Thursday, August 31, 2006

The “Blame America First” crowd.

That’s where Rush Limbaugh keeps directing his rage. Those of us Americans who point out the stupid, asinine, infantile actions and statements those in control of the reins of government make. If someone happens, for example, to make a point that the war in Iraq may have created the conditions for producing MORE terrorists willing to do harm to this country than before we invaded, well, we’re part of the Blame America First party. Anytime anyone points out anything negative about government policies or actions, we are “blaming America”.

This really riles me. We are not blaming “America”. We are blaming BUSH and the GOP that is currently in control of the Executive branch, both houses of the Legislative branch, and is in the process of stocking the Judicial. Since when should we equate Bush and his enablers with America? They are only stewards, and temporary ones at that. That is about the most insulting thing I have heard recently. I am not sure what our Founding Fathers would have thought about a statement like that.

The Stupidest Thing I Have Heard This Week.

There were so many very, very seriously Stupid Things uttered this week about very serious topics. I could devote several pages worth of stuff to just Donald Rumsfeld alone. What a bag of flatulence. And then there was Conrad Burns, who said the United States is up against a faceless enemy of terrorists who "drive taxi cabs in the daytime and kill at night.” And that with Laura Bush right at his side! Racism, much? And who can forget Bill Frist complaining that the Democrats were trying to put a “spotlight on Iraq”? You mean that centerpiece of the Global War On Terror, the Long War, or whatever we are calling it this week? The one that Republicans used to beat their opponents up about, calling them “appeasers” and “traitors”, but would now like to forget about because it is unfolding in exactly the way that many people predicted before we went in? That Iraq, Mr. Frist? And then, of course, there is Mr. Bush, who told NBC’s Brian Williams that he “has read three Shakespeares”. (That must be Bruce, Howard, and Ernie Shakespeare...)

But I will go with one of the more frivolous Stupid Utterings. This one is courtesy of Rush Limbaugh. Now, I wish I had a link to a printed version of this. No doubt, it is out there somewhere if I were to bother to look. (I am not going to go to his website to find the transcript, sorry.) I heard this on MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann on August 30.

Rush Limbaugh apparently said something like this on his radio show. He was discussing a recent report that obesity is on the rise in 31 states. His response was to blame it on.... Food Stamps! (Keith’s response was, “Rush, you get food stamps?”)

Now, I am paraphrasing this, so what was really said on his radio show may be somewhat different than what I am reporting here. But, if this is true, then this is a shoo-in for this week’s Stupidest Thing.

Now, for a little commentary. I am constantly amazed about how the Self-Righteous Right of this country will utter the first thing that comes into their head in order to counter an argument or point made the by someone who disagrees with them. It doesn’t matter how stupid or inane that uttering is, or even if it contradicts something that they just said several weeks or months earlier. Just so long as they can say SOMETHING, they somehow feel vindicated. It just tumbles out of their mouths before putting any sort of sanity check kicks in. I don’t really understand if they think that they really have made a valid point, or if they know they are uttering crap but just so long as there is one small iota of a possibility that what they are saying might actually be true, they feel they have answered the challenge.

Again, I ask, why do we let behavior like this go unchallenged when we would really come down hard on our own children if, for example, they were to give us a patently ridiculous answer when we ask them who broke the window? What is it about this country these days? Besides utter stupidity of a large part of the population, rampant tribalism, almost complete control of “traditional” media outlets by conglomerates, and incompetent control freaks at the helm, I mean. Sheesh.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Donald Rumsfeld: Historically and linguistically challenged.

Several sources on the web have already pointed out the ridiculousness of Bush labeling whoever it is we are battling with as “Islamofascists”. Rumsfeld picks up the beat from the Preznit.

From the Washington Post:

“Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Tuesday the world faces "a new type of fascism" and likened critics of the Bush administration's war strategy to those who tried to appease the Nazis in the 1930s.

“In unusually explicit terms, Rumsfeld portrayed the administration's critics as suffering from "moral or intellectual confusion" about what threatens the nation's security. His remarks amounted to one of his most pointed defenses of President Bush' war policies and was among his toughest attacks on Bush's critics.

“Speaking to several thousand veterans at the American Legion's national convention, Rumsfeld recited what he called the lessons of history, including the failure to confront Hitler. He quoted Winston Churchill as observing that trying to accommodate Hitler was "a bit like feeding a crocodile, hoping it would eat you last."

“"I recount this history because once again we face similar challenges in efforts to confront the rising threat of a new type of fascism," he said.
“"Can we truly afford to believe that somehow, some way, vicious extremists can be appeased?" he asked.”

"Can we truly afford to return to the destructive view that America _ not the enemy _ is the real source of the world's troubles?"”

Where to start? First off, here is what I have as a definition of fascism:

Fascism: a system of government practiced by Benito Mussolini in Italy between 1922 and 1943 that was characterized by dictatorship, centralized control of private enterprise, repression of opposition, and extreme nationalism.

I would like someone to explain to me just how are the terrorists of all stripes and persuasions around the world today anything like a fascist government? First off, most of them aren’t associated with a government at all. I could hardly characterize all the various groups whom Bush has labeled as the terrorists who hate freedom as a dictatorship, or have a centralized control of private enterprise. That is a loony characterization. In fact, except for the bit about centralized control of private enterprise, I would say that this description fits exactly what the Republican party is trying to set up in the United States. Exactly. And throw in charismatic leader who can do no wrong in the eyes of his supporters and a bit of a police state with illegal wiretaps, surveillance on anyone who disagrees with the party in control, and downright intimidation of protestors, the press, etc., I would say that we have the makings of a very nice little fascist state here right at home.

Of course, the whole bit is to use that scary, frightening, emotional language that gets the Republican core support group all riled up. “Those evil Democrats, they’re actually appeasing the enemy, just like in World War II, which was, as we all know, was a very good war and we were on the side of righteousness and goodness and apple pie and the Ford Motor Company. We are now fighting the modern day Hitler, so the Democrats, in opposing our efforts to confront Pure Evil Incarnate, are misguided at best but more likely just plain traitors and terrorists themselves! It’s all the Democrats fault!”

