The Vaterland Sicherheit Homeland Security Agency has just come up with a brand new idea to protect you.

Choice quote (emphasis added):

In his letter, Soaries pointed out that […] “the federal government has no agency that has the statutory authority to cancel and reschedule a federal election.

Soaries wants Ridge to ask Congress to pass legislation giving the government such power, Newsweek reported in its latest issue that hits the newsstands on Monday.

Homeland Security Department spokesman Brian Rochrkasse told the magazine the agency is reviewing the matter “to determine what steps need to be taken to secure the election.

So let me get this straight: a member of the current executive branch (whose very election is itself a point of controversy) is considering asking the legislative branch to pass a law, that would in effect put the decision to renew the executive branch into the hands of… the executive branch.

Yea, if that sounds like a lot of executive branch in the same sentence, that’s because it is. Somehow I get the nagging feeling this plan doesn’t go in the overall direction of more Check and Balance.

Just remember people, War on Terrorism is Peace, Slavery is Freedom and who needs a goddamn election anyway?

Have you noticed how common it is to receive professional corporate e-mails that show absolutely no respect whatsoever for basic typographic rules?
And I don’t mean such nitpicking as whether periods and question marks go inside or outside quotes: I’m talking full-on spacing chaos (either dozen of whitespace before and after every single item of punctuation, or inversely, not a single space for the whole paragraph), with the occasional (though thankfully rare) ALL CAPS EMAIL every now and then.
While I do not expect spam or random newbie mails to be jewels of typography, it is always a bit unsettling to receive such loosely typed e-mails from people who’ve supposedly been exercising higher-exec positions for up to a few decades sometimes…

I think the explanation is precisely there: none of these people are used to typing their own mails. Up until this fateful era where typists have been replaced by MS Word, nobody above the rank of manager would have ever condescended to type his own mail. Maybe a quick draft by hand, but that’s about as far as it would go. As for formatting and typography: this was the secretary’s job.

Ironically, nowadays, even CEOs of multi-billion dollars companies have to occasionally type emails by themselves. And obviously, they were never told not to put spacing before a period.

That reminds me of such a man who justified his absolute refusal to carry a cellphone thus: by answering your own phone, you are basically doing your secretary’s job, and lowering yourself in the face of business partners. Sheer brattiness aside (I guess he could afford to be a brat, at least by his own standard of success), he had a point: at the time, by adopting this nifty new gadget, businessmen were virtually downgrading their standing, since even the most common peon could break in their higher spheres of power and reach them directly at any time of day or night without fear of being filtered by a zealous assistant.

As for our cellphone-adverse gentleman: he held strong and never accepted to carry a portable communication device on his person. And thankfully never lived to see the cell-phone boom of the following decade.


I think it’s been established by now, that I am a horribly self-indulgent whining bastard with an amazing talent for ranting about every single pointless non-issue in my life. I got a good ten yards of blog entries to prove it, right here.


BUT, I pride myself in that you will never hear me, in the middle of a regular conversation with friends, start detailing excruciatingly dull and meaningless minutiae of my work life: how such or such project is not coming along as we expected and how I can’t stand the girl from accounting and so on and so forth.

I might mention some work-related items or geeky stuff somewhat connected to work every once in a while, since after all, work is quite a central part of my life (well, until that massive cocaine deal goes through, that is: after that, I’m off to retirement for good).
Informal roundup of long time friend’s careers, idle “how was your day” chat and the like: it’s all good.
But do I ramble endlessly about the finer points of project implementation, the mediocre sex life of complete strangers that I happen to work with, or the new color of my office wallpaper: nope.

