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Almost Two Years Now
Sunday, June 29, 2003
... and I still can't watch this all the way through. After about two minutes I have tears streaming down my face, and I turn it off.
The presentation is not quite perfect but I'm actually grateful for its flaws, happy that it's just a tiny bit overproduced, just a tiny bit too eager to tug at your heartstrings. You notice you're being manipulated a little so it takes a few extra moments to settle in. The treacle is like a bit of novocaine before the dentist leans forward into his drill. If it were any more direct, if it spoke with real, blunt honesty, I'd never get past the first thirty seconds.
Not everybody feels this way. Some people - many, I suspect - are unwilling to go there at all. They probably feel worse than I do, and they may not even realize it. When I accepted my last job, I told my soon-to-be-boss that I would not work on September Eleventh. She looked honestly surprised. "Do you want the time for... private reflection?" she asked. There was real perplexity in her voice; perhaps no one had ever said anything like that to her before.
She's a good woman, don't get me wrong, but I suppose that for her it's just not that important a day, somewhat lower on the list than Martin Luther King's birthday, which does rate a required day off. I can't speak for her, but maybe she feels like 9/11 was a terrible thing all right, pretty complicated, actually, but it's good to not get so upset that the nation gets enraged and does something stupid.
Strangely, we'd agree. Complicated? Terrible? Oh yes. Deserving of a cool and careful response? Absolutely.
Killing is not something you resort to every day. It's something you should do with cold blood and a steady hand, and you should do it for an exact purpose. You do not want to kill one person too many, and you must not kill one person too few. You don't do it for revenge or even for justice. You do it to solve a severe and otherwise intractable problem, the kind that is complicated, and spawns terrible things.
Killing often means that you send somebody else out to actually do it. When you do this, you owe them. Sure, a little gratitude is nice, but what's important is that you owe them your honesty and your honor. If the job was important enough to ask them to risk their lives for us yesterday, then it's important enough that we finish that job today, even if the cost grows very high. The moment we abandon the task, we set our price for the lives of those who would sacrifice for us.
I hope that on the anniversary of 9/11, our televisions are full of the stuff that I still can't watch. Until the war is over, fill the airwaves once each year with the raw unblinking truth, and let each of us decide, once more, just how far we are willing to go.
(Thanks to Sgt. Hook for the link)
About Gay Rights
Thursday, June 26, 2003
Just for the record, I'd like to describe my standard for how I think gay people ought to be treated under the law. It's quite simple, really:
Treat gay people the same as
you'd treat left-handed people.
I have yet to encounter a question about gays and the law that could not be answered correctly by using this simple guideline.
OK for them to marry?
OK for them to work as teachers in a school?
OK for them to adopt and raise children?
OK for them to become priests? Well, that's strictly up to the church, of course, but if they are happy to do it, then I'm happy, too.
OK for them to have sex in their own homes?
OK for them to kiss on television?
OK for them to serve in the military?
OK to tell school kids that it's all right to be that way?
OK to abuse anyone who suggests changing these people "back to normal"?
OK to have special protection from hate-crimes?
Is Mike happy with the Supremes today? Well, not so happy that I'll forgive them for what they did yesterday, but happy enough.
Years from now, we will look back upon today as a great step forward in human rights. I'm happy that I'm alive to see it, and I'm proud of my country for doing the right thing.
Update: Comments are broken, and right after a reader makes a good point:
Reader cas writes:
"OK to have special protection from hate-crimes? Nope! Everyone deserves protection from hate crimes, even if the victim was just some random left-handed guy who was beaten up for no particular reason."
Absolutely true, if you assume that everyone is treated the same. If they are not, then perhaps some protection is in order. Example: let us assume we live in a country where Jewish (or some other minority) folks are really hated, and subject to socially condoned (if not legally condoned) attacks. Perpetrators are brought in, tried, and given "justice" which also brings lighter sentences, if any, than those dished out for folks who attack individuals of non-discriminated groups.
In such a case, there is an argument to be made by an "enlightenment" federal government to help stiffen the punishment that folks get for attacking a certain group or groups with a particular prejudicial mind-set.
In the best of all possible worlds, I agree with you. But we don't live in that world, we live in this one.
I'm actually sympathetic to your point of view. We don't live in a perfect world, and gays really are more at risk from random, bigoted violence. I oppose hate crime legislation as a remedy for this because it delivers much less than it promises, at much higher a cost.
Let's look at the costs first. To prove a hate crime, you are asked to look at comments made during the attack, and to consider other evidence of illegal bias on the part of the attacker. A pathological hatred of short people, redheads, or guys with high squeaky voices doesn't count, but a bias against gays, blacks, or women does (already extending this protection to more than half the population).
