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September 17, 2004

SBC

Decided to try out DSL, because the nice person at SBC told me I could cancel out within 30 days if I didn't like it. Which, I emphasize, is the only reason I decided to take it for a test run at all. Well, long story short, I decided to stick with cable. And as it turns out, cancelling within that 30 day period is possible--it only takes about an hour and a half, immense stretches on hold (as Roy Orbinson sings "Anything you want, you got it"--hah!), interrupted by numerous arguments with SBC reps insisting that you owe them a $200 cancellation fee. Finally managed to convince one of them that they really needed to do the right thing and adhere to the terms as they were initially described to me--and to that helpful person I am indeed grateful--but that was waaaaaay more hassle than it needed to be.

Just needed to vent, but you may consider this a cautionary tale. Beware the glib promises of DSL vendors, especially if they are with SBC.

Memo to the Manhattan District Attorney's office

I, of course, do not have any way of knowing if this actually is the Young Republican who was caught on camera kicking the restrained protester in Madison Square Garden last month. But it certainly seems like it might be worth looking into. I'm no attorney, but it's my understanding that laws regarding felony assault apply to Republicans as well as Democrats.

In the meantime

If, hypothetically speaking, you were ever to make the mistake of publicly mentioning your instinctive distrust of the polling process, you would be innundated with email from Very Rational People assuring you that polls are conducted Very Scientifically and are therefore Very Trustworthy and you'd have to be some sort of crazed irrational luddite to ever think otherwise.

And yet. What does it mean when poll results vary wildly--when Bush has a double-digit lead in one poll, and yet the race is apparently neck-and-neck in another? Perhaps these polls have a twelve point margin of error, which is to say, they're complete guesswork. Perhaps one of these polls is trustworthy and the other uses questionable methodology--but the very fact that questionable methodology can exist takes us back to my initial point: I don't trust polls. Or, maybe more accurately, I trust them in the way that I trust the weather forecast--which is to say, they may give you a general sense of the mood of the country but they often miss the sudden thunderstorm that blows up out of nowhere and totally ruins your picnic.

Or the other guy's picnic, if you prefer.

Look, a lot of people want you to believe that if Bush pulls ahead 7/8ths of a point, it means that he's got the election sewn up and you might as well stay home on election day because there's really no point in bothering. They want you to believe that because a certain sequence of events has occurred in the past, there's no possible way Bush can lose now. They want you to believe that because liberals do not worship Kerry with the unconditional unthinking adoration conservatives seem to have for Bush, the outcome of the election is predetermined.

It's all bollocks, of course. Republicans just want to psyche you out. They want you to think they can't be defeated. They want you to doubt yourself, to stumble, to give up. But there are way too many variables at play. Iraq, the economy, terrorism--it's a confluence of events which hasn't come together like this before. We're in uncharted territory.

The future hasn't been written yet. Don't forget that.

--------------------

September 16, 2004

Changes coming

When I started blogging, hardly anyone had ever heard the word "blog"--now they're about as ubiquitous as zip codes. I initially hoped this would be a space in which I could write a bit, at my leisure, on topics which interested me--and that's what I did, at first. But it's become a beast that demands to be fed, on a daily--if not hourly--basis, or else people complain that I'm not doing my job properly...and I've grown weary of it. There are plenty of bloggers who seem to have endless energy for the task; I've got a lot of them listed on the links page. But it's time for me to rethink this thing. I'll keep it open until election day, but after that, I believe this page will be going dark for awhile.

--------------------

September 15, 2004

Whoops

Looks like I accidentally deleted the Silver City Express photos at some point. Don't know how that happened, but they're back up now.

Clarification again

Bob and I have both been travelling, and we have somewhat similar writing styles and tend to be outraged by the same things, so it's easy to get our entries mixed up. So remember--two authors. My entries--me being "Tom Tomorrow," the guy whose blog this is--are the default posts, identified at the bottom of the entry. Bob Harris' entries have a tag at the top of the post, as well as the identifier at the bottom.

