Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Recommended Reading

Normon Solomon, writing for Common Dreams, addresses the curious conjunction of jingoism and journalism that is currently in full swing as it pertains to our national discourse. Says Solomon, quoting Albert Einstein:

We’re now six decades into the Nuclear Age. And we’re farther than ever, it seems, from a momentously difficult truth that Albert Einstein uttered during its first years, when the U.S. government still held a monopoly on the split atom. “This basic power of the universe cannot be fitted into the outmoded concept of narrow nationalisms,” he wrote. “For there is no secret and there is no defense; there is no possibility of control except through the aroused understanding and insistence of the peoples of the world.”

Today, no phrase could better describe U.S. foreign policies -- or American media coverage -- than “narrow nationalisms.” The officials keep putting on a proudly jingoistic show, and journalists report it without fundamental challenge.

Read the rest here.

Tom Ridge Resigns

Read all about it here.

I'd say good riddance to bad rubbish, but we've already been down this road this time and this time, so we've got at least two instances in recent history of thinking there couldn't possibly be a worse replacement for a Bush cabinet member, and being pleasantly surprised.

Tuesday DVD Roundup

Again, taking a break from the usual politics to look at some of this week's notable DVD releases. For any comic fan, today's a good day, as it sees the release of two new Marvel Comics adaptations.


  • First up, RottenTomatoes.com's best reviewed film of the year; SPIDER-MAN 2. I enjoyed this when I first saw it, though the second time out did make apparent some problems with pacing. Still, I felt the first Spidey flick was enjoyable enough the half dozen or so times I saw it in '02, and I thought the second go-round was actually an improvement, so make of that what you will.

    What struck me in hindsight was just how many similarities SPIDEY 2 shares with another superhero sequel, SUPERMAN 2. Time hasn't been especially kind to that one, so it remains to be seen what impression we'll have of SPIDER-MAN 2, which Roger Ebert has called the greatest superhero movie he has ever seen, in ten or fifteen years.


  • Next on the docket is the director's cut of 2003's DAREDEVIL, which I previously discussed here. As I said then, this cut represents a market improvement over the original, which while not terrible, certainly had its flaws. This new edition, with a half hour of added footage, certainly makes the movie more worthwhile for the comic fans in the audience, but I have a feeling it's going to remain just as impenetrable to the civilians in the crowd as it was during its initial release.

    For more info on either of these, click on the pics and they'll ship you off to Amazon.

    Sunday, November 28, 2004

    A Little Ideology Can be a Dangerous Thing

    Seymour Hersh, the prototypical crusading journalist if ever there was one, recently gave a talk at a Massachusetts college while promoting his new book, and Joyce Marcel was there to give us the blow-by-blow.

    Hersh, the man who first broke the story of the My Lai massacre in Southeast Asia and also dug up some real dirt on the Abu Ghraib prison torture scandal, has been called a "terrorist" by the White House's very own Grima Wormtongue, Richard Perle. Considering the source, he's got to consider that to be some kind of badge of honor. During his talk, Hersh for the first time addressed the results of the election, basically reiterating many of the comments he made during the run-up: We're in trouble.
    "(George W.) Bush is an ideologue, a Utopian," Hersh said. "He wants to clean out the Middle East and install democracy. He doesn't care how many body bags come back home. There's nothing more dangerous than an ideologue who is completely bonkers and no one is going to tell him."

    Bush is committed to perpetual war, Hersh said.

    "He risked his presidency on this war," Hersh said. "He could have gotten more votes if he backed off. But he insisted he hasn't made any mistakes."

    That's pretty disturbing stuff, and brings to mind the old adage of there being a method to one's madness. Hersh went on to say exactly what I've been repeating for awhile now -- that things are going to have to get a whooole lot worse before they can get better.

    "The good side - and I promise you I'm not selling uppers - is that there will be direct attacks on the Supreme Court, a change in the filibuster rules, it's going to be down and dirty, a complete hoe-down, but there won't be anything subtle," Hersh said. "It's all going to be out in the open."

    We must let events take over, Hersh said.

    "We have put ourselves in an enormous hole," he said. "There's no magic story to get us out. The market will crash. Maybe people will come to their senses. Maybe some Democrat will step forward to do the right thing. And maybe the Easter bunny will turn out to be real."
    Ouch. Doesn't get more cynical than that, methinks. Still, I have a feeling he's right on the money, and he's got plenty of history, recent and not-so-recent, to back him up...

    Like I said, buckle up.

    Saturday, November 27, 2004

    Morality Claws

    Last week saw another tempest-in-a-teapot erupt after ABC aired an intro to MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL which featured Nicolette Sheridan as her character from the ratings-bonanza Sunday night soap DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES. I didn't see the thing, as I'm not what you'd call a huge fan of football, nor am I familiar with DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES, for that matter, but from what I understand, the bit had Sheridan's character (who I'm assuming is a vamp of some sort) attempting to seduce Philadelphia Eagles player Terrell Owens.

    In what can only be called a case of Delayed Reaction Syndrome, it took a day or two for America's Moral Majority to leap into action and condemn this five minute segment as single-handedly taking a sledgehammer to Mom, Apple Pie, and Baseball Games. If you were to listen to these loons, this was the single most important thing to happen in the world last week.

    Now, as a matter of principle and just to clarfiy, I find the content of ABC's tidy little cross-promotion pretty inappropriate, but it's not like I've ever expected solid judgement from network-types. I guess the difference is that I've always put an inordinate amount of faith in my own ability to, y'know, use the clicker. Still, there's something I find very irksome and very disingenuous about America's moral nannies, always poised with their fingers ready to wag at a moment's notice. Once again it was New York Times columnist Frank Rich to the rescue:

    The hypocrisy embedded in this tale is becoming a national running gag. As in the Super Bowl brouhaha, in which the N.F.L. maintained it had no idea that MTV might produce a racy halftime show, the league has denied any prior inkling of the salaciousness on tap this time - even though the spot featured the actress playing the sluttiest character in prime time's most libidinous series and was shot with the full permission of one of the league's teams in its own locker room. Again as in the Jackson case, we are also asked to believe that pro football is what Pat Buchanan calls "the family entertainment, the family sports show" rather than what it actually is: a Boschian jamboree of bumping-and- grinding cheerleaders, erectile-dysfunction pageantry and, as Don Imus puts it, "wife-beating drug addicts slamming the hell out of each other" on the field.

    Says Rich a little later in the piece:

    Those who cherish the First Amendment can only hope that the Traditional Values Coalition, OneMillionMoms.com, OneMillionDads .com and all the rest send every e-mail they can to the F.C.C. demanding punitive action against the stations that broadcast "Desperate Housewives." A "moral values" crusade that stands between a TV show this popular and its audience will quickly learn the limits of its power in a country where entertainment is god.

    Bingo.

