Sunday, January 28, 2007

Now heah this, now heah this!


I've gone and done it - I'm transitioning over to a Wordpress blog this week :

I'm keeping this blog open as an archive/conceit/open-source of blackmail material.

Come on over if you like. I'll still pop in some stuff here occasionally.


Another sign that we're living under a (hopefully fading) neo-fascist government

Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Indefensible

By Richard Cohen
Tuesday, January 23, 2007; A17

"On the cold moonlit evening of March 5, 1770," writes David McCullough in his magisterial "John Adams," "the streets of Boston were covered by nearly a foot of snow." A crowd set upon a lone British sentry at Boston's Province House, taunting him. Quickly, reinforcements arrived, and so did a larger crowd. Soon the crowd hurled snowballs, chunks of ice, oyster shells and stones. The soldiers, now nine, opened fire, killing five Bostonians -- "bloody butchery," Samuel Adams called it. Only one lawyer would defend the British soldiers. He was a different Adams -- John Adams, a good man on the path to being great.

I resurrect this tale about Adams because it is sorely needed. Just this month, an official in the Bush administration, a deputy assistant secretary of defense named Charles D. Stimson, suggested that lawyers who defend terrorism suspects being held at Guantanamo not only should not do so but that their firms ought to be blackballed as a result.

"I think, quite honestly, when corporate CEOs see that those firms are representing the very terrorists who hit their bottom line back in 2001, those CEOs are going to make those law firms choose between representing terrorists or representing reputable firms," he said in a radio interview. You may want to read that again.

more . . . .

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Ah, the age-old debate of art and patronage . . .

Ah, the age-old debate of art and patronage . . .
Filed under: Uncategorized — Frontier Former Editor @ 2:07 am Edit This
As tempted as I was to exclaim ‘what in hell,’ the historian in me quickly recognized the time-worn debate over art, patronage and government involvement.

Just consider this article in the Wilmington Star another Hummel figurine in the display case of human idiocy.

Article published Jan 26, 2007
Republican: Scripts need reviewing
Movie prompts lawmaker’s film incentive idea

Raleigh | Citing the controversy surrounding the Dakota Fanning film Hounddog, the leader of the state Senate Republicans says he wants the government to review scripts before cameras start rolling in North Carolina.
That system, said state Sen. Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, would apply only to films seeking the state’s lucrative filmmaker incentive, which refunds as much as 15 percent of what productions spend in North Carolina from the state treasury.
“Why should North Carolina taxpayers pay for something they find objectionable?” said Berger, who is having proposed legislation drafted.
It is not known whether Hounddog’s producers have or will apply for the incentive. A call Thursday to the N.C. Department of Revenue, which oversees incentive payments, was not returned.
Sen. Julia Boseman, D-New Hanover, one of the backers of the new law that created the current incentive system, said she couldn’t say much until she saw Berger’s proposal in writing.
“There’s no bill yet to take a look at,” she said. “But I am always willing to consider reasonable ways to improve the program.”
She did say she thought looking at scripts before shooting starts might be meaningless because a script could be changed during production.
“We should consider the end product,” she said, “which is what our current system is designed to do.”
State law denies the incentive to films that are obscene. In state law, obscenity is defined as depicting sexual conduct presented in an offensive way that appeals to prurient interest, lacks any “serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value” and is not free speech protected by the state or federal constitutions.
Berger said the film-incentive ban should be broadened to include material considered objectionable. He said there should be no First Amendment concerns because the producer would be seeking money from the state government. But he did say that if constitutional questions confused the matter, it would be better not to have a film incentive at all.
Berger has not seen the movie. He said his opinions were formed by what he has read about it.
The Fanning film, which is playing this week at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, has been a flashpoint of controversy since it was filmed on locations in New Hanover and Brunswick counties last summer.
The movie tells the story of Lewellen, a girl played by 12-year-old Fanning, who is growing up in the 1960s South.
In one scene, the character is raped. The scene lasts a few minutes and is not graphic, according to The Associated Press. There is no nudity, the scene is darkly lit, and only Fanning’s face and hand are shown.
Criticism and questions began even before the first screening of the film. A group called the Christian Film and Television Commission claims Hounddog breaks the federal child-pornography law, according to the AP.
Last year, a complaint reached the New Hanover County district attorney, who issued a letter saying he saw uncut portions of the film and found that no crime had been committed in his jurisdiction.
The film’s publicist took a request for comment Thursday afternoon but did not return it before press time.
Under the current system, the process begins when producers make inquiries of local film commissions or the state film office to gauge whether their project might be eligible.
But to claim the credit, the producers must file a state tax return. The N.C. Department of Revenue examines the return and judges whether all the criteria in the law have been met. The refund can be as much as $7.5 million per film.
Berger pointed to South Carolina, which requires up-front applications from producers, who must attach a copy of their script.
Even so, said Jeff Monks, South Carolina’s film commissioner, the state does not assess the content of a proposed movie.
“Censorship is not part of our activity,” he said. The purpose of asking for the script is to see whether it conforms to the budget and schedule information producers are required to provide.
“We want to see if this film is doable and a good investment for the people of the state,” he said.
Mark Schreiner: (919) 835-1434

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Ye of little faith . . . .

