Thursday, August 15, 2002

Whoops

According to this article in the New York Times, the city's increasingly besieged smokers can at least find refuge at McSorley's, a bar "so smoker-friendly, it does not even have ashtrays. The floor, sprinkled with sawdust, works just fine."

The online version of this story has a small picture off to the right. It's much larger in the print edition, taking up nearly a fifth of the page. It's a perspective shot of the bar at McSorley's, which grows wider at the bottom of the frame as it nears the camera, drawing the viewer's attention inexorably to the most prominent element of the composition...

...an ashtray.


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Wednesday, August 14, 2002

You read it here first

Well, since this is now an official story, I suppose I can finally make the announcement: Michael Moore is, in fact, working on an animated movie, and I guess it will, as Variety puts it, "bear similarities in tone and sentiment" to Stupid White Men--but it will also bear similarities in tone and sentiment to a certain weekly cartoon with which visitors to this site are presumably familiar...because I've been collaborating with Michael on the script (along with my animation partner, Harold Moss) off and on for most of the past year, and will be art directing the film, overseeing design and animation, once we get going.

So it's looking like a busy year.

(A small correction to Cursor's blurb on this--the movie is not "based on Stupid White Men" in any way. I could tell you what it's about but then I'd have to--oh, never mind.)

August has the answer

What you found was a CGI thing... that “converts” any other website to a gold background. What the user found was a google-cached site of someone using the “tool” to promote the film to look at your site... I think, basically, it takes any page where a background color isn’t defined and converts it to orange. Unfortunately, you can’t really do anything about it, because it’s basically just a different type of web browser any user can enable. There’s no law preventing web browsers from manipulating a site to look the way a user defines it; just code to try to prevent people from doing it. The studio isn’t hijacking your site, they’re just allowing users to browse it with a browser that automatically converts white to orange. The debate of how pointless and stupid that is, however, is yet to begin.

There you have it. And I have to say, it's amazing how quickly the answers start rolling in when I post a question. I must use this power for good and not evil.


Okay, this is annoying

I've been kidnapped by Austin Powers.

The reader who sent this in tells me they found it via Google, which means apparently that someone searching Google for my site could possibly come across this nonsense. And since it is a very deliberate decision on my part not to include advertising on the site, I'm a just a wee bit irritated here.

Update: Edited to remove pointless speculation and questions which have now been answered (see next post).

Speaking of phantoms of lost liberty...

Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft's announced desire for camps for U.S. citizens he deems to be "enemy combatants" has moved him from merely being a political embarrassment to being a constitutional menace.

Ashcroft's plan, disclosed last week but little publicized, would allow him to order the indefinite incarceration of U.S. citizens and summarily strip them of their constitutional rights and access to the courts by declaring them enemy combatants.

* * *

Since the nation will never be entirely safe from terrorism, liberty has become a mere rhetorical justification for increased security.

Ashcroft is a catalyst for constitutional devolution, encouraging citizens to accept autocratic rule as their only way of avoiding massive terrorist attacks.

His greatest problem has been preserving a level of panic and fear that would induce a free people to surrender the rights so dearly won by their ancestors.

More here.

Further proof that the Constitution of the United States of America is officially an anachronism

An American touted by Attorney General John Ashcroft as a significant terrorism figure with plans to detonate a radioactive bomb is probably a "small fish" with no ties to al-Qaida cell members in the United States, law enforcement officials said.

The FBI's investigation has produced no evidence that the man, Jose Padilla, 31, who used the name Abdullah al Muhajir after converting to Islam in 1992 or 1993, had begun preparations for an attack and little reason to believe that he had any support from al-Qaida to direct such a plot, one of the officials said on condition of anonymity.

Okay, I'm a little pissed off this morning.

Do you get it yet? Do you begin to understand the implications here, when an American citizen can be arbitrarily declared a terrorist, held indefinitely as enemy combatant--with no evidence to support the charges?

