Wednesday, January 26, 2005

What Would it take to get a Bush nominee past Barbara Boxer?

Surely, it should come as no surprise that the Democratic Party has come out flailing at anything and everything that President George Bush seeks to accomplish in his second term. The humiliation, disorganization and dearth of leadership that lead to the Party's November collapse has brought out an inevitable response from its minions: obstinance. Refusing to accept the cold harsh reality that their Party is completely out of step with the American populace, the Democrats are not taking the high ground by working to enable a functioning, bipartisan government. Instead, they have apparently chosen to regress back to their collective childhood experiences as spoiled, mostly privileged brats. Since the adults spanked them in November, they are going to sit in the corner and hold their breath.

Witness Barbara Boxer's recent catfight with the overwhelmingly classy and immanently qualified Condolezza Rice. If it wasn't so outrageously partisan and totally off the hook, it would be downright hilarious. Barbara Boxer, a two-time senator from northern California (not an area known for it's common sense or even its sobriety) sitting there with her Bachelor's degree from - I'm not making this up - Brooklyn College, NY - trying to get into an intellectual joist with Condolezza Rice. Talk about bringing a bong to a gunfight! The unarmed former "journalist" (she actually lists that as her "Previous Occupation") appeared to be trying to get a rise out of Ms. Rice, by not-so-subtle innuendo, that she was a pathological liar.

The moment Mrs. Boxer’s questioning began, she began to lob her verbal spitballs. In her opening preamble (most Senators give opening remarks in these types of confirmation hearings; Boxer’s was a preamble), she started her attack with:

Boxer: "And if you're going to become the voice of diplomacy, this is just a helpful point. When Senator Voinovich mentioned the issue of tsunami relief, you said -- your first words were ‘The tsunami was a wonderful opportunity for us.’ Now, the tsunami was one of the worst tragedies of our lifetime, one of the worst, and it's going to have a 10-year impact on rebuilding that area. I was very disappointed in your statement. I think you blew the opportunity."

Let’s start picking nits, Barb! Everyone knew where Ms. Rice was going with that comment and her words were clear. Boxer then goes on to gratuitously give Ms. Rice some advice on diplomacy. I am sure Ms. Rice was taking copious notes.

Then, as only a Marin County, California bong smoker could do, she gets even more condescending. Remember, now, this is a white, New York, Jewish woman who dares to quote Martin Luther King to a southern Black woman, the daughter of a minister, no less.

Boxer: "Dr. Rice, I was glad you mentioned Martin Luther King -- was very appropriate, given everything. And he also said -- Martin Luther King -- quote, Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter. And one of the things that matters most to my people in California and the people of America is this war in Iraq. Now, it took you to page three of your testimony to mention the word Iraq. You said very little, really, about it, and only in this questioning have you been able to get into some areas."

What an truly arrogant thing to say. "My people in California," indeed! Now, imagine the reverse situation. Let’s say a Republican Senator from Massachusetts (isn’t that a fantasy!) was questioning a black female from Alabama and dare have the chutzpah to quote Martin Luther King to the black Democrat. Can you just imagine the howls from the Washington Post and New York Times about the vulgar effrontery of the obviously racist Republican Senator! How dare he?

Admirably, Ms. Rice maintained a much higher tone than her questioner. But, not content with merely making a haughty fool of herself, Boxer continued to bait Ms. Rice throughout her "questioning." Boxer launches into a rant about the Iraq campaign worthy of a full-length Michael Moore documentary. She rambles through an extended soliloquy, quite disjointedly and certainly not with any logical point on the horizon, reading off fact after fact about Iraq and concludes, not with a question but with a rousing "So I am deeply troubled. Thank you."


With that non sequetur, even Boxer's fellow Democrat, Richard Lugar, the amiable, "Can't we just all get along" Chairman from Indiana, tried to bring some sort of closure to the verbal diarrhea. As Ms. Rice was chomping at the bit to get back at this rambling California clown, he steped in attempting to save Boxer from making a complete fool of herself:

RICE: Senator, may I respond?
LUGAR: Yes. Let me just say that I appreciate the importance of Senator Boxer's statement, that's why we allowed the statement to continue for several more minutes (inaudible) time.
BOXER: I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I lost track of the time.

[Yeah, those wacky California chicks!]

LUGAR: But, clearly, you ought to have the right to respond. [You think, Richard?] And then, at that point, we're going to have a recess. But will you please give your response?

After Ms. Rice gave an informed, point-by-point reply to Boxer’s 5 minutes of grandstanding, then came the "money" exchange. Having already exceeded her allotted session time, Boxer clung to the microphone like Bill Clinton to a cigar and launched into another attack. It ended in the following exchange:

BOXER: Well, you should you read what we voted on when we voted to support the war, which I did not, but most of my colleagues did. It was WMD, period. That was the reason and the causation for that particular vote. But again, I just feel, you quote President Bush when it suits you, but you contradicted him when he said, Yes, Saddam could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year. You go on television, nine months later, and said, Nobody ever said it was going to be.
RICE: Senator, that was just a question of pointing out to people that there was an uncertainty, that no one was saying that he would have to have a weapon within a year for it to be worth it to go to war.
BOXER: Well, if you can't admit to this mistake, I hope that you will rethink it.
RICE: Senator, we can have this discussion in any way that you would like. [Claws exposed] But I really hope that you will refrain from impugning my integrity. Thank you very much.
BOXER: I'm not. I'm just quoting what you said. You contradicted the president and you contradicted yourself.
RICE: Senator, I'm happy to continue the discussion. But I really hope that you will not imply that I take the truth lightly. [Claws at the ready]

At this point, the befuddled Lugar stepped in and called a timeout. Boxer had accomplished her goal which was, crystal clear to anyone watching, to grandstand for her pot-smoking, gay-and-proud-of-it, peace-at-any-cost, save-the-whales-and-the-dolphins constituency back in San Francisco. As a bonus, she scored a major coup for any California politician: a comedy skit on Saturday Night Live which, if not quite as cool as actually hosting SNL, is about as good as Boxer can ever hope for. Only really cool Democrats like Bill Clinton and Al Gore (does anyone actually remember him?) can host SNL; but getting your name in a comedy skit is great for "my people in California."

Now, I am convinced of one thing for sure: If the Democrats are putting up this much malarkey and beating their shoes on the desk over someone with Ms. Rice’s qualifications, what chance does any other Bush appointee have? We all know that the Democrats are still having a raging hissy-fit over Bush’s reelection, but does this trump their usual Party checklist of prerequisites for approval of anyone to a government position? I mean to say, that Dr. Rice (yes, Barbara, she has a Ph.D. and you have, well, some degree in something from Brooklyn College) is all of the things Democrats would normally rubber stamp in a heartbeat. Specifically, she is a minority, she grew up in the segregated South, and she is female! For Heaven’s sake, Barbara, what more do you want? Democrats would kill to have someone like Dr. Rice to run for something - anything - in their party.

Can you imagine the questioning of any nominee for the Supreme Court? The only way you could get any nominee past Barbara Boxer and John Kerry would be for the person to be:

1. Ethnic or Racial Minority
2. Female
3. A Democrat
4. Lesbian

Hillary Clinton would look really slim in those long black robes, wouldn’t she?

Addendum (01/26/2005) - We don't need Hillary after all.

Addendum (01/27/2005) - Seems even Californians thought Boxer was a little overmatched! And, in the interest of being "fair and balanced," one Los Angeles columnist defends Senator Boxer.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Memo To Michael Moore


To: Michael Moore

From: The American Public

Subject: Your Attempt at "Extreme Makeover"

Having seen your recent appearance at the "People's Choice" awards, I think it would be appropriate to make a few comments on what was, apparently, an effort on your part to improve your physical appearance. Hopefully, it was not a harbinger of more delusional folie de grandeur.

Mike, I realize that you have taken a lot of heat recently from the sinister "right-wing conspirators" (a.k.a "evangelical Christians," "Silent Majority," Republicans, etc.) or - as we like to call them here, the P.O.R. ("People of Religion"). A lot of the comments from your critics in these camps has been, unfairly I might add, about your physical appearance.

Let me first say that these sort of comments have no place when evaluating your craftsmanship as a documentary producer and director. Calling you a "Land Whale" or "Baby Huey" or "the second coming of Orson Welles" has no place in a constructive dialogue about your commercially successful and much discussed Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9-11 documentaries. People who would be so cruel as to say that "you looked like you crawled from the primordial ooze" or that "your blood type is Big Mac" are totally off point.

Also, to point out your inherited physical defects is harsh and wholly irrelevant to discussing your body of work and all that you have been able to accomplish. I understand, as a physician, it is extremely difficult to rise to social and professional prominence of even your modest station when you are afflicted with your particular genetic condition. The "F.U.D.A." syndrome ("fat, ugly, dumb, and asinine") is a serious handicap which has affected many throughout history. Genetics is, indeed, a cruel mistress. For you to have taken this grievous infirmity and played the cards dealt by nature as well as you have is a tribute to you and your determination. To have slept on the floor as a child because no crib could support your prodigious bulk and worn only diapers made from canvas remnants of Michigan Tent & Awning until the age of 12 is the stuff of legend.

In fact, we have come to, dare I say it, respect your curmudgeonly demeanor. By representing yourself as a "man of the common people" while living in a multimillion dollar New York flat, the world has come to regard you as, if not a man of principle, a man of incredible duplicity. Further, to have the courage to appear in public as you do, undaunted by your total lack of decorum, hygiene and style, we have grown to admire your courage. We continue to do so even if we chose not to stand downwind of you for fear of being overcome by the stench of moral and physical decay.

But, now, what are we to think? Have you totally sold out in an attempt to be a part of human society? Have you abandoned all your quaint beastial eccentricities and become a sellout to civility? Have you actually taken a bath? All are questions raised by your recent public spectacle. Say it ain't so, Mikey! We hope you stay just as you are - warts and all - at least until you inevitably succumb to your predetermined fate - obscurity, an inevitable turn as a houseguest on the Surreal Life and early cardiac morbidity. We hope this doesn't mean you will start directing real cinema (we know of your lifelong dream to remake the "Hindenburg Disaster" with you playing the titular role - as the blimp) and stick to what you do best, your annual rectal evacacuation of celluloid.

Turn back now, Mike. It's not too late. Go back to your roots as a purveyor of fallaciousness, obfuscation, and detritus. You have such a talent, shared by so few, for that! Don't try to be something you, clearly, are not. Don't try to take on the likes of Mel Gibson, Steven Spielberg, or Spike Lee. We already have enough real directors. Remain what God and genetics has sentenced you to, i.e. mediocrity. Be proud of even your meager gifts. Remember always, as my dear father was fond of saying, and I paraphrase here for the sake of maintaining a G-Rating, "you can't put a shine on a cow patty."

