Wednesday, June 30, 2004

More on Control Room

Control Room is the documentary I wish everyone were watching this summer.

Just one of the compelling figures in the film is Hassan Ibrahim, an Al-Jazeera correspondent and former BBC journalist. His wife is British and his world-view wide. He has a habit of nailing a quote--drily and effectively expressing his sentiments.

"America will have to find a solution that doesn't involve bombing people back to the Stone Age," he says and "Democratize, or I'll shoot you."

He's asked ""Who's going to stop the United States?" And he replies: "The United States is going to stop the United States. I have absolute confidence in the U.S. Constitution and the U.S. people."

How disarming.

In the film we see Donald Rumsfeld refer to Al-Jazeera as "Osama Bin-Laden's mouthpiece." Ironically, later in the film, someone refers to Al Jazeera as the Bush administration's mouthpiece. They must be doing something right if both sides are convinced of their partisanship. Rumsfeld would have us believe Al Jazeera is ""willing to lie to the world to make their case." Well, Fox News could be accused of the same--just watch Sean Hannity's unchecked exercises in deception and jingoism on any given night. But Control Room shows that the many of the journalists serving over in the Middle East are principled people, struggling to portray the truth as they find it--and, whatever the news outlet's faults--Al Jazeera is participating in that struggle, too.

The scene over there is much more complex than any polemicist would have you believe.

Some of those appearing in Control Room later emailed director Jehane Noujaim to further share their thoughts.

Capt. Josh Rushing, a calm and reasonable U.S. military press officer, admits in the film that his opinions are changing now that he's in Qatar. Later, he wrote this Noujaim:
Before the war started I was assigned at CENTCOM to engage in discussion online. My purpose was not to sell the war, but to clear up the glut of misinformation that can take on a life of its own on the Internet?Over a year has passed. I'm disappointed that I seemed so pro-invasion.
An Al-Jazeera producer, Samir Khader also fatures prominently in the film. He had this to say:
Most of the Iraqis are today angry. Not against the Americans, the British or any other occupying soldier. They seem angry against the odds?angry against themselves. Yet, the seed has been planted. It will one day flourish and carry them to something else. Something that will certainly be better. As, what could be worse than what they have known and what they have lived.
Boy, that really sounds like pro-Al Qaeda sentiment, doesn't it? No, it sounds like an articulate and sophisticated individual to me. And I think if you see the film you'll feel the same way. You'll watch him blow up at an employee, for example, for selecting an anti-Bush interviewee who spouts only left-wing cant. "That was not analysis; that was hallucination," he says. Fox News would've welcomed the same guest, so they could claim they were being "fair and balanced," whilst simultaneously suggesting that the liberal views on a subject were nonsensical.

Here are solid reviews from the Chicago Sun-Times and the Washington Post.

Now, go see it!

Kerry/Clinton Ticket

Do you think maybe Drudge just makes this stuff up?

"A top Washington insider" told him this. Riiiight. Could he be any more vague? Could the quote be any more generic?

If Hilary Clinton is Kerry's choice for Veep, why, I'll . . . send a $50 donation to Human Rights Campaign. (Promise.)

"Developing . . . " my ass.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Reagan Vs. Bush: Round 2

From the NYT, Ron Reagan Jr on Abu Ghraib:
If you are going to call yourself a Christian--and I don’t--then you have to ask yourself a fundamental question, and that is: Whom would Jesus torture? Whom would Jesus drag around on a dog’s leash? How can Christians tolerate it? It is unconscionable. It has put our young men and women who are over there, fighting a war that they should not have been asked to fight--it has put them in greater danger.

What Family Values?

As this NPR story explains the Bush administration is making it harder for Cuba Americans to visit their home country. Whereas they were able to visit their families in Cuba once per year, now they'll only be able to go once *every three years*.

Apparently, Bush and company believe their embargo against one man, Fidel Castro, is more important that these families maintaining their family ties.

The adminstration's new policy has outraged many, but it may play well amongst some in Florida in an election year. (Remember the particular importance of Florida last time 'round?)

Ironically, Congress voted last year *to drop* the broader ban on all travel to Cuba that prevents you and me from going there. Now, Bush has decided he doesn't even want Cuban Americans going there too often.

I thought America had moved beyond a "reds under the bed" sort of mentality. Apparently, many of Bush's constituents have not.

