renders them invulnerable. So you have to entertain yourself. Pick up the ringing phone and put it next to your keyboard. Type loudly. If it's a cordless, bring it into the bathroom. Have a loud conversation with someone (imaginary, if necessary) about the complete moron who called and tried to put you on hold. Mock them mercilessly. Pick up the phone and tell them their haircut reminds you of a kid from the short bus. Then put it back down and cue up a porno movie at full volume.
If they're still on the phone after that, pick it back up and ask if you can put them on hold. Being put on hold is really irritating.
May 09, 2004
Aww, I Can't Stay Mad At You, Great Satan!
So I'm reading Richard Clarke's book, Against All Enemies. If you haven't read it, and have ever wondered about the history of the Middle East from 1980-2000, it'll help. If not, you may not particularly enjoy it. But one thing from it really grabbed me as being hysterical, and may help to convince those who hate us that it's all just a big misunderstanding.
Picture this: you're a Saudi named Hani el-Sayegh. You hate America. You work for Saudi Hezbollah. And one day you're ordered to attack a United States Air Force base in a place called "Khobar." So you do it. And of course, as you expected, the Americans find out you did it. If there's one thing America likes more than big business, it's getting it's man! But they can't prove who ordered you to do it. So they fly you to...Canada!
The director of an investigative agency called the "FBI" sits down with you and the Canadian officials. He asks you to agree to a lighter sentence in exchange for betraying your superiors. And despite their expectations, you do agree, probably because you're terrified. So they bring you to the United States to stand trial. But once you get there, it occurs to you that maybe you should be more terrified of the people you'd be betraying, so you decide you don't want to do this deal anymore. And so you refuse to cooperate. The country that's apprehended you gives you a lawyer to help you defend yourself against it. So you stand trial against America (with your American lawyer), and you refuse to betray your superiors. And you're let off, because they don't have any evidence against you! This vindicates your American lawyer, who wanted you to win your case, but it aggravates the American FBI, who wanted you to lose your case, and give up evidence while you did it.
The Saudi officials will kill you if you return, because you're a murderer. So you do the only thing you can do: seek asylum in the country whose soldiers you killed. Another American agency is assigned to consider whether you should be protected for killing its citizens. And by now you're thinking, "this is some really fucked up bureaucracy!" This is subsequently confirmed by the fact that your asylum review is taking so long. While that review is pending, the director of the FBI, who apprehended you and brought you to America in the first place, orders you detained because...wait for it...you're in America illegally!
How can you hate a country like that? We're completely incompetent! We're not evil: we're stupid! So lighten up!
May 04, 2004
Bill Gates Fined $800,000
That's right, you heard it here first, or fiftieth: Bill Gates has been fined $800,000, for failing to disclose a purchase of stock that gives him a certain amount of control in the biotech company that manufactures boner drug Cialis. The amount of the fine would cause some financial concern for a lot of the population. But for Bill? $800,000?! It seems a laughably small sum, but how laughable is it? There's a lot of 0s happening here: we should put this in perspective.
According to this Forbes Article, Gates is worth $46.6 billion American dollars. $800,000 is roughly 0.00171674% of $46.6 billion. So what does that mean for someone likt me? Well, totalling my assets and debts (in my sleepy state), I calculate my net worth (as of this moment) at roughly -$10,000. So essentially, the fine on Gates is about like someone giving me...wait for it...$0.17. Yeowch. That'll teach him!
May 02, 2004
Jonathan A. Knee, director of the media program at Columbia Business School, has written an editorial at NYT. I think he starts from a good premise, one I would wholeheartedly agree with. Then he goes in the wrong direction, fast.
First, the premise: "The Federal Communications Commission's well-publicized post-Super Bowl campaign against broadcaster "indecency" is misplaced, if not downright comical.... It's time to consider a more radical approach to censoring pornography."
Good. I agree. Sex sells. The networks may claim not to want to display it (which I think is a bit of a say-one-thing-and-do-another situation), but financially, it's too tempting. They'll skirt the line as often as possible: if they get punished, they'll apologize and do it again in a month. If they get away with it, the line has moved, to be re-challenged another day. So yeah, the FCC's campaign seems silly and problematic. And therefore, we need a new plan. I'm with you up to here, John!
Mr. Knee cites the problems with the current law: butting up against the cherished first amendment, the long and doubtful process of case-by-case judicial review, and finally: " ...the problem isn't only what minors see. With 70 percent of men aged 18 to 34 visiting a pornographic Web site at least once a month, this material affects everyone." His conclusion: outlaw the practice of paying people for sex acts.