By the way, we eagerly look forward to your nude shots in National Geographic's "Wildlife of New York" edition.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Whither Goes the "Dream"

Today, we pay tribute to one of the most influential Americans of my generation, indeed, of any time in our country's history, the Reverend Martin Luther King. As a "child of the 60s," I remember vividly the struggles led by Dr. King and clearly can recall the year my school in Birmingham, Alabama was integrated. We were fortunate, I think now, that our integration with black students, which occurred in 1967 (my junior year of high school) was not only uneventful, it was a truly remarkable time in my life and the lives of my classmates. Our school and the little world we lived in was enriched - culturally, athletically, and educationally - with the addition of black students. We all grew - as students and people - with the experience of integration after years of segregation. The black students I went to school with were interested in the same things I was - an education. We studied together, we sang together, we played athletics together, and we all grew together. And those experiences were all due to the efforts of Dr. King, to whom we pay tribute today, the 76th anniversary of his birth.

As I think back on those stressful but incredibly enlightening times for me, personally, I also look around today bewildered. I wonder about how Dr. King would view the world we live in today. In our times of "political correctness," I wonder how Dr. King would view our society's "progress" toward his goal of integration and racial equality. I think he might be surprised at what he sees. Dr. King fought hard and, ultimately, died for a society that was "color blind." I believe Dr. King wanted one society with equal rights and equal opportunity for all, regardless of race.

As I look around, I see a more pernicious form of segregation today than I saw 20 years ago. It appears to me that we are moving farther and farther away from a "color blind" society and closer and closer to a more subtle, but no less distinct, form of segregation.

To make my point, let me give you a "what if" to think about. What if Rupert Murdock or some other non-black multimillionaire announced to the world, on Martin Luther King Day, that he was starting a new television network. This television network would present programming directed to the white demographic, specifically white adults between the ages of 18 and 49. This network would be called "White Entertainment Television" with the call letters, "WET" The cable and satellite network would also be presenting the first of an annual "Miss White America Pageant" in the summer. In the fall, programming would also include the first of an annual "Image Awards" ceremony which would honor white Americans who have made significant contributions to American society. What if, in making his announcement, the fictitious owner stated:

"White Entertainment Television (WET) is the first and only television network in the United States primarily devoted to the attraction of white viewers. Launched with a paltry $100 million investment in 2000, the white-owned and operated, basic-cable franchise had grown into a diversified, $500 million media enterprise by late 2004. Nonetheless, WET has become much more than just a basic-cable network since its humble beginnings. By 2004, WET Holdings owned and operated a broad array of white-oriented media products, including: White Entertainment Television, the basic-cable network; YSB (Young Sisters and Brothers), a magazine targeted at white youths; White Politics, a magazine offering analysis and commentary on contemporary issues facing white America; Action Pay-Per-View, a national, satellite-delivered, pay-per-view movie channel based in Birmingham, AL.; WET International, a provider of WET programming throughout Scandinavia and other foreign markets; Identity Television, a London-based cable service targeting white European viewers; WET Productions, a subsidiary providing technical and production services to outside companies; WET Radio Network, a radio service providing news and entertainment packages to affiliated stations across the U.S.; and WET Pictures, a joint venture with Blockbuster Entertainment Corporation to produce and distribute white, family-oriented films."

Let me continue to ask what the country's response would be to this white multimillionaire announcing that, starting in January, 2006, his company would be publishing two new magazines. A monthly magazine, "Ivory," would have in depth articles about white leaders in politics, entertainment and sports. The second magazine, a weekly called "Vanilla," would be primarily a news format with current events relating to the white world. Incidentally, the mogul announced that he would be sponsoring, in January, 2006, the first annual "Historically White College All-Star Game" for football.

What do you think the country's response would be to such announcements? I think I know what that response would be. Outrage. Boycotts. Death threats. Protests. Quite probably, mass rioting. My question is simply this: Why is it "politically correct" to have all of the above - i.e. broadcasting networks, beauty pageants, "Image Awards" events, publications, and sports events celebrating one race when they would be abhorrent if these same things were held by another race?

[As an aside, the fictional "press statement" quoted above is actually taken from a company statement taken off Johnson Publishing's web site. Johnson Publishing, founded in 1942 by multimillionaire Robert Johnson, owns and operates all the entities mentioned in the above statement. References to "black" were simply changed to "white." Otherwise, the statement is presented here verbatim.]

In Dr. King's dream for American society, is there a legitimate place for such racial separation? Was not Dr. King's goal integration - not segregation? Indeed, Dr. King was reviled by the "Black Power" movement in his time for seeking integration not separatism, as championed by Malcolm X and his followers. Dr. King was strongly criticized by the Black Power and the Black Muslim sect leaders as misguided and, yes, even an "Uncle Tom" for seeking integration within the American community. Racial integration was anathema to the Black Power and the Black Muslim (now known as Nation of Islam) movements. But, in my understanding, it was integral to the philosophy of Dr. King.

I wonder, now, in our "enlightened" time of political and cultural "correctness," what Dr. King would think of our efforts toward integration? In a time when non-whites (I am not sure that is politically correct but what I mean by that is "persons of color" - is even that P.C.?) enjoy unsurpassed popularity and influence in all fields of endeavor in our society, is there an acceptable rationale for any racial segregation? In my fantasy example, why is it acceptable in our society to have BET and not WET? Why is there no public outcry when an event like "Miss Black America" airs when, if someone actually did propose a "Miss White America" pageant they would be, I have no doubt, called racist, exclusionary, and bigoted? To me, that seems like a paradox. To me, it sounds much more like a manifesto of Black Power than it does the teachings of Dr. King.

