Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Oh you kid!

Smirky the Chimp is at it again. In an attempt to fool the American public again, our fearless idiot is claiming that the Iraqi parliament's failure to elect a speaker is simply "another step on the road to freedom", instead of the sign of severe ideological and religious schisms and an inability to exercise any vision of representative democracy that it is. But wait, there's more! As a means of making sure that anyone over the age of 40? 35? 1? will make the functional connection between these new wars and Vietnam, Smirky went on to stress that our "training" of the Iraqi "security forces" continues apace, "so they can take responsibility for the security of their country". Isn't that what the Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon Administrations kept saying about our treatment of the South Vietnamese army? In this case, the timeline runs a bit backwards, perhaps, since we started with a full military excursion into Iraq, but does anyone really think the Iraqi National Guard will be able to keep their nation peaceful without becoming a military junta? In the face of their parliamentary failure, I would certainly be more scared of unleashing a fully trained military on the political landscape of Iraq, not less.
It couldn't be that the Administration is hoping for a military coup to arise out of the democratic chaos, could it? I mean, who would want a repressively anti-dissension dictatorship to bloom out of Operation Iraqi Freedom? Isn't that what they had under Saddam Hussein? Oh, that's right, he was also anti-American; these new guys would be pro-American. That's much better. We like those kinds of repressive regimes, especially in the Middle East. I'm onto you, Smirky!

Monday, March 28, 2005

Religion--it's for everybody!

I'm a member of a book club that is just starting out. Our first choice was God's Politics, by Jim Wallis. While I haven't read the book (I know, I know: for shame!), I've done a bit o' research on Wallis. There's an interview from Mother Jones available here, the group watched his appearance on The Daily Show, and as my most informative source I'm relying on the ever-reliable reviewers at Amazon! I thought one of them was pretty idiosyncratically nifty, and it's worth quoting in full:
There is only one form of government that assures perfect justice and eliminates hunger and avoidable suffering and it is neither democracy nor autocracy. Caesar can never be reconciled with God. It was, after all, government that sent Jesus to Golgotha. We Americans worship at the throne of democracy yet fail to recognize it's limitations. The fundamental tenet of Democracy is carved in the altar of compromise and the 'greater good for the greater number' ideology. God sanctions neither. The church has failed to be the agent of healing and amelioration of suffering and therefore government has usurped that role. Since Constantine the church has abandoned her assigned role as emissaries for the Christ and sought heavenly ends with sordid means. A true revolution would see the church abandoning her grip on the things of this world and immersing herself in love of God and her fellow man. The church is mocked today because she is powerless save for her influence in politics and that is a great tragedy. We need not ban gay marraige nor abortion but rather we are to bring all men and women to Christ where He will cure the ailments of the heart. Hopelessness, lovelessness, and all of the diseases of the soul that torment mankind have their cure in relationship with the Messiah. The creator alone has the power to mend the whole man and restore the soul. These are not nihilistic observations nor pious platitudes. The list of athiests and cynics who encountered Christ and experienced life changing results is both large and inspiring. It is that same life-changing power that makes mute the arguments of both 'liberals" and "conservatives' and offers hope apart from politics. Each one of has forgotten, to various degrees, the command to "love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, and strength and your neighbor as yourself." Rediscovering these truths are the best, indeed only, hope for mankind.
Now, I'm not what you might call a religious man, but I've done more than my share of Bible-reading for someone who doesn't necessarily "believe". I think this guy has gotten the place for religion in politics correct--it shouldn't be there at all. If a politician derives his/her morality from religion, that's all well and good, but I think that that's as far as it should go. I think public statements regarding one's faith are completely self-serving, especially for politicians--I consider religion to be a very personal issue. No one needs to know what I, or anyone else, believe[s] (or do[es]n't); anyone asking is trying to characterize me via a lazy manner of stereotyping, and we need less of that in our world.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Springsteen on U2

The Beautiful One and I were flipping back and forth between "The Amazing Race" and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction show on Thursday night when I saw Bruce Springsteen on the tube. I've never paid much attention to the induction ceremony, but I'm a huge Springsteen fan, so I stopped to listen. I had no idea that he was giving the speech to induct U2, another favorite group of mine. As he spoke, both The Beautiful One and I became more and more impressed. His speech (and it was his; he had it written out in front of him on what appeared to be notebook paper) was eloquent, funny, moving, and fundamentally honest. I happen to think that of both of those artists, so it was also incredibly appropriate. I have a good friend who doesn't much care for the Boss--"all his songs are about girls and cars, and they all sound the same!"--but I hope that even he would admit that this speech was something special. If you don't get a chance to see the induction ceremony (I would imagine that VH1 will replay it at some point), the whole speech is transcribed here.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Annual depression hits

