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Shrine of the Martyrs

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Steely Dan: Confessions

Words and Mood - updated 2004.05.10

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.
...
All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

- from September 1, 1939, by W.H. Auden

 

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

 

C for Chickenshit

If anybody has paid any attention at all to my pathetic little corner of cyberspace at all, please allow me to apologize for my absence and this blog's semi-abandoned state. As is so often the case, real life tends to interfere with what we'd rather be doing, both in cyberspace and in the real world. As is also so often the case, it's amazing what can respark a renaissance of sorts in enterprises such as this. Much has happened since I last posted here; the world's been a virtual swirl of chaos. The war in Iraq staggers on, that country periously close to civil war at any given moment; the horrors of Katrina's aftermath not only exposed the deliberately ignored racial and socioeconomic divide in the US, it still has left wide swaths of the populace in horrifically bad shape; the Bush administration continues to its damnedest to jump into the abyss in every way it can manage and take us all with it.

In the midst of all this mess, what event finally manages to kick my ass into writing a new post? Yeah, that's right... the release of, and response to, a movie based on a comic book.

As this is written, V for Vendetta has yet to be officially released. Based on an artistically and conceptually challenging "graphic novel" by well known industry genius-cum-enfant terrible Alan Moore, it's been in and out of movie development hell for years. Combined with what Hollywood tends to do with his works (see tripefests like the adaptations of From Hell and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen for details), and Moore's total disavowal of this production, and you can see why hopes have not been high for this latest (mis)treatment of his work. But, a funny thing seems to be happening on the way to the theater with this one. It seems for certain that the movie version won't be supplanting anybody's memory of the original version, but by the same token, it does seem that it may well be the first filmed rendention of Moore's work that doesn't entirely suck. Not that it will matter much to the author; in addition to being a perfectionist, he is one cranky son of a bitch, and tends to bite the hand(s) that feed him, really hard and relentlessly.

The great thing about smart, cranky, talented people, however, is that they tend to turn out work which is good, challenging, original, unconventional, forces you to keep your brain engaged, and is not for the faint of heart. The original V delivered on all counts. Hollywood's version looks to be toning things down a bit from what I've seen so far, but doesn't seemed to have turned it entirely into pablum. It was in this setting that I've been eagerly looking for whatever advance reviews of the movie that I can find online and elsewhere. So far, the meta-review site rottentomatoes.com has it at a "fresh" rating of right around 70%, which is quite good for something as potentially incendiary as this. I dug eagerly into the reviews, which were quite interesting, and many of which were well thought out... until I hit some which were amazing in their audacity. Well, if stupidity and personal cowardace can sink to a level than can be said to be audacious, that is. The fascinating thing is that there seem to be "film critics" running around that feel their job isn't to evaluate film on an artistic basis, but rather to spend the first 3/4ths of their "reviews" whacking mightily at strawman versions of what they think the movie means (actually, what their paranoia needs them to believe its message is), and the final 1/4 viewing every imagined flaw through that lens, so that it becomes at the end a work of enkarte kunst from which the "critic" is protecting us all.

Probably the most egregious examples of these sorts of reviews are those of Jeff Giles for "Newsweek", Steve Rhodes in the email only "Internet Review", and probably the sterling example I've seen so far, David Denby's in the "New Yorker." Denby's in particular is probably some of the most howlingly overwrought criticism in a political vein since Charlie Krauthammer's turn as a "critic" tickled funnybones and was demolished by actual film critic Jim Emerson.

Denby gets off to a flying flop from the get go:

“V for Vendetta,” a dunderheaded pop fantasia that celebrates terrorism and destruction, is perhaps the ultimate example of how a project with modest origins becomes a media monster.

Goddamn, it CELEBRATES terrorism, do you hear me??? No, it's not a dystopian look at a FICTIONAL future with moral ambiguities and no real villains or heroes. No, it is not primarily concerned with IDEAS.

By the same "reasoning," one could say 1984 "celebrates" Big Brother and totalitarianism. Sorry, we don't have time for subtleties here, we've got art to slander before anybody gets an actual non-black-or-white idea in their head, heavens to betsy. And oh yeah, Alan Moore is NOT a critically acclaimed writer of those petty little comic book thingies, either; gotta make sure that modest origins is used as a synonym for "piffle you can safely ignore," ya know.

