Lemme 'splain... 

Nobody knows, What kind of trouble we're in. Nobody seems to think, It all might happen again. [guitar solo!]





My Overflow






Ted Barlow




This Modern World

Talking Points Memo

The Onion



Sisyphus Shrugged


The Poor Man

Nobody Knows

River Tech Review


Friday, May 30, 2003

Everyone knows all the best bands are affiliated with Satan

Christian rock is lame, there's no two ways about it. Worship with joy and music all you want, it'll never be anything but lame.

Christian rockers are lame-ohs. You just can't put on rock n roll like a suit, ask major suckos like Creed (sorry, being successful doesn't mean you're still not lame as lame can be, there's just too many stupid people buying albums). Christian rap is even worse. Christian country-western music? I can't imagine a more perfect match (lame and lamer).

This, from the Onion, and this, from This Modern World, documenting young, "hip" Republicans on college campuses, had me thinking of the close relationship conservatives and (vehemently, non-secular) Christians share, not only in their fundamentalist, intolerant world-views, but in their lameness, and inability to shed said lameness.

Ludic Log took up Tom Tomorrow's call for a deconstruction of the "Hipublicans" (Yeesh! They really call them that? Yes.), and does a better job than I could, so I'm just going to mock them.

Christian rock, though sometimes almost passing off as rock, invariably has a patina of lameness to it that you can pick up with the first few lyrics or the first time you see the band (immaculately trim and clean even if they're trying to have a shaggy look). The problem is, they got the wrong priorities to really, truly, rock.

They're up there rockin'… for the lord. How cool, and hot, and sex-fueled, and angst-ridden can that be? Sing about chicks, drugs, chicks and drugs, the man, and then you got something sweaty and dangerous and wrong, but as long as you're rockin' out in order to worship and further your relationship with Jesus Christ your Savior… it ain't gonna rock.

Conservatives? No matter how cool they try to be, there's always the patina of nerdness surrounding them (and not the good kind of nerdness either. Like Tom Tomorrow, he seems like a bit of a nerd, but he's the cool kind). There's no way around it, they just have the wrong priorities to ever be cool, or hip.

I mean, what do they get worked up about? Church in schools. Rather than screw with condoms don't screw at all. Get married. Black people suck if they, like, act black. Let guys in business suits run the world already… Come on! That's sexy and hot and sweaty and nasty and when-I-think-about-this-later-I-will-feel-shame-but-good-lord-this-is-fucking-awsome? Hell no. It's telling that conservatives' sex goddess is horse-faced, stick-figured, corpse-eyed Ann Coulter. Yeesh!

Go take a look at the pictures of the Hipublicans from the NYT article. You're telling me that doughy, docker-ed geek is hip? I love his slight slouch and "I'm so bored" look. I know he's trying to put on an air of "so cool, don't have to care", but really it just screams "I'M AN IMPOTENT MALE!"

How about that Young Christian's Club Junior Matriarch… so I guess she's hip because she's got flip-flops on? Yeah, flip-flops, a penchant for scolding dorm-mates who stay up past 10, and so uptight you couldn't squeeze a dime between her butt cheeks.

I know the next girl is going for the "tough, independent" look, but try as I might I can only see "angry and ashamed to be lesbian." Honey, where I come from a bad haircut and black t-shirt is the uniform for dykes. She's conservative because she's afraid to be liberal. She's afraid she'd assert her natural sexuality and go lesbo if she voted Democrat.

The typical Business Club jock? The cookie-cutter asshole frat boy? Hip? No, Dip.

And that group! Striking the dynamic pose with polo shirts tucked in. They got the one guy who doesn't tuck and wears shorts up front. What a gaggle of dorks!

They embrace the conservative movement because the conservative movement embraces nerds like them. Get no sex in high school? Join the business club! Never got drunk and puked on your bed and blamed it on the cat? There are open arms at the Young Patriots club.

Have no sense of humor nor creative spark to speak of? Come join the Future Founders club today!

Man, liberals got it all in the cool department and conservatives know it. The best they got is Bo Derek, Bruce Willis, Ahnold, and Toby Keith (I'm leaving out ultra-hip, uber-conservative Charles Krauthammer because, well, he's just sooo cool it's not really fair to include him. Same with George Will. Just too damn sexy).

Liberals got… well, pretty much every person who ever rocked your ass eight ways from Sunday. And black people. You know they're cool.

Give it up! You're nerds! And not the good kind.

Liberals will always be cooler, conservatives will always be lame.

Live with it.

Oh yes, uncool will never be the new cool, just FYI.

However, liberals can pull that off. Yours truly? I'm totally not hip, but that's why I'm cool. That's just how the universe works, baby.

[edited for lameness]

Rumsfeld. Major league asshole?



Dear God, yes.

But it's nothing new.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

Note to all the faithful readers.

Both of you.

Comments down, archives down, etc. Will not be fixed for a couple weeks most likely. I don't have internet access at my new home right yet (which, btw, was a hideous nightmare of cockroach infestation prior to our taking over).

So, uh... Ahhh, I'm just yelling into the void anyway. No one cares! Avast ye!

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Petty Little Tyrant

It's hard for me to imagine how some people can be so arrogant or indignant, self-centered or cruel, duplicitous or mendacious, vindictive or just plain mean-spirited. When I'm in a restaurant and a patron is treating the wait staff like dirt, with nothing but absolute contempt and derision, I really, truly can't understand it. When someone deliberately blows a stop sign or red light, with a big, mean grin on their face, enjoying almost hitting people and pissing others off, I just don't get it. I can get pretty worked up online, but I stick to arguments and I don't attack people or go out of my way to try to hurt them. Those that do, I just can't understand why they'd want to be that way.

