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Location: Illinois, United States

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - J.K. Rowling
My Secret - Frank Warren
Persepolis - Marjane Satrapi

31 August 2005

Katrina Out Of The Bag

More from Rigorous Intuition on Katrina:

The magnitude of the devastation, and the rapidly deteriorating situation in New Orleans, seems finally to be dawning on the corporate media. Still, the lead story too often is "looting," like it too often isn't when the looters are CEOs stealing the necessities of someone else's life. We ought to remember Donald Rumsfeld's analysis of the tearing of another city's social fabric: "The images you are seeing on television you are seeing over and over and over, and it's the same picture of some person walking out of some building with a vase, and you see it 20 times and you think, 'My goodness, were there that many vases?'"

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin is "very upset" an attempt to plug the breach in the levee was called off, and doesn't know by whom: "He said the sandbags were ready and all the helicopter had to do was 'show up'.... He was assured that officials had a plan and a timeline to drop the sandbags on the levee breach." He is still not sure who gave the order to cancel it. At another Press Conference, Nagin complained about being unable to reach the White House, as the White House said they were in constant communication, and FEMA representatives claimed everything were under control.

Since 2003, Washington has been diverting funds intended for the repair of the New Orleans' levee system and pouring them into the breach of Iraq. Nearly half of Louisiana's National Guard are also in Iraq, I suppose to fight the hurricane over there so we don't have to fight it over here. Instead of the protection of the Guard, the Gulf Coast is falling under the authority of Northern Command ("Defending the Homeland is Job #1") which, since it's creation in 2002, has been a violation of the spirit and the law of the Posse Comitatus Act. But nevermind that now, since martial law has made land in New Orleans.

Consider a President with an approval rating edging into the mid-30s. What has he been doing this week? Playing golf. Speaking before another military audience about the "War on Terror," suggesting a specious link between 9/11 and Iraq and comparing himself to Franklin Roosevelt. Visiting the South West. Posing with a huge cake and licking his fingers. Pretending to play the guitar. Getting on with his life, then cutting his month-long "working vacation" short by 24 hours. (And what has Dick Cheney been doing? When no one seems to know, I worry.)

Perhaps more disturbing than the evident lack of serious attention to the worst disaster - natural or otherwise - in modern American history is that, even as Bush's numbers bottom out, the White House is not compelled to make a serious effort to appear as though it gives a damn. Not only don't they care, but they no longer need to be seen to care.

I Hate To Say I Told You So, But...

It didn't take long. Ultra-conservative Columbia Christians for Life sent out an email yesterday evening comparing satellite photographs of Hurricane Katrina with a 6-week unborn human child:

Says the e-mail:

The image of the hurricane...with its eye already ashore at 12:32 PM Monday, August 29 looks like a fetus (unborn human baby) facing to the left (west) in the womb, in the early weeks of gestation (approx. 6 weeks). Even the orange color of the image is reminiscent of a commonly used pro-life picture of early prenatal development...In this picture, and in another picture in today's on-line edition of USA Today, this hurricane looks like an unborn human child.

Louisiana has 10 child-murder-by-abortion centers - FIVE are in New Orleans
www.ldi.org ('Find an Abortion Clinic [sic]')

Baby-murder state # 1 - California (125 abortion centers) - land of earthquakes, forest fires, and mudslides
Baby-murder state # 2 - New York (78 abortion centers) - 9-11 Ground Zero
Baby-murder state # 3 - Florida (73 abortion centers) - Hurricanes Bonnie, Charley, Frances, Ivan, Jeanne in 2004; and now, Hurricane Katrina in 2005

God's message: REPENT AMERICA !
I'm not in the mood to deal with these fuckers. Check out Ms. Musings for the rest of the scoop and links to commentary.

30 August 2005

Eye of the Storm

This is a song about the end of the world. It's a happy little number. - Larry Norman

I'm sure it will be only a matter of time before Jerry "Blow them away in the name of the Lord" Falwell or Pat "Who would Jesus assassinate?" Robertson or some other high-profile but ignorant Christian blames the destruction of New Orleans on Mardi Gras or gays or abortion or the United States' backslidden pagan ways. I'm sure the rapture index is on orange alert and that Gabriel's mouth is on the trumpet. I'm sure Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins can squeeze a dozen poorly written novels out of this. In the meantime, we know people who live less than an hour from the shoreline. I hope they're OK.

And with that, I leave you with Rigorous Intuition's take on the damage:

Here we are, in another moment, where dystopic hyperbole has leached into wire stories with headlines such as "Experts Expect Katrina to Turn New Orleans Into Atlantis." I'm expecting the storm to weaken enough that the worst-case will not be realized. I'm hoping so for the poorest of New Orleans, who "chose" not to leave because they couldn't, and have been sitting up all night in the Superdome. But Katrina is already the 11th hurricane this season; that's eight more than have ever before been recorded at this time of year. The storms are increasing in frequency and ferocity, and will continue to do so as the Gulf Stream fails. All that heat has to go somewhere.

Climate Change is a challenge to our frames of reference. We've known storms before, but storms like these, this often? We've known extreme temperatures, but we've never seen the glaciers retreat and the pack ice melt at such a pace and scale. The old assurances of how bad it can get have been breached, and projected extremes are edging out of the narrow band of conditions conducive to global civilization and perhaps even complex life. And it's not the environment alone that goes begging for precedents. (And I don't think it's a coincidence that it's not.) Politically, economically, metaphysically even, we're all suddenly in over our heads without having moved an inch. And perhaps we should have moved, because the flood was forecast years ago. But like the people in the Superdome, we had nowhere else to go.

29 August 2005

Search Me

So I've been using Branica do monitor my site stats for the past week or two. Naturally the most interesting bit about that is seeing what people were searching for when they dropped by. Some of them make a lot of sense. There are a lot of wasp related searches, so I hope the beekeeping population has enjoyed their stay here. There have been a few searches for New York drug lawyer Chris Fabricant and for Ester Drang's Rocinate, which is kind of cool. Others were looking for stuff related to the Columbine shooting, from my two posts about that a while back. And then there was the person looking for "WIFE RAPED WHILE HUSBAND WATCHES" (in all caps mind you). That's the sort of thing that makes me want to take a bath.

Anyways, here's a list of the more interesting stuff:

  • wasp identify color california (MSN)

  • How efficient are internal combustion engines? (Dogpile)

  • sorry note for husband (MSN)

  • uncovering feet+hebrew idiom (Google)

  • My hip hurt wasp health shot (Yahoo)

  • black wasp in georgia (Yahoo)

  • sufjan stevens predatory wasps sexuality (Google)

  • rollin with saget (Google)

  • Eric and Dylan Littleton shooting+home video tape (MSN)

  • "david bazan" headphones interview (Yahoo)

  • Pat Robertson (Technorati)

  • National Security SOUNDTRACK (MSN)

  • "jeannette taylor" marketing (Google)

  • photos of columbine massacre (MSN)


  • soundtrack marketing (MSN)

  • Trench Coat Mafia (MSN)

  • team america free soundtrack (MSN)

  • eustace clarence snub (Google)

  • masturbate I-40 Knoxville (Google)
  • 27 August 2005

    Saturday Comics Blogging

    26 August 2005

    Lying Liars Part 4

    From AmericaBlog:

    Almost none of the coverage (of Pat Robertson's remarks about assassinating Hugo Chavez) made clear that Chavez is the democratically elected leader of his country. Bush encouraged a military coup -- which overthrew Chavez's government -- and then gave the thumbs up to the junta that wanted to replace him. Only a stirring demonstration of people power forced the military to back down (much to Bush's chagrin) and Chavez was put back in place. He's since won reelection under a vote that was less contested than Bush's two paths to glory in 2000 and 2004. How can anyone call Chavez a critic of Bush and then fail to point out that Bush encouraged his overthrow? Especially since this proves Bush is lying when he claims to be spreading democracy. You can't support democracy just when it suits you -- as Bush has done his entire presidency.

