Paul From Minneapolis

Friday, December 23, 2005

I'm Gone

Like a steam locomotive, rolling down the track. One of those situations where someone left a steam locomotive untended on a slight incline and now it's rolling down the track toward the company president's parked El Dorado.

In the world of viral marketing my own little virus is still deep in the jungle, making its way from monkey to monkey. Nevertheless, I have reason to suspect there are a couple more monkeys dimly aware of my existence.

This post I like, or suspect may be useful if you give a rat's ass. (Wouldn't that be an interesting currency.) And this one. And the stuff under "these are okay" on the right. They're kicking me off the compu -

Update: The "they" kicking off the computer were the librarians in a tiny town in far southern Wisconsin. My allotted 30 minutes were gone; the next blogger was waiting. I realized I hadn't made that clear.

Now I'm definitely gone, for real this time, since the only computer available belongs to my mother-in-law; her already painfully slow dial-up is further bogged down by an endless stream of pop-ups offering on-line gambling opportunities - like the one that just arrived from (Was it really such a good idea to get her this computer? I have to wonder.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Now read this and weep.

For different reasons, sadly:

I'm not feeling optimistic today. It feels like the descent into chaos that many anti-war people have long foretold and I feared from the beginning may be just around the corner.

Maybe they're just going through a phase...

Immediate update: In quick reading of reports, it seem possible that one of the main worries is that we are in fact seeing massive tampering from Iran, with the help of its allies in Iraq.

Update Later: The same fellow seems to have regained some anger and stubbornness.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Read It and Weep

That's what I did, anyway. John F. Burns is a solid reporter from the NYT; he's gone from optimism to, generally, pessimism or sadness since 2003. Yet here he is today (registration required but not payment):

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Dec. 15 - Ali is only 9 years old. But when he and his buddies broke away from a street soccer game to drop into a polling station in Baghdad's Adhamiya district at noon on Thursday, Ali, a chirpy, tousle-haired youngster, seemed to catch the mood of the district's Sunni Arab population as well as anybody.

"We don't want car bombs, we want security," he said. Yards away, Sunni grown-ups were casting ballots in classrooms where the boys would have been studying Arabic or arithmetic or geography - "Boring, boring!" said Ali - had the school not been drafted for use as one of 6,000 polling stations across Iraq.

On a day when the high voter turnout among Sunni Arabs was the main surprise, Ali and his posse of friends, unguarded as boys can be, acted like a chorus for the scene unfolding about them. A new willingness to distance themselves from the insurgency, an absence of hostility for Americans, a casual contempt for Saddam Hussein, a yearning for Sunnis to find a place for themselves in the post-Hussein Iraq - the boys' themes were their parents', too, only more boldly expressed.

Adhamiya, on the east bank of the Tigris River, only a 10-minute drive from the heart of Baghdad, has been so much in the insurgents' grip that American military helicopters have avoided flying overhead for most of the past 33 months. But as whole families gathered to walk neighborhood streets on the way to the polls, and with turnouts at some voting centers surpassing 60 percent barely halfway through the voting day, Sunnis -young, old and in-between, prosperous and middle-class and unemployed, merchants and tribal sheiks and schoolteachers - seemed to relish the chance to take part.

"Happy days!" said Salim Saleh, a 52-year-old government official, finding a few remembered words of schoolboy English.

And it goes on from there. The headline: "Freedom from Fear Lifts Sunnis in Iraqi Election."

There are caveats; nothing's guaranteed. But for those who proclaim with certainty that the Iraqis, especially the Sunnis, will never be able to own this supposed revolution we've forced on them: maybe not. But maybe.

For at least as long as the insurgent pullback to allow the Sunni voting lasted, people in the district seemed freed from intimidation, and the recurrent references to this sense of freedom reflected it.

"Before, we had a dictator, and now we have this freedom, this democracy," said Emad Abdul Jabbar, 38, a teacher acting as supervisor at the Ahrar school polling site. "This time, we have a real election, not just the sham elections we had under Saddam, and we Sunnis want to participate in the political process."

There I go again.

