Thursday, November 30, 2006

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A Charlie Brown Christmas

I read on Wonkette that ABC was airing A Charlie Brown Christmas tonight at 8 p.m. and got all excited about it. I hadn't seen it in years. It seemed just right for the sleepy, exhausted, sniffly mood I'm in right now. I'm in one of those moods where you put your head down a lot. I've got this cold that's slowly growing in intensity, I'm constantly exhausted, I wonder about old friends from elementary school, I wear winter hats indoors.

My brother and I used to get very excited for Charlie Brown specials, and got all fired up when they ran that spinning rainbow-colored "SPECIAL" graphic before the show. The specials were a break from the standard pattern of things, a cousin of the news flash interrupting regularly scheduled programming. When the special aired, it made the holiday more real somehow, if that makes any sense. Halloween became all the more real when the Great Pumpkin special aired, etc.

Anyhow, I had forgotten that in the middle of the Charlie Brown Christmas Special, Linus gives a long and solemn speech, intended to remind Charlie Brown of the "real meaning of Christmas," where he talks about the Lord sending down "a Savior, Christ the Lord" to the "City of David," bringing peace and goodwill to all men.

After Linus's speech, Charlie Brown walks home under the very big stars over the very flat anonymous Peanuts town carrying his sickly, pathetic Christmas tree, hearing Linus's words echo in his heads. He realizes, out loud, of course, with the stars twinkling brightly and significantly overhead, that Linus is right, and Christmas is about so much more than the vulgar commercialism that has gripped Snoopy, who is trying to win a big cash prize in a neighborhood Christmas light and decoration contest, Sally, who dictates a letter to Charlie Brown for Santa, where she says that she "only wants what's coming to" her, and suggests that, to make it easier, Santa could send her money, "preferably tens and twenties", whereupon Charlie Brown goes "AUGHH" and throws up his hands, and Lucy, who, in one of the weirder scenes in the special, goes into a reverie after Charlie Brown deposits a nickel in the can at her psychiatrist's booth, shaking the can and raving about how she loves the "tinkle of cold hard cash".

Strangely, Charlie Brown's feeble and measly Christmas tree is "rescued" at the very end of the special when the Peanuts gang takes the lights and decorations from Snoopy's doghouse and spruces up the tree, making it look like a conventionally -- and commercially -- beautiful Christmas tree, somewhat undercutting the major theme of the special. (Linus is deployed to explain the transformation: "All the tree needs is a little love.") After this, Charlie Brown and the gang gather around the rescued now conventionally pretty tree and sing a song to it.

The voices of the character were comforting, as always -- even the unsettling and weird timing of the dialogue, with odd pauses in between, was comforting. The repetitive, cycled animation, sometimes in silence, was also unsettling, but similarly comforting. (Why, you may ask, am I in need of so much goddamned comfort?) There was a newer Charlie Brown Christmas Special that came on immediately afterwards. This one looked as if it were made in the 80's or 90's: the colors were more vivid and stable, the lines were cleaner, the backgrounds were brighter, and, most disturbingly, the voices were different, and the weird pauses between dialogue were gone. I couldn't watch it for more than five minutes.

I need to apologize to a friend. This post is mostly cribbed -- from memory -- from a letter I just wrote him, which sort of depersonalizes the letter in some way, I fear. Sorry, Tom.

UPDATE:Apparently, about 13 million viewers tuned in to watch this 41st telecast of a Charlie Brown Christmas. It seems many of us are in need of the comfort of an old, boring, but dependable classic cartoon. It makes sense, with the world spiralling beyond comprehension into a frightening future: many of us want to put on pajamas and watch a story about a sickly Christmas tree.

Sometime I'll have to do a review of Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown and how scary a movie that was.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Sneezing Panda

Apropos of nothing, but worth a few seconds of your time.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

On the way back to Burbank Economy Lot A

Thanksgiving break is over. We're at Bush Int'l Airport in Houston waiting for a shuttle to Dallas; from there we'll catch a flight to Burbank.

The trip was fun. We saw tons of family and ate truckloads of food. Thanksgiving, as usual, was an interesting mish-mash of cuisines: one of the turkeys we cooked was a spicy, curried turkey. I had some of this on my plate along with stuffing, cranberry sauce, biryani, and a spicy/sour eggplant. There I go, getting all Jhumpa Lahiri on you.

