Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Best television show line, ever - Gilmore Girls

On Gilmore Girls, Lorelai, five minutes ago, talking about having to put the leash on her dog, Paul Anka, without him seeing it:

"Oh, he's perfectly fine with having all his personal freedoms taken away, as long as he doesn't see it while it's happening. Just like a true American."


Capote gets 5 big nominations including Best Pic

Congrats to Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bennett Miller, Dan Futterman and Catherine Keener. Capote is up for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress.

Proving that the Academy gets it right every once in awhile.

Good Night and Good Luck had a Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Picture and Best Actor nod. Go George Clooney and David Straithairn!

I got about 3/5 on all category guesses. More when the full list is posted at the Academy Awards website.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Oscar Nominee Predictions

Most years I wait until the nominations and guess the winners; this year I'm gonna beat tomorrow's announcement and guess all nominations and winners. I know, I know: alert the media!

(Winner guesses are bolded; my pics are italicized; both are, well, both.)

Best Picture

Brokeback Mountain
Good Night and Good Luck
Walk The Line

Fifth is kind of open. Probably Crash, or The Constant Gardener. If the Academy is feeling a bit risque, maybe A History of Violence. But not freaking likely.

Best Actor

Philip Seymour Hoffman - Capote
Heath Ledger - Brokeback Mountain
David Straithairn - Good Night and Good Luck
Terrence Howard - Hustle & Flow
Ralph Fiennes - The Constant Gardener

Actually, Ralph's spot is rather open, as well. Maybe Russell Crowe, if we can overlook his "Reach Out and Touch Someone with a swift phone to the head" act. Jeff Daniels won great reviews for The Squid and the Whale, and Joaquin Phoenix keeps showing up on critics lists, despite mixed reviews.

Ledger's too young, and too...weird in interviews. He's a relatively unknown quantity in Hollywood and getting a mini-Russell Crowe rep. Straithairn would've walked away with it, before Capote came out. Unfortunately for him, Hoffman looks like a lock.

Best Actress

Reese Witherspoon - Walk the Line
Felicity Huffman - TransAmerica
Judi Dench - Mrs Henderson Presents
Laura Linney - The Squid and the Whale
Rachel Weisz - The Constant Gardener

Not sure the Academy is really ready for TransAmerica's close-up, no matter how amazing Huffman is in every single film. And she really, really is. Can you imagine if she and husband William H. Macy have children that grow up to be actors? That kid's gonna be one powerhouse performer. Judi Dench is a perennial favorite, but her movie doesn't have the buzz. Laura Linney might sneak in here - she's another actress that never fails to give a great performance. But I'm guessing it's All-American Reese who did her own singing as Johnny Cash's better half who'll be trotting off with the statue. Rachel Weisz might also prove an upset. She's received lots of acclaim for her turn as Ralph Fiennes love interest.

Best Supporting Actor

Paul Giamatti - Cinderella Man
George Clooney - Syriana
Jake Gyllenhaal - Brokeback Mountain
Terrence Howard - Crash
Ed Harris - A History of Violence

Actually, I have no idea about the last spot. And if it were up to me, I'd give it to Clifton Collins Jr. or Chris Cooper for their work in Capote. But it's not, and I'm guessing Giamatti will take it. They really snubbed him last year for Sideways and a few years before that for American Splendor. Though they might want to recognize Clooney for his great work in Good Night and Good Luck. He's had a stellar year, and he's gonna lose Best Director to Ang Lee.

Best Supporting Actress

Catherine Keener - Capote
Michelle Williams - Brokeback Mountain
Scarlett Johansson - Match Point
Brenda Blethyn- Pride and Prejudice
Amy Adams - Junebug

Williams isn't getting many awards. Keener was, and she had three really great performances this year, but things have cooled down. Blethyn's an Academy fave, like Judi Dench only less regal. I suspect they may mix it up a bit and give it to newcomer Adams for her hilarious, heartbreaking turn in Junebug.

Best Animated Feature

Corpse Bride
Wallace and Grommit

Yes, I think animated movies sucked bad enough this year for them to consider Hoodwinked in this category. And number me amongst those who don't care for that Wallace and Grommit show. I've no idea who will win, but Tim Burton's always great in my book.

Best Documentary

I have no idea! March of the Penguins, maybe. Murderball, if AMPAS had any. But this wasn't the docu year for me, so...your guess is as good as mine!

Best Director

A whole buncha names, like Clooney, Bennett Miller, Spielberg...

and one winner -- Ang Lee, for Brokeback Mountain.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Philip Seymour Hoffman wins SAG Best Actor!

He's now the frontrunner for an Oscar Best Actor win, and it couldn't happen to a better actor (and reportedly overall nice guy). I think he's garnered all but two possible awards in the category so far --

Screen Actors Guild
Boston Society of Film Critics
Broadcast Film Critics
Chicago Film Critics
Golden Globe
Dallas Fort Worth Critics
Los Angeles Film Critics
National Board of Review
National Society of Film Critics
Online Film Critics
Satellite Award
Southeastern Film Critics
Toronto Film Critics
Iowa Film Critics
New York Film Critics
Washington Area Film Critics

And maybe a couple I missed -- 17 in total and I hate deciphering acronyms late at night. :)

He's also nominated for the BAFTAs and Independent Spirit Awards.

Since my guesses always rest solely on intuition rather than figuring odds based on critics awards, I'm not certain, but it seems Hoffman's got more Best Actor nods than most previous years' frontrunners going into the AMPAS race. And again, I'm not sure that even matters. It does show he gave the performance of a lifetime.

Brokeback's Ledger still has an outside chance, and I'm sad that Straithairn's getting completely missed in the race. He did a great job as Murrow. But I think it's Hoffman's award, barring any major developments between Tuesday when the nominations are announced and final voting in February.

Which makes me very, very happy.

Hoffman's speechifying improved, too. From tonight's Screen Actor's Guild show:

"I think its important to say actors can't act alone," says Hoffman, "it's impossible unless you're doing a solo performance or something but its pretty impossible. But what we have to do in a competition like this sometimes its tough because what we really need to do is support each other and actors have to have each others backs. Its the only way to act well is when you know the other actors have your back. And these actors had my back and I hope they know I had theirs. Thank you."

Saturday, January 28, 2006

And now, a word from our sponsor

Much of this blog has been about what I - and many others - view as disturbing trends leading towards fascism in the US. Sometimes surrounded by all these instruments playing the same music, it's hard to recognize if we're actually hitting the right notes.

To further bruise an already pained metaphor, sometimes you just need to hear a solo.

That arrived the other day, in the form of the girls' dad.

Up until recently I considered him quite dead to me, for all intents and purposes, after he pulled some seriously shady business. Suffice it to say we didn't traffic in pleasantries much over the past ten years, let alone philosophical discussions on the shape of the country.

That's all changed after we spent two hours on the phone the other night, talking about America.

This guy, former Navy, conservative (albeit somewhat apathetic) on the political spectrum, sounded somewhere to the left of ACLU and ANSWER. I had to ask him to repeat himself, so sure was I that he was just talking smack to make me laugh.

He assured me he was dead serious.

He's pissed about the Patriot Act and its attack on privacy rights. Thinks -- get this -- ObL is a "freedom fighter" for the Middle East (yes -- that's way left of my opinion!) and we were attacked for our failed meddling in the region since the 50's. (While I know enough to fill a shot glass about the details of US intervention in the Middle East, what I do know isn't pretty. So for general purposes, I'm with him on this.)

He believes we as a nation are completely bankrupt in more ways than one: economically, we've sold ourselves to the lowest bidder and flushed American jobs down the toilet by purchasing crap -- because we can't save any money and spend a little more to buy American made --we want everything immediately.

We're bankrupt ethically, willingly selling our civil liberties in exchange for false security (Hey, could he have found my blog somehow?)

Of course, he referred to our government as being communist. I had to explain we are now fascist. Other than that, had we been so like-minded years ago, we'd still be married!

All joking aside, his was the voice that proved, once and for all, what I've been seeing happen isn't some anomaly, or a product of imagination. We've known each other since age 15 and 16.

He's a lot of things, but stupid isn't one of them -- and he's not one to blow in the wind when it comes to conviction. Hearing all this come from his mouth was both comforting and alarming; if he's the face of the new radical, this country's in worse shape than previously realized.

Wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then

While somewhere in the world, she's hosting her own show
And everyone she questions never seems to know
Who they are and where they are going

-- BNL, Everything Old is New Again

Don't you know me, Kansas City? I'm the new Berlin Wall. Try and tear me down.

