CALGARY -She calls him simply "Shatner." Not William Shatner, Mr. Shatner or even Bill Shatner, as his Hollywood pals do. Janine Vangool is no friend of Shatner. They have no personal connection. She has communicated to him only through his assistant. She is, she explains, merely an observer. And, as curator of what is surely the first art exhibit dedicated to exploring the man's mystique, she has become a documenter of the cultural phenomenon that is, to sum up in a single word, Shatner.
"Shatner is Shatner," explains Ms. Vangool, owner of Calgary's Uppercase Gallery. "It's a unique character he's created."
Seventy-six artists (one for each year of the man's life) have contributed as many works to The Shatner Show, which opened this month in the tiny downtown gallery and runs until Aug. 15 with a portion of the proceeds going to Mr. Shatner's favourite charity, horse therapy for handicapped children. Works cover the span of a roller-coaster career: One moody gouache portrait recreates a Shatner close-up still from 1962's Judgment at Nuremberg, another alludes to his role in 1965's bizarre horror picture, Incubus, filmed entirely in the constructed universal language of Esperanto.
There are too many Star Trek influences to count, of course. But others represent more contemporary incarnations. There is an enormous Lego bust of Denny Crane, the eccentric lawyer played by Mr. Shatner on Boston Legal (constructed with 9,000 pieces, and with more than 180 hours of work sunk into it by New York artist Sean Kenney, it's the most expensive piece at $16,000). And at least one artist, depicting Mr. Shatner riding a turd like a horse, says he had in mind "regularity" --a nod to the actor's current role as spokesman for All-Bran. That, suggests the artist in question, Clayton Hanmer, or "the big poop could also represent the bulls--t of celebrity and Hollywood-dom that he totally has control of."
Like Mr. Hanmer, most artists seem eager to get beyond the characters that Mr. Shatner plays and into the character of the man himself -- someone who seems uniquely able to simultaneously enjoy his celebrity and mock it. (When Ms. Vangool asked for his blessing, Mr. Shatner e-mailed: "Every artist has their muse. Leonardo was inspired by the ceiling in the great chapel. Who am I to stand in the way of all these fine artists and artisans who want to use my lumpy, ageing face for inspiration?")
The inspiration for the exhibit came last summer, Ms. Vangool says. She and her husband had never given much thought to Mr. Shatner, before. They are not Trekkies, nor avid fans of T.J. Hooker, Rescue 911 or Boston Legal. But on a road trip to Nova Scotia, they listened over and over to Mr. Shatner's 2004 spoken-word album Has Been. In it, the star known most for his pop cultural camp value, offers up sometimes painful reflections on his life. "It has a nice emotional range and [it] intrigued me that he had this other creative side," she says.
Several pieces in the exhibit play with the theme of Mr. Shatner as Lothario. In one imagined mash-up from the legendary Star Trek episode Arena, Kirk's death-struggle with a Gorn lizard becomes a love scene. Several artists are absorbed by Mr. Shatner's Quebec roots, portraying him as the iconic Bonhomme and as a cat (a play on the French transliteration of his name, "Chat-ner").
But given that this is a man who has become a cultural icon, despite never having aspired to acting and who has succeeded in transforming typecast into self-parody, making millions doing so (his estimated $40-million net worth comes more from his work in the past decade than anything from his more serious past), it is remarkable that so many works portray a dark, tortured side.
In one linocut, he sits anxiously on a tree limb, in his pyjamas, gripping his knees to his chest. One disturbing painting shows the Montreal-born actor at a pool-side funeral -- in 1999, he discovered his third wife dead at the bottom of his pool-- while mourners in black swimsuits sip punch.
Amazingly, though, it's Mr. Shatner's mystifying performance of Rocket Man at the 1978 Science Fiction Film Awards that emerges as the dominant theme. At least 16 different works evoke the melodramatic scene, in which a tuxedoed Mr. Shatner, atop a stool lit by a single spotlight, contemplates a cigarette while speaking the lyrics to the Elton John song.
While Ms. Vangool says she asked the artists to treat the subject with "playful reverence," most apparently couldn't escape an image of Mr. Shatner as the enigmatic, rather absurd, Rocket Man: a human of dimensions at odds with each other.They weren't alone. The most serious work of the exhibit is Shatner Reflecting. In it, an older looking Shatner slumps in a dressing room, cigarette in hand, a scotch on the vanity. There is nothing "playful" about it. It is the one work Mr. Shatner asked to keep for himself.
Saturday, June 30, 2007
The Fourth of July is a great opportunity to renew our dedication to the principles of liberty and equality enshrined in what Thomas Jefferson called "the declaratory charter of our rights."
As a practical matter, the Declaration of Independence publicly announced to the world the unanimous decision of the American colonies to declare themselves free and independent states, absolved from any allegiance to Great Britain. But its greater meaning—then as well as now—is as a statement of the conditions of legitimate political authority and the proper ends of government, and its proclamation of a new ground of political rule in the sovereignty of the people. "If the American Revolution had produced nothing but the Declaration of Independence," wrote the great historian Samuel Eliot Morrison, "it would have been worthwhile."
Although Congress had appointed a distinguished committee—including John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston—the Declaration of Independence is chiefly the work of Thomas Jefferson. By his own account, Jefferson was neither aiming at originality nor taking from any particular writings but was expressing the "harmonizing sentiments of the day," as expressed in conversation, letters, essays, or "the elementary books of public right, as Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, Sidney, etc." Jefferson intended the Declaration to be "an expression of the American mind," and wrote so as to "place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent."
The structure of the Declaration of Independence is that of a common law legal document. The ringing phrases of the document's famous second paragraph are a powerful synthesis of American constitutional and republican government theories. All men have a right to liberty only in so far as they are by nature equal, which is to say none are naturally superior, and deserve to rule, or inferior, and deserve to be ruled. Because men are endowed with these rights, the rights are unalienable, which means that they cannot be given up or taken away. And because individuals equally possess these rights, governments derive their just powers from the consent of those governed. The purpose of government is to secure these fundamental rights and, although prudence tells us that governments should not be changed for trivial reasons, the people retain the right to alter or abolish government when it becomes destructive of these ends.
The remainder of the document is a bill of indictment accusing King George III of some 30 offenses, some constitutional, some legal, and some matters of policy. The combined charges against the king were intended to demonstrate a history of repeated injuries, all having the object of establishing "an absolute tyranny" over America. Although the colonists were "disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable," the time had come to end the relationship: "But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government."
One charge that Jefferson had included, but Congress removed, was that the king had "waged cruel war against human nature" by introducing slavery and allowing the slave trade into the American colonies. A few delegates were unwilling to acknowledge that slavery violated the "most sacred rights of life and liberty," and the passage was dropped for the sake of unanimity. Thus was foreshadowed the central debate of the American Civil War, which Abraham Lincoln saw as a test to determine whether a nation "conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal" could long endure.
The Declaration of Independence and the liberties recognized in it are grounded in a higher law to which all human laws are answerable. This higher law can be understood to derive from reason—the truths of the Declaration are held to be "self-evident"—but also revelation. There are four references to God in the document: to "the laws of nature and nature's God"; to all men being "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights"; to "the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions"; and to "the protection of Divine Providence." The first term suggests a deity that is knowable by human reason, but the others—God as creator, as judge, and as providence—are more biblical, and add a theological context to the document. "And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are a gift of God?" Jefferson asked in his Notes on the State of Virginia.
The true significance of the Declaration lies in its trans-historical meaning. Its appeal was not to any conventional law or political contract but to the equal rights possessed by all men and "the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and nature's God" entitled them. What is revolutionary about the Declaration of Independence is not that a particular group of Americans declared their independence under particular circumstances but that they did so by appealing to—and promising to base their particular government on—a universal standard of justice. It is in this sense that Abraham Lincoln praised "the man who, in the concrete pressure of a struggle for national independence by a single people, had the coolness, forecast, and capacity to introduce into a merely revolutionary document, an abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times."
The ringing phrases of the Declaration of Independence speak to all those who strive for liberty and seek to vindicate the principles of self-government. But it was an aged John Adams who, when he was asked to prepare a statement on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, delivered two words that still convey our great hope every Fourth of July: "Independence Forever."
Matthew Spalding, Ph.D., is Director of the B. Kenneth Simon Center for American Studies at The Heritage Foundation.
QUOTATIONS ON THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
I am well aware of the toil, and blood, and treasure, that it will cost us to maintain this declaration, and support and defend these states. Yet, through all the gloom, I can see the rays of light and glory; I can see that the end is more than worth all the means, and that posterity will triumph.
John Adams, letter to Abigail Adams, July 3, 1776
There! His Majesty can now read my name without glasses. And he can double the reward on my head!
John Hancock (attributed), upon signing the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776
We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.
Benjamin Franklin (attributed), at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776
The flames kindled on the 4th of July 1776, have spread over too much of the globe to be extinguished by the feeble engines of despotism; on the contrary, they will consume these engines and all who work them.
Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, September 12, 1821
With respect to our rights, and the acts of the British government contravening those rights, there was but one opinion on this side of the water. All American whigs thought alike on these subjects. When forced, therefore, to resort to arms for redress, an appeal to the tribunal of the world was deemed proper for our justification. This was the object of the Declaration of Independence. Not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of, not merely to say things which had never been said before; but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent, and to justify ourselves in the independent stand we are compelled to take. Neither aiming at originality of principle or sentiment, nor yet copied from any particular and previous writing, it was intended to be an expression of the American mind, and to give to that expression the proper tone and spirit called for by the occasion. All its authority rests then on the harmonizing sentiments of the day, whether expressed in conversation, in letters, printed essays, or in the elementary books of public right, as Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, Sidney, &c.
Thomas Jefferson, letter to Henry Lee, May 8, 1825
John Adams, toast for the 50th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1826
I have said that the Declaration of Independence is the ring-bolt to the chain of your nation's destiny; so, indeed, I regard it. The principles contained in that instrument are saving principles. Stand by those principles, be true to them on all occasions, in all places, against all foes, and at whatever cost.
Frederick Douglass, "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?" July 5, 1852
The assertion that "all men are created equal" was of no practical use in effecting our separation from Great Britain; and it was placed in the Declaration, not for that, but for future use. Its authors meant it to be, thank God, it is now proving itself, a stumbling block to those who in after times might seek to turn a free people back into the hateful paths of despotism. They knew the proneness of prosperity to breed tyrants, and they meant when such should re-appear in this fair land and commence their vocation they should find left for them at least one hard nut to crack.
Abraham Lincoln, speech on the Dred Scott Decision, June 26, 1857
We have besides these men—descended by blood from our ancestors—among us perhaps half our people who are not descendants at all of these men, they are men who have come from Europe—German, Irish, French and Scandinavian—men that have come from Europe themselves, or whose ancestors have come hither and settled here, finding themselves our equals in all things. If they look back through this history to trace their connection with those days by blood, they find they have none, they cannot carry themselves back into that glorious epoch and make themselves feel that they are part of us, but when they look through that old Declaration of Independence they find that those old men say that "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal," and then they feel that that moral sentiment taught in that day evidences their relation to those men, that it is the father of all moral principle in them, and that they have a right to claim it as though they were blood of the blood, and flesh of the flesh of the men who wrote that Declaration, and so they are. That is the electric cord in that Declaration that links the hearts of patriotic and liberty-loving men together, that will link those patriotic hearts as long as the love of freedom exists in the minds of men throughout the world.
Abraham Lincoln, speech at Chicago, Illinois, July 10, 1858
We live in an age of science and of abounding accumulation of material things. These did not create our Declaration. Our Declaration created them. The things of the spirit come first. Unless we cling to that, all our material prosperity, overwhelming though it may appear, will turn to a barren sceptre in our grasp. If we are to maintain the great heritage which has been bequeathed to us, we must be like-minded as the fathers who created it. We must not sink into a pagan materialism. We must cultivate the reverence which they had for the things that are holy. We must follow the spiritual and moral leadership which they showed. We must keep replenished, that they may glow with a more compelling flame, the altar fires before which they worshiped.
Calvin Coolidge, speech on the 150th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, July 5, 1926
Today, 186 years later, that Declaration whose yellowing parchment and fading, almost illegible lines I saw in the past week in the National Archives in Washington is still a revolutionary document. To read it today is to hear a trumpet call. For that Declaration unleashed not merely a revolution against the British, but a revolution in human affairs. . . . The theory of independence is as old as man himself, and it was not invented in this hall. But it was in this hall that the theory became a practice; that the word went out to all, in Thomas Jefferson's phrase, that "the God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time." And today this Nation—conceived in revolution, nurtured in liberty, maturing in independence—has no intention of abdicating its leadership in that worldwide movement for independence to any nation or society committed to systematic human oppression.
John F. Kennedy, address at Independence Hall, July 4, 1962
When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. . . . I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."
Martin Luther King, "I Have A Dream," August 28, 1963
Our Declaration of Independence has been copied by emerging nations around the globe, its themes adopted in places many of us have never heard of. Here in this land, for the first time, it was decided that man is born with certain God-given rights. We the people declared that government is created by the people for their own convenience. Government has no power except those voluntarily granted it by the people. There have been revolutions before and since ours, revolutions that simply exchanged one set of rulers for another. Ours was a philosophical revolution that changed the very concept of government.
Ronald Reagan, address at Yorktown, October 19, 1981
A NOTE ON THE SIGNERS OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
"...we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."
(Each year information about those who signed the Declaration of Independence is circulated, not all of which is accurate. The following note is based on research in several established sources, which are noted below.)
Fifty-six individuals from each of the original 13 colonies participated in the Second Continental Congress and signed the Declaration of Independence. Pennsylvania sent nine delegates to the congress, followed by Virginia with seven and Massachusetts and New Jersey with five. Connecticut, Maryland, New York, and South Carolina each sent four delegates. Delaware, Georgia, New Hampshire, and North Carolina each sent three. Rhode Island, the smallest colony, sent only two delegates to Philadelphia.
Eight of the signers were immigrants, two were brothers, two were cousins, and one was an orphan. The average age of a signer was 45. The oldest delegate was Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, who was 70 when he signed the Declaration. The youngest was Thomas Lynch, Jr., of South Carolina, who was 27.
Eighteen of the signers were merchants or businessmen, 14 were farmers, and four were doctors. Forty-two signers had served in their colonial legislatures. Twenty-two were lawyers—although William Hooper of North Carolina was "disbarred" when he spoke out against the Crown—and nine were judges. Stephen Hopkins had been Governor of Rhode Island.
Although two others had been clergy previously, John Witherspoon of New Jersey was the only active clergyman to attend—he wore his pontificals to the sessions. Almost all were Protestant Christians; Charles Carroll of Maryland was the only Roman Catholic signer.
Seven of the signers were educated at Harvard, four each at Yale and William & Mary, and three at Princeton. John Witherspoon was the president of Princeton and George Wythe was a professor at William & Mary, where his students included the author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson.
Seventeen of the signers served in the military during the American Revolution. Thomas Nelson was a colonel in the Second Virginia Regiment and then commanded Virginia military forces at the Battle of Yorktown. William Whipple served with the New Hampshire militia and was one of the commanding officers in the decisive Saratoga campaign. Oliver Wolcott led the Connecticut regiments sent for the defense of New York and commanded a brigade of militia that took part in the defeat of General Burgoyne. Caesar Rodney was a Major General in the Delaware militia and John Hancock was the same in the Massachusetts militia.
Five of the signers were captured by the British during the war. Captains Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, and Arthur Middleton (South Carolina) were all captured at the Battle of Charleston in 1780; Colonel George Walton was wounded and captured at the Battle of Savannah. Richard Stockton of New Jersey never recovered from his incarceration at the hands of British Loyalists and died in 1781.
Colonel Thomas McKean of Delaware wrote John Adams that he was "hunted like a fox by the enemy—compelled to remove my family five times in a few months, and at last fixed them in a little log house on the banks of the Susquehanna . . . and they were soon obliged to move again on account of the incursions of the Indians." Abraham Clark of New Jersey had two of his sons captured by the British during the war. The son of John Witherspoon, a major in the New Jersey Brigade, was killed at the Battle of Germantown.
Eleven signers had their homes and property destroyed. Francis Lewis's New York home was destroyed and his wife was taken prisoner. John Hart's farm and mills were destroyed when the British invaded New Jersey and he died while fleeing capture. Carter Braxton and Thomas Nelson (both of Virginia) lent large sums of their personal fortunes to support the war effort, but were never repaid.
Fifteen of the signers participated in their states' constitutional conventions, and six—Roger Sherman, Robert Morris, Benjamin Franklin, George Clymer, James Wilson, and George Reed—signed the United States Constitution. Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts attended the federal convention and, though he later supported the document, refused to sign the Constitution.
After the Revolution, 13 of the signers went on to become governors, and 18 served in their state legislatures. Sixteen became state and federal judges. Seven became members of the United States House of Representatives, and six became United States Senators. James Wilson and Samuel Chase became Justices of the United States Supreme Court.
Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Elbridge Gerry each became Vice President, and John Adams and Thomas Jefferson became President. The sons of signers John Adams and Benjamin Harrison also became Presidents.
Five signers played major roles in the establishment of colleges and universities: Benjamin Franklin and the University of Pennsylvania; Thomas Jefferson and the University of Virginia; Benjamin Rush and Dickinson College; Lewis Morris and New York University; and George Walton and the University of Georgia.
John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Charles Carroll were the longest surviving signers. Adams and Jefferson both died on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Charles Carroll of Maryland was the last signer to die—in 1832 at the age of 95.
