Talkin' trash to the garbage around me.

31 March, 2007

¿Cuanta cuestes?

Last full day of vacation, and I'm missing my friends in PDX...
  • Learning to say "how much" in Spanish is only useful insofar as one can count higher than "diez." Taking French in high school was a mistake.

  • We took a water taxi to Yelapa, an absolutely stunning little village, on Thursday. We took a brief walk through the jungle to a little, mostly dry, waterfall, had the best food we've had the whole trip at the Vortex Café, and spent some time on a beautiful white sand beach swimming in water that was a gorgeous turquoise.

  • Many thanks to dave for recommending Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch to me. Not only is it a fantastic general primer on the English football from the late 60s to the early 90s (from the perspective of a die-hard Arsenal fan), but it's also a really touching - if not funny - personal memoir. My highest recommendations if you're looking for some nice vacation reading.

  • We ran into JE and TH on the beach yesterday afternoon. I particularly enjoyed watching JE and ms. wobs getting pummeled by a massive wave.

  • My world gets topsy-turvy come Monday.

  • We're off to haggle with vendors for gifts and souvenirs. Now would be the time for you to put in your order for cheap Mexican pharmaceuticals. You can still get 'ludes in Mexico, right?


28 March, 2007

Flotsam y Jetsam

Random notes from the tropics...
  • Vacations with a two-and-a-half year old may be a lot of things, but relaxing they ain't.

  • According to my decidedly unscientific observations, people were fucking like bunnies in the fall of 2003, given the massive number of people who claim to have two-and-a-half year olds around here. However, I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that only half of those are for real. The other half are trying to pitch you a timeshare.

  • My spanglish is improving, if the "conversation" I had with our housekeeper is any indication:

    Housekeeper: [knocks on door]

    Me: [opening door] ¡Hola!

    Housekeeper: [I think she was asking me if she could come and clean our room]

    Me: Uh... el niño... uh... siesta?

    Housekeeper: [I imagine she was asking me when she would be able to do it]

    Me: Uh... tres? [hold up three fingers]

    Housekeeper: [shakes head, tells me she's going home at three?]

    Me: Uh... mañana?

    Housekeeper: [I really have no idea - I'm wingin' it here folks]

    Me: Uh... qué?

    Housekeeper: [pantomines drying off with a towel]

    Me: Oh, towels! Sí, sí!

  • The margaritas at the more spendy restaurants have way more tequila in them than you get with the two-for-one specials most bars offer.

  • I ♥ lax public drinking laws!

  • I think saying one is from Oregon is code for "wants to buy weed" down here. I've been asked by locals where I'm from five times (all, incidentally, by people pushing timeshares), and when I mentioned I was from Oregon, all five of them offered to hook me up with some pot. I kid you not.

  • Hard-partying spring-breakers from USC make the worst neighbors possible. They come and go loudly in the middle of the night, leave vomit in all sorts of unpredictable locations, and are snotty assholes who make bratty comments about my kid. Hard-partying gay men, on the other hand, are the ideal neighbors. While partying thrice as hard as the college kids (if the roof lounge of the Blue Chair is any indication), they don't vomit in public, have the decency to keep the noise down after 9:30 PM (which I think is kinda early!!!), are super nice, and they absolutely adore l'il wobs.

  • While we're loving our time on the Playa de los Muertos, we're planning on taking a water-taxi to one of the more secluded, accessed by boat only beachs on the southside of the Bahía de Banderas in the next couple of days. I'm planning on taking a little jaunt through the jungle, and I think we're looking forward to being out of the city for a spell.

I can hear the surf lulling me to sleep. Until later...


25 March, 2007

Speak of the devil

I swear to god, no more than a minute after I hit the publish button for the last post, "Don't You Wish Your Girlfriend..." was fired up again. Jeebus.


Disaster in paradise

Well, hopefully the worst has now happened on this trip - hopefully. There's a reason I've never had a penchant for jewelries that can't be firmly attached through a piece of flesh. I tend to lose them, like this afternoon when I was playing in the surf. After being thoroughly pummeled, I came up, looked at my left-hand ring finger, and realized my wedding band was no longer there. I don't know that I've ever felt so hopeless, knowing that the ring was literally within a twenty foot radius of where I stood in four feet deep water choked with sediment.

It is literally the most expensive thing I've ever lost, but it's not really the cost of it that bums me out. That ring represents three years of marriage, three years of sentiments, three years of memories. And now it's buried at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, probably never to be seen again. At least by me. I suppose I'm a little comforted to know that someday, someone may stumble upon it, and it may give that person joy. But for me, I'm stuck with the knowledge that I'm a fucking idiot for wearing a piece of jewelry that could so easily slip off into the turbulent sea.

In the big picture, I suppose it's better that I lost the ring than ms. wobs or l'il wobs, but I'm still bummed.

Other than that, the vacation has been pretty great so far. The weather's been a tad on the cool side to this point, but will be up in the 90s by mid-week. L'il wobs loves being in an ocean in which he can actually swim without suffering hypothermia. I've gotten quite adept at saying "no, gracias" to the dozens of vendors who attempt to sell me trinkets everyday.

The condo we are staying in is located directly across the street from the Blue Chair Beach Resort which, according to the Lonely Planet guide, is the epicenter of Puerto Vallarta's gay resort scene, which is super-cool, except that hearing "Don't You Wish Your Girlfriend Was Hot Like Me" becomes less kitschy and more annoying around the sixth time you've heard it (and again, we're on day three, here).

