Saturday, September 03, 2005

On a lighter note...


This is apparently the guy who's going to play Aquaman during the fifth season of Smallville.

Via Kryptonsite:

Kristin at E! Online has revealed the news we've been trying to figure out for a while - the role of Young Arthur "A.C." Curry, aka Aquaman, has been cast for the episode "Aqua." The actor playing him is a newcomer named Alan Ritchson


And some hints from Gough on the behavior of young Arthur Curry in "Aqua:" "He is determined to save the oceans and Lex is doing something nefarious involving a defense contract. In a weird way, Arthur is probably two feet from being an eco-terrorist and Clark has to sort of real him back in terms of what he's willing to do."

Also, James Marsters, Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is playing Brainiac, the big bad, for this season on Smallville...


...And about James Marsters' role as Milton Fine
, aka Brainiac: "We know that there was basically going to be something big in that ship," Al Gough told CFQ's Ed Gross. "The ship opens and Kryptonians come out, but they aren't the major ongoing threat. Brainiac comes out of the ship and takes human form, like in Terminator 2, and he's a being of artificial intelligence. He basically takes the guise of Dr. Milton Fine, a college professor who ends up teaching Clark. We call this the grand seduction of Clark Kent, where Brainiac is trying to turn Clark against humanity in general, and Lex Luthor in particular. He basically wants Clark to see that Krypton was better than Earth and that, basically, he's got the making here for a new society. Unlike Jor-El, whose intentions become clear in the season opener, Brainiac has a much more nefarious plan and he uses Lex in it."

...James Marsters is looking forward to his character's psychological seduction of Clark. "I don't have to beat Clark at all," he offers. "It's very important I talk him into joining me. It's always a more interesting thing to watch. Frankly, there's a lot of ammunition on my side. Earth is a beautiful gem of a palnet and there aren't a lot like it around. But there's just one problem: human beings, who are ruining both the atmosphere and the topsoil at an alarming rate and there's no way we're going to be here in 10,000 years. There's nothing in human history that suggests the bare hint that we are about to make the moral leap into behaving the way the philosophers have been asking us to over the years. So the best thing to do, both for Kryptonians and Earth as far as Brainiac is concerned, is to eradicate these stupid, barbaric failures of evolution. His feeling is to just get rid of these humans and let's have a new Krypton, and he wants to use Clark as a tool to achieve his goals."


Why yes, I AM a huge geek, thanks. But I'm okay with that.

Why I Hate Religious People

Okay, fine. SOME Religious People.

But Jesus-H.-Christ-God-Almighty-on-a-Crutch, it's people like this that makes me never, ever want to give it the benefit of the doubt.

What kind of souless, amoral f*&k do you have to be to think this way?

Rev. Bill Shanks, pastor of New Covenant Fellowship of New Orleans, also sees God's mercy in the aftermath of Katrina -- but in a different way. Shanks says the hurricane has wiped out much of the rampant sin common to the city.


The pastor explains that for years he has warned people that unless Christians in New Orleans took a strong stand against such things as local abortion clinics, the yearly Mardi Gras celebrations, and the annual event known as "Southern Decadence" -- an annual six-day "gay pride" event scheduled to be hosted by the city this week -- God's judgment would be felt.

“New Orleans now is abortion free. New Orleans now is Mardi Gras free. New Orleans now is free of Southern Decadence and the sodomites, the witchcraft workers, false religion -- it's free of all of those things now," Shanks says. "God simply, I believe, in His mercy purged all of that stuff out of there -- and now we're going to start over again."



--

"The most curious social convention of the great age in which we live is the one to the effect that religious opinions should be respected." H.L. Mencken

Unbelievable Incompetence - Red Cross Banned From Bringing Food and Supplies to Nola

So basically, screw the people stuck there.

We'll get to them when we get a chance.

Maybe.

"Lemme get this straight. We let people die because if the Red Cross had been there with supplies, others might have been more inclined to stay?"

Hurricane Katrina: Why is the Red Cross not in New Orleans?

* Acess to New Orleans is controlled by the National Guard and local authorities and while we are in constant contact with them, we simply cannot enter New Orleans against their orders.

* The state Homeland Security Department had requested--and continues to request--that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans following the hurricane. Our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city.

* The Red Cross has been meeting the needs of thousands of New Orleans residents in some 90 shelters throughout the state of Louisiana and elsewhere since before landfall. All told, the Red Cross is today operating 149 shelters for almost 93,000 residents.

* The Red Cross shares the nation’s anguish over the worsening situation inside the city. We will continue to work under the direction of the military, state and local authorities and to focus all our efforts on our lifesaving mission of feeding and sheltering.

* The original plan was to evacuate all the residents of New Orleans to safe places outside the city. With the hurricane bearing down, the city government decided to open a shelter of last resort in the Superdome downtown. We applaud this decision and believe it saved a significant number of lives.


Congress Likely to Probe Guard Delay

WASHINGTON - Several states ready and willing to send National Guard troops to the rescue in hurricane-ravaged New Orleans didn't get the go-ahead until days after the storm struck — a delay nearly certain to be investigated by Congress...


Superdome Evacuations Temporarily Halted

NEW ORLEANS - Buses taking Hurricane Katrina victims far from the squalor of the Superdome stopped rolling early Saturday. As many as 5,000 people remained in the stadium and could be there until Sunday, according to the Texas Air National Guard...

... it remained a mystery why the buses stopped coming to pick up refugees and shuttle them away.

"Everywhere is walking distance if you have enough time..."

[Or, why I seem to be having the worst luck with trains...]

It is approximately a 3 hour walk from Mitoma to Tsuyazaki.

Ask me how I know... go ahead... Okay, okay, I'll tell you.

So I went into town last night to catch up with Kev, a gent I used to work out with when I lived here last. Good times. Catching up. Psuedo-intellectual pontificating over world events and a beer or two.

So I take out at about 1120 to catch the train back home... bit of background... Tsuyazaki to Tenjin/the city takes two trains... the Nishitetsu line, the slow train, right by my house, goes into Kaizuka. At Kaizuka you take the subway into the city. Simple enough. But on the way back home, I make my connection at Kaizuka but the Nishitetsu only makes it to Mitoma before it shuts down for the evening. Mitoma being about the halfway point to Kaizuka.

So, 1215 at night. No more trains. No cabs at the stations. And even if there were, only 4000 yen or so on me, so it wouldn't have covered the cab ride.

So.

What to do?

The obvious answer. Start walking.

Tried following the train tracks for awhile, but the gravel/stones/lack of lighting made for a fairly unpleasant and slow going experience. So then tried to parallel the tracks on the roads, but those soon diverged. So then stick to the main roads and when in doubt, bear left towards the ocean. If nothing else, I'll end up swimming home.

So, after about an hour of walking it becomes some absurd test of ability and self reliance. Here I am, middle of the night, barely passable Japanese, no reading ability to speak of... Can I even find my way home? Can I actually walk the entire way? Pride is now on the line. Ego has entered the picture. Common sense and intelligence have left the building.

So after about 90 minutes and change, I see a sign, thankfully in English, for Koga City. Brilliant! Sandy's old school [Genkai] was in Koga! Can't be long now!

Koga actually is much bigger on foot than you'd think.

So I keep on moving, starting to actually recognize, or at least think I recognize, some landmarks, and finally do see some things I absolutely know... again though, on foot, nothing quite so much as close as you remember it. I pass the road leading to Sandy's old school and start to figure that I know positively where I am at... time to look for a cab.

Ego now having left the building. Rationalization having entered.

"Surely, I've found my way home... and if I had to, I could walk it... and definitely, the cost of a cab from Fukuma to Tsuyazaki shouldn't break the bank..."

Sad really, when you used to do 20mile marches with 50lb packs. However... word of advice. A pair of Converse Chuck Taylor's really don't cut it as hiking shoes. A good pair of boots are priceless...

So, the cab is caught and they drop me off at the Nishitetsu train station where my bike is at, where... wait for it... someone's gone through all my stuff again.

Now before you all flip and think "Rob you're a moron who clearly hasn't learned his lesson" it was neither my backpack, nor was anything taken, nor did I leave anything of value with the bike. I've learned that lesson.

