Sunday, February 29, 2004

Carlton is pondering the legacy of Dubyah. Here are the two cents of a lapsed historian.

I suspect that Dubyah will be remembered in a wide variety of ways depending upon which historian is doing the remembering.

In the US, if things stay more or less the way they are, the coming generations of historians will pay little attention to the sort of things which currently exercise us. If Iraq/Afghanistan turn out to be Vietnam-like quagmires, he may be pilloried, but like as not he will be cast as the victim of good intentions gone awry (look at LBJ). The 9/11 attacks will loom large, however, and Dubyah’s posturing with regard to them will as well. Bear in mind that these were the first foreign attacks on the US proper (Hawaii being a territory in 1941) since the War of 1812. Of course, very few now remember that war (which the US started). On the other hand, the corruption of the administration will likely not be recalled since there has been, thus far, no great political outcry. Teapot Dome and Watergate and other, similar scandals were precisely that: scandals.

Assuming future historians in the US are more critical than most of their masters, they will likely note that Dubyah was par for the course. As criminal as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have been, they are not unusual presidential adventures. Similarly, the “culture wars” have been raging since at least the Nixon administration and Dubyah (unless he is the last of the warriors) will be a blip. The anti-civil-rights amendment may be worth a footnote unless it turns out that Dubyah loses the election primarily because of this issue.

What it will boil down to is this: historians in the US are divided. There are some (Howard Zinn springs to mind) who argue (in all the detail you would care to read) that the US government tends to be on the wrong side of the fight for human progress. There are others (Arthur Schlessinger, Jr springs to mind) who argue (in all the detail you would care to read) that the US government tends to be on the right side of the fight for human progress. There are blips of goodness for the Zinns (full voting rights for all adults, however belatedly implemented) and blips of badness for the Schlessingers (the Taft-Hartley amendment), but that’s more or less the way it breaks down. The Zinns are FAR outnumbered by the Schlessingers among historians in the US.

Outside the US, the Zinns have long been ascendent. The average student of US history in most countries other than the US tends to see much more bad than good in the story. In the US, folks tend to learn “how we got to be so darned good”, whereas in much of the rest of the world the story is more “how they got to be so darned dominant”. This is why serious Americans can genuinely wonder “why they hate us” and serious people everywhere else can easily and quickly answer.

Look at the various treatments of the British Empire for an example of how this is the norm. Hell, look at the Roman Empire! Who remembers Comodus (other than viewers of “Gladiator”)? He may be a perfect example, in fact: a savage idiot in charge of a great empire. Who cares what the Huns or the Jews or the Gauls thought about the glory that was Rome? Think of the aqueducts!

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Thomas C. Mountain's "A White Jesus During Black History Month?" goes in the "but of course" file, but it did remind me of something I haven't seen addressed regarding Mel Gibson's "Jeebusheart".

Mel has made a big deal about being true to the Bible, going as far as filming the movie in two dead languages. He's full of shit. Why didn't he film it in Israelistine? Why didn't he use actors who look at least a little bit like the folks who were involved? He could have gotten Christian actors from Lebanon, Israel, Syria, Palestine and Jordan to play the locals, and actors from the same area (and perhaps Greece and Cyprus) to play the Roman soldiers. Pilate could have been an Italian.

Oh well. Typical Hollywood! (heh)

Friday, February 27, 2004

Massachusetts Supreme Court Orders All Citizens To Gay Marry

Carlton? Who did you draw?

I was slowly warming up (very slowly: in the way that cow farts warm the atmosphere) to the idea of voting for John fucking Kerry. I've just been reminded by the link (pointed to by Sara) that that was chickenshit ABBA thinking. The man is a shitbag from a long way back, as I've said before, and it is hardly clear that he's significantly less of a shitbag than Dubyah.

Therefore I return to the Kerryhate.

I'm still liking Dennis Kucinich and Ralph's argument (linked a few posts back) has given me more spine. This is going to be a long, hard slog.

In other news: in the middle of my second class today I got a sudden, shooting pain in the back of my head which quickly moved to the front. I was clearly in pain, arousing the concern of my darling students. After they finished their presentations, I let them go (I never let them out early) because I was having trouble concentrating. One of my students asked if I was ok and I asked her to tell her fellow students in the next class what was up. She said "But I'm in your class." I said "I know, please explain." She said "No. I'm in your class NOW! I was sitting right here!" I said, "Oh. Sorry. No, I'm not ok."

Is this what migraines feel like? It has turned into general weakness and mild stomach upsetness. And it sucks.

It was probably JfuckingK what did it to me.

Here's the proposed amendment. Look if you dare.

[found in a thread on the Road to Surfdom]

Rosie O'Donnell may not be as funny as she used to be, but she's pretty darned cool.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

President Dubyah, while declaring his support for the anti-civil rights amendment, offered the assembled reporters this sample of his wedding to TV’s Laura:

“Mawidge...mawidge is what bwings us togewer today...
Mawidge, the bwessed awwangement, that dweam wiffim a dweam...
Ven wuv, twoo wuv, wiw fowwow you fowever...
so tweasuwe your vruv.. .