    Wednesday, November 24, 2004

    The Cameraman Never Blinks

    Last week I discussed the mindboggling reaction by the more virulently pro-war folks out there to the footage taken by cameraman Kevin Sites of a US Marine killing a wounded Iraqi. Since then, Sites has had the opportunity to respond to the criticisms with a lengthy and heartfelt letter published on his site. Says Sites of his reaction upon capturing the shocking footage:
    In war, as in life, there are plenty of opportunities to see the full spectrum of good and evil that people are capable of. As journalists, it is our job is to report both -- though neither may be fully representative of those people on whom we're reporting. For example, acts of selfless heroism are likely to be as unique to a group as the darker deeds. But our coverage of these unique events, combined with the larger perspective - will allow the truth of that situation, in all of its complexities, to begin to emerge. That doesn't make the decision to report events like this one any easier. It has, for me, led to an agonizing struggle -- the proverbial long, dark night of the soul.
    He goes on to criticize the armchair generals who've been lambasting him:
    There are people in our own country that would weaken your institution and our nation –by telling you it's okay to betray our guiding principles by not making the tough decisions, by letting difficult circumstances turns us into victims or worse…villains.
    Sites closes with this summation:
    So here, ultimately, is how it all plays out: when the Iraqi man in the mosque posed a threat, he was your enemy; when he was subdued he was your responsibility; when he was killed in front of my eyes and my camera -- the story of his death became my responsibility.
    There's lots more of Sites' very eloquent open letter at the link above, and it's most definitely worthy of your interest.

    More From the "What the Hell" File

    We've reached a curious place in our cultural evolution where we've been robbed of all sense of judgement and common sense. Witness this gem from California, courtesy of MSNBC. Some of the highlights:
    A California teacher has been barred by his school from giving students documents from American history that refer to God — including the Declaration of Independence.
    Just so we're clear, we can't refer to the Declaration of Independence -- a historical document -- in a history class. More:
    Williams asserts in the lawsuit that since May he has been required to submit all of his lesson plans and supplemental handouts to Vidmar for approval, and that the principal will not permit him to use any that contain references to God or Christianity.

    Among the materials she has rejected, according to Williams, are excerpts from the Declaration of Independence, George Washington's journal, John Adams' diary, Samuel Adams' "The Rights of the Colonists" and William Penn's "The Frame of Government of Pennsylvania."

    *phew*

    Recommended Reading

    Film director Barry Levinson (RAIN MAN, exec producer of TV's HOMICIDE) has written a very interesting piece for The Baltimore Sun which attempts to make sense of Saddam Hussein's exit strategy, in the process implying some very cogent comparisons between Hussein and the Bush Administration. Of note:

    It was widely thought that Mr. Hussein might pay up to $4 billion to live a luxurious life in exile. In fact, there were all kinds of rumors and various scenarios as to what he might do. Everyone assumed there must be some ingenious plan. But Mr. Hussin finally said, "Get me a house in an average neighborhood, dig a hole, get me a rug and a fan ... and a million dollars in case I have to order out."

    And no one in his inner circle disagreed with him?

    Could there have actually been a worse plan? In all the years, with all the enemies and all that time to consider the worst-case scenario, is this the best they could come up with? This was the best exit strategy?

    Is that possible?

    I don't think so.

    Read the rest of the piece by clicking here.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2004

    "I Love the Leader!"


  • Creepy.

    Click on the pic for the whole story.

    SERENITY Now, Dammit!

    This stinks.

    Joss Whedon, the brain behind cult faves BUFFY, THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and the exemplary, much-missed ANGEL, has written and directed a film based on his blink-and-you-missed it television series FIREFLY. If you haven't heard of it, you're not alone. The show aired on Fox in the fall of 2003 for about two minutes before the axe fell. After checking out the DVD set last year, I fell head-over-heels in love with what was truly one of the most unique and special sci-fi shows to come down the pike in just about forever.

    In defiance of all popular wisdom, Universal took up the cause of this 15-episode wonder by pulling a page from the STAR TREK playbook and turning FIREFLY into a full-length honest-to-God feature film. Under its new title of SERENITY, it was due to fly into theaters this April. Unfortunately, according to Whedon himself, the flight's been delayed from this April to sometime in the fall. Now, all the reasons he offers may indeed be sound, but I think I'm just bummed because it means it's that much longer we have to wait for what I'm sure will be an amazing movie.

    In all honesty, if I had to pick between watching the last STAR WARS movie EVER this upcoming summer, or SERENITY, I'd probably come down on the side of SERENITY. Make of that what you will.


  • Click the image to check out the FIREFLY DVD set from Amazon.

    Interesting Article

    With the impending release of Oliver Stone's epic Colin Farrell starrer ALEXANDER this Friday, this article examines some of the political parallels between Alexander the Great's drive to conquer the world and the current situation in Washington and, by extension, the world. The article also includes some comments from notorious leftie Stone, who earned by eternal admiration with his amazing work on PLATOON and JFK. Stone is surprisingly muted and declines to offer too sharp a criticism of Bush, probably wanting to avoid having his film painted as "political." He does get off this barb, though:
    "I started this thing before all this nightmare came down, this morass," Stone said of the Iraq war. "It's ironic, and I think there is a coincidence that's far beyond my understanding, but I would certainly not limit this to the current situation. This is an older situation, East vs. West. This is pre-Muslim, and there was always a conflict between Persian and Greek.

    "Alexander was beautiful because he saw beyond that conflict into a synthesis," Stone added. "I'm not so sure our present administration does. It's great that they say, `Democracy, blah, blah, blah,' but you have to modify democracy to the local customs.
    I wasn't hugely interested in ALEXANDER initially, but Stone is a visionary, important director, and clearly anything he works on deserves more than just a cursory glance.

    Monday, November 22, 2004

    Shocking

    Eric Margolis writes for The Toronto Sun that, wonder of wonders, the leaders of other nations aren't exactly thrilled with Dubya's choice of Condi Rice as his new Secretary of State. Seems like everyone but the US media, all espousing her "amazing" record, realize that this selection was nothing more than cronyism run amok. Says Margolis:

    In my view, Rice, an academic Soviet expert, has been the worst national security adviser since the Reagan administration's bumbling William Clark, whose only foreign affairs experience, wags said, came from eating at the International House of Pancakes.

    But Rice is totally loyal to Bush, a consummate yes-woman in an administration prizing subservience and the party line. At least she will speak abroad with full presidential authority.

    As I've been saying for awhile now, anyone who thinks Bush's re-election is going to lead to a kinder, gentler White House is dreaming. Right now seemingly the only thing stopping Dubya from going full-tilt boogie, and this is more of a factor than anyone may let on, is the expontentially dwindling dollar coupled with the lack of fresh warm bodies to strap on army boots and AKs.

