Seldo.Weblog: November 2004

Can't take anymore

It's 3.30am, it's 197 to 112 in favour of Bush, Florida and Ohio and Pennsylvania are all still to declare hours after the polls have closed. It's down to the wire but it's not looking good for Kerry in Ohio or Florida.

Come on, America. You can do this. Get it right this time. I don't want to wake up tomorrow to discover all my friends have to move to Canada. The weather sucks there.

Off to bed now. I'll find out in the morning.

Oh, Canada...

Well done, idiots. You picked the idiot*, the Great Satan** and their league of demonic clowns***. AGAIN. I hope you're proud of yourselves.

I'm expecting a flood across the border to Canada, people. Don't renege on those promises now.

* Bush
** Cheney
*** Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Rove, et al.

L

03 November 2004
And don't forget that all the anti marriage-equality amendments went through, the GOP extended their majority in the Senate and held the house. All in all a deeply depressing result, particularly given the SC vacancies that are likely in the next four years.

No More Mr. Nice Guy

The most worrying outcome of the 2004 presidential election is it means that we can no longer pretend that Americans are our friends.

Four the past four years, the excesses of the Bush administration have always been accompanied by vocal protests from the liberal segments of America. Believing (and still believing) that George W Bush stole the election and lost the popular vote in 2000, it was easy to regard American foreign policy as the irresponsible actions of a renegade president, acting in opposition to the wishes of the majority of US citizens.

We can no longer cling to this comfortable illusion. Regardless of shenanigans in Ohio and continuing odd results in Florida, Bush won the popular vote across the nation by more than four million votes. You have to believe that nobody could falsify that many votes. Therefore, the only conclusion is that Bush's agenda and his actions have been validated: America, for better or worse, supports this president.

Of course, it may be that Americans themselves are deluded. As has already been pointed out, a majority of Bush supporters believe things about the world that are objectively untrue, such as whether WMDs were found in Iraq and whether Saddam had anything to do with 9/11. The answer to both questions is no, but 63% and 56% of Bush supporters, respectively, believe the opposite. So perhaps the problem is that the majority of Americans do not understand what it is they were supporting.

The other possibility is that they have been forced into supporting more than they do. There's evidence that the high turnout (10m more voters than 2000, more voters than any previous election) may have been formed not of the mobilized youth vote that Democrats were hoping for, but conservative Christians voting against gay marriage and abortion. These people may not support Bush's foreign policy, or, more likely, may not care, since conservatives are not known for caring about anything outside of the US. However, they did care about gay marriage, and despite Kerry desperately attempting to tip-toe around the issue so as not to offend social conservatives, gay marriage may have been a deciding factor. And the shenanigans in Massachussetts and especially the circus in San Francisco may have added further fuel to that fire.

But the reason for Bush's victory is not relevant. America has chosen to support him, by a majority that is more than just statistical noise. Whether or not they support all his policies, whether or not they support him for the right reasons, they support him. He is no longer the renegade president, and now his actions will truly represent America, not just his administration.

The Bush administration is no friend of mine. I do not support their actions on the economy, the environment, gay marriage or abortion. I am apalled by Abu Ghraib, disgusted by Guantanamo, and worried about Iraq. America has come out in support of the man who took those positions, the man who decided that despite Abu Ghraib, Rumsfeld is doing "a superb job". The American public decided to support these positions, and so I can no longer assume that the people of America are my friends.

Yes, there are 50 million Kerry-voting exceptions. But they are in the minority, a fact proven as decisively as possible by the results of November 2nd. Thus, when I meet an American, the likelihood is that they support President Bush. This doesn't mean that I need to start treating individual Americans differently when I meet them -- at least, not until they reveal themselves to be Bush supporters -- but it does necessitate a change in the way America itself is treated.

This is a profound change to the way other nations must relate to America. Yes, there are nice people in America, but America is no longer the "nice nation ruled by an idiot". It is Green Day's idiot America, with a contingent of nice people desperately trying to enact change. We cannot wait for them to succeed any longer. Their nation is doing what it is doing because the majority approve of it, not because the wrong people are in control. They are now a nation to fear, not to pity. When their actions go astray, we must no longer complain, and hope they come to their senses when Bush is gone. Bush is here to stay: now, we must oppose.