Have you the wing?”

[edited version of The Princess Bride by William Goldman - 1987 Shooting Draft]

I shouldn't have done it, but I just read Ralph Nader: Why I'm Running for President. Sigh. Give it a read and see if you don't find it persuasive.

I'm still not comfortable with this.

The only thing that really bugged me is his use of the royal "we". I assume he means his candidacy is made up of more than just him, but it sure does sound weird.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Not too shabby!

You're The Guns of August!

by Barbara Tuchman

Though you're interested in war, what you really want to know is what
causes war. You're out to expose imperialism, militarism, and nationalism for what they
really are. Nevertheless, you're always living in the past and have a hard time dealing
with what's going on today. You're also far more focused on Europe than anywhere else in
the world. A fitting motto for you might be "Guns do kill, but so can

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Found via Franklin's Findings

By the way.

Given the recent kerfluffle over who did what during the Vietnam War, I thought I'd post a thought.

I would urge folks to use the word "hero" sparingly and would urge them to consider exactly what they mean. I will list a few political war heroes as examples and then say what is usually pointed to as their heroism.

Max Cleland, John Kerry, John McCain, Bob Kerrey, George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole

MC, JK, BK, and BD are usually considered heroes because they suffered grave wounds.
GHWB and JM survived plane crashes and JM was held prisoner for several years and tortured.

Now, I have no idea how I would react in combat. I know that I don't want to find out and I'm against others finding out. Still, I'm fairly sure that I am capable of 1) being wounded 2) crashing an airplane 3) being held prisoner and 4) being tortured.

I don't think there is any way to standardize the definition of a hero, but I suspect that the things I just listed aren't what people have in mind when they use the word. The fellows mentioned above may well be heroes (indeed, I have read of things that several of them did which qualify them as heroes in some ways for me), but surely not for what I just mentioned.

My point? Ann Coulter apparently made hay of the fact that Cleland lost his three limbs in a bizzare accident, rather than in a Sgt. Rock charge, and is therefore not really a hero. I don't see how it deflects her shit to reply that simply being injured is all it takes. It would be better to simply point out that that's not why you consider the man a hero (assuming you do). And then heroically turn her over to the nice people from the insane asylum.

Another, related point. I know this plays well with lots of folks, but I do hope Kerry's supporters avoid making too big a deal about his time in Vietnam. It certainly doesn't get me fired up, since every time I hear about it I think of all the folks he "heroically" helped to kill in the course of a war he called a "mistake".

(Don't try to say your sorry. Don't say he drew his gun. . . )

Ok. I did it a few posts ago but I’m going to do it again in a different, and hopefully better, way. I hope this will prove cathartic. That’s why I’m writing it, anyway.

Ralph Nader (or anyone to the left of the Democratic party, including people like Dennis Kucinich) should run for president outside the party IF
-- the goal is to build another party and
-- the goal is to pull the Democrats away from their “me too” addiction and
-- the goal is to address issues which need to be, but aren’t being addressed and
-- the goal is to call attention to the structure of the political system and
-- there appears to be some chance that any or all of the above goals can be accomplished in any way and couldn’t be otherwise.

In the 2000 election, all of those goals were part of the Nader candidacy and all seemed reasonable. The Greens DID get a higher profile (and not just in a bad way), many Dems WERE pulled away from me-tooism (witness the Dean, Sharpton, and Kucinich campaigns as well as the recent rhetoric from Clark, Kerry, and Edwards as well as the late stages of Gore’s 2000 campaign and pretty much all of his public pronouncements since). The Nader campaign DID raise the profile of several key issues, including the environment, citizen apathy, “special interest” corruption, media bias, the “two Americas”, and the rigged nature of the presidential campaign.

Had Nader not run, some people who voted for him may have held their noses and voted for Gore. I wouldn’t have, but some would have. That may have allowed Gore to win outright (Need I mention that he did win the popular vote? Nader was the only candidate who addressed the vile anachronism that is the Electoral College). Of course, had Nader not run, Gore may not have gone “populist”, and therefore may not have pulled as many votes as he did (Need I mention Gore’s excuse for a debate, in which he agreed with Dubyah on almost all points? Need I go into the continuity between Bush 1, Clinton, and Bush 2? Need I address Gore’s voting record as a Senator?).

Nader (and his supporters, including this droid) DID underestimate Dubyah’s potential as a force for badness. Dubyah has certainly been worse than I expected him to be (I figured him to be more or less like his father) and this has pointed a blazing arrow at the few measurable differences that do exist between the Dems and Repubs. The one that concerns me most at the moment (and concerned me in 2000, but not enough) is Federal judgeships. The high profile things Dubyah has done, however (such as the Patriot Act and the two wars) are not fair things to pin on the 2000 election, since the mainstream Democrats have by and large supported them. Gore may have done some of these things a bit differently, but it is largely a question of tactics rather than strategy.

