Monthly Archives: July 2008

Jon Voight’s 6th Grade Views

I really don’t mean to keep doing this, fisking stuff from the right-wing crazies. Heck, I left this one alone at the time:

In the last 20 years, we were lectured constantly about “post-industrial” America.

Experts proclaimed that the United States had evolved into an “information society” of “high-tech jobs.”

I love those quotes, like Dr. Evil talking about a “laser.” But, hey, you know what? I let it go by. I didn’t say anything. I left it alone.

But today, this Jon Voight essay in the Washington Times is just too, too rich.

We, as parents, are well aware of the importance of our teachers who teach and program our children. We also know how important it is for our children to play with good-thinking children growing up.

How awesome is that? Good-thinking children. And teachers not only teach, but they program as well?

We cannot say we are not affected by teachers who are militant and angry. We know too well that we become like them …

You know, because apparently we’ve all had teachers who are militant and angry. How else would we know, all too well even, that we become like them? Um, except that then, somewhere, Jon Voight became unlike them.

The Democratic Party, in its quest for power, has managed a propaganda campaign with subliminal messages, creating a God-like figure in a man who falls short in every way.

Can it really be both, propaganda and subliminal? How does that work? And he’s both God-like and falling short? What the hell is that?

The Democrats have targeted young people, knowing how easy it is to bring forth whatever is needed to program their minds.

Again with the programming. And apparently it’s easy. This bringing forth, however, is a little creepy.

Those same leaders who were in the streets in the ’60s are very powerful today in their work to bring down the Iraq war and to attack our president …

I thought my favorite new phrase of all time was going to be good-thinking children, but bring down the Iraq war is charming me a whole heck of a lot. Where is it up, that it needs to be brought down?

Thank God, today, we have a strong generation of young soldiers who know exactly who they are and what they must do to protect our freedom and our democracy … Our soldiers are lifting us to an example of patriotism at a time when we’ve almost forgotten who we are and what is at stake.

Again, all sorts of awesome. Soldiers who know exactly who they are. Remember how bad it was, when we had those soldiers who didn’t know who they were? And again with the strange movement of things, this time not bringing down, like the earlier paragraph. Rather, lifting us to an example of patriotism. Not simply demonstrating patriotism, or embodying patriotism. No, nothing so mundane. Actually lifting us to an example of it. Lifting us.

[T]here’s not a cell in my body that can accept the idea that Mr. Obama can keep us safe from the terrorists around the world, and from Iran, which is making great strides toward getting the atomic bomb.

I’m actually getting a little queasy, thinking about all the cells in Jon Voight’s body. But wasn’t he terrific in that episode of Seinfeld, when he bit Kramer?

[T]he Obama camp has sent out people to attack the greatness of Sen. John McCain, whose suffering and courage in a Hanoi prison camp is an American legend.

This actually reminds me of the wonderfully tacky gravestone at Graceland, where it reminds us that Elvis was a living legend in his own time. I guess it must be the suffering in Hanoi becoming the American legend.

Gen. Wesley Clark, who himself has shame upon him, having been relieved of his command, has done their bidding and become a lying fool in his need to demean a fellow soldier and a true hero.

Now it’s starting to sound like the charmingly bad stuff issued by the North Korean Central News Agency. Stuff like this, denouncing a particular group’s rowdyism.

Lee Myung Bak Group’s Rowdyism Assailed

Pyongyang, July 27 (KCNA) — The South Headquarters of the National Alliance for the Country’s Reunification on July 23 issued a statement denouncing the traitor Lee Myung Bak group for appointing an anti-reunification conservative element as “ambassador for human rights”.

Finally, Voight wraps it up. Strong closing? Let’s see:

This is a perilous time, and more than ever, the world needs a united and strong America. If, God forbid, we live to see Mr. Obama president, we will live through a socialist era that America has not seen before, and our country will be weakened in every way.

Yes! He sticks the landing, ladies and gentlemen. A perfect ten! Second only to the wisdom of Van Halen’s Why Can’t This Be Love, when Sammy sings, “Only time will tell if we pass the test of time,” Jon  Voight gives us this sage nugget of tautology: If we live to see it, we will live through something that we’ve never seen before.

I tip my hat to you, sir, Mr. Jon Voight. Well played, indeed.

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

It’s summer, so the choir is gone at St. Matt’s. And we’ve got so much to do on the house to get it ready. So we go to the 8:30 Mass at St. Joe’s. It’s a quick, ten-minute bike ride away.