Sources: Robert Lincoln, Lives of the Presidents of the United States, with Biographical Notices of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence (Brattleboro Typographical Company, 1839); John and Katherine Bakeless, Signers of the Declaration (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1969); Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774-1989 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1989).
This essay was published June 28, 2007. Originally published as Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 1451 on June 19, 2001.
I'll admit I've drunk my fair share.
By: BRADLEY J. FIKES - Staff Writer
Vin d'Expensive? Meritage Snooty? If that's the kind of name you were thinking would grace a winner of the California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition, get ready for a shock.
Try "Two-Buck Chuck," more formally Charles Shaw, the brand beloved of bargain but palate-sensitive wine shoppers. It's sold by Bronco Wine Co. exclusively through Trader Joe's.
Shaw's California Chardonnay took first place for Best Chardonnay from California. To some in the clubby California wine community, that must seem like a Michelin's Red Guide giving three stars to a roadside hamburger stand.
The Chardonnay received 98 points, a double gold, with accolades of Best of California and Best of Class.
"Since we judge all wines totally by variety without different brackets for price, this double-gold achievement by the Bronco winemakers is astounding," G.M. Pucilowski, chief judge and director of the competition, said in a Bronco Wine Co. press release.
While the complete results of the competition are to be announced July 12, Renata Franzia, from Bronco's Franzia family received the results Thursday.
Richard Peterson, veteran winemaker and a State Fair judge for 20 years, said in the release, "We have the most open judging I know. There is nothing to bias judging. We get numbered glasses. We don't know the region, brand or price. We evaluate the judges frequently to make sure they're tops in the field. Charles Shaw won because it is a fresh, fruity, well-balanced Chardonnay that people and wine judges ---- though maybe not wine critics ---- will like."
Bronco president Fred Franzia said in an interview that customers have proven to be discerning, buying more than 300 million bottles of Charles Shaw brand wines over the years.
"The consumers are way ahead of the judges here, and now the judges have figured it out," Franzia said in the interview. And there's more of this vintage on the way, Franzia said, so there will be a plentiful supply.
Franzia's next challenge is winning over the restaurant industry. "The restaurants are overcharging consumers for wine. If we could just get restaurants to sell wine at $10 a bottle, or $2.50 a glass, or less, heaven forbid. If I can sell 'em to Trader Joe's for $2 a bottle, and they can get five glasses out of it, you'd think they could sell it for $2.50 a glass and make consumers happy."And yes, Franzia said, Two-Buck Chuck will remain $2 ---- the price isn't going to increase.
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - A Mickey Mouse lookalike who preached Islamic domination on a Hamas-affiliated children's television program was beaten to death in the show's final episode Friday.
In the final skit, Farfour was killed by an actor posing as an Israeli official trying to buy Farfour's land. At one point, the mouse called the Israeli a "terrorist."
"Farfour was martyred while defending his land," said Sara, the teen presenter. He was killed "by the killers of children," she added.
Gee. Nice kids' show. (Frickin whackjobs...)
Friday, June 29, 2007
Oh, I hope this is true. Run, Al, RUN!
Former Senator, former Vice President, current Pastor of the Church of Climate Change, Al Gore has canceled all of his speaking commitments for the foreseeable future.
Al Gore visit postponedFormer US vice president Al Gore will not be able to make it to Taiwan this September to address the issue of global warming, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) said yesterday. Tien, who invited Gore to visit Taiwan to promote awareness on global warming, told reporters yesterday that she received an e-mail from the Harry Walker Agency, which has the exclusive right to arrange Gore's speeches, saying that Gore had canceled all his scheduled events in the next six months. The visit to Taiwan had been postponed to next year, she added. Tien said the reason for the cancelation (sic) was that Gore was considering a presidential bid.
CAIRO, Egypt — The death of a 12-year-old Egyptian girl at the hands of a doctor performing female circumcision in the country's south has sparked a public outcry and prompted health and religious authorities this week to ban the practice.
The girl, Badour Shaker, died earlier in June while being circumcised in an illegal clinic in the southern town of Maghagh. Her mother, Zeniab Abdel Ghani, told the Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper that she had paid $9 dollars to a female physician to perform the procedure.
The mother also told the paper that the doctor later tried to bribe her to withdraw a lawsuit accusing the physician of murder, in return for $3,000, but she refused.
A forensic investigation into the case showed the girl's death was caused by an anesthesia overdose during the procedure.
The case sparked widespread condemnation and was closely followed in Egyptian papers, which also reported that Shaker had passed out sweets to pupils in her class earlier on the day of her death, to celebrate her good grades.It also evoked memories of a 1995 CNN television documentary depicting a barber circumcising a 10-year-old girl in a Cairo slum.
AMSTERDAM – Dozens of boys and girls have been systematically abused, intimidated and molested by a group of older boys in the Utrecht neighbourhood of Overvecht for almost a year, the Telegraaf reports.
Municipal council member Bouchra Dibi (Labour PvdA) investigated the incidents taking place at the playground near the Neckardreef in Overvecht.
Children aged 8, 9 and 10 were dragged into the bushes and coerced into performing sexual acts on boys a few years older. Most of the children involved are of Moroccan background, the newspaper reports.
The municipal council member told the Telegraaf that the problems are not being addressed. "This has been going on for almost a year. People just talk and talk and talk. And nothing is done," she said.
Social workers, police and the municipality do not know how to approach the parents, Dibi says. "These sorts of things are taboo to talk about in the Moroccan community."
Utrecht Mayor Annie Brouwer-Korf (PvdA) acknowledges that there have been problems among children since the end of last year. "Intimidation, threats and fights, and, since the beginning of this year we have seen signals of sexual abuse. A report of sexual molestation by children has been passed on to the public prosecution department," the mayor says.
Brouwer says it is difficult to get an idea of how widespread the abuses are because there is no concrete information on suspects, victims and locations.Council member Dibi says this is mainly due to parents' hesitance to report incidents. "Parents do not dare say anything because they are afraid of the perpetrators. There is a great deal of fear. That is why they don't always report these things."
Ratatouille, a Pixar Animation Studios film distributed by the Walt Disney Company, is about a rat that wants to be a French chef. It doesn’t sound impressive, and on its face doesn’t seem like something that would come out of Pixar, which has a twelve-year winning streak (Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, and Cars) made more remarkable by the nation’s declining interest in anything other than the biggest-budgeted Hollywood blockbusters – and, of course, their inevitable (and seemingly endless) sequels.
Personally, I had a touch of skepticism about Ratatouille dating all the way back to when the first trailer was shown before Pixar’s last feature, Cars. “How in the world can a Pixar-quality film be made about a cooking rat?” I thought to myself. And which came first, the punny title, or the story? It had the sound of a script treatment that was written on a napkin, and later greenlighted in a cable cartoon network’s boardroom after a
winemalt liquor-tasting. How else would the world have been given Aqua Teen Hunger Force or My Gym Partner Is a Monkey?
I was already having enough trouble swallowing Cars as a Pixar-worthy effort. Animated automobiles with eyes and mouths? That’s an idea as old as the hills in the backgrounds of Steamboat Willie -- every TV watcher within one hundred miles of a Chevron station has seen enough cute talking animated cars to last the rest of their lives. On top of that, the story line of Cars was pedestrian (sorry) and clichéd. One wonders if everyone at Pixar who worked on Cars would dare swear they had never seen Doc Hollywood, a 1991 Michael J. Fox vehicle (sorry again) with an almost identical concept: Arrogant Eastern U.S.-dwelling whiz kid on the road to money and glory in California takes a wrong turn and suffers a smash-up in the sticks. He is stranded, and the sticks’ hicks refuse to let him out of town until he’s done something to help them. Eventually, he learns the true meanings of humility, friendship, and (of course) love. Been there, seen that. In the end, the success of Cars depended solely on the talent-rich Pixar team’s deep reservoir of visual creativity. Cars worked in spite of itself, but it was a close call.
Easing my fears Pixar’s status as standard-bearer of family entertainment was in danger was the news Brad Bird was entrusted with writing and directing Ratatouille after original creator Jan Pinkava – according to published reports – couldn’t really make the story he conceptualized “work.” Bird was the writer and director of The Incredibles, which won 2004’s Academy Award for Animated Feature.
Unlike Ratatouille, The Incredibles was a high-concept winner from the beginning: The Parrs, an everyday suburban nuclear family of five, have a secret; four of them have superpowers. The father and mother – each having been issued secret identities by the government many years prior – emerge from forced retirement and enlist their two oldest youngsters and another heroic family friend to help save the world. But before battling any bad guys, the superpapa has to win his personal battle of the bulge, his gut having stretched beyond the contraints of his old costume.
Sounds like a hoot. But Bird wasn’t content serving up empty laughs.
