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Tuesday, November 30, 2004
11:01 PM
How seldom, in our study of literature, do we come across evidence of a genuine prescience.

"...the larger the mob, the harder the test. In small areas, before small electorates, the first-rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even the mob with him by force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide...the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre... The presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people... On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a moron."

--H.L. Mencken, writing in The Baltimore Evening Sun, July 26, 1920

Monday, November 29, 2004
10:32 PM
"Anyone else hear about genesis p orridge's recent modifications?" asks Misty.

I hadn't, no, but of course Google had.

'Dressed in denim miniskirt and cut-down PTV3 t-shirt, his increasingly bizarre appearance and transgendered body modifications were still emphatically extraordinary, if perhaps tame by the previously tabloid-shocking standards of this wrecker of civilisation; at one point he observed "I was once a man, but now I am everything", and he even went so far as to flash his breasts at the crowd following the decorous Burlesquerie of the fan dancer who joined the band on stage for the middle trip-out section of "She Said".'

Posted in order to feel just a little like Warren Ellis

Thursday, November 25, 2004
8:53 AM
Thanksgiving greetings from Canada.

Where, in a spooky, sort of culturally quantum way, *it's not even Thanksgiving*! Sort of how it's not still Thursday in Tokyo, but even more so!

Having had ours last month, we now smile upon yours, and explain to our children how difficult it was for the Pilgrims to sew the very first giant inflatable animals.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004
9:39 AM
Your Fortean vacation is over, pilgrim.

If this were one of those Survive The Coming Depression pitches, well, it would sound just like one, wouldn't it? But it's the chief economist at Morgan Stanley

7:32 AM
Offered as a shameless and utterly delightful escape from current events, the first-person account of my all-time favorite example of historical High Weirdness:

Late in life, when in his eighty-third year, Mr. Edward Lenthal Swifte [Keeper of the Crown Jewels] committed to paper the narrative of his eerie experiences, thinking that it should not pass with him to the grave. He was a public official of merit and distinction, who held his post from 1814 till retirement in 1842, and he played a courageous part in saving the Regalia during a terrible fire that destroyed the Armoury in the Tower in 1841. No one priviledge to have known this fine old gentleman, himself the soul of honour, could have questioned the absolute sincerity of the assurance with which he closed his story. "To all which I have set forth," he wrote, "as seen by myself, I absolutely pledge my faith and my honour."

The Regalia in his charge was at the time safe kept in the Martin Tower, a stronghold which forms the north-west angle of the Inner Ward, and there the Keeper had living rooms with his family. How the spectre appeared to him his own words shall tell--

"One Sunday night in 1817, I was at supper with my wife, our little boy, and my wife's sister in the sitting-room of the Jewel House, which is said to have been the 'doleful prison' of which Anne Boleyn [it was not] and of the ten Bishops whom Oliver Cromwell piously accomodated there. The doors were all closed, heavy and dark curtains were let down over the windows, and the only light in the room was that of two candles on the table. I sat at the foot of the table, my son on my right, my wife fronting the chimney piece, and her sister on the opposite side.

"I had offered a glass of wine and water to my wife, when on putting it to her lips she paused and exclaimed--

"'Good God! what is that?'

"I looked up, and saw a cylindrical figure, like a glass tube, something about the thickness of my arm, and hovering between the ceiling and the table; its contents appeared to be dense fluid, white and pale azure, like the gathering of a summer cloud, and incessantly rolling and mingling within the cylinder. This lasted about two minutes, when it began slowly to move before my sister-in-law, following the oblong shape of the table, before my son and myself. Passing behind my wife, it paused for a moment over her right shoulder (observe there was no mirror opposite in which she could then behold it). Instantly she crouched down, and, with both hands covering her shoulder, shreiked out, 'Oh christ! it has seized me.'

Even now as I write I feel the horror of that moment. I caught up my chair, striking at the 'appearance' with a blow that hit the wainscot behind her. It then crossed the upper end of the table and disappeared in the recess of the opposite window. I rushed upstairs to the other children's room, and told the terrified nurse what I had seen. Meanwhile other domestics had hurried into the parlour, where their mistress was recounting to them the scene, even as I was detailing it above-stairs.

