Monday, January 31, 2005

Best Year Ever!
(for Oil Barons)

Aren't you happy for Exxon Mobil, which just announced the highest quarterly profits of any company in U.S corporate history, and the largest annual earnings by a publicly held company ever. $25 billion for the entire year in 2004 and $8.42 billion for the last quarter alone. And where's that money coming from? You guessed it! Crude oil sales. So, while we're all suffering at the gas pump, you can rest assured that the world's largest publicly traded oil company isn't suffering at all! Warms the cockles, eh?

Exxon Mobil's annual profit is higher than the GDP of Syria and the company fell just short of $300 billion in sales for the year 2004. Better luck this year guys!

Department of Wish I'd Said That

It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into.
-Jonathan Swift
We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.
-Swift in Thoughts on Various Subjects

Friday, January 28, 2005

Learning by Going

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me, so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.
This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

Wise words from "The Waking" by Ted Roethke, one of my most favorite poets.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Twenty First Century Folk Songs

We walked for forty blocks to the middle of the place we heard where everything would be.
And there were barricades to keep us off the street.
But the crowd kept pushing forward 'til they swallowed the police.
They went wild...

We left before the dust had time to settle.
And all the broken glass swept off the avenue.
All the way home held your camera like a Bible, just wishing so bad that it held some kind of truth.
And I stood nervous next to you in the dark room.
You drop the paper in the water and it all begins to bloom.
That's Bright Eyes (AKA Conor Oberst) - lovely lyrics from "Old Soul Song (For The New World Order)" off his new album I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning. Folks have been comparing this young whippersnapper to Dylan for years now. Stacks of MP3s and videos on the Saddle Creek site.

Patently Unfair
(To Say the Least)

I'm acquainted with SC state Senator Mike Fair. He attended the church I once attended in Greenville, SC. I ate in his home, when he and his family were kind enough to host our college group there.

Mr. Fair recently introduced this bill in the South Carolina Legislation. In reaction to complaints about state-funded license plates reading "Choose Life," which have no pro-choice counterpart, Fair offered the bill, which states the following:
I'm somewhat hesitant to describe myself as pro-choice, but I think abortion is a complicated shades-of-gray issue which some conservatives try to paint as black and white. However, given only the choices of pro-abortion, pro-choice and pro-life--and all three terms being heavily freighted with rhetoric--I'd have to describe myself as pro-choice. With that admission, I don't know how to describe Fair's action in any other way than repugnant. Repellant. Morally indefensible.

This is what far-right conservatives in South Carolina offer in the way of dialogue over abortion? One license which at least politely suggests "Choose Life" and another which actively shames those who have had abortions? Mr. Fair's reaction to the declared unconstitutionality of the state's one-sided license plate is to create two one-sided license plates, including a revolting and oppressive one?

The debate over abortion is a serious one and for good reason. And both sides have serious points which deserve to be heard. But Mike Fair refuses to treat the issue seriously. As Planned Parenthood says in the press release I received:
Not only is this bill a pathetic attempt to stigmatize those of us who understand the importance of safe, legal and accessible abortion as being "pro-death," it is also a slap in the face to women who have undergone abortions.
Mr. Fair's bill combines flippancy, vulgarity, and sheer contempt for other human beings in a way I've never seen present in legislature before. At best, his bill is a waste of the SC Legislation's time and lacking in any moral seriousness. At worst, it's a vicious and cruel-hearted attack on woman who have had to wrestle with something he will never have to.

I would ask Mr. Fair to imagine himself in the place of a father whose 12-year old daughter has been raped. Full of fear and shame, the daughter takes two weeks to tell her parents about her horrible ordeal. The family soon discovers their pre-teen daughter was impregnated by her attacker. Mr. Fair, what would you do? Would you have your daughter carry her child to term? Become a mother at 12? Allow the rest of her life to be changed because of the actions of one wicked man? Or should she carry her child to term and put it up for adoption? What will she do during those months? Should her parents send her away for nine months until the baby is born as they would have decades ago? Or should she stay at home, perhaps never leaving the house, for fear of suffering the stares and disdain of people both familiar and strange? What if after wrestling with the decision for days, even weeks, in a state of agony, which a man cannot begin to understand, the girl decides to abort the fetus and to try, somehow, to move on with her life? In this case, Mr. Fair, would you suggest the father purchase a "Choose Death" license plate, knowing that part of his purchase would go to department of health, which could aid in his daughter's psychological recovery?

