In Exodus, the Israelites left Egypt and stopped walking at the foot of Mount Sinai. In Leviticus, they were still there. Now we come to Numbers. They're still there...
God and Moses are still rapping in the sanctuary. God gives Moses the names of the tribal leaders. Moses and Aaron take a long, boring census; the entire number of Israelites is 603,550. God doesn’t count the Levites, but makes them guardians of the tabernacle instead.
God makes very specific encampment plans for the Israelites.
God basically vows to make the Levites servants of Aaron’s line of priests. Then there’s a lot of stuff about the specific numbers and lineage of the Levites, etc. Numbers is the most badly-written and boring book of the Bible so far.
More of the same, although (if you can believe it) more pointless and harder to follow.
God orders lepers, everyone who’s cum, and everyone who has been near a corpse out of the camp. Then there are some vague-yet-complicated rulings on the authority of priests. Oh, and if a man gets pissed at his wife and beats her because she cheated on him, only the wife is at fault.
Laws about consecration and the whole process. God teaches Aaron the blessing (we called it the benediction), which is at least pretty:
“The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.”
At least, I used to feel good when Pastor Nelson said it to the congregation.
The tabernacle is finally finished, anointed, and consecrated. Then there’s a several-day period of offerings where the Israelites give God a massive assload of goods. Seriously, it takes several pages to describe.
After all of that gifting, God also decides he needs a holy night light for the tabernacle. So there are a lot of instructions about how to make it and the lamp-lighting ceremony and stuff. It’s pretty obvious at this point that God’s got an awfully high opinion of himself. Do you really think that he freed the Israelites out of love? Or do you think he’s just in it for the swag, the adoration, and the power trip?
Do you realize that the Israelites have been camped at the foot of the fucking mountain for two years now? After Passover, they begin packing to resume wandering.
God has Moses make silver trumpets and work out some signals. The Israelites begin to travel towards that Land of Milk and Honey.
You know the Israelites: always complaining. So much so that God just snaps one day and murders some of the complainers to shut them up. With fire! From his EYES!!! You know, I assume. Because that would be cool. Moses has to calm the monster down again and turn the Hulk back into Bruce Banner, but God soon hears everyone whining about eating manna all the time and starts to get pissed again. Moses snaps and totally calls God out on it this time. “Those aren’t my damn kids, so don’t treat me like they’re all my responsibility. If you want to keep treating me like shit, why not just murder me?” God decides to help Moses de-stress by dividing his duties among 70 of the elders, but also decides to give the Israelites so much damn meat they’ll be fucking sick of it. Moses tells God off about it—he really doesn’t want to deal with this shit from God anymore. God sends quail to feed his people, but also sends a plague. God is a dick.
Moses marries a Cushite woman, pissing off Aaron and his sister, Miriam. God, angry that anyone would question his prophet, turns Miriam into a leper for seven days.
Moses and God send spies to Canaan, which God wants to conquer—er, “give” to the Israelites. Joshua leads the spies. It’s the Land of Milk and Honey, all right, but Caleb thinks they can never conquer the powerful Canaanites and convinces his fellow spies to lie and tell Moses Canaan sucks.
This news makes everyone upset, and the Israelites start whining about how much better they had it in Egypt (yet again). Even Moses and Aaron despair, so Joshua and Caleb come clean: Canaan is friggin’ awesome. Everyone gets pissed and wants to stone Josh and Cal, but God comes down and gets all whiny about how no one ever believes anything he says. God makes an offer to Moses: let me kill the Israelites and give you a better, stronger people. Moses, no doubt speaking slowly, changes God’s mind by telling him that it will only make other nations think he’s too weak to follow through. God agrees not to kill everyone, but there’s a vendetta now: the Israelites will wander in the wilderness for 40 years, and no one of the current generation will ever see the Promised Land, the fucking unbelievers. Only the tribes of Joshua (Ephraim) and Caleb (Judah) will rule in Canaan, and only the children of the other tribes will ever go there. Then God murders all the spies who lied, except for Josh and Cal. The Israelites agree, by way of apology, to try and take Canaan, but God doesn’t help them and they are defeated by the Canaanites and Amorites.
God talks to Moses about yet more modifications on the methods of sacrifice. Stop for a moment and think about how constantly there must be Israelite funeral services going on.
Someone called Korah raises a mob of 250 and demands to know by what authority Moses and Aaron lead them. Have they not been paying attention? After a long, drawn-out argument, Moses proves his leadership by asking God to open up the earth and swallow Korah, the leaders of the rabble, and their families and tents and everything they own. And surprise, surprise, God does it. Isn’t this usually the kind of thing Moses begs God not to do? God also murders the 250 people of the mob. But rather than cowing the Israelites, now they’re mad that Moses and Aaron presided over this slaughter. God gets angry and goes on a killing spree, and even though Aaron heroically stops it by placing himself in the path of God’s killing ray, by the end of the day God’s murdered an extra 14,700 people. God is, um, love?
God goes through this long magic trick just to prove that Moses and Aaron are the rightful leaders of the Israelites. The people are now shit-scared of God.
God again tells Aaron that the Levites belong to the priesthood, and delineates what part of the offerings Aaron and his sons get.
God has more statutes on cleanliness.
Miriam dies in Kadesh. The Israelites continue their epic whining, this time about water, so Moses draws water from a rock. Moses asks for passage through Edom, but the king of Edom denies it, and then sends an army to chase the Israelites away. At the top of Mount Hor, Moses presides over the ritual to make Eleazar, son of Aaron, the new High Priest of Israel. Aaron dies soon after, and everyone mourns for 30 days.
The Canaanites take some Israelites hostage, and the Israelites are suddenly all for God’s proposed war. They completely destroy the town of Arad, but then resume their epic whining. “Did you bring us to the Red Sea to die?” “There’s no water here!” “My feet hurt.” God, tired of this shiz, sends snakes to kill some more of his beloved people. God hasn’t gone on this big of a killing spree since the Flood, and I think he’s enjoying it. You know the routine, right? Israelites whine to Moses, Moses talks to God, God agrees, rather reluctantly, to stop the killing. Moses asks King Sihon of the Amorites for passage through his land, but Sihon tells him to go screw. So the Israelites destroy his kingdom and kill everyone and even write a song about it. Moses sends spies to Jazer, and the Israelites capture that place, too. And then they kill everyone in Basham and conquer it.
