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Saturday, November 29, 2003

Join the Shameless Antagonist's Presidential Prayer Team!

After September 11th, an organization called the "Presdiential Prayer Team" was founded by conservative Christians to pray for President Bush. According to President and CEO John Lind, more than 183,000 people have registered online to pray for more than 80,000 troops, who in turn have either registered themselves or been registered by others.

Of Bush, Lind said: "We have to believe God has directed him to make that decision (to go to war). The issue for us isn't whether or not we go to war. The issue is whether or not we pray for our president."

It wasn't enough to wrap George in the flag...we had to press him between the pages of holy scripture as well...

As for me, I don't think Jesus supports this war, or any war for that matter. If you agree, please join the "Shameless Antagonist's Presidential Prayer Team". I'd like to offer up my own presidential prayer...feel free to bow your head reverently, if you wish. Afterwards, please consider the story "War Prayer" by Mark Twain, and feel free to comment or offer up a prayer of your own on my comments page.

"Oh Lord, 'make us instruments of your peace;
Where there is hatred let us sow love',
Help us renounce the violence in our hearts,
help us bend swords into plowshares.
Help our leaders make better decisions
that bring about a better world.


The War Prayer

by Mark Twain

It was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and sputtering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spreads of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory which stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country and invoked the God of Battles, beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpouring of fervid eloquence which moved every listener.

It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety's sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.

Sunday morning came-next day the battalions would leave for the front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their faces alight with material dreams-visions of a stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender!-then home from the war, bronzed heros, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag or, failing, die the noblest of noble deaths. The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation -- "God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest, Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword!"

Then came the "long" prayer. None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language. The burden of its supplication was that an ever--merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them to crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory -

An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness. With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher's side and stood there, waiting.

With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal,"Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!"

The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside -- which the startled minister did -- and took his place. During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said

"I come from the Throne-bearing a message from Almighty God!" The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention. "He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd and grant it if such shall be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import-that is to say, its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of-except he pause and think.

"God's servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of His Who hearth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this-keep it in mind. If you beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor's crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.

"You have heard your servant's prayer-the uttered part of it. I am commissioned by God to put into words the other part of it-that part which the pastor, and also you in your hearts, fervently prayed silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory-must follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle-be Thou near them! With them, in spirit, we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it-for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

(After a pause)

"Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits."

It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Have A Wonderful Thanksgiving, Everyone!

The Shameless Antagonist wholeheartedly recommends the website of U.W. Lacrosse's Professor Tom Volk--probably the world's coolest Mycologist...If the football game is a blowout, read his seasonal special page:
"Fungal diseases that must be overcome to have a traditional Thanksgiving Dinner". See the link to his page on the right.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Brain Teaser of the Week: The Shameless Antagonist's Real-Life Story Problems From Hell

Human Rights groups have been attempting to assess the number of Iraqi civilians killed during the War and Occupation. Iraq body count ( estimates that between 7,918 and 9,749 civilians have died in the conflict. They have compiled a list of casualties by painstakingly searching a broad spectrum of print media...An article in today's Guardian seems to indicate that the actual total could be much higher.

"In one area of south-western Baghdad, controlled by the 82nd Airborne Division, an officer said a total of $106,000 had been paid out to 176 claimants since July.

The US military has paid out $1.5m (£907,000) to Iraqi civilians in response to a wave of negligence and wrongful death claims filed against American soldiers, the Guardian has learned.

...Yesterday the US military in Baghdad admitted a total of $1,540,050 has been paid out up to November 12 for personal injury, death or damage to property. A total of 10,402 claims had been filed, the military said in a brief statement to the Guardian. There were no figures given for how many claims had been accepted".

The Pentagon policy, and the Policy of the Bush Administration has been to hide the human cost of war as much as possible. As General Tommy Franks said, "We don't do body counts".

Calling all math teachers (This means you, Dad...)...Here are my story problems from hell:

Part One: If the 82nd Airborne has paid out $106,000 in compensation for wrongful deaths to 176 claimants, how much is an Iraqi life worth to Coalition forces?"

Part Two: If the U.S. Central Command has admitted to paying out $1,540,050, and a total of 10,402 claims have been filed, have many families of civilians have collected damages ( assume that the answer to part one is the standard amount per claim)?

