30 November 2004

Alexander: The Movie

Before I discuss Oliver Stone's new movie Alexander, I must confess a personal bias--I have a soft heart for any attempt to make a grand historical or sci-fi epic. I was therefore able to overlook Brad Pitt's narrow range of emotion and the clumsy Hollywood flourishes of Pertersen's Troy and I wasn't one of the those who walked out of the third Matrix movie. For this reason, I was one of the rare movie-goers who didn't demand my money back after watching Alexander. In spite of the movie's obvious failings, I took pleasure in the vast battle scenes and the seductive yet spiteful Angelina Jolie. But in the end, even I must admit that if someone is handed $155 million and given four years to make a movie, it's hard to see how they could do much worse that Stone did with Alexander.

Oddly enough, Anthony Hopkins (usually a great actor) plays one of the dullest and most artificial parts in the movie as an older Ptolemy giving away each part of the movie before we watch it. When I'd heard that Hopkins was in the movie, I had automatically assumed that he must be playing the part of Aristotle. Which brings up another point: Why was the meeting with Aristotle played down? It is true that historians, while convinced that Aristotle tutored the young Alexander, generally feel that he didn't have a great influence on the child. Even so, it seems to me that this meeting between the world's greatest thinker with its greatest military figure surely deserves more than a dull scene (with a very mundane Aristotle as the clumsy lecturer).

One gets the feeling that this movie was really beyond the intellectual ken of the director. Stone wastes invaluable minutes of the movie's beginning with scenes of Angelina Jolie nuzzling snakes and mundane shots of Alexander wrestling--time that could have been used providing some background for Alexander's ambitions (the amazing unification of the Greek states, traditional stories of Greek mercenaries returning through Persia).

The early battle scenes on the Persian plains are not all that interesting--although the general feel of the battle is probably the most realistic element of the entire movie. Countless chariots and foot soldiers move confusedly through large clouds of dust in chaos. The movie viewers find it almost impossible to distinguish between the two sides (a problem the two sides may have actually had at the time!) The problem with the scene is that the director seems to have had some other point (beyond the chaos of war) in mind. After this one battle, Alexander is instantly transported to greatness with his band of Irish uhm . . . I mean Macedonian soldiers (I have a hard time hearing the Irish or Scottish accents of the actors and thinking of the person as Greek).

The idea of Alexander as the first great multiculturalist is interesting--I'll leave the more historically proficient bloggers to debate its historical accuracy. But I must say that I had the uncontrollable urge to guffaw loudly when I heard Alexander claim that he was fighting "for freedom." Are we to assume that any ancient leader of one of the most heavily slave-owning states in history, where entire tribes and populations were enslaved and where masculine virtues implied an absolute overpowering of one's opponents' will, was somehow inspired by the idea of freedom! Of course, if Bush can say the Iraqi War is for "freedom" perhaps anything is possible--I guess I have sentimental hopes that the conquerers of the past were a bit less hypocritical.

The gay sexuality in the movie was its most daring feature. I heard some gasps and ah-hems in the movie from some of the more right-wing viewers who had been enjoying, up until the gay scenes, the unadultered idolization of war. Indeed, the open acceptance of gay sex is one of the only aspects of the movie that gave viewers the sense that they were looking at a foreign culture. As with so many Hollywood films, many clips were simply fight scenes from other war movies with the addition of a few Greek looking shields and armor, the swagger and bravado all looking like it came out of a Western or a WWII movie.

In the end, we must appreciate the movie's ambitions. It tried to provide a unifying theme (Alexander's attempt to create a large multicultural Hellenic empire) with laudable disregard for America's Puritan sensibilities. Yet it failed in some very basic ways.

Still, I recommend that you all go see the movie. Regard it as a donation to those who make historical dramas. It's alway fun to see large groups of horses and chariots shuffle around a desert or elephants attacking through the jungle--anything is to be preferred over another Hollywood movie filled with siliconed-plated blondes and slo-mo car crashes.

    Other blogments on the movie:
  • A Perfectly Cromulent Blog: "The historians Plutarch, Curtius, and Diodorus all agree that, at the very least, Alexander preferred men to women. So does Peter Green, author of Alexander of Macedon, and the majority of modern-day Alexander scholars."
  • Feministing:
  • Beautiful Atrocities
  • Belmont Club (an excellent post and discussion of the film's historicity)
  • Roger Simon: "The only interest in this obvious yawner of a movie has been dredged up by the minor controversy over its protagonist's sexuality."
  • Pothos (academic discussion of Alexander's sexuality)
  • The Bad Hair Blog: "Alexander's a dud."
You might also check out the reviews of Bruce Kirkland, Gary Arnold, Roger Ebert, Jessica Su (discussing the Greek suit), Victor Hanson, Terry Lawson, L J Worldand, Shawn Levy, and The Arizona Republic. I'm now tempted to go find the 1956 Movie "Alexander" to see its take on the mad Macedonian.

29 November 2004

Polymath titans in our midst

FLASH! Our very own Nick Lewis has "released" an MP3 version of Sergei Rachmaninoff: Ossia Cadenza from Piano Concerto No. 3 in d-minor Op. 30! Head over to Net Politik to download a copy before the other netizen riff-raff discover the free music and the site crashes!

