Sunday, July 30, 2006

Mel Gibson's Drunken Anti-Semetic Weekend

Where's your messiah now? The man who brought you "The Passion of the Christ" was arrested for drunk driving Friday night. In a report verified by the Los Angeles Times Mel Gibson was pulled over for driving erradically, threatened the arresting officer, and burst into an anti-Semetic tyrade while sitting in the back of the squad car.

" Jews.." he shouted. "They're the cause of all the wars in the world." Um, you're not going to open with that are you, Mel?
Jewish groups are demanding an apology. Hollywood is split over how this will effect his career.

"It's a nuclear disaster for him," said publicist Michael Levine, who has represented Michael Jackson and Charlton Heston, among others. "I don't see how he can restore himself."

Some see it a different way.
"Ever since he made a film about Jesus (himself a Jew) Gibson's biggest fans are Christians who have a history of selective approval and poor discernment," said an entertainment analyst. "I predict all will be forgotten by the paying public by Easter."

Gibson has since issued an apology.

Read the whole story here.

Tomorrow's Vets

Here's a heartwarming story about a young boy from West Texas who wanted to kill people. Luckily there's a war making it all nice and legal-like. So he signed up and went to Iraq.

Swaying off the usual Defense Department endorsed message Private Steven Green told Andrew Tilghman of the Washington Post, "I came here because I wanted to kill people."

He then reflected, "Over here, killing people is like squashing an ant. I mean, you kill somebody and it's like 'All right, let's go get some pizza.'"

You might know Pvt Green better as the man now on trial for premeditated rape and murder of an Iraqi girl and her family.

I hesitated to link this story, concerned that it might be misconstrued. I think most of our military men and women are noble. I know many of them. But I think this article gives an honest look at the "constant violence" our soldiers are under in Iraq and what type of coping skills it all too often produces.

Pvt. Green talks about watching a good friend die. He then complains, "See, this war is different from all the ones that our fathers and grandfathers fought. Those wars were for something. This war is for nothing."

But he's wrong. This type of thing has happened before and the victims names are etched in black granit on a wall in Washington, and many who surived still fight the war in their minds. I think it's important that we not distance ourselves from what we've sent our men and women to do. I think it's important that we turn and face it and own up to it, which is why I've linked this story. If the truth hurts, it's nothing compared to what they feel.

read the whole story here.

Friday, July 28, 2006

The Birth from Hell

While describing the full-scale violence between Israel and Lebanon, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice attempted to put a positive spin on things. She said what we were witnessing were the “birth pangs of a new Middle East.” If so, eventually, one would assume, everything will “come out” alright.

This is not the first time the Bush administration has used the term “birth pangs” to explain horrible violence and chaos from Somalia to Afghanistan. They’ve taken a page out of Jesus’ playbook (Matthew 24). Many will be misled, wars and rumors of wars, nation against nation, there will be famines and earthquakes—these, according to Jesus, were just the beginning of birth pangs—the signs for the end of time.

It’s a nice way of saying, “Apocalypse is messy.” Or, if you’re in the Bush Administration, “Creation is messy.” It must be an incredibly scary thing to be in labor. It’s at least reassuring to have a doctor tell you those contractions are perfectly normal. But what about when it’s proclaimed by someone who has never done this before? Would you be reassured? The new Middle East is being birthed not by doctors, but by people who play them on TV. I hear them saying “I…I read this in a book somewhere…this is supposed to happen.” Not reassuring if you’re one of the ones caught in the violent contractions.

In Jesus' case, the process was the delivery of tribulation to believers. To the Bush administration the pangs are the harbinger of a new Middle East, flowering with Democracy. Dr. Rice utters the phrase with a gleam in her eye, like a mad scientist watching the wondrous birth of a lab-created monster. It’s not ugly. It’s life. This seems to be like a science experiment gone terribly wrong, unleashed by arm-chair politicians and would-be world shakers.

And, to spin it, the administration has arrested both messianic terminology and the birthing process.
Jesus may be flattered. (I don’t know, he’s not returning my calls.) but women should be outraged. Any comparison of this inept and ill conceived mess to the awe inspiring miracle of birth should be insulting. The people of the Middle East should also be violently upset. Oh, wait, many of them are. Theirs is the land claimed for this birthing process. Congratulations, you’re going to be parents of freedom. Here’s a flyer.

