Fasten, fit closely, bind together.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

The Making of a Tru Warrier 

I’ve found it very interesting to watch how the media has handled the Indiana/Detroit brawl on Friday night. It was the most insane sports footage I’ve seen since Joe Namath’s sideline interview with Suzy Kolber. The brawl should have been pretty straight-forward. As Artest said yesterday during an MSNBC interview, “just look at the tape.” And he is right, it is all there captured on ESPN cameras. However, the footage that is replayed on loop isn’t showing everything. Instead it has shifted the spotlight solely to Artest. Artest is the most sensible story. He has the past, the background, the history of run-ins with NBA brass. His story makes some sense to the media, to America. The Man Needs Anger Management Therapy. The Spoiled NBA Star. That is why Jermaine O’Neal and Stephen Jackson have received a relatively free passes in the melee. Their stories aren’t nearly as good as Artest’s.

It’s not some media/NBA conspiracy. The 3 stooges from this fight are complicit in this media event as well. O’Neal and Jackson want this to go away, so the media isn’t focusing on them. Artest wants the bad attention and is receiving it.

So what exactly happened, and what exactly are they showing? Granted, Artest did jump in the stands first, but that hardly seems like a plausible excuse why Stephen Jackson jumped in the stands a half step behind Artest and started throwing windmill punches (before Artest had thrown a single punch). But if you aren’t an avid NBA fan, you have no clue who this Stephen Jackson character is, therefore the media isn’t interested in him.

Then there is Jermaine O’Neal. He is a top 15 player in the NBA, the type of player you take in the first round of your fantasy draft, the type of player featured in Nike commercials. The first time I saw the footage of the fight I seem to remember O’Neal throwing some wicked punches at fans who ran on the court. Vicious punches from a man who is 6’11’’ and 270lbs. But those images have largely disappeared from the coverage of the story. Jermaine received the most lenient suspension of the three players, 25 games. It is almost as if the media and the NBA’s commish David Stern realized that they will have to deal with Jermaine in the future. They realized that Jermaine will continue to be a star in this league, a franchise player, so they will have to focus on the Queensbridge pariah Big Ron Ron.

The attention has all focused on Artest, and that is no accident on Artest’s part. Artest made headlines a week ago asking Indiana for time off (a reasonable request when you work at Kinko’s, but not so reasonable when you are Defensive Player of the Year and your team is competing for the Conference title) so he could focus on the release of an R&B album he produced. Much like Dennis Rodman (another infamous #91), Artest wants the spotlight. He wants the infamy and the anti-hero status. Rodman used his bad boy image to get up close and personal with the likes of Carmen Electra and Madonna. Artest is translating his image into record sales.

During an interview yesterday with MSNBC, Artest appeared soft-spoken and almost contrite, that is until the end of the interview when he said what he was truly concerned with was that Allure’s (the R&B group, whose album Artest produced for his fledgling record label Tru Warrier Records) record was being released today. 'It’s got some hot tracks and you should all go out and buy it.' Artest held up the CD and smiled. End of interview.

This happens all the time with news stories. The media needs to construct a narrative out of chaos. A history to attach to the events on camera. They went to press with the best story. So instead of Stephen Jackson, Jermaine O’Neal and Ron Artest all receiving equal billing in this brawl for the ages, the news story turns into The Artest Incident.

A Few more things to consider...

1. I reject any notion that Artest is crazy, or as N. Dot suggested that Artest is no longer on his A-game. If he is crazy, he is crazy like a fox!!! Artest is a big guy, but dwarfs in comparison to Big Ben Wallace. After Wallace shoved Artest nearly off his feet, Artest knew he was outmatched and lay down on the scorer’s table, waiting for a more palatable 5’8’’ 150-pound white guy to throw a cup of water at him before pouncing. Prudent.

2. The Artest/Jordan connection. I forgot to mention in my comment a few days ago that Artest changed his jersey number from his college #15 to #23 in honor of Jordan. This season he changed his number to #91 in honor of Dennis Rodman. Life imitating Art. I guess in this case, the art being Rodman’s dyed hair.

3. I’ve read many editorials and fan letters lamenting the decline of the NBA, and calling the brawl an outrage. I agree, but I would also say I was excited to watch it. It was pure entertainment.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Is 55% a Majority? 

The first CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll since the election actually has caught me off gaurd. 55% said that they approve of the way Bush is doing his job. Let me say that again: 55% of Americans think Bush is doing a good job. At the very least, this number must reflect that many Americans agree with Bush on many issues. So people should stop attributing Bush's victory in the election to things like Bin-Ladens latest tape, or fear mongering by the administration. Idealogically, Americans back Bush. I was looking for a link to an article I saw about John Kerry saying that if he had more time to respond to the Bin-Laden tape, he would have won the election. Sorry bub, but it looks like you were wrong. If anyone finds that link, let me know.

Exit Rather 

I’ve been watching the RatherGate drama closely ever since it happened. The event seemed to validate for me what I had long feared: that there was an extreme liberal bias in the media. Even though that bias has since been exposed in ways that I never dreamed possible, the MSM still seems like it wants to fight the good fight. Instead of releasing Dan Rather into the flurry of controversy which would be sure to arise had they let him go in disgrace, CBS appears to be allowing him to go quietly into the night. Where is this internal “investigation” CBS said it was going to perform? Jim Geraghty of the National Review sums it up nicely:

There's no way CBS will face the music and admit that the "60 Minutes II" story was a cheap-shot, amateur, sloppy, partisan, nasty, half-witted bit of hackery and that the guys in pajamas ran rings around them. If it was, they wouldn't be letting Rather stay on to keep doing "60 Minutes II" reports.
And they wouldn't be delaying his "Evening News" departure until March.
No, the arrogant suits at CBS are going to ignore the hard, accurate work of the blogs, the scolding from other media, the blatant culture of bias, cynicism, and disregard for the facts that has taken root in the news division. To face the music would be too hard.

Maybe it is too much to ask to have CBS admit that their long-time anchor lied to the American people with his forged document report. But I think that it is somewhat worse than that. I think Rather went ahead with the story because he actually believed it, or wanted to anyways. He, and many other people, would believe anything if it was negative towards George W. Bush. The fact that news organizations are not calling people out on this scares the crap out of me. To be fair, it is a good thing that Rather is leaving “60 Minutes”. But because he is waiting so long to leave, and there has been no admission of guilt from both CBS and Dan Rather, the move just looks phony.

I always bring this stuff back to the same thing, just because its way too hard to ignore: imagine if Sean Hannity had used some forged documents to show something harmful about John Kerry. MSM would have been pleading for his head on a stake. And Hannity does not have nearly the influence that Rather had. 1 partisan media figure head down, 1,098,375,579 to go.

Friday, November 19, 2004

When the comment section says its too long... 

Good stuff N Dot, lots of good stuff. At heart I would much rather have, "Leadership that has a strong and clear vision for the future" rather than one who doesn't and is simply pleasing the masses for the time being (John Kerry).

It's when that vision justifies its means to reaching its ultimate goal that I get frustrated (Bush). Their is no question that Iraq and the Middle East in its entirety catches our attention so well because it lies at the heart of the future of this country's prosperity, it is in our interests to gain control of that region.

Wether or not back door dealing, favors, and multilateral pressure are so bad is questionable. G. Washington's opinion is great, but it is too idealistic to be practiced in a globalized world that wasn't in existence in his time. If I had to choose between the two, I would rather share a slice of the pie with europeans than see a few rich white men in this country spend tax dollars to maintain their power and wealth at the expense of the middle class and the thousands of soldiers who are over there fighting for a bogus cause. Let's be honest, Iraq is a piece of the Middle East we need to control to keep things in the balance at home, energy wise - terrorism and WMD's is the bogus front.

"So what did I think? I'm holdin' out for SOMETHIN' BETTER. I figure fuck it, while I'm at it why not just shoot my buddy, take his job, give it to his sworn enemy, hike up gas prices, bomb a village, club a baby seal, hit the hash pipe and join the National Guard? I could be elected President."

Real Favors 

Western civilization faces a point in history where its future, bound tightly to our great war with terrorism and its allies, hinges on America’s ability to engage and lead world powers in that international struggle. But the eminent philosophical disparity that exists between us and a number of European leaders has our nation stuck between a Chirac and a hard place.

