Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Big Ouch

Last Monday, I tumbled off my bike, seriously injuring my shoulder. We're taking pins, plates, possibly even a fork and spoon. I'll post more soon; suffice it for now to say that I am alive, and the long-term prognosis is good.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Linus Health Update #12

Linus was in earlier this week for a full battery of tests and his thyroid meds need to be upped. He was not a happy kitty. He was poked, prodded, drained, squeezed, and probed. He was very brave and put up with a lot. So he'll get some more blood tests in a couple of weeks, but things seem to be okay otherwise.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Bush in 'Nam

Ted Koppel has had the best line so far: "Thirty-five years ago he joined the Texas Air National Guard to stay out of Vietnam, and now he's going to Vietnam to stay out of Washington."
Not that Bush wasn't short on things to say. Upon arriving in Hanoi, Bush remarked to reporters that the lesson of the Vietnam war is, "We'll succeed unless we quit."
Does Bush real know...anything? I wonder what his Vietnamese hosts thought of that statement.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Dark Towers Diaries - Day Nineteen Ninety-Nine

To quote very fittingly from Star Wars, "The circle is now complete."
Roland has finished his quest to reach The Dark Tower, and I have concluded my quest to read all seven of Stephen King's The Dark Tower books in a row.
Book seven ends as Roland's band breaks apart. Some leave. Some die. And Roland alone faces the Crimson King at The Dark Tower.
No, wait. He's not alone. In fact. he's accompanied by someone he's met only in the last fourth of the book. It is this new character who defeats the Crimson King, although it is Roland who figures out how. (SPOILER WARNING: The previous sentence contained a major spoiler.)
This may be the only real letdown of the final book, how this new character comes in and plays such a vital role after Roland's faithful companions Eddie, Jake Susannah and Oy have moved on.
The ending may not please many people and King readily admits as much in his afterward, but he also notes that it is the right ending.
And it is.
I've enjoyed the last ten weeks with Roland and his merry band, and am saddened that there will be no more palaver with them. Mr. King, I say thankee, do ya ken.

Your Tax Dollars at Work: A Cautionary Tale

So a friend of mine used to work in a sign shop. Another fellow who worked in the same shop quit and stole 200 empty binders when he left. He moved down to Washington State.
My friend and his wife were going to drive down to Seattle for the weekend. But before they go, he decided to phone the guy up and see if he'll give back the binders as long as they are in the neighbourhood. The guys says okay. What's he going to do with 200 binders anyway?
My friend phones Canada Customs. He explains the situation and asks if will he need any paperwork to get back into Canada with the binders. No, says the friendly official voice on the phone.
My friend and his wife go to Seattle and have a weekend. On the way back, they stop and pick up the binders. Then they get to the border at White Rock.
"Anything to declare?"
"Yeah, I got these 200 binders that were stolen from my company, but the guy who stole them is giving them back so I went and picked them up."
"That sounds like a commercial transaction. You need to go to the truck crossing on the other highway."
So my friend turns around, re-enters the US and drives to the truck crossing.
"Anything to declare?"
"Yeah, I got these 200 binders that were stolen from my company, but the guy who stole them is giving them back so I went and picked them up."
"Okay, you'll have to fill an excise from in Building B across the Parking Lot."
My friend goes across the Parking Lot to Building B.
"Anything to declare?"
"Yeah, I got these 200 binders that were stolen from my company, but the guy who stole them is giving them back so I went and picked them up. The last fella said that I had to fill out an excise form here."
"Do have it?"
"Have what?"
"The excise form."
"No. I'm here to fill it out."
"Well, yes, you fill it out here, but you pick it up there at Building A, where you were to begin with."
So my friend heads back to Building A.
"Anything to declare?"
"Yeah, I got these 200 binders that were stolen from my company, but the guy who stole them is giving them back so I went and picked them up. You told me that I had to fill out an excise form at Building B. They said that I have to pick up the form here."
"Well, of course you pick up the form here. Didn't you know that? Only an imbecile would go to Building B without having already picked the excise form. Here you go."
With form in hand my friend returned to Building B.
"Anything to declare?"
"Yeah, I got these 200 binders that were stolen from my company, but the guy who stole them is giving them back so I went and picked them up. They told me that I had to fill out an excise form at Building B. Here is the form."
"Okay, good. Do you have the receipt for those binders?"
"I'm sorry?"
"The receipt for the binders. You can't fill out an excise form without a receipt."
"The friendly official voice on the phone said that I didn't need to bring any paperwork."
"He wouldn't have said that if he had known there was an excise form involved! You do have receipts. Don't you?"
"Yes," said my friend. "I'll go get them."
He walked back to his car, past the trunk full of binders and got in. He started the engine and drove away. After a moment, his wife asked, "Where are we going?"
"To get the receipts. They're on my desk at home."

