Friday, December 31, 2004
Another Year I'm Not Sorry To See The Back Of

People who know me socially will likely have already heard this rant; I ask them to bear with me, since this is the last time I'll get to use it (I hope).

I'm sick to death of the whole Year 2000 thing. We're halfway through the first decade now, and frankly I'm beginning to think that the whole "new enlightened age," complete with jet packs and futuristic clothes, just isn't going to happen. Instead, we get this evil mix of all the worst parts of the 50s, 60s, and 70s... why I should have to cope with both an unpopular foreign war AND low-rise flared jeans again is beyond me.

I spent NYE 99/00 in an attached house in Basingstoke with two old men -- one of whom, my then-boyfriend, was only 35 at the time, but who acted more like 65 -- while all my friends were partying down in Trafalgar Square. I remember stepping outside alone at midnight to listen to the revelries elsewhere and thinking, "this isn't a promising beginning."

Every New Year's Eve since then, I have said a quiet little prayer: well, that was a shitty year, here's hoping the coming one is better. And every subsequent year, while not without good moments, has fallen decidedly below expectations. We dodged the Y2K bug without so much as a stumble, but look at everything we walked straight into: hate, fear, rage, vengeance, intolerance, dishonor, war. We didn't know it, but the computers were the least of our worries; all the really dangerous stuff was stewing our own collective unconscious.

If I could go back to address my then-self and the rest of the world on New Year's Eve 1999, my message would be a simple one: don't go. Turn back. Nothing good waits for you on the other side. Let it be 1999 forever, for this way lies madness. But as far as our little consciousness is concerned, there's only one direction available to us; we can only move forward. So, fate, I'm asking again: we all really need something a bit better this year. A little peace, maybe some tolerance, perhaps even a little new love if you're feeling generous.

2004 was a shitty year, though not without its good moments -- here's hoping 2005 is better.
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Wednesday, December 29, 2004
More On The Tsunami

In my previous post on the subject, I mentioned my buddy Ismail from the Maldives. It's such a tiny country, a group of something like 1200 islands -- some no bigger than a typical American suburban house and yard -- that most of the other students at the film school had no clue where it was. He'd point to a place just south of India, an invisible country floating on the sea. He told us good-naturedly about the inevitable doom his country faced... as the oceans rose, eventually his family would have to emigrate elsewhere entirely (they already divided their time between the Maldives, Sri Lanka, and London) as the islands that made up the nation disappeared under the surf; it was part of Maldivian conventional wisdom that their country wouldn't last another century. He anticipated that it might happen within his lifetime, although I doubt he expected such an abrupt preview:

The Asian tsunami has delivered unto the Maldives that nation's worst nightmare, a disaster foretold: being drowned by the sea. Located just southwest of India, the Maldives form an archipelago with an inhabited area a bit larger than Washington, D.C. On Wednesday, two-thirds of the capital city, Male, was flooded, the waters having easily breached a 6-foot-tall breakwater. At least 63 people have died, 72 are missing, and 12,000 people have been moved from the country's outlying islands to the capital. A quarter of the Maldives' 80 tourist resorts have been destroyed, and dozens of the 1,200 islands are still under water. In some of those, says Ahmed Khaleel, counselor to the Maldives' mission to the United Nations, "the tsunami hit from one side of the island and left from the other. Everything was wiped out."

Salon

I haven't heard from Ismail as of yet, so I have no idea whether his family was among those affected.

Also, I know everyone's linking to this today, but it's really worth a look. WaveofDestruction.org is supplying not only videos and photos of the disaster, but also links to a large number of relief organizations. I have to say, it's pretty incredible to see what a tsunami actually looks like from the beach where it's about to land. The posted video from Phuket is particularly striking. There's a restaurant being invaded by waves, the camera pans outside for a moment, and when it pans back everything inside the restaurant is just... gone.
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Tuesday, December 28, 2004
Why The United States Needs A Better Health Care System

I'm not a big fan of stairs; as a clumsy person, they make me nervous -- you never know when a step will betray you. And last night I was reminded of why after I took a fall on the stairs at the house where I'm house-sitting.

It wasn't a terrible fall, but it was enough to do a pretty good number on my right knee and ankle. I've got a moderate sprain, a bit swollen, pretty damn painful, but not so bad that I can't walk -- albeit slowly and carefully, with intermittent sharp pain when something moves outside of a very, very limited range. In short, this sucks, but it's not bad enough to require a visit to the doctor.

And that's all for the best, since even if it were bad enough to need medical attention, I wouldn't have any good way of getting some. I have no health care insurance, I don't qualify for any state medical aid, and I certainly don't have the money for a doctor's visit. In my particular situation, I am fortunate that if it were really bad, my mother could be relied upon to front the dough, but if it weren't for family help I'd be up the proverbial creek.

Another example: when I was about sixteen or so, I got a shard of chicken bone stuck in my foot. The dog had brought it in and left it on the floor, I stepped on it, and a small piece broke off deep inside my right heel. It hurt like hell, but I couldn't get it out. Mom didn't have coverage for us back then, and I knew she sure as hell didn't have money for a doctor (she was working an awful supermarket job at the time), so being a dutiful daughter... I just didn't tell her. I was reduced to performing minor surgery on myself in my bedroom with tweezers and a pocket knife, and couldn't manage the job. So I walked around with a foreign object from the garbage stuck in my foot for six months. It was often excrutiating. I managed to fend off one impending infection, and finally after long months the bit of bone came out on its own, to my great relief.

Nobody should have to fucking live like that in what is supposed to be the richest country in the world. In fact, nobody should have to live like that, period, but the fact that even this very wealthy nation can't provide even the simplest medical care, even for kids, is disgusting.

I live in a city where much of the population frequntly has to let a child's fever rage unchecked -- often until their situation becomes so dangerous that permanant injury is a possibility -- until they can take them to a doctor; and when they do, the debt they incur in the process makes it harder still for them to take good care of their kids even when they're well. In Memphis, the only doctors to which many people have access are those working in the emergency rooms, where they can't turn anyone away... there are no GPs, no annual checkups, no preventative care for these people.

My knee and ankle are going to be fine even without a doctor's care; a few days of hobbling around are probably all this involves. But it pisses me off that if I were more badly hurt, without familial help my only option would be to sit here and suffer... and it pisses me off that there are lots of people in this city alone who are in exactly that situation. I'm not going to advocate any particular approach to health care in this post, but I will say this: any system in which anyone is excluded is a gross failure.
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Monday, December 27, 2004
Getting Interesting

Well... I'm not quite sure what to make of all this yet, but I'd say it's definitely worth mentioning regardless of what comes of it.

John Kerry has filed with the state of Ohio to protect "evidence" regarding the recent election.

Simultaneously, the Ohio Secretary of State, Kenneth Blackwell, has requested that he be exempt from having to answer any questions regarding the election.

Coincidence?
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Sunday, December 26, 2004
Killer Wave

Earthquake, tidal waves hit SE Asia.

One of my best friends from film school, a beautiful guy named Imsail, was from the Maldive Islands and grew up in Sri Lanka. Much of his family still lives in both places; I hope they're all okay. The chances of Ismail reading this are slim, but on the off chance he does, my thoughts are with you, Ismo.

How long till Pat Robertson starts gloating, d'ya think?

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Saturday, December 25, 2004
Beat It Like A Guvmint Yule

Back on Halloween, regular readers will recall, I called for the screwing of Christmas on the grounds that there was "plenty of time for that later." Of course, it now is later -- which is to say Christmas -- so I guess the time for a discussion on the subject is at hand.

The great thing about Christmas is that it really can be everything to everyone.No matter what your current political / philosophical / theological / spiritual obsession is, Christmas has got the goods. The flip side of that coin, of course, is that everybody comes to Christmas with an agenda. And I, gracious reader, am no different.

I don't generally post about my own religious opinions on this blog -- strange, I know, for someone who advertises themselves as a "sister" and identifies with the image of a stern-looking nun. Not long ago I even had a commenter doubt the veracity of my nun-fu... someone actually came here an insinuated that I might not, in fact, be an actual nun. (And to him I say, I've been nunning myself out for some years now; "to whom" is a question that is readily answered on this page if you will only open your eyes and see.)

But it's been a hard holiday for folks like me -- the conservative howl of victimization this year was about the deeply offensive way in which some people prefer to say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." (Yes, that's the whole controversy. I know, it's crazy. That's modern America for you -- and old America as well, apparently.) Down here in the darkest south, one of the more common seasonal platitudes is, "Jesus is the reason for the season." Thing is, I'm not so sure he really is.

Think about it: Christmas existed long before Jesus came on the scene (albeit by a different name.) Whether you favor Saturnalia or Yule as the more likely proto-Christmas (looks like a bit of both to me), it's readily apparent that there isn't a whole lot about Christmas that wasn't already happening before the Christ part came into play. Oh, sure, there's all that nativity stuff -- virgin birth, magi, shepherds tending their sheep by night, wandering star, etc. etc. etc. -- but all of that's pretty demonstrably false (unless you're a fundie, in which case I'll leave you to your destructive delusions if you'll leave me to mine.) Virgin births, of course, were all the rage in the centuries and millenia preceding Jesus' birth; one of the major hallmarks of the modern era is the decided lack of miraculous virgin births -- might explain why we don't have real heroes anymore, since a virgin birth has always been de rigeur for any self-respecting god-among-men. But I digress.

No, I think that generally speaking, Jesus isn't, and never has been, the main "reason for the season," except in the fevered imaginations of his purported "followers." He's our current excuse, and not bad as an excuse for a party goes, but people were doing Christmas long before anyone had ever heard of either Christ or mass. Even the early Christians didn't celebrate Christmas; that was one of Constantine's ideas. It's not that I don't value the Jesus part of the holiday -- it's actually one of my favorite elements of the psychodrama that is our modern Christmas. It's just that, for me, the image of baby Jesus as part-time manipulative image and full-time lamb-to-the-slaughter doesn't do justice to the beauty of the nativity. I have never been able to stomach the ripped-flesh, Mel Gibson suffering Christ; I don't comprehend the view that looks only at the beginning and end of Jesus' life, but never at anything in between.

For me, Christmas is largely a reflection on one thing: Jesus as a representation of all of humanity. The nativity and its associations -- the angels, the wise men, the adoration, the hope and promise of grace contained in a new life -- is the kind of beginning that every newborn baby deserves, even if only one was ever deemed worthy by the theologians. And every newborn baby -- and thus every person everywhere -- ultimately contains the same potential. Jesus was an expression of the divinity that resides in every one of us; Christmas, therefore, is about recognizing the value not only of our own lives, but of the lives of everyone else as well. Peace on earth, good will to men, for on this day a child is born unto you, lying in a pile of rubble in someplace like Fallujah or Gaza or Mogadishu...

I know, I know... that's a pretty liberal interpretation. But Jesus was the first liberal, and it's high time those of us who still care about the things he cared about -- whether we consider ourselves Christians or not -- started to point that out. Fortunately, lots of people are doing exactly that -- Sojourners, a slew of progressive religious authors, even Thomas Jefferson and Kurt Vonnegut have a few words to add:

How about Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes?

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.

And so on.

Not exactly planks in a Republican platform. Not exactly Donald Rumsfeld or Dick Cheney stuff.

For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course that's Moses, not Jesus. I haven't heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere.

"Blessed are the merciful" in a courtroom? "Blessed are the peacemakers" in the Pentagon? Give me a break!

Anyway, that's what I think. And I promise, no more religion on this blog for a long time (unless it's to ridicule fundamentalists, which I can never resist.) I'm going to bed now, to wake up tomorrow and open presents in the name of Jesus.


PS: Thanks to Dave and others for tipping me to several of the sources cited in this post.
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Thursday, December 23, 2004
God Bless Us, Every One

Sorry if the blog's a bit slow for a few days... it's Christmas, after all.

Happy Holidays to everybody, everywhere. Even George Fucking W. Bush.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2004
A Lump Of Coal For George

Last year's "early Christmas present" was pulling Saddam from a hole; it was supposed to be the end of the insurgency, according to supporters of the war.

This year's early Christmas present is a mess-tent bomb that killed 22:

"I can't hear! I can't hear!" one female soldier cried as a friend hugged her.

Near the front entrance to the chow hall, troops tended a soldier with a gaping head wound. Within minutes, they zipped him into a black body bag. Three more bodies were in the parking lot then.

Soldiers scrambled back into the hall to check for more wounded. The explosions blew out a huge hole in the roof of the tent. Puddles of bright red blood, lunch trays and overturned tables and chairs covered the floor.

(source)


Of course, the Iraqis have been getting christmas presents like this for going on two years now...

It's going to be a bad Christmas for an awful lot of people.
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Monday, December 20, 2004
Bush's Baby

Newly Obtained FBI Records Call Defense Department's Methods "Torture," Express Concerns Over "Cover-Up" That May Leave FBI "Holding the Bag" for Abuses

NEW YORK -- A document released for the first time today by the American Civil Liberties Union suggests that President Bush issued an Executive Order authorizing the use of inhumane interrogation methods against detainees in Iraq. Also released by the ACLU today are a slew of other records including a December 2003 FBI e-mail that characterizes methods used by the Defense Department as "torture" and a June 2004 "Urgent Report" to the Director of the FBI that raises concerns that abuse of detainees is being covered up.

"These documents raise grave questions about where the blame for widespread detainee abuse ultimately rests," said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. "Top government officials can no longer hide from public scrutiny by pointing the finger at a few low-ranking soldiers."

(...)

The two-page e-mail that references an Executive Order states that the President directly authorized interrogation techniques including sleep deprivation, stress positions, the use of military dogs, and "sensory deprivation through the use of hoods, etc." The ACLU is urging the White House to confirm or deny the existence of such an order and immediately to release the order if it exists. The FBI e-mail, which was sent in May 2004 from "On Scene Commander--Baghdad" to a handful of senior FBI officials, notes that the FBI has prohibited its agents from employing the techniques that the President is said to have authorized.

(source)


If there is one silver lining to our loss in 2004, it's that Bush now owns all the messes he's spent four years making. The shitty economy, the totalitarian leanings of the creeping religious right, the many sprouting scandals (Plame, Ohio, Kerik, DeLay, etc. ), and the twin disasters that are the war on terror and the war in Iraq (and their sub-disaster, the shameful lack of practical support for the military)-- it's all his now. They can't blame it on Clinton anymore, they can't stick Kerry with the tab, their attempts to blame the Democrats are a visibly pathetic attempt to deflect blame when they control all three branches of government. The reason high-ranking Republicans are starting to come out against the Bush administration is that they've caught the whiff of approaching disgrace, and they want to establish credible deniability for themselves and their respective roles in what's been happening under their watch.

You remember a few days ago I predicted that Rumsfeld would be out of the administration within a year? That's becoming a more likely possibility with every passing day. But the torture tarbaby's already got Gee Dubya in its grasp, and even Rumsfeld's departure isn't going to remove the sticky residue of Bush's foray into the pursuit of hearts and minds. No, I don't think this email is going to change everything, but it does point to the underlying reality: it was never a matter of a few bad apples, the guys at the top knew what was up. The stink coming from the White House is so strong I can smell it from Memphis.

Ten years from now you'll be hard pressed to find anyone who ever supported Bush.

PS: Here's the actual email in question (pdf file). Read it for yourself. The methods specifically listed as covered by an executive order signed by Bush -- hooding, sleep deprivation, "stress positions," dogs -- are all understood to be violations of both the Geneva Conventions and the UN Charter, both of which the United States has signed; furthermore, those same methods have been characterized as torture by the United States in cases of other countries using them.

George W. Bush is a war criminal.

PS: In related news: FBI Claims More Arab Prisoners Abused.

WASHINGTON -- FBI agents are increasingly complaining about what they consider abusive physical and mental torture by military officials against prisoners held in Iraq and Cuba, including lighted cigarettes stuck in detainees' ears and Arab captives being humiliated with Israeli flags wrapped around them, according to new documents released today.

The FBI records are the latest set of documents obtained by the ACLU in its lawsuit against the federal government and include instances in which bureau officials were disgusted that military interrogators pretended to be FBI agents and used the scheme as a "ruse" to glean intelligence information from prisoners.

In addition, the FBI complained that military interrogators have gone far beyond the restrictions of the Geneva Conventions prohibiting torture and have followed an apparently new executive order from President Bush that permits the use of dogs and other techniques to harass prisoners.
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Saturday, December 18, 2004
Know Your War

You're not going to be seeing these in the mainstream media, but they all need to be seen.


U.S. bombing of Sha'ab market, Baghdad, April 2003



A Najafi man wanders the rubbled streets of Najaf after the siege




Iraq Uncensored

(found via Mat)
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First, They Came For The Muslims...

In a study to determine how much the public fears terrorism, almost half of respondents polled nationally said they believe the U.S. government should -- in some way -- curtail civil liberties for Muslim Americans, according to a new survey released today (Dec. 17) by Cornell University.

About 27 percent of respondents said that all Muslim Americans should be required to register their location with the federal government, and 26 percent said they think that mosques should be closely monitored by U.S. law enforcement agencies. Twenty-nine percent agreed that undercover law enforcement agents should infiltrate Muslim civic and volunteer organizations, in order to keep tabs on their activities and fund raising. About 22 percent said the federal government should profile citizens as potential threats based on the fact that they are Muslim or have Middle Eastern heritage. In all, about 44 percent said they believe that some curtailment of civil liberties is necessary for Muslim Americans.

Conversely, 48 percent of respondents nationally said they do not believe that civil liberties for Muslim Americans should be restricted.

(...)

The survey also showed a correlation between television news-viewing habits, a respondent's fear level and attitudes toward restrictions on civil liberties for all Americans. Respondents who paid a lot of attention to television news were more likely to favor restrictions on civil liberties, such as greater power for the government to monitor the Internet. Respondents who paid less attention to television news were less likely to support such measures. "The more attention paid to television news, the more you fear terrorism, and you are more likely to favor restrictions on civil liberties," says Nisbet.

(source)

So now we know... half of the citizenry of the United States is willing to suspend the constitution for some Americans; thus, half of US citizens are fundamentally anti-American. And it ain't the half that usually gets that label thrown at it.

In further news:

27% of respondents thought Muslim-owned or -run businesses should be marked as such, and that all Muslims should be required to identify themselves by wearing an armband with a crescent moon on it.

15% of respondents thought all Muslims should be forced to live in confined districts, or "ghettos".

8% of respondents thought Muslims should be moved into "work camps."

3% of respondents thought all Muslims should be wiped off the face of the earth, wherever they live... ein volk, ein reich, ein Dubya!

PS: The question will doubtless be asked: am I comparing tv-news-watching, church-going Republicans to the Nazis? And to paraphrase the most reasonable response to that question I've heard so far, it's not that they're like the Nazis, it's that they aren't different enough.
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Friday, December 17, 2004
This Asshole Has To Go

Yes, I'm talking about Rumsfeld. Don't get me wrong, Kerik was apparently a complete and utter scumbag by anyone's standards (see TPM for every gory little detail), but Rumsfeld is the fucking Queen Bitch Big Kahuna Major Fuckwad Scumbag.

He sends our troops into battle unprepared, with no exit plan. He dismisses them condescendingly when they ask -- not once but twice -- why they still lack sufficient armor 18 months after they arrived. He presides over both Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, and now it appear that he very likely did specifically condone the entire ugly scenario:
The documents also show that officers from the CIA, the FBI and the Defense Intelligence Agency lodged "heated" objections to the abusive methods of interrogation used by the military, denouncing them in previously secret memoranda as not only unethical but useless and destructive.

In the files released by the government, FBI officials with special expertise in counterterrorism and interrogation techniques recorded their ongoing debate with Army officers about the harsh, coercive techniques authorized by the Pentagon. They were as concerned about the efficacy of those methods -- which they believe often produce poor intelligence -- as with possible violations of law and regulations. But the commanders overseeing the military interrogations simply dismissed the sharp warnings of the law enforcement and intelligence officers.

(...)

The e-mail goes on to recall how, during the questioning of one prisoner, the Pentagon interrogators wanted to "pursue expeditiously their methods" to "get more out of him ... We were given a so-called deadline to use our traditional methods."

Scott Horton, a New York lawyer and president of the International League for Human Rights, has spent months investigating the role Bush administration officials played in the torture scandal. He says there is mounting evidence -- including the May 10 FBI e-mail -- that strongly suggests that Rumsfeld and his top intelligence aides were directly responsible for the wholesale abandonment of legal and ethical norms as well as international treaty obligations. Now that Republican senators and neoconservative ideologues are publicly turning their backs on the defense secretary, perhaps even he may someday be held accountable for this disgraceful stain on the honor of the U.S. armed forces.

Salon

I ask every Republican reading this: exactly what kind of administration is your guy running? How do you justify your support of these failed little men in their great big suits? Hell, even Trent fucking Lott is saying he doesn't have any faith in Rummy... when that rat's headed for the water, you know the ship's on its way down.

"I'm not a fan of Secretary Rumsfeld," Lott, R-Mississippi, told the Biloxi Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday morning. "I don't think he listens enough to his uniformed officers."

Oh yeah? Well where the hell were you six months ago? Twelve months ago? Twenty-one months ago, back when 1303 soldiers were still alive? Why didn't you mention something about this before, and what good is your vague disapproval supposed to do us now?

Here's my official prediction, recorded for posterity: Rumsfeld will be out within the year. As Bush's second, scandal-crippled term progresses to whatever nasty end awaits it, and the evidence of widespread, systematic abuse and torture in our assorted territorial holdings continues to mount, the Bush administration will spit him out like a maggoty grape, blame everything on him, do everything their feeble, devious little minds can concieve of to put some distance between him and them... and it will all be in vain. If you thought the Kerik fiasco was sickening/embarrassing/funny as hell, the Rumsfeld disaster is going to have you laughing till you puke.

God, I hate this administration.
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Thursday, December 16, 2004
If We Cannot Be Honest With Ourselves...

Juan Cole posted yesterday about an actual war-crimes suit pending in Germany against the United States:

The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and Berlin's Republican Lawyers' Association has filed suit in Germany against Donald Rumsfeld on behalf of 4 Iraqis who allege they were mistreated by American troops. A number of other high-ranking US officials are also named. AFP writes:
' The groups that filed the complaint said they had chosen Germany because of its Code of Crimes Against International Law, introduced in 2002, which grants German courts universal jurisdiction in cases involving war crimes or crimes against humanity. It also makes military or civilian commanders who fail to prevent their subordinates from committing such acts liable. '

(found via Denny)

He notes that the Pentagon seems to be responding to the threat of a lawsuit very seriously -- especially, I would say, considering how disdainful it has generally been towards international legal bodies. He wonders whether the threat of the lawsuit might not have something to do with the risk of an investigation or "discovery process."

I understand that nobody likes to have the label "war criminals" thrown at our country; it's an exceedinly ugly term, and one that we rightly attach to the very worst crimes ever committed. But there still remains the disquieting fact that, the more we look into the ways in which we have conducted ourselves in the WoT, the more founded the question becomes -- is the reigning administration guilty of war crimes?

I have to say, as much as I would prefer to live in a country that has not been convicted of war crimes, I cannot help but think that this is something that we will ultimately be forced to clear up in the eyes of the world. I fundamentally do not trust this administration to be honest, to permit others to be honest, nor even to allow the question to be genuinely and openly considered. And I, for one, want to know what's been going on in the various holding pens and jurisdiction-less prisons we administer; I think the American people deserve an honest answer, as ugly as that answer might prove to be. And if we have to go to Germany to find out the reality, then I'm for going to Germany.

There is an irony -- or maybe it would be better called a kind of poetic justice -- that we might find ourselves being judged for war crimes by Germany. If one thing has become apparent to me during the Bush administration, it is that the abused can all too easily become the abuser; perhaps the other side of that coin is that the guilty can eventually become the just.
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Land Of The Free, Home Of The Brave

It's getting more confusing by the minute, isn't it? I mean, Canada now has legal medical pot and legal gay marriage and universal health care and no known terrorist enemies and a relatively successful multiparty political system. They also have, according to U.N.'s Human Development Index, one of the highest qualities of life in the world. All coupled with a dramatically reduced rate of gun violence and far better gun-control legislation than the U.S., despite having the exact same per capita rate of gun ownership and gun-sport enthusiasm.

What the hell? How is this possible? Why aren't they scared to death like whiny red-state Americans? Why don't they want to kill each other along with anything that might threaten their access to televised hockey and cheap beer and yummy poutine?

Aren't they aware of what's happening in the world? Don't they know they are openly hated for their freedoms and their cafes and their vinegared french fries? Aren't they human, fer Chrissakes? Oh, red states. How confused and irritated you must be.

(SF Gate)
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Bill's Birthday

Bill who? Bill Hicks.

The world is like a ride at an amusement park. It goes up and down and round and round. It has thrills and chills and it's very brightly coloured and it's very loud and it's fun, for a while. Some people have been on the ride for a long time and they begin to question, is this real, or is this just a ride? And other people have remembered, and they come back to us, they say, "hey - don't worry, don't be afraid, ever, because, this is just a ride..." And we... kill those people. Ha ha "Shut him up." "We have a lot invested in this ride. Shut him up. Look at my furrows of worry. Look at my big bank account and my family. This just has to be real." It's just a ride. But we always kill those good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok. Jesus murdered; Martin Luther King murdered; Malcolm X murdered; Gandhi murdered; John Lennon murdered; Reagan.... wounded. But it doesn't matter because: It's just a ride. And we can change it anytime we want. It's only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings and money. A choice, right now, between fear and love.

The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love, instead, see all of us as one. Here's what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride. Take all that money that we spend on weapons and defences each year and instead spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace.


He was one of the great Americans... he'd probably be appalled to have that said about him, but that doesn't make it less true. And if you don't know Bill yet, well, allow me to introduce you.

Bill Hicks had to die for our sins.
NOW is when Bill Hicks should be touring.
NOW is when a loving loudmouth should be harping on human progress amidst human hell.
NOW is when Bill Hicks could've led the revolution incarnate.



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Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Damn Activist Judges

I mean, seriously, for fuck's sake...

MONTGOMERY, Ala. - A judge refused to delay a trial Tuesday when an attorney objected to his wearing a judicial robe with the Ten Commandments embroidered on the front in gold.

Circuit Judge Ashley McKathan showed up Monday at his Covington County courtroom in southern Alabama wearing the robe. Attorneys who try cases at the courthouse said they had not seen him wearing it before. The commandments were described as being big enough to read by anyone near the judge.

(...)

McKathan told The Associated Press that he believes the Ten Commandments represent the truth "and you can't divorce the law from the truth. ... The Ten Commandments can help a judge know the difference between right and wrong."

He said he doesn't believe the commandments on his robe would have an adverse effect on jurors.

"I had a choice of several sizes of letters. I purposely chose a size that would not be in anybody's face," he said.

(source)

Such a favor this fair-minded judge does for us all... wearing the ten commandments on her his robe in only small, modest gold letters. Just as well, a judge will be much easier to carry out of a courthouse than a ten-ton block of marble.

PS: observant readers will notice that I haven't said anything about Ohio as yet... but don't think I'm not paying attention. For now, I would only say this: visualize a grandy jury.
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Tuesday, December 14, 2004
How Many? How Many More?

You know things are taking a turn for the worse when it becomes hard to figure out how many soldiers were killed on any given day. Was it as many as seven? As few as two? Are these the same that died on Sunday -- or was it Monday? iCasualties.org can't keep pace; it seems to generally take a day or two to definitively catch up. On the other end of the spectrum, Today In Iraq throws every report onto the table, but has a higher chance of over-estimating.

The current daily death rate (for our side) stands at 2.86, making it one of the highest since the end of "major combat operations." (That phrase was funny for a while, now it's just painful.) If it continues -- and it's actually been climbing the last few days -- this month will stand in the top four or five deadliest months.

And that, obviously, doesn't even consider injuries. I haven't said much about the Rumsfeld/armor issues (I did leave a comment on a conservative blog, which I later returned to find deleted), but I tend to think of it this way: Rummy must be a big fan of horrible war injuries, because otherwise we could have a lot less of this happening (warning: not for the faint of heart -- but everyone who supported this war should be forced to look at it, for hours if necessary.)
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Back By Popular Demand

I'm getting a lot of clicks today regarding this image:


The Bush administration, where the men wear the kneepads.


Since it had crawled off the page, I thought I'd pull it back. Gotta pander to the masses, y'know.

PS: props to Rev. Day-Bu for originally twigging me to the image.

Update: For everyone who wonders if this image is really real... yes, it is. And it's old, too.

Update 2: Okay, maybe it is, and maybe it's not. (Which is to say, it's not.)
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Monday, December 13, 2004
I'm A Dork

So, I got up reeeeeally early this morning and got myself together to go to the DMV. My license expired and I was about a week overdue to get it renewed; it had to be done, even though going to the DMV is like a short stint in purgatory at the best of times. I figured Monday morning would be relatively light -- and it was. I can confidently recommend Monday at about 10 AM as an ideal time to go; there are exactly fuck-all people there at that time.

It took all of two minutes to get from the door to the counter; there was only one guy waiting for a friend to finish his written exam for his first license. I told the lady behind the counter that I needed to renew and was a little late. She took my license and looked at it for a minute, and said:

"This doesn't expire until December 2005."

Duh.

So I'm an idiot, so what?
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This Hole Gets Deeper

Have you seen the American body count in Iraq lately? It's not pretty. Seven were killed yesterday alone.

Today marks one year since Saddam was dragged from his hole -- just one in a series of turned corners that have made no difference. Since that day, nearly 900 troops have been killed.

Who's going to drag us out of our hole?

PS: You've got to be shitting me. (And they say there's no draft coming... ha!)

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Sunday, December 12, 2004
Things I Miss From England, #1

I miss A4 paper.

I'm picky about my stationery; I don't like to write with or on just any old thing. I have a leather pencil case in my bag at all times, stocked with everything from gel pens to fluid-ink rollerballs to cartridge-fed fountain pens, and even a wooden stylus with a set of brass nibs, just to ensure that I have the appropriate tool to hand when the urge or need to write something arises. I also keep at least two notebooks with me at all times -- I'm particularly fond of Moleskine journals 'cause they feel nice and they hold up much better to the chaos inside my bag than most.

This has been true since I was fairly young, and while there are few things more satisfying than a virgin sheet of paper, I always felt there was something awkward about the paper I had available. Standard American paper is 8 1/2 inches wide by 11 inches long (roughly 21.5 cm by 28 cm), so oddly square-ish. Legal pads, which are 3 inches longer (and too long for use away from a table), are only a partial improvement, and suffer because it's hard to find any that aren't both ugly and cheap.

So when I got to London and found that the most commonly-available paper was A4 -- long enough to give you space to change your train of thought several times without having to cross yourself or squeeze your writing at the margins; wide enough to accomodate two columns (or three if you write really small) -- I believed I was home at last. A4 felt natural, it felt like someone had actually put some thought into it. Maybe there are people in the world who prefer 8.5 x 11, but if there are, I don't think I want to meet them. Philistines.

Anyway, because I just feel like it, here are a couple of sample pages from my old film school A4 notebook. (Click the images for a larger version... and no, I don't remember what any of this was about.)



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Saturday, December 11, 2004
We Lost The Election, But At Least We Get Four More Years Of Dark Humor

Just in passing, if you haven't seen the latest batch of Get Your War On strips, you really need to see 'em... they are a thing of beauty. (I particularly approve of the post-format-change strips... great stuff.)
6:36 PM ::
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5 Obstructions

A while back -- maybe a month ago -- my friend Ben mentioned a film he'd recently seen called The Five Obstructions, made by Jørgen Leth and Lars Von Trier. He told me the premise -- Von Trier challenges Leth to remake his 1967 film The Perfect Human (which is exactly the kind of artful Scandinavian experimental film you'd expect) but this time to do it with a number of "obstructions" as part of the process.

The thing is, I don't really care for Von Trier. I've seen most of his films, and I admit that in each case I did find something of interest in them, but by and large I just can't abide the man's work. His stuff is embarrassingly sentimental sometimes, and pointlessly provocative at others, and flirting with profound misogyny more often than I can comfortably tolerate. I assume, however, that being engaged with his films is enough, even if my ultimate response is negative.

Von Trier also seems to have a thing about rules; he loves to impose them. This is the guy, remember, who along with several others founded the Dogme 95 school of filmmaking, handing out a whole list of requirements to directors that tossed many cinematic conventions out the window. This, I have to say, I don't have any particular problem with... I don't think it does a great deal to further cinema as a whole -- it's more of a cinematic parlor game than a meaningful statement -- but impositions of this kind can definitely serve to shake up the accepted practices of the film community, and as such is a good thing for filmmakers, as far as it goes. Dogme 95 didn't change the world or invent anything new, but it did serve to loosen up the expectations and assumptions of both the filmmakers who participated and their audiences.

This film is a similar kind of thing. The first "obstruction" -- which actually includes a total of four rules that Leth had to follow for the experiment -- is based on a partial remake of Leth's original film, but with the following limitations: no cut can be longer than 12 frames (half a second -- Leth responds that it's cinematic death); Leth must answer the questions he asks in the narration, which were left unanswered in the original; when Leth mentions in passing that while he's often been to Haiti, he's never been to Cuba, Von Trier decides the film must be shot in Cuba; and finally, when Leth mentions that he's thinking about building a room or filming in front of a screen, Von Trier demands that there be no set at all. So Leth sets off to Cuba to re-shoot his film without a set, with answers, and in 12-frame shots. The film that results is fascinating -- the 12-frame rule renders a film that is simultaneously fluid and disjointed; as Von Trier says later, "it was a gift."

The point is made: limitations can be a filmmaker's friend, compelling him or her to open themselves to new possibilities and to progress beyond old assumptions. The point matters because, where Hollywood depends on mammoth budgets and epic stories filmed on a huge scale to generate interest, the rest of the world's film community is faced with endless daunting obstacles to making the films they want to make. Obstructions are a matter of course to most filmmakers, and learning to appreciate and use the potential they offer can make a good filmmaker into an inspired filmmaker.

Von Trier continues to compel Leth to remake his film four more times, each time with a new set of arbitrary, intentionally-frustrating rules. Everything Leth assumes he can rely on, Von Trier forbids him to do. Not all of the resulting films are brilliant, but each of them is interesting. It's sort of a filmmaker's film -- most of the interest is in the process of watching Leth find ways of dealing with his obstructions, and in seeing the resulting film in comparison to the original. One also becomes more aware of the underlying structure of the film -- which parts, in other words, would literally transform the film into an entirely different film if they were changed, and which parts are open to interpretation while still leaving the basic idea intact. It's rare to see the same film made and re-made and re-re-made, especially by the same director; watching this process, I began to wonder if repeating the same work over and over might not have the same benefits for a filmmaker that it has for a musician, say, or a visual artist.

So it's an interesting piece of work, and worth watching if you're into process and challenge. I'm still not that impressed by Von Trier's body of work, but I'll grant him that he knows how to challenge himself and those around him. It's probably what he does best in life.

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Friday, December 10, 2004
5 Questions

It's like the Daily Show circa Craig Kilborne all over again!

Gann asked Mat some questions; Mat answered. Mat asked some more questions to me; I answer below. If you want to be next, follow the instructions at the end of the post.
1) How many times have you seen someone's ass crack on a Tuesday night?

Let's see... I figure, 2-3 times per night on average -- call it 2.5 -- times four tuesdays per month, times 20 months... about 200.
2) Which would you rather be, an Oompa Loompa, or an Ewok, and why?

Oompa Loompa, no question. Oompa Loompas get to do amusing/creepy modernist dance routines and sing moralistic songs to greedy children, causing many nightmares; Ewoks are an abomination and all deserve to be shot, skinned, and made into lampshades. The choice is obvious.
3) Who do you like better, Groucho or Richard (Marx)

Harpo
4) Knight Rider Hasselhoff or Baywatch Hasselhoff?

