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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Sunday, 29 February 2004

Topic: World View

Jerry Lewis, not Mel Gibson

Let's see here. It seems the French won't soon see Mel Gibson's new movie, "The Passion of the Christ." They seem to think Mel's a bit strange. One of the French national newspapers, Lib?ration, described Gibson's faith as "a Shi'ite version of Christianity ... imbibed with blood and pain" which "reduces the message of Christ to his death by torture". According to Lib?ration the film legitimized anti-Semitism. "The cult of the martyr is a dangerous combustible in which fanatics burn. It can feed intolerances and religious wars."

See L'Evangile selon saint Mel Gibson
Malgr? sa violence, le film de l'acteur int?griste bat des records aux Etats-Unis.
Par Fabrice ROUSSELOT, vendredi 27 f?vrier 2004

Or Machine ? convertir pour ?vang?liques
Le film est une aubaine pour ces protestants tr?s pros?lytes en vogue aux Etats-Unis.
Par Pascal RICHE, vendredi 27 f?vrier 2004

And so far the director Luc Besson is the only significant figure in the French industry to express interest in getting the film screened.

No wonder true, patriotic Americans hate the French. Not only were we forced to rename those deep-fried, salted potato sticks, well now it seems they hate sweet Jesus and the devout and humble Mel Gibson.

Here's the scoop.

See French cinemas refuse to screen The Passion
By Kim Willsher in Paris, The Sunday Telegraph, February 29, 2004

The basics:
French cinema chains are refusing to distribute or screen Mel Gibson's controversial film The Passion of the Christ because of fears that it will spark a new outbreak of anti-Semitism.

France is the only European country where there is still no distribution deal for the film, which depicts the last days of Jesus Christ in graphic detail and is accused by critics of stoking anti-Jewish sentiment.

The film was released in America last week but French distributors are wary of its impact on audiences and want to gauge its reception elsewhere in Europe, where it is due to open next month.

A veteran film industry figure said: "We don't want to be on the side of those who support such anti-Semitism. When we distributed It's a Beautiful Life by Benigni we were worried about the risk of making a comedy about the Holocaust, but that was different. There's enough anti-Semitic stuff circulating here already without us throwing oil on the fire."
In short, Gibson would call them moral cowards.

The Telegraph does note that debate over the film is highly sensitive in France, where a spate of fire-bombings of synagogues and Jewish schools and attacks on rabbis over the past year has led Israel to denounce it as the most anti-Semitic country in Europe.

And the Telegraph does note that there is a lot anger with Israel among France's large and growing Muslim population - might be that business with the big wall around the Palestinian folks - and this combined with the strength of Right-wing parties in some French districts has contributed to create "an atmosphere which has alarmed political and Jewish leaders."

No doubt. And yes, last year Paris police were forced to set up a dedicated unit to deal with anti-Semitic crimes.

It's hot.
Now a string of major distributors have signalled they are not interested in the film. "We could have asked to see it but we haven't," said Jean-Claude Borde, director of Pathe Distribution. "The subject doesn't interest us. Usually we acquire the rights to a film well in advance after reading the screenplay, but with Gibson it's not our cup of tea."

Other companies have either dismissed the film as "rubbish" or voiced anxiety over its content. "I didn't even stay until the end of The Passion. It's rubbish, nothing but a huge marketing operation.

"There are already enough bad films in France," said one French distributor who saw an early screening in the US. The industry is acutely aware of the capacity of film to stir popular passions after its experience of violent demonstrations and attacks on French cinemas following the release of Martin Scorsese's Last Temptation of Christ in 1988.
So they'll watch Jerry Lewis but don't want two see Gibson's Jesus-splatter-film.

Well, France is, nominally, a Catholic country but the real problem may not be there.
A group of traditional Catholics has formed a pressure group to attempt to force a French distributor to take up the film. Daniel Hamiche, a publisher and journalist, who has founded Pro-Passion, a supporters group, said: "France, the older son of the Church, is the only country in Europe where still today the film hasn't found a distributor. At first I believed they wanted to see how the film would do at the box office. Now, with the success of the film in America, I don't really understand why they are not snapping up - unless it's self-censorship."