A genuinely thrilling action comedy that just happened to be lushly animated, The Incredibles made subtle statements about family life, mid-life crises, and personality changes in children as they grow (consider the powers each Parr family member had). Bird also took scalpel-precision aim at megamillion-dollar deep-pockets lawsuits, deep-pocketed corporations that deliberately create unnecessary red tape just to extract profits from loyal customers, and, most of all, a culture in which personal achievement that benefits society at large is discouraged to protect the oh-so-important feelings of people who can’t measure up. And Bird did all of this while being funny as all-get-out.
(If you didn’t view the The Incredibles DVD, here’s something you don’t know: Bird – a married father – originally conceived the opening scene of the film to highlight a backyard barbecue confrontation between Helen Parr (formerly superheroine Elastigirl) and a snooty professional neighbor woman who spoke with dripping disdain about Helen’s choice to be a stay-at-home mom.)
Similarly, with Bird’s Ratatouille, there is much more to it than one can display in a thirty-second ad. Here’s the short version: Young Remy, the rodent protagonist, has more refined tastes than those in his native colony, which is led by his father. He’s not content to eat discarded mystery slop, and rather than forage through rubbish for sustenance, he aspires to get the good stuff – fresh food from inside human dwellings. Although he experiences twinges of guilt for stealing, he manages to grab enough grub to develop a love for combining foods and spices to create new taste sensations.
After a series of events results in Remy’s separation from the colony during a rainstorm with only his favorite cookbook (Anyone Can Cook) to keep him company, he discovers that he has washed up in the sewers of Paris, the home of his favorite chef, the cookbook’s internationally acclaimed author. He heads for the restaurant the chef left behind after his death, and longingly looks through a kitchen window. He is horrified as he sees a newly-hired janitor (with his own epicurean aspirations) ruin a soup by adding the wrong ingredients. Remy sneaks into through the window and fixes the soup, but is captured by the janitor, who perceives that Remy is a better chef than he is. They develop a system that allows Remy to pull the strings for the janitor, who is promoted when patrons rave about his cooking under Remy’s tutelage. I don’t want to give away too much, but suffice to say that before the movie ends, there is romance, betrayal, jealousy, intrigue, madness, tension, revelation, and triumph, with hilarity throughout. (This is not to mention the Pixar family’s reinforcing their reputation for attention to detail in every frame, suitable for hanging.)
But what’s most remarkable about Ratatouille is the way that Brad Bird fuses entertainment and social statement in such a seamless way. Bird gets in short but sharp digs at mindless merchandising (which I believe could have been at least partially inspired by Pixar’s near-divorce from Disney) and, shockingly, the entire concept of the professional critic – a risky thing for a filmmaker to do since he is so dependent on their approval. Most impressive of all is the way Bird deals with the overall theme of what President Bush has referred to as “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” It is my opinion is that if you aren’t too young to comprehend the lessons in scenes in which Remy’s father, family and friends beg him to leave the restaurant, return to the colony, and just accept that they are all “just” rats, you will marvel that they are delivered like a parental tap on the shoulder, not an Aaron Sorkinesque punch in the nose.The ending is surprising in some ways – it is unlikely you will expect the way it exactly happens – but it is a happy one. It is, of course, a Pixar picture, one suitable for the entire family. I don’t have a family, but if I did, I would take it, and have a discussion about it over dinner. Perhaps the kids could help make dinner. After all, “Anyone Can Cook.”
Cairo: The son-in-law of former Egyptian president Jamal Abdul Nasser, named by Israeli officials as a source for Mossad, "lost his balance" before a fall from his London balcony, Egyptian state media said yesterday.
Ashraf Marwan, who died on Wednesday, had been living in London for many years after leaving Egyptian government service in the late 1970s.
Israeli media say that Marwan, who was married to Nasser's daughter Mona, had passed a warning to Israel's Mossad intelligence agency on the eve of the 1973 Middle East war that Egypt and Syria were about to attack.
The Times of London reported that Marwan, 62, had feared for his life after he was publicly accused of being a spy for Mossad three years ago, but said there was also speculation that he may have committed suicide after a serious illness was diagnosed.Egypt's Mena news agency quoted a source close to the family as saying Marwan suffered from balance problems recently.
Investors Business Daily ^ | June 28, 2007 |
Immigration: The Senate's 53-46 defeat of the immigration bill Thursday was more than a victory for rule of law over alien amnesty. It was a triumph of citizens' will over politicians' disdain. Real reform must follow.
The Bush-Kennedy immigration reform bill is dead and unlikely to be served up again before a new administration takes office. No wonder. It was a pork-laden spending bill that offered de facto amnesty to illegal immigrants, federal contracts to the usual contractors, spoils for businesses that habitually hire illegals, and new layers of bureaucracy, supposedly to speed immigration entries.The only people it didn't reward were those not looking for cash largesse, citizens who ask only that the federal government show the will to enforce existing laws.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Everything in this article is so wrong.
President Felipe Calderon of Mexico reacted sourly to news of the Senate's rejection of the proposed immigration law overhaul, calling the senators' action "a grave error."
"It's a grave mistake first because it's a problem that's not being confronted, and with this evasive action the U.S. Senate is making it worse," Calderon told reporters in Mexico City during a joint news conference with President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, who is finishing a two-day visit to the Mexican capital.
"Secondly, because to close the door on legal immigration, the only thing the Senate does is open the door to illegal immigration" the Mexican president said, according to an account published by the newspaper Reforma on its Web page.
Calderon repeated his "repudiation and rejection" of plans to build a wall along much of the U.S.-Mexico border.
More than a tenth of Mexico's 103 million people are estimated to live in the United States, many of them illegally. Hundreds of thousands of Mexicans, and others from Central America, continue to cross the border every year illegally in search of work.
Mexico's emigrants last year sent nearly $25 billion home to family members. That money has become an important anchor in many rural communities and poor metropolitan neighborhoods.
Ortega, a one-time Marxist president of Nicaragua following that country's 1970s leftist revolution against a U.S.-backed dictator, was in Mexico City to strengthen ties with Mexico and also to visit the shrine to the Virgin of Guadalupe.The Nicaraguan president had vowed to visit the shrine if he won election this year, which he did, returning to power 17 years after being voted out of office.
Obay is a stupid ass.
At the end of Thursday’s debate, Democratic House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (Wis.) agreed with Republicans that the government should not regulate conservative radio hosts such as Limbaugh and Hannity......“We ought to let right-wing talk radio go on as they do now,” he said. “Rush and Sean are just about as important in the scheme of things as Paris Hilton.......”
The House voted overwhelmingly Thursday ( June 28, 2007 )to prohibit the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from using taxpayer dollars to impose the Fairness Doctrine on broadcasters who feature conservative radio hosts such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.
By a vote of 309-115, lawmakers amended the Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill to bar the FCC from requiring broadcasters to balance conservative content with liberal programming such as Air America.
The vote count was partly a testament to the influence that radio hosts wield in many congressional districts.
It was also a rebuke to Democratic senators and policy experts who have voiced support this week for regulating talk radio.
House Democrats argued that it was merely a Republican political stunt because there is little danger of the FCC restricting conservative radio while George W. Bush is president.
Republicans counter that they are worried about new regulations if a Democrat wins the White House in 2008.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said on Tuesday that the government should revive the Fairness Doctrine, a policy crafted in 1929 that required broadcasters to balance political content with different points of view.
“It’s time to reinstitute the Fairness Doctrine,” he said. “I have this old-fashioned attitude that when Americans hear both sides of the story, they’re in a better position to make a decision.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Rules Committee, said this week that she would review the constitutional and legal issues involved in re-establishing the doctrine.
Sen. John Kerry (Mass.), the Democratic Party’s 2004 presidential nominee, also said recently that the Fairness Doctrine should return.
In 1985 the FCC discarded the policy after deciding that it restricted journalistic freedom and “actually inhibit[ed] the presentation of controversial issues of public importance to the detriment of the public and in degradation of the editorial prerogative of broadcast journalists,” according to a Congressional Research Service report.
Thursday, the House firmly rejected the prospect of requiring balanced views on talk radio.
Before the passage of the amendment, which he sponsored, Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), a former full-time radio host, forecast a big majority and took a shot at the Senate, saying: “This House will say what some in the other body are not saying, that we believe in freedom on the airwaves. We reject the doctrines of the past that would have this federal government manage political speech on the public airwaves.”
Republican Study Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) and Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) also sponsored the legislation.
Conservatives fear that forcing stations to make equal time for liberal talk radio would slash profits and pressure radio executives to scale back on conservative programming to avoid escalating costs and interference from government regulators. Opponents of the Fairness Doctrine argue that radio stations would suffer financially if forced to air liberal as well as conservative programs because liberal talk radio has not proven popular or profitable. For example, Air America, liberals’ answer to “The Rush Limbaugh Show” and Michael Medved, filed for bankruptcy in October.
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Thursday that listeners should be able to decide if they want to hear different political arguments.
“The best way is to let the judgment of the American people decide, and they can decide with their finger,” Boehner said. “[People] can turn it off or they can turn it on. They can go to their computer and read it on the Internet.”