Answer Key: Answers may vary. If your students respond with an actual matematical figure, you must be a good teacher. Congratulations. If your students respond by saying, " The actual number doesn't matter--we've already lost too many soldiers and innocent lives to this conflict", they're obviously liberals, and you should notify the Department of Homeland Security. If they respond by saying " I don't want to bother my beautiful mind", you're probably teaching a young scion at Andover with Bush blood in his/her veins (see the previous comment).
The Mother of All Compassionate Conservatives

Here's what First Mother Barbara Bush had to say about her concern for the safety of our troops before the war..

''Why should we hear about body bags and deaths and how many, what day it's gonna happen?'' Mrs. Bush declared. ''It's not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?''

....I guess the fruit doesn't fall very far from the tree...


Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Welcome to the Jobless Recovery...

The news today was good for the president, but is it good for you? Are you better off than you were three years ago? A few years back, Jim Hightower, the former Texas agriculture commissioner, concluded that the Dow Jones average was a useless gauge for how real Americans were getting along. For those of us who live from paycheck to paycheck, he suggested the Doug Jones average, which takes into account the effect Republican policies have on pensions, health care premiums, the rising cost of education, etc...From where I'm standing, Doug doesn't seem to be doing all that well...How about you?

"In 2001, when the unemployment rate climbed to 4.8% from 4.0% in 2000, real household income fell by 3% for the poorest households and 2% for middle-income households, while poverty increased by 0.4 percentage points. Although income and poverty data for 2002 are not yet available, given that unemployment was another point higher in 2002 (5.8%), the incomes of low- and middle-income households very likely fell even more last year".

Source: Economic Policy Institute summary of U.S. census statistics.


Monday, November 24, 2003

Remember When...

"VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I don't think it's likely to unfold that way, Tim, because I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators. I've talked with a lot of Iraqis in the last several months myself, had them to the White House. The president and I have met with them, various groups and individuals, people who have devoted their lives from the outside to trying to change things inside Iraq...The read we get on the people of Iraq is there is no question but what they want to the get rid of Saddam Hussein and they will welcome as liberators the United States when we come to do that"

Clueless Dick Cheney speaking with Tim Russert on Meet The Press March 16th, 2003



We're perfectly willing to send our troops off to fight in unnecessary wars, but we won't take care of them afterwards when they come back broken mentally and physically.

A House Budget Committee proposal on March 12 to cut domestic spending by one percent to include spending for sick and disabled veterans was called “unjust and unconscionable” by the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S.

VFW Commander in Chief Ray Sisk, of Bakersfield, Calif., said: “it is unconscionable as we stand on the brink of war in the deserts of Iraq that we send a message to our service men and women that our nation will not be there for them in their time of need.



The Liberal Tradition:

The late, great liberal senator from Minnesota, Paul Wellstone received "...the 1995 Legislator of the Year Award from the Vietnam Veterans of America; the 1995 Patriot Award from the Paralyzed Veterans of America; the Congressional Leadership Award from the Forgotten 216th; the 1997 Distinguished Citizen Award from the Minnesota Veterans of Foreign Wars; the 2002 Distinguished Science Award from the Disabled American Veterans; the 2002 Legislative Leadership Award from the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans; and the Vanguard Award for Legislative Achievement by the Non-Commissioned Officers Association."
- Website of Senator Bob Graham June 16th,2002
Bring Back the Gray Panthers!...

From the Gray Panthers website (

"In August of 1970, Maggie Kuhn convened a group of five friends, all of whom were retiring from national religious and social work organizations. This first "Network" of friends gathered to look at the common problems faced by retirees: loss of income, loss of contact with associates and loss of one of our society's most distinguishing social roles, one's job. They also discovered a new kind of freedom in their retirement; the freedom to speak personally and passionately about what they believed in, such as their collective opposition to the Vietnam War".

These five women quickly became some of the most influential voices of the seventies...We need that spirit again...Now is the time! We have a similar war and the same old problems for seniors. On top of that, we have a Prescription Drug Benefit Bill that Ted Kennedy brilliantly described as a "...turkey with two right wings".

If you're a senior, and you're fed up, I would recommend the G.P. site as well as Frank Kaiser's "Suddenly Senior" website...Look at the post, and realize you're not alone in your frustration...The url is:

Seniors, you've been gouged by powerful interests for far too long, and now you're faced with sham legislation that will make matters worse. Grover Nordquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform once famously remarked that his goal was to "shrink government down to the size where it can be drowned in a bathtub". Neocons like Bush and Cheney have a philosophical aversion to all entitlement programs...Do you really feel that these are the people who are going to bring about sensible Medicare reform?
If so, you're seriously deluded.