There’s no cantor or organ to let us know when Mass is about to begin. Indeed, there isn’t even a procession up through the nave. Instead there are just some simple bells that chime from the sacristy, just to the left of the sanctuary, and the priest & lector just kinda appear. It reminds me of Italy, actually, where we saw much the same thing when we were there in aught-three.

The first reading is from Kings, in this particular instance good old King Solomon. The Lord appears to him in a dream, to grant him anything he wishes. Smart guy that he is, he doesn’t ask for fast cars or loose women or wads of cash. He asks God for the wisdom to govern. “I am a mere youth,” he says. “I serve you in the midst of … a people so vast that it cannot be numbered or counted.”

Things never change, do they? I can barely wrap my own head around the concept of three hundred million Americans or six billion people on Earth. But at least I’ve got some reference, a census or whatever, something to give me a number at least. Poor Solomon doesn’t even have that. He doesn’t even know how many there are.

Something else, though, that I just learned, that I find fascinating, something that I think is just totally cool. From the Wikipedia entry for S-L-M:

Salam “peace”

Arabic Salām, Hebrew Shalom, Ge’ez śalām, Syriac šlama are cognate Semitic terms for “peace”, deriving from a Proto-Semitic *šalām. The word salām is used in a variety of expressions and contexts in Arabic and Islamic speech and writing. Al-Salam is one of the 99 names of God in the Qur’an, and also a male given name in conjunction with abd. Abd Al-Salam translates to Slave of Al-Salaam (i.e. Slave of Allah.)

In Hebrew, the equivalent of the word is Shalom. It is also the root word of the names Solomon (Süleyman), Selim, etc.

I’ve certainly noticed the similarity between the Arabic Salām and the Hebrew Shalom, but I never noticed before the connection to the name Solomon. But it’s pretty cool, huh?

Music at Moe’s

Forgot to mention that yesterday, while we were waiting the 3.5 hours for the car to be fixed, after the shopping trip to IKEA, after the hour-long walk around College Park, we had chips & queso & salsa & booze at Moe’s Southwestern Grill. The queso was pretty good, as were the chips, although maybe the queso was a bit bland. The salsas, however, were all way too smoky for my tastes. And we made the mistake of dumping the hottest salsa into the queso to try to spice it up a bit. But Dawn had a big ass cup of wine and I had a Pacifico. That helped the day quite a bit.

The main thing though was the music on the soundsystem at Moe’s. I don’t know if was special to Moe’s or just some satellite station or what, but it was pretty damn swinging. First there was a woman (probably Doris Day) singing Dream a Little Dream of Me. Then Frank Sinatra doing My Blue Heaven. Then Ella Fitzgerald singing something. Then Buddy Holly Rock Around with Ollie Vee. Then INXS doing New Sensation. Other songs, most likely, before during and after. But those are what I remember.

It all worked together, really well, as eclectic mixes go. It was pretty cool.

Daniel Davies Responds to PZ Myers

My basic sympathies are with PZ. I’m in favour of occasionally having a bit of harmless fun at the expense of the religious as long as there aren’t too many obviously foreseeable adverse real-world consequences. In other words, I’m basically of the view “it’s all fun and games until the Danish Embassy gets burned down”.

On the other hand:

… Dawkinsite militant atheists are as annoying as fundies in their own way and perhaps deserve a bit of winding up too. Thus I have determined to strike a blow in retaliation on behalf of the Catholic Church.


… I plan to tell a small, credulous child that a rainbow is a special sign from God that he promises never to flood the world again and that this proves that God exists. And PZ Myers will have this on his conscience … as a direct result of his actions.

Heh. Take that, asshole.

I Remember That He’s On My Wall


Originally uploaded by ebohls

It was only after I posted the item below about Ed Mitchell that I remembered: I’ve got a picture of him up in my workshop. Actually, as you can see, there are three pictures, one each of the Apollo 14 crew. Signed pictures, no less, although I’m pretty sure that they were signed by the automatic pen machine rather than the crewmembers themselves. But still. Signed.

So it’s funny how I’m patting myself on the back in the blog post for remembering the astronauts’ names, when I didn’t even remember that I had these pictures. What a strangely selective thing is memory.

The pictures themselves, if you’re curious, were a gift from Mom. She’s got that knack, the gift-giving knack. Just coming up with cool stuff like this, or the electronic protractor last year, or the Brookstone desk set gadget on my desk at work this very moment. I wish I had that knack.

The other thing that I remembered, this with respect to forgetting Gene Cernan’s name, was that only last Saturday, less than a week ago, I held in my very hands a copy of Cernan’s memoirs, Last Man on the Moon. Packed it up along with many other books, and donated them to a local used bookstore, true. But I actually touched his book only days ago, and then I forgot his name.