Let me first say this. While the election’s questionable exit polling suggested a “moral values” divide among red and blue states and underscored the cultural war over issues like stem cell research and gay marriage, the more relevant questions for Americans today almost surely revolve around principles of foreign policy and international relations. Even a closer look at the dubious polling reveals that Americans understand this; when added up, the number of people who responded that the most important issue to them was the war in Iraq or the war on terrorism far outweighs the number of people who, en masse, cited moral issues as a reason for their vote.

This is a crucial point for our northeast liberal friends to grasp. Since the election, one salient complaint amongst their litany has been that Americans would vote based on “moral issues” when the presidential candidates presented such divergent views on a preferable approach to foreign policy and our relations with other countries, and when in fact these are issues which should be at the forefront of our national conscience. I could not agree more with this frustration. But inasmuch as blue-state liberals inarguably see themselves as the moral and intellectual superiors of Bush supporters, they have become dangerously comfortable with the notion that they lost their electoral struggle to people who, when it comes to our relations with foreign powers and allies, are either woefully misinformed or entirely ambivalent.

In their own minds, November’s discontents care ever so much more about our international alliances and relations abroad than do their simple-minded, bigoted neighbors in the red states. In fact, insofar as John Kerry and John Edwards had a resonating message at all, it was this suggestion that they wouldn’t “push allies aside,” and that they knew how to “bring them to the table.” Our relations with nations like France and Germany, we were told, could be expected to benefit enormously from a “fresh start.” (The seemingly unexpected announcement from the German Foreign Ministry that their non-involvement in Iraq would not change regardless of the election outcome, amusingly, did nothing to change the tune of this campaign theme song.)

But enough about the Johns – let’s talk about Jacques. I was compelled to strike up this Billiken post several days ago when I read about the French president’s statements after the reelection of George Bush. Understandably, perhaps, Chirac was a little malheureux with this development. One presumes that Mr. Chirac, himself an avid Anti-Bushocrat of the Parisian flavor, subscribed to the Kerry/Edwards dictum that a “fresh start” was just what the doctor ordered for a case American foreign policy malaise. Chirac certainly remained bitter that the Bush administration had been somewhat successful in dividing European opinion on the subject of the Iraq war, having enlisted the support of leaders like Tony Blair and Billiken’s Bluff hero Vaclav Havel.

As Chirac sniffed:

“Well, Britain gave its support, but I did not see much in return. I am not sure that it is in the nature of our American friends at the moment to return favors systematically."

When I read this, I was stunned at how perfectly the statement encapsulated the aforementioned “philosophical disparity” when it comes the European and American approach to foreign policy. It is, to me, a flawless expression of a misunderstanding of international relations that stains the prevalent American liberal views on foreign and continues to hinder progress in transatlantic relations. Absolument parfait, you might say.

This talk of “unreturned favors” reminded me immediately of one my favorite passages in early American political discourse, from George Washington’s farewell address to the nation in 1796. (I beg you to read it in its entirety when you a chance). In it, he famously warns of “entangling alliances” during another time in history when Britain and France stood (more violently) in opposition with each other and America’s two prominent parties, the Federalists and Jefferson’s then-developing opposition party the Democratic Republicans (the Arlen Specter party?), were determined to remain neutral but were at odds themselves over which foreign power to favor.

I have always valued Washington’s insight into the foundations of effective relations with foreign powers when he rejects the idea of exchanging “favors” as a means of conducting foreign policy and set the country he served as president on a different course:

“There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. It is an illusion, which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard.”

Presciently, perhaps, Washington also suggests that an effort to employ favors in foreign relations will invariably be met with “ingratitude for not giving more” (ah, he did know the French).

As I believe Washington understood, true cooperation among nations is built on an understanding of common interests, and most effectively on long-term common goals. In Europe, at the time, the practice of trying to ensure cooperation largely involved promising and exchanging favors through an interminable series of treaties, accords and royal pinky-ring kisses. It was a practice that was to persist with devastating results through much of their history. Signed oaths and pledges, often hurriedly or secretly completed for the sake of short-term goals and flimsy “alliances,” were at the heart of a painful history that had seen centuries of war and had yet to witness the break-out of World War I and the appeasement of Hitler, who only had to sign a dotted line to convince Europe of innocent intentions.

There’s a reason, then, why Rumsfeld disparaged a Chirac-led western coalition against U.S. interest as “Old Europe.” Chirac still lives in a world where agreements are brokered on gentleman’s promises, shady deals and returned promises. Contrast the despicable oil deals struck between France and Saddam Hussein with the embrace of a common dream of spreading freedom and democracy that was behind someone like Vaclav Havel’s support of George Bush. Read this letter signed by eight European leaders from January 30, 2003. No really, read it. That is what real international cooperation looks like.

Chirac, as one can read from his quote, cannot fathom why Tony Blair would support the U.S., when he does not have “favors” coming to him. He simply does not understand that in the world, real favors are the support of a country that will fight alongside you – wholeheartedly – for the same interests as yourself. For Tony, the payoff wasn’t seeing some unrelated benefits handed to him down the line, it was being able to offer his courageous backing of something he actually believed in. It was his fight, too.

When it comes to Europe, we need to make our foreign policy initiatives – whether in Iraq or North Korean or wherever – their fight. Real cooperation in international relations is developed when separate parties are able to recognize long-term mutual goals and their interactions are brought under the “shadow of the future.” Bribery and coercion will not achieve this. Leadership that has a strong and clear vision for the future can.

Do Americans understand this? On November 2nd our electorate narrowly avoided placing an American version of Jacques Chirac in office. John Kerry amazingly claimed that he could improve our transatlantic relations and be more effective at including allies in the mission, despite the fact that he himself did not believe in what we were doing in Iraq, contradicting himself unendingly and – when not referring to it as part of the war on terrorism – calling it the “wrong war,” and a “grand diversion.” His opponent, in a debate he “lost,” asked the world how we could send someone like John Kerry – himself not a believer - to ask allies to “join us is a grand diversion.” Indeed we could not.

This month Americans embraced George Bush’s leadership and his policies. That this includes not only opposition to gay marriage and limits to stem cell research is something New York liberals will choke on but have to swallow. I for one voted for Bush largely because I prefer the Washingtonian and Havellian view of foreign policy, not the Chirac version. In our international struggle we have an absolute responsibility to encourage other national leaders to truly embrace our goals such as the spread of democracy and freedom in the Middle East, and understand why it is in their people's interest, the way the world’s Blairs or Howards or Havels have. In doing so we cannot rely on the promise of favors.

Bush announced last week that he planned to visit Europe after he is sworn in for a second term in January. "In my second term, I will work to deepen our trans-Atlantic ties with the nations of Europe," the president said. We can be assured by the president’s past statements (even in debates he lost), by his relationships with people like Blair, and by the strength of his convictions that he will do so with a true understanding of what builds real and effective alliances.

Liberals, as is their nature, will continue to sneer that Bush and his supporters do not care about these relationships, and are too stupid or ignorant anyway to make them work. But they are the ones, we can be sure, who have a lot to learn.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Free Cuban 

Controversial Marc Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, let it out on his own Blog Maverick the other day bashing the FCC. In spite of the recent fine laid down by the NBA for Cuban's questioning of the season opener being on the same night of the election, Marc marched on, and took a bigger bully face first. After Terrell Owens' locker room skit with a naked Nicollette Sheridan, star of the show about moms having sex, the NFL, fearing more FCC crack downs, blasted ABC for promoting it's sex filled show before a wholesome, family night of football. Cuban manned up, calling out the FCC for being so hypocritical.

Clever as he is, Cuban pointed out how F'in pointless the fines directed towards cursing are when everyone uses acronyms, perfectly aware of what is being said. He said it way better than I can though - "Frickin’... Go for it. F’in. No F’in way.. No problem. You are full of Shinola. Let er rip. FUBAR…Make em figure out what it means. My fave is MOFO…Acronyms are a blast!" - yeah they are. He went on, and brought up how stupid it is to show a naked woman’s back, cause at the very least its gonna make little boys go on the internet and try to find out what’s on mom's front side - I know I do, and not just to prove Cuban's point.

