The Answer Guy Online

Providing information to unwitting victims on a "don't-need-to-know" basis since 1974.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Happy Thanksgiving!

May you all have lots to be thankful for, and recognize same.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Jukebox From Heaven (Part I)

Rolling Stone came out with another 500 Greatest Songs list. It has the same problems you'd expect from a "500 Greatest Songs" list from Rolling Stone. Namely, that it's very 60's-centric, especially at the upper echelons, and makes a lot of compromises as far as artists' catalogs go. (If you asked 50 Clash fans what their favorite Clash tune was, I doubt many of them would cite "London Calling," though it may be their best known song.)

No one's going to agree on a list of Greatest Songs of any size, let alone 500. This is closer to a 500 Most Important Songs, though it doesn't quite work as that either, due to the tie-dyed biases of Rolling Stone. As a 500 Songs Every Rock Fan Should Know list, however, it actually works pretty well.

I'll likely be going more into detail on this, but it's late and I have travel plans...

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Between The Wheels

Between the riot that broke out during the Detroit Pistons - Indiana Pacers game Friday night, the various fighting during the Clemson - South Carolina game, and, for that matter, the fighting in last week's Pittsburgh Steelers - Cleveland Browns game, my first thought was... well, with the NHL on strike, at least someone's filling the brawl quota for the year.

I watched parts of the "Malice in the Palace" riot as it happened Friday night, and my first draft impressions as of Sunday night looked something like this:
Ron Artest clearly needs help dealing with his anger issues, though the lawyer in me says it's unfair he's been singled out to the extent he has been due to his prior reputation as a hot head. At least least Artest was provoked by the actions of a fan, as compared with the somewhat less defensible actions of Stephen Jackson and Jermaine O'Neal. It was all most unfortunate; Artest shouldn't have fouled Ben Wallace in that fashion but Wallace's reaction was more than the situation called for (Wallace, by the way, is getting off light with only six games.) I'm glad to see that the Pistons are kicking out the offending fan, a season ticket holder, for the rest of the year, and that the fan who came running at Artest with his dukes up largely got what he deserved.

There's been a kind of a bread-and-circus, "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" kind of feel swirling around this whole year. Three years after the September 11 attacks were supposed to usher in a more somber post-ironic mood, every month some of us need more ironic detachment and distance than ever from popular culture. Wardrobe Malfunctions, Abu Gharib, an especially nasty Presidential election season, Desparate Housewives, My Big Fat Obnoxious Reality Shows, Vibe Awards, and now Athletes Behaving Badly. It feels like a little much, like the other shoe's about to drop. But no one knows what that might be.

Monday, November 22, 2004

The Master Is With Us...Always

Take a look at this picture.
I'm glad I don't live anywhere near this billboard. It's a symbol, doesn't really mean anything susbtantive, but it reminds me a lot of large pictures of heads of state in countries and in governments that most people, myself included, don't think very much of.

On the other hand, this is much more susbtantial and alarming. A Republican member of Congress from Oklahoma, Ernest Istook, tried to insert a provision into a long and convoluted appropriations bill that would allow certain Members of Congress and their staffers the right to review anyone's tax returns without penalty. To their credit, many Republican legislators were embarassed - but were they more embarassed that one of their colleagues would attempt to do something like this, or were they more embarassed that someone caught him?

I'm thinking of a word that starts with "F" and has more than four letters. It's been overused for dramatic effect by protestors and sometimes by people joking around, to the point where it's almost lost its true meaning. In the technical sense, it's used to describe invasive governments that advance a pro-corporate agenda by whipping up nationalist sentiment with religious overtones.

Yeah, that word.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Drivin' And Cryin'

Via another (very funny) blog, we bring you A Tourist's Guide To Washington, DC.

It's scary how accurate some of these jokes are.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Born To Run?

Guess Bruce Springsteen was on to something there.

My favorite part of the article is the part where they talk about how humans need more padding on their rear ends than apes do since humans can run.

And here I am thinking the whole time that if my butt gets too big, I won't be able to run anymore. Silly me.

Now Ain't The Time For Your Tears

A USA Today Editorial laments that tax reform proposals face a tough road ahead. It does so in an extraordinarily bland fashion, with some vague hope that some 1986-style bipartisan cleaning up of the tax code, where some loopholes get closed and some knobs get fine-tuned.

I've always been something a "good government" type myself, so I'm not entirely unsymapthetic to the notion that the federal tax laws are a little unwieldy and complicated, in some unsavory ways.

But this editorial's more than a little silly. With all relevant branches of government firmly in the hands of the "slash and burn" crowd, you're not going to get good policy out of them, even good conservative policy. They know how to win elections and how to pay off their cronies, and that's about it.

