March 5, 2004

Ouch

CBS 2 News interviewing a 9/11 victim's family member about Bush's campaign ad:

"We can't see pictures of soldiers being carried out of Iraq but Bush can use firefighters being carried out of the World Trade Center for his campaign."

I repeat: ouch.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 11:16 PM

Huh?

As Oliver has so perfectly noted, it has instantly become partisan to complain about using 9/11 for political gain when it's the Republicans doing it. Which inspires a few questions in my head:

1. What kind of subhuman scum would some Republicans have to be to suggest that being a Democrat makes you inelligible to have emotional opinions about 9/11? Were these people chastizing Bush and Ashcroft for their "with the terrorists" rhetoric when they were clearly promoting a Republican agenda?

2. Why the hell does it matter? A few conservatives are noting that people expressing outrage at Bush for the 9/11 footage are Democrats, or "members of an anti-war group." And? A woman who belongs to an anti-war group is disgusted that 9/11 footage is being used by the president to support a pro-war platform. Exactly what does that do to discredit her opinion?

Posted by August J. Pollak at 6:31 PM

March 4, 2004

Not to be blatanly sarcastic or anything, but...

Afghanistan Opium Production Levels Soar:

Opium poppy cultivation levels in Afghanistan approached the highest levels ever recorded last year despite the counterdrug efforts of the U.S.-backed government, the State Department said Monday.

The department's annual report on illicit drug activities worldwide said criminal financiers and narcotics traffickers in and out of Afghanistan have taken advantage of ongoing conflict and the fragile security situation.

Hey, Karen Hughes! I can understand why some Republicans might not want the American people to remember the "great leadership and strength" the president brought to our country in the aftermath of 9/11, but you got a response to this one?

Posted by August J. Pollak at 7:17 PM

She gets paid to talk

Karen Hughes shits through mouth:

President Bush's re-election campaign on Thursday defended commercials using images from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, including wreckage of the World Trade Center, as appropriate for an election about public policy and the war on terror.

Some families of the victims of the attacks are angry with Bush for airing the spots, which they called in poor taste and for the president's political gain.

"With all due respect, I just completely disagree, and I believe the vast majority of the American people will as well," Karen Hughes, a Bush campaign adviser said. "September 11th was not just a distant tragedy. It's a defining event for the future of our country. ... Obviously, all of us mourn and grieve for the victims of that terrible day, but September 11 fundamentally changed our public policy in many important ways, and I think it's vital that the next president recognize that."

Hughes said the ads are a tasteful reminder of what the country has been through the last three years.

"I can understand why some Democrats might not want the American people to remember the great leadership and strength the president and first lady Laura Bush brought to our country in the aftermath of that," she said.

Is there any logical reason why someone is not fired within five minutes of implying that the families of 9/11 victims are clearly just Democrats who don't want to recognize how good a president George Bush is?

Posted by August J. Pollak at 7:12 PM

The power of stupid people in small groups

Killington residents vote to secede from Vermont. Or, to use a more appropriate headline, Killington residents acknowledge they have no idea how the government works, because they're rich, greedy idiots.

Voting with a thunderous "aye," residents endorsed a plan Tuesday for this ski resort town to secede from Vermont and become a part of New Hampshire instead.

The main source of discontent is Vermont's new system of financing education, adopted in 1997 on orders from the state Supreme Court. It dramatically increased property taxes in wealthy communities like Killington.

Secession activists say Killington's restaurants, inns and other businesses send $20 million a year to Montpelier in sales, room and meal taxes, while the state returns just $1 million in municipal and education aid to the town of roughly 1,000 residents.

Shame, shame on the government for the audacity to suggest that the wealthiest part of the state be inclined to help benefit lesser portions of it for public good.

Okay, first, the really obvious point: Killington doesn't even share a border with New Hampshire. Unless they expect to airlift their supplies in, they don't really have much ability to "leave" Vermont. So Killington residents are naturally moronic simply by means of not understanding where Slartibartfast decided to put all the fjords.

More relevant, though, is how this vote is a sign of elitists ignoring how our very system of government works. What Killington wants to do is make a state-level microcosm of the somewhat-famous "giver/taker" argument made about Congressional spending.