Lots of nice folks around us, too. In the building next to us are a gang of college kids who only seem to stop drinking when the pass out (as we saw three of them at 6 PM yesterday on their balcony). Last night I made the acquaintance of one of our neighbors in our condo, a fascinating woman who is a senior civil servant at the EPA and who was a member of Al Gore's staff when he was VP. Her husband is a radical political cartoonist who's done artwork for several magazines (like The Progressive) and who is apparently behind a lot of the artwork for rallies and the like in the DC area (his nom de guerre is Fluggenock, for those who may know). I ended up chatting with the woman until late last night over margaritas.

As you can tell, I've figured out how to get 'net access - from the roof of our condo we can rip off the wifi signal of a neighboring hotel. And I've gotta say, blogging under a first quarter moon while the city glimmers around the bay and the rhythmic sounds of the surf (and of the karaoke drag show at the Blue Chair) fill ones ears is mighty, mighty nice.

It'd be far nicer if I didn't lose that fucking ring.

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22 March, 2007

Revolutionary nostalgia

Henry Rollins adds his voice to this very cool photo essay of the DC punk scene back in the 80s.



Larry "Bud" Melman
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Wuv, twue wuv...

Three years ago today, a very pregnant ms. wobs and I stood barefoot on the beach in Hawaii, hoping the rain wouldn't soak our marital vows, performed before a crowd of applauding balcony-bound vacationers. It's been a very, very good three years since.

I love you, sweetie.

To celebrate, ms. wobs, myself, and the wee one are taking a family vacay starting tomorrow way down south in Mexico way. So, after today, the noodle will go quiet for most of a week (barring my getting a wild hair up my butt and a handy internet café) while I sit on the beach, sip margaritas and Pacifico, and catch up on my reading.

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21 March, 2007

Cannon fodder

Dear god:
US commanders in Baghdad said today that they were investigating an incident in which two children appeared to be used as decoys to get past an American checkpoint in a car that was then blown up with the pair still inside.

This makes me ill. Can anyone argue that invading Iraq was worth the price in spilled blood after reading this?

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Would you like some cheese with that McWhine?

One day when I'm obscenely rich, I'm going to harass dictionary editors to remove words I don't like:
McDonald's Corp. is reviving its campaign to ditch the dictionary definition of "McJob," this time setting its sites on the vocabulary of Britons. The world's largest fast food company said Tuesday it plans to launch a campaign in the U.K. this spring to get the country's dictionary houses to change current references to the word "McJob."

The Oxford English Dictionary, considered by many wordsmiths as the gold standard for the English language, is one of those that will be targeted. It defines the noun as "an unstimulating, low-paid job with few prospects, esp. one created by the expansion of the service sector."

The word first cropped up two decades ago in the Washington Post, according to the dictionary. But executives at Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald's say the definition is demeaning to its workers and say theyll ask dictionary editors to amend the definition.

It's not demeaning to the workers. It's demeaning to the shitty, low-wage, no-benefit jobs for which McDonald's hires. Maybe instead of paying law-talkin' guys to write sharply worded letters to the OED, they should devote some of that scratch to transforming their corporate franchises into decent workplaces. But maybe that's me.

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15 minutes of fame that will haunt you for the rest of your days

What the hell was wrong with that little blonde girl in the audience of the show that shall not be named? Weeping over Sanjaya? Dear god!


20 March, 2007

Pardon my war for making your commute inconvenient

Want to know why the war in Iraq is still dragging on? From a combat veteran participating in a mock combat patrol of DC:
They called it Operation First Casualty -- citing the adage that truth is the first casualty of war. The premise of their guerrilla-theater incursion was that, for all the yellow ribbons and "support the troops" sloganeering, life goes on at home pretty much oblivious to what it's like for American soldiers and Iraqi civilians.

"When I got home, the hardest thing for me was realizing the war does not exist here," said Aaron Hughes of Chicago, who was a sergeant in a transportation unit that convoyed troops and supplies in and out of Iraq from Kuwait.

The response of a witness to the patrol:
"I don't know what they're doing, but they're in everybody's way," said Janet Ruck, a career counselor in Washington. Upon hearing an explanation, she said, "So they were intentionally getting in people's way. I don't think that people have lost touch or forgotten [about the war]. I don't think this is the way to get people to connect."

And god forbid their need to make Muricans aware that people are fucking dying every day in Iraq preempt teh American Idol...

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My new home page

Did you know that K-Fed (you know, the relatively sane partner in the Spears-Federline marital saga) is also heralded for his mad internet search skills? Marvel at the webpage that will kick. Google's. Ass.

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Spot on

ash is pretty on point in her judgment of Garrison Keillor's "kinda culpa". I would add to her remarks the pragmatic consequences of unexamined privilege: poor job performance. Garrison Keillor's job is to be humorous, but his inability to judge his own social location and that of his listeners affected his ability to make people laugh, or even smugly smirk.

Humor, like so much in our world, is nothing if not a reified social relationship. What flies as funny in one social context will fall flat in another. As a professional, we'd expect Keillor to know this. I've come up three possible scenarios about what led to Keillor's tin ear:
  1. I actually believe Keillor when he says he has tons of gay friends, and they make jokes about each other all the time. Keillor will call his gay pals fussy hairdressers, and they, in turn, will rib him as a frog-faced serial adulterer. Good times are had by all. I'm sure Keillor thought that since his witty bon mots were such a hit with his friends in Minneapolis, the rest of us would love them as well.