Of course, Bush's ploy may backfire.


Capitalism at its finest? Just one of the fake Starbucks springing up around China. Starbucks isn't happy.

(Via BBC's Day in Pictures and Yahoo UK)

Monday, June 28, 2004

Asinine Adolf Ad

As William Saletan confirms the Bush ad depicting Hitler along with Al Gore, Howard Dean, Michael Moore, Dick Gephardt, and John Kerry is inexcusable and "despicable."

Another example of intellectual dishonesty, those claiming that produced an anti-Bush ad featuring Hitler. As anyone who cared to investigate at the time would have found, the ad was one of about 1500 submissions, and MoveOn yanked it and denounced it.

Where are those right-wingers who decried that short-lived ad now?

Lying About Moore's Lies

Just heard Christopher Hitchens on Dennis Miller's show lying about Michael Moore's lies. Miller claimed that Moore says in his documentary that Hussein never tried to hurt any Americans. He then complains that Moore refers to Hussein's plan to assassinate Bush Sr later in the flick. So according to Hitchens, Moore's contradicted himself.

Only, in spirit he hasn't. Moore never said Hussein never tried to hurt any Americans. He said Iraq never murdered any Americans. Moore may be ignoring some of the points Hitchens makes in his article, but that's a separate case anyway. Moore's real point was that our forces have killed so many innocents in Iraq, but Iraq hadn't attacked us (Al Qaeda had). So Hitchens is taking Moore out of context and misquoting him, too.

Furthermore, in his recent diatribe against Fahrenheit 911 (which so many on the right are salivating over), Hitchens tries to draw further connections between Hussein and attacks on Americans by saying that Saddam financed suicide bombers in Israel . . . and "wuite a few Americans of all denominations walk the streets of Jerusalem." So Saddam was attacking Americans. Only the argument is ludicrous: there are Americans on the street of every major city in *the world*. Saddam wasn't singling Americans out in those cases. This argument is as intellectually irresponsible (and dishonest) as any case Moore’s ever made. It's the same inane game of connect the dots the administration's been playing with Al Qaeda and Iraq. It's also an argument steeped in emotion, since if you point out the disparity here, Hitchens can complain that you're not concerned about suicide bombers in Israel—which isn't the point, of course. We all know Hussein was a wicked man. But, again, the point is Moore is trying to say Iraq didn't attack the United States (and that Al Qaeda did), while Hitchens is trying to say Hussein tried to kill Americans, and in that particular example he obviously wasn't.

It's not that Moore *doesn't* deceive—he does. Arguably, he allows viewers to conflate the fact that Iraq didn't attack the United States with the fallacious idea that Hussein had no ill intent towards any American—in much the same way that Bush's adminstration allowed Americans to conflate 9/11 with the war in Iraq to the point that 70% of Americans believe Iraq attacked America. If Moor eintends for that conflation to succeed, then he's just as bad as the adminstration which goes to no great lengths to point out that the "Iraq attacked America" meme is nothing more than an (arguably artifically constructed) urban legend.

I was also very disappointed that Moore used Richard Clark when doing so suited his purposes, yet almost entirely ignores the fact that Clarke played an instrumental role in aiding the Bin Ladens’ egress from the United States immediately after 9/11. Hitchens was right to point this out, too.

But, Hitch, if you're going to criticize Moore, don't make shit up. All that proves is that partisan folks on both sides are willing to manipulate the truth and are (apparently) blind to the fact that they're doing it, yet jump at the chance to point out when other do the same.

What are we left with then? The grave necessity of sorting through all we've heard from both sides in order to honestly determine what's going on. Unfortunately—let’s be honest—few take that challenge.

But you know what, Mr. Hitchens? I know and you know, there's a lot of truth in Moore's documentary that you're glossing over.

Control Room

Control Room may be the movie people should see who won't go see Moore's Fahrenheit 911. It's an extraordinary documentary about Al-Jazeera. It provides a unique view into the Arab perspective on the War in Iraq--and it's minus one large polarizing narrator. Mostly, the journalists and producers--from Al Jazeera, but also from CNN, NBC, BBC--and U.S. military press officers speak for themselves. Pity it couldn't be required viewing for everyone voting this November. Here's A. O. Scott's review.