There's a point at which behavior becomes rude. It's when one's actions begin to greatly inconvenience or deliberately harm others. Forget "annoy", or "offend", those are just in someone's head. Take all the homophobes in the Republican party. They're offended by gays. Who cares? It's in their heads, it's their problem. Since they're trying to foist their insecurities upon the whole nation they've crossed the line into rudeness, but their complaint against homosexuals has no merit; fags aren't inconveniencing anyone.

I have little to no sympathy for people who are chronically offended or annoyed and believe behavior ought to be regulated to reflect their petty complaints. Actual cruelty though, actual rudeness, that's when a person has the right to make a stink.

I think that's partly why I generally never like anyone from the Republican party, or many people who describe themselves as conservative. Anymore, all the right wing wants to do is regulate behavior according to petty complaints of offence or annoyance, but allow people (mostly people with power) and corporations to commit actual rude and inconveniencing acts as much as they want in the name of "freedom". So, they're annoyed and offended by affirmative action and want it stopped. They're annoyed and offended by gays so they want to punish homos. They think any income taxation above 33% is "unfair", a totally arbitrary number and assessment. But, they think it's A-OK to allow companies to pollute the air, water, and ground all they want. It's just fine to let corporations regulate themselves. It's totally cool to let chemical manufacturers, who could pose an enormous to the communities surrounding them, to decide how to guard themselves.

They're fine with invading weak, foreign countries whenever they feel like but they think gays should go without sex for their whole lives.

There's a personality type that gloms onto that mode of thinking, that anyone with power should be able to do whatever they want and subjects are subject to the discretion of those in power, they're called jerks.

The power doesn't have to be big; the jerk who gleefully runs a red light is not much different from the CEO who fudges the books. The only difference is, for the CEO the power is being the head of a corporation; for the jerk driver the power comes from his car, the willingness to use it inappropriately and the ability to effect traffic and drivers with it.

We've all seen or known a jerk like that driver. Someone with no real power, but whenever or wherever they can exert some sort of power, they jump at the opportunity. These people are usually liars because lying is a form of small, petty power. A liar can mold and direct a thing he would otherwise have no power over armed only with the truth. Whenever I uncover one of these petty, little tyrants, I'm simply disgusted. I can't imagine how someone would want to live such a disingenuous, mean-spirited life. Why would someone want to see others suffer, go so far as to create tiny, pathetic little crises just to get their rocks off?

Those kind of jerks just make me sick. CEO or punk with a Honda, they're all petty, little tyrants.

That's why I despise our president.

From the Financial Times yesterday comes yet another indirect portrait of the petty, little tyrant leading our country:

"There was a feeling that the White House was being mocked," says one person who worked closely with the National Security Council during those days after the declaration was delivered on December 8. "A tinpot dictator was mocking the president. It provoked a sense of anger inside the White House. After that point, there was no prospect of a diplomatic solution."

Faced with overwhelming popular opposition to war, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder said Germany would not back US action - even if it had UN approval. He called it a "military adventure". Washington condemned his words as cynical electioneering. More importantly, the criticism was taken personally by Mr Bush.

According to his closest aides, the US president believes he had been given a direct assurance by Mr Schröder, in a private conversation when they met in Berlin in May, that the chancellor would not exploit the Iraq issue in his campaign. To this day, Mr Bush has not forgiven the German leader. "The president believes the character of a person is known by whether he keeps his word," a senior White House official says."

The last part just kills me, "To this day, Mr Bush has not forgiven the German leader. "The president believes the character of a person is known by whether he keeps his word," a senior White House official says.""

"Keeps his word"? Good lord. Need I go over the lies Bush has told?

So, our president comes out against affirmative action, defends Santorum, on completely false pretences invades a weak country, bullies through tax cuts for the wealthy; but he can't take being "mocked" by a "tinpot dictator" (which begs the question, if he were a tinpot dictator, how the hell was he a threat to us?)?

Get it? This thin-skinned, petty little a-hole of a president doesn't mind killing thousands of innocents, destroying civil government, forcing millions into chaos and anarchy- all prefaced on a pack of outright lies- but he can't handle playing politics with the Germans?

He can nonchalantly decide to kill and destroy and occupy and humiliate, but he's too much of a pussy take a few personal slights?

I was too young to really understand Reagan when he was president, but knowing what I know now I don't think I would have had such a visceral reaction to him as I do Bush. I wouldn't have liked his presidency at all, but just out-and-out despise him? I don't think so. Reagan was a lot of things, but a petty jerk who gets off on pushing people around and otherwise wallowing in his own vindictiveness? No.

If he weren't president, he'd be the jerk manager at some Arby's. The vindictive, asshole manager that no one would want to work with. The one who would force you to work the night you asked for off, for no other reason than to exert his tiny, little power over you.

The one who invades Iraq.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

Faith is never wrong.

Calpundit has been really good lately, and the comments lively. Two things I've noticed from the comments section are things I've noticed many times before, but have now decided are actual traits shared by a distinct group of people.

The people: Online "conservatives/libertarians".

The trait: Personalizing social issues they really have no clue about, and Thinking anyone who creates a job is doing the government a favor. Both rely upon the basic personality trait of preferring faith over fact.

On personalizing: I previously wrote about the closely related phenomenon of "I used to be a liberal" stories. Those stories you hear from people about the insignificant occurrence in their life that made them realize they're actually a very petty and selfish person, so therefore the stop being "liberal". Well, this is similar.

