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Sunday, May 30, 2004

Even the Fascists Hate Him... 

Now this is amusing. Several far-right, white rights groups have endorsed John Kerry for president -- mainly as a rejection of George W. Bush. I'm not going to link to any of the sites because I find their politics abhorent and hateful, but here's a rather amusing quote from an Aryan Nation type group in their reasons for endorsing Kerry. (Who, by the way, they claim is half-Jewish. I have no idea whether that's true, but when you have American Neo-Nazis supporting someone they believe to be half-Jewish, you know the Republicans are in trouble.)
1. Perhaps the most ephemeral, but in all honesty the most important, reason is our editor's personal distaste for stupidity and, in particular, stupidity emanating from the mouths of Texas blowhards. Add to this an evangelical Christian mentality of an ex-drunk who not only believes he hears voices from God, but conducts American policy on the basis of what these voices tell him to do, and - need we say more? White Alert's editor has lived under 10 previous U.S. Presidents and in due course come to dislike most of them, but never with quite the level of intensity of the hatred he now feels toward Dumbo.
Wow...

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Saturday, May 29, 2004

Grasping at Crap 

I'm watching Chris Matthews (aka Chris the Screamer, thank you Bartcop) right now as they desperately try to find a way to trash John Kerry. They're going through his biography and tossing up Things That Are Supposed to Make You Not Vote for Him. One panelist refers to a book his father wrote that is full of long pretentious sentences and comes across as cold -- as if to say that Kerry must have been unloved as a child, blah blah blah. Of course, this came about five sentences after someone decried Kerry for having not actually grown up in Boston, but having been shipped off to boarding schools in childhood. Or, in other words, his father's personality wouldn't really seem to pertain. They also tried to spin the "living in eleven cities on two continents" thing as a negative, but I'd much rather have a president who grew up seeing the world than one who'd never made it outside of continental North America prior to being installed in office.

They also tried to make hay out of Kerry's grandfather killing himself -- conveniently forgetting to bring up that W's grandfather did business with Nazis during WW II. And I almost spit coffee out my nose when they tried to trash Kerry's desire to please an audience. This is something that applies to every politician on the planet; in fact, it's a prerequisite for election to anything. And, again, they ignore the sins W has committed in the name of the same thing -- namely, lying his ass off during the campaign and giving us promises that have turned out to be as empty as Saddam's WMD caches.

Oh, wait. W did keep one promise -- to be a uniter, not a divider. Yep. He's managed to unite the world against the US, hasn't he?

Another ridiculous bit on Matthews's show involved intercutting Gore's anti-admin speech this week with Dean's infamous screaming tirade. I think Matthews was trying to say that Gore had turned into Dean, but gosh, in comparison he sure seemed calm. The whole thing came across as a bunch of tittering frat boys trying to, say, mock Dame Edna for wearing a dress and bad glasses when they don't understand that that's the whole joke in the first place.

And a word on the Dean "Yearrrrrgh!" speech, something that was covered briefly on one of the evening news shows but never given the media play it should have gotten. The soundtrack we've heard was recorded from the mic Dean was speaking into. A mic designed to filter out background noise. Another video of that same speech recorded from a mic and camera out amongst the screaming crowd tells a very different story. Dean could barely be heard over the crowd, and could probably barely hear himself. In this "as it really was" version, he doesn't come across as a screaming lunatic. He comes across as a man trying to speak over a hyped-up, excited crowd of supporters. His famous "Yearrrrrrgh!" is barely audible on this version of the tape.

But hey, it's a typical Republican tactic. Let's selectively pick details to make the other side look bad. If we can't find any details, we'll make 'em up.

Luckily, the Democrats don't have to make anything up to make the other side look bad. Lately, they've been doing a fine job of that all by themselves.

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Friday, May 28, 2004

Brecht 

When someone paraphrased a brief bit of the following, I was compelled to look it up. It's a quote from a play by Bertolt Brecht, The Resistible Rise of Artuo Ui, a parable about Hitler's rise to power. I think it's something we all need to keep in mind because, even though it's looking more and more like W and company are going down in the fall, it doesn't mean we should think their kind has gone away forever. If anything, we should be prepared for the inevitable that will begin on January 20th -- the second President John Kerry is sworn into office, the far-right whackos will try to blame him and Bill Clinton for the economic shambles and ruined foreign policy he will most certainly inherit. Let's fight them now with everything we've got, but also be prepared to tell them exactly where to shove it in 2005.
If we could learn to look instead of gawking,
We'd see the horror in the heart of farce.
If only we could act instead of talking,
We wouldn't always end up on our arse.
This was the thing that nearly had us mastered;
Don't yet rejoice in his defeat, you men!
Although the world stood up and stopped the bastard,
The bitch that bore him is in heat again.


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Terrorists? Nah, We Weren't That Serious... 

Apparently not. Seems that some or all of the "gang of seven" have been spotted in the Denver area and reported by locals. Trouble is, the FBI doesn't seem to care.

FBI spokeswoman Monique Kelso claimed they had taken all of the reports seriously, but added, "...the FBI has no reason to believe any of the seven are in Colorado or traveling through."

Now think about that for a moment. The only reason they'd have no reason to think this is if they know exactly where the suspects are. You'd think "numerous" calls about the seven would be reason for the FBI to believe that, in fact, they are travelling through the area. So, there are two conclusions: 1) The FBI has no idea where these alleged terrorists are, but doesn't give a rat's ass, or 2) The FBI knows exactly where, implying they also know exactly what they're up to.

The former possibility, the FBI not caring, means one of two things. First, they know these people are no threat; quite likely, considering at least two have been reported in custody and one out of the country. Or, second, for whatever reason, they're not trying to stop a known threat, as in "somebody needs another boost in the polls, so back off." Although I really, really doubt that the FBI would go for that option, seeing as how they've been burned badly by a certain low-polling administration in the recent past.

Now, the latter possibility, the FBI knowing exactly where, brings up the question, "Why, then, was John Asscroft's warning so vague?" The two details seem contradictory. FBI knows enough to know where the terrorists are not, but Attorney General doesn't know enough to indicate where they are or where they're going. Considering that two of the bunch were reported eating at a Denver-area Denny's on Wednesday, the same day as the announcement, there really wasn't a whole lot of time for the FBI to suddenly come up with new information. If they did, Ashcroft has had two days to issue a supplemental warning.

Ergo, I think what the FBI is really telling us without saying it is this: "We all knew these were cold leads the second the names were announced. We've investigated them to death, most of the suspects aren't even in the country, and the ones who are aren't doing anything suspicious. But we have to at least pretend to care, so that it doesn't become obvious that our boss, the AG, was lying through his teeth when he gave his warning."

Denver omlette, anyone...?


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Censorship, Apples and Oranges 

The California Supreme Court is currently considering the case of a poem that landed its 15 year-old author in juvenile hall for more than three months. It's a very important First Amendment question. The state is arguing that the poem is not protected speech because it makes criminal threats.

And there's a very slippery slope down which to slide, courtesy of asshat administrators who have lost all common sense and reason, and automatically deal with anything unusual that a student does as if it were a first degree felony. Unfortunately, the decision here will have an impact on grown-ups who are trying to create. Want to write a novel about a terrorist from the terrorist's point of view? Sorry, that would be criminal. Want to write a play about school shootings which shows the causes and the damages? Go directly to jail.

Equus: illegal, shows intent to blind horses.

A Modest Proposal: illegal, shows intent to eat Irish children.

The Catcher in the Rye: illegal, the author is clearly a sick and twisted person.

Of course, I can't comment on the poem directly because it's not reprinted in the article (thank you, media, for doin' your frickin' jobs), but they do offer this snippet:
For I can be the next kid to bring guns to kill students at school... For I am Dark, Destructive & Dangerous.
Hm. Threat, or typical fifteen year-old? Criminal intent or commentary? At the very most, this kid and his parents should have been interviewed by a counsellor for other danger signs, then the whole thing dropped unless actual criminal intent were found. Instead, he was expelled and wound up in juvenille hall for a hundred days.

Let me repeat that: he was charged as a criminal for artistic expression. If that doesn't scare you, you're not paying attention.

It gets worse. In a true case of just not getting it, one of the justices comes up with this total apples and oranges argument that does nothing but demonstrate why she should be impeached:
Justice Janice Rogers Brown said the First Amendment doesn't shield works of art with unlawful intentions. She asked whether a bank robber could be immune from charges for giving a bank teller this note: "Roses are red. Violets are blue. Give me the money or I'll shoot you."
Well, of course he wouldn't be immune, you dumbshit. He'd be in the middle of committing bank robbery, a felony. The First Amendment doesn't apply to criminal actions. It applies to words and speech, and should continue to apply to them. Let me repeat that. Your hypothetical bank robber would be liable to prosecution for the actual crime of bank robbery; the style of his note is immaterial, and in any case would not be protected speech under existing interpretation of the law. Only a jackass of an attorney would attempt to make that argument; only an idiot of a judge would pull this example out of her ass.

And someone please explain to me here the concept of "art with unlawful intentions." Art has no intentions. It's an inanimate expression of the artist's heart and mind. Yes, artists can have criminal intentions. But so can accountants, mechanics... and Supreme Court Justices. No work of art should ever be censored, no matter how much anyone disagrees with its message, no matter how tasteless some may deem it, no matter how inflamatory its rhetoric.

"Art with unlawful intentions." That brings up images of paintings leaping off the walls of the Louvre to attack visitors; statues mugging people in sculpture gardens; plays turning on actors in rehearsal and giving them nasty paper cuts. Yeah, right. It brings up images of what a complete and total moron the dishonorable judge Janice Rogers Brown is.

