Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Those Delusional Republicans

Just heard Teri Gross interviewing Karen Hughes on Fresh Air. Hughes is the former Bush counsel and speech writer. the one who stepped down a few months ago to spend mor etime with her family. She's rejoined the Bush administration to help W get re-elected. (Sorry. That should be elected.)

When Gross asked her how Bush squared invading another country against the will of the world as a Christian, Hughes replied that she disagreed with Gross and that by invading Iraq, Bush was--swear to God--"fulfilling the will of the world."

Swear to God. Seriously. I mean, she ought to be a comedian, not a speech writer. Has she even even left the country? Has she seen the polls that really reflected "the will of the world"? I mean, it's a nice little phrase, isn't it? "Will of the world." The alliteration makes it trip nicely off the tongue. As well as the repeated "l" sound--consonance--in "fulfill," "will" and "world." "Fulfilling the will of the neo-cons." See? Just doesn't have the same ring to it. But "the will of the world?" It ain't no good if it ain't true. Of course, these speech writers aren't about the business of telling the truth anyway.

Gross also asked her whether she thought gay marriage or divorce was a greater threat to the institution of marriage. Hughes just beat around the bush and didn't answer at all. Gross didn't press her.

I would've loved to have heard Gross just casually say, "Yeah, but which do you think is the greater threat to the institution of marriage?" You know 5 or 6 times, if necessary, to highlight the fact that Hughes never answered the question.

Scamming the Scammers

Scammer Samuel Eze Scammer Samuel Eze

The eminently amusing 419 Eater site gives you tips on how to scam scammers, specifically those guys who email you from Nigeria to tell you he need to send 25 million to the U.S.

Mostly the tips concern wasting the scammers' time and getting them to take ridiculous photos of themselves to prove their identity. But sometimes the scammees even manage to get money from the scammers. Now, that's what I call poetic justice!

Known internationally as 419, the number 4-1-9 refers to the section of the Nigerian penal code which addresses fraud schemes or Advance Fee Fraud (AFF).

BTW, That's supposedly a Nigerian scammer named Evangelist (!) Samuel Eze above. What's the bet he had someone else sitting in for the photo though.

Monday, March 29, 2004

All Music All the Time

This guy blogs music reviews of 75 words or less. Many reviews have links to legit mp3s.

More Fun With Celebrity Audio

Then there's this amazing rambling phone message Ryan Adams left rock critic Jim Derogatis. Guess he hasn't appreciated the legendary rock critic's reviews. Reviews like this one in which Derogatis opines
Absent an historical musical context or a functioning b.s. detector, it is possible to mistake Adams for being as talented and clever as he thinks he is. But then there are plenty of people who can't tell the difference between plastic flowers and real ones, until they bend over to take a whiff.
Pitchfork Media also just published a whole interview they got with Adams after he called to complain about their reviews.

Guess he's a man on a mission.

(MP3 of Adam's notorious voicemail.)

Dennis Miller Death Spiral

You've probably noticed Dennis Miller's been acting a little loopy lately. I mean, aside from jumping the political fence. Check out this interview he, er, conducted* with Eric Alterman. One might wonder whether he was high, drunk, catatonic or simply stopped caring about any facade of professionalism for the moment.

The Observer actually has this part right:
Things seemed to go sour less than a minute into the interview, but not for any reason that was visible onscreen. Considering that Mr. Alterman can be as smug and arrogant as Mr. Miller, they probably seemed like a great matchup on paper, a kind of minor-league Gore Vidal–Norman Mailer nose-to-nose, a bantamweight bout of self-congratulatory self-confidence. But Mr. Alterman was unusually well-behaved, laying out his arguments on autopilot. Mr. Miller, however, was getting a different read.

"You look so pissed off," said Mr. Miller.

"What do you mean, I look pissed off?" asked Mr. Alterman.

"I don’t even know what to say. You’re looking at me like—you’re just sitting there." Mr. Miller did an impersonation of what looked like a drunken, mentally disabled guy passing out. "Give me a question and I’ll ask you a question. What do you want to talk about?"

Mr. Alterman laughed nervously.

"Well," he said, "we could talk a little bit more about the way he misled the country." (Meaning George W. Bush.)

Said Mr. Miller: "This is what I’m looking at, here, like this."

He pretended to be asleep.

When Mr. Alterman finished his spiel, Mr. Miller went bolt upright and snapped at the camera: "All right, you’ve been great. Come back anytime."

Mr. Alterman left stunned.
Miller really did used to be funny. But now his jokes are generaly reduced to excoriating Democrats and towing the party line about the war in Iraq. His one joke about a Republican on his show tonight: Condi Rice can't appear before the 9/11 Commission because she's so smart their brains would burst.

And when a comedian is that consistently partisan, well, the goings get kinda dull for the rest of us.

*"Conducted" meaning "bailed out on" in this context. Also, the caption "Buy an audience lately, Dennis?" beneath the video above refers to the fact that Miller's crew is paying people to be in the audience. Yes, that's right. The original ad has been removed from Craig's List, but you can find it reproduced in a number of places.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Dani Siciliano Likes . . .

Dani Siciliano

My review of Dani Siciliano's excellent debut album is up over at Pixelsurgeon.

She may be Matthew Herbert's wife, but she's truly a force unto herself.

I recently blogged about the album's cover art by John Patrick McKenzie.

Galway Kinnnell

My favorite living poet, Galway Kinnell has a lovely new poem in a recent New Yorker:

I raise my head off the pillow and study
the half-frosted windows and the clock
with its reluctant to tumble robotic digits
to check on how the night is proceeding.
By the clock's green glow and the light
of the last quarter moon the snow
shines up into our bedroom, I see
that the half of the oceanic comforter
apportioned to her side of the bed
lies completely flat. The words
of the shepherd in "Tristan," "Waste
and the empty sea," come to me.
Where is she? Sprouting in the furrow
where the comforter overlaps her pillow
is a hank of brown hair-she's here, sleeping
somewhere down in the dark underneath.
And now in her sleep she rotates herself
a quarter turn-from strewn all unfolded
on her back to bunched in a bulky Z
on her side, with her back to me.
I squirm closer, taking care not to
break into the immensity of her sleep,
and lie absorbing the astounding
quantity of heat a slender body
ovens up around itself, when need be.
Now her slow, purring, sometimes snorish,
perfectly intelligible sleeping sounds
abruptly stop. A leg darts back
and hooks my ankle with its foot
and draws me closer still. Soon
her sleeping sounds resume, telling me,
"Come, press against me, yes, like that,
put your right elbow on my hip bone, perfect,
and your right hand at my breasts, yes, that's it,
now your left arm, which has become extra,
stow it somewhere out of the way, good.
Entangled with each other so, unsleeping one,
together we will outsleep the night."