Knight Rider Hasselhoff
5) Put the following in order of importance (starting w/ the least - this is an S.A.T. type question)
An 8' Tall Blowup Snowman
The Missing Toenail on My Left Big Toe
The Number 12
A Peanut from a Cracker Jack box
Hip Replacement

Peanut
Toenail
hip replacement
blowup snowman (oh yeah, baby)
number 12

So how can you join the fun?
THE RULES:
1 - Leave a comment, saying you want to be interviewed.
2 - I will respond; I'll ask you five questions.
3 - You'll update your journal with my five questions, and your five answers.
4 - You'll include this explanation.
5 - You'll ask other people five questions when they want to be interviewed

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Regarding Vietnam



Among the various aspects of my 'net presence, I am a moderator at a web forum hosted by an Air America radio guy. I was actually on the forum before he landed at AA, but that's how most people would have heard of him now. I initially went to the forum around May of 2003 because I was distressed and frightened about the then-brand-new Iraq war, but was stuck in one of the most conservative counties in the United States where I had nobody to talk to about my anxiety.

Under ideal circumstances, I'd have gone to my mom with my worries; with only a couple of exceptions, there really isn't anything I wouldn't feel secure talking to her about. Unfortunately, anything that might even faintly smack of politics is one of them. I made an attempt, the night the first bombs fell, to express my concern and trepidation, and thought for a brief time that she might have heard me clearly; even if she disagreed, I had hoped that she would at least hear my genuine fear and deal with that separately. But subsequent exchanges have more or less disproven that hope.

As the war has progressed, I've found myself with an ever-growing number of questions, many of which relate to this war as it compares to Vietnam. I was born shortly after the last Americans left Saigon and know the war only through the prism of popular culture; much of my knowledge, I have always assumed, is flawed and distorted. But even so, Vietnam remains the closest comparable situation to the one we now face, and like a lot of people born after the war, I'm increasingly curious about how it actually was, so that I might be able to glean some insight into how it might now come to be.

My mom, obviously, remembers Vietnam, and it would be nice to be able to discuss it with her, but I don't think that would be wise. So instead, I took my questions to the forum, where we have plenty of sympathetic boomers who both remember and are willing to answer my questions directly. I don't assume that the answers I've gotten there are definitive, but I found them interesting, and thought other people might, too.

My questions were:

1. Is the Iraq War actually like Vietnam, in general atmosphere if not in specific detail?

2. For those who were opposed to Vietnam, how does the experience of being opposed to this war compare?

3. How is it that anyone who opposed the Vietnam war could support this war?

4. If we do have a draft, how will that affect the generation that most recently had to deal with a draft themselves?

5. Do boomers understand how it looks to us Gen-X and Y-ers, that they would not stand to see their own killed in an unnecessary foreign war, but are willing to send our generations over? Do they get the sense of betrayal we feel?


I got a lot of interesting answers. Some selections from the conversation:

1. Is the Iraq War actually like Vietnam, in general atmosphere if not in specific detail?
Yes. They have substituted "VietCong" with "insurgent". The South Vietnamese soldiers would often refuse to fight alongside our guys and that's happening in Iraq too. To the point that they sometimes open fire on our people. The entire population was suspect and the bases were compounds nobody wanted to leave. Patrols were faked by the troops to avoid contact with the enemy. Most of the wounded were from boobytraps. The Secretary of Defense used to say the SAME DAMN THING about how well things were going based on all the people they were killing. "Body Counts" are back (this is where you just kill everyone including unarmed women and children and claim they were the enemy).

Spitfire of ATJ

I think people are more aware these days of exactly what is going down. The scary thing is, many approve of it. Also, because there is no draft, there seems to be complacency among the younger people, who provided the energy for the Vietnam era protests. And, we are only slowly coming off of several decades of materialistic self-indulgence where people, young and middle-aged, seemed to be focused on "getting ahead" rather than larger questions of the fate of humanity and the planet.

TruthseekerME

The obvious difference is the personal investment. During Vietnam, it was huge. There was a draft, and 14,000 soldiers died in a single year.
Today there is public detachment. There is no draft and the casualties are a pittance by comparison. On the home front, the pain needs to be much greater before the level of public involvement will elevate enough to merit any heed by Washington. I thought that "1000" was a magic number that would tip sentiments. I was wrong. We are a stubborn people. Of course, there is a gag order against any unpalatable news coverage, unlike during Vietnam. Everything is being sanitzed by a lapdog media. Perhaps when the 2000th casket comes home - or the 5,000th.

posterchild


2. For those who were opposed to Vietnam, how does the experience of being opposed to this war compare?

It feels much lonlier. We had more demonstrations we could participate in, back then. There were lots and lots of songs of protest we heard every day. Maybe we were exposed to more of it because we were on college campuses. I wonder what is happening on college campuses today?

TruthseekerME

I believe it was in '69 when Walter Cronkite declared the war was un-winnable in a CBS White Paper special report. The traction on that was heuuuuuge and if there's one difference between now and then, it's the media. You can put a gazillion voters on the street today (as in the NYC pre-convention protests) and the media ignores it. Back then, fill one block with warm bodies and you were all over the network newscasts.

BA Bureauchief

3. How is it that anyone who opposed the Vietnam war could support this war?
How is it that some former Hippies became Yuppies and then became Republicans? It's called "Selling Out".

Spitfire of ATJ

I think many people are silent and not voicing their disapproval because they remember how horribly the troops from Vietnam were treated, and they want to support those who we have sent off to kill and die in our name. Also, there is a shocking indifference because of the lack of a draft.

TruthseekerME


That's the magic of The Red Kool-Aid... There are literally millions of boomers conveniently ignoring Bush's dirty little war because The Bunny gave them a tax break. That's their issue. Also consider the born-again Reagan Fundies of the 80's who started out as 60's longhairs asking about Buddha and Krishna, got high on Jeebus, and now have no qualms about snuffin' muslims because they hate christians.

BA Bureauchief

4. If we do have a draft, how will that affect the generation that most recently had to deal with a draft themselves?
It'll be frustrating as hell because for some it will require listening to their kids support Bush as their grandkids go off to fight and die for a lie. All that talk about "we learned our lesson" went down the toilet and America is repeating all of the old mistakes.

Spitfire of ATJ

The same way they did 40 years ago... Some will think it's the best thing since scared straight to reform our errant yout, others will work the courts for CO status and you'll be reminded we still have Quakers and Mennonites in this country.

BA Bureauchief

5. Do boomers understand how it looks to us Gen-X and Y-ers, that they would not stand to see their own killed in an unnecessary foreign war, but are willing to send our generations over? Do they get the sense of betrayal we feel?
I think it's hypocrisy. I HATED WAR THEN AS I HATE IT NOW. WAR IS WRONG. WAR IS NOT A SOLUTION. Yes I think young people should be outraged if they're 60's anti-war parents have become WARMONGERS! ACTIVATE AMERICA NOW! WAR IS OVER...IF YOU WANT IT.

scottymortensen

I do, because it seems America refuses to learn. We hate our actual history.

The '60's generation was supposed to be about freedom and love and it's recalled as a time of sex drugs and rock and roll. Those that advocated our responsibility to the peoples of the world for our actions have since been painted as irresponsible and their message has thus been discredited as "crazy talk" brought on by drug use.

At the time, anyone against the war was branded as "a member of the counter culture" and harrassed by the cops in the sincere hope that they would be sentenced by a judge to serve in the military. Republicans took great delight in the idea of a Hippy's long hair being buzzed off before they were tossed into a war were they would hopefully die.

You watch. Bush is going to get his needed troops to toss into his meat grinder. Somehow they are going to target those who didn't vote for him first to the cheers of those who did.

