Friday, April 28, 2006

Jose, Can You See?

All kinds of jingoistic fur has been flying ever since British music producer Adam Kidron released a Spanish-language version of the U.S. national anthem called "Nuestro Himno" (Spanish for "Our Anthem").

At a Rose Garden press conference today, President Bush weighed in on the issue. "I think the national anthem ought to be sung in English," he said, "and I think people who want to be a citizen [sic] of this country ought to learn English and they ought to learn to sing the national anthem in English." A bit repetitive, but nothing too mind-blowing there. There's a cretain undeniable logic to what the President's saying about English.

My problem is that everyone embroiled in this silly debate is missing the larger point. The national anthem ought not be sung at all, in any language. It's an unbelievably atrocious song that strains the vocal chords of even our finest singers. How can we feel good about our country after listening to a crowd try to make it through the "rockets' red glare" section in semi-unison? And wasn't the War of 1812 something of a draw? Who gets fired up about that?

Don't get me wrong, I don't think we should write a new national anthem. Francis Scott Key's poem, set to the tune of an old British drinking song (and hey, at hockey games at least, isn't the anthem still a drinking song?), is miles better than anything today's poets would be able to come up with. For example, name the best poem written for a presidential inauguration in the past 30 years. I rest my case.

Instead, we need to appropriate another song that's easier on the ears and doesn't require training at Julliard to sing. How about "America the Beautiful"? Or better yet, "We are the Champions".

PTC Plaudits for Pious Pap

On their website, the Parents Television Council claims to be a "nonpartisan" media watchdog group interested only in protecting the fragile minds of our nation's children from sex and violence.

Back in the infancy of this blog, I argued that they're nothing of the sort. Founded by rabid right-wing hero L. Brent Bozell III and staffed by an assortment of conservative figures, the PTC has a long history of defining nonpartisanship to the right.

I looked in my email inbox this morning and found yet another example of this. (Under the rubric of "keep your friends close and your enemies closer", I subscribe to the PTC's email service so I can see what their crafty little minds are up to.) This week, the PTC has bestowed it's "Seal of Approval" upon a "family friendly TV service" called Sky Angel.

I surfed over to Sky Angel's website and was frankly unsurprised to find that the satellite network's slogan is, "Delivering the Best in Christian and Family Entertainment". A few nuggets from their site:
Looking for a Christ-centered & family-friendly choice for your family's TV viewing? You've come to the right place!... [Your subscription will help build the] world's only Christian-owned and
-operated direct-to-home multi-channel television service to ensure that there will always be a secure electronic outlet for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and programs promoting biblical values.
And here I was worrying that the electronic outlet for the Gospel of JC was not secure. Now, I'm not opposed to the existence of Christian broadcasting or anything stupid like that. However, I do find it curious that a family-friendly, "nonpartisan" media watchdog group would continually endorse channels and networks that define a "family" as necessarily a Christian family. What about the Jews, Muslims, Satanists and atheists among us? Shouldn't our children be protected as well?

Well, if Sky Angel is the cure, I think I'd rather stick with the disease. Their channel lineup includes the full compliment of Hallmark channels, a crapload of Christian channels, but only one news channel. Can you guess which one? That's right, FOX News. Nothing like a car chase ending in a fatal shooting (to cherry pick from yesterday's coverage) to promote good Christian values. And nonpartisan ones at that.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Turkey a Laughing Stock

It would certainly be safe to say that no story about Turkey since the trial of Orhan Pamuk has elicited as much international attention as the strange case of Veysel Dalci, a regional leader of the ruling Ak Parti who was arrested earlier this week for insulting Kemal Ataturk's memory. His crime? Chewing gum during a wreath-laying ceremony in honor of the founding of the Turkish parliament.

As in the Pamuk case, Dalci has run afoul of overly-broad and ambiguous laws designed to protect the Turkish republic from internal enemies, but which in fact serve to quell dissent and free expression. Unlike the Pamuk case, however, the international response has not been outrage and calls for judicial reform in Turkey. This case has been met with derisive laughter instead. Here's a sampling of the fun headline writers across the globe are having with this story:While the Dalci case may seem like an oddity, the legal mentality that made it possible is no laughing matter. So far the Turkish authorities have not responded to international outrage, even as they continue their bid for EU membership. Perhaps they will respond better to ridicule.

For his part, Dalci, who has been released on bail, plans to press charges against the prosecutors and judges who assented to his arrest. Unfortunately, based on comments by a high-ranking AKP official, his suit is not likely to be aimed at the rationale for the existence of such anti-democratic laws. Instead, it appears that he will take the Bill Clinton route and contend that he had gum in his mouth but he didn't chew. And he didn't like it.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Into the (Long) Home Stretch

Goodish news for those of you looking forward to the end of George W. Bush's presidency: there are fewer than 1000 days left! As of today, Bush has 999 days remaining in office. That may be an eternity to some, but the psychological effect of breaking the 4-digit barrier is bound to take the edge off.

Here's a nifty counter that shows exactly how much time is left:



You can get one for yourself at backwardsbush.com. Inexplicably, this clock is set to Atlantic Daylight Time (one hour ahead of Eastern), which serves the fine people of Halifax, Nova Scotia and environs, but no one at all in the realm of King George II itself.

I'm certainly looking forward to Bush's retirement, but I can't say I'm too hopeful for the future. If there's one thing politics teaches us in this country, it's that it could always be worse. President Santorum, anyone?

Turnabout is Fair Play

According to People magazine, Teri Hatcher suffered an eye injury on the set of Desperate Housewives. Well, that's karma for you. She's caused countless eye injuries to innocent people who simply made the mistake of gazing too long at her skeletor face (courtesy of Botox and anorexia). Now it's her turn to suffer.

"I was taken to a wonderful eye doctor," said Hatcher, "and now am wearing a most glamorous eye patch over the right half of my face." That's an actual quote. No word on whether Hatcher is now dating the doctor. You can take it from here, US Weekly.

A Real-Time Press Secretary

A fine 24-related blog has a great suggestion for the White House press secretary job should the Tony Snow deal fall through: Jack Bauer. As they put it, "What better way to reign in the White House Press Corps than to install Jack Bauer as Press Secretary?" And hey, they'd still be keeping it in the FOX family.

