I won't be watching. I don't much care about them. I haven't even seen any of the movies up for Best Picture. But for anyone who cares, here are my Oscar picks:
Best Supporting Actress: Natalie Portman. The smart money's on Cate Blanchett... but if doing a Hepburn impression was all that impressive, Martin Short would have an Oscar now. This will be Hollywood's way of coronating Portman onto the A-list (a la Angelina Jolie a few years ago)... and besides, she's a hottie, and let's not pretend that the Oscars aren't about who looks good as much as who acts good.
Best Supporting Actor: Morgan Freeman. I think if Sideways were going to win an acting award, it'd be here -- Thomas Haden Church has gotten amazing reviews. But Morgan Freeman is a current candidate for "Most Talented Actor Never To Win An Oscar," and if not for Million Dollar Baby, then he deserves it for the strength of his career-long body of work (a la Pacino for Scent of a Woman or Newman for The Color of Money). Freeman gets tonight's career achievement award.
Best Actress: Annette Benning. Actually, from everything I have heard, Hilary Swank is even better in Million Dollar Baby then she was in Boys Don't Cry a few years ago, and she won for that. But there are two things in the way here: first, the race between Swank and Benning last time they were up against each other was very tight, and a lot of Academy members think she should have won. Second, only Luise Ranier, Katherine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Ingrid Bergman, Vivien Leigh, Olivia de Haviland, Elizabeth Taylor, Glenda Jackson, Jane Fonda, Sally Field and Jodie Foster have ever won two Best Actress Oscars, and I'm just not sure the Academy is ready to put Swank in their league just yet (quick, anyone name me another Swank movie besides the two she won Oscars for... or The Karate Kid Part III). So Benning wins this one.
Best Actor: Jamie Foxx. Is there even a reason to show up for this one? From everything I have heard, Foxx channeled Charles during this performance, and if there's ever been a sure thing, this is it.
Best Director: Clint Eastwood. Sorry, Marty, but Clint's got the buzz this year, and Million Dollar Baby is going to be the night's big winner. Besides, Eastwood frankly deserved this last year for Mystic River, but the Academy had to hand some gold to at least one of the Lord of the Rings movies, so he'll get his this year.
Best Picture: Million Dollar Baby. Because Hollywood's in the mood to stick a thumb in the eye of red staters and their so-called values, and this movie's been protested for its stance on euthanasia. Because Eastwood has quietly become the best director working today. Because neither Hilary nor Clint will win acting awards and they need to be rewarded some other way. Because they won't want to give Scorcese's film Best Picture when they didn't give him Best Director. Because I said so.
ON A TERRIER
I hope you'll indulge me a very Blairesque post here. While I don't display the outward obsession that my good friend Tim does with his alma mater's basketball team, I do passionately follow my alma mater's hockey team. And after a couple of down years, the Boston University Terriers are once again back.
The team's been on a tear this year, achieving a #10 ranking heading into this weekend. Led by freshman left wing Chris Bourque (you might recognize that last name... his dad was a decent NHL player for oh, about 20 years), earlier this month the Terriers won their 26th Beanpot title -- and 9th in 11 years. (For the uninitiated, the Beanpot is the name of the trophy and tournament played every year by the city's four D-I hockey powers, BU, Harvard, Northeastern, and Boston College.)
Following the Beanpot, the Icedogs swept Massachusetts before slumping a little bit this weekend against Northeastern. But even with the stumble, BU is in third place in Hockey East, only two points behind conference-leading New Hampshire. And best of all, the Terriers are young -- only three seniors on the roster in 2004-05 and well over half the team are either freshmen or sophmores -- meaning that if they're this good already, they're going to run wild for the next couple of years as we usher in the latest era of Terrier dominance.
Playing in their brand new, opened-in-January, state of the art stadium (Agganis Arena), the Boston University Terriers are on their way back to the Frozen Four. (Ironically, the two-time defending NCAA champions are my undergraduate alma mater, Minnesota... so the Icedogs are going to have to go through another team I have connections to in order to win.) So go Coach Parker, Yankees suck, and go BU!
'ROID RAGE REDUX
I suppose since the steroid scandal is hanging over the sport I love so much, I should mention it in a post. My thoughts on steroids in baseball, in no particular order:
-- Jose Canseco's got about as much credibility with me as OJ, Robert Blake, Condalezza Rice or George W. Bush. There is such a thing as "consider the source" -- even when the accusations that person is making seem credible. Canseco's personal conduct and integrity have been a joke since early in his playing career, so I amused at all the scandalmongers who've all of a sudden decided that he's to be believed at face value.
-- That said, Pudge Rodriguez showed up to camp this year 22 pounds lighter than last year... which isn't to say that he's guilty, but it sure is awful timing if all he did was decide he wanted to be svelter to improve his defense. I don't want to believe Canseco about any of the people he fingered -- Pudge, Raffy Palmiero, or Mark McGwire -- but there's a lot of circumstantial evidence there.
-- Jason Giambi strikes me now as almost a tragic figure. He certainly wasn't the only one doing steroids, nor is he the only player who became more successful than his talent might have otherwise allowed because of steroids. He's not even the only one who had to testify to the grand jury about them (see below about the perjurer Barry Bonds). But Giambi's been exposed, and until last week was the public villian of the whole scandal. But at least Giambi seems apologetic -- even if someone (the court? his agent?) won't let him say what it is he is sorry for. His health -- potentially even his life -- was threatened due to his steroid use, and when I look at Giambi I almost see a scared little kid who didn't understand until it was too late that he had done wrong... and just wants to make people not be mad at him anymore. I almost am hoping he has a strong rebound season this year.
-- However, I am hoping for the exact opposite for Barry Bonds. Leave it to the sport's biggest asshole since Ty Cobb to make Jason Giambi a sympathetic figure! But Bonds' press conference last week -- during which he had one last chance to try and win over the fans and actually get them hoping he breaks Hank Aaron's record -- was full of the arrogance, petulence, and utter prickishness that defines Barry Bonds as a man. He's not even the kind of guy I'd want emptying my trash, much less breaking the record of a giant -- both on the field and off -- like Henry Aaron.
Bonds' sins during last week's debacle were typical of his behavior throughout his career. He got angry and petulent about even having to answer questions about anything. He refused to even acknowledge that it's his own behavior that has caused all these questions, and instead called all reporters "liars." (This from a guy who, after his grand jury testimony in late 2003 was told directly that "the cream" and "the clear" were steroids, yet spent all of 2004 denying yet again that he'd ever taken them -- even though he knew that not to be true, whether he'd knowingly taken them or not.)
He went through a specious-at-best denial of the potential impact of steroid use on a ballplayer's skills (no, they don't help hand-eye coordination, you jackass, but they improve bat speed, and boost power and strength in a player's swing).
Most shamefully, he actually tossed out a disgraceful charge of racism, claiming that the antagonism against him is based on his race.
"Because Babe Ruth is one of the greatest baseball players ever, and Babe Ruth ain't black, either," he said. "I'm black. Blacks, we go through a little more. I'm not a racist though, but I live in the real world. I'm fine with that."
This is one of the most selfish, despicable and wholly fabricated statements ever to escape the mouth of a professional athlete. Barry, if you want to know about racism, go talk to Hank Aaron. Not only is he more of a man than you'll ever be, but he knows a thing or two about racism. Look at what he went through as he approached Babe Ruth's record, and then tell us that you have a clue about what racism is.
Barry, just because it seems that you are too stupid to understand this (or because the truth seems to have a hard time sinking through your steroid-expanded skull), I'll spell it out for you. People don't hate you because you're black. People hate you because you are a liar, a cheater, an arrogant punk, and a wholly unworthy heir to Aaron, Ruth, or even your godfather Willie Mays. You cheated your way to a place in the pantheon that doesn't belong to you. And no matter how many overly juiced home runs you end up with, no one outside of the Bay Area will ever accept you as the all time home run champion. Even if MLB doesn't see fit to put an asterisk by your name, the public has already done it.
RECOMMENDED READING: JILL SOBULE
Okay, I know how weird it is to be recommending a musician's site as something you should read. But I recently heard a new song ("Cinnamon Park") that borrows the riff from Chicago's "Saturday in the Park," and I was intrigued by it... turns out it's performed by singer-songwriter Jill Sobule. She's most well-known, I suppose, for her mid-90s spoof of lesbian chic (or, alternately, her statement of self-realization and pride... I'm no expert, it was just a one-hit wonder kind of song!), "I Kissed A Girl."
So I decided to look her up on the Net, because that's generally what I do whenever anything intrigues me. And on her site, beyond her music, she has a journal that I have found to be really interesting reading. Triumphs, insecurities, ignominies, humorous anecdotes... she's one of those artists who lets her fans inside and gives them a look at the real person -- and she's a damned amusing stream-of-consciousness writer, to boot.
So if you're looking for something kind of fun to read, head on over to JillSobule.com and check out her journal. I was impressed. (And I also like some of the new stuff on her newest album -- "Underdog Victorious" is kind of fun.)
MORE ON GUCKERT (or, alternately, MORON GUCKERT)
Of course, the story is dying and the neoconazis in the Congress don't seem at all upset or bothered by this, but don't forget that little story out there about how a prostitute using a false name and with no journalistic credentials whatsoever was repeatedly allowed access to the White House and to the president, placed in press conferences to lob blatantly biased softballs at Bush and McClellan, and given access to classified internal CIA documents that included the name of an underciver agent who was subsequently "outed" (no pun intended). Again, I ask you... had this happened during Clinton's administration, how quickly would Congressional Republicans have jumped on this story and demanded hearings and likely a special investigator?
Before you answer that, take a little comfort in the fact that the pseudo-news organization involved in this has been shut down.
Now... MSNBC did an interview with everybody's favorite male prostitute, James Guckert. The title of their article is, "I asked to come... they allowed me to come." In the words of Skippy the Bush Kangaroo: stop that right now! (Far be it from me to pass up the easy ones... after all, if I passed up the easy ones I'd have no social life at all.)
But beyond the tittering and chuckling over this whole sordid set-up lie some serious questions. Most importantly, who in the White House managed to overrule established security protocols and get a prostitute using a pseudonym into the press room? We know why they did it -- it's all part of this administration's Stalinesque "management" of the news. But the question is who made it happen.
Guckert/Gannon: I go to the gate. I show my driver's license, which I showed you. It has my given name. And that's how I gained entry.
MSNBC: A quick check for a criminal record is all that's required. Gannon avoided the extensive FBI background check most reporters go through for permanent access.
Mudge says: Who inside the White House made this happen?