( SN: Do you think most boomers remember this? Do you think being reminded of it would also remind them of what a frightening time it was, of how hard-done-by they felt when they were losing friends and family to a war?

Do you think that would put some sense back in their heads?)

Only when people start having to attend the funerals for their friend's kids and the the mouthbreathers say "The reason for them dying was to defend our freedom" and it starts a fight that breaks up friendships.

That's what it took back then.

Spitfire of ATJ

No, nor do they care. Not enough of them, anyway. They are saying "Well, they volunteered for the military....." Your generation can MAKE them care, but it will take a lot of work. There are those of us who will support your efforts.

TruthseekerME

'Scuze me while I turn that around... WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO THE ROCK THE VOTE CROWD this year? Ehhhhhhhhhhhh ??? If you won't stand up for yourself...

Now, consider this: One of the most difficult sales job in the 60's was convincing those of the 40's that Vietnam was NOT the noble crusade they had in WW II. It was unfathomable to some how anyone could refuse to serve their country... By WW II standards, it was an insult to those who served and died to push Germany and Japan back where they belonged to decline the fight against creeping communism.

Fast forward, and the war on terra was very much started on September 11, 2001. Hanoi never, ever, pooched two American cities on the same day. Never. To the boomer's who've learned to appreciate the Red Kool-Aid, there is absolutely no parallel between Vietnam and Iraq.

Coupla' things to remember... Not everyone was against the Vietnam war back then. I'm going to say it was split along the familiar numbers of 30% against, 30% for, 40% don't care at all. One big difference today is that we're split on political lines... Right v Left. Back then it was far more a generational split and your opinion on the war was generally reflected by your draft status. Bunches of people beat the draft and had no opinion on the war from that point forward. Look around, and you'll see that's true today as well. They're too busy making a living to worry about it and that's a plus for Too Stupid...

Another point that you may want to consider is that the FMR has done a fantastic job of wringing everything that was good about the 60's out of the accepted history... Instead, it's remembered as doper city and the root of the no-flavor 70's. Like, old farts protesting a war is a laughable stereotype on my AM radio and Gen-X neocons are more than willing to use the FMR stereotype of the 60's against my generation...

A few paragraphs up you asked about betrayal. How do you think it plays when the dumbasses you're trying to keep out of Iraq think you're a worthless political cliche' for doing it? Haven't you heard... Rehab Rush has declared this a conservative country, and liberalism is obsolete.

It's not uncommon for a boomer to catch grief from a Gen-X'er who thinks they know the score 'cuz Hannity explained it to them.

BA Bureauchief

Personally, I believe that part of the fervor from the right for this war is a drive to vindicate Vietnam. The FMR has always believed that Vietnam was lost by the John Kerry's, Jane Fonda's and Walter Cronkites. They need to believe that they know how to fight a war.

posterchild

And finally...
One other point...

JFK was assasinated in November of 1963. MLK in the spring of '68. RFK in the summer of '68... We knew somethin' was cooking and it smelled like fascism. J Edgar Hoover was running the FBI and keeping notes on anyone who smelled vaguely lefty.

Compare that to the elections since 2000, Johnnie Asscrack, the Patriot Act, and all the other joy BushCo has brought to this country.

Does Gen-X and Gen-Y smell what's cooking today?

BA Bureauchief


Much more than this was said during the discussion; these are just the bits that I find the most interesting at the time of this writing. If you want to read the rest or, better still, participate, you can find the thread here. And thanks to everyone quoted above for letting me use their words here; it's a good bunch of people over there.
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Thursday, December 09, 2004
In Which Sister Novena Says Something Horribly Tacky



Mrs. Duggar = wizard's sleeve.

I think you know what I mean.





(I know, it's disgusting. But better out than in.)
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Wednesday, December 08, 2004
Birthday Season Continues

I've got a double-feature today, one today-today birthday and one tomorrow-today birthday. (It's confusing, I know. Bear with me.)

First, happy birthday to Dave; he's turning 26 on the ninth -- which is tomorrow in North America, but today in New Zealand where he'll actually be celebrating it. In a space of about nine months, Dave has become one of my most-favored friends and has already done a lot to broaden my horizons (and my horizons were broad to begin with, so that's no mean feat.) He's been a good influence on me, for which I give him my gratitude.

Oh, and buy his CDs. They're good, and good for you.

And happening simultaneously, yet curiously on the day before, happy birthday to Derrick, who's turning 20 and is one of the heppest cats in Midtown. This boy put the "negro" in "the negro streets at dawn". He's a snappy dresser, too.

Love to both of you; I'm lucky to have friends like these two guys.
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Tuesday, December 07, 2004
The Bush Administration, Where The Men Wear The Kneepads

I don't know what this is a picture of, but I'm pretty sure Pat Robertson wouldn't approve:



Didn't they impeach Clinton for something like this?
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Know Your Enemy

I know I've been neglecting the blog lately... I have no excuse except to say that, y'know, sometimes I just don't have as much to say. But I'm due for a post, and since I'm feeling a bit like I might be coming down with something (there's a flu going around), I think I'd best go ahead and get it done now.

This may all just be my encroaching fever talking, but I've got a few things to say about the phenomenon of fundamentalism in the United States. I've written about fundamentalism before on this blog, and I expect that most of the people who regularly read it are aware of how I feel. But it's been in discussion again recently and some good things have appeared in various places, which deserve pointing out.

Digby has posted an interesting essay about the nature of fundamentalism:
We start by having the womens' groups decrying the Islamic FUNDAMENTALIST view of womens rights. These FUNDAMENTALISTS want to roll back the clock and make women answer to men. In AMERICA we don't believe in that. Then we have the Human Rights Campaign loudly criticizing the Islamic FUNDAMENTALISTS for it's treatment of gays. In AMERICA we believe that all people have inalienable rights. The ACLU puts out a statement about the lack of civil liberties in Islamic FUNDAMENTALIST theocracies. In AMERICA we believe in the Bill of Rights, not the word of unelected mullahs.

You got a problem with that Jerry? Pat? Karl????

And the Rude Pundit has been posting a series of essays about Christ Weariness:
Let's be clear here: "Christ" is shorthand for the fucked-up, backward ass, violent, hate-filled beliefs of Christian fundamentalism. It is not the Biblical "Christ" and his words of, you know, love, peace, and fellowship. The Biblical Christ never says, "Thou shalt exhort thine enemies to 'Bring it on.'" The Rude Pundit has said before that the Christ in the Bible is a liberal who invites us all to party on in a socialist heaven. That is a dude the Rude Pundit would like to break bread and fish with while suckin' down wine-from-water. That, however, is not the Christ who has been shoved in our faces by the evangelical right. They want Rambo Jesus, kickin' ass, a warring motherfucker who shows fags and secularists they better love the Lord or they're gettin' drop kicked into the fiery bowels of hell. Or voted out of office.

Now, I'm actually very sympathetic to sane religion. Believing in god or some other higher power/s doesn't make you stupid or superstitious; it's a valid and valuable way to experience life and a part of being human since time began. It's not for everyone -- neither spirituality nor the lack thereof make one a superior person -- but as long as we remain more or less human, it's going to be a part of the world.

But there's a big difference between being sanely religious and being a fucking batshit asshole who depends on an invisible sky buddy to tell you how to live your life and deal with the world around you. If I had to pinpoint the primary target of my anger and frustration, fundamentalism would be the only honest choice. Garden-variety conservatives annoy me, yes, and I disagree -- sometimes strongly -- with many conservative arguing points. But you can still have a conversation with them without feeling as though they would love to see your flesh melting off in a lake of fire for all eternity.

Fundamentalists, on the other hand, are some vindictive motherfuckers who take deep pleasure in imagining everyone on earth but themselves meeting the most horrible fate possible. Have you ever been to a fundie church service where hell was discussed? Hellfire is the closest most fundies ever (openly) get to nasty sex... it whips 'em up into an orgiastic frenzy of self-righteousness and faux-victimized rage. Those women speaking in tongues are only babbling like that because they're coming at the thought of sodomites and painted women being tortured and flayed by imps for all eternity, while they sit on a cloud in segregated heaven and glut themselves on their moral superiority. That, my friends, is at the core of the fundamentalist mindset.

Conservatives can be damn annoying, but fundamentalists are the real danger to our society. When the time comes, they will be more than happy to put everyone who's different from them in a prison cell or grave; totalitarianism, to them, is just an expedient means to force everyone else to live the way they think they should. How these little dictators ended up in league with genuine conservatives -- who always go on about not restricting personal freedom and respecting the rights and responsibilities of the individual -- is a mystery, unless you assume that those conservatives are raging hypocrites, which is certainly a possibility. The reason the United States is now embroiled in bloody conflict in the middle east -- and if we remain there for this decade, which we will if these evil bastards have their way, the reason why we will still be there -- is because mullahs fucking hate other mullahs, and both sides are stinking with mullahs.

Let me also say that it isn't just conservative Christian fundamentalists I hate, it's ALL fundamentalists. If I want to see the Taliban out of business, it's not because they're muslims, it's because they're fucking fundamentalists. If I want to see Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson choke to death on a Scofield Reference Bible, it's not because they're purported Christians (which they aren't, really, but for the sake of argument), but because they're fucking fundamentalists. The reason Madalyn Murray O'Hare was an obnoxious old cow in my mind isn't because she was an atheist, but because she was a fucking fundamentalist.

So let me spell this out for any conservatives reading: I don't want to live in a totalitarian theocratic religious state. If you remain associated with these fundie fuckers, you're going to have some serious problems on your hands, because people like me will NEVER go along with it. It's not about economic theories or social programs, it's about conservatives standing by the values they claim to support when it applies to things they dislike as well as things they feel comfortable with.

These fundamentalists can do whatever the hell they want within the confines of their homes and churches; I'm not here to tell them how to live their lives. They can believe in their sky buddy, they can teach their kids that sex is dirty and that science is a lie, whatever; it's no business of mine -- it's they who'll suffer for their ignorance, not me. But when they start trying to run the whole show for all of us, that's when they need to be slapped, hard, until they remember that this isn't Iran. These assholes will destroy America if we let them gain any more power.

Fuck fundamentalists. And yes, I do mean that.
10:13 PM ::
Amy :: permalink
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Saturday, December 04, 2004
One good turn

... as they say, deserves another. So - putting the difference in time zones between Australia and the US to its best advantage, I want to be the first to wish our gracious host, Sister Novena, a very happy birthday, for today, Sunday December 5.

I first met her online in January 1997 (on Bill Clinton's second inauguration day, to be precise.) I had just a couple of weeks previously bought myself a computer. I was all set up, connected to the internet, and was thinking "Well, now what?" One evening I stumbled across some online bulletin board thingy, and saw a posting there from a student at a liberal arts college in New England, who stated that she was interested in film and New Zealand. Intrigued, I sent her a three-line email (I think she had even stated her real email address ... wouldn't modern spammers just love that!), and said "Hello - I am from New Zealand ... what do you want to know?"

In return I got a three-paragraph email, which included the following:

"New Zealand seems to be developing a very lively film industry right now, ... ... I particularly admire the films of Jane Campion (both as a filmmaker-wannabe and as a woman trying make some progress in the ranks of the film education system) and Peter... what's his name again? I don't think he's actually a New Zealander, but he did Heavenly Creatures and Meet the Feebles, which was incredible."


And thus began a lively email conversation which has continued to this day. I've always looked forward to receiving a new message from her, and I hope she feels the same about messages from me. (To be fair, Sr Novena has always been the one to reply promptly - I am considerably more slack.)

Since January 97, by my rough estimation, Sr Novena and I have exchanged a couple of thousand emails, plus numerous phone calls, postcards, cds, dvds and other assorted items. Even though I've never met her, and actually only have a vague idea of what she looks like, she is one of my very best friends. Over the seven years, ten months and fifteen days since we encountered each other, we have confided our joys, hopes and fears, shared secrets, bitched and laughed about the world, our families, friends and lovers. It's been great - I really am lucky to have such a dear friend.

So, Sister, you have yourself a great birthday. I'm thinking of you, and I hope the day brings you happiness and fun. Much love
11:37 PM ::
Mr Smithers :: permalink
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Steeped In Metaphor

Oh, this is delicious:


AVENTURA, Fla. -- A decades-old cargo plane went down in a lake in a Miami suburb Saturday, but the pilot and co-pilot climbed onto the fuselage and were plucked to safety by rescuers.

The Miami Air Lease plane -- with the words "Eelect (sic) George W. Bush" running the length of the fuselage -- had trouble with one of its two engines shortly after takeoff, said company office manager Alina Nodarse.

(...)

Nodarse said both pilots are experienced and have been with the 35-year-old, family-owned cargo carrier for many years. Nodarse said the family is Republican and the pro-Bush message was painted on shortly before the election.

(source)

It's an omen, friends. This is what happens when you Eelect George W. Bush.
7:16 PM ::
Amy :: permalink
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Friday, December 03, 2004
Wiki Me

Since it's the kind of thing that might otherwise slip by unnoticed, I thought I'd briefly mention that Wikimedia has unveiled its latest project, Wikinews. Unlike Google News, which is just an aggregator (albeit a very useful one, particularly for the Lexis-Nexus deprived), Wikinews is intended to be a fully free-content project, with all of the items appearing thereon written by independent "reporters" rather than corporate media conglomorates. I dunno if it's going to work or not, but I'm a huge fan of Wikimedia's other amazing projects -- Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Wikiquote, Wikibooks, and the rest -- and I'm hoping for great things.

It's a hell of a complicated thing to undertake -- where current events are concerned, "real news" is still regarded by most as the one thing that can't be done effectively through open-source means. In the ever-increasing tensions between bloggers and professional journalists, this is journalism's trump card... they've got something that news and current events bloggers need. So this attempt to create open-source news reporting a reality is, if nothing else, an interesting experiment to watch. I'm always a supporter of putting as much of the media as possible into the hands of the general population. If it's free for everyone, so much the better.

To get a better idea of what this is all about, read the Mission Statement, which is actually rather inspiring.
8:07 PM ::
Amy :: permalink
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Thursday, December 02, 2004
Lucky Guess

Here's what my horoscope says today:
December 2, 2004

Today you might spend a lot of time on the phone or exchanging emails with people in distant states or foreign countries. You might be making arrangements for a trip, or perhaps putting together a project of some kind, maybe one concerning education in some way. This may seem routine at the moment, but don't be fooled. It could in the long run bring about some major changes in your life, so be prepared.

I should fucking hope so. It's about time.
2:03 AM ::
Amy :: permalink
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