Sister Novena's PortaPulpit
freedom, liberalism, movies, and truth

Saturday, October 02, 2004
Digging For Fire

A few random life notes:

I had an interesting dream last night. I was in the living room -- I can't remember what I was doing, but I managed to knock a hole in one of the walls. And inside the hole, in the gap inside the wall, was fire. It wasn't consuming anything, and I didn't feel in any danger, but I was astonished that it had been there all that time and I'd never noticed it.

Being something of an admirer of Carl Jung, I immediately went looking through dream dictionaries to glean some insight. The best statement I found was this:
To dream that a house is on fire, signifies passion and loving companions.

So if my house was on fire but I didn't know it, maybe I love someone subconsciously? Maybe I love someone and don't realize that I do? Now there's an intriguing prospect...

This might seem like an insignificant detail, but I was thrilled today to get a Levenger catalog in the mail, especially since I hadn't requested one. I could sit and drool over leather-bound journals, fountain pens, and glass-doored bookshelves all day; I am admittedly a sucker for high-end writing implements and library supplies. (My mother might be tempted to say I get that from my father, but she probably knows better than to invoke the inevitable reaction, at least not over such a trivial thing.) Perhaps one day I'll even have enough money to indulge in some. To my subconscious crush: don't buy me flowers and diamonds, say it with electronics, and imported calfskin diaries.

Oh, and I've had La Marseillaise stuck in my head all day. It was fun for a while, but... yeah, well, you know.
3:28 PM ::
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I Mozilla

Night before last I downloaded some new software; I got Trillian at Shaw's recommendation (and it's working out great so far, I'm very pleased), and I also got Mozilla's new browser and email client, Firefox and Thunderbird respectively.

I used to have the old Mozilla browser on my laptop before it chucked it, and I really, really enjoyed it. I just wanted to confirm that Firefox is even better; it's got all kinds of groovy features that I've been playing with and tweaking since I installed it. I've got my bookmarks all sorted out, I've got weather in my menu bar, I've got the correct time and date, I've got an indicator for my Gmail account, etc. etc., gush gush gush. Tabbed navigation alone is reason enough to ditch lesser browsers, and I've got a slick skin to make it pretty. It's an excellent program.

Why anybody even farts around with Explorer anymore is beyond me. I bet there's a master's thesis -- hell, maybe even a doctoral thesis -- in open-source software as an model for furthering the collective good and trumping the free market in the process.
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Friday, October 01, 2004
Flip-Flopper

I'm sorry... I just keep finding more cool stuff to post. From Truthout, a very readable commentary on the debate:

The second embarrassing moment came after Bush repeated his mantra about "staying the course" until the paint started to peel off the podium he was slouching over. We have to be resolute, we have to stay the course, we cannot send mixed messages to our troops and the world...and yet after an hour of bombardment from Kerry, Bush finally said, "Well, I think -- listen, I fully agree that one should shift tactics, and we will, in Iraq."

So, OK, let me get this straight: We have to stay the course and not send mixed messages, and you've been blowing voluminous amounts of sunshine up the collective American backside for weeks about how boffo the Iraq situation is, but after an hour of taking rhetorical body blows from your opponent, you suddenly claim we are going to change tactics? It seemed for all the world that John Kerry, his opponent, convinced Bush that things in Iraq are as bad as people have been saying for weeks and months now.
5:23 PM ::
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Post-Game Wrap-up

Last night I did a post on the debate as I personally saw it; but as we all know, that's only half the game. A big part of "what really happened" (sometimes including things that didn't really happen) comes from the post-debate analysis and commentary. And the information society has been buzzing with activity last night and all day today.

The consensus: Kerry won it, hands-down.

As pointed out elsewhere, Kerry's victory wasn't particularly about how great Kerry was, it was about how utterly substandard Bush was. Kerry did nothing more than come on and speak rationally, making his points competently and succinctly -- which is, after all, the point of a debate. Bush, on the other hand was a cranky, fidgety mess who floundered his way through nonsense answers. I wouldn't even attempt to put it better than James Wolcott has:
Since then Bush has been wheeled out into forums where no one can dare question or contradict his majesty, where he can lean forward and repeat ad nauseam his patented soundbites. Last night I believe we saw the ugly comeback of the private face of Bush--the irritable expressions he flashes subordinates when he's presented with information he doesn't like or feels someone's taken up too much of his time or is pressed to explain himself to people he shouldn't have to explain himself to because he's the president and fuck you. The notion that Bush is "likeable" has always been laughable. It takes a Washington pundit to be that dumb. He's an angry, spoiled, resentful little big man--I use "little big man" in the Reichian sense of a small personality who puffs himself up to look big through bluster and swagger but remains a scheming coward inside--and next to a genuinely big man like Kerry, shrunk before the camera's eyes.

Without a hand-picked crowd of oath-signing supporters and a teleprompter, the guy's at a complete loss. When somebody actually dares to disagree or question him, he reverts to his irritable fratboy-king persona. I mean, seriously, what did we expect? For a week we've been hearing about what a phenomenal debater he is, but when it comes to the truly important subjects, he's hopelessly out of his depth, and looks it.

But we've still two Presidential debates to go, so we can't afford to become complacent. Remember, foreign policy is the subject that Bush was supposed to have in the bag; this is considered his strongest case. A week from today Bush and Kerry will be talking Town Hall-style in St. Louis with a bunch of so-called "soft supporters" asking the questions (probably Bush's best chance to recover somewhat from this blow); and on 13 Oct. they'll be in Tempe, Arizona talking domestic policy and the economy. I expect we'll be hearing Bush say the phrase "tax cuts" over and over and over again like a glitchy robot that night, 'cause he's got nothing else he can possibly say. Except maybe "gay marriage" to wind up the yokelry.

Me, I think Bush is working way too hard. Poor guy only gets every third month off; we should get together and give him a nice, long vacation.

PS: Wait, I forgot Poland! Wonderful Poland, who stands side-by-side with American troops, and whom Bush so clearly sought to honor last night:
"They deceived us about the weapons of mass destruction, that's true. We were taken for a ride."
~ President Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland
(source)

By the way, Poland's pulling out. Apparently they agree with Kerry that the Iraq war is a catastrophe.

PPS: Fox News is so at a loss for anything right-wingerish to say that they've resorted to simply making shit up.

Also: Here's a full transcript of the debate. And a seriously funny look at what Bush was furiously scribbling last night.
5:15 PM ::
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Picture of the Day

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Thursday, September 30, 2004
Debate #1

I watched it on c-span with a split screen throughout so I could see reactions as well as statements. Unequivocal win for Kerry. Bush stood behind his podium smirking and looking bored/impatient, repeating his talking points without saying anything terribly meaningful. I caught the patented Bush "wink" several times when he was speaking on matters of import. The rest of the time, it was just "um... uh... lemme just say... " from Bush. I admit I'm biased, but what I saw didn't even remotely come across as "folksy" or plainspoken -- if anyone was direct and plainspoken it was Kerry-- but more along the lines of underprepared, slightly flustered and defensive.

Kerry kicked ass on North Korea particularly. Bush tried to tar him with the epithet "inconsistent" a number of times, but by the seventh or eight time he sounded more like a broken record and the effect wore thin. Kerry, on the other hand came across as both coherent and nuanced.

Kerry to Bush: "You can be certain and also be wrong." Killer stuff.

Addendum: Kos has a nice post up detailing some of the right-wing blogs' reactions to the debate. It's tasty reading.
9:49 PM ::
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Tragedy

They were dedicating, of all things, a waste treatment plant. Yes, I know, sanitation is important, too... but where once grand squares were predicted, all they have is handfuls of candy to celebrate a reduction in the general presence of sewage.

American soldiers gave candy to kids; even in Baghdad the kids like sweets. And then there was an explosion, and 30-some-odd children were killed.

I don't know who to be more angry at: the person who killed himself while killing kids, or the soldiers who, in spite of being right there, couldn't stop it from happening.
"The Americans called us, they told us come here, come here, asking us if we wanted sweets. We went beside them, then a car exploded," Abdel Rahmad Dawoud, 12, told Associated Press from his bed at the Yarmuk emergency hospital. He suffered shrapnel wounds.

In the end, I'll be angry at the asshole who started it all.
8:05 PM ::
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War Poem

Go, read: The War Song of G. Dubya Bushrock
7:58 PM ::
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Asking For Trouble

Okay... I have officially become painfully easy to contact. It may turn out to be more trouble than it's worth, but what the hell, eh?

All of my contact information is listed in the little box towards the bottom of the right-hand column, and all of it is accurate and active. Most significantly, my iChat/AIM account is up and running properly; look for Sister Novena and you'll find me.

