Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys gave us that Statue of umm, Torture, to put in New York Harbor

I'm listening to Mike Malloy on the radio, getting ready to watch The Daily Show on my trusty DVR (i.e., device similar to a TiVo-brand DVR).

You know that big symbol in New York Harbor that really stands for America? No, I don't mean the World Trade Center towers. I don't mean the Empire State Building, either. It's a big statue that the Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys gave us because they, too, hate freedom. That's why the Statue of Torture says:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
And I will put them on a crate and attach electrodes to their genitals. (I don't remember exactly what the actual pose was in the famous photo, but it doesn't matter: the reality will inevitably get twisted in the retelling, just like in a game of "telephone.")

Consider what Andrew Sullivan (again, my endorsement of him does not imply vice-versa) said on the Real Time with Bill Maher show. "The real scandal is that the people who sanctioned this abuse are in the White House. ... How does anybody not see that [President Bush is] a phenomenal hypocrite on this [issue of the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" of "terror suspects" (Come on, people! Are you going to try to tell me that U.S. News, always to the right of Time or Newsweek, is part of the "liberal media bias"?) or to countries known to torture prisoners]?" The United States government is "rendering" prisoners to countries that WE claim torture political prisoners. (The United States has turned over prisoners to countries including Uzbekistan, Syria, Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco, all of which the U.S. State Department lists as countries that torture prisoners, with only an "assurance" that these particular individuals will not be tortured.)

The United States, with the signature of Acting Attorney General Larry Thompson on the orders, rendered a Canadian citizen to Syria, based on the erroneous belief that he was linked to al Qaeda, in spite of the fact that we know full well that Syria uses torture.

The Bush Administration has turned back attempts to pass laws specifically prohibiting the CIA from employing torture. Torture is already illegal in the United States (but neither Abu Ghraib nor Guantánamo Bay is in the United States), and it is illegal for the United States to turn someone over to another country to be tortured, but the Bush Administration claims that if the other country double-extra pinkie swears it won't torture this prisoner, then it's okay for us to just trust them, because "Torture is bad, m'kay?" (Look on the page for "drugsbad.wav")

The United States is engaging in torture. So far, we've only had admissions from the lowest ranks, but the actions of the Administration clearly provide at least an unsubtle "wink wink" to those who would torture prisoners — unless they get caught. The President won't even say straight out on television, "The United States condemns torture under all circumstances, and unequivocally renounces its direct or indirect use," because that would be taking "options" off the table. The legal opinion the President received states that physical pain is only "torture" if it is "equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death." The infamous "Bybee Torture Memo" further limits the scope of mental pain and suffering that can be considered torture. It's only torture if you use "threats of imminent death; threats of infliction of [physical torture]; infliction of [physical torture] as a means of psychological torture; use of drugs or other procedures designed to deeply disrupt the senses [like sleep deprivation?] or fundamentally alter an individual's personality, or threatening to do any of these things to [somebody else]."

The people of the United States re-elected George W. Bush as President (in the same sense that Gerald Ford tried for re-election in 1976), even though substantive information about our complicity in torture was already available well before the election. Thus, the United States electorate has collectively — by a razor-thin margin — endorsed torture.

Under what circumstances is it OK for a foreign country to torture Americans? Is it OK for Syria to torture an American who poses a threat to the stability of the Syrian government? I'm not asking if "they" would ever do such a thing; I'm asking if you, my reader, think it's OK that "they" have done and will probably continue to do such things, possibly even including to Americans. If your answer was no, but you say yes to even one single case of torture by or on behalf of the United States, how do you justify that distinction? Is it OK for America to use torture because we as a people voted to do so? After all, it's just democracy in action, and it's just those activist judges and limousine liberals who want to obstruct the Bush Administration's authority to conduct the War on Terror using whatever means "they" we want.

(Actually, I think I'm going to go to bed and watch Daily Show tomorrow. After all, I want to be well-rested for the sneak preview of Lords of Dogtown. Does this blog qualify me as a "member of the reviewing press"? I do plan to write a review here, after all.)

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America We Stand As One

Welcome, Truthseeker. (That's the tag-line of the web site for the Mike Malloy Show on Air America Radio. I Endorse Mike and AAR; to my knowledge, neither has expressed an opinion of this blog. The same is true for Daily Show with Jon Stewart.)

Star Trek stuntman Dennis Madalone has created a stirring musical (actually, music videal) tribute to the patriotism of the fine men and women who gave their lives for this country, most especially the fire fighters who turn into angels which turn into pigeons doves. It's called "America West and a Sone" oops, sorry for the visual mondegreen, as opposed to "G'Dye, Buttocks-Pressin' Song!," I mean, "America We Stand as One."

The visuals in Madalone's work are stunning, but, regrettably, his voice is reedy and his words trite. Happily, some clever person has done a video remix [new link 2006-02-20], combining Madalone's uplifting vision with a more appropriate sound track. (Please note that Madalone does not endorse the remix.)

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Hats Off to Deep Throat

(No, not another entry about porn. I'm talking about the Watergate scandal.)

In June 1972, political operatives of President Richard Nixon broke into offices at the Democratic National Headquarters in the Watergate hotel and office complex, spying on Democratic candidate George McGovern. Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein investigated the matter, and, with help from a number of sources including one code-named "Deep Throat," connected the break-in back to the Nixon White House. The scandal eventually forced Nixon to resign in August 1974, under imminent threat of impeachment and removal from office.

The man who was "Deep Throat" has finally stepped forward to reveal his identity: W. Mark Felt, at the time deputy associate director (the #2 position) at the FBI. The report has been confirmed by Woodward and Bernstein.

Why was Watergate such a big deal? President Nixon ordered illegal operations to be carried out against a U.S. politician, specifically his opponent for re-election. Nixon won in 1972 by a landslide, and the Watergate espionage probably had a negligible effect on his margin of victory. However, the mere fact that Nixon felt that he could resort to blatantly illegal dirty tricks to keep himself in power, was more than enough to disqualify him from office.

Think back to December 2000, if you will. Karen Hughes, an advisor to Presidential candidate George W. Bush, went on television, discussing the strategies Governor Bush considered for winning the Presidency. As things turned out, Bush won the official electoral college tally, although he lost the popular vote. Thus, his legal strategy turned on deflecting any challenges to either the official electoral vote tally or to the supremacy of the electoral college over the popular vote. However, Hughes freely admitted that the Bush team had a strategy in mind for the alternative result, predicted by some pre-election polls, that Bush might carry the popular vote but Gore win the electoral college. Bush was fully prepared to go to the Supreme Court and challenge the constitutionality of the electoral college. Smells a whole lot like Haldeman and Ehrlichman to me.

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"Revolutionary Conservative" is a Contradiction in Terms

Wall Street Journal columnist Brendan Miniter today takes on "The McCain Myth: the moderation that makes him a Senate powerhouse will keep him out of the White House."

