Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Limbo Banished to . . . Limbo

The Vatican is putting an end to limbo:
It is an odd place. The inhabitants include Plato, Moses, Abraham and lots of babies. Now after more than 700 years of shadowy existence, limbo faces closure. The world's 30 leading Roman Catholic theologians were meeting behind closed doors in the Vatican yesterday to discuss a document which would sweep the concept out of the church's teaching.

Limbo was concocted in the 13th century as a solution to the theological conundrum of what happened to babies who died before they were christened.

According to doctrine, they could not go to heaven because their original sin had not been expunged by baptism. Yet they had done nothing to harm anyone so they scarcely deserved purgatory, let alone hell. Limbo also proved a useful solution to other problems such as where to put holy people who lived before Christ and who also had no chance of baptism. Dante added the classical sages.
From The Guardian. Interestingly, it appears that the change in the doctrine may be motivated in part by PR concerns:
More than six million children die of hunger every year in underdeveloped countries where the Church is keen to see its support continue to grow.

It is concerned that the concept of limbo may not impress potential converts.

The Church is aware that Muslims, for example, believe that all children go straight to heaven without passing any test.
From The Telegraph.

I'm not clear on where the Vatican's official position will be after limbo is abolished. Will all the unbaptised babies and good souls who died before Christ be deemed admitted, nunc pro tunc, into heaven? Bonus points to any commenter who can draw illuminating connections to the new guest worker and immigration reforms being bandied about in D.C.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Words Fail Me


Can we think things if we don't have words for those things? Are our imaginations limited by our language? Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote that "What we cannot say, we must pass over in silence." Some have interpreted this to mean that the words we possess determine the things that we can know. My interpretation of this is that there are some thoughts or feelings we have that we cannot properly express with the ready-made, accepted vocabulary of our language.

The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis suggests a slightly different premise: people experience and understand the world differently depending on the concepts contained in their language.
Sapir and Whorf asked people to describe how many stripes or bands they saw in a rainbow. Since rainbows are actually a continuum of color, there are no empirical stripes or bands, and yet people saw as many bands as their language possessed primary color words.
From Wikipedia entry on Linguistic Determinism

In August of 2004, Peter Gordon, a psychologist at Columbia, published a study which provided support for the theory of linguistic determinism:
Language may shape human thought suggests a counting study in a Brazilian tribe whose language does not define numbers above two.

Hunter-gatherers from the Pirah tribe, whose language only contains words for the numbers one and two, were unable to reliably tell the difference between four objects placed in a row and five in the same configuration, revealed the study. . . .

The language, Pirah, is known as a "one, two, many" language because it only contains words for "one" and "two" for all other numbers, a single word for "many" is used. "There are not really occasions in their daily lives where the Pirah need to count," explains Gordon. . . .

The Pirah also failed to remember whether a box they had been shown seconds ago had four or five fish drawn on the top. When Gordon's colleagues tapped on the floor three times, the Pirah were able to imitate this precisely, but failed to mimic strings of four of five taps.
From New Scientist.

The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis has interesting intersections with deconstruction. If we accept the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, the language we are born into controls our perceptions and understanding of the world. If, for example, we have a distinct word/concept for green (some languages do not), we will see it in a rainbow; otherwise we will not.

Deconstruction holds that we are not masters of our own speech or writing: speech or writing cannot faithfully represent us as it is always infected by other minds, both in the accepted, established structure and edifice of language that precedes us, with which we must make do, and the open interpretations other minds give to our statements, interpretations over which we have no authorial control; indeed, the very language we must use subverts our attempts to present a coherent and unified meaning. We make do with the currency we have, the language we our using, and do our best to fit our thoughts into available language.

But because the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis holds that our thoughts themselves are more or less formed by our language, it suggests that the collective process of creating a stable language in effect programs the minds of the language's speakers. If this is true, Wittgenstein (as I understand him) and Derrida are undercut to a certain extent: we are only capable of saying what we are capable of thinking, and we are only capable of thinking what we are capable of saying. This agrees with deconstruction to some degree: our speech is not our own; we are not able to present our "own" ideas or thoughts; we are only able to reiterate in new contexts the ideas made available to us by our language.

I have no doubt that this is too simplistic, and that the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, in its vulgar "prisonhouse of language" form, cannot be true. How to account for emotions, images in dreams and imagination that we cannot articulate in words? How to account for visual art, music, dance? Surely these forms are able to communicate concept not contained in a particular language. Still, it is a fascinating concept, and surely good impetus to continually study other languages to expand one's capacity to imagine and experience the world.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Boba Tea Madness!

