Tuesday, February 08, 2005

we've moved!

which way to typepad?

Night Light has moved. We are a little too visually-oriented for the blogspot.com environment. Come visit us at our new digs, http://nightlight.typepad.com. We've converted all of our old posts and sorted them by categories.

Comments and suggestions about the new format are welcome. Speaking of comments, they unfortunately didn't come along with the move, but we appreciate all the feedback and home to here now.

Y'all stop by now ...

Monday, February 07, 2005

sky captain and the budget of tomorrow

home, mr. president?

Bush dares evoke FDR? Under Roosevelt we lived in a country where the President made poor children’s dreams come true. Now it’s the other way around. Welfare programs have been cut to the point of endangering the health of children, yet a $6.1 billion dollar order has been placed for 23 high-tech Presidential helicopters, a gee-whiz fantasy for a self-obsessed leader. Low-income kids in DC will experience “food insecurity” (.pdf file) while the President rides above them to Camp David in his new “Oval Office in the Sky,” giving new life to Zola’s observation that to some, freedom means that “the poor man is just as free to sleep under a bridge as the rich man is to ride over it in his carriage.”

Veterans medical services are being cut, yet the new Presidential copter fleet is on its way. So those who sacrificed the most during wartime will tighten their budgets and do without the essentials, but no belt-tightening is forecast for the Imperial White House. Why 23? There’s only one of him, unless you count Cheney, in which case there are two. And how much time does he spend in a helicopter, anyway? Doesn’t he just use them to get to and from Air Force One and Camp David?

For the non-math-inclined among you, that’s an individual cost of more than $265,000,000 for each helicopter. I can’t get my hands on the line item budget cuts yet, so the numbers are approximate, but imagine: Cut a couple helicopters and you can restore the Park Service budget. Cut ten and you can restore veterans’ health. Cut 21 of them – leaving one for the President and one for “Go F**k Yourself” – and you can restore the physical and emotional health of millions of children who are underfed. Cut all of them and you can protect 3,000 U.S. airliners from missile attack by terrorists.

I’m not suggesting the President should be left unprotected from terrorist attack, and if there is some cost in retrofitting his vehicles to protect them from rocket launchers, let’s spend what it takes. But an “Oval Office in the Sky?" When he spends more time vacationing away from the one on the ground than any President in history?

We have other options. For instance, we could replace both the Presidential helicopter and the Presidential limousine with one of these nifty flying cars:

here's my favorite:

Cool, huh? And cheaper than what he's getting. Or, he could inspire the country by showing that he’s willing to economize, too. Then this could be his new flying vehicle:

On the other hand … Some of us will read what has happened to those hungry children, and then see what he has planned for their mothers, veterans, and others in need, and may think this is as good as he deserves:

(picture courtesy of jalopnik.com and the Ugliest Car Competition)

Maybe it’s time for the President to learn what a lot of other Americans have learned. You go to the office with the vehicle you have, not the vehicle you wish you had.


Sunday, February 06, 2005

hot licks

the media critic's guru, Dan Hicks

Although he fails to give Dan Hicks his props for his post's title, I will give James Wolcott grudging admiration for the best and most readable blog entry of the week. But don't miss out on Dan Hicks. Talented, mercurial, misanthropic, seemingly alcoholic, Hicks has it all. Oh - he also sings and plays guitar and writes songs.

For those of you who don't know, Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks were a San Francisco Bay Area attraction during the 60's and 70's, distinguished most by their utter lack of any relationship to anything else happened there at the time , musically or culturally. Hicks drew his inspiration from classic country, folk, and jazz (heavy on the swing), and relied on acoustic guitar & bass, jump-jivin' fiddle, and two female backup singers to carry the day. The 70's dance/rock/soul act Kid Creole and the Coconuts owed a lot to Hicks' style, and he is overdue for a revival. In a Bay Area suffused with shoulder-length hair (for men), granny dresses, and beads, Hicks dressed in pinstripe suits and fedoras and his Lickettes were dolled up like gun molls.

Classic Hicks favorites included the Jimmie Rodgers-derived "Reelin' Down," a drifter's ballad, and the swinging ode to domestic decomposition, "Is This My Happy Home?" Then there was his best-known tune, consciously or otherwise referenced by Wolcott, "How Can I Miss You When You Won't Go Away." Lesser-known songs also hold great pleasures. My favorite is the haunting yet swinging fiddle-driven story of obsession, "I Scare Myself." Escapists among you will appreciate his response to the rash of reported UFO kidnappings in the 70's, simply titled "Hell, I'll Go."

Oh, Wolcott's post is great too.

Friday, February 04, 2005

social (security) drinking

cocktail party debate briefing book: entry #1

We need to know what to say when people bring up Social Security, particularly in business or family situations where we don't want to be confrontational. As an ongoing public service, Night Light will be offering suggested responses or conversational gambits to be used whenever the topic comes up. Here suggestion #1:

"Don't you think it's funny that the guy who ran up the biggest deficits in history is so worried about the one government program that isn't going to have any funding problems for forty years?"

If you feel it's necessary, you can then add, "Just asking."


of michael jackson

he's moonwalking

In an interview with MTV, Michael Jackson described his ability to withstand criticism with the unfortunate phrase, "I've got rhinoceros skin." That explains a lot, especially since the word "rhinoceros" is derived from the Greek and Latin words for "nose horn."

In fact, zoologists have recently discovered that Jackson illegally acquired the skin of a rhinoceros and had it surgically grafted on to his body. They have determined that Jackson acquired the skin of the rare white rhinoceros, which as you will see here has not one but two nose horns. You will also see that birds frequently perch on the white rhinoceros. There is no evidence to suggest that Michael Jackson is a nesting site or rookery for any avian species.

The white rhinoceros has become an endangered species, since people hunt it in the mistaken belief that its nose has aphrodisiac properties. Such deeply-embedded folkways take a long time to die. This is demonstrated by the fact that anthropologists have also discovered people that buy the albums Jackson has made since "Thriller."

The rhino's nose, unlike Jackson's, cannot be easily removed. This has led to the widespread killing of these fine animals. The white rhino lives on tall grass that it eats while it walks. Unlike its newest predator, the rhinoceros only walks in a forward direction, which is why this form of food consumption is possible.

The white rhinoceros has not been charged with any crimes, nor has it ever grabbed its own crotch. It is Michael Jackson, however, and not the white rhino, that brought Eddie Van Halen in to play that brilliant guitar solo on "Beat It." This does not indemnify him in the court of musical taste for having sung "Man in the Mirror."

While the court process is underway, feel free to choose: Who do you support more and why: Michael Jackson, or the white rhino?


Thursday, February 03, 2005

democrats for torture

i'd like to thank the people who voted for me ...

... especially those Democrats who crossed party lines to support me on the moral issue of their lifetime. I'm the Spirit of Abu Ghraib, and I'm here to acknowledge the little people - the truly little people - who have made me what I am today. Like they say, without you I'm nothing. These U.S. senators have told their nation and the world that they endorse the man who said the Geneva Convention's provisions were "quaint, " and that torture was fine until it simulated the pain of "organ failure or death." Before I thank these fine people by name, I have a question: How do you know exactly how painful organ failure or death is unless you've experienced it yourself? Maybe these six American solons can tell us, since they've experienced the failure of their hearts and the death of their consciences.

