Thursday, January 31, 2002

CLINTON ON CLINTON
Salon.com published an interesting article reviewing Bill Clinton's speech in Berkeley, CA on the same night as GWB's State of The Union. Beyond the pro-Clinton gushing of writer Joan Walsh (how can she type so nicely using only one hand?), Bill was quoted saying some interesting things.

On the Bush administration's battle to keep its energy task force records secret, Bill said "I'm still trying to figure out the difference between what went on with our healthcare task force, and what went on with the energy task force. There must be one, but I'm too dumb to get it."

Call it liberal fear or conservative bias, but the media has been oddly forgetful here. I have yet to hear that comparison made by anyone except Clinton and myself in this blog a few days ago. Not even the Daily Show caught that train and they're usually good for it.

The Salon.com article (which BTW - is part of their premium, $30/year feed) also noted that Bill got the biggest applause when U.C. Journalism School dean Orville Schell asked, "Why does the right wing despise you so?"

"Because I won," he replied. The crowd cheered and laughed, but Clinton wasn't laughing. "They thought there would never be a Democratic president again. They'd found the formula to turn us into cardboard, make us un-American ... to turn Mike Dukakis into a guy who wouldn't care if his wife was raped.

"I got no honeymoon, no nothing. They felt, 'We should never have lost the White House. It was ours!'" By contrast, he said, Democrats "don't hate people when they beat us because we've gotten so used to losing."


I don't know that Democrats are "used to losing," but I do feel Clinton hit the nail on the head about the sense of entitlement Republicans have toward the White House. If nothing else, the Clinton presidency had the value of wiping the smirks off Republicans' faces as they lost two national elections to a man they considered an amoral sleezebag.

Wednesday, January 30, 2002

SIGN UP TO BE A PATRIOT
John Ashcroft's profound influence and sense of organization is being felt far and wide. Just check out his new USA PATRIOT REGISTRATION. What an efficient use of the web and tax payers dollars! You can bet those idiots of the Clinton administration could have never come up with this because they were all too busy downloading porn.

I particularly like the multiple choice style of it. Just check out this question:

Political Affliation:
1) Republican (Right Wing)
2) Republican (Conservative)
3) Republican (Moderate)
4) Other/Communist


Or this True/False Winner:

Fox News is fair, balanced, and profoundly watchable.:
True
True


Sign up today and feel the cleansing pride of knowing you are a USA Super Patriot!
GW DOES FDR
Surprise, surprise - GW is two for two on national speeches. Tonight's State of the Union address was solid stuff, impassioned and focused with genuine attempts to foster non-partisan government. Of course, I can't imagine hardcore Republicans are too happy that GW sounded a lot like FDR or JFK - seeking jobs programs, national volunteer organizations and promising to improve funding of Headstart and the like.

And who knows what he really means? If his jobs program is shorthand for cut taxes to the rich so that they hold more catered events and hire more gardeners, I don't think he'll be getting the Democratic support he seeks. But I'm willing to listen. Once again, GWB has shown that aiming for the middle ground attracks people to participate, rather than reject the message outright.

Note One: CNN's Robert Novack was horrible in the pre-speech interviews. Virtually every question he asked Charles Rangle could be summed up as "Since Americas loves George Bush so much, don't you think it's impossible/stupid/political suicide to oppose him on the domestic agenda." Delightfully, Rangle laughed in Novak's face.

Note Two: Prediction - if Cheney gets dragged down by the Enron mess, I bet he'll become too sick to run again as VP in 2004 and Colin Powell will be placed on the ticket. That could split the black vote and give GW the office for another term, even if his approval rating sinks to 45% by then.

Tuesday, January 29, 2002

GREED GOES BOTH WAYS
Warren suggested I take time out from Enron-bashing to review the situation at another big bankruptcy, Global Crossing, a telecom firm that went belly up Monday after reporting $11 billion in debt.

Business-wise, the situations are vastly different. Global was essentially part of the internet boom - a tech company that raised huge amounts of capital in the markets, had way too high a burn rate, and pissed away their funds before they could find enough customers to make the business profitable. It was formed by Gary Winnick, who according to Fox News, was a donor to the Clinton library as well as to Republican campaigns. Winnick also participated in a golf event with former President Clinton, and actors Sylvester Stallone and Jack Nicholson. Co-chairman Lawd Cooke was heavily involved in the Reagan library.

The executives, who made quite a profit for themselves, were likely greedy as hell. But there are no stories about them misleading investors and the Street while hiding debt off the balance sheet, a la Enron. Analysts have known for months that this company was rolling downhill. As one analyst said in the NYT article, "This was a foregone conclusion. They never had enough customers."

The interesting part of the story comes from the fact that Terry McAuliffe, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, turned a $100,000 investment in Global Crossing the early '90s into $18 million in stocks that he sold three years ago.  According to Fox News, McAuliffe said that his relationship to Global Crossing chief Winnick had nothing to do with the windfall, in fact claiming Global Crossing was a "Republican company" that helped to profit the first President Bush, who made $15 million. McAuliffe says while he took risk at the beginning, George H.W. Bush was allowed to buy in late because he gave a couple of speeches in Japan after he left the presidency that made favorable mention of Global Crossing.

Yes, that's right. GB senior also cashed out on Global. He took stock in lieu of an $80,000 fee for speaking to Global Crossing customers in Tokyo in 1999.

McAuliffe was rather unapologetic about the deal, portraying himself as the savvy investor. "It was an investment. It worked. I am happy I made money on that," he said

Frankly, it all smells like sleeze to me. When companies can be the source of stupid sums of wealth for politicians, it can mean nothing but corruption of the democratic process. But my, aren't these business guys smart to play both sides of the poltical spectrum so that when it all goes belly up, everybody is tainted? I wonder if Wharton has added some new courses to the graduate program in buying off the political process?

Another point - I was amazed to find the NY Times story never mentioned the amount of profit Terry McAuliffe made on Global, even though the story was front page news. They didn't even cover it in the web story either, which I suppose could make amends for print deadlines. Hmmm...it almost makes me believe in that liberal media bias rap. Almost.
BOO FUCKIN' HOO
The wife of future convict and former Enron Ceo Ken Lay did a TV interview to say her family is financially ruined. Forgive me if I don't cry. She also said her husband was a generous and honest man. It reminds me of the interviews with neighbors after somebody goes postal - He was a quiet, family man. These folks are obviously prepping the market for the day Ken ol' finally appears before Congress to answer some questions.

The NY Times added it's own two cents a few columns to the right with Putting "Lost Everything" In Perspective, an artticle that suggests the Lays had plenty of sources of income besides their Enron stock.

Monday, January 28, 2002

QUESTION
Correct me if I'm wrong...a few years ago, Hillary Clinton was vilified far and wide for daring to construct a health care plan away from the public gaze and without the poisoning influence of corporate lobbyists.

Flash foward to last year...inbetween heart attacks, VP Dick Cheney crafts an energy policy in secret with the help of corporate players like Enron. The nation doesn't hear about, although it affects all of us. And now,even though Congress wants to know about Enron's part in that task force, Cheney has refused to hand over energy task force notes. Said Cheney on Fox News, "You just cannot accept that proposition without putting a chill over the ability of the president and vice president to receive unvarnished advice."

