Senator Palpatine rises to power by questionable means after discrediting the incumbent who was slightly better for the job but bland and ineffective, Chancellor Valorum. Citing threats to intergalactic security due to the scheming of Count Dooku, he begins amassing a gigantic Clone Army to protect the peace. Several years later, as the situation "worsens," Palpatine declares martial law--temporarily, of course--and mobilizes his army into action.

Meanwhile, back in reality...

Governor George W. Bush rises to power by questionable means after discrediting his opponent who was slightly better for the job but bland and ineffective, Vice President Al Gore. Citing threats to national security following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks due to the scheming of Osama Bin Laden, Bush creates a Department of Homeland Security and begins looking for a way to remove Saddam Hussein from power in order to protect the peace. Several years later, as the situation "worsens," Bush raises the national security level to Orange--temporarily, of course--and mobilizes his army into action in Iraq.

And, really, could you imagine a better Jar Jar Binks than Donald Rumsfeld?

I support our troops.
I don't support the government's choice to invade Iraq.

Those two statements aren't mutually exclusive.

I support our troops
(I want all of them to come home safely to their families)
AND
I don't support the government's choice to invade Iraq.

(I think this is going to be another never-ending "police action")

I protest the war with Iraq, that doesn't make me any less American that you. I think our whole "plan" in Iraq is a steaming pile, and I love my country. I've started avoiding the TV news because I don't like them spoon feeding me what the government has spoon fed them, and I fear for the lives of our people and theirs. One of the Dixie Chicks said she thought the war was a bad idea, and a bunch of pinheads decided she should have to appologize for excercising her right to free speech!

This country was founded by people escaping poverty, famine, and religious persecution. Now, we denigrate any country that doesn't do what we tell them. We foist poverty on entire nations of people because our governement doesn't like their government. And, as an atheist, let me tell you I feel persecuted by people who want to keep the "Under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. They say "it's part the tradition" - never mind that we did without that "tradition" for over 150 years.

I'm your next door neighbor. We know each other as decent and honorable people. One of us believes in America and disagrees with the government, the other believes in America and agrees with the government. So, which one of us is less patriotic?

I thought you'd say that.

I disagree.

3 people dead and more than 200 civilians injured in Baghdad due to last nights attack.
A majority of the injured are women and children. -- BBC News 24



If I was a UK/US serviceman (woman in my case) and I was asked to be amongst those who invade Iraq -

I would stick two fingers up at my government for wanting me to go to a war which has questionable moral issues, and has been disapproved by the UN.

I would prefer to be put into prison, rather than have the unjustified blood of the innocent on my hands.


Having said that I too wish the troops to return to their family safely, even though I don't support their actions.
I'm truely gutted that they went at all...

The large SharQ versus Apple battle.



January 25, 2003

My beloved iBook took a nosedive, with lots of lines in various colours across the screen. "uh-oh", I immediately thought, and discovered that I was probably the victim of the dreaded ibook-screen-hinge-problem.

But that is not a problem! Apple are such a friendly crowd that they should be able to help me out without much trouble, i thought.

So I call them

- Uh, hello, is that Apple customer service?
- It is indeed, how can I help you?
- Well, I seem to have a hardware problem with my iBook
- Right, where did you buy your iBook?
- axicon.
- Where?
- Maxicon. Norway. Webshop. Norway.
- Oh. Right. Lemme see.

(20 minutes later, having explained the problem thoroughly, and managed to convince them that it was, indeed, a hardware problem, and not anything else)

- Well, that is in order then. We will send out a courier to come pick up your computer.
- Great! Thanks!
- Oh, hang on. Is there any cosmetical damage?
- Well, uh, there are some scrathes on the lid and bottom, from regular use, and I got a few stickers on the sides of the screen, but nothing really. Oh, yeah, the headphones port is broken.
- Well, if that is the case: Would you like us to fix it? It will cost you some money. I can look up how much it will be?
- Nah, that's okay. If you can fix the headphones port for less than £30, then go for it, otherwise, no thanks.

January 31, 2001

I get a phone call from Apple, while I am in the middle of a photo shoot.

- Uhmm, we cannot send out a box to you. Because the headphones port is broken, and that was your own doing. It is not covered under the warranty.
- Err. Okay, just repair the port, then, I'll pay for it, and then repair the screen
- We can't do that.
- ?
- You see, we have to repair the whole machine if we take it in under warranty, and the headphones port is not under warranty
- But I just told you, repair the headphones port, and then do the warranty job
- But we have a fixed price on these repairs
- Go on
- It is £600
- WHAT?
- That is the price we take for repairing things like the headphones port
- That is preposterous. Can I call you back later? I am in the middle of a photo shoot, and the models are getting annoyed with me.
- Sure. Byyyyyeeeee.

Pissed off, I sit down that evening and write a letter to Apple computers: (this has been posted in a different daylog before, but I am putting everything here, for closure)
Warranty repair, Apple iBook
Customer ID:    XXXX XXX XXXXXX
Case ID:        XXXX XXXX

Dear Sir or Madam:

I called Apple Support on Wednesday January 29th, because of a problem with my Apple iBook. The problem is with the screen on the iBook: It either stays off when I turn on the computer, or it works for a very short period of time (6-7 minutes), before it gets a large number of lines through the display, completely obscuring everything on-screen, effectively rendering the laptop useless.

