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April 14, 2005

Speaking of action figures

Another picture of the boys...

Talking Jesus

My friend Jack Hitt emailed me this one (though I see Tbogg has it up too):

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - A talking Jesus doll is due to go on sale in May, along with versions of Moses, the Virgin Mary and David, as a teddy bear maker tries to find a market with churches and religious families.

The foot-tall Jesus doll will be able to recite five Biblical verses at the push of button on its back, while the Moses doll will recite the Ten Commandments. The Mary doll will recite a long Bible verse.

Joshua Livingston, one of the original founders of Valencia, Calif.-based Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Co. has returned to the company to head its new Biblical doll unit, One2Believe. In the past, Beverly Hills Teddy Bear mostly manufactured bears and other plush toys on a contract basis for other retailers.

Actually, and this is no joke, there's already a company which makes Talking Jesus dolls. And what I particularly like is that their version of Talking Jesus recites--

--the Ten Commandments.

I assume that even this site's largely secular audience will understand what's wrong with that.

...various nitpickers are insisting that this would not be theologically inconsistent, because Jesus, as a Jew, would have been intimately familiar with the Commandments. Well, sure, and Abraham Lincoln was undoubtedly familiar with the writings of Thomas Jefferson, but if you're making a talking Abe Lincoln action figure, trying to convey the essence of the man with a few ounces of molded plastic and an embedded thirty second sound chip, are you going to have him reciting excerpts from the Declaration of Independence or the Gettysburg Address...?

...Greg at the Talent Show has more...

Speaking of the Pulitzer

Congratulations to Willamette Week (the paper that runs my work in Portland, Oregon), and to their reporter Nigel Jaquiss, who was awarded a Pulitzer for an investigative series about an ex-Governor's history of sexual abuse of a teenage girl.

Despite the fact that they've been around for several decades, the altweeklies are still treated as the poor and somewhat unruly cousin of Serious Journalism. It's nice to see one of these papers getting the respect it deserves.


One of the first emails that came in this morning was from a reader warning me to brace myself before looking at Brooks' latest column, and boy was he right. McBobo's latest canard is that opposition to the appointment of John Bolton as UN ambassador is coming primarily from one-world utopians who in their heart of hearts want to abolish national borders and create a world governing authority, but gosh darn it, this tough-talking Bolton fellow stands in the way of their squishy-headed dream.


Brooks doesn't content himself with building straw men. Brooks builds straw populations. Brooks brings forth straw galaxies out of the inchoate darkness of what is clearly an overactive imagination. He seems to believe that, by spinning these ideological fantasies out on the op-ed page of the Times, he can give them form and substance--turn his straw men into gold, if you will.

And within each column, there is invariably at least one demonstrably false assertion, and Brooks does not disappoint today:

We will never accept global governance, third, because we love our Constitution and will never grant any other law supremacy over it. Like most peoples (Europeans are the exception), we will never allow transnational organizations to overrule our own laws, regulations and precedents. We think our Constitution is superior to the sloppy authority granted to, say, the International Criminal Court.

Okay, this is just forehead-slappingly stupid, as anyone who's paid the slightest attention to international trade agreements like NAFTA and GATT is well aware--our love of the Constitution aside, we already have effectively given transnational organizations the ability to overrule our laws and regulations. (Here's one quick example for the inevitable doubters in the audience.)

The intellectual banality of this man astounds even a simple uneducated cartoonist such as myself.


Talking heads

They asked me to come on Hannity & Colmes last night to talk about Nick Anderson, the cartoonist who won the Pulitzer this year. Apparently the Powerline types are having conniption fits because he, you know, makes fun of glorious leader. (Imagine how they'd react if I ever won the damn thing.) I declined the invitation because I had other obligations, but even if I'd been available, I can't say I would have been awfully enthused about a four hour door-to-door round trip in order to have a few minutes on a Fox News shouting heads show. (They wanted me in studio for this one.) Then again, I can't say I'd be awfully enthused even if they wanted to do a remote right down the street. I've been on their show before--there was admittedly a time when a walk on role as a monkey in one of these little televised circuses seemed emminently desirable to me. It's just that these days, I can't quite remember why.

At any rate, I was sort of curious who they booked in my stead and was poking around the H&C website when I found this extraordinary transcript from last month. It reads like satire, something I myself might have written last December when the various Fox shouters were busy defending Christmas from the godless liberals--but it is quite genuine. Trust me on this, you really want to read this one all the way through--it's completely surreal. The whole thing is an exercise in people babbling for the sake of babbling, which I guess is the point for me--I just don't want to be one of those people.

