•  Last Fortunes Countdown #6 •  Last Fortunes Countdown #5 •  Last Fortunes Countdown #3 & #4 •  Last Fortunes Countdown #2 •  Last Fortunes Countdown #1 •  Fortune for October •  Your Guide to this Fall's Bodily Fluid Moons •  Rinse. Wash. Repeat. •  To the Pole! •  Just a Box of Games, Box 4 •  About Damn Time •  Fortune •  Once More Unto the Breach •  I Surrender •  Just a Box of Games, Box 3 •  Just a Box of Games, Box 2 •  Just a Box of Games, Box 1 •  Gun Belt •  A Man, A Man, A Plan, Not Approved •  Come Home, George McGovern

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«  January 2008  |   Main   |  March 2008  »


»  February 29, 2008

Politics  

Senryū Thirty. The UN Diplomat:

Wonder how John Bolten
Would have fared in Kenya
Instead of Annan

 


»  February 28, 2008

Politics  

I Am Hussein: Are you Hussein, too? If so, leave a comment below, or leave a response to the video at YouTube and tag it with iamhussein.

Hats off to Walt Hussein Starr and Jeff Hussein Strabone, who were apparently thinking the same way today.

— Darrel Hussein Plant

 


»  February 27, 2008

Politics  

Nobody Made a Fuss When They Called It Sin City: The first of four parts of Dick Gregory speaking at the State of the Black Union 2008, last week in New Orleans.

 

Politics  

Senryū Twenty-Nine. Ten-Dollar Words:

Pleonastic, xenophobic,
Reprehensible
Unlamented

 


»  February 25, 2008

Politics  

Next, On CBS: I've got to stop watching the news. Also from The Katie Show:

BOB ORR: At issue is whether or not telecommunications companies like Verizon and AT&T should be protected from lawsuits when they help the government tap conversations of suspected foreign terrorists - when those calls and emails are routed through the U.S.
Actually, the issue is whether retroactive immunity will be granted to telecoms so they can't be sued by Americans, for illegally participating in wiretapping American citizens in America.

 

Politics  

Yes, Katie, Secularists Are Morally Void: The first line in the lead story of tonight's CBS News with Katie Couric:

WYATT ANDREWS: This unprecedented survey of religion answers many concerns about a secular, morally void America.
Brought to you by the many fine moralists of Christian America.

 

Politics  

Senryū Twenty-Eight. Lacking in Some Way:

Maybe this nudge from the left
Translates into a shove
Run, Ralph, Run

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think that Ralph Nader was a spoiler in 2000? What do you think about news reports that he may embark on a third presidential bid?

[BARACK] OBAMA: I think anybody has the right to run for president if they file sufficient papers. And I think the job of the democratic party is to be so compelling that a few percentage of the vote going to another candidate is not going to make any difference.

...

OBAMA: He had called me and I think reached out to my campaign -- my sense is that Mr. Nader is somebody who, if you don't listen and adopt all of his policies, thinks you're not substantive. He seems to have a pretty high opinion of his own work. And by the way, I have to say that historically he is a singular figure in American politics and has done as much as just about anybody on behalf of consumers. So, in many ways he is a heroic figure and I don't mean to diminish him. But I do think there is a sense now that if somebody is not [hewing] to the Ralph Nader agenda, then you must be lacking in some way.

From NPR's "Talk of the Nation" (at 9:11):
CALLER: Has Mr. Raider...

NEAL CONAN, HOST: Nader. Nader's Raiders, but he is Mr. Nader.

CALLER: ...has he really reached out to either of the candidates or any...any of the candidates: McCain, Barack, or Hilary to look at a different approach than one that positions him as the spoiler? And has he tried some other alternatives that would further the dialog about these issues, rather than being the spoiler? Finally the last question is does he look back at the last two times when he was seen as — and it's certainly debatable — as the spoiler and look to some successes he has had? That's all, I'll take my answer off the line.

CONAN: Thank you, John.

RALPH NADER: First of all, I object to the word "spoiler." I know he doesn't mean it that way but it's a politically bigoted word because you to the two major parties and their candidates who spoiled our electoral process, spoiled our government, and turned it over to big business. As I call Washington DC, occupied — business-occupied — corporate-occupied territory.

Either we have an equal right to run for election, Nealm or we don't. And if we have an equal right to run for election, then none of us are spoilers or all of us are spoilers trying to take votes competitively away from one another. In 2000, I reached out. I had all our, my proposals, we sent them to the Democrat and Republican nominees, to the parties, put it on the website: they never responded. In 2004, even more strenuously, I did a "Agenda for the Common Good." It was clear writing, ir related to peoples' necessities, all the solutions that we're putting on the shelf, that we're not applying because of the democracy gap. And I gave it to George Bush and his assistant said he received it. I gave it to John Kerry and John Kerry said he read it. I gave it to Terry Macauliffe — the head of the Democratic National Committee — he said he read it on the way to Pennsy- — to Philadelphia on the plane. I met with John Kerry in May, in his office. We talked about a whole number of issues: labor law reform, cracking down on corporate crime, and a living wage, and uh, he refused to, uh, accept my extended hand of collaborating on these issues that we both supposedly agreed on, and drawing a bright line with George W. Bush.

