Pick that up, will you, Dierdre?

Monty Python fans will know what I’m talking about. Holy Mackerel!

Refusing help, woman gives birth aboard T
By C. Kalimah Redd and Mac Daniel, Globe Correspondent and Globe Staff, 7/31/2003
A 42-year-old Braintree woman gave birth to a baby boy while standing on an inbound Red Line train yesterday morning, refusing help from stunned passengers who heard her moan and seconds later looked down to find her baby on the floor.
Witnesses told police that Joyce M. Judge, a former nurse who later said she was on the way to a Boston hospital, kept quietly refusing help during and after the delivery.
” `Thanks for your concern, we’re OK,’ ” she said, according to Chris Chin of Duxbury. Standing 4 feet away from Judge, Chin said, he saw her tie the umbilical cord in a knot and wrap the baby in a silk scarf. ”She cradled the baby in one arm and grabbed the handrail with the other and continued to ride the T and stare out the window.” ”

By way of Die Puny Humans

Operation Oily Immunity

Lest we forget, it’s still about the oil.

Operation Oily Immunity
“For the Bush/Cheney administration and their allies in the oil industry, this was not enough. Hours after the UN endorsed US control of the ‘Development Fund’ for Iraq, Bush signed an executive order that was spun as implementing Resolution 1483, but in reality, went much further towards attracting investment and minimizing risk for US corporations in Iraq.
Executive Order 13303 decrees that ‘any attachment, judgment, decree, lien, execution, garnishment, or other judicial process is prohibited, and shall be deemed null and void’, with respect to the Development Fund for Iraq and ‘all Iraqi petroleum and petroleum products, and interests therein.’
In other words, if ExxonMobil or ChevronTexaco touch Iraqi oil, it will be immune from legal proceedings in the US. Anything that could go, and elsewhere has gone, awry with U.S. corporate oil operations will be immune to judgment: a massive tanker accident; an explosion at an oil refinery; the employment of slave labor to build a pipeline; murder of locals by corporate security; the release of billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The President, with a stroke of the pen, signed away the rights of Saddam’s victims, creditors and of the next true Iraqi government to be compensated through legal action. Bush’s order unilaterally declares Iraqi oil to be the unassailable province of U.S. corporations.
In the short term, through the Development Fund and the Export-Import Bank programs, the Iraqi peoples’ oil will finance U.S. corporate entrees into Iraq. In the long term, Executive Order 13303 protects anything those corporations do to seize control of Iraq’s oil, from the point of production to the gas pump – and places oil companies above the rule of law. “

John Dean on Bush’s Lies Lies Lies

Lying to Congress is a criminal offense, ya know. John Dean lays out the case of Bush’s State of the Union deception.

John Dean: Why A Special Prosecutor’s Investigation Is Needed To Sort Out the Niger Uranium And Related WMDs Mess: “The heart of President Bush’s January 28 State of the Union address was his case for going to war against Saddam Hussein. In making his case, the President laid out fact after fact about Saddam’s alleged unconventional weapons. Indeed, the claim that these WMDs posed an imminent threat was his primary argument in favor of war.
Now, as more and more time passes with WMDs still not found, it seems that some of those facts may not have been true. In particular, recent controversy has focused on the President’s citations to British intelligence purportedly showing that Saddam was seeking ‘significant quantities of uranium from Africa.’
In this column, I will examine the publicly available evidence relating to this and other statements in the State of the Union concerning Saddam’s WMDs. Obviously, I do not have access to the classified information the President doubtless relied upon. But much of the relevant information he drew from appears to have been declassified, and made available for inquiring minds.
What I found, in critically examining Bush’s evidence, is not pretty. The African uranium matter is merely indicative of larger problems, and troubling questions of potential and widespread criminality when taking the nation to war. It appears that not only the Niger uranium hoax, but most everything else that Bush said about Saddam Hussein’s weapons was false, fabricated, exaggerated, or phony.”

Read the rest to see Dean pull apart the speech point by point.

Terms of Engagement: Eric Margolis

First of all, a big huzzah to Blogger for finally getting Blog This! up and running again. Now I can freely blog stuff I like with the click of a button. Well done, peeps.
First off, I’d like to post this Devil’s Dictionary of Iraq Doublespeak by Eric Margolis.