"The marvel -- some will say the absurdity -- is enhanced by the fact that neither my sister-in-law nor my son beheld the 'appearance', though to their mortal vision it was as apparent as it was to my wife's and mine."

Notes and Queries discussed the matter some half a century ago, with much learning, but the only materialistic explanation was that of a column of fog descending a damp chimney. Mr. Swifte scornfully repelled the idea. "As if (said he) the densest fog that ever descended could have seized one of us by the shoulder!"

-- Walter George Bell, UNKNOWN LONDON, John Lane, The Bodley Head, London, 1920, pp. 60-63.

[I had thought to mention Alan Moore's use of this account (which I first encountered as a teenager, reading Fort) in From Hell, and now I see from a post that Neal Stephenson has evidently used it as well. I would have liked to have gotten him permanently out of the way shortly after reading Snow Crash, of course, but I could already see that I would need him one day to help battle Bruce Sterling. Literature is a long game.]

Monday, November 22, 2004
9:16 PM
"Today, the technologies of deception are developing more rapidly than the technologies of verification. Which means we can use a television camera, plus special effects, plus computers, etc. to falsify reality so perfectly that nobody can tell the difference. And the consequences of that eventually could be a society in which nobody believes, everybody knows that seeing is not believing, and nobody believes anything. With the exception of a small minority that decides to believe one thing fanatically. And that's a dangerous social/cultural situation.

One of the consequences of living through a period like this, which is in fact a revolutionary period, is that the entire structure of society and the processes of change become nonlinear. And nonlinearity I think is defined almost by the statement that 'small inputs can have large consequences.' While large inputs can sometimes have very small consequences. That also means in a political sense that very small groups can, under a given set of circumstances, achieve power. And that is a very threatening idea for anything remotely resembling what we believe to be democracy. So we're going into a period, I think, of high turbulence and considerable danger, along with enormous possibilities."

--interview with Alvin Toffler, in Modulations: A History of Electronic Music

hat-tip to madevilbeats

1:32 PM
Shaping the Future Of Science

Sunday, November 21, 2004
6:51 PM
Speaking of restaurants Cayce didn't quite make it to, here's another I'd highly recommend:

Camden Brasserie

French fries the way they do 'em in actual France.

4:21 PM
That Cooking School thread makes me hungry. Here's a place I like a lot, and one I nearly sent Cayce to:

Lucky Strike

Menu suggestion: The spinach ravioli with the crabcake starter.

A decade in business and the decor-simulacra have all gotten sort of real. And it's still open when the plane gets in from Vancouver.

Friday, November 19, 2004
10:33 AM
After doublechecking the dates, Jack Womack points out that "That extremely prescient King quote (regarding Vietnam, I assume) was made one year to the day he was assassinated."

9:19 AM
Happy birthday, cyn004

Thursday, November 18, 2004
4:49 PM
"I call on every man and woman of good will all over America today take a stand on this issue. Tomorrow may be too late. The book
may close. Don't let anyone make you think that God chose America as
his divine messianic force, to be a sort of policeman of the whole
world. God has a way of standing before the nations with judgement, and
it seems that I can hear God saying to America 'You are too arrogant!
If you don't change your ways, I will rise up and break the backbone of
your power! And I will place it in the hands of a nation that doesn't
even know my name. Be still and know that I am God.'"

-- Martin Luther King, 4 April 1967

1:19 PM
You call it pareidolia, I call it apophenia, but why can't people see that it looks exactly like the young Marlene Dietrich?

9:13 AM
"Well, if you have to read about him, do, but the truth of it is he'll be going to hell," one Kentucky-born friend recalls his mother telling him about Darwin.