Gannon: I asked to come. They allowed me to come. And apparently there isn't a very high threshold as far as somebody's personal life to gain access.
Mudge says: Well, hell... if it's that easy, then Mr. Bush, please consider this my formal application to the White House press corps. I'm asking to come to Washington and be allowed into the press conferences, where I will ask blatantly partisan questions. I'd also like access to internal classified CIA documents, please. After all, it's that easy, isn't it? All I have to do is ask to come, and you guys allow it? And I'm not even a prostitute (although I'd consider becoming one if it'll help with my request... what do you think of the name Deuce BigNewLow?)
What do you mean, no? Why not -- Gannon/Guckert did it? Oh... you mean I have to have a specific agenda to support your policies and demonize your enemies in order to get in? I have to be part of your stealth campaign to propagandize the American people?
UPDATE: Thanks to Jillian over at The Snarky Cat, who got it from One Good Move, here's Bill Maher's take on the whole Gannon scandal. He's trying to be funny on some of it, but he raises some legitimate and disturbing points. He interviews Senator Biden at the end, and the Senator is right: if the Democrats had held the White House and this happened, the Republicans would already be investigating. But consistency and actual principles are too much to expect from any conservative.
TOTO, I HAVE A FEELING WE'RE ALL IN KANSAS ANYMORE
You know, for a non-descript farm state in the middle of red country, Kansas sure has been in the news an awful lot in the last week. (By the way, how gleefully ironic is it that one of the veritable icons of gay culture, Judy Garland's Dorothy Gale, was from Kansas -- and that the movie which lent itself to the term "Friend of Dorothy" was set in "moral values" Kansas? Has nothing to do with anything other than the fact that I think it's funny.)
First, we have a Gestapo-like state attorney general investigating the sex lives of female citizens of his state. Only in a red state (or in George W. Bush's America) could you have the highest law enforcement official in the land committing overt violations of the Constitutionally-guaranteed right to privacy. Only in a red state could such blatant disregard be shown for the Constitution under the guise of enforcing moral values.
The Kansas attorney general is demanding abortion clinics turn over the complete medical records of nearly 90 women and girls, saying he needs the material for an investigation into underage sex and illegal late-term abortions.
Attorney General Phill Kline, an abortion opponent, insisted Thursday: "I have the duty to investigate and prosecute child rape and other crimes in order to protect Kansas children." Kline is seeking the records of women and girls who had late-term abortions. Sex involving someone under 16 is illegal in Kansas...
Wow. Now the neoconazis are connecting abortion with child rape? That's as specious as connecting opposition to this president's social security overhaul with supporting gay marriage. This is a group of evil, propagandizing, disgusting people who don't deserve the title "American."
Our good friend Tim has posted about some of the very real reasons behind potential late-term abortions -- which, it should be pointed out, is a rare procedure and more importantly is usually a decision made with great heartbreak involved for the mother or prospective parents. I recommend you check his post out and think about what he's written.
But even more hysterically, when discussing underage sex, Kansas appears to have its collective head buried in (the sand? somewhere else? you decide). Again as Tim points out, Kansas refused to participate in the CDC's latest study on underage sexual activity. For a state government so concerned with the sexual habits of its underage women, you'd think the Kansas powers that be would have been a little more enthusiastic about learning more about what's really happening in their state, wouldn't you? But then that would have indicated real concern, as opposed to merely the pursuit of an extremist right wing agenda to enforce or inflict a religious sect's moral beliefs on the rest of society... you know, kind of like the Taliban.
Moving on, of course the other big news is that the alleged BTK serial killer has been arrested in Wichita. If they've got their guy -- and by all indications, it appears that they've got a pretty solid case -- then of course it's a sigh of relief to get a sociopath off the streets. And I hope they're able to find some sort of loophole to get this guy the chair; at the moment it isn't looking likley, since Kansas instituted capital punishment after the BTK killings had occurred. But I really would like to see this criminal get a little taste of what he inflicted on his victims.
One area in which I stray from the liberal orthodoxy is on the death penalty; it was Timothy McVeigh's hate-filled crime that flipped me on the issue. I was working in a federal building less than four blocks from the FBI headquarters on that day, and I will never forget the sadness, fear and anguish that man caused, all for some right wing AM radio-fueled vendetta against the American government. If I could have pushed the button, flipped the switch or injected the syringe myself, I would have paid for the privilege.
From that point on, I have believed that even though the deterrence factor is relatively nil, and that little is achieved beyond society's need for retribution, there are some crimes so henious and despicable that they warrant the extraction of that retribution. Yes, I am concerned about the imbalance of how and when the death penalty is applied, especially down south; I know that your odds of getting a capital sentence increase dramatically if you're a criminal of color as opposed to being white. And that requires review and correction... I'm not saying the system's perfect or that we oughtn't be extremely careful in handing down that sentence. Just saying that criminals like BTK have it coming.
One last thing that caught my eye about the BTK story was this comment from the son of one of the victims:
"It's going to take awhile to reconcile the fact that my mom spent her last few minutes on this Earth at the hands of the lowest form of social sewage on the ladder of evolution," he said. "It's hard to accept that's what she last saw before she died."
Not to find irony in someone else's pain... but did I just hear a Kansas citizen use the word, "evolution?" Guess all that Christian brainwashing didn't take hold after all.
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
Anyone who's read my exchanges with my cousin Joe the Bartender knows how much I hate cigarette smoking. The only thing that comes close to annoying me as much is when smokers lazily toss their used carcinogens out the windows of their moving vehicles. It's bad enough they have to pollute the air with cancer sticks... now they've gotta toss live embers onto the highway where they will eventually sit in unbiodegradable splendor. Ashtrays are apparently too challenging and complicated a concept for these jokers to ponder.
So imagine my delight when I read this story.
A 20-year-old man barely escaped serious injury Thursday after a lit cigarette he tried to toss out the window while driving across the Bay Bridge blew back in and ignited the vehicle, according to the California Highway Patrol. ...
Carried by the wind, the cigarette landed in his back seat and almost immediately burst into flames. The man quickly pulled to the side of the road, and jumped from the flame-filled SUV, which continued rolling into a guard rail, Chase said.
"He thought he had thrown it in park, but he didn't and it just kept going," the officer said. "It was in flames by the time he got out. He had some of his hair singed on the back of his head. It burnt down to the frame. There was nothing left."
Well, at least his SUV was totaled. You'll pardon me if I don't work up a whole lot of sympathy for this guy.
WELCOME TO A HERO
I don't know that I've ever been happier or prouder to point folks to someone else's blog. Say hello to Afghan Andy, and head over to his site Adventures in Afghanistan. Andy's a friend of Mileah's at Literally Liberal; he's in the US Army and is currently serving his second tour of duty in Afghanistan... you know, that other place we have troops in. Just from reading his site, you can tell he's dedicated to doing things the right way -- like so many other members of our military, he's someone we can all be proud to have representing us.
Please go over and say hello and tell him thanks. And Andy... welcome to blogging.
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
THE RETURN OF THE WOMAN SCORNED
Last week I told you about the British woman who ripped off her ex-boyfriend's testicle with her bare hands after he refused her sex. When I first saw that story, I seriously wondered whether I would ever see a more horrific one. I was wrong -- this one is far worse.
A 44-year-old Anchorage man had his penis surgically reattached after it was cut off by an angry girlfriend and flushed down a toilet, local police said Sunday.
It's been down the toilet? Makes you kind of wonder whether it's worth getting back. Then again, who knows where it's been while still attached?
The pair had been arguing over an impending breakup, an Anchorage Police Department statement said. At some point, the two decided to have sex and the man agreed to let the woman tie his arms to a windowsill.
Wait a minute... well, first, I have to give the guy props for talking her into sex even though they were going to break up. But... tying his arms to a windowsill? Aren't windowsills flat and pretty much protruberance-free? How does one tie one's arms to a windowsill? And if you've just been arguing and talking about breaking up, do you really want to be letting the other person tie you up? Wouldn't you be afraid of precisely this kind of thing?
But the woman used a kitchen knife to amputate her partner's penis and flushed it down the toilet, police said. She untied the man, drove him to a local hospital and was cleaning up the bloody scene when police arrived at the home, according to the statement.
Gives new meaning to the term, "Vanish," doesn't it? Wow, she drove him to the hospital after Bobbitt-izing him. Now that's love!
Summoned by the police, workers from the local water utility pulled the toilet up from the floor and were able to recover the severed penis, which was rushed to the hospital for the successful reattachment surgery on Sunday morning.
I can think of very few scenarios in this world where I would not want to keep mine. This might be the only one, however. It was flushed into the sewer so deeply that they had to pull the toilet out of the floor to get to it? Was it, like, stained blue from the 2000 Flushes cleanser puck? If it was yours, would you even want it back after that ordeal?
TV SHOW REVIEW: ROBOT CHICKEN
Three words for you: Claymation-based satire.
This bizarre show, running as part of Cartoon Network's "Adult Swim" late night programming, had my buddy Damian and I in hysterics on Sunday night -- and we weren't even under the influence of alcohol. Created by Seth Green (Scott Evil from the Austin Powers movies, and some TV show about a vampire), the show also has attracted quite an impressive list of celebrity guest voices, including Mark Hamill, Macauley Culkin, the cast of "That 70s Show," Sarah Michelle Gellar, Rachel Leigh Cook, and Scarlett Johansen. And it's not just me who says it's funny: check out this review or this one.
If you're looking for some cheap, turn-off-your-brain laughs, I'm strongly in favor of Robot Chicken. Two, uh, clucks up.
INSTANT KARMA'S GONNA GET YOU
What happens when you're a large chain store and a pious group of Christians approach you about using your brand in a pious "faith-based, family" movie they're making (i.e., Leave it to Beaver set in 2005) as a "message" to Hollywood... and that gets adopted by the Christian community before it ever comes out?
Simple: you go Chapter 11.
Not that I am entirely celebrating Winn-Dixie's demise. Most analysts are suggesting that Winn-Dixie was driven out of business by Super Wal-Mart -- the most evil entity in retail. So in that sense, to paraphrase the Koranic proverb, is my enemy's enemy my friend?
Burt P. Flickinger III, managing director of Strategic Resources Group in New York, said Tuesday he doubts Winn-Dixie will be able to succeed under Chapter 11 reorganization and may eventually be forced into a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which calls for liquidation of the company and its assets.
"I don't believe the company will be able to fight off the Wal-Mart Supercenter tsunami," said Flickinger, who said Wal-Mart Stores Inc. plans to open new grocery stores this year in Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and North Carolina.
