Why aren't Christian fundamentalists kosher?
Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one. -C.S. Lewis
Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one.
Friday, May 27, 2005
It is now time for my annual rant against that idiot Sting who thought he needed to expand his artistic horizons and instead exiled himself to the Siberia of adult contemporary (read: shitty) music. Was it too much to ask, I ask, for you to stay the frontman of the Biggest Band In The World? Artistic freedom? Sting will never read this, because he is too busy learning from shy, bald Buddhists how to ejaculate into his scrotum, but if he ever did, he would read that being the frontman of the Biggest Band In The World allows one almost unlimited artistic freedom. But that’s not what this was ever about. It’s about the kind of ego that made Simon split from Garfunkel, a delusion that comes to most rockers at least once in their careers that says “I’m the reason why this band is great, and all these other guys are dead weight.” Unfortunately, Sting had a bout with this delusion that he was unable to fight off.
In rare cases, like Peter Gabriel (who wisely put a safe distance between himself and Phil Collins), the artist is correct to move on, in others, like Paul Simon’s, the artist is technically correct that his bandmate is dead weight, but overlooks the fact that only as a duo did they capture anyone’s imagination (Note to Paul: over 500,000 people showed up to see the Simon and Garfunkel reunion in Central Park. Think about that.). In Sting’s case, it was the normal instance of a egomaniacal star making a gross miscalculation about the roots of his success. Yes, Sting, you wrote all the songs. Yes you were the lead singer. Sound like a solo career to you? Hardly. He forgets that Copeland’s drumming was what made a song like Walking on the Moon even listenable. He forgets that Andy Summers’ guitar effects were the perfect foil for his own melodic and rhythmic bass lines.
Of course, the situation most conducive to embarking on a successful solo career is if your original band sucked, but inexplicably sold lots of records. Matchbox 20 is a perfect example of this. Rob Thomas will, no doubt, have an equally sucky yet commercially successful career as did his former band. Looking to the future, I would be willing to bet about $100,000 that the annoying singer from Maroon 5 releases an annoying solo album, which will be at least as irritating as the current Maroon 5 effort, within the next 5 years. Look for no dropoff in sales. If you suck, the solo career is more of a possibility, if only because no one cares about your band breaking up in the first place. Also, if you suck there’s no reason that your band should stay together, because, well, you suck, and there’s really nothing there to break up anyway. But this sets a dangerous example for bands who are actually good. Because the frontman will inevitably have a moment when he says, “you know, I could be a successful solo artist just like Rob Thomas, I don’t need these guys, as a solo artist I can hire whatever musicians I want, I can have a guy who just plays the pan flute, and don’t even have to put his crappy song on the album! I can just tell him to fuck off and get a new pan flute!”
But with a band like the Police, who took not-sucking to new heights of commercial success, to break it up is a crime. When you have a good band, many factors contribute to its success, but topping that list is the underrated and, more often, largely unnoticed contributions of all the bandmates. Listen to the bass line on “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and tell me that Bono’s doing it all himself. Bono is that rare artist who knows that his band is bigger than the sum of its parts and certainly bigger than himself. Bono has not and would never go solo because he’s an exceptionally smart man who actually realizes how rare it is for a rock and roll band to be truly awesome. The exact opposite of Bono, rock and roll god, is Rob Thomas, suckmeister. In much the same way, U2 is to Matchbox 20 as Chanel No. 5 is to pureed hot horse shit.
Sure, maybe Bono can’t front a quartet of xylophones, maybe his artistic freedom has been compromised by the fact that he can’t do an a capella album with Tuban throat singers, but like I've said, there are worse things that being the frontman of the Biggest Band In The World. Bono would never work as a solo artist. Mick Jagger would be a disaster as a solo artist. And I guess I should be thankful that he offered to prove my theory for me, allowing us to see exactly how to break up a good band at the height of their powers and drift into the vague periphery, but nevertheless Sting has indeed been an absolutely awful solo artist. And by awful, I mean utterly irrelevant. But I guess shaping the landscape of rock and roll isn’t quite as fulfilling as laying down a track of some background yodeling. Way to go, Sting. No more Police, but at least you’ve “found your center.” You bastard. But hey man, I feel you. When I feel the need to expand artistically, I run right to my local lite rock station, too.
