I've already praised his work on the blog twice before, so it should come as no surprise that I continue to love everything I read by Haruki Murakami. If you've got the September 26 issue of The New Yorker, I strongly encourage you to give his "The Kidney-Shaped Stone That Moves Every Day" some time (and since it's a short story, it doesn't require much). If you don't have it, pick it up. I love his pacing, how he handles human interactions, and the last two paragraphs are superb. Given what's come before, each packs quite a hit, though in very different ways.
It suddenly hit me today that just hours after rereading The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse, I bought The Book of Bunny Suicides. Am I suddenly so unnerved by the cotton-tailed critters that I hope they choose to brutally end their lives? Hmmm .....
We've been tagged in the meme of the week. My limited results in the extended entry.
1. Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz
2. Daddy’s Roommate by Michael Willhoite
3. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
4. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
6. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
7. Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
8. Forever by Judy Blume
9. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
10. Alice (Series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
11. Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
12. My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
13. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
14. The Giver by Lois Lowry
15. It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
16. Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine
17. A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
18. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
19. Sex by Madonna
20. Earth’s Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel
21. The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
22. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
23. Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
24. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
25. In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
26. The Stupids (Series) by Harry Allard
27. The Witches by Roald Dahl
28. The New Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein
29. Anastasia Krupnik (Series) by Lois Lowry
30. The Goats by Brock Cole
31. Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
32. Blubber by Judy Blume
33. Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan
34. Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
35. We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
36. Final Exit by Derek Humphry
37. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
38. Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
39. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
40. What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters by Lynda Madaras
41. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
42. Beloved by Toni Morrison
43. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
44. The Pigman by Paul Zindel
45. Bumps in the Night by Harry Allard
46. Deenie by Judy Blume
47. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
48. Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden
49. The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar
50. Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat by Alvin Schwartz
51. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
52. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
53. Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
54. Asking About Sex and Growing Up by Joanna Cole
55. Cujo by Stephen King
56. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
57. The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell
58. Boys and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
59. Ordinary People by Judith Guest
60. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
61. What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons by Lynda Madaras
62. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
63. Crazy Lady by Jane Conly
64. Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher
65. Fade by Robert Cormier
66. Guess What? by Mem Fox
67. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
68. The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney
69. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
70. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
71. Native Son by Richard Wright
72. Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women’s Fantasies by Nancy Friday
73. Curses, Hexes and Spells by Daniel Cohen
74. Jack by A.M. Homes
75. Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya
76. Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle
77. Carrie by Stephen King
78. Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume
79. On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
80. Arizona Kid by Ron Koertge
81. Family Secrets by Norma Klein
82. Mommy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole
83. The Dead Zone by Stephen King
84. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
85. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
86. Always Running by Luis Rodriguez
87. Private Parts by Howard Stern
88. Where’s Waldo? by Martin Hanford
89. Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
90. Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman
91. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
92. Running Loose by Chris Crutcher
93. Sex Education by Jenny Davis
94. The Drowning of Stephen Jones by Bette Greene
95. Girls and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
96. How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
97. View from the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts
98. The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
99. The Terrorist by Caroline Cooney
100. Jump Ship to Freedom by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
Via War and Piece, comes this little nugget of bureaucratic craziness:
Republican members of Congress say there are signs that the Defense Department may be carrying out new intelligence activities through programs intended to escape oversight from Congress and the new director of national intelligence. (link)
"We see indications that the D.O.D. is trying to create parallel functions to what is going on in intelligence, but is calling it something else," Representative Peter Hoekstra, Republican of Michigan and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said in an interview. Mr. Hoekstra said he believed that the purpose might be to obscure the extent of Pentagon intelligence activities and to keep them outside Mr. Negroponte's designated orbit.
First, what the heck is the Pentagon doing? What are they trying to create? One of the causes of 9/11 and the Iraqi intelligence failure was the bureacratization of intelligence - too many, too scattered, too confused. I'm not a huge fan of Negroponte (head of the new intelligence oversite department; linked to death squads in Guatemala when he was ambassador there, and didn't seem to accomplish much in his short term in Iraq) and no fan at all of Porter Goss (head of the CIA, has fired a bunch of experienced people and replaced them with what look to be partisan hacks), but at least centralizing intelligence made some sort of sense. Now it looks like the Pentagon is trying to start up a whole new intelligence channel/operation. I'm very nervous about this.
Second, why is this Pentagon operation trying to duck Congressional oversight? It's never, ever a good sign when an executive department won't tell Congress what it's doing; it's even less of a good thing when that deparment has guns and is trying to combine them with secret agents (does anyone remember Ollie North? What happens when you have a whole department of them?). I'm certainly in favor of covert operations and intelligence, but there must be oversite. I'm very, very nervous about this.
Third, if that doesn't scare you enough, realize that the rubber-stamp, see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, no-accountability Republican Congress is throwing up red-flags over this. These people have consistently rolled over and died for this President over everything he's asked of them. If they are concerned over this, that seems like a big deal. I'm very, very, very nervous about this.
Fans of fun rock music in the greater New York area might want to go to Northsix (Williamsburg, Brooklyn) tonight. Why? Deerhoof is playing there, and it's the last stop on their tour before they head across the Atlantic for a week of shows in the UK (then the next leg of their tour starts out on the Pacific coast). Binky and I checked 'em out last night. They are very hard to classify - but their unusual (I want to say wacky, but that's too easily misinterpreted) sound is really enjoyable. Few musicians can manage to be a little cutesy and edgy and then produce something rather interesting out of that mixture. But Deerhoof has managed to do it.
UPDATE: I was working on this, but Armand finished first. I'm going to append to "extended entry" instead of putting it in the comments.
You are quicker to post than I, Armand...my Deerhoof review below (and yes, I wrote down the word quirky in the notes I took during the show).
Deerhoof passed through Small Town USA last night, giving us what must be a record two national acts in four days (with Rasputina on Saturday). This San Francisco quartet creates eclectic, cerebral indie rock. For cerebral, don't think lyrics, think musicianship. They are a bare bones quartet (bass, two guitars, and a drum kit that it just 1 snare, 1 bass and high hat) that generates innovative indie nonetheless.
The no nonsense presentation extends to their stage presence. With Greg Saunier, John Dieterich, Chris Cohen and Satomi Matsuzaki wearing jeans or shorts and soccer jerseys, they look like your grad student downstairs neighbors. They rotate the vocals among the string players, but Matsuzaki steals the show. With her diminuitive presence and sweet high vocals, it seems at first that Matsuzaki provides a delicate overlay to the harder musical edge. But her intense focus and martial-arts derived (?) stage movements mix things up, and prevent easy stylistic characterization.
That's true of the act in general, as they move from sudden halts to repeated melodies (and lyrics - Peppercorn!?), louder rock and softer melodies. This variation, with complicated, almost jazzy grooves (but no jam band indulgent wankery) keeps the variety listenable instead of tortured.
Deerhoof get bonus points in my book for being friendly and accessible. They didn't act put out to be in West Virgina (yes, I'm talking about you Spoon) and ended up making fun poses with fans while selling their merch after the show. Deerhoof have a 15 minute EP out now, but their next full length (Kill Rock Stars) drops next month. MP3s here.
Just say "no." Unless you like rat bits in your drink.
Or maybe it is hormonal. Perhaps it's the liver flavored perfume?
If there is a stray animal to be found, I will find it. The corollary is, if there is a group of people (including me) that finds a stray animal, I will be the one nominated (or honestly, to volunteer) to take it home. When I get it home, I will initially swear the animal will sleep in the yard, no, on the back porch, maybe in the bathroom, oh, ok, in my big dog's crate, but what is that? he isn't crate trained and is sad? so, alright, he can sleep on the dog bed in my room while my guys are on the couch downstairs.
And so it is, that I find myself, with a rather large, kinda smelly male husky puppy or young dog, lying on the floor and panting stinky breath in my bedroom, after following me and a friend home from the Deerhoof show. He's very cute, quite friendly, and luckily has a rabies tag so I will be able to find his human.
UPDATE: He snores.
From the LA Times (reprinted at NYNewsday) a report that the Bush administration has sent its lawyers to the Supreme Court to ban late-term abortions.
In their appeal to the Supreme Court, the Bush administration lawyers said the lower courts should have deferred to the lawmakers in Washington, not the medical experts who testified in the case.
"Congress' findings concerning the medical necessity of partial-birth abortion were entitled to substantial deference," U.S. Solicitor General Paul D. Clement told the court in Gonzales vs. Carhart.
So, which part to make the head spin harder. That the administration continues on its relentless quest to threaten women's health or that is asserts once again that lawyers know more about medicine than doctors?
On Thursday Judge John Roberts of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals will be confirmed as the new Chief Justice of the United States. All that's unknown now is the final vote tally. It's looking increasingly likely that Roberts will be confirmed with the support of 3/4's of the Senate. As of this morning, this is where the various Democrats in the Senate who've announced their intention stand (all Republicans will vote for Roberts).
13 for Roberts: Max Baucus of Montana, Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Bill Nelson of Florida, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Ken Salazar of Colorado.
16 against Roberts: Evan Bayh of Indiana, Joseph Biden of Delaware, Barbara Boxer of California, Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, Jon Corzine of New Jersey, Mark Dayton of Minnesota, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Dianne Feinstein of California, Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, John Kerry of Massachusetts, Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, Barack Obama of Illinois, Harry Reid of Nevada, Charles Schumer of New York and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.
Rick Hasen has these posts on election law cases that the SCOTUS has scheduled on its calendar for the coming term. As he notes, this is one area in which the changing composition of the Court could have a major impact. While the new justices could opt to uphold recent precedents, many of those were established on 5-4 votes, and it's entirely possible that the new justices will find them (particularly aspects of them upholding campaign spending limits) inconsistent with the First Amendment.
Tony Mauro has this article on First Amendment cases that the Court will hear. Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Benificiente Uniao Do Vegetal, which deals with whether or not members of a religious group can use hoasca, a hallucinogenic tea, sounds particularly interesting. As to that case, I find it highly amusing, hysterically funny really, that the Bush administration is arguing that these believers shouldn't be allowed to use the substance because of "international treaty obligations that prohibit its import". Uh-huh. We all know just how interested in the administration is in upholding international law.
As the New York Jets continue to reel from the news that West Virginia's own Chad Pennington won't be able to return to the field this season, they've gone in a familiar direction, signing former Jet (and Cowboy, and Brown, and Buccaneer, and Raven) Vinny Testaverde. Former Wisconsin star Brooks Bollinger will make his first NFL start in this coming Sunday's game, but the team is exploring a variety of options now that Pennington is out for the year, and Jay Fiedler (their #2 QB) is also injured.
While I think it's interesting that they are once again returning their attention to the 41 year old Testaverde, the other reason I'm linking to this story has to do with the other steps the Jets are pursuing. In the middle of the story it's noted that among the other QB's they'll be auditioning are both Doug Johnson and Jesse Palmer. They both left Florida years ago, and yet once again they find themselves fighting for the same job.
Todd Zywicki has this interesting observation on the consequences of anti-drinking laws, and laws banning smoking in public places. Laws against social ills can, perhaps unexpectedly, break down the social interations that many feel are central to maintaining communities.
For the fourth night in a row.
Only tonight am I visited, at 12:37 am, by the most powerful mouthwatering crazy making hunger for crunchy cheetos. Ever. MSG goodness. Powdery sticky orange goo on both hands (even though one promises oneself to soil but one). The crinkly bag that draws the furry spectators, canine and feline. Ever hopeful. Like me. That magic cheetos will fall from the sky.
Quietly, without breaking through the noise surrounding hurricanes and war protests, some good news from Chile.
Today, on Chile's 195th birthday, the Pinochet Constitution is now merely part of the miserable history of his horrid rule:
In a highly symbolic act aimed at ushering in a new political era in Chile, President Ricardo Lagos signed Chile’s new Constitution Saturday morning in a ceremony at the La Moneda presidential palace in the presence of the nation’s most important political, religious and civic leaders.
Lagos proclaimed that the new Constitution signifies an end to Chile’s transition to democracy - a process that begin in 1988 following the defeat of former dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet in a national plebiscite wherein Pinochet sought an additional eight year mandate.
Scott Lemieux at Lawyers, Guns and Money does an extremely fine job breaking down the "logic" behind a Tacitus post:
And so, of course, Tacitus’ attempt to catch supporters of reproductive rights in a contradiction is only useful as an illustration if you’re trying to explain to someone what “begging the question” means. Since pro-choicers completely reject the premise that the fetus is a “child”, there is obviously no internal contradiction in the arguments of pro-choicers who oppose the death penalty. And then, of course, there’s the bigger question: why on earth should pro-choicers accept the premise that the fetus is the moral equivalent of a “child,” when most of the people who purportedly believe it aren’t willing to apply this principle with the slightest consistency?
He then goes on to explain why, according to the GOP, Fetuses Are Rights-bearing Subjects, Adult Women Are Not. Go poli sci team!
I waited all weekend to see the video at the bottom of this post over at the Rev. Mykeru's place. I think I checked there and the Liberal Avenger where he also posts (and which has excellent musical goodies posted from time to time) like 50 times in the last day.
If you've never been to a protest, and imagine that it's simply a bunch of people meandering around, you should watch this tape. Hell, you should watch it anyway. However it's a fine example of a well-executed plan of protest theater, complete with props (and Pigs). The only thing missing might have been War Pigs.
Since both Baltar and I have blogged on Pat Tillman before, I thought I should link to the latest article on the man, his death, and way it was manipulated for political reasons. I lagrely concur with the analysis of The Cunning Realist. Tillman seems to have been a fascinating, perhaps even noble, man. It's a shame that the US government and the Bush administration seem to lack so many of Tillman's positive characteristics.
The stories on the recently released cardinal's diary have mostly focused on the fact that Pope Benedict's main competitor in the election was Cardinal Bergoglio, a man who it appears desperately didn't want the job. I guess this makes me feel a little better about the fact that I predicted that he was going to be named as John Paul II's successor. But the one tidbit that really flew out at me was that someone voted to elect Bernard Law as the pope. Bernard Law. The man who led Boston's archdiocese during the sex-crime scandals and behaved appallingly. I think I'm gonna be sick.
The parent of a disabled child discusses Sam Brownback using a disabled child during the senator's anti-choice sermons during the John Roberts confirmation hearings.
This book by Franklin Foer is, frankly, not all I hoped it would be. This is an incredibly rich area for research, but this text comes off as a breezy tome, focused more on what soccer represents and how it's used in an intra-societal context, rather its larger global implications. That said, if you are interested in how soccer is related to politics in, say, Serbia, Italy, Spain, Brazil and Scotland there's much to recommend this book. And a lot of important transnational phenomena are discussed, from international economic markets to the variations in the ways that marginalized communities are treated around the world. So, while it wasn't all I hoped it would be, it does contain some worthwhile insights into matters such as nationalism, corruption and strategies employed in the use of violence and the containing of dissident factions. And it concludes with some keen observations about how the US really is different - in ways that make us perhaps relatively poorly able to understand what drives politics in much of the rest of the world.
An article from CNN has been bugging me for a couple of days. In it, the FBI claims to have thwarted "jihad" in California. After reading the article a few times, it does seem they have thwarted something but that it was jihad does not seem clear.
Appearing in Los Angeles Thursday, FBI Director Robert Mueller praised local police agencies that uncovered the alleged plot in July while investigating a string of gas station robberies.
"Terrorist threats against the city and county of Los Angeles ... were prevented," Mueller said.
While "investigating a string of gas station robberies" is the interesting part. The prosecutors think that the alleged jihadis were commiting crimes to fund their terrorist plans.
Why gas station robberies? Here is the interesting part.
Prosecutors contend the men were working at the behest of Kevin James, a California State Prison, Sacramento, inmate who founded the radical group Jamiyyat Ul-Islam Is-Saheeh, or JIS. Washington converted to Islam while imprisoned there for a previous robbery conviction.
In the past, I've seen the subject of religion in prisons debated as a mechanism of rehabilitation. This PBS program, for example, examines the role of christian jailhouse ministry and rehabilitation.
What about Islam? The influence in the US has largely been associated with the Nation of Islam, but that is changing as the NoI wanes and Sunni and Shia movements spread.
It's likely a lack of trust on my part, whether of the motives and results of prison missionaries, or of the conversions themselves, but I wonder to what extent conversion really results in fundamental change. In other words, is jihad (or other religious affiliation) a convenient identity that overlays organized crime and merely displaces other identities like crips, or mara salvatrucha?