Wonkette on C-Span

Last night, I listened to Wonkette on C-Span. I thought she did well, offering many humorous one-liners. She had the sense to simply confess ignorance when she didn't know something. Some of the reporters came up with good questions about how they should regard bloggers, this new intermediate form between readers and writers of the news.

28 November 2004

Monopoly and information

On C-Span today, there was an interesting debate over reporters' right to maintain source confidentiality. The debate follows several high-profile arrests of reporters for refusing to divulge confidential sources to prosecutors, in particular the 18-month sentence handed down to New York Times reporter Judith Miller. In response to the sentence for contempt, Miller said, "This is about all journalists and about all government officials who provide information on the promise of confidentiality. Without that, they won't come forward, and the public won't be informed" (The Washington Post).

In the C-Span debates, those who approved of the arrest cited a number of worst-case scenarios and legal issues, such as the question of who should be included as a journalist (pejorative and comical images of bloggers wearing pajamas came up repeatedly).

As one of those pajama-clad bloggers, I think a larger issue lurks behind this debate. Democracy, if it is to work at all, is driven by people who have access to information. It is, of course, difficult for citizens to learn enough to make educated decisions, but democracy becomes impossible if the people have no idea what the government is doing.

For this reason, the current administration is clearly heading in the wrong direction. The U.S. government has become so secretive that it now insists on keep ing even Vietnam-era decision-making under wraps in many cases. We have CIA files that are decades old that are still classified--even though the countries these files refer to no longer even exist and the agents refered to are all dead. The reason for this is that these files often show the government's deception of the U.S. people. The shroud of secrecy is therefore more often to protect the government from public scrutiny than it is to protect it from its so-called enemies.

Of course, the argument can be made that the government is stronger if it can operate in secret. This is true. Fascist governments are strong. Democracy is messy, time-consuming, and less efficient. But a fascist government isn't our government. A government operating in secret isn't informed by our opinion, but rather by the opinion of those who are in on the secret (corporations, etc.) Investigative reporting (with confidential sources and leaks such as those that led to Watergate) are thus essential to make government more transparent.

Other blogments on the issue include those of Loaded Mouth, Hypocrites.com, Say Anything, and Beldar Blog, Talk Left, and Slate. Many of these bloggers laud the arrest of Miller and even those who don't, rightfully point out that Miller is poorly casted as a rebel leading the righteous cause. She was the conduit for much of the Chalabi misinformation that has come to haunt the current administration. Even so, I feel that WE THE PEOPLE need access to all the information we can get our hands on. I would like to see the day when it was virtually impossible to make any information confidential.

27 November 2004

Cheney's old company in news again

According to a recent audit of Halliburton, the company has somehow misplaced a third of the government property that the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq paid it to manage. This comes on the tail of a criminal investigation into alleged fuel price gouging by the company and an FBI inquiry into possible favoritism from the Bush administration.

"The Associated Press reported Wednesday that FBI agents have extensively interviewed an Army contracting officer who last month went public with allegations that the Bush administration was improperly awarding contracts to Halliburton without competitive bidding."

On the Net, check out the latest inspector general report. Excellent information on the company's shenanigans can be found at Halliburton Watch.

26 November 2004

Today's class

Okay students. Stop slouching. That's better. Today, I'd like to review what we've learned from Donald Trump in the Apprentice. First all maybe we should go over what we covered in our previous classes.
  • $1.3 billion in debt, Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts is going bankrupt, this being the second time that Trump has guided his casino businesses to bankruptcy.
  • Under bankruptcy, Trump will see his stake in the company shrink from 56 percent to 25 percent. (Many of his investors, on the other hand, will end up with less than a penny per dollar of original investment).
  • While the company's tanking, Trump's company will still pay him 2 million each year for his management expertise.
  • For the first season of The Apprentice, Trump made $50,000 per episode for his appearance in each of the show’s 15 episodes, or $750,000 total. His salary for this last season increased ($1 million per episode?) making him the highest paid actor ever!
  • Trump made the best-seller list this spring with Trump: How to Get Rich.

So what are the lessons you apprentices take home from this?
  • Capitalism is about making profit for numero uno. When the ship starts sinking, the captain should jump ship, taking the only lifeboat.
  • The escape in the lifeboat works best if done in the middle of the night when the crew is all sleeping. (For details on this, review Enron's recent history).
  • When profits are rolling in, it's time to play Who Wants to Be a Billionaire. When the company bleeds red, it's time to play Let's Make a Deal with creditors. If offered a penny to the dollar, they'll take it if it's all they can get.
  • Let's cut all this crap about "corporate responsibility" and other such nonsense. The bottom line is always greed.

Very good class. Now everyone repeat after me. Greed is good. Greed is good. Greed is God.


Recent Trump news stories include these from CBS News, the National and Hotel Online. Blogs on Trump include Blog Maverick, The Warrior Class blog, Paul Katcher, Talk Left, Stormy's Corner, and last but not least, the Apprentice Blog.
And on Jay Leno: “After pressure from the United States, it looks like 80% of Iraq's debt will be forgiven by creditors. 80%. And our latest story, today Donald Trump said to Bush, ‘Hey, could you invade my casino?’”

Making the world safe from 3-year-olds

I found the following article via Lenin's Tomb. I think the article illustrates the reality of Isreali apartheid justice.

