August 29, 2006

BUSH JOKES

Many people have commented about the episode of Bill Maher's show where Christopher Hitchens gave the audience the finger. But no one has said anything about the other brilliant things Hitchens brought up. Really, I just couldn't get over how danged witty his jabs were; it always took the audience a second to realize they were being ridiculed. You should watch his performance here at The Malcontent.

Maher made joke after joke after joke about how dumb and religious Bush is. Seriously, he beat that horse. And I personally think Hitchens' best bit was getting fed up with it. At about ten minutes into the segment, he said:

I've been on the Jon Stewart show, I've been on your show, I've seen you make about five George Bush IQ jokes per night, there's no one I know who can't do it. You know what I think? This is now the joke that stupid people laugh at. It's a joke that any dumb person can laugh at because they think they're smarter, they can prove they're smarter than the President. Like the people who make booing and mooing noises in your audience.

My husband and I both agree that we will be relieved when Bush leaves office for the simple reason that hopefully we can put an end to the idiot jokes. No matter how many times someone points out that Bush's IQ is in the 90th percentile, probably slightly higher than Kerry's, no matter that Bush has degrees from Harvard and Yale, every yahoo with a computer likes to pretend he's oh so much smarter than Bush. I think Hitchens is right: people like to think Bush is stupid because it makes them feel better about themselves.

But it truly takes a simple man to think himself grand because he can make chimp jokes.

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August 22, 2006

THE WRONG THING TO READ AT 3 AM

Charlie threw up at 0315, and I couldn't go back to sleep after we cleaned it up. I thought some internet would help, but clicking on this Amritas post in the middle of the night just made my head reel even more.

He says, among many other things:

Instead of focusing on over there, we should remember what we can do here. Specifically, tighten the borders. Minimize Muslim immigration.

But noooo. We want more 'security'. More war in East Ameraq. No attention paid to the Muslims that continue to stream into the West. We whine about the jihadists among them when it's too late - when they're already here - often with citizenship. What does that say about us? We want to be warriors, bravely defending our fortress - while we leave the back door wide open. Why? Because we also want to pat ourselves on the back for being free of bigotry. Aren't we wonderful?

I can't find anything there I don't agree with. Amritas has gradually come to see the war in Iraq as the wrong move, which I can respect because I've followed his thought process, and nowhere did it involve ideas like "no blood for oil" or "Bush is Hitler". Common ground goes a long way. And when I read things like the segment of Diana West's article he quoted, I find myself agreeing:

I wanted to make the world - that part of the world from which terrorism mainly springs - democratic, and therefore, safe.

Over the past few years, then, the United States has supported fledgling democracies in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Palestinian Authority ... But the fact is, when these peoples have spoken, what we have heard, or should have been hearing, in the expression of their collective will is that the mechanics of democracy alone (one citizen, one vote) do not automatically manufacture democrats - if by democrats we mean citizens who believe first and foremost in the kind of liberty that guarantees freedom of conscience and equality before the law.

On the contrary, each of these new democracies has produced constitutions that enshrine Islamic law.

This, as I understand it, is a big part of why Amritas feels we made the wrong move by going into Iraq. I can appreciate this argument, since I have fretted about the same thing in recent times. My husband and I worry constantly about the seven signs of non-competitive states, which I think wholly applies to the Middle East problem.

That said, I still see good in our presence in Iraq. Varifrank reminds us this week that Iran could've easily armed Hizbollah if Old Iraq had been in the middle to cooperate.

Even though there's a whole website dedicated to me being the world's biggest war cheerleader (yep, it's still up and running), I have never said that I have all the answers. I, like Amritas, simply fear and even hate Islam. But I don't know the best course of action for defending ourselves from it; I just know I'll support whatever it takes to get them to leave us alone.

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August 20, 2006

GRAVITY'S BURDEN

Last night we watched Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Meh. It wasn't that great, but it's easy to finish a so-so movie; it's only two hours of my life. However, I am struggling with applying the same concept to the book I'm reading. I've already sunk countless hours into Gravity's Rainbow, and I can't decide if I want to keep going or throw in the towel.

I've never not finished a book (well, except once, but I felt guilty for 15 years). I always think that there's got to be something of value in most books, so I hate to quit them. Maybe the good part is at the end, and I'll never know. But it's bad news when you're on page 140 of a 760 page book and every page feels like a chore.

Has anyone else read this book? Is it worth it? There are whole companion books dedicated to this monster; doesn't it seem like any book that you need two other books and several websites to understand is a bit ridiculous? When the Wikipedia entry starts "The main narrative thread (insofar as there is one)", that's not a good sign. Nor is the fact that the book was suggested for a Pulitzer and rejected by the board because it was "unreadable."

And I thought I'd type out a passage for you to mull over when I googled it and found that Photon Courier has written about the same passage. Because it's his favorite. The one that was practically my breaking point. Sigh. I know he's read my blog once before; maybe he can urge me to keep going in the book.

I will point out that he cut the passage way down though. Perhaps even he was daunted by a 16 line sentence.

At what point do you cut your losses with a book and move on? Or do you keep trudging through and hope that the end of the book brings enlightenment or at least satisfaction in knowing you didn't give up?

I don't like to quit books. But I also don't like dreading picking it up.