I love boba tea so much. Tonight I had black milk tea with the tapioca boba at the Korean mini mall at Vermont and Seventh after dinner at Kobawoo: spicy squid, kim chi pancakes, dol sot bi bim bap (all tasty).
Traditional bubble tea is a shaken, iced milk tea drink that can contain a unique ingredient - tapioca balls, to be consumed through a fat straw. When the tea is shaken, the bubbles are created, thus creating the namesake. The tapioca pearls also looked like bubbles, which is why many people mistakenly refer to the tapioca themselves as bubbles. When shaken, a bubbly foam is produced, thus producing the term “bubble tea” The gummy boba are sucked up, with a little effort, through an extra large, translucent straw. What began as a simple concoction now has infinite potential given the choices for tea flavors, boba flavors, smoothie flavors, choice of hot, cold, etc. These days, the tapioca balls are placed in everything from flavored ice tea, milk tea, chai, smoothies, chillers, coffee, and much more to make a drink that is also fun to eat! In addition to tapioca, it is also popular to put flavored jellies, pudding, etc into the drinks. The flavor combinations are endless!
From Q-Tea.com

Boba tea seems sort of girly, especially when you get it in one of those pastel flavors with little jelly cubes, but what the hell -- it tastes so damn good. And those glutinous tapioca balls are so satisfyingly gooey and chewy as you suck them up -- with a little effort -- and slosh the super sweet milk tea down around them. I put boba balls in pretty much everything I eat these days -- the flavor combinations are endless.

Don't miss BobaFate, where you can get your fortune read from your boba balls, and the Bobablog.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

CHANCHOW

It's long past time for me to redirect you from this wretched mungo of a blog to the fantastic chanchow blog, which still has that new car smell. The new and always edifying chanhow blog, run by the learned Mrs. Octopus, a woman of abundant interests, appears to have a focus on L.A. history and happenings, with occasional detours into pleasurable miscellany. So stop wasting your time here and go there now!

Stranger than Fiction


Few people believe me when I tell them that ligers and tigons actually exist. They do. Everyone should know about these chimerical sports of nature:
Ligers grow much larger than tigers or lions and it is believed this is because female lions transmit a growth-inhibiting gene to their descendants to balance the growth-promoting gene transmitted by male lions . . . .
The first picture shows a gigantic liger; the second shows the majestic tigon.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Ho ho ho

The holidays -- especially when you're hosting your family -- are a tough time to keep the old web log up to date. So sorry about that. One problem with modern Thanksgivings: everyone has too many damn gadgets. My family showed up with a glowing fiesta of cell phones, laptops, and Ipods, digital cameras, USB cables, and accompanying chargers, the wires to which immediately became -- as if by magic -- hopelessly tangled. This crazy world we live in today!

Sure, I'm writing from my laptop here, but this is important. My little brother and his goofy phone calls to his burnt college buddies? totally frivolous. A waste of perfectly good carbon bonds and/or fission juice.

My brothers were text messaging each other at the House of Pies the other night. Everyone's cell phone is going off every five minutes. My mom's phone is set to a ring tone that reads out, in a Stephen Hawking voice, the caller's number, which ends up sounding like the Frenchwoman's transmission from "Lost".

They're leaving tonight, and I'll miss them . . . but my broadband connection will be fast again.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thump thump


Why do I do this everyday? No one needs another blog ranting about predictable political grievances.

Surely, a blog should serve a different purpose. All this free storage space in some archive, somewhere, should be used as just that -- an archive.

I should leave things here that fit nowhere else, that serve no purpose, that are of no interest to anyone but me.

For example, who would care about this: When I was about four, and living in Connecticut, my twin bed was pushed up flush against the wall. Near where I kept my pillow, I hung up a small poster of Superman I had found in a box of Honeycomb cereal. In the picture, Superman was flying straight toward me, leading with his gigantic right fist. I would stare at this picture as I fell asleep at night, and my eyes would open to it first thing in the morning.

Often, as I was trying to fall asleep, staring at the poster, the internal throb of my heartbeat would become very loud in my ears. Another memorable image from that year, a picture from one of my favorite books of a Tyrannosaurus Rex looking into a second-story window (to illustrate his height), would come into my mind, as I imagined the regular pounding of my heartbeat to be the thunderous steps of a dinosaur who was, through the night and the Connecticut forests, making his way to me.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Circumlocution

Sometimes, when you are a lawyer, you wake up on a Monday morning and you feel like you have no idea what it is that you do. You know that you read and write, look up applicable rules, look up the definitions of things, but you have this creeping feeling that you don't actually know anything.

It's also a bit unsettling as you dwell on this and come again to realize that you have no idea what the law is. Again you remember that the law exists in no place. We have only representations for it: the law is nothing but words. There is nothing behind those words. The law has no materiality. It lives on as a collectively sustained fiction: we imagine and believe it to exist and to matter.