In my defense I can only say that I clearly was having trouble between Irwin and Kerwin, and then Cernan. Jim Irwin, of course, LMP on Apollo 15. And Joe Kerwin, who was on one of the Skylab missions, I surely no longer remember which. But I do remember that he was a capcom on Apollo 13. He was calling and calling up to them during Earth re-entry, getting no respose. Everybody was getting worried. Finally Jack Swigert’s voice came crackling through. “Okay, Joe,” he said.

Sisterhood of the Travelling Space Suits

Saw this headline on my memeorandom feed in my Google Reader: Moon-walker claims alien contact cover-up ( Wondered if I could figure out who was the likeliest culprit before reading the actual story.

So, first, who walked on the Moon? Off the top of my head, there’s:

Apollo 11: Armstrong, Aldrin
Apollo 12: Conrad, Bean
Apollo 14: Shepard, Mitchell
Apollo 15: Scott, Irwin
Apollo 16: Young, Duke
Apollo 17: Cerwin (?), Schmidt

Yeah, okay, I’ve got a one in twelve chance of just guessing randomly, sure. How hard is this test? (Play along at home, then. You pick one.)

But, then again, how many are still alive? Again, off the top of my head: Conrad, Shepard, and Irwin are dead. So now it’s down to one out of nine.

But, really, it’s not even close. It’s been a trick question. Ed Mitchell’s clearly the weirdest one by far in this list. The only other one even close would have been Bill Irwin, but, again, we know he passed away years ago, not long after his (second?) trip to Mount Ararat to find Noah’s Ark.

So, click through to the story to find:

Moon-walker claims alien contact cover-up
July 24, 2008 12:01am
Article from: The Daily Telegraph

FORMER NASA astronaut and moon-walker Dr Edgar Mitchell – a veteran of the Apollo 14 mission – has stunningly claimed aliens exist.

And he says extra-terrestrials have visited Earth on several occasions – but the alien contact has been repeatedly covered up by governments for six decades.

Hah! I was right!

But of course I couldn’t remember Apoll o17’s commander Gene Cernan’s name right to save my life. And I spelled Jack Schmitt’s name wrong as well. We’ll call it a draw, then.

The Car Sorta Dies

We drove to IKEA just after lunch, to get a new kitchen trash can. Old one broke.

We were just getting off the Beltway at Route 1 in College Park when the car sorta died. It was funny, actually, because when we were driving I noticed two indicator lights on the dash that I didn’t think I’d ever seen before. One was an icon of like a person in a seat in the car with a big old airbag in front of him. The other simply said ABS. I asked Dawn if they were usually lit. She said she didn’t think so. She checked the manual in the glove box, and it said that these both were indicators of trouble. Great.

So then it wasn’t a huge surprise when, after being stopped at the light at the end of the Route 1 exit, the car didn’t respond when the light turned green and I hit the gas. The tach was stuck at around 2500 rpm and the speedometer was stuck at 50 mph. But we were just puttering along at about five miles per hour. Pressing down more on the accelerator didn’t make us go any faster. Didn’t even rev the engine any more. But then neither did taking my foot completely off the gas pedal do anything either. The car just continued to eke along.

Of course the guy behind us was honking until he could get around us, even though I had popped on the hazards right away. And the intersection cleared enough so that I could limp from the center lane to the right, to make a right turn and at least get away from this off ramp. Of course I wasn’t thrilled that the car would probably die completely on Route 1. But at least I wasn’t stuck on the ramp.

Luckily though there was a Shell station just a few hundred feet up the road. I was able to steer into it just as the engine started to buck a little bit. Turned it off, then tried to start it again, just to test it. Wouldn’t start at all. But we were safely at a service station. Whew.

But really the interesting part was the way the car just kinda kept itself going, even though it was just 5 mph or so. Was weird, it just going by itself that way. Was that some sort of controller computer being funky because it wasn’t getting enough power? Or was it a feature, not a bug, some sort of reserve kinda deal where it all almost dies but lets you limp to the side of the road?

But then if the car is so damn smart, why couldn’t it tell us that the alternator wasn’t putting out enough juice to fully charge the battery, as the mechanic who ended up fixing everything told us was the problem? Why was the fancy computer telling us we had problems with the airbag(s) and the ABS, but not telling us the rather simple electrical system problem? What’s the use of the fancy pants computer then?