Of course, Mr. Fair isn't serious about this legislation. It's just a joke to him. A sick, cruel, monstrous joke.

Mr. Fair makes a big deal about his being a Christian and has close ties with Bob Jones University. Tell me Mr. Fair, in this case, what do you think Jesus would do?


This funky little Flash video for Evil Nine's driving hip-hop tune "Crooked" should get your body movin'. Featuring Aesop Rock. Flash by UK's Preloaded, who also encourage you to "watch telly."

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

NeoCon NeoNsense

Earlier, I attributed this year's "Quote of the Year Thus Far" to a poor, innocent middle-aged Tennessee lady in devil jeans. Oh, how soon we forget! Here's the real "Quote of the Year Thus Far" and it goes to none other than America's favorite Vice President, Dick Cheney:
We don't want a war in the Middle East if we can avoid it."
Oh, man, that's a good one! I'm wiping the tears from my eyes. Who writes this stuff for him? Maybe Carson was sending 'em in? Guess we'll never know.

Cheney was responding, of course, to Seymour Hersh's recent New Yorker article in which Hersh suggests the neo-cons may now be planning a neo-imperialist incursion into Iran.

Money quote from "a former high-level intelligence official":
Next, we’re going to have the Iranian campaign. We’ve declared war and the bad guys, wherever they are, are the enemy. This is the last hurrah—we’ve got four years, and want to come out of this saying we won the war on terrorism.
Yee-haw boys!

(And, er, we don't want no war in the Middle East? You mean, aside from that little skirmish in Iraq?)

RIP Philip Johnson

The inimitable American architect Philip Johnson died yesterday at 98. Now, that's what I call a long, full life. This Wikipedia entry has a good listing of his work.

Note that the Times's superlative architectural critic Paul Goldberger wrote Johnson's lengthy obit.

Devil in Denim

This must be the quote of the year thus far: "I'm glad I serve a God who can work through my pants."

But you *gotta* read the whole thing: an 83 year-old Pentecostal preacher gets into a scuffle with two sisters - ages 46 and 64 - over the fact that they came into his church wearing blue jeans.

"You're not wearing pants in my church, you demon," the preacher apparently said as he came down from his pulpit to mete out his justice upon these sinful ladies.

Part of me thinks, what have they got in the water up there in Tennessee? Part of me thinks, man, I woulda paid to see that!

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Defining Torture Down

In Tom Tomorrow's latest cartoon, he gives conservatives a right proper (pictorial) spanking for their defense of torture.

(Via Andrew Sullivan.)

When We Say "No Smoking" . . .

No smoking at Michigan healthcare company, Weyco, Inc. They reserve the right to fire employees who smoke at work or at home. Weyco just fired four employees who refused to take a test to determine whether they smoked or not. The company doesn't want to pay for their higher health insurance.

Part of me says, hey, folks don't hafta work if they don't like it. Part of me says, what will other legal behavior will companies start restricting because it's an inconvenience to them? I guess if they restricted it to activities, which verifiably cost the company a greater amount, I may not have a problem with it. I mean, think about the smokers you know who go on all those smoke breaks. That costs the company money, too.

Your thoughts? Am I being a meanie by leaning towards, let the company do what they want in this case? If the government were telling people they couldn't smoke, I'd be more concerned.

(Via Pike Speak)

Monday, January 24, 2005

Just Because I Can

Just to join the rest of the blogosphere, a gratuitous SpongeBob mention. Solidarity ya'll!

Now, please consider giving to the Human Rights Campaign. As we found out today, the battle against the amendment is far from over.

BTW, it's been pointed out elsewhere, I'm sure, but it's especially sad to note that James Dobson's complaint with SpongeBob was not even that the fictitious sponge creature might be gay, but that a cartoon character was being used to promote tolerance of gay people. So. It's wrong to be tolerant of gay people. Man, which Jesus does this guy spend his spare time studying?

I mean, let's devolve for a moment and pretend homosexuality is wrong. How do you think Jesus would treat gay people, Jim? I mean, Jesus treated prostitutes with respect. With tolerance. Even lovingly. Can you really imagine him treating gay people otherwise? (Just for the record: If Christ had treated gay people with animosity, I believe he would've been in the wrong.)

