Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Back to School

First Pennsic and then the movie nad now the start of the semester has kept me from writing much on this blog (but, as I've said, Jon Stewart is stealing all my thunder anyway). As I sit here this morning cynical old me can't help notice how in the wake of Huricane Katrina the disaster relief is being spun by the usual culprits. Why does the governor of Texas need to hold a press conference to announce that evacuies are coming tot he astrodome? It is worth noting that he said he had spoken to Jeb Bush because "Texas and Florida are kind of the bookends" to the disaster area. In other words he wants to make sure that Bush country is in charge. This is a big boon to the republicans, because they weill be able to say "look how we're helping." At least President Bush's handlers admitted that he's cutting off his vacation becasue of "perception." He wants people to see him running the show. On the other side, Dems are complaining that the large number of National Guardsmen in Iraq is hampering relief efforts in Mississippi and Lousiana. Look for blame to be leveled on Mississippi's Republican Governor Haley Barbour for something or other--likely "not being prepared enough"--in the coming weeks.

On the whole I think the GOP will win the PR battle over this. Their front men in Texas, Florida and Washington are going to be seen as the rescuers. And it couldn't have come at a better time. All day for the last two three there has been nothing but huricane news. Barely anything ab out Cinsy Sheehan or Iraq. Controlling the spin cycle has been this administrations main priority, and it's been hard lately. This huricane is a godsend for Bush and his people. The news media is making it so.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

NARAL Nastiness

Let me first say that the NARAL ad condemning John Roberts for arguing that the Ku Kux Klan act should not apply to violent acts at abortion clinics is wrong. It is patently false. The bombing they focus on took place in 1998 while the court case Roberts was arguing took place in 1991. calls the ad false and says it is misleading to link Roberts to abortion bombers when he was arguing a point of law. NARAL stands behind its ad. On this issue I side with other abortion rights supporters who believe the NARAL ad crossed the line. It is the same kind of mudslinging misrepresentation that the other side engages in so well. I suppose NARAL decided that the only way to win this was to fight fire with fire and to become their enemy. Shame on them!

But coverage in the case in the New York Times brought to light the crux of the matter. The quoted from Roberts’ brief, saying that he (Roberts) “told the court that even though only women could become pregnant or seek abortions, it was ‘wrong as a matter of law and logic’ to regard opposition to abortion as the equivalent of discrimination against women.”

I cannot describe to you the wave of anger that came over me as I read that statement. I actually screamed at my computer scream. I screamed three times. Not words but a guttural roar of disgust and revulsion and fury.


Not only is this classic Orwellian doublespeak, this is a more insidious statement then almost any other this man could have written. He simply could have argued that the law did not apply because the discrimination is limited to class and race. That is different then saying that opposition to abortion does not discriminate against women. Pregnancy has been used for thousands of years as both a means of and a justification for the subjugation of and discrimination against women. To say otherwise brands this man either an idiot or a liar. The whole core of the pro-choice debate is that women have the right to control their own bodies. This is the paradigm under which this side of the debate operates (and is the simple reason why my support of abortion rights is unequivocal and absolute). Laws against abortion deny them this right, and would return women to a state of subjugation to male dominated procreation. Killing them for attempting to exercise this right must therefore be discriminatory. For Roberts to stand up an say that opposition to abortion is not discriminatory is insidious because it undercuts the whole foundation of abortion rights—obviously his design in the first place.

It is also worth noting that Roberts’ side won this case, the Supreme court held that the law did not apply, and that Sandra Day O’Connor joined the dissent. The precedent established by the court was that, for some reason I cannot fathom, actions directed toward one class of people (in this case a gender based class) were not discriminatory. It relegated women once again to the second class status they had had for six-thousand years. And it was John Roberts’ doing. NARAL was right in going after this guy. I think their ad was wrong and their tactics ultimately hurt our cause, but they are right to call attention to this portion of Roberts’ record. He is the worst kind of extremist: a nice looking eloquent one.

Anybody read “The Handmaid’s Tale?”

Liberal Upbringing

My mother probably regrets my liberal upbringing now. She, more then Dad, is responsible for my views on life, the universe and everything. She taught me how to think, how to question, and how to care--the three traits which led me to the simple conclusion that liberals are on the whole right and conservatives are on the whole wrong. Of course she herself came from a very conservative upbringing, and later returned to conservativism after being born again. But when I was young she was a pseudo hippie (she bathed too often to be a real hippie), hung with real hippies, and worked for something called "The Aquarian Effort." We joined the Unitarian church. We went to Sweets Mill nudist colony. We followed a band called The Greater Carmichael traveling Street Band. Briefly she followed the teachings of someone called Bubbah Free John (it was really my dad who sent me to group therapy and taught me about T.A.) Thanks to her and my older cousins, with whom she closely identified, I was raised on a steady diet of Frank Zappa, Country Joe MacDonald, and The Beatles. I found that the hippies were much more fun then the squares, much smarter then the squares, much more open minded then the squares, much nicer then the squares, and made much more sense. (The only people less fun then the squares were those committed lefty free-speech radicals. They were *so* serious!). When my dad re-married it was into the family of a noted sixties acid guru, a collection of real intellectual liberals, all with good educations and strng liberal viewpoints. I fit right in, and my liberal views expanded; and while I do not agree with the left on everything (guns for instance, certain interpretations of the commerce clause), I am a progressive on what I consider to be the big issues. In other words, I had a liberal California upbringing.

I have not, to my knowledge, killed any persons or bombed any buildings or committed any other terrorist or treasonous act.

I bring this up because according to many people in the conservative media that is exactly what I should be doing. Take Sean Hannity's reaction to John Walker Lindh. Hannity made a big deal of the fact that Lindh was raised in "liberal" Marin County, that he was named for John Lennon, that he had had a liberal upbringing (not unlike my own), and he blamed Lindh's liberal upbringing for his becoming a Taliban soldier (who, as far as we know, never actually killed anybody). To Hannity, it was liberalism that was to blame for Lindh's treason. Hannity makes no inquiry, as far as I know, into the upbringing of conservative terrorists Eric Rudolph or timothy McVeigh. I wonder why.

I checked it out. McVeigh had a rather typical upbringing for someone born in a poor rural community in the 1960s. His parents divorced in 1978 (about the same time mine did). He came from a conservative, predominantly Christian town in upstate New York. He did poorly in school. He was never particularly religious. Rudolph came from a more conservative background. He was homeschooled by his mother. He was raised as a Christian. His family was deeply conservative. Though it is known that he smoked pot (for which he was kicked out of the army), he was a conservative from birth.

Does that mean Rudolph's conservative Christian home-school upbringing led to his becoming a terrorist? I hope not, since my conservative Mormon sister homeschools my nieces and nephew. Does it mean that children of divorced parents are likely to become terrorists? Well, we'd practically be a nation of terrorists then, wouldn't we? Post hoc ergo propter hoc.

It's all bullshit. At least on the level Hannity works on it is. A good Freudian psychologist might argue, with some validity, that the divorce led to feelings of Alienation in Tim McVeigh that he eventually expressed through violent means (after all, the Freudians had a field day with Hitler). They might argue that Rudolph's attacks on abortion clinics and gays was a way to please his mother. But there is a long way from point a to point b in either case. That could be all bullshit too, but at least it is accadmically sound.

Hannity, he's just a dick: a guy who waves flags and points fingers to make a political point that has no connection with reality. There are lots of reasons why people become traitors or murderers. In the case of all three of these terrorists (or terrorist supporter in Lindh's case), they came to their actions through deeply held political beliefs, beliefs that were linked for two of them to their religious beliefs. Does this mean that politics and religion make people killers?

Well, every war in history has been based on one of three things: politics, religion or money. Think on that for a moment.

All of this is just to demonstrate how conservative talking heads like Hannity speak in half truths and invective to make the case for their own politics, while ignoring logic and truth in the process. Truth and logic have no real place on Fox anyway.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

This is a race?

So now what we've got is a white woman from Westchester running against another white woman from Westchester. Both of them are pro choice, pro gay rights, pro death penalty, pro homeland security, pro New York, and apparently pro short air, pearl necklance and matching two pice suit ensemble. What is the real differnece between Hillary Clinton and Jeanine Pirro? As far as I can tell, nothing. Which means that, if I were to vote in this election, I thnk I'd do what I expect every red-blooded male in New York is likely to do.

I'd go with the blonde.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The Red Curtain

(for a change of pace, since this is about media and not just politics, I'm realying a conversation I just had with my mother. Mom wrote that she had seen Moulin Rouge, recently, and that while she found it eyepopping it also seemed fantastical and grotesque. I decided to post my reply here because, well, I haven't talked about postmodernism in meida in a while).

I agree with all those statements regarding Moulin Rouge. I enjoyed it a lot for what it was--a postmodern musical take on the tragic French melodrama or the 19th Century. It was certainly fantastical and grotesque but so was a lot of French Melodrama. It's a genre that doesn't get a lot of revival or attention these days, so I found that part interesting. This sort of thing is what was going on onstage and offstage at the same time in the threatre (Think La Boheme and Camille) and I find that fascinating.

Luhrman is visually amazing, but he is probably the only flm directgor to come out of the high-concept postmodern theatre scene and make it. Wellm maybe that guy who directed American Beauty. Taken all together the three films in the Red Curtain Trilogy (this, Simply Ballroom and Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet) are great examples of postmodern cinema--extremely clever and witty, visually exciting, extrmely deep in terms of imagery and texture but not so deep otherwise. But more deep then the stuff from that other big postmodern director, Tim Burton (compare this to Burton's new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and you'll probably see a lot of similarities: though I think Luhrman's work is better).

You should have seen the La Boheme Luhrman directed on Broadway Wow! What an explosion of action and color, what a cool concept and an interesting modernization of the settings. That was fantastic!