Parallel Construction

I was thinking more about it, at lunch today. The John McCain quote. And I’m starting to think that the parallel construction works much better than I originally gave it credit.

First, let’s review what he said.

This is a clear choice that the American people have. I had the courage and the judgment to say that I would rather lose a political campaign than lose a war. It seems to me that Senator Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign.

I had pretty much denoted the parts thus:

Senator McCain
x = lose a political campaign
y = lose a war
Senator Obama
b = lose a war
c = win a political campaign

But, clearly, y = b, so at the very least I should make it Senator Obama would rather y in order to c. That’s some parallelism right there.

But furthermore, the lose a political campaign is the exact opposite of win a political campaign. That would make c equal to the reciprocal of x. So then we would have it be Senator Obama would rather y in order to 1/x.

And then the final structure would be Senator McCain would rather x than y; whereas, Senator Obama would rather y in order to 1/x.

Far, far more parallel than I gave it credit. It still isn’t true, mind. But it does have an internal logic that I first missed.

“He’s not dead, that’s the main thing.”

I walk by that intersection at 18th and K most weekdays on my way home from work. The Farragut West Metro is at 18th and Eye, one of the entrances anyway, and I work at 19th and M. So to get from 18th & Eye to 19th and M sometimes involves traipsing past 18th & K. Only sometimes, though, because mornings I go through the International Square food court, which lets me emerge at 19th & K. But I-Square closes evenings at 6:00 p.m., and I’m not usually out of work by then. Hence the going around the building, east on K from 19th to 18th, taking a right at 18th.

But that’s in the evenings, so I’m safe apparently from the threat of Bob Novak. Who knew he drives a black Corvette, although what else would the Prince of Darkness drive, yeah? He plowed into a pedestrian today around 10:00 a.m., when I was safely three blocks away. Don’t usually walk by there until many hours later.

And lately anyway I’m only at the intersection, not actually in it, presumably safe on the sidewalk. But I used to cross K at 18th, before they closed the west-side sidewalk between K & L for the construction they’re doing on 1801 K. But even if I were still crossing there, Mr. Novak had to be going north on 18th, turning right to go east on K. I’d only have been in danger had he been turning left. In the evening.

Main thing, though: how do you hit a guy, have him splayed all over your hood, and you don’t even notice? Either you’re lying about not knowing, in which case you shouldn’t be let back behind the wheel, or you’re just that addled generally that you don’t notice guys on your hood, in which case you shouldn’t be behind the wheel. Either way you’re a menace. To pedestrians. To me.

Today I stopped for a while at 18th & K, around 8:00 p.m. (Left work really late.) I looked around for several minutes, trying to find traffic or security cameras, seeing if there was CCTV, like Jane Tennison would do. There’s a traffic cam at 19th & K, but that’s pretty far away, a long block, and I’m guessing all the trees along K would obscure the view anyway. No such camera at 18th & K, darn the luck.

One of the parking garages down 18th has a camera, looks like, but it seems to be more for the pedestrian door that it’s right above. It’s got a pretty good shot of the intersection half a block up. But it’s one of those bubble/eye type deals. What with that and the smoked glass, I couldn’t tell where it’s pointed. Another camera at a garage across the street was clearly pointed down, pointing at the cars going into the garage, not anywhere close to looking up 18th towards K.

Those two cameras were the best I could do. Only other thing of interest was a WJLA (channel 7) van still parked at 18th & K though. No crew or producer or reporter seemed to be around. Wonder where they went, why they left the van there.

Plus ça change


Told to Use Money and Effort,
He Says, as Roosevelt Defeat
Is Necessary to Hitler.


Republican Held Patriotic but
Confused in Mind on World
Cross Currents

Special to The New York Times

PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 25 – Charg-
ing that Nazi agents had been or-
dered to spend money and effort to
accomplish the defeat of President
Roosevelt next month, Henry A.
Wallace asserted at a campaign
rally tonight that a Republican
victory was a necessity for the
plans of Adolf Hitler and his fellow-

This from the New York Times, October 26, 1940. Far be it from me to criticize progressive hero Henry Wallace, but … okay … no … fuck it. You know what? Let’s go ahead and criticize progressive hero Henry Wallace.

He’s a great big asshole, in this instance anyway.

(h/t Ben Smith over at Politico)
(You can buy a copy of the NYT article here.)

Interview in Summer 2008 Issue of Inside ASH

Employee Profile:
Edward Bohls
Database Administration Manager

How long have you worked at ASH?
Four years in June. Tempus fugit.

What do you love about your job?
Data. Plenty of it. Lots of big data sets. I love getting to query, filter, parse, manipulate, and in any way deal with huge amounts of data. And our TIMSS database has something like 600 tables and hundreds of thousands of records.

What are your main responsibilities?
All things TIMSS. In addition to the aforementioned fun with data, I train every new employee on the basics of TIMSS during their first week at ASH. I then help anyone else with more complicated things, such as financial batches and accounts, inventory products and warehouses, the ASH store on the Web, membership orders and renewals, and mailing lists and directories. I also to fulfill the Blood subscription for members every two weeks. And on the rare occasion that something goes wrong with TIMSS, I help investigate and fix that, too.

Okay, so maybe not so rare.

Tell us your best annual meeting story or work-related ASH story.
I went to my first annual meeting this past year. It turned out to be surprisingly grueling. My favorite moment came when I was packing up the booth that sold the tickets for the ASH Bash about an hour before the actual event was to begin. There were apparently hundreds of attendees already at the aquarium, lining up to get in, but I was still at the convention center with the tickets and the lists. Ayuko called me on the walkie-talkie. She said, “Edward, we need you here. Run.”

I started running. Sprinting. It was only about half a mile or so, but I am, after all, in my mid-40s now. I didn’t do especially well. I ran as fast as I could for as long as I could. Then I jogged for as long as I could. Then I trotted. Then race-walked. Finally, I staggered. I was one sorry, panting, sweaty spectacle by the time I arrived at the aquarium, all of like four minutes later. And my legs were sore for days after that.

Tell us something you’re passionate about.
Ballet, of all things. Both watching and participating. My wife and I are subscribers to the Washington Ballet and the ballet at the Kennedy Center. We take ballet classes at St. Mark’s Dance Studio in Capitol Hill. There aren’t too many guys in the ballet classes – for years I was the only one – so Ms. Brooks, the director, choreographs a special pas-de-deux for my wife and me to perform in the recital every year. This year, we danced to a song from the Amelie soundtrack.

What’s your favorite lunch spot?
Clearly, Au bon Pain. I’ve eaten there pretty much every day for the past six years. For the first couple of years I would get the garden salad, then I switched to the fields & feta wrap for about a year, and then switched to the Mediterranean wrap for about a year. Now I’m back to the garden salad.

Do you have any fun summer plans?
My wife and I have booked a bicycle tour through western Ireland this summer. We’ll be riding between 20 and 30 miles a day, from one hotel or B&B to the next, around Connemara, which is mostly in County Galway.

What is your ideal weekend?
The ideal weekend would entail lots of sleeping, a little snoozing, and then some napping. In real life, my wife and I are in constant motion all weekend, getting up before 8:00 a.m. and going to the gym first thing Saturday morning. Then we go grocery shopping, have lunch, and do some sort of restoration project on the house for the rest of the day. Sunday is pretty much the same, but we go to church in the morning, and then more house stuff. The house is 85 years old, after all.

What question do you wish I would ask you?
How did you meet Al Gore, and did you really help deliver a baby?

Would you like to answer that question now? (in reference to question above)
I was working at a video store, around 1989, back before Al Gore was Vice President, back when he was a senator. He and Tipper and the kids lived nearby and rented videos from our store. We had a cardboard cutout of Chuckie, the little demon doll wielding a knife, standing up by the horror section. The Gores came in on a Saturday afternoon and rented some movies and left. But then, poor Senator Gore came back in to talk to a manager, which was me that day. Mrs. Gore thought that the cardboard Chuckie was too close to the children’s section, and she sent the Senator back in to ask us to move it. He was clearly pained at being ordered to do this. He went out of his way to make sure that I understood that it was his wife’s idea, not his. For some reason I found this terribly endearing. So, of course, I moved Chuckie for him.

At that same video store, one of our clerks got pregnant, and her boyfriend skipped town on her. She asked me to be her Lamaze partner. How could I refuse? So, we went to classes and practiced breathing and the whole deal. When she went into labor, they had to do a C-section. That was very disappointing after all those weeks of practice. I stood with her, though, holding her hand during the whole surgery. It’s a pretty serious procedure for the non-physician, let me tell you. And then I got to cut the umbilical cord. I sat with mom and baby in the hospital for the rest of the day, then never saw either of them again.

Outtakes from the Interview in Inside ASH

What is most helpful to you when working with employees in other departments?
Really, until Karina arrived just recently, being the sole TIMSS guy, everyone was from a different department. (Or else no one was.) It took me a while to figure out what everybody else did, but once I got a pretty good sense of that, it was easy to work with everyone.

