Thursday, March 17, 2005

Just A Suggestion

OK, so we've got a country where millions and millions of people apparently believe that any day now they're going to be bodily whisked up into the sky to be with Jeeezuz. Among them the President and a goodly number of his gaping, slack-jawed followers, right?

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

The MTV Generation

US soldiers in Iraq have taken to making their own music videos.

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

Links of the Day

TOTH to the Sideshow: a blogger post from Lance Mannion that sums up the Republican party pretty well.

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

Excellent article here

As the subject line states.

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

Cookie Time!

Here we've been grumbling over the lack of springtime here in northern New England, and yet when I went downtown this afternoon I ran smack-dab into the midst of the surest sign yet that the season's about to change.

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.

Quotes of the Day

"let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself..."
-- 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

No Snowe Job Here

I've always liked Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine.

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

From the New York Times

A new poll has been released showing that not only has Bush's campaign to destroy Social Security not gained momentum, but more people than ever are against the idea. Good job W.

Some highlights:
  • "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..."
In case the Bush regime is too clueless to figure out what this means, the American people would prefer to wait until a fiscally responsible government is in place to repair Social Security.

  • "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..."
It's interesting to note that the Republican ideology that the Bush regime is trying to slip past a largely uninterested nation is exactly about obviating governmental responsibility. This has been something that's given the Republicans wet dreams for 70 years: roll back the clock, put that pesky Democrat Franklin Roosevelt and his wacky, wasteful schemes in their place, and make the people once more accountable for the entirety of their standard of living. If that means increased poverty for the aged and infirm, Republicans are unconcerned. "Not our problem, folks."
  • "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..."
Those unaware of history are doomed to repeat it, as the saying goes. Just because there was an "election" in Iraq does not mean democracy is on the march. South Vietnam held an "election" in 1967 and much good it did them. The recent election in Iraq is every bit as meaningless, but it has been seized upon and churned through the Rovinator to make it sound like, this time, the mission really is accomplished. It's not. And it's depressing to realize that the American public can't see that, but not surprising given the palabum they're forcefed by the media. We've passed the 1500 mark in the US military death count (a death count that is skewed wildly against the truth as it is), thousands upon thousands of Iraqis have been killed. More people die every day. Iraq is no more a democratic nation than the United States is.

  • "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.


Don't read anything special into the juxtaposing of these stories:

Shining some light

The Nation has a fascinating article by Brooke Allen called "Our Godless Constitution" that should be printed out and distributed to every member of the supine White House press corps (yes, supine, even without "Gannon").

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

Child Poverty in Developed Nations

The UN Children's Fund has released a report summing up quality of life for children in developed nations. Denmark, Finland, Norway & Sweden top the list. And the USA and Mexico are at the bottom of the list. (Just some more of that compassionate conservatism shining on through, I guess.)

Kitty Blog

Keesa the cat
Can't you see I'm trying to rest here?

In Praise of Kate Winslet

Another Oscars show came & went Sunday night, and Kate Winslet, at age 29, is now 0 for 4.

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.