The Ongoing Comic Adventures of George W’s Inquisition Into Hostile Acts of Aggression and Subversion

How many times have you noticed an article in the newspaper or on TV about some terrorist suspects being apprehended? Caught them. Another attack prevented. Phew! We’re safe again.

But of course, some of those arrests include the Lackawana 5, and Iyman Faris. Add to the list the horribly frightening and terrifying Captain James J. Yee.

Captain Yee was a chaplain at the detention camp for foreign combatants of the war in Afghanistan in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Captain Yee joined the army years ago, left the army and became a Moslem, and then rejoined the army recently as a chaplain. The army liked to brag about Yee. He was emblem of their enlightened diversity, tolerance, and broad-mindedness. He was sent to Guantanamo Bay to minister to the Moslem prisoners of war being held there under obscure and nebulous of legal rationalizations.

Then Yee joined up with Osama Bin Laden and began laying nefarious plots for incendiary activities at Guantanamo. I’m not sure what he was planning exactly. An escape would be difficult– from Cuba. He and his evil Islamic radicals could take over the base, I suppose, and litter.

Anyway, Captain Yee was arrested and charged with committing terrorist acts and there was a trial and convincing evidence was presented and Captain Yee defended himself to no avail and was convicted and sent to prison.

Or maybe not.

You see, that kind of eventuality would require real evidence and testimony. It would require reasonable people to look at his evidence and say, well, by golly, this guy committed a crime.

Much, much more convenient to simply hold a press conference and announce that some more terrorists have been stopped dead in their tracks — meaning Mr. Yee among others– and then charge him with littering. Well, not exactly littering. Adultery.

Yes, adultery.

Yes, adultery. For which he was held in a brig in solitary confinement, usually in leg irons, for 76 days. Well, not really for the adultery. The adultery, you see, is what they found evidence for. They held him because some idiot thought he was plotting to overthrow the U.S. government.

Do you care about the adultery? Do you care about the miscarriage of justice? You probably don’t. I’m a cynic. I bet you won’t care until it happens to you or somebody close to you. In the meantime, George W. Bush and John Ashcroft and Tom Ridge are your heroes. Do we have John Ashcroft actions figures yet?

I do care, and that’s why I’m taking a few minutes here to write about him, even if I doubt it will make any difference to most people out there.

If you feel safer tonight knowing that George W. Bush and the boys are out there like hawks guarding your personal safety and security, repeat, to yourself, the word “adultery”.

Or, “improperly gathering military information”, as one of Mr. Yee’s supposed cohorts have been charged with. Read that line carefully if you think it sounds sinister. What it really means is, we couldn’t find any real evidence against this guy so we charged him with something we could charge anybody with so as to not look like total idiots…. oops. Too late.

Captain Yee was arrested September 10, 2003, at Jacksonville Naval Air Station. When it was discovered that Airman Al- Halabi had had dinner with Captain Yee, he too was arrested, and charged with Grand Malarkey, or whatever it is that means that he was plotting to commit terrorist or otherwise nasty and unpleasant things of a hostile nature. Airman Al- Halabi– don’t laugh– was charged with aiding the enemy, which carries a death penalty.

As near as anyone with any brains can figure out, Al-Halabi was polite to the prisoners, which is what initially raised suspicions. Then he had a private dinner with Captain Yee, whom they thought was…. never mind. Anyway, Al-Halabi is an Arab name, so most Americans won’t care what happens to him. Lock him up. Leg irons. What the hell, hang him.

If you can’t figure it out for yourself just yet, here is a sure indicator of when prosecutors have gone nuts: it’s when they inspect themselves and go “eureka”. Of course, they never, as in the case of Colonel Jack Farr, actually arrest and incarcerate themselves. That would be unseemly. But Colonel Jack Farr, one of the men investigating Captain Yee, was caught also “wrongfully transporting classified material without the proper security container.” I’m not sure who caught him– the New York Times didn’t say. But it did say that he wouldn’t be treated like Yee or Al-Halabi.

That’s because he’s holding the gun.

The Police Take Sides on Trade Agreements

On Sept. 5, Lida Rodriguez-Taseff of the ACLU attended a briefing that the police held for local business leaders at the Intercontinental Hotel. Rodriguez-Taseff was shocked that Asst. Police Chief Frank Fernandez’s PowerPoint presentation openly endorsed the controversial trade agreement, telling the audience that it would bring 89,000 new jobs to the area and add $13.5 billion annually to Florida’s Gross State Product. From Salon, December 31, 2003.

