December 19, 2003

One man CAN start a movement

I blame myself.

To: U.S. Government

Recently, the U.S. military captured Saddam Hussein. He's currently being held for questioning.

We demand that he be asked the following question: "Have you seen the South Park movie?"

If he says no, we demand that he be forced to watch it.


The Undersigned

(The original post that started this found here. Thanks(?) to reader John Collins for the link)

Posted by August J. Pollak at 11:53 PM

This is, of course, relevant news information

As a recent graduate of New York University, I for one am proud to welcome into our growing fold of respectable alumni Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen.

Now, I know some people at NYU. I think there's a very good chance that I can get through to someone in admissions and test a theory of mine: I think they only submitted one application. In fact, I think they only have one Social Security number. They file a single tax form. They are the ever-present Yin and Yang, Action to each other's reaction, Alpha and Omega.

Look, I know we shouldn't care about any of this, but Jesus tap-dancing Christ, they can't even freaking go to different colleges?

I for one await Graduation Day in 2008, when they just merge to form the Archon and engulf the Village in the cleansing blue flame of the Power Overwhelming.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 11:01 PM

December 18, 2003

Random thought of the day

Please, dear God, stop now.

Howard Dean is not Aragorn. George W. Bush is not the mindset of the Kingdom of Men.

This web site proudly expresses complete freedom from any analogies between the 2004 elections and Lord of the Rings. It encourages all other websites, left and right-leaning, to do the same, because you all sound ridiculous.

That is all.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 9:49 PM

Mmmm, wheels of progress

Well, good to know the system is at peak efficiency. We now know it takes six months to point out the blatantly obvious: American citizens have rights! Wow!

Next week: the start of the 18-month campaign to determine the number of licks required to reach the center of a Tootsie-Roll Pop.

Update: A quick trip down memory lane reminds me of this post earlier in the month which noted how the U.S. has convicted only 23 out of about 6,400 suspects in this country for plotting terrorist acts.

So, among those 6,400 is Jose Padilla, an American citizen, who by that factoid alone is proven by the statistics to be the victim of a case of U.S. agents judging first and trying later. That defies the laws of the constitution to which Jose Padilla is entitled, and to which George W. Bush has not been given the authority to suspend in any way.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 3:25 PM

We get letters

An e-mail from reader mconners, with the subject "I don't want to hear any more about Saddam Fucking Hussein:"

And how it means the Iraqi resistance will automatically crumble, and how Dean is now deep sixed, and now Bush is Constantine McAlexander the Great, a conquering hero we can all get behind.

I want to hear more about the King of the hippa-twits, Strom Thurmond and his half black daughter.

That's like Osama breeding with a hooters waitress named "Bunni".

I have a feeling this statement will not be repeated on any of the morning talk shows.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 3:08 PM

December 17, 2003

Say! Do you waaaant to see a moooovie?

Well, amidst my questions from the previous post about voting on my own ad, MoveOn sent me an e-mail just now with the link to my movie.

Voting is still being done with their secret fairness-inducing method, so from what I understand, there's actually no physical way in which you can just go to any specific ad to vote on it. Which sucks for me but is great for fairness.

However, you can go look at a specific ad without voting. So, regardless of your vote, here is my ad. Enjoy. And if you decide to participate in the voting process, feel free to pass along some high marks.

(I am feeling fat, and sassy. HOYOOOOOOOOOOO!)

Posted by August J. Pollak at 4:26 PM

Bush in 30 Seconds

Many of you have been wondering what I�d been talking about for the last few weeks whenever I mentioned the �side project� I�d secretly been working on. Well, here it is.

The progressive political action committee, which has recently sponsored many of Al Gore�s speeches and numerous left-leaning fundraising events, is running a contest called Bush in 30 Seconds. As the name implies, it�s a competition for 30-second campaign ads about George W. Bush. As the organization implies, they aren�t ads meant to raise funds for his re-election.

I am proud to announce that among the hundreds of entries in the competition, you will find "Problems," a short animated film about the Commander-in-Chief by one August J. Pollak. If you�re new to this site, that�s� umm� me.

Now that I am done being proud, I will proceed with the complete lack of pride. Utter, utter lack of pride. For I, your friend and animator, have chosen to hold no shame whatsoever in my begging for your support with this film over the next two weeks.