There is another conversion that I have in mind that makes me draw this connection between crime and conversion, and how rather than erasing criminal intent, the so-called conversion gave new tools and identity to organized crime. The case is the Comando Vermelho, and there is a book called the Comando Vermelho, a história secreta do crime organizado (The Red Command, the secret history of organized crime) about the emergence of a new, dominant criminal organization that was born in the jails of Brazil.
Under the military regime, one of the tactics the government used against political prisoners (in addition to torture) was putting young leftists in jail with hardened criminals, thinking that this would be an additional punishment. What they didn't count on was that the hardened criminals learned from the political prisoners, how to organize in cells, the language of revolution, and recruitment tactics. From the prisons was born an organization that effectively tapped into the anger of the dispossessed, the organizational skills of militants, and all the criminal know-how in the country. The result has been an organization that controls a remarkable amount of criminal enterprise, as well as a surpsingly large amount of territory in mostly urban areas of the country.
This site summarizes the debate about the role of Islam, with authorities seeing terrorists and chaplains seeing the oppressed (emphasis mine).>
"Prisons continue to be fertile ground for extremists who exploit both a prisoner's conversion to Islam while still in prison, as well as their socio-economic status and placement in the community upon their release," FBI director Robert Mueller said Feb. 16 to the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee.
Prison chaplains and others, however, say such warnings are dangerously ignorant.
In interviews with The Associated Press, chaplains, prison volunteers, correctional officials, inmates and former inmates all insisted that there was no evidence of terrorist recruitment by Muslims in their prisons - although banned pamphlets and books sometimes slip in.
Chaplains describe the typical inmate convert as a poor, black American upset about racism, not Mideast politics; someone who turned to Islam to cope with imprisonment. When they get out, these men are so overwhelmed by alcoholism or poverty that the crimes they are most likely to commit are the ones that landed them in jail to begin with, chaplains say.
I'm going to walk through the bold sections, and try to tie them to both the assertion of organized jihad, as well as the Comando Vermelho.
First, on recruitment to terrorism in the prisons, the first statement by Mueller is telling. The vulnerability of individuals within the system is important - and someone more versed in sociology could do a much better job of explaining this than I can - to survival. However the vulnerability once outside and the difficulties of re-integrating into "normal" society present opportunities for alternative social contexts or subcultures. That is, the lack of active recruitment to terrorism inside does not preclude the ability to create networks that continue outside. Compare to the CV, where not every petty criminal inside the jails became indoctrinated into the twisted Marxist/RobinHood ideology of the criminal elite, yet found a "job" in the organization once on the outside, and back in the urban slums facing the same conditions that led to imprisonment in the first place.
Second, on the ignorance of the warnings that all religious organizing in a threat to national security. This is an important caution, not least for respecting the religious freedoms of everyone including inmates, but also for the potentially dangerous consequences of any attempt to stamp out religious observance in the prisons as well as closing the door to positive work in the prisons from religious organizations that volunteer social services. Again, any lurking sociologist is welcome to chime in and correct me if this is of target.
Third, that "banned pamplets and books sometimes slip in" is difficult to chracterize without understanding what is banned and why. Yet if the banned material is recruitment to terrorist activity and not simply something that the prison system dislikes for various other reasons, is it really evidence of attempts to recruit? If so, how organized are the attempts to slip it in? Unlike the case of the CV where the government itself put the "dangerous knowledge" directly in the cells of the inmates, it is much harder to fathom the impact. Ultimately it is not knowledge itself that is dangerous, but recruitment networks.
Finally, just because "the crimes they are most likely to commit are the ones that landed them in jail to begin with" does not exclude the possibility that, like the petty criminals who go to work for the CV as street dealers, pickpockets, enforcers, or guards, their crimes might feed or fund a larger organization, the extent of which they themselves might not even fully know.
This of course, takes us back to robbing gas stations, and the question of whether criminal enterprise is taking advantage of the religious identity and loyalty of former inmates or terrorist organizers are taking advantage of the vulnerability of former inmates to gather resources. In the case of the CV, by most accounts, the goal was both economic and power-based, as the leaders were more concerned with a profitable enterprise that could repel competitors than with a political takeover. The result, however, has been political, in which entire sections of cities - with many thousands of residents - have become controlled by a de facto CV leadership. The police don't go in, the government can't really control it, and the CV dispenses frontier justice in addition to getting involved in social welfare programs.
In the end I am extremely suspicious of the urge to paint every crime committed by a self-identified muslim as terrorism. It's wrong, bigotry, and counterprodutive to getting the muslim community's support for exposing real terrorists. Yet I am left wondering about the instrumental association of criminals with terrorism. The CV isn't the only fusion of organized crime with anti-system militants (though in the case, it was anti-authoritarian militants, not anti-democracy). The association between Colombian revolutionaries and drug traffickers is another marriage of convenience that has had much greater repercussions than simple profit from criminal enterprise. Likewise all of these organizations draw from marginalized members of the population.* I think it's time to start making a bibliography and trying to get a better handle on the issue.
*[and here I predict a diversion in the comments to crime, poverty, Katrina, Tierney and Will]
So in my initial review of the film last winter, I noted that might response might be quite different (more positive) upon a second viewing. So I did finally watch it again - and I was indeed entirely too harsh in the ealier review. It's really a wonderful film - when I wrote the above I wrote it in response to my expectations of the film, not the film itself. After falling more deeply into Steve's world (and that of Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach), I understand more of it (including the pirate sequence). It really is a wonderful film . But my initial reaction does make clear that Anderson's films really need to be appreciated on their own terms, and those might not be readily evident in full from a single viewing.
Comparing Iraq to Viet Nam has become common, and I imagine after yesterday's protest marches in Washington and around the world we'll be hearing it more and more (as in "not since Viet Nam has the nation seen as many mobilized...).
For the social reaction inside the U.S., it kind of works. I can't help thinking, though, as I read the death tolls coming in every day in dribs and drabs, that even though this war is not about separatism, it looks a whole hell of a lot more like Chechnya. How much advice do you suppose W gets from his good friend, Vladimir?
UPDATE: I referenced a Juan Cole post in my precious post, Sickness, but this paragraph hit me like a ton of Soviet bricks.
Let's get them out, now, before they destroy any more cities, create any more hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons, provoke any more ethnic hatreds by installing Shiite police in Fallujah or Kurdish troops in Turkmen Tal Afar. They are sowing a vast whirlwind, a desert sandstorm of Martian proportions, which future generations of Americans and Iraqis will reap.
He is describing the Soviet policy of controlling ethnic minorities. Maybe Bush is paying more attention to Vlad than we thought. And it wouldn't be the first time one of us talked about a Stalinist policy coming out of the Bush administration.
What leads to the kinds of things Billmon describes in these posts? At what cost do we the people ignore the consequences of our foreign policy? At the cost of the humanity of people who learn to find these things entertaining? At the price of callous disregard infecting the rest of us? How can we remain silent?
Our souls are sick. Our minds. Our country.
UPDATE: A busy day, and just now I read Juan Cole's excellent post on the same subject. He says it much better: "The brutalization of the US military and of its prisoners is a brutalization of the entire American public." His post is long, and excellent.
...and you were in control of the Federal Budget, what would you do?
Heh. That'll draw you in, won't it?
Here's the deal. Since when can no one spell the word bestiality? That's BEST as in "fucking animals is the BEST reason to leave Georgia" or "Rick 'Man on Dog' Santorum" is the best animal-fucking-based sobriquet ever.
Not BEAST as in Sexy Beast. Or Beast of Burden (and holy crap, who even remembers maxi singles?!). Or as in Beastmaster. Although, wait a minute, maybe there is something to that picture, but then it would be a BEASTmaster engaged in BESTiality.
I suppose it's too much to ask those who are so frothed at the way the gay agenda, feminism, and atheism (or according to my sources below, Islam) are leading down the path to bestiality and a brand new Sodom and Gomorrah to pause for a moment to check the freaking Merriam-Webster's dictionary.
What is happening to us, America? Aren't we teaching the children anything anymore?
Evidence below the fold. And yes, I have been cursing more lately. I blame Jesse.
Ninth-Grade Sex-Ed Program Teaches About Beastiality, Threesomes
Posted by Cronos On News/Activism 02/23/2004 6:06:36 AM PST · 24 replies · 85+ views
wftv.com ^ | 9:31 am EST February 13, 2004 | AP Ninth-Grade Sex-Ed Program Teaches About Beastiality, Threesomes POSTED: 9:31 am EST February 13, 2004 COPENHAGEN, Denmark -- Some sex ed goes a little too far, even for open-minded Danes. The Danish government halted the distribution 60,000 CD-ROMs for sexual education classes throughout the country because some of the content was deemed unacceptable, Health Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen said Thursday. The 60,000 discs, intended for ninth graders, contained information about threesomes, bestiality [ed note: aha! copied and pasted!] and partners relieving themselves on each other while having sex. Distribution of the material was scheduled to start next week. "What is the point of telling children and young...
THEATER The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? ('a ripping good yarn about beastiality' tony award winner)
Posted by chance33_98 On News/Activism 10/16/2003 6:38:40 PM PDT · 9 replies · 4+ views
windycitymediagroup.com ^ THEATER The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? BY RICK REED (10/15/2003) Playwright: Edward Albee At: Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn Phone: (312) 443-5151; $30-$55 Runs through: Nov. 2 For those of you seeking a ripping good yarn about beastiality (and who among us isn’t?), look no further, as the Goodman offers up the crown of its Edward Albee Festival, The Goat, or Who is Sylvia, Albee’s 2002 Tony Award-winning play. Stevie (Barbara Robertson) and Martin (Patrick Clear) seem to have it all. Martin, just turned 50, has just won the coveted Pritzker Prize for architecture and has been commissioned...
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Hurricane Rita from Space
#107 PSGInfinity 9/22/2005 7:17:44 PM #99 cathyf Man, if it isn't hinted beastiality, it's breast references. And a woman brought that up. this is gonna be a weird night...
Thursday Open Thread
#449 American Infidel 8/4/2005 12:25:08 PM #428 Earth2moonbat He lives in the middle of one of them; King county, WA. Yes, he also lives in a state that allows beastiality...A state where a man was killed by a horse that boinked him... LOLOL...Gawd, I am still trying to picture how that horse would ...
Islamic Threats Against UK Gay Leaders
#176 Taxman 7/20/2005 9:00:33 PM This coming from the ragheads that find beastiality ok though.
Al-Timimi Gets Life
#146 American Infidel 7/13/2005 12:40:51 PM #93 tfc3rid Wonder if his stance on homosexual behavior will change with all this upcoming time in jail? If beastiality is OK, I don't think islamic authorities will have a problem with some sodomy... He will probably be regarded as some hero to the islamocrazies if ...
Sky News: Explosives Found in Abandoned Car
#60 American Infidel 7/12/2005 1:54:44 PM #55 savage_nation Don't forget to add a petting zoo with pigs and sheep. I like those little guys :) Forget the sheep, I wouldn't want open air beastiality...Pigs are excellent, I could see a whole bunch of sows & their respective piglets running around squealing...
Scottish Dhimmitude Watch
#99 Taxman 6/1/2005 6:14:41 PM Maybe they could replace the beer logo with something having to do with beastiality or pedaphilia. That pervert Mo (PBUH) approved of those activities.
US Shari'a Watch
#121 theheat 5/24/2005 8:12:00 PM What's next? Individuals start their own religion? Maybe a religion of American flag worshippers (don't desecrate my religious symbol, by the way)? Or, how about a sect of tea drinkers that worship fine China? Or, how about a religion of child porn, beastiality, and murder (oh, wait, that's already covered ...
Kashmir Children: "Don't Be Cruel to Us"
#38 USMC RECON 5/13/2005 11:29:47 AM The quality of mercy is strained when it comes to these animals. The wanton killing of children shows a beastiality which demands a response. The time is neigh for a full out war ,real war, with these pigs.
[editor's note: bonus points to the previous commenter who actually uses one of the other definitions of bestiality that does not have to do with animal-fucking]
Google Says No to Conservative Ads
#111 LC LaWedgie 5/3/2005 8:44:13 AM I'm on vacation - watched the "View" - "Joy" (and I use that term lightly) was seething and spitting all over herself questioning "where were the FCC morality police" when Laura Bush made the "beastiality masturbation" joke. Typically left - apply Google rule here
Danish Queen: "We Have to Show Our Opposition to Islam"
#53 Teacake! 4/14/2005 8:11:18 PM Who knew? I'v e been waiting for a political figure to speak the truth. Good girl! Some things in life should not be tolerated.... pedophelia, murder, beastiality, scrotum inflation and islamic expansionism.
Religion of Misogyny
#15 newmelleman 4/5/2005 8:27:37 AM #7 closet homosexuals, I agree. Of course that is tempered only by displays of pedophelia and beastiality. Time for an intervention...and I don't mean Dr. Phil.
Friday Evening Open Thread
#1067 Village Idiot's Apprentice 4/2/2005 5:23:56 AM And now for the morning recap Boobs Spyders boots relationships okra gas vs charcoal april fools job hunting adult beverages of choice beastiality mammograms Yup, looks like the FNDT alright BTW, morning all
National Review Caves in to CAIR
#333 BabbaZee 3/30/2005 6:51:53 AM woooooooooooaahhhh how did we go from beastiality to an attack on zombie? WTF?
Jordanian UN Peacekeeper Sex Scandal
#371 rockman 3/25/2005 6:51:04 PM Charles, Men and women have sexual intercourse. Men and goats have far too little in common for that. It's called BEASTIALITY and it's an abomination. /Preaching to the choir
Holy Warriors Murder Students at "Immoral Picnic"
#136 CrimsonFisted 3/22/2005 5:31:20 PM #118 dicentra Yes, for many American believers in Islam, it is a peaceful faith that can be practiced without danger to anyone. It is part of the community of faith. That's the problem. It can never be a peaceful faith. Take the Muslim challenge on Dr Sina's site. ...
#251 Frank IBC 1/21/2005 6:46:23 AM American Infidel - promote a "tolerance pledge" that includes tolerance for differences of "sexual identity." From that, you make the leap to... little experiments in beastiality... Your argument here is totally pathetic. When you're finished dealing with your lack of reasoning skills, then maybe next you can work on ...
VDH: Predictions for 2005
#131 Freedom Fan 1/2/2005 7:56:07 PM August 23, 2005 Dateline Oakland, California Mayor Edmund Brown denounces the practice of beastiality in his city. ACLU counters with a lawsuit filed in the 9th circuit claiming the mayor is guilty of violating the new state law which forbids spreading "hate speech". (how come y'all aren't playing any ...
Rampant Child Abuse in Pakistan Islamic Schools
#142 Gmac 12/10/2004 9:28:25 PM Well, there went their beastiality reputation... I just can't wait for the other shoe to drop. The moral perversity of this religion speaks volumes.
Freak Parade at Atrios
#175 PSGInfinity 12/6/2004 1:43:14 PM Whooosh! Just got back from that thread, and man, it's night and day. The crowd over here is at least 10-15 years more mature. It got to the point that only "eli" was readable. And that whole "hijack Iron Fist's name and start a feline beastiality...
A Lost CBS Document
#20 Joshua (not a hamster) Scholar 12/6/2004 10:23:17 AM OT: I stayed and argued on that Atrios thread last night... You know the one where (among other things) Iron Fist and Charles' name was hijacked by someone posting beastiality jokes and gay porn. I thought you might be interested in this posting made this morning: Never go there ...
Bottom Race 2004
#58 Bordm 9/6/2004 8:01:43 PM I noticed Michael Mooreon's email is email@example.com. Hmm. Michael Mooreon Flint, Larry Flint's love child from a beastiality orgy? Hmm
We Got Mail!
#8 whiterasta 7/18/2004 6:30:40 PM We may be racists, but at least we don't indulge in beastiality and pedophelia. Die palestine, die palestine, die palestine.
Palestinians Party in Downtown Qabatiya
#112 Rayra 7/2/2004 7:49:57 PM #47 Luigi 7/2/2004 01:29PM PST Thomas Friedman, Where are you?? Busy getting his morality blinders enlarged. His old set would not stretch far enough to cover the continued beastiality of the Pali "culture". #98 kmilby ...
The Gravitas of Michael Moore
#79 ted 6/26/2004 4:50:45 PM Moore has now made a cottage industry of his vile and despicable form of America bashing...He will only continue to contrive more vicious forms of hatred towards us to an ever hungry world that is chomskying at the bit for his particular form of cinematic beastiality...Moore and Mel Gibson read ...
[ed note:ooh, more bonus points]
Zawahri Raves, Seethes, Threatens
#20 Oktober 6/11/2004 5:18:33 PM #6 notice how he left out beastiality.....must be halal.