Smell a double standard? Granted, Hillary wasn't an employee of the government, but she was working for one. Cheney isn't dealing in CIA spook works stuff (which might be better left secret). He's crafting energy policy with the advice of the very companies the policy affects.

I bet this is gonna blow up big time. And I'll also bet that few if any conservative commentators will have the cojones to cite this as an example of oppressive big government functioning like the Wizard of Oz, behind a curtain of smoke and mirrors.
I HATE ANN COULTER
Harry from Winter Park sent me a link yesterday from Front Page Magazine Ann Coulter -- The New York Times’ Crusade Against Capitalism. It reminded me how much I hate Ann Coulter.

As I wrote to Harry, Ann Coulter is such a stupid Republican Stepford bitch it makes my head hurt to read her drivel. The sole point of her writings seems to be take the issue of the day (any issue) and turn it into a tale of how liberals are trying to screw real Americans. If George Bush was accused of killing babies, she'd find some Democratic/liberal historical figure who years ago was accused of killing babies and eating them. Then she'd hold it up and say, "See, you liberals are hypocrites! You're bothered that President Bush killed babies but in fact, one of your own killed and ate babies, that makes you worse."

Ann's petty scam is the three-card monty of journalism. Her goal is to obfuscate news of the day with hopelessly muddled distortions, thereby giving her partisan readers the chance to ignore the evils of the reality before them. Ca'mon...Enron's not as bad as those Welfare Moms and NY Times writers.

Oh yeah, and she also claims the NY Times wants a recession. Please Ann, get real. Those reporters have 401k plans just like you. They're people, not communist Martians.

As with most right-wing media organs, Front Page Magazine appears to have no other pupose than to slam those who disagrees with the far right agenda, revise history so that every problem is blamed on the Clintons and claim the big bad liberal media doesn't give a fair voice to the entire politcal spectrum (oh right...like Noam Chomsky's latest is going to appear in Front Page Magazine). As with many conservative media whores, Coulter's facts aren't worth shit. Here's are some examples:

Coulter writes: even after the collapse, Enron stock is still worth more than the entire Social Security "trust fund."

Hey Anne, don't let the facts get in your way. According to the Office of the Chief Actuary, the Social Security Trust Fund is worth $1,213 billion, as of Dec. 31, 2001. Enron's market cap post-crash is $365 million (but it was up 9% on Friday!).

But contrary to hyperventilating media stories, there is no causal relationship between the boss selling his stock and the employees' losses."

Bullshit. The connection is this - the boss knows the real story, promotes the stock to his employees so they buy more via their 401K and then he sells his own shares. The name of that game is Pump & Dump.

BTW - whether she likes it or not, Ann is a member of the "hyperventilating media." The only difference is she's stuck scrawling for right-wing rags and appearing as a rent-a-pundit on Fox TV instead of working for a real network. That's probably what she's most pissed off about. She might as well be writing a blog.

The only beef Enron employees have with top management is that management did not inform employees of the collapse in time to allow them to get in on the swindle. If Enron executives had shouted, "Head for the hills!" the employees might have had time to sucker other Americans into buying wildly over-inflated Enron stock. Just because your boss is a criminal doesn't make you a hero.

I love this...so an employee's choice is to either be a swindler or a dupe? Ugh. The choice is not between loosing money or getting in on the swindle (although that's probably how that greedy little Ann lives her life). With the honest information, employees could have chosen to put their money elsewhere or perhaps gotten new jobs while the economy was soaring.

And BTW - Enron executives had a fiduciary duty to inform the market about any event which might materially affect the company. They didn't. They buried the dirt as far offshore as they could and hoped that it would all blow over until the company was acquired. That's not a beef, that's a crime. Coulter's implication that employees would then somehow be in the wrong for selling their shares to other Americans is simplistic swill. You don't sell shares to other people. Those shares would have been sold to market makers who usually make a tidy profit by always offering a price for the stocks in which they make a market. Here, they might have taken a bath, but that's the game. They probably would have made it up later.

The billions of dollars Enron employees "lost" in paper profits they had gained only in the last few years. Between 1997 and 2000, Enron stock quadrupled in price, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index edged up only a few percentage points. In 2000, Enron stock was trading at an astronomical 66 times recent earnings.

Again, bullshit. Between January 1, 1997 and January 1, 2000, the S&P 500 went up just under 100% - that's a bit more than a few percentage points, no?. In the same period, Enron stock went up just over 100%. Since then, the S&P has fallen to about a 50% gain versus 1/1/97. While the S&P 500 was falling, Enron zoomed up to a high over 300% over 1/1/97, then crashed. It was really only during those recent years while Enron executives pumped and dumped that the stock shot up like a bat outta hell.

I could rag on Ann all day and night, but I think my point is clear. I hate Ann Coulter. I hate her because she's a vicious, partisan, sloppy journalist who adds nothing to the national political dialog but a screeching noise.
FAMILY COMMUNICATION
Jake is getting used to a nightly chat with Daddy post-bathtime. Mommy gets ready for bed and Jake comes into my office (where I am usually working on something useless) then announces he wants to play, or talk or roll around on the floor.

Tonight, he came in and toll me we should get down on the floor and play. So I stumble down to the carpet and Jake announces "Daddy, I want a skateboard."

I've learned never to be shocked by anything, it only encourages him. "A skateboard?" I ponder. "Did you see somebody on a skateboard?"

Yes he did. In the parking lot at Chuckie Cheese, next to where he was playing miniature golf this afternoon. Big boys, he says, were riding their skateboards.

"Do you know what happens when you fall off a skateboard?," I ask. He, as always, immediately says Yes but doesn't really know. "You get hurt," I say. "You hurt you knees and your head and your arms and elbows. And then you cry a lot because hitting the concrete hurts." I bang my hand against the carpet for emphasis and go on a bit longer about how snowboarding is a lot more fun and less painful when you fall.

I can tell when Jake is absorbing an idea - he starts repeating it back to me reworked into declarative sentences and accompanied by facial grimaces.

"Big boys get hurt skating," he says with a deep frown. "It hurts when I fall off a skateboard. I've got to be seven before I fall off a skateboard. I need elbow pads before I ride a skateboard. We can go real fast on the snow."

At this point, I'm kind of satisfied with myself, feeling I've communicated the dangers of without yelling or discouraging him. It's such a different experience when you can communicate with your child and he understands and even appreciates what you're saying. Natalie calls Jake to bed and he stands up. Just before leaving the room, he turns to me as if his mind is finally made up.

"Daddy, you get me a skateboard tomorrow, okay?"

Friday, January 25, 2002

NOTE TO SELF: 1) SHRED PAPERS 2) HIRE HITMAN
What a surprise. A former Enron vice chairman, who months ago had complained "mightily" about irregularities within a one of the company's limited partnerships, has been found dead in his car from a gunshot to the head. He had also cashed out of Enron stock options to the tune of $22 million since October 1998.

According to CNN, Police are saying the guy died in an apparent suicide . My guess is that Oliver Stone is already writing this up for his next film.
THE SLEAZE CONTINUES
Karl Rove, President Bush's top political adviser, recommended the Republican strategist Ralph Reed to the Enron Corporation for a lucrative consulting contract as Mr. Bush was weighing whether to run for president, close associates of Mr. Rove say.