Except, of course, it isn’t that way at all. I haven’t heard anyone wanted to “appease” anyone. Mostly Democrats are asking, “Hey, Bush, what happened to that Osama Bin Laden guy? You know, the one that WAS responsible for the attacks on 9/11? The one that you said that you “don’t think about much”?” That’s what I hear a lot of Democrats saying. I have never heard one word about appeasement.

What I am hearing is that people are finally figuring out that the war in Iraq never had anything to do with Bin Laden, and was just some testosterone-fueled wet dream by Bush and his cabal of Neo-Cons. I hear people saying that we should get out now, because there isn’t any good that is going to come out of this if we stay or if we go, and it’s going to be a whole lot easier on this country in so many ways if we aren’t there in a year’s time.

For starters, one billion dollars a week is what this war is costing us. That’s “Billion” with a B. For however long Bush decides we should be there. No wonder we are having to borrow money from China to finance this fiasco. Over 2500 of our brave troops have died for this farce, and tens of thousands are injured. Many who have escaped death and severe injury are facing severe emotional scares and the destruction of their personal lives by a fourth and fifth deployment. All because Bush and his band of Merry Warmongers had it in for Saddam, but were too cheap to do it the way it needed to be done. No, it was much better in their mind to plan for success, no matter how outrageous the premise, and not have any contingency plans for when anything went any different than their grandiose plan of transforming the world in our own image called for.


Rumsfeld deserves to be buried up to his neck in a nest of fire ants for however many years that the U.S. is ultimately involved in Iraq. And that would be letting him off lightly. And if we aren’t careful, the U.S. is going to end up just like Russia, an ex-superpower with lots and lots of internal problems, lots of nuclear weapons laying around, and a huge nationalistic chip on our shoulder, and China is going to be the new World Power, all financed courtesy of the American taxpayer.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Movie Review – The Descent

This is a pretty graphic, sometimes shocking horror film. If you like those kinds of films, I would recommend this one. A group of women, mostly Scottish and English as far as I could tell from the accents and the storyline, go spelunking for adventure in an unknown cavern. They get trapped inside and meet up with some very unpleasant predators. What these things are and where they came from is never really explained, but the set up makes you believe that they are descended from humans that got trapped in these caves eons ago and never made it out. These guys are nasty and really pretty hideous looking. The makeup department for this film did itself proud, as these things are truly scary and, in the dark caverns, very believable. The atmosphere in this film is dark, dank, and very, very claustrophobic. There were several scenes that I had trouble watching for that reason.

Like all modern horror films, this one does tend to go overboard trying to shock and scare the audience. Several times, the audience knew that something was going to jump out of the dark at someone on the screen, but we all jumped in their seats when it happened anyway. There’s lots of blood and gore, too much for my taste in films. The scene where the group is setting one of the women’s leg when she falls and ends up with a compound fracture was really difficult to watch. Although very realistic, it was also pretty gruesome. I’m not sure there was a reason to show that much of the goings-on. It didn’t add much to the story, as we all knew her leg was broken and she was in bad shape. It did, however, elicit moans and shaken comments from the girls sitting behind me in the theater.

Rated R for language, violence, and gore.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Pop Goes The Bubble.

I mentioned unrealistic expectations in the form of home loans, sort of in passing, a few weeks ago. This week, there are all sorts of stories on the web about the coming collapse of the housing bubble. This one is very good, and has been linked by several other web sites.

This could have some serious ramifications for the economy in a very short period of time. Couple that with the huge deficits that the Federal Government is piling up and the amount of money we have essentially borrowed from Japan and China, we could be looking at a big time recession very soon. I have heard it said that the U.S. doesn’t make anything anymore to make our money. The way that Americans now make their money is by suing each other and by selling houses to each other. As soon as the value of housing starts going negative, watch out. This could be a big time slide down a steep slope.

I found these statistics very frightening indeed.

• 32.6% of new mortgages and home-equity loans in 2005 were interest only, up from 0.6% in 2000;

• 43% of first-time home buyers in 2005 put no money down;

• 15.2% of 2005 buyers owe at least 10% more than their home is worth (negative equity);

• 10% of all home owners with mortgages have no equity in their homes (zero equity);

• $2.7 trillion dollars in loans will adjust to higher rates in 2006 and 2007.


A John McCain/Joe Lieberman independent run for Pres/VP?

The Left Coaster is always a great source of information and thoughtful conjecture. Today’s piece by Steve Soto speculates that McCain and Lieberman might be contemplating joining forces for a independent run at pres and vice pres.

“It is also quite possible that McCain can read the polls and notices that Americans no longer buy the central argument that Rove was running on this fall, which was that Iraq and the war on terror are the same. McCain wants to walk away from Iraq and change the subject. And there may be a big reason for that: McCain is positioning himself for the option of running independently of not only the Bush Administration, but from the GOP itself. You'll remember that the immediate whine from Lieberman when confronted with his loss was a fallacious claim that he was the victim of Democratic overpartisanship, and that what he represented was a more righteous politics of bipartisanship, as if Lieberman hadn't been paying attention to what brand of politics Bush and Rove have been practicing these last six years. There are some Democratic operatives inside the Beltway and many pundits who want to ignore the GOP's smashmouth politics and bask in the warm embrace of a McCain-Lieberman unity ticket in 2008, where the travesties of the last six years are cemented into place as the starting point for a bipartisanship without accountability. McCain and Lieberman are sending signals that an acceptance of the Iraq debacle would be a key point in a bipartisan platform of "forgive and forget" can't-we-all-now-get-along-after-we-have-destroyed-the-country new politics. And this separation from Bush of late may very well be McCain's first attempt at mounting that white horse he envisions for himself as he tries to escape his own accountability.”