- Galway Kinnell (The New Yorker, p. 64, Mar. 22, 2004)
Why hasn't Kinnell ever served as poet laureate? Billy Collins was the last one, and--as enjoyable as many of his poems are--if he of the ode to Victoria's Secret catalogs can fill the position at all, Kinnell can do it amply.

NRO's "Superstition Watch"

The National Review's Andrew Stuttaford has taken it upon himself to set up a "Superstition Watch." Here's the kinda stuff that concerns him:
For over a century, a statue of a wild boar stood in the center of England’s oldest public park. It was damaged during the Second World War. Finally, it has been restored. The old boar was going to be put back where it belonged. Not any more. These plans have, apparently, now been "abandoned for fear of offending Muslims, whose religion considers pigs to be 'unclean'."

And if you want another tiny example of the West’s supine response to Islamic fanaticism – that’s it.
I'm concerned that the focus of his watch may be too narrow, so I emailed Stuttaford with the following:
Now, is this going to be a "fair and balanced" superstition watch?

Will you make a note every time a Catholic priest decries the use of contraceptives? Or every time the Intelligent Design folks make it into the news? Or every time John Derbyshire comes up with a debunked theory about the evils of homosexuality? Or every time a poll is released showing that the majority of Americans still believe in the devil, demons, and guardian angels? Will you strive to shine the light of reason upon them, too?

Or are you really just picking on Islamic superstitions and the people who tolerate them?

Many of us here in the United States manage to stomach religious superstition every day and you don't seem to mind that.



Saturday, March 27, 2004

"God in the Hands of Angry Sinners"

Jonathan EdwardsMel Gibson

Gary Wills has an excellent review in The New York Review of Books in which he compares the flick with 18th century American theologian Jonathan Edward's historic sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." In other words, both try to scare us into believing.

He ends his review by recounting this chilling incident:
The way this film of bludgeoning can be used as a bludgeon came home to me as I talked with a friend who is a fundamentalist looking forward to seeing the movie. While we talked, he got a phone call from his wife. Their pastor was not only encouraging but requiring his congregation to see the film, for which group tickets had been bought. She had called the pastor to say that she was having back trouble and, though she did plan to see the movie later on, she did not want to go now. The pastor would not take that as an answer. He insisted. She was calling her husband to ask him what she could do. They agonized over the problem while I withdrew. It seemed unlikely that she, or anyone, could get an exemption on the grounds that she dislikes films of excessive violence. In the past, some conservatives have been critical of Hollywood for indulgence in that. But when the sadism is sacred, people must be forced to see it, the bloodier the better.
From Edward's sermon:
The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment.
If you think this comparison invalid, remember that after The Passion was released, Gibson was quoted as saying his wife would go to hell, despite being a believer and despite being a better person than he because she doesn't subscribe to the same narrow Catholic beliefs he does:
"There is no salvation for those outside the Church. I believe it. Put it this way. My wife is a saint. She's a much better person than I am. Honestly. She's, like, Episcopalian, Church of England. She prays, she believes in God, she knows Jesus, she believes in that stuff. And it's just not fair if she doesn't make it. She's better than I am. But that is a pronouncement from the chair. I go with it."

Out in the Office? You May Be Out of the Office.

You may also have heard about Bush-appointee Scott J. Bloch, head of the Office of Special Counsel removing references to sexual-orientation discrimination from the office's website and handbooks.

For the second time in a month, Log Cabin Republicans found themselves criticizing a fellow Republican.

Block replied that he "he is "personally committed to enforcing nondiscrimination in the federal workplace," but added, "What is not well settled is whether enforcement based on personal characteristics rather than specific conduct is authorized."

In other words, if he can find a legitimate way to discriminate, he will.

Yet another "compassionate conservative."

If You're Out, You're Off This Island

Did you know that the Sandals Resorts don't allow gay couples on it's properties?

You read that right. It's Sandals' loss, too. As DiversityInc reports, "GLBT travelers plan an average of seven trips each year, compared with mainstream travelers, who plan an average of just one trip per year."

(Via Diversity Inc. Login Required.)

Thursday, March 25, 2004

On the other hand . . .

The New Republic's Clay Risen claims the following about the Zaha Hadid award:
By refusing to be patient and reward Hadid once she had more buildings on the ground, the Pritzker jury has created at least the appearance of affirmative action--and diminished the value of the award, both for future recipients and for Hadid herself.
Ouch. He claims they actually awarded the 53-year-old Baghdad-born architect for her avant garde ideas and not for her work, since "traditionally, Pritzker winners need to have at least ten buildings completed" to be considered for the award.

The Panda's Thumb

This new blog apparently plans to keep an eye on those sneaky Intelligent Design folks. The ID crowd basically hope to sneak creationism into public schools under the guise of science. Pseudo-science.

Quite an impressive crew contributing to this blog, too.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Zaha Hadid Wins Pritzker

How great that Iraqi-born Zaha Hadid has won the Pritzker Architecture Award. And, no, this isn't some politically correct choice due to Iraq's current prominence in the news. Hadid is truly an exceptional architect and has been working in the field for almost three decades. She's also the first woman to win a Pritzker.

Check out some of her work.

As usual, the Pritzker site has loads of good info about this year's winner, too.

Cronenberg Directing Amis's London Fields

I was hoping for Mike Leigh meself. Still. In the wake of his flicks like Spider and M. Butterfly, David Cronenberg 03/21/2004 seems an intriguing choice.