You know, I don't consider tolerance such a big deal. I mean, you can tolerate soemthing and still believe it's annoying, nasty or even wrong. So how exactly does Dobson suggest his followers treat gay people?

Personally, I don't think being tolerant is enough.

A Byrd & a Bush

Michelle Malkin tries to make the case that since Democratic Senator Robert Byrd was once a klansman, then the media--and particularly CBS--should pay special attention to the fact that he opposes the Condoleeza Rice nomination.

Come on, Michelle. That would be a story if Byrd were against Condi's nomination because she's black. But I doubt that's the case. And I doubt Malikin could prove it is. Besides, there are plenty of good and decent reasons to oppose the Rice's selection for Secretary of Defense.

I mean, should The Weekly Standard and The Washington Times have run a headline saying Texas Cokehead Runs for President back in 2000?

No, of course not. That wouldn't make sense. That wouldn't have been fair.

So why is Malkin digging up the past?

She even admits in a previous piece that Byrd left the KKK back in 1943. Sixty two years ago. What''d Barbara Boxer do 62 years ago that Malkin can dig up? What a minute, Boxer can't even be that old.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

So Long, Johnny

Johnny Carson died today at 79, apparently from emphysema.

KOed by Kauffmann

I always enjoy reading Stanley Kauffman's movie reviews for The New Republic. More often than any other reviewer (and I read many), his taste overlaps with mine. He often has a dissenting opinion when mainstream films are concerned. He didn't think much of the almost universally praised Clint Eastwood flick Million Dollar Baby, for example, which I haven't seen. Here's his one sentence appraisal of the female lead:
Hilary Swank, who seems to me to have too many teeth for a boxer, tries hard and sincerely.
Ouch. Now, that's what I call a back-handed compliment!

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Actions & Immortality

If, before every action, we were to begin by weighing up the consequences, thinking about them in earnest, first the immediate consequences, then the probable, then the possible, then the imaginable ones, we should never move beyond the point where our first thought brought us to a halt. The good and evil resulting from our words and deeds go on apportioning themselves, one assumes in a reasonably uniform and balanced way, throughout all the days to follow, including those endless days, when we shall not be here to find out, to congratulate ourselves or ask for pardon, indeed there are those who claim that this is the much-talked-of immortality.

- Jose Saramago, Blindness

Social Insecurity

"This is not a crisis." Those are the words of everyone's favorite conservative Newt Gingrich, and the antecedent to "this," of course, is "social security."

No, it's not a crisis. However, the Bush administration has gone to great lengths to create a fictional crisis in order to win support for their inane, inhumane plan to privatize social security. Students of politics and rhetoric recognize this old trick, create a crisis and provoke people to act (or comply, might be more accurate). In fact, hmm, we've seen this trick employed by this same administration recently to justify another action . . . now, what was it? Oh yeah, that whole imminent destruction at the hands of Iraq's nuclear program thing. That little crisis.

One of the things I find most distasteful about the plan to privatize the social security program is how transparently it's really just a big up to the financial industry. *You* may invest your retirement savings and lose them on the stock market and the Bush administration and the Objectivist crowd would shrug it off as not their problem. Hey, at least you had "Social Security choice." Right? But no matter how much you lose, the financial industry earns more and more with the GIGANTIC influx of fees they're ensured if social security goes private.

So who does this plan primarily benefit? I'd say three basic groups:

1. Really wealthy people who don't need to worry about social security anyway. They're likely pretty savvy about investing already, so this plan may provide them with a little extra gravy. Slurp!

2. Folks who think the government only needs to get smaller (Hi Objectivists*! Hi Cato Institute!) and that we shouldn't have to support people we don't now. That the poor should just pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. Learn how to invest, poor people, and your retirement woes will fade away! Think and grow rich!

3. The financial industry folks. Ka-ching, baby! Ka-ching!

Does it benefit the folks who would need the most help? Clearly not. That's why I've taken the unusual step of adding a banner to the There Is No Crisis site at left. It's not a money-making enterprise - at least I'm not getting one red cent by linking to them - it's simply a site better equipped than mine to help debunk the whole social security crisis myth the administration is peddling. It serves as a sort of clearinghouse for info clarifying the present state of social security.

*To be fair, not all Objectivists support the Bush plan. They're against it for vastly different reasons than I am though.