When you remove action as a criteria for judging intent, you remove Free Speech protection from everyone and thereby codify the concept of "Thought Crime." Sure, if you find the kid's "List of People to Kill", or he or she tries to bring a gun to school, then you take preventative legal action. But if the kid is just expressing themself artistically, back the fuck off.

The big problem here is that Zero Tolerance bullshit is creeping out of the schools and starting to affect what adults in the real world can or cannot do. Administrators have conveniently abrogated any responsibility they have to use common sense and compassion, so that any odd behavior by a student is treated as if it were a first degree felony. The message we're sending to our children is, "Don't say anything, don't do anything, don't think, don't create; just shut up, follow the draconian rules and no matter how good your grades are, you can still be screwed in a heartbeat for a simple mistake."

The end result: we're going to turn out (or may already have) a generation that does not create, that has no artistic impulse, no initiative, no ability to think for themselves. Or, worse -- we may turn out a generation that, once free of the shackles of Zero Tolerance, may act out against society and themselves in the most violent and nihilistic ways possible because they never had the opportunity to explore their darker impulses and exorcise them via a creative outlet.

By the way, Jean Genet started out as a criminal and wound up sentenced to life in prison. It was because of his writing that other noted French artists lobbied for, and finally won, his release. Nowadays, looks like he would be in danger of having his writing put him in prison instead.

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Soon to Be Transferred to Kabul... 

DISCLAIMER: If the following story is true, it's a bombshell. I do have a slight doubt (read the entire story, and you'll see why), and it comes from a website that's so far left it makes Ralph Nader look like Strom Thurmond. Still -- it's worth noting here in case it is true, and I comment upon it in that light. I'll keep an eye out for further developments, and retract this post if it turns out to be just Ron Jacobs's wishful thinking.

A rare moment of honesty from a government official -- coalition spokesman Dan Senor tells the media that, yes, it was a wedding party, there were no terrorists or foreign fighters, we knew it and we bombed them anyway...

Or, in other words: our military murdered innocent civilians, then lied about it, then lied about the lies, and now the rug has been pulled out from under them. Let's see how long it takes this story to hit the mainstream media here. It should, but it won't. It should, because this is big. A government spokesman is pretty much admitting that we knowingly committed war crimes. It won't, because, well, it would just embarass W and cause John Ashcroft to pull more flimsy terror warnings out of his ass.

Here's some of what Senor said. Go read the rest yourself:
"There were no foreign fighters in the village," said Senor. "In fact, there are no foreign fighters in Iraq except for those fighting with the Coalition. Just like the WMD, the whole foreign fighters helping out the insurgency thing is a lie.
Emphasis added. But keep these words in mind when the Administration decides they have to invade Syria, and come up with "proof" that Syrian fighters and weapons have been found in Iraq.

"And, uh, well... we'll show them to you soon. Can't unveil the evidence yet. National Security . WMD. Foreign fighters. Syrian passports, and it was not a wedding."

But Senor's words bear reapeating:

"Just like the WMD, the whole foreign fighters helping out the insurgency thing is a lie."

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Guns for Butter 

As usual, never pay attention to what W says, pay attention to what he does. The "pro-veteran, no child left behind, environmental" pResident apparently doesn't really think those things are important -- not if the White House's budget projections for 2006 are any indication. Here are some of the cuts in the works:
• Domestic security at the Homeland Security Department and other agencies would go from $30.6 billion in 2005 to $29.6 billion in 2006, a 3% drop.

• The Education Department would go from $57.3 billion in 2005 to $55.9 billion in 2006, 2.4% less.

• The Veterans Affairs Department would fall 3.4% from $29.7 billion in 2005 to $28.7 billion.

• The Environmental Protection Agency would drop from $7.8 billion in 2005 to $7.6 billion, or 2.6%.

• The National Institutes of Health, which finances biomedical research and had its budget doubled over a recent five-year period, would fall from $28.6 billion to $28 billion, or 2.1%.

• The Interior Department would fall 1.9% from $10.8 billion in 2005 to $10.6 billion.
Keep in mind that these figures do no account for inflation, which, over two years, will effectively reduce these budgets by even more.

So, let me get this right -- the man who claims to be fighting the War on (Some) Terrorists wants to give them less money. The man who claims that education is so important is going to further gut school spending even while trying to force local school boards to pay for his "no child left behind" programs. The man who claims to support the military is planning to further screw veterans out of medical care and benefits. The man who claims to protect the environment is going to take even more assets away from the agency that's supposed to... protect the environment.

And on and on. This administration's priorities are totally screwed up, and come November (or sooner) they all must go. These cuts exist strictly to pay for W's ridiculous tax cuts for the very, very wealthy -- and to pay for the only listed increases, to the Department of Defense (aka Halliburton, Inc.) and the Department of Justice -- which, given John Ashcroft's recent bullshit terror alert announcement, sure as hell isn't doing their job.

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Thursday, May 27, 2004

Ashcroft Vindicated? 

URGENT FBI WARNING: For areas of Pennsylvania, especially Amish communities -- be on the lookout for known terrorists in your area. Officials are distributing the following photograph as proof that al-Qaida members are hiding among the Amish.




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Time to Disband the RIAA 

The bastards are going way, way too far...
Lafky, a sugar mill worker and single mother in Bird Island, a farming community 90 miles west of St. Paul, became the first Minnesotan sued by name by the recording industry this week for allegedly downloading copyrighted music illegally.

The lawsuit has stunned Lafky, who earns $12 an hour and faces penalties that top $500,000. She says she can't even afford an offer by the record companies to settle the case for $4,000.
This, for some downloading her 14 year-old daughter did last year.

And the poor recording industry is struggling along on only $12 billion a year. Well, enough. It's been years since I've run across a CD that was worth the asking price, anyway -- and I refuse to fork over twenty bucks for a cheap piece of plastic that has one, maybe two good songs on it padded with a lot of crap. Time to boycott the recording industry completely, until the RIAA comes to their senses. If you must have music, seek out the independent artists who distribute their own stuff. But stop putting money into the pockets of these robber barons who have nothing better to do than harass single mothers because they could use a few more dollars on top of the ludicrous profits they already make.

And if you absolutely must have your fix of the crap they churn out, it's as close as your nearest radio which, last I heard, was free. But, who knows. The RIAA just might start going after people who own radios for illegally listening to "their" music. (The RIAA represents the record labels, not the artists; big business doing what they want and to hell with us yet again.)

Incidentally, the RIAA is proudly announcing on their website that they have filed another 493 cases against these evil, evil criminals like Ms. Lafky's daughter. Given that the average settlement (read: blackmail) amount is $3,000, that's another $1.4 million into their pockets.

Who are the real thieves here?

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Perversely Amusing... or Fucking Scary? 

I'm sure, by now, most people have heard the "Nixon was too drunk to take a phone call" story. There's a certain perverse justice in thinking that one of the worst presidents of all-time was teetering around the Oval Office while his staff ran interference for him. And, of course, I can't help but thinking that a certain other worst president of all-time is doing the same thing now.

But, consider this story:
In the midst of the 1973 war, as defeat was imminent, Israel equipped their American supplied F-4 Phantoms with nuclear warheads. Golda Meir then announced to Nixon that "America either airlift pilots and jets to save Israel or they would launch a nuclear attack on Syria and Egypt and others..."
The Yom Kippur War ran from October 6, 1973 through October 24th. The date of Kissinger's conversation -- October 11, 1973. So, it's a toss-up. Was Nixon plastered because of Meir's ultimatum? That's the charitable view and, hell, if I had a minor ally threatening to start nuclear war and I were president, I'd probably toss back a few myself.

But... if it were the other way around, and Nixon was just a lush at this point, it makes Meir's ultimatum scarier. "Mr. President, what do you want to do about this?" "Ah, jus' a bunsh of Arab's. Fuck 'em. Let Goldielocks bomb away..."

So -- we still don't know whether Nixon's drinking damn near brought on WW III, or whether it was a reaction to the potential of such a conflict. But pondering these two events together, we need to demand some explanations from the White House; as in, why does George Bush seem to fall down and hurt his face so damn often? Why does he have difficulty pronouncing words in speeches that he's rehearsed? (Abu Ghraib wasn't the only one; I distinctly heard him say "ambasshador" in that same speech.) Is he drinking again and, if so, is he fit for office?

After all, if Nixon's delayed phone call had been from Isreal's Golda Meir instead of Great Britain's Edward Heath, the middle east and half the planet might now be celebrating its 30th year as a smoking, radioactive crater populated only by cockroaches...

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Fear. Consume. Repeat 

Politics and advertising work on the same principal. Now, for a lot of you, the following may be one of those, "Well, duh" moments. But for far too many people in the world, particularly Americans, this information may come as a surprise -- which is a sad commentary on the state of education in this country.

Here's the principal: Manufacture a fear, then sell the solution. Seems pretty self-evident, doesn't it? And yet, we're bombarded with this on a daily basis and most of us don't see how we're being manipulated. The process is clear when a company is selling, say, burglar alarms or life insurance -- YOU'RE GOING TO GET ROBBED or YOU'RE GOING TO DIE AND LEAVE YOUR FAMILY HOMELESS... unless. But anything that's advertised (and sells) uses this technique. Anything and everything.

"Your cooch will stink -- unless you use our product." "Your cell phone company is ripping you off -- switch to us." "Hot chicks will ignore you -- unless you get sloshed on our brand of beer."

