Archive for October, 2005

Republicans and their “principles”

Friday, October 28th, 2005

E.J. Dionne’s Washington Post column today points out the crushing hypocrisy of the Republicans vis-a-vis Supreme Counrt nominations and just about everything else.

Bush single-handedly undercut the conservatives’ long-standing claim that the Senate and the rest of us owed great deference to a president’s choice for the court. Conservatives displayed absolutely no deference to Bush when he picked someone they didn’t like. The actual conservative “principle” was that the Senate should defer to the president’s choice — as long as that choice was acceptable to conservatives. Some principle.

Conservatives condemned liberals who suggested it was worth knowing how Roberts’s religious convictions might affect his judging. But when Miers started running into trouble with conservatives, the Bush administration encouraged its allies to talk up Miers’s deep religious convictions to curry favor among social conservatives.

The willingness of conservatives to abandon what they had once held up as high and unbending principles reveals that this battle over the Supreme Court is, for them, a simple struggle for power. It is thus an unfortunate reminder of the highly unprincipled Supreme Court decision in 2000 that helped put Bush in the White House. Conservatives who had long insisted on deference to states’ rights put those commitments aside when doing so would advance the political fortunes of one of their own.

Registration is required to read the whole thing.

Grandchildren: more powerful than wives

Thursday, October 27th, 2005

Jon Carroll has written about his granddaughter quite wonderfully over the years. He recently abandoned the “WPMG” ( World’s Most Perfect Grandchild) sobriquet and gave her the pseudonym “Alice.”
Last month he wrote about taking her to the do-it-yourself coin-op car wash.
Today, they’re back at the Car Wash:

Now, here’s the confession I must make — before I started spending afternoons with Alice [the artist formerly known as World's Most Perfect Grandchild], I was not so big on washing my car. I know my lack of care detracted from the resale value of my automobiles, in addition to embarrassing my wife and friends, but I just … you should see my office. I just don’t have the love of neat that is frequently touted as a necessary character trait. I started cleaning the inside of the car only after Alice started giving me grief about it.
Grandchildren: more powerful than wives. No one mentions that, but it’s true.

Read the whole column.

Debra Saunders on the failure of anti-pot laws

Tuesday, October 25th, 2005

San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra J. Saunders, who is usually a really annoying right-wing snotrag, does okay on a few issues. To wit:
The failed war on pot users

IN 2004, law enforcement officials arrested 771,605 people for marijuana violations, according to federal statistics. Bruce Mirken of the Marijuana Policy Project was so alarmed he sent out a press release noting that there were more arrests for marijuana charges than all violent crimes combined. The number of arrests for possession alone was 684,319.
Said Mirken of the 771,605 statistic: “This is, in fact, an all-time record. This number of arrests is the equivalent of arresting every man, woman and child in San Francisco.” Some 40 percent of Americans say they have used marijuana or hashish in their lifetime, and 34 percent of high-school seniors say they have used marijuana in the last year — even though the last decade has seen a huge spike in marijuana arrests, according to federal research. When the number of marijuana arrests exceeds the population of some states, the country should be asking: Does it make sense to keep millions of otherwise-law-abiding citizens on the dark side of the law?

Read the rest.

Hotel-room coffee

Friday, October 21st, 2005

How is it possible to make something as vile as this material they call “Smart Roast Coffee” in my room at the Holiday Inn Express? Does no one complain that it tastes nothing like coffee, manages somehow to be both bland and bitter, and seems to offer very little in the way of that caffeine kick that one would think is the reason for making it available?
It’s not just this hotel (in Live Oak, Florida). It’s in every Holiday Inn Express I’ve stayed at in recent years.
I like the Holiday Inn Express, for the most part. And the weird thing is, the coffee they serve with the free breakfast downstairs is, well, acceptable. (The food at in those breakfast rooms doesn’t do much for me, but I’m used to that.)

Stunning words from The WELL

Thursday, October 13th, 2005

My online home is The WELL. It was one of the first online communities, formed long before the World Wide Web and the Internet made communication instantaneous and broadband. it’s just words – no pictures, no movies, no animated emoticons. Everyone is there under his or her own name, so we are not plagued with the vicious drive-by character assassination that plagues so many public conversations.
The WELL (originally an acronym for “Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link”) was created by the Whole Earth Review people and NETI, vendors of the conferencing software upon which it stood. I went there in 1985 to start a Deadhead community that survives to this day, but I quickly went “over the wall” and became part of many other groups that gather there. I co-founded the media conference, where media professionals and consumers of media converse knowledgeably about a great number of subjects. It’s a sort of collective blog, full of URLs and excerpts and expert testimony and passionate opinions. I am exposed to a lot more news and analysis through the media conference than I would if I were venturing out on my own into the vast cloud of information. It’s that great human information filter that people like Howard Rheingold posited many years ago.
Many of my deepest friendships are with people I met in the WELL, and the WELL is how we stay in touch despite problems of time and distance. In certain intimate, private spaces, relationships are forged and maintained that provide counsel, support, relief, storytelling, and other vital forms of contact. People in trouble get the material and spiritual support they need to get through it; people trying to change their lives get advice, contacts, and encouragement. I met my wife through WELL-mediated events (but not “in an online chat room” or any such bullshit).
Communities in the WELL have provided tremendous support to people I know who are suffering from illness, career upheaval, personal tragedy, etc. When my wife, Rita Hurault, was undergoing chemotherapy for lymphoma (since completed, and she has been cancer-free for more than a year), our online neighbors contributed in countless ways, both material and spiritual, to her healing. And we do what we can for others who are suffering now.
One of the truly amazing people I know in the WELL is Carol Adair, who describes herself as “a remedial English teacher whose brain explodes with words, with a lifetime of yellow notebooks, filled with words.” And what words!
Read this:

So all day yesterday, I was thinking about Joan Didion’s remark, “You
are obligated to do things you think are futile. It’s like living.” It
fit for some reason, with this conversation and I wanted to see where it went.