The Rove associates say the recommendation, which Enron accepted, was intended to keep Mr. Reed's allegiance to the Bush campaign without putting him on the Bush payroll. Mr. Bush, they say, was then developing his "compassionate conservativism" message and did not want to be linked too closely to Mr. Reed, who had just stepped down as executive director of the Christian Coalition, an organization of committed religious conservatives.


Read all about it.

So recommending Monica for a gig at Revlon is a federal offense but having your corporate supporters pay off a potential political enemy is fine? Ugh.
WORKING
Forgive the lack of new items every day. I'm working on this CD and that requires hours of driving around and listening to the sequencing, eq and levels. I have realized this is exactly the part of music I like - the editing and packaging and presentation. All that recording and songwriting and getting gigs is such a drag. Especially the getting gigs.

Thursday, January 24, 2002

ENRON AND ON AND ON AND ON
Chris from PA said it best - This Enron thing is like watching a slow motion train wreck. I hear that. My fave news item today - George Bush is mad about Enron! Finally, after days of muting his opinion, GW discovered his Mother-In-Law Lost Money With Enron. Yeah, Laura's Momma took a bath to the tune of $8,000 on Enron stock and that makes GW hopping mad like a horny toad! Just remember what my broker always says - it's not a loss until you sell it.

I think this illustrates my theory that Republicans only care about issues when it affects them directly.

The same can not be said for the immpecably groomed and formerly fat Reverend Al Sharpton. Though he had not a dime invested in Enron, the right Reverend is flying to Houston to take up the cause of those Enron workers who lost millions by being so stupid as to invest their entire 401K plans in Enron stock. Didn't anyone suspect anything in that place? I can't speak for everyone, but in every corporate job I've ever had, the drones knew when business was crumbling years before the suits.

The Reverend Al has even offered to help Bush's Mother-In-Law in her claims againt Enron. Okay, so maybe future presidental candidate Al Sharpton is getting some political milage out of this parade of injustice. Maybe a lot of political milage. Okay, Al's just as full of shit as the Republicans. Let's agree on that. But he's been consistently full of shit, and for that, I respect him.

Let's also agree that Enron CEO Ken Lay deserves several years behind bars with some large, affectionate criminal men and several slippery bars of soap. Luckily, Kenneth Lay has resigned as Enron Chairman/CEO, which should clear his calendar for the next 20 years or so in preparation for his trip to the Big House.

Unfortunately, my dreams of retribution and responsibility will likely evaporate in a haze of deal-making and ass-covering. Already, a former Enron auditor has refused to testify before Congress without immunity. I heard he really wanted to chat with the congressmen, but his speech was accidently shreded along with every other document at the Enron branch of Arthur Anderson (oops!).

So this guy wants immunity before he talks? Instead, how about somebody slap some cuffs on him and haul his ass to the Big House for an evening of anal fun while his lawyer rounds up bail? Maybe that'll loosen his lips. I respect the 5th Amendment, but the idea that a multi-billion company implodes and all those responsible are still walking around ordering shreding makes me crazy. If these guys had ripped off $50 from a 7-11, they'd be looking at 10 years hard time. As it is, everyone hires a lawyer, gets their stories straight, cops a plea and blames the other guy.

And you know that in the end, nobody's going to jail for this. They'll plea, get immunity or be convicted and sentenced, then appeal for years until it's overturned by a friendly judge and swept under the rug. Maybe Ken Lay will get 3 years - tops - in a country club jail. Shit, I'd go to country club jail for three years if I could walk out knowing my bank accounts held a few hundred million. But maybe that's me. I like to read.

My guess? Ken Lay is rehabilitated in time to do fund-raising for Jeb Bush's presidential run in 2008. And once again, it will be proven that Law and Order Candidate really means candidates who want the right to choose which laws are ordered enforced.

BTW - Florida is already simmering with election fever. I just saw a bumper sticker that said Re-Elect Gore in 2004. I think Gore should remain politically retired, but I still like the bumper sticker.

Wednesday, January 23, 2002

WHERE'S JERRY LEWIS WHEN YOU NEED HIM?
The First Afghan Beg-a-Thon is over and pledges total over $4.5 billion dollars over five years. This Aid Chart offers a fascinating glimpse of both international pocketbooks and conflicts.

For instance, the US is up for only $296 million, only slightly more than half of the $560 million being pledged by Iran. Granted, Iran is a bordering neighbor and the US has coughed up quite a few bucks thus far to install a new government in Kabul. But you can bet you ass the Muslim world will be pointing out that difference and snickering.

A bit further down, we find tiny Netherlands kicking in a whopping $103 million. That nicely beats contributions from some bigger and/or more prominent European countries, such as Sweden ($100 million), Italy and Norway ($40 million each), and France (a paltry $24 million).

I wish this chart has a comparison by percentage of contribution versus GDP or annual government budget. Comparisons might make more sense.

My favorite item is India's $101 million, which just barely puts it ahead of perenial enemy Pakistan's $100 million. How much do you want to bet the guys on India's team heard what Patiskan was contributing and just had to beat them by a million. This isn't Afghan relief, it's The Price Is Right!

China, the most populated country on the planet offered only $1 million. China makes more on that in an afternoon selling bootleg DVDs.
2002 SELF-PROMOTION AWARD
Remember the 1969 Mets? The Miracle Mets? Well, not many others do either because famed catcher of that team, Jerry Grote is hawking his skills as a baseball coach on the web.JERRY GROTE SEEKING FUTURE POSITION AS COACH OR MANAGER IN THE BIG LEAGUES Check it out. I can't decide if it's pathetic or ballsy. I think his wife put it together. There's no explaination what Jerry's been doing between 1985 (his last baseball gig) and now, which makes me wonder if it has something to do with why he isn't working.

This reminds me of the advertisment taken out years ago by the father of Marty Balin (singer of the Jefferson Airplane/Starship and the only guy of that group not to sleep with Grace Slick). The ad, published when Marty was between gigs, said something embarrassing like Singer of Jefferson Starship Seeks Band To Front I think Marty hit the oldies circuit right after that.
A SONG FOR YOUR iPODS
Say what you will about Frank Zappa's sometimes potty mouth lyrics and disturbing music, the guy was a genius. His most cynical, paranoid rants sound more like the news every day.

This odd little tribute is perfect for Zappa fans or anyone bored with the dumb the rock thing. The Persuasions are a pure a cappella group who happened to put out their first record on Zappa's Straight Records back in 1969. Here, they say thanks to Frank with a collection of Zappa works tweeked for all-vocal arrangements. I can't say enough good things about this CD. Even Jake even likes it (he kept laughing and shouting This is funny music! when I put it on). Before this, he'd only given a thumb's up to the Chipmunks.

The track I've selected for your downloading pleasure is The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing. A message for everyone, no? Get it now, because it won't be up for long.