When I called Apple Support, I was informed that this was a warranty issue, and that I would be able to get it repaired for free. The tech representativeproceeded to ask if there were any scratches on the machine itself, and if I would want those repaired as well. I replied that the scratches were minimal, and therefore not a problem, but that the headphones jack on my iBook was broken:

The headphones port design

I believe Apple computers have made a major blunder with the design of the headphones port. My first Ibook had a nice, sturdy, metal mini-jack hole, which served me well for a long time. Unfortunately, this iBook was stolen, which was why I upgraded to a 700 MHz iBook.

I was surprised to find a flimsy-looking plastic headphones port, and called Apple right away, in case there was something wrong with the computer. I was assured that the port had just been redesigned, and that there was nothing to worry about.

Of course this was not true, and within a few weeks, the headphone jack port broke because of a clumsy encounter with a cable that was stretched across the floor. The headphone jack still works, but the connection is a bit loose. Not wanting to miss my computer because of the repair time, I started using an USB device (iMic) instead, giving me a new headphones and line in- and out ports.

Back to the problem

When I explained this to the tech support rep, he said that this problem would mean that they would have to replace the motherboard of the laptop. I told him that would not be necessary, as I already had a solution.

The tech rep promised me to send out a courier right away, so I would have a box for returning my laptop to Apple on Friday at the latest.

Today is Friday, and I received a telephone call from Apple customer relations. According to the lady, in order to get the screen repaired, I would have to let the computer be fully serviced. Including the headphones jack. But, because the damaged headphones jack was my own fault, I would have to pay the flat-rate for repairs. Which is a full £600.

So I told her that I would prefer to not have the headphones jack repaired – as I had already instructed the tech rep. However, she said that this would be impossible. Either I would have to get the whole laptop serviced, and pay the £ 600, or Apple Customer Service would not be able to help me. I was kindly instructed to get my laptop repaired elsewhere.

The way I see it, this is a very cheap trick from Apple Computers, to avoid having to pay the expenses of repairing the laptop. I have never mistreated the computer in any way, and the headphones jack is still in working order, but it has trouble holding the plugs in place. So, because of a design flaw on apple’s side, I have now been instructed to pay £600 for a 3 square millimetres piece of plastic that I do not need, in order to get the monitor repaired.

I hope you realise the absurdity of that situation, and I also hope that you realise and understand why I will not stand being treated like this as a customer. I would suggest you reconsider the situation, and that you take the computer in for warranty repair as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

SharQ




February 5

I get another phonecall from Apple

- Hello, is this mr Kamps?
- Yes it is. I take it you got my letter?
- Yes we did. Unfortunately, we cannot help you. We are legally required to repair everything when we start a warranty repair, and unfortunately, the damage you caused to the computer makes us unable to actually commence the warranty repair
- So...
- So you will have to pay for the repair of the headphones port
- Oh, I was planning to do that all along. How much?
- £598.
- But that is insane! It is just a piece of plastic!
- I know it might sound a little steep, but that is our standard pricing, unfortunately.
- So the only way I can get the thing repaired is to pay £600 for a repair I don't want?
- It saddens me that you think about it that way
- Well it saddens me that you are forcing me to pay six hundred quid for something that shouldn't even be a question.
- Sorry, there is nothing we can do.
- Well, I might call you back

February 5 (later that day)

I spend most of the day on E2 and the net, trying to find out what the law in the UK says about things like this. Lemme tell you this: UK legal jargon is even more horrendous than Norwegian legal jargon.

My search comes up with nothing exciting, unfortunately, and I am starting to prepare to have to call my insurance, to see if they will cover it. They probably won't, because they will wonder why Apple did not repair it under warranty. Apple will say it is my fault, and my insurance company will tell me to go do something anatomically impossible.

So, I call the shop where I bought the computer. You see, in Norway the law says (effectively), that "anything that is supposed to last significantly longer than three years automatically has a one year warranty against manufacturing damages" Which in my case (the computer was only 5 months old) is good news.

Mid February 2003:

Initial response from Maxicon:
- Well, I think we should handle this case from Norway. Is there any way you can get the laptop to a location in Norway, and have it sent on from there?

Oh, joy. This means: Send the computer from the UK to my parents in Oslo, Norway, who would have to send the computer across the country, to Bergen. Who would have to send it to Apple Norway, which is basically next door to my Parents' house. Whom would send the computer for repair in Ireland (which is basically next door to my house in the UK) or germany. Who would send it to Apple Norway, who would send it to Bergen, who would send it to my parents in Oslo, who would send it to me in the UK.

Note that the computer would pass through customs at least 4 times, with all the delays that would mean.
However, Maxicon, being quite cool, contacted Apple Norway directly with my case, and complained. After a few days, the chief repair technician at Apple Scandinavia had cleared my case, and said it would be repaired under warranty.

Beginning of March 2003

Apple Scandinavia: But, eh, you don't even LIVE in scandinavia
SharQ: No, I never claimed I did. But the computer was purchased there.
A: Well, then you have to take the discussion with Apple UK
S: Not quite. I tried, and they said it wouldn't be under warranty.
A: Not sure if we can help you then. I will contact my colleague in the UK, to see what we can do for you
S: *sigh* Thanks.

