Tuesday, November 30, 2004
Backtracking

I got word yesterday that I have been formally re-admitted to my old college. There are still a couple of hoops to jump through -- I still have to clear the financial aid hurdle (I sure must love student debt), and I still have to figure out where/how to live on campus (please, god, just give me a single... I'm too old and grouchy to share a room with a nineteen-year-old pup.) This is a definite case of not counting my proverbial chickens, but those are both relatively minor concerns. The biggest obstacle has been cleared.

At a time like this I guess it's natural to feel one's feet getting chilly... you mean I might really, truly, actually go back? In real life and everything? Whoa. That's a pretty chewy concept for me.

It'll be nice to go back to the soothing, humanist arms of New England, where the scale of American life is decreased somewhat but people still manage to have big, expansive thoughts and ideas. I'll be going back to Howard Dean's state (where many people still consider him "too conservative"... heh, that's the place for me), where every little town has a whole foods/vegetarian restaurant and plenty of good bookstores, where the daily apparel of choice is mukluks and Tibetan wool hats and big gum-soled Sorrells. I'll get to play in the snow and cloister myself in the library like a monk. And I'm more than happy to take the plentiful, home-grown Ben and Jerry's, if not so keen on the Phish.

On the other hand...

This school is where I reached a personal nadir. I was there in a very particular context, with a very specific group of people -- and those people are gone now, that context no longer exists. But places always hold a sticky psychic residue for me, and I worry that in going back to the place I'll end up confused by the absence of that context, or risk falling back into that life. It's a serious case of backtracking through life for me -- though, true, I've gotten pretty good at that of late. I sometimes feel as though London represented the furthest-flung promontory on this particular track... hard to keep going backwards, thought, when what I really want is to cross whatever metaphorical sea I'm forever standing on the banks of.

Maybe this college is where I lost my intended trail, though, eh? It would make sense, given the circumstances of my leaving (which there's no great need to go into here). Flung from the path, wandering off towards the sound of water, finding a pleasant place to gather my thoughts for a while, and lately having to scout back through the woods using the broken twigs and muddy footprints I left during my first blind stumble through.

Am I getting carried away?

Doesn't matter... it works for me.

Anyway, Shaw and Randy and Jackie, if I end up back in Bratt, I expect to see all 'a y'all before you head off to other places. Yes, I will come to New York and/or Connecticut if that's what it takes.
2:29 PM ::
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Sunday, November 28, 2004
Discontent

Well, I'm in a mood.

It's not a sad or an angry mood, although there's been a great deal of brow-furrowing seriousness involved. It began sometime yesterday for no readily apparent reason; since I got up today it has become deep enough that I'm finding it difficult to be sociable -- my thoughts keep drifting elsewhere. Why it come over me or what inspired it, I don't know -- the creeping winter darkness, maybe, or the blurred twilight between a vitriolic political season and the compassion of Christmas. I only know that I began contemplating issues of class and status, particularly where the concept of entitlement enters the picture, and now I can't stop.

I admit that I resent those who display their sense of entitlement, From George Bush on down. Those who assume that the world is theirs alone to do with as they please, those who take for granted their innate superiority on every level -- moral, ethical, mental, material -- to others in the world. If I were forced to name a place where the left- and right-wing ideologies fundamentally differ, it would be on this: that the left assumes an intrinsic "I-Thou" relationship to the world that the right just doesn't understand.

In truth, once you start to look at other human beings as your equals -- even with their flaws and shortcomings -- it becomes extremely difficult to sustain the attitudes that the right thrives on. Each of us -- even the most moral, the most ethical, the most peaceful -- contains the potential to become a torturer, a murderer, an abuser; it only takes the right circumstances to bring that potential out. (This is why decrying the violent acts of others is so crucial to those of us on the left -- we realize that it COULD be us doing these things, and speaking against it is the only obstacle between us and the existential abyss. It's harder work to remain compassionate that most people realize; fear and destruction is the coward's way out.) Bombing the living fuck out of Fallujah is an exhilerating triumph if the people who live there are reduced to an inhuman bunch of "its"; but it becomes a horrific tragedy when you look at those once-living/thinking/breathing/feeling corpses as people who, in every meaningful way, were exactly like you. There is no just reason in the world why it should not be you lying in a fly-ridden pile in the street, except that you have had the good fortune to be here and not there when the bombs began to fall. There is no other difference; the bombs don't know or care who you were when they blow your body to pieces, they simply pop the mechanism and dispatch you. We can only hope that the people who would drop them do care about those intangible concepts as justice and innocence... and apparently they don't.

So I guess my question -- to George W. Bush, but also to all those who support this war and all of the bloody, brutal episodes that take place within it -- is, who the hell are you to decide who deserves to live or die? How is it that you feel entitled to judge? What god gave you that right?

"The hijackers," they might say, "decided for us who lives and dies; and eye for an eye."

To which I would answer: the hijackers all died that day. You can't kill them twice. If you choose, you can become as barbaric as they, killing your enemies without a thought as to who actually bears responsibility for whatever wrong you feel has been done to you; that position is always up for grabs. But don't mistake that for any kind of justice; that's merely revenge, one of humanity's darker, less useful impulses.

(We can at least be honest about our motives, yes?)

And as for "an eye for an eye"... the old-testament admonishment in question was never intended to be a incentive to make sure you get as many eyes as possible, it was a warning against doing more harm to those who've harmed you than they themselves have done. If someone gouges out your eye, you have -- at most -- the right to one of theirs, but not the right to kill them entirely, for example. It's not about revenge as such; it's about a response that's equal to the crime.

We lost something over 3000 people on 9/11. In Iraq we have killed -- depending on whose data you trust -- between 30,000 and 100,000 people... and those were people who by definition had nothing to do with the WTC attack. Is that an appropriate response? The only rationale would have to rest on the assumption that American lives are somehow worth more than Iraqi lives -- going back to the I-Thou concept, treating other people not as people but as objects. Otherwise, we have vastly over-reacted, becoming the very thing we claim to be fighting against.

