Went home for the weekend, a nice diversion. Sort of. Got some music: Coldplay - Parachutes, Third Eye Blind - Blue, and Weezer - The Green Album. Mellow stuff..
Also picked up copies of Linux Journal and LinuxFormat. LXF seems chock-full of goodies, but it's spendy since it comes with two CDs and it's from across the pond..
I was successful in my Automata test today. Either the tests are a lot easier this time around, or I'm actually understanding the subject matter. Third time's the charm, I guess.
Internet Programming is still an interesting class. I'm learning much more than I was initially expecting. Sometimes, it's good to have a good teacher tell you what's going on, rather than trying to figure it out by yourself from disparate sources. Certainly, the interactivity of classes is useful.
Feeling decidedly un-interactive with the government and people making decisions about what is going on in Afghanistan. I was somehow hoping we could take a moral high ground of some sort and focus on the humanitarian goal of helping these people out while learning to respect their points of view -- why they hate or dislike us.
Now that bombs have dropped and missiles have flown in, I'm hoping that it was just the opening move in an intricate chess game including many different aspects. We need to put people on the ground, whether they are military or aid workers of some kind. Throughout all of the actions taken, we need to work to uphold the ideals put forth in our Declaration of Independence, Constitution and other foundational documents.
Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Democracy, equality, free speech, and free trade.
The US shouldn't be in the country-building `business,' but we appear to be falling into that role. This nation certainly has limits, and we can't be a global policeman or carpenter or whatever forever. It all takes time, money and energy that we don't have endless stores of. We can do a lot, certainly, but it shouldn't get out of hand, either.
Life is often about striking balances, finding the middle ground. Politicians may be a little too good at this sometimes (actually, they're not -- they're just vague enough to fake it). I know we can help build a stronger, more tolerant Afghanistan. Hell, how much money will it take to replace those bombs and missiles we sent in? I'd rather that money get spent on building rather than destroying.
Tried to get the shower flowing again, without much luck. Tried some off-brand de-gunking fluid that may have not been the best solution.. Flow rate may have improved slightly, but not much.
Time to empty the dishwasher, I think...
The topic that won't die
Had a bit of a confrontation on IRC today, talking with someone from the LUG about the current wave of nationalism. He couldn't refrain from referring to our country as `ameriKKKa' all of the time. Got annoying after a while.
There is no doubt in my mind that there have been atrocities in this country, and that we've done un-good things in other parts of the world. However, I can't live if I think that the only direction this country is going is down.
Most of this country's founding fathers owned slaves. These people who promoted the ideals of freedom and justice had their dark sides. That can't be denied. However, they also knew that they were going to make mistakes when they wrote the Constitution that would bind the colonies together. The constitution can be amended. They strove to keep a balance between the different branches of government.
We have problems, but it's not like we haven't been working on them. It takes time, obviously, and there is that chance that we'll fail miserably at some point. However, at this point, I see a bright future for our country.
It's important to stay informed -- that's probably the biggest single problem we have. The media (mostly TV) is often sensationalistic, and can cause the public to be misinformed or uninformed. Then public opinion polls can be slanted in unusual ways, causing politicians to push ideas they may not believe in.
On a politics mailing list that I'm on, there has been recent discussion and praise for the `question time' that many European parliaments have. I saw the Canadian parliament doing it on C-SPAN a week or so ago. One hope I have is that this practice will come to the US in some form. Perhaps not a formal event in the halls of the Capitol, but any way we can get our congresscritters more animated is a good thing.
Of course, too much speed can be a bad thing. Knee-jerk legislation is an evil that we need to be watchful of. I wrote to one of my senators (at least I think I did -- I'm not sure if that web form actually did anything) and asked him to be careful about how he moved in this time. I requested that if he is not able to fully read proposed legislation before it is put up for vote, he should either not vote on it, or should vote against it.
I'm a citizen of the United States, I was born here and I'll probably die here, but I'm feeling more and more that I don't belong here. I don't support the military action taking place these days. I didn't vote for the President we currently have, and he's not getting my sympathy for having fallen into the situation we have these days.
I'm still proud of the fact I voted for Nader. Yes, I actually did think about the Middle East before I voted. Yeah, it's crappy that the US's current voting system made the last presidential election a big mess. I hope more people will work to fix it..
I feel I have little voice these days as the rights of me and my friends are slowly being eaten away. Still, I have to try do to a little. I'm going to try to see if I can come up with decent reasons why the Microsoft settlement sucks. After that, I'm planning on working with others to try to put together a summit on Intellectual Property (and some related subjects).
I've felt stressed about these things for a while, but I've avoided thinking about them because it's so hard for one person to change things. It's not impossible, but it really helps to have the support of others.
This leads me back to the feeling of being in the wrong place. I feel like I'm in a tiny minority. And, well, apparently I am (if you watch the polls out there). I'm really suspicious that the pollsters are somehow skewing numbers. I just can't believe the numbers that I'm seeing.
And, well, since I haven't heard anyone say it for a while..
Screw you, President Shrub..
Should really watch C-SPAN more often. I've seen some interesting discussions about civil liberties going on in the last few days.
It sounds like people are starting to wake up, looking past the war propaganda out there these days and starting to really talk about the laws that have been passed, and what might get passed in the future.
I read Michael Moore's book, Stupid White Men, the other day. It's pretty good, pretty funny. I wrote a review of it, though I don't know if it'll show up anywhere.. The book is a bestseller, though, so hopefully this means things are looking up.
