Sunday, March 30, 2008

My secret identity

An almost completely unrelated post by Gozpazha got me thinking about misrepresentation and misdirection and whether there's a difference.

This is me talking, the person who invented the nom de plume of B.W. Richardson. I invented this persona — who has come to feel more like me than me — for a variety of reasons, most of them legitimate, but every so often I wonder about what will happen when my secret identity is discovered. It's silly, I know, the people who know seem to understand and don't mind (as far as I know) that I said "This is me" when really I'm this other person.

Mostly I'm concerned about those occasional moments when I have referred to the real me (That is, the person with the name my parents gave me) in the third person. In those cases I said "This is me" and deliberately indicated "This is not me." I understand why I must do this, and I forgive myself, but will you?

Silly question, I guess.

Friday, March 28, 2008

How far we've come

This story is a little example of why it's hard to hold out hope for that republic Ben Franklin mentioned.

SCRANTON, Pa. (AP) — Democrat Barack Obama on Monday promised Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans help with their grievances — save one. "I know it drives you nuts. But I'm not going to lower the drinking age," the presidential candidate said.

Army veteran Ernest Johnson, 23, of Connecticut, said one of the things that peeved him before he turned 21 was that he couldn't come home and drink a beer — even though he was old enough to serve in the armed services and die for his country.

Obama told Johnson he sympathized, but that setting the legal drinking age at 21 had helped reduce drunken driving incidents and should remain.
Look at the assumptions behind that simple little exchange:

1. The government should have the power to dictate at what age a person may drink an alcoholic beverage.

2. This power is properly exercised at the federal level.

3. The president has the authority to raise or lower the drinking age on his own ("I'm" not going to lower the drinking age).

4. Because some people irresponsibly operate motor vehicles after drinking to excess, the government must regulate all drinking of alcoholic beverages.

No doubt there are several deeper assumptions that I'm missing.

The question to Franklin was, "Well, doctor, what have we got — a republic or a monarchy?" Implicit in the way Obama answered the question is that he believes he's running for king — and nothing in the past several decades of American experience gives him pause to believe he's wrong.

I don't relay this to make you afraid of a President Obama — the trouble with the U.S. government is more intrinsic than the identity of the elected dictator. I'm just pointing out how hard-wired the situation is. The presidential candidacy of Ron Paul failed to gain much traction in part because the concepts he voiced are so foreign to the average American's ears — not to mention so threatening to the status quo.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, March 24, 2008

B.W.'s Book Report: Blue Shoe

Maybe it's my fault, for picking an easygoing Ann Lamott book as my followup to a fall and winter of Ayn Rand, Frank Chodorov and Murray Rothbard. Blue Shoe was a pleasant enough little book, but it felt a little bit like the cherry cheesecake dessert after a huge, satisfying meal of meat and potatoes.

Lamott is a nice writer, and she made me care enough about a small pile of quirky characters to putter through 300 pages of their trials and tribulations. But when it was over, I was hungry again.

You know, three days after finishing it, I can't think of the main character's name without prompting. I know that the declining health of her mother, Isa, plays a key role, along with an important reason why Isa's mental state is what it is, thanks to the man she chose to marry. There's Daniel, the married man our heroine finds herself oddly attracted to, and her ex-husband who is still in the picture because of their two children. It's an interesting story, and I am glad I met them.

But this one goes down as one of those books that was good eating but didn't stick to the ribs. I guess the brain needs one of those in the mix from time to time.

I'm printing out H.L. Mencken's Notes on Democracy now, though, courtesy of The Mises Institute. I suspect this one will linger a bit longer.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, March 23, 2008

B.W. At The Movies: Horton Hears A Who

Sometimes when you least expect it, you find a message about how Authority can't be trusted and maybe a little individualism — dare one say anarchy? — ain't the worst thing in the world.

Horton Hears A Who can't quite decide how far it wants to go with this individualism stuff — after all, the main antagonist is a kangaroo who "pouch-schools" her child, and we are intended to see well-intentioned evil in that decision. It sets up her world view as authoritarian, even though the average home-schooling parents are seeking to protect their children from authoritarian government schools.

But there's a strong message in the film about the power of the individual against a wrong-headed authority. The kangaroo in question even does a credible channeling of Hillary Clinton as she exhorts The Village to crush Horton The Individual for The Good of The Children, warning the alternative could be Anarchy!

It's a little muddled in the end. Everyone's learned the important lesson that "a person's a person no matter how small," but we are left with the suggestion that the fools in authority will muddle along as wiser authoritarians as a result. I suppose I shouldn't object too hard — in fairy tales, everyone does live happily ever after. I guess I was just hoping "happily" was defined as not needing those fools in the first place.