Mid-March 2003

A: Hey, mr. SharQ! I have managed to talk mr Apple Service Technician UK into repairing the computer under warranty. Just contact him directly, and he will instruct you.

So I call Mr AST UK

- Hello! AST Scandinavia told me to call you
- Oh yes, that is right. You need to call AppleCare UK, and arrange for them to come pick up the computer.
- All right

So I call AppleCare UK

- Uhmm, no, we cannot send out for the computer, you need to go to an authorised Apple Service Centre
- uh, but mr AST UK told me that it would be okay?
- No, that's not the way we do it. You have to take your computer to an authorised Apple Service Centre
- All right.

So I call an Apple Service Centre

- Uhmm, no I think you must have been misinformed. We only repair desktop computers here. You are more than welcome to drop off your iBook, but we will only send it to apple ourselves.

So I call AppleCare UK

- Yes, indeed, we need to send out a courier to come pick up your iBook. The previous customer service person you spoke to must have been new and uninformed about the procedures. Is your product under warranty? Okay, then. I will send out a box.

Just as I put the phone down, Apple Service Centre calls me again

- Look, I called Mr AST UK, and he cleared us to take in the computer. Can you come drop it off here?
- But you are 12 miles away!
- Well, we are the closest one to your house
- All right then

So I get in the train, and take a cab to Apple Service Warrington. It takes the best part of the afternoon.

Two weeks later (March 20, 2003)

- Hello, this is from AS Warrington. We have an iBook here, that is repaired. Can you come pick it up?
- Can you send it by courier? I'll pay for it
- Sure, no problem.

So I give them my credit card details.

March 21, 2001

My ibook arrives in Liverpool, two months after it broke.

The note from the service technician: "Replaced faulthy motherboard". Which fixed the screen as well. (i.e there was nothing wrong with the screen)

And guess what? The headphones port was part of the motherboard, so they replaced that as well. Free of charge.

In total, I paid approximately £50 in phonecalls, £20 in cab and train tickets and £20 in courier fees. It took me 2 months to save £500 pound. ANd I am happy. I think. But chances are I will never buy a macintosh again.

The End (i hope)

Today's Headlines

US News

Congress Approves Budget Plans
By three votes, the House of Representatives early on Friday approved a $2.2 trillion spending plan for the next fiscal year that would make room for the deep tax cuts President Bush proposed and lead to deficits for the rest of this decade. The measure passed by a vote of 215-212. Voting in favor were 214 Republicans and 1 Democrat. Voting against it were 12 Republicans, 199 Democrats and 1 independent. The Senate then rejected a proposal to trim Bush's proposed tax cut by more than half, but did approve a measure of reducing the proposed tax cut by $100 billion, reducing it to $626 billion over the next ten years. The reduction was introduced by Dianne Feingold, who argued that the budget needs to reflect the costs of the ongoing war.

Protests and Vigils Occur Nationwide
Undeterred by mass arrests, raucous bands of demonstrators marched through the streets of San Francisco, California yesterday in the largest of antiwar protests around the country, while smaller protests and vigils occurred in most large cities and many smaller ones. "We will sustain this for many days. This is really just the start," said Jamie Hurlbut, an office worker who joined protesters blocking downtown San Francisco traffic yesterday after eight hours in police custody Thursday. "I literally went to sleep and came back out to hit the streets again." By yesterday afternoon, about 300 people had been arrested in demonstrations around the nation, including 150 in San Francisco, 65 in Chicago, and 26 in Washington, D.C., down from the 2000 arrests on Thursday.

Slot Machine Pays Out $38.7 Million
A man in Las Vegas, Nevada to watch the NCAA basketball tournament hit a $38.7 million jackpot on Friday, the biggest slot machine payout ever. The 25-year-old software engineer from Los Angeles, California, whose name was not released at his request, won after putting three $1 coins in a machine at the Excalibur hotel-casino, said Rick Sorensen, a spokesman for slot machine maker International Game Technology. The progressive Megabucks Jackpot is generally paid out in equal amounts over 25 years, although winners can negotiate other payoffs, Sorensen said. The previous record was about $34.9 million, won at the now-closed Desert Inn in Las Vegas on January 26, 2000.

International News

Battle of Basra Unfolds; "Shock" And "Awe" Phase Of War Continues In Baghdad
Half a dozen large-scale explosions rocked Baghdad early on Saturday as the city awoke after a fearsome night blitz unleashed by the United States and Britain. "The earth is literally shaking," Reuters correspondent Khaled Oweis said on Friday night as he watched the assault. This is a continuation of the so-called "shock" and "awe" phase of the war in which the invading forces punished Iraq with precision hits on military targets. Meanwhile, US and British forces are being met with their first serious resistance in the southern city of Basra, which is being reinforced with members of Iraq's Republican Guard. The battle is currently being waged with a tank-based assault on the city.

