Pissing Against the Tide

It seems like a lot of folks in Left Blogistan are suffering bad-news-burnout these days, including some of the heavyweights (billmon and Kevin Drum, to name two).

I’ll admit that the bad news weighs on me sometimes, too, but I’m not ready to cliff dive just yet. I’ll further concede, though, it’s easy to see how getting immersed in apocalyptic discussions 24X7 can lead to tinfoil hat territory very quickly.

So allow me to switch your internal news channel for a few minutes. Let me tell you how my Friday went.

I work at a large, inner city non-profit agency. Every single day I see the good and the bad in a world gone mad.

As I was walking in the door this morning, our receptionist was telling me about a cousin who was shot and killed last night (must have been a distant cousin, because she wasn’t demonstrably upset or anything…). I commiserated with her for a few minutes.

A bit later, I saw a homeless guy digging through our dumpster. When I called out to him, he popped out and we started talking – he was looking for something to eat, and I explained to him that the stuff that was in our dumpster was there for a reason. I politely told the guy that I didn’t want him getting sick from eating something out of the dumpster, and I asked him if I could introduce him to someone inside our agency that could hook him up with good food. He did (believe me, some of the hungry and/or homeless don’t want that kind of help). We gave him a bus token and referral slip to a nearby agency that has a feeding program, and sent him on his way. Hopefully, he had a decent meal today.

One of the things that my agency has been struggling with is waste disposal costs. The nature of our business is such that we generate a lot of organic waste material. For the past year, I’ve been working on putting together a recycling program, and it’s just really come together and launched in the past few weeks. So, just before noon, I had the opportunity to attend a 3 hour conference (with free lunch!) at an industrial strength composting facility that is now taking our organic waste (10 tons at a whack). Yeah, I know, it wasn’t as exciting as the World Economic Forum conference in Jordan. But bottom line, our agency saves big money and we do our little bit for environmental stewardship, regardless of the setbacks that the Bush Administration has tried to deal Mother Earth in the name of corporate profits.

When I returned from the conference, I ran some quick weekly numbers. We’d distributed nearly 20 tons of food to the needy this past week. Plus, I’d finally shamed our forklift repair company into actually fixing (rather than bandaiding) one of our ancient lifts that’s been acting up for three weeks. Sometimes, little victories mean a lot.

At the end of the workday, I drove home, and (cue “Leave it to Beaver” theme music) walked in the door to the usual family conversations, trials, and tribulations.

So, that was my day. Was it any different than yours? There were bad spots. There were good spots. There were even a few affirmations that my life isn’t just focused on crap that I really can’t change. Just like you, I deal with mondo negative bad shit every day. And also just like you, I have the opportunity to positively contribute to solutions that contribute positively to the world around me.

I quit the corporate whoring when the internet bubble burst, not by choice necessarily, but I’ve never looked back. What I do in my vocation makes a difference in peoples lives, not the CEO’s quarterly bonus or director’s stock options. Maybe that’s why I have a bit of a different angle on the world around me. I know that one person can make a difference, at least on my little scrap of the planet.

Make no mistake (and you can certainly see it here on ASZ in my writing) – I get outraged and indignant and spitting mad. Sometimes, I really don’t understand the insane world around me. And maybe I’m fortunate that I can get out of the microcosm of bad news and actually apply a fix to some of the bad things around me. What I’m saying is that the darker forces in us have won when we focus exclusively on the dark side. My experience tells me that the only way to piss against the tide is to actually hang it out there. Otherwise, all you do is wet your pants.

On an unusually warm Friday evening in May, what’s really fortunate is that there’s a cold beer in the fridge and a game on the tube. I can already envision someone reading this tripe and saying, “that’s what’s wrong with the world”. No, it’s not. That’s what’s right with the world — that in amongst the noise of every day life, we can relax with a beer and watch a game. Whatever atrocities that are out there will still be there for me to worry about when the game is over.

So please excuse me while I go round out my day. I’m going to let this posting simmer until after the game, then I’ll edit it a bit and post it on up. And maybe I’ll do some more indignant Monkey Boy ranting tomorrow. Or maybe the next day.

Edited Saturday morning for inexcusable butchering of the English language…

Saturday, May 22nd, 2004 by Richard Blair |
Category: Uncategorized


Keep Swinging the Hammer

I’ve read variations of the phrase, “You can’t make this stuff up”, on at least three separate blogs this morning. I think I’ve used it here on ASZ a few times in the past week.

And that’s a real problem for the continuity of monkey boy’s cabal, I think.

Wednesday, May 19th, 2004 by Richard Blair |
Category: Uncategorized



Making your way in the world today

Takes everything you’ve got;

Taking a break from all your worries

Sure would help a lot.

Wouldn’t you like to get away?…

Working on a blog like ASZ has the unintended consequence of keeping my attention focused on depressing current events. Sometimes the psyche just needs a holiday from all the bullshit, and this past Saturday was an absolutely gorgeous day (weatherwise) in the Northeast U.S. So, it seemed like a good time for a day trip to New York City to get my mind off of things for a bit.

