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Robust McManlyPants on Average Display » 2004 » July

July 2004


So, who wants to go see “The Village” this weekend?  Because I totally want to go see “The Village.” (more…)

So, the big argument today on a local IT mailing list is, basically, is
Bush an idiot or is Bush a brilliant politician?  Take a wild
guess as to my answer.

At any rate, the question of the day is, if you’re against the war, why
are you voting for Kerry, who voted for the war?  When answered
with the fact that Bush at best used faulty evidence to argue for the
war and at worst knowingly lied to get the war he wanted, but either
way, they voted for it because they thought they could trust the
President to be truthful with Congress about something as important as
war, the answer – from people who claim to support Bush – boils down with only the tiniest flame to a simple answer of, “If you believed a liar it’s your fault.”

Take it all with a grain of salt for a variety of
reasons, but what I’m hearing from these people is, to paraphrase,  The best thing we
can say about the President is that he got away with something awful. 
I
don’t mean that’s how I interpret it, I mean that the most coherent
response today has said, if you think the President could fool them,
doesn’t that make them stupid, too?

The cynicism inherent to that line of reasoning is so overwhelming I could choke.  That’s
how much blood I smell in the water.  Everything could change
between now and November, but today?  Today it looks mighty good. (more…)

So, the power’s out.

We have a generator, and besides that all of our computers are attached
to UPS devices, but the bottom line here is that the elevators are out
and, far more importantly, the air conditioning is off.

This sucks.  One co-worker has already said, with a hint of
craze in his eyes that suggested claustrophobia, “Is it just me or is it
getting stuffy in here?”

Thank the gods it’s Friday.  At least I’m in a t-shirt.

An amusing aside – well, okay, I’ll laugh about it later – is that
months ago we complained that the A/C was too cold in here.  To
demonstrate that the temperature would always stay in the
lease-specified range, the building manager very snootily hung an
enormous thermometer over the thermostat.  Sadly for her, I have a
camera phone
.  The text you can’t read on the note taped to the bottom of the thermometer reads:  “Lease Range:  72 – 74.”

I’m a wuss, I know, but I take my petty victories where I can. (more…)

So, I loved the speech last night.  Kerry & Edwards completely
turned the tables on Bush & Co.  Kerry’s speech was great, and
it sent a very clear message:  Bush & Co. expected Edwards to
be the attack dog and Kerry to be too afraid of offending someone to
say anything of substance.  Thus, the matchups would be
symmetrical – Cheney vs. Edwards for the heavyweight arguing and Bush
vs. Kerry for the dog & pony show.  Instead, Edwards is
playing to the hope and optimism and Kerry went on the attack.  If
they stick with this reversal of the traditional Pres/Veep roles in a
campaign, the debates are going to be a hoot.  They’re
going to be the WWE of politics.  It puts Edwards in the role of
outshining Cheney in terms of looks, down-homeness and optimism. 
These are qualities Cheney simply cannot bring to the table, muich less
be a contender in.  It also means Kerry gets to be sharp and
cutting in the debates while Bush has two likely outcomes:  coming
off as incompetent or acidic.  He’s either going to look like
Nixon or…Nixon, actually.  Fitting, since his father was a Nixon
Republican, not a Reagan Republican, no matter whose Veep he was. 

Kerry managed to turn around Bush’s own 2000 campaign, in a variety of
ways:  he played to unity, he staked out the Dems’ position as
being the mainstream of America, he even tried to tug the center a
little (just a little, but a little nonetheless) to the left.  He
very firmly put Bush on the defensive – Bush will have to spend at
least some time reacting, and he’s had his “uniter not a divider” line
yanked right out from under him.  Even if Bush only has to spend
one hour reacting, it’s an hour he never thought he’d have to spend,
and that makes me smile.

The thing that most gives me hope, though, is the reaction of the
wingnuts.  Fox News’ commentator last night was simply making shit
up from the floor of the convention.  The buzz among right-wing
media and on a couple of local mailing lists that occasionally veer
into political debate has been strained and sort of desperate: 
people simply distorting things wildly simply to have something to
say.  The commentary I’ve heard this morning from local wingnuts
has sounded shrill, even hysterical.

