May 30, 2006

The Rove Beetle

Rove beetles are often abundant in habitats with large numbers of fly larvae -- especially decaying fruit, decaying seaweed, compost, carrion, and dung -- where some are important predators of maggots and others prey on mites or nematodes.

The origin of Turd Blossom?

May 27, 2006

American Idol

The final vote on the American Idol show involved 63.4 million Americans voting, more votes than for any Presidential candidate in history. There is something deeply embarrassing to me about that fact.

It is especially embarrassing when you realize that the United States ranked 140th in the world in voter turnout in the last decade.
[Thanks to the website YVoteOnline for the chart]

If Americans really cared about having more people vote in our elections, there is one simple thing we can do -- open the polls on Saturday, Monday, and Tuesday.

Australia and Belgium have compulsory voting and open their polls for two or three days. Their turnouts are over 90%.

I am not suggesting that we should make voting compulsory, although it might be worth considering. I do believe, however, that in the Greatest Democracy in the World, we ought to broaden the window of opportunity for voting and not make it so difficult for alot of people to exercise their vote.

May 23, 2006

Attention Deficit Disorder

It has become apparent to me that Bush himself, if not the entire administration, suffers from some kind of attention deficit disorder. They simply can't keep their minds and attention on one task with the purpose of completing it. Afghanistan is the perfect example.

In the aftermath of 9/11, Bush had us in his hand -- all of us, the world included. His attack on Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and the liberation of the Afghan people was virtually universally supported. Over three years later, the Afghan people are under siege from warlord thugs, organized gangs of drug exporters, and a renewed and renascent al-Qaeda and Taliban, and US troops and NATO are trying to figure out what to do.

"The Taliban and Al Qaeda are everywhere," a shopkeeper, Haji Saifullah, told the commander of American forces in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, as the general strolled through the bazaar of this town to talk to people. "It is all right in the city, but if you go outside the city, they are everywhere, and the people have to support them. They have no choice." New York Times, May 3, 2006

When Afghanistan was "mission accomplished" in his mind, he went on to Iraq. After that was "mission accomplished," he has been focusing our attention on Iran as the next potential target. But because an attack on Iran would be so foolhardy even Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld are probably advising him against it (I suspect the generals have probably been pretty frank about the nuttiness of such military action), he now has his sight set on the peasant terrorists coming up from Mexico. It will be interesting to see how long he can concentrate on trying to accomplish his mission with this new target.

Domestically, he has swept through any number of other priorities like reforming social security (he lost interest when he realized he could not win), a flag-burning amendment (another loser), and now the marriage sanctity amendment(which he will lose interest in soon enough).

His level of concentration is short and probably the reason he doesn't read. George Bush is a dilettante, suffering from attention deficit disorder. He can win arguments, he can bully his way through two Presidential campaigns, he can pretend to "hard work" and Presidential power, but he can't follow through with leadership potential as President, and he can't stay with one thing long enough to make it really successful.

His abject failure in Afghanistan will come back to haunt him more than anything else from his entire presidency. It is the cornerstone on which his entire Global War on Terror has been fought. A failure in Afghanistan against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda will be what he is remembered for the most.

May 19, 2006

What the Jingo-Xenophobes Fear

In his heart of hearts, George Bush has a vision of America that scares the hell out of him. It's an America where most people don't speak English or, at the very least, don't speak it as their first language. While George Bush plays at being the Texas cowboy ranchero who speaks a smattering of Spanish badly, he remains true to his Brahmin Yale culture of privilege, black tie events, and patent leather shoes. It's fun playing cowboy, but he really does not want to mingle too much with the Indians.

If you think about it, George Bush's God is not the God of all those Spanish-speaking Catholics, the blood of his Christ not the same blood of their Christ. Despite his lip-service to the contrary about religious tolerance in America, the Papacy and Roman Catholicism bother him. He knows Republicans need as many Catholic votes as they can get. But if he were to speak his mind honestly about the difference between what he believes and what they believe, Catholics would not be very happy.

