Sunday, April 30, 2006

New Orleans goes for Bush

The analysts said that Katrina successfully scuttled the Democratic voting bloc in New Orleans. Still, I didn't think we'd see the effects this fast.

New Orleans went for Bush the very first chance they got. I guess that's what happens when a white guy from Texas comes in and takes over.

Curiously, Houston (which has first choice of everything these days) decided not to go with Bush. Maybe they're still reeling from the Enron scandal.

Analysts are saying that New Orleans has done a heckuva job in going with Bush. They cite his ability to reform with results, his emphasis on offensive strikes as opposed to mere defense and his favorable comparisons to others who have filled his shoes.

Experts also cite his coolness under pressure, his rapport with his constituents and his ability to go the distance in all that he does. Indeed, Bush is so popular that he has to travel with an army of security for protection.

For his part, Bush said that he is happy to be in New Orleans and hopes to start getting things done there. "I'm looking forward to being active in the community here," Bush said. "I think I can be a big help [to] the city, bring some smiles and some happiness back to the city, let them know everything will be okay and to do whatever I can."

Long-term results are yet to be seen. However, it's no question that New Orleans has already changed from the way it was last year.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Nothing 'by numbers' about Clinton

A stuffy-nosed artistic critique

Bill Clinton unveiled his official presidential portrait Monday night at the Smithsonian Castle in Washington. The portrait will be a fixture at the National Portrait Gallery, as part of its permanent U.S. presidential exhibit. Clinton is the first to have his wife immortalized alongside him with a picture of her own.

Bill’s portrait is the work of Nelson Shanks, an artist chosen by Clinton based solely on his name. Actually, that isn’t true; Shanks is an accomplished painter who has worked with the likes of Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Princess Diana.

Though Hillary’s picture (created by Ginny Stanford) has received mostly praise, Shanks’ presidential picture has raised eyebrows for its relatively informal rendition. But how does the portrait truly fare in the annals of presidential glamour shots? Well, take a look and judge for yourself. Or you can read my detailed review; after all, I’m an art critic, which means I’m right.

First, an examination, if you will, of Clinton as a fashion plate:

--Few people know this, but this painting is actually the result of a bet that someone couldn't create a likeness of Clinton using composites of Lloyd Bridges, Leslie Nielsen, Darrell Hammond, Ted Koppel, Donald Trump and the Quaker Oats guy. Not sure who won the bet.

--The portrait is nuanced and subtle, much like Clinton’s foreign policy. And like Clinton’s domestic policy, it's very diverse with colors.

--The blue shirt recalls the time when America was swimming in its budget surplus. Also, it shows that Clinton was well aware of the potential sea-level-raising danger of the greenhouse effect.

--His tie is crooked, to remind us of the crooked ties Clinton had with all those people he had killed in Arkansas. It also signifies the tie he wore on TV to impress Monica Lewinsky. And it’s red because Clinton has a healthy, red-blooded libido.

--Clinton's gut receives special attention in this picture, as a tribute to his ability to stomach all of the scandals and extreme opposition he received from the Republicans. It's also a bold protest against the “heroin chic” that he so memorably denounced.

--And of course, his suit solidly cements his status as "America's first black president."

And now, let’s examine his pose:

--The two open fingers are apparently supposed to remind us of the infamous Monica Lewinsky cigar. But don't be fooled; that nefarious Clinton is really sending us a peace sign in disguise!

--Only Clinton's left arm is showing, which indisputably proves the liberal bias inherent among artists in the media.

--In the hidden hand, Clinton appears to be holding a newspaper. This is a vivid reminder of how he always consulted polls and fretted over his legacy. It's also a literal representation of how Clinton held the press firmly in the palm of his hand throughout the 1990s.

--Clinton's pose is more informal than that of previous presidents, which suggests that he's more interested in having a beer than being presidential. Fed up with such childishness in the Oval Office, voters flocked to almost elect George W. Bush in 2000. He's a regular guy, see.

Naturally, the background can speak volumes about any given masterwork. Let us scrutinize the non-Clinton aspects of this portrait, in the spirit of how the opposition endlessly nitpicked all things Clintonian over the years:

--The plant on the mantelpiece is green. Know what else is green? Yep, and he never inhaled it!

--Several shadows abound in the portrait, which clearly represents Slick Willie’s shadow government. Shadows also bring to mind puppets, which Clinton was for the powerful peace and welfare lobbies. At least until he gutted welfare.

--The columns bordering the fireplace are reminiscent of those fronting the Supreme Court. Bill stands tall over these columns, a signal that he fancies himself above the law. The frame popping out of the right side of his head looks like a thought bubble; it represents the Clintons' thoughts of a "vast right-wing conspiracy" out to frame them.

--The ornate vase in the upper-right corner is suspiciously curvy, a clear indicator of Clinton’s lust for the curvy hips of full-figured interns. Vases were a specialty of the Ming Dynasty, a shout-out to Clinton’s infamous proclamation of China as America’s “most favored nation.”