It's been a great time for documentaries lately, as I've also seen My Architect, Super Size Me, and Fahrenhiet 911. Control Room may have been the best, for my money, but the other three provide some heavy competition.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

The Inimitable Art of Al Hirschfeld

The New York Times hosts this fantastic and exhaustive gallery of Al Hirschfeld's line drawings for Broadway. The inimitable artist died last year at 99. The NYT's lengthy obituary at the time quoted from a letter he wrote the Times in 1986 on the subject of beauty:
Beauty is incapable of being defined scientifically or aesthetically. Anarchy takes over. Having devoted a long life to the art of caricature I have rarely convinced anyone that caricature and beauty are synonymous. Beauty may be the limited proportions of a classic Greek sculptured figure but it does not have to be — it could be an ashcan.

Update: Sen. Zell Miller, R-GA

I've grown fond of tracking the politics of Zell Miller, the Georgia senator, most likely to become a Republican at at given moment (with Joe Lieberman running a very close second). Well, yesterday CNN reported that Miller plans on speaking at the Republican National Convention.

Zell, it'll be the pefect occasion: why not go ahead and annouce your new party membership then and there?

Questions About Karzai

Though I've not known much about him, I've admired Harmid Karzai since he became the interim President of Afghanistan. He's seemed intelligent and sophisticated, even statesmanlike. Within the last 24 hours, however, I've learned a couple of things about him which trouble me.

First, in Fahrenheit 911, Moore draws all sorts of connections between the oil industry and what's going on in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, I've never been one to believe that this was a "War for Oil," but some for the facts Moore unearths are disturbing. Among them, Moore claims that Karzai was once a paid consultant for the US oil industry, specifically for Unocal.
Now, as this article points, Karzai hasn't addressed this allegegation, though a spokesman of his has recently denied it. A Unocal spokesman also denies Karzai was ever on the payroll. However, "the current U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, was a Unocal consultant in the 1990s, a State Department spokesman confirmed" earlier this month.

Anyway, I wonder what Karzai would have to say? Maybe he was not a *paid* advisor, but what *was* his status? Nonetheless, I'll concede that the questions about this aspect of his past seem speculative--at this point.

Adding fuel to the conspiracy theories, on December 27th, 2002, Karzai did sign a pipeline contract with Turkmenistan and Pakistan. The deal ensured Afghanistan would "profit by receiving millions of dollars in transit fees and construction of the pipeline would provide thousands of desperately needed jobs." This event plays into some left-wing conspiracies which claim that Unocal was involved in the deal, though I can find no credible evidence to that end. Perhaps, Karzai was just doing the prudent thing in looking out for his country.

The other story, however, is much easier to verify and says a lot about how far women's rights still have to go in Afghanistan. At a gathering to mark International Women's Day, Karzai tried to convince Afghan men to allow women to vote in upcoming elections :
Please, my dear brothers, let your wives and sisters go to the voter registration process. Later, you can control who she votes for, but please, let her go.
Now, sure, I can think of some ways to explain that away: after all, the women can vote in secret, so they can really vote for whoever they want to, right? Well, are the women supposed to lie if their husbands ask them who they voted for later? When Karzai says "you can control who she votes for" isn't he just encouraging misogyny?

I guess you could argue that progress takes time. They're taking baby steps towards democracy, right? Karzai's just being diplomatic. Maybe so, but it sure would be nice to hear the President of Afghanistan speak out passionately on behalf of women's rights instead of caving before these conservative men.

Testing Michael Moore

Andy Sullivan points to this ABC News interview with Michael Moore, indicating that here are "some tough questions to which our very own Leni Riefenstahl has no good answers."

Now, having seen Fahrenheit 911 last night, I'd agree that Moore's film is an exercise in propaganda and that he doesn't answer all of these questions completely. However, he does answer them, and he answers some of them to my satisfaction. I think what this disparity shows is that defenders of the war are not going to be satisfied with *any* answers Moore gives.

To me, it's inarguable that Moore's movie is propaganda. But to argue that it doesn't present a lot of truth--if sometimes through manipulative means--is another thing all together. For example, critics complain that Moore highlights the obvious, facts about war that have been true for centuries: that innocents die, that the military preys upon poor and minorities in order to fill its ranks. Well, timeless as these sad truths may be, as long as they are true, I think we ought to be highlighting them. Are we supposed to lose our sense of outrage simply because something has long been the status quo? Critics complain that about Moore's showing dead and injured soldier and civilians. Well, of course, defenders of the war--those who think we who were against it ignoble--of course, they'd prefer that images like these never be shown. Because those images have a tremendous impact. They're the reality of war. And we ought not be sending our young people into that reality unless we can justify it. And we've seen what happened to the primary arguments the Bush administration used to justify the war in Iraq. They evaporated.

