Meta Debating Iraq with Kurt Andersen, Part II

Posted on July 4, 2007. Filed under: Humor, Iraq, Jokes, Main Stream Media, News, Politics |

The Great Pseudo-Debate
Meta-Debating the Iraq War with Kurt Andersen, Part I

I want to be clear that I’m focusing on Andersen’s piece because I care about this issue and because I share many of the same frustrations as he does about Iraq. This issue definitely needs to be debated. In short, his piece was a catalyst for me to write mine.

So what is bothering Andersen? If I understand him correctly it’s that the debate the presidential candidates are having about Iraq is, in his words, fake. The fake debate is “all about the comparatively minor, near-term details of the American military withdrawal-cum-redeployment.” The real debate, in his mind, begin when we all acknowledge that we are stuck in Iraq for many years.

Leaving aside what I think about that, it’s worth pointing out that the candidates debate as they do because of the way the party politics works in this country. At this stage of the presidential campaign, candidates pander to the most extreme members of their party. For the Democrats, these are the folks who would like to raise our taxes to the moon and lead us to nirvana. Those who oppose them will be sent to a penal colony where they will be taught to love and share. For the Republicans, these are the folks who want to crucifix and a camera over everyone’s four-poster. They want to live in a nation of door-to-door bible salesmen (“I’d like to talk to you a little about the Lord. [insert uncomfortably long pause] Is this a good time?”) and appoint Jesus as Secretary of Defense. If the candidates decide to ignore these folks, they won’t get nominated.

During the last presidential campaign, the Democratic Party choose Kerry when the “base” really wanted Howard Dean. Heroically but hilariously they choose a man who could pull off the amazing stunt of telling everyone exactly what they wanted to hear. Whereas Dean was blunt about his opposition to the war, Kerry was “complicated.” He was able to please the far left by talking tough about Bush’s management of war without committing himself to ending the war. It seemed to satisfy everyone in the tent, and it almost worked. In the end though, Kerry tripped himself up in his own rhetorical calisthenics (“I was for the war before he was against it”).

So the far left of the party held their noses and nominated Kerry, even though they were wildly against his politics. He was rich. He was a suit. He was an aristocrat. They had to keep from laughing when they saw him, dressed in a blue sport jacket, chatting up Iowan farmers in a diner about the price of hogs or seeds or manure. They wanted Dean, and if they couldn’t have him they would have happily exhumed Che’s body instead. They had to muzzle themselves and ask others to restrain them during Kerry’s acceptance speech. It was a selfless sacrifice for the Party, of course. The idea was to pick a candidate who could potentially be palatable to enough swing voters to take the White House. They didn’t like Kerry’s politics, but they thought he could win. Instead, the Democrats lost the election, and got two big conservatives appointed to the Supreme Court.

In this election cycle, abortion is basically off the table–a decided negative for the Democrats. It was a great wedge issue for them. With that alone, they captured the politically active “suburban soccer mom” market. Now the fate of a federally protected right to an abortion is in the hands of the Supreme Court–and it will probably be overturned. After that, the issue goes back to the states, where it will remain a local issue for years to come. But the Democrats still have the War. And it’s not just the War–it’s all the little villains who can be trotted out. Dick Cheney will have a staring role. And they’ll be global warming talk a plenty. Those are their aces in the hole, so to speak. Aren’t you excited?

The Republican side was far simpler. In George W. Bush, the far right got someone who truly believed in what they stood for, who wasn’t pandering to them, and if they had to hold their noses about some of Bush’s big government spending plans like prescription drug coverage and overhauling Social Security (another “entitlement!”) or the fact that he was candy-ass on immigration, they were willing to split the difference. They love him on stem cells, even if no one understands what the fuss is all about (“You see these cells over here? Take ’em. These cells you may not touch. Why? Because they come from over here, that’s why!”)

If this is bothering Andersen, I say just wait until the real campaign gets going.

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Posted on June 28, 2007. Filed under: Humor, Jokes, News |