Despite being somewhat agitated by the long wait inbound at the Holland Tunnel (is there any good way in and out of the city on a weekend?), I actually found a place to park at 11th St. S. and Avenue of the Americas, right on the border of the Greenwich Village and West Village neighborhoods. There are several shops in the area that my wife is quite fond of, ergo the reason that the Village was our first destination. Myself, I’m partial to Washington Square, and it was a great day to just hang out with the crowd in the square.

I confess a love affair with Greenwich Village. The ambiance of the neighborhood is hard to describe to someone who’s never been there. Walking to Washington Square, you pass through residential areas that are truly tremendous. The Village is not the type of place that’s packed with the tourist busses. The multitude of small shops, vintage clothing flea markets, and street sales on a (early) summertime weekend makes you forget all about the WalMarts of the world. And if you can’t find a great place to eat, you’re simply not looking.

After a rather late (4PM) lunch, we headed uptown for a few hours, and then cleared Manhattan by 8PM. All in all, it was a completely relaxing 10 or so hours except for fighting the traffic. So, as my traveling companion dozed on the drive home, I started thinking about my day. I don’t know if this was a good mental move, particularly since there was one instance that brought me back to Blogistan reality.

I came away from my day with the desire to grab George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul “Jerry” Bremer, and Dan Senor by the lapels and drag them into Washington Square on a warm Saturday afternoon. “Guys,” I would tell them, “this is what real life’s about. I know living in the dungeons must be bleak. You need to get out more. Whatever you’re doing, whoever you’re doing it to, is not so important. This is what’s important. George, sit down awhile. Hey, Don, check out the street performers over there! And Jerry, isn’t watching those dogs in play yard better than the doggy videos from Abu Ghraib? Dan, loosen up, take off the shirt and get some sun on your pasty white ass. When you’re ready, guys, let’s roll over to Jekyll and Hyde’s for a Margarita!”

Ok, so my fantasy scenario would be an untidy representation of my true agenda (cue the dark music). That’s OK. I figure these guys have more than a nodding acquaintance with false agendas. When we left the square, I’d take them for a walk down Christopher St., cut over on Ave. of the Americas, then make a left down 11th St. When we got to 7th Ave., we’d make another left. And then stop.

If there were ever an ersatz memorial that all of my government buddies needed to see, it would be the one at 7th Ave. S. and Greenwich St. I have to tell you that until yesterday, I didn’t know it existed myself. It’s a simple chain link fence around a parking lot. This simple chain link fence has literally thousands of 3″X3″ ceramic tiles hanging on it – you know, the kind of tiles on the wall in every American bathroom. The tiles wired to this fence are hand painted, and have a single theme – New Yorkers (specifically kids) paying tribute to the events of September 11, 2001.

In my little mental passion play, about a dozen armed New Yorkers firefighters would step out, and force the guys I’m escorting to read every single message on every single tile. My own unexpected viewing the tiles was an emotional experience for me. I figure Bush, Rumsfeld, Bremer, and Senor’s should be, too.

“Why have you forgotten?” would be my simple question to each (in my best Jacob Marley voice, of course). If I could rattle some chains for effect, that would be cool, too.

…After which, we’d finally head down the street for those Margaritas. I think Dan Senor would be a hoot with a few drinks in him.

Monday, May 17th, 2004 by Richard Blair |
Category: Uncategorized


Six Degrees of Godwin’s Law

Intrigued? Been on the Internet long enough to know what Godwin’s Law is? Ever subscribe to newsgroups? Here is a summary of the immortalized law enacted years ago:

Godwin’s Law is a natural law of Usenet named after Mike Godwin (godwin@eff.org) concerning Usenet “discussions”. It reads, according to the Jargon File:

As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.

It pretty much means exactly what it says – as a Usenet thread goes on, the chances of somebody or something being compared to a Nazi approach one.

Stuff and bother! as Winnie the Pooh would say … I think if the comparison to the decline of the Weimar Republic and the rise of the Third Reich fits, we ought to wear the darned jackboot. So, in my universe today, I’m “suspendering” (esoteric Firesign Theatre reference) Godwin’s Law to bring you something interesting to read. One simple page …

They Thought They Were Free, but then It Was Too Late. The author is Milton Mayer.

An excerpt: “Once the war began,” my colleague continued, “resistance, protest, criticism, complaint, all carried with them a multiplied likelihood of the greatest punishment. Mere lack of enthusiasm, or failure to fhow it in public, was “defeatism.” You assumed that there were lists of those who would be “dealt with” later, after the victory. Goebbels was very clever here too. He continually promised a “victory orgy” to “take care of” those who thought that their “treasonable attitude” had escaped notice. And he meant it; that was not just propaganda. And that was enough to put an end to all uncertainty.”

I’m not sure Richard thought I’d be the “keeper of the tinfoil” at the ASZ when he asked me to blog at his place. I suspect he might have had an inkling. But then Richard has Orwell in two titles recently. No wonder I feel so much at home. ;-)

Enjoy your reading. Carry on.

Thursday, May 13th, 2004 by Kate Storm |
Category: Uncategorized


Rummy’s Reading the Polls

So, I guess “Don” Rumsfeld must be reading ASZ – at least the post about American attitudes (as polled) toward the Abu Ghraib situation.

