Tom Toles is a genius. But that's besides the point.
Used without permission from the Washington Post.
I sure do wish those people luck. Palestinians in general have been ill-served by their leadership for over 50 years now. This latest choice for leadership seems as questionable as their choice of Arafat. What good did he ever bring to them?
I'd wish them more luck if they could get over their hate of Israel. Yeah, yeah, they got a bad deal in the last century. Europe did take advantage of them by dumping the Jews not killed by the Germans there. Hey, like it or not, the Jews never gave up their claim on the land just because someone bigger came along and threw them off of it, and jeez, that was over 1900 years ago. Israelis might want to make a note of that. Just as the Jews never gave up the idea of eretz Israel, do present day Israelis really want 2,000 years of a blood feud with Palestinians? If the past 50 years is any indication, I want to get out of the line of fire. I do not have a dog in this fight. However, my sympathies are much more pro-Israel than otherwise. I know dozens if not hundreds of Israelis and only a smattering of Palestinians. The ones I know on each side I like, and consider them both to be reasonable people.
To the Palestinians I would offer this advice: play the hand you've got. You need to get a grip and start improving the life of your people. Get over losing part of your land. It could have been worse, and it can always get better.
To the Israelis, I offer this advice: Might does not make right. You are in danger of losing your very souls. Times have changed since the days of marching into a land and destroying all the male inhabitants and all the women who have known men. You can't get away with that shit anymore. The whole world is watching and the world has announced its intention of holding you accountable to the standards of the world. If you deny the very humanity of the Palestinians, it's going to come back and bite your asses, possibly for as long as two thousand years. Please, for all of our sakes, find a way to deal with the Palestinians. You have the greater responsibility because you have the greater awareness.
I wish everyone over there well these next several months. From what I read and hear, nothing will happen until after the Israeli election. Everyone needs to know who the negotiating parties are. It wouldn't hurt for the Palestinians--that means Hamas right now--to indicate their willingness to be pragmatic. The Israelis I know don't give a fuck if you like them or not, but they're going to continue to do everything they can to keep suicide bombers away from their buses and their daily life. If Hamas continues to sound like a terrorist organization, Israel is going to elect some really hard-ass people who are going to kick their sorry asses. Oh sure, it may blow back into their faces in a hundred years or so, but right now, most Israelis are thinking about right now. Oh yeah, and tomorrow: They've been building a fence.
Ron Fransell, asks in his blog Under the News if one can oppose the war in Iraq and still support the troops, and whether the troops feel supported by someone opposed to their endeavor. Ron is the Managing editor of the Beaumont Enterprise way down yonder in Beaumont, Texas, a town where I was partly raised, or at least nearby. He begins his conversation by linking to a column by Joel Stein in Monday's Los Angeles Times entitled Warriors and Wusses. Stein's conclusion is that we are equivocating morally to say we support our troops but oppose the war. I agree with most of his points, but disagree with his conclusion.
I am opposed to the war in Iraq. It was a war of choice, based on a false premise, urged on by others with hidden agendas. Presently we have about 150,000 uniformed servicemen and women there. No estimates are given for non-uniformed personnel, nor is one given for the private soldiers of fortune hired by Halliburton. There are a lot of them.
As a veteran from the Vietnam era, I am sensitive to the plight of uniformed service personnel. Prior to being drafted in 1971, I actively opposed the war in Vietnam. For 21 months and 11 days, I wore a uniform, and because military traveling in uniform got special rates for travel, I traveled as a soldier. I know there are urban myths about how poorly soldiers were treated, but it never happened to me. I flew in and out of the San Francisco International Airport dozens of times during that period. I was always treated courteously. I encountered plenty of students, hippies, and other assorted leftists during this time who were unequivocally against the war in Vietnam. They always made sure I understood the difference between their opposition to the war and their support of me. I never confused their opposition to the war as opposition to me. Most of the lower-ranking guys in those days were draftees, citizen-soldiers, if you would. We were not to blame for our predicament.
Today's soldiers are not draftees. For the most part, they're a hawkish bunch exemplified by the fact that they've chosen to be warriors for the nation. Mercenary warriors at that, receiving large bonuses for serving in combat positions. Polls taken during the election of 2004 indicate that about 75 percent of them supported not just the war in Iraq, but President Bush specifically, despite Bush's dubious record of service during Vietnam. Anecdotal evidence tells me that besides being very conservative, they are also homophobic and dangerous to anyone they perceive as being Gay. There are also strong currents of misogyny in the military culture.
I think they're as foolish in their career choices as they are in their political choices. What support do I owe them? Am I supposed to wink when they do things like this? Or this? Or how about this? And let me tell you, convicting someone like that poor girl with a learning disability and absolving every field officer is so offensive to the concept of "supporting our troops" that I'm ready to spit on and fight any Wingnut that gets into my face about it. You tell me: what does "supporting" our troops mean to you?