I smell blood. (more…)

So, we all heard a few weeks ago about how the Pakistani intelligence
services were reporting that the Bush Administration had put pressure
on them to arrest “high-profile” terror suspects during the Democratic
National Convention.  It was lame and dumb, and everybody heard
about it, which one would normally think made for a lousy plan.

Oh, but Bush has always been ham-fisted and easy to see through. 
And so today, the day Kerry will make his acceptance speech, Pakistan
announces it’s arrested a suspect from the ’98 embassy bombings.

I now feel far more justified in my paranoia.  I won’t be surprised if there’s an October surprise and a November 2nd terror threat.

[UPDATE:  OK, so I’m breathing again.  Just checked
the major news sites and news.google.com, and none are running this
over the Kerry speech.  In fact, none of the major news
sites have this displayed anymore prominently than as a
headline-no-graphic.  I think I’ll pass another night before
entering the secret bunker.] (more…)

So, I just read this piece on MSNBC, about videogames based on current, real-world conflicts.  Go read it, then come back.

I’ll be having a glass of soda in your absence.  Go on.  It’s a prereq.

(Time passes…)

(For those of you cheating and not reading the article, note how tweaked I am that all of a sudden, Twisted Kaiju Theatre,
one of my favorite webcomics, suddenly has T&A on their front
page.  So much for reading them at work, eh?  Anyway…)

Alright.  You’re back.  Good.  Now, here’s my thinking:  WHAT?

See, here’s the short, shameful confession:  I have long
derided those who claim that videogames cause violence.  For me
it’s not even a cause-and-effect issue, it’s a First Amendment
issue.  If someone wants to make interactive art (which is how I
consider videogames) about shooting hookers on the streets of Miami,
circa 1983, great.  If you don’t want your kid playing it, don’t
buy the freakin’ game.  But my shameful secret is that
real-war-themed FPSes have always squicked me.  There’s a part of
me that’s deeply bothered by MOHAA, for example, because I’m
not sure how I feel about turning the only morally vital war of the
20th century into a festival of beating to death guys named
All13z_Sux0r with the butt of an empty pistol.   That hasn’t
stopped me from playing the game here and there, and it’s
unquestionably fun, but there’s that part of me that nags me with
questions as to the morality of it – and that game’s not even terribly
realistic.  This Kuma deal that they talk about in the MSNBC
article is, frankly, fucked up.  I can think of no other
way to put it.  This isn’t about videogames influencing people to
do something, so I think I’m good on my well-known nose-thumbing on the
topic.  Rather, I’m afraid of what this game will make people not
do:  namely, realize the actual dangers of combat situations and
the lives expended when our Mad King decides to go on a jaunt to a
desert very far away because he thinks he needs it to keep Thanksgiving
with Dad lively.  I’m afraid that it goes well beyond the Army’s
obvious desire to get people to see the whole thing as a game – I mean,
how can they see that as a down-side?  The kids in F9/11 certainly
seemed to see it that way, and the military has plenty to gain if their
soldiers are, on a personal level, pumped as opposed to
terrified.  I’m afraid it extends – not intentionally, even I am
not that paranoid and I am paranoid – to making the average civilian at home that much more alienated from their place in the world. 

When our knowledge of international events and of the risks,
techniques and rewards of applying our military might is so heavily
mediated that our best understanding comes through engaging in a
simulation we can restart anytime we screw up, I can’t help but get
oogy in my stomach when I think about it. 

I’m not even addressing the other questions – how accurate these are to
real-life events, how it trivializes not just historical wars but the
experiences of people who are there right now who most
certainly did not sign on to spend a year and a half picking sand out
of their teeth when they joined the National Guard, how the guy at
Kuma’s association of these games with the War on Terror raises the
issue that these games suggest there’s only one way to win the “war,”
and it’s by being a better shot than them.  Instead, I’m jumping
straight to the CEO of Kuma’s statement a third of the way through the
article:

“If we can do one thing valuable,” he says, “it’s to try to get Americans to understand.”