In general, though, I just think of us all as ASH employees. I go with what Bruce Springsteen once said about recording his first record at CBS in the early seventies. Something along the lines of “If they had asked me to mop the floors, I’d have mopped the floors.”

Deleted paragraph from Favorite Lunch Spot question:
To be honest, though, this year I’ve been trying to be tad adventurous, going to lunch with Helena and Joe once a week. We’ve only been to Au Bon Pain once, and that was to get sandwiches to go, to eat sitting on the grass in Dupont Circle.

Where’s the farthest you’ve traveled?
I grew up in a military family, so we moved around a lot when I was a kid. Exotic places like Fort Sill in Lawton OK, Fort Bliss in El Paso TX, Fort Ord in Monterey CA, Rock Island Arsenal in Rock Island IL. Pretty exciting, huh? I haven’t gone very far in my adult life. I drove once non-stop from St. Louis to Minneapolis by myself; it took about 18 hours. I spent a week at a resort in St. Lucia in 2000. By far the farthest I’ve ever gone was to Italy for my honeymoon in 2003. We spent eleven glorious days walking around Florence and Rome. I’d love to go back or even live in Florence some day.

What’s one of your favorite quotes (from a movie, song, poem, anything)?
I’ve always loved Harper’s last monologue from Angel’s in America, when she’s on the plane heading west. She ends with: “Nothing’s lost forever. In this world, there’s a kind of painful progress, longing for what we’ve left behind, and dreaming ahead. At least I think that’s so.” I use that quote at the top of my website and on my personal email signature. I saw the Alliance Theatre production of Angels in America in Atlanta in 1995. It was completely mind-blowing life-changing. Rhoda Griffis played Harper. Rhoda’s an amazing actor.

Full sentence regarding Chuckie:
Child’s Play had just come out on video, and we had a cardboard cutout of Chuckie, the little demon doll wielding a knife, standing up by the horror section.

Slightly Redacted and Annotated Letter to a Friend Regarding Obama’s Lurch to the Right

I’m not sure, [name], that what Senator Obama’s doing is all that drastic. I know it’s not what I want, but, as the man says, he’s not running to be president of Red America or Blue America (or Ed’s America or [name]’s America); rather, he’s running to be president of the United States of America. Part of moving beyond Rovian politics is being in the center, which is somewhere to the right of you and me. That’s maybe where Obama should be, or needs to be for November. In general, that’s where most Americans are as well, no? See this here column by Gail Collins in the NYT for more on this point.

As far as some of the specifics:

Like you say, the gun-ban thing is a really honestly debate-able parsing of the 2nd Amendment. (And especially given that I’m in DC and have no votes in Congress and here’s Justice Scalia legislating from the fucking bench on me, you’d think I’d be upset about this one.) And so says Obama, basically that we all, even Scalia, agree that guns should be controlled — licensing, background checks, certain weapons more controlled than others — we just disagree as to the extent of that control. That’s a very reasonable position, yeah?

And I’m not so sure the whole recent FISA thing is what it’s cracked up to be either. Look here for a Libertarian-ish law professor’s take on the new legislation. I personally don’t give much of a damn about telecom immunity one way or the other, I suppose. It’s the president who’s the criminal here. It’s the president who’s been spying on us. If he twisted Verizon’s or ATT’s arms, I want him to face the charges, not them.

I should have added here that I’m not that thrilled with most wiretap warrants to begin with, much less warrantless wiretaps. Plus the FISA court has always been notoriously lenient towards government requests anyway, which is why the current administration’s readiness to bypass same is somewhat baffling.

And the faith-based initiative stuff? I haven’t read either of Obama’s books, but seems to me that as a community organizer in south Chicago, much of his organizing probably took place in church basements and halls, in addition to the union halls and government & neighborhood community centers. I think Bush’s faith-based policy was some sort of triangularization between him and Rove and Mike Gerson. Gerson really believed in it, Rove saw the politics in it, and Bush just did as he was told (as usual). I see Obama as more like Gerson, really believing in what it can accomplish, even if he’s no dummy, understanding the Rove side as well. See Andrew Sullivan’s post here for what I think are the two important points with respect to the Constitution and bottom-up organizing.

I’ve since been reading the Ryan Lizza New Yorker article. You know, the issue with that cover. Article itself is just great, great background on Obama. Makes me realize that not just his early community organizing career but his entire Chicago machine politics experience has been key to his organizing skills, and key especially to the way he out-organized Senator Clinton this spring.

