Tuesday, September 30, 2003

American fundamentalist and evangelical Christians, as a group. are supporting Israel in the Israel/Palestine conflict. They say they support Israel for Biblical reasons--that the return of the Jews to their homeland is a necessary precourser to the second coming of Christ.

What they don't talk about when they are making these quasi-political statements is the obvious--that they also believe all Jewish people (that is, the few who are left after the apocalypse) who do not convert will be condemned to eternal damnation because they are not Christian. Granted, they believe that all non-Christians (or, if they are like Pat Robertson, several Christians, too) will burn in hell because they do not hold peculiar fundamentalist-type beliefs.

What is interesting is that there is no vocal movement to expose this ridiculous, self-serving, bloodless hypocrisy.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

This is National Banned Books Week, and if ever there were a time to observe it, it's now, when the government is taking book censoring to a new low.

Just recently, a man who was sitting in a coffee shop, reading an article entitled "Weapons of Mass Stupidity," was hauled away for questioning by the FBI. Sound like science fiction? Well, it isn't Farenheit 451, it's the Bush/Cheney/Ashcroft White House. Better get used to it. The federal government has already banned the sale and display of Irwin Schiff's The Federal Mafia (the IRS has confiscated his hard drive and customer records).

The only people in America who appear to be actively protesting the government's plan to invade our reading habits are the nation's librarians.

They could use some help. First it was the irrational religious groups leading book banning, and now it's the official "patriots." Whatever you're currently reading, someone--at some point--will find a reason to ban it, so now is the time to help put an end to this nonsense. Unless, that is, you want to live in a facist society.

Friday, September 19, 2003

According to the latest Harper's Index, 54% of Americans believe that George W. Bush was legitimately elected president.

There are two ways of looking at this figure. One, of course, is to be in utter frustration that over half of the people in the United States bought the utter nonsense that the Democratic Party "used the courts" to try to obstruct an election (consider how Bush was finally selected). It is frightening, too, to realize that the mainstream news media failed to report what was going on in terms of Florida voting roll purges that emanated from Texas, and numerous voting rights violations.

But the other, perhaps more interesting, way to look at this figure is to realize that almost half of the people in the United States believe that George W. Bush was not legitimately elected president. Almost half!

If this is indeed the center of the free world--that is what people say--then what on earth is going on that almost half of the center's inhabitants believe they are living under an illegitiimate government?

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Republicans are rushing to remind us that Arnold Schwarzenegger's pornographic remarks in Oui about his own drug-laden gang-banging were made 26 years ago, and let's all let bygones be bygones. Well, people can change, so they have a point.

But it was only 15 years ago that he said in a Playboy interview that he would never "allow" his mother or his wife to wear pants in public with him.

And, of course, it was only 2 months ago that he told Esquire how shocking it was to come across a blonde "with great tits and a great ass" who is also smart.

Schwarzenegger, to his credit, isn't one of those phony liberal men who goes out of his way to sound non-sexist. He's just plain offensive.

Saturday, September 13, 2003

"If you seek freedom and individual rights, you will be struck."
Rick Renzi, R., Arizona

Congressman Renzi said this in a speech commemorating the events of September 11, 2001, and promoting the so-called War on Terror. Talk about myopia! Horrifying as terrorist acts may be, it is in this country that you risk being struck if you seek freedom and individual rights.

In many parts of the U.S., sticking an anti-war or anti-Bush bumper sticker on your car, writing a letter to the editor that is critical of the White House, or speaking against the White House at a public event can get you struck--literally. Or threatened. Or boycotted by radio stations who promote the lie that Iraq was "behind Bin Laden," as the sickening song goes.

Simple acts like wearing a T-shirt in a mall or displaying a peace sign attract the phony patriot vigilantes like magnets. So I agree with Renzi, but I don't think he has any idea what kind of truth he spoke.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Today is supposed to be a day of remembrance, so here are some sober things to remember:

Just a few months prior to the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the CIA was told by German intelligence that Middle Eastern terrorists were training for hijackings and were interested in targeting
American interests. Vladimir Putin also issued a similar alert, and he used the words "suicide pilots." (Interestingly, this was originally reported by Fox News and the report appeared on Fox's website. It has now disappeared and is a blank page. So...we report--you decide).

In July of 2001, Attorney General Ashcroft, having studied the threats, stopped flying commercial airlines and would not reply to media questions about his decision.

Israeli Mossad agents warned the FBI and CIA that multiple terrorists were in the U.S., and that they had a plan. The agents even handed over a list, and four of the names were those of September 11 hijackers, Mohammed Atta among them.

Two weeks prior to the attack, an FBI supervisor reported that he was working on preventing a hijacker from “flying a plane into the WTC.”

Newsweek reported that on September 10, 2001, a group of top Pentagon officials canceled travel plans for the next morning, apparently because of security concerns.

On September 11, 2001, a US intelligence agency prepared for an exercise at 9 a.m. in which an aircraft would crash into one of its buildings near Washington, DC.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Don't you just love it when you find money you didn't know you had? A $5 bill stuck between the sofa cushions, an uncashed check for $50 lying in a drawer, an interest check for $100 that you weren't expecting.

Rejoice! As a nation, we are about to find $87 billion we didn't know we had. Because if we'd known about it, surely we would have used it to re-open all of those libraries that had to shut down. Or put air conditioning and textbooks in the public schools. Or found places for the homeless to sleep. Or upgraded the health care programs of veterans.

We could have made child abuse prevention programs meaningful, for once. Or enforced the Americans with Disabilities Act. Or done something about illiteracy.

We could have given our soldiers a pay raise instead of the Pentagon's proposed pay cut. We could have established community or in-home programs for older people who are not bed-ridden. We could re-opened all of those community mental health clinics we closed.

But now that we're about to put our hands on the windfall, we're going to use it to rebuild a country we blew up so that one man can repay the gigantic spenders that put him in office.

And that's compassionate conservatism.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Hail Justine Henin-Hardenne! In the women's U.S. Open semi-finals, she played so hard for 3 hours against Jennifer Capriati that she had to have IV fluids after the match. She also played with a sprained left thigh muscle that gave her pain every time she served. She also won. By the next afternoon, however, she was feeling so bad that she considered dropping out of the tournament. But at the last minute, she showed up and defeated Kim Clijsters to win the U.S. Open.

Possibly the scrappiest player in the history of women's tennis, Henin-Hardenne has enormous physical and mental reserves, and seems at her best when she is pulling up from behind. Not to take anything away from her, but she had a peculiar situation in her last two U.S. Open matches: she played against two women who took choking to a new level.

Capriati--whose tennis is so good now that experts say it is better than during her reign--dominated Henin-Hardenne throughout the first set and the second. But when it came time to serve for the match--and she had plenty of chances to do so--Capriati fell apart, forcing a third set. She got behind then, caught up, but again lost her focus when it mattered, forcing a tie-break, which she lost.

Capriati's choking is a new phenomenon that has plagued her for about a year, and probably has to do with doubts, perhaps unconscious, about her age. But Clijsters has brought a propensity to weaken at the big moments to her career from the time that she became a tennis star. She earned a number-one ranking without ever winning a grand slam tournament, and this week, the tennis world was waiting for her to finally get rid of this particular embarrassment. But though she played brilliantly throughout the Open, she seemed to cave at the sight of the gutsy Henin-Hardenne, who has beaten Clijsters repeatedly.

If Clijsters and Capriati are not under the care of a sports psychologist or other mental health professional, then they are showing very poor judgment. And if they are under such care, it's time for them to find new clinicians who can get them past whatever is going on. A skillful hypnotherapist, for example, could probably cure both of them of the weakness that plagues their matches. Both are far too talented to continue playing with such a significant mental handicap.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Yesterday we observed Labor Day by spending some time away from work. Thousands of Americans will soon spend a lot more time away from work, if the president has his way. Yesterday, while Americans were relaxing at picnics, Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao announced the Bush administration's plan to repeal the law that requires employers to pay time and a half for overtime. Chao made it clear that U.S. military veterans would be classified among those who would lose overtime pay.

Now, that's what I call supporting the troops.