Support our troops? I've been through this once already. Supporting our troops is also about supporting the ones who come home crazy, on drugs, unable to maintain relationships. Supporting our troops means having an adequately funded VA. Supporting our troops means not denying that they have serious problems when they return as a result of chemicals used by both our side and the enemy, (Agent Orange comes to mind).
Usually when a nation goes to war, the leader tries to unify the country as it wages war. What did this President do to unify the country? For starters, he and his party shut out the Democrats. He lowered taxes on the rich, leaving the bill for this war to our children and grandchildren. If I didn't oppose this war, I would be disloyal to both the troops over there who are being morally and spiritually compromised, AND generations of Americans yet born.
There's your answer from me, Ron. I'm not sure if I have a moral imperative to "support our troops" without first we define what constitutes support. If I define support, then yes, I do. I want them home, I want them supplied adequately to survive, but I want them healed of their psychological wounds as well. If GOP Wingnuts define the word, probably not. I am not in favor of unchecked militarism. I believe we have a higher responsibility to the nation and the world than simply to put a yellow ribbon on our SUVs and wash our hands of all moral culpability.
As for whether or not they feel my political position is supportive or not, that is not my concern. They are not citizen soldiers caught up in a whirlwind. They are professionals who have volunteered for this mission. The best support I can give them all is to do everything I can to get them home quickly. Whether or not they appreciate it is not my primary concern.
Link: Dr Susan Block's Blog.
George, we want a divorce. We the American People - those of us who voted for you and those of us who didn’t, those of us who believed your bald-faced fish stories and those of us who didn’t - want your abusive lying ass, your ignorant monkey face and all your low-life chickenhawk asshole buddies out of our House (the White one) and out of our lives. We'd like to send you to Guantanamo, but we’ll settle for Crawford. We are so over you, we really are.
Fuck, go read the whole thing. I am newly enamored of Dr. Susan M. Block.
The San Francisco Bay Area has been invaded by Zoropsis spinimana, a spider native to the Mediterranean coastal areas. It's about 2 inches long, according to a story in this morning's San Francisco Chronicle, when it stretches its legs. Darrell Ubick let one walk around on his forearm to show that it isn't particularly aggressive. Ubick and colleague Charles Griswold who work at the California Academy of Sciences want us to resist the urge to smash the spider if we come across one. They would prefer we take pictures of it and send them a copy.
Yeah, like that's going to happen. Squish!
War is an ugly thing. I grew up thinking that we Americans were always the good guys. That was a long time ago.
In November 2003, [Iraqi Major General Abed Hamed] Mowhoush surrendered to U.S. military forces in western Iraq. Welshofer was in charge of the interrogation of the general, a Saddam Hussein confidant who was believed to be leading the burgeoning insurgency in the city of Al Qaim.
Witnesses testified that Welshofer stood by while Iraqi nationals, reportedly in the employ of the CIA, beat the general for about 30 minutes with rubber hoses. The next day, Welshofer took the general to the roof of the prison and, while other soldiers held him down, poured water on his face.
The general did not answer questions, so the following morning Welshofer turned to what was dubbed "the sleeping bag technique." Invented by another interrogator who recalled how his older brother used to stuff him in a sleeping bag to induce claustrophobia, the technique had been approved by Welshofer's supervisor.
The day after the general's death, prosecutors said, Welshofer asked for another sleeping bag so he could continue using the technique on others.
"[T]he jury ruled Monday night that the interrogator must forfeit $6,000 of his salary over the next four months, receive a formal reprimand and spend 60 days restricted to his home, office and church.
I don't begrudge our forces on the ground very much, but this is wrong. It is an ugly scar on our nation. Almost as ugly as Abu Ghraib. No, uglier. Warrant Officer Welshofer murdered a prisoner of war, and now it's been condoned by the Army. Shame on the Army. Shame on us.
Me as well, and I'm no expert. What with the armed services near their melt-down point, our economy sinking rapidly in a sea of red ink, and the country as divided as it was in 1860. No, it doesn't take an expert to doubt the expediency of invading yet another country.
Don't get me wrong. I'm appalled that Iran is about to develop nuclear weapons. I'm appalled that North Korea was allowed to develop nuclear weapons. I'm chagrined that Israel, India and Pakistan developed nuclear weapons. I'm depressed that we seem to be closer to a nuclear holocaust today than we have been in 50 years. And what really depressed the fuck out of me is the pseudo-cowboy in Washington with his hand on a lot of nuclear triggers who thinks the voices in his head belong to some sky-fairie telling him that he's the chosen one.
Me? I'm tap, tap, tapping along, dancing with myself while I practice speaking Canadian. Eh?