... M Hamiche remains disgusted by what he regards as his countrymen's perfidious approach to The Passion.

"I do understand that the distributors and the Jewish community might be worried about possible attacks, but I don't believe the film is anti-Semitic and I think they are being over sensitive."
After Hitler and the trains heading east to the ovens, well, they might be a bit sensitive, don't you think?

Then the oddest thing of all - against these Catholics who want the Gibson film distributed we find the Committee Representing Jewish Institutions in France. And they seem to think a previous Pope did just fine.
French Jews fear that if M Hamiche's campaign is successful, anti-Semitic beliefs will spread. Patrick Klugman of the Committee Representing Jewish Institutions in France said: "The most important progress made against anti-Semitism in the 20th Century was achieved at Vatican II when the reference to the responsibility of the Jewish People in the catechisms was repealed.

"It's a shame that this film challenges this decision
Yes, in 1965 the Second Vatican Council, during the papacy of Paul VI, the church decided that while some Jewish leaders and their followers had pressed for the death of Jesus, "still, what happened in his passion cannot be charged against all Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today."

So the populist back-to-the-traditional Catholics side with Gibson, who broke from the Catholic Church because of Vatican II, and the Jews of France are busy defending Pope Paul VI and what he was up to in the mid-sixties, being forgiving and inclusive and all those sorts of things - that stuff Gibson hates.

It's a strange world. Religion is nothing but trouble.

Posted by Alan at 22:47 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Monday, 1 March 2004 05:31 PST home

Technical Difficulties

For the second week in a row, the parent magazine of this web log, Just Above Sunset will not publish on time. I will be sending the following message to my hosting service, Lycos-Tripod.
For the second week in a row I cannot publish my weekly magazine. On top of the three week outage in December, now this.

I reach "site builder" and when I clink on my URL - - I receive this message. "An error has interrupted communication between your browser and the web site server. Internal errors can have many causes."

Nothing I can do, logging on again, numerous reboots, warm and cold, fixes this. I cannot publish, again. And I am paying a monthly fee for your "professional" package and have upgraded for addition disk space and bandwidth.


I am about the send a broadcast email to my hundreds of subscribers asking, of those that are attorneys, if any of them would help me take legal action against Lycos-Tripod. This is totally unacceptable.

The total incompetence of Lycos is something I will broadcast to my readers around the country and in Europe. And I dare you to countersue me for my actions.
Of course I cannot send this until Monday morning, when their support staff reactivates the links that accept messages.

I urge any readers of this web log to never, under any circumstances, have any dealings with Tripod, Lycos or its trademark holder, Carnegie-Mellon University. Avoid any site associated with any of them.

I will be spending the rest of this evening trying to find workarounds for their problems.

If I do not find any solutions I will consider the parent magazine of this web log, Just Above Sunset to be dead. I will purchase a new URL and publish under a different name for the magazine with another hosting service.

Posted by Alan at 18:47 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Saturday, 28 February 2004

Topic: World View

As seen from Canada...
As seen from the UK...
We here in the United States seem a bit odd.

First, from the Globe and Mail, perhaps one of the dullest newspapers published in North America, comes an item by Rick Salutin.

See The Passion of the Christ and George Bush's America
Friday, February 27, 2004

This starts out as a discussion of Mel Gibson's new film The Passion of the Christ with the now expected comments on its violence and conspicuous lack of much anything else having to do with Christianity. Then Salutin veers off into the ether, suggesting a connection to the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon a few years ago.

I think the idea is that Gibson is providing an emblematic passion play that's really about the folks here south of his border wallowing in their "victim condition" - we suffered and the world changed.