Monday, January 21, 2002

LIVING UP TO HIS RESUME
During his thus far brief Afghan stint, Jerry Rivers (aka Geraldo Rivera) has already embarrassed himself and Fox News (who a thunk it possible???). Read about it here. On Dec. 6, Rivers spoke on air about getting choked up and saying the Lord's Prayer at a battlefield where Alliance members were killed. It turned out this event happened hundreds of miles away from Rivera's location. My favorite line is the story regards Rivera's lame explanation that he had confused events during his report: Fox News did not have any explanation for how Rivera could have been confused by an event that had not yet occurred.

The Short Lesson - Whenever people claim to be moved to spontaneous prayer, suspect a lie.
WARREN CHIMES IN
Regarding yesterday's blog, Warren from L.A. wrote: You said, "hypocrisy knows no political boundaries." Which I totally agree with. You also said that your conservative friends seem to imply "if it's not conservative, it's wrong or stupid." I would ask you that amend that only by adding, "and frequently conservatives are stupid, too."

I'll go even further to also add conservatives are sometimes also wrong. Sometimes.

Warren also wrote: I never listen to Rush Limbaugh. Never. I think he's a bombastic asshole. There is this guy on out here named Mike Gallagher who is even worse. He actually had on his radio show, shortly after 9/11, a militia leader who very clearly implied in his remarks that the only people who truly stood to benefit from the attacks were the US Senate. Again, the host showed no inclination to challenge the man's clear implication that even if the Senate hadn't planned the attack, they were pleased to have it happen, as they could use it a pretext to take guns away from those Americans who needed them to shoot Jews.
GOOD READING
The weblog is not the most useless weapon in the War On Terrorism. That title is still held by the nuclear submarine. Tim Cavanaugh of the Online Journalism review takes on the internet jingoists with Let Slip the Blogs of War (if you see a blank page, scroll down to find the story).

Tim hits many good points while trashing many lounge chair hawks. Sample: When Taranto seethes that the Spanish have no right to quibble about our death penalty because, well, because Spain was a fascist dictatorship as recently as 1975, you know you've reached some kind of low point in the art of forensic rhetoric.

Sunday, January 20, 2002

INTERPRETING NEWS
Since I started The Suburban Limbo, I've exchanged many, many emails with conservative friends who accuse me of all manner of liberalism. Within most of their emails is the subtext of anything not conservative is stupid and wrong . Although replying has pretty much prevented me from holding steady employment, I've enjoy these exchanges. If nothing else, they force me to constantly question what I'm reading and look for a subtext beyond my normal bias of government officials and corporate executives are usually lying weasels (Gimme an E! Gimme an N! Gimme a R - O - N!)

Three media occurances this week really made me sit back and wonder What the fuck drugs are these people on? The accused are both liberal and conservative. The first was Tolerance in Village Wears Thin, from the Saturday New York Times. In it, we learned that residents of the West Village feel their neighborhood is being overrun by crackheads and transvestite hookers. An influx of rowdy, black, gay young men - especially on weekends - has caused some to dub the area Times Square South . These residents have had enough and are demanding City officials do something about the increase in criminal activity.

Simple enough, right? Well here's where it gets weird. The city officials from that area - three of whom are gay - appear worried that a crackdown might be seen as racist or anti-gay. Instead of action, they have been lulled into a fog of ass-kissing and blathering. State Senator Thomas Duane said: Only recently has the transgender community become empowered and visible...and I welcome them as partners. Maybe they will help us find some alternatives to incarceration.

Oh, right Tom. That pre-op hooker giving a hummer on your stoop is just brimming with ideas for alternative prison schemes.

Melissa Sklarz, the chairwoman of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Committee of Community Board 2, tried to turn it into an economic issue. She said: I admit, the behavior lately seems out of bounds. But let's talk about the real problems of the Village: million-dollar condos, not wild young black kids.

That's the sound of a person who declined to buy her 3-bedroom apartment for the insider price 15 years ago and has been kicking herself ever since.

Well-intentioned though they might be, these idiots are ignoring reality. I used to walk through this area ten years ago on the way to the Christopher Street Path Station. It felt like a dangerous shit hole back then. I do hate to type whinning liberals, but people, get real. If you don't clean your streets, somebody else will. And it probably won't be someone with a lot of sympathy for the alternative lifestyles of the West Village.

Next, comes something I heard of the Rush Limbaugh Show. Rush wasn't on, it was his substitute. A female caller related how she and her husband were seached at an Oregon airport. She had a valid complaint questioing why the gate attendant wanted to put a metal detector wand down her husband's pants. But them she launched into a tirade about the guard being Middle Eastern and how dare he search us, all of which was capped off by her husband's fumming comment to the security guard I'm a Caucasian American taxpayer and I pay your salary.

Okay, we don't even need to review the racist stupidty of such a comment. What shocked me was how the conservative talk show host just let it slide right by, afraid to touch that little poop of controversy with a ten foot pole. Had the caller muttered in an afterthought, I kinda liked Clinton, you can bet the host would have ripped her a new asshole in the next breath. But when it's Oh, gee, you're a racist? Well, that the demographic, so let's not offend anyone by calling you out on it.

Hypocrisy knows no political boundaries.


Finally, there was this story on 60 Minutes tonight - Female Pilot Sues Over Muslim Garb. You can read it there. In short, an American woman Air Force pilot is suing the US govenrment because of a rule which states she has to wear traditional Saudi clothing when off-base in Saudi Arabia. For her, it's both a woman's issue and a Christian issue. That means both Jesse Helms and various women's rights groups are lining up in her support (although they're holding separate fundraisers, I'm sure). Reporter Lesly Stahl was particularly unctuous, trying to talk the pilot into wearing the Arab garb on-camera, then demonstrating it herself and noting, Boy, this outfit is really bothering you, huh?

Hey folks, despite what Disney might say, America doesn't own the world. Other countries have rules, customs and traditions. If we want the privilage of running military operations from there, there might be a few rules soldiers have to abid by. The pilot claimed her suit was not about being an ugly American, but yes, that's exactly what it's about. Most of the Arab world are terrified of women and if they saw one marching down the street in her uniform, locals would probably pop a blood vessel on their way to stoning her.

And it's not our job to solve that problem. The world doesn't need (or want) to be Americanized. The real question is should Americans be stationed in Saudi Arabia when that country is so conflicted about Western Culture? I say. No, fuck 'em if they don't like us. No more Military Aid Packages or Happy Meals for you. The US should relocate now, but I'm afraid that'll take years and years.

Bonus Issue: Don't human rights groups have something better to do than complain about the lack of solid walls surrounding al-Qaida detainees in Cuba? Aren't there some worthy people being oppressed that they can deal with? Just wondering...
A PLACE TO RAGE
Derek Powazek is probably the best community builder/web designer on the planet. When you feel like screaming, drop by «KVETCH!» COMPLAINING IN HI-FI. Add your complaint or just wallow in the annoyances of others.

Thursday, January 17, 2002

HISTORY
I haven't been writing a lot this week and I want to explain why.

I used to be a musician, but I don't play much anymore. Lately, my sole musical project has been to review and properly label 30 digital audio tapes ("dats") containing about 45 hours of studio recordings and rehearsals of my last (and still kind of functioning) band Big Happy Crowd. I've also been dumping the unusual or unreleased stuff into my computer, just in case I decide to burn a CD or do something.

