Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Best Movies of 2003

For what it's worth, here's my list of Best Movies of 2003:

Of the movies I've seen and in no particular order:

· American Splendor
· Capturing the Friedmans - excruciating, sad
· Shattered Glass - being a fan of The New Republic magazine, I couldn't miss this one
· 21 Grams
· Bad Santa - funniest movie the year, bar none
· Laurel Canyon (Actually from last year?)
· Lord of the Rings: Return of the King - nothing beats it for sheer spectacle
· Mystic River
· City of God
· The Station Agent - great trio for a cast - humorous, touching study of loneliness
· 28 Days Later - best "horror" flick of the year
· Finding Nemo - truly a gem
· Lost in Translation
· Angels in America - OK, so it was HBO, big deal: NYT's Stephen Holden named it his "number one choice."
· Secret Lives of Dentists

Coulda Been Contenders (unseen by me unfortunately):

· Marooned in Iraq
· Lost in la Mancha
· Fog of War
· Triplets of Belleville

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

"I am a human being. Nothing human is alien to me." - Terrence, Roman playwright, slave.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Apparently, the Catholic church has more compassion for the Butcher of Baghdad than for gays.

"I felt pity to see this man destroyed, (the military) looking at his teeth as if he were a cow. They could have spared us these pictures." Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Vatican's Justice and Peace department, commenting on the photos and video released depicting Saddam's teeth a good going over.

My guess is the examination was likely to confirm his identity by comparing his teeth against dental records, so the criticism is kinda absurd.

Human rights should be the highest priority of the church, but when their regard for a bloody dictator like Hussein is higher than a whole innocent segment of the world's population, well, that's revolting. The malevolence with which the church regards homosexuals is contemptible, so their complaints about the treatment of Hussein strike me as eminently hypocritical.

Speaking of pre-emption, Senator Robert Byrd speaks out rather eloquently against it in the wake of Hussein's capture:

Early this morning came news of the capture of Saddam Hussein. That is good news. Despite his fall from power many months ago, the specter of a possible return to power had cast a constant shadow over Iraq and the Iraqi people. I applaud the tenacious work of the military and intelligence communities for their success today.

But that success does not diminish the challenges that remain in Iraq, and it certainly does not tamp the passions inflamed against the United States throughout the Muslim world by our actions in Iraq. The capture of Saddam Hussein will not be the keystone for peace in that volatile region. This day's news does not lessen the danger that the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive strike poses to international peace and stability.
Contrary to what some would have us believe, it is possible to be firmly against Saddam Hussein and against pre-emptive strikes. Senator Byrd illustrates the point cogently.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Exile The Little Red Hen Already

I like Glenn Reynolds, but I'm sick of seeing this daft Lil' Red Hen metaphor:

"Years ago I compared the international community's behavior to The Little Red Hen. It's a comparison that just keeps working."

Reynolds uses the metaphor to comment on international response to Hussein's capture, but I've more often seen it used to justify divvying up the spoils in Iraq.

So, other than the fact that the Lil' Red Hen sounded like a self-righteous lil' bitch (and an Ayn Rand wet dream), here's the problem I have with that metaphor: She was creating and maintaining assets, cooking up a nice loaf of bread for herself, right? Well, I thought the US presence in Iraq was about liberation, not asset accumulation. The metaphor rots to high heaven in this context, my friend.

Furthermore, when folks apply the The Lil' Red Hen metaphor to who gets what contracts in Iraq, they insinuate that the United States should get the spoils (which the war wasn't supposed to be about), since the United States did all the work. Well, the people of Iraq should have some say in the matter shouldn't they? Otherwise, the Bush administration's desire to mandate and regulate every facet of Iraq's reconstruction smacks greatly of the very neo-imperialism so many of us have been decrying.

I hope Reynold's isn't applying the metaphor in this context; he does say the comparison "keeps working." It doesn't work, man, so quit it. All ya'll.

Thank god Saddam's gone. Thank god the people of Iraq are free. Pray to god this country doesn't continue down this same swaggering, self-righteous path again anytime soon.
On his recent hunting expedition--well, "killfest" might be more accurate--Dick Cheney shot more than 70 (seventy) ringneck pheasant and "an unkown number of mallard ducks: in one day. It's actually called a "canned hunt." So there's no pretense of any real sport being involved.

Now, I'm not entirely against all sorts of hunting, but how do you not consider that blood sport plain and simple? How disturbing that *anyone* (let alone the second in command of the United States) would derive pleasure from shooting and killing more than 70 animals in a single day. I mean imagine the man striding thrugh the underbursh, shotgun in hand, steely-eyed, efficient. Methodical. It's bizarre. Wouldn't you get tired of the whole game after shooting, say, seven or eight birds? But, no. Cheney went on killing and killing and killing. And killing.

The facts of this slaughter add another disturbing dimension to Cheney's character.

If I had the opportunity to interview him, perhaps I'd ask, "So how does it feel after the . . . 50th bird?"

"Do you still get the same rush?"

"Is the scent of blood and cordite just as rich?"

Matt Bivens writes much better than me on the same topic for The Nation.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

From the New York Times on Senator Paul Simon:

Barely two years into his Senate term, Mr. Simon began campaigning for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination. In his announcement, he said he would not abandon Democratic principles. "I'm glad there is a Republican Party,'' he declared, "but one Republican Party is enough.''

Truly good and great politicians are few and far between. Former Sen. Paul Simon was one. He died today at 75 after undergoing heart surgery.

"Almost one-fourth of our children are living in poverty. No other western industrialized nation has anything close to that figure. This is not an act of God. There is no divine intervention that says children in America have to live in poverty more than children in Italy, or Denmark, or Great Britain, or Canada, or other western industrialized nations. It a result of flawed policy. It is a result of policy that panders to those who make campaign contributions rather than to needs . . . I want you to challenge us and to reach out to people within our nation. When we say the pledge of allegiance, we say 'one nation, under God, indivisible.' We ought to be achieving that goal and I want you to help us achieve it ." Then Senator Paul Simon in an address at the Wesleyan University Commencement May 25, 1997

A Google Search for miserable failure brings up George Bush's bio on the Whitehouse site as the first result. This BBC article explains how "Google bombing" works. You may have also noticed how typing weapons of mass destruction into Google takes you to a satirical error message. Same principle.

Using Google's "I'm Feeling Lucky" feature takes you directly to those pages.

In other words, you could use words like drug addict to link to Rush Limbaugh's site, and if enough people did it, well, you'd type "drug addict" into Google and be taken to his site.

Cool, huh?

Why on earth would a woman--Rosa Parks--who so bravely stood up for freedom try to quash it now? OutKast's song "Rosa Parks" bears her name but only alludes to her in the lyrics. The Supreme Court refused to intervene. They should've thrown this out.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Loathing Disguised as Love

The sad thing about this column by Kathleen Parker is that she clearly thought she was displaying wisdom and tolerance when she wrote it. In the first half of the article she professes her profound love for her gay friends and for "well, the whole gay thing. I love my gay friends and relatives, not to mention my hairdresser; I love what gays do to urban neighborhoods; I love gay humor, gay style and whatshisname in 'My Best Friend's Wedding.'"

So, OK, Ms. Parker loves gays as long as they're entertaining her. In the second half of her piece, however, she reveals her truly virulent bias--a bias simply steeped in traditional thinking, which doesn't even begin to hold up under the lightest scrutiny. She says:

"Making homosexual unions equal to heterosexual unions -- the superior natural order of which cannot be disputed -- is not just a small step for equality. It is a gargantuan leap from a natural order that has served mankind throughout civilized human society."

Huh. Well, for thousands of years folks believed that men's superiority to women was part of a natural order too. And white people were supposedly naturally superior to blacks. Clearly, folks were wrong about those opinions, and they're wrong to believe that a heterosexual union is innately superior to a homosexual one, too OR that heterosexual parents are innately better than homosexual parents.