Here's a bit of his reasoning, following the discussion of the details of the film.
... Note that the film's stress is not on inflicting relentless pain; it is on passive, unresisting endurance of it. That is the sense in which I think the film is also a moment in the life of Mr. Bush's America. It is the companion film to Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine, in which he captures the deep tension, fear and anxiety in the lives of many Americans, especially since 9/11, but also before: their endless expectation of danger and the lash about to fall. You see it in myriad small ways: when people are on family holidays at theme parks, looking warily around for terrorists, or drawing too frequently on the hose from the water bottle strapped to mom's waist, lest they all dehydrate. Then it happened -- 9/11 -- everything they anticipated and more. It swiftly became The Passion of America. It had meaning. It was not a disaster akin to other disasters that strike humans all the time, and always will. Rather, as the authorities constantly intoned: The world has changed forever. Not just the United States, the world. You could say exactly that about the passion a la Gibson. In his film, one of the few things Jesus says, in contrast to the endless abuse he suffers, is, "I make all things new."

These are generalizations about America, and subject to the usual qualifications. But the people most likely to make such links, in a conscious or instinctual way, happen to also be the crucial nucleus of the Bush constituency: born-again, fundamentalist Christians. What many of us forget, whether we admire or abhor that regime, is its deep anchorage in fundamentalism. They are the voters he must keep onside, as shown in his proposal this week of a constitutional amendment on marriage. Their support is what he brings to the table. All the rest -- policies, strategy, money -- comes from others. But he brings those believers as the core of his vote, and they recognize him as one of them. Three days after 9/11, speaking basically to them, he said, "Our responsibility before history is already clear: to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil."
Curious. It's almost as if George Bush then is some messianic figure who will avenge those "world-changing" attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon a few years ago. He is the soldier of Christ, sort of, who, although born too late for the Crusades and that effort to win back Jerusalem, and who also seems to have missed the Inquisition, and wasn't around in the late fifteenth century to drive the Jews out of Spain (that was curiously in 1492, the very year Columbus set sail to make our new world) still can order Iraq be flattened and remade into what we think it should be. Praise the Lord!

See the connection? Gibson's film is a paean to noble suffering (and little else) and that is how we like to think of ourselves. We suffered horribly but something good will come of it, if we stay focused and angry. Maybe.

It does seem a stretch. But Salutin tries that leap:
Christian fundamentalists are also the core audience for this movie. They focus on the rewards of the Rapture and Second Coming, which will only occur due to the awful grimness of the passion of Christ. Since, in this worldview, Christ took on the burden of your sin, i.e. your essence, by his death, there is little to do but wait, in unbearable tension, for his return, while gratefully recalling his sacrifice. A passion play embodies this state, and this film is a cinematic passion play.

Grief and rage mount during such a performance until they seek an outlet, which often, in the past, meant pogroms against Jews, villains of the drama. Similarly the passion of 9/11 was endlessly retold, and urgently needed an outlet. If you are the global superpower, outlets are many and prodigious. The deeper the sense as victim, the more justified and excessive the reaction. "God led me to strike at Saddam, which I did," George Bush told Palestinian premier Mahmoud Abbas.
Well, these days we're not going to go out and kill some Jews to avenge the suffering of Christ - as many Jews do vote, and Israel is our ally. But there are always plenty of Muslims.

In short, the argument here is that this film appeared at a propitious time - Gibson's mute and bloody Christ with no message other than "I suffer" becomes the outward and visible sign of our inward and spiritual suffering, an emblem for what so may feel. The world is cruel and our suffering changes everything. Nothing will ever be the same again, just like on Good Friday two thousand years ago. That changed the world. This must. Really?

This whole business seems to puzzle this Canadian and I suspect puzzles many around the world. Everyone knows the world can be cruel and massive numbers of innocents die. Such things happen - there are murderous fanatics in the world. One does what one can to make so they don't do such things again. So?

And why was this attack two years ago so very different? It hardly changed the world. We just joined everyone else in the pool of targets.

Yes, we should fight back. Everyone should, maybe even together - together because we're not so special. We're just joining the club.

On the other hand, it does feel good to know we're the exception, that only people who suffered to change the world.

Yeah, that sounds like bullshit to me too.


On the same day this Canadian made his argument, Martin Woollacott across the pond in the UK decided the problems isn't our fixation on our own noble suffering and messianic duty to remake the world, its just we're real good at holding grudges.

