Saturday, May 21, 2005

 

Seen This Picture Before?

An anecdote of detainee abuse:

Even though military investigators learned soon after Mr. Dilawar's death
that he had been abused by at least two interrogators, the Army's criminal
inquiry moved slowly. Meanwhile, many of the Bagram interrogators, led by the same operations officer, Capt. Carolyn A. Wood, were redeployed to Iraq and in July 2003 took charge of interrogations at the Abu Ghraib prison. According to a high-level Army inquiry last year, Captain Wood applied techniques there that were "remarkably similar" to those used at Bagram.
Okay, let's see if we've got that right: Abuse occurs in an "institution"; those in authority are slow to examine the behavior. The abusers, instead of being punished are reassigned -- where reports of even more abuse come to light.

So who's running the U.S. war prisoner policy -- Bernard Cardinal Law?

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Made of Sterner Stuff

At least one witness in the steroid hearings this week got it.

NBA Commissioner David Stern to the over-the-top Stephen Lynch (D-MA): "[T]he reality is, it worries me greatly if the absence of testing for any body -- including the members of Congress -- would somehow be used to say, 'Well, if you don't have it, that's proof that it must exist,' and then referring to a policy as pathetic." (Emphasis added.)

Exactly. Which raises the question: If Congress deems that children might get the wrong idea if they suspect that their sports heroes are using drugs to get ahead, then why not pass a law mandating every member of Congress take for random drug-testing? Surely passing laws is far more important than hitting a home run or scoring a touchdown?

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Paging Brian Anderson!!!

From the Times' exhaustive piece Friday on the abuse of Afghan prisoners:

One captain nicknamed members of the Third Platoon "the Testosterone Gang." Several were devout bodybuilders. Upon arriving in Afghanistan, a group of the soldiers decorated their tent with a Confederate flag, one soldier said.

Some of the same M.P.'s took a particular interest in an emotionally
disturbed Afghan detainee who was known to eat his feces and mutilate himself with concertina wire. The soldiers kneed the man repeatedly in the legs and, at one point, chained him with his arms straight up in the air, Specialist Callaway told investigators. They also nicknamed him "Timmy," after a disabled child in the animated television series "South Park." One of the guards who beat the prisoner also taught him to screech like the cartoon character, Specialist Callaway said.

Eventually, the man was sent home.

Testosterone? Confederate flag? "Timmy"? Oh well, there goes the South Park Conservative brand.

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Friday, May 20, 2005

 

FCCB???

Ah, after only one week, FCCB has to be postponed! I'm in DC (yucky weather!) at a Chamber of Commerce conference. Check in over the weekend for some comic-book related stuff.

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More Hill 'Roid Rage

The congressional steroid hearings continued Thursday. If my prior post gave the suggestion that this is a totally GOP-controlled runaway train, the Thursday farce showed Democrats brandishing their Big Government Busybodied outrage in full:

[House Government Reform Committee Ranking Democrat Henry] Waxman called the NBA's policy "simply inadequate." Rep. William Lacy Clay, a Missouri Democrat, called it "a joke." Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, said the NBA's policy is "weaker than the NFL or MLB's." And Rep. Stephen Lynch, a Massachusetts Democrat, said: "It is, in my opinion, rather pathetic."
Still, Rep. Tom Davis, the committee chair, refused to be outdone in official blowhardness:

"Certainly, the NBA is not suffering under the same cloud of steroid-use suspicion that has been hovering over other professional sports." Davis said. "[But] how do we know for sure there's no steroid problem in the NBA if its testing policies are so weak?"

So, for the record, baseball starts a testing program -- resulting in several suspensions (albeit mainly at the minor league level) -- but Congress declares that it's not enough. The NBA, which has indicated very little problems in this area (yes, it has a few others), however has to prove its innocence, because, um, well, just because!

Oh, well, because, steroids must have been responsible for the Detroit Pistons-Indiana Pacers fight last year! Yep, that would be the above mentioned Stephen Lynch from Massachusetts: "I'm not saying it was caused by steroid use. I'm saying you don't know." Well, I'm not saying that Lynch's stupidity was caused by steroid use. I'm just saying you don't know.

That's the meme that has hung over all of these hearings. Congress "don't know" but is hell-bent on tossing out much revered American traditions like innocent-until-proven guilty. Ah, memories of the comic-book scares of the 1950's....

Meanwhile, momentum increased for the Davis-Waxman-McCain bill to adopt the "Olympic model" (two-year ban for first offense; lifetime for the second). OK, now, if I'm not mistaken, that would be the testing "model" that failed to catch
this lady.