From now until December 31, everyone out there on the inter-web-thing can view and vote on the ads. The top 15 films at the end of this voting period will go before a judging panel on members, including Michael Moore, Janeane Garofalo, Moby, Al Franken, and others. To put it in my perspective, this means that if I make the top 15 then I get to know for the rest of my life that Michael Moore actually sat down and watched a cartoon I made.

The winner selected by the judging panel gets their ad aired on national television. Which means, I guess, that everyone on the planet named Michael Moore, or for that matter everyone on the planet, will get to see the film. I�m sure you all understand that I�m only semi-using hyperbole when I suggest that I might want this more than ANYTHING ELSE IN THE WORLD.

So, from now until the end of the year, you can go to MoveOn�s site and vote for my film. MoveOn, in their infinite wisdom, have set it up so that you can vote for as many films as you want� so if you�ve got friends in this thing as well, you don�t have to stiff them. Just vote for me too if you like what you see.

So, don�t just vote for me. Let as many people as possible know about this contest. Link this post to your friends, copy it and e-mail it to family members, talk about it on your LiveJournals instead of how much you love the guy who plays Legolas for once. Help the world see Bush in 30 Seconds.

But, really, let�s be honest� I�d really like it if you voted for me.

Side note: MoveOn's voting system is a great thing for fairness, but due to the randomness I feel really silly in that I can't, you know, vote for my own film. So if any of you out there come across my ad, would you mind e-mailing me with their "Send to friend" link? You can, of course, e-mail all your friends with the link as well. You know, the whole really want to win thing.

Update to side note: I feel I need to make a disclaimer here just to make sure I'm being clear. I'm not saying I want en masse voting for my film. I certainly don't want anything to happen that circumvents MoveOn's voting system, which was clearly designed in a way that, albeit annoying for the filmmakers, clearly prevents spamming for votes, mass-voting, dummy accounts, and all that. And certainly I don't want to do anything that violates MoveOn's rules, seeing how 1. it's wrong and 2. it'll likely disqualify me from the contest altogether.

If you do see my film, by all means vote with your heart, but please be clear I do NOT condone vote tampering, even vote-tampering for me. I want to e-mail my friends and show them the film (and that's one of the reasons I'd like to find it among the randomized entries), but that's pretty much the extent of my "campaigning" for my specific film. The rest of me wants the entire contest highlighted. May the best film win is first, may my film be among the best is distant second. So, thanks in advance to all the potentially overzealous fans, but seriously, let's all play nice.

Update to the Update of the Side Note: as explained in the post above this one, apparently there's no way to direct link to voting for my film. Which I guess is good. So, never mind on the e-mailing me thing, since I happily have the direct link for non-voting viewing.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 1:01 PM

December 16, 2003

This headline made me giggle.

Arafat Barred From Christmas Celebrations.

Follow-up headlines will include "Arafat sent to bed without supper" and "Arafat mistakenly left behind after Israel hurries to airport to catch plane to Paris."

Posted by August J. Pollak at 5:43 PM

Why Saddam Hussein must live

An immediate disclaimer I make here is that I don't support the death penalty. Ironically, many who say they oppose the death penalty make the disclaimer "except for (insert really horrible person here)." I find that odd, seeing how cases where one's support of the death penalty is actually taxed such as now are exactly when one who opposes the death penalty should stand by their convictions, not let them fall before emotional pressure.

That said, Saddam Hussein deserves to die. This is obvious to anyone, regardless of their level of support for the war in Iraq, or in my case complete lack thereof. And while my standard case for why I oppose the death penalty stands with even this, a man who broke the boundaries of what "mass murder" implies, I pose that there exist reasons far beyond moral and partisan political beliefs as to why Saddam Hussein must not die quickly.

The most recent vocal example of the call for Hussein's death, outside of various weblogs, is with Senator Joe Lieberman, who has gone far beyond merely supporting the death penalty but simultaneously opposing the basic merits of democracy- truly an ironic action for a man currently pretending to have a chance of becoming President of the United States.