Update: It ain't just me. Mickey Kaus: John Burns' interactive report from Iraq... is the best thing I've seen on the Web today. It's highly informative (i.e. about Ambassador Khalilzad's preferences in a government) and if you can get through it without tearing up you're tougher than I am....

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Chaos in the Internet Revenue World

Today's day pass to enter Salon Premium requires watching a very long ad for TimeSelect. Okay. How long can an an economy last when it's based on revenue-expelling enterprises advertising on each other?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A Miracle at the Star-Tribune

There’s a frequent guest columnist at the Strib named Syl Jones, an African American, a “playwright, journalist and corporate communications consultant.” I’ve never seen one of his plays, because I don’t really go to plays. Nothing against plays, just a fact.

Syl is someone who gets on my wrong side frequently. Like one time he referred to KFAN, 1130-AM, my favorite station, as an "asylum" where there are "inmates" in charge. I took that personally. I like sports. I like listening to other guys talk about sports. To me that’s good fun. Does that mean I belong in an "asylum?" I ask you.

Usually Syl’s a victim-think sermonizer, as I referred to him over at Ann’s site in a comment and that got me going here. But today he writes about Tookie Williams and surprise, surprise, surprise comes down hard on the side of: the man deserved to be executed. And Syl actually delves deeper into underlying and related issues:

"It is fashionable to decry the death penalty as cruel and unusual punishment, as barbaric and even medieval. This is part of modern society's unfortunate propensity to delay or completely obliterate the laws of natural consequences. Endless pleadings -- sickness, extenuating circumstances, born under a bad sign and the devil made me do it -- benefit lawyers and civil libertarians in search of new causes. It makes suckers of the rest of us. Where is Ramsey Clark when you really need him? In Iraq defending another "innocent" named Saddam Hussein, or surely he'd be in Sacramento pleading for Tookie."

Believe me, that's most un-Syl-like. Is it possible that constant harping from harpies like me actually begins to have a mysterious effect, on individuals, on the zeitgeist? “I wish I was a mole in the ground, if I was a mole in the ground I’d root that mountain down:” heck, maybe that approach works.


The previous post, offered up impetuously, is something written a week or so ago as a prospective stand-up line. Delivered by me with my trademark knowing twinkle, it just may work. It's frosting on the cake that it actually works as a summary of domestic politics.

The one before indicates something of what Bob Dylan believed in 1960 about people passionately protesting the execution of a guy like Caryl Chessman. It reads to me like he didn't quite understand it, though in the telling he makes sure not to slam his old friend too hard. What does he mean by Chandler being "fearless:" fearless for thinking the requested song was possible, or fearless for realizing it might not be, or both? (The fact that Bob tells the story now may mean his bafflement remains.)

Democrats Say, Republicans Say

The Democrats say, the rich are increasingly dominated by greedy, plundering hyper-capitalists who care for nothing but lining their own pockets and walling themselves off from the growing hordes of exploited minimum-wage workers; either that, or they’re the decadent offspring of long-gone profiteers, even more desperate to maintain their completely undeserved lives of gluttony and empty pleasures.

The Republicans say: You just don’t understand ‘tough love,’ do you?

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Old Footprints

From "Chronicles," the Bob Dylan autobiography, which is great in a way that will support many readings:

One guy who kept reappearing in the news was Caryl Chessman, a notorious rapist whom they called the Red-Light Bandit. He was on death row in California after being tried and convicted of raping young women. He had a creative way of doing it - strapped a flashing red light to the top of his automobile and then pulled the girls over to the side of the road, ordering them out, hauling them into the woods, robbing and raping them. He'd been on death row for quite a while making appeal after appeal, but his last appeal had been final and he was scheduled to go into the gas chamber. Chessman had become a cause célèbre and luminaries had taken up his plight. Norman Mailer, Ray Bradbury, Aldous Huxley, Robert Frost, even Eleanor Roosevelt were calling for his life to be spared. An anti-death penalty group had asked Len (Chandler, a friend) to write a song about Chessman.

"How do you write a song about a pariah who rapes young women, what would be the angle?" he asked me me as if his imagination was actually on fire.