    And yet even middle of the road USA Today referred to Chavez as a "populist strongman." He is NOT a strongman (whatever you think of his pronouncements or policies). Chavez is the democratically elected leader of Venezuela and sits on one of the world's largest supplies of oil -- and Bush wanted him overthrown. He has every reason to distrust and dislike Bush, as does any Venezuelan who believes in democracy and the sovereign rights of nations to be left alone.
    I really have nothing to add to that. OK, I think I'm done with the Pat Robertson thing now.

    Lying Liars Part 3

    Spoiler alert: If you haven't seen the film Donnie Darko, be advised that there's a bit of a spoiler below. I've done my best to gloss over it as much as possible, but a minor spoiler it is. And if you haven't seen Donnie Darko, you should put it in your Netflix queue immediately. Preferably the director's cut version. Seriously, don't wait. Do it now.

    Back? All right. Off we go.

    One of my favourite films is Donnie Darko, a science fiction film (among other things) about a high school student who, after narrowly escaping death, has visions of a mysterious giant rabbit named Frank who predicts the impending end of the world. The film is also a satirical indictment of both authority figures and the school system.

    One of the characters in the film is a gym teacher called Mrs. Farmer. Mrs. Farmer is your archetypical fundie Christian mom, down to her "God Is Awesome" t-shirt. After a vandal floods the high school, she wages a campaign against Graham Greene's short story, "The Destructors," successfully ensuring that it is banned from the English curriculum. She sees the world in stark, black and white terms. There is no neutrality, no middle ground. Mrs. Farmer is also Jim Cunningham's biggest fan.

    Jim Cunningham, another character in the film, is a semi-famous motivational speaker. He teaches children that there are two extremes: love and fear. All human emotion is, as Darko puts it, lumped into these two categories. Like Farmer, Cunningham is the goody two shoes type. He is righteous. And there are many parents and kids in the school who sing his praises.

    There's just one problem with Cunningham. He's a fraud. We soon learn that Cunningham has a rather disturbing skeleton in his closet. The news quickly spreads and Cunningham is ruined. But there are some, including Mrs. Farmer, who don't buy it. For her, Cunningham has been framed by a conspiracy.

    Pat Robertson is a lot like Jim Cunningham. He's a fraud. He has a great act. I'm especially fond of the squinty-eyed prayers on CBN. But, as I've already pointed out, he's quite good at bending the truth. I'd like to believe these instances are the only times he's lied through his teeth. But when you only fess up to something after you've been caught, it's a bit hard to believe.

    Worse, as I never tire of pointing out, Robertson is a very wealthy man (He's worth somewhere between $200 million and $1 billion, according to Greg Palast's The Best Democracy Money Can Buy) with some very shady business dealings. Robertson claims, thru his organisation Operation Blessing International, to have spent some $1.2 million bringing aid to refugees in Rwanda. But critics such as Palast counter that the money was really spent bringing heavy equipment for Robertson's African Development Corporation, a diamond mining operation.

    Robertson has also failed to mention his $8 million investment in a Liberian gold mine with former dictator Charles Taylor. Taylor had been, at the time of this venture, indicted by the United Nations for war crimes. And, to connect the dots even further, Taylor harbored members of Al Qaeda for a cool $1 million.

    This is all very damning stuff. But, like Mrs. Farmer, there are many who don't, and won't, buy these things about Robertson. For them, this is all just a satanic plot created by liberals who are out to destroy Christianity and America. For them, Robertson is innocent. Nothing will change that.

    25 August 2005

    You're It

    I've been tagged to answer these questions. They're about books. A jolly good time will be had by all. Off we go:

    1. Number of books you have owned: Hell if I know. But our current count (I share with Mrs. Wasp Jerky) is 613, give or take a handful.

    2. Last book I bought: Krystyna Zywulska's I Survived Auschwitz and Miklos Nyiszli's I Was Doctor Mengele's Assistant, both of which I purchased at Auschwitz while I was there this summer.

    3. Last book I completed: I think it was George Khoury's The Extraordinary Works of Alan Moore, which is a book length interview with Moore about his 25 years of writing.

    4. Five books that mean a lot to me:

    1) Franky Schaeffer's Addicted to Mediocrity

    Schaeffer is the son of Francis Schaeffer. At different times in his life he's been a painter, filmmaker, and more recently, novelist. This book, and a follow up called Sham Pearls for Real Swine, had a huge impact on me in college. Back then I was moving away from being a fundamentalist and realising that Christianity was more than the lies I'd been told for 20 years. Schaeffer writes about the arts, about Christians who insist on a dichotomy between the secular and the sacred, and about how ridiculous that is. He writes about using art to propagandise for Jesus. And, really, all this is just a microcosm for what Christianity has become, and why that's completely wrong.

    2) Alan Moore's Watchmen

    I grew up on comics. I was reading Spider-man on hot, sticky summer nights (hey, keep it clean!) when I was just a little tyke. If you love the medium, you know that there's a certain segment of the population that considers comics as being "for kids." Even though that's changed a lot due to people like Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, Art Spiegelman, Adrian Tomine, Chris Ware, Marjane Satrapi, Daniel Clowes, Harvey Pekar, and Craig Thompson, there's still a stuffy sense of superiority in some quarters about this sort of thing. You'd think Maus winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1992 would have cleared this up. Anyways, Moore's was the first time I realised that comics can do some fucking brilliant stuff. Moore's storytelling is unmatched. And the subtext here, the way the words and pictures comment on one another in the most subtle ways, the way that even the tiniest of details has tremendous importance, is just breathtaking. Non-linear, sophisticated, psychologically penetrating, with a plot featuring perhaps the ultimate "Do the ends justify the means scenario?," this is one of the best novels I've ever read. Period.

    3) Greg Palast's The Best Democracy Money Can Buy

    I led a pretty blissfully ignorant life for many years. I've been waking up slowly, probably ever since I started encountering what I would call real Christian faith. It's been the same way with politics. Up until 9/11 or so, I was content to watch the mainstream news and believe what I was told. Not anymore. I'm not sure when exactly it happened, when I stopped trusting the media machine and the lemming-like way we're all walking over the cliffs. Greg Palast's book is a pretty good symbol for it, though. When I started learning about how tens of thousands of voters, a disproportionate number of which were African American (and consequently Democrats), were illegally removed from the Florida voter rolls in 2000, about how voting machines in black Florida voting districts were programmed to "eat" "spoiled" ballots, the world sort of spun upside down. And then shattered. The truth really does hurt, like a shotgun blast to the chest. I've got Palast and others like him to thank for it. Palast may be the finest journalist alive today. That's why you've probably never heard of him.

    4) John Irving's A Prayer For Owen Meany

    I think Owen Meany was the first book my wife ever made me read while we were dating. It's special for that alone. Plus it's a great meditation on faith, doubt, mystery, and circumstance.

    5) William Hendricks' Exit Interviews

    This one really probably doesn't go in my top five. But I thought of it, so I'm claiming it. Exit Interviews is a book of feature-style interviews with people who have stopped going to church. Back when I first read it, I could completely relate. I still can.

    4b. What are you currently reading?

    I'm reading Marci Hamilton's God vs. the Gavel : Religion and the Rule of Law and Stephen King's Different Seasons.

