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We Say Firenze

Wednesday, February 13, 2008 by Michael Reynolds

Occasional commenter, blogger, and viral punster Ruth Anne seems to believe that my planned move to Italy is akin to death. Or at least absence. Au contraire. Or as we might say in Italian, ho rotto la gamba . . . wait, that doesn't sound quite right.

Anyway, my point is that I'm in North Carolina whereas most of you are in such godforsaken places as Kansas, California, Texas or even North Carolina, so it's not like we hang out at the corner bar and you implore me to buy you round after round of straight vodka shots while you get sloppy and maudlin and end up confiding what you did with your cousin back in tenth grade, you slime.

Wait. I think I had a point when I started out. Um . . . Okay, my point is I'm not virtually moving away, I'm only moving away in reality. I intend to keep blogging. At least until my editor gets me my rewrite (ahem). And once I've done the rewrite I'll blog some more. Until I can drag my sorry ass onto the next book.

The only difference will be that I will become increasingly divorced from the mundane and meaningless lives you peasants lead, and will ascend to new heights of culturitude. Or culturation. Possibly culturification. I may even read Dante.

In any case, the timeline goes like this: 1) Next week I go to Italy to find us a place to live. 2) Then, we apply for residency visas. 3) Then we move.

We also have to sell this house, which means erasing evidence of the destruction we've visited on this place in three years' time. (See Vandals.) We have to find temporary homes for all the goddamned animals. I have to make sure my health insurance works in Italy. (Which would be an improvement.) I have to sell (sob) my beloved Benz. (2002, S-500, black with tan interior, fair condition, 75k miles, after-market DVD, make a reasonable offer over $19,000.)
We have to move all our stuff into storage. Update wills. File taxes. Figure out how to buy a car in Italy. Learn to speak Italian. Figure out how to shift residency to a state with no state income tax. (WA, NV, TN, FL, NH, WY, SD, TX. I have them memorized.) And about eight bazillion other things.

If the visa comes through we're out of here in May or June. If. But I have no intention of dropping the blog. I feel it's my duty to irritate the hell out of long-time readers with tales of my Tuscan lifestyle which will involve fabulous meals, great wines, terrific sightseeing, a mistress (hey, when in Rome, or Florence,) and staring out over the picturesque olive groves as I go slowly mad from boredom.

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by Michael Reynolds

I believe I've actually run the above cartoon twice before. But Captain Ed is asking blogs to post it in a gesture of solidarity with the Danes who first ran it.

Danish newspapers have demonstrated solidarity with Kurt Westergaard and Jyllands-Posten today. After the arrests of conspirators determined to assassinate the editorial cartoonist, the other newspapers in Denmark today have reprinted the cartoon that aroused the ire of Muslims in the first place. They want to make the point that no one can intimidate them into silence:

Newspapers in Denmark Wednesday reprinted the controversial cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed that sparked worldwide protests two years ago.
The move came one day after Danish authorities arrested three people who allegedly were plotting a "terror-related assassination" of Kurt Westergaard, one of the cartoonist behind the drawings.

Berlingske Tidende, one of the newspapers involved in the republication, said: "We are doing this to document what is at stake in this case, and to unambiguously back and support the freedom of speech that we as a newspaper always will defend," in comments reported by The Associated Press.

Happy to comply.

Freedom of religion does not mean that religion has the right to be free of criticism. If a religion's faith in an almighty God is well-founded, then they need not fear skeptics, satirists or critics. Only the most insecure faith would threaten violence against those who peacefully disapprove. But their insecurity is not an excuse for us to behave cravenly.

The best defense against attempts to curtail free speech, is for people to simply refuse to be intimidated. Make it clear that each time extremists threaten a person or media outlet simply for expressing an opinion, the result will be the widespread propogation of the offending statement, article or in this case, cartoon.

Want to increase the audience for an "offensive" cartoon by ten-fold? A hundred-fold? A thousand-fold? Then threaten the cartoonist.

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Why I'm Moving (An Occasional Series)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008 by Michael Reynolds

Super Tuscans


Cubans! Legal! Hah!

The Italian genius for organization.

Fiat 500's

Paint Buckets Full of Olives.

This guy.

Look how short that is. Oh yeah. Chewy.

Not North Carolina.

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The Alamo

by Michael Reynolds

You were my girl.

The Clinton campaign is now hoping to be saved by Texas. By Texas.

I wrote two weeks ago:

I think Hillary is in a lot more trouble than many pundits think. I feel as if the Democratic body is simply rejecting this Hillary tissue. It feels like a massive, systemic rejection.