We also played a lot of touch football and had a bunch of races. I faced another sign of the ravages of time as my baby brother (he's in college) just barely edged me out in a (roughly) 100 yard dash. That would not have happened two or three years ago. It's okay, because old age has taught me acceptance.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Octopus Keeps His Baggage Attended at the Bob Hope Airport

Coming to you live from Gate B3 of the Bob Hope Airport. The long-term parking lots were sort of full, but the check-in lines were absurdly, risibly short. I can't imagine the agony and gnashing teeth going on across town at LAX right now.

So the trip is going smoothly so far. The plane is at the gate and everything is ready to go -- we're just waiting for a flight attendant who's apparently stuck in traffic.

Oop -- apparently the flight attendant has arrived, because they just announced pre-boarding. I'll try to compose a sky-post for you en route to Dallas.

Happy Thanksgiving

Blogging from the Buena Vista branch of the Burbank Public Library. It's very nice in here. It's an interesting crowd, the people that hang out in public libraries on weekdays while most people work. A lot of housewives with kids in tow, retired-looking folk reading military novels, students, some people that look like they might be working on screenplays for television pilots, and various assorted weirdos.

I'm trying to do some work here in the library, before picking Mrs. Octopus up from her office her in Burbank and driving over to the delightful Burbank airport for a flight to Dallas. I've never been to Dallas before -- my dad's side of the family's having a sort of mini-reunion at an uncle's house there. (Let me know if you have any suggestions on things to do in the Big D. From what I understand, a popular activity is eating a lot of meat.)

I really love traveling on Thanksgiving. I know it's almost always a pain, and it sucks very hard if you get bumped off your flight or placed on standby, but I really enjoy being among the throngs of people rushing home or back to their families, across the country. Perhaps it's the feeling of shared purpose and the shared holiday: everyone knows what everyone else is doing and why everyone else is struggling through baggage check lines and security checkpoints -- we're all trying to get back to the people we love for our one true American holiday.

I think that might have been the cover squib for the VHS tape of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, which, I will admit, I loved.

The Octopus wishes you a wonderful Thanksgiving with your loved ones.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Pynchon Dweeb-Fest

A confession: I went to a "book party" last night at Skylight Books in Los Feliz to celebrate the release of Thomas Pynchon's latest book, Against the Day.

I am fully aware that taking part in such an event fairly opens me up for charges of pretentiousness and total dorkiness. As Mrs. Octopus very rightly commented as I left the house at 11:30 for the event, "Enjoy your dweeb-fest."

Okay, so it was totally ridiculous. What can I say? I genuinely loved Mason & Dixon and Gravity's Rainbow. I've read them both several times. A friend of mine, whom I respect very much, once noted that people who read Pynchon often tackle his books to finish them as some sort of badges of merit or achievement that they can proudly display. I may be open to that charge. But I also know that I love Pynchon's works for their fantastic riffs on science and faith, sympathy for the underdog, disdain for self-important and abusive authority and power, stupid songs, and dumb jokes. He often seems to me to be our most American writer: who else manages to blend nuclear bombs, Plasticman, King Kong, Pavlovian responses, Malcolm X, organic chemistry, rocket science, and toilet humor so brilliantly and entertainingly?

Anyhow, it was a strange scene at the bookstore last night as we passed the time until midnight, when the bookstore clerks could legally hand us our copies of Against the Day. There was a table with wine and cheese, some snacks, and there were efforts to get people to socialize, but the die-hards who showed up at 11:45 at night didn't seem to be the most socially gifted people in the city. A few people wondered whether Pynchon was still alive. Someone wandered into the bookstore and asked a few people assembled there what the big deal was: Why were people so into Pynchon? Was it his use of language? His storytelling? His character development? No one really had a ready answer. A young group of poets had wandered into the bookstore near midnight, apparently up for any literary event they could find in Los Angeles. They seemed dressed as if for a club, except in a kind of Rushmore way (i.e., plaid skirts, etc.). One of them asked someone if Pynchon always wrote in the third person. A good question: a few of the self-identified Pynchon diehards had to think about it, before venturing a half-hearted "yes". There was a lot of lurking about by solitary Pynchon fans (like the Octopus), sipping soda and avoiding eye contact in the Gardening and Architecture aisles, while anxiously gripping receipts for their pre-paid copies of Pynchon's latest (and last?).

Altogether, a very interesting event for L.A.

Most reviewers appear to agree that the book is too long, baggy in places, with flashes of brilliance, but generally exhausting in its scope, digressions, and cast of hundreds.

Here's my question: when did these reviewers get this book, and how long have they had to read the 1085 pages? I'd probably be cranky too if I had to race through a doorstop like Against the Day to meet a deadline for a review.

