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Friday, July 30, 2004

I'd Like To Believe Him 


It's the same old question, isn't it? Do I believe this one guy just because he's different than the guy I know I don't believe? Or do I choose the enemy I know? Or should I even believe that I have any enemies at all? John Forbes Kerry, number two in what would be the richest couple to ever step foot in the White House, officially accepted the Democratic nomination last night. He opened with a evocation of war, "I'm John Kerry and I'm reporting for duty!" and closed with one of Bush's lines "Goodnight, God bless you, and God bless America," and in between he managed to propose increases to the military, condemn an evil enemy, promise the swift use of force when needed, praise unilateralism, and vow to somehow win the War in Iraq.

The thing that catapulted Howard Dean into a brief but bright shining moment was his offer of opposition. People listened because he spoke of an alternative, he spoke from the heart and he spoke the opinion of those opposed to the war. And he invigorated the party and the voting public. In time people grew uneasy with his demeanor and the more experienced and pedestrian John Forbes Kerry rose above the muck. The Democratic establishment has thanked Dr. Dean for breathing life into the party and then promptly forgot him. Last night's speeches sounded less like an alternative than a contest of platitudes, symbols and rhetoric. It doesn't seem that John Kerry is so much opposed to Bush and his war itself, but to the way in which it was executed. John Kerry, he seems to say, would have folded the edges tighter before invading that country, and now that we're already there, he's definitely ready to overwhelm and win.

The Democrats must appeal to a broad audience, and the least common denominator, the viewing public boiled down to a viscuous red, white and blue blob in front of a plasma screen, is composed of randomly firing synapses that chant U-S-A to the flickering image of a mustachioed bad guy torturing and raping before getting run over by a tank driven by Arnold Schwarzennegger and George W. Bush -- or so the Monolith believes. JFK's handlers and the archDemocrats understand this, being as tuned in to the corporate power structure as the Republicans are (and being forced more and more into it every year, simply to keep up) and so we view a highly-staged "nomination event" run over by gallantly-streaming broad stripes and bright stars. Kerry and running mate John Edwards were more than eager to sing bellicose, only the kind of bellicose Bill Clinton perfected, you know, the kind when it's absolutely necessary, (although let's not forget, Mr. Clinton bombed the living daylights out of Iraq on several occasions) and the one with the bird's eye view is left to wonder Is there anything else to offer? It seems that even if we get away from the Orwellian Bush Administration, we still have Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace, and I'm uncomfortable believing that that is simply our destiny.

It's possible to believe that W. has gotten this country into such a mess that Kerry would have to follow a similar trajectory, at least at first, in order to right the course. But it's also possible to believe, and very likely to be true, that Kerry and Bush are both vying for control of an unstoppable wealth- and power-making machine, and that the motives and desires of corporations and moneyed elite are more important to the nation's security and policy than that of the average citizen. There is no doubt in my mind that the Democrats here are the preferable alternative. If left to the current wing of Republicans, we would not have public schools or Sosial Security. But the political left moves ever closer to the center, and then on to the right. Clinton did it in an egomaniacal masterstroke, and perhaps he single-handedly ruined the party, no matter how much peace and prosperity existed in his eight years. Now we see the Democrats copycatting Republicans, yet again, to try and compete for the affection of voting Americans.

(Even though electronic ballotting makes it all moot, in my paranoid opinion.)

And little opposition is offered. Again I remember that JFK voted for the Patriot Act and the invasion of Iraq. I've heard all the rationales and the reasons but actions speak a good sight louder than words. I do have hope that JFK will blossom into a great president, like FDR did, by playing to the middle and acting on the left, and of course almost anything is better than another four years of BushCo. Yet I can't help but wonder if there isn't something more insidious about the people's politician who signs the same Executive Orders with a smile, enacts the same policies with populist determination, and who commits the same crimes with a shout for freedom. There is a great danger in shutting out all criticism of the Anybody-But-Bush candidate, just because the Bush in question is so unspeakably bad. I'm willing to go along with the idea of holding one's nose at the ballot box and giving the New Boss a chance; but we should never, ever stop questioning and pushing. Because it's not the men -- John Forbes Kerry and George Walker Bush -- but the system they prop up. And right now things are looking sort of dodgy.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Once a Week in LA 