The actions of the administration have unleashed terrible violence and chaos and increased tensions across the region. Every day Iran moves closer to nuclear capability, recently attending North Korea’s latest test missile launch. Iran works through Syria which is funneling arms to Hezbollah which is firing rockets into Israel which is leveling Lebanon. And Secretary Rice proclaims that this is all part of the process, a wonderful Genesis, a flood of fire and brimstone that will bring about a new geo-political map in the Middle East. The statements are at best ripe with hubris, and at worst incredibly insulting.

I never thought I’d say it but I find Jesus’ version the more prosaic of the two. He may have spoke in parables and imagery about the end times, but he was not nearly as obtuse and ethereal as the current leadership scuttling in and out of the White House.

It’s been a wild ride for the administration. It started with a bold idea: what if a Democracy were planted in the center of the Arab world. What would happen? You can see the concept unfolding like the Genesis planet in “Star Trek III”—A projectile of democracy is lobbed into Baghdad, an explosion begins fiery political terra-forming emitting out in a widening circle, spreading all across the decrepit region, where eventually hope and freedom bloom like so many spring saplings.

A sci-fi reference in a political essay might seem misaligned, but I think that’s about where we’ve gotten to. We fund a foreign policy that appears to be one part messianic and one part Hollywood blue screen screen, and if you can tell the difference anymore you’re more adept than I am.

Of course, to explain it that way would sound crazy. So, we’ll just talk about Saddam’s WMDs and rape chambers. But what we’re really there to do is transform the whole damn thing in one bold move. It’s the love child any case study political scientist, arrogant industrialist, aggravated old man, or hell-bent Christian would love to have.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Iraqi Prime Minister Escapes Iraq, Lands at White House

Under the guise of a political visit Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has successfully fled his country and reached the shores of America. Yesterday he went through the political motions by attending a press conference with President Bush. Today he addresses congress. The Iraqi leader has made the typical, perfunctory requests for more troops and more equipment to defend his country stepped in civil war.

Violence, especially in the capital of Baghdad, has been increasing in Iraq ever since the U.S. invasion in 2003. It has risen since the President’s “Mission Accomplished” declaration, it has risen since the Vice President’s “last throws” statement, it has risen since the elections, and recently it has infringed upon even the “Green Zone.”

Some say Maliki is here to shore up support the US effort to bring peace to his country. Others say he is here for more mundane reasons. While violence has gripped Iraq for the last three years, unemployment and corruption are also on the rise. There is also the inability to train adequate Iraqi security forces.

“Listen, we don’t want to embarrass the guy or have the American people lose faith,” said one anonymous official. “Truth is, he’s going to just hang here for a while, do some conferences, dedicate some statutes. Things are a mess over there right now. Mr. Maliki is happy to be here.”

After addressing congress Maliki will break for lunch with President Bush and military families. His next move is anyone’s guess.

“He is here to shore up support for his country,” one of Maliki’s handlers said. “And while he is here he plans on studying your wonderful system of democracy, perhaps even visiting one of your renowned institutions of higher learning, eating at your elegant restaurants, and visiting your beautiful beaches. He is eager to learn all about America.”

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

How Being Poor Can Cost You

Here's an article from AlterNet on how expensive it is to be poor. I have been poor and many of the examples here are familiar and accurate. This article covers how the poor get squeezed through low balance fees on bank accounts to higher interest rates on loans.

Some problems I ran into:

-I was unable to open a checking account so I was forced to use Western Union to cash my paychecks, for a fee.

-High deposit on a phone

-High interest rate on a used car

-Steep fees on credit cards

-When I had no health insurance I couldn't afford to get a bad tooth operated on at the dentist! Bad times.

Yeah, a lot of my own financial problems were self induced. When I was a wide-eyed college freshman I received credit card applications in the mail. Life was good! I thought the world was going to be my oyster. What I hadn't learned was that it had been arranged to take as much money from me as it could.

Nothing says “you’ve arrived” like charging your next meal on a piece of plastic, right? Soon I was charging all kinds of things. When my old K-car needed new breaks, thank God for my credit card! My ardor died down quickly once I started receiving the bills. I realized that “minimum payments” just meant “running balance” in legalspeak, which, in dollars and cents, meant high interest rates.