Fear of the woodpile, of who might lurk within it, is the fulcrum, in American politics, for a long and ancient and very bloody lever.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004
4:18 PM
Re Creationism, I must point out an unfortunate subtext that's no longer quite so obvious. Having grown up in the previous iteration of the rural American south, I know that what *really* smarted about Darwin, down there, was the logical implication that blacks and whites are descended from a common ancestor. Butt-ugly, but there it is. That was the first objection to evolutionary theory that I ever heard, and it was a very common one, in fact the most common. That it was counter to Genesis seemed merely convenient, in the face of an anthropoid grand-uncle in the woodpile.

Like the man says: Look at those cavemen go.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004
7:57 AM
Next up: Gravity.

On the other hand, or flipper perhaps, I deem the following to be ample proof of Evolution. Of sorts.

Sunday, November 14, 2004
9:49 PM
Remember that Future History chart at the back of Robert Heinlein's earlier novels? Didn't it feature a sovereign Christian State of South Carolina? This plan for Christian Exodus tweaks some Proustian synapse or other, but maybe it's just my own Virtual Light: slots right into Sublett's backstory.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on the undefended border between fiction and reality, the White House hands John LeCarre the plot-device he's wanted since the day the Berlin Wall fell.

Sunday, November 07, 2004
10:40 PM
Off to New York City. I need a break before you start streaming north, and I need to know what it feels like there, in the heart of Blue America.

I don't post much, travelling, but you never know.

Saturday, November 06, 2004
10:26 PM
"A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over,
their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight,
restore their government to its true principles.

"It is true that in the meantime we are suffering deeply in spirit, and
incurring the horrors of a war and long oppressions of enormous public

"If the game runs sometimes against us at home we must have patience till
luck turns, and then we shall have an opportunity of winning back the
principles we have lost, for this is a game where principles are at

-- Thomas Jefferson, in a letter of 1798, after the passage of the Sedition

8:03 PM
The bombing of the hospital in Fallujah reminds me of William S. Lind's essay "Fallujah And The Moral Level Of War": "We seem to be readying an all-out assault on the city, which will have the usual result when Goliath defeats David: a moral defeat for Goliath."

Lind, a former strategic theorist for the US Marine Corps, is most definitely not a pacifist. Nor is he saying that we need the moral high ground in order to be good people. Rather, he is saying that we need the moral high ground in order to win, period.

"In recent weeks, the indirect approach the Marines adopted in April in Fallujah, when they withdrew instead of storming the city, began to pay off. A reduction of American pressure allowed fissures within the Iraqi resistance to appear and grow. Fallujah natives were beginning to turn against outsiders, most of whom represent extreme Islamism, America’s real enemy. Such splits are of the utmost importance in Fourth Generation war, because they operate at war’s most powerful level, the moral level. There is a vast moral difference between us killing fighters for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Fallujah and the locals doing so.

"If American military leaders understood Fourth Generation war, they would slowly, patiently encourage the local Iraqi resistance to go after the outsiders, providing rewards and even assistance, if that was wanted (all done covertly, of course). The first genuine American victory in Iraq would be the day the local resistance asked for our (again, covert) help.

"Unfortunately, our leaders do not understand the Fourth Generation, so it appears we are about to throw this opportunity away. We continue to bomb and shell Fallujah, which pushes our enemies toward each other. We seem to be readying an all-out assault on the city, which will have the usual result when Goliath defeats David: a moral defeat for Goliath. Many Iraqis will die, the city will be wrecked (as always, we will promise to rebuild it but not do so), and any losses the insurgents suffer will be made up many times over by a flood of new recruits. Never was it more truly said that, 'We have met the enemy, and he is us.'

"Our nightly bombing of Fallujah illustrates another important point about 4GW: to call it 'terrorism' is a misnomer. In fact, terrorism is merely a technique, and we use it too when we think it will benefit us. In Madam Albright’s boutique war on Serbia, when the bombing campaign against the Serbian Army in Kosovo failed, we resorted to terror bombing of civilian targets in Serbia proper. Now, we are using terror bombing on Fallujah.

"Of course, we claim we are hitting only Mr. al-Zarqawi’s fighters, but anyone who knows ordinance knows that is a lie. The 500, 1000 and 2000-pound bombs we drop have bursting radii that guarantee civilian casualties in an urban environment. More, it appears we see those civilian casualties as useful.

