Saturday, September 01, 2007

The History of the Middle East

Part 22 in a series.


The defense of Egypt by President Nasser created a greater sense of urgency in Arab unity. Syria accused the US of plotting to overthrow President Shukri al-Kuwatly, and in response the US accused the USSR of trying to take over Syria. Syria immediately asserted ties with Egypt and Saudia Arabia in a United Arab Republic. Iraq and Jordan, the two Hashemite kingdoms, banded together in an Arab Federation.

In Iraq, several groups in the military opposed King Faisal II; most of them were led by Abd al-Karim Qasim, a veteran of many Iraqi military actions from the mid-thirties up to the Arab-Israeli War and the Suez Canal Crisis. He organized a military coup, and under his orders the entire Iraqi royal family (with the exception of Princess Hiyam) was executed on 14 July 1958. Qasim pulled Iraq out of the Baghdad Pact, dissolved the Arab Federation with Jordan, and proclaimed a Republic with himself as Prime Minister and Defense Minister.

Almost immediately, Qasim established friendly relations with the Soviet Union, abolishing a treaty with Britain and withdrawing from an agreement the monarchy had made with the US regarding military aid. The British army was out of Iraq by 1959.

The Interim Constitution was adopted on 26 July 1958. It proclaimed the equality of all Iraqi citizens under the law and granted them freedom with no regard to race, nationality, language, or religion. Even women were encouraged to participate in society. Political prisoners were freed, and amnesty was given to Kurds who had participated in the uprisings during World War II; the exiled Kurds were allowed to return home. Qasim also lifted a ban on the Iraqi Communist Party. He demanded the annexation of Kuwait to allow Iraq access to the Persian Gulf. He implemented the 1958 Agrarian Reform.

Qasim’s goal was nothing short of improving the position of ordinary people in Iraq and installing self-rule in the name of the people. After long years of rule by the elite few, and widespread social unrest, Qasim tried to turn Iraq in to a real nation. He seized 98% of Iraqi land from the Iraq Petroleum Company, a British business, and distributed farms to the population, increasing the size of the middle class. He oversaw a building project which saw 35,000 residential units to house the poor, including a new suburb: Madinat al-Thawra (“Revolution City”), later Saddam City and now called Sadr City. He supported Algeria and the Palestinians in their struggles against the West, but tried to maintain political balance.

Unfortunately, Qasim also whipped up hostility between Iraq and Iran, declaring in 1959 that the Ottomans had handed over Mohammareh, an Iraqi territory, to Iran. As a consequence, Iraq began to support secessionist movements and pled their territorial claim with the rest of the Arab League. Qasim also declared Kurdistan “one of the two nations of Iraq,” and ignored Mustafa Barzani’s attempts to negotiate with the government for Kurdish independence. Once again, the Kurds began to rebel in favor of autonomy.

There was also quite a bit of debate over whether Iraq should join Nasser’s United Arab Republic, which lost Syria as a member in 1961. Qasim recognized the republic, but refused entry. He hoped to keep Iraq independent; his bigger concern was keeping the Iraqi branch of the Arab Socialist Ba’th Party under control. In 1959, Qasim was nearly assassinated by Ba’thists including Saddam Hussein; as a result, Qasim cracked down on domestic opposition. He wanted attention turned to getting the English out of the Middle East. Soon, rebellions began in Mosul and Kurdistan that may have been assisted by Nasser and the UAR. Political matters grew complicated and Qasim struggled to keep the Iraq Republic under control.

The Ba’th Party

The Arab Socialist Ba’th Party was founded in 1945 to further the cause of secular Arab nationalism. It originated with two Syrian nationalist groups that had formed in opposition to French colonial rule; they united under a banner of pan-Arab nationalism and Marxism. The Ba’th Party merged with the Arab Socialist Party in 1952 and gained an influx of members. This party was headed by Akram al-Hawrani, a popular man known for his campaigns against the feudal landlords of the Hama province. He had also participated in the Palestinian resistance against Zionism. The Ba’th Party now had a wider base as well as a foothold in the officer corps of the Syrian military. Many of his followers were personally loyal to him rather than the Ba’th Party. The Ba’thist influence spread into Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon.

In 1954, Syria’s military regime was overthrown and democracy restored. The Ba’thists gained representation in parliamentary elections; at this time, ideologically-based parties were gaining power by standing up for the intellectual and the worker, but each party fought for control of the others. The biggest concern for the Ba’thists was the Communist Party, which had grown rapidly in Syria. The Ba’thists pushed for a union with Egypt in the United Arab Republic, which went through in 1958. Nasser wouldn’t allow any political parties other than his own, the Arab Socialist Union, and the Syrian Ba’th Party reluctantly became a part of it. This was not a popular decision, and a faction within the Ba’th Party brought about a military coup in 1961.

In February 1963, Ba’thists rose and overthrew the Iraq Republic, executing Abd al-Karim Qasim after a show trial and violently suppressing communist resistance in a house-to-house hunt that killed at least 5000. Qasim’s body was not found until 2004. A second coup occurred in Syria, eliminating the pro-Nasser groups left in the government. The Ba’thists consolidated their power and, by the end of the year, controlled both countries. The Party became increasingly dominated by hard-line leftists who called for socialist planning, collective farms, and democratic control of the means of production. Internal struggle became routine within the party; coup upon counter-coup followed, often with the help of the military.

In 1966, Ba’th radicals took control of the Syrian government, displacing the moderates and purging the party of its founders. The progressives took power in 1970. In all this time, the Ba’th Party became indistinguishable from the Syrian state. As for Iraq, a bloodless coup in 1968 saw General Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr come to power. Still, there were dissidents in the Ba’th Party. They were constantly purged. The governance of both countries remained unsteady throughout the sixties and seventies.

In the meantime, fighting with Israel continued. Both Syria and Iraq fought in the demilitarized zone near the Sea of Galilee until the United Nations negotiated yet another ceasefire.

To be continued.

Friday, August 31, 2007

A Decade Without Diana

10 years ago tonight, I finished watching a movie on my VCR, turned off the tape, and was immediately informed that Diana Spencer, the former Princess of Wales, had been killed in a car accident. Conspiracy theories abounded, people moved in to profit off of the tragedy, but I simply watched her funeral a few days later and was surprised by how much I cried. I was shocked by how much feeling I had about Diana's death. Because away from the constant tabloid attention and the way every detail of her personal life was turned into soft news tidbits, I really felt bad to see two boys have their mother pulled away from them. And for me, Diana had stood for something in her life. Nothing to do with the monarchy or their image or their insanities--insanities that have been with Britain for century upon century. Something more real, more immediate, and more humane.

Diana used her image positively. She didn't just shop and look pretty, the way lesser women might in her situation. And she didn't merely fulfill the job of the Princess of Wales--to provide future heirs to the throne. She used her notereity to gain attention for humanitarian causes. And not the way famous people tend to do now, by putting the focus on themselves and how much they care, or by adopting/stealing a child from a less fortunate country because it's the in accessory since people stopped carrying those little dogs. She really used the attention for good.

Remember this? Diana, Princess of Wales, in a flak jacket touring an Angolan minefield. She thought it was important for people to realize that unexploded landmines stay where they are for years and years until an unsuspecting person accidentally steps on one. She was visiting victims on behalf of the Landmine Survivors Network in Bosnia just days before she died. Even when she shrank from the obsessive attention on her personal life, even when she had left the monarchy and all it stood for behind, she still believed that causes were worth the effort. That it is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness. And the Ottawa Treaty, banning the use of landmines, is a testament to her belief.

But it was Diana's attention to AIDS victims that touched me the most. I don't know why I've always felt so strongly about racism and discrimination against homosexuals and discrimination against AIDS victims, except that I know what it feels like to be an outcast, even among outcasts, and I know what it's like to be bullied. I cannot stomach bullying. And in 1987, there were still a lot of myths about AIDS. In America, Ronald Reagan had always taken the stance with AIDS sufferers that he didn't care if gay people died or not. There were so many fears in the air.

But when Diana sat on the sickbed of a man with AIDS and held his hand in 1987, she helped to explode the myth that AIDS could be transmitted through contact. As Bill Clinton would say in memoriam, "she showed the world that people with AIDS deserve no isolation, but compassion and kindness. It helped change the world's opinion, and gave hope to people with AIDS."

That is, to use a word I hate that is thrown around much too easily, phenomenal.

Diana is a woman who would secretly, unannounced, make visits to sick people. She didn't do this to show the world how much she cared; she just did it because she cared.

Diana, princess or no, was an extraordinary person. And ten years ago, I cried at the loss of her. And as I type this, I'm crying for her again. The world misses Lady Diana. The world needs her compassion. And the world is darker without it. Even as the candle she lit continues to burn inside of it.

NOTE: I didn't have the tracks ready for the Friday Ten, so I'll do that tomorrow. For today, I've put up one track, "This Woman's Work" by Kate Bush. That's my own little tribute to a woman whom I hope history will not misjudge by her media attention.

Throwdown 8/31

15 random thoughts, questions, and observations for the week.

1. Tim Burton is making Sweeney Todd a PG-13 movie? Fuck, is there going to be any good news about this project? What is with Hollywood’s need to make everything a PG-13 movie? No one sees them until they hit DVD, anyway, and kids can rent anything. I know, I worked in video, no one cares until a parent complains.

2. Bad news, everyone: I just read that Corey Haim may not be doing the sequel to The Lost Boys. That’s not the bad news. The bad news is that it’s 1989 again and people give a shit about a Lost Boys sequel. And we have to go through boring, shitty grunge rock again.

3. Paramount is saying that the Star Trek reboot isn’t a sacrilege on the fans, because it takes place in an alternate timeline. See, Paramount, this is the kind of dumbass thing that made everyone so fucking sick of Star Trek in the first place.

4. Please, no more High School Musical! Why is Zac Efron’s ugly mug all over every magazine right now? It was the most-watched show ever on basic cable; isn’t that like being the tallest midget in Ohio? Or the smartest retard in special ed? The only good HSM-related news I’ve had is this story that broke today: supposedly, there are nude pictures of Vanessa Hudgens out there that will, according to someone at Disney, “bring the whole…franchise to its knees.” If only, sir. If only. Please, Satan, stop trying to make Zac Efron a star. He’s painful to look at. Oh, and while we’re talking, can we do something about these Jonas Brothers? They’re trying way too hard.

5. Speaking of nudity, there’s actual nudity in Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake. That makes me happy, stupid as that sounds. Maybe one day, it won't just be in horror movies, and we can move away from horrific violence as popcorn entertainment. Can you imagine if audiences were allowed to think that nudity and sex was natural and kind of cool, and violence was sick and wrong? You know, instead of the other way around, like it is now?

6. I have to take back what I said earlier; as you can tell by this recent photo, Gwen Stefani did not get breast implants. I don’t really care if someone does or doesn’t (as long as they don’t lie about it, lying sucks), but someone commented that he thought Gwen’s bigger boobs were from her having been pregnant, and I thought he was wrong (I mean, whose breasts stay big from pregnancy for this damn long?), but now I think he was right. I read something about how Gwen was still breastfeeding, even though it’s awfully late now, and that must’ve been what was doing it. Either way, big breasts or small, I just think Gwen Stefani is beautiful.

7. Not to sound too much like a fanboy, but: holy shit, check out the trailer for the Alien vs. Predator sequel! Gore, action, an R rating—finally, an apology for the incredibly tame and disappointing and boring shittiness of the first movie. This one I’m going to see!

8. Ridley Scott says that the science fiction film is as dead as the Western: “There’s nothing original. We’ve seen it all before. Been there. Done it.” Interesting words coming from someone who has contributed nothing but some slick imagery to the genre. Actually, science fiction films have just scratched the surface of what literary science fiction has covered in the last hundred years. It’s just that no filmmaker has been particularly imaginative about it. Seriously, read Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot and see Alex Proyas’s offensively bad movie version. Then read John Shirley’s A Splendid Chaos and see Alex Proyas’s rip-off film Dark City. That alone should illustrate how creatively bankrupt Hollywood is in comparison to science fiction literature. Thanks for convincing generations of illiterate Americans that SF lit is dumb, Hollywood.

9. Hey, remember American Idol finalist Jessica Sierra? No? Me neither. I don’t remember these people after the show unless they really can sing or make an impression for being really stupid. She’s one of a number of, um, “celebrities” who is starring on VH1’s new show Celebrity Rehab. Anything to stay, um, “famous,” I guess, no matter how idiotic you look. Congratulations, I guess.

10. I don’t know what movie this is, but daddy likes the idea of Emma Watson as a pouty little schoolgirl…

11. I like Rihanna. I can’t help it, I just do. One of the things I like about her, in this day of singers who only release an album every 5 years or so, is that she releases an album every year, just in time to have a decent summer pop single. Anyway, I was reading about how Zomba Records thinks that Britney Spears’s upcoming music comeback is going to be a huge failure, and I read that Rihanna’s sizeable summer hit from this year, “Umbrella,” was actually written for Britney Spears. She couldn’t be bothered to call the producer who wrote it back. Because, you know, she’s in a position to just turn down any help she can get. I understand that she also turned down Justin Timberlake and Timbaland, who wanted to write a single for her. Well done, Britney. Nice knowing you. Except over the last few months.

12. Well, we just magically, suddenly found chemical weapons in the United Nations Building. They’ve been there for about a decade or so. As yet, not a single story I’ve read is clear enough to indicate what this means, why it’s just coming out now, or if there’s any threat the government can use as an excuse to take away more of our civil rights. It’s quite the non-story at the moment.

13. Everyone’s probably seen this by now. Hey, at least we know No Child Left Behind is working. Honey, the correct answer is: “Because they’re dumb and uneducated.” Meh, you’re hot, you’ll do fine. Sadly.

14. Jamie Foxx, professional irritant, is doing his part to keep racism alive, saying he knows that managing a dog fighting ring is bad, but, you know, Michael Vick is black, so he’s on Vick’s side. Alright, alright, what he actually said was: “It’s a cultural thing, I think. Most brothers didn’t know that, you know. I used to see dogs fighting in the neighborhood all the time. I didn’t know that was Fed time. So, Mike probably just didn’t read his handbook on what not to do as a black star. I know that cruelty to animals is bad, but sometimes people shoot people and kill people and don’t get time. I think in this situation, he really didn’t know the extent of it, so I always give him the benefit of the doubt.” You kind of have to love this defense: he implies that Vick was just too stupid to realize that animal cruelty is sick and wrong and illegal, so he should go free. And, apparently, by extension if black people are too dumb to know they’re breaking a law, they shouldn’t be held responsible for it. So, according to Foxx then, dog fighting is simply part of the black lifestyle and people are against Vick because of racism, not because he’s an amoral dickwad who thinks setting animals on each other is fun. See, who said Jamie Foxx was a douche bag? Oh, right, it was me. Repeatedly. Thanks for proving me right, douche bag.

15. “In my silver Viper, I was driving from Miami to Tampa. I got pulled over going 107 and the guy let me off. He's like, ‘Hey, I know who you are, just keep going, ya know.’ Dude, I got back on the road and two minutes later I get pulled over going 113. Another highway patrol from the same county said, ‘I just heard on the radio that my buddy pulled you over and let you go. I'ma let you go this time. It's your second warning. You get pulled over again, you're probably going to go to jail.’ Three minutes later, [I was] doing 123 in a 50. The guy is like, ‘Hey, I just heard you got pulled over twice in the last 10 minutes. I got to write you a ticket.’” That was Nick Hogan in the new issue of Rides. He also called his shitty yellow Toyota Supra a “pussy magnet.” This Supra, right here. Nick Hogan, the infantile, endlessly unlikable teenage son of Hulk Hogan, was racing in the streets the other night, lost control, and hit a tree and a median. Charming little brat, isn’t he? Also: not his first crash this year. Why are kids so fucking dumb? Anyway, the accident left John J. Graziano, a veteran of the Iraq War, in critical condition. If he dies, it’s vehicular manslaughter and Nick goes away for 15 years, assuming celebrity justice isn’t the same in Florida as it is in California where a jail sentence doesn’t even last an afternoon anymore. An Iraq War veteran. You little asshole. Our soldiers fight and get themselves killed so Dick Cheney can control oil production and turn America into a fascist dictatorship, and if you survive you come home and get killed by some overprivileged little fucker driving too fast and coasting on his dad’s fame. Wow, life is unfair.

You’ve Actually Called a Murder Link

Hey, what better way to start the Friday links off then by ignoring this disturbing image and going right to a bunch of comic book posts? The Absorbascon talks Aquaman and the original incarnation of one of my favorite superheroes, Plastic Man. Plus, Sleestak has an observation on Richie Rich I found funny.
* Splotchy has the third Green Monkey Music Project mix, reviews Ocean's Thirteen, and looks at the lighter side of erectile dysfunction.
* If everybody knows Ken Levine's rules of theater etiquette, why does going to the movies still suck so much? Levine also looks at Emmy-nominated producers.

Go on and read Entertainment Weekly's interview with perfect girlfriend Kristen Bell, who says "I love nerds" and rightly points out that comic book geeks are the tastemakers of tomorrow. It's true. You've been stealing our stuff for blockbusters for years now.
* The Onion AV Club takes a look at the new TV shows premiering this fall.
* StyleCynics list 22 reasons why Britney Spears will never make a comeback. (Stole this from Semaj.)
* The Top 7 Obnoxiously Caloric Summer Treats (Layercake)
* JA laments the loss of Bruce Campbell's involvement in Bubba Nosferatu and has a wonderfully sarcastic post about Rob Zombie's Halloween.
* Old Bettie Page pictures (she frolics with animals, including a certain blogging political candidate) at the Skullcave.

A quartet of stories from Cracked:
* Before They Were Famous: The 10 Most Regrettable Celebrity Commercials
* 6 Video Game Gimmicks That Went Away Too Soon (And 6 More That Need to Die)
* 8 Celebrities Whose Obituaries CNN Has Probably Already Written
* 7 Great Men in History (And Why You Should Hate Them)

Before Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein goes on vacation, he left us some great posts about Chertoff's lost brothers, the latest non-gay cock-smocker in Washington Larry Craig, more about hypocritical ass-plunderer Larry Craig, and Bush's latest beg for more surge money.
* Even the guy who founded Greenpeace thinks Greenpeace and Leonardo DiCaprio are missing something important about global warming solutions.
* Dr. Zaius has linked to a Mother Jones timeline of the Katrina profiteers. He also writes a nursery rhyme and catches President Duh in an inconsistency.
* Atheist Revolution has some always-interesting examples of Christians who don't know jack about the bible.
* Jeffrey Feldman has a great post about why the Democrats should walk away from negotiations.
* Fairlane on extraordinary Americans (and who isn't one).
* Bill Maher comments on the call for overthrowing the Maliki government.
* FranIAm has a very powerful post about the world situation.

Anne Hathaway: Best Girlfriend Ever

Okay, this is nothing against my ScarJo. And I'm sure that what's happening in these pictures is not what it looks like is happening in these pictures. But don't you kind of hope it is?

I've always had this image of Anne Hathaway as poised and wonderful as she is in public, but secretly dirty and shameless when you get her alone. Here's hoping!

Man, it seems like every blogger is going on vacation this weekend. Why can't I? Why aren't I going on a yacht with dirty Anne Hathaway?

I mean, Scarlett would kill me, but she's in Barcelona.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Movie Geek

Becca seems to have found the coolest, geekiest movie geek meme ever. I do now.

Favorite quote from a filmmaker:
"Spielberg isn't a filmmaker, he's a confectioner." -- Alex Cox

A good movie from a bad director:
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial from Steven Spielberg.

Favorite Laurence Olivier performance:There's never been an actor I've both hated and liked as much as Olivier; he was capable of the brightest brilliance and the laziest hackery. I'm inclined to say Crassus in Spartacus.

Describe a famous location from a movie that you have visited:
Well, I've been in a lot of Chicago locations from Backdraft, Batman Begins, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, etc. Does that count? I don't travel far.

Carlo Ponti or Dino De Laurentiis?Ponti's got the presitge--and La Loren--but I've got to give it to De Laurentiis. Lots of lapses in taste in there, but he has produced some of my absolute faves, including Conan the Barbarian.

Best movie about baseball:
The best movie "about" baseball is Field of Dreams. The best movie about baseball players is Bull Durham. For once, Costner's got it sewn on both sides.

Favorite Barbara Stanwyck performance:Although I didn't like the movie, The Lady Eve.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High or Dazed and Confused?They both suck. If I have to pick one, it's Fast Times, for obvious reasons.

What was the last movie you saw, and why?
I needed a pick me up this morning, so I watched a movie on the TiVo: Alias Jesse James with Bob Hope. Funny stuff, though nothing will ever be as good as The Paleface for me as far as Hope comedies.

Whether or not you have actually procreated or not, is there a movie you can think of that seriously affected the way you think about having kids of your own?
Countless. I couldn't even pick one right off the top of my head. I guess the remake of The Parent Trap was the first time I noticed that, at 23 years old, I was no longer watching movies like that from the perspective of the children, but from the POV of the adults. Specifically, the father's. I'm sure it had been going on for some time, but that's the first time I consciously thought about it.And I'd love to have cute, clever little twin girls like the ones in the movie. And I would especially make sure they didn't grow up to be anything like Lindsay Lohan. That's the kind of thing that makes me glad I'll probably never have children.

Favorite Katharine Hepburn performance:Wow, how do you pick just one? One of the two greatest actresses who ever lived (the other is Garbo). Do you realize that in 62 years of acting, she was only in 52 films? Half of those were from 1932 to 1951. I think she's endlessly wonderful, but if I have to narrow it to just one, it's her stunning, commanding work as Eleanor of Aquitaine in The Lion in Winter.

A bad movie from a good director:
I love Joe Dante, but I hate The 'Burbs. My second choice would be Robert Zemeckis; I love even his stupidest movies from the early part of his career (hi, Used Cars, how you doing?), but parts of Forrest Gump, parts of Cast Away, and all of The Polar Express and What Lies Beneath are incredibly stupid.

Salo: The 120 Days of Sodom-- yes or no?
I have always wanted to see it and never been able to. In fact, I've never seen a Pasolini movie and always wanted to.

Ben Hecht or Billy Wilder?
Wow, what a great question. Tough choice, honestly. Billy Wilder worked on some of my favorite movies, including my the funniest movie I've ever seen, One, Two, Three. You just can't call Wilder overrated in any sense. But Hecht has been a little forgotten, even though he wrote or co-wrote or worked uncredited on some of the greatest movies I've ever seen, like Monkey Business (the Marx Brothers movie), Queen Christina, Angels with Dirty Faces, Gunga Din, Wuthering Heights, Gone with the Wind, His Girl Friday, Foreign Correspondent, Lifeboat, Spellbound, Notorious, The Paradine Case, Rope, Strangers on a Train, Monkey Business (not the Marx Brothers movie), and Cleopatra.He also wrote the gayest movie I've ever seen, The Outlaw with Jane Russell. His suggestion to David O. Selznick and Victor Fleming after being brought on to Gone with the Wind? Cut Ashley Wilkes out of the script. I have to give it to Hecht, because that's my favorite period of Hitchcock he worked on, and those are some tight screenplays. Hecht, definitely.

Name the film festival you’d most want to attend, or your favorite festival that you actually have attended:
I want to go to Roger Ebert's Overlooked Film Festival.

Head or 200 Motels?
Definitely Head (which, incidentally, Zappa appears in). It's just so damn bizarre!

Favorite cameo appearance:
It's not in a movie, but on the final episode of Masters of Science Fiction, based on Harlan Ellison's story "The Discarded," Ellison himself made a brief cameo. That warmed my heart. I like cameos because I enjoy movie in-jokes and literary references.

Favorite Rosalind Russell performance:I've not seen her in much. I think, so far, I've liked her best in The Women. I didn't like the movie, but I thought she was fun and sexy as hell in it. I think His Girl Friday is a tad overrated.

What movie, either currently available on DVD or not, has never received the splashy collector’s edition treatment you think it deserves? What would such an edition include?Where the hell is the Criterion Collection DVD of The Adventures of Baron Munchausen? There was a laserdisc, why isn't there a DVD? Why do we have to put up with the Columbia DVD with no commentary, no documentaries, no anything extra except the admittedly hilarious trailers. I want that on DVD. Now. I'll wait, you go get it, Criterion.

Name a performance that everyone needs to be reminded of, for whatever reason:
I'm going to do what Becca did and push one of my adopted actors: see The Bride and just skip past the scenes with Sting and Jennifer Beals. The heart of the movie is Clancy Brown's sympathetic performance as Frankenstein's creature, and his stirring friendship with the wonderful David Rappaport in his finest role.

Louis B. Mayer or Harry Cohn?
Mayer, definitely. MGM is a way better studio than Columbia.

Favorite John Wayne performance:I still think he does his best acting in The Searchers. It sounds like a cliche, but he's very good. Sentimental fave: I just love him in The Shootist. He reminds me so much of my dad in that movie, it's not even funny. And my grandma, too; just like the Duke, she was tough and from Iowa.

Naked Lunch or Barton Fink?
I've never seen Naked Lunch and I didn't much care for Barton Fink. Can I pick The Hudsucker Proxy instead?

Your Ray Harryhausen movie of choice:
You ask that question, and I immediately get the Clash of the Titans theme music in my head. I loved Clash of the Titans so much when I was a kid that I even had some of the action figures.And that movie still rocks. So I'm going to have to pick that one, because I still want my own Pegasus, my own mechanical owl, and my own sword, shield, and helm.

Is there a movie you can think of that you feel like the world would be better off without, one that should have never been made?
Just one? Only one of the endless supply of horribly awful movies I've seen in this lifetime? I liked Becca's answer about Crash only being for people who are out of touch; I'd add Babel, too, just because it's an incredibly dumb movie with nothing to day that makes idiots feel like they're seeing something deep and real, instead of something histrionic and pointless with nothing to say about anything. I'm sure I'll get comments for saying that from people who are too invested in what they think liking certain films says about them. I also hate Superman Returns an awful lot. Gosh, there are so many. Right now I blame The Matrix for the current glut of B movies that are too long, too pretentious, and not as cool as they're trying to look without the effort, no matter how inherently ridiculous their premise is (like, say, Superman Returns), so I'm going to say The Matrix. I hate that fucking movie.

Favorite Dub Taylor performance:
You can't go wrong with any of his performances in Peckinpah movies, but to me he'll always be the voice of Digger in The Rescuers. Remember, Disney owns me. It also warmed my heart to see Taylor, Pat Buttram, and Harry Carey Jr. sitting around the saloon table in Back to the Future, Part III.

If you had the choice of seeing three final movies, to go with your three last meals, before shuffling off this mortal coil, what would they be?Easy: Fantasia, Bambi, and Pinocchio. It's where I cam from, and it's where I want to be when I know I'm going away for good. Sorry if it's not dynamic enough, but I like it.

And what movie theater would you choose to see them in?
Who cares? All cineplexes suck at about the same level.

Fun, Genius, Emotion, and Pop in Less Than 24 Minutes

The newest Green Monkey Music Project mix is now ready for download: The Under 3. Thanks to Splotchy for remembering my desire to be a part of the project; I hope I can contribute again at some point in the future.

Anyway, here's the traditional explanation of why I picked the tracks I picked. The theme for the mix was eight songs under three minutes in length; that left the participants a lot of freedom to throw on anything within those constraints. Here's what I picked.

1. Todd Rundgren: "International Feel"
This is the first track off of Rundgren's second masterpiece, A Wizard, a True Star. This was the period when Todd was experimenting with drugs, and the opening is supposed to feel and sound like a rush of cocaine. I chose it because I wanted a strong open that was arty but still fun without being boring.

2. Scissor Sisters: "I Can't Decide"
From arty fun to bouncy fun; I love this song, I love the Scissor Sisters, and I wanted to keep the pace up. They used this on the third season finale of Doctor Who, and it was so absurdly appropriate that I've had this song stuck in my head ever since. I almost went with something by Queen, either "Killer Queen" or "Seven Seas of Rhye," but this just seemed a better fit.

3. Richard Thompson: "Oops! I Did It Again" [live]
Thompson and one acoustic guitar cover Britney on some NPR radio show. There are ironic covers of Britney (Bowling for Soup, Fountains of Wayne, both boring), and then there's this: plain-faced, straight-delivered, acoustic and intimate, complete genius. And at 1:59, it stops before it gets gimmicky. Dammit, I love Richard Thompson.

4. The Zombies: "Summertime"
It's weird to think that the Zombies were only together for such a brief period of time, and yet they have such an overwhelmingly great output. I love every Zombies song I've ever heard and always crave more. This is their own soft, lovely version of the Gershwin song. It's a nice song when you start to hit the end of summer; a smile without being nostalgic or sappy.

5. Django Reinhardt: "Swing Intepretation of the First Movement of the First Concerto in D Minor"
What a mouthful. Anyway, this has a swift beat to it and proves that great music can be interpreted across the genres without losing its brilliance. The centers of my mixes tend to be gentle, reserved, and easygoing; I thought this was a good fit after "Summertime."

6. JoJo: "Times Like These" [live]
This is the song I'm most expecting taking ridicule for. But I wanted to illustrate something: especially for her age, Joanna Levesque has an astonishingly good voice; it's just the songs written for her that suck. If she can get herself a decent song--such as this nicely acoustic version of a Foo Fighters classic--she can rock it down to the ground and all the way back up. You should listen to it just once and see what she could do if she wasn't trapped in this juvenile mode that she's much too talented for. Stupid music industry.

7. Adam and the Ants: "Jolly Roger"
Back to some fast moving rock music. It's typical Ants; heavy on the bass and percussion, seemingly endless, but also jaunty and fun and, frankly, awesome. I wanted to begin and end with something bouncy, so here it is.

8. David Bowie: "Bombers"
An unreleased track from Hunky Dory, one of my favorite little Bowie oddities. And I liked the way the song is fast, snotty, rude, and then a lamentation, and then--nothing. A good place to close, I thought. And then it goes into J.D.'s mix, so my explanations stop here.

Anyway, the whole thing is up for download on Splotchy's blog. Click the link above. I love this project; I've been hearing a lot of music I'm unfamiliar with, and that's one of my favorite things to do.

Everything's coming up Splotchy this morning. I'm pleased to discover that my Billy Squier submission to Splotchy's Gayest Video Ever contest has tied for first! And now I'm one of two winners of the visually disturbing Schneider Award that I've been coveting for, like, a day or something.Not that anything will stop me from displaying this on my sidebar. I'm an attention whore.

I'd like to also congratulate Frank Sirmarco, whose submission, Wham's "Wake Me Up," tied with my own for very gay content. I'd also like to thank Splotchy, J.D., Beckeye, and Anandamide for voting for me; Anandamide also suggested the video, but did it after I'd posted it, so we see how great minds think alike. And, of course, I'd like to thank Billy Squier, whose flitting and skipping and writhing and extra attention to his hair and wardrobe helped me win this award. I'm sharing this with you, sir!

Surge Without End

The Associated Press reported this morning that the Government Accountability Office will report that the Iraqi government (who is still on vacation as our soldiers and their soldiers and citizens are killed) has failed to meet the majority of political and military goals laid out for them to prove Junior's new favorite catchphrase, "The surge is working." According to the GAO, 13 of the 18 benchmarks will not have been met.

The administration, of course, is trying to figure out how to play down this report in order to convince America that the GAO is unimportant and unfair. They apparently don't like the GAO's unfair "all or nothing" standards, because they feel that achievement should not be measured by such arbitrary measures as achieving.

President Duh is supposed to deliver his report on Iraq to Congress on 15 September. Republicans who rejected Democratic calls for a withdrawal have said they wanted to see substantial progress by September or else. Whatever that means; like they're going to turn on the idiot-in-chief at any point. The Republicans talk a good game, but when it comes down to actually having to stand up to anyone, they fold. And Bush is already begging for another $50 billion to keep fighting his losing battle. Look for Bush to just squeal about fairness and how the Congressional standards for success were designed for failure. He'll say that the GAO is unrealistic because it doesn't mention progress. He'll blame Congress like he always does. And then he'll just throw out the results, and that'll be that. And we'll continue to let him destroy the world in our names.

This isn't going to end soon.

We've taken the wrong tack from the beginning. We should've done what Mossad did to the people behind the Munich slaughter; put a team together and quietly infiltrated and taken out the people responsible. Then it would have been done and over with. Instead, Bush lumbered into battle with all the grace of a bassett hound puppy tripping over its own ears. Remember when you were a kid in social studies, and they taught you about the American Revolution? Remember when they told you that the mistake of the British was wearing red and marching into battle in a straight line where they could easily be picked off by America's guerilla fighters? Well, we might as well be wearing red coats now.

"This is a new kind of war," Bush said after 9/11. And then he made the mistake every Republican has made since Truman; he tried to fight it like it was World War II. And it nearly killed us in the Pacific then, too. When are we going to learn?

Seriously, we didn't have a spy network for this? Let's face it, we've been secretly interfering in world politics for decades; why didn't we just have these people use their contacts and ferret out the al-Qaeda leaders and Osama bin Laden? Why did we fuck with the entire Middle East?

Mr. Embarrassment, where the fuck is Osama bin Laden? Why aren't you focused on Muqtada?

This is going to go on forever if we don't stop it.

For your edification: there is a protest coming up on 15 September in DC. I don't think I'll be able to make it, but I'd really like to. I hope people are coming. Sometimes I wonder if anyone really cares all that much. It's that kind of day. It's that kind of surge.

Here's the info:

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Katrina: Two Years Later

I wanted to use this image rather than the one going around today of Bush praying with black kids, because this one seems more sincere. This is the real George W. Bush, doing what he does best: not giving a shit about Americans and their problems, whether he causes them or not. Maybe especially if he causes them.

It has now been two years since Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans, and BushCo still has done very little about it. Because he's more interested in revenue and the control of oil production than he is in his own country's infrastructure. In the well-being of his people. Sure, he knows how to pretend to be concerned every time a plane crashes into a building or a bridge collapses. What he doesn't know is how to fix it. There is still a hole in New York. There are still dead bodies in New Orleans. I'll be surprised if that bridge ever gets fixed. That mine in Utah is going to be re-opened. Even with failure ongoing in a stunningly WMD-free Iraq, Bush is making plans to invade Iran. Bush doesn't give a damn about us. Not one bit. When are you going to figure this out?

"There's always a more blessed day in the future and that's what we're here to celebrate," he says. "This town's coming back. This town is better today than it was yesterday and it's going to be better tomorrow than it is today." Translation: someone will take care of it, but not me. Hey, the levees will be strengthened by 2015. This is America, why shouldn't it take a decade to rebuild levees? Is that unreasonable?

Bush also said that "we will stay as long as it takes" to rebuild New Orleans. He's doing his greatest hits, folks! What a guy! Meaningless rhetoric is the only way he knows how to fix a problem, as history will show. Still, as long as the war is more important to Bush than anything else (translation: as long as being rich is more important to him than anything else), and, dare I say, as long as Louisiana remains a blue state, it's going to take "as long as it takes." When the truth is, it should have been done by now. We're America. We used to be able to do stuff like this.

But at least he knows how to look like he's sorry. Even if he laughs about it later.

Thanks to Suspect Device for the image and Blue Gal for the heads up.

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

ZODIAC (2007)
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this movie. I am not a fan of David Fincher, but I think he outdid himself with this one, making something like the second film of his I've ever enjoyed. This is about the search for the Zodiac killer, a case that has never been (and probably never will be) solved. That little fact is part of what hurts the movie; there can't really be a satisfying conclusion to it. Still, Fincher deals with that in what I considered an interesting way. I liked the ending, but the pacing is more problematic. The first hour is tight and exciting, but as leads start to dry up, there's a middle half-hour there that slows down to the detriment of the picture. Then, as the investigation gets interesting again, the movie picks up. It's too bad about the slow patch. The cast is excellent; I'm officially turned around on my former Jake Gyllenhaal hatred, and I think I have been for some time (probably a combination of Jarhead and finally seeing Donnie Darko). Mark Ruffalo makes up for a lot of the crap I've seen him in over the past few years by actually acting for a change. Robert Downey Jr. is very good, if a little theatrical, which is his crutch, I'm sorry to say. I still like him better than Malkovich. The supporting cast is great too--Jon Carrol Lynch, Philip Baker Hall, my darling Chole Sevigny, Anthony Edwards, Brian Cox, Elias Koteas, among others. It's one of the few movies I've seen recently that made me think, Ah, this is how they used to make interesting movies in the 1970s. And I mean stylistically, not as a pastiche. ***1/2 stars.

Some Disney Channel thing I could hardly pay attention to. *1/2 stars.

I have to admit that I actually enjoyed the much-maligned 1996 version of The Island of Dr. Moreau with Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer. And, of course, I loved the 1932 classic Island of Lost Souls. This stands as the only version of Dr. Moreau I've seen and didn't like at all. Michael York is pretty sold in the lead, and Barbara Carrera is sexy as hell, but Burt Lancaster is a surprisingly boring Moreau. The makeup was only so-so, which is too bad since it was by John Chambers, who did the excellent makeup for the original Planet of the Apes. ** stars. I'm still hoping Danny Elfman will make an over-the-top musical version of it one day.

This unwatchable piece of garbage is the perfect example of why I hate this constant stream of movies based on cartoons from the eighties and nineties. It wants to be funny, but doesn't commit to making any real jokes. It wants to be cool, but it doesn't commit to being cool. It's like the filmmakers don't want you to think they want the movie to be liked, because that would be, what, too conventional? It takes itself far too seriously, which results in boring and frankly inspid scenes of Casey Jones talking about his existential crisis. It wants to take the characters you "love" and make them more well-rounded, but fails to do so. There is no point to this movie except to make money. The animation is terrible; it's like watching the narrative scenes in Final Fantasy; you keep expecting the characters to stop so you can pick up the controller. I don't know about you, but I find watching someone play a video game excruciatingly boring. It doesn't help that this movie is populated by terrible actors (Sarah Michelle Gellar, Chris Evans). The few good ones (Mako, Patrick Stewart, Zhang Ziyi) are drowned out by incredibly awful dialogue and a movie that, at 87 minutes, feels 150 minutes too long. Unwatchable. No stars.

It's beyond time for me to catch up on my John Waters watching. This film is a bit of a satire on Douglas Sirk movies; it's like someone took All This and Heaven Too and ripped it apart. Divine is hilarious as Francine Fishpaw, a housewife whose pornographer husband leaves her for an "erotic lifestyle" with Mink Stole, whose daughter is a party girl who wants an abortion, and whose son is a criminal foot fetishist. She meets Todd Tomorrow (Tab Hunter), who is seemingly everything she wants in a man. Until... well, you have to see it. It's hilarious, one of Waters's funniest films. He clearly thinks this is all absurd, and he relishes the silliness of it. Divine is wonderfully funny, of course, and Edith Massey as her rich, retarded friend Cuddles Kovinsky is absolutely hysterical. Ordinary People it isn't. **** stars. This was the movie with the famous Odorama gimmick, but that doesn't really work when you're watching it on IFC.

Divine IS Dawn Davenport, the trashiest woman/art criminal who ever lived! This is a hilariously trashy movie about a troubled woman who is raped as a high schooler (Divine, in a dual role, raping himself is funny as hell) and turns to a life of crime and glamour. She meets a strange couple who own a salon and want to photograph her career as a criminal; Dawn gets crazier and crazier and more over the top as the film goes on, but it actually works. Behind Divine's wonderful histrionics, John Waters actually does have something to say about the way criminals become celebrities in America. Mink Stole is hilarious as Dawn's daughter Taffy. Classic trash. ***1/2 stars.

TV Report: Entourage

I've been watching this show since it started. I don't have a whole hell of a lot to say about it (it's not really substantive enough for commentary), but I do want to say this: hire some new writers. This season has been a bust. There's no conflict anymore. Where did the conflict go? The season started off alright, with Vincent Chase now with a new agent (wondrous Carla Gugino) who was tough as nails and also sexually attracted to him. It changed the usual playing field of the show. Then, after a couple of episodes, Vincent went back to Ari and everything became business as usual.

And that's the problem with this show: no matter what happens, everything is business as usual. No matter who fucks up or what goes wrong, everything magically works out fine in the end, and nothing really changes. It's like Star Trek--no matter what torment anyone goes through, no matter what essential changes are made to someone, everything goes back to the status quo by the end of the episode.

This season has been awful about that. For example: Billy Walsh. I hate the character. He's annoying and temperamental. He's a supposed wounded genius, and will only work his own way. He's hired to adapt a bestselling book, and he writes some obscure science fiction Brokeback Mountain instead. But, magically, that works out okay. No one gets sued, and as usual, Vincent gets whatever he wants.

What really bothered me this week was the way Anna Faris was suddenly dropped. Bad enough that, last week, Eric didn't even try to stand up to her idiot boyfriend. That bugged the shit out of me. Eric has been Anna Faris's new manager, but he's also interested in her romantically. In this week's episode, it looked like they were getting more intimate, but Eric was forced to lie to her about Billy's script--he hates it, but tells her to do it. Then he feels bad and admits the truth. And, offscreen no less, she fires him. And we're just told about it later.

Why not keep this drama going? Why not have Eric deal with the fact that he's stuck in a conflict of interest situation: he's Anna's manager, he's Vincent's manager, but he's also a producer on this script he doesn't believe in. And he's got romantic feelings for Anna, who either has romantic feelings for him, or thinks he's rebound material. That would be enough for talented writers to work with and maybe even not make such a cliche. But this is Entourage, which always clutches the cliche and holds as tight as it can.

I'm sorry, but four guys just hanging out isn't all that interesting. Fix it next season, or this show isn't going to be worth the space I've just given it.

Two Advertising Questions

1. Why is the underlying message of the new Twix ads that chicks are dumb? Seriously, who thought that would be a great way to advertise candy? For a while now, Twix has been doing this ad campaign that, in itself, kind of implies that Twix is for idiots. Stuck for something to say? Caught in an embarrassing situation? Don't know the answer to a question? Hey, just shove a Twix in your mouth, idiot, and people will just think you're some kind of moron with a genuine deficiency instead of simply stupid!

But these ads have taken a new low lately. Now we have some guy who thinks he's slick eating Twix bars between the moments in time in order to lie to a girl. In the first ad, he and his dumbfuck friend are reading a book about picking up chicks when a girl he likes approaches him and asks what they're reading. Thinking fast, slick guy stops time in order to eat a Twix bar, and then castigates his friend for being so juvenile as to read a book on picking up chicks. The girl is so dumb that she's as overwhelmed with love and desire as she would be if they guy told her he was wounded in Iraq but managed to save four babies and a puppy. And she asks him to get a drink or something. This is a premise that only a fourteen year-old who has read far too much Maxim would think could work. Apparently, she's just that stupid. And thanks to Twix and its ability to stop time, she's been fooled! Yes! Twix is as good as any expensive date rape drug!

In a second commercial, we see the same slick asshole coming home in a taxi with his dumbfuck friend at 5:30 in the morning. He gets upstairs and starts to take off his pants quietly when the girl, the same girl who was fooled into thinking he was a nice guy in the earlier commercial, suddenly stirs in the bed. "Are you just getting in now?" she asks. He does his whole Twix-eating, time-stopping schtick, then puts his pants back on and claims he's got to get to work early. And, of course, she feels sorry for him. And he's disgustingly pleased with himself. The message: not only is Twix good enough to fool a chick into sleeping with you, it's good enough to completely manipulate her for the rest of her life!

Yes, Twix is selling its candy on the premise that chicks are dumb.

2. Maybe I'm the last person to notice this, but why do McDonald's commercials only have black people in them now?

Thanks to Super Size Me and the constant bleating of fat people who have apparently been abducted in the middle of the night and forced to eat Big Macs (I mean, they wouldn't sue if they had actually made a conscious decision to eat there, would they?), McDonald's has been forced into a position of pretending their food can be healthy. Hey, it's more commercial these days. They've also been forced to change their old tack: that McDonald's is fun food for kids. We can't advertise anything to kids these days, because they might use it, and otherwise disinterested parents might get angry. So now kids can get milk and surprisingly rubbery apple slices with their sodium-filled hamburgers or their sodium-filled Chicken McNuggets. Oh, are they in for a surprise one day.

Anyway, McDonald's at some point changed their ad tactics--rather than going after kids, they've made McDonald's the hip and wholesome place to go for middle class black people who want a decent meal while they're a) out partying, b) spending time with their kids, or c) hanging around outside with the girls and pretending they're in a Toni Morrisson novel. Seriously, African-American women, those McDonald's salads are not good for you. Have you seen the fat content on those things? Yikes! McDonald's may claim they're wholesome, but that's because they want you to buy them. A good rule of thumb to remember is this: no business cares about your health, they just care that you buy something.

Anyway, here's the thing I can't get past in the McDonald's ads aimed at black people. Because of the tone. They seem to be saying this: McDonald's is assembly line (barely) food for poor white people and people who only have seconds to spare on lunch time, but it's an upscale, nice meal for black people. Weird.

McDonald's is selling itself on the idea that black people don't know anything about food, so they'll think the crap from McDonald's is fine dining.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Health Report: Week 37

I'm really starting to hate being unemployed.

That's an oversimplification.

Specifically today, I just hate having nothing to really do. As I've said before, it's hard for me to concentrate on any of the writing I really want to do because I've got no money coming in; so I tend to blog and look for jobs and watch television and not do much else. I'm making sure to get my exercise in, partially because I'm looking after my health, but partially because I'm just really fucking bored.

That's been the worst this week. Not any feeling of self-worth, not being broke all the time; I'm just kind of lonely and really bored. I have nothing to do.

I still haven't heard back from the job I interviewed for last week. I called the woman on Friday, and she said they had to postpone a decision because of the terrible weather we had last week and the resultant flooding we had in town. I'm supposed to hear back from her by the end of tomorrow, and as that deadline gets closer, I'm starting to get more and more nervous. I hate this feeling; like it's going to be the end of the world if I don't get this job. Still, this is the kind of job I've been hoping I would get for a long time now: secure, relatively well-paying, busy, but hopefully not stressful or too mentally taxing. Something that will afford me time to write and exercise, but also something that will give me a sense of accomplishment. Something I can do well.

I'm making myself crazy.

Classes started at the university yesterday, and much more so than last year, I feel like I should be doing something. Everyone around me is abuzz with new classes and new jobs and all kinds of activity, and here I am not doing much of anything. It's driving me up the wall, frankly. The regular exercise is making me more energetic, too, but it's like I just have nothing to do. Nowhere to go. No one even to talk to during the day. I really want this part of my life to just be over already. I want to move on to something else.

No more talk about that; it's going to make me insanse and upset, and if I don't get this job... It's going to be hard to sleep tonight, I'll tell you that much.

So, health-wise. Doing good; I need to modify my eating habits a little better. I have been exercising every day. I like going, except I kind of hate seeing healthy people there. Why do they, like, stare at you when you walk in? Or when they walk in? It's like you can read it all over their faces: "Oh, great, there's a fatty in here." Yeah, no shit--I need the help, you don't, so screw off! Let me listen to my iPod while I use the treadmill and you just go and enjoy being healthy and stop judging me with your eyes.

Quick note about the iPod: although many bands and musicians tried, the only one who could cover the cacaphony of the harpies on The View this morning was Slade. There were a couple of women in there who turned on the TV with the volume up way too fucking loud, and they were watching The View. The TVs are right in front of the treadmills, so I just turned on my iPod and tried not to look at Elisabeth Hassleback too much. Thank you, Slade. I'm going to put your entire Feel the Noize: The Best of Slade album on my iPod.

I still think my legs are in pretty good shape; there's still some fat there, but they're getting stronger. My arms and my upper body need some real work. I've said for years that I have the strength of an infant, and it turns out that's pretty much exact. I have a back like a horse, but these presses, flies, etc. are kicking my ass.

Let me give you an idea of what I'm working with here. I couldn't find a picture of the actual gym machine I've been using, but here are the basic components to it.

This is the one I have the most trouble with. The leg stuff is okay, but the upward press just sucks. I really need to build up my upper body strength.

As my resistance builds, I'm getting better with this one: the pec fly. At first, I could barely do it. But after a week, it's gotten a lot easier and kind of fun. I need to take my time, but I try not to let the weights go back to a resting position the whole time I'm on it. I don't know if that's right or not; I just remember it from gym class.

For some reason, this chest press is my favorite part. This is where I really notice the difference between my legs and my upper body. You can press with both the arms and legs, or one or the other; when I push with my legs, it's like a child's toy. When I push with my arms, it's noticeably harder. I like doing this one, though, and probably do it a little too long.

And finally, there's some of this. I always liked to try to do this at the pool when I was a kid (there was a little weight room there), but I was never very good at it. This is when I was seven or so.

Anyway, that's the order I go in. I do this every other day, plus 15 minutes or so of walking on the treadmill. On days when I don't use that machine, I walk for a half hour (it ends up being about 1.09 miles, which I know ain't much, but I'm working on it). For now, I just use the machine components until I feel like I should move on; I'm waiting for my old PT to give me an idea of what kind of routine I should be on. I'm also thinking about using those big pilates balls at some point; I could use that trunk strength the posters keep promising.

If anyone has any ideas, as always, shoot them on by.

What else can I tell you? I've been reading a lot of graphic novels from the library; I've been requesting them from other libraries, so I get to see Miss Busty a lot! Now, thanks to Dr. Zaius, I keep picturing her going into another room, putting on an auburn wig and dressing up as Batgirl and coming out on a motorbike.Not that I'm complaining, mind you. I'm just saying. She keeps giving me that Look. Also, my new, young, bouncy neigbors from across the hall, who came over to borrow a can opener yesterday, they were looking me over. I'm just charming some days. That self-esteem just keeps going up. That keeps me a little balanced when I'm fretting over this job situation.

Fingers crossed, if you feel like it. I'd appreciate it.

I'll let you know next Tuesday if it worked out or not.

The World Situation

Once again, I've been sent another forwarded email about the Iraq War. So, once again, I'm just going to dispute this idiocy online. Here is the email in full, and my editorial comments in italics dispersed throughout.


Dear Tom, Kevin, Kirby and Ted:

Right off, I despise the fake-kindly tone of writing a letter to one's own children. It's an immediate beg for sympathy, and the less cynical, more soft-hearted reader always falls for easy sentimentalism. That makes the message harder for them to dispute and easier for them to swallow. Already, I don't trust the supposed writer of this thing.

As your father, I believe I owe it to you to share some thoughts on the present world situation. We have over the years discussed a lot of important things, like going to college, jobs and so forth. But this really takes precedence over any of those discussions. I hope this might give you a longer term perspective that fewer and fewer of my generation are left to speak to.

Already, I'm bored. The author is trying to establish his faux-kindly tone in a way that makes people like me sound like an asshole for attacking him.

To be sure you understand that this is not politically flavored...

A letter about politics that isn't political? Isn't that like building a train that has nothing to do with transportation?

...I will tell you that since Franklin D. Roosevelt, who led us through pre and W.W.II (1933 - 1945) up to and including our present President, I have without exception, supported our presidents on all matters of international conflict.

Wow, what it must be like to go through life not having to think for oneself in any way. The author is purpoted to be an attorney (why are they always supposedly attornies?), and yet the argument he's making is "I believed we should go to war because That Guy said so."

This would include just naming a few in addition to President Roosevelt - W.W.II: President Truman - Korean War 1950; President Kennedy - Bay of Pigs (1961)

In other words, this author supports the right of the Mafia and rich White Cubans to use our military to reconquer Cuba for a select few who were using the island to make money on illegal gambling. Why is America always supporting the Cuban criminals instead of Castro? Oh, right, because Castro and his teeny island are going to kill us all one day.

President Kennedy - Vietnam (1961);[1]

Because Asian lives don't matter unless they're forced to buy American products, which is the real threat of Communism. I guess it was a good way to pretend to fight the Soviets so that no nuclear bombs got dropped, but it sure wasted a lot of lives for absolutely no political or strategic gain.

Eight presidents (5 Republican & 4 Democrat) during the cold war (1945 – 1991) President Clinton's strikes on Bosnia (1995) and on Iraq (1998).[2] So be sure you read this as completely nonpolitical or otherwise you will miss the point.

Yes, remember, this is a non-political treatise on world politics. Of course, this guy just blindly supports any military action the US makes, so maybe he's just too stupid to understand his own point, whatever it may be.

Our country is now facing the most serious threat to its existence, as we know it, that we have faced in your lifetime and mine (which includes W.W.II).

Yes, we are: the rich are taking over this country, crushing the middle class, silencing opposition, and making war on countries without concrete reasons. The rich are taking over and grinding us beneath their heel. The serious threat is rule by corporations. Check out the history of France sometime for a preview of how all of this is eventually going to work out.

The deadly seriousness is greatly compounded by the fact that there are very few of us who think we can possibly lose this war and even fewer who realize what losing really means.

We've already lost because the enemy is so nebulous. Far too early on, Bush declared that this was a war on childish concepts--"evil" and "terror"--instead of a clear enemy. He declared war, by default, on the Muslim world instead of on bin Laden and al-Qaeda. So the war never really has to end, because the enemy doesn't show itself. It's like the phony, useless war on drugs. No borders defined, no end in sight.

First, let's examine a few basics:

Ooh, finally, simplicity. It's been so damn heady so far...

1. When did the threat to us start? Many will say September 11, 2001. The answer as far as the United States is concerned is 1979, 22 years prior to September 2001, with the following attacks on us: Iran Embassy Hostages, 1979; Beirut, Lebanon Embassy 1983; Beirut, Lebanon Marine Barracks 1983; Lockerbie, Scotland Pan-Am flight to New York 1988; First New York World Trade Center attack 1993; Dhahran, Saudi Arabia Khobar Towers Military complex 1996; Nairobi, Kenya US Embassy 1998; Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania US Embassy 1998; Aden, Yemen USS Cole 2000; New York World Trade Center 2001; Pentagon 2001. (Note that during the period from 1981 to 2001 there were 7,581 terrorist attacks worldwide).[3]

Here, the author seems to actually know his history. My dad says the same thing about the Iran embassy; he was in the Army at the time, and according to him there was a general feeling going around that the US would be going to war against Iran. He blames Jimmy Carter--as do many people, I find--for creating this entire situation because of his soft actions in the Middle East. But the author is right to point out that 9/11 was not just a sudden moment of hostility, but the result of decades of attacks and pointed hostility.

If you want to get technical, it really starts with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1919, as I've detailed in my History of the Middle East series. Once those Middle Eastern territories (Baghdad, Basra, and Mosul, especially) were left to themselves after being absent of self-rule for literally centuries, anarchy reigned and the strongest/richest of the kings, warlords, and strongmen won out. Britain and America had a huge role in arbitrarily dividing the land, which (like in Africa, where civil wars have been going on for seven decades) pushed ethnic groups together without thinking. And then Britain and America abandoned them to their own problems, high-handedly interfering whenever our oil supply was threatened.

2. Why were we attacked? Envy of our position, our success, and our freedoms. The attacks happened during the administrations of Presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush 1, Clinton and Bush 2.

That's a bullshit answer. There is nothing in the 9/11 attacks that was motivated by envy. Fundamentalist Muslims don't envy our success or our freedoms. Fundamentalist Muslims tend to want less freedoms. That it was motivated by envy is an incredibly stupid thing to say. The attack was motivated by our position, sure--but it's our position in world politics "they" hate. We rape the Middle East for oil and occupy sacred sites. We treat the world like we own it and they should do whatever we say. We support Israel even when they commit aggressive, warlike, and illegal actions. We support Israeli terrorists basically because they're white and we feel guilty about the Holocaust. This guy has taken the soma offered by the neocons and run with it. American action in the world is in the best interests of America about 90% of the time. I think, these days, more of the world is looking at us with anger and frustration more than envy. We've tried to decide the fate of the Middle East for over a hundred years, and we're paying for that hubris. I'm not saying we deserved 9/11, but it's not like it was unwarranted, considering what we've done to the Middle East in the past.

And who is envious of our freedoms when even we don't have them anymore? Bush is still trying to repeal everything he can.

We cannot fault either the Republicans or Democrats as there were no provocation's by any of the presidents or their immediate predecessors, Presidents Ford or Carter.

This VERY POLITICAL statement is totally false. To be sure, America was preoccupied at the beginning of the twentieth century with establishing its dominance in the South Pacific and Central and South America, what with the violent conquest of Hawaii and the Philippines and starting a war over Panama to get a cheap canal. We remained neutral for a while in World War I not because of Preisdent Wilson's proclaimed isolationism, but because we were too busy fighting in "insurgents" in Mexico, Santo Domingo, Panama, Honduras, Nicaragua, Cuba, etc. We simply had too much on our plate, and only entered the war when an alliance between Germany and Mexico was suspected.

That was a tangent.

Anyway, here are some of our greatest hits in dealing with the Middle East:

1919, the US refuses to support the League of Nations, partially because we were still involved in battles in Istanbul and in Russia, fighting on the side of the White Russians in the Russian Civil War; we did support the first king of Iraq. The League of Nations was meant to resolve conflicts without violence, but America didn't want to lose the right to send troops anywhere at any time for any reason. The other Western powers were also heavily involved in the Middle East following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, despite how much the Arab "insurgents" fought to get the West out and keep them from interfering in Arab governments.

1945: Menachem Begin and his terrorists force the British out of Palestine. Two years later, the UN caves in to Zionist pressure and divides Palestine between Arabs and Jews, despite the fact that Israel has not existed for hundreds of years. I'm sure the Indians who want the Black Hills back chuckled over that irony, right? The Arab League (Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen) promises to resist the division with force. In 1947, Britain also forcibly divided the northern section of India into Pakistan, a Muslim state.

1948: Israel is established by the UN over four-fifths of Palestine, kicking 500,000 Arabs out of their homes. President Truman recognizes Israel. The Arab League strengthens their attacks.

1953: A CIA coup restores the Shah of Iran to power after fears of a Soviet takeover.

1956: President Eisenhower affirms a policy of interference in the Middle East; he's backed by Britain. The USSR warns the US that sending any troops to the Middle East will be considered an act of war. Israel and Palestine accept the first of many cease-fires. The Suez Canal Crisis occurs because Britain backs off their claim to the Canal and Israel invades the Sinai Peninsula to gain control of it. America, as always, backs the Israeli aggressors. World War III is narrowly avoided by the UN.

1957: The USSR and China announce support of the Middle East against the West. Eisenhower promises to protect the Middle East from Communism and nearly sends troops in. Israel refuses to leave the Gaza Strip until the UN assures them their energy won't be cut off. Also in 1957, America conspires to despose the president of Syria, making enemies of Egypt, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia as well. American fighting in Lebanon. America takes the hint and turns its attentions to Asia, slaughtering college students, and assassinating black leaders.

1970: Israel continues to gain American support by stealing and conquering Egyptian territory. The Palestinians continue fighting to regain their homes. The Arabs blame the US for supporting Israel with money from investments in Arab oil, essentially using Arab resources to support a war against them. Israel continuously flouts cease-fire agreements.

1973: The Yom Kippur War; the USSR vows to support the Arabs against Israel and supplies arms; the US sends arms to Israel. The UN cease-fire is broken within 12 hours by Israel; over 20,000 people are killed within 18 days.

1975: In a rare show of support, the US agrees to an Arab definition of Zionism as "a form of racism and racial discrimination." The US makes up for it the next year by vetoing a UN resolution calling for an independent Palestine and Israeli withdrawal from lands conquered since 1967; the US also refuses to censure Israel for deplorable policies in Jerusalem.

1976: The raid at Entebbe and the Munich Olympics.

1978: The US embassy in Iran is attacked; the US does not get involved in Iran because of threats from the Soviet Union.

And that's all until the time when this author seems to think the Middle Eastern hatred of the US just magically started. I guess they picked that time to become jealous of us, right? It's not our interference in civil affaird or the continued support of Israel's conquest of the Arab world. It's not our continued interference or military presence at all.

4. Who were the attackers? In each case, the attacks on the US were carried out by Muslims.

Mostly Saudi Arabian nationals, if we're being accurate. Also, where is number 3?

5. What is the Muslim population of the World? 25%


6. Isn't the Muslim Religion peaceful? Hopefully, but that is really not material.

Partially true. Like most modern religions (as if "modern" and "religion" can go together), there is an idea that people who believe otherwise are lesser and do not deserve to live.

There is no doubt that the predominately Christian population of Germany was peaceful, but under the dictatorial leadership of Hitler (who was also Christian) that made no difference.

Partially false. I've gone on at length in the past about my bias against Christianity, mostly due to the Christian establishment's historical love of killing everyone who isn't a Catholic. The Holy Roman Empire was Christian, too, but they had Crusades and the Thirty Years' War and the Seven Years' War, etc. Hitler was nominally a Christian, but tried to reignite a nationalistic religion based on Tuetonic folklore.

You either went along with the administration or you were eliminated.

Like the Democrats seem hellbent on doing.

There were 5 to 6 million Christians killed by the Nazis for political reasons (including 7,000 Polish priests).[4]

True. And there were thousands of gypsies, too. And then there's the people that died in battle, including 7.5 million Soviets.

Thus, almost the same numbers of Christians were killed by the Nazis, as the 6 million holocaust Jews who were killed by them, and we seldom heard of anything other than the Jewish atrocities.

That sounds vaguely racist, but on the other hand, the Jews have been the most vocal in demanding justice; they couldn't just take over half the country like the Soviets did. Plus, the Jews were killed for nationalist reasons that were an outcropping of their religious community. It is an enormous racial crime; Christians were not generally killed because they were born into a certain group; usually they were political killings unrelated to religion. See the difference?

Although Hitler kept the world focused on the Jews, he had no hesitancy about killing anyone who got in his way of exterminating the Jews or of taking over the world - German, Christian or any others. Same with the Muslim terrorists. They focus the world on the US, but kill all in the way - their own people or the Spanish, French or anyone else.[5]

Technically, the US has kept the focus on the US. You think the American governmedia gives a shit about Spain and France?

What's your point exactly?

The point here...

Oh, this should be good. that just like the peaceful Germans were of no protection to anyone from the Nazis, no matter how many peaceful Muslims there may be, they are no protection for us from the terrorist Muslim leaders and what they are fanatically bent on doing - by their own pronouncements - killing all of us infidels.

Of course, the Arab governments don't really do much to stop the fanatics, do they? Actually, there is a difference, sir. The Nazis were the government; Germans who didn't want the war were powerless in the face of a Nazi establishment that controlled the media and a powerful war machine. The Muslim terrorists are not the establishment, yet the government does little to weed them out in any Muslim country.

I don't blame the peaceful Muslims.

How magnanimous of you. You don't discriminate and you exonerate Hitler for his mass killings. Sweet guy. I guess if a president had told him we need to kill all the Jews, he'd be for that, too.

What would you do if the choice was shut up or die?

American media: you want to field this one?

6. So who are we at war with? There is no way we can honestly respond that it is anyone other than the Muslim terrorists. Trying to be politically correct and avoid verbalizing this conclusion can well be fatal. There is no way to win if you don't clearly recognize and articulate who you are fighting.

You took the long way round the barn on that one, cowboy.

So with that background, now to the two major questions: 1. Can we lose this war? 2. What does losing really mean? If we are to win, we must clearly answer these two pivotal questions.

I thought this letter had nothing to do with politics.

We can definitely lose this war, and as anomalous as it may sound, the major reason we can lose is that so many of us simply do not fathom the answer to the second question - What does losing mean?

Anomalous how? We've already lost it. There's no way we could have won. We should have been asking "How can we win" instead of "What if we lose."

It would appear that a great many of us think that losing the war means hanging our heads, bringing the troops home and going on about our business, like post Vietnam. This is as far from the truth as one can get. What losing really means is: We would no longer be the premier country in the world. The attacks will not subside, but rather will steadily increase. Remember, they want us dead, not just quiet. If they had just wanted us quiet, they would not have produced an increasing series of attacks against us over the past 18 years. The plan was clearly to attack us with terror until we were neutered and submissive to them.

Granted, but remember, we had our part in this aggression, too. This is because of the US policy of forcing other nations to give us what we want. We weren't just playing in a free, prosperous, non-violent Candyland before terrorists began targeting us specifically. We are only the "premier country in the world" because we've thrown our weight around and built so many nuclear weapons and engaged in a policy of threat and aggression. They don't respect us because we're free and supposedly enlightened as much as the fear us and our condescending attitudes.

We would of course have no future support from other nations for fear of reprisals and for the reason that they would see we are impotent and unable to help them.

ARE we helping them? We didn't help Spain after the Madrid railway bombings, except to ridicule them for caving in to terror. We childishly ridiculed France and whined about how they never help us (as if winning the American Revolution for us wasn't enough). We haven't managed to really help out anyone but ourselves since the end of World War II.

They will pick off the other non-Muslim nations, one at a time. It will be increasingly easier for them. They already hold Spain hostage. It doesn't matter whether it was right or wrong for Spain to withdraw its troops from Iraq. Spain did it because the Muslim terrorists bombed their train and told them to withdraw the troops. Anything else they want Spain to do, will be done. Spain is finished.

Wow, that's arrogant. How exactly have the terrorists taken control of Spain since the Madrid railway bombings? And, frankly, why should other nations be expected to still be supporting us in this war? We never went out to get Osama bin Laden and the terrorist organizations in the Middle East; we went to settle President Junior's old grudge with Saddam Hussein. Why that pussy doesn't just finally declare World War III and conquer the Middle East I don't know. Not that I'm complaining!

The next will probably be France. Our one hope on France is that they might see the light and realize that if we don't win, they are finished too, in that they can't resist the Muslim terrorists without us.

Of course they can. We think they can't because we're arrogant, but I'm sure France can take care of itself.

However, it may already be too late for France. France is already 20% Muslim and fading fast.[6]

So? America is 25% Muslim.

If we lose the war, our production, income, exports and way of life will all vanish as we know it. After losing, who would trade or deal with us if they were threatened by the Muslims. If we can't stop the Muslims, how could anyone else? The Muslims fully know what is riding on this war and therefore are completely committed to winning at any cost. We had better know it too and be likewise committed to winning at any cost.

This letter is getting more racist by the second. Actually, it's all about religion to him. "Any cost"? You're seriously advocating nuclear war to secure our trading rights? Do you have any idea how many Soviet missiles are still aimed at America just waiting to go off? You want to destroy civilization just so that we wouldn't be number two? Or three? If this attitude prevails, we might as well lock all of our books in a bomb shelter for future archaeologists now, because we're already done for.

Why do I go on at such lengths about the results of losing?

Because you're a typical whiny American who still burns that we lost Vietnam?

Simple. Until we recognize the costs of losing, we cannot unite and really put 100% of our thoughts and efforts into winning. And it is going to take that 100% effort to win.

I, for one, would prefer not to die to support President Junior's vendetta against Hussein. Until he starts showing that he even understands what the targets are, he does not have my confidence. Unlike the aged, thoughtless author of this letter, I don't blindly support everything W does, and I don't support him. He's going to get us all killed. Why doesn't he even mention Muqtada al-Sadr? Or, say, Osama bin Laden?

So, how can we lose the war? Again, the answer is simple.

Keep electing Republicans?

We can lose the war by imploding. That is, defeating ourselves by refusing to recognize the enemy and their purpose and really digging in and lending full support to the war effort. If we are united, there is no way that we can lose. If we continue to be divided, there is no way that we can win.

There's already no way that we can win. We have invaded a foreign country based on a lie that would probably never have had the resources to enter a war with the US. We did not have international support in that endeavor, except for a few nations we bullied into following our path. There was zero evidence that Saddam Hussein was violating UN sanctions on weaponry. We are completely in the wrong here. We are so deluded by a symbolist and neutered media that we think tearing down a statue is the same thing as winning a war.

Look at it from the Arab side: we invaded an Arab country and are forcing it to become a puppet for American business interests. We didn't even wait to see if our invasion was successful before sending in the profiteers. We kill more of the innocent Muslims this author so high-handedly refuses to blame than actual terrorists. We have tried to conquer Iraq, and then we're surprised and digusted when they try to resist, to defenf the lives of their families, and to safeguard their culture and their way of life. We have yet to prove ourselves friendly to them, and they know it; they know we just want the oil and that we'll kill anyone we have to in order to get it. We have not offered them our freedoms, not in the way we have them. We will not allow them the benefit of the doubt or the dignity to dispense their own justice. We won't allow Iraq to have a say in how their own prisoners are degraded by the US. And we've not gotten a step closer to getting rid of our supposed enemy: terrorism.

Let me give you a few examples of how we simply do not comprehend the life and death seriousness of this situation.

Oh, this'll be good.

President Bush selects Norman Mineta as Secretary of Transportation. Although all of the terrorist attacks were committed by Muslim men between 17 and 40 years of age, Secretary Mineta refuses to allow profiling. Does that sound like we are taking this thing seriously? This is war.

That's true, yes, but they're tring to prevent government-sanctioned racism. I do think profiling can be a useful tool, but on the other hand, this could so easily become an unsafe country for Arabs, Persians, and anyone else. Don't you understand that part of the reason the Muslim world hates us is because we separate people into categories of "superior" and "inferior," instead of respecting them?

For the duration...

Which could easily be another 20 years.

...we are going to have to give up some of the civil rights we have become accustomed to. We had better be prepared to lose some of our civil rights temporarily or we will most certainly lose all of them permanently.

Bullshit. Absolute, total bullshit. That's very easy for an old, white, Christian male to say. But remember what Benjamin Franklin said about people who would give up a little freedom in order to gain a little safety--they deserve neither. How is taking away American freedom the best way to preserve it? You're letting fascism in through the front door in the hopes that it will protect our oil supplies and our gas prices. If you can't see the insanity in that, sir, you deserve none of the freedoms you have. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance; if you're prepared to give it up, then you shouldn't have it in the first place, you coward.

And don't worry that it is a slippery slope.

You're right, there's no real historical precedence for that, is there? I mean, Neville Chamberlain conceded Austria to Hitler, and that worked out okay, right?

We gave up plenty of civil rights during W.W.II and immediately restored them after the victory and in fact added many more since then.

This author's understanding of history is maddeningly vague. I suppose the Japanese-Americans living in America at the time might have a different story. And let's ask the women who were kicked out of the workplace after World War II was over; at least they're making 73 cents on the dollar sixty years later. American progress!

Do I blame President Bush or President Clinton before him? No, I blame us for blithely assuming we can maintain all of our Political Correctness and all of our civil rights during this conflict and have a clean, lawful, honorable war. None of those words apply to war. Get them out of your head.

Can we send this guy to Iraq? He knows just how to win--by advocating insensitvity, wartime atrocity, nuclear war, and American fascism.

Some have gone so far in their criticism of the war and/or the Administration that it almost seems they would literally like to see us lose. I hasten to add that this isn't because they are disloyal. It is because they just don't recognize what losing means. Nevertheless, that conduct gives the impression to the enemy that we are divided and weakening, it concerns our friends, and it does great damage to our cause.

Aw, those people who want peace, they're just misguided, see? They don't understand the situation, otherwise they wouldn't want peace at all, they'd want to pound those sand niggers into glass to keep the price of gasoline below five bucks. What a moron. Sorry if not all Americans want the rich to stay rich so goddamn badly that they are willing to support our government slaughtering innocent people in order to maintain their wealth. But keep arguing that flag-waving harder--harder!--will win the war. I find it hilarious.

Of more recent vintage...


...the uproar fueled by the politicians and media regarding the treatment of some prisoners of war perhaps exemplifies best what I am saying. We have recently had an issue involving the treatment of a few Muslim prisoners of war by a small group of our military police. These are the type prisoners who just a few months ago were throwing their own people off buildings, cutting off their hands, cutting out their tongues and otherwise murdering their own people just for disagreeing with Saddam Hussein. And just a few years ago these same type prisoners chemically killed 400,000 of their own people for the same reason. They are also the same type enemy fighters who recently were burning Americans and dragging their charred corpses through the streets of Iraq. And still more recently the same type enemy that was and is providing videos to all news sources internationally, of the beheading of an American prisoner they held.

And lowering ourselves to this kind of barbarousness is exactly the way to make the world respect us? We have to be better than the terrorists. We have to not be inhumane. Of course, this idiot couldn't tell a terrorist from an innocent Muslim or an insurgent, which is why he advocates profiling and--by extension--treating all Arabs like criminals.

Compare this with some of our press and politicians who for several days have thought and talked about nothing else but the "humiliating" of some Muslim prisoners - not burning them, not dragging their charred corpses through the streets, not beheading them, but "humiliating" them. Can this be for real? The politicians and pundits have even talked of impeachment of the Secretary of Defense. If this doesn't show the complete lack of comprehension and understanding of the seriousness of the enemy we are fighting, the life and death struggle we are in and the disastrous results of losing this war, nothing can.

Doesn't America stand for more than just being stronger than everyone else? My question for this author is: do you think the world should be able to hold us responsible for the war crimes we commit in the name of victory? I'm sure the answer is no; because we're America.

To bring our country to a virtual political standstill over this prisoner issue makes us look like Nero playing his fiddle as Rome burned - totally oblivious to what is going on in the real world.

First off, Nero didn't fiddle--he fretted, like Junior reading "My Pet Goat" for seven minutes while New York burned. And actually, I like to think this makes us look like we care about preserving our infrastructure and our image in the world. Seeing Iraqi prisoners degraded will only harden the resolve of those still fighting against us, just as the beheadings strengthen ours.

Of course, when our infrastructure is literally crumbling, it's hard to argue this in a merely academic manner.

Neither we, nor any other country, can survive this internal strife.

WHAT?!! It's called freedom of speech. If we don't have it at home, how can we hope to defend it abroad? Other countries have survived similar debates. Englad didn't topple because of the conflict over investiture of bishops, or because Parliament wanted to secure the voice of the people in government. Spain survived fascism, and Germany survived reunification. Russia is coming out of decades of disastrous Communist programs that ruined their agriculture, their science, and their economy. And this ass is saying we can't survive a rights issue?

If this were 1968, this guy would be trying to "educate" us about how the demands of Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers, and Malcolm X were going to topple America. Since when can no country survive giving a voice to the concerns of the rights of OTHER HUMAN BEINGS?

Again I say, this does not mean that some of our politicians or media people are disloyal.

Note to arrogant McCarthyite: this is not a loyalty issue. This argument just gets more and more fascistic.

It simply means that they absolutely oblivious to the magnitude of the situation we are in and into which the Muslim terrorists have been pushing us for many years.

Yeah, but how many of the prisoners in Abu Ghraib are actually terrorists? How many are just Iraqi soldiers who were defending their country?

Remember, the Muslim terrorists’ stated goal is to kill all infidels. That translates into all non-Muslims - not just in the United States, but throughout the world. We are the last bastion of defense.

How? Are you forgetting the amount of British and Australian troops in Iraq? They were fighting there even before we were, clearing out the countryside. And, by the way, could you please stop confusing jihadist terror organizations with all Muslims across the world? I thought you didn't blame the innocent Muslims? Your rhetoric suggests otherwise. If we wanted to stop terrorism so damn bad, why didn't we stop Osama bin Laden and a hundred of his men from escaping into Pakistan before our ineffectual bombing raids on Afghanistan? Why didn't those happen the same day or the next, instead of a month later? All this administration has done to combat terrorism is invade Iraq (who had nothing to do with 9/11) and make it harder for Americans to get jobs.

We have been criticized for many years as being 'arrogant'. That charge is valid in at least one respect.

Many, actually.

We are arrogant in that we believe that we are so good, powerful and smart, that we can win the hearts and minds of all those who attack us, and that with both hands tied behind our back, we can defeat anything bad in the world. We can't. If we don't recognize this, our nation as we know it will not survive, and no other free country in the World will survive if we are defeated.

Okay, so, that would be another example of arrogance there. Only Americans can defend freedom? What about Britain, France, Germany, Australia, Canada, New Zealand... how are they going to collapse without us? That is the most arrogant fucking things I have ever heard in my life.

And finally, name any Muslim countries throughout the world that allow freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of religion, freedom of the Press, equal rights for anyone - let alone everyone, equal status or any status for women, or that have been productive in one single way that contributes to the good of the World.

Well, Persia did continue scientific learning and mathematics for centures after the Christians of Europe saw fit to destroy it all and send us tumbling into the Dark Ages. But, that would be arrogant to point out, wouldn't it? No, no Muslim country has our secular freedoms because they are not separate in church and state. The governments are religious and follow religious law. Our own freedom of religion might make us want to respect that, but I understand the impulse. Is the author saying, though, that these freedoms are so great that we have the right to force every Muslim country to accept them? Wouldn't that also be arrogant?

This has been a long way...

Long, long way, pal.

...of saying that we must be united on this war or we will be equated in the history books to the self-inflicted fall of the Roman Empire. IF, that is, the Muslim leaders will allow history books to be written or read.

Of course, the end of the Roman Empire was also brought about by terrorism, the barbarian invasions, crumbling infrastructure... and weak, corrupt leadership.

If we don't win this war right now, keep a close eye on how the Muslims take over France in the next 5 years or less.

Well, it's been three years since you wrote this, and no sign of the French collapse yet, jackass.

They will continue to increase the Muslim population of France and continue to encroach little by little on the established French traditions. The French will be fighting among themselves over what should or should not be done, which will continue to weaken them and keep them from any united resolve. Doesn't that sound eerily familiar?

So, racism is good?

Democracies don't have their freedoms taken away from them by some external military force.

Democracies like France, or democracies like Athens, which was conquered by the external military force of Macedonia?

Instead, they give their freedoms away, politically correct-piece by politically correct-piece.

But, didn't you just argue that we had to give those freedoms away to keep ourselves safe from terrorists? Please make up your mind already.

And they are giving those freedoms away to those who have shown, worldwide, that they abhor freedom and will not apply it to you or even to themselves, once they are in power. They have universally shown that when they have taken over, they then start brutally killing each other over who will be the few who control the masses. Will we ever stop hearing from the politically correct, about the "peaceful Muslims"?

But, didn't you say at the beginning of this letter that you DON'T blame peaceful Muslims for the war? Are you now saying that they don't exist? Did anyone else notice how this argument went from recognizing the realities of war to fighting for our survival by destroying the Muslim world? This is where the creepiness of fundamentalism comes in. They start off pretending to be rational, and if you let them rant for long enough, they show themselves as crazed, grandiose, and potentially dangerous. But then again, this guy absolved Hitler of guilt, so I guess I know where he's getting his rhetoric.

I close on a hopeful note, by repeating what I said above.

Not that that was hopeful at all.

If we are united, there is no way that we can lose.

He said without arrogance.

I believe that after the election, the factions in our country will begin to focus on the critical situation we are in and will unite to save our country. It is your future we are talking about. Do whatever you can to preserve it.

I did: I voted for John Kerry instead of giving my okay to continue Bush's war of conquest.

Love, Dad

Oh, are we still on this fictional conceit. I find the hatemongers rarely want to sign their name to anything.

Hey, endnotes! Let's pick them apart for some extra dickery!

[1] By the way on Vietnam, the emotions are still so high that it is really not possible to discuss it.

It's been four decades, pal, you can give it a shot. If we wait until everyone's dead, we're not going to learn from it or understand the reasoning behind it or the reality of the experience.

However, I think President Kennedy was correct. He felt there was a communist threat from China, Russia and North Vietnam to take over that whole area.

Eisenhower, you mean. Eisenhower. He started the supply line to the French colonial forces that were still there. America only entered the conflict to assert the interests of the American market. The vastly over-estimated Communist threat came later. So, no, that's wrong.

Also remember that we were in a 'cold war' with Russia. I frankly think Kennedy's plan worked and kept that total communist control out, but try telling that to anyone now. It just isn't politically correct to say so.

It's just plain stupid to say so is what it is. After Nixon pulled us out, and after all of that death and destruction, what did we gain in Vietnam? Not a damn thing.

Historians will answer this after cool headed research, when the people closest to it are all gone.

You mean, the people who weren't there should decide the reality of it? That's idiotic.

[2] As you know, I am a strong President Bush supporter and will vote for him. However, if Senator Kerry is elected, I will fully support him on all matters of international conflict, just as I have supported all presidents in the past.

Then why vote? You'll support anyone on anything. You don't deserve to benefit from the democratic process you pretend to adhere to, especially since you're so quick to drop your civil rights if need be.

[3] Source for statistics in Par. 1 is:

[4] The Institute of Islamic Information and Education.

[5] Note the attached article by Tom Segel referred to in footnote 6 infra, the terrorist Muslim have already begun the havoc in France. [The note was not attached to the E-mail someone received.]

Again, I've yet to see the evidence for a Muslim takeover of France. Have there been riots? Dude, people in France riot at the drop of a hat. They care about the way the government treats them.

[6] I checked this article with two sources - Hoax Busters and Urban Myths. It does not come up as a Hoax on either. I also then E-mailed Mr. Segel and he confirmed the article was his.

Why would the percentage of the Muslim population in France be a hoax? Are you just surprised that all brown people don't live in deserts? Why are footnoting a letter to your dullard offspring, anyway?

[7] "I don't think the Army or any branch of service runs any type of war any more. It's done by senators and congressmen. There are too many civilians involved." Sgt. 1st Class Greg Klees, returning Iraq veteran, as quoted in the Cedar Rapids, IA Gazette on May 13th, 2004.

[8] There are 64 Muslim countries. This does not count countries like Spain that are now controlled by the Muslim terrorists.

Wow, that was unneccesary. Not every country can be controlled by a small group of rich, conservative white people.

Do you believe this thing has been circulating since 2004? Man, I'm horrified to get things like this in the mail, but glad to stay sharp on just how vocal stupid people are...