    Educated Americans must yearn for foreign policy greats George Marshall, Dean Acheson, Paul Nitze, George Kennan, and Zib Brzesinski whose brilliant strategic minds ably guided the U.S. through the Cold War.

    Instead, we have Rice, who, whatever she may know about outside world, knows a lot about Bush, with whom she reportedly likes to belt out gospel hymns. And at the Pentagon, that latter-day Robert McNamara, Don Rumsfeld, is stuck in a lost war in Iraq engineered by the neocons.
    Lost? Who says it's lost? Freedom is on the March!

    *sigh*

    Recommended Reading

    Academy Award-winning filmmaker Errol Morris, who most recently made the Robert McNamara documentary THE FOG OF WAR, discusses last week's incident in Iraq with a US marine killing a wounded man in a mosque. His comments go a long way towards explaining some of the bizarre responses to the killing.

    Says Morris:

    Unhappily, an unerring fact of human nature is that we habitually reject the evidence of our own senses. If we want to believe something, then we often find a way to do so regardless of evidence to the contrary. Believing is seeing and not the other way around.

    For many people, the interpretation of this videotape will devolve into general questions about Iraq. People will interpret this videotape according to their ideological dispositions. Are we looking at the face of freedom on the march, or at the footprint of an out-of-control behemoth leaving a trail of bodies in its wake? For the true believers in the war in Iraq, these images will make little impression. For them, the ends for which this war is being fought justify the means. War is bloody, brutal; the enemy is vicious. But the objective of extending freedom redeems what has to be done to achieve it. In this view the war is unfortunate but necessary.

    For people, like myself, who are deeply skeptical about this war, it is not clear what the "ends" of this war might be. It doesn't seem as if Iraq is freer or will be freer in the near future. Call me a naysayer or a skeptic, but what I see in the newspapers all seems evidence of mayhem. And with no end of the war in sight, the terrible means - the manner in which this war is being fought - seem, at best, misguided and at worst, deeply wrong.

    Read the whole thing here.

    Sunday, November 21, 2004

    Well are ya, or ain'tcha?

    In a new column for The Washington Post, Michael Kinsley discusses the curious fact that although the war in Iraq is becoming increasingly unpopular, no one seems willing to discuss bringing the troops home.

    Says Kinsley about John Kerry and his appeal to the anti-war crowd:
    Kerry spent months untangling the knots of his Iraq position while tangling new ones even faster. He pounded George W. Bush over the phantom weapons of mass destruction and he mocked Bush's confusion of Osama bin Laden with Saddam Hussein. Kerry said that Bush's invasion of Iraq was "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time." So was he in favor of ending it? No, his position was that he would try, but not promise, to bring the troops home in four years. Four years! American involvement in World War II lasted 3 1/2. Bush had a good point when he wondered how, as commander in chief, Kerry could ask American soldiers to die for the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time. Of course, that problem does not vindicate Bush's belief that Iraq II is the right war in the right etc. But Bush's apparently sincere belief -- protected by his thick skull from all the winds of reality that contradict it -- does relieve him from needing to explain why he doesn't want the war to end now.

    Kerry's studiously confused position was not, or not just, a politician stratagem. It was an accurate reflection of the views of his constituency. Most of them deplore the war, but only a tiny fraction favor an immediate pullout.

    Read the rest of the article at the link above.

    Thursday, November 18, 2004

    Wow. Just wow.

    From The Studio Briefing:
    The U.S. military said Wednesday that it is investigating the circumstances surrounding the shooting of an unarmed wounded man lying in a Fallujah mosque that was filmed by an embedded pool cameraman working for NBC on Saturday. The Associated Press said that investigators are looking into the possible shooting of additional wounded insurgents in the mosque, noting that the NBC video appears to show other unarmed men with fresh and fatal gunshot wounds. Meanwhile, the cameraman who shot the video, Kevin Sites, has refused to discuss the shooting incident, except to tell the New York Times, "As sensitive as this is, we want to make sure the world has an accurate picture of the events." A web log that he maintains was quickly loaded with hate messages, one calling him "a traitor and a terrorist," another, "the lowest of the low, a traitor for sure," and another concluding, "Good luck riding along with our troops -- you're going to need it."
    Certainly don't want a pesky thing like the truth getting in the way of all that juicy propoganda.

    And bringing up the rear of the nutcase brigade...

    This is an excerpt from a letter written by Bob Jones III, of Bob Jones University fame, to President Bush upon his re-election. In many ways it's a perfect exemplar of the moral puffery that some of the zanier elements of the Christian far-right have taken it upon themselves to be the sole bastions of. God help the rest of us poor pitiful peons.

    In your re-election, God has graciously granted America—though she doesn't deserve it—a reprieve from the agenda of paganism. You have been given a mandate.

    Again with the mandate. When did fifty-one percent become a mandate? (And paganism? What the hell is this guy talking about?)

    Don't equivocate. Put your agenda on the front burner and let it boil. You owe the liberals nothing. They despise you because they despise your Christ.

    Yes, because putting his agenda on the front burner, that's where he's had problems before...

    As to hating "his" Christ, whatever that means, the logic is absolutely stunning. Not stunning in the sense of brilliance. I mean stunning as in, "This man is allowed to teach our children. Stunning."

    It is easy to rejoice today, because Christ has allowed you to be His servant in this nation for another presidential term.

    ...and now that you're in, I'm pretty sure Christ has some very specific ideas of the kind of judicial appointments he wants you to make.

    Undoubtedly, you will have opportunity to appoint many conservative judges and exercise forceful leadership with the Congress in passing legislation that is defined by biblical norm regarding the family, sexuality, sanctity of life, religious freedom, freedom of speech, and limited government.
    See?
    You have four years—a brief time only—to leave an imprint for righteousness upon this nation that brings with it the blessings of Almighty God.
    Lord, spare us Bush's imprint of righteousness.

    Read the whole looney letter here.

    (Thanks to Jon Stewart and THE DAILY SHOW for the heads-up)

    Reality? We don't need no steenking reality.

    The New York Times' Frank Rich is fast emerging as one of the leading voices of sanity in the world of journalism. True to form, in his new column he tackles the absurd hue-and-cry last week over the ABC airing of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, which we discussed before, and which has led to cries for boycotts from conservative Christian groups representing family values.
    For anyone who doubts that we are entering a new era, let's flash back just a few years. "Saving Private Ryan," with its "CSI"-style disembowelments and expletives undeleted, was nationally broadcast by ABC on Veteran's Day in both 2001 and 2002 without incident, and despite the protests of family-values groups. What has changed between then and now? A government with the zeal to control both information and culture has received what it calls a mandate. Media owners who once might have thought that complaints by the American Family Association about a movie like "Saving Private Ryan" would go nowhere are keenly aware that the administration wants to reward its base. Merely the threat that the F.C.C. might punish a TV station or a network is all that's needed to push them onto the slippery slope of self-censorship before anyone in Washington even bothers to act. This is McCarthyism, "moral values" style.
    Rich goes on to tie this in with the Bush administration's current war efforts...
    In a memorable passage in Ron Suskind's pre-election article on the president in The New York Times Magazine, a senior White House adviser tells Mr. Suskind that there's no longer any need for the "reality-based community" epitomized by journalists. "That's not the way the world really works anymore," the adviser says. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality."
    This is borne out in the Fallujah offensive, a perfect example if ever there was one of "reality" as opposed to reality.

