Friday, December 29, 2006

Live from Cafe Beaubourg

I'm sitting with Mrs. Octopus and the brothers Octopus in a cafe just next to the Pompidou Center. I am making slow progress on my French pronunciation: I still feel distinctively uncomfortable saying "eau", "oeuf", or "un". They just don't sound like real words to me -- more like weird involuntary grunts or something.

See you back in L.A.

Monday, December 25, 2006

2007: Smells Like Bacon

And all through the house, not a creature was stirring -- only a sullen octopus.

Hope you are all having a wonderful Christmas Eve. I am standing guard by the fire place, lying in wait for Santa: I plan to really give him a hard time if he does not deliver my wish for world peace this year.

I am working on my New Year's Resolutions and 2007 Reading List and will post those soon. I know that you just cannot wait.

We're off to Paris tomorrow (my first time there), so posting will be spotty.

Happy Year of the Fire Pig!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Happy Saturnalia

Hope you are enjoying the longest night of the year (in the Northern Hemisphere). The days only get longer from hereon out, until June 21 of next year.

This is the third Winter Solstice for Octopus Grigori. This very bottom of the year is always a time to reflect on the past year. In many ways, I'm glad it's over. Certain segments of this year were pretty hellish.

I want to say that I'm looking forward to the New Year, but I don't know if I am. The President has apparently decided that we will not begin to bring back troops from the unmitigated disaster we have created in Iraq; instead, the President -- so obviously and fully controlled by Cheney and the neocons at AEI, JINSA, The Weekly Standard, et al. -- has decided that, to attempt to make the neocons' wet dreams in Iraq come true, we must sacrifice more American lives to the deity of the neocon's insatiable appetite for warmongering. More war is obviously the answer. You think otherwise, you stupid antiwar, peacenik, irresponsible, appeasing Neville Chamberlains?! You simply do not understand the complexities of the Middle East and the simplicities of the Arab Mind. (How many times can Thomas Friedman prove himself to be a racist moron before the readership of the Times rises up and finally demands that he be demoted to a bi-weekly blog at The New Republic or something?)

And now we are deploying aircraft carriers and destroyers toward Iran, as a show of force to send Iran a message -- presumably that we are ready (and eager?) to blow them up. Many believe that the President has swallowed whole -- just as he swallowed their brilliant advice to invade Iraq -- the neocons' fervent and overheated screams to bomb/destroy/kill many people in Iran. Yes, the neocons are right: more war is the answer. Bomb another Muslim country. Work your way down the list of Israel's most hated enemies, one by one, till the neocons are satisfied.

Attacking Iran will not make America safer. Attacking Iran is not in America's interest. Other countries may want Iran destroyed. (Strike that: one other country.) Iran has no connections to Al Qaeda or 9/11. Iran does not fund terrorism against America. We do not have a reason to attack Iran and set the region on fire. We will raise up against us China and Russia. We will even further inflame the Middle East. We cannot do this. We have to stop the coming attack on Iran. America must be saved from what this Administration is turning it into. We are not a stupid, cretinous machine of murder, to be deployed to kill hundreds of thousands in the interests of a treacherous band of ideologues.

Go ahead, attack this criticism of the Administration's belligerence -- which has already killed hundreds of thousands of civilians in Iraq and may soon kill hundreds of thousands more in Iran -- as somehow bigoted or conspiracy-minded. I just don't care about that type of bullshit, formulaic, prefab criticism any more. I am so sick of watching our country spiral downwards into an aggressive, vengeful, paranoid, dying empire, lashing out at the world. Our Administration, in thrall to the theories of the neocons, is out of control and appears on the verge of taking us from the greatest strategic mistake in the history of our country into an even more profoundly dangerous and horrible mistake.

What can we do to stop the Administration's apparent plan to invade Iran? Will the Democrats in Congress stop the Administration? Haven't the American people sent as clear a signal as possible that they want no more war?

Here's the crazy Octopus blogger theory: the Administration and the neocons want to create a regional war in the Middle East. They want our troops to be committed there for a decade or more. They want this country to be in a state of war, which will perpetuate Republican power, and will keep the warmongering ideologues who control this President in position to steer future Administrations, just as they have so wisely steered this President.