Marion Jones wasn't caught because of the vaunted "Olympic model." She was caught (ahem, implicated) by being named in the BALCO investigation -- just like Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi. In other words, this Olympic testing model has its own flaws. It was the good old American judicial system that shone a light on BALCO and steroids. Without it, Jones would likely have been home free, instead of being disgraced, facing the loss of her 2000 medals and possibly more legal problems.

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Thursday, May 19, 2005

 

This Is Your Congress on Steroids...

Given that "aggression," "grandiose beliefs" and "reckless behavior" are all associated with steroid use, maybe it's time that our elected leaders were tested. The behavior demonstrated this week certainly raises suspicions.

With Terri Schiavo having departed the scene (both literally and in the sense of a media-obsessive issue), Congress' latest demonstration of how it knows what is best when it comes to dealing with the human body is telling major league sports exactly what their policies must be on the topic of steroids.

When you have Major League Players Association Executive Director Don Fehr and MLB Commissioner Bud Selig on one side, it's pretty hard to find individuals more arrogant -- yet on Wednesday, there sat members of Congress at a
House Energy and Commerce subcommittee.

The most ridiculous moment occured when Pennsylvania Republican Tim Murphy demanded of Fehr, "Do you give your kids five chances if they say they want to experiment with drugs?" Fehr's initial response was, "Well, I wouldn't kick them out of the house."

Flip though it might have been, that was actually on point. The "solution" many in Congress want the major sports to go along with is to adopt the "Olympic" standard on steroids: a two-year suspension for the first violation and a lifetime ban for a second. Fehr's contention was that that a two-year punishment amounted in many cases to ending a player's career. Thus, the "kicking them out of the house" line.

Murphy pompously shot back, "You didn't answer the question: Would you give your children five chances to use a dangerous drug?" Fehr then said no.

And this is where congressional arrogance comes in: Don Fehr is not the parent of the baseball players. As head of their union, he reports to them. Bud Selig is not their parent either -- though having been beaten so many times by the baseball union in collective bargaining, the commissioner is only too happy to cave into what Congress is pushing.

And what about limited government? Oh, that's so, like 20th century: Joe Barton, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee
says: "In a perfect world, I'd rather this be done in collective bargaining. [But] I think we've gone too long basically asking the marketplace to do it. I am really going to try to get a federal bill." The fact that home runs are actually down this year means nothing. Filled with "grandiose beliefs" and driven by the ultimate 'roid rage -- an inflated sense of their own self-importance, Congress is rushing pell-mell to do something.

No wonder their ratings are in the
toilet.

RAGGED THOTS reader (and obvious baseball fan) "ERA" writes that he heard ESPN's Peter Gammons say (on "Baseball Tonight" Wednesday): " . . . First off, Congress does have double standards here. There are a lot of different standards for Tom DeLay than there is for baseball players. I mean, there is no question about that.. ."

I thought, oh no, say it isn't so: Peter Gammons taking a cheap shot at the House majority leader? That can't be right.

But then I thought about it. Of course, he's right. Want a double-standard? Consider this: DeLay is strongly critical of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy for using
international law as a guideline in several court cases. Yet, the law House Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis says could be introduced as early as next week would conceivably overrule any negotiated labor agreements by an American sports league and their players -- in favor of an international standard.

And after going for sports leagues, what's to stop Congress from determining that the "marketplace" is taking "too long" in other industries as well?

Lock up your kids, ladies and gentlemen. This is not a pretty sight. This is your government on steroids.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

 

OK, So Irving Plaza Doesn't Really Suck

Acoustically, it's a nice place to see/hear a band.

GoF played well with a lot of energy. They went through most of Entertainment, their first, best and best-known album.

"To Hell With Poverty" closed out the first encore. They briefly left the stage before concluding with their other mini-anthem, "I Found That Essence Rare."

But that was it! Little more than an hour after they started, they were gone! And no "I Love A Man In Uniform?" How can any self-respecting Lefty not play that sardonic, danceable anti-military ditty?

Sure they don't have the body of work of a U2 to support a two-hour show, but at least they could give their fans as complete a show as possible.

But, hey, when have Marxists ever been able to live up to the claims & promises that the dogma asserted?

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It's Not For Great Men

GoF's first album came out in '78. After all sorts of break-ups, they've been essentially defunct for a dozen years. But they sound as tight and energized as any current band.

Frontman Jon King (not the CNN guy) is a natural.

Hmm...given the Marxist dialectic that infuses their music, one must ask if it is better for art to be inspired by a false God such as Marxism rather than Mammon or Nihilism that seems to drive contemporary rappers and rap-rockers.

Ah! "Anthrax"! ("Love will get you like a case of anthrax/And that's something I don't want to catch!") A much scarier song today -- with multiple meanings -- than 25 years ago.

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Irving Plaza Sux!

Well, not literally, but enough. Tonight, on my O.F. 05
Musical Tour, Im seeing Gang of Four -- the funky
post-punk leftist band.