Labels: ,

Friday, March 21, 2008

I want my Pepsi

I finally snapped yesterday and stood up for my rights as a consumer against corporate stupidity. The scene: Yer average brand-name restaurant. Sweetie and I settle down for a nice lunch and the young lady with a pad walks up.

YL: Hi, can I start you with something to drink?
BW: Pepsi, please.
YL: Coke OK?
[Snap. After an awkward pause]
BW: No. Coke is not OK. Coke tastes different from Pepsi. No, I'd like a Pepsi.
YL: All we have is Coke.
[Another awkward pause]
BW: Can I have a 7-Up, then?
YL: [hopefully] Sprite?

I stopped fighting there. I can't tell the difference among lemon-lime drinks. Sprite may as well be 7-Up, but Coca-Cola does not taste like Pepsi-Cola.

I know there must be some financial incentive for the business owner to sign an exclusivity contract with one purveyor of soft drinks or another, but the loser is the consumer. Every day, this scene is repeated millions of times in restaurants that only offer Coca-Cola products or Pepsi-Cola products. It's a stupid practice.

But if this is the only thing I feel compelled to complain about, yesterday was a good day.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

First day of spring

Living in a clime where winter seems to intrude too much on the waning days of fall and the morning chill definitely lingers way too long this time of year, the annual March madness has arrived, and it has nothing to do with orange bouncing balls.

Enough winter already!!!!!!! Aaaaaaaaaargh!!!!!!!!

I'm ready for green to be the dominant color out there. I'm ready for flowers. I'm just ready. Enough of this dreary stuff. It's the first day of spring.

I found this compellingly appropriate image here.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I-Bomb download discount

I've marked down the cost of downloading The Imaginary Bomb to the same price as a hit single: a mere 99 cents. What the heck, you're contributing the paper and ink, after all.

If you'd like the fine folks at Lulu to do all the work, it's a tad more but less stress on your printer. Of course, with the download, you can read it on your screen, too — the electricity's on you. (-8

Labels: ,

Awareness Test

Monday, March 17, 2008

Richardson & Bluhm update: March

Sorry I've been a bit of a stranger in these parts; I've been working on the book project planned for April 15 release with Warren Bluhm's name on it, and the project has been altered a bit over the past few days.

Originally a collection of short stories named Wildflower Man, I told you last month it would feature two stories he wrote in the mid-1990s about a superhero named Myke Phoenix. Well, the ongoing archaeological dig in his attic revealed three more fully-realized stories, and the tone of these tales is so different from the other short stories that we've spun the book into two projects.

Thusly, we plan to release a 120-page tome called The Adventures of Myke Phoenix, which will feature four "full-length" adventures and a related mini-story, along with a shorter, and therefore more inexpensive, collection called Wildflower Man. Depending on a number of factors, they'll either come out around the same time or within a few weeks of each other.

Listen for more details in the long-awaited Uncle Warren's Attic #48, which ought to be finding its way into a podcatcher near you sometime later this week. And the Richardson/Bluhm projects scheduled for later in the year are still on course.

Of course, while you're waiting for all this, you can always purchase or download your own copy of my Imaginary Bomb, which is certainly the publishing sensation of 2008.

Labels: , , , , ,

Friday, March 14, 2008

Spitzer's 'crimes'

Good reading by someone named spiritofpublicus at On the Border Line. A sample:
I have no love for the abuses of Elliot Spitzer and the personal destruction he reigned upon innocent people engaged in commerce. But I do not cheer his demise.

In reality what crimes of humanity did Spitzer commit? He engaged in a sexual transaction with a legally-aged, consenting female; a private affair that with the exception of his family harmed no one ...

Alarm bells should be ringing loudly in every citizen’s head. Since when has it become acceptable for people to surrender their private affairs to the snooping and ever watchful eyes of government? Today, agents of the state spy on our bank accounts, emails, text messages, phone calls, and even what books we order.
Read the rest here.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

House upholds Bush veto of anti-torture bill

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush's fellow Republicans in Congress on Tuesday upheld his veto of a bill to ban the CIA from subjecting enemy detainees to interrogation methods denounced by critics as torture.
A largely party-line vote of 225-188 in the Democratic-led House of Representatives fell short of the needed two-thirds majority to override the president.

Bush maintains that the United States does not torture, but has refused to discuss interrogation techniques, saying that doing so could tip off terrorists ...

The bill vetoed by Bush was a sweeping intelligence authorization measure. A key provision would have required the CIA to comply with the rules set by the Army Field Manual in questioning detainees.

The rules forbid eight interrogation methods, including waterboarding, electric shock, beatings and mock executions. They permit 19 techniques, mainly psychological, such as trying to convince detainees that cooperation will shorten the war and save their country ...

Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican who was tortured while a prisoner in the Vietnam war and is now his party's presumptive presidential nominee, opposed the bill.

"I think that waterboarding is torture and illegal, but I will not restrict the CIA to only the Army Field Manual," McCain said last month.

Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois, competing for the Democratic presidential nomination, both backed the bill and denounced Bush's veto.
I do have this vague recollection of a country that held itself to a higher standard and wouldn't do things like first-strike nuclear weapon use or torture of its enemies. "We're better than that," its leaders would say. I must have dreamed all that or read about it in a novel.

I excerpted liberally, but the whole article's here.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, March 10, 2008

Monday morning motivation

I may have mentioned I am a closet football fan, and I confess to having a friend or two in the Green Bay area, so I paid some attention to the hoopla of the past week since Brett Favre announced his retirement as quarterback of the Green Bay Packers.

Of all the stuff that's been written, the best column I encountered was from a journalism professor at the University of Missouri, of all things. It's about newspapering, and specifically "How Brett Favre could save journalism, if only we would pay attention." A sample:
5. He took big risks. He threw more what-the-hell passes (and interceptions) than anyone in the history of the league, and more touchdowns. When things got hard, he got bold.

Editors: There has never been a more troubled time in our industry. Do you respond with fear and caution – or dare to do your most courageous and creative journalism ever? Are you willing to succeed by daring to fail?
You know what's coming next, I hope: If you're not a journalist, read the article anyway and substitute your vocation where it says "editors." A lot of it fits any life situation, and it boils down to: Refuse to be afraid.

The article's at the Poynter Institute, here.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, March 06, 2008

'Evil Genius' takes on evil

In the latest edition of Evil Genius Chronicles, Dave Slusher lets loose his despair over the differences between the ideals he remembers about the US of A and the reality. A sample:
We are willing to torture. That is now the final straw for me in this nation — the fact that we are soft on fucking torture. If that is the case, what do we stand for? If we are willing to undo, to roll back from the first sentence of the Declaration of Independence on — human rights have no meaning when we are, as a nation, willing to torture humans and then lawyer about our ability to do so. Morality has no meaning, civil life has no meaning, political life has no meaning if these are the tradeoffs we're willing to make for it ...

If we are willing to sacrifice the fundamentals of human rights because we are scared ... That is so opposite the philosophy of this nation, when people stood together and they said, "For standing together we can all be subject to death — we can be hanged from the neck for treason for getting together and saying we don't believe the monarchy controls us — we believe that there are human rights and human ability. It does not matter whether you were born inside the borders of this nation or not; it does not matter whether you stand within the borders of this nation or not — these are inalienable, and these cannot be taken away." And yet we argue about this ...

... When we are a nation that tortures, anything we say about human rights, anything we say about torture is a fraud.
I wanted to stand up and cheer when I heard this podcast, and wave to people and yell "Listen to this!" but I had to keep both hands on the wheel at the time. So I'm doing it now: Listen to this. It's not kid-safe or office-safe; Dave uses some of "those" words to make his point. But these are good words, 53 minutes well spent. As the lady says to open every show, "Now you should listen to this, 'cause this concerns you."

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Ron Paul sneaks past challenger with 70%

No, there's no bias in the media, as this ABC News story reveals: "Ron Paul survives challenge: White House contender raised millions but nearly lost day job."
Ron Paul will live to fight another day.

The fiery Republican with a libertarian bent survived a strong challenge to his day job in Congress on Tuesday, besting a well-funded challenger.
No vote totals in the ABC story, so I had to go to CBS News to discover that "a strong challenge" means Paul's primary opponent mustered only 30 percent of the votes in that Texas congressional district.

Meanwhile, my speculation that Hillary Clinton's campaign might depend on the Diebold vote in Ohio came true, as the machines showed her winning the Buckeye State bigtime while sneaking past Obama in Texas and Rhode Island. Hillarious.

What do you think? I hear New Zealand's a beautiful place to live, but Canada's closer.

Labels: , ,

Monday, March 03, 2008

I've got nothing to say

... but it's OK.

Good morning.
Good morning.
Good morning.

Sometimes all I have to say is stuff I've already said, like this and that and the other thing. So, rather than try to reinvent the wheel of my thoughts, I'll just send you back there for a day. My humble apologies if you needed something fresh.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Happy March anyway

lewlew chided me in the comments to "Too Much February," and she's right: The month of February can be downright pleasant between Valentine's Day and if the weather is "crisp and not too rainy in my neck of the woods." Problem is, my neck of the woods can get a bit more harsh this time of year, and right about now we start getting anxious for the sun to come back on and the air to warm back up.

It's nothing a good walk outside can't fix — if only it was warm enough to take a walk. Soon. Soon.