Flake added: “Rather than having the government regulate what people can say, we should let the market decide what people want to hear. That’s precisely why the Fairness Doctrine was abandoned, and that’s why it ought not to be revived.”
At the end of Thursday’s debate, Democratic House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (Wis.) agreed with Republicans that the government should not regulate conservative radio hosts such as Limbaugh and Hannity.“We ought to let right-wing talk radio go on as they do now,” he said. “Rush and Sean are just about as important in the scheme of things as Paris Hilton, and I would hate to see them gain an ounce of credibility by being forced by a government agency or anybody else to moderate their views enough that they might become modestly influential or respected.”
Roll call here.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Okay, Michael... just marry me.
Monday, June 25, 2007
She's so old now, I guess her clock really is dead. (But she gets a Stopped Clock Award nonetheless.)
Read the newly published "The Reagan Diaries" if you want a true insight into the mind of the nation's 40th president.
The diaries -- written daily from 1981 until President Ronald Reagan left office in 1989 -- reveal him to be much more involved in the nitty gritty of national and world affairs than many White House reporters thought. He had often been portrayed as a detached, "chairman of the board" kind of president.
The diaries show that Reagan had something to say about everything and everybody; his thoughts were often summarized in one handwritten sentence. His notations mixed the profound with the trivial.
Historian Douglas Brinkley, who edited the publication of the diaries, had to toss out chunks to boil the entries down to a 696-page memoir. But no one is shortchanged.
Reagan comes across as deeper, funnier, more religious and more humble than he seemed when he was striding across the world stage. He is true to his public persona -- foe of communism, tax increases, organized labor and, often, the news media.
The diaries are replete with his devotion to his wife, Nancy, and his despair at being lonely when she was not around.
On July 6, 1983, Reagan said: "Nancy's birthday! Life would be miserable if there wasn't a Nancy's birthday. What if she'd never been born? I don't want to think about it."
Also revealing were his tensions with his children -- Ronald Reagan Jr., who he said was anxious to shed his Secret Service protection, and Patti, who Reagan said had a "yo-yo relationship" with the family, whatever that means.
A former Hollywood star, he was an avid movie fan. He chafed at having to wear a bulletproof vest. And he resented as a "d..n gross violation of privacy" the fact that he had to make public every gift, even those from his personal friends.
There were many serious notes about the Middle East, often followed by a reference to watching a movie or "watching the 'Waltons on TV' and so to bed."
Here's how Reagan recalled his thoughts after he was shot in the lung by John Hinckley on March 30, 1981, outside the Washington Hilton Hotel as he walked toward his limousine. He was rushed to George Washington University Hospital and wrote:
"I was getting less and less air. I focused on that tiled ceiling and prayed. But I realized I couldn't ask for God's help while at the same time I felt hatred for the mixed up young man who had shot me. Isn't that the meaning of the lost sheep?"
Unlike President Richard M. Nixon, he did not have an "enemies list" of members of the press, but he was often outraged with the news media.
When Richard Allen, his first national security adviser, was accused of accepting gifts from the Japanese government, Reagan wrote, "The press has really been a lynch mob and I don't think they will stop which is why he can't be back in N.S.C. (National Security Council)."
In another entry, Reagan says: "Press Conference day. I think it was a good one but the 'pack' was blood thirsty."
"The press isn't after news. They want to trap you in a goof," he said at another point.
On June 7, 1981, he wrote: "Got word on Israeli bombing of Iraq nuclear reactor. I swear I believe Armageddon is near."
He recorded his observations about friend and foe.
On Oct. 13, 1981, Reagan said he met with "J.C." -- former President Jimmy Carter -- adding: "I expected the worst, but he was cordial, friendly and just exchanged views on the Middle East, etc."
Reagan had a friendly relationship with House Speaker Thomas "Tip" O'Neill, D-Mass., but that did not stop him from getting angry.
"Just saw a fund-raising letter signed by Tip O'Neill for Dem. Cong. Committee," he said. "It is the most vicious pack of lies I've ever seen. It's aimed at Sr. Citizens & has me out to destroy Medicare & Social Security. We can't let him get away with this."
As a reporter having covered him for eight years in the White House, I am sure the press could have done a better job if we had known the real Ronald Reagan.(Helen Thomas can be reached at the e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org).
(This article is actually pretty hysterical.)
The sentencing today of an illegal immigrant caught up in an Eastern Shore prostitution ring turned into a debate on immigration policy.
Javier Merino-Torres of Mexico was sentenced to 45 months in federal prison despite a plea for leniency from his attorney, who cited the employment and social needs fulfilled by his client and others like him.
“He works here because there is no work at home,” the attorney, David Bouchard of Chesapeake, told the judge.
“What I’m suggesting is that we have created a monster because our economy depends on these people,” Bouchard said.
He suggested that the judge deviate from sentencing guidelines so his client can return home to his family as soon as possible.
U.S. District Judge Walter D. Kelley Jr. said he is bound by the laws passed by Congress to sentence Merino-Torres to a mandatory two years in prison for aggravated identity theft and an additional 21 months for transporting prostitutes.
“Mr. Bouchard has made a very eloquent argument about our immigration system,” Kelley said.
“Unfortunately, as a judge, I can’t be involved in what proper policy should be. I have to apply the law.”
Merino-Torres was charged with six other men in a prostitution conspiracy based in rural Mappsville, Accomack County, on the Eastern Shore. The men brought women in from New York and New Jersey to work in a dilapidated house where customers paid $30 for 15-minute sessions.
Prosecutors said at least six women were involved at the Mappsville site and at other locations on the Eastern Shore and in Maryland. Court papers say that among the evidence discovered was a book containing ratings of the prostitutes, using descriptions such as “good,” “bad,” or “fat.”
Five of the six men have been arrested, convicted and sentenced to prison terms ranging from 21 to 55 months. A sixth suspect remains at large. All were in the country illegally.
Bouchard told the judge that his client had been in the country illegally for many years, working farm fields up and down the East Coast. He entered the country by purchasing a phony Social Security card for $100, Bouchard said.
He said Merino-Torres got involved with the prostitution ring to provide “a great benefit to the men who live away from their families.”
One Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words of Editorializing (NY Times Pics = Hick Immigration Opponents)
I hate the New York Crimes. I hate the New York Crimes. I hate the New York Crimes.
Ace Of Spades ^ | June 22, 2007 | Ace Of Spades
Posted on 06/25/2007 7:56:25 PM CDT by lowbridge
New York Times photographers, fair and balanced. How the New York Times sees the world -- and, more importantly, how the New York Times presents its view of the world to the public.
This is actually quite a funny piece. He's "vocal" about his support of Libby, but he'll "hide the truth".
They're scared, which is smart. But they're still morons.
Democrats tear into Fred Thompson By: Mike Allen June 25, 2007 04:35 PM EST
Even before his expected July announcement, Fred Thompson's all-but-declared entry into the Republican presidential stakes has prompted the Democratic National Committee to attack him as a potential GOP front-runner and to use his prospective candidacy to raise money.
Democratic strategists say Thompson's populist style and show-biz allure could prove extremely appealing in a general election at a time when voters are so down on Washington. So the party has launched a preemptive campaign against him that includes a DNC fundraising e-mail branding Thompson, "The inside-outsider."
"Remember the Republican culture of corruption?" the letter asks. "The revolving door of Republican politicians moving in and out of top political offices and Washington, D.C., lobbying firms? That's Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson. For years, acting wasn't the 'Law & Order' star's profession -- it was a hobby. In the real world, Thompson has made a fortune in a decades-long career as a Washington lobbyist. And just this month, as part of his role as the ultimate Washington insider, Thompson offered to host yet another fundraising event for Scooter Libby's legal defense fund. Thompson has been vocal in his support of Libby, saying that he would 'absolutely' pardon him. As he runs for president, he'll try his hardest to hide the truth from the American people. And we need to stop him. Support our efforts to get the truth out about Fred Thompson."
'Staunch supporter of Scooter Libby'The DNC is preparing expensive postal mailings to follow up on the e-mails targeting Thompson, party sources said.
The Fred Thompson Report, and another one out of the park.
June 25, 2007
The Queen and Free Speech
Last week, I was fortunate enough to spend some time in London. Being there, I couldn't help but think how much America owes to British culture and traditions. Even our past disagreements, like that “taxation without representation” thing, had their roots in British thought. The American Revolution can, in fact, be traced directly back to ideas set forth by the great British thinkers such as John Locke and Adam Smith.
For our part, I think what happened in the 13 colonies actually helped the British rid themselves of the “divine right of kings.” Perhaps because of the fact that we fought a war to escape undemocratic monarchy, Americans are sometimes puzzled by Britain's maintenance of royal institutions and traditions.
I've got to admit, though, that I’ve seen things in a slightly different light recently. The efforts by the two princes, Harry and William, to fight in Iraq impressed me. I was also impressed by the knighthood of author Salman Rushdie and the British reaction to the predictable outrage that followed.