Considering that every last one of the Republican proposals is an attempt to shift tax burdens away from people who live off of idle income (whether derived from inheritance, from capital gains, or from investments) towards those who have to work for their money, particularly those caught living from paycheck to paycheck, I have no problem with tax overhaul not getting done.

I just hope Democrats remember that the Republicans, when they were in a vageuly similar position in 1993, weren't penalized at the polls for squawking long and loud about any and every Clinton proposal. Such is the nature of the game as it now stands.

For the first few days following the election, I got really incensed whenever I saw a Bush/Cheney or W'04 sticker. However, I now realize that I hope they keep them on their cars, so we'll know exactly deserves blame for the next four years.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Who Are The Brain Police? (Part I)

It's about time someone started addressing this "elitist liberal" stuff head on.

CNN's Candy Crowley:
In January 2003, when his campaign was still young enough that Kerry would actually sit down with reporters in a relaxed setting, he and Crowley met for breakfast at the Holiday Inn in Dubuque, Iowa. "I'd like to start out with some green tea," Kerry told the waitress, who stared at him for a moment before responding, "We have Lipton's." Lipton's would be fine, Kerry said, but the memory stayed with Crowley. "There were many green tea instances," she told the sell-out crowd of 450 at the Kravis Center's Cohen Pavilion. "There's a very large disconnect between the Washington politicians and most of America and how they live. Bush was able to bridge that gap, and Kerry was not."

We'll forget the absurdity of the notion that ordering green tea in Iowa or choosing windsurfing as an athletic hobby is inherently elitist while building a multi-million dollar ranch as a political prop isn't for a minute.

We'll also forget the entire notion of the "liberal elite" makes no bloody sense at all when you consider that just about every center of power in America is controlled squarely by conservatives. Let's see...all three branches of government, the military, the business sector...all run by conservatives. On the other side of the ledger we have some activist celebrities (though the other side has plenty of those too) and, the NYU English Department.

Put both of those notions aside for now. My first question is this:

Is it more elitist for John Kerry to order green tea in Dubuque, or for Candy Crowley to assume that the poor benighted rubes in Dubuque can't appreciate green tea?

Green tea, for what it's worth, is widely available in both blue and red states, and has received much hype as helping people lose weight. It would appear that Ms. Crowley could use some green tea, unless she's thinks that's too elitist of course.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Wild Thing

The FDA has ordered Pfizer to pull a series of ads for Viagra. They cited that ads neglect to mention "erectile dysfunction" as the condition Viagra is intended to treat, and implying the drug enhances male sexual desire, which it has not been clinically proven to do.

It appears that this letter says nothing about the incredibly bad taste of the ad, or the fact that the guy who sprouts blue horns looks pretty darn creepy. (It's still not as uncomfortable a notion being forced to consider Mike Ditka pitching a tent in his shorts, but it's close.)

These ads for boner pills air so often on frequently-watched TV programs that they kind of give the lie to the notion that drug companies need to make windfall profits off American consumers so they can cure humanity's great plagues.

But, hey, at least I still never have to watch that Viagra commerical again. Woohoo!

And Never Is Heard...A Discouraging Word

I've never really been one to hibernate. Anyone who's been around me knows what a light sleeper I am anyway.

Looks like there's going to be a loyalty purge at the CIA.
Having more Republican Party hacks serving in sensitive intelligence positions makes some people feel safer I guess.

One thing for sure - the White House won't hear much of anything it doesn't want to hear anymore. That pesky "reality-based community" takes another one on the chin.

The worst part about all this is not even that the White House has a specific agenda. It's that the well is being poisoned. A civil service system that has served our nation well for over a century is being replaced piece-by-piece with the late and unlamented spoils system. We saw it with the debate over the Department of Homeland Security in 2002, and it looks like we're seeing again here with the intelligence community.

Just as candor is important in giving effective legal advice,it's crucial when it comes to intelligence as well, as this report evidences.

The choice words from the above-cited piece -
It is also the author's view that in these episodes Agency officers performed their greatest service when they maintained CIA's professional intelligence integrity without regard to whether candor would or would not prove congenial to their DCIs and to policymaking consumers. To the degree that CIA officers withheld or modified their judgments, they were not only distorting intelligence but also undercutting CIA's very raison d'etre."

I'm reminded of that Simpsons episode where Monty Burns goes bankrupt because he was getting poor business advice from his yes-men advisors. Except that it's not nearly as funny.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Loose Ends

What's happened since I last blogged...

Scott Peterson convicted of murder. I guess this is the part where I mention that I had a hard time caring much about this trial. The part where Peterson claimed that Laci was killed by homeless people for the purposes of conducting Satanic rituals was not only amusing, but convinced me that he was probably guilty.