So, after spending 25 bucks for a ticket (to hell with
poverty!), I am told that I *must* check my cloth
briefcase. Fee -- dollar-fifty. I am told that if I
need to get anything out mid-show, itll cost me
another buck -- for my own stuff. I cant be the only
one annoyed by this. Somehow, I think such a fee would
end up coming out of the coat-check girls tip.

Thus, does capitalism eat itself -- and freedom too.


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Exactly Right...

John Derbyshire on George Galloway. The British parliamentary system rewards aggressive, combative, rhetoric, whereas U.S. senators are bread on comity and consensus (well, until the debate on judges is over anyway). Frankly, it might be another reason why senators make such god-awful presidential candidates.

Anne Applebaum on Newsweek. It's bad enough that the rush to condemn the magazine ends up giving rioting Islamists a pass on the deaths they caused (notable exception: Andrew McCarthy -- Andy, can't wait for Weekend At Gitmo's!). Not recognizing that if Newsweek is the straw that broke the camel's back (forgive the culturally-insensitive analogy), who's responsible for piling the rest of the stuff up? Oh, yeah, just some random, low-level guys in the military ranks. Right.

Jim Pinkerton has carefully nuanced take that sees no heroes anywhere.

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What Can Brown Do For You?

Some actual straightforward takes on Janice Rogers Brown? Who'd a thunk it? My latest Huffington Post.

Darn it! I should have started a drinking game for when the judicial battles got to the Senate floor. A high-ball for every GOP senator who uses the phrase "sharecropper's daughter." A shot for every Democrat who mentions Clinton judges blocked.

Everybody will be sloshed by midday for sure.

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Good Idea At The Time...


...live blogging U2 in concert!

Alas, something between the still-somewhat new Treo and blogger just didn't want it to happen. Oh well, here's a near-chronological approximation of what went on Tuesday night in Joisey.

Taking up from the UPDATE in the earlier post:

"Miracle Drug" -- Bono references Lou Reed's "Busload of Faith" -- tries to show that there should be no contradiction between faith and medicine. (an allusion to stem-cell research, perhaps?)
"Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own"
"New Year's Day"/"Sunday Bloody Sunday"/"Bullet The Blue Sky"

"Running To Stand Still" -- dedicated to men and women in US military. Then comes a recounting of the principles of the UN Declaration of Human Rights -- first just print, then young children on screen verbalize the principles -- serves as an intro to "Pride (In The Name of Love)."

Could anyone other than U2 follow one song dedicated to the troops w/ one for MLK?

"Where The Streets Have No Name"

"We're asking you to bring man back to earth." -- Bono says to Bush, Blair & Chirac -- as he plugs his anti-African hunger effort.

"One" -- B. asks everyone to TM his foundation [86483] and give their name.

Kinda cool that cellphones have essentialy replaced lighters as the sign of concert unity in our health conscious world.

Encore: "Zoo Station" from Achtung Baby!
"Love Is Blindness" (I think -- A band with such a product that it is impossible to remember all the songs.)


"Mysterious Ways"
"Original of The Species"
"All Because of You"
"Yahweh"
"40"
"Vertigo"
(Making a literal "encore," they proudly play their big hit single for the second time. They leave with a song that vows to "give me something I can feel." )
And boy do they ever.

Of course, they leave you demanding more. Hey, they didn't play, arguably their two biggest hits -- "With or Without You" or "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." But it would be hard to say that after more than two hours, anyone left disappointed

In fact, departing the Continental Arena, this scene captures the eye:

A mother and father in their late 30s-mid-40s; the daughter is barely a teenager.

Is U2 now the only band in an increasingly fractured culture where no one -- liberal, conservative, parent, teenager -- need be embarassed going to see them in concert?

The smart writing brings the adults -- the impossible-to-fake passion captures the young. Or maybe it's the other way around. They preach without being too preachy. They recognize that there are problems in the world, but prefer to see America as a solution to them, not a creator of them. A quarter of a century after they started, they are still making relevant music and feel comfortable speaking to audiences about certain issues rather than just speaking at them.

A great band.


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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

 

The Only Band That Matters...

...Today is U2. "Vertigo" is in the house (NJ Meadowlands)!


UPDATE: "Elevation"! YES!!
One for us old farts -- "Electric Co."!
AND "An Cat Dub" from Boy (in medley w/Smashing Pumpkins "Bullet w/ Butterfly Wings" & Who's "I Can See For Miles"
"Beautiful Day"!! Crowd goes wild!!

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Two Good Takes on Newsweek Mess

Same message: Magazines (even left-leaning ones who screw up their facts) don't kill people; bad people with warped ideologies kill people, courtesy the New York Sun (hat tip: Politicker) and Balloon Juice:

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A Messiah? Good For Israel...