Basically, the majority of Democratic-leaning states provide more revenue to the government in taxes then they recieve in funding, wheras Republican-leaning states provide less federal taxes than they recieve in federal benefits. It's not any sign of greed or stuff like that, merely a bit of irony in how the "tax-and-spend liberals" going away would, at least financially, screw over Red States more than where liberals actually live.

The biggest problem with this country is the disparity in wealth; the idea that the personal aspect of wealth should be applied to a district level would be catastrophic. If each state could/would only recieve in expenditures what it provided in revenue, you'd either be paying a cubic assload for produce or Midwestern states wouldn't have a highway system. Maryland likely doesn't produce enough taxes from its populace to maintain one of the largest military training facilities in the country; without federal spending Texas, California, and New York would pretty much be the only states in the Union that could.

When an area that gives more than it recieves complains about this, it's a failure to notice exactly what having more than the recievers means... it means you're in a higher position of luxury to begin with, and complaining about not having enough of it is sheer avarice. Killington is a case of the priviledged complaining about a "lack of fairness." In other words, they're only bitching because they're the givers instead of the takers. Put simply, this is how a regulated beauracracy works. Put even more simply, tough shit, Bitchy McSkisalot.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 7:00 AM

Two, two, two bitchslaps in one

World O' Crap has a twofer on Bill O'Reilly today. Enjoy.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 6:42 AM

March 3, 2004

Wow.

And now, courtesy of Yahoo!, a portrait of America.

Words fail me.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 10:10 PM

Newest comic - "Making your case via cruelty to animals"

(Special thanks to Chris for his contribution to part of the punchline)

Posted by August J. Pollak at 12:01 AM

March 2, 2004

Haiti

I'm going to have to plead ignorance on the Haiti crisis. I have no intention to pull some kind of Reynolds-ian "well this is all so complicated, therefore we should just not talk about it at all and consequentially we can pretend it clearly never happened" move, though; this is something that I want to know about.

As always, Billmon provides enough extra knowledge of foreign policy about stuff like this to make up for myself and roughly a hundred more people having no knowledge of it whatsoever.

As for my personal thoughts, it seems that this whole incident is yet another example of how the United States is completely screwed, foreign-policy wise. Less than 24 hours after Aristede leaves Haiti, America is accused of deliberately ousting him. What matters right now isn't whether or not that's true, but that such an accusation is believeable.

This is the second time in Bush's administration the U.S. has stepped in to offer support of a coup in our own hemisphere, the previous being the temporary ouster of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, which had a slight problem in being completely the opposite of what the U.S. said actually happened. Due to the last two years of Colin Powell and his subservience to understood fabrications on the Middle East, the concept that a story can be proved non-credible because "the State Department said so" has lost at least 90% of the weight it used to carry.

What I do know, regardless of foreign policy decision opinions, is that America has clearly now entered a position of helping to handle the crisis in Haiti- a crisis in which our inability to actually afford doing so is a fact. I have no idea if the ouster of Aristede will be good compared to the new ruler or vice-versa, but I do know that we won't be hearing any Iraq-stlye "go look at how good the schools are" chants from the Right any time soon.

(Some info on Venezuela & Haiti via Mefi user insomnia_jj)

Posted by August J. Pollak at 12:35 PM

March 1, 2004

A moment of silence for our childhood memories now violated

March 2, 2004 would be the 100th birthday of Dr. Seuss. As he has for the last few years, Dr. Geisel plans to spend his birthday turning over in his grave.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 10:50 PM

Line of the evening

Via Nick Confessore at Tapped:

I don't think I've ever heard a conservative argue for the benefits of a uniform national anything before. Apparently uniform national standards for drivers licenses are a precursor to totalitarian government, but a uniform national definition of marriage -- which we've gotten by without for well over two hundred years -- is an immediate necessity.
Zing. More here; note that Confessore is aware of what I mentioned earlier today about the race to change rights is on the homophobes' end, not ours.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 5:57 PM

And another one for the "ignore" column

Egypt accused of countless human rights violations against gays:

Human Rights Watch urged Egypt to repeal legislation allowing the prosecution of consensual homosexual relations � covered under the country's debauchery laws.

The report said police agents surf the Internet and answer personal ads placed by men seeking men, then arrange meetings with them and arrest them.

In 2001, 52 men were tried on charges of debauchery and 23 were convicted and sentenced to up to five years in prison.

The rights group said at least 179 men accused of debauchery have been brought before prosecutors since the start of 2001. Hundreds of other men have been harassed, arrested and often tortured but not charged.

Early last year, the rights group interviewed 63 men who had been arrested for homosexual conduct. It said they spoke of being whipped, bound and suspended in painful positions, splashed with ice-cold water, burned with cigarettes, shocked with electricity to the limbs, genitals or tongue. They also said guards encouraged other prisoners to rape them, according to the report.

Let's see. Massive civilian inequality. Oppressing of civil rights. And... oh, look... "rape rooms!" Remember those? Those two little horrible words that validate carpet-bombing a country? The things Amnesty International and NOW were raising awareness about for over a decade but everyone igorned until Laura Bush pretended to be the first to consider it, according to Showtime Networks?

So is the condemnation of Egypt coming any time soon? Considering that Egypt gets almost 10% of the entire American foreign aid budget, I highly doubt it. But cheer up. Maybe it'll be just like Iraq, and in twelve years or so everyone can pretend it was them who first started caring about these people.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 2:20 PM

It's called a hurdy-gurdy

For all of you who, like me, were wondering what in the hell was that thing Sting had at the Oscars last night, here you go.

(via Metafilter)

Posted by August J. Pollak at 10:49 AM

Queer note for the straight vote

Margaret Cho recently offered her condemnation of Jesse Jackson, who has chastised the comparisons between the struggle for gay rights and civil rights. Cho's general theme, though, is similar to mine and many others- that gay rights are civil rights, what with the whole "created equal" thing.

On one hand, I agree with Cho, especially in finding Jackson's line "In my culture, marriage is a man-woman relationship." (as if Jackson didn't live a significant part of his life in a "culture" where a black-white relationship had a frequent side effect of, you know, lynching.) But more important is the statement Jackson makes that I agree with: "The comparison with slavery is a stretch in that some slave masters were gay, in that gays were never called three-fifths human in the Constitution and in that they did not require the Voting Rights Act to have the right to vote."

Jackson's complely right. But contrary to the point he was making (that gays in some sense didn't "suffer" as much as blacks) is the point this statement makes to me about why gay rights are inevitable in this country.

Without a doubt, the GLBT community has suffered for the very desire to be recognized in society: Matthew Shepard, Brandon Teena, Stonewall, and so on. But I think the significant point of a lesser aspect of violent opposition to gays demanding equal rights and peaceful recognition is that blacks were fighting exactly for that- recognition and a granting of equal rights. In contrast, gays are not fighting to be granted equal rights, but to have existing equal rights recognized.

What anti-gay conservatives and the like must realize is that Jackson was right about the lesser intensity of the struggle- an offshoot of the obvious concept that there's much less of a struggle here. Unlike blacks, the mechanisms for empowerment are already in place (thanks, in large part, to people like Jackson.)

Gays already have the right to vote. Gays already have the right to property ownership, and in many states already have equal protection against discrimination based on their orientation. Gay rights aren't coming. They're already here. To borrow the old adage, this isn't about giving gays equal rights, it's about getting used to it.

And gays certainly have an advantage over other minorities in the so-called "culture wars." Compare pre-Civil Rights movies and TV shows about racial integration. Movies like Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, To Kill a Mockingbird and In the Heat of the Night dealt with the difficulty in black-white interaction. These were stories about blacks not being wanted.

Look at today's movies and shows about gays. Yes, there are horrible, demeaning stereotypes, but the aspect of gay-straight integration is the element of the show. With being black, being a woman, being single, and so forth the dominant "gimmick" of a show about how that person "struggles" with living that way, Will & Grace and Queer Eye aren't shows about how difficult it is to be gay; they're shows about how entertaining the interaction between straight and gay people are. Embarassing as that blonde fashion guy is, his story never involves explaining to Katherine Hepburn why they can use the same silverware. If anything, he's the one who gets to say what's wrong with her.

Combine all this with the simple statistical fact that the younger a voter is, the more likely they are to support equal rights for gays. And this isn't a random trend- this demo keeps increasing as the youth gets older and holds onto its support for gay rights. In other words, to get right to the morbid truth, the worst-case scenario is that this will take an entire generation as the remainders of the pre-Stonewall generation dies off.

That's why you have to keep a more positive mind about this- gay rights aren't a matter of plausibility, they're a matter of time. Bush's amendment is a recognition of this fact- as such, he's desperate to try and remove rights from a group of people in light of courts finally recognizing that these rights always existed. Equality for gays is aleady in the books; it's a matter of how long people in this country will take to open them.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 9:24 AM

Gloating time

Ahem.

Nine. For. Nine.

teh r0x0rz.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 12:09 AM

February 29, 2004

Let's do the Oscar thing

Making the predictions this year seems like mostly a time-waster, as most have noted that this year's contest seems almost spectacular in terms of predictability. Most of the picks are pretty much odds-on favorites. I love explaining how my guesses work, though, because Oscar Night combines two of my favorite things in the world: film and politics. People don't realize that the Oscars aren't just about the best movie. It's about which movie gets the best campaigning for it come voting time. Sad, but true. Hence why I've broken the main awards into three opinions: which of the five nominees in each category SHOULD win tonight, which nominee actually WILL win (the actual prediction, if you're betting) and my personal disagreement for this year's nomination, usually a movie not being nominated that should have.

Actress
Should win: Charleze Theron, Monster. For reasoning, please see "every review of Monster." Theron doesn't even have competition here; the award has been about how good she was in this movie.
Will win: Theron.
Disagreement: Injustice, thy name is Uma. What I don't understand is that Theron's role is so striking because it's about a woman whose killing spree is marked by your increasing discomfort with why she kills. In contrast, Thurman plays a role in Kill Bill in which you never lose support for her at all. Why? Because that scene. Hugging the chest. So. Damn. Good. "The Bride" is the best role of Uma's career so far, and it deserved at the bare minimum a nomination.

Actor
Should win: Sean Penn, Mystic River. Outside of any "he's a stupid anti-war doodoohead" bullshit, there isn't even competition here. This was one of the realest, scariest, and most passionate performances I've ever seen in my life. Hell, even Jude Law said so and he's competing against the guy.
Will win: Penn.
Disagreement: Any lineup that doesn't include Russell Crowe is fine with me. Though I'll be disappointed if Nicole Kidman is still taking whatever medication she was on at the Golden Globes when presenting this award.

Actor, Supporting
Should win: Ken Watanabe, The Last Samurai. I think Watanabe's performance was pretty much equal in quality to Tim Robbins' in Mystic River. That in mind, Robbins really doesn't need to be recognized as a fantastic actor the way Watanabe does. Plus, Watanabe just had cooler lines. The "conversations" bit is movie gold.
Will win: Tim Robbins, Mystic River. As noted above, I won't mind. I don't really feel bad for Watanabe, since he's going to be playing Ra's al-Ghul soon. Which is kind of like telling your kids "hey, kids, I'm gonna get paid to be awesome for six months."
Disagreement: Hello? Eugene Levy? A Mighty Wind? And Australia was like "WTF, Mate?"

Actress, Supporting
Should win: Marcia Gay Harden, Mystic River. If you've just been skimming through this to see the picks and nothing else, you can go back to the thirty other times I've mentioned how good everyone in this movie was.
Will win: Renee Zellweger, Cold Mountain. It's the Russell Crowe memorial sympathy award, this year going to Renee Zellweger in recognition for two other, much better performances she didn't get an Oscar for. Such is the politics of the Academy.
Disagreement: I'm sorry, I could have sworn there was this movie with Bill Murray or someone like that and he was doing a lot of cool stuff and a lot of the time there was this unbelievably attractive and talented girl doing a lot of stuff with him. You'd think they'd have recognized that or something. I don't care if Scarlett Johansen was considered a leading actress or a supporting actress in Lost in Translation; that she wasn't nominated in either category is insane. (Editorial disclaimer: Mr. Pollak wishes to disclose for fairness that Ms. Johansen is, in fact, his wife. In the future.)

Screenplay, original
Should win: Andrew Stanton, Bob Peterson and David Reynolds, Finding Nemo. Between all of the films nominated in this category, tell me honestly which one has the most lines and scenes you remember. If you don't think the "Mine" thing was 2003's biggest gift to humor, you have no sense of it at all. Lost in Translation was equally funny, but in terms of clever, you can't really ignore the whole script being one long "aren't these tiny Asian people hilarious?" joke, can you. Nemo is the film that most honestly fits the category of "original." That said, it doesn't have a prayer of winning.
Will win: Let's get straight to the politics of the matter and address two blatantly obvious elements here: Coppola is a woman, and Coppola is a Coppola. Between finally giving a woman a production award for once and acknowledging Hollywood royalty, there is not a force on earth that will prevent Sofia Coppola from winning this.
Disagreement: You can give praise to the admittedly-brilliant Finding Nemo and you can't find room for one of the coolest revenge-themed homages to classic grindhouse with one of the greatest female lead roles in American film history? Considering how much blow the guy's on Tarantino deserves credit for the effort he put into writing Kill Bill. Picturing him jumping away from the typewriter every sixty seconds to call up Robert Rodriguez and tell him how awesome this script is before being told to stop calling until he comes down from wherever he is and maybe put some pants on inspires more triumphant appreciation than that My Left Foot guy. I mean that. Really.

Screenplay, adapted
Should win: Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman, American Splendor. Gosh, who saw me calling for the underground comic book.
Will win: Philippa Boyens, Fran Walsh and Peter Jackson, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. I doubt I'm spoiling the ending for too many people by saying Rings is going to win best picture. And since they don't have any acting awards nominated, and since Russell Crowe has nothing to do with it, the film has to actually have some other awards to justify winning Best Picture.
Disagreement: Nothing really disagreeable here, so I'll take the free space to randomly mention how much Russell Crowe annoys me again.

Director
Should win: Peter Jackson, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. See Best Picture.
Will win: Jackson. See Best Picture.
Disagreement: Tarantino. Kill Billdidn't exactly direct itself. What, not good? Fine. Tell you what- YOU go orchestrate an 80-person fight sequence over a glass floor and crane a 2-minute pan from three rooms into a toilet and tell me about directing.

Best Picture, Animated
Should win: Oh give me a break. If there was only one award that you could actually say, knife to your throat, that was a life-on-it guarantee, it's that Finding Nemo's taking home an Oscar. Julia Roberts had worse odds. It's the most popular animated film ever, kids love it, adults love it, critics love it, computer animators love it, animal rights and environmentalists love it. Pixar made a film that easily edged out The Lion King for the title of "Finest Animated Movie Ever Made That Wasn't Called The Iron Giant." Find me a person who didn't like this movie. Then hit them. It was fantastic. It wins. Done.
Will win: Umm…. Golly, I've heard good things about this Nemo movie.
Disagreement: none. I'm thrilled this category exists.

Best Picture
Should win: Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. You don't need to have gone to film school like I did to realize that this is one of the largest endeavors in the history of filmmaking, and the result was one of the most spectacular epics ever made. What Peter Jackson accomplished, not only as a Tolkein fan but as someone trained in filmmaking, is a masterpiece. There is literally no excuse to not give this movie an Oscar.
Will win: Rings. Though I doubt it will happen, someone should give a side thanks to Clint Eastwood, and hope he understands that honestly, Mystic River is just such a damn fine movie. But for God's sakes, Lord of the Rings. I mean, really. Just… Lord of the Rings. God damn.
Disagreement: that Fellowship of the Ring didn't win two years ago so they could give it to Mystic River this year. Also, if I haven't mentioned it recently, Kill Bill is the best damn movie ever made. And I can't stand Russell Crowe.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 2:58 AM