Yeah, I was happy about the November elections. But Bush is still President, and short of impeachment, I don't see how we are going to stop this Administration from plunging us even deeper into war and causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands of more civilians. But we must try to stop this. We must petition our representatives. We must flood newspapers and the media with opposition. We must exercise our Constitutional rights of assembly and gather to protest more aggression. More war is not the answer.

Our nation's founding fathers knew these days would one day arrive: "Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm." Federalist Papers No. 10 (James Madison). May God give our nation the strength to survive these dark days.

God bless America.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The View from the Tank: Waiting for Guffman (1996)

I’m a bit more than ten years late on this one, but I finally saw Waiting for Guffman tonight. It’s definitely funny, but I felt a bit uneasy, sitting in my place in Los Angeles, enjoying this film about rubes in some small town in Missouri.

Is it the prerogative of smart people to mock dumb people?

I guess this was one of the questions raised by critics of Borat. It’s pretty easy – and predictable – for people in New York, Los Angeles, or San Francisco to sit and laugh at depictions of rubes in the Heartland. While I found Guffman worlds funnier than the puerile and monotonous Borat, I found that Guffman had a similar heartless quality. All of the characters are losers. They are losers because of where they live. They are losers because they are dumb and poorly educated. They are losers because they didn’t make it in New York and had to flee to some small town in Missouri. (Implied message: you, viewer, sitting and enjoying this film in Los Feliz or the West Village, are a winner.)

The rube character says “ironical” instead of “ironic” and we snicker in the Castro or Brooklyn.* Never mind that Guest and co-writer Eugene Levy have written this stuff in the pseudo-documentary: we eat it up because it is what we expect, it caters to our prejudices. It makes us feel smart and superior to watch and laugh at the provincial morons: we went to Wesleyan and UPenn and Vassar; the rubes in the movie took taxidermy correspondence courses.

It’s sad, though, and predictable. (I feel like this post is also predictable, but I’ll leave that point for a different critic.) Sure, people in New York or Boston are probably, on average, more cultured and better educated than the general population of a small town in Missouri. What’s the point in a movie that revels in this? What’s the point in a send-up of small-town community theater? The Netflix movie description said something about “a hilarious satire that shows why some talent never gets discovered – for good reason.” That really does capture the spirit of the movie, and it’s just simple, self-satisfied, smug meanness.

Erroll Morris set some of his early documentaries outside major urban centers, in rural California and Florida, for example. In Gates of Heaven and Vernon, Florida, Morris documents the silly and somewhat pathetic lives of some of the people that live in these Heartland-like places, but he never seems to want to portray them in the meanest and harshest possible light, as Sasha Cohen does in Borat, or Guest does with his fictional Missouri characters in Guffman. Morris allows the individuals he tapes enough time to reveal themselves as full human characters, with flashes of moving insight or individuality, among all the rest of the expected rural “idiocy”.

Guffman is a funny movie, sure. I loved the acting, and the “Life on Mars is Boring” bit is hilarious. But, after laughing so much during the movie – and perhaps precisely because I did find myself enjoying the movie so much – I didn’t like the taste in my mouth. I really wish we could see more movies sending up the pretentious, self-satisfied, self-regarding, self-absorbed, “progressive”, insecure, hipsters who eat up movies like Guffman, Borat, The Life Aquatic, Kill Bill, etc. I wish someone would document our desperate attempts to efface our indelible suburban white bread roots and values (no matter the color of the skin under the Patagonia or Carhart), our upper middle-class yearnings and insecurities, our reflexive and unthinking racial and cultural condescension, our belief in the centrality of our own values, our reliance on various social safety nets, our profound conventionality, and our vicious need to feel superior to others.

I recognize that I may have completely missed something: someone explain it to me if I have.

* Although, my Webster's allows "ironical" as an alternative to "ironic". Wonder if Guest and Levy had looked it up. Doubt it.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Re that Fall

Hasn't happened yet. But there's still time.

It's real good soup weather here in L.A. right now. Toddy's blog helped remind me that I could go for some soup. Corn chowder, mmm.

Maybe they should have recommended dishes or beverages with the weather. So today in L.A. would be "Clear, 55 degrees, Egg Drop Soup"; summer weather would be like "Muggy, 87 degrees, Black Milk Tea Boba - Iced".