Well, I finished watching the first 2 days of the Sweet Sixteen and boy am I bummed. Every team I rooted for is out. Duke, Washington, UWM--all gone. Even the teams I was solely rooting against--Kentucky, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Illinois--foiled me by winning. No Cinderellas (defined as any team from the bottom 32 seeds) in the Final Four this year, even though many of the top 4 seeds in all of the regions had lost. I guess I can root for West Virginia but I'm not all that thrilled to do so, and besides, they're probably out by this time today anyway. It was nice to see them oust Bob Knight, though. Basketball purists are probably happier this way. Most columnists and those in the know picked an Illinois/UNC final game, and it sure looks like it at this point. Yawn. Give me the drama and elation of a team coming from nowhere to show up the big guys over having the predictable occur any day of the week. (Although, obviously, my being a Duke fan doesn't exactly match that outlook--heck, I gotta have something to hold onto as my beloved 12 and 13 seeds die off! Otherwise, what's the point? The lowest seed ever to win it all was an 8, and only one of those has ever done it, let alone any true Cinderellas.) Ok, I'm done, you can all relax. I promise, I will not use the word Cinderella for the next 11 months . . .

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Surprise, surprise

David Corn's latest piece in The Nation, reproduced in his blog (linked on the right), points out that the Republican-led committee that was supposed to investigate the presence (well, absence, actually) of WMDs in Iraq has decided to cancel "Phase II" of its work, which it had insisted on not beginning until after the election. I am truly, utterly shocked, aren't you? According to Corn, Pat Roberts, chair of the Senate Intelligence committee, decided that there was little point in proceeding with this stage, in which the committee was to investigate how the Administration used the intelligence it was given concerning the existence of WMDs.
What a complete load of whitewashed crap. Everyone with any sense at all knows that Smirky and the rest of his cronies lied their a$$es off about WMDs to stir up support for his whacked policy of pre-emptive war, but that non-story has never gotten the attention it deserves--over 1/3 of the people in the US, even as late as 2/18/05, still believe that Saddam Hussein actually possessed WMDs, even though none have ever been found and none were expected to be there. Canceling this investigation makes this particular tragic farce the Republicans have perpetrated against us complete, not that any real investigating would have taken place, I'm sure. The Bush disciples have jobbed us again, succeeding in burying the truth amidst more sleight-of-hand press "outrage". (Social Security's doomed! Michael Jackson's a freak! Scott Peterson's been sentenced to death! Terri Schiavo's been unplugged!)
The dormant press will undoubtedly ignore this near-admission of culpability--after all, if there was nothing to hide from an investigation, Smirky the Chimp would certainly trumpet that from the rooftops, doncha think? The most frustrating part about these last 4 1/3 years has been the complete self-emasculation (and de-feminization--I don't want to be accused of using sexist language!) among the presses in the country. Any time the Republicans in power have foisted some new breakdown in democracy on our nation, the members of the press have either: 1) made excuses for their own lack of spine; 2) swallowed the Administration's storylines whole; or 3) been distracted by some sort of faux news instead. Ooooh, look, Paris Hilton is wearing something sparkly! Wowwwww . . .

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Issue That Wouldn't Die

I am speaking, of course, of this whole Schiavo mess. Why it is the federal government's business what happens between 2 individuals, who are married (obviously the preferred form of relationship for this Administration) no less, is beyond me. Why the Administration thinks that keeping this poor woman hooked up to a feeding tube, when it has been demonstrated to all scientific certainty that she is totally bereft of even the most basic cognitive or physical "awareness" is beyond me--oh wait, did I just say "scientific"? That's it--of course!
Since the head bozo doesn't believe in rational scientific proof, why shouldn't the rest of his disciples oppose this merciful act? It's obvious that God is going to restore her spinal cord to its fully functional state and repair the virtually complete brain damage Schiavo suffered, isn't it? How can we stand in His way? (Not that this "culture of life" the Radical Right supposedly holds dear has anything to do with actually saving lives, since they don't oppose either the death penalty or killing as many Iraqis, Afghanis, and Americans as is necessary to spread the Gospel of Capitalism, er, Freedom.)
The only good that could come from this tempest is that anyone in Congress who supported the absurd legislation is running roughshod over the vast majority (by ABC's account, a 63-28% split) of the public's opinion, and since this included almost every Republican in attendance, that could spell trouble for them come election time. That is, if the Democrats and those to the left of what-used-to-be-center hold those Republicans' feet to the fire. (I'm not holding my breath, but it could happen . . .)