Fawning & Balanced

Watch fair and balanced Fox News anchor Brigitte Quinn grow angry and actually start defending George Bush when Vanity Fair's Judy Bachrach has the audacity to come on her show and criticize the expenses of the inauguration.

I guess Bachrach forgot that inauguration day was Not One Word of Criticism Day. Silly girl!

Catching It From Both Sides

A few select quotes from a critique of Bush's inaugural speech in the Wall Street Journal:
The inaugural address itself was startling. It left me with a bad feeling, and reluctant dislike. ...

A short and self-conscious preamble led quickly to the meat of the speech: the president's evolving thoughts on freedom in the world. Those thoughts seemed marked by deep moral seriousness and no moral modesty. ...

The president's speech seemed rather heavenish. It was a God-drenched speech. This president, who has been accused of giving too much attention to religious imagery and religious thought, has not let the criticism enter him. God was invoked relentlessly. ...

Ending tyranny in the world? Well that's an ambition, and if you're going to have an ambition it might as well be a big one. But this declaration, which is not wrong by any means, seemed to me to land somewhere between dreamy and disturbing. Tyranny is a very bad thing and quite wicked, but one doesn't expect we're going to eradicate it any time soon. ...

"Renewed in our strength--tested, but not weary--we are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom."

This is--how else to put it?--over the top. It is the kind of sentence that makes you wonder if this White House did not, in the preparation period, have a case of what I have called in the past "mission inebriation." A sense that there are few legitimate boundaries to the desires born in the goodness of their good hearts.

One wonders if they shouldn't ease up, calm down, breathe deep, get more securely grounded.
So who wrote all that? Probably some lefty journalist, right? Some liberal NPR commentator. No, Peggy Noonan wrote all that. You know the speech writer for Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and advisor for W's reelection campaign in 2004.

Sure, I've cherry-picked the quotes, but they accurately reflect the overarching theme of her piece.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Freedom or Else

The President is more than intent on changing the world than on changing America.
- NPR's Daniel Schorr* commenting Bush's inauguration speech today.
In his address, the President seemed primarily intent on both justifying and advocating his efforts to spread freedom throughout the world. Mentions of domestic matters were few and far between, and any mention of the administration's increasingly discredited social security plan was noticeably absent. By my count, he used the word "freedom" 27 times in his speech. All in relation to the administration's foreign policy.
The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.
It's hard to argue against freedom, isn't it? And this administration is using that word like a hammer. To justify it's aggressive policies and to corner its critics into submission. It's a nasty but incredibly effective rhetorical device. After all, "freedom" sounds much better than "cowboy diplomacy" doesn't it? Or even "pre-emptive war." Or especially "no WMD." "Freedom" though. Arguing against that is positively traitorous.
And our country must abandon all the habits of racism because we cannot carry the message of freedom and the baggage of bigotry at the same time.
Well, amen to that. I'm sure he'll drop that idea for a constitutional amendment then.
"Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves; and, under the rule of a just God, cannot long retain it."
- Abraham Lincoln
Bush quoted Lincoln but certainly did not emulate him.

*Thank God for NPR. Can critics of the enterprise really compare someone like Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, or Brit Hume for that matter with the elegant, dignified and ever articulate Mr. Schorr?

Thought for the Day

Nixon was re-elected, too.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

With Malice Toward: a) All b) Some c) None

With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.

- Abraham Lincoln upon his second inauguration.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

24: The Season Thus Far

A show like 24 has so many twists and turns, it can be hard to keep up. But when ABC throws out, what, eight hours of this stuff within a couple of weeks or so, well, I think a brief recap of the events so far might be appreciated by even the most attentive of viewers. Allow me to oblige then.

Early in the first episode, of course, Jack Bauer pulls of his mask to reveal the sultry Russian, Oksana, the KGB agent who took over Bauer's identity at the end of season one. The third Bush administration had revived the KGB, we soon learn, in case they needed to stir up another Red Scare. In a flashback we learn that Jack actually did not survive that freefall from a Blackhawk over Baghdad. Instead the KGB intercepted his falling body mid-air and the Jack Bauer we saw turn into a neat roll and start running when he hit the ground was none other than the aforementioned Oksana.