This means that kicking somebody twice while shouting "Take that, asshole" is a less serious crime that kicking them once and saying "Take that, faggot". At this point, we are literally criminalizing thought, a big no-no in a free society. Even if they harbor ugly thoughts, people are still free to be as biased as they like. If they are violent, they should be punished only for their violence, and not punished additionally for their opinions.
It's only a matter of time before past statements can be brought in as evidence of illegal hate. Now, we are judging people by what they say, and classifying them into a different legal category where they face different consequences for their actions. The category of illegal hate is potentially boundless, as it already includes a majority of the population and can be expanded at any time.
So what's the real benefit we see in exchange? Well, only the hope that a more serious punishment will deter violence. Well, if we accept that longer sentences reduce violent crime, how could you begin to argue against extending this protection to everyone? If it's OK to put a guy in jail for a year for punching a gay man in the mouth, why should he serve less time for punching my wife in the mouth?
As a final irony, blacks are now disproportionally punished under hate crime laws, not surprising considering the higher proportion of black-on-white, than white-on-black violence. Years ago, if someone had proposed a law that makes black-on-white violence more severe than black-on-black violence, they would be derided as a classic racist.
Don't get me wrong, I despise violent bigots. I also despise rapists, child molesters, kidnappers, gang-bangers and the whole host of other low-life scum. I don't care what their motivation is because, quite frankly, they are beneath my contempt. All I care about is that we put them away - all of them - for as long as we practically can.
Another First Amendment Issue
Thursday, June 26, 2003
The excerpt below was written by one of my favorite lawyers, Eugene Volokh, who teaches First Amendment law at UCLA. I'm quoting a rather large section of it here because I don't want to take his comments too far out of context. (Via IP. As usual, click anywhere on the quoted text to see the original article):
[...] The Franklin Lodge of Elks in New Hampshire faced a controversy about whether women should be allowed to be members. During the controversy, some of the male members made offensive statements about the women who were trying to get in.
[...] the New Hampshire supreme court affirmed the commission's decision, and held that the club was legally liable. [...] Of course, when clubs are held legally liable for their members' speech, they will naturally be forced to suppress such speech, to avoid this liability.
[...] "Public accommodations harassment law," which is being built by analogy to workplace harassment law, extends such legally coerced speech codes to private clubs and other places (such as restaurants, bars, and the like). All those places would now have to control their members' and patrons' speech. [...] Allegedly bigoted political statements can qualify. So can allegedly offensive humor. So can offensive art.
Now the same will presumably apply to clubs, too. A club's display of a painting containing nudity could now lead to hostile environment liability, just like display of sexually themed art in workplaces can lead to such liability. Likewise when club members say racially, sexually, or religiously themed jokes within earshot of other members who might be offended, or express allegedly bigoted political views.
[...] What about the First Amendment? Neither the commission nor the New Hampshire supreme court even mentioned it. It's as if the term "harassment" has become the universal solvent of constitutional rights. Call speech "offensive speech," and people realize that the U.S. Supreme Court has held that it must be protected, even when it expresses ideas that we believe are evil or rude. Call the same speech "sexual harassment," and the First Amendment is ignored.
This incident is yet another example that the slippery slope is a real phenomenon. Harassment law got started by suppressing workplace sexual extortion, physical abuse, threats, and other misconduct that isn't protected by the First Amendment. But because of its breadth and vagueness, it got stretched to cover more speech, including political speech, social commentary, and art. And then by a process of analogy - a powerful force in a legal system that's based on precedent - the law broadened from workplaces to universities, restaurants, bars, and now private clubs. And the slippage may go still further: Once these sorts of broad restrictions are allowed, they themselves become analogies to be used to suppress still more speech.
We are creating (or perhaps, we have already created) an America where you face legal liability for expressing an uncouth opinion in public. Think about that for a minute.
What bothers me most is that this lawsuit was applied to a private, not public, organization. This distinction is enormous.
The public world includes places like public schools, most workplaces, and public accommodations like restaurants and bars. The private world includes places like your living room, the little clubhouse that you and your friends pay for with your own money, even something like a private golf course or bar if you have the resources to build and maintain it yourself. These private places are where you enjoy your Freedom Of Association, the right to associate with people of your own choosing. (This is a bedrock political freedom - can you imagine suing the Black Panthers because they wouldn't admit white people, or because they tolerated rhetoric that made the white folks feel uncomfortable)?
When speech codes penetrate the private sphere, and private organizations are encumbered with a legal duty to suppress such speech, something has gone terribly, terribly wrong. Worse, Mr. Volokh contends that even allegedly bigoted political statements can qualify.