--Hedwig & The Angry Inch, Tear Me Down

Oh, who the fuck are you?

--The Who, Who Are You

I have but two dreams anymore. Variations on a theme - the past and the present juxtaposed as if someone fused the left side of a Wyeth with the right of a Picasso painting. Each side jousts for preeminence, jockeying for the best REM time.

Present waking reality exists solely on the jagged edge joining the two, minimal yet distinct. Jarring -- but pointless.

Through these fevered dreams flows the blood of an impending Apocalyptic nightmare and ephemeral remnants of such beauty that upon waking I'm left dazed and in pain, reaching for something beyond grasp.

Life since 2000 haunts my soul. But it's the years leading up to that point to which I cling. For I have changed, inexorably, indelibly - to the point where the cliche "I'll never be the same" hardly does justice. Worse for the wear, but better for newfound consciousness.

I was once caught in a landslide of perpetual bliss.

Unseen and unknown, at the bottom rested a pit of darkest tar awaiting my eventual landing. Before 2000 -- I'd say 9/11 but refuse to traffic in a meme most often used for political gain -- everything outside the tangible world we inhabit was unimportant. Life consisted of work, home, kids, friends, family and pets: unless it made worldwide headlines, it was of no significance to my life.

Or so I believed.

Now I see walking versions of that me every single day: kind, generally good and loving people who naively believe, as I did, that the world would go humming along as it always did, regardless of who was in power or what happened in Washington. The fabric would hold.

It was always something, and tomorrow it would be something else, equally lacking direct impact on our lives. Skies would remain blue, grass green, and Lennon would still convincingly remind me nothing's gonna change my world.

By every discernable measure, I was happier that way. Unfortunate to discover it was just a lie, a sleepwalk through the doorway of this current abyss. And rational thought to the contrary, I'd pay good money to return there.

But I can't. Ever.

While I was sleeping the landscape was developing at a breathtaking pace. Forces joined, allegiances forged, PNAC plans were drafted: venal chess pieces crawled across an unseen board.

I no longer trust the players of that era any more than I do those who roll our dice today. One of the ugliest sights I've ever witnessed was watching Congress members from both parties in New Orleans a week after Katrina, speechifying and back-slapping one another. When they should've been hanging their heads in mutual shame, drafting impeachment papers.

Worse than not trusting them, I no longer trust myself to remain vigilant in the face of what such intense scrutiny costs. To paraphrase a village idiot, it's hard work. Made still harder from recognition of such action's seeming futility.

How I long for that sleep, for that young woman peering over the precipice at 32, full of general goodwill, trust and hope for her children's futures. How I wish the vistas she envisioned still had obvious signs and street posts; that the map still applied.

But it doesn't.

And if we fail to recognize that huge difference, to wrap our minds around it and fight apathy, little else matters. The time for all good people to rise and recognize we're in a new land, crossing over into territory we've never explored before as a nation, that the fabric will not hold simply because we want to believe it will -- that time may have already come and gone. Just like that ghostly version of myself has entered quietly into ethereal history.

She didn't contemplate leaving -- anything or anyone.

If then you'd told her she would one day take steps to walk completely away from nearly every meaningful marker in life, she would have laughed and bought another round.

Little is left of that person.

In her stead is a face lined with worry, atop a body desperately in need of something comforting, familiar and recuperative - a peaceful sleep in a pre-2000 world. Dread has replaced hope, doubt has overtaken trust and suspicion trumps goodwill. Worse, none of that is unreasonable or unnecessary.

It may not have happened overnight, but the before and after surrounding this demarcation line still visit, nightly. The path to happiness leads in neither direction, for as long as things remain as they are here in America.

"Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both.

The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.

In the light of these ideas, Negroes will be hunted at the North, and held and flogged at the South so long as they submit to those devilish outrages, and make no resistance, either moral or physical. Men may not get all they pay for in this world; but they must certainly pay for all they get.
" --Frederick Douglass, 1857

Friday, January 27, 2006

Friday personals

Wish me luck! Those who read here often and know me know I've been looking for a real break in the past year or so, frustrated with how many of the 14 characteristics of fascism America's exhibited.

Read them -- they're frightening and illuminating in ways I can't convey.

Anyway, this week I took the plunge and sent an inquiry to my current main client, a huge international company. Only, I sent it to their New Zealand office.

Lo and behold, they requested my resume!

The HR rep said he'd be out until January 31. It's definitely a long shot. . .BUT. . .I've cemented my position on this matter and if New Zealand doesn't work out, there are offices everywhere in the world. They've been my client for three years; we've developed great rapport. If they give me a qualified offer, it puts me over the top in terms of points for residency in New Zealand, as my job falls into their high demand category.

The girls also want to leave, because a prospect of war with Iran and necessary draft leaves the oldest very vulnerable: to jail - not the draft. We wouldn't dream of fighting for George Bush or his war profiteering.

So now I need to figure out what to do with the house - sell it, or take out an equity loan first, then risk foreclosure and take a loss. Either way, it's the first positive step I've taken since getting qualified for Canadian citizenship. Unfortunately, the Canadian home office doesn't have openings.

Anyone want to buy a three bedroom, 1200 square foot Ohio bungalow on the cheap? :)

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Empathy and civility - Republican style

While Mrs. Alito wept and the media covered it like it was news, we kept hearing how "uncivil" Democrats were. Oh, really?

How quickly they forget. What they're truly bemoaning is the spine we're finally showing against the encroaching fascism. If we don't roll over and play dead on every issue, we're suddenly labeled as uncivil .

Take a gander at some of these truly "civil" and enlightening comments prominent Republicans have made over the years:

"I tell people don't kill all the liberals. Leave enough so we can have two on every campus - living fossils - so we will never forget what these people stood for."- Rush Limbaugh, Denver Post, 12-29-95

"We need to execute people like John Walker in order to physically intimidate liberals, by making them realize that they can be killed, too. Otherwise, they will turn out to be outright traitors."- Ann Coulter, at the Conservative Political Action Conference, 02-26-02

"Environmentalists are a socialist group of individuals that are the tool of the Democrat Party. I'm proud to say that they are my enemy. They are not Americans, never have been Americans, never will be Americans."- Rep. Don Young (R-AK), Alaska Public Radio, 08-19-96

"Get rid of the guy. Impeach him, censure him, assassinate him."- Rep. James Hansen (R-UT), talking about President Clinton, as reported by journalist Steve Miner of KSUB radio who overheard his conversation, 11-01-98

"We're going to keep building the party until we're hunting Democrats with dogs."- Senator Phil Gramm (R-TX), Mother Jones, 08-95

"Chelsea is a Clinton. She bears the taint; and though not prosecutable in law, in custom and nature the taint cannot be ignored. All the great despotisms of the past - I'm not arguing for despotism as a principle, but they sure knew how to deal with potential trouble - recognized that the families of objectionable citizens were a continuing threat. In Stalin's penal code it was a crime to be the wife or child of an 'enemy of the people.' The Nazis used the same principle, which they called Sippenhaft, 'clan liability.' In Imperial China, enemies of the state were punished 'to the ninth degree': that is, everyone in the offender's own generation would be killed and everyone related via four generations up, to the great-great-grandparents, and four generations down, to the great-great-grandchildren, would also be killed."- John Derbyshire, National Review, 02-15-01

"My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times building."- Ann Coulter, New York Observer, 08-26-02

"Homosexuals want to come into churches and disrupt church services and throw blood all around and try to give people AIDS and spit in the face of ministers."- Pat Robertson again, The 700 Club, 01-18-95

"Emotional appeals about working families trying to get by on $4.25 an hour are hard to resist. Fortunately, such families do not exist."- Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX), House Majority Whip, during a debate on increasing the minimum wage, Congressional Record, H3706, 04-23-96

"Probably nothing."- Jeb Bush, during his losing 1994 bid for Florida Governor, when asked what he would do for black people, quoted by Salon on 10-05-02

"The homosexual blitzkrieg has been better planned and executed than Hitler's."- Rep. William Dannemeyer (R-CA), The New Republic, 08-01-94

"When lawlessness is abroad in the land, the same thing will happen here that happened in NaziGermany. Many of those people involved in Adolph Hitler were Satanists. Many of them were homosexuals. The two things seem to go together."- Pat Robertson again, The 700 Club, 01-21-93

"Quit looking at the symbols. Get out and get a job. Quit shooting each other. Quit having illegitimate babies."- State Rep. John Graham Altman (R-SC), addressing African-American concerns about the 'symbol' of the Confederate Flag, New York Times, 01-24-97

"Two things made this country great: White men & Christianity. The degree these two have diminished is in direct proportion to the corruption and fall of the nation. Every problem that has arisen (sic) can be directly traced back to our departure from God's Law and the disenfranchisement of White men."- State Rep. Don Davis (R-NC), emailed to every member of the North Carolina House and Senate, reported by the Fayetteville Observer,08-22-01

"My biggest fear is going to be going to the funeral of some young Iowa man or woman who dies in this conflict and having their mother or father come up to me and ask whether or not their son or daughter died for America, or died to save Bill Clinton's presidency. I don't know what I would say to those grieving parents. For that reason I believe the President must resign immediately."- Rep. Jim Nussle (R-IA), Congressional Record, H11963, 12-18-98

(Thanks to daria g for the quotes.)

Can anyone believe this body of people have the nerve to call anyone else uncivil?

It's gross intimidation tactics. With 60 percent of Americans against Iraq and Bush's approval rating hovering somewhere in the basement of 37 percent, the best they can do is smear everyone with the same broad, venomous brush. Peddle the politics of hate elsewhere. Even though you all are so very good at it, after nearly two decades, it's tiresome.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Republican Congressman Seuss speaks out!

This isn't mine, but worth a read! From Witlist:

Overheard from Congressman Seuss

That Abramoff!

That Abramoff!

I do not like that Abramoff!

"Would you like to play some golf?"

I do not want to play some golf.

I do not want to, Abramoff.

"We could fly you there for free.

Off to Scotland, by the sea."

I do not want to fly for free.

I don't like Scotland by the sea.

I do not want to play some golf.

I do not want to, Abramoff.

"Would you, could you, take this bribe?

Could you, would you, for the tribe?"

I would not, could not, take this bribe.

I could not, would not, for the tribe.

"If we strong-armed corporations

Into giving you donations?

They'd be funneled to your PAC.

Would you then cut us some slack?"

I would not, could not, cut you slack.

I do not care about my PAC.

I do not want to play some golf.

I do not want to, Abramoff.

"A plane! A plane! A plane! A plane!

Would you, could you, for a plane?"

I could not, would not, for a plane.

Not for a bribe, not for the tribe.

Not for donations from corporations.

Not for my PAC, not for some slack.

Not from any schmoe named Jack.

"Would you help us buy some ships

Perfect for quick gambling trips?

Talk to people in the know

For a little quid pro quo?

Oh come now, don't be a snob.

Let us give your wife a job."

I will not help you buy some ships.

I do not wish for gambling trips.

My wife does not need a job

Even if she is a snob.

We do not like bribes, can't you see?

Why won't you just let me be?

"You do not like bribes, so you say.

Try them, try them, and you may.

Try them and you may, I say."

Jack. If you will let me be

I will try them, then you'll see.

Say.... I do like playing golf!

I like it, I do, Abramoff!

I do like Scotland by the sea.

It's such a thrilling place to be!

And I will take this bribe.

And I will help the tribe.

And I will take donations

From big corporations.

And I will help you buy some ships.

And I will take quick gambling trips.

Say, I'll give anyone the shaft

As long as it involves some graft!

I do so like playing golf!

Thank you! Thank you,


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

What Constitution? We're being "reasonable"

Here we are again, visiting the land of "Whaaat??". . . this time with NSA's General Hayden as our guide.

Apparently, now if you break the law and you're the American government, intent is everything.

I'm working on Vince, my lawyer, to practice the following line:

"Sure, your honor. She broke the law. But look into her eyes. . .she didn't mean it, and plus you know, she looks so innocent and trustworthy. . ."

Think it'll work?

General Hayden, former director of NSA until 2005, hopes so. Speaking to a Knight-Ridder reporter about the NSA's spying program he said this:

QUESTION: Jonathan Landay with Knight Ridder. I'd like to stay on the same issue, and that had to do with the standard by which you use to target your wiretaps. I'm no lawyer, but my understanding is that the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution specifies that you must have probable cause to be able to do a search that does not violate an American's right against unlawful searches and seizures. Do you use --

GEN. HAYDEN: No, actually -- the Fourth Amendment actually protects all of us against unreasonable search and seizure.

QUESTION: But the --

GEN. HAYDEN: That's what it says.

QUESTION: But the measure is probable cause, I believe.

GEN. HAYDEN: The amendment says unreasonable search and seizure.

QUESTION: But does it not say probable --

GEN. HAYDEN: No. The amendment says --

QUESTION: The court standard, the legal standard --

GEN. HAYDEN: -- unreasonable search and seizure.

QUESTION: The legal standard is probable cause, General. You used the terms just a few minutes ago, "We reasonably believe." And a FISA court, my understanding is, would not give you a warrant if you went before them and say "we reasonably believe"; you have to go to the FISA court, or the attorney general has to go to the FISA court and say, "we have probable cause." And so what many people believe -- and I'd like you to respond to this -- is that what you've actually done is crafted a detour around the FISA court by creating a new standard of "reasonably believe" in place in probable cause because the FISA court will not give you a warrant based on reasonable belief, you have to show probable cause. Could you respond to that, please?

GEN. HAYDEN: Sure. I didn't craft the authorization. I am responding to a lawful order. All right? The attorney general has averred to the lawfulness of the order.

Just to be very clear -- and believe me, if there's any amendment to the Constitution that employees of the National Security Agency are familiar with, it's the Fourth. And it is a reasonableness standard in the Fourth Amendment. And so what you've raised to me -- and I'm not a lawyer, and don't want to become one -- what you've raised to me is, in terms of quoting the Fourth Amendment, is an issue of the Constitution. The constitutional standard is "reasonable." And we believe -- I am convinced that we are lawful because what it is we're doing is reasonable.

He also said:

Hayden said he wants to ensure that the NSA isn't viewed as trampling on the privacy rights of U.S. citizens. He said the nature of the NSA's mission requires it to be a secretive agency. But he added that the agency is trying to make certain that Americans know it follows the law while enhancing U.S. liberty and security.

"Could there be abuses? Of course, there could, but I am looking you and the American people in the eye and saying there are not," Hayden said.

Poor General Hayden. Must've missed social studies and civics classes too often when he was a kid.

The Fourth Amendment, in clear, unambiguous terms, states probable cause as the reason for search and seizure. Not -- trust the government not to abuse its power --- but probable cause. Without probable cause, FISA will not issue a warrant. Without a warrant (even retroactively) it's illegal to spy on American citizens. So why didn't Bush go to FISA, again?

But General Hayden apparently doesn't understand the difference between legal and illegal procedures. He believes there are two ways, the uh, traditional, Constitutional legal process - through FISA - and a second nebulous path, apparently listed somewhere in the really, really fine print of the Constitution: the "president's authorization."

You mean you never heard of the "president's authorization to spy on Americans without a warrant" in the Constitution?

Well, sheesh. Don't expect anyone else to do the legwork for ya! Go look it up yourself and when you find it, I'll give you $1,000,000 for your trouble.

Hayden thinks it's reasonable:

In the instances where this program applies, FISA does not give us the operational effect that the authorities that the president has given us give us. Look. I can't -- and I understand it's going to be an incomplete answer, and I can't give you all the fine print as to why, but let me just kind of reverse the answer just a bit. If FISA worked just as well, why wouldn't I use FISA? To save typing? No. There is an operational impact here, and I have two paths in front of me, both of them lawful, one FISA, one the presidential -- the president's authorization. And we go down this path because our operational judgment is it is much more effective. So we do it for that reason. I think I've got -- I think I've covered all the ones you raised.

So...I wonder if this new "nuance" will work for us, if we break the law?

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Michael Savage: "Welcome to Camp!"

Been reading many essays and articles on the demonization of Jews prior to the Holocaust (guess umpteen viewings of Schindler's List and Shoah just weren't enough) and, frankly, the parallels are staggering in rhetoric, action and media promotion between that time and the rightwing media today.

MSNBC's gang of nightly talking hairdos (minus the wonderful Keith Olbermann, of course) were not content to compare Democratic Senators and Michael Moore to Osama bin Laden for just one night. They ratcheted-up the vitriol and went for a second night - this time, lumping in all progressives in America.

Well, thanks!

I don't even have a beard.

Suppose we could cull together some makeshift turbans from bath towels, but that's where my compromise ends.


Michael Savage, that off-the-rails rightwing radio guy, yesterday (again) proposed all subversives -- left-leaning liberals and opponents of the war -- be rounded up and placed in internment camps. Not the first time, either. From an October 2005 writeup:

"Savage proposes using totalitarian tactis to oppose all “subversives,” “communists,” and “Islamo-fascism.” Tonight he explained in explicit terms that he thinks we should round up all American “subversives,” put them in internment camps, to charge them with treason, and either execute or deport them."

As to facial hair, I'll leave it up to you to ponder if Michael wears a tiny, square, closely clipped moustache. (Neener, neener, neener. We can make comparisons between evil maniacs and you guys, too.)

So, while we're packing for Camp, just a few questions:

1. Will the rest of America interrupt their television viewing long enough to notice we're gone, or are you guys gonna pull us from our homes during football season?

2. Can some enterprising media mogul get a reality series out of Savage's proposed genocide?

They could call it, say American Idolator , or Fascism Factor . If it's on CBS, a great title would be Survivor: Not Likely!

3. When it's all over and the war crimes tribunals begin, is there gonna be video and photographs as evidence? Because if I'm gonna be naked, piled atop my fellow citizens in our American mass graves, you have to tell me now. I've gotta diet first.

Fifty years from now I wouldn't want to be a footnote of America's shameful history still carrying that extra ten pounds from the holidays.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Oh my God! Hide the virgins - it's Michael Myers, er Osama!

Oh, fatbrained Chrissy Matthews was sorta right last night. When comparing Osama Bin Laden to Michael Moore -- a laughable construct even from C student Tweety Matthews, he got the first name right: Michael.

Not Moore. Myers.

No, not that funny guy from peace-loving Canada. The other one.

Big white face, freaky hair, perennial huge knife in hand.

Michael Myers.

Remember him? Turns out he and Bin Laden have quite a bit in common.

Like Michael, when Osama's on the move, he looks foreboding. In between sequels, while in repose, people have enough time to look more closely. And when they do...

He looks rather silly. Oooh, big scary white mask..er, turban. Clothes that blend into the surroundings. A big lumbering, ponderous frame. Oh nooes! I think I'm gonna wet myself!

Everyone forgets all about Myers, every year, until Hollywood and Halloween trot him out again to try and scare the beejesus out of us. Why? It's a good marketing tactic. For whatever reason, fear of Mike has lasted decades, too. Maybe it's his general absence the rest of the year.

Michael Myers sells: he sells movies, costumes, books, conversation, intrigue, theme music and lots and lots of masks.

Osama sells, too - sells Bush's policies by criticizing them (because what person would actually want to agree with Michael Myers about anything?), sells young patriots a reason to join the military, replaces fear with legitimate questions and gives everyone someone to fear and distrust.

A common enemy to get everyone rooting for Dear Leader...uh, I mean Jamie Lee Curtis.

Which is why they both show up every year, like clockwork, menacing their way onto screens everywhere.

Where exactly does a psychotic killer hide the other 364 days? Is there some kind of Mass Murderers Halfway House? The YMCA, where the "M" stands for massacre, maybe.

And just how inept is Donald Pleasence that he and the law can't catch up? Fer Chrissakes, the guy sorta sticks out. Kinda like a 6"4 arab dragging a dialysis machine behind him.

So, no more bungling that Bush and our government, apparently. Yet still laughably ubelievable, even for a movie.

Another commonality? Like Myers, Osama just won't die.

We can try to 'smoke him out,' chase him down, bring him to justice, even pretend he doesn't exist. He'll just pull out the proverbial Laurie Strode knitting needles, dust himself off, stitch himself up, and wait 'til next September 11 or October 31.

He's got all the time in the world, as does Myers. They're both singleminded in focus, and neither has to juggle jobs, bills and a social life.

Both have but one lifelong cause, if you will: to scare their chosen targets.

To accomplish his goal, Myers uses ropes, guns, knives, and the occasional pushing a guys face through the bars of the door. But he always just kills other people to scare Laurie Strode. If it was all about actually murdering her, Myers would've gotten Laurie Strode somewhere between the first film and its first regrettable sequel.

Bin Laden uses suicide attackers, perpetual war, bankrupting nations through defense spending and the occasional video threat. But if he really wanted to harm America, he could've by now. As the 9/11 commission points out - we're no safer today than we were then.

They can't die. Why? Because it would be bad for business.

Both of them always manage to miraculously show up whenever the public thinks it's safe: safe to come outside and breathe the air, safe to walk through a house without turning on the damn lights, safe to begin questioning how in the world we got ourselves into a war with a country that had nothing to do with 9/11.

Whenever any of the above happens - whoop, there he is. Ooh, lookout behind that Bush, America -- I think I saw the scary killer!

Unfortunately for Myers, the viewing public has wised-up.

Only so much menacing scares people, no matter how willing we are to suspend disbelief. It becomes predictable. So predictable that it's no longer scary. The only fun left resides in wondering when he's gonna come back. Because no money maker goes without another sequel, whenever possible.

You see, the audience, like Laurie Strode, adapted to Myers.

Like most mammals, she recognized the tell-tale signs: the calendar, the sound of laborious breathing through a mask, a smell of latex, lack of electricity and familiar scary music wafting through the night air.

We're all adaptable. It's the greatest quality humans have - the ability to use reason and logic as a means towards recognizing patterns and predicting what will happen next.

We cannot survive without it, in fact.

But a funny thing happens as we adapt: we begin to doubt and question when events do not make sense, or when they seem too convenient. Logic begins to overrule emotion, particularly fear. We start to see more clearly. Thanks to the law of diminishing returns, we can safely say the public won't muster much enthusiasm for the next "show."

Myers, Bin Laden, threats, fear mongering, taxes, clogged toilets: just more crap we gotta contend with, sooner or later. And when we finally get close enough to rip off the mask...any bets on who really hides beneath it?

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Futureworld, Part I: Elapsing into Midnight

Come with me, if you will, to the cozy home of Megan Singer, 29.

Single, Megan works as a temp during the day, a Wal-Mart stocker by night. It pays the bills, including those student loans. Pretty useless, all things considered, but Megan hopes what CNN says is right: new jobs, better jobs, work in nanotechnology and alternative fuels, is on the rise.

Her chemical engineering degree, OSU Class of 2005, sits on the desk, a layer of dust obscuring the sheen of a cheap plastic protective layer. Right next to her Wal-Mart nametag. Still, she's proud of it. The loans are no picnic, to be sure, but back then you could still get Federal Grant money to make it easier. That was the last year most student aid was offered to people like her, and before the Education Verificators hit the campus, sitting in on classes and monitoring the professors' statements.

The year is 2010.

John McCain, our 44th President, appointed Janice Rogers Brown to the Supreme Court and Brown has sailed through the confirmation hearings, refusing to straightforwardly state her views on typical hot-button issues: executive power to appoint, rather than vote on, appellate and trial level judges; dismantling social security completely, abortion. The usual stuff.

In the first case facing her since being appointed, Brown joined Chief Justice Roberts, Antonin Scalia and Sam Alito to strike down Roe v. Wade and turn the issue of abortion to the states.

A year later, Ohio joined 22 other states in abolishing abortion.

Megan got her last prescription of birth control pills at a discount from Planned Parenthood six months ago, right before it closed. Like most low wage earners, she hasn't had healthcare coverage for three years. Besides, Wal-Mart and Target pharmacists won't fill birth control prescriptions, citing their religion prohibits such practices.

Later that month, Concerned Women for America, after a lengthy PR campaign highlighting the horrors and dangers of condoms and how 13 year old girls are frequently caught using the Pill, gathered enough signatures to bring the matter to vote. After the Diebold machines finished tallying, birth control pills were outlawed. Pre-marriage Preservation, a new law based on abstinence, was signed.

Megan spends her free evenings with friends.

They switch meeting spots from house to house, allowing one another to turn off their own furnaces one night a week. With gas and electric prices rising 27 and 47 percent respectively since she first moved into the apartment five years ago, every little bit helps.

Besides, this makes them less likely to get caught.

Megan, along with her friends Lily, Christine and Joan, started self-publishing a montly newsletter for single women, called Birth Control Review.

It started as a lark, a way to release some of the pressures: jobs, boyfriends, husbands, pregnancy scares. Four months later, their little project has a readership of 45,000 women in their state, and is filled with cartoons, poetry, reader contributions, letters and recipes. Not their mothers' recipes, exactly.

Distribution would be easier online, the women agree.

Unfortunately, weekly Internet records are collected by the federal government from the two ISPs serving America.

For National Security purposes, all IP addresses are vetted and then registered with the government. Failing to keep personal information updated on IP request forms can, and often does, result in imprisonment.

Also inherently dangerous: writing and distributing literature about women's issues. Considered subversion of the law, it's included in the section of the Patriot Act addressing disruptors .

In 2006, the label became a criminal designation strictly for those who would attend political rallies.

Over the past five years the Unitary Executive, then Bush, expanded the definition to include any citizen of the US who speaks or acts against any state or federal Civil Rights Freedom Law. Should a citizen be labeled a disruptor, they can be sent to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to await trial. Sometimes for years.

Included in the Civil Rights Freedom law is the right for a state to be Baby Proactive and Free Speech Aware. Writing a woman's birth control newsletter isn't in line with these statutes. It's considered seditious.

No law is too sacred to break, not even now.

That's Megan's oft-repeated motto whenever one of her friends starts worrying. It used to be comforting to them, hearing that from her. Now that the group's branched out into more dangerous activities, she's not so sure.

....To be continued

Best text-based game, ever: Iraqi Invasion

Back in the day when IBM clone 286 computers were all the rage we used to play MUDDs, or text-based group computer games. My favorite was Dragon's Inn on a local Bulletin Board that also carried the Barney Food Fight game where you would take out latent aggression by pelting the big purple annoyance with various foodstuffs.

Anyway, this is a new MUDD, brought to you from the fantastically fertile mind of Matthew Baldwin and his Defective Yeti blog:

The game begins like this. To see how it ends, head to Matthew's blog via the link above:


Iraqi Invasion: A Text Misadventure
Revision 88 / Serial number 54892

Oval Office
You are standing inside a White House, having just been elected to the presidency of the United States. You knew Scalia would pull through for you.

There is a large desk here, along with a few chairs and couches. The presidential seal is in the middle of the room and there is a full-length mirror upon the wall.

What do you want to do now?

You are not able to do that, yet.

Self-reflection is not your strong suit.

It's not that kind of seal.

They are two several chairs arranged around the center of the room, along with two couches. Under one couch you find Clinton's shoes.

You are unable to fill Clinton's shoes.

It is a large, oak desk, with several drawers.

In one drawer you find a bag of pretzels.

I don't think the pretzel would agree with you.

You are not able to do that, yet.

You are not able to do that, yet.

You are on the far right of the political spectrum.
Jesse Helms is here.
John Ashcroft is here.

Radical Right
You are on the extreme right of the political spectrum.
Dick Cheney is here.
Pat Robertson is here.

You are not able to do that, yet.


It gets even better.

Edit: Link to Matthew's blog wasn't working. Is now.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Brave new world - but first, a drug detour

I planned and promised to write about Bush Futureworld. The goal was to skip through a seemingly foregone conclusion that Alito, and perhaps another Bush SCOTUS pick, would radically alter the course of all our lives and move into the reality of how we'd be affected and, most importantly, how we could fight back.

Not that I really recognize our world, today: UCLA students urged (and paid) to turn their professors in for any anti-war, anti-Bush speech, and citizens being denied access to their own NSA records, in direct opposition to the Freedom of Information Act.

Apparently, NSA now responds to requests with a "we cannot confirm or deny there are records about you. . .due to National Security concerns." For a good shudder, click on the story.

Minus the more helpful shared wealth features of Communism, we're starting to make Stalin proud.

Anyway, all this will have to wait. Instead, I have to figure out how to keep my parents enrolled in the best possible Medicare plan, due to the changes in light of the new Medicare law and Part D.

Which, in case you didn't know, is rolling out horrifically since January 1:

Pharmacies are doling out meds, fingers crossed for insurance reimbursement. Many are working overtime and well into the evening, trying to handle all the snafu's Bush's new plan has created.

States won't be able to keep up with the costs...don't be surprised when taxes increase because of it.

Seniors don't understand. Reading through the Medicare website FAQ's, I can see why. It's doublespeak -- deliberately confusing, obfuscating and just a big flipping mess.

What's even messier: people are being automatically enrolled in coverage without consultation. Said coverage won't provide for their current medications. This will result in people either not taking their needed medicines or utter bankruptcy. Well, if we could still declare bankruptcy, I mean.

For more information on how big pharma and private insurance are set to make out like bandits at the expense of seniors and disabled Americans, click on this sentence. Families USA has a pretty straightforward explanation of how badly the Republican Congress sold us out.

Ugly and despicable, but straightforward.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Just about sums it up for me

In a heartfelt plea for Al Gore to consider a 2008 presidential bid, MaryScott O'Connor sells it like only she can. While the entire diary is great, one part just hit me like a big Greyhound doing 80.

It speaks to exactly where I am , no matter where I am: work, home, sleeping, watching tv, trying to enjoy my previously scheduled life. The weight of it tugs at my shoulders, causing me to nearly slump over; it taints good times and renders bad times completely hopeless:

"In my darkest hours of reflection on the state of the world and, specifically, my own country, I often lean dangerously close to yearning for and envy of the widespread ignorance of its own government's actions that is endemic in the general population of the United States of America.

"Oh, how I long for ignorance," I sigh. "Ignorance must truly be bliss - for the agonisingly acute degree of being informed in which I now regularly exist is surely the opposite of bliss."

That desire to unring the bell, to not know today what you didn't know yesterday, is insidious. It seduces with promises of instant pain relief, blind comfort in mindless daily activity, immediate mental opiate.

"Just stop," it whispers. "Stop thinking. Stop worrying. Let. it. go. Don't worry, someone else will worry about it for you."

Like a mugger obscured by trees, behind that false comfort lies something else, just waiting to spring: guilt.

Once you know what's really happening to the country, it's impossible and reprehensible to shrug and walk away. That's what brought us to this precipice in the first place.

In the next few days, I intend to explore what is and what should never be - but likely will be - should Alito, and potentially a subsequent conservative SCOTUS nominee, be confirmed.

Can't unring the bell. Time to confront the ugly possibilities and find a plan.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Woo-hoo: Philip Seymour Hoffman wins Best Actor Golden Globe

Looks like he's rounding third and heading for home...or better than home, AMPAS. Maybe letting the film ride on his coattails, too.

Hoffman's been on the short list for an Oscar nod since the film came out.

The real story is Capote's stunning turnaround. After being virtually forgotten for awhile, it picked up Best Film from the National Board of Film Critics on Saturday.

Now, I've yet to see Brokeback Mountain, but it's hard to imagine anyone turning in a more mesmerizing or amazing performance than Hoffman's portrayal of Truman Capote in Capote.

Word is, Heath Ledger is excellent in BBM. It's hard to compare the two roles, really. One is a wholesale creation from a fictitious character, the other is a somewhat unsympathetic, eccentric real person. Hard to say which would be harder to create.

I'm truly psyched that Hoffman's getting his due. After amazing turns in Magnolia, Almost Famous, The Talented Mr. Ripley and others, he's one of our most versatile undersung actors.

His performance, and the film, haunts you long after you leave the theater. Oh, and frankly, I find him every bit as hot as Clooney.

Clooney wins, blasts Jack Abramoff

George Clooney, accepting his award for Syriana, took the time for an unlikely thank you to Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

"I thought Paul Giamatti would win...I want to thank Jack Abramoff, you know, just because. I’m the first one out, lets get this thing rolling. I don’t know why. Who would name their kid Jack with the last words ‘off’ at the end of your last name? No wonder that guy is screwed up. Alright I just got bleeped."

I agree. Thanks, Jack. Time for the entire ball of yarn to unravel and expose the rest of the greedy Republican criminals. Looking forward to hearing you sing like a canary.

As to Clooney -- back in his tv days I thought he might just be another pretty face. After Syriana and Good Night and Good Luck, it's great to know I was wrong. Look at that face.

Even better, look at his politics. They're hot.

Thank you, Al Gore: Bush Broke the Law

I am so very moved by Al Gore's efforts today to explain why America is in Constitutional Crisis.

His speech hit every issue over which many of us are horrified and still trying to make sense of the indefensible and senseless - from jailing Americans without benefit of charges, to torture, extraordinary rendition, spying -- all symptoms and signs of the President's total disregard for the rule of law in America.

Gore gets it. Thank God. Because the media, nearly all Republicans (save a few, like Bob Barr) and most Democratic leaders won't even discuss it.

We are a country bound to the rule of law, not the rule of men.

One important piece of Gore's speech, below. You can read the full text, here.

The President has also claimed that he has the authority to kidnap individuals in foreign countries and deliver them for imprisonment and interrogation on our behalf by autocratic regimes in nations that are infamous for the cruelty of their techniques for torture.

Some of our traditional allies have been shocked by these new practices on the part of our nation. The British Ambassador to Uzbekistan - one of those nations with the worst reputations for torture in its prisons - registered a complaint to his home office about the senselessness and cruelty of the new U.S. practice: "This material is useless - we are selling our souls for dross. It is in fact positively harmful."

Can it be true that any president really has such powers under our Constitution? If the answer is "yes" then under the theory by which these acts are committed, are there any acts that can on their face be prohibited? If the President has the inherent authority to eavesdrop, imprison citizens on his own declaration, kidnap and torture, then what can't he do?

The Dean of Yale Law School, Harold Koh, said after analyzing the Executive Branch's claims of these previously unrecognized powers: "If the President has commander-in-chief power to commit torture, he has the power to commit genocide, to sanction slavery, to promote apartheid, to license summary execution."

The fact that our normal safeguards have thus far failed to contain this unprecedented expansion of executive power is deeply troubling. This failure is due in part to the fact that the Executive Branch has followed a determined strategy of obfuscating, delaying, withholding information, appearing to yield but then refusing to do so and dissembling in order to frustrate the efforts of the legislative and judicial branches to restore our constitutional balance.

For example, after appearing to support legislation sponsored by John McCain to stop the continuation of torture, the President declared in the act of signing the bill that he reserved the right not to comply with it.

And here we all sit, willing architects of our own downfall, happily pretending none of this is new, none of it matters, and "everything's gonna be alright."

Unless we halt the President's unbridled lawlessness, it's going to get worse. A whole lot worse.

From Gore:

"I call upon Democratic and Republican members of Congress today to uphold your oath of office and defend the Constitution. Stop going along to get along. Start acting like the independent and co-equal branch of government you're supposed to be.

But there is yet another Constitutional player whose pulse must be taken and whose role must be examined in order to understand the dangerous imbalance that has emerged with the efforts by the Executive Branch to dominate our constitutional system.

We the people are-collectively-still the key to the survival of America's democracy. We-as Lincoln put it, "[e]ven we here"-must examine our own role as citizens in allowing and not preventing the shocking decay and degradation of our democracy.

Thomas Jefferson said: "An informed citizenry is the only true repository of the public will."

The only way to stop it is to stand up. Now. Talk to friends, to neighbors. Explain why warrantless spying is wrong. Why torture in our name is a horrible (and failing) practice. Why it's wrong to imprison anyone without benefit of formal charges. Why we don't have to trade liberty for security.

Grab your Sharpie and write "IMPEACH" in big bold letters on every bit of legal currency in your wallet. Do it every single day. Or Freeway Blog -- it's a cheap and easy way to get the word out.

Each generation has a call to action that cannot be ignored. Those who fought and died for American liberty had theirs; to honor their sacrifice and keep America a nation of laws, this is ours.

Our Founding Fathers understood. So did Martin Luther King, who we celebrate today. So does Al Gore. So do I. And so do you.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Why fighting demonization is necessary

Spent the better part of today wondering if mentioning Kate O'Beirne and bothering to address her silly assertion that women are ruining society, schools and sports (Oh, the horror - not SPORTS!) is really worth it.

It is.

Our tendency to not take seriously her screed, and that of Coulter, Hannity, or Limbaugh would be fine, were we were still in a predominently rational environment.

We're not.

It's hard for some people to realize that, if they're not reading or listening to right-wing bloggers and media. Before last year, I would never have believed there are Americans advocating for the imprisonment and death of those who disagree with Bush's policies.

But there are.

The link is to rightwing Free Republic, and a conversation about Russell Tice, the NSA whistleblower who exposed the wiretap scandal. Would that it were an anomaly. Unfortunately, statements like this are made hourly, about all who question Bush - leaders, people on the Internet, commentators like James Wolcott.

Here's just one comment made regarding Tice:

To: Angel

This guy is the reason why we have the death penalty. He is a traitor and he is traitorous because of his ego and petty sense of self worth.

10 posted on 01/13/2006 8:26:50 PM PST by Cenobite (Can't spell unethical without the U.N.)

And another, on whether or not Christiane Amanpour was a wiretapping target:

Yes...Andrea Mitchell is another one of the lying
enemy rat beasts. She's another dirty traitor
anti-american baby genociding lying pig rat beast.

I'd enjoy watching *her* hang until dead on a
US executioners gallows *too*.

40 posted on 01/06/2006 9:49:05 AM PST by Baby Driver

If you're interested, there are plenty more. Blame my weak stomach for not posting further examples. But the links provide greater detail.

James Wolcott also points out this alarming trend, fueled directly by people such as Limbaugh, who regularly refers to Democrats as treasonous, even going so far as to advocate their bombing.

"The warbloggers profess to be outraged, sickened, and appalled by Mideast violence yet increasingly are giving vent to their own violent fantasies directed at domestic foes, whom they consider traitors, appeasers, etc.

They fantasize about their least favorite bloggers being beheaded, or hanging liberal traitors from lamp posts should there be another terrorist attack. Sites like Little Green Footballs, Atlas Shrugs, and their ilk have a lynch-mob mentality that has gotten uglier as the situation in Iraq has worsened.

They blame Cindy Sheehan (recently voted "Idiotarian of the Year" at LGF), Michael Moore, and liberal Democrats for how badly the war has gone because they don't have the courage and honesty to blame the real architects of failure. . .

Whether left, right or moderate in political persuasion, Americans ignore this growing trend at our own risk, I believe.

What started in 2001 as just a few crackpot comments here and there is now sanctioned by Limbaugh, who called for the bombing of Democrats during a recent radio show and who never fails to bandy about the word "treason."

Even President Bush, with last week's statement equating Iraq critics with "giving aid and comfort" to the enemy, essentially labeled treasonous those who disagree.

Just the kind of green light some of his supporters are looking for to take radical action.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

O'Beirne, baby? Burn

During her recent press junket for a book release, NRO's Kate O'Beirne challenges Coulter for the "Bigmouth Rightwing Harpy of the Year" award --- and wins!

Thanks to Jane over at firedog lake O'Beirne's scathing comments about feminists aren't going unrewarded. Do make a stop at Amazon.com and write a review; let O'Beirne know what you think of her book!

I did. And went to both junior and senior proms, actually.

All fun aside, O'Beirne's words are designed to spark a war where none should exist: between the majority of women who essentially want the same things: parity of income, equal representation and to get as far as we can and want on the merits of our own talents.

How this translates into harming society, hating men or any of O'Beirne's attack rhetoric is beyond understanding. Truthfully, it's not worth considering.

Beyond her scope of study, the rest of history is filled with women who were characterized as "radical" for their time: Woolf, George Eliot, George Sand, and the Olcott women, to name a few.

First, Eliot (Mary Ann Evans). Her humanist views, affair with a married man, and literary themes regarding marriage in the book MiddleMarch (1871-72) scandalized those around her in the Victorian age.

When she visited Cambridge University in 1873 and discussed with F.W.H. Mayers of "the words of God, Immortality, and Duty", she pronounced "with terrible earnestness how inconceivable was the first, how unbelievable was the second, and yet how peremptory and absolute the third."

Not to be outdone, France's George Sand (Amandine-Aurore-Lucile Dupin) carried on numerous love affairs outside marriage, most infamously one with Chopin. Refusing the confines afforded women in 19th century Paris, Sand spent the bulk of adulthood dressed as a man in order to explore what life didn't have to offer her gender:

"I ask the support of no one, neither to kill someone for me, gather a bouquet, correct a proof, nor to go with me to the theater. I go there on my own, as a man, by choice; and when I want flowers, I go on foot, by myself, to the Alps."

Clearly she was ruining the 1800's as people knew them. Of course, she had a little help from the American Olcotts: Louisa May and her mother.

Noted Concord, MA transcendentalists Bronson and Abigail Alcott raised their daughters to believe strongly in equal rights and opportunity. Mrs. Alcott wrote of being disturbed by the roles afforded women up to that time:

"Wherever I turn I see the yoke on woman in some form or other. On some it sits easy, for they are but beasts of burden. On others, pride hushes them to silence; no complaint is made, for they scorn pity or sympathy. On some it galls and chafes; they feel assured by every instinct of their nature that they were designed for a higher, nobler calling than to 'drag life's lengthening chain along.'"