The best point he makes though is one of his own insights, doing that thing he is so good at, when he creates what he is calling "Apologevents". An "Apologevent" is a planned event people do while fully aware that an apology will be expected afterwards. Major networks do it all of the time now, and when the FCC holds press conferences to address one they just make it a bigger deal than it is, simultaneously creating more of them.

Its great to hear a self-made billionaire calling out the hypocrisy that is the FCC today. Knowing that it would only get him into more trouble wasn't enough to stop his opinion from flying across the internet, and it was so respected by his peers that the auspicious AskMen.com was driven to award him with "Man of the Week" honors. I can only hope to be so Cuban.


Mo Money, Mo Problems 

The NBA has only been underway for two and a half weeks but the freakshow that is professional basketball is already in full force. In these few short weeks, the league has already experienced numerous bizzare incidents with some of its top stars. First, during training camp, Denver Nuggets star forward Carmelo Anthony was stopped and detained at Denver International Airport after just under an ounce of marijuana was found in his backpack. Unfazed, 'Melo pulled out the oldest excuse in the book, claiming that the pot wasn't his. Anthony even went as far as to have his buddy James Cunningham sign an affidavit stating that he left the herbs in Carmelo's bag while the player was out of town. After a month of speculation, the charges against the Nugget were dropped yesterday since the prosecution didn't believe that they could get a conviction after Cunningham said that the pot was his. We'll never know whether or not the weed was actually Carmelo's but if his terrible shooting this year means anything, I don't think there's much doubt that something is clouding 'Melo's depth perception.

Another big story at the end of training camp was Latrell Sprewell's contract dispute with the Minnesota Timberwolves, which has turned into a typical, bitter battle between the choke artist and management. The Wolves forward, who is under contract for this season only (at $14.6 million), has been seeking a contract extension and has not been impressed by the club's offers. After a round of unsuccessful negotiations, Sprewell claimed that he would demand a trade if he wasn't signed to an extension before the beginning of the regular season. During an interview, Sprewell questioned why he should even make an effort to help the team win when they refuse to give him what he wants. Nevermind the fact that he's under contract for the season.

Then came the line that has already become legendary. The line that made everyone's jaw drop. The sort of line that people like me will download and listen to over and over again because it's just that funny. The line that is now in the pantheon of great sports lines such as "We talkin bout practice???" from Allen Iverson, "You play to win the game!" from Herm Edwards and "I wanna kiss you," from an inebriated Joe Namath.

"Why would I want to help them win a title?" Spree began. "They're not doing anything for me. I've got a lot at risk here. I've got my family to feed." That's right, Spree's got a family to feed.
And $14.6MM just doesn't go as far as it used to, you know. Appropriately enough, Latrell is off to his worst start ever and has career lows in points (12), assists (2.5), rebounds (2.2) and steals (0.5). At this rate, he'll be lucky if he's even in the NBA next year with numbers that bad.

Last year's big story in the NBA was Kobe Bryant's rape trial. That wrapped up last summer, resulting in the dismissal of all charges against the Lakers guard. In the court of public opinion though, Kobe seems to have lost the battle. Once considered a model citizen and wholesome family man, much of the media and public has turned on Kobe this year. With Shaq gone, Kobe has little help on the Laker roster and is expected to singlehandedly guide the Lakeshow to the playoffs. The burden of these expectations might be too much for the introverted star but Kobe's currently 2nd in the league in scoring behind only Lebron James. The Lakers are 4-4 though and the weight of these expectations is growing. The moody Kobe has no room for error because there are millions of people just waiting for him to slip up.

Kobe's an altarboy when compared to the league's biggest headcase, the one and only Ron Artest. In previous years, RonRon has led the league in technicals and ejections, smashed video monitors, smashed pictures of himself, started numerous fights and various other absurd acts. My favorite Ron Artest moment occurred during a team shootaround prior to a game a few years ago. After a teammate missed a shot, the rebound rolled to Mr. Artest across the court. The teammate asked Ron to help him out and throw the ball back to him. Ron's response was to pick up the ball and boot it into the crowd. Quite a guy.

Two weeks ago, the Pacers suspended their star forward for two games for an unspecified reason. Coach Rick Carlisle's statement claimed that Artest was suspended for conduct that "comprised the integrity of the team." Whatever that means. Within a couple of days, the full story came out in the press. According to Artest, he asked for a few days off at the beginning of the season because he was very fatigued after months of promoting his debut rap album during the summer. And no, I didn't make this up.

In response to Artest's request, Carlisle granted Artest his wish and gave him two games to rest his aching bones and prepare for the rest of the season. Nevermind that the Queensbridge native is only 25 years old. Nevermind that he's making $30 million over the next four years. Nevermind that the season was only a week old at the time. Artest needed a rest from the always-grueling album promotion schedule. What planet is he living on?

Actually, Ron has been a bit of an inspiration to me. I was sitting idly at work this afternoon when my boss approached me and asked me what I was doing. "Nothing today, boss," I responded. "I'm just too tired right now to focus. I had a crazy night out last night. Three shots of Jaeger, tequila, beer, four bong hits, man. Boy I'll tell ya, I could really use a few days to recoup and get my head back in the game." Surprisingly, my boss was cool with it. "OK, no problem, Zwillinger. Here's $500 and my car keys. Head over to the Hustler Club and drop my car off when you're feeling recharged. Also, take my tickets to the Giants game this weekend, they're on the 50 about four rows off the field. I'll see you on Monday. Feel better!" I couldn't thank him enough but I couldn't help but think that Ronny deserved just as much of the credit for my great weekend as he did. He inspired my incredibly selfish act. I only hope he can have the same effect on each and every one of us.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Dividing the Right From the Wrong  

It's been a Bluff free for all. Drunk with that victory juice, conservatives can do no wrong - except drink too much of the stuff. Job well done Aschcroft?? Republicans are so cool that they can predict an election and win money at the same time?? Michael Moore vows to make a second movie?? And my favorite one - Liberals rush to the border as the Canadian consulate is flooded with American applications for all the "anti-bushocrats" in disbelief. For some reason the juice has gone unchallenged, it’s been getting out of hand though, and its time that the Bluff sobers up just like the party it cherishes so much. That’s right, all of the celebration has left some conservatives with some heavy hangovers, and they're all pointing fingers at each other - WHO SPIKED THE PUNCH ?!? One daring photographer was able to get close enough to the mayhem to catch a picture.

Fresh off their victory Republicans could unite and work towards finishing the business they started, they could even try to get some more Zell Millers to hop the fence. But that’s not happening. The Jesus freaks are praising their newly reassured mandate, and its scaring even some of their own party colleagues. The freaks are pulling out all of the cards and throwing them onto the abortion table, doing all that they can to prevent Pennsylvania's moderate Republican Arlen Specter from having what was his expected position on the Senate Committee that will approve the soon to come appointment for a new Supreme Court Justice. They are just dying to overturn Roe v. Wade, and are willing to use the cheapest tricks they can to do it. Libertarians are giving me something to like about the Republican Party because they know that Jesus didn't sign the Constitution. Stay the course.

At the CIA Porter Goss is cleaning house. Monday he passed out a memo essentially telling anyone who doesn’t support the policy and position of the President to take a hike. So 30-year CIA veterans are leaving, and John McLaughlin promised that he wouldn't be the only one to resign if politics kept getting in the way of the job. Fighting terrorism or fighting each other, make up your mind Goss.

After all of the bashing I got after expressing serious problems with the American people and their voting choices, my patriotism, my love of America, and my faith in American people was questioned. Some people went so far as to say that people like me aren't needed in this country. Fuck any person who thinks that way, that by questioning a rulers' right you are in some way hurting America more than helping it, fuck any person who questions my love of this country and its people, and fuck any person who assumes to know the kind of people I HAVEN'T talked with from the other side of the fence, your sadly wrong. I'll listen to the other side of the coin and agree with it sometimes, but I won't let people discourage the truth by making broad assumptions about their opponents.

I think it's funny that N Dot praised John Ashcroft for his work as Attorney General, knowingly ignoring the fact that the man was too big of a pussy to stand up to Donald Rumsfeld on the issue of Guantanamo prisoners - when he knew what was going on and how wrong it was.