There's a commercial currently running in my media market that's selling home wireless networked DSL service. Okay, a pretty straight-forward product, but the set-up involves a father and teen-age son having a confrontation over who's going to use the DSL connection. Dad has a work proposal to submit. Son has to research a term paper. They face off like cowboys about to draw. (Side note: if I had a teenage son who talked to me the way this kid does to his father in the commercial, I'd smack him so hard upside the head that he'd be seeing stars until he collected social security.) Anyway, mom steps in to solve the problem -- DSL for everybody, blah blah blah. Your family will kill each other -- unless you sign up with us. (I'd say the real solution is better parenting, as in, "Sonny boy, when you're paying for the DSL, you get to use it first. Now back off.")

Anyway... this fear-mongering is the insidious result of capitalism. Yes, free enterprise has given us great stuff. Unfortunately, paranoia is the most effective selling tool. That's not really a fault of capitalism (communist regimes sold their politics the same way), it's a quirk of human nature. Approach what's safe, flee what's scary. However, it's gotten out of hand in several areas. For example -- how many new, dire, life-threatening conditions have been "discovered" and "cured" just within the last few years? Acid Reflux Disease. Social Anxiety Disorder. Overactive Bladder Syndrome. Adult Attention Deficit Disorder. (I'd call the latter "Adult lack of self-discipline," but that's another story.) But... it seems like the pharmaceutical industry has gotten tired of coming up with new names for old drugs (most of which are now generic) that treat the old standards -- high blood pressure, arthritis, osteoporosis, and general pain -- the advancing senility quartet. Nah. Can't make lots of money that way, so let's see what scary conditions we can create, cure and sell.

Does anyone ever consider that Acid Reflux or Overactive Bladder may be a result of flawed consumption, rather than any actual condition? Eat the wrong things, drink too much, end result heartburn or the need to pee. Social Anxiety Disorder? You'll never really get over that with a drug and, anyway, the old skool cure is called a good, stiff drink. Still a drug, but the pharmaceutical companies don't make any money off of it. (Oddly enough, they don't make any money hocking the cure for alcoholism, either, which is strange. Or not. Corporate bedfellows quite frequently make certain subjects taboo -- as in, you'll never see a major media company honestly investing in an anti-drinking campaign as long as they have their fingers in the major liquor companies. Oh, they'll pay lip service to stopping underage drinking, even while glamorizing it elsewhere.)

The more deadly meme that the drug companies are putting out is this one: Canadian drugs are inferior to ours, and they just may harm or kill you. Translation: "We don't make as much money when you buy that stuff, even though we still rake it in hand over fist, so we're going to do our damndest to keep you from doing it."

Here's the punchline: the only reason they claim that Canadian drugs are inferior is because they aren't approved by our FDA. They don't bother to mention that Canada has an equivalent body, doing the same things our FDA does. They also don't mention that Canada is an industrialized nation, with manufacturing processes equivalent to ours. Finally, they don't bother to mention where Canada gets a lot of the drugs that they later export. Why, they get 'em from the American drug companies, of course. They also pay a lot less, because the Canadian government isn't getting its salad regularly tossed by those same companies. And so we come to a funny full-circle: the drug companies are forced to sell their product at a fair market price to Canada, and are doing everything in their power to then keep Canada from selling those same drugs back to Americans, who should be getting the drugs direct from the American companies at the fair price in the first place.

All the while, they identify new diseases, come up with new cures, and screw you red white and blue with the bill. Ah, the American way.

Speaking of screwed... our government has perfected the Selling with Fear tactic, the perfect case in point being the recent announcement that "THE EVIL-DOERS™ ARE GOING TO ATTACK US AGAIN -- UNLESS YOU GIVE US MORE MONEY AND MORE POWER AND TURN IN YOUR NEIGHBORS..."

The ad campaign had all the usual bells and whistles -- concerned looking AG and Homeland Security Tsar making dire pronouncements and showing pictures of seven "Terrorists" ("Oh, Martha, look -- most of 'em are scary Arabs!"), even while having nothing but vague mutterings about possible plots and targets. Kind of odd. I mean, if we know they're ninety per cent ready to attack, we should have a pretty good idea of what they're intending to attack. On top of that, one of the Most Wanted has vanished and is apparently either in Pakistani custody or a guest of Gitmo; another has either been arrested or is dead; a third is most likely out of the country, and seems to be nothing more than a Southern California kid who committed the sin of converting to Islam. (Department of Censorship note: they aired an interview with the kid's aunt yesterday on the news. The first time it ran, it seemed unedited -- she rambled on and on, pretty much raving and coming across as a total lunatic as she tried to attribute his winding up on the list to listening to Heavy Metal music, which she insisted that everyone, but everyone, thought was just noise. Subsequent airings of the same interview snipped it down to the few sound bites that make her appear lucid and rational.)

Final nail in the coffin of this Administration dog and pony show, though, is that the information upon which all of this is based is rather old, and has already been discounted -- and the group allegedly plotting doesn't even exist.

But hey, W's really, really crappy performance in Monday's speech has pretty much fallen off the news radar, hasn't it? All I have to say to that is, "Ab... aboo-boo... abu. Gaa-rape..."




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The Real Most Wanted 

WASHINGTON, DC. -- The FBI today released its revised list of most wanted terrorists, warning that they were "planning something big" before the November election.




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Wednesday, May 26, 2004

"You Might Be a Right-Wing Dipshit If..." 

I ran across this bit of drivel online and felt compelled to respond; I quote the entire article below, with my responses in RED
14) The humor and irony of hundreds of thousands of post-menopausal lesbians (who can't get pregnant) marching through the streets of Washington D.C. and demanding abortion rights (which they already have) goes completely over your head.

Not exactly, bobo. Now, granted, I've never actually seen a pro-choice march in Washington in person. But I have seen lesbians marching, and they tend to focus on things like women's rights -- and not having them eroded by fascism. So they tend to include pro-choice in their agenda, along with rooting for the ERA, etc. The fact that some of the women protesting happen to have passed menopause is meaningless. They were most likely of baby-making age when they started being activists. Let me ask you this -- if you had both arms blown off, would it then be ironic if you marched in a pro-NRA rally? After all, it'd be pretty hard for you to shoot that gun off if you had it...

13) You're unable to grasp the global war on terrorism unless Michael Moore boils it down and spoon feeds it to you as "America is killing brown people," after which you conclude that America is evil.

No, "America is killing brown people" is the terrorism that got us into this mess in the first place. And, actually, I tend to find most liberals very engaged in politics and well informed. We don't need Michael Moore to spoon feed us. We're out there at the trough of information ourselves. Incidentally, to the British, the founding fathers and patriots who created this nation were nothing but terrorists. And if by "grasp the global war on terrorism," you mean mindlessly support any ill-advised invasion of a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 or automatically chant "my country, right or wrong" while waving a flag out my ass, then, yeah, I guess you're right. Liberals will never grasp that. We can only grasp the concept that we should love our country, even when its leaders are total fuck-ups.

12) You openly cheer for America to lose the war in Iraq, you make all sorts of excuses for why we were attacked on 9/11, and you call Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld "The Real Axis of Evil," but feign shock when someone calls your "patriotism" into question.

Yeah, got me there -- Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld (and Ashcroft) are the Real Axis of Evil. But see above on loving the country and hating the leaders. Hey, did you asshats still love America when you were calling Bill Clinton every name in the book? As for Iraq, we aren't rooting for the US to lose, we were rooting for us to never go there in the first place. Having failed that, we're rooting for sanity to prevail and the government to get us the hell out. And you're forgetting that it was damn near impossible to find a liberal who did not support the invasion of Afghanistan. Kind of ironic, considering that the Administration just let that little war go, even though it was the action aimed at getting the actual terrorists. As for making excuses for 9/11 -- you've got the wrong word. We look for explanations, and "Muslims are evil" is not acceptable. I could explain the causes for it to you, but I'd have to take you back to the 9th century to start the history lesson, and I doubt you have the attention span. Of course, remember, we still have no proof whatsoever to show who the perpetrators of 9/11 were, despite vague soundbites and a bunch of photos released by the FBI the next day. We probably never will. But 9/11 should not be a catch-all excuse for destroying the freedom that W claims foreigners hate so much, and which is America's greatest asset.

As for that shock when someone calls my patriotism into question: it ain't feigned. And it ain't shock. It's anger that someone could have the balls to question my patriotism.


11) You adopt the most superficial aspects of Asian culture (green tea, feng shui, and the whole "zen" thing), but mock the pillars of Asian society which make them so successful (hard work, delayed gratification, a strong family unit, and a sense of honor).

Actually, I don't embrace any of that mystic Asian bullshit, nor do most liberals I know, so this point doesn't even pertain. I look at it this way: if feng shui is so damn great, why is China so damn screwed up?

10) You cringed when you saw the photos of the Iraqi prisoners being "tortured" by having to stand naked and wear a bag over their heads, but you didn't bat an eye when the Americans were being dragged through the streets of Fallujah.

Yeah, I'll give you this one, bobo, but you're forgetting two things. First, we never saw the Americans being dragged through the streets. Those images were too "graphic," so we only got descriptions. And, anyway, those events occured before the Abu Ghraib photos came out. Second, those events actually occured as a reaction to Abu Ghraib and other abuses; we just didn't know that at the time. And yes, I cringed at the photos of torture -- and don't you dare put that in quotes, asshat. It was torture, and if you don't think so, then please march your ass down to your closest prison and volunteer to undergo a little naked interrogation. As for the people killed in Fallujah, don't be naive. They weren't innocent American citizens. They were Halliburton contractors -- just like the interrogators at Abu Ghraib. In other words, mercenaries. And mercenaries are the lowest form of life in a war zone.

9) You blame America's over-reliance on foreign oil as the prime source of money for terrorism, but if a solar-powered car were invented tomorrow (reducing our dependence on foreign oil to zero), you would then say that it's America's fault that the Arab world is poor (and would start making excuses for future terrorist attacks based upon that premise).