Monday, December 18, 2006

Joseph Barbera (1911-2006), R.I.P.

Joe Barbera, of the Hanna-Barbera team that brought the world Tom & Jerry, The Flintstones, Scooby Doo, Yogi Bear, Captain Caveman, The Jetsons, Grape Ape, Space Ghost, the Superfriends TV series*, and Huckleberry Hound, among other immortal characters, died today in Los Angeles, at the age of 95. His longtime partner in cartooning, William Hanna, died in 2001.

* The characters in the Superfriends were, of course, originally DC Comics characters.

Thanks for the memories, guys.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Before the Fall

Things are too good right now: I'm headed for a fall. The Fates are jealous and nasty: nothing raises their ire quite so much as the spectacle of someone temporarily happy and without worries. Shakespeare alluded to the medieval concept of the Wheel of Fortune in King Lear: one who is sitting pretty and happy at the top of the Wheel will soon be crushed in the shit at the bottom -- and totally unable to buy a vowel.

I don't mean to be fatalistic or pessimistic, but I find that whenever I am in one of these good spells, where I'm neither working to death, nor fraught with anxiety about something or other, it is inevitable that I am setting myself up for a world of hurt soon to follow. It's as if I am building up the coming bad times and vibes with every laugh and smile. It's like that Rob Base song, "Joy and Pain/Like sunshine and rain".

All the signs of imminent doom are present: a complacent and dopey feeling of well-being, sleeping at least eight hours a night, fuzzy optimistism, excessively good cheer. Yeah, I am going down soon. My giggles and grins are but stormy petrels, harbingers of a pain unrelenting and long.

Texas Bill Introduced to Allow Blind People to Hunt

I don't know, seems like a bad idea. But then, blind people couldn't really do much worse than Dick Cheney, who thought his 79 year-old hunting buddy Harry Whittington was a quail.

Don't worry about a thing. These guys will be able to swim when the world is flooded and we've nuked each other to smithereens.

Maybe if they hurry up and become self-aware already, they'll put us all out of our misery.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Everybody Hates Jimmy Carter

Because, like Desmond Tutu, Carter is clearly a deranged anti-Semite who must be stopped. He's committed one of the ultimate sins in American politics, and, as a result, in a somewhat ugly and transparent, but sadly predictable reaction, people are out to tear down his legacy and to soil his name for history.

Carter apparently doesn't care too much: "'I feel completely at ease,' said Carter, about his commitment to the book, which accuses Israel of oppressing Palestinians. 'I am not running for office. And I have Secret Service protection.'" (from Ha'aretz)

Monday, December 11, 2006

Simple but frightening thought

Every now and then we can forget, but it's really sort of terrifying to consider that the people in charge of the United States government and the most powerful military in the world have no fucking idea what they're doing.

This is important to consider. As "experienced" as our Representatives and Senators and the Wise People of the Baker-Hamilton Commission are, none of them has any experience dealing with the spread of global terrorism. These people are just making shit up as they go along.

(As an aside, I think it's clear to everyone that George Bush would have a hard time convincing any major U.S. corporation to let him be its CEO; Google, GE, or Disney could not be so stupid. Yet, somehow, we've allowed this joker to run the United States of America -- straight into the fucking ground -- for the last six years.)

World War I, defeating Germany and Japan, outspending the Soviets in a Cold War arms race, etc. -- none of these things is analogous to the confrontation with terrorism and no American leaders have any experience with the type of situation we face today. It is vital to keep this in mind as we go blundering forward in Iraq and Afghanistan and God knows where else, carrying out, in dark places, terrible things that may never come to light: no one has any idea what they're doing and we are not required to slavishly obey and accept the "expertise" and "wisdom" of these people. A majority of the American people swallowed whole the truckload of bullshit rammed down our throats about the "imminent threat" of Saddam, the "smoking gun of a mushroom cloud" we would face if we didn't invade Iraq, yadda yadda. You'd think we'd all be a hell of a lot more skeptical these days.