And now, a big shout out and all my love to:

Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut: Joe, I always knew I could count on you.
Ken Salazar of Colorado
Mary Landrieu of Louisiana
Bill Nelson of Florida
Ben Nelson of Nebraska
Mark Pryor of Arkansas

And let's not forget those 54 Republicans , too. To all 60 of you, I can only say in closing: you complete me.

- The Spirit of Abu Ghraib

"I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just." Thomas Jefferson


wild about harry

the trouble with harry is ...

... nothing. Not a damn thing. In fact, this is one hell of a good guy. I was displeased when he was chosen for the job, and I had some words about it at the time. You know what? When I eat that crow tonight I hope I find some white meat. I honor Harry Reid today, the man who said this about the nomination of Alberto Gonzales:
Because of our unshakable belief in human rights, we became a ray of light, a beacon for people in other parts of the world. America has been that beacon because we are a nation governed by laws, not by men ...

We are a nation where no one, not even the President of the United States,is above the law. We are a nation where our military is bound by the uniform Code of Military Justice and the laws of war. And we are a nation that even at war stands for and upholds the rule of law.

... We need to stand against torture because of what it does to us as a country, to those serving now, to the future servicemen of our country, and what it does to us as a nation.

If we fail to oppose an evil as obvious as torture -- it is an evil and it is obvious it is wrong--then as President Thomas Jefferson said, I will "tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just."

Thanks to Armando at DailyKos (who's turning out to be my kind of guy) for highlighting these words. Harry Reid, I was wrong about you. I assumed that your political history and your warm statements toward Bush meant that you would be a Neville Chamberlain Democrat. I could not have been more mistaken. You have not only stood forthrightly for what is great and good about this country, but you have done so eloquently and with honor. I applaud your last sentence, for it reminds us all that the government's tolerance of torture makes a mockery of the spiritual values our leaders claim to uphold.

"I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just." Thomas Jefferson

'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the
least of these my brethren, you did it to me.'
Matthew 25:31-40


Wednesday, February 02, 2005

of nugent, seger, and the politics of the atom

ted nugent: is he a pion, a lepton, or a kaon?

I got badly scratched by the house feline yesterday. I was afraid I would come down with cat scratch fever, but luckily the incubation period passed without symptoms. Thank God. I try to avoid catching any diseases that share their names with Ted Nugent songs, which made last year’s crippling bout of Wango Tango particularly upsetting.

I'll ruminate on Ted today, but save my praise for Bob Seger. If you haven’t checked him out lately, you really should. He’s under-appreciated. And I’ll wind up suggesting how modern politics can be explained using particle physics. Can you guess which particle Don Rumsfeld is? Bear with me, and maybe it will make more sense that either you or I are expecting right now.

You may remember Ted Nugent, the marginally successful rock singer and guitarist from the 70’s. The Michigan-based Nugent, who is almost universally looked down upon by his fellow musicians, made a name for himself as an aggressively right-wing pro-meat eating hunter. He has been able to extend a languishing entertainment career by embracing these conservative positions, which I guess makes him the musical Dennis Miller. Or makes Christopher Hitchens the literary Ted Nugent.

But (and this is important enough to break the rules and start a paragraph with “but”) – I’m not going to go after “the Nuge,” as he is called. No. Hitchens was enough. Joseph Campbell used to quote the old Irish saying, “Is this a private fight or can anyone join in?” Nevertheless, there are some bar brawls even I don’t consider worth jumping into. (I shouldn’t end a sentence with “into”, either – but it doesn’t sound right to say “There are some bar brawls into which even I won’t consider jumping.”)

I admit to having at times been morbidly fascinated with Ted Nugent. I once saw him perform and, while I wasn’t moved, he seemed to induce a fist-pumping, beer-spraying, halter-top-removing response from the men and women (respectively) in the crowd. My fascination was with Ted, though – his extraordinary self-confidence in the absence of apparent musicianship was extraordinary to watch. And I mean that in (sort of) a good way.

is also the home of Bob Seger who, unlike Nugent, is highly talented. He is the author of the drug-bust masterpiece “Get Out of Denver,” with its speeded up Chuck Berry riffs and lyrics that update the literary narrative style of … well, Chuck Berry. “You look just like a commie and you might just be a member,” says a hostile cop to the hippie protagonist. “Get out of Denver.”

(click on "Permalink Page" to talk more Seger, analyze the Nuge, and help create the new field of politico-physics)

As a native blue-stater, Seger encountered the same anti-longhair violence I and others did in other parts of the country back in the day. In the mournful “Turn the Page,” his masterpiece description of life on the road, he captures the feeling we all had on entering a back-country diner in “counterculture” dress and facing the hostile stares:

Some times you can’t hear ‘em talk, other times you can
it’s all the same clichés, “Is that a woman or a man?”
but there’s more them than there are of us, no way to make a stand

No way to make a stand. To young, peace-and-music loving men who still needed to feel macho, that “fight ‘em if you can” stand felt like a battle cry. It apparently provided inspiration for Metallica, who later covered the song. Seger was a hard-rocker who finally hit it big late in his career when he switched to power ballads. He even sang “Against the Wind” with The Eagles, with its simple yet powerful line on the pain of aging, “wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then.”

Seger’s crowning achievement for me comes in the last verse of “Night Moves,” an unfortunately overplayed but still powerful ballad. The song starts as a relatively shallow reminiscence on his first sexual experience. It has a strong melody, and builds up in intensity before dropping away to a near-whisper for these final words, made even more powerful by the way they seem to appear as a complete non sequitur:

Woke last night to the sound of thunder
How far off? I sat and wondered
started humming a song from 1962

ain’t it funny how the night moves
with Autumn closing in?
It has a powerful, haiku-like feel and structure, even down to the seasonal reference traditionally required for that form of poetry. I said it felt like a non sequitur, but of course it’s not. Its elegiac tone summons the loss of youth, the yearning for what’s gone, and the sense of the nearness of death. It gives the recollections of backseats and breasts a much deeper meaning, and is the work of a very gifted writer.

So if the music doesn’t sound too dated to you, and you want to reconnect with Bob, you can buy his stuff here.

Back to the Nuge: I was a teenager, I think, when Ted began to “come out” as a conservative. I remember reading an interview in Rolling Stone where he espoused views about guns that were almost militia-like. Michigan, a state where I once briefly lived, certainly likes its guns. Hunting season was distinguished by the lines of cars returning from the Upper Peninsula on Sunday nights with deer tied over a fender or on the roof. That was not a familiar sight from my blue-state youth.

Something Nugent said in the interview fascinated me. Talking of his own importance, he said “I am the nucleus. I have life d**ked.” I was raised to be self-effacing, studious, and considerate of others. The fact that I lost many of these habits for many years never changed the fact that I assumed they were equally important to others. My reaction to “I have life d**ked” was to marvel that someone would consider life something to be penetrated, speared, and otherwise conquered like that. It was inconceivable to me.

I am … the nucleus?? As I say, I was raised to be self-effacing. As a younger child, the idea that I might be the center of anything seemed inconceivable. As a global statement of self-importance and indifference to others, this attitude was foreign enough to my thinking that it genuinely filled me with a sense of wonder that was greater than the repulsion I also felt.

