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Marriage is love.
(And thanks to The Mad Prophet for pointing me to this bit of code.)

30.4.04

Now that's what I'm talkin' about!
 

It wasn't quite what I suggested when I heard Kerry would be going to Westminster to speak. But you should read Kerry's speech from this afternoon anyway, even though he mostly didn't take my advice. (I was happy to see him use part of Churchill's speech in his opening paragraph, though!)

I find the comparison between the two appearances at Westminster College both symptomatic of what is wrong with politics in America these days, and suggestive of the possibility that it may change for the better in about six months. Cheney was invited to the college to commemorate Sir Winston Churchill's famous "Iron Curtain" speech there in 1946. He was expected to give a foreign policy address. He showed up with his standard Kerry-bashing stump speech instead: and didn't bother to tell the college administration about his plans beforehand.

Appalled at how they had been played for a tool of the Bush régime, the college extended an invitation to Kerry to give what amounted to a campaign speech in rebuttal of Cheney's. Kerry accepted the invitation, but showed up with a foreign policy speech instead.

It was a little more Iraq-specific than I would have liked, and a little less Churchillian in its phrasing than what I had proposed, but it's still a measured address in keeping with the day and the place where it was given. And I believe we may now lay permanently to rest the meme that Kerry doesn't have a specific plan for getting out of the Iraq mess.

How unlike the Repugs, whose only option seems to be to lash out at anyone who has the temerity to criticize them, and then insist our only policy course is more of the same failures that have gotten us into this mess already. So go read Kerry's remarks, and while you're on his site, maybe you could consider giving our next preznit a little turkee?


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Somebody please put us out of his misery!
 

This post won't be in keeping with today's scatological theme, though I'm putting the chances of profanity at around 95% or above. If there was any possible doubt remaining that Emperor Chimpy, that sick fuck, is the stupidest post in the whole goddamn stupid Gooper fence, this should allay it. Anybody this dumb shouldn't be allowed out in public without a minder, just to prevent him from hurting himself or others. He should definitely not be walking around in front of a guy carrying the launch codes to enough nuclear weapons (real WMDs, by the way, unlike the phantoms Skippy the sick fuck continues to chase in Iraq) to wipe out everybody on this planet six or seven times over.

Stuttering today in the Rose Garden, that sick fuck Skippy the Lying Disaster Monkey attempted to defend his "Mission Accomplished" photo opportunity campaign advertisement on the deck of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln last year. For the most part, his ejaculations consisted mainly of "blah, blah, blah, Saddam Hussein, blah, blah, blah, war on terra, blah, blah, blah."

Then he hit the money graf:

As a result, there are no longer torture chambers or mass graves or rape rooms in Iraq.

Lemme say that again:

As a result, there are no longer torture chambers or mass graves or rape rooms in Iraq.

Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and the fuckin' donkey they rode in on! Has Chimpy had his head up Cheney's arse for so long that he's missed this, or this, or this, or this, or this?

Regrettably, there's zero chance the Gooper-controlled House will impeach this sick fuck, though he richly deserves it on this showing alone, not to mention all of his other flip-flops and fuckups, starting with stealing the election in 2000 (OK, technically he let the Supreme Court steal it for him; it amounts to the same thing). That simply makes it imperative to re-un-elect this deluded sick fuck in November. I would vote for a steaming fresh pile of dog shit (oops, guess I got in the requisite scatology after all!) before I'd vote for Emperor Chimpy the sick fuck.

Now go spread the word, folks! This should be on everybody's lips by Monday. Fuck American Idol, or Friends, or even the fact that today was Bob Edwards' last day as the host of "Morning Edition." I want every water-cooler conversation in America on Monday to be about how Skippy the Lying Sick Fuck could get up in public and make that claim, given what the rest of the world knows has been going on in Iraq on his watch.

Yeah, I'm mad as hell, and I want my fucking country back, dammit! And a big hat tip to my fellow Kossack Ephemeral Notion for pointing me to the sick fuck's Rose Garden, uh, "comment."

Update: 30 April 2004, 1250 CDT. It seems somebody clued in the sick fuck. Because now he's "disgusted" by the abuse of Iraqi prisoners that he's paying for with our tax dollars. About fucking time, asshole!


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It's apparently scatological Friday
 

I seem to be fixated on shit today. I don't know why that is, but this is the second post in a row that's going to feature feces. You have been warned.

Via Andante at Collective Sigh (who is definitely not to be confused with shit, she's dead focking brill, as the Irish would say), I learned about a "new" old holiday. Tomorrow, it seems, really is Loyalty Day. When I wrote about it earlier, I had presumed it was just another Repug trick for whipping up some enthusiasm in their sagging base.

But no, Loyalty Day is another exercise in faux patriotism for which we have the Cold War to thank. As the Knights of Columbus gave us "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954, the Veterans of Foreign Wars in 1947 renamed May Day as "Loyalty Day" in an effort to distance ourselves from those evil, godless Commies and their pinko fellow-travellers who like to celebrate the workers of the world on that day. As the RNC talking points memo I link to in my post above notes, Loyalty Day is all about demonstrating your love for baseball, apple pie, Mom, the flag, and God (and probably in that rough order). Forget about the dignity of the common worker, forget about living wages, forget about being able to organize for better pay and working conditions--all of that is just Commie crap that we're better off without here in the Land of the Putatively Free and the Home of the Too-Infrequently Brave.

Andante is asking her readers what their plans are for Loyalty Day tomorrow. (And here comes the scatological reference, just in case you feel a need to avert your virgin eyes.) I said that if it weren't for the fact that I'll be prepping for my first final exam of the semester (which is Monday night), I'd consider going out to Washington to take a big ol' dump on the White House lawn by way of letting the Bush régime know exactly what I think of them and their policies. But I doubt the Secret Service would appreciate that gesture too much, and their reaction to it would quite likely make it impossible for me to take my final exam on Monday night (and probably the one on Wednesday afternoon, too). So I'll just have to think Bush thoughts when I happen to crap tomorrow.


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Oooh, look at that!
 

Maybe I'm just exhausted at the end of a long week (and an even longer semester). Or maybe I'm just terminally clueless, but I don't get why it is necessary for the Bush régime, through the vehicle of its lapdog-ish media, to trumpet the fact that CheneyBush magnanimously sat in the Oval Office yesterday and graciously allowed the commission of inquiry that it never wanted in the first place and which it tried desperately to avoid talking to at all, to ask it questions for three whole hours.

Is it just me, or does that not sound an awful lot like a newly potty-trained three-year-old crowing about the size of the dump it just took? Look, mommy, look what I did! Aren't I just the best boy ever?

For all we're ever likely to know, CheneyBush may have done little more than that (though if so, I hope they cleaned up after themselves). After all, there was no recording of the session, there was no oath to tell the truth and nothing but the truth, and no one but CheneyBush, the commission members, and the White House lawyer was present. I'd hardly call that a stirring testimony to BushCo's openness, or its desire to get to the bottom of what went wrong on 11 September 2001. In fact, I'd hardly call it testimony at all. It was chit-chat. It was probably CheneyBush lying its arse off, for the 8,423,765th time this month. It was certainly a violation of anything remotely resembling ordinary investigative procedure, where witnesses are never allowed to hear one another's testimony until afterward, when it's too late for them to coordinate their stories. You'll pardon me, I'm sure, if I fail to be terribly impressed at the size of the turd CheneyBush just dropped into the American punchbowl.


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29.4.04

This just in...
 

Mustang Bobby has advance word on Joe Wilson's book, due out tomorrow, in which he's said to name the person(s) he suspects "outed" his wife as a CIA operative. According to Bobby, Wilson points a finger at three: Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Big Dick's chief of staff (who has been suspect in this matter for quite some time as I recall), Elliot Abrams of Iran-contra fame, and, of course (since no list of "the usual suspects" these days would be complete without him on it), Karl "I am Evil Incarnate" Rove.

As Bobby observes at the end of his post, "Knowing Washington as we do, we can rest assured that all three will issue strong denials, leaving us with the conclusion that either Wilson is wrong or at least two of these men are lying. Heh. My money is on the latter."

Me, I wonder if it couldn't be all three of them--plus Novak. Bastards!


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The lawsuit that wasn't there
 

The American Civil Liberties Union disclosed yesterday that it filed a lawsuit three weeks ago challenging the FBI's methods of obtaining many business records, but the group was barred from revealing even the existence of the case until now.

This post has been redacted by the Department of Homeland SecurityGestapo, pursuant to the provisions of the USA-PATRIOT Act. J. Ashcroft, Proprietor.


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He may be right, alas
 

The Rude Pundit (Parental Advisory: Language at the site linked to hereafter is R-rated and higher) offered an outstanding extended-play rant on BushCo's arguments yesterday before the Supreme Court. He ends it thusly:

The Bushkoviks react with righteous indignation that anyone would question their motives or actions, be it the Democrats in Congress [blocking] judges or the courts asking if the President should have the right to hold a citizen completely incommunicado from anyone but interrogators for as long as he wants. Part of the indignation comes with having business people in the executive branch: government is not a business - it's a negotiation. But the other part comes from its deep desire to extend dictatorial power as far as it can. And we haven't even seen how far that'll stretch into the elections. For if there's anything other nations have learned about monarchies and dictatorships it's that they'll keep extending and extending until they invade every part of our lives.

I try very hard to be a reasonable, rational man. But as the count of the dead rises ever higher in Iraq and Afghanistan and while those who "planned" those military actions without ever consulting the people who plan such things for a living continue to mouth vague platitudes and/or outright lies about how well things are going, as the toll of the Bush régime's crimes keeps mounting, and as their political machinations grow more and more desperate, I find it harder and harder to stay on an even keel.

For the first time in my 40 years on this planet, I am truly concerned about whether I'm going to be around to celebrate my 25th college reunion in 2010, or at least whether I'll be able to enter the United States safely again in order to attend the festivities. I wonder if it will ever be possible for me to travel abroad without feeling as if I have a giant target painted on my back every time I have to show an American passport, thanks to the idiotic machinations of a bunch of complete nincompeeps. As a graduate student in history, I worry that I won't be able to get the access I need to archival materials in other countries to conduct my research because "my" government has pissed off so many of our erstwhile allies and they feel a need to retaliate in whatever ways they can.

Is it any wonder I feel like self-medicating myself into a happier state of mind until sometime around the last week of October? Or that what I'd like most in the world right now is to be able to go home, crawl into my bed, and pull the covers over my head and pretend like there isn't a giant shitstorm raging outside my window?

Fetch me a pitcher of margaritas and a very large straw, stat!


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28.4.04

This just in...
 

The Repugs truly have no shame. None. Nada. Zip. Bupkes.

They're even willing to use the Holocaust for political advantage, as evidenced by this little gem from a memo on "earned media opportunities" (otherwise known as whoring for votes through "photo opportunities") coming in May that was sent out by the RNCC:

Jewish Heritage Week (May 4-11): A good place to start for an event to highlight Jewish heritage is your local Jewish Community Center. One of the biggest issues facing many older Jewish Americans is stolen insurance benefits during the Holocaust. ...You can sign up as a co-sponsor [of a bill that "helps Holocaust survivors reclaim their insurance benefits stolen by the Nazis"] and then hold an event touting the legislation. It's HR 1905: The Comprehensive Holocaust Accountability in Insurance Measure (acronym is "CHAIM," which, in Hebrew, means "LIFE")...

Another one I loved was "Loyalty Day," which just happens to fall on May 1. We're all supposed to fly our flags that day to prove our loyalty. Funny, I thought that Flag Day was in June, and that loyalty oaths were unconstitutional. And the fact that May 1 is reserved for celebrating the worker (and those nasty labor unions) everywhere in the world outside the United States is of course a mere coincidence.

Or how about the blurb for "Older Americans Month." This was particularly rich:

The theme for this year's Older Americans Month is "Aging well, Living well." Because of your member's efforts, America's seniors are living well. Beyond the obvious - Medicare prescription drug rallies and town hall meetings, press conferences promising to protect Social Security, etc. - your member should talk about things that affect seniors' everyday lives. You member can hold a summit or workshop on housing issues, like long-term care housing, or mental health issues that affect seniors each year. A nutritionist can help you talk to seniors about the importance of eating right and exercising. Everything should be geared toward seniors not only extending their lives, but increasing the quality of their lives.

Yeah, everything except, you know, actual legislation or policies that might increase the quality of older Americans' lives. We wouldn't want to do anything like that. Might piss off our friends in the pharmaceutical industry, the insurance business, and the healthmanaged care industry.

Bastards. They must be swept from power in November.


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Happy Flunk Day!
 

I've just received word (alas, too late to act upon) that today is Flunk Day at The Alma MaterTM. By the rules of the day, that means y'all have to kiss me since I do still have my "Kiss me, it's Flunk Day" button. :-)

What, you may be asking, is Flunk Day? It's an old tradition where I went to school, dating back to an observance known as Roughneck Week in the 1920s. The upshot is that when the Old Main bell starts pealing at 4:30 a.m., you can arise (if you're not already awake and partying) knowing that classes are cancelled for the day, any assignments you might have had to turn in are deferred to the next class meeting, and the weather's forecast to be good enough to allow a day of mainly outdoor activities.

The purpose of Flunk Day is to allow Knox students to blow off a little of the pent-up steam created by 25-odd weeks of intensive academic effort, and to do so in less dangerous and hurtful ways than by going postal on their roommates. At least back in the Paleolithic Age when I was a student, the mornings tended to be a bit of a drunken debauch, and the afternoons were more mellow. By lunchtime, everybody was feeling pretty good, and the faculty brought their kids to campus to enjoy the picnic and the entertainment (usually a stand-up comic). The rest of the afternoon was for games, organized or otherwise, sleep if you could get it, and then a picnic supper, a last movie, and a closing dance wrapped up the occasion.

The world would be a better place, in my opinion, if everybody celebrated Flunk Day. So hoist an adult beverage of your choosing and celebrate it with me and my fellow Knoxites.

Slainte!


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Chimpy don't look good nekkid
 

The problem isn't that Emperor Chimpy has no more clothes on him than a newborn baby does. Nor is the problem that imagining Emperor Chimpy in the buff is probably going to make it difficult for me to get an erection for the next couple of weeks. No, the problem is the lengths to which the Bush régime will go to ensure that nobody ever confronts either of the two facts I've just stated.

Here in America, we have that pesky First Amendment. Freedom of the press, yadda, yadda, yadda. So they can't really muzzle the media here the way they would like to. (But given the fact that the U.S. media, for the most part and until very recently in the preznit's term, have had cojones too small to be visible under an electron microscope, BushCoTM haven't had to worry much on that front.)

The foreign media, however, are another story. They have a very annoying tendency of telling all the truth about Emperor Chimpy, and nothing but the truth about Emperor Chimpy, and doing so in a way that shows him every bit of respect that he deserves (i.e., none).

Which is why today's Moonie Times is reporting a story that begins thus: "The United States warned the Persian Gulf state of Qatar yesterday that an otherwise strong relationship between the two nations is being harmed by 'false' and 'inflammatory' anti-American coverage of Iraq by the Qatar-based Arab television network Al Jazeera."

Yeah. Anything that isn't the idolatrous hagiography of, say, The New Pravda or the Völksicher Beobachter-Formerly-Known-as-the-Wall Street Journal, must be "false" and "inflammatory" and "anti-American."

Earth to Skippy the Lying Disaster Monkey: You are NOT synonymous with America! In fact, you're more antithetical to America than synonymous with it. Just because they're criticizing you and painting a true picture of your utter idiocy doesn't mean they hate America!

But then, what the hell do I know? By his definition, I also hate Amurrika.

Oh, and a hat tip to Carlo Secondo over at The Fulcrum, who also hates Amurrika (one of the reasons I like his writing so well!), and who pointed me toward this story.


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I don't think so
 

"For better or worse, the country has no choice but to trust the president when it's at war." Thus spake former Associate White House Counsel Brad Berenson this morning on NPR. He was being interviewed by Nina Totenberg for a piece on the arguments today before the Supreme Court about whether or not the executive branch has the authority to declare U.S. citizens to be "enemy combatants" and thereafter to detain them indefinitely.

I'm sure President Lincoln wishes Mr. Berenson had been around in his day when, far from trusting his leadership, the American people questioned him at virtually every turn. Nor is it the case, I'm sure, that any Republican politician ever dared criticize FDR's leadership during the Second World War.

Moreover, both of those cases were instances of actual war, as defined by international law: sovereign nations, duking it out with one another through the vehicle of uniformed men. What we're in now is not war under that definition, and I should have expected a higher standard of legal knowledge from somebody who worked as one of the White House's lawyers until last year. War does not exist until Congress says it does, according to the Constitution, and Congress has not done so in quite some time.

Another lame argument offered by Berenson in support of the government's position today was that declaring someone to be an enemy combatant was simply the use of force (as, the government will argue in court today, authorized by the Congress) by any other name: "It's really no different than [sic] sending our military out in the field to shoot people who appear to be coming after us," Berenson said.

Actually, it is very different, and Berenson knows it. When we send our troops out into the field, they don't shoot people who "appear" to be "coming after us," they shoot people who are attacking us while wearing the uniforms of the other side. Shooting people who aren't wearing uniforms is a violation of the Geneva Conventions, for starters.

I would sooner eat dog shit than trust George W. Bush to tell me the time of day accurately while looking at a readout from the Naval Observatory's atomic clock. If that man told me the sun generally rises in the east, that the sky is blue, that the speed of light is approximately 3 × 108 meters per second, that Independence Day is July 4, or that pi is roughly equal to 3.14159.... I would demand independent confirmation of any of those facts before I would accept them based on his testimony. Consequently, I see no way that I could possibly trust him to tell the truth when he declared that this person standing there in front of a judge was an enemy combatant who should be locked away incommunicado "during His Majesty's pleasure," as they used to say in Britain.

Nor is there any reason I should have to, everything that Ted Olson will tell the Supremes today notwithstanding. I should have thought that the Fifth Amendment was crystal clear:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person ...be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law...

As I read those words, they tell me that if the government wants to hold anyone--citizen or foreign national--on any crime, it must dot its Is and cross its Ts. There must be evidence. The government must present that evidence to a judge or a grand jury and demonstrate that it is credible, and that it connects the accused to the crime in such a way that there is probable cause to try the accused for that crime. All the usual rights and privileges apply, because these "enemy combatants" are not members of "the land or naval forces" or of "the militia," even though this might qualify as a "time of ...public danger."

Totenberg also interviewed Virginia Public Defender Frank Dunham, who brought one of the cases the Supreme Court is being asked to rule on today. I think Mr. Dunham hit the nail squarely on the head when he said:

...We don't need to make fundamental changes in our democratic system in order to win. In fact, making those changes, in my mind, would be the surrender.

Right on, brother. One can only hope the rest of the justices will ignore Scalia/Thomas and rule in accordance with our unbroken tradition of the past 225 years and more.


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26.4.04

Earth to Karen
 

It seems Ms. Hughes is a little peeved that Sen. Kerry didn't actually throw his medals back onto the Capitol grounds back in 1971.

Fine. She can be as pissed about that as she wants, just as soon as she faces up to the fact that her boss didn't actually serve in the Vietnam conflict. Which is the greater pretense?


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Paging anyone who actually passed con law....
 

In a stump speech today in Missouri, thus spake Big Dick:

"In his years in Washington, Senator Kerry has been one vote of 100 in the U.S. Senate and fortunately on matters of national security, he was often the minority. But the president always casts the deciding vote and the senator from Massachusetts has given us ample grounds to doubt the judgment and the attitude he brings to bear on vital issues of national security." (Emphasis mine)

Perhaps the Puppetmaster-in-Chief needs to re-read Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution. Doesn't say anything about the preznit in there. And the only time the vice-preznit (president of the Senate) gets to vote is when they're deadlocked, as any high-school graduate in this country should know--but apparently the vice p(R)esident does not.

Y'know, maybe we should just haul him and Emperor Chimpy and the rest of this sorry lot of nincompeeps (that's their chickenhawk streak talking, by the way) out to the curb with the rest of yesterday's trash. Or better yet, haul 'em all off in orange jumpsuits and manacles after we indict them for treason. Yeah. I like that option a lot better. Bastards!


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He used the T-word! He used the T-word!
 

Wow, indeed. Via B3 I came across this op-ed from Robert Bowman (USAF, Ret.). Here are the two money grafs:

Here is the truth that we proclaim. This war has nothing to do with national security or freedom or democracy or human rights or protecting our allies or weapons of mass destruction or defeating terrorism or disarming Iraq. It has to do with money. It has to do with oil. And it has to do with raw imperial power. It is based on a pack of lies. And it is wrong. Those who forced this war on an unwilling world are guilty of flagrantly violating the US Constitution, the UN Charter, and international law. What they have done is illegal, immoral, unconstitutional and TREASON.

It's been said that somewhere in Texas there is a village looking for their idiot. Now that may be funny, but it misses the point. George W. Bush is not an imbecile. He is a TRAITOR.

And, icing on the cake, Bowman is from the Catholic tradition, though he's broken away from the Roman stream.


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25.4.04

Ha-Shem grant him peace
 

If you're the praying kind, would you please take a moment to remember the passing of Yehuda Mazur, who died today after a short illness. He was the father of a friend and client of mine, formerly of Chicago and now living in Israel.


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Rod Paige redux: I call bullshit!
 

Somewhere in Amurrika today, Rod Paige is smiling. He's been in hot water ever since he compared the National Education Association to a terrorist organization. Well, Rod, you can relax from here on out: there's a new kid on the block, and the heat's off you.

Appearing today on CNN to sanitize the mass of anti-Bush fervor unrolling on the Mall at the Planned Parenthood march, Karen Hughes had this to say:

"I think that after September 11, the American people are valuing life more and we need policies to value the dignity and worth of every life," she said. "President Bush has worked to say, let's be reasonable, let's work to value life, let's reduce the number of abortions, let's increase adoptions. And I think those are the kinds of policies the American people can support, particularly at a time when we're facing an enemy and, really, the fundamental issue between us and the terror network we fight is that we value every life."

In other words, if you're pro-choice, you're a part of the "terror network." To which I reply, Bullshit, bullshit, and...bullshit!

Apparently Ms. Hughes fails to recognize the tremendous irony of painting the man who gleefully signed nearly 200 death warrants in his single term as head of the Texas execution factory, and then publicly mocked one woman who had pleaded for clemency as either "reasonable" or as someone who "value[s] the dignity and worth of every life." And let's not forget the thousands of lives lost in Iraq and Afghanistan because of her boss's hard-on for smiting the "unrighteous" on the flimsiest possible evidence and without anything remotely resembling proper planning. Or the 3,000 lives lost because Emperor Chimpy was too busy going fishing and playing golf to do his fucking JOB and read the reports his National Security Adviser brings him every day.

The Rabid Right as a whole, as exemplified by Skippy the Lying Disaster Monkey, is "pro-life" only in the sense that it opposes abortion for any reason. As their policy statements, political platforms, and the laws they have enacted while holding the reins of power amply demonstrate, however, I believe they would more accurately be described, in the words of His Holiness John Paul II, as "a veritable 'culture of death'" (Evangelium Vitae, no. 12).

Every sperm may be sacred to the Goopers, and fetuses in the womb should be considered full human beings and protected from being injured or killed. But once the kid pops out the chute, as far as they're concerned it can go screw: forget about making pre- and post-natal care more affordable and accessible to all, or about providing quality schools, affordable day care, or jobs that pay enough to support a family. Tear children out of the hands of loving parents because those parents aren't married (or, better still, forbid them to marry because they're gay or lesbian and then take their kids away). And then if they do wrong, ship 'em off to prison and execute them at state expense, all in the name of valuing "every life."

I don't think so!

Updated to link to the CNN transcript, since the New Pravda cravenly removed Hughes' offensive remarks from the online story I had previously linked to.


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24.4.04

Bravo!
 

Via the good Roger Ailes, I came to this post from Tristero. It addresses a complaint that I and many others have been making for lo! these many moons.

Why is it that the Goooper fringe and a certain narrow segment of Protestant evangelism have been able to appropriate unto themselves the "religious" label in America and American politics? Sure, slightly more than half of all American citizens self-identify as Protestants when asked, but that's a very, very broad label. That includes, just off the top of my head, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, Southern Baptists, Mennonites, Congregationalists, Unitarian/Universalists, and others too numerous to mention.

Even looking at the matter solely from a statistical standpoint, the wingnuts and the fundies are wrong. According to 2001 data at Adherents.com, the Catholic Church has more members in the United States than any other Christian denomination. Similarly, of the roughly two billion Christians around the world, a bit more than half of them are Catholic. Clearly there is more than one way to be Christian in the United States, and those who are most vocally and emphatically proclaiming their "Christianity," while not an insignificant number by any means, are not the majority viewpoint.

The conclusion to Tristero's post is worth quoting in full (and you should definitely click on the link above and read the rest of it):

The right wing should not have a free pass to say whatever fool nonsense they want simply because they pretend they are doing "what God wants them to." That is a lie that deserves no respect at all. There is no reason under the sun why anyone should feel even the slightest compunction about laughing in the face of Sun Myung Moon or Judge Roy Moore or even George W. Bush, when he claims he is on a crusade from God. Bush is many, many things, but one thing he is not is God's infallible messenger. He should be held up to extended public ridicule whenever he implies such a thing (which according to my count, he's done at least three times in a particularly obnoxious way).

And liberals should not buy into the right wing framing of the issue that equates a well deserved disrespect for cynical political operatives with disrespect of religion. Most of this country, left, center, sideways and right, is religious. We all have an equal obligation to respect others and disrepect others who deliberately violate that respect for political gain. The right wing have shown themselves increasingly intolerant of everyone who disagrees with them. The time is long overdue to tell them to take their fake piety and shove it.

Simply calling oneself a Christian, or claiming that a given position or course of action is the one, true Christian thing to do, will not make it so. For all of George W. Bush's frequent self-declarations of his Christianity, while I would never presume to judge the state of another person's soul, I find myself tremendously skeptical as to the veracity of those claims. Jesus Himself gave us the appropriate yardstick to measure with when He told the disciples (Matthew 7:16 and 7:20), "By their fruits you will know the difference between them." The fruits produced by the BushCoTM régime, to me at least, do not look anything at all like the fruits of the Holy Spirit (charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1832).

By the same token, for my money, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, James Dobson, and their ilk are no more ministers of the Gospel than is Saddam Hussein. They are political operatives cloaking their bigoted, biased agendas with a veneer of the holy that isn't even skin-deep. Some years ago, there was an editorial cartoon that I thought made this point very graphically. The top panel showed a huge stretch limousine; the bottom, a well-worn pair of sandals. The captions under the panels read, respectively, "Jerry Falwell's mode of transportation" and "Mother Teresa's mode of transportation."

I am sick to death of being treated like a satanic torturer of children simply because I am politically liberal (to say nothing of the fact that I'm a Catholic, which also attracts criticism from some of the soi-disant Christians on the right), and just as sick of being made to feel like George W. Bush and his gang of goons somehow represent the best of what Christianity stands for and has to offer the world. If that were a true statement, Christianity would well and truly be in deep shite.

Another thing that gets my dander up is the wingnuts' assertion that we are a Christian nation, and that separation of church and state is a myth dreamed up by evil libruls to deceive the gullible into failing to live up to their true Christian mission, which is apparently to bring about theocracy in America in their lifetimes. Me, I'm very happy that the people who created this nation said that no one creed got to run everything or determine the course of the nation or its politics. That separation gives me maximum freedom to practice my faith to the best of my understanding and ability, without preventing anyone who believes differently from doing the same. It's a win-win situation and I see no good reason to change it.

Update 27.iv.04. Conrad in the comments pointed me to this site, which is also very good on this topic. A hearty Musing's musings welcome and thank-you to him!


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23.4.04

Public service announcement
 

If you receive an e-mail (the one I know about purports to come from CNN.com) stating that Osama bin Laden has been captured and offering a handy-dandy link to click on for photos and more details, DON'T CLICK THE LINK! It's a Trojan horse that will download onto your computer.

In general, you should be suspicious of any blind e-mail you receive with "breaking news" or fabulous deals. In the e-mail that I saw, although the information supposedly came from CNN.com, the link provided for recipients to click on didn't reference CNN.com at all--which should be a great big red warning sign. If you get such an e-mail, again, DON'T CLICK THE LINK! Instead, open your browser and surf to your favorite news portal directly. If OBL has been captured, I'm sure you won't have any trouble finding all the details you want.


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22.4.04

Never doubt that God has a sense of humor!
 

I've long felt a close kinship with St. Peter. Not because I have sufficient faith to enable me to walk on water, or because I think I'd make a great pope. (Well, OK, I do think I'd make at least an OK pope.) Rather, it's because St. Peter was not, shall we say, the sharpest Apostle in the drawer: and I can relate to that problem very well. Whenever I read through the Gospels and they talk about Peter's interactions with Jesus, I have this odd subtext running around inside my head of Jesus mumbling to himself, "Oh, come on, Peter. You can't possibly be that dumb!"

During the halcyon days at the Once-and-Future-Parish, we used to talk a lot about what we called the "Cosmic 2×4 Moments." That's when you're bumbling along, scratching your head and trying to figure out what's going on and all of a sudden God thwacks you upside the head and you get it.

When I'm not giggling with giddy glee, I'm hoping that everyone's favorite fundie has-been, Randall Terry, is having a Cosmic 2×4 Moment of his own right now. You see his adopted son, Jamiel, has just outed himself in the Washington Post. One of his adopted daughters, now barred from Terry's home, has had two children out of wedlock. Another of his adopted daughters has had a child out of wedlock and converted to Islam.

In other words, as far as the standards Terry himself would likely apply in this situation, he's been a miserable failure when it comes to raising his kids right. I fully expect that he will be lobbying in Washington within a few days for a bill that would make it illegal for evangelical Protestant Christians to adopt children, on the grounds that they are clearly unfit parents.

OK, that was a snarky dig at a guy who's just taken a couple of good hits to the body. It was cheap, and I shouldn't have done it. But it felt so good!

Seriously, though, I hope (for Terry's sake, as well as his children's) that this will prove to be a learning and a growth experience for Terry. Maybe now that he can put a face to the problem of teen-age pregnancy and confused kids growing up gay in a straight world, he won't be quite so much of an asshole anymore and won't rush to tell such kids that they're going to burn in hell for all eternity. Now wouldn't that be loverly? To say nothing of Christian?

Unfortunately, since Randall blames Jamiel's "problem" on the influences of his biological mother and accuses his son of "prostituting his name," it's probably more likely that monkeys will fly out of my butt later this evening.


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God rot the miserable bastards in hell!
 

It is simply beyond belief that anybody could think this was a good idea. That the Michigan Catholic Conference actively lobbied for the bill is an abrogation of everything the Catholic Church has ever said about ministering to the afflicted, and Ken Untener's corpse is barely cold in his grave or I'm sure he'd be shouting about this at the top of his lungs. I've got to think Bishop Gumbleton of Detroit is fulminating, too, though his cardinal is probably applauding the legislation.

What am I on about this time? Just this little bill, passed yesterday by the Michigan House. It would prohibit disciplinary or legal action against doctors and other health care providers for refusing to provide treatment to gay or lesbian patients. The bill allows health-care workers to refuse treatment to anyone on moral, ethical, or religious grounds. So you can't refuse to treat a black patient because she's black, but you can refuse to treat the victim of a drug overdose because you're opposed to drug abuse. Or you can refuse to treat a gay man because he has sex with other men and you think that's just icky.

Update: There are more miserable bastards in Colorado, apparently. Via BlogAmy via The Fulcrum.

Well, here's what I think is icky: that any doctor, nurse, paramedic/EMT, or any other health care professional would ever refuse to treat anyone in need of their care. Healing the sick doesn't imply approving of their lifestyles, and it is, after all, what these people do for a living. Don't want to come into contact with people who do things you disapprove of? Let me urge you to find a nice quiet, isolated commune in the mountains somewhere, then, where you won't have to run into anybody who might shake up your precarious world-view.

The original version of the Hippocratic Oath states "Into whatever houses I enter, I will go into them for the benefit of the sick..." That seems pretty cut-and-dried to me. You're there as a doctor to heal those in need of healing, not to pass judgment on what they do when you're not around.

Jesus is not smiling on Michigan today, I suspect. And right now I'm engaging in some viscerally pleasing fantasies of what the encounter might be like when those who pushed for this bill wind up face-to-face with their Lord: fantasies, I suspect, which are going to add another couple of centuries to my time in Purgatory, at least.

Hat tip to Atrios for the link.


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21.4.04

The Danton case gets weirder, and ESPN's coverage, blander
 

Judging from the number of visitors I've gotten to this site through various search engines and terms involving permutations of "Mike Danton," "NHL," "gay," and "agent," I conclude that there are plenty of people out there who are interested in this story, and that I'm one of the few bloggers to have mentioned it. Guess there must not be a whole lot of gay-positive hockey fans in the blogosphere. Yet.

As I mentioned in my first post on the Danton story, I was hoping that Doug Weight's comments last week pointed toward the possibility that it would be OK for a gay NHLer to come out. There seems to be a bit of good news on that front, at least according to this story. Both Weight and St. Louis defenseman Chris Pronger were quoted as saying they'd "support any fellow Blue regardless of sexuality as long as he [was] a good teammate."

I have to say, I'm more than a bit surprised to hear those words coming out of Chris Pronger's mouth. He's a big, mean, bully of a defenseman, and I've never much cared for his style of play. (I was particularly peeved toward the start of the season when he cross-checked Paul Kariya of the Avalanche--a man about half Pronger's size--face-first into the ice after Kariya had scored a goal against the Blues, and didn't even get called for the obvious penalty.) On the other hand, if a guy known around the league for being tough as nails can come forward to support the possibility of having a gay guy playing on his team, maybe that will encourage the rest of the NHL players to be supportive of their potentially gay teammates as well.

As for the Danton case, the waters just get muddier and muddier. His agent has gone on record saying that there was absolutely no gay involvement in the, you should excuse the expression, "affair." I don't find that statement particularly credible, especially considering that another possible explanation floating around the media is that Danton's agent was himself the target of the alleged hit being planned, and also that the agent was the alleged lover in question. And the agent has a past as checkered and bizarre as Danton's own.

Meanwhile, the coverage on ESPN has gotten even more vanilla than it was when this whole thing started--which I wouldn't have thought possible. I watched in bewildered frustration as John Buccigross, ESPN's premier hockey analyst/broadcaster read out developments on the story during intermission reports and on "NHL Tonight" earlier this week without once even hinting that there might be a gay angle to this incident. The more details that came out from the media in St. Louis and elsewhere, the less ESPN said about it, eventually reducing itself to describing the victim of the alleged contract simply as "a person."

C'mon, John. This isn't helping any. I can understand not wanting to fuel some of the more lurid speculations that are going around the hockey world (and elsewhere) in the wake of these allegations. But you can't simply make them go away by not mentioning them. And by your silence on the air, you merely reinforce the idea that the only way to be gay in the NHL is to stay so deeply in the closet that you might consider killing anyone who could potentially force you out of it. That won't help Danton, who seems very clearly to need it, and neither will it help any of his fellow NHLers who might be gay and deciding how to deal with that based on how this story plays out with the fans and the media. Report the facts, please, Bucci: appropriately, tastefully, and with respect for everyone involved. But you've got to give us all the facts.

(Oh, and to the person at the Data Lounge who suggested that I might need to look up the meaning of the word "verbose," two things. First, I already know what the word means. I be edukashunated, after all. Second, bite me.)


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20.4.04

Impeach. Bush. NOW!
 

I had a bit of a Twilight Zone moment last night in my World War II history class. We were watching the end of When Trumpets Fade, a good movie about an all-but-forgotten battle for a pointless plot of forest on the German border near Aachen. The battle ate nearly three whole divisions (The official history states that more than 8,000 men "fell prey in the forest to combat exhaustion and the elements. Another 23,000 were either wounded, missing, captured, or killed. That was an average of more than 5,000 casualties per division.") in three months' time, but nobody remembers it because about a week after it ended, the Battle of the Bulge began.

Anyway, at one point in the movie Ron Eldard's character--a sad sack first lieutenant at the time, though he'd been a private three days previously--says "What's it matter? We're all going to die anyway."

I heard those words yesterday, in that context, and of course I flashed on Skippy's saying much the same thing in one of his interviews with Woodward that's been splashed around the 'sphere and the media lately. And then I found myself wondering just how many of our men and women wearing desert cammies when they thought they'd be home by now are saying the same thing to their buddies and linemates, all because that incompetent fuckwad in the White House couldn't be bothered to plan properly for a war we should never have started, or even to listen to the people he pays to do that for him.

In a just and fair world, Bush would be wearing prison issue about now, looking forward to spending the rest of his life making very small rocks out of very big ones. Bastard!

(Adapted from a comment I left at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)


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18.4.04

Fear and loathing: The closet strikes again
 

A little light begins to dawn. As with anyone who follows hockey even a little bit, I had heard the story of the FBI's arrest of St. Louis Blues forward Mike Danton on allegations of attempting a murder for hire. (In fact, I heard the story break live on ESPN2 during one of the conference quarterfinal games in the Stanley Cup playoffs last week.)

But there was always something just a little fishy in the details that were being presented. All that I've heard mentioned on ESPN during the hockey coverage, and most of what I've seen online has been along the lines of the following, from this AP story:

The complaint alleges that Danton was trying to kill a[n] ... acquaintance whom he had fought with Tuesday over Danton's "promiscuity and use of alcohol.'' The complaint said Danton feared the acquaintance, who is not identified, would talk to St. Louis Blues management and ruin Danton's career.

To which my mental comment has always been, "Yes, and?" The NHL has had its share of problems with players who abuse alcohol, and there have been a couple of NHL players suspended or put on injured reserve this year to get into the league-sponsored treatment program. But drinking regularly is not, in and of itself, necessarily a problem for a hockey player. Hell, with all the energy they burn in a single game, the bastards don't even have to worry about getting a beer gut. And while I suspect there are fewer hockey groupies than there are, say, for football or baseball players, I have to imagine that the average NHLer who's looking for a little companionship after a game probably isn't going to have to look all that far.

Now here's some additional material that I haven't heard on "NHL Tonight" or during ESPN's intermission reports. It's from the same AP story I linked to above. See if you can write the ending based on this:

Dave Frost, Danton's agent, told the Post-Dispatch: "We don't as of yet have all the facts. I spoke with Mike. We're fully supportive of him, and we fully intend to be behind him, and with him. Unequivocally, I can tell you it had nothing to do with drugs and alcohol, period. Once we get all the facts, we'll be able to realize what really happened. He's a good kid. He really is.''

Frost also told the Post-Dispatch for Sunday editions that Danton had asked him a week ago to help set up counseling for him for fears and other emotional problems.

"He had things he wanted to get off his chest and he needed help to do so,'' Frost said. "We were setting something up for him for the end of the season.''

[Blues forward Doug] Weight said what Danton does in his personal life is his own business and shouldn't have been a problem for the team.

"Let's preface it by saying who knows what the situation is,'' Weight said. "There's rumors of what went on and who exactly was involved with this so-called thing.

"Let's not jump to conclusions, but you know what, hypothetically I think it would be fine. I'd like to think people are bigger than that and look into the person as a person and as a teammate.''

In case you're still stumped, here are the key paragraphs from another story on the incident:

(Chicago, Illinois) The FBI has charged St. Louis Blues forward Mike Danton with ordering a hit on a man the Bureau says was Danton's boyfriend.

[edit]

But, when the FBI went to the intended victim's home, the man told investigators that he was Danton's lover, and they lived together. He told agents "that he and Danton had a severe argument on Tuesday, April 13, 2004 concerning Danton's promiscuity and use of alcohol."

The man told investigators that during the argument he "threatened to leave Danton," the FBI court papers claim.

After the FBI had foiled the plot, the man Danton wanted dead allowed investigators to record a telephone conversation with Danton, according to the allegation.

"[He] asked Danton why he wanted to have him killed. Danton broke down and sobbed," court papers said.

"Danton explained that he felt backed into a corner and felt that the acquaintance was going to leave him. Danton did not want to allow the acquaintance to leave him, and therefore decided to have him murdered."*

IF true (and I can't emphasize enough that all of this is mere allegation and speculation at the present moment: none of it has been proven in a court of law), this sorry incident only re-emphasizes the importance of the gay-rights movement. While it is undoubtedly the case that gay and lesbian folk have a much easier time of things overall now than they did even when I was knee-high to a grasshopper, there's still a very long way to go before being gay is no more controversial than having red hair or brown eyes.

Professional sports is probably among the last bastions of stereotypical (hyper-)"masculinity," as witness any number of stories in recent years (e.g., former Major League Baseball umpire Dave Pallone, former Olympic diver Greg Louganis, former baseball player Billy Bean, and former NFL player Esera Tuaolo). Typically, when an athlete (or a former athlete) comes out, the reaction is not great: as witness the fact that the word "former" appears in front of every name in the list above, or Mike Piazza's reaction last year when rumors were floated that there might be a gay player on his team and he might be that player. Apart from Martina Navratilova and Amelie Mauresmo in women's professional tennis and Rudy Galindo in men's figure skating, I can't think of a single out gay or lesbian athlete in professional sports who's still competing.

I would love it if Doug Weight's comments above were to come true: that it would make no difference in the Blues' locker room if Danton were on the team as an out gay man. I'd also hope it wouldn't make any difference on the ice, because I'm sure there's more than one gay guy playing professional hockey--and probably living in the same kind of paralyzing fear that seems to have gripped Mike Danton.

The only thing that should matter in sports is an athlete's ability to perform as required. If s/he can do that, and do it as well as or better than everybody else in the sport, then what bloody difference does it make whom s/he chooses to spend time with in the off-season or away from the team?

The saddest part of this sad affair is the fact (and again, I must stress this: if it is a fact) that Danton was so afraid of what his teammates or his opponents might think of him, or say or do to him, or how the fans would react, that he felt there was no other way out except to remove the source of the problem and kill the person who could spill the beans on his double life. Never mind the fact that they may have been in love: their relationship could be seen as a threat to Danton's ability to earn a living playing the sport he loves, and therefore the relationship had to go, and Danton tried to kill his former(?) partner.

God be with them both in the troubled times that lie ahead. And God change the hearts and minds of those bigoted idiots who still haven't figured out that the gender of the person with whom one sleeps or chooses to spend one's life is the least important thing about them.

*Thanks to Greg at News from the Sixth Borough for pointing me to the one story to shed some important light on this affair. He's new to the blogosphere, so go show him a little love: you can find his site in my blogroll at left.


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It's tinfoil-hat time again!
 

So Condoliesherarseoff Rice thinks there may be a terrorist attack in the runup to the November elections. Continuing to pimp for the asinine meme that the Madrid bombings last month constituted an attempt to influence the Spanish elections (and that it worked), our insecure National Security Adviser said that our presidential elections in November would be an opportunity "too good to pass up" for the terrorists.

Only in your dreams, Condi: and the nightmares of the rest of the free world, including a majority of American citizens that are going to vote your sorry arse, and that of your even more sorry boss, right out of office in 198 days. And you might want to jot this one down in your little black book so you remember it, in the unlikely event you ever again occupy a prominent political position: it's not an October Surprise if you spill the beans in April!

To make a bad situation worse, Condi was even more incoherent than usual in her appearance on Faux News Sunday: "I think that we do have to take very seriously the thought that the terrorists might have learned, we hope, the wrong lesson from Spain," she said. You want to run that one by me one more time, slowly? You hope the terrorists might have learned the wrong lesson? And what lesson might that be? That you and your boss are complete idiots, in addition to being clueless tools willing to prostitute yourselves for pennies if it means you'll get to hang on to your ill-gotten power and what scraps of fading prestige you have left?

If anything, Bush and Condi and Rummy and Big Dick (and the rest of the gang of thieves, hypocrites, and inveterate liars that constitute the BushCoTM cabinet) have only increased the likelihood of terrorist strikes against the United States by their actions since taking office. Hell, I think they just about doubled that risk in the last couple of days since Skippy the Lying Disaster Monkey became Ariel Sharon's Bitch-in-Chief.

If, God forbid, terrorists do strike the United States within the next 200 days, there will be hell to pay. They will only guarantee their destruction, because they will have handed John Kerry a landslide victory over the Asses of Evil--the people whose laser-like focus on the War on Terra was so strong that they drained off our resources into a fruitless war of private revenge completely unrelated to our objective of finding and bringing to justice those responsible for the attacks of 11 September 2001. The ones who are so concerned to find the truth about what happened on that day and how it came to pass that they have lied, evaded responsibility, and pointed fingers at anyone and everyone that even looked like they might have been in the vicinity at the time, because they knew the results of a fair and unbiased examination of the "facts on the ground" (to use one of Skippy's new catch-phrases) would make them look like the utter morons they are. (A helpful hint, folks: when you point one finger at somebody else, there are three pointing back at you.) The Kerry administration will not be so easily distracted, if only because We the People aren't going to sit still for that kind of bullshit any longer.

We're on notice, my fellow citizens. The mask of benign folly is off, and the face of the monster underneath has been revealed.

Very well. They've told us we should be worried that terrorists (as opposed to the Republican National Committee?) will try to disrupt our peaceful electoral process this year. Bush has already had his month-long vacation in Crawford, and they've still got 198 days to prepare a response to a threat they seem to think is real (unlike the last one, which apparently didn't raise any eyebrows or set any ghastly hairdos on fire). If, quod Deus avertat, they turn out to be correct and a terrorist strike does occur, they will have only themselves to blame--again. And they should pay for their second terrorist fuck-up with their jobs, if not their liberty.

If, on the other hand, by some miracle they do manage to stop a planned attack (or one that they could fake up reasonably convincingly between now and Election Day), it only begs the question of why, with more time in which to work, they so spectacularly loused up on 11 September 2001. For that mistake alone, they should be voted out of office and then tried for criminal negligence. Never mind the crimes they've committed since then.


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16.4.04

"Aid and comfort"
 

E. J. Dionne has ripped Skippy a new one. Replying to the Chief Waffle Queen's assertion that Americans expressing their concern about a latter-day Vietnam were giving aid and comfort to our enemies (which, by the way, is essentially to accuse us of treason, since that's the one of the key phrases used to define treason in the U.S. Constitution), Dionne had this to say:

No, Mr. President, what sends the wrong message is when our country doesn't put enough troops on the ground in the first place to do the job right. It doesn't help that you were unwilling to make clear in advance that bringing democracy to Iraq would involve a long struggle and a great expenditure of American treasure. It doesn't make our troops more secure for a president to divide the country by trashing his critics as unpatriotic. And it doesn't build support for a great experiment in democratization when the president fails to explain how he is going to win the thing.

I actually agree with the president that it's good Hussein is gone, that it would be a great thing to bring democracy to Iraq, that it would be a disaster if this venture fails. But if we fail, the fault will not lie with Bush's opponents. It will lie with an administration that thought it could pursue a series of radical theories all at once and not worry about the impact of reality on its plans. If Bush wants his war to succeed, he owes the country more than he offered this week.

If that be treason, then sign me up.


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What's next, "Gun Talk"?
 

Also on "Morning Edition" today (sorry, I can't seem to find a story link on their homepage, so you'll have to trust me on this one), I heard what now seems to have been a brief follow-up to a story from last December about the National Rifle Association trying to claim status as a media outlet. If I'm recalling today's story correctly, the NRA has bought itself a news organ, so that effort seems to be marching forward.

This decision was apparently taken as a result of the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law. It seems the NRA doesn't appreciate not being able to spend what a Blackadder episode once called "flipping great wodges of cash" in attempts to influence elections. In a summary appearing on NewsMax on 8 December 2003 (I know, consider the source!), NRA Executive Director Wayne LaPierre was quoted thusly:

We're looking at bringing a court case that we're as legitimate a media outlet as Disney or Viacom or Time Warner. Why should they have an exclusive right to relay information to the public, and why should not NRA be considered as legitimate a news source as they are? That's never been explored legally.

The summary went on to note that if the NRA proved successful in its attempt to morph from a lobbying group into a media outlet, they could say anything they wanted about any candidates in any races at any time, and spend corporate money to do so. Because it is now considered a political lobbying organization, the NRA (partially funded with corporate donations) cannot run ads mentioning federal candidates on state ballots in the blackout period just prior to any elections.

I must say, I find LaPierre's suggestion that Disney, Viacom, and Time Warner are "legitimate ...news source[s]" to be deliciously ironic. That the NRA wants to join that club is hardly surprising, though dismaying nevertheless. What's next: "Gun Talk" with Charlton Heston on talk radio right after the Limboob? I'll pass, thank you very much.


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Bush losing hearts and minds
 

...of the men and women he's sending to Iraq. Eric Westervelt did a story on "Morning Edition" today about the recent decision to extend the tour of duty of some 20,000 troops in Iraq (mostly from the National Guard and the Reserves), who had been promised no more than a year's stint after their boots hit the ground in the combat zone.

It's fortunate for me that I had finished brushing my teeth by the time Westervelt quoted Ronald Dumsfeld as follows, or I'd have been cleaning used toothpaste off my bathroom mirror for another month:

I certainly would not have estimated that we would have had the number of individuals lost that we have lost in the last week.

No shit, Dummy. You thought the Iraqis were going to be throwing flowers and chocolates at our men and women in uniform. Apparently that whole bit about bullets and bombs never crossed your mind, or the idea that maybe the people of Iraq wouldn't be quite as thrilled as you were at having their country "liberated" from Saddam, only to be turned over to the not-so-tender, not-quite-mercies of Halliburton.

But the biggest danger sign for the Bush régime came in a graffito that Westervelt says is found scrawled in the barracks of the Guard and Reserve forces across Iraq. It reads, according to the story, as follows:

One weekend a month, my ass!

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15.4.04

The Middle East mess gets messier
 

I awoke this morning to news reports that suggested, if I may be graphically blunt, that the Waffle Queen-in-Chief had gone from kissing Ariel Sharon's arse at every possible opportunity to dropping trou and inviting the Israeli leader to ravish him at will.

Let me get a couple of things out in the open right away before I go on about this situation. First, I am unequivocally and absolutely supportive of the right of Israel to exist as a sovereign nation and as a Jewish homeland. Second, not only are some of my best friends Jews, they're Israeli Jews. Third, I've been to Israel myself (twice), and look forward to the day when I can go back again and visit some of those friends, and see more of a beautiful country that is rich in history and culture, to say nothing of several of the holiest sites sacred to my faith tradition.

All of that said, I do not believe that whatever Israel does must necessariliy be right, simply because it is Israel that does it. Believing that Israel has a right to exist and to be secure within her borders does not commit me to supporting every action Israel takes allegedly in furtherance of that goal, any more than being a patriotic American commits me to accepting blindly whatever drivel the preznit chooses to call American policy. In fact, as I see the matter in both instances, my stance obligates me to call bullshit whenever I see it. And unfortunately, when it comes to the Middle East, bullshit is abundant.

I could not be happier that the so-called "roadmap to peace" is now apparently dead and buried. That plan has been little more than a putrid, rotting albatross chained around the necks of all of us who want peace and stability in the Middle East more or less from the moment it was committed to paper. Its sole virtue was that it was better than nothing: hardly a ringing endorsement of any policy, no matter how desirable the goal it aimed to achieve. If we are ever to achieve a just and lasting peace in the Middle East, we need the very best from everyone associated with trying to bring it about. The "roadmap" was far from being the best we could do, and our leaders should be ashamed at having clung to a manifestly unworthy vehicle for so long, even in pursuit of an eminently worthy end.

But I am disgusted that Skippy the Lying Disaster Monkey, while killing off one useless plan that had no chance of bringing either peace or security to anyone (Israeli or Palestinian), has not only embraced an even more useless plan that also has no chance of creating peace or security, but has thrown away the last four decades of U.S. policy on the Middle East in doing so. I would be outraged at this blatant suck-up to the Sharon régime if I hadn't already blown my outrage circuitry railing at every other stupid move the Bush régime has made since stealing office in 2000.

Let's face up to some other salient, if unpleasant, facts. There is right and wrong on all sides of the Middle East question--both Israeli and Palestinian. Both groups have legitimate gripes, both groups have resorted to illegitimate and hateful methods to achieve their ends, and both groups have been dishonest brokers in many rounds of previous peace talks.

Bush, as usual noticing only those facts that conveniently fit into his predetermined (or should I say "predestined"?) world-view, has apparently chosen to overlook the flaws of the Israeli leadership and has embraced Sharon's unilateral disengagement option. The Palestinians are, not unreasonably, furious at being rebuffed. Although one commentator I read on the issue this morning (and regrettably I can't seem to find which one it was) graphically described Bush's action as pissing on their campfire, I think a more appropriate description of what El Stupido has done is to try dousing it with gasoline.

The BBC has a good summary of just what Skippy agreed to yesterday. In a nutshell, Sharon is proposing to withdraw unilaterally from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank. Unlike the "roadmap" plan, Sharon's proposal is not explicitly a two-state solution. That's its first flaw.

It is clearly impossible to achieve a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict if both the Israelis and the Palestinians cannot have defined territories with agreed-upon borders that are defensible and within which each group can have an assurance that its citizens will be reasonably secure. That is not only a matter of justice, it's a matter of international law, according to U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 (1967).

And if it is unacceptable to demand that Israel revert to its original, 1948 borders (and I believe that it is, since those borders were neither defensible nor fairly drawn), it is every bit as unacceptable to demand that the Palestinians accept whatever bantustan crumbs the Sharon régime is willing to allow them, scattered hither and yon across the map of Israel wherever there doesn't happen to be something that the Israelis want for themselves. Such Palestinian borders would also be indefensible and unfairly drawn, and that's not an acceptable solution to this (or any other) problem.

Bush also agreed with Sharon to reject Palestinian claims of a right of return to their homes in what is now Israeli territory. This is a very thorny question. On the one hand, property that was expropriated or annexed illegally should of course be returned to its original, lawful owners. But on the other hand, the only way to do that would be to draw exactly the kind of bantustani borders that the Palestinians have already objected to. Compromises will have to be worked out, and if it is impossible to restore property to its original owners, they will necessarily have to be compensated fully and fairly for their losses. That this is a solution that will please no one is self-evident, but I don't see any reasonable way to avoid it short of embracing the unembraceable goal of organizations like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, for whom the only reasonable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian situation is for the Israelis to disappear from the face of the earth--or at least the map of what they continue to refer to as Palestine.

The good news in all of this is that Sharon's plan is just a proposal at this stage. It has not even received a stamp of approval from the members of his governing Likud Party, though a referendum within the party on Sharon's plan has been scheduled for early May. From all I've heard on the matter, it's anyone's guess how that referendum will turn out, though speculation at this point has been that the results are likely to be very close. If, and only if, Sharon wins that intra-party referendum will his plan then be submitted to the cabinet and finally to the Knesset for its approval.

Given the peculiar nature of Israeli politics it's impossible to say for sure what would happen there, though my sense is that Sharon's proposal would never pass. For one thing, most Israelis desperately want peace and stability, and they have to know that Sharon's plan won't bring it about. Which of course begs the question of why Shrub thought it was such a good idea to embrace Sharon's plan whole-heartedly. I bet somebody forgot to read the preznit the briefing points on this issue before his meeting.


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How I wish I could see this headline in a U.S. paper!
 

From today's edition of The Guardian: Hear no evil, read no evil, speak drivel. The opinion piece opens with a devastating contrast between our last president with the initials JFK and the current pResident, GWB:

On April 21 1961, President Kennedy held a press conference to answer questions on the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion by Cuban exiles that he had approved. "There's an old saying," he said, "that victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan ... I am the responsible officer of the government and that is quite obvious."

On Wednesday, President Bush held only his third press conference and was asked three times whether he accepted responsibility for failing to act on warning before September 11. "I'm sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference with all the pressure of trying to come up with an answer, but it hadn't [sic] yet," he said. "I just haven't - you just put me under the spot here and maybe I'm not quick - as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one."

It just gets better (or worse, if you're Bush) from there. Go read it!


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14.4.04

Things that make one say "Hmmm...."
 

So I'm looking through my Site Meter stats as I often do (it's nice to see where people who visit here come from). One of the nicer (and often most interesting) features of the statistics they provide is the actual search phrases that users enter before visiting the site.

I think this one may be the most interesting on this site to date. I'm just dying to know what prompted someone to search on a combination of "Jerry Falwell" and "Hubble Telescope." I wouldn't normally expect those two to hang out in the same neighborhoods, nor for people who were interested in the one to be very interested in the other.


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Ashcroft's real priority on 9/10/01
 

As I was just saying last night, it's disingenuous at best (and an outright, bald-faced LIE at worst) of Mr. Ashcroft to blame the intelligence failures of his tenure as attorney general on his predecessor and on President Clinton. Ashcroft's own actions give the lie to his weaseling words. Courtesy of Mike Lukovich, here's what Ashcroft was really worrying about that long-ago September:


You know what they say about great minds :-).


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Trust, Don't Verify
 

Go read William Saletan's deconstruction of the metaphysics of George W. Bush's world. It's devastating--to Bush.

Shorter version: Bush is all but living in a dream world where if he says something, it's so, and if he doesn't see something, it's not there. Never mind that it's as plain as the noses on their faces to everyone else in the world. "Credibility," to Bush, means simply saying the same thing each and every time (which, admittedly, he's very good at). Never mind that what he says is usually incoherent, inconsistent, and doesn't match up well with the facts of the matter: as long as he sticks to the same line, he's credible.

Incredible. And God help us if Saletan's right!


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13.4.04

Yes, Virginia, there IS a God!
 

I was busily watching the Red Wings lose to Nashville in game four of their first-round playoff series, so I missed the preznit's press conference scripted reading tonight. But Reuters reports that the Waffle Queen-in-Chief: "said he would stake his re-election on a successful outcome in Iraq."

Please do! Pretty please! 'Cuz I can't think of a quicker way to take this mo-fo down than to have him keep pointing to his "successes" in Iraq.


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Ashcroft accuses Clinton: color me surprised
 

Continuing the by-now embarrassing chorus of BushCoTM officials laying blame for their screw-ups anywhere but upon their own shoulders, Attorney General Asshat John ("I Never Saw a Breast I Didn't Want to Cover Up") Ashcroft accused President Clinton of being responsible for the intelligence screw-ups that led to September 11. Let's have a gander at a couple of important points:

  1. On September 10, 2001, Ass-Cleft made his final budget request for FY 2002. He asked to increase spending on 68 programs, none of which were directly related to counter-terrorism.
  2. In fact, in order to fund his priorities (which appear to have centered on porn and boobs, both of which still seem to rate higher on Ass-crotch's list of Things To Worry About than preventing terrorism within our borders), the Asshat rejected the FBI's request to hire hundreds of new field agents, translators, and intelligence analysts.
  3. Adding insult to injury, the Asshat cut $65 million from a program that gave grants to state and local authorities for radios, decon garb, and other first-responder and counter-terrorism preparedness measures. That program was started by President Clinton.

Never mind the fact that Clinton and his administration actually prevented at least one major terrorist attack on the United States (which is one more than BushCoTM--and Ass-Crotch--have managed to thwart thus far), and that they were doing what they could to make sure America was ready for whatever came down the pike. Likewise, never mind that Ass-Crotch and his ass-hat boss ignored a warning of impending action that any eight-year-old who had ever played Clue! could have figured out, and were caught sleeping at the switch with their pants down (if I may mix my metaphors somewhat) on 11 September, 2001.

None of that matters, you see. It's all the fault of the great and powerful ClenisTM. Oh, yeah, and something called "evil chemistry" and "evil biology."

I guess if you're in thrall to the Assembly of God you might consider chemistry, biology, and similar subjects "evil." If you were anything resembling a rational man, you might look upon them as neutral vehicles that can be used for good or for ill. And if you were doing your job as Attorney General of the United States, you might even consider them helpful allies in the fight against the perpetrators of terrorism and other evil acts.

I am growing mortally weary of listening to a never-ending parade of BushCoTM flunkies disclaiming responsibility for doing what you and I pay them to do with our tax dollars. They either know their bailiwicks and what lies within each, or they do not. If they do not, they are incompetent boobs and should be draped with expensve blue fabric and quickly hustled out of anything remotely resembling a position of authority. If, on the other hand, they actually do know what they're supposed to be doing, then they should accept the responsibility that goes with the power they wield. Perhaps I'm having a mid-life moment, but I could swear I remember hearing something from the Chipmunk-in-Chief a couple of years ago about how he and his wanted to be paragons of responsibility. They had their jobs, and they were going to do them, come hell or high water.

Well, we've had both hell and high water, and not one of the Bushies could be bothered to put in an appearance unless it was to mug for the cameras in front of people who were doing the real work, and then to use the resulting photographs to adorn their airbrushed budgets or their re-(S)election campaign ads propaganda. That's not what I call responsible leadership. Neither is it honorable or dignified, both things that BushCoTM promised they were going to restore to American government. (Though how they planned to do that, as with virtually every other policy they have proposed, was left intentionally vague blank.)

Enough, I say. Mr. Bush wanted very badly to be president. When he couldn't get it the legitimate way, he prevailed (or got Poppy and Babs to prevail) upon some of his buddies to appoint him to the job anyway. Fine. That's water under the bridge (though I'd still like to see him impeached solely on those grounds). Let him now act presidential (for the first time in his term reign) and accept the responsibility for the worst thing that has yet happened on his watch (though Iraq is rapidly shaping up to be even worse, although the injuries and the disasters are not happening on our own soil). The honorable and respectable thing to do now, Mr. Bush, since I doubt you've got the balls for the old custom of falling on your sword, would be to resign forthwith. Your gang of unindicted co-conspirators should do likewise.