Elsewhere, Parker says, "Surely no one needs a scientific study to 'prove' what is written in our human DNA -- that sons and daughters need the qualities of both their parents, mother and father." Ignoring for the moment that she would rather ignore science and trust her gut, let's note that Parker says here that kids need the contribution of two parents, a male and female. Would she logically then say that a single parent couldn't raise a child as appropriately as a couple? If so, wouldn't a child of two gay parents be better off than the child of a single parent? Wouldn't the child of a gay couple certainly be far better off than the child of abusive heterosexual parents? In fact, don't the qualifications for being good parents have far less to do with traditional gender roles and whether one parent is male and one female and far more to do with specific qualities which should be valued in either gender: strength, tenderness, intelligence, tolerance, compassion, patience, and simple common sense, for example?

There are so many holes in Parker's arguments--arguments she declares beyond disputation--that I don't even know where to begin. Allow me to zero in on this one though: To pretend that a few thousand years of human tradition justifies discrimination is an outrage. In the larger scheme of things, ten thousand odd years of recorded human history is a drop in the bucket of time. Humanity is still young as a species and the sooner we escape the youthful trappings of hate and ignorance, the better.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Go to the Human Rights Campaign site and send a letter to your senators and state representative, asking them ot vote against any amendment that would discriminate against gay couples.

As the letter provided details, the successful passage of such an amendment "would be the first time in history that the Constitution was amended to restrict the rights of a whole class of people, in conflict with its guiding principle to provide equal protection for all."

These guys at MoveOn are great. They've even launched an online Fox Watch Group to track Fox News's partisan bias. Glad someone's gonna hold Fox to their "fair and balanced" mantra.

How on earth does Alan Colmes maintain composure whenever he says that? Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly, I get. They may actually believe Fox News is fair and balanced.

Sponsored by MoveOn, the Bush in 30 Seconds contest invites folks to create their own 30-second political ad "that tells the truth about George W. Bush." The winning ad will air during the week of Bush's 2004 State of the Union address. Judges include Moby, Michael Moore, Jack Black and Margaret Cho.

Additionally, MoveOn encourages individuals to organize showings of Uncovered: the Whole Truth About the War in Iraq around the country this Sunday. You can pick up a DVD for about $15.

Some solid reading on Stephen Glass:

Columbia Journalism Review interview with for New Republic editor Charles Lane, who fired Glass. Lane talks about his assistance with and opinion of the movie, Shattered Glass.

CJR's Gal Beckerman also reviews Shattered Glass. Having also read Glass's fictionalization of the events in The Fabulist, Beckerman concludes, "Unlike the facile version in the film, Stephen Glass himself seems clearly to imply that he was brought down not because he was a striving journalist who violated the basic tenets of a noble profession, but, rather, because he always thought they were a joke."

Monday, December 01, 2003

Bush or Chimp?, a site comparing photos of George W. Bush with those of various chimpanzees may not show appropriate respect for the resident president, but it sure is funny.

Libertarian Radley Balko's now-famous post in which he succinctly skewers Bill Bennett for his enormous hypocrisy. "Your vices -- sinful, regretful, damnable. My vices -- not so bad. The guy lost $1.4 million in one two month stretch. But he doesn't have a problem. Cancer patients who want to smoke marijuana -- they're the ones who have a problem."

In this longer post, Balko really excoriates Bennett as well as the conservatives who refuse to acknowledge his hypocrisy. (Apply same algorithm to Rush Limbaugh.)

· The estimated number of diagnoses of AIDS through 2002 in the United States is 886,575.

· Adult and adolescent AIDS cases total 877,275 with 718,002 cases in males and 159,271 cases in females.

· Through the same time period, 9,300 AIDS cases were estimated in children under age 13.

· Estimated number of deaths of persons with AIDS is 501,669, including 496,354 adults and adolescents, and 5,315 children under age 15.

The above statistics were taken from the Centers for Disease Control site.

Learn more about World AIDS Day.

Sunday, November 30, 2003

Perhaps if the Bombardier Embrio ever takes off, the Segway will be proved truly visionary.

Saw the excellent movie Shattered Glass today about the rise and fall of journalistic fabulist Stephen Glass, the young writer who fabricated 27 articles while working at the New Republic. One of the best movies I've seen this year and a must-see for media junkies or those interested in journalism at all. Here's the original article on Forbes.com which broke the story. This article also includes a screenshot of the fake site Glass constructed for his fabricated company Junkt Micronics.

Rick McGinnis has indexed Glass's work from various magazines including the New Republic, George, Harpers and Rolling Stone, as well as articles about the Glass fiasco from across the Web.

“If it was sunny outside and Steve and I were both standing outside in the sun and Steve came to me and said, ‘It's a sunny day,’ I would immediately go check with two other people to make sure it was a sunny day.” Charles Lane, the former TNR editor who fired Glass.

Finally, on his homepage this poor bloke pleads "BEFORE YOU ENTER! I AM NOT THE NEW REPUBLIC FABRICATOR! I AM CANADIAN!"

Monday, November 24, 2003

And in other death penalty news: Jurors recommend death for John Allen Muhammad. Really, though, Attorney General John Ashcroft sentenced Muhammad to death months ago when he determined he'd be sent to Virginia for trial, since that state has the death penalty.

At the time Ashcroft said, ""I think it's well-understood on my part that I believe appropriate penalties for the kinds of atrocities that have been committed to include the ultimate sanction of the death penalty."

John Ashcroft: Judge, Jury and Executioner.

Bush pardons Thanksgiving turkey. Dozens of Texas death-row inmates not nearly so lucky.
Bush once notoriously mocked deathrow inamte Karla Faye Tucker's plea for a pardon. "Please,' he whimpered, his lips pursed in mock desperation, "don't kill me."

That last quote appears in a very unflattering article on Bush from 1999 on the National Review's web site, as conservative a source as you're likely to find. "Conservative readers," the article continues "may conclude that Bush just doesn't seem presidential-- at least by pre-Clinton standards." So they disparaged Bush at the time while also getting a jab in at Clinton. They're sure singing his praises these days.

Disney Disses Sick Kids

Disney has well and truly lost its soul. The company has yanked its support of the Peter Pan movie, because it didn't want to share profits from merchandise with the British *children’s* hospital, which actually owns the Peter Pan copyright. Yes, you read that right. Apparently, Disney also tried to convince a Scottish retailer to change its name because it included "Peter Pan," but the hospital straightened things out at the time by revealing that it actually owned the copyright and gave the shop permission to continue using the name for ₤500.

Friday, November 21, 2003

In this engaging speech Bill Moyers declares that "Our Democracy Is in Danger of Being Paralyzed." He also rightly points out that it's inappropriate to lump journalism in with the rest of "the media": Jerry Springer, "Temptation Island," and yes, dammit, Matt Drudge. The man isn't a journalist; he's a gossip writer.

This feature by Ted Gup is admittedly a couple of years old. Nonetheless, it does show how out of control the thought police have become in a particular instance.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

This startling quiz points out the similarities between the arguments once made against interracial marriage (and stil made in some quarters) and those now being made against gay marriage.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Havel for President

Excellent quote by Vaclav Havel describing all that's wrong with our politicians today:

"Many of the traditional mechanisms of democracy created and developed and conserved in the modern era are so linked to the cult of objectivity and statistical average that they can annul human individuality. We can see this in political language, where cliche often squeezes out a personal tone. And when a personal tone does crop up, it is usually calculated, not an outburst of personal authenticity.

Sooner or later politics will be faced with the task of finding a new, postmodern face. A politician must become a person again, someone who trusts not only a scientific representation and analysis of the world, but also the world itself. He must believe not only in sociological statistics, but also in real people. He must trust not only an objective interpretation of reality, but also his own soul; not only an adopted ideology, but also his own thoughts; not only the summary reports he receives each morning, but also his own feeling."

Found on Press Think, Jay Rosen's blog on the NYU Department of of Journalism and Mass Communication site.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Watch Fox try to twist General Wesley Clark's words to make it seem like he was demeaning American troops. Then watch him rebut them firmly and somewhat furiously--only to see the Fox anchor try to throw it right back at him. Out of context. Again.

