Wednesday, June 30, 2004

The Ulysses of Blogging

The greatest post in the history of Bloging has been written. That's it. It's all over. The Ulysses of Blogging, if you will. And of course, it is from the greatness that is Fafblog.

Update: Bryan in comments reminded me that when traveling to the land of fafblog, you may want to turn the brightness on your monitor down. And maybe wear sunglasses.

Yes In Fact, It Is Your Grandfather's Database

Center for Public Integrity:

WASHINGTON, June 28, 2004 — Justice Department officials say a huge database that serves as the public's lone window on lobbying activities by foreign governments has been allowed to decay to a point they cannot even make a copy of its contents.
 
Responding to a recent Freedom of Information request from the Center for Public Integrity, the Justice Department's Foreign Agent Registration Unit said it was unable to copy its records electronically because their computer system was "so fragile." In a letter, the head of the unit's Freedom of Information office said that simply attempting to make an electronic copy of the database "could result in a major loss of data, which would be devastating."

The database details millions of dollars spent on lobbying activities by foreign governments, companies, and foundations.

Those activities include everything from wining and dining lawmakers to broadcasting issue ads on American television and radio stations.

[edit]

The ancient computers the public and staff use often break down, however, and the printers malfunction. The system's document handling software, itself an antique, operates on Microsoft Windows 95.

Windows 95. Windows 95! Windowsfucking95!!!?!?!?!? It runs in fucking DOS, man! '’ve got a calculator in my office more advanced than Windows 95. You know why? Because that OS came out almost ten years ago. Ten years out of date! AAAARRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And we wonder why terrorists can do things like 9/11. Its because we have Government agents using a frickin abacus and slide rule to do their god damn math! Wait, let me see if that terror suspect is in our database, let me just flip through the ledger filled with degeritypes... I'll get back to you on that... Hang on...

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Dispatches from Iraq, Part 11

Christian writes in with a few words on the handover of soverignity in Iraq. He sums it up rather nicely: We'll see.

It's Not a Convention Until the Hookers Arrive

New York Daily News:

With thousands of Republicans set to invade the city this summer, high-priced escorts and strippers are preparing for one grand old party.

Agencies are flying in extra call girls from around the globe to meet the expected demand during the Aug. 30-Sept. 2 gathering at Madison Square Garden.

'We have girls from London, Seattle, California, all coming in for that week,' said a madam at a Manhattan escort service. 'It's the week everyone wants to work.'

[edit]

Charging from $300 to upwards of $1,000 for an hour of companionship and a whole lot more, escorts said they can always count on conventioneers for big business.

This isn't breaking news, but just a reminder of the facts, that Working Girls and Politicians go hand in hand (and by "hand" I mean... Other body parts).

Now, I'm all for legalizing prostitution. I think it's a fine revenue generating profession, that the women involved are offering a much needed service to society. After all, who else is going to fuck Trent Lott?

Now if only we could get the Moral Rake Party to just admit this openly, that they are mortal men with physical needs and that those are fine and natural and there's no shame in paying a buxom eighteen year old Guatemalan immigrant to let you lick her toes and then pee on your chest. That's what this country was founded on: the right to get freaky with a hired gal. But it's not just hypocritical to turn around the next day and spit fire and brimstone at the same ladies who massaged your frustrations away for being immoral. It's humiliating. Which is only OK if that's what you're paying them for.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Damn You, Osama! Get Your Hands off My Beer!

TIME.com:

Along with this now familiar general warning, the FBI has introduced the specter of a new terrorism threat: booby-trapped beer coolers. A lightly classified bulletin sent to 18,000 state and local agencies last week advised local authorities to look out for plastic-foam containers, inner tubes and other waterborne flotsam commonly seen around marinas that could be rigged to blow up on contact. Also, the bulletin warned, terrorists might attach bombs to buoys.

if Terrorists were half as imaginative as the aspiring novelists at the FBI, I'd be worried. Not for an attack, mind you, but that I might have some competition as America's next great undiscovered fabulist.

Thanks to Atrios for the link.

Fahrenheit 9/11: My thoughts

After hearing about Fahrenheit 9/11 I was eager to see it, and now after watching it for the first time, I was NOT disappointed. While comparisons to Bowling for Columbine differ among my friends, the movie serves up a thoughtful and aggressive critique of Things Bush, even politics in general these days.

The movie did an excellent job showing how the current government--all of its parts: the judicial, the legislative, the executive branches of government--is complicit in ruling by fear in a hierarhical society powered by difference in education, social class, position--especially in the current prolonged panic to the threat of terrorism on U.S. territory.

In my opinion, I could have stood for an even more exploratory approach to the theaters of conflict at home and abroad, but alas there is only so much time. While not completely absent, there could have been a few more interviews with some even tougher questions (though I'd have to do some work to make specific suggestions). Nonetheless, the film makes its points: the war on terror is rife with contradictions not only in the policies directing government action, but also contradictions with the foundations of American political life.

My hope, of course, is that the film maker's standing as a member of the Independent Party enables both Republicans and Democrats to see the movie and consider its contribution to an empoverished political discourse.

Let the freedom of the First Amendment ring, ring in the cinema, in print and electronic media, in places of worship, in education and the arts, in the voting booths, and above all in the hallowed halls of government where our leaders struggle in a system torked and bent by fiercely conflicting social forces. Perhaps the great American experiment has not fallen prey to a sanitized public discourse. Let the election games begin!