This project has been wandering on and off for about five months. Finally, this week, I buckled down and finished reviewing the last four tapes. Ity was surprising. Before my band was a band, it was a duo with myself and a guy named John Sonntag. Recently, I dug up about 20 or so cuts from the John & me phase of Big Happy Crowd and now I'm sequencing the best of them for a CD. Even though I haven't picked up a guitar in months - BANG! - I'm sucked right back into musician land, spending hours at a time tied to my computer, reviewing songs, altering the eq, fixing compression, etc, etc. And all this for a CD that I will burn TWO COPIES of - one for me and one for John. I'm even designing a cover.

Ugh. I need a more productive obsession. Please send your suggestions.
NOTES ON REDISCOVERING LED ZEPPLIN
My 10-cd Led Zepp box arrived a week ago from half.com. I'm now deeply involved reliving a youth I never had. Luckily, this time around it doesn't involve a school full of stoners or 8-track tape decks blaring from the backs of Cameros in the A&P parking lot. Observations:

1) I'm shocked at the number of great Zeppelin songs hidden on the albums which never get touched by classic rock radio.

2) For me, Led Zeppelin's high point is probably House of the Holy although the entire string of albums from Led Zeppelin II through Presence is rock solid. The only weak stuff is 3/4s of the way through Physical Graffiti and hey, that was a double-album. They're allowed a few misses.

3) Robert Plant's lyrics mystify me. At worst, he sounds like a high school kid immersed in Tolkin and English mythology. At best, there's a lot of reverb and I can't understand what he's singing.

4) Tina, I totally understand why fabulous girls in my high school like you worshipped the bare-chested Mr.Plant and wished to have his children (or at least attempt the process).

5) Bonzo is an ass-kicking drummer. The generally quality of any Zeppelin song is directly related to the the volume and intensity of Bonzo's drum part. The man could groove.

6) In Through The Out Door is dreck. Luckily, Coda, the leftovers album which came out two years after they broke up, is excellent (and improved further with the four bonus tracks offered here).

7) Jimmy Page plays some mighty fucked up guitar parts. Even on songs which could be played straight (like the rock-steady-influenced Dyer Maker), he's twinging and twanging these strange little riffs and beats. Brain candy for stoners, I know, but cool to hear twenty years later too.

8) As much as I wanted to feel the presence and development of Led Zepp by checking out the albums as complete works, something is missing. Namely, the buzz of a hot band releasing new records and being featured on magazine covers. I can blab all I want about these guys, but they are over and listening to this is more akin to visiting a museum than the sleazy, immediate thrill that is rock and roll. I'm listening to these CDs in my car and I should probably be locked in a room with headphones and staring at the album covers.

But those days are gone (or at minimum, left to young Creed fans). Box set revisionism will have to do.

Wednesday, January 16, 2002

WHEN FACED WITH A PACKAGED OLDIES TOUR...
Adam Ant Committed After Meltdown. What is going on with English has beens? First, the singer for Big Country offs himself. Now an armed Adam Ant does a James Brown impression in a London pub and gets hauled away. What's next? Kaja Googoo die in cult suicide?

This story is also notable for containing the phrase '80s pop relics, which by itself makes my hemorrhoids flare. Where's my walker?

Tuesday, January 15, 2002

THE PEARL JAM** GENERATION
It rained most of the day here, which was a nice change for everyone except the landscape crew who came by to rip out a bunch of dead bushes and plant new stuff. Oh well, at least they can be thankful that it wasn't hot.

I spent the afternoon at the University, where my class of 25 seniors expressed a world-weary boredom well beyond their years. These are film students making their final project and one would think they'd be thrilled, bursting with energy and ideas. Instead, most sit and smirk, afraid to speak in class or stand out in any way which might make them a target of their peeres. And God forbid anyone should push them. They will immediately fall into the victim routine. Where is your project? This happened, that happened, it's his fault, or her fault. The buck stops here is not a phrase they embrace.

After the class, another teacher and myself discussed the group and ways we might prode them into action. They're the Pearl Jam** Generation - self-aware and savvy, but verbally challenged to the point of mute and irresponsible when confronted with any request (or deadline) they don't like. The most annoying portion of this group functions like a block of ennui, poisoning the rest of the class. We teachers are starting to regret our new mandatory attendance policy.

All this is depressing to realize, but liberating to understand. I've been told that the trick to being a good teacher is to remember the class is about the students, not the teacher. I'm still too new at this to say that's right or wrong, but I see one point to it - if a portion of this class wants to do the bare minimum or less, there's nothing I can do except fail them. Instead, I'll focus on the kids who are interested and have a project worth encouraging (and mind you, those people are there).

**CORRECTION:
Chris from NJ noted that my use of Pearl Jam Generation is innacurate to describe the current college crowd. Many of these 21-year-olds were only 10 when Pearl Jam's biggest records came out. Good point, although I was using Pearl Jam as sort of the originators of angry modern mope rock. Of course, if that's the case, then I really could take it back to Nirvana, right? Chris suggested: these lame asses belong to limp bizkit or whateverthefuck generation. So this afternoon, I changed it to the Pearl Jam/Limp Bizkit Generation.

But after thinking it over, I'm reverting to the original Pearl Jam Generation. Age 10 or 11 was when I started listening to music, so I suppose it was the same for current college kids. And Pearl Jam certainly influenced many of today's most popular inarticulate rock bands. So correction reversed, back it goes.

Monday, January 14, 2002

SOME OP-ED BALLS
I'd like to begin the new year by bidding farewell to three men whose departure will raise the median decency of the United States Senate - Jesse Helms, Strom Thurmond and Phil Gramm. Ouch. NY Times writer Bill Keller lets it rip in Mr. T., Mr. G. and Mr. H., a brutal, hatchet job of a kiss-off in which he also admits the NY Times editorial page skews liberal!

Keller writes: I wish I could summon up tributes to these men, if only for the contrarian pleasure of defying the liberal tradition of these pages. But alas, it has to be said that each of them has impoverished our precious political culture.
SENIORS IN ACTION
Why make stuff up when you can read about this - Granny Gets Giggy With It For 300 Yen A Night
BUT CAN HE CHEW GUM AND WALK?
While watching Sunday Afternoon football, President George W. Bush fainted after choking on a pretzel. The official position is that the fainting was due in part to Bush's excellent physical condition and lower-than-normal heart rate. The White House physician said Bush believes he was out only for a few seconds because when he awoke, his two dogs were sitting in the same position they were when he lost consciousness.

Obviously, GW passing out is something those dogs have seen before.

I can't think of any way to improve this story, so just enjoy this version supplied by FOXNews.com

Sunday, January 13, 2002

TARGET: GEORGE
We all knew it wouldn't last, right? Those non-partisan, we're in this together wartime vibes are crumbling like stale bread as Washington and the media latch onto the ever-swelling Enron scandal. There's a good chance GW will emerge unscathed from this - either because he did nothing criminal or because it's a dense, complicated story and one that won't be easy to translate for the general public. But as I read it, there are already a few juicy hooks to ponder:

1) Enron stock made up most of the Enron employee 401K plan. The plan had a lockout clause which prevented employees from selling that stock. Before being fired (post-bankruptcy), those employees were forced to watch their holdings drop in value for months - from over $80 to about 25 cents a share. At the same time, Enron executives kept telling them and the media that the company was in good shape.