Do the police know or care how damaging this information is?

I have no doubt that the police think they are behaving quite decently. Doesn’t everybody support Globalization? Well, real people do. So the unreal can be pelted with tear gas and pounded with batons.


Don Cherry’s Violence in a Bottle

It is believed by some that if you ban fighting in hockey, the incidences of other infractions– high-sticking, elbowing, slashing– will increase, because hockey players have a certain amount of brutality in them, and if it doesn’t come out in the fists, it has to get out somehow. (Lord knows, Don Cherry wouldn’t want it to emerge in the form of sexual aggression or we might have hazings.)

Is that true? I don’t know of any research that supports this belief, but I’m sure that a lot of people believe it anyway because it seems to make sense and because “experts” like Don Cherry believe it.

I think it is an unexamined belief. I don’t know of any study that shows that it’s true. I know Cherry often liked to claim that European players were dirtier than their brawling North American counter-parts because instead of punching each other in the face like good honest all-American hockey players do, they supposedly hacked at each other more often with their sticks.

Don Cherry also believes that helmets’ lead to people hitting each other on the head. Why would you hit someone on the head if he didn’t have a helmet on?

To injure him?

S.S.R.I.’s And Teenage Mental Health

British Drug regulators just announced that doctors must stop writing prescriptions for an entire generation of anti-depressant drugs for depressed children under 18.

After reviewing 11 different studies of the effects of these drugs, including Paxil, Zoloft, and others, on children under 18, they came to the conclusion that the risk of harm outweighed the potential benefits.

According to Mother Jones, more than 50% of the studies performed on these drugs have shown that they have no greater beneficial effect on people than placebos do.

But it’s hard to convince a doctor with scientific evidence. I’m only kidding. No, I’m not. Dr. Flemming Graae of Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, N.Y., says he has treated more than 2,000 children with S.S.R.I.’s. (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) and, he says, not a single one of them tried to commit suicide because of the drugs.

That’s a really strange statement to make. Didn’t any of the 2,000 ever try to commit suicide? If not, that’s remarkable.  If any of them did, how do you know it wasn’t because of the S. S. R. I.?

The Heritage Foundation reports that about 14% of all sexually active teenage girls and 5% of all the others attempt suicide. Just about every other study reports that some teenagers try to commit suicide.

These are truly wonder drugs if the results are that good. Or Dr. Graae’s statistics are wonderfully contrived.

Of course, the Heritage Foundation is trying to prove to you that girls that have sex are unhappy, miserable, and suicidal, while girls who don’t have sex are contented, smart, and rich. So don’t have sex. Or learn to do unbiased studies. The Heritage Foundation thinks you are still gaining weight because you don’t eat enough diet cookies.

I suspect that doctors are willing to defend S.S.R.I.’s because they give them something to give people who are desperately desperate. Since you can’t give them a happy life with healthy peer relationships and a morally satisfying profession, you give them a pill.

The V-Chip Fraud

The fraud of the v-chip is that it only blocks violence or sex. It doesn’t block the most insidious type of television programming of all: advertising.

Joseph Lieberman voted in favor of the V-chip, because he likes to think of himself as a “family values” type of guy. But this is the essence of “family values” politicians. They can claim to be standing up to those insidious mythical enemies of the family out there because they don’t really threaten the status quo. They can be pro-life and pro-family and pro-prayer and pro-morality, because these all cost them nothing. They can criticize rap music and violent Hollywood movies because rap musicians and movie directors don’t give them big fat checks for their re-election campaigns.

…Think about it. Is there anybody out there– other than the weirdos way, way out on the fringe– who are not in favor of something like “family values”?

Now let’s consider a position that might reduce corporate profits somewhere. How do you feel about prescription drug prices, Mr. Lieberman? How about closing some of those unnecessary military bases the channel so much cash into congressmen’s home districts?

And, Mr. Lieberman really had any guts, he’d also be in favor of what I call the “c” chip, which would give parents an option of filtering out all the ads that are designed to turn their children into credit-crunching, heartless, mindless consumer zombies.

Lies and Damn Lies

I had always thought that the reason advertisers target mostly young adult viewers is because they have the most disposable income. I don’t think that’s really true. I think people in their 40’s actually have more money to spend. The real reason is because young adults still have a sliver of a smidgeon of a tiny little particle of belief that what advertisers are telling them is true. I know the feeling, just as sometimes I can remember what it was like to be an adolescent boy and to have fantasies of power or great suffering or genius. After a while you grow up, but not everybody grows up, and not everybody thinks the same thing makes you grown up.

You know that most ads lie or exaggerate but it just might be possible, you think, that this one product or service or whatever will gratify some desire or another. Sometimes you even ignore advice that you know is good. You just need it. You just need to try it. You buy it and, inevitably, it disappoints. You store up that information. By the time you are about 40, you are inured. You are immune to the scam. And advertising no longer works.

We’re the only culture in the world that has grown up bombarded incessantly by millions and millions of lies. We allow it. We are shameless. And I am pretty sure that most people, as with most things, tend to think it could never be otherwise. This is our system, our culture, our economy. There are a lot of things we like about our lifestyles– we wouldn’t want to throw it all away by trying something radical. So we abide the lies.

So I sat there one day and tried to imagine a world in which most advertisers had some kind of moral feeling about truth and decided that they would try to make their ads as reasonably accurate as possible. In a world like this, really lousy products would not survive because no one would agree to advertise them. But most of the products we see around us would probably still be around us. We just wouldn’t be under great illusions about what they can do for us.

So, again, imagine a world in which most of what you hear and see is generally true.

It will blow you mind. It’s a freaking wild concept. The biggest difference is that it would matter. You would care about stuff you hear. You might react. You might take it to heart. You might be moved occasionally.

When something really important came along, it would sound really important, and you would believe it was really important.

We might find out that there are a lot of things we’d like to change about our lives, because we know the truth about our chances of eventually winning the lottery or looking like Katie Holmes or Brad Pitt. We would know that this is what we are and we have to live with.


A TV production company approaches your airline company. Imagine you are the president of this company. The TV Production company wants to tape your staff in action, your pilots, your stewardesses, your customer service representatives. Nothing is out of bounds. They want to record what it is like to travel on your airplanes.

Your first question is, can we control what you show on TV? We can cut whatever we don’t like, right?

The answer is no.

You say no way, right?

That’s what most U.S. airlines did. They probably thought to themselves, are you crazy? They could show anything! They should customers complaining and saying that they will never fly your airline again!

But Southwest Airlines in the U.S. said yes. And they really had no control over the content. They were not pleased, for example, when the program showed that they charge fat passengers for two seats. They would have preferred that that little episode stayed on the cutting room floor.

But some smart people in the pr department of Southwest Airlines prevailed and the program was made. They gambled on the idea that people are not children, that they can understand reality, and that they will have more respect for an airline that is “transparent” than for one that tries to hide all of their faults.

I think they’re right. I hope they’re right. The jury is still out, but I’m betting that their sales increase and pretty soon all the big airlines will want a piece of the action.

Note: the program was based on a similar program that has been airing in Britain for 6 years.

The Matrix of Pompous Portentiousness

The danger, they say, is when you believe your own press.

With the extravagantly lavish praise heaped upon the first Matrix, it was perhaps inevitable that the Wachowski Brothers would start to believe they really were as deep and important as the average 14-year-old thinks he is.

The fun is off the Matrix. And it didn’t last very long. The first Matrix already displayed an unfortunate tendency towards ritualistic fetishistic worship of dry straight faces and black robes and leather and posture.

This is a church that believes in its own rituals– always a pathetic development, but made more so by the frenzied extravagance of these rituals.

And, as is the case frequently in these type of “heroic” films– the behavior of the “good” guys is just about as repugnant, fascistic, and oppressive as the “bad” guys.

Every ship has been home more often than the Nebuchadnezzar. How damn bloody seriously heroic of you. And why is Zion such an ugly, dismal place if this is supposed to be where the people with passion for life live?

There’s no poetry in this story. Morpheus rallies the Zionites like a varsity football coach rallying the freshmen.