Will we ever - can we ever - be one society? A society equal and color blind? Will Dr. King's vision ever be clearly realized or are we slipping, ever so slowly, toward the preaching of a different, more dangerous, type of segregation movement? Specifically, are we becoming a society that is racially "equal but separate?" And, if that is true, I wonder aloud: Is that what Dr. King saw in his dream?

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Introducing P.O.R. and Our Effects on the World of Movies

The "people of religion" (my new, copyrighted, politically-correct phrase for people who believe in God) have been blamed for many things over the ages - e.g famine, the Ten Commandments, persecution of witches, The Lord's Prayer, the Bill of Rights, plagues, locust, the Pledge of Allegiance, tsunamis, etc. I am proudly among this ever-shrinking minority of Americans. We "people of religion" (hereafter, abbreviated, simply "P.O.R."), and others like me, have endured these past condemnations with a combination of pride and a resolute sense that "we have done the right thing."

However, I draw the line when the P.O.R. are blamed for bad movies. You see, according to the esteemed Oliver Stone, the P.O.R. are responsible for the poor box office revenues for his latest release, "Alexander." This $150 million sewer-clogging epic has, according to the latest box office figures, grossed a paltry $35 million in U.S. distribution. The 3-hour snooze-fest garnered negative reviews from the New York Times (which called the script "inane" and that was one of the nicest things the reviewer said) to the San Jose Mercury News (which says, among other things, the movie is "so over the top that you begin to expect The Village People to show up as part of Alexander's war council") and most every stop in between. Even Roger Ebert, that Teddy Bear of reviewers and widely known for being all-too-kind to even the most blatant Hollywood waste (for God’s Sake, he gave Stanley Kubrick’s "Eyes Wide Shut" 4-stars!!), could only meekly offer that "Alexander is not a success, but it is ambitious and risky." Is that a good thing, Roger? Even Colin Farrell, that embodiment of Irish virtue and bleach blond star of the film, acknowledged that friends who had seen the film had told him: "It's not exactly Gladiator."

Despite being bludgeoned to a early death by the reviewers, Oliver refused to accept any blame for both writing and directing "Alexander" directly into the commode. Oh, contraire, mon ami! He has chosen to take the low ground. According to the Oscar winning director, the real culprits behind his film’s early exit from theaters near you was, you might have guess already, we P.O.R.

In an interview given in London and reported by the Associated Press, Stone said the film's commercial failure in the United States could be linked to "a raging fundamentalism in morality in the U.S." He elaborated further, and more geographically, when he said "From day one audiences didn't show up. They didn't even read the reviews in the south because the Media was using the words, 'Alex the gay.' As a result you can bet that they thought, 'We're not going to see a film about a military leader that has got something wrong with him."'

Old Ollie goes even further. He also blames the United States’ invasion of Iraq for the film’s poor box-office performance. In one interview, he claimed audiences saw too many similarities between Alexander the Great’s invasions to that of President Bush. He was quoted : "Because Alexander at times sounds like George (W) Bush, (people) get the two confused. I think it makes people feel queasy about empire and the concepts that Alexander espoused but Alexander was not attacking the east in order to drain it of its resources. He stayed in the east." Ollie is implying, of course, that Alexander the Great (a.k.a. "Queer Eye for the Macedonian Guy") was pure of purpose when he invaded the Middle East. We, of course, are just doing it to grab oil reserves."

The comparisons were also not lost on the intellectual Colin Farrell, the mini-toga wearing, waxed-leg hero of the film. He was quoted by Anthony Breznican (November 24, 2004) of the AP as saying "The film was never made for the purposes of a correlation or to say anything about today's present state. People say history repeats itself, well it does in different ways, shapes and forms. This was kind of a freaky coincidence that our story takes place exactly where all the madness we're all talking about takes place now." When Colin Farrell talks history, people listen!

Richard Corliss, writing in Time magazine, attributes much too much insight to the film. He suggests that the film is an allegory for our time: "This Alexander is a clear model for George Bush, pursuing destiny or delusion from the civilized West into Babylon-Baghdad, completing the quest George H.W. Bush left unfinished."

Of, for pity’s sake, people! Let’s just agree that the film is a giant vacuum - it just plain sucks.

Critics can be truthful and say it’s just really bad or they can really stretch and say things like "it may be really bad but it has a message." It certainly does have a message. The message is, clearly, even Oscar-winning directors can sometimes produce Scheiße. [Nota Bene: You’ll need a German dictionary for that last word.]

To conclude, Ollie has said, when discussing his latest movie, "I operate on my passion and sometimes I'm naive, I don't think about the consequences." Note to Ollie: When you are spending $150 million of someone else’s money, you might want to start thinking of the that little detail of consequences. Just a thought from a lowly P.O.R.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Even Stupidity Can be Understood If You Think it Through

This will be a relatively short entry today as I am still going through a personal intellectual crisis that prohibits me from doing anything insightful or thought-provoking. Allow me to explain.

This morning, I had an epiphany: After reading the news from several media outlets, I suddenly - as Marlon Brando’s Colonel Kurtz character in "Apocalypse Now" said "like a diamond bullet straight into my forehead" - I am totally disconnected from the world around me. I just don’t understand anything anymore. The news I read suddenly seems so nonsensical and irrational. Is it just me? I wonder.