That’s always a noble thing.  The problem is, get them to understand what
exactly?  I cannot imagine that Hoss knows what he’s trying to get
them to “understand,” or he’d have come out and said it.  I think
he said it because he thought it sounded good and yet remained
sparklingly content-free.  The CEO of Kuma, and the people
developing the game, need to figure out their message, if they’ve got
one.  Until then, at best, they’re improving nothing but
customers’
hand-eye coordination.  At worst, they’re asking players to pay
for
the privilege of trivializing something a lot more complex than
shooting “bad guys.” 

And yet, I know I’m going to go home tonight with decent odds of
playing a videogame before I go to sleep.  It will almost
certainly be violent – I only have a couple that aren’t.  I don’t
worry that the game will make me violent, I think they’ve had
long enough to try that we’d know if that were going to happen by
now.  But I’m still left with this weird nag every time I think
about Battlefield:  Vietnam, or MOHAA, or Kuma – this lump in the back of my brain, that says, There is something wrong with this
I can’t put my finger on what, exactly, without somehow faulting my own
hobby and without infringing on what remains Kuma’s right regardless of
what I think of them or their product:  that of speech, of
transmission of ideas.  I don’t even know if that voice is
right.   But knowing their game operates the way it does bugs me nonetheless. (more…)

The Internet is like that friend you had in high school who collected
and re-distributed gossip like the county recycling center or,
alternately, the creepy old guy down the street whose front yard always
looks like it’s halfway through a depressing yard sale, cluttered with
things he bought yesterday to sell tomorrow.  The Internet leans
in to let you whisper something juicy and by the time you’re back from
the bathroom it’s told everyone else at the party.

Those are some really strained metaphors.  Ah well.

Anyway, the reason I bring this up is because of an absolutely fascinating new blog:  See What You Share
It’s one guy’s effort to demonstrate just how easy it is to let you
personal information slip through the cracks and into the hands of
anyone who wants it.  He posts pictures and scrubbed versions of
documents he finds on P2P networks like Kazaa. 

The math on this is so simple, the concept so obvious, that I don’t
know of anyone else who’s thought of it yet.  It’s like Found Magazine for the Internet if you pretend Found doesn’t already have a website. (more…)

So, I watched Clinton’s speech last night.

I’d vote for him again so fast

It was possibly the most stirring convention speech I remember hearing
(I don’t really remember Cuomo’s in ’84, though the clips I’ve heard of
it are top-notch).  It was possibly the most stirring speech by
Clinton that I’ve ever heard.  Regardless of where it ranks in
superlatives and greats and bests, however, it was damn good and I’d vote for him in a second.

Mr. Saturday has said in
conversation that he believes in 20 years Clinton will be remembered as
the Democrats’ Reagan:  flawed but deeply cherished, held high for
the emotions he stirred and the economic growth of his term more than
for any specific policy.  I believe that.  The big hurdle,
though, is how everyone keeps having to apologize for his personal
screw-ups.  What irks me most about this is not that people are
cognizant of Clinton’s deep, if entirely personal, flaws.  What
irks me is that Reagan’s flaws were both personal and political –
secret wars, secret arms sales, senility, a tremendous lack of book
smarts, an utter disinterest in accomplishing his campaign promises,
record deficits unbroken until the current administration – but
everyone just ignores them.  Republicans who have deified Reagan
have managed to bulldoze anyone who raised serious criticism in a forum
of any size so that we just don’t even remember the criticisms
anymore.  They managed to equate questioning Reagan with being
unpatriotic.

What’s stopping us from doing this with Clinton?

The answer, I think, is that liberals are more interested in
nuance.  There are conservatives who are interested in nuance, I
know – but the bottom line here is that the arch-conservative elements
who consider Reagan to be their sacred idol are uninterested in
anything more complex than “He restored our {faith in America,
patriotism, economy, idealism} and beat the Soviets,” none of which are
actually true.

Liberals such as myself, on the other hand, who are filled with this
swell of affection when we see Clinton on TV, find our expression of it
tempered by a desire to be honest with ourselves, to work out the
cognitive dissonances of “I love him, but he was kind of a bastard and
definitely a dumbass about some stuff, but I love him anyway!” 
which Reaganites have, so conveniently, simply ignored. 