"It is literally the biggest tragedy in American business last century," Flickinger said. "It's absolutely tragic, the company ... got wiped out by Wal-Mart."
Karma for playing ball with the values crowd, or victim of a mind-controlling robotic Orwellian company from Arkansas... either way, Winn-Dixie may well be in its last days. 79,000 employees, including 33,000 full-timers, will be affected.
H.L. MENCKEN WAS A REALLY SHARP GUY
It was hardly a novel or hard-to-see concept, but Mencken was the first to publicly put words to the reality that "no one has ever gone broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public." A Gallup poll out today not only confirms Mencken's wisdom, but takes it to a whole new level.
A new Gallup Poll, released today, finds that Ronald Reagan is now the people's choice for America's greatest president ever. Bill Clinton comes in second... In this new poll on greatest president, Reagan drew 20% support, followed by Clinton with 15%, Lincoln with 14%, and Franklin D. Roosevelt and JFK with 12% each.
Okay, first of all, no president -- of either party -- can be accurately and fairly assessed in an historical context by historians or persons old enough to have consciousness about his policies. Recent presidents can't be accurately assessed because emotion and personal politics get in the way. It's an accepted precept of presidential history -- and it disqualifies fair assessment of both Reagan and Clinton until another generation goes by and historians who have no memory of understanding their policies can judge them. But in both cases, I am quite sure that even when fair assessments can be made, neither Ronald Reagan nor Bill Clinton will rank ahead of Abraham Lincoln or Franklin Roosevelt. That's just asinine. And members of both parties are equally to blame for lionizing their own.
Republicans rate Reagan over Lincoln 42% to 14%, while Democrats put Clinton far in the lead over FDR. Independents favor Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Kennedy.
Reagan over Lincoln by 42% to 14%???? I mean, I knew Republicans live in a dream world inhabited only by their own wishes, but that may be the closest thing to secular sacrilege I've ever seen. And Democrats are no better. The current administration makes me long for even the days of impeachment hearings, so by comparison Clinton is downright Messianic. But to rank him "far ahead" of FDR?? Are you kidding me?? Just how far off the deep end have the extreme rightists who've taken over our country pushed your average Democrat?
And why is it that neither Republican nor Democratic respondents managed to remember the extraordinary presidency and extraordinary life of George Washington? Is anyone actually going to argue with a straight face that either Reagan or Clinton were greater than Washington? Have we taken total leave of our senses?? The American public really is dumbing down... this poll tells me that the over/under on our collective IQ has dropped to about 67.
For the record, my top ten would be, in order, Washington, Lincoln, FDR, Jefferson, Jackson, Wilson, Teddy Roosevelt, Truman, Polk, and perhaps Madison.
IF 1,000 MONKEYS SAT AT 1,000 TYPEWRITERS, ONE OF THEM WOULD BECOME PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
Oops. That already happened. As proof, I offer the following:
-- Bush today dismissed accusations that he intends to invade Iran as "simply ridiculous" -- and then in the same breath, in the same paragraph, he asserted that all options remain open for consideration. Apparently Cheech lacks the intelligence to recognize self-contradiction when he sees it.
"This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous. Having said that, all options are on the table," Bush said.
Anyone else feeling like an evil Willy Wonka is leading this nation right now, and that Rove, Rice, Cheney and Rumsfeld are all Oompa Loompas?
-- Any red state/Republican voter feeling that Bush has somehow "improved" US prestige or image around the world should take a look at these two articles... First, the most popular urinal puck in Belgium these days might look a little familiar to Laura, Karl Rove, and Condi. Yeah, American prestige is at an all time high.
Second, read this piece in this week's Time. Anyone who thinks that Bush has actually increased American influence should spend a few minutes reading about just how free Europe feels to ignore America these days. Yeah, we're real influential, all right.
-- All anyone has to do is look at Iraq to realize that this administration (and its supporters) is unwilling or unable to deal with reality... if facts don't support the Bush/Rove/neocon world view, this administration simply changes the facts (or ignores them in favor of some spin they'd prefer that you believe).
Science provides further proof of this administration's M.O.. This administration's dedication to ideology over intellect is harming our nation's ability to compete -- not to mention the very health of the world we live in. At the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, our country's brightest minds have been letting loose on this irresponsible, dogmatic, actively deceptive administration.
Speakers at the national meeting of the American Association for Advancement of Science expressed concern Sunday that some scientists in key federal agencies are being ignored or even pressured to change study conclusions that don't support policy positions. The speakers also said that Bush's proposed 2005 federal budget is slashing spending for basic research and reducing investments in education designed to produce the nation's future scientists...
Kurt Gottfried of Cornell University and the Union of Concerned Scientists said a survey of scientists in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that about 42 percent said they felt pressured to not report publicly any findings that do not agree with Bush policies on endangered species. He said almost a third of the Fish and Wildlife researchers said they were even pressured not to express within the agency any views in conflict with the Bush policies...
Dissenting views are intimidated into silence, while the truth falls casualty to ideology... yeah, sounds like Bush and the neocons, all right. Red voters... this is what you voted for. Hope you're happy.
Monday, February 21, 2005
40 YEARS ON
I couldn't let today go by without acknowledging that it was 40 years ago on this date that Malcom X was assassinated at the Audubon ballroom in New York City.
Martin Luther King is rightfully celebrated for his role in the civil rights revolution, but I personally have more respect for Malcolm's approach. Rather than 'turn the other cheek,' Malcolm basically said, 'if you hit me, I'm going to hit you back -- hard.' Dr. King won hearts and minds in the white community with his philosophy of non-violence and civil disobedience; but to me Malcolm seems the more human, the more real representation. And this isn't because of Spike Lee's movie or the hip-hop community's embrace of the man -- though I respect both. It's because I understand and empathize with Malcolm's position more -- if someone hits me, I'm going to hit them back. And if you read some of the things he said and wrote, you realize that what so many whites feared all those years ago wasn't that Malcolm was angry... it was that he was so intelligent and insightful. What they feared was that in many ways, he was right.
"You're not to be so blind with patriotism that you can't face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it. "
"I would like to point something out so that we'll understand each other better. I don't want you to think in the statements I made that I'm being disrespectful towards you as white people. I'm being frank. And I think that my statements will give you a better insight on the mind of a black man than most statements you get from most people who call themselves Negroes, who usually tell you what they want you to hear with the hope... that will make them draw closer to you and create a better possibility of getting from you some of the crumbs that you might let fall from your table. Well, I'm not looking for crumbs so I'm not trying to delude you."
I respect what Malcolm X was and what he still represents, and on this -- the anniversary of his death -- I remember.
SURPRISE, SURPRISE, SURPRISE
Gomer Pyle, I can hear you now. Thanks to a Texan with a tape recorder, we have apparent proof of what we've all already known for years: George W. Bush spent five years as Texas governor putting people in jail for doing exactly what he'd done in the 1970s. The tapes appear to contain a Bush admission of having used drugs during his reckless youth (as opposed to his even more reckless adulthood).
"I don't want any kid doing what I tried to do 30 years ago," Bush said in recordings made when he was governor of Texas and aired Monday on ABC's "Good Morning America." "And I mean that. It doesn't matter if it's LSD, cocaine, pot, any of those things, because if I answer one, then there will be another one. And I just am not going to answer those questions. And it may cost me the election."
First of all, would that it had. (Although he did flat out lose in 2000, and there are plenty of questions about the legitimacy of the 2004 votes as well.)
But what I want to know is this: where is the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments from the phonies in the right wing? If Clinton's having smoked pot was enough to make him morally unfit for the office of president, then why is George W. Bush given a flyer for all the drugs he put into his system? Why is something that is morally reprehensible from the left suddenly either ignored or dismissed as the mistakes of a somewhat misspent youth?
Don't get me wrong -- I am not hitting Bush for drug use. For one thing, I don't think that things people do or may have did when they were younger -- short of perhaps raping someone or trying to kill them -- should be held against them as an adult a decade or more later. People make mistakes. And anyone who never did anything they regret or are ashamed of has, in my mind, been planning and calculating their political career for far too long to be trusted. Secondly, if you're going to disqualify anyone who tried drugs in the 60s and 70s, we've immediately eliminated far more than half of the eligible population. I just think the whole thing is much ado about nothing.
But what disgusts me is -- as usual -- the utter hypocrisy of the right. We got righteous indignation over Clinton's past drug use and lack of candor; with Bush we get the right quietly accepting vague regrets of "mistakes" and no reaction at all when the whispers are confirmed. Once again, the right is showing that their "moral values" are merely the posturing of a group of poseurs and charlatans.
Saturday, February 19, 2005
RANDOM THOUGHTS FOR A RANDOM WEEKEND...
-- I have too much stuff. Or, at least my place is too small to store the stuff that I have. Out of boredom, I tried an extensive cleaning today, to the extent that I could (see next item). The result doesn't look much different than it looked before I started. I clean things, rearrange, straighten... and I have too many things to put away and not enough places to put them away in. Time for a new place, methinks.
-- I saw today that the Psycho Cowboy is refusing to rule out invading Iran if that country will not give up uranium enrichment. I swear, Kim Jong-Il must thank his stars every morning that North Korea has no oil... he can make all the nukes he wants and yet never have to worry one bit about being invaded or having Bush do anything to stop him.
-- Gonna be off line for a couple of days, most likely. Back pain notwithstanding, I'm heading to DC for the long weekend for a few days of catching up with old friends. Damian (he of the lost week stories I posted last May after Dave's wedding in California) came down from upstate NY, met me here tonight, and we're heading to DC in a couple of hours. I'll of course be seeing my brother, and my friend Jay turns 34 on Tuesday so I am sure we'll be out celebrating that occasion. I may do a post from the road, but if I don't make it online, I'll catch you Monday night or Tuesday.
-- I just want to echo what I read over at Political Site of the Day: that I think it's ridiculous to have to celebrate all of the presidents on this day, and I think we ought to go back to honoring Washington and Lincoln alone. Both were undeniably great men deserving of the honor. Unlike, say, Warren Harding, Millard Fillmore, or Herbert Hoover. And I bet that having to honor Bill Clinton sticks in a right winger's craw just as much as having to acknowlegde a Bush or Reagan sticks in mine.
-- Why is it that the whole time that I was in California earlier this month, and was just itching to call my friends here in NY and rub it in that I was warmer than they were, it was 55 degrees here in NY that whole week... but now that I'm back, we've dropped down to 20 degrees again?