I'll be busy tomorrow trying to figure out how to write an OpenGL program in my Computer Graphics course. I really didn't give myself enough time to get it done...
Heard on the radio the other day (NPR's "Marketplace", if I remember right): "The Dow Jones was down 300 points today, as the realization sunk in that war is unpredictable and ugly."
Things like that make me happy I don't own any stock at the moment.
Well, I've pretty much categorized all of my entries from September 11th, 2001 onward. I was just making a Sept. 11 category, but I kept running into other messages that needed to be categorized, and I did a little over a hundred of them. I still have to do a good pass through the approximately 190 messages that are before that day.
I think the events of that day have had repercussions that have made me less interested in posting to Advogato. Since I now have all of my stuff on my own website, I can write whatever I want, and I don't have to bend to fit the technology and open-source orientation of another site. I can say "Bush is an idiot" as often as I want ;-)
They're handing out decks of cards to a meeting about the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Image from Ananova
Saw the "Cogenitor" episode of Enterprise last night from a recording on my computer. Contrary to what some people are saying, I think the show's last few episodes have been some of the best I've seen. I'm getting a little worried about the big new direction they're thinking of going in. That article sounds so weird, it makes me wonder if someone confused May Day with April Fools Day.
Sexuality is not something I ordinarily like to discuss, because it tends to remind me of how I'm not getting any. However, the "Cogenitor" episode got me thinking. It's all about a species that has three different genders. The species is advanced and very intelligent, but they treat the people of the third gender as something halfway between a pet and a sex slave. These others don't get beat up or anything as far as the story is concerned, but they get passed from one couple to the next as the couples want to procreate. They don't get any education and don't even have names.
This isn't an entirely new idea for the series to cover, but it's at least an extension of things that have happened in the past (or future, depending on how you look at things) of the Trek universe. There have been other episodes (in Next Generation, at least) dealing with gender.
Anyway, I think there are some deficiencies to the episode, but it was good enough to keep me thinking afterward, which I think is exactly what a good Star Trek episode should do. It didn't have a happy ending, something any good series has to do from time to time, since real life doesn't have happy endings as often as we'd like.
Now, for the upcoming season, they're apparently trying to get a major disaster/war worked into the story line. It also looks like this involves time travel, which is really one of the biggest complaints people tend to have about Star Trek. Why the producers think this is a good idea is beyond me. This series has always struck me as being more "Republican" than the others, and I just have a sense that they're trying to work in a September 11th-esque element and push it for their own gain.
However, I suppose having the Enterprise series as a prequel to everything else is pretty restrictive to the writers, and this time travel scenario is a way to break out of it. I know I've seen good episodes from the previous series (plural) that have dealt pretty well with a lot of interesting issues. So, if they're doing what I think they're doing, there's a certain non-zero probability that they'll pull off something truly worth watching that could help us understand the supposed "new world" we're living in.
Okay, I don't know what the hell is up with this. Some judge decided to award $104 million to September 11th victims. Okay, fine. The strange bit comes when you find out who the defendants are. In addition to the expected Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida, the Taliban, and Afghanistan, we have Saddam Hussein and Iraq. What the hell is up with that?
The judge even acknowledges the frailty of the evidence:
The judge wrote that lawyers relied heavily on "classically hearsay" evidence, including reports that a Sept. 11 hijacker met an Iraqi consul to Prague, Secretary of State Colin Powell (news - web sites)'s remarks to the United Nations (news - web sites) about connections between Iraq and terrorism, and defectors' descriptions of the use of an Iraq camp to train terrorists.
*sigh* What is this? Juvenile court? I thought hearsay was not considered in our court system.. Bah.
At the time Private Jessica Lynch was retrieved from a hospital in Iraq, I was mostly watching The Daily Show, so I didn't hear much about it. The story was blanketing the cable news channels and other TV news outlets, though.
I smelled something funny with that story, and it looks like people who were suspicious of it were probably right. The BBC has a story explaining that her retrieval was a Hollywood-style stunt. Dr. Anmar Uday said this:
“It was like a Hollywood film. They cried ‘go, go, go’, with guns and blanks without bullets, blanks and the sound of explosions. They made a show for the American attack on the hospital—action movies like Sylvester Stallone or Jackie Chan.”
It's possible the doctors were lying or stretching the truth, but I generally have a lot of respect for the BBC..
This is disturbing
WASHINGTON - The Pentagon is setting up a stock-market style system in which investors would bet on terror attacks, assassinations and other events in the Middle East. Defense officials hope to gain intelligence and useful predictions while investors who guessed right would win profits.
The naming of Erin's cat reminded me of this image I saw
I imagine some G.I. must have done that, as the military is starting to call reports on the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein “Elvis sightings.”
Anyway, my mom called me at work today, asking about the buckled higway in Hudson. I guess someone on the radio said that the road had buckled yesterday, and they said that it was backing up traffic really badly. In reality, it appears to me that the road had buckled over the weekend, and had been quickly patched with some asphalt late Sunday or early Monday, since it was still rough when I was jolted awake by it that morning.
Today, a crew was out with the flashing lights and everything, but nothing had really started by the time I drove over the (now flattened) patch on my way to work. Over lunchtime, it looked like the work crew was putting down new concrete, which was probably slowing traffic a bit, but I doubt it was really significant.