Once my rate shot up, and late fees started adding up, the fun was over. And, making about $140 a week in college to live on meant it was going to be hard to pay that debt off any time soon.

So, my debt graduated with me while I added my college loans. Later, when I moved for a job, I tried to close my checking account but I didn't leave enough in the account. The bank didn’t have my forwarding address so I didn’t even know. I found out when I went to open a checking account in my new city. It turns out I was essentially blacklisted and couldn't open a new account anywhere.
I had to cash my checks at the neighborhood Western Union and pay my bills with money orders...all for fees.

Finally, my K-car broke down and I had to get a new car and faced a steep interest rate. The monthly payments, along with my credit card payments, monthly rent, etc, basically strapped me.

I joined the Air Force for the free health care, tax-free purchases, and at least four years of fixed income. I learned some new marketable skills (like programming) and eventually turned my financial life around (the rest is still working itself out). But, damn, I had to go through boot camp to do it! It don't come easy.

I'm absolutely sympathetic to those who are buried in debt, or have no options to increase their income. Someone who makes minimum wage earns about $11,000 a year. How is anyone expected to be able to live in and navigate through a society aligned against them on that?

The system has its ways of nickle and diming those who can't afford otherwise. Some people grow up with enough money to make plenty of mistakes and still recover--I believe our President is living testament. That's the real luxury when you're rich: the ability to recover from mistakes, financial or even physical. We all saw how debilitating poverty can be during Hurricane Katrina. Being poor always costs you, but sometimes it can kill you.

The simple fact is that those who are poor have less options, less freedom than others. Their fate is very hard to escape from. They can't afford the best lawyers. They can't lobby their representative. They can't bribe their city official. It sucks. The poor have less access to health care, education, a proper diet, and they can't even get out of the way of a hurricane. If aliens ever come to take over this planet before they round us up to work in their sugar caves they'll assume that we are already at war with the poor.

I still believe in free choice. I made bad financial decisions when I was younger and I paid for it with plenty of heartache. I just wish the plight of the poor wasn't so easily dismissed. I wish it wasn't so hard to get back to even once you fall behind. How come our Christian society has made it so easy for companies to take your money, and so hard to get them to stop? Have you ever tried to cancel AOL? When you're poor you have to sit on the phone endlessly. When you're rich you can just file litigation.

read original article

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Specter to Sue Bush

Senator Arlen Specter, a powerful Republican committee chairman who has led the fight against President Bush’s signing statements, said Monday he would have a bill ready by the end of the week allowing Congress to sue him in federal court.

This announcement came the same day the American Bar Association issued a statement saying the president was overstepping his authority by issuing statements which keep his execution of federal legislation conditionally based. Bush has issued at least 750 signing statements which give him the right to disregard laws on national security and constitutional grounds.

read more

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Monday, July 24, 2006

Bush's Tactic of Refusing Laws Probed

A panel of legal scholars and lawyers assembled by the American Bar Association is sharply criticizing the use of "signing statements" by President Bush that assert his right to ignore or not enforce laws passed by Congress. In a report to be issued today, the ABA task force said that Bush has lodged more challenges to provisions of laws than all previous presidents combined. Luckily for Republicans the panel has about as much bite as a modern-day congressional oversight panel.

The issue probed revolves around signing statements, an executive privlidge. President Bush often signs bills passed by congress and then issues a statement reserving the right not to enforce or execute them on the grounds that they infringe on presidential authority. Last year congress passed legislation banning cruel or degrading treatment of prisoners which Bush signed with an official statement saying he may not enforce the ban if necessary to prevent a terrorist attack.

read more

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Sunday, July 23, 2006

Overstimulated Students Rip School on Wikipedia

Here's a story about a Catholic school suing Wikipedia. Skutt Catholic School discovered an entry on Wikipedia about itself describing its high tuition, poor education, and high emphasis on sports. "No wonder almost all the kids there are complete idiots" the post said. An entry on the school first appeared in February with critical reviews of the school and principal Patrick Slattery.

Wikipedia, an on-line encyclopedia, is known for its extremely open policy on posts. To edit an entry on wikipedia a viewer simply has to click "edit this page." It has grown to become one of the most popular web pages on the internet.

