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Well holy shit
I haven't seen my livejournal page in weeks. Months, even!

I think I got a bit tired of the whole blogging thang. But that will change... that will change.

You'll see.

North Beach Festival
OK, so we went to the San Francisco North Beach Festival this last Sunday. BTW, it was my first weekend of leisure spent after a full week of work at my new job!

Anyways, here's our only picture from the festival. We got our photo snapped as part of a "Coffee Mate" promotion:

Just listening to my local AirAmerica affiliate
... and I heard that Bill Frist, that cheese-eating, Lurch-like character who is incompetently running the US Senate, has decided to clear the schedule of all other less-important subjects (like the ever-worsening War in Iraq, the upcoming hurricane season, a nuclear Iran), and debate .... gay marriage. And flag burning.

Apparently the last person to burn the flag in the US was some drunk teenager, apparently. From the Southern US, no less.

It kind of makes me sad to consider the kind of travesty that will be soon be playing itself out on CSPAN and the talking-head news networks. With all that's going on in the world, the Senate has to take a break, bash fags, and make a mockery of the US Constitution all in one go. Glorious.

I think the GOP has got something coming to it soon, and that's going to be a complete takeover of the US Congress by the Democrats in about four short months. Stay tuned.

LOND-ON, 2006
Went to London last week. It was pretty cool - went with the wife of course. Beth pretty much planned out most of this trip herself. We stayed in the historic borough of Islington, which was made even cooler by the fact that we didn't rent a hotel or anything, in fact we did what's known as an on-line apartment swap. The website is pretty cool, check it out. We swapped our two-bedroom apartment with a nice young couple, a pair of double-income-no-kids (DINKS for short), two nice gay guys with impeccable flat on White Lion Street, pictured below:

Here's me standing by the town hall, on our first day in Islington: http://pics.livejournal.com/szaszfan/pic/00020480/s640x640 So. It was a great vacation... lots more pics than I can really present here, but some of them are in my gallery. Here's the link.

 SORRY TIRZA. Here, cleaned up the page for you.

So, some good news to be had. Apparently the Incredible Shrinking President gets more and more Incredible as the weeks inch by. According to the latest Harris Interactive Poll reported on here, Bush's approval ratings have dropped to just 29%.

Even more breaking news - although it only seems to be making its way through the blogosphere and other rumor sites at this point and hasn't quite hit the "mainstream" media outlets, it looks pretty likely that "Bush's Brain" will be amputated soon.

I thought it was funny... the first few times Rove was brought before Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's Grand Jury to be questioned, the right wing talking heads and Administration flunkies all said, "oh, it's just routine. Happens all the time." After the third or fourth time, this sort of pooh-poohing started to sound a little hollow.

By the fifth time Rove was brought before Fitzgerald, it was pretty hard to say this was 'just routine.' About a day or so before the news of the indictment started circulating, I recalled hearing David Brooks , well-known right-wing talking head, confess on the "Jim Lehrer Newshour" that there's just no way to spin it - five visits to the grand jury just wasn't good.

So, yes, now Rove is to be indicted, Bush's ratings are at an all time low, and there are new revelations that the Bush Administration has been amassing a gigantic database of domestic phone calls of Americans.

Unfortunately, us Americans are a somewhat mushbrained lot. Apparently even though we hate our President, more or less, and we don't trust him, we're still apparently willing to give him a pass on this Big Brother thing.

According to a Washington Post - ABC news poll taken shortly after the new NSA revelations began to circulate, apparently a full 63 percent of the American public find these domestic spying activities "acceptable" and 44 percent "strongly approve."



Alberto Gonzales, Data Mining, and Our Maniac-In-Chief

So one thing is clear: the Bush Administration's Attorney General Alberto Gonzales lied about the scope and nature of the NSA warrantless domestic spying program that has generated so much consternation among civil libertarians, conservatives, and much of the general public. Well, big suprise I guess. Apparently now that shiteater Gonzales is "clarifying" his statements given on February 6th to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Anyways, what's been going on lately is that these neocons have had their hands stuck in the cookie jar yet again with domestic surveillance. Apparently the NSA, under direction of the Bush Administration, has been keeping an enormous database of records, within which has apparently been logged untold millions of domestic-to-domestic (as opposed to domestic-to-foreign) phone calls of American citizens. Needless to say, Gonzales nor any of the others mentioned this earlier when questioned about it, and fortunately, we got Gonzales under oath. Prepare for the hair-splitting and legalisms to come.

I should stop for a second here. We all remember the original issue of concern as regards the NSA spying issue. The original controversy was whether the President, without preapproval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (AKA the "FISA Court," a body set up specifically by statute for this purpose), could authorize eavesdropping on calls between domestic and foreign entities. We were reassured, of course, that this only concerned domestic-to-foreign calls.

The current issue which has apparently exploded in the headlines today is what has been called the "largest database ever assembled" of records of calls, INCLUDING domestic-to-domestic calls. Did I mention that the "Honorable" Alberto Gonzales lied under oath?

