Friday, February 27, 2009

The Dollhouse-Count Me In

What would you pay for a person who could be absolutely anything you wanted him or her to be, a person who could be programmed to do anything you wanted, an individual whose memories of everything they did would then be erased forever? That is the premise behind Dollhouse, a show by Josh Whedon, the former creative genius behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly. It stars Eliza Dushku, formerly the star of Tru Calling. In this show she plays Echo, who in an attempt to escape her past agrees to have her true memory and identity erased, thus becoming the “Active” who is the central character of the show.

The Dollhouse, as it is known, is illegal, to say nothing of unethical, and a doggedly determined FBI agent is determined to find it and shut it down. First, he has to prove its existence to his skeptical and even derisive fellow agents.

Sure, the program has its obvious flaws. For example, anyone with the money can hire an Active to perform any task they want or need. The flaw here is, how many people who could afford such a high fee could also be trusted to keep the details of the operation secret? It seems to me that it would be better to hide the true nature of the Dollhouse from the clients. All they need to know is these people can perform the needed tasks beyond any ordinarily reasonable expectations. On the other hand, many of the tasks involved are illegal to begin with.

The procedure is fraught with danger. The various personalities grafted onto the Actives are real ones, and along with their talents, they are also replete with their own sets of weaknesses. Unfortunately, there is a rogue Active on the loose, one inadvertently imprinted with the memories and personality of a murderous maniac. After wreaking havoc on the operation, murdering all the then current Actives with the exception of Echo, whom he spared for some unknown reason, he then escaped. He is still on the loose, awaiting the opportunity to strike.

It’s hard to explain my liking for this show, other than I can see where it has potential to be something really special and exciting, providing it lasts long enough to develop its potential.

Eliza Dushku is delicious in the role of Echo, whose true identity and motivations are unknown as of now, though she seems to retain some slight trace of her original personality which manifests in flashbacks during periods of unexpected stress when certain projects start to go wrong. As the Dollhouse is under assault from two different fronts, from the rogue Active as well as from the one lone FBI agent determined to shut down the operation, we can expect these moments of unexpected duress to come with some degree of frequency.

As an aside to those of you-well, both of you-who read my novel Radu, which I still hope to have published and eventually become a screenplay or a mini-series, I think I’ve found my Grace Rodescu. Eliza is certainly in the top ten of my picks to play the character on screen.

I’ll say no more for now, as words can really not do it justice anyway. Watch the video I’ve provided at the beginning of the post. If it succeeds in whetting your appetite, the Dollhouse is on Friday nights at nine.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Jindal Apparition

Chris Matthews wasn't the only person muttering under his breath when Bobby Jindal stiffly walked out onto the stage to deliver the Republican response to Barak Obama's State of The Union address Tuesday night. He was just the only one unfortunate enough to be overheard by a television audience as he did so into an open mike-supposedly accidentally. I say supposedly, because I do have a sneaking suspicion it was done purposely. Had it truly been an accidental occurrence, Matthew's utterance might have been more like my own-

"What in the fuck was that?"

Matthews defended himself by saying it was his response to the stagecraft, not an expression of dismay at the idea of Jindal's predictable reply. Indeed, the stagecraft, for want of a better word, set said stage for what was to follow-a distracting tone accentuated by stiffly karate-like chops of both hands that in total served to distract in almost full measure from the message of Jindal's words, and has in fact been compared to the Saturday Night Live character, perennial candidate Tim Calhoun. The sing-song, faux folksy voice and smile has also been compared to Kenneth the Page in 30 Rock.

Since this appearance, which has been panned on a bi-partisan basis, it seems, by Republicans as well as Democrats-and even by many of the same people who
criticized Matthews for his open-mike utterance-much speculation has been offered as to Jindal's future intentions, and prospects. As such, much digging has went into the Louisiana Governor's background. Of all the things unearthed so far, perhaps the most interesting is an account, written by Jindal himself, of an exorcism of a female friend in which he took part, and in fact seems to have played a pivotal role.

Unfortunately, the entire article in the New Oxford Review is not available to any but subscribers, but thankfully the opening portion which is available tells you a great deal about Jindal. It might even hint slightly at the origins of the "demoniac possession".

Though she had not said anything, I knew something was wrong. Susan and I had developed an intimate friendship; indeed, our rela­tionship mystified observers, who insisted on finding a romantic component where none existed. I called her after the University Christian Fellowship (UCF) meeting -- UCF is an Inter-Varsity Christian group composed of undergraduate and graduate students. Though the interdenominational group's weekly program of songs and prayers had produced the usual emotional high among most members, Susan had left the meeting in a very sullen mood. I asked her to join a group of us who were attending a Chris­tian a cappella concert to be held on campus that same evening.

Despite our intimacy, Susan and I had not spent much time together this past year. We had succumbed to pressure from our friends and de­cided we should not be so emotionally interdependent without a deeper commitment. To be honest, my fears of a relationship and the constraints of commitment had kept us apart; our friends' objec­tions merely provided a convenient excuse. Still, I felt comfortable asking her to come to the concert, and she accepted the invitation. Though Susan ap­peared composed throughout the concert, her sud­den departure in the middle of a song convinced me otherwise and affirmed my earlier suspicions.

There was no doubt in my mind that I had to leave my friends and follow her outside. I was not exactly sure what I would do or say, but I knew I had to run after her. I found that she had not gone far, but was sobbing uncontrollably outside the auditorium. Since we had been very careful to avoid any form of physical contact in our friendship, I was not sure how to respond. My inaction and her sobs produced a very awkward situation. Fortunately, a female friend who followed us out was able to comfort Su­san with hugs and soothing words of reassurance; her quick action was in stark contrast to my paraly­sis. Once Susan had regained her composure and fell silent, I knew I had to intervene. The female friend meant well, but did not know Susan well enough to provide the advice Susan was sure to seek.

Not even knowing the cause of this raucous scene, I asked Susan if she would like to talk, and volunteered to walk her home. Wanting to avoid any additional embarrassing scenes, I thought it best to remain in silence while we walked. I dared not cause another emotional outpouring until we were safely behind closed doors. When we finally reached her dorm room, I promptly sat Susan on a bed and placed myself in a chair located several feet across the room. This physical arrangement was hardly conducive to the love and support I was supposed to be providing, but I was too scared and unsure of myself to get any closer.

Jindal's article, the rest of which is unavailable, supposedly goes on to relate how he encouraged the girl to recite certain Bible passages, many of which contained the affirmation that Christ is Lord. She was unable to repeat the phrase, but after so long, after evidently passing out, she recovered and seemed to be "healed". She even smiled and asked what happened.

This seems to be the kind of story that almost seems tailor made to go into the annals of political folklore, much like Washington's chopping down the cherry tree, or Lincoln's walking several miles to return loose change, or William Henry Harrison's log cabin and hard cider days. Only this might be considered the perfect story to appeal to the Republican Christian conservative base, but unfortunately not much of anybody else.

Not that this account disqualifies him in my view, at least not on the face of it, but it does suggest several points.

One, those of strict religious beliefs tend to be also the most ideological and immovable. This can be good or bad, depending on the situation, but the fact that he would openly write something like this, even in a subscription web-site, suggests that he is very devout, or very deluded-or possibly very self-serving and manipulative. In fact, Jindal's parents are apparently devout Hindus who did not approve of his conversion to the Catholic Church, right about the same time he inexplicably changed his name to Bobby after one of the boy characters in the old Brady Bunch series. What to make of all this?

The problem with Jindal is, this history will be enough of a distraction, without the added problem of a false and insincere sounding speech delivery. Some would even call it phony. I would be one of them. Naturally, you can put this down, possibly, as a certain discomfort at appearing on the national stage for the first time, giving a response to the President of the United States, a man with yet high poll approval numbers-still over 60%-and who is obviously a gifted speaker. Barak Obama is a man who, despite the very real opposition against him, most people want to succeed.

There was nothing wrong with the words of Jindal's speech. The problem was, there was nothing new about them, nothing to invigorate or excite. The red meat thrown to the GOP faithful, still so relatively close on the heels of a solid election defeat, left the rest of us cold.

But, in the final analysis, it wouldn't have mattered regardless. Jindal failed in his mission the second he stepped onto the stage. Everything that followed, the mannerisms, the phony smile and wooden yet sing-song, deliberate folksy voice accentuated by the hand chops, all of which served to make him appear robotic, just sealed his fate, one it would have been hard enough to extricate himself from regardless of how well he spoke.