But Didion’s words got swept into a river birch by this from Nabokov.
(He’s writing about Gogol’s – pronounced ‘gaw-gol, apparently – short story, “The Overcoat”)

Nabokov writes, “It gives one the sensation of something ludicrous and at the same time stellar, lurking constantly around the corner – and one likes to recall that the difference between the comic side of things, and their cosmic side, depends upon one sibilant.”

My brain exploded at that sibilant. There’s a mild joke and then ……
Ssssss The machines stop and your child is dead. Sssss. A letter is
pushed under the door. Ssssss. Your partner takes a breath at the
message on the phone. Sssss The screen door slams against your love. Sasss. A beautiful, beloved child sucks on a crack pipe. Ssssss. the fourth wall collapses. There you are, naked, with some audience roaring at your surprise. One sibilant is just exactly the sound of a wind we are just learning to hear.

This is the sort of gem one encounters in the WELL, where real people
converse in a genuine manner about things that matter. it is a blessing to be in such company.
I asked Carol for permission to post her words here, because they
deserve to be read by as many people as possible and the original
audience was limited to a couple dozen friends.

Bush reserves the right to torture

Thursday, October 13th, 2005

From Molly IvinsOutrage of the Week

Sen. John McCain proposed an amendment to the military appropriations bill that would prohibit “cruel, inhuman or degrading” treatment of prisoners in the custody of the U.S. military.
This may strike you as a “goes without saying” proposition — the amendment passed the Senate 90 to nine. The United States has been signing anti-torture treaties under Democrats and Republicans for at least 50 years. But the Bush administration actually managed to find some weasel words to create a loophole in this longstanding commitment to civilized behavior.
According to the Bushies, if the United States is holding a prisoner on foreign soil, our soldiers can still subject him or her to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment — the very forms of torture used by the soldiers who were later prosecuted for their conduct at Abu Ghraib. Does this make any sense, moral or common?
So deeply does President Bush feel our country, despite all its treaty commitments, has a right to torture that he has threatened to veto the bill if it passes. This would the first time in five years he has ever vetoed anything. Think about it: Five years of stupefying pork, ideological nonsense, dumb administrative ideas, fiscal idiocy, misbegotten energy programs — and the first thing the man vetoes is a bill to pay our soldiers because it carries an amendment saying, once again, that this country does not torture prisoners.

“It Was Twenty Years Ago Today”

Sunday, October 9th, 2005

Richard Thompson in Portland 10/7/05

Saturday, October 8th, 2005

I’ve been a fan of Richard Thompson for years, but never saw him live until last night at the Aladdin Theater in Portland.
A bit of good luck got us in the door ahead of most of the crowd, so we had seats about three rows back. It was just Richard w/ Danny Thompson on bass. Before the show I stepped up to see what pedals he was using. one was a Line 6 delay modeler, and since I stupidly failed to write down what I saw I’ve already forgotten the name of second effects box. The third item appeared to be a tube preamp.
For some songs, he had a lovely warbling effect, thicker than a Leslie speaker. But for the most part, it was just pure guitar, played with awesome power, subtlety, and expression. And of course, I can say exactly the same for his singing and the songwriting. The set included “Vincent Black Lightning” and “When the Spell Is Broken”; I would like to have heard “Keep Your Distance,” but that song wouldn’t have been as spectacular in this setting as all the stuff he did play, so I am in no way disappointed by its absence.
I’m in the cult now, folks.
The opener was Griffin House, from Cincinnati. Not terribly impressive at first, but during the third song he kicked into gear and showed what he could do. Nothing particularly thrilling in the guitar department, but he had some fine songs and sang them very well. I bought both his CDs.
P.S. Henry Kaiser directed this adorable video for “Let It Blow” (from the new CD Front Parlour Ballads), which was also performed at the show.

What a marriage needs

Saturday, October 1st, 2005

This is another excerpt from Jon Carroll’s column in the San Francisco Chronicle. Sometimes Jon just nails something really important in a single sentence. Like this:

Maybe that’s what a marriage needs — both parties figuring they married up.

It’s from his column of December 17, 2004. Marriage is one of the subjects he does best. Here’s a longer excerpt:

I have been watching her covertly for 28 years now. I have been marveling at her presence in my life. I heard a good line in a bad movie: “I’m not in your class. I am so far from being in your class that, if your class were to explode, I would not hear it for three days.” That’s the way I feel; she’s out of my class, and yet here she is.
Maybe that’s what a marriage needs — both parties figuring they married up. There’s got to be a little shock and awe in any long-term relationship, lest it threaten to be routine. Of course, a lot of it is routine anyway, but not all. Just when it’s time to take out the garbage — a little shock, a little awe.