The school, located in Omaha, Nebraska has since filed a lawsuit naming John and Jane Doe through the Douglas County District Court. Until the perpetrators are found the school has removed all the colored chalk from the classrooms.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Homeless Man Turns in $21,000, Gets $100 Back

Thanks to the San Francisco Chronicle for this story about a homeless man who found $21,000 in bonds, turned them in, and received $100 reward. The man, Charles Moore, found the bonds in a dumpster and then turned them in to a 24 hour homeless shelter. The bonds belonged to Ernist Lehto who gave Moore $100 reward calling him a "good Samaritan."

$100 is .005% of $21,000, about forty times less than you would tip your waitress in a restaurant. What does Moore plan to do with his bag of shiny nickels? Buy a nice shoe shine kit? Gee, thanks, mister.

Alarming Thought of the Week

If you attend the University of Wisconsin you may be learning about sociology, statistics, or how Dick Cheney organized and commanded the 9/11 attacks. This is a theory recently suggested by part-time instructor Kevin Barrett who will teach an introductory class on Islam this fall.

See the clip on Hannity and Colmes.

Republican Rep. Steve Nass was quick to ask for Bartlett's removal, citing deviance, lack of patriotism, and called Barrett's views "academically dishonest."

The state Assembly last week refused to take up a proposed resolution supported by Nass calling on university to fire Barrett, who will get $8,247 as a part-time instructor this fall.

Read the whole story here.

Total Recall

Do you drive a Toyota Prius or a Honda Echo? Your car may be among 418,000 targetted in a massive recall. The problem? Due to improper molding of the resin body of the crankshaft position sensor, engine oil may penetrate the seal and enter the connector. In the worst case, if the crankshaft position sensor becomes disconnected while the vehicle is being driven, the engine will stall and will be unable to restart. Fun! See the most recalled cars on BusinessWeek.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Soldiers Show Iraq Realities on Internets

Here's a very interesting report from Ana Marie Cox in Time Magazine on soldiers in Iraq uploading videos to You Tube.

"Vice President Cheney complained last March that the public's dwindling support for the war was due to the 'perception that what's newsworthy is the car bomb in Baghdad,' rather than what success has been had 'in terms of making progress towards rebuilding Iraq.' Talk show host Laura Ingraham encouraged those covering Iraq to "talk to those soldiers on the ground" in order to get a sense of all the good things happening there that should be "celebrated." By that logic, putting cameras in the hands of those soldiers on the ground
should provide enough celebration for an 'Up with Iraq' musical. "

Good idea here. Want to learn what's really going on in Iraq? Don't listen to the Generals. Don't listen to Sean Hannity. Don't listen to Dick "Deferment" Cheney. Get it from the source: the soldiers themselves. Listen to them on

Read the whole story

Escape Kangaroo Terrorizes Irish Countryside

According to a story in The Australian a circus kangaroo has escaped and is roaming the Irish hills, no doubt striking terror amongst the peaceful masses. By protocol a non-domestic animal escape raises the threat level in Ireland from green to dark green.

"This kangaroo broke loose just before the show while they were bringing him from the cages to the arena. He decided to take a walk," said local farmer John Walsh on whose land the two-year-old male, named Sydney, made his break for freedom.

Since the escape locals are reporting sightings of the fugitive marsupial which they have renamed"Hoppy."

Officials at the National Kangaroo Service, an Australian agency which monitors the movements of kangaroos world-wide expressed concern about the escape but tried to remain optimistic.

"I just want everyone to remain calm," said NKA official Langston Hughes. "Kangaroos wont box you. They wont sit back on their tail and kick you with their feet. They wont sneak into your house at night. They're peaceful unless cornered."

"I suppose if it had to be lost, it might as well be lost in Ireland." he mused. "At least it's not England."

This is second high profile animal escape this year. Hoppy joins Vivi the missing show dog as yet another animal to slip off the surly bonds of captivity and touch the face of freedom.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

President Vetos Stem-Cell Legislation

Today President Bush issued his first-ever veto, blocking legislation passed by Congress attempting to expand federal research on stem cells.

“This bill would support the taking of innocent human life,” Mr. Bush said at the White House. “Each of these human embryos is a unique human life with inherent dignity and matchless value.”