I'll check back in with a review of Against the Day in three to four months.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Another really funny guy

Your friend and mine, Jackie Mason. From a 2004 article of Mason's in the Jewish World Review:
. . . . Islam: religion of oppression, discrimination, violence, terror, war, superstition, intolerance and prejudice. . . . followers of a religion of hate . . . .

America must learn it cannot negotiate or reason with people who consider us infidels. It must recognize that the enemy is often among us and all the exposure available to them in Western civilization with its tolerances and respect for individual rights will not affect their seething anger at imagined wrongs, injustices, and illogical sense of entitlement.

Historically, use of strength, swift and certain punishment, and resolve of purpose are all that is left us to effectively deal with their primitive madness.
Yup, Mason is a man of many talents: comedian, rabbi, foreign policy expert, historian. I think we should follow Mason's prescription and use strength, swift and certain punishment, and resolve of purpose to effectively deal with primitive madness such as that exhibited by the Octopus.

Oh, but he's a lovable old guy. Maybe an ugly, hate-mongering racist and bigot. But so avuncular and lovable.

Does anyone care that Mason makes such hateful statements? Nope. He's a star peddling his lovable racism and vicious bigotry across the country's airwaves.

Lovable old Kramer

Here's Michael Richards, who played Kramer on Seinfeld, losing his fucking mind and lashing out in a racist tirade at L.A.'s Laugh Factory this past Friday. He was apparently reacting to hecklers but went just a bit over the line. He tries to make a joke about how "fifty years ago" the black hecklers would have been lynched for heckling him.

A revealing glimpse into the sick and thoroughly fucked up mind of lovable old Kramer.

The video is extremely offensive and full of Richards's racist trash and is inappropriate for workplace viewing.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

UCLA Student Brutally Tasered

Further adventures in America's public relations with the world: the video above, taken on a student's camera phone, shows an Iranian-American UCLA student Mostafa Tabatabainejad getting shot with a taser at least five times in a UCLA library for "failing to show student ID". The video is pretty fucking disturbing.

For those who say the guy should have just left? Try doing that as you're getting tazed.

This apparently happened on November 14. I had no idea about this until my brother, who's at college on the East Coast, told me about this. Gives you some idea about how much press coverage this has received in the MSM. Meanwhile, the virtual community on the internet, across the world, seems pretty outraged about the video.

The incident is disgusting. Tasered multiple times for failing to show student ID on a random ID check in a library? I want to think that the wild spread of this video through YouTube augurs a new era of accountability, but imagine the videos not shot, of the acts of Americans in secret, dark places we don't even know about, and may never know about.

Oh, and don't worry, there are those who are making sure no one gets the idea that this incident had anything to do with Tabatabainejad's race. In fact, one finds David Lazar, Vice-Chairman of the UCLA Republicans, blaming Tabatabainejad for the incident:
In my opinion, he was asking for it.

When Mostafa Tabatabainejad refused to present his BruinCard in Powell Library when asked during a routine check by Community Service Officers, scoffing at them and police, it created an uproar, the fallout of which has graced airwaves and prompted headlines internationally.

Whether or not the police used excessive force, there is no doubt that the student showed a blatant disregard for UCLA's regulations and police authority. . . .

We now know, in hindsight, that Tabatabainejad was not dangerous, but he might have acted in such a way to make the police worried about potential danger. People should take this into account before jumping to conclusions.

Regardless of whether or not the police used excessive force, we should all agree that Tabatabainejad is at least partially to blame for his less-than-brilliant behavior. . . .

There is even a protest planned for today, taking issue with the police handling of the situation. On the Facebook page he created for the event, third-year business economics student Combiz Abdolrahimi calls for the protest on grounds that racial profiling was responsible for the situation.

But attempts to paint this as an issue of racial profiling really stretch the facts. I – who by no means look middle Eastern – have been asked to produce my BruinCard by CSOs.

If I then refused to comply with the directions of the CSO – being asked to leave – I would fully expect to be treated somewhat roughly by the police. . . .
This has got to be one of the most idiotic, insane, and thoroughly repellent editorials I've ever read. "[H]e was asking for it"? Young Republicans are apparently drinking deeply from the cup of Ann Coulter's wisdom.