Our savage numbness

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Been meaning to comment on this for more than a day, but busy unpacking. A big damn deal, though. I am deeply saddened by the following. This is no longer a country I fully recognize.

Y'know how gradual changes, which can eventually become radical transformations, are sometimes only obvious to people who weren't around much? Aunts and uncles are always saying the kids have grown so much -- which, of course, they have.

I've only been gone for almost a month. Maybe it was like this before I left and I'm just now noticing...

Yesterday, I'm working and unpacking, and I've got CNN on in the background. And I hear Wolf Blitzer, barking in that constant breathless get-the-kids-excited-for-Christmas, here-comes-another-shiny-pebble pacing of his, mentioning a video of a civilian journalist, Mazen al-Tumeizi, and about a score of other civilians (reports vary) getting killed in a U.S. airstrike. About 60 other civilians were injured.

I didn't actually see the report live -- Wolf had already moved on to his next story -- but I was struck by how casual this was: innocent civilians killed in a U.S. airstrike, and it wasn't even the news hook; the death of the reporter was. (CNN doesn't have a transcript up for the report I saw. They do, however, have one for a later, similar report. Scroll down, or just search for the words "I'm dying." The entire mention of the U.S. inflicting over 70 civilian casualties is exactly four sentences long. The Batman guy, meanwhile, got thirty.)

So, through the miracle of TiVo, I rewound. And there it was.

Video.

Civilians.

Being killed by a U.S. airstrike.

Non-combatants. Celebrating on a disabled U.S. vehicle, granted. But civilians nonetheless. Certainly not in combat against any U.S. troops.

In the foreground, a reporter just doing his job, frowning over some little technical glitch, maybe something he forgot to do...

Bang, boom. No warning. Just an incoming U.S. aerial attack. "To prevent looters from stripping the vehicle," the Pentagon later says, classifying everyone within thirty feet as "looters" and sentencing them to summary execution.

Blood splashes on the lens. The camera spins. Tiny glimpses of terrible carnage.

Without a beat, without reflection, without even a moment of minimal thought, Wolf Blitzer moves on. As do we, collectively.

And that's that. America kills innocent civilians. Lots of them. And it's no big deal now. Not controversial. No reason to ask questions or rationalize or even pretend to soul-search like the national media once did. America kills civilians. Lots of them. Just part of the fabric of things now.

Happens every day.

The military isn't pressed and can't be bothered for a detailed explanation about the incident, other than to blame the victims themselves. "Great care should be taken by all to avoid and keep a safe distance from any active military operation as unpredictable events can occur," the U.S. spokesman says.

"Unpredictable events," they say. Like an earthquake or a lightning strike. Like an unprovoked attack from an Apache helicopter, firing on unarmed civilians, on tape, recorded for all the world to see.

Nobody's responsible. These are "unpredictable events."

I say this next as the most articulate, precisely-worded response I can muster right now, summing up all my emotions quite clearly: FUCK.

And yet there's no sizeable outrage in this country I can find. Not in the mainstream, and not even much in the blogosphere, except for a few posts.

We are numb now.

We are killing. We are killing in large numbers. And we are numb to what we are doing.

That's it. Game over. We have lost.

Not the war. Ourselves.

The war and much more will follow, soon, if we can't wake up from our savage numbness.

PS -- I was going to leave it at that, but there's more to say.

In the past year, I have personally visited three of the six biggest Muslim countries on Earth, and I have spoken at some length with ordinary Sunnis and Shia on four continents. This week I have just returned from Egypt, where I listened to lots of perfectly average people on the street, in trains, shops, and cafes.

This is true, I swear: we have hundreds of millions more potential friends than America realizes right now. And we are losing them for a generation or more. I promise you that on my soul.

Seven days ago, I was in Alexandria, watching waves break against the rocky shoreline with a 20-year-old named Mahmoud who loves Bruce Lee movies and wants to visit China and study in the footsteps of his hero. He's a devoted Muslim who playfully tried to talk me into converting; he also thinks Bin Laden is (his words) "against Islam." You'd like this guy, I promise. And he'd like you.