Finally, we must focus on what is notably absent from the artwork:

--Vince Foster is not in the picture. This can only mean the Clintons had him murdered.

--The lack of an American flag in the portrait speaks volumes about the patriotism of this man. Also, the walls are off-white, suggesting a considerable amount of historical whitewashing. The yellowish tint of the walls suggests that much revisionism yet remains.

--Osama bin Laden has not been caught in the picture, reflecting the fact that Clinton didn’t nab him. And just where are the 9/11 references? There’s not one magnetic ribbon to be seen here!

--Overall, the representation blows. Which is Clintonian in its own perverted right.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Just a bunch of complaints

Bill Maher wrote an excellent book last year entitled, New Rules: Polite Musings from a Timid Observer. In it, he goes through an A-to-Z list of things that need to be changed or eradicated from the planet. Viewers of his TV shows will undoubtedly recognize most of his stances, though he does put a refreshingly relevant spin on most of the blurbs. If you haven't yet read New Rules, I hereby assign it to you. You just might find yourself reading it over and over.

As much as I hate to co-opt someone else's concept, I can't help but come up with some "new rules" of my own. No doubt this will be a recurring feature here at Not Right, as stuff like this floods my head on a regular basis. Today, I unveil to you my first batch of New Rules, in descending order of quality:

Rule #1: Up in my grille, yo!



Trucks and SUVs should not scare the bejesus out of me in the rearview mirror. What is it with auto makers--and drivers--who think that the front of their vehicles should resemble a Decepticon Transformer with lockjaw? Hey, if whatever's in your pants was that large, you'd be driving a smaller car.

I understand that $3 gas prices are careening us toward the age of The Road Warrior, and that you'll need every advantage you can get to intimidate Mel Gibson on the interchange once that happens. But I'm frightened enough by the way you eggheads plow these things into the rear bumper of my Ford Pinto without facing the snarling bling-bling that is your grille. It may shock and awe the lovebugs, but it just annoys me.

Rule #2: Kinko's Cinema

At what point did Hollywood completely run out of ideas? Whereas in the past few decades we had to deal with with the same old tripe with a new name, now the studios aren't even bothering to change the name of the tripe. Six of the top 10 movies of 2005 were remakes or the latest chapters in decades-old franchises. And that's not counting the annual Harry Potter flick. Not that it's really an example of tripe, but one of last year's biggest movies was King Kong--a remake of a 1933 film that everyone knows. The new movie shares the same title and same time period. Clever! Even newer classics, like Lord of the Rings, are based off of decades-old stories.

If this trend continues, people in the future will forget that this decade ever existed. On second thought, maybe that isn't such a bad idea.

Rule #3: Evaluation proclamation

This one's for the government: you work for US, the people, remember? You have a lot of people to please and very few are happy right now. There are 296 million people in the United States; perhaps you boys should be open to changing your singular mind once in a while. Leaders aren't supposed to poll in the 30s, and when you do you certainly shouldn't keep doing the things that screwed everything up in the first place. Careening towards a tree at 90 miles per hour? Swerve, dumbass! I promise not to hold it against you if you don't stay that course. Really, I won't. Sincerely.

If the current batch of U.S. leaders worked for me, I'd have them all fired for incompetence. Hey, wait a minute...!

Friday, April 21, 2006

China breach

Woman speaks truth to power; power apologizes for truth

BBC--A woman has appeared in court in Washington after heckling visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao at the White House.

Wang Wenyi, 47, was charged with harassing, intimidating and threatening a foreign official.

Ms Wang, who had a press pass for the event, had shouted at Mr Hu not to oppress the outlawed Chinese spiritual movement, the Falun Gong. An embarrassed President George W Bush apologised to Mr Hu for the outburst.

"Gee, I'm sorry about that, Mr. Hu. I don't know know where these people get the idea that they can say whatever they want! Just continue to make yourself at home."

She was released on condition she remained in New York City, did not approach the White House and came only to Washington for legal reasons.

Well, that sounds fair. After all, the White House is the hub of the free world and you can't just have known threats walking around it all willy-nilly. So what exactly did Wang say to cause such a Martha Stewart ankle-braceleting?

She shouted in Chinese: "Stop oppressing the Falun Gong" and "Your time is running out".

She also shouted in English: "President Bush, stop him from killing."

How radical! She said to stop the killing! Do you suppose if she had cried, "Continue the killing," she would still be allowed to take the White House tour? I just want to know, in case I'm ever in D.C. and witness a mugging, whether or not I can scream to the assailant to stop. I don't want to be unpatriotic or anything.

Her lawyer argued she was entitled to free speech under the First Amendment. Prosecutors said the amendment did not allow her to break the law.

Similarly, I can't think of any amendments that allow for illegal war or genocide. And now, please excuse my coughing fit.