-- Question especially for my female readers: I'm dye-ing to know... let's say there's this guy you know who is, oh, say... about 36 years old. Unfortunately, genetics and a stressful job have left our hero -- oops, I mean this guy -- prematurely gray; in fact, he's about 80% silver now, even at only 36. My question is this... gray hair on men: attractive or not attractive? Would you say he should get dyed, or go with hair that makes him look older than he is? Enquiring minds want to know.
Talk to you all Monday night.
GET OFF MY BACK
One of the running jokes among those who know me in personally is how ridiculously injury-prone I am. You name it, I've hurt it -- and usually in the most conspicuous of ways. I've always been injury-prone. When I was younger, it was because I was always going 110 mph in sports... I lived for home plate collisions and making open field tackles, and I threw my body into everything; I got knocked out a few times, got split open and stitched up at least once a year, broke a couple of bones, tore up my right wrist and my left knee... but all from just not knowing how to play in any speed but overdrive.
As I've gotten older, however, the injuries have come not as a result of playing in overdrive, but simply from playing. I'm not the kid I used to be, I'm heavier than I used to be, and my brain is too small to comprehend that perhaps lightening up and accepting my limitations might be a smarter way to play. I've torn a calf muscle playing basketball with guys from the office, torn my groin in the office softball tournament, and wrecked my knee a second time while trying to pivot off a backhand stop down the line at third base (I really thought I could get the guy running to second on the force out). It's happened so often now that the running gag around the office is that any time people talk about getting together for exercise or sports, my colleagues start laying odds on which body part Mudge will injure and how long he'll be out of action as a result.
Even so, I have always accepted these with a healthy dose of testosterone-laced pride. When someone tells me I need to take it easy, I just smile and toss out a bravado-laden line like "I don't know how to play any other way." Even if it's self-delusional at this stage of my life, I still tell myself that injuries are part of the package if you want to play at the level of intensity I want to play at. Yes, I realize that this is an attitude for fit men in their 20s, not desk jockeys in their mid-30s with a Michelin around their waist.
Unfortunately, this week I have succumbed to another injury... only this time, it didn't happen via any exercise or sport, or even some activity. It happened while I was sleeping. And it happened primarily because, as a physician's assistant told me today, I'm getting old.
I woke up out of a dead sleep on Monday morning at 5 am with just a piercing, sharp pain in my lower back. It felt like my back was just knotted up... like when a little kid grabs both ends of the shoelace and pulls so tightly that the resulting knot may never be undone. I couldn't go back to sleep, so I sort of laid in bed for a few hours before realizing that it wasn't doing me any good. So I got up and went to work -- stiff and trying hard to limit how I moved, but I went. By Wednesday, however, I had a tingling sensation go down my right leg - kind of like my leg had fallen asleep only a little more sharp. By Thursday, it was pain -- not to mention that I had the sensation while sitting in my chair that my butt was asleep. (That's a weird feeling... trust me.)
So today, I finally saw the doctor. It turns out that I have a herniated disc in my lower back -- the tingling and pain are due to pressure on a nerve. I won't need surgery, it will heal up without invasive procedures... I'm just supposed to take it easy for a while (no working out, no hockey, no softball), but not too much (if I stay in bed for too many days they say the muscles in my back will start to weaken further and cause a delay in healing).
But the worst of it all is this: when I asked how this happened or what I might have done, they said, "nothing." Apparently, this just starts to happen to people's backs a lot of times as they age -- they say it's not at all uncommon for people in their late 30s and early 40s.
You know, I can accept pain or injury because I was too stubborn to admit that I'm not 19 anymore. If I hurt myself playing sports, it's part of the game. But getting hurt while sleeping? And having an injury that came simply because my body is aging??
My mid-life crisis has officially begun, at 36 years and 7 months. The sportscar and the 21 year old are next.
Friday, February 18, 2005
WELCOME TO THE RIEFENSTAHL BROADCAST NETWORK
No one will be surprised to read another story about how ridiculous it is that Sinclair Broadcasting is allowed to continue functioning as the propaganda wing of the extreme right, all with a public license for your airwaves. But in this week's Rolling Stone, you get a very good look into the toilet bowl to see how much Sinclair floats.
An ex-producer says he was ordered not to report "any bad news out of Iraq -- no dead servicemen, no reports on how much we're spending, nothing." And a producer Sinclair sent to Iraq to report on the war calls the resulting coverage "pro-Bush."
"You weren't reporting news," says the producer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "You were reporting a political agenda that came down to you from the top of the food chain." ...
On Sunday, October 17th, Sinclair called a mandatory meeting for the entire News Central staff. According to several who attended, Leiberman stood up and voiced his opposition to "Stolen Honor." "Each and every one of us is going to lose our credibility if we lend our voices and our writing and our faces to this product that clearly isn't news," he said. "It's propaganda. It's meant to sway the election -- we've been told that by people inside the company."
Sinclair's vice president of news, Joseph DeFeo, looked at Leiberman. "You may face consequences for not choosing to participate in this," Leiberman recalls him saying. Then DeFeo looked around the room. "Anyone else want to join him?" he asked. No one spoke up...The next day, after Leiberman made his concerns public, Sinclair fired him. (Sinclair refuses to comment on the incident.)Employees report a pervasive climate of fear at Sinclair. Staffers worry that management is listening to their telephone calls, and a recent notice sent to all employees warns that the company is monitoring their e-mail and Internet use. "We know if you use e-mail to send jokes to your friends and co-workers," the memo states. "We know if you view porn.... We know if you order parts for the car you are trying to restore.... We know how many people searched for Janet Jackson after the Super Bowl (97 searches)."
Get a good look at the way the right wing wants things to be, kids. Have political beliefs that aren't extreme right wing? You're fired. Expect that your company will adhere to basic standards of conduct for its industry? You're fired. Daily threats and intimidation that the company knows everything about you... Sinclair is the right wing agenda in motion, kids.
The funniest thing? Just like almost all conservative leaders who've made careers of playing morality police and trying to demonize anyone who doesn't match up with the evangelicals' view of the perfect citizen, the CEO of Sinclair is a phony. He's been arrested for soliciting a prostitute -- and then managed not only to get community service instead of a more serious penalty, but managed to get his employees to perform the community service for him.
Smith's media connections came in handy in 1996, when he was arrested on suspicion of soliciting a prostitute who, police said, performed "an unnatural and perverted sex act on him" in a Mercedes owned by Sinclair. Charged with a misdemeanor sex offense, Smith cut an unusual deal: In lieu of doing community service, he ordered Sinclair to broadcast reports publicizing local drug programs. "The judge was outraged," former Sinclair reporter LuAnne Canipe told Salon. "He said, 'How can employees do community service for their boss?''"
Yep, kids... the right wing in action. Do as we say, not as we do. (And if you don't do as we say, you're either fired or arrested.)
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
QUESTIONS I HAVE
1. Why do people look at the kleenex after they've blown their nose?
2) Is there anything worse than the sounds in a public restroom?
3) How would Cindy Brady say the word "thong?"
4) Isn't it disturbing that I just used "Cindy Brady" and "thong" in the same sentence?
5) Why do many men spit before peeing into a urinal? Target practice?
6) If I drink Poland Spring water, will I get dumber?
7) Why do I always get stuck behind the person paying with exact change?
8) How come the Russians get salad dressing, the Swedish get fish, the Chinese get fire drills and checkers, the Brazillians get wax, and the French get to kiss, but the best Americans can do is a processed cheese?
9) What is it about a clothed pant leg that is so attractive to dogs?
10) If I wash myself with Irish Spring, will my penis shrink?
11) When Jesus turned the other cheek, did it have cellulite?
12) Is Canadian bacon made from pigs that say "aboot?"
THE SOUTH SHALL FRIES AGAIN
The blue states will have our day, one way or the other. If nothing else, all those southern-fried red staters are going to keel over from heart attacks about 20 years before the rest of us. The weird thing is, this appears to be exactly how they like it.
Amid a national obesity epidemic and the South's infamous distinction as the "Stroke Belt," health officials have been trying to get diners to flinch, at least a little, at the region's trademark fried and fatty foods. But nutritionists have found it's hard to teach an old region new tricks. How can Southerners give up delicious staples fried chicken, fried seafood, fried green tomatoes and cornbread slathered in butter?
Even at the Atlanta headquarters of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leader of the nation's anti-obesity campaign, the cafeteria serves up such artery-clogging regional favorites as biscuits and gravy.
This could be our secret weapon, blue staters. Crisco, beer batter, whole milk, butter, and chicken fried steak. Send your care packages to random red state Bush voters today.
Monday, February 14, 2005
I don't find it any coincidence that Valentine's Day and venereal disease share initials.
Let me put it right out there: I hate Valentine's Day (copyright Hallmark, Godiva, and Zales). Always have. True, I hate it more now than ever due to certain bombshells that were dropped right about this time of year, but I've never been a fan. And spare me the platitudes about how I'd feel differently if I were seriously with someone, or if I didn't have bad memories associated with it. To borrow a line from my favorite literary character, Bah! Humbug!
Look -- when I'm in a relationship, if I really need a specified day and reason to do something nice or give "my" woman a gift or two, it bodes pretty poorly for the relationship. If she digs flowers, send 'em on May 15 just because she likes them. If she likes diamonds, get her some earrings or a necklace on October 18 just to see her smile. Don't wait for the commercially prescribed day that you're supposed to do these things! To borrow/paraphrase another line from my beloved Scrooge, "that's a poor excuse for picking a man's pocket every February 14!" If a couple needs Hallmark to tell them when and how to show affection, they're not going to have to worry about one another that much longer.
However, I'm digressing. The point is that I am not seriously dating anyone this year -- which means that I get to look in smug judgement at all the sickeningly happy couples out there and wish for a single day of amnesty, so I could get away with slapping the snot out of every one of 'em. In fact, I propose that we start a new VD tradition: every February 14, every single person gets to find one couple and paintbrush them three times. Couples owe us anyway... all those tax breaks they get for being married that we never see (given that the government hates single people)... this should be the one shot we get each year to extract a little payback.
And I'd throw an extra kick in the ass to anyone who ever suggested to a single friend that "we have to get you set up with a nice girl/guy..." I'm not talking about the ones who say "you should meet my friend so-and-so, I think you guys would have a lot in common." I'm talking about the folks who just feel the need to see you together with somebody -- anybody... who feel the need to tell you that it's time to get out there again... or that you need to be settled down, or whatever. We all know them, right? The ones who act like you're not complete unless you're with someone? The ones whose first question when you talk to them for the first time in a while is, "Are you seeing anyone?"