It was a lot scarier coming home today, as I hit some pretty heavy rain not long after crossing back into Minnesota. I almost put on the hazard lights and stopped on the side of the road, but I figured that might be more dangerous than staying on the highway. I wouldn't want someone to follow me onto the shoulder if they wanted to stay on the road.
Anyway, the temperature swung quite a bit through my trip home, though. Pretty hot at work to fairly cool near the rain back to sweltering in Minneapolis. Don't you wish you drove 30 miles everyday?
I went to a late showing of Matchstick Men yesterday. I should have asked my brother to come along, but I figured he'd probably prefer to go to something a little more fun. Plus it was late.
Anyway, the first thing that hit me was not the movie, but a preview for The Alamo. Billy Bob Thornton as Davy Crockett. Uh…
Well, my first reaction was shock. “Wasn't that during the Mexican-American War? Hasn't history determined that we basically got into that war for all of the wrong reasons?” The theater was absolutely silent after the preview finished, so I figure I wasn't the only person thinking that.
However, now that I research things a bit, it turns out that my thinking was pretty much all wrong. The Alamo happened in 1836, ten years before the Mexican-American War. A year earlier, Texas had declared its independence from Mexico, forming the short-lived Republic of Texas. That country(!) was still involved in the Texas Revolution at the time of the Alamo siege.
But, back to the movie I actually saw, I thought Matchstick Men was pretty good, though a bit mind-bending toward the end. At the end of the movie, they skip forward in time and Alison Lohman (who played the 14 year old daughter) gets very dolled-up. Needless to say, I was glad to see that in real life, she's 23 (and will turn 24 this week).
Ah, Laundry Day, how I hate you.
I stayed up late reading the Sarah Vowell book. Cripes, this woman is my hero. I wish I had the vocabulary, travel experience, and knowledge of German existentialist cinema that she has.
The creepiest thing I learned: April 19th is “Patriot's Day,” at least in some states. That's the day in 1775 when the first shots were fired in the lead up to the American Revolution. Over 200 years later, Timothy McVeigh put a truck bomb in front of a federal building in Oklahoma City (though Internet research also shows that the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas was torched on that day a few years earlier). The incongruity with that and the new September 11th “Patriot Day” is disorienting.
I think I may have to read the book again. It's something I'd like to absorb more thoroughly.
Yesterday, I finally went to see Once Upon a Time in Mexico with my brother. It's a decent action movie, though the blood and gore factor was a bit higher than I expected. However, I have little doubt that a shotgun discharged at point blank range toward someone's kneecaps would probably have a similar effect to what was shown in the movie.
The most entertaining moment for me had to be when the Johnny Depp character was at a bullfight, wearing khakis and a t-shirt saying “CIA: Central Intelligence Agency,” as he laid plans for overthrowing the government. And, does he say “Savvy?” in every movie he's in?
After the movie, we went to Burger King, where I re-discovered the silliness that goes on in the fast food industry. I ordered a sandwich, an apple pie, and a small drink. The last thing I see before the price pops up on the little screen pointed at me is “MED COKE.” Medium? I wanted a small.
“I'm sorry, sir, we only have medium, large, and extra large. You can see it's not on the menu.” I mutter something about this being a letter-writing offense, but pay up. Later, when my food is ready, I tell her to tell her manager that I'd like to see small beverages back on the menu. She looks at me like I'm from Jupiter.
Despite cases being laughed out of courtrooms recently, fast food joint are not doing a good job of convincing me that there isn't a conspiracy to make everyone in America fat.
I got Think Tank by Blur the other day. The first time I listened to it, I thought it was amazing. The second time, not so much. However, I can't seem to stay away from the melodies and sound mixes of the disc for very long.
“Try Blur—It's Highly Addictive™”
For some reason, I really like the song “Faint” by Linkin Park (I must be losing it). I imagine the rest of the songs on that disc are probably not to my liking, so I must spend some time compiling one of those P2P clients to find out for certain.
The program I had been using a few months ago has become pretty difficult to set up and use, so I haven't been downloading much music for most of this year. Well, plus I'm weak-willed when authority figures tell me I'm doing something wrong…
Yeah, I'd never make it as President.
I totally fubared a computer today at work. Well, it's not really fubared. Truly destroying a Linux box takes effort (hmm… though there are a few commands I know&hellip). I managed to put a lot of files in a place where they shouldn't be—residing in place of other files.
“Oops, I mounted that partition again?” Bah.
On a few random political points:
The only thing I'll say about the impending California recall election is that Gray Davis makes me think of Johnny Carson impersonating a politician. And it creeps me out.
Israel attacked Syria the other day. Everyone was pissed off by that, except not. Syria is one of those countries that the U.S. administration has discussed in the past with potential military action in mind.
Wherever they got this reinvented idea of manifest destiny, I'll never know.
Ah, so God doesn't just hate fags these days. Good to know someone's keeping track.
One of the strangest things I've seen in the last few days was on The Daily Show last night. There was a dedication in Baghdad marking the reopening of one of the major bridges there. The military band on hand played several songs, including “Imperial March” from Star Wars.
Good choice. *gack*
Not much else has been going on.
I've been seeing ‘insurgents’ pop up a lot in reports of what is going on in Iraq. Since Donald Rumsfeld was so fond of the dictionary in the ‘slogging’ incident last month, I thought I'd look up this one. A flag has just been raised in my mind that this is a different word that has been used in the past, and I'm just a little suspicious of it.
