Raznor's Rants

Costarring Raznor's reality-based friends!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Tycho explains recent Seattle weather

Posted by Raznor

Sounds about right:

The weather here is pretty screwed up, slush and ice (with a chance of late afternoon blood) which kept us both home today. In Spokane, there would be gravel out and other public safety measures, but when snow falls over on this side of the state people don't see it as weather, it's seen as a portent - evidence of an angry pantheon. A single snowflake will fall on their windshield, and they will immediately swerve their SUV into a truck hauling fuel.

Seriously, though, this November's weather has been fucked up. I move to Seattle for two months and am greeted with what appears to be a penchant of the end of days.

Oh well, things seem to be clearing up now.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Yes, My Chemical Romance does in fact rock

Posted by Raznor

Following up on this post, I just got the new My Chemical Romance album The Black Parade and I must say, it rocks. Hardcore.

That is all.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

On Succeeding Unless We Quit

Posted by Raznor

Bush's comment in Vietnam (see the post below) was one of the most banal, idiotic, and, in this context, outright evil comments someone could make. What I never got was what would victory in Vietnam look like? What would victory in Iraq look like? Bush speaks of "one last push" and McCain says we need 20,000 more troups there because, I guess, when we get 20,000 more troups the magical Democracy Fairy will sprinkle her peace dust in the region.

But let's take a closer look at the lessons of Vietnam. I would say there are two lessons that directly relate strategically to Iraq.

1. The US military will win every major battle, but that is not enough

Really, the only major military battle the North Vietnamese Army won before their successful 1975 invasion of the South was Dien Bien Phu, which is the battle that essentially kicked the French out of Vietnam and led to the partitioning of French Indochina into North Vietnam, South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Once the US military became directly involved, anytime the military faced NVA (North Vietnamese Army) or Viet Cong in open battle, the US won handily. The battle of Tan Bac, the first major conflict in between US and North Vietnamese, proved that the NVA could not hope to match the US militarily. And 5 years later, the Tet offensive resulted in decimating the Viet Cong.

But the problem is, winning the major battles wins the war if both sides are using conventional methods. In World War II, the battle of Stalingrad was the beginning of the end of the Nazi war machine, and the Battle of the Bulge was really the final nail in the coffin. But major battles like that made the difference in World War II because both sides were seeking to take and control territory militarily. Insurgencies are intrinsically different. The North Vietnamese wanted only to control all of Vietnam, and the US military's objective was to prevent the North Vietnamese from taking South Vietnam. But the NVA already had many supporters in the South, and had spent 15 years before America's involvement building a complex infrastructure of tunnels throughout South Vietnam. They couldn't win the big fights, but they could control the fighting. And with the population of North Vietnam, the NVA could add up to 200,000 fighting men to their forces per year. So long as they prevented taking casualties greater than that, they could keep going indefinitely. This brings me to my second point:

2. Without political solutions, you cannot win in counterinsurgency with superior military, you can only prevent defeat indefinitely

The last US troupes stopped fighting in Vietnam in 1973. In 1975, the North Vietnamese invaded the South. That interim of 2 years can be interpreted to mean two things: 1) that fighting against the US military had significantly weakened the NVA enough that it required two years for them to rebuild their forces to the point that they'd be able to mount an attack against the south, and 2) no matter how long we would have stayed in Vietnam, the NVA would have invaded and taken the South after we left.

This means that in Vietnam, and in Iraq, policy makers must make the cold calculus - is maintaining the status quo worth the cost in dollars, material, and lives it will take? In the case of Vietnam, and to Nixon's slight credit, the choice was made that it wasn't. In Iraq, I have a hard time believing that what benefit we can receive from maintaining a military presence in Iraq is worth the costs in dollars and lives required to stay there, not to mention the damage to our entire foreign policy that the loss in national credibility has created.

Bush has made the decision that his own ego and his insecurities are far more worthy of being taken seriously than our national security. And that will be the defining aspect of his presidency.

A must watch Olbermann commentary

Posted by Raznor

Tristero has a really good take on this here.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Stranger Than Fiction

Posted by Ross

Maybe some SPOLIERS ahead...

The Bekka and I saw this followed by a Q&A with the writer Zach Helm. We both really enjoyed it. I guess one of the reasons we liked it so much was that it had tonal remnants of a lot films we've liked over the years like "Punch Drunk Love," "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," "Adaptation," "I Heart Huckabees," "Science of Sleep," "Fight Club." And also my favorite Kurt Vonnegut book Breakfast of Champions, with quite possibly my favorite of all literary devices in which our protagonist literally meets his maker.