[ed note: OK, this one knows enough to understand and spell halal, but not bestiality.]
The War that Dare Not Speak Its Name
#49 ploome hineni 5/17/2004 1:48:26 PM 46 tucker I am overwhelmed by reading material I must admit to skimming the article, and (maybe) coming to a wrong conclusion as to his message :-P lol anyway...I for one am fed up..their ignrorance, brutality, and beastiality are a result of their culture and religion ...
The Dogs of Gaza
#17 ted 4/29/2004 5:50:52 PM Is anyone hinting that paleos partake of beastiality?
Yahoo Gives Jihadis a Base
#26 Kevin P. 2/26/2004 8:13:11 AM I belonged to a msn forum, where I couldn't even say the word "beastiality", but Fletch could post known anti-semitic "articles". I think me talking about beastiality vs. homosexuallity got them shut down. Believe it or not, the groups name was "Extreme Politics"! Thanks for the link, lawhawk, Charles. OT, ...
[ed note: maybe they banned for improper spelling]
The Terrorist and the Archbishop
#66 Mojo Jojo 1/29/2004 11:44:53 PM Did you expect anything else? They're both child molesters & into beastiality. Probably exchanged farm animals as gifts.[ed note: mmm, just to spice up the regular diet of homo- and islamo-phobia, a little catholic bashing! tasty treat!]
Only U.S. Strength Can Defeat Islamism
#14 FreakyBoy 11/4/2003 10:16:07 AM A culture where religious leaders green light beastiality and pedophilia, has a concept of shame? I feel dirty just typing about it.
[ed note: This from someone called "FreakyBoy." And maybe the dirty shame is over poor spelling?]
Honor Killing Watch
#55 ibrodsky 9/3/2003 6:55:48 PM Hey, let's be fair. It was the mullahs in Iran who came up with all the Dos and Don'ts of beastiality.
Somali Child Abuse ... in Ohio
#132 d 8/4/2003 8:01:20 AM #127: The guy who writes "The Savage Love" column for The Onion had a contest to name an eponymous word for Santorum in the wake of his recent comments about gays, beastiality, etc. The winning entry referred to the mixture of lube, fecal matter, etc. that can be an unfortunate ...
Disney Will Finance Moore
#139 twix 5/12/2003 9:44:22 AM We watched Beauty and the Beast over the weekend - the first time I'd seen it, or even noticed it. I commented that the beast didn't seem to be human. My daughter believed Disney thought it would not be PC to have an ugly man as the beast. ...
[ed note: oooh, too bad this one was chopped off so soon. it seemed so promising.
#47 Ariel 4/29/2003 10:01:52 AM Robert Brandtjen, Been on the internet lately Q? I see alot of beastiality out there, putrid sick shit it is, there are apparently alot of people who like it Been looking for it, sir? I've heard of this stuff, but never seen it with my own eyes. ...
#50 Ariel 4/29/2003 1:19:11 PM Robert Brandtjen, Playing pretty fast and free with the accusations of leftism, aren't we? I was actually just poking a little fun at you since you wrote: Been on the internet lately Q? I see alot of beastiality out there, putrid sick shit it is, there are apparently ...
[ed note: Repeat offender!]
Where the Men Are Men
#2 J Lichty 2/4/2003 10:23:12 AM One man's beastiality maven is another man's freedom fighter.
I was going to post some linkage, but Majikthise already has:
Here are some of the blogs/websites I'm using to follow the weather situation on the Gulf Coast:
Check the NOAA's Rita update page for the latest meteorological observations, graphics, and public advisories.
For more hurricane science, check Dr. Jeff Master's Wunderblog through Weather Underground. Accessible, level-headed, and rigorous.
See also Norbizness, native Texan who's as preoccupied with the storm as I am, but whose sardonic sense of humour remains intact.
Bloggers on the scene: Houston Chronicle's staff blog on Hurricane Rita, the Chronicle's experimental citizen journalist blog, Stormwatchers, Times Picayune's staff blog delivers breaking news about Rita's effects on New Orleans and district.
"Our worst fears came true," said Maj. Barry Guidry of the Georgia National Guard. "We have three significant breaches in the levee and the water is rising rapidly," he said. "At daybreak I found substantial breaks and they've grown larger."
And I sure hope the governor had more to say about this than the following line (though I suppose it'll make John Tierney happy given his earlier column):
As for those who refuse to leave, Gov. Kathleen Blanco advised: "Perhaps they should write their Social Security numbers on their arms with indelible ink."
While the president's efforts to shift blame to her and Mayor Nagin for the failures of government in regards to the handling of hurricane Katrina were an ugly combination of pathetic and mendacious, saying things like that isn't going to do a lot to convey that she's up to her job.
While I often use this blog to vent about the bad I see in DC or the media, I thought I'd start today with two things I noticed yesterday that I found to be unusually positive. First, yesterday I awoke to the news that the US House of Representatives had unanimously passed a bill providing $6 billion in temporary tax relief to the victims of Katrina, and those who are opening their own homes and wallets to help the victims. It looks like a pretty good bill, and for those of you who value bipartisanship, it must be good to see this passed unanimously.
The other thing I was happy to notice was in the local college paper - a column extolling the virtues of Sex in the City. I've never really watched more than 3 or 4 episodes of the show, but to the degree that I have seen it, I didn't really think of it as something worthy of praise, or something that could teach improtant lessons to young women. But maybe I was wrong, or just hadn't thought about it in the right way. As one of the paper's columnists noted, it points out some key life lessons that people should keep in mind: 1) life is nothing without friends, 2) no woman should rely on a man, 3) don't fear aging, and relatedly, it's entirely possible to be the oldest member of your circle and still the hottest and most attractive person around, 4) expect the unexpected, 5) there's no such thing as safe sex, and 6) don't live with the one you love (prior to marriage). Now I don't know that I agree with all those lessons as general rules. I'm not so sure about the last one, by definition it's very hard to expect the unexpected, and I tend to hate any use of the words "never" and "always" - but given the importance of getting people in their teens and twenties to practice safe sex, I'll let that one slide. All in all though, the column just reminded me that there's often value in things you don't realize (so I guess I should try to keep #4 in mind), and that includes calbe TV shows in which rich women often act like drag queens.
The junior senator from Indiana on the wage cuts ordered by President Bush:
"On the Gulf Coast, we aren’t just rebuilding cities - we’re rebuilding lives. The workers whose wages would be cut are the same women and men struggling to support their families and find new homes to replace the ones they lost in the hurricane. They deserve all the support we can give them, not a cut in pay when they can least afford one."
Advances them right into the shitter, that is.
You see, it used to be you had to take someone's word that you were a child's father.* But now, just follow the simple directions, swab your mouth and the child's, and in seven days you'll have an answer.**
Turns out, there are all kinds of these things available, most costing around $150. Check out the smiliing face on this guy. i wonder what he just found out. [imaginary product testimonial]:
For 25 years I've treated my wife like she was a lying whore who fucked every guy on the block. And that kid?! No way did I think she was mine. But now, with the advances in modern DNA testing, I know I was wrong all along. Look how happy they are that my trust in them is restored!
I like how this one shows the woman doing the test.
Well, we had some doubts that the baby really was hers. I mean, my wife says it came out of her and all, and tried to show me her stitches and stuff, but I wasn't there to see any of that, and you never know. With the DNA test, it's all clear now!
That was the site that has says:
GeneTree's easy-to-use DNA collection kit allows you to simply swab the inside of the mouth of the child and the alleged father. Mother's participation is optional, but strongly suggested.
Strongly suggested is right. Wonder how the little lady would respond to discovering that hubby has been harboring doubts and sneaking around taking samples here and there. Because:
DNA can also be extracted from items such as hair roots, toothbrushes, disposable razors, or dried biological fluids, such as blood or saliva.
This is what that priest dude from the Thornbirds needed. Then he could have avoided all the homoerotic surfing stuff and talked "father to son" to his kid about the priesthood.
"We make it easy for you to get answers to your sensitive DNA questions..."
"Motherless Paternity - up to 2 children and alleged father" test.
Home DNA kits, because nothing advances a relationship like trust! Just ask these happy people!
*part of an actual commercial I heard while listening to Rush Limbaugh today.
The talking is almost (finally) over, and when it ends the Senate Judiciary Committee will recommend the confirmation of Judge John Roberts as the next Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court. Three Democrats (Leahy, Kohl and Feingold) will join all the Republicans in voting for Roberts. Five Democrats (Biden, Kennedy, Feinstein, Schumer and Durbin) will vote against Roberts.
Hmmm, as Sam Brownback (R-KS) just pulled a young girl with Downs Syndrome to his side to point out that over half of the fetuses who are diagnosed with that are aborted, I think I'm going to turn off the coverage before he feels a needs to start holding up bloody medical instruments in front of the cameras and point them at this "beautfiul young girl who does a lot of modeling".
Anyway, 13-5, that'll be the tally.
The Downtown Lad reminds me of another reason to dislike the new pope.
What, Madeline Albright wasn't there?
This time last year I had a conversation with a hard-line Bush supporter about this issue, and I suggested that this administration would only end up doing pretty much the same things as Clinton, since the situation demands a pragmatic approach to foreign policy. Simply put, we had three options: ignore 'em some more, bomb 'em, or talk to 'em. Lo and behold, talking. Not that it's ultimately going to do much more good than when the Clinton administration reached the same conclusion, but at least it gives some opportunity to keep an eye on the situation.
Either way, something seems to be wrong there.
In leaving as assistant deputy director of operations, Richer joins a number of senior clandestine managers, including several with Middle East expertise, who have left since Goss took over the agency one year ago Saturday.
Last night I watched a Greta Garbo movie for the first time - Ernst Lubitsch's Ninotchka. This 1939 movie (the list of widely admired "classics" from 1939 is perhaps longer than that of any other year and includes films like The Wizard of Oz, The Rules of the Game, The Women, Gone With the Wind, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and Stagecoach among others) was marketed as Garbo's first comedy - and the it indeed largely succeeds at both being a romantic comedy (according to the rules of the genre at the time) and a political farce. Garbo delivers some great, cutting lines dealing with the latter point - for example, her deadpan on the outcome of the latest purges, "there will be fewer but better Russians", and on the scandal of her having bought undergarments in France, "I should hate to see our country endangered by my underwear". Personally, since much of the supposedly romantic dialogues seemed rather dated (though not, I should note, the mean, catty exchanges between the two female characters who are both in love with the same man) I think the film holds up best as a political comedy in which both the Stalinists and the idle rich come off poorly (though the Soviets are hit much harder). I didn't like it as much as some of the Marx Brothers films of the same era. But even if I didn't find it to be especially compelling, if you are interested in watching a silly bit of well-constructed film comedy from the late 1930's this isn't bad.
Rules: 1. Go into your archive. 2. Find your 23rd post (or closest to). 3. Find the fifth sentence (or closest to). 4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.
Nonetheless, I can already see why he’s described as one of the country’s top writers on subjects of domestic life and social relationships.
That's an Armand post, by the way.
Nah, the data don't show it... the evidence is only anecdotal.
However is does seem to be encouraging lots of anal and oral. Because we all know the hymen is the shiznit.
I realize Katrina and Rita have eaten up most of the bandwidth in the politicowebblogosphere, but there remains an Iraqi problem. While I don't have anything new to say (situation: bad), there are some interesting posts at IntelDump and Belgravia Dispatch. I don't think either the poster or the commenters at either blog have solved the great Iraqi mystery (how do we stop US soldiers dying and still get anything close to a win?), but good (non-hysterical) discussions and thoughts. Recommended.
Article III Groupie has another post that's both hilarious and insightful, noting that her prediction that 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Consuelo Callahan would enter the mix of those considered to replace Justice O'Connor has been vindicated by the New York Times. Callahan appears to have indeed made the short list. So keep and eye on this "dancing queen", a "spashy dresser" who's both a "moderate conservative" and an Hispanic woman (traits that might come in handy in getting Senate approval). After all, A3G was quite the prognosticator when it came to guessing who would replace Chief Justice Rehnquist.
A New York Times story focuses on the attitudes of young women at elite universities who are "smart, disciplined, competitive, musical, athletic, altruistic, and full of ambition" [edited slightly for clarity]. Many of these women, according to the story, plan to become full-time moms by the time they are thirty, rather than either enter the work force, or balance career and family.
This lead-in piqued my curiosity. After all, as someone who supports the rights of women to make the choices that best enrich their lives, I was curious about how these women saw the (I imagined) new world that allows them to express and pursue these desires.
And then the article went on to reveal that it was the same old world after all.
"My mother's always told me you can't be the best career woman and the best mother at the same time," Ms. Liu said matter-of-factly. "You always have to choose one over the other."
You always have to choose one over the other.
The best. Of course, we are talking about Yale students, who have been groomed to be "the best" and fully expect to be able to be "the best" if they want to. And what's wrong with wanting to be the best parent you can be to your children?
There are several things about this that are disturbing. The idea that women have to be "the best" applies the "supermom" or "good girl" perfectionist pressures, the higher standards that we hold women to in their lives. And it's an either/or choice that they are forced into, that it's only OK to do it if you can be "the best." Because everyone knows, you can't be the best mother if you work. Ask the PTA police. Likewise, everyone knows you can't be the best professional if you have children. Just check the views of mothers in the workplace. The same view does not hold for men. Fathers who work and thus can't make elementary school activities? Well, that's expected. Fathers who have a career and children? More respected for how hard they work to support their families. It's not that fathers wouldn't like to be the best too, or that they wouldn't like more freedom to spend more time with their kids. It is that they are not expected to only be "the best" at these activities, and do it simultaneously. They are permitted to be normal.
Another young woman comments:
"Most probably do feel like me, maybe even tending toward wanting to not work at all," said Ms. Flynn, who plans to work part time after having children, though she is torn because she has worked so hard in school.
"Men really aren't put in that position," she said."
She is "torn." Torn between being able to be the best at mothering, and being able to be the best at her career. Torn between two idealized positions, because it's still not acceptable to aim for being anything less than the perfect mother. And in order to succeed in a competitive career, you certainly can't be perceived as just "a mommy."
And I think she is partially right but also slightly wrong about the position of men. The same kinds of expectations that hurt women by making these false dichotomies of perfection don't necessarily apply in the same ways to men. However men are just as caught by the expectations of gendered roles. How popular is it for a man in college to aspire to be the best stay-at-home dad?
Another issue that only gets a tossaway sentence on the second page of the article is how these women come from the class that is most likely to be able to make a meaningful choice about career and parenthood. This is the group of women with access to the best education, the best healthcare, and the best prospects of a stable economic future. It is unlikely that they will face criticism for lightly parenting their children, even if they do get arrested for public intoxication and resisting arrest. For most women, who labor under the same pressures of motherhood, work is not an optional choice. Feminism gets blamed for women being out of the home, but the declining ability of households to make ends meet without women working outside the home presses harder all the time.
What seems new is that while many of their mothers expected to have hard-charging careers, then scaled back their professional plans only after having children, the women of this generation expect their careers to take second place to child rearing.
Rather than showing that women have new choices in the world, what this shows is that a new generation of women has seen the reality of ingrained expectations that they can't be both good mothers and good professionals. Their mothers tried, and many of them - but not all! - "scaled back." This reminds me of a recent conversation with a young politically active woman in which we talked about the perception of vocal women with opinions in organizations. We talked about how frustrating it can be to have to not only constantly battle to have your voice heard along with everyone else, but constantly battle the opinion of men and not a few women that "girls should just go along and be nice." It is a constant battle. It's hard not to be angry all the damn time. And it's hard to not get exhausted and quit.
Being a professional woman is much the same. Not only do you have to compete to do your job like everybody else, but you also have to compete with the expectations that you're just going to leave to have a baby, or that if you have a baby your brain cells have depleted, or that you can't focus on your work anymore, or that there is something wrong with you that you don't want children. Heaven help you if you do have children and want to come back to work. Men have their battles, but they don't face these same questions. Is it any wonder that a generation of women who faced these struggles got tired?
A generation later the young women now believe they have the abilities to have a career, but think the only way to choose it is to the exclusion of family.
Ms. Ku added that she did not think it was a problem that women usually do most of the work raising kids.
"I accept things how they are," she said. "I don't mind the status quo. I don't see why I have to go against it."
"It worked so well for me," she said, "and I don't see in my life why it wouldn't work."
The status quo is rewarded. It's easier in many ways to go along with what the world expects of you, than to fight every day not only to be something different, but to be accepted for who you are. Traditional gender roles are "approved of" or "sexy" even. Real choice for women and men to stay home, work or both, backed up by social acceptance and support, isn't here yet.