Martin Amis's London Fields is one of my all-time favorite books. I even named my first web site after the novel. Looks like someone's resurrected the old site in anticipation, too.

Can't wait to see who plays who--especially Keith Talent. Now, there's a role worth approaching with relish. Innit?

In other Amis news: Looks like James Diedrick has a new edition of his previously unavailable book Understanding Martin Amis out with material referencing works as recent as the inimicable Yellow Dog.

Diedrick's web site, The Martin Amis Web, is an exceptional resource for all things Amis.

Blog Radio

Radio Vox Populi proves a pretty brilliant idea. The site scans blogs, then reads them aloud using some sort of text-to-speech app (JAWS?) in both male and female voices.

It tired it and it's pretty cool once you get used to the voices, but it does tend to cut off the entries midstream, which proves annoying when you're particularly interesting in one - must give each entry equal time, I think. A sound comes on like you're changing stations and then another entry is read aloud. So, works best for short entries, I guess.

Radio Vox Populi project by Media Lab Europe, a European research partner of MIT's media lab.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Innocence & Evil: the Outsider Art of Henry Darger

Here's work from another outsider artist, arguably among the world's most famous.

Matthew Michael on one site dedicated to Darger:
Henry Darger died in 1973 in a Catholic mission operated by the Little Sisters of the Poor. He was buried in a paupers' cemetery. He had no family or friends. The neighbors in his north Chicago apartment building remembered him as an odd, unkempt man who scavenged through garbage cans and talked to himself in numerous voices. He attended mass every day, often several times a day, but otherwise led a solitary life.

Unknown to his neighbors and to everyone, Darger had been creating and compiling a massive literary and graphic body of work since 1909. If Darger's landlord, photographer Nathan Lerner, had not sorted through the collection of scavenged debris in his apartment following his death, Darger's writings and paintings certainly would have been lost.
Darger's often disturbing art depicted oddly adrogynous children sometimes involved in scenes of violence. Artnet has more on Darger's biography and his posthumous exhibits as well as a gallery.

Texas Wisdom

In case you've missed this dose of Texas wisdom currently circulating the Internet:

While suturing a laceration on the hand of a 70-year-old Texas rancher (whose hand had caught in a gate while working cattle), a doctor and the old man were talking about George W. Bush being in the White House. The old Texan said, "Well, ya know, Bush is a post turtle". Not knowing what the old man meant, the doctor asked him what a post turtle was.

The old man said, "When you're driving down a country road, and you come across a fence post with a turtle balanced on top, that's a post turtle."

The old man saw a puzzled look on the doctor's face, so he continued to explain: "You know he didn't get there by himself, he doesn't belong there, he can't do anything while he's up there, and you just want to help the poor dumb thing get down."

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Zombies Push Jesus from Top of North American Box Office

That's Reuters' headline, not mine. One resurrection movie beats out another.

Saw both Touching the Void and The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind this weekend. Two radically different flicks; both most definitely worth a watch.

Arafat Reviews Passion of the Christ

Really. I know that sounds like a headline from the Onion, but this is Reuters: Yasser Arafat has reviewed Gibson's movie and declared it not anti-Semitic. Where to start with that one, eh?

Gibson must be relieved to have a thumbs-up from Arafat.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Daily Dose of Imagery

Glencairn Subway Station, Toronto

From Sam Javanrouh's photoblog, Daily Dose of Imagery. He uses a Canon EOS Digital Rebel 300D.

I have a penchant for subway shots meself. Something about the gritty noir of 'em, I reckon. Here's one I took in Prague.

(Via Saheli)

100 Mispronounced Words offers this list of 100 commonly mispronounced words and phrases.

Some of the more amusing ones:
  • "Old Timer's Disease" instead of "Alzheimer's" - er, aren't people usually joking when they pronounce it that way? I hope so!
  • "A blessing in the skies" instead of "a blessing in disguise." (Reminds me of the famously misheard lyric "Scuse me while kiss this guy.")
  • "Carpool tunnel syndrome" instead of "carpal tunnel syndrome." Guess that when all the carpoolers clump trying to merge to get into the tunnel.
  • "Doggy dog world" instead of "Dog-eat-dog world." Surprised Snoop hasn't sued.
  • "For all intensive purposes" instead of "for all intents and purposes" - just heard this the other day.
  • "Heineken remover" instead of "Heimlich maneuver." Personally, I've been in a few bars where they coulda used a Heineken Remover. Like the one where a bloke threw not one, but two bottles of beer at me and me brother before he got kicked out. Well, not at us. He was throwing them at another bloke and they both missed and smashed against the wall immediately between us.
Nor did I know that "persnickety" should be "pernickety," since it's a Scottish word, though so many people pronounce it the former way here, I think there's a case to be made that it's standard in the U.S. Also "chomp at the bit" used to be "champ at the bit," but now so many people here mispronounce it, "chomp" is practically standard, too.

And, did anyone know that "spitting image" should be "spit and image"? There was even the terrific British satire show with look-alike puppets called "Spitting Image." Think that one's a lost cause.

Finally, I hafta admit I've been mispronouncing "barbiturate" as "barbituate." Er, not that it comes up that often . . . .

Can you think of any that aren't on the list?

If you wanna kill more time, check out The 100 Most Often Mispelled Misspelled Words in English.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Update: Where in the World Is Saddam Hussein?

You like me may now have long been wondering, "Where the hell is Saddam Hussein?" and "What the hell's he telling his interrogators?" Well, CNN gives us a remarkable update: Saddam is in coalition custody and appears to be enjoying his interrogation.

Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage says Saddam is "not giving much information that I've seen, but he seems to be enjoying the debate." He added "I've seen some of the results of these debriefs and we've got a lot of dots to connect, I think, before we throw these out publicly,"

So there you go: the where and the what of Saddam's historical interrogation.

Wait a minute . . . I still don't know where the hell he is! Or what he's saying.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Rock the Vote

It's the 21st century, you can do it online, folks. (Well, you still hafta print it out and send it in.)