Imagine you're the district manager of Starbucks and your job is to write the company's policy for managing offensive speech on the premises. You have to do it - your legal team has made it clear that tolerating offensive speech on any topic, even politics, can get you sued. You are well aware that you must be even-handed and not discriminatory in your policies. You must do more than just suppress offensive speech to the point where you could win in court - your goal is to suppress it to the point where you won't even get sued to begin with. You realize that the guy actually executing the policy is the 20k/year assistant manager who just got promoted up from barrista last week. And, of course, you realize that you are the one who gets fired if the company gets sued and faces unwelcome publicity.
How much free speech will you allow?
Should a Homosexuals Are Perverts tee shirt get you turned away at the door? How about one that says Republicans Are Perverts? How about one with a picture of a leading feminist above the phrase Get in the kitchen, b*tch, and make me some pie! How about a picture of Bush above the phrase World's Most Wanted Terrorist? And what would you make of something like Barbie Was A Lesbian or one of those little Darwin fish?
Will getting thrown out of a restaurant for suggesting that conservatives are assholes become the new normal?
As is always the case with free speech issues, censorship is still wrong even if the speech in question is offensive. In fact, the right to offend another is literally what free speech is all about. It is not an absolute right, of course, but it is a close to an absolute right as any that we have in this country. In can only be infringed for very, very good reason, and "causing offense" is hardly reason enough.
Now here's a chilling thought... at what point does my webpage begin to qualify as a public place - after all, if I put up a banner ad and start making money here, how is my little business different than a restaurant or an Elks' club? The very nature of my page, which is intentionally published on a publicly-accessible server, arguably takes it beyond the traditional limits of private speech. Besides, I don't even make a minimal effort to exclude minors, and I rarely enforce any standards at all on my public comment boards. I promise you, anybody can express a startling offensive and bigoted comment about any political group on earth and I'll let it stand. My only defense is that of the Elks - if you don't like it, go somewhere else. How long will that defense protect me?
Maybe it's just me, but I can't recall anything that John Ashcroft has done which will do more to suppress speech, or to extend this suppression deeper into American life. Anybody?
Evil, Or Just Disagreeable?
Thursday, June 19, 2003
Partisanship is pointless.
Don't get me wrong, debate is wonderful thing. Even serious conflict, properly expressed, is essential to a healthy, vibrant democracy. But you can have your conflict without resorting to sniping from those deep, fortified trenches which run along party lines. There is something mindless, even cowardly, in being too quick to seek that shelter.
A good idea is still good, even if your opponent came up with it. An ass is still an ass, even if you voted for him, and expect to do so again.
My own partisanship, so happily and eagerly displayed in my archives, got sick and died shortly after the eleventh of September. I became more serious - not that I imagined that I could exert even the smallest influence on the shape of human events, but simply because these are serious times. I care more, and what happens matters more to me. It's not as much fun to just fuck around with things now.
So, in these serious times, let me ask a serious question: how do you distinguish between a politician who sucks, and a politician who you simply disagree with? How do we know friend from foe once the trenches are gone?
Fill in the blank:
"Although we disagree on almost every important issue, I have to say that ______ is a pretty good Senator."
Obviously, agreement on key issues provides the overriding reason why people vote the way they do. Imagine for a moment that you found your own personal perfect representative - somebody who agreed with you on every topic, from abortion and the environment to the war on terror and the right way to collect taxes - and who had a proven track record of actually getting things done. Now imagine that this person also cheats on his wife, beats his dog, and runs a small but lucrative criminal organization on the side. Is that enough to make you vote for his bland and unremarkable opponent, a guy who happens to disagree with you on each of the issues?
I didn't think so.
Agreement is essential, because that's what a representative is for. I think that's why it is so hard to look past the issue of agreement when evaluating someone in public life. Nonetheless, disagreement is one of those adult-type things that you run into a lot, and besides, we really have that whole political-disagreement thing pretty well under control in this country. Newt Gingrich did not immutably ruin the republic, and neither did Bill Clinton. For all their power, today's leaders, too, will pass. Disagreement alone is not sufficent cause for a personal jihad.
I'd propose that there are three characteristics which we ought to be looking at instead:
1) Did the candidates accurately represent themselves to their constituents? Can you predict, with high confidence, how they will actually vote on a given issue?
2) Are the candidates capable? Do they actually get things done?
3) Are the candidates reasonably accountable? Will they stand by their choices, and cross party lines for a good cause? Can you imagine them admitting a mistake or criticizing their own party?