Or do you believe that it's okay for the state to hold a citizen in a military facility without formal charges--as long as some law enforcement agency suspects him of, effectively, thoughtcrime? (In which case, perhaps you ought to consider moving to a country which places the same value on personal liberty that you do, such as, say, Iraq or Libya.)

Constitutional rights are meaningless if they do not apply equally to everyone, even Ted Bundy and Charlie Manson and Tim McVeigh, and even traitorous-high-ranking-al-Qaeda-dirty-bomb-plotting-except-as-it-turns-out-not-really gang members from Chicago. You either believe in our system of Constitutional protections or you don't, but there's nothing to debate here, especially when your strongest argument is, But he's a terrorist! I just know he is! There was never much doubt that Charlie Manson was a mass murderer--he still got a damn trial.

If you don't understand this, if you have learned nothing from the lessons of history, if you so blithely dishonor the gift of liberty which has been passed down to you from preceding generations...then I guess you deserve the world you will inevitably inhabit. Unfortunately, you will also drag the rest of us down with you, like a cinder block chained to the feet of a drowning man.

Story here, by the way.

And--bonus rant--keep in mind that we are about to go to war with Iraq, and very probably sacrifice the lives of an untold number of young American military personnel--because if you think that Iraq is going to be a pushover like Afghanistan, you are simply delusional--keep in mind that we're heading into this with no real evidence that it is in any way necessary or justified, nothing but the word of the same administration which recently assured us that Padilla was, no question about it, a high ranking al Qaeda dirty bomber. The time to ask questions is now--because if we find out in five years, or twenty, that the half-baked justifications we were given had no more basis in reality than the Gulf of Tonkin incident, well, that's going to be a little too late for the young widows of U.S. servicemen, for the children who will grow up without without their fathers or mothers. This isn't a computer game. The price of Saddam's overthrow will be paid in American (and of course, Iraqi) lives. Is it so much to ask that we be given something more compelling than Don Rumsfeld's vague assurances that this is necessary, trust us, we know what we're doing?

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Tuesday, August 13, 2002

Telescreen alert

Tonight's Donahue looks worthwhile:

Tonight: Economic forum, Donahue-style. The Bush administration has its idea of an economic forum and so do we. While Bush hears from the usual suspects, we'll hear a
different story. Michael Moore, author of "Stupid White Men," joins Phil from the demolished Buick city plant in Flint, Michigan. In addition to tackling the economy, they'll talk gun control and violence in America, the subject of Moore's prizewinning documentary "Bowling for Columbine".

In the second half, French intelligence analyst Jean Charles Brisard shares his theory of the real story behind 9/11. Brisard's book, "Bin Laden: The Forbidden Truth," made
headlines in France, alleging that the Bush and Clinton administrations put oil and politics before security in the months preceding the attacks. Now, in a candid interview, he breaks it down for Phil.


Two from Cursor

1. Guess what oil-producing country isn't included in the new program requiring foreign visitors from certain Middle Eastern and Islamic states to be fingerprinted and photographed? (Hint: fifteen of the nineteen hijackers came from there.)

2. Christopher Hitchens, who supported the war in Afghanistan, seems somewhat more ambivalent about war in Iraq. I wonder if the conservatives who suddenly found him to be such a brilliant leftist then will pay attention to his more cautious stance now.

(T)he US Administration refuses to say whether it wants a military junta in Baghdad, a monarchy, a vassal - or even an Iraqi state at all. Given the open rehearsals for invasion, there can be no "security," excuse for this weird silence.

Citizens should be demanding that our rulers publish a clear statement both of war aims and political objectives.

The long suffering inhabitants of Iraq deserve to hear and debate this.

At least half his brain tied behind his back

Several of you have written in to explain to me, with the slightly exasperated air of a schoolteacher lecturing a not-very-bright student, that no one is claiming that the upcoming War In The Gulf Part Two™ is in any way connected to Sept. 11, and I'm only setting up straw men when I note otherwise.

