Thursday, March 17, 2005
So. This whole Social Security business.
If the members of the Rapture Cult so desperately believe they'll be lifted up and taken away Real Soon Now, well, why don't we just accomodate them -- and cut them out of the Social Security system in toto? Granny Biblethump and Brother Tonguespeak aren't gonna need benefits where they're headed, and taking that money and channeling it over to us heathens and infidels who'll be Left Behind should keep the system solvent for generations to come.
They themselves ought to be leading the campaign to implement this plan. After all, didn't Jesus himself admonish them "Store up not for yourselves treasures on earth..."?
Monday, March 14, 2005
In another video, made by members of the Florida National Guard, soldiers are shown kicking a wounded prisoner in the face and making the arm of a corpse appear to wave. The DVD, which is called "Ramadi Madness," includes sections with titles such as "Those Crafty Little Bastards" and "Another Day, Another Mission, Another Scumbag," came to light in early March after the American Civil Liberties Union obtained Army documents using the Freedom of Information Act.Support the troops. They'll need all the help they can get.
Saturday, March 12, 2005
And in the New York Times today there is a long piece about the proliferation of blatant propagandizing by the regime in power here in the US. For any student of what happened in Nazi Germany in the 1930s, it's pretty scary stuff, even in the relatively mild reporting given it by the Times.
Sunday, March 06, 2005
Jonathan Schell writes:
The shaky foundations of America's power were on display in the President's recent travels. Shortly before Bush landed in Brussels, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder of Germany quietly but firmly repudiated the President's militarized, US-centered approach to world affairs. NATO, he heretically announced, should no longer be "the primary venue" of the Atlantic relationship. Did that mean that Europe would continue to take direction from Washington through some other venue? Hardly: He was, he said, formulating German policy "in Europe, for Europe and from Europe." The superpower's penchant for military action was also rejected. The chancellor said, "Challenges lie today beyond the North Atlantic Alliance's former zone of mutual assistance. And they do not primarily require military responses."
Schröder was standing on solid ground at home. A poll in the German newspaper Die Welt revealed that "Vladimir Putin is seen as more trustworthy than George W. Bush, France as a more important partner for German foreign and security policy than the United States. Closer harmonization of German foreign policy with America is not wanted, either."
Saturday, March 05, 2005
Girl Scout Cookies have arrived!
Did I mention that's my *favorite* rite of spring? Last year I bought seven boxes of Shortbread Trefoils, and ran thru all of them before the first of April, but, alas, the Scouts I encountered today were all out. But one of them, who shall go far in this world, pointed me toward the last remaining box of Animal Treasures *FUDGE DIPPED* Shortbread.
Oh my. They didn't have that one back in my day (Brownie Troop 39/Junior Troop 318/Cadette Troop 219, Abnaki Council, 1970-76). Progress is a wonderful thing.
In all seriousness, though, I'm always very enthusasitic about supporting the Girl Scout cookie program, because I sincerely believe in what the organization stands for -- especially its formal policy on non-discrimination. While the Boy Scouts have allowed themselves to be turned into a politicized tool of the Religious Right over the last couple of decades, the Girl Scouts are very clear about not turning anyone away, regardless of beliefs or orientation. And even if I *didn't* have a thing for the cookies, any organization willing to stand up to the Faith Fascisti like that deserves all the support we can give.
-- Franklin Roosevelt, 4th March 1933
"I like doing this, by the way - I like going around the country, saying, 'Folks, we have got a problem.'"
-- George Bush, 4th March 2005
Friday, March 04, 2005
Even though she's a Republican.
We've long had a tradition here of hard-nosed, independent-minded politicians who refuse to dance to the tune of either party, and for as long as I've followed her career -- I interviewed her frequently during my days as a reporter in the 1980s and 1990s -- I've always considered her an open-minded, non-ideological centrist. Not too many of those left nowadays.
And I like her even more now that she's emerging as one of the most vocal GOP moderates opposing the plan to amBush Social Security. You might recall she all but sat on her hands refusing to applaud the Social Security Is In Crisis litany during the State of the Union address, and since then she's spoken out repeatedly against the proposal. Yesterday on NPR, the Senator flat out dismissed the idea that the system is "in crisis," and urged a slow, careful, reasonable approach to any sort of reform plan. She's also noteworthy as one of the few Republicans willing to acknowledge that the Bush plan is tanking miserably in the polls.
"Just in the mail count collectively over the last months, particularly since the President proposed personal savings accounts and the discussion that has ensued in the public domain, more than forty five hundred letters and phone calls in opposition to the plan and only about one hundred and sixteen in favor. So I think that ultimately all of these issues need to be clarified and worked through, and I think it is going to take a much longer process than any one has envisioned."
Little more "reality based thinking" to perplex our president there.
After this past election I swore I'd never vote for a Republican again -- but if Snowe keeps up her firm stand as a voice of reason, I just may have to reevaluate that position.
Thursday, March 03, 2005
- "51 percent said permitting individuals to invest part of their Social Security taxes in private accounts, the centerpiece of Mr. Bush's plan, was a bad idea, even as a majority said they agreed with Mr. Bush that the program would become insolvent near the middle of the century if nothing was done..."
- "Notwithstanding Mr. Bush's argument that citizens should be given more control over their retirement savings, almost four out of five respondents said it was the government's responsibility to assure a decent standard of living for the elderly..."
- "there has been an increase in respondents who say that efforts to restore order in Iraq are going well, even as an overwhelming number of Americans say Mr. Bush has no clear plan for getting out of Iraq..."
- "Sixty percent of respondents - including 48 percent of self-described conservatives - said they disapproved of how Mr. Bush was managing the deficit. And 90 percent of respondents described the deficit as a very or somewhat serious problem..."
When the Bush budget fails to clear the Republican-controlled Congress (and it should fail as it's not just nonsensical but strikes savage blows at many of the programs that exist to help the needy (see Republican ideology above)), you just know the Democrats will be blamed for this. Personally, I hope the Dems stand firm. I'm tired of them enabling the insanities of the neocons because they don't want to be viewed as obstructionist. Here's a tip: worry less about how something looks, and worry more about doing the right thing for the American people.
This is a case in point.
The erosion of the fourth estate is in its way even more frightening than the Bush regime itself. Mainstream media can no longer be trusted to impart the news. Instead, they parse the news through the Roviator and presto! what comes out is distortions, exagerrated slants, lies ... and anyone who accepts without question (ie, most of the US population) what they see on TV news broadcasts or read in the newspaper is now misinformed. Such restructuring of the news was a hallmark of Joseph Goebbels and it's daily gaining ever more traction here in the land of the free and home of the brave (irony, folks, that's irony).
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
I actually watched them this year, the first time in more than a decade. I'd read about them after the fact, but the show itself wasn't, imo, worth the 3-hour-plus investment of my time (especially since the folks I want to win never seem to -- indeed, they're rarely even nominated).
I think just about everybody had picked Hilary Swank to win, with Annette Bening as the possible upset choice. And by most estimates, Ms. Swank gave (another) performance of a lifetime and very much deserved to win. I haven't seen Million Dollar Baby, but I saw Boys Don't Cry so at least I know just how good Ms. Swank can be and I'm sure her performance in MDB is every bit as good. But I was just kind of hoping Kate Winslet would win, especially after re-watching Heavenly Creatures last week.
Awards like the Oscars & Golden Globes & so on aren't supposed to be cumulative, of course. But I look at the career of someone like Winslet and, darn it, it does deserve some sort of cumulative acknowledgment, both for the quality of her performances and the sheer chutzpah in some of her choices (my personal favorite "what the hell was she thinking?" Winslet moment was watching her follow up Titanic with Hideous Kinky, a quirky little movie set in the desert and about as underappreciated as the big boat movie was over-appreciated).
Heavenly Creatures is a superb film. It’s imaginatively written, something rare indeed when recounting a true story; wonderfully staged & shot; beautifully directed by Peter Jackson and featuring two of the most stunning début performances ever given from the young leads, Melanie Lynskey & Kate Winslet. It’s the story of two teenage girls in 1950s Christchurch, New Zealand, and depicts the close bond between them and how it came to be severed forever. The camera serves almost as a sly interloper, weaving, dancing, flying in & around the girls as their imaginations feed one another and they themselves seem to soar with happiness and wonder. The dream world they share is colorful, wonderful, dreadful. Peter Jackson wisely chooses to allow us entry into that world, and the viewer can understand and even envy the girls for the special thing they have. It’s a movie unlike any other, I’d say. By turns tender, sad, malevolent, witty ... the girls come of age, as it were, with something of a splash.
Being such an admirer of that movie, I’m predisposed to like Winslet in just about anything else. She’s done fine work indeed in Sense & Sensibility, Iris, Holy Smoke!, Hideous Kinky, Finding Neverland, Quills, Jude, Enigma, Hamlet. She was the best thing about Titanic. And in the ten years or so that she’s been making movies, she’s been nominated for an Oscar four times, for Sense & Sensibility, Titanic, Iris and this year for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Charlie Kaufman is a god amongst writers). She could easily have been nominated for Heavenly Creatures and Jude.
Give the kid a break and let her win one already, you know?
Back in late 1970s and on through the 1980s, it seemed like there were only about 7 decent parts for female actors (& Meryl Streep got 6 of them). Streep was doing good work, as was Michelle Pfeiffer (hampered, perhaps, by being too beautiful) and Glenn Close. But it was sad slim pickings for the ladies. But something happened in the 1990s. All of a sudden, just when it looked to be an increasingly exclusive boys’ club, meaty roles for women were once more being written. The problem became something different: having those roles be noticed by audiences and perhaps acknowledged by the movers & shakers responsible for various & sundry awards. Many of the most exceptional performances by women in the 1990s received little attention or recognition. If you want to have the ultimate movie weekend sometime, settle in & watch Juliette Binoche in Les Amants du Pont Neuf and Trois Couleurs: Bleu. Both movies feature performances that are much richer than the (perfectly adequate) performance she gave in The English Patient (for which she won her Oscar). Winslet herself gives perhaps her best performance (so far) in the overlooked Michael Winterbottom film Jude, giving us an essentially perfect manifestation of Sue Bridehead as she was meant to be played. Folks might remember Kelly Macdonald from Gosford Park or Trainspotting (her small but memorable début role), but how many folks saw Stella Does Tricks, which features an absolutely devastating performance from Macdonald? How about Mary Louise Parker & Mary Stuart Masterson in the far more mainstream Fried Green Tomatoes? The list can get pretty long fast. (And that’s just the 1990s. Mulholland Drive (2001) features two awesome but overlooked performances from Naomi Watts and Laura Harring, to name just one example.)
In a more perfect world, those performances would have gotten the praise and attention they deserve.
Here’s hoping the world gets a little more perfect soon.