The Minnesota Senior Federation has refused to support the legislation. The Minneapolis StarTribune quotes president Peter Wyckoff:

"Our members are mainly concerned that this bill does nothing to control drug costs, and it does nothing to address the wide disparity between the low reimbursement that Medicare pays to care for people in Minnesota and the much richer benefit other parts of the country receive," he said. "In fact, it really will make the disparities worse, and be a real benefit to the drug companies that already are making exorbitant profits."

To be fair, what other bill is being offered? Where is Mark Dayton's counter to the Republican plan? Where is Ted Kennedy's plan? Where is Tom Daschle's plan? I can come to no other conclusion than that our Democratic representatives have dropped the ball.

Last Friday, I was making dinner and cut my finger down to the bone while trying to gut a squid (those slippery devils are cheap over here in Korea). It was about 7pm, and after attempting direct pressure for a while, I faced the facts and walked down to the neighborhood doctor. Two stitches and twenty minutes later, I walked home. The entire procedure including antibiotics cost me less than twenty dollars. The doctor's income was subsidized by the government. I would hate to think how much the same care would cost me in the United States, where we pay more for medical care than any other country in the world.

It's a crying shame that in the richest, most powerful country on earth, my elderly neighbors and relatives in Minnesota have to bus themselves to the Canadian border to buy their prescription drugs.

I suppose to social darwinist neocons, these people are simply "losers" in the capitalist system, but there is a greater measure to a person and what they've contributed to society than the thickness of a wallet.

They Used to Call Them War Profiteers...

Pssst...Want to make some money off the war? A classy company called World Trade Executive, Inc. is advertising on the web in a variety of news outlets. For the bargain price of $1,495, you'll receive 22 issues of their Iraq Reconstruction Report ( A six month subscription is $822.25, but since we'll be in Iraq much longer than that, splurge for the yearly subscription--this is a long-term investment).

"...The Iraq Reconstruction Report will keep you informed of developing business opportunities and provide the business intelligence needed to compete for this business."

Their Iraq Business Report will enable you to suck up to the teats of massive corporate sows like Bechtel, Halliburton, etc.

Well, yes, Mr. and Mrs. America, $1425 is a lot of money to pay up front for business opportunites in Iraq. But trust me, it's worth it. Look at it this way: Many people have already paid an arm and a leg for them...


Saturday, November 22, 2003

The Republican Political Strategy: Undermine Democracy

Voter turnout last midterm election (2002): 40%

We now have a Republican house, senate, juiciary, executive, and media...Coincidence?

Republicans don't think so....

"It's all about look for a message that gets your voters to the polls on election day. But it has to be well thought out, because you don't want to stir up your opponent's voters. You want them to stay home." - Frank Luntz, Republican pollster and Newt Ginrich Apostle


Low voter turnout ALWAYS favors the right! It's part of every Republican campaign strategy in the country to keep voter turnout low (even to the point of disenfrachising black voters in Florida). Why do you think Arnold won his special recall election? Low voter turnout. Does any Republican actually believe he could have won a regular election? Even though the majority of Americans hold liberal views, the Republicans always win elections. The problem with this country is not that we have too many Rush Limbaugh drones, the problem is that the Liberals aren't willing to put up a fight...And where has it gotten us?
The Unofficial Tonight Show Clinton's Cock Joke Pool...
Clinton's been out of office for three years, but the Administration's court jester can't keep his mind off the Clinton's crotch! Jay Leno is The Shameless Antagonist's 2003 Horse Flogger of the Year. Congratulations on your Floggie, Jay! Honorable Mention goes to Dubya "Weapons of Mass Destruction"Bush and Ahnuld "36 Billion Dollar Deficit" Schwartzenegger...

Here's how it works...
This coming week, set up a Clinton Cock Joke Pool with your friends and neighbors. Try to guess how many jokes about Clinton's sex life Jay will make next week. At the end of the week, in true Republican fashion, the winner takes all. My prediction: four Clinton jokes, two Monicas, and three Hillaries.


Thursday, November 20, 2003

Remember When?...

"The good Lord didn't see fit to put oil and gas only where there are democratically elected regimes friendly to the United States. Occasionally we have to operate in places where, all things considered, one would not normally choose to go. But, we go where the business is."

Dick Cheney, 1998 speech to the "Collateral Damage Conference" of the Cato Institute
Doing My Best To Help Dan Savage...

If you don't understand the posting, do a web search for "santorum" or read The Onion--there's a link to the right.

October 30th: The UK Independent reports Bush will visit England.
November 6th: First Mention of alleged sex scandal involving Prince Charles appears in the Washington Post.
November 10th: MSNBC announces that Bush will be staying at Buckingham Palace.

Coincidence? Hardly. There has to be an explanation why transatlantic relations are holding up despite strong British distaste for Bush...

My prediction:
November 23rd: A mole from the Guardian, having infiltrated Buckingham Palace disguised as a maid, will accuse Prince Charles of hanky-panky with George and Laura. The charges will be strenuously denied.

November 24th: During a dramatic press conference attended by all the world's top news agencies, a bedsheet stained with copious amounts of santorum will be produced, thereby proving their elicit affair.
November 25th: Senator Rick Santorum will strongly object to the use of the term "santorum" in this posting.
Can't We All Just Get Along? The Shameless Antagonist Defends Bipartisanship...

When George W. Bush campaigned for president he often proclaimed, "I’m a Uniter, and Not a Divider”. Sadly, this longed-for spirit of bipartisanship never blossomed into full flower. While it's tempting to point a finger at the Republican-dominated House, Senate, Judiciary, Administration, or mass media, I would advise my fellow Liberals that, as my father is fond of saying, "whenever you point a finger, several are pointing back at you"...We need to be conciliatory and willing to compromise; we need to go along to get along...In recent columns in left-leaning publications, I’ve noticed a tremendous amount of mean-spiritedness and bitterness that I feel, ultimately, will be counterproductive. Because of this, I’ve resolved to attempt to “walk a mile in the shoes” of my conservative brothers and sisters prior to judging them. You see, I also consider myself a uniter and not a divider—but this may have a lot to do with my lack of mathematical skill.

As the stock market plummets, corporations crash to the ground, civil rights are violated on an unprecedented scale, and our tax dollars are given to private schools, I take solace in one irrefutable fact. The majority of Americans didn’t vote for George W. Bush. There is still hope for America. In the wake of Enron, World Com, the Jose Padilla case, Bush’s “Asleep at the Switch” approach to national security prior to September 11th, and of course, THE WAR, I’m convinced that many of my conservative friends will have a “Road to Damascus” experience like Jim Jeffords, and realize that the Bush Administration is leading the country down the road to ruin. In an effort to allow conservatives to save face prior to their conversion, I’d like to extend an olive branch and repent of some of vitriolic rhetoric I’ve engaged in since the fateful day the Supreme Court selected our illustrious leader.

To my Conservative friends…First of all, I regret those insinuations about the relative girth and dexterity of your genitalia. Although Freud might draw conclusions about the sexual insecurities of those in favor of massive stocks of powerful warheads, I’m sorry for any conclusions I might have leapt to regarding your virility. I also regret the erroneous assumption I’ve made that Republicans are the “Daddy owns a Bank” crowd that inherited their wealth rather than earned it by the sweat of their brows. That’s an unfair stereotype which has, over the years, stigmatized untold numbers of Republicans; thereby forcing them to burrow further and further back into their bunkers, gated communities, and expensive private schools. I’m also dreadfully sorry for my tendency to question your patriotism and commitment to democratic ideals; I’m sure that your rationale against supporting education levies was in no way tainted by a desire for personal gain in the form of tax refunds. Finally, my most recent comment, regarding the president, was way out of line. Asking where Dick Chaney has to insert his hand “in order to make George’s lips move” was blatantly disrespectful of the office of the presidency, and I regret my sentiments, however heartfelt they may have been at the time.

As our greatest modern president Bill Clinton was fond of saying, “Americans work best when we work together”. Because I believe this, please accept my humble apologies. Nevertheless, let me reiterate my opinion. The president is a complete tool. Join me..Vote for anyone but Bush in the upcoming elections. I promise a BIG HUGE BIPARTISAN GROUP HUG when the results come in!
Remember When...

War Sunny Side Up

(This is something I’ve written and amended since April 4th. This, of course, was during “major combat operations”. As for those of you who criticized me for my unpatriotic skepticism at the time, I will graciously accept your mea culpas.) If you trust any statement made by an “unnamed Administration Official” or any spokesperson for the U.S. Military without confirmation from an independent media source, you’ll be played for a chump until Bush is booted out of office).

Perhaps the most poignant, touching episode reported by the media as of yet was the rescue of Private Jessica Lynch. On Tuesday, April 1st, 2003 Brigadier Gen. Vincent Brooks tersely informed the world she had been rescued and returned to a coalition-controlled area. In the next few days, and incredible tale began to unfold. All but the most jaded and cynical, it seems, had discovered the human face of the war in the visage of Jessica Lynch and that of her Iraqi accomplice. A careful look back at the tale as it unfolded says a lot about the way the media covers the war, just as our response tells a great deal about us.

Let’s take a step back and look at when Jessica’s name first appeared in the press…

Immediately after the announcement on Tuesday evening, the celebration began in Palestine, West Virginia, Jessica’s ironically-named hometown. While the press covered the jubilant town’s response to the good news, they were also quick to point out the role of the CIA in providing information crucial to the rescue.

“The CIA, which has played a significant role in finding targets for the military and has liaisons in every major military command involved in the war in Iraq, identified Lynch's location and fed the geographical coordinates to U.S. Central Command, a U.S. official said. That allowed the Special Operations rescue team -- which is on 24-hour standby in a nearby Persian Gulf country -- "to swoop down quickly" and rescue her, the official said”.

Although this article was primarily about the reaction of Palestine to the rescue of a favorite daughter, there were dark undertones. The article also briefly mentioned that 10 bodies were also recovered from the hospital, and some were most likely American.

By Thursday, the Washington Post’s Peter Baker, in time for NBC’s Thursday night lineup, succeeded in sweeping the bodies under the rug, and his front-page story contained absolutely no mention of any soldier other than Private Lynch. He does, however, introduce another character into the drama, a 32 year-old Iraqi lawyer referred to only by his first name, who, despite placing himself and his family in great danger, provided U.S. soldiers with the information necessary to retrieve Private Lynch. His motivation: pity. His guiding philosophy: we’re all part of the human family. As he explained to Mr. Baker, “"A person is a human being regardless of nationality…"Believe me, I love Americans."”

As the story goes, Mohammed was in the hospital visiting his wife. While he was there, he heard of the American prisoner, and convinced a doctor to let him see her. The Post article reads:

Inside the room with her was an imposing Iraqi man, clad all in black.
Mohammed watched as the man slapped the American woman with his open palm,then again with the back of his hand. In that instant, Mohammed recalled today, he resolved to do something. After the man in black left, Mohammed sneaked in to see the young woman.
"Don't worry, don't worry," he told her. He was going for help.

And help he did. According to the news account, He risked his life obtaining the information that enabled the rescue: As he skulked around, he counted the number of Fedayeen at the hospital,
until he came to 41. He noted that four guards in civilian clothes stood watch at Lynch's first-floor room armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles and radios. He traced routes through the building that commandos could use.

Mohommed, apparently, is a very sensitive, observant, and wily man.
After all, it would take quite a bit of effort to bypass the 4 Fedayeen posted outside the room, the 41 tromping around in the hospital, and the man in black slapping the prostrate Private Lynch. Is it just me, or is anyone else’s bulls**t detector ringing like crazy?


Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Private Barney Reporting for Duty...

For years, Bill Bennett and other gurus of public morality have decried the violence and depravity spewing forth from Hollywood. They hypothesized that television and movie brutality would desensitize children to actual violence. As an adolescent in the eighties, I suspected they were right, but still found myself lining up to witness the latest Schwartzenegger blockbuster or rent the latest shoot ‘em up car chase movie. You couldn’t fight it. Being a teenage male in the eighties meant your conversations were liberally peppered with quotes from the Godfather, Star Wars, and any movie starring Clint Eastwood or Robert DeNiro.

While I disliked the sanctimonious tones of the anti-Hollywood crowd, they did have a point, and while no clear causal relationship has been proven, In my heart of hearts I knew that there was some truth to their point of view, but the pull of my guilty pleasures was too strong. In any event, what was the alternative? What else was there in the eighties anyway? Ms. Pac Man and John Hughes movies? Rubix cubes? The way I looked at it at the time, violent movies and videogames helped me vent anger in a harmless way. Besides, Ronald Reagan, the avatar of the times, declared that video arcade players were the “top guns” of the future. How could it be wrong when kindly old Uncle Ron seemed to encourage it? While I hate to admit it, Bennett and Reagan were both right. We have turned into a more violent, desensitized society, and the arcade freaks are now fighter pilots.

Congratulations on your Phyrric victory, gentlemen. In the year 2003, people don’t seem too concerned about violence in the mass media anymore. In fact, violence, and desensitization to violence have received official sanction. Hollywood and the Bush administration have even worked together to create violent movies—with patriotic subtexts, of course…On the night before Operation Iraqi Freedom began, the Presidential Mother, Barbara Bush exemplified the prevailing American mentality. In a T.V. interview prior to the war, she quipped "Why should we hear about body bags and deaths and how many, what day it's gonna happen? … It's not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?" The message: Not in my neighborhood. Torture, murder and warfare are fine, as long as…
a. The victims are brown and out of town.
b. Their punishment is sufficiently ironic.
c. Uncomfortable facts are suppressed or easily ignored.

Perhaps no better barometer exists for common knowledge than NBC’s Today Show—a show specifically designed to alienate no one. Just the other day, they discussed the U.S. Army’s treatment of Prisoners of War.

My memory is a bit fuzzy, but as I recall, their conversation went a little something like this…

Matt Lauer: “….apparently U.S. troops are using the music of Metallica and Barney to interrogate Iraqi prisoners of war…”
Katie Couric: (sniggering) “I’ve always felt that that listening to that damn purple dinosaur was torture”!
Matt: (chortle, chortle) “I couldn’t agree with you more, Katie. Don’t you just love that whimsical American approach to interrogation?”
Katie: “ If they don’t find Weapons of Mass destruction within a few days, they should have a BBQ just outside the walls of the prison. I mean, who wouldn’t break down for Al Roker’s BBQ pork?
Matt: Great idea, Katie! Muslims craving Al’s pork! The irony is delicious!
Katie: So’s the pork, hee hee hee…
Al Roker: You know nobody does it better than Uncle Al.
Matt: Why don’t you bring your smoker down to Guantanamo Bay, Al? We could shove fistfuls through the towelheads’ cages in the morning, and drink Cuba Libres on the beach in the afternoon!
All: ( Hysterical laughter ensues)

Are we desensitized to violence? Of course! Was it gangta rap and Hollywood that made us this way? Hardly. Violent crime on American streets is down, but societally-sanctioned bloodshed is on the rise. Yesterday’s London Observer reported that the U.S. Military has refused the International Red Cross access to at least 2,000 Iraqi prisoners of war in violation of the Geneva Convention. The ICRC’s spokesperson in Baghdad, Nada Doumani, demanded that the ICRC be given access to the prisoners due to reports of Iraqi prisoners beaten while bound, gagged, and hooded (also a violation of the Geneva convention). Did you read about it in your city’s newspaper? No? Perhaps our American reporters are too distracted by heavy metal and purple dinosaurs.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Latest Zogby Poll: Only 48% of Americans approve of Bush's job performance. 60% of the English disapprove of Bush's handling of the Iraq War...So much for the "Coalition of the Willing" (no offense, Eritrea).
Remember When...

“There’s a lot of money to pay for this that doesn’t have to be U.S. taxpayer money, and it starts with the assets of the Iraqi people…and on a rough recollection, the oil revenues of that country could bring between $50 and $100 billion over the course of the next two or three years…We’re dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon.” Dep. Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz..(House Committee on Appropriations Hearing on a Supplemental War Regulation, 3/27/03)



Jesus, "Son of God": "You have heard that the law of Moses says, "Love your neighbour" and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!"

Trent Lott, "Son of the Klan":

"Honestly, it's a little tougher than I thought it was going to be...If we have to, we just mow the whole place down, see what happens. You're dealing with insane suicide bombers who are killing our people, and we need to be very aggressive in taking them out."
My Dinner With The Dittohead

I was trapped. I’m a firm believer, after all, in the whole concept of dialogue leading to understanding, so when my conservative friend invited me out to dinner (dutch treat), I had no choice but to accept. The restaurant was somewhat beyond my means, but I didn’t want him to think I would shy away from his inevitable right wing diatribes.

After several drinks and appetizers (I had the house salad and a glass of water--money was tight), we moved beyond the pleasantries, and I knew he was building up steam…

“It’s really quite unfair. This country is full of freeloaders, and the honest and hardworking successful citizens of this country are paying more than their fair share. It’s quite well documented. Did you know, my naive bleeding heart liberal friends, that
“The Top 50% of Americans pay 96% of federal taxes. The top 1% pay 34% of all taxes. I’m not making this up, it’s right there on the IRS website”.

His outrage at the injustices wealthy wage earners have to bear as a result of the draconian tax code seemed to whet his appetite, and my inability to contradict his statistics over dinner filled him with a sense of belligerent trimphalism.

The following day, I was shocked and dismayed to find the following headline on his website. “ Wealthy Diners pay 80% of dinner bills!”

...If the wealthy are honest with themselves, they'll recognize that on the way to paying for the goods and services provided by the government, they've had more than their share of advantages.
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