In Webster's Unabridged Dictionary from 1913 (isn't the public domain fun?) we have:
A person who rises in revolt against civil authority or an established government; one who openly and actively resists the execution of laws; a rebel
Merriam-Webster (online currently) adds:
a person who revolts against civil authority or an established government; especially : a rebel not recognized as a belligerent
For those who tend to forget the stronger meaning of “belligerent,’—like when you're not talking about kids causing trouble—I think the first definition applies (from M-W again):
waging war; specifically : belonging to or recognized as a state at war and protected by and subject to the laws of war
Now, amazingly enough, I must admit I don't know the specific state of conflict between the United States and Iraq at this point. I don't recall seeing anyone sign a document of surrender, nor do I remember a specific declaration of war (though perhaps the events of 1991 carry over to the present time). Still, I think much of the public would tend to believe we're at war over there.
Anyway, getting back to the point—I don't really think that the term ‘insurgent’ should apply to people who shoot down Chinook helicopters and bomb international agencies. I would consider the term applicable to bombings of police stations and portions of the Iraqi infrastructure. I suppose it's a thin line I'm drawing, but, uh…Okay, okay. I was bored.
I'm pretty sure that the change of government in Iraq is going to follow a similar pattern to what has usually happened when the United States has deposed someone in power in hopes of creating a new ally. There's a guy named Ahmed Chalabi that has been pulling strings for over a decade, trying to convince the rest of the world to get rid of Saddam Hussein. He was one of the most important members of the Iraqi National Congress, a sort of government-in-exile that actually existed in the UK, but supposedly spoke for the Iraqi people. About 10 years ago, Chalabi formed a friendship with current Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, who was a professor at the time.
Through the years, Chalabi brought forth all sorts of information about what was going on inside Iraq. However, much of the information is sketchy at best, even though some governments took it at face value. Wolfowitz eventually came into a position of power, and was preaching the story his friend was telling. I don't know exactly why Wolfowitz liked the story so much, but I believe he had his own reasons for wanting to get rid of Hussein, and Chalabi's stories were good at convincing people.
Of course, we now see the end result of all of that campaigning: Iraq is now occupied by the U.S., and Chalabi is a prominent member of the transitional government there.
The thing that concerns me is that Chalabi doesn't seem to be an entirely ethical man. There are allegations of fabricated evidence regarding chemical and nuclear weapons. He supposedly has a criminal past. Yet, he is widely seen to be a likely candidate to head any new Iraqi government. They say that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Considering that Chalabi is already a bit iffy, I imagine we'll see a new example of that truism in no time.
According to a study by the Program on International Policy Attitudes and Knowledge Networks, only 20% of the viewers of Fox News Channel are in touch with reality. In fact, none of the commercial TV news outlets can claim that over half of their audience knows the truth: CBS rates 30%, ABC 39%, and NBC and CNN are tied at 45%. Print media works out to 53%, and people who tune in to NPR and PBS rate at 77%.
Okay, it's wrong to say that these people are totally in touch with reality, but they did manage to correctly determine three things:
Anyway, there's more info in this poorly HTML-ized press release. Here's a nicer table of the data from that page:
|Network||No Misperceptions||One or More|
Two completely unrelated comics:
Heh. The Daily Show made this joke today too.
Okay, I'm a week late on this one. It turns out that, while Bush was making a statement about the capture of Saddam Hussein, a technician at CNN flipped the wrong switch and put a test message on the screen. Found the image here.
Update 12/21 3:26 AM: Whoa. Maybe we didn't actually capture Saddam. Well, we did, but he may have already been captured. Maybe. Then again, it must be true, since it's 3:26.
Oh crikey. You know those five British subjects that were just transferred home to the UK? Okay, you probably don't, but bear with me. They were some of those “enemy combatants” held at Guantanamo for, oh, two years or so. Upon their return, only four of them were held—one was set free right away. The other four have now been released with no charges.
So this basically tells me that these guys were held for two years for little or no good reason. Ooo. That'll do great things for the U.S.'s standing in the eyes of the world. Yeah, uh-huh, sure.
And meanwhile, we're only just starting to put the high beams on people from WorldCom and Enron. I guess Bernie Ebbers has finally been indicted, but Ken Lay appears to be off in some secure bunker chumming it up with Dick Cheney (or something…)
Heh. Funny. (But weird—notice that some parts of the strip are repeated so it can be put into a wide (4x2) layout instead of the tall (2x4) layout.)
Oh good. People are getting stabbed where we used to live.
George W. Bush has claimed exclusive right to Bible verse (not that I was using it anyway).
I don't know what Ralph Nader is up to. It's weird that he's supposedly coordinating with Kerry somehow, but I guess nothing has actually happened yet. I'm not a big fan of Kerry, though I might possibly consider maybe voting for him if he shows an ability to debate remotely like he did back in 1971 when he got airtime as a disgruntled Vietnam veteran. Last night, C-SPAN ran a debate he had with someone on The Dick Cavett Show. If he showed that level of resourcefulness against George W. Bush, he'd probably win hands-down.