Well, that’s a pretty interesting thought. Not a very happy one, but an interesting one. I am wondering which of the major parties that might hurt more, if they do decide to make an independent run in 2008. (Personally, I am not convinced that this is in any way likely. They would have problems with finding major-league donors to keep up with the Big Two, and ever since the Bull Moose party, third parties are pretty much for show only. Or they are there just to swipe enough support away from one party to give the election to Bush. Sorry, but I am still pissed off at the utterly contemptible Ralph Nader. Anyway, George Wallace, Ross Perot, and John Anderson never had a snowball’s chance, and those were the big names in recent third party candidates!) I think that the Republican turnout, unless things really have a turnaround since now and then, will be down from their normal. Unless Hillary is the Dem nominee, of course. That would really energize their base voters. Some hardcore Dem supporters of Lieberman would vote for a third party team like that, and they would also get a large percentage of the non-affiliated, swing voters.

Call it a wash, then. But it would really be interesting to see what would happen. Although I now have some grave, grave misgivings about McCain and I really dislike what Lieberman has been doing in the run for Senator in Connecticut, it would be interesting to see if anyone is able to put together a viable third party and make it last. Ross Perot’s attempt looked like it might have legs, but the wheels came off when he left the helm. McCain and Lieberman certainly could put together a pretty respectable infrastructure for a third party, if they so desired.

Personally, I am ready to have an alternative to voting either for the Republican or Democratic ticket. It would be nice to have a viable third choice that actually stood a chance of winning, rather than just casting a throw-away vote to “make a statement”. I’m just not certain that a McCain/Lieberman team would give us that choice.

Breaking News: Pluto Is Not A Planet!

(Well, not so much "breaking" anymore, since it is usually some time after I write these things that I finally get them posted. But, late is better than never.)

Pluto, along with a cadre of other planetoidal pretenders, has officially been demoted. It is too small and has much too eccentric an orbit around the sun to be classified as a planet. Thus spake the International Astronomical Union.

This news is apt to make a lot of second graders very unhappy, but does put some amount of logic back into the selection process. Scientists should use logic whenever possible.

Instability at the top?

The Huffington Post, in the last few days, had a couple of blogs (here and here) that essentially question the mental stability of President Bush. These questions are well worth asking, given the extraordinary amount of documented evidence (his speeches, his reaction to questions, his weird way of dealing with subordinates and women in powerful positions, his reaction to the media when they get off on a track Bush would rather not go on, etc.) we have in the last five plus years. Of course, everyone in the “left-ish” part of the country has had questions along this line for a long time, and frankly, they were somewhat amusing to think about. “Oh, Bush is a dry-drunk” or “Bush has started drinking again” or the currently popular “Is Bush an idiot?” These notions are fun to play with and laugh about, sort of like Chevy Chase’s portrayal of Gerald Ford after some of his famous mishaps. And truthfully, some of these musings would go a long way in explaining some of the truly inexplicable behavior, both the large and small, we have seen from Bush.

However, these articles really got me to seriously consider that something truly may be broken inside our sitting POTUS. To wit, the following is from the first HuffPo link. Pretty scary stuff.

"I had always felt that his inability to respond to crisis, as seen in his response to 9/11 and Katrina and Israel's bombing of Lebanon, was because he suffered from something called affective flooding, where overwhelming anxiety paralyzes any ability to think or even function. Such a response is similar to denial but writ large. Those who observe the president at such moments - thanks to smuggled film clips and his historic April 2004 press conference when he was asked if he had made any mistakes as president - see that he starts rapid blinking movements before his eyes glaze over and become almost fixed in a blank, mindless stare. This massive disconnection from inner self and outer world is called "splitting."

"But his most recent press conference (August 21, 2006) showed that when he is in control he is not flooded in this way. Rather, his splitting takes the form of hatred of reality. I use the term hatred purposefully. When he was pushed by a few increasingly frustrated reporters, he behaves like the untreated alcoholic he is - summarily dismissing material reality.

"When offered a chance to re-think the Iraq war he becomes obstreperous, using sarcasm to both mask and express his internal rage at being challenged. When back in control he patronizes members of what he calls the "Democrat" party, saying that they are "good people" and that he doesn't question their patriotism. In control he is a poor man's Cicero, saying what he's not going to say anyway. Reading between the lines, he calls his critics quitters.

"All of this behavior is in the service of defending himself against reality - something he actively hates. At times, his attempts to ward off reality make him appear stupid. He is not. Rather, internal and external realities are too threatening for him to face. When asked whether he had been surprised or frustrated by all the bad news from Baghdad he didn't even understand the question. This is because the very act of facing such questions threatens to destroy his tenaciously held preconceptions. This he cannot risk; he employs various coping mechanisms to attack such questions in any way he can. Instead of acknowledging personal frustration he said that the war must be frustrating for the national psyche. But his hatred of reality required a more violent approach - the day after his conference he sent more of those poor marines back into a world of horror.

"His ability to dismiss reality is profound - more than the simple method used by his mother Barbara, who said she wasn't going to watch the TV news during the war because watching body bags would spoil her "beautiful mind". No, he has a rugged inner strength - unless confronted by surprise - that enables him to dismiss and destroy personal perception."

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

What’s New(s) This Week?

JonBenet is news again, apparently. I’ve seen just as much writing, admittedly mostly on blogs, about why this isn’t a national news story worthy of 24/7 coverage as I have seen about the actual case itself. Me, I think it just provides the national news media an excuse to relax their hard working brains after dealing with the really hard stories of the day. Sure, I feel terrible that a young girl like that was brutally murdered. But many, many children go missing every single day and a great many of the cases do not end up with a happy ending. What’s special about this one? Besides that entire, incredibly creepy part about her being in beauty pageants for six year olds, all decked out to look like some midget hooker, I mean.