What makes us think we're entitled to that kind of power? And who am I, the lefty peacemonger, to assume I'm above doing it, too? And for that matter, why is it that some of us refuse to take that step into brutal aggression?

As you can doubtless see by now, this line of reasoning doesn't readily lead to any concrete answers.

Anyway...

There's a great post up at Atrios' place about advent and the sense of waiting for something as yet unknown. And the poster is right... there is a sense of something coming, something significant. (My question is, will we know it when we see it? Or have our sense been so dulled by meaningless bullshit that we've forgotten how to recognize meaning when we see it?) Also, there's an interesting piece about Liberal America as battered wife at Deride and Conquer. (If the conservatives gets wind of it, we'll be treated to a barrage of, "I'm the abused one, officer, she hit back!" A whinier bunch of narcissistic victim-junkies you'll never see.)
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Friday, November 26, 2004
A Friendly Reminder



Yeah, I know it's an empty, symbolic gesture that makes no significant difference in the real world... but symbols are still worth something.

PS: Anyway, I don't recommend this so much because it "makes a difference" (let's be honest, it doesn't), but because I think it's a good idea to take a conscious day off from fevered consumer excess. It's good to have a day to notice all the stuff you'd normally be buying, and to think about what you really need and what you don't.
3:28 AM ::
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Thursday, November 25, 2004
Thanksgiving, Part II

Ugh... that was just too much food. My contribution to the meal was Struan rolls, practically vegan (apart from the honey), secretly made with soy milk just 'cause I like to quietly challenge their dietary assumptions now and then. The family practically inhaled them; I came home with nothing left over and requests to bring more at Christmas. The great thing about baking bread is, no matter how it turns out, it'll always be a hit.

Anyway, I had forgotten about this bit of rabid cultural introspection until Mat reminded me:

A Thanksgiving Prayer
by William S. Burrough

Thanks for the wild turkey and
the passenger pigeons, destined
to be shit out through wholesome
American guts.

Thanks for a continent to despoil
and poison.

Thanks for Indians to provide a
modicum of challenge and
danger.

Thanks for vast herds of bison to
kill and skin leaving the
carcasses to rot.

Thanks for bounties on wolves
and coyotes.

Thanks for the American dream,
To vulgarize and to falsify until
the bare lies shine through.

Thanks for the KKK.

For nigger-killin' lawmen,
feelin' their notches.

For decent church-goin' women,
with their mean, pinched, bitter,
evil faces.

Thanks for "Kill a Queer for
Christ" stickers.

Thanks for laboratory AIDS.

Thanks for Prohibition and the
war against drugs.

Thanks for a country where
nobody's allowed to mind the
own business.

Thanks for a nation of finks.

Yes, thanks for all the
memories-- all right let's see
your arms!

You always were a headache and
you always were a bore.

Thanks for the last and greatest
betrayal of the last and greatest
of human dreams.



7:32 PM ::
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Thanksgiving

I've always had mixed feelings about this one. Let's be honest, this holiday doesn't have so much to do with feast or famine, or pilgrims and indians so much as it's a monumental ode to American consumption. So it's not exactly the most enlightened of national festivals. On the other hand, I rarely get sweet potato casserole otherwise, and certainly don't have any other excuses for making the elaborate dishes I get to make when ten or twelve other people are there to share them with me, so it's not without its good points. And the experience of dozing in a warm room after an enormous meal is one of life's true creature comforts.

But this is also a holiday that's notorious for going drastically and dramatically wrong. This is a dangerous holiday.

For example, there was the Thanksgiving we spent at my grandmother's powerless house (there was a bad storm that day), heating up each bite of over-salted mashed potatoes over candle flames, while making studiously polite conversation with my aunt's prison-bound child-molester boyfriend (seriously) while my nearly-vegetative grandfather, who -- thanks to five or six strokes by that time -- had not eaten solid food in several years, leaving him to drool and stare at us while we ate. That was fun.

And then there was the Thanksgiving in London when Rebecca and I decided to host dinner for all the American students at our film school (along with anyone else who wanted to come). We asked for five quid a head to help cover the expenses; I did the shopping -- including going to Selfridge's for a turkey and hideously overpriced cans of Libby's pureed pumpkin -- and the cooking for twenty people. Big pans of vegetables and sweet potatoes and stuffing/dressing (pick your word), several cans of honest-to-god Ocean Spray cranberry sauce (complete with can-interior ridges), three pumpkin pies, and a sagey, buttery turkey. Rebecca made the gravy. My then-boyfriend came along, and the whole time he was there he wouldn't stop exclaiming his endless love for Reb's gravy, while my (damn good) cooking went utterly unnoticed. I was already aware that he fancied her, but he didn't have to be so fucking obvious about it. And to top it off, I was nursing a middling case of strep throat on Thanksgiving day, and when it finally came time to eat (after seven hours of cooking), I found it too painful to choke down more than a little. By the time I was well again, all the leftovers had either been consumed by others or had spoiled. All that work and I didn't even get any... and to top it off, only three people ever made the asked-for donation, so it cost me and Rebecca rather more dearly than either of us could afford.

These days I have Thanksgiving with my stepfather's family, which is nice and all, but does sometimes underline the lack of any real family of my own. On the other hand, nobody fights (a tradition in many families), and I'm not under any familial obligation to hang around after the meal while the old men watch football and talk about lawn mowers. (Conversation around here always leads to yard care sooner or later.)

I dunno... I never know whether to make the attempt to let this holiday pass me by along with most others (who needs it?), or to indulge myself in missing it in an over-romanticized way. I do know, however, that if it were up to me, we'd always have goose on Thanksgiving. Fuck the turkey.

Oh, and don't forget, Friday is International Buy-Nothing Day. Seems kinda silly that the whole world should have to commemorate the orgy of consumer excess that is the American Day-After-Thanksgiving Sale... but then again, I guess that makes perfect sense.

Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
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Wednesday, November 24, 2004
Smithers' Birthday!

This post is dedicated entirely to the digital celebration of the 36th birthday of the guy who is known around here as Smithers. By my calendar here in Memphis, of course, his birthday isn't til tomorrow, but in Australia (where he is) it already is tomorrow, so birthday wishes are in order. (It's striking how much I'm having to think in antipodean time lately... not that I'm complaining.)

So happy birthday to my sweet, brilliant, beautiful darling buddy-boy Smithers, whom I feel genuinely honored to count among my closest friends. He's one of my all-time favorite people ever.

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Monday, November 22, 2004
Something To Think About














PS: This is a Clear Channel-sponsored "public service" billboard that's been popping up in Florida since the election.
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A Couple Of Random Items

So, after the election, we'd all be forgiven for thinking that America is split 50/50. Hell, even I had assumed so, but it turns out that assumption is wrong. We're actually split into rough thirds: a sane third, an insane third, and a third that can't quite decide between the other two, and ends up splitting about evenly (but slightly favoring insanity.)

See?
Only about a third of Americans believe that Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is a scientific theory that has been well supported by the evidence, while just as many say that it is just one of many theories and has not been supported by the evidence. The rest say they don't know enough to say. Forty-five percent of Americans also believe that God created human beings pretty much in their present form about 10,000 years ago. A third of Americans are biblical literalists who believe that the Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word.

(source)

So if anybody's still wondering why America is so fucked... there's your answer. Only a third of us have definitely evolved.

Also, if you read regularly you'll probably recall the relatively lengthy conversation that took place here last week about the shooting of a wounded insurgent in a mosque. The footage of that event was taken, as we all probably now know, by a pool reporter named Kevin Sites. Turns out, Sites has a blog, and in his most recent post he attempts to explain the event as he saw it. It's worth reading.
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Arrrrrgh, Mateys!

I need a pro-Bush fiscal conservative to explain this to me.

How is it that, while we're axing federal student loans and environmental work on the one hand, we're able to afford $2 million so that Dubya can have a yacht?


Dubya's New Toy

WASHINGTON - Republicans whisked a $388 billion spending bill through the House on Saturday, a mammoth measure that underscores the dominance of deficit politics by curbing dollars for everything from education to environmental cleanups.

(...)

Also enacted during the postelection session was an $800 billion increase in the government's borrowing limit. The measure was yet another testament to record annual deficits, which reached $413 billion last year and are expected to climb indefinitely.

(...)

[The bill included] a potential boon for Bush himself, $2 million for the government to try buying back the presidential yacht Sequoia. The boat was sold three decades ago, though its current owners say the yacht is not for sale.

(source)

Can you make this make sense to me?


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Sunday, November 21, 2004
Okay, Enough About George W. Bush

Well, hey, nobody can be angry all the time (this blog takes the lion's share of my anger, I'm actually very peaceable and mellow in person), and this is theoretically still my personal blog, on which I can write about whatever I'm into at any given time.

And right now, the thing I'm into is cinematography. Specifically, how po' little me can produce something resembling decent cinematography when I have so little cash to work with. As it happens, the happy sum of cash I got from working the festival is just about right to cover the expense of building a basic light and camera kit while still leaving some for production-related expenses. And I'm having a really good time doing it.

I've worked out a system that will get me 1500W of light (plenty for DV) for roughly $300 -- compared to $1200 and up (waaaaay up) for a comparable professional light system. Okay, so I don't end up with a trunk full of barndoors and scrims and stuff, but the joy of low-budget indie DV is that we can come up with creative solutions. I can spend $50 on one of those groovy Lastolite collapsable reflectors, or I can go to the auto parts store and get a collapsable reflective windshield shade -- exactly the same thing, for all useful purposes -- for $10. Get some halogen work lights from the hardware store, a paper lantern-style lamp, and a few of those $5 scoop utility lights, and voilá: key, fill, and backlight. Throw in some gels (they make these really nice multipacks of 12" gels and diffusion now), blackfoil, dulling spray, a couple of gaffer clamps and $50 or $60 for a good used light stand, and there's nothing you can do with the $1200 kit that you can't do with the $300 kit. You might have to fiddle with it all a little more, but working around limitations is the name of the game. Limitations are your friend.

And I'm building a camera stabilizer. When it's done it'll be functionally identical to a Glidecam 4000 PRO, but it'll cost me about $85 compared to $400.

This is what the independent (read: real independent) film revolution is about: finding ways of doing things you theoretically can't do, sharing that knowledge with each other, and making the films we all want to make without having to go through the bullshit inherent to the film industry. One of the things that drew me to film in the first place was that it was a field in which I would be able to develop all aspects of my intelligence -- the range of skills necessary to make films on this level is staggering, but none of it is beyond reach. "Jack of all trades, master of none" isn't an insult in this medium, it's a blessing... knowing enough to do what you want to do (or learning those skills you don't have), but without becoming so up yourself that you forget that others can make valuable contributions is a state to which we aspire. It's not easy, it's not glamorous, it'll (probably) never make you rich, but it keeps my mind active and it keeps me aware of the world in which I move, constantly looking for new concepts and influences. It's a life's worth of good work.

There's also something that I want other people's opinions on. It seems to me that there's an interesting atmosphere brewing in the United States right now... my people, at least, are all hanging around, watching the way our country and the world is going, and we know that in all likelihood, things are going to be getting a lot worse. The bad days haven't ended, the tension hasn't abated, we're still full of anger and resentment. But at the same time... I mean, is it just me, or is there a feeling of giddy nihilism developing lately? A general tone of, "fuck this, fuck George W. Bush, fuck the world, if we're going down we're going to have a good time doing it"? Am I the only one feeling that? People have been amazingly chipper lately, talking about their lives with that sweet dark irony that my generation has claimed for its own. We don't know how we're going to get through whatever's coming, but we're pretty sure that we'll have some fun before it's all over.

Anybody else sensing that?
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Saturday, November 20, 2004
Can We Call 'Em Charlie?

Boy, thank god the insurgency's back is broken, or this could have gotten really ugly...
Rebels Keep Up Attacks in Central and North Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Nov. 20 - Violence surged through central and northern Iraq on Saturday as a tenacious insurgency led by Sunni Arabs kept up relentless assaults in several major cities, including Baghdad, Ramadi and Falluja, the city that was the focus of an intense weeklong offensive aimed at routing the insurgency.

