Friday, May 29, 2009

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) If Sonia Sotomayor is held up for questioning based on her ethnic ties, then Antonin Scalia should be impeached unless he renounces his Knights of Columbus membership.

2) It's nice to see that cooler heads may prevail, but the response still needs to be forceful and certain.

3) We forget that people like Kim and Ahmadinejad were, like Republicans, waiting to test the mettle of Barack Obama. And yes, I just included the GOP in the Axis of Evil.

4) Californians may have dealt Prop 8 a death blow, but never fear, friends of Dorothy, the time will come.

5) Two words, Mr Ex-President: shut up and go away. OK, four words, which is three more than should have been wasted on you in the year 2000.

6) "Alas! Poor Yorick...I knew him when he stole the Tardus, Horatio."

7) I'm guessing Wikipedia is not ready for the fight they just picked. Not that Scientology is anything I endorse, just that they have a reputation for, um, some pretty nasty shit.

8) It looks like Sy Hersh was right about those rape rooms at Abu Ghraib.

9) I was firmly in the camp with respect to releasing these new photos. Now, I think we have to rethink that. I still lean towards releasing them, but given the highly inflammatory nature of the pictures, we ought to think about the victims of the rapes, their privacy and how this might affect them.

10) I don't think deep fried apples count as "healthier food."

Thursday, May 28, 2009

"No! Racism Doesn't Exist Anymore!"

Um. Yea. Right.
A Pennsylvania mom found in Walt Disney World after claiming she and her 9-year-old daughter were abducted by two black men and stuffed into a car trunk, tricked a co-worker into giving her their identification.

Bonnie Sweeten used a co-worker's driver's license and presented it as her own when she bought an airline ticket and flew to Orlando, Fla. on Tuesday, Henry said, adding Sweeten also used the license to check into the Grand Floridian Hotel at Disney World.

Jillian Jenkinson said Thursday on CBS' "The Early Show" that Bonnie Sweeten's request to use her identification to fix a discrepancy on her 401(k) "seemed innocent."

First of all, how stupid is that?

More important, how racist is it that a woman claims to be abducted in a small town in two men from Philadelphia who drove a Cadillac and are black???

Sweeten is from Feasterville, PA. Population: 6,500+ Percentage minority (black and Latino): 4.5%

Do the math. That's 300 black and Latino residents in a town where everyone knows everyone else.

Income: $58,000. 70% of Feasterville is family units, and the average age is 36.1 (older than the national average). So we're talking about people who have laid down roots.

You'd think a rear-end accident and an abduction might have attracted someone's attention, particularly if they involved strange minority men in a car too expensive for most residents (who probably would opt for an SUV, like Sweeten did).

Yet, Sweeten, like Susan Smith before her, opted for the "scary black man" tale to cover her own self-indulgences. At least in Sweeten's case, the child is alive!

But, no, there's no more racism in this country, no siree! Indeed, it's the scary black man who is racist! And his Latino "wise woman" appointee! But the rest of us? Oh no! Butter wouldn't melt in our white hoods mouths!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

2 + 8 = 5

Only in America is being a baby factory profitable:
Jon and Kate Gosselin's marital misery sent their TV show soaring off the charts Monday night.

But before they start enjoying themselves too much, they might also want to consider this: If their marriage slides under the bus, it will very likely take their TV show with it and they will have to find another job.

Besides raising eight kids.

Yea. The cynic in me says ol' John here (I have never watched the show, but I feel stupid calling him by his last name) banged his little hottie with dollar signs lighting up his eyes.

In fact, it wouldn't surprise me to find out that the Discovery networks actively sought out a woman who could, um, be a co-respondent in the divorce.

In the old days, this used to be called "procurement". Now it's called "marketing".

Ratings for this first episode were more than double the final episode of last season.

So the Gosselins took a page out of the Loud family scrapbook.

Undoubtedly, they bit off more than they could chew. I'm sure the novelty of raising sextuplets (are you listening, Octomom?) and two other children wore off quickly, but the bucks rolled in, even as the audience wore thinner.

But this entire episode speaks to American culture: how bland are our lives that we would rather spend an hour watching a young family changing diapers than deal with our spouses and children?

Changing. Diapers.

Or climbing a tree on some remote island just so you don't have to face the challenges of being "voted off"? Or racing through the streets of Rome looking for a clue to the next destination? Or...

It's amazingly sick and twisted, to my mind at any rate, that the best that TV networks across the spectrum can present to us is someone else's life.

They protest that it's compelling drama, that these are real people, and that they are cheap and easy shows to make.

Until you realize they are as scripted as soap operas or even bad talk shows like Jerry Springer. And then the illusion, the same illusion that drives pro wrestling and game shows, vaporizes. Reality sets in, and you realize that you've been hoodwinked into watching one long commercial.

There was one reality show that I not only liked, but watched obsessively: Mad Mad House. (episodes here)

Here was not only a parody of reality TV done right, it was an actual reality show. Yes, it was scripted, to be sure, but here's the thing: there were no heroics, no safety nets. Real people, a cross-section of "average Americans" were forced not to deal with their shortcomings in terms of being overweight or out of shape or less than perfect.

No, they were exposed to an entire new spectrum of lifestyles: naturism, voodoo, witchcraft, primitivism, and even vampirism.

It was "Fear Factor" but without the ick factor. And there was no audience selection, or "democratic" booting out. Your hosts were your prosecutors, judges, and jury, as well as often your defense attorneys.

None of this "AT&T helped select the winner." There were few if any product placements. It was about finding the person with the most open mind...who could also be tough enough to survive all the backstabbing antics behind them.

And frankly, it was compelling. I like watching uncomfortable people deal with a situation that, while not threatening or harmful, forces them out of their cozy little superiority complices and into dealing with other people as equals.

America needs to learn that lesson over and over again.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Troubling Blind Spot

The Bush administration's singleminded focus on Iraq blinded it to some pretty ugly things going on in other parts of the world.
North Korea has fired two more missiles, hours after the UN Security Council unanimously condemned its nuclear test, South Korean reports say.

The Communist state fired two short-range missiles off an east-coast base, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported, citing an official.

The move came as UN diplomats began work on a resolution to punish North Korea for its underground nuclear test.

Translation: When John Bolton warns George Bush you're doing it wrong, U R Doin It Rong!
In 2002, our intelligence community definitively judged that the regime was working on an industrial-scale enrichment program. Since then we have little new information, reducing the confidence level, but not changing the substantive conclusion, that the North Koreans "have and continue to operate a uranium enrichment program" – as Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell testified in February.

For the Bush administration, however, the lack of new data is an excuse to ignore the entire issue of uranium.

On plutonium, the administration seems content to seek vague statements from the North that "account" for the amount of this fissile material we think it has extracted from its Yongbyon reactor's spent fuel rods over the years. Administration briefings reveal little or no interest in how many plutonium weapons exist; whether there are other plutonium-related facilities hidden in North Korea's vast complex of underground facilities; and what the North's weapons-manufacturing capabilities are.

Proliferation? Perhaps the Bush administration's most wondrous act of magic is to make that problem disappear. The State Department argues that North Korea may have proliferated in the past, but that's all behind us. How do we know? The North Koreans have told us.

Remember this gem of a meme?
Under the final terms of the Agreed Framework approved in October of 1994, Clinton agreed to provide the "Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea" (DPRK) with two light water nuclear reactors and a massive allotment of oil. The U.S. agreed to ship 500,000 metric tons of oil annually in response to the North's pretense that the energy-starved backwater had developed the nuclear facility to generate power. These shipments have cost taxpayers more than $800 million to date - a bargain compared with the $6 billion spent on constructing the nuclear reactors, which now empower North Korea to produce 100 nuclear bombs each year.

All these measures failed to quell the North's atom-lust.

Odds are you won't hear a peep from the right about Bush's complicity in the further development of nuclear arms by the North (absent Bolton's now-year-old OpEd), rather than correctly point out that, of the "Axis of Evil", only Korea had any hopes of developing a nuclear armament program AND legitimate targets to lob them at.

Means, motive, opportunity, the classic tripod on which to hang a conviction in a criminal case apparently holds no weight in the realm of the right wing. We striked out at the country with the least means, the lesser motive, and practically zero opportunity and rattled sabres at the country with slightly more means, slightly more motive, but even less opportunity.

And did nothing about the guy in the ski mask holding a gun at the bank teller window with an open sack.

Smart. Very smart.

What could have been handled six years ago is now looming as a pandemic of pandemonia. The same logic used to invade Iraq could just as easily have been applied to Korea, all the way to the feeble excuse of bringing an international criminal to justice and freeing his citizenry.

Indeed, that charge more applied to Kim Jong Il than to Saddam Hussein. Hussein, at least, never starved his own people, despite gassing large numbers of them.

But now we have what we have, as Strindberg so aptly put it.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Happy Memorial Day

A lilly in remembrance of those who died for our freedom.