Friday, May 03, 2002

Zero Tolerance/The Past May Not Be Through With Us

A kid was suspended from school for three days for drawing stick figures of teachers being killed in an unpleasant manner (full story here.)

OK, if I thought the Education Establishment was lame before, this has pretty much sealed the deal. If drawing unflattering scribbles were a suspension offence in my school days, I'd still be in the ninth grade, drawing cartoons of Zimmerprick and Social Studies Woman trying to take over the galaxy with their legion of robot slaves, only to be ruthlessly dismembered by the Insane Trio, who fortunately had skipped fourth period gym class that day (and in fact skipped fourth period gym class every day, but that's another story). And don't get me started on Colonel Phys Ed and his Basketball Team of Doom with their B.O. powers.

Look, teachers, you can let the kids vent at you now, or you can forbid them from expressing their displeasure with you, which then festers for ten years as the kid grows fourteen inches and a hundred twenty pounds, till one day you're sitting in a restaurant with a date and this enormous hulking guy sidles up to you and looks down at you, and mother of god, he smiles and says, "Hey, Doug. Still think you can kill me?" and you're wracking your brain trying to figure out who this guy is and maybe he's that kid who you hit in the nose, or rather one of the kids who you hit or threatened at various times in your career, and then he's talking to your date and asking her if she knew what a big man she was out with, he hits kids doncha know, and she's uncomfortable and you're really uncomfortable and this brute is still smiling at you, then he pats you on the head and says, Good to see ya, stay outta trouble Doug and leaves.

So what I'm trying to say is, let the kids draw, or the terrorists have won.


I'm Not Dead Yet!

According to this article in Ha'aretz, a Palestinian funeral went horribly awry when the stretcher carrying the 'corpse' was tipped over - and the corpse got up and ran away. Apparently, the man was only 'mostly dead'.

The bonus question for the class is, "At what point does a group lose enough credibility that their word is no longer accepted at the U.N. without proof?"

Our attempt to reach a U.N. spokesman for comment failed until it was discovered that they were all out on the street in New York trying to win a 3-card monte game. Said one of the spokesmen, "We've been trying to beat the game for 25 years, but we are confident that our new strategy for picking the right card will be successful."

A skeptic in the audience who claimed that the game was rigged was denounced by Secretary General Kofi Annan as being "unhelpful to the card selection process."
Massacre Enthusiasts Said "Disappointed"

The recent news that reports of a massacre in Jenin had been greatly exaggerated has cast a long shadow over the many hangers-on who had gathered in and around Jenin hoping to chronicle gutwrenching tales of Israeli excess.

One photographer, who gave his name only as "Obie", showed his haul: twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was to be used as evidence of the massacre, plus twenty seven sticks of pink bubble gum. "I don't know how I'm going to expense these" was a bitter chorus across the disputed territories today.

Documentary filmmakers were also hard-hit by the truth, having wasted hundreds of yards of film and tape, only to realize that all they had was footage of the same half-dozen corpses in different locales. One of the corpses, recently exhumed after dying in a car wreck, has been nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor; the competition, with actor Keanu Reeves, is expected to be fierce. Some filmmakers are making the best of a bad situation, though; the producers of one abortive documentary, "Massacre at Jenin", have reworked their screenplay and are carrying on under the working title "Weekend at Yasser's". Insiders report that bidding has been fierce for the rights to produce a film called "Plan Nine From Palestine."

Thursday, May 02, 2002

Cross-Country Sniping

I don't want to suggest that the East Coast bloggers are slow and inertia-ridden and kinda lame, but... well, pictures from the "Blog Bash By the Bay" this past weekend were on the 'net within 12 hours of the party's end. The Big Apple Blog bash was, what, two weeks ago, and still --- nuthin' but endless textual palaver about waxing and pizza and what-have-ya.

I'm just sayin', is all.
Fukuyama You

In this Opinion Journal Editorial (requires registration), Francis Fukuyama launches yet another hastily-conceived attack on Libertarians. His attacks comes in two parts:

1. Libertarians are all isolationists, and isolationism been discredited thanks to 911

On the issue of foreign policy, libertarians are all over the map, just like the members of most of the other political parties. I know libertarian hawks, and libertarian doves. In my experience, there are more hawks than doves in the movement because libertarians generally feel that providing for the common defense is a legitimate role for government, even if we might differ on how best to achieve that (just as members of every other political party differ on the details.)