That's not to say I'm a big fan of the British-Indian novelist. I don't agree with a lot of his criticism he's made of America and the UK in the past. But that's the point, really. In the West, we can disagree strongly with someone without issuing fatwas and calling for his death. We can even honor someone with whom we disagree.
In 1989, when Rushdie was first threatened with death by the Islamic regime in Iran, it was for saying far less critical things about Muslims than he’d said about American Christians. Since then, he's become a much stronger critic of Islamic intolerance and authoritarianism. Rushdie defended, for example, the publication of the Danish cartoons and has called for ending the oppression of women in Islam.
While Queen Elizabeth doesn't actually select those who’ll be knighted, lending her name to the honor is symbolically powerful. She and the honors committee who have put the "Sir" before Rushdie's name had to have known that it would provoke anger among those who believe Islam should be protected from criticism. Furthermore, Rushdie had to have known that accepting the honor would prompt renewed and serious calls for his murder -- and it has.
Already, Britain's Home Secretary John Reid has responded to a Pakistani government minister's comment that Rushdie’s knighthood justifies a suicide bombing on the writer. Standing by the knighthood, Reid reminded his international audience that the West tolerates movies made by Monty Python and Mel Gibson even if they offend Christians and Jews. Reid said that, "in the long run, our protection of the right to express your views in literature, argument (and) politics is of over-riding political value to our societies."
And for that, I say, “God Save the Queen.”
posted by Fred Dalton Thompson on 6/25/2007 5:28:41 PM
Michael Ramirez. Brilliant, as always.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
Oh, I do so love this man.
The trouble with environmental visions of a greener future is that we don't get to stick around to enjoy it
Mark Steyn - June 18, 2007
In St. Albans, Vermont, just south of the Quebec border, I happened to find myself behind a car bearing the bumper sticker "TO SAVE A TREE REMOVE A BUSH." Bush, geddit? As in George W. of that ilk.
It seemed a curious priority considering that, at that point, on all sides, east, west, north, south, there was nothing to see but trees. Hemlock, birch, maple, you name it, Vermont's full of it. The state is more forested than it was a century ago, or two centuries ago. It's on every measure other than tree cover that Vermont has problems. It's a beautiful state to drive through--picture-postcard New England town commons with clapboard churches and grade schools--until you pull over and realize the grade schools are half empty. I used to joke that Vermont was America's leading Canadian province, but in fact it's worse than that: demographically speaking, the Green Mountain State qualifies for membership in the European Union. It has the lowest birthrate of any American state. The number of 20 to 34-year-olds in Vermont has fallen by 20 per cent since 1990. Some schools have seen student populations fall by a third since 2000. Vermont's family tree is all tree and no families.
So how are the legislature and the governor dealing with their lack of human resources? Vermont already has the highest tax burden of any state, but that's no reason not to regulate even more of the economy into the ground. They've just introduced a law forbidding school buses from running their engines while waiting for children to board. With student enrolments plummeting, that would seem to be one of the few problems not requiring urgent action. But, as Governor Douglas (a Republican) boasted, "This is a great step forward for our state." Great for the environment, fuel conservation, all the good stuff. The wheels are coming off the Vermont bus, but at least its engine won't be idling as the thing falls apart.
The contrast between our solicitude to "the earth's resources" and our carelessness about human resources grows ever sharper. North of the border, we are blessed with the sage of sages, David Suzuki, who offered us his thoughts in a column called "Climate Change Myths Debunked." It wasn't the most helpful headline: the "myths" referred to were not the scaremongering of the Suzuki crowd but rather the "myths" of those climate change "deniers" who protest the scaremongering. In other words, Suzuki was going to "debunk" those of us who think that on this global warming business he and his pals are perpetrating a massive fraud on an admittedly gullible western world. They've been saying for years that "the science is settled" and they don't like the way of late they wander in for a softball TV interview only to find the producer, showing appalling l?se-majesté, has booked some impertinent whippersnapper of a dissenter for one of these point-counterpoint deals. "Media outlets love these guys (yes, they are mostly men and they tend to be the same, often paid, 'experts' over and over again) because it stirs things up," sighs David Suzuki, who evidently isn't a man, never appears on media outlets, and refuses to accept payment for his services.
So I settled down to enjoy his "debunking" of these mostly male experts. "Doubting the science of global warming has taken on an almost religious zeal," he complains, "doubting" being a renowned characteristic of religious zealots. "Talking to these people is hard because they come armed with obscure-sounding references about things like the 'medieval warm period,' 'solar flares' and 'hockey-stick' graphs."
They're not so "obscure-sounding," are they? The "medieval warm period" was the cluster of centuries around the turn of the first millennium when Greenland was really green, and a "solar flare" is a massive release of energy by the sun, and the "hockey stick" is a shameless bit of totally bogus mumbo-jumbo produced by the eco-zealots to suggest the planet's temperature chart looked like a long bungalow with the CN Tower tacked on the end to represent the 20th century. There, that wasn't so difficult, was it? One sentence.
But that's one sentence more than the great Suzuki can be bothered with. There's no "debunking" of any "myths" in his column. Instead, he just airily refers readers to the New Scientist website but, if you're too busy to get around to that, you should just take his word for it: the planet is in great peril and anyone who raises a skeptical eyebrow and starts talking about the "medieval warm period" is just some huckster who's trying to confuse poor l'il ol' you with a lot of flim-flam.
The environment turns up everywhere these days, even in the most unsavoury parts of the environment. For example, a Toronto crime scene. On May 18th, after a convivial lunch at the World Wildlife Fund, Glen Davis was shot to death in a parking garage. Aside from being a generous donor to Suzukiesque causes, the murder victim was best known for being the heir of Nels Davis, who became an extremely wealthy man in the Toronto of the 1930s and, upon his sudden death, bequeathed his fortune to his son. Davis fils lacked the entrepreneurial energy of his pa but he gave a lot to charity. In a column speculating on the possible reasons for such a bizarre murder, the Toronto Sun's Mark Bonokoski wrote:
"It was because of the sad state of an overpopulated planet, in fact, that Glen Davis and his wife, Mary Alice, reportedly decided against having children--despite the wherewithal to adopt entire Third World orphanages."
I don't know whether the planet is in a "sad state" but that paragraph certainly suggests the late Mr. Davis's life was. The reason the deceased did not "adopt entire Third World orphanages" is because he preferred to devote his "wherewithal" to the World Wildlife Fund and the Sierra Club, even though wherewithal-wise they've got more than they'll ever need. Glen Davis, like many others, subscribed to a thesis encapsulated in a crack made by one of my rougher rural neighbours from the porch of his broken-down cabin: "This'd be a pretty nice piece of land if I didn't live here," as he remarked to me drolly one morning.
The ecochondriacs mean it: This'd be a pretty nice planet if we didn't live here. David Suzuki's Canada is a prime example of the phenomenon: as our population becomes ever more urbanized around half-a-dozen metropolitan areas, we've lost any meaningful connection with the land but instead developed a bizarre fetishistic reverence for it. The land is no longer a source of sustenance for man. Au contraire, man must now sustain the land, constraining himself, abasing himself, apologizing to the trees for his mere presence while attempting to reassure "the environment" that, although undoubtedly a blight on it, he's not as bad as Bush. It's tough trying to keep up. I noticed the other day that all those yuppiefied municipalities that banned unsightly clotheslines a few years back are being forced to rethink their position because now the real environmental ugliness is that electric dryer in your laundry room. Another half-decade and we'll be back to beating our clothes dry on the rocks down by the river while singing tribal chants all morning long.
In the rest of the world, alas, life--i.e., human life--goes on. Glen Davis may have forsworn children, as have many other anti-humanists in North America and Europe. But in Sudan and Yemen and Pakistan they're still getting to it with gusto. One Canadian multigazillionaire's moppet here and there doesn't make a lot of difference when across the world others are more than willing to pick up the slack.
So many of the shibboleths of the age are a form of displacement. At the 2004 "March for Women's Lives" in Washington, the actresses Ashley Judd and Cybill Shepherd brandished a placard bearing the words "TOO BAD JOHN ASHCROFT'S MOTHER DIDN'T BELIEVE IN ABORTION!" Mr. Ashcroft was the U.S. attorney general at the time and a popular hate figure among kindly types like the Misses Judd and Shepherd.But I wonder whether the progressive lefties ever think through the logic of their own bumper stickers. Perhaps they're right. Perhaps John Ashcroft's mom didn't believe in abortion, which is why he's around to terrorize Ashley and Cybill. But what of all the millions of mothers who do believe in abortion and an overpopulated planet and the other pieties? Will they all vote, as Glen Davis did, for self-extinction? And, if they do, who'll be around to run the world? The future belongs to those who show up for it.
A good piece.
Books: Notable anti-religion and anti-Christian books of the past year—particularly Christopher Hitchens’ God Is Not Great—make something out of, well, nothing.
