Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Protocols of the Elder of Gibson

So, not only is Mel Gibson a hypocrite of the first order, he's also a confirmed sexist anti-Semite (those are two separate conditions, mind—he hates Jews of both genders). Is anyone even remotely surprised?

The former Sexiest Man Alive is a hypocrite because he cares oh so much about fetuses and embryos and the perfect redeeming love of Christ, but that won't stop him from tying one on and cruising down the Pacific Coast Highway two sheets to the wind, thus showing his utter lack of concern for the lives of actual living people (and don't these fetalphiliacs have this problem a little too often for it to be mere coincidence?).

By Hitler's beard, I'm no anti-Semite!

The other two charges come from, who have been on this story from the beginning. Their latest missive about poor Mel contains the sordid details of his arrest, which were originally swept under the rug by an official statement that said his collar for drunk driving happened "without incident".

Not so much.

In addition to threatening the arresting officer by telling him that he was going to "f**k" him (metaphorically, one hopes), Mad Max actually made an escape attempt and, once he was dragged into the police station for booking, called a female police sergeant "sugar tits". They never said he was the classiest man alive.

The worst and most telling detail from the TMZ report (and one that is backed up with an exclusive copy of the arresting officer's original report), is that the dirtbag Gibson went on an anti-Semitic tirade at the scene of his arrest, saying, "F**king Jews...The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world." He then asked the deputy, "Are you a Jew?"

When he sobered up, Gibson issued a conciliatory statement which claimed, "I said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable. I am deeply ashamed of everything I said."

Bullshit. Well, maybe the "sugar tits" line, but otherwise, bullshit.

Gibson has skated around the anti-Semite label for some time now, but this outburst seals the deal and confirms what most observant people have known for some time now. His docudrama/horror flick The Passion of the Christ dredged up the old blood libel that casts the Jews as Christ-killers. At the time he claimed he was only being true to the source material. Again, bullshit.

Gibson is an adherent of Traditionalist Catholicism, which rejects the Second Vatican Council as heresy. His father, Hutton Gibson, is a "theologian" in this extremist sect. Gibson pere is a well-known holocaust denier who believes that Vatican II was actually an anti-Catholic plot by Masons and Jews.

Now, of course, Gibson is not his father. Certainly he must disown these bigoted beliefs. Here's what Katha Pollitt had to say in her review of The Passion:
Mel Gibson has not only not dissociated himself from his father's views but indirectly affirmed them ("The man never lied to me in his life," he told Peggy Noonan in Reader's Digest; pressed to affirm that the Holocaust was real, he replied that many people died in World War II and some were Jews—the classic Holocaust-revisionist two-step).
Mel may claim that he was just drunk and said some things that he didn't mean, but I don't believe him. Does anybody at this point?

He's a little scary looking these days, but he may still have a shot at the title of Sexiest Anti-Semite Alive. You've seen Ahmadinejad.

(n.b. my clever title is actually a slightly augmented version of the one I stole from Katha Pollitt, whose Nation article I quote above.)

Friday, July 28, 2006

The Passion of the Mel

Hollywood hunk and bug-eyed zealot-wierdo Mel Gibson was arrested this morning for DUI, according to a report by Apparently Mad Max blew a .12 when he was pulled over on the Pacific Coast Highway around 2:30 AM. This is the same guy who lectured all of us about suffering and moral values and Jesus and pain and lots and lots of suffering, remember. Mel, Mel, why have you forsaken us? You were supposed to be so pure.

I guess this is what you get when your best friend call pull off that water-into-wine trick.

Crocodile Tears

I was tuned into Rush Limbaugh yesterday and I heard one of the most unpleasant things I've ever heard on his program. He was talking about the Washington State court ruling that upheld the state's ban on gay marriage. After reading a surprised and gleeful statement from a right-wing Christian group opposed to same-sex marriage, he turned to a statement from the other side that talked about the bitter disappointment and heartbreak the decision caused to gay couples.

In the middle of reading the statement, Rush pretends to start crying before breaking into an evil snicker. Now, I know Rush does this kind of thing all the time, but I couldn't help being taken aback by how mean-spirited he was. Here's a guy actually mocking people who have just learned that according to the state, their relationships have no value (either spiritually, legally or practically). Just think of the hate that lurks in the heart of a man who would take pleasure in that, or in the many, many people who agree with him.