Turkey Makes Military Move Into Iraq
Ignoring advice from Britain, Turkey sent 10,000 troops into northern Iraq for the nominal purpose of keeping Iraqi refugees from entering their nation. However, Britain and the United States claim that the troops are an intrusion into their military operations and that the troops are there to make a claim on northern Iraqi land for the nation of Turkey, in hopes of claiming a state from the Kurdish-led northern regions of Iraq. This invasion came shortly after Turkey agreed to allow planes from the United States and Britain utilize their airspace on a limited basis to aid with miltary operations in Iraq.

Kurds Claim United States Targeting al Qaeda
A Kurdish faction claiming leadership over part of northern Iraq said this morning that US forces had fired missiles and launched an air raid on the stronghold of an Islamic fundamentalist group, called Ansar al-Islam, that Washington accuses of ties to al Qaeda. "They launched Tomahawk missiles onto Ansar positions near Biyara," said Mustafa Sayyid Qadir, a Kurdish military commander in Halabja. The comment refers one of about a dozen nearby villages under Ansar al-Islam's control. "Just over five hours later there was an air raid by at least two U.S. planes. There has been no movement on our part," he said, adding: "The indication is that at least 100 people were killed or injured during the raids."

Business

United, Northwest To Cut Flights, Jobs
Bankrupt United Airlines and Northwest Airlines announced the deepest cuts in flights and jobs so far by major carriers Friday as the war in Iraq wreaked havoc on the travel industry. Northwest, the #4 US airline, said it would cut 12 percent of flights and nearly 5000 jobs, totalling about 11% of its workforce. United Airlines, the #2 US carrier, said it would slash flights 8 percent and furlough an undetermined number of employees. Despite the cuts, airline shares closed out the week sharply higher on optimism the war could be short and on further price declines for jet fuel, a major cost component for airlines worldwide.

Markets Skyrocket On Positive War News
The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 8.4 percent in the past week while the Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 7.5 percent, its best week since the rebound after the terrorist attacks in September 2001. The rally pushed both indexes into positive territory for the year, along with the Nasdaq composite index. The strong uptick in the markets was mostly buoyed by a tremendous Friday, in which the Dow finished the day up 235.37 points, or 2.8 percent, at 8,521.97, the S&P rose 20.06 points, or 2.3 percent to 895.90, and the Nasdaq climbed 19.07 points, or 1.4 percent, to 1,421.84. It is not clear yet if this change in sentiment reflects mostly a reversal of bets that the economy would continue to weaken and the stock market drift lower or a long-term interest in buying stocks.

Philip Morris Loses 'Light' Tobacco Suit
Philip Morris USA was ordered by an Illinois state judge to pay $10.1 billion for deceiving customers by advertising "light" cigarettes as less harmful. Judge Nicholas Byron told the world's largest cigarette maker to pay $7.1 billion in compensatory damages and $3 billion in punitive damages, according to court papers. Byron also ordered Philip Morris, a unit of Manhattan-based Altria Group Inc., to post a $12-billion bond. "The scale of the award represents a major challenge to Philip Morris USA because of the bonding issue," said Merrill Lynch analyst Martin Feldman. "The scale of this award is larger than the market anticipated."

Science & Technology

Microsoft Forced To Pull Ad
The Advertising Standards Authority as ordered that a Microsoft ad implying that its software will bring about the extinction of the hacker is to be pulled for being "unsubstantiated and misleading". The ad states: "Microsoft software is carefully designed to keep your company's valuable information in, and unauthorised people and viruses out. Which means that your data couldn't really be safer, even if you kept it in a safe. Which is great news for the survival of your company. But tragic news for hackers," which contradicts recent evidence of major security holes in Windows 2000 and IIS. An objection was lodged by freelance journalist Richard Clarke, in his personal capacity, who complained that the advert was untrue.

Overall Web usage Spikes
Traffic soared at news, government, and political Web sites this week after war erupted in Iraq, much of it coming from people surfing the Internet while at work, according to experts who measure Internet use. The number of people visiting the Web's top news sites and a dozen federal sites ran at more than twice the usual rate Thursday, according to ComScore Media Metrix. The top gainer was www.marines.com, which saw an increase in usage of 411% to 30,534 visitors, ComScore reported. The usage spike came from at-work users, which totalled 36.5 million people on Wednesday, almost matching the home audience of 37.1 million. Overall at-work traffic jumped 16 percent, while at-home traffic rose only 1 percent.

Public Hearings To Be Held On DMCA
The Library of Congress' Copyright Office said on Thursday that it will hold a series of public hearings over the next two months in Washington, D.C. and California to decide what changes, if any, should be made to the section of the DMCA that restricts bypassing copy-protection schemes. The Copyright Office's announcement comes as criticism of the DMCA's "anticircumvention" restrictions has grown, which restricts individuals from circumventing any "technological measure that effectively controls access to a work," which makes legal actions such as copying a CD for personal use illegal. "I'm glad they're holding hearings," said Mike Godwin, technology counsel for the Public Knowledge advocacy group. "This will present a chance for people to show up and make their case and build a good record."