In Baghdad, insurgents armed with Kalashnikov rifles and rocket-propelled grenades tried storming a police station at dawn in the northwestern neighborhood of Amariya, where American and Iraqi soldiers had engaged in a mosque shootout on Friday. The attack on the police station left three Iraqi policemen dead and two others wounded, said Col. Adnan Abdul-Rahman, an Interior Ministry spokesman.

Hours later, a car bomb exploded in downtown Baghdad, at the eastern end of the bridge over the Tigris River leading to the Green Zone, the fortified compound housing the American Embassy and the headquarters of the interim Iraqi government. The bomb was aimed at a convoy of vehicles from a Western security contractor. At least one Iraqi was killed and another wounded, witnesses said.

Four employees of the Public Works Ministry were gunned down from a passing car, and three Iraqi national guardsmen died in explosions in western Baghdad during gun battles with insurgents, Iraqi officials said.

An ambush on an American military convoy in central Baghdad ended with the death of one soldier, the military said. Nine others were wounded in what appeared to be a highly coordinated attack, with insurgents using explosives, automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades.

Fighting raged in the rubble of Falluja. Two marines were killed and four wounded in a guerrilla ambush on Friday, military officials said Saturday. The weeklong offensive, which began Nov. 7, smashed a safe haven for the insurgents, but guerrillas still roam the devastated streets, sniping at American troops and deterring military engineers who have been brought in to try to reconstruct the city.

(source)

Goodness! Just think how bad this could've been if there was still an active insurgency. Which obviously there isn't, since we just broke its back in Fallujah. What shall we call these new guys? Let's see... we've already done Saddam loyalists, done Ba'athist hardliners, obviously we nailed the insurgency... how about we call 'em "Violent Combatants"? That way, when we all wake up tomorrow morning and find ourselves fighting the VC, it'll be just like the last thirty-five years never happened.
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Friday, November 19, 2004
Feeling Victorian

Q: What's more addictive than crack?

A: According to a few congressional panelists, online porn:

Mary Anne Layden, co-director of the Sexual Trauma and Psychopathology Program at the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Cognitive Therapy, called porn the "most concerning thing to psychological health that I know of existing today."

"The internet is a perfect drug delivery system because you are anonymous, aroused and have role models for these behaviors," Layden said. "To have drug pumped into your house 24/7, free, and children know how to use it better than grown-ups know how to use it -- it's a perfect delivery system if we want to have a whole generation of young addicts who will never have the drug out of their mind."

(source)

That's it... the right is right... the academic community is clearly out of control. Somebody take this moron's tenure away, 'cause this is the stupidest thing I've ever heard.
"Pornography really does, unlike other addictions, biologically cause direct release of the most perfect addictive substance," Satinover said. "That is, it causes masturbation, which causes release of the naturally occurring opioids. It does what heroin can't do, in effect."

... said another enemy of human joy.

This prudish hag nice lady has even coined a name for the new drug du jour:
Judith Reisman of the California Protective Parents Association suggested that more study of "erototoxins" could show how pornography is not speech-protected under the First Amendment.

"Erototoxins"... stupid concept, but a great name for a band.

So I guess we'll start seeing the male equivalent of crack whores wandering the streets any day now (and if a $5 porn-whore isn't reflexive and pomo enough for you, you're beyond my help.) Mat, I expect to see you turning tricks on EP Blvd. this weekend.

Just in case you're not quite convinced yet that America's sense of "morality" (read: repression) has not yet completely regressed to the 1950s, check out this bit of high irony:
Kinsey ads were just rejected by WNET - Channel 13 - PBS.

The spots were not the problem, the film's content was.

Tom Conway, the CFO of WNET who oversees the underwriting department and views the spots for approval made the call NOT to take the ad. Tom was not comfortable with the content of this movie and because there has been controversial press re: groups speaking out against the movie/subject matter, they feel that they can't risk viewer complaints on this.

(source)

Yes, they're banning the ads for the new movie about Kinsey -- the man who single-handedly helped wrest America's genitalia from the grip of puritanical Christianity (like my little double-entendre?) -- not because of the ads themselves, but because a movie about a man who openly said that sex isn't dirty is dirty.

Great. Just Great. How far we haven't come.

PS: just thought I'd reiterate this fundamental point: sex is good for you. Masturbation is good for you, emotionally and physically. Porn is only bad if it's exploitative or (more likely) badly made. Keep doing what you're doing; god made your parts so you could enjoy yourself, and Jesus will still love you even if you use them for purely recreational purposes. Just so we're clear.
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Ding Dong, The Insurgency Is Dead!

No, really... 'strue!
U.S. declares insurgency 'broken'
By Rowan Scarborough
THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The top Marine officer in Iraq declared yesterday that victory in the battle of Fallujah has "broken the back" of the Iraqi insurgency, while another commander in the war on terror said Osama bin Laden is all but cut off from his terrorist operatives.

The twin statements declare success on the two main war fronts -- Iraq and Afghanistan -- where the U.S. military is fighting a deadly insurgency and trying to create lasting democracies.

Lt. Gen. John Sattler, who commands the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in Iraq, told Pentagon reporters that 11 days after invading Fallujah, the one-time insurgent stronghold is secure, but not yet safe. His ground troops were carrying out a "search-and-clear phase," he said.
(source)

Oh, happy day! Bless you, Sung Myung Moon, for bringing us the good news! At long last, the Mission really IS Accomli...
A suicide car bomber attacked a police convoy in Baghdad on Friday as guerrillas kept pressure on Iraq's U.S.-backed security forces despite a bloody rout of insurgents in the Sunni Muslim bastion of Falluja.

A policeman and a bystander were killed and at least five people wounded, police said.

Iraqi and U.S. troops raided a major Sunni mosque in the capital after Friday prayers, killing or seizing several people, according to local witnesses.

Uhhhhh... but this can't be, the insurgency's back is br...
Two people were killed and 14 wounded, hospital sources said after national guards backed by U.S. troops tried to storm the Hanifa mosque. Witnesses said worshippers threw shoes at the troops -- a grave insult in Islam -- and soldiers opened fire.

