Thursday, June 30, 2005

Real hope for fair districting in California

I've long favored fair districting practices as an important step in regaining the public's sense of fairness in politics, in reducing political polarization, and increasing the effectiveness of the California delegation to Washington.

This week, in a move that seems to improve the chances of some actual reform, Democratic State Senator Alan Lowenthal has sponsored a counter-proposal to the the Governator's plan.

The main differences seem to be the precise composition of the redistricting committee, the inclusion of “communities of interest” in the Lowenthal proposed criteria, and the time-table, with Schwarzenegger shooting for new districts by 2006, and the Democrats shooting for the traditional decennial redistricting effective in 2011.

While these differences have important ramifications to the parties as well as individuals running for state office, the most significant point about both plans is that they exclude the legislature itself from the redistricting process.

To me this is the key point. Although ideally redistricting would be an entirely non(as opposed to bi) partisan affair, I believe it's unrealistic to expect the districting commission to be composed without ANY political input whatsoever. To my way of thinking, it then suffices that the commissioners themselves will not have elected positions a stake in the process.

And regardless, the mere fact of a Democratic counter-proposal gives me hope, for even non-partisan measures require bi-partisan support. In negotiation an offer requires a counter-offer to proceed.

Let the horse-trading begin!

[x-posted @ Daily Kos]

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

More Republican Candor

First Rummy admits we're facing a quagmire in Iraq and now this. Perhaps we have the beginnings of a trend here:

Lawmaker's Wayward E-Mail Refers To Constituents As 'Idiots'

Assemblyman Willis Stephens says he thought he was sending the e-mail to an aide. Instead, he sent the note to nearly 300 people on an online discussion group that focuses on the community of Brewster.

The message included the comment that he was "just watching the idiots pontificate."

Within an hour of sending the message Monday morning, Stephens sent another e-mail apologizing for the slip-up.

Stephens, a Republican, represents an area north of New York City.
Pick your punchline:

-Now remind me, which is the "subject" line and which is the "to" line?
-Of course they're idiots, they elected him didn't they?
-Er, um I guess that should read: "soon to be ex-Assemblyman Willis Stephens..."
-This is all the fault of damn liberal email!
-"Hey, I meant it as a compliment, the President's and idiot too!"

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Dulce et decorum est

Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

(It is sweet and fitting to die for one's country).

So ends Wilfred Owen's famous poem condemning the barbarity of war.

Owen uses his recollection of death by gas attack in the trenches of WWI to illustrate something it would be well for us, in this age of smart-bombs, to remember, death is death. And it is never glorious, for good causes or bad.

One would think, none the less, that a soldier who's died fighting in his or her country's name would, at the least, be able to receive a decent burial close to family and friends. One would think.

From today's Pasadena Star-news:

Marine Lance Cpl. Dion Whitley is coming home.

Whitley, 21, was killed June 15 in Iraq when his convoy hit a roadside bomb. His family's devastation at the news was compounded by stress when they learned his military stipend would not cover the expense of a local funeral.

The money would only stretch for a burial at a military cemetery in Riverside.

Whitley grew up in Altadena, played football at John Muir High School, where he was a 2002 graduate, and was an Eagle Scout.

"Altadena is his home,' Dion's brother Arian Whitley said. "This is where he's been all his life. So it wouldn't have felt right if he'd been (buried) in Riverside, or Westwood.'

The family wants him laid to rest at Mountain View Cemetery in Altadena, where other family members are buried. The cemetery worked with the family on a reduced rate, but they still were short on funds, Arian Whitley said.
Now no need to send checks, the Whitley family's story was published in the local news, and to no-one's surprise local families were more than happy to make up the difference on their own. Individual Americans are typically and deservedly known for their generosity at such times.

But ask yourself this: If Americans are so generous, why are they represented by a government so niggardly that it won't pay for the burial of soldier's killed in its service?

And were this an isolated incident I would still be angry. But the US military has recently become accustomed to send soldiers onto the killing streets of Baghdad in underarmored trucks, humvees and flak jackets as well.

All this is part of an effort on the part of BushCorp™ to convince Americans that war can be accomplished on the cheap, the only sacrifices being suffered by a relatively small number of volunteers and their families.

In fact "war on the cheap" is vital for this administration, because if the majority of Americans had to face the true costs of war they'd be much more reluctant to send our boys and girls into harm's way.

According to our cheerleader-in-chief, all Americans have to do is wave the flag (and not near any open flames mind you) and all will be well.
This 4th of July, I ask you to find a way to thank the men and women defending our freedom, by flying the flag, sending letters to our troops in the field or helping the military family down the street.[Emphasis mine]
I suppose that to many across the country that last phrase means remembering them in your prayers.

To the family and friends of Marine Lance Cpl. Dion Whitley, it means raising money for his funeral.

[x-posted at Daily Kos]


Over the weekend Mrs. CaliBlogger and I made the long slog into the San Fernando valley (Reseda specifically) to meet two cats.

Their human, David, had died recently after a long illness, and his friend, Connie was at her wits' end trying to place two adult indoor cats.

Both cats were strays David had adopted and raised, and it was immediately obvious both were traumatized by their loss.

Lord Gilligan (don't ask me, David took that story with him) and Jessica were both shy and withdrawn. Mrs. Caliblogger, on the other hand is a sensitive, but determined soul who, to everyone's surprise but my own, was able to charm (and stroke) some responsiveness into them.

After an hour of getting to know one another (though the deal was done in the first moment I believe) we decided they should come stay with us. While I loaded sundry cat belongings in our car Mrs. C poured Lord Gilligan into his carrier (poured indeed, grief hasn't lessened their appetites apparently). Jessica, the younger and more sprightly of the pair was. however, having none of it, hiding out of reach beneath a couch.

Eventually four humans were able to outsmart our feline adversary (fortunately the couch was light) and coax her into her carrier for the trip back to our home in Pasadena.

Traffic was mercifully light on the 134, and the cats were mercifully quiet for the trip. Some cats complain (quite loudly) when frightened, but others just get very still, Jessica and Lord G are the latter.

After we got home it took hours for them to leave their carriers, but leave they did, and the house is now theirs.

They still start at loud noises and sudden moves, but as they climb into bed with Mrs. C (who's now asleep) I can only believe they're as happy to be here as we are to have them.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

A BushCorp™ First: Brush with Candor

SecDef Ron Dumsfeld (or something like that) commited news 3 times today.

First he admitted the the Iraqi insurgency could well last another 12 years (which it certainly will unless the US makes some better decisions and soon).

