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March 28, 2004
God’s will. Your ecumenical minute from Fafblog:
Yknow at a time when all sorts of big angry grumpy people are talking about “Wars between Islam and the West” and “Clashes of Civilization” and stuff it is great to see stories like this one that show that God is workin to unite our fractious world religions.

After creating burritos bearing the likeness of Jesus and a fence post that looks like the Virgin Mary, God has now introduced a miraculous lamb in Hebron born with the word “Allah” on its back. All of these miracles can only mean one thing: that God is the God of Christianity and the God of Islam, and he really likes drawing on food and animals.

[11:28 AM : 19 comments]

Open thread 6. It’s been two months since the last one. If people are starting to comment on sidebar links in the regular threads, we probably need one.

Alternate questions: Acoustic or electric? Bagel or bialy? Homousion or homoiusion? Mingus or Coltrane? Dante or Chaucer? Trackball or mouse? Sherman or Grant? Shaken or stirred? Show your work.

[10:36 AM : 166 comments]

March 27, 2004
Electrolite, sparing you yet another pun on the name “Rice.” From the Daily News, quoted by Contrapositive:
Rice, who has refused to testify before the panel under oath and in public, met with the commission privately for four hours Feb. 7.

One issue was her May 16, 2002, statement at the White House when she said, “I don’t think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center…that they would try to use ..a hijacked airplane as a missile.” Intelligence reports had detailed such plans as much as five years before 9/11.

Richard Ben-Veniste, a member of the 9/11 panel, said that during a closed door session Rice revised that statement.

“She corrected [herself] in our private interview by saying, ‘I could not anticipate that they would try to use an airplane as a missile,’ but acknowledging that the intelligence community could anticipate it,” Ben-Veniste said.

“No reports of the use of airplanes as weapons were briefed or presented to Dr. Rice prior to May 2002,” said her spokesman Sean McCormack.

Prior to May 2002? What was the National Security Advisor to the President of the United States doing? Did she swear off newspapers for Bizarro World Lent?

Contrapositive provides a nice selection of discussions of pre-9/11 intelligence about airplanes as weapons, all of which appeared between September 11, 2001 and May 16, 2002, in such obscure places as the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Los Angeles Times.

Remember, this is one of the people who’s supposed to be briefing Himself on what’s in the papers, so he can focus on being resolute and decisive and like that.

I’ll start laughing my ass off just as soon as I stop being frightened half to death. These are the people protecting us? Maybe we’re better off with psychic tips after all.

[08:47 PM : 53 comments]

You must be physic. Jim Macdonald points us to this CNN story:
A self-described psychic’s tip that a bomb might be on a plane prompted a search with bomb-sniffing dogs that turned up nothing suspicious, but forced the cancellation of the flight.

American Airlines Flight 1304 at Southwest Florida International Airport was canceled Friday because some crew members had exceeded their work hours by the time the search was finished, officials said.

The purported psychic’s call was “unusual,” conceded Doug Perkins, local administrator for the federal Transportation Security Administration director.

“But in these times, we can’t ignore anything. We want to take the appropriate measures,” he said.

Cool! So now that we’re shutting down air travel when a “psychic” phones in, terrorists can screw up our national transportation system from anywhere in the US for the price of a phone call.

“But in these times, we can’t ignore anything.” You know what? Yes we can.

[08:25 PM : 15 comments]

March 25, 2004
Mr. Probity. Jusiper wonders why Ralph Nader’s people are so reluctant to disclose their headquarters’ street address; and whether Nader-associated 501(c)(3) organizations might not be violating Federal law by sharing “equipment, expenses, or personnel” with the Nader presidential campaign.

Of course, as Jusiper also points out, “we probably shouldn’t hold our collective breath waiting for the Bush Administration’s tax authorities to look into this matter.” Still, some enterprising reporter could do so. Go ahead, surprise us.