You may have already seen news reports discussing Rwanda. The common news practice of remembering anniversaries of major events—especially ones with round numbers—is repeating itself. Ten years ago, there was a fragile peace in the tiny central African country, an area a little bit smaller than Massachusetts in size. Fighting had taken place between the two main ethnic groups in the country, the Hutu and Tutsi, from 1990 to 1992. More than a million people had been killed in that fighting. In 1993, United Nations troops entered the country as a peacekeeping force, though their hands were tied in many ways. In April of 1994, dramatic and tragic events took place extremely quickly.
The President of Rwanda, a fairly moderate Hutu, was killed on April 6th when his plane crashed near the airport in the capital city of Kigali. In the early hours of April 7th, the country began its quick descent into chaos. Hutu extremists who had been laying plans for months went into action, sending death squads out to kill Tutsis where they stood. The speed and ferocity of the squads still shocks anyone who learns about what happened there. In World War II, the Germans industrialized genocide. The Rwandans took the 1990s approach and left out the middleman.
Much of the killing was perpetrated by the death squads (known as Interahamwe), though local governments and state radio induced many citizens to take part in ad-hoc groups. The Hutu had once been the servant class in Rwanda under a Tutsi monarchy. (The name Hutu even means “servant” in their native tongue—their original name is lost to history.) They had a strange sort of timidity to them as they went about their gruesome work. Perhaps because they had been forced to respect authority figures under centuries of Tutsi rule, the Hutu were a very obedient people and did what they were told. When outsiders were present, the Hutu generally stayed away or merely waited for them to go away. In some instances, one or two unarmed U.N. troops “guarding” Tutsi safe havens who merely said “you can't come in here” was all it took to prevent further slaughter.
I mention this because I watched Frontline's “Ghosts of Rwanda” program last night. I thought the program was very well-done, although they seemed to leave out some of the backstory (but I missed the first 10 minutes or so of the show). The episode talked about the failure of the U.N., the U.S., and various other countries to act as a positive force in the conflict.
At the beginning, some Belgian troops assigned to the U.N. peacekeeping force had been killed. This disturbed the public in Belgium, so they withdrew from the peacekeeping mission early on. In order to save face with the international community, the country requested that the U.S. also pull its troops out. We did.
At the time, many observers stated that it would be largely impossible to deploy troops into Rwanda to quell the violence. However, by April 10th, troops totaling 8–10,000 had arrived from the U.S., France, and Belgium to pull out their expatriate populations. If they had stayed, the troops would have made a tremendous difference.
The U.N., which had been organized in part to prevent the atrocities experienced in World War II from ever happening again, was unable to act. I'm not sure if this was because of the U.S. or not. From the program, it seemed that the U.N. Security Council had largely wanted to assist in Rwanda, but I may have misinterpreted what was said about that. In the end, 90% of the U.N. troops were pulled out. Those that stayed were largely unarmed, yet were able to save many thousands of lives just by keeping their eyes open (and, in some cases, doing things that were morally right and just, but technically broke the rules of behavior).
The inaction in Rwanda is partially understandable in the context of Somalia, where the events of Black Hawk Down had taken place just a few months earlier. Still, there had been troops on the ground in Rwanda. The international community failed to act—countries even intentionally acted to get out of the way. The U.S. purposefully avoided even using the term “genocide” until it was too late.
The United States has a tremendous moral and ethical debt to repay to the world. In 100 days, 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutu were killed in the genocide. Individual sites such as churches saw death tolls of over 5000 where people were killed face-to-face by machete and machine gun.
September 11th is piddle.
It's time for Presidential Daily Brief Fill-in-the-Blank!
Here are my guesses based on the length of nearby text strings in the document (plus the fact that the second one was an “an” rather than an “a”).
told followers he wan
a British intelligence
exploit the o
te some of the more s
a Spanish intelligence
But, I really have no idea.
I listened to a few of the most recent episodes of This American Life today. The first two were really good, though I didn't really feel comfortable with the third one. I guess the first two were somewhat interrelated, since they deal with the current political climate. Actually, the only part of the third episode I liked had a political bent to it.
Episode 260 was largely focused on dissecting the court case that the Bush administration has been using to assert that they have the ability to hold Americans in this country who are accused of being enemy combatants. Back in World War II, the Nazis landed two groups of people in Florida and New York who were supposed to sabotage the aluminum industry in the months after the U.S. entered the war. One of the people was an American of German descent who found himself in Nazi-held territory when Germany declared war on the United States. The story goes that he just wanted to get home, so when he was given a chance to be part of an operation that would bring him to America, he took it. Anyway, he was tried in a secret military court. An appeal was made to the Supreme Court, requesting that the case be tried in regular criminal court, but the justices were pressured into quickly giving an opinion without any supporting arguments.
There's also a look inside the Zogby polling operation later in the episode, which kind of tells you what you already knew, but often forget.
Episode 261 is TAL's response to the whole gay marriage debate, though they handle it by spending more time examining the more traditional version. Adam Felber has a good little satirical story, which pretty much sums up the whole thing for me, and shows how the whole debate has been blown out of proportion for the most part.
The final episode I listened to today was pretty weird. The main story was not something I could identify with, though it's necessary to listen to it at least a bit to fully understand the title of the last story, which was much more interesting to me. Always good to know that the pharmaceutical companies seem to be charging about 40 times what they need to be on certain drugs…
I don't really agree that the Iraq war is protecting our country and our rights, but whatever.
John Troyer's column about a future American civil war is something important to think about. I've been getting an increasing sense that civil war is possible, though I doubt it would be likely. Our country is averse to sending large numbers of people to die.