I thought to myself, What would Rush do if the situation were reversed? And it occurred to me, there is no opposite situation. Gay marriage gets struck down and there are real victims. Gay marriage gets upheld or allowed, and no one is hurt. No straight marriage becomes invalid, no civil rights are ignored, nothing. There is no legitimate pain or suffering that would follow from the legalization of gay marriage. The heartbreak and injustice on the other side, despite Limbaugh's crocodile tears, is absolutely real.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

I Pretty Much Rule

I would like to point out that my humble (yet totally rulin') blog is number one in Google searches for both "freedom from hemorrhoids" and "freedom hemorrhoid cream".

That's gotta count for something. Perhaps I should bill myself as "the cure for the common pain in the ass".

Let There Be Light!

And so there was light.

My wit, wisdom and wise counsel return tomorrow. In the meantime, I've got some Law and Order to catch up on.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Blowing Sunshine

Yesterday, AmerenUE (the Saint Louis electric utility) promised that 90% of the 155,000 customers still in the dark would have power restored today. So far, they've managed to get to 25,000 customers—a mere 16%.

Sure, the day's not over yet, but they've got their work cut out if they hope to even approach their benchmark. The other theory is that they're blowing a whole lot of sunshine up our asses, which isn't a half-bad idea since 130,000 of us are going to be in the dark for a 7th straight night in a couple hours time.

Missouri Misery

Day 7 of no power, but the library's finally open. The power company says 90% of the remaining 150,000 customers without power will get it today. Why do I feel like a 10%-er?

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Down With Ameren

Well, this is day 5 with no power. There are still some 300,000+ households without electricity in the St. Louis area. I'm one of 'em. Oh, the humanity!

In brief:
  • Bah to Bush for vetoing the stem cell measure and proving that while evangelicals like him love fetuses and embryos, they hate honest to goodness people
  • A belated tip of the golden dunce cap to Homeland Security for finding twice as many potential terror targets in Indiana as they found in California. One's a red state and one's a blue. Can you guess which is which?
  • Why can't Israel play nice with the rocket-lobbing terrorists in the Middle East? Jeesh.
  • I'd like some power, please.
More when (or if...) I get plugged back in.

Friday, July 21, 2006

St. Louis Blues

I'm wallowing in the heat here with no power and no real idea when it will come back on. Stay tuned. I'll be back as soon as possible.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Global Deep Fry

Never having been to hell (despite plenty of suggestions that I make the trip), I can't say how hot it is there, but I can say it's plenty uncomfortable here in St. Louis. In fact, it's pretty hot in a lot of the U.S. Here's a live heat map.

Casting my eye over the wires this morning, I find the following stories: Britain set to sizzle in hottest temperatures ever and Heat Wave Broils Much of Nation.

Now, I know that one heat wave doesn't global warming make (heck, it was 112 in St. Louis in 1954 on this day), but put a bunch of abnormally warm days together and, well, that's the definition of global warming. Here's a frightening quote from the U.S. weather story linked to above:
The federal government reported last week that the first half of 2006 was the warmest in the United States since record keeping began in 1895. The average temperature for the 48 contiguous United States from January through June was 51.8 degrees, or 3.4 degrees above average for the 20th century.
And we all know the federal government doesn't lie. It didn't start with 2006, either. Google the phrase "hottest year" and here are some of the results:
  • 2004 is 4th hottest year for world since 1861, UN
  • UN: 2003 third hottest year on record
  • 1998 was the hottest year on record
  • 2005: The Hottest Year in Recorded History
Still not convinced that something unique is going on with the weather? Here's a chart that I "borrowed" from a prominent newspaper (not the Washington Times or the New York Post, hint, hint) that seems to show some sort of trend:

Of course, I'm not a scientist. Then again, neither are the vast majority of global warming naysayers. The same can't be said for the other point of view. We need to do something about this. In the meantime, I hope you have air conditioning or, barring that, a close personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Annoying, Annoying, Annoying

Dan Cheeks of Sock Puppets From Hell noted it here in the comments section, and I just saw it for my own bad self: HeadOn (Apply Directly to the Forehead!) has a friend.

Here's the new ad plaguing the airwaves of our great nation:
Freedom from hemorrhoids?
FREEdHEM hemorrhoid cream!

Freedom from hemorrhoids?
FREEdHEM hemorrhoid cream!

Freedom from hemorrhoids?
FREEdHEM hemorrhoid cream!
I swear I'd rather have hemorrhoids than have to sit through this commercial again. (Just kidding, God.)

