Tuesday, April 29, 2003

There are few things in life more supremely satisfying than that tiny little nirvana of a hamburger from White Castle, otherwise known as the Slyder, or the Bellybomber. If you did not grow up eating White Castles, you either have never heard of them, or find them repugnant. In either case, you are a philistine. But if you grew up with them, the chances are that at least a few times a year you wake up out of a deep sleep craving them like a junkie craves crack.

The White Castles people play a little trick on you, though, by only putting franchises in a precious few cities, so that in many cases (or at least my case), one will grow up with them and then have access terminated by moving away. Sure, many grocery stores now stock the microwaveable version of them, but it's just not the same--it's akin to the difference between a Lamborghini and a Hyundai.

I'm heading back to St. Louis in about a month for a visit, and already I can think of little else. I drool and sometimes quiver. I plan to eat nothing else for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (White Castles are 24 hours) for the first three days I'm there.

Monday, April 28, 2003

What the Celebrity Anti-War Movement Was All About:

There were many good people opposing the war in Iraq, including good conservatives. However, whatever your feelings were about the war, it's good for you to know what the motivation was for a certain high-profile group of war protesters: semi-celebrities. Be honest--how many of you had ever heard of Janeane Garofalo before she started popping up on all the news programs?

Well, a lot more folks have heard of her since, which has been of no small benefit to Ms. Garofalo. From a story last week in the Washington Post:
Janeane Garofalo sounds energized about her whole antiwar thing: "I knew when I started speaking out that it was going to be unpleasant," says the actress-comedian, "and I've taken my punches. But the positives have far outweighed the negatives."

Such as? Such as all the unsolicited offers Garofalo has received -- speaking engagements, stand-up gigs, stage roles -- in the weeks since she proffered her antiwar opinions on news programs. Such as the bundles of attagirl letters and the hearty congratulations of strangers in the street. Such as the sitcom pilot she's making for ABC. The other day, after a decade and a half of doing comedy, she made America Online's "Comedians to Watch" list.

"Before this I was a moderately well-known character actress," she says. "Now I'm almost famous."
Nothing like principled opposition.
An actual quote from an actual teenager, starring in MTV's new "reality" movie The Real Cancun, wherein she and her twin sister, according to TIME Magazine "remove their tops and grind against each other during the wet-T-shirt contest." The twin, named Roxanne, is quoted thusly:
"I'd rather be known for this instead of being smart or something," she says. "There's a million people who are smart. There's only 16 of us who were in Cancun together."

Friday, April 25, 2003

Some odd search engine referrals lately. Here are a few recent searches that have brought people to my blog:
laci + peterson + corpse + condition

George + W. + Bush + caracature

child + molesters + in + joliet (nice, huh?)
And my personal favorite:
who + invented + thumb + tacks
Be afraid. Be very afraid.
This is a great, funny, perceptive line (or two) from Ann Coulter's column this week:
Liberals learned to live with Iraqi citizens being fed into plastic shredders, summary executions, maimings and unanesthetized ear-loppings. Only now have they found something truly fiendish going on in Iraq: Christian missionaries are proselytizing!
Big news from the music world today: Sinead O'Connor has announced that she's retiring from show business.

Does this mean she hadn't already retired? It's been about 10 years since the last time I saw her anywhere, as best I can calculate. What's next? Is Peter Frampton gonna dramatically quit the business too?

Thursday, April 24, 2003

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury."

This apocryphal political quote is variously (and suspectly) attributed to Alexander Fraser Woodhouslee, Thomas Babington Macaulay, Alexis de Tocqueville, and scores of others. Though we don't know who actually said it, there's a great deal of truth in it.

The particular manner by which the electorate likes to accomplish the task of voting itself rich here in Florida is through ammending the state constitution. Now, the U.S. Constitution has a very difficult ammending process, designed to lend stability to it and protect it from the momentary whims of the zeitgeist. However, the state of Florida has no such encumbrances, so numerous ammendments to the state constitution are passed in every election.

In the 2002 elections, Florida voters ammended their constitution to give pregnant pigs special legal protections (leading to a state that paradoxically now has more legal protections for sow fetuses than human fetuses), to ban smoking in indoor workplaces (a crucial constitutional issue if ever there was one), and to constitutionally require the state to build a high-speed "bullet train" between "the five largest urban areas of the State."

In my own survey of those who voted for the pig ammendment, I found the thought process to be thus: "Well, uh, I like animals and stuff. So I voted for it."

Perhaps the most publicized ammendment that Florida voters passed in 2002 was the ammendment to limit class sizes in public schools. As written, the ammendment had no provisions for actually paying for such a project. Governor Jeb Bush warned loudly and often that if voters passed the ammendment, they'd better figure out a way to fund it too, because it was going to cost a ton of money that just wasn't there. Of course, nobody listened because, hey, "schools are important and stuff, and so the kids should have, like, smaller classes and stuff."