Well, before that limb you're standing on breaks off completely, you might want to read Rush Limbaugh's op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal. Unfortunately the online Journal can only be accessed by subscribers, but here's a rundown via Tapped:

Noted constitutional theorist Rush Limbaugh takes to The Wall Street Journal op-ed page to explain why George W. Bush need not obtain a congressional declaration of war in order to invade Iraq. We wish this was a joke, but it isn't. Basically, Rush says that there's plenty of evidence that Iraq was directly involved in September 11, which means that Iraq is covered under the original post-September 11 authorization of force. Of course, this is only true if you disregard the CIA, which according to The Washington Times' Bill Gertz doesn't believe there was a connection.

I know I should just ignore her, but her charms are simply irresistable

One more from Ann, via various readers:

How is it that the New York Times managed to locate the only eight people in America opposed to attacking Iraq? (By "America," I obviously mean to exclude newsrooms, college campuses, Manhattan and Los Angeles).

Sure, this is probably just shtick for her, playing to the perceived audience, the Freepers and Fox News crowd, but still. The residents of the hardest hit borough in the hardest hit city do not live in America? The people who died in those terrible moments were not Americans? Tell it to al Qaeda, darlin'. They weren't trying to attack Canada when they left a hole in the heart of New York City that day. (Or was that not an "Attack on America"? You can't have it both ways.)

By the way, aren't Manhattan and Los Angeles two of the three cities to which Ms. Coulter confined her book tour? Due to her aspiring agoraphobia--i.e., fear of those vast open spaces out there in what elitists of any ideology dismissively refer to as "flyover country"?

Afterthought: since Coulter's misrepresentations and outright lies certainly outnumber any of Robert Fisk's perceived sins by a factor of about a thousand to one, a suggestion to the blogosphere-- why not retire that tired and self-congratulatory "giving (blank) a Fisking" nonsense and replace it with more accurate nomenclature, i.e., giving someone a Coulter? As in, "Boy, he really got Coultered!"

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Monday, August 12, 2002

Bill Mauldin

From a Bob Greene column in the Chicago Tribune. (I'm probably reprinting more of this than fair use would generally allow, but given the particulars, I don't think anyone will object.)

For those of you too young to recognize the name: Bill Mauldin, who is now 80 years old, was the finest and most beloved editorial cartoonist of World War II. An enlisted man who drew for Stars and Stripes, he was the one who gave the soldiers hope and sardonic smiles on the battlefields; Mauldin knew their hearts because he was one of them. Using his dirty, unshaven, bone-weary infantrymen characters Willie and Joe as his vehicle, Mauldin let all those troops know there was someone who understood. A Mauldin classic from World War II: an exhausted infantryman standing in front of a table where medals were being given out, saying: "Just gimme th' aspirin. I already got a Purple Heart."

Baby-faced and absolutely brilliant, Mauldin became a national phenomenon. Talk about a boy wonder: By the time he was 23 years old he had won a Pulitzer Prize, been featured on the cover of Time magazine and had the country's No. 1 best-selling book, "Up Front." Yet he remained the unaffected, bedrock genuine, decent and open guy ... his fellow soldiers loved him.

* * *

Bill Mauldin needs help.

He suffered terrible burns in a household accident a while back; his health has deteriorated grievously, and his cognitive functions are barely working. He lives in a room in a nursing home in Orange County, Calif., and sometimes days at a time go by without him saying a word. He was married three times, but the last one ended in divorce, and at 80 in the nursing home Mauldin is a single man.

I spoke with members of his family; they said that, even though Bill hardly communicates, the one thing that cheers him up is hearing from World War II guys-- the men for whom he drew those magnificent cartoons.

Which is not what you might expect. Mauldin was not one to hold on to the past -- he did not want to be categorized by the work he did on the battlefields when he was in his 20s. He went on to have a stellar career in journalism after the war, winning another Pulitzer in 1959. Many Americans, and I'm one of them, consider the drawing he did on deadline on the afternoon John F. Kennedy was assassinated -- the drawing of the Lincoln Memorial, head in hands, weeping -- to be the single greatest editorial cartoon in the history of newspapers.

