Monday, April 28, 2003

"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president or that we are to stand by the president right or wrong is not only unpatriotic and servile but is morally treasonable to the American public." -Theodore Roosevelt, by way of Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks

Sunday, April 27, 2003

Finally saw Bowling for Columbine. Michael Moore may be an egomaniac like they say, and his crusades might get a bit ludicrous sometimes, but he is a pretty darned good filmmaker. His points about the culture of fear is the US are very well taken. An example - Canada has about as many guns as the US per capita, along with begin pretty darn similar to America in pretty much every other statistic, and yet gun violence is comparitively negligible there. Another difference between the countries? Canada's evening news usually covers such events as international negotiations and the expected effects of redesigned speedbumps, as opposed to American TV's coverage of crime, the threat of killer bees, and who we're going to bomb next. The average Canadian does not lock their door. The average Canadian also doesn't get burglarized and murdered in their sleep. The point he's making: Americans are scared of each other and everyone else to the point that they'll shoot anyone they think threatens them, and there are a lot of people profiting mightily off of that fear (retailers, defense contractors, news media, etc) who have a vested interest in making sure nothing changes. Maybe it's not the whole story, but it is logical and disturbing. I recommend seeing the movie.
This is just one of those pictures, kind of like the Dali clocks. Except this is real.

It was taken in Basra, where the schools have just opened again. The soldiers are Brits under sniper fire. Courtesy of Time

Friday, April 25, 2003

President Bush wants harming a fetus to be a federal crime. What kind of sense does that make? Criminal law is a state matter. Murder is a state offense. Assault is a state offense. Theft is a state offense. So what in the blue blazes is he talking about making "harming a fetus" a federal crime for?

First, it's because he has absolutely no idea what the difference between state and federal jurisdiction is, except that it has to do with people trying to keep him from getting his faultless enlightened presidential way. Second, he's trying to get a better legal basis for outlawing abortion. After all, what is abortion if not harming a fetus? What an ass.
"Some in Congress say the plan is too big. Well, it seems like to me they might have some explaining to do. If they agree that tax relief creates jobs, then why are they for a little bitty tax relief package?" -George W. Bush in Ohio, again showing off his brilliant gift for oratory while stumping for his tax package in Voinovich country. The Senator, possibly using his time for something less stupid, didn't even bother to show up.
American Airlines, what a bunch of dicks. While they're squeezing their unions for $1.8 billion in wage cuts to keep themselves out of bankruptcy, they're looting the treasury to make sure that when the ship goes down, the captains can sail away on a well-appointed lifeboat. Well, at least the board fired bandit #1, CEO Don Carty. May have kept themselves out of bankruptcy for a while by doing it too - the unions were likely to walk out on their contracts if Carty stayed on. Still, they only gave back part of the money they earmarked for themselves - I have absolutely no doubt who the AMR board is looking out for. Just more corporate crooks.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

Meanwhile, North Korea has nuclear weapons and we've broken off talks with them... again. Yep, we've got our priorities straight. Let's invade Turkmenistan! Woooooo!!
BBC Director Greg Dyke has gone off on the American news media, especially FOX News, for the "gung-ho patriotism" of its Iraq coverage. I wonder how long before we start discussing the "consequences" of England's presuming to question us, like we're doing with France.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

So you've heard about Rick Santorum's happy little tirade, right? The one where he says that if God forbid the Supreme Court didn't uphold a Texas anti-sodomy law, that it was right there legalizing polygamy and incest, and goes on and on and on about how homosexuality is just an affront to all that civilization holds dear? The NY Times points out a few of the especially juicy parts here. One of my favorite segments: "If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy... Then you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything." Note he didn't even actually say consensual gay sex. Freudian slip? He's really against all unmarried sex? Who knows. Anyway, I always considered Santorum to be one of those Senators who never really did anything and you could safely ignore, but maybe I ought to keep an eye on him...

It took forever, but a finally found an unabridged transcript of at least part of the interview here, courtesy of the Kansas City Star.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

So Newt Gingrich is calling the Powell State Department a disaster. Now, while I completely disagree and think Colin Powell is probably the only reason we haven't gone to war with everybody up to and including Estonia by now, my main response is this: Since when does Newt Gingrich get to call anybody a failure?
As if we needed it, there is now even more proof that PETA is really stupid. They just offered $15,000 (in veggie burgers - seriously) to the town of Hamburg, NY, to change its name to Veggieburg. Said Hamburg Supervisor Patrick Hoak: "With all due respect, I think it's a delicacy in our community," he said about hamburgers. "We're proud of our name and proud of our heritage." This comes after a failed 1996 attempt to get Fishkill, NY to change its name to Fishsave. Fishkill is Dutch. It means "Fish Stream".