I strongly support this proposal by John Quiggin, and honestly I don't see why it couldn't win broad public support. Wouldn't most people like to see our democracy led by people who really do have the support of the majority of their constitutents? Wouldn't most people rather see public monies being spent on, say anti-terrorism funding or helping grandparents pay for their meds, and not on run-off elections? Let's get this movement going.
It's reports like this that leave me dumbfounded that large numbers of people feel safe with Republicans in charge of the country. These are the people that make you feel safe? The people who want to prioritize a War on Porn, when the country is threatened by terrorism and organized crime? They don't make law enforcement officials feel safe - maybe that should be a sign to the rest of us. Maybe the Attorney General is leading this travesty in an effort to burnish his red-meat conservative credentials - but that doesn't mean that this makes sense in any substantive way. Or that it makes us any safer.
Remember that pattern that most everyone noticed last winter - how the president was exporting White House staffers to take over a host of senior governent jobs (Rice, Gonzalez, Spellings, etc.). It continues with the new responsibilities of Karl Rove, and perhaps a new job for Andrew Card. I think Kevin is right to wonder - does Bush "feel so besieged by life that he literally feels he can't trust anyone with a big job unless they've spent a couple of years working within a few feet of him?"
It's not even just the current state treasurer who's been arraigned, it's his predecessor too - something new for Gov. Bill Richardson to have to contend with as he tries to raise his national profile, as I can already picture the guilt-by- association ads his opponents can run.
Or more to the point, they've banned "gay" coffee cups. Can't have students exposed to paper and ink after all. Oh, wait, since they aren't banning the cups with words by Michael Medved or Jonah Goldberg (heaven help us - they are the best Starbucks could do to encourage discussions of conservative opinions? - if I was a thoughtful right-winger I'd be insulted). They are banning those scary words that point out that life is short and people should live life to the fullest - even gay people.
If Baylor students are such wilting flowers who need that level of "protection" from things that go against their worldview I don't see how they possibly merit diplomas. College should be partially about, oh, learning. And critiquing ideas. If you can't even present certain phrases to the student body, if they are just to shattering to one's own identity to even be seen ... well, I can't say I think that's much of an "educational" environment.
I look forward to Sen. Norm Coleman and the others who've been calling for stricter oversight of UN finances in light of financial impropieties in Iraq seriously investigating this bit of stunning mismanagement.
Aye! That's right, Ye were warned, and t' day has arrrived. It's Talk Like a Pirate Day. Brush up on yer lingo smartly, ye lubbers!
And I'm grading.
|You Are 70% Boyish and 30% Girlish|
You are pretty evenly split down the middle - a total eunuch.|
Okay, kidding about the eunuch part. But you do get along with both sexes.
You reject traditional gender roles. However, you don't actively fight them.
You're just you. You don't try to be what people expect you to be.
Jonathan Edelstein has this discussion of a fascinating decision by the Israeli Supreme Court. The Court has set down new guidelines for the buidling of the West Bank security fence, guidelines that will require changes from the government's original plans, and ban deviations from the original plan to allow for the growth of Jewish settlements. As Edelstein's post makes clear, the Court "took pains to harmonize its decision with the ICJ's". It's an interesting example the power of international norms and international courts, even when national security concerns are at stake.
Kristof asks what we should call these countries:
The United States, Cuba, Zimbabwe, Iran, Syria and Venezuela
The Axis of Medieval, of course.
It was our own Axis of Medieval, and it reflected the feckless response of President Bush to genocide in Darfur. It's not that he favors children being tossed onto bonfires or teenage girls being gang-raped and mutilated, but he can't bother himself to try very hard to stop these horrors, either.
It's been a year since Mr. Bush - ahead of other world leaders, and to his credit - acknowledged that genocide was unfolding in Darfur. But since then he has used that finding of genocide not to spur action but to substitute for it.
Mr. Bush's position in the U.N. negotiations got little attention. But in effect the United States successfully blocked language in the declaration saying that countries have an "obligation" to respond to genocide. In the end the declaration was diluted to say that "We are prepared to take collective action ... on a case by case basis" to prevent genocide.
Incredibly, the Bush administration has even emerged as Sudan's little helper, threatening an antigenocide campaigner in an effort to keep him quiet. Brian Steidle, a former Marine captain, served in Darfur as a military adviser - and grew heartsick at seeing corpses of children who'd been bludgeoned to death.
In March, I wrote a column about Mr. Steidle and separately published photos that he had taken of men, women and children hacked to death. Other photos were too wrenching to publish: one showed a pupil at the Suleia Girls School; she appeared to have been burned alive, probably after being raped, and her charred arms were still in handcuffs.
Mr. Steidle is an American hero for blowing the whistle on the genocide. But, according to Mr. Steidle, the State Department has ordered him on three occasions to stop showing the photos, for fear of complicating our relations with Sudan. Mr. Steidle has also been told that he has been blacklisted from all U.S. government jobs.
He may be a "broken record" on the issue of Darfur, but Kristof is no wimp.
Rarely do I read things like Fareed Zakaria's "Leaders Who Won't Choose" - his latest column in Newsweek. Zakaria's style is usually quite measured, something akin to how an archon would have been portrayed in a mid-20th century blockbuster epic. But I suppose that when one is confronted with failures of government of the magnitude that we've seen over the last few years, dispassionate succinctness is bound to sound damning.
On President Bush:
Whatever his other accomplishments, Bush will go down in history as the most fiscally irresponsible chief executive in American history. Since 2001, government spending has gone up from $1.86 trillion to $2.48 trillion, a 33 percent rise in four years! Defense and Homeland Security are not the only culprits. Domestic spending is actually up 36 percent in the same period. These figures come from the libertarian Cato Institute's excellent report "The Grand Old Spending Party," which explains that "throughout the past 40 years, most presidents have cut or restrained lower-priority spending to make room for higher-priority spending. What is driving George W. Bush's budget bloat is a reversal of that trend." To govern is to choose. And Bush has decided not to choose.
On how this contrasts with his predecessors who led the country:
During World War II, Franklin Roosevelt cut nonwar spending by more than 20 percent, in addition to raising taxes to finance the war effort. During the Korean War, President Truman cut non-defense spending 28 percent and raised taxes to pay the bills. In both cases these presidents were often slashing cherished New Deal programs that they had created. The only period—other than the current one—when the United States avoided hard choices was Vietnam: spending increased on all fronts. The results eventually were deficits, high interest rates and low growth—stagflation.
Bush is not the only one to blame. Congressional spending is now completely out of control. The federal coffers are being looted for congressional patronage, and it is being done openly and without any guilt. The highway bill of 1982 had 10 "earmarked" projects—the code word for pork. The 2005 one has 6,371. The bill, written by the House transportation committee, is called the Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users, or TEA-LU (in honor of chairman Don Young's wife, Lu). This use of public office for private whims would seem more appropriate in Saudi Arabia than America. Perhaps next year's bill will include a necklace for Mrs. Young.
The U.S. Congress is a national embarrasment ...
On the Republican government:
Today's Republicans believe in pork, but they don't believe in government. So we have the largest government in history but one that is weak and dysfunctional ...we shovel out billions on "Homeland Security" to stave off nonexistent threats to Wisconsin, Wyoming and Montana while New York and Los Angeles remain unprotected. We mismanage crises with a crazy-quilt patchwork of federal, local and state authorities—and sing paeans to federalism to explain our incompetence. We denounce sensible leadership and pragmatism because they mean compromise and loss of ideological purity. Better to be right than to get Iraq right.
I strongly encourage you to read the whole thing.
Or so it appears at the moment. Whether or not they can create coalitions to govern their country, given their very small margins of victory, remains to be seen.
New Zealand's national elections appear to have set the stage for another minority government led by incumbent Prime Minister Helen Clark. If she can win support for a Labour-led coalition, she will be the first Labour leader since World War II to be elected Prime Minister three times. Labour's margin over the National Party, led by Don Brash, was very tight - 41%-40%.
In Germany, the margin between the two major parties was just as tight, but neither party appears to have won even 36% of the national vote. So while the results point to Merkel becoming chancellor, there are a number of possible coaliations, and while she's likely to lead Germany's new government, the shape that her government remains far from clear at the moment. If fact, though it's unlikely, there are so many possible coalitions that it's possible incumbent Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder may still find a way to remain in office.
I was just reading a post by Neil the Ethical Werewolf on why Hillary can't win the presidency in which he referred to this Brendan Nyhan post from July on her flag-burning position. She's against a constitutional amendment banning it, but she supports the passage of a federal law against it. Am I missing something here? I suppose it's possible that the Supreme Court could take up this issue again and Johnson v. Texas could be overruled (the only justices in that majority who are still on the Court are Scalia and Kennedy), but until that happens, isn't she just supporting the passage of a law that she (being more than a little intelligent) realizes is likely to be found unconstitutional? And if so ... well, why on Earth would any Democrat happily throw gasoline on the smoldering fire that is that part of the right-wing's culture war, particularly with several Americans dying in combat every week? This position seems downright terrible on both substantive and broad political grounds, and seems to play up the growing image of her as a craven political manipulator - albeit in this case one who is supporting an incomprehensible political end. Am I missing something here?
Between this and John McCain's steroid fixation, my already low opinion of both of the front-runners for the 2008 presidential nominations is sinking even lower.
Really, you'll have to, because there's no definition around.
Morality in Media Inc. (Inc!) has a page devoted to reporting obscenity crimes on the internet. It's a "resource for educating the public and for reporting possible violations of internet obscenity laws."
Educating the public...such an admirable goal. But guess what isn't to be found on the main page. That's right, any information about what laws actually govern internet obscenity. Oh, but you say, it must be just a click away. Actually, no. Three clicks into "make a report" of an obscenity is where we finally get a little guidance about what obscenity might be. This is two clicks after we have been discouraged from sending them porn, and after we have seen a sad looking older white man behind bars (the pornographer? the porn lover?) behind bars.
Finally, the definition:
Under the Supreme Court's three-part obscenity test, sexual material is obscene and unprotected by the First Amendment if:
1. The average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the material, when taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest; and
I think we've just identified about 90% of the internet.
2. The material depicts or describes sexual conduct in a patently offensive manner, when applying contemporary community standards; and
3. A reasonable person would find that the material, when taken as a whole, lacks serious artistic, literary, political, and scientific value.
If by "reasonable person" we mean someone is opposed to teh sex teh gays an teh evolution, now we're up to about 99.5% percent of the internet.
To make a report it is not necessary to have seen pornography.
Note the last paragraph. I guess my title was wrong then. Apparently you'll know it even if you don't see it.
OK, so this isn't remotely as funny as Baltar's post below on Alexander (or, of course, his infamous review of Troy), so go read those first, but once you've done that, for those of you who are looking for an encouraging word or two about a possible dvd rental, I humbly submit the following ...
This is a filmed recording of a stage show from February 2000 – a show in which over 30 Stephen Sondheim songs from a host of musicals were strung together. There are several songs from Merrily We Roll Along, Follies, Company and Dick Tracy, along with one or two from many of the other musicals he has written. It mostly lacks a plot, but the small star-studded cast puts on some highly entertaining and compelling numbers, and if you are into Sondheim or musicals I strongly recommend this dvd.
Without question, the star of this production is Carol Burnett. She does a superb job with songs you might not associate with her, like the ennui- riddled and insult-filled “The Ladies Who Lunch” from Company and the deeply sad and resigned “Every Day a Little Death” from A Little Night Music. And of course she shines in the moments when we she gets to play up her comic genius - for example, with the hysterical fear and desperation of “Not Getting Married Today” from Company and the mocking bite of “Lovely” from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. There are also several larger numbers featuring all of the actors in this production that are done very well (I particularly liked those from Merrily We Roll Along). Aside from Burnett, my favorite member of the cast was John Barrowman. He shines in a number of pieces, including a lovely duet from Assassins, and his rendition of “Marry Me a Little” from Company is sublime.
(Because this movie sucked dead deer dicks, I'm not putting any effort into links. If you want further information, find it yourself.)
Question: Are you going to do this movie review in "Question and Answer" style?
A: There is some chance it will be funnier this way. And, it means I have to write (and think) less about movie that was so bad, it should have been recalled. Plus, it gives me many, many chances to point it "it sucks" using different words. In other words, sheer laziness.
Q: Oh. So, what movie was this?
A: Alexander. Or, Alexander the Great. Could even be something else involving the word "Alexander"; I just don't care.
Q: You can't even remember what the title was?
A: Nope. I think my brain is trying to save me from future flashbacks/bad drug trips/crying jags while drunk, and is reclaiming those neurons and wiping my memories.
Q: Just how bad was it?
A: It was a 10.
Q: A 10? Isn't that good? 10 out of 10? Perfect score?
A: No. 10 is the number of seconds it takes you to realize you'd rather be doing anything else. Washing dishes. Cleaning out the gunk from under the washing machine. Poking yourself in the eye with lemon and salt coated toothpicks.
Q: Oh. Well, if that's how bad it was in 10 seconds, how long was it? And why did you keep watching it?
A: The universe has been around for about 10 billion years. The movie was easily half that. Oliver Stone is still watching the opening credits somewhere.
Q: Oliver Stone? Isn't he supposed to be something of a decent director? What did he have to do with the movie?
A: He was listed as director, and then in the ending credits (yes, I watched those; I think reading them allowed my brain to recover sentience and thus I became human again) he is listed as a writer, along with two other people. Listing his jobs was easy. Explaining why he had anything to do with this steaming pile of shit is harder. Perhaps he needed money. Perhaps someone kidnapped some important member of his family (I, personally, would have sacrificed a nephew or an uncle rather than be a part of this). Perhaps his brain was on an extended vacation, and his body decided to do this anyway (one of the characters from "Restaurant at the End of the Universe, by Douglas Adams, who is somehow associated with "Disaster Area" - the greatest rock band in the history of the universe - spends a year dead for tax reasons; that's the feeble origins of this joke. You can find the reference yourself, if you want. As noted, I'm not). In any event, Oliver Stone both wrote part of, and directed, this abomination.
Q: Damn. That was the longest response I've gotten from you yet. Are you just getting warmed up? Are you really pissed off, and going to rant about the failure of hollywood to make historical movies that have anything to do with reality?
Q: Well, why was it so bad?
A: Look. I don't want to think about it. I don't want (and, actually, can't) to remember all the horrific things that made hate this movie.
A: Fine. Colin Farrell (Farrel? Who cares?) speaks for the entire movie with an Irish/Scottish accent. He's supposed to be fricking Macedonian, for pete's sake. Irish? Yeah, that was a stretch. He worked hard on that. Oh, and after he goes insane (Alexander, not Colin; though Colin is nuts to have been part of this. Hope they paid him enough.), he runs around with blonde, shoulder length frizzy hair that makes him look very much like Ozzy.
A: Ozzy. The Prince of Darkness. Wild eyed and staggering through hordes of Macedonian soldiers, shouting about "continuing on" and "uniting the world" and "making everyone equal" or some such shit.
Q: That's somewhat unnerving. I've never thought of Ozzy and Alexander the Great at the same time. That sorta makes my head hurt.
A: Ah, now you're entering my world. That sort of shit was happening all over the place. I wanted a nice, historical movie about global conquest, and I get Ozzy raving about global multiculturalism. That's where the "poking your eyeballs" option starts to look good.
Q:What the hell does multiculturalism have to do this?
A: I'm not sure. Colin Farrell makes big, impassioned speeches about wanting to make everyone like each other, and getting Europe and Asia (I'm fairly certain those words didn't exist in any language in 300 BC) to all be part of his empire together, with equality for all. This seemed like a load of leftist hollywood crap, but then I looked him up in the wikipedia (find the link yourself) and it turns out that there might have been something historically accurate about that. Not to the extent the movie makes it, but more along the lines of Alexander needed soldiers and bureaucrats to run his massive empire, and by treating everyone equally, his pool of talent was much larger then if he depended only on Macedonians for everything. In any event, it was a jarring note in the film.
Q: How did Alexander manage to take over most of the known world?
