July 31, 2006

Ten Discoveries that Will Annoy Those Around You

This one is bound to get me in trouble, so let me say that I am guilty of some of the infractions below. Every one of us goes through self-discoveries in our life. These discoveries, however, often affect those around us. Here are the ten discoveries that are most likely to annoy those around you:

1. Wine -- this usually happens to men at around age 30-35. They buy books, take classes, and then no dinner is ever the same again. It will be impossible just to drink wine in front of them, without being asked to swirl it in your glass, stick your nose in it and comment. However, this discovery is accompanied by fringe benefits, as the wine discoverer will purchase and dispense the liquid as freely as a roadie handing out condoms at a Motley Crue concert.

2. Religion -- bringing this up in front of others always has awful consequences, no matter what the denomination. 'Nuff said.

3. Music -- this usually begins with "I just discovered the greatest ____ band. Their name is ____ and they are from _____. You have to check them out." Then one of two things happens. Either the person names a popular group like The Killers that you already know and like, or they pull out the Karabanash Brothers, two goat herders from Uzbekistan who combine traditional Uzbek folk melodies over a hip-hop beat (don't look them up, I just made it up), and who are obscure for good reason. This is all you will hear in your friend's home or car for at least three months.

4. Politics -- other than on a blog, where readers can avert their eyes, this one is guaranteed to start heated arguments, ruin relationships, and clear rooms.

5. Money -- the person may not have much money, but they suddenly discover its importance. They will begin wearing and dropping brand names, and will confess their embarrassment that they had to stay at the Tropicana rather than the Bellaggio on their last trip to Las Vegas, because they were in a wedding and the entire wedding party was put up at the Trop. You long for the days when, instead of talking about money, your friend regaled you with tales of sexual exploits.

6. Sexual Exploits -- this is historically thought of as a male topic of conversation, but that is clearly no longer the case. It can be rough on the married listener, whose imagination will run wild if fed even the most minor detail. It can also be awkward if the person who has made the discovery is married, and the object of the exploits is not his or her spouse.

7. Ethnicity -- your friend Linda says she has just discovered that she was named after her great Aunt Lukaya from the Ukraine. She starts making you borscht for breakfast, wears traditional Ukranian peasant garb to yoga class, and wants to drag you to Kiev instead of the Caribbean for Christmas, so that she can find her roots.

8. Health -- a reformed fattie is as bad as a reformed smoker. You are very happy that your friend has lost thirty pounds on the new "no food" diet, but you don't need to be told how bad Diet Coke is while you're guzzling one.

9. Inner Chatterbox -- this can be heard while eavesdropping at cafes. Two friends are sharing a tiny table, sitting across from each other. One of them is the pair's chatterbox, loudly dominating the conversation with every thought that pops into her head, madly seguing in mid-sentence to the next random snippet. This person needs an editor, big time.

10. Blogging -- this one needs no explanation. Annoying? We're downright insufferable.

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Merry XMas

Many of us in DC know that DC radio stations suck. What is especially jarring about DC radio is that this is a huge college town. College towns are supposed to have great radio stations. That was certainly true when I lived in Atlanta and Boston.

So last year I decided to get either satellite radio or an iPod for my car. After some investigation, I quickly learned that there are two types of people -- satellite radio people and iPod people. The iPod people are comprised mostly of control freaks and Germans, between which there is much overlap. I'm part Austrian, so I can say this. The iPod people want to program the soundtrack to every minute of their lives, and are prepared to spend hours in front of the computer doing so. A generation ago, the iPod people would have had little lime green plastic file boxes containing recipes that they wrote on index cards. Maybe they still do. The iPod people do not like surprises.

I am one of the satellite radio people. We do not measure ingredients in recipes or coffee in our coffee makers. We are the Forrest Gumps of music -- we enjoy being surprised and just want a high-quality box of musical choc-o-lates. The best surprise occurred when my friend "Juan" (featured in my previous post "Super Chicken and the Immigration Battle") purchased the Delphi XM Roady 2 satellite radio receiver for me and other friends and relatives last fall as an early Christmas present. I have been enjoying my subscription to DC-based XM Satellite Radio at thirteen bucks a month ever since. The inexpensive Roady has 30 station presets for those of us who are part Austrian and thus like to enforce at least some level of control over things. Juan, on the other hand, surfs through the 150-plus channels in ascending order, in an impressive surrender of control.

XM's channel lineup contains just about anything one could desire. (I am not familiar with rival provider Sirius, but I'm sure it offers a similar array of programming.) XM names its channels, and some of my favorites are Lucy ("classic alternative hits"), Fred ("deep classic alternative") and Ethel ("90s and today's alternative"). We're talking a lot of 80s and 90s here, and the surprises are many. Aside from staples such as the Psychedelic Furs, Depeche Mode and The Verve, the music ranges into the rarer "Possum Kingdom" by the Toadies, and the truly obscure but supremely gratifying "Got You Where I Want You" by The Flys. The best new song I have heard in recent months on Ethel has got to be "Knights of Cydonia" by Muse.

When I really want to crank up the volume, I head to the Boneyard on channel 41. It's XM's heavy metal repository. If I'm lucky, I'll hear "Master of Puppets" by Metallica, or the classic "Stranglehold" by Ted Nugent. On less fortunate days I might get the "W" bands (you know, Whitesnake, White Lion, Warrant, Winger). When traffic is bad and I don't want to become any more aggravated, I migrate to the appropriately named Chill (channel 84) for some ultra lounge. When it's time to feed the mind a bit, there's Air America featuring the hilarious Al Franken and the didactic Randi Rhodes (note to political bloggers and to self: being funny is entertaining and effective; being didactic is often excruciating). For those on the right, there is a conservative talk channel as well.

I have also left out channels featuring jazz, blues, sports, news, Christian, gospel, classical, and just about everything else. Satellite radio is a welcome, surprise-filled alternative to the wasteland of commercial DC radio, and should satisfy everyone. Except the control freaks.

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July 30, 2006

Ann Coulter is the New Phyllis Diller

Ann Coulter is our generation's Phyllis Diller. Consider the following:

1. Both Ann Coulter and Phyllis Diller are skinny.

2. Both Ann Coulter and Phyllis Diller have fake blonde hair.

3. Both Ann Coulter and Phyllis Diller repeatedly get invited on television talk shows, not because they have anything substantive to say, but because of their outrageously quippy way of saying it.