"The October 12 New York Times offered this interesting quote from 'one Pentagon official':

"'If there are civilians dying in connection with these attacks, and with the destruction, the local as some point have to make a decision…Do hey want to harbor the insurgents and suffer the consequences that come with that, or do they want to get rid of the insurgents and have the benefit of not having them there?'

"As the article goes on to make clear, American officials believe such terror bombing will split the resistance. In fact, the whole history of air warfare says it will have the opposite effect.

"The point here is not merely that in using terrorism ourselves, we are doing something bad. The point is that, by using the word 'terrorism' as a synonym for anything our enemies do, while defining anything we do as legitimate acts of war, we undermine ourselves at the moral level – which, again, is the decisive level in Fourth Generation war.

"Imagine Mr. al-Zarqawi himself said the following about the suicide car bombs his group uses, bombs that have killed many Iraqi civilians:

"'If there are civilians dying in connection with these attacks, and with the destruction, the locals at some point have to make a decision. Do they want to harbor the Americans and suffer the consequences that come with that, or do they want to get rid of the Americans and have the benefits of not having them there?'

"Would we denounce that as 'justifying terrorism?' Of course we would – and rightly so.

"What is sauce for the goose is also sauce for the turkey. Obvious double standards put us on the moral low ground. The rest of the world can see that, even if America's 'leaders' cannot. As the old saying goes, it is worse than a crime; it is a blunder."

Friday, November 05, 2004
7:40 PM
I'm turning today's post over to a friend, who recently wrote:

'The United States has become a country spoiled by unmerited privilege and its own profound sense of superiority. Most of the "brightest and the best" have chosen to pursue their own personal wealth and power rather than engaging in true service to the community or to the country at large. As a people, we no longer live up to our former billing. In fact, the entire concept of "a people" has been lost, along with the ideology that supports it. All that remains is the shred of this improbable idea that we all, somehow, can be rich and beautiful. The degree to which we participate in that dream is the degree of our culpability. It determines the character of the American people, it determines our domestic inequities and it determines our foreign policy.

On both sides of the political fence, the participants are convinced that
they are right and the other side is wrong. Even my liberal friends make no
effort to question how they may have contributed to this disaster, how their
own intellectual smugness may have alienated those less able to understand
the implications of the current political direction. We question the moral
majority, but we do not question our own cloistered vantage point. In my
opinion, the dream is what divides us, because it is the dream that draws
the dividing line between the bad and the beautiful, the rich and the poor.'

-- Michael St. John Smith

Thursday, November 04, 2004
8:59 AM
My friend Steve Brown reports that the most popular new t-shirt at his local liberal arts college says "I'LL BET YOU VOTE *NEXT* TIME, HIPPY!"

Second terms, historically, are not cakewalks. And absolute power corrupts absolutely. Absolute power, this very moment, is patiently eroding the membranes containing the coming year's inevitable debacles and scandals. Unless you don't believe that absolute power corrupts absolutely, how can that be otherwise?


Wednesday, November 03, 2004
11:23 AM
Virgil, as ever, has it down: "Dis aliter visum."

Also, David Bowie: "Look at those cavemen go."

Tuesday, November 02, 2004
8:27 PM
The BBC's The Electoral College For Dummies.

3:50 PM
Zogby calls it.

Though this may mean, pardon the technical language, dick. It's the Electoral College that actually elects the president.

10:27 AM
Bruce Sterling on the Zogby cellular poll: "It's hilarious to see Western G-7 types talking about 20-somethings. They don't have any."

Monday, November 01, 2004
7:29 PM
Juan Cole explains what's at stake.

2:15 PM
This just in:

"Will the cell phone voting bloc wind up becoming the November
surprise? Zogby has just released a path-breaking presidential poll
conducted exclusively
on mobile phones. And the winner is John Kerry by a landslide margin
of 55 to 40 percent. Jimmy Breslin and others have been complaining
that traditional telephone polls just aren't capturing the new voter
realities, because so many young people are only reachable by their
Nokias. If the Zogby poll, which was conducted in partnership with
Rock the Vote, is a reliable indicator, Tuesday night might not be
such a drawn-out, nail-biter after all."

