Saturday, December 31, 2005

One Last Act of Self-Promotion, 2005

Whether you're a loyal reader or an inadvertent visitor who took a wrong turn somewhere on Google (just because the word "boobs" appears in my blog, it doesn't mean there are pictures of any—unless Karl Rove counts), you're probably wondering what the single most-read post on (parenthetical remarks) was in the year of our lord, 2005. You really do want to know this, right? Fine. So you don't care. I'm going to tell you anyway. It was this gem. Thanks Brit & Kev!

Yes, thanks to a timely mention on Gawker, thousands of people were able to see the culmination of a spark of recognition followed by hours of surfing through Google to pirate the appropriate images. Looking back, it seems like a much more innocent time, before the "reality" show, before the marriage, before *shudder* the world was blessed with one more Federline.

So go ahead, have a look. For old-time's sake. And a Happy New Year to all of you, even the Federlines!

Friday, December 30, 2005

And the (Other) Winners Are...

The final slate of Andrew Sullivan award winners was announced today.

The Begala Award, given to "lefties who deploy personal abuse and bitter hyperbole," was almost taken by Michael Moore, namesake of another Sullivan Award. Atrios also got a nod for a particularly bitter attack against Thomas Friedman. The winners, however, were Jerry and Joe Long of the Huffington Post, who took the honors because of this particularly crass statement:
The religious right's position on embryonic stem cell research is clear: consign Alzheimer's and Parkinson's sufferers to death on the off chance that a blastocyst will crawl out of the garbage pail to work the breakfast shift at Burger King.
The Yglesias Award, created to honor writers "who actually risk something in alienating their own readers, and challenging their own side in political combat," is a Sullivan Award you might actually want to win. Brad DeLong almost won it for his hilariously backhanded apologia for Bill Bennett, but the award ultimately went to Andy Ferguson at the Weekly Standard who pilloried his fellow conservatives thusly:
Most conservative books are pseudo-books: ghostwritten pastiches whose primary purpose seems to be the photo of the "author" on the cover. What a tumble! From 'The Conservative Mind' to 'Savage Nation'; from Clifton White to Dick Morris; from Willmoore Kendall and Harry Jaffa to Sean Hannity and Mark Fuhrman - all in little more than a generation's time. Whatever this is, it isn't progress.
Finally, even though the Derbyshire Award for "neanderthal bigotry from the right" has been supplanted by the Malkin Award, Sullivan dredged it up just so its namesake wouldn't go home empty-handed. The National Review paleocon takes home his own award for a lovely little bit on how soldiers should treat "commie" journalists in Iraq: Shoot to kill. And that from a journalist. It's a wonderful world.

Orhan Pamuk Petition

Please take a moment to sign this petition asking that all charges against Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk be dropped. Pamuk faces three years in prison for violating Article 301, a provision that prohibits insulting the Turkish state.

Without freedom of expression, there is no freedom at all. Stand up and be counted! Or sit at your computer and do it. Either way.

Please forward this post or a link to the petition to anyone you know who might care about this situation.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Pamuk Escapes Second Charge (For Now)

In a vaguely encouraging move, Turkish prosecutors have elected not to file new charges against novelist Orhan Pamuk for "insulting the Turkish military" during an interview he gave to a German newspaper. The future Nobel laureate is already facing a possible three-year jail sentence on charges that he "insulted Turkish identity" in the course of a different interview for a Swiss magazine. (Note to Orhan: Maybe you should hold off on that European press junket for a bit?)

A group of nationalist lawyers in Turkey is vowing to appeal the decision by prosecutors to not file this second set of charges. What is everyone getting all worked up about? Apparently Pamuk told Die Welt that the Turkish military had "sometimes been a threat to Turkish democracy." Well, be still, my beating heart! Where could he have gotten that idea?:
May 1960: Military coup. Junta remains in power until 1965.

March 12, 1971: Army forces resignation of Prime Minister.

Sept 12, 1980: Military coup. Junta rules until November 6, 1983.

February 28, 1997: Military forces pro-Islamic government to resign and replaces it with a center-right coalition.
Maybe it was all that.

Turks like to believe that the military is a bulwark against the enemies of the Turkish Republic—external and internal alike—and there's definitely some truth to that. The Turkish military has certainly played a role in maintaining the secular status quo and it is hard to imagine what Turkey would be like today if not for the strong guiding influence of the military. That's not really what's at issue here, however. Whether or not the Turkish military has acted in the best interests of the Turkish people from time to time (and I'm not saying they have, necessarily), there can be no argument that a military coup is by definition the antithesis of democracy. Pamuk isn't saying the military is pure evil, he's just pointing out that their actions have run counter to the democratic process on a number of occasions.