The Bush administration has been walking all over us, and the American nation has decided that they like where they stand as a result. It is time for the rest of the world to stand up, and push back.

Don't want to be an American idiot.
One nation controlled by the media.
Information age of hysteria.
It's going out to idiot America.

Nicholas Laughlin

04 November 2004
These are dark times, but here are three things to consider:

1. 50 million is a lot of people--a nation's worth.

2. Americans you meet in London are likely to be Kerry supporters or at least anti-Bush, since most Americans with passports are Democrats--by a wide margin.

3. The parts of the US you're likely to visit are the bluest--Bush got just 17% in NY, 15% in San Francisco. Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Miami, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland, even New Orleans, Austin, St. Louis, Denver--blue cities. (Blue fortresses?) What are the chances you'll find yourself in rural Alabama?

Don't give in to the idea that they're all the enemy.

The sense I have is of the early, muddled stages of a civil war. I know which side I'm on, & I want to help. I'm convinced the America I love survives. I want it to overcome the other America.

M

04 November 2004
Bush's majority in the popular vote is less than the population of London, it is just over one percent of the total American population. This does not show that all of America has given their support to Bush it shows that America is a divided society.

Why make generalisations you know to be unture? And why when you meet an American do you have to assume anything?

Laurie

04 November 2004
I wrote this article hurriedly, during my lunch break. You're right, there is no reason to assume anything about individual Americans, and I have modified that portion. However, my more general point about how nations should deal with an America which has given a popular mandate to the Bush administration still holds true.

The population of my whole nation is less than the population of London, and less than half the size of Bush's lead over Kerry for the popular vote. It is indefensible to do anything other than extrapolate the results to the whole nation, therefore we must assume that more than 50% of the population of the United States supports Bush. And that is enough to tip the balance.

We have been giving them the benefit of the doubt while they wreaked havoc across the world that it would end after four years. That has failed to happen, and if change cannot be enacted from within it must be imposed from without. The world cannot continue on its current path.

Tarn

05 November 2004
I think you need to step back and think a little more rationally about Bush. Opposing his international policies makes sense but advocating regime change is kind of shrill. Giving your argument the benefit of the doubt however, perhaps you could define what you mean by havoc?
Iraq is a mess but it's hardly on the scale of Rwanda for example. Or if we're going to be interventionists how about we start with nations like Saudi Arabia (structured by exclusion of a group, women, that exceeds even apartheid,) Turkmenistan, Sudan, the Congo, or any number of other nations.
You're making an argument that seems to rely on the premise that the only moral actors in the world as Western (or more specifically Anglo-American.) Actions by the US are moral and subject to judgement, but actions by other nations are not.
You need to tone down the rhetoric and look at the actual situation. What do you even mean by the 'the world cannot continue on its current path?' There are other nations and forces than the US in the world, and maybe we should try and look at those too, rather than demonise the States.

The fact Bush has been re-elected sucks, as do all the other GOP successes, but it's hardly the doomsday scenario you present. Second, Bush has been democratically elected- it doesn't matter that you disagree with that result, at present democracy is the most legitimate and viable form of government around, and to seriously advocate violating the expressed mandate of a nation in favour of your own views is really not a very good argument.
Finally, I can only assume that you are ultimately supporting a liberal democratic ideal for what you want the US to be. If you are don't you feel even the tiniest bit uncomfortable with the 'we must destroy this village in order to save it' approach you're espousing towards democracy and the US?

Tarn

05 November 2004
You have to love how bitty and disjointed that response was- apologies if it's a pain to follow, it was written rather hastily.

Ben

09 November 2004
An important point is that brought up by the salon.com article Laurie linked to: that it appears that a large number of Americans are supporting Bush simply through ignorance. They copnsider themselves Republican, so they vote for Bush; without perhaps realising that what Bush actually stands for is not necessarily something they would support if they thought about it. Also, perhaps, people look at Bush and see a bluff, honest man, trying to uphold what he believes in, and it is my impression that a large part of American society sincerely admires that. Over here in .uk Bush would not be taken seriously as a politician, but I feel that the attitude is much more 'anyone can be a politician: you just have to be honest and know what's good for your country' over there, which is not a bad thing, in itself. It's rather sweet, actually; especially compared to the jaded way politicians are regarded here. It is, however, somewhat naive; especially when someone like Bush is being run by some very clever (and *very* mad) people out for their own ends.