If you feel like discussing the article with the bright-eyed young and conservative Lazar, he can be reached at

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Tom Cruise Kills Oprah

Brought tears to my eyes.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Yes, this is how you encourage moderate Muslims to participate in the political process

This kind of shit is unbelievable, but pretty much par for the course these days:
On the November 14 edition of his CNN Headline News program, Glenn Beck interviewed Rep.-elect Keith Ellison (D-MN), who became the first Muslim ever elected to Congress on November 7, and asked Ellison if he could "have five minutes here where we're just politically incorrect and I play the cards up on the table." After Ellison agreed, Beck said: "I have been nervous about this interview with you, because what I feel like saying is, 'Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.'"
From Media Matters

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Octopus Lex

A legal spin-off has begun.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

At the Bus Stop

It's seven p.m. and the bus stop for the 81 downtown is pretty bumping. Some old pals are chatting in Spanish on the bench next to me about "la buena gente." All sorts of buses other than the 81 keep stopping here. I just got a faceful of exhaust from the 94 as it left, on its way to San Fernando.

L.A. is generally a lame place in which to try to get into any type of holiday spirit. The sunshine and the palm trees are just not conducive to it. It appears that they've tried to light the top of the Library Tower in special holiday colors, but they have chosen, for some reason, red and blue instead of red and green. Perhaps they just recycled the July 4th lighting? Or the guy in charge was slightly colorblind? Or spoke a language that did not have separate words for green and blue?

Someone just asked me what time it was.

It feels very good to be back on the bus, walking to the stop in the morning, down the Angels Flight steps at night. It would be perfect if the bus would just show up on time. (Still waiting.)

It's okay. I think riding the bus is a good way to learn a little patience. You can't step on the gas, weave through traffic, or lean on the horn -- you have to wait with everyone else, and listen to the nice discussions about the good people.

Ha. That would've been too fey an ending, so the post continues. I would like to share with you that I've been spending an inordinate amount of my time thinking of new directions for this blog or for spin-offs to this blog. My first big idea was that I would start a regular puppet segment. I'd make the puppets, probably from socks or those brown lunch bags, and do short segments on topics such as Islamic history, political analysis, and movie reviews.

(Sorry - I just tried to negotiate with the driver of the 84, which just stopped here at the bus stop and which runs a route tantalizingly similar to the 81's, to take me to my stop in Eagle Rock, but it was too far off her route.)

I was very excited about this puppetry idea, but I need to get a video camera first. Look for this to pop up during the holidays.

The other idea I was toying with was starting a spin-off legal blog, which would focus mostly on trademark and copyright law issues and developments, with other miscellaneous legal coverage. I figure that such a blog may actually be useful in my professional life some day. It will probably be supremely dull for 98% of you, but the remaining 2% are going to love it. If you have any requests or suggestions for areas of law the Octopus legal spin-off blog should cover, please let me know.

The 81 is finally here, and it is packed.

From the preface to my favorite dictionary

"Today much slang originates with narcotic addicts, spreads to popular musicians, and then gains vogue among the young, while falling into disuse among its inventors."

- Raven I. McDavid, Jr., "Usage, Dialects, and Functional Varieties", in The Random House College Dictionary, Revised Edition (1975).

Monday, November 13, 2006

Octopus Killjoy

Yes, yes, everyone must now line up and take turns declaring how hilarious the "Borat" movie is, and how Sacha Baron Cohen is a comic genius. And it is true that parts of the movie are hilarious. Cohen is undeniably funny.

But I have one question: Would a "Borat" equivalent depicting an idiotic and "comic" Muslim-hating Jew -- say, a settler from the West Bank -- ever screen in any movie theater in the U.S.?

I don't think so. In fact, I am certain the answer is No. Such a character would rightly be denounced as anti-Semitic.

But Borat? He's hilarious.

(I am now prepared to hear how I just didn't "get it". And thanks to chanchow for opening this discussion.)

Octopus Thought for the Day

I was paying closer attention than usual this weekend to the various thoughts running through my mind as I went about my way, and many of these thoughts were pretty ridiculous. I am very glad that this internal dialogue isn't all immediately vocalized. And luckily for you, I am not yet liveblogging every errant thought that bubbles up in my mind. If I were, this page would be even more filled with self-doubt, paranoia, narcissism, envy, despair, and a constant irrational optimism.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The World Needs More Puppets

Make sure to watch through till you get to the George W. Bush puppet. The stupid interview at the beginning doesn't last long.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Save the Planet

Some of the post-election euphoria is fading for me as I consider the situation the Democrats have inherited:
  • A complete disaster in Iraq with no good options. We can stay and continue to lose men and women fighting an unending insurgency while trying to prop up the Iraqi government, which will be seen as our puppet. We won't be pulling out immediately, and the danger is that the Democrats will now be seen as responsible for the total mess in Iraq, which will likely continue to deteriorate.

