Monday, January 31, 2005

Republicans Gone Wild

Related by our good friend Beaucoup Kevin:
It has been said that the public perceives Republicans as the Daddy party and Democrats as the Mommy party. In terms of fiscal responsibility, that needs to change. Democrats should be seen as the Parent party while Republicans should be viewed as the Drunken Student On Spring Break With His Daddy’s Credit Card party.
Read the rest at Wampum, courtesy of Beaucoup Kevin.

On The Mark -- Turn Out the Lights

The Democratic leadership still hasn't learned any lessons. A newspaper article, "Recasting Republicans as the Party of Civil Rights," summarized how GOP strategists are reaching back to the party's antislavery roots in an attempt to lure black voters. Of course, they don't have much to talk about regarding civil rights for the past 100 years or so when it, as one historian said in this article, "became the bastion of white solidarity, white comfort." So, why not go back to slavery? Part of the GOP strategy is to remind voters that Democrats once embraced slavery. Of course, this is all part of Karl Rove's long-term strategy to gain more of the black vote for the Republican party.

We've already started to see this GOP strategy come through in some of President Bush's speeches, especially during the presidential campaign. And a "2005 Republican Freedom Calendar" highlighting key moment's in its civil rights history has been distributed to Republican party leaders.

The Democratic response: "The Republicans are running the risk of spinning themselves...African Americans are not going to be swayed by glossy calendars or references to century-old leaders."

I hope that is true, but in the past couple of years, through all the mushroom-cloud hype leading up to the invasion of Iraq, I've learned not to underestimate what the Republican party can accomplish through its marketing prowess.

Will the last Democrat to leave the room please turn out the lights?

Iraqi Votes

The end may justify the means as long as there is something that justifies the end.
Attributed to Leon Trotsky (1879 - 1940), Russian revolutionary leader

I am heartened and glad to see Iraq vote and the many people show the courage to stand up to the insurgency.

Does the vote in Iraq justify attacking a country under myriad false pretenses – absolutely not. What about the more than 1,500 U.S. soldiers who died, the more than 10,000 U.S. wounded, the many thousands of Iraqi civilians wounded and killed by the insurgents and the U.S.? Does instituting martial law before people can vote constitute a success?

If you are part of the Bush administration you not only interpret the results as a success, you have delusions of grandeur: according to the Washington Post, speaking from the White House four hours after the polls closed, Bush interpreted the election as validation of his broader foreign policy agenda -- the spread of liberty throughout the Islamic world -- outlined 10 days earlier in his second inaugural address.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Data Loggers In Your Underwear

You know those guys who can't seem to keep still, they're always getting up and twitching and tapping and stretching? (Think Steve Buscemi.) Yeah, those guys. Apparently fidgeting is a good way to burn calories; a study by the Mayo Clinic claims that the difference between being obese or lean may be due to how much a person is apt to stand, pace, wriggle and shift about over the course of a day.
Each participant in the study wore special, high-tech underwear, rigged with sensors and data loggers originally designed to monitor jet fighter motion. The underwear could track most body movements.
Special, high-tech underwear? With sensors originally designed for jet fighters? Is that really something you want near your junk?


Happiness is a Warm Gun

When I hold you in my arms
And I feel my finger on your trigger
I know no one can do me no harm
Because happiness is a warm gun.

“Happiness is a Warm Gun,” The Beatles, John Lennon and Paul McCartney

Houston’s transit agency repealed its ban on the carrying of concealed handguns on buses and commuter trains. Let’s face it, until every man, woman and child is carrying a gun on their person or in their vehicle or both, the gun organizations will not be happy. They would like us to retrogress to the days when everyone was equipped for a gun fight at the OK Corral.

According to the Los Angeles Times article, Jerry Patterson, chairman of the Civil Liberties Defense Foundation, one of the groups that sued, said: "Metro is to be commended. They did the right thing. They did the lawful thing. They saved their ratepayers unnecessary funds to litigate it further."

Patterson said his organization had simply tried to make sure that licensed and law-abiding citizens were allowed to carry concealed handguns on transit systems if they wished.

Next on Patterson's list are transit systems in Austin and San Antonio, as well as other government entities that have similar bans in place.

The next logical step for Houston will be to side aside dueling spots. Maybe the former Georgia Senator Zell Miller will get his wish about challenging people to duels.

On the Mark -- Dirty War

I finally had a chance to watch HBO's new movie, "Dirty War." (Note to The Misanthrope -- don't watch until Daughter has come home.) I haven't read any of the reviews yet because I don't like to know someone else's opinion before I watch, read or listen to something. But I'm wondering if the real point of the movie got across?

The basic plot (without giving anything away, although it's not necessarily meant to be suspenseful) is that terrorists set off a dirty bomb, or a conventional bomb with radioactive "ingredients" that acts much like a mini-nuclear bomb.

But what the movie truly depicted is that the public (takes place in London) is not properly informed (if at all) about how to react should this happen in a surrounding area. Politics, PR spin, and lies give the public a false sense of security, when they really should have been hearing and seeing more about how they should handle this type of situation -- e.g., don't drink or eat anything, don't put your hands to your mouth or eyes, stay within confined areas, etc., until you've been decontaminated.

If viewers were really watching vs. just sitting there mindlessly being entertained -- well, they would have gotten an education. This show was in some ways a public service announcement.

Yet, while I watched it, I couldn't help but think that if something like this did happen in L.A. or N.Y. or Chicago, or Dallas, or Seattle or Miami, that the result would probably be the same -- making a bigger disaster of a disaster.

Sure, maybe our emergency response personnel and police know what to do in this situation, but what about the potential hundreds of thousands of people affected by this type of situation? Will they break through barriers and unknowingly contaminate their loved ones with radiation in their race to get home? I suspect so.

Let's face it, we need to know as much or more about how to handle this eventuality than the government, which will only retreat to their underground bunkers while the rest of us try to fend for ourselves. Some may see this movie as propaganda to get more money for homeland security (I didn't). But even if that's the case, I'd rather have the money spent on protecting and educating us than on a senseless war in Iraq anyway.

Watch this movie, and take notes. There may be a test later.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Star Wars Origami

Do I need to point out how cool this is? Or how few dates this guy had in high school? Check out the whole collection at Star Wars Origami.

Dude, Where's My Galaxy? may be sharing the "crawl" for Episode VI, but without the vital commentary that you, the loyal readers of Toner Mishap, expect and deserve from your content providers. I am therefore taking this opportunity to point out an interesting fact about these crawls: in every other episode of the Star Wars franchise, the word "galaxy" is featured (check my veracity by viewing all the crawls here):
Episode IV
"...restore freedom to the galaxy..."

Episode V
"...across the galaxy..."

Episode VI
"...restore freedom to the galaxy..." (yes, the same exact phrase as in IV)

Episode I
"...the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy..."

Episode II
"" maintain peace and order in the galaxy..."

Episode III
No galaxy!
For some background on where the crawl originates, check out

And as a special treat for you Star Wars fans, I am again offering Blink 182's "A New Hope" for download. (And there's more where that came from.)

An Even More Mercenary Society – A Misanthropic Rant

Where there is money, there is fighting.
Marian Anderson (1897 - 1993), opera singer, 1931

The President Bush is more clearly showing his disdain for the working class now that he no longer is eligible for the office again. Since winning the election, pharmaceutical drugs have gone up approximately five percent. Just yesterday, it was announced that security fees at airports are to rise from $2.50 to $5.50 per one-way ticket and from a maximum of $5 to $8 for multiple legs. The hikes are expected to generate $1.5 billion.

The people are going to be “dollared to death” with charges for everything. Or to put it another way, “taxed for every single service.” It reminds one of the old Beatles song Taxman:

If you drive a car,
I'll tax the street.
If you drive to city,
I'll tax your seat.
If you get too cold,
I'll tax the heat.
If you take a walk,
I'll tax your feet.

Rather than call it taxes, it will be service fees. All this for the goal of achieving a complete ownership society, so no one gets a free ride. If you are sick and unable to work and without funds to pay – too bad, maybe a faith-based charity will help. There will be a cost for everything, including having privatized Social Security accounts.

Life has already become more mercenary than it was when many of us were young or younger than today. Think about all the bills we pay that our parents or grandparents did not have to pay. Granted, we have luxuries they did not have, but unfortunately, for us, the luxuries have become perceived necessities; and another drain for our dollars.