Thursday, November 16, 2006

If It's Good Enough For The Juice....

With the world's most guilty innocent man OJ Simpson about to release a book call If I Did It, Here's How It Happened, describing how if he had stabbed and almost decapitated his ex-wife and her friend, here's how he would have done it, Marty Kaplan takes it a step further.
But OJ's ruse puts a whole new ploy in play. Imagine Rumsfeld writing "If I Committed War Crimes, Here's How It Happened." Plenty of juice, but no risk of international prosecutions. Rove could get a ton of dough for "If Bush Had Been Impeached, Here's What For."

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

When You've Lost Pat Buchanan...

... you know you've lost the right.
Our hawkish elites bemoan the fact that Americans seem ready to give up on Iraq when U.S. casualties are not 10 percent of those we took in the Korean War. That is because they do not understand the nation.
Americans are not driven by some ideological vocation to reform mankind. We do not have the patience or perseverance of great imperial peoples. If an issue is not seen as vital to our own liberty and security, we will not fight long for some abstraction like democracy, self-determination or human rights.
It is a myth that we went to war to save the world from fascism. We went to war in 1941 because Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. That Hitler had overrun France, booted the British off the continent and invaded Stalin's empire was not a reason to send American boys across the ocean to die.
In 1990, Americans were not persuaded to throw Iraq out of Kuwait until Bush 1 got to talking about Saddam's nuclear weapons. Even after 9-11, Americans were skeptical of marching to Baghdad until we were told Saddam was building weapons of mass destruction and probably intended to use them on us. Americans have often had to be lied into war.
Democrats are probably reading the country right. Americans will not send added troops to Iraq, as McCain urges. They want out of this war and are willing to take the consequences.
But those consequences are going to be ugly and enduring. That is what happens to nations that commit historic blunders.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Dark Tower Diaries -- Day Two Hundred and Four

I'm past the halfway mark of the seventh and final volume. My pace was slowed as I was home sick for a couple of days but had left the book at work. Them's the breaks.
Anyway, King is taking pains to make sure that this is the final volume. He's killed off two main characters in the last 100 pages. One can never be sure in Stephen King's world if a character is going to stay dead or not, but these deaths seem definitive.
King has also written himself back into the story, making his near-fatal traffic accident in 1999 a major turning point in the story. This is making me wonder how much of The Dark Tower series he worked out in advance. He mentions in earlier volumes pre-accident that he figures the series will run to six or seven volumes when completed. And he begins referencing "19" from the very first page of the book. Yet post-accident, he (the character, not the author) mentions that he had an outline, one of the few times he's done one, but lost it. And "19" ties in with the date of his accident. So it's all hard to know what's what.
The first part of the book ties up some loose ends from book five, and frankly, I was really uninterested in this part. Or it maybe I was just getting sick. Anyway, now that Roland and Jake have returned to help Stephen King, the book has picked up.
Only 412 pages to go!

Liberals Lead Without A Leader

The leaderless Liberal party is outpolling the governing Conservatives and Prime Minister Stephen Harper in every province except Alberta.
What else can you expect from a province that keeps electing Ralph Klein?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Coming Train Wreck

With Rummy gone and Bush on the ropes, with Democrats running Congress again, everything should be fine now, right?
Robert Jenson doesn't think so.
Here’s the unavoidable reality: Our train is on an unsustainable course in cultural, political, economic, and ecological terms. In a predatory corporate capitalist economy in an imperial state—a system that values the concentration of wealth and power, and devalues people—certain things are inevitable:

-- Our deepest values concerning justice and solidarity will be undermined by the anti-human values of capitalism and empire.
-- Truly democratic politics, in which ordinary people have a meaningful role, will be subverted by the concentration of wealth.
-- An increasingly fragile economy mired in self-indulgent deficit and debt, with an artificially inflated currency, will start to collapse when our military and political power are unable to keep the rest of the world in line.
-- The ability of a finite planet to sustain life as we know it will diminish dramatically in a system based on fantasies of unlimited growth marked by the glorification of domination.
The train moves forward, as the vast majority of Democrats and virtually all Republicans avoid these realities. Where can such a train take us? Pick your metaphor.