A: I'm not sure you want to trust a movie for that sort of historical information. According to the movie, he got his start 'cause he wanted to kill Darius (the third, I think, not that it matters) who he blamed for killing his father (played like a pirate by Val Kilmer) although in point of fact, his father may have been killed by his mother (played like a female Russian gangster by Angelina Jolie). Anyway, after he becomes king, he takes his army off to Persia, kicks Darius' ass, and sort of keeps on invading places further and further east (Egypt is never mentioned). His motivations for doing this seem to be two-fold. First, Socrates (played like a dying English stage actor by a very old and likely dying English stage actor who's name I can't remember) shows a very young Alexander (though some sort of flashback part) a map that indicates that if you go far enough east you come to a great big lake where you can sail to the head of the Nile river and thence sail almost straight home to Greece/Macedonia. Alexander seems to have fully believed this crap, and thus set out with hundreds of thousands of soldiers, camp followers and assorted people off across modern-day Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India assuming he could build ships and sail home. All because some old dude showed him a map that said he could. In other words, he's an idiot. Second, (and here's where it starts to get weird), he seems to spend the entire movie moving further and further (physically) away from his mother. I mean, Oliver Stone goes to great lengths to try and impress upon us that Mom/Angelina Jolie is somewhat nuts, possibly homicidal, and clearly out to further Alexander's career/power. Alexander responds by fleeing Macedonia (going after Darius) and never returning. Moreover, everytime Mom writes him to ask why can't she come to Babylon or at least out of the palace where everybody hates her, Alexander/Colin looks maudlin and picks up camp and moves further east. I'm just an uneducated movie hick, but to me it looked very much like Alexander was conquering the known world just so he wouldn't have to see his mother again. So, just to sum up, Alexander conquered everything in sight because (1)He just wanted to get home again by boat, and (2)He wanted to get away from his mother. Somehow I think I'm missing some historical accuracy somewhere.
Q: Angelina Jolie? Val Kilmer?
A: Oh, you want to focus on that? OK. Val Kilmer played Philip of Macedonia (Alexander's father), and looked like he was sort of having fun with it. He had only one eye, and a great big scar over it, and spent almost all his time on screen drunk (and, perhaps, was drunk off-screen, too, for accuracy). In any event, he had a very piratical nature: you expected him to start shouting "Aarrr" and "Avast" at any given point. It was (simultaneously) disturbing, distracting, and morbidly compelling. Angelina Jolie played Alexander's mother (her character's name escapes me, and I don't care). She was just out-and-out strange. I mean, she spoke with a Russian accent, looked old enough to be Alexander's younger sister, insisted Alexander's father was not Philip but was Zeus, played with snakes (for reasons never explained), and (I can't emphasize this enough) spoke with a heavy Russian accent. I'm happy to suspend disbelief a little bit for a movie (more for say, Star Wars, then a movie about Alexander the Great), but this was too much. Where Val Kilmer was oddly engaging (I kept looking for a parrot on his shoulder), Angelina Jolie was just wrong.
Q: Before you lose the thought, were their any other famous actors in the movie?
A: Uh, I guess. Anthony Hopkins played some sort of narrator dude (one of Alexander's top Generals, who lives a long time afterwards and is shown late in life telling his story) who was completely irrelevant. He had some sort of English/Irish accent going too, and since he's clearly a good actor, the accent thing must have been a director's idea. I watched it with my girlfriend, who kept saying "Oh, him." and "That's who that was" in the closing credits, but I never saw anyone else I recognized. I think some dude from one of the Lord of the Rings movies was someone important, but I can't remember. Honestly, anyone involved in this movie likely saw the final screening, and said to Oliver Stone, "Look, dude, I'll take a salary cut if you'll take my name off the credits." I can't imagine anyone using this as a resume booster. Hey, I really can't find the words to explain to you how bad this was. I'm trying, but I'm not sure they exist in the English language.
Q: Where did it really lose it?
A: Well, everyone has their own, individual, breaking point, so your mileage may vary. Mine was right there, in the first "action" scene, not 10 minutes in. Alexander is facing Darius. Alexander brought 40,000; Darius has 240,000 (this is noted in the film). Now, normally, that sort of ratio is not favorable to the smaller side. Two-to-one is manageable if you have some technological/organizational advantages (better discipline, iron versus bronze weapons, etc.). Three-to-one is best managed on the defensive (get a castle, use the terrain, something). Six-to-one is a sure loser. I don't really care what sort of advantages you have, unless you have laser rifles or plasma bazookas and the other side is limited to rocks and sticks, you are going to lose. Alexander's generals know this, and they try to convince him to retreat, regroup and get some more soldiers. Alexander is having none of this. His brilliant plan is that if his infantry can hold the "left wing" for just an hour, he can (personally) find Darius on the battlefield, kill him, and that will rout the Persians. What the hell the "left wing" has to do with this is beyond me, but there it was on the screen. This didn't seem like much a plan to me (and I'm not a military professional), but, hey, they had actual history to draw upon, so I wasn't going to fight it. I mean, what, this wasn't fiction, this was reality, right? Anyway, the battle starts, and Alexander/Colin gets this crafty look in his eye, and takes his cavalry and gallops away parallel to the line of battle. Away from the battle. Off into the distance. Darius sees the Macedonian cavalry heading off somewhere, and sends his cavalry (on his side of the line) parallel, shadowing Alexander's cavalry. I'm thinking, what the fuck? I'm totally confused as to what sort of maneuver this is; this is the desert, it's hot, and these idiots are running (galloping) their horses off to nowhere. Those horses aren't going to be good for anything, is what I'm thinking. So somewhere way out away from the battle, suddenly Alexander pivots 180-degrees around, making a big cloud of sand, and out of that cloud charges a whole mess of Macedonian infantry, who set on the surprised Persian cavalry, while Alexander charges back to the center, finds Darius, flings a spear at him (misses), and Darius runs away. Persians routed, Alexander wins.
Q: Huh? That didn't make any sense.
A: Right. None at all. Oh, and in the infantry battle, while the cavalry was riding around the hot desert, the Persians shot hordes of arrows at the (arrowless) Macedonians, and then charged. Think about that for a minute. If you have bows and arrows, and the other side doesn't, why do you bother charging? Just stand there and shoot arrows at the other side all day. They die, you don't. That seems simple enough.
Q: Hmm. You're right. None of that seems to make any sense.
A: That's where I lost it. About 10 minutes in, an eternity to go, and this movie stopped making sense to me. I mean, it's a movie and all; you don't have to be completely historically accurate, but people should at least do logical (or at least semi-logical) things. If people don't act like people, why should I invest in this?
Q: That's your biggest complaint?
A: No, my biggest complaint is that it was monumentally boring. I've watched bad movies before (see my review of Troy). Bad movies can be entertaining, as the movie starts bad, and gets howling worse and worse as it goes on. It's sort of like the human reaction to a train wreck: it's awful, but sorta fun to watch. Those sorts of movies clearly have their entertainment value. This one was ponderous, slow, took itself far to seriously, and just plain sucked. The acting sucked, the directing sucked, the story sucked, the family relations sucked, the battle scenes (all two of them in a two-and-a-half-hour movie) sucked (although the guy whacking people with a severed head was sorta cool), and the movie just generally sucked. Oliver Stone can keep the $4 I paid to rent the damn thing, I want him to give me back the three hours of my life so I could do something (anything) more useful with it.
Q: Two and a half hours or three? Make up your mind.
A: Shut up. I watched this crap, you didn't.
Q: You aren't going to discuss the homosexuality?
A: What's to discuss? The movie hints that Alexander slept with men at times. It doesn't fully make that claim (you never saw him fooling around with another guy), and it wasn't really something that was relevant to the movie. I have no idea if it was historically accurate or not, since I'm certainly not going to start really learning history from this steaming pile of shit.
Q: Are we through?
A: Lord, I hope so.
Q: Any final words?
A: What, all this wasn't enough? Let me make this clear: DO NOT SEE THIS MOVIE. Avoid this movie at all costs. Avoid the people who want you to watch this movie. Stick your finger down your throat and fake a sudden illness if confronted with this movie. Don't get drunk and try to find humor in this movie. Don't get stoned and try to understand the movie. Simply. Don't. Watch. This. Movie.
Q: What, no threats to directors or actors?
A: Jesus, leave me alone, already. I just want to forget I've ever seen this. Look, Oliver Stone has never been a favorite of mine. I saw Platoon long ago, and liked it. Since then, what? Born on the 4th of July? That Kevin Costner/JFK assassination thing? I'm sure there is more, but I just don't care. A historical epic seemed inappropriate for him, and it clearly was. Do I want to kill him? Just can't be bothered. Too much effort. Colin Farrell? Never liked him much. Seemed like a one-dimensional actor, and he proved that here. Should someone kill him? Sure, fine, whatever. Just leave me out of it. Angelina Jolie? She arches an eyebrow well. That doesn't seem like enough to build an acting career out of, but that's one step up on Colin Farrell, so who am I to cast stones. Should she be killed for this? She seems to single-handedly be trying to adopt all of south-east Asia, so as long as that keeps her busy and away from shit like this, then leave her alone. If you are going to shoot anyone, shoot the writers (including, I guess, Oliver Stone - it's not really worth shooting anyone, but someone could toss a few ink-filled water balloons at all of them). I mean, if you can't make a reasonable movie out of Alexander the Great (the man who, even more so than the Roman Empire, conquered almost the entire known world), then perhaps writing isn't a skill you possess, and you should move onto some other line of work. One that doesn't involve words. Like fingerpainting. Or TV News. Or (shudder) marketing. Just don't write another screenplay.
(PS: If anyone involved in the making of this movie actually sees this, I want to make clear that the movie was worse than I have tried to get across here. Really. It was that bad. Remember Ishtar? This was worse. Phantom Menace? This was much worse. Electra? Catwoman? Those are Oscar contenders compared to this. Anyone involved in the making of this should feel a great deal of shame, hopefully ostracism, and not a small amount of pain. Don't do it again.)
(PPS: I have been informed of some potentially factual errors in this review. Considering the vast quantity of various errors (factual and aesthetic) in the movie, this seems pointless, but we here at Bloodless Coup are nothing if not factual. That being said, Anthony Hopkins was playing Ptolemy, not some unknown doofus. The "dying English stage actor" was, in fact, Christopher Plummer, who (I guess) isn't a dying English stage actor (what else is he?), and he played Aristotle (not Socrates), not that it matters (both are important dead Greek philosophers). Oh, and the unknown supporting member of the cast wasn't from Lord of the Rings, but whose name was very much like someone who was in Lord of the Rings, is Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (supposedly very androgenously hunky). If anyone finds any further factual errors, please point them out. I could give a shit, but if it entertains you, that's fine. You'll have more fun than I had watching this bloody awful movie.)
I finished watching this last night, and I think I like it even more than the first season. It's funnier, but also continues to touch on serious issues in oddly realistic ways for a television show. All of the Lass women, George, Joy and Reggie, develop into more interesting and stronger characters this year, and Dolores Herbig remains TV's best boss.
On a related note, I'm very pleased with Netflix lately. I've subscibed for years, but in the last couple of weeks I'm getting dvds faster than ever - usually just one day after they are shipped out.
"I'd like to buy an 'Aaaarrrrghhhhhh!!!'"
And in case you've never noticed, PZ Myers has a switch to turn everything piratical on the site. Just click on the Jolly Roger (skull and crossbones) flag on the left column, near the top.
Why people find George Will insightful is beyond me - I guess it just shows the powerful framing effects of fashion.
My take on him? I tend to just see him as a partisan hack, whose impersonal aloofness provides him with an "above it all" air of wisdom that nicely masks the fact that he's usually just airing opinions that will personally benefit him, while not publicly disclosing his personal interests in the causes that he promotes. I guess, therefore, that depending on the topic, my personal opinion of the man meanders back and forth between indifference and revulsion.
But he's also such a wrong-headed reactionary that occasionally he comes out with lines that make me wish that the meaning of the word loathe could be cubed - because there are times when he clearly merits that type of reaction. Take this latest bit of insulting idiocy:
"... it is a safe surmise that more than 80 percent of African American births in inner-city New Orleans -- as in some other inner cities -- were to women without husbands. That translates into a large and constantly renewed cohort of lightly parented adolescent males, and that translates into chaos in neighborhoods and schools, come rain or come shine.
The man is an ass. And a hateful ass at that. Interpersonally, I'm about as peaceful as anyone can be - but if he persists in insulting my family, and millions of other American familys that way, I'm going to be filled with urges to rain down some serious "chaos" on his sorry ass. He should either apologize or permanently confine himself to whatever golf course Dan Quayle is on at the moment. That would seem both the proper, polite thing to do, and the smart thing to do. I mean if all of the country's single-parent children (or at least the males - it would appear that in the antebellum fantasy world of Will's mind women are forever meek and mild) are really in a permantly incited state, ready to pillage, rape and plunder, pissing off those millions like that, and insulting their mothers in the process, is an incredibly stupid thing to do.
Since he's avoided answering most direct questions I'm sure judge Roberts would decline to answer these questions too - but I think that the questions proposed by Eric Muller and Mark Kleiman (I have question #3 in mind) are well worth asking. In this War on Terrorism age, the Hirabayashi question is highly relevant to what freedoms we will still possess in the future. And hey, the Bush v. Gore question is just too much fun not to ask - and it would come with the added benefit of making his ducking of the question (a legitimate one, in my opinion) unusually obvious.
Planned Parenthood recently announced that it would conduct a feasibility study on the possibility of opening a clinic in Our Fair City. I sincerely hope they do.
Already in our town the local anti-choice activists are mobilized to block the clinic, and they have started putting out propaganda that claims Planned Parenthood is involved with eugenics, and that Planned Parenthood "hurts girls." One activist said the following: "They may tell people they have family planning services and other good sounding stuff but that really hides what their main agenda is. And that is to promote abortion."
For a period of about ten years of my life, when I was young, in school, lacking good insurance and income, Planned Parenthood was my primary source of health care. The women who worked at the three clinics at which I was a patient were the most compassionate, most concerned, and most helpful medical professionals I've ever had. Not a year goes by that I schedule an annual checkup that I do not miss the care and the supportive attitude of their staff.
During the time that I was patient, no one ever tried to "promote abortion" to me, or for that matter, to any of the other people I knew who also received care there. I went to Planned Parenthood for yearly pap smears, physical exams, illnesses, and yes, birth control. Nor did they "push" a so-called promiscuous lifestyle. If you said that yes, you were sexually active or were considering becoming sexually active, they urged contraception and STD protection, and explained very carefully the risks and benefits of the options.
In fact, the other thing I remember about Planned Parenthood beyond the quality of care is their commitment to educating women about their own bodies. No "regular" doctor has ever taken the time to explain, or ask if I understood, the workings of my own body the way the Planned Parenthood staff did. I suppose the regular doctors figured I had taken biology in high school. I can still remember the clear plastic female anatomy model, with the colored inside bits, that show you where the ovaries are, how the fallopian tubes arch, and what the uterus is like. During one exam, the nurse asked me if I wanted to see my own cervix, and explained how they look different before and after childbirth. No judgment about how awful it would be to be a mother, how abortion is better, how I'd better be on birth control pills or my life was over. Simple, informative, caring, quality health care. And I met women who went to the clinics who were happy to be pregnant, and continued to go to Planned Parenthood for prenatal care because it was not only good, but affordable, to work with the midwife (yes! midwife!) at the same place they had received care all along.
And although I know many women who have had abortions, I don't recall knowing anyone who has had an abortion, or sought a referral for one, from a Planned Parenthood. I imagine that someone who seeks counseling about an abortion, scheduling an abortion or help finding a clinic to provide an abortion, would find the same level of kindness, education, and professional care. If I had to recommend someone considering abortion to a health care provider, I would tell them about Planned Parenthood because of their commitment to allowing women to make their own educated decisions about their own reproductive health. I would also recommend Planned Parenthood to a low income woman who wanted to keep her child, or who wanted to choose adoption, because of their commitment to allowing women to make their own educated decisions about their own reproductive health and providing them the care to do it.
I think that many people confuse - or deliberately conflate - the efforts of Planned Parenthood to promote political decisions that protect women's access to safe birth control and abortion, with an agenda to promote abortions to each and every woman who crosses the doorstep of a clinic. Promoting the continued legal access to a safe abortion and safe birth control for those women who choose them, is not the same thing as coercing every women to use birth control or have an abortion.
I also know that there are people who doubt that women can be trusted to know their own hearts and lives well-enough to make such a decision. Many believe that their opinions should be the basis of other women's decisions about reproduction. All I can say is that I trust women to know their own hearts, lives, and God(esse)s better than I ever could, and that I believe that they are capable of deciding to bear children, or not, without my input.
The support I received for my own educated decisions from Planned Parenthood has been crucial in my life. I have never been - nor have I ever wanted to be - pregnant, and I thank Planned Parenthood for their help in making my life reflect my desire. My work and studies have taken me to environments that would have been impossible had I been pregnant, and I am grateful to Planned Parenthood for helping me to the freedom to do those things. I have been miserable in bed with with fever and illness, and appreciate the care I received from Planned Parenthood that helped me get back on my feet. And I am grateful that even though I was young and married and by everyone else's judgment in a position where it wouldn't have been a "big deal" to have an unplanned pregnancy, the staff at Planned Parenthood took the time to listen to me about what I wanted for my own life, and help me achieve it.