Note that honesty is not on the list, and neither is a rigid constantcy. Like it or not, we have created an environment in which politicians must lie, and there is not one who could claim to be above it. Similarly, constancy is no virtue if it comes at the expense of maturity, or of the ability to adapt. Would you vote for a man who just stepped off a time-machine from 1975, with a gas-rationing plan in one hand and a proposal to reinstate the draft in the other?
By this measure, I'd suggest that Joe Lieberman is not such a bad guy. Sure, I would never vote for him in a thousand years, but he is predictable, fairly effective, willing to disagree with his own party, and he'll even partner up with Bill Bennet for a cause he believes in. If he actually shared my views I might like him a lot. For that matter, Newt Gingrich's Contract With America, despite its many flaws, was a remarkably representative and accountable tactic that was effective enough to drive the debate for some time. Again, I wouldn't vote for the guy on a bet, but it was a good way to do business.
So how about Hillary? Is she really evil, or is she simply disagreeable to her detractors?
Before I answer that question, I'll share a small observation which has pretty much guided my opinion of this woman. I forget when and where it was, but Hillary was being interviewed on television and at one point was asked the question, If your daughter, Chelsea, were to join the Republican party, what would you do? Her instantaneous response? I sure would miss her.
She was joking, of course, but when she said those words there was something deadly serious about it. I believe I saw a glimpse of something genuine about her, something reflexive, almost vicious, and I have not had a shred of patience for her since.
But let's be fair. How does she really stack up?
Does she genuinely present her beliefs to her constituents?
Is she effective?
Is she accountable?
It's hard to describe Ms. Rodham Clinton / Hillary Clinton / Hillary! as anything other than changeable. Like her husband, who instantly transmogrified into the most conservative democrat on earth after the '94 elections, she is best understood as someone with a practiced finger in the political wind. If you want to know how she'll vote on a given issue, just ask yourself which vote offers the shortest path to the White House, and you'll have your answer.
Her effectiveness, even if we overlook her hilariously botched attempt at health-care reform, is unremarkable at best. Her actions as senator seem indistinguishable from her actions as future candidate, and I'll bet the whole farm and both horses that the drops her Senate seat the very moment she has the chance to run for president. Not four years into her new job and already she's a lame duck.
So, I guess it's official then. Hillary really does suck, and it's OK to hate her so long as it's done in a mature and non-partisan way.
OK, so I'm being unserious again. It still happens sometimes.
Fancy Words Meet Fancy Programming
Tuesday, June 17, 2003
OK, let's take a quick survey here... how many times have you used a word without really being certain of its meaning? Show of hands? One, two three...? Well, that's all of you. Yeah, I do it too. Constantly.
Consider the phrase "diametrically opposed". What, exactly, does "diametric" mean, anyway? Is it possible to be opposed some other way? Did I really intend this distinction, or did I just use that phrase because I've heard it somewhere else, and it sounded good?
Turns out that real writers use their dictionary constantly - that's one of their little fancy writer's tricks that they do. I fucking hate using the dictionary, and I do it only as a last resort. As it turns out, this is one of the many reasons why half the stuff I write sounds all ignorant and shit.
Well, now I'm a-gonna be more literate, too, even if it kills me. And I'm dragging you all along.
From now on there will be a tiny formatting difference in the way certain words appear on this page. They should be drawn in an almost-black kind of grey that is just barely different from the surrounding text. These are the words that I bothered to look up, and you can enjoy the fruits of my labor by just hovering your mouse over them. You can click, too, if you really get excited. I won't mind.
Here's an example: "My cat's ass is diametrically located with respect to his ears." See the difference? You should be able to hover over, and click on, the word "diametrically" to see all the definitive goodness. If you can't, let me know and I'll try to fix it.
Now, I'm not doing this because I'm a selfless champion of the English language. I'm doing this because it's easy. I write this code by hand, using a programmer's editor, and I can set it up to do all sorts of fancy tricks without so much as breaking a sweat. I might be an illiterate bastard, but I can still code pretty good.
So, from now on, if you catch me using a real word in some half-assed, incorrect way, I'll reward you with something that's both cheap and relatively valueless - a genuine link to your own blog. (If you don't have a blog, well, I'll link to something else. I'm not proud). Call it The Feces Flinging Vocabulary Challenge. Make me look stupid, and I'll thank you.
Seriously... how hard can it be? Help keep me honest, and maybe someday I'll get smarter or something.
Update: John At Common Sence And Wonder Is Right:
The Merriam-Webster Toolbar rocks! You can select a word on your browser and just click one button for the definition - no need to cut-and-paste.
The Internet: Raising Your Apparent IQ For Almost A Quarter Of A Century.
Sunday, June 15, 2003
You heard it here first: The Current Islamic Government Of Iran Will Not Survive The Year.