At this point, one makes the obligatory reference to Kafka’s parable, “Before the Law”:
BEFORE THE LAW stands a doorkeeper. To this doorkeeper there comes a man from the country and prays for admittance to the Law. But the doorkeeper says that he cannot grant admittance at the moment. The man thinks it over and then asks if he will be allowed in later. "It is possible," says the doorkeeper, "but not at the moment."
The perpetual problem of the law is, of course, that we can’t ever really agree what these words should mean. This problem is most starkly illustrated when people are talking about the Constitution. People say, for example, that “there is no right of privacy in the Constitution”. And that’s true, insofar as there is no clause in the Constitution or its amendments stating that there is right to privacy (just as there’s no clause anywhere stating that citizens have the right to vote). But others, looking at the same document, say the Constitution protects a right to privacy. The trick is usually what these people mean when they say “the Constitution.”

There is the actual Constitution, and the words it contains. This is simple and easily located. The rub is that the Constitution at various points explicitly demands to be interpreted over time; the founders did not imagine that they could foresee all future developments: hence the open texture of certain provisions such as “equal protection”, “due process,” and “cruel and unusual”. These are vague standards; they clearly require interpretation over time, in the new and unforeseen contexts in which they arise (e.g., affirmative action, loss of welfare benefits, etc.).

So beyond the text of the Constitution are the judicial declarations – in words – of what the words of the Constitution mean. Often, when lawyers, judges or politicians say they “see a right of privacy in the Constitution” they are referring to judicial opinions interpreting the Constitution. Those judicial opinions, over time, become settled and ingrained in the body of American Constitutional law; after some point, it is legitimate to say that the Constitution protects privacy because the Supreme Court (and innumerable lower court decisions) have said this over and over for decades. However, even these decisions are left open to interpretation.

It’s a bit disorienting, when you consider that judges, lawyers, and politicians, each with their own agenda, view the same document and the same opinions and reach such disparate conclusions. Even Supreme Court opinions interpreting the Constitution are left very much open to interpretation, and lower courts in the various circuits of the country often do reach conflicting readings of the effect of a specific Supreme Court opinion. I guess this is a problem to expect when you have a system that attempts to create a unified system based on words. Everywhere “misunderstandings,” purposeful or not, will arise. The Supreme Court says, for example, interpreting the Constitution, and the right of privacy that the Court has interpreted that document to contain, that the state may not place “undue burdens” on the right to abortion – but no one agrees on what these words mean, no more than they agreed on whether the various words of the Constitution, read together, produced a right of privacy.

It’s also disorienting to consider that, to some extent, the Constitution is an illusion. Judges say that they are simply stating what the Constitution says. But what the Constitution says – as we are told by the courts – changes rapidly over time: there is no stable Constitution. It is but layer upon layer of readings, each provisional, connected, sometimes loosely, to prior readings, each theoretically producing the subsequent readings.
Since the gate stands open, as usual, and the doorkeeper steps to one side, the man stoops to peer through the gateway into the interior. Observing that, the doorkeeper laughs and says: "If you are so drawn to it, 'just try to go in despite my veto. But take note: I am powerful. And I am only the least of the doorkeepers. From hall to hall there is one doorkeeper after another, each more powerful than the last. The third doorkeeper is already so terrible that even I cannot bear to look at him." These are difficulties the man from the country has not expected; the Law, he thinks, should surely be accessible at all times and to everyone, but as he now takes a closer look at the doorkeeper in his fur coat, with his big sharp nose and long, thin, black Tartar beard, he decides that it is better to wait until he gets permission to enter.
Meanwhile, readings and interpretations proliferate: congressmen, state courts, federal trial courts, the Vice President, Governors, newspaper columnists, bloggers, and law professors see a thousand different Constitutions.
During these many years the man fixes his attention almost continuously on the doorkeeper. He forgets the other doorkeepers, and this first one seems to him the sole obstacle preventing access to the Law. He curses his bad luck, in his early years boldly and loudly; later, as he grows old, he only grumbles to himself. He becomes childish, and since in his yearlong contemplation of the doorkeeper he has come to know even the fleas in his fur collar, he begs the fleas as well to help him and to change the doorkeep er's mind.
We can only hope to persuade others – most especially those granted, through our system of consent and belief, the power to say what the law is – to accept our view of what the law is. To persuade others, we point back to the Constitution, and its various authoritative interpretations, and argue for our interpretation, attempting to show that the archive of the Constitution contains and therefore dictates our view. Meanwhile, the law eludes us.
At length his eyesight begins to fail, and he does not know whether the world is really darker or whether his eyes are only deceiving him. Yet in his darkness he is now aware of a radiance that streams inextinguishably from the gateway of the Law. Now he has not very long to live. Before he dies, all his experiences in these long years gather themselves in his head to one point, a question he has not yet asked the doorkeeper. He waves him nearer, since he can no longer raise his stiffening body. The doorkeeper has to bend low toward him, for the difference in height between them has altered much to the man's disadvantage. "What do you want to know now?" asks the doorkeeper; "you are insatiable." "Everyone strives to reach the Law," says the man, "so how does it happen that for all these many years no one but myself has ever begged for admittance?" The doorkeeper recognizes that the man has reached his end, and, to let his failing senses catch the words, roars in his ear: "No one else could ever be admitted here, since this gate was made only for you. I am now going to shut it."