Health

FDA Issues New Security Guidelines In Conjunction With Operation Liberty Shield
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is taking more aggressive action to protect the nation's food supplies from criminal or terrorist action, according to an announcement from the agency yesterday. The FDA is issuing a series of recommendations to operators of food and cosmetic businesses describing steps that should be taken to protect the safety of their products. This announcement is in conjunction with increased surveilance of food shipping as well as food production and salesmanship of cosmetic and food products. "Securing our food supply against terrorist threats is one of our most important public health priorities, especially at a time of heightened alert," said Tommy Thompson, Secretary of Health and Human Services. "FDA is responsible for 80 percent of what we eat. Americans depend on FDA to keep food safe and secure, and we will keep doing all we can to fulfill this critical mission."

200 People In Hong Kong Now Infected With Mystery Disease
More than 200 people in Hong Kong have now contracted a mystery disease, and one more victim has died, officials said Saturday as health chiefs from Hong Kong and China discussed ways to cooperate in the fight against infectious illnesses. The disease, known as severe acute respiratory syndrome (or SARS), has spread to all six continents and has resulted in at least twenty deaths. Meanwhile, Chinese Health Minister Zhang Wenkang said Saturday there was no proof that the disease spread from the mainland to Hong Kong, despite widespread suspicion of a link. A Chinese medical professor who visited Hong Kong in February infected six others in a hotel, and they then spread the disease in Hong Kong and several countries.

Sports

Butler Upsets Mississippi State On Second Day of NCAA Tournament
On the second day of the NCAA men's basketball tournament, the field was reduced to 32 with one surprising upset and a couple of exceptional games. In the day's biggest shocker, #12 Butler won a strongly defensive game against #5 Mississippi State 47-46. Meanwhile, #9 Utah won on a last second missed shot from #8 Oregon 60-58, and in the day's best game, #5 Maryland narrowly escaped #12 UNC Wilmington 75-73 as Drew Nicholas ran the length of the floor in the final five seconds of the game and, as time expired and his team down by one, threw up a desperation three pointer that won the game for the Terrapins. The second round begins today with marquee matchups between Illinois and Notre Dame as well as a match between Connecticut and Stanford.

Cricket World Cup Final Between India And Australia
Australian captain Ricky Ponting believes that his batsman must overcome India’s lethal pace attack if they are to triumph in Sunday’s World Cup final. Indians Javagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan, and Ashish Nehra have combined for 49 wickets in the tournament, a clear example of the bowling strength of the Indian team. In an interview, Ponting said, "India are a good side, their batting line-up is long and good and (Sachin) Tendulkar has had a pretty fair tournament. All the same, the thing that has stood out about them for me is their fast bowling and that has done some damage. Their bowlers are the ones who have improved a lot over the last 12 months. Nehra seems to have come from nowhere, Khan has been steady and Srinath has been doing the same thing as he always has."

Entertainment

Academy Awards Go On As Scheduled
The Academy Awards will go on as scheduled tomorrow evening barring any major incidents in the Persian Gulf, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Frank Pierson said Friday. At a press conference, Peterson said, "As you saw on the last two nights, the situation is so unpredictable that we want, like the president himself, to keep our options open and to be flexible. So I'm not going to speculate under what conditions we might or might not postpone." The 75th Academy Awards are scheduled to be broadcast live by ABC tomorrow evening starting at 8:00 PM, although it may be interrupted with coverage of the war if conditions warrant.

War Protests Planned During Academy Awards
While Will Smith and Tom Hanks have cancelled their appearances at the industry awards show, other actors and actresses, including Dustin Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Jim Carrey, Ben Affleck, Michael Moore and Kirsten Dunst, are planning on expressing their disagreement with the war during the program. These protests could take the form of speeches, the wearing of peace pins, or "duct tape," in the case of Michael Moore, who is expected to win the Academy Award for best documentary for his film Bowling For Columbine. Another expected protest may occur during the finale, which is expected to involve all living award winners; several past winners are trying to organize a group protest during that event.


And Now, Some Typical Daylog Fare

As some of you may know from my homenode, I'm in the process of finishing up Churchill, a biography of Winston Churchill written by the late Roy Jenkins. I'm currently reading about the section of Churchill's life between his two premierships, around the year 1947, so it was very recently that I read in great detail about Churchill's role as prime minister of Britain during the darkest days of World War II during the Blitz.

Then, yesterday, I hear a reporter on television comparing Tony Blair to Winston Churchill during the war, and I am stricken with utter disbelief.

Churchill became prime minister of Britain on the eve of the blitzkrieg. Within a few weeks of his ascension, enemy forces were just a scant few miles from Great Britain. Planes were taking off just thirty miles away and delivering bombs to England. Every day and every night, London, Manchester, and other British cities were devastated by bombs continually dropping throughout the city. The House of Commons was destroyed.

Yet throughout all of this, Churchill kept his composure and arranged the things that needed to happen. He got the United States to donate armaments under lend-lease, he kept Parliament in order and supporting a very strong war policy in a very tough time, and most importantly, he kept up the morale of the British people by using his greatest gift, the power of phrases and words, to still their hearts with his wireless broadcasts and his visits to bomb locations. In short, he led Britain through their darkest hour.

Tony Blair, on the other hand, has ordered British troops to invade the nation of a tinpot dictator several thousand miles away who cannot hope to fight with any degree of sophistication against the weapons brought against him. There is no threat whatsoever to British civilians, and even the British troops have so many advantages as to make them feel at least somewhat safer than their forebears.