~Journal of Mrs. Alcott, 1843

And Louisa herself, in books, essays, even letters to friends, championed what she called "the mothers of the Revolution" for women's rights:

Having great faith in young America, it gave me infinite satisfaction to find such eager interest in all good things, and to see how irresistibly the spirit of our new revolution, stirring in the hearts of sisters and daughters, was converting the fathers and brothers who loved them. One shrewd, business man said, when talking of Woman Suffrage, 'How can I help believing in it, when I've a wife and six girls who are bound to have it?'

And many a grateful brother declared he could not be mean enough to shut any door in the face of the sister who had made him what he was.

So I close this hasty note by proposing three cheers for the girls of 1876 -- and the hope that they will prove themselves worthy descendants of the mothers of this Revolution, remembering that

'Earth's fanatics make, Too often Heaven's saints.'"

~Louisa May Alcott, letter to Lucy Stone, 1876

Now, quite obviously, I've selected but a few examples to illustrate the larger point that women who paved the way for the freedom and opportunity we and our daughters enjoy had what were considered at the time to be outlandish beliefs and lifestyles.

Cherrypicking examples, no matter how certain one is in the rightness of their beliefs, is never a good thing, however.

Yet it's just what O'Beirne does: from the caustic caricatures on the cover to her withering rebuke of a television character played by Sarah Jessica Parker on HBO, she demonizes all champions of female rights through direct maligning of four. One of whom isn't even a real person.

Where the comparison between this blog entry and O'Beirne's poison-penned book ends is here: I could easily spend days, even weeks, listing the very real women who were movers and shakers for the women's movement and later beloved by subsequent generations for their efforts, truly painting a large picture perspective of women's contributions to society.

Despite more resources, a book deal and (one assumes) more time, she could only offer a few "examples" of women her title indicates she believes are "making the world worse."

Most likely because the entire construct exists only in the mind of reactionaries like O'Beirne.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Another rightwing lie exposed: Clinton and wiretaps

From Georgia10 and last night's Nightline, Republican lies about Clinton's adherence to obtaining FISA warrants are now dead in the water:

"Former President Clinton said Thursday that he never ordered wiretaps of American citizens without obtaining a court order, as President Bush has acknowledged he has done.

Clinton, in an interview broadcast Thursday on the ABC News program ''Nightline,'' said his administration either received court approval before authorizing a wiretap or went to court within three days after to get permission, as required by law.

''We either went there and asked for the approval or, if there was an emergency and we had to do it beforehand, then we filed within three days afterward and gave them a chance to second guess it,'' Clinton told ABC.

It was confirmed by NSA whistleblower Russ Tice, on video here

Shocking, isn't it - the speculation that Clinton didn't follow the law with regard to FISA turns out to be just that - speculation, innuendo and an outright lie.

Yeah, shocking.

This just in: today the sky will be above us.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Cry me a river, Martha Alito

Voted in high school "Most Likely to Get Misty," I have trouble not sympathizing when someone is moved to tears -- over practically anything.

Previous sodden blog entries attest to the fact everything from little kids Christmas pageants, good songs to, oh, watching fellow citizens die on the streets can and does make me cry. But Mrs. Alito's strange outburst yesterday is beyond words. Ditto for the media feeding frenzy over it, and the right-wing's attempt to use female tears as political talking points.

Where were these bloggers and media for the ten years Oxy Limbaugh made fun of Chelsea Clinton and Hillary's moments of public displays of emotion? I mean, if crying in response to tough questioning makes the questioners such meanies, their collective silence on the two ladies' above, as well as taking a hardline against Katrina victims, screams hypocrisy of the highest order.

Martha Alito's tears strike me as both opportunistic and shallow. Sue me.

For three days she's been a disruptive, smirking presence in the Senate, mostly during serious questioning of her husband's self-professed affiliation with Concerned Alumni of Princeton, or CAP.

If my husband chose to affiliate with a group of raging misogynists, I'd cry, too. But I'd have divorced him, either before 1985 or right after he proudly noted this relationship on his resume.

If my husband promoted strip-searches of ten year olds, I'd bawl my eyes out. But we'd be talking child support, visitation and alimony ten minutes later.

Frankly, I'd be weeping most of the time just reading his judicial opinions. And then introducing them as Exhibits A-Z in the divorce proceedings.

It's hard to muster up a whole lot of sympathy for a woman who chooses to stay with someone like Sam Alito, other than to wonder what type of internal war she must have with herself: "Do I support my husband more than myself? Does his lack of support for women in general translate into disrespect for me?"

Mrs. Alito, take a look around: from Iraq to Katrina, our economy beholden to Asia, the civil liberties your husband and others are taking away from United States' citizens, there's plenty of real, serious issues you could cry over.

Unless, of course, your tears indicate newfound understanding of why a Republican like Lindsey Graham (who, incidentally, was part of last weekend's "dress rehearsal" of Alito's hearings....hmmm) would actually have to ask your husband if he was a closeted bigot.

Perhaps you were crying because he's not really in the closet on his views, and you know it firsthand.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Well, 50 percent of the country thinks Brad Pitt's a good actor, too

Since that's the case, I'm not gonna get too depressed over how many people think the government has every reason to hang on American citizens like Mickey Rourke playing a drunk, horny barfly.

Not that I don't trust your overall judgment, America.

Just that I watched The People's Choice Awards last night, so I'm skeptical of your taste. I mean, Ray Romano, again? Is that the best you can do? And don't even get me started on how you continue to snub Gilmore Girls -- the wordiest, wittiest show on television.

Yes, nuance is not your strong suit, and the nuances of the Bill of Rights must be real headscratchers. So, let's cover this briefly for the full 50 percent who believe warrantless spying on Americans is keen:

FISA rules allow for warrantless spying, provided the court is petitioned within 72 hours of the event for a retroactive warrant. The problem with what Bush has allowed is the fact that he and those he authorizes never returned for a warrant in most instances.

It's not "Well, there was no time."

There was. And retroactively, to boot.

It's not "Well, these are bad guys!"

We don't know who exactly was being spied upon. According to Russell Tice, a whistleblower on the NSA featured on Nightline last night, if the NSA was using its full capabilities and eavesdropping technology, the number of those with calls being intercepted is somewhere in the millions.

"That would mean for most Americans that if they conducted, or you know, placed an overseas communication, more than likely they were sucked into that vacuum," Tice said.

It's not "Well, the FISA court has strident rules that have to be worked around!"

Of all the requests FISA received for warrants, they've only turned down a handful, four or five in total.

It's not "Well, we're at war!!

Only Congress has the right to declare war. Whatever we're "at" in Iraq, it's not a legally declared war. It doesn't provide our Unitary Executive the right to run willy-nilly using technology like kids use glass cups against walls to listen-in on their parents.

It's not "Well, Carter and Clinton and Magilla Gorilla did it, too!"

Carter and Clinton followed the rules of FISA. Yes, they used FISA, but with warrants. And in the case of Magilla, extra bananas. Warrants are the entire issue. Period.

Logic dictates that in the absence of these strawmen arguments we're left with a serious and disturbing question: If FISA is lenient, allows for retroactive warrants and former presidents followed their rules --- Bush knows he can't get warrants for the groups and individuals on whom he's spying. And if FISA won't issue warrants, it's because no just cause exists to issue them.

So, then, why are we going forward with the Alito nomination hearings?

Not that they're without value, if one finds such spectacle amusing.

So far, Alito's shown himself to be to the right of wingnut Bork, who was judged "too radical" to sit on the Supreme Court. He's refused to deem Roe as a settled precedent. He's exposed himself as the judicial DDR nominee, dancing around faster and more adroitly than even John Roberts, former Senate hearing "Dance, Dance Revolution" master.

Alito's hogging the dance floor so much, he's left us with little wiggle room ourselves: based on his "answers" thus far, he's either a dangerous radical to the right of Bork or a full-on liar. Take your pick.

But, that aside, really -- why go forward ? It can't just be another vehicle for Biden bloviations. We can have those anytime. Just turn on Meet the Press any Sunday: there's Joe.

What we shouldn't be having are nomination hearings for Bush's court picks until after we've had a full investigation into wiretapping. If our representatives had any guts whatsoever, they'd organize and stage a walkout on this hearing, demanding the issue of illegal wiretapping get their full, undivided first attention.

It's painful to see half the country roll completely over on their own Constitutional rights just mere decades after we impeached Nixon for less. What has happened to our electorate? Are we really more afraid of terrorists than a corrupt government engaged in illegal activities against its own people?