    Look, we all have in-jokes with close friends. A dear friend who lives in DC has a lesbian partner who is a middle school phys ed teacher - a stereotypical lesbian occupation - and we regularly make jokes about that. Would I ever address another group of people - maybe an audience I was writing for? - and then talk about all those lesbian gym teachers? Probably not. The in-jokes I have with friends are born from years of trust and understanding; they don't translate to wider audiences. Football players at USC have a similar problem - an in-joke that they had the poor judgment to take public burned them. The bottom line here: "in-joke" is short for "intimate" joke. Those jokes should probably stay between intimates.

  2. According to some accounts, Keillor's piece was actually inspired after seeing Dan Savage read a piece on a "This American Life" tour. Apparently, Savage himself made some of the remarks upon which Keillor riffed. Keillor's thought process may have been something like this: hey, a gay man is making jokes about owning little dogs and interior decorating! Hooray! We've come so far in this country that making fun of teh gays is fair game! Equality in humor! Of course, when these remarks are made by Savage, they come off as edgy, self-conscious parody, whereas when Keillor makes them, they come off as stodgy, All-American homophobia. Bottom line: it matters who delivers the joke.

  3. There's an alternate take on Savage being the inspiration for Keillor's piece, and that is that Keillor bears some sort of personal animosity towards Savage. If that's the case, this probably has more to do with Garrison Keillor being a world-class prick. I don't want to think that's the case, but it should be put out there. Bottom line: taking a personal grudge public through some puerile gay joke is just lame and unbecoming of a public radio treasure.

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There's your problem right there

Some time ago, I took umbrage with David Horowitz for singling out Willamette University as a den of leftist indoctrination, even with the green, gold, and Commie Pink state school sixty miles south harboring one of his most dangerous professors and sanctioning Jesus-with-a-Boner. I mean, who do we have to sleep with at the David Horowitz Freedom Center to get a little right-wing hate around here?

But I digress.

So I ask myself again, why Willamette University? Could it be because it's located directly across the street from the Oregon State Capitol, providing a nice piece of visual rhetoric for some red-faced Republican as he gesticulates wildly to that place, not of education, but of indoctrination, a stone's throw from where they deliberate during the debate on these monstrosities?

And if that is the case, should someone point out that Willamette U. is a private university, such that the state really has no business telling them what they can or can't have in their curriculum?

ABOR has come to Oregon, friends. Let's make sure this thing never sees the light of day.

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I'm guessing that by the time I'm down writing this, it would be about ten times the length of the post to which it was attached, so I'll respond to ash's thoughtful question here.

There's not one specific memory, but rather a stream of images which come to my head from over several months. Watching events unfold and thinking, "They really can't think that they can pull this off, can they? I mean, this can be stopped, right?" It just seemed so clear that they were hell-bent on ginning up a war, lack of a legitimate casus belli be damned. And it all folded methodically, step-by-step, for everyone to see, and a lot of people - freaked out by 9/11 - just let it happen, were convinced it had to happen. It was slow motion, surreal.

I remember a few days before the war began having dinner at the home of one of the professors for whom I had worked, and the five of us that evening just being depressed to the point of not being able to converse over dinner when the subject was broached. The overwhelming inevitability of the coming days was suffocating, it seemed to hang over all our interactions. For some reason, I remember a lot of dark humor.

I believe it was only a day or two into "shock and awe" when ms. wobs and I went to New York for Spring Break (my first post-9/11 visit to the city). One of the first mornings there we awoke to the sounds of helicoptors buzzing around the East Village: someone had crawled into the structure of the Williamsburg bridge, causing a minor terror scare. Die-ins were snarling morning traffic in Midtown. Breathless correspondents reported on the inexorable progress being made towards Baghdad, the road home went through Baghdad.

Geraldo Rivera showed everyone exactly what the plan was on cable TV. Jessica Lynch was rescued in a very special made-for-television mini-series.

I remember watching the fall of Baghdad on airport television monitors with ash, dave, NL, and KT on our way to Atlanta, feeling uneasy about the congratulatory backslapping and weirdly scripted, ritualized "topple the dictator" coverage. I specifically remember the images of the toppled statue of Saddam, and remembering images I'd seen of the fall of the Berlin Wall or the protests leading up to the Tiananman Square, and how the images I was watching from Iraq seemed so contrived in comparison.

The overall feeling from that time, for me, is just sheer disbelief. I honestly could not believe what was unfolding in front of me, that any pretense of even lip service to the ideals of some mythical United States of America were jettisoned in a paroxysm of techno-fluffed bloodlust. Given the current wreck of an administration we're having to lurch around with for the next two years (barring a massive spine transplant for Congress), I still have a hard time believing that the funhouse that was four years ago really occured. But it did, and we'll pay for it for a long time.


Punk Rock Monday

Welcome to PRM: Old Left Edition, featuring renowned British anti-folkie and class-warrior Billy Bragg. My first encounter with Mr. Bragg was in the seventh grade, when ninth graders introduced him to us as a novelty, someone who openly supported communism. It was cool for the shock factor at the time, being the mid-1980s in East Tennessee. I had no idea what the hell he was talking about then.

I was reintroduced to Billy Bragg in college and have since followed his music with sporadic intesity. These days, he's comfort music for my inner-unrepentant Marxist.

"It Says Here," a media critique:

Given the sentiments of the previous song, it would only be fitting to see Mr. Bragg's work used in Trotskyite propaganda films, like say, this one with the "Internationale":

Ah, grad students and their macs.