To compare Tony Blair to Winston Churchill is an insult both to the legacy of Churchill as well as to the intelligence of people today.


Lent Diary, Day 18

In my daylog for February 19, 2003, I outlined my plan for a challenging Lenten discipline: no food or water during daylight hours. Visit that daylog for more details.

I took a long walk last night, late in the evening. It was rather cold and I was underdressed in just a sweatshirt and jeans, but when I finally reached my destination, I didn't want to leave.

I was in the middle of a cornfield that hasn't yet received its spring planting, but was freshly tilled under. I looked up at the sky and mostly I saw darkness obscuring things, but in one small place, the clouds had opened up to reveal hundreds of faint stars bunched together.

It was amazingly beautiful, and yet analogous to how the last few weeks have been for me. It's almost as if once in a while everything clicks into place and the universe opens before me.

What an amazing universe we live in.

What about after?

Say something. Can you possibly go one day without cranking out the minutiae of everyday life, and stop to tell me something? Say something important, a node to remember. I don't want to forget you, or the space you fill in this world.

Being here for two years has taught me many things, not the least of which is that there's a lot of filler in the cracks.

Picture your node as the filler. Make it hold the tower up. Don't make it temporary--make it two vast and trunkless legs of stone, standing in the desert. Do it for me--do it for you. Do it for the children you don't have, and do it for the ones who are sleeping upstairs.

Node. Node the time of day--why is this moment so special--not important--special? Try to not tell me nothing. Make me remember this second, this infinite moment that won't ever come again. Ask yourself: is this all that I am, a clump of data in a stream that stretches, nearly endless, to the ocean? Fill the void.

Better: can I shine brighter than any sun, am I able to cause earthquakes by whim, make storms where the sunshine was? Can I change the now into legend? Node the war, node the real and the fake, node the tides and tributaries which shape our world. Even better: shape your world. The best: be the one that we all notice today.

Don't take up space: end it. Fill the gap that needs filling, move the unmoveable. Bring me a song, a lyric, a single word, and expand it until I cannot doubt that it is special (that you are special. Unforgettable. Immortal.

Do not make me doubt why I am here--amaze me with a poem. Scare me until I take up nail-biting again. Permit me a glance at the child you were, and the person you hope to become. Tell me of the steps in between, eternal as they are. Trim them down to easily digestible portions, or expand them into seventy courses, each one better than the last. Leave the taste on my lips. Do not allow me to be the same. Make me change.

Tell me what I don't know--keep me away from what I have known all my life. Where are the writeups about whales? Tell me of the roughness or softness of their skin, the warmth underneath it. The sea contains the hottest blood of all. Tell me about the heat. Tell me about code and butterflies and machine guns and ethnic groups and botany. Tell me a story about...

I do not want words, precisely. I want textures and touches. I want sounds. I want the smell in the room; tell me if your neighbours hate it. Tell me about an image, in your mind: does it move you? Why does it move you?

Do this. Do it now, for me.

All these comparisons made, some humorous, and some not so humorous, between major figures in the current war and historical or literary characters. For the record, I would like to compare myself to Richard Blaine, better known as Rick in Casablanca.

What do I see when I am out in the "real world?" The majority of Americans I see at work and in day to day activities are either cheerleading the war effort or going on about how they don't want to listen. Apathy is the position of the American majority, and that doesn't surprise me in the least. People just want to go on with their daily routine and pretend this war is no different than business as usual. People don't want to be bothered. They want to turn off the news, put in a "feel good" movie on the DVD player and sleep peacefully. They complain about having their daily routine interrupted by protesters. The apathetic masses want to pretend the whole world isn't changing before our eyes because of a major shift in U.S. foreign policy. "This is stuff for our leaders to decide, it isn't my call. That's what they're there for."

My position has changed in the last forty-eight hours. I have become much more radical in my opinion. I continue to believe in the necessity of focused and intelligently stated opposition. I groan at the yelling of slogans with very little basis in reality. The only reason I am not marching today in the local protest is because if I see another "No Blood For Oil" or "Bush is Hitler" sign I think I just might snap. Yet, I have come to strongly believe that civil disobedience and the inconveniencing of ordinary Americans is not only okay, but that it is necessary. Eventually I will overcome my personal opposition to actively protesting instead of just writing about it.

Politics is your business.
My business is running a saloon.

Business as usual was acceptable to me for a long time. When they look at my record they find that in the 1980s I was actively involved in protesting the policies of the Reagan Administration. Propping up third world dictators because they vowed to destroy communism and swear friendship with the United States didn't sit too well with me. Oh yeah, this Saddam guy was one of them, and I remember being opposed to giving this bastard weapons and money to fight the nasty Iranians. This is where I begin to draw the comparison to Rick. The Germans had a dossier on Rick. They knew about his past activities and doubted his professed neutrality. Rick was jaded. His heart was broken and he just wanted to run his saloon and drink away his memories. I can relate to that.

