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September 29, 2004

Something wicked, or just something stupid?

I'm doing my best to be optimistic about John Kerry's chances in the debates and beyond, but I keep having nasty flashbacks to the fall of 2000.

I should have been happy in the fall of 2000. I lived in New York City, and my beloved Yankees and their crosstown rivals, the Mets, had managed to win their respective league pennants, giving NYC fans their first Subway Series in more than 40 years--which the Yankees won in five games. Ah, but such sweet moments are petty and fleeting. The last four years, with the exception of some personal highs, haven't been so happy. The Yankees have gone to the World Series twice more since then, and lost. So it goes in baseball, and so it should be. In baseball, you see, the winner wins.

In 2000, Al Gore "won" everything--the debates, the election--yet was somehow denied it all. In fact, Al Gore, who got more votes than any Democrat ever has--more than any candidate except Ronald Reagan in 1984--was personally branded a loser. (A sore loser.) And everyone who backed Gore, in addition to coping with their shock and awe at the subsequent record of the man declared the winner, has had to absorb the cognitive dissonance of that strange campaign season, yet somehow maintain a belief in the system that allowed it to happen.

As air grows crisp, and the World Series and the presidential debates approach, this is getting harder to do. This is the season when, in 2000, it all started to fall apart. The memories are seared--seared--on my brain. This is the season when, in 2000, the reality we perceived began to be peeled away from the reality we received. Al Gore, the winner, who won the debates, started being called a loser, for reasons that remain disputable, and indisputably trivial, especially in light of what, 11 months later, the stakes of 2000 turned out to be. The election that ended with the loser being declared the winner, began with the debates, when the winner was declared the loser.

Here's what I thought at the time, compiled from a few different e-mails I wrote:

I don't think the press and the pundits watched the same debate I did. I thought Bush seemed groping, shallow, thinly informed, off-balance, reliant on rehearsed lines, and occasionally desperate. He'd wander into answers then blunder around trying to attach a word to a phrase to a sentence to a punchline that would get him the hell out. His body language--bulging eyes, oddly pursed lips, inappropriate smirks--was painful. He seemed on the verge of unconsciously loosening his tie with a jerk, or punctuating a weak answer on a lost point by smacking the desk, emitting a hoarse "HYEAH!" and a rattling laugh. I thought the Major Gaffe was one garble away.

Gore, on the other hand, was a calm, slit-eyed assassin. "You want nice, I'll play nice." Careful, understated, poised, but quick with the razor. Everything he said--even qualifying asides--was obviously backed by comprehensive knowledge and a synthesizing intellect. He kept one hand behind his back, but made sure you knew it was there. He drew blood on Bush's Texas record and left him stammering. He cornered Bush on hate crimes and--yes! here it was!--got him to seem as gleefully bloodthirsty on the death penalty as his worst enemies aver! "Guess what's gonna happen to them? They're gonna be put to death! Be pretty hard to punish them any worse after they get put to death! Death! Sweet revenge! Holy Texas Electro-Killin'! ARRGAHARGGHHHH"--as though he'd personally seen to it that James Byrd and all those who labor under racism and hate had been avenged. Not only did he not answer for vetoing the hate crimes bill, he did everything but brandish a six-gun and shout "Yee haw!" Finally, proof that he was either a callous executioner or a lame asshole who talks big then runs when the knives come out.

Then everyone handed it to Bush. He "held his own" on foreign policy. He "seemed Presidential." He looked "relaxed and confident." That's not what I saw. I thought I was being objective. I thought what I saw would be clear to everyone. I am clearly not the shrewd political handicapper I'd like to believe I am.

It's almost like a Swiftian, satirical fable: the confident yet ignorant man is celebrated by the crowd for his style instead of his ability; the gifted man, irritated beyond reason that this idiot presumes (and is presumed) to be a worthy opponent, is criticized by the crowd because he can't be "nice." To be nice is everything, says the crowd. The ignorant man seems nice. The gifted man goes mad! The ignorant man smiles. The crowd smiles back.

Matching wits with Bush, how can Gore not seem like a bully? How about another metaphor? It's like if Woody Allen got in a boxing ring with Mike Tyson, and somehow everyone was blind to the fundamental issue--that Woody didn't belong there-- and only said that Tyson was a brute for doing what he's supposed to do in the ring. "Look how Woody holds his arms up, just like a boxer! He's staying upright some of the time, and you like to see that in a boxer. And he's moving his feet, too--you know, boxers do that. I'd say he really looks like a boxer. So what’s up with Tyson?! In that last fight, he was hitting Woody much too hard--but in this one, he's not hitting him at all! What kind of boxer is that?"

A conspiracy would actually be preferable, because then there might be one brain or one star chamber behind it that could be called out in the daylight and accused of something. What's going on is a lot more pernicious, pervasive, and inexplicable. Is it laziness? Attempting to sell papers by backing the front runner? Hoping to guarantee access when the self-fulfilling-prophecy front runner takes office?

Whatever the force behind it, so it went. The last three months of 2000 I remember a feeling almost like being suspended in amber. Many of us who supported Gore never gained closure on the mystifying turn of events. We tried to suck it up, show some backbone, and take comfort in our moral superiority, our ability to keep the interests of the republic uppermost in mind, with a dignity we knew the Republicans would never have shown. And what did we get for it? Utter contempt.