He also confirmed that US officials have been talking with elements of the insurgency:

Asked to respond to a report that U.S. military representatives met with several Sunni Iraqi insurgents twice in June, Rumsfeld told Fox News "there have probably been many more than that" and described the contacts as an effort to "split people off and get some people to be supportive" of the political process in Iraq.

Other parts of the U.S. government, including the State Department and CIA, have also been holding secret meetings with Iraqi insurgent factions in an effort to stop the violence and coax them into the political process, according to U.S. government officials and others who have participated in the efforts.

The military plan, approved in August 2004, seeks to make a distinction between Iraqi insurgents who are attacking U.S. troops because they are hostile to their presence, and foreign insurgents responsible for most of the suicide bombings -- which have killed more than 1,200 people in the last couple of months -- and whose larger political aims are unclear.
Which leads to the third bit of news: BushCorp™ (or at least some elements thereof) are proceding in a rational matter, and, apparently, its non-Vice-Presidential elements anyway, recognize the mess we're in.

But back to news item #2, talks with insurgents. The Iraqi anti-occupationalists, primarily Sunnis, can be an enormous help in cutting down the life-expectancy of the insurgency mentioned in news item #1. A successful resolution and understanding with the Sunni elements of the insurgency can have a salutory affect on Iraq in 3 ways.

First of course it simply reduces the number of insurgents.

It also eliminates the legitimacy of the foreign-born jihadists which will help reduce their recruiting as well as make it more difficult for them to operate in Iraq (which requires at least a degree of tacit Iraqi approval).

And finally, by better integrating Sunnis into itself, the Iraqi government gains greater legitimacy.

So, bringing their prodigal Sunni bretheren into the fold would be an enormous boon to the people and government of Iraq. And since, blue-fingers notwithstanding, the US is still the de facto power in Iraq, it's a remarkably hopeful sign that we're talking with the Sunnis.

One problem though:
The newspaper said the insurgents "had agreed beforehand to focus their main demand" on a guaranteed timetable of U.S. withdrawal. "We told them it did not matter whether we are talking about one year or a five-year plan but that we insisted on having a timetable nonetheless," one of the Iraqi sources was quoted as saying. [Emphasis mine-CK]
And that's the sticking point. Bush refuses to even consider ANY time-table at all for fear insurgents will merely bide their time until the last GI leaves before unleashing hell or some such.

As I've argued before, this contention is both incorrect and irrelevent. And worse, it's obviously now preventing progress with the Sunnis that could provide a true tipping-point in Iraq.

Now it's possible that BushCorp™ is merely using its "no time-table" rhetoric as a negotiating stance.

More likely, I fear, is that BushCorp™ is too beholden to its corporate masters (Halliburton et al.) who are now, and wish to continue to make huge profits from their Iraqi ventures. The reason BushCorp™ will never set a withdrawal timetable is that it has no intention of EVER leaving.

And that isn't really news at all.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Late to the party

Just a little note from my "That party ended an hour ago" file.

I just loved today's LA Times headline: Bush Administration Faces Credibility Problem.

Really? You just noticed?

The article focuses on Veep Cheney's comments that, all evidence to the contrary, the Iraqi insurgency was in its "last throes."

But since anyone who's been paying attention knows (as the Downing street documents prove) that BushCorp™ has been spoiling for a fight with Iraq, need or provocation be damned, since 2002, and before.

I suppose though it's something that the SCLM (So Called Liberal Media) has finally noticed that Bush's nose is longer than Pinocchio's after a night of liar's poker. It ain't much, but I suppose it's a start.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Why an Iraq Timetable: A Revery

To my knowledge, no-one has suggested the best reason for establishing a time-table for withdrawing US troops from Iraq: As an incentive for the Iraqi government to get their shit together.

You're no doubt familiar with the BushCorp™ excuse for not setting any deadlines, hard or soft, it was repeated today in Bush's press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari:

"There are not going to be any timetables," he said. "Why would you say to the enemy, you know, 'Here's a timetable; just go ahead and wait us out?' "
The idea is that if the US announces a withdrawal date then Iraqi insurgents/terrorists/anti-occupationalists/freedom-fighters will just wait until we leave and then all hell will break loose. This, of course, assumes hell isn't already long gone from its kennel and is actively trampling the streets of Baghdad as we speak. And further, what if it's true? What if, after the US announces and begins to follow through with a withdrawal, the insurgency bides its time and waits for the last American to leave before breaking out in full force. Would this really be such a bad thing?

Stay with me here, but try this scenario on for size: Against all expectations for reasonable behavior, under immense public pressure BushCorp™ finally sets a withdrawal timetable, with US troops starting to leave Iraq by the end of 2005, and with total withdrawal set for November 2006 (Bush crows about bringing our boys and girls home in time for Thanksgiving - let him).

Immediately after this announcement virtually nothing changes. Why? Who's going to start believing Bush at this late date? So the suicide attacks continue and the Iraqi Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds keep bickering away. But as the months crawl toward December 2005 and US begins pulling some troops back to central locations three things happen, the foreign-import jihadists continue their attacks unabated, the anti-occupation sympathizers begin to see light at the end of the tunnel, and the Iraqi government elements begin to realize that if they don't work something out soon they're toast.

3 months into 2006, after a quarter of US troops have been withdrawn, the foreign insurgent attacks are beginning to falter as anti-occupation insurgents loose patience with their former jihadists brothers, and have fewer qualms about dropping a dime to the newly invigorated Iraqi government, which, under the threat of its own annihilation, has finally reached agreement between its disparate factors.

Meanwhile, back in the states, Army recruiting is back on track, improved Iraqi stability drops oil prices below $50/barrel, and the American public is finally making government focus on the domestic issues it's been ignoring since 9/11/01.

June 2006, the Iraqi government announces full amnesty for all native born Iraqi's, as well as a yearly stipend from its oil profits (having wisely placed almost all of it forces to defend the nation's oil reserves and utility ifrastructure). The remaining Iraqi forces are replacing US troops along the Syrian border who've been spending the remainder of their time making sure no additional foreign insurgents enter the country. Insurgent attacks are becoming more and more infrequent as fresh recruits dwindle, along with Iraqi sympathizers. The Iraqi government begins a campaign to drive out "all foreign aggressors" and is cheered by the vast majority of its people.

September 2006, BushCorp™ under pressure from its corporate sponsors, tries to hedge on its November withdrawal deadline, explaining that it only wants to keep a small force of "military advisors". After rejecting the Iraqi government's demand that BushCorp™ follow the timetable, Democrats follow public sentiment by calling for Bush to resign or face impeachment.

November, 2006, the Republican Senators and Congressmen who survive the mid-term election have done so by promising to follow the public's will and seek a full and fair accounting for BushCorp™ war crimes.

January 2007,BushCorp™, in a last ditch effort to save itself pulls all remaining US troops from Iraq. The anti-occupationalists dance in the streets of Baghdad, the lone remaining foreign insurgent unleashes hell by blowing himself up in his apartment trying to build just one more IED, the Iraqi government argues over redesign of its new parliament building.

In the US, in an unprecedented, though not unexpected move, Congress impeaches BOTH President Bush and Vice-President Cheney. Having been found guilty of obstructing Congress in the lead-up to the war in Iraq, as well as of violating US and international law for permitting the use of torture, Bush retires to a life of brush-clearing in Crawford, while Cheney retires to an undisclosed location.

House speaker, now President, Pelosi announces "the nightmare is over" then proceeds to talk about her national priorities of energy independence and universal healthcare.

Well, a guy can dream anyway.

[x-posted at Daily Kos]

The General Speaks

You listen:

I'm seething with anger over Rove's assertion that people like you and I want our soldiers to come home in bodybags. Such a statement is unforgivable. It would not matter if it was a mistake, an unfortunate phrase spoken in anger. It would still be despicable.

It appears, however, that it is something more than loose words uttered at a weak moment: it's part of a calculated strategy to turn those of us who opposed the war into scapegoats for its failure. It's reminiscent of the scapegoating of Jews by German nationalists after WWW I. This new Bush strategy transcends being merely despicable; it is evil.

When you're the father of two beautiful daughters, your house becomes a gathering place for young men. That was certainly the case when my daughters were in high school. We were lucky, most of them were good kids. I spent quite a bit of time with them and got to know them very well.

Now they're coming home from war. The all American boy with a heart of gold talks of his hate for "hajis" and wishes we could nuke the place. The class clown sits in his room all day staring at the Cartoon Channel while self medicating with pot and booze. The nice liberal Jewish boy who melted my wife's yenta heart tells us in a dispassionate, far-away monotone that "killing those animals was like stepping on ants." Our "son" screams at night.

My heart breaks for these boys we adopted in their teenage years. They've lost their souls. And for what?

War does this to people. That's why it should never be entered into unless there is no other alternative. That wasn't the case for this war. As far as I can tell, we invaded Iraq because Bush and the necons wanted to be remembered as great men like Roosevelt or Lincoln, or perhaps more accurately, Augustus. It's there in the subtext of PNAC papers for all to see. The oil is just gravy. That's evil.

My greatest hope when I started posting about Operation Yellow Elephant was that I'd help make College Republicans a laughing stock. It offends me that these children of privilege--I'm referring to their most visible leadership--are so gung ho for a war they refuse to fight. It's as if they believe that the fighting should be left to the inferior lesser classes while they perform the intellectual heavy lifting--it's there birthright.

We need to beat these bastards. We need to have a presence, a non-violent presence, at the convention. Don't look for a leader; look for a map and get down there, now. Show them that we're not going to allow them to blame us for the evil they've accomplished. Be creative. Think of it as open source activism.


'nuff said.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

War on the Cheap

The Washington Post's Harold Meyerson posits an interesting theory as to why BushCorp™ is flailing so badly on the Iraq war: no anti-war movement to demonize a la Nixon in the '72 election:

In a series of polls taken in November and December of 1969, the Gallup Organization found that 49 percent of Americans favored a withdrawal of U.S. forces and 78 percent believed that the Nixon administration's rate of withdrawal was "too slow." But there was one other crucial finding: 77 percent disapproved of the antiwar demonstrations, which were then at their height.

That disapproval was key to Nixon's political strategy. He didn't so much defend the war as attack its critics, making common cause with what he termed the "silent majority" against a mainstream movement with a large, raucous and sometimes senseless fringe. When Nixon won reelection in a landslide, it was clear that the strategy had worked -- and it has been fundamental Republican strategy ever since. Though the public sides with the Democrats on more key issues than it does with Republicans, it's Republicans who have won more elections, in good measure because the GOP has raised its ad hominem attacks on Democrats' character and patriotism to a science.

Which is why, however perverse this may sound, the absence of an antiwar movement is proving to be a huge political problem for the Bush administration, and why the Republicans are reduced to trying to turn Dick Durbin, who criticized our policies at Guantanamo Bay, into some enemy of the people. The administration has no one to demonize. With nobody blocking the troop trains, military recruitment is collapsing of its own accord. With nobody in the streets, the occupation is being judged on its own merits.

Unable to distract people from his own performance, Bush is tanking in the polls.
And with congressional Democrats at least partly muting their opposition to an open-ended occupation, it's Bush's fellow Republicans -- most prominently, North Carolina's Walter Jones -- who are now calling our policy into question. [Emphasis mine-CK]

The question this raises for me is this: Why no anti-war movement?

First, progressives have learned a Viet Nam era lesson, if you're against war, or against THIS war, criticize the leadership, not the soldier. The way many on the left treated individual soldiers returning home from Viet Nam was a national disgrace almost equal to that of the leadership which sent them there in the first place.

So the current progressive message is this: Support our troops, don't send them to die in unnecessary and misguided wars.

Another, and to my mind, major reason for the lack of an anti-war movement is that, for the vast number of American families this war has been fought with virtually no personal sacrifice.

It's being financed by borrowing which puts the financial burden on the backs of our children and our children's children. And it's being fought by a volunteer army made largely of those from the poorer classes who see the military as a rare opportunity to rise out of poverty, something the private sector no longer provides.

BushCorp™, to no-one's chagrin, is now hoist on its own petard. Whether through astounding ignorance or arrogance, or from a (quite realistic) fear that the American public would never support war on (what we've discovered are) quite flimsy grounds, BushCorp™ never disclosed the need for, or requested the assistance of ordinary Americans in bearing the costs of Iraq.

No steel was diverted from industry to support the war effort, causing public shortages. No taxes were raised to pay for it. And most importantly no middle or upper class sons or daughters were required to put body and soul at risk in a questionable cause.

It is said one gets what one pays for.

BushCorp™ has tried to do war on the cheap, and is now paying the price.

Anti-Flag-burning Amendment

Hmm, Randy "Duke" Cunningham is the main sponsor of this ridiculous, unnecessary, pander to public opinion.

He is also under investigation by the FBI for the only real estate deal in California ever to lose money.

Co-incidence? You be the judge.

But for my part, would it be impertinent to suggest that it's ok to burn a flag, as long as it's wrapped tightly around Mr Cunningham?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


So, Mrs. CaliBlogger and I were watching Mel Gibson's The Patriot the other night. If you're not familiar, it's the story of how an undisciplined, but dedicated group, using unconventional military techniques, manages to defeat a vastly more powerful and better trained professional army.

Seeing this scenario played out against the current drumbeat of insurgent attacks in Iraq made me think of the national cognitive dissonance in play there.

The American mythos is almost entirely tied to our underdog status during the American Revolutionary War. No American story is more American than that of the underdog, facing overwhelming odds, who none the less triumphs over a seemingly insurmountable foe.

And so what is an American to think of Iraqis who, in their native land, using the pettiest of means (Improvised Explosive Devices for chrissake?), inflict major casualties against the world's most powerful military force?

Were that force not American we'd be cheering and standing in line for the Spielberg/Hanks version, out next summer.

It's no wonder Geaorge Lucas is catching flack from the wingnuts over the "political overtones" in the latest Star Wars. But the fault does not lie with Lucas, he's merely re-telling a favorite American myth. The fault lies with an America which has become the overweening prideful superpower it has traditionally despised. "We have met the enemy... and he is us". Indeed.

But alas for the Iraqi insurgents, no French warships are likely to pin down the Americans at Yorktown, er Basra. So victory is unlikely for them.

Still, one wonders if the new superpower, America, can avoid defeat. When reading accounts of Iraq try this: black out the name of the superpower and look only at the facts, you'll know the answer in your heart.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Evidence not all Republican Leaders are Insane

Lost in the brouhaha over the John Bolton UN nomination is the degree to which this nomination signifies the triumph of extremism over moderation in the halls of BushCorp.

John C. Danforth, Episcopal minister, and Bolton's potential predecessor, seems a true paragon of Republican moderation, as demonstrated by some of his writings on the role of Christian extremisits within the GOP.

By a series of recent initiatives, Republicans have transformed our party into the political arm of conservative Christians. The elements of this transformation have included advocacy of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, opposition to stem cell research involving both frozen embryos and human cells in petri dishes, and the extraordinary effort to keep Terri Schiavo hooked up to a feeding tube.

Standing alone, each of these initiatives has its advocates, within the Republican Party and beyond. But the distinct elements do not stand alone. Rather they are parts of a larger package, an agenda of positions common to conservative Christians and the dominant wing of the Republican Party.

When someone of Danforth's standing within the GOP sees a problem with the Christian right, you know there's a problem.

His latest essay (originally in the NYT) is almost a point by point explication of why the Christian right does a disservice both to this country and Christianity.

First his view of the situation as it now stands:

In recent years, conservative Christians have presented themselves as representing the one authentic Christian perspective on politics. With due respect for our conservative friends, equally devout Christians come to very different conclusions.

It is important for those of us who are sometimes called moderates to make the case that we, too, have strongly held Christian convictions, that we speak from the depths of our beliefs, and that our approach to politics is at least as faithful as that of those who are more conservative. Our difference concerns the extent to which government should, or even can, translate religious beliefs into the laws of the state.

People of faith have the right, and perhaps the obligation, to bring their values to bear in politics. Many conservative Christians approach politics with a certainty that they know God's truth, and that they can advance the kingdom of God through governmental action.

So they have developed a political agenda that they believe advances God's kingdom, one that includes efforts to "put God back" into the public square and to pass a constitutional amendment intended to protect marriage from the perceived threat of homosexuality.

Mr. Danforth politely omits how such beliefs are being exploited to feed the personal power trips of Ralph Reed, Tom DeLay, Bill Frist and the like. He does, however, go on to make a strong case as to why moderate Christians ought to reject the blatherings of such demagogues:

Moderate Christians are less certain about when and how our beliefs can be translated into statutory form, not because of a lack of faith in God but because of a healthy acknowledgement of the limitations of human beings. Like conservative Christians, we attend church, read the Bible and say our prayers.

But for us, the only absolute standard of behavior is the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. Repeatedly in the Gospels, we find that the Love Commandment takes precedence when it conflicts with laws. We struggle to follow that commandment as we face the realities of everyday living, and we do not agree that our responsibility to live as Christians can be codified by legislators.

When, on television, we see a person in a persistent vegetative state, one who will never recover, we believe that allowing the natural and merciful end to her ordeal is more loving than imposing government power to keep her hooked up to a feeding tube.

When we see an opportunity to save our neighbors' lives through stem cell research, we believe that it is our duty to pursue that research, and to oppose legislation that would impede us from doing so.

We think that efforts to haul references of God into the public square, into schools and courthouses, are far more apt to divide Americans than to advance faith.

Following a Lord who reached out in compassion to all human beings, we oppose amending the Constitution in a way that would humiliate homosexuals.

For us, living the Love Commandment may be at odds with efforts to encapsulate Christianity in a political agenda. We strongly support the separation of church and state, both because that principle is essential to holding together a diverse country, and because the policies of the state always fall short of the demands of faith.

Aware that even our most passionate ventures into politics are efforts to carry the treasure of religion in the earthen vessel of government, we proceed in a spirit of humility lacking in our conservative colleagues.

In the decade since I left the Senate, American politics has been characterized by two phenomena: the increased activism of the Christian right, especially in the Republican Party, and the collapse of bipartisan collegiality. I do not think it is a stretch to suggest a relationship between the two.

To assert that I am on God's side and you are not, that I know God's will and you do not, and that I will use the power of government to advance my understanding of God's kingdom is certain to produce hostility.[Emphasis mine-CK]

It is absolute certainty such as this which I find most frightening in the Christian right. It is the sort of certainty that leads to Crusades and witch-burnings, to jihad and suicide-bombings.

The United States now faces the dilemma of all civilized nations when confronting an enemy so ruthless in its self-righteousness as are the jihadis: to risk, in the face of such evil, adopting our enemies' tactics and in so doing destroy the thing we would wish to protect.

Running up our credit card debt won't be a defeat for those who have terrorized us. Continuing to treat one another with the respect we deserve as fellow human beings and fellow Americans can be.

Unless we defeat the extremists who wrap themselves in our flag, we will never defeat those who would rather burn it.

As an Agnostic I can yet say, without any ironic bent whatsoever, thank God for moderate Christians like Mr. Danforth.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Searching for Truth

One of the running jokes in my household is this: "but I read it on the internet, it must be true".

This, of course, represents the fact that information on the web is strictly a Caveat Emptor, "let the buyer beware", sort of enterprise. So much so that websites like Snopes devote serious energy to debunking the misinformation floating through the e-aether.

Among Mark Twain's many quotable quotes was one condemning "lies, damn lies and statistics". Were he writing today he might well add internet "facts" to the list.