But rather than try to understand the nuances of any complex philosophy, it's a lot easier to simply lump everyone into the same category so you can denounce them en masse. And to support this assertion in the first place, Fukuyama emits a few real howlers:

Sept. 11 ended this line of argument. It was a reminder to Americans of why government exists, and why it has to tax citizens and spend money to promote collective interests.


If anything, the message of 9/11 reinforces the fundamental ideas of libertarianism. Since libertarians generally feel that one of the legitimate purposes of government is to provide for the common defense, one of the more rational criticisms of the government in the wake of 9/11 is that it failed to do so, largely because the government has grown into such a bloated behemoth that it no longer does even simple things particularly well.

I would think Fukuyama's argument would be far more applicable to liberals who have called on government to move farther away from its 'core' purposes and into general meddling and micro-managing of our lives. In addition, it needs to be pointed out that the most consistent opposition to military spending and the intelligence services has come from the left, and not from libertarians.

And consider this offensive passage:

It was only the government, and not the market or individuals, that could be depended on to send firemen into buildings, or to fight terrorists, or to screen passengers at airports.


Two words: Flight 93. The only terrorist attack that was actually thwarted was not the result of government action, but of individuals taking responsibility and acting heroically. And it was not the state that sent firefighters into those buildings - it was the firefighters themselves, who live by a code of honor that ensures they will put themselves in harm's way to protect us.

This has nothing to do with government. There are private, volunteer firefighters all over the country who would do the same thing. Some of the men that went into those buildings were not even on duty, but responded because, well, because that's what firefighters do. They were shining examples of individuals making free choices to go to the aid of their fellow citizens. They were an example of what people are capable of doing without direction from the government.

So we're left with the new government role of screening passengers at airports. I could think of a few words to describe this, but 'dependable' isn't one of them.

Yes, the American military is now fighting terrorists in Afghanistan and around the world - a move heartily supported by most libertarians.

Fukuyama continues:
The terrorists were not attacking Americans as individuals, but symbols of American power like the World Trade Center and Pentagon. So it is not surprising that Americans met this challenge collectively with flags and patriotism, rather than the yellow ribbons of individual victimization.


Sorry, my eyes glazed over there for a minute. Patriotism and flag-waving is anti-libertarian? If I wave an American flag in support of the country, is that an indictment of individualism? An endorsement of federal dairy supports? Just how does this statement support or refute anything? If anything, it suggests that Fukuyama has a very limited understanding of just what libertarianism is.

2. Libertarians don't care about children or the effects of cloning

Having thoroughly caricatured the libertarian position on the military, Fukuyama turns to cloning:
The second area in which libertarians have overreached themselves is in biotechnology. Here they join hands with the New York Times and important parts of the American left in opposing restrictions on human cloning currently under debate in the U.S. Senate. Many libertarians oppose not just a ban on research cloning of human embryos, but on reproductive cloning as well (that is, the production of cloned children).

Libertarians argue that the freedom to design one's own children genetically--not just to clone them, but to give them more intelligence or better looks--should be seen as no more than a technological extension of the personal autonomy we already enjoy. By this view, the problem with the eugenics practiced by Nazi Germany was not its effort to select genetic qualities per se, but rather the fact that it was done by the state and enforced coercively. There is no cause for worry if eugenics is practiced by individuals. The latter could be counted on to make sound judgments about what is in their own and their children's best interests.


This is a gross distortion of the libertarian position. There is a huge difference between supporting research into reproductive and therapeutic cloning, and endorsing the creation of children with 6-inch eye stalks and prehensile tails. But once again, the nuanced libertarian position is caricatured as a free-wheeling, anything goes attitude. That straw man is particularly easy to knock down, which is why Fukuyama set it up in the first place.

And I find it somewhat alarming that in Fukuyama's America, opposition to total bans on pure scientific research is seen as being the extremist position. Shouldn't it be the other way around?

I don't pretend to speak for all Libertarians, but my attitude is that we should consider individual cases when they arise. We simply do not know today where this research will ultimately wind up taking us. But knowledge in itself is not a bad thing, and I damned sure don't want the state deciding which knowledge is good or bad.

Perhaps we will want to ban the selling of movie-star DNA so that people can raise their very own Woody Allens, but does that mean we also need to ban the right to screen for and remove genes that cause Alzheimers or MS?

Perhaps we'll want to ban the creation of complete human clones, but does that require also banning the ability to regenerate the heart of an infant born with a hole in his pericardium?

Perhaps such issues are clear to the geniuses who control the federal government, but I'd rather let those ideas percolate for a while as we collect more knowledge.

Fukuyama continues:
We are at the beginning of a new phase of history where technology will give us power to create people born booted and spurred, and where animals that are today born with saddles on their backs could be given human characteristics. To say, with the libertarians, that individual freedom should encompass the freedom to redesign those natures on which our very system of rights is based, is not to appeal to anything in the American political tradition.


And for decades we've had the ability to give people artificial legs, pacemakers, heart transplants, and to surgically correct many types of birth defects. We have the ability to surgically alter the very structure of a person's conscious mind (and do so in the case of surgery to eliminate tics and tremors). We have the ability to modify perception with drugs (and do so legally to combat depression and other mental illnesses). Is a man with two steel legs and a mechanical heart device 'natural'? I suspect that you would have gotten a different answer five hundred years ago than you'd get today.

Let me re-state Fukuyama's paragraph in a way which might be more illuminating:
We are at the beginning of a new phase of history where technology will give us power to create people born without genes that doom them to early painful deaths. To say, with the libertarians, that individual freedom should encompass the freedom to eliminate horrible, debilitating diseases which are part of human nature, that nature on which our very system of rights is based, is not to appeal to anything in the American political tradition.


That doesn't sound quite the same, does it? And yet, this is by far the most likely outcome of the biological revolution, and not the genetic freak show he envisions. But this is a future much harder to oppose, which is why Fukuyama didn't offer it as an example.

Let me explain a bit about Fukuyama here: He is a 'cultural Luddite', which is a term few have heard because I just made it up. In 1989, Fukuyama declared "the end of history", because he felt that human society had finally discovered the ultimate form of organization - liberal democracy. The battle for the hearts and minds of the world is over, even if the Islamofascists and rulers in Beijing don't know it yet. And I suspect a lot of libertarians would find some agreement with that, even if they might differ in the details of how our liberal democracies are composed.

But for Fukuyama's statement to remain true, the fundamental nature of humanity must remain constant. Liberal democracy may be the best system for people with two hands and feet and IQ's averaging around 100. But is it the best system for booted and spurred quasi-humans with spines genetically modified for riding? This is the fear that keeps Fukuyama up at night - the fear that human nature itself may be changing. This is the same fear that caused the Luddites to burn factories. Fear of change. Fear of the unknown. Fear of famous predictions going horribly awry. And so we need a powerful government to step in and protect us from change, from the unknown. Knowledge is too dangerous to leave in the hands of mere individuals. Some ideas are just too dangerous to contemplate.

I prefer a dynamic vision of the future. I prefer to believe that when people are left to their own choices they will by and large choose to improve their lot and that of mankind, and not create freakish sideshow people. I believe in the power of the marketplace to compel individuals and organizations to move in directions favorable to society. I believe that science is a force for good, and not something to be feared. And if the time comes when we start contemplating the altering of children, I believe the government has a role to play in protecting them. We are not at that point, or anywhere close to it. We don't even know if it will ever happen.

All we have today is great potential, and an unknown future. And that's all we'll ever have if the Fukayamas of the world prevail.
Clinton Pursues Talk Show

In a move that seems frighteningly apt, former US President Bill Clinton is rumoured to be seeking his own TV talk show, modelled after Oprah Winfrey's long-running afternoon show.

The mind boggles.

CLINTON: Hi, we're back to the Bill Clinton Show, and we're talking to our very special guest, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

ARAFAT: Hello again. Now, about the naked aggression of the Zionist entity --

CLINTON: --- sorry to interrupt. Yasser, in 1994, you came to see me in the White House.

ARAFAT: Yes...

CLINTON: At that time, I had my hair a kind of ash-blonde colour. How did that look on me?

ARAFAT: It looked... nice.

CLINTON: "Statesman" nice or "Cuddlebunny" nice?

ARAFAT: Errr, statesman nice. At that time, the Oslo accords were under discussion, and the Jews ---

CLINTON: --- that's right, I was a major force in bringing the two sides together. Wasn't I impressive?

ARAFAT: Err, yes. Impressive. The treacherous Jews ---

CLINTON: Yasser, I need to ask you something, and I think the world deserves an honest answer.

ARAFAT: Of course. General Arafat is always honest.

LAUGH TRACK

CLINTON: Back then, I used to wear track suits for casual photo-ops. Did the red suit make my butt look big?

ARAFAT: (sighing) No. It emphasized your manly shoulders and drew the eye up.

CLINTON: Much like your delightful headscarf.