So he fears an America overrun by Spanish-speaking Catholics from South of the Border. And he is not alone. There are plenty of other Republicans and Democrats who have the same uncomfortable notions about illegal immigrants, migrant workers, and legal immigration itself. The worst of them are the jingo-xenophobes, trying to figure out how to stem the tide of an alien culture and language. While many moderate politician try, yet again, to figure out what to do, the jingo-xenophobes know exaclty what to do. But at the root of it, is a challenge that is not new, nor much different than it was in the mid-1970s when I worked in Washington DC and saw how Congress dealt with these same issue on Capitol Hill.

The Congressman I worked for, Rep. Jim Scheuer (D-NY), chaired the Select Committee on Population. He held a series of hearings on many issues including illegal immigration and the long-term effects on America's population. We heard from experts about how to stop it, how to increase border protection with more patrols, a big 3000 mile fence, guest worker programs, better working conditions for migrant labor and their families, and the list goes on. A significant Report was written and recommendations were made. It all sits on a shelf somewhere in the Library of Congress.

Back then, we covered almost all the same ground we are now hearing about yet again. Except this time, there are two major differences that overwhelm the debate -- the Global War on Terror, and the increased population of Hispanic people.

For the jingo-xenophobes, in a perfect world, with a perfect border, no one would be allowed in. Some of their colleagues who know that couldn't possibly sell, we would import as many of "those people" as we need to do the "jobs Americans won't do," but we would maintain strict control of them, and send them back occasionally so they don't get used to living here. In this age of the Global War on Terror, the jingo-xenophobe ideal is a perfectly controlled border to protect our white Christian population. Of course, other than the most viscious hatemongers like Bill O'Reilly and John Gibson, most of them would never admit to any such convictions.

One of the great ironies is that these same self-avowed fighters in the Global War on Terror don't seem as concerned about the porous border to the North, nor the fact that almost all the cargo coming into the United States is not secure. But when it comes to protecting us from our brown brothers to the south, we need to spend billions and send thousands of American troops to help protect us. Can anyone imagine a more overt racialist (if not actually racist) act?

I heard the Mayor of Calexico, California speak on NPR this morning about the great relationship he and the people of Mexicali, Mexico have -- sister cities, right across the border from each other. They work together on immigration problems, migrant worker problems, family reunification problems, economic development, and even drug trafficking. The Mayor of Calexico says that the arrival of American soldiers will have a serious negative impact on that relationship. What can the Mexicans possibly believe about such a development? How could Mexicans not believe that Americans view them as a threat equal to any terrorist threat America might fear?

It's one thing to have a border patrol, it's quite another to be stationing American soldiers on our border. What makes it all the more reprehensible is that it is being done to assuage the right-wing base of the Republican Party, create a new fear in the minds of the American people, and construct a new threat that Bush can be perceived as "dealing with" with all his "hard work." This dog-and-pony show Presidency continues unabated. Without ever once confronting the realities of his failed Global War on Terror and his Iraq debacle, he pushes on relentlessly, headlong in his pursuit of more enemies and more phony battles.

May 13, 2006

Soft Drinks Out of the Schools

Bill Clinton and Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, in cooperation with the American Heart Association, announced an agreement with soft drink producers and distributors to remove all sugary soda pop from schools around the country. This one act by Clinton and Huckabee has the potential to do more for the future health of Americans than most anything I can think of that has been accomplished in recent years. What has the Bush administration done comparably? complicated Medicare beyond comprehension? limited women's access to health care? given breaks to the drug industry? How about the Bush administration's policy of preventing African women from receiving any advice on contraception or birth prevention?

May 12, 2006

Bush in the Bunker

Investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) into National Security Council (NSA) warrantless wiretapping has been stymied because, for the first time in its history, security clearances have been denied to OPR personnel by the National Security Agency, itself. The Bush administration can take credit for the first-ever refusal of this kind. This action begs the question of how this government can ever be held in check.

This is not the only instance of the Bush administration blocking investigations and denying access to information. As Bush's poll numbers drop into the 20% range for the first time, he seems to be hunkering down even more in his bunker, not simply refusing to face reality, but actually spitting in its face.

Bush's aggressive and arrogant behavior on a whole range of issues can be tied fairly clearly to his stated beliefs about how he makes decisions on foreign policy. In his own words:

I base a lot of my foreign-policy decisions on some things that I think are true. One, I believe there's an Almighty. And secondly, I believe one of the great gifts of the Almighty is the desire in everybody's soul, regardless of what you look like or where you live, to be free.

With God as his chief advisor, how can we expect Bush to listen to anyone or anything else?


By Peter Montague, from Rachel's Democracy and Health News #854

For Earthday, the New York Times reminded us on April 23 (Section 4,pg. 14) of something uncomfortable but important: the general public no longer has "the environment" high on its list of worries or concerns.

Of course, the Times had done its part to lull everyone to sleep about such things. For example, the Times reported April 23 that "water pollution and toxic waste" are "both now largely controlled." Oh? And what of the 4.24 billion pounds of 650 different toxic chemicals released into the U.S. environment during 2004?

In that same story, the Times reported the results of two nationwide telephone opinion surveys, one by CBS News and one by Gallup. The results could help us all to realize how isolated and out of touch with the mainstream many of us [in the environmental movement] have become.

Here are the general public's ranking of "most important problems facing the United States:

War in Iraq -- 27%
Economy and jobs -- 13%
Immigration -- 7%
Terrorism -- 6%
Health care -- 5%
President Bush -- 4%
Gas/heating oil crisis -- 4%
Poverty & homelessness -- 4%
Education -- 3%
Moral and family values -- 2%
Environment -- 2%
Military & defense -- 2%
Budget deficit/national debt -- 2%

These numbers add up to only 82% and the Times did not explain the missing 18%. At first glance, the numbers may make "environment" look like a loser as a basis for building a social movement. But look again. If environmentalists were to form an alliance with people concerned about jobs (13%) and health (5%) -- that would boost the troops to 20% of the public -- more than enough to pull off a full-scale revolution (non-violent, of course). If you add to that the people whose top priority is the energy crisis (4%) and poverty (4%) you've got 28% of the public in your camp -- essentially 1/3 of everyone.That's about a hundred million people.

So environmentalism isn't dead. It's just lonely and needs more friends. Let hope this can become a wake-up call to us all. It's time to climb out of our bunkers, rub our eyes and look around, then set off to find likely friends and allies, send out ambassadors from our group (whatever group we're in) to other issue-groups, then forge ways to work together and support each other. Is there any other way to build a movement?

Orwell's Grave believes that the "environmental movement" can only overcome the obstacles it faces through alliances with others. Standing alone as a chorus of disparate voices in the wilderness, its calls to action, its warnings of dire consequences (many of which I believe are based on scientific fact) are falling on deaf ears. Perhaps the only way the 2% figure will begin to rise is as Americans begin, literally, to feel the heat.

May 09, 2006

Big Brother Bush Bullies Bureaucrats

The Bush administration has become so panicked about its obvious failings in Iraq that it not only is sending out a repetitive, droning message from the top (Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld), it now wants even mid-level bureaucrats at the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to peddle the "rosy" picture it is trying to paint in Iraq, as reported by Al Kamen in the Washington Post (Monday, May 8).

How disturbing it must be for officials at USDA to receive email instructions requiring them to parrot administration jabberwocky on Iraq in every speech they give on behalf of the USDA. Repeat after me: "The President has a clear strategy for victory in Iraq." Say it over and over again, until you have it memorized, then repeat it out loud everywhere you go until your eyes glaze over. Spin is too mild a word for this kind of propaganda. This is Big Brother stuff. This stinks of lies, hoodwink and subterfuge.