Tit for Tat

Rick Brookhiser, the National Review's senior editor wrote this entry for the Corner, that site's rather insipid blog:
THE ANTIWAR MIND [Rick Brookhiser]
Overheard in a store in New Paltz, New York (yes, that New Paltz). A man with a chin beard, purple sweater and an Australian or lower-class English accent, ordering shellfish: "Spain is taking its troops home. We're serving paella." Two hundred Crusaders died--is he serving lamb couscous?

NB: He was driving an old Volvo station wagon, one of the ugliest vehicles on the road. Matched his chin beard.
I wrote him back, complained about his inability to distinguish between Aussies and lower-class Brits, as well as his implication that Aussies were equal to lower-class Brits. Also pointed out his lazy ad hominem attacks, based on silly stereotypes about the appearances of liberals. And then I provided him with what I supposed would be the liberal equivalent of his lazy lament.

Overheard in a cigar store in the mall. A young Republican type wearing horn-rimmed glasses, suspenders, and, yes, wait for it - a bow tie! (How 20th century!) He had a redneck or Texan accent and he was buying a cigar: "We're going to war with Iraq! I'm celebrating with a cigar. What have you got in the way of a fine Montecristo?"

NB: He was driving a Humvee, one of the most pointless vehicles on the road. Matched his suspenders.


Listening to the Tavis Smiley Show on the way home and they're discussing conscientious objectors and how many of them go AWOL since they're not sure what else to do. They gave an example of one chaplain who fell down on the job: when a soldier came to him expressing his concerns, he told him to stick it out and he'd get used to it. With no better advice or known options, the soldier decided to go AWOL. That soldier was Stephen Funk who ended up spending six months in jail.

This article about Funk quotes Jason Crawford, 23, founder of the website Patriots for the Defense of America:
"I think it is a grave dishonor to back out when your country needs you. There aren't any proper objections to this war. It is a just war."
That's the sort of narrow-minded thinking you're up against if you're an objector. (The Bush administration must really appreciate these unquestioning jingoistic types. Fresh young assets for the enterprise. Human capital.)

There's no easy way: if you declare yourself a conscientious objector, they call you a coward because you didn't even see the battlefield. If you declare after going to war, you get trashed too. Also, it ain't easy to prove you're a conscientious objector, and applications can take up a year to be reviewed.

But here's something I didn't know that's kinda scary: in order to be a conscientious objector, you apparently have to declare that you're against fighting in all wars. So what happens if you go to war in Iraq, for example, and decide, "You know what, this isn't right. I could defend my homeland against foreign invaders. But I just don't think this pre-emptive stuff is right anymore. Plus I'm seeing a lot of innocents killed here. Nope, just can't do it anymore."

Guess what? You can't claim to be a conscientious objector. Guess the idea is your country wouldn't go to war without good reason. So you're either for serving in all or none. Guess you're fucked.

Learn more about conscientious objection to war at, website for the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors.

Still More Passion

The New Republic's Stanley Kauffmann has finally gotten around to reviewing Gibson's The Passion of the Christ and he certainly calls a spade a spade:
Is The Passion anti-Semitic? Certainly it is, because the Gospels themselves are anti-Semitic--in the sense of fixing Jewish responsibility for the Crucifixion. Gibson perhaps gets some added relish out of his treatment of Caiaphas and his colleagues and the Jewish mob, but no unsanitized rendition of the story can omit their actions.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Power Shower

At the mall, at the restaurant table beside you, in the movie theater (during the heart-wrenching ending of Cold Mountain if you can believe it), well, duh, cell phones are everywhere. Soon teeny-boppers and workaholics will be able to use them in the shower, too. In Japan, of course, they already are. Over there, Pioneer's selling the Happy Aqua Phone case, a device you plop your phone into while you shower, so you can keep on talkin'. It's basically audio speakers in a waterproof casing you hang from a showerhead.

No doubt, you're already thinking of creative ways to use the camera in your new phone with such a device, too. Naughty, naughty.

(Seen in Wired Magazine, 0304)

Toasting Rumsfeld

Coupla days ago I lamented not seeing this live on TV, but did what I was praying for. They turned Don Rumsfeld's little skit this past Sunday into an ad. Here's the segment from Face the Nation where Rumsfeld says it's "folklore" that the administration ever claimed Iraq was an imminent threat.

Tom Friedman then proceeds to read Rumsfeld two quotes in which Rummy himself describes Iraq as an immediate threat. Rumsfeld is reduced to directionless stammering.

Again, here's one of Rumsfeld's clangers:
No terror state poses a great or more immediate threat to the security of our people and the stability of the world than the regime of Saddam Hussein.
The way Friedman laid those two quotes out in a row kicks ass. Hope we see more of that between now and November: Calm, but pointed challenges to this administration's bullshit.

The Dems need to run this ad and run it into the ground.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

John Patrick McKenzie

That's the delightful work of John Patrick McKenzie an autistic Filipino-born artist living in San Francisco. He's a member of the Creativity Explored workshop there.

I learned about him while researching a review of Dani Siciliano's excellent debut album, Likes . . ., which he created the cover art for. He also inspired the album title: every time he sent Siciliano another one of his distinctive text collages, he included the words “Dani Siciliano likes . . .” in it.

This lengthy SF Weekly article by Lessley Anderson provides many more details about McKenzie's "gloriously unambitious world."

Monday, March 15, 2004

Eloquent Bigotry

Unlike Andrew Sullivan, I'm not so sure Donald Sensing's foray into unquestionably eloquent bigotry speaks "the honest truth" at all--he's being honest, sure, but he's approaching nothing remotely close to the truth.

As the excerpt Sullivan posted makes clear, Sensing clings to same Neanderthal ideas about homosexuality his peers do: he just puts gay marriage at the bottom of the superslide into hell instead of the top. He apparently considers gay marriage the secular nadir of a once-precious and historically religious institution.* Some of us believe that society's arriving at a more sophisticated definition of marriage is a worthy goal, the zenith of society's understanding that love between two people need not be limited by gender.

Although Sensing agrees that society's ideas about marriage are changing, he's still clinging to his visceral but superstitious and increasingly anachronistic religious view: that God intended marriage to be between one man and one woman. Is it much of stretch to presume that he also believes homosexuality is an abomination?