Atatürk's greatest dream for the Turkish Republic was Westernization. They got part of the way there by protecting the nation from the anti-Westernizing influences of Islamists and some ethnic separatists. What they must realize is they can't get the rest of the way there so long as they're not willing to trust the people enough to give them true freedom of expression. One of the great ironies for Turkey is that to fully Westernize and modernize (and join the EU), they are going to have to remove the muzzles from certain people who have no interest in the Westernizing, modernizing project. The government and the military will have to trust that their goals for Turkey can win out in the marketplace of ideas. It's a chance they'll have to take if they want to take the next step onto the world stage.

The secular nationalists may want what's best for the republic, but their actions right now are ultimately what may keep them out of the EU. Orhan Pamuk and others who stand in opposition to rules barring dissent do so because they believe in the freedom of expression—and in Turkey, too.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Profiles in Punditry, 2005

So, as you know, I'm no fan of year-end video countdown extravaganzi and similar crimes against conscience (not to mention consciousness). But that doesn't mean I scorn annual awards presentations in general. Just the ones that noticeably lower your IQ.

Every year, Andrew Sullivan gives out a series of "awards" on his blog that recognize the peaks and valleys in punditry over the previous twelve months. Readers are welcome to make nominations and Sullivan gives his own nods throughout the year, usually whenever someone writes a damn-fool thing.

True to form, Sullivan's categories are designed to leave no stuffed suit un-skewered, whether on the left or the right. The John Derbyshire Award, named in honor of the National Review's resident bigot, is awarded for "right-wing hyperbole, hate-speech or manic paranoia," while the Paul Begala Award is given to individuals in the public sphere who show an "unusual felicity for lying, exaggerating or hyping news stories to buttress the Democratic party and any and all of its officials." There's also the newish Matt Yglesias Award which is named after the left-leaning blogger and writer for The American Prospect and goes to writers "who are prepared to alienate their core readership with some unpleasant truths."

So far, Sullivan has posted the winners for only two categories, but they're biggies.

The Michael Moore Award—originally called the Susan Sontag Award but changed after her death because "it's no fun to ridicule a dead person"—is given for "moral equivalence in the war on terror." There's some stiff competition in the category as you might expect (like Salon.com's Jane Smiley calling for the execution of much of the Bush administration), but in the end, one quote stood out above the rest:
As for those in the World Trade Center, well, really, let's get a grip here, shall we? True enough, they were civilians of a sort. But innocent? Gimme a break.
That was University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill, of course, who proved the Noam Chomsky Principle over and over in 2005: just because you have a Ph.D. doesn't mean you necessarily have the slightest idea what you're talking about.

The other big award handed out on Sullivan's blog was the Michelle Malkin Award, given to honor "hyperbolic, divisive, mean-spirited, far-right boilerplate, of the kind Malkin produces on an almost hourly basis." Aside from Malkin herself, an obvious choice for this award would be Ann Coulter, and she does nearly steal the show with her "Liberals love America like O.J. loved Nicole" line. Lucky for all the other far-right nutjobs out there, Coulter is barred from the contest on the logic that "others have got to have a chance." Instead, the Malkin Award goes to Ben Stein, who had this to say about Mark "Deep Throat" Felt in the American Spectator:
It is a terrifying chapter in betrayal and ingratitude. If he even knows what shame is, I wonder if he felt a moment's shame as he tortured the man who brought security and salvation to the land of so many of his and my fellow Jews. Somehow, as I look at his demented face, I doubt it.
That savior of Israel, by the way, is Richard "The Jews Are Born Spies" Nixon.

Stay tuned to Sullivan's blog for more award winners in the days to come and, as always, a healthy dose of deflated egos.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Annual Xmas Armistice Day

Christmas has come and gone and the casualties in the war against said holiday are, well, nonexistent as usual. FOX News and friends can file away their Christian bogeyman until after next Thanksgiving, when the anchor who draws the short straw will release his screed on how the atheists and liberals (and don't forget the Jews!) are scheming to destroy America's most sacred—and profitable—holiday. My money's on Neil Cavuto.