Democrats and liberals are congenitally self-critical, and, in order to manifest some control over the situation, we blamed Gore, too. He didn't win winningly enough! If he had won his home state, he would have won so winningly that he would have actually won. (Of course, we blamed Nader, too, and unlike Gore, that rotten cocksucker has had the balls to come back and fuck us over again.) After all, the system isn't broken. Next time, we just have to really win, and that'll prove everything's OK.

So, here we are again. The primary campaign featured some splenetic muscle-flexing of a sort not seen since, I don't know, 1968, I guess, but in the end we nominated another polysyllabic policy-wonk because, for crying out loud, this election is serious, and we can't have some crazy, loose-cannon Liberal going up against Bush! We've got to learn how to win, and then we've got to win! Winning isn't even good enough--we've got to win so winningly that we'll really win!

And so we should, it would seem. John Kerry is a smart and decent man, and George Bush is a proven failure. Our nation is in great peril--as we are constantly reminded by the people who are supposed to be protecting us--and the president has only shown a knack for making things worse. We've blown the budget surplus, sunk into a morass of debt, and the environment's going to hell (see: hurricanes, Florida). And we're in an unending, unwinnable war the president initiated under false pretexts in the most volatile region of the world--the very region where hatred for us runs so deep that people will actually kill themselves to kill a few of us.

However, we've learned that how things seem is not necessarily, or even likely, how they are. The twists of the campaign's post-convention phase have triggered severe post-traumatic stress. In the "political" game run parallel to the real issues, the dirty tricks have occurred before our eyes, as we knew they would, yet somehow we were not ready. Damage has been done, and we know not how. Dishonest and discredited attacks have stuck to Kerry, while legitimate charges against Bush dangle harmlessly on the gallows with Dan Rather. It's a mystery how all this could be; how half the nation could be so transfixed by deception and minutiae that truths that shine starkly to our eyes are unseen or discounted by them.

So we wonder: Tomorrow night, no matter what our eyes tell us, will George W. Bush, the boy who dove into the manure and actually found the pony, again be the loser who wins? And, if so, does that mean something else, something undeniable and bad, some sinister and all-powerful cabal, is really pulling the strings?

Or just that the whole flip-flop thing really stuck?

Posted by pk at 10:48 AM

September 26, 2004

Corn Maze

IMG_3737.JPGWe took a trip to the Sauvie Island Corn Maze today. I don't know how much of it Ben really dug after the initial novelty of being in tall corn wore off (about two minutes). Ran into Michael and Sue at the produce market next to the maze, had a caramel apple, thought about coming back later in the month at night, when it's "haunted."

I think we caught a pair of the teenage "Corn Cops" patrolling the maze making out, and I know we caught a mother in the middle of the sadistic "I don't like your attitude so I'm gonna punish you by taking you home now/Now you're crying so I really am gonna take you home/You are so crying, and it makes me mad that you say you're not" gambit. Eesh.

Last year we took the GPS. This year I was content to snap a few shots.

Posted by mph at 6:03 PM

September 24, 2004

No Way Back

Earlier today I posted a link to an article purporting (or purported by others) to declaim that Kerry hasn't flip-flopped on Iraq, then I realized that he's done such a piss-poor job condemning the administration that I don't CARE if he hasn't "technically" flip-flopped. So I deleted it. When you're arguing technicalities in politics, you've already lost the point.

I begin to see the difficulty of Kerry's position. After weeks (months) of dismay that he wasn't going after Bush on Iraq--in fact, he seemed to have thoroughly painted himself into a corner--he finally went on the offensive with an attack from which there can be no backing away: It was wrong to go to war in Iraq.

Next week's polls will reflect whether the bad news on Iraqi ground matters more to people than the pageantry of Allawi's visit to NYC and DC, and whether Kerry's attacks have traction. But accepting that Bush misled us into war and continues to misrepresent the facts of it demands more of people than just recognizing it. They have to accept that they've been swindled. They have to accept a pessimistic, defeatist mind-set. They have to start believing "it can't be done"; that there are things America cannot do; and that sometimes America is wrong.

That last is gigantic; it's the source of the blind hubris and righteous aggrievement that allowed Bush to lead us there in the first place, and the source of the old resentments dredged up when the Vietnam laundry got aired out last month. The Swift Boat Veterans had a hell of a media ride, but when Bush was called back on the carpet for his disreputable National Guard record, Vietnam was suddenly off-limits again. "Who cares what happened 35 years ago?" But it is relevant, actually, because regardless of the dishonesty of what the Swift Boat Veterans SAY, what they FEEL about Vietnam and John Kerry makes sense to a lot of Americans who were either there and felt betrayed or don't remember it but have an inchoate sense that America couldn't really have been wrong.

It would have been interesting to see whether or how America would have dealt with our loss in Vietnam if there had been no Watergate. Johnson quit and died, and Nixon resigned in disgrace for another reason, and no political price was ever consciously imposed by the people on anyone responsible for the war. It just trailed off. Both political parties were responsible, after all, and you could hardly blame Gerald Ford, for chrissakes. We just got out of Saigon and tried to forget the whole thing, without confronting our mistakes, or the essential fact that, even if we'd done everything right by the hawks' lights, we still couldn't have won that war. (If you don't already believe that, there's no use in me trying to convince you here, but it's true, and it wasn't because of hippies or folksingers.)

And now John Kerry comes forward--again!--to tell America we're losing another war we shouldn't have started in the first place. To people who don't understand what the truth was in 1971 and believe even a kernel of the Swift Boat Veterans' lies, Kerry just looks like a limp-wristed career defeatist without any moral steel. He's weak, a pessimist--he doesn't believe in America. Who wants to believe the things he's telling us? That lives have been wasted? We were duped? We can't win? America isn't wrong: John Kerry is wrong!