[12:37 AM : 5 comments]

March 24, 2004
“Prophets of a future not our own.” Yesterday was our 25th wedding anniversary. We’re as boggled as anyone by this. I’m really not used to my adult life containing quarter-century timespans.

Speaking of anniversaries, Jeanne D’Arc reminds us that today is the 24th anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero. By, as Jeanne correctly recalls, “a professional assassin acting on the orders of Roberto D’Aubuisson, a graduate of the School of the Americas.

Archbishop Romero has headed up Electrolite’s commonplace section for quite a while now. Here’s his entire prayer from which that one line is taken.

It helps, now and then, to step back
and take the long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of
the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete,
which is another way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about:
We plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything
and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for God’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders,
ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own. Amen.

[11:42 PM : 33 comments]

Okay, so maybe the “moron cooties” remark was a little over the top. We’ve been pretty hard on Salon here on, generally (though not always) over their cultural coverage. (Though never so effectively as blogger Cosma Shalizi, who gets devastatingly to the point here.) So it ought to be said: their top-of-the-page political stuff has been first-rate lately, and never more so than today’s interview with man-of-the-hour Richard Clarke. Sample:
You said on “60 Minutes” that you expected “their dogs” to be set on you when your book was published, but did you think that the attacks would be so personal?

Oh yeah, absolutely, for two reasons. For one, the Bush White House assumes that everyone who works for them is part of a personal loyalty network, rather than part of the government. And that their first loyalty is to Bush rather than to the people. When you cross that line or violate that trust, they get very upset. That’s the first reason. But the second reason is that I think they’re trying to bait me—and people who agree with me—into talking about all the trivial little things that they are raising, rather than talking about the big issues in the book. […]

The vice president commented that there was “no great success in dealing with terrorists” during the 1990s, when you were serving under President Clinton. He asked, “What were they doing?”

It’s possible that the vice president has spent so little time studying the terrorist phenomenon that he doesn’t know about the successes in the 1990s. There were many. The Clinton administration stopped Iraqi terrorism against the United States, through military intervention. It stopped Iranian terrorism against the United States, through covert action. It stopped the al-Qaida attempt to have a dominant influence in Bosnia. It stopped the terrorist attacks at the millennium. It stopped many other terrorist attacks, including on the U.S. embassy in Albania. And it began a lethal covert action program against al-Qaida; it also launched military strikes against al-Qaida. Maybe the vice president was so busy running Halliburton at the time that he didn’t notice.

Did Cheney ever ask you a question of that kind when you were in the White House with him?


One gets the feeling this guy isn’t going to be a pushover. I think I’ll go out and buy his book today.

(Back to Salon, though: Prompted by a twinge of guilt over having been quite so hard on them, perhaps, I finally subscribed, and man do they give you a lot of free stuff for your $35. I don’t mean the downloadable music and spoken-word offerings, none of which are all that exciting; I mean the fact that, for my $35, I now have free one-year subscriptions to US News, National Geographic Explorer Adventure, Wired, and Granta, and a six-month subscription to the New York Review of Books. These sorts of tie-in giveaways are typical of the insane world of magazine publishing, where the basic business model appears to be to give away freebies until you’re at financial death’s door, but who am I to criticize? Personally, I’m thinking of opening a dental waiting room.)

[09:58 AM : 35 comments]

Lazy blogging. Hey, it’s what editors do: direct you to stuff by other people that’s worth reading. Lot of that around lately, too.

Amy Sullivan summarizes the Bush administration’s signature domestic achivement, last year’s Medicare “reform,” which:

a) only passed after Republican leaders broke all institutional precedent, holding the vote open for three hours instead of fifteen minutes, allowing HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson on the floor of the House during the vote to “convince” relcalitrant representatives who had already voted against the bill to change their vote, and possibly threatening and/or bribing at least one representative;

b) costs at least $150 billion more than the pricetag Republicans advertised — a fact they knew and covered up;

c) is so unpopular that the administration is spending upwards of $80 million on television commercials and fake recorded news spots to promote the law; and

d) accelerates the rate at which the program will go bankrupt by at least seven years.

