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March 28, 2005

On What Happens Next

Let’s assume Terri Schiavo doesn’t have a miraculous recovery, and yes, I recognize that some people might be reading this after she dies. My question: what happens next?

The Blue Lefties are enjoying the fact that President Li’l Bastard’s popularity has plummeted during the past week, conveniently overlooking the fact that gas and home heating prices continue their fast march to the skies and the Bush Social Security plan is going over like a tuna fart in a hothouse. Not a good week for George, Son of George. No wonder he’s been hiding.

The Red Religious Right feels this is a rallying point. High on the fumes of past successes, their ability to count noses has been severely clouded. A lot of folks who consider themselves to be quite religious and very much pro-life are opposed to governmental or judicial interference in such matters. This could provide a continuing wedge in the Republican ranks, allowing Christy Whitman and her comparative moderates to steer their party back to its traditional values.

Wherein lies an opportunity.

I think what we’re going to see once all this is done with will be an other assault against judicial activists, even though all of the judges involved in the Schiavo case are doing nothing more than their jobs, upholding the laws as they are written. That used to be the very definition of a conservative judge. But just as we’ve taken the Weapons of Mass Destruction out from the Iraq equation and retrofitted it with non-secular democracy, the Red Religious Right will redefine the Schiavo issue as “activist judges shoving their Satanic laws down American’s throats.”

This assumes somebody doesn’t blow off the heads of Judge George Greer, Michael Schiavo and/or his lawyer, George Felos. I wouldn’t want to be holding the life insurance policy on any of those folks right now.

If there’s a real loser, it’s our nation’s hypocrite-in-chief Tom DeLay. Last week, Tom was poster-boy for the so-called pro-life movement. Now it’s come out that Mr. DeLay was all too happy to join his family on slapping a Do Not Resuscitate on his incapacitated father. And before somebody jumps to DeLay’s defense, what I said was a fact: pulling the plug is pulling the plug, be it a feeding tube or an electrical cord. Before: living being. After: Dead corpse. It’s okay for Tom to pull the plug on his daddy, but he thinks it’s horribly wrong for Michael Schiavo to do the same to his wife. Even some of the more pious in Texas’s 22nd District have to come to grips with the fact that ol’ Tom’s ethics are more than a bit elastic. After his pals in the Congress had to pass a rule revision to save his sorry ass from removal, this skeleton jumps out of the DeLay family closet.

And in 10 years, how will Terri Schiavo be remembered? Well, if history shows us a pattern, I ask you: do you know any good Helen Keller jokes?

Posted by Mike Gold at 05:06 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 23, 2005

On Free Speech (a continuing series) ...

From the Associated Press (first three paragraphs) :

IMAX theaters reject film over evolution

IMAX theaters in several Southern cities have decided not to show a film on volcanoes out of concern that its references to evolution might offend those with fundamental religious beliefs.

"We've got to pick a film that's going to sell in our area. If it's not going to sell, we're not going to take it," said Lisa Buzzelli, director of an IMAX theater in Charleston that is not showing the movie. "Many people here believe in creationism, not evolution."

The film, "Volcanoes of the Deep Sea," makes a connection between human DNA and microbes inside undersea volcanoes.

Now, non-government owned theater operators have the right to show or not show anything they want, and I, for one, applaud their decision to pander to the lowest common denominator of science-challenged religious fanatics. If these operators want to double-bill “Triumph of the Will” and “Birth of a Nation” and give out free sheets and boot polish, well, that’s their prerogative. “Monty Python’s Live of Brian?” I’d think they’d pass. I wonder how much money they made off of allowing under-aged impressionable little gun toting kids to see America’s favorite R-rated ultra-violent clusterfuck, “The Passion of the Christ.”

Oh, and before some wise-ass tells me “But evolution is only a theory,” well, pal, all of science is just a bunch of theories, constantly being challenged, revised, and updated. Mathematics is just a theory, but I’ll bet your church will take a check nonetheless.