I wish every young woman had that kind of support and professional care. And that's why I hope that Planned Parenthood decides to open a clinic in our town.
I love this. One of Tom Goldstein's recent posts:
"2:28 - Kyl is the Joe Biden of the right. His point is that the job of judges is not to advance progress and freedom. There are competing values, no absolutes."
Ah, two men who are so desperately enamored with the sound of their own voices that it takes them 10 minutes to even get to a question. And hey, Chuck Schumer hasn't even been called on yet. At this rate, John Roberts might not have to answer all that many questions today.
Oil-rich Norway will soon see a change in government as the center-right government has been defeated in national elections by a "red-green" alliance. Jens Stoltenberg will be the new prime minister. His priorities? - "We will use Norway's great opportunities and income on the common good: jobs for all, good schools, security and care for the elderly".
For some time my opinion of the New York Times has been slipping. It has not slipped as far as my opinion of CNN, of course, but it has. The NYT is still my homepage, and I usually start my day reading the front page and columnists. And now the NYT is getting on the subscription bandwagon, charging fifty bucks a year to have access to the Op-Eds and other columnists, multimedia items, and archive access. I read about this yesterday, but explored a little further today.
With the Times new policy, regular subscribers get automatic access. Casual readers of the home page can still catch the headlines. And I have no strong objection to charging a subscription to access the archives, which are less often used and thus have a higher maintenance expense to utility ratio. Why are the Op-Eds somehow different? What's the calculation here? That Op-Eds are a luxury good? That they are more expensive to produce? Or that the readers of the Op-Eds constitute a market that will bear the cost?
The cost out here in the heartland, where the New York Times does not provide home delivery and thus the automatic subscription, is fifty bucks to read Friedman, Krugman, Dowd, Herbert and Brooks. The NYT must have done some analysis that convinced them that they won't lose enough readers to matter. I'm not sure. The cost to the NYT will be removing their writers from the daily reading of people, both directly and via the vast chatterfest that is the blogosphere. The Op-Eds are among the most popular articles (check out the "most frequently read, resent box on the lower right of the homepage). I'm sure that has convinced someone to exploit that popularity with a subscription charge. Of course, the subscription will remove the very thing that makes those article rank so high: the ability to pass them on (unless everyone signs up).
Newspapers must have revenue to continue. They also must maintain their relevance to people's lives as they seek information on national debates. The NYT's new subscription seem a strange way to achieve either goal. And I do believe I will change my homepage to the Washington Post.
UPDATE: Looks like I'm not the only one. Edward at ObWi took the time to writ the NYT.
From NPR I learned that, earlier in her career in government, Sen. Feinstein (D-CA) took part in sentencing women to jail for having abortions. And in college Feinstein saw a plate passed around so that one of her classmates could get money to go to Mexico for a back-alley abortion (I don't recall her saying if she contributed).
John Roberts likes to use inane, vaguely condescending sports metaphors. I shudder to consider how many of his opinions this is going to affect for the next 30+ years.
The New York Times isn't above wasting its op-ed page on the distribution of unadulterated crap (or bad jokes) - but I already knew that. When Glenn Reynolds writes the best questions in a series on what the Senate should ask Judge Roberts, it's not a great day for insight from the New York Times.
Professor Jean Edward Smith of Marshall University doesn't mind looking like a fool. You are given column inches in the New York Times, and you make a tiresome crack about Supreme Court fashion. Uh-huh.
Sen. Coburn (R-OK) likes crossword puzzles. And he is deeply troubled by partisanship and the hateful tone of national politics - though I presume this non-"hater" still considers gays the greatest menace to America, and supports the murder of some Americans. Save your crocodile tears senator - even if they do make Ann Althouse laugh.
And Sen. Cornyn (R-TX) doesn't think Roberts should have to say a word, and urges him to ignore those tricky Democrats who have nothing better to do with the next few weeks than craftily try to make him embarrass himself. I wonder if this means that Sen. Cornyn is now commiting himself to never asking another substantive question to any federal court nominee for the remainder of his tenure in the Senate. That would seem to follow, if that's the way he feels Roberts should behave here. So ... hurrah! The less I have to hear John Cornyn say, the happier I am.
If you want a quick run-down of the central points of all the speakers, Tom Goldstein at SCOTUSblog has this review.
What a weird, wonderful world we live in. The latest evidence of that – Death Cab for Cutie’s new album Plans is the #4 album in the country. I have loved ‘em for years, but I never thought they would reach such heights of commercial success. Good for them. And good for America consumers.
I was first introduced to the band back when they were touring to support the album We Have the Facts and Are Voting Yes. I saw them at the Mermaid Lounge in New Orleans. Honestly, it wasn’t the greatest show ever, but it was a memorable one. And there was definitely something about Ben Gibbard that I liked. So I bought that album, and my interest in them grew. And as they progressed, my interest continued to grow – by leaps and bounds. And now they are one of my favorite bands (as is another Gibbard project, The Postal Service). Plans is the fifth album of theirs that I have bought (I’ve also got 2 Postal Service discs). I wish I could say it is my favorite. But it’s not. Maybe it will grow on me. Hope it does, and perhaps it will. But until then, I’d judge this to be simply a pretty typical Death Cab product – but still, to me, an average Death Cab for Cutie album is far superior to all but a few other things in music stores at the moment.
There are some really great tracks on this album. It opens with two truly excellent songs, Marching Bands of New York and Soul Meets Body. Some of the other highlights include I Will Follow You Into the Dark, Your Heart Is an Empty Room, Crooked Teeth (which, sort of oddly, reminds me of an Aimee Mann song – I say oddly since I own no Aimee Mann other than the Magnolia soundtrack), and Brothers on a Hotel Bed (which sounds, apart from the lyrics, like it would have fit right in on the band’s gorgeous album Transatlanticism). The album’s misses? Well, I don’t love Summer Skin. And Someday You Will Be Loved features what’s got to be the most irritating chorus the band has ever created.
If the album is a bit of a letdown to me, I think that comes from the fact 1) that Transatlanticism was probably too good – it’s hard for a follow-up to such an exceptional album not be disappointing, 2) that I don’t personally relate to some of the underlying metaphors in the lyrics as much on this album (death is used frequently) in the same way that I did on the last one (which often dwelled on faraway loves) and 3) the lyrics are, in places, just not as impressive as this group has shown it can produce. There are very few bands that can match Death Cab for Cutie when it comes to lyrics, so again, it might simply be that they are simply failing to excel past the high bar they have set for themselves on the basis of the quality of their previous work. On the whole then, you’ll probably note that to the degree this release disappoints me, it’s largely a matter of expectations and words – not music. The music is pretty damn good.
On the whole then, I guess what I would say is that I simply recommend you buy one of the last four Death Cab for Cutie albums. This one’s good. But the three that came before it are strong too.
So who's going to replace Justice O'Connor on the Supreme Court? Today Robert Novak is playing up the chances of Fifth Circuit Court Judge Priscilla Owen.
"According to White House sources, Bush met secretly with Owen last week. While not decisive evidence, this was no mere get-acquainted session beginning a long exploration. The president knows and admires his fellow Texas Republican. The countervailing political pressure on Bush is to name a Hispanic American, and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is a Texas Republican the president knows and likes even better than he does Owen."
The latter pressure is no doubt strong indeed, and articles like this one make it clear that many conservatives will speak out in favor of the Attorney General if the president names him to the Supreme Court. It remains unclear who the president will nominate, but presuming Novak's reporting is accurate, these two names would seem to be at the top of the list at the moment.
I've been troubled for some time about the degree to which our Fourth Amendment protections seem to be be falling away in the wake of recent Supreme Court opinions. A study by Professor Thomas Clancy (analyzed and discussed at Grits for Breakfast) examines the behavior of John Roberts on these issues during his tenure on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Prof. Clancy's findings are considerably less than reassuring.
Tomorrow is voting day in New York - Democrats will choose their nominee to face Mayor Michael Bloomberg in November. Personally, I like Gifford Miller. However, while I like Giff, it's probably worth noting that at this stage it appears highly unlikely that anyone will be able to defeat Mayor Bloomberg.
Why are there so many Harvard Law graduates (as opposed to only one Yale Law graduate) on the SCOTUS? Here's a perspective from Yale.
There were moments yesterday when Agassi looked stunningly good. And yet it still wasn't enough. Federer is simply amazing. It was a fine championship, won by one of the best players tennis has ever seen.
Bloodless Coup had planned on a guest blogger post about the Freedom Walk in Washington D.C. As Jesus' General might say, he is probably a bit too French for the task. In any event, the restrictions on participation of both media and citizens being what they are, our "Washington correspondent" has decided not to attend.
It's just as well, probably, since I don't want to be responsible for the arrest of our young correspondent, much less his heartburn, agony, or stomach ache from listening to Clint Black.
I remain highly interested in coverage of the event, however. How could one not be fascinated by the attempt to sandwich together 9/11 and Iraq, solemn commemoration and kick ass country music in a chance to "remember the victims of September 11, honor our American servicemen and women, past and present, and commemorate our freedom." If you are interested too, there is always Rev. Mykeru, who will be following with absolute attention every letter of the law about participation. Then Mykeru will be recruiting for the armed forces as part of the Operation Yellow Elephant project. A good time will be had by all, no doubt.
In the swirl of finger-pointing and blame-gaming, the issue of partisanship is omnipresent. No doubt there are some commentators for whom the decision to focus on the national level is motivated (if not self-recognized) by partisanship. There are others who are feel vindicated in the "I told you so's" about the Bush administration. There are those who think people - including local governments - ought to have been more self-reliant. There are still others who are coming to a harsh realization about how their beliefs in government have not been borne out. There is a very thoughtful - though not completely focused on this issue alone - post over at ObWi.
Having grown up in a hurricane zone, I'm going to suggest something here that probably a lot of people on both sides won't like. The right won't like it because it implies something about the relationship between people and their government that departs from the fetishism of self-reliance. The left won't like it because it undermines their belief that all thinking people hate Bush with a passion, and that the outrage over the hurricane is an extention of this personalized ire:
People have come to expect the government to help - nay, help quickly and fix everything - when disaster strikes. When that striking disaster is a hurricane, that government is the federal government, and specifically, FEMA.
Rightly or wrongly, people expect FEMA to take care of them. Wait, before you click the comment button. I'm not saying local government shouldn't do something, I'm not saying the state shouldn't. I'm talking about expectations, especially in hurricane zones. We have learned the pattern over the years. In my grandparents' time, there was little warning, lots of destruction, and little help beyond what your friends and neighbors could offer. In my parents' time, there was more warning, and if the damage was bad enough, then a disaster was declared, insurance payments were made. In our time, we have much better warnings and the preemptive declarations of emergencies and disasters based on projected damage, commitments of the feds to states/localities of funds before the damage, and insurance agents on the ground in the immediate aftermath.
Along with this advancement, however, there has been an upward shift of responsibility. Does anyone else remember from childhood the phrase "Don't make a federal case out of it!"? A federal case was something rare, and a big deal. We have racheted up the number of things that are federal cases, from drug laws, mandatory sentencing, you name it, up to and including the idea that disasters of many kinds are federal cases. It has happened in "lefty" ways, and in "righty" ways, so we can't just blame it all on FDR. I would love to see a graphic (and I've looked unsuccessfully, so if anyone has one, link us up) of the number of states of emergency and or disaster areas declared over the last fifty years. My sense, perhaps horribly off, is that it is much more common now than even twenty or thirty years ago. Inasmuch as a natural disaster can be a social construct, it seems to me that our common understanding of "major hurricane" is now "national event" i.e. federal case.
Lest we be too quick to blame the paternalist state (hold with me libertarians), or the sheep the U.S. citizens have become (same to you bootstrap conservatives), or decreasing standards of living that leave people unable to care for themselves (hang on heartstring twanging democrats), there are some evolutionary factors that merit consideration. Some of these are positive reasons for federal action, and some negative, but there are real, factual reasons why we have come to believe in the federal response to hurricanes.
First, meteorologic technology has advanced. In scientific terms, we simply know more about hurricanes. A great deal of this advance has to do with a federal commitment to the National Weather Service. Exceedlingly brave pilots fly into hurricanes to collect data that exceedlingly smart scientists analyze with increasinly sophisticated models. This knowledge is huge advance over the information of the past, which was limited to watching the barometric pressure bottom out and running for your life. In addition to having more knowledge, the public is much better informed. In addition to the regular media, nearly everyone who lives in a hurricane zone has one of these cheap crazy little radios that only gets one channel: the National Weather Service. You can lose your electricity, gas, telephone, and cellular, but with one AA battery still be connected to the calm voice from the NWS telling what to expect, and how to prepare.
Second, we have accumulated experience with hurricanes. The learning about effects, likely consequences, and timelines have improved the preparations and responses of individuals and governments. We know what kinds of houses withstand the storms, we know how long it takes to evacuate, we know what kinds of steps to take. Coastal areas of North Carolina, for example, are full of houses on thick stilts, built to federal specifications, and are reached by high bridges, likewise built to federal specs in order to withstand hurricanes and floods.
Third, populations have grown, and among the fastest growing areas experiencing the biggest real estate booms are many in the coastal southeast. The bigger the population, the harder to rely on local response only. The bigger the population, the more investment, the bigger the economic impact. The scope of action required to deal with large populations affected by hurricanes is arguably beyond the capacity of most cities and many states. That hurricanes strike in the highly populous but poorest states (the Gulf states, and Florida is rich but has no state income tax) of the union cannot be ignored; that is, the most populous areas of the states most likely to suffer are the least financially capable to respond.
Fourth, the U.S. economy has changed. The idea of "local only" impact from a major hurricane like Katrina is a thing of the past. Globalization, economic integration, "just in time" inventory, worldwide markets, all mean that a large-scale local impact of a hurricane has an influence on the national and international level. With Katrina most of us probably think first of gas prices, but we must also consider shipping of agricultural products from the midwest and everything else that came through the ports in the Gulf, and numerous other ramifications to our global trade.
Fifth, financial interests have eclipsed human costs in measuring "bigness" of hurricanes (although perhaps we will see another shift). Along with the general growth, there has been an expanding economy in hurricane prone areas, especially in travel and tourism and the widening ripples (casinos, retail, restaurants) these industries cause. This means that it is not just "regular people" who have an interest in quick federal response to hurricanes, but entire sectors of the U.S. economy.
There are other reasons that we have come to expect federal reponse to hurricanes. There are also a host of reasons that people are offering that this shouldn't be the case. I'm not really talking about whether people should have come to expect the federal government to repond. They have, and there are lots of reasons why.
I think about the unnamed 1928 storm that overflowed Lake Okeechobee, killing thousands of people in Florida (and more in the Caribbean) and compare it to that all the storms in my memory that have followed. The more recent storms have been expensive in dollars, but (barring Katrina) not costly in lives. We have - or thought we had - come a long way, and the federal response has played no small part in these changes. This is why it's wishful thinking to try to go back to a lower level response: people remember.
The increasingly national level responses to hurricanes have become better from the perception of people, who are better warned, and more likely to get out of the way and to receive timely aid. The responses have become better from the perception of state and local government, who have come - based on experience of the last fifty years - to expect the feds to help with the impact of disasters that have national and international repercussions beyond their local destruction. And the responses have become better from the perception of businesses, because the quicker financial assistance helps compensate for the burdens they bear in the aftermath of a storm due to lost assets and revenue, as well as helps lessen the impact on the national economy. The nationalization of hurricane relief has resulted in a more comprehensive response decreasing the loss of life, time of response, and impact on the national economy.
I'll say it again: the extensive scope of a disaster like a major hurricane has national implications. For the past fifty years, the people of the United States have expected and received a federal response from both Democratic and Republican administrations. There has been a federal agency - for a period cabinet level - devoted to major disaster relief. This is more than a symbolic commitment to responsability by the federal government. If we consider this signal from the government combined with the expectations of the people, it is no surprise that there was both a belief that the federal government would aid the population of the Gulf and an outcry when that belief was not fulfilled.
It occurs to me that I haven't posted in quite some time on the fiction I've been reading lately, so here are a few brief thoughts on three novels.
Haruki Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is excellent and I recommend it. But I don't think I can really describe it. A cat goes missing, and then ... well, the man at the center of the book finds himself in the center of an emotional storm, surrounded by family members with secrets, dire stories of World War II and its aftermath, psychic sisters, a remarkably handsome man who doesn't speak, a sun-bathing teenaged girl who works for a wig company, and a well that may not be what it seems. It's dreamy, imaginative, colorful, and menacing, yet touched with moments of calm and sweetness.