The raid followed more than 100 arrests in a Sunni area of Baghdad the day before, when police said they detained some militants suspected of escaping Falluja.

No no no no no... this is impossible! The administration wouldn't lie...
In the troubled northern city of Mosul, an unexplained fire destroyed voter registration papers and other materials being stored at a warehouse in anticipation of the vote.

A car bomb in the city wounded a U.S. soldier. Also in the north, another Iraqi policeman was killed in a mortar attack on a police station at Muqdidiya.

Special police commandos and U.S. soldiers detained three people at a Mosul hospital they said had been used to treat rebels wounded in recent fighting, when insurgents put most of the city's new police force to flight.

Don't you think you're being awfully negative? Y'know, "trying to put the worst possible face on the war?" Dumping all over our parade when we're trying to enjoy waving our flags? Is that fair?
Dozens of political organizations, many with largely Sunni memberships, announced Thursday that they would boycott elections planned for January, while leading political parties in the government met in northern Iraq to discuss forming an alliance before the poll.

Gaaaaaahhhh! Stop! Stop! I'm an American voter, I can only take good news!





Y'know, it's funny, but this kinda reminds me of something...

Until the Tet Offensive, General William Westmoreland's now-infamous public reports of the progress of the Vietnam War were highly fictionalized and exaggerated to appear positive for the American public, often using exaggerated bodycounts and other inflated numbers.

(...)

Support for the Vietnam War began to steadily erode from that point on, until the release of the Pentagon Papers largely confirmed the deliberate practice of "covering-up" various facts about the progress of the war. After the Tet Offensive, the main issue of public debate would be "how to securely withdraw" from the war without losing a "hearts and minds" Cold War battle against then-enemy Soviet Union and its system of communism.

(source)

Hmmmm... must just be me.

PS: source 1, source 2

PPS: Thank god bin Laden has been "all but cut off from terrorist operatives"... y'know, back in last few months of 2001 I had these fantasies of seeing his throat cut on national teevee, but in restrospect him living quietly in Pakistan or Syria, "all but cut off from terrorist operatives," as punishment for killing 3000 people is obviously much better.

Smoke 'em out,
Drain the swamp,
Dead or alive,
You can run but you can't hide...
indeed!
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Wednesday, November 17, 2004
Just To Prove I'm Not As Ideological As I Might Look

In a battle between, say, the Motion Picture Association of America and the American Conservative Union, which side do you think I'd be on?

The MPAA? Bzzzzzt. Sorry, wrong answer. In this instance -- maybe the only one ever -- I'm aligning myself, at least nominally, with the ACU. The battle is over a new law that would, among other things, allow the Justice Department to go medieval on file-sharers; would mean that I'd have to sit through endless boring ads every time I watch a DVD; it would mean that Conservative Christian families, rather than just avoiding grown-up movies, can hack them to ribbons without permission; and would make Fair Use something about which we tell nostalgic stories to our grandkids.

For me, Fair Use is the biggest issue... the concept behind Fair Use is that when, say, CNN broadcasts eight hours of election night coverage, I can take that coverage and use it for my own nefarious filmmaking purposes, and as long as I don't make any money off of it or pretend that it's my original work, I can do whatever I want with it and not get my ass sued off. It's a nice thing for us little people to have, and we don't want to give it up.

So the enemy of my enemy is my friend, I guess... at least for now. I'm not sure exactly why the ACU thinks this law is bad -- making sure huge corporations can obliterate regular folks and independent artists in court while simultaneously slicing all the good bits out of slightly-risqué movies seems like something right up most conservatives' alleys -- but I'll take what I can get.
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Something About November

Well, here we are... in the middle of the second-deadliest month for US Troops since the war began. 82 have died so far this month, a number that ties it up with what was previously the second-deadliest month, November 2003.

Of course, we're only halfway through this November, so nobody knows yet how high the number will eventually go. The deadliest month so far was April 2004, in which 135 troops were killed. Anybody remember what caused such high casualties then?

Yep. Fighting in Fallujah.

It's just such a fucking waste.
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Monday, November 15, 2004
Hearts And Minds

Do you know what this is a picture of?



It's a picture of a US Marine... inside a mosque... shooting an unarmed, injured prisoner.

Is this prisoner likely an insurgent? Yes, that seems very possible. Was the soldier wrong to kill him? Yes and no... yes, because you shouldn't really kill unarmed people (bad for the old image, you know), but on the other hand, it's not terribly likely that this was an innocent bystander. Although that's also possible.

The point is, for a country that's swearing upside-down and sideways that our purpose in Iraq is to "win hearts and minds," performing cold-blooded executions inside an extremely sensitive location is just staggeringly destructive. This kind of shit CANNOT happen.

Hearts and minds, splattered all over the walls. That's compassionate warmongering.
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Sorry Everybody

Really, half of America deeply regrets that we couldn't quite manage to get deliver ourselves and the rest of the world from a second Bush administration. We're still trying -- we beg your support and help -- but we realize that when it counted most, we came up short.




Find several thousand more apologetic Americans at SorryEverybody.com
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Self-Immolation

Remember this?



It's happening again.

A man set himself on fire outside the White House this afternoon.

D.C. Fire and EMS spokesman Alan Etter said the 52-year-old man suffered serious burns to his head, back, arms and face and was conscious when medics took him to Washington Hospital Center.

There was evidence of an ignitable liquid at the scene, Etter said. It remains unclear who the man is or why he set himself on fire.

Etter said it happened around 2 p.m. on the sidewalk of Pennsylvania Avenue near the guard post on the north side of the White House. Witnesses reported seeing the man in flames and hearing him screaming in pain.

(Washington Post)



A Secret Service officer subdues a man after he set himself on fire outside the White House. Officials have not identified the man.


And then there's this.

As the people go, so goes the nation. This is what America is like now.

Update: It appears that the man who set himself ablaze was a Yemeni informant who was upset about how his case has been handled by the FBI. Curiouser and curiouser.
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Sunday, November 14, 2004
KGOP

I'm not going to say too much about the news du jour... there's not much we could do to prevent an ideological purge of the CIA if it happens. Everything we could have done came to nothing on November 2.