The blogs4bauer post gives us a top 10 list for why Bauer would be perfect for the job. Amongst their reasons:
  • All press conferences last an hour, with all tough questions coming at 45 minutes past the hour.
  • All comments will be yelled.
  • Ask a stupid question; get hooked up to the sensory deprivation device.
This press conference is over. THIS PRESS CONFERENCE IS OVER!!

One for the Dogs

Congratulations are in order for Hannah, voted the "Most Beautiful Bulldog" at the 27th annual "Beautiful Bulldog" contest in Des Moines, Iowa on Monday.

The two-year-old will serve as the official mascot of Drake University for a year and will also be the loveable face of the Drake Relays, "one of the nation's oldest and most prestigious track and field meets."

According to the director of the contest, Dolph Pulliam, "We're looking for the ugliest bulldog you can get your hands on. We're the looking for the bulldog that has that face, that drool, that personality that can charm you." In true form, the winner's crown initially wouldn't fit because of all the wrinkles on her head.

Up next for Pulliam, a Most Honest Politician contest (we hope). They wouldn't even have to change the rules—or the search criteria.

It's a Go for Snow

It's official, FOX News pundit Tony Snow will replace Scott McClellan as the White House press secretary. Snow will take a pay cut to take on the always grueling and usually thankless job as mouthpiece for the president. So, why did he take it? Why give up the plush FOX gig and the regular spot as fill-in for Rush Limbaugh to get pummeled by the press for a living as a shill for a president whose popularity is in the toilet?

According to the Washington Post, Snow decided to take the position "after top officials assured him that he would be not just a spokesman but an active participant in administration policy debates." Goody. Let's keep in mind that Snow has only ever criticized Bush for not being conservative enough. Now he'll get to apply his far-right FOX News and Washington Times editorial page views to national policy.

Then there's the obvious reason the White House picked Snow. Of course, he has bona fides as a 'journalist' and as a former speechwriter for King George I, but I'm willing to bet that the White House is banking on the palliative effect his recognizable face and polished persona will have, not on journalists, but on the FOX-watching public.

For his part, Snow aims to smooth relations between the White House and the press corps since he knows how things work from both sides of the lectern. Don't expect that to go over too well, though. In a December 2000 column in the Washington Times, he referred to "Democrats and journalists (but I repeat myself)," meaning, apparently, that he and his colleagues over at FOX News and the Washington Times aren't journalists themselves. And Snow's hiring shows that they aren't; they're just a farm team for the White House (one that doubles as a cheerleading squad...but I repeat myself).

For a very funny post on McClellan's retirement, check out Scott McClellan Denies Resigning After Announcing Resignation over at CJSD. Brando also has a good post about Bush's plan on illegal immigration. It involves giant, man-eating eagles.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Devil's Day Rescheduled

Whoops! Looks like Ann Coulter might be out of luck in her Satanic quest. As I pointed out yesterday, a number of people, including dear Ann, have slated June 6 (or 6/6/06) as the release date for their books, films and albums to take advantage of the once-in-a-century Satanic convergence.

Now it looks like they might have acted too soon. According to a papyrology website based out of Oxford, 666 might not be the number of the beast after all. According to a papyrus fragment from the book of Revelation, the number of the beast is actually 616, not 666. They've also seen evidence that 665 might be the devil's number.

So many people, including quite a few Iron Maiden fans, will be deeply disappointed. Think of all the album covers, iron-on decals and Christian fundamentalist pamphlets that will need to be reworked.

If 616 really is the number of the beast, and if freakish nutjob apocalyptic types are right about Armageddon beginning on 6/6/06 (a big if, granted), then Coulter and company are out of luck since the world is going to end on June 1, not June 6. I suppose it'll save all those copies of Godless from getting remaindered.

Thanks to Dayv for the demonology tip-off.

Anatomy of a Right-Wing Scare Story

It started on April 22 with an exclusive story in the far-right WorldNetDaily. "Mushroom cloud on way," screamed the headline. What followed was a description of a vile protest held outside the Israeli Consulate in New York City by a group called the Islamic Thinkers Society. WND transcribed a selection of their chants (translated from Arabic by someone from a group called the Investigative Project on Terrorism) and they're about what you would expect: Allah is great; Jews, not so much.

On April 23, the story was picked up by the Drudge Report, where it remained on the front page for two days, bearing the same headline as the WND story (Islamist protest in N.Y.—'Mushroom cloud on way').

Yesterday, FOX News brought in some hard-nosed ex-cop from New York City to talk gruffly about how horrible these people are and how he has plenty of Jewish friends.

Finally, today, the right-wing New York Sun reported on the story in an article entitled "Islamic Thinkers Society Called 'Destructive'".

So we have four right-wing news sources covering a story that didn't get covered at all in the mainstream centrist press. Why? One theory is that it's because the centrist press is really an America-hating, far-left press that will stop at nothing to give peace and comfort to this great nation's enemies.

Another theory can be inferred from the article in the Sun. According to their report, this big, bad protest was attended by a grand total of "eight of the society's members—possibly the entire roster of the group" (emphasis added). The Sun was the only news outlet that reported on the size of the demonstration, and we can see why. Even according to the Islamic Thinkers Society's own website, the group is comprised of "less than a handfull [sic] of Muslims".

So why did most of the mainstream press ignore this story? Because it was largely insignificant. Anyone who has been to New York knows that there are larger groups of 5 Percenters and other assorted nutjobs preaching their hate all over the city at any given time of the day. It's the right-wing press that's interested in fanning the flames of anti-Muslim sentiment, and apparently they'll jump at any chance they get.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Turkey Too Testy?

I lived in Turkey for a little less than a year and in that time I probably saw Ataturk's image 100,000 times. At least. Turks love, love, love the founder of the modern secular Turkish Republic, and with good reason. Without his bold (and sometimes brutal) reforms, Turkey might have been more like neighbors Syria and Iraq than the burgeoning regional economic power it is today.

Turkey is a very patriotic nation, not unlike the United States during the 1950s when it comes to displaying the national flag and lauding the founding fathers. But in Turkey, there's only one father (in fact, Mustafa Kemal's adopted surname Ataturk means "Father of the Turks") and he's revered like Washington, Jefferson, Franklin and Lincoln all rolled into one.