    5. Which 5 bloggers are you passing this onto?
    1. Hipchickmama
    2. Adam
    3. The McCartys
    4. Ramblin' Educat
    5. Stephanie

    And no, you don't have to do mini-essays about every book the way I did. But you can if you want.

    Lying Liars Part 2

    In September 1986, a conservative evangelical Christian announced his intention to seek the Republican nomination for President of the United States. The presidential hopeful convinced three million people to sign up to volunteer for his campaign, and, one year later, he already had millions of dollars in his campaign fund. The leader turned his organisation over to his son, Tim, and began his campaign.

    It was a strict conservative platform, one which included the elimination of illegal drugs, pornography, Conrail, Amtrak, and the Departments of Education and Energy. It's anyone's guess as to whether this candidate could have picked up the Republican nominiation. But he never got the chance.

    Within the potential candidate's campaign literature was a statement that he had served as a combat Marine in the Korean War. It turns out that this wasn't quite true. Angry Marines from his battalion pointed out that the former serviceman had never spent a day in combat. Instead, his primary responsibility was supplying his officers with alcohol. Not long after, public sentiment turned against the candidate. His campaign fizzled and he withdrew from the race before the primaries were finished.

    During that same presidential campaign, a group of reporters discovered a discrepancy between the date on the man's marriage license and the date he had written on several legal documents. This raised questions as to the reason for the wedding. The man admitted being a bit wild as a young man, but was vague about the reasons for falsifying the marriage date. Defeated, the man went back to his ministry, where he remains to this day.

    So who was this not so honest evangelical presidential hopeful? You know him as Pat Robertson.

    24 August 2005

    Lying Liars

    I'm really late to the Pat "Who Would Jesus Assassinate?" Robertson party. But I thought I'd weigh in.

    For those who have been under a rock this week, on Monday Robertson, on his 700 Club programme, called for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez:

    You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war, and I don't think any oil shipments will stop. We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with.
    So I have a few thoughts on that.

    First, I'm really happy, especially in light of what I said a few days ago, that World Magazine and Christianity Today are calling a spade a spade here. It certainly took Christianity Today long enough. For a while there it seemed that the divorce of CCM singer Jaci Velasquez was more important than a prominent evangelical television show host calling for the assassination of a world leader. Which I guess it is if you're following the blueprint of the mainstream media. Nonetheless, they came thru in the end and I'm thankful. (Although World was still ignorant enough say that Robertson seemed more Muslim than Christian. If the writers and editors at World would open a history book, they would find that Robertson's comments are quite in keeping with the Christian tradition of slaughtering people, particularly dark-skinned people, for material gain.)

    Anyways, today on the programme Robertson said that the AP misrepresented his comments:

    I didn't say "assassination." I said our special forces should "take him out." "Take him out" could be a number of things including kidnapping. There are a number of ways of taking out a dictator from power besides killing him. I was misinterpreted by the AP, but that happens all the time.
    Of course, if you'll remember just a few paragraphs up, Robertson in fact did say assassination. Now, I'm sure Robertson is just as persecuted as the next faithful multi-millionaire who lives in a country where all three branches of the government are controlled by people who claim to be Christians. But if your memory is that faulty, maybe you should be taking some SGS742.

    And then over here Robertson is apologising. So which is it? Dementia or just plain lies? It must be dementia, because I'm pretty sure Robertson was one of the morally upstanding Christians who took Bill Clinton to task for redefining the word "is."

    22 August 2005


    So, yeah, I realise that polls are often quite skewed. Nonetheless, it's hard not to gloat about this. According to the new American Research Group poll, our President's poll numbers have now dipped below the 40 percent mark. Only 36 percent of the country approves of Bush's job performance. Bush is now more unpopular than Nixon was during Watergate. Could someone please inform the liberal media?

    Notes Kos:

    At this point of his second term, Clinton was at 59 percent. Reagan was at 60 percent. Nixon at 39. (Though to be fair, the Nixon numbers were Gallup, while this poll is ARG.)

    So what's causing the downfall? On the domestic front, Bush has had a pretty good last couple of weeks, with passage of the energy and highway bills and CAFTA. So what's causing the meltdown?

    Well, his Republican support is starting to crack (down to 77 percent approval). His favorability on the economy is 33 percent despite the administration's economic triumphalism in the past few weeks (down from 38 percent in July). Seems that the public isn't happy with the kind of jobs that are being created.

    And Iraq (not addressed in this poll) obviously isn't doing Bush any favors either.

    Pax AmeriChristiacana

    Charles Reed has a spot on editorial in Common Dreams about what has become of the church in this country. I'm posting the whole thing below, just because I can. Thoughts?

    Organized religion in America plays a peculiar role in relation to politics. Instead of being a prophetic voice on behalf of the poor, the powerless and the marginalized, it has become more often an apologist for the corporate rich.
    Why is this? Clergymen and other religious leaders need to ponder this question.

    America is probably the most religious country in the industrial world. Religion is openly acknowledged as a powerful force in government and politics. But just how is that power being manifested in the public square?

    America is ruled by a secular right-wing political and economic ideology. It was not elected by the people, and it has never enjoyed majority support from the people. It is, however, supported by a significant majority of Christians.

    The secular ruling ideology is convinced that Jesus Christ was wrong when he said you can't serve both God and money. With the support of most Christians, it practices the secular economic values of the Russian-born atheist Ayn Rand-the gospel of greed.

    Our government nurtures the interests of business corporations. But it turns a blind eye and deaf ear toward the needs and interests of ordinary people. The secular corporate media helps facilitate this.

    We now have the most corrupt, dishonest, and mean-spirited government in our history. Its performance in people programs is the worst in the industrial world. The world's richest country is at or near the bottom in things like: minimum wage, vacation time, paternity leave, poverty rate, illiteracy rate, crime rate, prison rate, access to healthcare, access to legal services, access to decent housing, access to public transportation, and access to higher education.

    We are the safest and securest nation on earth. Yet our government rules by fear. We have the most aggressive, militaristic and nationalistic foreign policy in the world. Our government spends more on military arms than the rest of the world combined.

    Our government now openly defies international law, invading other countries in violation of the UN Charter, and torturing prisoners in violation of the Geneva Convention. Our foreign policy is based on military force, intimidation and exploitation.

    The secular ruling ideology would collapse without the support of its religious base. Since it reflects Nihilistic and relativistic values that are the antithesis of Christian values, why do Christians support it?

    The Christian values tell us to love our enemies, love our neighbors as ourselves, and do unto others as we would have them do unto us. The secular ruling ideology, on the other hand, cultivates hate, fear, violence, greed and exploitation.

    Corporate money has corrupted most every institution in America-especially government. It has also corrupted the church.

    Washington is lined with corporate-funded foundations and think tanks to convince government that corporations need more money and people need less. In line with that, neoconservatives created the Institute for Religion and Democracy (IRD) in 1982.

    The IRD actively undermines ethical and humanitarian values in mainline Christian churches. It seeks to cultivate divisive personal issues like abortion and homosexuality. Despite its name, it appears to have no concern for either religion or democracy.

    The church has done a poor job of teaching Christian social values over the last 30 years.

    The polls now show that, the more often people go to church, the more they support the anti-Christian goals and values of the secular ruling ideology.

    Who would have dreamed that Christians would support military invasions to build a secular corporate empire-an empire to rule the world by force? We are now reaping the results of that ideology: large scale death, destruction and division at home and around the world.

    In the words of Martin Luther King, "We've got some difficult days ahead." As the curtain begins to descend on the ugliest chapter in American history, the question will inevitably be asked, "Where was the church?"
    (Hat Tip: Jesus Politics)

    21 August 2005

    The Whole World In His Hands

    Every now and again I receive a letter from World Magazine asking me to become a subscriber to their publication. For those who don't know, World Magazine is a weekly news magazine (the fourth largest in the country, in fact), similar to Time, Newsweek, and U.S. Weekly. What makes World Magazine different from these other weekly periodicals? I'll let World founder and chairman Joel Belz tell you:

    At World Magazine we investigate and report on current events from a Christian perspective. We believe that there are absolutes in this world. There are certain types of conduct that are always right and always wrong. In this era of "whatever feels good," real conviction is all too rare, but not in World Magazine.
    There are a few things that I find troubling about this. For one, news should not be reported from a perspective. Don't get me wrong. I've had my share of both journalism courses and actual journalism experience. I'm fully aware that there is no such thing as objectivity. To pretend otherwise is just silly. To be objective is essentially to have no viewpoint, which we all know to be impossible.

    Language is a fickle thing. Different words contain different shades of meaning. Simply choosing one word over another will colour a piece of writing in a particular way. It's unavoidable. The journalist is also forced to make choices in everything they do. If I were writing a story about the use of soda machines in high school cafeterias, I would have to make several choices. Whom do I interview? What questions do I ask? What perspectives do I present? Do I talk to people who feel that soda machines bring in revenue that schools are not getting elsewhere? Do I talk to people who feel that the presence of these machines presents students with unhealthy eating choices? Do I bring in lack of money for public education? That our government underfunds education while spending more than half its budget on the military? Do I talk about the effects of corporate presence in schools? There are so many ways to take this story. The direction I take it will depend on who I am as a person, the life I have had, my beliefs, my background, and so forth. So objectivity is a myth.

    That said, to purposely report a story from a particular viewpoint seems off to me. While I'm grateful that the particular bias of World Magazine is admitted up front, that this perspective will be Christian, or more accurately ultra-conservative evangelical American Christianity, to purposefully report from a certain perspective betrays what journalism is about. Journalists should strive to report all sides fairly, to refrain from a particualar bias, even though we know it to be impossible.

    The thing that is more troubling, though, is that Christian journalism seems to me an oxymoron. Journalism at its core necessitates a belief in absolutes. It necessitates that there is objective truth, because journalism seeks to report the truth. If there is no truth, then there is no need for journalism. So there is no need to report from a "Christian perspective." If journalism is about seeking the truth, then it is already coming from a Christian perspective in some sense, because Christianity claims to be a search for truth. If you want to have a discussion about whether "secular" journalists are reporting the truth, or are concerned with truth, that is one thing. But to think that "Christian" journalism is some other thing than "secular" journalism misses the point.

    But I don't think these World journalists are concerned with the truth. Rather, they're concerned with a certain strain of conservative American Christianity, and with making it look good. They're concerned with advocating Republican politics, politics with which they already agree. World Magazine is right to confront the shoddy thing that passes for journalism in the United States. It's an absolute mess. But they're attacking the wrong things. They think mainstream journalism is "too liberal." So instead they're injecting journalism with conservatism. If World Magazine was really concerned with the search for truth, I would expect them to be raking our President across the coals about now. That hasn't happened. And it won't.

    This has nothing to do with truth. And it has nothing to do with real Christianity. Christianity does not bow to any American political party. And it does not bow to the bias of a particular setting on the political spectrum. If it does, it ceases to be Christianity.

    20 August 2005

    Saturday Comics Blogging

    19 August 2005

    The Art Of War

    Who do the fightin' for these rich white folks, and they wars?
    No it ain't Drew Carey, Dennis Miller or stars
    Fox News, Mike Savage, Bruce Willis or Rush
    Won't be MSNBC, CNN or a Bush
    Never Toby Keith, Hannity, O'Reilly or Clint
    Ain't Clear Channel—know they ain't supportin' dissent
    Ain't Blair, Kid Rock, or Tom Cruise or vows
    Of James Woods, Rob Lowe, Tom Selleck or Powell
    Not Arnold Schwarzenegger, he ain't gonna shoot, or
    Ted Nugent cause in war the targets got weapons too
    Ain't Cheney, Rumsfeld, Halliburton or Ridge
    Or Ann Coulter, or Joseph Lieberman or the rich
    Or any b*tch up in Congress, they just make laws
    When it comes to fightin' we the ones that end up in gauze
    So when you say support that murderer, I have no applause
    Even if he got his jumpsuit on—we pay the cost
    — Paris

    This Cindy Sheehan business has done a lot to expose some of the blatant hypocrisies prevalent on the right side of the political spectrum. For many on the right, pro-life is equated only with abortion. These pre-birth pro-lifers seem perfectly accepting of death caused by wars and extreme poverty.

    Likewise, wars are apparently best fought by the poor and by Democrats. That members of the elite right-wing noise machine would risk their lives for the fights they start is unthinkable. They’re too busy with strategic decisions. I’ve no problem with those who would rather venture to Canada than fight. But if you’re in favour of attacking another country, it seems only reasonable that you should be willing to sign up to fight that country. Michael Moore really nailed this in Fahrenheit 9/11 when he brought a serviceman with him to recruit the children of those in Congress.

    A couple of things have been floating around lately that highlight this. The first, via Washington Rox, is a list of Democrats, Republicans, and pundits and their respective armed service records:

    Democrats: (Official Armed Services Records)
    * Richard Gephardt: Air National Guard, 1965-71.
    * David Bonior: Staff Sgt., Air Force 1968-72.
    * Tom Daschle: 1st Lt., Air Force SAC 1969-72.
    * Al Gore: enlisted Aug. 1969; sent to Vietnam Jan. 1971 as an army journalist in 20th Engineer Brigade.
    * Bob Kerrey: Lt. j.g. Navy 1966-69; Medal of Honor, Vietnam.
    * Daniel Inouye: Army 1943-47; Medal of Honor, WWII.
    * John Kerry: Lt., Navy 1966-70; Silver Star, Bronze Star with Combat V, Purple Hearts.
    * Charles Rangel: Staff Sgt., Army 1948-52; Bronze Star, Korea.
    * Max
    Cleland: Captain, Army 1965-68; Silver Star & Bronze Star, Vietnam.
    * Ted Kennedy: Army, 1951-53.
    * Tom Harkin: Lt., Navy, 1962-67; Naval Reserve, 1968-74.
    * Jack Reed: Army Ranger, 1971-1979; Captain, Army Reserve 1979-91.
    * Fritz Hollings: Army officer in WWII; Bronze Star and seven campaign ribbons.
    * Leonard Boswell: Lt. Col., Army 1956-76; Vietnam, DFCs, Bronze Stars, and Soldier's Medal.
    * Pete Peterson: Air Force Captain, POW. Purple Heart, Silver Star and Legion of Merit.
    * Mike Thompson: St! aff sergeant, 173rd Airborne, Purple Heart.
    * Bill McBride: Candidate for Fla. Governor. Marine in Vietnam; Bronze Star with Combat V.
    * Gray Davis: Army Captain in Vietnam, Bronze Star.
    * Pete
    Stark: Air Force 1955-57* Chuck Robb: Vietnam
    * Howell Heflin: Silver Star
    * George McGovern: Silver Star & DFC during WWII.
    * Bill Clinton: Did not serve. Student deferments. Entered draft but received #311.
    * Jimmy Carter: Seven years in the Navy.
    * Walter Mondale: Army 1951-1953
    * John Glenn: WWII and Korea; six DFCs and AirMedal with 18 Clusters.
    * Tom Lantos: Served in Hungarian underground in
    WWII. Saved by Raoul Wallenberg.

    Republicans -- (Official Armed Services)
    * Dick Cheney: did not serve. Several deferments, the last by marriage.
    * Dennis Hastert: did not serve.
    * Tom Delay: did not serve.
    * Roy Blunt: did not serve.
    * Bill Frist: did not serve.
    * Mitch McConnell: did not serve.
    * Rick Santorum: did not serve.
    * Trent Lott: did not serve.
    * John Ashcroft: did not serve. Seven deferments to teach business.
    * Jeb Bush: did not serve.
    * Karl Rove: did not serve.
    * Saxby Chambliss: did not serve. "Bad knee." The man who attacked Max Cleland's patriotism.
    * Paul Wolfowitz: did not serve.
    * Vin Weber: did not serve.
    * Richard Perle: did not serve.
    * Douglas Feith: did not serve.
    * Eliot Abrams: did not serve.
    * Richard Shelby: did not serve.
    * Jon! Kyl: did not serve.
    * Tim Hutchison: did not serve.
    * Christopher Cox: did not serve.
    * Newt Gingrich: did not serve.
    * Don Rumsfeld: served in Navy (1954-57) as flight instructor.
    * George W. Bush: failed to complete his six-year National Guard; got assigned to Alabama so he could campaign for family friend running for U.S!. Senate; failed to show up for required medical exam, disappeared from duty.
    * Ronald Reagan: due to poor eyesight, served in a non-combat role making movies.
    * B-1 Bob Dornan: Consciously enlisted after fighting was over in Korea.
    * Phil Gramm: did not serve.
    * John McCain: Vietnam POW, Silver Star, Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross. (THE ONLY EXCEPTION!)
    * Dana Rohrabacher: did not serve.
    * John M. McHugh: did not serve.
    * JC Watts: did not serve.
    * Jack Kemp: did not serve. "Knee problem," although continued in NFL for 8 years.
    * Dan Quayle: Journalism unit of the Indiana National Guard.
    * Rudy Giuliani: did not serve.
    * George Pataki: did not serve.
    * Spencer Abraham: did not serve.
    * John Engler: did not serve.
    * Lindsey Graham: National Guard lawyer.
    * Arnold Schwarzenegger: AWOL from Austrian army base.

    Pundits, Preachers and Others Who Stood Or Still Stand For Support Of the Republican Party
    * Sean Hannity: did not serve.
    * Rush Limbaugh: did not serve (4-F with a "pilonidal cyst.")
    * Bill O'Reilly: did not serve.
    * Michael Savage: did not serve.
    * George Will: did not serve.
    * Chris Matthews: did not serve.
    * Paul Gigot: did not serve.
    * Bill Bennett: did not serve.
    * Pat Buchanan: did not serve.
    * John Wayne: did not serve.
    * Bill Kristol: did not serve.
    * Kenneth Starr: did not serve.
    * Antonin Scalia: did not serve.
    * Clarence Thomas: did not serve.
    * Ralph Reed: did not serve.
    * Michael Medved: did not serve.
    * Charlie Daniels: did not serve.
    Secondly, via Daily Kos, we have a list of those on the right decrying warfare. Only this comes from Clinton’s term, when he committed troops to Bosnia:

    "You can support the troops but not the president."
    --Rep Tom Delay (R-TX)

    "Well, I just think it's a bad idea. What's going to happen is they're going to be over there for 10, 15, maybe 20 years."
    --Joe Scarborough (R-FL)

    "Explain to the mothers and fathers of American servicemen that may come home in body bags why their son or daughter have to give up their life?"
    --Sean Hannity, Fox News, 4/6/99

    "[The] President . . . is once again releasing American military might on a foreign country with an ill-defined objective and no exit strategy. He has yet to tell the Congress how much this operation will cost. And he has not informed our nation's armed forces about how long they will be away from home. These strikes do not make for a sound foreign policy."
    --Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA)

    "American foreign policy is now one huge big mystery. Simply put, the administration is trying to lead the world with a feel-good foreign policy."
    --Rep Tom Delay (R-TX)

    "If we are going to commit American troops, we must be certain they have a clear mission, an achievable goal and an exit strategy."
    --Karen Hughes, speaking on behalf of George W Bush

    "I had doubts about the bombing campaign from the beginning . . I didn't think we had done enough in the diplomatic area."
    --Senator Trent Lott (R-MS)

    "I cannot support a failed foreign policy. History teaches us that it is often easier to make war than peace. This administration is just learning that lesson right now. The President began this mission with very vague objectives and lots of unanswered questions. A month later, these questions are still unanswered. There are no clarified rules of engagement. There is no timetable. There is no legitimate definition of victory. There is no contingency plan for mission creep. There is no clear funding program. There is no agenda to bolster our over-extended military. There is no explanation defining what vital national interests are at stake. There was no strategic plan for war when the President started this thing, and there still is no plan today"
    --Rep Tom Delay (R-TX)

    "Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is."
    --Governor George W. Bush (R-TX)
    Could we maybe be consistent for five minutes?

    Update: Zalm rightly points out in the comments of this post that the military service records list is a bit skewed towards the left. Missing from the other side of the fence are notables like Bob Dole, George H.W. Bush, Colin Powell, Chuck Hagel, Tom Ridge and Richard Armitage. I still completely stand by the idea that the right is blatantly hypocritical about war, but in the interest of fairness and truth, the deck isn't quite as uneven as it probably appeared from this post.

    18 August 2005

    In The Mailbag

    So I realised today that I haven't purchased a CD all year long. Which isn't to say that I haven't stumbled across some really great music. Betweeen the library, periodic iTunes/Pepsi song giveaway campaigns, various music blogs, and MySpace, it's been a good year. I suppose it also doesn't hurt that I get press packs with free goodies every so often.

    Anyways, here's what's crept into our mailbox in the past couple of weeks:

    Ester Drang's Rocinate

    I haven't listened to this one yet, but it's always really neat to get a release so far in advance (the street date on this disc isn't until 24 January, which should give me ample time to write a review). Nicole and I saw these guys open for Pedro the Lion in Asheville a few years back. I wasn't too impressed at the time. But sometimes hearing a band live is the worst possible first impression. Then again, sometimes not. You roll the dice and you take your chances. Anyways, the press kit calls Ester Drang symphonic, ethereal and strikingly harmonic, which are all nice adjectives. It doesn't hurt that some of the band played quite extensively on Sufjan Stevens' Illinois.
    The Narrator's Such Triumph

    I haven't cracked this disc yet, either, but Flame Shovel Records hasn't let me down yet. These guys are playing at The Pilot Light in Knoxville tomorrow, so check them out if you're there.

    Camper English's Party Like a Rock Star (Even When You're Poor As Dirt)

    This one's a book. It's one of those how-to-live-inexpensively-and-be-an-asshole-at-the-same-time sort of manuals. Abbie Hoffman did it better. And he was more of a hipster than Camper English will ever be.

    Chris Fabricant's Busted!: Drug War Survival Skills

    Pretty interesting stuff. Fabricant is a trial lawyer from New York. He explores everything from drug possession to cavity searches, showing the ins and outs of drug law in the states. There's also some insight into how the poor and minorities are basically screwed when it comes to drugs, but that the richer and whiter you are, the better off you are. Not that that's a big surprise (ask Rush Limbaugh). Ah, and being read your rights? Yeah, cops don't really have to do that. Nor are they required to give you that phone call. (Yes, kids, it's best when you your view of the law isn't shaped entirely by Law & Order reruns.) This is worth checking out even if you don't use drugs, particularly if you're in college or younger. You can screw up your life pretty severely just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or by hanging around the wrong people.

    Update: Oh, I lied. I bought a Mozart collection in Vienna. Damn you, Mozart! Damn you!