NOT, mind you, out of some stupid altruistic consideration for my friends and their understandable lack of interest for discussing the intricacies of somebody else’s work, for which they do not receive a salary. Once again: I’ll gladly bore to death anybody with the most pathetically mundane details of my life provided I got enough rope at hand.
No. The reason I do not bask in office stories when going out with friends is that It is only a fucking JOB.
Call me vain, but no matter how I might actually enjoy doing my job, I am still glad to be done with it at the end of the day. And I DO like my job. doing a job I am happy to do is, along with reaching a complete moratorium on the presence of any alarm clock in my bedroom, the only lifelong professional ambitions I have ever had: in that regards, I can safely say I am quite a successful man, since I haven’t owned a sound-enabled time device in many years now. I like my job, but I like doing other things even more, ok?
Seeing how the goal of my day is usually to get my work done with, so as to be able to partake in other occupations that are not work, no matter how similar in practice, I don’t see why I would ever want to drag work along once I’m done. If I wanted to keep feeling at work, I would not be sitting in a bar with a beer in my hand, I’d be in my cubicle (ok that’s an image: I don’t have a cubicle and my office is about 5 feet from my bed, on my couch, previously dragged in the middle of our 2-square-feet garden if the sun is shining).

I don’t bore other people with petty work-talk because it also bores me. And I pretty much expect the same selfish courtesy from my, otherwise fondly cared for, friends. If I keep switching the topic off that latest xml scheme you’ve been fighting about with your boss, onto the hairdo of the blonde next to us, it’s not because I really care about scary 80’s soap opera fashion revival, it’s because I am desperate and about to kill someone if the word “project flow” is uttered one more time when I’m drinking a beer.

So in the future, unless your job is absolutely fascinating (and I do mean fascinating, as in I-hunt-and-trade-albinos-unicorn kind of fascinating, not I-improve-workflow-productivity-for-major-corporation-XYZ-foreign-exports-division kind of fascinating), please just stick to the skinny and assume by default that I really do not want to hear about the woes of your IT department when they tried to upgrade all the PCs to Windows 2006. To put it bluntly: I don’t care. And I know you probably don’t care about whatever else I might launch the conversation on, but at least, it is not work. And that’s good enough for me. And please don’t get pissy if I finally clue you in on the level of tear-inducing boredom of your work-related topic of predilection: I don’t hate you, I love what you got to say, but come on, you are better than that, I’m sure you can discuss non office-life-related matters with the same brilliant insights and exciting details that flourish when relating your boss’s secretary last fling with another [equally unknown to me, likely to remain so for the rest of my life and therefore of no interest whatsoever] workmate.

PS: If you are a friend reading this and we’ve gone for drinks and chat in the past few days: I’m not talking about you of course, I’m talking about all the others.
PPS: To my parole officer and my buddies at the twelve-step program: I know I screwed up. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have brought back that pack of red bulls from Barcelona. I thought I was stronger than the Can now. I thought I could control it… I was in denial, I know.
But I swear I’ll stop soon as soon as my paxil prescription comes though. Just one more can, and I stop. Promise.

* we are currently accepting votes on this entry for the title of most uninformatively meaningless subject line.

You know what?

Nothing really new with this one, but it just hit me today:

Reminiscing about Bonzo and his ruthlessly opportunistic career (or how to slide from union leader to strike buster in less that 10 years), I realized all of a sudden that he was only the first one in a line of Mediocre Actors Turned Conservative Republican Governors of California

And for a second, I had some apocalyptic vision of him ever getting closer to the Presidency of the United-States than he was when he married Jackie’s niece…

Thanks God for that stupid born-American-citizen requirement… I can breathe now…

Update: This week’s edition of the Onion has the best headline, ever:

Reagan’s Body Dies

Since it seems dying automatically makes you a flawless human and a regretted politician, regardless of the fact you were actually a senile, dim-witted actor with more blood on his hands than many a current dictator… I feel obligated to add my little contribution to the endless string of tearful eulogies filling the media right now.

Or rather, I’ll let the brilliant Gil Scott-Heron do it in the words he used more than two decades ago:

Well, the first thing I want to say is…"Mandate my ass!"

