Pages

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Holy Rolling

Great news, Holy Rollers!  There is a place for you in this country, Sunny South Carolina.  That's right.  You too can create your own conservative Christian community, where not only will there be revivals seven days a week, but you can pass your own laws!  Always wanted to outlaw abortion?  Now here's your chance!  And public schools?  Who needs em?  With Christian Exodus schools, your children will be taught the only subject they'll ever need to know, the bible.  The theaters will only show wholesome family entertainment (no rated R films, of course *) and the radio stations will be all-inspirational all-the-time.  It will be grand.

And in the meantime, you can get out of our hair.  I don't advocate segregation amongst the faiths, of course.  I have no problem personally co-existing with conservative Christians myself, nor do I begrudge them the right to their own views and lifestyle.  They just don’t see it that way when it comes to us “secularists.”  It's their way or the highway.

If I don't say "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays," they'll get Bill O’Reilly to bitch about it on TV.  They want to put the Ten Commandments at the courthouse.  I want to put the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  Oh yeah, and the entire Tao Te Ching, in both Chinese and English. If not in marble, granite will do.

I suspect that their fervor to ban abortion is really a ruse to reinvigorate the coat hanger industry.  

And what can be said about their fascination with gay people?  It's disturbing. Even gay people aren't so preoccupied with homosexuality.

Seriously, when are these people going to realize we do not live in the United States of Jesus?

Besides, I know Jesus. He had bigger things in mind than gay marriage, abortion, and making sure churches can decorate the public square. He was more concerned with spiritual matters, with the health of your soul, with love and empathy, with forgiveness. How is it that I know this and I don't even go to church? What's more, I'm not even a believer.

You would think that those self-professed believers who go to church on a regular basis would understand that, too.






*  Unless the R-rated film in question stars Jim Caviezel as Jesus.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Hoochie Coochie Man

So I was watching Casino the other day, and realized that one of the great things (amongst many others) about that movie is the music.  This time Hoochie Coochie Man, performed by the immortal Muddy Waters, caught my ear.  I loved how he sang, “Evvvvvvvvvvvverybody knows I’m here.”  You knew he meant it.

If you wanted to describe blues to someone, you could just play that song and they’d get it.  It’s contains all the injustice and heartbreak that made the blues the blues and Muddy one of its most celebrated practitioners.  The song is now a blues standard, carried on by a whole new generations of blues players.

You got Steppenwolf’s psychedelic version, with John Kay’s gravelly voice and the funky organ work.  It’s like a big beautiful five minute bong hit.

There’s the sleazy garage rock version recorded by the New York Dolls, which proves that even if you’re in a gay punk band, the twelve bar blues can make you sound good.

And then, for smooth blues enthusiasts, you have the blind man version, a live performance from Montreux featuring, Jeff Healey with his guitar in his lap.  These boys know how to shuffle.

Jimi Hendrix himself recorded a fuzzed out version for the BBC, too.

Of course you can’t forget the man partly responsible for bringing blues to a whole new generation, Eric Clapton.  His version is super-faithful to the original, more of a tribute than an interpretation, but it’s just as good.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Gay Marriage Redux

Oh my GOD!  They’re at it again.  Why?  Why do they insist on looking like assholes, these evangelical Christian people?  

For some reason (hmm, wonder what that is…) a religious group called Coloradoans for Marriage (no website, as far as I could find) has a hard-on for inserted language into the state constitution which further clarifies the definition of marriage.  Now let us assume, for a moment, that this is all in good faith, that there is some kind of confusion or ambiguity about the legal aspects of marriage.

State law is quite clear on the matter.  On the federal level, there are laws on the books that further illuminate the subject.  As far as I know there are no cases on the court docket that could change the laws on either level, nor is there really a movement to change the legal language to redefine marriage as we know it.

So when the president of Coloradans for Marriage, Bishop Porter says:

"We've come to present language that will assure the continuance of that most basic unit and the structure of our human society: marriage of one man and one woman. That's our only goal."

Is he being honest?  The language already says marriage is between one man and one woman.  So pack it up, buddy.  The job is done.  

However…

Bishop Porter’s group is not introducing this amendment in “good faith.”  Toilet Paper Blog has more on the bishop’s hypocrisies here.

Metallica's New Producer

Metallica have named the producer for their forthcoming album and it's not Bob Rock. Instead, this time it's going to be Rick Rubin (Slayer, Beastie Boys, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, System of a Down, Johnny Cash) and it's going to be awesome!

Christina

The most beautiful woman in the world is named Christina. She inspired this poem:

Cupid's arrows
Hurtled from heaven,
Rain down like water,
Immersing unsuspecting
Souls, lonely and forlorn, with
The torments of desire.
Impervious to reason,
Nascent love arrives
Announced only by the hiss of the pierced heart.

Sunday Blogstorm

In a discussion of a new popularity poll, I found this graph at Crooks and Liars:


Most revealing is Bush's intense and pervasive unpopularity in Ohio, the state which swung the election in his favor. People in Ohio disapprove of Bush's performance by an amazingly lopsided margin of 37-60%. Apparently, they're not happy that they have no jobs, their kids have no health insurance, their neighbors have been stuck and are being killed in an increasingly unpopular, endless and senseless war in Iraq, and the President is surrounded by cronyism and corruption and thinks he has the power to break the law. But at least gay couples can't get married, so that's good.

Something tells me that the "moral-values" crowd hasn't caught on to how much their narrow-sighted focus on sex issues has hurt this country. Do they care about anything other than gays, abortion, and pornography?

***

Speaking of hurting this country, Paul Pillar has some important insight into how intelligence was misused in the lead up to war in Iraq. And just in case you think he's just another Bush-hating lefty, consider that Pillar was a senior CIA official in the region from 2000-2005.

But what does Pillar think is the biggest problem in the intelligence community? Lack of human assets? Long wait times to get eavesdropping warrants? Whistleblowers leaking to the press? Nope. Pillar states his thesis quite clearly:
"The most serious problem with U.S. intelligence today is that its
relationship with the policymaking process is broken and badly needs
repair."

Take the time to read his piece and he'll explain just exactly how broken it is. He also states several things which I have known for years, but inexplicably are still being treated as open questions. You know, things like did the intelligence convince Bush to invade Iraq, or was the intelligence used to convince the American public that Bush was right? Pillar says this:


But in making this defense (that the Intelligence Community, even during the Clinton administration, believed Saddam had WMD - Ed.), the White House also inadvertently pointed out the real problem: intelligence on Iraqi weapons programs did not drive its decision to go to war. A view broadly held in the United States and even more so overseas was that deterrence of Iraq was working, that Saddam was being kept "in his box," and that the best way to deal with the weapons problem was through an aggressive inspections program to supplement the sanctions already in place. That the administration arrived at so different a policy solution indicates that its decision to topple Saddam was driven by other factors -- namely, the desire to shake up the sclerotic power structures of the Middle East and hasten the spread of more liberal politics and economics in the region.

Pillar is very diplomatic about calling the President and his team liars, but by pointing out the inherent dishonesty in the "gathering threat" meme, that's essentially what Pillar does here.

Pillar continues:

The administration used intelligence not to inform decision-making, but to justify a decision already made. It went to war without requesting -- and evidently without being influenced by -- any strategic-level intelligence assessments on any aspect of Iraq.

Hmmm, sounds like an implicit confirmation of what the Downing Street memos said, that the "intelligence was being fixed around the policy."

Obviously this is troubling for many reasons, the most obvious being that Iraq is a huge self-created problem that the United States will be dealing with long after Bush retires to Crawford. And, as Pillar so eloquently states, this isn't the way the Intelligence Community should operate.

Read the whole thing.

***

Here's a chance for the government to prove that it's really concerned about the War on Terrorism. If they don't take steps to prevent it, six of the country's largest ports (New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia) will soon be run by the United Arab Emirates. Okay, so a government-owned outfit named Dubai Ports World will technically be in charge, but it's all UAE, baby.

Now the UAE isn't a bad country. Thirty years ago, it was a backwater and now it's one of the richest and most modern countries in the Middle East, a remarkable change in just a generation's time. (Dubai is so spectacular that Michael Jackson is reportedly moving there. Good riddance.) But, the UAE is also a little too friendly to the Islamist movement and their terrorist butt buddies. The UAE was one of three countries that recognized the Taliban as the legitmate government in Afghanistan. That right there makes me a little worried that they'll be running our biggest ports.

Of course, all this leads me to ask this question: Why is a foreign company running our ports anyway?

***
To be honest, I've had a bit of a crisis of confidence this last week, although thankfully not in myself or my abilities. I'm convinced, more than I ever was, that reason and truth are not all-powerful trump cards in this Darwinian world of competing interests that we live in. The catalyst, I suppose, is Dick Cheney's shooting last weekend.

I'm not quite sure what sits so uneasily with me about that. The shooting itself is comedic but regrettable, even understandable considering that "shit happens" with some regularity. The delay in reporting the incident is troubling. "Cover-up" might be too strong a word, but it's obvious (to me, at least) that there was a concerted effort to minimize the accident so that it would shake out to be "no big deal." Cheney's mea culpa, delivered 5 days later in a cowardly "poor me" performance on Fox News, didn't explain, or excuse, anything. The right wing political machine, including their pundit foot soldiers, predictably made the press, especially the White House press corps, the bad guys and Cheney the innocent victim.

That bothers me.

But it also bothers me that Dick Cheney, arguably the most powerful man in Washington, is still drinking beer and shooting guns with lobbyists on weekend retreats. Doesn't he have anything better to do? I mean, aren't there CIA agents to expose or intelligence to cherry pick? Isn't there some poor billionaire who needs a tax break? Or an oil company that needs ANWR drilling rights?

Isn't there something that the world's most powerful man can be doing besides having a good ole time shooting quail in a barrel with the good ole boys?

Of course, one thing is certain at this point. There is a percentage of the population who are such loyal Bush-Cheney people that the Administration will enjoy their undying support no matter what. It doesn't matter that the competence of the Bush-Cheney administration has been in doubt well before My Pet Goat, or that their political idealogy has all the consistency of baby food. Hell, it doesn't even matter if the Vice President shoots someone!

At this point, supporters of Bush-Cheney are like the Michael Jackson fans who stood outside the courthouse waving signs proclaiming Michael's innocence. That kind of blind loyalty is informed by emotion rather than reason or truth, and you can never underestimate the power of emotion.

Alright, enough politics and world affairs.

And now back to our program:

Experts are predicting the return of the mustache. I had one for years (of course, with its goatee counterpart) but I don't think I'll be hopping on this trend. No way. These days I'm really liking being clean faced.