    15 August 2005

    The End Of Your Lifestyle

    A few days ago I was going thru some old magazines and newspapers so that I could recycle them. While I was doing so, an article in an issue of Metro Pulse caught my eye (for non-Southerners and other aliens, Metro Pulse is the alternative weekly newsrag of Knoxville, Tennessee).

    It seems that Congress is considering making several additions to our Interstate highway system. One of the proposed Interstate highways would be Interstate 3. Also known as the Third Infantry Division Highway, the I-3 would run from Savannah, Georgia, to Knoxville.

    Given, this isn’t the only Interstate being mulled over by our leaders. Other additions to the Interstate system that were also part of the 2005 highway funding bill include Interstate 9 (a central California road that would go from the I-5 north split to Stockton) and Interstate 14 (initially to run from Natchez, Mississippi, east to Augusta, Georgia, although further extensions might take it west to Austin, Texas, and east to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina).

    I have a couple of basic problems with this. The first is that Knoxville needs another Interstate like George Bush needs a third presidential term. Knoxville is already a key link in both I-75 and I-40, two major Interstate highways. These two Interstates intersect in Knoxville, to create a sprawling mess of congestion. My wife and I live in Chicagoland now. Knoxville’s Interstate traffic is easily just as bad as Chicago’s. Maybe even worse. In terms of air pollution, scruffy little Knoxville is also consistently among the top ten most polluted cities in the nation. These days the Smoky Mountains are more aptly the smoggy mountains.

    The bigger problem with this, though, is that it shows just how short sighted our leadership really is. And how completely out of touch with reality our elected officials are. We are running out of oil and gas. Although it’s debatable whether oil production has peaked, it’s looking like it won’t be long until it does.

    As James Howard Kunstler notes in his book The Long Emergency:

    A few weeks ago, the price of oil ratcheted above fifty-five dollars a barrel, which is about twenty dollars a barrel more than a year ago. The next day, the oil story was buried on page six of the New York Times business section. Apparently, the price of oil is not considered significant news, even when it goes up five bucks a barrel in the span of ten days. That same day, the stock market shot up more than a hundred points because, CNN said, government data showed no signs of inflation. Note to clueless nation: Call planet Earth.

    Carl Jung, one of the fathers of psychology, famously remarked that "people cannot stand too much reality." What you're about to read may challenge your assumptions about the kind of world we live in, and especially the kind of world into which events are propelling us. We are in for a rough ride through uncharted territory.

    It has been very hard for Americans -- lost in dark raptures of nonstop infotainment, recreational shopping and compulsive motoring -- to make sense of the gathering forces that will fundamentally alter the terms of everyday life in our technological society. Even after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, America is still sleepwalking into the future. I call this coming time the Long Emergency.

    Most immediately we face the end of the cheap-fossil-fuel era. It is no exaggeration to state that reliable supplies of cheap oil and natural gas underlie everything we identify as the necessities of modern life -- not to mention all of its comforts and luxuries: central heating, air conditioning, cars, airplanes, electric lights, inexpensive clothing, recorded music, movies, hip-replacement surgery, national defense -- you name it.

    The few Americans who are even aware that there is a gathering global-energy predicament usually misunderstand the core of the argument. That argument states that we don't have to run out of oil to start having severe problems with industrial civilization and its dependent systems. We only have to slip over the all-time production peak and begin a slide down the arc of steady depletion.

    The term "global oil-production peak" means that a turning point will come when the world produces the most oil it will ever produce in a given year and, after that, yearly production will inexorably decline. It is usually represented graphically in a bell curve. The peak is the top of the curve, the halfway point of the world's all-time total endowment, meaning half the world's oil will be left. That seems like a lot of oil, and it is, but there's a big catch: It's the half that is much more difficult to extract, far more costly to get, of much poorer quality and located mostly in places where the people hate us. A substantial amount of it will never be extracted.

    The United States passed its own oil peak -- about 11 million barrels a day -- in 1970, and since then production has dropped steadily. In 2004 it ran just above 5 million barrels a day (we get a tad more from natural-gas condensates). Yet we consume roughly 20 million barrels a day now. That means we have to import about two-thirds of our oil, and the ratio will continue to worsen.

    The U.S. peak in 1970 brought on a portentous change in geoeconomic power. Within a few years, foreign producers, chiefly OPEC, were setting the price of oil, and this in turn led to the oil crises of the 1970s. In response, frantic development of non-OPEC oil, especially the North Sea fields of England and Norway, essentially saved the West's ass for about two decades. Since 1999, these fields have entered depletion. Meanwhile, worldwide discovery of new oil has steadily declined to insignificant levels in 2003 and 2004.

    Some "cornucopians" claim that the Earth has something like a creamy nougat center of "abiotic" oil that will naturally replenish the great oil fields of the world. The facts speak differently. There has been no replacement whatsoever of oil already extracted from the fields of America or any other place.
    Kunstler goes on to paint a pretty scary future, one in which life is we know it may be no more.

    The circumstances of the Long Emergency will require us to downscale and re-scale virtually everything we do and how we do it, from the kind of communities we physically inhabit to the way we grow our food to the way we work and trade the products of our work. Our lives will become profoundly and intensely local. Daily life will be far less about mobility and much more about staying where you are. Anything organized on the large scale, whether it is government or a corporate business enterprise such as Wal-Mart, will wither as the cheap energy props that support bigness fall away. The turbulence of the Long Emergency will produce a lot of economic losers, and many of these will be members of an angry and aggrieved former middle class.

    Food production is going to be an enormous problem in the Long Emergency. As industrial agriculture fails due to a scarcity of oil- and gas-based inputs, we will certainly have to grow more of our food closer to where we live, and do it on a smaller scale. The American economy of the mid-twenty-first century may actually center on agriculture, not information, not high tech, not "services" like real estate sales or hawking cheeseburgers to tourists. Farming. This is no doubt a startling, radical idea, and it raises extremely difficult questions about the reallocation of land and the nature of work. The relentless subdividing of land in the late twentieth century has destroyed the contiguity and integrity of the rural landscape in most places. The process of readjustment is apt to be disorderly and improvisational. Food production will necessarily be much more labor-intensive than it has been for decades. We can anticipate the re-formation of a native-born American farm-laboring class. It will be composed largely of the aforementioned economic losers who had to relinquish their grip on the American dream. These masses of disentitled people may enter into quasi-feudal social relations with those who own land in exchange for food and physical security. But their sense of grievance will remain fresh, and if mistreated they may simply seize that land.

    The way that commerce is currently organized in America will not survive far into the Long Emergency. Wal-Mart's "warehouse on wheels" won't be such a bargain in a non-cheap-oil economy. The national chain stores' 12,000-mile manufacturing supply lines could easily be interrupted by military contests over oil and by internal conflict in the nations that have been supplying us with ultra-cheap manufactured goods, because they, too, will be struggling with similar issues of energy famine and all the disorders that go with it.

    As these things occur, America will have to make other arrangements for the manufacture, distribution and sale of ordinary goods. They will probably be made on a "cottage industry" basis rather than the factory system we once had, since the scale of available energy will be much lower -- and we are not going to replay the twentieth century. Tens of thousands of the common products we enjoy today, from paints to pharmaceuticals, are made out of oil. They will become increasingly scarce or unavailable. The selling of things will have to be reorganized at the local scale. It will have to be based on moving merchandise shorter distances. It is almost certain to result in higher costs for the things we buy and far fewer choices.
    Of course, it’s easy to see Kunstler’s vision as nothing more than hype. History is filled with prophets who have been utterly wrong about the course of the future. Y2K was hardly the only unrealised disaster scenario painted for the turn of the millenium. One cannot underestimate humanity’s resiliance in situations like this one. We’re addicted to oil. And, as the current Presidential administration continues to show, addicts will do whatever it takes to get another fix.