2) While Enron employees watched their retirement funds evaporate, company executives with stock from vested options dumped $1.1 billion of Enron stock before the really bad news hit. Planned sales of stock by executives are not uncommon, but these appear to go well beyond that. One report said CEO Ken Lay was selling Enron shares almost daily. Can you say Insider Trading?

3) Many, many Republicans and Bush appointees have connections to Enron. Attorney General Ashcroft has already recused himself from any Enron investigation because of extensive ties to the company via previous campaign contributions. And CEO Ken Lay was one of GW's biggest contributors during the 2000 Presidential election.

4) The oddest connection is perhaps former Senator Phil Grahm, who's wife serves on the Enron board in an audit capacity. Might this be why Phil quit his government gig in such haste? Hmmmm.

5) To be fair, many Democrats are also connected to Enron. The Clinton Administration supposedly fast-tracked approval for an Enron power plant and the Dems promptly received a $100,000 contribution from a thankful Enron. And Clinton's Imperial Dwarf, Robert Riech, is accused of asking a Treasury official to pressure a bond ratings agency on Enron's behalf. Ooops.

Much, much more is to come, but the little lies are already starting to fly. The best was GW's quote that he first met Enron CEO Ken Lay when Lay was supporting Ann Richards, Bush's opponent in the Texas Governor's race. According to reports, Ken Lay gave three times more money in that race to Bush than he did to Richards and in fact, Lay met Bush much, much earlier as the two worked together during the presidental term of GW's father.

Scan the media's viewpoints by checking Enron's Short, Dizzying Plunge From Success Story to Debacle (NY Times), Enron is not Bush's Whitewater; it's worse (CBS Marketwatch), the CNN.com coverage or the contrasting reports from FOXNews.com. Fox is particularly entertaining, as every time I've seen this story pop up there, within 45 seconds, their hosts and guests downplay its significance and make a comparison to a Clinton-era scandal (NEWSFLASH TO FOX - CLINTON IS NO LONGER PRESIDENT. DEAL WITH THE NEWS, NOT HISTORY).

And for you conspiracy theorists, read Hell To Pay, an essay by one William Pitt (That links leads to his front page. If Hell To Pay isn't there, check his Archives). Mr. Pitt is a Boston-based professor and writer with an obvious leftist slant. Even I can tell some of his facts/characterizations are questionable. But as the classic refrain goes, if even a quarter of what he writes is true, GW's gonna have a dandy domestic scandal on his hands.
TIME CAPSULE
To celebrate the release of the new iMac (aka: I want one...I want one now) I took a trip back to the future at THE MOTHERSHIP, a wonderful website dedicated to all things historical and Mac-related. The collection of old ads was fine, but my fave item was a Quicktime flick of the original Macintosh 1984 Commercial.

As some might recall, this commercial, which introduced the Macintosh, was shown officially only once - during the 1984 Superbowl. Download it now for your viewing pleasure (2.1 meg/compressed with sit.hqx).

Saturday, January 12, 2002

MTV TO HAWK MTV-BRANDED COMPUTERS TO STUDENTS...
POTENTIAL TIME WASTE FACTOR SEEN TO RIVAL KISS ARMY

This phenomenal product virtually replaces the television, personal computer, DVD player and music CD/FM stereo. Just think about the impact this will have on dormitories, as well as homes and lofts with limited space, Bob Anderson, Lan Plus biz dev director gushes.

Adds The Register: And just think about the impact on the customer when it breaks - no TV, no PC, no DVD player, no radio. This is why the project is so risky for MTV - selling expensive kit which can break is a quick method of turning brand extension into brand suicide.

Friday, January 11, 2002

OWN A COMPUTER? BE A PORNOGRAPHER!
Salon.com proves good content attracts eyeballs with So you want to be an online pornographer?, a brief but page-flipping interview with a twentysomething guy who lost his dot com job and started The Adult Webmaster School. The school teaches enterprising folks everything they need to know to succeed in the online porn business.

The cost for admission? $140. Pretty reasonable when you compare it to a year of subscriptions to online porn sites.
THE BLOWHOLE BLOWS THEM AWAY
Every year around Christmas time, Don, singer of Life In A Blender, put on a little variety extravaganza entitled Blowhole Theatre. Their theme song goes like this:

Take me to the Blowhole!
I've got on my Blowhole Clothes!
Take me to the Blowhole!
I don't care if it rains or it snows!
I won't have imm-a-tations,
'Cause everybody knows?
That there's only one Blowhole Theater,
And there's only one Hole that Blows!


Sounds like fun, yes? Read the review at the link and re-experience this thrill for yourself.

Thursday, January 10, 2002

CALAMARA FOR EVERYONE!
The UnMuseum - Giant Squid How giant? How does 175 feet sound?
THE BEST OF THE WORST
The Smoking Gun: Document Of The Year Awards is a list of weird memos, reports, contracts and arrest reports that stood out as particularly revealing. Our faves? J-Lo's absurd contract rider demands to do a cameo in a charity music video and the salacious 1942 US Government report on Hitler (...the whip seems to be connected to with a hidden desire on the part of Hitler for some state of erection that would overcome his fundamental sexual inferiority complex).
CARTOONISTS TAKE THE CHALLENGE
From the latest Rockwood:
IN-FLIGHT READING FOR 9/11 TERRORISTS
Smile in the face of death oh young man. You are heading to the Paradise of Eternity...The New York Review of Books: Manual for a 'Raid'. A dense but fascinating essay.

Wednesday, January 09, 2002

EVERYBODY...DUCK!
It could have wiped out France wished one caption writer. Earth escapes brush with killer asteroid - January 7, 2002
WE'RE NUMBER 1 BECAUSE WE SAY SO!
.Net vote rigging illustrates importance of Web services Guess what? Stealing a page from the Chicago school of Vote Early, Voter Often, the folks at Micro$oft figured out how to scam an online poll. On the downside, their crappy software made it easy to trace the tracks.
WELCOME TO FLORIDA - FAST FOOD OR CONSUMER ELECTRONICS?
Among the many message boards and group I read daily, some guy wrote this tidbit which nicely sums up the employment opportunities here in Florida:

New member here, the name is Jason, and I wear two hats...I'm a weather guy at an NBC affiliate in FL, and also a AV sales guy at my local Circuit City.

God God. Even network TV news people down here need a retail or fast food gig to help pay the rent. Ouch.
GEEK NEWS
I love The new iMac. It's sleek, it's powerful and way, way cool. And as a bonus, it'll make a great desktop TV for the guestroom where I keep my home office. I want one. I want two.

Of course, not everybody is in love. There are flame wars raging across the net that this design just won't be as catchy as the gumdrop iMac of the past few years. And of course, PC drones can't comprehend the concept (or need for) of a beautiful computer. Bite me. I want one now.