I think its funny that conservatives hate being called stupid because they don't act like intellectuals, when on a regular basis they call liberals pussies for not wanting to drop bombs. Name-calling isn't effective.

And lastly, I think its funny that the people who made claims that I was creating a division in this country represent a party that can't even maintain unity within itself.

The Art of Racism 

AKA, Liberal Political Humor. Having conservative views apparently makes Condi Rice the fair target of degrading racial stereotyping among political cartoonists.

Chuckle chuckle.


Vaclav Havel Drops Some Knowledge 

Anyone who has spent time in Prague (you know who you are) is aware that Vaclav Havel is one smart man and quite the smooth operator. He started as an absurdist playwright, was jailed by the Communist and labeled a dissident, then went on to lead the Czech Republic's 1989 Velvet Revolution, eventually becoming the nation's President.

In today's Straight Times, Havel writes about the shortcomings of modern Democracies and the questionable effectivness of international organizations like the UN and the EU.

I thought it was particularly relevant in light of N. Dot's post regarding Iraq's transition to Democracy.

Valid Lessons from Communism

THE 15th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution on Nov 17, 1989, which brought an end to 41 years of communist dictatorship in Czechoslovakia, is an opportunity to ponder the meaning of moral behaviour and free action. We live in a democratic society, but many people - not only in the Czech Republic - still believe that they are not true masters of their destiny. They have lost faith that they can influence political developments, much less influence the direction in which our civilisation is evolving.

During the communist era, most people believed that individual efforts to effect change did not make sense. Communist leaders insisted that the system was the result of history's objective laws, which could not be challenged, and those who refused this logic were punished.

Unfortunately, the way of thinking that supported communist dictatorships has not disappeared entirely. Some politicians and pundits maintain that communism merely collapsed under its own weight - again, owing to 'objective laws' of history. Again, individual responsibility and individual actions are belittled.

Communism, we are told, was only one of the dead ends of Western rationalism; therefore, it was sufficient to wait passively for it to fail. The very same people often believe in other manifestations of inevitability, such as various supposed laws of the market and other 'invisible hands' that direct our lives. As there is not much space in such thinking for individual moral action, social critics are often ridiculed as naive moralists or elitists.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons why we again witness political apathy. Democracy is increasingly seen as a mere ritual. In general, Western societies are experiencing a certain crisis of the democratic ethos and active citizenship.

It is possible that what we are witnessing is a mere change of paradigm, caused by new technologies, and we have nothing to worry about. But perhaps the problem is deeper: Global corporations, media cartels and powerful bureaucracies are transforming political parties into organisations whose main task is no longer public service, but the protection of specific clienteles and interests. Politics is becoming a battleground for lobbyists; media trivialise serious problems; democracy often looks like a virtual game for consumers, rather than a serious business for serious citizens.

When dreaming about a democratic future, we who were dissidents certainly had some utopian illusions, as we are well aware today. However, we were not mistaken when we argued that communism was not a mere dead end of Western rationalism. Bureaucratisation, manipulation and emphasis on mass conformism were brought to 'perfection' in the communist system; however, some of the very same threats are with us today.

We were already sure then that if democracy is emptied of values and reduced to a competition of political parties that have 'guaranteed' solutions to everything, it can be quite undemocratic. This is why we put so much emphasis on the moral dimension of politics and a vibrant civil society as counterweights to political parties and state institutions.

We also dreamed about a more just international order. Instead, we witness a process of economic globalisation that has escaped political control and, as such, is causing economic havoc as well as ecological devastation in many parts of the world.

The fall of communism was a chance to create more effective global political institutions based on democratic principles, which could stop what appears to be the self-destructive tendency of our industrial world. If we do not want to be overrun by anonymous forces, the principles of freedom, equality and solidarity - the foundation of stability and prosperity in Western democracies - must start working globally.

Above all, it is necessary that we not lose faith in the meaning of alternative centres of thought and civic action. Let's not allow ourselves to be manipulated into believing that attempts to change the 'established' order and 'objective' laws do not make sense. Let's try to build a global civil society and insist that politics is not just a technology of power, but needs a moral dimension.

At the same time, politicians in democratic countries need to think seriously about reforms of international institutions, because we desperately need institutions capable of real global governance. We could start, for example, with the United Nations, which, in its current form, is a relic of the situation shortly after the end of World War II. It does not reflect the influence of some new regional powers, while immorally equating countries whose representatives are democratically elected and those whose representatives speak only for themselves or their juntas, at best.

We, the Europeans, have one specific task. Industrial civilisation, which now spans the whole world, originated in Europe. All of its miracles, as well as its terrifying contradictions, can be explained as consequences of an ethos that is initially European. Therefore, unifying Europe should set an example for the rest of the world regarding how to face the various dangers and horrors that are engulfing us today.

Indeed, such a task would be an authentic fulfillment of the European sense of global responsibility. And it would be a much better strategy than blaming America for the contemporary world's problems.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Put Your Money Where Your Cynicism Is 

Over at our good friend A-Wood’s own House of Thuggin, a great deal of debate has recently circled around the conflict in Iraq and the potential for fostering stability and democratic principles in the region. I know I’ve certainly wasted enough of everyone’s time with N-Dot opinions on the comment page; for a well-articulated Anti-Bushocrat commentary on the Iraq conflict, look no further than A-Wood’s own post on the subject.

Not to summarize (just go read the whole post, lazy-ass), but essentially the gist is that people in Iraq and Afghanistan don’t want elements of democracy. By overthrowing the Taliban or Saddam, we are “forcing our form of government” on people who (presumably?) preferred what they had before. In A-Wood’s view, the whole enterprise is doomed to failure because democratic principles can only be fostered through an internal revolution; unless a given population can effectively organize and fight to overthrow an oppressive regime on their own, they are simply not ready for things like, say, voting in an election. In other words, who are we to force democracy? (And besides, Bush doesn’t care about Iraqis, he just wants oil and likes blowing stuff up, etc. etc. – no really that’s in there).

No one wants to hear a typical long-winded N Dot response to what I find problematic about these ideas. And I’m certainly not going to address those points that slip into Michael Moore land. Do I need to ask if there seems to be something illogical about his suggestion that thousands of Iraqis, even if they do get the chance to cast a ballot, are going to show up enthusiastically to demand through their collective vote ... that they should no longer have the right to vote? (Oh never mind).

I just wanted to post something about this issue of Iraqi elections in January and whether we can pull that one small step off. Nearly everyone who has an opinion on the subject would at least have to agree that such an undertaking, if indeed possible, is one of immeasurable difficulty. Today there are scores of resolute and effective murderers working in Iraq who would seemingly do anything to make sure the effort fails, targeting soldiers, aid workers and children alike. Whether or not you consider the venture there worth the effort, as indeed many do not, at this point you may have to concede that in an effort to hold elections of any effectiveness, the odds seemed stacked against us.

Here at Billiken, I imagine that whatever your stance on the war is, we can all respect and honor the people who have sacrificed or continue to risk their lives fighting insurgents in Iraq with the goal of bringing some semblance of peace to the country, to the point that Iraqis might be able to go to the polls in January and engage in an aspect of democracy. Love Bush, hate Bush, red fish blue fish – I think we can at least agree on this much.

Today the targets are more and more becoming Iraqis themselves, especially those who actively support what Allawi, the US and its allies are trying to accomplish there. If you are an Iraqi that wants to vote, there are a number of people who would love to kill you.

So the question is, can we pull this off? The cynical voice which answers in the negative has certainly spoken. Like I said, it appears to be very much in the air. That’s why I was very interested to see that on the Dublin-based online futures trading site TradeSports.com, on which you can purchase futures contracts in anything from the who will win the Superbowl to when it will first snow in New York City, a contract has recently been offered on the question of whether Iraqi General Assembly elections will commence by January 31, 2005. Well when I saw that, you know I just had to bite.

Go check it out. The contracts are trading right now at a volume of 3,363 with a bid-ask spread of 71.3-74.0. The online market for these political contracts, which you should note has been more effective at predicting recent elections that any polls, seems fairly confident in the event occurring before expiration of the contract – but prices are changing everyday. Personally, I took my rather substantial winnings from the recent presidential election and split them between 2008 Republican primary election of Rudy Guiliani – which I will be trading regularly until then - and the Iraqi elections contracts. And I’m feeling pretty good about both.