This story is just another extension of the “missing damsel” stories that we have been bombarded with for the last decade, it seems. I guess the whole thing about Natalie Holloway and Aruba has played itself out. (Let’s all thank our Respective God, Gods, or Goddesses that MSNBC finally dumped Rita Cosby. Who actually decided that giving an airhead like that her own show was actually a good idea?) And the media seems to have put a collective bow on the Lacy Peterson story. We haven’t had a great “missing damsel” story to latch onto in ages. So, just as with Hollywood and their love of sequels, we have the JonBenet Ramsey story, Part Deaux. It gives reporters the chance to breathlessly report on the trivial without actually having to do actual reporter stuff like, oh, research and investigations. Nope, news and entertainment are now so enmeshed with each other, reporters cannot help fall over the line from one to the other, since that line does not exist anymore.

George Allen’s campaign in the Virginia Senate race is still grinding its’ gears, trying to recover from the entire “Macaca” incident. Politicians should never forget the First Rule of Holes; when you find yourself in one, stop digging immediately. I can’t see how his advisors thought that having him issue multiple, conflicting explanations three or four days running on how he just made up the name, it was referring to guy’s hairdo which wasn’t really a Mohawk, how it wasn’t really racist, how he was really just calling the guy a s**thead, etc. was really a good idea. That’s as bad as George Bush trying to explain his rationale for tax cuts for the rich, or why we are in Iraq, or pretty much everything he has ever done while in office. People stop believing you after about the second or third attempt. If, as a parent, your kid tried something like that, you might smack him one (DISCLAIMER: This is not a statement in support of abusing your children. Shame on you if you do.) and send him to his room.

But really, you really have to question this guy’s credentials for holding political office if he can’t prevent himself from saying something incredibly stupid and something that, even if he didn’t mean it to be a racial slur, could very easily be used by your opponent to make you look racist, and the guy is pointing a video camera at you. It seems to me that voters of the great state of Virginia would like to make sure their elected representatives have at least some modicum of intellect before actually, you know, like... voting for them.

Bush’s new and improved strategy for Iraq is, hold on now, staying the course! Now, why didn’t I think of that? Jeez. The man is a genius.... Not. However, he did admit, when pressed by a reporter, that Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11. Hey, doesn’t that make Dick Cheney look like a complete idiot or maybe just a chronic liar? But then, that doesn’t stop them. In fact, I bet that someone in the administration, within the next month, will somehow manage to claim that Saddam did indeed have a tie in to those dreadful events of 9/11. They don’t even care they are inconsistent or that anyone with a dial up modem can retrieve their exact quotes or (even better) a video of them contradicting what they just said earlier. Does not compute...

Joe Lieberman’s all puffed up in self righteous indignation over being called on not being a Democrat. I mean, he just is running for Senator for the state of Connecticut on a third party ticket, but it isn’t like he isn’t really a Democrat at heart, you know. The American people are just silly that way, trying to put labels on everything. Like, is there a civil war going on in Iraq or not? Apparently, because Iraq doesn’t have a place named Antietam or Gettysburg, Donald Rumsfeld is not ready to call it a civil war, even though in excess of 3400 Iraqis were killed in July alone. Nope, nothing civil about that at all. If it were not beneath the notice of this administration, which it definitely is, it would be considered to be highly uncivil. But back to Lieberman. So, apparently, the thought process at work here is that he, or anyone else for that matter, can run for office for whatever party they designate for themselves, regardless of whether or not they had been rejected in their party’s primary election, and then expect to be welcomed back to the warm hearth of their party with all their party credentials intact, even after talking some serious smack about the actual party nominee and thus giving the opposition party lots of ammo. Uh-huh....

*Whack!* Go to your room! Just wait until your father gets home!

Pluto’s status as a planet is still up in the air. Scientists seem to be undecided about taking the obvious course and calling Pluto something other than a planet and offending every single school kid in the world while invalidating every science book written since the 1950’s, or calling it something else like a ‘Plutoid’. Right now, the official version is that Pluto has been finally granted full planethood just because it was one already (sort of like Paris Hilton being labeled as a “famous person” for no other reason than she is famous). But, in order to do that, those knowledgeable scientists, also known for giving us “black holes”, “dark matter”, and the ever-popular Higg’s boson, had to grant planethood to several other planet wannabees, such as Pluto’s moon named Charon, the Asteroid Formerly Known as Ceres, and something called 2003 UB313, which has the current nickname “Xena”. (God help us, we are now naming astronomical bodies with names out of a really crummy syndicated television show aimed at horny adolescents with an authority complex.)

The inclusion of Charon is, for me, something of a mystery, since Pluto itself is smaller than several moons within the solar system. So, if Charon, which is only 1/4 the size of Pluto, is designated a planet, then shouldn’t Titan, Callisto, Io, Ganymede, and Europa all be anointed with the title of full-fledged “planet” as well? Hey, our own moon is pretty big, about the same size as Mercury, which is an undisputed member of the Solar System Eight, and it’s certainly round. What’s up with this? I think we need to start a grassroots write-in campaign for the Moon. “As Big And Round As Any Planet!” could be the rallying cry. Or maybe, “I’m Not George Bush!”, since that seems to be working so well for Lieberman.

Oh, and the Preznit like fart jokes. Not too much commentary to be added about that.

Until next time, kiddies!

The Stupidest Thing I Have Heard All Week.

Pat Buchanan asserted (at ThinkProgress, via Huffington Post) that the Mexican government has a “direct program” to reannex “the seven states of the American Southwest.” The first step is for Mexico “to push the poor, unemployed, and uneducated into the United States.” He criticized President Bush for not understanding “the nature and character of the invasion” from Mexico

It just seems to me that, if I were planning a stealth invasion, one that would take many years to come to fruition, you might want to send your best and brightest, ones that could get into the system and sort of “take over from inside”. How Pat thinks that a bunch of “poor, unemployed, and uneducated” Mexicans who are looking for work are going to be instrumental in doing something that the Confederacy didn’t accomplish in the War Between The States is something of a mystery to me.