Miniter recounts a brief history of the Republican Party since Gerald Ford lost his bid for re-election in 1976, attributing nearly every ballot-box victory to the conservative wing rather than the moderate "establishment" wing (including the first President Bush):

No one represents the changing of the guard [in the Republican Party] better than George W. Bush himself, who is now pushing revolutionary conservative ideas in every arena from defense to Social Security to tax reform. Having come this far, what Mr. McCain and the other Republican Senate "moderates" in last week's compromise would have the party do is give up on the very principles that is winning elections.
And, evidently, give up on the very principles of grammar that President Bush so valiantly upholds. (Hey, I already told you I'm a grammar freak, but really, "the very principles that is winning elections"??)

More to the point, "revolutionary conservative" is an outright contradiction in terms. Conservative means traditionalist, distrustful of government activism, opposed to sudden change in the established order. Revolutionary means precisely the opposite.

George W. Bush and his ideas certainly are revolutionary, but they are not at all conservative. Senator McCain, on the other hand, is a true conservative. He fought to maintain the tradition of comity in the Senate, and has consistently opposed "sudden change in the established order."

Revolutions in general, and most especially the American Revolution, are inescapably liberal actions. Each and every one of our Founding Fathers was a liberal. Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, John Hancock, and all the rest. They were opposed by the Tories — conservatives who wanted to remain British.

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Monday, May 30, 2005

Apparently, I'm now a porn star!

I just did a quick Google search to see if this blog is starting to percolate. Most of the results were disappointing: "Lincoln Madison" mostly comes up with high schools, counties, or car dealerships. "Linc Madison" mostly comes up with my area code website, LincMad.com, plus Usenet articles I've written on various esoteric geeky topics. I'm not even on the first couple of pages under "TV ass-clowns."

However, one entry blew my socks off. Apparently, there is a porn star who used the name "Linc Madison" in a film called Flesh. [He has since changed his stage name to "Roman Heart."] Here's a PG-rated snip from the description:

Next, we see Santoro in a bath lathering up his breathtaking bronzed body, as his boyfriend, tall and sun-kissed all-American pup Linc Madison, walks in.
So now I'm a "tall and sun-kissed all-American pup"? Cool. I was 19 the first time I met someone else named Linc, and I've never met another Linc Madison. I just wonder if this other "Linc Madison" has ever met me, or how he picked that name....

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Jeff Gillenkirk on Joining the GOP

Just a Memorial Day afternoon quickie post, 'cause I'm about to go rollerblading in Golden Gate Park. (I may not have what it takes to be a competitive skateboarder, but I am a tolerably semi-competent recreational rollerblader when the cars are banned on Sundays and holidays. Woo-hoo! Skating in a straight line on the "bunny slopes" — eXtreme!!)

Jeff Gillenkirk (former speechwriter for New York Governor Mario Cuomo) has an article in the Insight section of yesterday's San Francisco Chronicle, "Why I'm joining the GOP: Leaving the left for fun and profit." (Thanks to Google and FreeRepublic.com for helping me find the online version.) You should read the whole thing, but I'll give you the last paragraph:

As a Republican, I simply won't listen to bad news anymore. Bad news doesn't get me or my family anywhere. If you don't have anything good to say about somebody, don't say anything at all — unless it happens to be about a Democrat, of course.

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Lords of Dogtown

Jay Adams, Stacy Peralta, and Craig Stecyk. Do you know those names? You should. The very survival of your civilization may depend upon it.

I told a friend the other day that I am planning to see the movie Lords of Dogtown (on opening day, and probably a couple more times in the theater). He asked me if I was kidding.

When I was about 13, word of the new world of skateboarding finally reached my dismal suburban hellhole. I was too chickenshit to actually buy the magazines, but I occasionally caught articles or little snippets of television coverage. I wanted to have the talent and grace (and sexy savoir-faire) of a Jay Adams. The complication, of course, was that I also wanted to be Jay Adams' bestest friend-with-benefits. (At the time, I didn't have words for that sort of thing, and I didn't let myself think about it much.) Of course, as life progressions go, I would've been fantasizing more of a Stacy Peralta thing, because Stacy has been and continues to be such a major player in spreading the gospel of skateboarding. Without Stacy Peralta and the Z-Boys, Bart Simpson himself would be impossible. Unfortunately, I lacked only three things for becoming a great skateboarder myself: ability, grace, and commitment. I had the whole secret skateboarder wannabe thing down real good, though. That just leaves me with Craig Stecyk. Without Craig Stecyk, maybe no one would ever have heard of Jay Adams, Stacy Peralta, Tony Alva, Jeff Ho, Skip Engblom, Shogo Kubo, Bob Biniak, Nathan Pratt, Jim Muir, Allen Sarlo, Chris Cahill, Paul Constantineau, Peggy Oki, or Wentzle Ruml.

My objective in this blog is to be a Z-boy of American politics, and also in the Costa Gavras sense. I want to help radically shift the STYLE and SUBSTANCE of the political discourse of this nation. Join my team, or let me join yours, or don't, but don't stand in my way. Maybe you have a blog that's way bigger than mine, or maybe you just want to contribute one link. Maybe you're one of the names listed above, or maybe you have no idea why I'm talking about skateboarding. Maybe you're even a sane, sensible, rational conservative, although such seem to be in even shorter supply than realistic, grounded, functional liberals.

I voted for John Kerry in 2004 because I honestly believed that a wooden robot would be better than a loose cannon. I want a better choice on both sides. Even if I vote Democrat, I want to be able to respect the Republican -- or vice-versa. But most of all I want somebody that I can not only vote for, but actually respect. The question in 2004 wasn't in what direction should we steer the ship of state, but rather whether to let the deranged chimpanzee blow up the rudder. Apparently, America's answer was "Bring it on!"

George W. Bush is all the corruption of LBJ mixed with the unbridled megalomania of Nixon and the economic sense of Herbert Hoover -- with the personal affability of Ronald Reagan and all the class of Jacque Kennedy's fingernail clippings. John Kerry was a legitimate war hero, but about as effective a communicator as Marcel Marceau in a darkroom. He would've been a placeholder, a kind of a Gerald Ford figure in more ways than one, but I'd far rather that than Dubya. Let's find a President with the vision of freedom symbolized by Lincoln and the understanding of the checks and balances necessary to a democracy represented by Madison. Don't worry, though: I'm not running for office in this lifetime. I solemnly affirm that I am absolutely unelectable.

(Blog-wide disclaimer: I disclaim in favor of the owners and distributors of the film Lords of Dogtown any rights to anything herein that might be considered as an advertising slogan therefor. In particular, I expect and hope that Matt Groening and company would appreciate the homage. On the flipside, neither The Simpsons nor Lords of Dogtown nor much of anyone so far has in any way endorsed the contents of this blog. If any lawyer types need me to add to this or any similarly situated disclaimer [assd], please let me know. [subliminal]Go see the Lords of Dogtown at a theatre near you, starting June 3, 2005. Go see it in a theatre several times, and buy lots of popcorn each time. Buy the DVD as soon as it comes out. Then rent it anyway, several times.[/subliminal] Other unsolicited invitations to contact the blog: anyone linked from any of my postings, most nearly anyone who's been a guest on Daily Show, Real Time, Crossballs, or Graham Norton -- or Penn & Teller unless they laughed at you. Anyone who can translate the last line of "Grammar as a Secret Handshake" from May 28th. Anyone who teaches trapeze. Any member of the original Apple Macintosh team. Disclaimer to the Secret Service: calling the President a "deranged chimpanzee" is in no way a threat, but rather a simple statement of fact legitimate political satire. So mote it be.)

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Sunday, May 29, 2005

¡Baila Conmigo!

¡Baila conmigo! In Spanish, it means "dance with me!" The sentiment I applaud, and I know of no other language in which the words themselves sound so beautiful.

This weekend was San Francisco's Carnaval, a two-day celebration of Latin dance and Latin culture, a tradition in the Mission District since the days of President Jimmy Carter. I caught only the very tail end of the second day, but I enjoyed strolling through the Mission on a sunny afternoon. California is generally more culturally diverse than the rest of the United States. San Francisco is generally more culturally diverse than the rest of California. The Mission is generally more culturally diverse than the rest of San Francisco. Walk down the street past a Chinese restaurant, a Japanese restaurant, an Indian/Pakistani restaurant (on the same menu with no nuclear bombs!), a Mexican restaurant, a Salvadoran restaurant, a Nicaraguan restaurant, a Korean grocery that carries really good Vietnamese ingredients, and, of course, Walgreen's, McDonald's, and the Krishna Hotel. You'll hear salsa, merengue, Japanese pop music, and, of course, hip-hop, plus a dozen other styles of music I couldn't even name.

There is tension in the Mission District as different ethnicities and lifestyles and religious beliefs come together in tight quarters. To be sure, there are a lot of Catholics and a lot of services in Spanish, but there's also a Lutheran Church with Sunday services in German, not to mention buddhist, Jewish, and who knows what others -- even a mosque. For nightlife, straight clubs, gay clubs, lesbian clubs, and even transgender clubs compete side by side. There's a funky movie theater that shows just about anything, and live theater on a more personal scale than a big Broadway production. There are also gang turf wars and drug dealers and homeless people (some sane, some not so much), but on the whole the mixture works better than you might think.

It made me reflect on the 2004 Presidential election. The place with the most direct experience of the terrorist threat, New York City, voted 9-to-1 against President Bush, clearly convinced that he was not the man to foster harmony between the United States and the rest of the world. Ground Zero is about as "blue" as blue can be. The people of Utah, who are about as likely to be struck by Elvis' spaceship as by terrorists, insisted otherwise.

America and the world need more Mission Districts, and fewer cookie-cutter suburbs. Diversity is a greater source of strength than of conflict.

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Saturday, May 28, 2005

Grammar as a Secret Handshake

I was just indulging a little daydream, in which I came out with this little bit of soliloquy:

No one would be more surprised than I, unless it were he!
(No, I won't give you the whole context, but the daydream was rapidly moving past a PG rating.)

For those of you who know the basics of English grammar, my sentence there is grammatically correct, but idiomatically it is dysphonious. In other words, you done said it right by the school books, but it shore sounds wrong.

The thing is, the grammatical rule I so carefully obeyed, is itself entirely arbitrary. In French, the official rule happens to align with what sounds natural to the ear. For example, les français parlent leur langue mieux que moi. In English, the French speak their language better than I. The awkward "better than I" becomes the naturally flowing "mieux que moi." The French are so picky about their language, they have an official commission to guard its purity, but on this point, we have to out-anal-retentive even the Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys.

The origins of English grammar as we hate know it were a bunch of pervo monks who tried to mash a Germanic language into Latinate grammar. (Actually, I enjoy grammar, but I also love playing with the raw HTML on my blog, and my other obsession is telephone area codes.) If we can allow "common usage" to bully us into accepting such linguistic blasphemies as "alright" (that's "all right," all right?) and the adverb "everyday" (Every day, we must guard against the everyday use of the adverb "everyday."), then why can't we bow to the fact that it sounds far more natural to say "you're smarter than me"? (Why, yes, of course it's an elision of "You are smarter than I am smart.")

There is only one reason for it: to allow those "in the know" to spot one another. ("To spot each other" suggests only two people.) It's really nothing more than a secret handshake to be allowed into the "Hey, I've got a good edumacation" treehouse.

I'm a downright grammar freak. One friend of mine finally asked me to stop correcting his grammar. I had already agreed not to say anything out loud, but he could see in my eyes that I was mentally dubbing over him with the grammatically sanitized version of what he was saying. So if I make a stupid grammar error here, other than merely bowing to common sense and common usage, feel free to smack me upside the head. However, I ask that you make your primary judgment based on what I have to say, not on my impeccable grammar.

The link I gave for the word "enjoy" above bears further highlighting. It's a book that was a #1 bestseller in Britain, Eats, Shoots and Leaves. Here's a little sample:
“Of course I punctuate my text messages, I did A-level English,” one young man explained, with a look of scorn. Evidently an A level in English is a sacred trust, like something out of The Lord of the Rings. You must go forth with your A level and protect the English language with your bow of elfin gold.
I might quibble that it should be a semi-colon rather than a comma in the first sentence, but there are some differences between American and the British dialect of American (It's our language now! Pbbbbt!), as I learned when I lived in the "Mahble Ahch" section of London's West End. (By the way, an "A-level" is a "N.E.W.T." in Harry Potter's world.) Here's a tip to Brits in dealing with North Americans. To us, the difference in accent between Vancouver, Canada, and Seattle, U.S.A., is about as subtle as between Glasgow and Bethnal Green & Bow. However, I was often asked "Oh, are you American or Canadian?" as in:
Are you:
a. American or Canadian
b. English
c. Scottish
d. Norwegian/Swiss/Welsh[*]
I told my British friends that the correct question is "Are you Canadian?" If the person is an American, she will probably just chuckle and say something like, "No, I'm from Atlanta." On the other hand, if you've just met an actual Canuck, she will be so overjoyed that you didn't assume she's American that you will have a new friend.

Oh, but don't worry, fellow estadounidenses: that was in 1993, and America's respect in the eyes of the world has improved so much since then.

[*] Gofynnwch I'r Ceidwad am Docynnau Tymor.

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Turtles Can Fly

Another posting inspired by Fareed Zakaria's Foreign Exchange program on PBS. On last week's show, Fareed showed a clip from Turtles Can Fly, the first film about the Kurds shot on location in Iraqi Kurdistan. The film has an amateurish quality to it, in part because of the all-amateur cast of actual Kurdish children, but it offers a different perspective on life, with children spending their days digging up land mines to sell for scrap metal.

Fareed also had an extensive interview with Mohammed El Baradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, on the subject of nuclear weapons proliferation. Even if we limit ourselves to President George W. Bush's famous "Axis of Evil," can anyone look at Iraq, Iran, and North Korea in 2002, and honestly say that Iraq was the most immediate threat to America?

(Degrassi was a re-run.)

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Friday, May 27, 2005

Iraq's New "Reality TV"

My TiVo and I are spending a quiet Friday night catching up on juicy stuff like Foreign Exchange with Fareed Zakaria. (If you don't know who Fareed Zakaria is, you haven't been watching enough of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.) Episode 6, which aired on PBS two weeks ago, included a brief mention of something fascinating that I haven't heard about anywhere else in the American media. (Well, actually USC's Daily Trojan covered it way back on Hitler's Birthday.)

It seems that democracy and purple fingers aren't the only American exports to Iraq lately. The Iraqis have their own reality TV series on al-Iraqiya now, called Terror in the Grip of Justice. On the show, acccused members of the insurgency are given the opportunity to confess their crimes. The aim is to show the insurgents in an incredibly unflattering light: not as glorious freedom fighters, but as cowards, mercenaries, or even blasphemers. On the other hand, how confident can we be that the pre-show prep for the confessors is limited to make-up and diction?

I would hope that the American legacy of justice in Iraq doesn't amount to Judge Judy and the Abu Ghraib peanut gallery.

(But on to other things: Degrassi is on the N!)

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Canada's Political "Nuclear Option"

I saw a news report the other day that England's Queen Lizardbreath II is in Canada, and her protocol staff were having a bit of a sticky wicket: the current Prime Minister, Paul Martin from Québec, was about to face a no-confidence vote (he seems to have survived, by the way). Just in case Kim Campbell ("I don't mean to be boring, but I actually was the Prime Minister in a Parliamentary system.") is reading, let me explain to you how the Canadian system works.

The Prime Minister is the leader of the party with the most seats in Parliament. (If nobody has 50%, then the top party will form a coalition with one or more smaller parties.) A motion of no confidence means that the Parliament has lost faith in the current ministers (the Cabinet, including the Prime Minister). If the motion carries, the government steps down and calls new elections for the entire Parliament. If the motion fails (or if a motion of confidence carries), the government continues in power.

The tricky part is what the Queen would do if the vote of no confidence had carried with all the proper formalities. The Queen is the head of state in Canada; the Prime Minister is the head of government. However, even moreso than the Queen remains carefully neutral in British politics, she must not give even a whiff of favouritism to one party or another. (She is, after all, a foreigner.) Thus, any public appearances by the Queen would have to be carefully coördinated to balance any political advantage. Even an appearance with a provincial official would need close scrutiny to avoid favouring any party.

The thing is, I said that the Prime Minister "seems to have survived"; I didn't say he actually won the vote. In fact, he lost. The Parliament carried (essentially) a motion of no-confidence, and Canada was suspended in nine days of legal limbo until Martin engineered a deal allowing a motion of confidence to pass. In essence, a motion amending a bill before the Parliament passed, saying that the Parliament has lost confidence in the government. However, the bill itself did not pass until the amendment was removed, although that took 9 days. That's rather complicated for those of us who've never been to Ottawa, so let me give you the American translation: See Paul Martin. See Paul lose a Very Important Vote in the Parliament. See Paul get very sad. See Paul spend 9 days figuring out a way to change the rules. See Paul stay in power. Paul is now very happy.

Lest any Yanks think I'm bashing the Busheviks again, I should point out that Martin is the head of the Liberal Party. The only commonality between Martin's Liberals and Bush's Republicans is a willingness to do anything to hold onto power. Not lightly do I side with an Alberta Tory over a Québec Liberal. It's the Liberals who have been driving the push for gay marriage equality, and Alberta is one of the holdout provinces. Gays can get married in Saskatchewan and Newfoundland, but not in Alberta.

So what is this "nuclear option" I spoke of? The Queen has the ceremonial power to recognise a Prime Minister. What if the Queen spoke out and said that, on the advice of the Governor General, she is recognising the vote of no-confidence from May 10th and calling a new election for [date X]? That would be an extreme measure, in many ways more extreme than Bill Frist's musings. It is also a measure that could only be used once, so the target would have to be unmistakable. I don't think Canada has yet reached that brink, but I would caution Martin that the legal technicalities by which to not call an early election must be balanced against the difficulties of ruling without a mandate. You are on ground as shaky as Bush v. Gore, and you don't have Team America on your side.

(I was born in "Canada's 11th Province," the erstwhile Republic of Texas. I thus claim the perfect knowledge of Canadian politics that is my birthright.)

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Metaphors for the Bush Presidency

I was just watching Bravo's 20 greatest superheroes, and it started me wondering: what kind of comic book (or other) character would be a good metaphor for President George W. Bush?

The first character I thought of was Austin Powers, the bumbling oaf who doesn't understand the world and doesn't even know that the rest of us are laughing at him. I'd go even a level stronger than that, though: George W. Bush by rights ought to be dressed down like one of the tone-deaf fools who winds up in front of Simon on American Idol. George W. Bush is so stupid that he doesn't even realize he's stupid, which is even less funny because it's true.

The Tick also came to mind, except that The Tick actually fights on the side of Justice. (The Tick is a former mental patient turned superhero.)

Forrest Gump is too easy a cheap shot. Eric Cartman (South Park) is really more like Dick Cheney than like George W. Bush. Draco Malfoy (Harry Potter) isn't a bad fit for Dubya; he's a snivelling, entitled, arrogant, bullying little son of privilege. I haven't seen the new Star Wars yet, so I don't know which minion of Evil Emperor Karl Rove is the Prez. I look forward to seeing Lords of Dogtown on June 3rd, to see which sleazebag I associate with Curious George. Skyler Stone, the con man at the core of Comedy Central's Con, is a near-perfect match for our Fearless Leader's character and morals. (For the record, Skyler Stone is a sewer rat with no soul. Contrary to his disclaimer, several of the cons he has shown are in fact illegal.)

Mind you, I can't say that I hold John Kerry in the greatest of esteem, either. In the last election, 48.2% of American voters preferred John Kerry over George Bush, or Ralph Nader or any of the other minor candidates. I wouldn't be surprised if a geranium could've gotten 48.2% of the vote against George W. Bush. Any Democrat with even a vague whiff of Presidential Bearing would've mopped the Oval Office floor with Bush. (After ordering the carpet removed first, of course, and replaced with a nice oak parquet.)

All jokes aside, I also want to state the obvious, having just watched an episode of The West Wing dealing with someone making joking threats against the President. I oppose the use of any violent means to change the U.S. régime. I believe that we can (and must) bring down the Bush administration within the bounds of the Constitution. Besides that, I'd much rather let Bush rot in disgrace than have him become a martyr. (I'd say the same about Osama bin Laden, but I'm not yet convinced that any prison walls could contain the threat he poses to society.)

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Thursday, May 26, 2005

TV Ass-Clowns

Tonight, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart re-ran the episode that finally got me off my duff and up into the bright and beautiful blogosphere. It was this quote that did it:

It seems the only thing these TV ass-clowns know how to do is read blogs out loud directly off a computer screen.
After that, they re-ran last night's re-run, the episode with Christiane Amanpour. In a better world, she would have far more company in my esteem as a journalist committed to honest reportage. To add a couple more contemporary women to my "Edward R. Murrow" list, I would certainly include Gwen Ifill (both as co-anchor on The News Hour and as host of Washington Week) and Belva Davis (host of This Week in Northern California). Ed Murrow is one of my greatest heros, so you stand in lofty company.

On top of that, South Park re-ran the season premiere, in which Mr. Garrison gets a sex change. I'll say more about that episode soon.

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Why Pedophile Priests are Inevitable

It is my considered opinion that the problem of pedophile priests is a predictable, and indeed inevitable, result of the doctrine and structure of the Roman Catholic Church. (By way of disclaimer, I should note that I no longer consider myself Protestant, and at no time have I ever considered myself Catholic. In particular, no Catholic priest ever saw or touched my swimsuit area.)

First, doctrine. All sex other than a man and a woman, married to each other, with the possibility of creating a child, is immoral -- a grievous sin before God. I personally don't believe that, but I'm not here to argue with someone else's religious faith (unless it's Astrology). The reality is, I can't prove that God doesn't feel that way. The essence of personal religious faith is that it is both personal and a matter of faith. Furthermore, it isn't the doctrine alone that leads to pedophile priests: it is the doctrine in combination with the structure of the Catholic Church.

Within the Catholic Church, much moreso than within most Protestant churches, the Priest is elevated to a station just below the Pope, who in turn is roughly on a par with Jesus. (The Pope is infallible; the Priest is just always right.) In the Ten Commandments, "keep the Sabbath" comes even before "honor thy father and mother." The Priest is as pure as a mortal man can become.

Two trends develop thereby, with a disastrous intersection. First, men who have sexual feelings for underage prospective partners are drawn disproportionately to the priesthood, most especially if the affection is for boys. On the one hand, the desire for sex with children is horrifically immoral, but there's something especially warped about saying that desire for girls is bad while desire for boys is the really big sin. On the other, even though the pedophile has prayed and prayed and done every good deed he can manage, God has not lifted this burden of unclean desires, so the man hopes that God will reward him by cleansing him of his sins if he devotes his entire life to Christ. If the man (it's not just the nuns!) marries the King of the Jewboys, he might not be so tempted to have sex with the Babylonian boy sluts. Thus our young pervert becomes a priest, most likely with only the purest of motives to purge himself of his unclean desires through service to Jesus. Not only that, the other priests, instead of defrocking and excommunicating the pedophile priest, close ranks to protect him; he is their fellow Servant of the Church.

The children, on the other hand, have been taught that God forgives sins through the Priest, and that they must do Whatever Father O'Hornihands Tells Them To Do or God will be Very Angry. To go and confess that "Father O" touched you "down there" is to demand that you be sent to Hell, along with everyone you care about. God told you not to tell your parents, your teachers, or most especially any other young boys who haven't yet had the "special" tickle fights. (Kids: having a tickle fight isn't necessarily bad. Having a "special" tickle fight that you "mustn't tell your parents about," can be very bad.)

Mix Priests trying to overcome their shameful desires, with a ready supply of compliant young charges who will do whatever the Priest says, and you have nothing but a recipe for disaster.

The reality is that the Catholic Church is nothing more than a warped reflection of NAMBLA (no, I'm not going to link to NAMBLA). NAMBLA (and a very few others) would have us believe that children are sexual beings, exactly like adults. The Catholic Church (among many others) would have us believe that children are completely innocent of all sexual thoughts or feelings. Both positions are utter unfiltered hogwash. Children are highly sexual beings, even at birth. Any hospital staffer who has spent time in a maternity ward can tell you that a good many of the babies are getting busy self-soothing just about as quickly as they pop out. Some childhood interest in sex is nothing more than learning which words push buttons for the grown-ups, but some of it is entirely real. However, childhood sexuality undergoes profound changes at puberty, with more gradual evolution continuing into adulthood.

Unfortunately, the Catholic Church approaches the issue in a manner somewhat like giving an ice-cream addict the key to the walk-in freezer, in the hope that it will help him resist temptation. For the pedophile priest, leading a choir or youth group is like walking on hot coals, only it's not his own feet that get the blisters. In particular, if he does get caught out, the Church will just transfer him to a new bed of coals (or a new ice-cream freezer, depending which metaphor you prefer).

Thus, if the Catholic Church truly wants to put an end to the problem of child-molesting Priests, the way forward is easy to map out:

  • Emphasize to children, especially, but also to the congregation as a whole, that the Priest is a human being with human failings, and so is the Pope.
  • Emphasize to children the very simple point that if any adult touches them or tries to touch them in the swimsuit area, they should tell their parents immediately, even if the adult says not to tell. There are a very few times when an adult (for example, a doctor or nurse) might need to touch your swimsuit area, but it's always OK to tell your parents.
  • Any priest who molests a child must be banned for life from any work with children, especially without supervision. Any priest who has sexual intercourse with a child, or who molests more than one child, must be not only removed from the priesthood, but excommunicated.
  • End the stigmatization of homosexuality. That hunky guy with the sixpack abs up there on the cross, He ain't there just for the ladies.
  • Allow priests (and priestesses) to marry. Marry a man, marry a woman, just please don't marry a small furry animal.
Until the Catholic Church faces the reality of the "structural deficit" in priestly morals, there will continue to be children molested by priests, there will continue to be cover-ups, and there will continue to be childhoods desecrated by the hypocrisy of it all.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

A Modest Proposal

(with all due respect to Mr. Jonathan Swift, whose 1729 essay first carried that title)

A Modest Proposal
for the Middle East


As the twenty-first century begins, America feels that it is under attack from outside its borders in the form of Islamic terrorism, while Americans wage a Culture War of their own at home, all the while ignorant that the Islamic world resents America's lack of pressure on Israel to make peace with the Palestinians. To address the three crises simultaneously will take a brilliantly bold trifecta of strategy, tactics, and timing, as well as a willingness to pay any price for success.

In order to address Arab resentment over U.S. unwillingness to anger Israel (not to mention other Islamic resentment over the interchangeability of "Arab" and "Islamic" in American minds), the President should immediately issue an ultimatum to both the Israelis and the Palestinians, giving them until December 25th of next year to conclude a Treaty of Peace, Friendship, Brotherhood, and Understanding, or else the United States will invade both territories, not as a Liberator, but as an Occupying Power, in order to secure the use of bases from which to control the skies not only of Iraq, but of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and, of course, Albania. (Any country that honestly thinks "SHQIPERIE" is even pronounceable, much less a good name for your homeland, is clearly asking to be bombed back to the Stone Age. I think it looks something like this in Cyrillic: Щипэре. Did you know that "Yushchenko" has only 6 letters? Ющенко.)

But lest I be accused of starting a war in Albania as a distraction from my true purpose of liberating the oil from the sand niggers umm, I mean, from our dear Mohammedan friends, let me return to the subject of Peace in Pisralistine, as it shall henceforth be known.

Regrettably, as the Conflict in Pisralistine has waged for Millennia, we can be easily assured that, even faced with the common threat of a true American occupation, perhaps with Saddam Hussein rehabilitated and returned as the provincial governor of the American Overseas Territory of Pisralistine, the Kikes and the Ay-rabs will never conclude a cease-fire of any duration, much less full-on peace, even with a year and a half to do it. That means that, in order to maintain the Sacred Credibility Of the Threat Of American Force (S.C.O.T.O.A.F., another term for a dirty Scottish carpetbagger in Bethnal Green, wounding our Dear Leader's feelings by so brutishly speaking the truth), it will be necessary to actually invade Pisralistine.

Since our announced intentions will be to subjugate the peoples and to enforce Law and Order, we must assume that they will greet us with flowers and heart-shaped boxes of chocolates. I therefore submit my estimate that we will require approximately 12 million soldiers for the ground invasion (for each two Pisralistinis, two guards plus one photographer). By landing with such an overwhelming force, we will minimize casualties among enemy forces and civilians as well as among people who actually matter Americans.

Unfortunately, due to the short-sightedness of Previous Administrations ("The Buck Stops with My Predecessor!"), our current military manpower is inadequate understaffed to achieve the objective. This is where the real creative thinking comes in! I mentioned the Culture Wars earlier, with Americans digging in their heels in camps defined primarily in opposition to The Other Camp. Well, what is the one population beating on the U.S. military's door, asking to be allowed to serve? That, sir, would be the godless heathen Homosexuals. (After all, the only thing worse than a towelhead is an atheist or a sissy. Or a trade-unionist.)

The difficulty is that for so many years, in the face of such copulous copious evidence, we have hewn true to our Faith that our Boys in Uniform would fall prey to the evil Homosexual Deviants. (After all, sucking cock is often a gateway to disco dancing, and no straight man has the self-control to resist the advances of a faggot without physical violence.) It is clear that the mere presence of a single pansy in a barracks full of straight boys would eventually contaminate the entire platoon. However, all of these problems occur only if we permit intermingling of straight and homo soldiers. If we have the homos over there in Plessy Company, and the straight boys here in Ferguson Company, we won't have any problems. We just make sure that the liaisons from Ferguson Company to Plessy are all immune to the genderqueer wiles of the faerie faggots. Then we keep the Straight Army all-volunteer, and draft all the fags -- plus some diesel dykes to run the motor pool.

Surely we can find 12 million able-bodied queers (especially now that they all constantly play football or go skateboarding) to go assert our Manifest Destiny to rule the entire Planet. To quote Billy the Kid from Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, "What I win, I keep. What you win, I keep." It's the American way, dammit! If those other countries didn't want to get invaded, they shouldn't've gone and put in all those natural resources.

The Culture Wars will be a thing of the past, forgotten as quickly as a campaign promise. With no homosexuals over here in America reproducing recruiting, there soon won't be any homosexuals left. God knows they ain't borned that way. Any other godless heathens still left (and we know they're all closet homos anyway) will be easy enough to pick off one by one.

And besides that, then Osama bin Laden will be our bitch. The whole Thrust (tee-hee) of his recruiting pitch is that America doesn't give a shit about the Arabs or the atrocities of the Israelis. By implementing Peace in Pisralistine, we will show that we will no longer allow the Palestinian people to be pushed around by the Israelis. We will show them who is their Lord and Master, imposing democracy, the way that Jesus Christ himself wanted it to be when he died for your dirty, dirty sins. The Arabs will be so busy kissing up to their new overlords, they won't have time to come blow up our skyscrapers. No more terrorism, no more fags, and no more whiny intifada to worry about. Where's the downside?

(shorter link to this article: tinyurl.com/7C35T)

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Pizza and Privacy

The American Civil Liberties Union (those godless heathens who believe that the government should actually follow the Constitution) have prepared a fun little Flash animation, showing the process of ordering a pizza in the not-too-distant future. I can't say much about it without giving spoilers, but think "Total Information Awareness."

Thanks to Monty S. and Telecom Digest for bringing it to my attention.

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Monday, May 23, 2005

Truly a Remarkable International Spam

I got a spam message today that truly dazzled me with its international complexity.

It seems that the New Mexico state lottery; headquartered in the United Nations building in Geneva, Switzerland; uses a South African e-mail service called "teenmail"; holds its drawings in Melbourne, Australia; pays its winners in London, England, in Euros (not U.S. dollars or British pounds); and confirms winning entries via the Colorado Lottery web site. Oh, and proceeds from the sweepstakes will assist survivors of the 2004 tsunami disaster in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and the Maldives.

Umm, yeah.

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Sunday, May 22, 2005

Hey, hey, ho, ho, BLANK-ism has got to go!

Harumph. I just got back from a picket for a cause in which I firmly believe. The trouble was, the slogans the protesters were chanting were so redundant, so mind-numbingly repetitive, and so over-and-over-again repetitious, it was all I could do to not scream in frustration and run home.

Hey, hey, ho, ho, RACISM has got to go!

Shame! Shame! Shame! Shame!

What do we want?
NEW SLOGANS!

When do we want 'em?
NOW!!!

I'm not going to give the details of this particular protest, because it is sadly similar to many protests I've been to the last few years. About the only one that was at all interesting to watch was the "No Blood for Volleyball" riots in Berkeley, and the riot aspect made it interesting in a bad way.

I will tell you about one over-the-top protest I saw a few years ago here in San Francisco. Local merchants had a problem with homeless people, particularly the ones who have consistently refused all mental-health care, some of whom would quite aggressively panhandle anyone walking by, including, of course, prospective customers of our local merchants. The merchants came up with a program called "Create Change, Don't Hand It Out!" The simple message was, you can do far more to help the problem by giving a dollar to a soup kitchen than by giving it to an individual homeless person. Best-case scenario, the panhandler buys a cheap burger and fries. If I had to imagine a nightmare worse than Super-Size Me, it would be to eat only at McDonald's, but only the meals for which I could scrounge up spare change. Compared to that scenario, eating at a soup kitchen doesn't sound so bad. (On the other hand, if the soup has garbonzo beans and jalapeños in it, count me out.)