Sure, he's admitting that heterosexuals have done plenty to undermine the sanctity of marriage, but beyond that he's hardly heralding new and more accepting ideas about family. If anything, he's simply come up a more sophisticated explanation for his intolerance.

He's not arguing for progress; he's suggesting that we turn back the clock.

*Actually, Sensing says "Marriage is primarily a social institution, not a religious one," but then goes on to say
"In Christian theological terms, the definition of marriage is part of the natural law of the creation; therefore, the definition may not be changed by human will except in peril to the health of human community."
So it's not religious if you mean "organized religion" but Sensing only points that out to make the point that marriage between one man and one woman is what God ordained. From the outside looking in, and all semantics aside, that sure sounds like a religious belief to me. In fact, it's only *not* a religious idea if you accept Sensing's premise that God described the institution as such before the existence of the world's religions. And that's superstitious hokum, pure and simple.

Fight Bigotry

Join the Human Rights Campaign and help end discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Nailing Don Rumsfeld

This much was true.
Dang, wish I'd seen this exchange on CBS's Face the Nation (link to PDF of entire transcript) this Sunday, the one year anniversary of the Iraq invasion:
[Bob] SCHIEFFER: Well, let me just ask you this. If they did not have these weapons of mass destruction, though, granted all of that is true, why then did they pose an immediate threat to us, to this country?

Sec. RUMSFELD: Well, you're the--you and a few other critics are the only people I've heard use the phrase `immediate threat.' I didn't. The president didn't. And it's become kind of folklore that that's--that's what's happened. The president went...

SCHIEFFER: You're saying that nobody in the administration said that.

Sec. RUMSFELD: I--I can't speak for nobody--everybody in the administration and say nobody said that.

SCHIEFFER: Vice president didn't say that? The...

Sec. RUMSFELD: Not--if--if you have any citations, I'd like to see 'em.

Mr. [Thomas] FRIEDMAN: We have one here. It says "some have argued that the nu"--this is you speaking--"that the nuclear threat from Iraq is not imminent, that Saddam is at least five to seven years away from having nuclear weapons. I would not be so certain."

Sec. RUMSFELD: And--and...

Mr. FRIEDMAN: It was close to imminent.

Sec. RUMSFELD: Well, I've--I've tried to be precise, and I've tried to be accurate. I'm s--suppose I've...

Mr. FRIEDMAN: "No terrorist state poses a greater or more immediate threat to the security of our people and the stability of the world and the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq."

Sec. RUMSFELD: Mm-hmm. It--my view of--of the situation was that he--he had--we--we believe, the best intelligence that we had and other countries had and that--that we believed and we still do not know--we will know.
The fact that the Bush administration keeps denying this kinda stuff is just stunning. It's truly pathological. Anybody who really believes the Bushies didn't try to sell us on an imminent threat, raise your hand.

The Dems should run this sad skit as a campaign ad.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

The CBS Circus

Who could've predicted the odd route CBS would take these past few months along their particular highway to hell? They yanked The Reagans. Canceled a Michael Jackson show after his arrest, but agreed to put it back on after Jackson agreed to an exclusive interview. Refused to show the Move-On ad during the Superbowl. And, oh yeah, there was that whole Superbowl half-time show, too, involving the other Jackson. You wouldn't think CBS could get any more shameless, would you?

But now there's this. In the wake of the success of Mel Gibson's Passion, CBS plans on resurrecting the hit miniseries on the life of Christ the network aired back in 2000. But here's the thing: it was originally a four-hour long two-nighter. Now they plan to show only the second night, part two. Yes, they're cutting to the chase and basically just showing the life of Christ from the Sermon on the Mount up to his crucifixion.

Say, isn't that the same timeframe The Passion uses? Huh.

Could CBS get any more craven?

Tuesday, March 09, 2004


Yes, if you haven't seen this already: Know that God Hates Shrimp.
These shall ye eat of all that are in the waters: whatsoever hath fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, them shall ye eat.

And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you. - Leviticus 11:9 & 10
I know that all the fine Christians who abhor homosexuality as an abomination will also direct their disgust at those shrimp-eating decadents who haunt Red Lobster.

Bill "Bookie" Bennett Update

Andrew Sullivan describes how paragon of virtue Bill Bennett continues to lie about Sullivan's position on open marriages between gays. Sullivan is against such open relationships and has made this clear to Bill Bennett in person on live television and in person; still Bennett lies. Sullivan:
I explicitly stated in front of him that he was misreading my book and misrepresenting my position on civil marriage and asked him to stop distorting it in future. He said he was glad to accept my clarification. I asked him again later in private not to distort my position in future. He is still doing so.
True, Bennett proves a particularly pompous and tiresome hypocrite. However, people on either side of the political fence who insist on repeating what they know to be untrue again and again should be ignored, not given the opportunity to appear on every pundit's television show to posture as high priests of virtue while continue dissembling. It just so happens that the far right appears to have a particular proclivity for this practice.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Mikhaela's News Blog

Great blog by Boston-based political cartoonist Mikhaela Blake Reid.

Stats on SC Dems

Fascinating stats from the pre-debate survey in South Carolina reveal how 156 out of 374 respondents had changed their mind about who they'd vote for "in the last few weeks." 32% of those folks who changed their mind had intended on voting for Dean. 23% had previously supported Clark. So, out of eight candidates, more than half the folks who changed their mind had intended to vote for Clark or Dean. Apparently, they both made good initial impressions, but couldn't stand up to the scrutiny of the process. Or maybe the voters just decided, more pragmatically, that Edwards or Kerry were more likely to beat Bush.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Why the Jobs Ain't There

From the NYT, Joshua Shapiro, chief United States economist at NY economic research firm Maria Fiorini Ramirez, explaining why the job market is still sluggish:
To the extent that companies can squeeze another drop of blood out of their existing work force, they're doing it. Eventually you reach the point where there's no more blood to be given, but we haven't reached it yet.