It's heard most often in discussions regarding tax policy or racism. Essentially the speaker looks at the situation through their own eyes, as if their own personal experience were enough to pass judgment, and base their decision on whatever personal scenario they play in their head. For example, from Calpundit:

What conservatives think about aiding the poor and unfortunate is considerably more nuanced that Kevin allows--of course.
Defining needy is a start. Whatever the level is, liberals want it to be even looser.
That brings up real-world experiences. For example, some years ago, I was waiting for an elevator in an office building where I did a lot of business. I knew several of the security folks to chat with. One of them was on the phone explaining why she and her husband were going to be late to something or other. He had to stop on his way home from work to change some food stamps.
In our area, food stamps are convertible at seventy cents on the dollar. This means that there are a good number of folks who want seventy cents' worth of stuff more than they want a dollar's worth of food. Food is only a discretionary purchase if you already have an assured supply.
Both of these people worked and they received food stamps which they didn't need.
How many more are there, any rational person would wonder.
One more, in the entire country?
Five million more in the entire country?
One thing we know is what would happen if we tried to find out. We'd have people like Kevin condemning us for greed and lack of compassion.
A friend of mine, having redone his house, had an extra stove. He called a social services organization to see if they knew of anyone who could use it. One Saturday, he and some friends strained backs and busted knuckles delivering it to the candidate. They got no help and no thanks, the family in question being glued to an entertainment center with the five or six foot screen.
Were these people really in need?
What liberals don't know, or try not to know, is that such experiences are more than common for anybody over the age of, say, eighteen. Liberals think we don't know this, have never seen it, and thus can be manipulated by threats of being called cold, callous, and greedy for not wanting to help the truly needy. Liberals really don't know the rest of us know better.
How many more are there like this in the country?
How many needy are needy because of really stupid choices that the entire society keeps telling them not to make? How many of them remain poor because they continue to make stupid choices society insists on telling them not to make?
Conservatives would like to help the really needy, but subsidizing bad choices and dumb lifestyles is not as immediately attractive.
People like Kevin will condemn those who think this way as greedy and lacking in compassion.


I want taxes as low a possible for one reason - I want to build WEALTH for me and my family. I, deep down inside, want and expect everyone else to try and do the same.
I cannot do this if It (Government) takes it away as I earn it (with a promise to pinch some back when I'm 70). I'll guarantee you that if I could have kept my 1/2 of Social Security my whole life (until 65) - I'd have millions and would not need to rely on the government shelling out a small portion of what I put in. That would still leave the other 1/2 (the part my employer kicks in) to take care of those that truly need it.
Our Government (read both Liberals and Republicans) spends so much money it's pathetic. If anyone here could really, really comprehend it - this debate would stop. I heard an example about what a billion is and how to puts it into perspective (please don't nit pic - it's from memory and I'm at work and can't take the time to find it):
A billion seconds: it was 1954
A billion minutes: Christ was born
A billion dollars: What government spends it in 8 hours!
This to me says it all. Our goverment spends SOOOO much money to try and solve "problems" and it is NEVER enough. We have stuff in the budget that is flat out not needed.
Billions and Billions is spent every year on the poor. How can you honestly say it's not enough. Trillions - think about that number - trillions of dollars have been spent on the war on poverty since LBJ started the war. What poverty was in 1960 and what its now don't even look that same. If we can't eliminate poverty spening that kind of money - we will never, ever solve the problem.
This whole debate started (at the top) about what the taxes on a million dollars would be - and how the millionare should bitch about paying it. I don't buy the numbers in the example. If my wife and I (2 kids - living in WI) earned 1 million - we'd pay about 430,000 in taxes (including FICA). A single person would pay more. $300,000????, maybe if you lived in Florida (no state tax).
I'm not a millionaire and won't get there as long as there are people willing to take what I earn and redistribute to others.

Translation to the first: I've seen poor people who are poor because they're stupid and lazy. Therefore we shouldn't help the poor unless they're actually needy (which is some sort of vague implication that the government shouldn't help anyone, that somehow the "truly" needy should be able to get help some other way- privately one could assume).

Translation to the second: I'm not poor but I pay for poor people and poor people are keeping me from being rich and no one has the right to keep me from being rich!

Neither one even remotely relies upon any substantial outside information - just personal emotions. I could show more, and better, examples but I'm short on time and this is too lengthy already.

Next- the "jobs be a favor" from Calpundit again:

Tis post provides a fascinating glimpse into the liberal mind. A person is only giving back if they pay taxes to the Government? What about charitable contributions, or the jobs their firms create? Only the state counts? .

OK. So it's just one example, but I see this sentiment expressed all the time, "It's the wealthy who create jobs!" It's usually in defense of tax cuts for the wealthy; they're the ones who create jobs so more money means more jobs (an idiotic, so simplistic as to be pointless, argument) and they're giving back by creating jobs so therefore they shouldn't be forced to pay for lazy slobs on welfare (usually thinking "Welfare" is some big chunk of the budget).

The first trait I think serves to explain the agenda of a lot of your average, man-on-the-street "conservatives". Firstly they don't understand the machinations of something, like, for instance, taxation, and secondly they put themselves into some sort of hypothetical situation they don't understand either, concerning taxation, and make their opinion upon how that feels to them. For instance, the second quote. What do you think that person knows about AFDC, or food stamps, or school lunch programs, or any other program designed to help the poor?

Trillions - think about that number - trillions of dollars have been spent on the war on poverty since LBJ started the war. What poverty was in 1960 and what its now don't even look that same. If we can't eliminate poverty spening that kind of money - we will never, ever solve the problem.

How was the problem attacked? What sort of programs failed and how? What outcome was supposed to come of all of the money spent?