Many exit visas have been sold in Casablanca
You've never sold one
This is why we allow you to remain in business

My heart feels very heavy. I am highly empathic and that has a lot to do with it. I listen to people on all sides of the issues and come down to the same conclusion. I am fundamentally opposed to a pre-emptive war, for it is a war of aggression, and the bad guys always draw first. The good guys are always quicker though. We defend ourselves. We don't strike. I would like the United States to make a few changes, for the sake of semantics. We now have a Department of Defense and a Department of Offense. I'd like to give our soldiers the right to decide which department they work for. Those that cheer on the new policy, which hopes this invasion goes well because it will pave the way for future action to "correct the world," can join up with the Department of Offense. Those that joined the military because they believed they were going to be defending their country can continue to defend our nation.

Dissent is being marginalized, by both the government and the media. The only way the opposition is going to be heard is by making a lot of noise and being disruptive. I'm sorry if you are inconvenienced on your way to bingo or the bowling alley. I'm sorry if you feel that you should be able to continue to go about your daily routine without interruption just like a normal day in the life. I'm sorry you are so apathetic. The Department of Offense is making a lot of noise and disrupting the peace with my tax dollars. So, we will make noise, and I hope it becomes a lot louder and a lot more disruptive. I hope it becomes a fireball that rages out of control. When I listened to the news last night and heard people talking about how protesters are doing a disservice by taking police away from the war on terror and putting us in danger, I changed my mind. Disrupt away. Disrupt everything. Get arrested. Get smacked in the head with a club. Do everything you can to make sure they never stop hearing us. Maybe eventually the apathetic masses will snap out of their stupor. The sidelines need to be closed.

Welcome back to the fight, Rick.
This time I know our side will win.

It was my birthday on the 19th, and a couple of hours into the 20th Iraq was 'rocked', according to the BBC. This further reinforces my growing conviction that the world really does revolve around myself, and that everything in it exists for my entertainment.

In this respect the war in Iraq is fantastic, and I applaud my government and that of the United States for allowing me to experience a proper, full-blown assault. I was too young to comprehend the Falklands War, bored stiff by the Gulf War, unmoved by the whole Balkans thing - both of the latter consisting of days of aerial bombardment followed by the news that we had won - but this war seems to be shaping up into something special. It has actual ground combat, with soldiers. The news footage of Baghdad in flames is visually stunning; the digital video making the multi-coloured smoke resemble special effects, like clouds of paint hanging in water. The green-tinted shots of soldiers driving through the desert will define war for a generation, and for children of the Cold War, we have final and absolute confirmation that Russia's influence on the world has evaporated away.

I was fortunate enough to grow up in a country which has generally been on the perpetrating side of war, rather than being a victim; neither Marxist guerrilla groups nor corrupt dictators blighted the UK during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. At no point did the LTTE kill me, and UNITA never burned my parents. (although I'm sure there are snobbish Trots who will argue that Margaret Thatcher was worse than Idi Amin - because of her corrosive pervasiveness, see, and for ensuring the survival of British Telecom - and that the Khmer Rouge are unfairly maligned, and so forth. I have no time for these people. George W. Bush is a terrible public speaker and he comes from Texas and he's common, but as far as I am concerned anybody who annoys Gore Vidal is a hero) I am both too unfit and too old to join the armed forces, and I suspect that I would be a rubbish soldier.

Consequently, my only experience of war during my formative years came from comics such as 'Warlord', 'Commando' and 'Battle', and from 'Kelly's Heroes' on the television. I learned to read so that I could read the 'Star Wars' novels, and even today I have a soft spot for books about moustachioed men stuffing damp socks in their armpits, and shitting in full view of other men, in DPM. War, for me, is entertainment. It's something that other people do, and then a few years later they write books about it, and some battles catch the public imagination, and some do not. Fads and fashions in historical fiction swell and fade; Bernard Montgomery was a hero in the UK during World War Two, but is now just a footnote, whilst for decades nobody in the West cared about the battles of Stalingrad and Berlin, until Anthony Beevor wrote chunky blockbusters about them. There hasn't yet been a book or film about the first Gulf War that's captured and moulded the public imagination; there were only a hundred hours of ground warfare and the coalition never lost a battle, never came close to losing.

So far, in the second Gulf War, four servicepeople have been confirmed lost in action, whilst almost twenty have been lost in helicopter accidents. In either of the World Wars that would have been an astonishingly low casualty rate for a single day, and helicopter crashes don't really count, as they happen all the time. Flying a few feet off the ground, sometimes in close formation, at night, in dust storms, it's a surprise that there aren't more. As for the Iraqi casualties, I didn't know or care about them when they were alive, and I certainly don't want to know them now that they're dead. Besides which, they might have grown up to be Hitler, in a future world, in which case it's a good job we killed them. And in any case I live in London, and people are killed on the street all the time, for their wallets, because they looked at somebody the wrong way, because they were in the wrong place. People get away with murder. Human life isn't valuable at all. It's no tragedy when civilians die; it happens all the time. In wars since time immemorial, except for a few hundred years before the 20th century, civilians have died like flies whenever there's a war. They're even had wars of their own. It pleases God to kill them. They do it to themselves.