I have a better proposal, one that respects the views of everybody: let's eliminate indecency laws.
John's proposal works against capitalism, the only thing America values more than democracy and freedom. Mine aids capitalism! His proposal inhibits liberty: mine expands it. His proposal gets rid of the problem of case-by-case judicial review of what constitutes pornography: so does mine. However, his introduces a whole new, much much thornier case-by-case judicial problem: what's a "sex act?"
Holy shit! You've gotta be kidding...Clinton's out of office for three years and already we've forgotten how complex this issue is?! For the sake of argument, let's make the assumption that oral sex is a sex act. What about digital stimulation? What about mutual masturbation? What about touching without the intent to stimulate? Do breasts count? What about the posterior? If Donovan McNabb throws a touchdown pass, and a fellow player, being paid to play in the game, gives him a congratulatory ass-pat, does that player go to jail? Does McNabb? What about kissing on the lips? What about kissing on the cheek? What about a foot massage? Does it matter if you have a foot fetish? What if you're paid to appear in a movie scene where you ejaculate on a photograph of John Ashcroft? Stripping? Lapdance? Bending over and revealing cleavage? What if you whack off at work?
Yeah, Mr. Knee, your proposal really gets around that judicial review problem. Nicely done. Remind me to leave the country if you ever attain a federal judicial position.
But Chris, you say, the airwaves are federal property! The Supreme Court has ruled that the FCC may govern content transmitted over them. Sure, they may, according to that ruling, which (to my untrained legal mind) relies on a rather tenuous interpretation of law and precedent. But even granting that, the ruling doesn't say the FCC MUST do so. Nowhere does it say "obscenity MUST be prevented," it only says "obscenity CAN be prevented." And frankly, I see more benefit in allowing it than attempting to prohibit it. We save money and manpower. We have more liberty. We eliminate a precedent of state-controlled information. And there's another capitalist benefit.
What if we let the states take back legal control of transmitted content? Use that 10th amendment! "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." More regional control! Let Utah require women to wear long pants and face veils! Let Nevada air hardcore group sex all day long on the childrens' channel! Then there will be a market for TVs with real decency controls, the way there's a developing market for programs and even hardware that prevent children from accessing pornography. But don't force people to buy these products (you right-wing commies! :D): let the market forces prevail. Let advocacy groups attempt to change thought and behavior. Don't rely on laws to do it.
I've only thought about this for about as long as it took me to write this entry. I may be wrong. Feel free to tell me so.
April 29, 2004
Today, Al Gore pledged $6,000,000 toward this fall's Democratic Party election efforts. The money is left over from his election bid four years ago. Under FEC rules, such funds can be donated to national political parties.
One question, Al: how come you had six million fucking dollars left over?!?! You couldn't find anything to spend that on?! What the hell is the matter with you?! Thwap Thwap!!
All right, I guess that was three questions.
April 28, 2004
I was watching the Sharks attempt to sweep their series against the Avs tonight. A Yahoo! ad came on, and as it ended, one of those strange, over-tired realizations washed over me: that yodel, so familiar, catchy in its unashamed lameness...it's, it's...Slim Whitman! It's gotta be! It sounds just fucking like him!
A quick search, however, reveals the truth. It's not Slim Whitman. It's some dude named Wylie Gustafson, who was originally paid $590 to do it for one commercial. Then Yahoo! used it over and over again, and Wylie sued them for $5,000,000.
I vaguely recall having heard this at the time. I'm glad Wylie got his money. But it begged the question: shouldn't Slim Whitman be suing Wylie for copying his signature stylings? And that question begged another question: would Slim himself sue, or would it be the estate of the late Slim Whitman? I mean to say, is Slim still kicking? Another quick search revealed this site, which is definitely worth a look. Slim's got a smiley face, which means he's still alive. He's 80! Dead people get a skull. Hey, Archibald Cox is still alive! Alfred Hitchcock died on this day in 1980!
As near as I can tell, Slim never sued Wylie for combining twang with yodel. There's still time, Slim! Turns out, you're still alive! Can you hear me? Turn the hearing aid up, Slim! Get out of that casket and sue that warbly bastard!
April 27, 2004
I've just been smacked with my first primitive form of RSS spam. To be sure, unlike e-mail spam, it doesn't just discover you and attack: I willfully signed up for this one (several months ago). But here's the thing. Check out:
At the moment, the very first item is an ad for a product called "SpinSite." It has an amazingly ridiculous url. Note the code that looks something like "bhngbonjbhngbgnobmnhzcxerarorb." Now refresh the page. Neat, huh? So every time an aggregator hits it, it has a unique url. Depending on how your aggregator's coded, it'll show up as new and unread every time you refresh the feed (I imagine most aggregators suffer this problem). Simple, but effective...and incredibly lame.