That’s one doozy of a public policy accomplishment. Remember when Democrats were scared witless that Republicans would be able to capitalize on their Medicare “success” and cruise to easy election victories? Bring it on.

Ms. Sullivan also directs us to this Daily Show clip on the same issue, further evidence that I have really got to start watching that program. I understand my terminal on the internetwork can be used to obtain schedules covering the wide variety of reportage and theatrical presentations available on my “television receiver.” Perhaps one day I’ll figure it all out.

[09:16 AM : 11 comments]

March 23, 2004
2032. You know, sometimes, there just isn’t anything to add.

[10:09 PM : 6 comments]

March 19, 2004
In other news, Sammy “The Bull” Gravano thinks we’re way too hung up on this “murder” thing. A well-known conservative pundit disses liberals for being interested in “conspiracy theories”:
Liberals have always loved conspiracy theories because raising the specter of foul play and dirty tricks is an easy and convenient justification for ignoring their own political and policy failures.
You can understand why this particular writer is interested in cutting off talk about “foul play and dirty tricks,” seeing as he’s Oliver North.

As commenter Bruce Arthurs remarks:

I dunno, but when someone who actually took part in a secret conspiracy at the highest levels of government says conspiracy theories are bunk…
Yeah, imagine suspecting that people in the White House might be illegally conspiring with terrorists, drug dealers, and hostile foreign powers. Liberals sure are nuts.

[12:38 PM : 18 comments]

Civic virtues. In a New Yorker essay (regrettably not online) about the redevelopment of Times Square, Adam Gopnik explains:
…the familiar form of New York development, whose stages are as predictable as those of a professional wrestling match: first, the Sacrificial Plan; next, the Semi-Ridiculous Rhetorical Statement; then the Staged Intervention of the Professionals; and, at last, the Sorry Thing Itself. The Sacrificial Plan is the architectural plan or model put forward upon the announcement of the project, usually featuring some staggeringly obvious and controversial device—a jagged roof or a startling pediment—which even the architect knows will never be built, and whose purpose is not to attract investors so much as to get people used to the general idea that something is going to be built there. (Sometimes the Sacrificial Plan is known by all to be sacrificial, and sometimes, as in “The Lottery,” known to everyone but the sacrifice.) The Semi-Ridiculous Rhetorical Statement usually accompanies, though it can precede, the Sacrificial Plan, and is intended to show that the plan is not as brutal and cynical as it looks but has been designed in accordance with the architectural mode of the moment. (“The three brass lambs that stand on the spires of Sheep’s Meadow Tower reflect the historical context of the site…” was the way it was done a decade ago; now it’s more likely to be “In its hybrid façade, half mirror, half wool, Sheep’s Meadow Tower captures the contradictions and deconstructs the flow of…”) The Staged Intervention marks the moment when common sense and common purpose, in the form of the Old Oligarchs and their architects—who were going to be in charge in the first place—return to rescue the project from itself. The Sorry Thing Itself you’ve seen. (At Ground Zero, Daniel Libeskind supplied the sacrificial plan, and now he is pursuing all of the semi-ridiculous rhetoric, in the forlorn hope that, when the professionals stage their intervention, he will be the professional called on.)
Elsewhere in the essay, Gopnik observes that the Times Square redevelopment doesn’t really fit into the usual narrative of “urban renewal”:
…Forty-second Street wasn’t dying but raving. The porno shops on West Forty-second Street weren’t there because the middle class had fled. They were there because the middle class was there. The people who bought from the porn industry were the office workers who walked by the stores on the way to and from work, and the tourists who wanted to take home a little something not for the kids. The XXX video rooms and bookstores and grind-house theatres were going concerns, paying an average of thirty-two thousand dollars a year in rent; peep shows could gross a million dollars a year. Though the retailers were obviously entangled with the Mafia, the buildings were owned by respectable real-estate families—for the most part, the same families who had owned the theatres since the thirties, the Brandts and the Shuberts. Times Square was Brechtville: a perfect demonstration of the principle that the market, left to itself, will produce an economy of crime as easily as an economy of virtue.