Sunday, November 20, 2005

The West Side


Note to self: Never, ever, ever again go to the West Side.

Last night, with vague plans of "dinner and a movie," Mrs. Octopus and I decided to drive out to the West Side to L.A.'s new Vegas/Disneyland/Truman Show/Biosphere II outdoor shopping mall, The Grove. There, we had our first absurd L.A. car nightmare.

The Grove's parking garage is eight or nine levels high. We had been there before -- but not on a Saturday night -- and hadn't had any problems. Last night, though, we found ourselves immured in traffic jams -- get this -- in the parking garage.

It is pretty hilarious, looking back, but at the time, it was horrific. Everyone was honking at each other. People were shamelessly stealing spots from each other. The paper-thin veneer of what passes for civilized behavior on the West Side was breaking down. I think one guy, walking off toward the elevators with his girlfriend to enjoy the infinite delights of The Grove after he had scored a parking spot, actually turned to give me, as I sat still trapped in my car, a triumphant, shit-eating grin. Oh, the horror.

People looking for spots would just randomly stop -- falsely imprisoning all the cars behind them -- and wait for people to come back to their cars. At one point, after we had been held captive behind someone's Lexus for about eight minutes, I got out of our car and started approaching the car at fault -- with what course of action in mind, I am not sure and would rather not think about. Luckily, the Lexus pulled into a parking spot -- and out of our way -- just as I was walking up to knock on the driver's door.

After wasting about thirty or forty minutes in this manner, we gave up on the Grove and decided to flee. This took about ten minutes or so, just to navigate the traffic jam down to the exit.

We fled The Grove and drove down to Little Ethiopia -- probably the only redeeming part of the West Side -- for an excellent meal at Merkato. I got a bit agitated when some cretinous bastard slipped in from behind and stole a parking spot from us on Fairfax, but we soon found another spot, and, once we were able to actually leave our car, our evening continued.

Merkato was very good. It was attached to a little café/bookshop/music store, where, being slaves to the diktats of Jim Jarmusch, we bought an Ethio jazz CD featuring some of the songs from "Broken Flowers". We drove back to Los Feliz, listening to the groovy, underwater-sounding jazz, past the Ferrari dealerships, the Chinese restaurants with valet parking, and the UCLA students at the In-n-Out drive thru, resolving never to return.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Sweet Nothings



Check out Rinko Kawauchi's sublime images of the quotidian on her fantastic photojournal. Link via Momus.

Grigori Octopus, Esq.


Happy to report that Mrs. Octopus and I found out tonight that we passed the California bar exam! Yippee!

Some of you may remember that I forced myself to take a month-long hiatus from blogging in July to study for the bar. That sucked.

Never again!

New Hope for Labor in Israel

Keep your eye on this man, Amir Peretz, the newly elected leader of the Labor Party in Israel. In a meeting with Ariel Sharon today, the two agreed to early elections, sometime next spring.

The Moroccan-born Peretz is a founding member of Israel's Peace Now, advocates a return to social democratic principles and greater economic equality, and withdrawal from the West Bank. See interview in Ha'aretz. Perhaps Peretz will be a champion for that vast segment of Israel that longs for peace with its neighbors, social equality at home, and a just resolution with the Palestinians.

The Forward is cautiously optimistic:
Each of [Labor's] would-be champions, and a few others who have tried along the way, came from the same basic mold: military men attempting to recapture the magic of Labor's last real hero, Yitzhak Rabin. Like Rabin they emerged from the heart of Israel's military establishment, which tends to be considerably more pragmatic and dovish than the electorate at large. Unlike Rabin, they had not spent decades out of uniform, earning the public's trust and learning the pitfalls of politics. Perhaps most important, they came on the scene in an era when Israeli politics has become deeply polarized and tribal. Labor is firmly identified with the Ashkenazic elites that founded the state. Likud is seen as the party of the rising Sephardic majority, which wants its day in the sun. Nothing Labor's leaders have said or done has managed to break the image.

There's no guarantee that Amir Peretz, Labor's latest champion, will fare any differently. True, early polls show him boosting the party's strength , even before he's had a chance to speak to the public and articulate a vision from his new perch. But that could be due merely to the novelty of his outsider candidacy as a Moroccan-born Sephardic Jew from a poor town who has no college degree or military medals. It could be that the Peretz era will be just one more way station on the Labor Party's road to decline.

If Peretz does have a shot at making a difference and turning Labor around, it's partly because he's worked his way up the political ladder for decades; he's not likely to melt with the first rain or needlessly alienate his friends. It's partly because, in an era of identity politics, he can speak for Israel's new majority.

We suspect, though, that part of what has captured Israel's imagination is Peretz's message. He speaks to working Israelis about their mounting economic distress. He puts the blame where it belongs — on the neoconservative ideological twaddle of the free-marketeers who have dominated Israel's public discourse for years. And, unlike the brainy generals who came before him, he doesn't promise clever new inventions. His platform is essentially a return to the social-democratic principles that worked so well for so long until they were so disastrously tossed aside. American liberals should be watching him closely.
Full article.

We are. If Peretz can win and reach a just peace with the Palestinians, it will do more for the "War on Terror" than all the bombs we've dropped on Iraq.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The New Face of America


Jimmy Carter in the LA TIMES today on an America that has become, in recent years, unrecognizable:
IN RECENT YEARS, I have become increasingly concerned by a host of radical government policies that now threaten many basic principles espoused by all previous administrations, Democratic and Republican.

These include the rudimentary American commitment to peace, economic and social justice, civil liberties, our environment and human rights.

Also endangered are our historic commitments to providing citizens with truthful information, treating dissenting voices and beliefs with respect, state and local autonomy and fiscal responsibility.

At the same time, our political leaders have declared independence from the restraints of international organizations and have disavowed long-standing global agreements — including agreements on nuclear arms, control of biological weapons and the international system of justice.

Instead of our tradition of espousing peace as a national priority unless our security is directly threatened, we have proclaimed a policy of "preemptive war," an unabridged right to attack other nations unilaterally to change an unsavory regime or for other purposes. When there are serious differences with other nations, we brand them as international pariahs and refuse to permit direct discussions to resolve disputes.

Regardless of the costs, there are determined efforts by top U.S. leaders to exert American imperial dominance throughout the world.

These revolutionary policies have been orchestrated by those who believe that our nation's tremendous power and influence should not be internationally constrained. Even with our troops involved in combat and America facing the threat of additional terrorist attacks, our declaration of "You are either with us or against us!" has replaced the forming of alliances based on a clear comprehension of mutual interests, including the threat of terrorism.

Another disturbing realization is that, unlike during other times of national crisis, the burden of conflict is now concentrated exclusively on the few heroic men and women sent back repeatedly to fight in the quagmire of Iraq. The rest of our nation has not been asked to make any sacrifice, and every effort has been made to conceal or minimize public awareness of casualties.

Instead of cherishing our role as the great champion of human rights, we now find civil liberties and personal privacy grossly violated under some extreme provisions of the Patriot Act.

Of even greater concern is that the U.S. has repudiated the Geneva accords and espoused the use of torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, and secretly through proxy regimes elsewhere with the so-called extraordinary rendition program. It is embarrassing to see the president and vice president insisting that the CIA should be free to perpetrate "cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment" on people in U.S. custody.
Full piece.

Meanwhile, Dick Cheney, in full head-tilt-'n-snarl mode, reverted to his mean uncle impersonation:
The suggestion that's been made by some U.S. senators that the president of the United States or any member of this administration purposely misled the American people on prewar intelligence is one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city. . . .

The president and I cannot prevent certain politicians from losing their memory, or their backbone - but we're not going to sit by and let them rewrite history.

We're going to continue throwing their own words back at them.
Full article.

I think Dick Cheney is actually trying to scare critics of the Iraq war disaster into silence. I mean, look at him: He thinks that snarl and some dirty, crooked lower teeth are going to frighten everyone into submission? What's he going to do? Ground all of us? Have another heart attack and die on top of us?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Good 'Ol Days

From Robin Blackburn's review of empire enthusiast Niall Ferguson's recent bestselling paean to the Anglo-American Imperial project: Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World and Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire:
The suspicion grows, confirmed by his enthusiasm for Bush’s invasion of Iraq, that Ferguson, like other neo-conservatives, is seduced by the romance and rhetoric of empire, but when it comes to its logistics and economic rationale he is in denial.