The President, like many, believes that life begins at conception. By that reasoning using an embryo for research purposes is the same as murder. But apparently that reasoning has its limits. In October 2001 the administration partitioned $90 million for research on stem-cell lines in existence before Aug. 9, 2001. Apparently it's alright to "murder" embryos created before that time. The church applauded the measure, hailing it as defense of life.

I can think of no greater example of the healthy amount of ambivalence Americans live with every day than that residing in the stem cell issue. Every day thousands of Americans go to in-vitro clinics to partake in the wonders of modern medicine, in these cases to be fertilized so one day they can become parents. In those cases many eggs are fertilized so that one can be born. The remaining embryos are frozen. Again, is the belief that those embryos are alive? If so why don't I hear people of faith upset about the the hundreds of thousands of frozen lives currently in America? Or the practice that creates those conditions? Some will be adopted, but the vast majority will either remain frozen or be destroyed. How come up to 45% of Americans are against stem cell research but only the the most fundamental are against freezing humans alive?

That, from a conservative Christian perspective, is only scratching the surface. There are a myriad of issues a follower of Jesus should be concerned about regarding in-vitro fertilization including bypassing the natural method of conception, usurping God’s will, and fertilizing excess embryos whose fate is uncertain. What God fearing person brings life into the world and walks away simply by signing a paper? I would expect those who claim to defend life to have a little more conviction than that.

The reason why there is no outcry about this treatment of life is because millions of believers engage in the activity that creates it. They themselves use IVF clinics for fertilization, creating embryos which hang in limbo. Christians are taught to seek God’s will, but that really only goes so far. When the issues hit home, like the desire to have children, many find themselves down at the clinic, hoping and praying not for God’s will, but for His blessing.

Regardless, the bill President Bush vetoed on behalf of life applied only to excess embryos harvested for in-vitro fertilization that would be destroyed if not used for research. The bill’s reasoning was if they’re going to be destroyed anyway, use them for research. The president believes the embryos are alive, and he vetoes the bill that leads to their death anyway, with nothing gained. How logical is that?

The lives so many conservatives are trying to defend stay frozen in labs. How does that fact sit with their consciences? I fail to understand how the agenda of life is forwarded by either keeping embryos frozen or destroying them. If they had any integrity they’d go after the entire practice of in-vitro fertilization which creates the lives that end up hanging in limbo.

This debate turns not on any type of logic or reasoning but on emotion. At the White House ceremony today the president was surrounded by happy children born as a result of embryo adoption. It is wonderful that those children could be brought out of their frozen state, and nurtured to birth. Their lives represent a miracle of science and belief in the sanctity of life. But the fact is that none of the embryos affected by today's bill would have survived anyway. No life was saved by vetoing the bill. The question has never been about how many lives are being saved--the President has never tried to stop embryo "murder"--but how many lives are being lost now that no research can be conducted on cells that were doomed to die anyway.

Science remains a tricky double-edged sword most fundamentalists just can’t seem to wield accurately. Many use it to enhance their own lives, even at the expense of life by their own definition. We will be judged, if not in this life, then surely in the next, by our conscience and by our reasoning. Those who believe life begins at conception and participate in its creating and discarding carry a heavy burden. Ignoring certain facts will not alleviate responsibility. Often those yelling the loudest are indict themselves. They protest too much. They would do well to go and learn what this means: blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he believes.

Are You Getting Enough Oxygen?

Is canned oxygen the new bottled water? First Japan improved the automobile. Now the next big thing out of Tokyo may be a new spin on an old, previously free commodity: air. Businessmen and industrialists have found oxygen's popularity to be unrelenting and now you can buy it in a can.

According to this story oxygen in a can went on sale in Tokyo May 24. The product allows users to replenish their oxygen levels anytime they feel low. While normal air contains only 22% oxygen the air from the can is rich, up to 95%. Inhaling it has been said to cause a sense of invigoration. There is enough air to last about a week, if used a few times a day. Or, one really kick ass buzz if used all at once, as it surely will be once it hits American shores.

Yes, as I've said before, in the future oxygen will be a commodity available only to the super-rich, or the five kings of Europe. So, my advice is to get it while it's cheap. Don't be the last one on your block to shotgun a can of air.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

President Says Some Shit at Important Conference

Yesterday, due to a technical oversight, commoners were given a rare glimpse into the powerful and glamorous realm of world leaders. An open microphone caught comments by President Bush at on the final day of the G8 summit. Many have wondered what President Bush sounds like un-scripted, and the answer is: rude, coarse and to the point. Bush was heard using an expletive referring to Hezbollah, complaining about the verbose nature of some world leaders, demanding diet-pepsi, and marvelling at the vast expanse of Russia.

But most Americans may have been unaware of the President’s comments due to Federal Communications Commission rules which fine broadcasters up to $325,000 for airing unscripted comments. The only political statements deemed newsworthy by the FCC are those that have been carefully choreographed by a team of political scientists ahead of time. CNN, which is a cable outlet, played the quote. Fox News did not.

How did the most powerful man in the world feel about his speech to other world leaders?

“Just gonna make it up,” he said. “I'm not going to talk too damn long like the rest of them. Some of these guys talk too long.”

How does Bush talk to the king of China, America’s main economic and political rival?

“Gotta go home. Got something to do tonight. Go to the airport, get on the airplane and go home. How about you? Where are you going? Home? This is your neighborhood. It doesn't take you long to get home. How long does it take you to get home? Eight hours? Me too. Russia's a big country and you're a big country. It takes him eight hours to fly home.”

(Our president forgivingly assumed that because China and Russia are neighbors it wouldn’t take long to fly from St. Petersburg to Bejing.)

How does Bush talk to hired help?

“No, Diet Coke, Diet Coke.”

(Our President just couldn’t get over how far apart St. Petersburg and Bejing are. He has the wide-eyed wonder of a school boy!)

“It takes him eight hours to fly home,” he continued. “Eight hours. Russia's big and so is China.”

How does Bush talk to his best friends?

Yo, Blair, what are you doing? You leaving?

Blair: No, no, no, not yet.

And the inner workings of trade negotations?

Bush: If you want me to. I just want some movement. Yesterday, I didn't see much movement. The desire's to move.

Blair : No, no there's not. It may be that it's impossible.

Bush : I'll be glad to say it. Who's introducing me?

Blair : Angela. [German Chancellor Angela Merkel ]

Bush : Tell her to call on me. Tell her to put me on the spot.

(Our president likes to carry the ball.)

Bush : Thanks for the sweater. Awfully thoughtful of you. I know you picked it out yourself.

Blair : Oh, absolutely.

The conversation then turned to the Mideast Crisis.

Bush : See, the irony is what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit, and it's over.

Blair : Who, Syria?

Bush : Right.

Blair : I think this is all part of the same thing. What does he think? He thinks if Lebanon turns out fine, if we get a solution in Israel and Palestine, Iraq goes in the right way, he's [inaudible ] . That's what this whole thing's about. It's the same with Iran.

Bush : I felt like telling Kofi to get on the phone with Assad and make something happen. We're not blaming Israel. We're not blaming the Lebanese government."

At that point Blair turned the microphone off.

Many on the left have latched on and mocked the president for his language and impatience. Even the right’s Bill O’Reilly considered the conversation “embarrassing” for the president. However, I predict the inane banter and crude speech will only help Bush. Indeed, those on the right should be supremely satisfied that he appears to speak in private exactly as he does in public, with simplistic thoughts tinged frequently with impatience and annoyance.

What would have been a real disaster is if the president had spoken too cerebrally, perhaps comprehending the size of Russia and China, or maybe revealing some complex understanding of the Middle East crisis. No one wants to picture our representative as some Poindexter! Only those on the left want a leader like that. Boring! Bush’s blunt approach to complex problems is not only admired but reciprocal. His disdain for meetings and verbose eggheads is mutual. Again, no one likes liberals. It would have been utterly unsettling to hear him speaking with applied enthusiasm or, heaven forbid, with the breadth and depth of an intellectual.

It’s just unfortunate that the president has to have his conversations listened-in on. This type of treatment should be inflicted only on commoners and laborers who need to be constantly monitored. As proof, you can be charged for things you said when you thought no one was listening, but our leader can’t even be repeated on public airwaves unless he knows he’s being quoted. What kind of people does Russia employ for these conferences? I hope the White House forms a crudely worded letter stating their blunt opinion on this matter. This is not the first time a microphone has been left on.