If you asked this guy how it should look, having spent all that money, I doubt he'd had any real answers. Maybe something like "no poverty", but what is that? How does one achieve no poverty? How is poverty defined? There are millions of working poor in this country- people who are working themselves, or are members of a working family, who are nonetheless poor- how do they figure into this guy's vague idea of a bunch of poor people to whom money has been thrown at to no effect? What causes their poverty? To get them out of poverty would he endorse a high minimum wage and aggressive policy to keep inflation down relative to wages?

How does his opinion have any merit? Could he even explain his assertion that because we've spent a lot of money, and there's still poor, we can't fix it? And moreover, what's his point?

He's set up a fantasy scenario- he's put himself in the position of someone who could be rich if it weren't for welfare, and he doesn't like it. What does he really know about it? And how could he possibly argue he would be rich if only the government abolished welfare? What could his theory behind that possibly be?

The second trait is related to the first. They're both products of self-absorption, and perhaps not a small amount of pettiness (how kind and generous can a person be who chooses to base decisions of social policy on their gut, even if it doesn't make any objective sense at all?). First of all, it supposes that taxes are the government taking away something they do not have claim to. I've seen many, many conservatives online claim that taxes are outright theft, and not just Freepers. So, there's a sense of injury, or victimization. This in itself is self-obsessive because there is no real consideration of what a society is, what our society is, and what taxes pay for. That can be forgiven though.

What's bizarre is the idea that corporations, or even small businesses, are doing the government a favor by creating jobs. The government, all the institutions and people that protect and foster capital and infrastructure, exist just so people can do things like make money, create jobs, sell goods and services. The government does not exist because of jobs, jobs exist, in a very real way, because of government. Without government you do not have a conducive environment for the creation and maintenance of a sound economy (if the opposite were true, places like Afghanistan would have thriving economies), what favors is a corporation doing for the government by creating a job?

Maybe the sentiment is directed at the country. It's not the government that owes job-creators, it's the country. Businesses provide jobs to citizens who want to work, and that's a real service, therefore the citizens, the country, owe businesses, excuse me, business owners, some sort of thanks (presumably in the form of tax cuts).

Why does the business owner/employee relationship get painted in moral terms? The business owner needs workers in order to make his money, how is he doing a favor, exactly? The owner doesn't go into business to provide jobs; he goes into business to make money. The employee and the owner have a relationship. It's not exactly equal, after-all, there are more workers than owners, and it takes more (if you're talking small business or start-up) to own than to just work, but don't try to tell me business owners are doing anyone any favors.

Are they providing a service? Not really. They're offering an agreement to certain people. Government provides services, private actors negotiate contracts. But, the rhetoric used implies that business is in someway a 2nd government. A business owner is "giving back" by offering a job? People provide the jobs that the country, and government depend on, so are owed something? Is that the idea?

If a business owner is giving something back to a community, isn't the community giving the business owner his livelihood? If there would be fewer jobs without the business, isn't it also true there would be no income for the owner without the business, or without the workers? Owning a business is nothing but another way to make a living, and people go into business to just that- make a living. Why the conservative idea that business owners are somehow a higher class of individual, that they're somehow doing more for the country than everyone else? Arrogance? Delusion? Self-absorption?

I think comes down to belief, relying upon faith more in one's life than rationalized fact.

I think the reason why straw-man attacks from conservative pundits resonate so well will on-the-street conservatives is the same reason why they form most of their beliefs on nothing more than stuff they make up in their head. Bush has said he doesn't think the top income tax rate should be more than 33% and conservatives love that (they all think they're going to be rich, so they want the system set up to reward the rich- which they would soon be a part of it if it weren't for that dastardly government). Take a few minutes to think about it though and you realize it's completely arbitrary and leaves out so many other considerations it's essentially meaningless. Why say that? Why not say "I don't think anyone in the country should have o go homeless and hungry." Why not start with the goal and figure out taxes based upon that? Or is there a goal? Is there only personal convenience and comfort?

It's just ideology. 33% is arbitrary and only exists due to ideology. Modern day conservatives are much more ideologically driven than liberals, for the most part. That's why conservative "journalism" like talk radio and Fox News is so terrible; ideology does not require facts, neither does it require objectivity. In fact, it requires the opposite- faith. It's no wonder that fundamentally religious people tend to be Republican. Religion, taken very seriously and very literally, relies only upon faith. You don't need to "know" anything, all you need to do is believe and you're set. Same thing with conservative politics. The facts rarely line up with the rhetoric. Currently we have the tax cut, which is not designed to be simulative in any way, being hawked as a jobs and growth package. You don't have to know anything about it, if you think it's good, if you believe it, that's enough to make it so.

The underlying idea I think is that faith is more consistent, accurate and true than systematic data or hard observation. Why would anyone think that? Easy, one's faith is never wrong. If evidence, fact, and impersonal observation are ignored, one's beliefs will always be correct.

That's why you can go around and around an argument with a conservative, prove them wrong in 20 different ways, and they'll still claim victory. Only belief matters to them, and that's why they call themselves "conservative".*

*Note- again, not real conservatives, the other kind. Those I call "Delusionsists" (no link, from last month).

Wednesday, May 21, 2003


Me and my girlfriend moved over the weekend. Just the two of us, no one helped. We moved an estimated 3 cubic tons of crap. We're gonna have the yard sale to end all yard sales in a few weeks. I'll let you know when and if y'all in Los Angeles come on by, mention this blog, and receive $.25 off your purchase of $50 or more.