Liberation – Invasion.
* Coalition – The U.S. and British invaders, plus some troops from rent-a-nations like Romania and Poland. In the past, “the coalition” would have been called imperial forces and mercenary auxiliaries.
* Dictator – A ruler you don’t like, or who does not cooperate.
* Statesman – A cooperative dictator.
* Stability – when things go the way Uncle Sam likes, ie., the status quo.
* Instability – when things don’t go the way Unc Sam wants, ie., when trouble-makers try to change the status quo.

Dune

Dir. David Lynch, 1984
Inspired by the overview of the novels found in last month’s issue of The Believer,
I decided to finally watch the Lynch version I bought on DVD last September in Taiwan (not a bootleg, mind you). I’ve seen the film once before, on British TV back in the late ’80s, and remember very little except lots of troops and explosions.
So another look. You can see the things that Lynch finds interesting (the evil, rapacious Baron; the floating elephant foetus thing; the dreams; the prophecy; the decor and the retrotech we would now call steampunk) and the things he finds utterly boring (the aforementioned explosions, the plot, the regal lineage and the large cast of characters).
You wish he had been a bit more daring with his adaptation, and I wonder how much of a Frank Herbert fan he was growing up. The plot is essentially that of betrayal/banishment/transformation/return/success, the thought behind it one of theological (and ecological) revolution. But the film seems in no rush to get to this story. I also wonder how popular a story like this would be now, dealing as it does with a native people of a sandy planet banding together to proclaim a “jihad” against the imperialists who are stealing its natural resources. And the leader of this violent overthrow is the film’s hero! Blimey.
In fact, the first hour is not so bad, with the most amazing sets and design that seem lost to most recent sci-fi (The Matrix is not exactly the most exciting film to look at, and Reloaded’s underground city showed us nothing new.) What other film has a factory with a chimney the shape of an open baby’s mouth? Not many. When the first battles begin the editing and pace falls apart. It looks either like Lynch didn’t shoot enough, or too much, or that they let an intern have at the flatbed. The film becomes incomprehensible just in the visuals. And then the poncing around in caves, and the low-rent blue screen effects just suck. Lynch fans who desperately want to see the director-disowned “television cut” that adds another hour to the film are either under the delusion that there’s some brilliant Lynchian weirdness hiding on the cutting room floor, or masochistic.
I did enjoy seeing all the actors who would soon populate Lynch’s better works: Kyle McLaughlan (large hair that constantly screams “soundtrack by Toto”), Dean Stockwell (with a ridiculous moustache), Everett McGill (rugged beard), Brad Dourif (Willy Wonka Temp Agency hair) and good ol’ Jack Nance (a total of five lines of dialog; I guess Lynch just wanted him to hang out on the set).
And then there’s Patrick Stewart, whose finest moment comes when he leads a charge in the first battle, holding the dead emperor’s pug dog, and yelling “Long Live Emperor Leto!” or something. The shots of the pug throughout caused me much mirth, and I would have liked to have seen more soldiers going into battle carrying pugs, or perhaps a pug riding a giant sand worm, or a pug growing so large and eating so much Puppy Chow Now With Added Spice that it learned to fold time itself.

Lucia, Lucia

Dir. Antonio Serrano, 2003
Retitled from the unwieldy “La Hija del canibal” (Daughter of the Cannibal),
which, though the true to the original novel, suggests that this is a horror movie, instead of the mid-life crisis film it actually is. The movie starts off energetically, and I was a bit excited wondering whether again I was watching another chapter in the rebirth of Mexican cinema. Lucia (Celia Roth) plays a 40-something children’s book author whose husband mysteriously disappears at the airport just before a vacation trip. As the plot unwinds, she befriends two men in her apartment building, a young man and an old revolutionary, and they help her get to the bottom of the rather convoluted mystery. Of course, she grows as a person, and falls a bit in love with the younger man. It’s a bit like Shirley Valentine crossed with Under the Sand crossed with Y Tu Mama Tambien crossed with When The Cat’s Away, but not in that order.
Unfortunately, the movie has zero dramatic momentum. Lucia doesn’t seem to have lost much and if her marriage was so loveless, where’s the desire to get the husband back? The director throws in a lot of tricky narrative moves (which may be in the novel) and toys with subjectivity (she’s an author, see, and you know they make stories up) to no effect.
On a personal level, my wife is currently on a business trip to Mexico City and experiencing that city for the first time, so I got a kick out of seeing the locations. I almost expected her to have a walk-on as an extra.
After the film (which was a preview I was invited to sit in on) a fellow theatergoer asked my viewing companion what he thought. When he replied with lukewarm sentences, she said “Well, I guess you have to be a middle-aged woman,” which, in fact, she was. Nothing gets my goat like a phrase like that, as if to enjoy the Wizard of Oz you have to be a) 12-years-old b) from Kansas c) a girl and d) have survived a tornado. It runs counter to entire notions of what art is and can be.

The Latest Poop for the Latest Scoop

I haven’t been posting recently, not because I’m not outraged, but because Blogger has moved over to a new system and they still haven’t updated their “blog this!” script. This script, for those who don’t blog, allows URLs to be selected and instantly sent over to Blogger along with a few comments. It’s like bookmarking sites, but this bookmark becomes your blog entry. It saves a lot of computer coding. (The script is usually located in the favorites toolbar across the top of Internet Explorer.) This is essential for blogging politics, as so much is read during the day. But for some reason, they can’t get it to work with IE. The decision to blog an article now is more convoluted. I have to now follow 10 steps instead of 1. I’m looking into Movable Type as a system to move over to.
Anyway, it’s nice to see the fascists on the defensive, though even Bush-haters seem to believe the man is so out of the loop he can’t possibly be to blame (that many people think this is, I think, the sign of another successful Karl Rove strategy.) However, the story I quoted below later turned out to be erroneous. I found a link saying so, but because I have no “Blog This” I’ve lost it. Trust me, it was wrong, and maybe sounded too good to be true. On the other hand, the Shrub saying we went to war because Saddam wouldn’t let in inspectors is too dumb to be real, but he actually said that.
At least I admitted my information was faulty, and, unlike Bush, I don’t have anybody’s blood on my hands (you murderer. ..murderer…murderer…).
I’d finally like to recommend everybody take a look at, and sign up for, TomDispatch.com. Written by Tom Engelhardt, it is a thrice-weekly examination of the press and the events of the day. He is especially focused on the return of the vocabulary of Watergate and Vietnam to our discourse: quagmire, guerilla warfare, etc. etc. He chooses one or two major editorials to read, and they’re usually worth the time. Yesterday’s linked essay, a Russian think-piece on Kim Jon-Il, was particularly fascinating.
I may have misspelled Kim’s name, but it is going on 2 a.m.

Promises

Dirs. B.Z. Goldberg, Justine Shapiro, and Carlos Bolado, 2001
Poignant documentary that sets out to understand the Israeli/Palestinian issue
through the eyes of seven children from both sides, some religious, some secular, all living 15 minutes from each other, but, as the film points out, worlds away. After spending time with each kid (ages 9-13) and providing some context as to their economic background, family life, etc. the filmmakers then engage in two involvements–taking one Palestinian kid, Faraj and his grandmother past Israeli lines and to the site of their old village, the one the grandmother was forced to flee from and what has since been razed; the other is arranging for the two secular Israeli twins to come and play with Faraj and his friends (shades of the fabled WWI soccer match in the trenches).
All the children are well-spoken and articulate, and speak with a maturity that comes from living in a war zone. That is save Moishe, the rather plump Jewish kid living in a right-wing settlement; he seems very slow and talks as if his prejudice is giving him a sinus infection.
He got me thinking about the settlements. You could almost make a parallel between the settlements and the cookie-cutter McMansions that are eating up all our natural space, and not just in the architecture and the economic status of the homeowners. Both seem to be built up in the middle of, and to ward off, fear; the Jewish settlers’ fear of violence is way more tangible than sunny CA, but the whole design is the architecture of isolation and separatism, not unlike the “white flight” that leads to bland SoCal houses, large SUVs, and families huddled inside oversized family rooms, worrying about blacks or Hispanics breaking in, where they will sodomize the children and cause their property value to plummet. Moishe’s utter refusal to have anything to do with the people just a few chain link fences away remains unchanged; Mahmoud, who lives in Jerusalem proper and can travel freely, is just as blinkered on the Arab side. And though the ultra-orthodox Shlomo is much more worldly and articulate, he winds up saying the same thing, only more in the abstract and with a smile on his face.
I began to wonder what would happen if all the motorist checkpoints were taken away. Would it lead to more violence, or would it slowly lead to assimilation?
Lastly, though the filmmakers do a competent job with limited funds (all shot on video, and sometimes not even good video), the only false note is hit when the camera cuts from the crying Faraj (who knows that no matter how fun the day was meeting actual Israeli children his own age, once the camera crew go home, the problems will start again) to a weeping B.Z. Goldberg, who has been the kids’ on-screen go-between. They should have held it just on Fazad; as it is, Goldberg seems intent on letting us know how torn up he is (and how much we should be).