Israeli officer: I was right to shoot 13-year-old child

Radio exchange contradicts army version of Gaza killing

Chris McGreal in Jerusalem, November 24, 2004, The Guardian

An Israeli army officer who repeatedly shot a 13-year-old Palestinian girl in Gaza dismissed a warning from another soldier that she was a child by saying he would have killed her even if she was three years old. The officer, identified by the army only as Captain R, was charged this week with illegal use of his weapon, conduct unbecoming an officer and other relatively minor infractions after emptying all 10 bullets from his gun's magazine into Iman al-Hams when she walked into a "security area" on the edge of Rafah refugee camp last month.

A tape recording of radio exchanges between soldiers involved in the incident, played on Israeli television, contradicts the army's account of the events and appears to show that the captain shot the girl in cold blood.

The official account claimed that Iman was shot as she walked towards an army post with her schoolbag because soldiers feared she was carrying a bomb.

But the tape recording of the radio conversation between soldiers at the scene reveals that, from the beginning, she was identified as a child and at no point was a bomb spoken about nor was she described as a threat. Iman was also at least 100 yards from any soldier.

Instead, the tape shows that the soldiers swiftly identified her as a "girl of about 10" who was "scared to death".

The tape also reveals that the soldiers said Iman was headed eastwards, away from the army post and back into the refugee camp, when she was shot. At that point, Captain R took the unusual decision to leave the post in pursuit of the girl. He shot her dead and then "confirmed the kill" by emptying his magazine into her body.

The tape recording is of a three-way conversation between the army watchtower, the army post's operations room and the captain, who was a company commander.

The soldier in the watchtower radioed his colleagues after he saw Iman:

"It's a little girl. She's running defensively eastward."

Operations room: "Are we talking about a girl under the age of 10?"

Watchtower: "A girl of about 10, she's behind the embankment, scared to death."

A few minutes later, Iman is shot in the leg from one of the army posts.

The watchtower: "I think that one of the positions took her out."

The company commander then moves in as Iman lies wounded and helpless.

Captain R: "I and another soldier ... are going in a little nearer, forward, to confirm the kill ... Receive a situation report. We fired and killed her ... I also confirmed the kill. Over."


Witnesses described how the captain shot Iman twice in the head, walked away, turned back and fired a stream of bullets into her body. Doctors at Rafah's hospital said she had been shot at least 17 times.

On the tape, the company commander then "clarifies" why he killed Iman:
"This is commander. Anything that's mobile, that moves in the zone, even if it's a three-year-old, needs to be killed. Over."

The army's original account of the killing said that the soldiers only identified Iman as a child after she was first shot. But the tape shows that they were aware just how young the small, slight girl was before any shots were fired.

The case came to light after soldiers under the command of Captain R went to an Israeli newspaper to accuse the army of covering up the circumstances of the killing.

A subsequent investigation by the officer responsible for the Gaza strip, Major General Dan Harel, concluded that the captain had "not acted unethically".

However, the military police launched an investigation, which resulted in charges against the unit commander.

Iman's parents have accused the army of whitewashing the affair by filing minor charges against Captain R. They want him prosecuted for murder.

25 November 2004

Internment camps for U.S. soldiers

The L.A. Times has an interesting article on the low morale of some of the National Guard troops heading to Iraq. The article reports on the 1st Battalion of the 184th Infantry Regiment who are preparing for deployment at DoƱa Ana, a former World War II prisoner-of-war camp 20 miles west of its large parent base, Ft. Bliss, Texas. The months of training prior to the mission are evidently being spent under strict lockdown, evidently to prevent mass desertions. (Is this part of a game of follow the leader?) In spite of these precautions, some members of the unit have evidently escaped through the wire around the base. There are also numerous reports of poor training and a severe lack of equipment. Anyone thinking about joining the Reserves or National Guard should definitely read this article and think long and hard about whether they want to be treated like a prisoner in their own country in order to go fight a pre-emptive war has turned out to be a fiasco.

22 November 2004

An Army of One

The Power and Interest Report has an interesting article on Rice and the U.S. drift towards isolationism.

November 16

Direland and Writer, Bowler, Revolutionary have interesting posts on the recent November 16th Incident in which the Phillipines' Army and Police massacred striking sugar workers. The following exerpt was taken from the Labour Start site:

In a violent strike dispersal in Hacienda Luisita in the Philippines on November 16, 2004, 14 people were killed, including two children aged 2 and 5 years old who died from suffocation from teargas lobbed by the police and army dispersal teams. One of the victims was allegedly strangled after being shot and his dead body hanged by the factory gate. At least 35 people were reported to have sustained gunshot wounds, 133 were arrested and detained, hundreds were wounded and another hundred still missing. The trade unions in the Philippines are calling for a strong international protest, demanding a full investigation of what happened, the rehiring of illegally dismissed workers, and withdrawal of criminal charges brought against the strikers.

Further coverage of the event can be found at: MQ7.net (Filipino News Site), Philstar, and Tarlac News.

21 November 2004

Reality TV

Last night, I was talking about the video-taped killing of the injured man in the mosque with my mother. She was disturbed by the image of two nearby men lying nearby on the floor with clasped hands--perhaps friends grasping each other's hands as they took their last breaths. Baghdad Burning (Riverbend) has an excellent post on the incident:

It's typical American technique- every single atrocity is lost and covered up by blaming a specific person and getting it over with. What people don't understand is that the whole military is infested with these psychopaths. In this last year we've seen murderers, torturers and xenophobes running around in tanks and guns. I don't care what does it: I don't care if it's the tension, the fear, the 'enemy'… it's murder. We are occupied by murderers. We're under the same pressure, as Iraqis, except that we weren't trained for this situation, and yet we're all expected to be benevolent and understanding and, above all, grateful. I'm feeling sick, depressed and frightened. I don't know what to say anymore… they aren't humans and they don't deserve any compassion.

A question of values

California is suing the Bush administration for its attempts to expand logging in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Lately, California seems to be in the forefront in taking on Bush and his band of corporate cronies. The Bush environmental plan is, like his tax cut, a huge give-away to the wealthy. As citizens, we need to remember that WE own those mountains--not some corporation that will build roads and drag logs out and then leave the forces of erosion to carve out huge scars throughout the park area.

The Sierra Nevada is a great example of a poorly managed wild area. The park has leased land in the eastern and other areas of the park to cattle ranchers. As a result, the park land is criss-crossed with barbed-wire, rusting ranch equipment, and millions of cow pies. Because of the cows, ticks (and Lyme disease) are everywhere, making much of the park inaccessible to hikers. In order to protect their herds, the ranchers frequently kill mountain lions and bobcats that are native to the area. At some point, we really need to make a decision: Are we going to continue to have wild places or should we just bulldoze these areas and create ranches and strip-malls.

20 November 2004

Swerving into the ditch

Swerve Left is having technical problems lately. Blogspot half-saved my template, erasing my links. I hope to have everything back up in the next few days.

18 November 2004

Capturing terrorists in Iraq

I was going to maintain my silence over the recent video clips showing U.S. Marines killing unarmed civilians in Iraq (at least one, in a Mosque). Not that this isn't upsetting--it certainly is--but to focus on such incidents can, I think, trivialize the destruction and tragedy of war. In addition to this killing of several innocent people caught on camera, there were, after all, countless murders of young children as housing complexes and "hot" areas of Falluja were targeted and bombed.

The killings do, however, bring up an interesting question regarding the term "terrorism." We have been told that the current occupation of Iraq is part of a more general "War on Terrorism." And we are told that we shouldn't mince words: those who kill innocent people, even if they do so for the sake of some coherent political or religious objective, are "terrorists." My question is this: Will any news organization in the West ever refer to the Marine in the video as a "terrorist"? If he is arrested, will a news organization say that the U.S. has "arrested a terrorist" in Falluja?

Of course, we all know such a question is ridiculous. No U.S. person fighting for U.S. hegemony could ever be a terrorist under any possible scenario imaginable. Evidence might conclusively establish that innocent people have been tortured or killed, but such actions are always justifiable under the notion of American exceptionalism. Americans are intrinsically moral, ipso facto any perceived wrong-doing is a mistake--a momentary lapse in discipline. Of course, the whole argument breaks down if we simply remove a few adjectives and replace a few nouns with their equivalents. Can you imagine, for example, an news article reading, "Today a group of Iraqis stormed into a U.S. town in their drive to prevent the U.S. from developing more WMDs. Occupying a church, soldiers began executing unarmed civilians, including an unarmed elderly man who was lying down in the sanctuary of a church."

The Arab press is fuming over the incident. (The Bush administration seems to publish another Al Qaeda recruitment poster on a monthly basis.) What would our reaction be if the tables were turned?

A Relative Path has a good write up on this with links and there's also an article on this over on Al Jazeera. Truth Out informs us that "Top United Nations human rights official Louise Arbour has called for an investigation of alleged abuses in Falluja including disproportionate use of force and the targeting of civilians." See also Tom Dispatch's post on the "Carthaginian solution," a call to wait for the facts before commenting on this issue at A Texas Native, and a defensive apologia via Power Line.

17 November 2004

Misguided attempts to rescue Powell's legacy

The Bush administration has been so extreme in its disregard for quaint ideals such as justice and truth that any tactical aberration is immediately seized upon as a moderating force. We therefore have the spectacle of Powell being lauded for his efforts to talk sense to a power-drunk president. While it would be comforting to believe that there are powerful forces in the U.S. government working to bring the Bush attack dogs to heal, nothing changes the fact that government officials must be accountable for their actions. Powell lied. And he did so knowingly. After his U.N. speech, numerous inspectors (one of whom I personally heard speak at a conference) emphatically said that Powell made statements that everyone on the ground knew were false. Non-administration experts who weren't on a government paycheck pretty much unanimously agreed. So why should we let Powell off the hook? Do we let a drug dealer go if we learn that he urged his boss to reduce the shipment in order to avoid the danger of getting caught? Do we let the mafia thug off if we learn that he convinced his boss to break someone's legs instead of murdering them? Hell no. Powell actually deserves to be in a jail somewhere, but if that isn't possible, we sure as hell shouldn't honor the bastard as a "moderate." For this reason, I would disagree with the position put forth by bloggers such as Julie Saltman and Juan Cole. Julie said that while "it might have seemed like he [Powell] was just bowing to Dear Leader's every whim, but behind the scenes he played an important role in curbing wingnuttery and moderating the extreme policy coming out of the DOD." My position is that if you get in bed with the corporate-driven right-wing mafia running this country, you should have to pay the price when the posse comes knocking. Powell's opportunity to change his mind was before he accepted the job. Of course Rice will be much worse. But we shouldn't be reduced to simply choosing between the various shades of evil from among the latest gang of hucksters and sycophants.

16 November 2004

What else should I be...

In response to the Sorry Everybody website, an Apologies Accepted website has been launched.

War

Falluja in Pictures via DFC.

15 November 2004

Don't Axe the tree! Axe the Bush!

I'm alarmed by the plans that the corporate fat-boys have for some of the most pristine areas on the left coast. I know from my own travels along the Pacific Coast that the Siskiyou Wild Rivers Area and Smith River are paradise. The Smith River in particular is unbelievably picturesque with crystal clear pools flowing through very rugged country. The idea, constantly put forth by the big logging companies, that it's possible to cut roads and harvest trees without fundamentally changing an area is complete garbage. Areas that are logged never look the same. Even decades after the last logging trucks leave, logged out areas are marred by giant upturned stumps, dusty Cat trails, and heavy erosion.

Green Watch has the following report on upcoming Congressional attempts to further gut environmental provisions. Please write your congressman and help us oppose such schemes.

Ancient Forests, Salmon, Endangered Species Act Face Congressional Threat Next Week

When Congress returns next Monday, there is a strong chance that the Interior Department appropriations bill will be rolled into a huge omnibus spending bill.

There is an equally strong chance that an unprecedented logging provision will be included in that bill--a provision which will override a current judicial proceeding and give the green light to the largest timber sale on America's public lands in modern history.

Senator Gordon Smith, an Oregon Republican, has announced plans to attach a rider to the omnibus bill that will override all environmental laws and prohibit any judicial review for a post-fire logging project on the Siskiyou National Forest in southern Oregon. [1]

This would allow logging on ancient forest and roadless areas of up to 370,000,000 board feet of timber in a 20,000-acre area--enough trees to fill 74,000 log trucks. Citizens would have no right to appeal through the courts.

Also known as the Biscuit Project, such logging would endanger roadless areas, ancient forest reserves, wild and scenic rivers and salmon runs in the Siskiyou Wild and Scenic Rivers Area.

Federal agencies such as the EPA and the Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as independent scientific experts, have said Sen. Smith's rider will likely increase fire risks in the area for up to 30 years. It would also retard the regeneration of old-growth forests. Sediment flowing into streams will choke fish spawning areas.

As much as 40 percent of the units mapped for logging contain live trees. Independent analysts have found that the logging project would cost taxpayers over $40 million, mainly on roadbuilding for timber industry trucks.

The Siskiyou Wild Rivers Area is one of the best remaining refuges for wild native salmon and steelhead left on the Pacific coast. The rivers and streams at risk support 27 runs for Coho salmon, spring and fall Chinook salmon, winter and summer steelhead, coastal cutthroat trout, green sturgeon, white sturgeon and Pacific lamprey.

The Smith rider, and the omnibus bill, appear likely to face Senate action next week. There are also reports that California developers are working to sneak in a rider that would seriously weaken the Endangered Species Act.


Don Knotts is Dubya

They've finally found an actor who can capture Bush's patriotic spirit and enlightened leadership! Check out Don Knotts is Dubya.

New Blog

I'd like to recommend Kevid Sites blog. Kevin is apparently a journalist in Iraq. His blog has a large number of pictures that really help one get a sense of what's going on there.

Powell

Powell resigned today. One lying SOB down and only a couple hundred more to go. Powell's career as a lackey and a liar began in Vietnam where he was probably complicit in the Mai Lai cover-up. As a major tasked with looking into the incident, Powell conducted only a cursory investigation and drafted a response on Dec. 13, 1968. He admitted to no pattern of wrongdoing. "Powell claimed that U.S. soldiers in Vietnam were taught to treat Vietnamese courteously and respectfully. The Americal troops also had gone through an hour-long course on how to treat prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions." (Does this have a familiar ring to it?) Hopefully, we'll see his face again someday in front of a war crimes tribunal.



Other blogments can be found at Suzy's Blog,

Divorcees for Bush

The Veg Blog has an amusing post discussing the odd correlation between states with a high divorce rates and states voting for Bush. D.C. evidently has the lowest divorce rate and likewise the highest support for Kerry. Maybe the conservatives' enthusiasm for "family values" is because they have a greater need for them.

14 November 2004

Fallujah

At least 31 U.S. troops are dead in the Fallujah fighting. How many more are blind for life or paralyzed? And of course, for each dead American, there are about a hundred dead Iraqis, many of them innocent women and children, with thousands of others maimed for life. Other bloggers discussing the fighting include A Relative Path and Democracy for California. The Iraq Occupation Watch also has some good information.

10 November 2004

Attention Shoppers: Fig Leaves 50% Off

Many of you were perhaps looking askance at poor Karlo a few days back when I posted my comic on evolution. You were dismissing this as just one more derisive diatribe poking fun at ol' Joe 5-pack and his church-going friends. But give me some credit cuz I've been trying my darndest to keep an open mind about all this creationist biznus. In fact, I was surfin' the bloggysphere this mornin' when I comes across the following juicy morsel from yonder across the river. It seems there was recently a Creationist "Science" Fair that even gave out prizes. Its coveted second prize went to none other than the "scientist" who proved that women were made for homemaking! (Finally, proof to present to the womanfolks when they start gettin' uppity and refuse to do the dishes!) I quothe from yonder website :

2nd Place: "Women Were Designed For Homemaking"

Jonathan Goode (grade 7) applied findings from many fields of science to support his conclusion that God designed women for homemaking: physics shows that women have a lower center of gravity than men, making them more suited to carrying groceries and laundry baskets; biology shows that women were designed to carry un-born babies in their wombs and to feed born babies milk, making them the natural choice for child rearing; social sciences show that the wages for women workers are lower than for normal workers, meaning that they are unable to work as well and thus earn equal pay; and exegetics shows that God created Eve as a companion for Adam, not as a co-worker.