Being a huge fan of Blade Runner, I thought I should finally read Do Androids Dream of Electic Sheep by Philip K. Dick, the story that inspired the film. I was at first taken aback. That was due to the fact that 1) I expected Dick's prose to be rather more interesting (detailed, elaborate, unexpected) than it is and 2) the book is very different from the film. Still, once I adjusted my expectations, I found it to be a rewarding read. Dick is a fine storyteller, and one is actually able to surprise his readers.
I was less pleased with Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs. The starts off hilariously. And Burroughs has a knack for grabbing every comic bit you possible can out of a certain type of 1970's lifestyle and certain family cultures. Still, while the first section of the book is extremely well-written and funny, it does start to drag, and seems a joke that is taking a rather long time to wrap itself up. My advice, read the first few dozen pages, and then pick up Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris. That has a similar sensibility and comic style, and I've never heard of it disappointing anyone, though I have found Sedaris fans to be somewhat divided over the story "Seasons Greetings to Our Friends and Family".
Whew. A pretty damning cartoon against the California governor.
I watched this film, the first directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud ( who also directed The Name of the Rose and Enemy at the Gates) and winner of the 1977 Best Foreign Film Oscar, on the recommendation of a regular Bloodless Coup reader. I'd never heard of it, and I expect that a lot of other people haven't either. That's a shame. It's both entertaining and enlightening. It tells the tale of a small group of French citizens living in Africa who learn, in 1915, that their country is at war. The film charts their reactions to this news, and shows how it affects their relations with Germans in the region and the region's natives, and also how it changes (or doesn't) their own behavior. There are some classic bits in here on patriotism and priests seeking to convert more believers, and generally, it's a rather light-hearted but still serious appraisal of matters like colonialism and First World/Third World divides.
First the ukulele, and now a link to HTML art from the Parsons School of Design. Organic html, in return for plugging in your URL (or say, 30-40 if you have time on your hands) the web site uses the html it finds to "grow" a plant/creature/thing. Very groovy. Hint: try the badgers.
I live somewhat near Pittsburgh, and I remember readings something, somewhere, recently about a Flight 93 Memorial. Flight 93 was the fourth hijacked plane that was deliberately crashed into the hills in Pennsylvania by (probably) the hijackers as the passengers/crew (who had been informed by people on the ground of the other three hijackings) attempted to re-take the plane by force. I'm not a huge memorial fan, but this didn't seem controversial. (Most of this story via The Liberal Avenger)
A committee (formed from family members of victims) opened the memorial competition to the public, and got 1100+ entries. One was selected, and it was unveiled to almost unanimous acclaim in the past few days.
Not, however, without WingNut controversy. See, the memorial is in an arc (not a complete circle). An arc is somewhat like a crescent. The crescent is a symbol used, sometimes, but folks over in the Middle East. Of course, it's also used in other ways. But that's irrelevant, when the WingNuts are on the hunt.
So, see, the memorial (follow the logic) being like a crescent is really a victory for the terrorists and associated islamofascists. Following this logic, we can never, ever use crescents for anything else, ever again. Ever. Not even harmless, tasty breakfast pastry.
I'm not the first to point out this idiocy, but I couldn't let it go unmentioned. Very, very silly.
Since everyone else is so busy using "finger-pointing" and "blame-gaming," I'm going to resurrect some Republican spin-slogan-eering from last year. CNN reports that the Bush administration have flip-flopped on preventing journalists from entering New Orleans, rather than deal with the lawsuit.
Rather than fight a lawsuit by CNN, the federal government abandoned its effort Saturday to prevent the media from reporting on the recovery of the dead in New Orleans.
More cynical minds (Baltar?) might think that the administration decided to let the journalists in after preliminary body counts showed that the death toll is not nearly as high as predicted, and therefore will not make Bush Co. look as bad. Optimists might think the administration caught a conscience about respecting the first amendment. Not me. Nope. I think they are just flip-floppers!
In the Ezra vs. Jonah argument over whether or not Nancy Pelosi is going a good job as the Democractic leader in the US House, I am (unsurprisingly) with Ezra, particularly given his description of the GOP congressional leadership as: "a soon-to-be-indicted exterminator, a partially-evolved wrestling coach, and a weak-willed surgeon who conducted a psychic telediagnosis of a comatose political prop that turned out to be wrong." I've never been a big Pelosi fan, but I think Ezra's right in that she's been doing a perfectly adequate (or better than that) job in recent months.
Of course the GOP congressional leadership looks like the wisest of solons compared to the crew that President Bush put charge of protecting us from natural disasters. The level of partisan hackery (sadly) extends far beyond Michael Brown (and as that link notes, things appear to have been moving in the wrong direction since GW ascended to power in 2001). John Pennington is the latest name to get some coverage on the list of highly questionable appointments that this presidency made to key FEMA positions. But of course the list is a long one, and the ineptitude of these people who got their jobs - jobs central to protecting the lives of Americans - is sadly all too apparent now, after many Americans have died.
In my posts on the last election the one word I kept bringing up to describe the president was "dangerous". I felt he earned that word, in no small part, because of his lack of curiousity when it comes to thinking about potentially unpleasant realities, his long-standing record of holding no one in his government publicly accountable for gross incompetence, and his reliance upon loyal handlers and long-time friends, as opposed to people who are actually experts in their fields and might prioritize the need to deal with costly and unpleasant realities above the need to present a smiling face and another voice in favor of the President Bush's often seemingly critical-thinking-free approach to government. Sadly, with this event, among others, in my mind he continues to merit the "dangerous" label. That's not to say that Gov. Blanco didn't make a single mistake. And the president is not responsible for the appalling behavior of the police force in Gretna. But there's much he, Homeland Security and FEMA are responsible for (for a quick overview, the timeline that NPR presented during their coverage of this story yesterday was depressing beyond words, and I'm rather shocked that any president could still have faith in Michael Brown or Secretary Chertoff after their behavior in the first week of this crisis - yet again, Bush crushingly meets the exceedingly low expectations of his critics ...). And both through their actions and their inactions, the president and his aides are doing remarkably little to make Americans feel that this country will be at all prepared when the next disaster strikes.
Lauren at Feministe asks the all important question: what is going to happen to people's homes when they have been evacuated from New Orleans? She posts about and links to this from Kathryn Cramer. Reading these two pieces reinforced the uneasy feeling I've been having in my stomach all day when reading about the forced evacuations.
I understand that many of the people in New Orleans who are still there are not capable of sticking it out. However today I read a news story on CNN describing some who are well-provisioned, on dry ground, with generators, gas, food for a year. The authorities are taking their legal registered guns. They are making them leave the property that they own. People in some refugee centers are not free to move about the country. I'm not going tinfoil hat on you, but there are those nagging thoughts about what other rights are going to be bent or broken. What about that new court decision on takings? What about the comments of members of Congress saying that God had cleaned up the projects that no government could? What about Hastert suggesting bulldozing? Who decides? Are owners going to be consulted first? Are they even going to be notified? These are some very big questions, and I hope some sharp lawyers get on answering them right away.
For some really scary stuff, read the post before the one I linked to from Kathryn Cramer. Hired commandos in New Orleans.
Mendacious! Slavishly corrupt! Bought and paid for!!!
Santorum has critical words for forecasters in wake of Katrina 09/09/2005
(Washington) -- U.S. Senator Rick Santorum is suggesting that early mistakes in predicting the path of Hurricane Katrina may be a symptom of lost focus at the National Weather Service. Santorum, who introduced legislation earlier this year to curb the output of government weather forecasters, says tracking life-threatening weather must be central to what the agency is doing.
Asked about Katrina by WITF, Santorum described weather service warnings for Florida, where the storm first made landfall, as, quote, “not sufficient.”
Santorum’s bill instructs the government to abandon weather prediction and data reporting efforts that duplicate private-sector activity. He came under fire when it was revealed that the head of State College-based AccuWeather, which would benefit, has given his campaigns thousands of dollars.
This isn't the first time I've had something to say about everyone's favorite fan of Accuweather. Rick Santorum continues his zealous attack on the National Weather Service. He said their warnings were "not sufficient."
For someone who hates the National Weather Service so much, Rick Santorum doesn't sound like someone who has ever actually sampled the product. They have satellites, they have three and five day storm path predictors, they have wind probabilities, they have advisories (en español también!), discussions, and strike probabilities that cover extensive areas and time periods. What the heck is Rick Santorum smoking, when he says the warnings were not sufficient? I watched the live feeds for days, read CNN and the NYT online, the Palm Beach Post, and I saw reports warning and links all from the National Hurricane Center. They even briefed the President of the United States before the storm hit. Not sufficient!?!?!
BloodlessCoup even blogged links to the National Hurricane Center before landfall. Those sure were sufficient to scare the daylights out of me.
What does he want to achieve this sufficiency beyond broadcast on local and national televisions stations, local and national newspapers, radio stations, news websites, blogs, and not to mention, the amazingly useful, frequently updated, clear and understandable, diverse and scientifically sound, gathered from U.S. satellites data from the website of the National Weather Service itself?!
Painted hot air balloons tuned to a color-coded threat advisory? Cessnas with banners trailing behind? Trucks with loudspeakers driving about, broadcasting the message? What would be more sufficient than freely available and widely broadcast timely information about storms?
About the only thing that did go right in the whole run up to Katrina was the constant and consistent warnings from the National Weather Service. These warnings told people what to expect, when to expect it, and clearly discussed the range of possibilities - all dangerous - for the Gulf Coast.
Was he too lazy to check any of these sources? Was he too stupid to understand what they were saying? Both are highly doubtful. He does have a one track mind devoted to Accuweather though. And now he's trying to diguise his ever present attention to constituent service by trying to convince the rest of us that killing the weather service is necessary because the National Weather Service warnings were "not sufficient."
Maybe if the the National Weather Service relocated to Pennsylvania and started making sufficient campaign contributions to Santorum's reelection, he might change his mind.
Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau:
"[A]rguably" a day or so of response time was lost due to the absence of the Mississippi National Guard's 155th Infantry Brigade and Louisiana's 256th Infantry Brigade, each with thousands of troops in Iraq.
...watched her own mother die as they waited for help she thought would never come.
For three days they waited, sweating and stripped nearly naked because of the 110 degree heat, with no food and running out of water. The rising water reached the attic and threatened the survival of anyone inside the yellow-sided, single-story house.
During half the time they were trapped, the body of Debbie's mom, Melissa Harold, 68, who didn't make it through the ordeal, lay lifeless on the attic floor.
Melissa Harold, a former newspaper reporter, passed away a day and a half after climbing into the attic. "We told her we loved her, and she said she loved us," Debbie said, in tears. "I told her I was sorry I couldn't help ... And she closed her eyes."
Democratic Rep. Gene Taylor of Mississippi:
the absence of the deployed Mississippi Guard units made it harder for local officials to coordinate their initial response.
"What you lost was a lot of local knowledge," Taylor said, as well as equipment that could have been used in recovery operations.
"Anyone who's saying that doesn't understand the situation."
In a similar vein, catch Rasputina's Radical Recital if they come near you.
While I presume a skilled attorney could save him, this does look rather like a felony.
Just a little blast from the past to put one prominent aspect of the coming 9/11 celebration/memorial into perspective.
I had no idea that this was still going on. But I guess since the parliament still hasn't voted on it ...
The Downtown Lad is on a tear.
On attempts to expand the borders of the hallowed World Trade Center site:
It looks like the aim of the firefighters and the victim's families is to remove any signs of life whatsoever from Lower Manhattan. They won't be happy until all of Wall Street has been turned into one big tomb.
Somebody should tell these people that this was also the goal of Osama Bin Laden.
On Christians and evolution:
I think they should qualify this. Obviously, only non-Christians are still evolving. Christians are still stuck in the biblical age.
I'm not trying to insult Christians. I mean, if I wanted to do that, I would say that they ARE evolving. That drives them nuts.
Methinks thou best not piss him off.
Via this New York Times story, we get this priceless quote:
As New Orleans descended into chaos last week and Louisiana's governor asked for 40,000 soldiers, President Bush's senior advisers debated whether the president should speed the arrival of active-duty troops by seizing control of the hurricane relief mission from the governor.
The debate began after officials realized that Hurricane Katrina had exposed a critical flaw in the national disaster response plans created after the Sept. 11 attacks. According to the administration's senior domestic security officials, the plan failed to recognize that local police, fire and medical personnel might be incapacitated. (emphasis added)
Yup, that's right: four years after September 11th, a decade or so after terrorism became something the goverment actively worried about, and a century after hurricanes and other natural disasters showed they were capable of wiping entire towns off the map - after all that, the Homeland Security and FEMA planners "failed to recognize" that the local first-responders might themselves be incapacitated by the storm/terrorist attack/earthquake/whatever.
That's, to use a phrase I like, "dumber than a crate of anvils." I'm not sure I'd trust these people to go grocery shopping if they had a pre-printed list (in triplicate), a cell phone, a bag of cash, a car full of gas, and a mission statement.
(Oh, the NYT article is worth reading. It's main focus really isn't on the awesome idiocy of the paragraph I quoted, but mainly talks about the political debate between Gov. Blanco and Pres. Bush about what legal status any federal (active duty troops, mostly) would have if they responded. The overall point is that Bush and his advisors debated what was legal, what wasn't, and how to skirt the line in order to get help there quickly. What's odd is that this administration, not known for worrying about legal niceties, worried about them now. Very strange. It is also clear that Gov. Blanco and FEMA/Bush/the Pentagon weren't on the same page at all.)
I'll have a much larger Katrina post later, but this really jumped out at me.
It's hard to imagine that's possible - but that's Ronald Bailey's take on Edmund Pellegrino's appointment. Looks like we can look forward to ever increasing obstacles blocking this country from taking advantage of scientific advances and its own resource strengths as long as this Bush is in the White House. Perhaps the president should have run on the theme of "committed to blocking innovation and its economic and health care benefits".
From an avatar seen on a messageboard (caption mine):
Over at Abu Aardvark we get this discussion of a recent study done by Marc Tessler:
The only independent variables significantly correlated with support for terrorism were "negative views of U.S. foreign policy" and - and here's the interesting part - "negative views of one's own political system." Those Jordanians and Algerians who expressed dissatisfaction with their own government were significantly more likely to approve of terrorism against the United States. Discontent with their own government was vastly more significant than religion, education, culture, class, or anything else for explaining support for terrorism against the U.S.
Baltar reminded me recently that I should read Laura Rozen more often. He was right, as usual. She is all over the administration's effort to keep the continuing story of New Orleans from being reported. I'm going to excerpt the bulk of one post, but she has several others that are extremely revealing in what they show about the personnel assigned to FEMA as well as the dizzying spin happening now. Follow the links embedded in the post (which are not transferred here). Rozen has put her phone to work, asking questions, and has advised the rest of us to do the same. Democracy. I'm lovin' it!
This sort of blatant censorship cannot be tolerated in America. I think this writer to Americablog has the right idea:
Hey there John,
First, thanks for being the voice of conscience through all of this horror we are experiencing here in the south.
I was concerned when I read your comments that the press was being moved out of New Orleans, so I called the White House to voice my concern. I was told by the WH operator that the reason was out of respect for the dead. I told her that I thought it was a bad idea to not chronicle this issue so that we could learn from it, correct what went wrong and make sure there is accountability.
Well the minute the operator heard the buzzword "accountability" she got very testy and insisted that it was not appropriate to show the dead. I told here we saw dead bodies everyday on the news from Iraq and she went a little nuts and said I was "being insensitive." I've got friends I can't find in New orleans and I'm being insensitive? These people need to get real and hear from more Americans.
Please tell people to call 202-456-1414, 202-456-1111 and tell the WH operators that the press need to stay.
Call the White House and your Senators and Congressmen, and demand that the administration stop trying to suppress reporting on the recovery operation in New Orleans, and demand that there be an independent investigation of the government's failures in its Katrina response, its FEMA and DHS hiring and staffing and operations. And a whole lot of civil disobedience and law suits from the media against the government are in order, starting with suing FEMA for trying to ban media access to recovery of the dead in New Orleans. The Bush administration made this country look like the Third World last week -- let's not let it continue on this path in the aftermath.
So, FEMA has no disaster relief professionals at the top, but is chock full of PR hacks. That would be my first choice for competent professionals to save American lives during a disaster.
While I can't vouch for the accuracy of the story, if this is true, it speaks very ill of the rescue effort and the nature of attempts to alleviate the problems in New Orleans. However, it's certainly worth a read.Humanity has such an ugly side. "Nasty, brutish and short" never seemed quite so accurate as it has in the last week and a half.