There's nothing wrong with having pride in one's history; the problems start when it's against the law not to display such pride. I've written a number of times about the terrible Article 301 of the Turkish penal code, which criminalizes insulting Turkishness, the Turkish Republic and the armed forces. Now, troubling tales of the prosecution of Orhan Pamuk and other Turkish writers have given way to a truly bizarre case.

Veysel Dalci, a regional governmental official, "was charged with insulting Turkey's founding leader on Monday for chewing gum while he laid a wreath during a ceremony" commemorating the 86th anniversary of the founding of the Turkish parliament. A military official present at the ceremony ratted Dalci out. For his part, Dalci has apologized, saying he "was chewing gum to freshen his breath after eating garlic."

As noted above, this is merely the most bizarre in a long line of overreactions on the part of the Turkish government in their efforts to protect "Turkishness." The sad truth is that every ridiculous prosecution like this, every journalist imprisoned or imperiled for telling inconvenient truths, every voice silenced for the good of the republic—each one of these outrages against freedom diminishes the value of that which they try so vigilantly to protect. Each overbearing attempt to bolster the strength of the nation through domination is just another sign of weakness. True respect for Ataturk would mean letting his ideas stand on their own two feet.

Treading Water in the Voting Pool

I'll break my self-imposed ban on linking to the the New York Times since this really caught my eye. In an article on the mayoral candidacy of Ray Nagin in New Orleans, Times reporter Adam Nossiter wrote the following:
Black residents, whose neighborhoods were the most devastated by the storm, voted in much smaller numbers than whites did on Saturday, even more so than usual.
What's wrong with this sentence? That's right, using the phrase "more so than usual" to describe an event that is happening less often is grammatically awkward to the keen Safireian gaze!

Additionally, there's the not-so-subtle effect of reading a sentence so blindingly obvious that you may as well have been hit in the face with a two by four swung by Barry Bonds fresh from a two-hour media session.

Hmm, why is the black vote down in New Orleans? Perhaps it was the massive hurricane that devastated the poorest sections of the city, drowning obscene numbers of the largely black (or "so black", as Wolf Blitzer would say) population and sending the rest of them running for their lives. It's either that or apathy. Brought on by welfare.

In related news, New Orleans is poised to have its first white mayor in 30 years. I wonder if George Bush is going to break out that old Mission Accomplished banner for the occasion.

Hail Praise Satan!

Only 43 shopping days until Satan's Day! What are you going to get me? Since promoters can't seem to resist a silly gimmick, it looks like you'll have plenty of choices.

According to the LA Times, marketers are jumping at the chance to release their wares on June 6, which just happens to be 6/6/06. Boo! How seventh grade of them.

Here's the subhead from the Times story, which has my favorite juxtaposition of Ann Coulter's name ever: "Omen" film promoters, Ann Coulter and Radio Free Satan all look forward to June 6. I always suspected Coulter was in league with the devil. Now we have proof.

Coulter's new 'book', Godless, is scheduled to be released on Satan's Day. 'She' told FOX News 'journalist' Neil Cavuto that the release date was her "little tribute to liberals." So, not only are liberals godless according to Ann Coulter, they're Satanists. Charming. I guess that would explain the War on Christmas (not to mention the War on Easter, the War on Pentecost, and the bloody War on Shrove Tuesday).

The marketing effort for The Omen remake has been a bit of a haunted affair so far. Promoters hired planes to trail banners reading "You Have Been Warned" over beaches during spring break, which prompted a number of calls to the police and even a fighter jet response in Panama City, Fla. I'm just shocked that people were able to tear their eyes away from all those girls going wild to even notice.

6/6/06 also marks the beginning of Slayer's Unholy Alliance Tour and the release of The Stench of Redemption by Deicide. Best of all, the Church of Satan will hold a satanic high mass at the Steve Allen Theater on June 6. I wonder how poor Steve Allen feels about this. More to the point, I wonder how the Parents Television Council feels. After all, Steve Allen is the National Honorary Chairman Emeritus of the PTC's Advisory Board. Could there be a demo(n)tion in his future?

Governator's Off the Script

After reading about California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's appearance on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, I'm convinced that something is seriously wrong.

In his interview, the Governator voiced the following heretical ideas:
  • Global warming is real and is a "self-inflicted wound" caused by man
  • Fuel efficient vehicles are a great idea
  • Prices at the pump are "outrageous"
  • The federal government failed during Hurricane Katrina
  • Building a wall on the border with Mexico is a terrible idea
  • So is deporting 12 million illegal immigrants
Now, is that any way for a Republican politician to talk? Particularly one who is associated with Humvees and world apocalypse?

It looks like someone in Washington forgot to send poor Arnold the script. How else to explain this apostasy?

I guess he never was that good at reciting his lines anyway.

Friday, April 21, 2006

What if I Make a Smell?

Dariga Nazarbayeva, the daughter of the president of Kazakhstan,
has come to Borat Sagdiyev's defense
. For those of you who don't know, Borat is a hopelessly inept "Kazakh" character portrayed by British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen (aka Ali G.) on Da Ali G. Show. Represent.

AFP calls Borat a "heavily-moustached, misogynistic character", which they could have more mellifluously put as "mustachioed misogynist", but hey, they're French. Perhaps that also explains why they fail to mention that Borat is a raving anti-Semite, too, a point that Kazakhstan has most vigorously protested, and with good reason. Kazakhstan would best be described as one of the least anti-Semitic countries in the Muslim world.

Borat, not so much. His festive rendition of "Throw the Jew Down the Well" as performed for a group of enthusiastic Texas yokels springs to mind. Then there's this comment from "Borat" about Sacha Baron Cohen: "I like to state, I have no connection with Mr Cohen and fully support my government's position to sue this Jew."

And that basically is Kazakhstan's plan. They're looking into legal action against Cohen and they've already shut down access to his website in the country. That's where Dariga comes in with a little dose of sanity.
I think that we shouldn't be afraid of humour, it's not worth trying to control everything.... This Internet site has caused less damage to our image than its closure, which was covered by all international news agencies.
Let's hope dad doesn't send her to jail. Or worse, Uzbekistan. When asked for comment, Borat said, "I like it! Is goooood! She remind me of a my sister..."