Because it seems as though we’ve been convinced that 26% of the registered voters, not even 26% of the American people, but 26% of the registered voters form a mandate – or a landslide. 21% voted for Skippy and 3, 4% voted for somebody else who might have been running.

But, oh yeah, I remember. In this year that we have now declared the year from Shogun to Reagan, I remember what I said about Reagan…meant it. Acted like an actor…Hollyweird. Acted like a liberal. Acted like General Franco when he acted like governor of California, then he acted like a republican. Then he acted like somebody was going to vote for him for president. And now we act like 26% of the registered voters is actually a mandate. We’re all actors in this I suppose.

[…]

And when America found itself having a hard time facing the future, they looked for people like John Wayne. But since John Wayne was no longer available, they settled for Ronald Reagan – and it has placed us in a situation that we can only look at – like a “B” movie.

[…]

Remember, we’re looking for the closest thing we can find to John Wayne. Clichés abound like kangaroos – courtesy of some spaced out Marlin Perkins, a Reagan contemporary. Clichés like, “itchy trigger finger” and “tall in the saddle” and “riding off or on into the sunset.” Clichés like, “Get off of my planet by sundown!” More so than clichés like, “he died with his boots on.” Marine tough the man is. Bogart tough the man is. Cagney tough the man is. Hollywood tough the man is. Cheap stick tough. And Bonzo’s substantial. The ultimate in synthetic selling: A Madison Avenue masterpiece – a miracle – a cotton-candy politician…Presto! Macho!

“Macho, macho man!”

“You go give them liberals hell Ronnie.” That was the mandate. To the new “Captain Bly” on the new ship of fools. It was doubtlessly based on his chameleon performance of the past – as a liberal democrat – as the head of the Studio Actor’s Guild. When other celluloid saviors were cringing in terror from McCarthy – Ron stood tall. It goes all the way back from Hollywood to hillbilly. From liberal to libelous, from “Bonzo” to Birch idol…born again. Civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights…it’s all wrong. Call in the cavalry to disrupt this perception of freedom gone wild. God damn it…first one wants freedom, then the whole damn world wants freedom.

[…]

Why wait for 1984? You can panic now…and avoid the rush.

excerpts from the lyrics to the song B Movie (1981) by Gil Scott-Heron

And that was before he was able to carry most of his politics…

Whether him or somebody else, never would I wish in cold blood for the death of a man. But please do not expect me to mourn him:
For fuck sake: the man died peacefully in his bed, at an age most people on the planet have not even heard of. I can think of quite a few people in Latin America who were not given this chance.

Now I ask you:

Could ten consecutive hours spent in the sole company of Messrs. Lebesgue and Cauchy’s monstrous brain-children somehow be nefarious to one’s sanity and legendary sense of humor?

Not in the least of course. Actually, the American Association of Stand-Up Comic Mathematicians (AASUCM) recommends at least a 15 hours daily intake of Calculus to stay in good health.

By the way, you know the story of Whack, the Dog, and Flop-Flop, the Seagull?

Wanna hear it?

OK, so there’s this cute little dog who’s crossing the street, failing to notice the huge SUV roaring down the street in his direction and… Whack, the Dog…

Oh, Flop-Flop the seagull too?

So there’s this seagull peacefully flying somewhere off the Persian Gulf coast, failing to notice the huge UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter scurrying in its direction and…

anyway.

so yea, maybe it’s time to take a break from mathematics and sleep some…

I still remember one of the last Discovery Channel-style epiphany that occurred to me before I overdosed on Physics and the mere mention of the word started sending me into irrepressible fits of maniacal laughter:

While studying the effect of high-voltage electrical current on molecular geometry, our professor mentioned in passing that this was, in essence, what happened in the skies before (and during) your typical thunderstorm: oxygen molecules (O2) would get dissociated into unstable atomic oxygen that would recombine with more O2 to make ozone (O3). Ozone being much more dense than molecular oxygen then proceeds to fall straight to the ground where it reaches the unsuspecting layman’s nostrils.