So, to answer his question, there's nobody who's reached out more. And I will do it. I've been trying for six months to get an appointment with Barack Obama. And it started in April of last year and ended in the early fall when I called him finally, his office, and he said he had no time the entire fall. So this is the kind of hubris, I think, that the two-parties have, they think they own the voters, and I think the voters, once they think about it a bit, need to resent that attitude.

 


»  February 24, 2008

What the...?  

30 Days Hath: From SCIFI.COM's weekly email newsletter:

Friday February 30
at 10/9C

The unexpected return of an old friend spurs the Atlantis team into a race against time to save a missing teammate.

I wonder if they were as shocked as I was that February had 30 days?

 


»  February 22, 2008

Politics  

Deceptive: Somehow I ended up on the Oregon GOP mailing list (a few years back the national party was trying to get me to buy signed prints of George W. Bush) and I usually flip through them to see what's going on over there. They've had a hard time of it lately, and they just seem not to learn.

For instance, At next weekend's Dorchester conference in Seaside, they've got Bill Kristol as the keynote speaker. It's not like I'm in the habit of giving Republicans advice, but stop listening to Bill Kristol! Geez.

Anyway, I use Eudora for my mail client, and it gives you a warning if links in an email are suspicious. It picked up on the fact that text in the the Dorchester site link (type it for yourself) didn't match the actual link data, which is routed through the national GOP site.

I just thought the Warning text in the dialog was eerily appropriate.

Warning: The URL you are about to visit may be deceptive.

"Moody economy?" I thought everything was going great!

 

Politics  

Senryū Twenty-Seven. Limited In Size:

Into the valley of Death
Rode the ten thousand.
Or six hundred.

Turkish Military Tells of Incursion Into Iraq

By SEBNEM ARSU and SABRINA TAVERNISE
Published: February 23, 2008

ISTANBUL — Turkey’s military said Friday that it had sent troops into northern Iraq on Thursday night, in a limited operation to weaken Kurdish militants there.

The Turkish military announced the operation on its Web site on Friday, but Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan later played down the mission, describing it as “limited” in size and emphasizing that the soldiers would return to Turkey “in the shortest possible time.”

Reports of the numbers of troops varied. According to Reuters, Turkey’s foreign minister and an unnamed American official in Baghdad said that that only a few hundred had been deployed, while Turkish television reported that the number was around 10,000.

 

What the...?  

Nulla Salus Sine The Hives:

In the swamps outside New Orleans in 2004

Another fantastic show by The Hives last night at the Roseland, fronted by The Donnas.

Watching The Donnas set reminded me that it was almost exactly 22 years ago that The Pandoras came through Eugene promoting their album Step Pretending. I was still doing radio part-time at KRVM, and interviewed the band live. I've still got my individually-signed posters and album cover.

 


»  February 21, 2008

Politics  

Senryū Twenty-Six. The 1,800: 21 February 2008 minus 19 March 2003 equals

Eighteen hundred days
Since the invasion of Iraq
No end in sight

 


»  February 20, 2008

Politics  

Senryū Twenty-Five. Stormy Weather:

Will rough seas, clouds,
Delay missile shield protecting
Us from holocaust?

Dr. Jeffrey Lewis at Arms Control Wonk.com has a worst case scenario about the attempted satellite shoot that some others think is plausible:

I am very worried about the debris creation — particularly the debris that the light-weight interceptor will kick into higher orbits when it hits the massive (bus-sized) satellite. Thnk, as Geoff Forden suggested, of a ping pong ball hitting a superball.

Virtually all the debris should come down quickly. Cartwright said 50 percent would come down within two orbits, with the rest coming down in weeks and months. That seems plausible, at first blush.

But those two orbits could be hairy and some of the debris will remain in orbit. Michael Griffin, NASA Administrator, said there are “good times and bad times” to conduct the intercept, based on the position of the ISS but that “bad times are not all that bad” comparing the risk to an order of magnitude lower than flying the shuttle.

Last I checked, the PRAN [probability risk assessment number] for the shuttle was 1 in 100. Extrapolating, there would be only a 1 in 1000 chance of wiping out the ISS.

Great.

 

Politics  

Main Bookstores: In a comment on one of the Oregonian's Community Writers columns ("An alternative patriotism" by Lillian Mongeau) the commenter suggests a book and makes an oft-heard charge:

I want to suggest you dig deeper. A new book may provide what is needed, a sound reason for prejudice, and I do not mean racism.