Hypocrisy, Thy Name Is Coulter

Ann Coulter, everybody's favorite right-wing lunatic, wrote an interesting article the other day. The basic premise is a decent one: no one deserves to be raped or murdered, but you lessen your chances if you don't do boneheaded things like get drunk in public and go off god knows where with strange guys. Fair enough.

She goes on to accuse liberals of reinforcing the antithesis of this logic with their no-judgments-no-consequences ethos. She just wouldn't be Ann Coulter if she didn't do that, so I'll give her a free pass on that one.

There are a few things that I'm not so willing to forgive, however. Chief among them is this brilliant nugget of fool's gold:
I have always been unabashedly anti-murder, anti-rape and anti-false accusation — and I don't care who knows about it!
Hurrah! Unfortunately, not true. I'm not aware of her being pro-rape (although maybe she just hasn't found the right liberal to wish that fate upon), but she is definitely not anti-murder.

Let's set the way-back machine to September 12, 2001. In a column that got her fired from USA Today, Coulter said the following about Muslim countries: "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity." Charmingly bloodthirsty, and about as unambiguous an endorsement of murder as you're ever likely to read.

The claim that she's "anti-false accusation" is the most laughable of all. Her next book, called Godless, is about how liberals are, you guessed it, godless. That's a nifty bit of outrageous slander. In fact, her entire career is built upon the false accusation. It's her raison d'etre, her modus operandi and her Weltanschauung all wrapped up in a nasty little package (the foreign phrases are in there to piss Coulter off in the unlikely case that she happens to read this).

The article contains another questionable assertion. To wit: "I've never been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder." That may be technically true, but it just suggests that they're just not looking hard enough. Perhaps we should start a fund for a second opinion.

(Sorry for the ad hominem attack there. Think of it as an homage to my subject.)

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Mega Killer Stats

What's the best way to get hits for your blog? Is is consistency? Wit? Originality? Sure, that might help, but nothing seems to work better than being a cannibal murderer.

Kevin Underwood, the young Oklahoman who murdered an even younger Oklahoman named Jamie Rose Bolin and apparently planned even worse for the little girl, has a blog 'wittily' titled Strange Things are Afoot at the Circle K. (Bill & Ted's reference, in case you didn't know). I didn't delve too far into it, but the front page is remarkably normal for a wacko nutjob.

Like most blogs, Kevin's was moderately unpopular—until a few days ago, that is. Here's a look at his blog statistics for the past month:



He's amassed over 300,000 page views in just a couple days (by way of comparison, this blog averages around 90 page views per day). The downside of this massive influx of readers is the comments, which tend toward the negative, to put it mildly.

Well, they probably won't hold a candle to the reviews he'll get once he's in prison. Those guys tend not to like child murderers. Especially not cannibal ones. I don't think they'll care that he's become a 'successful' blogger. He's sure got it coming.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Snow Job at the White House

Scott McClellan, George Bush's Press Secretary, has announced his resignation, continuing a shakeup in the White House that started with a new Chief of Staff.


Bush shill to become Bush Shill?

Perhaps Bush thinks that a new Press Secretary and a new Chief of Staff will throw the dogs off the scent, but these cosmetic changes do nothing to ameliorate the dangerous ineptitude higher up in the administration. The spreader of official bullshit gets the boot while the ass from whence it came remains protected in a safe bubble of ignorance and incompetence.

What's worse, FOX News is reporting that FOX's own Tony Snow has been approached by the White House as a possible replacement for McClellan. Talk about synergy. But FOX News is fair and balanced. Don't forget that.

Seeing Double on American Idol

Rod Stewart paid a visit to American Idol last night and I could hear every 12-year-old in the country asking the same question: Why is that Barry Manilow guy back on the show?



In earlier days, the two 'artists' were merely cousins on the continuum of musical atrociousness. Now they appear to be merging into actual flesh and blood brothers. In fact, has anyone seen the two of them in the same room? [Insert stomach-pumping joke here.]

Once the amalgamation is complete, all that remains is to choose a name. They could go with Rod Manilow, porn star, or Barry Stewart, nice Jewish boy. Ah, choices.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Bush's Gunboat Diplomacy

Ever since starting off on the wrong foot (twice) back in 1945, it was the United States' official policy that it would never use nuclear weapons preemptively and always as a last resort. As I reported last September, the Bush administration put an end to that pinko, pansy-assed policy. And now Bush is putting his money where his mealy mouth is.

According to a Reuters report, President Bush is refusing to rule out nuking Iran "if diplomacy fails to curb the Islamic Republic's atomic ambitions." So we would nuke Iran not for using a nuclear device, but simply for trying to build one.

Now, I don't want Iran to get a nuke as much as the next guy and I certainly see the grave threat, not just to Israel but to the whole world, if the nutjobs in the Iranian government get their hands on the bomb. I can scarcely imagine something more dangerous. Except for the path George Bush is starting us down.
Asked if options included planning for a nuclear strike, Bush replied: "All options are on the table. We want to solve this issue diplomatically and we're working hard to do so."
I'm no expert in foreign relations, but I'm pretty certain that threatening nuclear annihilation is not in the diplomatic handbook. It's almost as if Bush wants to go to war with Iran and will use any excuse to justify it. Sounds strangely familiar...

If the Bush administration is serious about its leadership role in the world and actually means what it says about winning hearts and minds in the Muslim world, they need to take a step back from the button right now. If they can't do that, then it's time to get some responsible leadership in Washington—people for whom diplomacy doesn't come with a death toll. Otherwise, duck and cover.

No Loophole Left Behind

The Associated Press conducted an investigation into George Bush's wonderfully-named No Child Left Behind Act and found that, like the Clear Skies initiative, a pretty name can hide an ugly policy.

In a nutshell, the AP found that schools are using a loophole designed to protect the privacy of minority students to exclude minority scores from the statistics that determine whether schools are meeting the standards of the act.
Overall, the AP found that about 1.9 million students—or about 1 in every 14 test scores—aren't being counted under the law's racial categories. Minorities are seven times as likely to have their scores excluded as whites, the analysis showed.
As might be expected, blacks and Hispanics are the most likely to not be counted. So, what's the problem? This is good for the schools if they're able to avoid being shut down, right?