But back to the story of the protest. The signs the merchants put in their windows included suggestions of groups with whom to help create change, including food banks and such. But still, in any way discouraging panhandling is taking away those people's freedom of choice to live homeless in a hostile city while scrounging up barely enough money to buy utter crap for food. So the protesters picketed in front of a local store whose owner led the "Create Change, Don't Hand It Out" campaign. They yelled repetitive slogans, with just an occasional word changed from whatever last week's protest was about. And I went inside to buy a cookie from that store, when I hadn't had in mind to buy a cookie until I saw the protest. I bought the cookie and then came out and ate it right in the face of the protesters, and even thanked them for giving me the idea to go get a cookie.

Tonight, at a different protest (although with many of the same faces), I saw other people defiantly crossing the picket line, knowing nothing but that they were tired of hearing the same tired old fill-in-the-blank one-size-fits-all slogans.

America doesn't need unyielding mindless Bushniks, but it doesn't need unyielding mindless anti-Bushniks either. "Unyielding" is high praise if and only if it is tempered by reason.

(Want to do something about racism? Make a donation to the United Negro College Fund or the Southern Poverty Law Center.)

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Saturday, May 21, 2005

Erasure is Coming!

This blog is mostly about politics, but today is a very special occasion for me personally. In about 11 hours, the band Erasure ("Oh, L'Amour," and many more) is scheduled to appear at the Tower Records right here in my neighborhood. I'm going to be there with my personally autographed t-shirt, hoping to get a photo with them this time, since I couldn't the other time. I remember the way some of my parents' younger friends worshipped Elvis Presley, and that's about how I feel about Andy Bell and Vince Clark. Besides that, the all-expenses-paid trip for two to beautiful Irvine, California, gave me an excuse to take the young man I had a crush on, (literally) to Disneyland, the Happiest Place on Earth. Joe was who I had in mind the first time I heard "Oh, L'Amour" on the radio. We got to ride through the haunted mansion together. (If you're out there, drop me a line!)

Should I flog the blog when I go seek my repeat brush with stardom?

(Note: the word "flog" in this case means "to promote shamelessly," not "to strike with a stranded leather object," nor to figuratively do so, as in "flog the bishop.")

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Friday, May 20, 2005

My Challenge to Bush's Judicial Nominees

Here's a very simple litmus test I believe every nominee for a federal judicial position should be required to pass.

Summarize the main Constitutional arguments for and against (pick one: abortion, legal recognition of gay marriage, restrictions on gun ownership, or posting the Ten Commandments in government buildings) with an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of each position. Do so without giving me the slightest clue how you would rule.

Any nominee who cannot do that, is not deserving of my trust that he or she will respect the views of others with different religious or philosophical views.

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Thursday, May 19, 2005

Existence = Resistance

On Tuesday, British Member of Parliament George Galloway testified before the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations regarding allegations that Galloway illegally profited from the oil-for-food program in Iraq. To put it mildly, Galloway has a more confrontational style than the Senate is used to.

Watch the videos of Galloway's testimony and the appearance by Galloway and Senator Norm Coleman on Hardball with Chris Matthews. (The Wikipedia entry also has links to transcripts and other coverage of the testimony.)

Here's a small sample:

I gave my heart and soul to stop you committing the disaster that you did commit in invading Iraq, and I told the world that your case for the war was a pack of lies. I told the world that Iraq, contrary to your claims, did not have weapons of mass destruction. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to al Qaeda. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to the atrocity on 9/11/2001. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that the Iraqi people would resist a British and American invasion of their country and that the fall of Baghdad would not be the beginning of the end, but merely the end of the beginning.

Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong, and 100,000 people have paid with their lives -- 1,600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies -- 15,000 of them wounded, many of them disabled forever, on a pack of lies.
Galloway was kicked out of the Labour Party for his statements against the war in Iraq and against Tony Blair personally, but he has also been an outspoken opponent of the sanctions imposed on Iraq after the Kuwait invasion in 1990. Additionally, Galloway was an outspoken critic of Saddam Hussein, and of American and British arms sales to Saddam in the 1980's. After his expulsion from the Labour Party, Galloway joined RESPECT: the Unity Coalition (whose slogan is "Existence = Resistance") and moved from Glasgow, Scotland, to the Bethnal Green area of east London.

I submit this for your consideration: even if Galloway were guilty of everything the Senate reports have accused him of, it would not alter the truth of the comment I cited above.

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Monday, May 16, 2005

Judicial Nominations and the Filibuster

Tensions in Washington are escalating as Republicans and Democrats prepare for a showdown over the handful of George W. Bush's judicial nominations that the Democrats have blocked. Since the Democrats are the minority party, and since the Republicans have marched in lock step with their President, the only weapon the Democrats have is the filibuster.

What is the history of the filibuster? Since the Senate was created, there have been no advance limits on debate on any issue. In 1841, Senator Henry Clay, at the time a member of the Whig party, sought to limit Senate debate by a simple majority vote. It was not until 1917, however, that any limit on filibusters was enacted. From 1917 until 1975, a filibuster could be ended by a two-thirds vote; since 1975, only a 60% vote has been required.

In the early days, any single Senator could obstruct any item of Senate business. Over time, the power of the filibuster has been reduced by making it more difficult to sustain. Today, 41 Senators must agree with the minority position to keep a filibuster going. It is absolutely true that the Democratic use of the filibuster on judicial nominees is without precedent in our history. However, that is far from the only unprecedented action by either party in recent years.

Let's step away for a moment from the charged rhetoric and look at the core question: who deserves a lifetime appointment to the federal judiciary? Any nominee with the support of only 50 Senators of the President's own party? Isn't the nation better served by having judges who inspire confidence on all sides that they will rule fairly?

Many conservatives have lost confidence in the judicial system, because it has spurned many of their cherished traditions. Some of that loss of confidence is justified: Roe v. Wade, for example, was built on such shaky legal logic that it stands with Bush v. Gore and Plessy v. Ferguson in the Supreme Court Hall of Shame, although Rehnquist's dissent is hardly any better. I believe that a woman must have the right to control her own body according to the dictates of her own conscience, but I also believe we need a more solid legal footing for that right in order to remove the issue from never-ending debate.

I also believe that the Constitution should mean what it says in the Ninth and Tenth Amendments: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people. The powers not delegated to the [federal government] by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people."

America needs judges whose decisions settle issues, rather than deepening the divide. America does not need judges chosen by a narrow party-line vote over the determined objections of a large minority.

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Sunday, May 15, 2005

The Economic Winner of the 21st Century

By almost any measure, the United States was the greatest economic success story of the 20th Century. The question, then, is, who will be the great economic success story of this new century?