Posted by Horatio at 18:52
I have a confession to make. Actually a question, but one revealing enough that it could qualify. Who gives a hell about John Bolton? I mean, who cares about Mr. Moustache? Maybe I am just betraying my shameful ignorance on the role of UN ambassador, but honestly, what difference can it possibly make who is representing us at the UN? It’s the UN for Christ’s sake! Now, as a good liberal, of course, I do not share the right-wing obsession with eliminating the institution entirely. I guess they do some good. My sister is currently teaching at a school in Haiti and the only thing between her and being torn limb from limb by an angry mob is a well armed cadre of Nepalese, Canadian, and Brazilian UN soldiers. I’m sure there are all sorts of humanitarian efforts that achieve economies of scale through UN administration. In addition, military action is no doubt more palatable on the world stage if thoroughly approved by UN councils. And yes, I don’t think there’s much doubt about the fact that Bolton is a total jackass. But pardon me if I couldn’t give a rat’s ass about it. Aren’t there more important things to be doing? Like drafting health care legislation that Dems can get behind in ’06 and ’08? Like hammering Bush ball-peen style on Social Security? Like bitch-slapping the Dems who voted for that bankruptcy atrocity? Like busting GOP Senators for outright hypocrisy for threatening to filibuster stem-cell legislation? Like choosing what carpeting to put in the Capitol rec room?
If there is anything of interest me in this battle over his nomination, it is the fact that the Dems, by delaying the vote once again, seem to have grabbed the momentum after it was sort of up for grabs there in the aftermath of the Gang of 14 deal. I have to believe this is a good thing. First, Senate Dems need to be unafraid to flex whatever muscle is available to them with at only 44 strong. Also, I doubt that charges of obstructionism will have any effect here, because I just don’t think anyone really cares about this. Stem cell research is something that you could make hay by claiming obstructionism, but the UN ambassador? Please. We pol junkies sometimes have to take a tiny step back and realize that 75% of the country probably never even heard of Bolton. So make the guy a political football and kick him around a little. Dems should be confident on this one.
Posted by Horatio at 18:46
Thursday, May 26, 2005
What an absolutely sick line-up this is. Even if they all only played for 6 minutes each it would be worth about 200 bucks. Wait. Why do I have a sneaking suspicion that my little scenario may actually be what they're planning? Bastards.
Posted by Horatio at 16:08
After reading my previous post*, Robert Rubin decided that he needed to break it down (via Josh Marshall) to congressional Democrats: no deal on Social Security. It's advice they needed to hear, from a guy who needed to say it.
*This may not be entirely true.**
**Brazenly ripped off from David Foster Wallace.***
***Self-indulgent name dropping.
Posted by Horatio at 13:47
Gun control is one of those issues that embodies completely the urban/rural split of the modern major political parties. The rationale on both sides makes perfect sense. Why should a law-abiding, gun-owning individual (living in an area where police don’t exactly show up 15 minutes after you call them), have to answer to politicians from far away when it comes to perfectly legal recreation or protecting their families. Especially when the U.S. Constitution itself supposedly guarantees this very right. From where that guy is sitting, it’s just one more example of how an busybody government tries to interfere with his life. On The Other Hand, what is an urban congressman to do after hearing pleas from his constituents to stop the gun violence that plagues their neighborhood? After all, no one’s doing any hunting with those Colts, Glocks, and Tek-9’s. When a ten year old boy is shot through the head while waiting for his school bus or a little girl is killed in her bed by a stray bullet, it sort of spurs people into making sure that kind of thing doesn’t happen again.
Even though most of the pro-gun arguments are ridiculous (i.e. the totally silly scenarios they come up with where wouldn’t you love a gun right about now – they really don’t need to go much past 2nd amendment/privacy), I think the GOP/rural side of this issue has the more merit, if only because urban violence isn’t as much gun centered as it is drug centered. Gun control seems to be an imperfect response to a very real problem of urban violence. The negative rural (for the most part, there are many urban opponents as well) response to gun control efforts is borne of the fact that they see all the imperfections in the policy, without being aware of the impetus to act. My response is not to abandon any attempt at alleviating the problem, just to take an approach that strikes more directly at the root of the problem. After all, I have the same right to a gun as any of the gang bangers out there, yet I don’t climb into a car and spray bullets at anyone. Why not? Because I happen not to be involved in the multi-million dollar drug business. In legal businesses, when a rival shop opens within your market radius, you advertise, develop a new product, have a sale, etc. In illegal businesses, when a rival shop opens within your market radius, you shoot at them until they die/go away. Banning guns doesn’t really get at the heart of the problem with city violence. It just makes it a bit more difficult to do what they will still want to do anyway. I would argue that the problem with urban drug-based violence will not be solved until rivals have no incentive to shoot at each other. At the moment, it’s good for business, so pardon me if I predict it will continue.
The first step in moving towards a more effective policy is disassociating from the old one. What Keynes had to say about ideas certainly holds true here: “The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.” Listening to Dean recently about how the Dems will talk about issues leads me to believe that this step might be coming sooner than later (although I have no illusions about drugs being legalized anytime soon). He said that Dems should take a position that government should stay out of the private decisions that individuals and families make. He was referring to a more effective way of framing abortion and end-of-life issues, but I think a new Dem perspective on gun control could be included. Indeed, I’m not sure how you could remain consistent on privacy and government interference when it comes to moral issues, but not gun ownership. I hope the Dean and the Dems realize this, because I think it’d be the first step to actually solving urban violence problems.
Posted by Horatio at 08:54
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
In a display of ignorance, poor taste, and outright blasphemy, apparently someone in the military thought it was funny to put the words "New Testament" on the barrel of a tank's main cannon. Andrew Sullivan is right that the officer in charge of this tank should be dismissed. This is exactly the wrong message to send to those who would destroy us. I did not support the invasion of Iraq, but I realize if we're fighting this war against anyone, it is the anti-modern, anti-equality, anti-democracy fundamentalists who would not hesistate to kill us if given the chance. What some stupid morons in my great country do not realize is that none of those things so worthy of opposing have anything to do with Islam. Fundamentalists use religion as their excuse to stop thinking, and start hating. But that does not mean that the particular religion is to blame. This is not a fight against Islam, but a fight against those who would twist Islam to rationalize a campaign of hatred and violence. In much the same way, there are those who twist Christianity into a rationalization for abject hatred of gays. Since this is not a fight against Islam, it isn't a fight for Christianity either. We are not right because we are Christian, we are right because we believe in equality, due process, and the rule of law. It is just as easy for someone who claims to be Christian as it is for a Muslim to espouse values contrary to these ideals. Terrorism is hateful because it sees no other truth; it is anti-merciful, for opponents of the truth deserve no mercy. We should indeed be equally as unyielding as the terrorists, but it is equality, comity, law, and justice that we should not compromise. To believe that self-professed Christians are, by their very nature, somehow on the "good" side of this fight is to completely misunderstand the fight. For one man (the man in the tank) to slip and lose sight of the larger reality is understandable, if not forgivable. But for his C.O. and other DoD officials, who supposedly think about this "hearts and minds" stuff, to let this continue is unconscionable.
Posted by Horatio at 15:42
Kudos to Audioslave frontman, Grunge pioneer, hard rocker, Chris Cornell for acknowledging that bands should put out more rather than less material. Yes, Chris. One album every year sounds about right to me. And you are absolutely right about liking some records and not liking others. Far better for me to choose what I like rather than for the studio to spend three to five years choosing for me.
Posted by Horatio at 14:37
First of all, I have absolutely no interest in Michael Jackson's trial. However, I do have quite an interest in Michael Jackson's music. Which brings me to this: When you listen to a classic track like P.Y.T. or I Want You Back, it reminds you of how incredibly talented this man once was. It’s a shame he’s fallen so low. Sort of like a broken stained glass window. Then again, it was probably broken all this time and the show was to pretend it wasn’t. It was a good show, I suppose. For purely selfish reasons, I just wish it had been real and the cracks weren’t there. Again, it’s a shame. With something like this, sometimes you’re so repulsed by the circumstances that you feel bad even listening to the music, which is a crappy situation, since, of course, the music is some of the best ever recorded.
Posted by Horatio at 14:35
You can’t compromise on the elimination of something. If there’s a disagreement over whether a legislature should have one house or two, which officer to assign to which ship, whether to order pepperoni or sausage on your pizza, there’s still the fundamental common ground that makes the compromise possible. At least you agree that you should have a legislature, that this ship needs a new officer, that you’re all hungry for pizza. But on the question of Social Security, there is no such common ground. Republicans talk about reforming the program, but that does not change the true goal of their proposals: to eliminate Social Security. So if this is the starting point for the GOP, how can the Dems think of compromising? There is no compromise. Some would claim that both parties want to reform the program and that is the common ground. I would answer that lip service doesn’t count as an actual position. I think it’s pretty clear that if Republicans talked openly about eliminating SS, you could count their approval numbers on two hands. The situation at present is an impasse: one group wants to keep, and, if necessary, reform Social Security, and the other group wants to eliminate it. There is no compromise possible here. Either SS is here to stay or it’s not.
So, with this as the backdrop, it is with absolute incredulity that I hear the 7 dealmakin' Dems want to cut yet another deal (link via Josh Marshall) on Social Security. Let’s put to rest the fact that no deal is even possible given both party’s goals. Don’t the Dems want to win elections? Can’t they read the polls? Can’t they tell when they’re winning? I think some of these guys spend too much time on talk shows. No one is clamoring for a deal. No one is “viewing Dems as blocking needed legislation.” Why? Because by a long shot the American people don’t think we need it. I agree with this assessment that the Dems should realize that the GOP has run into a stone wall on this issue and announce the close of debate on SS. Why would they hand the Republicans a victory on this? Don’t they realize that any progress on the Republican agenda on SS not only moves it closer to being gone, but legitimizes their position and makes it even easier for them to take the next step. It makes no sense. I can only hope that this is all just speculation. Like a Cubs trade rumor.
The most valuable thing that the Dems can do at the present moment is to say loudly, at every opportunity, that the GOP wants to take away grandma’s benefits. If the Goopers cry foul, say it again. When they try to explain that elimination isn’t their goal, just reform, say it once again, only this time say it into a megaphone. The Republicans should be running scared on this issue, yet the dealmakin’ dems seem to want to be nice. And they wonder why they lost the majority in both houses.
Posted by Horatio at 08:09
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
I’d really like to hear the rationalization behind the decision to let baby daddy walk and kick baby mama out. I think it’s fun to watch sex-obsessed mental midgets do intellectual backflips. Is there any possible justification for this? Normally I can detect a small bit of reason in even the most misguided actions, but this one has me stumped. Just pathetic.
Posted by Horatio at 14:59
I think I will try the 50 book challenge. Although I will make it the 52 book challenge and call it an even book per week.
My first 10 books shall be:
450 pages in a week is about 65 pages per day. I’ll have to balance the shorter books and bank time for the longer ones. I’m feeling good about my chances on this. 65 pages per day is pretty doable.
Posted by Horatio at 14:54
Monday, May 23, 2005
Well, they made a deal. This (via Drudge) strikes me as really good outcome for the democrats. Not only does Frist lose, he can't even blame Reid and the rest of the Dems for beating him. Reid gets to declare that the filibuster he fought for is still intact and that cooler heads prevailed. Frist gets...nothing. Not quite a complete emasculation, but close. Out of the nominees in question, only three have been promised majority votes, one of which, according to Lindsay Graham (on MSNBC), will be defeated on a bipartisan basis. A lot of the Dem base seems to be angry about the fact that Owen got through, but when it's 55 to 44, total victory just wasn't going to happen. Part of the deal was a promise from 7 GOP Senators not to vote for a rule change eliminating the filibuster. Sounds good, I guess, but in light of this,
"Many of these nominees have waited for quite some time to have an up-or-down vote and now they are going to get one. That's progress," said press secretary Scott McClellan said. "We will continue working to push for up or down votes for all the nominees."I'm not so sure. Sounds like this battle isn't over to me. Still, the GOP leadership, and the Religious Right that talked them onto this precipice, needed a big slap in the face over this, and it looks like they got one.