I'll only say that I hope Republicans are beginning to understand why we don't trust them further than we could throw a proverbial piano. At best this is unhelpful -- filling the CIA with yes men and party lackeys does nothing to prevent terror attacks -- and at worst it's a sign that this administration has some very dark plans.
To have all the executive, congressional, and judicial branches run by one party, a party determined to bring the intelligence agencies into ideological line--that's fascism in the making, my friends.

(from James Wolcott)
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Saturday, November 13, 2004
Photo Blog

Even after a few days off, I'm still not feeling very wordy... lately I've been saving most of my words for personal conversations and not so much for addressing the world collectively. Maybe it has something to do with my mind changing over to a more visual medium for a while in preparation for making a film... so in that spirit, rather than write yet more words today, I think I'm just going to present a few images. Sometimes it's better to stop and look.

These are all photographs from my personal album, all taken by your humble hostess. Click the images for a larger version.




winchester cathedral


southampton


tree / basingtoke


ismail / studio c


new growth / basingtoke


film school


bud / basingstoke


roman wall


PS: I know the resolution's a little off, but I didn't want them to take all day to load. If for some bizarre reason someone wants a better-resolution version of something, let me know.
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Thursday, November 11, 2004
Vacation

Y'all might have noticed that I haven't been terribly active the last couple of days. Be forewarned, this is likely to remain the case for a couple more. I'm taking a post-post-electoral holiday from this blog. It's the only way to save my sanity.

Check back in a couple.
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Monday, November 08, 2004
Red States = Welfare Queens

At last, a tax reform movement that pissed-off blue-staters can really get behind.

If there's one thing Republicans hate (besides a liberal who actually fights back), it's folks who live off other people's hard-earned tax dollars. The general idea seems to be that nobody should ever get more money out of the system than they put in... it's just not right! Unless, of course, we're talking state allocations of federal funding, in which case taxing other people to pay for your interests is totally cool.

How about we have a little more fun with maps?


click for larger version


Is this the 2000 electoral map? Nope. Is it the 2004 electoral map? Nope. This is a map of which states receive more in federal dollars than they pay in taxes (red states) vs. those which pay more than they receive (blue states).

You might notice a sort of general pattern.

Liberals, as it happens, don't have such a problem with this... okay, so red Mississippi gets nearly $2 for every dollar it contributes, while blue Massachusetts only gets $.75. There are people with real needs in Mississippi, and obviously they need the money more than needy people in "taxachusetts". Ahem.

But if "tax fairness" is what Republicans claim to want, I say, let 'em have it. Thus, I am formally voicing my support for the Tax Fairness Act of 2005.

Steve Gilliard points out the likely consquences with aplomb:
All we have to do is help the Republicans stomp the federal income tax into oblivion and then crank up our state's income tax to cover our social programs.

So, let's teach them evolution first-hand, and let them starve. No more Blue State funds to Red States.
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Saturday, November 06, 2004
Welcome Back To the 60s, Part 2

But not the 1960s... no, I mean the 1860s.

This is the 2004 electoral map:


Does it look a little familiar? I wonder why that would be?



Next stop:


(thanks to Mat)
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Thursday, November 04, 2004
No Mandate

The right has already started deluding themselves, believing that somehow their narrow victory constitutes a mandate.

I call bullshit.

The main evidence for this purported mandate is that "more people voted for Bush than voted for any prior incumbant president."

Of course, the other side of this coin is that more people also voted AGAINST Bush than have ever voted against any prior incumbant president.

In the comments below, my mother, a Bush supporter, claims, "Bush has as strong a mandate as any president has had since Reagan." Sorry, Mom, but the numbers just don't lie. Your 3% win over Kerry is nothing more than a tiny sliver of extra support; it's the saddest excuse for a mandate in living memory.

In 1980, Reagan had a 9% lead on Carter.
In 1984, He had an 18% lead on Mondale. (Note that one: that's what we're calling a mandate.)
In 1988, George H.W. Bush had an 8% lead on Dukakis.
In 1992, Clinton won by almost 6%.
In 1996, Clinton won by 9%
In 2000, George W. Bush "won" with roughly 1% less of the popular vote than Gore.

And in 2004, George W. Bush's "mandate" is made of a whopping 3% of the vote. That is to say, every single president since Reagan has had a bigger mandate than George W. Bush has now, by at least a factor of two. That's the lowest winning margin for any incumbant president, EVER.

Mandate my ass.
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Worth Repeating

George W. Bush Means Nothing
By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist

Friday, August 1, 2003

You cannot reach me, Dubya.

Go ahead, ya smirkin' Texas lug, stumble around all scrunched and blank eyed and pseudo-manly, shove this country into a bloody unwinnable war and lie about all the reasons why, gouge the economy and ruin the schools and embarrass the nation every single day as you mangle grammar and meaning and truth. It doesn't really matter.

Go ahead, toss those useless $400 rebate checks to the depressed and jobless populace as some sort of bogus humanitarian gesture as you quietly force an increase in their property taxes to pay for your record-breaking deficit brought on by the tax cut no one wants. Ha. You are so cute.

There is so much more going on than you know. There is so much deeper understanding and wider knowledge and higher winking and you can't touch any of it. Do you know this? You need to know this.

You and your brethren are like this sticky toxic mist. You will burn off in the sun of awareness and orgasm and breath. This is what makes it so fun to watch, so magical and visceral, such a divine circus, a rich tragicomic pageant. Do you sense it?

By all means, hack away at the Clean Air Act so it allows millions more pounds of pollutants into the air every year. Slam gays and women's rights and call everyone in the country a "sinner," cut funding for AmeriCorps and the arts and the poor and nature conservation. Wow. The universe is so very proud. Do you hear it laughing? You're not even making a dent.

See, you cannot touch us. We are inured. You are merely hollow and sad and quickly, effortlessly forgettable the minute we step outside or get into bed with our lovers or laugh with friends or scream to the sky the lyrics to "Ballroom Blitz," always, always striving to taste the intense flavors of the collective dream state.