Don't abuse me, folks. I'm just a nice girl with some heartfelt opinions.
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Wednesday, September 29, 2004
Oooooooooooooh... SNAP!

I know everybody's blogging this one today, but it's just too delicious to turn down.

The Lone Star Iconoclast is the local paper of Crawford, Texas; ie, where Bush has his "ranch". In 2000, they proudly endorsed Bush for president.

Who'd they endorse this year? Heh... you're gonna love this...
Few Americans would have voted for George W. Bush four years ago if he had promised that, as President, he would:

- Empty the Social Security trust fund by $507 billion to help offset fiscal irresponsibility and at the same time slash Social Security benefits.
- Cut Medicare by 17 percent and reduce veterans' benefits and military pay.
- Eliminate overtime pay for millions of Americans and raise oil prices by 50 percent.
- Give tax cuts to businesses that sent American jobs overseas, and, in fact, by policy encourage their departure.
- Give away billions of tax dollars in government contracts without competitive bids.
- Involve this country in a deadly and highly questionable war, and
- Take a budget surplus and turn it into the worst deficit in the history of the United States, creating a debt in just four years that will take generations to repay.

These were elements of a hidden agenda that surfaced only after he took office.

The publishers of The Iconoclast endorsed Bush four years ago, based on the things he promised, not on this smoke-screened agenda.

(...)

The re-election of George W. Bush would be a mandate to continue on our present course of chaos. We cannot afford to double the debt that we already have. We need to be moving in the opposite direction.

John Kerry has 30 years of experience looking out for the American people and can navigate our country back to prosperity and re-instill in America the dignity she so craves and deserves. He has served us well as a highly decorated Vietnam veteran and has had a successful career as a district attorney, lieutenant governor, and senator.
Kerry has a positive vision for America, plus the proven intelligence, good sense, and guts to make it happen.

That's why The Iconoclast urges Texans not to rate the candidate by his hometown or even his political party, but instead by where he intends to take the country.

The Iconoclast wholeheartedly endorses John Kerry.

Go read the rest of this editorial; it's scathing. (And yes, it's the same editor then as now.)

Take that, Be-yotch!
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Foreseeable Complications

Following on from a conversation I was having earlier tonight over a late-night breakfast of bacon and eggs, I feel the need to express my intense anxiety over the coming election. This thing I most fear -- the eventuality that most tend to make my jaw clench with worry -- is not that Bush smoothly wins re-election. That would suck, of course; that would be, in my not-so-humble opinion, a terrible thing for this country. But I do think that there's a worse possibility: an inconclusive election.

A really close vote would be a disaster, if only because of the chaos that would surely follow. From my vantage point in London in 2000, the Florida debacle made it seem as though my country had gone mad; I cannot imagine what I could make of a situation in which there were multiple Floridas, each one carrying its own potential for manipulation and confusion. And it's not the confusion itself that I fear, it's what it all means for the society in which I live.

You have to understand, those of us who voted for Gore feel very strongly that whatever happened, it was handled badly. Things were skipped over, steps were overlooked; the reason we are unsettled about the 2000 election, and Florida in particular, is because nobody seems to really understand what went wrong, and for many of us, that means something happened that shouldn't have. In one way or another, the process was compromised.

And if that happens again? Once seemed freakish; if it happens twice, doesn't that mean that it's because something has fundamentally changed in the electoral process? And if that process has changed, how can we trust it to see that the right person is handed power?

Others have expressed this angst better than I can, of course:
Gore and his team knew that the Republicans would fight with everything they had, but they still maintained some faith in the legal system to require basic fairness in something this important. And, even the most cynical of us thought that the egos of the Supreme Court justices would never allow them to make a purely partisan decision because history would remember them as whores.

If I had any political idealism left it died on the day that Antonin Scalia stopped judges from counting votes in Florida.

This article shows that fix was in from the beginning. Had Gore audaciously requested a statewide recount he would have been accused of not following the strict laws that required him to show problems in each precinct. It was always headed to the Supremes and once they took the case, the interviews with the Supreme court clerks show that there was never any question about who would win. It was always a decision in search of a rationale.

If Jeffrey Rosen is correct and dozens of lawsuits await filing in close races out there, all based on this ill-considered opinion, then we are likely to see a repeat. After all, the same five vote majority still sits on the court today. And like all the others who voted for this irresponsible, unqualified, incompetent boob in 2000, they are not likely to admit their mistake and vote otherwise this time out.