I’m not trying to score cheap political points when I say that the attitude I get from this Administration – Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Ashcroft in particular – bas been very similar to Nugent’s. The famous smirk, Cheney’s parka at Auschwitz, Rumsfeld blithe “democracy is messy” dismissal of tragedy – seem to me to scream out that these actors feel they are the nuclei, and that they do indeed “have life d**ked.” I have them same amazed horror toward their actions that I did as a teenager reading the Nugent interview. It is foreign to me.

Is it a conservative thing? Not necessarily, and not with older-school conservatives. Tucker Carlson may have it, but Bob Dole certainly doesn’t. George Will may have it, but Pat Buchanan’s too “hot” (in McLuhan terminology) and doesn’t. These guys in Washington do, though. So naturally, my wife being out of town and me having time on my hands, I started to wonder: which people make up the other parts of the atom?

For example, is Bush alone the nucleus, or is Cheney kind of a co-nucleus with him? If they share, is Bush the protons and Cheney the neutrons or vice versa? Are the Cabinet members the electrons? Did Colin Powell have a negative charge, because he wasn’t “nucleus-minded” enough, and is that why he was repelled? Was he that electron you see getting expelled in those physics experiments? Is the reason Bush won’t fire anybody for incompetence because they are bound to him – the nucleus – by the “strong force”? Is the rule of law the “weak force”?

If the cabinet members are electrons, who are the other particles – muons, for example? Muons are in cosmic rays and crash into other particles, but they’re unstable and quickly decay into something simpler. They are sort of like Libertarians, most of whom seem to winding up taking a straight conservative party line. Neutrinos have very little mass and pass through most things without any effect. Plus they change a lot, although they always stay neutrinos. They’ve gotta be your Democrats, right?

Photons generate light, of course. They can also be two things at once (“particle” or “wave”), and in two places at once. They change depend on who’s looking at them, according to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. They are, of course, the media., although not a lot of light is being cast these days.

Time is reversible at the subatomic level, which is we are un-signing the Geneva Convention, undoing Social Security and other New Deal reforms, and making a progressive tax code more regressive. You liberals ought to stop being so upset about all this. If you knew your physics you’d understand. Instead of fulminating about some right-winger tonight, I challenge you to assign particle identities to some politicians yourself.

And that’s what I have to say because I got scratched by a cat.


Monday, January 31, 2005


surrealism goes to war

There he goes again. Christopher Hitchens, the man who put the ‘con’ in neocon, is using Mobius-strip logic, misstatements, and vituperation in another vain attempt to defend the Iraqi war policy of his mentor, Paul Wolfowitz. I thought I had finished with Hitchens in my last piece on him, and invective's more his specialty than mine. But I’m getting sick of being called a Baathist or jihadist supporter because I oppose a bloody, counterproductive war and its mendacious architects. His piece cites Monty Python and that’s appropriate, because it is Pythonesque in its surrealist absurdity. So, Chris, here’s my open letter to you. Actually, it’s more of an editorial note. I’ll go through the piece line by line, because – well, to be honest, it still needs a lot of work.


Dear Chris:

Just read your latest Slate piece on Iraq. The great thing about the Internet is you can go back in and make revisions if you find there are problems. Unfortunately, this piece has plenty. Let’s go through it together, and maybe we can clear a few things up. You did a lot of great work back in the day. Maybe I can pay back the debt by lending a hand now.

There it was again, across half a page of the New York Times last Saturday, just as Iraqis and Kurds were nerving themselves to vote. "Flashback to the 60's: A Sinking Sensation of Parallels Between Iraq and Vietnam."

Do you think the Iraqis and Kurds were reading the Times that day? If so, why lead with this?

The basis for the story, which featured a number of experts as lugubrious as they were imprecise, was the suggestion that South Vietnam had held an election in September 1967, and that this propaganda event had not staved off ultimate disaster.

“As lugubrious as they are imprecise.” That reminds me of … oh, forget it. shall we continue?

I can't quite tell why this article was not printed on the day before the Afghan or Palestinian elections, or at any of the times when Iranian voters overwhelmingly chose reform candidates but were thwarted by the entrenched reserve strength of the theocracy.

Well, Chris, it's because we didn’t go to war to make the Palestinian or Iranian elections happen. So no war critic, however "lugubrious,"would draw a parallel with Vietnam. You’re making a false argument here. With Afghanistan, maybe it's because there was a rationale for the war that was both rational and honestly presented. And, by the way... maybe there is a parallel.

But perhaps now is the moment to state the critical reasons why there is no reasonable parallel of any sort between Iraq and Vietnam.

"Perhaps now"? Are you going to debate your timing with the reader? Yes, Chris, now would be fine.

(to continue click on "Permalink Page" below)

To begin with, Vietnam had been undergoing a protracted struggle for independence since before World War II and had sustained this struggle militarily and politically against the French empire, the Japanese empire, and then after 1945 the French empire again. By 1954, at the epic battle of Dien Bien Phu, the forces of Ho Chi Minh and Gen. Giap had effectively decided matters on the battlefield, and President Eisenhower himself had conceded that Ho would have won any possible all-Vietnamese election. The distortions of the Cold War led the United States to take over where French colonialism had left off, to assist in partitioning the country, and to undertake a war that had already been lost.

Lengthy and off-point – lose it. While it’s ample demonstration of your emotional attachment to the Vietnamese struggle, one I actually find somewhat moving, it’s a non sequitur. Iraqis also do not speak Vietnamese or practice the Buddhist religion, Vietnam is near neither the Tigris nor the Euphrates, and the national flags use different colors. So?

Whatever the monstrosities of Asian communism may have been …

Chris, Chris, Chris! Would you ever allow it to pass unremarked if an Iraq war opponent began a paragraph with, “Whatever the monstrosities of Saddam’s regime may have been …”?? Sounds like moral relativism mixed with a desperate attempt to structure a winning argument.

… Ho Chi Minh based his declaration of Vietnamese independence on a direct emulation of the words of Thomas Jefferson and was able to attract many non-Marxist nationalists to his camp.

You’re undercutting your own argument. Saddam was able to attract Iyad Allawi to his "camp," remember? Yet we selected and supported Allawi. In fact, Saddam was also able to attract Ronald Reagan and Donald Rumsfeld to his "camp"! You’ve seen the photo. You know Rumsfeld, of course – he’s the guy who employs your man in Washington, Paul Wolfowitz.

Why do I say Wolfowitz is “your man”? Perhaps I’m thinking of this quote from your radio debate with Tariq Ali, in answer to his question about whether you are a neoconservative: “I would say I was a supporter of Paul Wolfowitz, though, if you want that answer from me.

He had, moreover, been an ally of the West in the war against Japan.

And Saddam had been an ally of the US in the war against Iran, with the support of the Defense Department in which Wolfowitz then served. And, let’s see, you support Wolfowitz, right?

Nothing under this heading can be said of the Iraqi Baathists or jihadists, who are descended from those who angrily took the other side in the war against the Axis…

Is genealogy now a reason to declare war? Look out, Silvio Berlusconi, Hitchens is coming! I suggest you leave guilt by ancestry out of your future polemics. It reeks of eugenics, with a little Hutter Gibson thrown in on the side.