So if you’re a pessimist who says we won’t pull off the Iraqi elections, stop by at TradeSports and sell short some Iraqi election futures contracts. Put your bling where your cynicism is – and let us know about it. I want to know whose money I’ll be taking.

Friday, November 12, 2004

An Open Letter to the the Bluff 

First off, pardon the long absence. I, unlike Gotim, don't have the patience for the often questionable southeast Asian internet connections. And like many, I've also lost a bit of patience with the media in general since that fateful November evening. The left, suddenly aware for the first time of it's own morality, some might say, reacted by becoming ultra-left (Moore annoucing a Ferenheit sequel; the already referenced Arafat obit in the Times; the embarrassing premature discussion of Hillary's run). The right, meanwhile, similiarly, but somehow less graciously, has responded by becoming stupid, stupid conservative, drunk on their own sense of power.

Gotim and I had the misfortune of being stuck with FOX News (in southern Thailand of all places; see Gotim's last post) in our last hotel room. Even on the otherside of the planet, we weren't spared Hannity and Rick Lazio doubleteaming the purposefully inept Democratic representive, as she struggled against their brilliant insights- Michael Moore sabatoged the election; Howard Dean is a bomb thrower; Democrats don't represent real American values, etc. etc. Earlier that week, in there victory induced orgy of anti-intellectual news, the refered to Michael Moore as a "bloated filmmaker." Is this the kind of unity Bush was referring to in his victory speech? Even at hockey games the teams shake hands...

Of course, Gotim made the astute comment that all Americans, faced with the small majority (note to Fox news, by any sense of the word, 51% does not a LARGE majority constitute) that lap this sort of patriotism-induced news up, need try to actually understand what it is about this sort of mentality that appealed to so many on election day. Name calling, and resentfullness will only give FOX and it's ilk more amunition, and incite more claims that the left doesn't udnerstand true American values. If the Democrats, in whatever form they shape themselves into by 2006, or even 2008, want any chance of reclaiming the spotlight, they're going to have to avoid this sort of schoolyard backtalk.

But hold up- there's a problem here. Conservatives have celebrated, not with a concilatory olive branch, but with this haughty, we know best attitude. Bolstering themselves with the catchphrase "American value," they've managed to usurp them without actually outlining or explaining them, intentionally allowing the little informed public to carry them as far as they wish. This is dangerous territory, comrades. Ideology and anti-intellectualism do not make for safe bedfellows. Republican congressmen adopt a strong anti-gay marriage policy to appeal to their relgious constituents, but with such faith based decisions, how can they make it clear that they're not actually against homosexuality and still hold their jobs? They can claim to be against partial birth abortion and stem cell research for religious reasons, but how can they call on people to consider the ramifications of completely overturning Roe vs. Wade?

These are not idle questions, readers. They go to the heart of the matter and the heart of this country. I watched Lazio steamroll over a comment that Republicans were as guilty as Democrats in pushing misleading poll numbers as he badmouthed exit polls. I watched correspondents refer to the plains states as the geographic and IDEOLOGICAL heart of the country, as well as its future. I see the right, at every opportunity solidifying their position not through careful analysis but simply through scare tactics. You're either with them, or your against them. This sort of thinking at first is a reaction to a perceived threat from the exterior, ie: 9/11. But as these divisions, either real or perceived, are petuated by the media and the party, the create internal conflicts. Americans vs. Americans. This same sort of thing took place during Abolitionist movement. Admittedly, I would have been with the "ideologues" in that argument. Today, however, it's false ideologues that are tearing our country apart. Look at the electoral college- we all know wear the seams are.

Let's face it- isolationism has never benifitted this nation, but that's where we're headed. Increased restrictions for travelers, government officials that speak like members of the theocracies they warn me against travelling to, religious based amendments to the constitution- all in the name of down home, soul food, G-d fearing "American Values." FOX may extort them, half of the public may support them, and Republicans got seats by usurping them, but that dont' make them right.

In the meantime, expect a new form of "Patriotism" to emerge in the liberal medium and contend with your Bible-thumping- pity. They'll love this country, in all of it's pathetic ignorance. They'll scoff at it, and throw stones, and point out it's inferiority at every chance, but only because they realize its potential. It's a very pre-Revolution Russian thing to do, and perhaps the only sign that rationality in this country has not yet died on the cross.

All I ask of this administration in the next four years- and I don't expect much- is that they acknowledge this rhetoric was beneficial, smooth talk their base if need be, but come to their senses and realize that this is not the responsible way to run a country in the 21st century. As Dotty pointed out, Ashcroft knew enough not stick to the idealogy of the GC in Guantanamo, so maybe that's a start.

It's a Wacky World 

Traveling in Southeast Asia I've seen numerous examples of East meeting West, comically poor English translations, and cultural anachronisms.

For instance, in Bangkok in front of McDonalds there is a statue of Ronald McDonald with his hands clasped together in the traditional Thai prayer-like greeting called a wai.

While in Saigon I visited The War Remnants Museum, which documented atrocities committed by both sides during the Vietnam War. Particularly chilling were the photographs of people with deformities resulting from exposure to Agent Orange.

After seeing these photographs of shrunken gumby-like limbs and caved-in heads, I walked out of the museum and was immediately approached by beggars, who much like the photographs inside, displayed some gruesome deformities. The most shocking part though was that one man with a misformed head, covered his scalp with a Texas bandana, complete with red, white, blue, stars, and stripes.

The irony of the situation was certainly not lost on me, and perhaps not lost on him either.

In Krabi, Thailand there is a Muslim population, and they are fasting for Ramadan. They "break fast" at sundown. So today I opened a local paper and saw that the good folks at Kentucky Fried Chicken had provided a listing of the sunrise and sunset times in various local provinces, presumably so that Muslims would know when they can buka puasa with a 10 piece bucket of chicken legs at KFC.

I'm not sure if this should surprise me or not. Details like these hardly even seem strange or incongruous anymore. Maybe we're moving towards a world beyond irony.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Peace Out John Ashcroft 

Suffering Anti-Bushocrats likely have found some crumb of solace this week in the resignation John Ashcroft tendered to the world on Tuesday. I’m glad for them. For four years the man has served not only as our country’s attorney general but also as the left’s favorite punching bag and vilified symbol of all that is evil and unholy in America 2004. Seeing him go after the first term I imagine tastes pretty sweet to those who are in all other respects some very bitter people.

But I would be billiken-bluffing if I pretended to feel the same way as these folks about the departing AG. Fact is, if I were standing outside Ashcroft’s office when he shuffled out with a cardboard box holding the contents of his desk, I guess I would give the man a clap on the back, shake his hand, and thank him for doing a solid job. I can imagine this post won’t go over well. But damn it, Ashy John deserves some props, and I wouldn’t be doing my job as the Bluff’s resident non-AntiBushocrat if I didn’t give it to him. That’s right I said it. You done us well John!

Why this outlandish admiration for the man “everyone else” hates? Sure he’s a square – he’s the essence of square. Sponge-bob square. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t serve the American people well in one of the hardest jobs there is during one of the hardest times in history to have it. In any period, it would be a major accomplishment for the head of the Justice Department to see violent crime reach a 30-year low after declining by 27 percent during the three-year period between 2001-2003. But this is post-9/11 America, and the challenges Ashcroft has met have been remarkable. Among them was the task the president laid at his feet after the terrorist attack when he told him, "Don't let this happen again."

To the great benefit of his country, Ashcroft lived up to that challenge. That we have not been hit again is one testament to the success the Justice Department working under his leadership and with other agencies has had in disrupting terrorist operations both here and abroad. Many will say that Ashcroft has put our civil liberties at risk, and there are a number of points along that line of argument that I would be willing to concede - especially about the extreme care that should be taken in enacting anti-terrorist legislation, surveillance etc. What I won’t go nodding my head to is the left’s incessant complaining that he has infringed on their rights, shredded the Constitution, or otherwise made life in America worse during his tenure and through his resolve to vigorously fight terrorism.