    And yet, I don’t see how we can keep going on like this. Today the average gas price in this country is $2.61. Two years ago at about this time it was $1.62. The year before, gas was nearly 24 cents per gallon cheaper than that. And don't be fooled. What you're paying at the pump is cheap. Europeans pay between six and seven U.S. dollars per gallon. Who knows what we'll all be paying in a decade or two. At that point, cars could easily be an unaffordable luxury.

    This has me wondering why we aren’t doing more to free ourselves of our oil and gas dependency. Iraq has the world's second largest oil supply. Iran has the fourth largest. So it’s no surprise what our policy is going to be in the near future. But given that our public transportation system is a joke, that most of us couldn’t survive for more than a week without Wal-Mart, and that we have no foreseeable replacement for oil and gas, shouldn’t Congress be pursuing interstate railroads and solar-powered buildings, instead of building roads that can’t possibly sustain automobiles in the future?

    13 August 2005

    Cowards In Crawford

    My day started way too early today. After 3 hours of sleep, I was being shaken awake by someone at 6:30am telling me that the Today Show wanted me to be on their show. I had come into town to sleep in a trailer because my tent had been infested with fire ants. I turned the today show down for 7:15am, so we did it at 9:00am.

    We had a very interesting day. We had Bush drive by really, really fast twice. I caught a glimpse of Laura. I was hoping after she saw me that she would come down to Camp Casey with some brownies and lemonade. I waited for her, but she never came.

    The Bush's were going to a bar-be-que/fundraiser down the road from us. I was very surprised that they let us stay so close to Bush. The families of the fallen loved ones held their son's cross from Arlington West while Bush drove by. I bet it didn't even give him indigestion to see so many people protesting his murderous policies.

    I am a continued thorn in the side to the right-wing bloggers and right wing-nut "journalists." One man, Phil Hendry called me an "ignorant cow." But you know what, the people who have come out from all over the country to give me a hug and take a picture with me and to support the cause of peace, overwhelms me so much, I don't have time to worry about the negativity and the hatred. The people who are slamming me have no idea about what it feels like to unjustly have a child killed in an insane war. Plus, they have no truth to fight truth with, so they fight truth with more lies and hate.

    Three active duty soldiers from Ft. Hood came to visit me and tell me that they really appreciated what I was doing and that if they were killed in the war, their moms would be doing the same thing. That made me feel so good after all of the negativity I had been hearing from the righties. I also got to hold a couple of toddlers on my lap while their mom or dad took pictures of us. I am honored that people have resonated with the action that I took to make our mission of ending the war a reality.

    We are here at the Crawford Peace House now and there are dozens and dozens of people here. We are giving each other hugs and kisses and we are all feeling great, full of energy and so filled with hope that this is something that is really going to change the world. I came here so angry and I have been so encouraged and overwhelmed by the support from all over. I was thinking that there is no reason for us progressive liberals to be angry anymore. We have the power. One mom has shown that we can be the change in our government. We deserve to hold George Bush accountable, no one else does. We have to make sure he answers to us. If he doesn't have to answer to Congress, or the media, we will FORCE him to answer to us.

    Those words are from Cindy Sheehan, who as you probably know has been camping outside the President's ranch in Crawford, Texas, for the past week. Many on the Right have been raking Sheehan over the coals for having the gaul to stand up to the President, for having the gaul to insist that he meet with her to discuss this. It's all very strange. And it gives me hope.

    I'm excited to see Sheehan doing this. She's exposing Bush for who he is, a coward who can't be bothered to speak with a grieving mother. A man who claims to be a Christian, yet who has the compassion of a sociopath. A bully who does what he wants, no matter who gets hurt. We have a 5-year old for a President. And it's so glaringly obvious. People are watching this. And, except for those who have completely divorced themselves from reality, I can't see how this can do anything but hurt Bush. His approval ratings are already in the toilet and 42 percent of people in this country want to see him impeached. Hopefully this is the beginning of the self-destruction of this administration. Time will tell.

    But it's also a bit sad that it took the loss of her son's life to wake Sheehan up to what's going on. Thousands of Iraqis and U.S. soldiers are dead for lies. Iran may be next. And we sit complacent, glad to know that our lives are still pretty much the same. History will not be kind to us for sitting by and watching this happen. We have the power to stop this. And we aren't. What the fuck is wrong with all of us?

    Update: Visit Crawford Peace House to learn more about how to support Sheehan. Or how to stand beside her in protest.

    Saturday Comics Blogging

    10 August 2005

    Image Is Everything

    Something that I occasionally heard during the 2004 election season was that George W. Bush is a regular guy. Unlike John Kerry, that smug liberal Yankee, Bush is a good ol’ boy from Texas. He’s the sort of fellow you could go have a beer with after work. Or that you’d invite over for a cookout on Saturday afternoon. He’s the sort of fellow who goes hunting and watches football. You know, an all-American who’s in touch with real working people in this country. He doesn’t pretend to be smart. He’s an honest man who calls ‘em like he sees ‘em.

    The problem with Bush’s regular guy image is just that. It’s an image. And nothing more. You cannot have grown up in a house with a father who was a congressman, ambassador to the United Nations, Republican National Committee Chairman, CIA director and Vice President, and still be a regular guy. You cannot avoid service in Vietnam because your father pulls a few strings for you and still be a regular guy. You cannot own 12% of a professional baseball team and still be a regular guy. You cannot have millions of dollars in your bank account and still be a regular guy. You cannot spend nearly 20% of your presidency on vacation and still be a regular guy. Sorry. It just doesn’t work that way.

    09 August 2005

    That's For Alanis Morissette's Pain

    One of the things we do where I work is order massive quantities of books from Christian publishers each year. This is good for a few reasons. One is that I get discounts of 60-90 percent off the list price of any of the books from these publishers that are worth purchasing (and, yes, there actually are a few that are worth purchasing). Another equally enjoyable reason is that I get to leaf through their catalogues and make fun of most of what they publish. When Christians incorporate and start serving the dollar, things get amusing. Here are some of my favourite offerings from Zondervan:

    NIV Archaeological Study Bible

    They said: “Written to be accessible to all readers, the NIV Archaeological Study Bible is the first Bible to feature a full-color interior design along with bottom-of-the-page study notes, book introductions, articles, maps, charts, and over 500 color photographs highlighting the historical, cultural, and archaeological information found in the Scriptures.” Jeannette Taylor of JET Marketing says she’s “never seen people respond so positively to a product concept.” Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary President Dr. Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. says it may be “the publishing event of this decade.”

    I say: First of all, can we please stop trying to have it both ways? Either you think the Christian Bible is the “Holy Bible” or you don’t, OK? Either it’s the inerrant Word of God™ or it isn’t. You can’t pretend that there’s something inherently wonderful and special and God-spoken about this book one moment, and then prostitute it out to key demographic groups for a profit the next. I’ll be the first to admit that this is a pretty cool concept. But if you really think the Bible is written by God, then just stop. God is not down with your hipster youth culture or your 500 colour photographs. Dig deeper my ass.

    Secondly, the publishing event of the decade? Don’t flatter yourself. At the risk of pulling a John Lennon here, um, arry-Hay otter-Pay.

    Presumed Guilty – James Scott Bell

    James Scott Bell is a former trial lawyer who writes legal suspense books. Sound like anyone you know? Like maybe, I dunno, John Grisham? The only thing more ridiculous than Christian versions of “secular” trends is when the “secular” trend setter is a Christian in the first place. John Grisham is a white Southern Baptist male. That’s about as stereotypically Christian as you can get in this country.