(Except, of course, the original quote is from Benjamin Disraeli, whom Twain was himself quoting, though the misattribution is frequent).

And that's part of the problem, with the proliferation of access to a free online presence (like this one) basically anyone can post on the web. And while I generally agree that this access is a very good thing indeed, it can lead to problems with the use of online citations, and one's own level of credibility.

And I'm just talking now about the common misunderstanding so frequennt to the common wisdom. Needless to say, there also exist many sources of intentional misinformation and propaganda out there just waiting to ensnare the credulous masses. (For example check out this site for shameless propaganda).

And since credibility is absolutely key in the news biz, Google's news aggregator is a special target for refining the search engine's ability to gather news items from around the globe, but to be sure to feature news from the most credible sources:

Now Google is looking to develop technologies that factor in the amount of important coverage produced by a source, the amount of traffic it attracts, circulation statistics, staff size, breadth of coverage and number of global operations.

Since reporters for even the world's most prestigious news organizations can commit the most egregious errors (NYT's Judith Miller's breathless Iraq war jingoism leaps to mind as an example) I have my doubts about whether the algorithmic search for truth will be any more effective than the existential one.

Still, if it will help make my quote attributions correct (and by the way, the "lies, damn lies &c" quote mentioned above may not have been uttered by Disraeli) I'll be all the happier.

Now what's this about college co-eds in my area that want to meet me...?

Oh well, I guess the search for truth on the net continues.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Cathedral of Cards

One thing that's bothered me about the congressional stance on the War on Iraq, especially in light of the confirmations brought about by the Downing Street documents, is the lack of bi-partisan outrage at administration that blatently lied to them about the justifications for this unnecessary pre-emptive attack.

Not that I'm surprised that GOPers toed the party line when it came time to re-elect, not when BushCorp™ support was important to their own campaigns. But as the President daily models his amazingly shrinking coattails by pursuing his quixotic quest to dismantle Social Security, and his inability to deal with non-faith-based news in Iraq, I'm surprised that more GOPers haven't taken the opportunity presented by Downing Street to distance themselves from Bush.

I have no doubt that many Republican Senators are seething (at least privately) about their Dear Leader's duplicity and incompetence (though they're ALSO no doubt more incensed at having such failures made public).

Regardless, the situation stands thusly: Continued grim reports from Iraq further dissolution the general public about the wisdom of this war, and Downing Street provides evidence on just how optional this war should have been but for BushCorp™ hubris.

My prediction: too many Republican congressional egos (Arlen Specter, I'm talking to you) have been bruised by Bush and his Rove Warriors. Once a Republican perceives that calling for a BushCorp™ War Crimes Investigation (though it'll likely be differently phrased) will assuage angry home voters and salvage his career, I forsee the breaking of a dam of indignation.

And BushCorp™'s cathedral of cards will come tumbling down.

At least a fellow can hope.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The Family Values Party

Money quote via Crooks and Liars via Wonkette:

• Mary Carey: "I was told that they had people ready to tackle me if I tried to get close to [President Bush]...Republicans can party almost as much as porn stars...I was getting propositions to have threesomes with wives or mistresses, I was offered money from oil tycoons...I am a fully converted Republican now."
As Atrios would say, heh, indeedy.

Downing Street Documents

Sure, I know, anyone who read Doonesbury in 2002 was well aware that BushCorp™ was aching to go after Saddam. So the revelations of the burgeoning Downing Street Documents are old news, and therefore NOT news, right?

That's certainly what Bush apologists would wish you to believe.

More importantly though, as new revelations an analyses gain prominence, something that was considered common knowledge to the progressive anti-war community, is being recognized for the crime it is by everyone who wasn't obssessing at the time over the impending war.

And as the terrible implications of this unnecessary war begin to seep into the public consciousness, the recognition of BushCorp™'s war crimes will become more evident to even the most obtuse Americans.

A guy can hope anyway.

Gitmo Prisoners in Perpetuity

Talk about burying the lead (or lede for the journo-fascistic). These are the LAST lines from today's WaPo article on the Senate Gitmo hearings:

Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., later asked for a timetable. "If there is no definition as to when the conflict ends, that means forever, forever, forever these folks get held at Guantanamo Bay," he said.

[Deputy associate attorney generalMichael]Wiggins responded: "It's our position that, legally, they can be held in perpetuity."

The U.S. position is that it can hold untried, unconvicted, and even uncharged people in custody FOREVER?

And the WaPo thinks this is the LEAST important revelation at the hearings?

Well golly, I guess by today's standards, when the rape, torture and murder of those in US custody goes almost without punishment, virtually without comment, I guess just holding them for all eternity is no big deal.

And they're apparently well fed.

Gays in the military

Given the poor recruiting stats recently posted by the military, an effort to eliminate the ridiculous "don't ask, don't tell" policy seems timely.

As part of their strategy, opponents of the policy are now highlighting the ongoing struggles of Army and Marine recruiters. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network say in a new report that many highly trained specialists — including combat engineers and linguists — are being discharged involuntarily while the
Pentagon "is facing extreme challenges in recruiting and retaining troops."

On other fronts:

_A federal court hearing is scheduled in Boston next month on a lawsuit by 12 former service members challenging the 12-year-old policy.

_In Congress, four Republicans — including stalwart conservatives Wayne Gilchrest of Maryland and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida — have joined 81 Democrats co-sponsoring a bill to repeal the policy. Gilchrest, a former supporter of the ban, said he changed his view partly out of respect for gay Marines he served with in Vietnam and for his brother, who is gay.

_A U.S. Military Academy professor, Lt. Col. Allen Bishop, wrote a column this spring in Army Times urging Congress to repeal the ban. "I thought I'd get lots of hate mail, and my colleagues would walk on the other side of the hall — but there's been none of that," he said Tuesday.

This represents a tremendous opportunity for gays and lesbians. For if allowed to serve openly in service to America, other rights denials become immediately untenable.

As the civil rights movement of the 60s was an evolutionary step for blacks beginning with their service in WWII and after, so would open military service for gays and lesbians be now.

How do you tell someone who's put their life on the line for this country that they don't have rights (like the right to marry) equal to those of their fellow citizens?

That's right. You can't.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

On Today's Big Story

Today the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal by media conglomerates to overturn an appellate ruling which slows the concentration of media outlets. (What did YOU think I was going to talk about?)

The high court let stand a lower court decision blocking the implementation of Federal Communications Commission regulations that would have allowed media companies to own more television and radio stations in the same market as well as permit newspaper and broadcast cross-ownership.