Now, educators and parents here in Broward County are going ballistic, because (from today's South Florida Sun-Sentinel):
Entire magnet programs will likely disappear from some Broward County schools next fall. Hundreds of employees will be laid off. Most field trips will be canceled.

Superintendent Frank Till insists students will suffer under even the most generous budget proposals chugging through the Legislature.
Why are all these calamities suddenly befalling the Broward County public school system? Because the idiot voters of Florida decided to constitutionally require class sizes to be reduced without providing any funding for it!

It looked beautiful there on the ballot: "Hey, I can simply vote the classes smaller!" They didn't have to give even a moment's thought to where the money would come from. Thus, of course, because of the Law of Unintended Consequences (something that liberals should be strapped to an electric chair and forced to learn on penalty of death), their big vote to improve education actually will lead to drastic cuts in education for the students.

And how many pregnant pigs had their suffering alleviated by the benevolent voters of Florida? None, as it turns out. Because of the prohibitive costs involved in bringing their pig stalls up to the level of comfort provided by the ammendment, the two pig farmers who were its targets simply sold their pigs off to be slaughtered. The vote to give legal protection to pregnant pigs actually resulted in the slaughter of those same pigs.

But hey, at least the voters' intentions were good.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

In what seems like a previous life, I used to be a sports radio talk show host. The calls that you take on the air in that job pretty much all fall into only about five categories. I won't ennumerate them all here, but perhaps the most common is the "overpaid atheletes" call. The basic idea is "it's ridiculous for Michael Jordan to make $30 million per year while for throwing a ball through a hoop while teachers and fireman make next to nothing."

Certainly, on a cosmic scale of importance, there is truth to this. A good fireman will actually put his life on the line to save others, while the only thing Mike puts on the line are his feet, while making a free throw. But these callers fail to understand how the free market works, and why the way it works is a very good thing. The entire essence of modern liberalism is to take these gut-level value judgements and force them on society via law.

Today, economics professor Walter Williams writes a wonderful column that every student in the country ought to be required to read, explaining in very basic terms why it's right for Michael Jordan and the firemen to make what they make. For some, this is foundational stuff. But for many, there's no understanding of why things cost what they do.

Williams writes:
Why is it that Michael Jordan earns $33 million a year and I don't even earn one-half of one percent of that? I can play basketball, but my problem is with my fellow man, who'd plunk down $200 to see Jordan play and wouldn't pay a dollar to see me play. I'm also willing to sell my name as endorsements for sneakers and sport clothing, but no one has approached me.

The bottom line explanation of Michael Jordan's income relative to mine lies in his capacity to please his fellow man. The person who takes exception to Jordan's salary or sees him, as my letter-writer does, as making "little contribution to society" is really disagreeing with decisions made by millions upon millions of independent decision-makers who decided to fork over their money to see Jordan play. The suggestion that Congress ought to take part of Jordan's earnings and give it to someone else is the same as arrogantly saying, "I know better who ought to receive those dollars."
It's as if it were a page torn out of Thomas Sowell's wonderful Basic Economics textbook, which I will be working through with my own kids in the not-too-distant future.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

In the interests of showing my Neoconfederate friends (who have been quite irked with me as of late) that I am a fair-minded man, I'd like to direct you to a good, mostly balanced, pro-South article in Razormouth.com dealing with the issue of the War Between the States. The author lays down a strong preliminary case, and did not once call me an idiot, an idoloter, or an undereducated simpleton while doing so: "Critics, Christians, Gods and Generals"

There were a few mild shots taken, but no streams of harsh invective, which is probably why I actually read through the whole thing and gave some actual consideration to his arguments.
Well, that gang of dyk..er...sweethearts over at the National Organization for Women (NOW) has finally weighed in on the Laci Peterson murder case.

Being a "women's rights" group, of course they spoke out to denounce this senseless act of violence upon a woman, right? Or perhaps they spoke out to condemn what was potentially a horrendous act of domestic violence?

Wrong. They wanted to make sure we all understood that Laci Peterson's baby was not actually a person.

This paragon of "women's rights" wanted to ensure that Scott Peterson was only charged with one murder, rather than two (which in California would constitute a "special circumstance" and make him eligible for the death penalty), by declaring that the Petersons' eight-month old fetus, who was found two miles from his mother's corpse, who had different DNA from his mother, who had been alive up until the time that he and his mother were killed and dumped into the San Francisco Bay, was not actually a human being capable of being murdered.


Monday, April 21, 2003

Apparently the American viewing public committed another gross, outrageous infringement of Susan Sarandon's First Ammendment free-speech rights by staying away from her TV movie (on CBS last night) in droves.