So that lovely and unique smell that fills the air just before a Summer storm like right now is the smell of ozone.

Science is, indeed, a wonderful thing.

Update: Scott’s insightful contribution and some more amusing scientific facts about Ozone, in the comment section.

Last week, Yosef Lapid, Israeli Justice minister and leader of the centrist Shinui party (one of the least radical trend in the current government coalition) harshly criticized the recent demolitions of Palestinian habitation (allegedly an effort to “secure” the Gaza strip). A few members of Sharon’s own government had already shown increasing concerns over the disastrous human and political consequences of this offensive. But Lapid went one major step further in an interview with Israel Defence Forces radio:

Referring to the TV picture, Mr Lapid said he was “talking about an old woman crouching on all fours, searching for her medicines in the ruins of her house and that she made me think of my grandmother”.

“I said that if we carry on like this, we will be expelled from the United Nations and those responsible will stand trial at The Hague,”

Source: BBC News

These comments take their full weight when you know that he “spent part of World War II in a Budapest ghetto and lost many members of his family in the Holocaust, including a grandmother who died at Auschwitz.”

Of course, this allusion to Nazi Germany when discussing domestic policies utterly infuriated his right-wing colleagues and prompted him to quickly retract his previous statement: “I’m not referring to the Germans. I’m not referring to the Holocaust,” Lapid told the Radio. “When you see an old woman, you think of your grandmother.”

But there is little doubt on the true reason of his original reaction: while he most certainly did not mean to draw a serious parallel between current Middle-East events and the horrors of the Holocaust, it is hard not to notice that the Israeli government is now assuming the ugly role of the persecutor in occupied Palestinian territories.

Of course, in this stupid conflict, both sides abound with political extremists, scary religious fanatics and blood-thirsty militants.
But only one side is claiming the legitimacy of a democratic government. And lately, it has not displayed a conduct very befitting of a democracy.

Many people tend to see Israeli politics as one single block united behind hard-line right-wingers. But nothing could be farther from the truth. The Knesset is divided between a ridiculously high number of small factions that form and break coalitions, successively putting the left or the Likud in position of power. Lately, under the rule of Sharon, undeniably a talented strategist and a very popular figure, who, incidentally, has been firmly written down in the books of a few Belgian prosecutors as a War Criminal, the Likud has enjoyed a seemingly unstoppable support and has used most of it to muddle the situation back into the mess it was two decades ago.
But if you talk to a lot of Israeli, especially the ones who do not currently live in Israel: the countless youth who have jumped on the first occasion to flee the downward spiral of violence engulfing their native country, you will hear a much dissenting opinion from what is usually considered the “Israeli cause”. Unfortunately, this moderate majority is entirely overshadowed by a vociferous minority of fanatics who are currently tearing appart any hope of a peaceful resolution to this conflict, irrevocably damaging the Jewish State’s international credit in the process.

It is also worth pointing out that the much talked-about US “neo-cons”, currently in control of every strategic position in the White House, have more than a connection in passing with the Likud.

Please excuse the crappy quality of the above pictures: they were captured with rather rudimentary tools from the low-quality streaming of an Israeli broadcast archived by France Television 2 (link to that day no longer available unfortunately). I stumbled upon this footage while watching a webcast of French TV’s excellent show: “Le Zapping” (see part 6.3 of my special Links Edition entry for more info on that show).

Yea, Albert said that. And he was not the dimmest one of the lot.