The prehistory of the movie begins in England, in 1981, with a gloomy but excitingly drawn series that was concocted by the writer Alan Moore and his illustrator-collaborator, David Lloyd, and initially appeared in the
magazine Warrior. By the time Moore and Lloyd finished the series, in 1988, and it was collected and published as a graphic novel, Margaret Thatcher had been elected for a third term. Moore, in an introduction to the book, insisted that “the government has expressed a desire to eradicate homosexuality.” He also said that “the tabloid press are circulating the idea of concentration camps for persons with AIDS.” As far as one can tell, Moore and Lloyd’s work was fuelled by the British left’s disgust with Thatcher’s policies, combined with imaginary menaces culled from antic British tabloids.

"LOONY LEFTIES!!! Slanderin' that poor, great Maggie Thatcher... NOTHING bad happened back then! She NEVER made a mistake or ever said anything bad. Move along... nothing to see here... here, take a Nytol..."

Setting their story in 1997, they projected a fascist future for England and a rebel hero, in a Guy Fawkes mask, who blows up Parliament and the
Prime Minister’s residence.

Pop cannibalizes and regurgitates everything, including history, and in normal circumstances only a literal-minded prig would treat graphic novelists or big-screen fantasists as if they had any responsibility to truth. But events overtook this pop apocalypse on the way to the malls. Scheduled for release last November, “Vendetta” was temporarily shelved, according to its distributor, Warner Bros., “to accommodate the film’s post-production schedule.” The delay, however, was announced in August, a month after Islamist terrorists bombed the London subway and buses. The filmmakers, whatever their intentions, hit reality with an embarrassing thud. At this point, a few simple questions need to be asked of them, such as, What in the world are you doing? It may be relevant to point out, for instance, that Guy Fawkes, who is at the emotional center of the movie as well as of the graphic novel, was no liberator but a Catholic dissident
who, in 1605, wanted to destroy the Protestant aristocracy by blowing up the House of Lords and killing King James I. Captured beneath Parliament with thirty-six barrels of gunpowder, Fawkes was tortured and hanged, and, ever since, on November 5th (the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot), he has been burned in effigy all over England in celebrations both merry and ironic. If Guy Fawkes has become a sympathetic figure, it’s his failure—his incompetence as a mass murderer—that has made him so.
Oh, I'm sorry... were you actually expecting SOMETHING about, you know, THE MOVIE by this point? Oh, you're SUCH a silly. Strawmen take time and effort to construct. Right after the leader of your collective gets done going over the great and powerful comrade general's plan to meet our production quotas, only then will you be properly and truly ready for the REAL criticism. EVERYTHING is political, no?

The Wachowskis, Andy and Larry, wrote an adaptation of the Moore-Lloyd material in the mid-nineties, but put it aside for a decade to work on their “Matrix” trilogy. Taking it up again, they moved the period of “Vendetta” to around 2020, and installed their “Matrix” protégé James McTeigue (he was an assistant director on those films) as the director. In “Vendetta,” America has collapsed under the strain of terror, plague, and civil war, and England has been taken over by a totalitarian dictator, Adam Sutler (John Hurt).

A goateed ranter intruding into people’s lives on a big screen, Sutler sustains an atmosphere of endless crisis in order to justify his iron rule. In the prison camp that England has become, the airwaves are dominated by a racist, hate-filled commentator, and all culture—including pop standards, books, and old movies—has been eliminated. Art is kept alive, barely, in the “shadow gallery,” an underground vault in which the rebel, V (Hugo Weaving), lives and plots revolt.
You better still be awake, comrade, or you'll be hauled off to the gulag IMMEDIATELY!