Let me just put this single news item, from the Associated Press, as an example. Please read this and then let me explain why I have obviously lost my dial tone to world’s logic network. News article follow:
DETROIT (Jan. 11) - David Livingstone says the idea behind the economic boycott he's organizing is simple: If people don't show up at work or buy things, companies lose money. As he sees it, that's money the Bush administration can't tax, and can't use to run the war in Iraq, protect polluters or chip away at the Constitution.
So the Detroit Democrat and a handful of other anti-Bush groups across the country are urging others of like mind to withhold their cash and labor on Inauguration Day - from all businesses. They don't think they'll inflict a huge economic pain, but they do want to make a point.
''I view the inauguration of Bush as a black Thursday for this country,'' Livingstone says. ''We've tried marching in the streets to stop the war, we tried writing letters, we tried initiatives on the Web, but Bush doesn't listen. It seems to us the only thing Bush and the Republicans will listen to is money.''
Livingstone, a 41-year-old writer, hopes to be in Washington for the Jan. 20 festivities, which for him means protests, black armbands and backs turned to the parade route.
And he's vowing not to buy gas, food or use his credit card that day: He wants the GOP, big oil, big banking, big box stores and any other ''bigs'' to know they can't push him around or ignore him - at least not on Jan. 20.
The White House is taking all the boycott talk in stride. Bush ''is proud that we live in a society where people are free to peacefully express their opinions,'' spokesman Jim Morrell says.
Other groups nationwide, many loosely connected through the Internet, have put out calls similar to Livingstone's. Jesse Gordon, 44, of Cambridge, Mass., spreads the word through his Web site, Not One Damn Dime! Gordon doesn't expect to shake the economy, but does want to see the president recognize dissent. ''I think Bush should acknowledge the boycott. If we're effective, he'll know about it, and he should acknowledge it,'' Gordon says.

[End of AP Report]
OK, let me see if I can get this straight. This is a man who lives in Detroit, Michigan. He is going to Washington to be at the President’s Inauguration ceremony on January 20. His aim is, as best I can understand, to express his protest of President Bush taking office. He is going to do this by - here comes the confusing part - "not buying gas, food, or use his credit card" on January 20. His logic is - again I am a little shaky here - if he, and enough others like him, can withhold purchases that day, they will make companies lose money and it will hurt the country’s economy. And by hurting the economy, there will be less tax dollars and companies will contribute less to President Bush's re-election. [Oh, wait. Scratch that last part; Bush can't run again. Sorry]

Fair enough. Now, let me think about this some more. He is traveling from his home in Detroit to Washington (512 miles, according to MapQuest) and back home. That’s over 1000 miles. I assume, under more happy circumstances for Mr. Livingstone, he would not be taking this trip. So, by deductive logic, it is an extra expense to his usual lifestyle. Then, he will stay in Washington for a day or two, presumably, in a motel (judging by his picture in the AP News article, he looks like a "motel" as opposed to a "hotel" kind of guy). Another expense he, though I may be wrong, would not ordinarily have. Unless he is going to starve (protesters call this a "fast" though) for the entire trip, I am going to again go out on a limb here and assume he is going to eat somewhere and sometime on the road. Again, the expense of food and, possibly, drinks he would not be paying for back in good old Detroit. All for the purpose of economically protesting President’s Bush Inauguration.

Does anyone, other than me, see any problems with this? This, presumably, sane man is going to participate in an economic protest by spending money into the nation’s economy that he wouldn’t ordinarily spend.

Please, I beg you, if anyone is reading this, explain to me: Would it not make more sense - at least if he is trying to accomplish his stated goal - if he stayed in bed in Detroit and slept all day or watched his soap operas or Jon Stewart, and never got out of bed? Wouldn't that be a more focused economic protest?

Oh, wait, I take all that back. I truly am a silly old man. It’s not about the protest at all! Now I get it. It’s not really about protesting President or anything else; it’s about getting some bored, inane reporter for some - any! - news outlet to write a dumb story about you. Then you get your name and a really bad picture of yourself in the news. Then this incredibly unfortunate, genetically anyway, man can get some liberal arts college chicks to go out with him! Well, DUH!

You see? When you think things through, sometimes you really can understand the world around you. But, alas, only sometimes.

Addendum - 01-20-2005: My friend Steve Lee suggested this site for a counter protest for this wing nut. It sounds like a good idea.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

On Hypocrisy and Chicken Little

"For neither man nor angel can discern
Hypocrisy, the only evil that walks
Invisible, except to God alone"

John Milton, Paradise Lost

Infuriating in my youth but increasingly humorous as I stand unsteadily in the rocky land called (with apologies to Tolkien) "Middle Age," I find the hypocrisy of the liberal news media as amusing as it is astonishing. I will cite a recent example of how growing old and knowing the sound of past howlings of the political left make today’s screeching so very laughable.

Harken back, if you are able and among those of us who survived them, to the early 1960s. The world was being jarred awake to the tenuous balance nature was holding against the rising tide of the human population. The post-World War II "baby boom" saw the world’s population growing by leaps and bounds. We, in America, sought ways to increase crop production and farmable land to feed ours - and as is our sworn duty - the world’s bedraggled hoards abroad.

One of the boons to increasing agriculture productivity was the use of the pesticide DDT. DDT was developed as the first modern insecticide early in World War II. It was initially used with great effects to combat malaria, typhus and other insect-born diseases among both military and civilian populations. It was used on post-war U.S. crops in the late 1940s. It was very effective on food and industrial crops (such as cotton) and agricultural productivity increased. The number of lives saved worldwide by the use of DDT to almost eradicate vector-borne diseases such as yellow fever and malaria are inestimable

Then, of course, along came Rachel Carson. One of the early tree-huggers, Ms. Carson wrote the enduring environmental classic "Silent Spring." Upon it’s publication and, in particular, through excerpts printed in - you guessed it - New Yorker Magazine, Ms. Carson achieved instant fame and celebrity in the inner circles of the elite - specifically academia, limousine liberals, and Democrats.