I do wish someone more level-headed had come along and made a more balanced, though nonetheless damning, documentary about the Bush administration. Fahrenheit 911 does a great job of preaching to the converted--the viewing I went to here in Charlotte, NC (!) ended with heavy, sustained applause--and, hopefully, it'll appeal to some of the fence-sitters. But I won't pretend to tell you that I think Moore handles every detail honestly.

On the other hand, if any honest supporter of the Bush administration watches this film and is patient enough to sift through the facts, there's still enough in this two-hour long exercise in outrage to damn the Bush administration.

And one more thing: conservatives are rightfully outraged when people compare Bush with Adolph Hitler. So let's quit with the hypocrisy then: Moore may be a master propaganist, but he's outraged with what he believes to be bad policy. To compare him with Leni Riefenstahl is to pretend that Moore is popularizing evil, an inference that is inappropriate and also much aligned with that inane premise I tired of hearing long ago: "You're either with us or you're with the terrorists."

Monday, June 21, 2004

Fallen Idol

Dang, Ray Bradbury was one of my favorite writers as a kid. I read The Martian Chronicles and Dandelion Wine both at least twice. I read Fahrenheit 451, too, and loved it. So I can't help thinking that, considering the subject matter of that novel, it's kinda ironic that Bradbury would be so angered at Michael Moore's allusion to it.

It's not like Moore's making any money off the familiarity of the book's title. Additionally, Bradbury hasn't even seen the movie, and in one interview he said something about his not being able to get away with calling a book Gone with the Wind. Well, duh. But Moore's not calling his movie Fahrenheit 451, he's calling it Fahrenheit 9/11.

It's not a rip-off; it's clearly an homage. Futhermore, like it or not, many (most?) of the people watching Moore's documentary may be far more familiar those last four syllables--nine eleven--that with the title of Bradbury's book anyway.

So, I'm disappointed with my idol. Still, I hope my kids read all of Bradbury's books, too.

P.S. As another fan points out, Shakespeare should demand that Bradbury rename Something Wicked This Way Comes, yet another great entry from Bradbury's oeuvre.

My Life a "Messy Pastiche"

For the straight dope on Clinton's memoir, you'll want to read Michiko Kakutani's New York Times review of the 950-plus page tome. She's not nearly as dazzled as some:
In many ways, the book is a mirror of Mr. Clinton's presidency: lack of discipline leading to squandered opportunities; high expectations, undermined by self-indulgence and scattered concentration. This memoir underscores many strengths of Mr. Clinton's eight years in the White House and his understanding that he was governing during a transitional and highly polarized period. But the very lack of focus and order that mars these pages also prevented him from summoning his energies in a sustained manner to bring his insights about the growing terror threat and an Israeli-Palestinian settlement to fruition.
She notes that "the seeds of his adult self can be glimpsed in an autobiographical essay he wrote in high school: 'I am a living paradox — deeply religious, yet not as convinced of my exact beliefs as I ought to be; wanting responsibility yet shirking it; loving the truth but often times giving way to falsity.'"

Finally, she points out that the book already seems something of an artifact:
Lies about sex and real estate, partisan rancor over "character issues" (not over weapons of mass destruction or pre-emptive war), psychobabble mea culpas, and tabloid wrangles over stained dresses all seem like pressing matters from another galaxy, far, far away.
So true. Has it really only been four years?

The Wilderness

Just saw Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice, on CNN with Paula Zahn, and he came up with a great metaphor for this time we're living in, especially in the context of Abu Ghraib and mistreatment of the inmates there. Since 9/11, he said, we've been in the "wilderness." He acknowledged that this is uncharted territory for the United States, so only time will tell where the current investigations into Abu Ghraib will lead.

That idea of the wilderness. Yeah, that's exactly how it feels.

I don't think that John Kerry's any Moses who's gonna lead us out of the wilderness. Nonetheless, I think he'd be a better guide than that deranged prophet who's barreling through the wilderness right now.