BOB BECKEL, GUEST HOST: Welcome back to "Hannity & Colmes." I'm Bob Beckel, filling in for Alan Colmes and stealing Sean Hannity's lines!

Tonight, there may be a new endangered species to add to the national register -- the Easter Bunny. Several south Florida shopping malls have renamed the large, white rabbit that's handing out plastic eggs to kids with names that don't refer to the Christian holiday, like "Peter Rabbit" and "Garden Bunny".

Is this political correctness going too far? Joining us now is the communications director of American Atheists, David Silverman.

David, what's up?

DAVID SILVERMAN, AMERICAN ATHEISTS: Hey, thanks for having me back on the show.

You know, first of all, I want to say that this is about private property and this is about private enterprise. And they can name their bunnies anything they want. They can name them Peter Rabbit or they can name them the Jesus Bunny for all we care. They are private enterprises, and they can do what we wish -- or what they wish, I should say.

BOB BECKEL, GUEST HOST: But why do they wish to do that?

SILVERMAN: Because it's capitalism. They're living in a place that is growing more and more diverse. And they're recognizing the fact that Easter is only Christian. And even though it doesn't have Christian roots, they're recognizing that is more than Christian, and they want to play on the safe side. They want to sell more stuff. When it comes right down to it, these malls want to sell more stuff. They don't want to...


BECKEL: If the Easter Bunny goes away, my kids are going to absolutely floor me. I'll tell you.

SILVERMAN: The Easter Bunny is not going away. It's just having a different name.

BECKEL: Good, that's important.


SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: You know something, David? Look, where is the tolerance on the left anymore? I mean, this is the Easter Bunny. This is about Bob's kids and my kids going to the mall. Are you really going to be hurt, are you really going to be offended by a mall identifying a bunny as the Easter Bunny? Is your faith shaken that deeply?

SILVERMAN: On a scale of one to ten, we're talking about a two. But on a scale of one to ten, the actual act of calling it something more neutral is nice to see. You know, it's nicer to see.

HANNITY: Should we remove the name of Jesus Christ from the public square totally?

SILVERMAN: We're talking about the Easter Bunny.

HANNITY: Take "In God We Trust" off U.S. coins, right? "One nation under God" out of the Pledge. We go back to the Declaration of Independence and say, "Endowed by our creator," out, too?

SILVERMAN: Absolutely not. We're talking about malls that are allowed to call the Easter Bunny anything they want.


SILVERMAN: Bob, I want to make sure that you guys both understand this. This isn't something from the left that we're pushing. This is just something that's happening.

HANNITY: It's happening because of the left.

SILVERMAN: It's happening, and we're supporting it...

HANNITY: Because of the left.


HANNITY: Because of guys like you, because you're demanding it, because of the frivolous lawsuits...

SILVERMAN: How can you blame me when we're not doing anything? This is something -- no, no, no, Sean. We're not doing anything. You're going a little too far here because...

HANNITY: No, I'm not. Why is it happening then?

SILVERMAN: Because of capitalism. They're going to sell more stuff.

HANNITY: All right. It's all happening because of capitalism.


SILVERMAN: They're not doing it because of the atheists. We don't have anything to do with it.

HANNITY: Why are the Boy Scouts under attack by atheist groups, by girls that want to be in the Boy Scouts, by gay and lesbian groups that don't like their values?

SILVERMAN: You want to talk about the Boy Scouts?

HANNITY: No, what it is an assault on the very people in the society that lecture us about tolerance. You guys on the left, you are the most intolerant people on the face of the Earth to the point now that the Easter Bunny cannot be named the Easter Bunny without offending somebody in your side.

SILVERMAN: I just told you that it barely offends anybody. I told you that we're not pushing it.

HANNITY: So let it go.

SILVERMAN: I don't push it. I'm not pushing it at all.

BECKEL: Let me just say one thing about the Boy Scouts. The Boy Scouts, when they allow gay Boy Scouts in the Boy Scouts, then that won't be a problem for me. But they don't.

HANNITY: But they can have the gay scouts if they want if they don't like the values of the Boy Scouts.

BECKEL: Come on. These are people, too.

But let's get back to this for a second.

HANNITY: They are people. You're right.

BECKEL: They are people...

HANNITY: And the Boy Scouts don't have to change their values to accommodate everybody...


SILVERMAN: ... public funds.


BECKEL: Let's be happy to know the Boy Scouts probably do keep the Easter Bunny. OK.

SILVERMAN: Final thought.

BECKEL: Go ahead, final thought.

SILVERMAN: American Atheists is having a national convention. It's the biggest atheist party of the year.