If someone could provide for me an actual example of how the Patriot Act has personally made them any less free, I would certainly be willing to listen (do not reply if you are a terrorist trying to bomb people). And I certainly do not have the time on my hands at the moment to launch into a pre-emptive defense for every complaint of what after all is some fairly complicated legislation. But I think if angry Anti-Bushocrats were willing to look at the legal specifics of the Act through an unbiased lens, they might be surprised to find that the intelligence and law enforcement tools authorized by the Patriot Act (which was passed, by the way, by overwhelming majority in Congress) have been utilized in a manner that has been as measured at it has been effective. They might be surprised to find out, for instance, as the ACLU did when they tried to sue Ashcroft in Detroit last year to stop him from enforcing Section 215 of the Patriot Act, that he had never once authorized a Section 215 order to be sought. D’oh!

So Ashcroft, your humble blogger believes, is a man who at his core does very much value our liberties. That freedom which government is most apt at providing, after all, is the freedom to live out our lives peacefully. It’s a pretty important one, and unfortunately one that has been marked for death by our enemies. Let the record show that during Bush’s first term Ashcroft worked earnestly and effectively to protect that all-important freedom.

There’s more I could say about why I have enormous respect for Ashcroft despite all his controversies, but that should already be enough to make our more lefty Billiken readers contemplate murdering me. So we can leave it at that. Anyways Ashy, thank you for four years of admirable service. You have earned yourself the respect of many Americans, a place in history, and a good long vacation from Washington. Don’t mind the playa-haters, my man.

You done us well.

British Broadcasting 

The BBC stated, quite matter-of-factly, that US President Bush and his supporters were very concerned with who will succeed Yasser Arafat as leader of Palestine. The BBC suggested that Bush and his supporters view Palestine as the site of Christ's Second Coming, and thus want to have amiable leadership in that area.

Respond with what flourish you will...

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Al Gore's Next Bad Idea 

In 2000 he asks for the Democratic nomination and loses the election. In 2004 he endorses Howard Dean, drives his party to the left, and helps the Democrats lose the election. In 2005, Al Gore is helping to launch a global fund management firm to help investors lose their money.

Generation Investment Management - Gore's most promising invention since the internet! - is the next step on the former vice-president's amusing path of election-loss recovery and re-re-self discovery. The Financial Times reported today that Al and David Blood, a former chief executive at Goldman Sachs Investment Management that has become the Mini-me to Gore's Dr. Evil, have launched a the London-based firm that will begin attracting funds to invest in global equities beginning in the new year.

Or so they hope. I know when I see an idea produced by the same mind that brought us earth-tone presidential candidate wear, the lockbox, sighing during debates and post-loss beard growing, I get a little skeptical. A l'il bit. You see how he invests political capital with that endorsement of Howard Dean, would you want him investing your hard-earned financial capital? If I would have been hard pressed to trust the man as a politician, I certainly would not trust him now as an unemployed, ranting lunatic with his hand out.

Not a good call, Al.

The idea of Al Gore in the fund management business strikes me as silly enough. Setting aside those focus-grouped, earth-tones shirts for some slick Armani Stern style suits, jumping on the phone to raise a little capital like one of the trainees in Boiler Room. The honor's in the dollar kid! It's like Big said, you're either slinging crack rock or you got a wicked jump shot. Lacking a jump shot, Gore did the senator's-son version of slinging rock - he started a global equities fund.

The new Al greases sum palms and makes some deals.

If the new venture doesn't have a very exciting entrepreneur at the helm, it does have a great name. Talking 'bout my G-G-G-Generation! Yeah! Al Gore is such a rockstar now that he has lost all political credibility, he just adds that Earth in the Balance, never-quite-a-hippie (until it was too late) Al Gore feel to an investment firm name. So what's with the cheesy earth-tone name anyways? Well you had to guess there was an Al-Gore catch. Launcing the firm is also a means of promoting what Al sees as just brilliant - brilliant! - new philosophy in global equities stock research and fund management: "sustainability."

You see, it all comes down to the enviornment (wouldn't it have to?)...

(read about Al's new plan tomorrow in part II)

Saturday, November 06, 2004

English as Offical Language of the Global Village 

I'll have to hand it to the "Dos" and his decisive 4 million vote margin of victory. This gives him quite the mandate to spread Democracy to all corners of the globe. I want to offer a suggestion, as we bring Democracy to oppressed peoples everywhere, let's also make English (American English mind you) the official global language. It already is the de facto vernacular the world over.


1. 18 months ago in a Budapest Hotel lobby... My Czech professor could not speak Hungarian. The Hungarian desk attendant could not speak Czech. They met half way and conducted their business in English.

2. 3 days ago in Krabi, Thailand... A longtail boat driver inquires, in English, where a certain passenger is from. The passenger replies Kuala Lumpur. The driver probes further asking if he is Muslim. Yes, in fact he was. They go on to converse about hotel recommendations, Ramadan, and the political unrest around the Thai/Malaysian border. The entire conversation in infidel english.

3. And finally... I came across another troop of monkeys near a hotel entrance, a Japanese couple stood next to me. The man offered one of the monkeys a piece of pineapple, and said, in broken English, "Hello, here pineapple", apparently assuming the monkey would be more comfortable being addressed in English. Regrettably, the monkey did not respond in turn.

Let's see if we can't get the 'English as Official Global Language Clause' tacked onto some upcoming Congressional Bill, the global community is clamoring for it.

I have a lot more to say about the election and the state of the nation, but it will have to wait until I'm privied to a cheaper, faster internet connection. Until then...

Friday, November 05, 2004

Open Letter to Anti-Bushocrats 

Dear Anti-Bushocrats,

Stop crying right now and pull yourselves together. Seriously, right now. This country is too important to have an opposition party that falls any further over the cliff than you already have over the past four years, and I can already see you little lemmings lining up for a synchronized swan dive. Besides, with this week's complete and total victory for my peeps I should be allowed for a few days to be drunk with happiness -and your new hatred of the country is harshing my buzz.

You're allowed to be sad and disappointed - I don't blame you. You just took a Peter McNeeley-style beating in a fight against Tyson, and got a piece of your ear spit back in your face for added humiliation. But before you get back in the ring and start swinging you need to pick that ear up and sew that bad boy back on - 'cuz you got sum serious hearing to do!

I can imagine how much it would have to full-on suck to feel like your country is going to hell. It's hard to imagine, of course, since I happen to believe that the American people have fufillied an obligation to our history and to our forefathers, pulling out an electoral victory that is unrivaled in its importance since perhaps the one in 1864 which I alluded to in my last post. But I'm not here to rub the poo in your face, or dance around like a happy little wood-nyph basking in my glory, or even to point out how consistently and accurately I explained to you all how and why this would happen. Forget all that. I want to use my Billken space to point out to you that as battered, bitch-slapped Anti-Bushocrats you have an opportunity now, and an obligation all of your own.

I was sure it was going to be hilarious to watch the reaction of all the Anti-Bushocrats I detest the most. And don't get me wrong - I've been laughing my ass off! I can hardly keep up with the ridiculous liberal whining that is on display all over the country's editorials, columns, blogs and celebrity websites. I would put up some examples, but you all know what I'm talking about, I imagine - the usual suspects. George Soros, you dropped 100 million trying to make John Kerry president. That's hilarious. P Diddy, you thought you were gonna get tens of thousands of punk kids to show up to vote, but they didn't show up? Wicked funny. Michael Moore, Tim Robbins, Osama bin Laden - everybody, what happened? People, you just have to check out Moby's blog if you need a good laugh. What a deep thinker that dude is.

But this whole thing has had it's depressing aspect, strangely enough. The point is, my mockery and my middle-finger are reserved for these clowns, not for most of you New York lefties I've come to know and tolerate. You all are floppin' around like land-bound salmon gasping for air over here - let's get it together! Damn, its embarrassing.

Stop floppin' and let's talk about the opportunity - it starts with the name. Anti-Bushocrats. I think it's time for it to go. Sure, it's the perfect way to describe what has passed as your "platform" for the past four years. But now Bush is in for four years and it's not about getting him out anymore. Maybe it's time to actually, I don't know, stand for something? Let's consider.