Which brings me to why Nader, at least, should NOT be running for president this time:
-- He will not be doing anything to build a viable alternative party, and may even set the cause back a few years.
-- In part because he doesn’t appear to represent much of a movement, he will be virtually ignored by the media (except insofar as he can be portrayed as a spoiler) and by the Democratic nominee (probably Kerry).
-- This means that any issues that he might try to bring up will go nowhere and his strongest card (the rigging of the system against alternative parties) can’t be played.
-- His candidacy this time may actually strengthen the DNC types, who will likely argue that any drift to the left will only encourage Nader voters.
-- His candidacy will pretty much destroy his well-earned reputation as a clear-eyed critic of the system, as it appears he is running a vanity campaign. This is a loss to the country and the world.
-- Not only is there no chance that he’ll win (given the system) and his lack of a party, there is really nothing tangible he can hope to achieve except piss some people off and draw a few voters (probably very few) away from Kerry (or whoever) and Dubyah. He MAY manage to persuade a few people who might not otherwise vote at all to do so, and this MAY have an impact in other races, but that’s about it.

Considering all of the above, one thing jumps out at me: Nader could have (and should have) thrown early and vigorous support to Dennis Kucinich, who has long said the same basic things as Nader AND had an outside chance at making a difference in the campaign. Had Kucinich gotten a bit more attention, he might have done better in the primaries, and that might well have shaken things up in precisely the way Nader claims he wants to. But we will never know.

I find this all very troubling. I cannot imagine what he must be thinking. I can’t figure out why anyone would support his running under these circumstances.

And this wasn’t as cathartic as I had hoped it would be. In fact it just puts me in more of a funk.

Monday, February 23, 2004

I'm going to have my students do a project on Haiti, which has been Throttled by history, but have yet to think of the form the project will take. Any suggestions will be taken under advisement.

Note, by the way, that the article points out that the US invaded Haiti in 1915 and didn't leave until 1934. We were spreading democracy, right? Thought so. Who is funding the current rebels, by the way? Couldn't possibly be us, could it? Of course not!

Why do they hate us?

Sara (who has no website), has declared jihad. Won't you help?

Her targets include Nader (see below) and the unrelated group "Feminists for Life" (who, despite the name, aren't like "bad boyz fa life" and aren't called that because of their lifetime alegiance to feminism).

Scott coaxed me into making links work on the left hand side of the blog. So now links are there. Look at them. LOOK!

I may be making things a little more standard soon. Cuz that's what it's all about. That and the hokey pokey.

Sunday, February 22, 2004


Ralph Nader is running after all. I hate this like I hate a puppy factory.

But: I DON'T disagree with him (much) about the differences between the RepubliCrats and DemUblicans and I DON'T disagree with him when he says he'll bring up issues that would otherwise remain un up brung (to borrow from Mayor Quimby of the Simpsons: Now is the time to face up to the un-face-up-toable).

Here's my biggest problem in a nutshell (and yes, the word "nut" may be operative here): He COULD run with a party nomination, like he did with the poor ole Greenies last time, and thereby raise the profile of said party and THEREBY make measurable inroads into the undeniable (but un-faced-up-to) dance of death that is "bipartisanship". If he were to run as a Green again (assuming the Greens would have him), I would be sorely tempted to vote for him (again). But he's not. So I won't be.

The secondary problem is more popularly and easily faced-up-to (and rather persuasive): Dubyah is a really awful human being/man/president and 4 more years of him would be really un-face-up-toable. Pretty much any DemUblican (or even RepubliCrat) would be better than Dubyah and there is a slim chance that Nader's now utterly useless (except for the odd "bring up" of an issue) candidacy would pull votes away from the DemUblican nominee and tip the scales further towards Dubyah. The chance is slim, but still there. That would suck.

There are two POSSIBLE positives to a Nader candidacy, even without the party building of yore. One is that the Dem (JfuckingK, like as not), will have to keep his left flank protected. The Dems should do this anyway, as it is pretty darned clear that "the people" broadly share many of Nader's takes on major issues, but the party tends not to when the rubber hits the road, perhaps because the folks with the money tend to strongly disagree with said takes. The other, related positive aspect may be that folks who agree with Nader but refuse to support a non-Dem candidate for Pres will actively and loudly demand that JfK or whoever will be much better than simply a smarter Dubyah.

In my dream world, JfK (or whoever) will reach out to Nader (and Kucinich, who is like Nader, except less visible) by openly incorporating some of their main issues into the platform. You know, things like a real commitment to human rights, worker rights, fair trade, the environment, world peace, blah blah blah.

I am convinced (by the voices in my head) that a loud, proud, clear, forceful, and honestly progressive candidate (with the bully pulpit that is the Dem nomination) could become the next president. Can JfK be that guy? He could be, but I suspect he won't try. If he did, Nader would be right AND Dubyah would be out of office (indeed, Dubyah would likely have never "won" to begin with) AND JfK would be our next president AND Nader could retire to a quiet life of being undeniably correct on most things.

And everybody would live happily ever after.

You say the hill's too steep to cliiiiimb....

Guess what I did this weekend!