Even people who didn't oppose the war at first but have developed a nagging feeling that what he says is true are going to have a hard time embracing what he says. It's not a thing to embrace. It's an ugly reality, and one we don't have to confront as long as we can trust or surrender to the rhetoric and resolve of President Bush. If we keep Bush in office, the war is his fault and his problem. If I wasn't convinced that the Bush team could make things even worse, I'd wish a second term upon them. Only fools believe the rosy pictures Bush paints of Iraq and its future. Given the conditions Bush has created, the next four years present more opportunities for disaster than for success. If we elect Kerry, we are taking ownership of the war as Kerry sees it, and that's a very unattractive proposition. "Admit we're screwed: Vote Kerry."

Kerry is doing what has to be done, of course, even if it costs the election. The damage is already done, and even voting for Kerry won't get us out of Iraq. We have to stay and somehow "fix" or at least stabilize it, if possible. But Kerry must argue that we can no longer trust the leadership of this dangerous and misguided president and his administration. He has to deflect spurious attacks and state his position and his plans. He has to surgically separate Bush's war in Iraq from the war on terror, and then explain his plans for both.

I think the wildly divergent polls demonstrate the volatility of the electorate and indicate a restless dissatisfaction with President Bush and the divergence of his statements from reality on all fronts. If Kerry can make his points clearly, without tangents, qualifiers, and semi-colons, the opportunity is there, but it will not be easy. Depending on how you feel about the electorate, it may not even be politically possible. He has to engineer nothing less than a massive paradigm shift in the American mindset, and he has to do it by offering almost nothing but bad news. All he will have is honesty, and the truth is not our friend.

He has five weeks.

Posted by pk at 1:38 PM

September 23, 2004

A truth too bitter for Kerry to tell?

Phillip Robertson, reporting from Iraq for Salon.

The war, illegal and founded on a vast lie, has produced two tragedies of equal magnitude: an embryonic civil war in the world's oldest country, and a triumph for those in the Bush administration who, without a trace of shame, act as if the truth does not matter. Lying until the lie became true, the administration pursued a course of action that guaranteed large sections of Iraq would become havens for jihadis and radical Islamists. That is the logic promoted by people who take for themselves divine infallibility--a righteousness that blinds and destroys. Like credulous Weimar Germans who were so delighted by rigged wrestling matches, millions of Americans have accepted Bush's assertions that the war in Iraq has made the United States and the rest of the world a safer place to live. Of course, this is false.

But it is a useful fiction because it is a happy one. All we need to know, according to the administration, is that America is a good country, full of good people, and therefore cannot make bloody mistakes when it comes to its own security. The bitter consequence of succumbing to such happy talk is that the government of the most powerful nation in the world now operates unchecked and unmoored from reality; leaving us teetering on the brink of another presidential term where abuse of authority has been recast as virtue.


Over the last three years, practicing a philosophy of deliberate deception, fear-mongering and abuse of authority, the Bush administration has done more to undermine the republic of Lincoln and Jefferson than the cells of al-Qaida. It has willfully ignored our fundamental laws and squandered the nation's wealth in bloody, open-ended pursuits. Corporations like Halliburton, with close ties to government officials, are profiting greatly from the war while thousands of American soldiers undertake the dangerous work of patrolling the streets of Iraqi cities. We have arrived at a moment of national crisis.

At home, the United States, under the Bush administration, is rapidly drifting toward a security state whose principal currency is fear. Abroad, it has used fear to justify the invasion of Iraq--fear of weapons of mass destruction, of terrorist attacks, of Iraq itself. The administration, under false premises, invaded a country that it barely understood. We entered a country in shambles, a population divided against itself. The U.S. invasion was a catalyst of violence and religious hatred, and the continuing presence of American troops has only made matters worse. Iraq today bears no resemblance to the president's vision of a fledgling democracy. On its way to national elections in January, Iraq has already slipped into chaos.

Posted by pk at 9:20 AM

September 17, 2004

R.I.P., Ramones

Against all the odds, only the drummers, including Tommy and honorary charter-member Marky, are still alive. Joey, Dee Dee, and now Johnny Ramone are dead, and, despite Frank Black's erstwhile wish for them to "pull another Menudo," the Ramones are dead, too.

If the Ramones had not existed, it would have been necessary to invent them. You don't have to love them. You don't even have to like them. If you care about rock and roll, you only have to take them for granted (as nearly everyone does) to acknowledge the towering monolith of their achievement. The Ramones were utterly essential and essentially disposable, two vital qualities of the form, and are undeniably one of rock and roll's five or so prototypes.

The first thing you think is, "The Ramones were funny." This is true, of course, and the fact that nearly every one of their hundreds (thousands?) of songs is basically a novelty song is not to be overlooked. It is, in fact, critical to their construct: a novelty song being one that you forever disparage, yet never forget, which is the ultimate goal of any pop song.

What made the Ramones the archetype of punk rock--what made their schtick a critique--was a simple question: "You think you're better than me?" Posing as a novelty act, a joke in the face of an increasingly ponderous social and musical landscape, they dared the world to not take them seriously.

The Ramones were not rock and roll's Saturday-morning cartoon. Look at any picture: They are not smiling. They had a job to do. They created a brilliant, timeless, complete concept: hair, leather, jeans, sneakers, guitars, drums, scowls. Their brand and iconography never changed.