But I had picked up a little pouch for the bike for my pump and some cans of compressed air and a maintenance tool... and all that was still there... but it was open and clearly someone had gone through it.

What the hell is happening in this country? It was probably some foreigners :)

Quite a night.

Oh, and Sandy, slept right through your message/call... sorry... off the top of my head, I'd say the worst lessons learned - probably competitiveness or secrecy...

News Shocker! CNN does actual reporting!

Here:

The big disconnect on New Orleans
The official version; then there's the in-the-trenches version

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (CNN) -- Diverging views of a crumbling New Orleans emerged Thursday, with statements by some federal officials in contradiction with grittier, more desperate views from the streets. By late Friday response to those stranded in the city was more visible.

But the conflicting views on Thursday came within hours, sometimes minutes of each of each other, as reflected in CNN's transcripts...

"Rush Limbaugh, earlier today saying that those that were still in New Orleans deserved what they had gotten, as they had chosen to live there..."

John Cole:

I have said I am out of touch with America regarding what is expected for disaster relief. Maybe, but the people spreading the meme that the vast majority of who did not evacuate New Orleans did so because they simply chose to ignore the warnings are out of touch with reality. I just heard James Carville state that the Governor and Mayor did all they could, and that some people “just didn’t listen.”

That may very well be. ‘Some people’ probably didn’t listen, and instead chose to just weather the storm. But the vast majority of people who are stranded, and, I fear, dead in the flooded parts of NO in numbers we have not yet begun to discover and comprehend, did not ‘choose’ to ‘ignore’ the warnings.

They simply had no place to go, no way to get there, no way to afford living in a motel/hotel somewhere else, no relatives outside the region, no automobile. I know it is always funny to make fun of the “Hurricane Strikes- Poor Hit Hardest” headlines, but there is some truth to it.

Sure, a lot of the people interviewed on cable may say they just stayed because they have seen all sorts of hurricanes. They may say that. But I am willing to bet a lot of them are just saying that to save face. Ever been broke? And I mean, chronically, long-term, without ANY money, broke? It sucks, and it can be embarassing, and it isn’t likely most people are going to admit it. I know most of you are affluent, but was there never a time in college when all your friends were going somewhere, going to a concert, going out, going on Spring Break, and you wanted to go, but couldn’t? Instead of saying “I’m broke,” how many of you said something like “I’ve got better things to do,” or “I hate Florida,” or made some other excuse?


We Would Have Fought or Died

More than likely my family would not have survived, if we were in the same circumstances we were when I was a kid - and been in New Orleans the day Katrina hit.

I don't talk much about growing up - my childhood - because many would not understand. Some would make incorrect judgments. Others would look down on me. Some would take pity. I've never wanted any of that. Never asked for any of that. And I am proud to have made it to where I am pulling up my own bootstraps.

But as a kid - me and my family lived Social Security check to Social Security check. It would get to us on the 1st of the month. Each month the 1st was a happy day. But as the month wore on - there would be less and less of everything - including food.

Katrina hit on the 29th. We would not have had cash to leave town. We would not have had cash for public transportation. We would not have had cash for food. We would not have had cash for water.

Since we moved so often, and knew no neighbors - our choice would be stark: to give up and die - or be among those foraging for food – "looters" to you hate mongers - and treking our way out of town.


Via Kos [Diary]:

The Right, as embodied by Limbaugh, Frist, Bush, Hastert, DeLay. They would move heaven and earth to save the life of one White Woman in Florida to combat the very idea of euthanasia (which technically it was not). A woman that a decade earlier had lost her ability to so much as ask for help, much less have coherent thoughts about the quality of her own life.

And they would sit on their ass and watch as tens of thousands of poor men, women, children, babies, and elderly bake in the New Orleans heat surrounded by water, sewage, gasoline and an abandoned city, now devoid of anyone with the means to have escaped ahead of the storm.

This is the culture of life. The culture of life wants to save brain dead white women and unborn children. The culture of life wants you to watch endless non-news about the disappearance of one white teenager in Aruba. The culture of life wants you to support your nation as it kills tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians in its Quixotic quest against a non-threat. The culture of life wants a zero-tolerance for looters policy to sound authoritative as babies die of dehydration. The culture of life expects you to take care of yourself, and if you can't, then it is your own fault for getting into that situation in the first place. Fuck off. You had your shot. Station in life, where you hang your hat, and whether you have the $40 at the end of the month to pay for the overpriced gasoline to get out of that home in time is all up to you.

Always I have argued with Republican friends--the reasonable ones--that not everyone was dealt the same cards on their original Birth Day. Not everyone has been given the same gifts by God, friends, family, or luck. Always those Republican friends believe that they deserve where they have gotten in life, and that no one, including the government, should be asking for their hard-earned cash to help the less affluent. It is always the fault of the lesser-affluent themselves. Circumstances are irrelevant in all cases and constitute class warfare if the question is raised.

Bullshit.

But that's their thing. That's how they see the world. They earned everything they got. Their parents might have given them a nudge, but nothing more. Get a fucking clue.

I have no words...

From Salon:

...In contrast, some residents of the French Quarter appear comfortable, well-fed and relaxed. About 150 New Orleans police officers have commandeered the Royal Omni Hotel, part of the international luxury chain of Omni hotels that is housed in an elegant 19th century building, complete with crystal chandeliers and a rooftop pool. "All of the officers that are here, I can tell you in a classical sense, are gladiators," says Capt. Kevin Anderson, commander of the Eighth District of the NOPD (French Quarter). "To be able to put your family's concerns aside to protect the citizens of New Orleans, it's just an awesome job," he says.

Across the street from the Royal Omni at the Eighth District police department, several police officers keep a wary eye on the street with shotguns at the ready, while some fellow officers grill sausage links over charcoal barbecues. They are under strict orders not to communicate with the media. Capt. Anderson does confirm, however, that locations where officers were housed came under gunfire on Tuesday night. No officers were injured. "It is a very dangerous situation that we're in," Anderson says.

...We walk half a block down Royal Street from the Eighth District headquarters and come upon Brennan's Restaurant, one of New Orleans' most venerable dining institutions. The Brennans are a high-profile family of restaurateurs and run several of the highest-end eateries in town. Jimmy Brennan and a crew of his relatives are holing up in the restaurant along with the chef, Lazone Randolph. They are sleeping on air mattresses, drinking Cheval Blanc, and feasting on the restaurant's reserves of haute Creole food.

The atmosphere in the French Quarter, while relatively quiet, is decidedly tense, but Brennan isn't worried. "We're not too concerned. The police let us go over to the Royal Omni, to take a shower, freshen up, and we cooked them some prime rib. We take care of them, they take care of us," says Randolph. Two Brennan emissaries whisk past, bearing multilayer chocolate cakes, headed toward the precinct. "This has been working out real well for us," says Jimmy Brennan.

Politics

When Government Is 'Good'
By E. J. Dionne Jr.

Friday, September 2, 2005
Washington Post


The sight of rescue workers, the police and the Coast Guard, governors, mayors, and federal officials struggling desperately with the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina brings to mind Cohen's Law: "Government is the enemy until you need a friend."

...One can hope that our individual generosity will pour forth to our fellow citizens suffering on the Gulf Coast. We can take some solace in the fact that for every looter, there is a sport fisherman who brought a boat up to New Orleans to help in rescue efforts. There is a Red Cross nurse caring for an injured person, a Coast Guard member conducting a daring rescue, a volunteer in a church basement comforting a homeless child.

Yet this is a moment in which individual acts of charity and courage, though laudable and absolutely necessary, cannot be enough. It is a time when government is morally obligated to be competent, prepared, innovative, flexible, well-financed -- in short, smart enough and, yes, big enough to undertake an enormous task. Not only personal lives but also public things must be put back together.

You wonder if this summer, with deteriorating conditions in Iraq and now this terrifying act of God, might make us more serious. This is said not to be a time for politics, and we can surely do without the petty sort. But how we pull our country together, make our government work at a time of great need, and share the sacrifices that war and natural catastrophe have imposed on us -- these are inescapably political questions...

"I thought with fascism that you get organization. Apparently not."