Mahmoud wanted very much to know was if Kerry is a good man, and if he would stop the killing, and how Americans could possibly support what is happening in Iraq.

I still don't know all the answers to his questions. But that's what they were.

An hour earlier I was accosted by a tall and angry fellow shouting "I hate America!" over and over, in a tone half-accusing, half-demanding-an-explanation. But he wasn't a mugger or anything; actually, he was well-dressed and clean-shaven and looked more like an accountant out for a stroll who was just pissed off about the news and took it out on the white guy. I nodded and gestured for him to join me as I was walking, letting him vent. Which he did. (Hoo-boy.) I think he assumed I was German, since that's the language we wound up butchering the most for a while. I didn't stop him for a good stretch. When it was my turn, I struggled with the words, so I eventually pointed at the sole of my shoe (the dirtiest part of the body) while saying the word "Bush," then mentioned Iraq and mimed my own broken heart. (Both of these gestures were entirely accurate, I think.) And then, feeling safer once he understood I wasn't his enemy, I reaffirmed that I was an American.

You should have seen this guy's face -- a blank look for a moment, a cursor while his hard drive spun... and then the anger was completely gone, replaced with curiosity and a little, I dunno... hope, even. It was apparently news to him -- good news -- that Americans don't all support Bush, and all he wanted to know was how many more of us there were. (Yes, the media there sucks even worse than it does here.) Oh, man. Suddenly he didn't hate "America" anymore. He certainly didn't hate me. He freakin' wanted to buy me a meal, people, just to hear more.

I could go on, (and I intend to, in a book I'm trying to find time to write, called Almost Seven about this last trip). But the point is, we have many, many, many friends in this world who are reluctantly -- reluctantly, I tell you -- becoming enemies, and furious enemies at that.

It's not just about Bush, although he is almost universally disliked and/or little-respected, my hand to God, not just in the Islamic world, but damn near everywhere, once you leave these borders. (I think it's fair to guess that Bush has become the most widely-despised president in all of U.S. history, and probably by a wide margin. I certainly can't think of a precedent that comes close.)

Bush got us into this mess, and he deserves all the scorn he gets. But what happens next is up to us.

Last week, as you might know, I got lost in a dodgy section of Cairo. Soon, five bright and delightful boys decided to adopt me for a while and walk me to where I was going.

Unless things change, those same boys might want very much to kill me -- and you -- when they grow up.

Dear God. What's coming...

Harvard prof who taught Bush: GWB admitted strings were pulled to get him into National Guard

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

This just in...

"Somehow I found him totally devoid of compassion, social responsibility, and good study discipline," Tsurumi said. "What I remember most about him was all the kind of flippant statements that he made inside of classroom as well as outside."

Sounds like our Bush, all right.

--------------------

September 14, 2004

Un-friggin-believable

Cheney:

"I think some have hoped that if they kept their heads down and stayed out of the line of fire, they wouldn't get hit. I think what happened in Russia now demonstrates pretty conclusively that everybody is a target. That Russia, of course, didn't support us in Iraq, they didn't get involved in sending troops there, they've gotten hit anyway."

Via Layne, who's starting to sound like a damn lefty or something.

CBS memos

I was on the road, mostly without access to news or internet, when this whole memogate thing broke, so I've been catching up on it afterwards. Unless I'm missing something, CBS may well have been punk'd--shame on CBS, but in what way does this alter the basic fact that Bush pulled strings to jump the line and get into the Air National Guard ahead of other candidates...let alone the fact that there is no record of his ever showing up for duty in Alabama, and no one who can remember him ever being there?

It's as if someone faked a 1979 bar bill for Bush. Tsk, tsk and all, but he was still a drunk.

With the focus off Bush's record and onto 1970's typewriter fonts, Karl Rove couldn't have planned this better if he'd tried. Which, for all we know, he did.

Not this year, Ralph

Timing is everything, and this isn't the year. I still believe that Nader's critique of the cancerous effect of corporate money on both political parties is important--but we're in the triage unit right now, the body politic is suffering from multiple stab wounds, blunt force trauma, and severe blood loss--and we have to deal with the immediate problem or we're just not going to have a patient to treat. We can't afford another four years of the Bush team's recklessness and venality. Which is why Bob and I have both signed this statement, along with the vast majority of activists and writers who endorsed Nader in 2000.

