Thursday, September 30, 2004
Debate #1

I watched it on c-span with a split screen throughout so I could see reactions as well as statements. Unequivocal win for Kerry. Bush stood behind his podium smirking and looking bored/impatient, repeating his talking points without saying anything terribly meaningful. I caught the patented Bush "wink" several times when he was speaking on matters of import. The rest of the time, it was just "um... uh... lemme just say... " from Bush. I admit I'm biased, but what I saw didn't even remotely come across as "folksy" or plainspoken -- if anyone was direct and plainspoken it was Kerry-- but more along the lines of underprepared, slightly flustered and defensive.

Kerry kicked ass on North Korea particularly. Bush tried to tar him with the epithet "inconsistent" a number of times, but by the seventh or eight time he sounded more like a broken record and the effect wore thin. Kerry, on the other hand came across as both coherent and nuanced.

Kerry to Bush: "You can be certain and also be wrong." Killer stuff.

Addendum: Kos has a nice post up detailing some of the right-wing blogs' reactions to the debate. It's tasty reading.
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Tragedy

They were dedicating, of all things, a waste treatment plant. Yes, I know, sanitation is important, too... but where once grand squares were predicted, all they have is handfuls of candy to celebrate a reduction in the general presence of sewage.

American soldiers gave candy to kids; even in Baghdad the kids like sweets. And then there was an explosion, and 30-some-odd children were killed.

I don't know who to be more angry at: the person who killed himself while killing kids, or the soldiers who, in spite of being right there, couldn't stop it from happening.
"The Americans called us, they told us come here, come here, asking us if we wanted sweets. We went beside them, then a car exploded," Abdel Rahmad Dawoud, 12, told Associated Press from his bed at the Yarmuk emergency hospital. He suffered shrapnel wounds.

In the end, I'll be angry at the asshole who started it all.
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War Poem

Go, read: The War Song of G. Dubya Bushrock
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Asking For Trouble

Okay... I have officially become painfully easy to contact. It may turn out to be more trouble than it's worth, but what the hell, eh?

All of my contact information is listed in the little box towards the bottom of the right-hand column, and all of it is accurate and active. Most significantly, my iChat/AIM account is up and running properly; look for Sister Novena and you'll find me.

Don't abuse me, folks. I'm just a nice girl with some heartfelt opinions.
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Wednesday, September 29, 2004
Oooooooooooooh... SNAP!

I know everybody's blogging this one today, but it's just too delicious to turn down.

The Lone Star Iconoclast is the local paper of Crawford, Texas; ie, where Bush has his "ranch". In 2000, they proudly endorsed Bush for president.

Who'd they endorse this year? Heh... you're gonna love this...
Few Americans would have voted for George W. Bush four years ago if he had promised that, as President, he would:

- Empty the Social Security trust fund by $507 billion to help offset fiscal irresponsibility and at the same time slash Social Security benefits.
- Cut Medicare by 17 percent and reduce veterans' benefits and military pay.
- Eliminate overtime pay for millions of Americans and raise oil prices by 50 percent.
- Give tax cuts to businesses that sent American jobs overseas, and, in fact, by policy encourage their departure.
- Give away billions of tax dollars in government contracts without competitive bids.
- Involve this country in a deadly and highly questionable war, and
- Take a budget surplus and turn it into the worst deficit in the history of the United States, creating a debt in just four years that will take generations to repay.

These were elements of a hidden agenda that surfaced only after he took office.

The publishers of The Iconoclast endorsed Bush four years ago, based on the things he promised, not on this smoke-screened agenda.

(...)

The re-election of George W. Bush would be a mandate to continue on our present course of chaos. We cannot afford to double the debt that we already have. We need to be moving in the opposite direction.

John Kerry has 30 years of experience looking out for the American people and can navigate our country back to prosperity and re-instill in America the dignity she so craves and deserves. He has served us well as a highly decorated Vietnam veteran and has had a successful career as a district attorney, lieutenant governor, and senator.
Kerry has a positive vision for America, plus the proven intelligence, good sense, and guts to make it happen.

That's why The Iconoclast urges Texans not to rate the candidate by his hometown or even his political party, but instead by where he intends to take the country.

The Iconoclast wholeheartedly endorses John Kerry.

Go read the rest of this editorial; it's scathing. (And yes, it's the same editor then as now.)

Take that, Be-yotch!
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Foreseeable Complications

Following on from a conversation I was having earlier tonight over a late-night breakfast of bacon and eggs, I feel the need to express my intense anxiety over the coming election. This thing I most fear -- the eventuality that most tend to make my jaw clench with worry -- is not that Bush smoothly wins re-election. That would suck, of course; that would be, in my not-so-humble opinion, a terrible thing for this country. But I do think that there's a worse possibility: an inconclusive election.

A really close vote would be a disaster, if only because of the chaos that would surely follow. From my vantage point in London in 2000, the Florida debacle made it seem as though my country had gone mad; I cannot imagine what I could make of a situation in which there were multiple Floridas, each one carrying its own potential for manipulation and confusion. And it's not the confusion itself that I fear, it's what it all means for the society in which I live.

You have to understand, those of us who voted for Gore feel very strongly that whatever happened, it was handled badly. Things were skipped over, steps were overlooked; the reason we are unsettled about the 2000 election, and Florida in particular, is because nobody seems to really understand what went wrong, and for many of us, that means something happened that shouldn't have. In one way or another, the process was compromised.

And if that happens again? Once seemed freakish; if it happens twice, doesn't that mean that it's because something has fundamentally changed in the electoral process? And if that process has changed, how can we trust it to see that the right person is handed power?

Others have expressed this angst better than I can, of course:
Gore and his team knew that the Republicans would fight with everything they had, but they still maintained some faith in the legal system to require basic fairness in something this important. And, even the most cynical of us thought that the egos of the Supreme Court justices would never allow them to make a purely partisan decision because history would remember them as whores.

If I had any political idealism left it died on the day that Antonin Scalia stopped judges from counting votes in Florida.

This article shows that fix was in from the beginning. Had Gore audaciously requested a statewide recount he would have been accused of not following the strict laws that required him to show problems in each precinct. It was always headed to the Supremes and once they took the case, the interviews with the Supreme court clerks show that there was never any question about who would win. It was always a decision in search of a rationale.

If Jeffrey Rosen is correct and dozens of lawsuits await filing in close races out there, all based on this ill-considered opinion, then we are likely to see a repeat. After all, the same five vote majority still sits on the court today. And like all the others who voted for this irresponsible, unqualified, incompetent boob in 2000, they are not likely to admit their mistake and vote otherwise this time out.

This time, we must operate on that assumption and prepare for a knife fight --- in the courts and in the realm of public opinion. There are no rules other than winning.

Go read the whole piece, it's very... interesting. In a scary way.

I think November 2 is gonna be a long, loooooong night.
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Monday, September 27, 2004
Voting Rights Act? What Voting Rights Act?

It's be a great year for new voter registration drives. Both parties have made it a focus, but the Democrats have been working particularly hard, and have begun to reap the rewards. Hard numbers are difficult to come by, but in places where reliable estimates have been made, new voter registrations have been leaning towards the Democratic party by fantastic margins. In Ohio, for example, new registrations in heavily Democratic areas have gone up by 250% since Jaunary -- compared to an increase of about 25% in predominantly Republican areas. That's great news for us, although obviously every newly registered voter is a valuable addition to the process.

Right Republicans?

Well, maybe not, at least not in Ohio. In that state, the Republican Secretary of State, Kenneth Blackwell, has issued some interesting directives to the local election boards, directives that jeopardize hundreds of new registrations because they're on the wrong paper stock:
Voters-rights advocates are criticizing two recent decisions by Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell that they say will unfairly limit some people's ability to vote Nov. 2. Blackwell's office has told county boards of elections to follow strictly two provisions in Ohio election law:

One requires Ohio voter registration cards be printed on thick, 80-pound stock paper.

The other ordered boards to strictly interpret the rules regarding provisional ballots, the ones cast by voters who move before the election but are still registered in Ohio.

The paper-stock issue is frustrating Montgomery County Board of Elections officials, who have a backlog of registrations to complete. If they get an Ohio voter registration card on paper thinner than required, they are mailing a new card out to the voter. But if they still have the backlog by the registration deadline, Oct. 4, voters will not have another chance to get their correct paperwork in, said Steve Harsman, deputy director of the Montgomery County board. In Montgomery County there is a backlog of around 4,000 registrations, Harsman said. A few hundred could be affected by this provision, he said.

(via MyDD)


A lot of these new registrations, it has been suggested, are likely from national voter registration drives such as Rock The Vote. People print out registration forms for their state at home and send them in; and in Ohio, those forms are now about to be chucked out on a technicality.

Republicans: totally against bureaucratic nitpicking... unless it helps them in an election, in which case they can nitpick with the worst of 'em.

Anyway, the move is entirely illegal.As it says in the 1971 Voting Rights Act:


(2)

No person acting under color of law shall -


(B)

deny the right of any individual to vote in any election because of an error or omission on any record or paper relating to any application, registration, or other act requisite to voting, if such error or omission is not material in determining whether such individual is qualified under State law to vote in such election;

So basically what we have here is a blatantly un-democratic move that could potentially stop hundreds of new voters, each of whom did everything they were supposed to do to exercise their right to vote, from voting, and which probably disenfranchises many more new Kerry voters than new Bush voters.

Lovely.
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An Uncharacteristic Outburst Of Baby-Inspired Glee

My much-loved friends Dominic and Aya welcomed their new little daughter into the world yesterday:


Jazz Suzu D., born 26 September 2004, London


Happy Dom! Happy Aya! Beautiful little Jazzy!

(Note: No, I'm not normally given to gushing reactions to new babies. But this is my friends' baby, so it's okay just this once.)
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Bye, Billmon

Well, it appears official: Billmon has closed the bar for good. It's a shame, because he really was one of the best bloggers we had, but I suppose we can all understand what he gave, and how much it took out of him.

If you caught Billmon too late, you can still read his farewell column at the LA Times yesterday. I, for one, am glad I got to read his blog for a time when it was at its peak.
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Sunday, September 26, 2004
An Uncharacteristic Outburst Of Indignation

I just saw a pro-Bush ad, it said:
George W. Bush didn't start this war... but he'll finish it.

But... but... he did start the war! I was there, I was paying attention, I remember it quite clearly... millions of people protested and said, "don't start this war, George;" and he sent Colin Powell with the vial of sugar to do the bogey-man dance for the security council, and then the entire UN looked him square in the eye and said, "don't start this war, George," but he went and started it anyway... he went on Russert and smirked and said, "I'm a war president,"... he did start it!

How stupid do they think we are? They go on TV and they just... lie!

Gah!
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Saturday, September 25, 2004
I Need Guidance

It has finally dawned on me that all my friends are staying in touch not through email, but through instant messenger programs. I want to play too, dammit!

So I'm looking for advice on what program to use... they all seem to suck. AOL Instant Messenger annoys the hell out of me, and since I'm on a PC at present I can't use iChat. Suggestions, anyone?
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And You Thought Hollywood Was Cut-Throat

The burgeoning Iraqi film industry appears to be going in an interesting direction:
You might have thought that sitting down to watch a series of filmed executions would become tedious after the tenth unfortunate victim is dragged before the camera to be slaughtered like a sheep. After all, most of the characters do not change much. There are the hooded Islamic holy warriors standing to attention, as the charges are read out to the accused, usually a man in an orange jumpsuit kneeling and blindfolded on the floor before them. The sets are the same too, often a dingy cement backroom in a house probably on the outskirts of Baghdad. The build-up is tedious. A martial song in Arabic exhorts the faithful to fight and then the commander reads out a statement, often a hammy delivery that even a B-movie Egyptian actor would not get away with. But the closing scenes never fail to shock, no matter how often you witness the sight of a man gasping his last breath as his head is hacked off with a knife. After two or three of these savage episodes you begin to feel physically sick and somehow complicit in these terrible acts.

(via War and Piece)

Yeesh. Kinda brings a whole new meaning to the term "cut".

So far in all this, I have not watched a single beheading video. I've considered it -- facing the beast and all that -- but I don't know what actual good that would do, and anyway, I really don't think I could take it. I'm as inured to violence as any American, but when it comes to watching real death, I'd rather spare my soul that particular assault.

Still, I think the simple fact that the lopping off of foreigners' heads has become a popular form of entertainment in Iraq tells us something about how our host nation (and you can read that in terms of either diplomacy or parasitism) views our presence.

Just a thought.
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Bush Sucks

And now you can prove it. Have a look at the United States Senate Democrats Resource Center webpage; particularly check out the bits about Bush's record.

A grab-bag of factoids:

Bush's record on national security:
There were more terrorist attacks by Al Qaeda in the 30 months after September 11 than there were in the 30 months preceding September 11.

In 2000, North Korea was believed to possess no more than 2 nuclear weapons. In 2004, experts believe North Korea possesses at least 8 nuclear weapons, a 400% increase.

President Bush has underfunded first responders and port security, and has failed to include a single dollar in his budgets for rail and transit security. In his FY2005 budget, President Bush proposed a 15% cut in grants to local police, fire, and emergency medical agencies, and a 43% cut in first-responder training. Only 5% of cargo containers are being inspected.

Bush's record on jobs:
More than 1.5 million private-sector jobs have been lost under President Bush, compared to nearly 21 million private-sector jobs created under President Clinton.

The best month for job growth during the Bush Administration would not even rank in the top 10 months of job growth during the Clinton Administration.

George Bush would need to create over 700,000 jobs every month for the remainder of his term just to match the job record under his father, who himself had the worst job creation rate since the Great Depression.

Bush's record on health care:
The escalating cost of health insurance, along with the massive loss of jobs in the Bush economy, has resulted in 5.2 million more uninsured Americans since 2000.

Americans who lack health insurance get about half the care of those with insurance. Every year, approximately 18,000 Americans die prematurely because they do not have health coverage.

The President's Medicare drug bill - which was only enacted after the Administration hid its true cost from Congress and the American people - gives billions to HMOs and insurance companies instead of providing seniors with the type of comprehensive and affordable drug coverage they deserve.

Monthly Medicare premiums will go up $11.60 in 2005, the largest increase in the history of Medicare. A significant portion of that increase is attributable to HMO give-a-ways in the new Medicare drug law.

Bush's record on education:
At exactly the time schools are struggling to meet the new requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act, President Bush has proposed the smallest increase in federal education funding in 9 years.

In addition, the Bush Administration has demonstrated a remarkable hostility towards teachers. President Bush's education secretary actually called the largest teachers group in America a "terrorist organization."

Since 2002, the No Child Left Behind program has been shortchanged by more than $26.5 billion.

Nearly 7,500 school districts will see their funding cut this year.

Approximately 400,000 qualified high school graduates will not attend a four-year college this year because of financial barriers, and approximately 220,000 qualified high-school graduates will not go to college at all because of financial barriers.

Bush's record on the economy:
When President Bush took office, we were on track for a 10-year surplus of over $5 trillion. Now, because of his policies, we're headed toward a 10-year deficit of over $3 trillion. In 2003 alone, the deficit reached a one-year record of $375 billion, and it's projected to be well over $400 billion this year.

The massive Bush deficit threatens Medicare, and will saddle our children with hundreds of billions of dollars in annual interest payments on the debt.

States are also suffering - a record number of states were forced to cut their budgets in 2003. And while millionaires get billions in federal tax breaks, middle-class Americans are facing dramatic increases in their state taxes.

Bush's record on the environment:
Instead of fighting pollution, the Bush Administration has undermined critical environmental protections by:

Weakening clean air and clean water standards
Slowing cleanup of toxic waste dumps
Ignoring global warming
Breaking its promise to maintain our national parks
Undermining protection for public lands
Turning mercury regulation over to industry lobbyists.

And don't forget the 1043 dead soldiers, or the 7032 wounded troops. We won't even mention the thousands of dead Iraqi civilians.

What sane person can vote for this colossal fuck-up? I mean, I'm no psychic... given how badly screwed we currently are, I can't say for sure whether Kerry can do much better. But I can say this: I'm pretty goddamn sure he can't do any worse.



PS: For still more evidence of Bush's amazing ability to suck regarding the economy, look to this entry about the possible approach of the second Bush recession. (Via The American Street).

Look at it this way: we'll all have a lot more free time, and since our friends will be out of work, too, we can all hang out and collect cans together. Just like in the 30s! (Our grandparents will be so proud.)
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Friday, September 24, 2004
Injustice

Y'know, I'm really not a big pot-smoker; haven't actually partaken since I was in high school. (Hi mom.) And yet even I can see the blatant ass-backwards-ness of this:
Alcohol abuse kills some 75,000 Americans each year and shortens the lives of these people by an average of 30 years, a U.S. government study suggested Thursday.

Excessive alcohol consumption is the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States after tobacco use and poor eating and exercise habits.
(source)

Tobacco kills 440,000 people every year; alcohol kills at least 75,000. And yet it's marijuana that's illegal.

I dare anyone here to find me even one solid example of marijuana being directly implicated in anyone's death.

Bonus question: How many people are currently sitting in prison solely for marijuana possession?
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Support Your Local Film Scene

For any readers local to Memphis: tonight Morgan Fox is hosting a DVD release party at the MeDiA Co-op (1000 S. Cooper) for Blue Citrus Hearts, so come on by. A $5 donation gets you in the door; another $10 on top of that gets you a DVD as well. Additional copies will be on sale cheap. Not sure when the festivities begin, but if you come around 7 PM you probably won't be far off the mark.

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Thursday, September 23, 2004
Vexed

I'm feeling a bit peevish today, but without apparent cause. Nothing has happened, no misfortune has befallen me; I am safe and secure and generally provided-for. And yet I feel as though something is just... a little... off. I'm restless, and looking for something to distract me, but no available option seems to do the job. The things I lack, both personally and materially, are getting to me more than I normally allow them to; interestingly, my natural response seems to be to push away from the things I want rather than pull them closer.

Hmmph.

How about you guys?

Update: In the end, Diana came to my rescue. She came over and we watched Todd Solondz' magnificent film Happiness together. It was exactly what I needed: thick, black, sick humor, the catharsis of revelling in humanity's essential fucked-up-ness. The first time I saw it was on my 23d birthday, alone at a late screening. Afterwards I went home and called my boyfriend at 2 AM, inconsolable at the horror of it all. For some time afterwards -- in spite of my absolute rejection of censorship in any form -- I couldn't rid myself of the uncomfortable feeling that some things just shouldn't be allowed. The second time, I was less offended. The third time, I was laughing my ass off. It's a great film.

I don't feel quite "uplifted" yet, but I do feel better. (Does that sound strange? Remember, darkness by its very nature implies the presence of light.)
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Wednesday, September 22, 2004
Russ Meyer Gets Laid (To Rest)

Alas, the original tittie-movie man has shuffled off this mortal coil...

Russ Meyer, who helped spawn the "skin flick" with such films as "Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!" and "Vixen," has died. He was 82.

Meyer died Saturday at his home in the Hollywood Hills, according to his company, RM Films International Inc. Spokeswoman Janice Cowart said Meyer had suffered from dementia and died of complications of pneumonia.

Meyer's films were considered pornographic in their time but are less shocking by today's standards, with their focus on violence and large-busted women but little graphic sex.

Altogether he produced, directed, financed, wrote, edited and shot at least 23 films, including his debut, "The Immoral Mr. Teas," in 1959 and the 1968 film "Vixen," whose success earned him notice from major studios.
(source)

Unlike your lesser purveyors of cinematic skin, of course, Meyer never succumbed to mere titillation, choosing instead to glorify the women in his films as not only sex objects, but sex objects who could kick your ass if they didn't like how you were eyeing 'em. I don't know a single interesting, sane woman who hasn't at some point wished she could be just a little bit more like Tura Satana.



So goodbye to Russ Meyer, friend to strong women everywhere. (I have to admit, however, that like Mat, I'd thought he'd died a long time ago. Oh well.)
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Things Worth Seeing

I've gotten some extra hits today thanks to the nice folks at the American Street (newly added to the blogroll), and they do good work themselves, so if you've got a few minutes to spare go check 'em out. Of special interest is the States Writes directory, sorting out prog-blogs by state.

And now, on a completely unrelated topic, check out this f-ing hilarious picture of Barbara Bush:


from the Dallas Morning News
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Bush Admin. Give The Finger To Expat Voters

Now this is pretty ominous:
On Monday, the International Herald Tribune reported that the Pentagon is restricting international access to the Web site for the Federal Voting Assistance Program, the official government agency that helps Americans living abroad register to vote in the November election.

(...)

Over the past year, the Federal Voting Assistance Program Web site has been widely advertised all over the foreign press as the way for Americans to get help on how to vote in the upcoming election. The site, which is maintained by the Department of Defense, is a nonpartisan, comprehensive, and official clearinghouse for voting registration information. Now that it's been put off-limits to many Americans just before registration deadlines kick in, activists fear that Americans will be unfairly barred from voting this year.

(...)

Not surprisingly, political pollsters believe that uniformed military personnel, especially military officers, lean toward Republicans in their voting habits; American civilians who live abroad, meanwhile, are particularly progressive. One recent Zogby survey, for example, showed that voters with passports supported Kerry over Bush by a margin of 55 to 33 percent.

During the 2000 election, I was living abroad in London. I spearheaded the effort to get my fellow American students registered to vote, taking it upon myself to schlep down to Grosvenor Square to get forms from the American Embassy. I myself was already registered to vote in Mississippi, but even so I had a few hoops to jump through: in order to get my ballot, I had to fill out a form (to sign up for absentee voting), take it back to the embassy and have it notarized; at which point I got a second form (ordering my ballot for that specific election), which I had to take home, fill out, and bring back to have notorized as well; and then finally I got my ballot, which I filled out and took back to the embassy to -- that's right -- have notarized. In all, I had to drag myself to the embassy five times in order to vote in 2000.

The point is, it isn't necessarily easy to exercise your right to vote if you live abroad; every state's requirements and procedures are different, and some are easier than others, but some states -- like Mississippi -- make it a colossal pain in the ass. If you don't have easy access to an American embassy, it might even be prohibitively difficult to accomplish the task. That's where programs like this one come in: making it possible for anyone with an internet connection to exercise their right to vote. (And using your voter's rights is a good thing, right Republicans?) But the deadlines to register and/or request a ballot are coming up very soon, and anyone in the affected areas who was relying on this program to help them get hooked up has been royally screwed by the DoD.

Anyway, if you're an ex-pat American trying to figure out what to do, go here; the Verified Voter Foundation can give you the help the Defense Department would apparently prefer you didn't have.
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Cheap Shot

File this one under 'Y' for "you've got to be fucking shitting me." A United Airlines flight was diverted after takeoff because somebody noticed that Yusuf Islam -- known in the long-long-ago as Cat Stevens -- was on board.

Apparently he was threatening a flight attendant with a mellow, stripped-down instrumental version of "Morning Has Broken."
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Tuesday, September 21, 2004
Looking For A New Blog

As much as it pains me to say, it looks as though Billmon's Whiskey Bar is on semi-permanant hiatus. He'd been dealing with some burnout issues; then he went away on a sailing trip a month or so back, and he hasn't posted since. I miss him particularly because his blog is the one that really got me into blogs and blogging, and I admired him above all other bloggers. His stuff was so well-written and insightful, the kind of thing one aspires to be able to produce on a daily basis. I'm keeping him in the blogroll for now in the fading hope that I'll stop by one day and he'll be back, but his silence has left me with a hole in my daily browse through the blogosphere.

So, I'm looking for something to fill in the gap... I need a serious, well-thought-out, articulate blog encompassing the entire leftish perspective, that ideally posts roughly daily. Anybody have a recommendation?
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It's Quiet... A Little Too Quiet...

Has anyone else noted how oddly calm things have been election-wise lately? Oh, there's the occasional bubble rising to the surface, but given the churning vortex that must lie below -- this is, after all, one of the most contentious and important elections in living memory -- the stillness is eerie.

It's not that I'm looking forward to the conflict; I'm frankly sick to death of the whole election, and really just want it to be over so we can get on with things, whatever those things turn out to be. But judging from the lack of activity, you'd never think the actual election itself was only six weeks away.

What I hope happens is that Kerry finally pulls it out and aims a mighty double-barrelled cannon of truth right at Bush's soft underbelly; judging from his speech yesterday I think he's got it in him. I saw him on CNN earlier, and I'm really digging the "Bush needs to face reality" riff; I think that not only is it a powerful statement politically, but also irrefutably true.

This election should be so easy to win... Bush has nothing to run on. The war's a disaster, the economy is struggling to keep its head above water, and for all his "stay the course" and "tough on terror" blah-blah-blah, the obvious, glaring holes in Bush's approach to terrorism are easily detected by anyone with any degree of intellectual honesty and capacity for critical thought. Right now, while the water is relatively calm, is the perfect time for we on the left (and our respected allies on the sane right) to start kicking and splashing for everything we're worth.
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Monday, September 20, 2004
Maha-rat-shi

Apologies to all four of my regular readers for the relative quiet over the past couple of days; I've been putting my energy into other things, and haven't had a whole lot that seemed important enough to write about. Such is life.

Maybe somebody can help me interpret this crazy dream I had last night; it had an amazing image in it which I found very distressing in the dream, but which I find really fascinating now. There was a rat attacking me in the dream, and I was trying to stomp on it to make it leave me alone. I missed, but I got a look at his little rat face... and the rat had a third eye! I know that HAS to mean something, but what?

Anyway, I'll try to find something to post about tomorrow. Until then, use the blank space below as a page for doodling, or as a focal point for your daily meditation. Nam myo ho ren ge kyo...




















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Saturday, September 18, 2004
The Frustration of Creativity

Anyone who knows me at all well knows that right now I'm struggling to write a film. It's intended to be my graduation project for film school, a demonstration of my ability and development thus far. My intent has been to do the actual shooting in conjunction with the election, so I'm on a fairly pressured schedule to get the writing done... in fact, I'm already overdue. That fact is eased somewhat on the basis that this is only intended to be a short film, so the pre-production requirements are lessened somewhat, but still... I don't have a lot of time to get this screenplay done if I hope to film in November.

It's frustrating because even though I'm working as fast as I usefully can, I feel like my progress is grindingly slow. I'm not as good at the conceptualizing phase as I am at the development of a defined idea (especially when I'm working alone), and this always takes me a long time. The core theme of the project -- the relationship between creativity and politics -- hasn't really changed, but everything else has. I have pages and pages full of notes; looking back at older notes, I can see how different the film is compared to where it started. Characters have been added and dropped (and sometimes re-added and re-dropped); the structure has changed over and over again, and the emphasis has changed with it; and whole new elements have been brought in over time. Looking at it that way, I suppose, even though I haven't produced a whole draft yet, I've still been reasonably productive. I now know about 50 pages worth of what this film is not.

I know, intellectually at least, that I don't have to demonstrate my full genius in this film; it doesn't have to be such a big deal, I don't have to state a Great Truth in order to clear my film school requirement. But at the same time, I can't not take it seriously... I'm not into doing this half-assed. Moreover, while this doesn't have to be a masterwork, it is meant to be representative of what I've learned and what I'm capable of doing now, and it is the first time I'm likely to be judged on what I produce. There are people who will ultimately see and judge this film that, if I can, I would rather impress.

What I need right now is a draft. Just one full draft, even if it sucks. But god, I hate doing it. Writing has to be the most agonizing activity in the world.

PS: There is one thing y'all can help me with, if you're inclined. I'm trying to gather up a list of works of great politically-inspired art... not propaganda, not cheesy protest art, but the Great, universal stuff. Guernica. "Oh Captain, My Captain." That kind of thing, from any medium... music, film, theater, literature, photography, the visual arts, any and all of it. Any tips would be greatly appreciated.

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Friday, September 17, 2004
The Blatantly Obvious Becomes Official

I know they say that nobody likes to hear you say, "I told you so." But, war supporters? We fucking told you so:

The comprehensive 15-month search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has concluded that the only chemical or biological agents that Saddam Hussein's regime was working on before last year's invasion were small quantities of poisons, most likely for use in assassinations.

A draft of the Iraq Survey Group's final report circulating in Washington found no sign of the alleged illegal stockpiles that the US and Britain presented as the justification for going to war, nor did it find any evidence of efforts to reconstitute Iraq's nuclear weapons programme.
(source)

1,030 Americans dead, all for non-existant WMDs. Proud of that? Then vote for Bush in November. Think maybe that was a mistake? Then vote for Kerry. It's pretty simple, really.

To quote the exceptionally articulate James Woolcott (the newest addition to my blogroll):
THE SUREST WAY TO BE PROVEN WRONG IS TO GIVE GEORGE BUSH THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT.

The environment. The judiciary. WMDs. The occupation of Iraq. The deficit. Pick a subject, any subject, and giving Bush the benefit of the doubt has been a guaranteed loser.

And remember, losers are much more disliked than I-told-you-so-ers.
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I Only Drink With Liberals

We should do this. Who's in?
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Thursday, September 16, 2004
Because You're Bored

Just killin' time, kids.

The famous MeatShake: Meat. Lots of meat.

Giant Microbes: finally, streptococcus pyogenes in a soft 'n' cuddly form. Or give your sweetheart a plush Epstein-Barr virus for Valentines Day!

MANties: the creepiest thing about these isn't the basic concept -- who am I to judge? -- but rather that I don't know a single woman who actually wears underwear that looks like this. At least not since she was, like, five years old. The idea of a grown man wearing ladies' underthings is, y'know... whatever; but the idea of a grown man wearing little girls' underwear is just icky.

Bert and Ernie's Guide To Eroticism: the further corruption of my beloved childhood memories. (Grown-ups only, please.)

And finally, a Japanese game that will rob you of an hour from your life: GROW. Just keep playing, you'll figure it out.
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The Real Question

Are we tired of talking about Vietnam yet? Yes? I sure am; at this point I really could care less what happened in those jungles nearly four decades ago. I'm much more interested in what's happening in the desert right now.

The news coming down the pipeline from Iraq is getting steadily worse: the number of attacks each day is climbing; we have over a thousand young men and women in their graves and nearly 8000 have been wounded; the insurgency is gaining ground and coming out of hiding. And I am becoming increasingly worried.

When this war began, even those of us who opposed it hoped, probably even assumed that we'd have the military strength to put and end to it within a year, maybe two; a few doomsayers aside, even the pessimists among us didn't think we were genuinely entering a long-term scenario. As the one-year mark passed, most of us saw our worst fears come true; as we passed 1000 dead, we howled at the futility of it all. And now, a much darker possibility is beginning to appear in our minds.

What if this war drags on? What if it becomes a long, bloody, protracted conflict? Those who are running the show over there are reporting back that things are much, much worse than anyone here realizes. Those who know war from experience are telling us that this is going very badly indeed.

Retired Gen. William Odom, former head of the National Security Agency, told me: "Bush hasn't found the WMD. Al-Qaida, it's worse -- he's lost on that front. That he's going to achieve a democracy there? That goal is lost, too. It's lost." He added: "Right now, the course we're on, we're achieving [Osama] bin Laden's ends."

(...)

"This is far graver than Vietnam," said Gen. Odom. "There wasn't as much at stake strategically, though in both cases we mindlessly went ahead with a war that was not constructive for U.S. aims. But now we're in a region far more volatile and we're in much worse shape with our allies."

(...)

[Retired Gen. Joseph Hoare, the former Marine commandant and head of the U.S. Central Command] believes from the information he has received that "a decision has been made" to attack Fallujah "after the first Tuesday in November. That's the cynical part of it -- after the election. The signs are all there." He compares any such planned attack with late Syrian dictator Hafez al-Assad's razing of the rebel city of Hama. "You could flatten it," said Hoare. "U.S. military forces would prevail, casualties would be high, there would be inconclusive results with respect to the bad guys, their leadership would escape, and civilians would be caught in the middle. I hate that phrase 'collateral damage.' And they talked about dancing in the street, a beacon for democracy."

(...)

Gen. Odom remarked that the tension between the Bush administration and senior military officers over Iraq is worse than any he has ever seen with any previous U.S. government, including during Vietnam. "I've never seen it so bad between the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the military. There's a significant majority believing this is a disaster. The two parties whose interests have been advanced have been the Iranians and al-Qaida. Bin Laden could argue with some cogency that our going into Iraq was the equivalent of the Germans in Stalingrad. They defeated themselves by pouring more in there. Tragic."
(source)

Of everyone who supports this war, I ask this question: if you knew that this war would last for years, and bring the high casualty figures that go with a long conflict, would you still support it? If you knew it could end badly -- and given the region of the world in which we're fighting, it could end very, very badly -- would you still support it?

There were no WMDs, there was no connection to al Qaeda. Iraq was not a threat. We have stretched our military so thin that we can no longer effectively respond to real threats. We have undermined all genuine efforts to secure the country against actual terrorists, and allowed those who attacked us to escape. We have become a pariah in the world, and made many new enemies in the Middle East. And we risk much, much more the longer we stay. I don't want to see my generation decimated; I don't want to find ourselves with more enemies at the end than we had at the beginning.

Is the objective worth the risk?

PS: Want to read more about what the war actually looks like on the ground? Check out Operation Truth:
I enlisted in the Army Reserve following September 11, 2001, one of the hardest and best decisions I have made in my life. I love the United States, the Army and my unit. Out of this deep love, I ask that we as Americans take a long look in the mirror. We must ask ourselves who we are and what we stand for. We as a nation must face the monster we have created in Iraq, sooner rather than later. We must find a way out of the mess in Iraq with minimal loss of American and Iraqi life. We owe it to the soldiers on the ground and the embattled Iraqi people.

~SPC Richard Murphy

Remember, according to some right-wingers, this guy's a traitor.
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Whoa... Duped

Now I'm thinking this movie doesn't sound so cool after all. I'm not really into being recruited for some weird cult.

(Yes, you'll have to click through the ad again. Damn this advertising-driven world!)
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Wednesday, September 15, 2004
Happens Every Day

Go read this:

I didn't actually see the report live -- Wolf had already moved on to his next story -- but I was struck by how casual this was: innocent civilians killed in a U.S. airstrike, and it wasn't even the news hook; the death of the reporter was. (CNN doesn't have a transcript up for the report I saw. They do, however, have one for a later, similar report. Scroll down, or just search for the words "I'm dying." The entire mention of the U.S. inflicting over 70 civilian casualties is exactly four sentences long. The Batman guy, meanwhile, got thirty.)

So, through the miracle of TiVo, I rewound. And there it was.

Video.

Civilians.

Being killed by a U.S. airstrike.

Non-combatants. Celebrating on a disabled U.S. vehicle, granted. But civilians nonetheless. Certainly not in combat against any U.S. troops.

In the foreground, a reporter just doing his job, frowning over some little technical glitch, maybe something he forgot to do...

Bang, boom. No warning. Just an incoming U.S. aerial attack. "To prevent looters from stripping the vehicle," the Pentagon later says, classifying everyone within thirty feet as "looters" and sentencing them to summary execution.

Blood splashes on the lens. The camera spins. Tiny glimpses of terrible carnage.

Without a beat, without reflection, without even a moment of minimal thought, Wolf Blitzer moves on. As do we, collectively.

And that's that. America kills innocent civilians. Lots of them. And it's no big deal now. Not controversial. No reason to ask questions or rationalize or even pretend to soul-search like the national media once did. America kills civilians. Lots of them. Just part of the fabric of things now.

Happens every day.

Seriously, go read the whole piece. It's important.
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Tuesday, September 14, 2004
Here I Am, Rock Me Like A Hurricane

As I write this, Hurricane Ivan is whirling around the Gulf of Mexico preparing to make sweet, violent love to the Mississppi River Valley.


The orange dot with the arrow represents "I am here". The thing to keep in mind, though, is that the red swirly icon only signigifes the eye of the storm; the entire storm is apparently something like 400 miles / 645 km in diameter... which is to say, this is an enormous fucking storm. (For visual reference, that's enough hurricane to almost completely cover both Mississippi and Alabama.)The eye is due to make landfall sometime tomorrow night, which means we here around Memphis will be feeling the leading edge sometime tomorrow. And no, it certainly won't be a direct hit for us, but given that this is expected to be a Category 4 by the time it hits Gulfport, MS, we could still be in for some badass flooding and a fun day of tornado warnings.

Anyway, if things are a bit quiet here on the blog for a couple of days, that's probably why. It should be fun!

PS: If any of y'all have ever had any desire to visit New Orleans, I hope you already have. After Thursday, it might not be there anymore.

Update: I have changed the headline to something much doofier.

My mother says I "might be over-reacting"... look, it's not like I'm out buying plywood to board up the windows; I'm just gonna make sure I get my grocery shopping done before the weather turns crappy. And maybe make sure I know where the candles are. No biggie.

Also, I saw lots of Louisiana license plates on the freeway tonight, even a few Floridas. They say they're not allowing people to enter N.O. LA anymore, and the highways out of townare almost completely blocked with traffic. Considering the city might be under 12 feet of water in a couple of days, I don't blame 'em.

Update 2: As Ivan makes landfall, he appears to have decided that he'd prefer to make violent love to the Florida panhandle (apparently Ivan swings the other way, if you know what I mean... not that there's anything wrong with that.) So we here in the northern end of the Mississippi Delta probably aren't going to be touched after all.

But I might burn some candles anyway. Candles are good, right?
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Neo-Conservatives Say The Darnedest Things

"A year from now I'd be surprised if there's not some grand square in Baghdad that is named after President Bush."

~Richard Perle, American Enterprise Institute, September 22, 2003

Maybe they could name this bombed-out market after him instead, huh?





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Monday, September 13, 2004
The Other View of Reality

According to some, the situation in Iraq is improving; "only" a thousand or so soldiers have been killed, and fatality rates are remaining steady. Is this a realistic view? I think it's probably not. Our fatality rates have been lower than they might have been -- although our casualty rates in terms of horrific, debilitating injuries are higher than ever, which is something you don't hear about much in the media. But the greater question is: who's winning this war? Are our objectives within reach?

Here are a few thoughts in response to those questions.

First, from Newsweek:
It's not only that U.S. casualty figures keep climbing. American counterinsurgency experts are noticing some disturbing trends in those statistics. The Defense Department counted 87 attacks per day on U.S. forces in August -- the worst monthly average since Bush's flight-suited visit to the USS Abraham Lincoln in May 2003. Preliminary analysis of the July and August numbers also suggests that U.S. troops are being attacked across a wider area of Iraq than ever before. And the number of gunshot casualties apparently took a huge jump in August. Until then, explosive devices and shrapnel were the primary cause of combat injuries, typical of a "phase two" insurgency, where sudden ambushes are the rule. (Phase one is the recruitment phase, with most actions confined to sabotage. That's how things started in Iraq.) Bullet wounds would mean the insurgents are standing and fighting -- a step up to phase three.

And regarding the bigger picture, Juan Cole describes how this war is helping Osama get exactly what he wants from the United States.

Al-Qaeda wanted to build enthusiasm for the Islamic superstate among the Muslim populace, to convince ordinary Muslims that the US could be defeated and they did not have to accept the small, largely secular, and powerless Middle Eastern states erected in the wake of colonialism. Jordan's population, e.g. is 5.6 million. Tunisia, a former French colony, is 10 million, less than Michigan. Most Muslims have been convinced of the naturalness of the nation-state model and are proud of their new nations, however small and weak. Bin Laden had to do a big demonstration project to convince them that another model is possible.

(...)

Bin Laden hoped the US would timidly withdraw from the Middle East. But he appears to have been aware that an aggressive US response to 9/11 was entirely possible. In that case, he had a Plan B: al-Qaeda hoped to draw the US into a debilitating guerrilla war in Afghanistan and do to the US military what they had earlier done to the Soviets. Al-Zawahiri's recent message shows that he still has faith in that strategy.

The US cleverly outfoxed al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, using air power and local Afghan allies (the Northern Alliance) to destroy the Taliban without many American boots on the ground.

Ironically, however, the Bush administration then went on to invade Iraq for no good reason, where Americans faced the kind of wearing guerrilla war they had avoided in Afghanistan.

Al-Qaeda has succeeded in several of its main goals. It had been trying to convince Muslims that the United States wanted to invade Muslim lands, humiliate Muslim men, and rape Muslim women. Most Muslims found this charge hard to accept. The Bush administration's Iraq invasion, along with the Abu Ghuraib prison torture scandal, was perceived by many Muslims to validate Bin Laden's wisdom and foresightedness.

After the Iraq War, Bin Laden is more popular than George W. Bush even in a significantly secular Muslim country such as Turkey. This is a bizarre finding, a weird turn of events. Turks didn't start out with such an attitude. It grew up in reaction against US policies.

(...)

The US is not winning the war on terror. Al-Qaeda also has by no means won. But across a whole range of objectives, al-Qaeda has accomplished more of its goals than the US has of its.

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Sunday, September 12, 2004
Two Brilliant Ideas

Hanging out with Diana tonight (after the Co-op meeting that didn't happen), we had two absolutely brilliant ideas, things I'd love to do were it not for the minor point that I am grossly unqualified to attempt either one. Thus, they will be installed here until such time as we or somebody else has the sense and ability to capitalize on them.

Idea 1: The Elvis Opera

It's true; Elvis Presley's life is the stuff of classical opera. Poor Mississippi boy finds immeasurable fame and wealth, finds and loses true love, is manipulated by the wicked-but-sly Col. Tom Parker, and eventually meets his end through his own weakness. It would have to be done properly, though... no cheesy rock-opera bullshit, thanks. What we need here is a serious Italian opera with arias and everything. It's not a joke, it's a completely serious creative venture.

Idea 2: a Punk Band

But wait, there's more: there has to be a place in the world for an all-girl punk band in which -- here's the hook -- all the members dress in mom-drag. Polyester pantsuits, sensible shoes, knee-high hose, short bobbed hair, the whole bit. C'mon, it's a great idea... at the very least, it'd be a mean theme for a costume party: come as your parents.
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Saturday, September 11, 2004
Gettin' Off This Train

As of today, my obligations to Lee's film are officially discharged. And I did it without strangling anyone (barely).*

The plan now is to go out, have some Mexican food, get slightly pissed on Margaritas, and then go see chess club play again.

That is all.

*not a joke
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Holes Where Things Should Be, But Aren't

I have a theory that this date has a theme: it's the day of missing things. Everything below represents an absence, a bit of negative space in life.

On this day in history:

1857 - Mormon settlers and Paiutes massacre 120 pioneers at Mountain Meadows, Utah

1921 - Fatty Arbuckle arrested for rape

1943 - World War II: start of the liquidation of the Ghettos in Minsk and Lida by the Nazis

1973 - Chilean president Salvador Allende murdered during a coup

1978 - Janet Parker, medical photographer and the final victim of smallpox (contracted in a lab accident), dies

1981 - Dylan Klebold, one of the Columbine High School massacre gunmen, is born

1998 - Independent counsel Kenneth Starr sends a report to the US Congress accusing President Bill Clinton of 11 possible impeachable offenses.

2003 - Swedish foreign minister Anna Lindh dies after being fatally wounded on September 10.

2003 - John Ritter, actor, dies

More personally...

My father was born in Texarkana, Texas in 1952 1953.

Somebody I love very much lost someone they loved, someone who was far too young to be gone so suddenly.

And, of course, there's something missing from this list.

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Friday, September 10, 2004
Brilliant


(Click here for a larger version.)


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Thursday, September 09, 2004
Disturbing

Browsing through the blogroll, I came across this entry on Tom Tomorrow's blog. It's by Bob Harris, who's Tom's co-blogger; if anyone reads that blog regularly, you'll know that Bob was recently visiting Greece and other attached locales.

This resonates with me because, while I haven't been forced to endure anything this extensive, I am also one of the flagged people. Flying back and forth between the UK, I got quite accustomed to routinely being one of the people who was searched (over and over again); last time I flew, from here to LA, my ticket had obviously been flagged, since I had to go through a special search process every step of the way. Why this should be so I'm not sure: I have no criminal record, I have no official ties to any rabble-rousing organization, and apart from unapologetically speaking my mind here and on an internet forum, I'm not particularly politically active or outspoken. And yet like Bob (although not to the same degree), I am routinely made to feel like a suspicious character while travelling into and inside-of my own country.

It's not right.
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My Favorite Search So Far

It's fairly common among bloggers to keep an eye on the logs to see what kind of searches are bringing visitors to your little patch of 'net. I've discovered several trends over the six months this blog has existed, and certain searches keep popping up the logs. I get a lot of people coming around looking for "Barack Obama," and more than that looking for the "Lcpl. Boudreaux sign generator." Amusingly, the all-time number-one hit generator for this blog is any variation on the phrase "George W. Bush is a fuckhead." Sometimes you get visitors who were searching for something kinda creepy; sometimes their searches are downright icky. I also get a lot of people looking for actual novenas for various needs and purposes, usually nothing to do with anything on the website; suffice to say there's very little prayer advice on this blog.

Anyway, today a search I found particularly pleasing popped up in the logs:"Novena to defeat George Bush." I just want to say to whomever came by based on that search that I wholeheartedly support the idea behind it, and I hope you found something useful, even if it wasn't here. If you didn't, I encourage you to devise a novena of your own. Whatever you ended up with, email it to me; I'd love to post it on the blog.
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Whoa... deep.

I'm thinking this film might be kinda cool. If nothing else, it's nice to see the film distribution establishment being forced (by this film and others) to re-think what's wanted in the market and what's not. I do hope somebody in Memphis picks it up (and if they don't, maybe the Co-op can screen it?)

(Yes, you'll have to click through an ad to get to the whole piece; sorry.)
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Wednesday, September 08, 2004
Why We Don't Like Rush Limbaugh

So, according to Rush, 1000 dead soldiers isn't that many...
"But the statistic I saw -- do you know how many students commit suicide on American university campuses in America every year? The number is 1,000. Do you know how many Americans die on a highways [sic] every year in this country? Try 47,000 to 50,000. [Limbaugh is over by 10,000.] And here we've got 1,000 deaths in Vietnam [sic: Iraq, as noted on rushlimbaugh.com] in a war for the defense of this country and the insurance of our freedom, and everybody says these aren't worth it."
(source)

See? It's only a thousand, no biggie... hell, you're more likely to die while driving your car than you are to die in Iraq. Why worry about it?

The missing piece of this bit of logic, though, is that there are only approximately 150,000 soldiers in Iraq. I don't know how many university students there are in the United States, but in the ten largest universities in the US alone there are over 440,000, and that's barely a scratch on the surface of the entire US university population. In other words, the chances of dying in Iraq and the chances of dying by your own hand while at college are not even remotely comparable.

To translate this into terms that are comparable, look at the possibility as compared to the total population:

Chance of dying in a fire: 1 in 81,524

Chance of dying from a fall: 1 in 20,666

Chance of dying in a car accident: 1 in 18,585

Chance of dying in an assault: 1 in 16,421

Chance of dying by your own hand: 1 in 9,380

Chance of a soldier in Iraq dying by any means: 1 in 1,500

So no, compared to the entire population of the United States, there aren't that many soldiers dying in Iraq. But taken as a segment of society that's under special pressure, the death rate among soldiers in Iraq is very, very high.

Using Limbaugh's logic, the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center weren't any big deal, either... hell, it was only like 3,500 dead; we lose that many to heart disease every week.

See what I mean? It's called critical thinking, folks, come on in.
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Prophetic Jokers

Everybody loves The Onion, right? Of course we do; the Onion's amazing. (For the uninitiated, The Onion is a satirical newspaper on par with -- possibly surpassing -- the Daily Show for unspeakably brilliant humor. I'm a particularly big fan of Jean Teasdale myself, and can't imagine a world without Red Meat.)

Many might remember a headline from waaaay back in January 2001, immediately following Bush's inauguration: "Bush: 'Our Long Nightmare Of Peace And Prosperity Is Finally Over" (second only to the famous "Holy Fucking Shit" headline of September 2001.) You remember that one, right?

Well check this shit out. They hyperlinked the damn thing; those bastards got it all scarily right.

I'm not going to be able to sleep tonight.
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Response to "The Politics of Division"

Thorough readers of this blog might have caught a comment by my mother below pointing out the lack of space for a full response to an earlier post. She emailed me the full response, which I have posted below along with my response to her response. Her words are in italics, and are completely unedited except to make room for my reply.

It's a bit, y'know, long.

----------------

A beautifully written commentary, which I am saving to my personal
archive.


Well, shucks. Thanks.

First let me say that I consider myself a Conservative, not a Republican. I have never paid dues or monetarily supported the Republican party, though more often than not, I do vote for Republican candidates. On many subjects I am close to Libertarian, and that is ultimately where the minds may almost meet.

Your argument is fair and solid, and yes, I can agree with your stated belief in almost every case, with a few thoughts to be added from the conservative perspective:

To start with the gun issue - I do not own a gun, and have only owned a gun for a short time many years ago. When I was held up at gun point in my small retail shop in 1988, I was thankful that I had taken the gun home because I knew that I probably could never have used it, and it would have only made the armed robber mad if he had seen me pull it out. As it was, I was only a defenseless middle aged woman to him, and he was merciful. Hence, I am still walking around available for needling. There is currently a shot gun in our home, used only for protection from an occasional snake or coyote (the coyotes would love to make a meal of one of our four plump cats, who I will defend to the death) encountered on our rural Mississippi acreage. I am glad that we have the gun for my own protection and that of my beloved cats. I have no problem with gun registration, I am happy to tell anyone that we have the shotgun. It is unfortunate that there are people in our society that do horrible things with guns, but I don't know what the answer to this problem is. If there were no guns, they would find other ways to hurt people. Sodium Nitrate can be used for growing beautiful grass or blowing up buildings...


What I would like to see is simply a registration of firearms, only so that we know who is responsible for the guns that are legally owned. As our constitution is written, the right to keep and bear arms is guaranteed; I am willing to accept an interpretation that law-abiding private citizens are covered by its wording. However, I think "well-ordered" leaves room for us to make sure that we know where the guns are, who is responsible for them, and that they are safely maintained. Even our literal militia, the US military, maintains records of who has what weapons. I think it's a reasonable request to make.

I think that education is virtually free in our society and has been for many years. I think that in modern America, anyone can pursue an advanced degree with a bit of effort on their part. Conservatives would like to make better education accessible to all through a school voucher program, but are fought on this issue by the Teachers Union (a strong arm of the democratic party), and that is our complaint with the education hierarchy. Schools are funded to the tune of billions, and the lazy, under worked teaching bureaucracy scarf's up increasing funds each year, little of which ever gets to the student. And that, in a nut shell, is the conservative complaint. We are tired of throwing our hard earned dollars down the black hole of government bureaucracy, and we are looking for ways to correct the problem. When we come up with a workable solution, like School Vouchers, that would offer a better education to the underprivileged, the government bureaucracy (i.e. - in this case the Teachers' Unions) don't support it for fear of change, and what it may do to their cushy situation. Students be damned.

The issue that liberals have with the voucher system -- and I do believe that it's a reasonable issue, and one that conservative supporters have not adequately addressed -- is the simple fact that unlike public schools, private schools can select their students, rejecting those they choose (for whatever reason) not to deal with. Whereas the public schools system is obligated to make a place for every student who comes to them -- the physically and mentally disabled, the emotionally and behaviorally troubled, those from extremely difficult backgrounds, those with problematic families, etc. -- private schools retain the right to turn those students away if they so choose. They can turn students away based on faith, based on behavioral problems, based on academic standing; they want public support without the obligations that come with genuinely public education.

The conflict that arises is that while voucher schools sound great as a theory -- I actually have no problem with most forms of faith-based education, as long as they maintain adequate academic standards (and some do not) -- as the proposals are currently written they still have the potential to devolve into nothing more than a coupon system for those people who are already sending their children to private schools.

If a young child with behavioral problems and a learning disability, from a rough neighborhood and a bad home on the far side of town, wants to come to a nice suburban private prep school and benefit from the education to be had there, can you genuinely guarantee me that he or she will find a place? If private schools won't play by the same rules as public schools, and take on all the same challenges and issues, why should they get to benefit from public funding? If private schools want to participate in public funding, they must take every student that approaches them, on a first-come, first-served basis, without looking at any aspect of their background or current situation, until they reach a student body size commesurate with a typical public school in the area; ie, accept students in exactly the same way public schools do. They can still teach, obviously, with their existing methods; I would be curious to see if those methods still stand up if students are not carefully selected as they generally are now. You might protest that were they to do this, they would be much less able to maintain their standing as "good" schools, and this is precisely the point; the public schools suffer because they have a much greater burden, with much less support, than do the great majority of private schools. The public still has an obligation to educate, as best they can, those students that are less desireable; if private schools want to share the public wealth, they must take on their share of that burden.

Incidentally, the current cost of the Iraq war is equal to the annual salaries of roughly two-and-a-half million public school teachers. I think I know where we can cut some costs to make that beaureaucratic black hole a bit less deep.

Universal healthcare is a similar situation... Currently anyone who is truly destitute in this country can get healthcare through numerous programs and at many hospitals. Is it the absolute best that money can buy? No. And no conservative will tell you that they wouldn't like for everyone to have the best healthcare available, or... that they think the insurance providers or the drug companies are perfect. But we also don't think that creating another bloated government bureaucracy to soak up most of the tax money set aside is the answer.

I personally am not eligible for any form of state-sponsored health care, and there are currently approximately 30 million Americans in exactly the same situation. The simple fact remains that nations that do maintain universal health care typically enjoy a higher level of health and reap the economic rewards of a healthy, productive society. Just as Wal-Mart can afford to make goods less expensive by the sheer size of their customer base, a nation of people buying their healthcare en masse can make that care less expensive for everyone. There are trade-offs, of course, and I am not necessarily suggesting that any healthcare system we were to implement would have to resemble any currently existing. But I do believe that, by whatever means, universal health care is a major priority, especially as the Boomer generation begins to age.

We do have freedom of speech in this country and I will defend it to death. I do however, reserve the right to protect children from certain books, movies, music and literature until they are old enough to understand the difference between good and bad (and wisdom tells us that for most children that age is 21). As a parent, I don't think that I ever denied my child (you, dear Sister) access to any book, movie, music, etc that was important in their intellectual development. But it was my right as a parent to decide what that was, and no school has the right to circumvent that.

My statements about freedom of expression are more theoretical than reflective of any particular issue; it's just something I consider incredibly important. I'd also point out that I was dealing in highly controversial subject matter when I was thirteen or fourteen years old; the fact that I had a parent who was willing to let me explore freely, accompanied by an educational system that gave me some understanding of the media and criticial thinking skills, let me get through it all unscathed. The point being, some kids are able to deal with more than others, just as some adults can handle more complex material than others. The limits of the less-sophisticated should not, however, be used to define the access of those who can handle greater complexity. The lowest common denominator isn't a sufficient measure. Parents should indeed play a major role in determining what their children do and do not have access to; they should, in some cases, play that role more actively, rather than expecting society to restrict on their behalf the access of others for the sake of their children.

Just as corporations should bare a responsibility not to do harm, so should doctors. Every society has to have laws against some crimes. It is never okay to murder another person. There is certainly disagreement about whether life begins at conception or birth. I personally have delved deeply into this question during my own life. I have had an abortion, I worked for several years in an abortion clinic, and from what I saw during that time, I ultimately came to the conclusion that life begins long before birth. I would never have another abortion, nor would I council anyone close to me to do so. I believe that abortion is not a legitimate form of birth control (Planned Parenthood does), and should only be permitted when the mother's life is threatened or when the child being carried stands no chance of leading a normal healthy life. I would not outlaw abortion completely, but I would certainly put many more restrictions on it. I also do not believe in capital punishment, and I don't understand those who support one but not the other. I believe that life should be sacred and the ending of life should not be hastened by man. As far as the stem cell debate, I don't have a problem with using stem cells IF they were not the result of the inappropriate termination of a life, and I do not necessarily support the Presidents stand on this. I think that more community discussion on this will be forthcoming.