The book is, 'In Praise of Prejudice" the necessity of preconceived ideas' by Theodore Dalrymple. 126 pp.

The main bookstores will not carry conservative books. The bookstore owners were also taught by teaches with the same agenda as yours.

Now, despite what the "teaches" taught, and the fact that I don't spend much time these days at my long-ago employer Powell's Books — which is about as much of a "main bookstore" as it gets — I know when someone's talking out of their ass. 50 copies of Dalyrmple's In Praise of Prejudice alone.

Powell's Books search for Theodore Dalrymple

 

What the...?  

Non-Community Writer:

Hello,

Thank you for your interest in becoming a Community Writer. We appreciate the time and thought you put into preparing your materials. After reviewing approximately 150 applications, we've decided on a new group of 15 writers. We're sorry to say you're not among them.

Again, thank you for your interest.

Sincerely,

Bob Caldwell, editorial page editor
George Rede, Sunday Opinion editor

I'm hardly surprised that Bob Caldwell and George Rede didn't pull my application for Community Writer out of the stack — I've made more than my share of comments about the quality of the Oregonian Opinion pages over the years — what really startles me is that out of all the people writing their opinions in this state that they only had 150 applications.

 

Politics  

Why Socialism?:

Production is carried on for profit, not for use. There is no provision that all those able and willing to work will always be in a position to find employment; an "army of unemployed" almost always exists. The worker is constantly in fear of losing his job. Since unemployed and poorly paid workers do not provide a profitable market, the production of consumers' goods is restricted, and great hardship is the consequence. Technological progress frequently results in more unemployment rather than in an easing of the burden of work for all. The profit motive, in conjunction with competition among capitalists, is responsible for an instability in the accumulation and utilization of capital which leads to increasingly severe depressions. Unlimited competition leads to a huge waste of labor, and to that crippling of the social consciousness of individuals which I mentioned before.

This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career.

I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals.

—Albert Einstein, "Why Socialism?", Monthly Review, May 1949

 

What the...?  

Holdouts: I put Google Analytics in place on the site a week and a half ago, and relatively quickly it logged visitors from almost every state in the Union.

Except for Mississippi, Idaho, Vermont, and Montana. I've been waiting for one of those to drop for days now.

 

Director  

Why Lingo?: Phillip Kerman's back with his 30 seconds on Lingo

 


»  February 19, 2008

Politics  

Senryū Twenty-Four. High Fidelity:

Forty-odd years of Cuba
Sanctions
have really made
Some great progress

 

Flash  

Why Director?: Adobe's Flex Evangelist Ted Patrick is encouraging people to do 30-second videos answering questions like "Why Flex?" or "Why Flash?". Prizes are involved.

Phillip Kerman has some time on his hands and has already produced a bunch of rather humorous responses, including this one:

 

Director  

Generic: Nathan pointed out to me that the new Director 11 product feature page has a line about the "ever-expanding ecosystem of third-party Xtras" available (although it's hidden beneath the "Endless opportunities" expandable heading). That's a bit of a stretch for 2008.

What I noticed is that the web team at Adobe went the extra mile in customizing the page for their beloved crazy aunt in the attic, leaving the generic "Product Name" in the template for the page header.

Director 11 Features page

Oh, well. I hope everyone's having a good time at GDC. Wish I was there.

 


»  February 18, 2008

Politics  

Senryū Twenty-Three. The Perv:

Look in the mirror
Republicans come November
"Q Is Finished"

 


»  February 17, 2008

Politics  

Senryū Twenty-Two. Ripped From the Headlines:

"U.S. Struggles to Tutor
Iraqis in Rule of Law"

Small wonder

 


»  February 15, 2008

Politics  

Senryū Twenty-One. There'll Be No Spy in the Sky When You Die:

Whacking satellites
It's the new arms race
Shooting money into space

 


»  February 14, 2008

Flash  

When You Make It to Wikipedia...: Last summer I wrote a post titled "The Tell-Tale SWF" where I poked a little fun at attempts by Macromedia and Adobe to eradicate the term "Shockwave" from use in relation to Flash.

Now, as I've mentioned before, most of the traffic on the blog is people looking for my parody TIME covers (particularly the Idi Amin piece) but I've noticed in the past couple of weeks when I've looked at log records that there were links from the Wikipedia entry on "SWF," the file extension for compressed Flash files. And when I went to look it up, someone (not me) had put a link to my article in the "References" section at the number one spot, ahead of the official Adobe references.

Thank you, unknown Wikipedia editor!

 

Politics  

When the DSCC Comes Calling: This is something I ran across just yesterday in Glenn Hurowitz's Fear and Courage in the Democratic Party about the DSCC's reaction to Sen. Paul Wellstone's opposition to the Iraq AUMF. It's prior to Schumer's stint as chair of the DSCC, but I think it exemplifies some of my misgivings about the organization, no matter who is in charge there (at the time, it was Patty Murray of Washington, who voted against the AUMF but wasn't up for reelection in 2002):

Despite Wellstone's instructions to leave politics out of the decision [about the AUMF vote], they inevitably reared their ugly head. On September 16 [2002], campaign manager Jeff Blodgett received an email from a senior Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee staffer implying that if Wellstone voted against the war resolution, it could impact the DSCC's willingness to give Wellstone the financial resources he needed to win. It "makes me almost physically ill to even contemplate our spending 9m [$9 million] on a candidate who decides to commit [political] suicide [by voting against the Iraq war] -- however principled and otherwise defensible," the official wrote.

 

Politics  

Senryū Twenty. Red Star Wars:

Pit nuclear missiles
Against Reagan's fantasy
See which works best

 


»  February 13, 2008

Politics  

Senryū Nineteen. Driving While Irish:

Switch from left to right
To make tourists safer?
Just confuse the rest of Eire

 

Politics  

There's Worse Than Spitting: At the end of last month, in a post about Senate hopeful Jeff Merkley reaching out to Harley-riding he-man types, one of the commenters mentioned that he had been spat on when he returned from service in Vietnam, presumably outside the Hunter's Point naval station.

A couple of other commenters—myself included—asked about details, having remembered perhaps, Jerry Lembcke's book The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam, in which he was unable to find any incidents of veteran-spitting reported in contempraneous accounts. Of course, that led to Pat Ryan, the author of the post and one of the regular contributors at Blue Oregon to advocate assault. A couple of days later, I ran into this passage, from Curtis Austin's Up Against the Wall: Violence in the Making and Unmaking of the Black Panther Party (p. 81):

One week later [after July 1967 riots in Newark] in Detroit a similar, but more destructive, rebellion occurred when police arrested a group of blacks celebrating the return of a Vietnam veteran at the United Community League for Civic Action, which doubled as an after-hours drinking spot. Racial tension had been running high because a few weeks earlier a group of whites in Rouge Park community had murdered black Vietnam veteran Danny Thomas.

 


»  February 12, 2008

Books  

Senryū Eighteen. Howl:

I saw the best minds
Of my generation
Destroyed by Madness

 


»  February 11, 2008

Politics  

I'm An Inane Purity Troll: The conversation over Democratic superdelegates goes on at Blue Oregon, and one of the crazies -- who's apparently a part of the local party apparatus -- is doing his usual tin-pot dictator rant about how "everything iz good for the partei." He says everyone who disagrees with him must think parliamentary democracies are not really democracies, and when I point out that the superdelegates -- the ones who can make their own decision at the convention -- are 60% male, meaning that unpledged men have a 20% advantage over unpledged women at the convention, he throws another fit.

Posted by: Steve Maurer | Feb 11, 2008 4:36:52 PM

OK, so in addition to believing most of Western Europe and Japan to be non-democratic, darrelplant is now saying he hates Peter DeFazio and Earl Blumenauer for being white.

Because they must be all secretly members of the KKK or something; they've got this white dude mojo going on.

So obviously they're going to vote for the white dude in this year's nomination process.

This earlier comment was pretty funny, too.

 

What the...?  

Russian Execution: Since Eartha Kitt was just in town...

 

Politics  

Senryū Seventeen. Quail:

Hunting jacket and blue dress
Shot in the face
By whom and with what?

 

What the...?  

All That Jaws:

Roy Scheider meets 'Bruce'

Jeez. You watch a movie and write about it and then one of the actors has to go and die a couple of days later.

Roy Scheider's character in Marathon Man is murdered halfway through that movie, but even as a government agent carrying diamonds for a Nazi war criminal he turned in one of his workmanlike performances as a sort of everyday guy in a strange situation. While he was never exactly an action hero, he had a lithe, snakelike speed that made him believable in movies like Jaws where his physicality was needed to stay alive.

I don't remember seeing Jaws when it came out—I was only in my early teens—but my guilty Roy Schieder pleasures were from the period when he was trying to build on the great success of Spielberg's film but not quite hitting it.

I will admit this here and now, since Barbara doesn't read the blog: I loved All That Jazz. Barbara hates the movie because of Bob Fosse's reprehensible personality and I think she feels it absolves him too much, but I've had a copy of the soundtrack for thirty years and even though I haven't listened to it for twenty, I probably remember it by heart.

Then there's Blue Thunder, the inspiration for the execrable TV series "Airwolf." But I have that soundtrack too.

I've got a post that's sitting on my hard drive about the French classic film Wages of Fear, which William Friedkin remade with Scheider in the starring role as Sorceror. Gotta bump that up on Netflix.

Here's to Roy Scheider. Never let the sharks get you.

 


»  February 10, 2008

Politics  

Senryū Sixteen. Record Oil Profits:

Exxon says it's owed
Three quarter billion
Sixteen times that frozen

 

Politics  

Thompson on Humphrey: A little follow-up on the 1972 Democratic Credentials Committee battle over California's delegates from a contempory source, Hunter S. Thompson's The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales from a Strange Time, pages 218 and 218 from the section titled "Later in June [1972]":

Any political party that can't cough up anything better than a treacherous brain-damaged old vulture like Hubert Humphrey deserves every beating it gets. They don't hardly make 'em like Hubert any more—but just to be on the safe side, he should be castrated anyway.

Castrated? Jesus! Is nothing sacred? Four years ago Hubert Humphrey ran for President of the United States on the Democratic ticket—and he almost won.

It was a very narrow escape. I voted for Dick Gregory in '68, and if somehow Humphrey manages to slither onto the ticket again this year I will vote for Richard Nixon.

But Humphrey will not be on the ticket this year—at least not on the Democratic ticket. He may end up running with Nixon, but the odds are against him there, too. Not even Nixon could stoop to Hubert's level.

So what will Humphrey do with himself this year? Is there no room at the top for a totally dishonest person? A United States Senator? A loyal Party man?

Well . . . as much as I hate to get away from objective journalism, even briefly, there is no other wayway to explain what that treacherous bastard appears to be cranking himself up for this time around, except by slipping momentarily into the realm of speculation.

But first, a few realities: (1) George McGovern is so close to a first-ballot nomination in Miami that everybody except Hubert Humphrey, Gene McCarthy, Shirley Chisholm, and Ed Muskie seems ready to accept it as a foregone conclusion . . . (2) The national Democratic Party is no longer controlled by the Old Guard, Boss-style hacks like George Meany and mayor Daley—or even by the Old Guard liberal-manque types like Larry O'Brien, who thought they had things firmly under control as recently as six months ago . . . (3) McGovern has made it painfully clear that he wants more than just the nomination; he has every intention of tearing the Democratic Party completely apart and re-building it according to his own blueprint . . . (4) If McGovern beats Nixon in November he will be in a position to do anything he wants either to or with the party structure . . . (5) But if McGovern loses in November, control of the Democratic party will instantly revert to the Ole Boys, and McGovern himself will be labeled "another Goldwater" and stripped of any power in the party.

The pattern is already there, from 1964, when the Nixon/Mitchell brain-trust—already laying plans for 1968—sat back and let the GOP machinery fall into the hands of the Birchers and the right-wing crazies for a few months . . . and when Goldwater got stomped, the Nixon/Mitchell crowd moved in and took over the party with no argument from anybody . . . and four years later Nixon moved into the White House.

There have already been a few rumblings and muted threats along these lines from the Daly/Meany faction. Daley has privately threatened to dump Illinois to Nixon in November if McGovern persists in challenging Daley's eighty-five man slave delegation to the convention in Miami . . . and Meany is prone to muttering out loud from time to time that maybe Organized labor would be better off in the long run by enduring another four years under Nixon, rather than running the risk of whatever radical madness he fears McGovern might bring down on him.

The only other person who has said anything about taking a dive for Nixon in November is Hubert Humphrey, who has already threatened in public—at the party's Credentials Committee hearings in Washington last week—to let his friend Joe Alioto, the mayor of San Francisco, throw the whole state of California to Nixon unless the party gives Hubert 151 California delegates—on the basis of his losing show of strength in that state's winner-take-all primary.

Hubert understood all along that California was all or nothing. He continually referred to it as "The Big One" and "The Super Bowl of the Primaries" . . . but he changed his mind when he lost. One of the finest flashes of TV journalism in many months appeared on the CBS evening news the same day Humphrey formally filed his claim to almost half the California delegation. It was a Walter Cronkite interview with Hubert in California, a week or so prior to election day. Cronkite asked him if he had any objection to the winner-take-all aspect of the California primary, and Humphrey replied that he thought it was absolutely wonderful.

"So even if you lose out here—if you lose all 271 delegates—you wouldn't challenge the winner-take-all rule?" Cronkite asked.

"Oh, my goodness, no," Hubert said. "That would make me sort of a spoilsport, wouldn't it?"

 

Politics  

Credentials: Letter to the Oregonian.

It's been a long time since 1972, so perhaps David Sarasohn's memory of the fight over the Democratic convention delegates from California can be forgiven for being a bit hazy. He wrote in Sunday's discussion of historical clashes over delegate credentialing that "new McGovern rules suggested" that California's delegates should be divvied up proportionately rather than all going to the winner of the most primary votes.

Reforms after the 1968 convention to the delegate apportionment procedures overseen by first Sen. George McGovern and then Rep. Donald Fraser did establish proportional delegate distribution in many state contests. But the McGovern-Fraser reforms did not require that states change to proportional systems by 1972. California's winner-take-all primary had been approved by the Democratic National Committee more than a year before the election and all of the candidates knew long before the primary what was at stake.

Just before the California primary, McGovern's chief contender, former Vice President Hubert Humphrey, told Walter Cronkite on CBS that he wouldn't challenge the rule if he lost: "That would be changing the rules after the ball game is over." Of course, that was when Humphrey thought that he would win California, which was the only way he could win the nomination by then. After losing all of California's delegates to McGovern, Humphrey did precisely what he had decried, causing weeks of turmoil over a credentials challenge that might better have been spent, say, vetting a vice presidential candidate rather than settling for the late Sen. Thomas Eagleton.

 


»  February 9, 2008

Politics  

Pain or Relief?:

Sir Laurence Olivier as Dr. Christian Szell in 'Marathon Man'

Director John Schlesinger's movie Marathon Man came out in a different era of film-making. Although it's certainly an iconic movie, with stars like Dustin Hoffman, Sir Laurence Olivier, and Roy Schieder, it was only nominated for a single Oscar (Best Supporting Actor, for Olivier). It did well at the box office, but Marathon Man's not something you see on television as often as its Academy Award co-nominees: Rocky, Carrie, Taxi Driver, All the President's Men, Network.

I wonder if that's in part because of the change in the attitude toward torture in America over the past three decades. Maybe we don't like tobe reminded of just what it is ot the kinds of people who have used it historically. During one of the DVD retrospectives, William Goldman, who wrote the book the movie is based on and the original screenplay, said that at one of the screenings he attended, somone stood up and denounced what they vieweed as gratuitous violence in the movie, which is remarkably tame by today's standards, although there are moments that should make almost anyone squirm.

The most famous, of course, are two short dental torture scenes, in which Olivier, as Nazi war criminal Christian Szell uses simple dental instruments to torture "Babe" Levy (a grad student in history who was played by the 39-year-old Hoffman). The acts depicted in the scenes involved nothing more than physical restraint and procedures carried out in any dental office in the land, just without the benefit of anesthetic. They were clearly intended to be recognized as torture when Goldman wrote them in the early '70s. They were clearly recognized as torture when the movie came out in October of 1976. They looked like torture to me again when I watched it the other night. But a little nerve pulp drilling certainly wouldn't qualify as pain equal to organ failure. It wouldn't even cause the feeling of suffocation and imminent death that waterboarding does. I wonder if Attorney General Michael Mukasey would consider having his own teeth drilled without anaesthetic to be torture.

 

Politics  

Senryū Fifteen. Talking About the Weather:

Weeks of snow and rain
Now sunny in Washington
Who will go caucus?

 


»  February 8, 2008

Politics  

Off the Table: My last fundraiding call from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee didn't go so well, what with the woman who was trying to get me to donate yelling at me that my preferance that Democrats cut off the war funding would end up with troops starving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

They've got my number again, but the caller wasn't as belligerant this time, just relentless. I told her right off the bat that my donations -- apart from specific candidates -- were as "off the table" as impeachment and that the spigots (such as they are) were closed to the DCCC until hearings began.

She tried to tell me that they'd just send an envelope for my $150 and that they were doing lots of good stuff, that there were investigations going on, that they'd gotten a minimum wage hike, etc.

In 1974, the House Judiciary Committee put together a study group to ascertain whether there were grounds to impeach President Richard Nixon. It took them less than a month to prepare their report. It's been more than year since the Democrats took control of the House, and even that step -- having a group of people look at and discuss the potential rationale for impeachment -- hasn't been undertaken.

 

Politics  

McMentum: Tom Tomorrow says:

Why they hate him

Imagine how you’d feel if Joe Lieberman had just captured the Democratic nomination.

That’s how the far right sees McCain.

I know how I felt when Al Gore picked him as the VP candidate in 2000. Is that good enough?

 


»  February 7, 2008

Politics  

Senryū Fourteen. The Race So Far:

Romney gets out
Of the way of McCain
Spent a lot more than Dennis

 


»  February 5, 2008

Politics  

Bunnies: As the Democratic race has tightened up through the big primaries today, one of the bones of contention between supporters of Hillary Clinton and advocates of Barack Obama has been -- rightly -- her support for the Authorization to Use Military Force in Iraq in October 2002. Obama didn't vote on it because he was still a couple of years away from running for the Senate but he did give some pretty unambiguous statements (at the time) against the war.

When Obama partisans attack Clinton on the vote, their standard response is that public opinion at the time was overwhelming in favor of taking out Saddam. That narrative, however, is false, much as Jim Lehrer's claim that 85% of Congress supported the war. Not only was Clinton in a minority of the Democratic party (40%) in her support for the AUMF, but at the time of the vote, even large portions of the public were wary.

A Gallup report titled "Nine Key Questions About Public Opinion on Iraq" came out On 1 October 2002, just a week-and-a-half before the AUMF vote. At the time Clinton's supporters claim that there was overwhelming public support for removing Saddam Hussein from power, the report had this to say:

Basic support for the use of American ground troops to remove Saddam Hussein from power has remained steady throughout the month of September. The Sept. 20-22 CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll found that 57% of Americans said they favored such action, while 38% opposed it. There are similar (and sometimes higher) levels of support as measured by other polls, ranging from 58% support in a Sept. 24-25 Fox News poll to 68% in a Sept. 22-23 CBS News poll. Most of the basic questions that have been asked about Iraq are phrased in a similar fashion, emphasizing U.S. military action, and specifically mentioning the regime changing action of removing Saddam Hussein from power.

About 60%, eh? What else did Americans think?

Women are much more likely than men to think the war against Iraq could be a long one. Less than a majority of men (44%) express that view, compared with close to two-thirds of women (65%), a 21 percentage point gender gap.
Give a point to the women! Although, not, I think, to Hillary Clinton on that one.
There are also major differences between Democrats, and Republicans and independents. While the latter two groups are about evenly divided over the question, showing just two- and three-point margins in favor of a long war, Democrats predict a long over a short war by a margin of 28 percentage points, 63% to 35%.
Yay, Democrats. We predicted the long war. Although, again, I have to wonder if Hillary Clinton saw that one coming.

Question 7 is where some really interesting numbers show up. It addresses the AUMF directly and mentions whether restrictions should be put on the grant of authority.

A mid-September Gallup Poll, however, found a slim majority opposed to giving Bush the broad latitude he was originally looking for (Bush has since revised the wording that he is asking be included in the Congressional resolution). According to the Sept. 20-22 survey, only 47% of Americans said Congress should vote to give Bush "unlimited authority to use military action against Iraq whenever he feels it is necessary." Fifty-one percent said they should not give Bush this authority.
In other words, half of the people surveyed didn't want the president to have unchecked power.

And remember that whole thing about "intelligence failures" and how people were surprised that the stories that convinced US Senators and Representatives didn't convince the French, the Germans, the Russians, the Chinese, etc.? A lot of people didn't think Congress was doing its job to find out what exactly was going on in the run-up to the war.

Members of Congress who are reluctant to voice opposition to the president on the subject of Iraq might consider the results of a recent CBS News polling question about Congress' scrutiny of Bush's Iraq policy thus far. CBS found that barely one in five Americans (22%) believe Congress is asking too many questions; twice as many (44%) believe it is not asking enough.
Just to round out those numbers: 16% thought the number of questions was about right and another 18% didn't know. Me, I always like to ask to be on the safe side. Colin Powell's presntation was five years ago today. It didn't convince the UN to support the Iraq invasion. In fact, they pointedly said "non, nein, nyet" (and whatever Chinese for "no" is).
The above results are virtually identical to those found in a Sept. 13-16 CNN/USA Toda/Gallup Poll, which asked a differently worded question. The results show that just 37% of Americans indicate they would support an invasion of Iraq without U.N. support. However, another 46% would support such an invasion if the U.N. gave its endorsement, making the total in support just over eight in 10 (83%).
Of course, the UN wasn't about to support the invasion, because their chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, had just finished telling them there were no WMDs in Iraq and that there hadn't been any for years.

At the time, there was a mid-term election close at hand. One of the constants in discussion is the claim that the Democrats had to look strong on Iraq or suffer at the polls (in fact, only Democrats who voted for the AUMF have lost in general elections since 2002). The conclusion of the report:

Republicans have a decided perceptual advantage over the Democrats on the Iraq issue -- 52% say the Republicans in Congress would do a better job handling the issue and 33% say the Democrats, making it one of the strongest Republican issues of those tested. Registered voters who say Iraq is a more important issue to their vote are more likely to say they will vote for the Republican congressional candidate in their district, rather than the Democratic candidate (50% to 45%). But the margin is much smaller than the Republican advantage on the issue might suggest. By comparison, the Democratic Party enjoys a 55% to 33% advantage on the generic ballot among registered voters who say the economy is a more important issue.

Overall, Democrats continue to lead in the generic congressional ballot, 50% to 46% among likely voters, despite the stated importance of the Iraq issue and the considerable Republican advantage on it.

So the next time someone gets that crazed look in their eye and starts blathering on about how "everyone supported the war" back then, point them to the polls and let them know that they may be scared little bunnies, but that there's a significant portion of the American public that never fell for the story that Hillary Clinton seems to have bought into.

 

Politics  

Senryū Thirteen. The Super Candidates:

Huckabee and McCain and
Paul and Romney.
Clinton and Obama.

 

Politics  

Throw Another Newspaper On the Barbie, Mate: I ran across the story of how the Australian construction company Macquarie has bought up small local media outlets in order to push the agenda of their toll-road construction business and immediately thought of the toll-road proposal for Yamhill County (Newberg and Dundee) that was floating around a couple of years back, in which one of the leading players was, natch, Macquarie (which won a $20 million study contract).

Thankfully, I don't have to connect the dots on this one, because Ridenbaugh Press' Randy Stapilus did that a year ago himself, referring to reports from the Sydney Morning Herald and Sal Costello, a transportation-specialist blogger from Texas.

 


»  February 4, 2008

Politics  

We Are the Laughing Stock of the World: In the second episode of Michael Palin's New Europe, Palin interviews internationally-known belly dancing instructor Taniellie in her Istanbul studio:

TANIELLIE: Dancing means love. Dancing means peace. And, you know, in the dance there's no fights. So, you know, my advice from me to them. It's good to dance a little bit.

MICHAEL PALIN: Do men belly dance? Could you teach George Bush to belly dance?

TANIELLIE: [sighs] George Bush to belly dance. How I will start? You know, this is like "Mission Impossible." [laughs]

 

Politics  

Senryū Twelve. Line In the Sand:

Syria, Iran
Run for the border
It's hot pursuit

 

Politics  

Shrivers: The verb "shrive" means to absolve someone.

The main Shriver in the news today, of course, is Maria -- the First Lady of Cal-ee-for-nee-uh -- who apparently made the decision Sunday morning to endorse the presidential campaign of Barack Obama, less than a week after her husband, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, endorsed Republican John McCain.

Over the past couple of weeks, PBS has aired a documentary about her father, Sargent Shriver, whose family was cankrupted in the Crash of 1929, led an anti-aircraft battery on a destroyer in World War II, worked at Newsweek, married into the Kennedy family before it was cool, ran the Peace Corps for JFK, ran the War on Poverty for LBJ, ran with George McGovern in 1972, and continued to do good works for another thirty years after that.

American Idealist: The Story of Sargent Shriver is a moving piece of work, and there are a number of video clips available, not the least of which is the first, describing how Shriver pressed presidential candidate John F. Kennedy to openly call Coretta Scott King on the day Martin Luther King, Jr. was sentenced to four months of hard labor in Georgia for a traffic violation.

 


»  February 3, 2008

Politics  

Senryū Eleven. Humbow:

Nippon is spinning
Over dumplings from China
With insecticide

 


»  February 2, 2008

Politics  

The Great Purveyor: Really, it's no wonder that J. Edgar Hoover had the man under surveillance and tapped his phones.

Martin Luther King, Jr., 4 April 1967
"Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence"

As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked -- and rightly so -- what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government.

 

Politics  

Senryū Ten. Bruni:

President of France
Mick and Eric's girlfriend
Do I really care?

 


»  February 1, 2008

Politics  

Fight the Mindset: The thing that gives me hope about Obama:

OBAMA: But the -- but I do think it is important for us to set a date [for withdrawal from Iraq]. And the reason I think it is important is because if we are going to send a signal to the Iraqis that we are serious, and prompt the Shia, the Sunni and the Kurds to actually come together and negotiate, they have to have clarity about how serious we are.

It can't be muddy, it can't be fuzzy. They've got to know that we are serious about this process. And I also think we've got to be very clear about what our mission is. And there may be a difference here between Senator Clinton and myself in terms of the four structures that we would leave behind.

Both of us have said that we would make sure that our embassies and our civilians are protected. Both of us have said that we've got to care for Iraqi civilians, including the four million who have been displaced already. We already have a humanitarian crisis, and we have not taken those responsibilities seriously.

We both have said that we need to have a strike force that can take out potential terrorist bases that get set up in Iraq. But the one thing that I think is very important is that we not get mission creep, and we not start suggesting that we should have troops in Iraq to blunt Iranian influence.

If we were concerned about Iranian influence, we should not have had this government installed in the first place.

(APPLAUSE)

We shouldn't have invaded in the first place. It was part of the reason that I think it was such a profound strategic error for us to go into this war in the first place.

(APPLAUSE)

And that's one of the reasons why I think I will be -- just to finish up this point, I think I will be the Democrat who will be most effective in going up against a John McCain, or any other Republican -- because they all want basically a continuation of George Bush's policies -- because I will offer a clear contrast as somebody who never supported this war, thought it was a bad idea. I don't want to just end the war, but I want to end the mindset that got us into war in the first place.

That's the kind of leadership I'm going to provide as president of the United States.

 

Politics  

Senryū Nine. Bomb Surge:

Belts of explosives
Markets with monkeys
Remote detonation