In fact the Scandal du Jour is one of the syptoms of the concentration of newspaper, radio and television outlets in fewer and fewer hands. A multiplicity of voices is vital for the press to be a truly effective instrument in the never-ending quest to expose that which the powers that be would wish to be concealed.

When the media ARE the powers that be where does that leave us?

I mean sure blogs are great (talk about multiple voices!) but with rare exceptions bloggers do not have the resources to do original reporting, and therefore must rely on the media for original source material.

32 million Americans read blogs, that leaves about 200 million Americans who get their information elswhere, newspapers, national mews, and (God help us) local news.

And it's especially at the local news level that media agglomeration is especially egregious.

Which is why any move which slows this trend is big news indeed.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

One of the truest posts on 9/11 you'll ever read

By all means please read the entire post by Lance Mannion (and thanks to James Wolcott for pointing me to it), but a single paragraph broke my heart with the truth of its sentiment:

The weekend after 9/11 the Mannions went apple picking at an orchard near where we lived in Syracuse. At the orchard we saw two of the bravest people in America that week. A husband and wife, both obviously Middle Eastern, devout Muslims---she was in her chador---carrying a bushel basket of apples between them.

I'm sure that a lot of people looked twice and even three times at them, but I'm also sure that just about everybody who did did what I did, smiled and said to themselves, Good for them.
Nothing I've ever read since that very bad day, and certainly in nothing ever pronounced by BushCorp™, have I felt the simple truth of the true American spirit: Good for them.

I hope someday we remember it.

Friday, June 10, 2005

On Brand Recognition

Your CaliBlogger has been in sales and marketing for far longer than he'd care to admit. But one thing I've (sorry about the third person intro, I must've been channeling the Bull Moose there for a sec') learned is the importance of branding.

Brand recognition can be a critical asset in making a sale if the organization's reputation is a good one, and a deal breaker if it's bad.

What brought this to mind was a headline from Raw Story: We have to destroy their brand which quote is from their interview with House minority leader Nancy Pelosi.

The full quote:

“So we’re going after them, we have to destroy their brand,” she added. “And I think when it comes to Social Security, their brand is tainted. And now we can move in with a positive way with our brand.”
Ms. Pelosi's comment is interesting in that it points out a major problem Democrats face when challenging Republicans: While the Republican message can be expressed in three short phrases: cutting taxes, free markets, pro-military, Democrats have no analagous rallying points. When Democrats discuss what they believe in, what develops is a litany (a word Ms. Pelosi herself uses) of issues covering the economy, education, healthcare, environment, civil liberties, immigration, abortion, unionization, war et cetera, et cetera.

This puts Democrats at a distinct disadvantage. Without any unifying principals Democrats are forced to rely on either pandering to each individual subgroup, or rely solely on the personal popularity of a candidate in order to win elections.

Without any unifying principals Democrats are condemned to seeming merely opportunisitic or demagogic in our stances on any given subject.

So, as far as branding goes, as Ms. Pelosi points out, Democrats face two challenges: "destroying" the Republican brand, and establishing a Democratic one.

Both are doable, though the second is easily the most important.

Destroying the Republican brand can be accomplished in two ways. First is by re-branding Republicans for what they truly are, a party slavishly dedicated to the interest of corporate business interests and all those whose money comes from investments rather than work. Secondly, and the current leadership seems intent on helping us with this, we must continue to point out the degree to which Republicans are catering to their most extreme elements, something they're forced to do to provide a smokescreen for their corporate pandering.

The scond task, establishing the Democratic brand, is simple to articulate, yet difficult to achieve. Given the Republicans' servitude to corporate power, the obvious Democratic stance should be to position ourselves as the representatives of those who actually work for a living.

The elements and inferences of this stance are already part and parcel of most Democratic positions, or else they should and can be. Some are obvious: support for unionization and worker rights, stewardship of the environment which we all must share, protection of the rights of individuals in their homes, their businesses, their bodies, their beliefs. Some are less so: support and respect for the men and women who make up our military (like, for instance, not sending them off to die in unneccesary wars), support for the small and medium sized business owners who are the backbone of our communities, and daily face the perils of corporate competition.

The problem with making such a stance more than a platitude is of course (drumroll please)


So long as Democrats are forced to suckle at the corporate tit in order to raise the campaign contributions vital to getting elected, Democrats, and especially those running for state-wide or national office, will continue to be beholden to corporate interests. And to be clear, I'm not talking about the quid pro quo, pay to play sort of corruption (though I suspect that to be a greater problem than we allow ourselves to admit), I'm talking about the simple fact that, if the Democratic party allows corporate contributions, then that money will go to those registered Democrats who harbor pro-corporate tendencies.

True campaign reform is, then, a key.

On the positive side are moves, like that seen in Arizona, for public financing of elections. Another plus is the continuing development of net-roots/grass-roots organizations, which had such an enormous, if not completely successful, impact on the last election cycle.

But campaign reform is not enough. So long as politicians can except ANY form of corporate inducement, corporations will seek to provide the same.

Politicians must be prohibited from accepting anything provided of financed by corporate interests, including "fact-finding" tours to golf destinations.

Most critically, and most controversially I suspect, politicians must be prohibited from accepting any remuneration, gifts, or EMPLOYMENT, from any corporate interest AFTER they've left office.

Now I realize that some fairly tricky personal freedom issues arise from this last proposal especially, but remember this, running for office is a choice. And every choice neccessitates the rejection of some alternatives. If someone wishes for a spot on the corporate ladder, then by all means go apply at GE. But if someone wishes to serve the public in a leadership position, then that position must be as unsullied as possible by the taint of non-public interests.

And, if Democrats are going to successfully brand themselves as the party of/for those who work, this must be especially true.

[x-posted at Daily Kos]

Thursday, June 09, 2005

I guess it just ain't "news"

Yesterday, the Guardian revealed that oil giant Exxon played an important role in developing US policy towards climate change and that BushCorp™ rejected the Kyoto protocols based on input from Exxon, as well as other Big Energy companies:

In briefing papers given before meetings to the US under-secretary of state, Paula Dobriansky, between 2001 and 2004, the administration is found thanking Exxon executives for the company's "active involvement" in helping to determine climate change policy, and also seeking its advice on what climate change policies the company might find acceptable.

Other papers suggest that Ms Dobriansky should sound out Exxon executives and other anti-Kyoto business groups on potential alternatives to Kyoto.

Until now Exxon has publicly maintained that it had no involvement in the US government's rejection of Kyoto. But the documents, obtained by Greenpeace under US freedom of information legislation, suggest this is not the case.