A lot of questions about free speech and foreign policy are bound to erupt from this incident. For one thing, why would someone have the audacity to scream such things at a public summit? Wouldn't there be a more appropriate forum for such concerns? Well, probably. But then again, when else are these two men ever going to hear words of criticism? We're talking about the least accessible president in American history and the leader of the largest communist nation on the planet. Reports indicate that their summit is going nowhere fast, which is no surprise to anyone who has been paying attention. It's a case of the Great Wall meeting the Brick Wall; these guys can't even communicate with each other, much less with the skeptical rest of the world. Still, who can blame anyone for trying such a long shot? Moxie like Wang's made the United States what it is today. Or at least what it used to be, when people were allowed to speak their minds.

Remember when Ari Fleischer told us all to watch what we say? Well, it seems that a lot of people are tired of hearing that after five years. The American populace is not one to take kindly to two terms of being told our voices don't matter, that we just need to shut up and continue to buy stuff made for pennies by children to line the pockets of corporate billionaires who drive giant SUVs that cause accidents from which we can't afford to heal because nobody has any health insurance anymore. Some of us still consider ourselves citizens, and we're tired of our vocal cords being made hoarse by the strep that is the Bush administration.

Perhaps this Chinese-American woman, this doctor-cum-journalist, embodies all of us who can think of no other way to communicate to our world leaders how an average person feels these days. Furthermore, this may be the only chance anyone ever gets to utter dissent to the Chinese president. In an ideal world, such heckling would be considered bad taste. But in this day and age, it's almost a necessity.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The box has shifted its tools

McClellan done lying; Rove just beginning

WASHINGTON -- A Bush administration shake-up continued Wednesday, with White House press secretary Scott McClellan announcing his resignation and adviser Karl Rove shedding some duties.

Rove is giving up oversight of policy development to focus more on politics with the approach of the fall midterm elections. An administration source told NBC that the shift was “an acknowledgement of the tough political climate.”

An even better way to acknowledge the "tough political climate" would have been to fire Karl Rove and put Scott McClellan in charge of the midterm elections. But hey, what do I know? I'm no Karl Rove. And thank the deity for that! I may be just some two-bit blogger, but I still have my soul.

Rove “is the best pitcher in the league in terms of politics and strategy,” the source added, so “it’s obvious” he should focus on the mid-term elections.

Rove may be the best pitcher in the league, but it's still just the Bush League (rimshot)! Oh, I am IN THE ZONE today! You know, I don't do enough zany Leno-esque one-liners here at Not Right. I will work to rectify that as the news gets goofier.

Appearing with Bush on the South Lawn, McClellan, who has parried especially fiercely with reporters on Iraq and on intelligence issues, told Bush: “I have given it my all sir and I have given you my all sir, and I will continue to do so as we transition to a new press secretary.”

"Thank you sir, may I have another! Thank you sir, may I have another! Thank you sir, may I have another! Parry thrust! Oh, it's been so much fun being your monkey. But I don't think I can stand any more of this fun. Good luck in November!"

Bush said McClellan had “a challenging assignment.”

That's like calling the Grand Canyon a divot, which is a zinger I've never ever said before. Oh!

Seriously, though, reexamine that quote. Is Bush referring to the difficulty of Scott's job, or the difficulty of leaving it? I always figured that leaving the mafia would be pretty hard.

“I thought he handled his assignment with class, integrity,” the president said. “It’s going to be hard to replace Scott, but nevertheless he made the decision and I accepted it. One of these days, he and I are going to be rocking in chairs in Texas and talking about the good old days.”

Hey, lots of us are already sitting on rocking chairs, talking about the good old days. You know, like before you twerps were ever in office. One question, though: how are you and Scott going to reminisce that way when you're both already off your rockers?

McClellan is expected to remain in his job until a successor is named. Among those under consideration are Tony Snow, a former White House speechwriter under the first President Bush, former Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke and Dan Senor, a former coalition spokesman after the invasion of Iraq, according to Republican officials.

Other names being dropped include Arnold Schwarzenegger, Torquemada, the corpse of Ronald Reagan, David Koresh, Flavor Flav, Satan, Elle Woods, Toby Keith and the guy from Thank You For Smoking.

After the announcement, Bush and McClellan walked across the lawn together and boarded Marine One, but a problem with the helicopter’s radio kept it grounded. The president and his staff were forced to take a motorcade to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., where Bush boarded Air Force One for a flight to Alabama.

When things get tough, you can always count on Bush to fly to Alabama. I guess it's a reflex for him at this point.

Speaking of all these gnarly turns of events...

Fruitcake from 1962 found preserved in attic

What a coincidence...these guys haven't had a fresh idea since 1962 either! And both go down equally well. Mmmmmbop.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Sermon from an Irreverent Reverend

CrossWalk America is a nationwide trek from Phoenix to D.C. that started on Easter Sunday. Its purpose is to show the world that not all Christian-Americans are neocon fanatics. Quite understandably, this walk will avoid about 95 percent of the South. CrossWalk America will be peppered with concurrent activities such as services and speeches. While reading about this, I wondered what kind of speech I would make were I to somehow get involved in this. So once again, I favor you with a piece of writing about something in which I have no business getting involved:

"Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, it’s a real honor and privilege to be here today to share in these festivities. I am very happy to see an event such as CrossWalk America, and wish we could have lots more of these. Nothing says social change like reclaiming Christianity from the religious right and working off America’s obesity problem, all in one fell swoop!