The unspoken message behind every such offer is that our lives cannot possibly be as happy if we're not "with" someone. There's something I find very limiting and small-minded about people who are unable to be happy and content unless they're part of a couple, and unable to comprehend that anyone else might be. It's either tremendously condescending of them or tremendously insecure... I mean, you wanna talk about people who take their self-esteem from being part of someone else's identity? Sheesh! Look, relationships aren't a bad thing in and of themselves... but people should be in them when they want to be and when they're ready to be... not because they're supposed to be in one. This is my first completely single VD in a while now, and believe it or not I am fine with it.
There are a couple of VD observances I don't mind, however. Jillian, the e-card you sent me was great -- the only thing that would have been better is if I'd have been able to shoot Cupid with a flamethrower instead of arrows. And then there's this little contest, which I think captures the true spirit of the day.
SYRACUSE, New York (AP) -- Cupid occasionally misses his mark, so a local radio station is running a Valentine's Day contest offering a free divorce.
Now that's a Valentine's Day gift.
RIOT OR WRONG?
Warning you ahead of time -- I'm straying into controversial territory here. And I'm touching on racial issues that a pampered white boy is in no position to understand. But I caught this article from this week's Newsweek, and there's something I just don't understand -- and I wanted to bring it up.
LAPD Officer Steve Garcia and his partner were patrolling South Los Angeles at 3:49 last Sunday morning when they spotted a maroon 1990 Toyota driving erratically. At the wheel was Devin Brown, joyriding with a friend in what police later determined was a stolen car. Siren blaring, the cops chased Brown for three miles before he lost control and slammed the Toyota into a fence. Brown's buddy ran. Officer Garcia left his car, too. Then Brown suddenly backed the Toyota into the side of the patrol car. In reaction, the nine-year veteran pumped ten quick shots at the car, killing Brown. Only later did cops learn that Devin Brown, an African-American, was unarmed, an eighth grader -- and only 13.
The corner of 83rd Street and Western Avenue where Brown died quickly became both a memorial and a protest zone. Community activists blamed racism. "There seems to be a complete disregard for black life," said Danny Bakewell, head of the Brotherhood Crusade.
"This city is one incident away from a riot," says Rice.
Admittedly, I am neither black nor live in L.A., so I can't speak to the experience of the black community in southern California. But let's see... a kid steals a car, leads cops on a three mile chase, and suddenly backs into the side of a car where an officer is crouched... and it's racism to blame? The kid tried to run over the cop -- and when the cop defends himself, it's the cop who has complete disregard for life??
To paraphrase a wise man, what the freaking hell?
Look, fourteen years ago I could understand the anger and frustration after the Rodney King verdicts. True, King did run from the cops just like this kid -- but anyone who saw the videotape understood that the cops kept on him long after King was subdued. But in this case... I just don't understand the reaction. Really, I don't. The kid backed suddenly right into the cop's car -- and he's a victim of racism? Opening fire on someone who's trying to run you down doesn't feel to me like racism. It feels like self-defense. What does the community in L.A. want -- for cops to not be able to defend themselves if a suspect is a certain profile?
It would seem to me (again, admittedly a pampered white suburban dude) that community activists would have a hell of a lot more credibility if they weren't crying racism over incidents like this. Racism does still happen, unfortunately -- we know this. White people have to acknowledge and understand it -- as a society of folks who generally want to get along with one another, we're never going to solve any of our collective issues by denying that they exist. But it does no one any good to slap the racism tag on every incident... it just makes it harder for people to believe when the real cases of racism and police abuse happen.
"One incident away from a riot." Over this? Last time, I understood. This time, I'd find it a convenient excuse.
You know, it's stuff like this that tends to really piss me off.
Isac Aguero, 24, said he was fired from his job with a Miller Brewing distributor, the same day a picture appeared in The Journal Times of Racine of him drinking a Bud Light, which is brewed by Anheuser-Busch Co.
So the guy was on his own, not at work and on his own time, drinking a Bud Light... and he got fired? For drinking a Bud Light?
That's all he got?
Where is the justice in this world? Where is the mandatory five year prison sentence for having judgement so poor that he'd drink that "beer?" Seriously, does anyone even water their plants with that sludge? As far as I'm concerned, this dude should have been fired. He should have been given paper cuts all over both hands and then forced to immerse his left in a vat of lemon juice and his right in a vat of tobasco sauce. He should have been made to read Family Circus and Ziggy cartoons until his eyes bled.
He said he was called into the general manager's office and told he was fired. Aguero said he was not given a reason and claimed he never had problems with his bosses.
"Bud Light's my beer of choice, I always drink that. Just because I work there, do I have to change what I drink?"
I rest my case.
Sunday, February 13, 2005
THE STATE OF MY UNION
I'm a couple of weeks late, and am borrowing the concept from Corey. But as it is the constitutional duty of both true leaders and those who merely think they are to do a status report to the nation, here goes the State of My Union address:
My fellow Curmudgeons,
As a new year dawns, it is my great privilege and honor to be in this exalted place... on your monitors, taking up your bandwidth, and visiting you in your homes. This is a responsibility I do not take lightly, and one that I will do my best to uphold.
Tonight, with a healthy, growing readership (as well as an unhealthy, growing waistline), and with this blog an active force for pointing out the hypocrisies and ridiculousness in the world -- the state of my union is confident and strong.
Actually, that's not necessarily true. Don't get me wrong -- life is pretty good, all things considered. I'm still here, for starters, which is a step in the right direction. But one thing you can count on from any president of either party is that they will always refer to the state of our union as "confident and strong." We could be in the middle of a civil war, biological attack, or the Earth could be doomed by its impending collision with a comet just outside of Mars' orbit, and whoever was president would still refer to the state of our union as confident and strong. I see no reason to stray from this precedent, so I have thusly referred to my state.
My job is going well. It's kind of sad that this is the first thing I think of when asked a general question about how I am doing. My job takes up entirely too much of my life; I have yet to master (or even grasp, really) the concept of work-life balance. But if you're going to spend at least 75% of your time either working or hanging around people you work with, you better hope the job's going well. Mine is, and for that I feel fortunate.
Of course, the job's still in New York, which is an automatic 15 yard penalty with a loss of down. Despite a couple of semi-departures over the last few years, I'm still here. New York's a good place, but it's not for everyone -- and specifically not for me. Yeah, yeah... I know what you're thinking. But wanting to leave and being able to go are two different things, and it's not that easy. (For example, I like where I work, and to do what I do for them I pretty much need to be here, with a couple of exceptions.) That said, I'll be looking even harder this year for ways to make myself one of those exceptions. I'll keep you posted.
Politics will continue to be an infuriating diversion. George W. Bush continues to polarize the American people -- half of us would complain that he got wet if he walked on water, and the other half would justify it and defend him if he slashed and killed his wife and her friend at her home in Brentwood. By the way, take a look here at a good, in depth analysis about who really benefits from Bush's social security plan. It's going to be a depressing, painful four years -- during which we will all have to remain especially vigilant to the abuses and elimination of our rights that are part of Bush's far right wing agenda.
Pop culture continues to be a mixed bag. Jessica Simpson still has a career, and her sister Ashlee and Jerry Springer still exist, and Fox "News" and Sinclair Broadcasting still are making a mockery of the concept of fair use of the airwaves. On the other hand, Liz Phair finally did some revealing cheesecake, so it all balances out. (And for the record, she was on my top five list long before I learned about these pictures. Now she's just more set in stone.)
Speaking of music, well... I don't much anymore. Until I get myself XM this spring (which I am doing both to escape the ClearChannel-dictated airwaves and to get the Major Leage Baseball package), my in-car and in-office music comes from what I download off iTunes. I never thought I would sound like my parents, but today's music sucks. 95% of it anyway. However, there have been a few diamonds in the very rough. Green Day's American Idiot, for example -- which will win the Grammy for Album of the Year if there is any justice in the world.
Movies... I just don't see many new ones anymore. I'd like to see Ray, but who knows if I'll get around to it any time soon? The last three DVDs I watched were all Christmas presents: I, Robot, Pink Floyd's The Wall, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. I can't say I am much better at TV either; I don't watch many shows anymore. I used to be a fanatic about The West Wing, but when my writing idol Aaron Sorkin left the show, so did I. At this stage, I'm watching mostly History Channel and National Geographic Channel documentaries, with an occasional Queer Eye or SportsCenter.
Sports... it's hard to imagine the next year being any better than the last. The Patriots won the Super Bowl, the Red Sox won the World Series, and I won the fantasy baseball league. And wait... do you smell it in the air? It's baseball season. Pitchers and catchers report this week, spring training begins, and the fantasy league draft is only 48 days away. Your Vice City Vultures will be returning to Impending Doom Stadium to defend their title in just a few weeks now... I bought five of the analysis magazines this weekend, and the preparation is about to begin for draft day -- the best day of the year -- on April 2.
Before that, however, I've got a ski vacation coming up in what's becoming our traditional March extended weekend in Killington, Vermont. Yeah, Killington is the Jersey Shore of skiing -- overcrowded, and full of hair spray and people looking to be seen as much as to enjoy being there. But you know what? It's still fun. And I'm looking forward to it.
New Year's resolutions... my friend Dave asked me over e-mail this week how they're going. All I can say is, "Ha!" Fatter'n ever and haven't written jack. What I am learning is that whenever I make a new year's resolution, I generally do the exact opposite. So I'm revising my 2005 resolutions. This time around, I resolve to embrace my sloth. Screw trying to get closer to 200 pounds -- I'm going for 300. As for the novel, I'm still working on it.
There are a few other things that I'm still working on figuring out, mysteries of life as it were whose answers haven't yet revealed themselves to me. For example... if bacon's so bad for you, why did God make it taste so damn good? Or another one: how is it that my cat can spend five minutes hacking up a lung and leaving it on my floor, and then immediately return to meowing to be fed? And how is it that he always can tell the difference between hardwood floor and area rug, and then pukes on the rug where it's much harder to clean?
But for every mystery solved, there are dozens left open to question. Like why you read this blog full of pithy observations about stupid things and rants from way out in left field. And why Mary Tyler Moore is trying so hard to look like the alien creature from Communion.
So there you have it: the state of my union is full of mysteries I don't comprehend, hopes I haven't yet given up on, and of course, it is confident and strong. Peace be upon you, and don't make me come back there. Void where prohibited.
Friday, February 11, 2005
ATTENTION MUST BE PAID...
One of the few things about living in New York that I actually like is that Broadway is at my fingertips. I love the theater. Musical, drama, comedy... name it, and I enjoy it. When I have been away from New York, I have missed Broadway, and if I ever leave again I will miss being so close to the best American theater.