I was in Ireland, completely & blissfully cut off from politics for over a week, when this lurch to the middle happened, so maybe that took away from the sting for me. But I’ve also been consciously bracing myself for the inevitable let-down from Obama, knowing that he was going to disappoint me. And so here it is, and I find that I’m taking it quite well. Part of it also is that I don’t think it’s all that much of a let-down, when I really look at it.

But I also know that I’m rationalizing some of it as well. Because I know we just need to calm down and still try to focus on the big picture here. Do you want Senator McCain for Bush’s third term? Me neither. Send in that Obama contribution after all.

I wrote this to my friend on Monday morning. Hadn’t gotten a response, so I was thinking that maybe I had upset this friend. So I called and spoke with both friend and friend’s spouse. All is well. No offense. Was just busy. Didn’t necessarily agree with me, but neither was offended.

Washington Times Reminds Me of Dave Eggers

I’m still trying to figure this one out. Check out the first two paragraphs from this Washington Times editorial.

After seven years of unprecedented strength, the U.S. economy is floundering as the mortgage crisis and gas prices force businesses, small and large, to slash jobs.

It is a given that President Bush presided over one of the strongest economic periods in history, with staggering job creation of 2.6 million jobs, record minority home ownership and a market flush with investment. But in just six months, the stock market has dipped below 11,000 for the first time in two years, nearly a half million jobs have been lost in the construction industry since last year – equal to the losses in all other sectors since December – and mortgage foreclosures are now at record highs.

Seven years of unprecedented strength. Really? We’ve never had such good times. Not the nineties? The fifties? The twenties? Really? Unprecedented.

Staggering job creation of 2.6 million jobs? Really? If 2.6 million is staggering, then what do you call President Clinton’s 23 million jobs?* Almost ten times as many, clearly. Hyper-staggering? And, um, about those losses of a half million in construction and another half million in other sectors. Isn’t that a million, just about half of a staggering 2.6 million?

Oh, and by the way, dear reader(s), the editorial, written specifically to address Senator Gramm’s “mental recession” comment, is entitled “Economic reality, not fantasy.”

Nope. Not kidding. You can’t make this shit up. Well, I mean, I can’t. The Washington Times clearly can.

What this brought to mind was the Dave Eggers book A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, (oddly subtitled A Memoir Based on a True Story, as if a memoir itself isn’t true, or supposed to be anyway.) I was, like a lot of people I imagine, intrigued by the sheer balls of titling one’s book that way. So I gave it a read. Eh, didn’t do much for me. Didn’t break my heart. Didn’t impress me as to Mr. Eggers being endowed with a staggering genius. But then neither did it amuse me enough to be willing take the title with its clearly intended irony. Was just, like I said, eh.

Oh, but also, please don’t think I’m constantly reading Washington Times editorials. More of a recent thing, clicking through interesting-looking links over at Real Clear Politics. I used to read Washington Post and New York Times editorials pretty religiously, years ago. Stopped after the devastating 2004 election. This year, this time around, I’m trying very deliberately to get more news from more diverse outlets, trying to avoid maybe the echo chamber I was in c. 2004. Won’t get fooled again.

* Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics. See accessed 7/15/2008.

Plymouth Rocks

Yahoo has some sort of relationship with CNN/Money, which itself seems to be a relationship between CNN and Money Magazine, if there is such a thing anymore as Money Magazine. Anyway. On the front portal page this morning, I notice that Yahoo’s got a news item about best places to live or somesuch. I generally shy away from such lists, but for some reason I thought I’d find out. Where’s the best place to live?

How funny. I’ve actually lived there. Plymouth, Minnesota.

Lived there in my dad’s house, from July 1982 to January 1983, when I moved into the dorm, Frontier Hall, on campus at the University of Minnesota. And although he must have moved to San Jose CA sometime in the late eighties, Zabasearch still reaches way back and lists the address. Amazing. Was 11245 36th Place North. And here’s’s bird’s eye view. We live in amazing times, people.

It’s one of the ones in the middle of the picture. I can’t remember exactly which one. I could probably go to the taxing jurisdiction’s website and get a plat map or something, find out exactly which one it is. But this is good enough for our purposes today, yeah?

Was a huge house, even though it’s duplex. I had to get to Minnesota about a month early for freshman orientation, then didn’t have much else to do until classes started. I didn’t know anybody except my dad. Must have sat around the house a lot. Probably listened to my records. I remember listening to the Clash’s Sandinista in my bedroom there. And Altered Images, Happy Birthday. Springsteen’s Nebraska.