Only Obama can save her now. He needs to do something to generate buyer's remorse. He needs to do something to seriously annoy voters. If he doesn't, Hillary is done.

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Pickin', Not Grinnin'

by Michael Reynolds

Blog friend Amba has been involved in what I can only interpret as a singularly inept suicide attempt. We pray (well, not me,) for her speedy recovery. And we urge her to heed the advice her mother left in the comments, and realize that only floss is floss, and floss is responsible for very few deaths.

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"My" Video

Monday, February 11, 2008 by Michael Reynolds

Check out this video: Black History - Master P and Romeo

Add to My Profile | More Videos

Some readers may remember that I wrote about being the "historical advisor" for a video shot in Hollywood a few months ago. Here's the final product.

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Kinda Plausible, Kinda Not

Sunday, February 10, 2008 by Michael Reynolds

I'm sure it's some sort of lese majeste for a lowly serf such as myself to take on a mighty Harvard professor. But what the hell.

William J. Stuntz, Harvard Law professor lays out what he believes are four inconvenient truths, two for each party:

Each party's base has two inconvenient truths it doesn't want to hear. For Republicans, those truths concern immigration and the culture war. Most of today's illegal immigrant population is here to stay (along with their descendants) and will pay no significant price for getting here outside the legal channels. No presidential candidate can change those facts. On the issue that matters most to conservative Christians--abortion--the political phase of the culture war is over. The right lost --a pro-life initiative failed in South Dakota in 2006: If it can't win there, it can't win anywhere. Well, maybe Utah.

For Democrats, the relevant subjects are Iraq and federal spending. Discussions of the Iraq war in Democratic primaries have a bizarre quality: Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama speak as though the war is a lost cause. It isn't--unless one of them wins the election and pulls the plug, a scenario that Iran's proxies no doubt await eagerly. As for spending, the federal budget (and federal tax revenues) will leave no room for large, expensive, New Deal-style health and education programs. For the foreseeable future, domestic policymaking will have more to do with arranging incentives than with dispensing largesse: Think welfare reform, not Aid to Families with Dependent Children.
Sounds plausible, doesn't it? Actually, no. Let's take them one by one:

1) We can mostly close the border, on that I agree with il professore. (Sorry, I'm working on my Italian.) And he's right that we can't arrest or expel 12 million people. But we can make life so difficult that a large number choose to self-deport. I'm not happy about that, particularly, but let's not pretend that tamper-proof ID and meaningful employer sanctions won't have the effect of making Mexicans and Central Americans reconsider whether the reward justifies the risk.

2) True, the pro-lifers cannot impose their will on the entire United States. But overturning Roe v. Wade would kick it back to the states and allow a number of states to impose a patchwork of regulations and restrictions, up to and including the imprisonment of doctors and pregnant women. States could pull a latter day Dred Scott and prosecute their own citizens who seek abortions in states where the procedure is legal. Could Utah, lets say, attempt to compel Colorado residents to produce evidence of abortions? Sorry, but this fight isn't quite over. Wish it was, but it's not.

3) Professor Stuntz on the Democrats and the war:

They're missing the point. The war can and should be won even if it shouldn't have been fought in the first place--because we're not in the first place; choices must be made from where one stands today, not some imaginary place of the speaker's choosing. And the promise of speedy withdrawal tells those who fight American soldiers: Hold on a little longer; those you fight will soon leave the field. A more destructive message can scarcely be imagined.

There's some truth in that. But there's a countervailing truth Stuntz ignores: messages fly in many directions. The Democratic position might well seem encouraging to Iran and Al Qaeda. But it might also be a useful signal to the government of Iraq, which remains incompetent to manage its own affairs. A believable tick-tock might convince the Maliki government to finally, finally, finally get its act together. Nothing else seems to have worked with them. Soon after inauguration day 2009 we will hit our 6th anniversary in Iraq. 6 years is not a one night stand. 6 years and hundreds of billions of dollars is not some half-assed effort. If after all that the Iraqi government still will not do what is necessary to save themselves and their country, then maybe the time will at last have come to wave bye-bye.

4) Funny how we can find the money to fight a war in Iraq, but not for anything else. But setting that aside, the question for health care is not whether the money is "government" money or "private" money. As conservatives regularly point out, there's no such thing as government money. All money is the people's money. If a universal health plan is revenue neutral to the average consumer of health care, then why would it be impossible to do? I spend approximately $1000 a month on health insurance. If it is the case (big if) that it will in either case cost me $1000, why does it matter to me whether I send the money directly to Blue Cross or to the IRS? How is the one possible and the other not?

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