People will eventually feel the pinch. I predict Bush’s second year is going to sour (I know, it’s not a very risky prediction), but my reasoning is that the same ol’ tricks will not work. The media are aware of the administration’s guile for shading then changing a story the way a two-bit crook does when the pressure gets too much. The citizenry does not follow the president everyday as the press do, so the public takes longer to notice. Even those who believe every word that comes from the White House because they cannot fathom their government would lie to them, will also realize this administration has the heart of a silver dollar.

Of all of the people that I used to know
Most never adjusted to the great big world
I see them lurking in book stores
Working for the Public Radio
Carrying their babies around in a sack on their back
Moving careful and slow

It's money that matters
Hear what I say
It's money that matters
In the USA

All of these people are much brighter than I
In any fair system they would flourish and thrive
But they barely survive
They eke out a living and they barely survive
"It's Money That Matters" by Randy Newman

Clobberin' Time

The Commish as The Thing? Yeah, why not? It wasn't the choice of actor that had worried me (and Michael Chiklis has been, admittedly, great in his other roles); it was the look and feel of the character.

Would he be the big, bold, ever-lovin' Thing that John Byrne penciled, over-muscled with a solid brow and angular build? Or would he appear more as he did in Jack Kirby's artwork in the first issues of the now-famous mag? The answer is clear from the trailer; the Kirby vision awaits.

I've posted this panel from the first issue for those of you who don't remember the more organic, rounded Thing (click it to see it huge). You'll note, as well, that his rough-and-tumble dialogue was not in play at this early time -- would The Thing really ever say "he'll not get another chance"?

And as there are many readers of Toner Mishap who have requested a glimpse of the first issue of the Fantastic Four, here's the cover for your perusal, big and bright as all get out (I never understood that phrase).

So weigh in, won't you -- which Thing do you prefer? The Kirby original? The Byrne brow? Fred Hembeck? Add what the hell was this?

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Enlightened Motorist

Thanks go out to Beaucoup Kevin, who pointed us to this photo of an enlightened motorist.

Those righties make this too easy!

Imagine: "Bush Pardons 9/11 Bombers"

Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is poised to pardon two Palestinains with proven ties to terrorism, including one of the planners of the fatal November 2000 bombing of an Israeli school bus. That attack killed two teachers and seriously wounded three young children; all three children lost part of their legs.

The pardoning of the two wanted terror chieftains comes as part of a series of unilateral Israeli good-will gestures, including a commitment to end targeted killing of terrorists and the deployment of armed PA police across Gaza. [Link]
Wow. Not sure I agree with this, but I do know that it would be hard to accuse Sharon of not trying almost anything to secure the peace.

[Thanks for the tip, JewSchool.]

Remembering the Wannsee Conference and the Liberation of Auschwitz

This article is being posted by participants of the January 27, 2005 BlogBurst in remembrance of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp, sixty years ago, on January 27, 1945.

January 20th marked the anniversary of the 1942 Wannsee Conference. In the course of that conference, the Nazi hierarchy formalized the plan to annihilate the Jewish people. Understanding the horrors of Auschwitz requires that one be aware of the premeditated mass-murder that was presented at Wannsee.

Highlighting these events now has become particularly important, even as the press reports that "45% of Britons have never heard of Auschwitz" [source: Jerusalem Post].

The Holocaust, symbolized by Auschwitz, the worst of the death camps, occurred in the wake of consistent, systematic, unrelenting anti-Jewish propaganda campaign. As a result, the elimination of the Jews from German society was accepted as axiomatic, leaving open only two questions: when and how.

As Germany expanded its domination and occupation of Austria, Czechoslovakia, France, the Low Countries, Yugoslavia, Poland, parts of the USSR, Greece, Romania, Hungary, Italy and others countries, the way was open for Hitler to realize his well-publicized plan of destroying the Jewish people.

After experimentation, the use of Zyklon B on unsuspecting victim was adopted by the Nazis as the means of choice, and Auschwitz was selected as the main factory of death (more accurately, one should refer to the “Auschwitz-Birkenau complex”). The green light for mass annihilation was given at the Wannsee Conference, January 20, 1942, and the mass gassings took place in Auschwitz between 1942 and the end of 1944, when the Nazis retreated before the advancing Red Army. Jews were transported to Auschwitz from all over Nazi-occupied or Nazi-dominated Europe and most were slaughtered in Auschwitz upon arrival, sometimes as many as 12,000 in one day. Some victims were selected for slave labour or “medical” experimentation. All were subject to brutal treatment.

In all, between three and four million people, mostly Jews, but also Poles and Red Army POWs, were slaughtered in Auschwitz alone (though some authors put the number at 1.3 million). Other death camps were located at Sobibor, Chelmno, Belzec (Belzek), Majdanek and Treblinka.

Auschwitz was liberated by the Red Army on 27 January 1945, sixty years ago, after most of the prisoners were forced into a Death March westwards. The Red Army found in Auschwitz about 7,600 survivors, but not all could be saved.

For a long time, the Allies were well aware of the mass murder, but deliberately refused to bomb the camp or the railways leading to it. Ironically, during the Polish uprising, the Allies had no hesitation in flying aid to Warsaw, sometimes flying right over Auschwitz.

There are troubling parallels between the systematic vilification of Jews before the Holocaust and the current vilification of the Jewish people and Israel. Suffice it to note the annual flood of anti-Israel resolutions at the UN; or the public opinion polls taken in Europe, which single out Israel as a danger to world peace; or the divestment campaigns being waged in the US against Israel; or the attempts to delegitimize Israel’s very existence. The complicity of the Allies in WW II is mirrored by the support the PLO has been receiving from Europe, China and Russia to this very day.

If remembering Auschwitz should teach us anything, it is that we must all support Israel and the Jewish people against the vilification and the complicity we are witnessing, knowing where it inevitably leads.

[Link for more information]

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

On the Mark -- Taking a Ride on the Time Machine

I was reading the papers today and thought for sure I must have somehow gotten on H.G. Wells' time machine and went back a few centuries.

In Egypt there's a paternity case under way. A 27-year-old woman had the "gall" to refuse an abortion when she got pregnant out of wedlock, although the couple seemed to have a written agreement that they were privately married. Typically, a woman in her "condition" would have had an abortion, had her hymen replaced to "refresh" her virginity, and then gotten married as soon as possible to the next clueless man. As crazy as this sounds, she's lucky in some respects, because in some other countries she would have been stoned to death.

Then there was the case in Phalaborwa, 280 miles northeast of Johannesburg, where an employer was so unhappy with one of his workers that he didn't just fire him, he had him fed to 20 white lions. They happily devoured him after he had been tied to a tree and beaten with machetes.

Then I read (again) about how the United States is about to confirm its new attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, who is notorious for his department's torture memo (which he is trying to distance himself from) that "gave a disturbingly narrow definition of torture, limiting it to physical abuse that produced pain of the kind associated with organ failure or death."

I had to check my calendar to make sure it really is the 21st Century.

On the Mark -- Another One for the "Stupid File"

At the Hot 97 morning radio program (WQHT-FM) in NYC the show’s host, Miss Jones, sang a tune written by her and staff mocking the victims of the tsunami. Sung to the tune of “We Are the World,” some of the lyrics in “Tsunami Song” include:

Go find your mommy, I just saw her float by/A tree went through her head, and now the children will be sold to child slavery.” The song apparently also included a number of racial slurs. The song has since been pulled from the website.

Their penalty: Miss Jones and staff have agreed to contribute one week’s pay to tsunami relief efforts.

I’ve seen conflicting numbers, but the last one I saw showed that at least 220,000 people have died from this disaster, not to mention all the children now without parents, the financial ramifications, etc. I’d say Miss Jones and staff got off pretty easy. Another case of a morning DJ who thinks they’re better than Howard Stern. For all of Howard’s outrageousness, he’s never really done anything stupid. That’s the difference. His work is clever and usually has an embedded message (whether you agree with it or not).

This also brought to mind a disturbing number I saw recently. Apparently, only 5 percent of Americans possess a passport. That’s the biggest problem. People need to “get out more.”

This whole country is a gated community.