"I don't know, Len, I guess you'd have to build it slowly... maybe start with the red lights."

Len never did write that song, but I think someone else did. One thing about Chandler was that he was fearless...

Friday, December 09, 2005

"Two well-educated middle-aged white women talk about current events."

Not with each other. They’re thousands of miles apart, in fact. Separated by an ocean.

The first well-educated woman is named Samantha Smart. She’s a local. She recently ran for Minneapolis Library Board and very narrowly missed out on the top six. That would have elected her to one of the at-large seats in a contest where maybe 210 people in the city actually follow it.

Here’s a sample of her writing, a rambling (long, anyway) letter to the editor in a small but not very influential community newspaper:

“A correct and logical analysis would tell us that based on genocide, slavery and sexism, the entire economic, social and political systems of this country have always been corrupt and rotten to the core, and no election that will merely substitute one white man for another, without actually transforming the capitalism, imperialism, white supremacy and patriarchy that we live under now into an entirely new configuration, will constitute any REAL gain. Nader was right when he said there was no real difference between the democrats and republicans (they are all paid lackeys of the corporate elites), but he was not ready to present any radical transformative scenario either and therefore was still a subscriber to the basic capitalist, white supremacist and patriarchal regime we are forced to endure.”

Plus she really knows the Dewey decimal system. Meanwhile, over in Great Britain, there’s Melanie Phillips. Less activist in the Sam Smart sense, more a writer in her focus, a quieter sort of woman. Here she offers a typical entry in her blog, indicating the kind of thing she in her turn deems vital:

“On the Daily Ablution, Scott Burgess is doing heroic work digging into – and translating from the French – the claim that surfaced in Switzerland of an alleged Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy to subjugate Europe to Islam. Last October, an article in the Swiss daily Le Temps recounted how journalist Sylvain Besson had stumbled across the discovery by Swiss investigators of ‘The Project’…”

She excerpts Mr. Burgess quoting a ‘western Official’ to the effect that this semi-rumored, semi-documented thing called The Project is “a totalitarian ideology of infiltration that represents, in the end, the gravest danger for European societies.” In 10 years, says the official, demands for a parallel system will begin to emerge (haven’t they already? is this guy an optimist at heart?). The Project’s featured specifics include a war against Israel, which does keep coming up. They really, really don’t like Israel. The elimination of Israel – for these absolute non-cooperative types – is evidently an indispensable cherry on top of the scrumptious cake of turning the world in their direction. That’s just me blue-skying, that last part.

So wow. “The Project.” That’s weird. Maybe even a downer. And Melanie Phillips looks a little grim in her picture, I have to say. At least single-mom Smart (she once was married, perhaps in the days prior to her demands that society must learn to ignore disgusting concepts like “male” and “female”) talks about “joyful solutions.” Sam-bam’s writing doesn’t seem that joyful, but Melanie Phillips has never that I remember introduced the word “joy” into how to deal with the Islamist threat she sees. Here, the only thin smile she allows herself is granting that The Project’s existence is not totally verified: it may be an inverse up-to-date version of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Maybe Burgess’s “western Official” is Commissioner of Highways in Scottsdale AZ, and he has a blog.

So anyway, which middle-aged white woman do you prefer? Or maybe they both offer something worthwhile. (That would be my woman-y take.) Shall we get go some punch and talk about it?

Update: Removed a confusing and open-to-misintepretation conjecture about S. Smart being somewhat "lesbian-y" these days. I didn't specifically mean her own sexuality; I meant the sort of militant sexual politics that's part of the overall Smart output now, and her audience for it, based on where she shows up links-wise. (I actually don't think she is lesbian, not that there's anything wrong with that, underscoring the faulty word choice.)

Update 2: Comments include thinking about how someone like Smart fits into the American political scene. Suffice it to say I think she's quite interesting, and quite worth thinking about.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Andrew McCarthy Comes Out Swinging on Able Danger

"The entire American intelligence community has been restructured in accordance with the 9/11 Commission's conclusion that, as previously configured, it was incapable of ferreting out a suicide-hijacking plot two years in the making. It now appears that the community may have been quite capable of sniffing out the plot (or, at the very least, identifying the plotters) but was unable to get the information into the right hands because of a government ethos predominant throughout the 1990s — an ethos that elevated the supposed civil rights of aliens, even alien terrorists, over the national-security needs of the American people."