As the cacophony of outrage rose to a fever pitch, the Chicken Littles began crying out "The sky is falling." Well, maybe not the sky, but the environment. "We are poisoning our planet!" they all cried out. DDT, it seemed, at least according to the esteemed Ms. Carson was killing wildlife. That was her thesis. Arcane, at least at the time, phrases like "food chain" were bantered about, first by the liberal press and, inevitably, by the finger-wagging Democrats.

And it came to pass, that Congress - during the Kennedy-Johnson years, when else? - directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ban the use of DDT in the United States. In 1972, the legislation took effect and was followed, in due course, by a U.S. imposed worldwide ban. Though we still have not developed an adequate broad-spectrum pesticide, the DDT ban remains in effect today.

Now, gentle reader, flash forward to today. Now, with the death rates from vector-borne diseases claiming millions of lives throughout the world, and DDT remaining on the shelves, who should come out of the woodwork but that liberal, environmental sensitive, rampart of liberalism, the New York Times. In an editorial of January 8. 2005 by Nicholas D. Kristof (he of the "Land of the Penny Pinchers" editorial just the week before) has written another symphony of half-hearted outrage entitled "It’s Time To Spray DDT." In a startling reversal (the sort which hides hypocrisy behind righteous indignation), Kristof writes:

"If the U.S. wants to help people in tsunami-hit countries like Sri Lanka and Indonesia - not to mention other poor countries in Africa - there's one step that would cost us nothing and would save hundreds of thousands of lives.

"It would be to allow DDT in malaria-ravaged countries.

"I'm thrilled that we're pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the relief effort, but the tsunami was only a blip in third-world mortality. Mosquitoes kill 20 times more people each year than the tsunami did, and in the long war between humans and mosquitoes it looks as if mosquitoes are winning.

"One reason is that the U.S. and other rich countries are siding with the mosquitoes against the world's poor - by opposing the use of DDT."
Ok, so now the government is not guilty of killing the environment by using DDT, we are guilty of killing people for not using DDT. The editorial is dripping with the usual New York Times finger-wagging, hand-wringing, "we are evil rich suppressing the helpless poor," "why don’t we do something" detritus. Kristof includes this bit of pharisaism in his polemic:

"Is it safe? DDT was sprayed in America in the 1950's as children played in the spray, and up to 80,000 tons a year were sprayed on American crops. There is some research suggesting that it could lead to premature births, but humans are far better off exposed to DDT than exposed to malaria."

Rachel Carson be damned! I would be willing to bet a large sum of money (if I had such a sum that would be considered "large" by anyone's standards) that, if Kristof was old enough to scribble anything in the 1960s, he would have come out firmly against the horrors of using DDT to kill anything, including mosquitos. However, now the worms have turned, The leftists now believe DDT is good and we are, once again, the villains for not spraying it all over the world to save the downtrodden masses of poor and oppressed. I feel an overwhelming sense of nausea. But, then, I am older now and I do find solace and remedy from the sweet irony of it all.

Age does have its own rewards. The pendulum of hypocrisy never stops swinging. Now that the environment is safe from capitalist thugs - the few, the proud, the Americans - we must do an about face and start marching in the opposite direction. After all, we are the alpha and omega of the world’s woes, are we not? I certainly feel like I am and, considering my accusers, it gives me a warm glow on a cold winter’s night.
Addendum #1: Malaria is coming! Malaria is coming! Break out the DDT! And do it quick!
Addendum #2: Someone must be reading this BLOG! An article is written with the same theme.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Terrorism and TV

In his most recent New York Times "Arts" commentary, that bastard - er, excuse me, that should read "bastion" - of liberal, Bush-bashing, Michael Moore-loving (etc. etc.) Frank Rich makes the argument that fiction writers do a better job presenting the terrorism threats than does the current Administration. As he spews his usual venom about what he percieves are the shortcomings of our government's efforts to fight terrorism, I am forced to admit that one of his points, but only one, is correct. He does mention, in passing, that the Fox series "24" - or the "Perils of Jack Bower" - is a good fictional drama.

"24," which stars Keiffer Sutherland as the perpetually in-motion-and-in-danger Counter Terrorism Unit operative, Jack Bauer," is an excellent drama. The writing is unbelievable and the intersecting plot llines top anything I have seen in most movies, much less current television drama. It is a source of wonder and awe to me how the writers can make an hour-by-hour drama of one day in Jack Bauer's life fill out a 24 episode drama season. If I had Jack Bauer's life, I would crawl into a cave in northeast Pakistan, run Osama out, and hide. Jack has more crises and drama in "24" hours than Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan (what is it about the name "Jack," anyway?) has in a really bad decade. It is an excellent show, probably in my top 5 list of current television.

Now, back to the Frank Rich "commentary." First of all, having read most of Rich's diatribes over the past year ( not for the information that I might gleen, mind you, but merely to see what garbage he can actually get past whatever editors the Times have left) I sincerely wonder how these op-eds are run under the Times' "Arts" section. It is my understanding that the Arts section is for reviewing movies, television, books, plays, and entertainment. Rich has redefined what the "Arts" section should be, i.e. his private soapbox for trashing anything that is not liberal, left-leaning, socialist, Democratic or, at the very least, anti-establishment. When Michael Moore, my all-time leading candidate for emergency gastric bypass surgery, comes out with his next trash-u-mentary on health care delivery in America, take my word for it: It will get both thumbs up (if, indeed, he has thumbs at all) from Frank Rich. If Whoopie Goldberg, the next project for "Extreme Makeover - Personal Edition," does a profane, hatefilled, anti-everything standup comedy at New York’s ApolloTheater, it will be "boffo" box office for Rich.