Expect her "partner" Tim Robbins to call a press conference today to protest the callous, flagrant disregard for Sarandon's constitutional rights on the part of America's Kafkaesque citizens, who failed to cancel their other Easter plans (or to turn the channel from other stuff) in order to prevent this Orwellian nightmare from taking place.

One of the other programs that trounced hers in the ratings was a rerun of "The Ten Commandments," starring noted gun-advocate Charleton Heston, thus confirming suspicions that the unconstitutional, un-American, "chill wind" that blew past Sarandon's movie last night was part of a vast, right-wing conspiracy backed by the NRA and its cronies in the Bush Administration.
Did I forget to mention that I am a comic genius? (Of course, I am here defining "comic genius" in the narrow sense, i.e.: "was one of ten people who won a cheap t-shirt from the Letterman show for submitting an item they used for an online Top Ten list.")

The topic was "Top Ten Iraq Tourism Slogans." My entry is number six. Here's the list:
Top Ten Iraq Tourism Slogans

10. According To Our Former Minister of Information, The Surfing Is Better Than In Hawaii
James H., Valparaiso, IN

9. Pardon Our Dust! We're Democratizing!
Jay S., Ventura, CA

8. Come See Our Newly Created Future Ancient Ruins
Randy P., Thornton, CO

7. No More Worrying About Giant Statues Falling On You!
Mark McL., Philadelphia, PA

6. Take Home Priceless Antiquity From Our National Museum (while supplies last)
John R., Ft. Lauderdale, FL

5. If You Find Any Weapons of Mass Destruction, Your Stay Is Free!
Tom McC., Durham, NC

4. 10% Discount If You Say "George Sent Me"
Stephen M., Camino, CA

3. Free Rides For The Kids On Saddam's Statue's Disembodied Head!
John K., Baltimore, MD

2. Now Constituting An Axis Of FUN!
Jason T., Liverpool, UK

1. Holy Shiite, This Is A Great Place!
Kevin B., Los Angeles, CA
And if that's not worth the $3.62 they'll spend on the shirt, plus 78 cents in shipping costs, what is?

I'm sure this will be the beginning of a long, succesful career of t-shirt freeloaderism wherever I can find a media entity giving away cheap crapola.

Sunday, April 20, 2003

Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

They asked her, "Woman, why are you crying?" "They have taken my Lord away," she said, "and I don't know where they have put him." At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

"Woman," he said, "why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?"

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him."

Jesus said to her, "Mary."

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher).

Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' "

Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: "I have seen the Lord!" And she told them that he had said these things to her.

Saturday, April 19, 2003

The comment link from Squawkbox appears to be temporarily down, so I apologize for any frustration you've experienced trying to post feedback. Hopefully, it will be fixed soon. "You get what you pay for," as the old saying goes...

Friday, April 18, 2003

Pilate decided to grant their demand. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will. As they led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them,

"Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say,
'Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!' Then
" 'they will say to the mountains, "Fall on us!"and to the hills, "Cover us!" 'For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?"
Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals--one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, "He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One."

The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, "If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself."

There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!" But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong."

Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."

Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."

It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last.

The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, "Surely this was a righteous man."
How I Know the War is Really Over:

As I sit here at 12:54am on Friday, April 18, 2003, I know that the war is finally over because for the first time in a month, all three of the cable news networks (CNN, FOX, and MSNBC) are running taped programs rather than being live. On CNN it's a rerun of the 9pm "Larry King Live." MSNBC's running last night's Olbermann. And on Fox, there's no Shepard Smith, no Rick Leventhal live from Baghdad-- just Brit Hume, the Beltway Boys, and broad afternoon daylight outside their Washington D.C. window.

I don't miss the war at all; thank God it's over. But I do miss having a live body to watch in the wee hours. I didn't realize how fond I had grown of the Smith/Leventhal sideshow.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

From Scrappleface.com:
'Chill Wind' Could Reverse Global Warming

(2003-04-16) -- The Bush Administration hailed yesterday's announcement by Tim Robbins that "a chill wind is blowing in this nation" as a sign of the reversal of global warming.

"We want to thank Mr. Robbins for discovering this meteorological fact," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer. "It makes us all the more glad that we didn't sign that Kyoto accord."

Mr. Robbins, who earns his living pretending to be someone he's not, will be invited to the White House next month to receive the Boy Scout Weather Merit Badge, the highest honor the United States can confer upon a Hollywood celebrity.

Am I the only person who finds it odd that those on the left who couldn't give a flying fig last month about Iraqi children's prisons and Uday Hussein's person-shredder are now up in arms because some pottery at Iraq's national museum got broken?

"A few hundred thousand gassed Kurds are unfortunate, but good heavens! What about the vases?!"
Regrettably, some international news organizations are reporting that there are rumors floating around that Iraq's beloved (former) Minister of Information, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, may have done himself in not long after his comical speech before the cameras where he proclaimed that "Bagdhad is safe" while American tanks rolled in the background.

I hope it's not true. I was really looking forward to catching this guy's act at Caesar's after this was all over.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

In some Christian circles, there is an odd Neoconfederate movement that is apparently an outgrowth of paleoconservatism. They believe that Abraham Lincoln was evil, that the old South was the closest thing to God's Kingdom that the earth has ever seen, and that the United States should never dare involve herself in a dispute outside of her own borders. Not coincidentally, they were also vehemently opposed to the war in Iraq.

It seems that there's a disturbing pattern with these guys. They are strangely unmoved by the plight of the enslaved--whether it be the slaves in the South, or the people of Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Amazingly, they actually frame it as though the people fighting to free these people are (or were) the ones in the wrong!

Ironically, many of these same people claim to be indignant about the plight of the unborn in abortion-happy America (a shameful blight on our society, to be sure). And I'm sure that they are. But it's odd that they evidently couldn't care less about the condition of human beings beyond the third trimester.

Fortunately, most conservative Christians still recognize that the Southern slave trade and abortion are both abominations, and don't pick and choose so strangely. They still recognize that it is a good thing for Iraqi people to be free, and that though our culture has much evil in it, it is at least a culture in which people are free to hear about and worship Jesus Christ. These Neoconfederates would apparently prefer that the Iraqi people be spared from the "imperialistic expansionism of secular humanism" (their rhetoric sounds suspiciously similar to that of most Arab dictators) in favor of a government that would kill them for attempting to worship Christ or tell others about him. An odd position for a Christian to take.

"Since we have the scourge of abortion in our own country," their reasoning goes, "we have no business toppling oppressive regimes elsewhere." This rationale springs from their bitterness at having the North, which certainly had problems of its own, come down and free their slaves for them. They actually still refer to it as "The War of Northern Aggression." Just like Saddam's Information Minister, who refers to the Iraq war as "The War of American Aggression." They'll cite all sorts of nutty revisionist histories and conspiracy theories to "prove" that the Civil War was really just about Lincoln's evil impulses, that there is a "Jewish cabal" within the government forcing us to go to war with Arabs, and that you are not historically literate enough to realize the "real" causes behind all these things, which they by dint of their sheer brilliance have managed to uncover.

I guess every generation has them. In my parents' generation, it was the Birchers who believed the the Trilateral Commission was conspiring to fluoridate our drinking water in an attempt to control our minds. While unpleasant, these groups at least give us the benefit of following one another off into eventual obscurity.
Did you catch Tim Robbins' performance at the National Press Club yesterday? I know that he's been vocally anti-war and all, but I've gotta think that the thing at the Press Club was a put-on. Either it was a magnificent piece of self-spoofing jocularity, or else the poor fellow has made the turn into Madonnaland, the magical land of irreversible self-importance. He kept screwing his face up like the crazy homicidal bomber guy he played in "Arlington Road" and insisted on speaking ominously with an affected, semi-English accent (again like the forementioned Madonna): "The administrasheeon now wants tyew silence those of us in the theatahhh..."

All in all, it was pretty hilarious stuff. Though I fear there's a possibility he might have been serious.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Now that the shooting portion of the Iraq war has just about ended, are we ready to declare a new "Scud Stud" for Operation Iraqi Freedom? In an "American Idol" culture, I think we need to do it--so that this war can really mean something. Besides, if we fail to name a new "Scud Stud"...the terrorists will have won.

For what it's worth, I've gotten more search engine referrals to my blog for "Rick Leventhal" than anything else on here. There have been quite a few searches for "Shepard Smith" too, but since he spent the war in New York, he's not really eligible. One thing is for sure: it will be a much sought-after, much coveted title. After all, look what it did for Arthur Kent's career. In fact, I just saw Arthur the other night. He cleaned my windshield at a stoplight.

Monday, April 14, 2003

Over the past few days, I've been enjoying Dinesh D'Souza's terrific little book Letters to a Young Conservative. It's a breezy read, but very insightful and profound in places. D'Souza was once the senior domestic policy analyst in the Reagan White House, and one of his chapters is titled "How Reagan Outsmarted the Liberals." In it, he gives one of the best explanations for Reagan's success that I have ever seen.

He says (and I'm paraphrasing here, I don't have the book with me) "Reagan recognized that even as powerful as the President of the United States is, he can't change the world in 65 different ways. At best, he can change the world in two or three significant ways. Reagan decided that the three ways he was going to change the world were: reversing the tide of Soviet communism, curbing inflation, and reviving the economy."

Of course, Reagan did all these things brilliantly. Even then, he had a good number of the critics on the conservative side (the liberal opposition being obvious) who were hammering him for not: 1). bringing down the federal deficit, 2). destroying the Department of Education, 3). driving a stake through the heart of the welfare state, or 4). a million other things. But Reagan wisely realized that he couldn't do all these things. He was operating in the real world with a real Congress and real obstacles in front of him, and he focused in on maintaining his three objectives, naysayers from either side be damned. History has shown the effectiveness of his approach. All through, he was accused of being "detached." At one point, he was lambasted for not recognizing his own HUD Secretary at a meeting of big-city mayors. But, as D'Souza points out, this was mainly because he didn't care about HUD. Not one iota. He saw it as a huge bureaucratic rathole that would suck him in if he got anywhere near it. Despite criticism from the right ("Why aren't you doing anything about Big Government?!?"), he simply ignored it altogether in favor of his set objectives.

Just look at the recent presidents who have tried to change the world in 65 ways (Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, among others)--they've all been largely ineffectual and have left no positive historical legacy.

Were the Fringe Right ever to miraculously get one of their nutty candidates actually elected (fantasize with me for a moment), he'd never be able to get a single thing done. His core constituency would demand that he end welfare, destroy 14 federal departments, repeal the income tax, shut down Social Security, close all the government schools, outlaw abortion, and close the borders all in one fell swoop. After about six months of not accomplishing any of this, they'd call for his head on a platter.

I could never be president (as if that were a looming possibility...) because I believe that the world does need to be changed in 65 different ways--and then some. I woudn't be willing to bend on, say, letting the Department of Education continue to bloat while expending all my political capital to get pro-life judges nominated. I'd want both. And I'd end up just like Jimmy Carter. Thank God for the president who has two or three big ideas that he can really make happen, whatever the whiners who want everything yesterday say.
From the hilarious Saddam Hussein blog:
:: Saturday, April 12, 2003 ::

The looting and rioting is continuing unabated in Baghdad. You'd think we just won the NBA championship or something.....

:: Saddam "No Nukes" Hussein 10:10 AM [+] ::
Here's an interesting sidelight to the CNN/Eason Jordan scandal. In an email I receive regularly from the Media Research Center, they recounted a phone call they received from Jordan himself on Friday regarding the flap. Of course, he defended himself and CNN's actions, but I was fascinated by an aside he threw out during the conversaition. Here's the description from MRC analyst Rich Noyes (who received the call from Jordan) as relayed in the MRC email (though it appears that this hasn't been posted yet on their website, so there's nowhere to link to):
I [Noyes] told [Jordan] that I was going to make the point that other networks should come forward with their own stories, that he shouldn't be hanging out there alone. He noted with some pride that when the Iraqi Foreign Minister indicated CNN could come back to Baghdad if they would hire Peter Arnett, he replied "Bull****. No f****** way." I chuckled.
Incredible. According to CNN's news chief, Iraq tried to pressure them into rehiring Peter Arnett (who was pushed out the door in the late 90's in the wake of his involvement in another journalistic scandal). Is anyone suprised by this?

Friday, April 11, 2003

I see that Matt Drudge has now posted this on his site, so you may already know about it. Still, I can hardly believe what my eyes are reading. Today in a New York Times Op-Ed, CNN chief news executive Eason Jordan says that CNN withheld news of atrocities committed by Saddam's regime from the viewing public . The article is titled "The News We Kept to Ourselves," and in it, Jordan tells of Uday once informing him that he planned to kill his two brothers-in-law (which he eventually did) and King Hussein of Jordan, of a CNN cameraman (Iraqi) who was kidnapped and tortured, and of Iraqi secret police terrorization of Iraqi media employees. Jordan also reveals (among other things):
I came to know several Iraqi officials well enough that they confided in me that Saddam Hussein was a maniac who had to be removed. One Foreign Ministry officer told me of a colleague who, finding out his brother had been executed by the regime, was forced, as a test of loyalty, to write a letter of congratulations on the act to Saddam Hussein. An aide to Uday once told me why he had no front teeth: henchmen had ripped them out with pliers and told him never to wear dentures, so he would always remember the price to be paid for upsetting his boss. Again, we could not broadcast anything these men said to us.
I don't blame Jordan for not reporting these things--he was afraid that to do so would endanger the lives of his staff and the people who told them these stories. But the question is, why didn't he pull his staff out of Baghdad and then tell the world what was going on? What was the point of being there if they were only giving us a sanitized, government-approved version of what was going on? And how exactly am I supposed to trust anything else CNN now reports?

To have the head of a major U.S. news organization admitting that his network covered up atrocities for Saddam Hussein is flabbergasting. Jordan says:
I felt awful having these stories bottled up inside me. Now that Saddam Hussein's regime is gone, I suspect we will hear many, many more gut-wrenching tales from Iraqis about the decades of torment. At last, these stories can be told freely.
Is it possible that it would have been useful for us (particularly many of the pundits on Jordan's own network) to have heard some of these "wrenching tales" about "decades of torment" while Saddam was still in power?
I am against public broadcasting in principle. I think that the market generally does a very nice job of culling the herd, and I don't like my tax dollars funding cranks like Bill Moyers, who can no longer cut the mustard in the free market because his 60's-era platitudes are such an anachronism.

Having said that, there are very few things on television better than PBS's "Frontline." For me, it has become a must-watch program. Last night, they did an examination of North Korea, Kim Jong Il, and how things got to where they are today that was incredibly compelling. For public broadcasting, "Frontline" has been quite even-handed in many of the recent shows I've watched (though I can remember when that was not true--particularly in the mid-80's). While certainly no cheerleader for the current administration, the program did not flinch in examining the Clinton-era appeasement (including an interview with smugly self-satisfied dupe Jimmy Carter, who stuck his nose into things again in his bald, relentless pursuit of the Nobel) that helped lead us to the current situation.

A month or two ago, they also did a two-hour program on the lead-up to the Iraq war that was balanced, riveting television. I work in TV, and I can tell you that people in TV watch "Frontline" to see how its done. Occassionally they show a bias, but I think there's a difference between being biased and being unfair, and I can't recall a time recently where I felt they were being unfair.

But PBS is still a ship that ought to be sunk. A product as high-quality as "Frontline" could easily survive on A&E, Discovery, or any of a dozen other networks.
I found some of my links on the righthand side of my page missing this morning. Why would that happen? Have any of you longtime bloggers ever had this happen? Very odd. I didn't lose all the links--only two or three of them, and I think I've replaced them all. Weird.
Isn't it about time to rid ourselves of the silly executive order that Gerald Ford signed in the 1970's barring the United States from assasinating foreign leaders? I'm having trouble distinguishing why its unacceptable to take out Saddam Hussein with half a dozen sharpshooters, but okay to drop several tons of bombs on him.

There are some horrendous, evil leaders in the world who do not require an entire war to deal with. Robert Mugabe? Take him out with one shot. Bashar Al-Asad? Buh-bye.

But if we do it, what prevents them from doing the same thing to us? Well, the Secret Service, for one. It's not as though hostile regimes are refraining from assasinating the American president out of some sense of fair play. They'd be happy to kill him if they had the chance. But our security, intelligence, and special ops people are much better than theirs. Frankly, there are a few folks who the world would simply be better off without. Gerald Ford never won a national election in his life, so lets take off the handcuffs and start living in the real world again.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Presented for your perusal, without commentary. From the March 6, 2003 Janeane Garofalo interview on Fox's "The Pulse" with Bill O'Reilly:
O'REILLY: If you are wrong… and if the United States - and they will, this is going to happen - goes in, liberates Iraq [with] people in the street, American flags, hugging our soldiers… you gonna apologize to George W. Bush?

GAROFALO: I would be so willing to say, "I'm sorry". I hope to God that I can be made a buffoon of, that people will say, "You were wrong. You were a fatalist". And I will go to the White House on my knees on cut glass and say, "Hey, you and Thomas Friedman were right… I shouldn't have doubted you"…
Time to start smashing the bottles for her. Oops, I guess that was commentary.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Somebody help me out. At what point, exactly, did Greg Brady hair come back into style, and why wasn't there some sort of announcement?

When I was in high school in the mid-80's, you could've gotten killed for showing up with Brady Hair. It would've clashed with everyone else's mullet. But I work next-door to a high school, and I'd say about one out of every four boys now has a big, puffy, Greg/Mike Brady perm. I know style is cyclical, but aren't there at least a few things that are so bad that they never come back? And if so, shouldn't this have been one of them?

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

I wish every pastor and theological student (really every Christian, for that matter) would read this article by John Piper. Oh that we would have this view--Jonathan Edwards' view--of God in our lives! There is more truth, depth, and glory in this one sermon of Piper's (which, in turn, exposits Edwards) than in most entire Christian bookstores. I want this vision to be my template for an entire life of Christian ministry.
...our people need to hear God-entranced preaching. God himself needs to be the subject matter of our preaching, in his majesty and holiness and righteousness and faithfulness and sovereignty and grace. And by that I don't mean we shouldn't preach about nitty-gritty practical things like parenthood, and divorce and AIDS and gluttony and television and sex. We should indeed! What I mean is that everyone of those things should be swept right up into the holy presence of God and laid bare to the roots of its Godwardness or godlessness.

What our people need is not nice little moral, or psychological pep talks about how to get along in the world. They need to see that everything, absolutely everything – from garage sales and garbage recycling to death and demons have to do with God in all his infinite greatness. Most of our people have no one, no one in the world to placard the majesty of God for them. Therefore most of them are starved for the infinite God-entranced vision of Jonathan Edwards and they don't even know it.
If every Christian had Jonathan Edwards' view (which was the Bible's view) of God, we wouldn't have to wish for revival. It would be revival.
Sometimes the truth is just too good. Here's a paragraph from a straight news story in the Daily Herald, a suburban Chicago newspaper (to which I was alerted by Opinion Journal):
A former state worker with Democratic ties at a Joliet treatment center for the state's most dangerous sex offenders registered more than 125 of them to vote last fall.

Voting patterns show the child molesters, rapists and other sexual deviants overwhelmingly supported Democrats.
I guess this is some of that vaunted "diversity" the Democratic Party is always crowing about.
This is old news, but reading Mona Charen's excellent Useful Idiots has reminded me of it. It's hard to believe that you can still find this kind of mindset in the upper eschelons of American journalism, but there it is for all the world to see.

Recently, the conservative Media Research Center held their annual "Dishonor Awards" for the "Most Outrageously Biased Liberal Reporters of 2002." The winner of the "And They Called it Puppy Love Award" was Barbara Walters, who actually said this in the narration of her fawning 20/20 interview with Fidel Castro:
“For Castro, freedom starts with education. And if literacy alone were the yardstick, Cuba would rank as one of the freest nations on Earth. The literacy rate is 96 percent.”
Without exageration, this might be the single most stunning quote I've ever seen. Has anyone ever gone further to suck up to a murderous dictator? The mind reels at such fallacious reasoning. Surely, she couldn't have been buying this crap herself even as she was spewing it.

Barbara, dear. You poor, stupid twit. Literacy is not the yardstick of freedom. Freedom is the yardstick of freedom. Being able to move, speak, and think freely without being imprisoned or killed is the yardstick of freedom. And by that "yardstick," Castro proves to be an evil, murdering, tyrannical thug, as we have always known.

Her statement is akin to saying "For Hitler, freedom starts with exterminating Jews. And if dead Jews alone were the yardstick, Nazi Germany would rank as one of the freest nations on earth." The fact that she was willing to stretch this far to find a way to praise Fidel Castro should tell you something important about the bubble-heads who feed you your news.

Monday, April 07, 2003

For work reasons, I've been in touch over the past few days with some of the members of Jessica Lynch's family in Palestine, West Virginia. These are sweet, small-town folks. In a conversation with a local minister there, he (and we're not making this up, as Dave Barry would say) referred to Jessica's grandfather as her "grandpappy." Everyone in town has to be sick of the media innundation, but all the people I've talked to have still been unfailingly polite.

Anyway, I saw this in an article in the Parkersburg News and Sentinel, the main newspaper in the Lynch's area of Wirt County, recounting a phone conversation she had with her parents from her hospital bed in Germany:
At one point, Jessica asked if there had been any mention of her in The Parkersburg News and Sentinel.

Deadra said her daughter, who has dominated headlines for days in West Virginia and around the world, does not realize how much attention is focused on her and her family.

"I told her she was a hero," Deadra said.
Jessica Lynch asked if there had been any mention of her in the Parkersburg newspaper. How can you not love that?
I talked to my mom last night, who has been somewhat uncomfortable with my belief that the Bible is literally true. We have a very close relationship, and I've been trying to explain to her exactly what Christians do and don't actually believe, as opposed to the media stereotypes which (apart from me) are her main exposure to "biblical Christianity."

She was distressed that a college play in St. Louis (my hometown, where my folks still live) about Matthew Shepard was being picketed by "a church group from Topeka."

"Wait a second," I said, "let me guess. This is Fred Phelps' group."

For those of you who are not familiar with the "Reverend" Phelps, he is the originator of "God Hates Fags," and led protests at Shepherd's funeral, carrying signs saying things like "Burn in Hell Matthew Shepard." After the explosion of the space shuttle Columbia, his group handed out flyers saying "The 7 (sic) are in Hell!" and laying out "The Roster of the Damned, who entered Hell Feb. 1, 2003."

It's important to note that Phelps is entirely a media creation. He's an obscure moron who has no clue about biblical Christianity, but who is endlessly featured on television news programs because he says idiotic, controversial things (in news parliance, "he's great copy"), and because he supplies the media with the opportunity to put a negative face on "Christianity." In fact, Phelps' theology is unrecognizable as any historic form of biblical Christianity, and he represents a "church" of a couple of dozen people, almost all of whom are directly related to him (he has 13 children and 52 grandchildren).

"Let me see," my mom said, scanning the Post-Dispach article she had in front of her. "Yes, there it is, 'Rev. Fred Phelps.'"

"Don't worry, Mom," I said. "Fred Phelps is an idiot. I am what the world would call a 'fundamentalist' Christian. Most of my friends would be called 'fundamentalist Christians.' And I've never met one, singe fundamentalist Christian who thinks that Fred Phelps is anything more than an inbred moron. He's more of a cult leader than anything else. Just the fact that I knew exactly who you were talking about without having heard anything else about it should show you that this guy sticks out like a sore thumb."

She seemed greatly relieved that I did not support Phelps. I did point out to her that God makes His view of homosexuality abundantly clear and that His view is the only one that counts. But I shared with her that biblically the Christian's job is to reach out in love and preach the gospel to a homosexual, calling him to repentance and faith. The Christian's duty is not to stand outside the funeral of a homosexual gleefully announcing that the deceased is now "burning in hell."

Fred Phelps is going to have a lot to answer for when he stands before Christ at the judgement. If he thinks its hot where Matthew Sheperd is, he is going to be absolutely horrified at the temperature in the place where those who have practiced abominations in Christ's name go.

Friday, April 04, 2003

In thinking about the political poles and some of the crazy things I've been hearing and reading lately, I've had an original thought (though not necessarily a unique one--I'm sure I'm not the first one to have said this, but I've never heard anyone else say it): We often think of politics as existing on a line or a continuum. We speak in terms of being on the "left" or on the "right." But I've been having a different idea: think the political spectrum is actually much more like a circle than it is a continuum.

Within the regular two-party system, views can be seen as generally left, right, or center. But when you travel outside the normal political boundaries that we're used to, the further you get to the radical "left" or "right," the more the two viewpoints seem to begin to converge again. Thus the circlular idea: two things moving from a given point on a circle heading in opposite directions will be travelling away from each other for a while, but at some point they again getting closer again until they meet.

This observation is brought to mind by how much the radical right and the radical left have sounded like each other in opposing the Iraq war. (Incidentally, this doesn't make either of them wrong neccessarily, it's just an observation on their similarities in some areas.) And much further out on the fringe than either of these two groups, can you really easily tell the difference between a left-wing dictator and a right-wing dictator? Can you see much of a difference between the conspiracy theories of Noam Chomsky and the John Birch Society?

The further right or the further left you get, the more you end up with either anarchy or dictatorship.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Watch while Chronicles Magazine, the official publication of the more-conservative-than-thou Rockford Institute, plants a big, sloppy, wet one all over the French: A Message to Our French Friends

Among the gems you'll find here:
...we at The Rockford Institute and Chronicles are happier than ever with our decision to hold a conference in France in May 2003. Despite the false stereotype created by some Francophobic English and American writers, the French people are among the most courteous in the world, and we know that we can expect, even in this difficult period, nothing but the kindness and good manners that have always been shown to us and our friends and colleagues on trips to France.
And you look very lovely today, too, Mrs. Cleaver...
While I've been mostly watching FOX's coverage of the war (since whenever I turn on the others, they are usually only showing anti-war protests somewhere), I have to admit that I find parts of FOX's presentation a bit grating--particularly the breathless, "we have a huge breaking story!" tone of Shepard Smith no matter how mundane the news he's about to report. I swore that if I heard him say "You are loooooking liiiive..." one more time, I would throw a brick through the television.

That having been said, I've been greatly enjoying the quirky, idiosyncratic interplay between Smith (in the studio) and correspondent Rick Leventhal, who is embedded with a Marine unit deep in Iraq. I can't quite put my finger on it, but there is an undercurrent of one-upsmanship, veiled inside jokes, and sarcasm that should drive me nuts but has actually been quite appealing to me. You never know whether one is going to make the other laugh at him or yell at him. For some reason, I have a feeling that it conveys a more accurate view of the mood on the battlefield than all the embedded Ted Baxters combined. Which has been the real strength of FOX's overall coverage--they've put us more on the battlefield with our actual, human, American soldiers than everyone else.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

Opening Day has come and gone, and the Cardinals are 1-0. I say let's start the World Series today.
This is the best thing I've seen in a while: Saddam's Blog (I first found this link at the alert Scarecrow's blog)

A sampling:
Saturday, March 29, 2003:

Good news and bad news: The good news is that one of my missiles got through to Kuwait City and hit a shopping mall. The bad news is that I was aiming for the Target.... Get it? Aiming for the Target!! HA, HA, HA!

Who says brutal despots can't have a sense of humor?

I'm adding this one to my permanent list of blogs.