This Billy Bragg montage is actually pretty well done, and honestly, it tugs a little bit at the old heartstrings - "There Is Power in a Union"


19 March, 2007

Pins and needles

So I haven't been doing much in the way of content here for the last week or so, but it's not because I don't love you. No, no, no, far from it. Truth of the matter is, we're on the cusp of a Major Life-Changing Event in the wobs household, maybe. But we're waiting for the other shoe to drop, so most of my mental energy is going towards coming up with any number of imaginative scenarios which follow from the Major Life-Changing Event either occuring or not occuring.

Good times.

At any rate, sooner or later I'll either work out the obsessive mental speculations or the Major Life-Changing Event will take place, in which case it'll be back to the good times here at the noodle, which can mean only one thing: hardcore nudity.
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Flotsam and Jetsam

Loooong weekend...
  • The Ducks are going to have to play better in the first ten minutes of the game if the want to advance any further in the tournament, but we've got a few days to work on that. Until then, what a ride it's been!
  • I spent the majority of the weekend lifting heavy crap. We cleaned out the carhole, took stuff to the dump and recycling place, and hauled three cubic yards of hemlock bark (which I then had to shovel out of the truck and haul by wheelbarrow into the backyard). So, yes, you may have seen be tooling about town in a bigass, gaz-guzzling, Murican-made, green monster truck.
  • An hour in the sauna is far more satisfying after hauling mulch for three hours.
  • ms. wobs and I watched "Garden State" Saturday evening, which we both enjoyed. ms. wobs asked the important question, "Would you still be attracted to Natalie Portman if she was as crazy as she was in the movie?" The answer is an unequivocal yes.

Punk Rock Monday is going to be posted later this evening - after all that work this weekend, I kind of fell asleep a little early last evening.


14 March, 2007

Be very, very afraid

Glenn Greenwald has the low-down on a luncheon between Bush and his neocon Rasputins:
[T]he more unpopular the President becomes as a result, the more of a failure these policies are, the more strongly they tell him to ignore all of that, that none of it matters, that his God and history will conclude that he did The Right Thing, provided that he continues steadfastly to pursue their agenda. And the President believes that. That is why nothing will stop him in pursuing the path he created years ago when, in January, 2002, he became convinced to name not only Iraq, but also Iran, as standing members of the "Axis of Evil" (even though our relations with Iran were rapidly improving at the time) and cited the 9/11 attacks in order to all but vow war on those countries, despite their having nothing to do with those attacks. The President's "lessons" at the feet of neoconservatives continue, and he is as faithful a student as ever.

Read the whole piece. The delusions of this group of "scholars" are matched only by the willingness of George W. Bush to believe them.


What octane gasoline is Camille Paglia huffing?

Why, Salon, why? Why are you subjecting us to four pages of Camille Paglia's idiotic ramblings every month? Must we be subjected to someone who really believes this?
Of course, any Salon readers who still follow the mainstream media out of numbed habit will never have heard Hillary's most extreme flights of faux gemutlichkeit. All that Sunday, network radio news, for example, betrayed its liberal bias by running clips of only her noblest phrases. Heaven help any Republican who had made so lurid a gaffe! Fortunately, alternative media now exist: On his radio show that night, Matt Drudge ran huge, hilarious swatches of prophesyin' Hillary camping it up.

Paglia obviously missed the cable news network yuck-a-thon (documented here by Bob Somerby) that followed Clinton's statements. And are we to take her seriously when she holds out Matt Drudge as an example of a credible alternative media source, rather than as the right-wing shill that he is? The "liberal media" canard is sooooo mid-90s, Camille - but I suppose I should forgive you for wanting to wallow in the myths of the era when you somewhat approached relevance.

Why I continued reading after that gaffe is beyond me, but I did:
Hence my unhappy surprise when Edwards, who has an attractively comprehensive social policy and strong oratorical skills, was the first to pull out of the scheduled August debate moderated by Fox News. What is this morbid obsession that liberals have with Fox? It's as if Democrats, pampered and spoiled by so many decades of the mainstream media trumpeting the liberal agenda, are so shaky in their convictions that they cannot risk an encounter with opposing views. Democrats have ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, the New York Times, Newsweek, Time and 98 percent of American humanities professors to do their bidding. But no, that's not enough -- every spark of dissent has to be extinguished with buckets of bile.

Sigh. Here Paglia is either being contrarian (which is just obnoxious) or is completely oblivious to the fact that Fox News is a de facto PR department for the Republican Party, attacking Dems at every opportunity and passing on unfiltered RNC talking points as news. If the latter is the case, Paglia should probably dispense with the "I'm an intellectual giant" and "I'm a Democrat" schtick. Because really, if you can't see that it's not a good idea to grant legitimacy to a network that regularly labels members of your party as "traitors," I'm a little dubious of your ability to suss out the "deeper meaning" of popular cultural.
It is one of the many gifts of capitalism that are invisible to academic leftists, who nevertheless expect the light switch to work, their cars to start, and the grocery store to be constantly stocked with fresh milk, orange juice and produce.


Capitalism, which spawned modern individualism as well as the emancipated woman who can support herself, is essentially Darwinian. It expands any society's sum total of wealth and radically raises the standard of living, but it leaves the poor and weak without a safety net. Capitalism needs the ethical counter-voice of leftism to keep it honest. But leftists must be honest in turn about what we owe to capitalism -- without which Western women would have no professional jobs to go to but would be stuck doing laundry by hand and stooping over pots on the hearth fire all day long.