See How America's right bears the longest grudge: Attitudes to old conflicts are a key issue in the presidential race
Martin Woollacott, The Guardian (UK), Friday February 27, 2004

Woollacott has a great opening:
Trollope said that, after money in the bank, a grudge is the next best thing. His is an observation that is as true in international affairs as it is in personal life, and the United States is a striking example of it. America rarely overlooks an insult, and never closes the door entirely on a past defeat or humiliation unless the perpetrator has in the meantime been crushed. Thus the "axis of evil" made little sense in its grouping of three very different societies, and even less in its implication that they were somehow allies. But it made eminent sense as a grudge list.

The phrase was used in a speech focused on dangers ahead, but in truth it was as much about the past as it was about pre-emption and the future. All three countries had imposed notable defeats on the United States. North Korea, with the help of China, sent American forces reeling back from the Yalu half a century ago. Iran threw out the Shah, who had retained power in that country with the assistance of Britain and the United States, and brought in a regime that added to America's humility by taking its diplomats hostage. Iraq defied the United States over Kuwait, and Saddam Hussein, against what appeared to be the odds, then recovered control of most of his country, resisted American pressure to disarm and made the United States look ineffective and foolish.

These things rankled with many powerful Americans.
Actually, I never thought about these three troubling nations being just "unfinished business" but perhaps there is an element of that in the air.

But what about Vietnam? We trade with them now. We send tourists. We made them a market. And we didn't exactly do well there. Woollacott doesn't buy that - and claims that's on very recent behavior. He sees us just whomping floks who made us look bad:
The American instinct for revenge, evident also in the treatment of Vietnam, Cuba, Nicaragua and, for many years, China, is more marked than that of other powers. Perhaps America's lack of the experience of defeat on its own continent made reverses in the wider world especially difficult to swallow when they inevitably came.

Other nations have reconciled or compounded with those who had defeated them, as the British did with the Boers and the Irish, or the French with the Algerians. The United States, too, has been capable of magnanimity, as with Germany and Japan, but here a generosity of spirit arose only in the context of a total defeat of those two countries and the rapid transference of hostile feelings to the communist states.
Perhaps this is too harsh. Only Cuba now is a nation we regard is worthy of anything we can do to make life awful there.

Nevertheless this British fellow sees problems with Iraq.
America's historic reluctance to be satisfied with anything less than complete victory is now being tested in Iraq, where it seems inevitable that the full conservative program will not be pushed through, although how far it will fall short of the ambitions of men like Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz has yet to be seen. If, for instance, America does not get the right to base substantial forces in that country indefinitely, and Iraq wobbles off on a more or less independent path, the scene may well be set for another of those "Who lost the war?" dramas that have punctuated American political life since the Chinese communists ousted their nationalist foes in the late 40s. That will be especially so if by that time President Kerry rather than President Bush is in charge.

These arguments have always circled around two propositions. On the right, which at times has included the Democratic right, the proposition has been that if only the United States had exerted its full strength, it would have prevailed. On the left, which has sometimes included Republican realists, the proposition has been that there are objectives that are not morally defensible and others that may be desirable but are not practically possible, and that it behooves a great power to recognize when either of these situations arises.
Gosh, it sound as if we're in a pickle. The choice is smash and grab - slam those who over the long years made us look bad, but only if we can get away with it. and can get some goodies.

Woollacott, after a long discussion of Kerry and Bush and the upcoming election, ends with this:
[The Bush administration] may be prepared to soften its line on disobedient allies such as France and Germany. But its reluctance to give Libya the benefit of the doubt, its closed views on Cuba, its distaste for unavoidable co-operation with Iran, its view of China as a future rival and its crablike approach to negotiations with North Korea, are all indications of how long-lived the American grudge can be.

Apart from the principle that American power should when necessary be exerted to maximum effect on enemies that the US clearly discerns as such, there is something else at work here. That is the idea that if a regime has stood in the way of the US and got away with it, it should sooner or later have to pay for its temerity.
I don't think this guy likes us very much, or, at the very least, he doesn't much like what our leaders do to get even with nations we remember as having done something really, really bad a long time ago.