The first time I saw Brokeback Mountain, I didn't particularly like it. This is terrible, but I had to pee the first twenty minutes and that little fact kept me from being comfortable and getting into the movie. As a result, I wasn't sympathetic to the plight of the characters. The poverty of the main character, Ennis Del Mar, made me very uncomfortable. It reminded me too much of my own upbringing. Also, I didn't like the fact that both principle characters spent their whole lives cheating either their wives or each other. I had a lot of issues. Not having read the story upon which the movie was based, all of my criticisms were directed at the movie. Once I read the story by Annie Proulx, I reassessed all of my criticism. This past week-end, I saw the movie for a second time. I still have some issues, but not with the movie. It is incredible.
First, the story by Annie Proulx is one of the best short stories I can remember reading. All of my questions about the movie were resolved by reading the short story. All of the ambiguity from the movie was clarified, including the lines mumbled by Heath Ledger, whom I think deserves the Oscar he is going to receive in March. "Heath Ledger is just almost really beyond description as far as I'm concerned. He got inside the story more deeply than I did," said Annie Proulx. Amen to that. Heath's portrayal of Ennis has haunted me for over a week now. Jake Gyllenhall's portrayal of Jack Twist was also disturbing. I identified very strongly with Jack, especially as portrayed in the movie.
Jack's the one Gene Shallit called a sexual predator. I take Gene's son's word for it that his father is not homophobic, but the old son-of-a-bitch is totally clueless. If Jack's a sexual predator, he sure didn't need to feed very often. Going out of your way to see someone a few times a year hardly rates someone a predator status.
Jack was an assimilated homosexual, or less kindly put, a real closet case. It's too bad he drove to Mexico instead of California that week-end when Ennis wouldn't let him stay because he had his daughters for the week-end. The movie would have had a much happier ending. He and Ennis might have ended up in Sonoma County with a nice little ranch and maybe even a B&B. Yeah, it's too bad he went to Mexico. Kudos to Ang Lee though for showing Jack walk off with a normal looking guy in Mexico. Hollywood would have gone for the cheap shot and we'd have seen him getting picked up by a very effeminate semi-drag queen.
I know dozens of guys like Jack and Ennis. When I was in college, way back in the days before there were entire communities of Gays, men who were attracted to men met in strange, out-of-the-way places, like bookstores, restrooms, and roadside parks. Young men, in their sexual prime, seek out sex. They return to areas where they have had success. That's why my friend Robert always liked tearooms (that's what Gays called restrooms back in the 70s) and I always liked dinner parties. Guys like Jack are sexual opportunists with a little bit of a compulsive bent.
The reason Gene Shallit is an idiot is his choice of the words "sexual predator." Gene's a wordsmith. His choice is deliberate, unless he really is the blubbering old idiot that other bloggers have inferred. Sexual predator, Gene? Was there something in Jack's behavior that reminded you of a Catholic priest? Despite the incredibly negative imagery that word conjures up, do you really think Jack "preyed" on Ennis or other unsuspecting heterosexual men? Did you think that Jack's bite was so incredibly toxic that anyone upon whom he "preyed" would be turned into a
vampire homosexual, too? Do you think were it not for Jack, Ennis would have been happily married to his doormat and satisfied with his oppressive poverty? What an incredibly insensitive and stupid thing for Shallit to say. Homophobic? Well, certainly not intentionally so, taking his son at his word, but if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck....
Not everyone will agree with me on this, but my experience has been that some men are incredibly threatened by homosexuals. Smart, intellectual men who deal with their fear much the same way I deal with my fear of spiders. I know the likelihood of a spider metamorphosing in front of my eyes into a giant monster that will eat me alive is very unlikely. That does not keep me from screaming like a little girl if I think I've been touched by one. I regain control of myself almost immediately, but the scream is involuntary. I do not know why Gene Shallit had a slip of the tongue or a slip in judgment, but he had one or the other.
Poor Ennis. His character reverberated with me intensely. Ang Lee made Ennis a lot more sensitive than he usually is. Well, actually Annie Proulx and Heath Ledger did. She projected a lot more emotion into Ennis than he ever had in real life, and Heath suffered each anguishing moment of Ennis's life.