… and who opposed elections on principle. If today's Iraqi "insurgents" have any analogue at all in Southeast Asia it would be the Khmer Rouge.

A pretty decent analogy, but - unfortunately for your argument - one that reinforces the parallel the article draws. The Khmer Rouge were the enemy of the Vietnamese whose government we were placing in power through US-sponsored elections, and of the Cambodian royalty we supported. I’m sure those “experts” you’re castigating appreciate the help, though.

Vietnam as a state had not invaded any neighbor (even if it did infringe the neutrality of Cambodia) …

Oh, that little thing!

… and did not do so until after the withdrawal of the United States when, with at least some claim to self-defense, it overthrew the Khmer Rouge regime. Contrast this, even briefly, to the record of Saddam Hussein in relation to Iran and Kuwait.

The war you support, Chris, was not in response to any invasion. And again, the US encouraged Iraq against Iran.

Vietnam had not languished under international sanctions for its brazen contempt for international law, nor for its building or acquisition, let alone its use of, weapons of mass destruction.

Iraq had dismantled its weapons of mass destruction prior to our invasion - a fact known to weapons inspectors and therefore our own decision-makers at the time. Thanks for the reminder that we are spending hundreds of billions of dollars, and the lives of our young people, under false pretenses. Glad you still think the war’s a good idea, though – that must be such a comfort to those Gold Star Mothers.

Vietnam had never attempted, in whole or in part, to commit genocide, as was the case with the documented "Anfal" campaign waged by Saddam Hussein against the Kurds.

A horrible and despicable act – like all decent human beings, I’m outraged by it. Unfortunately, Anfal would have been more difficult without the relaxed posture the Reagan Administration took toward Saddam in the 80’s. Did I mention that Paul Wolfowitz served in that Administration? And that you referred to yourself as a Wolfowitz supporter? I didn’t want to leave that out.

In Vietnam the deep-rooted Communist Party was against the partition of the country and against the American intervention. It called for a boycott of any election that was not an all-Vietnam affair. In Iraq, the deep-rooted Communist Party is in favor of the regime change and has been an enthusiastic participant in the elections as well as an opponent of any attempt to divide the country on ethnic or confessional lines. (Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who is not even an Iraqi, hates the Kurds and considers the religion of most Iraqis to be a detestable heresy: not a mistake that even the most inexperienced Viet Cong commander would have been likely to make.)

Chris, now you're cut-and-pasting the data in true Brion Gysin fashion - interesting, but not coherent. That is to say, the Communist Party was the party waging revolution in Vietnam, and later the government, whereas it’s a marginal movement in Iraq. It is the oldest political party in that country, which is the germ of truth on which you base this otherwise random-seeming association, but to equate the two in this context is meaningless.

Re Zarqawi – sure, he considers the religion of most Iraqis a heresy. If that's a tactical mistake, he will not succeed. He is one of many leaders in a disorganized and decentralized insurgency. There aren't very many people who think he is in an equivalent role to a Viet Cong commander, so ... your point? Zarqawi interprets the Quran differently than other Iraqis. Ho Chi Minh thought the political views of the peasant class were incorrect. Bush thinks most of us – including you and me – will be left behind in the Rapture. This is all sleight-of-hand stuff, immaterial to the issue we’re discussing.

No car bomb or hijacking or suicide-bombing or comparable atrocity was ever committed by the Vietnamese, on American or any other foreign soil. Nor has any wanted international gangster or murderer ever been sheltered in Vietnam.

No car bomb or hijacking or suicide-bombing or comparable atrocity was ever committed by the Iraqis on American soil, either. And the notion that Saddam sheltered terrorists spread in part because al Qaeda activity allegedly took place in Iraq –but in territory controlled by the Kurds whose cause you advocate, not by Saddam. Other than that, there is no basis for this allegation. It doesn't serve your argument, except to put me in the creepy position of appearing to defend the Butcher of Baghdad by forcing me to set the record straight about another false justification for this wasteful war.

American generals and policymakers could never agree as to whether the guerrillas in Vietnam were self-supporting or were sustained from the outside (namely the northern half of their own country) ... it was certainly true that Hanoi, and the southern rebels, were regularly resupplied not by minor regional potentates but by serious superpowers ... The Iraqi "insurgents" are based among a minority of a minority, and are localized geographically, and have no steady source of external supply. Here the better comparison would be with the dogmatic Communists in Malaya in the 1940s, organized principally among the Chinese minority ... But even the die-hard Malayan Stalinists had a concept of "people's war" and a brave record in fighting Japanese imperialism. The Iraqi "insurgents" are dismal riff-raff by comparison.

Is that why we’re winning so handily? A long digression indeed. Your shout-out to Malayan Stalinists is interesting, though.

Where it is not augmented by depraved Bin Ladenist imports, the leadership and structure of the Iraqi "insurgency" is formed from the elements of an already fallen regime, extensively discredited and detested in its own country and universally condemned.

These “dismal riff-raff” have “leadership and structure”? It seems you ascribe an organizational sophistication to them that does not exist in fact. Intelligence from the field suggests many rag-tag independent groups are at work. What’s more, the theory that the insurgency is being led by former Baathists is widely discredited. Certainly many former Baath Army members are participating in the revolt, since the Army was disbanded under your friend Wolfowitz’s management – a move now widely accepted to have been a major blunder. Oh, wait – you discuss that below, and create another trap for yourself. Hang on for a paragraph or two and we’ll get there …

This could not be said of Ho Chin Minh or of the leaders and cadres of the National Liberation Front.

The option of accepting a unified and Communist Vietnam, which would have evolved toward some form of market liberalism even faster than China has since done, (really??) always existed. It was not until President Kennedy decided to make a stand there, in revenge for the reverses he had suffered in Cuba and Berlin, that quagmire became inevitable. The option of leaving Iraq to whatever successor regime might arise or be imposed does not look half so appetizing. One cannot quite see a round-table negotiation in Paris with Bin Laden or Zarqawi or Moqtada Sadr, nor a gradually negotiated hand-over to such people after a decent interval.

See? That didn't take long. You’ve just contradicted your statement above, that the “leadership and structure of the Iraqi "insurgency" is formed from the elements of an already fallen regime.” Neither Bin Laden, Zarqawi, nor Moqtada Sadr were members of the former regime, yet it would certainly be the “leadership and structure” of the insurgency that would take power under your scenario.

Try to leave at least three paragraphs between your contradictions next time. (We’ll let the psycho-historical fantasia about Kennedy’s motives pass for the moment – although I was waiting for you to complete that list of his motives with “and his inability to sustain an erection.”)

In Vietnam, the most appalling excesses were committed by U.S. forces. … The worst atrocities--free-fire zones, carpet-bombing, forced relocation, and chemical defoliation--were committed as a direct consequence of orders from above. In Iraq, the crimes of mass killing, aerial bombardment, ethnic deportation, and scorched earth had already been committed by the ruling Baath Party, everywhere from northern Kurdistan to the drained and burned-out wetlands of the southern marshes. Coalition forces in Iraq have done what they can to repair some of this state-sponsored vandalism.

10,000-20,000 civilian deaths. Don’t they count? Massive damage to infrastructure caused by US bombings. Doesn’t that count? Or is that considered "repair"? Fallujah was subject to very rigorous bombing - or would that be "state-sponsored vandalism"?