Why the optimism? One reason, really...
Once a popular revolution gets started, it goes. You can crush it, of course, or you can watch it roll over you, but you can't put it back in the bottle. Dreams don't keep.
The Iranian students see their opportunity now. They have generous, long-term help from friendly Americans now just a few miles away, they have Bush's words targeting their regime still ringing in their ears, and they have finally begun to move out into the open. They might not have even planned it this way, but their people are out in the streets now and the game has begun in earnest.
The Mullahs are out by Christmas. Like I said, you heard it here first...
Update: Instapundit quotes The CSM:
"It's scary talking to these people [the protesters]," says a seasoned political analyst reached by phone in Tehran, who asked not to be named. "There is such a determination in their eyes and their behavior. They are fearless; they are ready for combat. It's like [urban] warfare."
"They say: 'This is just the beginning, we have started it, and we are going all the way to the end,' " the analyst says. "But if you carry on the conversation, they have no idea about what the end should look like.... It is very dangerous."
The War Wages On
Thursday, June 12, 2003
First, I'd like to start by writing something incredibly ignorant, hateful, and cruel:
Second, I'd like to point out that I actually agree with this sentiment.
No, I have not lost my mind, and no, I have not yielded to the reflexive hatred that characterizes so many of the people whom I most despise. I'm writing this blunt, horrible thing to show that I understand exactly how blunt and horrible this thing is. Only then could I begin to describe why I actually believe it.
Hamas does not represent the Palistinian people. They are, by their own admission, fiercely opposed to any peace agreement with Israel, no matter what the terms. They are determined to drive the Israelis into the sea, and for them, there is no end point to this conflict other than genocide.
Personally, I am certain that there is nothing - not one goddamn thing - that redeems Hamas, that redeems their instantaneous withdrawal from negotiation and their reflexive reliance on terrorist tactics, or that redeems the future they want for themselves and their countrymen. They are tyrants and fanatics. A government run by people such as this could only be compared to Khmer Rouge for both cruelty and sheer stupidity. They would quickly lay waste to any land they tried to rule.
With Hamas and their supporters gone, the Palestinian people would have a chance for a real future, one where they live side by side with Israel. The Palestinian people deserve to be free, and they deserve a freely elected government that respects their interests. Peace-loving people on both sides of the green line should have nothing to fear from boarding a bus or sitting in a cafe. Let the tyrants live in fear, and let them be blown to pieces in the streets.
I can't imagine any future at all for these people so long as Hamas and their allies remain in the picture. Removing these people means that innocents, most especially Palestinian innocents, would suffer as a result. Leaving them in place means that everyone, most especially the Palestinians, would suffer something worse, as they have suffered for far too many years.
War is a terrible thing, but not the most terrible thing. Killing pregnant women and children is horrible, but it is not the ultimate horror.
If there was something, anything at all that I could point to about Hamas and say, "See, they have their good side, too" I would argue a softer line. I'd suggest that there was hope for agreement, that concession could help disperse hatred while negotiation offered opportunity. This approach can be both effective and kind, but it can create a greater sort of cruelty when applied to people who are beyond reason.
Negotiation and concession would have been a very great cruelty if they defined our approach to Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. The enormous murder of innocents we committed was a kindness in comparison. Dropping that first bomb in Berlin was a good start, even if it did hit a nursery.
Look at that. Once again, I have written a blunt and horrible thing. I'm sorry, but sometimes, this is how the truth looks when discussing a blunt and horrible topic. Go ahead, tell me I'm wrong. Tell me that the first bomb was not a good start.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell urged the world community today to fight radical Palestinian groups like Hamas, which claimed responsibility for the suicide attack that killed more than a dozen people in Jerusalem yesterday.
"I've been on the phone most of the morning talking to the leaders in the region, to encourage them to come down hard on Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and the other terrorist organisations that are determined to deny us this latest opportunity for peace," Powell told an economic conference here.
"(These groups) are determined to deny the Palestinian people the opportunity to have their own homeland, ... determined to use terror to destroy the promise that was put before the world last week in Aqaba."
Odds And Ends
Monday, June 9, 2003
So I take the dogs out for a walk around the pond the other day. The daily pond walk is a big event for these guys, a chance to play in the mud and get lost in the tall grass and generally act like savages for a half an hour. Usually, I pass the time sitting on the pond bench, listening to the birds and the frogs and generally feeling grateful that I'm still alive. Otto, our eldest cat, will invariably come sit on my lap. Sometimes I'll smoke a cigarette and enjoy the hell out of it.
So I'm just hangin there, chillin with my crew, when I notice this... stink... coming from somewhere behind me. Good christ... what the fuck is that?