He probably doesn't "get" the Hatfield and McCoy business either. Some things you just never let go. Immature? Perhaps. But we have our pride.

At least the Canadian fellow only thinks we're a bit daft on religion.

Posted by Alan at 08:05 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Friday, 27 February 2004

Topic: Bush

Notes on Ground Zero

Now and then I think about grabbing one of the several daily Jet Blue flights from Long Beach to Newark and visiting my attorney friend in New York. He works in lower Manhattan. He had friends die when the World Trade Center buildings fell. He thinks I should visit what is now called "Ground Zero." But I know I shouldn't make that visit. I would not be welcome there. There is no place for me, the registered Democrat and decades-long member of the ACLU and NAACP. That spot is reserved for Republicans, the patriots who supported the war of vengeance against Iraq, the center of all the effort to kills us all. I don't see it that way. So I will stay here.

Do you think that's silly? Consider this:

Albert Eisele and Jeff Dufour, The Hill, February 26, 2004
President planning NYC extravaganza
White House goal is unprecedented convention theater
"And now, direct from Ground Zero, heeeeeeere's the president!"

Well, that's not exactly how President Bush is likely to be introduced when he gives his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention on Sept. 2, but it might be something equally dramatic and theatrical.

According to sources privy to convention planners' discussions, the 2004 GOP conclave at New York's Madison Square Garden will be unlike any previous quadrennial gathering of either party. In fact, not all of the main events will be held at the Garden, sources involved in planning the Aug. 31-Sept. 2 convention said.

"The entire format and actual physical setup could be radically different," one GOP insider commented. "They might not even have a podium, or maybe a rotating podium or even a stage that comes up from underground. It would be like a theater in the round, with off-site events that are part of the convention."

The source, a veteran official of past GOP conventions, said the 50,000 delegates, dignitaries and guests would watch off-site events on giant TV screens. "Now, we'll go to the deck of the USS Intrepid as the U.S. Marine Corps Band plays the National Anthem," he said, pretending that he was playing the part of the convention chairman.

"Or, and this is a real possibility, we could see President Bush giving his acceptance speech at Ground Zero," he added. "It's clearly a venue they're considering."
Well, that's what people want to see. I don't.

Perhaps people - widows and such who think the investigation of what happened should go on and not be shut down by the House as was announced this week - will actually become a bit angry that the place where so many died should be used as a campaign symbol by the Bush-Cheney ticket.

But Karl Rove, the president's life-long friend and political advisor, can hardly resist this. It's the perfect "you're with us or you love and support the terrorists" symbolism. Vote for Bush or declare you don't care about all those who died here.

Oh well. What else would you expect?

And on the same topic I was surprised by CNN last night when the cuddly moderate Aaron Brown opened his show "Newsnight" with this.

Broadcast Transcript of Segment Aired February 26, 2004 - 22:30 EST
We admit we don't do causes very well on the program. And I don't do outrage well at all, yet, tonight, a cause and an outrage. The decision by the speaker of the House to deny the independent commission investigating the 9/11 attack on America a 60-day extension -- that's all, 60 days -- to complete its work is unconscionable and indefensible, which, no doubt, explains why neither the speaker, nor any member of the House leadership, nor none of their press secretaries would come on the program to talk about it, despite repeated requests.

The commission itself has gone about its work quietly. It's had to fight tooth and nail to get necessary information. And now this, an arbitrary decision to deny not just the commission -- that's the least of it -- but the country the chance to know all of what happened, how it happened, and how best to prevent it from happening again.

Perhaps, the speaker and his team assume you do not care. I hope they're wrong. I hope you care enough to write them and e-mail them and call them until they relent. Do that. Do it for the victims and their families. Do it for the country that was attacked and for history.
Now that is odd. And Aaron is such a pleasant man.