In Vietnam, the United States relied too much on a pre-existing military caste that often changed the local administration by means of a few tanks around the presidential palace. In the instance of Iraq, the provisional government was criticized, perhaps more than for any other decision, for disbanding the armed forces of the ancien regime, and for declining to use a proxy army as the United States had previously done in Indonesia, Chile, El Salvador, and Greece. Unlike the South Vietnamese, the Iraqi forces are being recruited from scratch.

Yeah – and look how well it’s going. All 7,000 of them.

In Vietnam, the policy of the United States was--especially during the Kennedy years--a sectarian one that favored the Roman Catholic minority. In Iraq, it is obvious even to the coldest eye that the administration is if anything too anxious to compose religious differences without any reference to confessional bias.

Although an election without much Sunni participation is just fine, apparently. One should exclude “confessional bias” when composing a government, but it’s apparently acceptable to form one based on a difference in doctrine regarding the infallibility of the martyred Caliph Ali.

I suppose it's obvious that I was not a supporter of the Vietnam War. Indeed, the principles of the antiwar movement of that epoch still mean a good deal to me. That's why I retch every time I hear these principles recycled, by narrow minds or in a shallow manner, in order to pass off third-rate excuses for Baathism or jihadism.

I was not a supporter of the Vietnam War either. That’s why I “retch” every time I hear both decency and logic distorted into such topological shapes by someone who – obscenity of obscenities – tries to equate opposition of this war with “third-rate excuses for Baathism or jihadism.” Chris, despite the fact that your pal Wolfowitz and his group won’t intervene in Darfur, I don’t consider them apologists for raping women after their children are murdered before their eyes. So don’t make morally equivalent statements about me or those who agree with me about Iraq.

A friendly suggestion from a fellow Vietnam War opponent: Lose the vicious and hysterical rhetoric, pal – it’s beneath even you. Otherwise, it would be more apt for me to say that this piece is a fourth-rate excuse for the death of innocent civilians and the further degradation of US security in the Mideast and at home.

But one must also be capable of being offended objectively. The Vietnam/Iraq babble is, from any point of view, a busted flush. It's no good. It's a stiff. It's passed on. It has ceased to be.

Yeah, yeah, we get it. It is no more. It hath joined the choir invisible. We know it's a Monty Python reference. The rest of the paragraph is unclear, though, Chris. You say "one must be capable of being offended objectively": Are you offended, or not? If not, why not? Tighten up here. One’s writing must be capable of being comprehended - objectively.

In closing, Chris, even the "dead parrot" quotes don’t excuse this vituperative, illogical chicanery. A better Python analogue for this piece would be the “how to defend yourself against fresh fruit” routine. Remember? “But we’re not being attacked by fresh fruit,” the baffled students would reply when John Cleese brought out the banana, or apple, or orange. They would try to make him understand what the real dangers were, but he wouldn’t listen. Instead he’d attack them with increasing shrillness for their simple and reasonable act of objection. He kept getting more and more vicious, until in the end he was left alone in a room full of corpses.

But, Chris, that was just a comedy routine.

Best wishes for the New Year,

RJ Eskow


homecoming day

My guest-blogger gig at Rox Populi ends today, and my welcome-home note to my host is here.

Tip to future bloggers: Having used Typepad for a week now, there's no comparison. It's much easier to use and more flexible than blogspot.com. If I were you I'd pay the $4.95 a month and go that route. I'm just not up for converting everything over quite yet, so I imagine I'll be right here.


Saturday, January 29, 2005

alien love

don't knock it 'til you've tried it

Why is this alien smiling?

Don't you think that with all this talk of alien anal probes, much of it as the result of a Harvard professor's work, that you'd want to avoid writing an article called The Gnostic Theory of Alien Intrusion? It's not about that.

Some people say it's all pseudoscience, but I think they're just afraid of trying new experiences. I'm waiting for that liberating weekend seminar at Esalen - "Rigelian Love Secrets." For it is only be embracing the alien outside us that we can learn to love the alien within. So what if you can't sit down for a few days? It's a small price to pay for becoming one with the erotosphere. Move over, Rev. Falwell, and stopping hogging the jacuzzi.

Aliens. Spongebob. Ken Mehlman. It's an epidemic.

They're all saying the same thing to the Dobsons and Falwells of this little world we call home: gay or straight or bi, all healthy sexuality is OK. Release that part of your personality that makes you think sexual thoughts about 'toons and other non-humans! Let him out of that closet you call your mind! Find your sexual heart now - before you make fools of yourselves again.

Hey, honey, I'm gonna put "Fly Me to the Moon" on the stereo. I feel the love comin' on.

once a dick ...

thug culture at Auschwitz

US Vice President Dick Cheney confirmed for the world today that the government is being led by crude thugz who make 50 Cent look like David Niven. As the Washington Post observed, he was dressed to operate a snow blower. Oh, and his parka had his name inscribed on it. Maybe he's going to start his own fashion line, like Puffy. Dick was representin' - in fact, he was representin' ... you.

Cheney to Holocaust victims: Go f**k yourselves. Cheney to formally dressed fellow attendees: You think I'm gonna get cold for you, bitches? Halliburton is in the house!

This revives the competence question, too. According to Washington tradition, the Vice President's only job is to attend funerals. He can't even do that right. It shouldn't be a surprise. After all, Cheney was one of only six congressmen who voted against commemorating Martin Luther King with a holiday.

Hey, Cheney himself is going to leave this world someday, and there's going to be a funeral for him.

Q. What should we do to honor the memory of a man who showed disrespect for the memories both of Auschwitz victims and Dr. Martin Luther King?

A. Nothing.


Friday, January 28, 2005

real life is random

it's still the same old story ...

Today I learned there's a little blog tradition going around, allegedly started by Feministe, to set your music player on "random" or "shuffle" every Friday and list the first 10 songs it serves up. I also learned, courtesy of the same Feministe, that it is no longer cool. That means it's just the right time for Night Light to jump on board.

Here's what WinAmp produced today after shuffling the musical deck:

1. "Oh! What a Storm," Dry Branch Fire Squad (bluegrass group)
2. "Kiss An Angel Good Morning," Charley Pride
3. "Try Me Little Girl," Bob Dylan & the Band (Basement Tapes)
4. "Between the Bars," Elliott Smith
5. "Wine Me Up," Faron Young
6. "Where the Hell is Bill," Camper Van Beethoven
7. "You Have Been Disconnected," Brian Jonestown Massacre
8. "Friday on My Mind," the Easybeats
9. "Last Broadcast," Doves
10. "Whirling Hall of Knives," Butthole Surfers

I beg to differ - this is way cool. The "random 10" wrote a short story using only song titles. Does this always happen?

It is a short story. It is a story of potential, possibly even love, whatever that is. A story of drink, of futility, of pain, of endings. It is a short story. It is a Raymond Carver short story.

Man! I can't wait to play again next week. I'm just afraid it won't have as good a narrative flow. Roll over O. Henry, and tell O'Connor the news.


monkey man

what makes George "curious"?

You have to go to Rox Populi to find out ... but it's not about the President. He's the incurious one, remember?