David over at David's Tangled Thoughts has also noticed this deeply troubling phenomenon.

I wonder if it's some sort of subliminal attempt to appeal to Christians through the invocation of the Trinity. Anyway, to the master"mind" of these ads, a simple plea: Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!

Update: At least they didn't copy the HeadOn! commercial exactly. I can see it now: FREEdHEM hemorrhoid cream! Apply directly to the..."

Testing, Testing One-Two

That mic is live, Mr. President.

A microphone left on at the G8 conference caught an unscripted conversation between President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Hands off the Armani, Tony.

What can we learn from this accidental eavesdropping? Well, for one, this is how the President greets Blair: "Yo Blair! How are you doing?" Totally, dude. We also find out that Blair is a bit of a stutterer when talking to big G.W., and that he refers to some unidentified G8 matter as a "trade thingy". Perhaps he was just trying to keep things on the President's level.

The high point of the brief part of the conversation that was caught on tape (a portion of which includes Bush praising Blair's gift-giving acumen, although it's impossible to tell from the video whether that compliment made his tail wag or not) is certainly this succinct oversimplification of world events from the World's Most Powerful ManTM: "You see, the ... thing is what they need to do is to get Syria, to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it's over."

Blunt, but not altogether wrong, either. I wonder if the right-wing Parents Television Council will complain to the FCC about Bush's potty mouth. My guess is: no.

We can just be thankful that Bush didn't pull a Reagan and make some crack about impending thermonuclear doom—and that he didn't instruct Blair to walk his dog.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Drudge Wants Us All to Die

One of the headlines on the Drudge Report right now is the following: "Wal-Mart discusses global warming steps..." The emphasis is in Drudge's original. It links to a benign story of the same title—but without the italics—about how massive retailers like Wal-Mart are starting to think about the environmental impact they have.

Global warming is much less of a problem in the 1930s, where I live

The world's biggest retailer was responsible for the emission of 20.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide last year, and that doesn't include production and shipping numbers, which are thought to be around ten times that. They believe there are steps they can take to reduce those numbers.

Put this story in Drudge's hands and all he can do is ridicule it. Global warming? Are they kidding? What a f**king crock! (I extrapolate.) My question to Drudge—apart from "why the fedora?"—is, what's the big deal? Wal-Mart wants to conserve energy. Would you prefer that they didn't give a crap? Is your animus against global warming so strong that you'll willingly advocate the consumption of more energy and the production of more CO2 just to stick it to Al Gore? Do you also club baby seals in front of children for fun? Just asking.

False Parallels

I stumbled upon a curious article in The Brussels Journal, a group blog which bills itself as propagating "essential news from the capital of europe." The author is one James P. McConalogue, an author and editor from Oxford, England.

His essay, entitled "From Orhan Pamuk to Oriana Fallaci", is essentially an argument in favor of the freedom of expression in Europe. I wrote about this subject in the aftermath of the Muhammad cartoon crisis and I fully agree with his underlying point (even though I bristle at Fallaci's noxious rhetoric).

What's curious about McConalogue's article is the way in which he couches Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk's famous battle with the government over charges that he had "insulted Turkishness" by public ally mentioning the Armenian genocide and Turkey's treatment of the Kurds.

McConalogue would like to draw a parallel between Pamuk and Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, who has been charged with defaming Islam in Italy. To this end, he chooses to see Pamuk as somehow having run afoul of a Muslim status quo in Turkey.
...Pamuk's case clearly demonstrates the religious boundaries that have to be challenged in order to attain free expression in transitional democratic countries.
The only problem is that Pamuk's case doesn't demonstrate this in the least. Article 301 of the Turkish penal code, which prohibits insulting Turkishness and the Turkish military, was dreamed up not by Muslim extremists, but by the militant secularist diciples of Kemal Atatürk. The people behind the prosecutions of Pamuk and other writers are nationalists who adhere to a vision of the Turkish state that is anathema to radical Islamists in Turkey and beyond.

I agree with McConalogue on the importance of free expression, but there is absolutely no connection between Pamuk and Fallaci. The juxtaposition appears to be based on a rather lazy assumption that because Turkey is a Muslim country, to run afoul of its government must be to run afoul of Islam. Nothing could be further from the case.