Without question, far and away the best show I have ever seen on Broadway was the 1999 revival of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman starring Brian Dennehy and Elizabeth Franz. I have never seen two more powerful performances, and I doubt I ever will. By the eulogy at the end of the play, the entire audience was audibly sniffling and sobbing -- not just a few people, not just women, but everyone. I was awed that day, not just at how deeply I was moved by the performance, but by how deeply an entire audience of hundreds was similarly moved. I've never seen 800 people moved not just to tears but to sobs by any performance. It was one of the most electric, most magical experiences I have ever had.
I'm remembering that performance tonight, of course, because of the passing of the play's author, Arthur Miller, who died today at the age of 89. Miller was a giant of American theater, one whose works remained just as powerful a half century after they were first written and performed. Death of a Salesman has, of course, become an allegory for the fleeting and sometimes cruel image of the American Dream that lies just beyond the reach of so many who still dare to grasp it despite its illusionary nature.
There's nothing I could write here that could do it or any of Miller's other works justice. So I'll just salute you, Mr. Miller, for penning something that meant so much to so many -- and that moved me to tears in front of 800 strangers more than 50 years after you wrote it. Well done, sir.
"You don't understand: Willy was a salesman. And for a salesman, there is no rock bottom to the life. He don't put a bolt to a nut, he don't tell you the law or give you medicine. He's a man way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine. And when they start not smiling back -- that's an earthquake. And then you get yourself a couple of spots on your hat, and you're finished. Nobody dast blame this man. A salesman is got to dream, boy. It comes with the territory."
THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON LUCAS... ANY QUESTIONS?
When Star Wars first came out in 1977, I was 9, and my little brother was 7. We ate up everything to do with that movie for a few years, then grew out of it. As an adult, I have often marveled at just how such a hideously bad writer managed to get so much attention for what I consider to be some of the worst dialogue ever committed to celluloid.
But if you go to this site -- pointed out to me via e-mail by my friend Dave in California (you're still a rat for being in Tahoe last weekend when I was in town, dude!) -- you will see a far better reason to disassociate yourself from Star Wars, much better than just lousy dialogue. I think some of these folks had some chromosomes surgically removed before joining the fan club.
My favorite: "Gah! What's your special power??"
HELL HATH NO FURY...
... like a woman who wanted sex and didn't get it.
A British woman was sentenced to two and a half years in jail Thursday for ripping off her ex-lover's testicle with her bare hands during a drunken brawl after he refused her sex.
So the guy had blue balls when he didn't get it, and red balls when he didn't give it?
She grabbed him by the genitals, tearing off his left testicle, then hid it in her mouth before a friend of Jones handed it back to him saying "that's yours."
What do suppose the odds are that Glenn Close plays this chick in the movie? And in all seriousness, if a man had ripped off a woman's breast after she refused him sex, do you think he might have gotten more than two and a half years in prison? Just wondering. Anyway, read the story here.
I AM THE EGG MAN
Someone once said that great songs endure and shine through performances by even the worst bands. Well, maybe no one ever said it, but someone should have. So I just did.
Proof of this theory can be found right here. Ordinarily, if you told me that a washed up 70s arena band with a revamped lineup (featuring musicians who weren't even out of diapers when the band had its heyday) was trying a comeback by covering a classic piece of Beatles psychedelia... well, I'd vomit. Then, I'd say, "Please tell me it's not Styx... and please tell me that they're not doing I Am The Walrus!"
But you know what? Walrus is such a great song, not even Styx could screw it up. Of course, with Dennis DeYoung out of the lineup (and James Young and Tommy Shaw still in), Styx has a fighting chance to be a little better than I'd ordinarily credit them with. They're still dudes in their late 50s trying to cling to the past with a couple of 30somethings tagging along for the ride. And the video is full of cheesy-ass fake psychedelia (the director apparently suffered a chroma-key overdose). But I have to give them credit... the Styx version of Walrus is pretty passable. Almost good, in fact. Almost really good, actually. It's embarrassing to admit, but I think I like it.
Check out the video here.
BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU
I'm not complaining about my job.
I want to make that clear, right up front. Not that I would actually complain, mind you. I genuinely like my job. It has its down moments, but so does every job, short of being a bestselling novelist or a racehorse retired to stud. On the whole, I enjoy what I do and like who I do it for.
I'm not writing about my job.
I want to make that clear too, right up front. Other than mentioning when things get busy or telling you I'm going to be away for a while on a business trip, I don't think I've ever written about work. I write about politics often, I make genitalia jokes, I call the current resident of the White House a traitor... but there are some lines I don't want to cross. Some of that might be because this site grew out of my desire to just find a place to do writing that wasn't work-related, and I suppose some of it is just because I've never felt that this is the place to air dirty laundry. There are plenty of folks who have job-related blogs, but I haven't looked on mine as one since Day One, and I'm not about to start now.
Now that we've established these points, I'd just like to say that I think this trend is bull(stuff).
Even if workers write the blog anonymously, an employer may be able to take the position that blogging "is inconsistent with the business mission," said Jonathan A. Segal, an employment attorney in Philadelphia.
Usually the blogger has little protection. "In most states," said Gregg M. Lemley, a St. Louis labor lawyer, "if an employer doesn't like what you're talking about, they can simply terminate you."
And that is happening enough that there is even a word for it -- getting "dooced." Blogger Heather B. Armstrong coined the phrase in 2002, after she was fired from her Web design job for writing about work and colleagues on her blog, Dooce.com.
You're reading that right, kids. Even if you're blogging from your own computer, on your own time, anonymously and without ever mentioning your place of employment or talking about work, your employer can fire you if they don't like what you have to say -- and increasingly, they are. And apparently, there's little you can do about it.
Anyone else feel grossly uncomfortable with the idea that you can be terminated for having an opinion the boss doesn't like, and expressing it publicly -- even if you aren't even talking about work and no one knows who you are? What's next -- do employers now get to start monitoring your cell phone calls at night to make sure you're not saying anything objectionable? Do they get to come into your house and read your diary and sack you if there's anything in there they don't approve of?
Look, I can see the point if an employee is posting on company time, or publicly identifying him-or-herself as an employee of GigantiCorp while blogging about how much GigantiCorp sucks. But if you're not mentioning your real name and not posting about your place of employment, no employer -- big or small -- has any right to tell you what your opinions can be or whether you can express those opinions when you're not working. Allowing this to happen is tantamount to allowing employers to curtail employees' free speech. And if the government doesn't have that right, private citizens or companies sure as hell don't have it.
Anyone know of a clearing house or an organization that collects money or finds lawyers for bloggers who've lost their jobs over their non-work-related blogs?
Thursday, February 10, 2005
HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM
UPDATE/CORRECTION: I should have noted this originally -- I first saw this story and borrowed many of the links from Political Site of the Day. Sorry for not giving proper attribution or credit where it was due.
I don't know why I am ever shocked about the hypocrisy and shamelessness this administration displays -- brazenness and contempt for the truth has been their modus operandi since Day 1. But even for this administration, the latest scandal is incredible.
Let's play a game, shall we? Let's pretend that President Clinton's administration began issuing White House press credentials to a pseudo-news organization that has an open invitation for volunteer reporters on its Website -- despite security procedures and concerns, volunteers were allowed into the White House. Let's also say that this "news organization" had no journalistic credentials whatsoever, but had many circumstantial home state ties to the president.
Then, let's say that a "reporter" for this "news organization" was given the front row treatment by the White House -- consistently lobbing softball questions full of spin so overhwlemingly favorable to the president that the question themselves were devoid of credibility.
Then, let's say this "reporter" was found to have repeatedly used talking points provided to him by the president's party -- verbatim, and without attribution -- in the "stories" he filed for this "news organization." Then, let's say he was found to be not even using his real name -- that he'd invented a fake name for his "journalism" career.
How quickly do you think the Republican Congress would have howled its disapproval, formed special subcommittees of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees to investigate, and appointed a special prosecutor to pursue possible criminal charges of fraud or perjury?
Before you answer, let's say that the "reporter" in question was revealed to have connections to possible male prostitution operations (connections in the form of owning web domains like HotMilitaryStud.com and MilitaryEscortsM4M.com). How quickly would we hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth over morals issues?
Before you answer yet, let's say that this "reporter" had an outstanding charge of income tax evasion against him in his home state. And finally, let's say that this "reporter" was revealed to have been given access to internal CIA documents that revealed the name of an undercover agent who was married to a vocal critic of the president... and that subsequently, that agent's name was leaked to the media, blowing her cover and potentially endangering not only her life but the lives of foreign nationals associated with her. What do you think Republicans would do?
You don't have to imagine the story very hard. Because everything I just wrote happened, exactly as I wrote it. Only it didn't happen under Clinton's watch, it happened under George W. Bush's. It's going on right now. Click through to all those hyperlinks above... every single thing I just wrote about is verified.
And predictably (if lamely), Republicans and conservatives are resorting to their usual lame tactics of whining about the liberal media and its conspiracy to "get" Republicans. There won't be any Congressional hearings, or subcommittees, or special prosecutors -- that much is virtually certain. Congressional Republicans consider a consensual oral act an impeachable offense, we know.
But the granting of White House credentials to reporters with no training, for an organization with no journalistic credentials but Texas ties to Bush, who used a fake name and had pending charges against him for tax evasion and yet still got in despite post-9/11 security measures, who was allowed time and time again to ask softball questions so leading that they qualified as propaganda, and who somehow was granted access to internal CIA documents that just happened to mention the undercover name of the spouse of a Bush critic... this will be dismissed as the product of the vast liberal conspiracy.
Predictably -- and disgustingly -- Republicans are laughing off the scandal and trying to keep the focus on Gannon/Guckert's sexuality. Tee hee -- he was a gay prostitute! Isn't that amazing! Just goes to show that you can't trust any of 'em, right? Except that the problem here isn't about the guy's sexuality. It's almost immaterial, unless you want to focus on the fact that he was connected to escort/prostitution services, which are illegal.
The real issue here -- and the thing we must not let this administration off the hook for -- is that a fake reporter, using a fake name and working for a fake news organization with ties to supporters of George W. Bush, was repeatedly granted access to not only the President of the United States but to classified internal CIA documents. And it was all done so that the fake reporter could repeatedly lob loaded questions favoring the president's agenda or blatantly demonizing Democrats during Bush's press conferences, all while writing "news stories" lifted verbatim from Republican talking points.
The real questions are: How did this happen? And who enabled it to happen?
You can bet that if this had gone on during Clinton's watch, the impeachment hearings would already be scheduled. It's time for Bush to meet that same fate. Someone has to answer for this egregious abuse of the public trust.