Me Talk Witty One Day

Great NYT review of Sedaris's latest.

I'm a huge fan of his, but unlike some I can't say I'm surprised by his confession that "I exaggerate a lot." Come on, folks. How closely have you been reading?!

Well, never mind, there's a long-standing tradition for this sort of thing. Why, hell, ol' Sam Clemens didn't even write under his own name. And the world's a Mark Twain the better for it.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Batman Begins Update

Newsweek has an update on the upcoming Batman Begins movie, which is just sounding better and better all the time. With Chris Nolan of Memento directing and Christian Bale as the Dark Knight. Nolan combed through 65 years of Batman comics to create the over-arching storyline. The new flick hopes to examine how Bruce Wayne became Batman.

I've long thought the recent string of Batman movies were over-rated--even the first couple by Tim Burton (which, I know, is some sort is blasphemy)--and have longed for a more gritty, more realistic retelling of the Batman saga. Because, after all, Batman, has the potential to be the most realistic of all the superheroes. No spidey senses. No rubber limbs. No retractable adamantium claws. No powers of flight or extraordinary hearing. No super powers at all. Just pure attitude. And a whole lotta lonely hours bench-pressing in the basement, I imagine.

The official site has a few more pics up now, too.

You've Got the Power!

Download this perfectly legal Tuba Frenzy remix of Snap's "I've got the power" with ENRON calls/Bush quotes:

Listen and enjoy! (Though you may want to keep a barf bag* handy.)

(Via the fine folks at Boing Boing, who I note have recently redesigned their site.)

*Yes, that is a whole site devoted to motion sickness bags. Here's another one. And another. And, yes, another. OK, I'll stop now. But there *are* more.

Italia Five-O

I may be in the wrong profession. The cops in Rome now have a Lamborghini Gallardo for chasing speeders and rushing organs for transplant. The Gallardo has a top speed of 192 mph (309 kph). It'll go from 0-60 in four seconds.

Maybe not a good idea with my driving record. Also equipped with a defibrillator. Lists at $165,000.

Map of Springfield, USA

Every now and then you find something *incredibly* useful on the web. Well, this ain't it. But, if you're a Simpson's fan, it sure is entertaining to look at.

Visit the Ayn Rand school for Tots or drop into Snipp Longstockings to pick up the paper. Make a donation to the Helter Shleter. Drive by the Baldwin/Basinger House. Or maybe catch a game at the Yahoo Search Engine Arena.

Takes quite a devotee to pull off an effort like this. It's actually pretty stunning.

I'm So Sorry!

Michael Bérubé recommends the American Apology Shirt when traveling overseas.

Fox News Gives "Fahrenheit 9/11" Two Thumbs Up

I know, did I really write that? Well, Fox's Roger Friedman gives it a good review anyway. Don't know enough about him to know if he's a token liberal or what.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Gordon Cheung

Gordon Cheung is the artist, and though his "textscapes" may look simple, they're actually meticulously constructed with shredded stock listings from the Financial Times.

(Featured on

Ron Reagan: I Knew the Gipper and George W, You're No Gipper

OK, so, I've paraphrased a little, but as this Salon article from just over a year ago reveals, Ron Reagan Jr. is sure no fan of George W. Bush.
The Bush people have no right to speak for my father, particularly because of the position he's in now. Yes, some of the current policies are an extension of the '80s. But the overall thrust of this administration is not my father's -- these people are overly reaching, overly aggressive, overly secretive, and just plain corrupt. I don't trust these people.
And then there's this:
Sure, he wasn't a technocrat like Clinton. But my father was a man -- that's the difference between him and Bush. To paraphrase Jack Palance, my father crapped bigger ones than George Bush.
Not to forget this:
Nine-11 gave the Bush people carte blanche to carry out their extreme agenda -- and they didn't hesitate for a moment to use it. I mean, by 9/12 Rumsfeld was saying, "Let's hit Iraq." They've used the war on terror to justify everything from tax cuts to Alaska oil drilling.
So George W. Bush is continuing the Reagan legacy, huh? Reagan's son doesn't think so. And there's a lot more like that in that article. Reagan even says his mother, Nancy Reagan doesn't trust "these [Bush] people. She gets that they're trouble in all kinds of ways. She doesn't like their religious fervor, their aggression."

