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August 31, 2004
No bottom. “This is what the leadership of the Republican Party has become.”

This is your future, if you don’t get your ass in gear, so-called “libertarians.” This is the toilet your life will go down.

[12:11 AM : 148 comments]

August 29, 2004
Open thread 9. Unlike certain other blogs on, we don’t let our open threads get up to 500 messages before starting a new one. (Cough, cough.)

[08:40 PM : 177 comments]

August 25, 2004
Theater arts. Given that we live right under a major approach path to LGA, suddenly I’m sorry we have the ground floor and basement of our building, but not the roof:
Bright blue tarps, painted with glaring yellow letters, are going up on dozens of rooftops in Brooklyn, under the flight paths into busy New York airports. Thousands of delegates and convention guests peering down at the city might see messages like “No more years” and “Re-defeat Bush.”
Certainly this is a smarter piece of political communication than the sort of “direct action” examined by Rick Perlstein in this piece in the Voice:
The War Resisters League, like, cites a Martin Luther King Jr. quote that includes these words, offered as if a taunt: “Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue.”

It would have taken all of King’s powers of Christian love, I think, not to laugh in these people’s faces. King would never ever simply say, “We need to do what our conscience tells us is important to do,” and somehow leave it at that. King planned his insurgencies with the strategic care of a military general, and with the characteristic obsessions of a top-drawer publicist: no risk of arrest, of violence—even when arrest or violence was welcomed, embraced for its communicative power—was ever left to chance. (Today’s protesters revel in their embrace of improvisation, as if it were a good in itself.) And he never left the field of battle satisfied with mere moral victory, that his side had demonstrated more righteousness than the other. He always had a concrete political goal, that concrete goal but a step toward his continually evolving transcendent goals. […]

[Protest organizer] Rae Valentine is even right, in a cosmic sense, when she says that “people understand that the so-called chaos of streets being shut down by protesters or even a window being broken is nothing compared to the day-to-day chaos and destruction of people being able to afford housing, or health care. That’s where the real violence—in the system—lies.”

But she is not right in the sense that matters: the political sense. “I think people understand,” she says. Linger on that formulation. It is only inane arrogance that gives someone the confidence to pronounce that, magically, “people will understand.” They might not understand at all. Instead, what they might understand is: “Bush is better than anarchy in the streets.” It ain’t fair. But if it all goes down as unplanned, there’ll be a whole lot more unfairness coming down the pike in the next four years.

As ever, it’s the difference between wanting to actually accomplish change, and merely looking for opportunities to enact your beliefs.

[10:55 AM : 95 comments]

August 22, 2004
Salad. Roz Kaveney reflects on a former political ally:
Essentially, she is an all or nothing pessimist who wants so much from the political sphere that she is perpetually disappointed, whereas I am probably more cynical in my basic assumptions and so vastly more cheered by any small sign of progress.

You could call it a Rousseau/Voltaire split, because I am much more interested in Voltaire’s occasional moments of real political courage and occasional successes in humiliating the Church over its brutal repression of atheists and Protestants than Rousseau’s fantasies of an ideal state. And I accept that this means putting up with Voltaire’s long attempt to fit in with things as they were, and his weird relationship with Frederick the Great, and his long boring poems and perfectly Aristotelian plays, for the few great good things he did. And ‘Candide’.

Whereas she would disapprove of both of them as Dead White Males, but actually be doing so entirely in the spirit of Rousseau.

She is horrified at the human race’s tendency to commit genocide and the way we have got better at it; I am minimally cheered by the fact that we have actually started talking about it and thinking of it as a bad thing for which people ought to be punished. The Aztecs used to manage to sacrifice ten thousand people over a weekend, which is pretty efficient if you are using stone knives and taking the time to tear each heart out or flay each corpse. We invented nothing.

And much else, including the Victorian Royal Navy’s Anti-Slavery Patrol, Beethoven, and food.

(Chris Bertram may take this excerpt as his cue to explain how we’re missing important aspects of Rousseau. He’s very likely right.)

Speaking of Aztec cannibalism, as we generally are, we appear to have been seeded with yet another round of GMail invites. Since everyone we know who wants GMail now has an account, we figure it’s time to start giving them away first come, first served, like coins being scattered to the crowd by some chariot-mounted proconsul of antiquity, or a god of war, death, and madness. Bow down before Giblets, bow down NOWWWWW…er, sorry, conceit leakage. Rather, share your thoughtful and well-formed entreaties in the comments to this post.

[09:56 PM : 118 comments]

August 21, 2004
And pack up your tent. Apologies for extended absence, unanswered email, etc. Our broadband connection went south. Highly trained technicians are on the case. Meanwhile, wow, dialup really sucks.

[08:49 PM : 0 comments]

August 19, 2004
Open thread 8. Recent comments to this thread suggest that one of these is overdue.

[12:56 AM : 157 comments]

August 17, 2004
The Beginning Place. Spotted by Avedon, this letter from one Brian Thomas on Altercation:
Today I met up with Portland’s most famous author and anarchist, Ursula K. Le Guin (The Dispossessed, The Left Hand of Darkness, the Earthsea trilogy, etc.) while she was buying movie tickets at our Fox Towers theatre complex. I asked her the same question I’ve asked thousands of our citizens:

“Do you want George Bush out of the White House?”

Ms. Le Guin flipped her purse around to reveal a Kerry/Edwards button.