This—the crucial underlying reality in the Forty-second Street redevelopment—meant that the city, if it was to get the legal right to claim and condemn property in order to pass it over, had to be pointing toward some enormous, unquestioned commercial goal, larger or at least more concrete than the real goal, which was essentially ethical and “cultural.” For once, the usual New York formula had to be turned right around: a question of virtue had to be described as a necessity of commerce.

There’s more, all worth the price of the March 22 issue (look for the “gourmet deli” cover by Bruce McCall). As usual, Gopnik has a nose for irony, such as the way the Municipal Art Society, which fought signage in Times Square a hundred years ago, more recently became the ardent defender of the square’s unique chaos of brightly-lit extravaganzas, leaving the big real-estate developers to argue “the old Beaux-Arts case for classical order, lucidity, and space.” Like Michael Bérubé writing about golf, Gopnik leaves hanging, unsaid, one of the obvious implications, which is that the people who rule us are perfectly happy to practice socialism when they’re its immediate beneficiaries. Market ideology and the sanctity of property are for the little people.

UPDATE: The Gopnik essay is now online, albeit only through the weekend, here.

[11:52 AM : 31 comments]

March 18, 2004
Current events. Yes, I’m back. Sorry about that. I needed a break.

Soon, more about Iraq, Spain, John Kerry, Thomas Friedman, lead poisoning, moral hazard, Jim Henley, Howard Stern, Barack Obama, voting machines, Creative Commons, Max Sawicky, Lawrence Lessig, Judge Roy Moore, Sid Blumenthal, Tazendra of Daavya, and why Kevin Drum’s new Washington Monthly blog doesn’t load right. (And how about that lack of a blogroll, huh. So much for the “blogosphere,” as more and more of the best bloggers migrate onto sites that don’t link back to the rest of the “sphere.”) Initiate Wonkette mode: I saw Matthew Yglesias drinking a pina colada at Trader Vic’s. His hair was perfect.

Alternately, perhaps, soon more about something else. Just reassuring you all that I haven’t been completely out of it. Or, perhaps, creating the opposite impression.

[01:51 PM : 14 comments]

I’ll eat when I’m hungry. This New York Times “Dining and Wine” piece reads like the author actually wanted to write about the contemporary comeback of classic American rye whiskey, but for some reason was forced to frame it with a visit to the Jack Daniel’s distillery in Lynchburg, TN (pop. 361, as all the ads say). Not that there’s anything wrong with Jack, but it has about as much to do with rye whiskey as beer does, so the enjambment makes for some abrupt transitions.

That said, I definitely want to try Pikesville Supreme, Sazerac, and the other boutique ryes that seem to have popped up in the last few years. As discerning drinkers have known for years, real rye whiskey is one of the hidden jewels of North American distilling—spicy, pungent, punchy, and by god you know you’re drinking booze. None of this “I accidentally drank four margaritas because I was so thirsty and they went down so smoothly” with rye. At any rate, if this blog is basically all about encouraging people to suck up to editors (as Teresa has been informed), the least I can do is provide guidance and hints. Say, if you’re buying, I’m curious about the three-year-old Potrero, too.

[01:35 PM : 54 comments]

March 10, 2004
We’ve been there. Michael Bérubé demonstrates the Higher Fannishness:
One of these days I want to put together an academic conference that addresses the phenomenon of academic conferences. It will be called “The Longer Version,” and will be distinguished by three features: one, every paper will have a respondent who, instead of waiting for the paper to end, will simply snort, harrumph, and blurt “I think not!” at random moments during the paper. Two, questioners will be required to begin all questions by saying, “this is really more of a comment than a question— I wonder if you could say more about X,” on the condition that X was either unmentioned in or tangential to the paper itself. (Questions must be at least three minutes long.) And three, every speaker will be required to answer these questions by saying, “I actually address this question in the longer version of this paper,” regardless of whether there is a longer version or not. (If the conference proceedings are published, they will consist only of sections of papers that were cut for time during the actual conference.)