But we may get the full investigation, at the cost of thousands of jobs and a few potholes in our roads. What? See this:

Highway Bill Embroiled in 9/11 Dispute
Associated Press, February 27, 2004, filed 11:58 a.m. EST

It seems McCain and Lieberman - troublemakers for each of their parties - have a plan.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Nearly 5,000 Transportation Department workers face a furlough on Monday, a possible result of two senators using an expiring highway bill to force House Republicans to accept a two month extension of an independent investigation of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

"We all have a choice here to make,'' said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who along with Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., was using the highway bill as leverage to win an extension for the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, which is scheduled to finish its work on May 27.

He said the choice was between "minor'' disruptions in highway projects and "telling the families of those who died on 9/11 that the commission will not be able to complete its work.''
Well, whatever works.

As far as the commission goes, if they are allowed to wrap up their work, Clinton and Gore will testify. No problem. Bush and Cheney will talk only to the two chairmen, privately, only for an hour and no more, and not under oath. That would be informal and off the record. Condoleezza Rice, our National Security Advisor, announced today that she will not talk to the commission at all, formally or informally, for any amount of time, under any circumstances.

But if the Speaker of the House has the votes to stop the commission now, and he seems to have them, this all is moot. There will be no extension for any of this foolishness.

So look for Bush to make his acceptance speech at Ground Zero in early September. And know that he is challenging you to choose sides and act like a patriot.

Yes, the tone of all this is bitter. Martin's friends didn't die for George Bush.

But maybe they did.

Posted by Alan at 10:33 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Thursday, 26 February 2004

Topic: The Culture

Bush Calls for All-Out Cultural War. No One Shows Up.

I'll just never know when a story has legs. The Bush endorsement of an amendment to the constitution to ban gay marriages hit the news early this week and caused all sorts of sound and fury, but it's old news now.

As Markos Moulitsas Z?niga at the "daily kos" website sums up:
This amendment is dead. The votes aren't there in the Senate. They aren't there in the House. The cable news networks were handing the Hate Amendment's Republican backers their asses on a platter....

Legislatively this issue isn't going anywhere. And while we all want to discuss this issue right now, I can guarantee we'll be talking about something else in two weeks. We're going to move on, and so is the country.

Sure, Bush will talk about it in his speeches, to which Democrats should ask, "Well, why aren't the two Republican controlled chambers of Congress introducing the amendment?"

... Civil unions are a given, the battle is now over nomenclature. And it's a battle I am more than happy to cede at this time. But calls for a Constitutional Amendment are a whole different matter.

... Just don't seek to enshrine discrimination, of any kind, in the Constitution.
As of this evening, forty-one senators now oppose the amendment idea - and even if a few change their minds, that's it. Two thirds would have to approve it. If forty-one of the one hundred senators now say this is a monumentally stupid idea, well, perhaps Bush can say something like... "Just kidding."

Of course, since the amendment would require a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress all Bush can do now is pressure the states to call a constitutional convention on banning gay marriage. Will he? Perhaps. Will most of the states say yes, let's take a break from worrying about budgets and jobs and have a big convention in, say, Dallas? Unlikely.

And the celebrity wedding today was Rosie O'Donnell marrying her female companion is San Francisco. This all is moving fast and becoming a non-issue.

After Bush's announcement Tuesday, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, the Republican former pest control technician from Texas, said it would "take time to gauge the level of support" in Congress for a constitutional amendment. He suggested the difficulty of passing one may cause lawmakers to take a different approach to preserving marriage as a solely man-woman union. "We don't want to do this in haste," as the man said.

Well, it didn't take that much time. Sorry, George.

Republican congressman David Dreier from out here, and a co-chairman of Bush's campaign in California in 2000, said he doesn't support a constitutional amendment. "I believe that this should go through the courts, and I think that we're at a point where it's not necessary," he said.

Damn. And John McCain, the Arizona ex-prisoner-of-war Republican. said the matter should be left to the states, and then the usually far-right congressman also for out here, Jerry Lewis (not the movie guy once loved by the French), said changing the Constitution should be a last resort on almost any issue.