Here's what I've been doing to our apartment:

Cleaned out all the drawers and cupboards in the kitchen, which were filled with cockroach poop, dead cockroaches, and some mouse poop. Stripped the insides of three cabinets because there was greasy (literally) shelf-paper underneath the paint, the grease seeping through in one instance. Broke my Makita drill trying to get this nasty, corroded lip-thing at the bottom of the shower door off. Fixed my drill. And all of this besides moving the 8 cubic tons of crap and cleaning the old apartment top-to-bottom.

I've also been drinking a lot.

Yeah, the kitchen was disgusting, but it's a charming little 2 bedroom that's dirt-cheap in a quiet neighborhood. Unfortunately the walls are paper-thin, and due to the acoustics of the place, all of the noise somehow finds its way to just my room. Seriously. Inside my room you can hear music and conversations, clearly; you walk to the bathroom or my girlfriend's room (both adjacent), you hear nothing. I think I may have to build a second ceiling, one that hangs below the current one. It's that bad.

But right now it's getting things fixed, sanitary, sorted, and out of the way. Then it will be yard-sale time. Then it will be "fix up the balcony to be a paradise on earth" time. The balcony is huuuuge and I got big plans to create, among other things, a little patch of elevated grassland, maybe 3X4'. See, it'll start with cacti on one side, move to grasses, then on to tropical. It'll be a freaking Hanging Gardens of Wilshire Center.

And we don't have internet right now, so blogging will be light to non-existent.

Let's call a spade a spade…

Or in this case, let's call Republican politicians corporate stooges.

The chemical industry is ripe pickings for would-be terrorists. There is nothing the government can do, under existing laws, to coerce chemical producers to take actions that would benefit public safety. There's no way to monitor chemicals all the way from production to distribution, there's no way to enforce modifications upon the storage, protection, or transportation of chemicals.

For instance, if a chemical plant is producing a highly toxic or volatile chemical that has already been OK'd for manufacture by the EPA, but is nonetheless some sort of nightmare compound- and there is little security on the plant apart from a fence and a couple guards- there's nothing the EPA can do to change that; they simply do not have the authority to regulate such things. Also, say this horrible substance is loaded onto barrels and put on a train and that's that; from there no one is tracking or guarding it except as a thing to be delivered. The potential for catastrophe is pretty high, there's no way to ensure it's being guarded during every stage of transport (In fact it probably isn't), there's no way to ensure it's not going to the wrong people; basically there's just no accountability once it leaves the plant. Or, let's say this plant produces chemical A and chemical A can kill you if you look at it wrong. Chemical Y could replace chemical A in most current applications and is much less toxic and would pose a much lower risk for all involved (workers, the community, the environment, etc.). The EPA has no authority to encourage or coerce the plant to switch to chemical Y. There's no government agency that can influence behavior in that manner (save the free market ideology for the moment0.

The industry is vulnerable to attack, sabotage, theft and abuse, and the EPA does not have the authority to address these issues. [For a breakdown of what the EPA can do, go here.]

Enter the Republicans (excerpted at length from the WSJ since it requires subscription):

WASHINGTON -- In the wake of Sept. 11, 2001, the nation's leaders considered drastic measures to combat terrorism. High on their list: Prod the chemical industry to cut production of its most toxic materials.
Government files listed more than 100 factories where a terrorist attack could create a poisonous cloud that would kill or sicken more than a million people. Lawmakers proposed legislation authorizing the Attorney General to order factories near big cities to bolster security immediately. Defiant executives could be jailed. In 2002, a Senate committee unanimously passed a tough bill.

Then the campaign bogged down. A smart, well-timed lobbying drive by the chemical industry played a role. So did a pronounced shift in the debate over homeland security. For months after the terrorist attacks, the impassioned desire to protect Americans led even a Republican administration to crack down on important industries. Once those emotions subsided, Washington reverted to the traditional partisan debate over how deeply government should be involved in the market. Congress is once again weighing chemical security this year, but any law that passes will be much more business-friendly than first envisioned.

It's not that the terrorist threat has disappeared. Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security raised its color-coded assessment of the risk of an attack to orange, the second-highest level on the scale. But many policy makers now seem more comfortable with voluntary industry responses, such as the chemical industry's code urging companies to beef up security whenever the government raises the threat level.

"Liberals wanted to use the tragedy of Sept. 11 as an excuse to regulate more," says Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, the lead Republican legislator on chemical security.

The tone was very different immediately after Sept. 11. Republicans and Democrats worked together to identify the country's most vulnerable targets and decide how to protect them. Beyond airlines, Congress acted to secure ports, drinking water and food.

Chemicals also drew instant attention. Within two months of the terrorist attacks, Sen. Jon Corzine, a New Jersey Democrat, introduced the Chemical Security Act. The bill was designed to give the government new powers to track chemicals from production through transportation to storage by users. Mr. Corzine said he had concluded during his frequent flights to Newark that the unguarded oil tanks and refineries he saw below were as vulnerable to air attack as the Pentagon had been.

These early discussions of chemical security were based on an assumption that manufacturers wouldn't do enough without strong government direction. Backers of the legislation also asserted that it wasn't sufficient for companies simply to add guards and build higher fences. The government, they said, should pressure chemical makers and customers to move away from making or using certain products that could cause the greatest destruction, so long as the costs weren't extreme.

When Congress returned in early September, bipartisan support for the legislation unraveled. Seven Republican senators who had voted for the bill in committee now issued a statement saying the proposal "misses the mark." They declared: "We feel compelled to offer amendments to address concerns ... that have arisen from scores of stakeholders."

Bush aides, too, had grown cool to the stricter rules. White House economic officials argued that the private sector would fix many of the security gaps exposed by Sept. 11 more quickly and efficiently than regulators could. These officials cited a new "Security Code" drafted by the ACC and announced under the press-release headline: "Chemical Industry Commits to Mandatory Enhanced Security."