Here is a Familiar Refrain

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.
Attributed to Benjamin Disraeli (1804 - 1881), British prime minister and writer

Tell me if you heard this one before. The Republican Party disagrees with something and calls it slanted and misleading. Seems like the entire campaign was run that way. This time around, the Republican Party is attacking the AARP for coming out against private Social Security accounts and having a survey to back up their findings.

The Los Angeles Times reported, the Republican Party, in a two-page rebuttal, said the AARP’s survey relied on slanted wording, misleading questions and an unrepresentative sample of the nation as a whole to come up with its findings.

According to the article, the research director for the AARP said, “the poll adheres to the highest standards of public polling.”

This is exactly what the Republicans have successfully done against the media – always accusing them of bias unless they, basically, sign up to be press agents, similar to what Armstrong Williams did.

A Nugget of Information

Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.
Gertrude Stein (1874 - 1946), writer

I found this little tidbit in BusinessWeek: Sixty-two percent of Americans have no idea what a blog is. Now obviously, since you are reading this you know, but I enjoyed reading it nonetheless.

We suppose if you want to tell someone what a blog is beside a combination of web log, the answer given is, a frequently updated Web site consisting of personal observations and excerpts from other sources, typically run by a single person.

Well, I can tell you that Toner Mishap is three people (B2, On The Mark, and The Misanthrope) contributing, which I honestly and proudly believe makes it interesting and entertaining. I hope you agree.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

On the Mark -- You first. No, you first. No, first.

“People have to use their own brains,” says Hans Monderman, a traffic engineer from the Netherlands in a recent New York Times article. He was talking about a revolutionary new design in traffic management that he is employing in the Netherlands and that some other countries are considering.

In his traffic design you won’t find sidewalks, traffic lights, crosswalk signs and lights, speed limits, or anything that puts controls on people. This is no right of way. “People here have to find their own way, negotiate for themselves, use their own brains,” he says.

And it’s working. Twenty thousand drivers a day and pedestrians go about their business without horns honking, fingers flipping, or road rage.

His philosophy is based on the concept of shared space, where pedestrian and driver are equal. He believes that traffic signs and instructions treat drivers like idiots, therefore they act like idiots.

Utopia? Maybe. But Monderman says there has never been a fatal accident on any of the roads he has designed.

For years I have remarked that when I go camping in the mountains drivers are always more considerate and friendly, many of them actually waving as they pass you by from the opposite direction. In my cynicism, I would say that these drivers are the same ones who are honking and cutting you off on the freeway on Monday morning. But this article put it in perspective, because in the mountains you have to be more aware and more considerate because there aren’t a lot of rules, traffic lights, etc.

The real test of this design would be in places like Russia. As I’ve reported previously, in Russia a pedestrian crosses the street at his or her own risk. Drivers in Russia not only own the road, they rule it, and they don’t stop for anything. It would be very interesting to try an experiment using Monderman’s design in a small Russian city.

OK, I admit it; there are good reasons to like Bill Gates.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will donate $750 million over the next ten years to make vaccinations available to more children in developing countries. This contribution brings the Gates' commitment to childhood vaccination to $1.5 billion.

The funds will support the work of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), a partnership between governments and aid organizations that focuses on speeding development of new vaccines, strengthening vaccine-delivery systems, and improving access for poor countries. Julian Lob-Levyt, GAVI's executive secretary, says the grant will help the organization expand its efforts. "Strong immunization systems do not happen overnight," he notes. "Scaling up services and building up natural capacity on the ground requires long-term support."

GAVI was founded in 1999 with a five-year, $750 million grant from the Gates Foundation. GAVI says it has prevented 670,000 deaths since its inception and aims to vaccinate 90% of children in developing countries by 2015. Says Microsoft founder Bill Gates: "We can say very strongly we've never made a better investment."

[Thanks, BoingBoing, for the great photos! And, loyal readers of Toner Mishap, here's a link to the full story onYahoo.]

Liberal Press Not Reporting U.S. Losing Ground

Those who can win a war well can rarely make a good peace and those who could make a good peace would never have won the war.
Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965), British prime minister and writer

For those that think the media is too liberal, please ask why this story has not been run in any other newspaper than the Detroit Free Press?

Unless something dramatic changes, the United States is heading toward losing the war in Iraq. A Knight Ridder Newspapers analysis of U.S. government statistics shows the U.S. military steadily losing ground to the predominately Sunni Muslim insurgency in Iraq.

The analysis suggests that, short of a newfound will by Iraqis to reject the insurgency or a large escalation of U.S. troop strength, the United States won't win the war.

Military thinkers say insurgencies are especially hard to defeat because the insurgents' goal isn't to win in a conventional sense but to survive until the will of the occupying power is sapped. Recent polls suggest an erosion of support among Americans for the war.

The unfavorable trends are clear:

Combat deaths: U.S. military fatalities from hostile acts have risen from an average of about 17 per month just after President George W. Bush declared an end to major combat operations on May 1, 2003, to an average of 82 per month.

WOUNDED: The average number of U.S. soldiers wounded by hostile acts per month has spiraled from 142 to 808 during the same period. Iraqi civilians have suffered even more deaths and injuries, although reliable statistics aren't available.

INSURGENT ATTACKS: Attacks on the U.S.-led coalition since November 2003, when statistics were first available, rose from 735 a month to 2,400 in October. Air Force Brig. Gen. Erv Lessel, deputy operations director of the multinational forces, said Friday that attacks were currently running at 75 a day, about 2,300 a month, well below a spike in November during the assault on Fallujah but nearly as high as October's total.

BOMBINGS: The average number of mass-casualty bombings has grown from zero in the first few months of the U.S.-led occupation to an average of 13 per month.

ELECTRICITY: Electricity production has been below prewar levels since October, largely because of sabotage by insurgents, with just 6.7 hours of power daily in Baghdad in early January, according to the State Department.

OIL: Iraq is pumping about 500,000 barrels of oil a day fewer than its prewar peak of 2.5 million barrels per day as a result of attacks, according to the State Department.

This is something that the American people need to hear. It is not good news, but it shows that the Bush administration has made a tremendous error and needs to find a way to change course.
According to the article, surveys that show 80 percent of Iraqis wanting to vote in the Jan. 30 elections and more than 90 percent opposing violence as a solution to the crisis. In addition, the recruitment and training of Iraqi security forces are being stepped up.

The article highlights some bright spots:

Millions of dollars are pouring into reconstruction efforts in the Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad and the southern town of Najaf, the scene of intense fighting last year with Shi'ite rebels. Both places are now relatively peaceful, and the danger of a spreading insurgency backed by Iraq's Shi'ite majority has been largely thwarted.

About 14 million Iraqis, mostly Shi'ites, are registered to vote in the elections for an interim 275-seat National Assembly. About 1,500 U.S.-funded reconstruction projects are employing more than 100,000 Iraqis, and the insurgents' campaign of attacks and threats has failed to deter sign-ups for Iraq's new security forces.

Despite these developments, however, the insurgency is getting larger. Through all the major turning points that raised hopes of peace in Iraq, from the capture of Saddam Hussein to the handover of sovereignty seven months ago, the country's insurgency has become deadlier and more effective.

Insurgency grows larger, smarter

At the close of 2003, U.S. commanders put the number of insurgents at 5,000. Earlier this month, Gen. Mohammed Abdullah Shahwani, the director of the Iraqi intelligence service, said there are 200,000 insurgents, including at least 40,000 hard-core fighters. The rest, he said, are part-time fighters and supporters who provide food, shelter, money and intelligence.

"Many Iraqis respect these gunmen because they are fighting the invaders," said Nabil Mohammed, a Baghdad University political science professor.

Still, the article says that several independent experts expect it would take at least two years before there are any meaningful numbers of Iraqi forces with counterinsurgency skills and as many as five years before the U.S. goal is attained.

This article unfortunately gives some credence to insurgents’ claims about gaining ground, and because of the conservative bend of the country major media is afraid to report this article. Rather than shy from such news, the media should be asking Lawmakers why no one is demanding from the White House a new strategy before voting to add another $80 billion to a poorly planned war effort.

Thanks, Germany

But won't the bodies of six million dead Jews do that?

Monday, January 24, 2005

On The Mark -- Speaking of Hatred...

Last week I commented on Prince Harry's costume selection, that being a German WWII uniform with an arm swastika. I, and many others, noted how stupid it was of the prince to choose this costume. The photo of the prince has caused such a stir that now the European Union is taking under consideration a proposal to ban and make illegal the use of the swastika in its member countries.