One of the better anti-Mac articles I've read lately was  How I learned to stop worrying, and abandoned Mac OSX. In short, the writer says the user interface was the Mac's best feature and OSX destroys that. I've stayed away from OSX because I wanted the bugs to get sorted out and some primary applications I use aren't OSX-native. But if anyone has experience using OSX (good or bad), I'd like to hear about it.
A NEW LOW
I hate telemarketers. I particularly hate those pre-recorded message telemarketers who call during the afternoon in hopes of leaving a message on your answering machine while you're at work. If you pick up (as I often do when I work at home), there's a two second or more pause while the call is routed to a human who usually mis-pronounces your name then starts the pitch.

A new trend has been the pre-recorded message that sounds like a real person, with lots of uhhhs and stutters. My favorite comes from Dish Networks. Uhhh...Hi. My name is Cliff and uhhh...I wanted to let you know that we're in your neighborhood this week installing Dish Network. If...uhhh...you're interested, we have a great special going on now.

Today, we hit new low in telemarketing. The phone rings, I pick it up. A pre-recorded message says - with a Southern accent no less - Oh. Hey, I'm sorry. I must have the wrong number. Bye.

I guess they've even dumped the human back-ups for those answered calls. Come to think of it, maybe this is an improvement for the industry?
MORE BLOGER PROBLEMS
Due to server load, Blogger is limiting when publishers can press publish. That might delay things for a while.
PACKAGING ANNE
I've spent the past few days cutting a video demo for my friend Anne. She's a local scenester who's hosted many TV shows and events, including the Orlando Music Awards the two years I produced that shindig. I always said I'd help out anyone who helped with my projects, so I volunteered to be her editor sans gratis.

At first, I was a bit stumped starring at all the footage. I didn't think she had enough good stuff on tape to make a demo, but I was wrong. The power of editing is a wonderful thing (my editor friend Dave reminded me of that when he crafted an excellent movie performance from Courtney Love's twitches and ramblings). Last night, everything clicked. I finished an 8 minute cut today. Rather than turn Anne into a proper little anchor lady, I played into her wilder and weirder image. She's asking a lot of wise-ass questions of celebrities, showing off her tattos and demonstrating about 150 very different hair, dress and make-up stylings. It looks good and she looks good.

But it makes me wonder - what's the point? I'd love to see Anne on E!, the Travel Channel, VH1 or even MTV (although she's probably a bit too old for that last one). I think she'd be great - a bracing little smack of original personailty. But do any of those shows want a diamond in the rough like Anne? We'll see...

Tuesday, January 08, 2002

AND THOSE WHO DON'T KNOW...
Monday was my first official day as an adjunct professor at the University of Central Florida. Everybody who works there is great, but the students in my class - seniors, mind you - generally act like arrogant high schoolers. Lazy, ill-prepared and unconcerned. Not all of them, but enough to make one wonder what the fuck they're doing in college (even a state school like this). I've been told these students are something of a write-off so I shouldn't drive myself crazy worrying about them. Their current two-year program is being replaced with a four-year program next year. They're the last group of their kind. I get the feeling they will pass the class simply by showing up.

Welcome to the world of higher education. I'm trying hard to recall if I was so sullen and jaded when I went to school. I don't remember it, but that might be revisionist thinking on my part. Maybe I too sat in the back and avoided eye contact with the teacher? Maybe this is all just another sign that I'm getting to be an old man. Those damn kids have gotta get off their asses!

On a positive note, I saw two student projects which looked excellent. I guess I'll just have to focus on the good, at least for now.
YOU ARE WHAT YOU IS
Christina Aguilera: I'm No Porn Queen! No...really...that look works for you. In a few years, she'll be begging for publicity like this.
BLOGGER DOWN
Blogger.com was down last night and early this morning, so no big updates. Sorry.
STANDARD BEARER
Harry in Winter Park (who wants everyone to know that he thinks Tom Daschle is a piece of shit) alerted us to this fine story in Fortune Magazine - Living In America. Turns out the number one retailer of US flags is an Arab-American living in Virginia.

For some weird reason, that doesn't surprise me at all.

Monday, January 07, 2002

TIP OF THE HAT
Suburban Limbo got a nice mention last week in Pseublog - Check out Rich Grula's blahg if you're as deadly tired of hipster whining as I am.

I don't know if blahg was typo or a comment on the genre, but it's always interesting to hear how other people perceive you, no? Pseu's blog is a cool rant from a lady with taste. Check it out. I love the way she trashes the guy who dares to dis the Beatles. Rock on girl! I don't know much about Pseu, but I think she DJs at the nation's shine for independent radio WFMU. For that alone, she's worth reading.
DIGGIN' BEN FOLDS AGAIN
Those who know me might recall that I trashed the last Ben Folds Five CD in the Orlando Weekly as a pompus weeze from a guy who used to be quite funny and interesting. It looks like Mr. Folds got the news because he dumped the band and recorded this wonderful little CD all by his lonesome. It's funny, it rocks and it has memorable melodies - in short, perfect for a geezer like me who recalls music as something more than grunge whinning. And hey, any CD with a title like Rockin' The Suburbs gets bonus points here.

Warren from Hollywood registers this observation - Am I the first person to note an artistic connection between (Ben Folds) and Eminem? That is, they both seem to say "I have a right to my misery, whether you think I belong to one of the misery-privileged groups, or not." Good point. Folds is white, middle class and smart. But that doesn't mean he can't have a shitty decade. Sound familiar?

For your aural enjoyment, I'm starting a new feature here at The Suburban Limbo - downloadable mp3s. Radio sucks so bad, I'm doing everything I can to help spread good music. Click here to download my fave song from the CD - Zak & Sara (mono/1.5 meg). It's a tale of two bored teens in a music store circa 1984. Zak trys out guitars. Sara has premonotions about everyone's death. Enjoy.

(BTW - Needless to say, in order to hear the download, you need an mp3 player. And to keep server traffic responsable, I'll probably pull these mp3s after a week or so. Download it now.)

Sunday, January 06, 2002

FLORIDA IS IN THE NEWS...
...and once again, it's for something fairly embarrassing. Teen Pilot Crashes Plane Into Tampa Tower - Had 'Sympathy' for Osama Depressed as they are, teens managed to find ever new ways to draw attention to their suicides. Maybe they should focus that energy elsewhere, hmmm?

Thursday, January 03, 2002

EARLY WARNING SIGNS
After reading my somewhat positive assessment of GW Bush's performance post-Septmeber 11, my less than conservative friends checked in with concern. My favorite came from Susan in Austin who suggested mental illness. She wrote: Your softening for George just sent a chill through me, reminding me of the early stages of my dad's Alzheimer's when he changed from a staunch Democrat to loving Ronald Reagan.

Damn, where did I put my keys again?
FOR APPLE GEEKS ONLY
I use Macs. I like reading Apple rumor sites. As The Apple Turns is my fave, but Crazy Apple Rumors Site is coming on strong. Here's a sample from a recent Q&A. (BTW - if you're not a Mac fanatic, this might not make sense):

Q: I have been using the same SE/30 for 12 years and am too cheap to buy a new machine. I've been hearing about Mac OS X and feel that Apple owes it to me, because of my purchase 12 years ago, to make OS X work on my SE. My question is, what is the best way for me to whine about this?