-- It could be that the train tracks end at a cliff, or
-- it might be that the train is heading for a brick wall, or
-- perhaps the train will derail along the way, or
-- maybe the tracks will simply end abruptly and the train will run into the ground.
If we don’t take radical action relatively soon, every ending we can imagine is likely to be brutal and violent, deadly not only for most of the world’s population but also for the non-human world. This isn’t irrational apocalypticism but a rational approach to the evidence in front of us. No one can predict how this will play out, but it will most certainly play out ugly unless we change the trajectory.

Anything for a Buck, eh Dick?

The lies, cheats, and crimes Dick, and George have committed have done what all lies, cheats, and crimes do -- they have led to more and more lies, cheats, and crimes, and now the misconceived nature of the whole enterprise is apparent to all. It doesn't matter at this point if they manage to steal the mid-term election this year or not. Iraq is such a mess that even Dick's friends and allies can't think of a way to save it or to clean it up. The Iraqis, I am sorry to say, have to pay the price, but at least they know who's to blame.
Iraq is not the point, Iraq is only the canary in the mine, giving voice to the coming cataclysm. Not even the US is the point, although since 1980, the Republicans have been pandering to the greedy appetites of Americans for driving big vehicles, arming themselves, and thinking themselves superior to everyone in the world. They have egged Americans on to destroying the world's environment for the sake of more and more goods, and now America is in big trouble. But empires come and go. Get over it.
What is the point is human survival. If Americans had started taking the meaning of oil dependence seriously in 1977, when Jimmy Carter asked us to, or had not ridiculed the idea of climate change in 1992, when Al Gore brought it up, we might have gotten a start by this time in reducing emissions, we might not be looking at one horrific disaster paving the way for another.
But we are. There aren't many tyrants in history who can truthfully say they put the entire future of civilization at risk just to make a buck and feel the power, but Dick Cheney can.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Bush 'n' Rummy

There's not much I can add to the well-deserved smackdown Bush and the Republicans received at the polls last night.
There's not much I can add to Rumsfled quitting either, except to say "'Bout time!"
But I will mention a couple of things about Bush's farewell to Rummy today.
While I won't mention that Bush told yet another lie when he told reports last week that Rumsfeld would be serve out Bush's term with him (Bush was already looking for a successor at that pont), I will point out that even the usual political hokum spewed at events such as these gets mired in obsfucation and half-truths when it comes from Bush.
First, he acknowledges that he "recognize[s] that many Americans voted last night to register their displeasure with the lack of progress being made" in Iraq. But golly, didn't he and the Vice President say like week that tremendous progress is being made there. Haven't they said that every day for the last three years?? But now, with Bush never having to the face the electorate again, suddenly there's a lack of progress being made there.
Is this a sign that Bush may try a new tactic like honesty? I don't know, that sounds like a crazy longshot to me.
Bush also said, "I thought when it was all said and done, the American people would understand the importance of taxes and the importance of security. But the people have spoken, and now it's time for us to move on." What Bush seems to be saying is that the elctorate don't understand the important issues, while presumably he does. Perhaps Bush doesn't understand that the electorate fully understands the economy and security issues, and that's why they gave him a thumpin'.
Then Bush talked about Rummy's replacement, Bob Gates and said "[a]s President Reagan's Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, he helped lead America's efforts to drive Soviet forces from Afghanistan." This is, of course, the exact opposite of what the CIA did in Afghanistan, where they in fact ran the largest covert operation in the CIA's history to get the Soviets into Afghanistan. The CIA funded and armed hard-line Islamic extremists in an effort to get the Soviet military bogged down and give them their own Vietnam. One of the extremists they funded was Osama bin Laden.
And we all know how well that worked out.


According to the New York Times, this is from a slide show used by the United States Central Command to track Iraq's descent into chaos.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

We're in Trouble. No Fish.

I remember a former BC Environment Minister saying that "there will be trees in the forest as long as there are fish in the sea."
Soon, we'll have neither. According to this story, fish stocks in the oceans will be gone - that's GONE!! - by 2050 unless we radically rethink how we live on this planet.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Neo Culpa

The Neo-cons who installed Bush and put invading Iraq on the agenda are now backing away from Bush as fast as they can, and laying all the blame as Bush's feet, not theirs. From Vanity Fair:
Richard Perle: "In the administration that I served [Perle was an assistant secretary of defense under Ronald Reagan], there was a one-sentence description of the decision-making process when consensus could not be reached among disputatious departments: 'The president makes the decision.' [Bush] did not make decisions, in part because the machinery of government that he nominally ran was actually running him. The National Security Council was not serving [Bush] properly. He regarded [then National-Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice] as part of the family...
Huge mistakes were made, and I want to be very clear on this: They were not made by neoconservatives, who had almost no voice in what happened, and certainly almost no voice in what happened after the downfall of the regime in Baghdad. I'm getting damn tired of being described as an architect of the war. I was in favor of bringing down Saddam. Nobody said, 'Go design the campaign to do that.' I had no responsibility for that."