Monday, March 21, 2005

Interesting news on the war front

The US Army has raised the age limit on first-time reservists to 39, as if that will help raise the millions needed to continue prosecuting our wars in the Middle East. See the article here. I'm thinking that there probably weren't a whole host of 35-39ers out there chomping at the bit to sign on for ever-lengthening terms of service in the reserves, no matter how "patriotic" they might have been. My guess is that if any members of this demographic had wanted to serve, they would have already volunteered for the regular army. Is this instead just another step along the way to instituting a (gasp!) draft? That would be Republican Party electoral poison, of course, except that I'm convinced that this Congress would attach some convenient riders to any draft legislation. They would surely want to make sure to eliminate any chances the sons and daughters of any wealthy backers might have to actually serve the country, doncha think?

Normal life continues

Well, after a grueling 13 1/2 hour travel day on Saturday (really!), yesterday was a relief. The Beautiful One and I had a nice relaxing day of nothing. I watched all 48 games of the NCAAs courtesy of TiVo in about 4 hours. I loved watching Bucknell, UWM, and Vermont win their games--I almost always root for the underdogs. We also rented "The Incredibles", which we both enjoyed immensely.
It's back to work today/tonight, though. More later, I'm sure . . .

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Day 3

Ok, so the keynote speaker today (yeah, it is kinda weird that they have a keynote speaker every day--how many keys do they have out there?) was the appointed head of the GPO. His talk was cleverly constructed to obscure the facts of his story, because he started out detailing a little bit of the history of the GPO and claiming its value to the nation. Of course, since he was made chief, things have only gotten better. For example, did you realize that he was only in charge for about a month before he decided that the best course for an organization that had survived nearly 200 years was for the US to sell off all that property they use to house its offices and employees? Or that this government agency, whose sole purpose is to publish all our government documents and disseminate them to anyone who wants them, should now instead seek to make itself more "efficient" by implanting managers to decide what should be published and what shouldn't so as to save money? Or that a government agency should be a profit center instead of a public utility? Well, Bruce James sure enlightened me today! Hoooooo Weeeeeee! We made $11 million last year off of sales of publicly funded documents and properties, and the, um, retirements of 600 employees! Yaaaaay! According to James, only 300 were going to be "allowed" to leave (because the GPO employees balked when told of the impending "restructuring") at first, but when he found out that their leaving didn't have the foretold ill effects on workflow, he went ahead and "let" the rest of them retire "voluntarily" as well.
What a tool.
Another highlight of the talks today occurred after the second talk of the day. The Beautiful One and I were enchanted (seriously) by a discussion of the possibilities that Wikis have for the improvement of communal knowledge in the world. As a means of showing how Wikis work (anyone can edit the articles at anytime in many of them, including the Wikipedia, which has shown to be a remarkably accurate and broad online encyclopedia), Will Richardson changed one letter in the "Sickbay" entry in the "Star Trek Wiki". He was obviously only showing a group of information professionals that such changes can be made nearly effortlessly, and guaranteed us that by the end of the presentation it would have been reviewed and fixed by another contributor due to the almost-fanatical devotion to those interested in having a flawless Wiki.
Now, we have all paid a serious amount of money to attend this conference, and I assume that all in attendance are fairly concerned with accuracy and reliability from our information sources, what with our being librarians and all, right? Apparently, though, I'm clearly naive. A member of the audience rose after the talk to remark that Richardson had violated the ethics of the Wiki community by altering the Wiki in such a capricious and carefree manner, and that he should be ashamed for having acted so immorally.
It's now so clear to me that I was being led along the garden path to moral turpitude by Richardson! The Beautiful One and I were immediately drawn to the notion of destroying Wikis all over the Web, and it was all going to be so easy--who could resist? Good thing that scold knows what evil lurks in the hearts and minds of all librarians--we need more people like her in our profession to make sure none of us ever stray again! Hallelujah!
Lastly, the Beautiful One and I decided to exorcise our ideas of wanton digital decimation with some tasty snacks. I was thirsty, so I made myself a carbonated mixed-flavor beverage. The Beautiful One was tempted by the wealth of chocolate-covered and other sweet treats, and she knew that I would also enjoy the sugary goodness, so she asked what I might want: a Snickers bar, a Kit-Kat, or some M&Ms. I mocked my own choice of a Kit-Kat by pointing out the extraordinary dearth of nutrition a Kit-Kat bar possesses. Apparently my exclamation of derision for the benefits of the consumption of a Kit-Kat made quite an impression on the gathering crowd, because a lady in front of us on line immediately spun on her heel to return her intended Kit-Kat purchase to the basket from whence it came, evoking gales of barely suppressed laughter from the Beautiful One and me.
Give me a break, indeed!