And as I r[o]se above the tree line and the clouds, I looked down . . .

and smoked a few cigs to spite the false lung gods!

Friday, February 20, 2004

Sara and I talked in the long long ago (in the before time) about this angle on gay marriage:

Maybe there could be a legal structure through which people who are legally permitted to marry but have no intention of doing so (like me) could sign over their right to marry, forever and ever amen, to people who lacked that right (like Sara). That way there would be no draining of the seemingly finite pool of potential married people.

Anyway, Sara's got dibs on my rights. Give away your's today, before everyone is doing it!

Thursday, February 19, 2004


This is a far smarter take on the marriage thing.

I still wonder if, in the long run, it isn't better to demand and secure real equal rights (in the legal sense) first. If that be under the name "civil unions", so be it. The state can call it civil unions, and you can call it marriage. Or you can call it a merger. I'm prepared to refer to your relationship in whatever way you prefer, in fact.

Birgit and I have the relationship that dare not be given a name. The Mexican government has weighed in with "union libre". I call her my girlfriend. She calls me her cook. Our toaster is a homewrecker.

. . . and to get back to Kerry bashing, I suggest you read Kerry's Version of PNAC.

I haven't had much to say on the gay marriage thing. That's partly because I'm not gay (not that there's anything wrong with that) and partly because I don't much understand why anyone would care about marriage (except for some spousal rights stuff) and partly because I don't see why the state has a role in this at all and partly because I don't see why married people are favored by the state.

However. If people want to get married, fine by me. The issue actually DOES interest me because the denial of the rights of some people to be married is a gross and flagrant bit of unfairness (laced, this time, with homophobia, self-righteousness, religious nonsense, and narrow mindedness).

PLUS anything that pisses off homophobes is allright by me.

The best argument against gay marriage, as Betty's alter ego pointed out just now, is the slippery slope. "Who will *they* want to marry next?" That, my friends, is priceless. Next *they* will be dating your daughters, you know. All of them want too. Just look at them! Just the other day, a dude on the bus gave me a look that just screamed "You wait, buddy! Soon I'm going to tie you up and you and me are going to reenact the Wedding at Caana with RuPaul playing Jeebus." I was scared, but oddly intrigued. That's how they get you.

As with most things, Pee-wee Herman knew the 411 back when the rest of us were stuck on 4.

I don't love fruit salad, by the way. Caesar salad, however, had better lock its doors and windows.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

I forgot to mention the hubub over A-Rod going to the Yankees. I think the money is nuts, but the hubub is maybe even nutsier. Consider that the big bat has rarely been as important to winning as you might think. If it were, the Cubs would be in high cotton. A-Rod, Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr (not so long ago), Sammy Sosa, and so on are impressive and fun to watch, and probably intimidating for pitchers, but power is not what wins, usually. It is certainly not what has built the Yankees over the past 10 years or so, and neither has it been key to other dominant teams like the Braves. It seems to me that A-Rod's fielding skill, moreover, is going to be wasted at 3rd, and that the Yanks are going to miss the hell out of Alfonso Soriano.

Yes, A-Rod is the complete package, and his batting average and general skill as a hitter will be important. Yes, from time to time he will slap a key homer. Yes, I would be thrilled to see him wear a Cubs uniform (although the Cubs already have a pretty damned good shortstop). But basically I don't think this will make up for the loss of Petit and Clemmons.

Now the Astros . . . they scare me.

So the world awaits the new Mel Gibson flick on the crucifiction of Jeebus. Rumor has it that the film may be more than a tad anti-semitic.

Pre-viewing thoughts:

1) Of course it will be, if it is based on the traditional Christian story.
2) The big surprise will be how he manages to work in there something about a certain perfidious race which dwelleth upon a part of an isle. This will be difficult to pull off, since during the alleged life of Jeebus, there weren't yet any such folks as the English, but Mel is a can-do kind of guy.
3) How will Jeebus rally his troops? Will he say something about how the bad guy (the Debill? Ooh! Satan will be English!) is trying to take away or otherwise monkey around with someone's freedom? This will be hard, since the Debill is all about freedom. Maybe Jeebus will say we "will never let him give us our FREEDOM!"
4) Will Jeebus surprise everyone by revealing that he is not, in fact, the Count of Monte Cristo?

I, for one, can't wait. Weweese Woderwick!

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

I was just chatting with Chris and metioned that it is sort of shitty that when you Google our old high school all you come up with is college football recruiting reports and a story about a stabbing incident. I want to do my part to help, so if you were looking for information about

JESS LANIER HIGH SCHOOL (the mighty PURPLE TIGERS) in BESSEMER, ALABAMA, and especially if you want to know about the CLASS OF 1990, feel free to ask me.

Chris can help you with the CLASS OF 1989 (I helped myself, ahthankyou).

Monday, February 16, 2004

A few posts down, Carlton and I have been discussing the relative merits of mainstream Democrats in general (and Kerry in particular) and the mainstream Repugs in general (and Bush in particular). Sort of.

Carlton took a justified poke at me for seeming to equate Bush and Kerry. My immediate reaction was to deny it, but then I thought a little harder. I sortof mean it.

Here are what I see as the significant differences between Kerry and Bush.

* Kerry seems to be far more intelligent than Bush.
* Kerry seems to be less interested in shoving his personal religious beliefs on the rest of us.
* Kerry seems to be more inclined than is Bush to allow people to continue do any number of things with their own bodies without fear of prosecution (except, tellingly, any sort of fun drug).
* Kerry seems to be more interested than is Bush in maintaining good and 2-way relationships with other countries (more Frances and less Britains in Kerry's world, in other words).
* Kerry seems less likely to be hard on the Lorax (he's no Green, but neither is he James Watt).
* Kerry is more likely than is Bush to nominate somewhat reasonable folks for Federal Court positions.

Those are the things that jump out at me. If I'm missing a big difference, please do point it out.

Given this, and the things already posted, can any of my reader honestly say that the differences between Bush and Kerry (mainstream Repug and mainstream Dem) are, on balance, profound? Istn't the biggest difference really style?

Put another way, what actions (not rhetoric) have made the last 3 years so different from the 8 years of Clinton? And how many of those actions has Kerry supported?

My tears may be spoiling my aim on this one, and I sincerely would love to be set straight(er).

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Native Americans seek apologies over Outkast Grammy performance: "Never have I seen a public apology for Native Americans ever"

I would only add the following: 1) he's right (except that he means *to*); 2) there is very little that goes on at the Grammy's that doesn't suck; 3) when you are an Outkast, tossed aside by conventional society, you are free from standard rules of polite behavior (isn't that the only bonus to Outkast status?).

Happy Shelley Day! On this date, in 1981, Dr. Shelley NameRelatedProgramActivity was produced in a secret laboratory under an extinct volcano near Seattle. As predicted, she has become a goddess.

In other news, Scott just asked me if there is "in the end, a difference between manual labor and intellectual labor? (I've been reading Ruskin again)". Hmmmmmmmm.

As a lad I mowed Granny's grass for pocket change. I worked for a time as a print shop assistant and delivery/fetchit boy for my bourgeois father's empire. I sold shoes at the original Just for Feet superstore for a couple of months. I cleaned up around and delivered for a local drug store for a couple of months. I sorted pallets according to their degree of damage for a few weeks. I delivered and gathered balloons and party supplies for a couple of months. I fetched, packed, and shipped hardware store stock for a couple of months. I dressed as an alligator and solicited passersby for a month. I loaded trucks full of Coca Cola products for a couple of months. I hauled away the furniture, trash, and personal belongings of people who had disappeared from public housing during two summers. I assisted college history professors for two years. I oversaw the stock and did various and sundry work in a small grocery store for two years. I taught college history courses for 3.5 years. I participated in the cutting and shipping of sheet steel for three months. I've taught high school lit, social science and history for just over 1.5 years.

In the end, the difference is this: I made far more money doing manual labor and found it oddly rewarding on a thinky level. I was also (painfully) aware of my exploitation, which is something that usually escapes the mind of the intellectual. I was also physically stronger than I am now, and often holding something dangerous.

Because you need to know, and want to know, I shall reveal all relevant information in my possession with regard to the controversy over Dubyah's Air National Guard Career.

Lady and Gentleman, I, the droid for whom you are not looking, was in Montgomery, Alabama in 1972 and 1973. I was there several times during that period, what with Montgomery being just down the road from Bessemer and my uncle J.L. and his then-wife and their lovely daughters living there.

I do not recall seeing Dubyah.

Mind you, a fellow like Dubyah could do worse than go to Montgomery if he wanted to lay low. As any Alabamian knows (and numerous outside agitators can back us up), the town was and is chock a block with idiots of all stripes. And as for Dubyah working for Red Blount: 49% of the people in the city worked for Red at the time, with the other 50% working for George Wallace and the remaining 1% peddling Zelda Fitzgerald and Hank Williams souveniers. Dubyah could have sat naked on Goat Hill with a bottle of Dom in one hand and a bag of Colombian powder in the other and would have been troubled only by a few rednecks looking for the Jeff Davis memorial star.

I was a baby at the time, of course, but still.

I heard, while blogging "Sunday Bloody Sunday" by U2 and "Il ne Fait pas Briser un Reve" by Eva Busch (kin?).

Friday, February 13, 2004

Here’s Johnny! (based on his actions as Senator, not on his rhetoric)

JfK on Iraq War 2 - fer it (when it counted)
JfK on Afghanistan - fer it (when it counted)
JfK on the Patriot Act - fer it (when it counted)
JfK on Dubyah’s tax cuts - fer ‘em (when it counted)
JfK on Clinton’s Welfare Reform - fer it
JfK on Clinton’s Crime Bill and related legislation - fer it
JfK on the death penalty - fer it
JfK on NAFTA - fer it
JfK on World Bank/IMF - just fine with ‘em
JfK on our health care system - no problems
JfK on the Gulf War - fer it, after thinking
JfK on Panama invasion - fer it
JfK on Grenada invasion - fer it
JfK on NATO expansion - fer it
JfK on defense spending - pile it on

This is just a taste.

It may be that I’ll end up voting for the guy, but it will not be because he is even close to me politically.

Carlton has rematerialized. Since he's a Kerry fan (as is Betty, who comments from time to time) I thought I'd be contrary.

Kerry, I will admit, would almost certainly be a better president than Dubyah (as would most people) but anyone who votes for him really should make certain that they do it with their eyes open.

Kerry thinks the Iraq war was a bad idea. Now. This is the same Kerry who is against the special interests. Now (except for his donors, of course). He's for the common man as well. Heheh (if elected, he would be the wealthiest president in US history). In fact, there is a long list of reasons why Kerry is a perfect example of all that is wrong with the Democratic Party, and numerous commentators have already gone through the list. Look around.

We know that Dubyah is our enemy, but Kerry's political positions over the years hardly suggest that he's his in any deep sense. JfK is basically a richer, less religious, more gay-friendly, more intelligent, less consistent Dubyah.

I, for one, really want someone better. But as my sainted granny might say, you can want in one hand and shit in the other and see which weighs more.

Now if JfK could shut that fucking dog up, I'd vote for him as many times as he wanted me to.

I see that a US Soldier faces al-Qaida spying charges. Apparently he was caught trying to contact al-Qaida in an internet chatroom.


If this is true, then he probably needs to be given a discharge for being a total idiot. I mean, come ON!

al-qaida in the house?
no gvt spyz, pls
wanna chat?


An unlucky few of you have been forced, at one time or another (or at one time AND another) to hear me rant about my utter loathing of dogs. Sometimes, when passion gets the best of me, I say something about how I would rather enjoy killing a dog or two. I usually shouldn't be taken seriously, since I'm not a violent person and have never taken advantage of the many opportunities I've had, over the years, to actually make good on my rhetoric.


As I live and breathe there is a dog in my neighborhood somewhere (and he'd better hope I don't find him when I'm armed and in the wrong part of my head) who is begging for early release from his mortal coil. How to describe his bark? Imagine a kid with a Casio VL Tone (old school) who samples one bark of a dog and loops it. Imagine that kid hooking the Casio up to Yngwie Malmsteen's sound system.

I really hope that someone does me the favor of either muzzling him or making him into an ex-perro, ahorritititita.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004


The U.S. just got the absolute shit beaten out of it by Mexico in the under-23 pre-olympic tourney. I wanted to go, but was unable to. Now I'm glad I didn't.

The worst part is that my students are going to be all over me about it tomorrow (I fear). I wonder if I should call in sick.

The score? 4-0. It could easily have been worse than that. The U.S. played badly on defense and were almost never on offense (works like that, though, often). I can't recall any good chances to score except off kicks.

In fairness to the visitors, however, the lopsided game is also very much a reflection of how good this Mexican team is. I saw no big weakness. They beat Jamaica by the same score just the other day, in fact.

Oh well. Pitchers and catchers will be reporting any day now.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Since I just made a point of praising one of my favorite online news/commentary sources, I'll note a favorite blog: the road to surfdom. In this case, I particularly like the limerick.

Crud. I like(d) lots of things about Al Sharpton and had more than the usual amount of optimism about how he could use his bit of the political stage for the betterment of us all, but then came The Black Commentator's "The Problem with Al Sharpton". Good article, bad news.

And if I haven't said it before, I'll say it now: The Black Commentator is a truly excellent site. Go there.

I saw a tarantula in the wild this weekend, by the way. How cool am I?

Thursday, February 05, 2004

BBC NEWS | News Front Page: "Researchers who coaxed lab mice to produce monkey sperm say their work could benefit humans."

And just yesterday I was grumbling about how we were almost out of monkey sperm!

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

I give this editorial a strong "yup": SO MUCH FOR WORKING WITHIN THE SYSTEM (except that I'm Dean was attacked more for what he acted like than what he is, I think)

"One of the lessons that Greens, apathetics, disgruntled Democrats and others were supposed to be learning this season was the inherent value of working within the system. This virtue is so apparent, one was told, that it requires nothing more than logic. No benefits, no inducements, no reform, not even simple empathy was required on the part of those who now control the Democratic Party. It was enough to declare ex cathedra that if one disliked Bush, the only choice was whatever the Democratic Party wanted to offer.

Well, now the results are in. Not Ralph Nader, not Greens, not Jesse Jackson, but a multi-term, capable, moderate Democratic governor decided to work within the system. And what happened? He was ridiculed, dissed, lied about, and subjected to malicious spin by party insiders, the Washington establishment, and the obese media until eventually the voters believed them and swung to the approved safe, lightweight underachiever, John Kerry." THERE IS MORE. FOLLOW THE LINK.

A word to you political types from one who is looking up the national skirt:

Dean supporters need perspective. Dean gained fame as a one trick pony (anti war) and so far has not had a chance to reap whatever whirlwind may be coming his way, as the states that have voted are hardly chock full of anti-war types.