The Culture of Complaint – Robert Hughes

Oxford University Press, 1993
Originally subtitled “The Fraying of America” for the hardbound first edition
that I just read (the one currently is called “A Passionate Look into the Ailing Heart of America,” and I’d be curious why and when this changed.) Ten years later, how does Hughes criticism of America hold up?
The Victimhood Culture is still with us, though as it applies to feminism and on campus, I think this has mutated into what Hughes would probably term “un-PC.” Debates over what to call people, places, and things don’t really exist now. Either they’ve been accepted and subsumed into culture (gender based job titles seem a thing of the past) or they’ve been dropped from simple unweildiness. Yet, America is full of victims, and from out of that comes costly litigation. The current lawsuits against big tobacco for causing cancer and against fast food chains for causing obesity are just two examples. (Myself, despite my distrust of big business, consider most of these suits completely frivolous. I still believe in free will, and I don’t believe that people 50 years ago had no ideas of the dangers of smoking. Maybe they didn’t know all the dangers, but I don’t think they thought it was good for you. Still, those same people no doubt thought alcohol was nothing but trouble, yet here’s doctors telling us today a little tipple keeps you healthy.) Victimhood is tied into exploitation and big business (drug companies) and shows no sign of going away.
Many of the worries that Hughes was concerned about were based upon a country where the concept of free speech was being debated in context to art movements (his chapter on Mapplethorpe, Serano’s “Piss Christ”, and the NEA scandal seems so very long ago; when was the last time art made headlines except for earning milllions at auction?). Now free speech itself is threatened by Christian fascists such as Ashcroft, nobody’s really worried about whether a photograph is rude or not.
Hughes wrote and published this just as Clinton was being inaugurated, and part of the book is taking stock of 12 years of Reaganism. He’s not too sure about Clinton, but he has little of anything good to say about Bush. Again, how long ago it feels.
Hughes also sees the dumbing down of American education as a result of anti-elitism, cultivated by the Right, enacted by the Left. Here I think he’s still correct. The basics are not being taught, and students are coming to college knowing nothing (and this is based on my experience working with them). On the other hand, there’s free will: if you really want to learn more and keep on learning, you can do it.
There’s a nice section where Hughes talks a little bit about his education and life growing up in Australia, which taught me a thing or two. It wasn’t too long ago, either.

In those days we had a small, 95 percent white, Anglo-Irish society, in whose public schools you could learn Latiin but not Italian, ancient but not modern Greek. What we learned of the world in school came through the great tradition (and I use the word without irony) of English letters and English history. We were taught little Australian history. Of the world’s great religions other than Christianity–Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam–we were as perfectly ignorant as a row of cats looking at a TV set; or would have been, if Australia had had television in 1955, which, luckily, it did not.

His defence of multiculturalism as an addition to culture, not as a separate or “better” culture is particularly well argued and written, and says what I’ve always thought. Increase knowledge, not replace it.
His last chapter on art makes the case against people who believe art shoud somehow been “good” for you, like a curative. Hughes traces this thought back to the Puritans, and the early Americans first shocking encounter (a few generations on) with European culture. (This brought me back to a SBCC class I had years ago (maybe it was just a onetime lecture) about American art, pre-20th century. Oh, how achingly dull I found it.) If America had been founded by Catholics who somehow had broken from Rome, but kept all the artistic stuff (painting, architecture, the lot), how different America would have been…perhaps.
Anyway, 1993 sounds like a time when the culture was being debated. Now we’re watching our entire country be destroyed and petty artistic or linguistic squabbles are not on the table. Still, it’s a worthwhile book. Hughes is certainly no friend of the ultra-left, and he loathes the right, yet he isn’t a middlebrow. He’s just an independent thinker who calls America his home. I wonder what he’s been thinking recently?
Lastly, while reading the book I sent this thought to my friend Chris a week ago.:

“The situation that Hughes writes about in the CofC, esp. on the Left, has
largely disappeared. I don’t think there’s a hysteria anymore on what to
call somebody or something (even if the hysteria was media created,
perhaps). What *has* happened, and what Hughes and the Left didn’t see
coming, was that PC talk, and the things it tries to hide, has been taken
and adapted by the Right. How else could they use the phrase “class warfare”
and get away with it?”

All right, class, now discuss.