    "We don't do body counts," said Tommy Franks as we fought in Afghanistan in 2002 ­ an edict upheld in a press briefing in Iraq as recently as Nov. 9 by the American commander Lt. Gen. Thomas F. Metz. But only five days later, as the "reality-based" news spread that many of the insurgents had melted away before we got to them, that policy was sacrificed to the cause of manufacturing some good news to drive out the bad. Suddenly there was a body count of 1,200 to 1,600 insurgents in Falluja, even though reporters on the scene found, as The Times reported, "little evidence of dead insurgents in the streets and warrens where some of the most intense combat took place."
    We've certainly reached an astounding place in our socio-cultural narrative, when fact can stand for fiction and be given the weight of absolute truth. It's positively Orwellian.

    Wednesday, November 17, 2004

    Hey, it could happen...

    From THE ONION:

    Republicans Call for Privatization of Next Election

    The Perfect Job

    Y'ever notice how no one ever seems to get fired from BushCo no matter how many times they screw up or how much bad judgement they show? To put this in perspective, a producer at CBS got fired almost instantly after she pre-empted the last five minutes of CSI:NY to break a story about Yasser Arafat's death.

    On the other hand, White House counsel Alberto Gonzales becomes Attorney General after basically recommending we put the Geneva Convention in the circle file. Condoleeza Rice gets kicked upstairs even after ignoring a memo as National Security Advisor that said "Bin Laden Determined To Attack Inside the United States," so clearly this is a bunch that prizes loyalty over little things like, say, the ability to actually perform one's job adequately.

    Robert Scheer details how the administration has the nasty habit of rewarding its Neocon stalwarts in particular, no matter what the realities presented by those inconvenient headlines:
    The neoconservatives who created the ongoing Iraq mess have more than survived the failure of their impossibly rosy scenarios for a peaceful and democratic Iraq under U.S. rule. In fact, despite calls for their resignations — from the former head of the U.S. Central Command, Gen. Anthony Zinni, among others — the neocon gang is thriving. They have not been held responsible for the "16 words" about yellowcake, the rise and fall of Ahmad Chalabi, the Abu Ghraib scandal, the post-invasion looting of Iraq's munitions stores and the disastrous elimination of the Iraqi armed forces.
    Is there a single thing in all of their far-reaching prognostications that the Neocons have gotten right? What're they, 0 for 50? These guys are like the Gilligans of the White House, and yet they've essentially created a system for themselves that ensures the blame for any incompetence -- and there's plenty of it -- falls anywhere but on them.

    (Registration may be necessary, but it's a great read.)

    Tuesday, November 16, 2004

    Tuesday DVD Roundup

    Taking a break from the continuous sturm und drang of politicking to take a look at some of today's new DVD releases of interest:



    BUCK ROGERS in the 25th CENTURY
    Ah, '70s nostalgia. It's sad when a show makes BATTLESTAR GALACTICA look like STAR WARS. Still, considering it's cheesy day-glo disposable cotton candy, BUCK holds up better than you'd think, and certainly better than it has any right to...

    What I find amusing is that the packaging refers to it as "The Complete EPIC Series."

    Come on, was it really that epic? This IS the same show with a midget in a gold suit saying "biddi biddi biddi," all the time, right?



    SMALLVILLE: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON
    About halfway through this season I stopped watching the show entirely because I couldn't be bothered to schedule my life around The WB Wednesday nights at 8. If this one follows the course of the previous years, Clark and Lana kiiind of admit they have feelings for each other, but not really, Clark and Lex kiiind of have a falling out, but not really, and, oh, Jonathan Kent gets upset with Clark about something. But not really.

    All that aside, when it's on, SMALLVILLE most definitely is on. I will soon find out if Season Three can in fact be considered "on."

    Colin's Out; Condi's In

    The Bush II Two-Step continues this week with the resignation that surprised exactly no one, followed immediately by the appointment that SHOULDN'T have surprised anyone.

    Read all about it here.

    Relevant quotes:

    ...with Powell out of the picture, the long-running struggle over key foreign policy issues is likely to be less intense. Powell has pressed for working with the Europeans on ending Iran's nuclear program, pursuing diplomatic talks with North Korea over its nuclear ambitions and taking a tougher approach with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Now, the policy toward Iran and North Korea may turn decidedly sharper, with a bigger push for sanctions rather than diplomacy. On Middle East peace, the burden for progress will remain largely with the Palestinians.

    Moreover, in elevating Rice, Bush is signaling that he is comfortable with the direction of the past four years and sees little need to dramatically shift course. Powell has had conversations for six months with Bush about the need for a "new team" in foreign policy, a senior State Department official said. But in the end only the key official who did not mesh well with the others -- Powell -- is leaving.

    "My impression is that the president broadly believes his direction is correct," said former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.)
    *sigh*

    Monday, November 15, 2004

    Marvel Blowback

    There've been quite a few developments since last week's entry about the influence of Neocon grand poobah Karl Zinsmeister on on an upcoming Marvel Comics project. The story was even picked up by London's Guardian:
    ...each time we see the footage of US marines kicking down a hospital door in the town, we're reminded how few true-life stories of American heroism are making it out these days. Still, help is at hand if you've just felt starved ever since Private Jessica Lynch got rescued by Tom Hanks. (We cried so much in the bit where Forest Whitaker died, even though we kind of saw it coming because he was black and wore glasses.) Marvel Comics are soon to unveil Combat Zone: True Tales from GIs - a comic which credits one Karl Zinsmeister as its "embedded correspondent". We're indebted, then, to the Lying in the Gutter column at comicbookresources.com for pointing out that Karl is in fact "embedded" at barkingly neocon thinktank the American Enterprise Institute. We'll be discussing his intriguing new sideline with him tomorrow.
    Unfortunately, tomorrow never came, as the next day, they had this follow-up:
    Maddeningly, Karl Zinsmeister, the neocon behind Marvel's forthcoming comic book Combat Zone: True Tales from GIs, just won't come to the phone to discuss his gnarly new sideline.
    I don't know about you, but I'm shocked.

    Anyway, since then, word has broken that Scot comic writer Mark Millar is planning to have the Captain America character join the Iraq War in an upcoming storyline in THE ULTIMATES.