What, too vague? Too namby-pamby new-age tofu-licking pro-sex liberal? Too bad.

Because there is more meaning and content and depth and significance in a lover's moan and in a drop of wine and in a dog's wag than in anything you can conjure in your homophobic faux-cowboy Lynne Cheney-thick dream, honey. Get over yourself. We are on to you. We know you are made of nothing but spin and frantic gesticulations and scowls. Poke a finger into you and out pours only sawdust and sighs.

Hello, Senator Lott. You want to stick it to the environment, do you? Lick the tailbones of your corporate cronies in the auto industry and kill that recent bill that would've mandated a reasonable increase in fuel efficiency for thuggish belching SUVs in about 12 years?

You wish, instead, to snicker and sneer and give not one crap for the planet or our nation's terrorism-inducing dependency on petrochemicals? Kill that bill, senator. You go. Toss a bone to your Detroit pals. That is so sweet. Here's a karmic Post-It note: The gods would like you to right now realize, you have zero true effect. Barely a footnote. A blip. A flicker of quick pain and then poof, gone. Very sorry.

How about you, RIAA? You want a piece? You want to bitch and moan and attack individual music fans with your snide lawsuits and desperate paranoia and come scour my iTunes library and find out how I got my hands on free MP3s of the new Metallica and AFI and burned all that glorious chill electronica from Net-radio broadcasts using my glorious copy of RadioLover? Here is my phone number: 555-LICK. Bring it.

Here is my porn collection. Here are my divine sex toys and my lubricants and my leather strappy things and my collection of happy open-minded perversions and my active account at Blowfish.com and my tattoos and piercings and love of massage oil and vibrators and things that go ooooh in the night. Come on over, Mr. Ashcroft, I have something to show you.

You see, I know you're there, all of you. Sour politicians and conniving Wal-Mart execs and desperate reality-TV creators and gluttonous SUV manufacturers and poisonous garbage-food purveyors and all-'Murkin homophobes and the dumbed-down lowest common denominators and lip-twitching hyper-religious crusaders and anti-everything GOP lizard people, Rummy and Rove and Rice and Ashcroft and Dick, et al. I see you. We see what you are trying to do.

We feel you seething and churning and eating away at the soft rainbow underbelly of the culture, feeding on the weak and the poor and the ignorant, doing your utmost to lower the collective vibration and thinking you are somehow all-powerful and significant and invincible, the center of the sociocultural universe, when in fact you are but a strange and banal rash on the ass of time.

I know you want to shut us down. I know you would love nothing more than if all resistance was mowed under and all perversions were bleached dead and all nuanced questioning of your malicious antihumanitarian agenda was numbed to the point of blind flag-waving psychopatriotism, one born of fear and misinformation and photos of the bloody mutilated bodies of Saddam's demon sons. Damn, you try so hard.

I have news. I have a revelation. It is timeless and ageless and nothing new and I hold no claims to it, but it needs to be repeated and shouted and deeply felt again and again and again, because sometimes you get a little out of control.

Here it is: You are immaterial. You are of zero nutritional value and are indigestible like corn and just pass right through. Do you understand?

There is so much more going on down here than is dreamt of in your bitter and small-minded philosophy. I, and millions like me, sense a more luminous undercurrent, a wider spiritual lens, a richer sensual mother lode.

We know that no matter how much you pule and spit and hiss and spank and crack down, no matter how many laws and how many restrictions and how many wars and murders and stabs at the heart of meaning and sex and divinity, you cannot touch what really matters, you cannot really have any lasting effect.

Oh, it might seem like you do. You can make daily life very grating and tiresome and make people sick with your chemicals and desperate with your slashing of jobs and guilt ridden with your hammering sin and pain and guns and fear.

We watch you spin and hype and rage and scrunch your face in intense bogus prayer aimed at your bitter and self-righteous and homophobic God as your testes wither and weep. Man, have you got gall.

Maybe this gives you the illusion of power and control. Maybe this makes you feel all phallic and handsome and virile as if your toupee isn't rank and askew and your slacks wrinkled and your children in rehab and your sexless wife popping Zoloft like M&Ms. Titter.

But here's the thing: You affect only the surface of things. You are like the little swarm of gnats you have to pass through on the path to the cool summer lake. You are the tainted oyster in the vast ocean of time and sex and love. You are a jagged pothole on the highway to hell and the broken step on the stairway to heaven. But you are not real. You give no light. You contribute nothing. Not where it matters.

But please, by all means, keep trying. Keep ripping away at the rich dense frantic fabric of this gorgeous inexplicable life. You represent all the dark threads, the ugliness and the tension and the low vibration and you are necessary to remind anyone who's paying attention of what to watch out for, what to methodically purge, what to use as easy leverage to vault forward.

Look. You cannot reach me. You are nowhere near. You have no true power and no true connection and have yet to make any sort of splash in the calm lake of open-thighed soul. But it's OK. We understand. After all, as the saying goes, the graveyards are full of indispensable men. And the divine only smiles, licks its lips, and shimmies on.
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Vent

I still have some hostility this morning. I can't quite find the right words to express how I feel... fortunately, someone else has managed to articulate my mood:
Fuck you.

Fuck the South. Fuck the Flyover. Fuck NASCAR, Travis Tritt, and The 700 Club. Fuck your bigotry. Fuck your monumental stupidity. Fuck the monuments you build to it. Fuck the pedestals you then place them on in government buildings. Fuck your religious tunnel vision and intolerance. Fuck the NRA. Fuck America's Heartland. Fuck your stupid fucking children. Fuck the entire amber waves of fucking grain.

Fuck Walker. Fuck Herbert Walker. Fuck "Walker, Texas Ranger." Fuck Prescott. Fuck Church's whiskey-soaked, ham--fisted lynching of State. Fuck the ghost of Strom Thurmond up his hypocritical ass with the fucking Confederate flag and the Gettysburg Address. Fuck preemptive strikes. Fuck oil. Fuck coal. Fuck Billy Graham.

Fuck the flaming, mangled corpse of Dale Earnhardt.