(Seen on Talking Points Memo.)

Two Swedes are encouraging citizens of the EU to contribute just a dollar each to Moveon.org to help defeat Bush in next year's election. What an imaginative proposal. They'r enot supporting a particular candidate. Like most Democrats here in the US, I guess they feel like "anyone who can beat Bush" would be fine.

You can donate here.

"It makes no more sense to launch an assault on our civil liberties as the best way to get at terrorists than it did to launch an invasion of Iraq as the best way to get at Osama Bin Laden." Al Gore

Truer than Ever

Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.
- Samuel Johnson

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Received this response from Merriam-Webster:

Dear Mr. Stribley:

We certainly do appreciate the support, and we thank you for taking the trouble to write us with your comments. Although the press has widely misquoted our definition (the actual wording that appears in Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition is "a low-paying job that requires little skill and provides little opportunity for advancement"), we're always heartened to know that our unbiased language reporting is appreciated by our faithful readers.

Few people realize that our entry for McJob is simply an accurate reflection of the way this particular word is used and understood by speakers and writers of English. As you may know, a word must meet three criteria: widespread usage in well-read publications, established usage over a period of years, and a discernible definition. In this case, McJob has been in use for more than 17 years (our first citation dates from 1986), and it has a specific meaning that can be discerned from the surrounding context. As such, it is eligible for entry into the Collegiate Dictionary.

In editing the Collegiate Dictionary, we follow the guidance offered by Noah Webster that "the business of the lexicographer is to collect, arrange, and define, as far as possible, all the words that belong to a language, and leave the author to select from them at his pleasure and according to his judgment." The English language is constantly changing and evolving, and it is our duty as dictionary editors to reflect these changes. That's what we're attempting to do in our treatment of the word McJob, as in all the other entries in the dictionary.

Once again, thanks for writing.


Karen Wilkinson, Associate Editor
Merriam-Webster, Inc.

Good on them for not caving to McDonald's.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

This amazing dynamic map shows where money is being contributed to which candidates. All the way down to the three-digit zip level. Compare Republican versus Democrat or view the map candidate by candidate.

This guy's gonna turn into a major martyr figure for the far right. He'll be making money hand over fist on the speaking circuit before you know it, crying about fictitious losses of religious liberty. No one said he couldn't worship God, just that he couldn't park a 5000 pound religious sculpture on public property. How can a *judge* be guilty of such miserable logic?

Eradicating McJobs

My email to Merriam-Webster ecouraging them not to pull "McJob" from the new edition:

Please don't bow to corporate interests and pull "McJob" from the dictionary. McDonald's has no right to control the evolution of the English (or any other) language. If "McJob" has the negative connotation McDonald's fears it does, then perhaps they should take a good look at the reputation they've built over the past few decades and make an internal change before trying to manipulate the larger culture. (Though God knows they're good at that.) I'm guessing you had no plans to excise the new addition, but I'm sure you also appreciate the support.

You can email them, too.

Here, Jim Cantalupo, McDonald's Chairman and CEO submits a rather lengthy explanation of why he thinks the word should be pulled.

Mr. Cantalupo, no amount of explanation on your part should alter the reality that our society has latched onto the word, negative connotation and all, due to whatever influencing factors--valid or not (quite arguably valid)--and it'd be intellectually dishonest for Merriam-Webster to retract a new word they've identified. Dictionaries are supposed to reflect the reality of our spoken language, not ignore or alter it. That's why there are many words which may prove far more offensive to a far greater number of people included in any decent dictionary. They're reflective, not prescriptive.

Anti-War Veterans Shunned

Even veterans of past wars are being prevented from speaking out against the war in Iraq. These poor guys who actually served their country were yanked from a Veteran's Day parade in Tallahassee while high school marching bands and Hooters' girls were allowed to continue on. They were handing out leaflets and carried a banner which read ""Honor the Warrior, Not the War."

I thought Veteran's Day was about the men who served not the war being fought?

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Starting out as a fairly amusing satire of the Matrix, The Meatrix quickly evolves into a fairly effective animated indictment of corporate farming.

Great satirical collection of modern propaganda posters. Simultaneously funny and frightening.

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.
— Voltaire

Monday, November 10, 2003

Congrats to a College Buddy

Very talented guy I went to school with Matt Diffee is featured in a New Yorker interview along with slides of his work. Congratulations, Matt.

Good Point

Since Jessica Lynch has alerted us to the fact that the TV movie about her is inaccurate, when are FOX News and RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie going to demand that it be yanked?

Must've taken some guts for that young lady to stand up in in the middle of all this and cry foul. Woulda been real easy for her to just let it all wash over her. And who coulda blamed her?

She oughta run for President. More integrity in her lil' pinky than in the entire Bush cabinet.

No More Questions, Thanks!

Republican solution to dissent from the opposition? No more questions from Democrats. For real. Apparently, this is unprecedented. I should hope so. Questions for the White House will have to be funneled through GOP committee chairmen. So if they don't like a question, the White House never has to be bothered with it.

What a model of efficiency! And how convenient, too.

White House spokeswoman Ashley Snee did say, "It was not the intent to suggest minority members should not ask questions without the consent of the majority." (WP)

Friday, November 07, 2003

Coutler Clashes with Reality

More proof that Anne Coulter is certifiably insane. Or just profoundly intellectually dishonest.

In response to complaints about CBS yanking the Reagans miniseries, she retorted on MSNBC's Hardball that George C. Scott turned down his Oscar for Patton because Scott was a commie who didn't like that fact that Patton came out looking like a hero. She claimed the industry liberals intended for the film to undermine Patton's image but the flick backfired.

A simple search for "George C. Scott" and Oscar reveals the truth. (The first Google result I clicked on, in fact.) Scott simply thought the Oscars were "demeaning" and "a two-hour meat parade."

Thankfully, Chris Matthews called Coulter on this bold-faced fabrication.

"You are dead wrong," he said. He also had a good enough memory to refer to the "meat parade" quote above.

"Facts mean nothing to you, Ann," he continued.

Glad someone's calling Coulter on her constant stream of BS.

The Matrix & Messianic Madness

Bizarre. A whole sermon built around the concept of The Matrix. Kinda meanders. "Preached by Pastor Yingling at First Church of the Brethren."

But here's the most unusual thing: I then found practically the same sermon here. Henry G. Brinton delivered it at the Fairfax Presbyterian Church Sermon on May 18 of this year.

So who's plagiarizing who?

Looks like Yingling is ripping off Brinton, since he spoke on July 20, 2003 a full two months after Brinton delivered his message.

Naughty, naughty!

Thursday, November 06, 2003

The following is excerpted from a speech by former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski at the recent "New American Strategies for Security and Peace" conference in Washington, DC:

"Since the tragedy of 9-11 which understandably shook and outraged everyone in this country, we have increasingly embraced at the highest official level what I think fairly can be called a paranoiac view of the world. Summarized in a phrase repeatedly used at the highest level, 'he who is not with us is against us.' I say repeatedly because actually some months ago I did a computer check to see how often it's been used at the very highest level in public statements.

The count then quite literally was ninety-nine. So it's a phrase which obviously reflects a deeply felt perception. I strongly suspect the person who uses that phrase doesn't know its historical or intellectual origins. It is a phrase popularized by Lenin when he attacked the social democrats on the grounds that they were anti-Bolshevik and therefore he who is not with us is against us and can be handled accordingly."

The full speech can be found on the Prospect's web site. (Found via Bartcop.)

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

"My philosophy is the United States should cooperate with others whenever we can … and act alone only if we have to. In the current government, the conservatives, at least, believe that we should act alone whenever we can and cooperate when we have to." - President Clinton quoted in the New Haven Register. Pity a third term wasn't a possibility, isn't it?