That would be a mistake.

Many experts agree that the swastika has become a universal symbol of hatred (not just to promote Neo-Nazi beliefs). In fact, many argue the swastika has become the generic symbol for hate.

It's hard to believe the swastika could have any more symbolism than it already has, but if it were to be banned it would gain even more of a "voice" for hatred. Indeed, we would begin seeing more of it, and because of the danger of legal repercussions it would only gain more power as a symbol, and I think most of us agree that it already has enough power.

A ban would give it renewed and heightened significance and provide a two-pronged attack -- what it means historically and what it means now.

Know Your Enemy

From the Political Blog For The Politically Incorrect:

The magazine Al-Jundi Al-Muslim, published by the Religious Affairs Department of the Saudi armed forces, released an article on May 1 in its "Know Your Enemy" section that stated:
The majority of revolutions, coups d'etat, and wars which have occurred in the world...are almost entirely the handiwork of the order to implement the injunctions of the fabricated Torah, the Talmud, and the Protocols [of the Elders of Zion], all of which command the destruction of all non-Jews in order to achieve their goal -- namely, world domination.
What brings this to mind now?

The Saudis are hosting a conference on terrorism this February, and our blog buddy reminds us that it is worth examining the Saudi royal family's position on jihad against Jews, as well as how this relates to Israel's exclusion from the conference. The Saudi assistant minister of foreign affairs, Mizar Midani, explained that Israel is excluded because it is "responsible for extremism in the region." Again, from Political Blog For The Politically Incorrect: "One would hope that the State Department is aware of the Saudi position calling for jihad against Jews and that any American participation at the conference may unwittingly imply support of this policy."


New Bjork Video - For Cat "Lovers"

The new Bjork video is surreal. In fact, look up surreal in the dictionary and you'll find a picture of a fish on a bicycle. No wait -- if you like Bjork, or acoustic experimentation, or cats wearing undershirts... you will enjoy this video.

Stereogum has the link right here [thanks, Stereogum!].

More Odious War Practices by the U.S.

The American model is a form of state capitalism in which the great corporations of the military-industrial complex fatten on the largess of the state, while the poor and disadvantaged get a firm dose of laissez-faire.
Michael Ignatieff, writer and broadcaster

During the Civil War, it was legal on the Union side to pay commutation to be excluded from war, eventually that practice was eliminated in favor of knowing someone who could pull strings for you.

For the Iraq war, the latest practice, and it seems just as odious or even more so, is going to other countries to recruit the poor to fight our battles. This came to my attention from a bilingual friend, who was reading a Salvador newspaper. He found an editorial deriding the United States for this practice. The editorial also references a Dec. 9, 2004 article by Kevin Sullivan in the Washington Post.

…hundreds of Salvadoran men, and even a few women, are jumping at the chance to pursue what the news media here call the "Iraqi Dream." With the U.S. military unable to meet security needs in Iraq, private U.S. firms are now providing thousands of armed guards for diplomatic installations, oil wells, businesses and contractors there.

These firms are aggressively recruiting in El Salvador, a member of the U.S.-led military coalition in Iraq, viewing it as an ideal source of guards. The country has low wages, high unemployment and a large pool of men with military or police experience -- many of whom were U.S.-trained -- from the 12-year civil war that ended in 1992.

But the heavy recruitment campaign -- through newspaper ads that offer salaries of as much as $3,600 a month -- has raised concerns among human rights officials, who say they believe the companies are exploiting the poor

"This is the equivalent of a poverty draft," said Geoff Thale of the Washington Office on Latin America, a rights and policy group, speaking from his office in Washington. "The United States is unwilling to draft people, so they are recruiting people from poor countries to be cannon fodder for us. And if they are killed or injured, there will be no political consequences in the United States."

How far is too far for private enterprise? We think the Bush administration has crossed the line. Here is a translated version of the editorial Published in the “Clarin,” the leading newspaper in Argentina:

Cheap Military Labor
By Geoff Thale, Washington Office for Latin America (WOLA) Spokesman

In Iraq, United States security companies are recruiting people from the poorest countries in Latin America to handle the riskiest work. These companies are hoping to dilute the political cost of U.S. casualties.

If the United States officials learned anything in the Vietnam War, it was that as American casualties grew, homeland opposition to military intervention abroad grew. Officials have found a way around this problem: In Iraq, United States security companies are recruiting people from the poorest countries in Latin America to handle the risky work.

With the rise in United States military missions over the past decade, the Pentagon has been seeking a way to wage war successfully with minimal American casualties. Where possible, the Pentagon wages war from the air, using warplanes to bomb strategic enemy targets and weaken moral. When ground fighting is unavoidable, U.S. troops are equipped with the latest technology.

An article published December 9, 2004 in The Washington Post revealed that two private U.S. security companies with Pentagon contracts are recruiting people from El Salvador to handle Iraq security work. The Colombian newspaper El Tiempo has also published articles about the recruitment of Colombian ex-military.

Salvadorans and Colombians are selected to guard embassies and other public buildings in Baghdad, and to protect pipelines and gas lines. These perilous tasks were previously the work of the Marines and other U.S. soldiers.

According to the articles, the firms are hoping to expand their operations. Pentagon contractors believe there is an immense pool of people with military backgrounds who would enthusiastically accept the opportunity to earn higher salaries for this type of work, even if the first recruits come from countries where the militaries have a history of human rights abuse.

The economic logic of this strategy cannot be denied: The U.S. armed forces transfer elements of their security operations to private companies; the private companies recruit Latin Americans to fill low-paying positions, thereby maintaining their profit margins; the Latin American recruits are poor people looking for work who will receive relatively high salaries when compared with salaries in their home countries.

This strategy is profoundly wrong for moral reasons. Latin America and other underdeveloped regions should not be a source of cheap labor for the duties of the U.S. military in Iraq.

This strategy is also wrong for political reasons. Political and military officials and civil officials are hoping to avoid political costs of the war at home by recruiting poor Latin Americans to fight and die in the place of U.S. citizens.

What is certain about the war in Iraq is that the U.S. forces should assume the burden of combat in a war their country started. If U.S. allies have the freedom to join the U.S. or choose not to send troops to support the missions, U.S. companies contracted by the Pentagon should not be recruiting Latin American civilians to face the bullets of a U.S. military mission.

In a democracy, it is imperative that the citizenry share the burden and the impact of U.S. military missions abroad, and the decision on whether those missions are worth the cost of carrying them out.

When those dying in combat are neither U.S. soldiers, nor private Pentagon consultants, but citizens of other countries — whose injuries or death has no impact of any kind in the political debate in the U.S. — the democracy is undermined, and war is waged without the citizens participating in the debate on its costs.

The countries in this hemisphere should oppose this practice. Although it should surprise no one that in economies with low salaries, high unemployment, and even higher underemployment, there are people who are eager to accept this risky offer. Keep in mind that according to a recent report by the United Nations Latin American and Caribbean Economic Commission, 224 million people, or 43% of the entire population of Latin American, live in poverty.

Latin America should not become a source of cheap labor to handle the work of the U.S. armed forced in Iraq. Moreover, Latin America should not be a smoke screen for the U.S. to avoid the political cost of its own wars.

A link to an interview with the author on the same topic.

Idiot Wind

Dylan is so brilliant. To me, he makes William Shakespeare look like Billy Joel.
George Harrison (1943 – 2001), guitarist and former Beatle

Apparently, The National Book Critics Circle, which announced nominees for their literary prize agree with George Harrison’s quote above. Surprisingly Bob Dylan was among the contenders for this prestigious award. This is when awards shows, show how silly they are. There is no way that Dylan’s biography should be placed in the same league as Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton, or Stephen Greenblatt’s biography of Shakespeare, “Will in the World.”

While his biography is engaging, it also seems a bit disingenuous. We highly recommend “Positively Fourth Street, The lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Farina and Richard Farina” by David Hajdu, which as the book jacket is “A hauntingly evocative blend of biography, musicology and pop cultural.”

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Johnny Carson Remembered

"People will pay more to be entertained than to be educated."
Johnny Carson, 1925-2005, comedian

We saw Johnny Carson in action a couple of times through some public relations duties. We brought a stuntman to the show and rigged up a harness that would drop Carson from the ceiling. He came out to look at it, but refused to test it. He wanted his reaction to be spontaneous on the show. After looking the contraption over, he sat down behind his desk and told a story about how he parachuted a few years back.

I watched Carson that afternoon with awe. He looked like a mafia don and was given the respect of one. We made friends with one of his bookers and were given reserved tickets to his show anytime we wanted to go. Carson had a certain elegance and class about him, something neither Jay Leno nor David Letterman have.

The following is from the New York Times obituary, which is rightfully extremely lengthy:

...NBC was purchased by General Electric toward the end of Mr. Carson’s tenure and he showed his new bosses no more mercy than he had the old ones. He did not like General Electric very much because, he felt, the company was did not treat his show very well.

On the occasion of the Christmas season of 1991, he did a monologue in which he announced that GE had sent him a holiday card which announced that “in lieu of a gift, a GE employee has been laid off in your name.”

Asked why the NBC logo was a peacock, Mr. Carson said he did not know but speculated that it might be because GE “couldn’t find a multicolored weasel.” He liked to call GE “the conglomerate with a heart.” ...

Mr. Carson, we wish you a heartfelt good night.

The Misanthrope – Sunday’s Lighter Side

It is not true that life is one damn thing after another—it's one damn thing over and over.
Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892 - 1950), poet

Odd Hour Phone Calls – During the evening when the phone rings in the middle of dinner or the climax of a show, you figure it’s a telemarketer. We are on the do not call list, but any financial institution you do business with is exempt, so they continue to interrupt and intrude. However, we finally told one company that either these calls stop or doing business with you will stop. The calls have stopped.

The phone rang this morning at 2 a.m. the only thought is an emergency or mercifully a wrong number. It’s Daughter calling from Prague:

“Hi Daddy, I know it’s late, but I wanted to let you know I am safe.”

“Thank you for calling. Just give me a second to get my heart beating again.”

Daughter proceeded to talk about the youth hostel she was staying in that had group accommodations. Sixteen people, male and female, were sleeping in a large room. She said people were snoring, coughing, coming in late, and dropping things. I wanted to tell her that’s how we feel when she comes in late, but I was still concentrating on getting a normal heart rhythm going. I faintly recall her saying she was going to upgrade to a room that fits only four comfortably, which was $8 more. Daughter promised to call when she gets back to London; we just hope it’s not during the wee hours of the morning.

Napping. We have been missing Daughter quite a bit, so this afternoon we took a nap in her bed. The room with her clothes and her scent on the pillows seemed as if she were still home. It has not even been a month yet; this is going to be a long three months.

Public Transportation. We experimented back in November with taking the subways in Los Angeles. The results were not enjoyable. We had to drive about 10 miles out of the way to reach the subway station, we had to park a block, or two away. If you arrived around 8 a.m. or so, forget finding a spot. The trains were generally full regardless of the time, so rather than read the paper, I had to stand for 20 minutes until enough people exited. Of course, most people go to work with bad colds and coughs and within the first week, we ended up with a bad cold. The speeding ticket, mentioned a few weeks back, negated the savings in parking costs; still there was a savings on gas, but a loss on time. It is faster to drive in either direction than taking the subway.

Probably my biggest fear is being trapped in the subway during an earthquake. While the tunnels were being dug, there were issues with methane gas, we are sure there are no issues now, but we’d still feel better if there were parakeets in place. However, if it all caved in, it wouldn’t matter whether there were birds or not. We are back to driving and listening to the radio news or CDs.

New Music. We purchased a CD by Nellie McKay titled “Get Away From Me,” and we are thoroughly enjoying it. We heard about her in the New York Times Sunday Magazine a few weeks ago. Her style is rather jazzy with lyrics that are clever and cutting. We like the song “Won’t U Please B Nice,” which is today’s answer to Frank Sinatra’s “Please Be Kind.”

Movies. We opted to go to the movies the last two weekends. The cost during the matinees was $7.50 times two, which totals $30 for two movies. That is ridiculous. For The Misanthrope we enjoyed one out of the two, wife enjoyed two out of two. The movies were “Aviator,” which received a thumbs up from each of us; the other movie was “Million Dollar Baby,” which Wife enjoyed. We would tell you more about “MDB”, but we spoil it for you. The “Aviator,” which is about the early years of Howard Hughes was very good and very well acted, in our humble opinion.

Cold Weather. Wife keeps stating how glad she is not to be in New York this week. She was there two years ago for their big snow storm and helped her folks dig out. She forgot what hard work that is and how much she doesn’t miss it. We have read some of the blogs from our friends in Canada, New York and all areas that are cold, who have been talking about how cold it is out there. To all those living in frigid places, our heartfelt wishes to you in hoping you stay warm and dry.

Saturday, January 22, 2005


Remember the song "Fishheads" from Barnes & Barnes? Of course you do!
Fish heads, fish heads, roly poly fish heads.
Fish heads, fish heads; eat them up, yum!

In the morning, laughing happy fishheads,
In the evening, floating in the soup.

Ask a fishhead anything you want to.
They won't answer; they can't talk.
If you want to see all the lyrics, they're right here.

As a special service to you, the devoted Toner Mishap reader, I am offering the entire song in mp3 format for download right here; I'm also posting samples of some other Barnes & Barnes hits. If you like them, please consider purchasing them.
Fish Heads (complete!)
Succeed (complete!)
Before You Leave
Monkey Life
Soak It Up
Now what's the point of all unrequested goodness? Well, I've got a collection of some weird vinyl, and I'm clearing out the shelves to make room for too-small baby clothes and a collection of children's car seats... and I have for sale on eBay a record featuring Artie Barnes of Barnes & Barnes (actually Bill Mumy, who you may remember as Will Robinson on TV's "Lost in Space"). The record is called "Hot Food To Go" and is shaped like an order of French fries!

The details are all up on eBay, and I hope you will consider bidding on it; it's a goodie, but I just need less stuff, you know?

Friday, January 21, 2005

A More Mellow Misanthrope

A tart temper never mellows with age, and a sharp tongue is the only edged tool that grows keener with constant use.
Washington Irving (1783 - 1859), writer

We are going to try to be a more serene misanthrope, we may even move away from the third person plural. We are not going to rail everyday at the inane policies or speeches made by George W. Bush or his cabinet members. Now, this does not mean we will stop, but try to limit our out bursts to maybe one or two per week. Bush’s Inaugural speech would have been an easy target to point out that saying, “The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world," is just a euphemistic code for his aggressive preemptive strikes; another opportunity to be the world’s judge, jury and prosecutor.

"Why mellow out?" you ask. There are many other areas and items to explore that are more positive. Don't worry we are not venturing into Dalai Lama terrority (not that there is anything wrong with that). We’ll just send letters to our legislative representatives and hope they listen or our vote will go against them, if it is even counted (This mellow thing will take practice, it is not going to be an overnight shift, so please be patient).

What We Are Reading

Read in order to live.
Gustave Flaubert (1821 - 1880), novelist

We just finished reading “The Double” by Jose Saramago and enjoyed it very much. We are in the process of deciding which book to really delve into next “Cole Porter” by William McBrien or the highly recommended, by B2, “The Fortress of Solitude” by Jonathan Lethem. "De-Lovely" was an interesting movie, which we just watched. We had no inkling about Cole Porter's life or background and being a Sinatra, Ella, Torme fan, there is no excuse for that.

A Rebuttal to My Wife

Isn't it the sign of a great relationship when you communicate with your wife by blog?

Anyway, she has been "seen" on this blog suggesting that my interest in comics might be a bit, shall we say, immature. Here, then, is my rebuttal -- in finer words than I could craft, those of the late Will Eisner:
The format of the comic book presents a montage of both word and image, and the reader is thus required to exercise both visual and verbal interpretive skills. The regimens of art (e.g. perspective, symmetry, brush stroke) and the regimens of literature (e.g. grammar, plot and syntax) become superimposed upon each other. The reading of the comic book is an act of both aesthetic perception and intellectual pursuit.
And if you are interested in a fine eulogy of Will Eisner and his influence on comics, graphic novels, and other types of sequential art, check out Neil Kleid at Ninth Art.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

On The Mark -- Democracy, yes. Freedom, yes. Rule the world, no.