Posted by Horatio at 21:39
What exactly is the point of drugs being illegal in this or any country? Sadly, like most other social control laws, I feel it exists mostly to make those who pass it feel good about themselves. Honestly, is there a shred of difference between bootleggers during prohibition and the street gangs who sell drugs today? I spent a year living in Vancouver, B.C. working with street kids there. It was pretty sad to see the kids who were struggling with addiction. Even sadder to see the runaway kids who came to the streets without a drug problem only to be addicted as any of them just a few months later. But the most disturbing part of any of this was on welfare day. It was amazing to see the kids on that day because that’s when they had to turn all that getting clean rhetoric into action. All of a sudden they had money, and at that point each one of them had to decide whether they had already taken their last hit, or they hadn’t. Sadly, most of them opted for “one” more fix, so it was off to the dealers. So that money, fresh from the Canadian government, in one of the more efficient transfers of resources I’ve seen in my life, went directly to the gangs who controlled the drug trade.
I’m not sure how large a chunk of the dealers revenues came from welfare checks (or how much of the welfare in Vancouver went right to dealers), but for me that’s not really the point. What I saw was a struggle both sides of which the government was directly funding. The gangs were getting money from the government in the form of purchases from welfare recipients and I presume that the police get their salaries from the government, too. Now I say nothing about the rightness or wrongness or welfare payments here, merely the fact that this situation highlighted for me the inefficiency and meaninglessness of the drug war. I bet that somewhere there is a gun, purchased with government money, loaded with armor piercing bullets, purchased with government money, that killed an officer of the law, who was working, of course, for the government.
In my view, the worst part of the whole drug thing are the huge swaths of our cities that are almost completely disinvested. The gangs that control the drug trade have such a hold on their turf, that all other business and investment basically shuts down. If drugs were legal, I have a feeling that the gangs who fight over turf, kill their rivals, shoot at each other from cars, intimidate residents, and generally wield their power, would quickly become akin to the 4-H club. Without the steady stream of income, the drug dealing street gangs, just like the bootleggers 85 years ago, would completely dry up. Street gangs aren’t just crazy people running around shooting kids. They are well organized, extremely profitable, drug dealing businesses. Take away their source of income and they go away too. I'm not talking about the dawn of Utopia, just the fact that gangs do not do what they do for fun, they do it for money. When they go away, the fear goes away with them, and when the fear goes, the money and the jobs come back.
People will still do drugs of course, and I suppose there’s not much we can or even should do about that. I think education is valuable, but doing drugs to the point of self-annihilation isn’t about how much you know or don’t know, it’s about self-hatred. But I digress. The point being that in both scenarios, drugs legal or drugs illegal, addiction and all its attendant sadness and depair still exist, whereas in the drugs legal scenario, the whole “underworld” component just disappears.
Posted by Horatio at 12:17
Fresh off a win at Cannes for his latest movie, Broken Flowers, can there be any doubt that Bill Murray is making a strong play for Most Underrated Actor Of All Time? Check out his imdb.com page. The guy’s filmography is amazing (Ghostbusters II being the exception that proves the rule). His movies not only connect with audiences, but receive almost universally high marks critically. The best part of it? He has done this not by suppressing his natural comedic gifts a la Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting, but by refining them to the point of being able to carry a movie on their strength alone. In other words, he’s being himself. I’m not taking anything away from Williams’ performance in Good Will Hunting (a movie that gets better and better every time I see it, by the way) but the general reaction was, “Amazing! Robin Williams isn’t bouncing off the walls!” But with a film like Lost In Translation, the remarkable thing was how comfortable the naturally-funny Bill Murray was in the lead. So when the day is over, what does Murray bring to the screen? Honesty. And as George Burns once said (about sincerity, actually), if you can fake that, you’ve got it made.
P.S. My dream role for Bill Murray: villain in a Quentin Tarentino movie. Think of a cross between Dr. Evil and Elle Driver. Awesome. Both with eyepatches by the way. Hmm, didn’t even notice that till right now. Bill should wear an eyepatch too.
