May 1, 2008

Shame of the nation

As others have noted, today is the fifth anniversary of Bush's infamous "Mission Accomplished" moment. Aside from all the now-hilarious (if it wasn't so depressing, I guess) quotes from pro-war pundits celebrating Bush's manly package, there are some other ridiculous elements to remember: mainly, that every part of it was staged. The aircraft carrier was only a few miles from shore, making helicopter transport possible and much safer. But Bush needed to do his happy playtime plane stunt, and here we are, five years later.

Anyway, it occured to me that five years down the line, can we even call this the most embarassing moment in the last seven years of Bush as president? I figured today's as good as any to reflect upon some of the other candidates:

January 28, 2002 - Under the orders of Attorney General John Ashcroft, $8,650 of taxpayer money is spent on curtains to cover statues in the Great Hall of the Department of Justice which bear exposed breasts.

March 11, 2003 - In an attempt to chastise France for refusing to support a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Congressmen Bob Ney (R-OH) and Walter Jones (R-NC) order food in all House cafeterias renamed "Freedom Fries" and "Freedom Toast." As Chairman of the Committee on House Administration, Ney is allowed to do this without requiring any votes on it.

May 1, 2003 - President Bush arrives on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln wearing a flight suit and arriving in a fighter jet, despite the carrier being only 30 miles from shore and well within helicopter range. He then changes into a suit to deliver a speech beneath a gigantic banner reading "mission accomplished" in which he claims combat operations in Iraq have ended.

June 12, 2003 - President Bush is photographed falling off of a Segway motorscooter, hailed as being a device that is nearly possible to fall off of. Segway manufacturers would later explain the device is electrically-powered, and the President failed to plug it in.

January 26, 2005 - Following a White House press conference where a question asked is so partisan it actually piques enough curiosity to investigate it's asker, said asker is revealed to be Jeff Gannon (actually the alias of Jeff Guckert), a man who despite using a fake name, having no journalism background, and is a male prostitute, has somehow been granted credentials to be within fifteen feet of the President of the United States.

February 2, 2005 - Following parliamentary elections held a week prior in Iraq, several members of Congress goad war opponents during Bush's State of the Union Address by waving their fingers which they have dipped in ink.

September 4, 2005 - President Bush is photographed writing a note to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, reading "I think I need to go to the bathroom. Is this possible?"

Any others I'm missing here? This list stops in late 2005 and there's got to be some more from the last few years. I'm not including silly photos (like the Cheney hiding in the Bushes thing) or dumb or ironic quotes (a.k.a. "Fool me once...") or merely horrific policiy decisions that are disagreeable but at least practical applications of Bush being President (i.e. the PATRIOT Act, his court picks, etc.) I'm talking about moments that will actually potentially make the history books and be looked upon by future generations in wonder, as if they actually can't believe this really happened, because they are so freaking stupid. I'll put the carrier moment in here too to maintain chronology. Send any suggestions to and I'll put 'em up.

Update Wow. Okay, so a lot of you sent some good ones in. I will probably take the weekend to update the list with a few of the better ones. Good job, people!

Posted by August J. Pollak at 8:57 AM

April 30, 2008

Master Chief's a total pig too

There are a lot of valid points made in this Feministing post about Grand Theft Auto IV, but I guess I'm going to have to wade into the muck and label myself gender-equality-ignorant by saying I think a lot of the arguments presented are really, really silly.

That GTAIV doesn't offer a "female perspective" or "gay-friendly elements" to the plotline is honestly the biggest one for me. By the nature of Rockstar Games trying to make a realistic storyline, the action is going to be inherently misogynistic. The protagonist is a Serbian illegal immigrant trying to make his way up in the world of a parallel-New York city underworld. I think there are a lot of fields where gender and sex-orientation equality have made vast improvements; urban organized crime isn't exactly one of them. (For the record, Rockstar's previous game was last year's Bully, which does allow the protagonist to choose sexual advances toward both genders for various advancements in the plot)

The argument about violence against women is also curious. The major complaint here seems to be "you can kill strippers" and "you can kill hookers." This is technically true, in that you can kill everybody. While there are missions and objectives that are central to your character's interaction with various characters, I've seen no reports or reviews of the game indicating that specifically injuring or killing a prostitute is a play requirement. Yes. You can kill hookers. You don't have to. This also applies to men, children, animals, and an infinite number of other elements in the game.

That doesn't dispel the main argument about the game though- clearly, GTAIV is misogynistic. So is A Clockwork Orange. How you respond to that movie and whether you choose to view it or not is completely up to the individual. But suggesting that either the game or any movie "could have been done differently" is pointless. This is what the creators wanted to make.

None of this suggests I don't think a gender or orientation-neutral crime game wouldn't work. (Gabe & Tycho at Penny Arcade had a hilarious discussion in their podcast a few weeks ago about how much better a game Army of Two would have been if the protagonists were gay instead of, well, vile, offensive women-hating misogynists). Nor does it mean I think it's a great game for kids of all ages- I'm behind the ESRB 100% on this, and any parent who lets anyone under 18 near this thing is a freaking moron. But complaining about the game being what it is ignores the fact that, well, it is what it is.

Given the more common use of female characters in video games, GTAIV is in a way almost refreshing in making the misogyny at least relevant. The exploitation of women in the game is a theoretical focus of the storyline and the environment to which your character is attached. That honestly seems far more understandable than the typical fighting game in which the creators claim it's "for girls too" because three of the eighteen selectable players are either a half-naked Amazon with impossibly large breasts or a half-naked schoolgirl with even more impossibly large breasts. GTAIV features elements in which a male character playing a violent criminal can commit violent crimes against women. Bloodrayne was an action platformer which was promoted with digital images of its star character naked in Penthouse. Which of these is really the more unnecessary feature?

Posted by August J. Pollak at 1:33 PM

The #1 news network in America

I didn't believe it was physically possible for people to actually be this stupid.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 11:49 AM

April 29, 2008

Stupid person suggests smart man be stupid to appeal to stupid vote

Shorter Andrew Sullivan: Barack Obama's refusal to offer to project a broad hatred of so-called radical black religious figures dangerously threatens my imaginary support for his candidacy and could seriously reduce his turnout of racists in the November election.

Shorter Ben Smith: Can you believe we're paid to do this?

Posted by August J. Pollak at 9:43 AM

But remember, Al Gore said he invented the internet

John McCain is never wrong, ever.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 7:44 AM

April 28, 2008


Latest comic - click here!

One of the talking points used in the recent debate to increase SCHIP and provide more coverage for millions of uninsured children to kill the bill was the argument that (gasp!) creating universal healthcare in America would mean everyone in America can see a doctor when they need to... even those awful, awful illegal immigrants.

It's a very amazing aspect of American culture, but there are loads of people who actually think like that. People are willing to make their own lives harder for the sake of feeling more confident that someone, somewhere, whom they have never met and never will, isn't possibly having it a little easier than they think they are.

Buy some crap and join the list.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 12:11 AM