It reminds me of the Philip K. Dick story 'The Mold of Yancy' (in the collection 'Minority Report'), about a society which, although on the face of it democratic, is in fact totalitarian, as people are persuaded by a personable leader into not thinking properly about how things are working... it bears reading in the context of this election.

A thought shared

We take a break now from relentlessly obsessing about the election. The preceding post to this one has spawned a lot of email, and I shall be editing a bunch of it into a followup post sometime later this week. But as an interlude, let me tell you about a tube ride I had on the 29th that I've been meaning to blog about for ages. (Dear god, it's the 7th already) This entry is going to be significantly slower-paced than usual, contain lots of unnecessary detail, and doesn't have a funny ending. This is the art house cinema version of my blog; the usual blockbusters with explosions will be along again later. People with MTV attention spans should kick off to another site now.

The 29th is significant is because it was the day my number was porting from Orange to O2, my new mobile network. My number didn't change but, importantly, the SIM card in the phone needed to. Unfortunately, I received the O2 SIM card at work and tucked it in my desk. So at 6pm on Friday, when I emerged from the tube near home to discover myself locked out of the network, I realised that I was also locked out of the office. Suddenly, I was facing a weekend without a phone and a party to go to that evening, a disaster beyond the capability of my little mind to handle. So I made some panicked phone calls to the office and got my CEO to leave my SIM card, James-bond style, under the second fire extinguisher on the 3rd floor, next to the candle with the 'andle and the jug with the drug. Said CEO was very amused to find himself running errands for the most junior employee of the company.

So I found myself, at 9pm on a Friday night, taking the Northern line Bank branch south. That's the business district line, for those who don't know the London Underground like the back of their hand, so at 9pm it's deserted, since it's too late to be coming home from work and too early to be coming home from the pub. In fact, there were only four other people in my section of the train. So, as is my habit, I popped my iPod on and started people-watching.

The first thing I noticed was that, including myself, four of the five people in the carriage had headphones on, and of those four, three were listening to iPods. Boy, has Apple got the market sewn up.

My attention was then drawn to the non-iPod listener. A goth, wearing huge patent leather boots with shiny buckles up the sides, and platform soles that were ten inches thick at least -- they were taller than they were long. Travelling upwards, an elegantly-cut figure-hugging black trenchcoat with grey pinstripes wrapped tightly around (him? her?), and long, straight, dirty blonde hair, with streaks of red and white, shaved at the sides and swept over one shoulder. In short, a masterpiece of androgynous goth fashion, slumped quietly against the glass wall of the end-seats on the northern line. Already having more than a slight penchant for goths, I was captivated, and began to pay closer attention -- if only to work out what sex this beautiful creature was.

Looking at his-her face, I noticed her pale makeup was covered with a delicate tracery of black lines running down the cheeks from the eyes, making it look exactly as if she had been in floods of tears, making her mascara run and then allowing it to dry. Impressed at how well this had been done, I got out my phone and began to attempt to take a serruptitious photo of her. The completeness of her image, the perfection of her picture of gothic angst was so remarkable that I felt the need to record it.

Then the light glinted off the corner of her eye, and I realised that not only had she really been crying, but she still was, and as I was realising this she suddenly convulsed in a silent sob. All of a sudden my perspective shifted. I was no longer a casual observer appreciating her beauty, but instead an unwelcome intruder imposing myself on her private misery. Suddenly I felt terribly guilty for having been trying to take her photo. Now, instead, I was filled with empathy. She was alone and crying, in her own private universe, this beautiful creature who in a just world should have no reason to cry. I wanted to swap seats next to her, ask her if she was okay, if she wanted to talk, what was wrong, could anything be done? I wanted to make her happy again, for reason more or less compelling than that I hate to see people unhappy.