V was thrown into a detention center years ago and disfigured by a fire in its experimental lab, and now he seeks revenge. A fast-moving dandy, he hides his face and body behind a black cape and a smiling Guy Fawkes mask; he keeps everyone at bay with a teasing verbal dexterity that hovers between the awesome and the tedious. When he saves a young woman in the street, Evey (Natalie Portman), from being assaulted by government thugs, he treats her to a rapid alliterative patter (“A vendetta held as a votive, not in vain”), and Portman does a disbelieving double-take—the movie’s only funny moment. V is into Shakespeare, too, and, like a windy ham actor in his dotage, quotes “Macbeth” at every chance. Acting behind the mask, Weaving (Agent Smith in the “Matrix” series) seems to be doing an imitation of James Mason in his most hyper-civilized and elocutionary roles, though Mason was acidly witty, and Weaving is merely formal and condescending. Until he fights, that is: whirling around, V unleashes knives and daggers, slicing off hands and slashing throats in furious ballets of violent revenge.
Hey, there were some actual details about the movie in there that time. You better have been paying attention, proletariat!

Does some of this sound familiar? The filmmakers acknowledge that they were inspired by “A Clockwork Orange,” and by the rebellious, machine-gunning students of Lindsay Anderson’s 1968 “If . . . ” Many other
sources, notably “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Batman,” and the “Darkman”
graphic-novel series that was made into a movie in 1990, by Sam Raimi, are
obvious influences. But one particular source for “Vendetta” was not so much imitated as pillaged: the puritanical tone of the English dictatorship, the omnipresent surveillance, the Big Brother figure screaming at everyone—all this has been lifted from George Orwell’s “1984,” with no more than a token attempt at disguise. Orwell was drawing on his experience of England during the Second World War, when every human being and teacup from Kent to Northumberland was mobilized to resist a German invasion. In “1984,” he projected the bleakly austere wartime atmosphere into the future and filled it out with details from totalitarian rule in Germany and the Soviet Union. However much he invented as he created his dystopia, he was also relying on actual events and situations.

What is the actuality behind “Vendetta”? The last time I looked, London seemed more like a prosperous pleasure garden than like the capital of a jackbooted, dehumanized future.
OK, we're back to strawman construction and "what they really meant"-ism via an extremely dumbass Amazing Kreskin act. Well, now that he's honed in on an ESP wavelength and his strawman looks as good as it's ever going to, Denby goes for broke.

The Wachowskis clearly wanted to weigh in on current politics, so they threw in references to the Bush Administration’s political use of
Christianity. There’s also talk of “rendition,” and the secret police repeatedly throw black hoods over people’s heads, Abu Ghraib style. The society we see onscreen, its civil order crushed by fear, is meant to be a nightmare vision of our own society. V may begin his rampage in search of personal vengeance, but in the end he attacks the entire system, and, as the movie tells it, the system deserves to be attacked. It turns out that the government once released a deadly plague on the British citizenry in order to pose as its savior. But this kind of comic-book paranoia doesn’t seem as playful or innocent as it used to.

The movie has an elaborate visual design: gleaming red-and-black fascist
splendor alternates with glowing white interiors and smudgy industrial squalor. V jumps out of the darkness, and his mask—mocking and immobile—spooks us every time. The violent passages, with steel knives flying through the air and turning end over end, are as uncanny and beautiful as similar scenes in “The Matrix.” There’s a big drop in excitement every time V and little Evey discuss life and art in the shadow gallery, but, all in all, James McTeigue seems just as skilled as the Wachowskis in putting together a large-scale movie. Yet even if one
enjoys the craft of “Vendetta,” and, viewing it as an extravagant pop myth, cuts it as much slack as possible, there’s no getting around the fact that this allegedly antifascist work lusts after fire and death. At the end, V directs Evey to send a subway train filled with explosives toward Parliament, even though Sutler’s headquarters are elsewhere. V wants a big bang, with lots of fireworks and the “1812” Overture.

Yup, this movie is DEFINITELY "just an anti-Bush polemic." The Bush administration is mentioned all over (hint: it ISN'T), even though the movie is set in 2020, and even though, oh yeah, IT'S SET IN BRITAIN, genius. "Playful and innocent?" Good god, you twit, have you ever seen the source comic? Not unless your idea of "playful" includes death camps, torture, totalitarianism, medical experimentation, and big questions about the nature of good, evil, right and wrong, and what's acceptable to do in the name of good. But, don't you fret your pretty head about it. Unca Davey is here to wax as apopleptic as Don Knotts on a two week espresso bender about the "evils" of it all, so you have prepackaged, preconceived ways of processing all of this into rigid, black-or-white-ONLY little cubbie-holes in your skull, lest you might find all that thinking stuff to be too taxing.

It’s true that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, but, by sticking to the blowing-up-Parliament template, the Wachowskis
have stumbled into celebrating an attack against an icon of liberal democracy. No one’s questioning the filmmakers’ right to do any damn fool thing they want, but “Vendetta” doesn’t parse. Who might it appeal to? “Matrix” lovers, certainly. And the movie’s sullen, chain-clanking atmosphere connects with punk, Goth, grunge, and all the doomy tones of white teen rock for the past three decades. For aging kids stoned on pop rapture, it could be a trip. And for people driven mad by the ineptitude and folly of the Bush Administration this film may seem like a brazen romp. Only the West could have made a movie in which blowing up civic temples is a “provocative” media statement.

"Yeah, it's true... except if it gores my ox, gives me the vapors, or makes me pee my pants... MOMMIE!!!" Yeah, Alan Moore is "just trying to be provocative." Orwell and Thomas Jefferson, too.

You know, Davey, it sounds like your nerves aren't doing too well these days. It sounds like anything artistically or intellectually challenging makes you just run for the hills, construct strawmen to chase away the feeling that the bogeyman is near, and more importantly, you feel the need to brand anybody who doesn't feel exactly as you do in these areas with unpleasant terms, and to try to tell people how they should think instead of DOING YOUR JOB, which is to critique films on an ARTISTIC basis. If I want an "evertything is political" load of shit where all else is discarded, I could always consult the shade of Lysenko.

So, maybe you should leave art to those who haven't descended to chickenshit level just yet because the technicolor alert level is set to chartreuse or whatever. I'm sure that when you're less nervous, somebody will have a job for you.





Monday, May 23, 2005

 

"Hey, go fetch a leech from your barber!"

Back in the 70's, when it was still actually funny and known to present cutting edge comedy, Saturday Night Live had a sporadically recurring character called Theodoric of York, medieval barber. Lampooning the ignorance of the dark ages, it was played by Steve Martin when he guest hosted the show, and depicted him prescribing ridiculous, superstition driven remedies for numerous ailments. Towards the end of the sketch, he would have a sudden flash of insight that went like this:

Theodoric of York: [ steps toward the camera ] Wait a minute. Perhaps she's right. Perhaps I've been wrong to blindly folow the medical traditions and superstitions of past centuries. Maybe we barbers should test these assumptions analytically, through experimentation and a "scientific method". Maybe this scientific method could be extended to other fields of learning: the natural sciences, art, architecture, navigation. Perhaps I could lead the way to a new age, an age of rebirth, a Renaissance! [ thinks for a minute ] Naaaaaahhh!


Of late, we seem to have our own medieval barber striding the land. Perhaps he thinks that science, technology, and medicine need to be "faith based" too, like so many of his other initiatives. He even seems to have his own method for dealing with South Korea's sudden emergence as the therapeutic cloning power of the world, said method appearing to be repression and ignorance.

Just a few years ago, Michigan State University scientist Jose Cibelli was considered the leading expert on cloning human embryos to treat and study disease. Now, there's no debate that the cloning king is Hwang Woo-suk of Seoul National University.

On Thursday, Hwang announced yet again that he had successfully cloned human embryos, this time extracting stem cells from embryos created using the DNA of sick and injured patients. It was the second time in a little more than a year that Hwang had successfully cloned.

Hwang is succeeding where the United States is failing because generous South Korean government support helped him create an efficient cloning factory. In his lab, an army of researchers trained in specialized individual tasks mans a high-tech assembly line that often operates 24 hours a day, Cibelli and others say.

In contrast, the few U.S. researchers eager to clone are left scrambling for funds and staff and must contend with legal vagaries as well as staunch opposition from
President Bush, who reaffirmed his position on Friday with a veto threat.

"I'm very concerned about cloning," Bush said. "I worry about a world in which cloning becomes accepted."


Yeah, George... if it becomes accepted, all those poor barbers and leech salesmen might be out of work. But don't worry... the clod who hasn't used his veto power even so much as once during his presidency plans to save it for when it's truly needed.

President Bush has condemned stem cell research advances in
South Korea and said he worried about living in a world in which human cloning was condoned. He said he would veto any legislation aimed at loosening limits on federal support in the United States.

"I'm very concerned about cloning," Bush told reporters in the Oval Office on Friday. "I worry about a world in which cloning becomes acceptable."

"I made it very clear to the Congress that the use of federal money, taxpayers' money to promote science


Now if the boy king had stopped here, he might have been accurate. But he continues...

which destroys life in order to save life is — I'm against that. And therefore, if the bill does that, I will veto it."

Republicans in Congress are sharply divided over the stem cell issue, which could lead to the first veto of Bush's presidency. The president's comments were aimed at putting the brakes on a bill gaining momentum on Capitol Hill.


Thanks, George. Knowing that you plan to keep the US for technological progress and new medical techniques makes me feel so much better. But hey, when it comes to dumb medical decisions and casting aside science for superstition cloaked as 'religious belief', why stop there? Why not have a whole new class of barbers-cum-pharmacists dictate what medicines they will and won't dispense, some even refusing to release the prescription to another pharmacist? YEAHHHHHHH...

But hey, the government doesn't have a double standard between medications to enable birth and reproductive control for women and those used to help guys sprout wood on a dime, do they?

New York's comptroller urged the nation's top health official Sunday to ban high-risk sex offenders and convicted rapists from receiving Viagra paid for by Medicaid.

"Federal, state and local reimbursement for the cost of erectile dysfunction drugs for sex offenders raises serious policy considerations and has the potential to place the public at risk," Comptroller Alan Hevesi wrote Michael Leavitt, secretary of Health and Human Services.

"I am asking that you take immediate action to ensure that sex offenders do not receive erectile dysfunction medication paid for by the taxpayers. I urge you to take administrative action to remedy the situation or draft an amendment to the underlying statute as appropriate," Hevesi wrote.

Hevesi said his office found that from January 1, 2000, through March 31, 2005, 198 Level 3 sex offenders received Medicaid-reimbursed Viagra after being convicted of a sex offense. Sex offenders are those convicted of crimes such as rape, sexual abuse, and sexual conduct against a child.

Level 3 offenders are those considered by the courts most likely to commit crimes again.

According to Hevesi, his office determined in its audit that the victims of the sex crimes during the five-year period ranged from toddlers to a woman as old as 90; and the crimes included first-degree rape.


NAHHHHHH!!! Couldn't be... I mean, if a "conscience driven" pharmacist hands out boner pills to a convicted rapist, he rapes somebody and the victim becomes pregnant, and the same pharmacist denies a morning after pill to the victim as "immoral", I'm sure he has everybody's best interests in mind and we shouldn't question it.

And if you don't like that, I'm sure he can give you a good deal on a nice juicy leech.





Monday, May 09, 2005

 

Attack of the Pinhead Clones

As the readers of this blighted little corner of cyberspace may or may not know, the self appointed majordomo of this space was raised and currently lives in the state of Ohio. These days, it certainly behooves one to keep such information on the down low, seeing as though a certain wingnut pinhead did his level best to turn my homestate into this past presidential election's version of Florida in the 2000 race.

As can be told from last year's result, the state has very much of a split personality politically. Recently, one of the state's GOP senators, George Voinovich, called a sudden halt to the John Bolton confirmation hearings despite White House pressure to just ram him through and get him confirmed at warp factor ten... you know, before any unpleasant facts about the man's "diplomacy" "skills" come to light. Not that this makes Georgie a saint or anything, it was just an interesting turn in events coming from a guy elected by a state that often seems full of raging centrists (and more often than not, wingnuts who like having the sheen of Ohio's moderate rep without doing a damn thing to earn it). Over the last several years, quite a few absolutely whirling wingnuts have taken up residence in our august statehouse on primarily sheer gall and belligerance. Another big downside to the "centrism" and politeness on display here is that such types can bully their way in due to an attitude that goes something like, "Well, that fellow does seem to want into office so badly, and he might have an apoplexy if he doesn't get his way... it would probably be rude to deny him what he wants. More pie, anyone?"