Darkening the Waters

The Guardian published a troubling letter today under the title "End This Punishment of Palestinians" that was signed by London Mayor "Red" Ken Livingstone, anti-war journalist and filmmaker John Pilger and a host of British MPs and other luminaries whom I'm sure I would recognize if I were better read.

Oh, this is just water I'm carrying for Hamas

The letter accuses Israel of "crimes against humanity" and blames the U.S. and the EU of complicity in "seeking to trample upon the democratic rights of the Palestinian people." The signatories to this missive argue that recent Israeli incursions into Gaza, and, indeed, Israeli policy as a whole since the election of the Hamas-led government, have been "a coordinated attempt to collectively punish the Palestinian people for electing a government of which they disapprove."

I'm not a huge fan of Israeli policy when it comes to the Palestinians, and I generally believe that when they do respond to provocations, they do so in a disproportionate manner. What sets me apart from the Guardian's correspondents is that my criticism of Israeli policy does not translate into an uncritical embrace of the other side. One moment's thought should suffice to see how preposterous that position is.

Livingstone and company evidently did not see fit to devote that moment to reflection before putting pen to paper. Their letter contains a laundry list of abuses visited on the (always) innocent Palestinians by the Israelis, but omits any mention of the kidnapped Israeli soldier or of the fact that the aforementioned government is in fact Hamas, a well-known terrorist group that steadfastly refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist.

This is not to say that actions by Hamas or other Palestinian groups necessarily mitigate the severity of the Israeli response. It is rather to point out that to put forth such a patently one-sided summation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the basis of their complaint is to engage not in argument, but in propaganda.

If the truth is bad enough, then, by all means, give us the truth. Absurd absolutism, as readers of Michael Moore and Ann Coulter will know, does not beget conversation which in turn leads to resolution. It merely deepens rifts and fills the air with acrid invective.

Bully for Me!

This is my 500th post! Holla!! It's nice to have a reliable way to quantify how much time I've wasted.

Pity I didn't have anything useful to say for this milestone, but hey, there's always 501.

No promises, though.

Advertising in Hell

There are some crafty, nefarious minds stalking the back streets and alleys behind Madison Avenue. A gold medal goes to whatever ad agency came up with the TV spots for HeadOnTM, a topical headache remedy that comes in something resembling a glue stick which you rub on your forehead. Here's the commercial's script as best I can remember it:
HeadOn! Apply directly to the forehead!
HeadOn! Apply directly to the forehead!
HeadOn! Apply directly to the forehead!
That's basically it. Not super creative, but it does accomplish its goal. By the end of the second repetition, I'm ready to run out a buy a package of HeadOnTM just to numb my brain from the trauma of watching the ad.

If that doesn't deserve a Clio, I don't know what does.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Meek Shall Be Screwed

One of the more depressing stories I read during my blog break was the news that anti-abortion activists and religious figures came out against Warren Buffett's unbelievably generous multi-billion dollar donation to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The reason? Less than one percent of Gates Foundation money goes to Planned Parenthood on an annual basis. Those funds are specifically earmarked for non-abortion services, but that doesn't matter to people whose grasp on logic is tenuous at best.

The right-wing Christian Family Research Council and the anti-abortion Population Research Institute are on record as opposing the work of the Foundation, despite the fact that the vast majority of its funds go to combat AIDS, malaria and poverty in the Third World and to help inner city schools in the U.S.

Eschewing God's law in favor of Godwin's, Rev. Thomas Euteneuer, a Roman Catholic priest who is president of Human Life International, said Buffett "will be known as the Dr. Mengele of philanthropy unless he repents." All this goes to show that while these zealots may care about the unborn, they don't give half a shit about people.

The Gates Foundation is doing what has traditionally been thought of God's work: alleviating poverty and misery among the meek, who are blessed if you forgot. Meanwhile these exceptionally shortsighted religious groups who are supposed to be doing God's work are instead happy to relegate millions of people to suffering and death in fealty to their dubious doctrine.

Euteneuer says the "merger of Gates and Buffett may spell doom for the families of the developing world." What he doesn't realize (or realizes but doesn't care) is that it's orthodox fools like him who are dooming families in the developing world right now.

The Madcap Dies

Syd Barrett, the only really good member of Pink Floyd, dead at 60.


What Made Zidane See Red?

Watching the 2006 World Cup, my heart was with Zinédine Zidane, the French superstar midfielder. He was playing in his last ever tournament and, as his World Cup MVP award will attest, he dazzled with the greatness of days past.

I also like Zidane because he is a Frenchman of Algerian descent who calls himself a non-practicing Muslim and who dedicated France's 1998 World Cup victory to "all Algerians who are proud of their flag and all those who have made sacrifices for their family but who have never abandoned their own culture." In short, he's everything that France and the rest of Europe would like to keep out.

There is now news that the shocking behavior that got him ejected in overtime from the 2006 final may have been provoked by anti-Muslim epithets hurled at him and his family by Italian defender (and star of Inter Milan, a club well known to have a strong fascist following) Marco Materazzi.

The Times of London got expert lipreader Jessica Rees to review the exchange that preceded Zidane's headbutt. With the help of an Italian translator, Rees determined that Materazzi called Zidane "the son of a terrorist whore" before adding "so just f**k off." Wikipedia's version of events has Materazzi saying, "hold on, wait, that one's not for a nigger like you," before making the "terrorist" remark. The New Republic contends that Materazzi called Zidane's father a harki, "the Arabic term for Algerians who fought for France against Algeria during the occupation. It's beyond all insults, the ultimate traitor."

Materazzi, unsurprisingly, has denied saying any such thing, hoping we'll believe that Zidane's attack was simply unprovoked. So far Zidane has been silent on the matter, preferring to let his forehead do the talking.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Oh, Those Crazy Muslims

It's a widely held belief that Muslims are a bloodthirsty lot, advocating violence and soft on terror. London, so the thinking goes, is haven to a particularly virulent strain. Finsbury Park, Richard Reid, Moussaoui, the 7/7 bombers.

The Times of London has conducted a poll of Muslim Britain's attitudes toward terrorism and the 7/7 attacks for the anniversary of that bloody day, and the results can fairly be characterized as encouraging.

13% think that the four men who carried out the London Tube and bus bombings should be regarded as "martyrs" (while, oddly, only 7% feel that suicide attacks on civilians in the UK can be justified), a fairly high number, but it means that 87% (or 93%, depending on how you're counting) do not.

(For sake of comparison in the realm of insanity, nearly half of New York City residents believe that U.S. leaders "knew in advance that attacks were planned on or around September 11, 2001, and that they consciously failed to act," and 42% of Americans in general think the government and the 9/11 Commission "concealed or refused to investigate critical evidence.")

Only 2% of British Muslims would be proud if a family member decided to join al-Qaeda. Compare that to the 35% who say that they would feel proud if a close family member joined the police.

Quite tellingly, 56% of British Muslims believe that the Government is not doing enough to fight extremism, compared to only 49% of the British population at large.

All in all, the poll presents just the picture one might hope for from a Western Muslim population: moderation. Common sense tells us that the acts of a few dedicated crazies can speak quite powerfully against the majority. When it comes to public perceptions of Muslims, however, common sense so often goes out the window.

(I first read about this poll on the fine CJSD blog.)

Bush Set to Lose Veto Virginity

Drudge is reporting Karl Rove as saying that President Bush would use his first ever veto to abort (if you will) legislation to expand federal funding for stem-cell research.

In his nearly six years in office, Bush has steadfastly refused to reign in a Congress intent on draining the public coffers with a profligacy truly unbefitting the name "conservative", unless, of course, that term has ceased to represent an economic philosophy and is now simply code for draconian theological social engineering.

If Bush chooses to forgo his Savin' It membership to go all the way to stop stem-cell research, there can be little doubt as to the definition of conservatism he's laboring under. Not to mention that hampering promising research to cure Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, paralysis and a host of other cruel afflictions to placate his base of faithful flat-earthers defies any definition of "compassionate" I've ever seen.

The Logical Extreme

Ralph Peters has a scary column in the New York Post that argues the U.S. military can solve its prisoner detention problems by simply executing insurgents (and "suspected" insurgents, too, Ralph?) on the spot. Puff, in a spray of blood and gray matter all of our problems are solved.

Power Line heartily agrees, praising Peters for saying "out loud what many have been thinking about 'our prisoner problem...'" Note the disgusting scare quotes around "our prisoner problem." Yep, that'll make the issue disappear.

Hinderaker thinks that this policy would obviate another Abu Ghraib, blissfully unaware (or more likely, savagely aware) that the majority of prisoners at that prison were innocent victims of overzealous sweeps for insurgents (as many Gitmo tenants have proved to be, as well). A dead man can't plead his case, and that's just the way these guys want it, apparently.