1:05 PM
Existing polling methodology is pre-cellular.

How many twenty-somethings in the United States have never had their own land line? Which is not to say they don't have telephones, or that they won't vote...

Young 'n Black 'n Voting: A prediction from


Get ready for a November surprise A "black young'n" says the polls and pundits just don't get the new voter realities. Kerry wins in a
blowout, predicts this Salon reader.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Kevin Criss

Oct. 27, 2004 |   I am a 21-year-old African-American/loyal Salon reader/ frequent writer to you. Although I love you all a lot and, like you (assuming so), I am a liberal, I just feel I have to scream at you for a bit. Almost two weeks ago, I sent a letter to you guys telling you how the new Eminem song "Mosh" has many young'ns riled up, angry, motivated and against Bush. Now 10 days or so later, not only you guys but many publications are up on it. My point? Maybe you guys should listen more to us young'ns, maybe have a young person consultant of sorts. After all, we will decide this election, as I will point out later in this letter.

First, let me just say prepare for the death of polls, as that will be the dominant story coming out of election night. First blacks. I saw Ann Coulter on some show where she was literally speaking for black America. Being that she is an aging white chick with poorly dyed roots, she obviously got it wrong. Those polls saying how Bush will get 16 to 18 percent of the black vote are just wrong. To quote ODB, "Nigga please." Since black people aren't really polled, here is a bit of insight.

Although we aren't that excited about Kerry, he has nothing to worry about with the African-American community. We as a whole don't like Bush, period. Yes,
Democrats take us for granted and regardless of which party, we are at the bottom of the totem poll, but we realize that Democrats talk to us, try with us, are down with us, and give us a seat at the table. We are gamed to what the GOP do, or rather don't do for us.

Locally, as all politics are, as a person living in Louisiana, I can tell you that the more racist persons here are a part of the Republican Party and to us the GOP chooses them over us. Plus, we are highly motivated. You just don't realize how pissed we are from Florida last time. Bringing out Clinton won't hurt, but Kerry shouldn't worry about us African-Americans.

Next, us young'ns. We aren't as stupid as people think. Simply put, we are in Iraq fighting or we know someone there, we have no health insurance, no jobs, and are generally pro-human rights (not for the gay marriage amendment, PATRIOT Act, etc.). We aren't going to vote for Bush, period. Kerry will take about 70 percent of the young vote. I am predicting, collectively there will at least 20 million more voters from these two groups, young'ns and blacks. You maybe think "yeah the fuck right" -- but trust me. On average 30 percent of African-Americans vote. Expect a minimum of 50 percent this time, maybe close to double. That is anywhere between 7 to 9 million more blacks voting. Young'ns will have a similar margin. Again, we at most vote at a 40 percent rate. Young'ns will easily double their numbers, going from 18 million to about 36 million.

Here are things to ponder.

Kerry wins Arizona: This state has the most college students per capita. Kerry will win Flagstaff, Tucson and Tempe. Throw in Native Americans, Latins, and even
moderate Republicans who will vote Democratic (they got the Democratic governor elected), and oh I forgot all the Independents, Kerry will win this state.

Kerry wins Nevada: This state simply comes down to Vegas. Kerry will win Vegas by a big enough margin to cancel out the rest of the state.

Kerry win Missouri: What people either don't realize or just don't give a fuck to report is that the black mobilization efforts in St. Louis and Kansas City are second to none, literally. Florida got the attention last time, but people seem to have forgotten that blacks there were denied the right to vote at many polling places that were closed on them. Throw in college towns, Kerry wins.

Kerry wins Minnesota: I can't believe people actually think this state is close. What people tend to forget is that voters here can register as you vote. Throw in
Ventura's endorsement and the young'ns.