This, ladies and gentlemen, is called a Straw Man, and isn't even worth answering. Actually, if a solar-powered car were invented tomorrow, I'd say it was the best way to finally get America out of the Middle East's hair and help settle down the problems. And it isn't just dependence on foreign oil that pays for terrorism. It's also the "War on (Some) Drugs." If drugs were legal and sold by our government at or near cost, there'd be no profit in them; ergo, no drug money for the various terrorist groups that thrive on it. But that solution would just be "immoral" to you, wouldn't it? Even though it would save more lives than would be lost. And let me put thoughts into your head now: it wouldn't matter if junkies died, because you think they're scum, so why not let them OD, just so the terrorists can't finance their adventures anymore?

8) You were certain that Kucinich, Dean, and Clark were in the "majority," because the things they said fit in with your limited worldview.

No, I was certain they were in the majority because their party won the last election with a majority of the popular vote, and their party is leading in the polls now. And, by definition, it's the conservative worldview that's limited, not the liberal.

7) You decry jobs going overseas, but you wear Nikes, drive a Volvo, and shop at Wal-Mart.

Damn right I decry jobs going overseas. Which is why I buy American. Except for electronics, because the Japanese make 'em good -- but Japan stole our jobs through their own ingenuity, not through capitalist greed that will seek the cheapest production method at the cost of their fellow citizens. I drive an American car, wear American clothes and wouldn't be caught dead in Wal-Mart.

Addendum: I just checked, and actually, only my DVD player is Japanese. The rest -- the computers, printers, TV, stereo, etc, are American. Gosh. Who knew?


6) You call conservatives "hateful and mean-spirited," then follow up by telling your friends a few "Reagan has Altzheimers" jokes.

Well, conservatives are hateful and mean-spirited, but I haven't told any Reagan/Alzheimer's jokes in a good decade. Why would I have to? Far too many able-bodied Republicans have provided ample comedic opportunity. And is it cruel to make fun of W for being unable to pronounce "Abu Ghraib," or to keep from falling off his bicycle? But answer me this: why is it that when Democrats do something Republicans have done for a decade it's evil and partisan, whereas when Republicans do it it's... well, I'm convinced most Republicans have Alzheimers because they don't seem to remember their own bad behavior.

Although, you have to admit that it is poetic justice that Reagan has lost his [ahemn] razor-sharp mind. May St. Reagan live to be a hundred and fifty, and may Nancy live one day longer.


5) You profess to hate capitalism, but jump at the chance when someone hits you up to join their get-rich-quick scheme.

If by get-rich-quick scheme, you mean multi-level marketing, give me a break. I don't jump at the chance to join those schemes. That's something the poor white trash in red states does. And I don't hate capitalism, I hate capitalists. There's a balance between profit and compassion. If you want to see how it works, take a look at Ben & Jerry's business plan. They're rich, but they're not evil. Unfortunately, far too many capitalist barons are rich and evil. And that's what I hate.

4) You think John Kerry deserves to be president based solely on his questionable record as a "war hero," but balked at such an idea in 92 and 96, when two genuine war heroes ran against an admitted draft-dodging POS named Clinton.

You mean the draft-dodging POS who gave us eight years of peace and prosperity? And be careful of your qualifiers. When you say "solely," you destroy your argument. Point of fact is, Kerry's war record is about the last thing I considered in deciding to vote for him. But it's nice to know he has one, seeing as how he's going to inherit a moron's war. And funny how you managed to avoid mentioning in any way W's going AWOL from the Air National Guard. I do believe that's a crime, you know.

3) You admire Japanese ex-hostage Nahoko Takato as a "great humanitarian" because she helped a handful of Iraqi children and has dedicated herself to getting the Japanese troops out of Iraq (even though the Japanese troops have helped Iraqis by the tens of thousands by repairing water purification equipment and are there in a "non-combat" humanitarian role).

Hm. Could this be why the Iraqis still don't have clean water or electricity? And I have to admit I have no idea who Nahoko Takato is, so I can't applaud her as an humanitarian. I've been too busy worrying about the mess that America is in in Iraq to notice what Japan is or is not doing. Then again, I've been paying such close attention to Iraq that I'm surprised I don't know who she is, which makes me suspect your "Japan has fixed everything and life is wonderful in Tikrit" business is just another Republican lie.

2) You're convinced that AIDS would be wiped out if we could just find a way to remove the negative social stigma attached to it.

No, I'm convinced that AIDS would be wiped out if we spent money on honest sex education and medical research. Along with removing the negative social stigma attached to it. And why the hell not remove the stigma? It's just a disease, and a virus has no morals. Or do you want to tell all the hemophiliac kids who contracted it that they're sinners? Once upon a time, there was a great social stigma on cancer. Consequently, people wouldn't get checked for it and wouldn't know they had it until it was time to put their affairs in order and die. When the attitude changed, the survival rate improved enormously. Same thing with AIDS -- in places where people know what causes it, aren't afraid to talk about it and know what precautions to take, the infection rates have gone down and the survival rates have gone up.

1) You are furious at Bush for dropping the ball and "allowing" 9/11 to happen by not using all of the law-enforcement tools in his arsenal (such as profiling and databases), even though you're doing everything in your power to block Attorney General John Ashcroft from using the same law-enforcement tools to prevent a FUTURE 9/11.

Well, yeah, but you shoot your own argument in the foot, because Bush didn't have a Patriot Act before 9/11, and yet our government apparently knew enough to suspect a big attack involving airplanes as missiles was coming. I'm furious that the air force wasn't scrambled the instant the first plane hit the first Tower. I'm furious that W kept on reading to school kids for a good, long time after he was told of the attacks. I'm furious that, even after this terrorist act, Asscroft was more concerned with naked statues, or with busting people who make porn or sell glass pipes online. And I'm furious that a lot of people are so stupid to think that giving more Big Brother powers to the government will make us more secure. Wrong -- viz the wrongful arrest of a lawyer in Oregon for the Madrid train bombings. Our government had all the tools they needed before 9/11 to stop 9/11. Those are what they need to use, unless of course they have a political stake in letting another 9/11 happen.
And so on. The above was yet another example of facetious rightwing arguments that self-destruct upon examination, and which rather tend to disprove their own points. I could go through and describe every fallacious rhetorical device used in them, but I think I've exposed myself to their brand of illogic for long enough. Still, a good object lesson for confronting any of the (shrinking) minority of bozos who still subscribe to these arguments. Just as their Fearless Leader does, their words are their own best evidence of how very, very wrong they are.

[NOTE: I'm not absolutely sure the cooperforpresident site isn't itself a bit of parody, a reductio ad absurdum take on right-wing beliefs. Judge for yourself, starting here.]

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Height of Deception? 

The White House claims that W is exactly 6'0" tall. He doesn't look it here, does he? And we have a basketball for comparison...



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Four Years Too Late 

Al Gore rips W a new one. Gee, thanks, Al. Nice to see you grew a set. Finally...
So today, I want to speak on behalf of those Americans who feel that President Bush has betrayed our nation's trust, those who are horrified at what has been done in our name, and all those who want the rest of the world to know that we Americans see the abuses that occurred in the prisons of Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo and secret locations as yet undisclosed as completely out of keeping with the character and basic nature of the American people and at odds with the principles on which America stands.

I believe we have a duty to hold President Bush accountable - and I believe we will. As Lincoln said at our time of greatest trial, "We - even we here - hold the power, and bear the responsibility."
On the bright side, at least he is speaking up now, and the gloves are off. And since the Administration is so obviously shitting itself over falling approval ratings, W's dismal speech performance on Monday and other signs that the American People are finally waking up, it's time for the Democrats (except Kerry) to give them a major smackdown.

I say except Kerry because he can have the best of both worlds right now -- let his party do the dirty work, keep politically bitch-slapping W until he doesn't know whether he's coming or going (as if he ever did), and then send in the big guns -- Kerry and his running mate -- to polish laughing boy off in the debates. Debates run on our rules.

The biggest sign that the Administration is so desperate? They're waving the magic red "terra" flag, but that terror banana hasn't changed colors yet. Methinks all these dire warnings are just a clutching at straws attempt to distract the media and the public from W's total failure. I mean, my gawd, they even have Ashcroft talking about something besides pornographers and paraphernalia dealers.

And that's pretty desperate.

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Follow the Bouncing Dots... 



Hm. Bush's approval ratings dip below 50% and voila -- 9/11...

Bush's approval ratings dip below 50% and voila -- let Iraq War II™ begin...

Bush's approval ratings dip to 40%, and the dire predictions of a terrorist attack imminent hit the airwaves.

Except, of course, we have no idea where or when or who or what. But it's gonna be bad. Really, it is. Uh-huh. Despite this quote, from Homeland Uberfuehrer Tom Ridge: "I can confirm that we have seen for the past several weeks a continuous stream of reporting that talks about the possibility of attacks on the United States... but not unlike what we've seen for the past several years."

And not enough to raise the threat level to Orange. Or, in other words: "Oops. The pResident is losing in the polls. Bring out the Boogie Men..."


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Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Worse Shape than We Thought? 

From Rense.com, a rather fascinating article that purports to give a glimpse at life in the White House -- and the lifelessness behind W's eyes, apparently:
"You ought to look into the incident when Bush got a nasty, deep cut on his head when he 'fell off the couch while watching a football game.' Did he land on the dog? Bush is known to fall down from time to time, according to [redacted] for 'no apparent reason at all.'"
And with no apparent bicycle at all? Apparently...

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Chicken Little 

Again, because this Administration has lied so often in the past, it's hard to take this dire warning of planned terrorist attacks over the summer in the US seriously. Besides, coming the day after W's ineffective, fumbling speech, it just seems like so much distraction.

After all, if the terrorists are supposedly already here, why hasn't the Terror Alert level been raised to Orange? And if we're on their trail and know what they're up to but it's not imminent, why publish the warning now? Isn't that the best way to make the Evil Doers™ go to ground so that we can't catch them?

Again, given the Administration's past incompetence, there's no good outcome for them from this. If the warning is just bullshit, designed to keep the populace paranoid -- well, how dare they. If it's a real warning and something does happen, then it should serve as the final proof the hardcore rightwingers need that this administration has done fuck-all to make Americans safer from terrorism.

Then again, this may be a set-up for a pre-Republican Convention surprise -- no actual attack, or a minor incident in a blue state, followed by triumphant announcements of a major terrorist cell being broken up in, say, Missouri or Iowa or some other heartland red state, just in time for W to take full credit in his acceptance speech.

Again, the credibility of this Administration is so non-existent that they could produce live video of Osama bin Laden creeping around the New York Subway System with a briefcase bomb and it would be hard to believe. And whose fault is that? Why, the Administration's, of course -- to the point that the only credible evidence anyone with a brain would believe anymore is, unfortunately, Condi Rice's famous smoking mushroom cloud.

But, still, two details don't make sense. If the threat is real, why announce it so long before the fact? If it's real but not all that long before the fact, why no elevation of the terror alert level?

I think, yet again, they're just blowing smoke (and mirrors) up our collective asses -- and I do hope I'm right.

Just in case, though, I've added the Terror Alert Banana to the sidebar. It changes colors with the Terror Alert Level. Ay, chiquita...

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Abba Booboo Rape... 

It's too easy to make fun of W for not being able to pronounce Abu Ghraib in his (rather empty) Monday night speech. After all, that wasn't the only word he stumbled on. Did anyone else catch him saying "Iraqi Ambashador?"

But... mocking his mispronounciation misses the bigger issue here. One would think that the name Abu Ghraib had been in front of the pResident's eyes and ears for at least the last two weeks, if not longer. In theory, he should have been hearing people say it, he should have been saying it himself, he should have seen it written and read it many times. In theory, the word should have stuck in his head and he should be able to say it.

The fact that he was never quite able to pronounce it right in his speech brings up several disturbing possibilities. One, while his staff have been discussing the issue and the word has been all over the media since at least May 11th, W just hasn't been paying attention because he doesn't care. This puts the lie to all his feigned outrage over the original revelation of torture at the prison -- and brings into question his suitability for the job.

Another possibility is that he just hasn't really been in the loop; again, because he doesn't care or, more disturbing, because his advisors just haven't bothered to fill him in. Again, this brings up questions about his suitability for the job.

And, again, there's just the possibility that big complicated foreign words (of more than two syllables) that aren't Spanish just don't stick in W's head because he's so monochromatically biased toward all things 'Murrican -- in which case, why the hell is he going off on his foreign adventures in the first place.

Anyway, while it may make for an amusing joke to watch him stumble and fumble over as simple a phrase as "Abu Ghraib," the fact that he did so, repeatedly, in his speech just brings up more disturbing questions.

Perhaps he fell off that bicycle much harder than reported. Although, given that the story of rain-soaked paths in Crawford has already been proven a lie by weather reports, I wonder whether there was a bicycle involved at all.

Nope. The evidence is mounting that what W really fell off of was the wagon. Bad enough that we've been saddled with a stupid, arrogant, ignorant pretender to the throne. Can the world survive to next January with a stupid, arrogant, ignorant lush?

Better put the training wheels back on, Karl...

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Monday, May 24, 2004

Fear by Omission 

Once again, Drudge tries to create shrieking panic by selective omission in a headline. Here's how he put it: "Supreme Court rules parked cars fair game for police searches..."

Sounds scary, doesn't it? Suddenly, cops can just rip open any parked car and search it because they feel like it, right?

Well... no. If you bother to read the story, you'll find that the Supreme Court has allowed police to search the cars of suspects who have been arrested, provided the police have seen the suspect get out of that car prior to the arrest. Or, in other words, if police are about to pull over a suspect but he or she happens to park and get out of the car before the bust is made, the suspect's car is not thereby immune to search.

Funny how leaving out one important detail can turn a headline into an entirely different story, isn't it?

And, just because it's so damn amusing, here's this...


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Sunday, May 23, 2004

I Hear a Fat Lady Singing... 

When the mainstream media and conservative pundits are criticizing the administration, you know it's a good sign. Well, good for us. Really, really bad for the Adminstration. The conservative pundits are starting to say what the Democrats should have been saying for the last year and a half. Of course, when the Democrats say it, it's just "playing politics", which is the most horseshit argument ever invented. Neocons trying to impeach Clinton for sneezing the wrong way is playing poliundtics. Criticizing misguided military policy that has created a terrorist incubator and killed nearly eight hundred American soldiers is speaking the truth.

The Washington Pots now lambasts W and Co. for their multiple disasters, which they call A Foreign Policy, Falling Apart. They also cite conservative columnist George Will, who pins the word "failure" on this Administration multiple times:
When there is no penalty for failure, failures proliferate. Leave aside the question of who or what failed before Sept. 11, 2001. But who lost his or her job because the president's 2003 State of the Union address gave currency to a fraud -- the story of Iraq's attempting to buy uranium in Niger? Or because the primary and only sufficient reason for waging preemptive war -- weapons of mass destruction -- was largely spurious? Or because postwar planning, from failure to anticipate the initial looting to today's insufficient force levels, has been botched? Failures are multiplying because of choices for which no one seems accountable.
That's exactly the question here. Who has lost his/her/their job(s) because of the multiple blunders of this administration? No one yet. This implies that non-accountability goes right to the top. Ergo, if none of the underlings have been punished for screwing up, the bosses don't care.

Who should lose their jobs, then? George W. Bush and Dick Cheney -- and they can take every one of their appointees and lackeys with them. Personally, I don't think we should wait for the election. Their crimes and misdemeanors have gone far beyond one stained dress. If the Republican party wants to survive, they'd be wise to start the impeachment proceedings now, followed by a Draft McCain movement for the RNC Convention in August.

Otherwise, the lack of accountability from the top is going to drag the entire government and party down with it. Not that that's a bad thing. Personally, I wouldn't mind having the Democrats in power for, oh... the next generation or so, by which time maybe the Republicans will fade to a fringe party and the electoral schism won't be conservative/moderate. It will become moderate/liberal.

Hey, the Dems have done it before. Between FDR and Harry Truman, we had a Democratic president for twenty years. Oddly enough, those twenty years saw the creation of Social Security, the strengthening of labor unions and worker protection, the surge of upward mobility, the rise to commercial and industrial dominance of the US, the American cultural boom in Radio, Film and literature (and its beginnings in TV), and a prosperity for everyone that was unprecedented.

It was also the last time that America fought a war and won and, although we started another war in Korea under Truman, we lost it under Eisenhower, and have been losing them ever since, the only exception noted below.

How can anybody question which party is better for the American people? Seems to me that the only thing the American people get with a Republican in office is... screwed. Can you say Hoover? Nixon? Ford? Reagan? Bush I? Bush II? [I omit Eisenhower because he was really too far to the center to feel like a Republican; also, having been a general in wartime, he knew when to get the hell out of Korea. He also didn't do anything to screw up the prosperity began by FDR and Truman, although Federal Income Tax rates rose to their highest levels ever under his administration.]

Something else of note in that list of presidents. Only Nixon and Bush I ever served in the miliatry, and only Bush I ever served in combat. While I don't like his politics, to his credit, Bush I knew how to plan a war and knew how to get out when it was over. His Iraq did not turn into a quagmire.

Bush II's Iraq has gone from quagmire to disaster and is rapidly on its way to fiasco. And all the while that this wheelless rollercoaster is jumping the tracks on its way down the big, endless plunge, Bush II sits in the control room, refusing to admit that he forgot to check the car before he pulled the handle that sent it on its way.

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Rumsfeld Covering His Ass 

Just to make sure that no more embarrassing details come to light which will provoke further calls for his resignation, Rumsfeld pulls a little battlezone censorship by banning camera phones.
"Digital cameras, camcorders and cellphones with cameras have been prohibited in military compounds in Iraq," [newspaper The Business] said, adding that a "total ban throughout the US military" is in the works.
Yep. If you don't like the truth just make it go away.

I think the proper term for that is Cover Up.

The proper penalty -- Rumsfeld loses his job.

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Saturday, May 22, 2004

And Next, They Close Euro Disney... 

The French have sure helped put the pressure on Disney to distribute Fahrenheit 9/11 stateside, as Michael Moore's film becomes the first documentary in nearly fifty years to win the Palme d'Or, Cannes's top prize.

Not that middle America would really give a rat's ass about a French Award (perhaps they're still stupid enough to hate the French), but this is the kind of thing that can really put the economic pressure on Disney, and help prove where their politics really lie. Expect them to try to toss a bone to Moore soon, like allowing Miramax to give the film a special "limited release" -- in NY, Chicago, San Francisco and LA, four big cities in solidly blue states. You can also be sure that, right now, a bunch of Disney marketing wonks are being pressured to come up with some really, really good reasons why this film should get a really big release but, um, not until December, around Oscar buzz time, when they can properly sell it and "(Cough...aftertheelection) and look at our charts and focus group results..."

And expect Moore to tell them exactly where the mouse can stick that...

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Brazil 

When Terry Gilliam made Brazil (1985), it was a cautionary satire based on Britain's terrorist troubles with the IRA. Nearly twenty years later, it's become a documentary.

Watch the opening of the film again, and you'll realize that Mr. Helpmann's speech berating the terrorists is just a much better worded version of W's banality. (Helpmann attributes the terrorism to "bad sportsmanship," and says the terrorists do it because they can't stand to "see us win." Hm. Y'mean, they hate freedom?)

If you watch the film closely, though, it becomes obvious that there are no real terrorists. If anything, the few explosions that occur during the film (I believe it's only two) are more likely caused by governmental incompetence and rotting infrastructure.

After all, in Gilliam's world, the Ministry of Information (think Department of Homeland you-know-what) spends 7% of the GNP on its budget -- and makes it up by billing their, um... detainees (which they call invited guests) for their interrogations.

Anyway -- Gilliam is a brilliant filmmaker, and what was once a darkly funny reductio ad absurdum of one country's reaction to fear has become a road map of another's.

Check it out and watch it now, preferably with friends, then discuss among yourselves.

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Friday, May 21, 2004

Headline News 

It's something that a lot of people never notice (especially not in the red states), but headlines lie. Or, at least, they distort. And, even as W is having his "troubles" over Abu Ghraib, Kerry stories are being twisted.

Case in point: As a possible campaign strategy, John Kerry may delay acceptance of the Democratic Party nomination until August, so that he will have the same length of time to spend without federal funding limits as will George Bush. Those are the simple facts of the story.

Here are three spun versions, two real and one invented. Drudge puts his headline/link this way: "Kerry considers delaying nomination to raise more $$..."

Now, what does that sound like to you? Hm. Money-hungry liberal is going to dictate what his party can do, all so he can get more cash. A bit disingenuous, at least. And note the subtle difference between "considers" and "may consider".

Second version, TV news division: at least two local news programs here have teased the Kerry story in this way, as a lead-in to commercial (paraphrasing): "...and, John Kerry may not accept the Democratic Party's nomination at their convention. Find out why next."

Yeah, sure. They can't give away the whole story, because they want people to come back, but the more honest version of this blurb would be, "Kerry may not accept nomination until a month after the convention." Again, a subtle difference. The not-so-bright viewer might hear the tease, thinks it the news and never come back for the story, and wind up thinking that Kerry is dropping out already.

And to show you that the spin can work both ways (but almost never does, because the "liberal media" is a myth), here's the liberal version of the headline: "Excessive Bush Campaign Spending Could Delay Kerry Nomination by a Month." Like the other headlines, technically true, but also patently false.

Keep this in mind in the coming days as more revelations come out of Iraq, more Administration blunders backfire on them, more shit hits the fan. Ignore the headlines completely, read the stories carefully. You'll often find them, in the mainstream American media, to be two very different things.

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Thursday, May 20, 2004

Let America Be America Again 

Incidentally, although it might be total BS (because I saw it on Drudge), John Kerry may have settled on a campaign theme: Let America Be America Again. I kind of like it. It speaks to moderates and liberals who are shocked at our Administration's un-American behavior in Iraq, Afghanistan, Gitmo and elsewhere. But it also speaks to all those slightly right flag-wavers who automatically support the president "just because," but still feel that creeping unease at every new revelation of our imperialistic, autocratic and abusive behavior.

Without saying it, it also paints a big target on this Administration -- right now, this is not America, and they are the reason why...

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The Cracks Keep Showing 

From Robert Novak: even true conservatives are wavering on their commitment to W.
WASHINGTON -- During George W. Bush's keynote address to the 40th anniversary black-tie banquet of the American Conservative Union (ACU) last week, diners rose repeatedly to applaud the president's remarks. But one man kept his seat through the 40-minute oration. It was no liberal interloper but conservative stalwart Donald Devine.
Devine happens to be vice Chairman of the ACU, the very organization to which W was speaking. He was also a chief advisor in Reagan's administration, and his bio shows a man who's been in the thick of ultra-conservative causes and politics for decades.

And he refuses to even shake W's hand. Hm. Paging John McCain -- why don't you run as an independent and help Naderize W?

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Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Welcome to Bushworld 

MoDo scores a bull's eye.
WASHINGTON -- It's their reality. We just live and die in it.

In Bushworld, our troops go to war and get killed, but you never see the bodies coming home.
In Bushworld, flag-draped remains of the fallen are important to revere and show the nation, but only in political ads hawking the president's leadership against terror...

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Credibility Canyon 

Our military is already starting to give their version of what was initially called "firing on a wedding party". The story coming out is that it wasn't a wedding, it was a safehouse harboring foreign insurgents; a satellite phone and Syrian passports were found; blah blah blah.

The trouble is, the administration has lied to us, and so blatantly, and so very many times now, that it's impossible to believe anything that comes out of any branch of our government anymore. It's gotten to the point where it seems safer to assume that our government's "official" version is the bullshit.

It doesn't help that this so-called safe house rather conveniently harbored a bunch of Syrian passports. You know. Syria. Iraq's neighbor. The next oil-rich country that W and company want to get their cowboy hands on, even though their business is far from done in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Finally, isn't it funny how this story, which normally would have been the lead on every network, sort of blipped up and vanished in the face of absolutely no proof? You'd think that if we had Nick Berg's killers in custody, we'd be parading them in shackles before the news cameras immediately. Note, though that, significantly an anonymous source claims to have the four people in custody. The response of Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, Iraq's deputy director of operations: "Um, no we don't."

And in every case noted above, it seems that, finally, the mass media are starting to pull their heads out of their collective asses and not buy the bullshit anymore.

I think the "W" in George W. Bush now stands for Waterloo.

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Misplaced Patriotism 

Thanks to Buzzflash, here's a reader letter from human rights lawyer Jimmy Lohman to his brother-in-law which should be forwarded by every sane American to all of their rightwing leaning, "My country right or wrong" friends and relatives:
I have wondered many times during this escalating ordeal what you would have done had you lived in Germany in the 1930's. Would you have been a good Nazi in the same way that you are a good American? Would you ever have possessed the objectivity or detachment, even after the war and the liberation of the death camps, to step back and say, "My God. How did I let that happen?" I knew you would scoff at a comparison that today seems less and less remote.

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The Fruits of Failure 

From an article by Senator Fritz Hollings, which originally appeared in the Charleston Post and Courier (on May 6th, before all the Abu Ghraib photos started coming out):
With President Bush's domino policy in the Mideast gone awry, he keeps shouting, "Terrorism War." Terrorism is a method, not a war. We don't call the Crimean War with the Charge of the Light Brigade the Cavalry War. Or World War II the Blitzkrieg War. There is terrorism in Northern Ireland against the Brits. There is terrorism in India and in Pakistan. In the Mideast, terrorism is a separate problem to be defeated by diplomacy and negotiation, not militarily. Here, might does not make right -- right makes might. Acting militarily, we have created more terrorism than we have eliminated.
Indeed. Perhaps the Administration should change the name of W's Folly to The War to Create More Terrorism. Because that's exactly what they're going to do.

What am I saying...? That's exactly what this administration is doing, and sometimes, we're the terrorists. Unless this was just a wedding present gone horribly awry...

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Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Vonnegut, Now and Then... 

For some reason, Kurt Vonnegut's piece Cold Turkey has hit the top of the blog quote charts today. Perhaps the reason is that he speaks the truth.

But -- he's been doing it for a while. Check out this interview with him from January 2003, in which he describes W to a tee in not flattering terms...
What has allowed so many PPs [psychopathic personalities] to rise so high in corporations, and now in government, is that they are so decisive. Unlike normal people, they are never filled with doubts, for the simple reason that they cannot care what happens next. Simply can’t. Do this! Do that! Mobilize the reserves! Privatize the public schools! Attack Iraq! Cut health care! Tap everybody’s telephone! Cut taxes on the rich! Build a trillion-dollar missile shield! Fuck habeas corpus and the Sierra Club and In These Times, and kiss my ass!
Hm. Does that description sound familiar?

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More Suspicious by the Minute 

Decon Recon over at Kuro5hin has a pretty good article looking into all the strange circumstances around Nick Berg's death, his reasons for even being in Iraq, etc. The anomaly/unanswered question count is up to fifty. Go read it now.


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Monday, May 17, 2004

They Just Don't Get It, Do They? 

And once again, the right has their panties in a wad as same sex marriages are now legal in Massachusetts. And I still don't get their outrage. Gay couples getting married does absolutely nothing to harm, deter or detract from straight marriage. Absolutely. Nothing. And if family is such a holy idea in their minds, isn't it better that we create more families by being inclusive? Or would they prefer that gay people remain officially single, legally immune from commiting adultery, and so able to go out there and bang anyone they wanted? Seems counterproductive. Since some whacko rightwing elements seem convinced that homosexuals perpetuate themselves by recruitment, marriage might just be the way to stop all that stuff happening. (And, wow. Heterosexuality must be a very tenuous lifestyle choice if it can be abandoned instantly as soon as someone of the same sex bats their eyes and smiles...)

But, again, the rightwing's hypocrisy shows, because the party that is normally screamingly in favor of states' rights dumps that platform as soon as a state grants a right they don't like. On many other issues, they insist that it should be up to individual states to decide. But not this one. Not gun control. Not abortion rights.

Over all, though, anyone who'd call for a Constitutional Amendment banning gay marriage just doesn't understand what the Constitution is for. That document does not and never has existed to dictate the behavior of the People of the United States of America. Rather, it exists solely to tell the government what it cannot do to us. Remember Prohibition? It was the one previous attempt to use the Constitution to prohibit a behavior by private citizens, and it failed miserably.

Then again, this Administration is no lover of the Constitution. They've done everything they can at every turn to shred that document. And if I remember correctly, one of the major points of the Presidential Oath is an agreement to uphold and defend the Constitution. On that point alone, W deserves to be impeached faster than you can say "blue dress."