It's nice to see a few great minds struggling for the American way.

In Defense of Heterodoxy

Andrew Sullivan has a post today about the resurgence of ideological purism, quoting a reader who describes being ostracized from a left-wing group for believing that the U.S. did not deserve the 9/11 attacks.

I agree that such purism is nefarious and prevalent, but I'm not sure it's on the rise, as such. Weblogistan certainly gives it a new and powerful platform, and so many of the top sites seem to be specifically catered to readers who know what opinions they want to read and know where they can consistently find them. In my experience, however, ideological purism has been both a constant threat and a consistent temptation, and it is by no means limited to politics.

When I was in my late teens and early 20s, I was a full-on music snob. I would express shock when a like-minded connoisseur would express an appreciation for, say, Pearl Jam, and I would feel pangs of shame if I caught myself singing along to Madonna or some other cantor non grata in the hipster universe (nowadays it is perfectly OK for a hipster to like Madonna; extra points if it's an ironic appreciation). Worst of all, I would pass judgment on others for their music taste, attributing their penchant for Squeeze or the J. Geils Band to ignorance or some sort of brain defect.

I have since learned a powerful lesson: I was being an asshole.

Around the height of my music snobbery, I was also an insufferable, puritanical scold when it came to politics and a host of other things as well. I think this is normal for college-aged people who are just coming into adult political and cultural consciousness. Orthodoxy and identification with a group or "type" provide a powerful mooring for the tenderfoot. The problem comes when people can't leave the vestiges of adolescence behind.

In real life, identifying yourself wholeheartedly with a "kind of people" is the most insidious form of groupthink and it strips away at the core of your individuality. Any political movement that demands absolute homogeneity from its adherents is suspect, if not downright dangerous. The core responsibility of adherents to Nazism or communism—or any cult-like group for that matter—is fealty to the infallible leadership and the ideals which they jealously guard. Individuality and free-thinking are anathema in an organization where any one member can be expected, as Georg Lukács wrote, to sacrifice his inferior self on the altar of the higher idea.

Ideological purism leads to reflexive thinking (if you can call it thinking). It's not whether you like something or agree with something, it's whether you should, and each new choice and new experience sends you racing for the handbook. Ideological maturity, on the other hand, requires an open mind and admits the possibility that you still may have something to learn. A mind that can under no circumstances be changed isn't much of a mind at all.

I treasure writers like Andrew Sullivan and Christopher Hitchens precisely because I so often disagree with them. They are practitioners of political heterodoxy, and it's readily apparent that the positions they take are based upon personally-held values that are the result of years of intellectual soul-searching rather than adherence to a party line. They may be wrong on occasion—sometimes wildly—but they're writers from who the discerning reader might hope to actually learn something. That's more than can be said for most of the ink-spillers out there.

Ideological purism provides a kind of closed-minded comfort. It encourages engagement only with like-minded partisans and it disdains not only those diametrically opposed, but potential allies who fail to pass the purity test as well. It is, simply put, a way to be politically engaged without all the bother of thinking. Ideological heterodoxy, on the other hand, requires intellectual courage and invites attack from the groupthinkers poised on either horizon. It's also the only way to go to sleep at night burdened only by a shame that is yours and yours alone.

Now I think I'm going to go listen to that one Kelly Clarkson song I like. Yeah? Screw you, too!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Praying to the Porcelain God

This just goes to show that the Internet has something for everyone. Click on over to Flush a Holy and you can do a virtual Gitmo on the religious tract of your choice. I suppose this site will appeal to atheists, bigots and people who just approve of a little faith-based humiliation (not to imply that those are mutually exclusive groups—can you imagine the Venn diagram?).

At current count, the Bible is the most flushed book, leading the Qu'ran in the #2 slot by a 2-1 margin. Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book, is the least flushed religious document. Potentially because most people are not aware that it exists.

Terror's Muse

Add "inspired terrorism" to the long list of consequences of the government's abysmal handling of the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

Not related to J.P. Morgan, Goldman or Sachs, apparently

The New York Daily News published an exclusive yesterday about a foiled plot to bomb the Holland Tunnel that had all the cable news channels buzzing. The plan was to bomb the tunnel and flood downtown Manhattan and the alleged inspiration was not our precious and intolerable freedoms, but our demonstrated inability to deal with flooding.

According to a Daily News analysis, the plan wouldn't have worked because the Holland Tunnel is not in the Hudson River, but embedded in the bedrock below it, and lower Manhattan is ten feet above sea level at its lowest point.