DNC race - trouble ahead, whoever wins

heart doctor

As the race for DNC chair moves into its final phase, the ‘liberal blogosphere’ has decided: it’s anybody but Dean or any of the other guys. Dean is said to carry all the heavy negatives with swing voters and conservative Democrats, Rosenberg has not addressed his tactical blunders regarding the Iraq war, Frost is too ‘Bush-lite’, and nobody seems to like poor Donnie Fowler. It looks as if the winning candidate will have fences to repair, whoever he is. If the rumors are true and the Clintons don’t want Dean, Rosenberg may be in a good position to replace Frost as the best alternative. It could be a Pyrrhic victory for both Rosenberg and the Democrats, however, if he can’t explain his defense of the Iraq war – a defense that, in both tone and content, will create problems for both him and the Democrats down the road should he prevail. Bloggers supporting several candidates have characterized the race as one between “heart” (represented by Dean) and “brain” (represented by Rosenberg), but neither organ is winning the netroots decisively.

Many people I respect highly support Rosenberg, and I would like nothing better to join them. Unfortunately, he has been unable or unwilling to defend comments like the one he made on Fox News on Sept. 9, 2004: “I think the debate that is not happening is whether or not the war was a good idea. The war was a good idea. I think the American people were behind the President.” I consider this statemen a blunder at best, for a number of reasons. First,you are alienating the Democratic base on an important policy issue(and are flat wrong, in my opinion) when you say that “the war was a good idea.” The “people were behind the President” remark disregards both the large numbers of protesters and the polls showing majority opposition to the war until it started – a point where public opinion typically coalesces around supporting the troops. These remarks have left committed Democrats who opposed the war feeling slighted, and believing that Rosenberg was on the wrong side of a moral issue. Those feelings can be repaired, but Rosenberg has not said how he would go about doing that.

Second, events had shown long before September that the Democrats resonated far more with voters when they had a clear anti-war message than they did with the overly nuanced-seeming “it was a good idea but we manage it better” spin Kerry tried for a while. Nobody bought it. In that regard, Rosenberg’s comment displayed a tin ear for the music of the 2004 campaign. Lastly, comments like these will be used against the Democrats in future campaigns, as others have pointed out. While the DNC chair does not set policy, as others have pointed out, he or she must not make statements about policy that work against the interests of the party.

(Click on "Permalink Page" for full post.)

I would like to support Rosenberg, given his organizational talents. I contacted his campaign in the hope that he has a a plan to address these problems: why these statements were made, what he has learned, what he would do in the future to repair the breach. They did not respond, maybe because they’ve read Night Light’s sitemeter numbers. (In fairness, this is crunch time for the DNC candidates, so I don't take it personally. I do think it's incumbent on them, however, to respond to this concern in some forum.)

Rosenberg benefits from broad support among more influential bloggers, however, as reflected in Josh Marshall’s words:

“First, I think Simon is one of the relatively few people in the Democratic party today who combine two things: a) a deep and considered understanding of why we must and how we can rebuild the infrastructure of the Democratic party and -- and it's a huge 'and' -- b) the organizational abilities and skills to be part of making it happen.”

Stirling Newberry of BOPNews echoes these points, and adds that “I come from that school that says first one must dominate the line of scrimmage,” which is his term for “defining the terms of the debate.” Dominating the line of scrimmage does not help, however, if you’re calling the wrong plays. That’s the issue Rosenberg has yet to address. I don’t doubt that he’s organizationally brilliant, based on his track record. It also appears that he is personally very charismatic and persuasive, since many of his blog endorsers had personal interactions with him which they cite in their endorsements. But that’s not enough. I hope Rosenberg can address his remaining major negative promptly enough to a) boost his candidacy’s chances, especially if Dean should stumble, and b) ensure that he does not take office with too much working against him.

“Ya gotta have heart,” says the old song (ironically for Vermonter Dean, it's from the musical “Damn Yankees.”) I must admit I have warm feelings for Howard Dean. Those very excesses that might work against him as DNC chair are qualities that inspire affection in me, but we all need to be realistic. While not a big fan of sports metaphors, I’ll follow Newberry’s lead here and say that the DNC chair should be a coach. A good coach must be part businessman, part motivator, part chooser and builder of talent, and part tactician. A good coach needs a brain and a heart, and must speak to the brains and hearts of his team.

If forced to choose I’ll pick the heart anytime, but a choice like that should not be necessary. If someone can address the barrier Rosenberg has built for himself, I will probably endorse him. Otherwise, I can’t. My heart wouldn’t be in it.


thinking outside the ...

close de' box*

Via Mr. Sun, a challenge to come up with new slogans to replace that well-worn cliche, "thinking outside the box." My suggestions, based on years of forced attendance at corporate training sessions:
  • Smoking some kick-ass talcum.
  • Being a random word generator.
  • Using up the airspace so no other idiot gets to talk.
  • Desperately trying to think of something before I have to finish this sentence.
  • Matriculating at the University of Me.
  • Where's that goddam box when you need it?
  • Thinking outside the unemployment office.
Come up with some of your own.

You get extra points if you caught the Kurt Cobain reference - the picture, of course, is of a "heart shaped box." (You remember: Hey, wait, I got a real complaint ... St. Cobain could be bitchy, too, as evidenced by his description of plump rival rocker Billy Corgan as a "pear shaped box.")

*You get even more extra points if you get the reference in the caption.

UPDATE: Give up on that caption reference? Go here.


honk if you love satan

it's official: Satan now controls the Right Guard

From Reuters:

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Procter & Gamble Co. on Friday said it would buy Gillette Co. in a deal worth $57 billion, uniting two of the world's largest makers of household goods ranging from Pampers diapers to Duracell batteries.

You may recall that before the Christian Right started protecting us from gay cartoon characters it attacked Proctor & Gamble, claiming that their logo was a satanic symbol and spreading the rumor that P&G's president swore allegiance to the Church of Satan on live television.

With this acquisition those fears are now confirmed, and the Underworld now controls more than 300 household products. Expect to receive orders from from our new master, the Dark One himself, Bart Simpson- broadcast live on The Simpsons' host network (which is Fox, naturally.)

As I wrote in Rox Populi, be prepared to propitiate the Horned One by purchasing more and more disposable and worthless goods. But wait - haven't we been doing that already? Evil cannot be sated - no matter how much you give, it will turn and destroy you in the end. Just ask Tom Daschle.



commentators are standing by ....

Eric Boehlert has another fine article on the Bush administration today in Salon (you need to view an ad to read it - or better yet, subscribe). He's becoming a leading voice in identifying and detailing the misdeeds of this Administration. Watch him.

This piece discusses the third commentator to be caught (so far) taking public money to promote the Administration's initiatives. My only complaint (and it's more than a quibble) is with the title, which Boehlert probably didn't write, "Third columnist caught with hand in the Bush till." Actually, their hands are in your till, and mine. Government money is being spent in unprecedented numbers to influence public opinion. Sometimes it's being done deceptively, either through these secret payments to commentators or though the creation of false "news reports" and "articles" disseminated by local TV stations and newspapers. In other words, I'm paying these commentators to lie to me, and so are you.

It makes a good film noir moment when a desperate man or woman looks across a smokey bar and says "Lie to me, baby." I can't think of too many examples of people willingly paying someone to lie to them, but there may be 900 phone lines set up just for that purpose. If not, it may be a new and profitable business for Halliburton or Arbusto to go into when this Administration leaves office. But not before, and not with my money, thank you very much.