"Potus [president of the United States] rejected Kyoto in part based on input from you [the Global Climate Coalition]," says one briefing note before Ms Dobriansky's meeting with the GCC, the main anti-Kyoto US industry group, which was dominated by Exxon.

The papers further state that the White House considered Exxon "among the companies most actively and prominently opposed to binding approaches [like Kyoto] to cut greenhouse gas emissions".
This story to date has garnered a total of 10 citations in Google news (as opposed to the almost 1,400 citations for Michael Jackson's return to the hospital).

I should be outraged, but I suppose that it's been so long assumed that BushCorp™ is in the pocket of Big Oil that confirmation of that belief just doesn't constitute "news".

The same could be said for the media yawn which greeted the minutes of a Downing street meeting confirming that BushCorp™ was "fixing" the intelligence to build a case for war in Iraq. Everyone has known all along that Georgie was aching for any excuse to outshine Daddy Bush.

You have to hand it to Rove and the boys (and girls) of BushCorp™ for a brilliant and unorthodox tactic. If you carefully cultivate a reputation for corruption, no-one's surprised by evidence that you are indeed corrupt. Way to go.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Back from a crash

EEk, my comp had a near death experience today so no posts depite the many outrages to be addressed. I'm back up and running, finally, and will continue my posts on the morrow. Funny what trouble a little msvcrt.dll can cause.

(Hint, don't reinstall windows just 'cos it tells you to).

(Hint 2, if you didn't make a startup disc when you installed Windows, make one now).

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Words matter

The old saw: actions speak louder than words. True enough as it stands, but it doesn't tell the whole story.

Words matter too. Words, properly chosen, can change an old english myth into King Lear. The writer of John ecognized this: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Any animal can act. Only humans (and a few chimps trained by humans) can use words.

Words are used to pass knowledge between strangers, canvassing the globe. Words are even used to slip the bonds of time, passing wisdom between generations.

Words can be especially important when uttered by those controlling the reigns of power. And have terrible implications when misused.

I'm not speaking now of our Dear Leader's difficulty with language, though the implications of his disassembly of English may yet have consequences beyond his own embarrassment. No, the linguistic abuse I have in mind predates BushCorp™ by decades.

I'm speaking of the War on Drugs.

What's implied by this phrase? First and foremost it means literally a war against chemicals, inanimate objects with no volition or emotions. Drugs are the enemy.

I'll leave aside for the moment commenting on the hypocrisy of this caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, viagra immersed society claiming any sort of a serious War on Drugs.

Instead I'll note that the current war leads us to ban drugs that are not currently making American pharmaceutical companies billions of dollars. A case in point is marijuana.

Marijuana, though relatively innocuous in the pantheon of chemicals both legal and not, is one of those chemicals the US has banned as dangerous. Of course the dangerousness claim is questionable. But regardless, its use is now illegal, by the wisdom of the Supreme Court and the US Congress, in all cases.

And so, because there is a War on Drugs, banning this drug is entirely logical.

Now what if, instead of a war on drugs, we were fighting a war on drug abuse?

In that case, potentially dangerous substances would not be banned per se, only their misuse would be. And this makes eminent sense. Americans currently imbibe thousands of chemical substances which, if abused, are potentially dangerous, even fatal. And yet by their measured use, under medical supervision, the suffering of millions of people is alleviated.

So it could be with marijuana.

But alas, our war on drugs continues, ineffective and unabated, its collateral damage all those who suffer needlessly because our government has chosen its words so poorly.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Medical Marijuana

So, the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Federal prosecution of marijuana users whose use was prescribed by an MD. Great.

I'm not even going into how ridiculous it is for a bunch of lawyers to be making blanket medical decisions, I don't care how black their robes.

Said ruling is bound to be ineffective, and will only result in the criminalization of the ill and their loved ones.

Speaking as someone who has experienced chronic pain in a loved one, there is nothing someone in that position will not do to ease their loved one's pain. If marijuana helps, then marijuana will be obtained. Barring such treatment is itself much more criminal than the marijuana use.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Inconvenient friends

Amnesty international has long been considered, by past US administrations, and THIS US administration, a valuable and reliable source of accurate data regarding the inhumane, inhuman practices of the worst regimes in the world.

Rumsfeld repeatedly cited Amnesty when he was making the case against Saddam Hussein, urging "a careful reading of Amnesty International" and saying that according to "Amnesty International's description of what they know has gone on, it's not a happy picture."

The White House often cited Amnesty to make the case for war in Iraq, using the group's allegations that Iraq executed dozens of women accused of prostitution, decapitated victims and displayed their heads, tortured political opponents and raped detainees' relatives, gouged out eyes, and used electric shocks.

Regarding Fidel Castro's Cuba, meanwhile, the White House joined Amnesty and other groups in condemning Castro's "callous disregard for due process."

And the State Department's most recent annual report on worldwide human rights abuses cites Amnesty's findings dozens of times.

"This administration eagerly cites Amnesty International research when we criticize Cuba and extensively quoted our criticism of the violations in Iraq under Saddam Hussein in the run-up to the war," protested William F. Schulz, executive director of Amnesty International USA.
But the goose's sauce is mighty bitter on the gander. The BushCorp™ is shocked, shocked I tell you at AI's criticism of US detention, torture and murder practices since 9/11:
President Bush: "It's absurd. It's an absurd allegation."

Vice President Cheney: "I don't take them seriously. . . . Frankly, I was offended by it."

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld: "Reprehensible . . . cannot be excused."

In fact William Schulz, executive director of Amnesty's Washington-based branch, has completed the Solzhenitsyn reference begun previously by the groups condemnation of Guantanamo as an American gulag:
"The U.S. is maintaining an archipelago of prisons around the world, many of them secret prisons, into which people are being literally disappeared, held in indefinite, incommunicado detention without access to lawyers or a judicial system or to their families," Schulz said.
Just to quibble, the archipelago reference is likely more accurate than the gulag part. It's entirely believable the US now has little secret jails spread about the globe in out of the way places, it's less likely the inmates are performing forced slave labor, more likely just enduring a little torture, punctuated by the occasional beatings and photo-ops with bored GIs.

Unless and until a full and open investigation is extant, a further sign and symptom of the disintigration of US standing, domestically and overseas, is how widely believed such accusations will be.

Any that oppose a full and fair investigation into these charges is putting American service men and women at further risk in service to a corrupt administration.

If BushCorp™ is innocent of the charges, let it so be proved. But from the same gang that brought us phantom WMD and mushroom clouds that vanish into dust, mere protestations of innocence are far from convincing.