How bout this, as a start: Don't tell me Bush planned 9/11. Don't tell me Bush is destroying the environment if you aren't prepared to talk about the statistics like air pollution levels (you may be surprised). Don't come at me with "tax cuts for the rich" if you don't know what you're talking about (and you won't if that's what you come with). Don't tell me you would have done Iraq better - you wouldn't have done it at all - but don't tell me we should have invaded North Korea or Iran instead because you wouldn't have supported that either (and you shouldn't, anyway). Don't tell me it's all about Halliburton if you haven't read - at the very least - our Billiken posts on the subject. And don't - don't - tell me Bush "lies," if you are not going to be able to point to a Bush lie that stands up to any scrutiny. This is all intellectual laziness, and it has not served you well. Has it?

Let's talk about the Dos. You might want to consider listening to Bill Clinton next time he tells you to support some of the cultural values most of the country seems to find important. You might consider listening to Zell Miller when he tells you to grow a spine when it comes to national defense. Whiny little NYU kids who storm Hillary Clinton's office to protest her vote for the war - I'm talking to you. She was trying to remain a semi-legitimate national Democratic figure, and she just shot to the top of a very, very short list that's getting smaller by the hour. Here's a thought - I'm not sure class warfare is working out for you either. This may come as a shocker, but Americans might not be the purely self-interested drones you thought they were.

But this brings me to my final point. Instead of elevating your perception of the Average American as you should be doing, I see the Anti-Bushocrats turning their hatred of a man they once could claim "stole an election" onto the American people who came out in record numbers to re-elect him. In the minds of NY Anti-Bs, all conservaives are ingnorant, racist, evil or some combination of those qualities. Frankly, I'll take the knowledge-bowl challenge with the nerdiest among you any day of the week. But that aside, who among you will deny that you have conversed, shared or argued with very few conservatives at all? That you are not almost wholly surrounded by fellow-minded Anti-Bushocrats? That when you come across a conservative, you are more likely to be intolerant of their views and unwilling to hear what they have to say? I have spent four plus years in the Manhattan jungle observing the behavior of the Anti-Bushocraticus Pissedofficus, and have taken careful notes.

I think it's time to evolve.

First step: do not turn your hatred on the American people. There are good folk out there, trust me on this. You do not have to agree with them on issues like stem cell research or gay marriages, but if you continue to ally with people like Michael Moore - who sincerely hates America - you will not be able to win them over in national elections on other issues that count. Whatever you do, in a time when we face determined enemies abroad that want to kill our innocent citizens you cannot allow yourselves to turn a similar hatred on fellow Americans. You have to learn to love this country - even when it swings the way you don't like. If you don't, no one else will.

John Kerry had the best line of his career when he said that "in an American election, there are no losers because whether or not your candidates are successful, the next morning, we all wake up as Americans. And that is the greatest privilege and the most remarkable good for the time that can come to us on earth."

Your first assignment as former Anti-Bushocrats is to realize how true that is, and not to forget it in the four years to come. Don't let this one election get you down; the terrorists would have loved to disrupt the election with a bloody attack, but instead we woke up on November 3rd having had another peaceful, successful show of democracy - a victory over our enemies. Can you feel no victory in that?

So cheer up and stop sippin' the Haterade. A little patriotism won't kill you - tell Michael Moore to take hike. Get out there and meet a few red-staters or conservatives, if you can find them - and show them some love! Give them some of those "hugs" you liberals seem to want to use all the time. After that you can sit down, build yourselves a platform, jump back in the ring and put your dukes up. We need the fight and it takes two to tango out there! Until then, I remain

Respectfully yours,


Thursday, November 04, 2004

Re: Great Day 

nicely put dweingus, honestly. It is true in my opinion that the majority of voters who turned out voted their conscience in this election.

My problem lies in the fact that most have such weak judgment that they are so easily influenced by things like the media and religious interpretation that they haven't taken the time to really understand what they support.

For example, if you asked a group of voters fresh from the polls the other day if they encouraged government infringement on their private lives they would say no. If you asked those same people how they voted on same sex marriage issues they would have said they support a ban. They have been so easily swayed by influential rulers in this country to think that homosexuality is a sin, when the truth is it just makes them uncomfortable. Instead of trying to understand why and how homosexuals come to be, they easily accept it as a 'sin,' legitimizing the ruler and his stance at the same time.

In other words, instead of thinking about it, I feel that a majority of people in this country accept the legitimacy of a leader blindly. And this is not just in relation to homosexuality, but every major issue in this country.

This is what is frustrating to me, I am not shocked that people don't think the same why I do, I just get the sense that they are not thinking for themselves. This election should have been a brainer, a very big brainer, not a no-brainer, that would suggest that the consequences of your decision have little importance.

My lack of faith in this system is not part of the problem, it is instead attempting to realize its shortcomings. That is like saying by supporting our troops you are supporting war, again without thinking about its consequences. The fact is, many Americans put 'support our troops' stickers on their cars because they are afraid of being called unpatriotic, not because they are concerned with the well being of American troops. If that was the case, that they were concerned, they would have some questions about out involvement in Iraq, WETHER THEY SUPPORT IT OR NOT, and it seems that most willingly accept the notion of terrorism as a world wide threat that has no interest other than killing Americans for no reason, which is not the case. That notion is enough for them to think we need to attack countries militarily. ALL AMERICANS SUPPORT THEIR TROOPS, ALL AMERICANS REALIZE THEY PROTECT OUR FREEDOM, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO PUT A STICKER ON YOUR TRUNK TO PROVE IT.

Great Day 

Johnamandalore, I am disappointed in you. This election showed many things that are great about our country. All the MSM (main-stream media) wanted to get you to vote for John Kerry. Except for FoxNews which brought its slightly less biases for The W. But people didn't buy into the propaganda and power mongering of the MSM. They voted their conscience. Bottom line: Americans did exactly what Americans need to do, which is vote what they feel is right.

I am not saying that I am in favor of a ban on same-sex marriages. But in the 11 states that had the question on their ballot, it passed in all 11 without even a semi-close race in any of the states. The people voted what they believed, and that is what being in a democracy is all about. Or as you're going to call it, a Republic. Whatever.

If your faith in American values has diminished in anyway, it sounds like you are part of the problem, and not part of the solution. Without faith in the system that we have, the system cannot work. So I suggest moving to a country like Canada, or France. Each of them has a great health care system and very low taxes. Oh, and their unemployment rate in lower than ours. Wait, none of those things are true.

Why are liberals always so shocked to here that the majority of people in the country no longer think the same way they do? I hate paying taxes. I hate giving government money to people on welfare. I want MY kids to get a good education. I care about ME getting a job. I don't care what the hippie selling trinkets on the street corner, carrying a bullhorn and a loud speaker screaming about corporate corruption, says about this country or the people in it. When it comes down to these values, the election was a no brainer for most Americans. And we are going to be better off for it.

Do you feel like we do? 

Interesting times, although I cannot say I am entirely surprised. Sadly, not only do I have to respect Geroge Bush for the next four years after winning a legitimate election, but I also have to prepare for Hillary Clinton becoming a leader of a political party in the doldrums. Does anyone feel like I do? Well, maybe a couple people...

So disgusted by the recent George Bush victory, Yasser Arafat is reportedly on his deathbed

And this loser managed to pull off one of the worst political losses in American history (and the errors in the picture's description can be blamed on his web-site's organizers)

Nonetheless, I have to admit that today hasn't been much more depressing than any other day I hear the words President and George Bush in the same sentence. He has proved that America's once well hidden relationship between church and state are now fair game for any politician to use as ammo. It is not a coincidence that southern and mid-west states won Bush the election and are dominated by evangelical christianity. Bush, a devout born-again christian, credits Jesus for his inspiration. His stance on homesexual marriage, abortion, and the 'war on terror' are undeniably influenced by his christian values, and these issues were key elements for the winning candidate's campaign. Pulling the jesus card certainly pays well. Job well done Republicans. You managed a brilliant campaign, and have forced the Democrats to the drawing boards after an embarrassing night.