The Israelites camp in Moab and begin eyeing Jericho, across the Jordan. King Balak of Moab sends for help from Balaam of Pethor, but God tells Balaam not to send any. God tells Balaam to go to Balak, and then gets pissed when Balaam listens to him. Then there’s a superfluous episode with an angel and a talking donkey where God makes Balaam promise to do whatever God tells him, which is what the poor guy was doing anyway.
Man, if you’re bored reading this, think how bored I am. Balak gets pissed because Balaam blesses the Israelites.
Balaam blesses the Israelites again, so Balak gets pissed and goes home. He decides not to fight the Israelites.
After all of that pointlessness, we go back to those ever-constant Israelites, who have been getting some action from the local Moabite girls. As men often do when they’re under the spell of exotic, foreign pussy, the Israelites are picking up some of their habits, such as worshiping Baal-Peor. God, naturally, gets pissed and tells Moses to take any Israelite Baal worshipers out into the sun and impale them. That’ll show them the boundless love of God. Then some dude called Zimri brings home a Midianite woman called Cozbi, and everyone (including God) gets angry. God starts murdering everyone (like he does), until Phinehas (grandson of Aaron) kills the illicit couple with a spear. God, however, has killed a nice, even 24,000 of his beloved followers. Still, the rage clears and God makes a covenant that the impressive Phinehas’s family will be priests in perpetuity. Which I thought he’d established with Aaron, but why call continuity on the Bible now? God also decides that it’s time to slaughter the Midianites.
Another census shows the number of Israelites at 601,730. There must be a lot of breeding going on, because the first census showed 603,550, and since then God’s murdered (at the very least) 40,000 of his people. God’s a lot like Stalin, isn’t he? No, wait, God’s concerned with religion and purity of blood. I guess God’s more like Hitler. God points out that, of the generation of whiners he promised would never see the Land of Milk and Honey, only Moses, Joshua, and Caleb are left alive.
After ruling that daughters can inherit when there are no sons, God makes a point of telling Moses that he’s going to die before reaching the Promised Land. Moses probably talked back too much, and anyway, God’s idea of a real reward seems to be eternal servitude, which is so white imperialist I can’t even comment on it. God wants Joshua to succeed Moses.
God outlines the specific holidays…
…and continues to do so.
God makes some more rules about men and women keeping their vows.
God commands that Moses go to war against Midian. You know, the place where Moses’s wife came from. With an army of 12,000, the Israelites kill the 5 kings of Midian and every male (including poor, pointless, underdeveloped Balaam), and burn down all the buildings. The Israelites capture women, children, animals, spoil, and, wait for it, booty. Yes, “booty” is a Biblical word. Yar, matey! Anyway, Moses chastises his officers for not killing everyone, so he says to keep the virgin girls and kill everyone else. Then there’s a whole cleanliness ritual and the divvying up of pillage.
The Gadites and Reubenites agree to continue marching until Canaan is conquered if they can take Gilead and make it a settlement to raise their cattle in. Moses agrees.
The Israelite troop movement is described in detail. Aaron’s death on Mount Hor (at the age of 123) marked the fortieth year of the migration. God reminds the Israelites that they’re supposed to kill everyone in Canaan.
God doles out specific portions of Canaan to specific tribes. Still no conquest.
God gives pedantically specific and tiresome rules about what constitutes murder and how to punish it. Still no conquest.
And so Numbers ends with a completely unexciting and anticlimactic chapter about how inheritances are not transferable to other tribes because everyone’s a greedy fuck. I think I can actually feel myself becoming retarded.
Next week: Deuteronomy. Finally, the death of Moses and the final triumph of the Jews. Or is it...?
Saturday, November 04, 2006
In Exodus, the Israelites left Egypt and stopped walking at the foot of Mount Sinai. In Leviticus, they were still there. Now we come to Numbers. They're still there...
Friday, November 03, 2006
15 random thoughts, questions, and observations for the week.
1. I’m still not interested in the Madonna adoption case, but is she being a bitch about this, or what? She seems to genuinely believe that since she’s rich she should have the right—nay, the duty—to take away and raise any child she wants. Does not being able to give his kid a limo and a champagne-and-caviar lifestyle make that man from Malawi a bad father? And why is Madonna’s response to call a poor guy from an African village a media whore? That’s like the pot calling the kettle Madonna.
2. Nicole Richie wants you to know that whoever started that rumor about her going to an eating clinic is “evil and mean.” She seriously believes she does not have an eating disorder and that she is healthy. Man, she’s going to look like such an idiot when she drops dead.
3. I hear Barbra Streisand got heckled and someone threw ice at her at a concert. Dude, if you disagree with her politics, why would you even go to her show? You know she’s going to say something! And throwing ice at her? Wow, what a political statement. Maybe you can spit on a public building next, loser.
4. Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe are splitting up. My favorite part is that he was cheating on her with a woman who looked just like her, though probably not so humorless and sexless. I don’t understand what people see in her, frankly. But at least he can give his full attention to that much-deserved obscurity that’s been occupying his time.
5. Denzel Washington has a new book out, A Hand to Guide Me. But if you’re like me, and you find Denzel a pretentious prick and a shitty actor to boot, you probably wish it was called A Shovel to Beat Me With Until I Shut Up and Promise Never to Make a Movie as Awful as “John Q.” Again.
6. Flavor Flav is expecting a seventh child? Flav has six children already? Why? How? Why? I love how the media says that he’s expecting a child. Aw, is Flav expecting? I sure hope he can lose the weight afterward. Morons.
7. Author William Styron died. There’s nothing funny to say, I just liked him. Sophie’s Choice is a great novel.
8. I don’t know who this Lisa Williams is, but I have a real urge to punch her in the mouth. She’s got this show on Lifetime where she claims she’s a psychic who can communicate with the dead. I’m sorry, but people who do that are lying. She is lying. And she’s having way too much fun throwing that lie in your face and becoming a quasi-celebrity with it. My favorite commercial now is the one where some dude on the street is amazed that she knows he knew someone that died. Yeah, what a rarity: somebody who knows someone that died. Why are people so impressed by cold reads?