The music was a rigidly minimalistic yet infinitely variable template, rooted in white AM-radio pop, a sound almost completely without precedent and yet inevitable and ingenious. Intoxicating velocity, exhilerating power, and irresistible melodies. Before the Ramones, no band sounded like that. After, hundreds did. The alchemy they worked was as obvious and inexplicable as what Elvis did to Big Mama Thornton's "Hound Dog."

And, as Elvis never did, the Ramones brought their own sidewalk poetry: They're ballin' in the back-seat / They generate steam-heat / The bass and the back-beat / Blitzkrieg bop!

There you have it, teeny-boppers: The essentials of the youth experience, overshadowed by the threat of world destruction, in 22 syllables.

But my own favorite is: Chewin' out a rhythm on my bubblegum / The sun is out, and I want some / It's not hard, not far to reach / We can hitch a ride to Rockaway Beach!

It's really fucked-up that, in my three-plus years in New York City (and given its obvious accessibility), I never went to Rockaway Beach. It's equally fucked-up that America has never acknowledged what is, aside from being the birthplace, perhaps its greatest gift to the rock and roll canon. The Ramones were America's Beatles. They returned the gift, and deserved to be recognized for it and covered in glory.

But Rock And Roll in 1975 was already a calcified fossil, a museum piece; a thing not broken, not needing to be fixed. Grow old, you fucking Baby Boomers--grow old and consume the whole way down. God forbid you should be alienated from the glorious Classic Rock Culture you created and nourished with your parents' money, eh? A pity the icons didn't all die with Jim, Jimi, and Janis, so the restless spirit of the music could be embalmed and interred for e'er more, and the perfect memory of your youth preserved for all time....

I wasn't even part of the Ramones' generation, but now I'm old, too. All I know of such things is the humility of coming of age in a demographic minority. If that grants me any moral superiority--and tonight, as on many nights, I'm damn certain it does--then let me just say this:

The Ramones were a cranky, hilarious affirmation of life. That they were underappreciated is, in its own way, perfect, but no less bitter. America is weird, and does not understand itself, and that is a crime we'll be a long time paying for.

The Ramones' first four albums (Ramones, Leave Home, Rocket to Russia, and Road to Ruin) are essential, and End of the Century, Subterranean Jungle, and Too Tough to Die are pretty good, too, but if you own nothing else from their catalog, the live album It's Alive--the original four, in London on New Year's Eve, 1977-'78--is sufficient testament to the speed, joy, and power that will forever be their monument:

Joey--the hippie romantic, crooning the glories of love and teenage fun.

Johnny--the stoic, blue-collar Republican with the blistering downstroke, eight to the bar, enforcing his work ethic so they could eventually retire.

Dee Dee--the most Ramone of them all; the beat junkie street-poet whose greatest verse was a shouted "1-2-3-4!"

R.I.P., Ramones.

Posted by pk at 2:32 PM

September 16, 2004

Settling Dust

It took a few days of on-again/off-again work, but the transition from one server to another is just about done. I'm really, really happy to have less moving parts in the closet.

Once upon a time, when I was the newbiest of noobs, I sat down with a fresh Red Hat install determined to make e-mail work from it from elm (because that was the mail client I remembered from before The UnUnix Years). I knew something about sendmail (that it sent mail) and I found some half-baked tutorial someone had thrown up and I set about bending it to my will.

I got mail going from elm to my Yahoo account some time around midnight, and I went to bed convinced I'd done a good thing. I spent a day or two enjoying elm, and then I got a call from the ISP wanting to know why I was sending them all the system reports from my machine.

That would be because I told the machine it was "cstone.net," and it was dutifully appending that to the "root" part of the addresses it was sending reports to, then passing them out to the 'net at large. Don't ask me how it got that way... it just did. The tutorial made me do it. Probably written by a Mandrake user.

I still hate MTAs, even when they come packaged up by Debian with its nifty "How do you want to use this weapon? In the privacy of your own network, or in a blood-soaked rampage across the Internet?" install script. So it was very satisfying to force a reinstall of exim today, telling it that it wasn't to talk to anyone else besides itself. Then I closed port 25 to the world.

Apache's still running on the old server because I don't want to go through the pain of transplanting my gallery (and eating up 25% of my disk quota on that alone), and I prefer to have it LAN-close for uploading to it. Otherwise, most of those moving parts are now still.

It's all fairly liberating.

If I wake up in the morning to the smell of smoke coming from the server closet, my first thought will be "is it spreading to the rest of the house?" not "did it start burning before or after mysqldump copied over to the remote backup?"

Posted by mph at 11:23 PM

September 14, 2004


I'm moving stuff over to a new server, so mail (and just about everything else 'net related) might be weird. pdxmph@gmail.com is probably the best address to contact until I start replying from my real one again.

Posted by mph at 8:55 PM

September 10, 2004

Mutt Codeless Language Module for BBEdit

In the process of messing around with my mutt configuration today, I decided to take a swing at creating a codeless language module for BBEdit 8 that would give me syntax highlighting for my muttrc.

I used John Gruber's Apache module as the template for my muttrc module. I got my list of valid mutt configuration variables from the online mutt manual. Because the site's designer thoughtfully enclosed each variable in <h3> tags, it was pretty trivial to run the manual's source through a regexp that converted the appropriate lines to <string> entries for the module's plist and have a working language module in less than fifteen minutes of grep/sed/cut/paste.

To use it, if you're the other person on the planet who uses mutt and BBEdit and has upgraded to BBEdit 8, download Mutt_Configuration.plist.zip and put the unzipped file in ~/Library/Application Support/BBEdit/Language Modules (which you might need to create). Then restart BBEdit.

The module is written to recognize ".muttrc" as a valid filename, so running, say "bbedit ~/.muttrc" from the terminal will get you a syntax-highlighted .muttrc once you've got the module installed.

Now to get back to deciding whether I prefer Mail.app or mutt.

Posted by mph at 8:50 PM

Add to Your Remote SpamAssassin Whitelist from Mail.app (with a mutt digression)

Score one for server-side living.

This is a simple script I wrote to add selected messages in Mail.app to the SpamAssassin whitelist on a remote server. It has two companions I'm still poking at that report messages as ham or spam to the SpamAssassin bayesian learner.

The problem it solves is pretty straightforward:

I have a laptop and a desktop. I use the desktop system a lot more, but the laptop gets pulled out now and then. Mail.app is nice, but its bayesian learner isn't all that, and it can't share filter and spam information between different computers (without hacking some "copy the files from here to there" sort of gimcrackery that I don't want to deal with).

So the obvious answer is going to the server and letting it take over: procmail to handle mail sorting, SpamAssassin to handle spam filtering, IMAP to present the sorted, filtered mail in a sensible folder scheme.

The obvious problem is that some of SpamAssassin's features (like reporting spam messages, teaching it which messages are ham, and whitelisting false positives you trust) are living on the server, which Mail.app doesn't know much about.

It gets worse when you get mail from a lot of people who routinely send stuff that looks a lot like spam by the average spam filter: I know that I'm interested in the latest breakthrough wonder self-emulating recursive XML-based technology from FooBitz, but most people should be grateful that SpamAssassin typically doesn't and marks such correspondence as at least a tentative spam.

Fortunately, Mail.app has a scripting menu and a decent AppleScript dictionary, so to maintain a remote spamassassin whitelist, all one really needs is:

That's what this script does. It reads every selected message in Mail.app, extracts the "from" address, and passes that address off to a very simple shell command that looks like this:

ssh foo@bar -t spamassassin --add-addr-to-whitelist=goodguy@foobar.com

After it runs the shell command, it makes sure the whitelisted message is marked as not-spam by Mail.app.

Optionally, it tosses up a list of the addresses it added to your whitelist so you can be assured that "Ansible T. Cadillac" the herbal v.1.a.g.r.A! dealer didn't get into your whitelist by mistake.

It's in the documentation, but another quick, cool note: By tacking on three underscores (_) and a command string (like "ctl-w") then saving the script in your ~/Library/Scripts/Mail Scripts folder, you can invoke the script from the keyboard instead of going up to the mail scripting menu with the mouse.

And one other thing:

I solved this problem with mutt (which can do IMAP if you like) in slightly different fashion by adding this line to my .muttrc: macro pager .w "| ssh me@foo 'spamassassin -aW'\nd"

That binds the key strokes ".w" to a mutt command that pipes the the message into ssh and tells spamassassin on the server side to whitelist the addresses in the message. (Thanks, Sam, for reminding me how to pipe stuff over ssh.)

It took, it should be obvious, a lot less effort to cook that up in mutt than it did to write the AppleScript to make Mail.app to do the same thing.

I'm still wavering on which client to use, by the way. Mail.app's pretty slick, but mutt's got its own attractions in the form of speed and flexibility.

--Open this script in a new Script Editor window.

-- Remote report of whitelist address to SpamAssassin from Mail.app
-- This is most handy if saved in your Mail scripting menu ($HOME:Library:Scripts:Mail Scripts)
-- If you want to add a shortcut, save it with a filename ending in something like "___ctl-w" (that's three underscore characters)

-- Set this variable to your username and the remote host on which you run SpamAssassin
set user to "mph@ix"
set addies to {}

tell application "Mail"
    set l to the selection as list
    repeat with m in l
            set wladdress to the sender of m
            set wladdress to extract address from wladdress
            do shell script "ssh " & user & " -t spamassassin --add-addr-to-whitelist=" & wladdress
            set addies to wladdress & return & addies
            set junk mail status of m to false
        end try
    end repeat
    -- optional and potentially annoying... commented out for now:
    --    display dialog ("These addresses were added to your whitelist:" & addies) buttons {"OK"} default button "OK"
end tell

Posted by mph at 5:37 PM

Not quite swingin', but...

This is nothing but anecdotal, and likely won't mean a thing in the electoral college, but I've noticed a few campaign trends here in Indiana that are at least heartwarming and might even be, you know, noteworthy.

Indiana, some of you may know, has not given its electoral votes to a Democrat in 40 years. Who knows, maybe if Indiana had gone for Goldwater in '64, the sting of the conservatives' defeat might have been so eased that they wouldn't have gone raging into the wilderness to come roaring back on Reagan's shoulders and, arguably, gotten us into the pickle we're in now. Regardless, we've gone GOP in every election since. We have had Democratic senators and governors in the interim, as we do now, and currently the mayor of Indianapolis as well. So it's not a complete monomaniacal lock for the GOP, but you see my point.

My parents live in a pretty conservative suburb of Indianapolis, and since putting out a Kerry/Edwards yard sign they've gotten surprisingly positive (and voluntary) feedback from a handful of their neighbors.

I've found myself behind a few Kerry/Edwards bumperstickers--which, my car making two of us, amounts to a veritable Democratic parade in these parts.

And just today, while I was waiting in the Steak'n'Shake drive-thru (Chili 5-Way, baby), a heavy-set young guy with a crew cut climbed out of his minivan to approach my car and ask where I got my sticker. (I'll fess up to my narrow-mindedness and say this guy did not look like that's what he was going to ask me.) Of course I told him ("I donated online!") and wished him well. It was a swell feeling. To have this happen in Indianapolis--you can't imagine.

All this is just to say that, if it's happening here, it surely must be happening in places more warm to the Democratic view of things. Premature predictions of Kerry's demise are probably well taken (though he did OK on The Daily Show last night), and he certainly needs to set about articulating a plan in short, punchy phrases--not to mention show some stronger emotion than that goddamn bemused resignation Al Gore has affected since 2000.

But, still: People around here are mobilizing against the Republican incumbent, however modestly, and that's something I've never seen. (Maybe in Bloomington.) When I moved back from New York one month after 9/11, you'd have thought those towers fell here. Flags and macho bumperstickers everywhere. To have experienced that day firsthand and then see all these expressions of what I took to be vicarious grief and rage--it was a weird time.

Whatever you call whatever 9/11 provoked outside the areas directly affected, it has been in full effect here. And there are still plenty of "W" stickers. And he'll probably carry the damn state.

But, still. I don't feel so much like a stranger in a strange land, and it gives me some hope for the real swing states.

Posted by pk at 3:07 PM

Stump gem: Cheney's stupid economy

If you can't make money in Bush's economy, it's your own f#@%ing fault:

Indicators measure the nation's unemployment rate, consumer spending and other economic milestones, but Vice President Dick Cheney says it misses the hundreds of thousands who make money selling on eBay.

"That's a source that didn't even exist 10 years ago," Cheney told an audience in Cincinnati on Thursday. "Four hundred thousand people make some money trading on eBay."

So right. People selling second-hand wares at an online flea market is a sign of good times. In the old days, the economically challenged had to peddle Grandma's flatware on street corners.

Cheney serves up a meatball, Edwards hits it out:

Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards responded that Cheney's comments show how "out of touch" he and President Bush are with the economy.

"If we only included bake sales and how much money kids make at lemonade stands, this economy would really be cooking," Edwards said in a statement.

TAPPED: "But now here's the thing--as Brad DeLong notes we actually do include eBay's domestic revenues in our economic statistics."

Posted by pk at 11:47 AM

September 7, 2004


Today is PuddingTime's two year anniversary. We started out by filing a brief review of a forgettable movie.

It's sort of an odd anniversary to mark, since it's not really my blogging anniversary. There had been assorted incarnations of what was going to be PuddingTime! spanning back to some time in 2000, and attempts at "time ordered personal writing on the Web" going back well before that, and well before puddingbowl.org existed as a domain. But it's been under the PuddingTime! banner that I've done the most blogging, so I might as well observe the date.

I was going to try to find some favorite entries, and I spent a while going through the 900-something-something posts, when it occurred to me that I don't have any favorites. I've mainly found myself wishing I'd written more in a few entries because I don't remember what, exactly, I meant when I got all elliptical.

It was also entertaining to go through the entries and find out how much junk I'd bolted on in the form of buttons and gimcracks over the past few years: Amazon lookups, Netflix queue displayers, cutesy macros to make it easier to type things I don't type more anyhow, etc. etc. etc. Most of that stuff is gone now, and good riddance. You get "On This Day," and that's it.

We now return you to more of the usual.

Posted by mph at 9:07 PM

Kerry's Defense Vote

The other shoe of the Bush campaign's attack on John Kerry's fitness to defend America is his supposedly having voted against a host of weapons systems. Slate's Fred Kaplan took this on in February, but the media still let Republican liars mouth it from the convention podium as though it were honest.

Looking at the weapons that the RNC says Kerry voted to cut, a good case could be made, certainly at the time, that some of them (the B-2 bomber and President Reagan's "Star Wars" missile-defense program) should have been cut. As for the others (the M-1 tank and the F-14, F-15, and F-16 fighter planes, among others), Kerry didn't really vote to cut them.

The claim about these votes was made in the Republican National Committee "Research Briefing" of Feb. 22. The report lists 13 weapons systems that Kerry voted to cut--the ones cited above, as well as Patriot air-defense missiles, Tomahawk cruise missiles, and AH64 Apache helicopters, among others.

It is instructive, however, to look at the footnotes. Almost all of them cite Kerry's vote on Senate bill S. 3189 (CQ Vote No. 273) on Oct. 15, 1990. Do a Google search, and you will learn that S. 3189 was the Fiscal Year 1991 Defense Appropriations Act, and CQ Vote No. 273 was a vote on the entire bill. There was no vote on those weapons systems specifically.

On a couple of the weapons, the RNC report cites H.R. 5803 and H.R. 2126. Look those up. They turn out to be votes on the House-Senate conference committee reports for the defense appropriations bills in October 1990 (the same year as S. 3189) and September 1995.

In other words, Kerry was one of 16 senators (including five Republicans) to vote against a defense appropriations bill 14 years ago. He was also one of an unspecified number of senators to vote against a conference report on a defense bill nine years ago. The RNC takes these facts and extrapolates from them that he voted against a dozen weapons systems that were in those bills. The Republicans could have claimed, with equal logic, that Kerry voted to abolish the entire U.S. armed forces, but that might have raised suspicions. Claiming that he opposed a list of specific weapons systems has an air of plausibility. On close examination, though, it reeks of rank dishonesty.

The Daily Howler:

Forty years ago, the GOP did something quite smart; it began to develop a meta-narrative to explain its place in the world. That meta-narrative is Liberal bias, a pleasing tale the GOP recites to explain all unpleasant events. (You saw Bush do it last night.) Voters have heard about "liberal bias" for decades. Any time an event occurs which puts the GOP on the defensive, hacks haul out this pleasing excuse. And they've learned to use this old script quite well.

The time has come when our uncaring Democrats have to start telling the truth to the people. But what meta-narrative should the Dems tell? They need to tell an accurate narrative: Every four years, Republican hacks make a joke of our lives, inventing strange stories about the Dem candidate. They distract; they deceive; they direct us to trivia; they make a joke of our public discussion. It's perfectly clear that our Big Major Dems don't really care if this costs them elections. But will these lazy, feckless pols ever defend the rights of the public? Will they ever show that they actually care when a joke is made of our White House elections?

On Wednesday night, the Bush camp was lying in voters' faces in those speeches by Miller and Cheney. And the DNC plainly doesn't care--doesn't bother debunking the charges, doesn't bother explaining the process.

The DNC needs a meta-story--the Republicans keep making a joke of your discourse. But to tell a story, again and again, DNC honchos have to believe it--and care. We see no sign that they really do care, and that explains our quadrennial clowning. Clearly, the Washington press doesn't care. Does the DNC care? Let them prove it.

Posted by pk at 2:16 PM

September 6, 2004


Pleasant Labor Day weekend. We got lucky and scored a cottage in Pacific City on the Oregon coast. The place is under renovation, so in exchange for stuff like unfinished outlets and lighting fixtures hanging down from the ceiling and uncarpeted floors it cost us $30 a night, which is a pretty nice rate for a place that could sleep 12 comfortably. It was pretty close to the beach, too: Ten minute walk, tops.

IMG_3516.jpgSome rentals on the coast are professionally managed and more like hotels than houses. This one had the lived-in feel of a place rented to folks when the family doesn't care to use it. Family photos were stuck to the fridge with magnets, personal art projects were on display, and there was a collection of beach shoes and jackets by the door. There were also some fine displays of beach kitsch.

I brought a few books along, but as with every rental on the coast there was a well stocked paperback library in the living room, so I poked at a few titles before settling on Peter Straub's "The Throat," which was kind of compelling in the way the mass market thriller authors can be: 200 pages in and you're noting there are another 480 to go and you're wondering why you even cared about everything that happened in the preceding 200: How could it matter in the big picture that is that monstrous book? It was also a fairly grisly tale in that way mass market thrillers are: No need to have the reader work anything out... it's in technicolor prose. In all: Sort of sorry I read it, but also glad that the weekend was defined by a sense of time luxury that permitted me to wade through a 680 page mass market thriller. And sometimes I entertained myself by turning on a narrative voice much like my last fiction professor's:

"One might think that John is hiding something, might one not? But at the same time, it's so obvious something is being hidden that we might be inclined to wonder if the author isn't playing a game. Hm. A little game, to be sure. Might we not? And once we realize a game is being played, we're taken out of the story and the narrative flow is broken, is it not? So I'm not persuaded of the value of this particular game. Hm."

Me, neither, Professor Tinsley. Thank you for being there with me.

What else?

IMG_3465.jpgWe bought a little backpack carrier for Ben before this outing. He's right at 20 pounds right now, so he's a bit heavy for Al's sling and the front-carrier was never particularly comfortable. The backpack thing, though, was perfect. Fairly comfortable and it feels like it will be sturdy enough to last for the rest of the season. Our one big mistake of the weekend was attempting to go straight up the side of a sandy hill on the beach with Ben in the backpack carrier on Al's back. We made it a little over halfway before we both realized there was no way in hell. I even dug a little hole in the sand to be sick if I needed. Once I recovered, I watched other people going up the hill, slowly, painstakingly, like primate versions of sea turtles come to lay eggs at the summit. Why? Because. It's a hill. It's there. And people had a lot of fun throwing themselves down it once they reached the top.

Besides nearly orphaning Ben on the side of a sandy hill while the ten-year-olds ran past us laughing, we spent a lot of our time chilling out. Ben had a wakeful period of over four hours long without much fussing, which is pretty rare for him. Lots for him to take in, though. They say he'll remember none of it, but that all the different sights, smells, and sounds are good for him all the same.

This morning we were pretty leisurely about leaving. We drove up Hwy 101 and stopped off at Munson Creek Falls for a few minutes before heading on up to Tillamook (home of the fighting Cheese Makers) and on over to Portland.

There are lots more photos over at the gallery. Personal favorite: The sea shell owls, followed closely by "Four Food Groups Picasso painting."

Posted by mph at 7:53 PM

September 3, 2004

Keep House

Ed reminded me that I don't have a comments feed anymore, so that's now fixed with comments.xml, borrowed from Adam Kalsey.

I had to give dynamic templates a try just to see how they worked. Nifty. Broke the hell out of Markdown, though, hours before Gruber got around to pointing out that the Perl version is broken when dynamic templating is in use. He also pointed to a solution. Good. I took the cowardly way out re: dynamic templates, and let MT cache a static version of each page on render, so on the day pk brings the wrath of the freepers down on us we'll last ten or eleven seconds instead of 0.8.

Futureblogging is also in place, after only a moment of bumfuzzlement over this irritating bit of arcana.