The May 2 email came from "Heather," a speechwriter at USDA, and said: "The President has requested that all members of his cabinet and sub-cabinet incorporate message points on the Global War on Terror into speeches, including specific examples of what each agency is doing to aid the reconstruction of Iraq." Remember when it was just the War on Terror? Now it's GLOBAL. It's such an insider term now, they abbreviate it -- GWOT. Like WWII.

Not only are these people being asked to spout this garbage, they are asked to report on it. According to Kamen: Another attachment "contains specific examples of GWOT messages within agriculture speeches. Please use these message points as often as possible and send Harry Phillips , USDA's director of speechwriting, a weekly email summarizing the event, date and location of each speech incorporating the attached language. Your responses will be included in a weekly account sent to the White House."

Not only is the administration asking for reports, it is recommending the following:

If it looks like the audience is with you, try to slip in the old Iraq/al-Qaeda/terrorism link and say Americans are helping build a country "that will never again be a safe haven for terrorists."

The Bush administration can't help itself. The "old Iraq/al-Qaeda/terrorism link," indeed.

Not only does all this bring to mind the rich undercurrent of Orwellian thinking and behavior in this Bush regime, but it also brings to mind that wonderful definition of insanity, namely, doing the same thing over and over again expecting the outcome to change.

Kamen ends his piece with:

Let's say you're talking about U.S. agricultural productivity. Try this: "I'd like to take a moment to talk about a nation that is just now beginning to rebuild its own agricultural production. "Iraq is part to the 'fertile crescent' of Mesopotamia," the sample script says. "It is there, in around 8,500 to 8,000 B.C., that mankind first domesticated wheat, there that agriculture was born. In recent years, however, the birthplace of farming has been in trouble." Probably want to pause here and give the audience a chance to catch its breath. It's hard to travel 10,500 years that quickly. "But revitalization is underway. President Bush has a clear strategy . . ."

Don't forget to send that weekly e-mail to Harry.

May 08, 2006

The Most Powerless President of All Time?

A man and a woman sit in front of an unlit fireplace in the White House. The woman is Germany's most well known TV presenter. The man is the most powerful man in the world -- or at least that's how he's introduced before the interview begins. And yet what we're shown on German ARD public television Sunday night is really a trans-Atlantic misunderstanding. Sabine Christiansen, who asks George W. Bush about one pressing global issue after another -- and who is relatively insistent when it comes to human rights issues -- isn't really talking to the most powerful man in the world at all. In the spring of 2006, one-and-a-half years after Bush's triumphant re-election, she may in fact be speaking to the most powerless US president of all time.

From Der Spiegel Online English Site

From his failures in Iraq and Afghanistan, to his bungling Iran response, from the growing anti-USA sentiments in Latin America to the abuses of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, Bush's mistakes and missteps have made him the least powerless US President in history, according to Claus Christian Malzahn, Berlin bureau chief of SPIEGEL ONLINE. Malzahn does not address any of Bush's domestic blunders or his narrow economic favoritism. Bush's foreign policy screwups seem to be enough to make his case. Of course, depending on how you define "power," he may be right.

On the other hand, I worry that Bush has all too much power at his disposal, even as a lame duck, even as a discredited leader. After his 2004 electoral victory, he talked about how much political capital he had to spend. Whether he did or not, he certainly has not spent any of it wisely.

Nevertheless, he does have power of the sort that bullies can use when they feel like rats trapped in a corner. He still can lash out, he still can employ American power in furtherance of his deluded world vision, great enough to cause dangerous mischief and great sorrow. He has proven his capacity to do this and the potential threatens us all. If he chooses to try to prove how powerful he is, in the end, it will manifest a much-weakened President leading a much-weakened America. And whoever is left to pick up the pieces in 2008 will be seriously challenged.

May 05, 2006

Women's Work is "Off the Books"

Last week, Member of the Second Chamber [of the Dutch Parliament] Sharon Dijkstra, announced a plan to force women with a university education who don't go to work or work part time, to repay part of their educational expenses. But the problem of capital destruction amongst highly-educated women is not the only issue. These women also keep bread out of the mouths of the less educated. Here in the U.S., things are arranged better.

