Friday, October 29, 2004

Idiots of this election

Look, couldn't we just have Bush and bin Laden settle their feud with a Roman gladiator-style battle to the death? The money raised from ticket sales, international pay-per-view sales, T-shirts, and so on, could be paid directly to the poorest people on both sides. Whoever survived the match could be fed to the lions.

Fuck them both.

Idiosyncracies of this election

When people talk about this election many years hence, I hope they don't forget small, seemingly inconsequential but nevertheless interesting developments like this:

Bush relatives for Kerry.

And this:

Billionaires for Bush or Kerry. Not sure if they're affiliated with the satirical group "Billionaires for Bush," which seems to be lacking a web presence at the moment. In any case, the latter was funnier, though there were people on both sides who didn't get the satire.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Woolsey's wool / our eyes

Did anyone else find it strange that former CIA director James Woolsey used the word "totalitarians" to describe al Qaeda on last Friday's installment of Real Time with Bill Maher?

Don't you need some sort of massive state apparatus behind you to qualify as a "totalitarian"? Wouldn't a "totalitarian" organization or government be relatively easy to locate? (It would presumably have to be fairly massive and immobile to enforce its ideology.)

The assumption that al Qaeda was and is such an entity is, as George Paine argues today at, one of the major miscalculations of the Bush administration. Al Qaeda is not a totalitarian organization, it is a "non state actor." That is, the goal is the same (followers of Hitler and followers of bin Laden both want the same thing: "to take over the world," as cartoon villains put it), but the means for accomplishing that goal are very, very different. Mistaking "non state actors" for "totalitarians," we've gotten bogged down in precisely the war that al Qaeda wanted us to fight; it's one that will misuse and sap our resources, inflame and motivate our enemies, and finally threaten to exhaust us as a nation.

As Paine puts it at the end of his piece:

"These are gigantic miscalculations in the War on Terror. They are the greatest mistakes that could have been made. They are fundamental misunderstandings of the problem America faces. The actions and assumptions taken by the Bush Administration were exactly wrong. [...] The Bush Administration shows no sign of learning. We have six days until we learn whether the American people have learned. Think before you vote."

"Free" / dumb

Found this amazing paragraph at the American Library Association website a few minutes ago. It's a German professor's description of the coming of fascism in the early part of the twentieth century, as excerpted in Milton Mayer's book They Thought They Were Free:

“What happened was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to be governed by surprise, to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believe that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if people could understand it, it could not be released because of national security. [...] The crises and reforms (real reforms too) so occupied the people that they did not see the slow motion underneath, of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter. [...] To live in the process is absolutely not to notice it — please try to believe me — unless one has a much greater degree of political awareness, acuity, than most of us ever had occasion to develop. Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, ‘regretted.’ [...] Believe me this is true. Each act, each occasion is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for one shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join you in resisting somehow. [...] Suddenly it all comes down, all at once. You see what you are, what you have done, or, more accurately, what you haven't done (for that was all that was required of most of us: that we did nothing) . . . You remember everything now, and your heart breaks. Too late. You are compromised beyond repair.”

Tuesday, October 26, 2004


George Orwell would probably be astonished at the accuracy of his predictions.

The linguistic looseness of this presidential campaign (Bush, Inc.: "X." America: "Why did you say 'X'?" Bush, Inc.: "I never said 'X.'"), for instance, has really put the screws to any semblance of critical discourse in this country. Power accrues not to those who use language for the purpose of reasoning, but to those who use it as an instrument of forceful definition. George Lakoff has some interesting things to say about this process (and how to counter it) in his latest book.

But it's not just presidential politics. I find it amazing, for instance, that the RIAA has managed to turn "sharing" into a dirty word.

The point of this post, however, is to reference this site, the purpose of which is to "reclaim the term 'hacking' for the good guys--innovators who explore and experiment, unearth shortcuts, create useful tools, and come up with fun things to try on their own."

Lots of neat publications there.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Chop up a film, put it back together

Check out this cool contest, courtesy the good folks at free culture.

If I get my shit together, I may make an IJG entry for this. I've been meaning to make videos for some of our stuff anyway...

Thursday, October 21, 2004

How to prevent the kids who are not alright from stealing the candy of the kids who are...

Man, I love Halloween.

My favorite one of these is the clown in the van.

The kids may be alright, but they're oversexed

Maybe I'm just getting old, but I can't think of any context less erotic than the aftermath of an election that revolves around two wrinkled rich white geezers:

I can only hope that there is some truth to the stereotype that Republicans are frigid and repressed (and thus unlikely to participate in this, er, drive).

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The Kids Are Alright

This supports my contention that kids have more common sense than most adults.

Now if only they could really vote.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

How 'bout that spittle?

Anybody notice the buildup of froth at the corner of the president's mouth tonight as he regurgitated the ready-made phrases that had been prepared for him by Karl Rove and Dick Cheney?

A perfect metaphor for how the Bush campaign is (fingers crossed here) starting to come apart at the seams.

And Larry King--of all people!--actually had a poignant question for Rudy Guiliani: if Kerry really represents a position so far outside of the mainstream in America, how is it that he can be doing so well in the polls?

One other thing: a sign seen in the background during MSNBC's coverage of the debate. It read: "Screw Iraq, I Need a Job!"

And so say we all.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

An oldie but goodie...

I just came across an interesting and underemphasized point on the RIAA lawsuits: “What would be obscene (and immoral on good Kantian principles) would be for the government to prosecute a few 'copyright violators' selectively, as an example to others. If they are going to actually enforce the NET Act, they ought to go after all ten or twenty million of us-an attempt to do which would, of course, bring the entire justice and prison systems to a state of complete paralysis. Selective enforcement of a law is unconstitutional (since it violates equal protection) and unjust; a law that can only be enforced selectively is itself unjust.” Though Steven Shaviro made this point almost two years ago, I haven't seen or heard it anywhere else. In other words, it hasn't really entered the debate.

Here's the link: