Monday, March 31, 2003

The nerve!

They're actually making me work today. Blogging will be at a bare minimum.

Friday, March 28, 2003

Alright all you Risk fans. Here's your chance to play Gulf War 2 online! (actually, you don't *really* get to play, you just watch, but it's still neat-o. if you think massive destruction and annhiliation is neat-o. Which you do.) Fire in the hole!
The NY Times Plugs Austin

Dammit! Shut up! I might want to go back someday and I don't want a bunch of transplanted New Yorkers taking the place of the outgoing Silicon Valley-ites. (At least the article only mentions obvious spots like the Driskill and Mount Bonnell and Jeffrey's, leaving most cool Austin spots unnoticed...)
Eggers Egged!

I don't keep up with the latest happenings in the literary world, so I'd never heard of this James Frey guy. But I'm going to pay attention now since he had the chutzpah to call out Dave Eggers for the gimmicky hack that he is. Here it is:

Still the promotional foreplay has its downside. Just as Frey's being set up as the next "it" guy in book circles, he's been quoted in the New York Observer for his panning of fellow "it" guy Dave Egger's "Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius."

"[It] pissed me off ... because ["Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius,"] a book that I thought was mediocre, was being hailed as the best book written by the best writer of my generation. ... Fuck that," he scoffed. "And fuck him and fuck anybody that says that. I don't give a fuck what they think of me. I'm going to try to write the best book of my generation, and I'm going to try to be the best writer."

Frey characteristically chooses not to give a shit. He's hardly a stranger to controversy.

"It was neither a misquote, nor am I particularly proud of it," he tells me. "The reporter was at my apartment, and he was standing in front of these stacks of books I have, and he was asking me about books. I didn't set out to bash Eggers. My honest view is I could give a shit about Eggers or any other writers."

Hell yeah. Too bad Eggers is going to use this snub as material for a new self-deprecating, self-referential book about the trials of being a self-aware pseudo-writer who is aware that he has no talent but that's what truly makes him a genius.
More proof of a pointless congress

The House approved a National Day of Prayer. I do believe that the Baathist Iraqi party is probably more secular than the evangelical Bush administration. I guess i shouldn't be too surprised. If Congress only exists to pass through whatever irresponsible legislation Bush proposes, they have a lot of time on their hands for dumb shit like menu changes and days of prayer.

"A New War Brings New Role for Women" reads the New York Times headline.
Which begs the question:

This is a woman??
The King Hawk, Richard Perle is stepping down! Wow. This move is certainly a response to the criticism he's been receiving of late as to his shady business dealings with Saudi Arabia, etc., but I wonder if it will set a precedent of senior advisors being pushed out if the war starts to go badly... Probably way too early to call, we're not even two weeks into this war. I'm just a little too eager to see some house cleaning.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Operation Piss off the Planet

The Onion is freaking brilliant this week. I was going to link the Point/CounterPoint article, then everything else i saw was funny. Times of crisis seem to bring out the best in these guys.
Christopher Hitchens (whose Washington DC address and assessed housing value are now known to me, thanks to my stalking tactics, and no I'm not telling) has another deeply disappointing article. Don't really bother reading it, it's just comes off rather half-baked and unbalanced. He even goes so far as to rail (justly) against the Iraqi regime for their flouting of the Geneva Conventions.
"To make an exhibition of captives is a violation of all the known laws of war," he says. But since he is using this as evidence to indict a criminal regime, it is dishonest to then ignore the same crime committed by the US towards its prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. If he had said execution rather than exhibition, maybe I'd buy it.

The rest of the article is more of the same: protesters are mindless twits, other nations' leaders are butchers and we can thank our lucky stars we don't have the blessings of their criminal regimes, and what's all this talk about "innocent" civilians...aren't soldiers innocent too?
(I'm very irritated to see him asking questions to which he knows the answers perfectly well.)

Then, in closing:
"By every indication we have, the population of Baghdad was making a secret holiday in its heart as those horrible palaces went up in smoke, and this holiday will soon be a public holiday, and if we all keep our nerve we can join the festivities with a fairly clear conscience."

Hitchens has somehow managed to imbed a journalist into the hearts of Baghdadians. Verrrrrrrry impressive. No wait, it's not because he's COMPLETELY MAKING THINGS UP. What are these indications? What freaked-out psychotherapy projection journalism affront is he committing here? Can you just say something now and have it suddenly be true? Maybe I need to watch CNN more for their "in depth coverage of besieged Iraqis' heart of hearts." Whatever. He better watch it or I'm going to have to find someone else to obsess over.
Dick Cheney just got richer

Since it's just not at all a surprise, I really don't know what to say about this Halliburton deal. I don't know what to say about the fact that the government didn't even go through the charade of a bidding process.

So--Bush/Cheney start unprovoked war, clean-up of unprovoked war results in (undisclosed amount) in contracts to private contracters, contracters chosen are major contributers to Republican party, in which senior administration leadership has investment interests. To the shock and awe of all, Halliburton's stock rose yesterday.

And we're all so jaded at this point that nobody bats an eyelash. Stephen Colbert on The Daily Show last night was trying to find an adjective to describe the heinousness of this incestuous self-rewarding, but instead settled on a sort of defeated, whimpering noise.

Jon Stewart put it better. He said, we all knew this was coming, but it doesn't stop him from feeling that "the government just took a shit on my chest." God bless the Daily Show for finding the right words...

Atrios had a transcript from this portion of the show. Here's what Colbert said:

"Jon, keeping in mind that Haliburton was a major campaign contributor to the campaign and Dick Cheney was the former CEO, this move is extremely...I'm a bit of a stickler for language...if this word was a flavor, it would be a thick brown taste in the back of your throat, an acrid tang of decay, like you're rotting from the inside...I've tried appalling, shameful, reprehensible-- I've tried cramming words together, greed-ragicous, backstabtastick, and Christ-just-when-I-was-beginning-to-buy-their-line-of-crappical, but nothing quite captures it."

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

We must stop CAPPS!!!!!
Thomas Friedman's recently completed documentary Searching for the Roots of 9/11 will premiere on the Discovery Channel tomorrow (Wednesday) at 10pm EST. Unfortunately, you will be watching Sorority Life at that time, so you'll have to catch the airing on April 1 at 8pm EST. Should be good.
My new Bill Bradley

For any non-CNN viewers out there, this is Gen. Wesley Clark, military analyst for CNN.
Salon is plugging this guy as a potential democratic candidate for pres. He's not making any announcements yet--surely if he decided to run, he would wait until the end of the war--but there must be some hints flying around that he's considering it.

I think that this is wonderful news. I didn't know who the hell he was until the war started, I don't know his stands on issues, but here are the reasons I think he'd make a fantabulous Democratic candidate:

1. He is hot. In that sexy, older man, Sean Connery, Harrison Ford kinda way. We have not had a hot president since JFK, and it is high time we have somebody pleasant to look at. The strong bone structure, those dreamy eyes, the look of vigor and strength. After a run of kind of namby-pamby pudgy mama's boys, what this nation needs is a president who looks like he is dynamite in the sack.

2. He is a perfect sop for the conservative constituency. Soft on national security? I don't think so! He was Supreme Commander of the NATO allied forces! What was your guy? A draft dodger who slept through his plum post at the national guard? ooohhhh. scary.

3. He has already won the trust of all cable television viewers, left or right. Our Moms watched him nearly tear up after viewing interviews with POW families. They are already completely in love with him. Our Dads listened to him speak with commanding authority about military manuevers and weapons specs. They want to have a beer with him. He has the air of somebody who is all action, not an ineffectual politico who has spent his life on the Hill. People dig that shit.

4. He's got some impressive credentials. Aside from that little NATO stint, he graduated first in his class from West Point and studied as a Rhodes Scholar. He's not all meat and sinews, this guy has a brain. And he's obviously more articulate than our current Commander in Chief. Can you imagine GWB trying to hold his own for hours and hours and hours a day, speaking as an expert on ANYTHING?

5. Good with the one-liners. His campaign aides will love him for coming up with his own sound-bites. I like this one, via Salon, on the dangers of moving out of Iraq too quickly:
"So the idea that you can sort of come in there quickly and say, "OK, you got your liberty, here it is, don't starve, be good," and leave is stretching."

6. He's been tight-lipped on his views thus far, choosing instead to focus on his position with CNN until the war runs its course. But Salon leaked that he is pro-choice [Yeah!], wrote an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in support of Michigan's Affirmative Action policy [at least he is aware that minorities have problems!], and is opposed to open gays in the military [we'll work on him, it's early!]

With scant information to go on, I still think he's far more likely to endear himself to the public than John Kerry or Joe Lieberman. And we need someone who can counter the war-scalps that GWB is currently collecting with a few credentials of his own. Go Wes!

Slate does a nice little round-up of what the Geneva Conventions actually say about this filming-of-the-troops issue. Apparently, nothing specific, as the convention was approved before the age of portable video cameras and what-not. The Article in question protects POWs from intimidation, insults, and public curiosity. The Slate piece goes on to indict Donald Rumsfeld for his double standards and duplicity in this regard. (And is just me, or has catching Rumsfeld being deceitful and morally repugnant become like shooting fish in the barrel?) Here's what Slate says [emphasis is mine]:

Rumsfeld is a bit two-faced on the Geneva Conventions. One year ago, Byers criticized Rumsfeld in the pages of the Guardian for the U.S. treatment of the hundreds of Afghan prisoners currently held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Guantanamo prisoners have had their beards forcibly shaven off, a violation of their human dignity under the 1966 international covenant on civil and political rights. And, they have been photographed by the press in shackles and with hoods over their heads. Subsequently, the United States limited media access to prisoners citing the "insults and public curiosity" passage from the Geneva Conventions. But at the same time, Rumsfeld maintains the prisoners don't have any rights under the Geneva Conventions because they are "unlawful combatants."[!!]

Byers notes that the "unlawful combatants" category is one of Rumsfeld's invention and not found in any international treaty. Under Article 5 of the Third Geneva Convention, military tribunals—not Donald Rumsfeld—should determine which prisoners should be prosecuted as criminal suspects and which should be accorded prisoner of war status. "The record shows that those who negotiated the convention were intent on making it impossible for the determination to be made by any single person," Byers writes.

Here's a pretty harsh graphic reminder that George W. Bush used his father's family connections to get a National Guard position (to which he apparently never felt like showing up) during Vietnam and thus avoid going overseas. Not that this is huge, breaking news. It's just a shame. I remember reading about how JFK also used his father's influence during WWII. Except he used his Dad's influence to get *into* active duty despite the debilitating back and gastrointestinal diseases that should have disqualified him. What a difference.

Monday, March 24, 2003


Pray that this is a faux pas. But Reagan ass-kisser and conservative pundit Peggy Noonan writes an article subtitled: Iraq's liberation will be the biggest good thing to happen since 9/11.

Exquise me? Biggest good thing?
A) For the love of God, hire an EDITOR!
B) Surely, surely, she didn't mean to imply that 9/11 was the last biggest, goodest thing. But then later in the column, she reiterates:
"The coming victory is going to be the biggest good thing that has happened in the world, the West and the United States since the twin towers fell." Now, she of course meant that nothing good has happened since that horrible event happened. But it instead sounds like that was the last good thing happened. Which brings me to point
C) For the love of God, hire an EDITOR!

Noonan was a speechwriter for Bush, Sr. when he was campaigning for prez. You have to wonder if she's been secretly doing some behind-the-scenes writing for Junior...that would at least relieve him of the blame for sounding like a retarded 3rd grader. I mean, seriously. Read that sentence again, and then ponder the fact that this woman is PUBLISHED.
There's some noise going on about how our news stations are criticizing Al Jazeera for broadcasting images of American POWs, even as they broadcast images of Iraqi POWs. Apparently, there's some part of the Geneva Convention that bars th airing of POW images. Neal Pollack, in the guise of his satirical "character" (*cough*andrew sullivan*cough*) easily
explains this apparent contradiction.

The Geneva Accords specifically state that it's illegal to air photographed images of POWs for propaganda purposes, unless, and I quote, "the images were taken by television cameramen embedded with military units of the invading country." Further, the Accords state that if the POWs are taken by the "army of a cruel, repressive tyrant, as opposed to a benign democracy run by good Christians," then the soldiers who took them are war criminals who can be tortured and executed in secret. Americans came to Iraq to "fix broke stuff." Maybe the antiwar defecators in San Francisco should chew on that for a while.
If you don't want to get mad...

Then don't read this. Or any other articles by "pro-family" conservative groups. But I did, and here I encounter their fears about post-war Iraq. They aren't worried about warring factions engaging in a power struggle for a post-Saddam Iraq. They aren't worried about disaffected Arabs turning suicide bomber. They aren't worried about costs or the tenuous hold of democracy in the region. They, inexplicably, are worried about the U.S. Agency for International Development. A quote:

"As soon as the dust settles after the conflict, (USAID will) be sending in the condom pushers and the sex educators," Mosher said. "There is the view at USAID that we need to remake these societies in the image of Hollywood or in the image of Manhattan. (That) we need to attack the patriarchal family."

I guess we attacked the "patriarchal family" in Afghanistan, too, but color me happy to be on the side of those who opposed that kind of patriarchy. I guess it would be news to these folks that worse things could happen to Iraqis than seeing some Trojans appear on their convenience store racks.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Optimus Prime Goes to Iraq

See for yourself. This guy legally changed his name to Optimus Prime before shipping out to the Middle East.

Here's the best part:
"I got a letter from a general at the Pentagon when the name change went through and he says it was great to have the employ of the commander of the Autobots in the National Guard."
Despite facing extreme danger and the threat of near-certain terrorist attacks, the Deseret News reports that Most Utahns not panicking. Bold, stalwart Americans, these Mormons. Man, what a serious piece of non-news.
The Best Way to Solve Problems is to Not Have Enemies

From the fount of foreign policy knowledge that came up with that forward-thinking solution, we have another little gem.
Via the NY Post's Page Six:
When befuddled celebs strain their brains trying to make political statements, hilarity ensues. Appeasement-loving pop star Sheryl Crow wrote a rant against the war in Iraq for her Web site the other day, in which she praised "a great writer at the New York Times by the name of Daniel Friedman" for "asking many questions that beg to be asked." The most important question is, of course, "Who on earth is Daniel Friedman?" The equine songstress was probably thinking of war-fearing Times scribe Thomas Friedman.

She was also probably not aware that Friedman has been supporting the war in Iraq, and only recently having reservations about this administration's ability to effectively carry it out.

Sheryl Crow needs to just go ahead and have some fun until the sun comes up over Santa Monica Boulevard, and quit discrediting the serious-thinking dissenters by association.

Apparently, authorities are now using space-age pulverizing guns to turn protesters' bones into so much quivering jelly beneth their skin.
Assholes of the Day

It seems to me that the defining characteristic of life in Code Orange is not the constant fear of terror so much as HORRIBLE TRAFFIC.
Case in point:
Code Orange #1: Horrendous snowfall hits DC, snow plows are powerless against it, a 4-mile commute takes 2.5 hours all week.
Code Orange #2: Man drives his tractor into a duck pond, effectively shutting down a wide swath of downtown DC for two days and turning K St. into a parking lot.

Now we've finally gotten rid of the tractor guy, and
these ASSHOLES think it would be a good expression of their anti-war sentiment to get on their little bikes and ride around Dupont Circle in order to disrupt morning rush hour.

For those not from the city, Dupont circle has a large liberal, non-profit employee, gay population and most denizens and workers in that area are probably more in agreement with the protesters than with the administration. Furthermore, contrary to popular belief, these humble citizens are not actually the sinister puppet masters behind the machinery of war. So driving your bikes through traffic with the sole purpose of disrupting traffic will only severely piss of a bunch of people who probably agree with you, or at least did agree with you before your parked your little mountain bike on their hoods. Is this a well-thought-out response to American aggression abroad? Will this get your message heard by those who pursue policies you disagree with? Or will this make you look like a bunch of unserious little brats who aren't thinking critically and can effectively be brushed off? Good work kids, you've sabotaged your own message.

I won't say I hope somebody hits you, but I wouldn't mind if you drove yourselves into a duck pond.

Apparently the bike protests also occurred on the Key Bridge (a major artery connecting DC to VA) causing it to be temporarily shut down, and also on Capitol Hill (the only site where it even remotely makes sense). From the Wash Post:
Organizers called it a success. "I think we got the word out to people in D.C. that we are not all united for a war," said Shirts Off organizer Virginia Rodino, 27.

Ms. Rodino must have a low opinion of the intelligence of DC citizens if she thinks that this is news to them. You got the word out alright, honey, only I don't think it was the one you were thinking of.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

For anyone not completely sick of hearing about Iraq, there is in Salon today an article that I find very honest and compelling. The author employs one of the two pro-war arguments I find persuasive: that of idealism. (The other, for me, is Friedman's pipe dream of a democratic Iraq galvanizing the region. Maybe unlikely, but so attractive.) He writes about leftist ideals, and the time of the Spanish civil war when leftists in droves took arms to fight a fascist Franco. There was a time, he writes, when the left was willing to die for the freedoms of the repressed. This was a left with teeth, one that was willing to engage in revolutionary and violent action, calculating that the balance towards democracy and human rights would end up in its favor. Vietnam, of course, was the crucial shift when anti-war sentiment fused with popular culture and became era-defining and hip. Young radicals today don't think of fighting Franco's fascists when they think of revolutionary action, they think of the flower children. The anti-war activists were dead right in the 60s, and the anti-Franco pro-war radicals were right in the 30s. It is the conflicts that were different, and he seems to imply that the left has largely lost its ability to differentiate between the war worth fighting and the one not to fight. He acknowledges that there are strong, well-reasoned arguments against war, but I think he has a strong point when he says:

"In most every argument against the war, whether it is posed between friends over drinks or by the presence of 100,000 people at a wintry demonstration, there comes a crucial moment: "I'm not defending Saddam," the argument goes. "I know Saddam is a ruthless tyrant. I know he has committed terrible human rights abuses. But ..." What follows "but" is often a withering critique of Bush or the United States, Tony Blair, Jose Maria Aznar, or Silvio Berlusconi. Hidden in this argument is a curious dynamic: The words "ruthless dictator" and "human rights abuses" have been uttered so many times that they are like a dead key on a piano. They have lost their emotion and their power to convey anything close to the reality of ruthless dictatorship and human rights abuses.
What are we doing to make sure that not another woman is raped or beheaded as a form of political terror? What are we doing to make sure that not another man is humiliated and rendered mute and powerless as the ex-general was? What are we doing to shut down the headquarters of General Intelligence? In the community of human rights monitors, work toward these goals is heroic and often dangerous. These would seem also to be urgent goals for all who consider themselves progressive. But for the most part, in all the angry debate over the war, the left rarely discusses these issues. We acknowledge Saddam as a ruthless dictator and lament his human rights abuses, but we focus our rage on Bush.

...when leftists drift from their most essential values -- to stand for the liberation of repressed people, and to oppose those who repress them -- their righteous passion only partly offsets the strains in their reasoning."

That's a powerful condemnation, and one that hits close to home for me. I think it's an internal conflict a lot of people who consider themselves progressives have been going through. This bumbling war on one hand, and wholesale betrayal of a tortured people on the other. Thankfully though, since the war is now a certainty, Lempinen doesn't content himself with lecturing; he offers a call to action for all leftists:

"For those leftists who have supported the war, and for those who have loudly opposed it, now is the time for a shift in strategy. Bush and his inner circle have repeatedly gone on the record describing the war on Iraq as a war on liberation. Even if we do not believe them, we must work relentlessly to hold them accountable. We must insist that the U.S. and its allies implement, as quickly as possible, a constructive post-war plan. They must protect the Kurds from Saddam and from Turkey. Aided by the U.N., they must provide for the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people, no matter the cost. If they truly want to detoxify the Middle East, Bush and his inner circle must commit to seeking a practical solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. They must be reminded constantly, and forcefully, that it is urgent to repair trust, and to stop the corrosion that comes with chronic hypocrisy. By insisting on these values, by returning to the street in a tide of millions, the left might hijack the meaning of this tragedy and salvage from it something constructive."

There's a fight I think we can all enlist in.
Fun with French!

Fear not, this is not another Freedom joke! Stealing an idea from The Poorman, I decided to try running one of my posts through a free translator. I took the first half of yesterday's Hitchens post, translated it into French, and then back to English again. The result:

There low it is, appears neglected and messed the hair as never. The supple hairs, no game any, no eyes of bloodshot that the one take to wonder nature of the clear containers of his numb one.. I think that I lacked his monologue opening, because I saw that all the other panelists delivers their harangue and not him. But well that it was [far also] well behaved yesterday evening, there was a couple the good moments of Hitchens, such as when it declared that it was not opposed to the oil mention "as if this were some horriblely physiquement secretion." And when Robert Scheer brought in high Marx in to pass (" the etait Marx that said 'Relgion is the opium of the masses?")

Ha ha, those stupid French can't speak English no good!

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

The Hitch on C-Span

There he is, looking slovenly and disheveled as ever. Floppy hair, no tie, bloodshot eyes that lead one to wonder about the nature of the clear contents of his water bottle... I think I missed his opening monologue, because I saw all the other panelists deliver their orations and not him. But although he was [far too] well behaved last night, there were a couple good Hitchens moments, such as when he stated that he was not opposed to the mention of oil "as if it were some ghastly bodily secretion." And when Robert Scheer brought up Marx in passing ("Was it Marx who said 'Relgion is the opium of the masses?") I could hear Hitchens gnashing his Trotskyite teeth in the background, and the microphone caught his repeated mumbled corrections: "opiate. opiate." Then it was his turn and he delivered a florid recitation of Marx's full quote. Other than that, there were just the snorts and harumphs and scoffing noises that his microphone broadcast while others were speaking. All in all, a rather tame performance for Hitch--he must be gettting tired. I remember reading about a while back about Hitch in a panel discussion about Orwell, when he attacked his unsuspecting panel colleague Vivian Gornick as follows:

Hitchens, appalled at the prospect of Gornick trivializing Orwell by turning him into a repulsive pile of harmless fluff, derisively informed Mrs. Gornick that There Would Be No More of That.

"Lest you think," he addressed the audience, "that we're going to spend the entire evening engaged in languorous fellatio..."

Gornick's jaw dropped.

"Not to disparage your traditional approach..." he nodded at Gornick, before continuing with a slightly less flattering portrayal of Orwell's abilities.

(Here's the whole Blow by Blow of that old debate in case you're interested.)

Monday, March 17, 2003

Okay, okay, I know that this completely ceased being funny ten minutes ago, so this is the last time, I swear, I swear. But here's your chance to sign the petition demanding that "Third Rock from the Sun" actor French Stewart, immediately change his name to 'Freedom' Stewart. Okay, I'm done!!
An absolutely hilarious Nokia spoof ad. (Note: it's one of those streaming video thingys.)
The article isn't worth reading, but the headline is. The tongue-in-cheek folks at aren't content with freedom fries and freedom toast when the most egregious example of french incursion on our native soil is sticking her torch in the air every day on Staten Island. The solution? Send the Bitch Back Home!
Why you should never bid on E-bay whilst drunk

The damage done.

Friday, March 14, 2003

Somebody just bought themselves a one-way ticket to HELL.
I'm sorry. But I still think these things are hilairous.
Hush, hush

I'm still glowing from the amazing Rainer Maria show at the Black Cat last night. I'm changing my answer for Celebrity I Most Want to Be from Claire Danes to Caithlin de Marrais. Though she's not exactly a celebrity, I guess. It was by far the most exciting, energetic show I've seen in ages. Now, they have made a video for "Ears Ring" (and yes, they do, I was standing far too close to the speakers). According to Polyvinyl:

We are very pleased to announce the completion of the video for Rainer Maria's "Ears Ring"! The video is live and ready to view at Supposedly if it gets enough downloads, they might put it on the tell a friend or four!

In other words, whatever you do, do not tell anyone about this video. If Rainer Maria starts playing on MTV and somehow attracting hordes of Avril and Limp Bizkit fans, I'm going to kill myself. But I'm not too worried. As Kriston pointed out, there is no way that a video loosely based on Sartre's "No Exit" is going to resonate with the MTV demographic. Not until they release the Ears Ring remix featuring Kelly Rowland, I guess...
Senate passes ban on dilation and extraction procedures

Fantastic. A group of crusty old white men has determined that my fetus is more important than me. Well, they did include a proviso that I think wasn't in the original bill that allows exceptions to save the mother's life. But they kept the vague wording that critics say can be applied to much more benign and commonplace procedures. I am shocked that this vote wasn't at all closer. I'm fearful that this is a momentum swing in the opposite direction. I'm going to go volunteer to work on somebody's 2004 campaign. I don't care who's. A recent national poll indicated that an "unidentified democrat" would beat GWB if the election were held tomorrow. Dick Gephart on the Daily Show said he was considering changing his name to "Unidentified Democrat."

Thursday, March 13, 2003

Excellent, excellent e-mail debate between a fellow named Doug Ireland, and his long-time chum Christopher Hitchens. I am very excited about this one, because Ireland takes Hitchens to task for his irresponsible comments in a recent interview which were quite distressing to me. Not being a close, personal friend of the Hitch, and anyway not having the mental acrobatics or the death wish necessary to debate him, I'm pleased to see Ireland do it for me. And all conducted with the utmost mutual respect and decorum. Quite the gentlema's debate.

Ireland comes straight out with what was one of the most troubling aspects of Hitchen's comments. Hitch said that if the election were tomorrow, he'd vote for Bush because Bush is the only candidate serious about defeating "Islamofascist" terrorism abroad. I think smoke came out of my ears when I first read this. I thought: "This is your only issue? How dare you? A non-citizen such as yourself may not give a rat's ass about the unmitigated disaster of domestic policy, but it matters a hell of a lot to myself and my friends!"

Ireland takes him to task for it, in much nicer terms, and for my money, the Hitch does not win this one. It seems to me that he never takes seriously the obvious contradictions Ireland brings up between Hitch's stated values and the values evidenced by the Bush administration's policies. Nevertheless, a refreshing debate and a great read. Bon appetit.

After spending the afternoon staring blankly at my empty can of Pringles and pondering my faith, I determined that I cannot answer difficult questions about my beliefs without guidance. I turned to my trusty friend, the internet, and dialed up the ol' Belief-o-Matic and plugged in my answers. My results? I am fully a Secular Humanist, apparently. My Roman Catholicism comes in at #27. Waaay below neo-pagan, which is a mystery to me. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to tap into my #4 and churn some butter.

The full results:
1. Secular Humanism (100%)
2. Unitarian Universalism (98%)
3. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (92%)
4. Liberal Quakers (89%)
5. Nontheist (73%)
6. Neo-Pagan (67%)
7. Theravada Buddhism (65%)
8. New Age (61%)
9. Reform Judaism (60%)
10. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (58%)
11. Taoism (54%)
12. New Thought (53%)
13. Bahá'í Faith (52%)
14. Scientology (50%)
15. Mahayana Buddhism (48%)
16. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (45%)
17. Orthodox Quaker (42%)
18. Sikhism (41%)
19. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (38%)
20. Jehovah's Witness (31%)
21. Jainism (31%)
22. Islam (25%)
23. Orthodox Judaism (25%)
24. Hinduism (25%)
25. Seventh Day Adventist (23%)
26. Eastern Orthodox (18%)
27. Roman Catholic (18%)
David Remnick v. Lewis Lapham SMACKDOWN!

p.s.You will not enjoy this if you are not thegrammarpolice

[from the NY Post]
It's a cover smackdown between Harper's Editor-in-Chief Lewis Lapham and The New Yorker Editor-in-Chief David Remnick.

Controversy is flaring over who first had the bright idea to use Pablo Picasso's famously anti-war painting "Guernica" for the latest cover.

Harper's is a monthly, and Lapham was none too happy to see another magazine appear with a very similar cover after his magazine had gone to press. He suggests that someone at the New Yorker might have had an opportunity to spy an early edition of the April Harper's issue.

"We went to press on the 27th of February and our subscribers began receiving it on March 3," he said.

The New Yorker closed its issue for Monday on Friday, March 7. A cover is usually planned before the issue closes - but insiders concede that last week they made a last-minute switch from a fashion cover to one that was deemed more timely.

Of course, the controversy has its roots on Jan. 27, when a tapestry of "Guernica" at the entrance of the United Nations Security Council was deemed inappropriate fare and draped with a blue curtain during a press briefing by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Even though both mags are using "Guernica" on the covers, Lapham insists his version - in which the curtain is blue - is better than The New Yorker's cover, which uses a red curtain.

"If I look at our cover, it suggests suppression and dissent, which is why the curtain is draped the way it is," fumes Lapham.

He continues, "I don't understand the way The New Yorker did it - it looks like it is a celebration of something, like an opening night of a Broadway musical. Ours looks like a closing night."

When told of the two cover similarities, Remnick professed surprise. "Really? I never saw their cover. We've had this tacked up on the bulletin board for a few weeks. I'd chalk it up to coincidence.

He added: "We were looking for a war-related cover that said something dramatic and violent was coming. It's an approaching horror. To make it a petty argument between two magazines is silly."
If there's anything more irritating than a gorgeous movie star, it's a gorgeous movie star who you can't blow off as a vapid idiot. Quick to remind us of just how unattractive and mediocre we all are, Netscape offers its Top Ten Ivy League Superstars. Featuring at #5, the Celebrity I Most Wish I Was (Claire Danes), and at #2 The Celebrity I Was Perfectly Content Believing to Be Dumb as Dirt and Who I Now Must Feel Inferior To (Julia Stiles.) Though Julia does score points with me by relating her awkwardness with freshman year getting-to-know you games with surprising self-deprecation:

"I was reluctant to stand out," she wrote. "Two years ago, during freshman orientation, when everyone goes around and says their name and where they are from and what their favorite animal is and what they want to be when they grow up, I had no idea how to handle the idea of my profession ... should I make a joke about it and say, 'Hi, I'm Julia. I'll be majoring in English. My favorite animal is a Siberian tiger, and perhaps you've seen me is such hit movies as "Save the Last Dance" and "10 Things I Hate About You" '?

I figured the joke wouldn't go over well," she continued, "so I refrained from saying anything about acting. I approached the start of college in utter denial of the fact that I had been in any movies whatsoever."

Not a bad idea, considering the caliber of her acting in those fine films. HA! Cheap Shot! I feel better! She may be beautiful and brilliant, but she's got a mediocre hollywood career! Nyah Nyah.
Wait...I thought we had all agreed to blame the Jews...

Will somebody please give this gentleman a swift quick in the ass? Are his fellow party members asleep? Why are they still allowing him near microphones??

(St. Paul, Minnesota) Minnesota state Rep. Arlon Lindner continues to defend his position that gays and lesbians were never persecuted during the Holocaust.

His latest allegation goes even further, saying that "the main gay participants in the Holocaust were Nazi concentration camp guards," and he suggests that homosexuality helped lead to World War II. Lindner said he bases his accusations on the book "The Pink Swastika," published by Abiding Truth Ministries, a right wing fundamentalist group based in Wisconsin that claims gays were responsible for the rise of Hitler.

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

I think Hollywood is getting overwhelmed. With the impending war and the impending Oscars, our embattled celebrities are being forced to balance too many concerns. Case in point:

Nicole Kidman and Daniel Day-Lewis were two stars at a pre-Oscars news conference yesterday. They were asked about what they might wear and what they have to say about a possible war. Nicole said she would wear a black suit over a pale lace camisole and that she could see both sides of the war issue. Day-Lewis didn't talk about his attire as far as we know, but re: war he said "It would seem obscene if we're seen bouncing up the red carpet grinning when people are dying. It's going to be very difficult to find a way to do this."

Such a nuisance, this war, messing up the Oscars like that.
That'll show 'em!

House cafeterias change names for 'french' fries and 'french' toast to "freedom" fries and "freedom" toast. Glad to see our nation's statesmen are on top of the problem, here. I wonder if I have to start freedom kissing my boyfriend? America is so retarded. We're rename food items that were arbitrarily named French in the first place. In fact, I believe it was far more annoying to the French that their nationality was ever applied to these foods. A far better barb would have been to rename *all* our crap American food after them. Get yer Filet'o'France with a side of Jalapeno ParisPoppers!
Fun with numbers

I have now seen a confusing abortion statistic twice. The first time it was on a conservative organization's web page, so I didn't think much about the numbers being skewed. But now I've seen it again in the newest Atlantic Monthly, and I'm starting to think it's me. I'm no math whiz, so can anyone explain how the following could possibly be true:

"Every year slightly more than 20% of pregnancies across the world are ended by abortions--35 abortions for every 1,000 women of childbearing age, according to The Alan Guttmacher Institute, a non-profit research organization that studies reproductive issues."

I thought that 20% number seemed *awfully* high, and the numbers they give seem to back me up. Am I completely retarded, or is 35 out of 1000 only 3.5%? And isn't that far less than 20%? Are the two statements in the opening sentence supposed to be completely unrelated? Either there has been some kind of error (that is being repeated, since I've seen this stat before) or I am totally doomed on my GRE.
The story broke ten minutes ago that the Serbian Prime Minister was assassinated. Wasn't it a Serbian assassin that gunned down Archduke Franz Ferdinand to start WWII? Just checking. I think our response to this recent atrocity is clear: we must invade Iraq.

Make that WWI. What the hell started WWII?
Oh, Hitler marching over Poland, right?

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Holocaust Revisionist and all-around Nice Guy

Minnesota State Representative Arlon Linder is in hot water for comments he recently made denying that gays had been persecuted in the Holocaust. He's in hot water, but he should be scalded. This was part of his argument against the state legislature passing any measures that would protect gays and lesbians as specific groups--apparently, such legislation would turn America into "another African continent," what with the Gay Plague and all. My friend, who just happens to be a gay man living in Minnesota, passed along the letter he wrote to Rep. Linder. Here it is:

Dear Mr. Lindner:

I find your recent remarks and disgraceful oversight
of history far beyond "troubling", as Governor
Pawlenty has said.

To my surprise, you seem to be educated; a degree from
North Texas and Seminary here in Minneapolis. I would
expect no less than extreme tolerance, patience,
kindness and love with anyone who associates
themselves with the Christian faith.

You, however, have shamed our state and your community
by speaking out on a topic where you have little
knowlege or understanding. Perhaps you need to do
more reading, sir. Or perhaps you should spend time
with gays and lesbians, who do wonderful things every
day to make Minneapolis, Saint Paul, and so many other
communities more vibrant, liveable and loveable.

To speak loudly about something you know very little
of does very little to promote your image as a
statesman, unless your goal is simply grandstanding
along with the likes of our former governer, Jesse
Ventura. He had one up on you, though, he tended to
stick up for people's rights, not to belittle them and
make them feel less of themselves.

But I've made my point. You have much reading to do
about history, religion, and tolerance, and that's
just the beginning!

But, if you are hell-bent on being racist, ignorant
and loud, do yourself and all of us in Minnesota a
favor: go back down to Texas, where ignorance runs
more freely than here in this great state; and don't
let the door hit you on the way out.

Minneapolis Resident and Native Texan
I can't remember if I've shared this one before, but Conan O'Brien's Commencement Speech to his alma mater, Harvard, is one hi-larious bit of public speaking. Classic Conan moments include:

Students of the Harvard Class of 2000, fifteen years ago I sat where you sit now and I thought exactly what you are now thinking: What's going to happen to me? Will I find my place in the world? Am I really graduating a virgin?

And so on. It's a scream.

On a more serious note, one of my favorite playwrights, Tony Kushner gave a somewhat stirring (though long-winded) commencement speech to Vassar last May. Towards the beginning, he reminisces about a commencement speech given by an unnamed Associate Supreme Court Justice, in which the Justice merely stood at the podium and read through bad reviews that his decisions have received. Kushner says:

But I was sympathetic. I found it honest and brave and instructive-by-example: even if you rise as high in life as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court you will be pursued by critics as the damned are pursued by fiends in hell, and you will find yourself grumbling embarrassingly about their reviews, grumbling in inappropriate places, dampening festive occasions. I assume the point the Justice was making, by example, was this: "See, graduating students! It never ends! You will be graded forever! And YOU WILL NEVER BE HAPPY!"

Which for no particular reason reminds me of this funny painting that was on exhibition at the National Gallery recently. Shows a kid literally coming out of the frame of the painting at you with a kind of wild look in his eye. It's called "Escaping Criticism." Clever.
A great article (via Kriston) on the retarded, politically motivated, morally deviant bill working its way through congress that would ban all cloning. The money quote:

When the microscope was first invented, embryologists claimed to see teeny-weeny people in the heads of the spermatozoa. Some modern politicians sound as if they share the same view, but modern science sees an embryo as a potential life or a blueprint for life. To say that a blueprint is a human being, says Caplan, is like saying that the lumber and nails at Home Depot are a house.

and of course:

Those who oppose this research talk ruefully about "creating a life to destroy it," but what about saving a life? Does the value of an embryo in a petri dish trump that of a child with a spinal cord injury in a wheelchair?

I find it appalling that patients suffering from diseases could potentially become victims of Roe v. Wade political wrangling. The priorities here are so out of whack it makes me ill. It's going to be a harder sell in the senate, so there's still hope that rationality can win out. Retards.
Tuesday, March 11

In another life, I'd wake up on Tuesday March 11th with sunlight slanting lazily through the slits of my window blinds. I'd stretch my arms and look out to see the world bathed in that soft spring morning glow. Throw on a skirt and sandals and enjoy a leisurely stroll to my bus stop, chirping birds attending my every step.

But not in this goddamn town.

Awoken by arctic blast slicing through window. Grumble into thick tights, wool socks, wool pants, undershirt, heavy sweater, full-length wool coat, scarf, mittens, hat. Step outside into the MOTHERFUCKING SNOW. SNOW! On March 11!! I plod to my bus stop, curse words attending my every step.

I don't understand this boycott against France. France has not done shit to me. I am boycotting nature until spring comes.

Monday, March 10, 2003

Russian pseudo-lesbian pop superstars Tatu were on Jay Leno last night using their wily wits to get past the censors. Those shirts (roughly) say "fuck war" in Russian.

Friday, March 07, 2003

How much scotch is too much scotch?

When oh when will I learn?
Note to self:
Drinking from Happy Hour until closing time with no dinner leads to leaving your umbrella at the bar.
That was my 3rd umbrella since October!
This is the website that just got famous after the White House requested they remove satirical content involving Lynne Cheney (thus guaranteeing a whole horde of new visits to the site, of course). They have a gift shop where you can buy bumper stickers that say "Europe is for Homos." That just moved to the top of my wish list.
Terrorism: we can't stop it. But you can't say we didn't warn you...

A new take on the gov's Be Ready website: Be Afraid!
There are a lot of perks to life in the big city: good public transportation, interesting museums, important political events. But I think my favorite part of urban life has got to be the crazies. And I'm not talking about the Austin kind of crazies; the "I dropped too much acid in the sixties and now I have an ecosystem in my hair and I mutter to myself a lot" kind of crazies. I'm talking about the "my psyche is atrociously damaged with gruesome, crippling psychoses and I am seriously frightening the other Metrobus patrons" kind of crazy. I am fascinated by these people somehow existing on the farthest fringes of reality and civilization. There's Wilma who lives in front of the FBI building and refuses to move for hell or high water. After the first snowstorm of the year, there she was under six inches of snow in the little tent she creates out of blankets and a bench. When she's feeling perky, Wilma emerges from her blanket cocoon and stares straight ahead. I don't think she's into people watching, because she's invariably wearing one of those elastic sleep masks they give you on airplanes. Another charming trait of Wilma's is screaming profanities when people walk too close. I guess she just senses them.

Then there are the talkers. They sit on the bus and carry on a deafening monologue that would make any filibustering democrat sit back in awe. Often, these performances are punctuated by short barks or grunts or other unidentifiable, quasi-human sounds. My officemate had a talker next to her on the subway one time. Except this guy was having a conversation with an imaginary other about whether or not he should take out his knife and smite Whitey for keeping him down. She reports that the conversation went something like this
"You got the knife, take it out, man, take it out."
"Aw, you think I should? I don't know, man, I don't know."
"Yeah, yeah, get the knife."

Who are these people? Where do they come from? How did they get here? What in God's name are they carrying in those bursting garbage bags they bring on to the bus?

My officemate (who was undeterred by the murderous talker) tried to bring a hamburger and hot wings to Wilma. Wilma barked, but accepted. But now my officemate is wracked by guilt. "I've had their hot wings" she confides to me. Then lowering her voice and looking at me meaningfully, "she's going to need to do a number 2." Where, for the love of God, do these people have to go to do a number 2?
(You know how all these restaurants and bars are all having trendy "number" names nowadays? Wouldn't "Number 2" be the absolute WORST restaurant name imaginable?)

Speaking of Number 2, here's a site with some neat-o pictures. This guy is a photographer in Austin. He's got a nice series of toilet pictures that I was impressed with.
Bloody great. Now there's going to be more than one Susan Smith walking around... I always thought having our SS#s as our student IDs a UT was a bad idea.

Thursday, March 06, 2003

Grammar Police

Okay, this guy at the is hilarious. And possibly British! But don't let that deter you. Here are his thoughts on grammar, or specificially, the semicolon. (I guess it's a slow news day...)

I will, however, take the time to address those people who think that the semicolon is an unworthy piece of punctuation, by quoting the work of someone whose writing, and self-regard, remind me very much of myself:

"And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep."
[my powers of intuition and the hyperlink provided determined that this is from Genesis.-ss]

So, in brief, people who distain the semicolon go against the will of God; and, ergo, hate America. And you can complain all you want that God is just a primitive superstition designed to scare you into buying one of those neon Jesuses from the mall gift store, but that doesn't change the fact that he's sold way more books than you. So nyah.

However, it is the Poor Man's very strongly held position that the word "utilize" is an abomination, and that anyone who uses it, whatever they think their motives are, is objectively pro-child molestor. The word is "use." It does everything that "utilize" does, with 1/3 the syllables, and it doesn't make you sound like a four-star jackass. So cut it out.

This is a pretty funny rant on trying to have an informed opinion by reading way too many editorial articles, and on insanity at the extremes of the political spectrum. Okay, that doesn't sound very funny, but it is. In that nerdy kind of way. Okay, just read it if you are bored.
Roger Ebert is pissed!

About the eroding separation between church and state. I'm not sure why he's writing political commentary, but since I agree I give him two thumbs up.
An excerpt:
This is really an argument between two kinds of prayer--vertical and horizontal. I don't have the slightest problem with vertical prayer. It is horizontal prayer that frightens me. Vertical prayer is private, directed upward toward heaven. It need not be spoken aloud, because God is a spirit and has no ears. Horizontal prayer must always be audible, because its purpose is not to be heard by God, but to be heard by fellow men standing within earshot.

And then he reams John Ashcroft, which always makes my day.
I am not a Christian Studette

I can't resist any quiz that begins "Hey, Christian stud or studette!" Unfortunately, the results were more disastrous than my physics midterm. My knowledge of The Good Word is nil. Zero out of Ten correct.
I am so going to hell.
Bob Herbert of the NYT is a damn fine rabble-rouser. In his past columns he has made me spittin' mad about unemployment, and today I'm spittin' mad about the state of education. These state budget crises we keep hearing about will, of course, cause our nation's kids to be dumber than ever before. It seems that public education has been in a state of crisis for as long as I can remember, and is now worsening. Due to lack of funding, some districts are looking at school years up to five weeks shortened (now only 3, as teachers agreed to work without pay for 2 weeks, in a move of noble selflessness that you would not find in any more profitable sectors), cutting sports, kindergarten, moving to a 4-day week. I recently read that if military spending continues at the current rate, we will spend more money on our military than the rest of the world combined before too long. Is this necessary? While our schools are falling apart at home and all the social ills that accompany it? This is not a unique point I am making, but I always have to repeat it to myself because it seems so damn obvious.
Consider them girded

William Safire suggests that Americans gird their loins to prepare for war. Does anyone actually know what this means? Can I do that if I'm a girl? And not a Homeric war chieftain?

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

I think I just found Kriston's new best friend.

p.s. if you hurry, you might be able to chime in on their discussion of the Grand Unified Theory! Go! Go!
I am an artsy indie fuck!

What kind of indie fuck are you?
This is gross. But a lot of people seem to have thought of it simultaneously because it erupted all over the blogosphere. My only reaction was that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed's arrest pic is the most unflattering since Nick Nolte.

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

The AT&T Matisse exhibit, now showing at the General Electric MOMA

A gallery in L.A. puts on a show that's all sponsors, no art. I could go to the trouble of formulating an opinion here, but I'll just hand it over to the Kriston Capps Comment.
Forget me kissing Friedman's ass. I have a new ass to kiss today. Martin Amis. I don't even care what Martin Amis ever says. I don't care if he is writing a manifesto as to why we should all eat babies. I don't care if he argues that everyone should sacrifice their first-born to Baal. I'll read anything he writes, because he's just so damn good. He really gets going mid-way through this one, when comparing the Axis (of WWII) to the Axis of Evil:

We may notice, in this embarras of the inapposite, that the Axis was an alliance, whereas Iran and Iraq are blood-bespattered enemies, and the zombie nation of North Korea is, in truth, so mortally ashamed of itself that it can hardly bear to show its face. Still, "axis of hatred" it was going to be, until the tide turned towards "axis of evil". "Axis of evil" echoed Reagan's "evil empire". It was more alliterative. It was also, according to President Bush, "more theological".

This is a vital question. Why, in our current delirium of faith and fear, would Bush want things to become more theological rather than less theological? The answer is clear enough, in human terms: to put it crudely, it makes him feel easier about being intellectually null.

Yummy. I won't quote any more, though there's plenty where that came from. Go read it.

I wonder how Amis and the Hitch are getting along these days? First the whole rift over Amis' Stalin book, and now they're Dove and Hawk. Forget Bush and Saddam, it's the Amis/Hitchens debate I wanna see!
Would you recommend a Pinot Noir with my Protest?

Last night I went out to catch one of the local productions of Lysistrata being staged around the District as part of the world-wide Lysistrata Project. (600+ cities hosted readings/stagings of the Greek anti-war play as a theatrical peace protest Monday night.) I didn't stay for the whole many local peaceniks showed up that I was left standing in the back of the room out of earshot, or eyeshot. If that's a word. But generally I was disillusioned by the specter of such a comfortable protest. This particular reading was held in a bistro that doubles as a performance space in the schwanky Dupont Circle district. So maybe I had it coming by going there instead of to the reading at the edgier U Street district. But there was something uncomfortable about all these society ladies and gentlemen with their bottles of wine and their kalamata olive nibblies and their pearls. The stakes of this war are pretty dire and passions are riding high on both sides, and it seemed somehow dishonest to count this "evening of theatah" as a political act. It looked to me like everyone was just enjoying their evening production, clapping in the appropriate places when the man introducing the play informed us that "90% of humans think that this war sucks!" It was, to say the least, not exactly the crowd I was expecting to encounter. Looking around the space, I saw the few lone 20-somethings, shamefully underdressed like myself, perhaps with a button or two on their backpacks, looking a little uncomfortable and bewildered at the incongruity of it all. Upon further reflection, I wonder if this isn't partly a product of the lack of a vibrant theater scene in D.C. I mean, maybe all these well-dressed ladies really do just want to see some plays that are more street-level than The Kennedy Center. I remember in Chicago, you couldn't get 5 people in a room together without them starting a theater company. Maybe the standing room only crowd wasn't just the weirdest and most unlikely group of protesters, but people hungry for a little local drama. Unfortunately, I don't see it happening. Any theater talent worth its salt has no business being in this town when New Yawk is just a couple hours up the road.

Monday, March 03, 2003

Oh good. A volunteer Well, now I guess we can tell Jesse Jackson to unpack his bags.
Thomas Friedman is the sole voice of measured, reasoned thought that I've heard in this whole debate. You never see specks of spittle on the pages of his articles. Maybe it's because his uncertainty mixed with possibly naive idealism mirrors my own. But whatever it is, his columns always feel refreshing. This one is no exception.
There's Somethin' Strange in the Neighborhood

You won't believe it, as I didn't, but this is honestly from our nation's CIA website. The real one. Oh, lord help us. I wonder if all that stands between us and certain doom is a quartet of bumbling but lovable crackpot agents...
Check it out.