The rhetoric and romance are dark-hued. Ferguson allows that Anglo-American empire involved much destruction and atrocity—but with ultimately beneficial results. His case is that dragging the world into modernity was—is—bound to be a very difficult and ugly proceeding. Those on the receiving end of Anglo-American imperialism are lucky since at least British and American imperial tutelage proved more benign than that of other modern empires, such as the Germans, the Japanese, the Soviets, or even the French, Portuguese and Spanish—though little is heard of these. If you could find an Algonquin or native Tasmanian descendant they would probably not agree. Ferguson does not shrink from considering the crimes of colonization—one chapter in Empire is called ‘White Plague’—but he constructs a sort of cosmic balance sheet in which, as with the Bank of England in its heyday, the credits comfortably outweigh the liabilities; the empire’s misdeeds are redeemed by its eventual achievements. Someone had to foster the advance of capitalism and representative institutions, and the international order has to be policed by someone. Surely John Bull and Uncle Sam did—and do—a better job than any likely alternatives? . . . .

The empires of the modern period slighted the humanity of subject peoples, and sacrificed the latter to the insatiable demands of a capitalist accumulation process. In these respects they marked a step down from their supposed model, since Rome did not foster racial hierarchy, did not expose peoples’ livelihoods to market forces and eventually extended citizenship to all. Ferguson sees it differently. He admits that Britain’s ‘first empire’ was marred by pillage and rapine, with a swollen slave trade from Africa, looted cities in the Americas and horrendous famine in Bengal. But the settlement of the North American littoral was a great achievement and a more responsible imperialism, born in the 1780s, was able to purge the empire of its early excesses and to discover more graceful ways of letting go than were in evidence in 1776.
Article at New Left Review.

As Blackburn notes, Ferguson is delighted with America's occupation of Iraq, but it is not enough: he wishes for a more colossal, more muscular and far flung American Empire. To achieve this noble vision of unbounded American domination, Ferguson prescribes stripping away "increasingly expensive entitlement programmes like Social Security and Medicare which simply leave no budgetary room for extensive overseas imperial missions."

Blackburn has a point: maybe Rome wasn't so bad, come to think of it. At least they had gladiators fighting tigers instead of Nascar.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Señor Peligro


Why does Venezuela scare the Bush Administration so much? Perhaps Hugo Chavez's popular leftist program has something to do with it:
Firmly in power and his revolution now in overdrive, President Hugo Chavez is moving fast to transform Venezuela's economy by bucking free-market planning with what he calls 21st-century socialism: founding state companies, seizing abandoned private factories and establishing thousands of cooperatives and worker-run businesses.

The populist government is reorganizing the country's colossal oil industry, taking a bigger share from private multinationals. Planners are reorganizing the banking system, placing stringent restrictions on lending while creating state banks. Venezuela is also developing a state-to-state barter system to trade items as varied as cattle, oil and cement as far away as Argentina and as near as Cuba, its closest ally.

"It's impossible for capitalism to achieve our goals, nor is it possible to search for an intermediate way," Mr. Chavez said a few months ago, laying out his plans. "I invite all Venezuelans to march together on the path of socialism of the new century."
Full article.

Who cares if the Venezuelan people keep on electing Chavez? We are all for democracy, but not this kind of democracy.

Someone needs to page Ollie North. We can't allow socialism to develop in our backyard. Why? I'm not sure, but I'm a red-blooded American -- I ain't no Pinko -- and I ain't going to stand for no Latin Americans mucking about with communism.

But seriously, Chavez has some justification for dubbing Bush "Señor Peligro": Venezuela's sitting on a lot of oil, and the U.S.'s armed forces are still controlled by Cold War dinosaurs Cheney and Rumsfeld. What better way to go out than in a blaze of glory: bombing Latin commies and making their oil fields safe for ExxonMobil? It would be so -- retro.

Also, after the reception Bush received during his recent trip to South America, is anyone else wondering: Who doesn't hate us?

Sticks and Sticks

I heard this on the radio the other week, and I've been meaning to post it: "Trying to explain ideas with words is like trying to build a tree with lumber."

Junta Heads for the Hills

As you might have seen over the weekend, the weird and awful ruling junta of Myanmar gathered up its stuff and fled the capital for the inland mountains:
The intense secrecy surrounding the move has fueled speculation over its motives, with one popular theory -- talked about on the streets of Yangon as well as by Myanmar-language radio news services abroad -- being that it was because the new capital would be easier to defend if the United States attacked.

Washington is a major critic of the ruling junta for its poor human rights record and its failure to hand over power to a democratically elected government.

Work on the new capital reportedly began in earnest around the time that the United States invaded Afghanistan and as it geared up for a war in Iraq, in the wake of the September 2001 terrorists attacks on its soil. . . .

The military government quietly began building the new capital more than three years ago, and it is believed to host a prime minister's residence, diplomatic quarters, an airport, hospital, a golf course, hotels and nearly 40 buildings for each ministry -- each of which can accommodate 500 people -- and a separate complex that houses military headquarters and bunkers.
Full article.