Kerry wins Colorado: Sometimes people just got to listen to the streets. I have family and friends in Colorado, and what they tell me is that "Fahrenheit 9/11" has had a huge impact there, so much so they are still talking about it, and as people watched it they were changed by it. How can a tradtional red state have a rich ass Senate candidate getting his ass kicked and polls showing Bush/Kerry within the margin. Kerry wins.

Kerry wins Texas: PSYCH! But just as people are saying Kerry wins CA, NY, and NJ by closer margins, so does Bush take his own state. I'll go out on a margin and say Bush gets no more than 60 percent in his own state. Holla.

Just to save space and time: Kerry wins Arkansas, New Mexico, Ohio, Florida, N. Hampshire, and Penn. He may lose Iowa, as I really don't know much about that state.

Kerry wins nationally in a blowout. Election night is over as central time zone states finish reporting. Why? Because of blacks and young'ns. Bush's people know
this, as their strategy is to turn out their base while suppressing our base ... fuckers.

I ask that in the future that you at least take in more opinions from us young'ns and Afro Americans.

And Jack Womack gets back to us on the Le Monde Diplomatique article:

"I suspect that the on-the-ground reporter probably missed nine out of ten subtle code words, phrases, or even looks expressed by Bush/the Republicans that play upon or trigger racist and (more to the point, in that particular Ky./W.Va. area of Appalachia) xenophobic feelings in the working class audience.

"As for the smugness of the cultural elite, it is hard to imagine the average guy in eastern Kentucky, if he votes, to go vote for Bush simply because he wants to show those media/Hollywood types they can't tell him what to think. This assumes the average guy in eastern Kentucky cares as much about what Dan Rather (or William F. Buckley)thinks as much as Dan Rather (or William F. Buckley) might think everyone thinks about them.

"I suspect it far more possible that said average guy would vote for the Republicans because people in big cities (i.e., read immigrants, Jews, blacks, gays)vote for Democrats. This would go along with what is showing up in the county-by-county breakdowns, where even the reddest of states have their blue -- generally metropolitan -- areas.

"Information, and the willingness more than the ability to let that information into one's head is the key. Look at that PIPA study -- all of those interviewed/polled who believe Saddam was behind 9/11 cannot possibly *all* be unintelligent, no more than all those in the Administration who believe the same, regardless of fact (I'm thinking of the true believers here), cannot all be unintelligent. But can they be willfully uninformed, so as not to further disrupt the day-to-day grasp of control over one's immediate reality? Yep. I don't care what anyone says; you cannot look at GWB and what he and his Administration have done during the past four years and think 'What a great job! How Churchillian! How Lincolnesque!' unless you blind yourself, consciously, unconsciously, or whatever way, to a whole lot of reality beyond what lies immediately in front of you.

"Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it, as Santayana says; and those who forget -- or ignore -- the present doom themselves and everyone else to live in it."

On reflection, I'm inclined to agree. Jack is originally from Kentucky, I'm originally from southwestern Virginia, and we share a certain sense of the baroquely impacted culture of those places. I doubt our French journalist was picking up the majority of signs and symbols he came across. I do think, though, that there may be something to this idea, or perhaps to an idea quite similar to it that we haven't yet had. (As Bruce Mau likes to say, we must honor our mistakes.)

7:51 AM
"Where Evil Meets Stupid"

"Which is exactly why this was so necessary."

"It is clear from what we saw in the Appalachians that the populism of the US right no longer feeds mainly on racism...or on xenophobia. On the contrary it draws on resentment fuelled by the upper classes’ undisguised contempt for those not in the know. This particular kind of populism almost exclusively targets the cultural elite; it does not target business. This con trick is only possible because the smugness of those in the know is even more insufferable than the insolence of the rich."

"Serge Halimi", Le Monde Diplomatique

I distrust the translation of this article, and find the idea that racism and xenophobia no longer serve as major drivers (and he forgets homophobia entirely) but there's nonetheless something very interesting here. I think we might even be seeing it in some of the response to that poll of academics. Could there be such things as entirely postmodern fulcra of resentment?

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