Sunday, April 20, 2003

So here's a question: what's this blog for? It's not a compendium of all the news of the day. Google News is much more efficient at that than I'd ever be. It's not a diary. Honestly, I don't really want the world to know my deepest and innermost thoughts and feelings. I'm not updating it constantly with my reactions to everything I see or hear or read. It's not a manifesto. So what is it? Well, I think I have the answer: it's whatever the heck I feel like it being at any given time. Hey, nobody's being forced to go here. If what I'm writing is interesting, then people will read it. If it's not, they won't. I'm just writing this thing because I enjoy it, and I'm writing about things I think are interesting. Those things include Reebok commercials, national politics, and demented animation. If you don't think those topics belong together on the same page, there are plenty of other pages out there to choose from. Or you could read a book. I suggest Dave barry.

Friday, April 18, 2003

I saw a bunch of articles today about the ongoing battle between the Club for Growth and the Republican Main Street Partnership and Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) over tax cuts. The Club for Growth, a major Washington lobbist group, advocates cutting taxes as much as possible as fast as possible (for the growth of their clients' bank accounts, of course). The RMSP, composed of moderate Republicans such as Sens. Olympia Snowe of Maine, John McCain of Arizona, and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, is far more leery of throwing away so much government revenue when the budget is already falling apart, especially in a tax cut so narrowly tailored to benefit the wealthy. I mention all this mainly because I'd never heard of the RMSP before, and its membership roster reads like a laundry list of every politician I actually respect. I actually felt compelled to send them a congratulatory email. The way I see it, those guys are the only ones standing between us and a far-right catastrophe of historic proportions.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Did you know Reebok made a whole series of shorts about Terry Tate: Office Linebacker? In case you missed it, the original Terry Tate spot was, according to many (read: me), the best commercial of this year's Super Bowl. I highly suggest you check it out. They do make you register, however; fortunately, it's just an email address they want.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Actor Tim Robbins, an outspoken antiwar activist who recently had an engagement at the Baseball Hall of Fame for the 15th anniversary of "Bull Durham" cancelled because of the hall's far-right director didn't want any damn peaceniks around, recently made a really surprisingly good speech at the National Press Corps in Washington. He talks about his hopes in the aftermath of 9/11 that the country would come out of the tragedy with a new unity and a sense of purpose, to build a better world out of the ashes of two towers destroyed by hate, and his distress "as our leader encouraged us to show our patriotism by shopping and by volunteering to join groups that would turn in their neighbor for any suspicious behavior". He questions why it is that the government is simultaneously so eager to crack down on fictional violence in movies and video games and so eager to send out the nation's youth to commit real violence overseas. He calls on the media to tell the truth, the government to read the constitution, and his local school board to stop cancelling civics class because the kids want to talk about Iraqi civilian deaths.

Text of the speech is here.
This is disgusting. Last year, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware decided it would be a great idea to give police national authority to shut down any event or establishment where anybody was caught using drugs, or that looked sort of like somewhere where people might use drugs, on the principle that they must be promoting drug use. What kind of evidence did the cops need under this law? Well, the presence of glow sticks or a massage table are listed as surefire proof that ecstacy was passing 'round. I am not making this up. Fortunately, saner heads prevailed, the bill's other sponsors walked out, and Biden's baby went nowhere. Which is why he just tacked it on to the Amber Alert bill. It was sure to pass, and he had it added just before the final vote, so there was no debate on the amendment, which would have been thrown out in a hurry if anybody was paying attention.

Shame on you Mr. Biden. This sort of rider is a disgrace to yourself and the Senate.

This is why we need to things, preferably both. First, we need a line-item veto. God knows 80% of the mass of any bill is pork and riders, and none of it should get past the president's desk. Second, we need limits on what can be added to a bill. It should not be possible to add funds for an apiary in Maine onto a defense bill. Both of these would require constitutional amendments. So be it. That's what the amendment process is for. Thomas Jefferson said that "no man should be bound by the law of his fathers." Now I'm going out on a limb, but I'd suspect he'd also say that no man should be bound by anything that comes out of the arrogant, disconnected, corruption-ridden, bought-and-paid-for US Government of 2003.
Tom Ridge lowered the Terror Alert Color to yellow! I feel safer already! Well, maybe not so much "safer" as "convinced the system is completely meaningless as anything but an Orwellian propaganda tool," but hey, at least it's making me feel something, right?

Monday, April 14, 2003

White House Escalates Diplomatic Pressure on Syria, says a Washington post headline. Christ, can't the neocon hawks even wait until their first war is over before starting the runup to their next one?

Sunday, April 13, 2003

Ronald Reagan Jr. thinks Dubya is a pretty lame president who's usurping the Reagan legacy for decidedly un-Reaganesque (i.e. ridiculously stupid) ends. In his words, "My father crapped bigger ones than George [W.] Bush." And on whether we'll find "Weapons of Mass Destruction" in Iraq: "I'm sure we'll find some; They're being flown in right now in a C-130." I highly suggest reading the interview.
CNN's QuickPolls annoy me. Almost invariably, the poll questions are ones that the average reader is taking a wild guess on. Right now, for instance, the question is "Do you think Saddam is a) Alive in Syria b) Alive in Tikrit c) Dead?" How about d) How the heck should I know? Polls are a great way to get public opinion or demographics, but this kind of poll is just stupid.

Speaking of CNN, there's a short sentence innocuously place in one of their recent articles: "White House officials said there is no guarantee that Bush will ever formally declare the war over..." Now who didn't see this coming? It's just like the terror alert colors. The whole idea is to keep everyone scared all the time so no one will question the government. Has the American public not read 1984? Am I the only one seeing this??
They've been reporting for a couple of days that Apple Computer is in talks to buy Universal Music, the world's largest music distributor, from Vivendi-Universal. That would be really wierd. Wonder if it would work? It would certainly prove whether or not you could successfully run a music business with the computing public as an ally instead of an enemy. Another rumored suitor for Universal is Microsoft... oh man, now that's exactly what we need, even MORE Redmond hegemony.
Now this is important: A site dedicated to the more bizarre pronouncements of the Iraqi Information Minister. Remember, "They're not even [within] 100 miles [of Baghdad]. They are not in any place. They hold no place in Iraq. This is an illusion ... they are trying to sell to the others an illusion."
Unlike Kirkuk, the Kurdish peshmerga didn't move into Mosul when the Iraqis abandoned it. With no Americans, no Kurds, and no Iraqis to keep order, the city is tearing itself apart. I just read one of the things I most feared reading: an Iraqi kid telling Philip Robertson "this isn't freedom, this is bullshit." Pray this isn't what becomes of the Iraqis' liberation.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., purveyors of such fine programming as FOX News and Star TV (a favorite on mainland China), has just consummated its deal to buy out Hughes Electronics (owners of DirecTV), thus completing one more step along its path to world domination.
Apparently, the NYPD has been collecting dossiers on the political affiliations of anti-war protesters arrested in New York and keeping the information in a large database. When the ACLU found out, the NYPD claimed they had destroyed the database and would stop interrogating protesters. Everyone in the NYPD's top ranks denied knowing anything about the project, of course.
British Airways and Air France are finally retiring the Concorde. So long. Hope you stick around in museums, with nice big displays and crowds of people all trying to get a look.
This is one of the most bizarre things I've ever seen. American Computer LLC they call themselves, supposedly based out of Cranford, NJ. On their site, they advertise laptops, mainframes, desktops, PDAs, all of their own brands, although they claim to carry pretty much every other product in existence as well. Then you go onto their about us page, and it's just great. Apparently, they have IBM and Microsoft quaking in their boots. "It's founder was the innovator responsible for desktop window pcs and inter-networked workstations and servers with windows, a seasoned veteran with in depth product design and market knowledge that transcends the world's computer industry." They invented "Million Gigahertz Transistor technology". We know this is true because it was confirmed by "Lawrence Berkley and Harvard". Their servers "are as capable in an Avionics and Flight Control bay on board an F-16 Falcon, as they are in a File Server Room in the back office at a Major Bank!"