Do you remember the passage in Genesis when Adam asks Eve whether she really paid for that basket of apples from the local Wisdom Tree Quickie Mart? Well now we have some empirical data to back the biblikal view of thangs! Brilliant research, covering all the humanities, whether it be biology, or exegetics! Of course, by showing our appreciation for the 2nd prize winner and these new creationist insights into the purposes of the female physique, we shouldn't belittle other ground-breaking research, such as the discovery of sweet little Patricia who proved that wet charcoal briquettes don't come to life in three weeks (I guess that pretty well disproves Aristotles theory of autogenesis!)



So all of ya, put down those old Darwinian tracts you keep readin' and head on over to the Creationist Science Fair! For those who can't squeeze time away from your pagan rituals, you might want to get the documentary of a team of scientists who demonstrate that dinosaurs are just a few thousand years old. (Come to think of it, I think I do remember an Old Testament passage talking about how Noah had one hell of a time trying to get that pair of Allosaurs and T-Rexes on the ark.)



Also check out the Xtian application of Game Theory to Pascal's Wager. If God doesn't exist, the Xtian get infinity minus 1 whereas the athiest gets 1 minus infinity. (Please don't ask me to explain this. If I think about this again, I think my head will explode.)

Just like witches at black masses...

Hoorah! We're finally safe from terror and crime. Johnny D. Asscroft says so! And here I was thinking it would take Shrub 4 years to accomplish this. Does this mean the war on terror's over? Hmmm. I wonder what we should make the object of our next war . . . Now that we've already fought the war on poverty (Johnson), the war on drugs (Reagan), and the war on librarians (Asscroft), what's left? What's LEFT?



For other blogments on this, see Michelle Malkin, John P. Hoke's Asylum, and Cut to the Chase.

9 November 2004

Magic numbers

At Ease has an excellent post on what appears to be either numerous technical glitches, Republican duplicity, or a conspiracy of computers attempting to take over the earth. Quantum Philosophy and Pinko Feminist Hellcat also have postings on this along with relevant links.

8 November 2004

In fact . . .

According to today's news, Cobb County's school board has placed, on biology books, stickers that read, "This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered." (Bold-face added). The school board is being sued by a group of parents who believe the disclaimers push the teaching of creationism and discriminate against non-Christians and followers of a number of other religions.

I don't know what everyone's so upset over. I think we should have these stickers on all our books. On astronomy books, we can place a sticker reading, "The idea that the earth goes around the sun is merely a theory, not a fact," (the Bible disagrees with this, after all). On journals describing the fundamental laws of physics, we can warn our youth that electricity is a theory, not a fact. (Isn't it God that said, "Let there be light"?) When students answer role call, they can qualify the statement, saying they are present only in theory, not in fact. (How do we know, for sure, if they're really there?) In fact, we should start a completely theoretical society, where we humor these Xtian fundamentalists in theory (but not in fact).

Other blogments on the Christists include: Arran's Alley, The Revealer, Democracy for California, Scrutiny Hooligans, Hot Acrombie Chick, The Blur Belt, and Cosa Nostradamus.

Spam Scams

Halifax Live reports that one of the top 10 spammers in the US has been sentenced to nine years in prison for illegal spam activities under Virginia's anti-spam law, while his sister Jessica DeGroot received a fine of $7500. The brother and sister team sent out thousands of unsolicited emails to AOL users. They were convicted for sending unsolicited junk email and forging their IP address. Reports indicate the pair earned around $24 million from their email scams. I think the stiff sentences are needed to send a message. Spamming may seem fairly innocuous stuff, but one has to wonder how much time is lost trying to deal with overstuffed email boxes full of ads for Viagra, and how many real emails are lost in the deluge.

Proposal for New Amendment

Instead of passing an amendment to allow foreign-born nationals like Arnold (who retains his Austrian citizenship, incidently) to run for president, I propose that we throw the electoral process open to everyone in the world. The world is, after all, often affected more by U.S. decisions than the U.S. citizenry is. Of course, such a move might mark a decided shift in American politics. Check out the map at Echidne of the Snakes.

Alas, 4 more years . . .

Kelly Kramer has a good post critiquing the latest attempts to explain away the U.S. torture of prisoners.

7 November 2004

Dealing with the Corporate Mafia

I recently attempted to quit my subscription to Audible.com. So I went to the website and after spending 30 minutes going through every link on their site, found out that there was no way to quit my subscription. But they did have two phone numbers, so I called these repeatedly during the middle of a weekday and later the next day but of course no one answered. The company also leaves no address or other means to quit their service. So I had to call up my bank and go through their long list of computer options in order to quit my automated payment to Audible. It's likely that the company will probably still bill me and perhaps even threaten to report me to a collector. Last month, I had the same experience when trying to quit Verizon. I sent them two letters saying that I wanted to quit, called them repeatedly (getting no answer) and finally, after spending many hours of hassle, managed to get through to someone who finally processed my cancellation after I threatened to sue. I don't know if I'm just having bad luck, but it seems like corporations are reaching new lows these days in their attempts to take our dollars. I can imagine some young overpaid kid with a Ph.D. in marketing standing in some boardroom somewhere next to a graph saying, "If you make it impossible for people to cancel, you will, on average, receive an extra two weeks in payments as they go through the hassle of trying to quit their service. This translates into an extra 2% return per annum." I can imagine the fat CEO clapping before he gets up to go on his golfing vacation in the Bahamas. My solution is to disengage from the U.S. corporate economy as much as possible. This kind of thing really pisses me off and shows me that there's really something wrong with our current economic system. The free-market response is that I should vote with my dollar but I simply don't have enough time in my life to spend weeks investigating consumer reports everytime I subscribe to some monthly service.