Bastards!! Now I have to make a determination over whether the information contained within is enough for me to deal with the ads, and the aggravation of what I perceive to be a violation of principle. Nope, fuck 'em: I'm hitting "Unsubscribe."
(If this is something common that I've just never stumbled across before, I apologize for wasting your time. But it's a new one on me. Bastards.)
Bastards!! You hear me, bastards?! BASTARDS!!!
April 26, 2004
So I killed a little living thing today. It darted out into the road, under my rear tires. Didn't see it until it was next to the car...just a glimpse of gray tail. Too late to react. Sorry pal. Keeping my fingers crossed for reincarnation.
April 17, 2004
I woke up in the hotel room, relaxed and grinning happy. I yawned and stretched, shuffled to the curtain and threw it open.
The day was grey. Grey sky above grey ocean. White sea foam. The waves, after a full day of rain, pounded the land, chaotic.
I thought about the waves, how I'd never really considered the physics until the day before:
"Why do the waves break on land, but not out to sea?"
"Well, uh...hm...ah. The earth slopes upward, and the tops of the waves run up and over the receeding water, and suddenly, they don't have enough to support them anymore, so they break and receed themselves..."
As I stared and thought of this, the waves became dismal allegory. My life was like those waves: my decisions, my directions, my being. I felt like I was constantly running one way, and parts of me were going the other: I was doomed to trip over myself. How can we know we're doing the right things in life? What if we're going the wrong way? What if there is no right way? How come things aren't easy?
No one told you when to run. You missed the starting gun.
I was suddenly so unsure of myself, the things I do. What was I doing with my life? While my friends were getting married, having kids, moving across the country, making good money, I was doing none of these things. I had no desire to get married, no drive to father a child, no wish to leave my beloved home state. And money never seemed so important to me. What shallow ground my water had run upon.
My reflections browsed my life and leisure pursuits. I love playing bass, and spend much of my time on it. But I don't practice enough to be a professional. Certainly no one would listen to me and use the phrase "accomplished bassist." "Capable" and "passable" are more apt terms. And I'm pleased for it. But I'm not building a great life out of it.
I experiment with web development, and I love that too: it's the perfect creative environment for someone with my creative strengths. The blank canvas terrifies me, to be sure...but put the tiniest flaw, a little splotch of color, an accidental mark, and I can tweak it until it's something pleasing. Web development provides me with enough structure to let me do good things. I love the challenge, and the learning. But honestly, can I really expect to turn it into a profitable business? Perhaps. But perhaps not. And that day, it seemed likely to fail.
And yet, if I shouldn't be doing these, then what? Pissing away my life on TV and games and junk food? And I realized that what was really bothering me was the sudden realization that my life wasn't going to amount to anything. I'd always assumed it would. People always told me if you were smart, you'd do great things: invent something, write a book, help the needy. And I'd always tried to reflect on that hope when I was depressed. Somehow, no matter how bad life was, I maintained this expectation of grandeur. Sure, I'm smart! Great things are headed my way! And now that expectation was seeming like a delusion, and with the realization, I was stripped even of the comfort of delusion. My intelligence was a mirage: the "book smarts" of the American Educational System. Sit in this desk. Read this text. Explain. Take a test. Repeat. It was like waking up from a nice dream.
I'd hit the shore, turned, and run the other way, tripping over myself. I landed face-up on the cold, wet sand, and felt a tugging at my feet. I was dragged out to sea, back under the water. It covered up my face, and weighed heavy on me...the weight of a long, mediocre life looming ahead.
I was stunned, numbed. Paranoia gripped me. And the negative emotion became like the sea: ebbing and flowing, rising and falling, but always present, unignorable. I moved through the day like an automaton, thinking of nothing but my impending lame, meaningless existence. Not to be enjoyed by myself or others, to leave no lasting mark after it was gone.
Then I thought, "Wait: who am I to think I deserved a grand life in the first place? What makes me so fucking special?" Ah, the grand existentialist question. Somehow, it just made me feel worse, so I left it unanswered.
Eventually my mood softened. I smiled, made conversation with those around me, took interest in food and travel. But the knowledge remained, like a stain on the wall covered with a painting: no one may see it, but you know it's there. It's there. It's there. It's there.