So begins an article published April 27 in NRC Handelsblad, a Dutch newspaper, by Heleen Mees, a Dutch attorney, economist and journalist living in the United States.

She asks: "Are Dutch women really that much lazier than American ones?"

Her answer: "Not really, at least not if you account for the hours they spend keeping house."

Mees points out that American women farm out enough domestic work to maids to save themselves 10 hours each week. American women, she adds, dine out more often and use shopping services and nannies more often. She says that in the U.S., as contrasted with Europe, women can, at any time, have their nails manicured and their shoes shined. In New York, for instance, during the weekend, she describes how American women "can get cooking assistance to prepare the meals for the coming week in your home. The visiting culinary expert makes the purchases and assists in preparing the dishes. That way during the week, two-income families can conjure up meals as nutritious as they are tasty." She concludes: "By working more hours per week and by taking shorter vacations, Americans have enough money to purchase these services. Because they work fewer hours and take longer vacations, women in The Netherlands are forced to do the housekeeping in their "leisure time," and at the end of the day they have to paint their nails themselves to boot. Forget about their preferences for leisure time. When you come right down to it, Dutch women work just as hard as American women."

Mees explains that because the American labor market model creates more affluence than the Dutch model, as a result, "highly educated women in the United States don't need to choose between children and career." She maintains that they can have it both ways, "just like men." And she adds, all that additional money can be spent on domestic help and personal services.

In the Netherlands, however, the poor Dutch woman, highly educated with children don't work, or they only work part-time. Unlike American women , the poor things "do the household chores themselves, and are otherwise busy bringing the children to and from music lessons or soccer field." In the meantime, a lot of the less educated are out of the loop. The compensation they receive keeps the pressure of payroll taxes high, which in turn discourages highly educated women from going to work full time.

And then Mees concludes that the Netherlands ought to adopt a plan that obligates "schools to provide after-school care." In addition, she supports lowering taxes on labor, especially working women with children (I assume she means the uneducated ones). She also supports "granting these women, exclusively, a full tax deduction for the expenses of domestic help and child care." She wants them to live in the same kind of luxury that American women experience. She must be talking about a certain class of American women, because most of them I know have no such luxuries.

The choice Mees poses -- Dutch women get alot more time off vs. American women have more domestic help and more money -- may not be the real question at hand anyway. Perhaps the real question is how Western society (any society, for that matter) values domestic (women's)work. There is no pay for it, there is no tax deduction for it, and there most certainly is not any economic value tied to it when we figure our GDP. And when domestic work is "waged," it is usually paid as cheaply as possible, in cash under the table, looked down on, and definitely not covered by labor laws.

It is worth taking a look at how New Zealand, both its government and people, is facing this issue. Here is a report from 1999 entitled Measuring Unpaid Work which was prepared by Statistics New Zealand. In it, among other things, the government determines the average annual unpaid work per person by principal function and activity, determines an actual worth for this work (what it would be paid using prevailing wage statistics), and it sets the stage for creating an actual government "satellite account" for budgetary purposes.

One of the major inspirations for New Zealand's interest in this subject came from Marilyn Waring who is famous for her international bestseller Counting for Nothing (whose subtitle is What Men Value and What Women are Worth) which was also the basis for the Canadian documentary Who's Counting.

Because I can't possibly go into all the details of Waring's considerations and conclusions here, let me just say that I recommend both her book and the film highly. In a nutshell, she demonstrates how women are economically exploited the world over, but to make it even more obscure and mysterious, it is done "off the books." "Women's work" not only does not count, there is no apparatus, no technical means, by which organized society is able to determine the value of women's work even if it wanted to.