Say, just for argument’s sake, that you were talking about an invasion of aliens from outer space rather than from an underdeveloped and rather poor nation south of our border. Would it make a lot of sense for the aliens to send their people (term used loosely) who couldn’t “cut it” in their own society to take over the Earth? Now, please don’t get on me for comparing the citizens of Mexico who come to the United States for various reasons, including looking for a better way of life, with out-of-work denizens of Alpha Centuri. I’m just using an extension of Pat’s argument and changing it around a little bit. I’m not trying to insult Mexicans in this country, many of who make valuable contributions to the economy and well-being of the U.S. So, given the magnitude of this plan, you would think some realistic planning would have gone into it. I would think that if some entity (like Mexico or Alpha Centuri) really did have a “direct program” in mind to “reannex seven southwestern states”, they might have come up with something a little more plausible. Something that would possibly involve laser cannons or mind control, if available.

Or maybe Mexico just has about as much difficulty in putting together a realistic plan for invasion as does, oh, the Bush administration vis-à-vis Iraq.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Movie Review – Six String Samurai

In my quest to find the most bizarre films ever to be made, I recently came across this gem. It’s a post-apocalyptic saga, somewhat along the lines of The Road Warrior or A Boy and His Dog. However, instead of Mel Gibson, the hero of this little ditty runs around dressed up like Buddy Holly complete with black frame glasses, talks like Dirty Harry, and carries a six string 1958 hollow body Gibson guitar around with him that has a samurai sword taped to the back which he uses with great efficacy (both the guitar and sword). The struggle in this film is that everyone in the film that plays the guitar (which is pretty much everyone) wants to get to Las Vegas to become the next “King of Rock and Roll”. But Death (and his back-up band) keeps killing all the would-be “poseurs” to the crown.

If you love absurdity as a basis for comedy, I would highly recommend this one. It is REALLY absurd in places. An example is the Road Warrior-type chase scene across the desert, where the hero and his monosyllabic kid sidekick are being chased by a bunch of degenerates intent upon doing bodily harm. However, in this case, the chase is being held at what looks to be about ten miles per hour, as neither vehicle seems to be very well maintained. The degenerates look to be more cavemen than a lawless band of renegades, and one of their main weapons is a catapult that throws massive amounts of gumballs.

Music in this film is provided by the Red Elvises, who also have some supporting roles in this film. (“Nice shoes!”) If you haven’t ever heard of them but have a chance to catch them live somewhere, do so. They are a highly entertaining, high energy rock, punk, something band from Russia whose gimmick seems to be something along the lines of Steve Martin and Dan Aykroyd’s “wild and crazy guys” of SNL fame. But they do rock.

I am well aware that this kind of description doesn’t do a film like this justice. You can’t really describe “absurdity” without it sounding not absurd but just stupid. Really, if oddball indy pictures such as Repo Man or Brazil are to your liking, you ought to go find this film somewhere from Palm Pictures. (I found it on my Video On Demand free movies selection on my cable TV). You don’t find “original” very often anymore, certainly not from mainstream Hollywood, but I think this one fits that bill.

From IMDB:

Buddy: Cross that line, kid, I'll cut your little teddy bear in half. Last kid that crossed that line, I had to summon up the Spinach Monster with my rock 'n' roll magic. The Spinach Monster grabbed him, pulled him underground and made him eat spinach all day. Rumor has it, kid... he's still there.

Ward Cleaver: You ever try a pink golf ball, Wally? Why, the wind shear alone on a pink golf ball can take the head off a 90-pound midget at over 300 yards.

Death: Only one man can kill this many Russians. Bring his guitar to me!

Buddy: Who are you?
Death: Death,
Buddy: Cool!

Friday, August 18, 2006

What do “Lovers of Freedom” Really Love? Do they even know?

We have been hearing quite a lot from the Bush administration about terrorists who want to blow up our airplanes and buildings because they “hate freedom”. I have wondered quite a lot about this. Since the Neo-Con and Christian Evangelical population of this country (hereon referred to as “NC/CE”) in this country do “love freedom”, I have been wondering what this really means. Because, from what I have been seeing, they just like to say such things and beat their opponents over the head with accusations that they don’t “love freedom”. However, I see precious little on their part that they really “walk the talk”. In fact, from my viewpoint, the NC/CE’s of this country seem to believe just about the opposite of that which they espouse.

I thought I would take a closer look at a few things about the NC/CE view of How Things Should Be, starting with the Bill of Rights (A.K.A., the first ten Amendments to the Constitution). Here’s the rundown, as well as a running tally.

The Bill of Rights

Amendment I
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Many NC/CE’s these days, such as Ann Coulter, think that it is a good idea to prescribe what the press can and cannot say, and maybe toss a few reporters in jail (or worse) if a story gets printed that they either don’t like or think that it might “aid the enemy”. It’s fine for the FBI to disallow peaceful demonstrations anywhere that President Bush might actually see them, and to arrest anyone who disobeys this order. That is, someone holding a sign that says “Out Of Iraq!” is subject to spending some time in jail if the Shrub sees it. Having sitting judges post the Ten Commandments in the middle of a courthouse is apparently fine with the “CE” part of the NC/CE’s. The “CE’s” feel that the federal government should give them vouchers (i.e., money) so they can send their little darlings to a Christian school but have someone else to pay for it. I doubt the purely “NC” part of the equation really care much, since Privilege has its’ own rewards like being able to send your kids to whatever school you damn well want to.

I would give this Amendment a “negative” rating in the NC/CE view of How Things Should Be.

“Oh” for one for the Bill of Rights.

Amendment II
A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Well, let’s just say that the NC/CE’s are highly supportive of this one, although there is that pesky phrase “a well regulated militia”.

That’s one out of two.

Amendment III
No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

I haven’t heard anyone making any noise on this one, one way or the other. I suppose you would get a split among the NC/CE’s. Many, if called upon to house soldiers in their private houses including feeding them, letting them use all the facilities, cleaning up after their messes, etc., in a time of war would be more than happy to oblige. In fact, they would be honored. But I will bet you that many more would absolutely howl if the federal government said that they MUST give quarter to soldiers. “Just LOOK at what they did to the new carpet! Don’t they ever wipe their boots before they come inside?” But, to be generous, I will give the NC/CE’s this one.

