Thursday, November 16, 2006

Tickle-Me Jesus

Order yours today!In case there aren't any TMX Elmos left when you hit the stores, check out this hot toy, Tickle-Me Jesus, for your trend-conscious kids. He's 12 inches tall and fully articulated, and when He's tickled He quotes Scripture. But He also performs miracles—He can make blind dolls see and can raise dead dolls back to life. He will also be an important teacher for your developing children—if your little girl's fingers wander up inside His robe, Tickle-Me Jesus will admonish her: "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies." If your little boy's fingers wander inside His robe, He will admonish him: "And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet." What better way to start shaping young, impressionable minds than with Tickle-Me Jesus!

$20.00   Order now!

For more information, click on the image above.

Water2wine jugs, loaves and fishes, crown of thorns and cross sold separately. Also available: Tickle-Me Moses, David and Mary.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

More at Borat

(This is a follow-up to my Borat post on 3 November.)

Tony Karon at Rootless Cosmopolitan gives a very smart analysis of Cohen's bigotry in Borat from the perspective of a Jewish person. And xymphora gives a succinct analysis as well. I'm relieved to find others writing about this.

I've also recently learned from an article on that Universal will begin filming a Bruno movie next summer. No no make it go away! Another article quotes a source as saying "Borat set the cat among the pigeons but Bruno will push things much further. He'll be going into the heart of the US redneck community to ask about really personal things." If that's actually true, then it may be that some of the motivation for Cohen's work is to enlighten the public to prejudice. Although, since Cohen's deal with Universal is rumored to be $42 million, I think we understand Cohen's real motivation. If he could make that much with an anti-Jew/pro-Muslim movie, he'd do it. Say, a nephew of Linda Richman named Benyamin who exhibits Borat-class bigotry, but toward Muslims, and an equal degree of cultural ignorance regarding anything non-kosher.

How about it, Sacha? Interested in creating a new character? Of course you'd make big bucks with it. With that in mind, it should be easy to skewer Jewish stereotypes with the same degree of enthusiasm and vindictiveness you skewer other stereotypes, right?

Regarding Linda Richman, I learned only recently that Mike Myers isn't Jewish. With a name like Myers—what, you think maybe he's Portuguese? [Big shrug] Aren't Meyers, Meyer and Mayer Jewish names? Anyway, knowing that Myers isn't Jewish dims his portrayal of Linda Richman a bit. I thought he was a Jew skewering Jewish stereotypes. Never mind.

I also read recently that Cohen is engaged to Isla Fisher, and Wikipedia reports that "Fisher pledged to convert to Judaism before the wedding, and received the blessing of Baron Cohen's devout Jewish parents." Now, I wonder if it occurred to anyone involved to consider Cohen converting to Fisher's religion? Or both Cohen and Fisher converting to no religion?

Wikipedia continues: "Baron Cohen is also himself devout; [producer] Roach told reporters that Baron Cohen keeps kosher and will not use the phone on the Sabbath." Don't get me started...

Sunday, November 05, 2006

A soldier's view

Dear fellow MoveOn member,

I believed the lie. As an Army reservist, I went to Iraq to protect America from weapons of mass destruction. But when I got there, I soon discovered there were no WMDs and no plan for us to succeed. I endured 12 months of combat and barely made it out alive.
     We can't change the past. But in two days, we can change the future. This Republican Congress must be fired because they are still putting their own egos above the truth—and above human lives.
     This election is our last chance to show what happens when politicians use fear and lies to start a war. If they get away with it this time, they'll do it again. But if it costs them their power, we can send a message to future politicians in the only language they understand—and stop the next unnecessary war before it begins. The choice is ours.
     I'm calling voters today from home. Will you join me?

On the morning of September 11th, 2001, I watched the attack on the World Trade Center with a special horror because the people killed were all civilians without training, arms, or defense. I called my unit that afternoon and begged, "Wherever this came from, send me there."
     But that's not where they sent me. They sent me to Iraq.
     Around a month into my tour, my small unit was ambushed by hundreds of insurgent fighters at a Coalition Provisional Authority base. The local security force (hired by corporate mercenaries) deserted immediately, taking guns and radios with them.
     We were besieged for 22 straight hours under a steady stream of small arms fire and rocket propelled grenades. Forces from multiple nations attempted rescues throughout the night. At dawn, when morning prayers created a pause in the attack, we managed to escape with our lives.
     I spent the next 11 months doing convoys, writing reports, and getting to know the real Iraq. I talked to hundreds of Iraqis; many became true friends. I saw the rage after Abu Ghraib. And I saw way too many innocent civilians die as the country slipped further and further over the edge.
     The troops I served with suffered from limited ammunition, armor, resources, and staff. While we brushed our teeth in dirty water recycled from the showers, Halliburton reps got rich off contracts handed to them by their Republican friends back in Washington.
     Reservists like me risk our lives when Congress says we must—and we need citizens like you to hold them accountable when they betray that trust.
     This Tuesday is our very last chance to do that. It's the last chance for Americans to stand up and say we will not forget, we will not excuse, and we will not let this betrayal happen again.
     For my fellow troops still in the field, for the thousands who have yet to put on the uniform, and for the hopes we all have for a peaceful world—it's time to Call for Change.


–Ginmar, concerned citizen
Sunday, November 5th, 2006

Friday, November 03, 2006

Borat just isn't funny

Chalk it up to my growing anti-semitism (Webster defines "Semite" as referring to Jews and Arabs [do the Jews know this?]), but when I learned a few weeks ago that the actor playing Borat was Jewish, I immediately thought Oh wow, a Jew making fun of Blacks, Muslims and fags. How atypical.

I've never been much interested in Ali G and would channel-surf past the show at about the same pace as the shows on the Trinity Broadcasting Network. (Will someone please explain Jan Crouch's wigs and mascara to me?) (I wonder what happens to her old wigs. Does she donate them to charity? Does she sell them on Ebay for spending money? Does she display them in her own museum?) And I never really thought much about who was behind Ali G's goggles and bling. I'd seen Borat once or twice in passing and read about Bruno somewhere. The characters didn't really register, other than Hmm a white guy satirizing rappers. The actor's name could just as well have been McDonald or Spinelli.

Now that Borat has invaded my Web-surfing as well as my channel-surfing, I thought I should read about him. As soon as I saw the name Sacha Baron Cohen and read that he was engaged to be married, the whole nature of Cohen's schtick took on a darker tone. An article on says Cohen "explains his character's racist nature by stating that the segments are a 'dramatic demonstration of how racism feeds on dumb conformity, as much as rabid bigotry,' rather than a display of racism by Baron Cohen himself." Really? He has no personal prejudice against Blacks, Muslims and gays? Some of his best friends are Black, Muslim and/or gay? His popularity allows him to act as a Jewish ambassador to Blacks, Muslims and gays? Uh huh. The reason for his popularity is how vindictive the satire is and how much that vindictiveness resonates with the audience. Is Cohen's (I'm bored by British double-surnames. Just choose one of the names and get over yourself.) motivation for his satire to enlighten the public to xenophobia so that we all get along better and like each other more? Uh huh. Right. I picture that happening every time a crowd howls at "Throw the Jew Down the Well" or at Borat's own overconfidence of his grasp of Western culture. Yeah, the audience is really being enlightened regarding their xenophobia. The audience is belly-laughing at the xenos, and the context affirms for the audience that it's okay.

Cohen's reason for the vindictiveness of his satire is simply the controversy it stirs up, and his reason for stirring up controversy is self-promotion. Free advertising. Simple. Nothing more altruistic than that. Cohen is all about Cohen.

So why should I care? If some guy named O'Bannon created an especially cruel caricature of a Muslim, or a Jew, would I be as offended by that? Maybe, if it reached the levels of Borat's popularity and meanness. It's possible. But whenever I've encountered something controversial involving Jews or Israel over the past year or two, I've noticed that my reaction is always in the rolling-the-eyes category. God, it never changes, does it. So am I becoming anti-semitic? I remember seeing a news story on TV about an older German fellow who was thought to be involved in the management of a concentration camp during WWII. A reporter caught up with him on the street, and one of the things the German said during the interview was "They never change! The Jews! They never change!" Am I becoming like that? My obsessive German nature, which likes things logical and linear, fixating on a culture renowned for its faulty logic?

I recently felt compelled to respond to a posting on Craigslist for a "Yom Kippur buddy." A gay Jewish atheist was looking for another gay Jew to hang out with while he took the time off from work. The guy no longer had a religious basis for his Jewish identity, but he said he continued to observe the holidays because he couldn't imagine not doing that. It seemed to me incredibly stupid to continue to cling to the trappings of a religion after letting go of the reason for the religion, and I felt the need to express that. However, because I didn't personally hold anything against this person whom I didn't know, I responded in my own posting on Craigslist rather than in an email sent directly to him. I wrote that the real reason for his not wanting to set aside Jewish holidays was that if he did he would become common like everyone else. The reason Jews follow the 613 illogical mitzvot is because if they didn't they would be common like everyone else. Judaism is a religion and a culture based on an assumed superiority that has no basis in fact. Stuff like that. To his credit, the fellow, when he learned of my posting, responded to me politely and not at all vindictively in an email, and I commended him for that in my email response. But his defense was that Judaism for him was just a culture and, even though it may seem like a silly, bizarre culture to outsiders, it was comforting for him. He also mentioned that he only attends secular synogogues, and that was an eye-opener for me. I thought that he, as an atheist, was an exception, but a whole population of secular Jews continues to cling to the structure of the religion even though they no longer believe in G-d?? Wow. The grip that culture has on these people is really deep.

My theory is that the only thing that could account for that grip is the feeling of superiority the culture gives them. Why else would they cling so tightly to an aspect of themselves that has historically brought persecution and death? If they let go of their victim status, they would become common like everyone else.

If you've read this far, it's probably evidence of your own anti-semitism. (Except for Jonathan Versen, the uberintellectual at Hugo Zoom, who seems to read through each of my posts whenever I get around to posting.) Semitophiles would have clicked the Back button by now. However, I should note that I probably have a Jewish background myself, which may lend a different shade to my wondering if I'm becoming anti-semitic. My four grandparents' family names were Bintz, Greenfield (originally Gruenfeld), Snyder and Gillespie. The two great-grandparents' names that I know of were Kessler and Sanville. You can figure out if there's any Jewish background tangled in there. But with a name like Bintz, what—you think maybe I'm Irish? (Exaggerated shrug.) The family oral history lists ancestry as German, French, Scotch, English, Welsh and Irish. No mention of Jewish. But I think it's likely that at least one branch represents a conversion from Judaism to Christianity generations ago.