Just taking a philosophical moment before I dive back into an online Linux test this fine, chilly, wet winter afternoon.

Driving by the local Baptist church this morning (it's hard not to - it's a block from my house), I had a strong flash of why I'm an agnostic. The elders of this same church decreed, and the congregation assented, that an acquaintance's son could not lie in state there for his funeral because he had died of AIDS and had been gay.

Whether or not you might agree with one's choice of life (to an point - I still feel that Hitler, Stalin, Mao and their political and philosophical ilk through the ages should roast in hell like an overdone side of beef), doesn't there come a time when we all should show some humanity?

I can't help at laugh at a church (institution and locality) which states that getting down on your knees and reciting a prayer wins you instant salvation, yet at the same time forgets the concepts of forgiveness and loving one's fellow human.

Several times a week, I pass by that church and see people attending Sunday services, Sunday school, youth groups, Wednesday gatherings and other functions. I see the pastor oversee the care and lawn grooming of the church. I see the congregation with their noses out of joint because nearby residents dare park their cars on the adjacent street and deny God's children a place to park their SUVs and sedans near the church doors.

I think of a church which places great mystical stock on taking a dip in water while calling other churches which place great stock in a bite of wafer and a drink of wine or juice heretical. And it works both ways.

And then I think of a father who's told that his son isn't good enough for a church funeral because he contracted AIDS.

And that's why I'm an agnostic.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

First amusing story from my new job . . .

Two of my male counterparts were coming back to work after lunch Friday, and one was heard across the rather large work area to ask the other: "Are you in yet?"

Saturday, January 13, 2007


Jusr finished my first quiz tonight - UNIX is sooooooooooo much funnnnnnnnnnn . . . . .

Now I know what Thomas Dolby felt like . . . except for the fashion sense, of course.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Does this compute?

Lemme tell you what fun is. Try switching from 14 years in a career based on words, wheedling info out of unwilling subjects, explaining complex situations in 20 column inches or less on deadline and generally living on everything that's bad for you to a whole new career based on logic.

That pretty much sums up the last four days as I try to comprehend two courses in UNIX/Linux programming and Java language. It's a hell of a shift in routine - kind of like popping the transmission in reverse while rolling downhill at 80 mph - but after a day of general frustration in getting the first assignments down, I kinda like it.

As I told my instructor in an e-mail today, I think I was having a liberal arts moment.

Who knows - after a couple of months of this, I may be writing my own template code. Or then again, I might not know my posterior from a hole in the ground which, by the way, is a comparative study course later in the program.

At least it keeps me from thinking too much about our not-so-esteemed president.

So, how are YOU doing?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

I swear to God that not all of Virginia is a bunch of numbnuts, but . . .

former state legislator and current Congressman/village idiot Virgil Goode is getting exactly what he deserves with this - a well-deserved softball bat across his goofy-assed grin:

Congressman to be sworn in using Quran (link)
By FREDERIC J. FROMMER, Associated Press Writer 32 minutes ago
The first Muslim elected to Congress says he will take his oath of office using a Quran once owned by Thomas Jefferson to make the point that "religious differences are nothing to be afraid of."
Rep.-elect Keith Ellison, D-Minn., decided to use the centuries-old Quran during his ceremonial swearing-in on Thursday after he learned that it is kept at the Library of Congress. Jefferson, the nation's third president and a collector of books in all topics and languages, sold the book to Congress in 1815 as part of a collection.
"It demonstrates that from the very beginning of our country, we had people who were visionary, who were religiously tolerant, who believed that knowledge and wisdom could be gleaned from any number of sources, including the Quran," Ellison said in a telephone interview Wednesday.
"A visionary like Thomas Jefferson was not afraid of a different belief system," Ellison said. "This just shows that religious tolerance is the bedrock of our country, and religious differences are nothing to be afraid of."
Some critics have argued that only a Bible should be used for the swearing-in. Last month, Rep. Virgil Goode (news, bio, voting record), R-Va., warned that unless immigration is tightened, "many more Muslims" will be elected and follow Ellison's lead. Ellison was born in Detroit and converted to Islam in college.
Ellison said an anonymous person wrote to tell him about the Quran, and he arranged with the Library of Congress to use it. The chief of the Library of Congress' rare book and special collections division, Mark Dimunation, will walk the Quran across the street to the Capitol and bring it back after the ceremony.
Ellison's decision to use Jefferson's Quran was first reported by The Washington Post on Wednesday.
Jefferson was born in Albemarle County, in what is now Goode's congressional district in central Virginia. Goode's office did not return phone and e-mail messages left Wednesday.
An English translation of the Arabic, Jefferson's Quran was published in 1764 in London, a later printing of one originally published in 1734.
"This is considered the text that shaped Europe's understanding of the Quran," Dimunation said.
It was acquired in 1815 as part of a more than 6,400-volume collection that Jefferson sold for $24,000 to replace the congressional library that had been burned by British troops the year before, in the War of 1812.
"It was a real bargain," Dimunation said.
The Quran survived an 1851 fire in the Capitol. Dimunation described it as a two-volume work, bound in leather with marble boards.
"As a rare book librarian," he said, "there is something special about the idea that Thomas Jefferson's books are being walked across the street to the Capitol building, to bring in yet another session of governmental structure that he helped create."
Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

I love it when an anti-intellectual fuckwit masquarading as a philosophical heir to Thomas Jefferson is shown to be a cheap pretender. It happened to George Allen last year, and Virgil Goode is most deserved of the treatment in 2007.