Violence: Good / Sex: Bad

At least that's the case Jonah Goldberg tries to make on the National Review's blog the Corner:
One major difference between movie violence and movie sex is that sex is usually employed to demean traditional notions of morality while movie violence is more often used to re-enforce it.
Is this a startling insight into some sort of muddled thinking of the far right? Goldberg makes no attempt to verify this nonsense. Where are any examples of this preponderance of films proving the notion that movie violence in movies "more often" reinforces "traditional notions of morality"?

I'd argue that violence is seldom used to reinforce any sort of morality in the movies. Most of the time it's used in a sensationalist fashion simply to shock and titillate.

Think of any ten movies out at a given time. How many of those show violence to reinforce traditional values? We have a superprofundity of movies like the Scream franchise, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies, Kill Bill I and II, Bad Boys II or one-offs like Cabin Fever or even the silly Club Dread--films within which violence occurs purely to titillate. Now, you can argue that there's a place for the movies in our culture, but you simply can't argue that they reinforce any sort of moral values--unless you moral values revolve around senseless slaughter intended to shock people out of their narcotized existences. Those may be extreme examples, so consider even more mainstream movies with perhaps less violence: Pirates of the Caribbean and the Indiana Jones movies (Just because Indy's fighting Nazis doesn't mean Spielberg set out to reinforce traditional notions of morality. He clearly set out to entertain. Period.) Fun stuff, right? Then there’s patently silly tripe like Gothika and Twisted. None of these make any pretence of reinforcing traditional morals.

Is Goldberg thinking of movies like Monster, Cold Mountain or The Passion of the Christ? I can't guess what's in his head, so let's use those three as examples, since the directors likely intended for the violence to make a point, instead of simply titillating. Monster is a relatively sympathetic portrayal of a serial killer that, though humanistic, would likely disturb many with conservative, traditional values (and likely wouldn't have had much of an audience in the United States a few decades ago). Many Christians might argue that The Passion of the Christ is a farrago of despicably sensational violence. Perhaps most folks would agree that the violence in Cold Mountain, though intense, befits a realistic portrayal of the Civil war and its attendant horrors: let's not white wash history. So, arguably, most folks might agree that one movie out of those three uses violence effectively. In the case of the other two movies, people with traditional versus progressive backgrounds may the violence disturbing and unjustified, depending on which movie they watch. For the sake of argument, though, let's pretend all three of these movies use violence to support someone’s idea of good morals (traditional or not): Films like these are in the distinct minority. Goldberg's case for violence is indefensible.

Perhaps Goldberg’s argument is better explained as an attempt to justify his own personal proclivities. Earlier the same day, Goldberg also used the blog's space to highlight this rather disturbing video game--you're a yeti and you get to club penguins to death.

Goldberg's comment: "Not pretty, but fun."

Perhaps, Jonah, the violence in movies isn't reflecting anyone's traditional morals; perhaps you just have an unfortunate fascination with it.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Christian Students Support Gay Marriage

Wow. Baylor University's student newspaper The Baylor Lariat has come down on pro the side of the gay marriage debate. The school's president is outraged. He reminded students that, according to the school's policies they're not allowed to participate "in advocacy groups that promote understandings of sexuality that are contrary to biblical teaching."

If progressive sentiments are being expressed at a Baptist school like that, there's real hope for the movement. Another great example of the younger generation throwing off the older generation's intolerance, despite ostensibly sharing many of their other values. (Via Freedom to Marry.)

Hitched to America

First and last flag you'll see on this blog.I'm happy to say I became a United States citizen today. My heart-felt thanks to the friends and family who came to see me sworn in.

I was sworn in with a a group of 76 people from all around the world. People of every race and religion. People from India, Egypt, the United Kingdom, Nigeria, Canada, Russia, Korea and many other countries. There was even another tall, red-headed Aussie.

Events of the last couple of years have really radicalized me, I think. In a good way. As I look back on this blog, I'm surprised by some of what I've written. I've been angry at what I've seen going on in America. Angry with the direction this administration's taking our country's social and foreign policies.

So, today was encouraging for me. I can vote now. I can contribute in new ways to this society, a society I do believe to be a great one, despite its faults. The greatest on earth? Not necessarily. Not unless your measure greatness solely by economic and military power. It's hard to argue with that. I remain proud of my Australian heritage, and plan to maintain my citizenship there as well. I'm never going to be much of a flag-waver; most Aussies didn't get that flag-waving gene. Nonetheless, I'm gladdened by the thought that in some small and local way, I can make an impact in this big, boisterous, ever-evolving and increasingly sophisticated society.

Bill Bennett's Devastating Arguments Against Gay Parenting

Arguing that gay parents might not be good for children, Bill "Bookie" Bennett just told Bill O'Reilly that he saw a child with two mommies on the train. The little girl had a cold and Bennett said she might not be getting the care she could because the two women were mothering her. He admitted it was only anecdotal evidence.

These are the arguments conservatives are coming up with to criticize gay parents?

Bennett had already admitted there was no real proof yet that gays could adequately raise children, so I guess in relating this incident he figured he'd better pull out the real fire power. Bill O'Reilly, much to my surprise, actually challenged him on some of his reasoning.

It's fascinating to watch the conservative arguments against gay marriage disintegrate so quickly.

Pretty soon, all they're going to be left with is "It's an abomination." Folks like Bennett are smart enough to know that argument's not gonna float with the American populus at large any more.

Marriage Creates a Home

Andrew Sullivan brings up a touching argument for gay marriage in a recent interview with
I was a conservative running a liberal magazine; and an English person in an American citadel. I've never really had a home I could call home, a place where someone didn't dispute my right to be there. I have learned to live with that. In the end you die alone. We all do. You have to place faith in friendship and love. I have a loving family, a wonderful boyfriend, a great dog, and several inspiring, funny, ornery friends. That's enough.

Maybe that's one reason I care about marriage rights so much. Most heterosexuals don't realize it but marriage is really a way to create a home. Under current law, gay men and women are forced into social and psychological homelessness. Yes, we've done amazing things creating homes for ourselves outside the law, 'in the shadows', so to speak. But cutting us off from other families, keeping our relationships legally sealed off from others', as if we might contaminate them, is very damaging to the psyche. Mine is permanently damaged. My struggle is to find a way to prevent that from happening to the next generation.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Fisking Dennis Prager

I thought Dennis Prager had some mighty level-headed things to say about relations between Jews and Christians in this article. His views on relations between the same-sex couples, however, aren’t just archaic, they’re positively hysterical. Oddly irrational. His arguments were so simplistic, so junior high debate level, they just cried out for a right royal fisking.