Two out of three.

Amendment IV
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

I think that this one is safe to say would be history in the NC/CE universe. If someone is suspected of being a terrorist, a drug dealer, someone dealing in child pornography, then their persons, houses, papers, and effects are fair game, warrant or not. Not to say that these kinds of people don’t deserve full prosecution under the law. They do. But I would bet that most NC/CE view warrants and “probable cause” as nuisances, not legal safeguards of the innocent.

Two out of four. O.K., .500 would be pretty good for a batting average. Not so good when talking about the Constitution.

Amendment V
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

As we have seen by the people stashed away in Guantanamo, Abu-Graib, and God knows how many other places, the NC/CE’s feel this one should be relegated to the big Compost Heap of History. Just give someone a label, such as, oh, “Enemy Combatant”, and then it is perfectly acceptable to throw that person in some hellhole and hold him forever without ever charging him with anything. I would say that would fit into the definition of being deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.

Amendment Five was just Gonged.

Two out of five.

Amendment VI
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

Ditto Amendment V.

Two out of six.

Amendment VII
In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Again, I haven’t heard too many people squawk about anything related to this one. I’ll give them this one. (Personally, I am wondering about the “twenty dollars” part of this. How much was twenty bucks worth back then? A lot, I should guess, in today’s dollars. Should this particular amendment be adjusted for inflation?)

Two out of seven.

Amendment VIII
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Since we have a sitting President, Vice President, and Attorney General arguing for the legalization of torture as a method of extracting information, and the U.S. has a program of “rendition”, where we have been sending “enemy combatants to countries where torture regularly occurs, I would say this one is very safely in the Thumbs Down category.

Three out of eight. Not looking too good for the Bill of Rights.

Amendment IX
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Well, I would guess that I would have to have a good definition from the NC/CE about what the “other” rights not enumerated in the Constitution might be. But I can take a guess. It seems to me that certain persons would still like to have a say on who can vote. Underhanded tricks like requiring photo identification cards to vote are just the tip of the iceberg. There is also the case still under investigation about the jamming of the phone banks in the New Hampshire Democratic Headquarters. That is a fact, and people are under indictment for it. I could get into the other issues of purposeful voter disenfranchisement, but many of my examples could be contested as speculation and innuendo, even though I firmly believe there is a concerted effort by some in this country to do just that. So, I will stick to known factual examples. However, I would maintain that the hardcore NC/CE of this country feel very little hesitation about doing anything in their power to ensure their candidate wins on election day. Diebold, anyone?

Three out of nine.

Amendment X
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

Since many NC/CE pundits, in addition to the current administration, are arguing that the President should have unlimited Executive powers in wartime, I would say that the NC/CE’s are not too supportive of this one. Having the President decide which of the laws that are passed by Congress he is going to comply with by declaring his intentions in “Signing Statements”, the President has clearly decided that he can pick and choose which laws apply to him. That power is not granted in the Constitution, in my literal reading of the Constitution. And since that power is not “reserved” to the states or the people, I would say that this one is firmly in the No column as well.

Three out of ten.

The jury is in; ten minus three equals seven. Seven basic freedoms supposedly guaranteed by the Bill of Rights are openly questioned by the NC/CE community of this country, and one of the three I considered rather shaky in my classification. The only one that fully gets their support is the Second Amendment. They like to use this one to argue that anyone has the right to own as many guns as they want, even automatic weapons, without a nuisance background check. That is the one they like to use against gun control advocates as if it were carved in stone, above all questioning even though we have nothing today at all that resembles the militias that are mentioned. They feel this way about the Second Amendment even though they feel they can pick and choose from the remainder, discarding the ones that they dislike. Personally, I don’t think the rule of law is akin to a Chinese menu where you pick one from Column A and one from Column B.

I would really like an NC/CE to explain to me what they really mean when they say that they love “this country”. What is it they actually love about it? NASCAR on Sunday? Beer? Guns? What?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Stupidest Thing I Have Heard This Week.

Bush declares that Hezbollah lost the war in Lebanon. Just like that. Bam! No matter about what the facts are, what the Israelis are saying about tossing out Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on his ear because of his inept handling of the conflict, or that pretty much every news account I have seen has stated that Hezbollah came out of this militarily weaker but politically much, much stronger. Bush’s own version of reality will not allow him to acknowledge that one of the table legs that support his foreign “policy” is complete and utter nonsense. Democracy does not occur by dropping tons of bombs on people. Terrorists become more emboldened by such military action, not less. But Bush and his minions cannot see this. Therefore, they declare what they would liked to have happen. To them, this declaration of their wishes immediately turns it into reality, somewhat like Aladdin declaring his wish to the genii in the bottle. In this case, however, the bottle that the genii was supposed to have been in was apparently a hookah, and all that smoke they saw was from the hashish these nutballs have been smoking, not a magically empowered genii willing to grant any sort of wish, no matter how insane it might be.

I never trusted Bush. But I never would have believed that he would be such a complete and utter imbecile while in office. Apparently, I am not the only one. I just found this story at Americablog.

Apparently the President met with some leading Iraq and Middle East scholars and informed them that he's "frustrated that the new Iraqi government ? and the Iraqi people ? had not shown greater public support for the American mission." Further, he was reportedly "puzzled" as to how recent anti-American protests could draw so many people.

Everybody knows he's out of touch, but wow. Just . . . wow.

This coming from a man who apparently advocates "constructive chaos" as a policy for an entire region of the world. I'm really running out of ways to be shocked by the incompetence of this administration. The leader of the free world is so clearly out of his depth that it's incredibly difficult for me to imagine his administration doing anything right -- anything at all -- in these difficult times. One despairs.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Condi Rice: How did she ever end up here?