It's been fun, guys. See you next war!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Video Countdown Hell

It's getting close to the end of the year which means we will be coming under increasing assault from the lowest form of entertainment: the countdown show. The big holiday event when I was a kid was the New Year's Eve classic rock top 500 songs of all time super-countdown. You know, "Stairway to Heaven" was always number one and there was an overabundance of Eagles "hits."

But, that grand era has passed—you know what video did to the radio star. Taking its place is the paltry video countdown. Take VH1's "Top 40 of 2005," which has been running on an endless loop since early November.

Little more than a celebration of platinum sales and blandness, VH1's countdown features vapid non-celebrities yammering pointlessly over minuscule clips of videos by such luminaries as Kanye West, Green Day and Mariah Carey, [spoiler alert] who takes number one honors.

It's bad enough to have someone talking over the music in the style of Behind the Music. (What ever happened to actually watching the videos?) What makes it worse is that VH1 has hired the most insipid gaggle of nobodys to do the commentary. They're so reverential and—worse—unfunny, it makes you wonder if these people actually pay VH1 to be on for the exposure. They certainly get their money's worth since VH1 has chosen to focus on the "talent" while the video plays in a little postage stamp-sized box on the edge of the screen.

Some of the commentary is so obvious that I'm convinced it's really there to provide voiceovers for the blind. Oh, really! The Coldplay "Speed of Sound" video is filmed in front of a large bank of colored lights. Thank you for telling me. Now I don't have to open my eyes. These countdowns, like most of the songs on them, actually make you stupider with every exposure.

I'll admit, it's kind of hard not to appreciate the whitest utterance of the phrase "flip the script" in history, but I keep coming back to this depressing thought: there are actually people putting their stint on the "Top 40 of 2005" on their resumes. No wonder the holidays are the most depressing time of year.

The PTC's War on Anti-Christmas

Everybody's favorite "non-partisan" media watchdog is at it again, scratching at the back door of reason and begging to be let out.

The Parents Television Council, a scrofulous pack of apoplectic joy killers, is currently bleating hysterically about the television industry's attack on religion. In fact, "PTC Condemns Television Industry Attacks on Religion" is the title of their latest foul missive. By "religion" they mean "Christianity," but I bet you already guessed that.

It looks like the PTC is convinced there's a war on Christmas and TV is giving aid and comfort to the enemy. "TV" doesn't include FOX News, but I bet you already guessed that, too.
During this holy time of year, Hollywood has once again proven how out of step they are with mainstream America by launching an all-out attack on not just religion, but some of the most fundamental tenets of the Christian faith.
That is the obnoxious whinging of L. Brent Bozell III, the alpha male of the PTC. What's so horrible, you ask? First of all, there's South Park, a program that can normally be counted on to propagate solid Christian values. Certainly that's what viewers of a cartoon created with construction paper by the geniuses behind Baseketball expect when they tune in.

The next target of the PTC's derision is Dennis Leary, who had the gall to question the literal veracity of the virgin birth. On television! He truly is a heretic, just like the Unitarians and a bunch of other Protestant denominations. How dare television challenge the inerrant Word of God? I think there are some indulgences for sale on the PTC website, by the way.

Finally, they go after Boston Legal for, amongst other things, portraying a priest who is "concealing the whereabouts of a pedophile." Heaven forfend! Who could possibly imagine a priest doing a despicable thing like that? Priests don't protect pedophiles, especially not, oh, I don't know, the pope and most of the Catholic hierarchy.

This isn't about prudishness or censorship, though. It's about giving "cable choice" to consumers. "Cable choice" doesn't include the remote control, but I bet you already guessed that. Repeat after me, "It's a wonderful life, it's a wonderful life, it's a wonderful life..."

The Trial of the Turkish Century

In a possibly apocryphal but often quoted story, Adolf Hitler justified his Final Solution by admonishing his advisers, "who now remembers the Armenians?" One Turkish writer is facing three years in prison for doing just that.

Orhan Pamuk, future Nobel laureate and Turkey's greatest living novelist, is set to stand trial in early February on charges that he "insulted Turkishness." In question is a quote from an interview Pamuk gave to the Swiss publication Das Magazin last year: "Thirty-thousand Kurds and a million Armenians were killed in these lands and nobody but me dares to talk about it."