At any rate, he's right to say that the wounds never fully healed after the first civil war. In many ways, it was still being fought 100 years later, and probably still is today. The Wikipedia article on the origins of the American Civil War describes many things that have parallels today. Of course, the Democrats and Republicans seem to have swapped ideals and allegiances since that time. Many similar tensions seem to be in place today, so I get a little worried from time to time.
Of course, this is not helped by media outlets that often seek conversation by idealists and zealots who have widely divergent viewponts on issues, rather than talking to people who are somewhat less out on the edge. The idealists and zealots should get their fair share of time, but when the public only sees these distant edges of the spectrum, things get very messed up.
I suppose that's why I respect shows like Frontline and Nightline. They talk to the people on the extremes, but also leave enough time to fill in the gradients in between. At least that's how I view them. I suppose others have different perceptions—conservatives still like to call PBS a “notoriously liberal network.” Okay, the artsy/indie shows and NOW with Bill Moyers could be classified as fairly/very liberal, but don't forget that this is the American home of Antiques Roadshow. If PBS is considered the great bastion of liberalism in the same world that plays host to Fox News Channel, someone has a broken calculator.
I kind of feel like I've been thrown into the universe of 1984. I could have sworn that Minnesota went Democratic with a significantly wider margin in the 2000 election. My recollection was that Gore got about 55%, Nader 5%, and Bush 40%, but that's not what the MN Secretary of State's website says. Maybe I just stopped tracking the numbers early and the late returns shifted things a lot. This doesn't seem like it should be a purple state.
An interesting note made in Frontline's “Jesus Factor” show last night is that the best predictor of whether people voted for Bush or Gore in the last election was the frequency at which they attended church. People who went at least once a week were more than 2/3 likely to vote for Bush.
Oh! Oh! You remember that Faith-Based Initiative plan? Turns out that the government is so far only supporting Christian and interfaith organizations, no synagogues or mosques or temples…
I did a walkabout today. Probably 16–20 miles. After today's TCLUG meeting, I went and got some lunch at Quiznos. I walked almost continuously from about 2:30 until about 8:00. I stopped in for a Blizzard at the DQ near Minnehaha Park and stopped in at a gas station later to get some beverages for the walk, but I mostly just walked.
The Grand Round goes all the way around Minneapolis. I probably only got about ¼ of the way around before I had to head back toward my apartment. It's a really long parkway. Anyway, the edge of my journey was Minnehaha Park, where I saw the falls and the creek. I guess I didn't think the falls were quite as high as they were, but I think we Minnesotans get a little too worked up about that place. I'm not sure it deserves so much attention, but the park has been around for ages. If memory serves, there is a statue of Hiawatha and Minnehaha (his love interest in The Song of Hiawatha, IIRC) that was erected in 1911. I saw a WPA marking at one point in my journey along the Mississippi.
Well, I'm going to be sore for about a week. We'll see if I can manage to climb the stairs to get out of my apartment building tomorrow.
I was pretty amazed by the size of Minneapolis as I went along on my trek. Walking really gives you a strong sense of the size of things. There are so many people in this city. I saw all sorts of different people too; white, Hispanic, Somalian, Asian, etc. I can't say if any community along the path I took was well-integrated or not, but I couldn't really tell where one population ended and another began.
There were a few signs here and there on people's lawns. Most of them just said “Peace” or something else pretty simple. A few “Say no to Bush” signs. I don't think I saw more than one that was remotely pro-war, but maybe some of the “Peace” signs were meant to proclaim something like “My Peace while You're in Pieces.“ I have no way of knowing. I'd hate it if anybody felt that way.
Anyway, I'd encourage people who live in big places to do things like that every once in a while. It's easy to forget just how big our world is sometimes.
Still, it wasn't as fulfilling as it could have been. I was happy to be seeing new things, but really sad that I wasn't sharing it with anyone.
I should try out Meetup.com and see if I can get together with some people who are interested in something that I like. Of course, I'd like a girl out there somewhere to share my ideas, but I don't know if any of these things I'd try to go to would be helpful at all. Can't hurt to try, I guess.
Well, I'm extremely tired now. I'm going to go take a shower and get some sleep.
I'm a little slow at connecting the dots sometimes. I watched The Jesus Factor last week, like I mentioned, but an idea is now creeping into my head (kind of instigated by what I heard today on The O'Franken Factor).
George W. Bush has said that he believes God wanted him to be president. I'm thinking that this belief has heavily influenced the fact that he does not take much input from others on important issues when he is making decisions. In a backward way, this makes sense. If you believed that you had been granted a position of power by God, then you might also believe that God had given you all of the knowledge you needed in order to succeed.
Of course, this doesn't really explain the other higher-ups in the current administration such as Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and John Ashcroft also don't seem to give a rip about silly little things like facts.
It's interesting that the John Kerry/George Bush war record thing finally seemed like it almost was about to start to collapse in on itself when new war crimes in a new war suddenly appeared last week. Seemed to make the discussions sort of backwardly relevant. Sort of.
Hmm. I know I wanted to say something else, but I've gotten distracted.
Not a whole lot has been happening, mostly just watching TV and movies, and applying for jobs. Today I had to go pick up Erik at the airport, after he came back from an interview in Washington state. Sarah IMed me around 10:30 or 11:00, but the only info she had was the time he expected to be ready to be picked up (she couldn't do it because she was doing CPR training). He didn't respond to any phone calls, so he must have been in the air already by that time.