Jeebus! Paglia, of course, doesn't cite any of these "academic leftists" who refuse to recognize the many, many gifts of capitalism, but by way of rebuttal, it should be noted that the patron saint of academic leftists, Karl Marx, was very lavish in his praise of capitalism as the social force which helped liberate Europe from feudalism and built the greatest productive engines the world had seen. So let's stop with the very old, very tired "academics hate capitalism but want to revel in its riches" meme. No one fails to recognize what capitalism accomplished, but voices which point out the many flaws inherent in the current social structure are dismissed by blowhards like Paglia on the basis of a narrative that was stale ten years ago. And don't get me started on the teleological assertion that the liberation of Western women could only have happened in a capitalist political-economy.

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I'm not sure that word means what you think it means

This little throwaway graf at the end of the NYT's discussion of whether Colorado's newly-enshrined second state song, John Denver's "Rocky Mountain High," refers to the doobage or the delightful lack of oxygen at 9,000 ft caught my eye:
“It’s certainly going to appeal to a lot of young people,” Mr. [Richard] Grant [spokesman for the Denver Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau] said. “It’s just a cool thing to take a rock song and make it the official song.”

By positing that John Denver's mash note to Colorado is a rock song and will appeal to "a lot of young people," I believe Mr. Grant has shown that the Rocky Mountain High - whether its source be picturesque landscapes or piles of hash and cocaine - affects one's on-the-job performance.


13 March, 2007

Rorschach test

Dear reader,

What images pop into your head after watching this McCain ad?

First thing that pops into my head?
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Cruel fate, why do you mock us so?

Come for the absolutely hee-(haw)-larious amateur play-by-play banter. Stay for the stomach-constricting lesson on "shit happening."

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12 March, 2007

Flotsam and Jetsam

  • The boy and I took a nice trip to Waldport this weekend to hang with friends. Eight weeks of disciplined healthy eating were unceremoniously trashed in a 36 hour junk-food binge.
  • I took a quick paddle around Alsea Bay Saturday afternoon. Of note, a keel-less whitewater boat is damn near useless trying to paddle against the wind and tide.
  • On a sandbar exposed when the tide goes out, a huge pack of sea lions laid at rest. We decided to paddle close enough to get a good look. As we approached, two or three dozen of the critters pulled themselves into the water. As we drifted past, they were poking their heads out of the water and checking us out, disappearing if we maintained eye contact for more than a few seconds. It was very cool, if not a little eerie. I'm imagining this doesn't happen too much on the Potomac.
  • My nomination for Eugene's worst property manager.
  • Holy smokes, is the What It Is! boxset booty-shakingly awesome or what? It's been a while since my ass was so involuntarily moved to groovin'.


Dangerous liasons

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The diplomatic corps has long had the sparkle of international jet-set chic, but the Israeli foreign service has gone above and beyond in their devotion to decadence:
Israel has recalled its ambassador to El Salvador after he was found drunk and naked apart from bondage gear.


Tsuriel Raphael was found by El Salvador police two weeks ago in the yard of his official residence, according to Israeli media reports. After the officers untied and ungagged him, he told them he was the ambassador of Israel.

The foreign ministry spokeswoman said the reports were true but stressed Mr Raphael had not broken any laws. "We're talking about behaviour that is unbecoming of a diplomat," she said.

There's nothing wrong with a little tie-me-up play among consenting adults, although I'm certain that a little tie-me-up play in the front yard of the official residence of an ambassador qualifies as "behaviour that is unbecoming of a diplomat." Fortunately, Mr. Raphael's indiscretion pales in comparison to those of his peers:
The embarrassing affair is one of several involving Israeli diplomats in recent years.

In 2000, Israel's ambassador to France died of cardiac arrest in a Paris hotel under circumstances the foreign ministry refused to publicise. Media reports said he was with a woman who was not his wife at the time.

Last year, Israel replaced its ambassador to Australia, Naftali Tamir, after he said Israel and Australia are "like sisters" because both are in Asia and their peoples do not have "yellow skin and slanted eyes".

In 2005, Israel cancelled the appointment of a diplomat to Australia after it was discovered that he had published pictures of nude Brazilian women on the internet while on a mission in Brazil.

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Punk Rock Monday

ms. wobs, in her infinite wisdom, has suggested a St. Patrick's Day-themed PRM, and nothing says "Happy St. Patrick's Day" like a bunch of drunk, sweaty Irishmen with bad teeth. So, a wee bit early for the holiday, a bit of Guinness-soaked Pogues...

"Dirty Old Town"

Appearing with the Dubliners, "Irish Rover"

And finally, "London Calling" with Joe Strummer


09 March, 2007


While I'd like to spend some time picking apart Horowitz's latest blatherings based on cherry-picked syllabi (where, instead of looking like a shrewd critic, he comes off as someone who is over 50 years behind in the debates over epistemology and pedagogy), it's almost the weekend, and I really don't want to read any more of his inane ramblings. I did, however, want to ask a few questions about this:
The ideological claim that all gender differences between men and women, aside from anatomical ones, are rooted in social rather than biological factors and therefore can be shaped by human agency is a species of secular creationism, which is not only controversial but, as noted, flatly contradicts the findings of modern science, specifically evolutionary psychology, biology and neuroscience.

First off, I suppose that I'd dispute the notion that theories of social constructionism are "flatly contradict[ed by] the findings of modern science" (not to mention there are plenty of theories of social construction which attempt to account for biologically-derived gender differences).

Secondly, given that the proof of a completely biological source of gender (ignoring Horowitz's (quite conscious, I'm sure) unwillingness to separate the concepts of "sex" and "gender") is hardly unequivocal, does that mean classes in evolutionary psychology, biology, and neuroscience should discuss theories of social construction in their course work on, say, hormonal systems?