First I have to say that Bush's inaugural address was probably the best-delivered speech he's given. But when I heard his speech I was reminded of something I read early last year in a biography on Khrushchev by William Taubman.

A few weeks before Kennedy's inauguration, Khrushchev gave a speech in which he said the world was going socialism's way and that the only wars the Soviet Union supported were "wars of national liberation." Such struggles, he said, were both "inevitable and sacred."

Now I'm not trying to compare Bush to Khrushchev, nor am I saying anything that implies that Bush is modeling any Soviet agenda. My point is that as much as Kennedy reacted to this speech (many of his comments in his famous inaugural address were targeted to attack Khrushchev's comments just a few weeks before -- Khrushchev was probably the most significant audience for that speech) I think it's safe to say that others in the world will react the same way to Bush's comments (which I'm sure we'll see in the press on Friday).

In many ways this speech was very bold, and there's no other way to look at it than it's going to be a very tumultuous four years. As much as I want the oppressed to be free, we have enough problems at home that need to be fixed before we start going out to liberate the world. Not to mention how hard and long it's taking to liberate Iraq alone, and that's still a crap shoot.

Democracy, yes. Freedom, yes. Rule the world, no.

We Can Dream

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations.

Abraham Lincoln (1809–65), U.S. president. Second Inaugural Address, 4 March 1865.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Excelsior! Stan Lee Will Get His Percentage of Spider-Man


Stan Lee is one of those guys who loves himself so much that we don't have to. If it isn't enough that he created the Marvel universe as we know it, giving us geeks Spider-Man, The Hulk, The Fantastic Four, Dr. Strange, and more, he also had a cool cameo in Kevin Smith's Mallrats.

So I was more than a little surprised that Stan the Man doesn't get a cut of the Spider-Man movie profits; at least, he didn't until now. A federal judge has ordered Marvel Enterprises Inc. to pay him 10% of Marvel's profits from the Spider-Man movies, television shows and movie-related toys manufactured by Marvel.

I am sad to report, however, that Marvel plans to appeal the ruling.


On The Mark -- Reporting from Russia, Series II -- The Military Parade

On the Mark has returned to Russia. This is the seventh and final post in this series.

The military is getting all fired up for the big day -- the big parade. The latest in fighter jet technology will be roaring overhead during the parade. Missiles are lined up throughout the city. Soldiers with live machine guns and rifles can be seen on many street corners. The army and navy will be highlighted during the parade and during the president's speech to the nation -- their strength and might will be put on display. The president will say they are doing a great job, but much more will be needed of them.

No, you're right, it's not May. No, this is not Red Square in Moscow I'm describing.

It's Washington, D.C. for the presidential inaugural.

You decide...

JibJab's "Second Term"

From JibJab, the folks who brought you the now-infamous "This Land is My Land" parody in the weeks leading up to the presidential election... now it's time for "Second Term"!

Defending Our Flag

I had intended to sally forth into the wonderful world of patriotism, to expound upon my beliefs of what makes a true patriot; after all, what better week to do so than that in which we inaugurate (or, reinaugurate, as the case has proven to be) the President of the United States of America. However, calmer heads prevailed (actually, my head calmed, and prevailed over itself).

I therefore am pleased to present some examples of patriotism as represented in the world of Golden Age comics (admittedly, a few are a little more recent than the Golden Age). Just click on any (and all) of the thumbnails below to see the larger, uncropped images.

Whether you want to see Uncle Sam taking names and getting down to business, Captain America kicking Hitler's butt, the busty Miss Victory, or those great old-time All-Star Comics, you should be able to find something you'll enjoy.


Tony points out that we forgot the Fighting American, so with thanks to him I present...


Knowingly or not, the following sites were helpful in my search for patriotic comic materials; visit them, won't you?

The Unofficial Blackhawk Comics Website
Quality Comics Cover Gallery
Davos' All-Star Comics Page
Red, White and Blue: Patriotic Superheroes by State
Don Markstein's Toonopedia
Femforce Femfams
Miss Victory Pin-up Page
War Nurse!
Wrap-Around Wonders

Better Off Pleading Guilty

A sense of humor always withers in the presence of the messianic delusion, like justice and truth in front of patriotic passion.
H. L. Mencken (1880 - 1956), journalist, critic, and editor

Having just read the defense’s opening remark, it should come as no real surprise that on Jan. 14, 2005, a jury found Spc. Charles Graner guilty of nine out of 10 counts stemming from his abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

The analogy used by Graner’s attorney in his opening remark: “Don’t Cheerleaders all over America form pyramids six to eight times a year? Is that torture? Our response is, only for the fans who are stuck in the stands watching naked women pile on each other. What the hell opening defense was that?

Charges Against Graner under the Uniform Code of Military Justice alleged conspiracy to maltreat detainees; dereliction of duty for willfully failing to protect detainees from abuse, cruelty and maltreatment; maltreatment of detainees; assaulting detainees; committing indecent acts; adultery; and obstruction of justice.

We suspect his charges will be quietly reduced and eventually dropped. Let's not forget that Lt. William Calley was found guilty of premeditated murder of 22 of the villagers of My Lai. In the end, Calley served only days in Fort Leavenworth, before being transferred back to Fort Benning, where he was placed under house arrest. His sentence was repeatedly reduced. Finally, he was pardoned by President Nixon. He was paroled in November, 1974.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

On The Mark -- Reporting From Russia, Series II -- It's A Nasty Winter

On the Mark has returned to Russia. This is the sixth in an ongoing series of posts.

It's a nasty winter this year. It's about 0-2 degrees C and actually sprinkling in some areas during the day. Nasty. Nasty. Well, if you're a Russian, anyway.

Being a Westerner, especially from a warm weather region, I assumed that Russians hated winter. Piles of snow. Freezing cold weather. I was wrong. They love their winters. They love -25 degrees C. They love snow up to their knees. That's perfect weather for them. So, when it's barely freezing with slush on the ground, and black makes them very cranky.

"Global warming," is a term I hear muttered constantly, and sometimes I feel like they are staring right at, and blaming, me. Maybe I'm overly sensitive, but there have been times when it seems that my Russian friends think I'm the one (instead of my president) who abandoned the Kyoto Treaty.

Another reason it's a nasty winter is that with the new year the Russian government stopped providing some social services, such as prescriptions and mass transportation, free to pensioners. They now receive a monthly stipend of approximately 200 rubles, or about 7 USD. It doesn't take an economist to figure out who is getting the shorter end of the stick. There have been some protests (wouldn't call them "mass" yet) in and around Moscow and St. Petersburg.

I've had a chance to talk to many pensioners, several who fought or dug anti-tank trenches during the Great Patriotic War, and they are furious. They're barely surviving as it is.

In Ukraine they had the Orange Revolution. In Russia, I predict they will soon have the "Gray Revolution" if the government underestimates these retirees/pensioners.

Take Action Against Gonzales

From Peace Action

As White House counsel, Alberto Gonzales forged legal opinions on torture and detainment that sought to permit the president of the United States to do an end-run around international law, U.S. law, good military conduct and common decency.

Mr. Gonzales's involvement in the crafting of the infamous August 2002 "torture memo" that gave CIA interrogators the legal blessings to conduct torture, and his work on two presidential orders on detainee policy have provoked controversy and judicial reprimand during Bush's first term. Mr. Gonzales' role as architect of the Bush administration's policies on detention and torture makes him unfit for the role of Attorney General of the United States.

On January 19, the Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a session which is likely to include a vote on the nomination of White House counsel Alberto Gonzales for Attorney General. If the committee endorses the nomination, the full Senate could vote to confirm Gonzales as early as the afternoon of January 20.

On January 18, please join Peace Action members and concerned citizens across the United States for a National Call-in Day to Congress. Contact your Senators and tell them to oppose the nomination of Alberto Gonzales for Attorney General, and that supporting his nomination is tantamount to condoning torture.

Call the Capitol Switchboard, 202.224.3121, and ask for your Senator or call your Senator's home offices.

Go to the Peace Action web page to download a flyer on the national call-in day to share with family, friends and neighbors.

Censorship at Fox

Last October the Fox television network aired an episode of "Married By America" in which people licked whipped cream from strippers' bodies and a man in his underwear was then spanked by those strippers. So now they're nervous about showing a cartoon butt?

I am no fan of censorship. I think that the market should determine what is acceptable and what is not when it comes to television programming, and if people want to see naked cartoon butts then that's just fine.