R.I.P. O.D.B. It's going to be very strange when celebrities younger than me (he was a little older, but by only 5 years) start kicking the bucket.

And the Patriots are still the Patriots, and the Bills still can't avoid embarassing themselves in Foxboro.

I had a great weekend, but it's back to work on Monday.

Monday, November 08, 2004

The Arrival

The Answer Guy Online now has trolls!

Everybody knows that only blogger celebrities have trolls.

Though, really, I wish they wouldn't mention Michael Moore and fellatio in the same post. Someone accidentally reading this could really lose their lunch.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Welcome To The Machine

Computer glitches. With voting machines. Giving Bush over 4,000 extra votes. In Ohio.

Ohio is the home of Diebold, whom, if you recall, has a CEO who promised to deliver Ohio for George W. Bush and the Republicans in a fundraising letter.

This "error" in this case was 4,000 votes in a precinct that cast only 700 or so votes - it was pretty obvious, and thus easily detectable. But what if it were a few dozen votes here, a hundred or so there?

Was it the difference? Probably not. Was 2004 a stolen election? Doubt it. I suppose I'll never know.

What do I know? I do know that it doesn't look good.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Letter Unsent

Yeah, what appears below is pretty vitriolic. I am no diplomat and no politician, just an ordinary citizen blessed with an inquisitive nature, a big vocabulary, and a strong sense of what is just and what it not. At times, I wished I posessed less of these gifts, for they have often brought me only sadness and despair where I might have otherwise been content. Hence, the exercise in catharsis that lies below, that will prove once and for all that I have no place in American politics.

Dear President Bush:

I accept that you have prevailed in the recent election with a majority of the vote of the American people, and that the Republican Party has earned to right to lead the way in governing our nation for the forthcoming years. Whatever sense it may have made to question your status as a legitimate head of state vanished yesterday.

Though your policy preferences are light years from mine, and it is my belief that numerous Republican policy initiatives will lead to one disaster after another for the American people, that is not really the reason I am so angry today.

I noticed that in your acceptance speech, you said "To make this nation stronger and better, I will need your support and I will work to earn it. I will do all I can do to deserve your trust."

But I think I speak for many Kerry voters when I say that you can spare us your ritualistic conciliatory words. These wounds will not heal so easily, and your pleasantries ring as hollow to these ears as so many premature exit poll results.

I know very well that you will not work to earn my trust - I am not as gullible as your strategists have told you I am. I am not as credulous as Dick Gephardt or Tom Daschle, whose political careers now lie in ruins.

In my eyes, you will always be the man who did more than anyone else to divide us in two, to impugn our motives, to call us weak, to make us on the left as much the enemy of so-called "real Americans" as Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, or any foreign nation or enemy. Your campaign demonized my native state as being something less than American in a way your opponent would not dare do of your home state; I am prouder than ever to hail from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the birthplace of American Revolution, despite the rhetorical slings and arrows thrown our way by the likes of your Vice President, Mr. Cheney.

Determined not to treat you the way your supporters treated President Clinton, I reserved judgment when you first assumed the office of President. I was displeased with the way you governed in a highly partisan manner in your early months in office, but after the tragedy of September 11, 2001, I held out the hope that you would keep our nation together through those trying times. And yet the struggle against global terror was turned into partisan talking points and an excuse for a series of initiatives and policies that had nothing to do with combating global terrorism.

Strategically, it has worked well for your side, but it does not come without the costs, one of which is the eternal suspicion of millions of Americans of your every last move and motive. I place no stock in your administration's economic projections, budget figures, pronouncements on foreign or domestic policy, or your terrorist alerts.

You have abused the trust I gave you too many times, you have lied and misled the American people too many times on matters of critical importance, for me to even consider accepting your gestures of consolation. If you were tell me that the sun would rise in the east tomorrow morning, I would be up at the crack of dawn to make sure you were speaking the truth. You have forever lost any chance at my support.

I will never trust you again, Mr. President. Never. I will go to my grave, secure in the belief that you are a dangerous, corrupt, incompetent leader, and that, at some level, my nation still, even after all of this, deserved at least a little better.

There. I said it. Now The Answer Guy Online is going into political hibernation for at least a month.

All Apologies

To the rest of the world...I'm embarassed, ashamed, and deeply sorry for what the nation for which I was once proud will do the next four years with no checks whatsoever on the power of the extreme right.

To those in future generations...I'm sorry that my nation left you dirtier air, dirtier water, and massive deficits. I tried to do something about it, but I was outvoted by a nation who has truly gone off the deep end.

To were fooled. Again. There is no excuse this time.You deserve the screwing you're about to get. I hope you enjoy it.

Good night..or rather, good morning.