    Web of Lies – Brandilyn Collins

    Collins is also the author of Brink of Death. And Dead of Night. And Stain of Guilt. What the hell? Is this your trademark? To have sinister-sounding three word clichés featuring a noun on either side of the word “of?” That’s just dumb.

    Adventures in Missing the Point – Brian D. McLaren & Tony Campolo

    Actually, this is a really great book. You should read it.

    The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass Aged 37 ¾ - Adrian Plass

    Are you trying to be witty by ripping off the titles of Sue Townsend’s Adrian Mole novels? Or did you just think that no one would notice? Or can you just not come up with your own ideas? If this is supposed to be an allusion, it’s a really crappy one.

    OK, so that’s enough angry white suburban vitriol for one day. But watch your back Crossway. You’re next.

    06 August 2005

    God Smiles On Me

    You're probably familiar with the Internet Archive. A group based in San Francisco, the Internet Archive exists to maintain an archive of the Internet. Makes sense, huh? Its collections include archived copies of web pages, movies, audio recordings, books, software, and so on.

    I knew about the archived web pages, which are snapshots of web pages taken at various points in time. What I didn't know is that the database also includes live concerts and films. For instance, you can download George Romero's 1968 horror classic, Night of the Living Dead. (It's perfectly free and legal. The film exists in the public domain, as Romero failed to properly secure his film's copyright.)

    Even better, there is a tremendous archive of live concerts. Enough to fill your hard drive. We're talking hundreds and hundreds of shows by amazing bands: Spoon, Scott Miller and the Commonwealth, Zwan, Ryan Adams, Jack Johnson, Vigilantes of Love, String Cheese Incident, Eddie From Ohio, Hank Williams III, Toad the Wet Sprocket, John Vanderslice, Soul Coughing, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Jump Little Children, Magnolia Electric Co., Man or Astroman?, My Morning Jacket, Godspeed You Black Emperor!, and Acoustic Syndicate. And that doesn't even scratch the surface.

    Whew. Zalm's wife my never forgive me.

    Saturday Comics Blogging

    03 August 2005

    All Work And No Play

    In Santa Fe, N.M., Linda Strauss McIlroy, a first-time mother, is trying to get used to the thought of soon putting her two-month-old boy in day care so she can get back to work.

    "It's hard for me to imagine leaving him," she says. "Just not being with him all day, leaving him with a virtual stranger. And then that's it till, you know, I retire. It's kind of crazy to think about it."

    Across the border in Vancouver, British Columbia, Suzanne Dobson is back at work after 14 months of paid maternity leave.

    "It was great," she says. "I was still making pretty good money for being at home."

    Across the ocean, in Sweden, Magnus Larsson is looking forward to splitting 16 months of parental leave at 80 percent pay with his girlfriend. They are expecting their first baby in a week.

    That's the beginning of an interesting article by Peter Svensson about the lack of paid maternity leave in the United States. The article points out that the U.S. is one of only two industrialized nations to not provide paid maternity leave at the national level.

    This isn't the only way the U.S. is crushing its work force. In the United States, a 40 hour week is standard for most full time workers. But not in Europe. France, for instance, adopted a 35 hour work week in 2000. And the French aren't the only ones slacking. Working time is gradually decreasing all across Europe. That's also just the work week. Europeans on average also receive 4-6 weeks of vacation a year. And that's not after several years of service. That's just for showing up.

    Let's say that the average worker in the States works 50 weeks a year. If you work 50 weeks a year at 40 hours per week, you're working 2,000 hours a year.

    Then let's say that the average worker in Europe works 47 weeks a year. If you work 47 weeks a year at 35 hours per week, you're working 1,645 hours a year.

    We're generalising, of course. These numbers probably apply to Western Europe far more than they do to Eastern Europe. Nonetheless, in this scenario the average European works 355 hours less per year than the average U.S. worker.

    That's fine, I guess. At least it's worth it for our free health care. Oh wait. No, we don't get that either.

    I guess what I find perplexing is that so many in this country are concerned with family values. Or at least they say they are. At least on some level of superficial morality. But really, how much better would life be in this country if every worker had 355 more hours to spend with their spouses and families? How much better would kids turn out if their parents had several more weeks worth of time to spend with them each year?

    But in this country we don't concern ourselves with systematic evil. Gays make much better scapegoats.

    (Thanks to Mystifer for the link to the Svensson piece.)

    02 August 2005

    Proud To Be An American

    Just when you thought the United States had run out of ways to torture people. The military has already sodomised detainees with chemical lights, beaten them with broom handles and chairs, photographed and videotaped groups of male detainees while forcing them to masturbate, raped female detainees, allowed dogs to attack them, urinated on them and possibly even raped children. Now they're using scalpels on genitals. So why are we the good guys again?

    White House Denies Existence Of Karl Rove

    Well, not really. But that's one of the headlines from the latest issue of The Onion. Once again the fake press one ups the real one.

    01 August 2005

    In London Town Part 3

    Recently I blogged about the differences of the reactions of London Mayor Ken Livingstone and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani to acts of terrorism in their respective cities. It’s hardly the only difference between what happened in New York and D.C. and what happened in London. The British news media, for instance, hasn’t cast objectivity to the side in favour of flag pins, fearmongering and military worship. Nor, as far as I can tell, is there a campaign of censorship in the U.K., in which artists can’t speak their minds without fear of being booted off corporate radio or arrested for artwork criticising the government.

    That’s part of what appeals to me about V For Vendetta. Vendetta is an upcoming film adaptation of Alan Moore’s graphic novel of the same name by the Wachowski brothers. Directed by James McTeigue, and starring Hugo Weaving and Natalie Portman, the narrative studies the relationship between terrorism and facism. Or at least the book does. The jury is still out on the film.

    At any rate, V for Vendetta as graphic novel was published in the U.S. by DC Comics under its Vertigo imprint. The story is set in a future Britian in which, following the devestation of a nuclear war, a fascist one-party state has arisen from the ashes. The regime resembles that of the Nazis. There is a secret police, a government-controlled media, and concentration camps for minorities. At the narrative’s beginning, political conflict has ended, the death camps have done their job, and the public is docile. That is until “V,” a Batman-esque terrorist and anarchist who wears a Guy Fawkes mask, begins to bring down the government with a theatrical campaign of violence.

    One of Moore’s main themes is that of the rationalisation of atrocities for the greater good. For V, the greater good is freedom. For the fascist government, it is stability. As the two extremities play off of one another, we see that neither is a viable option.

    Even so, V is clearly the hero of the novel. Anti-hero perhaps. But he’s still the hero. We root for him. We want him to bring down the government. And we don’t care who gets in the way.

    On an artistic level, the film will be terrible. Hollywood has already turned two Moore classics (From Hell and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) to rubbish. Moore recently completely distanced himself from DC Comics, which is owned by Warner Brothers, over the film. He’s complained about gaping plot holes. And a quick viewing of the V For Vendetta trailer will show you how much the film plans to rely on action and explosions.

    Nor will the film be likely to keep up with Moore’s brilliant ability to cram his panels with clues, red herrings, and multiple layers of meaning and interpretation. Moore is a the sort of fellow I can call a creative genious without dancing dangerously close to hyperbole. The Wachowski brothers can't even compete.

    Still, I’m curious how the U.S. will react to this film. Will Republicans call for a ban on a movie in which a terrorist is a hero? Will this be more proof to them of how supposedly liberal Hollywood is? Will audiences notice the parallels between the film’s fascist government and our own? Will the U.S. addiction to entertainment and our inability to distinguish between what’s real and what isn’t fuel a copycat? Will the U.S. realise that terrorism is a fighting tactic, one which we used quite effectively to win our independence from the British a couple of centuries ago? Or should bullies no longer get what they deserve?