"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

April Fool

Happy April everyone. I'm feeling foolish as ever. Last night I went with Sasha and saw this great band, Cover Me Badd, who play rockin' covers with a trombone instead of vocals. Some of it is just smart-kid irony kicks, but some of it was deep and soulful. Cult of Personality and a Christina Agulara tune were the faves. Drinking Pabst and talking with some of her friends, it was nice and real. I took my bike, so I raced her cab back to Brooklyn, arriving sweaty and getting blissfully sweatier into the night. The trust is growing.

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No Smoking

Well, Capodice made a comment, and so I figure I'd better register my opinion for everyone. Last night the smoking ban officially went into effect in NYC bars. People are pissed about this, and while I think the ban is of debatable ethical value, I have to admit I enjoy not smelling like an ash tray when I come home. For me the issue is one of aesthetics and not one of health, and on that level I'm pleased at what I've got.

So here's the deal. The legal rationale for this bit of legislation centers around workplace environment laws. It's an accepted medical fact that second-hand smoke is not good for you. There's some debate as to exactly how bad it is, but the round consensus is that there are negative health effects. As such, since people make a living working in bars, it's argued that they need to be smoke-free environments to protect worker safety.

This is kind of a bullshit rationalization. Not because "people who don't want to have second-hand smoke shoulnd't work in bars" -- if you buy that then you'd also have to buy that people who don't want to be sexually harassed shouldn't work for Clarance Thomas -- but because there are other ways of protecting workers from second-hand smoke. Theoretically, they could also issue resporatory protection devices to bar workers, but that doesn't serve the broader social agenda of deterring smoking.

And I suppose that's the crux of the issue: the legal part is a bit of a hack. I tend to support the broader social agenda to curtail smoking, mainly because it annoys me aesthetically and has contributed to the deaths of people I've loved, but I dislike the big-brotherish overtones. So I'm conflicted. On the one hand, people should have the right to smoke. On the other hand, I don't want to have to deal with their smoking when I go to a bar.

The whole "if there were a market for non-smoking bars, then there'd be non-smoking bars" is a red herring. See, because of the extremely addictive nature of nicotine (update: Luke sends me a study backing this up) and the inherant social dynamics of groups, there would never be a market for non-smoking bars in spite of the fact that the a good portion of the bar-going population doesn't smoke. Nicotine addicts are tenacious about their habit -- it's the most addictive drug known to man; look it up -- and are spread fairly thoroughly throughout the population. People tend to go to bars with other people, and more likely than not there will be at least one smoker in many of the groups that make up a bar's clientele on any given evening. So it becomes a question of exclusion. Non-smokers will willingly go to smoking establishments to appease their nicotine-addicted friends. Smokers are notoriously crabby when asked to make the same gesture in return. As such, there will never be a strong market for non-smoking bars.

The whole thing is complex because it's tied up in addiction and emotions and people wanting to be able to hang out with their friends. It's not a simple matter of law. Heretofore non-smokers have been forced to make a sacrifice, and not an inconsiderate one, to to go a bar with their friends. Starting today the tables are turned, and while it's not justice by and stretch of the imagination, it is also not unpleasent to be on the empowered side of the equation.

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Great Vengence and Furious Anger

Apparently, a dead Marine was being paraded around in Southern Iraq. Nasty business, but not unexpected in a time of war. What's very interesting is this conversation thread on this military discussion board. People are understandably pissed:

I can honestly say... that I have never been so pissed off in my life. I am on the verge of sh1ting nails right about now. I can't even see straight right now, damn them all to hell.

And of course there's the obligatory bigotry:

This is what the muslim faith is all about as for me ALL muslims are the enemy! there are no good ones! DEATH To ISLAM!

And finally, the desire to pull the nuclear trigger:

This is an outrage!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We should make Iraq glow in the fu****G Dark!!!!!!!!!!


Tell bleeding heart, liberal, peace loving Americans to suck it the F**K UP!!!!