--------------------

September 13, 2004

Excellent Bush AWOL graphic timeline

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Here.

UPDATE: Note that this has nothing to do with the CBS docs. The gaping hole in Bush's service record has always been there, obvious as hell. Always will be.

Incidentally, as Salon long ago pointed out, the start of Bush's Lost Months -- April 1972 -- coincided with the beginning of random drug testing.

Could just be a coincidence, of course.

Same way that the birth of Dick Cheney's first-born child came exactly nine months and two days after Selective Service decided to draft childless husbands.

Gee, these guys do have remarkable coincidences with remarkable frequency, don't they?

Batman breaches Buckingham Palace security


As we speak.

--------------------

September 12, 2004

The wheels on the bus go round and round

So what was I doing on the aforementioned bus? I wasn't entirely sure myself, at first. Last spring, before I even left Brooklyn, I was contacted by a guy named Jason Silverman, who was in the process of putting together this three day promotional tour for John Sayles' upcoming film Silver City, a political-satire-slash-detective-mystery. The idea was to have a sort of rolling salon, a political chautauqua--the Silver City Express. It sounded intriguing to me, but I've had enough experience with film industry types that I wasn't entirely sure whether or not to take it all seriously. And then I moved, and was wrapped up in the details of that for several months, and then suddenly it was upon me, and I got on a plane, not entirely knowing what to expect.

Well, it was a pretty amazing three days.

My part of the shindig was a stripped-down version of my usual dog-and-pony show. When I was a kid they always showed cartoons before the movies, and I guess that was kind of what I was doing. Except that my cartoons didn't move, and the mayhem was created by politicians rather than wacky cartoon animals, but other than that, pretty much the same thing.

We went to Santa Fe, Colorado Springs and Denver. In retrospect, Santa Fe was probably the night that came together the best. That night, you had my presentation, sets from Steve Earle and Kris Kristofferson (individually and together), and got to see all the actors onstage. In Colorado Springs, the venue was an actual movie theatre, and since there was no stage, the thinking was that there was no real place for Steve and Kris to play--maybe a mistake, in retrospect (though they did play at a party afterwards, in this second story pool hall nearby.) And in Denver, the audience was still streaming in a half hour after we were supposed to have started, and some morons in the audience were screaming "MOOOVIE" in the middle of Steve's set, and for better or worse his set got cut short so the movie could begin. (This article in the Denver Post blames it all on "the entertainment" running a half hour long, which is nonsense--"the entertainment" started a half hour late due to disorganization at the venue.)

The bus ride between Santa Fe and Colorado Springs was maybe six or seven hours. I've travelled back and forth across the country on the Greyhound bus more than once, and, well, this was more fun. Steve Earle spent most of the time giving us all an impromptu concert in the back of the bus, while Sayles held forth in the front. I was also riding with Michael Murphy, Mary Kay Place, Maggie Renzi, Sal Lopez, Luis Saguar, Daryl Hannah, Kristofferson and his family, some Silver City crew members and other various friends of the enterprise--including David Barsamian, Patty Calhoun from Denver Westword and Louis Black from the Austin Chronicle. (Chris Cooper, who I met at the Democratic Convention, and whose portrayal of a George Bush-ish character is utterly sublime, was supposed to be along for the ride, but had to cancel out.)

There's an article about the second day's ride here, but that reporter was just along for the short hop from Colorado Springs to Denver--the ride from Santa Fe to Colorado Springs was really the magical one.

I'll write more about this as it occurs to me--I'm home and need to get back into cartoon-writing mode at the moment. But definitely go see Silver City when it opens next week. And check out Earle's new CD--this guy is genuinely brilliant, and that's not something I say lightly.

There are a few pictures from the week here.

And if you ever get a chance to ride on a bus for a few days with this specific group of people, I suggest you take it.

--------------------

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