Smoking was still allowed indoors back then. Dad let me smoke in the (finished) basement, down where the TV was. I remember watching Hill Street Blues down there. Dad loved Hill Street Blues. That would have been on Thursday nights. I remember watching the Clash on Saturday Night Live. They sang either Rock the Casbah or Should I Stay or Should I Go. I can’t remember which. Probably the latter, since Mick sings that, and Joe definitely sang Straight to Hell. Joe had his mohawk at this point, but not yet dyed orange. And I remember watching the news about guy who drove the truck up to the Washington Monument, threatened to blow it up. (He never did have any explosives, turned out. They found this out after they shot the poor man dead, of course.)


About 7:15 this morning, just as we’re finishing breakfast, as I’m about to start washing the dishes, we hear a shout from outside. Male voice, adult, an inarticulate shout of … not quite pain, not quite anger.

I look out the front door. There’s a man walking down the street. No, not the sidewalk next to the street, but the very street itself. Right down the middle. Seventeenth Street is one-way south, and he’s walking in the same direction at least.

“Wake up! Wake up,” he yells. Takes a few more steps. “This is serious!” Keeps walking.

By now the light back at Independence has turned green, and some cars are coming. Somebody honks, but guy just keeps walking in the middle as cars go around him on either side.

He doesn’t say anything else, just keeps walking.

Guy Questions

I’m eating lunch and reading the New Yorker article about G.K. Chesterton. He had some pithy thing to say about American men removing their hats in elevators.

I ask Dawn across the table, “Do you think of elevators as rooms or vehicles?”

She looks up at me, gives me a completely blank WTF stare.

I laugh. “Is that a guy question?”

“It’s not a Dawn question,” she tells me, rolling her eyes.

The classic Guy Question comes from the movie Stand By Me, where certain of the boys argue whether Superman could take on Mighty Mouse. There’s some dispute about this, since Mighty Mouse is a cartoon, whereas Superman is a live-action TV show.

This also reminds me of how, when we landed at Dulles from Dublin, we had to ride one of those mobile lounge things from the B gates to the main terminal. Some young girls, let’s say 8 or 9 years old, were standing right in front of us. Their dad told them to hang on. They asked why and were surprised when he told them that we’d be moving. They thought we were just in some sort of waiting room.

America, America

Two small things.

First, I was in Ireland on July 4, Independence Day. (American Independence Day, obviously, as opposed to the Poblacht na hÉireann declared on April 24, 1916, although that one didn’t work out quite as well as our own experience in 1776.) I had two separate kind folks in Ireland wish me a happy day. Otherwise, it was nice to be away from the craziness that is our neighborhood back home, when the local fireworks start just before dark and go on for hours & hours. Terrifying.

In contrast, I was walking home from ballet last night, along East Capitol Street, Lincoln Park. Right there at the corner of East Cap and 12th (or was it Kentucky?) was a small flag hanging on an iron fence. Or, maybe more accurate to say that it was leaning against the fence. It maybe had been planted in the ground there, on the corner, just inside someone’s yard. But now it had tilted over, no longer planted, and the flag itself was touching the ground. And that bothered me.

Funny. I’m a big believer in free speech and your right to burn the flag if you want. But a flag, even a little one, touching the ground, just bugs me. Bugs me too when the US flag is hung vertically and the canton is to the upper right rather than the (perhaps counter-intuitive) upper left. But bugs me way more having the flag touching the ground.

So of course I stepped right on over and propped it back up. Had to do it.

Sense of Doom

We had this training at work today for the safety wardens. Red Cross came in and trained us in CPR and first aid. Some lecture, some book reading, test taking, practicing on the CPR dummies. And a number of videos on a DVD. And in one of the videos, in a part about first aid and sudden illness, this poor girl gets stung by a bee. Her mom goes off to get the epi pen and call 911. Meanwhile, girl goes to sit down, and an on-screen graphic lists the symptoms of anaphylactic shock. One of the symptoms is:

  • A Sense of Doom

And I thought, wait, that’s not normal? Doesn’t everyone just generally have a sense of doom all the time?

What? No?

Oh, apparently that’s only me?

I noticed there was a fly in the refrigerator

I was grabbing a beer or a soda or whatever and saw a black flash out of the corner of my eye. It was a fly. He landed on the light bulb at the top. I waved my hand at him, to get him to fly out, but he just flew around inside the fridge, not coming out.

“Come on out there, buddy,” I said, waving my hand around some more. Dawn, from the living room, asked me what I was doing, so I explained.

“You’re talking to the fly?” she asked.

Well, of course I was talking to him, I told her. It’s a fly. He can’t read my mind.