But even though we were just five feet apart, there were too many barriers between us. First the unspoken laws of social contact on the tube, plus the social barrier goth fashion is intended to create*. Add to that we were not one but both wearing headphones, and too much interaction would have had to occur. I could not strike up a conversation, although I was powerfully motivated to do so as she contined to cry for the next two or three stops.

Instead, I decided I would write her a note. This is an impulse I often have when I'm people watching on the tube -- the little things people need to be told, in a friendly fashion, like "that hairstyle doesn't suit you", or "red is not your colour", mainly -- but have never acted upon. So I pulled out the notebook I always have in my bag, and considered what to write. Eventually I decided, and tore off the strip of paper containing my message. But now I had the same dilemma as before. How to present her with my note, without appearing to be some sort of crazy stalker? To lean across and present her with it would be too embarrassing, and involve breaking all the same social taboos as walking over and talking to her would. She might take it the wrong way, become offended or disturbed, and the journey would then be awkward. Should I even be giving her a note at all? Was I crazy to try?

I decided the optimal time to present the note, to minimize social awkwardness, was when she or I left the train. At that point of transition, it is possible to make social contact -- to say "excuse me", usually, but the expectation of verbal communication is there, which is the important thing. And if she took it the wrong way, she would not see me again, so it wouldn't be so bad for either of us. But I had to make sure I presented the note at exactly the right moment: too soon might mean an uncomfortable silence. Too late might mean I missed her entirely, or would have to run after her to give it to her, opening the possibility for unintentional stumbling and truly disastrous mistakes. My window was brief -- the very moment she began to stand up, not before or after.

Suddenly my heart was racing. Every time she shifted, every train announcement had me on edge. I had to be poised to deliver the note in a five-second window, that could happen at almost any time. As the stations passed she cleared up her makeup, changed discs in her walkman, unbuttoned her coat (finally resolving the question of her sex) -- every one of these transitions could have been a prelude to standing up for the next station, so I had to watch her constantly while appearing only interested in my magazine. It was touch and go every second. And at the same time, a part of my mind stood outside myself and questioned, why was I getting so worked up about this? It was just a note to a stranger, of no real importance. But suddenly, it was important to *me*. I was determined that she would get my note, my thought.

Finally, the next station was my own. This could either be a gift or a greater error -- if she stayed seated, I could walk past her, providing a perfect opportunity to deliver my missive. But if this was also her stop, then suddenly I would be passing notes to someone also leaving the train. If she took it badly, we would be forced to walk the narrow platform** together, ride the same escalator, get stuck in a queue together. In my minds eye she attempted to run from me, a strange stalker handing her a note on the tube, and tripped and fell in those amazing boots of hers. The stakes were higher than ever. My heart was literally thudding in my chest.

The station was announced. As if in slow motion, the seconds passed as the train slowed, the windows flashed into light as we emerged from the tunnel. She shifted. Was this it? Was she going to go? I pre-empted this move by grabbing my own things and heading for the door, packing away my magazine and palming only my note, debating up to the last second whether or not to give it to her, but positioning myself on her side of the door to make it possible to do so. An eternity of fifteen seconds passed as the train drew to a halt. She wasn't getting up, but it was time for me to get off. Now was the moment! I leaned down, tapped her gently on the knee. She looked up, in the startled way that people do when someone makes contact outside the regular social norms of the tube. I handed her my note, hoping my sweating palms hadn't made it damp. The doors slid open, and as they did so, she unfolded and read the note, which read simply "Don't cry. You're beautiful." I was just about to step off the train, so I glanced at her one last time.

She looked at me through the glass partition and rewarded me the purest, sweetest smile I have seen in years, all the more startling in its beauty for its sudden emergence from a face that had until that point been so bleak with sadness, like a rose blooming in concrete.

For the rest of that evening I walked around with the warm glow of having done the right thing.

* Goths, just like everyone else, feel lost and vulnerable all the time. The only difference between goths and most people is that they choose to wear their armour on the outside.