The war itself has had the positive effect of causing the Left to lose its cool; for the first time in a generation they have shown themselves for what they are, a simmering ball of hate, an unreasonable, unthinking mob. Like those sci-fi killer robots that carry on fighting a war for centuries after their creators have died; like a chicken which carries on walking after its head has been cut off, the left wing have not yet realised their game is up. This will dent them, tarnish them, for a generation which has grown up with propaganda from the real axis of evil - the BBC, the EU, and the UN. Iran, North Korea, Iraq, Jordan, Syria, most of Africa; these countries are openly, obviously evil. They love it, and don't care who knows. They find it amusing that we pay them to continue to be evil. Unlike the aforementioned left-wing institutions they don't pretend to be an impartial force for good.

I don't know what form the Labour party will take after the war, but it's not going to be pretty. The mask of sanity it has worn since 1997 is slipping. As a child of all the above, and of the 80s, I can feel the shadows of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher falling over the land. We should embrace their darkness.

~

Just for fun, though, let's deconstruct the left-wing perspective on two pertinent issues:

Oil
1. The Earth's resources belong to all humanity;
2. Wealth and resources should be managed and distributed so as to be allocated to those most in need;
3. We in the West need oil more than Iraq, because we have more cars;
4. Therefore, by invading Iraq, we are simply redistributing the oil to those who need it most. If the Iraqis don't like this, they should adopt renewable energy sources, such as solar or wind power. Problem solved.

George Bush is stupid and also a bully
1. 50 Cent is both stupid and an actual, bona fide criminal;
2. He's also extremely rich and successful, and people listen to him when he says something. He's even more successful than the bullies you've looked up on 'Friends Reunited' who are managing IT projects in the Canary Islands;
3. Therefore we can conclude that ruffians make the world go around. If you aren't a ruffian yourself, you'll be crushed by somebody who is. And that will be the end of you and your viewpoint.

I've just got back from a day with my son he is the cutest brightest boy I know.  He's just like me.

Unusually (it seems) I actually love my son and I'm also a darn good dad, but that seems to hard for anyone to believe.

Because she decided to be a slut and run off with a "mate" of mine, I miss out on a year of my sons life and see far too much of the legal system failing to swing into action.

Apparently he is better off with this the most useless of all mothers as evidenced by the fact he has 50% of her DNA.

On the other hand I'm (obviously) duty bound to pay for 
  • her shopping trips 
  • her boyfriends Playstation habits 
  • and her cigarettes that she suffocates him with 

due to the criminal charges of being male.  They call this the fair CSA system!

So while I reflect for another 2 weeks on the growing signs that my son is suffering significant emotional and psychological trauma, she continues to ruin his life, while she has what-ever fun she can with the other estate trash around where she lives.  I have to pay off debts she created while some little dick-wit, with out the balls to even look me in the eye, tries to get my son to call him daddy while leaving messages on my answer phone telling me "he's going to kill me" and that he's sick of me "...f**king with this (his) family..." {italics mine}.

What gives?  I thought the law was supposed to protect kids.  Instead I have only just stopped seeing my son at a contact center where 90% of the other parents can't even look after themselves safely.

Before I can take this back to court to rescue my son from this crappy life I have to wait to be able to prove that her current dip-shit boy-friend is hitting him.  I need evidence that a 13 year old baby sits for him and his half sister of less than a year in age.  I must prove neglect while all she needs to do to stop me seeing him, the little that I do, is make outrageous claims that she drops when the heat gets too much for her to cope with.

Never let anyone tell you UK law protects your children.  If you are ever involved in a situation where you woman turns out to be a lying stealing cheating whore (all true and provable in my case) when she splits hold on to your kids like I should have otherwise you may never see your children again no-matter how good a parent you may be.

Another thing: if you're male and in a child related case you are always GUILTY AS SIN.

Always.

regardless of the facts. 

Deep in the heart of Chelsea I was stuffing and stamping envelopes for Gregory, a graphic designer preparing his upcoming belated birthday party out in New York's Restaurant Row. I was mailing out his invitations to everybody I know in the New York City Cabaret Scene. Granted the Friday afternoon radio was pumping nothing but news about the war in Iraq, silence was not an option in the office. I did this since a few days ago, and I've gotten the process to a science - return address stamped, recipient addresses written and envelope sealed. Since I was quite focued on the mailing work, I didn't talk very much. Okay, I did tell him how I like his neighbor - a nice Italian girl living upstairs from Greg's office. We met in Judy's Chelsea a few weeks ago after seeing a show with Greg - his boyfriend was the headliner.

The Double Whammy

The dance club hosting the birthday party had its license revoked. The Fire Department was messing with the local cabarets, especially Don't Tell Mama Piano Bar and Theater. Don't Tell Mama changed its name on the awning because of this. Swing 46, a neighbor in the same street is not allowed to host bands and people dancing on the floor. The place is named "Swing 46," for crying out loud - what am I supposed to do there? Nonetheless, the party must go on.

Judy's Chelsea is probably the only reason I would go to Chelsea. It's a supper club, more in the style of "Arci's Place Lite." If I can afford to have dinner out there before a show, I'm sure to go more often. I remembered seeing Anne Pringle and Mark Burnell, two songwriters and a singer/pianist couple from the clubs of Chicago. I've seen Ruby Rims doing a charity show out there (cover charge is $15 and a teddy bear), featuring my first favorite singer Karen Mason. I'm even planning to see Joan Crowe, a singer who reminisced over Arci's before it suddenly closed last year. Then I found out this:

Judy's is closing in a week.

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