Rushkoff:

The Thin Brown Line
9/02/2005 02:52:00 PM


Sorry, but it is about race. The New Orleans neighborhoods in which black people live were always more likely to be flooded; those who "refused" to leave town were the ones who had no cars or money to get out; those doing the looting were - originally - those told to gather in spots like the Convention Center but left with no food or water; people used to depending on authorities for direction and care begged for someone to show up with a bullhorn and tell them what to do; those doing the shooting are mostly drug addicts in the insantiy of withdrawal, for whom rehab has been replaced by a prison industry.

What most whites don't want to admit is that their distress at watching the CNN footage is twofold. Sure, we're all upset at seeing people treated like animals, dying in the streets, getting raped, and being ignored by those with the power to do something. ("Why don't rich people just use their private planes and copters to drop food and water?" my wife asks.)

But the greater torment is the fear of how quickly civil society can descend into utter chaos. It's Thomas Jefferson time, again, and America once again feels it has, in its black population, "a wolf by the ears." Listen to the ranting of right-wing radio for a couple of minutes, and you'll hear what I mean. Blaming the victims for their stupidity; graphic descriptions of what one black person will do to another, or to those offering to help. How could "these people" shoot at helicopters trying to bring aid?

(Take any swim safety class and the first thing they'll teach you is that to rescue a drowning person, you have to immobilize the victim. Instinctually, the panicked drowning person will try to push you down under the water. And this is true of black and white drowning victims, alike.)

What those who are afraid of civil society breaking down don't realize is that civil society has already broken down! This is not a civil society we live in, but a profiteering, every-man-for-himself, oligarchy. The democratic process is broken if not rigged; the largest-ever redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich occurred over the last six years under the guise of economic stimulus; fear and disinformation were used to put the poorest of Americans onto a battlefield under false pretenses; those who seek to engage the current administration in meaningful dialogue are terminated...

Guns don't kill people...

Machete-wielding Buddhist monks do.

[Though, to their credit - I guess - no one actually died...]

Machete-wielding Buddhist monks and novices brawl over woman
Canadian Press
Friday, September 02, 2005


BANGKOK (AP) - Police in northeastern Thailand issued arrest warrants Wednesday against machete-wielding monks and novices who brawled over a woman, urging their abbot to preserve the reputation of Buddhism by expelling them from the order.

More than a dozen monks and novices were involved in the street fight late Monday, with one of the trainees suffering a severe cut and the others sustaining bruises, said police Capt. Cheewin Kasilkam. "I will urge the abbot to (defrock) them before I file formal charges against the suspects today," Cheewin said...

Business Vs Government

Via Driftglass:

I believe that national problems – like clean air and water, security, education, health – require national solutions.

I believe in Capitalism...contained. You want to make a mint, terrific. I’m all for that, but if your business uses public services and relies on police and fire protection, the air not killing you, the roads being passable and the workforce being educated, well then you can fucking well kick in for those things, ya’ moochin’ bastard.

I believe that only the countervailing force of a strong national government can hold Big Business in check and keep it from bulldozing the place form sea to shining sea to improve the bottom line. Making a profit and satisfying the shareholding are the natural drivers of business, and there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as there is a socially conscious foot tapping the brake enough so that we aren’t driven off a cliff.

I believe what goes for keeping Big Business in check goes double for Big Religion. And then cube that.

So I believe in a stong national government that can do these things.

However there is another Party in power now that believes in a weak or non-existent national government, which is ironic given that they ARE the government now – they control every branch, every committee and every agenda.

This other Party believes states and individuals should basically root, hog or die. Fend for yourself, and if you fail, fuck you. Please die and get out of their way. Kind of a mingy, heartless and mean-spirited dogma -– especially since a staggering number of these mean little bastards STRONGLY identify themselves and their Party and not only Christian...but a Damned Sight Better Bunch of Christians than anyone else on the face of the Earth –- but it’s their dogma nonetheless: it’s printed right there on the letterhead... [More at link]

"Rapex"... seriously.

You know, on the one hand... ouch... on the other, yeah, good on 'em. Serves 'em right. At the very least.

Controversy in South Africa over device to snare rapists
Robyn Dixon in Johannesburg
September 2, 2005


A medieval device built on hatred of men? Or a cheap, easy-to-use invention that could free millions of South African women from fear of rape, in a country with the world's worst sexual assault record?

Dubbed the "rape trap", trademarked "Rapex", the condom-like device bristling with internal hooks designed to snare rapists has re-ignited controversy over South Africa's alarming rape rate, even before plans for its production were announced in Western Cape this week.

Some say the inventor, Sonette Ehlers, a former medical technician, deserves a medal, others that she needs help...

William S. Burroughs

In an interview with Gregory Corso and Allan Ginsberg in 1961, Burroughs states:

“To concern yourself with surface political conflicts is to make the mistake of the bull in the ring, you are charging the cloth. That is what politics is for, to teach you the cloth. Just as the bullfighter teaches the bull, teaches him to follow, obey the cloth.”

Corso asks, “Who manipulates the cloth?”
To which Burroughs answers, “Death.”

Friday, September 02, 2005

Nero Fiddles, Rome Burns


Unbelievable.

On the day of what could be the worst natural disaster in U.S. history...

Along with playing a round of golf, (before retreating a final time to his vacation ranch) the prez decided to do a little strumming on a guitar...


Via Atrios:

Chertoff took time out of his busy schedule promoting national preparednesss month on Fox to say this:

"The critical thing was to get people out of there before the disaster," he said on NBC's Today program. "Some people chose not to obey that order. That was a mistake on their part."


Lots of these people were poor. No cars. No credit cards. Nowhere to go. WHAT THE FUCK WERE THEY SUPPOSED TO DO?

Fucking heartless clueless monsters.


Gawker:

According to Drudge, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has recently enjoyed a little Broadway entertainment. And Page Six reports that she’s also working on her backhand with Monica Seles. So the Gulf Coast has gone all Mad Max, women are being raped in the Superdome, and Rice is enjoying a brief vacation in New York. We wish we were surprised.

What does surprise us: Just moments ago at the Ferragamo on 5th Avenue, Condoleeza Rice was seen spending several thousands of dollars on some nice, new shoes (we’ve confirmed this, so her new heels will surely get coverage from the WaPo’s Robin Givhan). A fellow shopper, unable to fathom the absurdity of Rice’s timing, went up to the Secretary and reportedly shouted, “How dare you shop for shoes while thousands are dying and homeless!” Never one to have her fashion choices questioned, Rice had security PHYSICALLY REMOVE the woman.

Angry Lady, whoever you are, we love you. You are a true American, and we’ll go shoe shopping with you anytime.


Rude Pundit:


Here's the Rude Pundit's fuckin' amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Fuck all yer anti-choice, save the flag bullshit amendments. Here it goes: No motherfucker who became wealthy due to inheritance is allowed to be President. No pampered pukes who get their hands dirty only as a lark. No asshole socially-connected cocksuckers who own three, four homes, fuck, no one who owns a huge fuckin' house they call a "vacation home." Sure, sure, we may have to sacrifice a Kennedy or two along the way, but, shit, and c'mon, between George Bush I's golfing during Hurricane Andrew in 1992 (which was a double fuck-up because not only was he allegedly the President, but he was in the middle of a campaign to do it again) and now George Bush II's, well, fuck, golfing and goofin' on the guitar when a million of his citizens are displaced and over half of them are fucked for good, we can sacrifice a potential liberal or two to ensure that there's never a President Jenna.

Couldn't do worse if they tried...

Via Digby:

What is needed is a large, visible police and national guard presence directing rescue activity and keeping order. Why that isn't happening is the real question.

I seem to remember something in the recent past --- a war torn city perhaps --- that also dissolved into chaos and anrachy when the authorities failed to provide security. Somebody important said "stuff happens" and "freedom is untidy." Where was that again? It's right on the tip of my tongue...

If at first you don't succeed, clap your hands and do exactly the same thing over and over again.

...On 9/11 we had cops and firefighters running into collapsing buildings to rescue people. Today, days after the crisis hit, I'm watching people with little babies desperate for food and water and nobody is coming in to help them.

What in the hell is going on?


Wolcott:

...a lot of people in this country are shocked and sobered by New Orleans, but they're also worried and pissed off. They're making the connection between the money, manpower, and resources expended in Iraq and how raggedy-ass the rescue effort has been... If you don't say it now when people's nerves are raw and they're paying full attention, it'll be too late once the waters receded and the media-emoting "healing process" begins.