** Clapham South, which features a single narrow walkway rather than the more usual double-tunnel system elsewhere.

M

08 November 2004
Thats the sweetest thing in the world x

Chris Purcell

08 November 2004
Definitely.

Colin

08 November 2004
You're wrong, Laurie: this story was quite engaging. Sometimes what we need are not the glittery special effects and loud explosions, but a raw, gripping story about the the simplest, most innocent expression of human emotion.

tk

08 November 2004
that was a very touching read x

toby

10 November 2004
you're a nice man

JP

28 November 2004
wow...what a compelling story...maybe more time for reading blogs is in order...always keep writing

Goodbye, Ashcroft!

See, on first seeing this article, I thought "yay! No more Ashcroft!". Then I read the article. Sometimes I want to be one of the characters from Get Your War On.

"The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved," Ashcroft wrote in a five-page, handwritten letter to Bush.

WHAT?!

The objective has been achieved? Then what the fuck did you run for re-election on a platform of homeland security for, Mr. War President? ARE WE EVEN TALKING ABOUT THE SAME AMERICA? Isn't that declaration kind of premature while you're still in the middle of two wars? We've heard this "Mission Accomplished" bullshit from you people before, and it didn't work out too well the last time either!

Oh my god. I'm so glad this crazy, crazy man has gone. Maybe now he'll concentrate on his singing career.

Um, why is there a tank in this picture?

Tank in LA

The shrill but nevertheless interesting new AmericaBlog is covering a truly unbelievable event in LA, in which it seems the military drove two actual tanks into the middle of Los Angeles, and used them to intimidate a bunch of anti-war protesters.

Did this really happen? Tanks in LA? I dunno. AlterNet, which I consider quite reputable, is reporting it, but it appears they're sourcing from IndyMedia, who I consider less so. And then of course there's video of the event itself. I've watched it all the way through and it is definitely a bunch of anti-war protesters being intimidated by what is clearly a tank, with uniformed soldiers inside who poke their heads out at points. The video is shot at night and there's not much context, although Ed pointed out that at one point a bus drives by with the destination "UCLA", so it's believably LA. I suppose it could be a hoax, but it doesn't look it. Where would they find footage of protesters with a moving tank?

Also, as soon as the tank parks up about 5 guys all have the same bright idea of adopting a "tianemen square student" pose in front of it. Hilarious, in a depressing sort of way.

War Zone

Dear Residents of Tooting,
Happy:

  • Halloween
  • Guy Fawkes' day
  • Eid-ul-fitr
  • Divali*
  • Early Christmas
  • Even earlier New Year
  • Ludicrously late 4th of July
  • Birthday

I appreciate that this is a joyous time and you wish to celebrate it. However, do you think there's some way you could consolidate all your religious, political and/or pagan festivals into a single, large fireworks display, rather than the current strategy of letting off fireworks continuously from late October until early January?

I'm sure this arrangement would make for a much more impressive display and also, importantly, allow me to get to sleep before 3am any night before February 2005.

* NB: I know it's pronounced Diwali; this is the Trinidadian spelling.

I haven't blogged in ages

I have a few deep and meaningful things to write about, but in the meantime you should just pay attention to the bloody linklog, which none of you pay enough attention to. Look, it's on the right.

Point. Click. Kill.

Online hunting may be the dumbest/scariest idea I've heard of in a while.

Underwood ... has invested $10,000 to build a platform for a rifle and camera that can be remotely aimed on his 330-acre (133-hectare) southwest Texas ranch by anyone on the Internet anywhere in the world.

So hunting is all about the thrill of the chase? Except you're sitting on your ass. But it's healthy outdoor activity! Except you're indoors. And it's a contest between man and beast! Except man is clicking a mouse, and beast is wandering too close to a camoflaged gun-firing robot. So, basically, this is all about the fun of killing defenceless animals. A wonderful insight into the mind of this "hunter" comes in this quote:

"We were looking at a beautiful white-tail buck and my friend said 'If you just had a gun for that.' A little light bulb went off in my head," he said.
The first thing that pops into your head when you see a beautiful deer is that you should kill it? What kind of crazed psychopath are you?