“Wow, I’m thrilled to see an anarchist wearing a Kerry button. All my best anarchist friends are voting for Kerry, but they’re not ready to wear buttons.” And then Ursula smiled broadly as she became the first person I have ever heard utter these words:

“Anybody but Nader.”

[09:25 PM : 131 comments]

August 16, 2004
Why they call it the Grauniad: Britian

Avedon, via AIM: “It’s hopeless. They can’t even use a spill-chicken.”

[09:50 PM : 55 comments]

I shook the Internet and stuff fell out. John Battelle:
We love stories. It’s how we understand the world. Were I to tell a friend what happened in tonight’s Giants game, I wouldn’t send him a box score (though I might refer to one as I was talking to him). I’d say something like “Man, we looked terrible in the first two innings, our rookie pitcher was tight and we had back-to-back errors resulting in a three-run deficit by the second. But then AJ nailed a three-run homer that put us back in the game, and in the 5th we rang up three more (including Barry’s 689th!). It was all Giants from then on, and JT Snow was on fire…!” and so on. A story is our way of taking a journey and making it portable—we can give it to others, and we’re wired to enjoy both hearing a good story, as well as telling it.
Laura Rozen:
I think my instinct about intelligence history is by and large correct and not very academic: you can study it all you want, but intelligence failure is basically the almost inevitable consequence not of a lack of information, but of a failure of imagination. The reason the US didn’t foresee Pearl Harbor, Stalin didn’t believe Hitler would invade the Soviet Union, the US didn’t foresee India’s nuclear tests, etc. is not for lack of information. It is about the blindnesses that occur on this side in the processing of information, the inability or unwillingness to yield one’s assumptions to think like one’s adversary, and the moving of such insights within the bureaucracy.
John-Paul Spiro:
I have to say I feel just awful for Jack Ryan. He’s now and forever a political joke and he never even got to hold office. Now every single story about Keyes and/or Obama must end with a reference to Ryan bowing out over “sexually embarrassing allegations.” Not that he doesn’t deserve it. If you’re rich and handsome and married to Jeri Ryan, and having sex with her is just not enough so you just want strangers to watch the two of you get it on because then you’re just the man and everyone knows it because they can always suspect that she just married you for your money and you guys don’t have sex at all so you just gotta prove it to them by actually nailing her with the strobe lights flashing and the music pounding and come on honey stop crying it would be cool I’m sorry I thought you might be into it really I promise I’ll never do it again I just think it might spice things up no I don’t mean things aren’t good but it would just be interesting to try once dammit I want people to gape at us while we’re having nasty monkey love because that’s my way of proving how much I value you as my wife oh hell let’s get a divorce just don’t bring this up ever because I want to serve in our government and make laws for this beloved nation someday and if you do I’ll slander you in the press because God forbid our child find out what a sleaze his father is anyway I’m sorry that Boston Public show didn’t work out I told you Star Trek wouldn’t be the best springboard but oh well I’m going to volunteer at some inner-city schools to build up my I Care About The People bonafides so later babe good luck with that stewardess part in Down With Love

So, sorry, Jack Ryan. You will be missed. Let the real sideshow begin.

Bob Herbert reports from Florida:
The state police officers, armed and in plain clothes, have questioned dozens of voters in their homes. Some of those questioned have been volunteers in get-out-the-vote campaigns.

I asked Mr. Morales in a telephone conversation to tell me what criminal activity had taken place.

“I can’t talk about that,” he said.

I asked if all the people interrogated were black.

“Well, mainly it was a black neighborhood we were looking at—yes,” he said.

He also said, “Most of them were elderly.”

When I asked why, he said, “That’s just the people we selected out of a random sample to interview.”

And from the Seattle Times, an miniature Coen Brothers movie. (Via Roger (Not That One) Ailes.)
KALISPELL, Mont. — Until he was arrested this year in his underwear in a motel room with a nearly naked young woman who was behind in her payments to his finance company, no businessman in this town was more respected than Richard Dasen.

Medieval metalwork by Teresa Heinz Kerry’s eldest son.

What Really Happened. (Warning: sound.)

Kip Manley, 11,000,000; Washington Post, 0.

Winner of the Electrolite August 2004 This Guy Is Making Way Too Much Sense Award: Digby.

[01:40 PM : 7 comments]

August 13, 2004
NH spotting. Behind the cut, our absurd schedule of public appearances at Noreascon 4, the upcoming 62nd World Science Fiction Convention, Boston, September 2-6.

[11:40 AM : 18 comments]

If this be error. Cory Doctorow is justly furious with the California Supreme Court:
Remember last winter’s rush of gay marriages at San Francisco’s city hall, following on from the mayoral decree that gays may marry? Remember the rock-concert campouts, the nationwide outpouring of support, the endless parade of joyous images of happily married couples?

Forget it.

I have an alternate suggestion: Don’t forget it.

[11:18 AM : 42 comments]

August 01, 2004
Strange currencies. One of the byproducts of working as a book editor (or any other role in the entertainment industry, really) is that at any time you may find yourself being a bit player in someone else’s sudden celebrity. Aside from thinking my last name is “Hayden,” this piece in today’s New York Times Magazine gets my part of Susanna Clarke’s story pretty much right.

Clarke is indeed one hell of an original writer. I’ve just started getting into Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, thanks to Bloomsbury for providing an advance reading copy, and so far it’s as good I would have expected. Or, at the very least, as much to my taste as you might expect from the fact that she’s the only writer with a story in all three of the Starlight anthologies…

[06:52 PM : 250 comments]