Tom had found the rabbit. Tom is our large primary dog, a friendly setter with an unhealthy fascination with all things aquatic. The rabbit was an ordinary rabbit which, for some reason known only to itself, decided to die in the pond about two months ago and had slowly shed most of its skin as it floated under the warm summer sun. Now Tom had it in his mouth.
It didn't look much like a rabbit anymore, and it gave off stink the way the sun gives off light - I swear you'd actually get burns on your face if you stood near it for too long. Great gelatinous folds hung down from Tom's mouth as he furiously wagged his tail, making his triumph clear to the whole world. This was Tom's proudest day ever.
With some difficulty I wrested it from his jaws and impaled the center of the mess on a sharp stick, then walked it into the woods and left it high in the branches of a tree like some overripe fruit from Hell's orchard. Even the tree looked sad that I had done this.
I return to the scene of the crime to find Charlotte - you remember sweet, innocent Charlotte? - rolling in that greasy stink puddle, just having a genuine happyseizure right there on the ground. Three hundred previously unused rabbit-dog chromosomes fired brightly in her brain as her moment of self-actualization finally arrived. Little Charlotte has found herself at last.
I suppose I should be grateful. At least they didn't eat the goddamn thing, and puke it up all over the couch.
Speaking of cigarettes...
I normally don't smoke, at least not the way that people who smoke, smoke. I love an occasional cigarette but I can't imagine having five in one day, much less ten or twenty. I honestly don't know how people can do that to themselves, or how they could possibly enjoy it. It'd be like eating twenty chocolate bars in one sitting.
I enjoy cigars, too, but cigarettes are different. Smoking a cigar is an event, like going to a movie. Cigarettes are casual girls that you can fit in anytime.
My dad smoked probably two packs a day, and it eventually killed him. As I understand it, he started as a teenager in the Army Air Corp during WWII and never saw any real reason to stop. I didn't start smoking myself until long after his death, but I never minded secondhand smoke the way most people do. For me it's just a reminder of happy times.
I discovered handrolled cigarettes shortly after I reluctantly gave up smoking dope, probably because there was something in my brain that desperately needed a symbolic replacement. Now I enjoy them on their own merits. After all, what's not to like?
Rolling them is fun. A whole ounce of good tobacco costs just a dollar or two, enough to roll a pile of cigarettes just them as thick or as skinny as you like. It takes time and practice to get that round, firm, even result, taut from stem to stern like... well, you know goddamn well what like. I like to light them with nice cedar matches and I reverently suck each of them down like it was the last one on earth.
I like that you can hit them just as hard as you can stand. Too much and you go dizzy and cough, too little and it's like kissing your sister. Get it just right and it pumps the raw stuff of life into your brain. I like to exhale through my nose so that the nicotine gets there even faster.
No filters, no additives, no chemicals that make them burn evenly and, most important of all, no glue on the paper, just spit and fresh Virginia tobacco and fine JB paper with a hint of cedar smoke. I like to hold them between my thumb and forefinger, with the fire cupped in my palm.
It's a cheap vice. One or two a week really does little harm to your body, it's legal, and it only costs a few pennies a pop. You get older, you gotta get smarter. Remember that.
My favorite brand, which is hard to find now in the states, is called Three Castles. If you know of a source closer than England, please let me know.
Drinking The RSS Kool-Aid
Wednesday, June 6, 2003
A few months ago, I questioned the usefulness of RSS and asked if anybody wanted me to use it. No one did.
That changed a few weeks ago when Venomous Kate claimed I'd "make her day" if I added an RSS feed. Now, this was an important development; after all, the older you get, the fewer opportunities you have to actually make a young woman's day. The Feces Flinging Feed was born.
Today I discovered Awasu and now I'm really hooked. Originally, I really didn't see the attraction of RSS, but now that I've seen what Awasu can do with it I'm becoming a big fan. Check it out!
Any web page with an RSS feed can be viewed this way, and you'll know if it's been updated since your last visit. It's fast, too, because the reader only has to download a small amount of text.
The first thing you'll want to do with Awasu is to go into the Edit:Properties menu and unselect the "Show Me Notification Balloon" option - it will drive you batshit if you don't. The notification sound is kind of cool, though.
If you want to make an RSS feed of your own, you'll want to see the RSS technical details listed here.
Cool-Ass Technology Update
OK, I know what you're thinking - how cool can a printer be?
Well, I'll tell you - as cool as all get-out, is what.
This one is an inkjet made from a can a spray paint and some pulleys and cables. It writes on walls:
This one, if it really works, is fucking astonishing. You hold it in your hand, and wave your hand around over something, and it sprays the ink right onto the target surface. They call it a PrintBrush:
They get that bad boy loaded up with some nice flavored inks, and they got something there.