Further insane justifications follow:

Internet hunting could be popular with disabled hunters unable to get out in the woods or distant hunters who cannot afford a trip to Texas, Underwood said.
Hey, I have nothing against disabled people taking an active role in society, in fact I fully support it and think it's wonderful how much effort first-world countries put into disabled access... but killing things? Is that really what you want to be doing? Really, I think if people are going to be hunting, they should be forced to do it with bows and spears. If you can't wrestle the animal to the ground, fuck you, you don't get to eat it.

And you know what? If you can't afford to come to Texas to shoot stuff, don't shoot stuff! How's about that for an idea!

This stuff just makes me really angry.

Poetic justice

Hot on the heels of my last post (well, as hot-on-the-heels as is possible after a several-day break) about online hunting comes the news of two groups of hunters in Wisconsin who got into a dispute over a "deer stand", an elevated platform from which they shoot deer, which one group had apparently trespassed upon. Refusing to back down, the groups got into a gun battle, killing five of them (and zero deer).

This would have been better if the deer had then eaten the carcasses of the hunters, but the damn things are vegetarian, apparently. Damn hippies.

Blithe Spirit

This is blogged very late because I've had a very busy week. Ed has been visiting all this week, and he's just gone home, so I have some time to myself today. I should go to the gym really to burn off all the rather nice food I've been consuming recently, but... naah. My current strategy is to stay indoors for as long as possible for the next two months, in order to save money.

On Wednesday Ed, M, A and I saw Blithe Spirit, an old Noel Coward comedy that's been revived, to much critical acclaim. It was quite amusing, although I think a bit dated and extremely Anglocentric.

So the play started, then there was an intermission, then the play started again, then there was a dramatic moment, the lights went down, and people got up and started to leave. Slightly puzzled, we thought "well, that was a bit of a funny ending...", and then noticed that not everybody was leaving. So I asked a very amused usher, who told us there was another act to come, and that this confused people every night, although the lack of final applause and a curtain call should have tipped us off. Mortified with embarrassment, we got ice cream, and then the play started again, and the final ending was much better.

This has been a bit of a blah entry. Whatever, better than nothing. Here, have an amusing photo of me apparently attacking Mary on the tube: Me attacking Mary

edan

28 November 2004
Nicking material without credit? You've killed for less! ;-P

Laurie

28 November 2004
Sorry; this photo copyright eDan 2004.

I'd probably have been more circumspect about the copyright had it not been a photo of me :-)

Why I love my iPod

Here are the reasons I like a hard-drive based portable MP3 player:

  • I like music
  • I possess a lot of music, overwhelmingly in electronic form only
  • I am not good at forward planning
  • I am ordinarily too busy to spend long periods listening to music
  • I have long periods of "downtime" when travelling
  • A portable player mean I can make use of this down time
  • The large capacity of a hard-drive player means I don't have to think about what music I want to listen to in advance and burn it to CD; I can select it on the go, and as a bonus, I can listen to all my music at once.
  • I also don't have to carry a load of CDs around, and I don't have to change discs all the time

Listening to music, in general, makes me happy. Thus, my iPod has turned more than 2 hours of every weekday that were previously mood-neutral at best into mood-positive hours. That's a significant improvement in my quality of life, and it is available only from a high-capacity portable music playing device.

Why I prefer my iPod to other available devices:

  • It has an extraordinarily well designed user interface, from hardware to software -- it is easy to use, at every stage, from filling it with music to ordering and sorting that music to playing that music, skipping through it, finding it again, and picking up where I left off. It's adaptive: it learns what I like, how I listen, and it continuously improves its knowledge.
  • In addition to being a highly capable portable music device, an RSS feed reader app called iPod Agent that uses its "notes" features has also turned it into an adequate portable blog-reading device. Several hours of my day used to consist of me listening to music while reading blogs, and not getting much done. Now I do this on the tube, and as such I am noticeably more productive all the rest of the time.

Any further questions?

Other people's words

Ah, to build, to build!
That is the noblest art of all the arts.
Painting and sculpture are but images,
Are merely shadows cast by outward things
On stone or canvas, having in themselves
No separate existence. Architecture,
Existing in itself, and not in seeming
A something it is not, surpasses them
As substance shadow.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Which is why I prefer coding to consultancy. Powerpoint is merely the painting on the roof; the code is the cathedral.