Saturday, October 30, 2004

A Few Brief Thoughts About a Very Big Deal

Conflicting reports are circulating these days about the total number of dead civilians in Iraq since the United States occupied that country. Estimates range from a horrifying 100,000 (from the some would say debunked* John Hopkins study) to about 15,000, down to "only" 10 thousand with the kind Christian folks over at the National Review, no doubt, rallying around the latter figure (or a smaller one if they can find it).

Let's be super conservative and work with the smallest estimate of 10,000. A few points to consider:

>We're responsible for the death of three times as many people in Iraq as died on 9/11.

>We've instigated this situation in reaction to 9/11.

>Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.

>Those people are dead because of our fear. After 9/11, we lashed out at Iraq in fear. We justified our nation's actions, we closed our eyes and ears against the facts because we were afraid. As Colin Powell finally admitted, our government even forced the facts to fit so they could

>Every time we ignore or gloss over that figure, we do so to justify our fear, to justify the horror of what we've accomplished.

I make absolutely no apology for saying the following: anyone who cannot admit to these simple facts *must* be in denial.

There are a couple of other possibilities, I suppose, but neither of them prove particularly flattering when applied to the so-called intellectuals who still support the idea that we should've gone to Iraq:

1) They are entirely ignorant of the facts, which is inexcusable if you're a politician or political pundit, but a possibility if you're a member of the public who pays little attention to current events and trusts your politicians and pays some attention to only a select group of media (FOX, Rush)--or ignores the media all together.

2) They are being intellectually dishonest. They're aware of these facts but refuse to do anything about them, being such staunch supporters of their party. In order to dismiss the deaths of so many and be in possession of the historical facts around the invasion of Iraq, this attitude seems to demand a certain amount of hatred for another people or race. That and/or an attitude of pure pragmatism. It's OK if we kill a few thousand people in another country which did not attack us and had nothing to do with 9/11 as long as it scares the terrorists away from us (the efficacy of such a plan can, of course, be hotly debated). This proves the most chilling possibility then: these individuals would understand and be aware of the facts, but don't care. I certainly know some who fit this category, and I've spoken with them. At their most radical they talk about "bombing the entire Middle East to glass" if it'll get rid of all the terrorists. These are the people who refer to Arab people are "ragheads" and "cockroaches." I have no problem calling them racists. At the other end of this nasty spectrum, you have people who will speak in more intellectual and high-falutin terms, and tell you that it doesn't matter if there are no WMD in Iraq; it doesn't matter if Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11; Afghanistan wasn't enough; it was too far away from the Middle East: the United States needed to attack a country that was uncomfortably close to the other Middle Eastern countries so that an American presence there would scare them into submission and perhaps even cause a domino affect, promoting democracy throughout the region. (I'd be willing to believe that this is the real reason we went into Iraq, though some other theories are tempting, too.) Remember now, the point of this entry is to focus on those (at least) 10,000 deaths in Iraq. How many innocent Iraqis must die in the name of an American presence in the Middle East? In the name of promoting freedom? Under the excuse of self defense in the wake of 9/11.

None of these possibilities are particularly appetizing, are they?

My impression is that many people are at least dimly aware of the facts of what has transpired over the past four years, and they suffer from a visceral desire to place their trust in their government. Therefore, I'm left with the belief that much of our country is suffering under the grip of a mass delusion, prompted by the horrific events of 9/11 and reinforced with fear conjured up by the Bush administration at every opportunity. Forged in the wake of 9/11, the flames are fanned in stump speeches, in television advertising, in sound bites and in both foreign and public policy. (This is not to say that their is *nothing* to be afraid of. Only that our current inclination towards fear has been taken advantage of.)

That so many are seemingly blind to this situation which others see with crystalline clarity leaves me feeling unspeakably sad, outraged and helpless.

I think our current national conscience will one day be best described, not be political scientists or historians, but by sociologists and psychologists. And perhaps by poets and authors.

I know all I can do is write about it. And talk about it to those who will listen. With a deep sense of futility.

Back to the point then: So we're "only" responsible for the death of three times as many innocents in Iraq as Americans who died in 9/11? Is that really a record to be proud of?

What use are all our multi-various religions and philosophies if we can't feel sympathy for these innocents? If we can only quibble over *how many* have died. Do we pretend to care about humans, but only care about Americans. How can those on religious right sleep at night and profess outrage when someone mentions the Iraqi dead. Of course, their outrage is only ever over *the mention* of the dead, not the dead themselves.

I'm not a pacifist. Although I was afraid of how we'd handle Afghanistan, I think going there was the right thing to do. But now we're making a mess in Iraq. We're apparently responsible for the deaths of far more people there than died here in 9/11.

And we're in denial about it.


Additional Information:

PDF of the Johns Hopkins article "Mortality rates before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq" from The Lancet medical journal.

*Note that many of the articles and blogs which try to debunk the 100,000 figure make no attempt to provide another figure. They have no desire to draw reasonable attention to the number of dead Iraqi civilians at all. It's hard to see this as anything other than some sort of racism or misanthropy.

I have no idea what the accurate figure is, though it seems it would have to be significantly greater than the number of U.S. civilians who died on 9/11. Yet, we're not supposed to draw attention to the death of *these* innocents.

Deja Vu All Over Again

The Onion offers helpful info on the Countdown To The Recount 2004 and also highlights the GOP's efforts this year to encourage minorities to vote. On November 3rd.

Nightmare on Pennsylvania Ave

Human Rights Campaign presents Nightmare on Pennsylvania Ave. Don't let it happen. Go vote!

A Rude Endorsement

The Rude Pundit offers us a blistering endorsement of Kerry, reminding us that JFK's 10 times the hero Bush will never be.

As Super Lit Teacher Michael Bérubé points out, Rude Pundit's endorsement proves a strong antidote for the ubiquitous but half-hearted endorsements over at Slate. I often find myself wishing for a stronger candidate, too, so there are some good reminders.

There's this too: senators always have a harder time attaining the Presidency, since their long voting records in the Senate can be used against them--even if they're good records from one party's perspective. That's why we get so many governors in the White House (Hi George, Hi Bill, Hi Ronnie). All that to say: if Kerry wins, it will indicate a huge referendum against Bush.

Even if it's close, and Bush wins, it'll indicate how little faith people have in the President. In that case, maybe Bush will choose to rule to the center, right? Er, no. That's what happened last time, remember? After Bush squeaked out a "victory" last time, many of us bravely assumed he'd try to unite the coutnry by appealing to folks on both sides of the political divide. Instead, Bush has catered to the right ever since.

You Got Paid for That?

New York magazine's Ken Tucker writes the laziest film review I've seen in a long time (in a national magazine anyway). There's no real indication that he even saw the movie in his pretentious 155-word slacker review. He spends more time describing Nicole Kidman's hair than he does on the flick's plot. If you're that jaded with reviewing movies, get another job, dude.

For what it's worth, I think Jonathan's Glazer's Birth is better than the reviews it's been getting. Glazer has also directed a number of striking music videos including Massive Attack's Karmakoma clip and "that Jamiroquai video" ("Virtual Isanity") and Sexy Beast, which showed us that Ben Kingsley could play the devil as well as he could Ghandi--and likely landed him that role in House of Sand of Fog, I reckon.

Friday, October 29, 2004

This Is Not an Ashlee Post (Exactly)

Tony Pierce list 50 bands that should have been on SNL instead of Ashlee Simpson.

I can't find one I'd part with him on--not even Dolly Parton who annoys the hell outta me. I can think of another 50, I'd add. Luna, Massive Attack, Willie Nelson, Spiritualized, The Streets, Pete Townshend (I know!), China Crisis, The Beasties, Jim White, The Goldenrods, The Thrills, Juana Molina, the unearthed body of Johnny Cash . . . etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Metaphor for the Moment

Jim Treacher comes up with a real ringer, I reckon:
I've got election fatigue like Courtney Love's got a few gentle quirks.
Treacher also points us to this amazing version of U2's "Sunday Bloody Sunday" sung (well, William Shatner style) by one George W. Bush. That's right. I dunno how long it must've taken this guy, but he's taken clips of Bush speaking and edited them together to match the lyrics of the *entire* song.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Dept. of 'Nuff Said

And guys, if you exploit a girl, it will come back to get you. That's called "karma." - Bill O'Reilly, "The O'Reilly Factor for Kids"

It's the @*$%, Stupid!


Hero Worship

Boy, am I glad I missed this: Sean Hannity "interviewing" Dick Cheney. Sample extract:
"Well, here you are in the all-important swing state of Ohio," Hannity began.

"Right," Cheney replied.

"The president yesterday mentioned the shameless scare tactics that are being used by the Democrats and more particularly John Kerry, who is now on the stump regularly saying that there's a big January surprise," Hannity said, referring to talk of privatization of Social Security.

"Right," Cheney replied.
OK, I'm only linking to The Nation's review of the interview, not a transcript, so I don't know how the whole thing went, but I suspect we've seen enough. Do read on to see how he treats U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La.
After Hannity referred to what had just finished as "the interview I had with the vice president," Landrieu corrected him. "I wouldn't call what just happened with the vice president an interview. I think it was an infomercial for the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign."

Hannity blew up, screaming, "Senator, senator, I think you're a lousy senator, okay?" Then he whined, "If you don't like it, I don't really care."

But, of course, he did care.

After the Fox host repeatedly interrupted Landrieu, the senator said, "Sean, let me finish please. You did not interrupt the vice president."

"Well, you're not the vice president," Hannity growled, "and I doubt you ever will be."
The man really is a thug.

Stunner: Hitchens Endorses Kerry?

I'm not sure I can trust my eyes. After his stolid defense of the war in Iraq all this time, Christopher Hitchens appears to be endorsing Kerry. If I'm reading him right. I'm mean his tone still drips with vitriole, so it may be a satirical endorsement. Who knows. Or maybe he's simply still a lefty, who thought Iraq was the right thing to do.

Decide for yourself:
I am assuming for now that this is a single-issue election. There is one's subjective vote, one's objective vote, and one's ironic vote. Subjectively, Bush (and Blair) deserve to be re-elected because they called the enemy by its right name and were determined to confront it. Objectively, Bush deserves to be sacked for his flabbergasting failure to prepare for such an essential confrontation. Subjectively, Kerry should be put in the pillory for his inability to hold up on principle under any kind of pressure. Objectively, his election would compel mainstream and liberal Democrats to get real about Iraq.

The ironic votes are the endorsements for Kerry that appear in Buchanan's anti-war sheet The American Conservative, and the support for Kerry's pro-war candidacy manifested by those simple folks at MoveOn.org. I can't compete with this sort of thing, but I do think that Bush deserves praise for his implacability, and that Kerry should get his worst private nightmare and have to report for duty.
Yeah, however it's couched, and however unenthusiastic, that looks like an endorsement to me. This after I thought he wrote his endorsement of Bush in The Nation scarcely a week ago, saying he was "slightly for Bush." I'm confused. Did he change his mind after hearing about the disappearing munitions perhaps? Was that the last straw? I can hardly believe it's that simple. But I can't believe that the long-time liberal would swing that far to the right over 9/11 either. I mean, in addition to being a long-time liberal, Hitchens is an atheist, so this administration's disdain for science and its love affair with the religious right has got to sicken him. But there's no mention of that in his endorsement. *Something* knocked him over the fence though.

Additionally, Hitch was one of the many Slate writers to endorse Kerry in a massive landslide: 45-4. Dang, that ain't gonna do much to undermine the public's perception of a "liberal media," is it?

No comments on Hitch's reversal over at The National Review yet. Too depressing for them, I'm betting.

(Via Kevin Drum)

(P.S. Now, kids, isn't all this far more gripping than Ashlee's SNL fiasco?)

Monday, October 25, 2004

Winston Churchill: Gag Writer

Recently, when Tucker Carlson (AKA Bowtie Boy) told Crossfire guest John Stewart that he wasn't wasn't being funny on the show, Stewart replied, "You're right. But tomorrow I'll go back to being funny, but your show will still blow."

Wonder if anyone else has noted that Stewart was likely ripping off Winston Churchill. In response to a woman's comment, "Sir, you are drunk!" he famously rejoined, "Madam, you are ugly. But in the morning I shall be sober."

Surely one of the greatest (if also meanest) put-downs of all time.

Ashlee Update!

OK, I lied. I may never write about her again. I did see this great bumper sticker on the way home tonight though:
Hey Cheney! Same to you!
Also came across this bumper sticker contest which the Seattle Post-Intelligencer ran. It included some great entries, including the following:
  • When you read bumper stickers, the terrorists win
  • In case of re-election, bang head here
  • Got WMD? Iraq doesn't either?
  • G.W. stands for Global Warming
  • Bush's Healthy Forests Initiative: No tree left behind
  • 2000 -- Bush steals 'Home.' 2004 -- Bush 'Called' OUT
  • George W. Bush: not a real hero, but he plays one on TV
  • George and Osama agree: Don't need a democracy when you got a theocracy!
  • Moving to Canada '04
  • My God can lick your God
  • Nixon: now more than ever!
  • I'll take care of oil prices -- George W. Bush, 2000 debates [actual quote]
Sure, I mainly cherry-picked the anti-Bush ones. So sue me!

My own contribution would be:
Vote Democrat: the Party of Fiscal Conservatism

Let the Spin Begin

I saw Peggy Noonan on CNN earlier this evening talking about the 360 tons of explosives missing from the Al Qaqaa facility in Iraq. And what does she say? "The first thing I thought was, I didn't think there were any WMD in Iraq."

Ah, so that's gonna be the spin. You'll notice that Noonan didn't say there *are* WMD in Iraq. She simply made a connection between these missing munitions and the missing WMD (two different things missing for two entirely different reasons, sad to say), though doubtless she knows the munitions are *not* WMD. It's just like the Bush administration mentioning Iraq and 9/11 in the same sentence so often that now most of the populace thinks Iraq attacked us on 9/11. If anyone confronts the administration about this conflation of events, they have (very flimsy) plausible deniability.

So Peggy's hoping we'll overlook the Bush's administration's glaring incompetence and conclude, "See there are WMD in Iraq."

Peggy, George and Dick don't seem to mind what we believe as long as we vote Republican and they can technically say, "We never said that" when confronted with fallacies which become conventional wisdom.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Busted!

You know those pop musicians who claim they don't lip sync? Well, I just saw Ashlee Simpson get busted *live* on Saturday Night Live moments ago. She came on to sing her second song for the night, but suddenly started "singing" the same one she had "sung" earlier. A few words in, she dropped the mic to her side, but kept "singing." She stood there for an eternal few seconds, perhaps thinking they'd segue into the correct song, kind of wandering around the stage, then she walked off. The band kept playing, started jamming--sans vocalist--until the show cut to a photo of Jude Law then went to commercials. Wonder if that'll be a career ender? It's gonna be hard for her to live it down. I've never seen anything quite like it before on live telly. An unmitigated disaster.

Update 10:35 PM - Of all the stuff I've posted on this blog, Ashlee Simpson gets the most comments. Go figure. Welcome ya'll.

Update 10/25/04 - Thanks to Defamer, for the nod. No wonder my visits are going up.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Slippery Slope

Some thing fascinating to note about NY Times chart is that Bush owes any of his approval ratings to the country rallying around him after 9/11. His approval was already slipping towards the dark side of 50% when on 9/11, his approval rating spiked. Then it steadily declines until the invasion of Iraq, declines again until Saddam is captured, etc, until now with Kerry (and Senators are notoriously hard to elect) running against him, his popularity hovers around an all-time low. I'm not saying that the administration engineered anything to improve his ratings (I'll leave that for the tin-foil crowd), but this pattern would seem to indicate that the public's thinking about Bush has definitely been clouded by the events of the last four years.

*P.S. I couldn't link directly to the chart, so click over to "Public Opinion: Bush's Term" to see it. The Flash presentation defaults to a map you can manipulate to see which states Bush or Kerry would have to take to win the election. The LA Times offers a similar map. (I think they had theirs first.)

Dirty Dancing With Wolves

Over at Wolfpacks for Truth, wolves complain about their recent mischaracterization by the Bush campaign. They proclaim:
We are not Terrorists!

George W. Bush incorrectly labelled my wolfpack as a terrorist threat. We are NOT terrorists. We do not associate with terrorists (unless you count that pesky wolverine) and FRANKLY, we don't even like terrorists!
They also endorse John Kerry for President.

Hitch in Dah House?

Christopher Hitchens returns to The Nation with an essay explaining why he's "slightly for Bush." Is equalibrium slowly returning to the universe?

Not really. Here's his summary:
The President, notwithstanding his shortcomings of intellect, has been able to say, repeatedly and even repetitively, the essential thing: that we are involved in this war without apology and without remorse. He should go further, and admit the evident possibility of defeat--which might concentrate a few minds--while abjuring any notion of capitulation. Senator Kerry is also capable of saying this, but not without cheapening it or qualifying it, so that, in the Nation prisoners' dilemma, he is offering you the worst of both worlds. Myself, I have made my own escape from your self-imposed quandary. Believe me when I say that once you have done it, there's no going back. I have met a few other ex-hostages, and they all agree that the relief is unbelievable. I shall be meeting some of you again, I promise, and the fraternal paw will still be extended.

Pleasant Surprise: FCC Vs. Sinclair

Hey, whatta yah know: the FCC comes down on the side of good for once.

GOD & the GOP

God told us to beat our swords into plowshares. God. Wrong on defense. Wrong for America.
Bill Maher on his HBO show tonight.

Maher also pointed out that Bush claimed God guided him into Iraq, while Pat Robertson said God told him the war in Iraq might just be a bad idea. So God changed his mind? Flip flop! Flip flop!

Fixated

Partisan advertising doesn't get much lower than this.

All those photos in the papers earlier this year of mainstream gay couples getting married and the makers of this ad manage to dig up some photos of leather boys getting married to include. Note that there's not a single shot of the typical gays you and I know in the ad's opening monents. Hey, I'll defend the leather boys, too, but just had to point out the deception here.

Then the overwhelming majority of the rest of the ad consists of photos of Kerry and Edwards, implying some sort of homosexual attraction between the two of them. That's your argument? If you're homophobic, vote for Bush? Kerry's shown playing football poorly. That's your argument? Don't vote for a girly man? A girly man who was shot doing his duty in Vietnam. Not that it matters. I'd vote for a girly man in an instant if I thought he'd run the country sensibly.

And did I mention, it's such a *long* ad. Unnecessarily long. It's as if the guy editing it really got caught up in all that homoerotic imagery and didn't know when to lay off.

(Via Andrew Sullivan, who was understandably incensed by this peurile exercise in bigotry.)

Friday, October 22, 2004

Where Each Candidate Stands

This really may help some of the undecideds. And I hafta admit, Bush struts his money walk pretty damn fine. But, then, he is a natural. Don't forget to cast your vote.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Triumph Takes No Prisoners

As usual, trust Triumph the Comic Insult Dog to cut through the, er, poop, and offer a pithy observation:
Oh, it's Karl Rove! It's the brains. You're Bush's brains, Karl. I was expecting a much smaller man. . . . Yes. [Turns to camera.] I'm a dead man.
You can download the whole skit--Triumph Does Spin Alley--here, but be prepared for some sometimes jawdroppingly naughty humor. Ralph Reed (surprise!) has no idea how to respond.

Coming from All Sides

"This administration cannot be trusted to govern if it cannot be counted on to think and having thought, to have second thoughts."

John Kerry? Mike McCurry? No, that would be George Will.

He's quoted in an article by Marlow W. Cook, a Republican ,a Jefferson County judge from 1962-1968, and U.S. senator from Kentucky from 1968-1975. He goes on to say the following:
I am not enamored with John Kerry, but I am frightened to death of George Bush. I fear a secret government. I abhor a government that refuses to supply the Congress with requested information. I am against a government that refuses to tell the country with whom the leaders of our country sat down and determined our energy policy, and to prove how much they want to keep that secret, they took it all the way to the Supreme Court.

Those of you who are fiscal conservatives and abhor our staggering debt, tell your conservative friends, "Vote for Kerry," because without Bush to control the Congress, the first thing lawmakers will demand Kerry do is balance the budget.

That's No Joking Matter, Sir

MoveOn has a a lacerating new ad out.
“My brother died in Baghdad on April 29th,” Brooke Campbell says in the spot. “I watched President Bush make a joke, looking around for weapons of mass destruction. My brother died looking for weapons of mass destruction.”
Quite a gut punch I'd say, and unlike so many ads out right now, it doesn't bend the truth at all, doesn't take anyone out of context. More of these please.

A Little Off There, Minister

I had heard the story about the Aussie journalist in Iraq who was saved by Google, but I hadn't heard this part, which proves quite humorous now that the incident is over:
Returning home yesterday, Martinkus demanded an apology from Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, who had said the journalist was abducted when he went to a Baghdad neighbourhood that he was warned not to visit. "He was advised not to go, but he went there anyway," Downer told Melbourne radio station 3AW.

"Alexander Downer doesn't know his geography very well,'' Martinkus told reporters after arriving at Sydney's airport. "I was actually across the road from the Australian embassy when I was kidnapped. He should apologize to me, actually — personally.''

No Satire, Please, We're Walmart!

Another reason not to shop at Walmart:No sense of humor.

Vote or Die!

Rock the Vote!

Well, no, just vote. Sean Combs might suggest otherwise, but I say, "Don't be a hater." Rock the Vote, I can dig though.

As a recently minted U.S. citizen, I voted for the first time in a U.S. presidential election today. We have early voting here in NC, so now I have wait through the next couple of weeks with my gut clenched. We joked about that after a handful of us went to vote this afternoon: it might be a couple of months before we know the outcome, not a couple of weeks. Let's hope not.

We Have a Winner!

Columbia Journalism Review honors Sinclair Broadcast Group with a much deserved award: their first annual Ben Bagdikian Media Monopoly Award.
As the world is learning this week, Sinclair owns or operates 62 television stations that collectively reach 24 percent of the American market. Some of those stations are in swing states in the razor-thin presidential race. The company, not normally known for journalistic enterprise, decided that it would be a good idea in the few remaining days before November 2 to air large chunks of "Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal," a highly partisan (and disputed) documentary attacking John Kerry's antiwar activities after he got back from Vietnam. Sinclair is packaging "Stolen Honor" as news and directing 40 of its stations to run a program about it, uninterrupted, in prime time Friday night.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Mystery Solved



(Happy Go Larry via Boing Boing.)

America, You're Not as Free as You Think

Saheli points us to this (almost) unbelievable story:
President Bush taught three Oregon schoolteachers a new lesson in irony – or tragedy – Thursday night when his campaign removed them from a Bush speech and threatened them with arrest simply for wearing t-shirts that said “Protect Our Civil Liberties,” the Democratic Party of Oregon reported. . . .

The women said they did not intend to protest. "I wanted to see if I would be able to make a statement that I feel is important, but not offensive, in a rally for my president," said Janet Voorhies, 48, a teacher in training.

“We chose this phrase specifically because we didn't think it would be offensive or degrading or obscene," said Tania Tong, 34, a special education teacher.
I guess "Protect Our Constitution" wouldn't fly these days either.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Methinks the Dude Doth Protest too Much

Slate's Michael Hastings cuts through Bill O'Reilly's spin to reveal the Fox personality's long-standing and barely concealed on-air fascination with porn.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Flashback 2000: What If W had Won?

In this rather unsettling, but thankfully fictional scenario, Will Shetterly wonders "What if George W. Bush had been elected president?"

As Big as Small Can Possibly Get



Smart, a Mercedes company, makes those tiny cars you see in Europe that make Minis look rather hulking. The diesel versions get up to 70 mpg. As Wired reports, in order for Smart to sell their little autos in the U.S. market, they decided they had to create a Smart SUV. Yes, it's a mini SUV. Sad, huh?

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Finally, the Truth About the Bulge

BBC News Online's Kevin Anderson on his favourite moment from today's Sunday morning shows:
Tim Russert asked Ken Mehlman what the bulge in Mr Bush's jacket was in the first debate.

"Let me clear up this. Let me come clean. He was receiving secret signals from aliens in outer space. You heard it first here," Mr Mehlman said in a convincing dead pan.

Kerry strategist Bob Shrum said, "You've sent Karl Rove into outer space?!"
For what it's worth, I'm guessing it's a bullet-proof jacket or some sort of back support--if there's anything there at all. But in this election, there are much bigger issues we should be paying attention to.

Drink Up!

On NPR Friday afternoon, I heard a story about the increased popularity of beer in Russia since the rise of capitalism. Seems they used to have a choice between a couple of watery beers and now they have 30, 40 Russian beers to choose from. Problem is folks consider beer something akin to a soft drink (apparently, it's even marketed as a health drink), they can drink it anywhere in public, and they're drinking loads of it. One guy offered this amusing if alarming quote:
I don't think beer is an alcoholic drink. How could it be when it tastes so refreshing?"

The Jury Ain't Out, George

So far, Bill Maher's the only one out there I've heard agree explicitly with my thoughts on George Bush's response to Bob Schieffer's "Is homosexuality a choice?" question in the final debate. As you'll recall, the President of United Sates of America answered, "I don't know."

I find that answer absolutely inexcusable. As Bill Maher pointed out on his HBO show Friday night, this has been Bush's answer to evolution and global warming, too, and it exhibits an ignorance if not a total disdain for science. As Maher pointed out, the jury is not out on these issues. There's clear scientific evidence that homosexuality is not a choice, that evolution is a fact, that global warming is a reality. Yet, we allow our president to say, "I don't know," thereby catering to and capitalizing upon rampant ignorance. And perhaps he really *doesn’t know,* and if so that only highlights the dearth of his qualifications for the job.

I know there are others out there who'd agree, but I'm dismayed that it's Kerry's answer (which obviously included his own political calculations) which has received all the attention. Even Andrew Sullivan said little more than "[Bush] artfully said he simply didn't know whether homosexuality is a choice."

Artful? Perhaps. But to me Bush's response speaks far more to an astonishing amount of ignorance and a disdain for science that we should be horrified to find in our President. (Yes, I'm repeating myself. Consider it emphasis.) Can we please have a President who leads us intellectually and doesn't cater to the lowest common denominator? Who doesn't likely buy into much of the superstitous nonsense still common in our country?

Ralph, Please!

RalphPlease.org asks concerned citizens to send them donations, which will eventually be forwarded to Public Citizen, Ralph Nader's group devoted to "openness and democratic accountability in government."

The idea is Ralph gets the money if he drops out of the Presidential race. My, my, folks are getting creative.

Interviewed on NPR's Marketplace, Ralph wasn't happy: "I think it's disgraceful. It's a form of bribery. They should be ashamed of themselves and withdraw immediately."

I tend to agree with Ralph. Even if he wanted to accept the money, it would look like a bribe, so Ralph can only choose not to accept the money (unless he were freakin' insane). So the action by Ralphplease.org becomes no more than a political stunt.

Bloggers Unite to Fight Forgery!

Received an email from Yes Bush Can, a site which purports to be supporting W for re-election.

Since bloggers recently proved that documents CBS used to build a case against Bush's military service were fake, Yes Bush Can asks bloggers to prove that several documents are fake which might place the administration in a poor light, including DUI charges for Bush (2), Cheney (1), and a Bush daughter (1); memoes to and from Ken Lay (2), and a document warning that and attack by Osama Bin Laden on the United States was imminent.

I wish these guys luck in their enterprise. And, hey, go bloggers!

(Yes, the DUIs are a low blow.)

Sewing the Words of Wisdom

Jake Gyllenhaal offers some sage advice on getting the kids to vote:
The "Brokeback Mountain" star told [The Daily News] at the recent concert for the American Civil Liberties Union that "voter registration forms need to be places where young people are going to see them." Like? "Pornography and cigarettes and condoms - places where they can't miss them. Things young people actually buy."

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Drilling a Hole Through the Bottom of the Barrel

If this is true, it's incredibly disheartening:
Employees of a private voter registration company allege that hundreds, perhaps thousands of voters who may think they are registered will be rudely surprised on election day. The company claims hundreds of registration forms were thrown in the trash.

Anyone who has recently registered or re-registered to vote outside a mall or grocery store or even government building may be affected.

The I-Team has obtained information about an alleged widespread pattern of potential registration fraud aimed at democrats. Thee focus of the story is a private registration company called Voters Outreach of America, AKA America Votes.

The out-of-state firm has been in Las Vegas for the past few months, registering voters. It employed up to 300 part-time workers and collected hundreds of registrations per day, but former employees of the company say that Voters Outreach of America only wanted Republican registrations.
I'm speechless. Can you get any lower than this? How do you combat this without returning evil with evil? I hope no one on the left stoops that low.

You're always gonna have some cretin who registers multiple times or registers dead folks, his cat, whatever. But on this scale? It's obscene.

I hope the relevant people are prosecuted one way or another.

(Via Josh Marshall)

Monday, October 11, 2004

RIP Reeve

You'd think Christopher Reeve would be one of those people upon whose death we all could shed a tear or at least feel a moment of sadness. Not much you could say bad about him.

Or so I thought. As Digby points out, some on the far right are practically celebrating his demise. Why? Well, apparently, he's a baby killer. And if conspiracy theories are your thing: more than one poster over at The Free Republic posits that Kerry knew Reeve was dying when he mentioned him in the debate the other night, knowing he'd win sympathy days later. Similar ideas around Kerry making Reeve a stem cell martyr, too. Depressing stuff.

(Via Michael Bérubé)

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Choices

Count "lifelong Republican" and former Georgia state representative Bob Barr as another conservative who's not terribly excited about voting for Bush.

I say, vote Democrat. The party of fiscal conservatism. Problem solved.

Looks like he's leaning Libertarian though. Maybe Bush will be the one losing votes to a third-party candidate this time?

(Via Andrew Sullivan)

Moira Hahn



Moria Hahn has updated her site with more examples of her rich, wonderful and sometimes delightfully disturbing art. In the above piece, "Ukiyo-e Remix II/Revenge of the Tori," we discover cats disrupting some birds printing Wanted poster of the neighborhood cats. Gloriously colorful.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Speaking from the Grave

Bill Hicks on life as a ride:
The world is like a ride in an amusement park. And when you choose to go on it, you think it's real because that's how powerful our minds are. And the ride goes up and down and round and round. It has thrills and chills and it's very brightly coloured and it's very loud and it's fun, for a while. Some people have been on the ride for a long time and they begin to question, is this real, or is this just a ride? And other people have remembered, and they come back to us, they say, "Hey - don't worry, don't be afraid, ever, because, this is just a ride..."

And we... kill those people.

Ha ha

"Shut him up."

"We have a lot invested in this ride. Shut him up. Look at my furrows of worry. Look at my big bank account and my family. This just has to be real."

Just a ride. But we always kill those good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok. But it doesn't matter because: It's just a ride. And we can change it anytime we want. It's only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings and money. A choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love, instead, see all of us as one. Here's what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride. Take all that money that we spend on weapons and defences each year and instead spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Thoughts on Tonight's Debate

Kerry just did something pretty powerful: he just turned around, addressed Bush directly, and accused him of ignoring the report on WMD. Bush looked surprised, quickly tried to make light of the moment with his facial expression. But Kerry looked forceful. And he towered over Bush. He dressed him down. Almost looked like a fist fight was gonna break out.

Bush tries to blame lack of success on the military - the advice he got from them, that is - bet they'll appreciate that.

"That answer almost made me wanna scowl." Great rebuttal W.

Kerry's addressing Bush directly quite often. Bush hasn't been able to do this. "You've got a backdoor draft right now." He rattled of a list of military who support him, specifically mentioning at least one who served under Bush's father's administration.

Bush is angry. Interrupts Charles Gibson--practically shouts him down. He's starting to look and sound crazed. We're watching something historic, I think.

Bush seems out of breath now. Kerry seems reasonable and measured in comparison.

When folks over at The National Review are all over the map about Bush's performance and his presidency, you something's awry. Cliff May:
Kerry really is making the argument that Bush should be fired.

He really isn’t making the argument that he should be hired.

Does he really not need to?

I mean this as a serious question, to which I don’t know the answer.
Kerry shows how Bush has flip-flopped on buying drugs from Canada. Great big belly laugh from me at this point.

Bush finally addresses Kerry directly after that.

Kerry: "We did something you don't know how to do. We balanced the budget." Another belly laugh. Who knew Kerry was such a comedian.

Unintentional humor from Bush: he says Kerry's not convincing as a fiscal conservative. Heh. True fiscal conservative's shouldn't be happy with Bush's deficit.

Interesting how often Kerry mentions John McCain in a positive light. Bush, er, hasn't had the opportunity, I suppose, to mention such specific bi-partisan support.

Funniest question so far: "Mr. President, how would you rate yourself as an environmentalist?"

The folks over at the NRO have another defensive disclaimer up again tonight:
WELCOME...readers from the Kerry Campaign, Democratic National Committee, Washington Post, New York Times, Liberal Blogs, & other political commentators. As we always do, tonight we'll be making a running assessment of George W. Bush's and John Kerry's performance in St. Louis. We saw your reports about some of our criticisms of President Bush during the first presidential debate and we're glad you're reading. Tonight, if we should say something positive about President Bush, we want you to know you're welcome to report that, too.

Sincerely, National Review Online
Truly cringeworthy.

In a year when the Republicans would like to rewrite the Constitution, not a single question or mention of gay rights.

Good closing question though: name three mistakes you've made, Mr President. As usual, Bush refuses to admit to any mistakes, though he says he made some mistakes nominating some individuals to positions. Which is kind of like blaming those individuals for his mistakes. Nice.

Unfit for Print

In this brief review, Susannah Meadows effectively explains why Unfit For Command, the nasty and untruthful diatribe against Kerry by John E. O'Neill and Jerome R. Corsi isn't fit to read.

Star Track

On a much lighter note, I just heard William Shatner's version of Pulp's Common People and it's bloody hilarious. And I think I mean that as a compliment. It's from his new album Has Been, which is produced by Ben Folds. Joe Jackson joins him on the tune, too. That's right: Shatner, Folds and Jackson. Now, there's a supergroup in the making!

Minnie Driver's version of the Boss's "Hungry Heart" ain't bad either, believe it or not.

Hearing this stuff on Rhapsody, by the way.

From the Veep Debates



Cheney considers his words carefully . . .

(From Here to Obscurity via Boing Boing.)

Hear, Hear, James

Author James Wolcott has a blog within which recently he offered his thoughts on "comedian" Dennis Miller:
[After the Veep debates], I watched Jay Leno, whose first guest was Dennis Miller, whose soul has sprouted tumors. He belted out the name of Bush's campaign website, and said he was voting for the guy because Bush, man, he begins each day with one thing on his mind. He hops outta bed, "his two feet hit the floor, he scratches his balls, and says, 'Let's kill some fuckin' terrorists.'" Dennis Miller not only sounds like Michael Savage, he's beginning to look like him too, an oily stain possessing the power of speech.

Errol's Ads

Usinf his now familiar up-close-and-personal style, Errol Morris, director of the exceptional documentary, The Fog of War, has created a series of compelling ads, which feature people who voted in the Bush in 2004, who'll be voting for Kerry next month. The reasons vary and people from all walks of life articulate how fed up they are with Bush's direction with the environment, the economy, the war in Iraq, of course, and some even convincingly question his Christian values.

A particularly colorful example: Richard Dove, a retired Colonel, U.S. Marines:
I have a Dodge Pickup Truck and it's a big, red — it looks like a fire engine, it's so big. Across the tailgate of this truck is a sign in huge letters that says — it's one I created and paid for — it says "Save the Earth. Send Bush to Mars. I am a Republican." I'm getting about eighty, eighty-five percent thumbs up. Now, occasionally, I'll get somebody to put a different finger in the air. But usually it's the thumbs up that I get.
One of the most powerful quotes comes from Kim Mecklenburg, a financial advisor:
We're in an era where to dissent is considered unpatriotic. And if there's ever a moment when I'm fearful that I'm going to lose my clients because I speak out about what I believe is right for me, then that's the time that we're in dire need of change. I'm a Republican and I'm voting for John Kerry. If I lose all of my clients, then I lose all of my clients.
Now, that's integrity.

Know someone who's undecided? Pass this link on to them.

(Via Kevin Drum.)

DC Comics

The Jib Jab guys who brought your This Land is Our Land are back with another satirical Flash cartoon Good to be in DC.

A Moral Arc?

The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice. -- Martin Luther King Jr.
A lovely quote. One can only hope it's true. I don't think there's any guarantee. It's up to humanity to ensure it happens.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Thoughts on the Veep Debate

This is a much more substantial debate than the first Presidential one.

At one point Gwen Ifill even joins the fray:

Dick: I can respond, but it'll take more than 30 seconds.
Gwen: Well, that's all you've got.

No surprise: Cheney proves a *far* better debater than Bush. (Like that, NRO folks?) He also can deliver a hard blow very coolly and very deliberately. His line about this being the first time he's ever met Edwards because he's never seen him in the Senate floor was well-delivered and effective. Might be the kind of thing to sway undecideds.

Edwards' best line (and he used it twice:
"A long resume does not make for good judgment.
Surprised Gwen asked Cheney directly about the gay marriage issue, even alluding to his daughter. Good to see this highlighted. Cheney tries to have his cake and eat it too: the president sets policy and he supports it. That how Iraq worked, too, Dick? Kinda don't think so. Edwards was fairly careful in his response. Interestingly enough (and as per usual), Edwards appears far more comfortable using the word "gay" than the Republican does. Edwards gives a long, but fairly thorough explanation about what's wrong and politically divisive about the marriage amendment.

NRO's Jonah Goldberg thinks Cheney answered better:
That Dick Cheney -- whose daughter is gay and whose boss is for the FMA -- would be less awkward explaining his position that the Democratic nominee.
I disagree - all Cheney did was blameshift. Of course, his blameshifting was also a tacit way of saying he disagrees with the President. And to be fair, Bush has placed his Veep in a very inenviable position on this issue.

Ifell is tough! On trial laywers to Cheney: is Edwards part of the problem. Cheney smartly evades, saying he doesn't know Edwards' record. Edwards has the opportunity now to hit a home run: provide a concrete example of the *good* trial lawyers can do - will he take it? Yep, he pulls out a personal story and doesn't wring it for emotion either. Not exactly a homer though.

Edwards has a distracting habit of awkwardly pursing his lips when he hears something he doesn't like. Not quite as annoying as the Bush smirk.

This was a close debate. I'm not sure Edwards won. Cheney's a veteran at this and though I disagree with his policies and this his boss is the worst President we've had in my lifetime, his sense of authority is commanding. Even when he's wrong.

And unfortunately, people vote based on their impressions. Hopefully, their impression of Bush is so bad by now, it'll top any doubts they have about Edwards vs. Cheney. Especially since Edwards is obviously a highly intelligent and decent individual. In other words, he may be young(ish) and relatively inexperienced, but he's no Dan Quayle.

From Edwards' closer:
I have grown up in the bright light of America, but that light is flickering today.
His voice cracked as he said it.

I know how you feel Senator. I know how you feel.

Cheney ends with a message of fear: vote for us in case the terrorists attack again. That's what the Bush has been capitalizing on ever since 9/11. Fear. And I guess they'll continue to do so.

Touchy!



Amusing banner The National Review's got on their blog tonight. Feeling a little defensive are we?

I note that they went in later and changed the text to red, too. Emphasis.

Give Me Something to Believe In

The Church of Reality offers a unique take on the subject of God:
We as a church do not believe in supernatural deities like God. However, if such a deity shows up and comes out of hiding, we will believe in it. If God does show up - I will host his web site for free.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Too True, Tutu, Too True

Only Jon Stewart could interview Bishop Desmond Tutu and have him in stitches, yet still be respectful of the man.

On the Daily Show tonight, Tutu was generous in his evaluation of the United States since 9/11. He said people around the world still love Americans, but added, "One hopes that you will export, not bombs, but your compassion and your generosity."

2046



Wonderful NYT article on Wong Kar-Wai and his upcoming flick 2046--a semi-sequel to In the Mood for Love. The article focuses especially on Wong's notoriously scattershot directorial method. His movies pretty much evolve as they go and tend to be somewhat scriptless.

Random Political Metaphors

When the Republicans refer to the GOP as "the party of Lincoln," it's like Mr. Hyde referring to himself as a doctor. (OK, maybe not exactly, but I like metaphor.) There's some truth to the history, but little to be said about the present (or the near past, for that matter).

Many Republicans are owning up to the fact that Bush's recent performance in the debate against Kerry was pretty piss poor. But, really, isn't saying you saw George Bush give a bad speech akin to saying you saw a bad episode of Baywatch?

Sunday, October 03, 2004

How Things Change

Interesting. Type "Al Qaeda" into a Word doc using in Office 2003 and spellcheck accepts it. Doesn't suggest anything. So, it's in Word's dictionary. Wonder if it was in Office 2000?

Is the Sword the Only Answer?



No, that's not a retort aimed at the Bush administration (though it could be). It's a question raised at the climax of Hero (Ying Xiong).

I finally saw Hero tonight and have to say it's one of the most visually arresting flicks I've ever seen. Several scenes were simply stunning. Of course, with Christoper Doyle (Wong Kar-Wai's long-time collaborator) at the helm as cinematographer, you can't go wrong.

Also, though there's a lot of heavily stylized fighting in the movie (a la Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), there's little or no graphic violence--certainly not the rivers of blood you'd see in a Quentin Tarantino movie. In fact, Hero looks like Bambi compared to Kill Bill. Maybe Mr. T will make a movie himself one day that focuses more on beauty and revels less in viscera.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Some News Never Reaches Us

Sorting through some stuff I came across this quote in an issue of The Saudi Gazette I picked up in Morocco a few weeks ago. Riyadh Aabid, a Sadr City shopkeeper is speaking:
My two children couldn't sleep. I held both of them in my arms all night. They were trembling. The American bombs were so loud. Our message to the Americans is "Stop shooting into houses. Unarmed people live there."
Not likely to see that in an American paper, are you?

Here's a Guardian story including the same quote, as well as this one, also from Aabid:
We hated Saddam. But in the Saddam era we didn't have bullets being fired into our shops. The only gunfire was at wedding parties.

Boy, I Feel Safer, Don't You?

From the apparently real comments to a supposedly spoofed post on the far-rightwing blog Horsefeathers:
After 9/11 I woke up and started building up my own collection of military style firearms. I practice at a bare minimum of once a week, often more than that. And I'm contagious; I've gotten at least three other people to start buying guns that had not before.

The best deal going right now for a patriot on a tight budget is the Yugoslavian M59/66 SKS. It is a semi-automatic rifle which uses dirt cheap ammo (7.62x39) and is forgiving of poor maintenance. Comes with a folding bayonet and NATO standard grenade launcher. You can get one for under $100 if you look carefully. Some will deride it for not having a removable magazine like an AK47 or AR15/M16, but I contend that a man familiar with his SKS can reload with stripper clips faster than he can swap magazines.

If you go to a gun show with $250, you will go out with an SKS, a case of ammo (1,000 rds), a sling & cleaning kit. For $300 you will also get a carrying case for the rifle, a bunch of stripper clips, and much better cleaning equipment.

The ammo this rifle uses is the same as the AK47, which you will find many of your patriotic neighbors are also shooting. Standardizing on a common cartridge is a good thing.
Can anyone tell me how any of these munitions would've aided this guy on 9/11? It's comforting to know that what with the assualt weapons ban lapsing recently guys like this are free to increase their stockpiles.

Note: if you read the post that inspired this response, be sure to consult the comments for the author's followup. Apparently, Martin Kozloff, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington name wrote the initial post to illustrate how many people feel right now and claims he doesn't agree with the sentiments himself. Whether Kozloff is above board or not, I don't know, but it would seem that many of those who commented agreed heartily with the explicit anti-Arab, anti-Muslim sentiments the post laid out. The above quote comes from just one commenter proudly relating his own response to 9/11.

Friday, October 01, 2004

The Stars Were Aligned for a Moment

…and Tucker Carlson and I agreed.

On Bill Maher's HBO show tonight, the bowtie aficionado and darling of the conservative media admitted that watching Bush speak is "like watching a drunk man cross an icy street."

Well, that was fun. Snap back to reality, though.

Carlson then proceeded to defend Bob Novak for outing Joe Wilson’s wife as a CIA agent, saying that journalists should always feel free to tell the truth. Maher asked him if journalists should feel free to report and reveal troop movements even if it endangered their lives. Eventually, to be consistent, Carlson had to agree that, yes, a reporter should be able to report troop positions since that would be telling the truth.

What a descent into idiocy. All that simply to defend the morally depleted curmudgeon Bob Novak.

HIGH-larious

Check out the video of this guy--who seems to be channeling Jim Carrey--who treats one of those Nigerian scam letters like a Shakespearean soliloquy. Too funny.

(Via Boing Boing)

So Ruled: Orgies Good; Gay Sex Bad?

Apparently, according to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who spoke before Harvard students yesterday:
“I even take the position that sexual orgies eliminate social tensions and ought to be encouraged,” Scalia said.

“But it is blindingly clear that judges have no greater capacity than the rest of us to decide what is moral.”
Huh. Thanks for the clarification, Mr. Scalia.

(Via Wonkette, who, of course *thrives* on this stuff.)

Update 10/02/04: The Harvard Crimson published a correction, which does make a slight difference:
The Sept. 29 news story "Scalia Describes 'Dangerous' Trend" misquoted Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia as saying that "I even take the position that sexual orgies eliminate social tensions and ought to be encouraged." In fact, Scalia said, "I even accept for the sake of argument that sexual orgies eliminate social tensions and ought to be encouraged."
So Scalia is *open to* the idea that orgies might be a good thing. Hopefully, he's open to the idea that homosexuality isn't "an abomination," too.

No, He Didn't Jonah.

The NRO's wooly wunderkindJonah Goldberg is already trying to distort Kerry's answers tonight, trying to peg another so-called "flip-flop"*:
DID KERRY JUST SAY... I didn't want to draw down the troops in six months...but I can get the troops out in six months?
Nope. Maybe you need to listen, turn up the ol' hearing aid, and those ellipses you place in your paraphrases won't leave out so much important information.

No, what Goldberg is really practicing is plain old intellectual dishonesty.

*I'm so tired of hearing the word "flip-flop" over the past few months, I almost wanna cut of an ear when I hear it.