We must demand those who've besmirched this country's great name be held to account, lest we all bear their shame.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Stuff Happens

Mrs. CaliBlogger and I had the good fortune to be invited to a preview of David Hare's drama Stuff Happens, which is seeing its American premier at the Mark Taper Forum in LA (a nice perk for working in the business).

The play, which features the main players of BushCorp™, as well as various other key international figures, is made up almost entirely of documented transcripts and press pronouncements by the characters involved, with relatively little, though hilariously acidic, speculations on what was going on behind the scenes.

From the program:

Stuff Happens is a history play, which happens to center on very recent history. The events within it have been authenticated from multiple sources, both private and public. What happened happened. Nothing in the narrative is knowingly untrue. Scenes of direct address quote people verbatim. When the doors close on the world's leaders and on their entourages, then I have used my imagination. This is surely a play, not a documentary, and driven, I hope, by its themes as much as by its characters and story. - David Hare
Stuff Happens refers to Donald Rumsfeld's glib pronouncement during the looting of Baghdad following the fall of Saddam's regime. The remark characterizes the flippant attitude many of the major US players had towards the aftermath of the US victory over Saddam's forces, with the horrific results we continue to read about daily.

The story itself, which traces BushCorp™ activities from the administration's beginning through the fall of Baghdad, is well known to anyone who's been paying close attention, though I suspect that much of the play's intent is to educate those who weren't.

It also illuminates subtleties left from most press accounts.

The most sympathetic characters are Colin Powell (a brilliant Tyrees Allen) and Tony Blair (a somewhat horse Julian Sands).

In Hare's vision Powell has the thankless task of the lone voice of reason in an administration hell-bent on war with Iraq. In one of the play's most powerful scenes, Powell makes an impassioned plea to Bush (whose chief attribute, as played by Keith Carradine, is unerring self-satisfaction) on the need for International, and specifically UN backing for any military venture in Iraq. Bush is finally convinced, though not from any true interest in seeing a peaceful resolution, but only because the UN might provide political cover.

Blair, on the other hand becomes trapped, both by his own inclination to follow the Clintonian ideal of war for humanitarian purposes, and his need to maintain the US alliance. Time and again he seems defeated both by Bush's bland obliqueness, as well Rumsfeld's (a stand-out performance by John Michael Higgins) impolitic pronouncements.

Other notable performances are by Jane Carr (as Laura Bush, and especially as a grieving mother), Dakin Matthews (whose gruff, and occasionally profane pronouncements nail Cheney), Stephen Spinella (whose French Foreign Minister Villepin expresses the European distrust of BushCorp™'s sudden interest in the UN during the run-up to war), and Alan Oppenheimer (as a bemused Hans Blix)

Of special note is the performance by Jay Harik, who plays various minor roles throughout the production, but whose play ending plea invites a chilling comparison between Bush and Saddam. Speaking as an Iraqi citizen, Harik expresses his own people's guilt in allowing Saddam to remain in power ( questionable assertion, but it works in the play). But his point is made: the quality of a nation's leadership is ultimately the responsibility of the nation's people. And the sad implication is that, in George W. Bush, the United States has chosen just the leader it deserves.

[x-posted at Daily Kos]

Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Governator and Global Warming

In a move apparently at odds with the BushCorp™ "jury's still out on global warming" stance, Ahnold today announced an "Environmental Action Plan" setting forth far stricter emmissions control goals than required under US law.

Schwarzenegger's "Environmental Action Plan" calls for reducing the state's emissions of such gases to 2000 levels by 2010, 1990 levels by 2020 and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, the governor's office said.
And though I applaud such stated goals, I still remain skeptical that when the specifics are nailed down, as they have yet to be, the Governator will truly act against the interests of his big-money, big-business backers.

Let us hope, though, that the Governor will follow through with effective low-emmissions policies for automobiles. And let us further hope that said policies will not be blocked by automaker interests lobbying at the national level.

For if successful, California's resolve may force a change at the national level by forcing re-calcitrant auto-makers to relenquish their ill-conceived, short-sighted, and, given the possibly devastating consequences, borderline treasonous reliance on smog--belching, gas-guzzling SUVs.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Obligatory Star Wars Post II

OK. I've had to turn in my official geek-boy card for not seeing Sith on the first weekend. I hope to at least be able to keep an honorary membership by posting on it.

(Note: the following may or may not contain spoilers. But I figure if you haven't seen the movie yet you probably don't care anyway-CK)

First thought: Damn. Really a very nice roundout to the cycle, I even felt myself tearing up as Obi-Wan placed the infant Luke into his aunt's arms, an excellent lead up to A New Hope indeed.

Another thought: Irony in a Lucas film?! Indeed, Annakin's desire to save Padme drives him to a course of action which, inevitably, is exactly what kills her.

Political thought: Lucas MUST be being disingenuous when he denies certain lines' relevence to the current situation. Sure the story arc is quite likely from the original '70's concept (and doesn't the recent Deep Throat revelation bring THAT back into focus?), but Annakin's "with us or against us" paraphrase, coupled with the numerous references to the death of democracy in the face of an outside threat are too klunky not to have been personally written by Lucas himself.

Punches pulled thought: A severe criticism of CLones (to me anyway) was the cutaway from the annhilation of the sand people which was Annakin's first real step towards the dark side. I judged it a cop-out designed merely to preserve a PG-13 rating. In Sith Lucas still can't quite bring himself to show the evil of Annakin's massacre of the younglings, and I can't entirely disagree, but good on him for making this ultimate bit of barbarity a good deal more explicit, it really underlines the TRUE EVIL aspect of Annikin's fall.

No pulled punches thought: Annakin's final agony, terrible, yet appropriate. And it makes Obi-Wan's later observation to Luke that Vader killed Annakin ring ever truer.

All in all I felt that Sith not only stands among the best of the Star Wars cycle, but that it also manages to add the depth of history to the rest of the series.

Deep Throat Redux

Judging from the reaction of the right I come to two conclusions.

Wingnuts suffer from irony-deficit syndrome. Convicted felons like G. Gordon Liddy and Chuck Colson are applauded for characterizing Mr. Felt's efforts to expose their crimes as treasonous. Incredible.

G. Gordon Liddy, a Nixon operative who engineered the 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Campaign headquarters in the Watergate building in Washington, and served four and a half years in jail for it, said Wednesday that Felt "violated the ethics of the law enforcement profession."
An ethics lesson from Liddy. Puhleeeze.

Also, the wingnuts have well learned the Rovian rule: If you don't like the message, discredit the messenger. [If you want a laugh just browse the posts-CK].

But this is all bullshit. Tom Brokaw has the smackdown (via Crooks & Liars).