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August 14, 2006

2996

I clicked on a link to Uncle Sam Ate My Baby blog because of the hilarious name. What I found was a wonderful thing called 2996. It is a project to honor those who died on 9/11; participants research a victim and post their tribute on the fifth anniversary. I signed up for a person immediately. They still need about 1200 people to participate, so if you have any interest in this project, please go to 2996 and sign up.

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August 11, 2006

FED UP

I heard a lot on the news yesterday about how Americans have forgotten about 9/11, and how this recently foiled terror plot should help us all focus. But apparently some people seem to have forgotten on purpose, because they don't believe we're fighting a war.

dumbdu.jpg

Hawkins is right that if this plot had been successful, if hundreds more people had been killed in planes this year, these would've been the first people to blame Bush and Blair. You can't win.

So everyone's mad. The Democratic Underground is mad that Bush is elevating the terror level for political gain. And the Council on American Islamic Relations is mad that Bush blamed the terror plot on, um, Muslims:

U.S. Muslim groups criticized President George W. Bush on Thursday for calling a foiled plot to blow up airplanes part of a “war with Islamic fascists,” saying the term could inflame anti-Muslim tensions.

U.S. officials have said the plot, thwarted by Britain, to blow up several aircraft over the Atlantic bore many of the hallmarks of al Qaeda.

“We believe this is an ill-advised term and we believe that it is counter-productive to associate Islam or Muslims with fascism,” said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations advocacy group.

“We ought to take advantage of these incidents to make sure that we do not start a religious war against Islam and Muslims,” he told a news conference in Washington.

“We urge him (Bush) and we urge other public officials to restrain themselves.”

Yes, because you know that after 9/11, 7/7, Madrid, etc, white people went bonkers and started rioting in the street and sawing off Muslims' heads with dull knives. We really need to prevent this from happening again. I mean, it's just be a coincidence that all these terror attacks over the past five years have been perpetrated by Muslims. We can't really blame Islam for any of this. It's obviously "counter productive" to say that there's causation here; I guess it's just correlation. So we owe you guys a big apology, Hasan Akbar, John Walker Lindh, Richard Reid, Muhammad and Malvo, Mohammed Reza Taheriazar, and Naveed Haq. The fact that you are all Muslims is just a big ol' coincidence, and any attempt to associate you with Islamic facism would be a grave injustice. We beg your forgiveness that while you were killing people, we might've offended you with a label.

Sorry, my sarcasm-meter just hit amaravatian levels.

Maybe Malkin is right: it doesn't even do any good to call them "Islamic fascists", because that assumes that it's an outlying fringe. Check out her scary graphs.

Laser beam. Laser beam. Laser beam.
Deep breath.

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August 06, 2006

WHAT UP GANGSTA?

My husband read this article in Forbes, and we immediately became 50 Cent fans. We listened to his album in the car this weekend, which is a completely different experience when you know more about him. He wasn't just whistlin' dixie with that "Get Rich or Die Tryin'" slogan. It's extremely amusing to listen to the song "High All the Time" and know that 50 Cent doesn't even smoke weed; he's just a shrewd businessman who knows what sells. He made $50 million dollars in 2004 without even making an album. We can't help but be a tad impressed.

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August 03, 2006

ONE TONGUE

I just finished reading Mario Pei's The Story of Language. Because I've taken so many linguistics and ESL courses, the basic ideas of the book were not new to me, though it was fun to read a book written in 1948 and see how things have already changed. French was still considered a much bigger player than Russian, Chinese, or Spanish, and 60 years ago, "corny" and "gimmick" were apparently too slangy to be accepted. The most fascinating part of the book by far was the last chapter. After a discussion in the preceding chapter of constructed languages like Esperanto, Pei sets the stage for an international tongue. He argues that "people now alive will be completely replaced, within less than a century, by other people whose habits, linguistic and otherwise, are not yet formed because the people are not yet born, and who can be given, with proper planning, any set of linguistic or other habits that it pleases their enlightened elders to impart to them." And so he goes on to say

What is needed for the solution of the world's language problem is simply a language, any one of the world's 2796 natural languages or of the five hundred or so constructed ones that have at various times been proposed; with, however, two qualifications: the langauge selected must have absolute correspondence of written symbols for spoken sounds, and it must be adopted, by international agreement, in all countries at the same time, not in the high schools or colleges or universities, but in the lowest grade of the elementary schools, side by side with the national tongue, so that it may be learned easily, naturally, and painlessly by the oncoming generations.

Thus within a century, we'd all speak a common native language.

Anyone who's studied a foreign language beyond school requirements knows that the longer you study, the more you realize how tricky communication is. The more familiar you are with the lexicon, the more you see it doesn't match up one-to-one with your native tongue. And true and exact comprehension between two cultures seems hopelessly naive.

Language buffs like me will get excited by Pei's concept. Economists like my husband will say, "That's stupid. The free market already decided on a language and it's English, baby. Lucky for us." But set aside the diplomatic nightmare of implementing a universal language -- and I'm certain that's the reason that it's never been done in the 60 years since Pei suggested it -- and imagine for a moment what such a world would be like. A world where virtually everyone is bilingual and they all have one language in common.

The thought makes my heart skip a beat.

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