Read the rest of the piece and marvel at just how unsophisticated Horowitz's thinking is. It's as if Horowitz is rehashing (the losing side in) debates that were passé 30 years ago. But he's loud, and he's repetitive, and thus he's dangerous.

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Dude: Superspy

The WaPo has some nice cloak and dagger news today:
Paul R. Hall, 31, allegedly used his position aboard the USS Benfold and his secret clearance to forward details of the battle group's defensive capabilities and how the ships were going to cross the Strait of Hormuz in April 2001. Federal officials wrote in a criminal complaint that Hall -- who is referred to as Hassan Abujihaad throughout the document -- was contacting the Web site to order jihad videos and supported the terrorist mission of attacking American targets such as the USS Cole.

Let's hear from Mr. Hall himself:
In a recorded conversation, Hall played down his contact with the Web site, according to charging documents.

"I corresponded with an e-mail site," Hall allegedly said. "It wasn't nothin' top secret like these people are saying, you know what I mean? I was just talking about, like the Cole . . . whatever."

This brief statement is enough to convince me that despite his islamutheranist proclivities, he's your average American. Along with the classified material, I'm sure our nefarious mole was sending along messages like "usa is teh suXXXXXXor!!1!!!!111!" and "ubl is teh 60m6!!!11!! lol1!!11!1!"

Now perhaps you've heard the phrase "such a tightass s/he shits diamonds." Kinda describes federal prosecutors right on down to the cufflinks, eh? Feed Mr. Hall's statement to U.S Attorney (and all around good Irishman) Kevin O'Connor and marvel at the product:
"Abujihaad described a recent force protection briefing given aboard his ship, voiced enmity toward America, praised Usama bin Laden and the mujahideen, praised the October 2000 attack on the U.S.S. Cole -- which Abujihaad described as a 'martyrdom operation' -- and advised the members of Azzam Publications that such tactics were working and taking their toll," according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Kevin J. O'Connor's office in the District of Connecticut. The response from the Web site allegedly encouraged Hall's efforts.


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08 March, 2007

Hey, baseball fans!

Curt Schilling has a blog, and as far as the first two posts go, it's really enjoyable, especially his first Spring Training post. So long as he stays on the baseball talk and away from the politics, this should make for some good reading!

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07 March, 2007

When it rains, it pours

Wow. When the Pink Hand melted Michael Savage down, it melted him down good:
If I were a boy today, God -- thank God, I was born when I was born -- if I were born five years ago, I'd be a roving target for the mean-faced, clipped-haired psychopaths who run the NEA [National Education Association] and the school system -- the mean-faced, clipped-haired ladies of delight, who run the school system. They would have seen a little boy with bright eyes who didn't want to listen to their rubbish and their brainwashing, and they would have recommended Ritalin for me. That's the kind of world we live in. It's all mind control. It's an attempt to destroy masculinity in America.

The primary target of Ritalin are boys, not girls, incidentally. This is a radical feminist plot to destroy the boys of America. Now, if you don't like what I just said, that's too bad. It doesn't matter to me. It really doesn't matter whether you find what I said preposterous or not, what I just said is 100 percent true.

Ritalin is a conspiracy of greedy drug manufacturers, along with radical feminists, to feminize our boys, to pacify them and turn them into nothings, because girls are rarely prescribed Ritalin. You understand that, don't you? Did you get that? It's an attack upon masculinity. It's off the patriarchy.

I'd point out how batshit crazy that is, but you already knew that, didn't you?

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The Pink Hand has melted Michael Savage down

A non-sequitor to end all non-sequitors, Michael Savage ends a particularly menacing rant with this little bit of situationist spoken-word (provoked and captured by the good folks at Media Matters):
The culture is imploding like Chernobyl. It is melting down like Chernobyl, the Pink Hand has melted the country down. The Pink Hand has melted the nation down.

My friends, I give you: Art.

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Posted for no other reason than to post it playlist

As advertised:
  • I Got Rhythm - Louis Armstrong
  • One Endless Night - Jimmie Dale Gilmore
  • Paper Cuts - Nirvana
  • How Dark My Shadow's Grown - Bad Livers
  • A Visit from Drum - Liars
  • I Want to Conquer the World - Bad Religion
  • Changer - Stereolab
  • The Process - the Minutemen
  • Ballad of a Thin Man - Bob Dylan
  • Another Girl - the Beatles
And your completely meaningless outside of the context of this recurring blog feature bonus #11:
  • Rosebud - Ryan Adams


Making lemonade

As Eric Idle once sang, "Always look on the bright side of life!"
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Hats off to the gang at FOX News, this took some chutzpah!

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06 March, 2007

Cue the wurlitzer

The only thing more humorous than David Horowitz himself is the cadre of right-wing flacks he dredges up to provide him with cover. Take, for example, Paul Crespo, who "teaches political science at the University of Miami," and his "review" of Horowitz's latest pablum, Indoctrination U. One might be lead to believe that this is an honest-to-god "real" faculty member who is giving Horowitz's book a fair shake.

One would be wrong.

A little googling and one can see that Paul Crespo is little more than another right-wing shill:
He also writes regularly for Tiempos del Mundo (a Spanish-language Latin American weekly),, The American Enterprise Institute Magazine Online, and has written for the American Legion Magazine and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). He is a Phillips Foundation Journalism fellow for 2003-2004.

He is an adjunct professor at the University of Miami, and does have impressive professional and academic credentials. However, teaching does not seem to be his primary profession (unlike countless other adjunct faculty members who, instead of falling back on right-wing welfare, must teach six courses at three different universities in order to make ends meet), and as such, he's never had to enter the labyrinth that professional academics must navigate. While the short biography appended to the "review" is technically accurate - he does teach courses in political science at the University of Miami - the image that it is supposed to convey, that he's a seasoned academic who happens to agree with Horowitz, is disingenuous at best. Paul Crespo is a right-wing shill. A right-wing shill with the professional experience to teach about world politics, to be sure, but a right-wing shill nonetheless. And as such, it's hard to take him seriously when he dishes out tripe like this:
[A]cademic radicals with disdain for professional standards and intellectual pluralism have created a pervasive ideological agenda that violates the basic tenets of a democratic education.

On to his "review." Personally speaking, when I see the words "book review," I typically expect a brief summary of the book, maybe an excerpt or two, some interesting questions it raised, some problematic lapses of vision, some sort of sense of how well the whole project comes off. What do we get with Crespo? On the book itself:
A hard-hitting, well documented, and persuasive description of our dysfunctional higher education system, Indoctrination U. unmasks the leftist political indoctrination corrupting America's schools.

It describes how academic radicals with disdain for professional standards and intellectual pluralism have created a pervasive ideological agenda that violates the basic tenets of a democratic education.

The biggest culprits are entrenched primarily in the social sciences and liberal arts, but biased political rants can be found regularly in other faculties as well.

David Horowitz describes his ongoing battle to reform America's educational system by reviving the moribund standards and practices established decades ago, but mostly ignored today, to restrict political indoctrination and ensure academic freedom.


Indoctrination U. is an eye-opening book. It is a case study in the political warfare methods of the radical left and the campaign to re-establish an indoctrination-free environment on our campuses. It should be required reading for everyone concerned about the future of our country.

Those are the first four and the last paragraphs of the "review." Those are the only mentions of what the book might be about. The rest of the "review" is basically a mash note to Horowitz, as Crespo breathlessly details what a Great Man our hero is, and how that horrific abstraction called "the Left" is out to destroy him. In between his unsupported claims and his clumsy attempts at hagiography, Crespo just sounds out and out daft:
Horowitz told NewsMax, "My academic freedom campaign has been assailed by teachers' unions and the organized left and they have subjected me to vile character assassination similar to that used against other prominent conservatives."

He adds, "The purpose of these attacks is to destroy us and our reputations rather than deal with the issues."

He says, "But I'm just a little guy." Then he adds, "look at what they did to Larry Summers, the liberal president of Harvard. Summers tried to re-establish standards and a bunch of radical feminist and totalitarian anti-intellectuals got him fired."

The lesson, Horowitz argues, was "cross the left and they will destroy you."

Huh. I think I was a little too gracious in referring to Crespo's piece as a mash note. That would imply that he wrote it himself, rather than recycling Horowitz's own screeds. Anyways, given the persistence of Horowtiz's attacks on "the Left" - what would most certainly qualify as "crossing them" - he's yet to be destroyed. In fact, he's so swimming in that right-wing welfare that they named a "Freedom Center" after him!

And reading Horowitz's description of the Harvard faculty as "a bunch of... anti-intellectuals" is a little too much. The reasons for Summers' resignation were, of course, much more complicated than just his stupid comments about women academics, but Horowitz and Crespo never let reality detract from their talking points.

The "review" leaves me with no real sense that Crespo actually "read" Horowitz's book, which raises two non-exclusive possibilities:
  1. Horowitz's book is just a repackaging of his tired old talking points, so Crespo just had to troll those for a few choice quotes and, voilá! instant review, or
  2. Horowitz's book just plain old sucked and Crespo couldn't be bothered to finish it, opting to instead copy the front flap of the dust jacket

Whatever the case may be, Crespo has provided us with a shining example of how craptacular right-wing flacks typically are.

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I've got nothin'

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Nothing to add by way of insight into the Libby verdict except for a "woohoo!" and to note that I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby is the creepiest sumbitch I've ever seen. I'm talking X-Files creepy.


I may have been too hasty in judgment

In the previous post, I was pretty harsh on the rioting kids in Denmark, calling them narcissistic in their uncompromising stance to protect a symbol. Turns out, they may have been right:
Hundreds of tearful and angry protesters gathered outside a youth community centre in Copenhagen yesterday to watch as a hydraulic excavator tore into the building, bringing to an end more than 100 years of political history.

The "Ungdomshuset" or Youth House which once hosted Vladimir Lenin, has been the focus of street riots in recent days following the eviction of squatters from the building which has been sold to a rightwing Christian sect.


[I]ts importance as a place where political history was made goes back further. Built as a community theatre for the labour movement in 1897, it was here that both Denmark's women's liberation and trade union movements were founded. Lenin paid a visit in 1910 during the Socialist International Congress and it has played host to modern musicians such as Bjork and Nick Cave.

While not excusing the behavior of the rioters (or the police), Ungdomshuset's symbolic value becomes much clearer and the urgent desire to protect it more understandable. I have no doubt that the squatters felt a certain entitlement to the building that was problematic (comments on the YouTube thread associated with the vid in the previous post indicated that the squatters declined several offers to purchase the building), but there's no denying the very real symbolic importance of Ungdomshuset as a shrine for the Danish Left.