The plan's details were fuzzy. Its "mandatory" steps included pledges to conduct "internal audit and continuous improvement processes," but they avoided giving companies detailed instructions on how to carry those out. The trade group urged companies to consider safer technologies but didn't want the government involved.

Administration officials thought the ACC guidelines showed the free market repairing itself. "It was very reassuring, very refreshing that such significant economic players recognized they should do something to minimize the risk," says Tom Ridge, the homeland security secretary.

The federal government took no action on chemical security in 2002. The issue wouldn't die, though. Early this year, as fears spread of terrorist retaliation for the Iraq war, an FBI bulletin warned that "al Qaeda operatives" may "launch conventional attacks against the U.S. nuclear/chemical-industrial infrastructure."

Companies have struggled to balance security and profits. DuPont Co. says that since Sept. 11 it has spent $20 million to bolster security, but the company is hesitant to undertake much more. "There is an endless amount of money we can spend on security," Charles O. Holliday Jr., DuPont's chief executive officer, says in an interview. "The question is: How do we have enough security and stay competitive?"

Critics worry that many companies are more focused on the latter. Some of these critics, including Greenpeace, cite as one example an Atofina Chemicals Inc. plant in Houston's working-class east side just off Interstate 10. The plant makes chemicals for pesticides, pharmaceuticals and rubber, with carbon disulfide as a byproduct. A carbon disulfide leak could cause headaches, unconsciousness or even death for 1.2 million people within a 16-mile radius, according to company filings with the EPA.

Plant manager Wendal Turley says his company, a subsidiary of France's Total SA, has closed gaps in the surrounding chain-link fence and expanded a closed-circuit-television monitoring system. But Mr. Turley says there's no cost-effective way to replace his toxic chemicals with "inherently safer" ones. He hasn't hired more guards. Train cars carrying as much as 192,000 pounds of carbon disulfide sit at times in a rail yard outside the plant gates. The tracks run across the plant's driveway, also outside the gate. "When it leaves the plant, it's kind of out of our control," Mr. Turley says.

With continuing concerns about chemical security, there's still strong bipartisan support for some kind of legislation. The ACC itself has issued a statement endorsing new federal rules. But the Republican Senate takeover in last year's elections -- aided by $5.5 million in chemical industry donations -- means that Sen. Corzine's approach is all but dead. To make sure, about 20 industry leaders, including top executives of Exxon Mobil Chemical Co. and Occidental Chemical Corp., spent a day last month on Capitol Hill meeting legislators, according to the ACC.

The industry message: Many companies are doing the right thing, and the proper role for government is to make sure all companies follow the industry standards -- but to meddle as little as possible in them.
The debate now focuses on legislation drafted in April by the White House and Sen. Inhofe, the new chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works committee. This version would remove the EPA from control, giving authority instead to the Department of Homeland Security. The new version also would give companies more credit for actions taken on their own. It would give the government little, if any, authority to promote inherently safer technologies. While Mr. Inhofe has been pushing for a committee vote this month, attempts to get broad bipartisan support so far have failed.

Even if a bill does pass the Senate, action now appears highly unlikely in the House, where conservative Republicans have even greater control. "I think what the administration and private sector have done so far appears to be adequate," says Texas Republican Rep. Joe Barton, chairman of a key subcommittee handling the issue. "I don't personally see a need for legislation of any kind."

Some people like to have enemies. Some people love to hate and love to loathe. Spend 2 minutes on any message board of any topic and you'll see the gleeful haters, those that derive joy from insulting their perceived enemies. Politically you see it both on the left and right, of course, but far and away active hating is a past-time of the right much more so than the left. Hating liberals (Slander, Treason, Useful Idiots, Savage Nation, etc.) is the #1 love of half the righties online and even in print. Hell, turn on the TV to hear non-stop mocking and derision from Fox News if you disagree.

Me? I don't enjoy hating people. I hate plenty of people (like a-holes that don't know how to merge), but I don't enjoy it. Politically I don't enjoy hating either- for instance- Bush. I despise him, I make no bones about that, I think he's a terrible, terrible president and the worst sort of leader. But, I don't love to hate him; I hate to hate him. It hurts me to despise the administration. It doesn't make me froth with righteous fury as much as it just makes me sad. Every time I get worked up about some new injustice (the bullshit forest thinning bill, the tax cut, some made-up war) it kills me that we've sunk so low as a nation to have such a despicable leadership.

I would like to respect Republicans. I really would. I can respect a few, like McCain (even though I think his foreign policy ideas are usually terrible), but again and again these people keep proving they're worthy of scorn and hate. I'd rather not hate them, but good lord, for once, just for once I wish they'd prove themselves to not be money-grubbing, cynical opportunists.

Your idiotic Free-Market argument

Save it. There is nothing more pathetic, infantile, and downright moronic as an argument that claims the free-market can fix everything. Anyone who makes this claim is either a liar who knows better or an idiot (ignorant would be the nice description). The idiot conception of "the free-market" is that everything is subject to supply and demand, roughly equally, in the way a mass-consumable would be (a "widget"). If there are several widgets out there from several manufacturers, those that produce the best widgets at the best cost with the best service will come out on top and the others fade away, leaving the best for consumers. This idea, applied to everything under the sun, is so idiotic it's hard to know where to begin.

It's just so childishly simplistic. It ignores monopolies, virtual monopolies, trans-national mega-corporations, the ability to create demand rather than simply respond to it, the power of branding and marketing, government contracting, gaming of the system, etc., etc. The "free market cures all ills" idea could only apply to a near-barter economy, a simple, cash-only egalitarian society.