4. Phyllis Diller had a husband named Fang.
Ann Coulter has fangs, at least of the literary variety.

5. Both Ann Coulter and Phyllis Diller have become parodies of themselves.

6. Ann Coulter is to serious political debate as Phyllis Diller is to ... serious political debate.

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The Media, Politics and Policy No Longer Meet

Note that I have changed the description of this blog. "Where the media, politics and policy meet" was too limiting to follow as a daily directive. More importantly, two of the three items, politics and policy, are just no fun to delve into every single day, unless you're John Stewart, Steven Colbert or Al Franken. One anonymous commenter suggested that I focus on the Israel-Hezbollah battle instead of the Tour de France. See what I mean? Now you tell me, which one is more fun?

The new description is "Encouraging critical thinking, one person at a time." This meets one very important criterion -- like the blog's title, Media Concepts, it means nothing. It is an empty vessel. That way, the blog is about anything the blogger wants it to be about at the moment. Besides, what blog reader doesn't want to be thought of as a critical thinker, and an individual?

I'm feeling free already.

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July 29, 2006

Thanks Metroblogging Washington DC

Two thanks to the folks at Metroblogging Washington DC. First, they ran a feature about this blog yesterday afternoon, focusing on Bumper Sticker Mania.

I do find it funny that, with all my text-heavy posts into which I poured much thought and effort, the ones that seem to get the most attention are the bumper sticker spottings, where I'm no more than a lookout and stenographer. But don't get me wrong, I much appreciate the attention and the opportunity to spread whatever messages I can.

The second thanks to the Metrobloggers is for welcoming me to their 2nd Birthday Party BBQ down at Fletcher's Boat House along the C&O Canal near Georgetown. It was a blast, including a pinata that really went down swinging. The Metrobloggers in DC (part of a worldwide network) are a really fun and creative bunch. I'd be happy to blog alongside them anytime. Happy Birthday!

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July 28, 2006

Friday's DC Bumper Sticker

"Quit Riding Your Mouse. Ride Your Horse Instead."

Ok, this one takes a second to think about. Fortunately, as I was contemplating it, the owner of the (parked) car came over and we had a nice conversation about it. She was on the way to go horseback riding with her daughter, and said that some people spend too much time riding their mice. I guess that includes many of us.

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July 27, 2006

Site Meter, How I Love Thee

At the outset, I'll admit that I'm no computer expert. So when it comes to Site Meter, it's no surprise that I have no idea how the thing works technically. But I do know that I love you, Site Meter, your Rubik's Cube-looking logo and all.

Site Meter shows not only who has viewed your blog, but how they got to your blog, even re-creating their Google, Yahoo! or other searches. The first time I clicked on "Recent Visitors by Referrals" on my Site Meter page, and then clicked one of the listings and saw the exact Google search someone had typed in to find me, was a revelation. Ok, so their search was for "Iraqi sheep" (no joking) and my blog must have come up by some weird accident. The word "sheep" isn't even in my blog, honest. Ok, now it is. Twice. Dammit. But it was a revelation nevertheless. So you can imagine how good it felt when, on Site Meter, I first found someone's search for which my blog was actually on point. I was helping them! I was educating them! Such reward! Such responsibility!

For example, it was so satisfying that a quick promo I dashed off for the Western Interiors Design + Home Show (coming to San Francisco this September 8-10) while fighting for couch space with a lovable but long-limbed golden retriever in Santa Monica was the first hit that came up on some lucky person's HotBot search for "western home show san francisco september 2006." I still get that warm fuzzy feeling whenever my blog shows up first on someone's search.

More recently, I discovered that not only can I view who got to my blog and how, but the blog or page from which they got to my blog, and how they got to that previous blog or page. See, ordinarily I do not click back through Site Meter when I see that someone reached my blog from another blog, especially one on Blogger. Unlike search engine searchers, I figure those Blogspot.com folks are just surfing with their "next blog" button and have found me by accident. I have little desire to read their blogs, which are usually either in Spanish or wholly contain baby pictures. But tonight, I clicked the link on Site Meter from someone who landed here via The Home Improvement Ninja, a buddy whose blog is linked with mine. According to Site Meter, many people get to my blog via the Ninja, and hopefully vice versa. I clicked this link simply as a shortcut to view the Ninja's blog. But rather than taking me to his blog, it took me to the Ninja's own Site Meter page!

Is this spying? Is this legal? Should I call the NSA? Did I go through a black hole? All of a sudden, I'm seeing who has been reading the Ninja's blog, and how they arrived there. What is the point of having to sign in on Site Meter with a user name and password if people can view your page in this manner? But it gets even better. Just for fun, I clicked on the top listing on the Ninja's Site Meter page. It was the Google search used by the last person to get to the Ninja's blog. The search read: "How to Make a Ninja smoke balls."

This got me to thinking: Why would a Ninja smoke balls? And further, why should a Ninja be made to smoke balls? I wondered whether the Home Improvement Ninja's blog revealed any insights about forcing Ninjas to smoke balls, or whether it was no more helpful than was my blog for the person searching for Iraqi sheep.

This led me to think about happy accidents, and how each of us on this earth is connected to each other by a fragile, invisible silver thread that some call the soul, but, on the blogosphere, we are connected by more. So much more. On the blogosphere, sometimes the thread reveals itself, in the form of Iraqi sheep and Ninja balls.

Or maybe I'm just easily amused.

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New Alfa Romeo Coming to U.S. Shores

The car magazines are reporting that Alfa Romeo will be exporting its stunning new Brera coupe and convertible (the "Spider") to the U.S. Ok, I know this doesn't have much to do with the media or politics -- car magazine journalism? U.S.-Italy relations? world trade? -- but damn, anyone who has seen the movie The Graduate knows that there's nothing like a red Alfa Romeo to stir one's senses, and at an affordable price to boot!

I have a special affinity for Alfa Romeos, since I learned how to drive on a red 1976 Alfetta GT. It was beautiful looking, had a sensuous exhaust growl, drove like it was wired into my brain, and, like many Alfas, did not resemble anything else on the road. Unfortunately, its reliability, especially the wiring and electronic system, was such that it earned the moniker Spaghetti Car. Due to these reliability problems, Alfa was unable to compete with the super-dependable Japanese cars such as the Miata. In the late 80s and early 90s, Alfa tried again with its boxy 164 sedan, but did not fare any better, and, by the mid-90s, Alfa Romeo abandoned the U.S. market.

Hopefully this time, Alfa will have improved its cars' reliability, and its Brera will drive as well and last as long as its dynamic good looks.