Pamuk is referring both to the genocide against Armenians who lived in what is now eastern Turkey during World War I in the twilight of the Ottoman Empire, and the more recent brutal clashes between Kurdish guerrillas and government troops—clashes that have been devastating to the civilian Kurdish population—in the country's south and east over the past few decades (hostilities have declined greatly in recent years).

Few serious scholars would dispute the veracity of Pamuk's claims, but discussion of the Armenian genocide and, to a somewhat lesser degree, the Kurdish "problem," is taboo in Turkey. Turks are taught in school that the Armenian genocide is a total fabrication designed to cripple the Turkish republic and the prohibition on frank discussion of the event is so complete that most Turks today not only vehemently deny that the massacres and forced deportations took place; they believe that most people outside of Turkey learn the same things and feel the same way they do.

Article 301 of Turkey's criminal code, which prohibits publicly "insulting" Turkish National identity, the republic, or the Grand National Assembly, is what Pamuk is charged with violating. The article, and many other similar curbs on the freedom of expression and the press, are firmly rooted in Turkey's history as a republic. Kemal Atatürk resurected Turkey from the ashes of the Ottoman collapse, and, after a decisive if brutal military campaign against Greek troops, declared the Turkish Republic in 1923.

Built on the blood and sweat of Atatürk (who is Turkey's Washington, Jefferson, Adams and Franklin all rolled into one), and based on the tenets of strict nationalism and secularism, the Turkish republic was an astonishing and improbable success—in large part because Atatürk willed the idea of "Turkishness" into existence.

It continues to be so today, with one of the most robust economies in the Muslim world and, despite the heavy-handedness of the government (in which the military plays an official role), one of the most Western and democratic, too. Among the great stumbling blocks, however, have been the Turkish government's inability to permit meaningful opposition and its inability to admit mistakes. (Apart from Armenia and the Kurds, the Turks have a long and painful history with Greece and they are largely unwilling to admit their part in perpetrating the enmity).

It seems like the dark years of military rule are solidly in Turkey's past, and a testament to the success of the Turkish experiment is the fact that the nation is poised to join the European Union. If it succeeds, it will be the first Muslim nation to do so. But, thanks to the Turks' inability to work with Greece in reuniting the bifurcated island of Cyprus (which Turkey invaded and occupied the northern portion of in the early 1970s) amongst other failings, Turkey's accession to the EU is anything but guaranteed. A high-profile trial against one of the world's great novelists is yet another nail in the coffin.

Some EU opposition to Turkish membership is pure racism and bigotry. Some, however, is based on the understandable fear that Turkey is not committed to European standards of democracy. An ideological show-trial against the most famous living Turk other than Tarkan (Google him if you don't know) seems beyond unwise—it's more like suicide.

In a slight bit of bright news, author Zulkuf Kisanak and his publisher Aziz Ozer, who were also brought up on charges for violating Article 301 because of Kisanak's book Lost Villages, which discusses the Armenian and Kurdish issues, were fined instead of being sentenced to jail. For a civil libertarian, however, that's largely immaterial. The fact that they're having these trials—that Article 301 exists at all—is the real problem.

It would be exciting for Turkey to join the EU because of what it would mean for the country's people and, ultimately, for Europe as well. But the Turkish government needs to demonstrate that it deserves the chance to bring Atatürk's Westernizing dreams to fruition.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Ad Nauseam

Intel Centrino has what is either the worst or the best advertising slogan of all time:
Exciting entertainment experiences in your lap
It all depends on whether they intended for it to sound that naughty.

On second though, considering the kinds of things we're downloading from the Internet, it's entirely appropriate.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Bush's Leap of Faith

President George W. Bush during a FOX News exclusive interview with Brit Hume last night:
People, I guess, speculate about the burden of the office. I feel my burden is lightened by relying upon a higher being.
Somewhere, in a secure undisclosed location, Dick Cheney's ears are burning. (Good thing it's not Gitmo or it would probably be his genitals instead).

The End Times

This is why we, as a civilization, deserve to be wiped off the face of the planet: Lycos has come out with its "Lycos 50," a list of the top 100 Internet search terms for 2005, and holding the coveted number one spot is none other than America's favorite trust-fund hussy, Paris Hilton. Fire and brimstone is too good for us.

Rounding out the Top 10 are:
    2. Pamela Anderson
    3. Britney Spears
    4. Poker
    5. Dragonball
    6. Jennifer Lopez
    7. WWE
    8. Pokemon
    9. Playstation
    10. Hurricane Katrina
It's true, the worst natural disaster in recent American history was only the tenth most popular Internet search term. Far, far behind the number two seach term, which is the worst man-made disaster in recent American history. This list seems to cater almost exclusively to 13-year-old boys and, well, creepy grown men who behave like 13-year-old boys. Can you even imagine the sheer amount of masturbation this list implies?

The next ten aren't much better, but the Asian tsunami does make an appearance at number 15, showing that people have time to show a little heart once they're done looking at boobs. The list also helps us keep tabs on the battle of the tween superstars, with Lindsay Lohan coming in at number 17, three spots above arch-rival Hilary Duff. That could set off a tremendous cat fight which would in turn prompt millions of 13-year-old boys to masturbate. So goes the cycle of life.

Freakish Christian fundamentalists will be happy to know that "Christmas" comes in at number 26, one spot above the satanic Harry Potter, and lonely married women may be heartened by the fact that "Golf" fell from position 46 last year to number 98 this year. I guess you just can't masturbate to golf (and if you can, please don't write in to tell me).

Dictionary.com has released their own year-end list of the most looked-up words of 2005, one for each letter of the alphabet. The results here are similarly disconcerting. It's a fair bet that anyone who has to look up a word like "virtue" or "benevolent" is beyond help. The same can be said of all the people who searched for "irony," and I don't even want to think about why all those people had to search for the meaning of "love."

One surprise on the list was "karma." It could be chalked up to people who watch "My Name Is Earl," but I suspect the significance goes a bit deeper than that. It's pretty clear from the obsessions of the Internet savants that our world is in deep, deep trouble. Maybe people just want to read up on the thing that's going to get them in the end.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Right-Wing War on Christmas

Christians are feeling a little bit insecure at this time of year, and who can blame them? Their struggling religion's fragile foothold in America—only about 86% of a population nearing 3 million—is in grave danger of eroding down to nothing thanks to the satanic machinations of our nation's retail chains.

Rabid right-wing pedants like Bill O'Reilly and John Gibson are at the forefront of a righteous battle to win back the mall for Christ. They're not calling for any boycotts, mind you. Here's John Gibson not calling for a boycott:
The point is people should do this on their own without me or Bill O'Reilly calling for a boycott. The store chain has its free speech. And you have your right to spend your money where you want, and don't spend it where you don't want. Figure it out for yourselves.
I'm most definitely (wink) not telling you (wink) what you should do (nudge, nudge). Now, buy my book. You'll love it, guaranteed! (Not a guarantee.)

I wonder if the boys at FOX ever take a break from weeping over the sorry state of marginalized believers to ask themselves this question: Why on earth would you want to force sales clerks to wish you a Merry Christmas?

Coercion is so anti-American. It's almost French by FOX standards. I think it's anti-Christian, too. Isn't wishing someone a "Merry Christmas" all about the sentiment behind the wish? Or are you merely content with empty platitudes? Having the pimply kid at Costco wish you a "Merry Christmas" is only about stroking your own ego and reinforcing your own belief system. That's the exact opposite of what Christmas is supposed to be about, wouldn't you say? Well, I'll be! It looks like there might be a War on Christmas after all.

The War on Christmas at Retail Price

It's been a bloody week in the War on Christmas. First, President Bush had the temerity to send a "Holiday" rather than "Christmas" card to friends and supporters. William Donohue, apoplectic lunatic and president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, said the irreligious card "clearly demonstrates that the Bush administration has suffered a loss of will and that they have capitulated to the worst elements in our culture." The First Lady's press secretary responded to charges of political correctness by noting that "President and Mrs. Bush, because of their faith, celebrate Christmas. Their cards in recent years have included best wishes for a holiday season, rather than Christmas wishes, because they are sent to people of all faiths" (emphasis added). Imagine that! Uniting, not dividing.

"Screw people of other faiths," say some crusaders for Christ. Take Bill O'Reilly speaking to a Jewish caller on his wildly, if inexplicably, popular The O'Reilly Factor on FOX News: "You have a predominantly Christian nation. You have a federal holiday based on the philosopher Jesus. And you don't wanna hear about it? Come on, [caller] — if you are really offended, you gotta go to Israel then." Yes, God bless Christian America!

The Christmas mujahideen were dealt another blow as well—this one from within the belly of the beast itself. A number of megachurches around the country announced that they would be canceling Christmas-day services "because they expect low attendance on what they call a family day."

So, if George Bush, an evangelical Christian, can send a holiday card and some evangelical megachurches can downplay the importance of attending church on Christmas, what's the big deal? What's behind the War on Christmas?

Salon.com ran a very interesting article on the history of the War on Christmas. It seems that the concept of Christmas under assault from the enemies of faith is not new. As early as 1921, noted anti-Semite Henry Ford "was sounding the alarm about the war on Christmas" in a tract called "The International Jew" (he was not in favor of such a Jew, by the way). In 1959, the John Birch Society—an ultra-right wing group deemed too loony to campaign for the ultra-right Barry Goldwater in 1964—led a campaign aimed at retailers and railing against the "godless UN." Now it's atheists and the ACLU, but little else has changed. John Gibson and his friends at FOX are just the latest manifestations of a long, if despicable, tradition.

Among the great ironies of the War on Christmas is that one of its major targets is the American retailer. Long accused of de-sanctifying Christmas due to over-commercialization, they are now seen as a possible bulwark against atheism—if only they would say "Merry Christmas." It's as if the religious right have given in to the holiday's commercialization, they just want to make sure it's their holiday that's being ruined rather than anybody else's. The folks at FOX News are trying to have their Christmas ham and eat it, too, by saturating the airwaves with War on Christmas propaganda while wringing their hands (as they did on FOX & Friends this morning) over the commercialization of the holiday.

Everything about this campaign is retail-oriented. The decision to close churches due to low attendance is a quintessential retail business decision. The only reason that stores like Wal-Mart and Target recognize Christmas in the first place is to capitalize on the huge business opportunity it represents. If the pro-Christmas crowd manages to get these stores' employees to wish people a "Merry Christmas," it will only be because there's a retail downside if they don't. What battle are the Christian soldiers fighting, here? And what's going to happen if they win? If they do, it may be good for ChristmasTM, but it won't do anything for Christ. Sadly, I don't think that's really the point.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

It Was the Worst of Times...

Here's a headline that's currently on the Yahoo! News top 10: "Historians: Past Eras Were Worse Than Now." Well, no kidding! What's next, "Having Electrodes Attached to Your Genitals Is an Unpleasant Experience"? (That one would come strictly from the left-wing press, mind.)

Not that we're living in especially happy-go-lucky times, but I think a brutal war that killed over a half-million Americans in the 19th Century is a tiny bit worse. (That would be the Civil War, by the way, Siena College students.)

The Siena Research Institute poll of American historians was undertaken by researchers after hearing students of Siena College in the Albany area "comment they felt today's era was one of the most trying in America's history."

"I definitely think today is one of most trying times," said Kristina Hicks, 20, a Siena junior. "When I read about things like 9/11 and the war in Iraq in textbooks, it doesn't actually portray the whole picture of what happened." (Possibly this is because these events happened in the last few years and textbooks get written at the pace that stalagmites form?)

The survey asked historians to rate eight different eras in American history on a scale of how trying they were. Guess what? Today was deemed the least trying era of the eight. The results, from most trying to least, were as follows:
1. The Civil War (nearly destroyed the country)
2. The Revolutionary War (nearly destroyed the idea of the country)
3. The Great Depression (Okies, Okies everywhere)
4. Vietnam and the Cultural Revolution (dirty hippies, Nixon)
5. World War II (less fun than Hogan's Heroes implies)
6. The Cold War (bombs bursting in air—not the good kind)
7. World War I (machine guns!!)
8. Today (not specifically December 11, 2005...you know what they mean!)
Now, if we throw in a little bird flu pandemic and a few more seasons of The Simple Life, we might be getting up there.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Overheard on FOX

During a segment of "The Big Story" this evening on FOX News, John "There's a War on Christmas and Your Womenfolk Are Not Safe" Gibson was interviewing entertainment critic Bill McCuddy about the latest crop of films to hit the theaters.

McCuddy gave high marks to Brokeback Mountain, a film about gay cowboys (no pudding, South Park fans), but Gibson seemed a bit squeamish about the sex scenes.
What's more difficult to watch: George Clooney getting his fingernails ripped out in Syriana or that?
Now, I don't expect the FOX News anchors to be marching in pride parades or anything, but it's more than a little extreme to equate gay sex with torture. And this is not the "hey, it's not such a big deal, it's just guys blowing off steam" kind of torture. It's the "where the hell is Amnesty International, that's an American" kind of torture.

I wonder if Gibson would feel the same way about watching Angelina Jolie and Charlize Theron have sex? I'm guessing, no.

Update: The actual Gibson quote from transcripts, via Media Matters: "Which is harder to watch, the pulling out the fingernails of Syriana or Heath and Jake inamorata in this?" Pretty close considering how hard it was to hear the TV over the sound of my jaw dropping.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

An Iraq-9/11 Fallacy

I'm not a trained rhetorician, but I can still spot a blatant crime against logic when I see one.

Here's a pretty common line of "reasoning" popular in some sectors of the Rush Limbaughian hyper-right and beyond:
The war in Iraq is integrally related to the larger War on Terror, the justification for which was the 9/11 attacks. George Bush is pretty awesome because, unlike Bill Clinton, who preferred to spend his time smoking dope, hugging trees and performing abortions on demand, our valiant Commander in Chief was actually willing to do something about Saddam Hussein.
Sound familiar? If not, you haven't been listening to AM radio. The only problem is that this argument has a hole in it wide enough for the SS Condoleezza Rice to sail through.

If the justification for taking Saddam out of the picture was 9/11, then there's no way Clinton should have launched his own attack since 9/11 didn't happen until after he was out of office. Even a small child could grasp that. If people insist on the Iraq-9/11 connection, they can't hold Clinton responsible for his (relative) inaction. If they still do so, it's as much as admitting that their justification for war is a load of crap.

Interestingly enough, the line that Clinton should have acted because of the WMD threat doesn't hold water either since, hindsight being 20/20 (or close enough), there weren't any WMDs anyway. Unless these people believe that Clinton should have started a war based on faulty intelligence (and who would want that?), they're out of luck.

If the right wants to dump on Clinton, they should pursue the Osama angle instead. It's certainly true that Clinton didn't do enough to go after Bin Laden and Al Qaeda. For some strange reason, though, certain members of the Republican Party aren't too keen on bringing up the failure to capture Bin Laden. I guess it hits a bit too close to home.

Happy Birthday to Me!

My blog turns one year old today! I'd like to extend my sincere thanks to all of you who have read it over the past year, whether you're a regular member of the "hearty handful" (extra-special thanks!) or if you just stumbled upon it during Google "research" on Britney Spears.

We had a great year of slack-jawed yokels and man-sized dwarves; torture trials and unparalleled natural disasters. It would be a bit weird to say I'm hoping for more in the coming year, so I will only promise that there will be a lot more in store for (parenthetical remarks) in the ought-six. Stay tuned!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

One Man's Trash...

This is one of the coolest sites out there. Sorry about my questionable skills, it's harder than it looks (well, for me at least). Think you can do better? Follow the link on the left sidebar to give it a whirl.

Hint: If it's taking forever, you can change the replay speed with the slide-bar in the upper-lefthand corner.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays?

Battle troops continue to mass for the War on Christmas. This morning, FOX News ran a poll showing that viewers favored saying "Merry Christmas" to "Happy Holidays" by a margin of something like 60% to 20% (the remaining 20% apparently opting for "go to hell" instead).

As far as I'm concerned, this is much ado about nothing. There's no reason whatsoever that these two greetings need to be mutually exclusive. What the pro-Christmas partisans fail to realize is that there are several holidays in the "holiday season." In fact, I have always taken "Happy Holidays" as shorthand for "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year's" (and, around this time, a belated "Happy Thanksgiving," too). People who wish you a Merry Christmas in early December seem to be jumping the gun a bit. (If you want to wish me a happy Advent, go right ahead.) Even worse than jumping the gun, the early MCers are merely buying into the retailers' definition of Christmas: it starts the day after Thanksgiving and ends when your bank account is drained.

So, "Happy Holidays" does not even have to include all the so-called holidays of other religions, the members of which are undoubtedly little other than a heretical stain on our righteous Christian nation. It's just a catch-all for several red-blooded American holidays that happen to bunch together at the end of the year. For those of us who don't hate Jews and Kwanzaa-celebrating African Americans, however, "Happy Holidays" has the added bonus of making us inclusive, and tolerant people—or, as many of the soldiers of Christmas would have it, dirty, God-hating communists. (Come to think of it, when's the last time you saw any of these curmudgeons being "merry" anyway?)

There's really no end in sight, and battle lines are still being drawn in the snow. My only advice is to keep your head down and, whatever you do, don't go shopping. You're just asking for trouble.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all.
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