But Fox is electronically blurring a "Family Guy" character's posterior on an upcoming rerun, even though the image was seen five years ago when the episode originally aired. "We have to be checking and second-guessing ourselves now," Fox entertainment president Gail Berman said Monday. "We have to protect our affiliates." Or should that be, "protect our asses"?

This is a show that is known for its outrageousness -- what other show would feature President Abraham Lincoln in the buff?

If people don't want to watch it, or don't want their children to watch it, they should learn how to operate their remote controls -- the POWER button also turns the television off.

[We at Toner Mishap extend our thanks to Jason for the screen grabs and to Yahoo for the original news story.]

Monday, January 17, 2005

Courtesy 0, Boorish Behavior 2

I am free of all prejudice. I hate everyone equally.
Attributed to W. C. Fields (1880 - 1946), entertainer

The Misanthrope interrupts his political opinions (and why the hell not, it’s a holiday) to ask, is The Misanthrope out of touch? This morning, neighbor-to-the-side (as opposed to neighbor-directly-behind with the tuba player), leaves for work and puts their near dinosaur-sized Labrador which is apparently also part rooster out to wake anyone who might have the day off, god forbid should someone be sick and need to sleep. The Misanthrope has endeared himself again by leaving a phone message for them at 5:45 a.m.

We write our commentary this morning and read the newspapers, then go to the gym. Now, The Misanthrope is working out on the elliptor machine, and people are on the machines on either side. A man prepares to sit on the bike in front of our machine, but first turns off the fan that cools both of us. The Misanthrope asked him nicely to turn it back on, he hesitated, but complainingly gave in and found another bike.

Are we wrong? Where the hell has common courtesy gone? What has gone wrong in society to encourage such behavior? Is it the win at any cost mentality of the corporate and sports world?

Ratification of Divisive Policies

Rationalization may be defined as self-deception by reasoning.
Karen Horney (1885 - 1952), psychoanalyst

President Bush said the public's decision to reelect him was a ratification of his approach toward Iraq and that there was no reason to hold any administration officials accountable for mistakes or misjudgments in pre-war planning or managing the violent aftermath.

In other words, no one cares if:

  • Troops were sent to Iraq without enough protection,
  • No exit plan was prepared,
  • Nominated Attorney General Alberto Gonzales looks for loopholes to justify torture,
  • Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld views his standing at a desk tailored to his height the equivalent to allowing Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay prisons to stand for hours afraid to move for fear of electrocution; we’ll just prosecute the low man on the totem pole, and
  • Vice President Dick Cheney manipulates and interprets Iraqi intelligence until he gets the answers he wants.

"We had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 elections," Bush said in an interview with The Washington Post. "The American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq, and they looked at the two candidates, and chose me."

The American people, based on what I can tell, chose Bush because:

  • Cheney said there would be a nuclear attack, if they were not reelected,
  • Gays might be able to get married,
  • The government would abandon our troops in Iraq, if Bush was not reelected, and
  • John Kerry, who served in Vietnam, was disloyal, while Bush who didn’t complete his service and received preferential treatment was patriotic.

The view from here appears to be there was no accountability just good ol’ fashion knee-jerk fear.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

He Had a Dream

In celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr., I offer some finds from around the web.

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Link here for the full text of Martin Luther King, Jr's "I have a Dream" speech, and download the audio in mp3 right here.

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Bread and Roses has posted his memories of the day Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered. Here's an excerpt:
I was 12 years old when Martin Luther King was murdered in Memphis. I followed the news closely even then and so I knew who he was... knew what he was working for... knew that we had lost a man striving to make us all the best that we could be... a standardbearer for social change too long in the offing... a frontline soldier in the war for equality and a peacemaker.

I knew he was a man worthy of respect...a man with a dream (a dream that is, to this day, still in the process of coming true...but the motion is ever forward towards that goal and I hope he would be heartened by that)...a man who, whatever his personal fears, foibles, and demons, was willing to stand up for...and indeed to die for...that which he believed in (something few of us, if we are honest with ourselves, would be willing to do in such a powerful and provocative manner.)
Read the whole piece at Bread and Roses.

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At the age of thirty-five, Martin Luther King, Jr., was the youngest man to have received the Nobel Peace Prize. When notified of his selection, he announced that he would turn over the prize money of $54,123 to the furtherance of the civil rights movement. The Nobel Foundation has an excellent brief biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. on their site, as well as a transcript of the presentation speech. Here's an excerpt:
He is the first person in the Western world to have shown us that a struggle can be waged without violence. He is the first to make the message of brotherly love a reality in the course of his struggle, and he has brought this message to all men, to all nations and races.

Today we pay tribute to Martin Luther King, the man who has never abandoned his faith in the unarmed struggle he is waging, who has suffered for his faith, who has been imprisoned on many occasions, whose home has been subject to bomb attacks, whose life and the lives of his family have been threatened, and who nevertheless has never faltered.
Here is an excerpt from Martin Luther King, Jr.'sacceptance speech:
Today I come to Oslo as a trustee, inspired and with renewed dedication to humanity. I accept this prize on behalf of all men who love peace and brotherhood. I say I come as a trustee, for in the depths of my heart I am aware that this prize is much more than an honor to me personally.

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A picture gallery of Martin Luther King, Jr., and a selection of his more well-known quotations.

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No citation would be complete without a link to Wikipedia, so here is their official site on Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Misanthrope – Sunday’s Lighter Side

Better to write for yourself and have no public, than write for the public and have no self.
Cyril Connolly (1903 - 1974), writer and journalist

A little like a quiet explosion in your head.
Maurice Sendak, writer and illustrator, referring to writing

Addiction. We have become addicted to blogs. We go to blog sites out of curiosity to see what others are writing about, and there is a lot of interesting articles, perspectives, and personal essays which run the gamut from hilarious to emotionally moving.

Blogging will take one into a labyrinth rabbit holes allowing you to visit a world of interesting articles and perspectives from politics, dating, and diaries to emotionally moving pieces such as the loss of a parent. The Misanthrope comments along the way zigzagging around the globe via blogs.

We came across a right-wing blog in the United Kingdom, called Biased BBC. After a few comments that this band or readers did not agree with The Misanthrope was called ol’ china, which we believe is another way of saying pal or mate, and then told to pull my head out of my arse by Pete_London, we hope he visits Toner Mishap and stirs the pot over here.

Just start by clicking on the Blogroll on the right, you may get addicted too.

Daughter. Daughter is doing well in the outskirts of London, she is not crazy about the food and is downright miserable about the price of everything. We believe that this weekend she was going to London with her girlfriends. Next week is a trip to Prague. We have been communicating via e-mail and phone occasionally. E-mail has proven effective, when daughter asks for money, we point out that her note must have gotten lost in cyberspace, and she’ll have to get it from her mother. Without getting too sappy, we miss her greatly. She was away at school for three or four weeks at a time, but at least she was only a few hours away and in the same time zone. The thinking and worry never stops and is magnified by the distance.

Shopping. The Misanthrope took Daughter to the mall just days before Xmas to get a few gifts. Daughter was taught to browse and peruse everything single item in every store and stop at each portable cart in the mall walkways – rest assured it was not from her dad. Daughter was absolutely in shock and then miserable after experiencing a Misanthrope shopping experience. We went directly to the store picked up a few gift cards and were out. Daughter had no idea what had just happened and was so out of kilter that she went back to the mall with her mother shortly thereafter. So, while blogging, I found this map at, which perfectly depicts Daughter’s and even wife’s shopping habits.

This is just in from Daughter:
Hi Daddy-
London was great fun today. We saw everything!! We went on the big red bus tour which was fun, a walking tour around the palace and a tour of Thames river. I saw the Globe Theatre, London Tower, Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, St. Paul's Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, and Harrods. I had tea and scones there, it was great! We ate lunch at a traditional English pub and I had sausage and mash it was quite good. I picked up some really nice cheese from Harrods, it was great! I decided that I love London more than I love New York! All the history is so fascinating and the overall atmosphere of the city was great. I love the old mixed with the new, it makes for a unique feel. Looking at London and all the history makes me realize how young America is in comparison. I can't wait to go back! Well I am off to bed! Love you and miss you!

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Made in Mexico

Noticed this today -- my daughters have an art set with stars-and-stripes-branded "American Crayons"... made in Mexico, of course.