A: We suggest you write an "open letter" to Apple describing your ridiculous demand. Publish this letter on your own web site and every forum you can find, regardless of the forum topic. Email the letter to every Mac-related web site and ask them to publish it. Have your name legally changed to the entire text of the letter and introduce yourself to everyone you see. Get the letter tattooed on your ass and walk around in nothing but leather chaps. Finally, drive over to Steve Jobs' house and shake your ass in his window until he "does the right thing".
VAST RIGHT WING CONSPIRACY STRIKES AGAIN
When hearing about Clinton's Beloved Dog Buddy Killed by Car, the lovely Natalie asked in all seriousness, "Do they know who did it?"

You know...she's got me thinking.

Wednesday, January 02, 2002

LEARNING TO SORTA LIKE BUSH
I've been feeling queasy these past few weeks and I think I know why - I'm starting to like George W. Bush. His Presidential performance post September 11th has been impressive - resolute and focused - and it's made me see him in a whole new light. Granted, I still believe he bullied his way into office via Florida (though probably no worse than Kennedy grabbing his election via Chicago). And I fear he'll end up a tool of the far right, backing Ashcroft's dirty work re: abortion, morality laws and the rest of that agenda. But as I've watched the Afghanistan campaign unroll, I've been thankful he and his team are in charge. Yes, C. Powell probably has a lot to do with the success, but GW put him in the job and backed him up, so credit is deserved.

Some thoughts about the war up to now which I find interesting:

1) America has taken great pains to involve and credit Afghan fighters every step of the way. Sure, it benefits us by keeping our losses low, but it also boosts the ego of the country we're trying to help. Who knew the US military could be so low-key and generous in giving credit? The result? America's popularity has sky-rocketed among Afghans. We are generally loved in a nation where our army is staging a war (and occasionally bombing civilians by accident). That hasn't happened since 1945.

2) Not involving many countries in the war itself was brilliant. It minimized confusion and the need to share decisions with allies. It took pressure off friendly nations who's citizens might not want to go to war alongside the US. And it allowed the responsibility of peacekeeping to naturally fall on the shoulders of nations who weren't there for the fight (ie: Turkey).

3) Surprise...we've become friends with Russians. Good grief, why didn't we think of that before? It goes to show that one only needs a good enemy to help sort out who should be (or needs to be) our friends.

I know, the war's not over. Many bad things can still happen. The Afghans could still turn on us in a heartbeat. Our allies could fall by the wayside. Russia could give us the cold shoulder and throw in its lot with China. But if GW actually finishes the job in Afghanistan, removes US troops promptly and helps a new Afghan government succeed, American might finally rinse away the bad taste of Vietnam from its collective foreign policy memory.

In Wednesday's NY Times, Thomas Friedman thanked Bush for his war planning, but faulted him for an oil-based energy policy and as a a result, wished Gore had won the 2000 election.(Let's Roll). I can't go that far. I don't think Gore would have done a bad job in this situation, but I doubt the Republicans would have supported him the way Democrats have supported Bush. If the Clinton administration was any clue, the far right probably would have blamed the bombing on Gore and impeached him (or at least dragged him through the courts for being such a know-it-all about all things foreign). I do wish GW could forget his oil patch heritage and help the US break its dependence on oil. But that's probably asking too much right now.

For quite some time, my conservative friends have been saying GW isn't a frat boy idiot. He's a skilled moderate who leads like a CEO - delegating responsibility to those who know their jobs. I'm starting believe that maybe...just maybe... that might be true. What's most interesting is GW's winning over people like me by doing the very things he promised NEVER to do when running for office. He's getting deeply involved in foreign policy. He's nation building. He's making the US Army the world's good cop. He even added a new tax to pay for airline security costs (it's hidden as a fee - airplane passengers must ante up an additional $2.50 per flight). Post September 11, he finally appears to understand that the US can't be isolationist. We are the biggest, most powerful nation in the world. We have responsibilities and GW is stepping up the plate to fulfill some of those responsibilities.

Will he keep it up? I don't know. But for now, I'm giving GW the benefit of the doubt.

Tuesday, January 01, 2002

MONETARY POLICY FOR THE COMMON FOLKS
Italian hookers welcome the Euro by rounding down their rates. You Can't Buy Love, but Euro Brings Cheaper Sex

A GEEK NEW YEAR'S EVE
Being the guy around the modern household is a lot like being Operations Engineer. I'm expected to fix everything and take care of all decisions of a technical nature. New rug? Natalie. Ordering digital cable and installing a high speed internet access network? Me. Despite the fact that the lovely Natalie scored an 800 on her math SATs and I'm a creative type by trade, the maintenance of all things electronic falls on my shoulders. Why? Because I can't stand to hear anyone complain about something I bought or set-up not working. Ugly male pride, I know, but it's true. My toys must work or they will be unplugged and shot.

Yesterday, the cable modem started acting funky. I chalked it up to high traffic. Wrong. For most of the past 36 hours I've been reinstalling software, rewiring our wee network, swapping wireless routers and cursing poorly written instruction manuals.

Hey, look, there went New Year's Eve.

Oh well, I didn't mind. I think I've got everything working again and fixed a few bugs in the process. But doesn't it suck when the computer just implodes for no reason? Then you waste 36 hours fiddling with shit, not really knowing what it is you're doing, until suddenly, something clicks and it all sort of comes back to where it was before. At those moments, I am tempted to say, Fuck it! I did fine without computers before. I'll do it again! But that's a lie. It kills me to not be able to check my email, or review my Ebay listings or write my little blog entries. We are creatures of habit. Having escaped the need for daily hunting and gathering, we create new habits.

Then again, maybe its me? I've never been a good slacker. Too anxious.

One other tech note. I dumped the big screen TV in favor of a 36" Sony Tube set. You watch lots of DVDs? Rear projection and big screen are great. You watch a lot of cable like me? Big screens look like shit. I learned my lesson, saved $1500 and got a free DVD player in the game (don't ask, but I do love negotiations). Wheeeee!


AND WHEN I DO SLACK...
Having enjoyed it on HBO for the third time tonight, I'd like to state that Almost Famous is a near perfect movie. Maybe it's my new found appreciation for Classic Rock, but I love this film. Sure, it's commercial, blah, blah blah. But having played the rock band thing myself, I can attest that Cameron Crowe perfectly captures the giddy, stupid, us against the planet even when I hate you mood of a touring rock band. It is like running away to join the circus. But instead of elephants and clowns, there's music and guitars and many smart, funny, affectionate babes who understand that you're leaving town tomorrow morning.

Okay, granted, there are some elephants and clowns in the music biz. But you just have to learn how to avoid those. And actually, the affectionate babes are sort of a myth too. But occasionally, one passes out in the right place and that's how stories begin.

BTW - check out the film's UK poster (far right) vs the US poster (near right). I guess in the UK, they gave up any pretense of selling the film on mystique or musical moments and just went with the chick (BTW - that shot wasn't even in the film!). Too bad. They should have had a rock band poster that 14-year old boys in 1974 would have hung in their rooms like a Hendrix or Doors poster. I'll sure some idiot marketing genius just couldn't figure it out. He scratched his head for 30 minutes and wondered Hmmmmm...how can we get people interested in rock and roll? Ooooh. Chicks!