Fahrenheit 9/11: Reviewed

Kevin and I saw Fahrenheit 9/11 yesterday evening and I'm here to tell you it was everything I thought it would be and then some. Now, as other reviewers have pointed out1, if your a political junkie or a blogger (but there I go, repeating myself) there isn't a whole lot of new information in this movie. But that's not the point. There are plenty of revelations for those fence sitters, moderates and people who watch Paris Hilton stick her arm up a cow's ass instead of reading a newspaper every once in a while but the point of the film wasn't to lift the rock of the Bush administration and make faces at the squirming things beneath. It was to take a lot of information that has been leaked, spun, buried, stifled, or reported only in the British Press and construct a Big Picture out of it. And Michael Moore does this with humor, and heart.

There were one or two bits of new information I learned last night that I was not aware of before. Firstly, that the Saudi Embassy has a contingent of six Secret Service Agents assigned to protect it and the Saudi Ambassador and that they are the only embassy in the US with such protection. This strikes me as odd, because security for Diplomats is generally regarded as State Department territory.

I was also surprised to find out the stunningly large amount of money that the Saudis have invested in the US, what amounts to nearly 7% of the US GDP and that the Saudi royal family has nearly a trillion dollars invested in US Banks. It was hinted at in the film that if the House of Saud were to get a bug up its ass and pull all of that money out at once, the US economy would be hit hard. Like Second Great Depression hard.

I had heard of "Bandar Bush" and the Saudi-Bush family Connections before, but I wasn't aware that they were so incestuously close. Now, we've played six degrees of separation, and know that you can connect anyone to anyone else in the world with just some imagination and a bottle of tequila (I once connected myself to Sean Connery in only three degrees, all without even getting close to Kevin Bacon). But the only way the Bush and Bin Laden families could be closer is if the Bush Twins were to marry Osoma's nephews. And that prospect isn't so far out as one might think, when we consider that their grandfather, Bush 41, was in a Carlyle Group meeting on the morning of September 11 with Bin Laden's half brother. They watched the planes hit the towers together.

Conspiracy mongering aside, the film does hit home the tense and thoroughly painful realities of having our troops in Iraq The emotional conflict of being anti war, pro troop; realizing too late that we've all been duped by petty, greedy bastards who don't care that our sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, husbands and wives are being killed for vague excuses having little to do with the realities on the ground; realizing the horror of this war of no purpose, for both Americans and Iraqis as we all slowly but surely discover our worst fears: that this war was started, not to protect us from the vague threat of terrorism, but so that some rich men can make more money.

So if you are one of those Paris Hilton Fence Sitters, looking for a sign and you go to see this movie and you still vote for Bush in November, you have more than just a flawed character. You're a dupe of supreme magnitude and deserve whatever horrors Bush can bestow upon you.

_________
Giblets, from the greatness that is Fafblog, has the best review of Fahrenheit 9/11 I've read yet. Go. Read. Enjoy. Laugh. Bring me back some pie.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

The BBC News Archive

Good news from across the Atlantic--the BBC is making its material available in a special news archive.

For U.S. readers looking for a more complete view of world events than American publishers are willing to print, this should be VERY welcome news indeed. The BBC move also presents a chance to look at specialized archival collections, collections in this case special by the form of the materials.

Moving picture archives often require a special set of skills to conserve the materials for public use, if not also specialized knowledge to help researchers access it.

Furthermore, a common misconception among the public is that one library is just like the next, according to InfoWorld writer Janet Balas. I think archivists must also watch out for user expections which do not help users cut through the myriad information sources at their disposal. Just like each library is different, so is each archive. The more we can do to help users identify what type of research tools will help meet their specific needs, the better off we'll all be.



If you're interested in digital archives:

Internet Archive

Television News Archive
[This is a subscription service, unfortunately.]


For further reading:

"Digital Video, the Final Frontier" by Judith Thomas
Library Journal; Jan. 2004; 129, 1, pg. s8.


News release announcing BBC decision:

Greg Dyke, director general of the BBC, has announced plans to give the public full access to all the corporation's programme archives.

Mr Dyke said on Sunday that everyone would in future be able to download BBC radio and TV programmes from the internet.

The service, the BBC Creative Archive, would be free and available to everyone, as long as they were not intending to use the material for commercial purposes, Mr Dyke added.

"The BBC probably has the best television library in the world," said Mr Dyke, who was speaking at the Edinburgh TV Festival.

"Up until now this huge resource has remained locked up, inaccessible to the public because there hasn't been an effective mechanism for distribution.

"But the digital revolution and broadband are changing all that."

Cogs and Widgets

A few real quick items (my shortened summer session class is a huge time sucker right now, so posting will be sparse until after the Fourth):

  1. By some fluke of Blogger, Kevin's most recent post was retroactively published on Monday, despite him having not hit the button to do so until yesterday. So, travel back in time a whole five days and check out his post on the BBC Archives. Update: Thanks to advice form Noz in comments, I've sent Kevin's post into the future! Now I need to recharge my flux capacitor.

  2. I haven't written much lately about my novel or my writing in general. That will be amended in the weeks to come, so for those who are interested in novel-related ramblings, keep your pants on (or take them off, whichever is more comfortable for you).

  3. I've been pining for a new iPod, ever since mine was stolen. I decided to get one of the new mini iPods (the silver one) but alas, everywhere on planet Earth is sold out and backordered by two to four weeks. Oh, lament my poor soul! If you are touched by my sob story, you can donate to the Library tech fund (the paypal button on the sidebar). If you donate ten bucks or more, I'll e-mail you an original short story or snail mail you a mix CD, your choice (just e-mail me and tell me which one you want).

  4. Kevin and I are going to see Fahrenheit 9/11 tonight. So there should be at least one review of it up here in the coming day or two.

  5. So, the other day, this guy cuts me off on the beltway and so I pull up beside him, roll my window down and yell,"Fuck you!" and then he yells back, "No, Fuck you!" and then theSsecret Service agents pulled me over because the guy who cut me off was Dick Cheney. Man, what a prick.

Friday, June 25, 2004

It Must be Love


Lucy was a street kitten when we found her. She expresses afection the only way she knows how.

One Step Closer

IOL:

Facing global opposition fuelled by the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal, Washington has dropped a contentious UN resolution that sought to renew an exemption shielding US troops from international prosecution for war crimes.

The decision followed an intervention by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who urged Security Council members to oppose the resolution.

[edit]

Washington argues that the court - which started operating last year- could be used for frivolous or politically-motivated prosecutions of US troops.

Given the Bush Administration's fondness for frivilous laws, they know of what they speak. I'm not worried about frivolous charges against our troops (some soldiers did commit crimes and should be tried for them. That's not frivolity, that's justice) But I think these protests are more a case of George Bush trying to cover his own ass, and once again, failing miserably due to lack of nowledge and pure bluff. If only he puffs up his chest big enough and swaggers long enough, everyone will let him do whatever he wants. That's been his strategy September 12, 2001. But this time, it's not working.

I've felt for some time that our not signing on to the international War Crimes Tribunal was naked politics at it's worst: trying to hold the world accountable to laws that do not apply to us. This is a step in the right direction.

My only question now is for the gentleman at the Hague: When will we see Cheney, et al charged for war crimes? After the election or before?

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Great Zombie Jesus on a Pogo Stick

For some time, I've been following this little gem of a story but haven't written about it because I couldn't come up with a handle, a way to describe the events of the story without it sounding ridiculous or absurd. The problem was not mine but the facts. They are absurd. Let's face it, when our elected representatives crown the Rev. Moon as the Messiah at an exclusive ceremony on Capitol Hill, it sounds just a wee bit over the top.

But that's what happens when you do business with Rev. Moon. Logic gets turned inside out, otherwise reasonable or at least competent people go off their heads, cats and dogs, etc, etc. The reason is simple: Reverend Moon is batshit crazy. Seriously. He's nuttier than a two headed calf on milking day. Jesse at Pandagon sums it up nicely:

...The man hates everyone. He's anti-Semitic on a level that would make Hutton Gibson blush. He hates Christians, as is mentioned in the article he hates gays and lesbians, he hates America, he hates every political party, so far as I can tell...he hates ponies, or so I've heard.

What kind of monster hates ponies?

But seriously folks, what the fuck are our Congresscritters and Senatefolk doing crowning anyone anything? I seem to remember we fought a little war over the fact that people who wear crowns do not have the ideals of Democracy at heart and in general, tend to treat people like crap. So why are the Powers That Be doling out crowns, especially to wackos who openly espouse genocide and theocracy?

I don't know, but John Gorenfeld has some ideas.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Kidding on the Square

Michael Mcgrorty at Library Dust predicts the future of libraries. I of course don't agree with all of his predictions, especially his dire assessment of cataloguing services but it's a fine mixture of whimsy and truth just the same:

The librarian stereotype will prevail, with its thousand variations. New librarians will shock older ones with their mode of dress, accessories and language.

Young boys will fall in love with librarians who help them locate books on reptiles. Some of those boys will become librarians; others will become reptiles.

Library literature with footnotes will be impossible to understand. Library literature without footnotes will be a mass of generalizations. The popular topics in library literature will be: The status of the profession; low pay; effectiveness of library organizations, funding issues and problem patrons. The rest of it will be indistinguishable from any other professional literature.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

One Soldier's Story

A Soldier of Conscience is an interview with Staff Sgt. Jimmy Massey, a Marine who was in Iraq. You really need to read the whole thing but if you choose not to (and I can understand, it being Father's Day and maybe you want to be happy and not read anything depressing) here's the heart of the piece:

Did the revelations that we didn't find any proof about Iraq's weapons affect the troops?

Yes. I killed innocent people for our government. For what? What did I do? Where is the good coming out of it? I feel like I've had a hand in some sort of evil lie at the hands of our government. I just feel embarrassed, ashamed about it.

I understand that all the incidents -- killing civilians at checkpoints, itchy fingers at the rally -- weigh on you. What happened with your commanding officers? How did you deal with them?

There was an incident. It was right after the fall of Baghdad, when we went back down south. On the outskirts of Karbala, we had a morning meeting on the battle plan. I was not in a good mindset. All these things were going through my head -- about what we were doing over there. About some of the things my troops were asking. I was holding it all inside. My lieutenant and I got into a conversation. The conversation was striking me wrong. And I lashed out. I looked at him and told him: 'You know, I honestly feel that what we're doing is wrong over here. We're committing genocide.'

He asked me something and I said that with the killing of civilians and the depleted uranium we're leaving over here, we're not going to have to worry about terrorists. He didn't like that. He got up and stormed off. And I knew right then and there that my career was over. I was talking to my commanding officer.

What happened then?

After I talked to the top commander, I was kind of scurried away. I was basically put on house arrest. I didn't talk to other troops. I didn't want to hurt them. I didn't want to jeopardize them.

I want to help people. I felt strongly about it. I had to say something. When I was sent back to stateside, I went in front of the sergeant major. He's in charge of 3,500-plus Marines. 'Sir,' I told him, 'I don't want your money. I don't want your benefits. What you did was wrong.'