[01:31 PM : 24 comments]

March 09, 2004
Disclaimage. I suppose I should comment, albeit briefly, on the fact that Electrolite and Making Light are selling ads. (As a package. The same ads appear on both weblogs; we’re not offering them a la carte.)

First, needless to say, all of our advertisers are wonderful people and we appreciate them for helping defray the cost of bringing you, yes you, your daily intermittent dose of Nielsen Hayden crunchy weblog goodness. Please join us in appreciating our sponsors. Click through on their ads. Behold their fine causes, services, and products. Engage with them like the well-informed, demographically desirable citizens that you are, you veritable gods and goddesses among readers, you. Okay, then.

Second, while we can certainly imagine ads we would turn down, we’re probably going to err in the direction of inclusiveness. We don’t necessarily endorse every position of the various candidates who’ve bought ads here, nor (needless to say) their every advertising approach. Then again, neither does a print magazine that sells ads. We trust our readers get this, you perceptive geniuses, you. Well, then.

Third, like many of you, I’m tired of having to scroll down forever to get to the “recent comments” links, so they’ve been moved over to the right-hand column underneath the sidelights. Wait, you figured that out already, you sharp-eyed eagles, you. Right, then.

[05:59 PM : 9 comments]

March 08, 2004
Reviews we never finished reading. Salon’s Christopher Farah, who previously distinguished himself with his attack on the clear and present danger of pseudonymous weblogging (as I remarked at the time, if Atrios is a menace to society, the un-bylined Economist surely is too), now offers example number 5,271,009 of a reviewing approach we’ve seen before:
Andrew Sean Greer’s second novel has a high-concept premise that seems perfect for one of those $3 mass-market sci-fi/fantasy paperbacks. A man lives his entire life aging in reverse, born with the wrinkled, feeble, elderly body of a 70-year-old, and steadily growing younger and younger in his physical attributes and appearance. When Max is 20 years old, he looks like a man of 50; when he’s 50, he has the body of a 20-year-old and so on, until inevitably he transforms into an adolescent, a toddler, a helpless baby.

Of course, in a cheap sci-fi book, the main character’s name would have to be something that sounds like a new brand of antidepressant medication—and the story would be trite, gimmicky and shallow. Instead, The Confessions of Max Tivoli is a serious work of literature, written with a precision of language and a depth of feeling that doesn’t simply belie the book’s quirky premise, it transforms it, elevates it from what could have been just another clever idea to a profound meditation on life, love and the inevitability of growing old.

Ah yes. “Those $3 mass-market sci-fi/fantasy paperbacks” are obviously no good, since as we all know, literature begins at $22.95. And of course, in “cheap sci-fi books” people have funny names, unlike in serious works of literature. Never mind the possibility that one or two of those despised mass-market paperbacks might have a moment or two of “precision of language” or “depth of feeling.” In the knockabout world of aspirational book-chat, Farah knows what matters: trim size and cover price.

I can well believe that The Confessions of Max Tivoli is a good book. If so, surely it deserves better than to be extolled by means of such a display of false oppositions (“sci-fi” versus “literature”), appeals to class prejudice (passim), and straight-up ignorance (what was the last $3 mass-market paperback you saw?). Next in Salon’s fearless cultural coverage: Chris Farah explains that this Gershwin fellow is writing serious music, unlike those cheap 25-cent “jazz” records with their silly names and their trite, gimmicky jungle beat. Wait, wait, did I mention that those cheap records are really cheap.