Many people are going to take exception to my view of Jindal's speech. If so, I would suggest you look at it this way.

Suppose Sarah Palin had been chosen instead of Jindal to give the rebuttal speech. Suppose she was the one who strolled out from the back of the stage, only in her case, she wore nothing but high heels and a semi-see through gown which drew attention to the shadowed genital area, under the kind of stage lighting that forced you to keep your attention focused despite yourself on her body-your eyes drinking in first her waist, and then her hips, thighs, etc.

From that moment on, it wouldn't matter what she said, would it? Of course not. Whatever she had to say at that point, no matter how relevant, valid, or well said, would be lost. Nevertheless, if what she said came across as wooden, phony, and insincere, it would most certainly be noted by her detractors. Why? Because delivery is everything.

Jindal's delivery was like that. Horrid, without any sex appeal, or any other kind of appeal. And it all started to go wrong the minute he walked out onto the stage.

And that smile, as he was walking out on the stage. That ghastly, horrid smile. Were you in your home and suddenly see this creature appear from the shadows, you would have to think, here is a dangerous man.

Indeed, Bobby Jindal is a dangerous man. Not because he is religious, or ambitious, or shallow, or insincere, or even because of his ability or lack thereof.

He is dangerous because he just isn't ready for the prime time so many people would seek to thrust upon him. That's just the problem. By the time the GOP party establishment is through with him-and also by the time they're through with Palin, for that matter-he, and she, will have turned into pale and hollow caricatures of their true selves, their individual talents and ethics sublimated to the ideological dogma of the party elites that from this point on are on the hunt for the proper image to present to the public-not the true face of the candidates with all their appeal, along with their true convictions and ideals-but a mere projection of the Republican Party, or more aptly put, the image the Party wants you to buy.

In this case, they seem to have their work cut out for them. In both cases, they will most assuredly work to co-opt the message and persona of the candidates to their own benefit, before the candidates have the slightest opportunity to make the party their own.

In both cases, as in all such cases, buyer beware. You don't necessarily always get what you pay for.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Survey Says-

Some long-time readers of this blog might remember a post I did some time ago in which I did my own ranking of presidents.

Well, lately C-Span commissioned a ranking of presidents by professional historians, which they and others seems wont to do on a fairly regular basis. My reaction-you could do a Family Feud audience survey on the rankings of American presidents that would be as valid as this most recent one of historians commissioned by C-Span. Really, it's all over the place. If you can make heads or tails of the criterion by which they judge former chief executives, please explain it to me.

Sure, there are some surprises, such as Reagan's listing in the top ten, at in fact the number ten spot, but for the most part, it's about what you would expect. Or, well, maybe not, if you are going for possibly the most important criterion of all-objectivity.

It is ludicrous in the extreme for, for example, John F. Kennedy to be placed in the top ten at number six. It is just as ludicrous, if not more so, for Woodrow Wilson to be in the top ten at number nine. Richard Nixon's spot is pretty well where you would expect it to be, in the lower numbers, though granted perhaps a tad higher than he deserves as well at number twenty-seven. In the meantime, here we have John Adams at number seventeen. Abe Lincoln is at the top of the list, where he usually is. Historians tend to automatically put him there without really giving it a lot of thought.

So why exactly do I single out these presidents-Kennedy, Wilson, Nixon, Lincoln, and Adams? Well, it is because all of these presidents had one very important thing in common. More than other chief executives, they tampered with civil liberties. In some cases-hello, Mr. Lincoln-they suspended them altogether. This, to a historian, should be of the utmost concern, and certainly worthy of some note.

Adams did it with the passage of the hated Alien and Sedition Acts which sought to curtail freedom of speech and the press, particularly as it applied to criticisms of his administration. Yet, he gets a pass, despite the fact that this is to all intents and purposes the defining event of his administration.

Lincoln did it as a wartime measure, under the guise of national emergency, by also curtailing press freedoms and by suspending habeas corpus. He gets a pass today, and perhaps this is understandable, but he sure didn't get a pass by a great many of his contemporaries, who skewered him mercilessly over the issue.

Wilson went after anyone who openly spoke against America's involvement in world War I. Yet, he gets a pass, probably because of his domestic economic reforms, but mainly no doubt due to good intentions in helping form the League of Nations, practically the only one of his Fourteen Points in the aftermath of the war to be adopted by the European community. Even at that he failed (thankfully) to convince Congress to allow the US to join the first major international body. He also failed at restraining the excesses of the victorious allied nations of the Triple Entente.

Kennedy-what can you say, other than this man was little more than a common criminal who used the CIA in an illegal manner to overthrow regimes not to his liking, engaging in assassinations and attempts at such. And that's not all. Acting on the urgings and encouragement of the Attorney General, his brother Robert-who has over the years morphed from a savage, ruthless punk into a personage nearly as deified as his presidential brother-wiretapped anyone whom they deemed a potential threat, including but not limited to Martin Luther KIng Jr. They also violated the civil liberties of alleged Mafia figures, including one man whom they kidnapped and forcibly threw out of the country without a trial or hearing.

Yet, he gets a pass because so many middle-aged, and for that matter younger and older historians get all misty-eyed (and in some cases they probably get a woody to boot) over the myth of Camelot-which, by the way, doesn't say a hell of a lot for their historian credentials.

Nixon-maintained a secret enemies list, spied on his enemies, and even corrupted the Justice Department in order to prevent investigation and prosecution of individuals involved in the Watergate break-in.

Strangely, he has jumped up nine notches from the last presidential rankings. Why is that? Well, he founded the EPA, which is all the rage these days amongst the chattering classes who want to do something about global climate change, he paved the way for normalizations of relations with China, and he did finally do something about that pesky Vietnam War, after all. But we've always been aware of those things. Did professional historians just now catch on to their historical significance? I find that hard to believe.

What I don't find hard to believe is the ranking of George W. Bush at number thirty-six in the rankings. Granted, he doesn't deserve to be anywhere near the top ten, and maybe not even in the top twenty-but 36? I ranked him at eighteen, and though this is tentative, and there is hopefully nowhere for him to go but down-36? This is obviously not an objective poll, for a variety of reasons, one of the most important to do with the subject of this post-the record on civil liberties.

One of the most valid and yet as far as I'm concerned still the most obviously and unfairly exaggerated complaints of Bush Jr.s tenure of office, is the way the Bush Administration abused civil liberties. Bush's enemies point to the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and, most especially, to the passage of the Patriot Act as the defining moments of his presidency in terms of abuse of office and the usurpation of powers by the executive branch.

Or at least, that used to be the case. Now, the major complaints against him remain most of the other same old stuff he has always been roundly criticized for-the war in Iraq, the deficit, out-of-control spending, America's standing in the world, torture of terrorism suspects, etc. Added to all of this lately is of course the current financial meltdown, which he only deserves, by the way, a significant and yet still relatively small amount of the blame for.

The point to all this being, I have an idea you are going to hear less and less about his alleged abuses of civil liberties, such as they are. After all, there is a new game in town, a new face of hope and change who is, I have an idea, ready and willing to step into the same federal infrastructure George Bush inhabited and, in some cases, built and expanded. Thus far, the most far-ranging vision Obama has truly exhibited in earnest is his sudden change of heart and decision to support the Telecommunications Bill that granted immunity to phone companies charged with illegally wiretapping customers as a service to the federal government. Obama's most vociferous supporters questioned his about-face on this, and even displayed concern, and criticism. For a day or two, that is, before they decided they would just shut the hell up about it.

You might infer from this that the prospect of the Unitary Executive suddenly doesn't seem like such a horrible one after all.

Thus you have men whose presidential terms are marked by such abuses high in the rankings, and in the case of Adams, you have a relatively high ranking and respected president whose presidency is all but solely defined by it. Well, and by The Adams Chronicles, a favorite amongst historians, and no this is not a facetious statement. Suspiciously close to father John in the rankings, just two notches below him is son John Quincy Adams, another well-intentioned president who accomplished absolutely nothing of note, whom these same historians nevertheless inexplicably placed at number nineteen. So who is the sole occupant of the number eighteen position, between the Adams father and son?

George H. W. Bush.

It's almost like by their putting Bush Senior between them, they were childishly saying-

"Hey Bush Junior, you ain't nowhere near as good as your dad, like John Quincy was almost as good as his. Your dad's at number eighteen. You're eighteen too-eighteen notches below him that is, nyahh, nyaah, nyaa."

Bill Clinton, another president with some minor criticisms for abuses of civil liberties of his own (he too supposedly maintained an enemies list and was alleged to use the power of the Treasury Department to harass enemies by engaging in unfounded tax audits) amongst his myriads of other short-comings, also raised inexplicably in the ranks, from somewhere in the twenties to number fifteen.

The idea of presidential rankings has justifiably been compared to a parlor game. Recently, a group of historians were invited to contribute to another such function. Any qualified historian could participate, but from all of those who seemingly rushed in excitedly to engage in this bit of academic posturing, it seems this was the result pertaining to the standing of one George W. Bush-

Asked to rank the presidency of George W. Bush in comparison to those of the other 41 American presidents, more than 61 percent of the historians concluded that the current presidency is the worst in the nation’s history. Another 35 percent of the historians surveyed rated the Bush presidency in the 31st to 41st category, while only four of the 109 respondents ranked the current presidency as even among the top two-thirds of American administrations.

Only between one and two percent of these professional historians ranked the presidency of Bush a success. Most of the ones who ranked him a failure but did not rank him at the very bottom, nevertheless ranked him in the bottom five, along with Buchanan, Pierce, Harding, and Andrew Johnson, whom they apparently hate for not razing the south in the aftermath of the Union victory in the Civil War. In fact, it seems as though one of the typically lower ranking presidents, Millard Fillmore, had to be unceremoniously booted from his well-worn position from the bottom five. He is typically blamed for inflaming passions between southern secessionists and northern abolitionists who wanted to contain the spread of slavery, and thus creating the conditions that led to the Civil War. But, they already have Buchanan and Pierce to hate for that, one more is just overkill. Make room for Junior.

Yes, I am being somewhat facetious, but serious too. I think that is exactly how these people think. If we can't justify putting him at the very bottom where he belongs, because we need to maintain the appearance of objectivity, let's at least make sure we tag him in the bottom five. Unfortunately for this cabal, the majority of the barely more moderate participants assured Junior would average out to 36, though still in merely the bottom ten.

Me, I placed Bush in my rankings at number 18 for a reason. I placed him one notch under John Adams at 17 and one notch above John F. Kennedy at 19 (I put Kennedy this high solely for his work promoting the space program). I placed Clinton, Wilson and Nixon at 28, 29 and 31 respectively. Lincoln I placed at number 2, second only to George Washington. This is because when I went to work doing my rankings, I set about being as objective as possible, and in all these cases I have listed in this post, one thing stood-all these presidents had problems adhering to the highest of standards when it comes to the the enforcement of and protection of civil liberties. In all regards they failed the test miserably, and only in the case of Lincoln was this ameliorated by extreme conditions which arguably warranted his policies in this regard. Even at that, it served to put him below Washington in my rankings.

The other two groups were both lowered significantly in my own rankings due to their policies in this regard. The gap between the two is explainable as a matter of greater accomplishment, integrity, and/or political or other hardships endured during tenure of office both by those within the higher ranked group, and those who fell in between the two groups.

Still, of course, it's a parlor game, with little meaning, other than as an exercise in either partisanship or, in my case, objectivity. If I were to do my list over, it would be different in some regards. Reagan would go from eleven to nine. Coolidge would probably be somewhere between twenty and thirty, but still not as high as he could have been had he not allowed his adherence to ideology to prevent him from doing just a couple of things differently. FDR would be lowered, but still in the top ten. Same with cousin Teddy. Jackson would go down from an already low twenty-four to an even lower thirty something ranking, as would partner-in-crime Van Buren, whom I last put just a notch above Clinton at twenty-seven. Clinton would also go down, Nixon would go up, etc. Harding would rise higher, maybe even into the top twenty. See, it is really too subjective to ever qualify as objective, something you can only aim for, but will find exceedingly difficult to achieve.

Two things I'm pretty sure of though that would remain the same were I to do my rankings over.

George W. Bush would probably stay at eighteen, or maybe just a tad lower.
George H.W. Bush would probably stay at thirty-six, or thereabouts.

Well, there is a third thing.
Professional historians are mostly full of shit.

Of course, so are most presidents, who are after all politicians deep down? Are they all basically the same, maybe different only in some cases by small degrees? Maybe, maybe not. Whatever the case, you might appreciate the following video montage of each president morphing into his successor, in order from first to last.

If nothing else, it could be a good way to teach your kids the presidents in the right order.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Hard Choices

I watched Obama's speech before Congress tonight, and though there are a lot of things there to talk about, I want to focus on just one thing that will probably get lost in the overall flood of promises, warnings, and rhetoric. In a way this is understandable given the depths to which to the national economy has sunk, and the very real problems we have relative to energy, the housing crisis, banking, credit, Wall Street, mortgages, and the by now seemingly permanent dire straights of our medical system. Add to all of these problems, as if they were not bad enough, the steadily increasing job loss, and the fact that we are, to all intents and purposes, still bogged down in the fighting of a war on two fronts, with a deficit now over a trillion dollars per year.

Yet, I have no doubt in my mind that, were this one particular topic thrown out there on its own, it would result in an overwhelming flurry of outrage and possibly even outright rebellion. Yet, tonight, it was mentioned only in passing, and seemed to elicit not so much as even a sneer from the Republicans in attendance, and even went unremarked by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal in his later response on behalf of the GOP.

What I am referring to-and I am taking the time leading up to it because I am trying to make sure I get the point across just exactly how seriously wrong this is-is the idea that education should be reformed to such an extent that, to paraphrase Obama, it should begin "from birth".

Now of course, I don't take this too literally. Naturally, he is being euphemistic to the point of hyperbole, and I am not trying to suggest that Obama wants the government to snatch everybody's kids practically from their mother's breasts, or from their hospital cribs the minute they are born, and begin a lifelong process of indoctrination which would amount to a massive kind of brainwashing that not even George Orwell could have envisioned.

Still, it's hard to see how what he proposes isn't too far removed from that. His words were, again paraphrased-

"Those are the most formative years of a child's development."

He is meaning, apparently, the years from the age of two to four. By the age of five practically every child in the country has been subjected to some form of kindergarten and/or pre-school of some form or another, if in many cases not before that time.

There are tempting reasons to support such proposals, of course. There always are. The earlier a child can begin an education at a state sanctioned facility, the sooner both parents are relieved of a considerable amount of time that is the natural burden of child care, and can then pursue their own individual careers, without the draining costs of baby-sitters or expensive day-care centers.

And, doubtless, if run efficiently and correctly, and with all of the needs of the child in mind, this could indeed result in a much better education for the average child-at least as you would measure education according to purely technical terms. In purely clinical terms, yes, we can in this manner potentially turn out not only far more high school graduates, but also college graduates as well. We would no doubt as a result be far more competitive in the world economy, against such nations as India and China, for just two examples.

But just exactly what are we giving up in the process? Well, that's an easy answer. We are giving up our freedom and independence in the long haul, because if you think for one minute that early childhood education is not going to involve mind manipulation and indoctrination with a heavy dose of political correctness thrown in for more than just good measure, you are sadly mistaken. The Democratic Party, working in conjunction with the powerful teacher's union, the NEA-which all but controls their agenda on education issues, and is influential on others-will see to that.

We will go from a nation that believes in individual freedom to a nation of guaranteed rights. That is a bigger deal than it sounds at first glance. Of course we are now a nation of guaranteed rights, but we are entering a period where these guaranteed rights will be expanded far beyond those enumerated in the Bill of Rights.

The problem is, the more guaranteed rights there are, the less liberty there will be by definition. And its a safe bet, even a sure bet, that an early childhood education is not going to focus on an appreciation of individual rights and freedom. Individual dignity, yes, but that's a different thing altogether. It's a fine line, but it becomes a lot easier to walk that line, and eventually phase into crossing over it completely, when you're a nation of trained seals, as opposed to a nation of free people.

We as a people need to demand that our elected officials begin a really serious discussion about this prospect. I say it's a big mistake, no matter how well intentioned some might be. In competing with India, China, and Europe, is it necessary to morph into a carbon copy of them? If so, maybe we're better off just letting them fight it out amongst themselves, and then stepping back in just in time to take the spoils. This time, by the way, we should keep them.

If this thing goes too far-and eventually, it's all but guaranteed that it will go too far, over time-what it amounts to is that all children will first be wards of the state, which will be responsible for everything from their education to their health care. The state, not parents, will decide what values children should be taught. Before too many years have passed, the state will very possibly be the controlling entity of children's lives.

Parents will be no more or no less than their state-approved guardians. They will be accountable to the State-not the other way around.