Day 2

The hotel we’re staying in is ok, although for nearly $200/night, I would have thought Internet access could have been provided, let alone a continental breakfast or more than 1 small bottle of water between the two of us. Heck, the Beautiful One had to suffer through a shower that alternated between too hot and too cold. Niiiiice.
On to the convention!
The presentations themselves were pretty good, although they all suffered from the same problem; each session was limited to just 45 minutes. Each presenter seemed unwilling to tailor his/her speech to that constraint, however, leaving the impression that we were simultaneously missing out on some materials and racing through the rest at a mile a minute. Some presentations were supposed to be panel "discussions", leaving even less time for each person's talks!
The hotel continued its struggles against us. I can't seem to get the heating control set to anything comfortable, even at its "low" setting with the temperature bar lowered all the way to "cool". The Beautiful One's (btw, that is only a pseudonymic choice I have made--she would never be so accurately presumptuous!) shower was unpredictably hot/cold again, making for some interesting observations coming out of the bathroom in the mornings!
The Churchill: the hotel that Hell left behind.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Flight Day to DC.

I’m going with the Beautiful One to the “Computers in Libraries” conference in Washington, D.C., where I was born. As opposed to most of the conferences/conventions I’ve been to for my profession, this one promises to be not boring, judging by the list of topics. There is a distinct possibility, however, that the real difference is that I’ve become more wedded to the causes and ideals of librarianship, and that therefore I’m boring! I’d like to think not, but I guess my loyal readers will at some point tell that tale . . .
I used to fly Northwest Airlines a lot, and I never liked them all that much; with all the changes wrought by deregulation and privatization, they (along with most of the airlines, I suppose) have simply gotten worse. No meal (of course), and the only snacks offered cost $3. For that $3, though, you get a “variety of brand name items”! As impressive as that sounds, the Beautiful One and I passed, preferring instead to pay far more for probably not much better in Detroit, where we were stopped for 1 ½ hours. By the time we reached the Churchill Hotel at 9:30ish, we had been traveling for about 12 hours--I was exhausted and in some real pain from a bruised/broken coccyx I suffered several weeks ago. Fitting two grown adults into a double bed, the Beautiful One and I collapsed into a coma, to be awoken twice by people trying to dial room service (66) and failing miserably (we were in room 603—you figure it out!).

Monday, March 14, 2005


Welcome to the Surly Librarian! With any luck at all, this is the first of many posts to come on this blog, and I hope at least some of you will enjoy the ride. As you might have guessed, I am a librarian, but don't let that fool you; I lived a long a checkered life before entering this field. In my previous existence as a graduate student, I also tended bar in many sordid locales, and at my last stop, one of my co-workers (whom I like to call "Brooklyn Mike") insisted I was surly, hence the name of this site. (He was right, by the way--but you try serving the cheap and demanding clowns in Manhattan Beach, Ca. and see how cheery you stay!)
This blog will cover plenty of topics, most likely. I have a fairly wide variety of interests, from sports (a good time of year for it, what with the end of the year college tournaments about to begin) to reading to music to films to the TV to history to politics. That last subject will probably garner the lion's share of my posts for awhile, given the horrendous state of affairs our country is in currently, but we'll see. For now, check out my two favorite political blogs here and here.
Well, I've gotta run; TiVo is calling me to watch the ESPN Bracketology shows I "taped" yesterday!