So what's the problem here, you say? So the NSA is just keeping a database of calls, and not actually listening in, so what's the problem? Moreover, if no eavesdropping is actually occurring, this really shouldn't require the involvement of the FISA Court, should it? So what's the harm if George Bush and his cronies log all your calls and comb through them? If you aren't doing anything wrong, you shouldn't have anything to worry about, right? Hmmmm... that sounds familiar.

Anyways, what the NSA has been doing here is using the statistical technique of data mining, which is a technique for taking otherwise-unmanageably-large troves of raw data and using statistical programs to look for particular patterns, essentially a method of more or less data reduction. When used correctly, data mining can be a powerful technique. On the other hand, due to the subjectivity involved in judging and responding to the output generated through the use of techniques, these tools can be easily abused.

So what do we care? Those people at the NSA know what they're doing, right? Yeah, well, let me remind you of who's calling the shots:


These people are so incompetent (as well as evil), that I shudder at the idea of letting them at a database like this. Perhaps I would feel better if Congress actually offered some meaningful oversight, but aside from a moderately entertaining exchange between Arlen Specter and that scumbag Gonzales during his original February testimony (remember the "you've been smoking Dutch cleanser, son" comment?), Congress has basically given up on pursuing this matter at all, despite the protestations of a number of leading Democrats, most notably Russ Feingold (I love Russ Feingold).

I thought I liked Arlen Specter, but he actually a big fucking pussy. All talk and no action.

It's so sad. People have been talking about impeaching this president for a while. Maybe we should start talking about impeaching the GOP congress first, so they might actually get off their collective asses and do something about this maniac Administration.


Don't get me wrong. Although I haven't read any of Al's books yet, I'm usually tuning in to his Air America radio show 4-5 times a week.

He's a good guy. Obviously very socially liberal (e.g., hey, he's a Deadhead and former SNL cast member), quick-witted, even-tempered, and creative. Also very nice to people, it seems. I like the guy. Of course, he has his drawbacks. He's annoyingly neoliberal with his economic views (e.g., he's vociferously pro-government-healthcare, i.e., "universal" health coverage), but I give him a pass on that, as I do most Democrat-leaning liberals these days.

To back up for a second - like I say, I like Al Franken. Heck, I like all the Air America Radio folks. I am embarassed to say about 4-5 years back I actually used to listen to right-wing talk radio. I COULDN'T HELP IT. I was working an extremely boring desk-job in Portland, Oregon, processing checks all day long for Wells Fargo Bank. If it wasn't for right-wing radio (interspersed with plenty of NPR, by the way), I wouldn't have made it through those dark temp-agency years immediately after college with my sanity intact.

Besides. There wasn't any "left-wing radio" 4-5 years ago. I just needed voices, people talking, so I could be distracted from my boring temp job.

Anyways, as soon as "Air America" launched, I started listening regularly. As an aside, thanks to Air America Radio (with no small help from our current Maniac-In-Chief), I stopped thinking of myself as a "big-L Libertarian and small-r Republican) long ago. My burning, passionate hatred of this president has made me an Air America fan. I listen to Randi Rhodes from time to time (although she's a bit too angry for me), and sometimes I listen to Ed Schulz, although frankly although he's pretty nice to his guest and is unusual because he doesn't screen his radio calls, he's a tad too moderate and linguini-spined for me.

No, I'm an Al Franken kind of guy. I'm willing to shelve my annoyance whenever Al talks about his economic-liberalism-pipe-dreams like universal health care or the like.

My problem is Al Franken is running for Senate, so I think he's arguing for something stupid regarding our continuously-degenerating War in Iraq. Al Franken is against the US pulling out of Iraq. I think he thinks this is an attractively moderate view.

I understand his views, but don't agree (keep in mind most Americans at this point also disagree with Al as well.

Read an excellent article in the on-line edition of the Brooklyn Rail this morning. Basically, the article is built around a 8-point position piece arguing that the US should withdraw immediately from Iraq and begin encouraging *true* reconstruction and humanitarian aid for the people of Iraq (as well as our own troops), as opposed to the Haliburton & Co. coordinated pillaging and looting that is going on right now.

Here's the list excerpted from the article, I suggest you all check it the full article here.

  1. The U.S. Military Has No Right to Be in Iraq in the First Place.
  2. The United States Is Not Bringing Democracy to Iraq.
  3. The United States Is Not Making the World a Safer Place by Occupying Iraq.
  4. The United States Is Not Preventing Civil War in Iraq.
  5. The United States Is Not Confronting Terrorism by Staying in Iraq.
  6. The United States Is Not Honoring Those Who Died by Continuing the Conflict.
  7. The United States Is Not Rebuilding Iraq.
  8. The United States Is Not Fulfilling Its Obligation to the Iraqi People for the Harm and Suffering It Has Caused.

Pretty unambiguous, and the author of this article completely backs up every point.