CBS Sinks Series

So now in America, the chairman of the RNC has sway over network TV programming - programming that's commercially, not federally funded. Yes, the Reagan miniseries got yanked--or, at least, it's getting shuttled over Showtime, so folks will hafta pay to see it.

In a prepared statement on CBS.com, the network said, “This decision is based solely on our reaction to seeing the final film, not the controversy that erupted around a draft of the script.” Rubbish. In order for that to be true, you’d have to believe the show would’ve been yanked after they reviewed it internally if the conservative outcry had never occurred. Anybody buy that?

Reagan's like some sort of god to these people! These are the same people who applauded a cheesy miniseries about Bush's fictitious heroics a few weeks ago - while the man's still President, setting a nice precedent for propaganda in this country. I could understand the argument that it's not gracious to Reagan in his current state, but that's not what's got most of the critics in a huff - it's just it portrays their idol with a few cracks in it.

Can you imagine a network ever canceling a miniseries that depicted a Democrat less than favorably? Thought not.

A story detailing the debacle on the CBS news site goes on to say that "Criticism of CBS took on an official tone last week, with a letter of complaint from Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie to CBS President Les Moonves." Official tone? So what! When the government *officially* tells the media not present something, don't we have a word for that? CENSORSHIP!

Apparently, CBS doesn't mind being censored.

Yes, they censor cussin', sex and violence (not much) all the time - and I'm not aware of all the details of how that works. But this wasn't the FCC pressuring CBS to censor a cuss word. It was the Chairman of the RNC pressuring them to scrap the whole thing because he wasn't satisfied with its political content. Has to be GOP-sanctioned propaganda we watch apparently.


Thursday, October 30, 2003

Maureen Dowd compares Bush with Muhammad Said al-Sahhaf AKA Comical Ali - you know, the Iraqi Information Minster who amused us all by claiming there were no American military in Baghdad, even as American soliders practically waved to their mothers in the background.

The comparison's a good one: as things get worse and worse in Iraq, our President claims the ever-growing number of attacks and deaths are a result of our increasing success over there.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

You can't kill a cat with pancuronium bromide in Tennessee, but you can kill a criminal. In his article Mark Essig explains that the drug paralyzes muscles, but not nerves, so if you're on the receiving end, you may be wide awake as you die painfully. Advocacy groups and medical experts want about 30 states all told to change the way they administer lethal injections, "thereby bringing euthanasia protocols for human in line with those of domestic animals." (The NYT has archived this article already.)

Essig goes on to make the larger point, though, that ever since we've used capital punishment in this country, various groups have tried to get rid of it by pointing out its cruelty. Instead of getting rid of it, though, the folks administering it have simply found new ways to kill people--more humanely--temporarily mollifying the anti-execution crowd until they can find a problem with the new method. That's how we've "progressed" from hangings, to the electric chair, to gassing, to lethal injections.

Now, Essig points out though, "Death penalty opponents are realizing that scientific execution methods, ceaselessly refined, simply mask the barbarity of killing."

Coulter Reasonably Considered Insane

In an Elle article we find more evidence supporting the theory that Anne Coulter actually is insane.

Just one quote:

“Conservatives believe that man is made in God's image, and liberals think that they are God! Liberals want to create heaven on earth! They want to redistribute income, abort babies when they're unwanted, effect the 'perfect' racial balances they desire through the government and the law—and this is why the inevitable logic of their position is not to care about America! They don't consider themselves Americans! They're gods, part of a universal state!”

A typically bizarre and indefensible denunciation.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Bill Bennett's Boorish Bullshit

The New Republic's Andrew Sullivan lovingly deconstructs William Bennett's recent inane op-ed from the LA Times, in which he declares, "What Nature Joins Let No Gays Put Asunder." Ugh, even Bennett's title doesn't make sense. Sociology clearly has much more to do with marriage than nature.

Basically, Bennett's piece is another conservative anti-gay diatribe under the guise of a defense of marriage. In Sullivan's piece he dissects the stupidity paragraph by paragraph.

Why's a big bear of a man like Bennett so afraid of how two consenting adults decide they want to set up their household?

Why are such intellectual simpletons in positions of power in this country?

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Conservative Labels Homosexuality a Deformity

In the news forum of the conservative FreeRepublic.com I decided to question the apparently unchallenged belief there that the Pope deserves a Nobel Peace Prize. The site recently reprinted David Brook's article on why the Pope didn't win this year there.

At one point after I argued that being gay was neither a sickness, nor a choice, "per loin" responded that "It's a deformity. I class your championing of that deformity with those in 'the deaf community' who campaign against medical research to cure deafness on the ground that such research could cause the shrinkage or even disappearance of the deaf community."

So I responded with the following:

"If homosexuality is a deformity, why do you feel such contempt for gays? Do you hate the deaf and the blind?

"If homosexuality is a deformity, what is it about this deformity that prevents gays from enjoying their lives? (Nothing I can think of except perhaps for external forces beyond their control: e.g bigotry.)

"If homosexuality is a deformity, why don't gays want to be healed? Perhaps because they feel right about themselves and believe they can live their lives quite happily without having to be straightened out to be like the rest of us.

"If homosexuality is a deformity, why are you so afraid of it?

"Being gay isn't a deformity, my friend. It's a joyful experience for many people and you should either learn to acknowledge that or ingore that which doesn't appeal to your tastes and move on.

"Hatred towards gays is a human rights issue. And trying to change people who are enjoying their lives to suit your (mistaken) personal beliefs is a human rights issue, too."

Friday, October 24, 2003

Ever heard of focus groups?

According to the Toronto Sun Buick has had to change the name of it's new sedan to sell it in Canada since in Quebec it refers to, well, self-excitation, you might say. The vehicle was to be called the LaCrosse, which sounds innocent enough, ay?

You might've heard talk of this new report, Beyond Therapy: Biotechnology and the Pursuit of Happiness from the President's Council on Bioethics. It was discussed at length on NPR today. There's a lot of talk on the potential effects of a greatly aged populus upon society, for example, and the ethics of choosing your children's gender. Fascinating stuff and you can download the entire 342 page report.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Cut 'n paste real stuff Dubya said to craft your own Bush speech. Have him say the stuff you know he really wants to say.

Michael Moore explains in some detail how, yes, he really did come out of that bank in Michigan with a free gun for opening a Certificate of Deposit account. He even references the ad the bank ran which caught his attention. Appararently, some folks have taken to saying he made that and other stories in Bowling for Columbine up. If you watched Bowling, you'll enjoy reading this piece in which he defends various passages of his award-winning documentary in great detail.

Thanks to Adam Greenfield for reminding me that information architecture can be a meaningful endeavor.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Shoulda pointed this out a coupla weeks ago:

David Brooks recently wrote this article for the NYT which makes the dubious claim (facetiously, I guess) that the reason the Pope wasn't given the Nobel Peace Prize is because he's "too big and complex for their award."

No, sir. I'm guessing it's much more to do with his open hostility towards homosexuals. Earlier this year, he couldn't resist the urge to come out and advise people of another church not to ordain gay men.

Brooks goes on to say, "The pope has tried to defend the dignity of personhood in all spheres, and this has meant that he does not conform to ordinary political categories."

All spheres, huh? No, that's just not true. Did you know that the Pope has met with Yassir Arafat (who also ironically is a Nobel recipient), but he refuses to meet with gay Catholic leaders? Any religious leader who treats gays like 2nd-class citizens, shouldn't pretend to defend the dignity of all people. That makes him a hypocrite.

I hope a man so openly hostile to the gay community never wins the Nobel Peace Prize. He simply doesn't deserve it.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Filter Tips By Michael Kinsley - Wherein Kinsley details Bush bragging about his ignorance - that is, his steadfast determination not to be educated by the newspapers but to trust his objective sources: e.g. Conaleeza Rice and Andrew Card. Makes you glad to know we're in good hands, doesn't it, folks?

Thursday, September 25, 2003

WMD still MIA

Still no WMD found in Iraq an early draft of a new report reveals. The White House immediately released a statement, assuring us that the report is only an interim report. In other words, them weapons will show up sooner or later. Come out, come out wherever you are!

But they are finding traces of weapons-grade uranium in Iran. Guess we're headed there next.
Fox "News": Lapdogs for Hollywood Conservatives

Sean Hannity's on a pre-recorded Fox News segment right now, tossing Anold Schwarzenegger softballs, while the crowd (members of Hannity's radio audience) cheer along. "Liberal" counterpoint Alan Colmes is nowhere to be seen. Now, that's fair and balanced reporting! Go Fox.

Schwarzenegger declared himself socially "moderate" and disdained "liberal" as a 60's-kinda word.

Poor, poor California.

. . . Then back to the live Hannity & Colmes show and political and intellectual heavyweight Chuck Norris shows up to throw his support begind the Terminator. And they say Hollywood is full of liberals! You'd never guess it from watching Fox's balanced coverage.

Even as I type, Norris is now agreeing with Hannity that liberals are very vocal and conservative are not. What friggin' planet are these guys living on?

And who's on next? Ted Nugent?
Israeli Heroes

A heartening development in Israel: 27 reserve fighter pilots signed a petition, saying they would not participate in air strikes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The pilots believe the right-wing Israeli government has been using the military to advance its political agenda at the expense of innocent Palestinian lives. As reported by NPR, for example, jets dropped a one-ton bomb on a house last year in an effort to take out a single Palestinian terrorist; it did kill him, along with 14 civilians, most of them children. Furthermore, according to Palestinian medical officals, in the past three years, Israel has assassinated about 140 Palestinian militants and killed about 100 by-standers as well.

The pilots, nine of whom were still on active duty, declared the attacks "illegal" and "immoral." The Israeli government has grounded them, and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told the nation that, ""Everyone has the right to voice their opinion, but it is unacceptable that a group of military men interfere in such a issue, an issue decided on by the political echelon after great deliberation." So, it's OK for Sharon to use the miltary to political ends but not the reverse.

These guys are heroes. They should be celebrated for taking a stand. And hopefully their heroic move will inspire others to do the same.

Apparently, hundreds of reserve soldiers had already signed a similar petition, saying they won't serve in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Friendly Fox News mouthpiece Bill O'Reilly wrote this column entitled "The Clooney Factor" to condemn remarks George Clooney apparently made about Charlton Heston.

I emailed him the following to correct his English:

"From your column on George Clooney - 'Clooney's remarks about Charlton Heston were cruel, and, I predict, may well cause a vocational perfect storm, pun intended.' - that's not a pun; it's an allusion."

Just doing my part to keep the ol' boy in line, though I may have been generous in referring to his reference to the Clooney movie as an allusion,

In case you don't feel like reading O'Reilly's stimulating column to find out what Clooney said, I'll reprint Clooney's remark here:

"Charlton Heston announced again today that he is suffering from Alzheimer's."

Now, that's not funny at all, is it?
Jesus said, "Turn the other cheek." The compassionately conservative Bush administration believes in "smack 'em before they smack you."

CCN reports that UN Secretary Kofi Annan will criticize the policy of pre-emptive strikes today, saying the following:

"My concern is that, if it were to be adopted, it could set precedents that resulted in a proliferation of the unilateral and lawless use of force, with or without credible justification.

"Until now it has been understood that when states go beyond that and decide to use force to deal with broader threats to international peace and security, they need the unique legitimacy provided by the United Nations.

"Now some say this understanding is no longer tenable since an 'armed attack' with weapons of mass destruction could be launched at any time.

"This logic represents a fundamental challenge to the principles, on which, however imperfectly, world peace and stability have rested for the last 58 years."

CNN excerpted these quotations from Annan's prepared address to the United Nations. Bush will also speak there today in an effort to earn support for for the United States occupation of Iraq.

Monday, September 22, 2003

"Thank goodness Nazi filmmaker Leni Reifenstahl lived long enough to see Karl Rove's lush footage of W on the aircraft carrier." Barry Crimmins, political satirist

A couple more from this guy. Apparently, an angry audience member asked him, "If you don't love this country, why don't you get out?" He replied, "Because I don't want to be victimized by its foreign policy."

And: "The Pentagon's so greedy it has an extra side on its building."
Good Bye Johnny

I shoulda bid Johnny Cash a fond goodbye last week. In his departure, we've lost a worthy icon.

Here's one tribute left on the New York Times site by one fan.

"I always enjoyed Johnny Cash's music; but I didn't fully appreciate the man until sometime in the early 70's when he was invited to perform at the White House by Nixon, who also requested that Cash sing 'Welfare Cadillac.' Cash respectfully declined because he thought it was uncharitable towards the poor. I believed then, and now, that it took an extraordinarily principled and courageous man, in the face of an invitation any artist would die for, to just say NO. Thank you Johnny." - Abruzzi

I think that sums up a lot of what was great about Johnny. A bold idiosyncratic artist and a deeply religious man, but also a thoughtful, considerate human.
This Season: God Is *So* In!

First, there's the Bible (or the New Testament anyway) disguised as a girls' magazine, called Revolve. Why Revolve, I wonder? So young teen girls can read it in public and folks won't realize they're reading *the Bible*!?

The New York Times interviewed Laurie Whaley from Thomas Nelson, the publishers of the mag. Ms. Whaley explains that the mag uses the New Century Version of the Bible rather than the more traditional King James Version since "It is Shakespearic! That's the problem. All those thous. I can honestly say my heart breaks because the church has made it so difficult for people to grasp the concepts of the Bible. "

Also a bumper crop of TV shows featuring God as a character are coming to network telly. In this article, the NYT points out that "the last time God spoke regularly to a girl on television was on the 1967 sitcom 'The Flying Nun.'" Now on three new shows, Our Heavenly Father will be revealing himself (if you'll pardon the expression) to three young girls on a regular basis.

Friday, September 19, 2003

This prophetic essay on the future of the United States appeared on September 12th, 2001 on - of all places - ESPN.com and was written by - of all people - Dr. Hunter S. Thompson.

An excerpt:

"This is going to be a very expensive war, and Victory is not guaranteed -- for anyone, and certainly not for anyone as baffled as George W. Bush. All he knows is that his father started the war a long time ago, and that he, the goofy child-President, has been chosen by Fate and the global Oil industry to finish it Now."

Doc Thompson wrote that the day after 9/11.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Yeah, let's face it: despite all the spluttering and the outraged stammering by your Sean Hannities and Bill O'Reillys about the liberal media, Bush really is getting a free ride. I wouldn't call them the fawning press, per se, as they we accused of being under Clinton. No, now they're more like the *obedient* press. Hence, the following resonates:

Snagged from Bartcop.com, a good source for a fiery, satirical take on the Bush administration.

Writing in The Nation, Katha Pollitt pretty much demolishes the idea that it makes any sense at all to display the 10 Commandments at a United States (or specifically, Alabama) court house.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

The following from Robert Jensen appeared on Newday.com

"Republicans dominate Texas politics, but the national Democrats could learn a simple lesson from the state: Before you can become the party in power, you have to be a real opposition party.

When 51 Democratic members of the Texas House of Representatives left for Oklahoma earlier this month to derail a Republican redistricting plan, they did something that - for Democrats these days - seems radical: They stood up for themselves and for the democratic process."

Amen, brother Jensen, but it's abot time the friggin' dems stood up for something. Where were all those guys when we were headed off to war in Iraq?

Monday, May 26, 2003

What follows is one of the most bizarre things I've *ever* come across on the web: a complete listing of finals meals requested by Texas death row inmates. Look how many there are. Why is this list even out there? Freedom of information, I guess. Fine. Still. It's revolting.

Oh, and then there's the annotation: "*The final meal requested may not reflect the actual final meal served." Jeez, the least you could do is give the bastards the final meal they requested. You know, keep up your end of the deal.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

Excerpt from yesterday's press conference with Ari Fleischer. One journalist finally takes the drone artist to task:

Q. But, I mean, in general with relations with France, over any number of issues? I mean, obviously, this has been a difficult moment in U.S.-French relations. How should we anticipate this will be reflected in U.S.-French relations?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think it?s been the history of U.S. relations with France, on some issues we agree, on other issues we disagree. Typically, there are, indeed, more that we agree on than we disagree. The disagreements can sometimes become pointed.
I noted with interest France?s statement about sanctions and whether the sanctions should be lifted in the United Nations. It?s important to note that France has recognized the Iraqi situation has changed as a result of Saddam Hussein?s regime now being gone. With it being gone, the President believes that economic sanctions on Iraq are no longer needed. They shouldn?t be merely suspended, they should be out-and-out lifted. And that?s a difference of opinion between the United States and France on how to get the job done. We?re pleased that France has made some moves in this direction; they?ve got a little more to go.

Q. You?re saying they?ve turned the corner, they just haven?t gone quite far enough?

MR. FLEISCHER: I?ll leave it as I put it.

Q. Why won?t you answer the question about --


Q Hold on. We?re entitled to follow up, Ari -- this isn?t homeroom.


Q Why won?t you answer the question about whether or not -- he said there are going to be consequences --

MR. FLEISCHER: David, there are other qualified reporters in here, too, who can follow-up.

Q. I didn?t say they were not qualified, Ari. I?m saying you?re running it like it?s homeroom, like we can?t follow-up when you?re refusing to answer a question that?s been posed twice to you, directly. The Secretary of State said that there would be consequences. Why won?t you say what they might be?


Q. Do you want to elaborate on what those consequences would be?

MR. FLEISCHER: I addressed it earlier. You heard what I said about consequences.

Q. You didn?t address it, which is the point. But you can?t tolerate that kind of dissent.

Eric Alterman noted this on his excellent Blog.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Republican Senator Rick Santorum explains his frothing homophobia this way: "I have no problem with homosexuality -- I have a problem with homosexual acts," which is kind of like saying "I have no problem with soccer -- I have a problem with kicking the ball around."

Come on, Rick, just come on out and say it: you really just despise gays.

That pillar of anti-intellectualism Gary Bauer rushed to Santorum's defense, declaring, "I think that while some elites may be upset by those comments, they're pretty much in the mainstream of where most of the country is."

Well, it wasn't long ago the mainstream believed in spontaneous generation and that the earth was flat, Gazza, and a lot of folks do still believe in ghosts and goblins and the Holy Spirit, too. But I ain't convinced that the mainstream is so anti-gay anymore. So would you care to proffer some evidence to bolster your claim, Mr. Bauer?

I thought not.

In a bid to wrestle down Gary Bauer for least intellectual observation of the day, Santorum has also recently said, "The basic liberal philosophy is materialistic, is relativistic, to the point of, you've got candidates for president saying we should condone different types of marriage. That is, to me, the death knell of the American family.''

I say any type of marriage allows for the raising of a healthy child who's the recipient of living care and attention has got to be a good one, whether it involves a man and a woman, two men, three women or the Manchester United football team. There are plenty of heterosexual couples doing lasting damage to psyches of our society's little ones. I doubt most gay couples could do any worse. In fact, they might do better than many, considering all they could teach so many of us about acceptance of others' differences.

Sunday, April 20, 2003

From the National Review, John Derbyshire's grotesque attempt to shrug off the looting of the Iraqi National Museum.

My response:

I'm astonished that anyone would go this far to trivialize the looting, not to mention the wanton destruction of ancient treasures in a transparent attempt to justify the coalition's decision to stay out of the picture.

The essence of Derbyshire's argument: Those treasures didn't belong to Iraq anyway. Well, even if they didn't, that doesn't excuse the coalition's distinct lack of a plan to defend these priceless treasures, especially since the armed forces had already executed an elaborate plan to safeguard Iraqi oil. In fact, if these items belong not to Iraq but to mankind, as he infers, then wouldn't that have allowed, even necessitated that they be properly protected? But Derbyshire shrugs off the loss and writes that eventually these "objects will find their way to institutions here in the West." Well, ignoring the inherent arrogance of that statement (which Derbyshire tries to preemptively defend by including Australia and Japan in "the West"--gee, thanks, I'm an Aussie), even if many of the stolen items are recovered and protected by the benevolent West, those items that were smashed to smithereens for kicks, those aren't going to be recovered are they? No, in order to maintain his teetering thesis, Derbyshire has to overlook these details. He has to in order to accomplish his true intent: to deflect attention from the military's profound dearth of helpful intervention.

I suppose when you're incapable of thinking outside of party lines, these are the sort of rhetorical calisthenics you have to indulge in. Consequently, Derbyshire's "optimistic take" on things was bound to be a blindered defense that desperately stretches the facts in an effort to excuse the crass values of this neo-imperialist excursion.

The fact that he has the chutzpah to try to twist lemons into lemonade in this instance is saddening.

Friday, April 04, 2003

Recently, Charlie Daniels wrote a particularly venomous attack on anti-war folks and it's been getting some undeserved attention as it circulates virally on the Net. I've written a point for point response to Daniels' "Open Letter." If you enjoy my response and sympathize with its themes, please feel to copy and paste it and pass it on.

An Open Letter To The Hollywood Bunch by Charlie Daniels

A Response to an Open Letter by Charlie Daniels by Robert S.

OK let’s just say for a moment you bunch of pampered, overpaid, unrealistic children had your way and the U.S.A. didn’t go into Iraq.

Immediately, Mr. Daniels, you resort to name-calling to make your case, establishing from the get-go that you’re not really interested in winning people over to your position, but only in receiving rapturous applause from the choir.

Let’s say that you really get your way and we destroy all our nuclear weapons and stick daisies in our gun barrels and sit around with some white wine and cheese and pat ourselves on the back, so proud of what we’ve done for world peace.

Mr. Daniels, you make the assumption that all who oppose the war are pacifists. Actually, many of us simply oppose a shift in American foreign policy that allows the United States to attack another country pre-emptively, immediately endangering the lives of our troops and millions of innocent Iraqis. The long-term results, of course, may be incalculable blowback as the unprovoked attack serves as a recruiting campaign for Al Qaeda and to birth who knows how many new Osama Bin Ladens. 

Let’s say that we cut the military budget to just enough to keep the National Guard on hand to help out with floods and fires.

I imagine it’d be a very small percentage of anti-war protesters who’d propose anything this extreme, but apparently you’re not interested in accuracy, Mr. Daniels.  You misrepresent the anti-war point of view and exaggerate the views of a few to the point of absurdity to make your case.  But you haven’t formulated an actual argument.

Let’s say that we close down our military bases all over the world and bring the troops home, increase our foreign aid and drop all the trade sanctions against everybody.

Same as above. Some of these idea have merit, though.

I suppose that in your fantasy world this would create a utopian world where everybody would live in peace. After all, the great monster, the United States of America, the cause of all the world’s trouble would have disbanded it’s horrible military and certainly all the other countries of the world would follow suit.

Again, it’s usually conservatives with limited imaginations who declare that all protesters think of America as “the great monster” or “great evil” or “Amerika” or whatever.  They’d like us to believe that everyone against the war is an irrational nut case. There are probably far more conservatives claiming liberals believe these things than there are liberals actually saying it.

Also, since you’re tacitly applauding the military, perhaps you’d like to lay down your fiddle, pick up a rifle and head off to the front line, Mr. Daniels?

After all, they only arm themselves to defend their countries from the mean old U.S.A.

I honestly don’t think I've met anyone who believed this. Have you?  Show of hands, how many of you think Saddam Hussein has been stockpiling weapons to ward off an attack from the United States?  I may see a couple of hands waaaay back there in the crazy section, but, no, I don’t think anyone really believes that.

Why you bunch of pitiful, hypocritical, idiotic, spoiled mugwumps. Get your head out of the sand and smell the Trade Towers burning.

Again with the name-calling.  That’s not how you fashion an effective argument, Mr. Daniels. Of course, “mugwumps” is a colorful old-timey word that’s good for a laugh, but some may find the words “bloated, imbecilic country musician” amusing, too.  And that wouldn’t prove anything either.

And there’s that groundless connection you’re making between Al Qaeda and Iraq. Despite the fact that 70% of Americans believe that Iraq attacked the United States on September 11th 2001, it was actually Al Qaeda, a terrorist group, not a country, and none of the suicidal, fanatical *individuals*
involved were from Iraq.

Do you think that a trip to Iraq by Sean Penn did anything but encourage a wanton murderer to think that the people of the U.S.A. didn’t have the nerve or the guts to fight him?

I’m not sure how you draw that conclusion, Mr. Daniels. Perhaps you didn’t actually listen to what Sean Penn said upon his return to the United States.  His trip likely had little or no effect upon Saddam Hussein, but I don’t see how the nerve it must’ve taken for him to visit a country run by a vicious dictator against his own government’s wishes proves anybody lacked nerve or guts.

Barbra Streisand’s fanatical and hateful rankings about George Bush makes about as much sense as Michael Jackson hanging a baby over a railing.

The fact that you disagree with Barbra Streisand makes her fanatical and hateful? Read your own essay, Mr. Daniels.  It’s simply overflowing with vitriol and unfounded beliefs. I find your blind allegiance to this unelected President somewhat fanatical myself.  At last, however, we do find something to agree on: Michael Jackson’s hanging his baby over a railing didn’t make any sense.  And neither does your essay.

You people need to get out of Hollywood once in a while and get out into the real world. You’d be surprised at the hostility you would find out here.

You speak of hostility as if it were a virtue. Perhaps that explains the tone of your essay.

Stop in at a truck stop and tell an overworked, long distance truck driver that you don’t think Saddam Hussein is doing anything wrong.

Now, I’m positively stupefied.  Ask nearly anyone at an anti-war rally in America (or Hollywood since that seems to be your primary target) if they think Saddam Hussein is doing anything wrong. I’m sure they’ll give you a resounding “Yes!”  Your argument is an empty non sequitur.  Nobody’s against the war because they think Hussein didn’t do anything wrong.  They’re against it because they don’t want the United States to do wrong to correct a wrong.  They don’t believe the ends (the decapitation of the Iraqi regime) justify the means (a pre-emptive attack).

Tell a farmer with a couple of sons in the military that you think the United States has no right to defend itself.

I think most folks agree that the United States does indeed have the right to defend itself, Mr. Daniels.  And if Iraq had attacked the United States the vast majority of us would be supporting the war in Iraq. 

Go down to Baxley, Georgia and hold an anti-war rally and see what the folks down there think about you.

I’m sure many people would tolerate such a rally and some might even join in. Anyone who opposed such a rally must not want to live in a democracy or be a particularly strong defender of free speech, Mr. Daniels. I propose a deal: you agree that it’s OK for Americans to oppose the war, and I’ll agree that you’re freed to spew hate and disseminate half-baked explanations of liberal thought. Wait, I’ll defend your right to freedom of speech whether you defend mine or not: I’d like to be consistent and defend my position with some integrity.

You people are some of the most disgusting examples of a waste of protoplasm I’ve ever had the displeasure to hear about.

More name-calling.  Not a way to win anyone to your position, Mr. Daniels.  Since you use the word “waste,” I wonder if you’re suggesting that anyone who doesn’t hold your position should be disposed of. Are you really that militant, sir?

Sean Penn, you’re a traitor to the United States of America. You gave aid and comfort to the enemy. How many American lives will your little, ”fact finding trip“ to Iraq cost? You encouraged Saddam to think that we didn’t have the stomach for war.

Now you’re just making things up.  As I recall, Mr. Penn was very careful not to make any judgments upon his return to the United States. I saw him do absolutely nothing to engender hate against Iraq or the United States. In fact, the only person I see herding hate here is you, Mr. Daniels.

You people protect one of the most evil men on the face of this earth and won’t lift a finger to save the life of an unborn baby. Freedom of choice you say?

How exactly does a peaceful protest several thousand miles away from Iraq protect Saddam Hussein?  Especially given the fact that nearly everyone agrees that Hussein is a bad man who needs to go, whether they agree that a pre-emptive American attack is the solution or not.

Well I’m going to exercise some freedom of choice of my own. If I see any of your names on a marquee, I’m going to boycott the movie. I will completely stop going to movies if I have to. In most cases it certainly wouldn’t be much of a loss.

Good on you, Mr. Daniels. I applaud you for asserting your right to act as a free American.  Now, if you’ll only agree that every American has that same right, even when you disagree with what they have to say. As for me, you’ve inspired me to a boycott of my own. I’m going to continue not buying your albums.

You scoff at our military who’s boots you’re not even worthy to shine. They go to battle and risk their lives so ingrates like you can live in luxury.

All this attention you’re lavishing on the military is getting little disturbing to be honest. Can we presume you are worthy to shine their boots?  I for one am certainly grateful for a military that will defend us against invasion.  And engage in legitimate endeavors of humanitarian aid.  And even protect the lifestyles of wealthy country musicians, so they can continue to create web sites and post their opinions there to be copied and pasted and spread like vicious seed around the world.

The day of reckoning is coming when you will be faced with the undeniable truth that the war against Saddam Hussein is the war on terrorism.

We’re a couple of weeks into the war now, and still no evidence of any ties between Hussein and Al Qaeda has been found.  Even if those ties were found, they would not justify a pre-emptive strike on Iraq, which is likely to provoke incalculable retaliatory violence upon our children and perhaps our children’s children.

America is in imminent danger. You’re either for her or against her. There is no middle ground.

I was relieved earlier when you didn’t use a feminine pronoun to describe the United States, Mr. Daniels. (You said, “you think the United States has no right to defend itself.”) Referring to the United States as “she” or “her” is a cheap old way to personify a country in an attempt to make whatever propaganda you’re peddling more palatable. But now you’ve resorted to that, too.

Yes, sir, there most certainly is a middle ground. Just one way to find a middle ground is to be against this dangerous new unilateral pre-emptive policy and for a more sophisticated and co-operative foreign policy.  Another way is to be against the war and for the troops. You see—and I hope President Bush is reading now, too—the world isn’t black and white, sir. There are many grays. There’s a whole lot of middle ground.

I think we all know where you stand.

Apparently not. You’ve tried to relegate the diverse, complicated thoughts of millions of Americans to a single simplistic point of view that represents very few, if any.  I do think we all know where you stand, sir. In a world without nuance.  In a world where might makes right.  In a world where a nation can move arrogantly and thoughtlessly throughout the world, doing whatever it wants, without thought of future repercussions. In other words, you’d like to live in a world that doesn’t exist.

What do you think?

I’ve told you what I think.

God Bless America,

Please don’t bring God into this now after spewing so much hate and intolerance. 

May you live in interesting times.

Charlie Daniels

Robert S.

"Nothing in the world is more distasteful to a man than to take the path that leads to himself." -- Herman Hesse

Thursday, April 03, 2003

First, the Bush government disparages world opinion to stage an unprovoked attack on Iraq. Now, in its characteristic adolescent fashion, the administration has declared that any rebuilding in Iraq will be lead by the U.S., not the U.N.

Sympathizers to this point of view are already bleating that this is like the little red hen claiming her right to the acorns she’s gathered once winter has come. After all, those nations who didn’t enlist in the coalition shouldn’t have the opportunity to partake in the rebuilding, right? The comparison is ludicrous. The recovery of the earth’s most ancient civilization can’t be reduced to a questionable lesson from moralistic children’s storybook. Besides, we’re told the coalition didn’t go to Iraq to gather assets for itself—after all, that is what the little red hen was doing, right?—but to liberate the people. So the metaphor doesn’t and shouldn’t follow—unless those offering the metaphor are making some sort of Republican slip.

If the United States insists on leading the reconstruction of post-war Iraq and on refusing the help of those who opposed the war, it will only cement in the minds of many the idea that the U.S. came to Iraq not as a liberator, but as neo-imperialist force bent on “exporting democracy” and importing exotic oil.

Let’s also hope that the Iraqis first exposure to democracy isn’t a revolting rush by big business to capitalize on the recent carnage and to sink their teeth into Iraq’s resources. The rebuilding period in Iraq could serve an opportunity for renewed cooperation among countries that bickered in the months before. The world’s companies could conceivably provide models of ethical collaboration in order to enable a time for period of growth and renewal for the Iraqi people. OK, I’m really reaching here.

Regardless, the best way for the United States to help would be to turn the rebuilding effort over to the United Nations and to the Iraqi people. Then we should ask how we can help.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

"Just being provocative just for the sake of being provocative doesn't interest me right now." - Madonna upon pulling her latest video, "American Life," fearing its anti-war sentiment would not be well received now that the war's begun. Apparently, the video had already been toned down before the war began, perhaps editing out anti-Bush material it was said to have included. It's said to have ended with Madonna throwing agrenade at a Bush look-alike. Now, she's pulling the video entirely out of respect for the troops, and her labels is even asking that excerpts from the video be returned.

But back to that quote: "being provocative just for the sake of being provocative doesn't interest me" - boy, the world really has turned upside down.

Doubt the video could have been quite as striking as George Michael's recent effort "Shoot The Dog" anyway.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

Just saw an ad for "Condition Red" biohazard suits on CNN. Four easy payments of $19.99. I thought it was some sort of black humor at first. A joke. Apparently not. What vulgar opportunists.

"President Bush has said that he does not need approval from the UN to wage war, and I'm thinking, well, hell, he didn't need the approval of the American voters to become president, either." - David Letterman

Friday, March 28, 2003

California-designed posters satirizing the war in the style of the 1940's propaganda posters.

Reuters reports that "US Pilots 'Bask in the Glory' of Bombing Baghdad."

"It was exhilarating," Commander Jeff Penfield said after returning from a bombing run. He and two other pilots dropped 1,000-pound laser-guided bombs on mobile targets near Baghdad. "I can't sleep yet,' he said. "I'll go down and get something to eat, unwind, bask in the glory a little bit."

Yippee! I'm reminded of Slim Pickens riding the atom bomb like a bucking bronco in Dr. Strangelove.
At 4:00pm this afternoon, I took note of the lead stories for the following mainstream sites:

BBC News:
'Many dead' in Baghdad attack
At least 50 civilians die in an air raid on a suburban market, Iraqi officials say, as battles continue to rage throughout the country.

Iraqis Die in Baghdad Market
Iraqis said more than 50 people were killed on Friday in an air raid they said targeted a popular Baghdad market after the United States unleashed some of the heaviest air strikes of the war on the capital.

CNN - US Edition:
Rumsfeld warns Syria
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warns Syria that the U.S. considers military shipments to Iraq a "hostile act."

CNN - International Edition:
Iraq's Elite Troops Under Attack
U.S.: Heavy airstrikes mounted against Republican Guard.

You’ll note that the two CNN sites (really one American-owned site with two editions) focus on the active aggression of US forces while the two others focus on the receiving end of that force. Clearly, this was only a single, isolated example, and not a scientific sampling, but at least I think it’s emblematic of the way the war is covered differently on either side of the Atlantic. OK, so the Atlantic isn’t a good line of demarcation. Canada and Mexico are covering the war differently, too.

For example, I just went to the Sydney Morning Herald site right now – the first site I chose – almost exactly seven hours later and the headline is "55 killed in Baghdad market, says doctor," and the CNN International Headline is "Explosion rocks Kuwait City," referring to an incident in which nobody was killed or even hurt. Now, I realize the significance of that piece of news – the first time an Iraqi missile has successfully struck Kuwait, and I also need to point out that CNN does have a link to the Baghdad market story on it’s homepage. What I’m drawing attention to, however, is which stories the American media chooses to make prominent.

I wish I could’ve noted more sites at that particular time; perhaps I’ll repeat the experiment again with a larger sampling.

Also, tonight on CNN (TV), they’ve been endlessly showing footage of the damaged mall in Kuwait, and we’ve heard very little about the Baghdad market story. Where 50-60 civilians were killed. Whether coalition or Iraqi missiles killed these poor people – the Australian paper shows a photo of a young Iraqi boy sitting beside the body of his tiny brother in a coffin – their story deserves more attention from the American media.

I thought we were concerned about these people, trying to liberate them. In truth we’re apparently afraid even to depict their true conditions. CNN's Aaron Brown seems more fascinated with the mine-clearing dolphins than the plight of the Iraqi people. CNN in general seems more interested in gathering generals together in various arrangements to air their thoughts on "the battle plan."

At 11:10, the lead story on BBC News is still "'Many dead' in Baghdad blast." The article says many of the victims were children.

"9/11 changed everything, and we have to think beyond the old cold war nostrums." Posted by “Juan” on The Agonist.

How very U.S.-centric. Dozens of countries had been subjected to terrorist attacks before 9/11 and if they decided to start mounting pre-emptive attacks upon other countries they'd have been rightly denounced. Not to mention the fact that we weren't attacked by a COUNTRY, but by a group of terrorists. And they didn't even come from Iraq.

We shouldn't be attacking a country in response to 9/11, and in fact I don't believe we are. You only have to read any one of a number of good articles out now, to know that 9/11 only greased the way for this policy of pre-emptive attacks which the hawks (Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, etc) have been circulating through the conservative circles for over a decade. They floated this idea in the early ‘90s after we pulled out of the Gulf War and left Hussein in power, understandably frustrated that we’d left him there. Problem is now, a decade later, they effectively want to continue the war as if it had ended a decade ago. (I’m speaking figuratively.) In the early ‘90s when word of the plan was leaked in the Washington Post, it caused such an uproar that it was revised and reword to omit mention of pre-emptive attacks and to maintain the current (at that time) policy of containment. So the hawks had to convince Powell and even Bush that this new foreign policy (coupled with the na├»ve notion of “exporting democracy”) was appropriate. Bush was probably easier to convince than Powell, as he needed plenty of training when he came to the White House and was ripe for programming by the pre-emptive evangelists.

This is common knowledge and I’m sure many folks who take the “9/11 changed everything” tack know this stuff. So all I ask is that we stop kidding ourselves. 9/11 changed a lot, yes – changed the way we live, caused us to live in fear, certainly means we should be more vigilant – but 9/11 doesn’t *excuse* everything.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Why the hell did John Negroponte walk out of the United Nations in protest because of the Iraqi ambassador's comments? Diplomats are supposed to engage in diplomacy, not jump out of the sandbox when the going gets tough. Show some commitment to the process for god's sake--not out of respect for the Iraqi ambassador or his propaganda, but for the U.N. itself. Just another example of cowboy diplomacy.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

I remember finding it terribly ironic the other night when Bush gave his deadline speech and said that Saddam or his cronies would be tried for war crimes. As if his current war against Iraq - against world opinion, without immediate provocation - isn't a war crime itself.

I keep thinking about that old quote, "when America ceases to be good, she will cease to be great" - and wondering if this is the modern-day equivalent of the Fall of Rome. Oh yeah, the quote's by that bloke Alexis de Tocqueville: "America is great because America is good. When America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great."

I read an article the other day about "Dixie Chicks" rating highest in search entries on Google until it was knocked aside by "Iraq.". And "war" actually beat out "sex" in Britain according to that country's Freeserve ISP. Now, there's a first. Anyway, it's bizarre that in what was a time of impending war Dixie Chicks even rated that high - even if it is because of the comment one of the singers made about the war. What about "Saddam Hussein," "Kuwait," "France," Germany," "Russia" or even "Tom Daschle"? Seems people have to relate everything to pop culture. That's profoundly sad.

"Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism--how passionately I hate them!"

"Never do anything against conscience even if the state demands it."

both by Albert Einstein