What I would recommend, then, is that we express it not in the, “Well, I liked Clinton, but I didn’t like
like him…” sort of way it seems we’ve come to adopt, but to go
full-bore in our endorsement, or as close to full-bore as we can get
without abandoning our love for resolving conflicts:

“Oh, I loved Clinton.  Please press or say ‘2’ for a more detailed answer.” 

Then give a thumbs up and a grin and a wave of the flag. (more…)

Early this morning, before the Diet Pepsi had kicked in:

Co-Worker:  “Hey, did you hear about Customer X?  We sent
them some equipment via a package service that isn’t unionized, so they
refused the package.”
Me:  “Well, Customer X is a union.”
Co-Worker:  “…”
Me:  “I mean, what did you expect?”
Co-Worker:  “…”
Me:  “My personal politics are pro-union anyway, so I guess maybe
I’m not the guy you should expect to get too upset.  We should
have thought of that before sending the package.  We should send
the package via someone who is unionized.  It’s pretty simple.”
Co-Worker:  “You’re pro-union?!”
Me:  “Yep.”
Co-Worker:  “So you really think there are workplaces these days where a union is necessary?”
Me:  “…Yes.”
Co-Worker:  “But…”
Me:  “Are there bad examples of union behavior?  Sure. 
There’s bad examples of everything.  There are bad unions, I’m
sure.  But there are also bad companies.  That’s why we have
unions.”
Co-Worker:  “Well…unions were certainly started for good reasons, no doubt about that.”
Me:  “Yep.”
Co-Worker:  “You know, a friend of mine worked in a union shop,
but he hadn’t paid his dues yet, and they took care of him like he was
one of their own.  They really stood up for him.”
Me:  “…”  (Thinking:  Forty-five seconds ago you wanted to shoot me down for being pro-union, right?)
Other Co-Worker:  “You should call up Customer X and point out we’re a union shop and see if they feel bad for turning down that package.”
Me:  “But we’re not a union shop.

=======================

Later, standing outside on break, listening to The Most Foul-Mouthed
Construction Workers Ever, who are in my building to put up walls.

Construction Worker 1:  “Your girlfriend’s got you whipped, calling you up all damn day.”
Construction Worker 2:  “Well, if you were throwing it to your old
lady like I throw it to my girlfriend, she’d probably be ringing your
phone off the hook, too.  Go ahead.  Give it to her
good.  Bury it right to the hilt and see if she don’t start
calling you every now and again.”
Me:  SPLUTTER
(more…)

Passed my Checkpoint Certified Security Administrator exam this morning
with relatively flying colors – needed a 70 and I got an 81.

AW YEAH.

Now, the videogames. (more…)

Patrick Ballantine, a former state senator from Wilmington, has gotten
the Republican nomination for governor of NC.  Today, Richard
Vinroot dropped out of the race and said he wouldn’t ask for a run-off
election next month.

Uh-oh.

Ballantine is a scary motherfucker.  He looks just like Clinton,
talks like Reagan, trying awfully hard to sound like he’s a
“compassionate conservative.”  He’s run a very positive campaign
with no attack ads.  He came from way behind to end up
their nominee – he was the distant third in a field of six just two
weeks ago.  He’s young, he’s handsome, his wife is gorgeous. 
The Indy endorsed him as being the most socially moderate, but I’m
willing to bet that’s a pleasant front for some real nastiness, and no
matter how nice he is, he’s going to defund pretty much everything.

He desperately wants to be President, and you can smell it on him.

What does this mean?  If you ask me, this means the governor’s
race – largely considered to be a probable cakewalk for Mike Easley –
matters.  It matters a lot.  If Kerry and Edwards are here a
lot, and Erskine stays strong in the polls, that’s certainly going to
help.  But all of a sudden there’s a Republican running for office
who doesn’t  scare everyone who gets within ten feet of him, and
there are going to be a fuckload of Republicans who rally around
that.  Next on my list of recipients of a small donation:  Mike Easley. (more…)

Ever thought that Bush may have a touch of trouble separating good from evil all on his own?

Now you can help. (more…)

In other news of the happy-for-we-liberals sort, the Las Vegas Sun reports
that the prospective buyers of the Aladdin resort are pissed that
the  Aladdin tossed Linda Ronstadt after she praised Fahrenheit
9/11 from the stage and dedicated a song to Michael Moore. 
(Desperado?  WTF?)  Anyway, some people in the audience
walked when she did so, and the security guards took her from the
stage, “escorted” her to her bus and had her wait while hotel
management had her room emptied and her things brought to her. 
Apparently the president of the Aladdin casino – which is currently up
for sale after a stint in bankruptcy court – sent her a nastygram out
in the parking lot to tell her she wasn’t welcome there anymore.

Their excuse, of course, was “customer satisfaction.”

Now, there’s a certain amount of that which I can get behind. 
I’ve waited my share of tables, and when the customers get cranky about
something, it’s no fun for anyone.  But I’ve also watched people
walk out of plenty of movies without a single one of them being halted
and the theatre boxing up the reels and shipping them back in front of
everyone just to prove how aghast they were at a bad movie.  If
their worry was “customer satisfaction,” they could have pointed out
that they don’t take an editorial position as a venue and refund people
the cost of the concert and pass around a few coupons for free
dinners.  I mean, Jesus, it’s fucking Las Vegas, how can anyone be
offended around so much free booze?

OK, maybe free booze played a role in it from the start.

Anyway, the good news is that the casino’s prospective buyers
have stated that if the deal goes through they’re going to (a) invite
Ronstadt back, (b) invite Michael Moore and (c) ask them to sing a song
together on stage.  Their stated policy is that they do not
infringe in any way on an artist’s First Amendment rights, and the CEO
of the prospective buyers, Planet Hollywood, has affirmed that in news
quotes regarding this specific incident.

What strikes me as so dumbfoundingly, achingly absurd is that Las Vegas is a town where there aren’t just topless shows but competitions
between the crews of topless shows, rightly protected as artistic
expression, but you say one thing in favor of a well-known Leftist and
you’re right out on your ass.

That is crazy.  That is simply crazy.  The tiniest, pettiest
part of me is thrilled that the {wingnut,fraidy-cat} current management
are on their way out after having financially driven the place into the
ground.

But…”Desperado?”  WTF? (more…)

Anyone who cares at all about a woman’s right to control her own body should be glad to hear that Barr Labs have resubmitted their application to allow over-the-counter sales of Plan B. 

If you’re not familiar with the issue, a few weeks ago they asked the
FDA to let them sell over the counter a new pill called Plan B, a
morning-after treatment to prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in
the uterine wall.  Despite an overwhelming vote in favor of their
application by an outside committee of scientists, the FDA denied the
application saying there was insufficient evidence that the drug would
be safe for those 11 to 14. 

(Yeah, well, I imagine that were I an 11 year old girl who’d just been
sexually assaulted, I’d rather roll the dice than have to sit around
for weeks and get an abortion later.)

At any rate, the new application would allow them to sell it over the
counter to any woman 16 or older – anyone younger would need a
prescription.  This would at least make it available, and if
nothing else, thank the frickin’ gods they’re still trying and they’re
unafraid to push what they see as a safer, less traumatizing option for
a woman who wants to be in control of her own fate. (more…)

Ever wonder just who the corporate donors are that favor Republican candidates and causes – and Ralph Nader?

The Center for Public Integrity has the 411.

The stories of right-wing groups specifically targeting Republicans to
sign petitions to get Nader on the ballots of major swing states is
pretty well-documented in a variety of places, but the link above (way
towards the bottom) describes how one of them is actually getting taken
down.

I suppose it’s possible that Nader is so naive he thinks he’ll take
votes from Bush because he gets so much of his money and support from
Republicans. 

I doubt it, though.

I should note that the CPI story and link come courtesy of MSNBC.com‘s best blogger, Alterman
I checked some other stories on CPI’s site, and was pleasantly
surprised to find them sticking it to both Democrats and Republicans
for being in the pocket of corporate interests.  Still, a vote for
Nader this year is somewhere between sawing off one’s own nose and
eating a live baby, I think, on the scale of questionable
activities.  He thinks he’s taking advantage of all these right
wingnuts who want him to steal votes from Kerry and I think he honestly
doesn’t know, despite the mountain of evidence, that they’re the ones
totally taking advantage of him. (more…)

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