It was just a personal conviction with me. I've had an impeccable career. I chose to get out. And you know who I blame? I blame the president of the U.S. It's not the grunt. I blame the president because he said they had weapons of mass destruction. It was a lie.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Dispatches from Iraq, Part 10

Christian's new post is up now.

Planet of Sound

MSNBC:

Public librarians aren't prone to looking gift horses in the mouth, but many have nevertheless been taken aback by the odd and in some cases overly generous allotments of free music CDs that have begun arriving in the last week as the result of the settlement of an antitrust lawsuit against major record companies.

The CD cornucopia - consisting of approximately 5.6 million compact discs - was billed as a windfall for libraries and schools when it was announced in September 2002 as part of a $144 million settlement of the lawsuit, which alleged that music distribution companies illegally inflated the price of CDs by requiring retailers to sell them at or above a set level in order to qualify for substantial advertising funding.

But when the first shipments began arriving last week, some librarians suspected that the companies - the Bertelsmann Music Group, EMI Music Distribution, Warner-Elektra-Atlantic, Warner Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment - were dumping CDs that had been gathering dust in warehouses when they received hundreds of copies of some titles for which there is little or no demand.

[edit]

Among them are the librarians at the Tacoma (Wash.) Public Library, who last week received a shipment of 1,325 CDs that included 57 copies of "Three Mo' Tenors," a 2001 recording featuring classically trained African American tenors Roderick Dixon, Thomas Young and Victor Trent Cook; 48 copies of country artist Mark Wills' 2001 album "Loving Every Minute," 47 copies of "Corridos de Primera Plana," a greatest hits compilation by Los Tuscanes de Tijuana (2000); 39 copies of "Yolanda Adams Christmas" (2000); 37 copies of Michael Crawford's "A Christmas Album" (1999) and 34 copies of the Bee Gees' "This Is Where I Came In" (2001).

[edit]

Eva Silverstone, communications director for the Spokane Public Library, said the library in eastern Washington received many copies of "Three Mo' Tenors" among its 1,325 CDs, along with "tons of copies of Christina Aguilera's Christmas album." All told, she said, 15 titles represented 36 percent of the shipment.

[edit]

The public library in Worcester, Mass., with a main library and two branches, received 150 copies of "Nastradamus," a 1999 album by the rapper Nas, and 148 copies of "Entertainment Weekly's Greatest Hits of 1971."

[edit]

The Des Moines (Iowa) Public Library was on track to take the lead in redundancies, though the identification of the programming bug may come in time to avert what might have been a record overkill. Its crate of 2,647 CDs, due to arrive in the next couple weeks, was listed as containing 430 single-song discs – 16 percent of the total -- of Whitney Houston singing "The Star Spangled Banner" at the 1991 Super Bowl, according to Steve Cox, of the Iowa State Library.

[edit]

"We've been wondering if we're going to get 12,000 Yanni CDs," said Wallace Hoffsis, director of collections development for the Sacramento (Calif.) Public Library.

Turns out that it was just a computer glitch that shuffled all these stinkers off to the libraries but still, what is one to do with 430 copies of "Star Spangled Banner," as mangled by the crack-addled warbling of Whitney Houston?

link via Neil Gaiman.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Cat on the High Wire


Lucy was a circus cat. She walked the high wire, never afraid of the void between her and the dusty ground below. Roaches are another matter.

Pandora's Box, Side A

Salon.com:

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- The management company that represents Britney Spears and 'N Sync is searching for a divine voice.

'Gifted,'' a Christian version of the popular American Idol TV show, is scheduled to debut in October on Trinity Broadcasting Network, the Costa Mesa, Calif.-based conglomerate that features such well-known evangelists as Benny Hinn.

It's American Idol! Minus the modicum of talent and subtle references to idolatry! As if American Idol isn't saccharine and sanitized enough. I suppose the contemporary dress-code and ocasional flirtatious wink was too much for the Christian Entertainment world to handle.

As Slacktivist points out, this is more than just an uppity youth group or conglomerate of Mothers Against Short Skirts (MASS). The SIC community has for quite a long while now, engaged in a long standing trend of undermining aesthetic sensibilities in order to promote their core values namely, vapid witnessing to dogma rather than scriptural fellowship and advertising what they are against rather than for.

The real problem with Christian Pop Music or any Evangelical Art in general is not that it's preachy. It's that it's afraid of artistic conventions like metaphor, irony and ambiguous narrative, as Slacktivist elaborates:

It is no accident that the Left Behind novels are remarkably free of metaphor, of multi-leveled themes, or even of the kinds of visual details that might be taken to stand for something at a non-literal level. Artless art -- explicit, monovalent, prosaic prose -- is the only permissible form of storytelling.

Evangelical Artists reject ambiguity because it breads a tendency towards introspection and interpretation. If you don't have the message spelled out for you in bold capital letters or blatant choruses of "Our God is an Awesome God," than you might go looking for the message and find something that challenges the Evangelical Dogma.

This rejection of metaphor also explains the Satanic Panic of the seventies and eighties, when SICs tried to prove that there were evil messages hidden backwards on the records of Musicians like Kiss, Metallica, Twisted Sister and the Beatles. Perplexed by the lyrics of Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds, these concerned mothers and tightly wrapped preachers went looking for a sign and stumbled over their own unexplored subconscious. And it frightened them. So unaccustomed to playing with our cultural archetypes were they, that they shut their eyes, said a dozen hallelujahs and went and formed their own music label, only insular home schooled kids with WWJD bracelets need apply.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Return to Room 109


Yahoo! News
:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is holding terrorism suspects in more than two dozen detention centers worldwide and about half of these operate in total secrecy, said a human rights report released on Thursday.