They may be right, but the plan would have failed for a more important reason. Wall St. demographics skew away from Democrats and black people, so there's no way the Bush administration would have left them to rot. Too many Arabian horse lovers, for starters.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Redefining Reasonable

President Bush held a much-vaunted "beyond the beltway" press conference today at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago (where I used to go when I cut class in the seventh grade, but that's another, much geekier story).

During said presser, the president claimed that we had (and presumably still have) "a reasonable chance" of shooting down a US-bound missile fired by reclusive madman and Hollywood film aficionado (connection, anyone?) Kim Jong Il of North Korea. Sounds nice, but, to paraphrase the Oval Office's previous tenant, it all depends on what the meaning of "reasonable" is.

America's missile defense "system" has a less than stellar performance record, with a 50% success rate in tests. Bush might think that's "reasonable", but I think it's a pretty dodgy number when it comes to the threat of thermonuclear destruction.

To make matters worse, the 50% success rate is based on only 10 tests, and, according to Media Matters, "no successful test has occurred in roughly three years test of the currently deployed system as a whole has occurred." I believe things just took a turn from reasonable.

We might have a little work to do yet

To make worse matters even yet still more worse, the 50% figure is suspect, too. A couple of weeks ago, I tuned into the Jim Bohannon Show on the only AM radio station that I could get in Bloomington. His guest was Victoria Samson, a research associate at the Center for Defense Information and a former contractor for the Missile Defense Agency. She noted that the military's tests were conducted under highly controlled circumstances.

The missile interceptor crews knew where the missile was going to be launched from, when it was going to be launched, and what it's intended target was. And they still got it wrong as often as they got it right. Thanks to vigorous intelligence, we may know where the North Korean missiles are going to be launched from, but we don't have the other pieces of the puzzle.

Put all this together and it's apparent that the Bush administration's definition of "reasonable" may not be the same as the one you'll find in Webster's. Well, heck, they don't know what "compassionate" or "conservative" mean, either.

Kim Jong Illin'

North Korea continues its thermonuclear saber-rattling as the rest of the world looks on with trepidation. It's never good when an enemy attains nuclear technology—worse when that enemy is of the batshit crazy variety.

Most of the rest of the world has condemned North Korea's recent missile tests, and Kim's regime has responded with a great big "up yours". It's their Marx&Engels-given right to develop their defense capabilities, so the argument goes. What right do we have to dictate defense policy to them?

At this point, it would be useful to mention that long-range nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles are a particularly dubious method of defending the homeland. They're great at blowing the crap out of somewhere else, but that's more of an offensive goal.

Of course, the U.S. isn't exactly in the position to make this argument, since we've maintained a massive nuclear arsenal for so-called national defense (remember the "Peacekeeper" missile?) for about 60 years now, with no end in sight. If we'd like to advocate a disarmament path for North Korea, it would be nice to practice what we preach. Otherwise, Kim is perfectly justified in his insanity. He's only following the American lead in self-"defense", after all.

At a Cross-Roads

After several lovely trips back and forth along the I-70 corridor, the (parenthetical remarks) World HeadquartersTM is firmly ensconced in its new home of St. Louis, Mo.

Road trips are considerably less fun when in a 9-ton truck, let me tell you. I did have the distinct pleasure, however, of driving along highway 46 after dusk on July 3 and seeing a half-dozen Indiana fireworks displays in full bloom. I also gassed up the (parenthetical) Chariot in Pocahontas, Illinois, which is the home town of Gretchen Wilson (hell yeah and yee haw!!).

Look how freaking holy we are!

Anyone who has ever driven the stretch of I-70 between Indianapolis and St. Louis knows that neither of these things was the highlight of my journey. About seventy miles west of the Illinois border, at the junction of 70 and 57, is one of the most grotesque roadside attractions imaginable. Blighting the Eisenhower Interstate system is the effing cross of Effingham, a 198-foot monstrosity of Christian charity and love.

Completed in 2001, the massive cross at Effingham appears to have been constructed entirely out of aluminum siding. In line with the hideous mega-churches of the modern evangelical movement, the effing cross argues that when it comes to inspiring awe in God's majesty, beauty doesn't hold a votive candle to sheer size.

If memory serves, the last time religious zealots built a ridiculously tall structure to prove just how holy they were, it ended badly.
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