  • A slim majority with a president Congress won't be able to work with much. Not much will get done in the next two years -- especially as the 2008 race has already started -- and this Democratic Congress may be seen as ineffectual.

  • A nation more vulnerable than ever to attack, and all the more likely to be attacked precisely because of this administration's policies. I fear that a large attack, possibly carried out by individuals inflamed by our actions in Iraq, (or our failure to prevent the destruction of much of Lebanon, or this administration's total lack of evenhandedness in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or our support for dictators in Egypt and Pakistan, or some combination of all of these) will send the country rushing into the arms of the far right wing once again. The Republicans launched an idiotic war and fanned the flames across the world. Years later, the nation woke up and tried to change control of the government. I really hope that it is not too late, and that our transformed government will be able to take steps to show the world that there is still reason to believe in the possibility of America.
I've been thinking about the "War on Terror", the deficit, the tax cuts, health insurance, abortion, gay rights, and a few of the other issues that have been driving American politics over the past several years, and it seems to me that there is one issue that really has to be at the forefront of our minds: We must save the planet from the apocalyptic effects of global warming.

Terrorists will never be able to take away our way of life, but it is entirely possible that the ravages of global warming could. For too many years, we have entertained a false debate about whether this was even going to happen. That debate is over. Global warming is real.

We need to harness this nation's energy and genius and take the lead in finding energy sources for the future. It is past time to press full ahead with development of solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric, and fusion energy. We must change the way we live and work. The era of mass reliance on the personal automobile must come to a close. Our towns and cities must be planned for a new sustainable reality. These required changes are no longer just idealistic pie-in-the-sky. This is about our survival on this planet. The oceans are dying. We are running out of clean drinking water. Entire nations may be devastated by rising oceans. We're not going to be able to blast off and colonize other planets anytime soon. We must get to work immediately on salvaging the only place hospitable to life in the universe that we know of.

Al Gore for President.

Vehicle Voltron!

Ah, fuck yeah! Vehicle Voltron was the bomb! Lion Voltron was bullshit. Vehicle Voltron the toy was also incredibly complicated to assemble -- so many freaking cars and trucks and submarines and planes and helicopters. That shit was awesome. Someday soon, it's going to show up on "The Antiques Road Show" and I am going to have to deal with some issues.

(I will never get anything done again.)


Holy shit! I used to love this show, which ran as "Battle of the Planets (G-Force)" in America. I distinctly remember finger painting their red and blue spaceship in first grade. I had to explain G-Force to my friend as I finger painted.

Octopus TV

Chimp plays Ms. Pac Man. If there was ever any doubt that chimps deserved greater rights, this pretty much ends that debate. If necessary, I will find evidence that chimps can also play Zaxxon.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Future Starts Today

Riding the bus home in a new America.

The Octopus and most of his contemporaries have, probably, about 40 or so years left on the planet. What are we going to do?

It's easy, when you're up close to them, not to be able to make out the historical significance of events you're living through. This was not a problem when I watched the Twin Towers fall with my own eyes on September 11. But watching the returns come in on my computer screen, on my Blackberry, cell phone, and TV, it was a bit harder to be hit with the visceral impact of what was happening.

The American people are a fundamentally decent people. We do not love war for war's sake. The American people have no appetite for long military adventures abroad, especially when the goals are murky, and our cause is not just. This war was rotten from its inception, and Americans have figured this out.

Iraq is a mess, and we need to extricate ourselves, but that will not be enough. This election shows us just why we must defend this great country. Our democracy is imperfect, but it works. I believe in America, and I believe it must be protected. The fact is, large segments of the world are seething with anger toward our country. There is no denying that there are terrorists out there that want to do us harm. There is no denying that North Korea has nuclear weapons, and that they may be willing to sell them. We can never allow a weapon of mass destruction to be used against Americans. It is clear that we will not be able to bomb and shoot our way to safety. We must show the world just why America can represent the greatest possibilities of human potential and why the world should treasure America and its enormous potential, not fear or resent it.

My parents came here with nothing and managed to give my brothers and me everything. They taught us that anything was possible in this country, and I still believe that is true. Tuesday night showed me that there is still every reason in the world to believe in this country.

What do we do now?

Let's work to save the world from the apocalyptic effects of global warming. Let's put American genius into creating the next generation of clean and renewable energy sources.

Let's work to make sure that all American children have health care and the finest educations in the world. No American child should ever go hungry.