According to a teacher interviewed by the AP, "the loophole is enabling states and schools to avoid taking concrete measures to eliminate an 'achievement gap' between white and minority students." That's the crux. The law lets schools sweep inconvenient scores aside, so there's no incentive to make sure that these kids are actually achieving anything, which seems to run contrary to that pretty name, No Child Left Behind.

Furthermore, this scandal underlines just how stupid it is to judge schools based on standardized tests. As has been shown again and again, when schools need to rely on tests for their survival, they just teach to the tests. Actual learning goes out the window. And this scandal is just the latest example of what schools will do to jump over the artificial hurdles placed before them by the federal government.

Stupid laws lead to stupid policies that lead to stupid kids. Hooray for America.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Drink, Dammit!

Just in time for tonight's episode, here's a link to an incredibly exhaustive (and intoxicating, no doubt) 24 drinking game. Be sure to scroll down to read the comments. Among the best rules:
  • Drink when Jack says "Download it to my PDA"
  • Drink when someone says to "set up a perimeter"
  • Drink when Jack yells "Dammit!"
  • Drink whenever anybody says "protocol"
  • Drink whenever Jack repeats whatever threat he just made, but three times louder, as in "I know you have more information!" (pause) "I KNOW YOU HAVE MORE INFORMATION!"
  • Drink when Jack's cell phone battery finally runs out of nuclear power
I think there are going to be a lot of people stumbling around tonight at about ten o'clock (nine central). Well, you better get out there and buy some beer. BUY SOME BEER, DAMMIT!!

P.S. Don't forget to sign the Draft David Palmer for President petition.

News of the Unsurprising

Sean Hannity likes George W. Bush. He likes George W. Bush a whole lot.

The FOX News 'personality' has had several disagreements with his Commander in Chief in recent weeks, most notably over the Dubai Ports deal (Bush isn't suspicious enough of A-Rabs) and the immigration debate (Bush should be packing these people off back to the god-forsaken places they came from). These are fairly serious disagreements, but they're not going to make a principled pundit like Sean Hannity abandon his Dear Leader in his time of need.
Let me be straight with you — I like George Bush. I think he's a man of principle, a man of faith. I think he's got a backbone of steel and he's a real, genuine, big-time leader.... He's a consequential figure for his time.
It's actually amazing that Hannity could utter these words what with his head stuck so far up George Bush's ass. It's also interesting to note that he appreciates the president for the very same qualities that he is violating when he offers up his fawning, unqualified support.

Fair and balanced.

Cameras Don't Lie, Republicans Do

Forget about guns, it's cameras that should come with a mandatory five-day waiting period. If they did, maybe San Diego Republican Howard Kaloogian would make less of an ass of himself.

Kaloogian is a failed politician who made a few less-than-spectacular runs for the Senate and the House, garnering 11% of the vote for the former in 2004 and failing in his bid to replace disgraced Congressman Duke Cunningham for the latter in 2006.

According to Wikipedia, Kaloogian has had a long and troubled relationship with the truth. In his bid to replace Cunningham, the Kaloogian camp was found to have falsely claimed that four different organizations had endorsed the candidate. Kaloogian was also shown to have posted an altered a photo of himself with President Bush on his campaign website that made the diminutive candidate appear taller than he really is. He also posted a photo with U.S. troops that was purportedly taken in Iraq, but was actually taken at MacDill AFB in Florida.

His latest photo blunder takes the cake, however. (An excellent summation of the whole affair can be found at uruknet.info.) Eager to grab an opportunity to crap on the "liberal" media, Kaloogian posted the following photo on his website:



Here is Kaloogian's caption:
We took this photo of dowtown [sic] Baghdad while we were in Iraq. Iraq (including Baghdad) is much more calm and stable than what many people believe it to be. But, each day the news media finds any violence occurring in the country and screams and shouts about it — in part because many journalists are opposed to the U.S. effort to fight terrorism.
Yes, journalists hate America. Unfortunately for Kaloogian, the photo raised a few eyebrows in Weblogistan. What's wrong with this picture?
  • There's no Arabic, which one might expect in a picture of Iraq
  • The girl on the left side of the frame is wearing a quite revealing tank top
  • "Noter" is Turkish for "notary"
  • Edo is a Turkish ice cream manufacturer
  • "Carsi" (in yellow at the far right of the picture) means "shopping" in Turkish
  • The taxi does not look like a Baghdad taxi
That's right, this is a photo of Istanbul. Not Baghdad. Nice try, though, Howard. Interestingly enough, it's a picture of the pedestrian mall in Bakirkoy out near the airport which was bombed yesterday. If they had just stuck around, this scene would have looked a lot more convincingly like downtown Baghdad. You start off blasting journalists for unprofessional behavior and you end up pulling a Jayson Blair. Oh, the irony!

This illustrates a larger problem with our war on terror as well. Do we really want the Battle for Western Civilization waged by people who are so stupid they can't tell the difference between Arabic and Turkish? (Hint, one of these languages is NOT IN A SCRIPT MOST AMERICANS CAN READ!!) The inability to tell the difference between two such fundamentally different cultures as Turkey and Iraq does not augur well for our efforts to win over the Muslim world. Maybe we need some kind of cooling-off period before declaring candidacy for political office.

Kaloogian has removed the photo from his site and has blamed the "mistake" on a Webmaster. Sure.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Great Moments in Stupidity

I follow important stuff like American politics and Britney Federline pretty closely, so I have a highly developed ear for stupidity, but sometimes something comes along that just makes you sit up and say, "Wow!"

First a little background. Now that we're firmly ensconced in the 21st Century, my adoptive home state of Indiana has finally decided to join the 20th and start observing Daylight Savings Time. Up until a few weeks ago, we would effectively switch back and forth between Eastern and Central time every year as those regions sprang forward or fell back while Indiana (ok, most of Indiana) obstinately held on to Eastern Standard Time. Now we're just the extreme western edge of the Eastern Time Zone.

Yesterday evening I was following the outbreak of some nasty weather on Indianapolis' Channel 8 when I heard the weatherman say this:
We're at a higher risk for tornadoes here in Indiana now that we're on Daylight Savings Time. The extra hour of sunlight means another hour of warmer temperatures, giving tornadoes more of a chance to develop.
Stop and think about that for minute. To paraphrase Slim Pickens, I've been to one world fair, a picnic, and a rodeo and that's the stupidest thing I ever heard come over a set of speakers. Nature doesn't give a damn how we set our clocks. Observing DST doesn't actually give us an extra hour of sunlight, we just wake up an hour earlier so it seems that way.

From now on I'm just going to keep my eyes and ears peeled for tornadoes and I'm going to turn the TV off before it kills any more of my brain cells.

Friday, April 14, 2006

PTC Pans Pope Program

The Parents Television Council has sunk to a new low, taking it upon themselves to protect American children from, get this, German television. Das stimmt!

L. Brent Bozell III, right-wing hack and odious founder of the media watchdog PTC, released a statement yesterday condemning MTV for blasphemy. All this because German MTV plans to run a cartoon program called Popetown that "mocks Christianity and Jesus' crucifixion." And on Easter weekend. For shame!

It's weird, but I seem to remember another recent news story having to do with blasphemous cartoons. That time, their publication was widely hailed as a salvo for righteousness in the Clash of CivilizationsTM. Now that the sandal's on the other foot, it doesn't look so freakin awesome anymore, does it?

The Popetown cartoon's major sin seems to be that it portrays the Pope in a less than positive light. I know. Stop the presses. Apparently he likes animals in a rather un-Franciscan way and he rides around on a pogo stick. (On a tangentially related note, Rudimentary Peni have a very silly song called "Pogo Pope" that you ought to listen to at least once before you die.) The German ad campaign features Jesus climbing down from the cross to enjoy a little bit of TV (some of Mel Gibson's work, perhaps?) which he says is better than "hanging around" (get it?).

Clearly this is not the same thing as portraying the founder of your religion as a suicide bomber. It's worse. Or so says L. Brent Bozell III.
This is yet another example of how some in Hollywood are spitting on religious figures and showing their contempt for people of faith. The cartoons about Mohammed may have been in bad taste but they were political satire. This is worse. This is ridicule for the sake of ridicule. And not coincidentally they’re doing this during Easter week, the holiest week in the Christian year.
Apparently there are those who agree with Bozell's unhinged logic. In the UK, the BBC decided the program was too controversial to run after receiving protests. (How could anyone be so uncivilized to protest a little harmless blasphemy—in cartoon form, no less?) Of course, one could note that the Vatican is a political entity so lampooning it is in fact political satire, but let's not get technical.

Bozell went on to fret over America's image abroad.
When foreigners see shows like this, they are getting the worst of the very worst of American culture. No wonder so many hold us in contempt.
First of all, Popetown is a British show, not an American one. Secondly, is Bozell out of his tiny little mind? The rest of the world loves our television shows. Dallas was on in just about every country in the world. It was a huge hit in Uzbekistan, fer chrissakes. The world loves the American entertainment juggernaut. What they tend not to like about America is foreign aggression, economic bullying, environmental malfaesance, torture, fat people and presidents who are no smarter than L. Brent Bozell III.

Make sure to tune in to Fox, cuz the war on Easter is ON! And now you know what DVD to get me for Xmas.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Milking the Cartoon Crisis

Another very interesting post for the ninth installment of Random Platitude's look at the Muhammad cartoon crisis. This Danish historian and lecturer offers a unique view of the internal complexities of the cartoon crisis, considering both its origins and its effects.

Part nine provides a neat list of all the people who stood to gain from fanning the flames of controversy. In addition to the obvious Muslim firebrands who orchestrated riots and destruction in the Middle East and elsewhere, the list includes the Danish Prime Minister and several Danish politicians from multiple parties, conservative and reactionary anti-Muslim voices in the U.S. and elsewhere, and Kåre Bluitgen, the man who started it all and has seen his "fairly inconsequential book" on Muhammad go into its fourth printing in a matter of months as a result.

RP spends most of his time talking about voices in the Danish media who used the crisis for professional gain. He focuses on Lasse Ellegaard, a veteran war correspondent with a flair for the dramatic. According to RP, Ellegaard has parlayed the crisis into several prominent speaking and writing gigs, primarily by exaggerating the threats faced by Danes abroad. Click the link above to read more.

Rev. William Sloane Coffin, Jr., RIP

A moral voice for immoral times, dead at age 81.
The world is too dangerous for anything but truth and too small for anything but love.
*****
Hope arouses, as nothing else can arouse, a passion for the possible.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Tiger in a Trap

Tiger Woods has come under fire, mainly from the British press, for using the word "spaz" to describe his poor putting at the Masters. "I was so in control from tee to green," said Woods, "the best I've played for years... But as soon as I got on the green I was a spaz."

The word "spaz" derives, of course, from "spastic", a term once used to describe people with motor skills disorders such as cerebral palsy. In fact, the British charity set up to help people stricken with cerebral palsy was called the Spastic Society until the name was changed to Scope not too long ago (I remember seeing the Spastic Society in London in 1992).

The question is, how many people are really aware of the derivation of "spaz"? In the UK, it seems, everyone is. This is probably largely due to the fact that the Spastic Society made that connection explicit. In the US, however, it's not so clear-cut. I'm not arguing that the word is acceptable or benign, but it has never carried the weight it seems to in Britain. I'm only a couple of years older than Tiger (though my handicap, if you will, is much, much higher), and I remember that when I was a kid, the word "spaz" was used to describe someone who was explosively hyperactive. Sure there was the ineptitude and lack of coordination associated with it as well, but, at least in my childhood, this was not the central meaning.

This serves as a reminder that we may share a common language with our British cousins, but that doesn't mean we're all on the same page as far as vocabulary is concerned. A Brit might be plenty surprised to see what kind of reaction the words c**t and tw*t—both comparatively mild on the Emerald Isle—would get over here in the US.

The most troubling aspect of this incident is the behavior of the US media, who apparently realized Tiger's faux pas and sought to ameliorate it.
An article on Tuesday in online newspaper The Age tracked the reporting of Woods comments and found that spaz was edited out of subsequent news packages. They also say that an LA Times reporter got Tiger to re-word his sentence replacing spaz with wreck so he could report it with no problems.
It's quite apparent that Tiger was not trying to be offensive, so there's no reason for the media to try to cover up what is essentially a non-issue. At best, this incident will raise some awareness in the States. But, if people blow it all out of proportion, things are just going to get retarded. And that would be totally gay. (Forgive me.)