Many have criticized the President’s language. Your children are not allowed to speak that way in school, but he can. Your children are also not allowed to speak with food in their mouths, but our leader can. He is, of course, President. Who would ever even think of holding our leader to the standards we hold even the wildest and most unkempt of juveniles to? Yes, Bush said some shit. Let's all say it. Shit! Hey, that was fun. That gives boring rhetoric a little punch in the gut. Shit, get over it, people.

My advice is not to sweat this little episode. Happily, the president, when told about it, rolled his eyes and laughed. If he’s not worried, I’m not worried. In-fact white house spokesman Tony Snow is already using the conversation as an example supreme representation, pointing out how the President speaks and thinks like all Americans. How flattering!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Boom Goes the Dynamite Timeline

What creates hype? How long does it take for buzz to get started? Marketing professionals lose sleep answering these questions but Brian Collins, a Ball State University journalism student, found out faster than you can say "dynamite." His catch phrase "boom goes the dynamite" exploded onto the internet a little over a year ago and hasn't let up, and it all had a very innocent beginning.

March 22, 2005 - Collins is asked to fill in as sports anchor on a Ball State University student-run newscast. Near the end of a rough broadcast Collins utters the phrase "boom goes the dynamite" during basketball highlights.

Early April - A video clip of the show appears on Ebaum's World

Early/Mid- Bloggers link the clip

May 3 - "Boom Goes the Dynamite" enters Urban Slang's on-line dictionary

June 10 - Collins does "The Late Show with David Letterman"

June 13 - Collins does "The Early Show"

No good deed goes un-punished. Collins stepped up to help out the Ball State news show when they needed a sports anchor. He was clearly put into a situation he was not ready for and the video soon made its way around the world. Now jerks walk up to him and tell him he sucks. Really? I don't think so. The guy volunteered. He stepped up, which is more than most will ever do. I don't think he has anything to be embarrassed about--especially to those who take the time to send him hate mail. Come on, now that's a loser.

Only in America. This is the type of thing that would happen only in America and I think it's great. A pop-culture catch phrase was born and it didn't require Hollywood writers or marketing gurus. It's a perfect example of the new grass-roots power the internet has given everyone. You like something? Blog about it, link it, post it. It's a free market of ideas out on the internets. That's what makes myspace great--it's an encumbered marketplace for odd-balls, new bands, and amateur blogs. It's not driven by corporate hype but by word-of-mouth. Fabrications like Ashlee Simpson stand no chance and that's a good thing in my book.

Don't be such a square, man. "Boom Goes the Dynamite" has become a maven's benchmark--utter it at a party and see who gets it and who doesn’t. Sure, it was born unknowingly, and that is all the better. I'd rather have some sincere hype than something forged by corporate America's greedy hands.

Why? The question is probably being asked: why? Why did this event become so popular? Rest assured, there's probably a team of advertising scientists trying to crack that very code right now. But undoubtedly there is something to shared embarrassment, innocence, and desire. Those forces are something American Idol effectively taps into when Simon Cowel destroys someone's dignity for huge television ratings. Just as many people tune in to see who gets wrecked as to see who wins. Just look at Collins' face at the end of his broadcast, he's hunched over, totally deflated. When the woman thanks him for stepping in all he can do is utter "yeah." You can't script that. We've all been in situations like that. Just as powerful as shared embarrassment is empathy.

What next? In just under two months Collins went from zero to Letterman. And the rest, as they say, is internet history. "Boom Goes the Dynamite" has been uttered by ESPN sports anchors, written into wikipedia, and even exclaimed by John Stewart last night on "The Daily Show." In what has turned into an Simpsonesque "I didn't do it" journey, the catch phrase has reached the very vault of corporate America. Move over, William Hung.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Happy Birthday Mr. President!

On this day in 1946 you were born George Walker Bush in New Haven, Connecticut. Your rise to the top started slowly: helping your dad’s early campaigns in Texas. You lost a bid for congress in 1978 but after becoming a born again Christian in 1986 you turned everything around. In 1998, at the age of 42, you worked on your father’s successful presidential campaign. In 1994 you became Governor of Texas and by 2001 you were President of the United States, after a controversial election.