Let's work in peaceful ways to integrate the countries Middle East into the world community. There does not need to be a clash of civilizations between Islam and the West. To that end, we must work to create peace for the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Let's work to save millions in Africa from the ravages of HIV and malaria.

And let's work to eliminate all nuclear weapons everywhere. There is no place for nuclear weapons on this planet.

(I know, I know. Might as well add "Let's win the World Cup in 2010". But humor me at this emotional moment.)

Thanks, Howard

Rahm Emanuel has been claiming all the credit for the Dem's big victory, but we should not forget that Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean pushed hard for the Democrats to invest in a 50-state strategy that sought to expand the scope of the party into regions that had traditionally leaned Republican.

The results of Dean's bold strategy, which was criticized by many, including Emanuel? The Senate will be won in Montana and Virginia, hardly traditional Democratic strongholds. Indeed, the Dems have won House seats and Governorships across the country, in all regions -- just as Dean had hoped.

This is the biggest Democratic victory in many decades, and it comes under the leadership of Dean, and on the strength of the message he so powerfully presented way back in the 2004 primaries: We were misled into starting this utterly unnecessary war in Iraq, and it has become an unmitigated disaster for our country.

Dean was right, and his party and the nation have finally caught up to him.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Congratulations, America

My faith in the nation has been restored.

Truly Astounding

In the current edition of Foreign Policy AEI's Josh Muravchik presents his "Operation Comeback" for the Neocons:
Neoconservatives have the president’s ear, but they also have lots of baggage. To stay relevant, they must admit mistakes, embrace public diplomacy, and start making the case for bombing Iran.
(emphasis added.) You read that right: the neocons have driven this country into the greatest foreign policy disaster in its history, leading to untold thousands of civilian deaths, thousands of U.S. casualties that continue to mount daily, and worldwide hatred and scorn for the U.S., all without making anyone any safer; in short, neocon theories and ideology have been shown to be utterly, dangerously, false and worthless, so to fix things . . . let's bomb Iran! In case you didn't quite get it the first time, Muravchik fills you in on a little "reality":
Make no mistake, President Bush will need to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities before leaving office.
Yup, it's a done deal! We're bombing Iran. Just a matter of how and when, and how to tamp down the inevitable whining and effete European protesting that will accompany the already decided-upon deed. (For good measure, he throws in an endorsement for Lieberman for the 2008 Republican ticket.)

Just how stupid do the neocons think Americans are?

See skewering of Muravchik's "Operation Comeback" at Matt Yglesias and Brad Delong.

Neocons Disown Iraq

From the consistently excellent Glenn Greenwald on the new claims of some neo-cons that they did not support the invasion of Iraq:
Michael Ledeen -- a so-called "Freedom Scholar" at the warmongering American Enterprise Institute and a Contributing Editor of National Review -- is one of the neocons included in the much-discussed Vanity Fair article publicized yesterday. That article reported that numerous leading neocons have now turned on the Iraq war by heaping all the blame on the President, Don Rumsfeld, and in essence, everyone else but themselves.

Several of the neocons -- including Richard Perle, David Frum, Michael Rubin and Ledeen -- petulantly complained yesterday that the VF press release publicizing the article mischaracterized their views, took them out of context, etc. etc. But in National Review, Ledeen went further than that. Much further.

In contesting the accuracy of the VF article, Ledeen not only denied that he ever supported the invasion of Iraq, but further, he affirmatively claimed that he opposed the invasion. And that is just an outright lie. Here is part of what Ledeen wrote yesterday at NRO's Corner (I encourage anyone to read the full comment to see the context, which makes this even more incriminating, not less):

"I do not feel 'remorseful,' since I had and have no involvement with our Iraq policy. I opposed the military invasion of Iraq before it took place and I advocated—as I still do—support for political revolution in Iran as the logical and necessary first step in the war against the terror masters."

That is about as unambiguous a claim as it gets. Leeden states that he "opposed the military invasion of Iraq before it took place." Therefore, he argues, he cannot be fairly used by VF as an example of a neocon who has recently abandoned the war because, Ledeen claims, he was anti-war from the start.

But as Mona pointed out last night, Ledeen wrote a scathing August, 2002 article in National Review, the sole purpose of which was to argue for what he called "the desperately-needed and long overdue war against Saddam Hussein and the rest of the terror masters." To support the invasion, Ledeen claimed "that Saddam is actively supporting al Qaeda, and Abu Nidal, and Hezbollah."