WHEN DO WE GET STARTED?
Just a question for George W. Bush:
If we invaded Iraq because it was ruled by a ruthless and unpredictable dictator whom we thought had weapons of mass destruction... well, when does the invasion of North Korea start, now that their ruthless and unpredictable dictator has publicly admitted that they have weapons of mass destruction?
"The North Koreans have been told by the president of the United States that the United States has no intention of attacking or invading North Korea," [Secretary of State Condelezza] Rice said in Luxembourg, where she was on the final day of her tour of Europe and the Middle East. "There is a path for the North Koreans that would put them in a more reasonable relationship with the rest of the world."
Um, Condi dear? Why didn't we extend that path to Iraq? What's the difference?
Is it that Iraq had engaged in terrorism, where North Korea has not? Well, wait -- North Korea's been blowing up South Korean airliners for years. So that can't be it.
Is it that Iraq was aggressive and hostile toward its neighbors, while North Korea is content to be left alone? Well, wait -- North Korea's been digging tunnels under the DMZ to South Korea, seizing South Korean shipping, and acting aggressively against South Korea ever since the beginning of the Cold War.
Is it that Saddam's Iraq was responsible for the deaths of US military personnel while not in a time of open war, while North Korea never killed any Americans after the Korean War armistice? Um... no, North Korea has a history of attacking and killing US soldiers along the DMZ -- in fact, in 1976, two US soldiers were bludgeoned to death with axes by North Korean forces along the DMZ while trying to trim tree branches.
So what we have here is two nations ruled by unpredictable dictators with histories of incredible cruelty toward their own people... both with histories of threatening conduct against their neighbors, aggression and hostility toward the United States, and possible connections to terrorist activity (although in the case of Saddam, Dick Cheney had to manufacture a false connection between Saddam and 9/11). One of these countries was thought to have WMD but denied it (denials since proven true and confirmed by US investigators), while the other openly acknowledges possession of nuclear weapons. We invaded the one we thought could have WMD, and we're offering "a path to a more reasonable relationship" to the other. Can you explain it?
Oh yeah... Iraq has oil, and North Korea doesn't.
If George W. Bush does not invade North Korea, he has proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that his entire rationale for the invasion of Iraq was false and disingenuous. Make no mistake, kids: Iraq was about oil, about revenge for Bush's daddy, and about profits for Halliburton. Just like we on the left have been saying all along.
THE MUDGE TAKES THE OTHER SIDE FOR ONCE
I'm sure I am about to surprise my conservative readers and tick off my liberal ones. It doesn't happen very often, maybe one of every hundred times, but occasionally I stray from liberal orthodoxy. This is one of them... because try as I might, I can't get upset about this story.
Female interrogators repeatedly used sexually suggestive tactics to try to humiliate and pry information from devout Muslim men held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to a military investigation not yet public and newly declassified accounts from detainees.
The prisoners have told their lawyers, who compiled the accounts, that female interrogators regularly violated Muslim taboos about sex and contact with women. The women rubbed their bodies against the men, wore skimpy clothes in front of them, made sexually explicit remarks and touched them provocatively, at least eight detainees said in documents or through their attorneys.
You know from reading me in the past that I abhor torture and am heartsick at the fact that the US practiced it at Abu Graib. And yes, the United States is supposed to stand for many good things, including respect for other cultures. And yes, the people in this country who thump their chests and cite 9/11 as justification for anything and everything George W. Bush does make me ill... especially the ones in the red states, who've never in their lives seen an incident of international terrorism in their backyard or been threatened by al Qaida, whose targets lie pretty much exclusively in the blue states (excepting Virginia).
But the tactics described aren't being used in Iraq, against people whose biggest crime may have been to live in the wrong country when Bush decided to attack. They're being used at Guantanamo Bay, where we're detaining al Qaida prisoners taken in the Afghanistan campaign. These are people who took up arms against the United States, who endorsed and supported the murder of thousands of civilians on September 11, 2001. These are people who would visit the same kind of hell upon us again if given the opportunity. They are the people who murdered old people and children, women and men, Muslim, Christian and Jew, all for the simple "crime" of being American. These people -- not Muslims, not Arabs, but simply the members of al Qaida being detained at Gitmo -- are our sworn enemy and have shown no humanity themselves or any sort of willingness to engage in the rules of war and humane treatment.
If, in order to stop these people (the specific al Qaida detainees at Gitmo) from acting again, we have to engage in distasteful tactics that disrespect their culture, I say do it. Do it often. Scare the living hell out of them -- convince them they're going to hell and will face an angry and vengeful God because of what we've done to them.
Most people in the world, whatever their culture or religion, don't deserve this kind of treatment -- they deserve better from the United States. But then most people in the world don't want to go to God by killing hundreds or thousands of innocent American civillians. I hope those detainees at Gitmo also get what they deserve from the United States. It's my opinion that they are.
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
YOU AS CRAZY AS YOUR MAMA...
Some of you in our little community here are familiar with the lady who calls herself "Curmymom." Her contributions to this world have been many; one of the lesser of these was to bring my cranky butt into the world. Every now and then, my mother tunes in to my site (trying her best to ignore my more off-color posts), and drops a line or two in the comment field. She's even developed a small fan base of her own around here. Well, I went off to California for one little week, and came back to find that my mother had gone stark raving mad.
Check out this link. You'll see photographs of the Atlantic Ocean near the town my parents live in. In February. When it's barely above freezing outside and when the water temperature is in the 40s.
You'll also see a bunch of absolute lunatics in these pictures. I say so because these people willingly put on bathing suits and ran into said ocean on Sunday morning. My mother, ordinarily possessed of astounding common sense, was one of these people. (She might be in one of the pics somewhere, she must be in fact, but they posted about 100 photos and I haven't sorted through them all yet.) Yes, you read that right: my mom -- well into her 50s and supposedly a wise adult who should know better, did a polar bear plunge on Sunday.
The cause was good: to raise money for the Delaware Special Olympics. And since the event raised more than $350,000, it was actually a wonderful thing. So I guess I have to tip my cap to Mom for being crazy for a good cause, as opposed to me who is generally crazy for no good reason whatsoever.
For those of you who in the past have indicated your membership in my mom's fan club, I thought you might be interested in seeing just how insane the object of your affection really is. Mom... next time, couldn't you just... I don't know, sell cookies or something, you nut? :-)
HE GOT SPIRIT, YES HE DO; HE GOT SPIRIT... BUT SOMETHING ELSE IS MISSING
Okay, during the Red Sox' run to the World Series (have I mentioned lately that the Boston Red Sox are the World Champions of baseball?), I was accused by more than one member of this community of being obsessed to the point of depravity. Sox fans in general were maligned as brooding whiners who wouldn't know what to do with ourselves and our own identities if the Sox actually won.
I don't want to hear anything more, ever, about Sox fans. We're sane. At least compared to this guy.
A Welsh rugby fan cut off his own testicles after his team beat England, police confirmed today.
You know, I knew the rolling stones were from the UK, but this is ridiculous.
It was reported that the man told his friends: "If Wales win I'll cut my own balls off."
See, this is why rugby hasn't caught on in the States. That's a level of devotion we're just never going to have. I'd have given my left arm for a Sox win, but on other items I'm just going to have to draw the line.
After the 11-9 victory in the Six Nations clash, the man is reported to have gone outside and severed his testicles before bringing them back into the club to show fellow drinkers.
I've ordered highballs before. This is not what I had in mind. I think our boy was perhaps taking King Missile songs just a little too seriously.
Seriously, what could possibly have possessed the guy to actually do this? What could he have been thinking? Worse yet, what was he feeling -- how could he actually go through with it? I mean, I've gotten hit by footballs before -- relatively blunt objects, they -- and it's put me down for minutes, spitting drool onto my chin and emitting sounds that for all the world would seem like they came from a dying yak. This joker took something sharp to the ol' family jewels... and then kept cutting. How he managed to stay conscious, much less upright, is beyond me.
Further beyond my meager grasp is his apparent belief that his fellow drinkers would be impressed by his feat. He finished and then managed to walk back inside and show 'em off? I have to say, if some guy ever walked into a bar where I was drinking, holding his cajones above his head and waving them around like dice he was about to shoot craps with, I'd be pulling the ice cubes out of my drink and applying them to my own self, to fight off the empathy pain. Then I'd probably kill him for making me see it and giving me that visual in the first place.
Thanks to Tim... uh, I think... for pointing this out.
THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS, PART ONE
What happens when the United States is run by a party and a president that is dedicated to labeling anyone who opposes their agenda as "unpatriotic" or somehow "aiding and abetting" America's enemies? When citizens are arrested for showing up at rallies wearing t-shirts opposing the president? When an atmosphere of squelching dissent via intimidation or public accusations of un-Americanism is encouraged by the leadership and ruling party?
It's simple: when the leadership ignores our Constitutional rights, young citizens who've come of age in that environment begin to believe that we shouldn't have those rights.
One in three U.S. high school students say the press ought to be more restricted, and even more say the government should approve newspaper stories before readers see them, according to a survey being released today.
The survey of 112,003 students finds that 36% believe newspapers should get "government approval" of stories before publishing; 51% say they should be able to publish freely; 13% have no opinion. Asked whether the press enjoys "too much freedom," not enough or about the right amount, 32% say "too much," and 37% say it has the right amount. Ten percent say it has too little.
The very first amendment to the US Constitution guarantees freedom of the press. That freedom has been the cornerstone of American democracy for more than 200 years. But thanks to the environment fostered by George W. Bush and his supporters, a generation of Bush Youth now is coming of age believing that the press should have to get government approval before publishing a story.
Let's say it again: a full third of the generation that's coming of age during this presidency believes that it's time to roll back the most basic freedom Americans have enjoyed since our founding. In George W. Bush's America, this is what we're building: a generation willing to ignore or throw out the Constitution when it doesn't suit their political agenda.
I guess kids really do follow the examples set for them by adults. Those of you who voted for George W. Bush, this is what you voted for. This environment, this mindset, this result... you voted for it. Sleep well tonight.
THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS, PART TWO
Still think that the conservative Christian right's increasing stranglehold on popular culture -- encouraged and enabled by this White House -- isn't impacting our daily life? Now television networks are censoring commercials that aren't even generating complaints.
GoDaddy.com won few critical waves with its titillating Super Bowl ad, but it clearly emerged Monday as the gameâ€™s most controversial spot, especially after Fox Broadcasting acknowledged killing it in the middle of the game.
The GoDaddy commercial featured a bosomy model having trouble with her blouse as she testifies before a panel holding "broadcast censorship hearings." The spot aired as scheduled in the first quarter... but a repeat appearance scheduled for the fourth quarter never was shown.