Add to that the Log Cabin Republicans, that gay Republican group, saying they're worried that Bush risks alienating the one million gays and lesbians who voted for him in 2000 by pushing for the constitutional amendment. Mark Mead, the political director of this group, said in an interview with Associated Press Radio, "We believe that this is a move to start a culture war, fueled and pushed by the radical right, that will end up in George Bush's defeat, and defeat for a lot of good Republicans who are with us on equality."

Hey George! What if you called for a war and nobody showed up?

Margaret Cho did get off a good paragraph before we all realized this wasn't really an issue:
If you are not gay, it is still your issue, because if we are to lose this battle, who will be there to defend your rights? If the government is allowed to take freedoms away from a certain group of people, then how much longer will it be until they come for you? We are a much more formidable opponent than anyone would have known. We've never had a chance to grab the brass wedding ring, the symbol of equality, the real civil union - not between us in place of marriage - but the union we have with the rest of the citizens of this nation. How strong is your grip?
Good one. But we actually do know enough to be decent to each other, usually.

Heck, even in Georgia, where the superintendent of schools wanted to forbid teachers from speaking the word "evolution" and make sure the word didn't ever appear in the textbooks anywhere in the state, this is a dead issue. A few hours ago the Georgia House rejected a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage - a surprise. Everyone thought the same-sex marriage question was almost certain to go to Georgia voters this fall. Guess not.

There are other issues - like forty-one million folks without health insurance, and a third or more of the country living in poverty, by our own government's standards. And new applications for unemployment benefits rose again this week, surprising everyone, again. We lost nearly three million jobs in the last three years and there are likely more than nine million out of work, counting in those who just gave up looking.

And there is this:

Number of Mass Layoffs Rose Sharply in January
2,400 Employers Let Go 50 or More
Kirstin Downey, The Washington Post, Thursday, February 26, 2004; Page E02
More than 2,400 employers across the country reported laying off 50 or more workers in January, the third-highest number of so-called mass layoffs since the government became tracking them a decade ago.

Only in December 2000 and December 2002 were the number of large layoffs higher. A total of 239,454 workers lost their jobs in the January layoffs, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported yesterday, based on unemployment insurance claims filed with state employment agencies. Among them were 17,544 temporary workers.

The total jobs lost in January was the most since November 2002, when 240,171 workers were let go in groups of 50 or more. Manufacturing workers, particularly in transportation, food processing and retail jobs, were hardest hit. The large layoffs also included 10,876 government workers, most at the state and local levels.

... The administration tried in late 2002 to cease publication of the mass layoff report, citing its cost. But Congress restored funding after state officials complained.

California, the most populous state, had the most mass layoffs, 576, according to the BLS data. This was followed by 194 in New York, 171 in Michigan and 167 in Pennsylvania. In Virginia, 24 employers laid off 50 or more workers, affecting 3,061 jobs. In Maryland, 19 employers did so, with 2,009 jobs lost.
Yep, Bush says things are getting better.

And the whole world knows we went to war telling everyone Iraq was a danger and the UN weapons inspectors were fools - and got proved wrong. And 549 of our soldiers are dead there so far. Pakistan has been selling nukes to anyone with cash, and we forgive them. We still don't want to talk with North Korea who says they have nukes and could use them on us. Haiti is disintegrating and we're doing nothing much - and today we turned away two large ships full of people trying to get the hell out of there. Sent all two or three hundred back - as they're not Cubans, damn it! We just lifted travel restrictions on Libya so our multinational corporations can go back in and wheel and deal, and today tightened travel restrictions on Cuba so no one much can even visit there.

Add to that the usual - there still are terrorists and some other folks in this world who want us real dead. We need to think about that. On the other hand the Speaker of House just yesterday blocked the 9-11 Commission from getting any more time to investigate what happened more than two years ago - so no one will be embarrassed. And so on and so forth.

Then there are issues with education - state after state is pulling out of Bush's "No Child Left Behind" program. The funding never came through. Just like the money we said we'd spend on AIDS problems in Africa. Never got around to funding that either. But they were good IDEAS!

As for this constitutional amendment idea to keep the perverse gay folks in line, well, maybe later. But probably not.

Posted by Alan at 21:19 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 26 February 2004 21:27 PST home

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