This one is making the rounds.
And some more humor via Sadly, No!. Not the R.O.U.S.es!
Not all of this week's news is bad news. People who live in or visit New York will soon be able to see a rich, vibrant Matisse that hasn't been viewed publicly for decades.
This administration has long been so secretive that it's as if all of Richard Nixon and William Casey's fondest dreams about how the executive branch should be run suddenly come true. I'm still hoping despite my intuition and four years of evidence to the contrary that things aren't quite that bad. Though it sure does feel that way a lot of the time with this president in power, and what would a disaster in this administration be without more secretive power grabs and curbs on the people's ability to know what their government is actually up to. On the heels of recent moves to curtail, or stop entirely, media reports in New Orleans, we now have had the ugly scene of the House approving spending $52 billion of your money - $52 BILLION - without letting the Democrats in Congress even see a copy of the legislation.
In the wake of a catastrophe like this when so many Americans are working hard, trying to rebuild the country and support one another, isn't it reassuring that we have "uniters" running Washington?
All city-wide conventions (those utilizing center space and three or more hotels) to be held in the Center are cancelled through March 31, 2006. The commitment of New Orleans to a flawless experience for our customers means unequivocally that we will not re-open for convention business until the experience is perfect and to your and our high standards. We will err on the side of safety for you.
The full announcement is here.
Brock raises some extremely good questions here. To paraphrase - Why does the Post protect anonymous sources who are lying? What journalistic good is served by serving as a megaphone for the mendacious powers that be, and not even forcing them to put a face to the lies? And isn't it newsworthy, in and of itself, that senior administration officials are covering their asses with off-the-record lies?
The Post has long been friendly to this administration on topics like the Iraq war, but as a supposedly journalistic entity how in the world can they carry on with this type of behavior? Have they decided to swim along at the bottom of ersatz journalism with MSNBC?
Well, with a title like "What the Poor Are Like," do you expect nice things? Like chocolate: sweet and delicious. Or maybe, like a puppy: loving and full of energy. No? How about these qualities that are designed to educate charity workers so they can "best help poor people" after hurricane Katrina.
The poor are bad drivers and scofflaws."One such detail was that most of the adults who passed through the shelter had, on the average, about 25 outstanding traffic warrants."
The poor have many aliases so they can maximize their ability to defraud the government."Another such detail was that many of our clients used more than one name. Why? There were many reasons. But a big one was that they could get more than one welfare check that way."
They are litterbugs, vandals and looters!"Another detail was that they littered tremendously. Also, the level of vandalism was high...This ranged from tearing down shower curtains and rods to deliberate flooding."
The poor don't like to work"Another detail was that most of them did not want to work. But we insisted."
The poor don't interact enough with their children."They did not talk, talk, talk to their children like a middle-class mother might."
Poor children are better off away from their mothers."I came to the reluctant conclusion that these children would have been somewhat better off in a good day care center during the day, getting more stimulation and attention, and getting better prepared to learn in school, than at home all day with their mothers. "
Poor people are liars and cheaters."Another detail was that our clients conned, decieved and lied as a matter of course."
Poor people are crackheads."That was when they let me know that many of our families were using cocaine. Although they had not caught them in the act, they knew the signs."
Poor people should never be given much money because they can't be trusted to spend it wisely."What this meant was that many of our clients used the money we saved them, by giving them free housing and food, to buy cocaine rather than the other things their families so desperately needed. "
Poor people are mostly black, and if white, are not from religions which "stick together.""there were certain groups of people that we never saw among the homeless. Among these were any Asians, Mormons or Seventh-Day Adventists. And only one Jew"
Poor women don't know how to pick men."for the women, being homeless had a lot to do with the kind of man in their lives"
Poor women are aborting sluts who eschew marriage."Most of the women began to have sex at an early age. Despite some abortions, most had 2 or 3 children by age 18. Most were never married."
Poor men are lazy fathers who do not work."His attitude about working was that it was beneath him. That jobs that he could get were too undignified."
Poor men are criminals."the only kinds of work he found acceptable were, for the most part, illegal"
Poor men are gang-banging illiterate pimps."Often, he had been part of a gang, and had been delinquent since an early age. He usually had several children by several women. He may have been an outright pimp at some point."
Maybe someone should organize to hand this list out to all the people who have lost everything they had in the hurricane, so they know what's expected of them now that they are poor.
This essay notes the many roles that the Chief Justice plays - several of which give him a vast amount of power over many different different kinds of government policy. His personnel powers alone are enormous. It is extremely important to remember these roles in considering whether or not John Roberts should hold the office - for, potentially, 30 years or more. The Chief is much more than first among nine. Whether anyone should wield this much power for decades is something that perhaps the country should reconsider.
Through an examination of Rick Santorum's new book, Jonathan Rauch notes that the biggest threat to the legacies of Goldwater and Reagan comes not from the Democrats but from big-government, "pro-family" Republicans like the junior senator from Pennsylvania.
The Cunning Realist has a very strong post on the way all Americans were betrayed by the federal government last week, and why true conservatives should be particularly upset about the Bush administration's failures.
Just when you thought FEMA could not be both more cold-hearted and inept ...
At least this was fixed - eventually. But that ever occurred is shameful.
Now I know that the standards of the New York Times have collapsed into previously uncharted depths since Bill Keller took over, but is there any more obvious example of that than letting John Tierney write a regular op-ed column? Yes, sure, there is the whole Judy Miller abomination. But for now she's locked up and can't as easily spew her pro-Chalabi rantings in what's supposedly the nation's paper of record. And at least Miller knows how to build arguments. When they are tied to the Middle East they are often built on false information, but there remains a certain logic to the lies.
Tierney, on the other hand, can't write well (or at least coherently) and he seems rather dumb too. After trying to read him, and giving up, shortly after he got his current assignment I'd sort of let myself forget about him. But for some reason I chose to read his latest this morning - and boy do I wish I hadn't.
First off, there are the contradictory bits about the president. While he himself writes that Bush failed and merits being questioned about his lack of performance, particularly given the image he's tried to cultivate, Tierney also says "most of his critics are making an even bigger one (mistake) now by obsessing about what he said and did". Huh? "Obsessing" seems an inaccurate word choice, and conveys that the president's critics are crazed loons - not people who are rightly outraged that someone who promised both protection and compassion showed an appalling failure to provide either in what might be the biggest disaster in modern American history.
Instead of holding the nation's leader accountable for his failures Tierney would have us look to some disaster-preparedness worker in Virginia to learn lessons from this case. Because, you know, it's men like that, not presidents of the United States, that bear the true responsibility, for say, stocking FEMA with political hacks, not adequately funding proposals that would have better protected the city, and waiting to provide direction and oversight to national emergency teams instead of activating them immediately. Oh, wait, Mr. Judkins didn't have responsibility for that? Well, he must surely be key since a flood that kills twenty-something in Virginia is just like a hurricane that kills thousands. Oh, it's not?
You know, even given the terrible analogies and the knee-jerk protection of our failure of a president, I was still not too irritated with Tierney until I got to this:
The federal officials who had been laboring on a one-size-fits-all strategy were unprepared for the peculiarities of New Orleans, like the high percentage of people without cars. The local officials who knew about that problem didn't do anything about it - and then were furious when Mr. Bush didn't solve it for them. Why didn't the man on the mound come through for them? It's a fair question as they go door to door looking for bodies. But so is this: Why didn't they go door to door last week with Magic Markers?
That Tierney thinks that it's unusual for many people not to have cars shows a sadly predictable and fundamental disconnect from the reality of the lives of millions of Americans (many of whom of course live in New York itself). Mindless ditto-heads like him can't begin to fathom the challenges that the poor face, and really I don't think they should be trusted to give advice to government officials (or at least presumably informed advice). As to the latter comment - that he equates the failures of the federal government in this case with the failures of the local government, particularly along the lines he uses, is just damn silly, and it shows a pathetic level of political desperation by the Bush team and its mouthpieces in the media. Yes, local government could have done more - but they were tightly constrained by structural limitations that were much more binding that those constraining the federal government. Beyond that, the kinds of actions and services they could have provided were simply less likely to affect whether people lived or died than what the federal government chose to do or not do. And, after Ivan, the locals had shown themselves to be moving in the right direction, and were making changes. The same isn't remotely true of the federal government. In fact, it appears that it may have even moved backwards. Much like the Bush team downgraded the role of the counter-terrorism chief prior to 9/11, it was more interested in giving tax breaks to its corporate friends and starting a war in Iraq than in paying to protect American citizens from obvious threats here at home. Sadly, thousands more have had to suffer because of the Bush team's priorities. And as much as people like Tierney try to spin responsibility away from the president, sooner or later you'd think he'd have to admit he bears some responsibility for what his government has failed to do and the bad choices it has made in the last 5 years.
Archpundit has had a number of posts up over the last week noting changes that the local government (thankfully) put in place in its disaster-preparedness plans in the wake of Hurricane Ivan. This post contains the gist of this coverage. Could New Orleans have done more? Perhaps. Like much else tied to this catastrophe, that's not entirely clear yet. But it's clear that the city had improved things considerably in the last few years, and those changes probably ended up saving many lives.
It seems that in light of Hurricane Katrina some people think it might make good political sense to name a woman from Louisiana to fill Sandra Day O'Connor's seat on the US Supreme Court.
UPDATE: Todd Zywicki offers another reason why Clement might once again be on the short list.
I had a great Saturday night, and it started off with seeing a really fun movie - Wes Craven's Red Eye. I don't want to get anyone's expectations set too high. The premise it is set on isn't remotely complicated, and the plot twists it follows are, in a couple of cases, rather unlikely if you really stop and think about it. But what's brilliant about the film is that it doesn't lend itself to really being analyzed. It's simple, but also almost exhilarating. It quickly captures your attention and keeps hold of it until the end. The writing and directing are smart, perhaps deceptively simple. And the acting by Cillian Murphy and Rachel McAdams is exactly what one would hope. Murphy is especially good at being both charismatic and menacing. And Jayma Mays is very funny in a small comic role. If you are looking for a rewarding summertime distraction, this might be just the thing for you.
It has been a very depressing week. I have sworn to commit myself to being with friends and family this weekend, leaving blogging and politics for a few days to appreciate life.
There are a few items and links I want to post, however.
First, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court William Rehnquist passed away last night.
Second, please consider a donation to hurricane relief. Things are getting better and the most acute suffering in New Orleans is winding down, but there will be a long process of recovery that needs all our support.
Third, animal lovers, there have been some horrible stories about abandoned pets, and people being forced to leave their animals on the side of the road because they are prohibited from taking them on the evacuation bus. The Humane Society has already collected hundreds of animals and will likely find many more. You can donate directly to them, or contact your local Humane Society, foster organization or even pet store to help with a donation or temporary home for someone's lost pet.
Fifth, many people who did not follow the hurricane initially may not have seen the live feeds coming out of New Orleans. Next to the governor at all of them, and responsible for describing the emergency plans was a uniformed official from Homeland Security. The disaster declaration came before the storm hit so that Homeland Security would be already empowered to act. See the White House Press Release of August 27.
Sixth, here is an interesting critique of the Bush photo ops in the disaster region. Particularly revealing are the comments of the foreign journalists, who saw the man behind the curtin, and paid attention.
Seventh, well, you know, it's a beautiful day in West Virginia. I hope it is where you are too.
The assistant secretary of the Army, Mississippi's former U.S. Rep. Mike Parker, was forced out Wednesday after he criticized the Bush administration's proposed spending cuts on Army Corps of Engineers' water projects, members of Congress said.
Parker earned the ire of administration officials when he questioned Bush's planned budget cuts for the corps, including two controversial Mississippi projects.
"I think he was fired for being too honest and not loyal enough to the president," said lobbyist Colin Bell, who represents communities with corps-funded projects.
Apparently the guy was criticized by environmentalists for being too interventionist, i.e. supporting big Army Corps projects, so it's not like he was some raging lefty. Now he has commented on Katrina. The article points that that the levees have been chronically underfunded.
A corps plan to shore up the levees began in 1965 and was supposed to be finished in 10 years but remains incomplete. "They've never put enough money in to complete it," Parker said. He said the corps' budget has been regularly targeted by the White House because public works projects are perceived as pork and aren't considered "sexy."
"Go talk to the people who are suffering in New Orleans," Parker said. "Ask them do they think it's pork."
Via Talking Points and Armand in DC this weekend.
UPDATE: The Washington Monthly has an timeline. Hat tip to Perrone.
From the Director of FEMA (added marks and comments mine):
Michael Brown also agreed with other public officials that the death toll in the city could reach into the thousands.
"Unfortunately, that's going to be attributable a lot to people who did not heed the advance warnings," Brown told CNN.[and those who couldn't? has he freaking looked at who is being exacuated? the old people in wheelchairs on oxygen? they could have driven out?]
"I don't make judgments about why people chose not to leave but, you know, there was a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans," he said. [I call bullshit. That's exactly what he's doing.]
"And to find people still there is just heart-wrenching to me because, you know, the mayor did everything he could to get them out of there.[maybe]
"So, we've got to figure out some way to convince people that whenever warnings go out it's for their own good," Brown said. "Now, I don't want to second guess why they did that. My job now is to get relief to them."
Surely there are some people who could have left, and decided to stay, including those with bad intent and those who wanted to resist. However the vast numbers of people without adequate transportation - whose status the city prepared for by opening the Superdome - did not make that decision.
He might as well have said "Let them eat cake."
If only the hurricanes had come in September.
I have mostly avoided a "blame game" for the Katrina disaster. In hindsight, it seems clear that the Federal, State and City officials should have done more to prevent the ongoing chaos/anarchy that is New Orleans. How that blame should be distributed (my own take is that big, major, predictable disasters like hurricanes are more of a Federal issue than a state, but we can have that fight later) can wait for later. However, an Associated Press Editorial (it can't really be called "news") does put some things into perspective:
Just last year, the Army Corps of Engineers sought $105 million for hurricane and flood programs in New Orleans. The White House slashed the request to about $40 million. Congress finally approved $42.2 million, less than half of the agency's request.
Yet the lawmakers and Bush agreed to a $286.4 billion pork-laden highway bill that included more than 6,000 pet projects for lawmakers. Congress spent money on dust control for Arkansas roads, a warehouse on the Erie Canal and a $231 million bridge to a small, uninhabited Alaskan island.
How could Washington spend $231 million on a bridge to nowhere -- and not find $42 million for hurricane and flood projects in New Orleans? It's a matter of power and politics.
Pork barrel politics is everywhere. It isn't exclusive to the Federal level, so the blame shouldn't reside only with Congress. Yet, clearly, it has costs. Don Young (R-Alaska) doesn't really need a $231 million dollar bridge as much as the people of New Orleans need less than a quarter of that sum to repair the levees that protect(ed) their town (I realize that the $231 million, which was only passed a month or so ago, wouldn't have mattered to fix the levees before Katrina arrived: it's the principle, here, not the facts). Imagine how much more secure, more protected, better prepared and ready we would be for both natural and man-made disasters if Congress really spent our tax dollars wisely.
The political point finished, I find it unbelievably depresssing to watch the news coverage of the unfolding catastrophe that is New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. September 11th was a short, quick shock with long-term consequences. The damage happened in a few hours. Katrina's effects on New Orleans are a heart-breaking slow-motion epic disaster. It's much harder to watch. Blame comes later. Give money today.
We are proud to announce the arrival of a happy healthy bouncing baby ZINE!!!
When we started Bloodless Coup we intended to have both the blog and zine component up and running. The zine was delayed, but hopefully it will now be a regular quarterly feature here at Bloodless Coup.
The first issue is devoted to music, including snippets about Coachella, coverage of the Allgood Festival, a review of a local concert by Rasputina, plus several individual and groups pieces by the Bloodless Crew and guests. There are seven hotspots embedded in the photo on the front page of the zine that will link you to the articles. Future issues will feature politics, fiction, photography, and other subjects that strike our fancy.
We've worked (too) long and (maybe) hard (enough) gestating the zine. It's our first effort, and a little rough around the edges, but hey, so are we. If you're interested in contributing to future issues, or want to offer cheers or jeers, just head to the main homepage and write the editor.
Charity Hospital has halted patient evacuations because it has come under sniper fire, according to Dr. Tyler Curiel, who witnessed the incident.
Did this remind anyone else of Condi Rice saying that no one could possibly anticipate terrorists flying planes into buildings? I know the president doesn't like to read much, but just because he doesn't want to know things doesn't mean they weren't known.