Keeping Up With Cletus and Brandine

Sean Preston Federline SpearsTM has a cracked skull. The world's most perfect white trash baby is in jeopardy.

Apparently, the Beverly hillbilly baby took a tumble from his high chair. After six days, it occurred to Cletus and Brandine to take their son to the hospital. After Sean's head injury was discovered, the slack-jawed yokels were questioned by representatives of the Los Angeles child welfare department who could go so far as to take the baby away from them.

Unfortunately, the officials aren't able to question the six-month-old Sean Preston, since it's pretty obvious that he sustained his head injury on purpose in a desperate attempt to be more like mom and dad.

Just dear god please don't let him die! The last thing the world needs is a Britney-Kevin duet version of "Tears in Heaven".

Turkey's Slow March to Freedom

There's more good news from Turkey on the freedom of speech front. As I first mentioned here in February, five Turkish journalists were facing six months to ten years in prison for criticizing a court's decision to ban a conference on the Armenian genocide in Istanbul.

Charges against four of these journalists have now been dropped. Yesterday, Hasan Cemal, Ismet Berkan, Haluk Sahin and Erol Katircioglu were let off the hook "on grounds that prosecutors had not filed charges within the required two-month period following the publication of the articles." The fifth writer, Murat Belge, a columnist for the liberal Radikal newspaper, is still in jeopardy.

This is a partial victory, but a victory nonetheless for free speech advocates. All five journalists were being prosecuted under a nasty law called Article 301, which criminalizes insulting the Turkish republic, state institutions (including the military), and "Turkishness". It's a unbelievably broad law that was obviously designed less to protect the Turkish people than to keep internal dissent to a minimum. The fact that charges against four of the five writers were dropped on a technicality shows that Turkey—poised to enter the European Union but facing mounting criticism from the EU because of laws like Article 301—is having second thoughts about enforcing this draconian provision.

The best-known example of Turkey's reticence on 301 came in January when charges against world-famous novelist Orhan Pamuk were dropped, also on a technicality. The fact that charges against Belge still stand speaks to a deeper ambivalence in contemporary Turkish culture. Modernizers, since Kemal Ataturk himself, have always been keen on Westernization, but not at the expense of the integrity of the republic. Turkish nationalists, who have been at the fore in pursuing Article 301 prosecutions, see threats to the republic around every corner. They fear that open discussions on such thorny issues as the Armenian genocide or the Kurdish "problem" in the south and east of the country—not to mention more monumental issues like the place of Islam in the national identity—open the door to the enemies of the Turkish republic, both internal and external.

Tuesday's announcement indicates that things may be going in the right direction, but until Turkey can finally abolish Article 301 and the mentality that goes along with it—until they allow Turkishness to stand on the strength of ideas alone rather than legal coercion—as much as they strive toward the West, they will never reach it.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

An Anti-American Patriot

The other day, I had a little fun by taking a story about encroaching killer bee swarms and substituting "illegal immigrants" for "killer bees." The article read just like a Lou Dobbs editorial. Well, now I've been one-upped by Joseph Farah.

Farah is the founder of the right-wing online "news"site WorldNetDaily and is a nationally syndicated columnist working for Creators—in short, he's no marginal figure. But god I hope his views are marginal. Farah has written a special editorial for WND on the question of illegal immigration called "America the Infiltrated" that first crosses the line, and then turns around and spits on it for good measure.

"If ever there was a group of people more patient, more willing to turn the other cheek, more forgiving and tolerant," Farah begins, "I just don't know who it would be." He then goes on to eviscerate this generous summation of the American spirit by showing himself to be anything but forgiving and miles from tolerant. He may be willing to turn the other cheek, bit it sure ain't the one on his face.
Every day now, it seems, hundreds of thousands of ungrateful human parasites rally in American cities condemning their host country's lack of hospitality.
I thought killer bees were pretty bad, but "human parasites"? Wow. Immigrants are now a disease—a pox on the unblemished white skin of America. Not that Farah is trying to dehumanize immigrants, of course.
They have taken advantage of loopholes in our laws by dropping babies in this country who automatically become U.S. citizens, despite the illegal entry and presence of the parents.
OK, he is. Who says "dropping babies"? What are immigrants to him? Some kind of diseased, ugly puppies? It's clear that he only began his article with a paean to tolerance and forgiveness so that he'd have something to point to when critics accuse him of the intolerance and hatred he is so obviously guilty of.
They have forced Americans to spend hours a year listening to voice-mail operators give them language options. They have forced Americans to pay the cost of bilingual ballots and for Spanish translators at thousands of government agencies. The very character of our once-cohesive English-speaking country is threatened.
With multi-lingual voicemail menus? Well, Dios no lo quiera! He's right. The very character of our country, as defined by the state of our telephone systems at least, is indeed going right in the crapper. I bet the reason I have to wait on hold for so long when I call my credit card company is because lousy illegal immigrants are tying up the lines trying to suck yet another dime out of Uncle Sam's generous pocket. I'd vote in an anti-immigration referendum if only I didn't have to slog through all that Spanish on the ballot.
I'm sitting here astonished today—watching the latest demonstrations in Phoenix and Dallas and Pittsburgh and all over the country. Thousands of non-Americans with nothing better to do than show their strength, wave their flags, thumb their noses at our laws and dare us to do something about it.
Actually, these people are demonstrating for a right to take part in the great melting pot that is America. Most of the flags they're waving are ours. Some of the demonstrators may in fact be thumbing their noses at our laws. Meanwhile, Farah is thumbing his nose at something far more important: the idea of a vibrant, multi-ethnic society based upon immigration. The very idea of America. One would think that, as an Arab-American, Farah might be more appreciative of this aspect of American history. Alas, he'd rather open up a new chapter in that history:
They are darn lucky I am not running the country. I would order mass arrests at these events, forcing every single participant to prove their legal right to be in this country or face deportation. I keep hearing about how expensive it would be to find all of the illegals and deport them. They are making it very easy for us with these rallies. The fact that no one is even suggesting roundups shows just how far gone our country is.
Or it shows that American are, in bright contrast to Farah, generally the patient, forgiving, tolerant people he claims they are. I guess there's just no market in right-wing punditry for practicing what you preach.