Jack Cafferty:


I'm 62. I remember the riots in Watts, I remember the earthquake in San Francisco, I remember a lot of things. I have never, ever, seen anything as bungled and as poorly handled as this situation in New Orleans. Where the hell is the water for these people? Why can't sandwiches be dropped to those people in the Superdome. What is going on? This is Thursday! This storm happened 5 days ago. This is a disgrace. And don't think the world isn't watching. This is the government that the taxpayers are paying for, and it's fallen right flat on its face as far as I can see, in the way it's handled this thing.


Josh Marshall:

Someone emails Josh Marshall a question a bunch of people have been raising in comments and email. The emergency preparedness for a medium scale biological or chemical attack, or the "dirty bomb" scenario, would be exactly identical to the kind of preparedness you'd have for a natural disaster of this type. Sure, some of the complications would be different in the various situations, but the basic needs - mass evacuation, temporary shelter, the provision of safe food and water, medical care - would be the same.

Haven't they done fucking anything in 4 years?


Krugman:


I don’t think this is a simple tale of incompetence. The reason the military wasn’t rushed in to help along the Gulf Coast is, I believe, the same reason nothing was done to stop looting after the fall of Baghdad. Flood control was neglected for the same reason our troops in Iraq didn’t get adequate armor.

At a fundamental level, I’d argue, our current leaders just aren’t serious about some of the essential functions of government. They like waging war, but they don’t like providing security, rescuing those in need or spending on preventive measures. And they never, ever ask for shared sacrifice.

Yesterday Mr. Bush made an utterly fantastic claim: that nobody expected the breach of the levees. In fact, there had been repeated warnings about exactly that risk.

So America, once famous for its can-do attitude, now has a can’t-do government that makes excuses instead of doing its job. And while it makes those excuses, Americans are dying.

What a colossal clusterfu*k

Donate to the Red Cross Relief here

New Orleans in Anarchy With Fights, Rapes

New Orleans descended into anarchy Thursday as corpses lay abandoned in street medians, fights and fires broke out, cops turned in their badges and the governor declared war on looters who have made the city a menacing landscape of disorder and fear.

...At least seven bodies were scattered outside the convention center, a makeshift staging area for those rescued from rooftops, attics and highways. The sidewalks were packed with people without food, water or medical care, and with no sign of law enforcement.

An old man in a chaise lounge lay dead in a grassy median as hungry babies wailed around him. Around the corner, an elderly woman lay dead in her wheelchair, covered up by a blanket, and another body lay beside her wrapped in a sheet.

"I don't treat my dog like that," 47-year-old Daniel Edwards said as he pointed at the woman in the wheelchair.

"You can do everything for other countries, but you can't do nothing for your own people," he added. "You can go overseas with the military, but you can't get them down here."

The street outside the center, above the floodwaters, smelled of urine and feces, and was choked with dirty diapers, old bottles and garbage.

"They've been teasing us with buses for four days," Edwards said. "They're telling us they're going to come get us one day, and then they don't show up."

Every so often, an armored state police vehicle cruised in front of the convention center with four or five officers in riot gear with automatic weapons. But there was no sign of help from the National Guard.

At one point the crowd began to chant "We want help! We want help!" Later, a woman, screaming, went on the front steps of the convention center and led the crowd in reciting the 23rd Psalm, "The Lord is my shepherd ..."

..."We've got people dying out here — two babies have died, a woman died, a man died," said Helen Cheek. "We haven't had no food, we haven't had no water, we haven't had nothing. They just brought us here and dropped us."

Tourist Debbie Durso of Washington, Mich., said she asked a police officer for assistance and his response was, "'Go to hell — it's every man for himself.'"

"This is just insanity," she said. "We have no food, no water ... all these trucks and buses go by and they do nothing but wave."

...As he watched a line snaking for blocks through ankle-deep waters, New Orleans' emergency operations chief Terry Ebbert blamed the inadequate response on the
Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"This is not a FEMA operation. I haven't seen a single FEMA guy," he said. He added: "We can send massive amounts of aid to tsunami victims, but we can't bail out the city of New Orleans."

...Donald Dudley, a 55-year-old New Orleans seafood merchant, complained that when he and other hungry refugees broke into the kitchen of the convention center and tried to prepare food, the National Guard chased them away.

"They pulled guns and told us we had to leave that kitchen or they would blow our damn brains out," he said. "We don't want their help. Give us some vehicles and we'll get ourselves out of here!"

Storytelling

Australian mythology says the Ancient Ones sang the world into creation. Fundamentally, the world is the result of the singing of songs. And songs are stories.

The world is made up of stories.

Zen Buddhism 101 says that the only real moment is NOW. The past and the future exist only in your imagination.

But imagination is everything.

Everything that has ever happened to you exists, now, only in your imagination. It's only what you THINK happened to you. Your thoughts and memories of the things that happened are not the things themselves. They're only your interpretation, your selection, of experience. We linguistically symbolize the events that occur in our own lives. The map of the experience is not the territory traveled. The map is not the territory. But we all use the maps to navigate our lives.

Your past, your identity, your reality... are all only the stories you repeatedly tell yourself over time. Out of the billions of life experiences you've had, you've chosen to emphasize only a select few to define who you are as a person and how the world is.

This is your story.
About yourself.
About the world.

The world is made up of stories.

Storytelling II

Everyone is the author of their own story.

Maybe you chose to believe someone else's story about yourself... You're smart. You're stupid. Fat. Beautiful. Ugly. Strong. Weak.

But you are the author of your story.

You can write a better, happier, weirder, more entertaining story anytime you want. Just choose. Choose your story or you'll only be playing a role in someone else's...

Choose your story.

Storytelling III

Understanding the Story = Realization

Changing the Story = Magick

Transcending Storytelling = Enlightenment

After Enlightenment?

More stories...

"God made man because he loves stories." -- Elie Wiesel

Storytelling IV

Things like psychoanalysis, prayer, hynosis, runes, hexagrams, neurolinguistic programming/neuroassociative conditioning, meditation, tarot, i ching, general semantics, transactional and perceptive psychology and astrology are all tools to tap into, understand, deconstruct, change or re-arrange the inner understandings of your unconscious storytelling mind.

"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages." - Shakespeare

Things I learned at the dojo this week...

1 - Tatsuya still hits like a freakin' jackhammer. Two days later and it still hurts to open and close my jaw a little bit.

2 - When executing the double leg, ensure you drive through and rotate to the side opposite your head. Otherwise you land on your head making your neck say "crackety-crack-pop-spasm" and making such complex maneuvers as, say, TURNING YOUR HEAD, an impossibility for the rest of the week.

3 - Of course you'll jam your toes if you kick with them. Use your shin like you're supposed to. Moron.

Ah, training... I've missed it so.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Because it's Hawaii, that's why.


And Hawaii is awesome.

That is all.

It has been said that being a JET...

Even when Sandy was here I'd hear the saying, and I'm sure it was old even by then, that being on the JET program [or just being a foreigner in Japan] is the closest thing to being a celebrity that most people will ever experience.

And to some degree, it's true.

People stop and stare [the smaller the town, the more often it happens...], children "ooh" and "ah", people want to be all up in your business and random strangers approach you, want to start up conversations and be your friend.

Also, like celebrities, many consider us massively overpaid for not doing a whole lotta "real" work...

But I digress.

It's just that it's easy to see, from when I was here before, just how many folks on JET get their ego blown up huge. And not in a good way.

Doubly so for those single guys, unlike old married folks like me, who no matter how plain or average, have very little trouble getting the cutest of young Japanese women to fawn all over them.

[As an aside, this was explained to me most clearly by a young lady in a bar I worked at when I lived here last... She said "Don't you realize that the average 20 year old Japanese girl has been watching Hollywood romantic comedies for at least the the last 12 years of her life? We've all been raised with this idea of Western men as the ideal... sweet, chivalrous, handsome. Of course we flock to them." And it doesn't hurt that Japanese men still, mostly, have very "traditional" ideas about women's roles...]

But the point is it's actually easy to see how foreigners in Japan lose perspective.