Miyasato

The recent suit filed by Kauai resident David Miyasato is interesting. Miyasato received word of his reactivation into the active Army in September. Miyasato enlisted in the Army in 1987 and was on active duty in Iraq and Kuwait during the first Persian Gulf War as a petroleum supply specialist and truck driver. He received an honorable discharge from active duty in 1991, then served in the reserves until 1996, fullfilling his eight-year enlistment commitment. He has evidently been called up again due to the Army being late on completing his paperwork.

6 November 2004

The new WEENer generation

Analysis of recent polling indicates that the Bush mandate is comprised solely of one group--wealthy [white]male Dumb-asses (or WMDs, in other words). Every other sector of our diverse nation (women, African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, the working poor, etc.) voted solidly for Kerry. This finding should give us pause as we hear Bush described as a "uniter" instead of a "divider." It's also difficult to see how the Republican platform is oriented towards America's future (unless the Republicans resort to ethnic "cleansing" and start binding women's feet.) Polling on specific issues also clearly shows that the majority of people are not for privatizing social security, keeping the current low minimum wage, or continuing indefinitely the occupation of Iraq. In short, Bush's constituency rests solely on the two pillars of wealth and religion. The recent narrow victory also proves that negative personal attacks that combine racist overtones and gay-bating are effective enough to overcome people's aversion to Republican policies. Welcome to the WEENer (Wealthy+Elitist+Evangelical+Nascar) Generation!

5 November 2004

INFC

Dead Men Left has posted a preliminary (and slightly condensed) translation of the Iraqi National Foundation Congress' (INFC) statement on the proposed January elections. Some blogmentors have mentioned the INFC as a potentially positive force creating a third option beyond the U.S. occupiers and the anti-U.S. fighters. A breakdown of Iraqi political groups can be found here.

The latest qaqaa

I hate to gloat, but didn't I say a few posts back that the Al Qaqaa mystery would eventually be resolved after the election was over. This just in from the LA Times.

In the weeks after the fall of Baghdad, Iraqi looters loaded powerful explosives into pickup trucks and drove the material away from the Al Qaqaa ammunition site, according to a group of U.S. Army reservists and National Guardsmen who said they witnessed the looting.

The soldiers said about a dozen U.S. troops guarding the sprawling facility could not prevent the theft because they were outnumbered by looters. Soldiers with one unit — the 317th Support Center based in Wiesbaden, Germany — said they sent a message to commanders in Baghdad requesting help to secure the site but received no reply.


So the stories of mysterious Russian commandoes, French infiltrators, ill-willed aliens, or U.S.-bashing U.N. inspectors weren't true after all! Who would have ever guessed. I suppose the commanders had more on their mind than eliminating weapons from Iraq.

PSALM 2004

Bush is my shepherd, I shall be in want.
He maketh me to lie down on park benches.
He leadeth me beside the still factories.
He restoreth my doubts about the Republican Party.
He leadeth me onto the paths of unemployment for his cronies' sake.
Yea, though no weapons of mass destruction have been found,
He makest me continue to fear Evil.
His tax cuts for the rich and his deficit spending discomfort me.
He anointest me with never-ending debt:
Verily my days of savings and assets are kaput.
Surely poverty and hard living shall follow me all the days of his administration, And my jobless child shall dwell in my basement forever.

4 November 2004

Leaving No Child Behind

Bush is now actively consolidating his mandate for national defense and Leave No Child Behind as seen in the recent strafing of a New Jersey school by a National Guard jet. (I wish I were joking...)

The Rise of the Vulcans



Bush uses Vulcan mindmelding technique to brainwash youth!

U. S. of C.

I came across the following redistricting proposal at Ken Lane's site. I wonder if the Canadians would have us?

Swords, Not Ploughshares

Marginal Revolution reports begin gains in defense stocks following the Bush win:

Lockheed Martin Corp. +3.3%
Northrop Grumman Corp. + 4.1%
General Dynamics Corp. +4.6%
Halliburton: + 4.3%

3 November 2004

Post-election Phone Sex

Are you still feeling bad about the election? You need to call those sexy lie girls.

Giving Thanks

This derisive diatribe on the state of the nation, from I Protest, is right at home here on Swerve Left:

Thank you, America.
I just want to say “thank you.”

Thank you to all those who have decided that four more years of lies are worth more than the lives of their sons and daughters, not to mention the lives of thousands of Iraqis.

Thank you to all those who were so afraid of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda that they voted for the people who let them get away in the first place.

Thank you to all those who long for the return of the days of bloody death from botched back-alley abortions.

Thank you to all those who think that it is better for millions of the poor, seniors and children, to be without the medical care that they need than it is for a single wealthy person to pay their fair share of taxes.