(Via Kevin Drum)

CNN Arabic

Check out CNN Arabic.

Design-wise: The scrollbar shows up on left and the content is right-justified, since Arabic is read from right to left.

Politically: they highlight a whole area devoted to Abu Ghraib right on the home page. You won't see that on the U.S. or International sites. The area even has its own look and feel and artwork. Wish I could read Arab see how they handle the content--to see if they're giving it a Western spin at all. (If it were Fox News Arabic, I have no doubt they would be.) I also wonder how much freedom they have to do their own thing relative to the U.S. and International versions.

Bottom line: it's chilling to see this stuff out there and to wonder about its impact in the Arab world.

And, to think, there may be worse to come.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Tragic Story, Hilarious Headline

Royal funeral for pickled heart.

The French bury the heart of a 10-year-old heir to the throne over 200 years after his death.

The Great Rapture Round-Up!

Recently, I suggested that folks who get round up in the Rapture might like to leave their earthly possessions with those of us who are left behind.

Well, tonight, my girlfriend saw a bumper sticker with a similar sentiment:
In case of Rapture, can I have your car?
Guess there really ain't nothing new under the sun. As the Good Book says.

Reagan Here, Reagan There, Ronald Reagan Everywhere

I know it's not PC to criticize anything remotely Reagan-oriented right now, but Ronnie on the $10 bill? Er, why not JFK, FDR or Teddy? Isn't there a long line of presidents who should be on any American currency before the Gipper?

And shouldn't you have to be dead for, like, 30 years or so before you can even be considered?

And let's not even talk about Rushmore!

Sweet Hymn-Singing Ashcroft

After displaying this much contempt--for Congress, for international treaties, for human rights, for . . . the truth, he's got to go. Ashcroft's got to go.

Joe Biden's response:
“That’s why we have these treaties. So when Americans are captured, they are not tortured. That’s the reason, in case anybody forgets it.”
In other words, what goes around, comes around.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Reagan/Bush, Left/Right, Religious/Secular, Blah/Blah

Andrew Sullivan has some really interesting thoughts on Reagan vs. Bush. Sounds like he's increasingly browned off w/W. It's interesting to see a "conservative" who's not exactly rushing to compare W and the Gipper favorably. Sullivan goes on to say that if there’s a Republican alive in the mold of Reagan, it may be Arnold Swarzenegger, not Bush.

Read this Economist article (membership required) and you’d be forgiven for thinking there may be an irreversible gulf forming between the Republican and Democratic parties along religious lines, leaving the GOP with all the religious folks and the poor Dems with all the untouchable heathens.

But I wonder if Andy Sullivan isn't right when he says someone more secular like Schwarzenegger might be the future face of the Republican party--someone who can reach across the divide. Surely not Arnie though? Well, I bet they said the same about the Gipper, too. Never mind that Arnie wasn’t born here; if some have their way, that qualification will be a thing of the past. As a naturalized American myself, I can’t much protest that.

Sidebar: What I wouldn't mind betting, in fact, is that if there's an atheist president in our lifetime, it'll be a Republican. Not suggesting Arnie's one, though it wouldn't surprise me if he were. As the Economist article points out, currently, “Voters do not like atheists: 41% say they would never vote for one, far more than say they would not vote for an evangelical, Catholic or Jew.” Thing is, Republicans wouldn't vote for a heathen Democrat, no, but I suspect they would vote for a heathen Republican who was strong on the military, fiscally conservative, and not too liberal socially. Bonus points if he were a movie star. The Repubs really dig it when Hollywood coughs up a conservative: Reagan, Charlton Heston, Chuck Norris, Dennis Miller (remember when he was funny?), etcetera. They're so dazzled by the aura of celebrity, they'll apparently vote them into practically any office or position. OK, maybe I'm generalizing now.

Back to the current reality, though, and I think that although the Repubs *are* heavily influenced by the right-wing religioso, those folks don't represent the average American, and the Repubs may shoot themselves in the foot if they pay too much attention to these fringe dwellers (they may have already). That wouldn't necessarily preclude them from being the party of the mainstream religious folks as the Economist suggests. But, I think, the mainstream is becoming more socially liberal anyway. So, maybe the GOP will have to lurch left regardless. Let's face it: the GOP's been having to lurch left for decades now.