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Tour de France Winner Landis in Drug Controversy

It ain't over until it's over, and sometimes not even then. News organizations are reporting today that American Floyd Landis, winner of the 2006 Tour de France bike race, had an unusually high amount of testosterone in his body according to a drug test taken several stages before his victory last Sunday, after he made a historic comeback in stage 17. The International Cycling Union (with initials UCI, seemingly backward, but remember, it's Swiss) quaintly refers to this as "blood doping." If the second part of the Landis test confirms the earlier reading, Landis could be stripped of his championship.

A number of top cyclists, including contenders Jan Ulrich and Ivan Basso, were kicked out of the Tour de France before it started this year, in a huge blood doping scandal. The UCI has what amounts to a zero tolerance policy toward illegal drug use. Now, it may be simply that Landis has a lot of balls, or that this is part of a French anti-American conspiracy that has unfairly targeted Lance Armstrong in the past. But if the tests are accurate and fair, with adequate opportunity for those found in violation to explain themselves, there should be zero tolerance regarding illegal performance-enhancing drug use in all sports. (I say "performance-enhancing" because if Olympic snowboarders such as Ross Rebagliati, who was stripped of Olympic gold in Nagano in 1998 for marijuana use, want to do a few hits off the skull bong before their run, so that they think they're doing a 720 while still on the surface, and are preoccupied with having a Fluffernutter instead of sticking their landing, I'm sure their competitors won't mind one whit). Such a zero tolerance policy would be refreshing, say, in Major League Baseball, where in 1998 Michelen men Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa both clobbered Roger Maris' single season home run record with enhanced forearms that would make Popeye blush, and now Barry Bonds is headed toward a home run record that, if it were in the cycling world, would be tossed out on its steroid-pumped ass.

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July 26, 2006

Grizzly Man

Werner Herzog's 2005 documentary film entitled "Grizzly Man" has been making the rounds on dvd and the Discovery Channel, and it's a stunner.

"Grizzly Man" is about Timothy Treadwell (an ultimately ironic stage name for Timothy Dexter), a Long Island boy born in 1957 who wins a diving scholarship to Bradley University, upon which he gets involved with drugs and loses his scholarship. At age 19, he moves to Los Angeles to become an actor. He never succeeds. Supposedly, he was in the running for the bartender part on "Cheers," but the part is eventually given to Woody Harrelson. Treadwell never recovers from this setback, and begins a downward spiral of drugs and alcohol.

However, around 1990, in a move reminiscent of Henry David Thoreau, Treadwell finds sobriety and spirituality by spending the first of 13 summers in Alaska's Katmai National Park and Preserve, living alone with grizzly bears and filming his experiences. His stated goal was to highlight the plight of the bears and to protect them from humans. As Treadwell sheds his own humanity and tries in a sense to become a bear, the childlike fortysomething with blonde Prince Valiant surfer locks and his childhood teddy bear for a pillow names, talks to and even pets these creatures, getting closer to the bears on a regular basis than any human has ever done.

All the while, Treadwell is the star of every scene he shoots. Setting his camera on a tripod, he stands right before the bears and their heavenly setting, shooting multiple takes and constantly fixing his hair. On camera, his youthful appearance and personality are magnetic. With his high-pitched voice, supersensitive, almost feminine nature, black fatigue-style clothes and camouflage bandana, he could be Andy Dick's nuttier older brother. Having no weapons, Treadwell repeatedly acknowledges that he could be killed and eaten by the bears, but says he is prepared to do so if that is what it takes to protect them. He says that, if he is killed, he wants no harm to come to the bears.

Ironically, Treadwell eventually achieves some of the fame that eluded him in Hollywood. He gives free presentations to schoolchildren each year back in Malibu. He makes the tv talk show circuit, appearing on David Letterman and Rosie O'Donnell. He co-authors a book, and establishes the non-profit group Grizzly People to help protect the endangered bears. He comes across as a rock star, which apparently has been his dream all along.

Despite the amount of time Treadwell spends in the wild, his naivete toward the violence in the natural world is astonishing. He grieves and doesn't understand why bears sometimes kill their cubs and why wolves kill a young fox, when the answer is as simple as the food chain and scarcity. This naivete ultimately becomes Treadwell's undoing. Obviously, the bears do not realize Treadwell's conservation efforts on their behalf. In October 2003, after most of his bear pals have fattened up and headed to the hills to hibernate, one hungry newcomer eventually kills and eats Treadwell, along with his girlfriend Amie Huguenard, who had spent the last three summers with him. Treadwell's ever-present video camera was rolling during the attack, but thankfully the lens cap was in place, so the attack is not captured on video. The audio portion was working, however, and some of Treadwell's friends and family have heard it. They say it will not be released to the public, as it is way too upsetting. However, the cruel ironic thread of their deaths runs through the entire film.

After Treadwell's death, his friends and family turn his footage over to German director Werner Herzog to assemble a documentary. Herzog is a perfect choice, having directed "Aguirre: The Wrath of God" and "Fitzcarraldo," two films about obsessed adventurers in the jungles of the pre-civilized American continent. Herzog skillfully crafts and sensitively narrates a thought-provoking documentary. "Grizzly Man" is full of interesting characters, whom Herzog interviews with deliberate, Nordic precision. There is friend and former girlfriend Jewel Palovak, who now runs Grizzly People and who carries on Treadwell's legacy. In one riveting scene, she plays the audio of the bear attack on Treadwell and Huguenard for Herzog through headphones connected to a video camera. We see only part of Herzog's face, shot over his right shoulder. Facing Palovak, he shuts his eyes, grabs his forehead and the bridge of his nose, and appears to shake. Palovak is looking at him the whole time, and starts sobbing. Herzog takes off the headphones and tells her to turn off the tape, he cannot listen any more. Palovak says she has never listened to it. Herzog says she must never do so and that she must destroy the tape.

The creepiest character, fittingly, is the medical examiner who examined the remains of Treadwell and Huguenard found in the bear that, against Treadwell's wishes, was killed and cut open by Fish and Game authorities. The medical examiner morbidly re-creates the final moments of Treadwell and Huguenard based on their remains and the audio tape, complete with Huguenard's loyal attempts to stay and fight, futilely bashing the bear with a skillet as it attacks Treadwell, rather than running for her own safety as he begs her to do. It is a chilling scene, worse than any horror movie because it is true.

After viewing this film, one is left to contemplate not only the plight of the grizzly bear and the nature of wild animals, but also human nature and the entire human condition. One thinks about not only the pros and cons of technological progress and its encroachment into the natural world, but also Treadwell himself, possibly a madman, who suffered many setbacks in the human world and who naively believed that, by living among the grizzly bears, he could save them and that, in turn, the bears could save him.