Monday, November 01, 2004

John Kerry For President

Tomorrow the American public is faced with a clear and stark choice when it comes to the Presidential Election. I make my appeal based not so much on stances on the narrow hot-button topics that often sway the electorate as I do on prudential grounds.

Senator John Kerry is not always adept at explaining his policy positions, but has consistently been on the side of consumers, workers, the environment and the public interest. He helped expose, much to the chagrin of some of those in his own party, the BCCI scandal, and took a major role in investigating the Iran-Contra scandal.
He is perhaps too cautious for some people's tastes, but the disadvantaged, who lack the millions to hire influential lobbyists, have long had a friend in Sen. Kerry. The ordinary citizen concerns with the deficits we will leave to future generations has a friend in Sen. Kerry.

In his four years in the White House, President George W. Bush has had the opportunity to make large numbers of choices. When the time came to choose between the public interest and the health insurance industry, Bush came down squarely on the side of the insurance industry. When the time came to choose between the public ratepayers in Western states being soaked by a largely bogus power crisis and the energy trading firms robbing them blind, Bush sided with Enron, his biggest corporate benefactor. When asked to choose between keeping the national debt from crippling the hopes of the next generation and tax cuts for his wealthy friends, Bush again sided with his friends. Workplace protection, consumer protection, environmental protection have all been eroded significantly as a result of Bush's decisions, with the help of a compliant Republican-controlled Congress. Together, they are the living embodiment of a big-money corporate lobbyist's dream run amok, and this is all before the burden of facing another election is lifted from Bush's shoulders. The job of minding the henhouse has been left to the foxes.

And this administration are also foxes in the henhouse when it comes to the Constitution. Not content with seeking a blank check for ever more intrusive powers to snoop and detain massive numbers of people at home and abroad, they want to leave their mark on the Consitution itself, with not only an Amendment containing a silly prohibition against "flag desecration," but an Amendment that would prohibit states - and possibly even private entities - from recognizing same-sex partners.

Not only has Bush made one choice after another for one well-connected special interest after another, he has often tried to hide and cloak his choices. From an initiative called "Clear Skies" that puts more pollutants in the air to a "Healthy Forests" initiative that allows many more forests to be clear cut, this Administration is Orwellian in its attempts to hide its true agenda. To this day, the administration is still hiding the truth about exactly who had key input with Vice President Cheney and his task force. Bush cannot face his critics in public, and his campaign rallies, paid for by public tax dollars, can only be attended by those who sign Loyalty Oaths. All of this gives the lie to Bush's well-crafted image as a strong and bold leader.

On September 11, 2001, Bush was handed, in the form of a horrific act of mass murder and a general declaration of war on American civilization, a golden opportunity to smooth over our differences and to prove to the skeptical among us that he would be a president for all of America. Instead he used every last ounce of his newfound popularity to maximize short-term political gains, to sell the American public on an ill-conceived set of foreign and domestic policy goals. Both at home and overseas, he has squandered all the goodwill that he accumulated due to tragic world events. Even after 9/11 brought us together, Bush has led the way in ripping us apart again. His legacy will forver be that of a polarizing president, more than Clinton, more than Reagan, more than Nixon. There may not be a nation left on earth where a leader standing with Bush and America is not incurring a major political liability, by the end of a second Bush term.

For these machinations Bush was rewarded with a stronger Republican dominance in both houses of Congress. We must not make this mistake again.

Chief among Bush's many misdeeds in office is the instigation of an unecessary war with Iraq, his advisors ignored the warnings of many military leaders and drew up a plan for Iraq so weighed down with ideological baggage as to be laughable - that is, if it hadn't led to the deaths of over 1,000 American soliders, the wounding of thousands more, and the deaths of more nationals at a rate that would have made Saddam Hussein at his worst envious. His surrogates insinuated a connection between Iraq and the terrorist attacks of September 11 to the point that as much as half the public still believe there is a connection. The administration trumpted before the world claims of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq that have been proven spurious at best and flat-out mendacious at worst. Every justification for the invasion as rung hollow, and each new reason offered up by the administration is more and more desparate.

This is an uncertain world, fraught with dangers that are all too real; a complicated world, full of shifting allegiances and innumerable flashpoints. It is by no means clear that John Kerry has all the answers. However, it is very clear by now that George W. Bush does not. I trust Kerry to subordinate his ideology to the practical needs of American policy, while I belive the Bush administration, some of whose members scoff what they call the "reality-based community," will not allow facts to get in the way of its opinions. History warns us of the dangers of having leaders who place their ideology above all else.

More than ever, we need to become one nation to overcome the many challenges that await us. It may be that our divisions are so great that only short-lived compromises and unstable equillibria will hold the nation from breaking apart. Whether John Kerry has what it takes to bring us together in that context remains unknown. However, it cannot be clearer that George W. Bush does not.

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