So, assuming that I'm a bit Jewish, I feel no shame about whom my ancestors were, but I also have no problem dropping Jewish religion and culture along with Protestant Christian religion and culture. I asked the gay Jewish atheist "Wouldn't it seem odd to you if I continued clinging to Jerry Falwell culture after I stopped believing in God?" He didn't respond to that, and I do feel that, since no logical response would defend his point of view, he just shrugged and thought But I like feeling superior and what business is it of yours?

Since the war in Iraq directly affects the U.S. economically, it is my business because I am directly affected by the U.S. economy. That wasn't a non-sequitur. The motivation for war in the Middle East has been for half a century the ownership of the Temple Mount and the lands around it. It's all about that damn rock. The current war against the U.S. in Iraq is fueled emotionally by the perception that the U.S. is merely the giant battle-droid of Israel. If they can disable the droid, they can scrape the Israelis into the Mediterranean.

Israel's claim to the land is extremely tenuous because the basis for the claim is purely religious. G-d, Abraham, Moses, Promised Land, Solomon's Temple and all that. A pure theocracy. There has never been a separation between temple and state. The G-d Who inhabited the Temple once a year governed the king who governed the nation. A religion-state. So if the basis for the religion were to be eliminated, the claim to the land would be eliminated, since the only motivation for retaking the land in 1948 was "G-d gave us this land." That deduction seems simple to me, but with secular Jews we have a population of people continuing to claim the land because "That's what we do. [Big shrug.] That's what we've always done."

If it turned out that less than 1% of Jews worldwide were secular, it wouldn't matter much to me because it would mean that more than 99% of Jews worldwide really did fervently believe that G-d gave them the land. However...if I found out that a majority of Jews in the world didn't much care about the idea of G-d, whether He exists or not, I wouldn't know how to deal with that. The lack of logic exhibited by such a large group of people would start burning a hole in my head. It would affect me like that because that lack of logic doesn't exist in a vacuum. It shakes up the entire Middle East, and the ripple effect reaches, in one form or another, the rest of the planet. But the secular Jewish population would innocently wonder why I was getting worked up and what business was it of mine?

I actually have a hunch that's the case, that most Jews don't believe in G-d. If I found out that my hunch is wrong, I'd be relieved. Not that a majority of Jews worldwide fervently believing that G-d really did choose them to be superior to the rest of the nations is a good thing. But having such a large group of people completely oblivious to the fact that, if there is no G-d, then there is no claim to the land indicates that something major is wrong. If there is no G-d, then what was the land-grab in 1948 all about? The land was lost by Israel to the Romans in 70 C.E. But it was still Jewish land all the way up to 1948 and Jews just came back to reclaim it like a lost hat? It doesn't work that way. Babylonians could make the same claim to their land which was subsequently absorbed by Iraq, but there aren't many people who would take that claim seriously. How many Jewish people are sympathetic to Native Americans' claims that American land is really theirs? Jews are probably as unsympathetic toward Native Americans as they are toward Black Americans and would probably say "Oh get over it and move on." Wouldn't there be irony in Jews telling a group of people to forget about their historic claim to land and just accept the way things are?

To be fair, the same thing could be said to the Muslim world. One could say "Yes, Jews had some groundless, flimsy reasons for taking the land in 1948. But they won the war and it's nearly sixty years later. Deal with it." How would Muslims react to that? Not placidly. How would Jews react to the Muslim reaction? Irony again.

At this point, my naivte reveals itself. Wouldn't it be something, wouldn't it be really something if Israel just gave up its claim to the land and let it revert back to its pre-1948 ownership? Wouldn't that be something? Ha. What a thought. What would happen to the insurgency in Iraq? What would happen to Iran's nuclear rumblings? What would happen to gas prices? Seriously, if Jews want to think of themselves as superior to all other nations, committing the most altruistic act in human history—giving the land back to the Palestinians—would go a long way toward making it true.

I wonder how Sacha Cohen would react to that proposal.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Candlelight vigils at every election office

© UW-Madison University Comm. has proposed holding a candlelight vigil to Count Every Vote at every county election office after the polls close on November 7. And they encourage everyone in attendance at the vigils to wear blue.

My feeling is that honest, accurate vote-counting is so important that it should be completely non-partisan. My counter-proposal is that all attendees wear white.

White is iconically non-chromatic or pan-chromatic. If it were the chosen color, Republicans, Democrats and independents could all join the vigils and remind each other that they are there to ensure that every vote is counted correctly. Rather than having bickering teams wearing their team colors, everyone wearing white would reinforce the idea that we're all in this together.

Alternatives to white would be purple (both red and blue) or yellow (neither red nor blue). Or attendees could wear both red and blue in equal proportions, and not one above the other but side-by-side. Or attendees could be encouraged to wear any color except red or blue.

The concept of a candlelight vigil to ensure that every vote is counted correctly is inspiring. It encourages us to believe that democracy might actually work sometimes. That inspiration shouldn't be diminished by reducing democracy to the level of a team sport.

Friday, September 22, 2006


For your consideration:
The Nation has learned that the Bush Administration and the Pentagon have issued orders for a major "strike group" of ships, including the nuclear aircraft carrier Eisenhower as well as a cruiser, destroyer, frigate, submarine escort and supply ship, to head for the Persian Gulf, just off Iran's western coast. This information follows a report in the current issue of Time magazine, both online and in print, that a group of ships capable of mining harbors has received orders to be ready to sail for the Persian Gulf by October 1.
Blame my hysteria on my friend Hugo Zoom who sends me links to articles like this which only exacerbate my armageddonoid schizophrenia.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Rush week for the Nuclear Club

When you look at who is in the Nuclear Club, or suspected to be, Iran's inclusion in that fraternity doesn't seem unreasonable. Pakistan and India (orange, above) have nuclear weapons and Saudi Arabia (green) could develop them within a few years, according to an article on Wikipedia. Between them is Iran (yellow). Of course Iran wants to protect itself from neighbors on either side.

While watching the C-Span broadcast of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaking at a press conference in Tehran on 29 August, I was amazed at how..."ordinary" he seems. In the same kind of setting, Saddam's arrogance and bloated self-importance were pretty obvious. (Yes I know Saddam is Arab and not Persian.) But Ahmadinejad moved easily between chuckling with questioners to speaking seriously about political topics. I didn't get a sense of an ego of Saddamic proportions.

I also didn't get a sense that he was just another Ayatollah Khomeini type but without the turban (Khomeini is in the picture behind Ahmadinejad below). (All photos are AP.)

I don't know... While watching him talk, I was more reminded of Lance Armstrong than Saddam or Khomeini. Ahmadinejad is no doubt a super-competitive type like Armstrong, but I don't see him, in a tense situation, pushing the Big Red Button nearly as quickly as

Molten Bolton

or Dubya might in a similar situation. Am I wrong? Are Ahmadinejad's small, shrewd eyes those of a madman?

My only reservation is that Ahmadinejad's refusal to budge on his nuclear position may provoke the invasion of Iran. He must know that this decision to stand tough may result in the deaths of many Iranian soldiers and civilians. Is he just goading the Big Boys? Or is it the adrenaline of his competitiveness talking?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Not a greased pig, an oiled elephant


Last week, thousands of us held more than 300 rallies at gas stations across the country to expose Republican oil-corruption in Washington. It was a huge success—lots of media coverage, and Republicans got so worried they were distributing talking points about our events.

Now it's time to take our message on the road. As summer driving season moves into high gear, we're offering FREE bumper stickers that spread our message (we'll even take care of the postage).

These stickers will make sure that when people are feeling the pinch of high gas prices, they'll know that Republicans are the problem.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

People LOVE war. It's the ultimate football game.

Ramsey Clark's latest message:
The case for impeachment is clear beyond question.

The list of Bush's crimes is long. The “Shock and Awe” invasion was Bush’s war of aggression -- a crime identified as the “the Supreme international crime” by the Nuremberg Tribunal.
Remember Falluja, the American Guernica, a virtual destruction of a defenseless city by superior military technology (36,000 homes, 8,400 shops destroyed in the final assault alone); Abu Ghraib, the shameful celebration of sick forms of sexual torture; Haifa Street, Baghdad, where a U.S. helicopter gun ship killed 13 unarmed people and injured 50 dancing around a burned out Bradley Armored Vehicle; Abu Shifa, a small village, where U.S. soldiers were accused of rounding up civilians, forcing them into a room, then opening fire, killing 11 people, including a 75 year-old, a 6 month-old baby, and five children under the age five; Haditha, where Marines murdered 15 defenseless civilians, and injured many more, most women and children; and tiny Guantanamo, where the U.S. has compiled human rights violations in four years that have been denounced by the entire world including the United Nations. Yet President Bush arrogantly refuses to close the Guantanamo prison, or return the land and sovereignty to Cuba while U.S. officials fret over three prisoners who committed suicide in one day to “embarrass the U.S.”

The grand total of civilian deaths in Iraq is probably more than 250,000, and rapidly growing. (The Lancet Medical Journal) U.S. military deaths exceed 2500, the seriously injured number more than 15,000 and the number who will suffer mental and physical impairment from the occupation of Iraq is in the unknown tens of thousands.

What respect for human dignity! What reverence for life! What better way to make enemies?

The necessity for citizen action to secure impeachment is also clear beyond question. The Congress will not act unless We, the People demand it and vote those out of office who fail to respond.

Our government is geared for war as directed by transnational corporations, domestic industries, and the corporate media.

Both branches of our One Party system, Democrat and Republican, favor the use of force to have their way. Consider,

(1) Regime Change in Iran (1953) the Shah replacing democratically elected Mossadegh; Eisenhower (R);
(2) Regime Change in Guatemala (1954) military government for democratically elected Arbenz; Eisenhower (R);
(3) Regime Change in Congo (1961) assassination of Patrice Lumumba, Eisenhower (R)
(4) the Vietnam War (1959-1975), Eisenhower (R), Kennedy (D), Johnson (D), Nixon (R);
(5) Invasion of Dominican Republic (1965), Johnson (D);
(6) Contra Warfare against Nicaragua (1981-1988), resulting in regime change from the Sandinistas to corrupt capitalists; Reagan (R);
(7) Attack and occupation of Grenada (population 110,000)(1983-1987) Reagan (R);
(8) Aerial attack on the sleeping cities of Tripoli and Benghazi, Libya, (1986) Reagan (R);
(9) Invasion of Panama Regime Change (1989-1990), George H. W. Bush (R);
(10) Gulf War (1991), George H. W. Bush (R);
(11) "Humanitarian" occupation of Somalia leading to 10,000 Somali deaths (1992-1993) George H. W. Bush (R) and Bill Clinton (D);
(12) Aerial attacks on Iraq (1993-2001) Bill Clinton (D);
(13) War against Yugoslavia (1999) 23,000 bombs and missiles dropped on Yugoslavia, Bill Clinton (D)
(14) Missile Attack (21 Tomahawk Cruise Missiles) destroying the Al Shifa Pharmaceutical Plant in Khartoum which provided the majority of all medicines for Sudan (1998) Bill Clinton (D);
(15) Invasion and Occupation of Afghanistan, Regime Change (2001-present) George W. Bush (R);
(16) War of Aggression against Iraq and Hostile Occupation (2003)-present) George W. Bush (R);
(17) Regime Change in Haiti (2004) Democratically elected Aristide for three years of chaos and systematic killing, George W. Bush (R).
There have been major aggressions every several years.

Remember that every Congress in the past half century has approved excessive military budgets and the last three have approved increases that have made the U.S. military budget larger than those of all other nations combined.

The U.S. will remain a military threat to the world until it vastly reduces its military expenditures. The single highest priority for peace is cutting the U.S. military budget. The United States government may have been able to outspend the Soviet Union into economic collapse in the Cold War arms race, injuring the entire planet in the process. Now Bush has entered a new arms race and is provoking a Second Cold War with China. Yet what can China do, as the U.S. builds a first-strike oriented missile shield and uses Japan and a huge advanced military base at Pyongtaek on Korea's west coast, not 500 miles from Beijing?

The U.S. at this time is capable of striking any place on earth with a nuclear armed missile within one hour of the order to fire, launched from a Trident II, or other nuclear weapons system. We are at this time spending billions on a new generation of nuclear weapons that can be used tactically, against four blocks of Falluja, or an alleged Al Queda camp in Pakistan. At the same time, we threaten Iran and others for seeking to develop nuclear energy with the claim that they may build a crude bomb. Yet the only defense a nation today has to U.S. militarism is the threat of nuclear retaliation. The U.S. is seeking total dismantlement and prohibition of all weapons of mass destruction everywhere else, because it possesses the vast majority of all WMD’s and far superior delivery systems.

George Bush loved being a War President while he was winning - winning over the bodies of impoverished and defenseless people, that is. Someone told him only war presidents can be great presidents. He will love war again if his polls go up.

President Bush would rather make enemies by the use of force to have his way, than seek agreement with friends by helping others and recognizing their rights and interests. He prefers to go it alone, and then entice or coerce whatever help he can get from others, whether it is for Iraq, global warming, the prohibition of land mines, or the use of minors in war, addressing hunger, poverty, AIDS, natural disaster relief, or most United Nations activities, and absolutely, the International Criminal Court which might indict him. He is spared defeat at the polls because he cannot seek re-election.

He can be held accountable only by impeachment. The American people must not acquiesce to his crimes.

Consider that all the major candidates, Democrat and Republican -- Clinton, Edwards, Kerry, McCain, Frist -- voted for the war and/or favor the Iraq Occupation.

To stop U.S. militarism, the U.S. must vastly reduce its military expenditures, 50% in five years and further down from there on. It must use those savings to combat poverty, hunger, sickness and unemployment at home and abroad.

The U.S. must seek friends by word and deed, rather than make enemies. The harm George Bush has done to the way the rest of the world sees our country will take a generation to overcome, after we change our warlike ways.

But the only way to convince the world that We the People do not approve of the conduct of George W. Bush is to impeach him. Otherwise we can only be seen as approving of his acts, or as powerless to prevent them.

And the only way we can deter the next, and future Presidents, from seeking war rather than peace is to impeach George W. Bush and his key advisors now. Only then will political leadership know the American people will not accept more war.

Last week placed an ad calling for the impeachment of George W. Bush on the second page of the internationally read newspaper, USA Today. The impeachment movement has placed similar ads in the Boston Globe, the New York Times, and the San Francisco Chronicle. The time to impeach is now.

Ramsey Clark
June 15, 2006

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Red, Whitenoise and Blue

Time of year for the GOP's noise!
Every speech you hear seems to say
"We're the good guys! Every lib-er-al's from He-e-e-ell!
We'll protect your land,
Values, marriage and
Fool you while we treat
Big oi-l we-e-e-ell."

"Election year stunt or legislative rescue for society troubled by the breakdown of traditional families"?? Do they even need to ask? Maybe it would be better to call it an aggressive move on the political chessboard. It worked last time, why not use it again?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

How would Jesus vote?

A recent email from the Human Rights Campaign:
WASHINGTON – Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese made the following statement as the Federal Marriage Amendment (S.J. Res. 1) was marked up today by the Senate Judiciary Committee:

"This shameful election-year ploy puts the Senate one step closer to a vote that threatens to write discrimination into the U.S. Constitution. Today's vote served only to divide Americans, not help us with our collective challenges. As this amendment nears a vote on the Senate floor, it's critical that fair-minded Americans speak up and speak out against discrimination in the Constitution."

With less than 24 hours notice, the Senate Judiciary Committee moved the mark up from a public hearing room to a restricted-access room in the Capitol. The President's Room is not open to the public and does not even have enough chairs for every Senator on the committee to sit.

Solmonese continued, "Using the Constitutional amendment process as a political tool is bad enough, but doing it behind closed doors is appalling. The U.S. Senate shouldn't be playing fast and loose with our most fundamental freedoms."

In 2004, the Senate and House both fell far short of the two-thirds vote necessary to send the amendment to the states for ratification. In the Senate, the vote against cloture was 50 to 48, with six Republicans voting no. The Republicans who opposed cloture were Senators Campbell, Chafee, Collins, McCain, Snowe and Sununu. In the House, the vote was 227 to 186.

Many prominent Republicans and conservatives expressed opposition to the amendment in 2004, including Vice President Cheney, Arlen Specter, Rudy Guiliani, Chuck Hagel, David Dreier, George Pataki, Bob Barr, Alan Simpson, George Will and David Brooks. This year, those numbers increased to former Senator Danforth who called the amendment, "silly" and "contrary to basic Republican principles." First Lady Laura Bush was recently quoted as saying, "I don’t think it should be used as a campaign tool, obviously." Sen. John McCain has repeatedly reaffirmed his opposition to the amendment. And today George Will again restated his opposition by lauding Sen. John Sununu's vote against the amendment was a vote against the "federal usurpation of the traditional state responsibility for marriage law" and that it "affirmed the value of cultural federalism."

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Mushroom clouds over Iran

When I opened up the latest email from and read "Not only do the officials say war is really on the table, they report that the Bush administration is making plans to use nuclear weapons"—when I read that, my hair stood straight up. I thought Okay, okay, wait a second, this might not be true. Eli Pariser and the crew at MoveOn may have gone off the deep end with the power thing. MoveOn apparently has 3 million members now and maybe the leaders have gotten drunk on their ability to mobilize that many people with just email. At this point in time, after everything that's gone before, Dubya and friends are stupid enough to even think of planting mushroom clouds in Iran??

Who knows? Anything's possible. Maybe it's just a red herring created by Karl Rove. Maybe it's just a late April fool's joke. I'm hoping for a better-case scenario than finding out it's true.

This is part of MoveOn's email:
The big question on all of our minds, of course, is whether the president really is willing to wage nuclear war with Iran. After the disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq, would he really attack the much larger, much stronger, much better armed country next door with nukes?

As he did before Iraq, President Bush claims he's just pursuing a diplomatic route—but he still refuses to take nukes off the table. In the New Yorker piece, Seymour Hersh—who broke the Abu Ghraib story—quotes numerous administration and Pentagon officials who make very clear that war plans involving nukes are in the works.

Even a conventional attack would likely be a disaster. But just the threat of a nuclear attack could close off our best diplomatic options. Ironically, it would also increase pressure within Iran to create a full-fledged nuclear program—strengthening Iran's hard-liners. With most experts estimating Iran is 5 years or more away from having a nuclear weapon, there's time for a diplomatic solution.

And the consequences of an actual attack would be horrifying. The civilian deaths from a nuclear assault could be in the thousands or hundreds of thousands. According to a front-page article in the Washington Post, CIA experts believe Iran would almost certainly counter-attack through its terrorist network, Hezbollah. With 150,000 American troops right next door in Iraq, Iran would have what security experts call a "target rich" environment. Even Jack Straw, the British Foreign Sectrary, said that the nuclear option was "completely nuts."
Is there anything that would preclude a sitting president and his cabinet from being given psychological testing? I would really like to know if these people are nuts or not. Wouldn't you?

Friday, March 17, 2006

Green enough

On its St. Patrick's Day page, Yahoo describes the holiday as "Originally a day to honor the patron saint of Ireland, March 17 has become a worldwide celebration of all things Irish."

Okay, so what day do we celebrate all things Costa Rican? Or Turkish? Or Rwandan? I don't have any problem with the Irish celebrating the birthday of their patron saint, but I'm baffled by the pervasiveness of St. Patrick's Day. If you toured elementary-school classrooms today anywhere in the U.S., would you find many that weren't decorated with shamrocks and leprechauns? All greeting-card shops have been shimmering for weeks with the vernal glow of green foil. I did't notice—was Oprah wearing a shamrock brooch today?

It makes sense to me that St. Patrick's Day parades became part of the American landscape after the discrimination Irish immigrants experienced in the mid-nineteenth century (although Wikipedia argues that the prevalence of NINA signs—"no Irish need apply"—at that time is mostly an urban legend). The parades functioned as Irish Pride parades, like Gay Pride parades function now, to establish solidarity and improve the self-image of an underpriveleged minority. But I think the Irish are doing okay now in the U.S. Are parades still needed?

I have to assume that the branding of St. Patrick's Day has been so successful in the U.S. because beer is involved. Similarly, the branding of Christmas has been so successful because of the gift-giving custom and its impact on the economy. The branding of Valentine's Day has been so successful because chocolate is involved. The Wikipedia article on St. Valentine, however, was an eye-opener for me. Valentine's Day was removed from the Catholic calendar in 1969?? Nobody told me! I'm amazed that we still celebrate it. The story of Valentine, or Valentinus, was dismissed as almost entirely legend nearly four decades ago. But you'd never know that from the Valentine's Day displays in the stores.

Of course we could blame retailers for creating hype to increase sales. But that doesn't explain everything. If retailers in Santa Monica all got together and started hyping St. Monica's Day on August 27 because August needs a holiday, would the tradition catch on and spread throughout the Western world? Probably not. Why don't we celebrate St. Agnes' Eve on January 20? She's the patron saint of chastity, gardeners, girls, engaged couples, rape victims and virgins, and "folk custom called for [young girls] to practice rituals on Saint Agnes' Eve (20th-21st January) with a view to discovering their future husbands." Retailers could come up with a decorating theme involving lambs and wool scarves and mace sprayers and diamond rings, and Keats' "The Eve of St. Agnes" could be set to music, if it hasn't been already, and played in stores the week leading up to the holiday. Would it become a mainstream holiday? Probably not. A holiday has to resonate with people in order for them to respond to retailers' hype. For some reason, Sts. Valentine's and Patrick's Days do and Sts. Monica's and Agnes' Days don't.

It seems innocent enough to decorate with shamrocks and leprechauns, doesn't it? It's cute, the kids like it, where's the harm in a green milkshake? The green thing celebrates the welcome approach of spring. A lot of us like Celtic music, at least in small doses. Okay, but is there equal time dedicated to celebrating Costa Rican, Turkish and Rwandan cultures? And is it okay that there isn't? In a multicultural environment, all religious holidays should be observed equally. And that, of course, would result in an overabundance of holidays and the need to change decorations every three or four days. Why not let now-useless religious holidays like St. Patrick's Day just fade into cultural history? Do we have a reason to continue celebrating them other than "[Shrug] It's what we've always done"? Is that a good enough reason to do anything?

Just say no to green beer.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

A little catastrophe music

A recent email from mentions that Bush "campaigned, attended birthday parties and played guitar" while Hurricane Katrina bashed New Orleans, and I couldn't help but notice the parallel between Nero plucking the lyre while Rome burned and Dubya pickin' n' grinnin' while New Orleans sank. The differences are instructive regarding executive protocol: during a firestorm, play the lyre; during a hurricane, play the guitar.

The video revealing that Bush was briefed about possible levee breaches has been dismissed by Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke as "nothing new or insightful." He said that "most transcripts of discussions had already been made available to congressional investigators examining the response to Katrina." Dzzzzzzzzzz. Now, did a little warning buzzer go off when you read that? The investigators learned from the transcripts that Bush had been briefed, and they weren't concerned that, four days after Katrina made landfall, Bush said "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees"? Did the investigators actually read the transcripts? Or were they anticipating that the public would never find out how much the President knew? Surely the investigators would know how the public would react if we learned about the briefings. Move over, Downing Street Memo. Now there's the Crawford Briefing.

I expect that conservative bloggers' reactions to the video are uniformly "This is old news." Okay, you're right. The investigators learned nothing new from the video. But how did news like this get old? They thought it wasn't important enough to report? Based on what criteria?

I've actually reached the point where I'm no longer appalled by the amount of fibbing by the Bush administration. I've started feeling bad and embarrassed for them. They so are the Not Ready For Prime Time Players. Even Condy Rice, a smart, smart lady, doesn't seem to know when it's not a good time to fib. Maybe if the Bush administration could start fresh all over again in 2001, with all of the knowledge they've gained since then, we would have an administration making much wiser decisions.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Does your oven have a Sabbath mode?

This undated press release from GE describes an option which became available on April 1, 2001:
GE Introduces New Sabbath Mode Feature on Cooking Products to Meet the Needs of Observant Jewish Consumers

..."Although the Sabbath and holiday laws, especially as they relate to the cooking and heating of foods, are rather complex, the engineers at GE are to be congratulated on their ability to have appreciated and comprehended the intricacies of Halacha (Jewish law) as they developed a Sabbath mode that will enhance the Sabbath and holidays of observant Jewish families," noted Dr. Avrom Pollak, president of the Star-K Kosher Certification. "This new feature is truly kosher consumer friendly and we at the Star-K are confident that the observant Jewish community is going to show significant interest in GE cooking appliances," he continued.

Most modern ranges are equipped with an integrated twelve-hour shut-off safety device. This feature shuts down the oven's power after the oven has been operating consecutively for twelve hours. The GE cooking products with Sabbath Mode will override the twelve-hour shut-off. The oven will not shut off automatically making it possible to keep cooked foods warm on the Sabbath or use the range over religious holidays for cooking and warming food.

In addition to overriding the shut off, the Sabbath Mode feature will meet the observant Jewish consumer's restrictions for observing the Sabbath and other holidays by:

Eliminating tones or timer beeps.

Not displaying icons.

Permitting temperature adjustments on holidays without displays or beeps.
A more truthful name would be "stealth mode," wouldn't it?

Okay, now explain this to me: How is changing cooking temperatures but avoiding the appearance of changing cooking temperatures keeping the Sabbath holy?

Anybody? ...Nobody can explain this to me?

What you're doing is lying about whether you are cooking on the Sabbath or not. Why is lying okay on the Sabbath but cooking is not?

Anybody? Help me out. I'm at a loss here.

Okay, so I'll resort to Wikipedia:

In Jewish philosophy it is recognized that many of the 613 mitzvot cannot be explained rationally. They are categorized as chukim, comprising such laws as the Red Heifer (Numbers 19). There are three basic points of view regarding these laws:

One view holds that these laws do have a reason, but it is not understood because the ultimate explanation for mitzvot is beyond the human intellect.

A second view holds that most of the laws have some historical and/or dietary significance (such as preventing the consumption of unhealthy food, or differentiating oneself from non-Jews through dietary restrictions); and

A third view holds that these laws have no meaning other than to instill obedience.
Probably the second sentence of the next section of the Wikipedia article is the key: "Indeed, the Hebrew word for 'holiness' is etymologically related to the Hebrew word for 'distinction' or 'separation.'" Wait a minute. Holiness is equated with separation? As it turns out, all of the irrationality of the mitzvot is acceptable because it creates a separate-and-thus-better status for those who follow it. An irrational basis for superior social status? Is that a good idea? I mean, in 2006?

In a sense, I can understand the hatred of the Arabs for the Jews. I don't understand the degree of the hatred, but I can understand its origin--a nation which shares ethnic origins with the Palestinians and Syrians (genetic links have been found on the Y chromosome) assuming an inherent superiority for thousands of years without any factual basis, more or less playing the part of Mrs. Oleson in Little House on the Prairie. That would get a little old after a couple of centuries. Of course I could balance this argument with a discussion of the equal irrationality of Islamic law, but that would probably result in the torching of Google headquarters, the parent company of Blogger, which hosts this blog.

Why should I care? What business is it of mine if six million Jewish Americans may want to own an oven with a Sabbath mode?

9/11 comes to mind. The continuing insurgency in Iraq comes to mind. Whenever an insurgent shoots at an American soldier, he's actually trying to shoot at Israel. My neice's husband safely returned from a tour of duty in Iraq. Why should it matter to me that my neice's three kids, at least for the time being, won't have to grow up without a dad?

"My oven is the cause of 9/11 and the war in Iraq?? You're a shvents, shmendrik, shmegege, schmuck!!," Linda Richman might sputter on Saturday Night Live. No, of course the oven isn't to blame. The clinging to the irrational belief system is to blame. The refusal to let go of the elevated status the irrational belief system provides is to blame. The willingness to lie to maintain the appearance of following the irrational belief system is to blame. Self-centeredness, on an international scale, is to blame.

The same can be said of Muslims. And Catholics. And Protestants. Clinging to any belief system that on occasion requires an explanation like "My ways are higher than your ways" is stupid.

In the centuries before giant military transport ships and satellite communications and Stealth bombers, friction between conflicting irrational belief systems occurred less often and the collateral damage was much more confined. Now that Earth is wired like one large city, being stupid has a much greater impact.

I let go of mine. Let go of yours.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Thoughts on Super Bowl Sunday

Iran, gay-bar shooting, Muhammad-cartoons backlash, suicide bombers, Gaza, surveillance, the Super Bowl, FEMA, Alito, intelligent design, millionaire Christians, SUVs, cell phones...

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Bennett and Beck?

My email to CNN:
Bill Bennett and Glenn Beck?

We won't be watching CNN anymore.

Thanks for the memories!
It's the end of an era. I'm feeling nostalgic.

Friday, January 06, 2006


Congressman Schiff,

It's admirable that the left has shown restraint regarding impeachment. That has been laudable. If liberal Congressmen had bulldozed forward with impeachment proceedings earlier, it would have appeared simply as a revenge tactic. Now that we all have spent time carefully considering the accusations and their legal implications, it will be clear to everyone why impeachment is moving forward.

The issues are substantial. Among them:

1. The Bush administration lied to the people and Congress about the justifications for going to war in Iraq.

2. It has now been revealed that Bush, like Nixon three decades ago, has carried out an illegal wiretapping program against the people of this country.

These are serious offenses which constitute high crimes and misdemeanors. I urge you to support impeachment.

It's probably not too much of a stretch to imagine that, because my blog is listed in the Big Brass Alliance, my phone has been tapped and my emails intercepted. Of course, the surveillance people quickly lost interest when they observed so little activity, but it does bring the issues closer to home to realize that even my privacy may have been invaded.

I'm curious whether criminal investigations will be undertaken once Bush is no longer a sitting president. If not, I will wonder why not. Won't you?