I don't think we want to go down that road, but it's just around the corner. Once we head too far down that road, there might be no turning back.

Monday, February 23, 2009

I'd Hit That Once

She would probably know it too, but I doubt she'd throw my cell phone out of my 1000 dollar a week rented Lambourghini if I got a call from Paris Hilton or whoever the hell it was that called Rihanna's boyfriend Chris Brown on the night that he did-well, whatever the hell it was he did here.

If I had to guess I would say he probably got her down on the ground and wiped all the cosmetics off her face with a dirty, dry, rough cloth. Don't worry folks, I think she'll live. The LAPD, those paragons of virtue and ethics amongst all civil servants, are upset that the preceding photo was released to TMZ and have issued a statement urging cooperation in tracking the source of the leak. In the meantime, of course, they were all too quick to affirm that, yes, this is Rihanna from the night in question.

According to reports, she could be heard screaming on the 911 call. Now, I can tell you from experience, when a woman starts screaming, that is serious business which could in some cases have profoundly serious consequences. Just like we all know that no woman ever lies about being raped or abused, we also know that no woman would ever fake screaming, crying, or having an orgasm.

According to reports, a bystander who witnessed the events of the night made the 911 call. No one knows yet who this person is. The poor person is probably too traumatized to even think about heading to the nearest or highest paying tabloid to sell the rights to his or her story, and by reason of this must needs stay in seclusion.

Now of course Chris Brown has been arrested. His lawyer is Mark Garagos, which means it is a serious charge. He might in fact spend up to nine years in prison, just for the threats he probably uttered in the heat of the moment. He's lost his endorsement deal with Wrigleys and he ain't going to be wearing any milk mustaches anytime soon. And, of course, several radio stations have announced that they will be boycotting his songs.

Hey, I know. Why don't we take him out somewhere in the woods and hang him?

But seriously, folks-

A great many people suddenly seem to have turned against this previously "squeaky-clean" nineteen year old rapper.

Well, except maybe for Rihanna.

I have no idea how many people have been to her MySpace page and left messages of support and condolence. Who knows, maybe one of these days she might get around to reading a few of them. I smell a publicity stunt. I also smell a great deal of hypocrisy.

Clarence Thomas. Michael Tyson. Michael Jackson. Kobe Bryant. OJ Simpson.

Chris Brown-the latest black guy its cool to hate.

You know, just to take the edge off.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Ingmar Guandique

Although I am far from totally convinced, to say the least, the Washington Post seems confidant that the man in the above photo is the long sought after murderer of Washington intern Chandra Levy, who went missing sometime apparently in the early morning hours of May 1st, 2001, her decomposed remains (basically by the time they were found a group of bones) discovered in the vicinity of the Klegle Mansion in Rock Creek Park more than a year later. Her disappearance was all the talk on the cable news channels for months, up until the time it, and virtually everything else, was overshadowed by the events of 9/11. The controversy served to end the Congressional career of Democratic House member Gary Condit, the blue dog Democrat from her district in California with whom Levy had been carrying on an affair for some time.

The news media, and for that matter, it seemed, the DC Police, focused on Condit to the exclusion of practically any other potential leads or suspects. To this day, in a section detailing the timeline of the main events relating to the mystery, Chandra Levy's own home newspaper, The Sacramento Bee, seems overly obsessed with the Condit connection.

Yet, Ingmar Guandique assaulted two different women in Rick Creek Park right around the time of Levy's disappearance, for which he is now serving time in prison. Upon his release, under normal circumstances he would be facing deportation, being that he is an illegal immigrant from El Salvadore. Below is his home. Charming as it might seem, it is actually a small house with no running water or electricity, in an area where work is scarce.

As a young child, he lived through a period of revolution in his country, a period of violent upheaval during which his father was kidnapped and murdered, his body found some days later.

Guandique made his way to America by way of the Mexican border through the aid of a coyote-a person who for a fee smuggles undocumented immigrants into the US. Many who know him claim he has a violent nature, including his former girlfriend and her mother with whom he lived for a brief period, and who ordered him out of the premises. He himself claims that he will tell himself to attack if he sees a person with something valuable in a secluded spot, but that he always feels bad afterward. Yet, he has consistently denied having anything to do with Levy's death or disappearance.

A former cellmate claims Guandique admitted to killing Levy, but on the other hand, yet another claims he told him that Gary Condit himself paid him twenty-five thousand dollars to murder Levy, having approached him on the street in his car out of the blue with the proposition. The police decided there was nothing to the story.

Now, in the aftermath of the Post series, the police have taken a second look at Guandique, and decided that he is their man after all, even though former assistant DC Chief Gaynor is satisfied Guandique was not involved-this based not just on his opinion, but on the opinions of the seasoned detectives under him who had questioned and investigated the hapless and obviously troubled immigrant.

My question is, why now? How can they be so sure? What do they have in the way of evidence they did not have before, and how could they have acquired it?

There is something funny about this investigation. For one thing, the Post articles assert that the police, in searching Levy's computer, made a mistake in assuming she had been searching for Klingle Mansion in Rock Creek Park. According to them, she was merely searching the general area of Rock Creek Park, evidently looking for various different places good for a walk or a jog. Klingle Mansion was just listed at the top of the page on which she searched, as it is the headquarters of the Park.

The only trouble with that explanation is, at that particular time, Klingle Mansion was not the headquarters or offices of Rock Creek Park. Klingle Mansion, at the time Levy disappeared, was nothing but a storage building. Why would a storage building be listed at the top of the page for a Park as the headquarters of its administrative offices-unless of course it was then also used as a park rangers outpost? This would seem not only plausible, but likely.

This brings me to my main point. I never considered Gary Condit to be involved with Levy's disappearance, and was mystified by the narrow focus of attention on the Congressman. There were always so many questions. I wasn't bothered that those questions were never answered, so much as I was bothered that they were never asked.

Chandra Levy was a young woman of twenty-four who in addition to carrying on an illicit affair with a Congressman who was a married father of two children roughly her own age, was also an intern for the Justice Department, specifically for the Bureau of Prisons.

Her goal was to seek a career in law-enforcement or in some other aspect of public life, but somewhere alone the way her goals were derailed. For whatever reasons, her internship ended, and earlier reports hinted that she was not happy about it. The question becomes then, who did she know at the Bureau of Prisons? Is it possible she might have threatened somebody with the power of her Congressman boyfriend? Why was her internship ended so abruptly, according to most reports well before it was due to end?

She was already supposed to be on her way home sometime soon with "big news". Why then did she take the time to go to Rock Creek Park, and who did she intend to meet there, if anyone? Did she have something on somebody that she unwisely attempted to use as leverage in a vain attempt to keep her position, maybe even possibly gain a promotion in the process?

I realize that there are many people who go way off the rails in their attempts to solve mysteries, and I don't want to come off that way. I have read everything imaginable about this case. I have seen examples where it was blamed on some wild, nonsensical conspiracy involving the Unification Church. Recently, I came across this Geo-Cities website. Here, Chandra Levy has morphed from a lowly intern to a modern day Mata Hari, with seemingly unlimited access to all levels of classified information. and in this capacity came across information about the future 9/11 attacks and Oklahoma City bomber Timothy MacVeigh's connections to government agents and Islamic terrorists, among other things. Naturally, since Gary Condit was a ranking member of the House Intelligence Sub-Committee, she used her feminine wiles to get him to tell her all the secrets that he had privy to.

Oh yeah, and lest I forget-Chandra Levy was an undercover operative for a rogue branch of the Israeli spy agency Mossad.

Yeah, I know it all sounds ridiculous, because it is, but conspiracy theories are only unhinged when they lose all sense of perspective and veer into the realms of the absurd. That doesn't prove the absence of a conspiracy, it only proves the need for common sense and rational perspective.

There was nothing earth-shattering at work here, just, quite possibly, the case of a woman who went too far to get what she wanted and crossed the wrong person.

Of course, it might even be more simple than this. It could very well be that a young illegal immigrant from El Salvadore happened across the unwary Levy and assaulted and killed her, possibly raping her in the process. It could actually be that her body went undiscovered for so long due to a simple fluke in procedure, as the police claim. They were told to check within a certain distance off the paths, yet somehow this was interpreted as meaning to search so far off the actual roads. It could well be that the glaring public spotlight on Gary Condit, fueled by media speculation and sensationalism-and the desire of prosecutors to make a name for themselves by bringing a corrupt politician to justice-caused them to overlook the possible complicity of the young Guandique.