P.P.S. OK. Dr. Evil doesn't have an eyepatch. But he does have a flesh monocle, which is almost like an eyepatch.
Posted by Horatio at 08:12
Saturday, May 21, 2005
Real advocates of a "culture of life" are pretty radical people. Not radical in a bad way, I guess, just extreme. No, extreme isn't much better. I guess I'd call them committed. No, wait.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that true "culture of lifers" are hard to find. You see, the "culture of life" is a seamless garment. If you're for life over here, you sort of have to be for life over there, too. Too many so-called pro-lifers out there are truly outraged by the fact that the U.S. can no longer execute minors. And on the other hand, there are many many on the pro-choice side who like to point out the inconsistencies in their opponents viewpoints while rationalizing their own.
Take a look at this post over at Digby's blog. In my view, making value judgments about which life is more valuable than another is in fact the absolute antithesis of the true sense of the "culture of life." Although both sides are equally inconsistent about the "culture of life," it is pretty much only the right who declare themselves the God-appointed to uphold this culture. Both sides are inconsistent, but only one side claims to be otherwise.
Posted by Horatio at 12:55
Kurds seem to be asserting themselves once again in south-eastern Turkey. This is something I've feared for a while and one of the main reasons I did not support the invasion of Iraq. The Kurds had their taste of independence during the 1990's and I don't think they're going to forget it anytime soon. Stir into the pot a bit of resentment that Iraq was "liberated" while the Kurds remain under foreign rule and you have a recipe for violence and rebellion.
Although I guess the moment of truth for the Kurdish people was coming anyway. Saddam or no Saddam, I don't think that'd change how a Kurd would feel about independence, or make them fear Turkey or Iran any less. Heck, maybe their chances of getting their own country are less likely without Saddam than with him. In any case, "getting their own country," if it happens, is going to be ugly.
I suppose since I've lived in the U.S. all my life, I can't really understand nationalism all that much. Are things really that different under a total asshat government of your own countrymen than under one that has different bloodlines? I'm not talking about revolting against tyranny here. Just situations where a government of your own people and your own set of borders wouldn't really be any different than the current situation of living under generally tolerable foreign rule. Maybe this never happens.
OK, whenever I start to hear the lyrics to "Imagine" in my head, I know it's time to stop writing.
Link via The Agonist.
Posted by Horatio at 12:25
Friday, May 20, 2005
Some people over at Daily Kos are making a big deal out of this AP poll that says 78% of Americans believe the Senate should take an "assertive role" examining judicial nominees rather than just give the president the benefit of the doubt.
While the spirit of this poll is certainly encouraging in that US citizens do not want the Senate become a rubber stamp for the president, this is hardly a poll on whether judicial nominees should get an up-or-down vote. Perhaps that question would poll just as strongly, who knows, but that is not the question being asked here.
Posted by Horatio at 22:21
Here's something I've never fully understood. When a person commits a horrific crime, why on earth do they spend so much time debating over whether they're crazy or not? I guess after someone kills their kids you have to decide whether to put them here (jail) or there (hospital) for the rest of their lives, but that's sort of a small detail in the grand scheme of things, don't you think? Once they've established guilt (in the sense that it was this particular person and not someone else), then that's it. Even if you were sick and you didn't mean to do it, you can't blame anyone for thinking that you just might do it again. Which is, of course, why we lock people up in the first place. So either way, sick or no, it's curtains, lady!
Posted by Horatio at 22:01
Posting without a title here. Just trying to get used to this thing. What fun so far! Just told the wife about it. Thus begins the publicity blitz.
Posted by Horatio at 19:56
In politics today, is there a bigger disconnect between the straw (wo)man that the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity rail about and the real Hillary Clinton ? I mean, everybody in NY likes her, even the Republicans. Yet she remains the ultimate bogey(wo)man for dittoheads everywhere. What gives?
Posted by Horatio at 15:05
First off, I do not have any nostalgia for the filibuster. Maybe we're even better off without it? But I agree with Josh Marshall that the real issue at hand here is the unprecedented circumvention of Senate rules. If the filibuster is taken down, it should be done the right way - with 67 votes.
Posted by Horatio at 13:26