Posted by Mike Gold at 03:04 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

March 22, 2005

On Original Nazis

There’s an interesting and well-made movie out in limited release named Downfall. It’s about the final days in the Fuehrerbunker, and if you’re passing on it because you think you’ve already seen it before, well, you’re probably right. And very wrong.

For the record, in 1973 Alec Guinness played everybody’s favorite monster of war in Hitler: The Last Ten Days. Guinness turned in a bravura performance in a movie that was adequate at best. Without taking away anything from the late actor, it isn’t all that hard for a talented performer to go way over the top to portray Adolf in his last days. It’s like throwing red meat to a hungry wolf: the more foam you see, the better you see the soul.

Downfall is unique because it is a German movie. Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel, who was born a dozen years after the end of World War II and, thus, was able to approach his subject matter with neither guilt nor defensiveness. Bruno Ganz plays Der Fuehrer, giving us a performance that clearly shows Hitler’s fleeting moments of sanity and concern while his is drowning in his self-made sea of madness.

The real stars of this movie are Juliane Köhler as Eva Braun, Corinna Harfouch as Magda Goebbels, and Alexandra Maria Lara as Hitler’s secretary Traudl Junge. Ms. Braun is a fangirl, totally enthralled with her husband and therefore all that he stands for. However, she falls short of being a complete fanatic as she shows a complete understanding of her actions and maintains human relations with her contemporaries. On the other hand, Ms. Goebbels is a complete fanatic who is even scarier in her fervor than her husband Joseph, and he’s not exactly a walk through the park on a warm summer day (Ulrich Matthes turns in a fantastic performance in the role; he plays Dr. Goebbels as 80% brilliant fanatic and 20% coward). I would be betraying my innermost nature if I didn’t point out that Ms. Harfouch would be a suitable and convincing candidate to portray Ann Coulter when her biopic is produced.

Traudl Junge becomes Hitler’s secretary by interviewing for the job. Whereas she is loyal to her employer and uninformed about the war – obviously, she chose to be that way – she was not a Nazi and didn’t particularly believe in the goals of the party. She got the gig while in her early 20s and was clearly caught up in the events swirling around her. I should mention there’s a brief interview segment with the real Junge appended to the movie filmed shortly before she died a couple years ago. It is very much a part of the movie.

Other characters come off as real people, with their doubts and regrets and failed dreams. I found Albert Speer’s portrayal (by Heino Ferch) to be particularly fascinating: he wasn’t evil, he wasn’t good. He was a dispassionate businessman who knew where to put his morals when they interfered with his work. When the cause is lost, all he is left with are those morals – and he knows it.

Nobody does any breast-beating in this movie, and that will disappoint and even anger some. Tough cookies; the story of how so many human beings could get caught up in such a horror is one of the most important of the past century, and Deadfall pulls it off well. This is a movie that deserves to be seen.

Oh, and it turns out Hitler didn’t like dogs all that much after all.

Posted by Mike Gold at 11:08 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 20, 2005

On Hate-Driven Paranoia

In an article published in the business section of The Chicago Tribune on March 15th and written by Becky Yerak, we discover just how disgusting the Religious Right has become. For those who don’t believe in tourism, Marshall Field’s is a major Chicago-area department store chain recently purchased by Federated Department Stores. This story takes place in Field’s lavish main store, in a building created by architect Daniel Burnham and illuminated by a wondrous Louis Tiffany skylight. I excerpt from the Tribune article:

“When Marshall Field's employed a Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs theme for its 2004 holiday festivities, the Chicago-born retailer received some complaints that it was promoting the homosexual lifestyle, an executive said recently.

The concerned citizens divined that there was a "hidden gay agenda" in Field's theme "because seven men were living together," Gregory Clark, vice president of creative services for Field's in Minneapolis, recounted last month at a Retail Advertising & Marketing Association conference in Chicago.


The brouhaha over the seven dwarfs didn't bedevil Field's financial results. The chain finished the year with a 3 percent rise in same-store sales.