I perceive Andrew McCarthy (not the actor) as someone who doesn't engage in this kind of emphatics unless he's pretty sure of himself. The story called Able Danger has been simmering for a while. He seems to have crossed some kind of internal failsafe point.

Do check out that McCarthy bio if you're at all curious. Fascinating guy. For any liberal-ish readers, try not to let the idea of Defending Democracies, and a Foundation actually devoted to it, send you running. I know, it's creepy, but have some courage.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

A Basic Thought

In the wake of 9-11, the forces of rebellion and dissent in this country suddenly lost their moral right not to be dissented from and rebelled against. (They may never have had it.) They still haven’t gotten used to that or worked an awareness of their own fallibility into their worldviews.

That side having gone under-rebelled-against is the reason the task the nation faces of doing so is more urgent right now than the old-fashioned task of rebelling against the stuff the natural-born dissenters typically select.

Or, I’m a nasty old fascist crank.

Is this too dark?

From a Spencer Ackerman analysis in The New Republic on why Americans Muslims are less likely to become terrorists than their European and British counterparts (subscription required):

“It's true that extremist messages exist in American Muslim communities, and there have been a few instances of American Muslims becoming terrorists. Those extremely rare cases, however, are far better explained by individual pathology than by rising Islamic militancy due to group disaffection.” (Bold added)

I think “arguably” better explained might be a better construction than “far” in some of these cases, but let’s grant the point. What does it mean? It means terroristic violence is evidently one way personal pathology in a Muslim manifests itself.

That probably means it will be rarer than the pure political version, in part because by implication you introduce the desire of the terrorist’s own community to disavow and control it. The article is mainly a heartening presentation of the case that the basic “we don’t like them either” attitude is more present than some fear, here, and definitely more present than in Europe. The ideas about our religiosity and its role in all this are nice, too:

"Most Americans would be horrified by the notion that they live in a country that abides by Islamic law. But some American Muslim leaders contend that U.S. society is harmonious with Koranic injunctions without even trying. "America is positively, unabashedly religious," enthuses Feisal Abdul Rauf, a New York-based imam. In his important 2004 book, titled What's Right With Islam, Abdul Rauf contends that space for religiosity is essentially inseparable from American liberalism, codified in both the U.S. political system and the broader U.S. social compact..."

Great! The remaining irritant is how that kind of healthy attitude (as defined me-centrically) needs to be nearly universal. There can’t be too many insurgents interested in tool-use scattered around, as is maybe the backstory to the sad case of Adam Gadahn, Californian, that Ackerman relates. If there are, then the distinction between the US and Europe begins to dissolve, impact-wise. Although I suppose as I lay dying of some infidel-mall bomb attack or expelling all fluids from my body as a designer bug overtakes me, it will help to realize that the perpetrator himself didn’t really mean anything by it. He just went a little funny. You know – funny.

(I am making a point here. It has to do with how seriously the Muslim world needs to be in accepting its responsibility to police itself. In a connected all-too-rageful world, it’s not enough to maintain that it’s only a scattered few. You cannot tolerate your scattered few, is my view. They have to be hiding from you as much as from the rest of us.)

Sunday, December 04, 2005

"You might remember my movie, '2001 A Space Odyssey'..."

Stanley Kubrick? No, Arthur C. Clarke. On Twin Cities Public TV tonight, during introductory comments early in "The Colours of Infinity," a 1995 documentary on the discovery of the Mandelbrot Set. You know - the Mandelbrot Set. To me it’s a surprising claim, that “my” movie. Did he clear it with Stanley, back in 1995? Or was the intro filmed later, for the long-awaited rebroadcast, and he figured: "What the hell, who’s gonna stop me? Stanley? I don't think so. "

Although maybe Clarke is justified. A quick Web survey (guaranteed accurate as always) reveals that Clarke and Kubrick really did collaborate on the story, and then Clarke wrote the novel and Kubrick made the movie. The movie is more famous. The "story," truth be told, may not be that main reason for said fame, but evidently Clarke has long fussed over all this in his mind and he's decided calling the movie “my” movie is more then defensible; in fact it is his movie, it was supposed to be his movie, it’s his Preciousss –

Sorry, that’s unfair. Still, though.