The wingnuts are up to their usual crapola, and one of the symptoms of this pathology here is that yeah, you bullied your way into office here... and now, compared to your pinhead compadres in arms in other states, it's kinda boring in der kulturkampf 'round heah. I mean, yeah, there are a few corners of the state, like down in the southeast along the Ohio River, where people like going all apey about pure baloney issues like dropping huge stone tablets with the ten commandments on them on schoolhouse lawns, but while a good percentage of the population might privately get riled about such things, the vast majority of the state doesn't like to be quite so in your face about it, because well, it's just fucking rude, like demanding your next door neighbor convert to Pentecostalism right this damn instant or you're gonna beat them over the head with a cookie sheet full of buckeyes or something.

People are one thing, and wingnuts in the legislature unencumbered by the need to look the people they demonize in the eye are another entirely. Especially with genuine, but really boring issues like school funding, where money for Medicaid is going to come from, and kids from these parts getting blown apart in Iraq and getting shipped home sans pieces or in a box, our local political genuises have decided to focus on a much sexier non-issue shipped in from another state that they see their ideological compadres have fun with elsewhere. And that bullshit issue is...

ECOTERRORISM!!!

Whew!!! Aren't you scared? Do you need to take a valium before we go on? Because, I don't know about you, but I've always heard that Ohio is a hotbed of ecoterrorist activity, and that they spike trees in old growth forests here with sticks of dynamite, and that they're planning on sending cans of radioactive dog food to the CEO of Iams, and...

Oh, sorry about that, I couldn't resist having a little fun of my own. I mean, it's not even funny really, it is just flat out fucking ridiculous to assert that this state has an issue with "ecoterrorism" that somehow requires our local political pinheads' attention above and beyond the actual burning issues that affect real people's lives here that require immediate attention. But instead, we get horseshit like this:

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Though arson, vandalism, assault, break-ins and other tactics by radical animal rights activists and environmentalists are already illegal, some officials want to take punishments a step further.

A national group of conservative state lawmakers has been promoting laws creating a separate offense of ecoterrorism since 2003, when California passed such a law.


You know, California... where things are more exciting, and there are demon, in-yer-face commie libberuhls to take on! And oh, where they have also had real incidents that could be labeled as "ecoterrorism" (which is a pretty politically loaded and fairly useless term to begin with, anyhow).

Similar bills have died in Texas and Arizona, and others are pending in Pennsylvania, New York and Missouri.

Note to pinheads: please see something approaching common sense in action.

Bills in Ohio would add that state to the growing number that seek harsher penalties for attacks, including those against dog food makers, farms where animals are caged, and university animal labs.

Note also: the inclusion of dog food makers. There's no homegrown reason, no local companies that the pinheads could be pandering to, is there? Naww, no way, it's just not possible.

Sponsors say the bills are needed because of fire-bombings at ski resorts and new subdivisions, break-ins to free disease-carrying laboratory animals, and threats against corporate executives and their families.

NONE of which has occurred here that I'm aware of. Then again, maybe I'm wrong... I mean, Ohio is a hotbed of skiing, isn't it?

The Humane Society of the United States opposes using violence in the name of protecting animals but considers the bills too broad, lobbyist Julie Janovsky said. The New York and Missouri proposals would outlaw videotaping without permission in private farms and labs.

And herein we reach the crux of the matter... an attempt to remove any monitoring of various industries that don't want to be scruitinized at all.

Ohio Republican Sen. Jeff Jacobson included the language on animals in a bill that would outlaw many activities considered domestic terrorism, such as donating money to groups on the U.S. State Department's list of terrorist organizations.

Which are already illegal. Thanks a bunch, Jeff... by the way, when do you think you can get your pinhead ass in gear to make sure my kids have decent schools to attend?

Jacobson said he would work to ensure the animal provisions apply only to felonies. His bill would add attacks on lawful animal activities such as farming, food processing and hunting to the list of offenses that could be prosecuted under state racketeering law, allowing the state to seize assets after a conviction, or sue if the suspect is acquitted.

Because god knows, people who are damn well acquitted of anything need Pinhead Jeff and his pals suing their butts off to keep us safe from non-existent crimes that have never occurred here in the first place. Please Jeffy, seek competent mental health care right away.

A 1992 federal law forbids interfering with "an animal enterprise" but enforcement is difficult, said FBI Special Agent James Turgal, who heads the agency's Ohio terrorism unit.

You know, like the FBI actually paying attention to the data they already had and preventing 9/11 was difficult. Damn, I feel safer already.

He said the state ecoterrorism bills could allow more federal terrorism prosecutions under the Patriot Act.

Because what we need is to find reasons to nail people under the Enabling Act er, Patriot Act, pardon me.

Only a small percentage of the FBI's active terrorism investigations in Ohio involve environmental activists, but they are increasing, he said.

Woo hoo! No actual cases yet, but they have investy-gations!!! God damn, maybe they'll be every bit as fruitful and useful as some previous FBI "investigations" have been. I mean, thank god for Mr. Hoover protecting us from the terrible non-violence of Martin Luther King, right?

The states take varied approaches.

Yes. As can be seen, the VAST majority have the good sense to realize what a ludicrous non-issue this is.

The proposed bill in New York — considered the toughest by the Humane Society — would ban any attempt to impede animal research or commerce, forbid financial donations to "animal or ecological terrorist organizations" and create a registry of such groups.

"I have a list!!!"

Missouri's bill bans releasing disease-causing agents in animal and research facilities and would expand a state law that bans damaging or stealing records from the facilities.

"Theft" would undoubtedly include making copies of said records.

Pennsylvania's bill, like Ohio's, creates harsher penalties for people convicted of vandalism, assault or other offenses if they involve intimidation or obstruction of legal research and commerce involving animals and natural resources. It also allows suing for damages.

Gotta protect the holy commerce at all costs, don'tcha know.

"The penalties in the past don't seem to have deterred actions of the activists," said John Ellis, executive director of the Pennsylvania Society for Biomedical Research.

Animal rights activists have claimed more than $1.3 million in damage to pharmaceutical labs and researchers' homes in western Pennsylvania alone, he said.


Proof or rebuttal of said claims from what is pretty obviously the side that likes making "ecoterrorism" claims? I guess they'll have to get back to us on that one.

In Philadelphia, animals were stolen from an agricultural high school.

Could have been anything from "ecoterroism" to a prank by a rival school to people stealing the animals and reselling them for their dollar value. Damn, I'm petrified now.

Nathan Runkle, head of Mercy for Animals, a Columbus-based animal rights group that has videotaped conditions at egg farms, said he fears Ohio's bill would infringe on lawful, peaceful demonstrations.

That's the idea. That and to get peaceful protestors stamped with the "terrorist" label and either jailed for long stretches without trial under the Patriot Act, or monitored and harrassed for life.

At any rate, I'd like to congratulate our Brave Jeffy of the Legislature; you've managed to be every bit as "exciting" and stupid as your distracted ideological cohorts elsewhere. I'm also sure he'd like to respond but is too busy at one of the many, many resorts in the skiing paradise that is our fair state that are now safe from the ecoterrorist hordes... at least, that's what they tell my kids in school since the funding for geography classes has been cut.





Monday, January 24, 2005

 

There Is No Crisis


There Is No Crisis: Protecting the Integrity of Social Security


It says it all. Screw those who view a social safety net as a windfall for fat cats.





Wednesday, December 01, 2004

 

World AIDS Day

   Support World AIDS Day

Maybe I'm a hopeless optimist or something... I want someday for us never to have another World AIDS Day ever again.






Tuesday, November 09, 2004

 

Not all is horrible... just yet

Yeah, the moron (allegedly) won the election this time out.

But, in much better news, version 1.0 of Mozilla's Firefox browser was released today. A much better alternative to the market leader, trust me.





Monday, October 04, 2004

 

Pulling Back The Curtain

Sometimes it's best to just let the words stand by themselves.

From a Wall St. Journal reporter, of all places, comes the source for the following on the ground report from Iraq:

Wall Street Journal correspondent Farnaz Fassihi confirms that she penned a scathing letter that calls the war in Iraq an outright "disaster." She also reveals that reporters in Baghdad are working under "virtual house arrest."


...

(September 29, 2004) -- Readers of any nailbiting story from Iraq in a major mainstream newspaper must often wonder what the dispassionate reporter really thinks about the chaotic situation there, and what he or she might be saying in private letters or in conversations with friends back home.

Now, at least in the case of Wall Street Journal correspondent Farnaz Fassihi, we know.

A lengthy letter from Baghdad she recently sent to friends "has rapidly become a global chain mail," Fassihi told Jim Romenesko on Wednesday after it was finally posted at the Poynter Institute's Web site. She confirmed writing the letter.

"Iraqis say that thanks to America they got freedom in exchange for insecurity," Fassihi wrote (among much else) in the letter. "Guess what? They say they'd take security over freedom any day, even if it means having a dictator ruler." And: "Despite President Bush's rosy assessments, Iraq remains a disaster. If under Saddam it was a 'potential' threat, under the Americans it has been transformed to 'imminent and active threat,' a foreign policy failure bound to haunt the United States for decades to come."

...

The reporter's letter opens with this revelation: "Being a foreign correspondent in Baghdad these days is like being under virtual house arrest. Forget about the reasons that lured me to this job: a chance to see the world, explore the exotic, meet new people in far away lands, discover their ways and tell stories that could make a difference. Little by little, day-by-day, being based in Iraq has defied all those reasons.

"I am house bound.... There has been one too many close calls, including a car bomb so near our house that it blew out all the windows. So now my most pressing concern every day is not to write a kick-ass story but to stay alive and make sure our Iraqi employees stay alive. In Baghdad I am a security personnel first, a reporter second."

Fassihi observed that the insurgency had spread "from isolated pockets in the Sunni triangle to include most of Iraq." The Iraqi government, he wrote, "doesn't control most Iraqi cities.... The situation, basically, means a raging barbaric guerilla war. In four days, 110 people died and over 300 got injured in Baghdad alone. The numbers are so shocking that the ministry of health--which was attempting an exercise of public transparency by releasing the numbers--has now stopped disclosing them. Insurgents now attack Americans 87 times a day.

"A friend drove thru the Shiite slum of Sadr City yesterday. He said young men were openly placing improvised explosive devices into the ground. They melt a shallow hole into the asphalt, dig the explosive, cover it with dirt and put an old tire or plastic can over it to signal to the locals this is booby-trapped. He said on the main roads of Sadr City, there were a dozen landmines per every ten yards. His car snaked and swirled to avoid driving over them. Behind the walls sits an angry Iraqi ready to detonate them as soon as an American convoy gets near. This is in Shiite land, the population that was supposed to love America for liberating Iraq."

For journalists, Fassihi wrote, "the significant turning point came with the wave of abduction and kidnappings. Only two weeks ago we felt safe around Baghdad because foreigners were being abducted on the roads and highways between towns. Then came a frantic phone call from a journalist female friend at 11 p.m. telling me two Italian women had been abducted from their homes in broad daylight. Then the two Americans, who got beheaded this week and the Brit, were abducted from their homes in a residential neighborhood....

"The insurgency, we are told, is rampant with no signs of calming down. If any thing, it is growing stronger, organized and more sophisticated every day.

"I went to an emergency meeting for foreign correspondents with the military and embassy to discuss the kidnappings. We were somberly told our fate would largely depend on where we were in the kidnapping chain once it was determined we were missing. Here is how it goes: criminal gangs grab you and sell you up to Baathists in Fallujah, who will in turn sell you to Al Qaeda. In turn, cash and weapons flow the other way from Al Qaeda to the Baathists to the criminals. My friend Georges, the French journalist snatched on the road to Najaf, has been missing for a month with no word on release or whether he is still alive."

And what of America's "hope for a quick exit"? Fassihi noted that "cops are being murdered by the dozens every day, over 700 to date, and the insurgents are infiltrating their ranks. The problem is so serious that the U.S. military has allocated $6 million dollars to buy out 30,000 cops they just trained to get rid of them quietly....

"Who did this war exactly benefit? Was it worth it? Are we safer because Saddam is holed up and Al Qaeda is running around in Iraq?

"I heard an educated Iraqi say today that if Saddam Hussein were allowed to run for elections he would get the majority of the vote. This is truly sad...."

Making clear what can only, at best, appear between lines in her published dispatches, Fassihi concluded, "One could argue that Iraq is already lost beyond salvation. For those of us on the ground it's hard to imagine what if any thing could salvage it from its violent downward spiral. The genie of terrorism, chaos and mayhem has been unleashed onto this country as a result of American mistakes and it can't be put back into a bottle."


More here.





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