I thought the interview ran a little long, and I sort of stopped being able to pay it my undivided attention and started doodling in my notebook toward the end, even though Zach Helm had a lot of great stuff to say. Bekka was sort of like, wow that guy's been really lucky. And I guess that's true, but I kept saying, he's just good. I mean I think he's lucky in that he's both found his voice and been able to channel that into his writing career. That, as far as I'm concerned, is the ultimate artistic achievement for a writer. Well, maybe the ultimate individual artistic achievement for a writer, as I would say the ultimate artistic achievement for a writer is to sustain a lengthy career out of channeling that aforementioned found voice.

The other thing about Zach Helm is he seems to really take his time writing his scripts, which is something I am personally working on. I mean, when I'm on assignment, part of the reason I'm hired is because I can write quickly. And I usually use this mentality when I'm writing my original stuff, and I think it suffers because of it. And also, I'm going to try writing non-sequentially like Helm does: when I have a good scene for my story I'll write it and then I'll just put the thing together like a puzzle.

I love when a movie like this gets made. It's so unconventional, breaks so many rules, and, at least in my case, inspires originality.

GREAT Tom Waits Interview

Posted by Ross

Robert Siegel interviews Tom Waits today on All Things Considered. Well worth a listen.

Well, it's not like anti-abortionists ever put much thought into the consequences of their actions anyway

Posted by Raznor

Via an Ampersand link thread, comes this post over at Well-Timed Period about parental notification laws leading to coerced abortions. [note: the article linked to at WTP has since been removed]

The conventional wisdom about parental-notification and consent laws was that they would cut down on abortion, which is why anti-abortion activists loved them. But earlier this year the New York Times ran a jaw-dropping analysis that found the laws had no significant impact on teenage abortion rates.

The statutes did, however, have one unintended consequence. "We have parents who come in and want to force their daughters to have an abortion," Chelian says. "Their attitude is, "If I can prevent you from having one, I can force you to have one.' And we have to tell them that that's not so. The mother will say, "She's 14, I'm already taking care of her sister's baby, I can't take care of another one.' You know that it will be really hard for everyone."

This, to me, makes sense. At least if we're to accept the twisted logic of Parental Notification Laws. If girls under the age of 18 don't have the cognitive ability to understand the consequences of an abortion, they sure as hell don't have the ability to grasp the consequences of undergoing pregnancy, childbirth and then have the ability to raise a child. Or, to put it another way, if girls are to be treated as the physical property of parents to the extent that parents have the right to enforce childbirth, then certainly this right extends to the parents being able to enforce termination.

Or maybe it's time we just decided to do away with laws that treat women and girls as nonhuman property, and admit that anyone who's pregnant has a better idea than anyone else what to do about it.

And while I'm on the subject, let me just add a big fuck you to John McCain. Please dear God, if 2008 results in President McCain, then I give up on America.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Glenn Beck isn't afraid to be a racist asshole

Posted by Raznor

How come every time a cable news channel has a clear bigot they advertise him as being "unafraid to speak his mind." Well maybe you should be afraid to speak your mind when what's on your mind is racist bullshit like this.

And a respectable network devoted to news should make sure assholes like this aren't representing them. But then it seems like the only network left that has any respect for journalism is Comedy Central.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Cadbury Eggs and the Festival of Matzah

Posted by the belated bekka

I've been toying with the notion of eating my annual Cadbury Egg at my family seder this year. I thought about what types of ritual objects would be meaningful for me at such an occasion, and I realized that every year I eat approximately one Cadbury Creme Egg when they come into the stores...for Easter...in the spring...which is also when Passover happens. Ever wonder why Jews eat eggs and Christians hunt for them (and eat them in chocolate form) every year in March or April? They're both spring festivals, celebrating rebirth after the cold of the winter, the renewal of life and growth. Eggs, bunnies, green vegetables - all symbols that connect back way far in our history, not only as Jews (okay, maybe not the bunnies), but also as human beings. Our ancestors couldn't afford to take spring for granted - when you've witnessed the harshness of the elements winter after winter, surviving until spring is something to celebrate. And so I shall. By eating Cadbury Eggs.