This would be The Usual Neo-con Ploy: deny any repsonsibility for anything. (Also known as the Krusty the Clown Therom: Don't Blame Me, I Didn't Do It!)

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Bush's Last Gambit

This is funny. From The Onion....

The Iraq War is Over -- According to Army Recruiters Anyway...

ABC News reports the following:

An ABC News undercover investigation showed Army recruiters telling students that the war in Iraq was over, in an effort to get them to enlist.
ABC News and New York affiliate WABC equipped students with hidden video cameras before they visited 10 Army recruitment offices in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
"Nobody is going over to Iraq anymore?" one student asks a recruiter.
"No, we're bringing people back," he replies.
"We're not at war. War ended a long time ago," another recruiter says.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Who - Endless Wire

This week, I did something that I haven’t done in 24 years – I bought a new studio album by The Who. Recorded in fits and starts over the last four years, Endless Wire could have been an embarrassment, a lacklustre last kick at the can. Thankfully, it’s not, but neither is it a grand triumph either. It’s as good as the sum of its parts, it’s just that some of the parts seem to be missing.
The most obvious missing parts are The Who’s late and lamented rhythm section. With bassist John Entwistle four years gone and drummer Keith Moon’s death approaching its 30th anniversary, the survivors (guitarist and songwriter Pete Townshend and singer Roger Daltrey) have done away with the bass and drums altogether on some songs, offering a mix of acoustic numbers and mid-tempo rockers, followed by a ten-song mini-opera, Wire and Glass.
The album opens with Fragments, which starts with a deliberate re-stating of the famous Baba O’Riley synth riff, placing this album clearly in the pantheon of Townshend’s work associated with his early 1970s Lifehouse project, his aborted follow-up to Tommy that has driven much of his work since, including Who’s Next, Psychoderelict, and The Boy Who Heard Music. When the song starts and the band kicks in, we are in true Who heaven, glorious Townshend backing vocals supporting Daltrey’s unearthly growl. It must be noted that while Daltrey’s voice live has certainly lost its punch over the years, he lets it all out on this set of songs, sounding almost as good as ever.
Next up is one of those acoustic numbers, Man in a Purple Dress, a scathing indictment of organized religion, followed by one of those mid-tempo rockers (and one of my favourite tracks) Mike Post Theme. Next comes In the Ether, a solo by Townshend where he affects his best Tom Waits impression. Townshend thinks this is one of the best songs he’s ever written. Daltrey thinks it’s crap. The truth is somewhere in between.
Townshend’s tendency to pray in public continues with the songs Two Thousand Years and You Stand By Me, while It’s Not Enough is a great, glossy rocker.
Then comes the mini-opera. In some ways, Wire and Glass is disappointing not so much for what it is, but what it could have been. The plot, such as can be discerned, involves three kids who form a band, post their song on the “endless wire” (a concept that dates back to Townshend’s Lifehouse in the ‘70s and predates the Internet), have a big hit, and then the band falls apart. Somehow the character of Ray High from Townshend’s 1993 solo album Psychoderelict figures in this, too.
The good news is that the songs in the opera are terrific, great little hook-filled nuggets. The bad news is that they are only nuggets. Most of the opera’s songs are only 90 seconds to two minutes long, and end just as they get going. And that’s such a shame because so many of them are so darn good. Extended versions of two of the best, We’ve Got a Hit and Endless Wire, are included as bonus tracks on the CD and demonstrate just how good this could have been if only these songs had had a bit more room to breathe. Still, there’s some remarkable stuff here. Townshend is at his sarcastic best on They Made My Dreams Come True, while Tea and Theatre, another acoustic number, is a remarkable closer.
This is not the high point of The Who’s career, but it’s pretty good nonetheless. I look forward to their next album in 2030.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Am I That Terrifying?

Only three -- three! -- kids came by my house for tricks and treats last night. Jeez, six kids live on my block! What's up with that?
Admittedly it was unseasonably cold last night, around the zero mark during the prime trick and treating time, but still....
I'm starting tothink that Hallowe'en is now much more of an adult holiday than a kid's holiday.
At least I got all the leftovers....