Condoleezza Rice is an enigma to me. How someone with her background could end up as being an active player in the deceit and all out stupidity of the Bush administration is beyond me.

She grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, during a time when the segregationists were trying very hard to stamp down any notion of equality for blacks. She was friends with Denise McNair, one of the four young girls that were killed by the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church while they were attending Sunday School. She saw racism front and center, how evil and vicious it could really be in its’ struggle against the Civil Rights movement. She experienced poverty and inequality firsthand. She struggled, and ultimately succeeded, to become something truly incredible, given she is a black women with her background. She has been the Provost of the magnificent Stanford University, and then became an integral part of the administration of the 43rd President of the United States.

I would think that her background would have kept her grounded, such that she would still be aware of dangers of institutionalized corruption and unfettered power. Given her upbringing and the things that she has witnesses personally, how can she possibly support the policies of George W. Bush? How can she appear on national television and say with a straight face some of the things that she has said? She must have known that her statements regarding Iraq and the “smoking gun/mushroom cloud” argument for war was a fabrication. Did she really believe all of that? Was she that gullible? How could she possibly get up in front of the world and put her personal reputation on the line while arguing that an immediate cease-fire in the Israeli/Lebanon/Hizballah war is not the correct and human thing to do? Sure, it doesn’t matter if 100 more innocent children are killed, on both sides of the border, because do have a cease-fire now would not somehow allow a more lasting cease-fire later.

That makes absolutely no sense. Which, since that particular snippet of “logic” comes from George Bush and Dick Cheney, makes sense that it doesn’t make sense. Nothing that this administration does makes sense. But how can Dr. Rice buy into that and defend it personally? I have seen reports that she was “as angry as (a staffer) has seen her” regarding Bush’s decision about not pursuing an immediate cease-fire. However, publicly, she went right along with him and his nonsensical alternate-universe view of the world.

Given her background, Condoleezza Rice should have the personal integrity to resign over this issue, as well as several others. But like Colin Powell before her, she chooses to remain wedded to Bush (and I use that word purposely) and his disastrous policies.

I would really like to like Condoleezza Rice. I believe there is a place in this society for powerful women, and for powerful black women. I believe that they can balance the white males that dominate our political landscape. However, at the moment, she is nothing more than a mouthpiece for the Bush administration. She is one of the enablers, who should really know better.

Condoleezza Rice should resign from her position of Secretary of State, now. History may treat her better than if she remains part of this incredibly corrupt and incompetent administration that is taking this country down a very dangerous road.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Advertising and some unintended effects on society

I am not a psychologist or sociologist. I'm only an observer of society.

Advertising, in its’ current form on television, is all about shaping opinion and trying to influence decisions. Well, duh. But now that I have stated the first postulate of my advertising theorem, I can now develop it further.

Shaping opinions for advertisers is, of course, first and foremost about the product they are trying to sell you. But the ads also have a secondary, perhaps unintended, perhaps not, consequence. They influence your opinions about more than just the product. They influence your opinion about your self-image, about how you view your place in society, and about society itself. This can be rather dangerous to not only the individual, but to society as a whole.

Take the issue of instant gratification, for example. The mindset that car companies, credit card companies, etc., are trying to instill is that there isn’t any reason to wait to have what you want. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have the money for it. In fact, just by the fact that you own a credit card, you will be rolling in cash to buy all sorts of fabulous vacations and luxury items. Ultimately paying for these items doesn’t even come into the picture.

Everyone knows how dangerous this is for the individual. You can get neck deep in debt before you know it, charging all sorts of items that you don’t really need at 18% interest. But what is this doing to our society as a whole? Obviously, when you expand the personal debt issue to the entire population, you have a very large part of society that is deeply in debt and doesn’t really know how to extricate itself. But there is also this issue of instant gratification. This notion that everyone should have everything they want immediately, regardless of what this might mean in the future, is now instilled in our population as a given. And this isn’t only about buying things with cash vs. credit. It is about politics, about relations with other people, about your life as a whole. We now have, as a basic ideal of our society, the concept of not having to wait to get what you want. It’s wrong to wait or to try to actually earn what you want.

This is pretty dangerous for several reasons. The obvious one, again, is the personal debt issue that our country faces. That may very well come back to bite us in a big way in the near future, according to some economists that I have read. In a way, it is this debt that has been driving the economy of this country for a while. Buying stuff on credit means that the producers of all these goods upon which our economy depends get their money, can continue to exist and grow, and continue to make their product (whatever that might be). The economic institutions are happy, because of the high rates of interest they charge, INCLUDING penalty payments that are now a big part of their income. All this stimulation of the economy is done on the concept that people will be paying for all of this present economic good health sometime in the future. When, it doesn’t really matter to anyone but the person carrying the debt.

Sometime in the future, this entire pyramid scheme may start to collapse. Many of the people carrying these large debts for things they don’t really need (such as a Hummer, for instance) or things that they don’t even have anymore (such as a vacation) are not going to be able to keep up. House payments may start to be defaulted in a large way. The Bush administration has made it more difficult for individuals to declare personal bankruptcy, even though huge corporations use Chapter 11 as a business strategy.

What is going to happen to the economy when huge amounts of adjustable rate mortgages are defaulted? The people who default on these loans are not going to have a place to live anymore, of course. They are going to have their personal credit rating trashed, and that might just the least of their worries. Additionally, the sudden glut of available housing on the market might just cause the bubble to pop, and housing and the financing of said housing has been one of the major drivers of our economy for some time now.

I realize it is probably a stretch to start out talking about instant gratification and making the jump to buying a house you cannot afford in more traditional ways. However, I think this is a valid point. It is a matter of the person in question having talked themselves into buying a house with perhaps methods that allow them to buy the house right now (thus, the “instant gratification” part of the equation) that may not work for them five or six years in the future. That is not part of their equation. Yes, there are good reasons for wanting to buy a house, and the conventional wisdom is that you buy the most house you can afford. You are banking on the assumption that the market value of the real estate will increase over the years, as well as your salary. Therefore, although you may be really pushing the envelope during the early years, it will smooth out and you will be much better off financially for it in the future.