Actually, I think he would have gladly included “blind patriotic rage” under the “nationalism” umbrella. The kind of nationalism that involved sticking a flag on your SUV and cheering at Dubya’s lame western one-liners while burping your Budweiser light in front of Fox News. The same kind of nationalism that will cause even more deaths this year in Iraq than in NYC on 9/11. A nationalism, that, like any self-respecting fanatical ideology, feeds itself on its own failure…

These past two months, I have stayed away from the most important topic of all, precisely while it was entering a particularly dramatic phase of its development. Of course, I did not stay shut for lack of a strong opinion on the war or its proponents. But I guess we all get progressively numb to disgust and consternation after a while. Further more, I did not really feel like contributing to what truely is a bit of an echo chamber… I mean, call me jaded, but do we really need thousands of identical “read this article”/”this is horrible” comments, each time a statement is made or a news is published. I’m all for popular democratic involvement, but what is the point of sharing your opinion if:
1) It is the same, verbatim, as a few thousands of other blogs/websites and does not bring any new insight on the question whatsoever.
2) It will only be read by people already sold to your cause and certainly not by people who might disagree (in fact, most of us do not write for those people).

Then why post now? Well, even if I do not put the slightest claim on any groundbreaking analysis or much originality altogether, there are a few small items I felt like sharing:

  • Regarding the Abu Ghraib “Scandal”: for as shocking and vile as these treatments are, anybody who claims to be surprised at such a behaviour being condoned by US officials is either lying through his teeth or very poorly informed. Abuses are not new, they are not even a secret. The only new factor is that, this time, the whole world is looking at it and it’s hard to keep it discreet. However, many papers (not in the US, need I precise) have been pointing for a long time at the constant trampling of the Geneva Convention rights in places such as Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo. Of course, US officials are quick to point out the “extra-territoriality” of Guantanamo, in effect preserving some appearance of respectability in the face of international law. But no legal loophole will amend the fact that the US have officially recognized using “physical intimidation” and other gulag-style methods to extract information from their illegally detained prisoners (most of whom have not been charged by any qualified tribunal). The US also does not hide the fact that they routinely use the “assistance” of other countries in interrogating their suspects. In practice, it has meant shipping “suspected terrorists” to countries known for their less-than-stellar record on human-right issues and let them handle the dirty work for them. A certain Canadian traveler who had the misfortune to tick off some US airport officers certainly know something about that.
  • Common knowledge too that US media coverage of the war in Iraq is laughably bad. Actually, US media altogether have long collapsed to a rather low level of propaganda-relaying for a conglomerate of various political and corporate interests. But that’s just my personal opinion (or rather: Noam Chomsky’s, and I share it).
    Of course, this peremptory judgement admits many exceptions, most notably Sy Hersh‘s amazing investigative work for the New Yorker (the dark irony that he had to be the very person to uncover the inconvenient Abu Ghraib scandal is certainly not lost on some people in Washington: history has strange hiccups sometimes).

    Otherwise, the Guardian. consistently brings such a strong cover of every aspects of US domestic and international policies that it will quite often precede US newspapers.

    For people who can read German, the Frankfurter Allgemeine keeps a slightly more conservative approach, though as critical of the US administration, of current affairs (I think a translation of major articles is also present on the English version of their site).

    Another great reading (in French) are the pages of Courrier International which culls the best of the press worldwide and presents a compilation of translated articles written by journalists of every nationalities.

    My personal favorite among politics/war-related blog is definitely Whiskey Bar were both content and form are a pleasure to read. Beside, any man who can quote both Monty Python and Pontecorvo’s movie Battle for Algiers in a perfectly meaningful political analysis has to be my hero…

And that will be it for tonight, as I will have to handle another kind of international conflict pretty soon if I do not close this computer immediately…

Like we really needed this to realize how much of a police state the US of A has become:

Logan Airport deploys snitch-squad

[…]

At the security checkpoints, screening supervisors have a score sheet with a list of behaviors on it. If a passenger hits a certain number, a law enforcement officer will be notified to question the person.

Let me guess: along with the score sheet comes a set of color samples to match appropriately any evil dark-skin foreigner, I mean “suspect”…

And to the gregarious hordes of concerned citizens braying about how they don’t mind any further trampling of their personal liberties, as long as it can somehow “make them feel safe”, I think it bears repeating once again the ubiquitous quote (attributed to Franklin by most, although it also seems to have been uttered by Jackson in a slightly different version):

Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.