Guest Column – Media in this Country is Liberal


The national news media in this country are liberal. It’s a cliché now, the “liberal media.” “Cliché” status usually reduces something to “tall tale” status but this is certainly not the case here.

What the media thinks is important and what they choose to report everyday is almost certainly following an agenda. They don’t care about giving us an accurate picture of anything. Let’s take the latest Ohio Vote certification protests from some democrats.

NBC News anchor Brian Williams used this as his tease for the NBC Nightly News, “Protesting the vote: Congress forced to interrupt its ceremonial counting of the electoral votes because of problems on Election Day in Ohio."

Is this is an accurate picture of what went on? How many times must I read the headlines of stories or the first few paragraphs and not get an accurate perspective of the story? It is clearly intended to give the problems credibility that the story did not go on to actually destroy as it should have. Even John Kerry recognizes who won and that he won legitimately.

I am a journalism student and one of the first things you learn is the upside down pyramid. Important things go first and you work your way down. Can I chronicle how many times I see the “other” (non-liberal) side stuffed down at the end of a story? Can I chronicle how often the argument is mischaracterized or not legitimized even at the end of the story?

Not in this essay I can’t. The fact is when 34% of national media is liberal and 7% are conservative compared to 20% liberal and 33% conservative of the American population, then I think there is a problem. Not only that, but 80% of editorial endorsements from newspapers endorsed John Kerry in the election. 80%?!?

My journalism professor is admittedly a moderate but also admitted to voting for John Kerry. He even diagrammed for us in class one day the way the Detroit News’ opinion section favored a pro-Kerry column over a pro-Bush one. The theme was crossing parties. Former Republican Governor of Michigan William Milliken endorsed John Kerry while some other democrat guy from New York endorsed Bush.

The New York guy’s opinion was on the bottom half of the page with a smaller and much less intriguing headline and we inspected the entire page and pulled out a million other subtle things like the fact that no one in Michigan knows who the New York guy is so his credibility is not near as much as a former republican governor who endorses Kerry. My professor went on to explain as evidence that a lot of his colleagues came up to him during the day noting how Milliken endorsed Kerry. He also noted that none of them read or paid attention to the column below it…

…because no one in metro Detroit cares. I can’t even remember the guy’s name. They will claim that it is fair because they offered two sides, but this is the classic example of media bias. They give more credibility to liberal things by either running more stories on them, in subtle ways like who they interview for each side, or what facts they put in for each side.

What can I say though? Is this anecdotal evidence? Yes. But when 80% of national newspaper editors endorse one candidate, and liberals outnumbers conservatives 5 to 1 in the media, I guarantee I can find five examples a day of liberal media bias.

Is the Media Fair? -- The Misanthrope's Perspective

In the United States today we have more than our share of the nattering nabobs of negativism. They have formed their own 4-H Club—the "hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history."
Spiro T. Agnew (1918 - 1996), U.S. vice-president

Are American journalists reporting national news fairly? No. The Misanthrope believes the media actually leans right or even nationalistic in its coverage of politics. Conservatives know this and realize that by bashing the media as liberal they are cut more slack.

“I admit it,” William Kristol said, “The liberal media were never that powerful, and the whole thing was often used as an excuse by conservatives for conservative failures.” It is this myth of the liberal media that empowers conservatives to control debate in the United States to the point where liberals cannot even hope for a fair shake anymore.

However, the problem is that people do not know the definition of news. Let’s take David versus Goliath as a metaphor for this example. Goliath beating David is no big deal it is expected. Goliath squashing every David that comes by eventually becomes a business success story. Everybody loves a winner. A reporter will eventually look at the situation and asks questions about why Goliath is beating all the Davids. The reporter looks to see if there are unfair business practices taking place. Goliath knows that a reporter is snooping around and will mount a campaign saying that the reporter already has an agenda and is looking for ways to support it. The people who love a winner and the people profiting from Goliath will also rally around behemoth. The reporter is labeled liberal, the reports are discounted, and the people continue to pay hirer prices because there is no competition.

It’s unfortunate but the mass public has shown little to no interested in serious news, whether there is too little time or they feel that it doesn’t matter anyway, but in either case there is someone willing to take advantage of that apathy.

As far as the war on Iraq, all the media wanted to side with President George W. Bush and the media blindly went along rather than research or question what was going on. It was difficult for the media too, because Bush used access and favoritism against reporters that didn’t side with the administration. He still has not met for an interview with a New York Times reporter. As a result of not having a strong enough media, or citizens who care enough, we are once again stuck in a war quagmire where thousands of people on both sides are dying unnecessarily.

Honest journalists are rarely appreciated by the citizens they serve, even less so by those on which they report. Large corporate entities own the major media and they are in the business of packaging news in order to sell advertising. The public will ultimately get what it wants, hence the rise of poor journalism and the rise of people and agencies that know how to manipulate the press to their advantage. A recent case in point is the Armstrong Williams case, we can expect much more such corporate and government agenda-pushing reporting.

(resource: What Liberal Media? The Truth About BIAS and the News By Eric Alterman; 2003 Basic Books)

Friday, January 14, 2005

The Best Picture Ever?

If you are anything like me (and I pray that you are, instead, well-adjusted and acting your age), you will love this picture. It will make your day -- nay, your week.

Mr. Hasselhoff recently claimed that he was partly responsible for the reunion of Germany, saying "I find it a bit sad that there is no photo of me hanging on the walls in the Berlin Museum at Checkpoint Charlie." He is also alleged to have said, "There are many dying children out there whose last wish is to meet me."

As for Mr. Coleman, is it really a point of pride that we Californians can say we did not elect him as governor, instead opting for Arnold Schwarzenegger?

Bush Almost Admits A Mistake

All war represents a failure of diplomacy.
Tony Benn, British Labour politician

President Bush came as close as he could to admitting a mistake when during a roundtable interview with reporters, he said his tough language had an unintended consequence.

The phrases he was referring to were: “Bring it on” and “wanted dead or alive” when referring to Iraqi insurgents and Osama bin Laden, respectively.

Now if we could just get him to admit he made a mistake when he said, “On my orders, coalition forces have begun striking selected targets of military importance to undermine Saddam Hussein's ability to wage war.”

If the United States focused on bin Laden, maybe we’d have him now. Certainly there would be substantial fewer deaths and many families would have their sons, daughters, fathers and mothers home.

On The Mark -- Bombing History

About 10 years ago I was sitting in a small kitchen in Birmingham, England visiting with a number of people, young and old. The previous day I had visited the War Museum in London. I was asked what I thought. I responded that I was really taken by how the museum made you feel as if you were really a part of the bombing of London and the Midlands during the Second World War, as well as experiencing the trenches of WWI. That in the modern day United States we were fortunate because we never experienced that, at least from foreign bodies (except Pearl Harbor -- and this was long before 9/11).

Two of the older women told me that they still had nightmares at least once a week of the bombing raids by the Nazi's when they were little girls in England. They described how terrified they were when the air raid sirens went off. The mental anguish of false alarms. The terrifying sound of bombs exploding nearby, not knowing if they were next to die or if they would be able to make it to a bomb shelter. Seeing friends one day and being told the next morning that they had perished in the previous night's bombing. There were nights when their family sat huddled together, arm in arm, praying as the bombs dropped all around them. This went on night after night after night.

So when Prince Harry wears a Nazi uniform to a costume party...well there are just no words to describe the stupidity of his actions. I was glad to see the former spokesperson for the Royal Family say that his actions were nothing less than stupid. And one can't blame it on his not knowing the history, he's had the best education money can buy, and I'm sure he's been to the War Museum, at least once.

And forget about the "blame it on youth" excuse. I don't buy that excuse. Never have. Especially when you're 20 years old. And a simple apology, through a written statement, isn't enough either. He needs to be put in touch with reality. And I'm not even talking about the Holocaust aspect of it. I'm simply talking about the mass destruction of property and life perpetrated by a crazy, insane man and his Nazi followers.

Prince Harry should be forced to conduct a lengthy (a few months anyway) Studs Terkel type of awakening, visiting people who lived through the horror. He should be made to sit in a building and have some bombs dropped around him so he can tremble from the deafening explosions and the fear of whether one might hit his building by mistake.

Then maybe, maybe, he'll know his history a little better.

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.