[06:15 PM : 150 comments]

March 04, 2004
Our vigilant representatives. Pardon the expression, but what the hell is wrong with Russell Feingold, Edward Kennedy, Charles Schumer, and Richard J. Durbin? As Allen Brill of The Right Christians reports, these are the Democratic members of the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Property Rights, which heard testimony from five witnesses on the proposed “marriage” amendment to the Constitution. Both of the witnesses who described themselves as “Christians” were clergy testifying in favor of it. The three witnesses opposed were all secular folks.

Not to put too fine a point on it, this is retarded, and Feingold, Kennedy, Schumer, and Durbin should be administered a firm political swirlie for letting the Republicans get away with it. As Brill’s weblog has been documenting, self-identified Christians have been popping up all over the place, many of them clergy, often in the letter-and-opinion pages of local newspapers, declaring their opposition to this mendacious attempt at vandalism against the Constitution. Would it have been so difficult to get one witness willing to contradict the lie that this amendment represents the “Christian” position?

Forgive me for banging on the table, but if you want an illustration of why rank-and-file American liberals, even moderate liberals, were so receptive to the Dean campaign’s suggestions that the Democratic leadership are pushovers, well, I got your illustration right here. Yes, legislation is intensely process-oriented; yes, to get anything done you need collegiality in jumbo economy-sized aerosol cans. But you also need the horse sense to know when you’re getting rolled.

[01:45 PM : 131 comments]

March 03, 2004
Forming up. For the convenience of Electrolite readers inclined to toss them some support, handy links to the Kerry campaign, the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee are now in the sidebar to the left.

All of them are worth your bucks. Unseating Bush is important; so is taking back Congress. The latter is certainly more of an uphill fight, but even reducing the Republican margin would count as progress. Remember, having Tom DeLay and Bill Frist in charge of the House and Senate significantly expands the scope of no-goodness up to which the nincompoops in the White House and Pentagon can get. And having Exterminator and Death-to-Kittens running Congress for the first couple of years of a Kerry administration would seriously limit how much could be done to repair the damage done over the previous several years. So to heck with the virtues of divided government. It all matters.

At the same time, the Democratic National Committee is important too. One of the points of having a national party is to command resources that can be tactically deployed. Money raised by Senator Smith’s campaign can’t be redirected to Congressional challenger Jones, even if Senator Smith is comfortably far ahead and challenger Jones’s race is neck-and-neck. But the DNC can pick and choose where to spend DNC money. You can be sure the Republicans do the same. So if all this talk of alphabet-soup party machinery repels you and makes you grumble about how you’re a political independent, not some kind of Party Hack, just close your eyes, breathe evenly, and murmur to yourself Chief Justice Scalia. Chief Justice Scalia. Spiritual enlightenment will follow.

Meanwhile, the DNC, the DSCC, and the DCCC all have blogs, too. The latter, first mentioned on Electrolite just a couple of weeks ago, even manages to be funny and snarky, just as if it were written by a human being or something:

As hard as it may be to believe, Katherine Harris, the former Florida Secretary of State and current Representative from the 13th District of Florida, attended a TRMPAC (Tom DeLay’s PAC to funnel money into Texas state elections—which paved the way for their re-redistricting) fundraiser in Austin in 2002.

This fundraiser was paid for by corporate money, which may be illegal. A grand jury is investigating. I know. Tom Delay and Katherine Harris accused of violating election law? I am as shocked as you are.

The Dallas Morning News has the story (registration required).

Please register your support for Tom DeLay and Rep. Harris in the comments below. I am not sure where to send donations to their legal defense fund…

Act now, act without thinking, send all these outfits some bucks today.

[12:06 PM : 18 comments]

March 02, 2004
Getting real. John Kerry is now to all intents and purposes the Democratic nominee. If you want George W. Bush to stop being President of the United States, this is what you do:

Contribute to Kerry’s campaign here.

Contribute to’s 17-state ad campaign here.

Take names and kick butt. Support the Popular Front. Win.

[10:26 PM : 16 comments]

Goodbye, Jerome Lawrence. Ninth grade, 1973, I was Edward Emerson (Ralph Waldo’s son) in The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail. Ave atque vale.