Incidentally, we’re on the midst of a fundraising fortnight at TPT, as the station calls itself here. So we can assume the documentary must have tested well with donor-heavy focus groups, consisting of those also energized by the swinging 2-hour Michael Bublé appearance on "Great Performances" that preceded it. (Who is the TPT audience, exactly? I have to ask.)

Saturday, December 03, 2005

e-Mail From a Friend

I sent him a little one-liner I wrote to see what he thought:

"I like. Went to your blog hoping to find more but only more parsing of Iraq and insulting of Gore. Happy Birthday anyway. "

Hm, well, normally I wouldn't take this kind of thing lying down, but he liked the joke. Although did he really? Is he just softening me up with that opening? He's a bureaucrat in real life, so he has that skill set.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

I'm Gone, I'm Gooo...oone...

Nothing's gonna bring me back. Unless it's my car tomorrow. But other than that, seriously, nothing.

Where to? To where the water tastes just like wine, except in this case it may be the opposite of that, unfortunately, and be true about the beer as well. I'm going to spend a night at Grand Casino Milles Lacs. I'll be scoping out small-town banks to finance my addiction by tomorrow night, I'm sure.

Update: The joke's on me: Grand Casino Milles Lacs is an entirely dry facility! So the wine tasted not like water but like grape juice, which is what it was, labeled "non-alcoholic Merlot." Very good grape juice, granted. But one wonders if we've reached the stage we can begin calling any random dark-ish liquid "non-alcoholic Merlot." Diet Coke. Motor oil. Either of those could give the grape juice I was handed a run for its money in the "It tastes exactly like fine Merlot" competition.

The steak was good, though we were the only two in the fine restaurant: gee, I wonder why. Hello? Marketing? Anybody home?

Update 2: I should clarify, we had a wonderful time last evening in spite of the dry nature of dinner at the casino, operated by the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. (I may look into who decides these things and why; I'd be curious). As my mental health therapist wife remarked later, I definitely went to my "wise mind" in accepting reality, that no liquor would be accompanying the meal. I achieved this wisdom by accepting and embracing yet another reality, that being the champagne we had back in the room. Could they hold our table for 15 minutes? Um, yes. They could.

Part 1

Al Gore is perfect. Morally perfect? Deep down he may suspect so, but what I mean is he’s a perfect specimen, the best available, of the ever more explicit marriage between academia and liberalism; with the two commingling their goals and interests in an exhaustive examination of the chaotic United States and the frenzied capitalism it embodies.

That much is fine. Nearly perfect. And Al is to be commended for going around talking about everything that he goes around talking about. As he did back in October, for instance, at something called the “We Media Conference” (I don’t know), a sermon I’ll return to eventually. It’s what he was designed for and he should proceed.

The drawback, for the rest of us, is the basic approach of the Goreian academo-liberal analysis. The way it’s rooted in a strong belief that our society and its chaos are most accurately seen as producing horrifying results, for us and for the world. This includes, of course, the utter disintegration and decay of our once rational and truth-based political system; a rot so complete that the left very often loses elections.

That’s what Al Gore focuses on especially, that last part.

Of course there is just so damn much chaos in our society, and these are such clever and driven people who never lie and are always right, that the rest of us are confronted with a never-ending parallel chaos of analysis, almost all tending toward describing ultimate darkness. In short, we are confronted with Al Gore talking.

Yet something fundamental seems to be missing in all of this worldview that fills Al Gore to bursting. It’s missing from almost all of society-focused academia, missing from the political left and consequently is vastly underplayed in our national politics, since politics is filtered through an incredibly efficient system of reporters, 90% of whom agree with everything Al Gore says (I think of them as zebra mussels). What’s missing is the response.

What’s ignored at best, hated often, is simply the other way of looking at things. Some might call it the optimistic view.