Episode two finds Vice President Cheney (played with steely resolve by Eddie Izzard) kidnapped by oil executives, who demand that he stop distancing himself from the industry in order to be released unharmed. Bauer (or Oksana acting as Bauer) must track down the VP, so he can resume planning the invasion of Iran. Jezebel, Bauer's gorgeous Moroccan girlfriend has other plans, however. Not the Moroccan starlet she told Bauer she was, Jezebel is actually a member of an Al Qaeda cell living quietly in rural Alabama. As Bauer careens off in his Audi TT to save the Veep, Jezebel stands high above the freeway on a hillside with a high-powered rifle. She shoots the tires out of the vehicle. Bauer leaps from the car and catches a bullet in each kneecap. Satisfied that she has immobilized Bauer and determined to let him survive for several more episodes, Jezebel absconds from the scene on her Segway. The hour runs out with Bauer crawling towards the freeway exit.

Episode three and Bauer crawls into a gated community. His goal: to secure monies for a car rental to continue his hunt for the Vice President. From a distance, Bauer sees a Lemonade stand run by a flaxen-haired girl of approximately eight years old. He assesses the situation before pulling a balaclava from his wallet and approaching the young entrepreneur. He pulls a Sig Sauer P226 from his ankle holster and demands all her money. The girl screams and hands over a dollar and 37 cents. Bauer realizes he will have to hold the girl hostage. He grabs the girl and fires a few shots into the air before the girl's mother comes running from the house. Bauer demands that she hand over some money for the release of her daughter. The woman returns with $37 and Jack mutters that he won't be able to get the new Mustang with a sunroof for that amount. Spying a minivan in the driveway, he demands that the woman take him to an ATM and then on to the car rental. "What about your bloody kneecaps?" the woman asks. "The security of the homeland is at stake," Bauer says. "Why didn't you say so?" the woman says. She pops a button on her key chain and the garage door rises to reveal shiny new gunmetal gay Mustang. Convertible. Bauer considers taking the woman and her daughter as hostages anyway. Instead, he tags them with satellite tracking devices, in case they turn out to be Al Qaeda operatives, then he's into the Mustang and away. The episode ends with Jack driving slowly down the freeway followed by 13 police cruisers and a convoy of Freightliner trucks.

Episode four: Bauer uses his cell phone to hack into the government's super-secret "LASER BEAM" spy satellite. He taps in four digits and the laser incinerates the row of police cars and trucks following him. Meanwhile, the Vice President kills two of the oil magnates with his bare hands and in a private moment, pulls of his mask to reveal he is actually Howard Dean, who took over for the VP when after he died of a heart attack at home. Dean, it seems, is working to undermine the administration's attempts to mount another Red Scare. The anguish at having to complete this important mission alone finally causes him to break - if only for a moment - and he lets out a brief, muted "Aaaaaaaaaarghghhggh!" Cut to President John Ellis "Jeb" Bush who paces the Oval Office angrily. Unfortunately, my TIVO screwed up at this point and started taping reruns of Hogan's Heroes, so I can't tell you what happens next.

I'll keep you posted though.

Monday, January 17, 2005


All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.
-Martin Luther King Jr
Huh, sounds like that whole "hitched together" concept, doesn't it? I knew MLK was a good man. Also:
Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man's sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Am I Right or Am I Right or Am I Right?

David Brooks reviews Malcolm Gladwell's new book Blink and sort of comes to the same conclusion I did without reading it. The idea is crap. But I should reserve judgment before reading it, shouldn't I? But wait a minute, the whole thesis is that you should follow your gut, act instinctually. OK, then, it's crap.

Sensitive, careful thinking, indecisive people like me everywhere should offended!

Seriously though. What do you do for an encore when you come up with a groundbreaking "new idea"? (The Tipping Point.) Why you try to come up with another groundbreaking idea, of course, and push it whether it works or not. You come up with a gimmick. A book about that's really just about something we're already aware of and even informally call a "snap judgment."

I'm sure there's some truth it, but, come on ya'll, how about some balance? Certainly, we have to trust our visceral instincts sometimes, perhaps often. But you know what? Often our instincts are dead wrong. Some folks' instincts tell them to, oh, punch, stalk, rape, lie, and cheat. Some folks' "instincts" tell them there *must* be aliens among us and angels watching over them. That God wanted them to marry that wife beater. Some folks' instincts tell them, "Oh, they wouldn't fire me" or "I don't need to save for retirement, my kids will take care of me." To make a reliable snap judgment, you still have to have the benefit of experience, be in a relatively stable state of mind, and, well, be a fairly sensible sort of person. Context is everything, too. Put me in a CEO's job for a day and I could make all sorts of jugdments and probably send the company spirally financially into the toilet within a couple of hours. But I would probably make a better snap judment about where to place a comma in a sentence than the CEO would. (Guess which sort of judgment pays more?)