San Francisco and Islamists: Fighting the same enemy
by Dennis Prager
March 2, 2004

America is engaged in two wars for the survival of its civilization. The war over same-sex marriage and the war against Islamic totalitarianism are actually two fronts in the same war -- a war for the preservation of the unique American creation known as Judeo-Christian civilization.
Wow, did he really just say that?!
One enemy is religious extremism. The other is secular extremism.

One enemy is led from abroad. The other is directed from home.
Right, gay = terrorists. (Let's not even pretend he's not tacitly saying this: look at the piece's title.) That formula's so vulgar, I’m not even going to touch it with a barge pole. I’ll focus on fisking the specific ill-conceived arguments against gay marriage below.
The first war is against the Islamic attempt to crush whoever stands in the way of the spread of violent Islamic theocracies, such as al Qaeda, the Taliban, the Iranian mullahs and Hamas. The other war is against the secular nihilism that manifests itself in much of Western Europe, in parts of America such as San Francisco and in many of our universities.

America leads the battle against both religious and secular nihilism and is hated by both because it rejects both equally. American values preclude embracing either religious extremism or radical secularism. As Alexis de Tocqueville, probably the greatest observer of our society, wrote almost 200 years ago, America is a unique combination of secular government and religious (Judeo-Christian) society.
“America leads the battle against secular nihilism.” Love the way hard-right conservatives couple those words "secular nihilism" together as if they’re inseparable. Such sophistication. And then there’s the myth alluded to that the US is a Christian country. That’s a whole other set of arguments, though, and I’m just here to defend my gay friends.
Not only has this combination been unique, it has been uniquely successful. America, therefore, poses as mortal a threat to radical secularism as it does to Islamic totalitarianism. Each understands that America's success means its demise.

This is a major reason why the Left so opposes anti-Islamism (just as it opposed anti-communism). In theory, the Left should be at least as opposed to the Islamists as is the Right. But the Left is preoccupied first with destroying America's distinctive values -- a Judeo-Christian society (as opposed to a secular one), capitalism (as opposed to socialism), liberty (as opposed to equality) and exceptionalism (as opposed to universalism, multiculturalism and multilateralism). So, if the Islamists are fellow anti-Americans, the Left figures it can worry about them later.
The Left opposes anti-Islamism. Boy, where to start with that one. Prager doesn’t even bother to put a modifier (like "fanatical") in front of Islamicism, so yes, I guess the Left does oppose anti-Islamism, just as it would oppose, anti-Americanism, anti-Semiticim, anti-Buddhism, etc. So . . . tempted, but no, I’m here for the gays.
All this explains why the passions are so intense regarding same-sex marriage. Most of the activists in the movement to redefine marriage wish to overthrow the predominance of Judeo-Christian values in American life. Those who oppose same-sex marriage understand that redefining the central human institution marks the beginning of the end of Judeo-Christian civilization.
“Most of the activists in the movement to redefine marriage wish to overthrow the predominance of Judeo-Christian values in American life.” Wow! How do you even begin verify that one! Did you take a poll, Mr. Prager? I think most of the proponents of gay marriage simply think they deserve the same rights as the rest of us. I think the gay couples themselves just want to get married and live happily and in peace—and enjoy the same benefits as the rest of us.

Now, admittedly, some of us do think a secular society (which we already have) is worth maintaining, whilst simultaneously allowing people to practice whatever religious beliefs they like. We just ask that those religious folks don’t attempt to force their beliefs on the rest of us—for instance by saying that gays shouldn’t enjoy the same rights as the rest of us because some religious people buy into superstitious ideas about the gay lifestyle being “an abomination.”
Let us understand this redefinition as clearly as possible:

With same-sex marriage, our society declares by law that mothers are unnecessary, since two men are equally ideal as mothers and as the creators of a family; and that fathers are unnecessary, since two women are equally ideal as parents and as the creators of a family.
Take the percentage of the population, which is gay. Take away those who don’t want to marry. Now, take away those who don’t want kids. What percentage of the population do you think you’re left with? Mothers aren’t necessary? Biologically, that’s ludicrous, of course. But sociologically, who’s to say two gay men can’t raise a child as well or better than one single man? (Would it make you feel better, Mr. Prager, if one member of the gay couple were to take on the traditional motherly roles?) Should it be illegal for a single man to raise a child since that would declare that “that mothers are unnecessary”? (Such drama!)