Kerry supporters need perspective. Kerry has deep and wide flaws and they will be discussed. The chickens have yet to hatch, and there is still much at stake. Mind the left flank (from Dean) as well as the right (from Clark).

Kucinich and Sharpton supporters (me, in other words): don't lose hope! I still doubt these guys can win, but they can at the very least get some press and perhaps pull the party left.

The good news is that Joe Loverman is done for. That takes away some of the rightward gravity.

And finally, for all the talk of Janet's right tit, what of the one on her left? He was wearing a t-shirt and stuff. I think he was in my history class a few years ago. He failed because he plagiarised.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Dear Reader,

Below please find the second of what should be three critiques of the Peter Jackson “Lord of the Rings” film trilogy. If you would care to see the first of the three, look further below.

“The Two Towers” reaches right into our chests and plucks on that old “Gandalf is falling to his death” heartstring, but this time with more vigor than before. It crossed my mind that during that moment where Gandalf hangs there on the broken bridge and says “Fly, you fools!”, he was imminently rescuable. Why did no one rescue him? Why didn’t he wizard himself back up to safety? It looked to me like he let go, and that is only reinforced in this sequence, where he converts into “Lucy Liu/James Bond” Gandalf and rockets down to the Balrog (the fire giant) for more rumbling. Physics mean little in Middle Earth, by the way.

The second film is less good than the first because it has to be. The first tried to tell one main story (and almost pulled it off without a hitch), but the second one has to tell three main stories. It does a pretty good job with the easiest one, a less good job with the hardest, and blows it on the middle one.

The easiest story is the one about Frodo and Sam. They are alone now, trekking through some mountains towards Mordor. They are lost, however, until they learn that Gollum has been following them (he is, of course, the slimy former ring bearer and easily the best developed and most interesting character in the trilogy. He is also a brilliant technological achievement). Gollum becomes the pair’s only-partly-willing guide, and that’s how things go for their story for most of the rest of the film. We’ll get back to it.

The middle story could have been a real joy, but sucks. It is the story of Merry and Pippen, who were kidnapped by orcs at the end of part one. They escape from their captors after a group of men attack and kill the baddies (not noticing the hobbits, somehow) and wander into a Forbidden Forest. Merry hints that the trees in this forest are “alive” (duh!). It can only get better, right? It does, slightly, with the introduction of Treebeard, who is the leader of a race of, well, trees. Shepherds of trees, in fact (because, the movie invites us to assume, the trees of Middle Earth are given to wandering off and getting attacked by wolves and other such stuff). Treebeard and the other shepherds, by the way, are Ents and are also magnificent bits of fx. Treebeard is a kindly soul, as one might expect from a tree shepherd. As it happens, he is a bit too kindly, considering that the evil wizard Saruman has been chopping down his charges for some time now (not much of a shepherd, it seems). Merry somehow knows this, however, and tricks Treebeard into seeing the carnage (or would that be woodage? Pulpage? Arbolage?) for himself, whereupon the Ents up and decide to go whip Saruman (very hasty, hroom hoom!). They do whip him, too. And that is pretty much that. One gets the sense that there is more to these Ents than meets the eye, but they come off as a sort of deus ex machina (or deus ex tree). Saruman, like the Wraiths from part one, seems to be a pushover (if Gandalf were alive he’d probably feel pretty silly about that whole captivity thing!).

AH! GANDALF LIVES! Legolas, Gimli, and Aragorn find this out after they trace the orc trail across the plains of a place called Rohan and into the forest. Along the way they meet the “Riders of Rohan”, who are known for their love of horses. The three heroes charm these utter and complete and total strangers into giving up two of their beloved horses, however, and then promptly lose the horses when they enter the forest (after a ride of around a mile). WHAT EVER! By the way, during this first bit of the movie Gimli is revealed to be the comic relief. He zips off one one-liner after another for the rest of the trilogy. Cuz dwarves are funny.

Gandalf is resplendent in his new white outfit and trimmed hair and beard, and reveals that he did, in fact, die. He has been sent back (By someone. Perhaps God? Is there a god in Middle Earth? Are the wizards gods? Why does Saruman seem to suck so bad, then? And how come Gandalf needed a moth and an eagle to escape before when all he really had to do was fall to his “death” and get sent back?). Anyway, Gandalf whistles and up rides Silver (aka Shadowfax). Then, as if by magic, the other two horses appear under their riders and everyone gallops off for the capital of Rohan. Merry and Pippen, who were so important before that the heroes ditched Frodo and Sam for them, are left in the warm embrace of the Treeherds. Um. Ok.

This is, as I hinted above, the most complicated part of the movie. It turns out that the king of Rohan is a doddering old dude under the spell of an evil person. How do we know he is evil? Well, for one thing, the actor is Brad Douriff. For another, he’s the only person with black hair in the whole of Rohan (which is like Sweden, but with less ABBA and more horses). Revealed as a black-haired villain in the service of Saruman, Brad chews the scenery on his way out of the plot. And scene! The king of Rohan (Theoden) becomes fit and swordwieldy again, and promptly abandons his capital city for an impenetrable mountain hideout (sort of like Dick Cheney). Why not just have the capital in the hideout? It certainly seems sturdy. Nah, better to wait until it is almost too late. For some reason this troubles Gandalf, so he rides like the wind on some secret mission. Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli join the survivalists in the meantime.

It seems that Helm’s Deep (the redoubt) is just exactly where the evil (and not yet treeherded) Saruman knew to look for the Rohaners, because Brad Douriff told on them. What if he hadn’t told? Would Saruman have attacked the capital city instead? If so, all might well have been lost. Or not. Would it matter? We are not told. Anyway, Saruman takes a page out of Clausewitz’s immortal “How to Snatch Utter Defeat from the Jaws of Certain Victory” (better known, perhaps, in the original German as “Oskarpreisversuch”) and throws his main force in waves against the walls of the fortress. The defenses are manned and, thanks to the unforeseen arrival of Haldir of Lorien (the magic elf forest where Queen Galadriel lives), elved by a motley but stouthearted army, so most of the orcs get slaughtered, but some of them break through the walls and manage to die in spectacularly exciting ways (which must have been part of his evil plan).

By the way 1) Haldir brings greetings from Elrond. Did he come there by way of Rivendell or something? I thought he lived in the forest of Lorien. Silly me. 2) How did the elves know that the Rohanians would be there? I guess Brad Douriff wasn’t the only one spying.

Anyway, the orcs are winning by virtue of their fanatical devotion to advancing in the face of all odds when Gimli blows a horn. Gimli, of course, was a Rohanite in a past life and therefore fully qualified to rally the troops. The heroes ride out to certain (glorious) doom when, soft! What light o’er yon hillock breaks? It is the east, and Gandalf (and the Polish army: see the last Turkish siege of Vienna) is the sun! They ride down an impossibly steep hill (it is so steep it has a horizon!) and cause victory for the good guys.

Meanwhile, Frodo and Sam and Gollum have some quite good scenes together and give us a hint that there’s more to movie making than hewing and hacking and shooting. Dialogue? Finally! They meet some OTHER men, by accident, one of whom turns out to be Boromir’s kid brother Faramir. He shares his brother’s ring fetish and very nearly fucks up the whole thing for everyone (and almost causes cancellation of the third film) but (surprise?) opts against filching the Precious. The Wraiths are back, however, and have deployed their most fearsome weapon: dragons! Dragons can’t be swept away in rivers, so the Wraiths are now free to scream and scream (which seems to be the thing that makes them so dangerous, and to be honest, I don’t like screaming, so I guess they are sort of scary). I wonder how a good thunderstorm would affect the flying Wraiths?

Anyway, Gollum reveals a good and bad side, and for a time it seems that the good side is ascendant. But then he gets his loincloth in a twist about Frodo betraying him (I got mine in a twist about Frodo not explaining to Gollum what the deal was) and the bad side comes out again. His evil plan is to lead the Hobbits into a trap, it seems. And off he leads.

We are left hanging. What are Merry and Pippen up to? Why should we care? Is Saruman really so weak as to be beaten up by a bunch of trees? Does the victory at Helm’s Deep matter at all? Will Frodo and Sam fall for Gollum’s trap? What will become of Faramir? That much I liked (the cliffhanger stuff). Here’s what chapped my ass a bit:

“The Two Towers” doesn’t stand on its own AT ALL. It starts with no real start to anything and ends with no real end to anything. It is three hours of sound and fury, signifying nothing. I mean, at the end of part one we had 1) Frodo and Sam on the road, 2) Merry and Pippen off with strangers 3) Gandalf dead 4) Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli off doing nothing of great importance. At the end of part two we have THE SAME SHIT, except Gandalf is alive again. As pretty as this was at times, I think this movie has little reason to exist.

Before I get back to the LOTR movies (and paper grading), I thought I would take note of the following Counterpunch articles. In the first, Don't Give in to Fear, Michael Donnelly reminds those of us who supported Nader in 2000 that the lesser of two evils is still evil. In other words, the rich Yale grads from Vermont and Massachusets are only marginally better than the rich Yale grad from Texas/Maine, and the margins are killing us.

I agree with the article, but I'm still pissed about Ralph distancing himself from the Greens and hope he doesn't run independent. Strategery, dontcha know.

In the other article Lee Ballinger notes something that I did not know about the Stupor Bowl halftime show (and lets be honest: most people could note something I didn't know about that, since I know only that it was a show of some sort, at halftime, at the Stupor Bowl, and that a titty was involved). Basically, Janet Jackson had a message going on, and it was a message that is more important (and at least as attractive) as her partially covered breast. It is also a message that most people are unlikely to have heard.

I heard, just now "the Unforgettable Fire" by U2 and "You Should be Dancin'" by the BeeGees.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Ok. I need to maintain a list, I think.

The things I miss most about living in the states include 1) getting to hear Dubyah say stupid shit, 2) all of that freedom, and 3)things like this.