A Madonna? Um, not so good.

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Monday, May 16, 2005

 

Sad Spirits of '77?

(No, this isn't a bonus edition of FCBB. This has a more serious point, but please bear with me on the extended intro.)

Okay, so what does this:

The theatrical poster for 20th Century Fox's Star Wars: Episode III


have in common with this:

?

Well, on the most basic level, they each represent a pop-culture creator (creators in the case of the comic book) returning to the scene of, arguably, his greatest triumph. In 1977, George Lucas gave the world Star Wars and the rest was history. That same year, a comic book writer, named Steve Englehart, defected from Marvel to DC, and teamed up with a then-unknown penciller named Marshall Rogers to create what has been called the "definitive run" of Batman stories. Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns also can claim that boast, but it should be recalled that Miller's stories were intentionally set in a not-too-distant future, allowing Miller to take some risks and do some things that couldn't be managed in present-day tales. The Englehart/Rogers series was contemporary while also being retro, intentionally paying homage to the dark styles and characterizations of the '40s -- while also introducing the most "adult" love interest Bruce Wayne/Batman has ever had -- Silver St. Cloud. Silver was the first woman to figure out Bruce and Batman were one and the same. The scenes between the two had an intimate subtext unusual for a mainstream, Comics-Code approved title. Anyway, at the conclusion of the eight-issue sequence, Silver left Batman, deciding she couldn't deal with a man who led a double-life (as if no other woman has had to deal with that).

Englehart also departed with that scene (with Rogers following a few issues later), leaving fans begging for more. They finally returned this year with Batman: Dark Detective -- a sequel nearly 30 years in the making. The first issue, above, came out two weeks ago; the second follows this week.

The return is interesting, if not somewhat problematic, but I'll leave an aesthetic review of it for another time.

What I want to talk about now is its politics which is the main thing it has in common with Lucas' latest. Now, don't get me wrong --- even though the plot of the first issue revolves around the returned Silver St. Cloud's fiance running for governor and the Joker deciding that if he himself is not elected governor, he'll kill everybody, politics isn't the main point of the book.

However, what is one to make of this line uttered by arch-villian The Joker: "Now you may say, 'But, Joker, we know you're a homicidal maniac, and it's the maniac that concerns. Can we rely on you?' And I say to you, my friends, that if the presidency doesn't have to be on speaking terms with reality, still less does the governorcy..."

Um, well, that seems like a real cheap-shot at George W. Bush, now doesn't it? Maybe, I'm being too sensitive. It's not as if every line goes after Bush in such a manner, but this came so much out of the blue, that it seems out of place. Particularly, given that it doesn't really make sense -- how is anyone supposed to 'take seriously' anything coming from the mouth of an admittedly self-described "homicidal maniac"? But, then again, there's a long literary tradition of the "true" statements coming out of of the mouth of the "court jester."

What does this have to do with Revenge of The Sith?

Well, as
Page Six noted this weekend, the finale of Lucas' saga (or is Return of the Jedi actually the finale?), seems replete with cheap jabs at the contemporary Bush administration (full disclosure -- I haven't seen the movie yet):

It's hard not to feel that Lucas' engagement with this story has a contemporary urgency, as line after pointed line invites us to see a parallel with today's wartime climate," [Newsweek's David] Ansen writes. " As the Senate cedes power to Palpatine under the guise of intergalactic security, Natalie Portman's Princess Padme exclaims bitterly, 'So this is how liberty dies - to thunderous applause.'"

In another much-cited scene, Ewan McGregor's Obi-Wan Kenobi declares, "Only a Sith Lord deals in absolutes," after Hayden Christensen's Anakin Skywalker says, "If you're not with me, you're my enemy," an obvious reference to Bush's statements regarding the war on terror.

There's nothing wrong with allowing contemporary events to influence one's art. Indeed, prior to his first work on Batman, Englehart was responsible for a much praised mid-70s run on Captain America. In that storyline, the "sentinel of liberty" battled an organized paramilitary crime organization called The Secret Empire. The conclusion revealed that The Secret Empire was directly controlled by the Nixon White House (though the president was not explicitly named). But, as Englehart himself as noted, when one is writing a book called Captain America, the political and social tenor of the time should be part of the broader storyline. Heck, the character was created just months before Pearl Harbor.

Meanwhile, previous "Star Wars" chapters noted how tariffs were responsible for wars breaking out (which can be considered either a conservative message or just an accurate allusion to American history).

But Englehart's Joker declaring that the presidency is not "on speaking terms with reality"?

And Lucas' characters mocking Bush's terror doctrine?

These are cheap shots well below the standard of quality each man has demonstrated before. They are gratuitous and a not a little sad.


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