For a view of the text of Goode's brilliant observations, see here.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Don't laugh yet . . . .

As we get ready for Gerald Ford's funeral tomorrow, I started to remember what it was like as a pre-teen and teenager while he was President (and notice that I use a capital P when talking about Ford and not Shrub).

It was a big hit to a young'un's world view when I watched Nixon give his resignation speech on TV. So much for all those civics and government classes in elementary school.

But as Ford's impromptu presidency wore on, I realized that the world hadn't come to an end (as long as one doesn't count several disco acts).

Frankly, President Ford did pretty good given the hand dealt him. And tell me the last time you saw a presidential press secretary host Saturday Night Live while his boss was in power.

I ran across this column by Georgie Anne Geyer today while engaging in terminal historical analysis:


WASHINGTON -- Even in death, Jerry Ford did one more favor for the country he gave so much to. He died just at the moment when, with his country riven by a vicious and irrelevant war and American public culture filled with vulgarity, his memory could recall for us what America once was.
The 38th president personified, in the very best sense, what it meant to be American. He was a big, handsome, warm man, and perhaps that helped him be as modest as he was. He was honest, honorable, loyal and, above all, commonsensical. We could compare Ford, born and raised in Michigan, to Lincoln of Illinois -- except that Ford's favorite (and contestable) saying was, "I'm a Ford, not a Lincoln."
Even Gerald Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon, which surely cost him the presidency in 1976, showed the type of principles that seem to fare so badly in today's America. He pardoned Nixon because he knew the country could not bear years of court cases and more strife. He never was sorry for it, and he was surely right.
Odd, isn't it, that this fine, quintessentially Midwestern American should choose to leave us at probably the most dangerous moment in our recent national life. When our leadership is so intemperate about searching for world domination, when institutions like our Congress appear so dysfunctional in the light of American history, and when the common values of a Grand Rapids, Mich., man seem to have faded from the national screen.
As we mourn this good man and remember his remarkable wife, Betty Ford, and as we face 2007, President Ford's passing, at the grand old age of 93, presents us with some serious internal questions. Do we still have in us the old American principles of honesty, loyalty, authenticity, sincerity and simplicity that the Fords exemplified? Or has the country truly changed, perhaps into a nation of humans disconnected from one another by everything except land mass? Is there a truly American creed anymore, or are we simply a "nation" of individual anomies?
Because this moment is so precarious, I think we can look at 2007 and say, This will almost surely be our defining year. This year will tell us what we still are -- and what we no longer are. It will say whether there is, indeed, any real American exceptionalism left.
What we have seen this last year is not promising. Every month of 2006, the Iraq that we set out to "save" has broken down more irrevocably, until we see today a decimated state of our making, and we blame it on them. Our worst leaders are given medals of honor in the White House, while the wisest ones go unheard. Small guerrilla units that could have been contained in one or two countries now span the world -- can you believe, Somalia, AGAIN? We talk about bombing Iran, when we know that its oil wealth is going down so drastically that it will not even be a regional power in a few years.
Even the planet Pluto, poor Pluto, the little guy out there, was downgraded in 2006 from a full planet to a "dwarf planet."
Twenty years ago this new year, Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev came to Washington in December to hang out with President Ronald Reagan. The mood was euphoric, as Reagan told four of us columnists that the Cold War was over! The first President Bush picked up the mood of the era beautifully, and we were well on our way to a successful post-Cold War period. It seemed like a new age had dawned, but President Bill Clinton did not follow up aggressively on the end of the Cold War, and President George W. Bush has lost whatever hope was left for rebuilding the world with his wanton and indiscriminate war-making.
Meanwhile, on both of these presidents' watches, because of lack of interest and competence, the international organizations built up after World War II were left unreformed and untended. The awful little wars popping up everywhere, with no one to intelligently address their causes, are echoes of the emptiness inside of organizations like the United Nations and regional organizations, which have foundered without American leadership.
Iraq will tell the story in 2007. There is little chance that there will be even a stable government in Iraq, though that is the best that can be hoped for. The worst possibility would be an all-out retreat, which would bring forth the rage of the Iraqis and leave the United States scarred forever.
So how we act this year -- what leaders and thinkers we pick to guide us, which of our historical concepts we cling to and which we discard, whether we are able to reinvigorate Jerry Ford's Americanism in this new era -- is going to decide our future. Happy New Year!


I wish our current supposedly-elected, terminally numbnutted government could take the hint from the old-timers