It'll happen. Just you wait. He'll interview Osama Bin Laden and ask "Were you scared of me?". He'll interview Monica Lewinsky and ask "Was I good or what?" Rush Limbaugh will be a guest and be asked, "Your talk show had its peak during my presidency. Even though you talked trash about me every day, did you think I was sexy?"

A talk show is the perfect place for Slick Willy.

Wednesday, May 01, 2002

Villanelle for Barbi and Abdullah

Our Saudi friends on my TV
The WTC's a smoking hole
Three thousand dead in NYC.

Allies against terror, you see?
Atta-boy always made payroll
Our Saudi friends on my TV.

Box cutters past security
Say goodbye. Drop the phone. Let's roll.
Forty dead on Flight 93.

"An airplane hit the WTC!"
"A balanced image is our goal."
Our Saudi friends on my TV.

The dead have no ad agency
Their shining virtues to extol
Two hundred bodies in DC.

Sickening Amorality
Playing Objectivity's role.
Our Saudi friends on my TV
Three thousand dead in NYC.
Jesus Declared Illegal

A 17-foot high statue of Jesus has been found to be in violation of zoning laws in Texas.

The statue is called, "Christ of East Texas". You remember him - He and the 12 cowpokes had barbecue at the last hoe-down. He wasn't as big a partier as the "Christ of Muscle Shoals", but he poses for a mean statue.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and cast my vote for the Lord Almighty, and against the Texas Department of Transportation. I even wrote a song for him:

(with apologies to, and modifications of "Plastic Jesus")

Well, I don't care if it rains or freezes,
Long as I see that great big Jesus
Standing on the road outside my car
From acid rain he's phosphorescent
Glows in the dark, He's pink and pleasant,
Think of him when you're travelling far.

You can see our Lord and Saviour,
Standing in his best behaviour,
By the road, with nothing to sell,
Goin' ninety down the street,
I'm glad that concrete Prince of Peace,
Is guaranteeing I won't go to Hell.

If I weave around at night
And the police think I am tight,
They'll never find my bottle, though they ask;
That giant Jesus shelters me,
For His head comes off, you see--
He's hollow, and I use Him for a flask.

They want to put him behind a fence,
It makes it hard to do maintenance,
Especially from the comfort of my car
Because the sun shines on his back,
Makes his concrete shoulders crack
A little patching keeps him up to par

The Department of Transportation
Protects the whiners of the nation,
But wait until they see my giant Satan.

Tuesday, April 30, 2002

Conspiracy Widens

Heads of the most powerful Northern California blogging "families" came together this Saturday to finalize the partition of the San Francisco Bay area into "spheres of influence" and end weeks of bloody turf warfare. This followed the success of another high-level meeting in Los Angeles a week and a half earlier, which put Mindles H. Dreck in charge of the East Coast families, named Emmanuelle Richard "Capo" of Southern California, and placed the Postrel Syndicate in control of Texas.

Amidst much gloating over war profits and stories of dissent gleefully squelched, the Bay area was partitioned thusly:

John "The Cabinetmaker" and Charlene "The Mouthpiece" Weidner control San Francisco as far south as SFO and east halfway across the Bay Bridge. Unfortunately, Bill "The Phrase-Coiner" Quick and Dr. "Doctor Newlywed" Frank couldn't make it, so they're gonna have to move to Marin or something if they want territory.

The other half of the Bay Bridge and everything from the River down to Oakland will be administered on behalf of the Czech Mafia by Peter "Numbers" Pribik, and, representing the Italian Yakuza, Christina "The Shrimp" Tosti.

Oakland to San Jose falls into the purview of Anton "The Shiv" Sherwood, while the Tri-Valley area will be under the iron thumb of Richard "The Father's Rights Advocate" Bennett. San Jose to Sunnyvale will pay tribute to Craig "The Shiv" Schamp and his wife Edie "Edie" Schamp. Here's hoping that Craig and Anton can work out something on the nickname front before that leads to bloodshed.

The rest of the Peninsula goes to Joanne "Big Bad Mama" Jacobs and her Crossword Puzzle gang.

Glad everybody could make it, and remember to have your tribute in every Tuesday, or you're gonna see your hit counter go negative.
Left to Right: Peter Pribik, Christina Tosti, Richard Bennett, Joanne Jacobs, The Blogfather, Charlene Weidner, John Weidner, Edie Schamp, Craig Schamp (Click for larger image)


Plate of shrimp. If this confounds you, see "Repo Man".


A Tribute to the Canadian Military

There's an excellent piece today in the National Post, on Canada's military, culture and our role in the world. It's a reprint of an article in the U.K Telegraph, and it's worth a read for everyone.