Counting The Seconds, And Keeping Good Time
Check out that sweet little banner at the top of the page at The Smallest Minority - it's a running countdown days, hours, minutes, and seconds until the Assault Weapons Ban meets a well-deserved death!
Not that we're eager or anything...
Why America Is The Greatest Country On Earth
Superbowl. Pay-per-view. Two teams of models in custom lingerie taking part in a 7 on 7 tackle football game.
And you can bet there's gonna be beer commercials, too. Really cool ones.
The Do-Not-Call List
On the surface, it looks great - the FCC is providing a web site where you can opt out of telephone solicitation. The site is currently getting pounded, but in a day or two you can probably get through.
I have my suspicions that this is not such a great idea. Part of my pessimism is based on my recent discovery that the telephone spammers themselves approve of this step, and the rest of my pessimism based upon the historical performance of the Federal government. Seems like somebody is going to get screwed here...
Here's one thought-provoking comment already:
the do-not-call list is an FTC regulation. That means it can only cover businesses and organizations regulated by the FTC. Telephone companies, banks/credit card companies, political campaigns, and charities do not fall under the umbrella.
Great. Telephone companies, banks/credit card companies, and political campaigns comprise virtually all the unwanted calls I've been getting! And now these guys have taken the pressure off the industry as a whole, while cutting a nice little exemption for themselves. Sweet.
And how about off-shore outfits? What's to stop them from getting that fat list from the FCC, and then calling everybody on it?
And what about email? The FCC's website requires an email confirmation address, and a huge list like that is a pile of gold for email spammers. I'd bet money that the FCC's data security is not up to the task. (In fact, I'll sign up myself when I get a chance, and give them a unique email that I use nowhere else. Any bets on how long before it gets spammed)?
My call? This is a fucking scam. Stay away.
The correct solution is not hard: just ban telephone spamming, period (with an exemption for policical campaigns if the constitution requires it). There is no reason not to, other than the opposition raised by the maggots who make a living pissing people off in their homes. Half-measues like this only serve to protect these assholes, and to expose the rest of us to unnecessary risk.
Update: I finally got through to their FAQ.
Gee, is that all? Give me a fucking break.
I'd love to hear the rational for providing these exemptions. "Uh, well, calls from banks don't count, because, um... well, everybody likes a low-rate credit card, don't they?"
Fun With Headlines
Here's the headline:
Wow, that ain't right. Those damn rich people, getting by paying no taxes at all...
Down in the middle of paragraph six we find this:
Hmm. So how much do these folks actually pay? Well, an adjusted gross income of 200k puts you somewhere in the top five percent of taxpayers. That the top 5 percent single-handedly paid more than half of the entire federal income tax.
Suggested new headline:
IRS: Over 99.9% of Big Earners Paid Big Taxes in 2000 - Few Escape The Taxman's Bite
Maybe when hell freezes over they'll actually run it.
Behold The Future Of Air Travel
There are a lot of questions that come immediately to mind:
1) Was this picture really necessary? I mean, I'm seriously concerned I'm not going to sleep very well at night. Ever.
2) What would a really hot woman look like in this machine?
3) What are they smoking, that they think I will submit to this before getting on an airplane?
4) How, exactly, am I supposed to convince my wife that this is just a normal part of travel now? It's OK, honey, just show the nice man your tits and your ass...
5) Bigwig has a good point - in a land where a Muslim woman can sue to keep her veil on for her driver's license photo, how long do you suppose they would tolerate this? And, um, they'd even be right, wouldn't they?
6) There really is a point where the boundries of security and privacy meet, and you're looking at it. Who'd have thought it would cause your eyes to water like that?
Hell, maybe these guys are a lot smarter than we think. This is perfect security - put all the airlines out of business and you'll never have a hijacking again.
New Comic Added: Achewood
I've just discovered Achewood, a weird little web comic that got me hooked after the first two panels.
I've added a link to their site in the Comix section below.
I Try Not To Take This Personally
Google has a nice idea for people who want to run ads on their web sites. First, you sign up for their program, and then when a vistor loads your page Google will automatically insert ads that they think will fit in with the content that you are offering.
A guy named Aaron Swartz has written a neat little tool that lets you see what ads google would insert into your page, if you let them.
So, you gotta wonder, right? What sorts of products would Google assume my readers would be interesed in? What level of sophistication and taste does my page display? In short, what kind of man reads FecesFlingingMonkey.com?
Apparently, men who are unusually interested in the following:
Readers, I salute you. Both of you.
Now don't forget to wipe your feet.