We need to stop these neocons in their tracks. Look, I like what the Republicans used to argue for (although it's arguable if they ever did any more than that): small government, local control, freedom, property rights, military isolationism. Instead we have the absolute (pardon my French) FUCKING NIGHTMARE we have today.

Well, gonna get on with my day now. Another beautiful sunny day in San Francisco.


"Neoconomy: George Bush's Revolutionary Gamble With America's Future,
by David Altman."

The book is a business book, actually, it's a book with a lot of
academic economic thinking undergirding it. The title is fairly
descriptive - David Altman is a (rather young) economist by trade who
has a knack for translating a lot of rather dry economic facts and
theories into an understandable form. Still, by the end of the book I
felt I had learned quite a bit about macroeconomic theory and the US
financial system by the time I was done.

Altman takes the reader essentially through a primer of the last
several years of the Bush presidency, focusing in particular on the
Bush Administration's well-known obsession with tax cuts for wealthy

It's interesting, and I think, ultimately helpful and enlightening
for the reader that throughout Altman's book, he barely mentions the
Iraq War - instead he focuses his argument around the single-minded
economic policies and theories of the Administration neoconservatives,
and how they have been publicly sold as short-term economic stimuli to
address all sorts of ills - currently, as a cure for high gas prices.

In fact, Altman documents that these aggressive tax cuts pursued by
the "neoconomists" instead increased the gap between the rich and
poor, and were never intended as a broad economic stimulus, but
instead a method to increase "accrued capital" as a theoretical spur
for increased long-term economic growth.

Trickle-down economics, anyone?

It's clear to me that in the case of the Iraq War, we were lied to by
the neocons. Apparently the same is true for the "neoconomy," as David
Altman illustrates so well.

The book reinforced my already-existing opinion that the economy was
doing fine under the "Rubin-omics" of the Clinton years, and the old
adage was likely true: if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Note - I left my copy of "Neoconomy" in the Book Loft at Reed, if
anyone wants to grab it. It's a nice hardback version, and it's a
suprisingly quick read.

The tipping point for the Democrats
So I've been waiting eagerly for Bush to break down through the 30s barrier in regards to his approval rating. GO BUSH! GO BUSH! GO BUSH!

He truly is the incredible shrinking president.

I had a conversation with a second cousin of mine and my wife yesterday. He's a long-term San Francisco resident and expressed some pointed frustration with the Democrats. "Why aren't they doing anything? Where's the loyal opposition?"

It's not like our frustration is misplaced. After all, San Francisco remains one of the most liberal cities in the United States, and as it happens, our US House representative happens to be none other than the Honorable Ms. Nancy Pelosi. After reading my posting, please go to her website and yell at her (be nice, but please do raise your voice at her).

So yeah, I'm underwhelmed by the Dems as well, but their silence (frustrating as it may be) serves a deliberate political purpose... it's a direct response to the incredible sophistication and quick response time of the Republican attack machine. The trick is..... DON'T LET THEM CHANGE THE SUBJECT.

What's the subject right now for Americans? Well, a mismanaged (or in my belief, criminal) war of choice, a completely botched response to hurricane Katrina, rampant corruption in both houses of the GOP-dominated congress, absolutely breathtaking deficits and debt (beyond anything the Democrats were able to muster when they controlled Congress)... the subject is these fucking neocon and con idiots that control all branches of government at this point.

One thing that happened this week that illustrates the Democrats' strategy of silence is the whole Patrick Kennedy debacle.

Representative Kennedy may be a hopeless drunk, but he did exactly what he was supposed to after his embarassing episode with crashing his car and being apparently drunk... he got himseldf OFF the front pages as quickly as possible by checking himself into the Mayo Clinic (whatever happened to Betty Ford? Is that just where Hollywood people go? Anyways).

The point is, Kennedy checking himself into rehab so quickly prevents the GOP media hit-machine from changing the subject. GOOD JOB PATRICK!

I was seeing some news yesterday regarding Bush's approval ratings, which is what the point of this post was supposed to be about anyways. He's scraping the bottom 30s at this point, and soon may drop into the 20s. At that point the question becomes how badly will the Republicans lose in November? How pissed off are you?

Poll #724849 Your feeling about the GOP-controlled government.



It's like the milk commercial (got milk)? I think the Democrats should make t-shirts that say that.

Reedie party
Let's have a few fun pics from my Reedie party (yeah, there were some non-Reedies there too, but otherwise it was packed with freaks).

This second picture is one of Mr. Sun (Burns), a good friend of mine who shot the majority of these pictures. Also, me and the wife can't figure out how he did the double-exposure thingy on our camera. Apparently we don't know our cameras own strength.

Had fun with the music mixes for our party. A particularly badass tune I played a couple of times throughout the evening was Amon Tobin's "Sordid" throughout the evening. Very "Fight Club." I felt suave and debonair throughout most of the evening, although that slipped at a couple of points....