Nobody likes abortion, not even Planned Parenthood. As a former clinic counselor, I assume you're aware of that reality. Still, in the current political climate, even access to safe, effective birth control methods is being lessened, entirely due to pressure by religious conservatives. Those who genuinely want to see fewer abortions should realize that free, easy access to preventive birth control for everyone is the best way to achieve a lower abortion rate. As it happens, Planned Parenthood and organizations like it are currently the best means of providing that access; I'd have more respect for anti-abortion OB/GYN services if they handed out the morning-after pill as well as religious tracts. Until we can guarantee that end of reproductive rights -- and ideally, until we as a society can make more room for single mothers to live their own lives while providing for their children, and respect the work that goes into raising a child -- I don't think we can honestly restrict or punish any woman for making a choice that she personally feels is best for her. We must realize that we as a society also have a role to play in encouraging a preference for life.

Furthermore, the complete eradication of abortion, including what we would consider "elective" abortions, is never going to happen; the least we can do is ensure that those women who do have them can have them under safe, clean conditions. Even when abortion was illegal, they still occured, but the death rate from complications arising from botched abortions plummeted when they became legal. Whether you agree or disagree with a woman's right to choose, surely no woman deserves to die an agonizing death because she found herself faced with an impossible dilemma.

And nobody has suggested that stem-cell research should make use of viable, wanted embryos. As the technology currently stands, researchers would like to access unwanted pre-embryonic cells -- the byproducts of fertility treatments, thus ironically the result of the pursuit of "life" -- for use in a medical technology that can potentially save tens of millions of people. These non-embryos -- and there are plenty of them -- are already doomed; their genetic "parents" do not want them, and nobody else has a legal right to them. They can go to waste, as they will under current law as legislated by the Bush administration, or they can serve life by way of saving the lives of the sick. It will take time to achieve this, obviously, but the sooner we begin, the sooner we can begin helping people. As the boomers progress into their old age, they may well become the first major beneficiaries of the technology. You want to save a theoretical "life;" in reality, the life you save -- or sacrifice -- may be your own.

I do however believe that if a person or group threaten my life, I have the right to defend myself, as does my country have the right to defend against those that will harm it's citizens.

If the nation being defended against genuinely constitutes a real and immediate threat, I agree. To go to war carelessly, hastily, or mistakenly, however, is not defense; it's a moral failure.

I do believe in the sovereignty of nations, and that the USA must remain a sovereign nation and look out for itself. Under no circumstances should we center our foreign policy around what other nations think we should do. Should we consider them? Yes. But we ultimately have to do what is best for our country. Sometimes there will be a debate among countrymen as to what "Best" is, but that will always be true. Also, under no circumstance should we ever ask our soldiers, who are putting themselves in harms way for freedoms sake, to serve in the command of other nations or the UN. Yes, it would be wonderful if we could all just get along, but sometimes there are other nations that want to hurt us.

There was a time when the individual states said the same; a war was fought over the issue and many, many people died. "No state," they said (and I'm paraphrasing), "should be beholden to the wishes of any other." Ultimately, however, in spite of the still-lingering resentments of some, the United States was formed into a single body. The states have some rights; the nation as a whole has rights as well. This system, while once unpopular in some circles, has proven to be incredibly beneficial for 150 years. We are all stronger for it.

The world is changing. Our society doesn't end at our borders anymore; what we do affects how people live in places very far from us. We can travel vast distances in incredibly short periods of time; we can communicate in fractions of a second. Whereas once only Missourans and Kentuckians were our close neighbors, now Western Europe, Central America, and the Pacific Rim maintain closer relations than my great-great-great grandfather did with people in the next state. Society is becoming global, and if we are to maintain any semblance of respect or integrity in an international community (and it is becoming an international community whether conservatives like it or not), we must learn to get along with others, and learn to make compromises with other nations, including those we now consider enemies.

This is coming, just as it came on a smaller scale before. Whether it's easy or hard, whether it's beneficial or damaging for us in the United States, it IS coming. It's not a question of politics, of who's for it and who's against it; it's a simple inevitability. The world is moving on.

The communal good is of course important, as are individual rights. Compromise and balance between the sometimes-opposing views has proven possible for over 200 years in our wonderful democracy. Hind sight often forgets the particulars, but teaches us the truth. We debate, sometimes we fight and hopefully we will hold on to our freedom.

I agree.
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Tuesday, September 07, 2004
Number 1000

The thousandth dead American soldier will almost certainly meet his or her fate sometimes today; if not today, then almost certainly tomorrow. As I write this, iCasualty.org (the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count) stands at 999; the butcher's bill for unlucky number 1000 is about to come due.

This is a strange moment. Somewhere in Iraq, so far as we can tell, this unfortunate man or woman is still alive and well, probably not suspecting their imminent win of Bush's lottery... and it feels as if one should do something, anything, to prevent it from happening... but with the machine already rolling, what can one do, except wait impotently for something that's so inevitable, and yet was once so avoidable?

Why we focus so much on round numbers I don't know; this death will be no more nor less significant in real terms than any of the 999 that preceded it (or than the deaths of those lost in Afghanistan, or even than the thousands of Iraqis who have died in this war.) A family will be thrown into blackness, somebody will lose someone they dearly loved, some potential will become unreachable, and no progress or meaningful good will come of it. Just as with all the others.

In September, 2004 a tragic milestone will be reached: 1,000 U.S. troops will have been killed in a war that should not have happened. The two primary justifications used by the Bush Administration to take this nation into war -- weapons of mass destruction and a link between Al Qaida and Saddam Hussein have proven to be false. Each, day, week and month that this reckless military misadventure continues, the death toll goes higher.

As the day of the 1,000th troop death is reached, Military Families Speak Out honors all who have fallen. We remember all the U.S. service men and women who have died as a result of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq; the many thousands of Iraqi men, women and children who have died as a result of this war in Iraq; and the fact that these deaths have occurred in a war that is unjust and unjustifiable.
(source)


Update: It did happen today. We don't know yet who it was, or how it happened, but sometime on September 7, soldier #1000 was killed, quickly followed by soldier #1001. Peace to them and their families.
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Monday, September 06, 2004
Michael Moore Does Another Good Thing

Michael Moore has decided, for various reasons, not to submit Fahrenheit 9/11 for Oscar consideration. He explains why on his website; I think in several respects it was a pretty classy move. Not as classy, perhaps, as he'd like us to believe it is -- the guy's a bit given to self-aggrandizement, but that's really just to be expected from someone who has attained as much relative power in the industry as he has -- but still pretty classy. I was particularly pleased by his throwing some support to other docs (although I'd really like to see more of that kind of behavior).

Anyway, it's not like he needs the Oscar for name recognition or anything.
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Labor Day

Has anyone else noticed that the people who could most use a day off are those least likely to get one on Labor Day? The holiday was founded to honor the efforts of labor unions in North America, the unions being the only bodies that would stand up for the rights of poor skilled and unskilled workers. (Yes, there was a time when the entire country agreed that maybe the nation's laborers deserved a day in their honor.) But in a case of bitter irony, these days the people who most often actually benefit from it are the white-collared middle classes. Our unskilled workers certainly don't get the day off; they have to go to their shitty, low-paying dead-end jobs at the gas station and McDonalds to serve those who do get the day off, because god knows they can't go a whole day without easy access to Big Macs. (I wonder if the McD's employees at least get time and a half? That'd rack their wages up to $7.50, easy.)

Maybe we should start calling it There Will Be No End To Your Labor Day.
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Sunday, September 05, 2004
May I Call Your Attention To...

... a few interesting posts from the blogs of my associates:

Over at the Door From Hell Online, Mat tells us What You Have To Believe In Order To Be A Republican. And Doug has some thoughts on broken hearts with which I completely agree.

Just thought I'd point 'em out.
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Saturday, September 04, 2004
The Politics Of Division

I have to make an admission: I don't actually give a shit about politics.

Yes, it's true; in spite of everything I've written here (much of it for the sole purpose of needling my lovely-but-Republican mother), politics ranks very, very low in my list of personal priorities. Scattered around this planet are the ruined remains of civilizations, each of which had their own political issues and tensions; no doubt the politics of their day seemed vitally important, even end-of-the-world decisive, to them at the time, but to us they are simply the subject of passing interest, perhaps the topic of a few paragraphs in a mind-numbingly dull text somewhere. My point being, while the world can waver between peace and conflict, stability and chaos, better- and worse-off, at the end of the day, none of this actually means anything. The art, religion, and philosophy of those times has, more often than not, lasted far longer than the politics; if any human endeavor is worth staking your life on, it's those, and not their bastard cousin, politics.

But it's so hard not to get wrapped up, even if to become so is ultimately a destructive process. I do not hate Republicans -- what a stupid thing that would be -- I merely disagree with them. We'd be much better off if we could discuss our differences like adults; we'd likely discover, I suspect, that we have a great deal in common. The problem is, we all recognize that if those who best represent our views don't fight back against every meaningless, petty, stupid little criticism now, we'll never get an opportunity to put some of our principles into action.

But what are those principles? My liberalism is based in some pretty simple ideas, and contrary to popular belief, those ideas are not solely altruistic. What I believe, essentially, is this:

Every person has a fundamental right to education, for as long as he or she is willing to put the work into their intellectual advancement. Education should be free -- or at least very low-cost -- to everyone from childhood through their advanced degree. Schools should be well-funded and teachers respected; society should recognize that education is the literal foundation of our future wellbeing. This is not only about the individual's benefit; a society of educated, thoughtful, skilled people is good for everyone, and over time everyone will share in the cultural and economic benefits of a well-educated, literate population.

Every person has a fundamental right to health care throughout their lives. This is based in a belief that every person has a contribution to make, but can only make that contribution if they are healthy and well. The medical community has a right to pursue any research and treatment options they deem worthwhile; decisions should be made only by the patient and their doctor. We can make even advanced medicine more affordable for everyone if we do so as a community, and ultimately universal healthcare -- by whatever means -- is of benefit to everyone.

Every person has a fundamental right to complete and absolute freedom of thought and expression. Ideas are never, in and of themselves, harmful; the supression of even odious ideas, on the other hand, is the beginning of a relativism that can ultimately put worthy ideas in jeopardy. A stable, thoughtful society should have no reason to feel threatened by any challenging idea.

Every person has a fundamental right to dignity and equal rights in every respect. A disapproval of how another person lives their life is not reason to withhold or restrict their rights. Nobody has a right to make any decision regarding another person's choices in life.

Corporations should be free to do business as they see fit, but like every member of a community, also bear a responsibility not to do harm, whether physical or economic, to other bodies or individuals.

Society does have an obligation to look after the basic needs of their weakest and poorest. Again, this is not simply altruistic; a society in which people are assured that they will not be entirely abandoned is a stable society, and everyone benefits from a stable society.

Everyone should be free to follow any faith freely, or to follow no faith at all.

Our country must remain mindful of its place in the greater world, and realize that the greater good also extends beyond our nation's borders. The abuse of natural resources and the environment will eventually hurt everyone; the protection of the same will be of benefit to future generations. We have an obligation to think of their needs as far as we're able, as well as those of our neighbors.

The communal good -- local, regional, national, and international -- is as important and valuable as personal interest; compromise and balance between the sometimes-opposing values should be possible in all issues.

Notice what's not included here: I don't condemn capitalism, I don't want to push atheism on anyone, I don't want to take anyone's guns away. I agree that in some respects, well-meaning liberals have gone unnecessarily far where behavior and personal restriction are concerned. And I doubt, really, that many conservatives will have serious objections to any of these... the last item, about the communal good, might perhaps raise some hackles, but I would remind anyone who dislikes it of this point: I, as an individual, will be much more comfortable with your personal gain if I feel reasonably well-assured that it will not infringe on my own wellbeing. This isn't about carrying the load for anyone, it's about respecting your neighbors.

At the same time, it seems that a good deal of this has resonance in the ideas that conservatives have embraced as their own: personal responsibility, not infringing on the personal rights of others, and the economic wellbeing of the people. It would just be nice to hear a conservative agree that these ideas aren't crazy, aren't foolish, and that we liberals and progressives might be making some good points. I also invite any conservatives reading this to make their own lists of basic principles, so that perhaps we can find the commonalities between them.

That would be cool, right?
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Thursday, September 02, 2004
Over-Zell-ous

Okay, so the headline pun's a bit obvious; sue me.

I finally got to see Zell's speech (and his subsequent appearance on Hardball) tonight, and all I can say to the Republicans reading this is: thank you.

Thank you for taking Zell off our hands. Thank you for having the huevos to show what your party's really made of. Thank you for alienating tens of thousands of undecided voters. And thank you for demonstrating which party is really on the Dark Side.

The only thing that could've topped Zell's 1941-esque speech and the implicit call to the peasantry to grab torches and pitchforks and head for Boston, was his amazing performance on MSNBC not long after, in which he challenged Chris Matthews to a duel:
MILLER: If you're going to ask a question...

MATTHEWS: Well, it's a tough question. It takes a few words.

MILLER: Get out of my face.

MILLER: If you are going to ask me a question, step back and let me answer.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Senator, please.

MILLER: You know, I wish we...

MILLER: I wish we lived in the day where you could challenge a person to a duel.

MILLER: Now, that would be pretty good.
(source)

Unbelievably cool.

In any case, I do have to wonder what the hell the GOP is up to. I understand that the Democratic party's hands are not entirely clean when it comes to campaigning, but it does seem to me that by and large, the DNC was generally a very hopeful, optimistic affair. We give the American voter Barack Obama -- tall, elegant, articulate and sincerely optimistic -- and the GOP gives 'em Emperor Palpatine, complete with pallid, artificial-looking fishbelly skin:


Give in to your hate, Luke...


Does anyone seriously question which party is the one more infected with toxic rage and spite? The Bush administration, almost four years in, has nothing to show for their time but a limping economy, a vastly divided populace, pariah status in the international community, and a bloody, demoralizing, utter failure of a war. So all they can do is stand behind a podium and scream diatribes at John Kerry and hope to reel in the suckers.

It's a sad day when we have to ask:
Not every country works this way. In some countries, the commander in chief builds a propaganda apparatus that equates him with the military and the nation. If you object that he's making bad decisions and disserving the national interest, you're accused of weakening the nation, undermining its security, sabotaging the commander in chief, and serving a foreign power -- the very charges Miller leveled tonight against Bush's critics.

Are you prepared to become one of those countries?
(source)

PS: I haven't even read the transcript of Bush's speech tonight; one thing at a time, my darlings.

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Long Wednesday

I cannot tell you how painfully tired I was for most of yesterday. My five hours of sweet oblivion translated into three hours of unsettled sleep (after getting only four hours the night before), so I was really feeling it when I dragged myself out of bed. In spite of the fact that I was probably a danger to myself and others behind the wheel, I ventured forth to Midtown for the day's shoot.

When we got to Theaterworks (which was serving as a studio for the day), we discovered that Lee was in a foul mood. He was silent and sullen, speaking to nobody except to express the most perfunctory thoughts and commands. We spent a couple of hours theorizing among ourselves what the problem was; it was a dangerous day for Lee to be stroppy, if that's the way things were going. We had a potentially-volatile mix on the set, and if Lee said the wrong thing at the wrong time, walkouts were a distinct possibility (and I am included in that number.) Cathy, who has been helping out from time to time, was brave enough to enquire quietly what the issue was; she got enough out of him to judge that it wasn't anything to do specifically with any of us, which was good enough. Still, it made for an uncomfortable morning.

Once DeVere and the other actor got there, we set to work. Given how tired I was, the conditions were almost cruel -- a dark set, the same dialogue over and over and over again; I was genuinely struggling to stay alert. But we got through the shots with minimal irritation (which was a blessing, considering), and just around 1 PM we finished DeVere's final shots in the film. DeVere hugged me so hard I got a bit light-headed; Scott, the main supporting actor, had done the same thing a few days before. It's a bit sad that leaving this film is considered cause for celebration, but I can't deny that I was envious of those who have been released from their obligations.

After DeVere left, we found we had an enormous gap between the departure of one necessary actor and the arrival of the next; the next shots wouldn't be taken for more than three hours. I passed the time by curling up on a sofa serving as set dressing for the play currently running, and had myself a nice nap on the stage. Three hours was enough to get me past the hump, and when I awoke I felt much better. We shot the remaining two scenes, and that was it for the day. Derrick (Co-op buddy and erstwhile boomswinger) and I went to the Co-op to kill a few hours before heading to the Hi-Tone to meet with DeVere and Diana to hear Doug's band chess club. When we got there, DeVere showed up with flowers... for me! They were intended as a thank-you for my work on the film -- it says something, I think, that I got flowers not from the director, but from the lead actor -- and I was genuinely touched. It was really great to feel finally appreciated; it was really, really sweet of DeVere, and very appreciated.

Doug came over and chatted a little before his band went on. I admit I had high expectations for the band, but I was really impressed just the same. This is one of those occasions -- they're happening more frequently lately -- when I wish I had more knowledge about music so that I could discuss it intelligently; as it is, all I can really say is that I really enjoyed their stuff. (I have a burgeoning band-crush on chess club now.) They do that really great thing where the music goes in an unexpected direction, which turns out to be exactly the right one... Doug said before they played that the band deserves a following, and he's damn right, they do. I will continue to encourage people to come to their shows, and maybe do some small part in helping that following to grow.

I'm still trying to catch up on the RNC goings-on; apparently Zell Miller spent last night channelling the old Dixiecrats. Look for more later tonight.
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With Us Or Against Us... With Us Or Against Us... With Us Or Against Us...

The newest terrorist-cuddling Frenchmen on the block are, apparently, our closest allies. If Blair remains silent on the matter, I'll take it as an admission that he's really regretting ever taking up with Dubya; it might restore a bit of my faith in the fundamental sanity of British government. And without sanity, really, what else have they got going for them? (Heh... I kid because I love.)

The next step, of course, would be the demonization of all things English, a sudden total amnesia regarding Britain's support, and the reappearance of the long-forgotten third verse of the national anthem:
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out of their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave'
From the terror of flight and the gloom of the grave

Be on the lookout for nationwide boycotts of English muffins and "Are You Being Served?" reruns, coming soon.
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