    Now, this might reek of propoganda, but anyone who has read the first volume of THE ULTIMATES knows that Millar has used the platform of an over-the-top superhero spectacle to make some very sharp, very pointed, very subtle criticisms of American policies both at home and abroad.

    Given that Millar at one point described Bush, according to the article, as "the most terrifying threat to the West since the Third Reich," I wouldn't be at all surprised if the political bent of this project is just as much Millar's response to the long-in-the-works Zinsmeister project.

    On a completely separate, yet somewhat related note, an investor named John Taddeo has picked up the rights to a little gem called AMERICAN POWER from defunct comics publisher Crossgen,
    all about how Osama Bin Laden gets his hat handed to him by what appears to be a Mexican wrestler of some sort.

    Friday, November 12, 2004

    Recommended Reading

    Vikram David Amar makes about as good a case as I've yet seen to eliminate the electoral college. Check it out here.

    Jesus Powers, Activate! Form of...Protest!

    It seems those ubiquitous evangelicals who powered Bush to re-election are angling for some of that sweet, sweet payback.
    In recent days, some evangelical leaders have warned in interviews that the Republican Party would pay a price in future elections if its leaders did not take up the issues that brought evangelicals to the polls.

    "Business as usual isn't going to cut it, where the GOP rides to victory by espousing traditional family values and then turns around and rewards the liberals in its ranks," said Robert Knight, who heads an affiliate of Concerned Women for America, a Christian conservative advocacy group.

    Them's fightin' words!

    Still, before they get TOO excited, they might want to check out this piece by Chuck Baldwin.

    Haven't you left yet?

    It seems that John Ashcroft is still kicking.

    The latest from the soon-to-depart Attorney General is that any federal judges who issue rulings contrary to the wishes of President Bush are...(wait for it)...yep, that old chesnut: jeopardizing national security.
    In his first remarks since his resignation was announced Tuesday, Ashcroft forcefully denounced what he called "a profoundly disturbing trend" among some judges to interfere in the president's consitutional authority to make decisions during war.

    "The danger I see here is that intrusive judicial oversight and second-guessing of presidential determinations in these critical areas can put at risk the very security of our nation in a time of war," Ashcroft said in a speech to the Federalist Society, a conservative lawyers' group.
    A little later he lets slip this gem:
    "Courts are not equipped to execute the law. They are not accountable to the people," Ashcroft said.
    Yes. The courts aren't accountable to the people, but the government sure is, right?

    That John. He's adorable, ain't he? Let's give him a round of applause on his way out.

    Kerry Konspiracy Kornucopia

    This article from The Washington Post looks at the numerous petitions and whatnots circulating the web via e-mail alleging various forms of monkey business during last week's election, examining them one-by-one.

    While I don't doubt for a second that SOME kind of shenanigans may have helped nudge the victory to Bush, I've been saying for a while now that the wrong place for disgruntled Kerry-supporters to hang their hats is on a convenient "Kerry won, but the gummint done took it away" approach because, let's face it, it sounds insane.

    Frankly, Kerry did plenty to lose the election all by his lonesome, as I've outlined in a previous entry. That, plus the 3 to 4 million really angry evangelical Christians out there who felt that blocking gay marriage was the most important issue of the new millenium. Besides this, say voter fraud did occur on the kind of mass scale that's being alleged. Can anything be done about it, given the Republican stranglehold on, well, the entire country? Sorry folks, but the inmates have taken over the asylum, and we're in it for the long haul.

    Who knows, maybe Bush and his team did steal this one, but as Richard Nixon's advisors supposedly told him after his failed 1960 contest with Jack Kennedy, "They stole it fair and square."

    Thursday, November 11, 2004

    ELEKTRA-fying

    Jennifer Garner stars as Elektra, the Marvel Comics character who made her film debut opposite Ben Affleck's DAREDEVIL. This spin-off seems to be taking a much more fanciful approach to the material than it's "grim 'n' gritty" 2003 predecessor. Watch the trailer here.

    Look quick and you'll see Terence Stampand ER's Goran Visnjic as the requisite mentor and love interest, respectively. With ELEKTRA due out in February and THE FANTASTIC FOUR hitting theaters on July 4th, looks like Marvel's making it a two-fer this year. Really the movies are all they have going for them at the moment, considering how piss-poor their comics have been lately...

    (On a related sidenote, Nov. 30 sees the release of DAREDEVIL: THE DIRECTOR'S CUT on DVD. I had the opportunity to view an advance copy of this one a few weeks ago, and it's loads better than the theatrical release, featuring more than thirty minutes of added-back footage, not to mention a few timely trims, making it practically a whole new movie. If the original cut left you wanting, I highly recommend giving this version a second spin.)

    From the "What the Hell" File

    Fearful of the FCC cracking down on "indecency," at least 18 ABC affiliates plan to pre-empt the network's unedited broadcast of the film SAVING PRIVATE RYAN.

    Read the full story here, but be warned, you may actually feel dumber after you're done.

    Wednesday, November 10, 2004

    More on Morals

    Frank Rich of the New York Times has an interesting piece wherein he claims this business about "moral values" is all a lot of smoke and mirrors. Of note is the following quote from Thomas Frank, who wrote the book What's the Matter With Kansas?, which is in stores now:

    "Values," Mr. Frank writes, "always take a backseat to the needs of money once the elections are won." Under this perennial "trick," as he calls it, Republican politicians promise to stop abortion and force the culture industry "to clean up its act" - until the votes are counted. Then they return to their higher priorities, like cutting capital gains and estate taxes. Mr. Murdoch and his fellow cultural barons - from Sumner Redstone, the Bush-endorsing C.E.O. of Viacom, to Richard Parsons, the Republican C.E.O. of Time Warner, to Jeffrey Immelt, the Bush-contributing C.E.O. of G.E. (NBC Universal) - are about to be rewarded not just with more tax breaks but also with deregulatory goodies increasing their power to market salacious entertainment. It's they, not Susan Sarandon and Bruce Springsteen, who actually set the cultural agenda Gary Bauer and company say they despise.

    Check out the full article by clicking the link. You may have to register in order to read it, but it's definitely worth a look.

    (Thanks to Mark Evanier for the heads-up)

    Okay, maybe Kerry voters ARE smarter...

    Flying in the face of my earlier assertion that this election is by no means a confirmation of Blue State Braininess, Ted Rall makes a pretty good case.

    The Other Shoe Drops

    I told you I wasn't ready to break out the confetti when Ashcroft announced he was taking the long walk. Now it looks like Alberto Gonzales is set to replace him.

    I'm sure many people will just look at the fact that a Hispanic is filling the slot and be awed by how progressive Bush II is going to be. Don't believe it.

    For those of you who aren't familiar with Gonzales, here's a refresher:
    Gonzales has been at the center of developing Bush's positions on balancing civil liberties with waging the war on terrorism — opening the White House counsel to the same line of criticism that has dogged Ashcroft.