Thank you to all those who pay more attention to Fox News than to their own common sense and have decided that tax cuts for the rich and tax increases for the poor is better than having to think for themselves.

Thank you to all those who think that absence of evidence is evidence of absence where George W. Bush’s National Guard service is concerned, but that absence of evidence is evidence of presence when it comes to George’s belief that he is divinely guided.

Thank you to all those who believe that a liberal who protests an unjust, unnecessary war is a traitor while a “conservative” who locks up American citizens without trial or representation deserves to lead the country.

Thank you to all those who, in voting for the status quo, have confirmed to the world that the United States is a country of vile, ignorant racists, of sadists who delight in the torture and sexual degradation of those whom they dislike.

Thank you for teaching your children that hatred and ignorance is right while any sort of protest is wrong.

Thank you for believing the lies.

You will quite certainly now get the government that you deserve. And you, and I, and my children, will have to live with the consequences of your folly for a long, long time to come.

Post-election Blogging

Doug Ireland has an excellent analysis of why Kerry lost the election:
  • Lack of vision (I would agree with this. There was a notable difference between Gore, with his proposals to create jobs through a shift to cleaner fuels, for example, and Kerry's muddling proposals. Of course, Kerry had to inherit Bush's huge deficit.)
  • Failure to focus sharply on the economy
  • Kerry's original vote for the war (Fatally handicapping any of his attempts to criticize Bush's handling of it.)

At Ratboy's Anvil, Cul expresses his disgust as he wakes up to the realization that we're no longer living in a secular democracy. "Given the US position of raw power in the world, the idea that it will form policies based on the exclusionary and irrational belief systems of people who embrace notions like the Rapture is appalling."

The Village Gate blames the Democrats themselves for "taking corporate money, using Republican vocabulary, playing on Republican turf, insulting conservatives, and basically doing anything and everything to perpetuate and further negative perceptions of liberals and Democrats by most of the country: namely, that we're out of touch and not a credible-enough alternative to George W. Bush. Enough of the Democratic Losers Council. Enough of choosing Democratic Party nominees based on electability. Enough. Time to reclaim liberalism, retail politics, connecting with ordinary folks, and overwhelmingly ethical grass-roots-based political behavior."

Rook's Rant expresses doubt that the rest of the world will put up with Bush's go-it-alone nationalism for another 4 years.

At Ease has an excellent post looking back at what went wrong and looking forward to what needs to be done. After looking at possible reasons for the loss--conservative Christians, the entrenched Republican media machine, corporate contributions, the U.S. voting system, a lack of unity among liberals, and the power of Republican spin, Michael concludes:

I will not roll over to the will of the far right. So I'm stuck in a precarious position. What I will be focusing from now on are how policies affect people rather than how Bush (or anyone else) affects policy. Additionally, I plan on actually getting out and doing more for people. I need to make a difference while I'm still around to make a difference, and as I've found out in this election, what I had been doing doesn't make the difference I'd like it to make.

So my promise to myself is first to learn. Learn about those things that the US does that affect things that happen to people in the US and abroad. I need to learn about those policies that allow corporations to have such a vast influence on people's lives and how things could be different or better. Second is to do. I need to get out into my community and help in whatever way I can. I'm not sure what form that will take just yet, but I have to start somewhere. Finally, I need to share. I need to be an example of what the left really is or what it can be.


And finally, this poem (via Viking Zen:
Lunar Eclipse

The God of Shadows eats the harvest moon
And dulls with bloody tinge his shining head,
Perhaps foretelling victory for him
Whose states and shires bear the noble red.

As ancients learned in bygone days long past
Such signs and portents cannot be gainsaid
The heavens speak, if silently, each night
The Blue can only view with growing dread!


by Jeffrey Hull

Current Results

Current results show Shrub up by 2 electoral votes, but barring a miracle, Shrub should also win in Ohio. As in the 2000 election, this election shows the deep regional divides in the U.S.

2 November 2004

Blog Power!

An article says that stocks seem to be sliding due partly to blogs indicating that Kerry is ahead in key swing states. Halliburton is currently down about three and a half percent! (George! Put down those pretzels! It's time to call the cavalry!)



More Election Fraud in Florida?

From Daily Kos:

I just received this via email from my friend who is involved in Election Protection in Florida. Some people who selected Kerry are seeing BUSH in the summary of whom they voted for! They had to get the poll workers involved, and the second time around when they re-selected Kerry he properly showed in the summary.
The author of this email has been deeply involved in this effort for months and been covering early voting since it started. This is somebody whom I know very well and she is a highly reliable source. We MUST get this news out there. Voters in Florida must be alerted, and the media must be alerted - NOW! I am sick to my stomach at the thought that we could lose another election to fraud in Florida. Let's stop it now. Her email account of these events follows. Like I said, if she says it happened, you can take it to the bank. Let's do what we need to do to contact the media,get this out there in the blogsphere, etc. etc.

1 November 2004

Uruguay Swerves Left

Uruguay has now joined in South America's political tilt to the left, electing the country's first leftist president, socialist Tabare Vazquez (a 64-year-old cancer specialist and former mayor of the capital of Montevideo). Municipal elections have also brought gains for left-leaning governments in Venezuela and Chile. While Shrub and company are pulling the U.S. to the right, other countries in the Americas are clearly swerving leftward.