Dare to see "Grizzly Man" and you will find it entertaining, fascinating, disturbing, and mind-expanding.

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July 25, 2006

The Media's Double Standard in Lebanon

Despite the urgings of one anonymous commenter to this blog, I have not been following the Israel-Hezbollah conflict much, mostly because it seems to be one of those depressingly unavoidable things which occurs every so often. However, in perusing the media coverage of the conflict, I find something very troubling. The coverage seems to focus on civilian casualties inflicted by Israel in Lebanon. I find this focus highly suspect, for a number of reasons.

First, civilian casualties are an inevitable by-product of any military conflict. However, with few exceptions, such as Germany's bombing of London and the U.S. firebombing of Dresden and Tokyo in World War II, followed by the U.S. nuclear bombing of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, intelligent countries in the modern age typically do not deliberately target civilians. The reason is the very reason we see today -- to do so would result in the ultimate bad press, which would turn world opinion against them. Israel has a track record of taking extra steps, such as house-to-house searches, putting its soldiers in greater peril, in order to avoid civilian casualties. Hezbollah and other terrorists have capitalized on this by hiding themselves and their weapons among civilians in order to put Israel between the scylla and charybdis of either not going after them, or going after them and unintentionally inflicting civilian casualties in the process. Israel has also dropped billions of leaflets telling civilians to get out of the way because Israeli soliders are coming after the Hezbollah. Of course, there are individual cases where countries have failed to meet this standard. However, the media in the Israel-Hezbollah conflict seem to be falsely implying that Israel is either deliberately targeting civilians in Lebanon or recklessly disregarding their safety. Here's just one example: a BBC article from July 15 dubiously titled "Israel Kills Lebanese Civilians."

In contrast to the way countries such as Israel conduct themselves, Hezbollah, Hamas and other terrorist groups deliberately launch terrorist attacks against civilians, to gain media attention and achieve longer-term political goals. In particular, Hezbollah has for years launched thousands of rocket attacks targeting civilians in Israel. These rocket attacks emanate from southern Lebanon. To equate terrorists' deliberate targeting of civilians with unintended civilian casualties caused by the country defending itself against the terrorists is immoral.

International law recognizes that nations have the right to defend themselves with military force if attacked or faced with an imminent attack. Under these standards, Israel has the right to go into southern Lebanon and attack the Hezbollah who have been attacking Israel. That is what Israel is doing. That is what the U.S. would do if terrorists in Mexico or Canada or Cuba regularly fired rockets at U.S. civilans. That is what President John F. Kennedy did when he ordered the U.S. Navy to blockade Cuba and nearly went to nuclear war against the Soviet Union in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis after detecting Russian missiles that had been placed in Cuba and not even fired at the U.S.

President Bush said one thing that was correct after 9/11. He said that nations that harbor terrorists should be held responsible, just as the terrorists themselves. Unfortunately, other than invading Afghanistan to go after the Taliban and Al Quaeda for a short while after 9/11, Bush has not enforced this doctrine. If he did, the U.S. might have invaded Iran and Syria, two countries that are known to host and support terrorists such as Hezbollah, instead of invading Iraq, which was not on the U.S. list of states supporting terrorism as of 9/11. Under this doctrine, Lebanon must be held responsible for permitting Hezbollah to occupy the southern part of the country and launch regular terrorist attacks against Israel. If Lebanon was under Syria's thumb or otherwise too weak to stop Hezbollah itself, it should have asked for international assistance to do so. Not having done so, Lebanon should not be surprised that Israel would cross the border to try and stop these Hezbollah attacks, as well as Hezbollah's kidnapping of Israeli soldiers.

Now, if the media want to cover civilian deaths and injuries in the Israel-Hezbollah conflict in order to sensationalize the news, or perhaps to publicize the humanitarian plight of civilians in wartime and turn people against wars, that's fine. But if that is the case, where have the media been in Iraq? How much video footage of dead and injured Iraqi civilians have we seen as a result of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq? According to the rather limited statistics, the number of dead Iraqi civilians as a result of the U.S. invasion is staggering, possibly exceeding 100,000. The number of wounded Iraqi civilians must be thousands more. But we rarely if ever see the bloody video footage. We also do not see the footage of dead and wounded U.S. troops for that matter. If there was any proportion to the Israel-Hezbollah conflict, we would be seeing hours of bloody Iraqi dead and wounded civilians every day, and there would be riots in U.S. streets against the Iraq War, which, in contrast to Israel's military action against Hezbollah, is not the result of an Iraqi attack on the U.S. What's going on here?

It seems to me that there are two possibilities as to why the media are applying a double standard to Israel in its war against Hezbollah. The first possibility is that the media has greater access in this war than it does in Iraq. Israel is an open society that allows the press to cover it, even when engaging in military action. There were several days of video footage of Israeli tanks and armored vehicles lined up on the road near the border of Lebanon. There was also footage of Israeli troops firing shells at Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon, including close-ups of stacks of shells standing on end, so educated viewers, including the enemy, could identify exactly what Israel was firing and how much. And finally, there is lots of footage of civilian casualties, including CNN's airing of a burned boy in a Lebanese hospital. When was the last time we saw that kind of detail in the Iraq War? The U.S. government censors media coverage in Iraq, and does not even permit the media to film or photograph flag-draped caskets of dead U.S. soldiers being off-loaded at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. The same media who seem to be relishing coverage of civilian casualties in Lebanon are completely docile in their restricted coverage of Iraq.

The other possibility why the media are applying a double standard to Israel in covering civilian war casualties is that the media, and much of the world, do not like Israel. Is it because of age-old anti-semitism? Is it because terrorists and other enemies of Israel are good at using the media to manipulate world opinion? In this regard, much of the emotion coming from this conflict is from people who are understandibly reacting to emotional and very disturbing pictures that they see on television. But there are other emotional pictures that they could see on television, such as the war and humanitarian crisis in Darfur, Sudan, if the media decided to send huge teams of reporters and camera crews there, as CNN and other networks have done with the Israel-Hezbollah conflict.

One thing this blog has consistently done is to try to get readers to step back from the surface of things they see, hear and read in the media, and to think critically about what is being served to them, how, and why. As I said at the end of an earlier post, that is where the truth can be found.

Fire away.

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July 24, 2006

Today's Bumper Sticker

Courtesy of MoveOn.org:

A red, white and blue elephant whose trunk is a gas nozzle and hose, next to the words "Grand Oil Party"

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Question of the Day: Who is Seth Thomas?