    For instance, Gonzales publicly defended the administration's policy — essentially repudiated by the Supreme Court and now being fought out in the lower courts — of detaining certain terrorism suspects for extended periods without access to lawyers or courts.

    He also wrote a controversial February 2002 memo in which Bush claimed the right to waive anti-torture law and international treaties providing protections to prisoners of war. That position drew fire from human rights groups, which said it helped led to the type of abuses uncovered in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

    Yep. Bad to worse.

    Cat Stevens wins "Man of Peace" Award. Tom Ridge Melts.

    In what I imagine is just as much a middle finger to the Dept. of Homeland Security as it is an acknowledgement of his good works, Yusuf Islam (nee Cat Stevens) has been given the fifth annual "Man of Peace" award by various Nobel Peace Prize winners, including Mikhail Gorbachev. Of note, the citation specifically commends Islam for condemning terrorism and helping 9-11 victims.

    Shh. Don't tell Tom Ridge. He's built up such a great head of steam.

    Here are some relevant comments from Yusuf Islam:
    "Probably one of the biggest imperatives at this time would be for a greater understanding of the Islamic faith because of the tensions which have built up over the years due to the absence of any accurate information of where true beliefs unite humanity rather than divide," he said.

    "I broke through many barriers in order to get through to Islam, and looking back I can see that there are problems in perception."

    "But once you reach the great shores of wisdom there are so many beautiful approaches to the one united message of religions, which is peace and loving your brother, who you love as yourself."
    Read more here.

    Tuesday, November 09, 2004

    Don't let the door hit ya...

    John Ashcroft has resigned.

    Looks like people are saying Rummy and Powell are on their way out too. I have a feeling a lot of people are going to be rejoicing over this news, but I'm a little leary of who BushCo is going to pull out of their hat to fill in the ranks. Forgive my pessimism, but this administration's history can be summed up in various permutations of bad and worse.

    Intelligence Quotient and Voting

    I've had a couple of people send this link to me, which ostensibly provides proof that the higher your IQ, the greater the likelihood that you voted for Kerry.

    While this makes for interesting reading, I also think it's a little dangerous to go down that road. It strikes me that this further drives home the division that the mainstream media has been hammering into our heads since last week.

    Frankly, just as I refuse to believe this election affirms Republican so-called morality, I also don't think it validates Democratic so-called braininess. Whether you're talking about religious elitism or intellectual elitism, it's still elitism. Ultimately what this election makes readily apparent is that misinformation and disinformation are both in plentiful supply, and it falls to each of us as individuals to arm ourselves with the knowledge of what is actually going on. That means accepting things even when they don't jibe with our cultural biases or party affiliations.

    To take solace in some kind of intellectual "superiority" is to fall into the same trap that many Bush supporters have by claiming a supposed moral victory.

    Sorry World


    James Zetlen has taken his frustration from last week and channeled it into a website called SORRY EVERYBODY, which features a gallery of folks from all over America apologizing to the rest of the world.

    Here's a quote from his FAQ:

    Most people who think carefully understand that Americans are not really any more jingoistic or xenophobic than people in other countries, but it never hurts to reinforce, especially considering what happened on November 2nd, 2004. What must it have looked like to the world outside our borders? America proudly re-appointed her reckless, incompetent and corrupt government. How much of America? Fifty-two percent. The rest of us are aghast and dismayed.

    Lots of fuss is made about the “global village.” The Internet was supposed to make communication between cultures, countries and peoples painless and easy. It was supposed to build bridges. But it doesn't do this automatically; somebody has to reach out. The Internet was supposed to lead to education and understanding. It doesn't. Rarely do people on the internet apologize. I thought it was high time. The world needs to understand that there are people in America who don't like what our government is doing. And from the mail we're receiving, there are people in the international community who appreciate this.

    From Craig's List...

    This was brought to my attention as a posting that supposedly went up last Wednesday by some guy in Philly.
    Straight male seeks Bush supporter for fair, physical fight. I would like to fight a Bush supporter to vent my anger. If you are one, have a fiery streak, please contact me so we can meet and physically fight. I would like to beat the shit out of you.
    Not a bad idea, considering it's long been my position that most of life's problems could be worked out if we gave people those giant foam Q-tips from AMERICAN GLADIATORS and let 'em just throw down. This, plus the fact that this country's already divided nicely into "red" and "blue," so the way I figure, we're halfway there!

    Monday, November 08, 2004

    More Food for Thought...

    Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States (likely a favorite of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon given its prominent mention in GOOD WILL HUNTING), reflects on the current state of the world in a piece excerpted by Common Dreams from Paul Rogat Loeb's book The Impossible Will Take a Little While. Zinn has always been able to take the long view of history, and this piece is no exception. Of particular note, I found the following passage

    We don't have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world. Even when we don't "win," there is fun and fulfillment in the fact that we have been involved, with other good people, in something worthwhile. We need hope. An optimist isn't necessarily a blithe, slightly sappy whistler in the dark of our time. To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places-and there are so many-where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don't have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.

    Read the rest of the piece here.

    Vice, pal. Vice.

    The TV-on-DVD trend rolls right along this winter, with one of those cherished old ditties that we all remember fondly, yet we don't quite know why we remember it so fondly. There's just some kind of crazy alchemy that happens when you put together garish neon colors and Phil Collins songs.

    That's right...it may have been beaten to the punch by ALF, PUNKY BREWSTER, 227, and just about every other bygone television series that no one particularly wanted to remember, but on February 28th, the first season of '80s TV icon MIAMI VICE finally makes its way to DVD. All you folks who wore sports jackets over your T-shirts and your loafers without socks -- you know who you are, the same people who have "Heartbeat" looping on your iPods -- can rejoice at long last.

    Somewhere out there, Phillip Michael Thomas, in between parking cars, is smiling from ear-to-ear.

    Marvel Comics and the 9/11 Cash Cow

    In the immediate aftermath of September 11th, Marvel Comics released a tribut book entitled HEROES, aimed at helping raise funds for the victims' families. This issue featured various text pieces and illustrations by comic book-dom's best-and-brightest circa 2001. Though I never saw the book, I do remember its distinctive painted cover by Alex Ross.

    A few months later, they put out a special issue of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, adorned with an all-black cover, dealing with the attacks. As it turns out, the Marvel Universe is not the best place to try and lend context to the 9/11 attacks. In an issue that's heavy on pathos and bathos but not much insight, we get page after page of characters like Captain America and Wolverine working alongside firefighters, policemen, and EMTs at ground zero.

    Click here to see the entire issue.

    Anyway, Marvel's ill-conceived attempts to ride the 9/11 moneytrain don't end there. The latest wrinkle in this saga can be found here.

    As comicbook rumor-monger Rich Johnston discusses, Marvel's latest cash-grab is a one-shot entitled Combat Zone: True Tales of GI's in Iraq. Now while this may sound relatively innocuous, what struck me was this excerpt:

    While a number of Marvel's previous titles involving war and terrorism have tried to explore issues from different perspectives, reports I've had are that this is not the case here. America is the One True Hope, all who oppose her or disagree with her current thinking are evil scum, and the world would be better off without them. And thank the Lord we have these plucky brave soldiers to do her bidding.

    And certainly the resume of Karl Zinsmeister, credited as the "embedded correspondent" writing this with Ron Marz, makes for interesting reading.

    He's editor-in-chief of the American Enterprise Magazine, the in-house magazine of "The American Enterprise Institute" (AEI). The AEI is a neo-conservative think tank, with strong ties to the oil industry and the White House, and one of the most important architects of President Bush's current foreign policy. Famous members include Richard Perle, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, ExxonMobile's CEO Lee Raymond and the Vice-President's wife Lynne Cheney.

    Also, the AEI gave office space to the "Project for a New American Century," an even more conservative think tank with Vice President Dick Cheney and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz on it's roster. Furthermore, the PNAC and the AEI work closely together.

    Who better to write a touching, poignant and thruthful version of the current state of affairs in Iraq?

    To get an idea where Messr. Zinsmeister is coming from, look no further than right here.

    It's good to know that Marvel's fallen right in lock-step with the Neocon thought police.

    Spider-Man would be proud.

    Sunday, November 07, 2004

    Sound Advice

    Something to chew on in light of the past week's events:

    "A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles.

    "It is true that in the meantime we are suffering deeply in spirit, and incurring the horrors of a war and long oppressions of enormous public debt.

    "But if the game runs sometimes against us at home we must have patience till luck turns and then we shall have an opportunity of winning back the principles we have lost, for this is a game where principles are the stake. Better luck, therefore, to us all; and health, happiness, and friendly salutations to yourself."

    Who spoke these words of wisdom? None other than Thomas Jefferson, in 1798.

    Saturday, November 06, 2004

    So where did Kerry go wrong?

    I know, I know, we're about to hit a week and this thing is long past post-election meltdown, but hey, I have a feeling a lot of not-insane people are going to be asking this question for the next four years. Personally, I think Kerry went belly-up the minute he voted to grant President Bush the authority to go to war. As soon as he did that, he effectively lost the moral authority to call Bush on the carpet over his over-the-top ineptitude. This, despite the fact that he DID, in fact, make very clear when giving his vote that he was giving Bush the authority to go to war ONLY as a last resort. Good call there, chief. You don't hand a kid a box of matches and then get upset when he burns your house down.

    Anyway, Democratic strategist Dan Payne writes his thoughts in The Boston Globe. Of special note, reiterating my feelings exactly:
    Kerry tied his shoes together on Oct. 11, 2002. That's when he voted to let President Bush attack Iraq. Kerry couldn't explain vote because he didn't believe in it. Campaign manager No. 1, Jim Jordan, had convinced him that opposing war would be political suicide. (But Jordan couldn't cast vote in Senate.) If Kerry had followed his true North, Howard Dean wouldn't have been threat. And Kerry could've campaigned against war months before he finally opposed it -- at NYU speech on Sept. 20, 2004, two years after he voted to go to war.
    Read the full article at the link above.

    Friday, November 05, 2004

    Boomin'

    Just finished watching season one of BOOMTOWN, a series that was on NBC a few years ago. As usual with network television, it didn't find an audience fast enough and was promptly given the ol' heave-ho. I've reached a point where I don't even want to get attached to good television shows anymore, because it's inevitably pulled away to make room for ACCORDING TO JIM or whatever crappy new reality show these idiots have up their sleeves. Maybe if they'd called it LAW & ORDER: BOOMTOWN...

    Anyway, this is a gem that's most definitely worth a look.

    Election 2004 Post-mortem, Part II

    Former Nixon counsel John Dean offers a pretty insightful analysis, I think.

    Election 2004 Post-mortem

    I've had some time to marshal my wits and compose my thoughts on this morass of an election, which seems to be emerging as just as big a fiasco as four years ago. More and more circumstancial evidence is trickling in that maybe Bush's "mandate" wasn't quite as overwhelming or as honest we've been led to believe by our overseers in the corporate media.

    The Stolen Election of 2004 - Welcome Back to Hell

    Too Many Voting "Irregularities" to be a Coincidence

    A Stolen Nation


    Still, I've been maintaining for a while now that Kerry did the only thing he could've done by conceding. Let's face it, Bush has a hell of a mess to clean up over the next four years, and I can't imagine the Iraq situation getting much better. Given that, and given the fact that most American's seem to have come around ("flip-flopped" in Bushie-speak) to the notion that maybe this little excursion wasn't the best of ideas, it's an uphill battle.

    Now, let's say for the sake of argument that Kerry had fought tooth-and-nail to get that spot in the Oval Office, he'd be presiding over a nation that at the very least BELIEVES Bush won the popular vote. Not only that, he'd be having to deal everyday with a Republican congress. You think these guys made it tough for Clinton? Are you kidding me? That was kid stuff. Kerry probably sensed that given all those factors it wasn't worth it. Was he right? I guess we'll have to see how things go over the next four years.

    The optimist in me wants to believe that now that GW has gotten this whole "War President" thing out of his system and gotten himself re-elected to boot, maybe he'll go back to his golden oldie, gone-but-never-forgotten "uniter-not-a-divider" schtick. Do I think that's gonna happen? Naww. I think we'd better strap ourselves in for more of the same and be ready for the pendulum to swing back (and it WILL swing back) inevitably in the opposite direction.

    You Might be a Dubya Supporter if...

    The Faulking Truth has a funny piece by Robin Buckallew.

    Some of my favorites:

    · You believe the majority of the rest of the world is staunchly behind Dubya

    · You think dissent is unpatriotic and unAmerican

    · You believe draft evaders were bravely fighting the Vietnam war (from Alabama) and folks decorated with the Purple Heart weren’t

    · You believe the above doesn’t apply to Bill Clinton

    · You believe going shopping is an appropriate response to terrorist attacks

    · You believe you can liberate people by killing them

    · You believe modulating your opinions in the face of new evidence is “flip-flopping”

    · You believe standing your ground even when the evidence is against you is being consistent and strong

    · You believe America is God’s chosen country

    · You believe guns don’t kill people, people kill people, but deny that people with guns kill more people

    · You believe Jesus was a market-based capitalist

    Read more by following the link above!

    Thursday, November 04, 2004

    EPISODE III - Here we go again...

    Y'know, every three years these STAR WARS flicks come out, and ever time I end up feeling like Charlie Brown, about to kick that that football after Lucy PROMISED that this time she won't pull it away...George Lucas being Lucy, naturally.

    Anyway, in a bit of deja vu all over again, this looks promising, but I'm sure come Memorial Day I'll once again be flying through the air and landing flat on my ass yet again.

    Fow mo' yeahs!

    That's my attempt to type out Arnold Schwarzenegger's rallying cry to the Republican faithful. You know, that 59-some million people who seem to think they're living in Salem, MA in the 17th Century...

    Anyway, I'm bummed out about this election, as it seems to confirm my long-held belief that more than half the country is eating paste. Rather than embark on some long-winded and boring "Whoa is the human race" diatribe, I figured I'd just let you read this piece from UK's THE MIRROR that basically sums up my thoughts...

    GOD HELP AMERICA

    THEY say that in life you get what you deserve. Well, today America has deservedly got a lawless cowboy to lead them further into carnage and isolation and the unreserved contempt of most of the rest of the world.

    This once-great country has pulled up its drawbridge for another four years and stuck a finger up to the billions of us forced to share the same air. And in doing so, it has shown itself to be a fearful, backward-looking and very small nation.

    This should have been the day when Americans finally answered their critics by raising their eyes from their own sidewalks and looking outward towards the rest of humanity.

    And for a few hours early yesterday, when the exit polls predicted a John Kerry victory, it seemed they had.

    But then the horrible, inevitable truth hit home. They had somehow managed to re-elect the most devious, blinkered and reckless leader ever put before them. The Yellow Rogue of Texas.

    A self-serving, dim-witted, draft-dodging, gung-ho little rich boy, whose idea of courage is to yell: "I feel good," as he unleashes an awesome fury which slaughters 100,000 innocents for no other reason than greed and vanity.

    A dangerous chameleon, his charming exterior provides cover for a power-crazed clique of Doctor Strangeloves whose goal is to increase America's grip on the world's economies and natural resources.

    And in foolishly backing him, Americans have given the go-ahead for more unilateral pre-emptive strikes, more world instability and most probably another 9/11.

    Why else do you think bin Laden was so happy to scare them to the polls, then made no attempt to scupper the outcome?

    There's only one headline in town today, folks: "It Was Osama Wot Won It."

    And soon he'll expect pay-back. Well, he can't allow Bush to have his folks whoopin' and a-hollerin' without his own getting a share of the fun, can he?

    Heck, guys, I hope you're feeling proud today.

    To the tens of millions who voted for John Kerry, my commiserations.

    To the overwhelming majority of you who didn't, I simply ask: Have you learnt nothing? Do you despise your own image that much?

    Do you care so little about the world beyond your shores? How could you do this to yourselves?

    How appalling must one man's record at home and abroad be for you to reject him?

    Kerry wasn't the best presidential candidate the Democrats have ever fielded (and he did deserve a kicking for that "reporting for doo-dee" moment), but at least he understood the complexity of the world outside America, and domestic disgraces like the 45 million of his fellow citizens without health cover.

    He would have done something to make that country fairer and re-connected it with the wider world.

    Instead America chose a man without morals or vision. An economic incompetent who inherited a $2billion surplus from Clinton, gave it in tax cuts to the rich and turned the US into the world's largest debtor nation.

    A man who sneers at the rights of other nations. Who has withdrawn from international treaties on the environment and chemical weapons.

    A man who flattens sovereign states then hands the rebuilding contracts to his own billionaire party backers.

    A man who promotes trade protectionism and backs an Israeli government which continually flouts UN resolutions.

    America has chosen a menacingly immature buffoon who likened the pursuit of the 9/11 terrorists to a Wild West, Wanted Dead or Alive man-hunt and, during the Afghanistan war, kept a baseball scorecard in his drawer, notching up hits when news came through of enemy deaths.

    A RADICAL Christian fanatic who decided the world was made up of the forces of good and evil, who invented a war on terror, and thus as author of it, believed he had the right to set the rules of engagement.

    Which translates to telling his troops to do what the hell they want to the bad guys. As he has at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and countless towns across Iraq.

    You have to feel sorry for the millions of Yanks in the big cities like New York, Washington, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco who voted to kick him out.

    These are the sophisticated side of the electorate who recognise a gibbon when they see one.

    As for the ones who put him in, across the Bible Belt and the South, us outsiders can only feel pity.

    Were I a Kerry voter, though, I'd feel deep anger, not only at them returning Bush to power, but for allowing the outside world to lump us all into the same category of moronic muppets.

    The self-righteous, gun-totin', military lovin', sister marryin', abortion-hatin', gay-loathin', foreigner-despisin', non-passport ownin' red-necks, who believe God gave America the biggest dick in the world so it could urinate on the rest of us and make their land "free and strong".

    You probably won't be surprised to learn of would-be Oklahoma Republican Senator Tom Coburn who, on Tuesday, promised to ban abortion and execute any doctors who carried them out.

    He also told voters that lesbianism is so rampant in the state's schools that girls were being sent to toilets on their own. Not that any principal could be found to back him up.

    These are the people who hijack the word patriot and liken compassion to child-molesting. And they are unknowingly bin Laden's chief recruiting officers.

    Al-Qaeda's existence is fuelled by the outpourings of America's Christian right. Bush is its commander-in-chief. And he and bin Laden need each other to survive.

    Both need to play Lex Luther to each others' Superman with their own fanatical people. Maybe that's why the mightiest military machine ever assembled has failed to catch the world's most wanted man.

    Or is the reason simply that America is incompetent? That behind the bluff they are frightened and clueless, which is why they've stayed with the devil they know.

    VISITORS from another planet watching this election would surely not credit the amateurism.

    The queues for hours to register a tick; the 17,000 lawyers needed to ensure there was no cheating; the $1.2bn wasted by parties trying to discredit the enemy; the allegations of fraud, intimidation and dirty tricks; the exit polls which were so wildly inaccurate; an Electoral College voting system that makes the Eurovision Song Contest look like a beacon of democracy and efficiency; and the delays and the legal wrangles in announcing the victor.

    Yet America would have us believe theirs is the finest democracy in the world. Well, that fine democracy has got the man it deserved. George W Bush.

    But is America safer today without Kerry in charge? A man who overnight would have given back to the UN some credibility and authority. Who would have worked out the best way to undo the Iraq mess without fear of losing face.

    Instead, the questions facing America today are - how many more thousands of their sons will die as Iraq descends into a new Vietnam? And how many more Vietnams are on the horizon now they have given Bush the mandate to go after Iran, Syria, North Korea or Cuba...?

    Today is a sad day for the world, but it's even sadder for the millions of intelligent Americans embarrassed by a gung-ho leader and backed by a banal electorate, half of whom still believe Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11.

    Yanks had the chance to show the world a better way this week, instead they made a thuggish cowboy ride off into the sunset bathed in glory.

    And in doing so it brought Armageddon that little bit closer and re-christened their beloved nation The Home Of The Knave and the Land Of The Freak.

    God Help America.