The AEI is one of the most dangerous organizations in this country and Ledeen . . . is one of its most extremist and dangerous "scholars," especially now that the next target on the neocon Dream List is Iran. Ledeen is literally obsessed with changing the governments in a whole host of countries that are hostile to Israel and/or the U.S., most particularly Iran. And the kind of dishonesty that is so glaring in this one instance is par for the course in how he and his fellow neocon warmongers argue and advocate.
These people are absolutely shameless.


Today could be something big. Help take back our country! Make sure to vote today!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Octopus California Voting Guide

It's very last minute, but here it is. I'm not going to bother with the candidates for state-wide office, I imagine most Octopus readers will either go down the board Democrat or Green Party anyway (with perhaps a few write-ins for the Octopus himself). So here are the Octopus recs on the avalanche of propositions (readers in other states will have no idea in hell what I am talking about):

Prop H (Housing Initiative): YES

Prop J (Building fire stations): YES

Prop R (term-limit chicanery): NO

Prop 1A (Transportation funding, close call): NO

Prop 1B (More transportation projects, lots of new freeways that we don't need, also a close call): NO

Prop 1C (housing and emergency shelter funding): YES

Prop 1D (school construction funding): YES

Prop 1E (disaster preparedness): YES

Prop 83 (draconian monitoring of sex offenders): NO

Prop 84 (improving water quality): YES

Prop 85 (abortion waiting period and parental notification -- the Right is very persistent): NO

Prop 86 (cigarette tax -- a close call, but I'm for making cigarettes more expensive): YES

Prop 87 (oil tax for alternative energy funding -- much controversy, but the huge amounts put up by the oil companies to oppose this tells you pretty much everything you need to know): YES

Prop 88 (property tax for schools - close call): NO YES (I changed my mind this morning.)

Prop 89 (campaign finance reform - public funding of campaigns): YES

Prop 90 (a complete disaster waiting to happen financed by property rights activists): GOD, NO

In case you'd like to compare the Octopus's recs against those of other organizations, I've compiled voter guides from various publications and parties below:

LA Weekly
LA Times
SF Chronicle
California Green Party
California Democratic Party
California Republican Party (if you'd like to do the opposite of what they suggest)

Fox in the Snow

For some reason, I put "If You Leave Me Now" by Chicago on repeat when I got on the bus tonight. The bus was totally packed, so I had to stand for about 25 minutes (I just sat down and started this post). I had to keep a hand on the handholds, so I couldn't take the song off repeat. It felt like I listened to the song about 14 times. In any event, I now think "If You Leave Me Now" is the official theme song of the 81, for me at least. The time period feels right.

La la la. It's November. The year's nearly at an end. Almost home now. I'll get off the bus and walk down our street in the darkness under the trees. When I get to a house a few houses down from ours, a gray cat usually comes out and meows at me. Things fall into a pattern and stay the same for a while, and you feel like you're in a stable place for a bit. And then everything goes on changing.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The brain of the Octopus ossifies

If only I had been more motivated in my youth. I've been struggling over the past couple years with a number of languages, and now, because we are going to Paris later this year, I've decided, for the first time in my life, to try to learn some French. So I went out to the library and picked up a few audio-book packages and I've been trying to use those. Man, French is really hard. Japanese and Spanish are way easier. What is up with French pronunciation? This is going to be a struggle. I was thinking about getting one of those Rosetta Stone programs you run on your computer, but those are kind of expensive. Does anyone have any suggestions for programs or CD-audio packages for learning French? Why didn't I start learning French earlier?

When I went to the library for the French tapes, I also checked out a couple Chinese language sets. Back in 2003 I spent about a month intensively trying to learn Chinese from a very rudimentary tape and book set published by the Chinese government that I had borrowed from the Brooklyn Public Library. (The pictures in the book looked much like the pictures used in Get Your War On. Now, when I read GYWO, I feel like I'm studying Chinese.) I was making some progress, but then I had to return the set. I have the Teach Yourself set here, but I don't really like it that much. I should probably accept that I'm not going to be able to teach myself Chinese in my spare time. I have been poking around at a Vietnamese language set I borrowed from the library, and it's probably more realistic that I could make some headway there, since Mrs. Octopus could help me out. It will take me some time to get a hold of the tones.