So to prevent this I've begun thinking about it thusly: Yes, this is probably the closest I'll ever be to being treated like a celebrity. But, it's also the closest I'll ever be to being treated like a circus freak too.

So, you know, a little balance there...

Soon to be patented: Rob's Japanese Tuna [or Egg] Salad Recipe

Quick, easy and filled with proteins, fats, veggies, minerals and antioxidants. The only downside is I'm going through a tube or two of wasabi a week. It's addictive.

Take a couple cans of tuna [or a couple hard boiled eggs, chopped up] and toss 'em in a mixing bowl or tupperware. Chop a tomato up and throw that in there too. Scissor up a sheet of nori [dried seaweed] and sprinkle that around. Add a healthy dollop of mayo and good shot of wasabi. Mix it all up and you're good to go. You put it on a sandwich, or do what I usually do and eat it straight outta the bowl. Oh yeah, you can throw some shredded cheese in there too, if you like. Salt and pepper to taste, as always.

Mmmmmm.... Wasabi...

Good thing we don't have anymore of that "racism" stuff to worry about...

Via Boingboing:

Black people loot, white people find?

...two similar news photos that show flood victims in New Orleans wading in chest-deep water. In each, a person appears to be dragging a bag or box or two of food or beverages.

...The Associated Press caption accompanying the image with a black person says he's just finished "looting" a grocery store. The AFP/Getty Images caption describes lighter skinned people "finding" bread and soda from a grocery store. No stores are open to sell these goods.


Reader comment: Amid says,

I'd like to refute the reader comment that AP has consistently named everybody stealing items "looters." This is an AP photo of a white guy "looking through his shopping bag." ...coming out of a store with a broken window.

Wow.

SCIENTISTS have created "miracle mice" that can regenerate amputated limbs or damaged vital organs, making them able to recover from injuries that would kill or permanently disable normal animals.

The experimental animals are unique among mammals in their ability to regrow their heart, toes, joints and tail.

And when cells from the test mouse are injected into ordinary mice, they too acquire the ability to regenerate, the US-based researchers say.

His monkey's kung fu is strong...

From, obviously, Kung Fu Monkey:

I support the troops by critically examining the plans of the people who have put them in harm's way. I welcome disagreement, but the idiotic "questioning is treason" meme can only come from the mouth of someone completely unclear on why and how this country was founded.

It is not my right to ask these questions; it is my responsibility, my side of the contract we have entered into with the men and women brave enough to put their lives on the line for us. I am not against the war. I am not against the soldiers. I am not -- in the most idiotic extension of some people's rhetoric -- pro-terrorist. Demanding we only send our troops into harm's way when we have exhausted all other options and make damn sure we properly equip them before the war; insisting on well-defined mission objectives and an exit strategy during the war; demanding proper care of the troops when they return after the war ... all that is PRO-SOLDIER.

... If I point out that you are sending miners into a mine without lamps, oxygen masks, or even a map of which tunnels to dig in, I am not anti-miner. I am not objectively pro-mine shaft. By asking that firefighters be properly equipped, and not sent into a burning building without back-up and a clear route out, am I somehow "pro-fire"? Of course not. Am I somehow undermining the firefighter's morale? Idiocy.

All this would be too stupid for even a moment's consideration if it weren't for a sizable minority in this country who seem to have this mental hiccup. If the world frightens you, or you are so dependent on party identification that you can not even consider the prospect that the Big Manly Washington Men who you put your faith in are not all you need them to be to feel safe ... you are not supporting the troops. You are cowards, retreating to sloganeering to compensate for either an unwillingness or a terror at confronting a complicated world.

C'mon, you know this is cool...

Dog taught to kick-box

...The 15-month-old black Russian terrier has been trained in the art of kick-boxing by his owner Russ Williams, from Caerwys in north Wales.

..."He can kick to command with his two front feet at a punch bag or kick pad. It seems much better to teach a guard dog to do this than to bite."

Yakuza are, apparently, really sensitive guys...

Via WarrenEllis.com:

Yoshinori Watanabe shocked Japan’s underworld late July with the announcement that he was standing down as the kumicho, or chairman, of the Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan’s biggest yakuza syndicate.

...Apparently, the huge meeting room where the gang bosses sat in silence while the announcement was made, with the hush broken only when some broke down in tears.

Fetus-head Bird follow up...

Via Chinadaily.com:

A Chinese artist who grafted the head of a human fetus onto the body of a bird has defended his work as art after a Swiss museum withdrew the piece from an exhibit.

"It's precisely because I respect all life that I did this," artist Xiao Yu said Tuesday. He said the bird and fetus "died because there was something wrong with them. ... I thought putting them together like this was a way for them to have another life."

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

You just can't make this stuff up...


The world is always much weirder than you think it is...

Via WarrenEllis.com:

A sculpture made with the pickled head of a dead fetus attached to a seagull’s body has fueled a furor in Switzerland about the boundaries of art.

Berne’s Museum of Fine Arts removed the piece from a Chinese art exhibition earlier this month after a complaint that it was disrespectful to the dead, and following concerns its grisly appearance might traumatize visiting schoolchildren.

I had taken this picture for Kathy...


...on the day folks from the BOE took me out for a tour of Fukutsu.

She claimed she liked it because it was "so cute."

But honestly, I think it's because she supports the enslavement of fuzzy animals to do those ugly, horrible jobs that humans would prefer not to do.

And sure, it might work for awhile, but then the mice would team up with the rabbits and the raccoons and then what would we have on our hands? Revolution, that's what!

So really Kathy, think it through... just pick up your own trash and we can avoid all the bloodshed and chaos.

Massively out of sequence...




But my second day in Fukutsu, you can't even imagine how happy I was to find this grocery store, literally, right around the corner from the apartment...

Bear witness to the glory that is the Super Daiei! [No relation - I don't think - to the large Shopper's Daiei stores from the company that wen't bankrupt a few years ago.]

You wouldn't think that was $150 bucks worth of stuff, would ya? Ah, Japan...

[Yes, I know. I should've waited till I found the 100yen store and it all would have been sooooo much cheaper. Look, I got carried away, okay? I didn't even have a bike yet, but I had food. within. walking. distance. It was very exciting.]

It's an ancient Japanese tradition...


...that if the crazy, bald gaijin-foreigner doesn't actually devour your baby whole, then it brings you 7 years of good luck.

I think that's what they were trying to say.

Good thing I had a big breakfast.

I have issues...



That's all I'm saying.

50%+ of science journal articles have false conclusions

Via Boingboing:

In an article in the Public Library of Science Medicine, John P. A. Ioannidis, an epidemiologist, argues that more than 50 percent of the conclusions drawn in papers published in scientific journals are false. The money sentence is this one: "The replication process is more important than the first discovery." The popular culture version of science is about labcoats and discovery, the real world science is about publishing, review and replication.

This one's for Spence...


Who specifically requested a picture of what was in my fridge.

Well, actually, now that I think about it... it was more like "Your pictures and videos suck Spielberg! What's next? Pictures of the inside of your fridge?!"

But when you give it due consideration, it's, I think, his way of saying he loves me without feeling too homosexual about it.

He's uncomfortable with that sort of thing.

I think...


...that they're totally trying to say "Lanikai Surf" here. Which is very cool for two reasons. One, I'm pro-anything that tries to evoke Hawaii, and two, Lanikai beach was right next to where Sandy and I lived in Hawaii.

I'm not entirely sure what this is...


But if I had to guess, I'd say Tsuyazaki Dome is like the local version of Thunderdome.

Like from Mad Max.

You know, "Two Men Enter: One Man Leaves" fight to the death stuff.

But that's just a theory.

Recycling...


...is a big deal in Japan. Here's the handy dandy picture poster - for those of us too dumb to read Japanese - of Fukutsu's 15 - that's right, count 'em - 15 categories of recyclable materials.

And if you throw any of these away in the regular trash, your whole family is killed by ninjas.

True story.

I have purchased these fine samurai blades...


Because one of the games they showed us at indoc in Tokyo was one where they'd give kids paddles or fly swatters and they'd have to swat a picture posted on the board when you'd flash the name in English.

I have decided to use samurai swords instead.

I cannot think of anything that might go wrong from giving small children weapons.

However...


I have been picking up odds and ends to make things a bit more livable... probably the only really big things, besides the DVD player, were these inexpensive floor couch/chair things... so now the living room can be, you know, lived in a little bit...