“In all honesty, I don’t know if I’m qualified to talk about religion. I’m no practitioner. I don’t align myself with any denomination, don’t attend church and don’t follow any specific rituals. I do occasionally engage in a form of prayer, though it usually involves pacing around and talking to myself. If I did the same thing on the streets of New York City, they’d have me locked up. But then again, the religious right seems just as unqualified as I do to talk about this stuff, so why not?

"Believe it or not, I do agree with the far right in one respect: religion is definitely under attack in the United States. The so-called 'culture war' is threatening to tear apart our moral fabric. Our legislators seek to suppress moral standards, and judicial activism threatens to dismantle the moral apparatus of our system of law.

"What the religious right fails to see, however, is that they are the ones causing this division in society. The 'culture war' came about only when the far right clashed with the mainstream. The current administration and Congress has done all it can to erode the wedge between church and state. Our president claims to invoke God's will.

"For all of their pontificating in the name of God, what do we have to show for it? Warfare all over the world. Rapid erosion of the middle class in society. Massive cuts in programs to help the poor, meek and infirm. The return of federal executions. Executive arrogance. If these are principles culled from the Bible, then it must be from some obscure book I haven't read. This scares me, as it should anyone who prefers their deepest beliefs to be personal and not used for partisan political gain.

"This perverse interpretation of Christianity is especially prevalent among the Bush White House. They can barely go a few minutes without working in some sort of divine justification for their actions. But what philosophies really drive their acts? Guilt, fear, repression, pressure to conform and moral certitude. These traits all arise from the dark side of religion, seen in shameful efforts such as the Inquisition and the Crusades. Historically, the peaceful teachings of the world's religions were inevitably corrupted by centuries of successors who wrestled for control of the people. It’s a struggle that continues today, and yet has done nothing to promote the basic tenets of that for which they fight so hard.

"You need concern yourself with none of this. Your beliefs should always arise from within, not from what others tell you to believe. No two people are exactly alike, and most people are nothing alike. So how can something as infinite as a relationship with the universe and/or higher powers have exactly one avenue?

“No one knows the real answer to life’s mystery. No one. And we will probably never know on this plane. All anyone needs to do is embrace such virtues as peace, humility, sacrifice, compassion, forgiveness, tolerance and love. Live every day with those qualities in your life and everything else will fall into place.

“As we walk today, let us all remember that one man who took on a similar journey, uniting a people in the process. He was a meek man who saw much in his lifetime but who never let up. His existence and his actions have been an inspiration to all of America and the world.

“But enough about Forrest Gump. Jesus, God, Buddha and Mohammed have inspired billions to be merciful. It’s time to reclaim the world from those who emptily claim piety for their own destructive purposes. For those of you who feel that times are growing increasingly bleak, I quote my favorite proverb: ‘This too shall pass.’

“It’s our turn.”

Another redundant plug

Today is National Columnists' Day. For you newer readers, I used to be a columnist for my college newspaper. Check out my work here, and see for yourself what all the hoopla used to be about.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

What's my votivation?

It's no accident that "middle school" and "middle America" share an adjective. After all, they both vote the same way.

Toward the end of my sixth-grade year, our school held its student-council election for the next term. During French class one afternoon, a popular seventh-grade girl next to me handed me a decal. "Vote Andrea for treasurer! She's my friend." I accepted the sticker eagerly, happy that she deigned me worthy of such swag. Never mind that I couldn't have picked Andrea's face out of a police lineup consisting only of Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, Mike Tyson and Andrea; her friend had given me a sticker, and that's all that mattered.

The decal itself was a real piece of work. It read, "Vote Andrea L. for treasurer." In green fine-point marker! In cursive! It really stuck out, as long as your eyes were within a foot of it. I stuck it on my shirt with pride. Andrea for treasurer!

The next day at lunch, I strode toward what I could say were my friends, but I try not to use words too loosely. Just ahead, several classmates were huddled around a popular girl whom I knew well. Her name was Brandy.

Ah, Brandy. I'd known her since the second grade. She had it all: breathtaking looks, a penchant for fun and a mystique of refreshing uniqueness. And though in a year's time she would turn around and torment me along with everyone else, we remained good friends in sixth grade. And here she was, handing out stickers to everyone while boldly proclaiming, "Brandy for treasurer!"

I stopped short of talking to her that day, because I felt guilty that I could not vote for my old friend. After all, I had gotten another decal first, and I wasn't about to betray Andrea's theoretical trust. Never mind that Brandy and I had known each other for four years, and that I knew from class projects that she was trustworthy of the position. She was second with the sticker, and that's all that mattered.

Brandy lost.

I applied this logic to all of our school's campaigns, and would do the same that summer as I attempted to analyze the presidential race from a 12-year-old's perspective (much like Fox News does today). My initial pick: Pat Buchanan. If he was good enough for CNN...

Fortunately, I grew out of this political mindset. But many others never do. They spend their entire civic lives completely apathetic, and then make up their minds based on whatever pet issue/catchphrase/campaign trinket strikes their fancy the most. And once that happens, not even the sharpest crowbar of sense can pry open that mind.

People with strong opinions don't change in droves; for example, I doubt that either Rush Limbaugh or my mother voted any differently in 2004 than they did in 1992. The pendulum, then, swings largely on the strength of whichever party fares best at luring swing voters. In a nation so evenly divided as ours, swing votes can mean the difference between prosperity and disaster.

Mind you, swing voters with an open mind are not the problem; ideally, this should describe every voter. But many swing voters are not open-minded--they're more accurately described as open-ended. These are the ones responsible for such execrable quotes as, "I agreed with Kerry on virtually every issue, but I voted for Bush because he's tough on terror" and "I don't like anything Bush does, but at least he doesn't flip-flop." Campaigns flock to these people like maggots to month-old steak, because they know that the political climate is ultimately decided by those who slap on the first ideology handed to them.

No wonder it's called a race.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

T.G.I.G.F.

Rarely do I blatantly re-run old material; but because Easter weekend is all about resurrection, I point you today towards my Good Friday post from last year. Here are a few choice lines to get you in the mood:

"In front of me were four or five very pretty young women, all in a bunch."

"Some or all of them were just getting off..."

"I'm guessing that the girls were strippers."

"With mere minutes to spare, the ladies left and I got up..."

"I smiled and handed over my debit card..."

"I have to recommend stepping out to these places in the thick of the night."

Go on...you know you want to!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Prejudicial Activism

College student sues for right to harass gays

ATLANTARuth Malhotra went to court last month for the right to be intolerant.

Malhotra says her Christian faith compels her to speak out against homosexuality. But the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she's a senior, bans speech that puts down others because of their sexual orientation. Malhotra sees that as an unacceptable infringement on her right to religious expression. So she's demanding that Georgia Tech revoke its tolerance policy.

Decades down the road, when historians attempt to grasp the feel of this age and what kind of sociopolitical mores ruled the land in 2006, this lawsuit will undoubtedly be a textbook example. "Back in the zeros, all one had to do was cry 'religious infringement,' and you could get away with any manner of awful measures. Indeed, this line of reasoning helped to overturn most of the major laws of the 20th century."

The legal argument is straightforward: Policies intended to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination end up discriminating against conservative Christians. Evangelicals have been suspended for wearing anti-gay T-shirts to high school, fired for denouncing Gay Pride Month at work, reprimanded for refusing to attend diversity training. When they protest tolerance codes, they're labeled intolerant.

What kind of people revel in their bigotry, expect the rest of the nation to accept it and then hypocritically attempt to enact the very kind of decisions that they're decrying in the first place? What kind of people are so hateful in their beliefs that they have to revoke anti-discriminatory laws to express those beliefs? In a time when people get in trouble for wearing shirts that allude to peace, why would these jerks expect any different treatment for adorning clothing that deliberately insults a group of people?

As a child, I lived in a neighborhood with a high African-American population and had many black friends. They used the N-word quite a bit, because that's what they heard in their environment, both through entertainment and in real life. I learned early on that their use of it (however sad in itself) was very different than if I were to say it. On the rare occasions I ever said it, they made sure I regretted it. I don't think having said, "Well, I can say it because that's what I believe to be true," would have solved the problem any more than it did prior to 1861.

And they would be right to be angry. People DON'T have the right to go around and piss off other races by using derogatory terms. The only thing more cowardly than that is to cloak such epithets in religious justification.

If the court rules in this woman's favor, we'd be in for a dangerous slippery slope. It wouldn't take long for anyone to decide that hate crimes, racial favoritism, or any other variety of atrocity falls under personal religious beliefs. A couple of nanoseconds, perhaps...if that.

Christian activist Gregory S. Baylor responds to such criticism angrily. He says he supports policies that protect people from discrimination based on race and gender. But he draws a distinction that infuriates gay rights activists when he argues that sexual orientation is different — a lifestyle choice, not an inborn trait.

The inborn-versus-choice debate is completely irrelevant here. Note that Baylor opposes discrimination against race and gender specifically, but says nothing about religion or anything else that could be construed as a choice. Again, this seems to be an attempt to justify prejudice against those whose choices he disagrees with. And because he knows that no one can control their ethnicity or sex, he pounces on sexual orientation. That's one thing he and his brethren do wish to control.

By equating homosexuality with race, Baylor said, tolerance policies put conservative evangelicals in the same category as racists. He predicts the government will one day revoke the tax-exempt status of churches that preach homosexuality is sinful or that refuse to hire gays and lesbians.

Well, maybe sexual discrimination should be put in the same category as racism! After all, being gay ultimately matters as much as skin color as to whether someone can be a reasonably productive member of society. What should matter more than any outside factor is intelligence and qualifications. Not that it always does, of course, but ideally...

And don't even get me started on tax-exempt churches; this post is long enough! Suffice to say, I think churches should pay taxes just like any secular entity. They're as much a part of the community infrastructure as homes and businesses.

I'm not quite 26, but even I remember a time when social movements were about empowering groups of people, not about taking away their rights so that a more hateful group can feel better about their prejudices. The last thing we need these days is to reward ignorance.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Ariel Schiavo

Good news for those of you who wanted to go through two consecutive Aprils with a brain-dead patient affecting government policy:

JERUSALEM (AP) - Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who has been in a coma for three months, will be declared permanently incapacitated Tuesday, a decision that signals the official end of his tenure as Israel's leader, the Justice Ministry said Sunday.

The Israeli prime minister has lost his job and is now in a vegetative state, making him this year's personification of life in a right-wing world. Terri Schiavo, last year's winner, crowned Sharon and presented him with flowers.

What I don't understand is why they didn't just pronounce him dead Sunday instead of Tuesday. The official explanation is this:

Ehud Olmert stepped in for him immediately as acting prime minister, but under Israeli law he can only serve in that capacity for up to 100 days before an official replacement for Sharon has to be named.

That deadline expires Friday, but because the weeklong Jewish Passover holiday begins Wednesday, the declaration of permanent incapacitation has been moved up to Tuesday - with the proviso that it not take effect if Sharon's condition improves before the deadline, Justice Ministry spokesman Jacob Galanti said.

That explains why they don't want to wait until next Friday; but why wait even as long as Tuesday? If the Israeli government was able to go on the news Sunday and say, "We've decided this guy's a vegetable," then that should be the end of it. After all, it isn't any more likely that he's going to get out of bed and lead the Likud any more Tuesday than he is today. Or become braindeader, for that matter. Like a transcendentalist might say, he just is.

I guess they need a few more days to put off the inevitable, just like with any family who has to come to terms with such a predicament. Still, instability in the world is something we should all be used to by now.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Worst 'worst-of' list ever

Right Wing News (motto: "We don't drink the Kool-Aid, we make it") has two lists of the 20 Worst Figures in American History. One is from a survey of various righty bloggers and the other is a similar survey from lefty bloggers.

(Note: I have no idea how old these lists are, since they aren't dated. For all I know, this was blogged all over the place three years ago. All I know is that I Googled "worst bloggers" and this came up. And "worst-of" lists are an essential part of this blogger's balanced breakfast.)

Just for kicks, let's compare the two lists and see what each say about their respective stances:

Conservative bloggers:

Honorable Mentions: Ted Bundy (5), Jane Fonda (5), John Wayne Gacy (5), John Walker Lindh (5), Joe McCarthy (5), Michael Moore (5), Boss Tweed (5)

17) Franklin Delano Roosevelt (6)
17) John Walker (6)
17) Lee Harvey Oswald (6)
17) Robert Byrd (6)
16) Aldrich Ames (7)
14) Richard Nixon (8)
14) Aaron Burr (8)
12) Al Sharpton (9)
12) Charles Manson (9)
8) Timothy McVeigh (10)
8) Lyndon Johnson (10)
8) Hillary Clinton (10)
8) John Wilkes Booth (10)
7) Alger Hiss (12)
6) Noam Chomsky (13)
4) Jesse Jackson (14)
4) Jimmy Carter (14)
3) Bill Clinton (15)
2) Benedict Arnold (19)
1) The Rosenbergs (15) & Julius Rosenberg (5) (20 total votes)

At the top of the list is a couple convicted of (and executed for) espionage; the man whose name has become synonymous with traitor; and, uh, Bill Clinton. Two strikes, one baller.

Notice also how key Democrats and liberal commentators share space with (and often outrank) serial killers, assassins and terrorists. I know I always equate Charles Manson with Al Sharpton! And, of course, Hillary Clinton is certaintly in league with John Wilkes Booth. Both did have something to do with presidents, after all.

The righty list is padded out with the usual liberal protesters, writers and other easy targets--as if one-fifth of the worst-ever Americans got that way simply by exercising the most American right, free speech. And how seriously can you take a list that contains someone who hosted Saturday Night Live? You could argue that it's terrible comedy, sure, but that doesn't equate it with terrorism.

The criteria for this vote was apparently, "Choose your worst Americans based on such attributes as criminal behavior, unconstitutional actions and boldly ending the Great Depression."

For some contrast, here's a look at the lefty list:

Honorable Mentions:
Boss Tweed (5), Roger Taney (5), James Earl Ray (5), Charles Manson (5), Rush Limbaugh (5), Jerry Falwell (5), Roy Cohn (5), Dick Cheney (5), John C. Calhoun (5)


20) The Rosenbergs (3) + Julius Rosenberg (3) (6 total votes)
20) Pat Robertson (6)
20) Oliver North (6)
20) William Randolph Hearst (6)
20) Aaron Burr (6)
20) Aldrich Ames (6)
18) George Lincoln Rockwell (7)
18) Robert McNamara (7)
14) Richard Mellon Scaife (8)
14) Lee Harvey Oswald (8)
14) Charles Coughlin (8)
14) Strom Thurmond (8)
13) Ronald Reagan (9)
12) George Wallace (10)
11) Andrew Jackson (12)
9) Jefferson Davis (13)
9) George W. Bush (13)
6) Benedict Arnold (14)
6) Henry Kissinger (14)
6) John Wilkes Booth (14)
3) Timothy McVeigh (16)
3) Nathan Bedford Forrest (16)
3) J. Edgar Hoover (16)
2) Richard Nixon (25)
1) Joseph McCarthy (26)