Meanwhile, I make efforts to maintain Bengali, Spanish, and Japanese, but I just don't have enough time. There's nothing quite as sad as losing language ability due to lack of use and practice. But I think you get a sense, from my scattershot and confused approach to learning languages, of my deep and fundamental inability to focus on anything. When I mentioned that I was trying to learn French, a friend commented that maybe I should try to at least attain fluency in one of the languages I have already studied before moving on to new languages. I think I used to think that was right, but who the hell has time to attain "fluency" in a given foreign language once one is out of school? I don't really see anything wrong in learning to speak several languages very poorly, in kind of a rough and ready way. I certainly won't be translating any poetry any time soon. But now, as I write this, I am thinking there really is something to be said for delving very deep into one other language, and getting to the point where you can spend a significant amount of time in a country where that language is spoken, where you can begin to appreciate the richness of that other language, and where you can have meaningful discussions with other people in that language.

In any event, maybe it's the French, but I am beginning to get a little discouraged about my ability to pick up new languages at this point. I know I can continue to learn them, but I am wishing I had had this mania for learning foreign languages back when I was ten. Youth is wasted on the young.

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Fickle Octopus

My problem is that I am a dilettante. Just a little bit interested in everything, don't really know very much about any one thing.

I am about to give up on the bus theme, I think. There's only so much I can do with it. I will, of course, continue to ride the 81 -- I just don't know how much more I will have to say about it. As one of my friends mentioned to me, the whole blogging on the bus thing was a bit Harriet the Spy. (Not to say that there's anything wrong with Harriet the Spy, which was one of my favorite books as a kid -- it just feels a little dumb for a thirty-something.)

Just now I was thinking of what I could commit to. I was thinking law and philosophy, with occasional forays into politics. But I know that wouldn't work. I'm tempted every now and then to focus just on science, but I know that won't hold my interest forever either. I'm too much of a mess. Successful people are focused and disciplined: I am neither. Anyone have any suggestions as to what I should focus on?

I wish I had some self-discipline.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Back on the Bus

It smells a bit like pee on the bus tonight. Speaking of which, as I was walking down the Angels Flight stairs in the dark tonight -- even in Los Angeles we have to endure the darkness of November -- I was thinking, as I do from time to time, of how this stupid blog will pretty much ensure that I will never have any future in politics (or in the judiciary) if I ever wanted to go down that road. (And I currently can't imagine that I ever would want to go down that road.) But I think it's really too bad that the opinions I've expressed on this blog, along with the general weirdness here, would almost certainly be dredged up someday if I ever decided to run for any kind of office and pretty much doom my chances.

Blogging presents an unprecedented ability to broadcast one's opinions, but also a system that records -- forever somewhere -- every stupid thing you've ever said online. Many people who would otherwise want to blog probably do not for the very reasons I'm discussing: they don't want to be burdened by their informally presented opinions and statements, like some unfortunately chosen tattoo, decades later.

This whole discussion is stupid because I will never go into politics, but the consideration that my opinions and views, as expressed on this blog, would pretty much bar me from most public office bummed me out. I think that reality says something about my opinions and a lot about the political environment of America today. There's a narrow band of what is acceptable to think or say, and that band is carefully policed, guarded, and continually narrowed by those who believe it in their best interest to suppress certain thoughts and ideas.

And it is the sense that all of this -- even if this blog is eventually "deleted" -- will be available someday that freaks me out sometime and, inevitably, affects what I write. Is it unimaginable that the government (or others) will seek to target those deemed insufficiently supportive of the War on Terror? Will posting articles critical of neocon organizations one day be considered as providing "material support" to the "Enemy"? For whatever reason, these outcomes do not seem impossible to me. I do often fear posting about my religious beliefs (or lack thereof) for fear that one day, all "believers" of a certain faith may be rounded up. Again, not inconceivable to me.

The world is going to hell. This administration has successfully created an atmosphere of fear and entirely justified paranoia. We are given fair warning to watch what we say and what we do. And in doing so, we keep our mouths shut and do not utter thoughts deemed unacceptable.

Welcome to America, 2006.

Octopus TV (via BBC World)

Iraq, Iran, Syria . . . Freedom is on the march. Warning, will be shocking to American viewers, because, um, it was made outside of America. And please remember, David Brooks has taught us that neocons do not exist.

A little U.S.-Iranian History

Bill Moyers on PBS in 1987.

Things are looking grim for the G.O.P. . . . what to do?

Octopus TV

Full video available here, and full transcript of debate available here.

It's over!

That mayhem that had me commuting to Missouri from L.A.? That forced me off the bus and into the Intrepid to drive into work at 7 and home at 2 in the morning? It's over!

I rode the bus home last night and rode it into work today. It felt good. The Intrepid has been sitting in the parking lot under my office, chilling, not burning oil or releasing emissions.

Hopefully, things will return somewhat to normal.

Happy Día de los Muertos!