Apt stuff...






As this was a new position at the Board of Ed, most of my stuff is new, slightly used or from the recycle shop. All new to me, and not a penny [or yen] out of my pocket... A/C, heater, TV, Fridge, washer, phones, futons, table, chair, rice cooker, hot water pot, dishes and such, burner, toaster oven, etc, etc... pretty much hooked up all around...

The Shower


The shower gets it's own post. "Why" you ask? Because if there was one amazingly frustrating thing about when we lived in Japan before, it was the shower. The building was concrete, so, basically, was the shower. There were mats down and all, but fundamentally the shower was a concrete box. There was no hot water from the tap. It was gas heated, which demanded an arcane fuse lighting/heating procedure, that in the cold, in the AM, was, well, annoying as hell. And to top it all off, our hand held shower attachment was screwed up. Sure, we jerry-rigged [or is that jury-rigged? I can never remember...] it, thanks to the magic that is duct tape, but still, during the winter months you had a choice - hot water OR water pressure. You want both? At the same time? Well, that's just crazy talk.

So come with me now, join hands, and sing with me the praises of our excellent shower... that has phenomenal water pressure, heat at the push of a button, and insulation.

Praise Jesus!

Apt tour II





Apartment Tour






For those of you who didn't suffer through all those kooky little mini movies I sent out... here's the apt, and how we're living.

When we were here before we lived in what was called kyoshokuin jutaku housing. Which is basically teacher/government housing. It was... okay. And nothing to really complain about, but our living accomodations are a bit more refined this go around.

A lot of that has to do with the fact that I'm a municipal JET, i.e. I work directly for a local municipal government, the Fukutsu Board of Education. Whereas Sandy, and the majority of JETs are Prefectural [state] JETs. Prefecturals are bound by a lot more regs as far as standardized living conditions and budget allocations. The fact that I work for a municipal government pretty much leaves our status/budget stuff completely at their discretion. You hear some horror stories resulting from that, but the majority of municipals live slightly better than prefecturals. Including us. Our apt is reeeeaaaaally nice.

So, on with the tour.

I bought a Jeep!


A Jeep bicycle, that is. This finely crafted, beautiful 18 speed bike has become my new best friend. It is so pretty, so quick, so beautifully honed that I have taken to calling it... slow down partner! Who names a vehicle, for god's sake? How gay would that be?

[I'm just kidding Rob Jr... People wouldn't understand our special love, so we've got to keep it secret for now. You know I still feel that way about you.]

Bike 1.0


The fine folks at the Board of Ed purchased for me this more than adequate, shiny blue bicycle, so that I might cavort around town. And truly, it is a nice little bike.

If I was only going to be gallavanting around the Tsuyazaki side of Fukutsu.

However, the dojo I train at, the electronics store, the pseudo-department store are all over on the Fukuma side. Which is down the road a few km. Now, even that might not be a problem, except, this fine looking example of bike machinery has no gears. None. It's a one-speed. And that is not good. Pedaling down to Fukuma the first time, over hill and dale, well... let's just say it wasn't pleasant. And it wasn't quick. I have named it the Batchan special. [Batchan being a colloquial Japanese term for grandmother.] "Gotta go to the store? Take the Batchan!"

Here's the thing... most of the bikes in Japan are like this... not gear wise... but appearance wise. It's the standard looking bike here - there's even a term for it that escapes me at the present time - but still, most of them are carrying at least 3 gears. Now, if I was to stay Tsuyazaki side all the time, it would have been fine, but heading down to Fukuma several times a week... well... something had to be done... so...

Fukutsu Welcome Pics II [or is it III?]




More pics from the Fukutsu Welcome Bash





Astrology & Christianity

Via the Conclave:

...tonight, I had the pleasure to catch a few minutes of the local Christian programming on television. That stuff really confuses me, I’ll tell you what. It’s not just that I don’t agree with it, or think that it’s a totally whacked-out bullshit version of Christianity, it’s that it doesn’t even hold together. It’s not even consistent with itself.

They were talking about a bunch of things. But the really weird one was astrology... [then they] brought up the passage in Deuteronomy that forbids divination. Aside from the whole thing argument about how Jesus was the Fulfillment of the Law and made it so Christians didn’t have to follow the intricacies of the Hebrew law, there’s a much better argument in favor of astrology right in the Bible. Anybody remember what it is?

All I can say is: three - fucking - wisemen. Check it out in Matthew 2

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.’ After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.


Wait, wait, these guys followed a star and the star lead them to Jesus? SO… THEY WERE ASTROLOGERS! And there’s nothing crazy about this, either. Astrology wasn’t some kind of evil bugaboo for most of history.

...Incidentally, I was just looking at a page about the Bible’s references to occultic activity, especially in the Old Testament. Not surprisingly, there are many instances of occult techniques used with no problem. But then in Deuteronomy 18 you have that big list that outlaws everything. Actually, have a look at the list. This one includes the original Hebrew words:

1. yid’oni - Making contact with spirits (not of God).
2. sho’el ‘ov - Making contact with the dead .
3. qosem q’samim - Foretelling the future by using lots or a similar system.
4. m’onen - Predicting the future by interpreting signs in nature.
5. m’nachesh - Enchanting (perhaps related to nachash, a snake).
6. chover chavar - Casting spells by magical knot tying.
7. m’khaseph - evil sorcery; using spoken spells to harm other people.
8. doresh ‘el hametim - “One who asks the dead”, probably via another method than sho’el ‘ov


Now that I look at it arranged like that, I realize what it is that they were really trying to outlaw here: shamanism.

Should we be learning from Finland?

Why Can't We Be Like the Finns?
by Robert G. Kaiser
Published on Monday, August 29, 2005 by the Providence Journal (Rhode Island)


Finland is a leading example of the northern European view that a successful, competitive society should provide basic social services to all its citizens at affordable prices or at no cost. This isn't controversial in Finland; it's taken for granted. For a patriotic American like me, the Finns present a difficult challenge: If we Americans are so rich and so smart, why can't we treat our citizens as well as the Finns do?

...Finland is regularly cited as among the world's best in a variety of indexes and comparisons.

For example:

* The World Economic Forum, in Davos, Switzerland, ranks Finland's the most competitive economy in the world.
* Yale and Columbia universities rank nations in a "sustainability index," which measures a country's ability to "protect the natural environment over the next several decades." Finland ranks first.
* Statistics of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development show that Finland invests more of its gross domestic product in research and development than any other country but Sweden.|
* Finnish 15-year-olds score first in the industrial world on tests of their academic abilities.
* According to a global survey by Transparency International, Finland is perceived as the least corrupt country. (The United States is tied for 17th.)
* Finns read newspapers and take books out of libraries at rates as high as or higher than all other countries.
* Finland trains more musicians, per capita, than any other country.

Think for yourself and question... oh, you know.

What's On Your iGod?
Your answer to the religious homogeny now clogging the nation like cosmic oatmeal? DIY divinity
By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist:


...Millions are doing it, especially the young. They are shucking "religion" and taking up "spirituality." They are mixing Buddhist meditation with nontraditional Catholicism, eco-friendliness with Jesus, racial tolerance with Allah, ancient mysticism with Judaism, divine sex with Hinduism -- with an overarching sense that there is far more in heaven and earth than is dreamed of in most organized religion's meager philosophies. It sounds good because it is.

So then, why not mix and match? Why not let spirit evolve as you evolve? Why not casually defy, say, the new and hard-line Pope Benedict XVI, who recently declared it very, very wrong to customize religion to suit one's personal wiring, one's perspective on the world? This is, essentially, the modern rule: If it's cultural and it's individualistic and the pope scolds against it, you know it must be juicy and right.

...Because here's the catch, here's what they won't tell you in Sunday school: Religion is supposed to be so goddamn empowering that it could very well empower you right out of the very belief system that's doing the empowering. It should catapult you back into yourself, whole and gleaming and so reconnected to your higher self (which is, of course, God, in miniature) that you don't even need religion anymore. Possible? Crazy, I know.