Salute to a brave and modest nation.

There's no humor in the article, so consider it a sorbet, to clear the palate before the hilarity continues.
How to Get Your Head Lopped Off in Advertising

Electronic Media says that Saudi Arabia has been trying to purchase advertising time on the major cable networks in order to run a series of pro-Saudi commercials. According to the ad agency weasel-in-charge:

"I'm not doing this for Saudi Arabia, I'm doing this for the American public," said Ms. Johnson. "The hope is to give balance to the [Saudi] image."


I'm assuming that this is "balance" in the sense of "Darth Vader brought balance to the Force by killing all the non-evil Jedi knights." To their credit, none of the national cable networks have agreed to run the ads, even with the Saudis' $10 million ad budget dangled in front of them; apparently, some local affiliates have agreed to run the ads. Interestingly enough, Ms. Johnson has at least some tiny shred of sense: she is not trying to place the ads in Washington or New York.

According to the descriptions, the ads feature invented "misquotes" of Colin Powell and George W. Bush, which are then "corrected", as in:

The second spot begins with an on-screen "misquote" from President Bush that reads, "The Saudi Arabians have been less than cooperative." That dissolves into the real quote: "As far as the Saudi Arabians go ... they have been nothing less than cooperative."

The voice-over for this spot is, "Read the editorials, tune in to the Sunday morning news shows or listen to talk radio if you want opinions. Listen to America's leaders if you want the facts."


They forget to add "Read the bloggers if you want to see discussion of what the world might look like when the House of Saud gets fumigated."

The tagline for the ads is "The People of Saudi Arabia -- Allies Against Terrorism". Uh huh. Kids, there's "spin" and there's "twisting the peoples' heads off". I suggest you start with something a little less ambitious:

"The Rulers of Saudi Arabia -- We're not the biggest assholes."

"Saudi Arabia -- Now with 40% less treachery!"

"The House of Saud -- We suck, but we have a lot of money."

"Saudi Arabia -- Come for the oil, stay for the beheadings."

"Saudi Arabia -- At least we don't have women drivers, and you know how they are."

"Saudi Arabia -- America's 130th most staunch ally in the war against terror. The Sudanese, now those guys are shitheads."

"Saudi Arabia -- Not just for ululating fanatics anymore."

Unfortunately, Creative Cable TV doesn't appear to have a functional website, or I'd happily post Ms. Johnson's email address so you all can let her know how you feel about the issue.

UPDATE: Thanks to alert reader Dennis C., we have Creative Cable Television's website (http://www.creativecabletv.com/index.htm) and Ms. Johnson's email: barbi@creativecabletv.com. Be polite, but let her know what you think of spin-doctoring on behalf of the Saudis.

Monday, April 29, 2002

Insert Two Quarters to Continue Governing

The campaign committee of Minnesota Governor Jesse "The Body" Ventura is pondering the use of video games as campaign tools. The games would be distributed on CDs or via Ventura's website instead of more traditional campaign literature. One can only presume that Ventura's handlers hope to capture the crucial "pasty white geek boy" demographic, who are traditionally victimized by Ventura's main constituency of support, the "cap-wearing beer-drinking wrestling fans". Some have speculated that the Ventura campaign is concerned about the rumoured gubernatorial interests of WWF Diva Jazz, who could probably take down the flabby, out-of-shape Ventura with a single application of her patented Double Cobra Twist.

If Ventura does well with the gimmick, look for video game campaigns from

  • Al Gore - "The Wizard of Bore"
    Invent the Internet, write a scary environmental book, keep your shrewish wife from embarassing you with recitation of rap lyrics, all while avoiding being bent over your desk by your hyper-copulatory boss! Mount a court challenge each time you lose a life! Get bonus points for carrying states, and summon the spirit of your father when your back's to the wall!

  • Norman Mineta - "Air Warrior"
    Try to keep the planes from crashing, and prevent terrorism, but keep your eyes closed when the passengers are getting on the plane!

  • Bill Clinton - "Exit Strategy", "Is", "PAC Man", etc.
    Grant pardons, grab interns, stop traffic at LAX to get a haircut, and if the game gets too rough, there's always England --- err, this is way too easy, isn't it?

  • Ted Kennedy - "VW Road Race"
    Try to keep your Beetle on the road, while running over beer kegs and scotch bottles for more points! Once you're in the river, try to escape before the water's over your head! In the "Compound" bonus stage, try keep your dissipated alcoholic lawless family inside the wire fence --- press the red button to summon family ghosts to help, but don't let them overshadow you!