Human Rights First, formerly known as the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, said in a report that secrecy surrounding these facilities made 'inappropriate detention and abuse not only likely but inevitable.'

'The abuses at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib cannot be addressed in isolation,' said Deborah Pearlstein, director of the group's U.S. Law and Security program, referring to the U.S. Naval base prison in Cuba and Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq (news - web sites) where abuses are being investigated.

'This is all about secrecy, accountability and the law,' Pearlstein told a news conference.

The report coincided with news that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ordered military officials to hold a suspect in a prison near Baghdad without telling the Red Cross. Pearlstein said this would be a violation of the Geneva Conventions and Defense Department directives.

She said thousands of security detainees were being held by the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan (news - web sites) as well as locations elsewhere which the military refused to disclose.

So, can we impeach the bastard now? If we're going to try a president for getting a blowjob, we should at least considder the same proceadings for war crimes.

Blogging by Candlelight

A Thunderstorm knocked out my electricity about three hours ago and now it's too dark to read a book so I'm running down the battery on my laptop. Blogging in the dark? Not so easy.

The fact that I'm SO bored without electricity is a problem. It underscores how dependant we as a species have become on our tools. Seriously, how the fuck did anything get done after sunset before we were all on the Grid? I'm not saying I can't live without TV (I've lost the ability to watch it anyway; the comercials make me feel like I have ADD) or my computer but still, this sucks.

I guess the fact that I realise my dependance is at least a step in the right direction. The fact that I'm powerless to do anything but whine about it is still rather bothersome though.

You Cannot Defeat My Invisibility Cloak

BBC, via Making Light:

The inventor of an "invisibility" cloak has said that his next project will be to develop the technology to allow people to see through walls.

Susumu Tachi, who showed off the cloak at an exhibition in San Francisco earlier this month, said he was hopeful of providing a way to provide a view of the outside in windowless rooms.

"This technology can be used in all kinds of ways, but I wanted to create a vision of invisibility," he told BBC World Service's Outlook programme.

How cool is that? I can't wait to sneak around Hogwarts in one.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Secret Hideout

I spent all day at the CIA. Unfortunately, I can't tell you what I saw there.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Tom and Mike and Al and Bill

Tom Tomorrow, that lucky dog, went to the premier of Fahrenheit 9/11. His review is right where you'd expect it, over at This Modern World.

I'm very much looking forward to seeing this movie, even more than Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Flag Day

A new series of posts about human rights archives


After a week of patriotic frenzies for former President Ronald Reagan, I thought I would announce an upcoming series on archives with an interest in human rights. Our nation is only as great as the leaders, citizens, and friends who call the U.S. home, or an ally--and we are an amazing group. Yet, we as a nation are not without room for improvement. We lag behind Europe on some issues, the death penalty especially, equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people, true spiritual liberty (whatever that is), and other issues certainly, like holding heads of state in custody for undetermined lengths of time.

While in some people's minds the task of telling these stories might be better left to journalists, poets, historians, and novelists--maybe even politicians and governments. But these other professions need the assistance of professional archivists to get the story as "right" as possible. Archivists need to do the work of documenting the cultural life of these united states so the task of living up to our lofty goals is attainable, at least in good faith. Archivists can also certainly tell the stories themselves, but as archivists our job is to assist others by providing ready access to materials of enduring and continuing value.

This blog series will feature the National Security Archive, the Human Rights Watch Archive, academic institutions such as the Oviatt Library at California State University, Northridge, which has received the collected papers of the Chicano comedic theater troupe Culture Clash (some of which will be included in the library's Latino Cultural Heritage Digital Archives, according to printed news sources from the Reed Elsevier company),as well as the U.S. National Archives and the archives of other countries.

For now though, today is set aside as a day to celebrate the birthday of the stars and stripes. Happy flag day one and all!

Click for a history of the U.S. Flag.

Release Saddam!

The Guardian:

Saddam Hussein must either be released from custody by June 30 or charged if the US and the new Iraqi government are to conform to international law, the International Committee of the Red Cross said last night.

Surely there must be some crime to charge Hussein with but why hasn't the US Government done so?

According to the New York Times, last year White House lawyers concluded that President Bush could legally order interrogators to torture and even kill people in the interest of national security – so if that's legal, what the hell are we charging Saddam Hussein with? –Jay Leno

There has been some speculation that the reason Hussein hasn't been charged is that if he goes to trial, he will remind everyone that it was the recently deceased saint of the Neocons, Ronald Reagan and his then-flunkies, Rumsfeld and Chenney who sold him the chemical weapons that he used against the Kurds in the 1980's (these same chemical weapons were flaunted a year ago as just te tip of the evil iceberg in regards to Saddam's WMDs, if you remember). This is a speculation, of course. But it adds to the growing controversy over the rights of Combatants/POWs and the increasingly flimsy excuses given for holding them. It would be a travesty if Hussein were released on a technicality on July 1st, just because everyone in the DOJ was too busy writing torture memos and just plum forgot to put together a case against him.

Of course, another angle on this is that the US hasn't charged Hussein with anything because he hasn't broken any US laws. Despite all Bush's attempts to link the two in the mind sof the American People, Hussein had nothing to do with the WTC attacks or any other terrorist acts against the US. So he may not be subject to American law and since Bush has made it plain that he thinks international law is OK for the French but need not apply to the US, there may be nothing we can do with Hussein except:

  1. Let him go

  2. Turn him over to a third party who could then arrest him under international law

  3. Turn him over to the Iraqi Government (which is full of Baathists who might either let him go or put him back in power)


Scenario 1 is simply unexceptable. too many people have died trying to put that man behind bars to simply let him walk away on July 1st. Scenario 2 would rob Bush of his one paper thin sliver of glory, and the last remaining pretext for invading Iraq. Scenario 3 would be even worse than scenario 1. So unless the US finds a convenient legal loophole by the end of the month and can charge Hussein with something, anything, maybe even failure to pay parking tickets, George Bush might just loose his only chance at Reelection American Justice.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Friday Cat Blogging


Lucy likes to kneed the blanket a bit before curling up and taking a nap.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

This Just In

I just recieved an e-mail from a friend in Iraq who is in the Army. This part is the kicker:

...Let me now explain the politics going on around here. 30 June is a huge day. that is when we give Iraq to the new prime minister and president. [edit] But our job is not over. We have agreed to leave Iraq once they can "stand on their own two feet" And our next target is Iran. In retaliation Iran has decided to bomb Iraq preventing them to "stand on their own two feet." Good strategy. So we can't take over their country like we are taking over Iraq. The main trouble maker has announced that he asked for thousands of suicide crusaders from all around to hit three targets. [emphasis added]

My friend did not mention the three targets by name, but implied one was where they were located. And as for Iran being our next target, I hate to say I told you so. But all you fucking hawks and jeebofascists: I fucking told you so!!!

For those who are voting for Bush, this is what you're voting for: unending war in the Middle East. Bush wants a holy war, Christians versus Muslims, to the death. And why Iran? Same reason as Iraq: they were the only two moderately secular governments in the region. Take them out, and the real Muslimists will take it personally, as an attack on their culture. And with no secular governments to get in the middle of their rumble, Bush and the Ayatollahs can have their Last Crusade.

And if you vote for Bush, you vote for Holy War. The blood of your children will be on your hands and there's no cleaning it off.

Of course, there's signals from Kerry that he'll continue this ridiculous war in the same vein as Bush, so who knows if voting for him will be all that much better.

The war machine is on auto pilot.

See you in Canada.

There Is a Light That Never Goes Out

Manchester Online:

MANCHESTER music legend Morrissey sparked controversy when he announced Ronald Reagan's death live on stage during a concert - and then declared he wished it was George Bush who had died instead.

Thousands of fans at Dublin Castle, in Ireland, cheered when the ex-Smiths frontman made the announcement that the former American president, who had battled with Alzheimer's Disease, had passed away.

And an even bigger cheer followed when Morrissey - who is no stranger to controversy - then said he wished it had been the current President, George W Bush, who had died.

It's good to see that Rock Stars can still be genuinely controversial, without having to molest children or make porn movies. It's no big surprise that Morrissey would say something like this. After all, he wrote a song called Margaret on the Guillotine, and while he's never really Came Out, it's plain that he never thought very highly of a man who said that homosexuals get what they deserve, in reference to the AIDS crisis that he mismanaged during his administration.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Dispatches from Iraq, Part 9

Is up now. Read it here.

King of the Mountain

Savannah NOW:

As Savannah's River Street restaurants sat nearly empty, encircled by ominous cement and metal barricades, on the first day of the G-8 Sea Island Summit, a homeland security advisor for President Bush apologized for the inconvenience.

[edit]

But those who make their living off the usual flow of tourists on River Street are looking around this week and wondering if the 5-foot security gates, dozens of armed police officers, and U.S. Coast Guard gunboats on the Savannah River is overkill.

Savannah makes most of its money from tourism, so it's ironic that the G8 Summit, the meeting of the world's 8 wealthiest countries in order to discuss financial and world issues, is taking a major chunk out of the economy of a town, merely with its presence. Savannah city planners had hoped that the summit's proximity and the hosting of the media and security personal would be a huge financial gain, that they'd be rolling in the Big Media Money. But so far, all their plans have fallen through.

Even their absurd precautions for the throngs of evil, un-American protesters failed to yield anything substantial. The city charged protesters registration fees and a tax, hid mail boxes (which is a federal crime if I remember…) and generally made it a Herculean effort to be a citizen and express their first amendment right to gather peaceably. Even that's backfired, as their draconian tactics have driven away the protesters. That and the fact that the actual Summit is an hour and a half drive south on Sea Island and any of the real protesters are going to Brunswick, which is the next town over from the island.

On top of that, the police outnumber the protesters in Savannah by dozens, which is a potential problem in itself. Imagine a bored cop, made to wear riot gear in the Georgia heat of summer and there's no rioters. Along come some wayward hippies who couldn't find their way to Brunswick and you've got a smack-down waiting to happen.

Not that protesting the G8 is really a smart move anyway. It's like getting angry at your pinky for something your hand did. The G8 is a symptom of imperialism and enthrallment to corporate greed, not the cause of it and assuming you actually could get anywhere within twenty miles of one of the jerks in the thousand dollar suits, anything you yell in a rhythmic chant from behind your cardboard placard will have zero effect. You're just poor trash to them, the receptacle for what meager wealth they haven't squeezed out of the economy, yet.

Acts of Patriots

Via Wired:

In the past two years, more than 300 cities and four states have passed resolutions calling on Congress to repeal or change parts of the USA Patriot Act that, activists say, violate constitutional rights such as free speech and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure.

Barring that, the resolutions declare that their communities will uphold the constitutional rights of their residents should federal law enforcement agents come knocking on the door of local authorities for assistance in tracking residents. This means local authorities will insist on complying with federal orders only in ways that do not violate constitutional rights. The resolutions are not binding, however, and do not affect the federal government's actions.