“For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" - Matthew 16:26

From Salon.com:

The Ethics of Iraq: Moral Strength vs. Material Strength
by Peter Daou

The unbridgeable divide between the left and right’s approach to Iraq and the WoT is, among other things, a disagreement over the value of moral and material strength, with the left placing a premium on the former and the right on the latter. The right (broadly speaking) can’t fathom why the left is driven into fits of rage over every Abu Ghraib, every Gitmo, every secret rendition, every breach of civil liberties, every shifting rationale for war, every soldier and civilian killed in that war, every Bush platitude in support of it, every attempt to squelch dissent. They see the left's protestations as appeasement of a ruthless enemy. For the left (broadly speaking), America’s moral strength is of paramount importance; without it, all the brute force in the world won’t keep us safe, defeat our enemies, and preserve our role as the world’s moral leader.....

They have held this view consistently since 2002. Millions marched down the streets of our cities before the invasion, believing that the administration’s claim that Saddam Hussein constituted a dire and imminent threat to the US was absurd on its face (whether or not the exact word ‘imminent’ was used is a semantic exercise, the implication was clear).

...Yet to many of Bush’s supporters, anything short of ‘victory’ is a weakening of America in the eyes of its enemies. They believe we are "taking the fight to the enemy," with the word 'enemy' defined so over-broadly as to conflate Iraq and the attacks of September 11th. It’s the “kicking ass and taking names” mentality, moral justifications be damned. Revenge for being attacked is rationale enough. Material strength trumps moral strength.

Bush plays to the basest instincts of this crowd, but he and his handlers know it’s not enough. If the left values moral strength over material strength and the right values material strength over moral strength, the common ground between the two, and the place where Bush would find his widest base of support, is a case where material strength is put to use for a moral cause. Bush et al want desperately to prove that Iraq satisfies both conditions. That’s why the Sheehan-Bush battle revolves around the words “noble cause.”

Faced with the disintegration of the original rationale for war, Bush and his supporters are scrambling to find the elusive moral ground to undergird America’s presence in Iraq. But when you’re on the record invading a country because it was a grave threat and the threat never materializes, you’re left with little but a means-ends argument to justify it. In the eyes of the war’s opponents, Bush and his apologists are mired in an ethical swamp trying to justify the mess they created. Judging from recent polls, what they’ve come up with so far is inadequate:

MORAL JUSTIFICATION #1: Bush and his administration may have knowingly exaggerated the threat but still had a hidden, righteous agenda: the removal of a murderous dictator, liberating the oppressed, etc. They simply used the most "marketable" story to gain the support of the American public.

This borders on the absurd. I'm no fan of slippery slope arguments, they're easy and ubiquitous, but this leads to the slipperiest of slopes: if it's OK to fib the country into war as long as the fibber has "good" intentions, then it's OK to lie about any policy so long as the president believes he or she is aiming for some secret "good.”

MORAL JUSTIFICATION #2: Ends justify means. In other words, pick and choose your preferred version of the following argument: “Despite the shifting rationales and lack of WMD, removing Saddam ... free elections ... an Iraqi constitution ... spreading freedom and democracy justifies the death and destruction.”

This point is often made in the form of a challenge: "Would you rather Saddam still be in power?" But rhetorical questions can go both ways. Estimates of Iraqi civilian casualties range from the low tens of thousands to the hundreds of thousands. Taking 50,000 as an arbitrary number, who tells those 50,000 families that they have to suffer and die to prevent 100,000 other families from suffering and dying under Saddam? Are Iraqi lives fungible? Who plays God? Without an iron-clad moral justification for war, aren’t we callously and capriciously toying with matters of life and death?

Why Corporate Culture Bites. Hard.

The Drone Ranger by Franklin Schneider, from the Washington City Paper. Great deconstruction of the basic white collar American job. Excerpts:

...After a few preliminary questions, he said that the first thing he wanted me to do was to draw up a spreadsheet documenting my creative process.

At first, I was confused. “You mean my writing process? Like, introduction, thesis, body, conclusion?” I asked.

“No, no, you’re thinking too small,” he said. “I want you to formalize your actual creative process in a spreadsheet.” The idea, he said, was to create a step-by-step blueprint that anyone (read: my eventual replacement) could use to produce an idea, any idea. He gave me an example. “Let’s say that the first step is getting a ‘notion,’ probably from some media source. Next, you have to hone that ‘notion’ into a ‘concept.’ Once you have a ‘concept,’ you have to laterally build it up or something. Get the idea?”

I was speechless. Creativity for Dummies, in the form of an Excel spreadsheet.

...You just want to come in and do your job? Too bad. Before you can get down to business—and that is the reason for work, isn’t it?—you have to wade through nonsense, miles of it and hip-deep. Pep rallies, team-building exercises, politics, line-toeing, tribute-paying, office cliques and nepotism and hoop-jumping. And it’s all the bullshit that’s really important. If you don’t buy into all that, it doesn’t matter how well you do your job.

...At my present job, we have after-hours jamborees every Monday, and the weekly announcements end with a passive-aggressive disclaimer along these lines: “Participation is not required, but attendance will be taken.” Week after week, some grinning consultant prods us into reluctant, insincere camaraderie as the stony-faced VPs look on. Role-playing, song-and-dance routines, comedy improv—they do it at Harvard Business School, so it must work!

At one such outing, we had to write our own lyrics to the tune of a popular OutKast song—lyrics praising our company. When one group dared to write a song about how they were still at work at 8 o’clock at night, singing nonsense, when they should be at home living their lives—their performance brought down the house—the faces of upper management clouded over.

...The reason cited for all this after-hours nonsense, all this camaraderie at the point of a gun, was to “team-build.” To bind us together, to create an insular culture. You don’t start a job anymore; you join a cult. They’re not your co-workers—they’re your “family.” But why engender such intimacy between employees? To what end? Ostensibly, it’s to create a “warmer, kinder workplace.” But quite the opposite is true. Any intimacy that’s forced is, by definition, false. What they really want to do is engage more of you and get you hooked in, so that you care about the job and the company the way you care about a friend or a pet.

Of course, for all their talk of “family” and “obligation,” it’s a one-way street. Cross them, fail to pay tribute at a critical juncture, and it’s the pink slip, no hesitation.

...And so when the employment agency called and said that my test results had been lost and would I mind taking it again, I did so with relish. This time, I picked all the wrong answers. My girlfriend sat with me at my computer, and we laughed as I deliberately spiked the test. If I were angry at a co-worker, would I rationally and calmly discuss my grievance, or would I bottle it up and brood? If I pass someone in a hallway, do I make eye contact and greet him or ignore him? Anything that might paint me as antisocial, lazy, unstable, indifferent, or rebellious, I picked.

The woman from the employment agency called the next day: Could I start Monday? I was shocked. She was furious when I told her I’d decided to keep working at a movie theater for $6.10 an hour rather than plunge back into the office-space nightmare. Did I know how much those tests cost to administer? she asked me. Whatever they’re charging you, I told her, it’s too much.

...Cool Hand Luke aside, people in general don’t like a rebel. Like all collaborators, they’re much more comfortable shrugging and saying, “We have no choice. Resistance is futile.” But maintaining this delusion requires universal collaboration. If even one man rebels, the rest are exposed as cowards. The world of the office, the world of lockstep conformity, is a balloon, and the rebel is a pin.

...The need for security is universal. They’re just trying to hold on to something. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve tried to play the game, too. It’s nice to have that deposit show up in your bank account on the 1st and the 15th of every month. It’s nice, if you get sick, to be able to flash that insurance card and waltz past the writhing, uninsured masses. It’s nice to fit in somewhere, to have lines in which to color, to exchange banter every morning with a fresh-faced 25-year-old woman at the coffee machine. And there is nothing romantic about poverty and struggle. But I have my limits.

...The high-rollers, the bean-counters, the capitalists, and the white-collar tyrants: The office is the last arena in which a certain type of people can discharge their thirst for domination, their will to power. In bygone eras, these types might have gone off to war and removed themselves from the gene pool, or off to whatever frontier to impose civilization on the inconvenient mess of nature. But now it’s business, and that’s all. They created and perpetuated this world of afternoon-meeting ambushes and arbitrary power struggles, of mergers and acquisitions and hostile takeovers. Few things are more relentless, more dogged, than an ego in crisis. Workingman, beware.