My best guess, based on the copious misspellings present, the fact that everything is supposed to be available in English or Chinese, that they claim to have a manufacturing plant in Taiwan (along with New York, New Jersey, Ohio, California, and pretty much everywhere else), and that occasionally there are Chinese characters littered between the lines of english text, is that whatever this is, it's based out of China or Taiwan. I tried doing a whois search on their domain and all the affiliated domains (they claim to also run a major web portal - "its Comp America Online based ventures attract the largest audience of any on the internet, covering a diversity of subject matter in "real world" community appeal havens."), and they all are registered to someone at the address the provided in New Jersey. So, I have absolutely no idea what the heck this is. Researching it was a good way to wast an hour and a half, though.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Is it really over? That's what the news sources are suggesting. But whatever the state of Saddam's government and army, "it" has only begun. What do we do with the country now? Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi exile-cum-Syrian felon wants the government, but that's why he's supported the war all along. Meanwhile, the Pentagon wants a military government, Defense wants its people in change, State and the UK want the UN to move in, and Bush just wants to make sure that no one interferes with whatever it is he decides to do. And, of course, the reports are coming in of rampant looting and rioting, not just the newly liberated citizens of Baghdad raiding Baath party offices, but the militias that have taken over after the US Army leaves raiding the "liberated" civilians. Are we going to build a post-Imperial Japan or a post-Taliban Afghanistan? We have very little room for error here.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Philip Robertson has sent in a heartening report from Kurdistan - another town evacuated by Iraq and reclaimed by the Kurds with US Special Forces help, and this one is everything we had hoped for - crowds of people weeping for joy, tearing down the Saddam statues, begging to tell their stories to the Westerners, and shouting "Bar-zan-i!" (the Kurdish leader) and "Am-ri-ka!" in the streets. It's just so good to hear that kind of thing. It's a bit of justice in an unjust world. I only hope and pray that it lasts, and we don't sell them out again.
The College Republicans are coming out in force for a recruiting drive at Haverford. Their new leader has the rather ironic nickname "Greed", from his first initial and last name. They've been putting up posters everywhere, a good number of which extol the virtue of Republicans in not having affaris in the White House (I really thought we'd moved on to more important things by now.) The only one with significant text regarding an issue is a reprint of a news article on how global warming doesn't exist. Now seriously. Of all the things to hitch your wagon to, you pick that global warming doesn't exist. That's not very smart. Greed has always talked about how much more moderate the Republicans are than the Democrats, so why go out and ruin the image by saying something like that?
Here's an interesting story: the WNBA is in danger of not having a season. Apparently the players union is having a contract dispute with the league. Unlike in men's professional sports, this isn't utterly ludicrous: WNBA players make an average of $46k or $60k, depending on who you ask. While it makes sense that they make so much less, given that the WNBA is hemmorhaging cash and no one watches it (and the Orlando team got bought out by the Mohegan Indians and now play at their casino in Connecticut), at least the players aren't whining about only getting $7 million a year instead of $8 million.

I said when the WNBA was founded it wouldn't last. I completely agreed with the argument that women should be allowed to compete the same as men, and I noted there was no clause in the NBA's rules barring women from playing. I compared the WNBA to the Negro Leagues. It's segregation for no good reason. If the women are as good as the men, then they should be playing in the same league as the men. If they're not as good as the men, then why do they think anybody wants to watch them play. Unfortunately, as anyone who's seen a WNBA game can attest, the women turned out not to be as good at basketball as the men, and consequently, lo and behold, no one wanted to watch the WNBA. Sorry.

Monday, April 07, 2003

Now here's a logical question asked most often by war supporters and Bush supporters: "Why are you so worried about the PATRIOT Act and all the other anti-terrorism measures the US government has taken? Look at the enemy! Why aren't you trying to get Iraq to be more democratic instead of bothering us here?" Fortunately, there's a very easy answer to that: because I live here, and I don't live in Iraq. I have all the concern in the world for... well, the world; but my number one concern is what's going on right here, and I'm not going to let this place go to hell just because somewhere else is already there. That good enough?
"Did you see what he just did there? We're in the middle of a war and he's starting another war. We're already fighting Iraq and he's like, 'By the way, Syria? You want a piece?' ... There's nothing like a cantankerous old man who takes a 'Hey, you kids, get off my lawn!' approach to foreign policy." -Jon Stewart on The Daily Show, referring to Donald Rumsfeld's rather hostile warning to Syria about doing anything that remotely could be considered pro-Iraq.
According to a CNN article, the post-war government of Iraq has been decided, will be headed by a retired US general, and has moved into Kuwait before taking over power. I have to beleive there's more to the story - the post war fate of Iraq merits more than a paragraph's mention. I'm waiting for a follow up story.
The situation in Korea is heating up some more. The North and the South just cancelled high level talks that were scheduled in the near future. This is after North Korea announced that the UN had become irrelevant and it would ignore any resolutions against it, and somewhere around the time it declared diplomacy was useless and it needed to start yet another massive military buildup to protect itself. They're taking every page out of the George W. Bush playbook, aren't they? Kim Jong Il and his cronies are insane, not stupid.

Sunday, April 06, 2003

by Bill Day

Saturday, April 05, 2003

OK, this is getting kind of ridiculous. Now Peter Arnett is reporting for Al-Arabiya TV, based out of Dubai, UAE. Now, I've been willing to give the guy the benefit of the doubt, and figure he just made a really dumb move by giving and interview to Iraqi TV, but I'm starting to wonder just whose side this guy's on. I'm still not on Jim "think like me or get out of my country" Bunning's boat to accuse Arnett of treason, nor do I ever plan to be unless he starts telling Saddam where our troops are, how to get at them, and wishing him luck. I'm just saying, the man ought to realize he's making a lot of people back home very uncomfortable, and destroying his career in the process.

Note: I have never seen Al-Arabiya TV, nor have I read any transcripts of their coverage. For all I know, they might be gung ho pro US. I am operating solely on the basis that reporting for an Arab network right now looks really, really bad to all us unwashed masses.
A very interesting narrated photojournal of the Oscar-night protests in L.A.

Friday, April 04, 2003

Philip Morris thought that changing their name to the innocuous-yet-bizarre Altria Group would help save them from the ravaging hordes of anti-tobacco crusaders. Unfortunately, the factor they left out when considering this strategy is that they are, in fact, still a tobacco company. The current $10 Billion judgment against them in Illinois may have helped them toward that realization. The lawsuit stems from Flip Mo's "light" cigarette brands, which they marketed as safer, even though they weren't. The Marlboro man claims that this judgment will drive the company into bankruptcy, which seems rather unlikely, given Altria's steady $2-$4 billion net quarterly profits, but the company might just be looking for an excuse to go into Chapter 11 - it would likely get them out of their obligations under the 1998 tobacco settlement, at least temporarily. The State of Illinois refused to write a new law to make it cheaper and easier for Altria to appeal, in a rare example of government not caving to corporate demands.

I don't know exactly what my position is here. I'm certainly no fan of the tobacco industry. On the other hand, everyone knows cigarettes kill you, and I sort of want to say that if you're still smoking them, that's your problem. At least this lawsuit has some amount of sense, as it implies that the people harmed had good reason to beleive that the cigarettes they were smoking wouldn't kill them. $10 billion though? That's a lot of cash for an issue we've been over a thousand times before. And if Flip Mo does use this as an excuse to get out of its tobacco settlement payments, it's going to have a ripple effect on a lot of near-broke states that are counting on that money. The issue's more complicated than I wish it were.

Thursday, April 03, 2003

At least it's better than Operation "Iraqi Freedom": The British operation in Iraq has been named Operation "James". Apparently, Saddam is a rabid 007 fan, so it's only fitting that the super agent is coming to get him now. So far, the British have bombed targets code named "Blofeld", "Connery", and of course "Pussy" and "Galore".
Interestingly enough, Arnett has been picked up by TV stations in Greece and Belgium to do daily reports from Iraq, in addition to his print work for the Daily Mirror.
I have a feeling this war's starting to wind down. I'm hoping it's true. I noted a few items in today's CNN news: First, Iraq's propaganda claims are starting to get more ridiculous. Apparently, we're not within 100 miles of Baghdad, and we never even got to Umm Qasr. Second, Iraq just released Grand Ayatollah Sistani, one of Iraq's foremost religious leaders who had been under house arrest for some time. Sistani had issued fatwas urging Iraqis to resist the US invasion while in custody; he changed his tune upon release, urging Iraqis not to interfere with US forces. Then, third, there's Iraq's expulsion of an Al-Jazeera journalist, which caused Al-Jazeera to fold up their Iraq operations. Al-Jazeera was Iraq's main media ally, if it could be called that - I can't imagine what they were thinking unless this was some kind of act of desperation, turning on everyone as the end approached. None of this stuff by any stretch of the imagination constitutes hard evidence of the war's progress, but I'll take whatever I can get.
It seems Peter Arnett was immediately picked up by England's Daily Mirror after being fired by NBC. While I can't blame NBC for firing him, I also can't blame the Mirror for picking him up. It's not often that you get the chance to grab a Pulitzer Prize-winner who happens to be set up to report in the middle of a war zone. Meanwhile, Senator Jim Bunning (R-Ky) has announced he wants to try Arnett for treason. I propose we try Bunning for being a moron.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

Apparently, the "adult entertainment" industry has got their strategery on, as they ask "Will War be Good or Bad for [the porn] Business?" Today's moment of Zen, courtesy of Eric J. White of Virtual Reality Innovations Inc.: "In this case, I think the liberation of the Iraqi people and the freedom to think for themselves will create a new customer pool for everyone in the adult industry," he said. "What better way for these people to finally be able to deal with their pent-up sexual frustration? When they have freedoms like us, they'll have access to the World Wide Web and unfettered access to satisfy their sexual urges."
What did this man just eat?