As president your career has panned out like this:

2 elections
$1.3 trillion tax cut program
Signed No Child Left Behind Act
Partial-Birth-Abortion Ban Act
Faith-based welfare initiatives

International Prestige
Hurricane Katrina
Federal Marriage Amendment
Privatizing Medicare and social security

“To be determined”
Global War on Terrorism
Iraq War

Despite the controversies I believe yours will be regarded as a success story. You maximized your strengths, minimized your weaknesses, and became the 43rd President of the United States. Believe me, it will be studied for years to come. Happy 60th Birthday, Mr. Bush!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Why the World Doesn't Need Superman

Once again, we’ve been had.…

Casey Weierbach, 27, traveled the “lecture circuit” telling her story of childhood rape and consequent infection with AIDS. She “lectured” for over four years to anyone who would listen (read: news reporters, churches, and medical professionals). Finally a pastor demanded some proof from Weierbach and accused her of duping her congregation. It turns out Weierbaugh used fabricated laboratory records to indicate she had AIDS so she could receive medical benefits in 2003. She was arraigned on Friday on charges of theft by deception, forgery, tampering with records and making false statements. She may have defrauded Pennsylvania of up to $66,000.

I guess my only question is: how do I get on the “lecture circuit?” Apparently, you don’t need any proof or documentation to get on it and make money. It sounds like a gravy train to me. Weierblech figured out what televangelists and Republicans already have: it doesn’t take much to dupe a congregation. She takes her place next to James Frey, Jimmy Swaggart, and Pat Robertson--people who have taken advantage of the fact that in our now soulless, scientific, post modern age people need something to believe in. America is quickly making itself out to be a vast wasteland of sheep who absorb Ophra’s latest book club recommendation, nod their heads approvingly at the next guest speaker in church, or cast their vote for the next politician with the best anecdotes.

Speaking of hero worship, I saw “Superman Returns” this weekend and hated it. Let’s face it, “Superman” is an ideal created out of our best hopes and dreams to fight our worst fears. The original Superman fought Nazis, the 2006 version is a deadbeat dad. He's been gone for five years and during the interim Lois Lane has borne his son and wrote a Pulitzer Prize winning essay: Why the World Doesn't Need Superman. We don't get to read the article but it's reasoning is established nicely just by watching the film. Is the Man of Steel humbled to learn he has produced a son? Is he saddened to have missed out on every bit of his life? Is he anxious to make up for lost time by trying to be a Super dad? Nah. He returns, imparts an adjuration to his son (while he sleeps) and then flies off. The movie is savvy enough to give us the Lois-Superman-child subplot, but certainly doesn't trust us or Superman to deal with it on any reasonable level.

And, I guess that’s how it is in 2006: everyone wants to be a mommy or a daddy, but few want to be parents. Of course Superman, like so many of us, is off the hook because he has important business to tend to. Personally, I think he should own up to his responsibilities and raise his child. But he doesn’t even have to erase Lois’ memory to make this one right. She’s already suckered some other guy into believing the child is his. My heroes!

No, box office sales have not sagged under Superman’s new, mundane weight. They’re held up like George Reeve’s gut—by sheer willpower. We see what we want to see in the people before us. The woman behind me audibly sighed every time Brandon Routh came on-screen—not because of what he was actually doing, but because of what he symbolized. He is Superman, after all, regardless of how he conducts his personal life. At least in“The Wizard of Oz” the characters had to kill the witch before Oz revealed they didn't really need him at all. He was the symbol, they were the real thing. Imagine that! The emblems he gave them were just reminders of that powerful fact.

I can’t help but find a common thread in our hasty acceptance of symbols. We produce them as fast as we can, whether through CGI or TV. There’s the guy who really didn’t walk across America, the guy who really didn’t have a drug addiction and fabricated a story about it, and now the woman who really didn’t have AIDS. Our desire shouldn’t be to help us find someone to believe in, but to help us believe in ourselves. Because I think we’re getting cheated.

But don’t get me wrong, all in all it was a good 4th of July weekend. Except for that North Korean missile launch thing. That sucks too. Luckily we have real heroes, people of real integrity in Washington, who will figure a way out of this mess! Will the evil Kim Jong Il be slapped with sanctions? Stay tuned!