Gee, We Couldn't Have Seen This One Coming
The U.S. Supreme Court issued a complex, split decision today on a pair of affirmative action cases involving the University of Michigan's admissions policies. The court upheld the school's use of race as a factor in law school admissions, but said a point system which factored race in undergraduate admissions was unconstitutional.
Yet another "complex, split decision" about Affirmative Action. Is there any other kind?
Funny thing about horseshit - you can never get a straight answer about it.
Update: From the WSJ, via FR:
Quote Of The Day
From Ipse Dixit:
That was Dick Gephardt, folks.
I'd love to have the full text of that little speech. Anybody got a link to it?
Breaking News - Saddam Killed?
This is unconfirmed, but it feels good - we might have Hellfired the bastard!
OK, so it wasn't him after all. Damn.
Free, Huh? I'll Take That.
From the BBC's own mouth:
Which of the following best describes Americans?
So, of course they have to emphasize the "Arrogant" part. Fuckers...
Quote Of The Day
The Path To Mideast Peace:
The other problem is this Hamas, who the Israelis want a cease-fire with. I have a lot of experience with situation where I wished the other side would cease firing. My best solution was to shoot those people with my M-16 which would usually caused them to cease fire.
Sometimes it really is that simple. This may be one of those times.
This page is now Google's Number One Site On The Internet for "gelatinous feces".
Update: The Wheel Has Turned.
Fame is fleeting, it really is. Google has updated their index and I am no longer the man I once was.
I think I've learned an important lesson here: when life hands you gelatenous feces, grab them with both hands and just don't let go.
Site Of The Week
Autopsy Report is one of the more interesting blogs I've seen. It's written by a medical examiner's intern.
Now This Is Just Fucking Cool
Complete instructions for building a robot from a floppy drive.
Think about it - you got switches, stepper motors, photo sensors, all hooked up and ready to go, pretty much free for the taking from your local dumpster.
Quote Of The Day
So what causes terrorism? Get ready for a big surprise:
Apart from population -- larger countries tend to have more terrorists -- the only variable that was consistently associated with the number of terrorists was the Freedom House index of political rights and civil liberties. Countries with more freedom were less likely to be the birthplace of international terrorists. Poverty and literacy were unrelated to the number of terrorists from a country.
Good News Comes In Small Packages
Here's the latest from FoxNews:
BAGHDAD, Iraq - An Iraqi guerrilla ambush on a U.S. tank column north of Baghdad backfired on the attackers Friday, as the Americans quickly turned the tide and hunted down and killed 27 of the assailants.
U.S. Central Command said an "organized group" ambushed the tanks with rocket propelled grenades [... t]he patrol returned fire and killed four of the assailants [... a]s the rest of the attackers fled, Apache helicopters joined the chase along with tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles, killing 23 more assailants.
This is pretty wild speculation on my part, but I see this as incredibly good news. If the bad guys had any real support among the populace and were able to implement actual guerilla operations against us we'd be in trouble, and they would have no need to launch suicidal attacks like this against armored troops. They could whittle us down in a thousand small ways, making it impossible for us to man a roadblock or turn the lights on or maintain any order at all. They could turn Balad into Gaza.
But they can't. They don't have the popular support, and the people there will not help them ruin their lives any longer. So they resort to Darwin-award shit like this.
Good for them. At this rate, we'll have killed off all the worst of them by the first of the year and the whole world will be a better place.
Bet You Didn't Know This
Here's my promise to you: read this and you will never look at Dr. Ruth the same way again.
My estimation of her just went up about 30 points.
Quote Of The Day
From the guy who runs Iraq's National Museum of Antiquities:
Glad we cleared that up. After all, there's no point in exaggerating the scope of the damage.
It's OK - It's Not Officially Porn
Fame Is Everything It's Cracked Up To Be
I've just learned that this page is Google's third-highest-ranking site on the internet for the word "Feces".
So relax. I've got your shit covered.
Watch Liberty Spread
Here's a cool graphic showing the incredible spread of concealed carry laws over the last two decades.
As you watch the country turn from red to blue, remember - crime rates were falling over most of this time.
Understanding The FCC
I haven't written anything about that big FCC ruling because I wasn't really sure what to make of it. Now I do.
Clay Shirky nails it with his usual clarity and precision:
Personally, I like the "Diverse and Free" approach. Of course, I like that approach for just about everything.
There Is No Penis
Here's an unconfirmed report that Larry Wachowski, one of the directors of the Matrix films, may be undergoing a sex change.
If it's true, well, good for him. I hope it brings him some happiness. Of course, I'll still go for the dick joke every time...
Yes! Den Beste nails it again. This guy has a genuine talent for getting right to the point.
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