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05 March, 2007

In further signs of me getting older (updated)


It wasn't that long ago that I was "taking part" in mob violence (if by "taking part" you mean being present when the police meted out collective punishment while overreacting to a small, small minority of criminals/provocateurs), and I've typically been sympathetic to victims of police violence. In most cases, the riots are appended to demonstrations around demonstrably righteous causes.

I'm having a hard time being sympathetic to the rioting counter-culturalists of Copenhagen, lashing out at the eviction of squatters from the Ungdomshuset Youth Center - even if, as is the case, the law enforcement reaction is disproportionately violent. Maybe it's because they pretty much eschewed the moral claims of non-violent resistance with this video:

Maybe it's because they turned down a seemingly reasonable compromise offer (from the aforelinked Guardian piece):
What makes the whole thing even more ridiculous is that the squatters were offered an old school nearby as a replacement for Ungdomshuset. This offer was refused by the youths on grounds that it is the symbolic value of the original house that matters.

I flitted around the edges of the now-moribund local anarchist scene long enough to know that it was a combustible mix of serious community organizers, pie-in-the-sky ideologues, and anti-social criminals. In what I've personally observed, this manic, radical energy was brought to bear (with varying degrees of efficacy) on real problems - the inequalities inherent in neoliberal global trade regimes and forest defense, the two most locally pertinent.

With efforts being made by local governments to allow Ungdomshuset to continue its existence, albeit in a different location (and I have no idea how sincere those offers were), the claim that rioters are aiming to protect "tolerance" of the Danish counter-culture ring hollow (although I don't doubt that gentrification is also a driving motivation for the government). There's something to be said for providing a space for the counter-culture, especially one as institutionalized as in Denmark. It would appear to this relatively uninformed observer that such a space was provided. Is European anarchism now so hollow that they'll provoke a conflict with law enforcement over a symbol? Given the very real wars in the Middle East, the continuing degradation of the environment, and global economic inequalities that plague our common existence, this outburst seems incredibly narcissistic and utterly disconnected from the world's most desperate problems. Or maybe I'm just old.

[updated on March 5, 2007 at 6:32 PM]:The comments here provide an on-the-ground account and seem to confirm my gut instinct.

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Alas, poor Horowitz!

I'll leave the debunking of Horowitz's book-whoring FrontPage post to another place and time, but I just wanted to take a moment to draw attention to his endnotes. Now, I know that most folks will be dazzled enough by the superscript numbers in the text to ascribe scholarly legitimacy to any random diatribe, but don't you think Horowitz could have cited something other than items he either wrote or had published in one of his fora?

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Punk Rock Monday

And a very special PRM, at that, as I dedicate this to everyone's favorite avuncular uncle, a friend who has taken on so many important roles to me, but sadly, never the role of lover.

1987-era Descendents, "Clean Sheets"

"Suburban Home"

"I Like Food"

You can check out pretty much this entire show at Ye Olde You Tube.


Soak the rich

digby has struck the populist chord with me tonight. For the last six years, the GOP and its wealthy benefactors have thrown the nastiest orgy since the good lord rained fire upon Sodom and Gomorrah, and now they want to know who is going to clean the santorum off of the suede.

So let's tax the ever-living shit out of them. Really. Tax the holy hell out of the richest .1%'s income. We'll worry about the wealth later. Let's start here. And much higher rates for the wealthiest 10% as well.

Oh, and since so many of them were so gung-ho about the Bush wars when Chicken Little was a hero for those couple of years, since so many acted as enablers to this gang of paranoid delusionists, let's draft their children.

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02 March, 2007

Wherein I play the role of nefarious union organizer

Listening to the EFCA debates today, we got a kick out of the claim that union organizers refused to return cards to people who changed their mind. I got someone to sign a card today who then had second thoughts (the lamest second thoughts ever, but second thoughts nonetheless), and I returned his card to him when asked. I suppose this downgrades my status from "nefarious" to merely "bad."

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01 March, 2007

Profiles in douchebaggery

It's been a long time coming in adding Glenn Beck's name to our not-so-venerable list of world-class douchebags. I ignored his questioning the loyalty of an elected U.S. representative based on the Congressman's religion. I rolled my eyes at his smearings of Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama. I've even kept mum on his stupid, ill-informed racism. Not because his on-air statements weren't egregious enough for inclusion in the first place (they certainly are), but because, quite frankly, Beck isn't that great of a douchebag. Let's face it, in a media-world filled with shrieking right-wing outrage-aholics, you've got to really step up your game to be noticed by this little-read left-wing blog!

Well Mr. Beck, your time is now!
On the February 28 edition of his CNN Headline News program, Glenn Beck once again made sexually suggestive comments toward a woman when he hosted US Weekly's Dina Sansing to discuss racy photographs of American Idol contestant Antonella Barba. After Beck claimed that "[y]ou can't take stupid photos and expect those to be ... locked away forever," Sansing responded that it was "possibly" true and that "it depends." As the weblog Crooks and Liars noted, Beck then asked: "Dina, I've got some time and a camera. Why don't you stop by?" Sansing did not respond and, after several seconds of silence, Beck stated: "No? OK." As Media Matters for America has noted (here, here, and here), in each of the first three episodes of his CNN Headline News show in May 2006, Beck made sexually suggestive comments to CNN Headline News anchor Erica Hill, who was then giving daily news updates on Beck's show. Hill no longer appears on Beck's program.

You'd think that in the latter half of the first decade of the twenty-first century, "journalists" wouldn't be stooping to making sexually degrading remarks to their on-air guests. You, of course, would be wrong. Congratulations, Glenn - you're a certified, grade A, sexist douchebag.

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