I'll posit something else some may find alarming: some people should trust their instincts more than others. Because some people's instincts are colored by certain feelings and predispositions more than others. On the other hand, some may trust their intuition, be successful because of it, but still be mighty assholes in the process. (Hello? Mr. Trump?) Because, let's face it, success, unfortunately, isn't always predicated on being nice or good or right.

Anyway. The Bush administration will probably make this book required reading. After all, the thesis is pretty much "Act now, think later!" Isn't it?

Of course, I could be wrong. Naw . . . it just feels *so* right. I'm gonna go with my gut.

*A star by your name if you can name the movie alluded to in the heading.


Friday, January 14, 2005

Wish He'd Come On Out

Well-meaning little therapists
Goose-stepping twelve-stepping
The tipsy, the reeling and the drop down pissed
We've got no time for that stuff here
Zero crime and no fear
We've bred all our kittens white
So you can see them in the night
And at night we're on our knees
As quiet as a mouse
Since the word got out
From the North down to the South
For no-one's left in doubt
There's no fear about
If we all hold hands and very quietly shout
God is in the house
God is in the house
Oh I wish He would come out
God is in the house

-from the final verse of Nick Cave's "God Is in the House" off No More Shall We Part
See the new video for "Breathless" from Cave's superlative Lyre of Orpheus here.


The National Review's Corner *entirely* ignored the WMD issue this week (it was kinda big news) - except for one typically brief, dismissive remark from KJL. I emailed her to ask about the rather compelling silence over there. Didn't hear back.

Later, I emailed Jonah about Armstrong Williams and asked, BTW, how come you guys are ignoring the whole WMD thing?

After some back and forth, he finally decided,
Robert -- you're just going to have to appreciate that the Corner cannot be held to the standard of being exactly what you want it to be exactly when you want it to be. As for the WMD thing i gather no one's mentioning it because no one's surprised.
So I replied as follows:
Fair enough - after all the Corner is a conservative venue, isn't it!

As for the WMD thing i gather no one's mentioning it because no one's surprised.

I guess that's a sort of tacit intellectual honesty then.

Of course, this speaks volumes, too [from an entry of his on the Corner]: "Personally, I don't mind if the world thinks we turn into a bunch of crazy cowboys when you attack us the way we were attacked on 9/11."

So, who cares about WMD anyway, right?

Also, I know it's probably just a grammatical tic, but "the world" didn't attack us, a group of radical religious fundamentalists did.
No reply as of yet.

I know, I was a little obnoxious. But, you know what? I don't think there's anything wrong with being angry with this administration and at those who continue to insist that Bush and company can do no wrong. Or remain impeccable in their silence when it's clear to all that the administration's screwed up. Big time.

Instead, the NRO crowd devotes plenty of space to discussing liberal pundits who may have made committed similar disgraces to Armstrong and on lesbians coming out in TV show finales.

OK, no more blogging on the NRO for a while. This ain't All NRO All the Time.

P.S. Love the headline for this Op/Ed by Georgie Anne Geyer: Final Word on Iraq's WMD Sounds Very Familiar.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Martin Luther Who?

It's MLK Day on Monday and time to remember that Greenville County in South Carolina (where this humble blogger once lived) is still the only county in South Carolina that does not recognize that day as a paid holiday for its employees.

After holding out for years, in 2003, the City Council offered County workers five fixed holidays and they could choose five more to take off. The County workers chose to take a floating holiday instead of MLK Day. Now, MLK Day is a Federal holiday, so I'm guessing the Council could just, you know, just declare it a paid holiday. Seems instead they just wanted to avoid controversy and pass the hot potato to the employees. Apparently, thanks to the recent elections, the Council may now finally be poised to declare the holiday. So maybe there will be an MLK day in GVL in 2006.

Back in '03, Jesse Jackson, a Greenville native, lead 8000 people in a march through the city in protest of this nonsense. He's leading a similar march this Saturday the 15th, on King's actual birthday. More power to him.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Tune Out the White Noise

You know, criticism and stuff: Wonkette somehow latched onto W's iPod Playlist.