The fashion industry lost one of its own yesterday. According to the New York Times, Liz Claiborne, “the designer of indefatigable career clothes for professional women entering the workforce en masse beginning in the 1970s,” is dead. She was 78 years old. Fashion insiders say that a bevy of events are being planned to honor Claiborne’s contributions to fashion. Some of her largest accounts have paid tribute. One seller, Ajodha, who sells knockoffs of Claiborne’s “Everyday Classics” line on the corner of 7th Avenue and 49th Street, has pledged to refrain from selling the goods for one week. Says Ajodha “She [Claiborne] was a great lady. And a very generous lady. I do good business. I make nice living. I sell “Bi-Stretch Suiting Blazer,” “Fine Gauge Silk Blend,” “Sloane Twill Cropped Pants,” everything. At good prices. She will be missed. I stop selling her clothes one week. For one week, I honor her. At end of one week I’ll be having a special memorial sale at even cheaper price. I can’t hardly wait for Fall line.” Another large mover of merchandise, Ace, sells Claiborne’s leather bags, primarily out of the trunk of his Escalade. “I be moving her shit for years. That bitch been good to me, real good–know’m sayin? I buy the shit for 2 and sell it fo 5. I move at least 100 pieces a day. Sheet.” When asked what he might do to honor the designer, Ace shrugged and said that he would consider making a contribution to Claiborne’s rain forest education program in Brazil. “Maybe I send them a few bags too. They made there anyway,” he said.

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More Wikileaks…

Posted on June 26, 2007. Filed under: Humor, Jokes, News, Politics |

Since nothing much has been happening over at Wikileaks, I thought that they might want to check out “The Family Jewels,” the fabulous treasure trove of documents that the CIA released this week. I checked them out. According to my understanding, there have been a lot of people who have waited years to get their hands on them.

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Posted on June 22, 2007. Filed under: Apple, Humor, Jokes, News, Software, Technology |

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Sperm Banks

Posted on June 15, 2007. Filed under: Humor, Jokes, Main Stream Media, News, Technology |

David Brooks’s latest column in the New York Times has been attracting attention in the blogs, and I don’t want to be left behind. I quickly scanned the column, and now I’m gonna throw my two cents in.

Brooks is cranky because in the sperm market, the demand for blond, blue-eyed, intelligent, and athletic people is greater than that of short milquetoasts like himself. Sperm, it seems, now have resumes. Little, bitty, cute resumes. This, combined with the scientific theory that the future of a child is genetically determined, makes it easy to understand why the sperm market behaves as it does.

First, have some pity for syndicated columnists. The work doesn’t pay a lot of money, given the intelligence and education that many nationally syndicated columnists possess. And the worst part of it is that they have to produce copy even when they have nothing to say. We bloggers don’t have that problem because we can write whenever we choose. And we also don’t have to sign our names. It’s phenomenal, really. We write. And we keep our privacy. So give the columnists a break. They do this shit for a living.

Anyway, I liked this column and I thought it was funny. And it’s true. You never hear about a person going to a sperm bank and asking for short, unathletic traits. That doesn’t sell. But consider the possibility that the people who think they’re buying the sperm of a Greek God are actually buying the sperm of a bum or drug addict–the kind of guy who needs to sell his sperm for money. Does a tall, educated, successful, attractive man need to sell his sperm for a few bucks? I imagine that some of the men who need to sell their sperm are probably also “giving” blood–four or five times a week. So take heart David Brooks.

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A Lotta Fucking TV Screens

Posted on June 15, 2007. Filed under: Humor, News, Software, Technology, Television |

I don’t mean to be crude or crass, but if Bill Gates’s and Steve Job’s visions are fulfilled, you, me, and every other schmo is going to own a lot of fucking television sets. How many? God himself only knows. I came to this realization after listening to Bill and Steve at the D5 conference podcast. Here’s Bill Gates on the future:

“I believe in the tablet form factor…And then you’ll have the device that fits in your pocket.”

Ok. Ok. A laptop and a “device” that fits in your pocket. A little vague. Sounds possibly sexual. Probably means a cell phone. But wait.

“Well, home, you’ll have your living room, which is your 10-foot experience, and that’s connected to the Internet and there you’ll have gaming and entertainment and there’s a lot of experimentation in terms of what content looks like in that world.”

You got that right. For a lot of people that’s gonna mean porn. And gambling. And catatonic kids staring into gigantic 10-foot screens. But wait, there’s more.

“And then in your den, you’ll have something a lot like you have at your desk at work. You know, the view is that every horizontal and vertical surface will have a projector so you can put information, you know, your desk can be a surface that you can sit and manipulate things.”

It seems to me that while this is a perhaps generous view of the future, the “cart,” as it were, is before the “horse.” Not every one has a home with a den and a living room. Many never will. Before every one has one of these pieces of shit in every room, they have to have a place to live.

Why do we need one of these pieces of shit in every room anyway? So we can watch YouTube or American Idol?

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Smart Ass

Posted on June 11, 2007. Filed under: Humor, News, Politics |

I read with relief that Norman Finklestein was denied tenure at DePaul University recently. The Jerusalem Post quoted his reaction from the Chicago Sun-Times:

“They can deny me tenure, deny me the right to teach. But they will never stop me from saying what I believe.”