9. Do you suppose that Kevin Federline really believes that he deserves to be famous? That, if he hadn’t lucked into a sexual relationship with the most lusted-after-by-parents-who-should-know-better young lady in America, anyone would know or care who he was? I mean, a recording career? And now his shows are getting cancelled because no one wants to pay to listen to the guy. I wonder what he thinks about this. Is he one of those pronoid idiots who think that people just love to hate him because they’re intimidated by his “talent”? Or does he just know he sucks and can’t believe he’s got such a good scam going?
10. When I was in Chicago on Tuesday, I walked up Wacker Drive to take a look at the new Trump building they’re putting up. Actually, I was looking to see if Ivanka Trump was there; I know she spends one day a week at the Chicago site. Nothing doing, though. And now she’s dating Topher Grace? Maybe she just doesn’t like strong men. She probably wouldn’t like me very much then. Seriously, though, if Ivanka suddenly decides to trade up for a man who's not going to be easy to boss around, she can call me.
11. Anyway, after Salma Hayek’s heart-stopping appearance on Ugly Betty last night (seriously, my heart stopped), Ivanka is not in my mind. For the moment. I’m not very faithful, am I? But seriously, did you see Salma Hayek on Ugly Betty last night? Whoa!
12. MGM is letting Tom Cruise restart United Artists? Who wants to see that anymore? Is James Bond suddenly going to become a scientologist? Is every UA film going to be as childlike and simple as all Tom Cruise movies? Oh, and homoerotic?
13. Marcia Cross is trying to stop pictures of herself naked being published, because she doesn’t want you to see her titties. Oops…
14. Man, I just want to punch Kanye West in the mouth some days. He went on a big rant at the MTV Europe Awards when his crappy “Touch the Sky” video, which features Pamela Anderson, a lot of badly washed-out film in a lame attempt to look like 70s TV, some idiot who calls himself Lupe Fiasco, the overuse of a sample from Curtis Mayfield’s “Move On Up” in place of actually writing any music, and the whole point of which is that Kanye hates black women but loves attention…anyway, that piece of shit video was nominated for the big award and lost, causing him to go off on an expletive-fueled rant and, I’m just guessing, weep like a bitch on the ride home. Quoth the man who likes to compare himself to Christ: “If I don’t win, the award show loses credibility.” By Grabthar’s Hammer, what a dick.
15. Okay, I have to admit, I found John Kerry’s comment about “getting stuck in Iraq” tasteless and unfunny. Now can we move on? The Republicans won’t just shut the fuck up about it; they’re actually trying to make an issue of it. Anything to distract us from the young, naked boys that keep falling, hands bound behind them, out of Republican closets. See, that’s how you do tasteless and offensive. Why isn’t there someone asking at the press conferences the following question: “Mr. President, John Kerry said something rude and offensive, and when exactly are we withdrawing troops from Iraq?” Quit letting them distract you, idiots!
"Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall! [. . .] Yes, across Europe, this wall will fall. For it cannot withstand faith; it cannot withstand truth. The wall cannot withstand freedom." – Ronald Reagan, 1987
"We have a responsibility to enforce our laws. We have a responsibility to secure our borders. We take this responsibility serious. [sic]" – George W. Bush, 2006
Fun fact: the Border Fence is 700 miles long. The Mexican border is 1,951 miles long. Your politicians, working hard to make it look like they're spending your money responsibly.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
This is only one of the bulk mailings I’ve received from Hastert for Congress, the campaign to re-elect Dennis Hastert for the eleventh goddamn time. I’m not sure who this mailing is aimed at, but let me just give you some local information. DeKalb is a rural area that is starting to build itself up. It’s basically because there’s a state university here, but more than anything, DeKalb is a farm town. Rich people don’t really live here. And yet, whoever put this thing together decided that they’d only highlight affluent, clean, sweater-wearing nuclear families with this mailing. Look at the front page here. It’s total suburban Illinois. Problem is, not everyone here lives that way.
And what’s this “Thank You, Denny” crap all about? I’ve lived in Illinois since 1980, when I was four years old, and until very recently, I’ve never heard Hastert referred to as “Denny” a single time in my life. And why does this thing look like a giant thank-you card for Hastert? His own people put this together as an advertisement.
Look at these women: blonde, made up, and just dripping money. They must live in Oak Park or Oakbrook Terrace or something. And I’m supposed to believe that these rich people have problems with access to “quality, affordable healthcare.” You know who has a problem with “quality, affordable healthcare”? Me. I’m in collections on a $260 bill from my local clinic, because I need to see a cardiologist for my high blood pressure. They were giving me Toprol for free because I can barely afford my medication. When Prilosec was still a prescription drug, I was paying over $100 a month for it without insurance. What the fuck has Hastert done to make my life easier? I vote, but since I don’t contribute to his campaign, I guess I’m fucked.
This mailing claims that Hastert “passed a Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit for seniors, advanced Health Savings Accounts, worked to reign in frivolous lawsuits, and secured support for area hospitals and health initiatives.” All of which sounds good, but let’s take a look at his actual voting record. Hastert did vote for the Medicare Prescription Drug bill in 2003. Since then, there have been eight healthcare bills put before Congress, only one of which he has actually voted on (he voted against importing cheaper pharmaceuticals from other countries that same year; apparently his desire to help seniors get cheap meds only goes as far as his not having to stand up to drug companies). He hasn’t voted on a single health issue since then, so I’m not sure what this mailing is referring to. There have been two medical malpractice liability limitation bills since then, and he couldn’t bring himself to vote on either.
Yeah, that guy looks like a real working farmer. Here we’re told that “Denny” has been working hard to “address the issue of border security BEFORE addressing issues of naturalization.” Man, to hear the Republicans tell it, the only two important issues in this election are getting the spics out and stopping boys from kissing one another. Yeah, those are our only problems, idiots. Anyway, looking at Hastert’s voting record, I see that he did vote yes on the Border Security bill last year, but once again, did not vote at all on this year’s Secure Fence Act or Immigration Law Enforcement Act. He voted in 1998 to extend the number of visas to skilled workers (most likely of the lawn-mowing and pool-cleaning variety), but has been pretty iron-clad on the issue of immigration.
What’s more interesting to me is the farmer there, leaning on his tractor and grinning. I wonder what he has to thank “Denny” for. Border security…I mean, are there a lot of illegal Canadians coming down through Lake Michigan these days? Maybe the farmer is grinning because the past two years of draught in the Midwest are not being addressed by Congress at all. Upper Midwestern Senators are asking for 2 to 6 billion dollars in federal aid because of near-Dust Bowl conditions, but no one in Washington appears to be listening. Hey, the Midwest only feeds the fucking country. Keep grinning, asshole. Hastert hasn’t voted on a single agricultural issue since 1998.
Here we discover that “Denny” has “passed the child tax credit, eliminated the marriage tax and repealed the death tax, while stimulating our economy to create over 5.7 million new jobs and record levels of homeownership.” First off, recent studies into all that homeownership has shown that the numbers are artificially inflated; it’s rich people buying second and third homes. They’ve got some extra spending cash because they don’t have to pay the “death tax” (formerly known as the estate tax) anymore. Look, the estate tax is bad when a farmer dies and his sons can’t pay the taxes on the land and the government steps in and legally steals it. It’s good when some rich fuckwit who spent his whole life waiting for his daddy to die so he can get the money and run for president gets a chunk of his money put back into government programs. Biased? I don’t care.
Besides, “Denny” is certainly biased. Yes, he voted for the child tax credit (eventually) and to eliminate the marriage tax and the so-called “death tax.” But the JOBS (Jumpstart Our Business Strength) program he voted for only benefits corporations at the expense of federal revenue. Again, he’s voting to make things easier for people who already have it easy: rich people and corporations. He’s voted to raise the minimum wage to a whopping $7.25 by sometime next year. Yes, because that’s a living wage. This asshole even voted to start taxing combat pay as earned income. Who supports the troops now? Hastert’s never voted on a single bill addressing the issue of veteran’s benefits, by the way.
Ew, that kid is creepy. Do you think he really said the quote that’s being attributed to him? Ah, the stupid things I wonder about. Anyway, here we’re reassured that “Denny” wants children to have a good education and “has been a tireless advocate for more federal funding for local schools.” Hey, you know what might be fun? Let’s look at “Denny’s” NPAT. Congressmen are supposed to fill out the National Political Awareness Test so that people can look at it and see how they feel about important issues. Unfortunately, Hastert has repeatedly refused to fill his out this year. But if you look at his 1998 NPAT, he’s clearly stated that he believes education is a local funding issue, not a federal one. In 1998, he only advocated a “slight increase” in federal funding for elementary education, and while he agreed that people should have better access to schools, he did not support upholding the national standards and testing in reading and math. This is the “best possible education”?
Since 2000, Dennis Hastert has only voted three times (out of eight) on education. He voted on two separate occasions to support Bush’s evil No Child Left Behind Act, and he voted to bring back the Head Start program (much better). He did not vote to improve education opportunities for the disabled, to forgive teachers from paying back some of their student loans, to increase standards in teaching, to extend the Higher Education act, to lower federal student loan interest rates, to provide grants to minority students, or to assist “minority institutions.” He didn’t vote on these issues at all. Which doesn’t really make his advocacy so “tireless,” does it?
This is the part where it gets real problematic for me. I hate this shit where I’m told that some politician “shares our values.” Our values? This asshole has no idea what my values are.
And here, where he promises that he wants to “create the environment that allows families to pursue and realize their dreams.” How is he doing that, exactly?
You know where I’m going with this, right? To the 1998 NPAT. Let’s see how he specifically feels about allowing families to pursue their dreams.
In 1998, “Denny” Hastert:
* supported abortions only in cases where the life of the mother was endangered, but also felt there should be a waiting period and that public funding should be denied to organizations that perform or even advocate abortions. I wonder where these endangered mothers were supposed to get the abortions then. And how long where they to wait?
* supported a decrease in funding for the arts, foreign aid, and welfare. He at least supported balancing the budget.
* supported legislation that required a full and timely disclosure of campaign finance information.
* supported trying minors as adults in any felony cases, even if it’s some kid smoking pot who is only going to go to prison to learn how to be a criminal. In fact, he supported increased penalties for illegal drugs, capital punishment for international drug traffickers, and keeping medicinal marijuana criminal.
* supported reducing government regulations on private business, but did not support raising the minimum wage. He also felt that more businesses should be able to not pay their employees for vacation time, and that affirmative action was unnecessary.
* supported an amendment guaranteeing the right to free religious expression in schools (I can’t wait to see how this goes over in the suburbs when some kid starts giving lessons in Santeria).
* supported the research into alternative fuels (how’s that coming, by the way?) and to strengthen the Clear Water Act, but he also supported charging miners and cattle ranchers more money to use federal land.
* believed that we should reduce the amount of American funding and troops that go to the United Nations (and even then only when they are supporting direct US interests).
* did not support a single gun issue.
* supported the increase and enforcement of the rights of insured patients, but did not support access to healthcare for the uninsured, Medicare for anyone under 65, FDA nicotine regulation, or nationalized healthcare.
* supported the recognition of English as the official language of the US and to decrease the number of legal immigrants to this country. He was against reducing the amount of time it takes for someone to become a citizen and wanted states to deny medical services to illegals and their children.
* supported Social Security, at least.
* supported a “slight increase” on the child tax credit we’re supposed to be so thankful for. To be fair, he also supported a decrease in most taxes and the elimination of the estate tax (why is it always us single people who get screwed/punished?), but I’m not so sure reducing taxes is the way to go. It just creates a bigger budget deficit and hampers the ability of the government to provide the crappy services they give us. Why not increase wages? I mean, it only stands to reason that people who with greater buying power will spend more money and buy more services and maybe even invest. Decreasing taxes and not increasing wages seems to fly in the face of economics. By the way, Hastert also supported the flat tax (which only benefits the rich), eliminating the IRS, and felt that married people filing jointly should pay the same taxes as if they had filed separately. He also did not support a national sales tax.
* interestingly, supported term limits on Congressmen to six 2-year terms. I say interestingly, because he’s now running for his eleventh 2-year term. I guess he’s willing to stop if forced to, then? And is he this loose with everything he believes in?
* supported NAFTA, didn’t feel that a nation’s human rights record should affect its “most favored nation” status, and supported granting the president more trade authority.
* did not support housing assistance, but wanted to decrease welfare and, bizarrely, only provide assistance for unwed teen mothers as long as they were going to school and living with a parent. No word on what that kid does when her school kicks her out.
Well, maybe he’s changed his mind since all of that happened. I mean, he supports “our” values, right? Let’s see how he’s voted since 2001, when George W. Bush took office.
Since then, Hastert has voted for the following:
* prohibiting partial-birth abortions
* $40 billion for the 9/11 emergency, plus other supplemental increases
* increased defense spending
* increased budget for FEMA
* increased funding for Veterans Affairs and HUD
* increased government spending (up to $13 trillion)
* increased budget for Homeland Security
* to investigate the connection between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda (in 2004)
* to increase the salary for Congress (and again, a month later)
* to increase spending for the Department of the Interior
* to increase the budget for several departments, but which had attached to it a ban on stem cell research and allowed for prescription drugs coverage on erectile dysfunction pills (because hard-ons are more important than curing fatal diseases)
* to hand over all accountability for the detainment of war prisoners to the US Court of Appeals
* not to financially support Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Libya, North Korea, Iran, Syria, or any country which supports terrorists, unless the president says so
* yet another increase to our pointless war on the Middle East
* decreased income tax, but increased government spending
* the permanent repeal of the estate tax
* to decrease the amount of spending on government services in order to spend more money on the war
* to reduce the amount of money available for Medicare, Medicaid, agriculture, employee pensions, student loans, and conservation
* to allow hospitals to refuse Medicaid patients who can’t make their co-pay, and even to refuse benefits to grandparents who are raising their grandkids
* to increase unearned income tax for 18 year-olds
* to make healthcare more affordable for small businesses
* to end limits on campaign spending (much of which comes at taxpayers’ expense)
* a Constitutional Amendment making it illegal to desecrate the American flag
* the timely disclosure of campaign finance spending
* giving legal rights to unborn children to protect them from harm
* annual increases in military spending
* the No Child Left Behind bill and the Head Start bill
* increased energy efficiency
* drilling for oil in Alaska
* to privatize public utilities
* to allow the president to build more oil refineries, even as alternative energy sources are being supported
* increased the power of the AMBER alert system
* making it illegal for a minor to cross state lines in order to obtain an abortion
* a resolution allowing Congress to declare that the world is safer now that Saddam Hussein has been removed from power
* carrying on the war in Iraq indefinitely and refusing to set a date for withdrawal
* exempting India from the Atomic Energy Act
* federal assistance to patients denied healthcare
* increased aid to pharmacies
* increased aid to Africa for abstinence programs
* increased border security
* repealing the requirements of employers to educate their employees on how to avoid repetitive stress injuries
* increased pension spending
* modification of class action lawsuits
* allowing Terri Schaivo’s family to bring their case to federal court
* preventing federal courts from hearing cases on the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance
* the use of force in Iraq
* the condemnation of prisoner abuse
* the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001, which allows federal wiretapping
* establishment of the National Counter-Terrorism Center
* extension of the PATRIOT Act through 2015
* regulations on Indian casinos and how much money they’re allowed to make
* an alternative means of stem cell production that does not use human embryos
* greater power for the Public Health Act
* a Constitutional Amendment to ban gay marriage
* extending the powers of the FCC
* free trade with most South American countries despite any human rights violations
* strengthening our already useless airport security
* giving the airline industry $14 billion dollars to keep itself afloat
* the elimination of racial-profiling
* welfare reforms
Okay, well, let’s see here. Well, it’s hard to argue some of that. But I don’t agree with a lot of it, either. I don’t think someone’s magic hard-on pills should be covered by prescriptions. I’m against the war in Iraq and I think we should pull out. I most certainly don’t agree that the world is a better place with Saddam in prison; since we invaded, we’ve increased the power our government has over us and we’ve created a religious civil war in the Middle East. Good job. I don’t believe in repealing the estate tax, but I do believe in modifying it. I don’t believe our war should come at the cost of reduced government services. I think an Amendment against flag-burning is pointless and limits free expression and that we should spend more money looking for alternative fuels instead of drilling in Alaska. I think privatizing public utilities is a huge mistake. I think making it harder for women to get an abortion is immoral. I think preaching abstinence in Africa instead of trying to find a cure for AIDS would be laughable if it weren’t so pathetic. I don’t think the Pledge of Allegiance should have the words “under God” in it. I don’t support the PATRIOT Act. I think banning gay marriage is wrong, petty, and immoral. I think the FCC already has too much power. I don’t think we should trade with nations that commit human rights violations. I think we should just nationalize the airlines instead of bailing out the companies constantly. And I think racial profiling is an important law enforcement tool that only an idiot would ban.
Gee, I’m beginning to think that “Denny” doesn’t support “our” values at all. “Denny” doesn’t vote very often, it turns out, but let’s see what he voted against:
* reauthorization of the Appalachian Development Act
* campaign finance reform
* accountability on the part of MTBE manufacturers concerning contamination of drinking water
* the SAFE Act to prevent Alaskan oil drilling
* stricter gun control laws
* importing cheap pharmaceuticals
* OSHA’s ability to enforce ergonomic restrictions
* allowing the PATRIOT Act to expire in 2005
* stem cell research (even from donated cells)
Well, that kind of tears it for me then. I believe in stem cell research. But, unlike the apparent majority of Americans, I don’t believe people should have to suffer. Yes, Dennis Hastert does not represent my values at all.
Here’s a fun activity you can do on your own. Look at Hastert’s mailing again and try to figure out if Hastert realizes there are blacks, Hispanics, and Asians in Illinois.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
“It’s all about the oil. No more, no less. I wish they would take the oil and leave us alone. We don’t care about the oil. We have never benefited from the oil. For 35 years Saddam Hussein took everything. Now the Americans will be worse.”
Of the many viewpoints expressed by Iraqis in director James Longley’s Iraq in Fragments, this is the one I keep returning to. It comes early in the film, but it is not the last time that someone will tell us that the American soldiers are little more than occupation forces for the distant, imperialist American government. Most feel that America cares only about the oil and not about the people of Iraq. Many feel that they have simply been conquered by America. And some will go as far as to say that they have traded one dictator for another.
America is still divided on the issue of war. Some see it as a necessity, genuinely believing that Saddam Hussein was an evil man whose Baathist government needed to be stopped. Others see that we did nothing in East Timor and the former Yugoslavia, and are convinced that Saddam Hussein’s evil and the assumed (but never proven) links to terrorists and a nuclear weapons program are the flimsy smokescreen our government uses as a justification. What is completely missing from most discussions you see on TV or hear on the radio is the Iraqi opinion. Not the political one, and not the punditry; where is the voice of the average Iraqi citizen? What does he think of war?
Longley’s powerful documentary endeavors to provide us with answers. He presents, free from his narration or intrusions, a post-occupation Iraq with no real leader and no real voice. Saddam Hussein is an American prisoner and the Baathist government is no more. The initial outpouring of potential freedom has faded away and been replaced by nervous tension and growing impatience. The beautiful city of Baghdad is now in turmoil and ruins.
The film is divided, as Iraq is, into three sections. The first part of the film follows 11 year-old Mohammed, apprenticed to a mechanic who dominates him and pushes him to do better. Mohammed is in his fifth year of first grade, and still he can only spell his first name. Like many kids, he dreams of a better future. He wants to be a pilot in order “to see a beautiful place. Not Iraq, but a beautiful place.” But the need to work will displace that dream. In Longley’s hands, the relationship between Mohammed and his boss becomes a metaphor for Saddam’s domination of Iraq. The boss is a Sunni, and he worries that the majority Shiites will now dominate the Sunna. He distrusts the Americans, too, and feels that Saddam Hussein would never have abandoned the Sunna and let them starve the way America and the Shia are now doing. Like many, he has faith that democracy will prevail and that history will bring the Iraqis together.
The second part of the film shows us the acolytes of Shiite leader Moqtada Sadr. They see little difference between the Sunna and Shia, and even blame Saddam for sowing the conflict as punishment for the Iran Revolution. The Shia are the majority in Iraq, and as we meet them here, we see them enjoying their new religious freedom (they can now hold funeral processions, for example). But they are also chafing under American occupation. Through the course of this section, we will see the faces of the Mehdi Militia go from disillusioned and tired to hard and resolved. Their talk of resisting America goes from civil disobedience to military resistance. They discover the tortures at Abu Graib, they see their own people starving, and a peaceful demonstration against the occupation turns into a bloody firefight with Spanish soldiers that kills thousands. They attempt to subvert America’s attempts to appoint a puppet government by encouraging provincial elections and, eventually, elections at the national level. They have the needs of their people at heart, but their increasingly militant ways lead them down a path of force. When they raid a marketplace where merchants are selling alcohol, there is a strong implication that they have caught the wrong people. “When Saddam fell, I felt free,” says one. “And now I’m being blindfolded again.” Says another: “We brought 100 Saddams to replace him.” Sadr’s men want a Muslim state in Iraq, one that is Shia-dominated. They do not trust America and believe that Arabs who do are fools. For them, we have only come to steal their wealth and oil.
The third section shows us Kurdistan, a country that does not exist except in the hearts of the people who live in the relatively peaceful north of Iraq. They live simply, but suffer the same problems as the rest of Iraq: how to feed the family, how to get the work done, how to survive and be thankful to God, how to raise the children. Unlike the Sunna and Shia we have met, these Kurds welcome America as liberators and hope that the northern oil fields will be a boon in helping them realize their goal of democratic independence. “Why can’t the Kurds be free?” asks an elderly farmer. “Why can’t we have our own flag?” They point to the way Israel has flourished and seek similar autonomy. They talk of Kurdistan as an “entire nation buried alive.” They want the war to end and politics to prevail. This gentle but fatalistic portrait provides a fitting end to the film.
Certainly Longley’s film does not encompass all viewpoints, nor does it pretend to. But it does serve as an opening of the floor to the people of Iraq and what they want for their future. It is a moving, powerful documentary that teaches us one very important lesson: people are not that different from one another. Everywhere you go, they want the same things from life. They want to keep their family safe and raise their children. They want to work and provide. They don’t want to be subjugated or told what they can and cannot do. And they will not stand for long while a few greedy men use the world as a stage for wars over personal wealth that do nothing to benefit the people who simply want to survive.
Iraq in Fragments opens on 10 November at Landmark Theatres in Berkeley, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC, and on 17 November in Los Angeles. I strongly urge everyone who can to go see it. You will learn something. And you will be moved.
1. The Olympics, begun in 776 BC, were cancelled in the year 394 AD by Emperor Theodosius because he considered them a glorification of the Greek gods. Theodosius was a rigid Christian.
2. Venice was founded on inhospitable marshland by Italian refugee fleeing before the invasion of Attila the Hun.
3. Attila himself, the most fearsome warrior of his time, died on his wedding night from a chronic nosebleed. Too drunk to wake up, he choked to death on his own blood.
4. King Edward II banned soccer in 1314 (as would Edward III, Richard II, and Henry IV) because it was distracting men from archery training and threatening military readiness. The bans were generally ignored until they were forgotten.
5. Ibn Battuta is the greatest traveler of medieval times. In 325 he left Morocco to visit Mecca. He returned 33 years later having journeyed through Persia, modern Iraq, the coast of Africa to modern Tanzania, India, Constantinople, China, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives. After returning home, he went on to visit the Spanish countries and Mali. He logged 73,000 miles and 44 modern countries. So why hasn’t anyone ever heard of him?
6. In 1405, Admiral Zheng He sailed seven voyages into the West with a fleet of 300 ships to display the might of China’s Ming dynasty. He sailed at least as far as the southern tip of Africa; some evidence suggests he crossed the Atlantic and made it as far as the Caribbean. Confucian scholars, however, convinced the emperor that isolation was better and Zheng’s accomplishments were stricken from the record of history.
7. Christopher Columbus did not have to convince anyone the world was round. It was the Earth’s size that was in dispute.
8. Francisco Pizarro conquered the powerful and vast Inca Empire (population: 6 million) with just 150 well-armed men whose lust for gold led to the destruction of a civilization.
9. Julius Caesar’s calendar reforms lost the world eleven minutes a year and, after 1600 years, the spring equinox was taking place in winter. Pope Gregory XIII reformed the calendar again (we still use it today), striking ten days from the calendar in October 1582. Some people rioted, believing the pope had “stolen” ten days from their lives.
10. Tobacco was initially thought to have healing qualities. King James I hated smoking so much (he called it “dangerous to the lungs”) that he tried to get people to quite by raising the tobacco taxes 4000 percent. It didn’t work.
11. Europe was on the verge of banning coffee in 1600 because it was the drink of Muslim “infidels.” Pope Clement VIII said coffee was too delicious to ban, and decided to “fool Satan by baptizing it.” Coffee is, therefore, blessed by God.
12. The Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock because they had run out of beer. Beer was less susceptible to contamination than water, so it was a staple of the diet. One of the first works up and running at Plymouth was a brew house.
13. The croissant was created to honor early-rising bakers who had managed to warn Vienna of the invasion of Ottoman Turks in 1683. The crescent is a mockery of the crescent moon on the Ottoman flag.
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Monday, October 30, 2006
"Michael [Eisner] probably had the most centrally configured management of any company I've been associated with and, as a result, the spreadsheet jockeys on the strategic planning team had assumed enormous power and influence. Taking the power away from them and giving it back to the division heads not only sent a message that they can run their businesses as they see fit, but also showed them that Bob was a different kind of leader than Michael." -- unnamed Disney exec
Those are good words to hear after the infighting and disappointments of recent years from the House of Mouse. What the executive is referring to is Iger's dismantling of Eisner's Strategic Planning Division. SP was set up by Eisner to facilitate decision-making, but really became the division Eisner used to take control of the company and try to merge his own identity with that of the company. (Which is typical Eisner; this is the same man who, when he was about to have heart surgery, wanted to leave his wife his seat as Disney CEO, and who later delighted in pointing out that the name of his French ancestors, D'Eisner, was pronounced "Diznay.") SP made a lot of the decisions during Eisner's reign, crippling creativity, introducing the line of Disney "cheapquels," and favoring money over self-respect. Jeffrey Katzenberg used to refer to them as the "Strategic Gestapo," whose job was "to strangle creative initiatives in their cradles." Roy E. Disney called SP a failure, pointing out the stupidity of their baby Disney's California Adventure. SP also cost the company a billion dollars in their attempt to build the failed Go.com internet portal and overpaid for the ABC Family Channel by over a billion dollars.
Well, Strategic Planning was dismantled by Bob Iger. Smart move.
It's been just over a year now since Robert Iger took over from Michael Eisner as CEO of Walt Disney, and Wall Street can't get enough of the guy. Iger has increased the company's stock price by about 37 percent since taking over, and Disney's four core businesses (movie studio, theme parks, TV networks including ABC, ESPN, and Disney Channel, and consumer products) aren't just doing better than in previous years, they're thriving. Disney has already had the number one movie of the year (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, which has made a rather excessive billion dollars-plus) and the best-selling CD of the year (High School Musical). ABC is the most watched television network this season: Lost is bringing the viewers back, while Ugly Betty remains one of the highest-rated new shows of the season. Iger's deal with Apple iTunes not only revolutionized the business of selling Disney TV shows and even the old animated cartoons, but it helped make peace with Steve Jobs and brought Pixar back to the fold. So far back into the fold that Disney actually acquired the company and put Pixar's top man, Ed Catmull, in charge of the entirety of the animation department.
Ed Catmull is trying to take Walt Disney Feature Animation and turn it back into something glorious. He's been smart enough to acknowledge that these are tough times for animation. Too many studios are following the DreamWorks Animation model, which goes like this: pack the thing with a lot of contemporary pop culture references and quotes from other movies, use the shorthand of casting actors to play themselves instead of writing characters, create a plot (like Madagascar's existential crises or Shark Tale's worries over making money) that no kid could possibly care about, then crap it out into theaters and pretend it's a real movie. Pixar tries hard not to play that game, and Ed Catmull is not about to let Disney make the same mistake. If you're one of the people who saw Chicken Little, you know what I mean; they might as well have called it Walt Disney's DreamWorks Movie.
What Catmull is attempting to do is create two separate brands, Walt Disney and Pixar, to keep each one special and unique. Though Disney still has some CGI films in production (Meet the Robinsons, Rapunzel Unbraided, American Dog), he hopes to return Disney to the land of cel animation. There's a lot of good buzz about Enchanted, next winter's animation/live action musical starring cuter than cute Amy Adams. And not only that, but Catmull has pulled back into the fold John Musker and Ron Clements, the directors of The Great Mouse Detective, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules, and the vastly underrated Treasure Planet. Ron 'n' John were unceremoniously (and stupidly) let go when Disney went all-CGI, but are now back to usher in the return to traditional form with The Frog Princess (and, please please please please, Fraidy Cat). Two great brands, hopefully equals.
Here are the words of another unnamed Disney exec who has been with the company since Eisner took over in 1984: "The negativity and infighting and board unhappiness, to me, was a result of the stagnation that had taken hold. But Bob's made that all seem like a distant memory by returning the company to the think tank-like campus it once was."
The words we Disney fans have finally longed to hear!
Anne Hathaway, one of my absolute favorite current actresses, in Saturday's IrelandOnline: "There's nothing wrong with nudity in film. I grew up studying classic painters. They certainly didn't shy away from nudes. I don't find anything morally reprehensible about it. I think it is different to pose in a pair of hotpants on the cover of Stuff magazine. That's something I'm just not interested in doing."
Yes, my love, but to be fair, that's because you're a real artist and not an Angelina Jolie or a Jessica fucking Alba. You're a Winslet. You're one of the greats. Hell, you made Princess Diaries 2 work and managed to stay believable despite the bullshit ending of The Devil Wears Prada, and that does take some kind of magic.
“I don’t do nudity. I just don’t. Maybe that makes me a bad actress. Maybe I won’t get hired in some things. But I have too much anxiety.” -- Jessica Alba
The reason I crack on her for not being an actress is not her shitty acting, and not her refusal to do nudity. It's the fact that she has anxiety about how far she's willing to take her career of professional Make Believe. Here is she is getting fucked on the beach. Because, you know, if I had anxiety issues about someone seeing my nipple, I'd totally let myself get a floating fuck, too. And if she denies they were fucking, just check out the way the water is moving around their bodies, creating a little pool with the suction of their movement.
That was a big one, wasn't it, honey? You fucking hypocrite.
Sunday, October 29, 2006
1. The phone rings. Who do you want it to be?
That’s a damn long list. But I’ll be obvious and say Jessica Simpson.
2. When shopping at the grocery store, do you return your cart?
Nope. I’m a dick. Maybe if I saw less cart monkeys at Wal-Mart sitting on their ass, I wouldn’t feel so inclined to make more work for them. But they obviously need something to do.
3. In a social setting, are you more of a talker or a listener?
I like to do both. I talk endlessly, but if you have something interesting to say, I want to hear it.
4. Do you take compliments well?
I used to not, but I’m getting better about it.
5. Are you an athletic person?
Fuck no. I have the energy of a man three times my age.
6. If abandoned alone in the wilderness, would you survive?
Maybe for a couple of days, but it’s more from sheer stubbornness than capability.
7. Do you like to ride horses?
I haven’t been on a horse since I was about 14, but I enjoyed it then.
8. Did you ever go to camp as a kid?
Boy Scout camp once. I like to go camping, but not to camp. Though sometimes I do like to be camp.
9. What was your favorite game as a kid?
My friends and I used to go into the woods and pretend we were soldiers or characters from Star Wars or the A-Team. You'd better believe I was Han Solo.
10. If a sexy person was pursuing you, but you knew he/she was married, would you get involved with him/her?
11. Are you judgmental?
Yes, but you’re obviously insecure for asking that question in the first place.
12. Could you date someone with different religious beliefs than you?
I tend not to respect people who are superstitious, so probably I’m too judgmental for that.
13. Do you like to pursue or be pursued?
Both are very exciting. I think being pursued, because it's not like that ever happens.
14. Can you speak another language?
I can read and pronounce German pretty well, but my vocabulary is awful. I have a tiny bit of Spanish and phrases/slang in other languages (Chamorro, Japanese, and Hawaiian), but not much.
15. If you had to choose, would you rather be deaf or blind?
Why would I want to be deaf or blind? I’m a sound and vision type of guy. What a stupid question.
16. What's your favorite food?
Pizza is nature’s most perfect food.
17. Do you know how to shoot a gun?
Yes, but I haven’t done it since I was in high school.
18. If your house was on fire, what would be the first thing you grabbed?
19. How often do you read books?
Every day. Even if I can’t block out some time, I read in the bathroom.
20. Do you think more about the past, present or future?
The past, but I was a history minor.
21. What is your favorite children's book?
I reread Charlotte’s Web recently, which was the first book I ever read, and I think it holds up wonderfully. As the first book of my life, I’d say it was the most important.
22. What color are your eyes?
23. What was your first concert?
Siouxsie and the Banshees in 1995 remains my only concert.
24. Where is your dream house located?
On a beach.
25. Last person you talked to?
26. Have you ever taken pictures in a photo booth?
27. When was the last time you were at Olive Garden?
Around the time I graduated high school in 1994. I’ve never cared for the Olive Garden’s cheap facsimile of Italian food. Plus the one by my house kept flunking the health inspection.
28. What are your keys on your key chain for?
Car, apartment, mom’s house, Becca’s car, mailbox.
29. What acclaimed musical act do you just not care about?
Much of them.
30. Where was the furthest place you traveled today?
Heh, you’re underestimating the power of my laziness.
31. Where is your current pain at?
In my achy breaky back. And my neck is stiff. Wah, wah.
32. Do you like mustard?
33. Do you prefer to sleep or eat?
34. Do you look like your mom or dad?
I can see both of them, though everyone tells me I look just like my dad.
35. How long does it take you in the shower?
Long as I want, baby.
36. Can you do splits?
Frankly, my legs hurt just thinking about that.
37. What movie do you want to see right now?
The Departed, The Prestige, and Marie Antoinette.
38. Do you put lotion on your dog or cats?
I have a rabbit, and I’m not sure why I would… Do people do that?
39. Do you own a camera phone?
I don’t even have a cell phone. I like being unreachable. People who talk on their cells all the time about inane shit deserve their inane lives.
40. What are you drinking?
Nothing just now.
41. Who was your favorite American Idol?
Jennifer Hudson was pretty fucking hot. But inside the juicy pop singer body of Kelly Clarkson hides the soul of a rock pirate.
42. How many hours of sleep do you get a night?
Between four and six.
43. Do you know how to play poker?
I haven’t played poker since I was a kid and I used to play with my sister. I think now it’s just become another trendy thing for guys with masculinity issues and women with feminine “I want to prove I can be just as big an asshole as men” issues to dabble in. It’s like cigars and those pool tables that are red and black; it just seems like forced man-drag to me.
44. Do you wear your seatbelt?
Yes, although I don’t think Illinois needs a fucking law about it.
45. Got any piercings?
No, I’m not the type. No ink, either.
46. Ever been to LA?
47. Do you steal or pay for your music downloads?
Hey, if the music industry didn’t want people stealing downloads, they wouldn’t have priced themselves out of what a consumer can afford. I’ll buy albums generally, but if it’s just a single or something… Maybe if iTunes actually worked the way it was supposed to (seriously, the Wal-Mart website works better).
48. Is your cell usually on vibrate or ring?
No cellular telephone.
49. Are you gullible?
50. Do you need a significant other in your life to be happy?
51. What is your dream job (a real, reasonable job that you have interest in)?
Columnist/novelist/journalist/Hunter S. Thompson.
52. Do you have a Tivo? What's on it?
Yes. And there’s a bunch of movies on it. And it keeps recording softcore porn from HBO and Showtime. Good TiVo.