Well, I got down there alright, but it turned out that I was at the wrong terminal. He must have flown Sun Country or something, since he had to be picked up at the Humphrey Terminal rather than the Lindbergh Terminal. Oops. So, I swung through Lindbergh one more time, since I wasn't sure if there was a quick exit from there down to Humphrey (there may have been, but I don't know where it would have been). So, I got back on the highway and got off at the right exit, but I've never driven to Humphrey before, and I've only ever been there about three times in my whole life—sometimes late at night, so I had few spatial references. Anyway, I ended up messing up my maneuvers a few times just because I was anticipating having to do things before I really had to. Then, I accidentally took a turn toward Lindbergh again. No! I hate it when I'm forced to drive like I don't know where I'm going.
Anyway, I finally made it there, and it probably would have been a lot easier if I just hadn't tried so hard to be ready for the unexpected. Then, there was the escapade of getting back to Erik's place. Well, Sarah called asking for an update just a few minutes after we left the airport, and then I missed the turn I wanted to take just as I picked up the call (See!? Driving and cell phones don't mix—except when you're trying to get pic up someone who is at the wrong terminal ;-)
Well, I'm not even sure if you can get from northbound I-35E to westbound I-94 anyway. We ended up taking U.S. 52, since I know that road, but we had to wait as traffic was backed up at the point where that road essentially ends to become surface streets. Things went okay on 94, but I got off on 280 and then improperly took the Energy Park Drive exit. D'oh. So, back to Minneapolis and up to Como (which we wouldn't have had to do, if the traffic hadn't been so heavy on that road too). Oh well, I guess I gave Erik the grand tour, which will be good for posterity, just in case he gets that job in Washington.
I went out for an evening walk today around the St. Anthony Falls trail loop and Nicollet Island. It was really nice until the mosquitos started biting a bit, but they didn't show up much until I was about ready to be done anyway.
The walk was made a lot more enjoyable by the fact that I've indulged in watching some DVDs starring my favorite female celebrity. I've written before about how just seeing or hearing someone I find attractive can really calm me down and make me happier. I think I really needed that, at least now that I think about how low I was feeling last weekend. Still, it is and will remain as one of those intangible things, since this is a person I'll never meet.
She was in the war movie We Were Soldiers a little bit. Probably not enough time to justify if it was a crappy movie, but I thought it was good, even though there was no single concise message it tried to portray. It's mostly just a movie about a battle plus a little bit about the families the soldiers left behind. It's a good movie if you just want to see how things happened, but not so good if you want a movie that answers the “why”s of war.
Today, Netflix delivered the first disc of the TV show my favorite celebrity was on. I'd actually added this to my queue and pushed it near the top of the list over the weekend when I was feeling down, since I knew it would help in a weird way. It's emotionally wrenching and draining sometimes, but it's also good since it shows that at least someone else in TV land understands that good, honest, yet quiet people like myself actually exist. Well, not that I'd ever be picked out of a lineup for my good looks or anything…
Unfortunately, there are some semi-technical issues with the DVDs, so I guess I'm glad I didn't follow the impulse I had over the weekend to just go out and buy the first season or two. Some of the music was changed (though I might not notice—it may have been changed already in reruns, which is where I first watched the show) and the video was not telecined properly for DVD distribution to make most video frame progressive-scan. That's kind of dumb, since a telecined TV show can take up significantly less space on the disc, either allowing a higher per-frame bitrate, or more video on each disc. Oh well, fortunately my DVD playing software has a video filter that will clean it up for me and give me nice non-interlaced output.
Hmm. I guess I may as well mention that, while I was walking around this evening, the voice of Ira Glass of This American Life popped into my head. A second later I thought, “You know, I bet my favorite celebrity would like that radio show.” So, I got home and was randomly reading articles about said person, and found out that she indeed listens to the show. I've decided that I won't make anything of it other than say, “Heh. That's funny,” since, well, millions of people like that show.
Oh, also, my brother is living in a place owned by someone Erik knows (and I suspect that other people I know may also know her). On our screwed up drive around town, I pointed out the road my brother lives on, and Erik said that his friend Vanessa owned a place there. I think I may have met her way in the past too, but I can't really remember. She seemed familiar when we met.
I was flipping through the channels last night, and, as sometimes happens, I ended up watching a pretty fascinating seminar on C-SPAN. The speaker was Thomas Barnett (or Thomas P.M. Barnett when he wants to act all hoidy-toidy), who has worked as a military consultant and more recently has been a professor at the Naval War College. It was actually recorded in mid-summer, originally partly for the promotion of his book, The Pentagon's New Map.
Anyway, there was a lot of interesting stuff, much more than I can squeeze into a reasonably-sized space on my website. Which is why he wrote the book, I suppose. He had written an article for Esquire in early 2003 that outlined many of the same ideas. Of course, that was the time of “Mission Accomplished” rather than “Mission Continuing,” though he did take a realistic view and recognize that keeping the peace in Iraq would be a long-term thing:
Taking down Saddam, the regionís bully-in-chief, will force the U.S. into playing [the Leviathan] role far more fully than it has over the past several decades, primarily because Iraq is the Yugoslavia of the Middle East—a crossroads of civilizations that has historically required a dictatorship to keep the peace. As baby-sitting jobs go, this one will be a doozy, making our lengthy efforts in postwar Germany and Japan look simple in retrospect.