Chandra Levy's parents seem satisfied at the prospects that the case might finally be solved, which is understandable, and have stated their desires that Chandra's killer not be executed, but spend the rest of his life in prison, with no comfort or amenities. To me, that would be far more against the spirit of Freedom from Cruel and Unusual Punishment than putting a murderer to death, which is my favored option, providing the proof of guilt is more substantial than "beyond a reasonable doubt". It should in fact be applied only in those cases where there is certainty of guilt beyond all doubt.

As far as I can see, as of now this case doesn't reach either threshold. I could be mistaken, and I certainly won't go out on a limb and say that, as the case unfolds, I won't be convinced of Guandique's guilt. I really wouldn't be surprised at his guilt under ordinary circumstances, given the apparent nature of this young man, who even from his prison cell sent sexually suggestive notes and pictures to a woman, an insurance agent whom he had only seen in an advertisement. He is obviously troubled and violent. He was in the vicinity at the time in question. He would at first glance seem to be the perfect suspect.

But, why now, after all this time?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Troop Of Monkeys Angrily Throw Their Feces

When I first saw this cartoon by New York Post editorial cartoonist Sean Delanos, I thought The New York Post
was under the delusion that the Stimulus Bill was written by former Republican President George Chimpy MacFlightsuit Bu$Hitler, so imagine my surprise when the Left was outraged-outraged, I say-at the insensitivity of such an insult to a man who, after all, has a website named in his honor-The Smirking Chimp. Come to find out, they seem to think-or so they say-that the cartoon was a racist jab at Obama. The Post itself, in their published response, seems to think it is nothing more than an excuse by the Left to give them a hard time. Following is the text of their full explanation-

Wednesday's Page Six cartoon - caricaturing Monday's police shooting of a chimpanzee in Connecticut - has created considerable controversy.

It shows two police officers standing over the chimp's body: "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill," one officer says.

It was meant to mock an ineptly written federal stimulus bill.


But it has been taken as something else - as a depiction of President Obama, as a thinly veiled expression of racism.

This most certainly was not its intent; to those who were offended by the image, we apologize.

However, there are some in the media and in public life who have had differences with The Post in the past - and they see the incident as an opportunity for payback.

To them, no apology is due.

Sometimes a cartoon is just a cartoon - even as the opportunists seek to make it something else.

(The End)

The most pertinent part of the above is in bold, which I wanted to point out, because most leftist blogs and websites that touch on the explanation seem to be somewhat selective as to the parts they deign to reproduce.

The hard truth of the matter is, Obama did not write the Stimulus Bill. Of course he had a great deal of input into it, but by and large the actual writers of the bill were the Congressional Democrats, as wild and vicious a troop of monkeys as ever existed and who are, unfortunately, alive and well as we speak. Have no fear, I have no doubt they shall be around for some time to come yet, ready and most eager to tear off the face of reasoned public discourse as they set about ripping to shreds the very fabric of our Constitution. By the time it is all said and done, Obama's Presidency might well be as much their victim as the rest of us, it's bloody carcass torn to pieces by their wild primal urges long before the Republicans even begin to whet their appetites over it's bleeding and battered form.

Even yet, while The Huffington Post and other leftist outlets wail, and while they along with Al Sharpton and Spike Lee call for protests and boycotts, others line up to angrily throw their feces at what they perceive as the purveyors of veiled and not so veiled insults. The LGBT activist group GLAAD is up in arms over the same cartoonist's work throughout the years, and have even put up a page in which Delonas satirized the gay community.

Is it any wonder why Americans are too "cowardly", in the words of Attorney General Eric Holder to have a real dialogue about race? Who wants to deal with this kind of thing constantly? Now Eric Holder wants us to work towards integration in all aspects of our lives. He wants us to think about how we spend our weekends, and who we spend them with. Well, Eric, I know where I spend mine, which happens to be anywhere where I can get a break from this kind of crap. Sorry, dude, but me, I like to enjoy what little time I have to do so. We spend enough time walking on eggshells in our working, school, and public life. When it comes time to socialize with our friends and family, we want to be around those with whom we feel comfortable and with whom we can relax. This stuff just doesn't cut it. And, by the way, aren't you supposed to be fighting actual crime? What's this? Is the Attorney General's office suddenly The Ministry Of Public Niceness?

It's not all dire. Even The Smirking Chimp has somewhat of a reasoned, balanced view of this monkey business, in which the blogger states we should be less quick to hurl charges of racism at every perceived transgression, real or imagined, and insist on a higher standard of proof before we make such charges.

David Patterson, the Governor of New York, has issued a statement to the effect that he accepts the Post's apology, while unfortunately calling for greater care in editorial practices, in his own call for "dialogue" that kind of misses the point.
According to him-

"It might be a time to open up a dialogue on just where that line is, where good clean fun and degradation are."

The point he misses of course is that editorial cartoons are not supposed to be about "good clean fun", while many times degradation is a worthy aim. Different strokes for different folks.

Patterson though has had his own set of problems lately. He has fallen in the polls, to the extent he might find himself the loser in a primary contest against any strong candidate, one such as Andrew Cuomo, who is reportedly mulling a run against the currently unpopular Patterson. Patterson has taken a hit over the debacle with Caroline Kennedy, dissatisfaction with Patterson's own appointment to replace Hillary Clinton in the US Senate, and his refusal to deal with New York's current budget woes by raising taxes or borrowing money.

Many Democrats see him as little more than a clown, a buffoon chosen by Elliot Spitzer (whom Patterson replaced in the wake of the former Governor's own sex scandal) as an Affirmative Action candidate to help shore up Spitzer's support among the black and disabled voters. Many prominent Democrats see Patterson as clearly over his head and are working round the clock to find a suitable replacement to run against him.

Otherwise, if Patterson manages to eke out a victory in the primaries, he might lose the general election to those racist Republicans.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Watchmen-Coming Soon To A Theater Just A Little Too Close For Comfort

Back sometime during the 1980’s, DC Comics purchased from Charlton Comics the rights to a string of superhero characters formerly featured in the Mighty Comics/Radio Comics line, after yet another failed attempt to make a success of publications featuring the characters in the Archie Adventure Series division.

Alan Moore, a successful and innovative writer, submitted a story idea that utilized these characters for a proposed limited edition series. The editorial department approved the project, but then convinced Moore to develop his own original characters for the series. After all, they had paid a high price for the rights to the Charlton characters, and didn’t want to waste what potential they might have. This was back in the day when most publishers followed the formula “once a character is dead, he stays dead”. Of course, if a way could be devised that made it possible to explain a character’s seeming return from the dead, they would relax this policy, but in this particular case, there was no possibility of any such explanation which would be acceptable-even, or maybe especially, in the DC universe of comics characters.

Using the old Chalton characters as guidelines and inspiration, he developed the characters of The Comedian, Doctor Manhattan, Silk Specter, Night Owl, Ozymandias, and Rorschach. These, however, were more than just knock-off cheap imitations of what others might say were, for the most part, cheap knock-off imitations. The concept behind these characters, and the story of The Watchmen, set the comic book world on fire and established a whole new genre of dark, brooding, angst-ridden, misogynistic, and even nihilistic characters guided not by the principles of fairness, justice, and the American way, but by might makes right and the ends justifies the means.

Now, after two decades of failed attempts and projects stalled for a variety of reasons, including an ultimately successful lawsuit filed by Fox Studios against Warner Brothers, The Watchmen is due for cinematic release in March of this year. The hype behind this project though has befuddled the mass of theatergoers who see the trailers for the film. The hype of course is perhaps understandable, but the marketing has ventured into the realm of the inexplicable and the bizarre. In addition to the action figures, there is Night Owl Coffee, already hailed as a potential future collector’s item. There are Rorschach ski masks. And that's not all.

Not only does Doctor Manhattan have his own lunch box, but since the blue-skinned character appears in the movie fully nude he also has, of all things, his own blue condom

Though these blue Watchmen Condoms will doubtless prove to be collectors items also, please be advised-condoms for your average geek comic book fan, of course, will by necessity come in three sizes-

Small, extra small, and “What the fuck do you need me for?”

There are those who are not enthralled with the project, precisely to a great extent because of this crass commercialization. Among these you can include Alan Moore himself the writer of the original series, a long haired and bearded writer who claims to worship an ancient Roman snake god, and who in fact cursed the project. He refuses to work for DC comics any longer, or for Marvel, over what he feels is the over-commercialized aspects of the comics business of today. He claims that they exist now solely to provide storyboards for Hollywood, which he feels has ruined the comics industry.

There are also those who feel the series is suited more for development as a television mini-series than as a feature film. Frankly, I disagree with this. The movie is basically somewhere in the neighborhood of two and a half hours long, which should be somewhere around the time it would take to read all twelve comics which comprise the original limited series that was first published during the period of 1986-1987.

Others claim the story has a hidden leftist agenda, but I tend to think that is a lot of bunk, or at least is greatly exaggerated. Had DC published the series during the Carter, Johnson, Clinton-or Obama-years, it would doubtless have played up to and against the political, economic, and social situations relevant to the time in question. The point, at least the major point, to the series was an aim toward what the author felt was relevance and, perhaps more importantly, realism. It was about the reality that he saw as the underbelly and even the sewer of humanity. In this world, man’s higher aspirations were not so much denied, as rendered irrelevant to the overall scheme of things, a pretentious facade that held out a false hope of salvation and worth.

What could possibly motivate a hero to fight for the likes of this? There had to be a motivation that went beyond the long-held standard clich├ęs. Otherwise, it amounted to nothing but regurgitated fairy tales and myths told for purposes of restraint of mankind’s darkest, deepest urges. It would be one thing to tell such stories for such purposes. In the universe of the superhero, however, it would be something else again to live that story. The motivation could not be satisfactorily explained as an aspiration to nobility. After so long, the idealism would wear thin, and ultimately wear off, and the hero could only continue if powered by other darker, more sinister inner drives. This then is the world of The Watchmen.

It was a world of an alternate universe, in which the presence of costumed superheroes had changed the landscape of history in significant ways. Yet, it is a dark world, and these are dark heroes, if you can even call them heroes. Their strength is that of brutal force and courage, but they are plagued with weakness and, to a degree, contempt for the humanity that they do not serve and defend for altruistic reasons so much as aid for their own self-interest, the exercise of power and ego fulfillment. They are in fact disliked, even hated, by the average person. They are free moral agents with few admirable personal qualities, and many flaws and weaknesses. The Comedian was a rapist and murderer who in this parallel universe was actually the true assassin of President Kennedy. Doctor Manhattan, though he does not act in a criminal or even an unethical manner, is nevertheless more of a soulless monster and misanthrope with no emotional attachment to anything living. Yet, his drive to learn and understand the humanity that he left behind emotionally, long before he ever temporarily does so physically, is reflected in his relationship with the Silk Specter, who, in his absence, begins a new relationship with Night Owl, a middle-aged, overweight, impotent tech wizard. The Silk Specter learns that she is actually the daughter of The Comedian, who at one time attempted to rape her mother, the original Silk Specter.

Rorschach, though a hero who fights ostensibly on the side of good, is a psychopathic brute and cold-blooded killer to whom no limitations applies in his quest to find the answers he seeks. It will be this same unrelenting determination that will ultimately prove his undoing.

Ozymandias, a high-powered business executive in real life, is a megalomaniac to whom human life is dispensable in his drive to achieve the ultimate goal of victory over, ironically, an even greater evil, a force whose existence makes even the sacrifice of millions of innocent lives inconsequential. It is easy for him to make that choice, for as he sees it, that force is humanity itself.

The story itself was so compelling, so gripping, that it changed the face of the comics business forever. It is unlikely to have that effect on the movie business, aside possibly from future superhero films. It might be a sleeper hit, possibly in time considered a cult classic. It will undoubtedly recoup its investment. It might even be a major hit. Undoubtedly, many of the myriads of comics fans will be pleased, though maybe a great many of them will not be. Judging from the reactions of many who attended the latest ComicCon, and who viewed the first seventeen minutes of the film along with other selected highlights, it seems promising.

The question becomes, will it move the bar and expand the superhero movie franchise beyond the current niche market. Only time will tell. My feeling is that it might well be a victim of its own hype as much as the Watchmen become the victims of their own all too human weaknesses. Changing the comics publishing industry is one thing. Changing the superhero movie franchise is a different matter, as there are certain forces at work there which are not so easily transformed. Even under the best of circumstances, it is still, after all, a niche market. This role of the dice might well expand that market. It’s a worthwhile gamble, and if it succeeds, it would encourage other similar projects and experimentation. Of course, there would be consequences in the form of considerable controversy far above and beyond what might be experienced by the comics industry.

There are those of us who like our heroes to be something we ourselves can never hope to be-role models for our children, not so much perfect as aiming towards the perfection most of us have long ago realized was far beyond human capacity. Many of us will decide that The Watchmen is a movie we should not take our children to see. Beyond the fantasy elements, it is far too much like the real world. It is a little too much like ourselves.

That may be too much reality to cram into a two-and-a-half hour film.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Chimps Are Wild Animals Too

Animal experts are baffled over chimp attack.

Okay, let me give it a shot. Some fool decided that because this wild animal could be trained to do things that a trained tiger couldn't come close to even thinking about doing, that somehow made him less of a wild animal, and thus exponentially less dangerous. Which, this is a view that has a good deal of merit as long as the wild animal can remain placid at all times, but where the theory falls to pieces is when you add into the equation the fact that, by definition, wild animals are unpredictable and thus there is no way you can depend on any of them, no matter how seemingly well-trained and well-behaved, remaining placid and obedient on command.

Add to this the fact that the ape had absolutely no natural fear of humans, was getting old, was sick with Lyme Disease, and had just recently been given Xanax in warm tea-without a prescription at that-and you have a disaster in the making. To sum up, you have a woman without a face who is probably not at all feeling lucky to be alive, and a dead chimpanzee, shot by the policeman who shot him as he forced open the door to his cruiser.

Yes, it's sad, and tragic, but it is by no means a mystery. This ape had been in a TV pilot, as well as commercials for Coca-Cola and Old Navy. He also appeared on the Maury Povich Show. Povich probably will never know how lucky he is. Look at Travis, the chimp in question, smiling in the above photo. Cute, isn't it?

Not really. When animals smile, as a general rule, they do so without showing their teeth, which they do mainly either as a defensive measure when they feel threatened, or when they themselves are ready to attack. The only animal that I know of that is an exception to this rule is a breed of dog-the Irish Setter. Most animals, including apes, take the showing of teeth as a threat. This ape was obviously trained to smile for the cameras, but that might have been interpreted by the ape as a sign that aggression is acceptable within limits. Does he really look natural doing that? Maybe he does, as long as you don't see him as jovial. It is never good for a wild animal to learn not to fear humans or for humans to treat them with deference. That is pouring fuel on the fire. Eventually, much like a child, they are going to throw tantrums. Of course, before they really lose it, also much like a child, they will test the limits. Well, this ape surpassed the test of his limits, such as they were, with flying colors.

This is not the first time this has happened. A chimp attacked a man not too long ago and also ripped off a large part of his face, including his nose, and one of his testicles. The man barely survived the encounter and has had to endure several surgeries to repair the damage to his face, which will never completely heal. He wears a prosthetic nose.

These animals are seriously aggressive by nature. Bear in mind, apes are the closest kin among animals that human beings have, and chimps are among the closest of all. It has been postulated that humans and chimps have an aggressive nature which is pretty much descended from the same source. That is just the problem with people who treat them like children. Travis was fed lobster, steak, and Italian food, by his owner, whose friend was the victim of the assault.

You can take the ape out of the jungle, but he's still going to be an ape. I hope nobody else has to learn that lesson the hard way.

A Sign From The Heavens

A fireball was seen over the skies of Texas, Kentucky, and Italy. It was, depending on who you believe, either the size of a basketball and metallic, or the size of a pick-up truck with the consistency of a chunk of concrete. It was not wreckage from the recent satellite collision, as this would not have produced the sonic boom that was clearly audible over Kentucky. It was, or they were, almost beyond any doubt, a meteor or meteors of exquisitely rare type.

What this means is I am going to take a Texas chick to Italy someday soon and engage in a great deal of more than just intellectual intercourse. Just look at the picture.

Seems pretty obvious to me.

Chavez Forever!

Usually by the time I get half way through a Hugo Chavez blog post or news article, it's time for a fucking siesta. Still, you have to admit, the latest referendum in Venezuela that ended presidential term limits is big news.

Viva Hugo! Who needs term limits? They are as unnecessary as foreign gringo investments. If they come, fine, we'll just snatch them up. The world won't mind too much, si?

Hey, come to think about it, who needs elections? Hugo won by such a large margin, are they really necessary? Why not just suspend them on some pretext. I'm sure Hugo will be able to find plenty of good reasons. Here's the part from the article in the Financial Times I like-

But analysts also suggested that the comfortable victory will also embolden the government to confront serious economic challenges caused by a collapse in oil revenues.

Economists at Barclays suggest the government will soon implement a financial transaction tax, increase the value added tax rate and cut expensive subsidies on domestic petrol prices, which are some of the cheapest in the world.

A devaluation of some 37 per cent could soon take place, argues Barclays, now that the currency has become heavily misaligned after almost four years at a fixed exchange rate at the same time as double digit inflation.

Oh, this might be a problem, no? Hey, I think I got a solution. Why not stage a referendum declaring an end to all future elections? Hugo is soooo well-loved surely it will pass.

Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk

The Saudi Threat

One of the biggest failures of the preceding Bush Administration was in its dealings with Saudi Arabia, not only involving energy policy, but in its dealings with the Saudi regime regarding the threat of radical Islam. However, it is too easy to push all the blame off on Bush. He only failed to deal adequately with the threat. He did not create it. He only inherited the same viper that a host of preceding presidents nurtured at their breasts for decades. Now, the head of the snake knows that one day soon, the axe might fall and sever his head. When it happens, there is little he can do about it, but for now, he can desperately try to spew his venom in the desperate hopes of holding off the inevitable.

It really takes some degree of hubris for the Saudi Oil Minister to lecture to an American audience on the need to keep investments in oil up to sustainable levels. These people have had us in a grip or iron for going on four decades, and for six have built up a level of wealth and influence that would be the ency of Croesus. In return for our dependence on Saudi oil, our money has gone to fund radical Islamic schools-madrassas-that have taught hatred of America and the West in general, and have otherwise supported a terrorist network that ultimately led to the 9/11 attacks. While the Saudi elites have otherwise engaged in luxurious lifestyles and profligate spending, they have kept their people's standard of living down to where the Saudi people are easy prey to the radical imams who seem to command their allegiance in ever-growing numbers. Despite this, we have reciprocated by selling advanced weapons technologies to the Saudi regime, in large part to supposedly protect them from these same fundamentalists.

Ironically, a great lot of what the Saudi Oil Minister said in his Houston speech is true. There will need to be continued and probably increased investment in oil for the next two decades, at least. Energy independence isn't going to come overnight. It goes without saying, however, that the Saudi regime is unlikely to complain about American Democratic politicians limiting oil exploration within the US or off it's coasts or, in the case of ANWAR, banning it completely.

The idea that Saudi Arabia might probably at one point in time by necessity be powered by solar energy is probably cold comfort. After all, even though that particular area is ripe for solar energy development, in market terms, they would nevertheless be just another cog in the wheel.

This is our chance now to get some degree of reasonable control over the Saudis, if we but would. The radical Islamists should all contemplate going into hiding, though I doubt they are feeling undue concern. They are probably all too aware that, under current conditions, they still have little to worry about. On the other hand, the regime might actually adjust to reality by providing some degree of advancement to the well-being of their subordinated population. It might be the one chance for the regime's long-term survival.

The most likely long-term scenario, however, is that the Saudi royal family and other wealthier members of the regime will eventually abandon the country, doubtless immigrate to Europe and America, for the most part, and leave the Arabian peninsula a veritable no-man's land, a desert fit for nothing but the annual pilgrimmage to Mecca. When they leave, they will take their untold billions of dollars in wealth with them. In fact, it is probably already to a very large degree safely deposited in various Swiss and other such accounts.

Should this potential future Saudi exodus ever finally come about, the radicals may have by that time lost any appreciable degree of power and influence as well. After all, they will have lost their major source of patronage. They and their followers will be sufficiently isolated, and the world if only for this reason will be a better place.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Hillary Clinton-Is She The Last True Hope For Peace Between The US and Japan?

For her first official overseas diplomatic trip as the nation's latest Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton decided not to play it safe with the typical visits to America worshiping Europe or with a leisurely tour to the peaceful, economically and socially stable region of the Middle East. Instead, summoning the legendary courage and integrity which is practically a hallmark of the Clinton legacy, she took the bold step of visiting the strife-torn, destitute, socially fractured Asian nation known as Japan-the Empire of The Rising Sun.

She has learned greatly from past mistakes, such as her trip to Bosnia in the nineties as First Lady, when she ill-advisedly allowed daughter Chelsea to accompany her on her peril-laden trip during which the two were forced to dodge sniper fire, the two of them protected only by expert Navy Seal Cheryl Crow and ace undercover CIA operative Sinbad, known in intelligence circles as "The Comedian".

This time, however, as a unique testament to her determined bravery and sense of self-sacrifice, she went armed only with that world-class trademark Hillary Clinton charm and grace as her sole companions.

We can only hope that this trip will over time lead, at long last, to a healing of the divisions and hostilities that have so marked Japanese-American relations since the beginning of World War II, some sixty seven years ago. Unfortunately, as the following video shows, she has much hard work ahead of her. Note how Mrs. Clinton stoically holds her composure and maintains her dignity and sense of optimism in the face of the hurled taunts and even manages to elude the sniper fire of maddened Imperial Japanese Army veterans, before she is finally forced to reluctantly re-board the Enola Gay in continuance of her faithful trip to Hiroshima, wearing the dark sunglasses inspired by her hero and mentor, General Douglas MacArthur, her proclaimed role model, as she brushes aside the desperate assault from the sword of a crazed Samurai warrior.

Note how French journalist Nathalie Tourrete is seemingly awe-struck by the unimaginable heroism displayed by the former US First Lady, now our nation's Secretary of State, whom even the most devoted Ninja assassins have come to respect, and fear.

We can only be grateful that Mrs. Clinton managed to continue on her journey just in the nick of time, mere seconds prior to the Banzai pilot attack which otherwise would have ended her life along with her mission, so vital to establishing, at long last, peace between her husband, true secret President Bill Clinton, and the war-weary Hirohito, the false God of Japan who has circulated false rumors of his death in hopes of avoiding a confrontation with the unmatchable Mrs. Clinton.

Fortunately, even though Tojo has vowed to fight to the end, there is always hope as long as Mrs. Clinton is in charge at the helm of State. If anyone can finally put an end to this senseless war between America and Japan, it is Hillary Rodham Clinton, by God!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

We Pause Now For A Brief Moment Of Gallows Humor

The man in the above photo is Mr. Muzzammil Hassan, 44, a Muslim American from Buffalo New York. He is the founder and CEO of Bridges TV, which he started with the intention of fostering greater understanding between Muslims and Americans, aiming particularly at portraying Muslims in a more positive light. It features news and entertainment. Unfortunately, the web-site is now down for "maintenance".

The lady in the photo alongside him is Aasiya Z. Hassan, 37, his former wife who sued Mr. Hassan for divorce and got a restraining order on him, resulting in a judgment that required him to leave the couples home by the date of February 6th of this year.

Mr. Hassan, who is so desirous of increasing understanding between Americans and Muslims, murdered his wife.

In fact, he beheaded her.

We now return to our regularly scheduled program.

Hat Tip: Michelle Malkin (a good looking Asian American chick)


The world has found it's latest punching bag in the person of Nadya Suleman, a woman on whom it feels justified in unleashing it's wrath towards the failed economy. First, this unemployed divorcee who lives with her mother in a small house barely big enough for the two of them has herself impregnated with the fertilized eggs of six children. One of these children turns out to be autistic. Not evidently satisfied with that, she has herself impregnated again with six more embryos by the same

fertility clinic, which is now under investigation. with six other embryos. Two of them which divide, resulting in two sets of twins, for a total of eight babies, and a grand total of fourteen.

The thought of this woman acting in such an irresponsible manner, apparently drawing at least some level of taxpayer-funded public assistance, is enough to raise the ire of the most tolerant among us. Yet, Suleman seems determined to find as many ways possible to offend.

She claimed that she would receive assistance from her church, which doubtless came as a surprise to many of the church's regular donors, who probably had other ideas. The church publicly denied her claims, probably after a hurried meeting of church elders decided this was not a good way to increase contributions from the flock.

She started a website complete with pictures and a donation button, but then was photographed shopping for video games.

Not only has she received death threats, so has the agency that represented her.

The public relations group that has represented octuplets mother Nadya Suleman is stepping down because of death threats, its president said Saturday.

Joann Killeen also said the mother now has an agent: Wes Yoder, the same man who arranged book and music deals for the McCaughey septuplets a decade ago and publicity for controversial pastor Rick Warren.

The Killeen Furtney Group was ending its free representation after receiving at least 100 graphic e-mailed threats and swarms of nasty voicemails that went to the Los Angeles agency and even to some of its other clients, Killeen said.

Some messages threatened Suleman but others were aimed at her spokespeople.

Suleman has probably at least entertained the idea of selling the movie rights to her story. The only problem with that idea is her so-called story is so well known by now it is practically in the public domain by default. Why should anyone pay her for the rights to a story under her conditions. I don't think she would care much for the most likely version of her life's story, which would be the one any studio could produce without paying her a dime. It would also be the only one the public would buy.

The jaded public isn't buying much these days. They are distressed, angry, and worried about the future. One of the few products that has made a profit over the last few months? Condoms. They especially

sold well over Valentine's Day weekend, and little wonder. Some people complained about the use of the condom display, in the shape of a heart, at the one store in question, saying it sent a bad message to the kids. Most people, on the other hand, would assert that kids are just the point.

Nobody with a brain in their head wants kids. Many of them wish they had thought it through or exercised a little self-control when they had the ones they did. There is yet another little girl missing in Florida as I write this who has probably been kidnapped and sold, if not raped and murdered, or both. I am making no inference as to the reason for this in her case, but I will say this much-she will be joined by more strangely missing children. If the economy stays bad for over a year, there will probably be enough of them to form their own state.

Everybody wants to fuck, more than usual in fact. What else is there to do? But they are being far more cautious than usual about it. You can expect not only an increase in condom sales, but a corresponding uptick in the number of abortions over the coming months, and since there is now evidently a relaxing of the old welfare reform rules of the nineties, with the passage of the stimulus bill, you can expect the anti-abortion movement to become more irrelevant than possibly ever before. It will at best go back to being the fringe movement that it was in the seventies and eighties, when most conservative Christians probably secretly wished that the welfare drawing, generally Democratic voting, mostly single mothers would have at least one abortion a year.

Nadya Suleman is a poster child for welfare reform and the Pro-Choice movement, and may in fact currently be one of the best friends both ever had. Both movements will grow in popularity over the next few years. It is only when times are generally good that most Pro-Life people feel they and the world can afford the price of their convictions. What ones remain devoted to the cause will be the ones most likely to be seen standing in sandwich signs that announce the coming end of the world, which would seem all the more a conflict of priorities to the sane amongst us, who can't help but perceive a certain lack of irony, if not integrity.

In the meantime, remember-love is never having to say "Hey, how do I know it's mine?"

Friday, February 13, 2009

Hope And Change-The Same Old Song And Dance

The stimulus bill passed the House Friday, with no Republicans voting in favor of it and only seven Democrats voting nay. Then, it passed the Senate with only three Republican votes.

Now do you get it? Hope? Change you can believe in? No, this is more like change back to the old order of business and hope for the best. Democratic supporters naturally view this as a panacea, a cure-all. Republican supporters are almost certain it is going to wreck the economy and possibly put us firmly on the irreversible road to socialism.

As is usually the case, the truth probably lies somewhere in between the two extreme viewpoints, which is precisely the point. Remember when George W. Bush ran, promising his own brand of change, including a more civil public discourse? The only real change was from one of Democratic policies to Republican, with Bush touting tax cuts as the one sure answer for every situation both good and bad. Unfortunately, the was the only true policy change aside from those necessitated (or at least inspired) by the events of 9/11. Everything else remained the same. Bush actually grew the size and scope of the federal government, serving to further increase an already impressive mountain of debt. His unfunded mandates in education, and both of his wars, initially botched, and ran on borrowed money and time, exacerbated the situation.

By the time Obama came along, America was ready for a change, as it usually is after eight years on the average. This time it's the Democrats turn to offer the hoped-for change-but is it really change? An increase in welfare funding and grants to such organization as ACORN might in some cases by appropriate and understandable, maybe even necessary. We can have that debate. We can honestly discuss the need for funding of alternative energy sources and medical reform, and all of the other provisions in this bill, but let's call it what it is. This is more than just a stimulus package, this is a Democratic sponsored and taxpayer funded political pay-off to Democratic Party interest groups with a few targeted tax-cuts included just to take the edge off the pain.

And I for one am sure it will do some good in some areas. We obviously need more investment in infrastructure. There also needs to be some aid to state governments, who have, after all, been through no fault of their own severely impacted in a good many cases in no small part due to the incompetence and overbearing demands of the federal government. I am so serious about this, in retrospect, I am not even sure it would be appropriate to demand accountability insofar as how the states spend the money, but I guess there has to be some degree of oversight.

Be that as it may, this humongous porker of a bill is obviously a Democratic wish list of pay-offs and gifts that would have come about if times were as good as they now are bad, just like those Bush tax cuts. They are going to do some good, but they are going to also increase the debt, add to inflation and, in the long run, do little if any good as far as economic stimulation goes. What we are looking at is a long-range economic malaise that would probably best be compared to the Jackson-Van Buren years from 1832 to 1840, and might possibly even approach or even surpass those of the Great Depression.

Hopefully, things won't get that bad, but here's a clue-we have been digging this hole for years, and it's not going to go away overnight, nor can we spend our way out of it without making some tough, hard choices in the way of government waste reduction, which this bill most assuredly will not do.

Things might improve just enough in the short term to warrant in the minds of most voters an Obama re-election, but I truly dread the long term consequences of this bill, and further Democratic initiatives, which would over the course of the next eight years be even more greatly compounded by the appointment of two to three, at least, Ruth Bader Ginsburg clones to the Supreme Court, to say nothing of the countless federal court appointments.

By the time another eight years (or possibly four) rolls around, people will be yet clamoring for yet more "hope" and "change" (the oldest campaign slogans in the world, incidentally), and they will gravitate to the nearest guarantor of this promise.

This time, of course, it will be a Republican who will, in all seeming sincerity, announce to the nation that "It's time for a change", and we all will undoubtedly collectively fall for it-again. And, just like the last time, it will be a change from Democratic orthodoxy to Republican orthodoxy.

Hope and Change?

More like "Bait and Switch".

Papal Bull

When Nazis and racists deny the Holocaust, what they are saying, in effect, is that they publicly denounce the notion of genocide. After all, they would otherwise hail Hitler's "master plan" as an ingenious idea that was years ahead of its time, and would accept this as an article of faith. Their denial is then a rejection of such policies, by denying that they actually occurred. What they are doing is tantamount to having their cake and eating it too. In a great many cases, they are probably guilty of ideological masturbation.

What Pope Benedict has done in his latest move seems to me to be somewhat the spiritual equivalent of spanking the monkey. The Pope, however, in his infinite wisdom and doctrinal infallibility, is jacking off publicly, and it is not a pretty sight.

First he denounces the statements of Bishope Williamson in the latter's expressed views which amount to Holocaust denial, he reprimands him, and then he expresses what he clearly elaborates as the known and well established Church policy, which almost amounts to a form of Church dogma. Yet, the Bishop himself gets a mere slap on the wrist, if it amounts to even that much. Bear in mind, Williamson made his statements in clear and knowing contradiction of official Church policy. What would the Pope say if Williamson claimed Mary was probably just an unwed pregnant mother who made up a really cool excuse?

Abraham Foxman had this to say about the Pope's astonishing actions-

“You can’t condemn anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial and then reinstate someone who’s a Holocaust denier,” Mr. Foxman said. He called the pope’s statements “significant and very important,” but said they “did not bring closure.”

After the global outcry over Bishop Williamson’s remarks in recent weeks, the Vatican has said that the members of the St. Pius X Society will have to accept the teachings of Vatican II in order to return to full communion with the church. This week, the bishop was removed as the head of his seminary in Argentina.

I see where Foxman is coming from. It's either a matter of personal opinion, or a Bishop is seen as a representative of the church's views and must conform to church dogma. I don't see how Benedict can justify taking both positions simultaneously, but that seems to be what he's doing. He doesn't really know what he's doing, in my opinion. It's obscene for a religious figure to act in such a way, and expect the world's Catholics to sit by and join him in what would amount to one giant public group circle-jerk. His final actions in removing him from his seminary in Argentina would seem to be more of a political response than a spiritual judgment.

Of course, this too is understandable. Most lay Catholics over the course of the last century seem to have wised up over this papal infallibility business, which is now explained as mere doctrinal infallibility. Benedict seems to have failed even that test with this debacle, and explaining away his actions as those of a comparatively weak pope only serves as a further revelation of this divine truth.