I'm hoping that Dick Cheney's lesbian daughter decides to run to Massachusetts and very publicly tie the knot soon. But, of course, she won't. And more's the shame. 'Cause the funny thing is that quite a lot of the middle American God 'n Country crowd just gets over the gay thing as soon as they realize that they do know gay people, and they happen to like them. I can cite my own parents as an example of that. Yeah, I was raised by a bigoted Republican and a sexually repressed Catholic. But -- the Republican had a work friend who was very gay and very out, and so as a young child, I was dragged along to several dinner parties with Jack and Lloyd. And while my mother would bitch about "The Queers" in private, she also seemed to love these guys. Second, my much older step brother was gay, and he and his partner were always part of every family gathering, and while no one ever explained it to me as a kid, I just understood that Jimmy and Phil were together, and "Uncle" Phil was a pretty cool guy. Even took me to a baseball game once and, for the record, no, he did not try to molest my college-age ass.

And I'll be forever stuck with the paradox of my parents speaking over the kitchen table about their disdain for queers, niggers, kikes and commies -- even as, among their best friends they counted... at least four homosexuals, two black people, too many Jews to count, and... well, okay, we never really had commies in this country. That was just Joe McCarthy's wet dream. As for me -- I went to a high school that was 75% Jewish, and so I've been an honorary non-goyim since at least 15. Yeah -- kikes and fags? I think I have about three friends who don't fall into either category. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

And, to spin it back to the original topic -- once upon a time, everyone thought the world would end if inter-racial couples were allowed to marry. It didn't when they were. (And, frankly, I think my father's mother's parents were guilty of that "crime.") And if you want living proof that inter-racial marriage is just about the best thing on the planet -- just take a look at the people of Brazil. They've been mixing races for three hundred years -- Europeans, Africans, Natives, Asians. Bang, bang, bang. And y'know what? Brazil happens to have the most beautiful people on the planet. Why? Because most of them have been born of love that knows no prejudice.

Love that knows no prejudice. Like gay marriage. And why the rightwingers have their panties in a wad over this, I will never understand...

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Don't Buy the Bullshit 

Zarqawi is dead. And he lost a leg before he died. And now, the US is blaming this attack on a potential president of Iraq as a Zarqawi hit.

Well, bullshit. Bullshit, bulllshit, bullshit.

How much more crap will the people take before they rise up and knock these motherfuckers out of office, eh?

Nothing this administration says is true. And isn't lying about life or death far worse than lying about a blowjob?

WAKE UP, PEOPLE. Call for impeachment of the entire Bush Cabal NOW.

Now, now, now....

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Boycott Disney... 

If what Michael Moore says in this story in The Guardian is true, then Fahrenheit 9/1 is a movie that should be seen by every registered voter in America. Immediately.

That Disney is behaving in an absolutely chickenshit manner, after having funded this film through its production via Miramax, is ridiculous. And the reasons are so transparent. Disney receives major tax breaks in Florida. Florida, the same state governored by the president's brother. Ooh -- can't piss off ol' Jeb. Otherwise, the gigantic multi-billion dollar corporation might have to pay one fraction of its fair share in taxes.

Well, fuck that. Let's show them the real cost of playing politics. Don't go to Disneyland. Don't watch ABC programming (or KCAL-9, if you're in LA.) Don't see films distributed by any of their companies -- Disney, Miramax, Buena Vista, Hollywood Pictures. Keep your cash out of Mickey's three-fingered hands until they realize holding back this movie will cost them more than any loss of tax loopholes in Florida.

And -- for more Disney-related boycott targets, check it out here. Finally, WRITE A LETTER. Michael Eisener, c/o The Walt Disney Company, 500 South Buena Vista Street, Burbank, CA 91521. Call them at 818.560.1000 or fax them at 818.840.5737.

And nudge Florida proper -- make a phone call to Walt Disney World Media relations: Michelle Baumann at 407.397.6397.

The basic idea is to convince these bozos that it will cost them more to withhold this film than it will to release it. And, face it -- with the W caused price of gas, do you really want to drive miles out of your way to one of their friggin' theme parks or movies when there are just soooo many alternatives?

Fuck the Mouse! Michael Moore's movie deserves to be seen...



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Sunday, May 16, 2004

Not Hazing 

Okay, I've had enough of the rightwing blithering about how the prisoner abuses are just a little frat hazing, the kind of thing that happens on spring break over here, blah blah blah, etc., etc.

Let me point out two important differences. First -- in the US, we prosecute members of frats, sports teams and other groups that do this sort of thing. Frats can be shut down. Individual perpetrators can face jail time.

Second difference. Hazing stateside is a more or less peer group thing. No one is holding a gun to anyone's head demanding that they pretend to fellate a fellow pledge. The doors aren't locked, there is no captor/prisoner relationship. Even in a place like Sweden, where frat hazing is still institutionalized, the sense of fun and games is obvious.

It wasn't fun and games in Abu Ghraib, or in any of the other places in which we're sure to find out in the coming days that this stuff has been going down.

Now, with those two points brought up, to any rightwinger -- or to anyone -- who still thinks that it's all been harmless horseplay, a question: Would you be willing to allow your sons or daughters to be a participant on the receiving end of these playful little pranks, and then allow the pictures and video to show on the nightly news and internet over and over?

Didn't think so, you fucking hypocrites.

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Saturday, May 15, 2004

House of Cards Is Tumbling Down... 

Thanks to Atrios for this one. Short version -- Rear Admiral Don Guter (ret.), spokesman for JAG (who are the military's uniformed lawyers) says that they warned civilians in the Pengaton -- repeatedly -- about the inadvisability of using torturous interrogation methods at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. No one listened, and the rest is becoming history.

In other news, this stuff has apparently also been going on at Guantanamo Bay, according to a story in The Guardian (UK):
Dozens of videotapes of American guards allegedly engaged in brutal attacks on Guantanamo Bay detainees have been stored and catalogued at the camp, an investigation by The Observer has revealed.
And, according to The New Yorker:
The roots of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal lie not in the criminal inclinations of a few Army reservists but in a decision, approved last year by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to expand a highly secret operation, which had been focussed on the hunt for Al Qaeda, to the interrogation of prisoners in Iraq. Rumsfeld’s decision embittered the American intelligence community, damaged the effectiveness of élite combat units, and hurt America’s prospects in the war on terror.
(Emphasis added).Well, folks, this puts the administration in a rather awkward position. Continue to support Rumsfeld and therby taint W with the stink of having known about this all along even as more and worse information comes to light...

Or dump Rumsfeld and have every little detail dragged out in public in the confirmation hearing for his replacement, which will drag on and keep this story right at the top of the news through the Republican convention.

On top of all this, things are about to explode against the US in Iraq. Yeah, sure, the Iraqis want freedom. They want freedom from us.

Nice, for once, to watch W and Company slowly twisting in the wind even as W's approval rating takes a big turn south and heads right for the toilet.

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Friday, May 14, 2004

Kosher Killing? 

Or unkosher. Two days after the story breaks, I have to question it as well. Who really killed Nick Berg?

And why?

The lack of blood is the smoking gun. Humans have about five quarts of blood in them. That's ten pints, twenty cups, a hundred and sixty ounces.

That's just over a gallon, so here's the challenge. Get a gallon of milk at the store. Squeeze it really tight, then uncap it in your kitchen. Note where the mess goes. Everywhere, right?

Well, apparently, Nick Berg's blood didn't go anywhere. And, while I haven't had the stomach to watch the video, I've seen still frames of the (pardon the expression) money shots, and they were surprisingly bloodless, too.

Guys and gals -- ever cut yourselves shaving? What does the skin look like if you don't clean it? Pretty messy, right?

Imagine a cut across your throat that would spew blood upward. Your chin and lower face would be a mess. If you were alive and your heart were pumping.

Add some frightened adenaline to that equation. If you're alive, and you realize you're about to be killed, your blood pressure is going to shoot up. Consequently, when your throat is cut, you're going to blast that gallon of blood a bit father than normal.

But Nick Berg didn't. In fact, he didn't seem to bleed at all. He didn't seem to do much of anything while his head was sawn off, which leads me to this conclusion -- he was already dead when he was beheaded.

The dog is being wagged here, big time. With perfect timing to short-circuit a news-cycle. It's the only logical explanation.

Occam's razor.

They found and identified the body real fast.

Nick Berg had had run-ins with the FBI before; one of which tied him, circumstantially, to a 9-11 suspect.

The man who allegedly killed him also allegedly died two months earlier; in any case, he had an artificial leg and could barely walk on it, something not in evidence in the video.

And... the alleged al-Qaeda members look way too fat and way too white to be Arab terrorists.

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark, and I think we're all being hosed here..

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Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Silver Lining? 

Consider the source here: John Zogby, a pollster not noted for his liberal politics.

His considered opinion, based on his polling? John Kerry will win in November.

Assuming, of course, that we have elections...

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Meanwhile 

Nigritude Ultramarine?

Sorry, but after the rotten world events of the past days, I just needed to post something absolutely meaningless. Well, not meaningless. If you're really hip, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about...

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Tuesday, May 11, 2004

"Behaves Like Animals in the Name of God" 

The headline quote is from a US government official expressing outrage over the murder of Nick Berg in Iraq, used to describe his killers.

But, unfortunately, it describes us, as well.

Again, in the (to American eyes) grisly beheading death of Nick Berg, there is a culture gap. In our culture, we try to make executions all nice and comfy and safe, hence lethal injection, the latest in a series of methods that have been considered increasingly humane. Any execution that causes suffering is abhorent to us; indeed, is unconstitutional. It's just the definition of "cruel and unusual" that changes over time.