Rumsfeld Backs Iraq Interrogation Methods

Wednesday, May 12th, 2004 by Richard Blair |
Category: Uncategorized


The Bad Barrels That Corrupt Any Good Apples They Touch

Addendum 2:30pm PDT for photo:

As I had posted last week, Philip Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment in 1971 really reached out and grabbed me since the disclosure (shocked, simply shocked) of torture by US people of prisoners in Iraq. I did my magic search engine queen incantation … waved the potion around, and voila!

Bad Barrels …

Excerpt: “In 1971 researchers created a simulated prison in a basement on Stanford University campus. They randomly assigned 24 students to be either prison guards or prisoners for two weeks.

Within days, the “guards” had become swaggering and sadistic, to the point of placing bags over the prisoners’ heads, forcing them to strip naked and encouraging them to perform sexual acts.”

There’s more including Hannah Arendt’s quote on the banality of evil. But read it for yourself, and then look up in ASZ’s archives for the link to the Stanford Prison Experiment.

I report. You decide. Or not.

Tuesday, May 11th, 2004 by Kate Storm |
Category: Uncategorized


Reality Sucks

I’ve been away for the past week on a mind numbing experience. But I’ll talk about the evils of excessive alcohol consumption at a later date. Suffice it to say that there are times in life when, for the sake of one’s personal sanity, it’s necessary to empty the brain. Seven days in an environment where pretty much the heaviest mental lifting required is “which dinner entree should I order?” really helps to soothe the soul.

One thing I rediscovered is that it’s an exercise in futility to try and completely divorce yourself from events in the outside world. It doesn’t matter how geographically (or mentally) distant from reality you choose to remove yourself. Someone, somewhere in the world, is still publishing six-page New York Times synopses. So I wasn’t completely out of the news loop. Still, the lack of a “real time news feed” was both a comfort and, at times, maddening.

A lot of crap has gone down on the world stage since I began my self imposed exile, and I’ll be getting around to discussing those topics over the next few days. Suffice it to say I was taking notes while I was away.

Many thanks to Doc and Kate for taking care of the blog in my absence! I knew ASZ would be in good hands.

Monday, May 3rd, 2004 by Richard Blair |
Category: Uncategorized


Welcome to the All Spin Zone!

Updated 2/23/05

There’s hundreds, nay thousands, nay hundreds of thousands of political blogs and message boards up and running. We visit many of them on an infrequent basis. Some reflect our own thoughts, some we read simply to see what the other side is thinking or, on occasion, to calibrate our own personal views.

What most of these blogs and message boards lack is a unilateral way to force our (sometimes twisted) views on you — kind of like George Bush’s unilateral action in Iraq, if you want to look at it that way.

Here’s a little background on the principal nom de plume’s who inhabit ASZ’s scrap of the blogosphere. Though we’re geographically spread through all four continental U.S. time zones, ASZ is based in the Philadelphia metro area:

Richard Cranium is the blogmaster of ASZ. He’s a Vietnam-era veteran who is blessed (or cursed, depending on your view) with what he describes as “a finely tuned bullshit detector”. Past and present lives include writing for a major metro newspaper, shipping porn, punching holes in the ocean, and managing a large innercity food bank.

is the calming influence of the group. Except that he can go MIRV when Code Brown’s are issued. “Doc” mines the depths of the World Wide Web for the exotic neoconservative claptrap, and takes great pleasure in debunking bushshit with facts. Doc’s the academic among us.

Kate Storm
has a way of framing world events in literary metaphors. She’s easily the most well-read of the ASZ cabal, is probably French, and grills a nice salmon. She has Koi in a pond in her yard. That should tell you all you need to know. Her left coast “take” on the speciousness of the art of war will make you think.

Forrest hangs with us on occasion. He’s a university student on the West Coast, still wet behind the ears compared to the other geezers on ASZ. But he brings a progressive Christian view and wisdom to ASZ that belies his youth. Besides contributing to ASZ, Forrest is also the blogmaster of American Bodhisattva.

sukabi is ASZ’s red state ‘mole’. Her ability to find the obscure, hidden agendas of the neocon administration is legendary, from her earlier posting life on Whiskey Bar to Moon Of Alabama, and now on ASZ. She’s also a bit of a geek (like Richard) who likes to play with code.

We’re all refugees, ex-pats, and contributors from other political blogs and message boards, so we’ve been doing this kind of thing for awhile. Bottom line: a small group of progressive political junkies created this blog to give you our spin on the spin. Though Richard’s kind of the technical weenie (and original instigator) behind ASZ, the blog is run by committee.

Let’s be quite clear about something. What you find here is worth exactly what you paid for it, and we encourage you to form your own opinions based on the links and stories provided. We claim no particular expertise or education in any topic on which we comment. For all you know, we’re all 8th grade dropouts who have spent their entire life cleaning horse stables. Which is probably closer to the truth than you know.

So, put a new set of Energizers in your bullshit detector, and prepare to enter…

The All Spin Zone.

Sunday, March 14th, 2004 by Richard Blair |
Category: Uncategorized
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