We're trading freedom for safety, apparently blind to the fact that we're less safe today than we were on 9/11, according to the 9/11 Commission leaders. So depressing and pathetic is this fact, I'm surprised it hasn't won its own People's Choice Award.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Saffire: The Uppity Blues Women hit town March 25

One of my favorite blues groups, and three of the sharpest ladies around, Saffire: The Uppity Blues Women released their 2006 schedule and it includes a visit here in March. I've not seen them in six or seven years; should be great. Give their site a visit and give 'em a listen.

Bird flu hits humans in Turkey; Blair and US turkey busted on hit plans

Suggesting the virus has learned to mutate from birds to humans, Bloomberg reported 5 new cases of bird flu. This brings the total up to approximately 15, all of which are bird-to-human contact. So far, no person to person transfer.

The government issued a press release suggesting people 'stock up' on various items. Of course, it's a little impossible to stock-up on prescription drugs that are unavailable.

Things are heating up with whistleblowing on Bush and Blair's 2004 plans to bomb news source Al Jazeera. UK's The Guardian reports this information was passed to a California Democratic supporter last year. One wonders why the story didn't become public sooner.

Speaking of stories, Washington Post is reporting a New York Times reporter was robbed and killed in his home in DC this weekend, in a nice, low-crime area of town.

Coincidentally, his last stories were on Alito and wiretapping.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

While the cat's away

So, with my kid out of the house at an anime convention all weekend, with her permission I'm using her new toy -- the Creative Nomad Zen Xtra Jukebox. Like an I-Pod, only cheaper and with 30 gigs. She'd wanted a Zen Micro, with only 5G. But, for the same price I got her this MP3 player with a bigger harddrive than our own home computer.

Only one problem: now I want one. Badly. Sitting here shuffling through Blind Melon, BNL, John Lennon, some strange but neat Japanese music, Guster and a Bach Concerto in the time it takes to type this sentence is simply an amazing experience. It really is like having your very own mix cd with, oh, 6000 or so songs, an equalizer and an alarm/sleep timer.

Katrina: Four months later

The Rude Pundit took a trip to NOLA this week. His pics and stories are insightful and sad.

Little has changed in the Lower Ninth Ward; 6000 people are still missing.

Bodies, as detailed in the NY Times, were still being discovered by family members as late as Christmas week. Because, you know, it's hard work to screw-up even worse with the recovery and reconstruction -- but the Bush administration and NOLA officials refuse to stop trying.

Speaking of screwing-up, there's ongoing, furious debate over plans for reconstruction. Ninth Ward citizens stood down a bulldozer recently, refusing to lose what's left of their homes to overzealous developers. Lest it seem like a sentimental, illogical act, click to the article linked at the underlined text:

"But after he spoke, Chief Deputy City Attorney Evelyn Pugh reminded the council that city law allows structures deemed in imminent danger of collapse to be torn down without consent, or even notification, of the owner. A Nagin spokeswoman later also said the city does not need an owner's permission to demolish some homes.

After Meffert announced the planned demolitions in late December, The Times-Picayune requested copies of the lists of all buildings marked with red tags and all those slated for immediate razing.

But no list was released until Thursday, when the city gave the newspaper the addresses of 1,957 properties in what officials called the Red Danger List. Officials said the group was essentially a winnowed-down version of the initial 2,500 endangered properties Meffert cited earlier."

Shady, to say the least. Housing demolition isn't undertaken overnight. Our first home was a house slated for the wrecking ball, and we bought it literally the day before tear-down.

It sat for three years before that time, empty - unless one counts vandals, druggies and squirrels nesting in the second floor. Would've sat longer, had it not been in a nicer urban area with very concerned, and vocal, neighbors.

Speed and efficiency are not the buzzwords of wrecking crews; the Times-Picayune and homeowners' skepticism is warranted.

Understandably, there's equal trepidation over a proposed government payout plan for NOLA homeowners; it includes repayment at 60 percent of home equity. The plan - lengthy and convoluted as most, perhaps more than most, fails to qualify a number of parameters -- most disturbing is the question of equity at what rate: current values, which are nil, pre-Katrina values, or market value after future development.

That matters tremendously.

After developers begin working, property values will skyrocket. If they can get their hands on the land at its current, depressed valuation, you'd better believe that's their goal. And call me cynical, but after following the Bush administration's M.O. when it comes to rewarding bid'ness at any and all expense to mere mortals, I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that's likely the plan.

When money's involved, conscience always takes a backseat. Except when it gets completely run over.

So what can any concerned Americans, viewing this from afar, do to help? ACORN , a community action group working for low and moderate income individuals and families, has joined the fight. Visit their linked site and you can help, either through donation or volunteer work.

These people who have suffered so very much horror and indignity in 2005 don't deserve to lose still more this year. We may not be able to do much from here, but we can still do something.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Finally, a bit of good news

Academy Awards officials are expected to announce today that Jon Stewart of The Daily Show will host the 78th Oscar telecast, according to the LA Times.

Perusing commentary from Drudge Report, it appears this year's host is causing apoplexy in conservatives everywhere.

Me, I can't wait to see what Stewart's brand of irreverent, incisive humor does to the usually staid proceedings. Hopefully Gil Cates and the powers-that-be will have the sense not to render Jon toothless and strictly genial.

With Capote and Phillip Seymour Hoffman garnering still more nominations from other Hollywood groups (most recently from the Producers Guild of America)and Stewart's addition as host, looks like I'll happily be watching this year.

Congrats, Jon Stewart!

Edited to add at 9:10 a.m. Thursday, January 5, 2006:

Capote just now got nominated for two SAG awards, Best Ensemble Cast and Outstanding Actor, Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

If Capote gets in to DGA, it very well could get an Oscar Best Pic nom. Hard to say who I'd root for more: Capote or Good Night and Good Luck. In truth, my view is that Capote was the better film of the two.

Second Edit: 5 p.m.:

Capote's in with a Director's Guild nom as of 1 p.m. today. Doesn't mean a lock on a Best Pic nod, but its chances just got exponentially better over the past two days with four different Guild nominations.

What hurts it is limited release (read: limited box office receipts). What helps it is the unique biopic point-of-view -- using a brief period of a person's life to illustrate and flesh-out his overall personality. Oh, and without a doubt, Hoffman's amazing, transcendent performance.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

A quote for the ages

James Wolcott's recent blog entry about Roger L. Simon, that former alleged liberal who, virtually overnight after 9/11, became a rightwing Bush apologist, had me in stitches. It wasn't so much Wolcott's own words, but those he quoted from blogger Tbogg's post, "Neocon-ism is the new gay":

"TBogg quotes generously from the maudlin introspections of these wallflower neocons, arriving at the familiar fedora of Roger L. Simon, Michael Ledeen's favorite leprecaun. After Simon's midget grandstanding about "the tragic dilemma" that besets us all, whatever that is, TBogg comments:

"Now I may not be as 'emotionally or morally sophisticated' as Roger L Simon, but then I didn't spend the afternoon of 9/11 flushing away my beliefs and convictions in a piddle-stained panic. So please spare me the 'cojones' and 'cowardice' locker room speech from the man who is one car backfire away from turning into a fedora floating in a puddle of pee."

Harsh? Yes. But more importantly, hilarious.

Simon, aside from being a self-aggrandizing jerk, is known for constant drumbeating on war and fear of flying. Now, I share the latter problem, but due to altitude, not al-Qaeda attacks.

Reading his stuff, one gets the impression he'd send his own grandma into Iraq if she could totter around dressed in fatigues, her poor arthritic arm barely shouldering a rifle. And if you're not willing to send your own geriatric relative along, well, then you -and your grandma - are cowards.

Doesn't this game grow tiresome?

Blow the whistle on Bush's illegal wiretapping? Why, you're a treasonous evildoer!

Disagree with Bush's policies? Why, you're a Bush Hater®!

Can't find your way clear to how 9/11 begat the Iraq war when there was no connection? You, dear friend, must then be a coward!

In the screed inspiring Tbogg's priceless vision of floating fedoras, Simon refers to his current beliefs -- i.e. his vociferous post-9/11 support of the neocon agenda.

Since when did core values become the new psyche accessory, altered to mesh with whatever mood strikes? Only a slavering, shallow, buyable schill has a value system that includes time frame caveats.

values. Maybe he means the kind that change direction with moon cycles and extremely shallow tides.

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