I don't know how many of you remember that I am in Los Angeles, (all 22 of you), but I am. And it's pretty great. Besides the devilish 405, and the occasional backups on Santa Monica Blvd, this lifestyle seems pretty easy to get used to. It is a bit odd, I'll admit, to have to get in a car to go to a cafe, and then get in the car again to get a newspaper. Last night, however, I had the best Korean food ever. It was barbecue style, and they knew exactly when to bring out more shaved scallion salad and kim chi, and it was all so fresh and delicious. WE supplementex the meal with hite beer and some kind of shooting liquor, and hands and chop sticks were flying all over the table, passing dishes of this and that here and there. Then the meat gets thrown on the grill and cooks in front of you. For me this is a godsend because I can take it off whenever I want, as rare as I want. Then I wrapped the meat in horseradish, or spiced zucchini or beans or whatever else they had laid out, smother it in peppered sesame sauce, and absorb. Good god.

It was so very delicious I think of it now with lust. And there were several times when guests caught me with my head back and eyes closed, moaning. It's not often I have a culinary experience so satisfying. The mood was jovial and celebratory, as it seemed to be at every other table, with beer and liuquor flowing freely, laughter and camaraderie. And it was so very cheap. So very sheap.

And the Getty Center is amazing.

And the natural beauty is fantastic.

Also the have the LA Weekly sor ot flike the Village Voice but... on the ... West Coast. There were a couple interesting articles this week. So check 'em out, y'all!


Teaching Torture
Remember how congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle deplored the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib as “un-American”? Last Thursday, however, the House quietly passed a renewed appropriation that keeps open the U.S.’s most infamous torture-teaching institution, known as the School of the Americas (SOA), where the illegal physical and psychological abuse of prisoners of the kind the world condemned at Abu Ghraib and worse has been routinely taught for years.

The interrogation manuals long used at the SOA were made public in May by the National Security Archive, an independent research group, and posted on its Web site after they were declassified following Freedom of Information Act requests by, among others, the Baltimore Sun. In releasing the manuals, the NSA noted that they “describe ‘coercive techniques’ such as those used to mistreat the detainees at Abu Ghraib.”

The Abu Ghraib torture techniques have been field-tested by SOA graduates — seven of the U.S. Army interrogation manuals that were translated into Spanish, used at the SOA’s trainings and distributed to our allies, offered instruction on torture, beatings and assassination.

In 2003, Salvadoran Colonel Francisco del Cid Diaz was a student at WHINSEC. But the colonel commanded a unit that shot 16 residents from the Los Hojas cooperative of the Asociacion Nacional de Indígenas and threw their bodies into the river in 1983. In 1992, the OAS Inter-American Commission on Human Rights recommended prosecution of Col. Cid Diaz for the murders.


So that's pretty cool! At least we're consistent. I was thinking it would be funny to make some promotional materials for the SOA, you know, PR stuff? And a friend of mine has been meaning to write a sketch about the SOA Class Reunion. Ha!

5 Weeks and Counting - Playing Politics
I don’t know what brought Arkansas into play for the Democrats, but it adds four electoral votes to Kerry’s stack, putting him at 228 over Bush’s 204. Pennsylvania and Ohio, as usual, are up for grabs, oscillating in a tight two-point spread around the dreaded dead heat. But Michigan and Wisconsin are now tilting blue. And somehow Kerry’s got a chance at all of the four corners, so he’s out West for a week, barnstorming mostly, but also outlining his vision for education reform with a major policy speech. Edwards is in Florida, where the Democrats are seven points ahead and would like to keep it that way. Upshot: It’s looking good, with only two weeks until the big Tuesday!


Such is the state of my current go at President Forever: 2004, a computer game that simulates a presidential campaign. Starting six weeks before the election, you head toward November with the candidates, running mates, platform and tactics of your choosing. In a typical turn, you have a limited amount of campaign capital, denominated in “points,” with which to stump, spin the news, fund-raise, prep for debates or organize. Some of those activities drain your campaign funds — $74 million to start for Democratic and Republican candidates, $2 million for Ralph Nader — and that also has to pay for your ad production and buy time. You can test different campaign themes and fine-tune the 18 planks of the candidate’s platform. PF 2004, Burgoyne says, has gotten an enthusiastic response from political buffs and neophytes alike. Educators have been using it, including political-science professors, who, Burgoyne explains, “apply the game in their classes to play out strategies, and to understand the psychological aspects.”

The game has enough fidelity that Burgoyne has been contacted by several people involved in campaigns, including Kerry’s, who say they use it as a tool.

So that's that. I'm actually being kicked off my computer. And I thought Angelinos were laid back. With Compton andLong Beach, however, you can be assured of having trouble.

Ahem.

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Monday, July 26, 2004

From the Horse's Mouth -- So to Speak 


Humanist, philosopher and graceful lady of the pen Ann Coulter was asked by USA Today to take her oat-chewing elsewhere. She had been (inexplicably) hired to write a column covering the Democratic National Convention; but as we know, little Ann cannot play well, and her first column was yanked by USA because, according to the newspaper, it was not funny or coherent. This article is worth reading, I guess. The first is about Coulter's piece, and the second part is the column in question. (USA Today's editorial comments are in CAPS).

Apparently," said Coulter, "USA Today doesn’t like my ‘tone,’ humor, sarcasm, etc. etc., which raises the intriguing question of why they hired me to write for them in the first place. Perhaps they thought they were getting Catherine Coulter.”

In a sort of package deal, USA Today plans to have Michael Moore offer commentary at the Republican National Convention next month. “My guess is they will ‘get’ his humor” said Coulter. We agree.

The Column in Question:

Here at the Spawn of Satan convention in Boston, conservatives are deploying a series of covert signals to identify one another, much like gay men do. My allies are the ones wearing crosses or American flags. The people sporting shirts emblazoned with the "F-word" are my opponents. Also, as always, the pretty girls and cops are on my side, most of them barely able to conceal their eye-rolling.


USA Today: EYE-ROLLING? AT WHAT?

Democrats are constantly suing and slandering police as violent, fascist racists -- with the exception of Boston's police, who'll be lauded as national heroes right up until the Democrats pack up and leave town on Friday, whereupon they'll revert to their natural state of being fascist, racist pigs.


USA Today: WHAT DEMOCRATS SUE THE POLICE? BUT THEY WON'T ACTUALLY REVERT TO BEING FASCIST PIGS, DON'T YOU MEAN THE DEMS WILL THINK THEY HAVE REVERTED TO BEING FASCIST PIGS?

A speaker at the Democratic National Convention this year, Al Sharpton, accused white police officers of raping and defacing Tawana Brawley in 1987, lunatic charges that eventually led to a defamation lawsuit against Sharpton and even more eventually, to Sharpton paying a jury award to the defamed plaintiff Steve Pagones. So it’s a real mystery why cops wouldn’t like Democrats.


USA Today: IS THAT LAST SENTENCE SARCASTIC? IF SO, YOU SURE LOST ME.

As for the pretty girls, I can only guess that it’s because liberal boys never try to make a move on you without the UN Security Council's approval. Plus, it’s no fun riding around in those dinky little hybrid cars. My pretty-girl allies stick out like a sore thumb amongst the corn-fed, no make-up, natural fiber, no-bra needing, sandal-wearing, hirsute, somewhat fragrant hippie chick pie wagons they call "women" at the Democratic National Convention.


USA Today: NOT FUNNY, I DON'T GET IT.

Apparently, the nuts at the Democratic National Convention are going to be put in cages outside the convention hall. Sadly, they won't be fighting to the death as is done in WWE caged matches. They're calling this the "protestor's area," although I suppose a better name would be the "truth-free zone".


USA Today: CLARIFY WHICH NUTS (NOTE FROM AC: THAT KILLS THE JOKE OF THE NEXT PARAGRAPH)

I thought this was a great idea until I realized the “nut” category did not include Sharpton, Al Gore, Bill Clinton, and Teddy Kennedy -- all featured speakers at the convention. I’d say the actual policy is only untelegenic nuts get the cages, but little Dennis Kucinich is speaking at the Convention, too. So it must be cages for “nuts who have not run for president as serious candidates for the Democratic Party.”

Looking at the line-up of speakers at the Convention, I have developed the 7-11 challenge: I will quit making fun of, for example, Dennis Kucinich, if he can prove he can run a 7-11 properly for 8 hours. We’ll even let him have an hour or so of preparation before we open up. Within 8 hours, the money will be gone, the store will be empty, and he’ll be explaining how three 11-year olds came in and asked for the money and he gave it to them.


USA Today: I DON'T GET IT.

For 20 years, the Democrats wouldn’t let Jimmy Carter within 100 miles of a Convention podium. The fact that Carter is now their most respectable speaker tells you where that party is today. Maybe they just want to remind Americans who got us into this Middle East mess in the first place. We’ve got millions of fanatical Muslims trying to slaughter Americans while shouting “Allah Akbar!” Yeah, let’s turn the nation over to these guys.

With any luck, Gore will uncork his speech comparing Republicans to Nazis. Just a few weeks ago, Gore gave a speech accusing the Bush administration of deploying “digital Brown Shirts” to intimidate journalists and pressure the media into writing good things about Bush -- in case you were wondering where all those glowing articles about Bush were coming from.

The last former government official to slake his thirst so deeply with the kool-aid and become a far-left peacenik was Ramsey Clarke and it took him a few years to really blossom. Clinton must have done some number on Gore. Then again, with his yen for earth tones in a man's wardrobe, maybe Gore's references to "Brown Shirts" was intended as a compliment.

Only one major newspaper -- the Boston Herald -- reported Gore’s “Brown Shirt” comment, though a Bush campaign spokesman's statement quoting the "Brown Shirt" line made it into the very last sentence of a Los Angeles Times article. The New York Times responded with an article criticizing “both” Republicans and Democrats for using Nazi imagery. Democrats call Republicans Nazis, the Republicans quote the Democrats calling Republicans Nazis and “both” are using Nazi imagery. (It’s a cycle of violence!)

The nuts in the cages are virtual Bertrand Russells compared to the official speakers at the Democratic Convention. On the basis of their placards, I gather the caged-nut position is that they love the troops so much, they don’t want them to get hurt defending America from terrorist attack. “Support the troops,” the signs say, “bring them home.”

That’s my new position on all government workers, except the 5% who aren’t useless, which is to say cops, prosecutors, firemen and U.S. servicemen. I love bureaucrats at the National Endowment of the Arts funding crucifixes submerged in urine so much -- I think they should go home. I love public school teachers punishing any mention of God and banning Christmas songs so much -- I think they should go home.

Walking back from the convention site I chatted with a normal Bostonian for several blocks -- who must have identified me through our covert system of signals. He was mostly bemused by the Democrats’ primetime speakers and told me he used to be an independent, but for the last 20 years found himself voting mostly Republican. Then he corrected himself and said he votes for the “American.”

I’d say I love all these Democrats in Boston so much I want them to go home, but I don’t. I want Americans to get a good long look at the French Party and keep the 7-11 challenge in mind.


USA Today: WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY "THE FRENCH PARTY"? I DON'T GET IT.

You know, this woman really is just pathetic. I get angry when I first read her columns, but her writing is so clearly devoid of any passion or substance that it's really not worth it anymore. The jokes are not funny, her commentary seems stale and overwrought, and the hateful bile has lost any edge it once had so that it now simply comes across as hurtful and sad. Nor does she bother to do little things like tell the truth or accurately represent facts. She lives up to every single stereotype about ignorant conservatives, and she goes far beyond. It was so nice to read USA Today's notes because they were right on. What is this woman talking about? The reason you got dumped, Ann, is because you have no talent, skill or credibility (not that you're reading Photon Theory...), and that's the way it is, mama!


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Unocal's Candidate 


Oil fan and ethnic hat afficianado Hamid Karzai is running for president in Afghanistan, the first of many countries to be liberated and democratized by these United States.

Mr Karzai surprised observers by dropping one of the country's most powerful warlords, the defence minister, Mohammed Fahim, from his ticket. It had been expected that Mr Fahim would be named as one of Mr Karzai's two vice-presidential running mates.

Ahmad Zia Massood, the brother of the assassinated Afghan mujahideen hero Ahmad Shah Massood, replaces Mr Fahim as a running mate.

Ahmad Shah Massood was the leader of the Northern Alliance when he was killed in September 2001, and the inclusion of his brother on the electoral ticket could appeal to voters in the north. Mr Karzai is from the Pashtun ethnic group, the majority group in the east and south.

We know that Afghanistan is making progress when the president drops a fucking WARLORD from the ticket. If only Rumsfeld would bow down as well.

Ha! Enough joking around! Seriously, though, Afghanistan is dumping its warlord. What kind of a country can it be if they still have WAR LORDS, and they don't play Dungeons and Dragons? Have we done all we can for Afghanistan, the forgotten enemy? In short, yes.


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