In much of the Muslim world, "changes over time" is meaningless. Fundamentalist countries are stuck in the 12th century and so, to their eyes, this method of execution is how it's done. They see nothing unusual or abhorent about it. That's their culture. They also make it a habit of slicing off the hands and feet of thieves -- and they don't do it with a quick swipe of a sword, either, nor is anaesthesia offered. (And you know that, secretly, deep down, most conservatives lust for this sort of "justice" over here.)

My point is this -- because of deep cultural differences, the method of Nick Berg's death will not cause the same shock and revulsion in the Muslim world that it will in the US. But, by the same token, the photos coming out of Abu Ghraib are just as disturbing to the Muslim world as the mere concept of Nick Berg's head being cut off with a knife is to us.

Both prove, to the other side, that the enemy is barbaric and decadent, and nothing but animals. And that's a very dangerous thing, because once you've dehumanized the enemy, anything is possible.

By the way, I only use the term "execution" above for purposes of illustrating my argument, because to the perpetrators that's what this was. But don't get me wrong -- Nick Berg's murder is a heinous crime. He was an innocent man who, ironically, went to Iraq in hopes of improving things for the people. Now, he's an innocent victim in a conflict that is between our government, not our people. A twenty-six year old boy with good intentions who should still be alive.

And would be, had not W had such a hardon for launching this useless war on Iraq.

The sound of that knife hitting Nick Berg's neck was the sound of W's treason coming to light. Nick Berg's blood is on their hands -- Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice. And we must get them out of office at all costs, lest Nick Berg become just one of many innocent and altruistic Americans to die in such an horrific manner.

To Nick's family: my condolences.

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Blood on Our Hands 

Not that I don't think the cold-blooded murder of a captured American civilian is an abominable, unforgiveable atrocity -- but the blame for this act lies in the hands of our government.

The government that turned a blind eye to the abuses at Abu Ghraib, that refused to arrange the release of Nick Berg, that refuses to make anyone high up in the chain of command take responsibility.

Yes, the people who beheaded Nick Berg are vile terrorists -- but their strings are being pulled from Washington. The lack of leadership on the part of the Administration has dragged us into this quagmire, and this cycle of atrocity and retribution will continue. Most likely, more Iraqis will be arrested and dragged into prisons for interrogation, followed by terrorist reprisals, repeat ad nauseum.

And remember -- there were no al-Qaeda in Iraq until our invasion brought them flocking there like vultures. Instead of focusing on Afghanistan and taking care of the real problem, we now have this mess in a country that was not involved with 9-11. Sure, we got rid of a petty dictator, but the world has plenty of those around. And, contrary to W's assertions, the torture rooms have not been closed in Iraq. They've just been franchised out to our contractors and, now, to foreign terrorists.

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First Amendment Time 

For your reading pleasure, the Taguba Report, concerning prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib.

The FBI doesn't want you to see it, so here it is...

Enjoy.

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Monday, May 10, 2004

Why Abstinence Is Bullshit 

Why is it that the British tend to discover common sense long before we do in America? Check out this article, which shows that teaching teens about blow jobs actually reduces the rate of teen pregnancy.

The simple fact is this: teenagers are rampant balls of hormones who want to do anything within reach. Left to their own devices, teen boys will hump anything that lets them, and teen girls will polish the pearl with whatever is handy. Telling them that they shouldn't have sex is a no-win situation; partly because that's all they can think about, partly because they tend to do the opposite of what adults tell them to. Having an authority figure say "Sex is bad" is the fastest way to make a teenager run off and do it, consequences be damned.

But teach them that there are other fun things to do, educate them about the danger of letting Mr. Sperm meet Ms. Egg, and tell them that adults think it's okay that they shag like the horny monkeys they are -- and they just may lose their taste for it.

I don't expect America to catch up to this logic any time soon, since we've become a police state run by religiously-insane politicos who seem to have a "no fun" policy. But as the British unwanted pregnancy/abortion rate drops in the face of their new educational methods, I do hope that the compelling evidence mounts that "Just Say No" teaching doesn't work.

The new paradigm should be "Just Say Blow..."

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Jury Duty -- Good Thing, Bad Thing 

Last Cinco de Mayo, I spent my day in court. Or, more properly, in the waiting room of the county courthouse. Waiting and waiting and waiting. From 7:30 in the morning until 4:10 in the afternoon, doing absolutely nothing.

Now, don't get me wrong. I think jury duty is a good thing; a chance to take part in the administration of justice (and, in the case of certain laws, to bring the whole concept of Jury Nullification to light).

However, while the system is greatly improved over the past (when "jury duty" meant being bored shitless in that room for ten days instead of just one) it's still got a long way to go.

They called at least 8 jury panels while I was there, and my name came up not once. And there were only two interesting magazines in the room, and a hundred and fifty really boring people.

Seems to me, they could make this whole system better by adopting the Cheesecake Factory method.

The Cheesecake Factory is an insanely popular (for good reason) restaurant here in California, and since several of their restaurants are in touristically interesting locations, they've adopted a novel approach to the waiting list. You add your name, they give you a beeper. Then, you're free to wander at will until you're paged to alert you to a free table.

And, since the courthouse I got nailed with, Downtown LA, is right in the middle of an assload of interesting stuff, I think they've got to adopt this method to make the experience less heinous and, by extension, to make the jurors less hostile.

After all, had I been called onto any case after hours of mind-numbing waiting, I would have been inclined to vote a big "Fuck You" to the prosecutors, just because they're most associated with the people who'd been keeping me bored out of my skull. But... if I had gotten to spend that time seeing the sights downtown (instead of just the 90 minutes I had at lunch), I think I would have been a much more impartial juror.

Still a moot point, since I managed to dodge the bullet long enough to extinguish my jury duty for a year in one day. But... this is a system that has to catch up with the times. Recent improvements have only brought the experience up to about 1991. A simple infusion of technology could bring it up to modern times.

And they don't even have to invest in the beepers. Hell, just make it a requirement for jury duty that you have a cellphone, then they zap you a text message when your name comes up.

On the bright side, I did get to take the subway downtown, something I love to do; and I also finally got to see the Disney Concert Hall in person and realize that it isn't the ugly piece of crap photos make it appear to be. Nah; it's the Sydney Opera House of the American Southwest.

On the other hand, the new Cathedral should be dynamited into dust as soon as possible. That building is just as ugly as the sould of every child-molesting priest on the planet...

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Sunday, May 09, 2004

This Is a Scandal... 

Atrios has a link to this story in the Baltimore Sun, which pretty much puts the lie to any claim that the prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib were an isolated incident, perpetrated by a few and without the knowledge of their superiors.

Furthermore, we should be demanding to know why the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States didn't know about this until he saw it on TV. It means either a) Rumsfeld didn't tell him, ergo Rumsfeld must go, or b) Bush knew and lied.

Remember what the rightwingnuts tried to do to Clinton when they manipulated him into lying about a blowjob? Well, somebody in this administration is lying their ass off about far worse matters.

And don't forget -- these abuses have been going on for a while and predate the whole Fallujah mess. Is it possible that the rebellion there and the continued insurgency in Iraq are direct results of this behavior by our military contractors?

If this condoned from the top action led to the murders of four of those contractors at Fallujah; if it has contributed to insurgents blowing up Humvees or taking potshots at our soldiers; if it has caused one American death in reprisal -- then the persons responsible are guilty not just of gross negligence, but of high treason.

And that's an offense I think that no one can argue is not impeachable to the highest degree.

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Friday, May 07, 2004

Not Even Close, No Cigar... 

Rumsfeld is toast. Given his performance before the House and Senate today, there are only two conclusions. Either, 1) He has no idea what the hell the people under him are doing, and is therefore unfit for his job or 2) He knew all about it and tried to cover it up and is therefore unfit for his job.

And these frat-boy antics at Abu Ghraib have done something worse -- emasculated the Iraqi people in the eyes of the world, at the hands of the Americans (and, possibly the British). Sure, these antics would be fun at a fraternity hazing. But... these are prisoners of war. And not even enemy combatants. Theoretically, these prisoners are the people we were supposed to have liberated. Yep, this sure looks like liberty to me. Remember, these "pledgemasters" are heavily armed, and there's no guarantee that non-compliance won't lead to a bullet in the head or worse, like being beaten half to death and then dumped in the desert. I've read stories of a twelve year-old girl being raped; of a fifteen year-old boy being stripped and humiliated in front of his own father.

I know Muslims in other parts of the world, and they are a very shy and modest people. In fact, their attitude toward nudity makes puritanical Americans look like German nudists on holiday in Tenerife. And somehow, those idiots in charge at Abu Ghraib managed to come up with exactly the wrong thing.

It would be like forcing an Orthodox Rabbi to eat ham from a pig that was beaten to death in front of him. Like forcing a Roman Catholic to take a dump on a crucifix. Like making an Atheist declare, "Jesus is Lord." In other words, not just torture. But torture of the most culturally insensitive kind.

And with every new picture that is revealed, every new outrage that is uncovered, every time we see that gloating, thumbs up bitch (who ought to rot in prison for a good twenty years) standing over a pile of naked Iraqis, that's one more recruitment poster for a terrorist, one more person who'll become angry enough to strap on a bomb, one more enrollee in flight school.

And all of this on Rumsfeld's watch -- and by extension, W's. Used to be, America acted differently. If you were our prisoner of war, you were treated well. We were better than the enemy.

But no more. That seems to have gone out the window.

If the administration is truly as upset by this as they say they are, then Rumsfeld's head should be the first to roll. If W doesn't fire him, then, once again, we know that all the lip-service to shock and all the empty apologies are just a load of bullshit.

"I am shocked! Shocked that there is torture here."

"Your electrodes and Iraqi, sir..."

Also makes you wonder -- what have the indefinite detainees at Gitmo been going through for the last two and a half years?

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