Part of Barnett's way of viewing the world is doing the fairly basic job of drawing an outline around the places where there have been significant conflicts or stand-offs in the past decade. Not surprisingly, it includes most of Africa (excepting South Africa, which is still not the happiest place in the world, but has stabilized considerably), a good chunk of the Carribbean and Latin America aside from “the ABCs” of Argentina, Chile, and Brazil, and then a band of countries stretching westward from the Mideast and Africa into southeast Asia and Oceania (it looks mostly like Indonesia to me).
For the most part, the countries outlined there do not interconnect with the rest of the world very significantly other than being sources of raw materials for the industrialized world. He noted in his C-SPAN talk that investment in actual goods from the Middle East (not oil) has gone down in the past two decades. There are several other patterns that appear in this region, which Barnett calls the “Non-Integrating Gap” or just “the Gap.” Per-capita income is generally less than $3000. Disease (including the big one, AIDS) is often rampant. The narcotics trade is widespread.
Some of the big countries (well, “big” is relative) that he left out are kind of interesting. Many are what he would consider “seam states,” which are kind of the buffer zone between the “Functioning Core” or simply ”Core” countries. India and Pakistan remain tense and have issues, but they've become largely integrated in the rest of the world. China has also been considered as the new big bad mo-fo for a long time, but he figures we can essentially buy them off of the idea of starting World War III (or IV, depending on what you count, I suppose). They've also become major players in the world economy, and they probably don't want to jeopardize that.
The only non-functioning state that Barnett said was outside of this Gap is our good old friend, North Korea. Barnett mentioned that around the time the Iraq war was warming up, Kim Jong-Il popped up and basically said “Hey! Look at me! I'm still crazy!” I wonder if he stole that line from Jon Stewart ;-)
From what I could understand, Barnett is advocating basically using the containment strategy we had for the Soviet Union during the Cold War and using that to progressively shrink the Gap region. Set up military bases in and make strong treaties with the seam states, encouraging investment, which is the real motivator for change—not actual use of our guns and bombs. It seems to me like a reverse Domino Effect.
Kim could potentially cause trouble, distracting the U.S. from filling in the Gap, but we've been sitting on his fence for the past 50 years and he doesn't really seem to be going anywhere soon.
Barnett also recommended essentially splitting the military into two pieces, a warmaking component he dubbed “the Leviathan,” and a peacemaking component with a “System Administrator” role. For the Leviathan, you want the soldiers to be, “young, male, and a little pissed off.” On the peacemaking side, people would be a little more settled, more educated, and the force would be more gender-balanced. The two forces would have significantly different partners when they did their jobs, too.
The Leviathan force would work with the other big militaries of the world, Britain, France, Canada, and so on—after all, there are few forces on the planet that can keep up with the pace of the U.S. military.
On the other side, the peacemaking force would work with smaller militaries, often regional ones since a lot of forces around the world can't really project power at the distance we can. It seems to me that this is the military that many people want, since forces engaged in that type of action (or inaction, sort of) are more interested in staying in the military long-term. People enjoy helping out more than they like killing—not really surprising. It's certainly an idea I'd support whole-heartedly.
However, he suggested that the Marines be associated with that force, to act as the “teeth” or guard dog. He actually made a reference to that when talking about the Marines, with a line something along the lines of, “A marine is like my terrier. Every day, he wants to get up, dig a hole, and kill something.”
Anyway, I've written way more than I should have, but I really think this guy is a smart cookie. I won't be surprised if his ideas essentially become the bible of the U.S. military through the next several decades. Also, his vision isn't really incompatible with the pacifist in me (who am I kidding—that's all of me). I've always felt that getting rid of terrorism is fundamentally an issue of making people's lives better, rather than trying to kill them. 95 to 99% of this wouldn't require big military action. It's building partnerships, trust, investment, and economic security, not blowing shit up.
He's expecting a moderate bounce in book sales, and not without reason. I'm thinking of picking up a copy.
Hmm. Since I don't think the KSTP video of explosives in Iraq is getting around enough at the moment, I'm linking to it. Maybe Blogdex will pick it up, though I doubt they hit my site ;-) Oh, for people who want to get around the annoying scripting on the site that tells people running browsers other than IE to go away, this links directly to the video (thanks to skywayman).
Hmm. Another October surprise. The new bin Laden tape is the major story today, and people are already forgetting about the explosives it seems. The media is following the bouncing ball, probably because bin Laden is easier to report on than the explosives story, which actually takes effort. Oh well, the thing will probably be a wash anyway, since on one hand it will remind people of terrorism, but it will also remind people that Bush didn't manage to find bin Laden.
I know I'm not the only person who dislikes the British use of "quit" as a synonym for "exit" (also four letters and only 50% different!) or "leave". Usually this shows up in headlines for articles from Reuters or the BBC. Here's one from The New York Times: Africa Monitors Threatening to Quit Sudan (here's BugMeNot if you need it).
And the big news for tonight is… The next Indiana Jones movie will hit theaters in May 2008!
Oh, and the 57,629th Iraqi since the March 2003 invasion died tonight. Whoopty-doo. (Actually, the number has got to be higher than that since it's just +1 from the civilian count at iraqbodycount.org and doesn't include military numbers…)