No, that's not a Smashing Pumpkins song. That's the year Paul Thompson's Complete 911 Timeline begins, as the Soviets invade Afghanistan.

Initially not an expert at all, Thompson started compulsively researching the 9/11 terror attacks in order to come to some objectives conclusions around what happened and what lead up to the event. His timeline now includes some 1600+ events, which he compiled painstakingly, initially as a hobby, but eventually including feedback and refinements from people around the world until he has joined the California-based Center for Cooperative Research and has published what is now the most complete account of 9/11 yet. Journalists refer to his timeline as a sort of Terror Bible.

The Center encourages "grassroots participation and collaboration in the documentation of the public historical record using an open-content model." Kinda like Wikipedia, I guess, only with an extremely detailed focus.

Additionally, I found this objective of the Center particularly admirable, not to mention timely:
The Center for Cooperative Research calls on people to abandon the widely-held assumption that governments can be relied upon to competently monitor the activities of themselves or the entities with which they have close relations. A major goal of this website is to encourage people to play an active role in scrutinizing the activities of all individuals, groups and institutions that wield significant political and economic power. Our position is that the power of oversight should not rest with governments, but with civil society itself.
(Mentioned in Esquire magazine, 12/04, p. 197)


CNN Headline: Official: U.S. calls off search for Iraqi WMDs.

Subhead: "Bush stands by decision to go to war, spokesman says."

But, of course. I could follow up with a litany of cynical observations here, but I'm much of the blogosphere's busy doing just that already.

Former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter must be seething today. You may remember he consistently reported before the invasion of Iraq that the country had no WMD. Would love to see an interview with him right now.

If all goes as we've come to expect, any moment now Bush will congratulate everyone in his administration responsible for this debacle for their fine work and present them each with the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Who need's VH1's Surreal Life?

Update: A Ctrl +F over at the NRO's Corner reveals pretty much ZERO discussion of this monumental event among all those hawkish conservatives, except for a very brief and typically dismissive remark from Kathryn Jean Lopez. (But that's not really discussion anyway, is it?) Talk about an enterprise in denial.

Meanwhile, chief U.S. weapons inspector Charles Duelfer says not only are there no WMD in Iraq but the country hasn't developed any since 1991. Of course, we heard that from experts before the war, too.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Moira Hahn

Moira Hahn has a solo exhibit at the Koplin Del Rio Gallery from January 8 through February 22, 2005. If you live near West Hollywood, CA, be sure to go check out her always colorful and engaging work. Or visit her Web site which showcases some of her wonderful work, like the watercolor above, "Double Trouble II."

Here's an ArtScene review of her exhibit. And Moira blogs here.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Dealing with the Random

It's occurred to me over the past week that two events currently affecting my life (one distantly and one immediately) both involve the element of chance or randomness. Those events would be the tsunami and my brother's accident. Certainly, you can ascribe cause and effect to these events: an earthquake occurs, a tsunami rises and the ensuing tragedy proves almost unimaginable. My brother falls and falling face-first into concrete, he's hurt very badly. That's cause and effect. The randomness comes into play when you try to talk about purpose. I believe it's often psychologically healthier and certainly more accurate to think of some things as occurring simply by chance rather that ascribing purpose to them--or (perhaps worse) struggling to divine purpose from them.

If you look at what's happened on the other side of the earth and try to find a purpose, rather than simply chalking the horror up to randomness, you quickly find yourself taken down paths best not taken. Now, I hope and I'm fairly sure that few people believe those 155,000+ people were being punished for their lifestyles or for mistreating the earth or some other nonsense like that, but I'm sure many people may still be prompted to suggest that God has some sort of divine plan that's mysterious and unknowable to us that necessitated these horrific events. And there's your problem. Because a god of that order could only be a wicked, mean-spirited god certainly not deserving of our worship (if any god or any thing is deserving of our worship, which I personally and strongly believe is not the case). And, of course, some folks (a very small minority, I'm sure) may even believe that since something is God's will, then they don't need to interfere with the proceedings by doing anything like, say, helping. (We've all heard the stories about some religious people who refuse to help their dying loved ones, believing, tragically, that their ailment is God's will and if he will, he'll save them.)