[09:30 PM : 4 comments]

How the machine works. What a surprise that the guy whose company sells this turns out to be a major contributor to folks like this. (Via this guy.)

The extent to which hip irony serves the needs of power is well known, but you don’t usually see it illustrated quite so blatantly. On the bright side, I’m reminded of Beth Meacham’s notion that some people should simply be required to wear large signs reading “LEGALLY STUPID.” “Oh, I’m sorry I kept you waiting at the cash register for twenty minutes while I finished a phone call, I’m legally stupid.” “Oh, well, that’s different then.” This T-shirt could fulfill the same function, pretty much.

[08:59 PM : 43 comments]

Water on Mars. Oliver Morton, author of Mapping Mars, has the straight dope on what’s ho-hum and what’s actually kinda cool about today’s much-ballyhooed announcement.

Indeed, Oliver’s Mainly Martian weblog is good reading all the time, and if you think unmanned Mars exploration is all just dry science free of the sweep and stagger of human folly, you haven’t read this post and followed its eye-opening links. Whew.

[08:10 PM : 1 comments]

March 01, 2004
New bug. I don’t know anything about this guy, but he certainly does talk a boatload of sense about politics. I particularly liked “Electability, Part 361238” and “Kerry Voters Explained.” But it’s all good.

Oh, okay, so is this:

“We are not infidels,” says a somber Bush. “We agree with you on so many issues.”

With President Bush’s embrace yesterday of a marriage amendment, the compassionate conservative of 2000 has shown he is willing, if necessary, to make common cause with Osama bin Laden and fundamentalist mullahs throughout the Middle East.

Al-Qaeda, which translates as “The Base,” despite three years of not attacking the US directly, has grown restless over Bush ignoring them and focusing too much on Saddam Hussein and John Kerry. At the same time, al-Qaeda is pleased that Bush has forwarded their agenda of destroying the United States, though Bush prefers “soft” methods such as financial mismanagement and murderously reckless environmental policy.

So when gay marriages advanced in Massachusetts and San Francisco, Bush felt a need to respond to the cries of angry mullahs—even if it meant losing some swing voters he needs in November.

“Ultimately, I don’t think he had any choice,” said Ayman al-Zahawiri, a religious conservative who some call “Bin Laden’s Brain.” “The president has never really shown an enthusiasm about the wars over the culture.” Al-Zahawiri added: “It would’ve been inconceivable that a president so associated with traditional values would have sat idly by while marriage was being redefined. He had to act.”

[05:29 PM : 3 comments]

Walking on glass. I’ve been home since Friday (see below), so I wondered if it was just my block. Evidently not. It appears that much of New York City is strewn with AOL CDs that have fallen out of those bundles of the Village Voice which you see being distributed for free from street-corner bins. Recalling that distant time when a CD seemed like something miraculous and valuable, Anil Dash observes:
The overwhelming message that’s been communicated to me by the sheer unrelentingly perverse ubiquity of this sort of promotion is essentially “Our Service Is Worthless”. Maybe it’s just my perception of things, but any product you’re willing to associate with smashed bits of plastic strewn about the streets of a major metropolis is not exactly nurturing an upscale image. I keep waiting for a murder of end-times crows to swarm and circle, picking up the shiny bits of aluminum that line the curbs.

I’m not inventing anything by noting that AOL CDs suck and are worthless, of course. There’s nothing new about them being ugly. I suppose it’s a compelling ugliness, at least. We all knew that after the apocalpyse it’d just be cockroaches and televangelists and some militia members camped out in bomb shelters in Montana. But I have yet to see a sci-fi writer who correctly predicted that the twentyfirst century would come along and we’d all be literally walking on discarded piles of digital recordings that promised us the ability to instantly connect with anyone in the world, free of charge. But hey, whadaya know. I’ve got mail.

[08:45 AM : 32 comments]