We are no longer using ROE's. PERIOD!! If it anit American or British it's dead!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I highlight this now not to mock anyones anger or outrage, but to point out how quickly war gets out of control. You can bet the actual Marines on the ground are at lest as angry -- if not more so -- as the people posting the comments. You can also bet that your average Iraqi has about the same reaction when we blow up his/her loved ones by accident. For every American who's typing "DEATH TO ISLAM" on the web, there's a corrisponding Iraqi (or Syrian, or Iranian, or Saudi, or Egyptian, or Turk, or...) who's thinking "DEATH TO AMERICA" and getting ready to make trouble. This is how things escalate. Angry Marines get trigger-happy, make mistakes, mistakes mint more guerilla fighters, guerilla fighters pick off and futher infuriate the Marines, who retaliate in kind, and the world stands aghast as we sink into the horrible cycle of quagmirish violence. Why are we doing this again? Stop the train, I want to get off.

So that's depressing. But here's something that'll chase anyone's blues away: the Donald Rumsfeld Soundbyte Archive. BBC radio has apparently been airing a "Donald Rumsfeld Soundbyte of the Week" for some time. I suggest starting with the "Donald Rumsfeld soundbite competition" link. It gives you 10 of the best.

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Just read that the commission to investigate 9-11 has not been funded as expected. The WaPo reports:

The White House's war-related proposal announced on Tuesday included no new money for the commission, prompting members and some lawmakers to begin lobbying for the funding.

We spend $70M+ learning about Bill Clinton's blow job, and we're ponying up $70B+ to lob explosives into middle eastern cities and get a lot of people killed, but we can't scrounge up any money to investigate the most grevious loss of life due to an intentional act on American soil ever. I don't want to be paranoid, but either these people are fucking idiots, or they're trying to hide something. In either case, spread the outrage.

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Monday Morning Notes

Blurt blurt blurt. I wrote a lot here last night, so I'll take it easy now. Real quick: sorry to anyone who couldn't get here yesterday. According to my hosting provider, we were under a DDoS attack -- something I recently wrote about. No reason to beleive that it has anything to do with me though: I think there are about 100 domains on the server.

You'll note a new banner on my sidebar there: "Pussy, it's what's for dinner." My friends Jessica and Nicole have opened up a cafepress shop hawking various wares emblazoned with that inscription. I urge you to check them out and pass the link along!

Finally, I'm tickled that I got three "don't be a trator" votes on my poll there. I'm glad to have readers who don't share my politics.

But we all love America. Just now I was down at the Stop 1 (my local bodega) and waiting in line to buy half and half behind three Irishmen -- brogues so thick I thought they were polish at first -- and their black friend, loading up on buttered rolls before work at the latino-run market. That's something I treasure. Anywhere in the West you can see bourgeois internationals mixing it up, but only in America to the working classes so frequently comingle, god love 'em.

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Gallop Apace

Long politics post below this one, read only if you're ready to wade in the muck. Things are not pretty right now in the big bad world. I'm personally pretty content though, having spent much of my weekend atwitter with Sasha. It's almost frightening how good it's going -- we're collaborating on art, planning a party, acting like mushy maniacs and even feeling each other out for the summer.

The party idea is a pretty neat one, actually. We want to somehow print out a great vast map of NYC, place it on her spactious living-room floor and then invite people to write their memories on it. I think it will be grand fun.

Tonight we went over to a former student of her's house. Avery is 15, tall, strikingly good-looking and remarkably self-posessed. I pity the hearts she'll break and pre-emtively dispise any shambling young adonis who does her wrong. Sasha took a defininte shine to her last semester, and in the way of the great cool teachers and great cool students of the world, they've kept in touch outside the chemistry classroom. More topical to our visit, Avery's father, Greg, is a projectionist with a passion for all things transparent with light shining through them, an enthusiast and savant with coke-bottle glasses and an many tales of old New York. We were there to enjoy an afternoon of his obsessions.