This list heads off with an impressive array of figures who undermined American ideals: Tailgunner Joe, Nixon, the overzealous head of the FBI, the founder of the Ku Klux Klan, and America's most notorious homegrown terrorist. No blowjobs or Sean Hannity at the top of this list! The names here refer to those who really undermined the United States, be it through shadow government, questionable war or straight-up secession.

Indeed, this list contains a handful of esoteric names (such as Roger Taney, the Chief Justice during the dreadful Dred Scott decision). Even I had to look up some of them, being that the organizations they formed have eclipsed their founders' fame. The liberal list suggests a more educated sampling than its conservative counterpart.

Either the lefty list is more in tune with the actual contributions of historical leaders, or there are simply too many important right-wing losers to need to pad out the list with anyone who has ever voiced an opinion different than Ann Coulter's. It's probably both.

In any case, lists like these only cement the differences between Red and Blue, and how one side should learn some serious historical perspective from the other.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Out Plame, Flame Out

Fresh off recent scandals concerning Tom DeLay and Scooter Libby, sources are saying that George W. Bush authorized the Valerie Plame CIA outing.

Do I believe the news? Well, I wasn't so sure at first. But then I saw the following statements printed in one of my weekly reads, and figured that maybe a major karmic turnaround in politics is afoot:

The United States faces an energy crisis. We are dependent on foreign oil, and we suffer spiraling gasoline prices at the pump. We need an alternative to the status quo.

Closer to home, studies have surfaced that predict Louisiana’s coastline will be under water by 2100 due to global warming raising the ocean levels. Therefore, we face the real possibility of being able to significantly diminish the threat of global warming.

Furthermore, we should support the ethanol alternative out of duty to the nation and for future generations. Sure, the infrastructure will have to be in place. But progress is by nature forward-looking.

The United States needs to be, pardon the expression, progressive. We need a comprehensive approach to the energy crisis, and ethanol is just one pathway. Solar energy has always been a fascinating possibility. Windmills and dams have been around for a long time. We could try all energy alternatives or pick and choose. Most importantly, we must plan for the future.

Wow! That John Hinson is really changing his tune! Is Hell freezing over, or is the conservative stranglehold on this country finally beginning to unravel?

I hope it's the latter. But just in case, I'm stocking up on coats.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Emma great shun

Big immigration debate, same old belabored points. Here are some new belabored points:

--Visitors and immigrants to America should all be adequately processed. Increased enforcement of this would allow more legal immigration while upholding the Emma Lazarus ideal of, "bring me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free..." One suggestion is to hire those Minutemen, who apparently have nothing better to do, for processing. Provided they can read, of course.

--Immigration law should be examined and scrutinized by both lawmakers and the public. Most of the anti-immigrant drivel I've read runs along the lines of, "you're either legal or you aren't. If you come into this country illegally, you deserve to be [odd punishment here]!" But how many of them, and us, understand the actual language of the law? Is the law itself fair? I suspect that most people want to do right for themselves, and resort to tricks only when the deck is extremely stacked against them. And being that I'm enormously skeptical of many laws in the first place, I support careful crafting of the law so that it makes more sense to follow it than to not follow it. Law is not irrevocable gospel; if something is unnecessarily screwy, change it.

--Withdrawing our troops from Iraq and putting them on the Mexican border is the most ridiculous idea I've ever heard. Also, it's illegal under posse comitatus.

--You may wish you were in Tijuana, eating barbecued iguana; but chances are, the people there don't. Why do they want to move here? Perhaps an examination into domestic life in Mexico could help figure out an answer.

--I think it should be illegal for any politician to denounce immigration if they support outsourcing of jobs. After all, if they support the exportation of jobs so that corporate employers can pay only pennies per day to foreign workers, then they have no right to denounce immigrants for coming in and taking what's left. This goes double if the politician or his family employs one of these migrants for a pithy wage.

--If the Mexicans can find jobs here, more power to them. I sure as hell can't.

--Many conservatives cite resource strain and lack of room as a reason that immigrants shouldn't be allowed within our borders. Then they go back to ranting about the evils of birth control and abortion within America. In other words, space is never an issue when it's filled by a future Christian-American patriot.

--After my experience driving through west Texas, I frankly wouldn't mind of we put some people along that desolate stretch of road so maybe, just maybe, there'll be ONE DAMN GAS STATION WITHIN 200 MILES THAT DOESN'T CLOSE AT 8 P.M.! That's somewhat inconvenient when driving through there late at night. I don't know who decided that miles upon miles of barren terrain is preferable to actually having people live and work on it.

--I say, let illegal immigrants have driver's licenses. Because as long as they're going to be here and drive anyway, then they might as well have to suffer through the same long lines as the rest of us.

--Let's face it: while some anti-immigration policy is based on the very sound issue of preventing terrorism, most of it is based on simple racism. How many people are calling for an end to the Canadian problem?

--If we're going to build a wall along the Mexican border, then why stop there? Let's build borders around every state, so that each one's "national culture" can be preserved! No one really wants those unwashed Kat-Rita refugees anyway, right?

--Length aside, I actually like the citizenship process. In fact, I think everyone should have to undergo it. Foreigners who want to be here have to take tests and oaths, among other things. The result of this is that naturalized citizens know far more about this country (and appreciate it more) than many natives do. And yes, it shows.

--The Tex-Mex equation is badly imbalanced at the moment, in favor of Tex.

--I wish there were some way to deport the people who insist that Mexican immigrants are diluting our "national culture" and disrupting "our way of life." Perhaps we could trade each one of these closet bigots for an immigrant from Mexico. Once that trade leveled out, I'd be the first to call for a sealed border.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Don't you wish your nation was hot like mine?

Most people say at some point that their significant other is the "prettiest" or otherwise "most wonderful" person in the world. The more I hear this, the more I suspect that most of them have to be wrong.

It's like seeing three Santa Clauses in one city block; they can't all be the one, right?

And really, why do people say that? Most of them would probably reply that they feel lucky or blessed to have someone so perfect for them. But I wonder if many of them aren't also saying for it as a way of making themselves feel superior to others. After all, how can anyone top the perfect mate, who's already been spoken for?

I often feel this way about the United States, "The greatest nation on Earth." Well, sure, we're proud of the place. But is it really the best course of action to go around strutting that broad declaration? Who's really going to believe us?

Proponents of neocon American foreign policy say that the way toward peace is to assert U.S. ideology over the rest of the world. The theory behind this is that we're the best system, and thus everyone will be eager to embrace our way of life. And why not? It works so well with street preachers and Sun Myung Moon!

But think about it: if the Soviet Union had invaded the United States in an attempt to promote communism at the point of a gun, how would we have reacted? Would we have greeted our benevolent liberators in the streets with flowers, or would we have gone Red Dawn on their asses? My money's on Patrick Swayze. Why? Because we weren't receptive to the idea that the USSR was our beacon of hope. Especially if they tried to prove it to us by destroying our infrastructure and taking hold of our natural resources. No country has the right to invade us out of feelings of superiority. We're the United States of America, dammit! The best nation in the world!

Perhaps the best way to prove that we're the best thing going is to exercise our principles in our daily lives, rather than bragging to the rest of the world about what a wonderful world our missiles provide. Better to leave people drooling over your hotness than to turn them off with your inner ugliness.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Monday morning musings

--Always put things in perspective. I despaired over having no gas money until I realized that I have no car.

--Conservatives wouldn't call themselves "right-wingers" if they weren't right. Oh, wait--yes they would.

--Nothing is totally wrong; even a broken clock is right twice a day. Unless it's digital.

--Labels don't tell the whole story. For example, liberals aren't liberal when it comes to business regulations and conservatives aren't conservative when it comes to using nonrenewable resources.

--To everything, there is a season. If you doubt that, dangle some beads today and see how many flashes it gets you.

--What happened to all the Marilyn Manson protesters? Just because he's past his prime doesn't mean he's any less of an antichrist. Consistency, prayer warriors!

--Of course most Americans are screwed up; why else are so many of us born in hospitals?

--Cancer is stupid. First it kills you, then it kills itself.

--Supposedly, Donald Trump has never used an ATM. But lots of people have attempted to use Donald Trump as an ATM.

--Contrary to popular belief, there is no glass ceiling at most corporations. From what I can tell, it's actually Plexiglas.

--Do something nice today. Stay home.

--The sun is not the best argument against wasting energy.

--If there is life on Mars, how likely is it that they call their planet Mars?

--Guns don't kill people. But they don't exactly bring them to life either, do they?

--If a nutcase columnist writes a libelous column that nobody reads, was it worth a tree falling in the woods to print it?

--Always think positively. After all, how else are you going to get through the hopelessly horrific meat grinder that is life?

--West Virginia is in the Eastern time zone. Much of the Midwest is in the Central time zone. The Bonneville Salt Flats of Utah are in the Mountain time zone. Anybody else suspect that they made this up as they went along?

--If you meet someone who is perfect for you, immediately apologize to them.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Some people are fools all of the time

Last year, I conducted an elaborate three-day April Fool's joke on this blog. Reader response was, to put it one way, subdued. To put it another way, "Ow! My reputation!" Still, I wrote what I think is one of the all-time deliberately bad columns on Terri Schiavo. And I created this banner, which I suppose would also be appropriate for Halloween:



Interestingly enough, the banner is 666K in its original PNG form! But I managed to shrink it a little, because even Satan has standards.

And for those of you wondering whatever happened to my right-wing cousin Jacob: he moved to South Dakota, where he died in a tragic coathanger incident. Rest in war, J.