Mr. Lieberman, in an interview on NBC and later elaborated on MSNBC's Hardball, stated emphatically that Saddam Hussein must receive the death penalty, going as far to state that Saddam must face an American military court willing to sentence him to death if a prior turn at the hands of an Iraqi court chooses not to do so. The concept of this is so terrifying that it bears repeating: Joe Lieberman, a person who believes himself qualified to hold the highest office of American government, demands that a captured criminal must be tried repeatedly until an outcome is reached that is satisfactory to his accusers. Essentially, he advocates that the Iraqi people only be allowed the privilege to determine what they feel is justice as long as it meets the satisfaction of the American people. How this proves a commitment to freedom and autonomy of the liberated Iraqis is beyond logic. How Lieberman believes this line of thinking does not defy the very principles of American Democracy is a testament to personal incompetence and emotional blindness.

Yet it reflects a very significant aspect of American mentality towards the fresh excitement of Hussein's capture, in that the ongoing excitement of "closure," a myth created from the illusion of Saddam's death being the immediate ending of violence in Iraq as though his destruction was the collapse of the final boss in a video game or some movie clich� in which the central computer's destruction shuts off the entire roving evil cyborg army.

Despite Lieberman's campaign-affiliated acts of desperation against rival candidate Howard Dean, Dean's suggestion that Saddam's capture does little to stave violence in Iraq is accurate, at least to a significant degree. Saddam's removal from the battlefield removes him from his access to that battlefield; considering Saddam was found hiding in a six-foot pit in Tikrit apparently far from a shaving mirror, let alone a radio set, the access to combat from which he has been relieved wasn't apparently much to begin with.

Make no mistake, however: Saddam's capture is without a doubt a moral and emotional victory for both Coalition forces and the Iraqi people. However, the actions the United States takes following this event are what will determine how long, and how strong, that moral and emotional high ground remains. These actions revolve entirely around the fate of Saddam Hussein.

To use an analogy that, albeit appropriate, is admittedly somewhat silly, Saddam Hussein is much like Elvis. By this I mean that the largest contribution to history is that of his legend, rather than his actions. Most music historians would agree that much of Elvis' fame lies in his premature death amidst a career marked only by success and fame. Had Elvis lived to current time, likely his legend would be diminished the way other exuberant stars have allowed. Were he alive today, Elvis would be partnering Wayne Newton in Vegas, if he was lucky.

In the contrasting vein, the current history of Saddam Hussein is only one of ferocity and violence. Albeit hated by a majority of Iraqis, many in the Arab world still credit Hussein as a military strongman, a defiant force against the Western influence, and a hero to the Baathist cause. To kill him now, especially in the anti-Democratic method endorsed by Joe Lieberman, would be to end the history of Saddam Hussein in a way that the Arab world can, and will, easily bastardize to a final chapter of defiance to his death against American infidel lies.

Saddam Hussein, the man, is a pathetic coward. Saddam Hussein, the icon, is a legend that if completed now will be a story on the lips of every suicide bomber and guerilla fighter in the Middle East for the next generation, in not longer. There is ample argument in Howard Dean's questioning if Saddam's capture makes American soldiers safer. However, I hold no doubt that killing Saddam will not.

Beyond my personal beliefs in the immorality of capital punishment lies that understanding. Past the emotion and hatred of the deposed dictator lies a broader thinking of Hussein's long-term influence in the eyes of a new Middle East. It is essential, for the success of the Arab world and the safety of all people everywhere in the world, that Saddam Hussein becomes incapable of being seen as a legend, and seen only as the man he is. This can only be done by keeping Saddam alive as long as possible, allowing the actions that made his legend to crumble before the ever-growing actuality of his mortality.

The opportunity now exists to swallow the difficulty of mercy and earn from it a greater malice against the accused. America and the rest of the civilized world has the opportunity to punish Saddam to decades of exposure without the curtains of power and allow reflection on how weak and un-legendary he truly is. The impact that this will have over the coming decades will have more benefit to the safety of life and the strength of true democracy than simple pleasure in death ever will, and will impact the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people a thousand times greater than the toppling of statues.

Update: Similar arguments and complete disagreements among those united against the war.

Second Update: Well Oliver's clearly in the hang 'em high category but at least someone agrees with me.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 12:07 AM

December 15, 2003

I love you, Jesse

Pandagon sums up the gloating of the warbloggers perfectly:

I'm truly appalled at the fact that so many of the vanguards of deep Internet thought are reduced to so much meaningless crowing and chest-puffery, actively lashing out at people who aren't thinking like them (or, more often, are thinking like them, but aren't thinking about the same things).

You didn't win anything over us. You aren't morally validated, and we aren't morally impugned. The people that you're actually talking to, and not the one poster you found on Democratic Underground or the one violent anarchist movement you found in the German woods, don't match any of the caricatures you're putting up. However, since so many of you utterly refuse to listen to anyone who isn't stroking your unjustifiably large egos, I hereby present to you gibberish, which is what anything anyone says will become after you're done "interpreting" it:

Orange staple recorder, mungo top yarn! Rubberband compacted nova grapple, evening, cylinder brassy gemstone.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 11:06 AM

Ummm.... could you repeat that, please?

Despite everything that happened today, credit where credit be due. Congratulations to Mr. Saddam Hussein of Tikrit, Iraq, for the newest title-holder of the strangest goddamn thing ever said by anyone, ever:

When offered a glass of water by his interrogators, Saddam replied, �If I drink water I will have to go to the bathroom and how can I use the bathroom when my people are in bondage?�
If it weren't... for my horse... I never would have spent that year in college. (via the Free-D)
Posted by August J. Pollak at 12:51 AM

December 14, 2003

My god

It just occured to me.

We have Saddam Hussein in custody. We are going to question him. This means we can ask him the question that we all secretly have wondered for the last four years. Not the WMDs. Not the mass killings.

We can now find out if Saddam has seen the South Park movie. And, if there truly is justice in this world, there is a chance he hasn't, in which case we can actually show it to him. And see his reaction.

There is no one on the face of the earth who can tell me right now with honesty that they don't think this as well. Admit it.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 9:27 PM

Unofficial award for best overall summary of Saddam's capture

The award goes, hands-down, to Billmon.

A great day for the victims of Saddam's reign of terror -- although in the end probably more a symbolic victory than anything else. Even before his capture, the odds of Saddam himself personally returning to power in Baghdad had to be rated at somewhere between none and none. The odds of him actually being brought to "justice" -- in the conventional sense of the word -- are only slightly higher, as we shall see.

An even greater day for President Bush: the fates (with an assist from the U.S. Army) just handed him an enormous propaganda victory for a Christmas present. Who needs a display turkey when you've got a former dictator trussed up on a platter and ready for the TV cameras?

Obviously, Saddam isn't likely to disappear down the same memory hole -- both because of his celebrity status as the Arab Anti-Christ, and because he had the unmitigated gall to be captured alive. This creates problems for everybody: For the coalition, which has to decide whether to turn Saddam over to the Iraqis or keep him for themselves, and for our Iraqi allies, who, in their heart of hearts, probably would rather avoid the public spectacle of a show trial.

Everybody has things to hide here -- things that Saddam no longer has any motive to conceal. This is especially true on the American end of the prosecution bench.

Listening to NPR this morning, I caught a fraction of an interview with the usual foreign policy sound bite artist -- I didn't catch the name clearly, but I think it was Walter Russell Meade of the Council on Foreign Relations. The reporter asked him to explain the "big picture" meaning of Saddam's capture. His response, and I quote:

"Ding, dong, the wicked witch is dead!"

I didn't stick around to listen to the rest of the interview, so I don't know if Meade(?) was being sarcastic. But it struck me that that is exactly how the American public is likely to react to Saddam's capture, and they won't be sarcastic. To them, like to Bush, and to most ignorant people, everthing is about personalities: If we've nabbed Saddam, then we must have won the war. It's the People magazine school of geopolitics.

As I've mentioned in other stories, I think it's important that those who support the war read well-done analysis like this. Recognizing what still has to be done, and what is actually happening, is what determines who actually cares about the Iraqi people and who just likes to say they do to counter the Left.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 7:14 PM


Attention over-reactive idiots: Stop it. Stop it right now.

First of all: it's Saddam. I don't need a DNA test or some kind of written verification. It's Saddam. Not a clone. We caught Saddam Hussein. Saddam Hussein is in the custody of the U.S. military. Stop it.

Second: we don't secretley have bin Laden. Bush is not secretly waiting until October of 2004 to announce his capture and/or killing. We don't know where he is. Again, stop it.

Listen, it's a simple task to analyze the B.S. of the Bush administration vis-a-vis the Iraq war and the War on Terrorism™. For that matter, with any administration. Lies are used when weighed against the likely outcome of what happens if they're discovered to be lies. When the potential predicted outcome outweighs the benefit of using it, it's not used.

Valerie Plame was a worthy lie because Bush's cronies calculated the interest from the news media. And, true to form, no one cared after enough time. So bullshit away with not knowing who made the leak. The Thanksgiving airplane story? The nostalgia impact outweighed the bullshit.

Sometime it backfires, but usually with little overall damage. Example for Bush: the carrier landing. Photo Op, great talking point, unexpected lack of finding Saddam and a few hundred dead soldiers didn't really hinder the fund-raising that much, did it? Clinton, in the same vein, got screwed. He figured, "what the hell, if they find out I nailed her, I'm soaring in the polls anyway." Insane Special Prosecutor was an unexpected outlier.

As such, this is why we actually have Saddam. If it turns out this is a clone, or a hoax, or not the actual capture of Saddam, Bush is beyond screwed. There is, given current poll numbers, no way whatsoever even Bush's team would be stupid enough to flat-out lie about capturing the former dictator of Iraq. When there's undeniable proof of lies, then Bush doesn't lie. He's considered rather stupid, but his handlers certainly aren't.

As said before, Bush being a horrible, ineffective president does not go hand-in-hand with Saddam being caught as great news. Denial is not necessary to defend the fact that you dislike George W. Bush. I still do, you can too without fear.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 7:08 PM

Why are you not switching party affiliations right now, America-hater?

As I pretty much predicted, the general tone from the rational-yet-pro-war side has been to express condescending dismay upon anyone left-of-center who has not appropriately expressed their happiness over the capture of Saddam Hussein by immediately supporting the termination of Democratic primaries and agreeing that not a single bad decision was ever made about this war by the president, ever.

It's annoying that it always come to this. Bad thing happens in war, immediate argument from the pro-war side is that it's worth it because of the goal of the war (whatever it is that week.) Good thing happens in the war, then apparently the left is obligated to shut up about the bad things because if we mention them then we're "pissing on the parade." Who's parade? Republicans? Pro-war bloggers? Because the war is exclusively theirs? The entire point of the anti-war position has been that this is America- and all of America's- war, even if you don't want there to be a war to begin with.

So if the right wants to make a political argument out of this, then fine, here's my post-initial-reaction opinion on the political aspect of this: despite the belief by many that this suddenly means George Bush is guaranteed re-election, the challenge that Bush will have to face despite this clear victory (from a PR stance) is, in fact, George W. Bush himself.

Why? Historical precedent. The immediate stance that nothing except 100% complete platitude towards the supporters of the war means I'm "upset that Saddam was caught" highlights the greatest problem with the war, and ultimately Bush's administration. From day one, Bush has defined his office, among other ways, by his squandering of opportunities. Clinton and/or Congress, whoever you want to thank/blame, left a thriving economy that Bush squandered with his tax policy. Clinton's CIA left a wealth of intelligence on al-Qaeda and peace prospects in Israel that, likewise, Bush ignored in favor of avoiding any credit to his predecessor. 9/11 gave Bush the greatest opportunity in a generation to unite the world in collaborative, intensive action on international violence, and he crippled it with one utterance of "you're either with us or against us."

Now, Bush, via the proxy of conservative pundits and pro-war bloggers, will shape the capture of Hussein, truly an opportunity to emphasize America's commitment to justice and international respect for law, into a campaign issue. "Howard Dean would leave Saddam in power!" "Wesley Clark would have waited for the U.N!" "France sucks!"

On the smaller scale, the pro-war side equally has their opportunity right now to show if they really care about the Iraqi people, or if it's more important to score political points and piss off the lefties by acting as though they and they alone get to discuss the future of Iraq. If it continues to tell the anti-war left that no support for the good aspects of the war are good enough because they refuse to hear about the bad aspects, then half the country will remain uninvolved in a crisis in which there is already a dearth of hands helping.

Guess what, warbloggers? There are lefties out there! And they're happy Saddam is gone! And they want to discuss the successes- and the errors- of the war in Iraq and how a better world can be made. Stop calling us Saddam-lovers because we want to have the conversation you're chiding us for refusing to participate in, mmmmkay?

Special bonus end-of-post fun fact: August J. Pollak, a Democrat and fervent protestor of the war in Iraq, is in fact happy that Saddam Hussein, a murderous dictator, has been captured by American military forces!

Even stranger, Pollak does not like President George W. Bush, yet he still thinks ice cream is delicious! You might think you can't love ice cream and hate America at the same time, but you can! Tell your friends!

Posted by August J. Pollak at 4:21 PM

Yeah, really.

Really. If you haven't been somewhere else that told you the news already, you're certainly not reading that many websites.

Most of them already reflect my view all along: it's great he's captured, I'm still against the war, 400 soldiers are still dead, we still never had the right or the reason to go in there, and aforementioned 400 are dead because of it.

It's going to take a while, at least a few months, to gauge the impact of Saddam's capture. My first and foremost hope, far beyond poll numbers, is that this lowers the body count. Given that Saddam was found in a basement with a gun and a million in cash and nothing else, I have a feeling he hasn't been the central commander for a while now, which means I don't think the body count is going to fall rapidly. I hope I'm wrong.

That said, it's fantastic that Saddam was captured alive. Bring on the international war crimes tribunal, and let America prepare for the answers Saddam gives; even the ones that damage America.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 10:19 AM

Yawn, indeed

Oliver writes on the economy a lot more often than I do (he's got a whole web site devoted to it now) and it reminded me of a comment I made in a Metafilter conversation I had a little while ago.

Basically, my argument about... well, the argument, about the economy is this: as far as trying to score political points with the day's economic news goes, you're really wasting your time regardless of what side you're on.

What I find funny about the economic debate especially in the weblog wars is how this one topic thrives on useless facts. Both sides use useless facts in all areas of debate, but with the economy it's just some much more prevalent.

You go to a diner and listen to people talk, and if it's the death penalty, abortion, gun control, crime, etc, you might actually hear people quoting the same stats the ads and pundits do about that subject. This isn't the case for the economy: never, outside of a smoke break directly outside the Goldman-Sachs building, will you hear a bunch of people arguing over the current statistical job growth rate for Q3, or the current percentage increase in productivity.

I always find the debates about the economy amusing, especially when it's people like NRO columnists explaining how the "liberals" just don't get how great the economy is because of the net gains in tech stock as if the middle-American blue-collars they claim the right to association with give a rat's ass while standing on the unemployment line.

There are only two factors that remotely weigh the status of the economy in terms that the average American voter cares about, and those are tax cuts and joblessness. Bush is facing the fire on both of those right now, since he's likely unable to sell another $300 payoff like he promised the last election, and he's nearing three million on the negative side of the job growth chart. Frankly, if Bush can create three million middle-class jobs in eleven months he deserves to be President, but unless Japan sneak attacks Hawaii again I don't see that happening.

In other words, the first commenter in Oliver's post makes the reliable "implying your opinion is beneath mine" yawn to link to rival economic statistics, and it's meant for only one person: Oliver. Then more comments with counter-random-numbers follow! And then the Money Wizard uses his +4 stick of Productivity to generate a +12 growth attack, providing the liklihood of a D12 roll! I mean, seriously. Read this. Tell me what that means in a way that an average, middle-class, middle-American voter who's been unemployed for the last six months will care about more than simply hearing "you don't have a job because _____ is in office and/or the ________ Party runs Congress."

I really, really hate to get all Glenn Reynolds "this is too complicated, let's ignore it" here, but it's not about you and me ignoring it. It's about everyone else ignoring it. I've been unemployed since I got out of school. I'm speaking from personal experience here, okay? I don't give a rat's ass about economic indicators. I just want a callback about the resume I submitted. So do three million other Americans, and they're just as sick and tired of our questions being answered with condescending partisan whining behind random weblinks.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 1:34 AM