But it's his World War II contemporaries he seems to need now. The guys for whom -- in the words of Mauldin's son David -- Mauldin's cartoons "were like water for men dying of thirst." David Mauldin said his dad needs to hear that he meant something to those men.

He needs visitors, and he needs cards of encouragement. I'm not going to print the name of the nursing home, so that this can be done in a disciplined and scheduled way. A newspaper colleague in Southern California -- Gordon Dillow --has done a wonderful job organizing this, and he will take your cards to the nursing home. You may send them to Bill Mauldin in care of Dillow at the Orange County Register, 625 N. Grand Ave., Santa Ana, CA 92701.

What would be even better, for those of you World War II veterans who are reading these words in California, or who plan on traveling there soon, would be if you could pay a visit to Mauldin just to sit with him a while. You can let me know if you are willing to do this (bgreene@tribune.com), or you can let Gordon Dillow know (gldillow@aol.com).

Bill Mauldin brought hope, and smiles in terrible hours, to millions of his fellow soldiers. If you were one of them, and you'd like to repay the favor, this would be the time.

If you know a vet of that generation, please pass this information along. And if you're not familiar with Mauldin's work, you ought to look it up. Looks like Powell's has some copies of his profusely-illustrated memoirs--Up Front is a recollection of the war from the perspective of the grunts rather than the generals, and Back Home tells of the difficulties enlisted men faced trying to rejoin society afterwards. (If memory serves, the latter was received with less enthusiasm, revealing, as it did, some uncomfortable truths Americans didn't really want to face.) I enjoyed both of these books immensely.

More wacky Ann-tics

The "Evening Out With..." column in the Style section of yesterday's NY Times featured the Belle of New Canaan herself, Ann Coulter, once again proclaiming her solidarity with the proles. Er, that is to say, her heartfelt affinity for the working class. No, that's not right either. Real Americans. That's it. The deep, deep kinship she feels for real Americans.

At a summer party at the Westchester County weekend home of her agent, Ann exclaims:

"Did you see the cars outside?...Rich liberals. Queens, baseball games — those are my people. American people."

For those of you not attuned to the shorthand of the East Coast, Ann is expressing her enthusiasm for the borough of Queens, not for the matriarchs of royal families or flamboyantly gay men.

And I'll just bet Ann spends a whole lot of time at neighborhood bars in Queens, tossing back a shot and beer before she heads off to the bowling alley or the ball game. Why, I'll bet most of her friends are just regular working folks, people with jobs in factories and what not. In fact, does anybody know where Ann lives? I assume she's got a modest little duplex in some unassuming neighborhood out in Queens herself. Because those are, you know, her people.

Except the weird thing is, just a few paragraphs later, she expresses a certain reluctance to actually mingle with the regular folks, the hoi polloi...her people:

Richard Blow, the former executive editor of George magazine, who is just back from a book tour promoting his book on John F. Kennedy Jr., comes over to ask how Miss Coulter is holding up, where she's been on her book tour.

"I told my publicist I'm an aspiring agoraphobic," she says. "So I've been to L.A., Washington and New York. It just gets overwhelming, all those crazy people out there."

Puzzling choice of cities to visit, for someone whose sympathies lie so clearly with the (you will forgive the expression) people not the powerful.

(Incidentally, according to census data, Queens is the most ethnically diverse county in the nation, a landing site for immigrants from all over the globe. The Queens neighborhood of Elmhurst, according to National Geographic, had arrivals from 123 countries during the first half of the 1990s. Real Americans, yes--but not, I suspect, in the sense that Ann meant to convey.)

Fabulous Wall Street USA

Regular readers know that I've been comparing the stock market to Las Vegas for years. Marc Cooper draws the same parallel--and explains why we'd be better off in a casino.

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