Obviously, the argument holds no water. Hysterical arguments like these are really just thin fronts for the real issue: sheer and visceral feelings of homophobia on the part of the critic; such feelings press such critics to generate arguments to defend their feelings. They’re horrified. So they grasp awkwardly for arguments, which fall apart under the barest scrutiny of logic. Just come right out and say that you think homosexuality is “an abomination” or whatever other superstitious nonsense you believe. Then folks can either choose to agree or disagree with you, but at least they’ll know your real motivation.
With same-sex marriage, our society declares that there is nothing special or even necessarily desirable about a man and a woman bonding. What is sacred to the proponents of same-sex marriage is the number of people marrying (two, for the time being), not that a man and woman bond.
Why shouldn’t love between any two people be considered sacred? Quit trying to define sacred for everyone! Let each couple decide what’s sacred for themselves. How a gay couple’s decades-long commitment to each other hurt you? It’s a sacred, tender thing to them; it’s none of your damn business.
With same-sex marriage, when taught in school about sex, marriage and family, children will have to be taught that male-male and female-female sex, love and marriage are identical to male-female sex, love and marriage. And when asked, "Who do you think you will marry when you grow up?" thanks to the ubiquitous images of media, far more children will consider members of the same sex.
All this plays into the ol' homophobic, nonverifiable “gayness spreads” myth. So what if kids are taught that they can love people of either gender and it’s OK. Great! Gay kids are still gonna be gays kids and straight kids are still gonna be straight kids. Might more kids experiment? Sure. Does that horrify the homophobes? Sure? Can they show that there’s any real harm in such a fascination? Of course, not. It’s just fear-mongering, pure and simple.
With same-sex marriage, no adoption agency will ever be able to prefer a married man and woman as prospective parents. Aside from the tragedy of denying untold numbers of children a mother and a father, this will lead to a drastic diminution in women placing children for adoption, since most of these women will prefer something that will then be illegal -- that agencies place her child with a man and woman, not with two men or two women.
Since the number of gay couples wanting to adopt compared is unlikely to be equal to the number of hetero couples this argument doesn’t even initially hold water. Furthermore, there’s absolutely no evidence that gay couples can’t be as good parents as straight couples. Should being a single parent be outlawed, too, since (to be consistent with Prager’s argument) single parents couldn’t possibly do the job a hetero couple could?
With same-sex marriage, any media -- films, advertisements, greeting cards -- that only depict married couples as a woman and a man will be considered discriminatory and probably be sued.
Right, the same way that now films, ad and greeting cards—not to mention TV shows, magazine covers and cereal boxes--without inter-racial couples are sued. “Probably sued”? That’s not even remotely verifiable either.
With same-sex marriage, those religious groups that only marry men and women will be deemed beyond the pale, marginalized and ostracized.
Not remotely verifiable or even very likely either. Churches could still choose not to marry gay couples, even as many still choose not to marry divorced people. (I certainly pray that Mr. Prager hasn’t divorced; another practice said to undermine the sanctity of marriage.) And I bet there’s quite a few churches here in the South that won’t marry inter-racial couples either. No one’s stopping them.
There have been many Christian countries, and they are no longer. They have been replaced by secular countries, and they are weakening. Only American civilization remains strong, and it does so because of its unique amalgam of values rooted in Judeo-Christian morality.
Secular countries are weakening? Care to verify that one, Mr. Prager? (There’s that ol’ Christian country myth again, too. Blech.) The United States never has been and never will be a Christian country. Nor is Australia. Nor is Canada. Nor is the Czech Republic, Germany, Japan, Korea (you get the idea) – and, guess what? They’re all doing fine, thanks!
This civilization is now fighting for its life -- as much here as abroad. Join the fight, or it will be gone as fast as you can say "Democrat."
This civilization is evolving—right now perhaps with a rapid burst toward homosexual tolerance (hopefully). It’s evolving into a more sophisticated and tolerant society. It’s slowly evolving into a society that’s more suspicious of superstitious and nonsensical beliefs. (Recent polls must scare the hell out of the old conservative guard: they reveal that young conservative males aren't nearly so concerned with restricting rights from gays as their elders are.)

Prager’s arguments disintegrate upon even a cursory examination. This column is no more than hysterical, non-verifiable nonsense, steeped in superstition and ripened by homophobia.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Reasons Enough

Gator GSA offers 12 compelling reasons why gay marriage will ruin society. Including, "Homosexuality is not natural, much like eyeglasses, polyester, and birth control are not natural." Amen, brother.

Interrupting the Passion

From a somewhat less than mainstream critic:
There is nothing finer than going to a movie about Jesus Christ and listening to people say "Turn that shit off" and "What the fuck?" to annoying cell phones. It warms the very cockles of my evil heart.

O’Reilly Absurdity

Bill O’Reilly actually just said that comparing Howard Stern to Ludacris is like comparing Laura Bush to Lil’ Kim. I want some of whatever he's smoking.

Someone had emailed pointing out O'Reilly's hypocrisy for supporting Stern after Clear Channel booted him and then encouraging folks to boycott Budweiser for deciding to use Ludicris in their television ads.

All Gibson, All the Time

Some apologists for Mel Gibson's movie are telling critics to get over historical inaccuracies in The Passion of the Christ, since, they argue, most films focusing on some passage of history contain such inaccuracies.

This argument is invalid for two significant reasons:

1) Gibson went to great pains to claim he was making the most accurate depiction of Christ's suffering ever created. Some viewers are even claiming it's like a documentary, a judgment which reveals either a lack of sophistication (fine) and at worst a form of willful ignorance (not). I've seen a good 15, 20 minutes of the flick, and it didn't appear remotely like a documentary to me.

2) Filling in gaps with fiction is ostensibly fine, but it's also fine to argue there's an agenda when an identifiable pattern appears in those fictionalized additions: Why is Pilate presented so sympathetically when he clearly historically was actually a brute? Why add scenes of Jesus being physically brutalized by the Jews when the Bible mentions nothing of that? Why does Gibson choose to have the High Priest mock Christ, telling him to come down off the cross if he's the Messiah when that person isn't specifically identified in the Bible?

Step outside of the film and look at how Gibson has responded to questions about his beliefs on the holocaust. When asked about his father's beliefs, he responded that ""My dad taught me my faith, and I believe what he taught me. The man never lied to me in his life." What the hell does that mean? Especially considering his father's an avowed holocaust denier. And why won't Gibson come out clearly on the Holocaust instead of beating around the bush about it? Peggy Noonan asked him about the Holocaust and here's his mealy-mouthed response:
"War is horrible. The Second World War killed tens of millions of people. Some of them were Jews in concentration camps. Many people lost their lives. In the Ukraine, several million starved to death between 1932 and 1933. During the last century 20 million people died in the Soviet Union.”
If you've ever heard arguments from holocaust deniers, their MO is to diminish the scope of the Holocaust by saying fewer Jews dies than reported, and then they invariably conjure up Stalin and the Soviet Union next - sort of a switcheroo to change the subject. Gibson's evasive answer is chilling in its similarity to the deniers. (Note that although he mentions millions dying in WWII, he doesn’t mention millions of Jews specifically, just “Some of them were Jews in concentration camps.”) I’d like to think he’s not a Holocaust denier, but I really believe the jury’s still out on him. Someone really needs to question him better. Specifically.

Point is: You can’t consider the fictional additions Gibson has made to his film without considering the attitudes and beliefs Gibson brought to the table.