This time, we must operate on that assumption and prepare for a knife fight --- in the courts and in the realm of public opinion. There are no rules other than winning.

Go read the whole piece, it's very... interesting. In a scary way.

I think November 2 is gonna be a long, loooooong night.
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Monday, September 27, 2004
Voting Rights Act? What Voting Rights Act?

It's be a great year for new voter registration drives. Both parties have made it a focus, but the Democrats have been working particularly hard, and have begun to reap the rewards. Hard numbers are difficult to come by, but in places where reliable estimates have been made, new voter registrations have been leaning towards the Democratic party by fantastic margins. In Ohio, for example, new registrations in heavily Democratic areas have gone up by 250% since Jaunary -- compared to an increase of about 25% in predominantly Republican areas. That's great news for us, although obviously every newly registered voter is a valuable addition to the process.

Right Republicans?

Well, maybe not, at least not in Ohio. In that state, the Republican Secretary of State, Kenneth Blackwell, has issued some interesting directives to the local election boards, directives that jeopardize hundreds of new registrations because they're on the wrong paper stock:
Voters-rights advocates are criticizing two recent decisions by Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell that they say will unfairly limit some people's ability to vote Nov. 2. Blackwell's office has told county boards of elections to follow strictly two provisions in Ohio election law:

One requires Ohio voter registration cards be printed on thick, 80-pound stock paper.

The other ordered boards to strictly interpret the rules regarding provisional ballots, the ones cast by voters who move before the election but are still registered in Ohio.

The paper-stock issue is frustrating Montgomery County Board of Elections officials, who have a backlog of registrations to complete. If they get an Ohio voter registration card on paper thinner than required, they are mailing a new card out to the voter. But if they still have the backlog by the registration deadline, Oct. 4, voters will not have another chance to get their correct paperwork in, said Steve Harsman, deputy director of the Montgomery County board. In Montgomery County there is a backlog of around 4,000 registrations, Harsman said. A few hundred could be affected by this provision, he said.

(via MyDD)


A lot of these new registrations, it has been suggested, are likely from national voter registration drives such as Rock The Vote. People print out registration forms for their state at home and send them in; and in Ohio, those forms are now about to be chucked out on a technicality.

Republicans: totally against bureaucratic nitpicking... unless it helps them in an election, in which case they can nitpick with the worst of 'em.

Anyway, the move is entirely illegal.As it says in the 1971 Voting Rights Act:


(2)

No person acting under color of law shall -


(B)

deny the right of any individual to vote in any election because of an error or omission on any record or paper relating to any application, registration, or other act requisite to voting, if such error or omission is not material in determining whether such individual is qualified under State law to vote in such election;

So basically what we have here is a blatantly un-democratic move that could potentially stop hundreds of new voters, each of whom did everything they were supposed to do to exercise their right to vote, from voting, and which probably disenfranchises many more new Kerry voters than new Bush voters.

Lovely.
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An Uncharacteristic Outburst Of Baby-Inspired Glee

My much-loved friends Dominic and Aya welcomed their new little daughter into the world yesterday:


Jazz Suzu D., born 26 September 2004, London


Happy Dom! Happy Aya! Beautiful little Jazzy!

(Note: No, I'm not normally given to gushing reactions to new babies. But this is my friends' baby, so it's okay just this once.)
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Bye, Billmon

Well, it appears official: Billmon has closed the bar for good. It's a shame, because he really was one of the best bloggers we had, but I suppose we can all understand what he gave, and how much it took out of him.

If you caught Billmon too late, you can still read his farewell column at the LA Times yesterday. I, for one, am glad I got to read his blog for a time when it was at its peak.
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Sunday, September 26, 2004
An Uncharacteristic Outburst Of Indignation

I just saw a pro-Bush ad, it said:
George W. Bush didn't start this war... but he'll finish it.

But... but... he did start the war! I was there, I was paying attention, I remember it quite clearly... millions of people protested and said, "don't start this war, George;" and he sent Colin Powell with the vial of sugar to do the bogey-man dance for the security council, and then the entire UN looked him square in the eye and said, "don't start this war, George," but he went and started it anyway... he went on Russert and smirked and said, "I'm a war president,"... he did start it!

How stupid do they think we are? They go on TV and they just... lie!

Gah!
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