After trashing everything related to the first term of the Bush Adminstration - for the life of me, I cannot see where the column has any other purpose - he appears to be arguing that fiction writers and Hollywood do a better job presenting possible terror threats to the American public than does Homeland Security. I struggle, like Sisyphus, to try and understand his point. Is he porposing that Homeland Security and the Defense Department should be making educational films on "How to Survive A Terrorist Attack?" I am not at all sure I want to see an educational film in our schools on "The Child's Guide to Finding Your Parents After a Dirty Bomb." Those films I remember from the 50s and 60s on how to get under your desk and hide your eyes from an atomic bomb or how to build a home fallout shelter caused more paranoia than provided any useful information.

Surely, even someone as fixated on fear and hate as Rich does not believe our government should do this. But, what are we to think when Rich concludes his latest harangue with:
"As 2005 begins, we must confront the prospect that a fictional TV action hero is more engaged with the war on terror than those in Washington who actually have his job."

What does this mean? Does it mean that Jack Bower does a better job than our current counter terrorist agents? Well, he probably does in his fictional world. That is the type of logic that would say "President Thomas Whitmore [played by Bill Pullman in "Independence Day"] does a better job fighting space aliens than our current President." Or, does he mean that "President Beck [played by Morgan Freeman in "Deep Impact"] does a better job handling a crisis than President Bush." Ok, I will grant that both are probably true. But, Rich must have missed the memo that was intended to remind him that "movies and TV are not the real world." In case he did, let me paraphrase for Mr. Rich: "Yo, Frank! What you are reviewing are works of fiction; they do not actually happen in the real world."

I think Frank Rich is starting to believe his own hype. He is trying to use his back-of-the-newspaper "Arts and Entertainment" column to indulge an ego that is as inflated as his torso. In my opinion, Rich uses his review - and the label "review" is applied very tenuously - columns to foist his extreme political and social views on his unfortunate readership. Luckily, for his continued employment, his readers - save this Southern aberration - are residents of grand old N.Y.C. People of that demographic and geographic ilk (remember, these are the people who elected Hillary Clinton as their Senator after, what, 12 days of residency?) are apparently entertained by Rich’s nonstop, repetitive, partisan illogicality. While I do find his extremism entertaining in a snide sort of way, I really wonder how he can still write under the Arts section.

Regardless, I think Frank Rich needs to cut back on his fiction input. He probably needs to spend a day or two reading the more important sections of his own newspaper or, better still, reading a newspaper from "the real world" so he can clear his mind of his warped fantasies. Then he will know that there are, indeed, Jack Bauers and Jack Ryans who work in reality and actually die doing their jobs. While the hero seldom dies in Rich’s world, they really do in reality.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

The "No Fad" Diet Trumpets Success!

In an unusual departure from protocol, today we are featuring a news release about a fad diet. I found it's information too valuable to omit from this web log. Press release follows:

New Diet Reports Mediocre Results

Wednesday, January 5, 2005 Posted: 7:41 AM EST (1241 GMT)

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (DisAssociated Press)

Dr. Leopold Smeglin published today, in the prestigious Journal of Extreme Makeovers, amazing results of his "Low-Fad" Diet which included over 1000 failed diet patients. Dr. Smeglin was quoted as saying: "If you can convince someone that a diet can cause them to lose weight - preferably, without any effort on their part - people will try it. That's why I am selling the "Low-Fad" Diet. And making a mint, by the way!"

Dr. Smeglin, an honors graduate from the University of Mogadishu (Somalia), went on to describe the diet as being the "Low Fad Diet." He explained: "People are convinced that a diet has to restrict them from something - anything - before it will work. The Atkins Diet says you cannot have carbohydrates; the Ornish Diet says you cannot have fat. So, with our diet, people can pick what they want to deprive themselves of. It's easy and it makes my diet easier to follow."

According to Dr. Smeglin, people simply eliminate from their daily meals something they generally don’t eat anyway - the less you enjoy eating it, the more effective the diet will be - and eat everything else, as much as they like. For example, if you have a dislike broccoli, just continue not eating broccoli. Everything else it allowable. If you hate raw egg yolks, then you must resolve to never eat raw egg yolks again. Dr. Smeglin said that "calories, fat content and grams of carbs are not really important. What’s important is that dieter’s feel like they are giving up something - anything - in order for a diet to work."

He went on to say another other important factor in any successful diet is to let people know that being overweight is really not their fault. "It’s important for people to hear the words, over and over, ‘it’s not your fault’ in any diet. They should chant it on the way to work and before they go to sleep. Overweight people, and people in general, enjoy the feeling that their problems are out of their control. They like to believe that the negative things about their lives and, for that matter, the world, are out of their control. They need to hear that they, individually, are not responsible for negative things. It just makes people feel better."

In his study of somewhat over 1000 patients, Dr. Smeglin said, that an impressive 2% of his patients lost an average of 2 pounds and kept the weight off, on average, almost 3 months. While admitting that weight regain occurred in virtually all patients, Dr. Smeglin said "Any diet will fail eventually, given enough time."

When asked what the most attractive thing was about his diet, Dr. Smeglin replied: "I think the emphasis on lack of having to really make any significant changes appeals to most patients. We make sure to tell them they don’t need to exercise or any of that other silly stuff. Exercise, keeping a food diary, or showing any self control are just too darned inconvenient!"