A staid and austere newspaper, the Tribune did not publish this piece under the headline “Snow White Is A Fag-Hag.” But given the reputed similarities between Walter Disney and Michael Jackson, perhaps this time the Right had it right.

Posted by Mike Gold at 07:37 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

March 08, 2005

On Why Do You Think They Call Them Dopes?

There’s a natural tendency for people to think the world was created the day they were born, but most folks seem to grow out of it. Evidently, the rest go to journalism school.

There’s a huge story all over the teevee news right now about how officials have discovered some people are using horticultural products to get high. As usual, the media are right on top of this one. Kids and adults alike have been using stuff like morning glory seeds for several decades. Whenever some numbskull in the newsroom shouts “hold the presses” over a drug story, I’m sure a half dozen aging baby boomers start snickering.

Then again, we’re always snickering. And there’s no truth to the rumor that Burpee has trademarked the phrase “the seeds of destruction.”

Just wait until the news stooges get hold of the Jimson weed. People have been using that stuff to get high longer than they’ve been using, oh, say, heroin. In the movies it’s better known as “loco weed,” and it was aptly named. Why do you think Gabby Hayes looked that way?

I started wandering dazed and amused by the media’s near-complete ignorance of drug history back when the “news” about ecstasy broke about a decade or so ago. It was the newest thing around and, of course, it had been around since the 1960s. It was originally sold under its clinical name of MDMA, but when we started appreciating the role of marketing in our daily lives it was renamed “ecstasy.” Perhaps somebody was a fan of the rock group XTC.

But our reportorial geniuses missed the real story.

Last month the US Food and Drug Administration gave the go-ahead for soldiers who had been fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan to be included in an experiment to see if MDMA (remember, ecstasy) can treat post-traumatic stress disorder in order to help free them of flashbacks and recurring nightmares.

Hey, don’t get me wrong. I hope it works. But given the 67-year history of lysergic acid diethylamide (a.k.a. orange sunshine, acid, and LSD) – it was invented the year after marijuana was made illegal – you’d think this sort of thing would seem like a bad flashback.

Posted by Mike Gold at 10:33 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 07, 2005

On The Buck

Journalist Giuliana Sgrena writes for the Italian Communist Daily Il Manifesto, a Communist-linked publication. She spent a month in Iraqi captivity and was freed by Italian secret service agent Nicola Calipari. As they fled their captors, they were fired upon by United States troops, who killed Calipari and wounded Sgrena.

Accounts differ as to what happened. Sgrena says they were fired upon by roving troops, an account backed up by witnesses. American troops, who of course have a vested interest in covering their asses, say she was shot while speeding through a checkpoint.

U.S. President Li’l Bastard said he regretted the incident, called it an accident, and said there would be an investigation by (surprise!) the American government. As is his policy, he refused to apologize for the shootings, even if they were an accident. In the Bush Administration, the buck stops nowhere.

Sgrena said they were targeted by the U.S. government because the United States opposes Italy’s practice of negotiating with hostage takers.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan responded: “I think it’s absurd to make any such suggestion that our men and women in uniform deliberately targeted innocent civilians. That’s just absurd.”

No, Mr. McClellan. It is not absurd. After Abu Ghraib and the pathetic way your master keeps on changing his story as to why we went into Iraq in the first place, after appointing a pro-torture Attorney General and an anti-United Nations U.N. ambassador, after all the lies you have told us about the Iraq War, after the tens thousands of dead and wounded incurred on all sides – the overwhelming majority occurring after the Li’l Bastard’s “mission accomplished” victory dance – it most certainly is not absurd in the least.

Sgrena was there, Mr. McClellan. You were not. If it’s a matter of credibility, she wins. Even if she is a Commie.

If it was a mistake, admit it and apologize. If it was a conscious act, punish those responsible – all the way up the food chain. And apologize.

Better still, just pull the fuck out of Iraq, you slimy lying bastards. And stop making your victim the scapegoat.

Posted by Mike Gold at 02:38 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack