Friday, December 31, 2004

No Passport Needed

Interesting, both Monster (back in October) and now eBay have dropped Microsoft's Passport service due to privacy and security concerns. That's pretty bad news for Microsoft. Wonder if that'll spur other companies to dump Passport, too. And Microsoft says it's withdrawing the product from the market all together, but it'll still be used for logging into Microsoft sites like Hotmail. Whoops. That's not the greatest end of year news for Microsoft.

Guess it's good to know they don't have a monopoly on *something*.

Thursday, December 30, 2004


The tsunami death toll has reached 100,000 more quickly than I imagined it could--and I knew it was rising very quickly--and has now topped 125,000 according to Reuters. With 80,000 dead in Indonesia alone. It's hard to even grasp the extent of it.

Here's a good selection of relief agencies I just heard mentioned on NPR's The World.

Top 10 NPR Reporter Names

Here's an idea I've had for quite a while: a Top 10 list of NPR Reporter Names. Specifically, names that when you hear them, you think, man, that's a cool name. And then you have to say it out loud a few times: "Man-dah-leet Del-bah-ko." The fact that most of these reporters seem to be women? I can't help that!

1. Mandalit del Barco
2. Snigdha Prakash
3. Sylvia Poggioli
4. Lakshmi Singh
5. Neda Ulaby
6. Anne Garrels
7. Joanne Silberner
8. Daniel Zwerdling
9. Linda Wertheimer/Eric Westervelt
10. Corey Flintoff

BTW, Don'tcha think "Robert Stribley" would be a cool-sounding name for an NPR reporter? [click] Mandalit? Mandalit? Are you still there?

Running Robot

Check this out. From Honda: their robot ASIMO's running action is starting to look eerily human. But what use is it? Well, given what we know about Wi-Fi, GPS, robotics and other related technologies, it's not too hard to imagine robotic couriers in the near future is it? Robotic nurses distributing hourly medicine to patients? The expense would be prohibitive now, of course, but . . . give 'em a few years. I'm not suggesting such robots could replace humans in every case, but they could certainly take care of some of the simpler, more repetitive tasks, couldn't they?

(Via Boing Boing)

My Favorite Movies of 2004

This post has become embarrassingly long - a clear indication of my compulsive interest in movies, I guess. As usual, there were so many flicks I didn't get to see, but here's my list of favorites for this past year. I reserve to edit it over the next few days. Some movies were released earlier than this year, but in every case, I saw it this year - often because Charlotte's a la C-Level city for movie releases. Wish that were a joke, but it's true. For now my list in no particular order:

>Control Room - sorry, Mr. Moore, but this documentary easily bests Fahrenheit 9/11 as the year's best. Both thought-provoking and provocative, but - most importantly - much more honest than Moore's admittedly stirring effort.
>Crimson Gold - a gem from Iran, also written by Abbas Kiarostami who wrote and directed personal favorites The Wind Will Carry Us and The Taste of Cherry
>Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - he thrilled you with his rock videos, now Michel Gondry blows your mind with his cinematic directorial debut. Written by Charlie Kaufman, of course. What a pairing!
>Kinsey - a solid portrayal by Neeson and if not exactly a masterpiece as a movie, it's certainly playing an important role in our current culture.
>The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou - you'll love it or hate it. I loved it. Call Wes Anderson eccentric, precious, whatever, but you leave his movies thinking most of the rest of the stuff that makes it to theaters is dull and colorless. Bill Murray's hilarious and who'da thunk Willem Dafoe could be so funny?
>Sideways - charming, funny colorful both sunny and sour. Back to back hits for Paul Giamatti with this and American Splendor, and what a run for Alexander Payne, too, with this, Election and About Schmidt.
>The Son (2002) - takes a while to get used to the claustrophobic camera work, but The Son proved utterly realistic, profoundly moving. Magnificent. One of the best movies in recent years. And who saw it?
>Super Size Me - you'll never look at Big Mac a bottle of Coke the same way again. Morgan Spurlock proves a funnier more amiable Michael Moore. Apparently, Spurlock was rejected five times by the USC film school. Joke's on them.
>Hero (2002) - finally released in the US - beautiful, if you love the cinematography of Chistopher Doyle (Wong Kar Wai's shooter for Chunking Express, Fallen Angels, Happy Together, In the Mood for Love, etc) as I do, see this movie for that alone .It's painterly.
>My Architect (2003) - Thrilling documentary about the odd relationship between a famous architect, Louis Kahn, and his son, Louis. Kahn had three families - one by marriage and two other not-so-secret families with two other women. Louis Kahn traces his fathers steps around the world, trying to get to know the father who spent so little time with him. Would you imagine weeping over a documentary about an architect? One of the best documentaries I've ever seen.
>The Fog of War - another documentary and one of those rare ones that compel you to see the world in a new way. Timely as all get out, too.
>Maria Full of Grace - "Grace" being cocaine, in this case. OK, bad joke, but a fascinating movie and a compelling performance from a brand-new actor.
>Touching the Void - I hate the cold and this superb documentary about two friends and a horrific mountaineering accident did little to change my feelings about it.
>Osama - tragic story of an Afghani girl trying to pass as a boy.
>The Mother - sad, disturbing, yet oddly humanistic and touching. After the death of her husband, an older woman becomes obsessed with her daughter's all too obliging boyfriend
>The Manchurian Candidate - a bit loony, almost lapsing into camp here and there, but overall, the year's most surprisingly successful remake
>Napolean Dynamite - another love or hate movie - I loved it - what can I say? "There exists a long and honorable history of intellectuals fully enjoying both the high and the low art." That work for yah?
>The Machinist - worked for me and it was about much more than Christian Bale's truly disturbing weight loss. It's a story of redemption with clear aspirations of Dostoevsky in mind.
>Enduring Love - I'm a huge Ian McEwan fan and I thought this movie did his novel of the same name pretty good justice. The male lead is Daniel Craig, also the boyfriend in The Mother.

Also ran:

>Team America - might've been a favorite, but I found the treatment of liberals in the movie particularly vicious compared to, say, the treatment of Kim Il Jung! I mean, come on! Some criticism of Hollywood's often vacuous style of dissent is certainly called, though, and Team America itself proved a spectacular metaphor for the United States' foreign policy--though the South Park boys drummed up more sympathy for the neocon modus operandi than I've been able to.

Worst Movie:

>Stepford Wives - by a long shot - utterly, irredeemably disappointing - full of plot holes and inconsistencies which are an insult to the viewer's intelligence. An atrocity of a movie.

Other contenders which I didn't see: Alexander, which sounded like an unmitigated disaster and Christmas with the Kranks which was apparently little more than a wowser love letter to red stater types. Celebrate Christmas or else! And Taxi - based on the trailer alone.

Disappointing Movies:

>Collateral - I have a Michael Mann fetish, but that didn't stop him from losing me after the ridiculous coincidence in the second half of the movie - stylish as hell though and great performances by Cruise and Foxx.
>The Village - most of us got the telegraphed ending early on, only I thought maybe the girl would walk into Eckerds or something at the end to fill a prescription.
>Ocean's Twelve - sorry, it had it's moments and was fine for a no-brainer, eye-candy movie, but that whole Julia Roberts thing in the second half - ugh, nonsensical.

Didn't See/Mighta Liked:

>Before Sunset, Anatomy of Hell, Dogville, The Sea Inside (Is Javier Bardem ever bad?), Vera Drake (Does -- ever direct a bad movie?), Hotel Rwanda. Bad Education (Amodovar: say no more), Moolaade, Tarnation, Time of the Wolf, The Big Red One (re-release), Goodbye Dragon Inn, The Corporation, 2046 (my not be released in US yet, but it's Wong Kar Wai and a semi sequel to In the Mood for Love, so ...) Why haven't I seen these movies? Mainly 'cos Charlotte's movie scene sucketh. Thank god for the Manor, though.


>Documentaries - what phenomenal year for documentaries, and I'm not even talking about Fahrenheit 9/11. Look at how many of my favorites above were documentaries. And, yes, I enjoyed Fahrenheit 9/11. But it was a masterpiece of propaganda, and I wish Moore had been a little more even-handed and somehow kept the humor.

>Bombast: Troy, Alexander, Passion of the Christ, etc - pretty self-explanatory

Final Thought:

Can someone please give me a job as a movie reviewer? Maybe at the New Yorker or New York Times. I ain't picky. Salon or Slate'd do.

What'd ya'll like?

Wednesday, December 29, 2004


Sometimes, naming the family business after yourself isn't such a good idea.


Not to advertise for Amazon, but they've currently made it very easy to give to the American Red Cross for the tsunami disaster with a single click. They've already raised 1.5 million. It's great to see prominent companies on the Web taking advantage of their popularity to do good.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

A Very Coulter Christmas

Here's what passes for humor over at these days:
To The People Of Islam:

Just think: If we'd invaded your countries, killed your leaders and converted you to Christianity YOU'D ALL BE OPENING CHRISTMAS PRESENTS RIGHT ABOUT NOW!

Merry Christmas
Guess she's following her President's example: never apologize for your biggest mistakes; just joke about them later on.

(Via Wonkette. It would've been satire if Wonkette had written it, but, unfortunately, Coulter really did write it.)

Conservatives Grieve Over O'Reilly's Sins

His sins of defending the mainstream media, that is.

It's funny but sad that when conservatives like this writer over at the National Review Online find something wrong with Bill O'Reilly, it's just his "self-aggrandizement" and the fact that he's defending Dan Rather. Think, Catherine. Think hard, and I bet you can come up with some other reasons to criticize him.

But, no, the very title of Cathy Seipp's piece is "We Want O’Reilly Back!" You see, she's "Missing the old maverick." In her very same piece, Seipp alludes to Clinton's infidelities and O'Reilly's obsession with them. In fact, she details his indignation over the media's ignoring Clinton's rape accuser, Juanita Broaddrick. Even so, she deftly manages to omit any explicit mention of the recent airing of O'Reilly's own dirty laundry.

One "Bill" the conservatives got impeached; the other they want back. Guess it's all about redemption or something, huh? But why is that redemption only available to conservatives?

(Hint: it's not really about redemption when you completely and conveniently overlook gaping flaws and hypocrisy in your idols, is it?)

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Scissors You Can Run With

Dang, you can download a really high-quality version of the Scissor Sisters' video for their ridiculously giddy hit song "Take Your Mama" here. Think early Elton John and Bee Gees and lyrics which concern a young gay man's coming out to his Mom on the dance floor. Rod Keen, whose site hosts the video, makes the hats you'll see the band members and many other celebrities wearing. The New York band's eponymous debut album is nothing short of glamtastic. One of the better recent pop albums and a nice homage to the disco era. You also have to check out their utterly unique take on Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb." It involves a lot of falsetto. You can check it out on their site.

Link directly to the 61 MB video.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Massive in the Area

Check out this stunning über minimalist video version of Massive Attack's "Special Cases," the original version of which you can hear on their recent album, The 100th Window. Shot by the influential Brit photographer Nick Knight, it simply depicts an exploding flower against a sky blue background. The music is an Akufen remix of the orginal tune. Can you guess who the vocalist is who drifts in near the end? The answer's in the comments.

BTW, I found this video via Yahoo's excellent new video search feature. You also find other great stuff like the classic Blue Oyster Cult skit from SNL with Christopher Walken: "Guess what. I got a fever. And the only prescription is more cowbell."

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Well and Truly Hitched


I wish everyone
in the world
would begin to read
the names
in this phone book
more than the Psalms.

- Yehuda Amichai
translated from the Hebrew by Leon Wieseltier, p. 42, The New Republic, December 13, 2004
As I read it, that poem ties in with the implicit theme of this blog--or at least the name, I've chosen--which I've never taken the time to elaborate on. John Muir was likely referring specifically to nature when he said it: "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe." But I intend the theme to be even broader: philosophically, religiously, naturally, universally. However you want to read it, we're all hitched together.

Democrats and Republicans, hippies and hipsters, men and women, believers and non-believers, businessmen and homeless people, single mothers and Baptist deacons, Americans and Frenchmen, Westerners and Middle Easterners, gays and straights, Yuschenko and Yanukovych, flower arrangers and day traders, dogs and cats, the PHD candidate and the unschooled, bullies and submissives, the fashionable and the frump, priests and petty criminals, the married and the single, movie stars and children in their school plays, introverts and extroverts, elephants and insects, the poet and the illiterate, black and white, gym bunnies and couch potatoes, the eldery and the newborn, North Koreans and South Koreans, congressmen and trial lawyers, the loved and the unloved, Protestants and Catholics, dullards and debutantes, Muslims and Christians, pacifists and terrorists. No, they are not all the same, but they are all hitched together.

Like it or not, believe it or not. It's true. It's sometimes a thing of horror; it's always a thing of beauty.

I often have to remind myself that it's true. But maybe that's what's worth remembering during this season.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Oy Ya!

If you love Outkast and Hanukkah, you'll love this -- Jewish "Hey Ya!".

You can catch more of this guy's parody songs in mp3 format on his site.

"Oy is just Yo backwards!"


(Via Waterbones.)

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Joseph Arthur

I spent last weekend in Denver where I had the pleasure of seeing Joseph Arthur play at the Bluebird. While there, I thought I'd take a photo of the joint

and try to reproduce the famous Faithless album cover for Sunday 8pm

from memory. (OK, I cheated and cropped it a little, but probably so did they.)

It was a great show, except for the fact that a whole table full of folks behind me talked through the whole show. And when Arthur got louder, so did they. Made up for it after by getting to chat with Arthur and show opener and fellow caterwauler (and I mean that in a good way) Joan as Police Woman.

I've posted a few more Denver photos on my photoblog, Mezzanine.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Social Insecurity

The Onion sums up the stupidity of privatizing Social Security so well, they hardly leave room for further comment: "New Social Security Plan Allows Workers To Put Portion Of Earnings On Favorite Team."

"It's your money," they quote Bush as saying. "You earned it. You should be able to bet it on whatever team you want." Heh-heh.

Call me a Commie, but there's something despicable about saying, "Hey, here's you're retirement savings, feel free to gamble on your future." All in the name of avoiding "socialism," which you'd think were akin to the black plague or something. As if it weren't actually working in countries like Canada and half of Europe. I'm not for a purely communistic society any more than I am for unchecked capitalism, but blend of socialistist capitalism would be nice. Privatized social security just reeks of Capitalism worship to me. I'm sure the Ayn Rand acolytes approve.

[Robert hits Google.]

Well, whaddya know: they do approve. Only they believe Bush isn't going far enough. Of course, they do. "This is why the left loves Social Security," writes Robert W. Tracinski, a senior writer for the Ayn Rand Institute. "It is a system under which all must sacrifice for all--and none may profit. Everyone is made dependent on government--and no one is allowed to provide for himself." See how the Aynrandians despise community? Look out for yourself only. Contribute to the increasing isolation in American society. Yeah! &$%ing Objectivists. How about some balance? Night, day. Man, woman. Capitalism, socialism. Isn't it as plain as the nose on your face that you can't have one without the other? I mean, that's no profound economic discovery on my part, is it?

Of course, what Tracinski neglects to mention is that the filthy rich are already profoundly capable of saving millions and making a killing in the stock market and that the money they dole out for social security has zero impact on their lifestyles. You see, it's the principle the Objectivist's are standing up for: you don't let the parasitic poor benefit from the hard-earned fruits of your illegal stock trades.

Grumble, grumble.

(Onion Story via Kevin Drum.)

Friday, December 03, 2004

Gentlemen, You Can't Fight in Here! This is the War Room.

I stumbled across this 1963 review of Dr.Strangelove, and it's fascinating to see how it reviewed at the time. Now, I happen think Strangelove is perhaps the best satirical movie of all time and to a certain extent the NYT's reviewer Bosley Crowther saw the movie's value, too. Crowther's conclusions about the film, however, prove far more conservative than mine--perhaps indicative of how much more respect was expected of your average American for the government at the time:
As I say, there are parts of this satire that are almost beyond compare.

On the other hand, I am troubled by the feeling, which runs all through the film, of discredit and even contempt for our whole defense establishment, up to and even including the hypothetical Commander in Chief.

It is all right to show the general who starts this wild foray as a Communist-hating madman, convinced that a "Red conspiracy" is fluoridating our water in order to pollute our precious body fluids. That is pointed satire, and Sterling Hayden plays the role with just a right blend of wackiness and meanness to give the character significance.

But when virtually everybody turns up stupid or insane—or, what is worse, psychopathic—I want to know what this picture proves. The President, played by Peter Sellers with a shiny bald head, is a dolt, whining and unavailing with the nation in a life-or-death spot. But worse yet, his technical expert, Dr. Strangelove, whom Mr. Sellers also plays, is a devious and noxious ex-German whose mechanical arm insists on making the Nazi salute.

And, oddly enough, the only character who seems to have much common sense is a British flying officer, whom Mr. Sellers—yes, he again—plays.

The ultimate touch of ghoulish humor is when we see the bomb actually going off, dropped on some point in Russia, and a jazzy sound track comes in with a cheerful melodic rendition of "We'll Meet Again Some Sunny Day." Somehow, to me, it isn't funny. It is malefic and sick.
My thought: yes, Kubrick's movie was uniform in its satire reserving little sympathy for any of the parties involved. That's because it's a satire. And the stuff that bothers Crowther is the same stuff that always bothers critics of great (and I mean "great" as in "of major significance or importance") satire: it is unflinching in its engagement. But satire only undermines its own purpose--its very authority and integrity--if proves anything less than an equal opportunity critic. Satire should be beholden to no one.

I'm glad Stanley Kubrick didn't choose to preserve figures like the United States President and members of the military from judgment due to some misguided sense of nationalism or respect. Of course, Kubrick was practically British, too (though born in the Bronx), so he had little reason to bow and scrape before POTUS.

Dr. Strangelove remains one of my favorite movies to this day. And, clearly, it still proves disturbingly relevant.

Also, that last line about the movie's denouement being "malefic and sick." No, no, no. Satire doesn't have to have a happy ending. (Do satires ever *really* have a happy ending? Really?) Satire is a funhouse mirror held up to society; it's a surgeon's scalpel which must lacerate in order to heal. It doesn't show a pretty picture; it doesn't tickle and tantalize with a dull blade.

Now, a society that pursues a nuclear policy dubbed MAD--for Mutually Assured Destruction--now that's malefic and sick. And respect for the Commander in Chief ought not to be considered a given.

Related: Check out this updated version of the movie poster, too--starring Donald Rumsfeld.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Machineries of Madness

Check out the trailer for the new Christian Bale movie The Machinist. Yeah, the one Bale starved himself far beyond waif dimensions for. Looks positively horrifying. Also looks like it's showing at the Landmark Mayan in Denver, where I'm going to be chilling this weekend, so hopefully, I'll get to see it. It's my first trip to Denver, so let me know if there's anywhere I *must* go!

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

We Can Be Heroes

Here's a superlative review of the movie Hero by TNR's Chris Orr succintly describes the gaping moral problem with the stupendously beautiful movie's apparent penultimate theme: "the powerless should lay themselves down so that the powerful may inherit the earth." And that pretty much sums up my essential problem with true pacificism, too--much as I might sympathize with its adherants. Orr concurs that the film's theme may have been contrived to survive China's censors, but I agree that this possibility will be lost of most of the flick's intended audience.

Hero was just released on DVD.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

28 Days Later

On November 2nd of this year, a terrible illness swept over this great land. Overcome by the events of that day, many of us fell into a sort of catatonic state. We awaken 28 days later to find a very different* America.

Now, in a world where hoary paleocons roam unchallenged--OK, OK, what exactly has gone down since "Our Leader" was re-elected?

Well, let's see:Keep in mind now, Bush hasn't *started* his second term yet. I know, it's easy to forget. All this and November's just ending. If you're the hopeful type like me, you kinda wanna think we're working on his second term already.

Now, just for fun, Google "since Bush was re-elected" and see what you get. And let me know if there's anything I should add to the list.

*OK, not so much different, as more of the same, only worse.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Doubting Dick

You see, one thing is, I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it's much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of certainty about different things, but I'm not absolutely sure of anything and there are many things I don't know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we're here. ...

I don't have to know an answer. I don't feel frightened by not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious universe without any purpose, which is the way it really is as far as I can tell. It doesn't frighten me.
--Richard Feynman, 1981

Where You Gonna Run To?

I just had a driveway moment with Nina Simone. I pulled in with a couple of minutes of her stunning and propulsive version of "Sinnerman" left to run. Recorded in 1965 in New York, this track clocks in at 10 minutes and 19 seconds long. You do not interrupt that song!

Face the Face

Here's English-language Web site for Victor Yushchenko, the Ukrainian opposition leader, whose been in the news so much lately for, among other things, the bizarre and rapid change in his appearance. This page highlights that change rather dramatically. More photos here. In photos from as late as July of this year he looks remarkably different.

A handwritten message on his homepage reads as follows:
I can't be objective regarding Ukraine, because I love her too much!

I trust in Ukraine! - V. Yuschenko
If Yuschenko does win a recount and the election, let's hope he deserves to. A little research reveals he may not be the Havel-esque figure some have painted him to be. At least, he's been accused of stealing millions of dollars.'s Justin Raimondo says there's more to the picture and compares the changes in Yuschenko's appearance to The Picture of Dorian Gray, but I don't know enough about Raimondo to tell if he's got an axe to grind.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Rebuilding Iraq

(from The Saudi Gazette)

Aussie Policewoman Wears Hijab

A small victory for tolerance in Australia: Islam Online reports that Maha Sukkar, a former graphic designer, has become the first Victoria police officer to wear hijab with her uniform.

Meanwhile, France continues to ban headscarves in public schools, and Malaysia has banned turbans from schools. Malaysia is a predominantly Islamic nation, which does allow Sikh students to wear turbans and Muslim girls to wear headscarves, but not a veils.

The Caveman's Call

Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds have a new double album out entitled Abbatoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus. If you're a Cave fan at all, run out and get this one right away.

Cave usually avoids politics, preferring to focus on our travails from either a greater, more universal (and often religious) distance or to come right from the gut at the visceral, loving level. Nonetheless, these lyrics from "Nature Boy"--a Cave original, not to be confused with the Nat King Cole classic--certainly seem timely:
I was just a boy when I sat down
To watch the news on TV
I saw some ordinary slaughter
I saw some routine atrocity
My father said, don’t look away
You got to be strong, you got to be bold, now
He said, that in the end it is beauty
That is going to save the world, now
Rock 'n roll may just save the world yet.

Is the Sky Falling?

Twice this week I heard prominent economists refer to an impending "economic Armageddon."

The first mention, which I caught via Boing Boing on Tuesday, was an article by Morgan Stanley's chief economist Stephen Roach. He says that conditions in the United States are aligned right now for economic disaster. In fact, he believe we have about a 90 percent chance of economic "Armageddon" and about a 60 percent of *delaying* it, but only a 10 percent chance of avoiding it all together.

The same day, driving home, I heard Paul Krugman on NPR saying that were the United States any other country, we'd be considered a banana republic at this point, but that the world's basically giving us the benefit of the doubt. He also said we're headed for "economic Armageddon," and he was quoted in a Reuters story last Monday entitled "Economic Crisis a Question of When, Not If."

Coincidence? Had Krugman read Roach's piece that day, too? Maybe these guys have been comparing notes.

Krugman is not exactly known as a friend of Bush, but I'm not aware of Roach's political leanings to tell whether his thoughts may be skewed by bias. But, you know, these guys are economists--economic forecasters--and when the weatherman says, "Storm," you're wise to pay attention even if he doesn't have a perfect batting average (if you'll pardon the mixed metaphors). And these guys are predicting a perfect storm.

And just look around. I mean, common sense tells you that if you had a loved one deeply in debt, who decided to get a credit card, which allowed them to spend more money they didn't have, you'd advise them against it, right? That's what our country's doing. And both Roach and Krugman outline plenty of other contributing factors, which portend a coming storm.

Friday, November 26, 2004

The Producer's Holiday?

Anyone who knows me really well knows I practically get hives when I see someone reading Atlas Shrugged or even when I hear Ayn Rand's name mentioned, but few people seem to understand why.

These brief excerpted thoughts from the Ayn Rand Institute's article on an Objectivist angle on Thanksgiving go a long way towards explaining my discomfort:
Thanksgiving celebrates man's ability to produce. The cornucopia filled with exotic flowers and delicious fruits, the savory turkey with aromatic trimmings, the mouth-watering pies, the colorful decorations--it's all a testament to the creation of wealth.
Rand's adherants may make some good points about Liberal guilt or the tendency of some folks to thank God for products that they acquired by the sweat of their own brows, but I still think Objectivism's worship of wealth is just another extreme. And sometimes it verges on fascism.

The Producer's Holiday? Blech. I'd prefer to skip all the cult-like nonsense and simply think of Thanksgiving as a time to express thankfulness for friends and family and the comforts of home and hearth.

That Whirring Sound You Hear

... is Orwell spinning in his grave.

I really wish I could tell you this were a joke or a hoax, but apparently, it's not. Appropriately, it's sponsored by Clear Channel, nesting place for such radio luminaries as Rush Limbaugh and Dr. Laura.

(Via Blue Lemur)

Update 11/28: Blue Lemur now says that Clear Channel is pointing to a local channel as being responsible for the ad:
Tony Alwin, Senior Vice President, Creative for Clear Channel Outdoor, issued the following statement received at 6:22 p.m. ET this evening.

“Clear Channel Outdoor markets are operated locally,” Alwin said. “Local managers determine what copy to use when a location has time that is not sold to an advertiser.”

There was no further comment.

RAW STORY has been unable to get comment from the local market in Orlando, which asserts that their media contact person is away this week, and that no one else there can speak for the company.
So, it was Clear Channel, but perhaps a local operative. Are you telling me they have the freedom to put whatever they like on these billboards? Has this guy never read Orwell? (I find myself asking that question a lot lately). Or maybe it was an intentional jibe? Almost seems like it.

I mean "Congratulations to President Bush" would've been one thing, but "Our Leader"? And do we really want our President's visage staring down at us along our highways? Isn't that the sort of thing we decried in Iraq? In the Soviet Union?

Can you imagine driving through Britain and seeing Tony Blair's mug smiling benevolently down at you?

Ranting and Railing for a Good Cause

Like many of us, Tom Shales is unhappy with FCC chairman Michael Powell and believes the wrong Powell quit recently. Few though have the opportunity to publish a rant like this in such a prominent paper. He also refers to Jeff Jarvis's now (not) famous (enough) investigation which revealed that a whopping three people complained about a "Married by America" episode and nonetheless instigated a $1.2 million fine against Fox.

Frank Rich has an excellent rant, "The Great Indecency Hoax" in the NYT, too. Rich points out the irony of people compaining about the Nicollette Sheridan football promo dabcle, when the show she's on feature far more explicit content. But kids aren't watching that show, you say. Wrong! "'Desperate Housewives' also ranks No. 5 among all prime-time shows for ages 12-17. ('Monday Night Football' is No. 18.)" Don't nobody tell the Traditional Values Coalition though, OK?

The point of all this, really--and Jarvis points it out *again* today--is that most Americans are not interested in a crack-down on television content. An extreme minority is having an inappropriate impact.

Jarvis also directs us to a rant by Newsweek's Jonathan Alter Alter desibes the Sheridan/Owens incident as a "little fiesta of hypocrisy, cynicism and fear." He also says, somewhat hopefully, "If this had happened 20 years ago (and it could have; TV was full of sexual innuendo then, too), all the talk would have been about the interracial coupling of Sheridan and Owens." Honestly, I'm not convinced that race *didn't* play a role in funneling the overwrought outrage we saw. I mean, would folks be as outraged if Sheridan had jumped into the arms of a white boy quaterback? Really? I think some people just know better than to express their true thoughts out loud these days, so complaining about the sexuality itself seems like taking the high road. Having said that, I certainly don't mean to count all the outraged as racists. I'm just sayin'.

Anyway, that's quite a bevy of heavyweight ranters isn't it?

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Not Taking It Any More

Tom Friedman is mad as hell--at Tom Delay, Republic House members, Latrell Sprewell and Humvee drivers. All in the same short op-ed. He makes some good points and ends thusly:
I want to take time on this Thanksgiving to thank God I live in a country where, despite so much rampant selfishness, the public schools still manage to produce young men and women ready to voluntarily risk their lives in places like Iraq and Afghanistan to spread the opportunity of freedom and to protect my own. And I want to thank them for doing this, even though on so many days in so many ways we really don't deserve them.
Some, of course, will say he's morphing into Michael Moore.

Happy Thanksgiving, ya'll!

(Via Kevin Drum)

Monday, November 22, 2004

Just a Thought

I hope the same folks who were outraged by seeing a woman's naked back before a football game are really, really outraged over this Pistons/Pacers brawl.

I mean, seeing Nicollette Sheridan drop a towel didn't have children fearful and reduced to tears. "Distraught," as I just heard one father say on CNN.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

In the Name of

Call me crazy, but this doesn't sound like Christianity to me. Doug Giles over at
It’s time to put down our pusillanimous poodle proclivities and start taking onboard a pitbull-esque tenacity … you know, like the Christians of old, like Peter, like Paul, like Timothy, and Stephen. We need a breed of believers with the courage to stand proudly for their faith in God and their place in society.

How about looking at scripture through the eyes of the Pit Bull? Put on your Bad-Boy Ray Bans, and let’s check out a few heroes in the Bible.
A handful of examples follows, all but one of which I note are actually drawn from the Old Testament. So, those guys weren't actually Christians.

Interestingly enough, Christ isn't mentioned among these pitbull Christians.

I emailed him to point out the unfortunate omission.

Oh, and "Put on your Bad-Boy Ray Bans"?

(Via Andrew Sullivan.)

Pepsi Spice Vice

Guy blogs his Pepsi Spice diet, a la Morgan Spurlock in Super Size Me.

Tongue firmly in cheek, I believe, and very funny, if also splendidly grotesque.

I've yet to taste the aforementioned Pepsi product, which is apparently laced with cinnamon and ginger, but I can't say I'm dying to try.

Penny Lepuszewska

I love discovering new photographers and Penny Lepuszewska is a great one. Check out more of her clean, haunting work at her site, Prospect K.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Good News Good Music

If your in the mood for some new DJ Dangermouse, download the Grey Video to see the Beatles and Jay-Zee as you've never seen them before. And if you haven't heard The Grey Album, you really should give it a listen. It's a shame this thing will never see a legitimate music label. (Via Boing Boing.)

While you're checking out new music, head over to VH1, where you can listen to the new U2 album, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, in its entirety.

And in other music news, the ever-generous Joseph Arthur has placed an entire live show on his site for your downloading pleasure. He played this seven-song set at a benefit for John Kerry at the Living Room in NYC.

If you've never heard Arthur, he's a must listen. He was the first American artist signed to Peter Gabriel's label a few years ago.

He's going on tour supporting his new album Our Shadows Will Remain, which I'll be reviewing for Skyscraper. Looks like I'm going to see him at the Bluebird in Denver. I couldn't be more excited.

You can watch the powerful and pointed anti-war video for "All of Our Hands" here (a stand-alone single insofar as I know and a video which won't be shown on MTV any time soon) and listen to three songs off the album here.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Madman of the Year?

I agree with Tony Pierce. Bloggers would be a *really* lame selection for Time's Person of the Year. Hope the fact that Andrew Sullivan's on the panel doesn't unduly influence the outcome. But I also disagree with Tony's belief that one infamous person isn't eligible this year.

Without intending to be inflammatory at all, I think the obvious choice is still Osama Bin Laden. Arguably, he should have been selected in 2001, but understandably, such a choice then, scant months after 9/11, could have been considered insensitive, even brutal.

Bin Laden then. Why? Well, three years and change after 9/11, and we wouldn't be in Iraq were it not for Osama Bin Laden. We'd not be looking at a U.S. military body count of 1217 (as of today) over there. Most of us would like still never have heard of Falluja. There'd be no Abu Ghraib, no Guantanamo. Saddam Hussein wouldn't be in jail. Thousands (tens of thousands?) of innocent Iraqis would not be dead. And we wouldn't have witnessed elections in Afghanistan and the (temporary?) fall of the Taliban. The list goes on, of course: Would there have been bombings in Bali and Madrid? Would George Bush still even be President were it not for the fear 9/11 cultivated in our country? Etcetera.

Clearly, all of these things don't fall into the same category. Some of them are good, even excellent developments. Others utterly horrific. But there they are. All a direct result of 9/11. With Iraq, ironically, being a direct result of 9/11, despite the fact that it had nothing to do with 9/11.

But three years after the attacks that neutered America's innocence, where is the man who directed them? Does anyone have an honest clue?

Oh, he's certainly dead, some offered. Or he's badly hurt, maimed, crippled. That's why we haven't seen him.

Then a few days before the most important American election of my lifetime, Bin Laden strolls onto the scene looking fit and hardy, not dead, apparently not maimed. Then he delivers a long rambling speech that's aired again and again before the eyes of Americans already glued to their screens during an election season. And Poof! He's gone.

I hope it's clear that I'm no fan of Bin Laden's, but neither was Time a fan of Hitler's when they named him Man of the Year for 1938. (Stalin followed the next year and in 1942.) Undeniably and unfortunately, Bin Laden has had a greater impact on the 21st century than any other living being.

See if you can even find his name anywhere in today's paper.

American Mullahs

Thank God conservative watchdog groups like the American Decency Association exist to save us adult folks from ourselves. Here's the ADA's thoughts on Mel Karmazin's signing on with Howard Stern at Sirius:
If Sirius stock prices rise significantly, the rise will signal the continuation of America's slouching toward Gomorrah. Stern and Karamazin's fortunes may rise as America's morality is incrementally diminished. The twosome will again have their way at the expense of time-honored standards of decency which have served this country so well.
In other news, Sirius's stock rose today:
Sirius Satellite Radio (up $0.45 to $5.17, Research) was a bright spot for the Nasdaq, advancing by 9.5 percent after the subscription radio service named ex-Viacom (down $0.73 to $34.72, Research) president Mel Karmazin as its new CEO.
So, here we go down the slippery slope to Gomorrah. Wheeeeeeee!

Gaybait Mandate

Someone could've written this critique of the pro-gay subtext in Shark Tale as a joke. You know, something you'd find on the Onion. But, no, it's real.

Yes, the American Family Association is encouraging parents to protect their kids from a cartoon about a vegetarian shark.

(Via Andrew Sullivan.)

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Right on, Bill

Our differences do matter, but our common humanity matters more. - President Bill Clinton at the opening of the Clinton Presidential Center today.
Amen, Bill. And no matter how acerbic and angry this particular American may sometimes grow, that's what I believe, too.


Seems some conservatives are distraught over the Clinton Library is not offering an honest view of the President. Some have asked where's the Monica Room or the Whitewater Room, for example. And there's even a Counter Clinton Library. And, yes, that's intended to be a real, brick and mortar facility.

Fine, let's talk about the Reagan Library. Where's the Iran Contra Room? The Silence on AIDS Room? Of course, the George W. Bush museum will need the Bait & Switch War Room, the Desecrate the Constitution Room and the Disdain for Science Wing.

And, you know what? There is no Counter Reagan Library because, apparently, only the far-right proves mean-spirited enough to devote entire buildings (and monuments, Fred Phelps) to demeaning people.

Specter Bashing

Late-night comedians and Wonkettes joke about the Republicans (OK, politicians) eating their young, but as we've seen lately they also devour their elderly as well.

Poor Arlen Specter - it's been nothing but a bloodbath ever since his nomination was suggested. Apparently empowered by their imagined moral mandate, the religious right has swarmed the cadaverous Specter like pirahna over a staggering cow.

Predictably, the National Review's ever acidic Kathryn Lopez is reduced to criticizing the AP for describing Specter as "a Republican moderate." "Memo to AP Stylebook Editor," she writes. "He is a liberal, not a mod."

No, Kathryn, you're just so far to the right that he looks like a liberal. He's still right of center. Moderate if you will.

Specter was unanimously approved by Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee to become the new chairman. I'm guessing then that they don't consider him a liberal. Otherwise, voting for him would be counterproductive to their cause.

Sunday, November 14, 2004


Here in Charlotte, we still have leaves. Today was gloriously sunny, albeit a smidge chilly.

By popular demand, wallpapers: 1280 X 960 and 1024 X 768.

For Every Action

... there is an equal and opposite reaction: We're Not Sorry provides a hearmwarming reaction to the Sorry Everybody site.

Read the captions! Check out the guns! Yes, if Sorry Everybody expresses condolences to the world with two words, this site expresses its attitude with two letters: FU.

Proclaims the site:
There is no reason for us to apologize to the rest of the world because of our belief in Freedom and Democracy.

This website is for those of us who want to say to our fellow Americans and to the rest of the World that we believe in President Bush and we believe in his agenda.
They only forgot their apparent belief in the right to fondle firearms.

Says the caption on one particularly charming photo, "NOT Sorry!! Almost time to play . . . Cowboys & Liberals!!"

Boy, I don't even know where to start with that one.

Some have also noted that literally everybody in the photos is white.

In the comments, Michael directs us to Apologies Accepted, which nicely (and encouragingly) closes the circle with Sorry Everybody.

Update 11/17/04: We're Not Sorry appears to be gone already. Sorry Everybody and Apologies Accepted both still going strong.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Education Is Imperative (Why Can't TV Help?)

As I mentioned earlier, in regard to the election, in the stages of grief, I'm still loitering somewhere between "acceptance" and "I need a drink." At this point it's still too easy for me to launch into rants and to descend to jokes about the far right's obsession with the Vice Presidential Unit.

Clearly, however, there's work to be done, and I agree with waterbones here, when she concludes that volunteering is a good idea. More important than ever.

Specifically, how about volunteering to educate the public about the needs of a group likely to become further oppressed as a direct result of the recent election? Human Rights Campaign is an excellent one. You can sign up to volunteer locally. If we're outraged at this country's ignorance around gay culture, then perhaps we need help educate the public a little on the subject.

Additionally, and please pardon this venture in fantasyland, but I really wish the TV networks would participate in educating the public about these issues, too. (I know: hah!) I mean, imagine the powerful effect TV could have if some of the people running things decided to air programming debunking the Neanderthal opinions so many of us have around the gay lifestyle, as well as gay marriage and adoption.

I know, I'm being painfully naive, ain't I? To assume that TV would play a role in educating the masses. I mean, it's kinda dumb to argue that they have a social responsibility, isn't it? I mean, who mandated that? Who's gonna enforce it?

There's a couple of obvious problems with the idea that TV should assist in educating the public on these issues. First, TV's clearly more market-driven than ever, so there's little incentive to produce shows which may not entertain. That's why even the news-oriented shows have swung so decidedly towards entertainment. Remember in the early 90s when CNN seemed like hardcore news? Now we get Crossfire there and soft news and Barbie doll (and Ken) anchors sprinkled liberally throughout the rest of their broadcast. And the other networks have long ago rolled out their own versions of Crossfire and Hardball to ensure the entertainment "value" is high. To ensure the dollars keep rolling in.

The second reason we won't see TV enlisting in the cause, of course, is tightly related to the first. TV doesn't want to offend. Now, in the age of Wife Swap and Extreme Makeover, that may seem like a laughable proposition, but the folks getting offended manage to be quite selective in their outrage. Detailed depictions of self mutilation and post-modern scarification in the name of restoring "beauty" on a weekly basis: Good. A nanosecond of Janet Jackson's nipple: very, very bad. So you can rest assured that if a one-hour special were aired with the intention of dissecting the various myths about homosexuality, a very loud minority would be outraged. And if people don't watch, the dollars don't roll in.

Why am I even going on about this then? Well, what bothers me is that the TV people have a tremendous amount of power at their disposal and a tremendous ongoing opportunity to do good. Yet they refuse to seize the opportunity if it's going to ruffle any feathers. The FCC has only created a climate which encourages this fear, but the networks did little along these lines before the Boob Flash that Changes the World.

You can bet that if you polled journalists, TV producers and network executives, they'd be a lot better educated about these issues than the public on average. Now is where I would be accused of elitism by those on the right who'd rather folks didn't change their mind on these issues. But the fact is, there's a lot the public doesn't know about the issues. I hear people arguing again and again on the subject of homosexuality and they are unaware of the science, they employ absurd stereotypes in their arguments, and they resort to quoting the Bible to support their points. (I'd like to remind those folks that only one document acts as the supreme law of the land, and that's the Constitution, not the Bible.)

Of course, if a network did air such a show, they feel obliged to make it "fair and balanced," which is the new code for "present both sides of the story equally, despite how indefensible one side is compared to the other." I don't want *that sort* of contrived balance. I want falsehood balanced with truth. I want superstition balanced with myth-busting.

And I reckon I'll be waiting a long, long time.

On PBS, some show like FrontLine might do it. And a few hundred thousand people across America will nod along approvingly to the program while everyone else is watching The OC.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Dick Worship

Who says those far-right wingers are homophobic. Apparently, they're not when it comes to Dick. Dick Cheney, I mean.

I wish them luck in their hunt for "Ol' Big Time."

The Culture of Permissiveness

Here's something for the Democrats to focus on like a laser for the next four years: permissiveness. The right-wing, conservative's propensity towards permissiveness, that is.

Over at the Rockridge Institute, Fred Block writes about "The New Right-Wing Permissiveness" and though I'm not sure it's so new, it's certainly a concept worth highlighting.

The gist of his point:
Despite the Justice Department’s report that violent crime in the United States has been declining, two recent crime waves raise serious questions about our national morality in an era of right-wing dominance. One was the corporate crime spree that led to the collapse of ENRON and WorldCom in 2001 and 2002. The other is the abuse of prisoners at Abu Gharib prison in Iraq that produced those gruesome photographs. Both crime waves raise parallel questions: are these the acts of a few misguided individuals or do they reflect some deeper problems in our culture?
Right-wing commentators have insisted that in both cases the problem was caused by a few misguided and troubled individuals. No need for any further scrutiny; the only issue is to punish the bad guys. But this resort to the “bad apple” theory is actually the leading edge of “the new right-wing permissiveness”. Conservatives have long blamed the permissiveness of liberals for many of our society’s most intractable problems–crime, delinquency, and drug use. But the Right now has embraced a more insidious form of permissiveness that is creating an “anything goes” moral culture. The elements of this new permissiveness are the bad apple theory and the idea that reliance on a “higher authority” eliminates the need for moral judgments. Together these undermine a culture of moral responsibility.
That's worth harping on isn't it? I mean the right has been harping on about liberal permissiveness for decades now, right?

Son of a Preacher Man

Like me, Poynter's Steve Buttry grew up Baptist. He makes an excellent point, that if conservatives voted for "morality" when they voted for Bush, they certainly didn't when they voted for Reagan:
I'll tell you something I've learned about conservatives: They are as likely to be hypocrites as liberals are.

Many of the same conservative voters who chose George W. Bush on Nov. 2 because of his faith and "family values" chose Ronald Reagan 24 years ago over Jimmy Carter. That was a decision of pure politics. Ronald Reagan was a divorcee who impregnated Nancy Davis before they married, was largely alienated from his children, and seldom went to church when he was governor, a presidential candidate, or president. Jimmy Carter was a born-again Southern Baptist Sunday school teacher who lived his faith more consistently than any public figure of our time, stayed married to the same woman for 58 years, and was as attentive a father as any president we've had.
Now, it may be that the concerns for "morality" were exaggerated or miscalculated in this past election, but since folks like Bob Jones and Pat Robertson clearly believe Bush has some sort of spiritual mandate, this point may need to be revisited regularly over the next few years.

Sorry Ya'll

My contribution to Sorry Everybody. You can submit, too.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

At My Signal, Unleash Hell!

As rumored it might, Microsoft's new search technology debuted today. Now the Search Wars are fully enjoined. So . . . Go . . . whoever!

I don't have a horse in this race, though I'd admit to a certain fondness (still justified?) for Google. Hopefully, we users will only benefit from better usability and better search results.

It sound like a passive launch, so you may not be able to find the new search engine, but it should start showing up here and there when you least expect it, until it's fully launched.

Update: Or you can just go here. Nice clean interface, that's for sure. Don't know about the results though.

Saving Affilliates $$$

On Veteran's Day, this evening, ABC is airing Saving Private Ryan unedited all across America--except in a few cities where affiliates are afraid they'll be beseiged with complaints--not about the extreme violence depicted in the flick, mind you, but about the cussing. (Words like "fuck" and "shit" and "god damn.") And, of course, they're mostly afraid of getting busted by the FCC.

I'm happy to say our Charlotte affiliate is among those taking the high road. Even as I type, they're airing Eddie Murphy's 1988 comic masterpiece Coming to America.

I hope they're beseiged with compaints by angry veterans who had tuned in hoping to see Tom Hanks save Matt Damon.

Well, hey, Coming to America is good for a few laughs. I think maybe I even went to see it twice as a teenager. I'm guessing they edited out the part at the beginning where Eddie's bathing with all the naked black women.

C'mon, Feel the Love

Reading the comments on that BJU post over at Kevin Drum's site, and especially this one, I was reminded of a couple of incidents I witnessed at Bob Jones, which offer great insight into the school's disdain for other religious people--other Christians, that is.

DJ Adequate wrote: I wish more people realized that the likes of Bob Jones do not consider Catholics or Mormons to be Christians.

Yep. When I attended BJU, Ian Paisley came to speak in Bible Conference (and agonizing week in Spring of no classes but lots of sermons) nearly every year. He would often rail against the pope, bragging once that he had driven past the pope's motorcade, rolled down his window and yelled, "Antichrist!!!" This got a good laugh from the audience.*

BJU's disdain isn't limited to Catholics and Mormons though, they're quite happy to condemn their fellow Baptists (BJU claims to be nondenominational, but is clearly fundamentalist Baptist in theology). Pressed for a quotation by Time or Newsweek (I can't remember which) for a quote about Billy Graham on that man's 70th (I think) birthday, he said (and I remember this almost verbatim): "Billy Graham has done more to harm the cause of Christianity than any other person in the 20th century."

Yes, you see, Graham is way too liberal for BJU. This comment, however, did disturb quite a few people at the school (I was in grad school there at the time), though they were pretty quiet about it - "griping is not tolerated" at Bob Jones, neither is criticism of the administration. (The student newspaper is basically an exercise in propaganda for the school.) So, "Dr. Bob" devoted an entire chapel services (chapel meets four days a week, during the school week) to explaining why he was right to condemn Graham in the national media.

I spoke with many of my fellow students and teachers at the time who were bothered by his remarks. Many of these extremely conservative people, you see, recognize arrogance and a poor Christian spirit when they see it.

*Over at Wikipedia, we learn the following:
During a visit from the Pope, Ian Paisley yelled "I denounce you. Anti-Christ" several times at the European Parliament. The whole affair can be heard on

BJU Hearts GWB

Letter from Dr. Bob Jones III, president of the esteemed Bob Jones University, my alma mater to W upon his election.

A little taste:
In your re-election, God has graciously granted America—though she doesn't deserve it—a reprieve from the agenda of paganism. You have been given a mandate. We the people expect your voice to be like the clear and certain sound of a trumpet. Because you seek the Lord daily, we who know the Lord will follow that kind of voice eagerly.

Don't equivocate. Put your agenda on the front burner and let it boil. You owe the liberals nothing. They despise you because they despise your Christ. Honor the Lord, and He will honor you.
I actually know this man. How about that? He calls me "Bob," too. Only I don't go by "Bob," I go by "Robert." It's an odd little world we live in, isn't it?

(Via Kevin Drum, a fine West Coast gentleman, with whom my political inclinations are much better compared these days.)

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Dept. of "They Sure Don't Show That on Fox, Ya'll!" (Or CNN)

From the San Francisco Chronicle, here's a little description of what's going on in Iraq right now that you probably won't hear on the TeeVee:
"Usually we keep the gloves on," said Army Capt. Erik Krivda, of Gaithersburg, Md., the senior officer in charge of the 1st Infantry Division's Task Force 2-2 tactical operations command center. "For this operation, we took the gloves off."

Some artillery guns fired white phosphorous rounds that create a screen of fire that cannot be extinguished with water. Insurgents reported being attacked with a substance that melted their skin, a reaction consistent with white phosphorous burns.

Kamal Hadeethi, a physician at a regional hospital, said, "The corpses of the mujahedeen which we received were burned, and some corpses were melted."
Pointing this out, of course, will get me labeled a "love-the-world pacifist" by the likes of the illustrious John Derbyshire. For the record, I'm not a pacifist.

Here's what I could find about international law and the use of white phosphorous:
Perhaps the most notorious charge of use of a weapon causing superfluous suffering came concerning the American use of napalm during the Vietnam War. Napalm became symbolic of the supposedly illegal conduct of the war by the American forces. Following the war there were demands for a convention outlawing napalm. The International Committee of the Red Cross organized a conference to draft a treaty on napalm and other forms of incendiary weapons. In the course of deliberations on this subject, it was noted that napalm and other incendiary weapons, such as white phosphorous used to mark targets, were standard in most modern
armies. Napalm was important in antitank warfare and in attacks on fortified areas, especially caves, bunkers and tunnel complexes.

Faced with these facts, the negotiating states finally agreed to a 1980 Weapons Convention that does not ban napalm or other incendiary weapons as such. Instead, it prohibits the use of such weapons directly against civilian targets or their use when military utility is not clearly proportionate to the risk to civilian targets.

-- from Military Medical Ethics Volume 1, Chapter 8: "Just War Doctrine and the International Law of War" (PDF)
I guess you could argue that the use of white phosphorous in the streets of Fallujah doesn't endanger civilian targets. If you're even interested in international law.

(Via Boing Boing.)

Most Ridiculous Quote. Ever.

I just know Bill O'Reilly's gonna make this his "Most Ridiculous Item of the Day"--either that or he'll take the opportunity to plug his new book on moral for kids (each one comes with a free loofah sponge).

This is one of those quotes which everyone's gonna blog, but in this case, that's a good thing, 'cos this one deserves to be slathered alllll across the internet(s).

In his resignation letter, John Ashcroft stated the following:
The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved.
Awesome! Fuckin' A!! That rocks so hard!!!

I can leave my car doors unlocked all the time now. With my wallet sitting on the front seat. And, hell, I can move into a Manhattan skyscraper and paint bullseyes on my penthouse windows. (I'm taking donations.) Suh-weeeeet!

John Ashcroft for President!

Now, this isn't something Ashcroft said off the cuff. He wrote that in a formal resignation letter to the President.

Does he really believe this stuff?

Out There Getting It Done

Let's see. Within a single week of Bush's administration, the following events have occurred:

1. We Entered Falluja - sure it was planned before the election, but, you know, for whatever reason we had to wait until immediately after the election to engage there.

2. John Ashcroft quits - his resignation was dated November 2nd - in others words, inarguably, the first moment possible that wouldn't impact Bush's election.

3. Today, the threat level is lowered for financial institutions from orange to yellow in New York, New Jersey and Washington, DC. (Perhaps because Ashcroft we has assured us we're all safe now.) Hey, all three of those states went blue - doh!

No, I'm not a conspiracy theorist. In fact, I despise conspiracy theories. No, this is a simple case of, er, we report, you decide.

Et Tu, Brutus?

A week or so ago The New Republic was extolling the virtues of a Kerry Presidency. Now this. They may be largely right, but . . . ouch.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Strange Currency

I appreciate the sentiment, really, I do, but how about Andy Warhol instead of Woody. His currency's worth me to me anyway.

(Found on Sorry Everybody.)

Mission Accomplished II?

Thanks Matthew Yglesias for saying exactly what I was thinking.

Didn't it occur to the war planners (I use the term loosely) that the thugs would simply stroll out of Falluja if they heard an offensive were on the way? So now we're bombing the hell out of a city and it's inhabitants can soon return to the rubble that was their homes. I suppose that's better than bombing their homes to rubble while they're in them.

Well, without anyone to fight, I guess the administration can declare victory pretty quickly, huh? Mission accomplished! In fantasyland.

Our government keeps telling us that they're fighting terrorists. So how come they keep acting like they're fighting a nation state?

And it seems undignified even to bring up the obvious doesn't it: that this offensive began scarcely a week after Bush was safely elected.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Really Reaching Out

In reference to the election and the stages of grief, I'd say I'm still somewhere between "acceptance" and "I need a beer."

John Barlow writes about his own progression along that continuum and talking politics with a young Folirda Republican after the election.
This young man had been trained to respect authority just as surely as I had learned to suspect it. Whatever our agreements, we would always be separate in that regard. It was something that had grown into him in his lower middle class Christian home in central Illinois, along with a good pitching arm, in the same way that Bohemianism had taken root in me during the 60's. Morality and character are words that have subtly different meanings to each of us. And a lot of the divide has to do with the degree to which we are willing to admit the feminine into our natures. I think he suspects I'm a little too sensitive. It's less about character and morality than it is about masculinity. We have different notions about what it is to be a man, and they are important to us.

But they don't necessarily make a bad fella out of either one of us. We both represent aspects of the American psyche that need each other, the jock and the intellectual, the Boy Scout and the renegade, the guardian and the wild card. We both love this great and terrible country, even as we fear one another's excessive influence on it, and part of what we love is the creative fever that arises from our division. As we need each other, however unwillingly, so America needs us both.

Perhaps it's just the bargaining phase of grief, but I can see that one of the things I must do to feel less a stranger in my own land is to have more conversations like the one I had with Dale. Indeed, as I've said repeatedly before, we must do our collective best to shatter the fetters of intolerance and live more in the necessary amnesty of interdependence. We need to quit scaring each other. Both sides are convinced that the other is trying to impose his culture on us, whether by law or by Internet. Fear of the Other, whether Bush or bin Laden, whether terror without or terror within, has been murdering reason and civility in America. We need to look one another in the eyes and see the human being behind the enemy. If we're not going to start shooting each other over the next 4 years, we will need to do that a lot.

Slight Hitch in Our Giddy Up

Ah, yes, the wit and weirdness of Dan Rather . Seems some folks just noticed his penchant for quirky, perhaps self-invented metaphors during this past week's election coverage. But I remember him doling 'em out like chicken gizzards from a fishing pale last time round.

Some choice examples:
Is it like a swan, with every feather above the water settled, but under the water paddling like crazy?

Now, ladies and gentleman, if you believe that, you'll believe rocks can grow.

We used to say if a frog had side pockets, he'd carry a handgun.
Feel free to contribute your own. For example, in honor of the Dan, I told a friend who rises early, "You'll be up before the catfish are burping and swallows are chasing their tails around the maypole." Remember: Nothing says they hafta make any sense.

Sunday, November 07, 2004


Looking up the hill from Reedy River Park this morning, downtown Greenville, SC.

More on my photoblog.

Three Fingers Pointing Backatcha

Michael Kinsley chimes in post-election with an excellent column, which benefits from no further comment from me:
Call me profoundly misguided if you want. Call me immoral if you must. But could you please stop calling me arrogant and elitist?

I mean, look at it this way. (If you don't mind, that is.) It's true that people on my side of the divide want to live in a society where women are free to choose and where gay relationships have civil equality with straight ones. And you want to live in a society where the opposite is true. These are some of those conflicting values everyone is talking about. But at least my values — as deplorable as I'm sure they are — don't involve any direct imposition on you. We don't want to force you to have an abortion or to marry someone of the same sex, whereas you do want to close out those possibilities for us. Which is more arrogant?

We on my side of the great divide don't, for the most part, believe that our values are direct orders from God. We don't claim that they are immutable and beyond argument. We are, if anything, crippled by reason and open-mindedness, by a desire to persuade rather than insist. Which philosophy is more elitist? Which is more contemptuous of people who disagree?
(Via Kevin Drum.)

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Dangerous Desktop

These days, a war is likely to break out anywhere.

Federalism: Where to Draw the Line?

Recently, Andrew Sullivan has been extolling the virutes of federalism in the context of gay marriage.

I certainly see some value in a strong sense of federalism. States should have the right to determine individually where they stand on laws and regulations around such matter luxury taxes, speed limits, drug control, prostitution. But where do you draw the line with what the states can decide? I draw it at human rights. I draw it at anything that contradicts the Constitution, which I know may be open to interpretation at some points.

Was federalism really the answer to slavery and segregation? Not if you're interested in preserving the union. Given the levels of federalism Sullivan seems to be advocating, wouldn't such federalism simply lead to the increased balkanization of our *united* states. Couldn't states successfully isolate themselves so their citizenry wouldn't be challenged by the changes in beliefs occurring around them?

Seems there has to be a strict balance; otherwise (and I'm mostly joking), wouldn't Alabama practically be a separate country by now? I mean how long should segregation have been allowed to exist in the South? How long should gays have their rights withheld from them?

Like Sullivan, I agree that the states should be able to do their own thing, but only *for now.* Perhaps unlike Sullivan, I'd celebrate the day when the Supreme Court tells all 50 states that they have to scrap their discriminatory state amendments and adhere the principles inherent in the United States Constitution.

Of course, we may not have to worry about that any time soon, considering the sort of Supreme Court nominees Bush is likely to proffer.

But if the Supreme Court ever does come down in favor of gay marriage, we won't be suffering under the actions of radical judges. We'll simply benefit as a society from an enlightened judiciary and from the wisdom of a Constitution that already provides us with freedoms some of us simply don't believe we have all the right to.

Friday, November 05, 2004

From Despair Towards Hope

The cover of this coming week's New Republic maybe another gutpunch, but there are some encouraging words to be found in their post-election editorial:
There is a kind of despair, a glamorous pessimism, that liberals must at all costs avoid. The cartography of the electoral college may show a continent of red with some blue lesions at the extremities; but the popular vote in the election of 2004 was 51 percent for Bush and 48 for Kerry, and those are not the numbers of a political or philosophical rout. Fifty-one to forty-eight: Those are the numbers, rather, of a conspicuously unclear and unthrilling Democratic candidate, whose advantage in money did not offset a disadvantage in authenticity. But the important point is that, all the healing pieties of the morning after notwithstanding, this is a country divided against itself about many matters of first principle. The diversity of worldviews upon which we pride ourselves is haunting us. In such a welter of fundamental differences, the work of argument and organization becomes even more necessary. American liberalism did not die on November 2. It merely lost an election.
Can I get a witness?

In the Spirit of Bipartisanship

May I humbly suggest that George Bush make the following appointments to his cabinet:

1. Secretary of State - Bill Maher

2. Attorney General - Willie Nelson

3. Secretary of Education - Richard Dawkins

4. National Security Advisor - George Carlin

5. Ambassador to the United Nations - Sean Penn

6. Ambassador to Antartica - Zell Miller

(Mostly kidding, though I'm particularly fond of ideas 3 and 6.)

I Was a Twenty-Something Gay Basher

Sadly, we're hearing a lot of gay bashing on the left right now. People saying we lost the election because of gays or gay marriage or Gavin Newsom or the Massachusetts courts. Therefore, it's argued, gays rights aren't a losing issue, they're a dead issue.

But why should we give up the battle? Did those fighting against segregation say, well, we'll just have to give up and wait until we have a friendlier audience? Do we ditch unpopular views, despite their rightness, because they're unpopular? Because they may cost us another election? Not, I think, when human rights are concerned.

No, the answer is simple (if difficult to execute): Education. Education. Education. Educating people to the facts about homosexuality. They think they have the facts, but they don't. But that education takes time and effort. I'm willing to admit that this frustrates me, and, add to that, now I'm rather demoralized by this election. But, if I truly care about my fellow human beings--regardless of the sexual orientation *or* their political affiliation *or* their religious beliefs, I have to be willing to reach out and engage in dialogue, to continue answering the questions and arguments raised by those who oppose, not just gay marriage, but homosexuality itself. Because these arguments can be answered. And (some) people can change their minds.

How do I know? Well, I was raised fundamentalist Baptist, so I know how the religious right thinks. How religious? I attended Bob Jones University. Earned two degrees there.

At one time I was very anti-gay and would've have thought the very word "homophobic" nothing more than PC BS. My freshman year at BJU I told one of my friends that "gays ought to be lined up and shot." He said, "Oh, you mean people like my brother?" I literally stopped in my tracks, and for once I began to think and having begun to think, I couldn't turn back. Now, my thoughts on homosexuality are likely more liberal than my friend's. At that time, I probably would've used some of the same arguments about "religion and the Bible say this" and "no culture has ever done that," too. People offering those arguments to me don't realize I've already heard them *all* before.

Problem is my thinking was challenged and I changed my mind. Because to believe those things, I had to ignore the facts and a helluva lot of science. You come to realize that just because people believed something for hundreds, even thousands of years, that doesn't make it right. You get to know some gay people and realize that the popular representation of the so-called "gay lifestyle" isn't even accurate. That gay people live "normal" lives all over America. You realize that promiscuity may be unhealthy, perhaps you want to maintain that it's "wrong," but you can't argue that homosexuality equals promiscuity. Because straights are promiscuous, too. And just as not all straights are promiscuous, neither are all gays. And you realize, that the so-called "gay agenda" is simply for gay people to enjoy the same rights the rest of us do.

If I can change my thinking, others can, too. Anti-gay sentiments simply don't hold up under the scrutiny of reason.

But to dispel them, it's going to take a lot patience and hard work. Education.

Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em

Peggy Noonan's getting giddy. From Wonkette:
Peggy Noonan being interviewed by Sean Hannity. Wants us to know that those 252 electoral votes didn't matter, "We are not a divided country; we are a country that is Republican and conservative and trending more Republican and conservative".

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Desert of the Surreal

It's their government, it's their country. We're there at their invitation. - George Bush in his news conference today.
"At their invitation"? WTF?

Dept. of Just as Relevant Now

We cannot continue in this paralyzing mistrust. If we want to work our way out of the desperate situation in which we find ourselves another spirit must enter into the people….The awareness that we are all human beings together has become lost in war and through politics. We have reached the point of regarding each other only as members of a people either allied with us or against us. Now we must rediscover the fact that we – all together – are human beings, and we must strive to concede to each other what moral capacity we have. Only in this way can we begin to believe that in other peoples as well as in ourselves there will arise the need for a new spirit.

Albert Schweitzer in 1958 from "Peace or Atomic War?"

Hear, Hear

I'm hanging on to this for now:
In American elections there are no losers, because whether or not our candidates win or lose, the next morning we wake up as Americans. - John Kerry
Thanks Mr. Kerry for being a good sport at the end of the most harrowing election I've ever weathered. Thanks for aiming to inspire us when so many of us feel spiritually depleted today. We wish you well.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Bush's America 2.0: Now With Even More Conservatism!
or "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb"

OK, the two much needed medicinal beers I had earlier this evening have worn off and now I'm just feeling cranky.

Four more years . . . of regression.

So, some random stuff for your consideration, since I'm not capable of coherant thought right now--due to the election results, not the two beers. What do you think I am, a lightweight?

That Bush won *more* of the popular vote than last time just boggles the mind. And the senate and house got redder. And we're pretty much guaranteed *at least* one more right-wing Supreme Court judge now.

I guess Karl Rove and Co did a great job of scaring the country into submission. That and Kerry was a Senator running against a former-Governor during a war. That and apparently the religous right thought we'd all wake up gay today if Kerry won.

Found on Wonkette: "Calling Karl Rove an architect of a campaign is kind of like calling Mengele a personal physician."

Heh-heh. OK, don't worry, I'm not spelling America with a "k." Yet.

Some generous Canadians suggest this:

It's not a bad idea, and we'd even get to keep the Cali beaches. You know what though? When you joke about going to Canada you just provoke radical folks like Michelle Malkin to say, "Don't let the door hit you on the way out." Well, you know what, Michelle, it ain't just your country. It's mine too now, dammit. So I think I'll stick to visiting Canada and stay here. Howzabout that? (Some of Malkin's posts venture into unwitting self-parody: "THE HATE CAMPAIGN AGAINST THE SWIFT BOAT VETS CONTINUES.")

Michael Bérubé, as usual, was able to elicit a laugh from me, even today, but this guy (Doghouse Riley) in Bérubé's comments really got me:
How about Do your best! STFU and start governing? You’ve had effective control of both Houses for almost twenty-five years now, and when you couldn’t swipe the presidential election from a Democrat you tied the country in knots over $40,000 land deals and blow jobs. I want pornography off my teevee tomorrow! I want Jesus back in the public schools, assuming we’re still gonna have any. Get the illegals out of my country. I want my Big Mac prepared by lovely white people. Who’s writing the Sodomy Amendment? Why isn’t Annie Jacobson head of the FAA? Why am I still paying taxes? State lotteries make Baby Jesus cry. Get US out of UN. How many caribou do we need to look at? Why is my water pressure so erratic? Kindly get busy.
Of course, this ceases to be funny, if it becomes true.

From tonight's post-election Daily Show:
Word of advice. If you want to have gay sex or visit a library, it's probably your last night to do those things. - Ed Helms.

On behalf of the blue states, I'd like to thanks the red states for saving us from ourselves. - Stephen Colbert.
The real message of the Bush victory? "How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb."

OK, that's about all I can handle for now.