GoDaddy President and owner Bob Parsons said was watching the game with co-workers at the company offices when he realized the spot was killed. The ad was supposed to air during a commercial break for the game's two-minute warning, but Fox ran an ad for "The Simpsons" in its place... Fox confirmed killing the ad but provided no explanation for why it allowed it to air in the first place.
The ad finished 28th out of 55 ranked in USA Today's annual Super Bowl Ad Meter... Among advertising industry insiders at one Super Bowl party, the spot was considered "an over-the-top hit," according to AdAge, which follows the industry.
So... an ad that generates no complaints -- and finishes in the middle of the pack as far as ratings go -- gets censored anyway and doesn't get aired because the network is afraid of what the reaction could be. The specter of fear and fines and censorship is so great under this administration and in the Christian Taliban atmosphere it has encouraged, that this is what we've come to: censoring media because the religious fundamentalists might be offended by its content.
I think they do that in Saudi Arabia, too. Welcome to America, circa 2005, as the right wing grasp on the throat of our most cherished rights gets tighter and tighter. Little things like TV commercials today... anyone want to venture a guess as to where they want to take us tomorrow?
PUT UP OR SHUT UP, SENATOR COLEMAN
One of the bigger embarassments about having been raised in Minnesota -- beyond the fact that they elected Jesse Ventura governor after I left -- is that Norm Coleman is one of the state's US senators. I met Coleman a couple of times back in the day when I used to work in St. Paul at the state capitol -- back when he was still calling himself a Democrat, before he switched parties out of expediency. I have to say, even then when he was supposed to be "one of ours," I always felt like I should check my hand for oil after shaking his -- he was that slick.
Since then, he's switched parties and become a Senator. And his only notable "contribution" to the public dialogue has been a somewhat hysterical cry for UN Secertary General Kofi Annan to resign over the Iraq oil-for-food "scandal." Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Coleman rather laughably argues:
Rather than erode his grip on power, the program was manipulated by Saddam to line his own pockets and actually strengthen his position at the expense of the Iraqi people. At our hearing on Nov. 15, we presented evidence that Saddam accumulated more than $21 billion through abuses of the Oil-for-Food program and U.N. sanctions. We continue to amass evidence that he used the overt support of prominent members of the U.N., such as France and Russia, along with numerous foreign officials, companies and possibly even senior U.N. officials, to exploit the program to his advantage...
Mr. Annan was at the helm of the U.N. for all but a few days of the Oil-for-Food program, and he must, therefore, be held accountable for the U.N.'s utter failure to detect or stop Saddam's abuses.
Funny... I wonder, then, what Senator Coleman's reaction to this little tidbit might be:
Documents obtained by CNN reveal the United States knew about, and even condoned, embargo-breaking oil sales by Saddam Hussein's regime, and did so to shore up alliances with Iraq's neighbors...
The unclassified State Department documents sent to congressional committees with oversight of U.S. foreign policy divulge that the United States deemed such sales to be in the "national interest," even though they generated billions of dollars in unmonitored revenue for Saddam's regime.
So... what Senator Coleman conveniently neglected to add in his Journal article was that the United States was among those nations turning a blind eye to abuses in the Oil-for-Food program -- because it suited our national interest. Two US administrations -- including the present regime -- acquiesced to these abuses and even encouraged them.
This revelation puts Coleman's closing statements in a whole new light. He wrote,
All of this adds up to one conclusion: It's time for Kofi Annan to step down. The massive scope of this debacle demands nothing less. If this widespread corruption had occurred in any legitimate organization around the world, its CEO would have been ousted long ago, in disgrace. Why is the U.N. different?
Well, Senator... since the US, led by the Bush Administration, was not only complicit in but directly encouraged "the massive scope of this debacle," I guess by your reasoning, it's time for George W. Bush to step down. After all, "if this widespread corruption had occurred in any legitimate organization around the world, its CEO would have been ousted long ago, in disgrace."
Well, Senator... why is the U.S. different?
Or could it be that Senator Coleman was just huffing and puffing like a blowhard, selecting a target conservatives love to hate (the U.N.) and pandering for attention like an empty suit with no real contributions to make? Let's hear it, Senator Coleman: do you practice what you preach, or are you just another Republican? If you meant what you said, then why haven't you called on George W. Bush to resign?
Anyone wishing to ask the Senator about this can do so here through his site.
IF IT'S BROWN, FLUSH IT DOWN... ABOUT 35,000 FEET
I have to say, I've always wondered if this could happen. What a crappy day this lady had!
Frozen waste from a jet's toilet smashed onto a womanâ€™s car last week, crushing part of the roof and shattering the windshield.
This is both one of the funniest and one of the most disgusting stories I've heard. But what's funnier is what happened when the lady started looking for people to charge for damages.
Nina Gambone says federal aviation officials determined the chunk of frozen debris came from a jet's lavatory. But, a spokesman says they can't do anything unless it can identify the airline responsible.
Somehow, I don't think anyone pinned a little pair of pilot's wings on the chunk before they set it free.
Gambone says she called her fire department in Leominster, which says they can't remove the glob because it is classified as hazardous waste.
Hazardous waste? Just what's in that airplane food, anyway?
Friday, February 04, 2005
PARANOIA WILL DESTROY YA
Porter Goss, the newly-appointed head of the CIA, has been engaged in something of a purge at the top of the intelligence community since assuming the job. Why, you ask? Is it because the intelligence agencies are perceived to have failed America in the last few years, not seeing 9/11 coming and providing the Bush Administration with the false intelligence Bush wanted to back up his invade Iraq argument?
Nope. It's because the Bush Administration doesn't think the CIA is supportive enough or sympathetic enough to George W. Bush.
Presidential advisers and supporters of the new CIA director say the circumstantial evidence demonstrates pre-election CIA hostility to Bush policies and justifies new director Porter Goss's purge of the agency's top echelon.
Just so's you understand what's really happening here, this administration is purging the leadership of the intelligence community because of their perception that this leadership is not supportive enough of Bush policies. Never mind that the charter of an intelligence service is to provide accurate information about the world around us and the threats we face. (Then again, we've seen how much the Bush Administration cares about accuracy.)
In George W. Bush's America, the government's goal is not understanding of the true nature of the world, nor is it to protect the American people. In George W. Bush's America, the government's goal is to make sure that everyone is in synch with and supports the leader and his policies. Anyone not in step is booted out of formation.
Let's say for the sake of this ridiculous argument that the "evidence" Bush supporters cite is somewhat accurate -- that the CIA was in opposition to Bush policies. It's quite revealing of this administration's arrogance, hubris, and intent that their solution is not to reconsider or even ponder the correctness of their policies, but rather to sack anyone who doesn't follow the party line and replace them with someone who will. Who knows how many years of experience and how much collective knowledge about those who would do us harm were thrown out? But all that matters to the Bush Administration is lockstep conformity to the neocon agenda -- the safety of the public be damned.
For four years now, this administration and its supporters have been showing itself to be contemptuous of any American that have different views. Now this contempt is showing itself in a willingness to endanger us all in order to maintain loyalty to the leader's agenda.
There are other countries in the world where conforming to the leader figure's agenda and loyalty to the leader's party are emphasized even at the expense of the people's well-being. We call them dictatorships. The Bush regime gets closer to treason every day.
AN AMAZING DISCOVERY
Although I've been working a lot this week, I have had the chance to watch some TV. After the last couple of days, I have learned something shocking. Guess what? There's black people in America!
Yes, it's February once again, which means it is Black History Month. I've always been torn about this subject. On one hand, the accomplishments and achievements of Black Americans are rightfully celebrated and brought to greater attention... not to mention the obstacles and racism that Black Americans have had to overcome throughout the history of this hemisphere. We all need to be reminded of what has been, for the sake of perspective and understanding. And too few Americans, white or black, know enough about the achievements of prominent Black Americans in our nation's history. It's good and right that we as a society try to correct this.
But on the other hand, by relegating these celebrations and educations to one particular month during the year, it seems to me that we are in some ways conducting another form of segregation -- diminishing these achievements and accomplishments by separating them for a month of color rather than acknowledging them as a part of our societal fabric that has built our collective experience.
What am I talking about? Well, for example, VH1 had a program on Tuesday night that championed the accomplishments of Spike Lee as a filmmaker, specifically focusing on the revolutionary nature of his 1989 film, Do The Right Thing. Why haven't I seen this special before? Why just in February? Is Spike Lee any less talented, any less evocative, any less controversial in, say, August? Did he just become noteworthy on Tuesday night because February began? Was Do The Right Thing any less powerful and monumetal on Monday than it is today?
Of course not. Lee, like him or dislike him, is one of film's true originals, a director who has a very specific and definite style about him and a very individual voice. Do The Right Thing was an incredibly powerful work that spoke on about twenty different levels to issues of race in America. The film and its message were not only one of the triumphs of 1989, but one of the most important of the 1980s. Lee's body of work includes epics like Malcolm X and indie films like She's Gotta Have It. And yet VH1 -- and us -- only are studying this film and Lee's career during a month especially set aside for such focus on Black achievement.
I suppose that any event or celebration that draws attention to the achievements and experiences of our diverse communities is a good thing. Let me be clear that my issue here is not with the idea of celebrating or recognizing Black history (or with any of the other months we have later in the year for Latino history or women's history or gay/lesbian history or any other).
Rather, I fear that by segregating these acknowledgements into a designated month, we risk turning acknowledging diversity into a societal version of Christmas lights -- something you break out once a year when the season is right, then stuff in a box in the attic for one more year.
Schoolkids should realize that they are learning about Frederick Douglass, for example, because of his courage, convictions, eloquence, and contribution to the American experience... not because it's February, the designated month for studying famous Black people. I hate to think that we're turning these acknowledgements and celebrations into a "supposed to" when they really are an "ought to."
I know it's easy for me to say as a pampered, upper middle class straight white guy to say this. Were I a member of a different community, I might feel differently -- and take some well-earned pride in these celebrations. But as an outsider looking in, I just can't help but feel that this is tokenism, in a way. Instead of 600 programs in February on Black American-related themes and 60 programs during the other eleven months of the year combined, wouldn't we be better off having 55 programs a month all year long? Wouldn't that go further toward the goal of making society more inclusive and diverse?
Oh well. Far be it from me to disparage any effort to acknowledge diversity, even if I do find them somewhat limited. There are many positives to come out of this month, and I'll look forward to learning some things I didn't know and seeing some perspectives on the air that we don't always see. Enjoy Black History Month, everybody.