So, the tsunami's a really universal example. Let's apply to this at the individual level and look at why it's psychologically unhealthy. I'd suggest that individuals currently suffering at the hands of this catastrophe could benefit from the following way of looking at things, too. If something bad happens to *you,* certainly, there may be something to learn from it. We can learn for example how to create better tsunami detection devices, how to devise better warning systems, etc. If you have a car accident, you can certainly think about whether it was due to your driving skills or the condition of your vehicle. However, in the midst of such misfortune, it doesn't behoove you to think that god or the universe was out to get you. Or to teach you a lesson even. That can only prove psychologically crippling. And I simply don't believe it a realistic way of looking at the world, the universe, and, if you will, God.

If must be especially tempting for some who have experienced one sort of misfortune after the other to think that the universe is out to get them. That they're just never supposed to get a leg up. But that's superstitious thinking. More importantly, it's self-defeating thinking. If you get into a cycle of believing you don't deserve to do better, that God won't allow you to do better, you're planting yourself in the middle of a vicious cycle. You're creating the worst sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. One that affects that which should be most dear to you--your entire life.

Now, I'm no disciple of Nietzsche, but the man did do some serious thinking. And his perhaps most famous quote ties directly into this: "That which does not kill us makes us stronger." Now, that sounds rather brutal at first, and a little too stoic for me these days (I'm turning into an old softy, you see). But there's some truth to it. Only I'd make a slight but ever so important emendation: "That which does not kill us can make us stronger." Unfortunately, the onus is on us as individuals to determine not to be flattened by the random, the horrors that nature throws our way, the undeserved setbacks, and to forge on, determined to improve our lives and the lives of those around us.

Yeah, that does sound a little stoic doesn't it? A little Sisyphean. But, thankfully, not every day's like that.

Another way people attempt to deal with the random, to show purpose is by pointing out those who miraculously survived some sort of tragedy. No, that's simply randomness working it's "magic," I'm afraid (as any statistician worth his salt could confirm), and to say that God spared a few individuals by some sort of miracle is a grotesque sort of superstition to be sure, since in the case of the tsunami it leaves 155,000+ dead because God didn't see fit to perform the same miracle for them. And their families. Similarly, I think about how randomness affected my brother. If he'd fallen backwards or if he'd fallen inside instead of outside on the concrete, he may not even have had to be hospitalized. It was simply the random way he fell that caused him all that pain and damage. It wasn't God's will. And though I know their intentions are good, I'm saddened that some would say (and have said) it was God's will. What a cruel god to have to believe in.

How much better not to take such events personally. But to learn from them anyway.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Rock then Roll

I'm you're rock and I promise you this rock is going to weigh you down for the rest of your life.
-Homer to Marge, the Simpsons
On a more serious note, I saw a brutally edited version of Easy Rider the other night, and wasn't sure I cared for it. Maybe I need to see the un-Bowlderized version, but I think some of the orginal editing was intentional and just poorly conceived. However, the theme of this little scene between Nicholson's character (George) and Dennis Hopper's (Billy) I found alarmingly true. George responds to Billy's complaint that people mistreat them because all they represent is someone who needs a haircut:
George: Oh no, what you represent to them is freedom.
Billy: What the hell's wrong with freedom, I mean that's what it's all about isn't it?
George: Oh yeah, that's what it's all about alright, but being it and talking about it are different things. These country boys will talk to you and talk to you about individual freedom, but when they see a free individual it's gonna scare 'em.
Billy: Well, we'll make 'em running scared.
George: Oh, they're not scared of you, they're scared of what you represent.
Billy: Well, that makes them pretty stupid then.
George: No, that makes them dangerous.
And danged, if that ain't true. You don't have to be a hippie or a biker to appreciate it either. Of course, seconds later in the movie, George is literally beaten to death, which drives the point home in a rather heavy-handed fashion. And the movie ends similarly.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Save Chris's Smile

I may not writing much for a while. My brother Chris has suffered a terrible fall and is going to be in the ICU down here in Greenville, SC for quite a while. He severely shattered his jaw and lost many of his teeth. He's had extensive surgery and may need more. The surgeon said it was the worst fracture he's ever seen. Right now, he's swollen up so much as to be unrecognizable. His jaw will be wired shut for 5 weeks, *if* the first round of surgery takes. I'm very grateful to be able to get away from work for a couple of days or so to be with him.

I'd appreciate your keeping him in your thoughts and prayers. I'll also be working on a separate blog to keep friends and family apprised of his condition.

Thanks to ya'll who have left comments recently. I promise to respond in time.