I first saw this story on Andrew Sullivan's blog, where it received a much-deserved Malkin Award nomination for "shrill, hyperbolic, divisive and intemperate right-wing rhetoric". I know it's only April, but I smell a winner.

Drudge Distort

I suppose it would be fair to say that Matt Drudge has a "point of view" on the whole immigration issue that has been front page news for the past several weeks. Here's a screenshot of his site (augmented slightly to make the image fit and still be readable) from this morning:



The crowd stretched for two miles! Protestors are flooding Washington and sweeping the USA. These immigrants are just like killer bees, overwhelming our defenses and undermining the very fabric of our comfortable existence!

Notice that despite the fact that a high percentage of the protestors were carrying American flags and being conspicuously American, Drudge chose an image of a shirtless kid with a bandana and the word "Mexican" tattooed across his back to represent the story. Fair and balanced, as always. I wonder if Drudge disapproves of all those kids who look like Kevin Federline and sport shamrock tattoos on their shoulders. I'm guessing not.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Coultergeist

Matt Drudge is reporting that Ann Coulter's new screed is due out in June and will bear the title Godless: The Church of Liberalism. With chapter titles like "On the Seventh Day God Rested and the Liberals Schemed", the books is undoubtedly based on the canard, ever-popular in right wing circles, that liberals are all a bunch of god-hating atheists who abort fetuses for fun and would whip Jesus Christ Mel Gibson-style if only given half the chance.

I call it a "canard" because the idea of godless hordes of American liberals is demonstrably false. As I showed a year ago in a post called "Sinners in the Hands of A Right-Wing God", even if you assume that every atheist in America voted Democrat in the 2004 presidential election, fully 83.54% of Kerry supporters believe in god. (Not that religious sentiment really matters. Andrew Sullivan wrote a series of posts recently about atheism and politics that's worth a look.)

There are countless left-wing movements that have been animated, at least in part, by religious belief. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, William Sloane Coffin, Jr., Reinhold Niebuhr—can anyone argue that these people are godless? Well, if anyone can, it's Ann Coulter, America's strongest argument against "intelligent" design.

According to the Drudge post, Godless is set to be released on June 6. That's 6/6/06. Hmm. Someone seems to have struck a deal with the devil, and it ain't the liberals. I guess it would explain her baffling popularity.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Vacation

I'm off on a short vacation and I'll be back on Monday. In the meantime, contemplate this:
At three seconds and two minutes after one a.m. tomorrow, the time will be:

01:02:03 04/05/06
Spooky.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Attack of the Killer Immigrants

Not that I'm saying the American punditocracy is hysterical or paranoid, but I thought I'd try a little experiment. I took an AP article on the arrival of killer bees in Kansas and did a little word substitution. "Killer bees" became "illegal immigrants", "Africanized" became "Hispanic" and "agriculture" became "immigration". Let's see how it goes.
WICHITA, Kan. - Kansas officials are bracing for the first swarms of so-called "illegal immigrants" to cross into the state as early as this year, the Kansas Department of Immigration said Thursday.

Federal and state immigration officials have been setting up traps along the state's southern counties to detect their arrival and have notified emergency first responders. They also have prepared an informational pamphlet for the public.

"Anytime you have something that potentially can have a negative impact on what you are doing every day, you need to become aware of what you should do to keep yourself and your family safe when you are in that environment," said Tom Sanders, coordinator of the Kansas Immigration Department's Cooperative Hispanic Pest Survey.

The highly aggressive Hispanic illegal immigrants already have been found in Oklahoma just two counties south of the Kansas state line. They typically move northward about 100 miles to 300 miles a year. Hispanic illegals also have spread to Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Arkansas and Florida.

Commonly known as killer immigrants because their behavior is aggressive, illegal immigrants are easily provoked. A single Hispanic immigrant is no more dangerous or painful than an immigrant from any other country, but Hispanic illegal immigrants attack in far greater numbers than more docile immigrants.

If the illegals colonize in Kansas, the Immigration Department plans to provide educational support and help the public identify them, Sanders said. A database would also be maintained so public to pinpoint areas of infestation.

Because the illegal immigrants look similar to the calmer European immigrants now in Kansas, the Immigration Department plans to set up a lab capable of providing the DNA analysis needed to accurately distinguish them, he said.
That sounds just about right. All it needs is Lou Dobbs' byline and it's perfect.

Old News

A breaking news headline on Fox News today: "Power Failure on Capitol Hill".

Not sure why they're just now picking up on a story that's been obvious for years.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Downside of Prayer

In news of the unsurprising, Reuters reports on a new study that contradicts the notion that prayer has a medically beneficial effect on patients undergoing surgery.

The study of 1,800 heart bypass patients—the largest of its kind—"has failed to show that prayers specially organized for their recovery had any impact..."
In fact, the study found some of the patients who knew they were being prayed for did worse than others who were only told they might be prayed for.
So, the best way to help a loved one pull through a tough hospital visit may be to not keep them in your prayers. The study, however, suggests that it might not be that simple.

Two Catholic groups and a Protestant group were given names of subjects for whom they were to pray. One of the study's authors noted a possible pitfall in their scientific method:
One caveat is that with so many individuals receiving prayer from friends and family, as well as personal prayer, it may be impossible to disentangle the effects of study prayer from background prayer.
This leaves open the possibility that the "background" prayer may have somehow interfered with the prayer conducted for the experiment, like two radio stations on adjacent frequencies bleeding into each other.

It's also distinctly possible that the positive effects of religion don't come from hocus-pocus incantations, but through the living experience of such things as love, selflessness and charity. Of course, you can't really test for that in the lab—not that somebody won't try.

On the other hand, it possible that heaven's a little bit like Belfast and the Catholic and Protestant prayers merely canceled each other out. Finally, and this really brings out the "duh" factor here, the study may have been a whole lot more successful if some of the prayers had been directed to the one true god and messiah: L. Ron Hubbard.
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