HANNITY: Oh, stop it. You know what? Pay me money for this.

SILVERMAN: Hey, you know what? Atheists.org. This is advertising, darned straight.


BECKEL: These guys down in Florida, do you really think -- Easter, you said it. I know it to be true. It's not in the bible. This is not a religious statement here. The Easter bunny is a brand name. I mean, why not keep it? It doesn't make any sense.

HANNITY: All right. We have got to break, Mr. Atheist.

SILVERMAN: Atheists.org. Thank you, everybody.


April 13, 2005

Tarbox Ramblers

Their drummer sent me a complimentary note a month or so ago, so I looked up their site and liked what I heard--growly blues, vaguely reminiscent of Morphine. Anyway, a generous reader bought their latest CD off the Wish List, and it's quickly become one of my current favorites.



As Negroponte prepares for his Senate confirmation hearing today for the new post of director of national intelligence, hundreds of previously secret cables and telegrams have become available that shed new light on the most controversial episode in his four-decade diplomatic career. The documents, drawn from Negroponte's personal records as ambassador to Honduras from 1981 to 1985, were released by the State Department in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from The Washington Post.

* * *

Overall, Negroponte comes across as an exceptionally energetic, action-oriented ambassador whose anti-communist convictions led him to play down human rights abuses in Honduras, the most reliable U.S. ally in the region. There is little in the documents the State Department has released so far to support his assertion that he used "quiet diplomacy" to persuade the Honduran authorities to investigate the most egregious violations, including the mysterious disappearance of dozens of government opponents.

The contrast with his immediate predecessor, Jack R. Binns, who was recalled to Washington in the fall of 1981 to make way for Negroponte, is striking. Before departing, Binns sent several cables to Washington warning of possible "death squad" activity linked to Honduran strongman Gen. Gustavo Alvarez. Negroponte dismissed the talk of death squads and, in an October 1983 cable to Washington, emphasized Alvarez's "dedication to democracy."

Two videos you need to watch

At DNext, they call him "one-take Georgie." Remarkable footage of glorious leader. And then there's this inexplicable music video which everyone else has linked to already, but just in case you missed it...


Coming soon: resin maquettes of your favorite angry penguin and very nice dog duo, with real protesting action! Sparky stands about a foot tall. His wing moves up and down, and the sign is removable. And Blinky has real wire whiskers.

...we're also considering having it so you can swap out slogans on the sign. I'm feeling a little too close to the forest to see the penguins right now, so I'm going to throw this one out to all of you--what other Sparky-ish phrases would you like to see?

Note to Des Moines readers

The paper that runs my cartoon in Des Moines, City View, has apparently just been bought by another company. I was contacted by them last week--they wanted to keep running the cartoon, asked what they needed to do. Seemed very concerned about missing a single week's installment, very eager to keep running the cartoon. Today, however, with no explanation other than that "decisions were made regarding content," I've been informed that City View will no longer be running This Modern World after all.

I'm not posting an email address or phone number here, because I'm not interested in astroturfing them. But if you live in Des Moines and would like to register your disapproval of this decision with the new owners of City View, you should certainly pick up a copy of the paper and look up the contact info and let them know how you feel.



April 12, 2005

Question authority

It may be a banal bumper sticker slogan, but it's also pretty good advice, given how often power breeds duplicity.

For instance:

Dennis Kyne put up such a fight at a political protest last summer, the arresting officer recalled, it took four police officers to haul him down the steps of the New York Public Library and across Fifth Avenue.

"We picked him up and we carried him while he squirmed and screamed," the officer, Matthew Wohl, testified in December. "I had one of his legs because he was kicking and refusing to walk on his own."

Accused of inciting a riot and resisting arrest, Mr. Kyne was the first of the 1,806 people arrested in New York last summer during the Republican National Convention to take his case to a jury. But one day after Officer Wohl testified, and before the defense called a single witness, the prosecutor abruptly dropped all charges.

During a recess, the defense had brought new information to the prosecutor. A videotape shot by a documentary filmmaker showed Mr. Kyne agitated but plainly walking under his own power down the library steps, contradicting the vivid account of Officer Wohl, who was nowhere to be seen in the pictures. Nor was the officer seen taking part in the arrests of four other people at the library against whom he signed complaints.

A sprawling body of visual evidence, made possible by inexpensive, lightweight cameras in the hands of private citizens, volunteer observers and the police themselves, has shifted the debate over precisely what happened on the streets during the week of the convention.

For Mr. Kyne and 400 others arrested that week, video recordings provided evidence that they had not committed a crime or that the charges against them could not be proved, according to defense lawyers and prosecutors.


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