Sister Novena's PortaPulpit
freedom, liberalism, movies, and truth

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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