The family shares a Tribecca loft that Greg and Jane (the mom) have occupied for 20+ years. While the bedrooms are cramped, there are two expansive spaces for art. One is a painting area, and the other a projection room stocked with all manner of anachronistic machinery. We screened a love-story musical from the 1930s and then some rather ingenious slideshows of original Greg-art and a viewmaster presentation. Amazing music to go along with those. Greg is an energetic fount of knowledge about all these things. At first I felt intimidated and unsure, surrounded by such unquestionably authentic bohemia and feeling a bit outclassed, but as I relaxed into my surroundings I was intrigued and stimulated by the intricate geekish rhapsody. All in all, I can't think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

It feels free and easy and wonderfully right being with this woman. She's astounded that I'm not freaked out by her silly and whimsical personality. I'm amazed that she's not bored with me and my underacheiving friends. In fact, the only point of tension I feel with her is around the war thing. She's decided to put herself on a media fast -- a respectable position -- where as I'm unable to keep my eyes off the latest news from the front. My inability to talk with her in detail about the war sometimes causes me to bite my tongue, but in the grand scheme of things it's not as though we disagree about anything.

Saturday night we coaxed ourselves out of her boudoir and over to a party at the casa Capodice. It was good to see everyone, and as usual there was more than enough to drink. His parties tend to have that boarding-school edge. My man Sam got in far too deep with the Wild Turkey/beer-chaser action and I had to take him out back to empty the old gutbag. Since he'd been drinking hard liquor, he proceeded to get even drunker drinking only water, really couldn't see or hear anything there for a while. I called him a car and slipped the driver a 10-spot in an effort to make sure he got home safe.

Sasha and I hiched a ride back to her place from good old Andrew, and for the life of me I can't remember what went on. Not that I was that dunk though. See, that night I dreamt repeatedly of various sex acts and surrounding innuendo, and in the misting Oregon-like morning I was unable to separate the dream from reality. Some parts I know were not real, but I can't place my finger on what actually occurred..

I take this to be a good sign. Not to jinx anything -- knock on wood -- but I belive an update to the love page may be in order soon.

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Long, Hot Summer

It's going to be a long, long hot summer.

Yesterday I attended a little talk/discussion about theater and war, hosted by my old teacher and friend Steve Wangh, luminary director Andre Gregory and the youthful and energetic Josh Fox of THAW (THeaters Against War). Energizing discussion, and it got me thinking about the long haul and the idea that events currently in motion could spark a movement that might even outlive this war. It also got me thinking about the importance of specifics.

If we're to have a successful peace movement -- which is a lot more than an anti-war movement -- we're going to have to start getting specific, articulating a persuasive and alternative vision for the future of the world. Shining in all this darkness are many gems of opportunity, seemingly still a real chance to spark some meaningful global community, developments for the better management of Spaceship Earth.

With the thinking of specifics comes some downer thoughts. War specifics. Depressing war specifics. If you're interested, here's the situation as I see it:

War is hell. The worst case scenarios are looking more and more like reality. We're fighting against a guerilla enemy in the territory we've "taken" and facing a real ugly seige situation in Baghdad. "Smash mouth football," as one Marine officer put it. Syria and Iran (and maybe even Russia) seem to be supporting and supplying the Iraqis. Ex-patriots, mujahadeen, terrorists and other irregulars are filtering back into the country to fight against us, and most of the "Arab street" is inflamed with both anti-US sentiment and pride that we're being so vociferously resisted.

Here's an unsettling thought: wars against enemies using guerilla tactics are un-winnable in any strategic sense. The only way to achieve a military victory is to have total annihilation of the non-combatant population, which is a huge looser in the bigger picture. The PNAC "we'll be welcomed as liberators" crew seem to be holding out hope that one Saddam is dead or otherwise neutralized (if we can find him and prove it), the resistance will collapse. For everyone's sake I hope it is true, but it doesn't seem to be very realistic strategic thinking. This conflict is quickly becoming about more than Saddam, whether we like it or not. I'd say "I told you so" if it wasn't such a complete tragedy.