The romance between Trinity and Neo– oh my! You! No, you! No, you! Their love-making echoes the orgiastic dance in the cave, but it’s a rather conventional approach for the messiah: missionary position. Trinity, when she speaks to Neo, sounds a lot like mommy. “It’s okay, you can tell me. Don’t be afraid.” He’s the messiah, but mommy is trying to persuade him to confide his prissy little secrets with her. “The one” is a self-pitying narcissist.

There are good reasons why, in real life, our society never allows lovers or married couples to work together as cops or soldiers. Matrix Reloaded is a good illustration of why. Among other things, there is a great danger that co-workers will become nauseous.

The dialogue is very lame.

Morpheus: “Good night, Zion.”
Counselor: “It’s nice tonight.”
Counselor: “But it makes me wonder– just what is control?”

The fight between Neo and the guide, the man who “protects that which matters most” who leads him to the Oracle, is inexcusably coy– he “had to be sure” that he really was the chosen one, by doing a little kung fu, here? Really? Or just a clumsy plot device. Not just an excuse for a little action instead of exposition here?

The visit to the key-maker, which reminds me of the Monty Python and the Holy Grail sequence with the French knight hurtling insults from the castle wall– was intriguing. The Merovingian is difficult and uncooperative, and utters one of the movies’ few memorable lines (about swearing in French), and you keep waiting for Neo to grab the The Merovingian and start beating it out of him, but instead they get into the elevator and leave. Then Persephone (Monica Belucci) invites them to come see the key-maker, while The Merovingian is in the women’s washroom getting lipstick on his ….

Trinity tidily closes her eyes when she dies– this movie is aimed at kids.

Conspiracy Theory

“The whole point is to disrupt terrorism at an early stage instead of letting the conspiracy fully hatch,” said Viet Dinh, a former top Justice Department official under Attorney General John Ashcroft who now teaches law at Georgetown University. “We cannot take the risk of the conspiracy taking place. What you get is shorter sentences but greater prevention.” NY Times, December 7, 2003

My question is, why is our government so modest? Where are the visionaries? Why are they so humble? Where is that “can do” spirit?

We have a government department, under John Ashcroft, that seeks to prevent conspiracies before they happen. But why aren’t they out there preventing murders and larcenies and drug deals and marijuana smoking before they happen? Lack of vision, that’s all. Lack of spirit. If they only applied the kind of exciting focus and determination that they show in the pursuit of terrorist conspiracies!

Think about it. If we could catch some of those teenagers reading books or watching movies about drug use, and give them more frequent but lighter sentences, why we could put the entire drug problem to rest in less than one generation.

How about kids playing with guns? It’s clear they’re thinking of growing up to become hit men. Bust ’em.

Two men in Oregon were sentenced to 18 years in prison for planning to go to Afghanistan to train for jihad. A jihad is a holy war against the infidels.

I don’t think the U.S. government means to say that it is illegal to believe that the west wants to destroy Islam and, therefore, conscientious young Moslems ought to be trained to be ready to fight the west. Well, wait, I think they do. It’s a new approach to war: it is now illegal.

It wasn’t illegal ten years ago. If a young Arab in the U.S. decided to go join the Muhajadeen, the U.S. did not interfere.

But today, it is illegal.

Yesterday, it wasn’t. Yesterday, the same young men were going over to Afghanistan to fight against the Russians. That was okay. These young men became the Taliban and oppressed and brutalized their own people. That was okay.

Then they turned on us.

It’s Legal When I Say It’s Legal!

For people who think, however, we have achieved the unthinkable, the unimaginable, the absurd: the United States of America now imprisons people for thinking about doing things that probably shouldn’t be illegal in the first place. The U.S. has sponsored terrorism in Afghanistan when the Soviets were the occupying force. We gave them bazookas and grenades and told them to take back their country. But now that we have taken their country, similar
actions are deemed terrorist.

Abstinence Delusions

The Guttmacher Institute says that two-thirds of public school districts have policies to teach sex education, and that 35 percent of those require that abstinence be promoted as the sole option for unmarried people. Birth control and condoms can be mentioned just in terms of failure rates. NY Times, December 22, 2003

That’s interesting. I thought that the public school system, and the government in general, was not supposed to be promoting any particular religious beliefs. I suppose that some would argue that the idea that unmarried people should not have sexual intercourse is not a religious idea. It’s grounded in natural law, or the social contract, or something else.