Virtual Bourgeois

Just An Analog Guy Trying to Upgrade For a Digital World

Archive for May, 2007

Current Reading

Posted by Gerald on May 31, 2007

 I am writing this while enjoying the product of my brand new pod coffee maker.  Mmmm…

I have no idea if anyone else in the world is interested in my reading habits, but I thought I’d share them anyway.  As usual these days I am working on one fiction and one non-fiction book at the moment.  I really admire folks who can slash through books and retain something.  I read s-l-o-w-l-y.  I’m somewhat faster with novels, unless they really get me thinking.  Most of my non-fiction is history or modern political-social-economic stuff.  My taste in fiction tends to science fiction and fantasy.

I’m reading a fascinating book called “The Troubador’s Song” by David Boyle.  He is examining the legend of Blondel, Richard the Lionheart’s minstrel.  According to legend, when Richard was imprisoned during his return from the Third Crusade, Blondel travelled from castle to castle and sang the lyrics to a song he had written with Richard.  When he heard a voice singing along, he knew he had found Richard.  Boyle is using this story as a way to talk about Europe in the 12th century.  He examines things like gender, intellectual life, aristocratic culture, and the figures involved in this story.  This isn’t written with a specialist audience in mind.  It is well-written and fascinating in its treatment of Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Courts of Love.  As a non-specialist in this period, I’ve found a lot of interesting things that I can use in my freshman survey courses.

The fiction I am reading at the moment is a novel entitled “Grave Peril” by Jim Butcher.  It is one of a series of novels about Harry Dresden, a modern-day wizard living in Chicago.  These novels have inspired a TV series on the SciFi Channel called “The Dresden Files.”  Frankly, I had avoided these like the plague until I saw the TV show and discovered I liked it.  The cover art on the books gave me a very wrong impression – an unfortunately frequent problem with SF and Fantasy novels.  This is one of the many examples of a book series that is better than the TV/movie version – and I like the TV show.  The best description I can give of the books is that it is like Harry Potter as written by Raymond Chandler.  You get the same idea of a magical world surrounding the everyday one, but with a very dark and very adult take on the idea.  Dresden is a wizard who gets involved in a series of fairly noir-ish situations.  In this one, dangerous ghosts are arising across the Chicago area, and it isn’t even election time (I crack myself up.)  Butcher gives Dresden (who, in good detective-novel fashion, narrates the novels in first-person) a sarcastic sense of humor that I enjoy.  These novels will not change your life, but they are fun.

I was just interrupted by the freakin’ Baptists.  Man that irks me.

Read the books.  They are good.


Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

I May Not Be Paranoid Enough…

Posted by Gerald on May 30, 2007

Some friends of mine have recently written blogs about HSPD 20 and NSPD 21, which are Presidential directives dealing with plans for coordinating government functions in case of a major disruption of some sort. You can find those blogs here and here.

There are a couple of possible interpretations. One is that these are simply necessary contingency plans that, given 9/11, it would be irresponsible for the government not to have. Another is that here we see the blueprint for a Bush Administration seizure of power and suspension of constitutional government.

Before I go on, let me say something. I not only dislike the current administration, in the same way that I disliked the first Bush Presidency and came to dislike the Reagan Presidency (“Hello, my name is Gerald, and I am a recovering Republican”), I HATE this administration. I believe it has pushed the idea of an Imperial Presidency to heights that Richard Nixon couldn’t have imagined. The supreme arrogance this gang has displayed and their total lack of regard for any of the customary limits on Presidential power has done more, in my less-than-humble opinion, to damage the Republic than all of the scandals of the Nixon, Reagan/Bush, and Clinton years combined. Its foreign policy has turned most of the world firmly against us. Ido not like these guys, and I do not trust these guys.

That having been said, I really do not think that this is a plot from the “X-Files” film or from “Seven Days in May.”  My understanding is that this was produced in the aftermath of 9/11.  If we look at this from that perspective, we can see how typical this document is as a product of this administration.  Given the strike on the Pentagon and the widely held assumption that Flight 93 was on its way to Washington as well, making these sorts of plans is not only understandable, but quite responsible.

The plan itself though?

First, as Virushead pointed out in her blog, concentrating all of the decision making power in one place doesn’t necessarily make much sense.  It is, however, right in line with the demonstrated Bush worldview – heavily concentrated top-down management is the way to go.  Look at the creation of the Department of Homeland Security.  The immediate move by the administration was to centralize control in the name of efficiency.  Whether it is really efficient or not, I think it is clear that these guys THINK it is.

Second, we can see here once again the way in which this administration constantly seeks to expand the powers of the executive.  It uses the President’s administrative powers in a way that may not violate the letter of the Constitution, but which seemingly violates the spirit of the idea of a division of powers.  Again, here we see something this administration has done repeatedly – violate customary usage, but remain within the letter of the law.  For another example we need look no further than the firing of the U.S. Attorneys.  The President has the perfect right to do that, but previous Presidents have been more concerned with the effectiveness of the Justice Department than with creating a long-term political footprint.

Finally, we see here the arrogance of this White House.  Seeing themselves as holding a mandate from God to govern the country, they are unconcerned with the customary limitations and usages of electoral power.  They also do not think deeply – to what their actions can mean for the long-term stability of the Republic.  They have no historic sense.  The man at the center is unengaged and superficial and his closest advisers are only concerned with positioning the Republican party for the next election.

I almost wish these guys were trying to prepare for some Machiavellian plot.  I don’t think they are trying to burn the Constitution.  I’m afraid they are unwittingly eroding it in the name of simplistic solutions and short-term political expediency.

But then, I may not be paranoid enough.

Posted in opinion, politics, Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

Hello (virtual) world!

Posted by Gerald on May 30, 2007

I’m relatively new to the whole Web 2.0 experience.  I started blogging over at myspace, but quickly came to, um, dislike the interface.  A friend of mine is already posting her blog here and recommended it, so here I am.  If you would like to see the first few weeks of my blogging efforts, you can find them at:

Why the title?  (Grasping my lapels – in my mental image I’m wearing a frock coat – I swell with self-importance and declaim…) The world is a troubled place (ahhh…, the smell of fresh-cut cliche!).  We often tend to blame our troubles on “Them.”  They may be the government, the church (one or all), corporate America, that pesky other political party, fill-in-your-favorite-minority-punching-bag, illegal-immigrant-mothers-on-crack, our Reptilian overlords, or the Kiwanis Club.  I think that most of the time the real source of our problems is staring us in the mirror each bleary morning.

But then, I’m a middle-aged white guy.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »