Sunday, February 26, 2006

Dubai? Buy this blog!

The Vice President shot a guy.
Oh, get over it. Except every time I say that sentence out loud, it makes my jaw drop all over again. I’m getting pretty good at it. I can knock over small objects with my jaw!

Any old port in a storm…
President Bush thinks it’s just ridiculous that everybody’s making such a fuss about the deal to turn over major U.S. seaports to a United Arab Emirates-owned business.

Well, maybe people got their knickers in a twist about it because, back in the pre 9/11 days, the United Arab Emirates recognized the Taliban as the legitimate government in Afghanistan. Oh, and two of the 9/11 hijackers were from the UAE, the banks of which helped with the money end of the 9/11 operation. And the UAE has been a transfer point for nuclear components shipped to Iran, North Korea and Libya.

So what? That’s just the free market in action, you might say. The market is always right! Capitalism knows the best way – instinctively.

And David Brooks of the New York Times is not alone when he claims that critics of the deal are isolationist xenophobes. If you don’t want a gaggle of sheikhs running our ports, claim many, you’re a racist, nativist, anti-globalist hysteric.

On the other hand, why is it a good idea for ANY foreign entity to run American ports? Isn’t there some outfit in New Jersey that could run the New Jersey port? Whatever happened to “Buy American?” Why not have the federal government run them? Oh wait, that would be socialism. So let’s have a corporation owned by a foreign government run them! Oh wait, that would be… socialism.

And if it’s such an innocent deal, why was President Bush so secretive about it? And why is he so adamant about it? Oh, it’s because the UAE is our ally. Okay, I’ll take his word for it. Denmark is our ally as well. Isn’t there some corporation in Denmark that could take over the ports? If we offered the deal to Denmark, it would be a nice gesture, especially in the wake of this administration’s mealy-mouthed and craven response to the “Danish cartoons.”

Last week, U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow defended the deal; he told reporters: "The implications of failing to approve this would be to tell the world that investments in the United States from certain parts of the world aren't welcome. That sends a terrible message."

Boy, am I chastened. Or am I…?

Here’s David Lazarus in the San Francisco Chronicle: “…Treasury Secretary John Snow… previously served as head of transportation giant CSX Corp. The company sold its global port assets to Dubai Ports World for $1.15 billion a year after Snow left for the White House. Snow's Treasury Department was the government agency that subsequently vetted and approved the $6.8 billion sale of a British company to state-run Dubai Ports World. The Dubai conglomerate in turn will take over the British firm's management of six U.S. ports.”

Snow claims that he didn’t even know about the deal until it had publicized earlier this month. Okay.

But here’s John McDonald in the U.S. News and World Report: “Shortly after Snow’s departure, CSX sold its port operations to Dubai Ports International for $1.23 billion. There was only one hitch to the deal. The sale was subject to review and approval of the little known Committee on Foreign Investment. But not to worry, the Committee just happened to be chaired by the newly minted, not to mention newly rich Treasury Secretary John Snow.”

Whether the sale was for $1.15 billion or $1.23 billion, I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation for all this. Look at Cheney and Halliburton! They both came out of the exhaustive and painstaking review process (we did have one, right?) as pure as the driven snow.

Yes, there may not be any fire behind all the smoke. On the other hand, when an administration makes as big a stink as this one does, sooner or later America is bound to hold its nose.

I apologize to readers of my little blog (And you are legion! Legion!) for being somewhat remiss in posting more often. I have been dealing with family issues for the past few months. My Dad has, if not Alzheimer’s, then a facsimile thereof. (Last week, he went across the street to the mall to get a haircut, and kept forgetting why he was going to the mall – five times. Finally Mom wrote a note for him, and the mission was accomplished.) My 80-year-old mother is his main caregiver, and she doesn’t drive, and is probably going to have to have a hip replaced. So I’ve been going to their double-wide (located in Leisureville, you’ll be pleased to know), to shlep them around. This week, they are going into managed care. It looks like my Dad’s shrewd youthful investments and various pensions will pay for it, with enough left over for their grandchildren to enjoy. I’ll be going there to help with the move, and next week to take my mother to a physician in Davis who, it is hoped, will dull the edge of the hip replacement threat. It’s not easy being old. It’s not easy being middle-aged, even with intact hips.

By the way…
My parents, both Independents, have voted Republican for as along as I can remember. They always considered Republicans to be more pragmatic than Democrats. They despise President Bush and everything he represents.

Crime Story
AP: Tyrone Burgo, 20, was arrested in Boston, Mass., for allegedly selling drugs. Police say it wasn't that he was driving a car with a license plate from another car that led to his arrest, nor that he was driving with a suspended license. Rather, they were led to Burgo because he had advertised his cocaine on the Internet, listing his real phone number. Officers called, set up a meeting, and arrested him after he handed over the drugs.

What a wonderful world.
A new production of HEDDA GABLER opened this month in New York, with half the major roles played by robots. It’s called HEDDATRON.

Finally, from the Roanoke News
Two local meteorologists at the same local station have admitted to an heroin addiction. Could this indicate a wider trend? Film at eleven! If we don’t nod off.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Magog Blog

Material Girl, er, Woman
Did you catch Madonna gyrating like a teenager on the Grammies? Me neither. Two days later she had hernia surgery. I didn’t catch that either.

From Henry Rollins’ web site
01-30-06 Melbourne Australia: 2139 hrs. I just got a letter from a nice woman who told me the man I sat next to on the flight from Auckland to Goldcoast Australia reported me to the Australian Government because of the book I was reading.

“I hope this finds you before you leave Australia as I think its something that won’t surprise you but might give you a smile when you are sitting in a hotel room. I work in one of those Government areas that deals with anti terrorism matters. A fine service is provided but unfortunately we get to read a lot of things submitted by lunatics. The Australian Government set up the National Security Hotline to report terrorists. The person who sat next to you on the flight from New Zealand does not agree with your politics or choice of reading and so nominated you as a possible threat. As they were too cowardly or stupid to leave their details I can’t call them to discuss their idiocy with them.”

Interesting that he and I exchanged nothing but polite hellos. I was reading Ahmed Rashid’s book Jihad: The Rise Of Militant Islam In Central Asia. He’s a correspondent for the Wall Street Journal and the book is on the Yale University Press. Didn’t Bush drink beer at Yale? Didn’t he not seem to learn much at Yale?

Of course I wrote the nice lady back.

“I was reading a book called Jihad by Ahmed Rashid which is a history of Central Asia. I didn't speak to the man next to me past how do you do. I think Ahmed Rashid is published by Yale University Press. Bush's alma mater. Please tell your government and everyone in your office to go fuck themselves. Tell them twice. If your boss is looking for something to do, you can tell him I suggest he go fuck himself. Baghdad's safer than my hometown and your PM is a sissy. You have a nice night.”

(FYI: Henry Rollins' hometown is Washington, D.C. If you're reading this, "Hi Henry!")

From the New York Times
“In his new book about Mr. Bush, ‘Rebel in Chief: Inside the Bold and Controversial Presidency of George W. Bush,’ Fred Barnes recalls a visit to the White House last year by Michael Crichton, whose 2004 best-selling novel, ‘State of Fear,’ suggests that global warming is an unproven theory and an overstated threat.”

Rebel in Chief? What does that mean?

Incidentally, earlier this February Mr. Crichton’s novel won the coveted American Association of Petroleum Geologists' annual journalism award.

Did you hear?
The Vice President shot a guy!

From Slate, speaking of Michael Crichton
Writing about blogs, Jack Shafer has this aside:

“…[I]n his 1993 essay ‘Mediasaurus,”… Crichton wrote that the New York Times and one commercial TV network would vanish within a decade and would be replaced by artificial-intelligence agents, skimming information and the news from news databases and composing front pages or broadcasts tailored to the interests and needs of individuals. Like Shamberg's guerrilla revolution, Crichton's infotopia failed to arrive as promised.”

But he sure is on the money about this whole global warming thing!

The guerrilla revolution that Shafer is talking about was begun in the 1970’s by Michael Shamberg and others, who formed a media collective called Raindance, and who predicted that the new video technology would turn every citizen into a videographer, thus spelling the doom of Mainstream Media.

Mainstream Media have so far eluded the dustbin of history. Mr. Shamberg went on to produce such films as ERIN BROCKOVICH, MAN ON THE MOON, GATTACA, and PULP FICTION.

The face of the enemy!
In court last week, Zacarias Moussaoui called France a "nation of homosexual Crusaders." He also referred to his lawyers as a "federal lawyer," a "KKK," and a "geisha."

Odd turn of phrase
Is anybody else taken aback when the words “cartoon violence” are used to describe the riots over the Danish cartoons? Are radical extremists dropping anvils on people’s heads?

From the Associated Press
Kelso, Washington-- The note inside the house made it clear to Cowlitz County sheriff's deputies that they had the right place: "Do not open door & let anyone in! Stolen Stuff visable."

Within a day, investigators confirmed that antiques, furniture, jewelry, credit cards and at least 19 guns found in the home of Gerald Levertt Mack had been stolen from at least 12 people, deputy Charles J. Rosenzweig said.

"Nothing like helping us figure out what's going on," Rosenzweig said.

From ABC Science News, a new occupational hazard.
“Priests who tear out the throats of live chickens in ritual sacrifices to voodoo gods may risk contracting bird flu….”

Finally, news from San Francisco, the city I call home, except when I’m too embarrassed to admit it.
San Francisco supervisor Gerardo Sandoval went on Fox’s HANNITY & COLMES to explain his opposition to having the battleship Iowa docked in San Francisco. He told the hosts, "We just don't want to put a 10-story gun on the waterfront where everybody is going to be looking at it every single day."

(For the record: I think it would be cool.)

He was then asked how he felt about the U.S. military.

"What good has it done for us in the last five years?" Sandoval asked.

Alan Colmes responded with, appropriately, "Are you kidding me?''

Sandoval then said, "The United States should not have a military. All in all, we would be in much, much, much better shape."

He went on to say that our nation could be adequately defended by police and the Coast Guard.

Sean Hannity and other conservative talk radio hosts have been having a field day with Sandoval’s remarks, and making San Francisco once again a global symbol of feckless airheadery.

(Interestingly, they have also been railing against the media’s over-attention to the Dick Cheney shooting flap, even though, by doing so, they seemed to be over-attending it themselves.)

I happened to be listening to Sean Hannity earlier this week, as he raked San Francisco over the coals. This was understandable, but then, as conservatives tend to do, he overreached himself, saying that liberals just don’t understand - armies preserve the peace. Ships are really peace ships.

Well now, it may be that liberals are clueless in many ways, but this liberal at least can recognize doublespeak when he hears it. War is not peace, Mr. Hannity. The Iowa is called a battleship, not a lambs-lie-down-with-lions ship. Idiot.

One more thing….
Dick Cheney shot a guy! Speaking to the press on February 18, the victim, Harry Whittington, told the media, "We hope that he will continue to come to Texas and seek the relaxation that he deserves."

Amen to that. May we all seek the relaxation we deserve. Whether it’s strolling the decks of a peaceship or re-reading JURASSIC PARK for its delicate and nuanced prose.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

See Dick shoot. Duck, Jane, duck.

AP: “Dick Cheney accidentally shot and wounded a companion during a weekend quail hunting trip in Texas, spraying the fellow hunter in the face and chest with shotgun pellets.”

First Mohammed is defamed, now Curious George.
From the San Francisco Chronicle:

"The books are really irresponsible to me. It's sickening, really," said Robin Roth, managing editor of, an animal welfare Web site.

Roth, a high school English teacher in Los Angeles, writes on her animal rights Web site that "Curious George" reveals "the sinister side of a corrupt wildlife trade with perilous roots in Western imperialism." When the mischievous George is sent to jail, "the picture of the forlorn little primate alone in his cell conjures haunting images of countless monkeys lingering in laboratories, suffering silently and alone."

Insert sarcastic response here!
He’s a pesky money who gets into mischief! Lighten up!

This just in: Rabbit mommies cannot really talk, and if you say “Good night” to the moon, it can’t hear you.

An agreement and admission:
I always found The Man in the Yellow Hat to be vaguely sinister.

Speaking of images of Mohammed: a paradox.
If making an image of Mohammed is considered blasphemy, how do you know if an image of Mohammed is, in fact, Mohammed?

Cindy Sheehan was removed from the President’s State of the Union address for wearing an anti-war message tee-shirt ("2,245 Dead. How many more?"). And Beverly Young, wife of Congressman Bill Young (R-FL), was also removed for wearing a pro-war message tee-shirt ("Support our troops").

There has been much outrage about a perceived dampening of free speech here. To which I reply, “Nuts.” The Danish cartoons? That’s a free speech issue. This is a fashion issue. Hello? What kind of people think, “Ooh, I’m going to hear the President address the nation! Which tee-shirt should I wear?”

In other news….
“Manuel Villanueva realizes he has been getting a pretty good deal since he signed up for Netflix Inc.'s online DVD rental service 2 1/2 years ago, but he still feels shortchanged. That's because the $17.99 monthly fee that he pays to rent up to three DVDs at a time would amount to an even bigger bargain if the company didn't penalize him for returning his movies so quickly.

“Netflix typically sends about 13 movies per month to Villanueva's home in Warren, Mich. — down from the 18 to 22 DVDs he once received before the company's automated system identified him as a heavy renter and began delaying his shipments to protect its profits.”

This process is called “throttling,” by the way. It’s a way of punishing the glutton who shows up at the all-you-can-eat buffet, and rewarding the picky eater who only wants the jell-o and bread.

But this whole syndrome reveals the tragic flaw of capitalism: it offers people what they want, but then is forced to punish them when they take it.

Speaking of capitalism…
The Little Woman and I watched a great movie last week: STATE OF MIND, a documentary about North Korea – specifically about two young girls training for their part in the 2003 Mass Games, “the largest choreographed spectacle on earth.” This event is staged (a) for the enjoyment of Kim Jong Il, North Korea’s leader (who seldom attends), and (b) to demonstrate the discipline and solidarity of North Korea for its own enjoyment.

The access the British filmmakers had is nothing short of amazing, and the openness of the subjects is also astonishing – especially considering that North Korea is one of the most closed societies on the planet.

STATE OF MIND is, at the same time, mind-boggling, disturbing, and heartwarming – kind of like a fascist ROCKY movie, if you know what I mean, and I think you do.

Now, let’s go quail-hunting with the Vice President and forget our petty differences. Or else.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

My blog saw its shadow! And was afraid of it!

Why I avoid today's animated features.
From a radio ad for HOODWINKED: “…a snowboarding granny voiced by Glenn Close!”

“Wow Dad! Glenn Close is voicing the snowboarding granny! Can we go? Please please?”

What is this THING we have with hard-boiled grannies as a source of humor? Grannies on Harleys. Grannies cursing. Grannies hot-rodding.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day
Heroin-filled puppies!

Muslim outrage over cartoons?
Denmark newspapers showed a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed with a bomb in his turban, among other images insulting to Islam. Certain Muslims did not like that. In London, crowds chanted, “You must pay, 7/7 is on its way" Riots! Over goddam cartoons!

Can I move to a different planet now? Full of atheists and heroin-free puppies?

From the Guardian:
Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, denounced the decision to republish the cartoons, saying press freedom carried an obligation not "to be gratuitously inflammatory". Mr Straw, at a press conference in London, said that while he was committed to press freedom, "I believe that the republication of these cartoons has been insulting, it has been insensitive, it has been disrespectful and it has been wrong". He praised the British press, which up to yesterday had not published the cartoons, for showing "considerable responsibility and sensitivity".


From Reuters:
"The Indonesian government condemns the printing of the caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad. The insult to religious symbols have hurt the feelings of the Muslim," President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono told a news conference.

Your feelings are hurt? Your FEELINGS are hurt? Poor frail little flower, did that bully Denmark give you an icky feeling in your tummy? Show me on the doll where Denmark touched you.

From The New York Times:
The Muslim world erupted in anger on Friday over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad published in Europe while the Bush administration offered the protesters support, saying of the cartoons, "We find them offensive, and we certainly understand why Muslims would find these images offensive."


In other news…
Barry Bonds, who always looks vaguely aggrieved and pained, even when he smiles, is going to be the star of his own reality series on ESPN. Predicted quote: “Get that camera out of here.”

Thoughts on last month's Osama Bin Laden speech.
Bin Laden is a liberal.

He said:

“The sensible people realize that Bush does not have a plan to make his alleged victory in Iraq come true. And if you compare the small number of dead on the day that Bush announced the end of major operations in that fake, ridiculous show aboard the aircraft carrier with the tenfold number of dead and wounded who were killed in the smaller operations, you would know the truth of what I say. This is that Bush and his administration do not have the will or the ability to get out of Iraq for their own private, suspect reasons.”

Conservative bloggers had a field day with his speech, noting with glee that he echoes many sentiments held by “progressives” in the United States.

Unfortunately, this chortling ignores what neo-con neo-god Leo Strauss called the “reductio ad hitlerum” fallacy. That is, just because an evil person holds an opinion doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

On the other hand, there is the all-too-human corollary: “Maybe I need to hear this, but I don’t need to hear it from YOU.”

Bin Laden comes in peace.
He said: “We don't mind offering you a long-term truce on fair conditions that we adhere to.”

The left takes this offer of a truce to be a sign of strength. The right takes it to be a sign of weakness.

Take your pick, but keep your eye out for another planet, one occupied only by atheists and heroin-free puppies.

Interesting side note:
Bin Laden made a book recommendation:
“And if Bush decides to carry on with his lies and oppression, then it would be useful for you to read the book ROGUE STATE, which states in its introduction: ‘If I were president, I would stop the attacks on the United States: First I would give an apology to all the widows and orphans and those who were tortured. Then I would announce that American interference in the nations of the world has ended once and for all.’”

Beloved conservative columnist Victor Davis Hansen called this book a “screed.” What a great word! Sales have skyrocketed here in the U.S. after Bin Laden’s endorsement. Go figure.

This from the AP, showing that the government that can’t shoot straight can still pull off a good double cross when it feels like it:

“Interior Department officials, ordered to pay $7 million to lawyers for American Indians suing the government for lost royalties, cut Indian programs to find most of the money.”

Elouise Cobell, Blackfeet Indian and lead plaintiff in the lawsuit told the Associated Press: “This is totally unreal. Sometimes I think the government’s behavior has deteriorated to the bottom of the basement, and things like this happen, and I think it’s gone to the fiery bowels of the earth.”

Fiery Bowels of the Earth? Hmm....
If it’s also full of atheists and heroin-free puppies, I am so there…. In the meantime, I will be enjoying a Superbowl-free Sunday, and using the quiet time to craft my parody of BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, starring Jesus and Mohammed. It is my hope that radical evangelical Christians and radical Islamists will be so incensed by it that they will come after me, meet on the road, and blow each other up. It’s a good plan, and I’m sticking to it.