Bravo. And if, by chance, anyone does attempt to deny Professor Finklestein his right to free speech, he might contact Alan Dershowitz, a prominent law professor in Cambridge, Mass.

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One Last Question for Peter Pace…

Posted on June 9, 2007. Filed under: Humor, Jokes, Politics |

It’s too bad that General Pace will retire before he clarifies a point which has been in my mind ever since he made his remark about gay sex. Here is his remark, as quoted in the Washington Blade:

“I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts,” he said. “I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way.”

Fair enough. But what if the homosexual acts occur between three or more people? What if the acts occur between….

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Insert Flap “A”: A Review of The Complete New Yorker

Posted on June 8, 2007. Filed under: Books, DRM, Humor, Main Stream Media, Software, Technology, The New Yorker |

I dithered for months about purchasing The Complete New Yorker on DVD. Although the concept was great, the product itself was a disappointment to many. Most of the criticisms focused on the excessive disk-swapping required to use the product. I knew that this would annoy me no end. The only other alternative was to purchase an external drive with all the content in one place. The New Yorker sells this item for about $200. If you buy the hard drive, however, I don’t think you get the book that comes with the DVDs. The DVD product sells in a retail store for $100, but if you are willing to wait several weeks, you can purchase it $30.00 on The New Yorker’s web site. If you do buy it there, they will throw in an update DVD as well.

I have read about ways to load the DVDs on to a hard drive that will save you the trouble of swapping DVDs. Since the method is undocumented, it’s not clear to me whether you can do this without violating the license agreement you agree to when you install the product. The license agreement brings up the topic of digital rights management.

The product’s packaging is handsome but flawed. For example, the book that accompanies the DVDs is glued to an cardboard cover (an uber cover?) that requires the reader to cart around the DVDs every time he wants to read the book. The book, it seems to me, ought to slide out of the set.

The DVD sleeve should slide out of the set, too. The DVDs are housed in a folder that is glued to the same uber outer cardboard cover as the book. There are two additional pieces of cardboard that come tucked into the folder. I guessed that they were there to stiffen the product and protect the DVDs. So I retained them. The problem is that they could slide out of the folder. If you are having trouble picturing them they are like those pieces of cardboard that the hand laundry inserts into your shirts. The only difference is that you don’t throw these away. But while you’re looking at the DVDs, what do you do with the two pieces of cardboard?

You could try to separate the book from the uber sleeve. If you do, you will notice that while the book does indeed come loose from the uber sleeve, it takes some of the cardboard from the uber sleeve with it, which is unattractive. You will also notice, if you have not already, that the book itself does not have a title printed on its spine, which will make it harder to identify when it is placed on a bookshelf. This leads to the inescapeable conclusion that the The New Yorker neither intended the book to stand alone nor contemplated that anyone might try to make it so.

I’m thinking out loud here but if the book and the sleeve were removable, in theory you could be left with an empty cardboard uber cover. What would you do with that? It’s attractively printed so I don’t think I would throw it away.

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Don Rickles @ the 92nd. Street Y

Posted on May 29, 2007. Filed under: Humor |

Don’s appearance was a big dissappointment for me, unfortunately. Don was gracious, polite, and expressed gratitude more than once for his luck in show business–in short, he was a gentleman. I can’t describe to you how awful it was. The night was a disaster. I was embarassed for him.

Personally, I was hoping he would do his act and abuse someone verbally in the audience. Anyone. But he wouldn’t. And so we paid $25.00 to see him push his new book. I was so sick at heart that I couldn’t even raise my hand to ask a question.

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  • Quotes of the Day

    "Writing editorials is like wetting your pants in a blue serge suit. It feels good, but nobody really notices."

    --Jack Germond

    "Famous men and women, by the act of putting themselves on display, whether as politicians, actors, writers, painters, musicians, restaurateurs, or whatever, invite public appraisal. They are all, impressively or pathetically, acting on the presumption that their ideas, their fantasies, their music, their bodies are more original than those of, say, a plumber or a certified public accountant. They are all exercising the impulse, as Mencken put it, ‘to flap their wings in public.’ This is so obvious to the critic–and, I believe, to the ordinary reader or spectator–that it seems hardly worth saying. But resentment of the practice of criticism itself is strong among professional artists (and all Presidents of the United States). There is a psychological type among them that hates critics on principle as parasites or failed performers. This is very natural but surely very childish and, in any country claiming to be civilized, actually anti-social. The existence of critics, good, bad, or indifferent, is a firm clause in the social contract between the governors and the governed in any nation that is not a dictatorship. Public figures should accept with good grace the public response to their invitations to be admired and resist the temptation to retort, except in the face of flagrant malice."

    --Alistair Cooke

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