The government apparently left the old capital at precisely 6:37 a.m. on Sunday -- some have speculated that the move is made on the advice of astrologists. News flash for the junta: we couldn't invade you guys now if we wanted to.

Deny, Attack, Rinse, Repeat

I am beginning to grudgingly admire the single-minded, maniacal, and mulish tenacity with which Bush and his talking point monkeys are sticking to their new attacks on war critics. It's like some type of political jujitsu: No, you're rewriting history, you Senators who authorized the war -- not we who created special offices to embellish and gin up the evidence to meet our agenda.

The strategy is reminiscent of other classic Republican cooptations of the left's rhetoric: You want civil rights? So do frat boys pissed at affirmative action. Don't discriminate against them, you racists! You oppose Clarence Thomas? You're a bunch of racists! You say we rewrote history and the facts in driving the country into Iraq and then constantly changing offering different "rationales" for the war? You're rewriting history and running away from your 2002 votes.

The Bush Administration has moved into full reality-denial, new-reality-creation mode. They will stay on the same message with Nicholson-in-The-Shining-like obstinacy and obliviousness until the public gives in and accepts, once again, that 2+2 does equal 5. Or, maybe they won't this time. (Holding your breath?)

And don't forget, criticizing the President hurts the troops and aids the evil Islamofascists. So shut up and do as your told.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

I'm feeling hopeful again.


From Howard Dean's appearance on Meet the Press this morning:
But I think we all should speak about our values.  I think one of the mistakes we've made is to not understand that most Americans believe that moral values include making sure that kids don't go to bed hungry at night.  The Republicans are cutting the school lunch program.  We want to make sure that everybody in America has health insurance.  That's a moral value.  The Republicans are kicking people off their health care.  So there is a--we win when we debate about moral values.  We ought to talk about our values. . . . I'm a Democrat because of my moral values. I believe that we can't leave anybody behind. We are the party of America's values."
Full transcript.

Later in the program Russert -- finally, thankfully -- cuts off RNC chair Ken Mehlman as he lamely offers the same party propaganda:
MR. RUSSERT:  But isn't there a cloud over the Bush presidency because of Iraq?  The administration said he was reconstituting his nuclear program.  Not true.  It said there would be vast stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. Not true.  He said we'd be greeted as liberators.  Not true.  Isn't Iraq a political problem for this president?

MR. MEHLMAN:  Ultimately, Iraq's not about--should not be about domestic politics.  Iraq's about our national security.  And on September 11th, we learned that we need to think first and foremost about protecting America. And while wars...

MR. RUSSERT:  But there's no linkage between Iraq and September 11th.

MR. MEHLMAN:  Well, the lessons...

MR. RUSSERT:  Saddam Hussein was not involved in September 11th.
Transcript. Maybe Russert recently saw "Good Night and Good Luck".

Saturday, November 12, 2005

The Serial Comma

It seems that no one follows this rule anymore:
One of the questions we are asked frequently is whether a comma should go before the conjunction "and" in a series of three or more items. The answer is yes. Although grammar gurus abandoned that comma rule for a while in the twentieth century, we have since realized that using the serial comma (as it is called) is a good idea for two reasons:

First, it prevents misreading. Consider this sentence, for example:

The menu for the class picnic will feature green beans, stewed apples, macaroni and cheese and okra and tomatoes.

Without the serial comma, the series items are difficult to see. Here is the same sentence with the serial comma added:

The menu for the class picnic will feature green beans, stewed apples, macaroni and cheese, and okra and tomatoes.

With the serial comma, the reader can tell easily that the class ate four different dishes, not five or six, as may have been construed without that last comma. . . .

Here’s another example:

Mrs. Jones left her money to Sally and Fred Smith, Margaret and John Williams, Betty and Harold Spivey and their children.

Without the serial comma, the sentence could be interpreted to mean that only Betty and Harold Spivey’s children would receive a share of the inheritance. With the comma, the sentence would clearly communicate that the children of all three couples were to receive a share:

Mrs. Jones left her money to Sally and Fred Smith, Margaret and John Williams, Betty and Harold Spivey, and their children.
From Get It Write.

All Blog and No Play

I will never get tired of the wonders of the internet. This is an excerpt from a post from one of my fellow bloggers here on blogspot:
the other night she gives all the hints that i'm the one again. several hours later she's doing plans on having sex with my best friend.
i'm a fool - part 10. . . .

If someone blows up your car, you don't go give this person a back massage right? (another car example)

I'm a dumbass and a fool. why? just am.
ofcourse it's all my fault. it always is.
accept another failure and move on.