Fuck the Mall of America. Fuck your fucking time-changing Daylight Savings bullshit. Fuck your fucking of the Kyoto Treaty. Fuck Elvis, both young and old. Fuck John Deere. Fuck every single last Red State.

Fuck Larry the Cable Guy. Fuck cowboy boots. Fuck large, steer-headed belt buckles and all the fucks in Blue America who find them chic in an ironic way. Fuck Mississippi's refusal to ratify the 13th Amendment until 1995. Fuck Halliburton. Fuck "The Passion of the Christ" and the way you crucified the passion of Howard Dean. Fuck Waffle House. Fuck Wattaburger. Fuck all of your fucking panhandles.

Fuck the Alamo.

Fuck your fucking accents - any of them, all of them. Fuck the fact that you're supporting a president who's killing your own fucking children. Fuck the rusting husks of your fucking bankrupt farms. Fuck your yellow ribbons and your parades and your air shows.

Fuck your ignorance. Fuck your illiteracy. Fuck the massive rancid pile of cow shit that is the Midwest.

Fuck every single last one of you.

(Found via Mat)

At last, something Denny and Mat and I can all really agree on. That felt good.

Note to conservatives: if you thought the left was crazy before, just wait till you see us when we're really pissed off. The Left has joined the culture war in earnest.
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Wednesday, November 03, 2004
In Which The Revolutionaries Get What They Wanted

The new majority is more theocratic than Republican, as Republican was previously understood; the defeat of the old moderate Republican Party is far more decisive than the loss by the Democrats. And there are no checks and balances. The terminal illness of Chief Justice William Rehnquist signals new appointments to the Supreme Court that will alter law for more than a generation. Conservative promises to dismantle constitutional law established since the New Deal will be acted upon. Roe vs. Wade will be overturned and abortion outlawed.

Now, without constraints, Bush can pursue the dreams he campaigned for -- the use of U.S. military might to bring God's gift of freedom to the world, with no more "global tests," and at home the enactment of the imperatives of "the right God." The international system of collective security forged in World War II and tempered in the Cold War is a thing of the past. The Democratic Party, despite its best efforts, has failed to rein in the radicalism sweeping the country. The world is in a state of emergency but also irrelevant. The New World, with all its power and might, stepping forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old? Goodbye to all that.

(source)


Goodbye, reproductive rights. From now on my rights will be determined by the possession of a uterus.

Sorry, Morgan and Suzie, you're not going to see your human dignity recognized in the US anytime soon.

If you dig anti-Americanism, boy are you gonna love the rest of the decade. We'll be hip-deep in it!

Stem-cell research? Ha!

And to the couple million more kids who are going to grow up in poverty... them's the breaks.

But hey, at least this paves the way for our theoretical revolution. And that's all that matters.

Right?







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Welcome Back To The 60s

Well, there it is.

My parents' generation remembers the 60s very fondly. So much so, apparently, that they have decided that my generation and the one behind us should get to live it for ourselves.

Welcome back to:

The Nixon administration (albeit without Nixon himself)
An unpopular war
A contentious civil rights movement
A nation and a society divided against itself
The generation gap

And, if we're lucky:

A draft
The energy crisis
A foundering economy

Won't this be fun? Who wants to be the new Dylan? I'm going out to buy my lovebeads today!

But seriously, I don't have a lot of patience for looking back. Now we know what we have to deal with, and now is when the next cycle begins. It took the Republican party 40 years to get to where they are today, I suppose it shouldn't surprise anyone that it'll take us longer than 4 to catch up. I don't know if I'll be around to reach the promised land with you -- my inner ex-pat is screaming for release -- but fuck it, we've still got Barack Obama, so there's hope.

This is what faith is about: getting knocked down, picking ourselves up, and continuing to work towards truth and justice. We Shall Overcome, indeed.

By the way: fuck George W. Bush. He'll never be my president.
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Da End O' Da Woild

Oh, God... I don't know if I can take another four years of this shit. And I don't even mean another four years of Bush (though that too), but of this fucking pointless, useless division in America.

I stayed up as late as I could last night -- only about 1 AM, which is normally peanuts to me except that I'm still on the festival schedule -- and went to bed in a state of mild despair. Ohio hadn't even remotely been called yet; we hadn't heard a peep from Nevada, Iowa, New Mexico or Wisconsin. I went to bed in a country that was evenly split. I awoke in a country that was still -- STILL -- evenly split.

Dave asked me if it felt like world might end; yesterday it did, and it felt like it might be a good thing. In reality, though, it appears that the world has not ended yet. We're still stuck in the same godforsaken world we were in day before yesterday.

Is it always going to be like this? Is this how it will be from now on? I don't think I want to live in a country like this.

The downside: even if we can pull this out, Kerry didn't get a mandate.

The upside: even if we can't pull this out, at least Bush didn't get his fucking mandate.



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Tuesday, November 02, 2004
The Big Day

Well... here it is, for better or worse.

I can't believe how nervous I am. It seems like we've been waiting for this day for... for... well, years, and now that it's here, I just want it to be over with so we can all get on with our lives. I am cautiously, but genuinely, optimistic; it's a year for good things to happen.

I feel like I should be saying the rosary or something.

I don't know if I'll post again tonight; getting access to a computer is sort of an office-hours thing for me right now. In any case, if Kerry wins I'll be out celebrating, and if Bush wins I'll be locked in my room, trembling with existential dread.

It's not like you'll be looking to me for election results coverage, anyway.

Update: I hit the polls on my way out of town, and cast my vote for Kerry just after 11 AM. (I also cast a vote against a state amendment barring gay marriage.) I was astonished to discover that when I cast my vote -- in a sparsely-populated rural district -- I was almost #700 for the day.

To put that in perspective, the last vote I cast in the same district was for the state primary; that day I voted in the late afternoon and was only something like #65. That means there's been a huge surge in voter turnout, even in our solidly red county.

Partisanship aside, a big turnout is a great sign. THAT, not rioting in the streets, is the kind of revolution we need right now. People are taking their government back into their hands. I had a sense of watching this country, as a whole, actively making a decision about where we're heading... perhaps for the first time during my lifetime.
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