micah holmquist's irregular thoughts and links
Welcome to the musings and notes of a Cadillac, Michigan based writer named Micah Holmquist, who is bothered by his own sarcasm.
Please send him email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Holmquist's full archives are listed here.
Sites Holmquist trys, and often fails, to go no more than a couple of days without visiting (some of which Holmquist regularly swipes links from without attribution)
Blogs that for one reason or another Holmquist would like to read on at least something of a regular basis (always in development)
Sunday, August 31, 2003
Saragon makes fun of Max.
I suspect that there will be people who enjoy The Washington Monthly's "The Mendacity Index" because a presidents they don't like come out higher on the scale, but what really stands out to me is just how dishones the last four occupants of the Oval Office -the group covered- have been.
Saturday, August 30, 2003
Michigan State opened the 2003 football season with a 26-21 win over Western Michigan in East Lansing. It is hard to say how impressive or umimpressive the win was because there is much of a measuring stick for Western, however the spread offense seemed to generally run smoothly and the defensive was better than expected, particularly in terms of a pass rush. (They had one!)
In other news, Salam Pax says U.S. troops have searched his house.
A Pentagon flier announcing the film puts it in eerie perspective: "How to win a battle against terrorism and lose the war of ideas. . . . Children shoot soldiers at point blank range. Women plant bombs in cafes. Soon the entire Arab population builds to a mad fervor. Sound familiar? The French have a plan. It succeeds tactically, but fails strategically. To understand why, come to a rare showing of this film."Interesting.
Michigan State begins the football season today with a home game against Western Michigan. New head coach John L. Smith looks interesting with his mix of focusing on tradition, team identity and risky on the field play, althought I suspect that if MSU doesn't win today, that he will never be able to recover.
Well that and more people will go to Fire John Smith.
Friday, August 29, 2003
Max Standard’s Guide to Being Cool
By Max Standard
San Francisco Chronicle pop culture editor James Sullivan's piece on coolness covers the basics –a love of pork rinds, NASCAR and Huey Lewis- but those who want to a go a bit farther should follow my advice.
Clothes make the man and so you should always try to look your best in neatly pressed and recently laundered Dockers and shirts with stripes. Trucker hats are always cool, especially if they say, “I Wore This Style Of Hat” before it was cool,” as they say you are really hip. Avoid piercings but tatoos are fine so long as they are not visible.
Next you need a vehicle and there is nothing better than a Ford 150 pickup truck in whatever color strikes your fancy. Patriotic bumper stickers are a necessity as well. As should also be the case in your home, your truck –neve call it a “pickup”- should have a compact disc player that is well stocked with music by the likes of Toby Keith and Snoop Dogg, or as we old school hip hoppers like to call him, Snoop Doggy Dogg.
The most important reason for having a vehicle is so that you can easily acquire guns and food. With regard to the latter, if you are going to the food store I suggest sausage –which comes from the same animal that produces pork rinds and pork- and Budweiser beer. If going out to eat, make it Applebee’s as a way of showing you haven’t forgotten the hood.
While enjoying dinner you will see many of your friends and thus should be prepared to converse with them. The best preparation is to listen to Rush Limbaugh for 15 hours each week but that might be tough for the less dedeicated amongst you. 13 hours is the bare minimum, however. Keep in mind that Rush is a brillant man who has ideas far greater than you could ever have because he speaks the simple truth of Real Americans. You might not understand everything he says but do believe everything he says as he is right. For the sake of levity, you will want to watch The Tonight Show with Jay Leno all week long as well. If all else fails, talk about the Star Wars movies. To keep your cred, insist that parts IV and V are the greatest movies that ever could be made. Say VI is in the top ten and then bash I and II. In all conversations regularly, but not constantly, say, “can you hear me now?” and make jokes about gay men being hairdressers, good dancers and fashion concious.
After a hour or two at that local watering hole, you’ll want to head home to your big screen television. If you are a single guy, only watch Leno, FOX News, Scarborough Country, sports and good guy movies like Taxi Driver with that wonderful Travis Bickle. If you have a little woman, buy her a smaller television so that she does not interfere with your viewing.
Life is not all television and eating of course. You should have a lawn that is about half an acre large and quite green due to the fertilizer you put in it. You should ride your lawnmower over it every Saturday so that nobody questions your manhood. Regularly talk about how proud your are of your property.
Now I know this sounds like a pretty luxirious lifestyle but remember as an American you earned it -if you are not an American, I don’t know why you are reading this- and this operation should cost less than Iraq or “Black” programs and it will certainly be better than Ed Vulliamy's "America."
Max Standard is an important intellectual who always tells the pro-American truth. His essay "Bomb away Norway" appeared in Monday's edition of this blog.