Now to type up a heartfelt "2 years of PuddingTime! as we know it mostly today" post in time for the upcoming anniversary, which isn't really an anniversary but you gotta observe something some time.

Posted by mph at 5:00 PM

Kerry, Bush, and the $87 billion

The Daily Howler has been harping on this as only the Howler can harp, but it bears repeating often, since this has become a favorite GOP laugh-line. The following is from the Washington Post article also in the LinkLog:

Kerry's vote last year against the administration's $87 billion proposal to fund troops in Iraq and pay for Iraqi reconstruction has also been the focus of Republican attacks. "My opponent and his running mate voted against this money for bullets, and fuel, and vehicles, and body armor," Bush said last night.

Kerry actually supported all those things, but as part of a different version of the bill opposed by the administration. At the time, many Republicans were uncomfortable with the administration's plans and the White House had to threaten a veto against the congressional version to bring reluctant lawmakers in line.

In a floor statement explaining his vote, Kerry said he favored the $67 billion for the troops on the ground--"I support our troops in Iraq and their mission"--but faulted the administration's $20 billion request for reconstruction. He complained that administration "has only given us a set of goals and vague timetables, not a detailed plan."

Yesterday, the State Department said that only $1 billion of that money has been spent in the 11 months since the bill was passed.

Kerry's issues with the bill that ultimately passed had to do with where the money would come from and where the $20 billion tacked on for "reconstruction" would go. Kerry and others wanted to repeal some tax cuts on the wealthy and/or loan the money against future Iraqi oil proceeds rather than tack the cost onto Bush's mounting deficit, and it was rightly disputed whether a bill providing much-needed materiel for our troops ought to be tied to carte-blanche cash for no-bid contracts awarded to cronies of the Bush administration.

However, Bush threatened to veto the bill that Kerry, Edwards, and others supported. He refused to sign a version that would cost him any of his tax cut and require advance explanation and oversight of the $20 billion for reconstruction. So the Republican majority made sure it was served up the president's way.

Reasonable people can argue that a bill providing aid and comfort to our troops should have been supported unanimously, and that Kerry and Edwards should have voted for the final version regardless of their disputes with it. Hell, you could even argue that Kerry was stinking up the primaries and needed to shore up his anti-war cred against Howard Dean.

But let's understand that Kerry's "No" vote had principle behind it, and that Kerry and Edwards did, indeed, support the funding for our troops before Bush forced passage of his version of the bill.

And let's also understand this: Bush threatened to veto a version of this bill, "this money for bullets, and fuel, and vehicles, and body armor." One might even say that he voted against it before he voted for it.

Posted by pk at 9:51 AM

September 1, 2004

The Aggressively Ugly

The television came back from the repair center a day early. The repair dude said he couldn't replicate the problem, so he called Sony and they sent him a few IC's to stick in. Probably ought to start researching Oregon consumer law to see what remedies will be available to me after a return or two more.

Update: Wow. The t.v. worked for 30 minutes then died. A quick call to Sony netted me the guidance "unplug it for a minute then see what happens." So it's back to the repair shop on Friday some time.

Posted by mph at 4:24 PM


There will eventually be people who can offer actual expert opinion about the strange case of President Bush's medals, but I'm here to offer one piece of relevant military experience: Unit awards are one of the least understood bits of gewgaw the average soldier pins on his class A uniform.

Most troopies understand what it takes to earn a gold star on your jump wings, or the right to wear a "combat patch" on your right shoulder, or what one must do to wear an expert marksman's badge, but the whole matter of unit awards/citations are a mystery, and they tend to be solved by the average leader with "the rest of us are wearing them... get down to the PX and buy one because you're a member of this unit, too."

If Bush was wearing a unit citation award of some kind on his uniform, the chances are very good he was told to do it by someone who only vaguely understood the rules behind those medals. I wore a few unit awards on my own uniforms despite having no idea where they came from because my platoon sergeants, as part of preparation for inspections, would note that I was missing them. Could they explain where the ribbons came from or how the unit earned them? No. I know they couldn't because I asked, and I was always told "we all wear 'em."

I understood they were for something the unit did because they had the word "unit" on the package when I bought them down at the PX, and because they went on the right breast of the uniform, which is where my little AR 670-1 cheat-sheet said unit citation ribbons go.

dd214.jpg I'm offering up this bit of insight because I know some people will be rubbing their hands together at the prospect of having counterdirt to sling at the repugnant sacks of shit who have been mocking John Kerry's service and casting doubt on the worth of his Purple Hearts. This is a trivial matter. I hope no one I like and respect makes mention of something as stupid and commonly botched as this as if it proves something. Please move on. Spend your rhetorical gifts on something that matters.

There are, by the way, three mistakes on my own discharge records: They're missing a medal (an Army Commendation Medal), they botched my marksmanship badge (I didn't qualify as an expert the last time I fired a weapon), and they got the name of my occupational specialty wrong. Feel free to have a look by clicking on that thumbnail: It's a copy of my allegedly canonical DD214, which is one of the first places to look when investigating who's entitled to wear what on his/her uniform.

Preemptive note: I know that "they" have made an issue of service by either strutting around in uniforms they couldn't get out of quickly enough when "they" were "serving." I know that "they" are asking for this by taking issue with Kerry's own war record. It just doesn't matter. Go over to your Republican neighbor's with a homemade pie and spend the evening talking issues, why don't you? You'll get a lot further than screeching at them about George's potentially unearned ribbon.

Posted by mph at 4:14 PM