That’s the way it is supposed to work, and still can, given the correct circumstances. But when you start throwing in adjustable rate mortgages, balloon payments, and even interest only loans into the equation, the whole concept has been altered. The system is now “gamed” to benefit the housing industry and the loan industry, not the consumer. That is the part of the instant gratification idea that plays into this. The consumer has now been talked into an action that looks good at the outset, but if not handled correctly, could have disastrous consequences in the future. And when you multiply that disastrous consequence across millions of consumers simultaneously, you have the makings of a large, negative impact on the economy of this country.

Even worse than getting sucked down by debt on something that people really do need, such as housing, is the notion of getting sucked down by something entirely frivolous that they don’t need. High-end automobiles are an obvious example of this. People don’t really need Hummers or SUV’s that cost in excess of thirty thousand dollars. They only think they do. Very bad reasons include need it for their self-esteem, or to impress their friends and neighbors. Driving something very intimidating that could actually crush the car in front of you can empower a person. It gives them a feeling of dominance that they might not have in their real life. Advertising feeds into this need. There is a current ad about a guy who is buying tofu at the grocery store, and he looks at the purchases of the guy in front of him in line, which include beer and a huge slab of raw red beef. The tofu guy immediately goes out and buys a Hummer. We see him with a very self-satisfied look on his face as the ad ends. What concept is this ad reinforcing? You are a wimp unless you have one of these babies.

If this is the basic message that the auto manufacturer has to depend on for sales, then their product is not one that indispensable for the consumer to have. Rather, it is purely a discretionary purchase. There is no “need” involved. And ultimately, this is a very, very poor reason to go into debt that you ultimately cannot afford. This is not to say that luxury items, strictly for the indulgence of the consuming public, are necessarily bad things. In fact, many times, high-end items like these can really add to one’s life, if one can afford them. Again, that is the instant gratification speaking. People should not look upon these items as a means to get to a fulfilled life. They should only be looked upon as a nice addition; icing to the cake you already have. But our society views these items now as necessities, regardless of whether or not they are affordable.

The concept of instant gratification is, of course, well known and most everyone understands that it can be ultimately destructive. But the insidious aspect is now that advertising as helped establish this belief system firmly in our national psyche. And that is dangerous for us all.

There may be more on this later.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Lieberman's Goon Squad

This is frankly amazing to me. Check out this link to see what whole story is about.

Lieberman's campaign seems to have adopted the Karl Rove strategy of attack and then accuse the person you are attacking of some nefarious misdeed. There are all sorts of side stories about one of the guys prominent in the surprise attack being a prominent lobbiest. What, this guy doesn't have anything better to do during a workday than to go to a very small political "meet and greet" photo op that your opponent is having and then start very disruptive behavior? And he didn't think people would figure out who he really is? And taking political signs from small children and bloodying the nose of a reporter, THAT'S a winning strategy?

Jeez. I really didn't know much about Lieberman and how he really was the main Democrat enabler of Bush and his approach to "prezidentin". But now, after reading all these stories and blogs about him in the last three months, I am more than glad that it looks like he is going down in flames in next week's primary. Whether he actually runs as an independent or not remains to be seen. However, if he does, I would hope that everyone stop looking at him as a Democrat. After all, polls have shown that he is actually more popular among Republicans than Democrats. If one of your main supporters in the media is Sean Hannity, then people should realize that something is up.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Stupidest Thing(s) I Have Heard This Week.

I can’t decide between these great morsels of stupidity, so I’ll go with all of them.

Rush Limbaugh is leading the charge for the oh-so-righteous right that it really wasn’t Israel that bombed that building in Qana. It was a staged event by Hizbollah (a.k.a., “Hezbos” to Rush’s dittoheads). They got some dead bodies of children from somewhere and then laid them out so that they could dupe western photographers into taking these heartrending photos of dead kids.

Via Digby at Hullaballo

“You know who really killed those people are the Hezbos. Hezbollah killed those people. Hezbollah put those people in that building and brought the rocket launchers in close by, knowing full well that the launcher would be targeted. That building didn't fall for eight hours after it was hit. What do you bet that the Hezbos finished the job that the Israeli bomb did not actually complete? What do you bet they killed their own people for the PR aspect? These people cannot compete militarily with any industrialized nation, so they have to fight the PR and the spin war. And it is amazing to me to see how easily the duped US and world media is.”

What's amazing TO ME the amount of contortions that the right goes through to make themselves feel better (a.k.a., self-righteous AND morally outraged) when things out there in the world don’t exactly conform to their view of the world.

Donald Rumsfield said today that he never painted a overly-optimistic picture of Iraq, in response to some hard comments and questions from Senator Clinton.

"Rumsfeld disputed Clinton's contention that his assurances on successes in the past "have frankly proven to be unfulfilled."

""I don't think that's true," he said. "I have never painted a rosy picture. I have been very measured in my words." He contended it would be tough finding "instances where I have been excessively optimistic.""

Ha. That’s one really neat thing about the web. When you say something incredibly stupid like that, it doesn’t take very long for enterprising people to dig out what you said about the very same subject in the past three years (like this story at Think Progress). These guys don’t understand technology. No wonder Ted Stevens from Alaska thinks the web is run with “tubes”.

I wish I could remember where I saw this, so I could get the specifics correct and provide a link. Someone was complaining about not being able to afford to buy a house on either a fireman’s or policeman’s salary, and said that he would have to get a second job in order to afford one. Some big shot financial guy in Texas (where else) said that this was actually great news. He called it “diversification of income”, which he said would be a real aid in getting a bank loan for a house. He said that loan officers really look favorably upon diversification of income…..

Do these people really have any concept of either how heartless or stupid they sound, or maybe both simultaneously, when they open their mouths and say what they really think? Or do they think that no one really cares? Un-frickin-believable.