And why is his name on all the clocks? Now, before you say "huh?" take a look around at the clocks you pass by on a daily basis, at work, in stores, on tv shows, in movies, even in your home. Chances are, they will have an old-fashioned signature on the face, below the numeral 12 or above the 6, that reads "Seth Thomas." How the hell did this guy become the Bill Gates of clocks? Just wondering.

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July 23, 2006

Comeback Kid Wins Tour de France

American Floyd Landis, who lost the lead on one of the final stages of the Tour de France, only to gain it back a day later in one of the most stunning comebacks in sports history, has won the Tour.

Think of the odds he had to overcome:
1. He was raised in a Mennonite family in Pennsylvania, and was discouraged from seeking the individual rewards of bike racing.
2. His right hip is completely degenerated (the awful-sounding medical term is osteonecrosis -- yuck!) from previous injuries, and he needs a hip replacement right away.
3. He "hit the wall" on a mountain climb just three stages from the finish, losing his energy, his lead and a seemingly insurmountable eight minutes.
4. Perhaps worst of all, he was named Floyd.

For the relatively few Americans who followed the Tour de France on Outdoor Life Network, in their local newspapers or elsewhere, this was an extremely close and exciting Tour, culminating in Landis's precipitous fall from first place in Stage 16 and his astonishing climb back to the leaders' group the next day in Stage 17.

For the millions who watch baseball instead, tant pis!

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July 21, 2006

World War Which?

"We’re in the early stages of what I would describe as the third World War"
--Newt Gingrich, "Meet the Press," July 16, 2006

"This ain't no party, this ain't no disco, this ain't no fooling around.
This ain't no Mudd Club, or C. B. G. B., I ain't got time for that now."
--Talking Heads, Life During Wartime"

Newt Gingrich says the United States is involved in World War III. I don't disagree, but if we are in a World War, why aren't we acting like it?

If I am counting correctly, it's actually World War IV. World War III was the Cold War, in which the U.S. and its allies fought Russia and China and their allies, usually via proxy countries such as Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan. World War III can be traced back to about 1945, when the World War II alliance between the U.S., Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union ended and we became rivals with the Soviet Union and its client states in Eastern Europe for world domination. World War IV, which Newt says involves dictatorships such as Iran, Syria, Iraq under Saddam Hussein and North Korea acting as terrorist states and/or harboring terrorists, mostly of Islamic persuasion, to threaten Western powers such as the U.S., Western Europe and U.S.-backed Israel, is just a few years younger. Gingrich traces this war back to 1948, the year that Israel was created by the Western Powers, after which Israel's Arab neighbors immediately attacked the new nation.

So, World War III and World War IV have been going on almost simultaneously. President Bush acknowledged that the U.S. is fighting World War III in a May 6, 2006 interview on CNBC when referring to the 9/11 attack and the "counter-strike" aboard UAL Flight 93. Along with the media, Bush also uses the term "War on Terror" to describe the current state of affairs. Bush routinely says that "we're at war" and calls himself a "war President." What I would like to know, therefore, is why Bush's U.S. government does not act as though we are at war.

Here are some examples of what the U.S. does when it is at war:

1. Conserve and ration resources that are crucial to the war effort, such as fuel, metals, tires and certain types of food (World War II).

2. Institute a military draft so that we have enough troops to do the job, and to spread the sacrifice in order that it not be carried completely by those at the bottom of the economic ladder (War of 1812, Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korean War, Cold War [between Korean War and Vietnam War], Vietnam War).

3. Issue War Bonds and raise taxes rather than cutting them (Civil War, World War II), or at least keep them the same while we've bankrupted our Treasury spending $8 billion a week in Iraq.

4. Galvanize the country toward a great goal, such as the U.S. did in beating the Russians in the space race to put a man on the moon (Cold War). For example, a logical undertaking of Apollo Space Program-like proportions today would be a massive Energy program to wean the U.S. off of fossil fuels and the unstable, undemocratic dictatorships that produce them, which in turn could remove the U.S. from Middle East conflict and the current World War.

5. Focus our energies on fighting the actual enemy that attacked us (War of 1812, Revolutionary War, World War II).

6. Call for civilians to volunteer in civilian defense forces, factories and elsewhere (World War II).

7. Protect our borders and our ports.

Why is it that the U.S. is supposedly at war, even a World War, but we aren't doing any of the things that this country has always done in its efforts to win wars? Other than the brave and often poor and minority soldiers sacrificing their lives, limbs, livelihoods and families, why are the rest of us being asked to do nothing at all, except give up our civil rights and our First Amendment right to dissent, be subject to surveillance from our own government, increase our deficit, get tax cuts for driving massive SUVs and pay more to the oil companies for gasoline?

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July 20, 2006

The Tour de France Comeback Kid

One of the greatest comebacks in sports history occurred today in the Tour de France bicycle race, and few people in the U.S. probably even know about it.

The comeback occurred during stage 17 of the Tour de France, and American Floyd Landis is the racer who accomplished it. It would take too long to describe the ordeal of endurance and pain that is the Tour de France. Suffice it to say that it is like racing several world-class marathons every day for three weeks in a row, including 120-mile rides up and down the French Alps. On top of that, the tactics involved are extraordinarily complex, involving an unmatched level of sportsmanship and cooperation, due to the riders' need to take turns "drafting" and blocking the wind for each other at the front of the pack.

Landis led the Tour going into yesterday's Stage 16. Then, during one of the stage's brutal mountain climbs, Landis "bonked." That is the term for when a biker runs completely out of gas and his body shuts down. It is often accompanied by hallucinations. I have bonked in the Kaibab Desert in Arizona, at about mile 90 of a 96-mile ride, and it's a scary feeling. I remember being freezing cold in the 90-plus degree desert heat. In a race where the leaders are typically separated by seconds, Landis lost an astounding eight minutes during the final 18 kilometers of yesterday's stage. He fell to 11th place. Experts said that his Tour was over. To add more drama, this could be Landis' last tour. His right hip has been completely degenerated for at least two years, and he plans to get a hip replacement this year. No bike racer has ever been able to race in the Tour de France after a hip replacement. Imagine the grinding pain he feels during every turn of the pedals.

Today, during the third stage in a row in the Alps, Landis grabbed the lead early on a climb and kept extending it. Riding alone for a large portion of the stage, Landis made up nearly the entire eight-minute gap that he had lost yesterday. He now sits in third place, just 30 seconds off the lead. This Saturday's stage is an individual time trial, where riders are let onto the course at spaced intervals instead of all at once. Landis excels at this event. He is now the favorite to grab the leader's yellow jersey during the time trial, which is just a day before the final stage, a ride to Paris and the finish around the Arc de Triomphe.

The Outdoor Life Network will air Saturday's race at 8:30 a.m. eastern time, and will rebroadcast it at 8 p.m. If you have cable or satellite tv access, and want to see history and a legend made, tune in!

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Bumper Stickers Inside the Beltway

Here are a couple of bumper stickers spotted today in Maryland just outside of Washington, DC:

1. "Real Men Love Jesus"
(I'm including this one so I don't get accused of being too one-sided)

2. "Drive Now, Talk Later" accompanied by a picture of a crazed driver talking on a cell phone.
Now that's a valuable public service announcement to benefit all of us.

Speaking of which, hats off to DC Blogger Velvet in Dupont for griping that DC drivers and DC cops alike are ignoring DC's first-in-the-nation law against hand-held cell phone use while driving. Last year, I wrote to the DC Police, the Mayor's office and each DC City Council member about this. I think I received one response from one DC Councilmember (Jack Evans?), noting that someone on his staff had received a ticket for this. If so, that staffer was one of few. The DC cops are apparently too busy writing parking tickets to enforce this law that could save lives and prevent accidents.

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Maybe He is on Drugs After All

During the past few years, I have heard at least one friend speculate that President Bush is once again on drugs, albeit different drugs from the recreational ones in which he purportedly partook in the 1970's. I always dismissed these newer drug use claims, because the evidence cited was pretty flimsy, such as Bush's propensity toward mountain bike accidents. Hey, the guy could just be clumsy. But a couple of incidents on the world stage last week, both caught on camera, make me wonder if maybe my friend's belief in Bush's current drug use is true.

Consider the following:

1. At the recent G8 Summit lunch in St. Petersburg, Russia, Bush was seated and eating a buttered roll while British Prime Minister Tony Blair stood at Bush's shoulder. With his mouth full of food, and in front of a live microphone, Bush let fly a diatribe to Blair about the U.N., Syria and Hezbollah, complete with the phrase "stop doing this shit." Here's the video, thanks to Reuters UK: http://today.reuters.co.uk/tv/videoChannel.aspx?storyid=de5f5880401a37e1c7063acbc6cf81ce2f790ac8

2. A few days later, at the same summit, Bush groped German Chancellor Angela Merkel, walking up behind her as she was seated and giving her a neck massage, which she repelled with horror. The still photos and video can be viewed here, thanks to TaylorMarsh.com: http://www.taylormarsh.com/archives_view.php?id=24262.

The only two possibilities I can think of to explain this bizarre behavior by Bush are (1) Bush is on drugs, as my friend thinks; or (2) Bush is a boorish, sexist clod with no common sense and no sense of how embarrassing he is as the representative of the United States before the entire world.

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July 18, 2006

Bumper Stickers -- Back in DC

1. "A Trillion Dollar War - Who Needs Healthcare?"

2. "Proud Parent Unconditionally"
I guess these folks don't have a kid who's an honor student.

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July 14, 2006

Western Interiors Design + Home Show San Francisco September 8-10

Part of what I'm doing in California this week is helping to promote the Western Interiors Design + Home Show, which takes place in San Francisco on September 8-10, 2006. The show is being put together by Western Interiors and Design Magazine, the country's leading magazine focusing on western-based architecture, interiors and design, especially of the modern variety. Among the highlights of the San Francisco show will be a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the iconic Eames Lounge Chair. If you are in the Bay Area on September 8-10, check it out!

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July 13, 2006

Today's Bumper Sticker: Santa Monica, CA

"A Government That Invites People to Think is a Government that is Inviting Revolution"

I guess this bumper sticker refers to some other country's government, or maybe the U.S. government in years past.

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Hollywood Hustle

"Weeks turn into years, how quck they pass. And all the stars that never were are parking cars and pumping gas."
-- Burt Bacharach, "Do You Know the Way to San Jose"

"You know where you are? You're in the jungle baby...you're gonna DIEEE"
-- Guns 'N Roses, "Welcome to the Jungle"

I have just been on the receiving end of the Hollywood Hustle, and it doesn't feel pretty.

L.A. has a reputation as a town full of hustlers trying to break into show biz, as actors, writers, singers, dancers, and every other imaginable occupation. There are waiters who recite restaurant specials in Shakespearean character. There are gas station attendants with screenplays in their pockets. And as I found out, there are coffee bar baristas with dreams of hitting it big. In my case, it was a woman whom I'll call "Sonya."

Sonya is fortysomething, thin and reasonably attractive, with dark features and a European accent. The first time I met her at her place of business in a beach community near Los Angeles, she was very personable, friendly and helpful, and even gave us a free snack. A day later, when I showed up again, she remembered me and hit me up. After initial pleasantries and order taking, she asked me if I "have any rich friends" in the area. In truth, the answer is yes, but I had to ask her why. She said that she was an actress and wants to get back into acting, and is looking for some influential contacts. She was very persistent, asking me for my phone number and the numbers of my local friends. She said that some of her male customers offer to help her, but they just want to "take her out." She says that business comes first. I guess that means that she goes out with her customers, if they first put out with professional leads. Then she offered me what she must have considered her deal clincher -- a free bag of chocolate-covered expresso beans. When I politely declined for health reasons, she seemed surprised and reminded me that they were "on her."

As I turned to leave, she said she was expecting my lead-laden phone call by the next day. While I admire the persistence and inventiveness that characterizes America and capitalism, it was sad to discover that the stereotypes in the songs are true, and that one cannot even order a cup of coffee in L.A. without being hit with the Hollywood Hustle.

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July 09, 2006

T-Shirt of the Day

Like bumper stickers, t-shirts are a true mass medium. Here's the first t-shirt sighting:

A picture of a Hummer vehicle, above the word "BUMMER" written in the Hummer logo type.

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July 07, 2006

Phone Call Between George W. Bush and Abe Lincoln

"Abe? Is that you?"
"Yes, Mr. President."
"Please, Abe. Call me George."
"All right."
"Abe, it's great to hear from you. Ahm proud to be a member of the Party of Lincoln."
"Yes, well, Mr. ... George, that is what I wanted to talk to you about."
"What is it, Abe?"
"Sir, I am worried about the future of our party."
"But Abe, we're makin' pro-gress."
"Progress as to what, Mr. President?"
"We-ull, ahm tryin' to privatize stuff, like Social security. The military. And, I give tax cuts to folks. Of course, only rich folks get any real tax cut."
"Does the country have enough in its treasury to give tax cuts?"
"'Course not. But we just run a def-uh-cit."
"Are you taking care of the land, sir? Are you preserving our natural beauty and conserving our precious resources?"
"'Course I am. I think about our beautiful land every time we drill a new hole in it for oil."
"Sir, do you know what the Presidency is about?"
"Sure, it's about makin' pro-gress on things. Doin' the hard work."
"Sir, the Presidency is about greatness."
"Greatness. The President must strive to make the United States of America a beacon of hope to the rest of the world, a shining city on a hill. Then the people of the world will want to look up to us, and follow our example. That is why I freed the slaves."
"Oh, that. We-ull, we're doin' great things. We're spreadin' democracy throughout the world. I'm fightin' a great war, against terror."
"Sir, one cannot fight a war against terror. Terror is not an enemy, it is a tactic that the enemy uses."
"Abe, the terrorists hate freedom. I'm a war President, just lahk you were."
"How are you spreading democracy, sir?"
"Well, first we invade a country, then we give the people their freedom, and let them rule themselves."
"So, you invade, and then you leave?"
"Not exactly. We invade and then we stay. And then we build permanent military bases."
"And how is that strategy working, sir? How is the United States viewed in the world today, which, after all, determines whether new terrorists are being recruited to attack us?"
"We're makin' pro-gress."
"Mr. President, are you familiar with my Gettysburg address?"
"Well, ah don't know the street number, but ah know it's somewhere in Gettysburg."
"Sir, the Gettysburg address is a speech I gave during the Civil War. I closed the speech by stating, 'the great task remaining before us' was 'that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from this earth.'"
"That's exactly what we're doin', Abe."
"How free are the people in the United States, Mr. President?"
"We-ull, we're stoppin' the gays from marryin'. And we're makin' it harder for the blacks and Hispanics to vote. We're turnin' New Orleans into a white Republican city by makin' it difficult for the poor black folks to move back after Hurricane Katrina. We spy on everyone's phone calls and bank accounts. We jail newspaper reporters. Other than that, the people are pretty free."
"Mr. President, what happens when you capture enemies in this war of yours? How do you treat them?"
"We-ull, we use, uh, harsh interrogation methods."
"Sir, great leaders and great countries do not torture their enemies, or allow others to do so. Never. Under any circumstances. It cedes the moral high ground, and it puts our own soldiers at greater risk."
"'Course, it ain't really torture. Abuse, yeah, but not torture. We call it 'freedom tickling.'"
"Mr. President, when I was President, the Republican Party stood for freedom and human rights for all people, and unity for our country. What does the party stand for now?"
"That's easy, Abe. Guns, God and Gays. The first two, we're for. We don't keep records when folks buy guns. They can buy them at gun shows with no background check. And we're puttin' God where He belongs, in the classroom, instead of science, you know, that fake evolushun stuff. The last one, we're agin'."
"You do know that I was shot, with a gun."
"It must have been a A-rab terrorist that done it."
"*Sigh*. Mr. President, I am afraid that if I were President today, I would be a Democrat."
"But, but, Abe, we're makin' great pro-gress."

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July 06, 2006

All Hat and No Cattle

The media reported this week that North Korea has test fired seven missiles, including a long-range Taepodong-2 missile that could reach the United States. North Korea reportedly has at least three more missiles ready to launch. The media have also reported during the past several months and years that North Korea has nuclear weapons.

This is what George W. Bush said about North Korea in his January 29, 2002 State of the Union address, his first since the 9/11 attacks two months earlier:

"Our second goal is to prevent regimes that sponsor terror from threatening America or our friends and allies with weapons of mass destruction. Some of these regimes have been pretty quiet since September the 11th. But we know their true nature. North Korea is a regime arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction, while starving its citizens.
States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger. They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred. They could attack our allies or attempt to blackmail the United States. In any of these cases, the price of indifference would be catastrophic.

We will work closely with our coalition to deny terrorists and their state sponsors the materials, technology, and expertise to make and deliver weapons of mass destruction. We will develop and deploy effective missile defenses to protect America and our allies from sudden attack. And all nations should know: America will do what is necessary to ensure our nation's security.

We'll be deliberate, yet time is not on our side. I will not wait on events, while dangers gather. I will not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons. "

This is what George Bush has done about North Korea in the more than four years since he made this speech: Nothing. He refused even to engage in direct talks with North Korea. And the results sit on the launch pad in North Korea.

There are only two ways to deal with an international threat: diplomacy, and military action. Strong leaders use diplomacy to the outmost, and engage in military action as a last resort, if and when diplomacy fails. In North Korea's case, there are numerous diplomatic opportunities, including carrots such as food aid and including North Korea in the global economic marketplace, and sticks such as economic sanctions and global isolation. When the threatening country has nuclear weapons, the risks of jumping to military action on the one hand, or doing nothing on the other hand, without engaging in sustained diplomacy, are grave.

This is one reason why critics of Bush's Iraq War are so critical. It isn't just that they oppose the war for moral or strategic reasons. It's that the war is not being fought in a vacuum. America's military, diplomatic and intelligence resources are not unlimited. All such resources -- troops, equipment, diplomats, analysts, translators, and the great minds who plan and plot to address dangers -- that are devoted to Iraq are resources that cannot be devoted elsewhere, such as hunting for Osama Bin Laden or addressing the nuclear threats demonstrated by North Korea and Iran over the past four years.

To fight an effective "war on terror," America needs to use its resources wisely, and address "grave and growing danger" when that danger is identified. A ten-gallon hat, a big belt buckle and empty promises simply don't cut it in today's dangerous world.

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July 05, 2006

Oh Kenny Boy, The Pipes Are Playing

Enron founder and chairman Ken Lay died of a heart attack today at age 64, at his Aspen vacation home. While they say one should not speak ill of the dead, it is important to note Lay's legacy and what it reveals about how business is done in George Bush's administration.

Lay was so close to President Bush, and so successful during the Bush administration, because they both stand for the same three things: lie, cheat and steal. Lay was convicted in two separate trials for different offenses. First, he was found guilty of defrauding investors and employees by repeatedly lying about Enron's financial strength before the Enron went bankrupt in December 2001. Second, Lay was convicted in a separate trial of bank fraud and making false statements to banks regarding his personal finances.

What Lay did that was legal is also interesting. He successfully used the U.S. government, run with our tax dollars, to enrich himself. In doing so, he found a very willing partner in George Bush, who called Lay "Kenny Boy." Lay was one of the largest personal and corporate contributors to the Bush campaign and the Republican party, but these contributions were mere investments that paid off handsomely. Lay was able to influence Bush administration policy to favor Enron. Beginning in late February 2001, Lay and other Enron officials took part in Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force to write the energy policy for the Bush administration. While Cheney refused to release details about who participated and what they decided, since that kind of open government would look too much like an actual democracy, it is now known that the task force was comprised of oil and gas industry fatcats like Lay, and that the policy that was developed was the policy that these fatcats suggested, to benefit themselves rather than the country.

Another example of Lay's special treatment is that, when Bush came to office, he elevated Curtis Hebert, a Republican Commissioner of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), to Chairman of FERC. However, Hebert disagreed with Lay on a couple of key policy matters. Whoosh! By August of 2001, Hebert, who had three years left of his term, was ousted and Lay's hand-picked chairman, Pat Wood III, who had been Lay's hometown Texas Public Utilities Commission Chairman, was put in Hebert's place.

Still another prong of Lay's hold over the Bush administration was the placement of Enron executives in high positions throughout the Bush administration, where they could influence policy and help steer contracts in favor of Enron. These officials included Lawrence Lindsay, the White House Chief Economic Adviser, and Robert Zoellick, the U.S. Trade Representative. They also included Thomas E. White, who was named Secretary of the Army, after which Lay successfully gained Enron contracts to supply gas and electricity to U.S. military bases around the world as part of the vast privatization of the military that has taken place under President Bush. White was eventually implicated in some of the illegal fraudulent activities that took place under his watch at Enron. And Karl Rove reported up to $250,000 in Enron stock when he joined the Bush administration. It is quite likely that Ken Lay had more influence over the Bush administration's policies than any other private sector individual, and by an exponental factor.

While it is sad that Ken Lay died at age 64, one wonders how many Enron employees and investors have died prematurely, or who have suffered ill health without health insurance or savings because these were wiped out by Lay's lies and fraud. In the Bush White House, home to the likes of Ken Lay and Jack Abramoff, that's just business as usual.

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July 04, 2006

Supreme Challenge

"Always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don't win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself."

--Richard M. Nixon

In a landmark decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled 5-3 that President Bush's military commissions established in 2001 to try detainees at Guantanamo Bay are not authorized by federal law. The commissions are basically kangaroo courts where detainees, after being held indefinitely, have virtually no rights, especially the right to meet with an attorney and the right to hear the evidence, even the charges, against them. Many Constitutional scholars and Democrats cheered the ruling as evidence that we have a sensible Supreme Court that stands up for the Consitution against unchecked executive power. They said that other Bush programs that were not authorized by Congress, such as the warrantless NSA spying program, will now need to be reviewed as well. They believe that our democracy is safe. These folks should not break out the champagne yet.

There are two important things to keep in mind in the wake of the Court's Hamdan v. Rumsfeld decision. First, one of the 9 Justices, Chief Justice John Roberts, had to recuse himself from the decision, because it was his appeals court decision that the Supreme Court was reviewing. We know that Roberts would have voted in favor of the military tribunals, since he ruled that way in his lower court decision. So that makes it 5-4. Second, the author of the Hamdan decision, Justice John Paul Stevens, is 86 years old. While he is reportedly in good health, Stevens could die or become incapacitated and be forced to retire at any time. That would give President Bush another Supreme Court pick, and, based on his previous picks of John Roberts and Samuel Alito, who voted with the minority to support Bush in Hamdan, we know that Bush would appoint another justice who would likely vote to support the executive branch, at least when it is Republican-run, virtually every time. If another Republican president is elected in 2008, when Stevens will be 88 years old, the likelihood of a conservative Supreme Court pick to replace Stevens during the ensuing 4 years becomes even more likely.

In other words, far from being a monolithic, balanced defender of the Constitution and bulwark against unchecked Presidential power, the Supreme Court is merely a group of nine highly political men and women picked by Presidents for the most political of reasons. Their balance and reasonableness is only as good as the balance and reasonableness of the Presidents who appoint them. If a string of Presidents of one party and one political philosophy is elected, and those Presidents are able to fill vacancies on the Supreme Court, the Court can be tilted to one side for many years. That should be alarming to conservatives, liberals and everyone in between. While a Supreme Court that upholds anything the President does may be quite appealing to conservatives now, I doubt they would be so pleased if the President were a Democrat, say, Hillary Clinton.

In short, the Hamdan decision could easily have gone the other way, and a similar case would be more likely to go the other way in the next two and a half years. Perhaps voters will keep that in mind when celebrating America's independence from a King named George today, and when Americans vote for a new President in 2008.

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July 03, 2006

Another Bumper Sticker

"God Bless Everyone -- No Exceptions"

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Bumper Sticker Pair

Spotted on the same car:

"Keep Your Theocracy Out Of My Democracy"

"Bush Is Listening ... Use Big Words"

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July 02, 2006

Fox, Fags and Funerals

The Faux News Channel for once has its heart in the right place, although its style of expressing itself is, uh, unique. Check out this June 11, 2006 video clip in which Fox's Julie Banderas goes absolutely ballistic on Shirley Phelps-Roper from the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas, whose members have been picketing at funerals for soldiers killed in Iraq, saying the soldiers are being punished by God because they "voluntarily joined a fag-infested army to fight for a fag-run country now utterly and finally forsaken by God, who Himself is fighting against that country." It is quite possibly the ugliest verbal slugfest ever aired on television.
Banderas calls Roper "insane" and "the devil." They yell over each other the whole time, quoting Bible verses. It's just like Fox not only to lower itself to the level of its opponents, but to sink about 12 levels lower than that. Thanks to YouTube for the clip.

Apparently, there is some flawed thinking going on at the Westboro Baptist Church. First, I don't get the logical connection behind their hatred of gays and the soldiers killed in Iraq. Instead of military funerals, wouldn't their protests hit a more target-rich environment in, say, Fire Island, a Broadway theater, a fashion show, South Beach, or Key West? Second, attacking military families whose sons and daughters have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, at the very funerals honoring such sacrifice, is not exactly an effective public relations strategy. Neither was the Church's recent press release, which states, "Thank God For IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices)", the roadside bombs used by Iraqi insurgents to blow up U.S. soldiers. Reportedly, the Church also thanks God for 9/11 and AIDS.

Between the illogical, mean-spirited tactics of the Westboro Baptist Church and the loony, over-the-top meltdown on the air by Fox's correspondent, it's doubtful that any hearts or minds were won over during this broadcast. Viewers would have needed an air traffic controller just to hear the message from each side. But it sure was entertaining.

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