The national movement was launched in 2001 by the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, an organization led by activist Nancy Talanian. Talanian first lobbied her community -- Northhampton, Massachusetts, a town of 30,000 people -- to stand against the act in November 2001, when few people had heard about the legislation.

[edit]

Although the resolutions don't carry official weight, the communities say they hope to send a message to Congress to change or repeal parts of the act.

"Resolutions are powerful in that a city council can tell employees in their jurisdiction how they will behave," said Talanian. "They can say we don't want law enforcement to engage in certain activities even if authorized by certain legislation."

This is part of a long and ongoing battle between federal and state (as well as some local) governments over who decides what laws will apply where (in its broadest sense) but it also has ramifications beyond just the USA Patriot Act (though these are big) to numerous laws, including medicinal Marijuana use and distribution, Gay Marriage and other such controversial rulings. If portions of the Patriot act can be overturned, what is to stop other statutes from being undermined, including ones more beneficial, like civil rights and and anti-miscegenation laws? Where does the rule of law end and the responsibilities of the individual begin?

Personally, I'm glad that there are so many people in such varied places working to overturn the patriot act. I don't like it, most people I talk to don't like it, what it represents, and the many myriad ways the law can be misused (such as locking up teenagers in GTMO because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time). it’s heartening to see the american people standing up the bullies running our government, steamrolling Undemocratic legislation into law using scare tactics and the general Populace’s own ignorance against them.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Irregular Hours

I'm in a sort of vacation but not real vacation lymbo this week, as my wife is up visiting from Savannah to avoid the sillyness of the G8 summit, but still attending class. So posts will be spotty until monday (unless of course, Kevin gets his next post up). I'll have something of course, but it'll jus be little things. Hang in there, though, I've got some stuff brewing in the back of my brain.

Monday, June 07, 2004

One less Dinosaur

Speaking ill of the dead has never been a hobby of mine but I refuse to get all choked up over the passing of Ronald Reagan. I never liked the man when he was President, and I never felt obliged to give him a pass afterwards, just because he had Alzheimer's. And I'm not going to wax nostalgic about his legacy now that he's dead. I'm not running for public office, so I don't have to politic.

And just what are the Reagan legacies? A good chunk of them are currently playing out in blood in Iraq, South America and dozens of other spots around the globe where his callous disregard for human decency and common sense still have not been fully expunged. Reagan's policies are directly responsible for a fair number of the evils we live with today, from Osama Bin Laden to the Taliban to the instability of the Middle East, Russia and China in general. So shed your tears if you like, but never forget: all the other dinosaurs died a long time ago. All Reagan's death means is that we have one less to terrorize the world, tomorrow.

Tom Tomorrow has a number of links that shed further light on Reagan's life and legacy and Slacktivist highlights three of the man's most notable accomplishments.

Update: The Medium Lobster over at Fafblog has the best eulogy I've read yet, pointing out that Reagan was neither a dinosaur, nor the Second Coming of Christ, merely a man who did some things. They may not have always been the beast things, or done for the right reason, but they were still merely mortal acts, not the miraculous deeds of a demigod.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Broken and Bruised

Last night, my car was broken into, the passenger side window smashed and my iPod, digital camera, umbrella, jacket and my wife's sweater stolen (along with a handful of change). I wasn't really mad, so much as disappointed. I mean, it is just stuff (though my iPod has been so useful in so many ways that it'll be the most missed). But the whole event has left me feeling a little out of sorts. At least my laptop wasn't in the car. If it had been stolen, I'd have lost the files for both my finished novel as well as the new one I've just started. That would have required ritual suicide.

Oh well. Life goes on and windows can be replaced, as can stuff in general.

Update: Got the window fixed.

Friday, June 04, 2004

American Archivist

"Who cares about that ol' stuff?" That question hunts this archivist. About to enter a new profession, I plan to do all I can to increase the awareness of the importance of archives and archivists among other information professionals and the general public. Archivists can play a critical role in widening and deepening the public debate on all topics such as transparent government, free speech, human and civil rights, and other topics of national importance. Charlene N. Bickford writes ("The Coalition to Save our Documentary Heritage." MARAC, 1983) about a specific case of archival advocacy, for example. So there are hints that many,many people care a great deal, in truth. The job of the American Archivist, government official or cultural information manager, is to assist in the equal and open access to the resources for the creation of truthful stories.

Generalizing or popularizing topics usually of interest to a small audience is an art practiced by publicists, academics, in fact anyone who employs the rhetorical arts. Archivists are the partners of storytellers. Archivists are a gateway to the work of humankind. Nothing prevents them from using their skills to tell their own story.

Far too few people know of the work we do and the good that comes of it. Information professionals, and that includes CIOs, archivists, academic and public librarians, are a highly educated and skilled work force, and they can do better to demonstrate the positive role they play in the conduct of the work of this country. Their professional values are in concert with the principles of representative democracy, so why then do we tolerate remaining an undervalued national resource? Let's use the resources at our disposal to master the articulation of professional and ethical social values of importance to several developing national information emergencies: Executive Order 13323, the toleration of lapses of international civil rights standards, the list could go on.

I'll post more thoughts on these matters in the future.
For now, I'm just glad to be online. Before I sign off, a point of personal privilege: I'm honored that Keith has taken me under his big ol' bloggin' wing. I'm looking forward to building my bloggin' skills. Thanks, Keith.

Philosophical Cat Blogging


Lucy ponders the nature of reality, while looking out the window with Don Quioxte.

The Dread of Azkaban

Salon.com:

"The Prisoner of Azkaban" is the first true Harry Potter movie -- the first to capture not only the books' sense of longing, but their understanding of the way magic underlies the mundane, instead of just prancing fancifully at a far remove from it. In the spirit of a true romantic, Cuarón knows that the secret to great fantasy is naturalism.

This is heartening to hear, in so many ways. While my wife loves the first two movies (and the books as well) I've always felt that the films lacked a certain quality; something indistinct and hard to grasp but something decidedly absent. I blame Chris Columbus for this. He's simply a mediocre director, hamstrung more than he usually is by the rabid devotion to Rawling's books that the fans, the studio and Rawling herself demand.

I was talking about this with my friend, Jenny, who likewise, loves the books but was even more disappointed in the films than I was (and to be honest, they are watchable, just not as enjoyable as they should have been). Jenny has been, for the past week, going back and forth between excitement and dread about this movie. Excitement, because every teaser and trailer make sit look like it will be fantastic, in every sense of the word. Dread, because she felt the same about the other two movies and was let down by hammy acting from child stars and a plodding pace.

But as the reviewer, Stephanie Zacharek, points out, Cuarón knows how to get child actors to actually act well, instead of just pretend. He also has a sense of subtlety and nuance that Columbus lacks (his other films include Y tu Mama Tambien, Great Expectations, and A Little Princess).

Of course, the major fear of any fan of a book is that the movie will not just fall short of the story (it usually does, except in the case of Dracula and Frankenstein, the only two movies to far surpass the books that inspired them) but will in fact ruin the story, forever replacing the great images inside the head of the reader with more Hollywood cotton candy and decaying fluff. It remains to be seen if this will happen to Azkaban, which by all accounts is the favorite of the Harry Potter books among just about everyone I've talked to. Given what we've seen so far and what the reviewers have said, I don't think we have to worry. Too much.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Dispatches from Iraq, Part 8

Christian writes in with the latest news from the Green Zone:

Baghdad - June 2, 2004

Yesterday proved exciting enough. On my way to lunch with one of my coworkers, we heard a boom off in the distance followed by what sounded like a rocket whizzing by overhead - the most frightening kind of firework. Booms are not as frightening anymore. If you hear one, the attack already happened and you are safe. However, the sound of a rocket flying by means that the worst is yet to come. At such a moment, there is only one thing you can do - hit the deck. We did so immediatly. Then we got up and ran over to one of the many concrete shelters erected throughout the Green Zone for just this kind of occasion. Afterward, we hit the chow hall and in the middle of our meal, another boom sounded and shook the entire dining facility. There was one beat of silence and everyone went back to enjoying their meals. Hardly a conversation was interrupted. It seems as if anything can become routine.

I had my first day off this past Monday for Memorial Day. I spent most of the day recovering from the previous evening's festivities and lounging by the pool. The night before, the Coalition Provisional Authority (the current government of Iraq) threw a BBQ complete with an amateur rock band of army people who covered everything from country to Jimi Hendrix. The shish kabobs were excellent but the burgers could have been better. Quite a high calibre political event. General Sanchez (the US military commander in charge of Iraq) was there. I ate my dinner but a few feet from him as he was posing for photographs and signing autographs just like a Hollywood celebrity. The British Ambassador recited a speech by Tony Blair. This was followed by an address by L. Paul Bremer (I stood but a couple yards away) thanking the staff of the CPA for their hard work. I was very impressed with his delivery. He sounded very sincere and exuded a sense of charisma one would expect of such a man with his position. After his talk, there was a prerecorded address by President Bush who hoped we enjoyed our BBQ. (Not very impressive after Bremer's talk.) One thing I have noted about Bremer - there is very little bad press on him. The consensus seems to be that he has performed extraordinarily well considering all the adversity.

Read the rest

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

The Creeping Horror (of Mushroom Sauce)


Yahoo! News
, Giant Mushroom Baffles Experts in Congo:

BRAZZAVILLE (Reuters) - A giant three-tiered mushroom which measures a meter (yard) across and was found in the tropical forests of the Republic of Congo has left experts in the capital Brazzaville scratching their heads.

'It's the first time we've ever seen a mushroom like this so it's difficult for us to classify. But we are going to determine what it is scientifically,' Pierre Botaba, head of Congo's veterinary and zoology center, told reporters on Thursday.

For the love of God, man! Have you not read any Lovecraft?!? I'd offer stern warnings to these men, but I fear it is already too late. They have already meddled in things man was not meant to know, and probably already had their souls eaten by Yog Sathoth, too.

For the curious, however, Neil Gaiman offers a recipe for Giant Congo Mushroom Sauce.

Parsley, Sage, Menthol and Clove

Reason:

Clove cigarettes have long been a prop of self-styled bohemians, favored by neo-hippies, artists, drama students, and goths. By transforming the sweet, fragrant Indonesian smokes into contraband, the recently introduced Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act would make them even cooler.

The bill, sponsored by two bipartisan pairs, Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) and Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) in the Senate and Tom Davis (R-Va.) and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) in the House would give the Food and Drug Administration broad authority to regulate tobacco products. But the authors clearly thought the matter of cigarette flavorings was too important to be left to the FDA's discretion.

I have a confession to make. I'm one of those self-styled bohemians (of the goth variety). I smoke cloves, I dress in black, and I don't believe in Jesus, either. But mostly, I smoke cloves. (OK, not mostly. I smoke maybe two cigarettes a week, usually when I go out drinking or dancing).

I can't help it. I just have a genetic predisposition to undermine family values and America's faith in whatever it is that's being undermined this week. I can't keep track. I really should get on that mailing list for the Bohemian Anti-Family Association (BAA); that would keep me up to date on what we're undermining, on a daily basis. I hear they offer discounts on clcigarettes, too.