Since I doubt I'll be waking up to that headline tomorrow morning, let us now and forevermore henceforward dispense with the proposition lie that George W. Bush is either honorable or responsible. Let us likewise drive a stake through the heart of the meme that his leadership has been either strong or effective, and that the best thing for America and the world is more of the same. It's time for BushCoTM to go.


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12.4.04

She may not be singing yet, but I think the fat lady's warming up
 

In my wildest, most heart-pounding nightmares I never imagined there might come a day when I (gulp!) agreed with Pat Buchanan on anything. But I can't argue with these words:

Iraq was a war of choice, not a war of necessity. Saddam had no role in 9-11, no ties to al-Qaida, no WMD – the programmed liars of the Iraqi National Congress notwithstanding. We all know it now.

Even Colin Powell is saying the case for war he made to the United Nations was based on bad intelligence and he might have argued differently in the war Cabinet had he known it. Nevertheless, as Dean Rusk used to say, "We are there, and we are committed."

And what does it say for the Dear Leader's political chances this fall that no less prominent a conservative Republican than Mr. Buchanan doesn't buy the BushCoTM spin on Re-(S)election Issue #1? As Mustang Bobby (who pointed me to the Buchanan piece, which indcidentally ran last Wednesday) put it so well, "You know what creek you're up when Pat Buchanan goes off the reservation."

And it gets even better:

But if a regime comes to power that tells us to get out, or Iraq disintegrates in civil war, is not George W. Bush a failed president?

What explanation does he then offer the families who will have lost 1,000 men? What does he tell a nation that plunged $200 billion into Iraq as to why we invaded in the first place? To find WMD that did not exist? To introduce democracy to the Middle East?

I'm not sure whether I should be singing Hosannas and buying the victory champagne or whether I should be donning sackcloth and ashes, and looking over my shoulder for signs that the Apocalypse is imminent. But for what may well be the only time in recorded history, Pat Buchanan and I are on the same page.


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11.4.04

Sicut ipse dixit
 

(That's Latin for "What he said.")

The money grafs from today's Urbi et Orbi message (the blessing and address "To the City and to the World," traditionally given by the Pope on major feasts like Christmas, New Year's Day, and Easter Sunday):

Resurrexit! ["He is risen!"] Today you, O Redeemer of mankind, rise victoriously from the tomb to offer to us, troubled by many threatening shadows, your wish for joy and peace. Those who are tempted by anxiety and desperation turn to you, O Christ, our life and our guide, to hear the proclamation of the hope that does not disappoint. On this day of your victory over death, may humanity find in you, O Lord, the courage to oppose in solidarity the many evils that afflict it. In particular, may it find the strength to face the inhuman, and unfortunately growing, phenomenon of terrorism, which rejects life and brings anguish and uncertainty to the daily lives of so many hard-working and peaceful people. May your wisdom enlighten men and women of good will in the required commitment against this scourge.

May the work of national and international institutions hasten the overcoming of the present difficulties and favour progress towards a more effective and peaceful world order. May world leaders be confirmed and sustained in their efforts to resolve satisfactorily the continuing conflicts that cause bloodshed in certain regions of Africa, Iraq and the Holy Land. You, firstborn of many brothers, grant that all who consider themselves children of Abraham [i.e., Jews, Christians, and Muslims: as our Muslim brothers and sisters denominate them, the "People of the Book"] may rediscover the brotherhood that they share and that prompts in them designs of cooperation and peace.

Take heed all of you who have at heart mankind's future! Take heed men and women of good will! May the temptation to seek revenge give way to the courage to forgive; may the culture of life and love render vain the logic of death; may trust once more give breath to the lives of peoples. If our future is one, it is the task and duty of all to build it with patient and painstaking far-sightedness.

I agree with His Holiness that this is a task for all men and women of good will, whatever their creed may be, and even if they have none save the best interests of themselves and their loved ones. Our future is one: we're all stuck on the same planet, so we're going to have to learn how to live with one another.

And now, somewhat ironically, given that the rest of my Easter Sunday is likely to be given over to studying a different war (I'm taking a class this semester on World War II, and I have an exam on Monday), I'm going to close with a sentiment from the last book of the Christian Scriptures:

Charis humin kai eirēnē, apo ho ōn, kai ho ēn, kai ho erchomenos
Grace to you, and peace, from the One who is, the One who was, and the One who is coming. (Revelation 1:4, my translation)

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A thought for Easter Sunday
 

Anomaly (and eclectic) that I am, I'm taking a slightly different tack. Instead of quoting Scripture, I thought I'd offer the following, reportedly the epitaph of Akbar the Great (1543-1605), Mughal Emperor of India. Given current events, it doesn't hurt to reinforce the fact that Muslims (like Akbar was) also revere Jesus as a prophet.

Jesus, peace be upon him, said this: the world is a bridge — cross it, but build no house upon it. The world endures for but an hour — spend it in devotion. The rest is unseen.

In fact, some Muslims, as I think this quote demonstrates quite well, understand Jesus better than a number of nominal Christians I could name.


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10.4.04

In case anyone was wondering...
 

Grammar God!
You are a GRAMMAR GOD!

If your mission in life is not already to
preserve the English tongue, it should be.
Congratulations and thank you!

How grammatically sound are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

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A midrash for Holy Saturday
 

One day, a rabbi asked his disciples, ‘How does one know the precise moment when the night disappears and the day dawns — the moment when one must bless God for the creation of light?’ One disciple said, ‘When from afar one can distinguish between a palm tree and a fig tree.’ ‘No,’ replied the rabbi. Another said, ‘When from afar one can distinguish between a dog and a goat.’ ‘No,’ said the rabbi. ‘Then tell us when! When does the moment come when we must bless God for the creation of light?’ asked the disciples impatiently. The rabbi then replied, ‘When from afar, in seeing a man, you recognise him as your brother, because then the night that was in your soul disappears and both your heart and his are filled with light.’

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My so-called life
 

1: Grab the book nearest to you, turn to page 18, find line 4. Write down what it says:
"In the warfare of Europe between the Reformation and the French Revolution,"


2: Stretch your left arm out as far as you can. What do you touch first?
Nothing.


3: What is the last thing you watched on TV?
Game 2 of the Western Conference quarterfinals between the Dallas Stars and the Colorado Avalanche, last night.


4: WITHOUT LOOKING, guess what the time is:
12:15


5: Now look at the clock; what is the actual time?
13:07


6: With the exception of the computer, what can you hear?
The humming of my refrigerator.


7: When did you last step outside? What were you doing?
Around 17:15 yesterday. Walking from my car back to my apartment.


8: Before you came to this website, what did you look at?
My computer.


9: What are you wearing?
Shorts and a T-shirt.


10: Did you dream last night?
Yes.


11: When did you last laugh?
Yesterday.


12: What is on the walls of the room you are in?
Lots of prints, three diplomas, my baptismal certificate, a couple of award plaques, a framed poem I wrote in college, a gigantic map of the world, some family photos, a couple of icons, an American Library Association poster, a certificate in Latin proclaiming that I visited the Holy Land in the year of the Great Jubilee, several art reproductions, a framed letter of mine to the editor of Newsweek, and posters from just about every show I acted in or worked on when I was in college.


13: Seen anything weird lately?
Does the bit of my dream last night that I remember count?


14: What do you think of this quiz?
Cute.


15: What is the last film you saw?
In a theater, Miracle. At home on DVD, Amadeus.


16: If you became a multi-millionaire overnight, what would you buy first?
A house big enough for me and the library I want to acquire.


17: Tell me something about you that I don't know.
I don't know what you know about me.


18: If you could change one thing about the world, regardless of guilt or politics, what would you do?
Eliminate war.


19: Do you like to dance?
Not so much, except maybe the graceful sort (pavanes, waltzes, contredanses, that sort of thing).


20: George Bush: is he a power-crazy nutcase or some one who is finally doing something that has needed to be done for years?
Of the two options, I'd have to go with power-crazy nutcase. But, all things considered, "tool" seems to be the best possible description. I don't think the poor man's ever had an original thought in his lifetime.


21: Imagine your first child is a girl, what do you call her?
Miracle, because that's what it would take for me to have a child in the first place.


22: Imagine your first child is a boy, what do you call him?
See above.


23: Would you ever consider living abroad?
In a word, hell yes! And if things get much worse around here, I may start thinking about it a lot more seriously than I am now.

Hat tip to Mustang Bobby.


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9.4.04

A bit of Donne for Good Friday
 

Responding to a bit of Donne in Houston's Good Friday post, I dug into my commonplace book to find an answering quote. I think it makes a nice meditation on Good Friday, and particularly on this Good Friday, when death is regrettably far too common and often as violent (or more so) than what the Romans inflicted on a man from Nazareth a couple of thousand years ago. Here it is:

All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated; God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God’s hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another. — John Donne, Devotions on Emergent Occasions, xvii

I still get goosebumps when I read that last clause. Thanks to Anne Bancroft in 84 Charing Cross Road for inducing me to go look this one up, many years ago.

For those of you who celebrate it, Happy Easter in advance.


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