In closing, Dr. Smeglin had a message for anyone who is starting a New Year’s resolution for losing weight. He said: "Always remember, it’s not your fault. If you follow my diet, you may not lose weight but, darn it, you can always blame it on someone or something else. Just give up one thing - one thing you don’t eat anyway - and you will have done enough. You made an effort. At least, you can fool yourself into thinking you have done enough. And that’s what’s important!"

Copyright 2005 DisAssociated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Generation Gaps

For the past 20 years, my mother and father were "digital dinosaurs." They were perfectly content to watch video tapes, the History Channel and Animal Planet on their aged 27 inch television. When I say "aged" I mean a TV that does have any input other than a cable connection. No "Video 1", "Video 2," no surround sound, etc. Just a simple circa 1995 TV sans any and all bells and whistles. As an aside, I commented to my Dad when he bought the TV in the late 1990s that it seemed like an older model. His comment was "It’s new and it was on sale!" He seemed very proud of the "it was on sale" part.

I, on the other hand, enjoyed big-screen TV with multiple video and audio inputs. When I would tell my parents about the latest developments in home entertainment, their eyes would sort of glaze over and they would nod politely and ask me if I could copy the new DVDs onto their familiar, comfortable VHS tape format. They were disappointed that I could no longer share videos I buy with them to watch. I couldn’t connect a DVD player to their archaic TV due to their single cable input. The situation cried out for final solution.

For Father Day in 2004, I bought my Dad (and my Mom, really) a brand new TV with built-in DVD and VCR players. They were very happy with the gift but I saw in their eyes the bigger issue in their mind: how will we ever learn how to use this complicated bit of digital machinery? To make a long story short, with a little handholding and supervision, my wonderful parents are now enjoying digital video technology with aplomb.

Christmas also brought a little high-tech (remember, it's all relative here) mystery into their lives when I bought them a dual-handset cordless phone setup for their home. While I understood completely their need to have me make all the connections and set the units up, I did smile to myself at my Dad’s first question. I hooked up the base unit and put the satellite unit down in their den, no where near a RJ11 connector or a telephone line. After testing the system calling from my (you didn't think they had one, did you?) cell phone, my Dad asked, quite straight-faced, "How does the set not connected with the phone line know to ring when a call comes in?" Rather than confuse him any more than he already was, I simply said "Dad, it’s magic." He seemed content with that explanation.

I spent the rest of Christmas morning performing a little more "magic" on my parent’s atomic clock (also, a previous son-to-parent gift) which was, in my Dad’s best techno-speak, "not working any more." After replacing the battery and reestablishing its "magic" my Dad seemed proud to tell me, for at least the 33rd time, "Do you know that clock gets set by a radio signal somewhere in Colorado?" I gave my best "Wow!" look and replied, "Really? That’s amazing isn’t it?" My final task for the morning was to adjust the bass and tenor of the sound system of their new TV. While my folks know where the "Power" and "Play" buttons are on their admittedly busy remote control, those pesky menu items are still a little confusing.

When all the technological repairs and adjustments were complete, my Dad humbly apologized for all the "trouble" of these trivial little tasks on Christmas morning. I am glad he did because it allowed my to tell him something I had been thinking about for some time. What I said, certainly paraphrased here, went something like this:

"Dad, I know this sort of thing seems easy for me and it is. This is the sort of stuff I grew up using. I had a computer way back in 1979 and have been using them ever since. I bought a VCR back when they cost over $300 and a DVD player when they were almost the same price. [As an aside, I am what is known in consumer marketing as an "early adopter" of new technology. A gadget geek would be a more apt description.] It really is easy for me. But, Dad, if you put me out in your workshop with a stack of your wood and all your tools and asked me to build a birdhouse or, worse, a dog house, I would feel just like you do with a remote control. I would be lost and feel completely overwhelmed."

I continued, "Dad, your generation grew up to fight World War II and came home to build this country with the sweat of your brow and by working with your hands. You know things that I will never know: The hunger of a depression, the horror of a World War, and spent most of your life building all the things people my age and my children's age take, so often, for granted. Just because you need a little help with new stuff, it doesn’t lessen anything you and your generation have accomplished and made possible for me and those that follow. You can still do stuff I couldn’t do if I tried."

My Dad smiled and seemed more than a little pleased. He seemed a little more proud and appeared to make an effort to sit a little straighter in his chair. He didn’t say anything, as is his custom, and quickly turned to finishing with the usual Christmas morning activities. I was probably more pleased than he to have said what I have known was true for some time. My generation may be more "technologically savvy" than our parents but I am quite sure we aren’t nearly as wise as they are. We may have more knowledge but I am equally sure we don’t have nearly as much wisdom. Their wisdom was forged in a completely different furnace - the furnace of hard times.

His generation, specifically those born in the 1910s and 20s, made this country great. They are the ones that built the infrastructure that we drive over and communicate over today. They built the great dams that provide electricity and had the wisdom to protect our great wildernesses and natural wonders. They faced the biggest crises in our history and brought our nation through them, better and stronger than before. As Tom Brokaw describes them, they are truly "the greatest generation."

So, the next time you have to do something for your parents that gives you a fleeting feeling of superiority, just remember: each generation gives something to those that follow them. I am completely sure my generation (i.e. those born after 1950) will come nowhere near contributing what my parents’ generation gave to our country. I am sadly sure that the generation behind mine will have contributed even less.

As for my wonderful parents, I look forward in 2005 to introducing them to some more "new" technology. Maybe a cell phone or, in a monumental leap forward, a computer. I may have to sedate Dad for that one. But teaching them something new will, in some small way, show them how much I appreciate what they have done for me.