Thursday, August 28, 2003
In today's greenandwhite.com, Sarah Skilling writes:
But let's be honest here for a moment. Without the support and enthusiasm from the 11th man, a [football] team is nothing. There are five home games within the first six scheduled, and I think the outcome of each of those is going to weigh a little bit on the attitude of the fans.What can you say?
I'm sure this news makes hawks even more furious about the ineffectiveness of the United Nations
In a story from Tuesday, Reuters writes:
The head of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog called on the United States Tuesday to set an example to the rest of the world by cutting its nuclear arsenal and halting research programs.In related news Peter Grier and Faye Bowers report in today's Christian Science Monitor that the United States is about to start publicly worrying about Iran's nuclear weapons and plans to work through the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency.
Wednesday, August 27, 2003
One day I will likely tire of critiquing Bush's speeches...
But, as Rosanne Cash has sung, "it hasn't happened yet."
Yesterday's speech by U.S. President George W. Bush at the 85th Annual American Legion National Convention was included much of what one has come to expect from Bush. He talked about the "terrorists," who of course want to kill people who are "free" -a never defined term-, as if they are a unified entity where one speaks for all and all speak for one. He made it clear that the Palestinians will get a state if and only if the U.S. decides to give them one, and also that " [n]o nation can be neutral" in the "war on terror," which is a "the struggle between civilization and chaos." Apparently Bush has a brain like a computer and fails to understand the idea of different approaches.
Bush did mince words when talking about outlawing the burning of Old Glory, an issue near and dear to the hearts of his hosts:
And having fought under the American flag and seen it folded and given to families of your friends, you are committed, as am I, to protecting the dignity of the flag in the Constitution of the United States.Using, as he did through out the speech, grandiose language, Bush spelled out the future:
We've adopted a new strategy for a new kind of war. We will not wait for known enemies to strike us again. We will strike them and their camps or caves or wherever they hide before they hit more of our cities and kill more of our citizens. We will do everything in our power to deny terrorists weapons of mass destruction before they can commit murder on an unimaginable scale.No definition of "known enemies" was given and Bush also failed to clarify whether dishonest is a permanent or just temporary way of selling the "war on terror."
Most interesting was this bit:
During the last few decades the terrorists grew bolder, believing if they hit America hard, America would retreat and back down. Five years ago, one of the terrorists said that an attack could make America run in less than 24 hours."[R]etreat and back down"? "[R]un"? What the fuck is Bush talking about? Everybody knows the people of the U.S. are just peaceful people who drive their proverbial tractors to their equally proverbial fields to create proverbial food and only have time to smile and wave at all because they are really nice people. Unless of course their proverbial farm is attacked as it was on a date I can’t recall –it was something like August 11 or September 12- by people who hate them for growing proverbially tasty food. Then they strike with anger, rage and proverbial blankets without any attempt to take over or control the proverbial farms of others before retreating back to their made up little world.
I believe some of what I wrote in the previous paragraph.
Tuesday, August 26, 2003
I've got my grubby little mitts on The Simpsons third season DVD set but I've been unable, so far, to the same season dvd set for Mr. Show. I even went into Wal-Mart looking for it. They didn't have it but they did have a section of DVDs marked as "Westerns." Of course John Ford's 1952 film The Quiet Man was in that section.
I hear you Morgan Brown.
Monday, August 25, 2003
Bomb away Norway
By Max Standard
Yesterday, in the same galaxy that many of my readers live in, Newsweek reported that it recently survey U.S. citizens and found that 49 percent of them did not want to see U.S. President George W. Bush reelected while only 44 percent did.
Since there are only two possible narratives that could prove to be an accurate summary of what is happening, it is clear that Team Bush will soon regroup and charge ahead to greater success.
The easiest way to do this would be to take over another country, but which should it be? Tackling another country in the Middle East without the ability to fight back would look desperate, North Korea might be able to shoot back and the Bush Administration doesn't care enough about Africa to intervene in those countries with any passion. No the right countries are not the ones we hear so much about but rather Norway.
The Norwegians are ripe for the picking because like most of Uncle Sam's big enemies of late they don't have much of a military compared to the U.S. of A. -and their pantywaisted excuse for troops can't even take a good dressing down- and yet they seem to be a touch on the interventionist side, a fact that no doubt means they are just waiting to challenge the U.S. and kill all sorts of Americans.
The time to strike to now! Stick some of Saddam's former henchman on the Norwegians immediately!
Max Standard is an important intellectual who always tells the pro-American truth. His essay "Anti-American Lies" appeared in the March 24 edition of this blog.
There is nothing quite like watching the final game of The Little League World Series with a guy who passionately wants the team from the United States to beat the team from Japan on that gentleman’s big screen television that just happens to be made by Toshiba.
Sunday, August 24, 2003
The difficultly in evaluating "serious" humorists
Less than two weeks ago Fox News sued Al Franken for using their trademarked term “fair and balanced” in the title of his then soon to be published book Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right.
Last Monday, in a New York Daily News column, Fox News Channel personality Bill O'Reilly defended the suit saying that Franken was not a satirist because he is a "political activist" and "[a]ttempting to smear and destroy the reputations of those with whom you politically disagree is not satire."
Although O'Reilly doesn't explicitly make the point, he does hint at how Franken is part of a group of humorists and political commentators -a group that includes Ann Coulter, Bill Maher, Michael Moore and Ted Rall- who blur the line between those two vocations and in the process make it difficult to evaluate what they say.
It is worth stressing that comedians have long commented on politics just as political commentators have long used humor, but the line has usually been clear as evidenced by how comedians like Dick Gregory and more recently Janeane Garofalo have changed their tone when they have wanted to be taken seriously as a political commentator. Comedians and humorists are generally given greater latitude with facts and information that "serious" commentators because they are engaging in an artistic endeavor and to do otherwise is to miss the point. A good example of this is David Cross' 2002 two-disc comedy set Shut Up, You Fucking Baby (Sub Pop). Cross isn't always "fair" to the members of the Bush Administration as he ridicules them but it hardly matters since the point is the presentation of an attitude that is anti-Bush. In contrast, if a political columnist, or U.S. President George W. Bush himself, were to take such liberties with the facts, they should be criticized because what they should be conveying is a literal message.
Franken's Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right, however, blurs this line with a mix of "serious" political commentary and satire. Mostly a clear dichotomy exists that the average reader would pick up but the book, when viewed as a whole, does not fall solely into either category and thus it becomes difficult to evaluate the work in a literal fashion and yet to fail to do that at all is to let Franken off too easily. Ultimately criticism that works on a dual level is needed to effectively review the book as well as most of the work from humorist/political commentator hybrids. (Which isn't to say that the book deserves to be reviewed. My reading of it in the comfy confines of a bookstore in Grand Rapids, Michigan lead me to believe that the book was neither particularly funny nor a particularly damning indictment of the those that Franken takes on.)
Saturday, August 23, 2003
From the file of "Things that should surprise nobody"
In a story from yesterday's edition of The Financial Times, Peter Spiegel writes:
The US commander in charge of all forces in Iraq said on Thursday American troops might not be brought home once international peacekeepers are deployed to the war-torn country, a reversal that means 150,000 US soldiers may stay in Iraq indefinitely.
Friday, August 22, 2003
Thursday, August 21, 2003
Rick Rubin is reportedly currently working on a box set of unreleased recordings from Johnny Cash's unreleased, but sometimes bootlegged, "American Recordings." Wes Orshoski of Billboard has an article on it that includes this glaring error:
Cash's work with Rubin essentially reignited his career in the early '90s (especially in the U.S.), thanks to the producer's stripped-back, simple approach to the material. Many of their early recordings featured only Cash's voice against his acoustic guitar work on such covers as Soundgarden's "Rusty Cage" and Beck's "Rowboat."Actually both of those recordings featured Cash playing with a band. The piece does have this nugget however:
Among the songs slated for inclusion is a duet with late Clash frontman Joe Strummer on Bob Marley's "Redemption Song," which will most likely also feature guitar work by Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave)While I would have preferred better material -I liked Marley off and on for about four years but in the summer of 1998 grew tired of his music and haven't dug it since- but I will take what I can get.
Wednesday, August 20, 2003
Still better than Afghanistan
The fatwa department of Afghanistan's supreme court has recommended that two journalists from a weekly newspaper that published articles some people consider blasphemous be put to death.This isn't happening in a country like Israel, which the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel has recently said is now regularly torturing Palestinians, that merely gets aid from the United States, but rather a country that is run by the U.S. military more than any other government.
The Bush Administration probably won't go that far inside of the U.S. but not for any reason of principle.
"The Greatest Figures Of The 20th Century"
Last week John Hawkins asked a select group of liberal and lefty bloggers to select the "The Greatest Figures Of The 20th Century" by listing up to, in their opinion, the 20 greatest figures. They were not to be ranked by those who responded as the tally was only to be of the number of bloggers who listed an individual as one of the 20 greatest. 23 bloggers responded and the results are in with the number after the name reflecting the vote tally:
18) Lech Walesa (3)I could critique this list but the truth is that I couldn't up with a serious list of my own. There are just too many people who played a very positive role in the 20th century for me to come up with a list of 20, a conclusion reinforced today when, via Petrified Truth, I read about the late anti-Nazi fighter Jannie Brandes-Brilleslijper. I tried limiting my list to the arts, politics or science and couldn't do it. In the end I turned in this list:
Carl BarksThese were the first 20 people that came to my mind when I decided to list people whose work had made me laugh through their intentional work in 20th century. After turning in the list, I realized that Rees actually hadn't done that through 20th century work.
Tuesday, August 19, 2003
Speaking of humor, I accept that U.S. President George W. Bush's statements are going to be full of less than perfect logic but this bit from his commentary on today's bombing of the United Nations' headquarters in Baghdad is hilarious:
Every sign of progress in Iraq adds to the desperation of the terrorists and the remnants of Saddam's brutal regime. The civilized world will not be intimidated, and these killers will not determine the future of Iraq. The Iraqi people have been liberated from a dictator. Iraq is on a irreversible course toward self-government and peace. And America and our friends and the United Nations will stand with the Iraqi people as they reclaim their nation and their future.Anyone who is responsible for these words should be embarrassed, unless of course this is all one big joke. In that case, it would just be odd.
Monday, August 18, 2003
Via Greg Beato, I've come across The Right Stuff, a site promoting shows in southern California by conservative comedians that are said to produce "Comedy for Real Americans." They have a press release that says:
Look out, Bill Maher! Step aside, Janeane Garofalo! Run for cover, Michael Moore!While I think it is long past time to consider "talk radio and cable news programs" to be "mainstream" because of their popularity and influence, it is worth noting that lefty comics feel their voices are left out of the mainstream of comedy. The Guardian piece on comic Dwight Slade that I noted on Saturday includes the following grafs:
Slade is aware that in Edinburgh he will play to audiences who, attracted by [Bill] Hicks's criticisms of the US, know his work more intimately than their American counterparts. Hicks was shunned by the US mainstream, and censored, famously, by The David Letterman Show.Janeane Garofalo made a similar point in an interview with Elizabeth DiNovella that appeared in the May issue of The Progressive
Q: What's your opinion of political comedy these days?Both propositions could be true either because the mainstream of comedy doesn't particularly like comedians who are overtly coming from the left or the right and/or because expressing rightist views is a hindrance in some situations while expressing leftist views has the same effect in others. (There may indeed be restrictions on the topics that the comedians of The Right Stuff can pursue when they are on t.v. but those restrictions are certainly faced by lefty comics as well.)
The closet joke in The Right Stuff press release is humorous not because it is funny on the level the authors intended it to be but because in many ways their statement that "it wouldn't matter if they were" gay firmly places them in what I suppose could be called the socially liberal category, a placement that may be the only "political" prerequisite for making it in mainstream comedy as Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn makes clear four nights a week. (Anti-gay humor is nothing exceptional but it can't be done from a perspective of morality if a comic is to be mainstream.) If anything I would say there is more liberal comedy on the major television shows than rightist humor, but certainly more rightist material than leftist material and significantly more pro-"war on terror" humor than anti-"war on terror" humor.
None of this is to say that The Right Stuff is a bad idea. I certainly don't want censorship and if people who support the "war on terror" and other conservative ideas find that their need for humor isn't satiated by U.S. Information Minister George W. Bush, I won't prevent them from entering a comedy club in a part of the U.S. I don't live in.
Sunday, August 17, 2003
United States Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage was in a positivist mood Wednesday while speaking in Sydney, Australia:
Now, I don’t want to leave this podium without addressing something that has aroused a great deal of concern here and in my country, and that is the fact that we have not yet found enough evidence of Saddam Hussein’s programs to develop weapons of mass destruction. We will. I have absolute confidence about that. Indeed, the fact that it has taken us this long to find the evidence is a chilling reminder that these programs are far too easy to move, and, I believe, far too easy to hide. Consider, for example, that UNSCOM was only able to confirm the existence of a biological warfare program that Saddam Hussein claimed not to have after years of inspections because a high level defector walked in and gave them the evidence.Seemingly the failure to find weapons of mass destruction or programs related to such weapons would cause people like Armitage to at least temper their comments, as even U.S. President George W. Bush has done, but here Armitage talks about the programs and/or WMDs that are alleged to exist as something they know is there because they know it does. The "logic" is completely is self-reflexive but would be admirable if it was not coming on a matter where it may be possible in the not too distant future to determine if he is right or wrong
That the U.S. will stay in Iraq till the evidence that Armitage knows in deep down in his heart is there is a different and very odd thing for Armitage to say. Hope that the U.S. will find the WMDs or evidence of the programs for such weapons will probably be long extinguished before the U.S. has completed building the state it wants in Iraq and/or been kicked out by resistance to the occupation.
I don't know if the claims about former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction will be exposed another extremely weak claim or not, but it is interesting that Armitage finds it "chilling" that these programs have not been found, without noting that if the programs do exist, the failure to find them could mean that they are in the hands of individuals who might want to use WMDs against the U.S. on some level. This is an example of a trend -first noted on March 25- where high-ranking U.S. officials talk about WMD as if they have not value beyond political points.
In the same speech, Armitage also had this to say:
One other thing is very clear about Iraq, however, and that is that the world cannot afford to keep coming back to this point. For 12 years the international community could find no answer to a number of difficult challenges. How do we deal with a sovereign state which is led by a criminal, one who has little regard for his people, let alone for international law and international order? And in particular, most particularly, how do we deal with the determination of such a regime to acquire weapons of mass destruction? For us, just as for Australia, war is never going to be the preferred answer. But in the absence of any other solution, it will always have to be a consideration.Why was Saddam's rule in Iraq such a pressing matter? He hadn't attacked anyone outside of the country in over a decade. One could argue that his abuses of human rights were the reason but the U.S. doesn't seem particularly interested in similar situations in other countries so that can not be Armitage's reasoning. Rather, it appears that the myth that Saddam was a threat to the U.S. has become so ingrained that it can be presented as a fact.
Saturday, August 16, 2003
Brian Logan has a piece in Thursday's Guardian on Dwight Slade. Much of it focuses on the late Bill Hicks, who was a childhood friend and comedy partner of Slade. Particularly interesting:
Slade isn't surprised that his adolescent performances with Hicks have become the stuff of comedy legend. "When Bill got on stage," he says, "it was as if nothing had ever been on that stage before. People were absolutely sucked into him, and the rest of the show was forgotten." So what was Hicks's secret? "He knew that there was absolutely no point in pandering to the audience. And that, if you're going to be a creative artist, what people really wanted to see was you. They wanted to see your truth - whatever that truth happened to be."A performance by Hicks at his peak was a grand emotional ride that takes a lot out of you but gives back much more in rewards.
dwightslade.com is tribute site to Slade.
Friday, August 15, 2003
This morning I was watching the footage from last night of New Yorkers scrambling trying to find a way to get home, or wherever else they were going, and I couldn't help but think, "What's the rush?"
Thursday, August 14, 2003
The Federal Bureau of Investigation announced yesterday that charges have been filed against several individuals alleging they attempted to purchase missiles for the explicit purpose of terrorist attacks.
Brian Ross of ABC News reports in a story from yesterday that some law enforcement officials who wish to remain anonymous have told ABC News that the evidence is not as strong as prosecutors say.
I'm sure the evidence is very strong just as I am sure it is an oversight that these individuals, like Uzair Paracha, are being tried in criminal courts and not detained as "enemy combatants." Surely federal prosecutors got the memo about the war.
I have power.
Hopefully things won't turn out too badly as much of the country sees the late arriving Y2k predictions.
"France’s worst heat wave on record has killed an estimated 3,000 people across the nation, the Health Ministry said Thursday, as the government faced accusations that it failed to respond to a major health crisis," the Associated Press writes today.
Wednesday, August 13, 2003
Those who think the military would be reluctant to use "war" as a metaphor for non-combat actions would be wrong, but no more wrong than someone who believes members of U.S. President George W. Bush's inner circle, such as Karl Rove, would avoid using using "ground zero" when talking about political contests.
Gerry J. Gilmore August 12 American Forces Press Service article "Chief Prosecutor Seeks 'Strong Evidence' Against Accused Terrorists" is one of the funniest things I have ever read.
In a piece from Monday's Christian Science Monitor, "Logic behind W. Africa's 'senseless' violence?", Brendan O'Neill attempts to find some "rational" reasons for the conflicts of West Africa. This is a valuable service, but it is notable that O'Neill doesn't make the point that what we are presently seeing in that part of the world has gone on in every other part of the human world at some point in time and that even the "civilized" world occasionally appears guilty in the present tense of similar actions, at least in kind. (Such a comparison is problematic because it can be used as an excuse to ignore the specifics of the conflict and say they are just the "same" so the comparison only should be used in terms of the level of barbarism.)
Tuesday, August 12, 2003
"The 20 Worst Figures In American History"
Right Wing News proprietor John Hawkins asked a number a lefty and liberal bloggers last week to send in their list of " The 20 Worst Figures In American History" to go along with the results of a similar survey he did of right of center bloggers. Those surveyed could list up to 20 people and did not have the option of ranking them for the purposes of the survey. 36 bloggers, including micah holmquist, responded and the results are in with the number after the name reflecting the vote tally:
Honorable Mentions: Boss Tweed (5), Roger Taney (5), James Earl Ray (5), Charles Manson (5), Rush Limbaugh (5), Jerry Falwell (5), Roy Cohn (5), Dick Cheney (5), John C. Calhoun (5)Amongst those surveyed, Scoobie Davis, Lisa English, Jane Finch, Pandagon, Michael J. Totten and Kevin Wagner have published their lists.
Here is my own list:
George H.W. BushThe majority of those on my list had their impact in the last century, which may reflect my greater interest in that period of history as well as how no individuals can be blamed primarily for genocide against Native Americans and slavery.
Many on my list did some very good things and I don't want to make it seem like I discount that as this was the one issue I struggled with while coming up with my list. Ultimately I decided that trying to weigh the bad and the good is an intellectual method that bears little relation to the real world. LBJ's foreign policy was despicable. LBJ did a lot of good in terms of civil rights, even if his motivations were anything but pure. One doesn't discount the other as both are, IMHO, true. A full understanding of LBJ would include both of these facts. With this in mind, I decided to comply my list based on the 20 "Americans" who I believe did the most harm to the world, with special attention given to avoiding listing people for symbolic reasons.
Eight of my selections ended up on the larger list, FWIW.
Monday, August 11, 2003
The election of George W. Bush in 2000 caused some in the porn industry to fear a federal crackdown after years of the Clinton years where obscenity trials were relatively rare. It took over two and a half years but such fears are finally becoming reality.
On Thursday federal prosecutors charged Extreme Associates owners Robert Zicari and Janet Romano with distributing materials to western Pennsylvania that are obscene by the standards of western Pennsylvania, Jesus Sanchez of The Los Angeles Times reports in a story from the same day:
"Today's indictment marks an important step in the Department of Justice's strategy for attacking the proliferation of adult obscenity," U.S. Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft said in a statement. "The Justice Department will continue to focus our efforts on targeted obscenity prosecutions that will deter others from producing and distributing obscene material."Zicari has vowed to fight the charges and has begun to sell the materials in question as "The Federal FIVE" for $110 "with all proceeds going directly to the Extreme Associates Legal Defense Fund!"
It will be interesting to see the prosecution's arguments in this post-sodomy law period. Prosecutors will be hard pressed to argue that materials depicting explicit sex acts are obscene and they will also strain credibility by suggesting that rape can not be depicted so long as Day of the Woman (Meir Zarchi, 1978) is available on dvd. But they could present an argument that depicting explicit sex acts that come about, in the context of the production's story, as a result of rape does amount to obscenity. I don't really buy it but it is the best I could come up to justify this prosecution.
That said, the argument, as expressed by Glenn Reynolds, that the Justice Department shouldn't be doing this because the "war on terror" is still going on doesn't hold up, unless you believe federal prosecutors should only be pursuing cases related to the "war on terror."
Sunday, August 10, 2003
Charles J. Hanley of the Associated Press has written a generally good article about how there is reason to believe the Bush Administration made statements about Iraq that were more ominous than accurate. Although Hanley doesn't cover the fact that the Bush Administration never gave any evidence that suggested that Iraq was a threat to the U.S., it is still nice that the piece is being printed in numerous newspapers.
"Engineering experts from the Defense Intelligence Agency have come to believe that the most likely use for two mysterious trailers found in Iraq was to produce hydrogen for weather balloons rather than to make biological weapons, government officials say," Douglas Jehl writes in an August 8 New York Times story. "The classified findings by a majority of the engineering experts differ from the view put forward in a white paper made public on May 28 by the C.I.A. and the Defense Intelligence Agency, which said that the trailers were for making biological weapons."
"A senior al Qaida terrorist, now detained, who had been responsible for al Qaida training camps in Afghanistan, reports that al Qaida was intent on obtaining WMD assistance from Iraq. According to a credible, high-level al Qaida source, Usama Bin Laden and deceased al Qaida leader Muhammad Atif did not believe that al Qaida labs in Afghanistan were capable of manufacturing chemical and biological weapons, so they turned to Iraq for assistance. Iraq agreed to provide chemical and biological weapons training for two al Qaida associates starting in December 2000," The White House writes in a report issued yesterday. The report does not clarify whether such training occurred or whether the "senior al Qaida terrorist" is considered reliable.
The Voice Unheard has critiqued this and other statements in the report.
"American jets killed Iraqi troops with firebombs – similar to the controversial napalm used in the Vietnam War – in March and April as Marines battled toward Baghdad," James W. Crawley writes in an August 5 San Diego Union-Tribune story. "Marine Corps fighter pilots and commanders who have returned from the war zone have confirmed dropping dozens of incendiary bombs near bridges over the Saddam Canal and the Tigris River. The explosions created massive fireballs... During the war, Pentagon spokesmen disputed reports that napalm was being used, saying the Pentagon's stockpile had been destroyed two years ago. Apparently the spokesmen were drawing a distinction between the terms 'firebomb' and 'napalm.' If reporters had asked about firebombs, officials said yesterday they would have confirmed their use."
Justin Huggler reports in today's Independent on the recent shootings and deaths of the abd al-Kerim family in Iraq at the hands of the U.S. military.
"Iraqis enraged by fuel shortages rioted in Basra Sunday, forcing British troops to fire warning shots for a second day in an effort to quell some of the worst unrest seen since the fall of Saddam Hussein," Joseph Logan of Reuters writes today. "At least one Iraqi involved in protests was killed and two others were wounded, but it was not clear who had fired the shots which struck them, reporters in the city said. Hundreds of young men barricaded roads in the second city with blazing tires and hurled chunks of concrete at passing cars. British tanks patrolled the streets and armored vehicles guarded petrol stations where increasingly frustrated drivers queued for hours in 120-degree heat."
The final episode of Futurama airs tonight.
Saturday, August 09, 2003
I treasure one of these items and don't have the level of irony necessary to purchase the other.
Thanks to Tom Tomorrow for the link.
Too late for that
Robert Novak writes:
Former international weapons inspector David Kay, now seeking Iraqi weapons of mass destruction for the Pentagon, has privately reported successes that are planned to be revealed to the public in mid-September.It seems a bit late for this approach but Novak's report does fit some of what Bryan Bender of The Boston Globe reported yesterday:
A top Bush administration weapons investigator told Congress in closed testimony last week that he has uncovered solid information from interviews, documents, and physical evidence that Iraqi military forces were ordered to attack US troops with chemical weapons, but did not have the time or capability to follow through, according to senior defense and intelligence officials.But then Bender also writes:
Kay's report acknowledged that his team of 1,400 investigators had not yet found any such weapons, raising the possibility that Hussein either hid them, destroyed them, or was simply bluffing in his orders to the Republican Guard.We shall hopefully see.
Friday, August 08, 2003
Glad we got that out of the way
"I will never arm wrestle Arnold Schwarzenegger," U.S. President George W. Bush said today. "No matter how hard I try, I'll never lift as much weight as he does."
Also today, Bush responded to a question about whether he expects the U.S. to be involved in Iraq for at least two more years with the following:
You know, the American people should suspect that this administration will do what is necessary to win the war on terror. That's my pledge to the American people. They have got to understand that I will not forget the lessons of September the 11th. And those lessons are loud and clear: that there are people who want to inflict harm on the American people. We lost 3,000-plus on that fateful day. And, you know, I made the pledge to the American people and the families and those who grieved that we will hunt down the terrorists wherever they are and bring them to justice. And that's what we're going to do.I suspect this type of thing will cease to be funny sooner or later.
Thursday, August 07, 2003
For an example of journalism of one of the worst kinds, check out Jason Leopold's "Wolfowitz: Iraq Not Involved in 9-11, No Ties to al-Qaeda," which has appeared today on antiwar.com, CounterPunch and liberalslant.com
About the best that can be said about this article is that the title makes explicitly states Leopold's two main points, so at least his writing is clear. However, Leopold is wrong on both.
"Iraq Not Involved in 9-11"
To back up the claim that Wolfowitz effectively said this, Leopold quotes part of an interview that the deputy secretary of defense gave last Friday. Leopold writes:
In an interview with conservative radio personality Laura Ingraham, Wolfowitz was asked when he first came to believe that Iraq was behind the 9-11 terrorist attacks.Actually, according to the Department of Defense transcript of the interview, the interview was done by Nancy Collins and aired on The Laura Ingraham Show, although give Leopold credit for getting the date right and later linking to the transcript.
"I'm not sure even now that I would say Iraq had something to do with it," Wolfowitz said in the interview, aired Friday...Leopold's quotations match the transcript -where he probably got the quotes- but hear the full discussion on this topic for some more background:
Q: Now did you think right away that Iraq could have been involved in this?Nowhere does Wolfowitz say "Iraq not involved in 9-11." He does say the he isn't "sure" that such involvement happened but that is big difference from saying there was no involvement.
"No Ties to al-Qaeda"
At no point the interview, at least according to the transcript or any of the sections that Leopold quotes, did Wolfowitz say that Saddam Hussein's now deposed regime had no connection to al Qaeda. He doesn't say Saddam and those around him did or do have such ties, but he doesn't say that they didn't and Leopold's summation is a huge leap of logic, especially given what members of the Bush Administration have said. For instance, in a January 26 speech, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said, Saddam is a "dictator with clear ties to terrorist groups, including al-Qaida" but does not say that Saddam and his regime were involved in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Leopold also uses part of an interview that Wolfowitz gave Vanity Fair to bolster his story, even though the transcript of the interview shows that quote Leopold uses has been greatly taken out of context.
Leopold is no stranger to controversy. Last October salon.com retracted a story he wrote for them when Leopold was unable to substantiate a charge he made and editors also concluded that parts of the story had been plagiarized.
Although I am weeping for a society such that allows these two events to happen simultaneously, my tears are nothing that Warren Beatty running to be the next governor or California couldn't stop. Beatty has an interest in politics and played some football, but most importantly he has been involved in great movies like Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn, 1967), McCabe & Mrs. Miller (Robert Altman, 1971) and Bulworth (Beatty, 1998). The very best of Beatty's films were important works, while Schwarzenegger's presence in a feature is a pretty sure guarantee that it won't be good.
Now I know what you are saying. Beatty did give money to Al Gore's campaign three years ago in addition to donating to Ralph Nader's run, but celeb candidates are unlikely to be perfect. Yes President Beatty sounds better than Governor Beatty but John Cusack has the prez racket next year. Finally, while it would be fun to see Tim Robbins and/or Susan Sarandon campaign, those two really should focus on making positive films now that Robbins' 1992 masterpiece Bob Roberts appears to have become a reality.
Wait a second... maybe Robbins should get out of the movie business.
Wednesday, August 06, 2003
Tuesday, August 05, 2003
"Just two days ago, we left Washington for the Western White House," White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said yesterday.
Apparently "Western Whitehouse" is a term used to describe U.S. President George W. Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas and has been in use since at least last year.
I know this is a minor issue but I can't help but imagine what the conversation that lead to this designation must have been like. I envision one-time White House Press Secretary Ari Fleishcher in a state of pure excitement like a kid that's found a new comic book, or perhaps I should say video game, as he says, "Hey George let's give your ranch a cool name. Something like... well it's in the west so how 'bout the "Western White House"?
"Let me think about that," Bush replies while thinking this was such a great idea he wishes he had thought about it.
Seriously, this reminds me of when Michigan State radio announcer Will Tieman declared The Palace of Auburn Hills to be "Breslin Center East" during the 2000 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. It was cute in that context but there is something in me that finds it both funny and sad that the Bush Administration treats presidential operations as if it were a game.
The deaths of increasing numbers of civilians in Iraq may leader to greater hostility to U.S. forces, Vivienne Walt reports in a San Francisco Chronicle story from yesterday.
I don't care for this type of humor, or do I?
Monday, August 04, 2003
"A close aide to Saddam Hussein says the Iraqi dictator did in fact get rid of his weapons of mass destruction but deliberately kept the world guessing about it in an effort to divide the international community and stave off a U.S. invasion," the Associated Press writes in an August 1 story. "The strategy, which turned out to be a serious miscalculation, was designed to make the Iraqi dictator look strong in the eyes of the Arab world, while countries such as France and Russia were wary of joining an American-led attack. At the same time, Saddam retained the technical know-how and brain power to restart the programs at any time...The official refused to be identified, citing fear of assassination by Saddam's paramilitaries who, he said, remain active throughout Iraq. But in several interviews, the former aide detailed what he said were the reasons behind Saddam's disinformation campaign which ultimately backfired by spurring, rather than deterring a U.S. invasion. According to the aide, by the mid-1990s 'it was common knowledge among the leadership" that Iraq had destroyed its chemical stocks and discontinued development of biological and nuclear weapons. But Saddam remained convinced that an ambiguous stance about the status of Iraq's weapons programs would deter an American.'"
"As the hunt for Saddam Hussein intensifies, some U.S. officials are suggesting that the focus on the former leader of Iraq has come at the cost of eliminating the eccentric Saudi millionaire behind the 9/11 attacks," Michael Duffy and Massimo Calabresi write in a Time story from today.
In a New York Times review of a recent John Mellencamp concert, Jon Parles writes:
He also had some political points to make. Mr. Mellencamp's new song "To Washington," with an Appalachian melody by way of the Carter Family and Woody Guthrie, showed misgivings about the current Bush administration and war in Iraq. And when Mr. Mellencamp sang Bob Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited," with its verse about a roving gambler trying to create a next world war, he made it a "Texas gambler" and altered the last lines: "Just give Donald Rumsfeld about a million guns, and have it out on Highway 61."***
Sunday, August 03, 2003
"Faced with a rising death toll among its soldiers in Iraq, the United States is trying to "buy" foreign troops for a proposed 30,000-strong multinational force in Baghdad," Thalif Deen writes in an August 1 Inter Press Service story. "The inducements - including weapons and increased military aid - have apparently been offered to at least three countries whose troops Washington desperately needs to bolster the fledgling multinational force in Iraq and relieve the pressure on US forces in the war-ravaged country. The administration of President George W Bush has intensified efforts to seek troops from India, Pakistan and Turkey in order to bolster a multinational force that now includes troops mostly from former Soviet republics and Latin American nations."
"Aggressive measures were taken yesterday by Coalition forces in efforts to create a safe and secure environment in Iraq," United States Central Command writes in an July 30 news release. "In the last 24 hours, coalition forces conducted 51 raids, 953 day patrols and 737 night patrols and conducted 142 day patrols and 145 night patrols jointly with Iraqi police. Iraqi Police conducted 16 day patrols and nine night patrols. The total raids and patrols resulted in 559 arrests including two for murder, four for robbery, five for aggravated assault, 39 for theft two for controlled substance violation, 235 for weapons violations and 272 for various other crimes."
Saturday, August 02, 2003
I’m not a big fan of Bill Maher as either a comedian or a social commentator but his “Bush’s Responsibility” entry is pretty funny.
Friday, August 01, 2003
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