Nineteenth-century novelist Gustave Flaubert used to joke about archaeologists discovering a stone tablet signed "God" and reading, "I do not exist." His punch line had an atheist then exclaiming, "See! I told you so!"
These days, nothing stops atheistic caissons from rolling along the bookstore aisles. Maybe that's because atheists on average have small families and lots of discretionary doubloons jingling in their pockets. Sam Harris' Letter to a Christian Nation (Knopf), Daniel Dennett's Breaking the Spell (Penguin), and Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion (Houghton Mifflin) all hit bestseller lists during 2006—and a new book, Christopher Hitchens' God Is Not Great (Twelve), has ascended this year.
Last year's trio emerged alongside anti-Christian books purportedly based on hard reporting. Michelle Goldberg's Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism (Norton) typified the genre's misreporting when she wrote that Christian pregnancy counseling centers "usually" present false or exaggerated information—but there's no indication that she visited even one center, let alone the 3,000 or so that exist throughout the country. (Here's some evidentiary trivia: In four pages about me she makes five clear factual errors, along with many questionable interpretations.)
This year it's the same: a new screed by Chris Hedges has as its title not "Mistaken People" or even "Lying Liars," but American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America (Free Press). The genre is old, with new villains appearing as necessary. Ten years ago Frederick Clarkson's Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy stated that the sky was falling, with Promise Keepers as the spearhead of Christian dictatorship.
The ferocity of these books is sometimes astounding. Here, for example, is Dawkins' view of God: "arguably the most unpleasant character in fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully."
Even Publishers Weekly noted concerning The God Delusion, "For a scientist who criticizes religion for its intolerance, Dawkins has written a surprisingly intolerant book, full of scorn for religion and those who believe. . . . Even confirmed atheists who agree with his advocacy of science and vigorous rationalism may have trouble stomaching some of the rhetoric: 'The biblical Yahweh is "psychotic," Aquinas' proofs of God's existence are "fatuous" and religion generally is "nonsense."'
Happily, Alister and Joanna Collicutt McGrath have just come out with an effective response, The Dawkins Delusion? Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine (IVP). The McGraths note, "Until recently, Western atheism had waited patiently, believing that belief in God would simply die out. But now a whiff of panic is evident. Far from dying out, belief in God has rebounded."
The McGraths also point out the folly of believing that if religion were eliminated wars would cease: After all, conflicts often reflect human desires to declare some people as "in" and others as "out," sometimes on the basis of religion, but at other times on the basis of race, ethnicity, tribe, class, gender, or whatever.
Christianity is above all others the religion that seeks kindness to those in the out-group: Jesus told us to love our neighbors and even to love our enemies. When Christians fail to live up to His teachings it's because of sin, not Christianity—and scapegoating religion delays efforts to deal with the real problems of social division.
Scapegoating is also evident in the writing of Sam Harris, who frequently forgets to use reason and instead falls back on words like "preposterous." He asserts certainty about what he admits not knowing: "How the process of evolution got started is still a mystery, but that does not in the least suggest that a deity is likely to be lurking at the bottom of it all."
He complains not only about ignorance but about moral failings: "An average Christian, in an average church, listening to an average Sunday sermon has achieved a level of arrogance simply unimaginable in scientific discourse."
Yet Harris, for all his attacks on Intelligent Design, does not even understand the distinction between macro-evolution—one kind of creature changing into another—and micro-evolution. One of his proofs of theistic obtuseness is that "viruses like HIV, as well as a wide range of harmful bacteria, can be seen evolving right under our noses, developing resistance to antiviral and antibiotic drugs."
The one good aspect of Harris' work is his understanding that theology has consequences: "There is no escaping that fact that a person's religious beliefs uniquely determine what he thinks peace is good for, as well as what he means by a term like 'compassion.'" Harris at least understands that the biblical theology he hates makes obnoxious sense in a way that liberalism does not; given a suffering world, "liberal theology must stand revealed for what it is: the sheerest of mortal pretenses."
Harris also criticizes the niceties of political rhetoric concerning Islam: "The idea that Islam is a 'peaceful religion hijacked by extremists' is a fantasy." Too bad he and other atheistic authors are determined to believe that Christianity is inevitably hijacked by hate, and that they pick up support from reviewers like Natalie Angier, who wrote in The New York Times that "Harris writes what a sizeable number of us think, but few are willing to say."
Harris' work has also engendered several Christian responses this year. Doug Wilson's Letter from a Christian Citizen (American Vision) points out that Harris uses morally loaded words like "should" and "ought"; Wilson rightly asks Harris, "What is the difference between an imposed morality, an imposed religion, or an imposed secular ought? Why is your imposition to be preferred to any other?"
Wilson notes Harris' fondness for Eastern religions, and in particular the "utter non-violence" of the Jains in India. Letter from a Christian Citizen correctly notes that "Devout Jains will wear a mask to avoid breathing in and thereby killing any insect," and then asks whether Harris would commend evangelicals who "forsook the use of antibiotics because of the genocidal devastation it was causing to the microbes within."
Wilson also points out that the litany of religious folks fighting each other that Harris recites "is beside the point. We don't believe that religion is the answer. We believe Christ is the answer." Harris' list of religious messes merely confirms "one of the basic tents of the Christian faith, which is that the human race is all screwed up."
And what about this year's champion screed, offered by Christopher Hitchens? His scorn—"monotheistic religion is a plagiarism of a plagiarism of a hearsay of a hearsay, of an illusion of an illusion, extending all the way back to a fabrication of a few nonevents"—oozes off every page of God Is Not Great, with its extraordinary subtitle, How Religion Poisons Everything.
"Everything"? That sounds improbable. Are 1.3 billion Muslims all murderers? Might Christianity have produced 50 percent evil and 50 percent good? If not, how about 40 percent good? Thirty percent? Twenty percent? Ten percent? Will not Hitchens relent from his anger if we can find 5 percent that's good?
God Is Not Great has received extraordinary publicity, including an adulatory review in The New York Times, so it's worth going page by page to see what Hitchens is selling and many atheists are buying:
*On Page 4 he writes that religion produces a "maximum of servility." Islam, maybe, but were Abraham, Moses, and Job servile when they argued with God?
*On Page 5 he writes, "No statistic will ever find that without [religious] blandishments and threats [atheists] commit more crimes of greed or violence than the faithful." Prison Fellowship and other organizations can show that prisoners who go through evangelical programs have much lower recidivism—committing new crimes after release from prison, leading to new sentences—than others.
*On Page 7 he writes, "Religion spoke its last intelligible or noble or inspiring words a long time ago." Leaving aside the inspiration millions get from daily Bible reading, what about Martin Luther King Jr.'s speeches, with all their biblical imagery? Or Pope John Paul II, whose words inspired many people to rise up against Communism in Eastern Europe?
*On Page 17 he writes that religion "does not have the confidence in its own various preachings even to allow coexistence between different faiths." At the annual March for Life in Washington tens of thousands of Catholics and Protestants walk side by side along with individuals from Jews for Life, Buddhists for Life, and so on.
*n Page 32 he writes, "The nineteen suicide murderers of New York and Washington and Pennsylvania were beyond any doubt the most sincere believers on those planes." Todd Beamer, the man who said "Let's roll" on United Flight 93, and made sure it didn't crash into the U.S. Capitol, was a strong Christian believer. So were others who died, stopping the terrorists, when Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania.
Hitchens of course thinks the Bible is nonsense (see also "The world according to Hitch," June 3, 2006). On Page 102 he writes, "It goes without saying that none of the gruesome, disordered events described in Exodus ever took place." Without saying. A slam dunk. On Page 103: "All the Mosaic myths can be safely and easily discarded." On Page 104: All five books of Moses are "an ill-carpentered fiction."
Such pronouncements were repeatedly made in the 19th century, but again and again biblical accounts considered mythical back then have gained new archeological support. For example, scholars at one point said that the Hittites described in the Bible did not exist, nor did rulers such as Belshazzar of Babylon or Sargon of Assyria. Archeologists now have records of all those civilizations and reigns.
Many brilliant people have spent lifetimes studying these writings that Hitchens so blithely dismisses. Princeton's Robert Wilson, who knew 26 ancient languages and dialects and so could read just about all that remains from the ancient Near East, was impressed with the accuracy of those accounts that Hitchens wishes to discard.
Coming to the present, Hitchens on Page 160 calls "the whole racket of American evangelism . . . a heartless con." Hmm. WORLD for two decades has reported stories around this country of compassionate evangelicals who must be dumb, because they've spent their lives in a racket that's yielded them almost no money. They've adopted hard-to-place children, built AIDs orphanages in Africa, helped addicts and alcoholics to turn their lives around, transformed the lives of teens who were heading into drugs and crime, and much besides.