On the other hand, if there's somebody out there willing to to say "RJ, nobody can tell you're losing your hair," just tell me where to call.


Thursday, January 27, 2005

make up your own damn joke

pro-gay, pro-alien, and why aren't I laughing?

Hey, you know what? I was going to try writing something oh-so-clever about the "Buster promotes gays" flap. I was going to go after the so-called "Christian" right wing (who are no more Christian than bin Ladin is Muslim) for their continued attacks on cartoon characters. I was going to link to this recipe on Buster's website for peanut butter and pickle sandwiches. It's part of his "postcard" from Roswell, New Mexico. Buster says "if it's good enough for aliens, it's good enough for me," so I was going to come up with something about how they don't mind that he's promoting a pro-alien agenda, thereby encouraging our future enslavement to the Andromedans, it's just the gay thing that bothers them. It's pretty good material - almost writes itself.

But then I started to feel really, really sad. Like crying-sad. You know why? Because these people will desecrate anything - anything - to promote their agenda, including the innocent fun of children. I don't know if "Postcards for Buster" is a good show or a bad one. I don't know if very many kids love it or learn from it. But I know that some do, and I know that some of them have heard about this whole ginned-up "controversy." And it's made them feel pretty bad. Kids need safe places, and they just lost another one.

(Click on "Permalink Page" to continue)

Demagogues use whatever's at hand to promote themselves. Sure it's infuriating, and of course it's ridiculous too. But it's also very cruel, and very sad. The innocence of childhood is just another propaganda tool for them. "They'd shit on the morning star if they could reach it," said the poet Robinson Jeffers. It's a form of child abuse, and I wish someone would come along and make them stop. But that's just the kid in me talking, looking for a "good adult" to make the bad ones stop.

The trouble with kids is they just don't understand irony. You tell them something and they believe you. So somebody else have fun with this one. Take this graphic, too. It says "Can you find me?" Make an "outing" joke with it or something. Buster's all yours.

death penalty sought for suicidal man

who says irony is dead?

From the Postmodern Department of Found Poetry:

GLENDALE, Calif., Jan. 27 - The Los Angeles County district attorney said today that he would probably seek the death penalty for the suicidal man who abandoned his S.U.V. on a heavily traveled commuter rail track here early Wednesday, causing a violent wreck involving three trains that left at least 11 people dead and nearly 200 injured.

From the New York Times


Wednesday, January 26, 2005

ain't that good news!

US Senate Dems: Anti-torture Chamber

Please link on over to Rox Populi, where I display a new side of my online personality by being positive. US Senate Democrats -- well, some of them -- stood up for what was right on two occasions today.

They get their props over at Roxanne's blog.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

the moral issue of a generation

'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the
least of these my brethren, you did it to me.'
Matthew 25:31-40

Every generation or so an issue arises that highlights the moral universe of a society in its time. The issue may involve millions of lives, as slavery and segregation did, or it may involve one individual or a few people as the Dreyfus affair did. Either way, their suffering suffuses the ethical landscape with a harsh brightness that leaves only light and shadow. State-sponsored torture, endorsed and carried out by our government, is one such issue. There is no room for equivocation, no room for caveats, no room to allow partisan political allegiances to stand in the way of the human conscience. There is only room for the "yes" or "no" answer to one question, posed in a song once long ago: Which side were you on?

Eric Martin discusses the issue at length, and eloquently, on Total Information Awareness, but the basic issue is simple. Government memos were written to circumvent the Geneva Convention. Andrew Sullivan coyly tries to elide the issue in this week's New York Times Book Review, using the sleight-of-hard observation that "our enemies" don't abide by the Convention, nor are they signatories to it or other documents of international law. We are - and we're supposed to be better than the torturers, not better torturers. Memos were written, orders were given, "encouragement" was provided, and human beings were tortured. We are all responsible. We all paid for it. The government has made its position clear by punishing no one except a few low ranking folks who got caught. The real perpetrators have been promoted. So now that we bear collective responsibility, the question is: what are you going to do about it?

If you're not a fan of international law, you can always conduct this simple experiment: How would you feel if you saw American soldiers being subjected to the practice? Would you consider it "abuse"? Would "waterboarding" be OK? How about being tormented with the threat of bites from a vicious dog, after which the dog was released and shredded a human leg? Would you be happy if you heard American Christians forced to thank Allah, or Buddha, or Shiva that they are still alive? When you heard that dozens of our men and women tried to kill themselves in captivity, would you feel anything? What would you think of a government that condones or encourages such practices? Now, take those feelings and imagine if you knew that many of the people being subjected to these practices are innocent civilians. Then imagine a leader of the opposition party in that government saying of that policy's legal architect, as Sen. Patrick Leahy said of Alberto Gonzales, that he is "nice." Would you consider that country a true democracy?

What would you think of "bloggers" who condoned this activity, or felt that objections to it were exaggerated? What would you think of Senators who voted to confirm that legal architect? What would you think of anyone who supported that political party and worked in its campaign (think Schwarzenegger, Giuliani, Pataki, McCain, and other so-called "moderate" Republicans?) Would you think they're good human beings? "Nice"? What would you think if they had someone like Rush Limbaugh over there, who compared the torture to a fraternity hazing? Would you think any of these people should be allowed a seat at the table where civil human discourse takes place?

I am signing this petition,which came to my attention through BOPNews. I urge other bloggers - including those on the Right, and especially libertarians - to do so. This is not a left/right issue. This is an issue of morality. I believe a great many politicians, "pundits", and other public figures who equivocate on this issue will be remembered in disgrace for generations to come.

At least I hope so.


Sunday, January 23, 2005

squarepants II: the republican sin machine

God's eye for the queer guy

The Spongebob Squarepants scandal is actually worse than I first thought. It turns out that Rev. Dobson began the flap by objecting to the fact that the sponsor of Spongebob's diversity cartoon has a statement on its website encouraging “respect” for others, whatever their sexual identity. That's right: "respect" is the offending word. Whatever happened to “hate the sin, love the sinner”? Meanwhile, a so-called “movie ministry” censures Spongebob for “cartoon rear male nudity, ” "pinching ... between nude (cartoon) buttocks," and “suggestions” of S&M and transvestitism. These witch-hunts aren’t politically motivated – perish the thought - so I’ve created the following visual guide to Republicans who must be also be banned. And for those who think enough has been written about Heinygate, I can only quote Spinal Tap: How can I leave this behind?

Sadly, the burning must start with my beloved ZZ Top. Although they performed at the RNC like good Republicans, they recorded a song called “Tush” and so must go. (And don't even ask what "Pearl Necklace" is about.) Country singers Brooks & Dunn? Nope – they sang “Boot Scootin’ Boogie," another buttocks-oriented conservative number. Now grab some popcorn and have a seat, because our Republican slide show is beginning. WARNING: Not work safe. The picture of a Republican governor’s genitals is enough to make a dead man blush, to paraphrase the late blues singer Lucille Bogan (whose works would not survive in a Dobson theocracy.)