Congratulations Barack Obama, you're a black senator. Sadly, if he becomes what many are saying (the first black president), the highly esteemed and accomplished African American literature/culture professor at the Univesity of San Diego, Dr. Carlton Floyd, will have proven his opinion on race relations in this country to even a liberal, optimistic white kid from the east-coast. That is an opinion of frustration. Barack Obama lost to another black man, not another half-white black man though, but instead to a 50-cent shade of black-black man. CNN could not have been more excited last night, Wolf Blitzer has never shown more enthusiasm then when Barack Obama greeted viewers of the network with a big smile after his land-slide victory over Alan Keyes, lending greatly to his presidential potential. American white people are still not ready to accept African Americans unless they act white, and look as little as black as possible. Oprah Whinfrey, Colin Powell, and now Barack Obama. All from the streets, but their ears are way to far from home to hear.

My faith in the American way of life, American values, American democracy, and American people has been reduced to little more than nothing. Last night American's put their views on homosexuals, race, and the legitimate right to rule on the polling booths, and the results are truly saddening. Does anyone feel like I do?

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

No Name, No Shame 

In a comment responding to Dotty's most recent post - his prediction about tonight's election results - a poster layed into Mr. Dot with a heated rebuttal to his claims. The poster, who left the name "Anonymous," pontificated thusly: "It must be nice, NDot, to ignorantly follow Bush from the comfort of your home while men and women younger than either of us are being slaughtered so that our President can prove something, something that has NOTHING to do with democracy or freedom. You make me sick."

Strong words from someone who obviously has a totally separate value system of my dear friend N-Dot. Problem is, nobody is really sure who this person is. That's because he/she didn't even have the decency to leave their name. He can take potshots at Neill all day and night and never have to stand behind his words. Whether or not one agrees with N-Dot or the anonymous poster, one must respect Dottie for standing up and voicing his beliefs whilst this person simply poked his head up to hate on the Dot without fear of a return attack. During that same comment thread, A-Wood voiced a similar disagreement with Neill, resulting in the sort of back-and-forth debate that has become a staple of the Billiken's Bluff. A-Wood and Neill stand behind their comments; the Horse with No Name does not.

This reminds me of a situation that came about just last week. Following the New York Football Jets' first loss of the season, Head Coach Herm Edwards addressed the media at a midweek press conference. Edwards became especially angry when the subject turned to an anonymous article speculating about the mood of his team after their crucial loss to division rival New England. Edwards reamed out the media and launched into a signature diatribe:

"Just put your name on it, that's all I say. Be a man or a woman, put your name on it, don't be afraid of it. Don't speak out of court and say "but I saw" - you didn't saw nothing. Whoever went in there and saw the team after I talked to them, that's the problem I got. You don't know the mood of that football team. That's the problem I got.

If you're man enough to write it or woman enough to write it, put your name on it, or come ask me.
That's the problem I got. And I've always had that problem. None of you know how those football players feel because you're not in there when I address the team. I've got a problem with that. I've got a problem with it. I've always had a problem with it. So write that. If you want to write something, write that. I said that. Next question."

(The full text of this press conference can be found at Press Point's website.)

The parallels between Herm E. and Neill G. are too numerous to detail adequately in this space. Both men are fearless individuals with an unyielding belief in themselves. Both men are tireless and relentless workers who settle for nothing but the best. Both men are leaders of men - someone I would put my faith and trust in during a time of uncertainty. And while I disagree with both men on many occasions - Dottie when he goes off about Dubya, Herm when he calls for a swing pass to the fullback on 3rd and 13 - it cannot be denied that both men are men of their words. Both men stand behind everything that they do and say, which is all that I can ask for, and something that Mr. Anonymous cannot claim.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

NDot Prediction 

Bush 281, Kerry 257.

Goes a little something like this:

Maine's 2nd Congressional District: Kerry
New Hampshire: Kerry
New Jersey: Kerry
Pennsylvania: Kerry
West Virginia: Bush
Ohio: Bush
Michigan: Kerry
Wisconsin: Kerry
Iowa: Bush
Minnesota: Kerry
Florida: Bush
New Mexico: Kerry
Nevada: Bush
Colorado: Bush
Oregon: Kerry
Washington: Kerry
Hawaii: Kerry

If it's anything different, it's my man snatching up Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Hawaii or some combo of those. In which case, a Bush landslide - despite what you've heard - is not out of the question. (Bush 331, Kerry 207???)

Why am I so confident? Sure we're split right down the middle; with all the swing states there are that could go either way, it looks on the surface like it might as well come down to a coin flip.

But I've just been thinking this morning about our history as a country and how in the past Americans have been faced with a choice between cynicism and the acceptance of failure and the difficult path of resolutness in the face of grim and challenging times. As American voters, we have been told before that we were failing and that our enemies were something that needed to be tolerated and lived with. Cynicism was at the heart of the those who told us that we could not defeat Communism, that a Cold War was unwinnable - just as it is at the heart of the argument that the people of the Middle East do not yearn for or cannot cultivate Western freedoms, that a world that breeds terrorism cannot be rebuilt, and that we are not succeeding.

In 1864 a cynical military veteran ran against the first Republican president and told the American electorate that we were losing in our struggle to unite the country, that the president was a warmonger who had dragged us into a war we could not win and was committing us to failure - that he could get us out of it, if only we were willing to give up our stubborness.

Today we are asked by a calcuating senator for our votes and a smiliar surrender of our steadfastness. Over his career he has voted endlessly to cut military spending and undermine efforts to win the Cold War. After the first attack on the World Trade Center, he voted to cut intelligence spending. He believes and has written that Yasser Arafat - for whom terrorism is a means of politics - is a "statesman." Having argued for and voted to authorize action to remove a widely perceived threat and certified madman, he voted cynically and for political purposes not to fund that effort. He has said that he wants to fight a "more sensitive War on Terror" - though he has remarked also that he sees our struggle as a "law enforcement" matter and not a war, and that he wants to return our national conscience and way of thinking to that of Sept. 10, 2001 - when terrorism was a "nuisance."

We cannot do this.

An intelligent Bush opponent recently asked in a Billiken comment, "Isn't is OK for a politician to change his mind?" and on such a point he is certainly correct. The problem on this day, Nov. 2nd 2004, is that our American leadership is sought effectively by a man for whom Sept 11, 2001 did not change his mind. He has said so himself, saying the day "did not change him much." He is inarguably nostalgic for the days when an international, deadly threat was growing but we did not have the stomach to face it, when he was content to cut our intelligence funding without political repurcussion, when Saddam was in power, when women in Afghanistan were being brutally repressed by an Islamic terrorist supporting regime instead of at the polls electing a pro-American democrat.

The alternative in this election is a flawed man for whom Sept. 11, 2001 made all the difference. He is a swaggering, fiscally irresponsible Texan. He barely won election, and half the country hates him. He doesn't speak english very well. He smirks sometimes. At times has been devastatingly ineffective at explaining his position and leading an unconvinced country to believe in it.

It is understandable that half the country does not feel he represents them or fights on their behalf - indeed, when I listened to his final rally speech last night I realized that George W. Bush is fighting for one small, specific group, but it's not "the rich" or "oil barons" or "Halliburton" or whatever cliche one might want to insert there. The people Bush is fighting for consists of that small group of workers in hard hats that stood on the rubble of the World Trade Center and yelled to him, "Whatever it takes George! Whatever it takes!" Those people - that is his constituency, when you get right down to it.

For "whatever it takes" has been exactly what the man has done.

John Kerry said this year during a rally that the Hollywood liberal elite, who minutes before were making making lewd jokes and fuming, incensed speeches were the "heart and soul of America." I believe at this turning point, this grim and difficult year 2004, there is much more to those men in hard hats, digging up the remains of their countrymen but searching for optimism as they called our to the president, that is the heart and soul of our country.

So today the president gets reelected, I have no doubt - just as that tall, bitterly opposed and mocked president was in 1864. Why? Because we have been asked to give up an important struggle - most recently by a failing terrorist mastermind in a cheap video recording - but it is our nature and our historic tendency to firmly refuse to do so.

And so.... 281 to 257, I'm sticking to it.

Tomorrow you'll see tears from Michael Moore, Barbara Streisand, Tim Robbins, Osama Bin Laden, George Soros, Kim-Jong Il, Yasser Arafat, terrorists, New York Times journalists, Saddam, Anti-Bushocrats, the Got, St. Nick and many more. Smiles from NDot, Laura Bush, Wall Street, Curt Schilling, Rudy Giuliani, Tony Blair, a majority of the soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, people who hate terrorism, and Hillary Clinton.

That's why I love America.


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