How much impact does the religious right have on the current administration? A lot, I’m afraid. More so than they did on Reagan. But I’m not too worried. To use one front as an example, the right may be salivating over the Federal Marriage Amendment and Bush may be egging them on, but many of us suspect it won’t pass constitutional scrutiny. I'll get a lot more scared when the fundies succeed in banning shows like Queer Eye and replacing them with Bible Eye for the Secular Guy. The point being that gay culture is steadily seeping into mainstream culture, and we’ve not gone to hell in a hand basket for it yet. In fact, the more we’re all exposed to real gay culture—not the fringe gay culture the fundies focus obsessively on, but regular every-day, 9-to5 gay culture—the more folks realize that homosexuality is nothing to be afraid of.

OK, maybe I am *a little* scared at the progress the far right has been making, but I just think if their impact gets any greater, there'll be a massive backlash. We’ll get sick of being told what to say, what we can watch on television, whether we can be married or not. And things will move the other way. Hopefully, before anything so grotesque as the FMA is passed. The pendulum effect.

But I do tend to be overly optimistic sometimes. You only have to read about what the Republican party's doing in Texas, and it's enough to scare the bejesus out of you.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Fahrenheit 9/11

If the documentary's as good as the trailer, Bush may be in trouble.

And this coming election may be the first one in U.S. history to be influenced by a film maker.

The trailer ends with this stirring Bush quote:
[Headshot of Bush, clearly on a golf course.] I call upon all nations to do everthing they can to stop these terrorist killers. Thank you.

[Bush repositions himself. Camera zooms back. Bush nods.] Now, watch this drive. [Bush swings golf club.]
That's my Bush!

Curb Your Prison Sentence

Yes, you read it right - a man wrongly accused of murder was rescued by un-aired footage from an episode of Curb Your Enthusiam, which provided him with an alibi, since it showed him in a crowd at a baseball game.

It's kinda funny, sure (especially since Curb is one of my favorite shows), but read the whole article, and it makes you wonder: how many other wrongly-accused folks may be languishing in jail who don't have an episode of a sitcom to save them? Worse still, how many have been executed when a few inches of video could've saved them?

This guy was in jail for *murder*. Maybe we should be outraged rather than amused.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

The Subtle Sexual Evil of Shrek

Gee, thanks, Traditional Values Coalition for warning us about the transgenderism and crossdressing themes in Shrek 2. TVC says DreamWorks is aiding the "effort to deconstruct the biological reality of male and female."

God forbid our children should learn to feel comfortable around transgender folks!

A banner ad on TVM also points to this helpful info about Homosexual Urban Legends, including the "Born Gay" myth. TVM warns that this particular urban legend is being promoted, "not only by homosexual activist groups but by prestigious organizations like the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association."

Now, call me crazy, just maybe the reason those organizations are sharing this "Born Gay" stuff is because it ain't no urban legend. And perhaps the fine folks at TVM ought to consult a dictionary for a meaningful defintion of "urban legend." 'Cos, you know, that's really like: drink Coke and eat Pop Rocks and your tummy will explode. Or if you wanna get sexy: Catherine the Great's equine adventures. (OK, so maybe the latter's not technically an "urban" legend either, but it's closer to one than the TVM twaddle, and more fun to boot.)

(Shrek stuff via A Boy and His Computer)

Watch What You Write, Where You Go

A 35-year-old Brit is questioned by British Special Branch police after he text messaged the lyrics to a Clash song, "Tommy Gun."

And then there's the story of the British journalist, Elena Lappin, who was detained, cuffed, searched and locked up overnight in L.A. for being . . . a journalist. She was told she needed a special journalist's visa, despite the fact that she'd been coming to the United States for years, has an American husband and a daughter born in New York. She says she was told she was lucky she wasn't being treated as she would be in Iran. Which is ironic, she says, because:
it is only "countries like Iran" (for example, Cuba, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe) that have a visa requirement for journalists. It is unheard of in open societies, and, in spite of now being enforced in the US, is still so obscure that most journalists are not familiar with it. Thirteen foreign journalists were detained and deported from the US last year, 12 of them from LAX.
Lappin's piece makes it clear: she believes she was singled out because of her trade.

The American novelist Jonathan Franzen wrote her, "On behalf of the non-thuggish American majority, my sincere apologies." Having recently become a United States citizen, I wish I could say I was more proud to be one right now.