Among the greatest challenges facing humanity right now are energy and pollution. The 20th Century saw a tremendous boom in the use of fossil fuels feeding rapid (if uneven) economic expansion. But fossil fuels don't burn cleanly. Never mind long-term risks like carbon dioxide and chlorofluorocarbons; we are pumping lead, mercury, and other poisons into the air, water, and soil.

Finding an economically viable, renewable, ecologically sound source of energy to displace dead dinosaurs as our primary fuel is not going to be easy. "To-do List: pick up dry cleaning, mail credit card payment, invent new energy source, cure disease, solve the budget deficit, and, if there's still time at the end of the day, give the dog a bath." However, the need is pressing and the rewards will be enormous.

If the United States continues to rely on imported oil, our continued economic vitality will in turn rely on military intimidation. To put it more directly, Iraq won't be our last war for oil. On the other hand, if the United States leads the way to clean renewable energy, economic growth will be the natural by-product.

The United States today needs leadership from the top in committing to the goal of finding a new source of energy to replace imported oil within the next decade.

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Friday, May 13, 2005

Whose-bekistan?

The former Soviet state of Uzbekistan, truly a model of democracy (ruled by dictator Islam Karimov, an even nicer guy than Vladimir Putin) was the scene of widespread unrest Friday, as protesters stormed a prison, releasing a number of apparent political prisoners. The catch is that the anti-government protesters are Islamists, and the government has sided with the United States in the so-called War on Terror.

It's a tough bind for the United States, with our rhetoric about spreading democracy and popular rule running smack into our desire to maintain access to bases and intelligence assets in central Asia.

The most immediately troubling aspect of the Uzbek government crackdown is that no television coverage has been permitted from the town of Andijan. The word that has gotten out has been damning, but what have we not yet heard about?

For a lighter take on central Asia, see political cartoonist Ted Rall's "How to Depose a Central Asian President without Really Trying" (on eurasia.net)

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Christian Telephone Company

Oklahoma-based United American Technology is promoting itself as "the only carrier that is taking an active stand against same-sex marriages and hardcore child pornography." Better yet, they claim that MCI runs a pedophile web site. Eugene Mirman recorded some conversations with their representatives, and posted them on his web site: (#1 and #2). The story is travelling the globe, already written up in Britain's The Inquirer.

True child pornography is abhorrent, and these so-called Christians have every bit as much right to oppose gay marriage as they have to oppose interracial marriage, but this sales pitch makes my skin crawl. On the other hand, is it really that different from Working Assets, or other telcos that support progressive causes? Well, I suppose that part about the ninth commandment (eighth if you're Catholic) figures in there somewhere: thou shalt not bear false witness. Listen to those UAT recordings.

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The Mayor of Spokane

The mayor of the city of Spokane, Washington, a conservative Republican by the name of Jim West, was recently forced to admit that he has sex with men. In fact, he corresponded for the purpose of sex with someone he believed to be a 17-year-old boy. That's illegal in Washington. (The age of consent is 16, but only if the difference in age is less than 5 years. I'm not sure how old Jim West is, but I'd venture a guess that he's over 23.) West has a long history of vigorously opposing gay rights: he voted to ban gay teachers, to block domestic partner benefits for gay city employees, and consistently opposed anti-discrimination measures.

Yup, I guess that gay marriage really is the most pressing issue facing our nation.

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Thursday, May 12, 2005

Quite a day for fake and real news

Downtown Washington ran running and screaming from a rogue Cessna. North Korea's "and you thought Saddam was a lunatic!" leader Kim Jong Il is now believed to have as many as six operational (or near-operational) Hiroshima-sized nuclear weapons. Four insurgent bomb attacks occurred in four hours in Baghdad, killing over 70. Reports have surfaced claiming that at least one interrogator at Guantánamo put the Koran in the toilet to show his respect for religious diversity.

And that's the real news. In today's fake news, we were treated to this fabulous exchange.

Art Brown (former CIA analyst): The recognition [Kim Jong Il] would get from being a recognized nuclear power would give him a legacy at home that his father could not do.

Jon Stewart: Really? He's using aggressive military posturing to escape the shadow of his more moderate father. Who is buying that Freudian psycho-babble? It's just a theory!

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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

What am I talking about?

My name is Lincoln Madison, and so, as you might imagine, I've always felt a special connection to Presidential politics. As a boy in Dallas, Texas, the summer of 1974, I often had little better to do than watch television, and the only thing on all three networks, day after day, were the Watergate hearings. I'm sure I saw more of those hearings than most grown-ups. I was also a good little footsoldier for My President, Mr. Richard Millhouse Nixon. After the 1972 election, I had watched the kids across the street publicly denounce their own parents for voting for McGovern. After Watergate, I put stickers on every trash can in the house announcing that "Nixon Slept Here."

I have watched with dismay over the last dozen years as the Republican Party has been co-opted by a bizarre fringe element that shares neither the values of the founding of this Republic nor of the President who saved the Union. Being a Republican once meant favoring limited governmental intrusion into people's private lives. It once meant being responsible with both spending and the exercise of state power. Today, being a Republican means favoring allowing the government to dictate your personal morals while engaging in reckless deficit spending and the removal of centuries-old checks and balances.

On the other hand, being a Democrat used to really mean something, too. It meant standing up for "the little guy," making sure that the power of government didn't tilt too heavily towards the wealthy elite. After all, that's kind of what "democracy" is all about. Today, being a Democrat means meekly capitulating to "whatever the President needs to fight that war on terror," and then letting the Republicans define their whole agenda as the war on terror. Gosh, we let them set the agenda and even the terms in which it is framed, and we even stomped our feet real hard and shook our fingers when they broke the rules, but those Republicans just keep kickin' our tuckusses. I wonder why....

And then there's the Third Estate, the mighty Press-with-a-capital-P. I guess Woodward and Bernstein were nothing more than an excuse to put Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman up on our movie screens. There's so much muck, but all the rakers stand idle. Fox News continues to present a caricature of journalism, and yet their would-be competitors trip over themselves in the race to the bottom. "It seems the only thing these TV ass-clowns know how to do is read blogs out loud directly off a computer screen." There's more than a little wrong with America when the most credible name in television news is Comedy Central. "Hey, that no-talent hack Rob Corddry is on TV right now talking about us!"

We are repeatedly presented with "either/or" choices. Either support the President or be labeled as unpatriotic. Either allow unlimited drilling in the Arctic wilderness or drive a Prius. Either bomb Saddam Hussein to oblivion or capitulate to terrorism. My point is that, as with so many things in life, we must seek The Third Path. The path of moderation (practiced sparingly), sound reasoning, and balance.

Finally, for any fellow Colonial Club members from the Class of '85, "I shall not merge with that blog-like thing."

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Sunday, May 01, 2005

Manual Archive Listing

Third Path Archives

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