Waring studies the evidence, finds all the ways in which women and their value is ignored by NGOs and governments alike, and then proposes ways in which we can transform that sad reality and begin to count the value of women's work in our society, in our communities, and in our homes. New Zealand is one of the few countries taking steps in that direction.

The Blonde Threat to Islam

Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi's Conditions for Muslim Men Who Want to Marry Christian and Jewish Women in the West

Following are excerpts from a lesson given by Sheik Yousef Al-Qaradhawi, which aired on Qatar TV, on March 12, 2006.

Sheik Yousef Al-Qaradhawi: A Muslim in Europe or America can marry a Christian woman or a woman from among the People of the Book, under four conditions:
The first condition is that she is, in fact, of the People of the Book. In other words, she must not be a heretic - for example, a communist or a Bahai. She must be a believing woman from among the People of the Book.
Some people say a woman is Christian because her father is Christian, while she does not believe in any religion whatsoever. She doesn't believe in God, in the prophet, in Judgment Day, in any values, or in worshipping God. Such a woman is not Christian, even if she is regarded as Christian. We have to make sure that she's really of the People of the Book.
The second condition is that she must be chaste, in other words, honorable and pure - not a woman who sells her body to any man.
Is there a single honorable, chaste woman left in these countries? Don't they reprimand a girl who is still a virgin at the age of 14? They say: How can this be? She becomes undesirable. Where are her boyfriends?
The third condition is that she must not belong to those who are hostile to Islam. That is why I say a Muslim is not allowed to marry a Jewish woman from Israel, or from among the Jews who support Israel.
Therefore, [one must not] marry a Jewish woman, unless she belongs to the Jews who are hostile to Israel.
In London, I have seen Jews who say Israel will annihilate the Jews. They believe that [Israel] runs counter to God's desire to disperse the Jews, as punishment for their sins.
With the exception of these, a Muslim is not allowed, these days, to marry a Jewish woman, because he would be marrying a spy. He would be bringing a spy into his home.
The fourth condition is that this marriage would not cause harm to him, to his children, or to Muslim men and women. Sometimes, he is personally harmed, because she influences him. If one is weak in his faith, he might agree to have alcohol in his home, to have pork eaten there, to have moral depravity there, and then he might be affected without realizing it. This is dangerous for him.
Sometimes it is his children who are at risk. His children receive a non-Islamic upbringing, especially if he is preoccupied with his work or studies, and returns home only at the end of the day, and the wife does what she wants with the children. In this case, the children are lost, their faith is lost. They are not brought up as Muslims. This is dangerous.
Islam permits marrying a woman from the People of the Book, or a Christian, so that she will enter the Muslim family and society.
There is also a danger to Muslim women. Some religious authorities in Muslim communities have forbidden Muslims to marry out of the Muslim community. Why? If a Muslim marries a non-Muslim woman, and since a Muslim woman is only allowed to marry a Muslim man - who will she marry? If all the men go off and find themselves Western blondes [emphasis added]to marry, our own daughters - Fatma, 'Aisha, and so and so - will find no one to marry.

Translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI)

May 04, 2006

Deep Thoughts by Orwell's Grave

Ok, I thought I would stick with the somewhat "mushy" side of things and share this advice from down-under. If you want to know what "boffins" means in the headline below, just click here.

Disagree and stay married, say boffins
Reprinted directly From:
April 26, 2006

NEXT time you and your partner cannot agree, agree to disagree and move on. Research shows that couples who compromise the least usually stay together the longest.Research shows that couples who compromise the least usually stay together the longest.
In the US, marriage counsellors are being retrained in the way they counsel couples.
"A lot of therapies focus on empathy and the idea that if your partner has done something you should be empathetic," Sydney University mathematician Clio Cresswell said.
"Mathematics is showing in fact that the people that stand their ground in conversations ... that stick to their guns or high standards are actually fighting for a better outcome."
Dr Cresswell will explore this theory, and whether there is a formula for the perfect orgasm next month in a free public lecture as part of the 2006 Sydney Science Forum on May 17.

Don't you just wish you could be there? I have searched all my life for the perfect orgasm.

The Donkey in the Well

And I am not talking about the Democrats, although there probably is a lesson in here for them.

I don't know where I first heard this story but it is worth considering again.

One day a farmer's donkey fell down into a well. The animal cried for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do. Finally, she decided the animal was old and the well needed to be covered up anyway, it just wasn't worth it to retrieve the donkey. She invited all her neighbors to come over and help. They all grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well.

At first, the donkey realized what was happening and cried horribly. Then, to everyone's amazement, he quieted down. A few shovel loads later, the farmer was curious and looked down the well and was astonished at what she saw. With every shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was shaking it off and taking a step up. As the farmer's neighbors continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it off and take a step up. Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and trotted off.

Life is going to shovel dirt on you, all kinds of dirt. The trick to getting out of the well is to shake it off and take a step up. Each of our troubles is a stepping stone. We can get out of the deepest wells just by not stopping, never giving up. Shake it off and take a step up.

Five things that can help:

1. Hate less.
2. Worry less.
3. Live simply.
4. Give more.
5. Expect less.

May 03, 2006

Mainstream Media Prove Stephen Colbert Right

So far, all indications are that the Mainstream Media has ignored reporting what Stephen Colbert had to say about Bush, Cheney and the Mainstream Media at the White House Press Association annual dinner. And probably for good reason. Besides skewering Bush himself, to his face, he looked at everyone of those journalists in the audience and told them what an awful job they were doing. He directly questioned their integrity as reporters and challenged their inadequate and inaccurate coverage of news events and administration blunders.

Columnist Dan Froomkin has written a piece entitled "The Colbert Blackout" in which he reports one White House aide's remarks this way:

"Colbert crossed the line,' said one top Bush aide, who rushed out of the hotel as soon as Colbert finished. Another said that the president was visibly angered by the sharp lines that kept coming.
" 'I've been there before, and I can see that he is [angry],' said a former top aide. 'He's got that look that he's ready to blow.'

It is apparent that George and Laura, and many others Bush apologists, went away angry that night. Stephen Colbert probably ought to make sure his accountant is double-checking his tax returns for the last few years.

To be honest, I really did not laugh much at what Colbert said. So much of it was all too real and serious. And there was something about knowing that George Bush sat only a few feet from Colbert and was being spoken to his face, in a way that he so rarely experiences, that made the whole thing, at least for me, a catharsis.

Colbert spoke truth to Bush's fearmongering and failures, and he pointed to the emperor and revealed he had no clothes. It was a much longer version of the Harry Taylor story, another American, like Colbert, who spoke truth to Bush's face.

Even though the Mainstream Press will not cover what Colbert had to say, I believe reports will get out in other ways. How ironic is it that one of the few places we see this kind of language about what is happening to America is on shows like Colbert's and Jon Stewart's on the Comedy Channel? The only thing we need to determine is whether the joke will be on them, or on us.

Here's a link to Colbert's speech. If you missed it, it is worth every minute.

I have changed the link so it works now!!!!

May 02, 2006

Violence On Every Page

The Week, the magazine that has a really hard time putting as woman's image on its front cover, other than beautiful entertainers, has a section in the magazine called "People." These kinds of sections in newspapers and magazines used to be reserved, for the most part, for fluff, for titillation, for good news about famous people. The front page, the commentary section, and all the news sections was where all the bad news went. Today, stories about violence can pervade any section, any story.

In its recent issue, May 5, 2006, there are seven short stories that all, in some way, reflect a form of violence in American life, as a common undercurrent we face today. The seven stories are all about famous "people," of course, and are accompanied by the ubiquitous stock Hollywood photos with the come hither looks and toothy smiles.

Tom Cruise's abusive father beat him, which resulted in his mother working three jobs and taking care of him while they moved so frequently that Tom went to 15 schools in 12 years, and "was frequently bullied;" Robin Williams cocaine addiction, a form of self-violence, apparently brought on by his being famous; Evangeline Lilly, an actress in a TV show called Lost, came to terms with the "curse" of being beautiful. after she was made to feel guilty as a child and teen, made to feel like a slut, and wishing she was ugly; Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's bodyguard has essentially told any and all paparazzi that he will put them in the hospital if they try to take photos of Angelina while she is pregnant; Charlie Sheen has been served with abuse prevention order requiring him to stay at least 300 feet away from his wife, Denise Richardson, who filed a 17-page document alleging threats of violence by Sheen; David Lee Roth was fired from his spot to replace Howard Stern, and he will be replaced by shock jocks Opie and Anthony who were fired by CBS radio for broadcasting a sex act inside St. Patrick's cathedral in New York City; and Lewis Alsamari, one of the stars of the TV movie United 93 was not allowed a visa to attend the premiere because he is an Iraqi citizen who had served, under force, in the Iraqi army.

Whether it is the violence of muscle-bound bodyguards, or the violence in a child's home, or the violence of drugs or peer shame and bullying, or the violence of governmental abuses, American society seems to feed on these stories, or at the very least, publications like The Week seem to thrive on telling these stories. I am not suggesting that we ought not to be told these stories, or that magazines or newspapers should only feed us fluff.

What I am suggesting is that we need to take a close hard look at how much violence plays a role in our daily lives, in our common stories, and in our culture. We can't begin to do anything about it, until we recognize its prevalence and oppressive influence.

No, that's not a typo.

I have recently been taken to task by a reader for the use of certain language in my writing that expresses more anger than reason, and which provides more smoke than light. I hope that fairly characterizes the criticism (which, by the way, I regard as constructive, not malicious).

I mention that because not long ago, I had an unfortunate experience with my own criticism of some language I found on a website that I regard, for the most part, as an ideological ally, (hence, my little twist in the headline).

I wrote a comment on, criticizing one of their leading writers on his use of the words "media whores" to describe certain people working for CNN, the Washington Post, the NY Times and a few other leading news outlets. I suggested that we might find more defined and detailed ways to criticize each and every one of those writers than the generalized use of such a phrase as "media whores." I felt that it was insufficient to simply throw those words at them. I suggested that we actually show (notice the use of the word "we") how they have prostituted themselves to corporate interests with specific examples. I was offering what I thought was a different tactical approach. Well, that was not the right thing to do.

The opprobrium that descended upon me was absolute (with one small exception). I was basically scolded, told that I had alot of gall "attacking" one of the founders of the site, that who was I (an ignorant outlander, I presume) to be so bold as to criticize anything offered by the President and a Moderator of It was really pretty amazing stuff from people I thought were allies. I responded to one person who acted as if I didn't have a clue as to what I was talking about, and who lectured me, with specifics (no less), about bad journalists and media personalities and how they have prostituted their profession. I lauded this fellow for saying exactly what I had proposed. I told him that was exactly what I had suggested and complimented him on his examples. But then I received more piling on, and I responded again about being less strident and about the use of generalizations. Can you guess what happened?

I was banned from

No, seriously, stop laughing or choking. I was banned.

I simply had no idea that was a website for an exclusive elite of the Democrats, an elite which claims to oppose the close-minded, recalcitrant, and wrongheaded strategy of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), but which allows no room for disagreement on its own site. The one exception I mentioned above was one wise commentator who suggested that perhaps the leaders of should chill just a bit. He says: "We are fellow travellers. Let's quit eating our young, and marginalising our feisty old curmudgeons." I think he was referring to me, a feisty old curmudgeon?

Are these people so brittle they prefer to associate only with a group of people who worship at their feet and offer no criticism whatsoever?

Now what group of people does that remind me of? Hmmmm, let me think.

You can read the entire exchange that did make it onto the site here if you want to wade through it all. The "media whore" discussion was part of an overall discussion of the Samuel Alito process in the Senate. So, just scroll down until you see my comment entitled "Language."