In responding to Hitchens and mini-Hitchenses, it's also worth noting the leadership of Christians over the centuries in setting up hospitals and schools. Historians such as Jonathan Hill of Oxford, Alvin Schmidt of Illinois College, and Rodney Stark of Baylor have described the long-term effect of Jesus telling his followers to love their neighbors as themselves.
The evangelical tendency to help others, not poison them, has even attracted the attention of New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who calls America's evangelicals "the newest internationalists" for fighting sexual trafficking in Eastern Europe and slavery in Sudan. As Jewish leader Michael Horowitz has put it, evangelicals "led the way in taking on the slavery issue of our time—the annual trafficking of millions of women and children into lives of sexual bondage . . . led the way in organizing a campaign to end a growing epidemic of prison rape."Horowitz concluded his message to evangelicals this way: "As you define your human rights successes as central to who you are and what you've done, it will no longer be possible for those who fear your faith to crudely caricature you or to ignore the virtue that Christian activism brings to American life and the world at large." Spoken too soon, because authors like Harris, Dennett, Dawkins, and especially Hitchens, despite all the evidence, still proclaim that religion, or Christianity in particular, poisons everything.
A good FReeper comment:
2 posted on 06/22/2007 11:11:12 AM CDT by massgopguy
The big problem with the idea of there being no God is that there are too many people who fancy that they could fill the void.
Friday, June 22, 2007
God bless her.
The second time Duncan M. MacDonald sent in an absentee ballot, an election worker in Federal Way called to ask about the paw print on the envelope. But it took three ballots before the prosecutor contacted the voting dog's owner.
Jane Balogh said she registered the Australian shepherd-terrier mix to vote in protest of a 2005 state voter-registration law that she says makes it too easy for noncitizens to vote.
She put her phone bill in Duncan's name, then used the phone bill as identification to register him as a voter.
"I wasn't trying to do anything fraudulent. I was trying to prove that our system is flawed. So I got myself in trouble," she says.
Prosecutors have offered the grandmother and Army veteran a deal: plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of making a false statement to a public official and they will not file a felony charge of providing false information on a voter-registration application.
Balogh said she doesn't plan to contest the charge because "I know I'm guilty." She said she submitted ballots in the dog's name in the September and November 2006 and May 2007 elections. She wrote "VOID" on the ballots and didn't cast any votes.
Prosecutors said they would recommend she be sentenced to 10 hours of community service, pay a $250 fine and commit no other crimes for a year. Balogh is scheduled to be arraigned in King County Superior Court on Tuesday.Acting Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg says his office "can't simply look the other way. They say you should let sleeping dogs lie, but you can't let voting dogs vote."
EDINBURG — Federal authorities were trying to find out today who stored 2,000 pounds of marijuana in a warehouse that caught fire.
It took more than 35 firefighters about half an hour to extinguish Wednesday's blaze with 1,000 gallons of water and five gallons of chemical suppressant, Edinburg Fire Chief Shawn Snider said.
Snider said the firefighters were exposed to so much marijuana smoke they would not be able to pass a drug test, despite the air packs they wore to prevent them from inhaling toxic or hazardous fumes.U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were called in to investigate the origin of the drugs, and the Hidalgo County fire marshal was investigating whether arson might have been the cause.
Bob Parks gives the floor to sheer brilliance:
by Bob Parks
Every now and then I get an email from a reader that puts a topic into words as good, if not better than I. This is one of those occasions.
Sarge57 sent me an account of a message sent to the "Concerned Duke Faculty", now affectionately known as the "Gang of 88". His letter was impassioned, but never rude or obscene. The response he received was telling….
"I wish to offer my personal encounter with one of the Duke 88 after I sent them a group email. It is detailed below.
"I was outraged by the arrogant and presumptive proclamation by 88 members of the Duke University after they took out an ad in a campus newspaper connecting the accused Duke Lacrosse players with intimidation and racism.
"Accordingly, I sent two group emails to the Duke 88. The only response I received was from one Paula McClain, who among her other offices is the Co-Director, Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Gender in the Social Sciences at Duke. Below is the second iteration of the two messages that I sent."
The Duke Rape case is a crystallization (pardon the pun) of all the corruption to the rule of law, linear reasoning and the presumption of innocence engendered by political correctness and Cultural Marxism (particularly that personified by campus professorial elites).
It has added a new phrase to the lexicon: To be Nifonged. The egregious conduct of Nifong will be addressed in other venues. As an Illinois state policeman for 28 years, I can say with near complete confidence that a case like this with these facts would never have passed Felony Review with even the WORST State’s Attorney that I ever dealt with.
The most important lesson to be gleaned from this is that Tawana Brawley Syndrome is no substitute for a proper analysis of the objective facts. I LOVE to see liberals like you hoisted on the petard of Political Correctness, racial identity politics, gender determinant feminism and what I have coined as “Tawana Brawley Syndrome”.
TBS exists when one takes a historical reality such as the marginalization of innocent blacks within a once overtly racist criminal justice system or the past subjugation of women or any number of other offenses and attempts to apply that to a contemporary situation wherein the objective facts don’t apply; ala OJ Simpson, Rodney King, Anita Hill etc. In the Brawley case, Al Sharpton was continually referencing the “400 years” of unrequited oppression for black women and their inability to obtain redress within a racist criminal justice system. The fact is that had absolutely nothing to do with the Tawana Brawley case.
None of this would have happened if an unscrupulous DA had not chosen to exploit racial identity politics using an apparently mentally ill woman for his political gain, and if the Duke 88, the Durham black community, the radical feminists, and the racial grievance industry merchants had sifted thru the facts objectively and not attempted to stuff them into lurid post modern meta-narratives of privileged white male elites sexually exploiting black women. But than the attendant historical overtones of plantation sexual abuse were probably too much for them to resist. I have increasingly noted that fact and truth present no barrier to the fanatical Cultural Marxist.
My question now is this: Will all those who stampeded to rush to judge and vilify these innocent men now arrange a meeting with them, ala Imus to apologize and create a genuine aura of “healing”? I hope so but I don’t think so, because often being a liberal means never having to say you’re sorry.
Aside from the fact that petty tyrants like you have turned US college campuses into little ivy covered North Koreas, I suspect that you were seeking to appropriate PC bonus points and obtain instant moral authority by championing the cause of the “other” (marginalized black exotic dancer) against racist male chauvinist members of the privileged white elite. A case of cultural Marxist Class warfare that boomeranged. GOD how I love it so!!!!!
Even though I despise the racial identity politics that mindlessly multicultural cultural Marxists like you have fostered amongst my people to our ultimate detriment, I would like to state that I am a black man living in the heart of Chicago’s South Side ghetto, who values the rule of law and truth as best as it can be objectively and humanly determined.
It would be fitting if they get a pretty penny from you.
"I got the response below:"
Your continued messages have now moved into the realm of harassment and I have reported you to your service provider for using abusive and inappropriate language in your email which was sent through their servers.
Paula D. McClain
Professor of Political Science
Professor of Public Policy
Department of Political Science
Co-Director, Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity
and Gender in the Social Sciences
"Accordingly, I responded as follows"
I was unaware that the 2 emails that I sent to you had caused you such distress. I wish to tender my apologies and desire to assure you that you shall receive no further messages from me. But since you are a college professor I was acting upon the putative assumption that universities are about the exchange of ideas, and I thought that my admittedly critically gloating message might prompt a suitable rejoinder. My missive was harsh, yes even severe. But it does contain concepts and ideas that however offensive ought to provoke a suitably barbed retort rather than a threat of server censorship.
Alas, I shall have to reconsider the notion that the campus is about the free exchange of ideas. But this is precisely what I was getting at in my email. If you can ever manage to free yourself from leftist dogmatic doctrine maybe you will realize that.
This is the best evidence of the thought policing that must be extant on all too many college campuses. If she can threaten me with this, someone unconnected with Duke University, just imagine the ax that she wields over any dissenting students!!!! Political Correctness is the intellectual scourge of our time and the worst threat to academic freedom that I have ever seen.
"I have learned today that Duke has named McClain to head the Academic Affairs Dept. The anti-exterminators at Duke's administration have decided to shield their professorial termites from tort pesticides so they may continue their destruction of Duke’s edifice. One of the queen termites is even getting a new throne!!!!! No speaking truth to power there!!!!"
Way to go, Sarge.
And while we're at it, let's not let the mainstream media off the hook.
The tragedy remains that in America (and around the world), women are raped every day. What's sad is that in this case, the "rape" met a template liberals in the media salivated at exposing: White privileged kids at an elite university sexually assaulting and humiliating a poor, defenseless Black woman who was doing what she had to do to support her family.
Of all the rapes that occur in the state of North Carolina, if not the nation, this was the one singled out for exposure because it was racially sensational. Had it not been for the race element, Mike Nifong may not have abused the case for political gain (however, he is a Democrat, so…). The exposure emboldened the Gang of 88, polarized and created fear and loathing on a college campus, and energized the PC-trained student goon squads.
It's not over.