Bob is playing with the sink again in my kitchen.
Weed anyone?

ANGER. HATE.

She was simply messing with my head, like it's not already messed up enough already.

SELFISH!

but she didn't do it on purpose. and she had the guts to tell me everything even risking losing me. and she really doesn't wanna. for some weird reason :P

STILL SELFISH!

gotta wake up to give my blood in 5 hours. ........

i appricate it so much that she told me everything, that's what i love about her.


All of it, is just impossible to accept.

I just hate when such things happen behind my back and then everybody act like everything is okay.


DIS F[]CKING GUSTING!

When I care so much about her, and have all these feelings, she goes flirting and having sex with somebody else. when you show love and understanding, she goes hits on your best friendWhen I care so much about her, and have all these feelings, she goes flirting and having sex with somebody else. when you show love and understanding, she goes hits on your best friendWhen I care so much about her, and have all these feelings, she goes flirting and having sex with somebody else. when you show love and understanding, she goes hits on your best friendWhen I care so much about her, and have all these feelings, she goes flirting and having sex with somebody else. when you show love and understanding, she goes hits on your best friendWhen I care so much about her, and have all these feelings, she goes flirting and having sex with somebody else. when you show love and understanding, she goes hits on your best friend.
To answer the question posed, I think it's pretty clear that if someone blows up your car, you don't go give this person a back massage.

Dissent is Treason

Welcome to the world of Bush's mind:
"While it's perfectly legitimate to criticize my decisions or the conduct of the war, it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how the war began," Bush said.
Full article.

Let's review:

The Administration drove us to war on twisted and often bogus evidence. They created fictionalized reasons to go to war.

After WMDs were not found, the administration, without skipping a beat, revised recent history, and claimed that the war had always been about bringing democracy to the Middle East.

Now that the public has soured on the war, the administration's strategy is to accuse critics of the war of rewriting history.

I am trying to get my head around it. It's like some kind of Gordian knot.

What hasn't changed: If you challenge this administration, you are aiding the enemy: "The attempts by Democratic lawmakers and others to rewrite history are demoralizing U.S. troops and encouraging their radical Islamic foes, Bush said."

Right. Do you want to be encouraging our radical Islamic foes? You better shut up and stop asking questions about how we ended up in Iraq. Keep paying your taxes, keep giving us your sons and daughters, don't ask how many have died, or what we are doing over there. Trust us.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

End the War

From the Nation:
The war has also become the single greatest threat to our national security. Its human and economic costs are spiraling out of control, with no end in sight. It has driven America's reputation in the world to a historic low point. In the meantime, real threats suffer terrible neglect. These include more terrorist attacks, jeopardized oil supplies, rising tension with China, the spread of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction and even natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina. All are pushed aside as this Administration pours the country's blood, treasure and political energy into a futile war. In short, ending the Iraq War is the most pressing issue facing America today. Until it is ended, a constructive national security policy cannot be forged.
Full article.

Where is Paul Wolfowitz right now? Has he tried to keep count of how many Americans have died in Iraq? Why are we still there? Why are the Administration and the Republicans so frightened about an investigation into why we went into Iraq, and who made sure we ended up there?

This Should Probably Be Illegal

this is an audio post - click to play

Live from My Bathroom

this is an audio post - click to play

Audioblog 1

this is an audio post - click to play

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

I need a new board game

So for the past couple years, I've been stuck in a real board game rut. I think I burnt out part of my frontal cortex in overly competitive Boggle. Risk, the game of world domination, is fun, if you have eight hours to burn. Trivial Pursuit is super boring. I've had loads of good times introducing people to Wise and Otherwise, but I fear that it's now cashed. That's too bad, because that was a game where everyone could win.

People used to tell me about Cranium, but I get the sense that it's had its day. We're trying to figure out what games to play when we try to inaugurate our Game Night West. I'm worried that I might fall back on Pictionary. Does anyone know of a good, reliably fun board game that won't bring out too many hypercompetitive tendencies?

New Coke

Does anyone remember what it tasted like? I hope all two of my regular OG readers (Hi Mom!) are enjoying our new format. LiveJournal was fun while it lasted, but it was a little 2003. I know everyone and their dog is on blogspot, but it's way cooler than LiveJournal. Look, we will all always have a place in our heart for Octopus Grigori Classic, but it's time to move on.

Republicans Get Their Asses Handed to Them Across the Nation

Hooray VA, NJ, and CA!

Also, further Republican shark-jumping: Senators call for investigation of source for CIA prison story -- but not an investigation into CIA prisons.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Welcome

As you can see, our new location is still under construction. Expect to see changes soon.

Test

Hello friends. This is the first foray of Octopus Grigori into Google blogger. Let's see how this goes.