But in some ways, we're all still like scared little children, looking anywhere (after losing all faith in our Father-Figure-in-Chief) for someone -- anyone -- to tell us in an authoritative and grandfatherly voice whom we must smash or defeat, what we must do to finally make us totally, completely safe. The Baker-Hamilton Commission offers several valuable ideas, and it should not dismissed out of hand, but we cannot forget going forward that none of these people have any idea how to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. It's fair to say, I think, that at this point, they don't even quite know what Humpty Dumpty is anymore.

The lesson, I think, is that any dogmatic insistence on the "only way" or the "absolutely necessary" act that we must take to "win" the War on Terror must be taken with a grain of salt the size of the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs. As the Iraq debacle shows, too many people will take the current situation as an opportunity to carry out the agendas they've been carrying around for years. Certitude and overwrought insistence on a course of action should raise red flags for all of us.

On the bus

Some old crazy guy just said something to me on the bus after I cleared my throat. He's still muttering to himself. He appeared to be upset that I had cleared my throat. He's now pointing to his watch and raving, gently, about something to the guy sitting next to him, who is doing his best to humor him.

He's clearly ill and in need of help. It's always a little jarring to be confronted with insanity during your morning commute. But there are plenty of mentally ill people out there that manage to keep it together to some degree, hold jobs, etc. They obviously need to get around like everyone else, and it's probably better when they ride the bus -- rather than acting out at the wheel of a car.

The crazy guy got off the bus in Chinatown and walked off purposively across Hill Street, carrying a small package.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Spin This

Russ Feingold is a noble and valiant force for good in this nation. From his MSNBC interview on the Baker-Hamilton report:
The fact is this commission was composed apparently entirely of people who did not have the judgment to oppose this Iraq war in the first place, and did not have the judgment to realize it was not a wise move in the fight against terrorism. So that's who is doing this report.

Then I looked at the list of who testified before them. There is virtually no one who opposed the war in the first place. Virtually no one who has been really calling for a different strategy that goes for a global approach to the war on terrorism. . . .

This report does not do the job and it's because it was not composed of a real representative group of Americans who believe what the American people showed in the election, which is that it's time for us to have a timetable to bring the troops out of Iraq.
Via Atrios.

In a similar vein, Paul Krugman drives home today that while the neocons and their ilk were dead wrong about Iraq, there were plenty of honorable Americans who were nastily dismissed before the war because they very rightly and correctly opposed the war:
Unlike The Weekly Standard, which singled out those it thought had been proved wrong, I’d like to offer some praise to those who got it right. Here’s a partial honor roll . . . .

Al Gore, September 2002: “I am deeply concerned that the course of action that we are presently embarking upon with respect to Iraq has the potential to seriously damage our ability to win the war against terrorism and to weaken our ability to lead the world in this new century.”

Barack Obama, now a United States senator, September 2002: “I don’t oppose all wars. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.” . . . .

Senator Russ Feingold, October 2002: “I am increasingly troubled by the seemingly shifting justifications for an invasion at this time. ... When the administration moves back and forth from one argument to another, I think it undercuts the credibility of the case and the belief in its urgency. I believe that this practice of shifting justifications has much to do with the troubling phenomenon of many Americans questioning the administration’s motives.”

Howard Dean, then a candidate for president and now the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, February 2003: “I firmly believe that the president is focusing our diplomats, our military, our intelligence agencies, and even our people on the wrong war, at the wrong time. ... Iraq is a divided country, with Sunni, Shia and Kurdish factions that share both bitter rivalries and access to large quantities of arms.”

We should honor these people for their wisdom and courage. We should also ask why anyone who didn’t raise questions about the war — or, at any rate, anyone who acted as a cheerleader for this march of folly — should be taken seriously when he or she talks about matters of national security.
From NYT

Supporters and cheerleaders for this war were absolutely dead wrong, no matter how elegant their spewing of bullshit in support of this war. I think it's important to know who was for the war -- here's a partial list to help you remember: Thomas Friedman, William Kristol, Paul Wolfowitz, Hillary Clinton, The New Republic, The Washington Post Editorial board, David Remnick, Dissent Magazine, John Edwards, Robert Kagan, Peter Beinart, Kenneth Pollack, et al.

Particularly loathsome to me was Remnick's self-regarding and smug "analysis" of the pre-war debate, neatly and easily dismissing objections to the invasion by making vague allusions to Saddam as bogey-man:
We are reminded, too, of Saddam's vision of himself as the modern Saladin, the modern Nebuchadnezzar II, who (after massacring the Kurds, invading Kuwait, and attacking the marsh Arabs of the south) vows to "liberate" Jerusalem, vanquish the United States, and rule over a united Arab world. Saddam is not a man of empty promises. His territorial aggression is a matter of record, his nuclear ambitions are clear.
From The New Yorker.

Yeah, David, Saddam's "territorial aggression" was a matter of record and a total menace to the safety of the planet. (Who will protect Kuwait?) We really had to stop him from sweeping across the region imposing a new Iraqi empire. He's the new Hitler! No, wait, Ahmadinejad is the new Hitler! Hold on, there's a parade of Hitlers and Neville Chamberlains! Everywhere! It's always again just before World War II, but now only a timely invasion, bombing, and occupation of another Middle Eastern country and the deposing of another Hitler can avoid a repeat of World War II.

Have we not all learned to tire of these silly and predictable rehearsed and hackneyed rhetorical gestures? Why shouldn't these gung-ho supporters for what Al Gore has very rightly called “the worst strategic mistake in the history of the United States” be called to account for their fantastic misjudgments, and their continued spewing of political "genius" on the Middle East be dismissed totally out of hand?

You cannot contain the Octopus

Octopus escaping through 1" diameter hole. Sort of like a spatial limbo.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Hello, Vicious Cycle

The SF Chronicle reports that new research shows that the warming atmosphere and oceans are leading to a drop off in the population of phytoplankton in the oceans. Big hooforaw, you may say. However, phytoplankton are apparently responsible for removing a huge amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Because of carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere, the climate and oceans are warming. Because of the warming, phytoplankton are dying, and thus, less carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere. Welcome to our descent towards a dead planet:
When the climate warms, there is a drop in the abundance of the ocean's phytoplankton, the tiny plants that feed krill, fish and whales, according to scientists who say new research offers the first clues to the future of marine life under global warming.

Ocean temperatures have generally risen over the last 50 years as the atmosphere warms. And now nine years of NASA satellite data published today in the journal Nature show that the growth rate and abundance of phytoplankton around the world decreases in warm ocean years and increases in cooler ocean years.

The findings are crucial because they show a consequence of the changing global climate at the most fundamental level. Scientists estimate that phytoplankton is responsible for about half of Earth's photosynthesis, a process that removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and converts it into organic carbon and oxygen that feeds nearly every ocean ecosystem.

Fewer phytoplankton consume less carbon dioxide, aggravating a cycle that can lead to even more warming.
See also New Scientist.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Music Recommendations -- Just In Time For the Holidays

It's been some time since I solicited music recommendations here (nearly two years, in fact). Last time I did, I got some fantastic suggestions, which I am still enjoying.

Here are the best albums I've heard this year (I may need to update this list when I remember albums I've forgotten):

1. TV on the Radio - Return to Cookie Mountain

2. The Roots - Game Theory

3. Sunset Rubdown - Shut Up I Am Dreaming

4. Subtle - For Hero For Fool

5. Donuts - J Dilla

Please share your favorite albums of 2006 (or any year, for that matter).

Unprompted Update: Forgot to give the mysterious HH props for recommending Sunset Rubdown to me.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

We Are Never Ever Ever Ever Wrong

From the people that brought you the unending glory of the Iraq War, condescending criticisms of any suggestion that we should leave.

Yes, Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan, you, after urging us into Iraq with your brilliant understanding of the Middle East, democracy, and the Arab Mind, you are exactly whom we should be listening to now.

Glenn Greenwald makes exactly this point about the execrable Thomas Friedman:
Someone e-mailed me several days ago to say that while it is fruitful and necessary to chronicle the dishonest historical record of pundits and political figures when it comes to Iraq, I deserve to be chastised for failing to devote enough attention to the person who, by far, was most responsible for selling the war to centrists and liberal "hawks" and thereby creating "consensus" support for Bush's war -- Tom Friedman, from his New York Times perch as "the nation's preeminent centrist foreign policy genius."

That criticism immediately struck me as valid, and so I spent the day yesterday and today reading every Tom Friedman column beginning in mid-2002 through the present regarding Iraq. That body of work is extraordinary. Friedman is truly one of the most frivolous, dishonest, and morally bankrupt public intellectuals burdening this country. Yet he is, of course, still today, one of the most universally revered figures around, despite -- amazingly enough, I think it's more accurate to say "because of" -- his advocacy of the invasion of Iraq, likely the greatest strategic foreign policy disaster in America's history.

This matters so much not simply in order to expose Friedman's intellectual and moral emptiness, though that is a goal worthy and important in its own right. Way beyond that, the specific strain of intellectual bankruptcy that drove Friedman's strident support for the invasion of Iraq continues to be what drives not only Tom Friedman today, but virtually all of our elite opinion-makers and "centrist" and "responsible" political figures currently attempting to "solve" the Iraq disaster.

In column after column prior to the war, Friedman argued that invading Iraq and overthrowing Saddam was a noble, moral, and wise course of action. To Friedman, that was something we absolutely ought to do, and as a result, he repeatedly used his column to justify the invasion and railed against anti-war arguments voiced by those whom he derisively called "knee-jerk liberals and pacifists"
From Unclaimed Territory.

Morons, all of you.

Neocons always know best.

Peace on Earth

Pope Benedict prays with Muslims in the Blue Mosque in Turkey.

I was surprised to see Pope Benedict make the gesture of praying with Muslims at the Blue Mosque in Turkey during his recent visit. This unprecendented act will surely send a powerful message of reconciliation and tolerance across the Muslim world:
Damage control undoubtedly was on the agenda of his first visit to a predominantly Muslim country. But his comments to President Ahmet Necdet Sezer on his "particular esteem" for Muslims were noteworthy even if scripted. He repeatedly made the point that Muslims and Christians believe in the same God. Proving the point, his hosts embraced his expressions of goodwill.

Among such gestures of reconciliation, however, Pope Benedict's unscripted prayer during a visit to Istanbul's spectacular Blue Mosque along with the grand mufti, Mustafa Cagrici, was a hallmark. The pope's own deep meditation, facing Mecca, marked the first time a pope had prayed in a mosque with a Muslim imam. As they emerged from the mosque, he told the grand mufti that the visit "will help us to find together the means and paths of peace for the good of humanity."

None of that means the pope should stop agitating for religious freedom as a fundamental human right. Still he hardly could have picked a better place to stand against ignorance and intolerance, and to signal that the Crusades are finally over, than in democratic, secular and overwhelming Muslim Turkey, a bridge between Asia and Europe, east and west.

Those who would continue demanding an apology for the pope's September comments instead should be demanding that the world understand how far from upholding the standards of their faith were protesters when, in retaliation, they murdered an Italian nun in Somalia and attacked churches in the Middle East.

The prophet Mohammed can receive the regard from Christians that Muslims hold for Jesus and his mother, Mary, only through the respect, dialogue and understanding that Pope Benedict urged in Turkey. He showed again that good human relations usually trump religious one-upmanship.
From the Palm Beach Post

Monday, December 04, 2006

What Would Jesus Do?

I am going to venture out on a limb and suggest that Jesus would not do what Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Dick Cheney would have him do:
The president-elect of the Christian Coalition of America, which has long served as a model for activism for the religious right, has stepped down, saying the group resisted his efforts to broaden its agenda to include reducing poverty and fighting global warming.

The Rev. Joel C. Hunter, pastor of a Florida megachurch, was named the group’s president-elect in July. He was to have taken over the presidency in January from Roberta Combs, who is also the chairwoman of the Christian Coalition’s board. Mrs. Combs will continue in both positions now.

Over the last few years, Dr. Hunter, senior pastor of Northland Church in Longwood, Fla., has gained a reputation as an evangelical leader seeking to expand the agenda of conservative Christian activists from issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. . . .

The author of “Right Wing, Wrong Bird: Why the Tactics of the Religious Right Won’t Fly With Most Conservative Christians,” Dr. Hunter has argued that a large number of conservative Christians feel that right-wing religious groups do not represent them, because they focus their energies too narrowly on what he calls moral issues, often to the exclusion of economic and environmental concerns.

He said that many evangelical leaders hewed to narrow moral issues because they were “deathly afraid of being labeled a liberal by other Christians, the media, talk radio.”
From the godless NY Times (via The Colbert Report).

See also Matthew 19:23-24 and What Would Jesus Drive? (Answer: Jesus would take the bus.)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Military Commissions Act of 2006: Tyrannical and Un-American

The more you look at the Military Commissions Act of 2006, the more freaked out you get.

Under this act, anyone, citizen or alien, may be detained if found to be an "enemy combatant" by the executive branch. And under the MCA's incredibly broad "offering material support" provisions, an individual that donates to charity (or perhaps offers web links?) to an entity or organization the administration deems a terrorist organization faces designation as an enemy combatant.

And, oh yeah, the MCA has no sunset provision. It'll be around forever unless we work to repeal it. Write your representatives in the new Congress and urge them to repeal the dangerous and utterly un-American MCA. Urge them to support the legislation introduced by the good senator from my home state, Christopher Dodd, that would help to repeal dangerous elements of the MCA. (Go ahead and take a wild guess at the "independent" Lieberman's position on the MCA.)

Better Check Your Papers

I haven't been paying enough attention to the recent enemy combatant, military tribunal, habeas corpus decisions and legislation, and it's far past time to remedy that. I started tonight with the Supreme Court's opinion with Hamdi v. Rumsfeld (2004), where the Court found that the President did not have the authority to hold citizens designated as "enemy combatants" indefinitely without a fair opportunity to challenge their status and detention:
Moreover, as critical as the Government’s interest may be in detaining those who actually pose an immediate threat to the national security of the United States during ongoing international conflict, history and common sense teach us that an unchecked system of detention carries the potential to become a means for oppression and abuse of others who do not present that sort of threat. See Ex parte Milligan, 4 Wall., at 125 (“[The Founders] knew—the history of the world told them—the nation they were founding, be its existence short or long, would be involved in war; how often or how long continued, human foresight could not tell; and thatunlimited power, wherever lodged at such a time, was especially hazardous to freemen”). Because we live in a society in which “[m]ere public intolerance or animosity cannot constitutionally justify the deprivation of a person’s physical liberty,” O’Connor v. Donaldson, 422 U. S. 563, 575 (1975), our starting point for the Mathews v. Eldridge analysis is unaltered by the allegations surrounding the particular detainee or the organizations with which he is alleged to have associated. We reaffirm today the fundamental nature of a citizen’s right to be free from involuntary confinement by his own government without due process of law, and we weigh the opposing governmental interests against the curtailment of liberty that such confinement entails. . . .

Striking the proper constitutional balance here is of great importance to the Nation during this period of ongoing combat. But it is equally vital that our calculus not give short shrift to the values that this country holds dear or to the privilege that is American citizenship. It is during our most challenging and uncertain moments that our Nation’s commitment to due process is most severely tested; and it is in those times that we must preserve our commitment at home to the principles for which we fight abroad. See Kennedy v. Mendoza-Martinez, 372 U. S. 144, 164–165 (1963) (“The imperative necessity for safeguarding these rights to procedural due process under the gravest of emergencies has existed throughout our constitutional history, for it is then, under the pressing exigencies of crisis, that there is the greatest temptation to dispense with guarantees which, it is feared, will inhibit government action”); see also United States v. Robel, 389 U. S. 258, 264 (1967) (“It would indeed be ironic if, in the name of national defense, we would sanction the subversion of one of those liberties . . . which makes the defense of the Nation worthwhile”).
From the Supreme Court's opinion in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld (2004) (emphasis added).

Jeffrey Toobin reports in the current issue of the The New Yorker on Congress's recent enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 ("MCA") in September, which deals an unprecedented blow to the right to habeas corpus.

The frightening MCA also allows the government to hold citizens designated enemy combatants indefinitely -- i.e., forever.

Friday, December 01, 2006

A Post In the Time It Takes To Make a "Dr. Robeks"

I'm at Robeks, wasting my money trying to defeat my cold with smoothies and "Nutritional Boosts". A "Dr. Robeks" apparently "[s]upports immunity with fresh-squeezed orange juice, rasberries, strawberries, raspberry sherbet, ice + Immunibek & Vitabek [two Nutritional Boosts]". I've been getting this, at $4.99 a pop, for the past few days, with little effect: my cold remains. Yet I return every day, hoping that this next smoothie will be the one that returns me to health.