There's a large battle shaping up South of Baghdad which could prove decisive. If our forces smash the Republican Guard and sweep through the city, there's a chance the momentum might just carry over and the war itself come to a blessedly quick conclusion. If we're repulsed, it's going to set the stage for a lengthy seige. In either case, at the end of formal hostilities there looms only the prospect of an increasingly ugly-looking period of occupation.

Let's face it: this war was a mistake. This became apparent in the first week of combat. It's obvious that the plan we are executing -- the strategic decision to invade/liberate/occupy/disarm Iraq -- was devised on faulty assumptions and put forth with dubious rationales. We are now stuck between the mother of all rocks and a very hard place. If we go forward and crush any resistance militarily we will decimate the Iraqi population, embitter world opinion against us, be forced into a lengthy and hostile occupation period (think the West Bank, but the size of California), sowing the seeds for a more robust wave of terrorists to attack America in future generations. If we withdraw, we will embolden future military resistance to our interests and may expose ourselves to more danger because enemies of America perceive us to be "on the run." We have no exit strategy, no endgame to angle for. We are on the loosing end of this deal.

It's about to get very hot in Iraq. Not just in terms of the fighting for Baghdad, but in terms of temperature as well. Militarily, it looks more and more like things are going to start bogging down. It took 10 days to take Umm Qasr, a port city of 45,000 far from the heart of Iraq and defended mostly by regular army and militia. How long will it take to seize Basra, a metropolis of more than 1,000,000, or Baghdad, with its sprawling suburbs and well-equipped Republican Guard defenders? Even if we gain control of the cities, what kind of resistance are we looking at having to suppress?

In all my thoughts of specifics, I can't even come up with one way we can get out of this without a lot of unpleasentless. Pandora's box is open, and it's going to take a lot of hard, thankless, sweaty, beastial work to close it again.

That work begins with more people trying to imagine how to bring the current conflict to a close. Do we try and make some more gains the better to parlay for a cease-fire? Do we back off and occupy just a portion of Iraq, proving out the model of a benevolent and temporary American dictatorship and then letting the rest of the country join of its own will? Do we walk away and go back to containment? Try and implement a "hug of death"? The situation is awful, but not impossible. 30 years later, Vietnam is a friendly place for Americans, so there's no need to be apolplectic, but these ideas need to be thought through. If we don't change the direction we're headed, we're liable to end up where we are going.

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NPR Interview

Well shoot! What a thing to wake up to. I was just on NPR. Come noon (9am PST) you can stream the audio. Even sounded half-way intelligent, to boot. The piece is about the blogs of war, and the reporter asked me about back-to-iraq.com. I'm near the end of the segment.

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Catching up on comments around the web on the war I'm demoralized by the state of the discourse. I foment more polemic as response. Blurt blurt blurt. Maybe it's time for me to back up and get some perspective. Here are three quick hits for the interested.



Hate to say I told you so...

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Shades of Gibson

Just saw this today on the BBCs reporter-blog:

The port of Umm Qasr is being de-mined by dolphins attached to cameras. Apparently they go down and see something suspicious, then come back and tell their handler there's something suspicious. He then gives them an explosive charge, they take it down, put it next to the suspicious object, come back, it blows up, and then they go down and look at it again!

It sounds implausible, but the Australians are using them, and everyone around here - including a very senior American commander - says it works. I hope to see it for myself when the Sir Galahad gets to Umm Qasr.

Shades of William Gibson and Jones, the smack-addicted navy-hardware-augmented dolphin in Johnny Mnemnonic. Conflict brings about all sorts of strange innovaion. Remember the remote-control rats? Once again the truth proves stranger than fiction.

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