Saturday, July 31, 2004

Perpetual War For Perpetual Peace: How We Got To Be So Hated by Gore Vidal

It's no secret that I've long been admirer of Gore Vidal. The fluency of his writing, the proliferate volume of his work, and his keen attention to matters of policy both foregin and domestic all conspired to make him one of the writers I most admired as a teen.

In Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace, Vidal muses on questions surrounding why the United States Federal Government is such a target for terrorists and saboteurs. He uses Timothy McVeigh, the man who was sentenced to death for the bombing of the Murray Federal building in OKC in 1999 as his case study of a domestic terrorist, and uses Osama bin Laden to explore the roots of foreign terrorists. The book's title, taken from historian Charles Beard, summarizes Gore's conclusion. To wit: "The United Stated Federal Government, since the time of Truman, hhas been engaged in a perpetual series of wars and police actions both foregin and domestic, which are neither constitutional nor just. The goal of these wars is to justify a pentagon budget that is out of control, and to feed an ever more hungry and corrupt defense industry, the leaders of which also control congress."

Is this book proposing conspiracy theories? Absolutely. Vidal, a died-in-the-wool Jeffersonian is not a fan of th US Federal Government. He explores OKC, Waco, Ruby Ridge, the FBI, both attacks on the World Trade Center, and the (first) war in Iraq. That this book was written between 1997 and 2000, and is still HIGHLY relevant to conventional politics should come as no suprise; Vidal is, as usual, preiscent.

If you watched F/911, if you are fascinated by the ongoing erosion of states' and individuals' rights, if you care about civil liberty, if you vote or if you pay taxes you should probably read this book. While it goes too far on occasion, it provides a compelling viewpoint, one that the reader is not forced to adopt, but which is persuasive as an explanation and comes from a source with far more credibility than current muckrakers like Michael Moore are likely to ever have.


Thursday, July 29, 2004

Last night we went to Crawford, Texas to watch the film Farenheight 911. The event was a sort of protest rally cum movie event. Crawford is the hometown on the president, W. The left, the right, and the curious were all lined up and present in this one-stoplight town two hours from anything. It was fascinating.

I had not seen the film before, and found it engaging, troubling, and despite Moore's unashamed bias, probably pretty accurate. The central take home message for me was:

The Bush administration did not take sufficient precautions to prevent a major terrorist action because they were too focused on seeking justification for an attack on Iraq. The tragic events of September 11th were cynically used to create an enviornment of fear among the american people which made it easy for Bush, et. al. to justify starting a war for profit. Many of the major players inside the administration and their Saudi & Afghani oil-baron friends have profited immensely from the war, due to their oil and defense investments.

I may have already believed some of this before seeing the film, but now I have seen evidence that certainly convinced me of the deep seated corruption present in the Bush administration.

The night was also a great case study in the exercie of the First Amendment. Both the pro-Bush locals and the pro-Moore visitors were all able to co-exist and express themselves one way or another without any violence. In fact, with the exception of one drunken redneck, I didn't even see anything that could be described as hostility.

All in all, it was a fascinating evening which was lots of fun. Thanks for MG & Weezel for riding up there with me, and thanks to the good people at the Crawford Peace House and the Alamo Drafthouse for putting on the event.

Monday, July 26, 2004

A few thoughts from my first solo night in a few months.

-This house is huge.
-I get so much done when I'm by mylsef.
-I don't talk to myself aloud.
-I would be a MUCH better software developer if I lived alone.
-Beer & chips are actually a pretty decent meal, if the beer is newcastle.
-It's hard to UNtrain yourself not to do the stuff you would never do alone. Example: piss with the bathroom door open, go eat Taco C. if you want to, etc. True solo freedom is a little overwhelming when you aren't used to it.
-I can already tell I'm really going to miss the professor while she's gone.
-I'm not going to get sleepy tonight. Not sure why. Maybe it's the no-sex thing.
-The cats get bored of one person much faster than they get bored of two.
-I keep resisting the urge to call someone up, just 'cause.
-In a way, I'm already failing, since I'm now communicating.
Well, the world keeps turning, luckily for all of us onboard.

I finished
From a Buick 8 by Stephen King
on friday.

From a Buick 8 wasn't a terrible book. I pretty much challenge any avid reader to start any of King's books, give them more than 2 pages, and then put one down. I think it's impossible. Since King has sold more books than the bible (literally) I think he is a fascinating study in the type of writing that actually DOES interest the modern populous. So, I've made an effort to read all of his work to date, with the exception of the last 2 Gunslinger novels, which I just didn't really care for.

From a Buick 8 is the story of a Troop of Pennsylvania State Troopers who take custody of a strange car in the seventies. They keep the car in a shed. The car is an intra-dimensional portal of sorts, and should be familiar to readers of some of King's other recent work, Hearts in Atlantis, or the twin novels Despiration / The Regulators. King tells the (fundamentally dumb) story well, although his usual just-plain-folks mechanism of storytelling is a bit overdone, especially in the beginning.

Stephen King is a master story-teller. He is not (necessarily) a master of language, or concept. But he unapologeticall spins a hell of a yarn in every book he has written. This one is no exception, though I would suggest an interested reader check out at least 15 of his other books first. (A few in order: It, On Writing, The Stand, Different Seasons, The Dead Zone, Hearts in Atlantis, Salem's Lot, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, The Green Mile, Graveyard Shift)

For those curious, or my own records, I'm still reading the Rushdie novel, and I still really think it is wonderful, but for some reason, it just dropped my reading to a crawl... Hence the King book, and several others I've started. I'm midway through Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace by Gore Vidal right now, as well as Small Unit Leadership by Col. Dandridge Malone. Will keep you updated on these and the plot thickens!

In other news, the Professor is gone for 2 weeks to Florida to visit family. Boo. My Aunt just turned 60 and we had a nice party. Maggie Pearl appears to have had a stroke, which is upsetting. My brother's girlfriend Christina just returned from Spain, where she visited Ibeza, among other locales. LoneStar keeps on keeping on. And that's all the news that's fit to print.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

My updating has fallen off terribly. I'm just not reading very much right now, unfortunately. Not sure if it's a lull in the current books, or if it's just a product of summertime, when the livin' is easy.

I do have all of my books unpacked now, and my study is almost in shape. I love it!

I'm still reading Midnight's Children, and still enjoying it, whenever I have a chance to sneak a few pages.

I did finish one book last week though. It was Debugging the Development Process by Steve Maguire.

Debugging the Development Process by Steve Maguire
David Stafford gave me this book when I was a young computer artist, ten years ago. I read it then, and re-read it now with more battle weary Program Manager eyes. It still holds up. Maguire is a veteran of the early days of Microsoft. His book is among the best I've read on how to run a software project. It is filled with great tips and hard won experience. It focuses primarily on how to ship quality software on time without overworking your team. As anyone who works with me knows, this is a topic I think a lot about. Maguire's ideas are as valid now as they were ten years ago. A book that anyone who indends to derive a living from shipping software should read.