The idea that "the market" is going to take care of the safety of chemical plants and distribution is laughable. There has to be a compelling reason for a business to do anything. Public pressure? So a plant that is a danger to a community it resides in, but does not serve nor is not owned by, is going to spend a bunch of money on security? If the community isn't buying the product like they would buy hamburgers from a local restaurant, if they have no stake in the ownership, if they have no claims to the property the plant resides on, how the hell could pressure from those in danger effect the plant?

Consumer pressure? If the company makes polyvinyl chloride, how is the end consumer supposed to stop buying that? Could they even possibly find out what specific products it ends up in?

Client pressure? The companies buying the polyvinyl chloride would have to have some compelling reason to stop buying it. How concerned is a company, perhaps in another country, going to be with the potential safety problems of the community in which the plant makes the chemicals? How would they even be aware of any problems? Why would, say, the 100 or so clients ever consider changing their polyvinyl chloride source for any other reason besides cost or service?

Market pressure? Why would any analyst, creditor or institutional investor make any decisions based upon anything besides P/E ratio, management structure, revenue flow, or the like? How would the safety concerns of the community in which the company resides effect the stock price or the attractiveness of their bonds?

What pressures are there to force a chemical producer to prepare for the absolute worst scenario? None whatsoever. The market (as in exchange) concerns itself with profit. Only those things that effect profit, or future profit, or capitalization, or debt, concern the market.

At this point a free-market ideologue might say something like, "if safety is a problem at a plant then that is going to be a concern because it could effect profitability. The investor is going to go with the plant that is safest and therefore less vulnerable to a profit-damaging safety-breech."

In a theoretical fantasy-world, yes. Has Wal-Mart's horrible labor practices caused it to be downgraded? Has Tyson's horrible labor practices and spotty safety record effected its' stock price? Are you even aware of Tyson's problems? Has Microsoft suffered from any of its monopolizing efforts? Has Exxon suffered from its' pipeline chicanery? Did GE suffer from years of dumping PCPs?

If the scenario is there are hundreds of plants in the nation that could be easy targets for sabotage and cause great calamity in the community in which they reside, what pressures are going to cause every single plant to change? If the media started a crusade, would that do it? Sure, on one or two places, we've seen such things before, but the whole industry? There would be no way to defend such an assertion. Who can force, or actively coerce the industry to change? The only answer is government. Without government regulation the industry can do whatever it can get away with.

The market does not care about public health and safety (it should), the market does not crusade for change (look at how little has changed since Enron, Worldcom, Qwest, Tyco, etc.), the public can only exert consumer pressure on consumer goods and services (yet still, the public is not a unified entity), only the government, which is an extension of the public, can enact change. If it weren't for government companies would still be dumping all of their waste into rivers and streams with impunity. Rivers could be turned into the Cuyahoga and no one would be able to stop it.

It makes me sick. The free market cannot take care of all problems. Private companies pose a danger to the communities that surround them and in the name of "the free market" Republicans don't think anything needs to be done. They're more than willing to take away your civil liberties, they're more than willing to let the government invade your privacy with impunity and no accountability, but they're not willing to ensure your protection from the polytritechtralineoidalistichine plant in your backyard because it might adversely effect a corporation or two.

Anymore I'm convinced there are only two sorts of people who vote Republican- those that are selfish and evil, who understand and fully support the Republican agenda of screwing everyone who isn't rich or a corporation, and those that are ignorant, stupid, or delusional, who either don't know the real agenda, too stupid to see it, or believe it to be something else entirely. I'm leaning toward stupid, because most free-market ideologues argue as if it's a binary issue: Either everything is left to "the market" or we're living in some kind of communist state. The government is essential in protecting the public trust, in fact, it's the only entity that can protect the public trust. When it comes to the needs of a society, it can't be left up to people out to make a buck.

So go ahead, explain to me how the Republicans are right about this one.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Fightin' robots.

The animated short companion pieces for The Matrix are cool. If you dig The Matrix, and that brand of "big story" sci-fi, I'd recommend you check them out. The origin stories are really cool, really broadens the scope of the films and the mythology around it, if you will. Just go to the website for The Matrix.

So, would I rather be fightin' robots or living in this too real Bushcentric world? Hmmmm...

Well, if fighting robots I'd have a clear purpose to my life: Fighting robots. I mean, things would be pretty cut and dry, wouldn't they? Fight robots or... I dunno, I suppose they'd need all those other things like fry cooks and nightwatchmen, but fighting robots would be just about the most important thing you could do knowing the truth.

In this Bush-balled world there's a million things you can do and each one as important as the next, so there's a lot of choice... but then you've got Bush and Co., and they're just as evil as any race of sentient robots, but you can't fly around in a hovercraft and EMP them, nor can you karate chop them while wearing skin-tight leather, with a full head of hair if you desire, in a virtual world in which no matter how much sex you have or who you have it with you can never, ever get the drips...

Boy. Tough choice.

Bush... evil... still paying off student loans...

Robots... evil... sex with thousands of chicks in the Matrix and it's just as real as the real world but there you can, like, fly while you're doing it...

Well, if someone is monitoring this wondering if I'm a potential recruit or not... I know kung-fu.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Question for you.

The film I want to make, for which I am going to try to raise money via this blog (among other avenues)- what would you consider innappropriate use of any money raised?

Now, I have yet to describe all the ins and outs in detail (I'm in correspondence with the subject right now, no green light yet), but for the sake of this question assume I have several, detailed budgets sketched out, a rational for all items budgeted, and a detailed description of what I'm trying to accomplish, etc. (which I will have when the time comes). So for the sake of this question assume you trust me to be sincere in my pursuit, OK?

Now any money donated will have to be a gift essentially. Sometimes, if someone isn't familiar with independent filmmaking and they donate something to the film (location, prop, etc.), they expect a lot in return; because in the back of their mind is "Blair Witch Project", i.e., "this person is going to get rich off of the free use of my driveway!" Other times, people are just cool and happy to help out.

The reality is no one's going to get rich off this film, and I can't do anything more than say "thanks!" if someone donates. So anyone who donates is doing so because they're super-cool and they'd like to help me out. In other words they're not investing or cutting a business deal, they're just being very generous and nice. If I was getting money from an entity that had a contract for a piece of the film, I wouldn't think twice about where or how it was spent, as long as it was spent on the film. But, gifts from generous people has had me thinking...

Now here's the question: I've been putting together several different budgets to acommodate whatever amount I might receive, and depending on how much money I'll have, sometimes it might make sense to buy certain equipment. For instance, if renting a piece of equipment for the full shoot cost less than buying it, or if buying a piece of equipment allowed me to forgo renting that peice and hiring the operator, etc. There's a lot of situations that could come up where it would make more sense to buy something. In fact, I bought a piece of equipment on eBay the other day for $125 that will probably allow me to forgo renting a DAT deck which costs $150 a day to rent.

But, if people are generously giving me money as a gift specifically to make this one film, would buying equipment be unethical? Let me be clear- I could have never brought up the question, and specifying all donations as a gift, just spend the money however. But I really, really hate being deceived myself, so I've been wracking my brain trying to figure out all the ethical questions I need to answer before I can feel good about asking for donations. I'm nothing if not "Mr. Attempt-to-have-integrity-at-all-times" guy.

Basically, when the time comes I will probably just have to specify that all the money will be used for the film, but I must reserve the right to buy equipment if it makes more sense to do so... but is there something wrong with that? Or would that turn you off? Would you suspect this is just a ploy to buy equipment, or would you think in order to indicate clearly it is not, I must not buy any equipment?

God, I don't even know if I'm going to be able to raise any dough to begin with. Man, I am liberal!

So if anyone who honestly might think of donating would care to comment, I'd appreciate it. Keep in mind, I still need to be realistic here; any donations will have to be gifts, there's no getting around that part (unless some moneybags wants to finance the whole thing himself).


So now if I want to change one little thing on blogger I have to load a new template, then add all of my modifications at one time.

And my stat counter is gone (I forgot to load it last attempt and didn't want to do it again, so I guess that's just laziness on my part).

Obviously the only logical course of action is suicide.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

If I were an idiot

Have you heard your share of "I was a liberal but then..." stories?

You know, like, "I was a liberal and used to give my change to a homeless guy but then one day I saw that he owned a car so now I'm a conservative."? (note- story is 100% true. Some dipshit actually told me that)

Well this would be my "I was a liberal..." story if I were now a conservative:

I was taking an English literature class in college. University of Washington. It focused on the surrealist movement. It was sort of a fucked up class. All the kids who thought they were cool and rebellious and too smart were taking it. We watched porn in the class. Seriously. We watched an Annie Sprinkle video. The point was to illustrate a similar in intent, contemporary version of something "surrealist".

Anyhoo, I was sort of the pariah in the class. When we talked about personal freedom the question of "should it be OK for a 13 year old kid to have sex with an adult" came up and I was the only one who thought there was something inherently wrong with a full-grown adult screwing a kid in a modern, western society. Everyone else wanted to prove their coolness by arguing that children are individuals first, children second, and should be able to do whatever they want. I think I likened a 13 year old sleeping with an adult to teaching a chimp to smoke. The chimp may like it, but, uh, the chimp was pretty much coerced and in reality didn't have much of a choice, nor the faculties to make an informed decision.

It was an annoying class in many ways. One day I used the word "chick" and this righteously indignant, "gee can you really tell I'm an ardent feminist from 50 yards", chick turns around to me and says (indignantly, of course):

"Chick?! Chiiick?!?!?!

I say, "What? There's nothing wrong with that word."

I don't remember what she says after that, but it was pretty chilly in that classroom.

So, getting PC-smacked on my word usage, watching porn on a pretty thin pretense, plus the fact that no one in there got my fabulous sense of humor (trust me, I'm a funny mofo in person), if I were a thin-skinned, intolerant idiot, that would be my "that's when I became a conservative" story.

But, I have a sense of humor, can look at things in perspective, don't see the world in black and white, and really don't care that the class was filled with self-righteous a-holes, because I'm largely a tolerant person. So therefore, I ain't a conservative.

Here's a neat trick kids, next time some dipshit is railing on and on about how this or that is liberal, replace the word "liberal" with "tolerant" and suddenly you'll understand clearly what makes a "conservative" tick.

For instance:

By the end of the day, the student journalists were fired up for battle -- determined not only to change the tenor of notoriously [tolerant] campus dialogues, but also, in the long run, to alter the basic makeup of the nation's professional news outlets.

Works best on idiotic cranks on message boards or comments sections.

Use it wisely.

[Edited for too much profanity]

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Don't get all bent out of shape...

So he puts on a flight suit and flys in a jet to land on an aircraft carrier. So what? I mean, it's not like he's not the headman for a military junta, right?

It's just par for the course, folks.

Boy, I can't wait for his next speech to be given at one of the two military bases he hasn't given a speech to. Maybe this time he'll bring a dirty ay-rab from Gitmo up on stage so he can pump a couple bullets into his head.

"That's what we call Texas justice."

Loud cheers. Hats thrown into the air. Martial law declared.

Can't wait.

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