It isn't clear from either the story or the movie what really caused Jack's death. Was Ennis being prescient or just fearful? Violence is something Gay men and women live with constantly, in both the blue states and the red states. However, I think Ennis was seeing Jack's death through the lenses of his own fear. We certainly didn't see Jack taking many chances. Sexual opportunistic adventurers, like Jack, are very careful in their search for
prey (oops, there's that word) suitable objects of their affection. Any Gay who has ever cruised a straight guy learns to be an expert at reading body language. I don't think it likely that Jack would have got himself trapped in a desperate situation that would lead to being beat to death. Beat up? Yes, but getting beat up is survivable. Most beatings don't end up in death. Yeah, yeah, shades of Matthew Shepherd. I know the statistics. It could have happened. However, Jack was a romantic. He fell in love too easily. Men who fall in love with their tricks usually get to know them pretty well before the sex occurs. Jack wanted to play house with his love interests, and hadn't he already shacked up with the neighboring ranch's foreman? He's already shown us that he's not the most active homosexual on the range. Neither the story nor the movie suggest that Jack was very active sexually. The movie suggests he had sex with at least three men. I'm not sure he was trying to pick up the rodeo clown who wouldn't let him buy him a drink. It's not clear what the clown had to say to the other cowboys around the pool table. That might have been about homophobia, but since they all mumbled, I wasn't sure if the clown didn't want the drink because he sensed that Jack was queer and was hitting on him or because Jack was such a loser as a bull rider. Could have been either.
I really liked the shirt thing. That was sweet. I blubbered a bit. Been there, done that. It helped me to like Ennis. Almost. Actually I just felt sorry for him. What a waste.
The story and the movie annoyed me in that it is one more story about homosexuals being losers. We're probably about average when it comes to relationships, losing some and winning others. Can't blame this one on Hollywood, however. The movie is simply Proulx's story projected onto the screen. I can't fault Annie Proulx for her vision of Jack and Ennis being losers in love, because that's the way the story evolved. As a writer, I do know that sometimes my characters tell their stories differently than the one I have imagined for them. Annie Proulx's character, Ennis Del Mar, was based on her observation of a man in a bar in Wyoming whom she caught cruising straight guys. Her character took her down that path. I do not believe she projected it onto him.
I've been reading a litany of reasons from straight men as to why they do not plan to see the movie. You know what? It doesn't matter. I don't particularly like chick flicks, either, and this is definitely a "chick flick." You boys shouldn't delude yourselves, though. You might do well to examine why the idea of two guys making out makes you so uncomfortable. By the way, there's not a lot of making out in the movie or in the short story. President Bush showed more affection to that Saudi prince he walked around his ranch in Crawford while holding hands than Ennis ever shows to Jack. Okay, there is one kissing scene where Ennis's wife catches the two of them kissing, but it's not as much a romantic make-out kiss as it is a "fuck I'm so glad to see you again, let's fuck" kind of kiss. (By the way, Gene Shallit, Jack did drive the 500 miles to Wyoming, but definitely it was Ennis who kissed Jack.)
Back to the movie. . .
As a movie? I cannot recall in recent history seeing a movie that was as loyal to its source material as was this movie. Kudos to Larry McMurtry and Diana Osanna for their excellent work in bringing this story to the screen. Ang Lee was masterful in his ability to allow the characters to tell their story while capturing the scenery of the west without allowing it to distract from the characters stories.
Anything that makes uptight people less uptight is a great endeavor. If this movie causes a shift in sentiment towards the acceptance of Gays and our right to lead normal lives, including same-sex marriage, it's a great movie. As a Gay love story, it sucked. Me? I like happy endings.
Riannan tagged me to blog about weird habits.
Weird habit #1: I am committed to the misspelling of weird. Damn, but that i wants to come before the e.
Weird habit #2:
Picking my nose. NOT! Like I'd 'fess up to it if I did. I do play with my ears in an unconscious manner.
Weird habit #3: When I concentrate on doing something, my tongue peaks out at what I'm doing. My late cat, Beauregard, used to do the same sort of thing. I either picked it up from him or vice versa.
Weird habit #4: (This one is in remission. Thank god, therapy works.) Desperately trying to answer the phone before the third ring. It's like I'm still in a race with my adolescent siblings to be the one to answer the phone. Ten years ago, I bet I could wake up from a deep, deep sleep, and answer the phone in another part of the house before the third ring, and with the advent of cordless phones, sometimes I had to find it. I'm getting much better about ignoring it now. Probably all of the unsolicited phone calls from politicians and policemen's benevolent societies helped me to get over this awful habit.
Weird habit #5: This one was suggested by my friend Joseph when I insisted I couldn't think of any weird habits. He says I pick my teeth. Excuse me? Dental hygiene is important to me, and besides, I cannot stand to have food particles stuck in my teeth. Apparently, neither can a lot of other people because almost every restaurant in the world has toothpicks available. I carry my own floss because you never know where those toothpicks have been, if you catch my drift. Joseph says I don't care if there's toothpicks or floss available. He says I use my fingers, matchbook covers, matches, and whatever else looks handy and I think will work. I'm sure he's exaggerating, but even so, I think picking your teeth is far more desirable a habit than sucking them. What do you think?
That's five. Anyone else want to talk about weird habits? Sign up so the rest of us can go read about them and feel smugly superior. If we really want to have fun, let's drop the word "habit" and talk about five idiosyncrasies that others would consider weird if they knew about them. That's a scary thought.