First, let’s start with Rev. Dobson. I think these two books tell us all we need know about him:

A generation of British public school boys can attest to where this combination leads

Then there’s Arnold Schwarzenegger: Republican governor, groper, speaker at the Republican National Convention, male model. Promisekeeper Alert! Schwarzenegger also played a CIA agent in “True Lies” who lies to his wife for 20 years about his work, then pimps her out to the bad guys when he gets in a jam. I’m sure that Dobson and the Movie Ministry are preparing their statements of outrage as we speak.

the emerging Republican majority

We move next to Kid Rock, who played at the Bush twins’ party. Sure, he was eventually banned from the Inaugural, probably for his lyric about bangin’ Barbara Bush on Air Force One, but he’s still a popular Republican supporter. Not when Dobson and the Movie Ministry get a hold of him! His “Kid Rock Christmas” ad for MTV was played heavily on cable. That’s the one where he’s sitting on a toilet and emits a loud burst of flatulence. Here he is in the forest with some sculptures.

Kid prepares to destroy banned art works by Michelangelo

Say hello to Bo Derek: Republican supporter, former “10”, Playboy foldout.

i got yer "Red state" right here ...

Remember Ron Silver? His 15 minutes of fame are over, but this war hawk and RNC supporter played a pornographer in the TV series “Skin.” I’m sure his censure will be announced any day now. They'd tell people not to give him any decent parts, but ... wait! Maybe they already have ...

newflash! B-list celebrity supports Iraq war! but where does the guy who played the next-door neighbor on "The Jeffersons" stand?

Then there’s Dennis Miller, whose one leading film role was in “Bordello of Blood,” a soft-core porn movie about vampire prostitutes. In the big finale Dennis gets to burn many of them alive in their lingerie, some reduced to nothing but sexy legs in stockings and high heels. Surprisingly, Dennis has been embraced by Republicans and conservatives for his political views, but wait until Rev. Dobson gets a hold of him!

but, of course, I could be wrong ...

Say a big hello to Ken Starr, pornographer, who used taxpayer money to widely disseminate graphic depictions of sexual acts. I can't remember Rev. Dobson's howls of outrage, but he must have rebuked this guy something awful.

i promise to tell the juicy stuff, the whole juicy stuff, and nothing but ...

We end with a fella that needs no introduction, “Mr. Loofa.” First him, then Spongebob. This Republican tool is the first of what may prove to be a long line of sponges implicated in sexual scandals. And I'll bet that O'Reilly's gonna get a talking to!

knows the sex secrets of the porifera phylum ...

Rev. Dobson, these individuals are trembling in fear, knowing that your righteous wrath will fall upon them at any moment. A sin-saturated nation awaits your call. The Republican Sin Machine is about to feel your wrath!


Saturday, January 22, 2005

today the world, tomorrow the solar system

tomorrow's earth today

From RedNova's feature on Titan, Lighting Up the Flammable Moon:

Titan is a world where bits of muck continually fall out of the smoggy sky, blanketing the frozen surface like dark gooey snow. Squalls of methane rain periodically wash the surface clean, sweeping the organic gunk into rivers. The methane rivers ferry the gunk down through hills of rock-hard ice, and empty into the valley below. "The region we landed in is more typical of arid regions on the Earth, like Arizona," says Martin Tomasco, Principal Investigator. "We had great difficulty obtaining these pictures. We had only one percent of the illumination from the sun, we're going into a very thick atmosphere with lots of haze that blocks light from penetrating to low levels ..."

Substitute carbon monoxide for methane and it kind of sounds like what the Earth will be like after another 100 years or so of "relaxed air-quality standards." No wonder Cheney keeping those pro-energy-industry task force meetings so secret. And that's why Bush gets on that "manned flight to Mars" kick every once in a while: the real estate's going to be a lot nicer there someday.


the great emancipator and the sponge

you should hear him sing "Happy Birthday Mr. President"

What a weird couple of weeks for sexual politics. Two public figures, one a President and one a cartoon character, have been ‘outed’ for very different reasons. Lincoln’s orientation is being debated by historians, but there’s nothing to debate about Spongebob Squarepants: Rev. Dobson and his allies are truly sick people. On one hand they push v-chips and censorship to protect children from obscenity. On the other hand, they tell little Tommy and Johnny that their favorite cartoon hero is encouraging men to have sex with other men. What kind of emotional scars must that leave in a God-fearing Christian child?

‘Gaydar’ used to be a talent only claimed by gay men, an unerring instinct for identifying closeted homosexuals across a crowded room. It has obvious value for them, both defensively and socially. Rev. Dobson makes even more extravagant claims for his, however. The Reverend’s gaydar crosses the time/space/reality continuum into that alternate universe inhabited by cartoon characters. Like Rev. Falwell before him, he is able to determine the sexual orientation of non-existent beings who appear to lack genitals. Sponges do become larger when moistened, of course, but there is no indication in Spongebob’s case that this growth is concentrated in any one area.

Reverend Dobson now states that he is not ascribing sexuality to Spongebob Squarepants, but objecting to a 'diversity' video including him and other cartoon characters popular with 6 and 7 year olds. Why? Because if you go to the diversity organization's website (which few 6 year olds will do) you will see a suggestion that people "tolerate" others, whatever their "sexual identity." What could be more un-Christian than "tolerance," after all? Yet a reporter who heard the Reverend's original remarks said that he singled out the Absorbent One for vilification, condemning him and other characters like Jimmy Neutron for participating in a "pro-homosexual video." And it turns out that, according to Reuters, Spongebob

was "outed" by the U.S. media in 2002 after reports that the TV show and its merchandise was popular with gays.

In another story, the late C. A. Tripp ascribes homosexuality to Abraham Lincoln in a recently published book, The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln. Tripp, an associate of Dr. Alfred Kinsey, uses historical documents to make that case that Lincoln was gay – or, more accurately, that he had gay experiences during a time when the gay/straight distinction was not as binary as it is today. I have only read excerpts of the book, plus analyses both pro and con, so I can only comment in a limited way.

It’s hard for me to buy some of Tripp’s arguments, since they seem to be based on open and public statements that would have been shocking even back then if they truly had the sexual implications Tripp gives them. But we’re still learning the cultural history of Lincoln’s time, so who knows? Tripp’s motives may include a sexual/political agenda, but Lincoln is a public figure and a legitimate area of study. Tripp is doing what academics should do: challenging public assumptions and raising new theories. Dobson is doing what demagogues must do: frightening the public, polarizing society, and – sadly, in this case – traumatizing children. And why is he so sensitive about this issue?

Maybe there’s a gay bar in Toon Town, where Twinkie the Teletubbie and Spongebob Squarepants are drinking and dancing to the latest techno hit by Massive Attack, or whoever’s popular in the club scene these days. Maybe the cartoon version of a tall gaunt man in a stovepipe hat is walking in right now and sitting down at the bar, just as DJ Jimmy Neutron cues up another tune. Perhaps as he orders a Sex on the Beach another cartoon man walks in, wearing glasses and a tie. “Rev. Jim!” screams the bartender. “It’s been forever! What closet have you been hiding in?”

“No closet,” says the Reverend. “I’m just here to protect the people.” Then, turning to the long-legged man next to him, he says in a low purr, “Hey there, fellow Republican. What say we go back to that ol' log cabin of yours and play 'free the slaves'?”


Permalink Page