In the end, it’s a question of how you accommodate to the horror that is office life. The communists and leftists can’t save you. You’re stuck with this system, its grinding gears inescapable.

If, like me, you go to work each morning and sit in front of a desk, you belong in the professional lineage of Sisyphus, the mythical figure damned to roll a massive boulder up a mountain, only to do it all over again when the rock rolls back down. After all, do you really make any substantial difference from your cubicle? Even if you carry a lot of weight in your office, does it matter, in the big picture, if you move 10 percent more units this quarter than the last? For anyone living a conscious life, office culture inevitably brings the onset of a mild sort of existential despair. Call it the blahs if you’d like: What am I doing? Am I just flushing 40 hours a week down the toilet? And unless you’re a heart surgeon or something, the answer is generally a resounding “yes.”

But you need that paycheck. You need those benefits. Your only hope, then, is to live in the moment, keep at it as an animal might, with consciousness tethered securely to the present. Don’t think about pushing that rock back up the mountain, about the brown-nosing yes-men eclipsing you, about the dehumanizing nonsense that presses in on every side, the petty tyrants in upper management using you as a salve for their shabby, wounded egos. Shut all that out. Just keep at it, left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot, moving cell by cell across that endless spreadsheet.

Infinite Time!



From Dinosaur Comics:

Justice League Unlimited Season 3 Details

Via Comicbookmovie.com:

Here's the titles of four upcoming new episodes that begin Sept. 17.

Look for "We Are Legion" (presumably featuring the Legion of Super-Heroes) and "Shadow of the Hawk" (reportedly featuring the debut of Carter Hall) to air on the Cartoon Network Saturday, Sept. 17 at 10 pm ET. "Chaos at the Earth's Core" and "To Another Shore" debut the following Saturday night.

Bob Gough
8/29/2005
Source: Toonzone

"... I'm not actually a violent person but I had to learn to kill with my bare hands to make this movie"

Interview with director David Cronenberg... some good bits...:

Have you ever punched a critic?
I've wanted to. I'm not actually a violent person but I had to learn to kill with my bare hands to make this movie [A History of Violence ]. So I could now kill a critic, any critic, in seconds. It'd be so fast people wouldn't know why he dropped to the ground. And I'm tempted to sometimes.

...Now, some critics would say that people don't change, that a bully in grade four turns into an adult bully, that an asshole in high school is still an asshole at fifty.

I know what you're talking about, but look at my children, for example. They surprised me. They have not turned out the way I thought they would at all. They changed while they were growing up. And if you thought you ever knew anybody, you thought you knew your kids, much more so than even your wife. But I also have the existentialist approach, which is that identity is a created thing. It's a willed and created thing, not just a given.

...I can feel the assembly of my personality as I wake up each day.

But your mother tongue is still going to be English tomorrow morning. Your tastes in food and music and sex are going to be the same. How is that an assembled thing?

I'm choosing to assemble myself the same way. I could choose to assemble myself a different way. I think there are instances when people do that. Don't you ever find yourself saying occasionally, "God, he's really changed"?

Monday, August 29, 2005

Trust the Government

For they would never lie:

Police chief- Lockerbie evidence was faked

MARCELLO MEGA

A FORMER Scottish police chief has given lawyers a signed statement claiming that key evidence in the Lockerbie bombing trial was fabricated.

The retired officer - of assistant chief constable rank or higher - has testified that the CIA planted the tiny fragment of circuit board crucial in convicting a Libyan for the 1989 mass murder of 270 people.

...The officer, who was a member of the Association of Chief Police Officers Scotland, is supporting earlier claims by a former CIA agent that his bosses "wrote the script" to incriminate Libya.

http://news.scotsman.com/

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Pride Final Conflict 2005 results

Jon wasn't able to order it off of SkyPerfect, so didn't get to see it. Results, via Sherdog:

1 Kazuhiro Nakamura def Igor Vovchanchyn Decision (Unaminous) 5:00
2 Ricardo Arona def Wanderlei Silva Decision (Unaminous) 5:00
3 Mauricio Rua def Alistair Overeem KO (Strikes) 6:42
4 Fabricio Werdum def Roman Zentsov Submision (Triangle Choke) 6:01
5 Hidehiko Yoshida def David Abbott Submission (Choke) 7:40
6 Fedor Emelianenko def Mirko Filipovic Decision (Unaminous) 5:00
7 Mauricio Rua def Ricardo Arona KO (Strikes) 2:54

Master the possibilities...


With forethought, picking up a laptop that can play U.S. region DVD's to take to Japan - $500

A brand new region free DVD player, ordered online in Japan and delivered just a couple days ago - $95

Realizing that having only one DVD player, on the computer I obsessively surf the net, combined with Sandy's DVD watching habits, would lead to untold amounts of conflict, stress, possessiveness and control issues in our relationship [and judiciously cutting off said problems at the pass] - Priceless

Reality - 1, Rob - 0


So, went over to Fukuma last night to help celebrate Jon's birthday. Good time, good food.

After, Malik was heading into Tenjin for drinks and clubs and bars and such... so I tagged along. Hey, it's not like I had anything in particular to head home for. [Countdown to Sandy, T minus 8 days and counting...]

So we went - loud music, dancing, drinks - pretty much how I remember Tenjin. Probably be the same 20 years from now.

So at some point, Malik and I got separated, come club closing time I was left with the dawning realization that I wasn't exactly sure which train to take and where to transfer to get back to the JR Fukuma station, where we had left our bikes. I think, in retrospect, I needed to get to Hakata for the transfer, but at the time the judicious study of all posted maps revealed naught. So I eventually headed back to Fukuma the way I always did o so long ago, transferring over to the Nishitetsu and walking the 20m to get the bike once I got back to town [never a taxi when you need one...]

So I got back to the bike, where - and this is the really good part - someone had rifled through my backpack and stolen my $200 MP3 player. You know, as I was locking up my backpack to the bike last night - at least I had the common sense to do that - I remember thinking "Maybe I should take... nah... It's Japan. It'll be okay."

So. All gone. All the music off the old computer. Stuff that I don't have with me, or isn't on the laptop. Stuff I dl'd off the net or only had as digital files. Bye-bye. No keepee.

I guess at least I should be thankful they were discriminating thieves. They didn't take the digital camera. I can only credit the ubiquitous existence of the keitei cameraphone here in Japan for that.

Krishnamurti

Krishnamurti: “Suppose, if there were no book, no guru, no teacher, what would you do? What would you do? No drugs, no tranquilizers, no organized religions, what would you do?

Questioner: “I can’t imagine what I would do.”. . . . . . . . . . . . . .Perhaps there would be a moment of urgency there.”

Krishnamurti: “That’s it. We haven’t the urgency because we say, “well somebody is going to help me.”

Questioner: “But most people would be driven insane by that situation.”

Krishnamurti: “I am not so sure sir.”

--

I maintain that truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. That is my point of view, and I adhere to that absolutely and unconditionally. Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, un approachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized; nor should any organization be formed to lead or to coerce people along any particular path. If you understand that, then you will see how impossible it is to organize a belief. A belief is purely an individual matter, and you must not organize it. If you do, it becomes dead, crystallized; it becomes a creed, a sect, a religion, to be imposed on others. This is what everyone throughout the world is attempting to do. Truth is narrowed down and made a plaything for those who are weak, for those who are only momentarily discontented. Truth cannot be brought down, rather the individual must make the effort to ascend to it. You cannot bring the mountintop to the valley. If you would attain to the mountaintop, you must pass through the valley, climb the steeps, unafraid of the dangerous precipices. You must climb towards the truth, it cannot be “stepped down” or organized for you. Interest in ideas is mainly sustained by organizations, but organizations only awaken interest from without. Interest, which is born out of love of truth for its own sake, but aroused by an organization, is of no value. The organization becomes a framework into which its members can conveniently fit. They no longer strive after the truth or the mountaintop, but rather carve for themselves a convenient niche in which they put themselves, or let the organization place them, and consider that the organization will thereby lead them truth... I maintain that no organization can lead man to spirituality.

If an organization is to be created for this purpose, it becomes a crutch, a weakness, a bondage, and must cripple the individual, and prevent him from growing, from establishing his uniqueness, which lies in the discovery, for himself of the absolute, unconditioned truth.

Krishnamurti - August 3, 1929