Selah. So shall it be.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

What's real in Borat

Posted by Raznor

Via Amanda Marcotte Salon has a good article up about the people who appeared in Borat. Very much worth the read if you've seen the film.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Should we impeach the President?

Posted by Raznor

The short answer is "not yet".

Look, if anyone deserves to be impeached it's Bush. Bush makes Richard Nixon look like - I dunno - some good, law abiding guy. But simply stated, we can't impeach him right now. You need a 2/3 majority to impeach a president, and since the entire Moderate Senate Republican Committee (sometimes known as "Lincoln Chafee") was defeated, raise your hand if you think one Republican lawmaker will vote to impeach this President? Okay, everyone raising your hands, have you just not been paying attention for the last 6 years?

But what the Democrats can do is vigorously investigate the President. And as Glenn Greenwald writes, it looks like they will do just that.

So what do we do? We let the investigations go on. You think this Administration looks bad now? Just wait until a Democratic Congress actually investigates them. Eventually, and I'd optimistically say before 2007, Republicans are going to have to make the choice, stand by this President, or hope to salvage their party. Because unwaivering support of a President whom the public overwhelmingly view as critical is enough to kill a political party - just take a look at what happened to the Federalist party after 1800, and John Adams and his Alien and Sedition Act got nothing on the current Administration.

At this point, Democrats should seek to impeach not just George W Bush, but Dick Cheney. (Do you really believe that Cheney isn't responsible for the crimes of this Administration?) Then with a President Pelosi, we can get out of Iraq and begin the crucial and difficult work of restoring America's international reputation.

Maybe overly optimistic (we've come to a point in this country where "optimistic" is hoping for the destruction of a Presidential Administration - wow we're fucked up), but it is a distinct possibility. Step one was last Tuesday. Step two will be Democrats actually acting like Democrats now that they have control of Congress.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

No more Senator Santorum nor Representative Hayworth

Posted by Raznor

That news alone is enough to make me happy about this election

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Day

Posted by Raznor

Mostly I'm in a state of dread. I want to gloat over a Republican loss, but this is an election over whether Bush will easily get everything he wants for the next two years, or will he have some difficulty in ultimately getting what he wants anyway.

Anyway, if you haven't voted yet, for God's sake man! Seriously!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

I've officially gotten into My Chemical Romance

Posted by Raznor

I think you can see why.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Why Borat will rock

Posted by Raznor

Since moving to Seattle, I've been able to listen to The Adam Carolla Show during my morning drive - I recommend it if you get it in your area. It's made my morning commutes extremely enjoyable, even during heavy traffic.

Anyway, today there was a bit of a surprising interview. Since the Kazakh government has apparently threatened a lawsuit against Sacha Baron Cohen, Carolla interviewed, via phone, a spokesperson for the Kazakh embassy in Washington. When asked what he thought about the movie, the spokesman said he liked it, and thought it was funny. And, what I think is the most important fact, the fact that it wasn't demeaning to Kazakhstan since the only fact about Kazakhstan in the movie other than its geographic location. (note: doing this by memory, since I couldn't find a transcript)

And really, therein lies the genius of Borat. Sacha Baron Cohen plays what is essentially an over-the-top stereotype of what Westerners consider "the other". He is unbelieable ethnocentric and racist (starred in the movie "Kill the Jew" and is a formal "gypsy catcher"), he speaks in a nonspecific but distinctly foreign accent, he carries a suitcase full of live chickens, and he speaks fondly of particular despots (in an episode of Da Ali G Show, Borat helps a Republican Congressional candidate canvass door-to-door and tells one woman "this is a great leader, he is like Stalin"). And while playing to stereotypes isn't in itself very creative or funny, what makes Borat a brilliant social commentary is that he fools people. A man claiming to be from Kazakhstan and conforms to all the most egregious, ridiculous and downright offensive stereotypes of how Americans expect people from the Middle East and Central Asia to act like has made a film showing Americans falling for it.

This is by no means an anti-Kazakhstan film - because Borat doesn't portray traits that are indicative of Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan is just a convenient location that allows him to play to "the other". It could just as easily be Kyrgyzstan, or Uzbekistan, or Chechnya, or Cambodia for that matter. Anyplace most Americans are unfamiliar with, but know it's far away and different. And it should embarass every Western person watching even as we're laughing our asses off. Ask yourself honestly, if you didn't know what Borat specifically was, and he approached you, would you fall for it?