Friday, November 21, 2003

B.C. vs. Islam

When I saw this B.C. comic strip last week it made no sense to me. That's not unusual for B.C. cartoonist Johnny Hart whose humor often falls flat in my opinion. But now a big stink has been raised over the strip by people who think that it was a veiled insult directed at Islam. The Washington Post has a story that details the complaint:

"...the cartoon contained six crescent moons -- three in the sky, and three on the outhouse door...
and also noted that Hart had drawn a prominent sound effect -- "SLAM" -- between two frames to accompany the closing of the outhouse door. The SLAM was stacked vertically, in the shape of an I, and could be seen to signify "Islam." The cartoon appeared on the 15th day of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month."

Hart denies the allegation and claims the strip is just a "silly" bathroom joke. Frankly, it wouldn't surprise me either way. Over the years Hart has turned his comic strip about prehistoric cavemen into a forum for his far-right evangelical Christian views. He regularly uses the strip to slam liberals, Democrats, feminists, public education and much more. His political statements can be every bit as blunt and incendiary as anything in Doonesbury or Mallard Fillmore.

I thought it was interesting that of all the cartoonists asked to comment on the controversy, the only one who stepped up to defend Hart was Gary Trudeau who writes the liberal Doonesbury strip.

"We cartoonists are simple folk. We don't write on that cryptic a level. Leave Johnny alone."

I have to agree. Although I don't buy that Hart is totally innocent in this case, I think that it would not serve any good purpose to make a bigger deal of it at this point.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Ignoring U.S. war casualties

The contrast between the way Italy and the U.S. have treated its Iraq war casualties couldn't be more striking.

"President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi led the nation in mourning at St Paul's Basilica, Rome's second-largest church, where the 19 coffins rested on a red carpet in front of the altar."

The Center for American Progress makes this observation:

"Since the war started, President Bush has attended a total of 36 fundraisers for his political campaign – and not one funeral for fallen soldiers in Iraq."

It is not as if President Bush has no time to attend memorial services. Just a few weeks ago he made time to fly out to California to have his picture taken while consoling victims of the brush fires around San Diego.

I'm sure that Bush is being told that he needs to downplay U.S. casualties in order to maintain support for the Iraqi occupation. But that is no excuse to ignore the sacrifices of our soldiers. The very fact that Bush is still having to try and defend and justify his decision to go to war in Iraq at this point is really pathetic. If it was such a great decision it should have been more obvious by now, instead our position in Iraq continues to deteriorate while the real enemy - working elsewhere - continues to strengthen.

All Michael Jackson, All the time

The 24-hour, 7-days-a-week coverage of Michael Jackson's pending child molestation trial has begun. If the news outlets can justify spending as much time and resources covering the Scott Peterson and Kobe Bryant trials, then I can only imagine what they will do for Michael Jackson. I'm sure it will make the O.J. Simpson trial coverage look tame in comparison.
I will be desperately trying to tune this mess out during the next six months.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

City Hall term limits

A Citizens Committee on Charter Review has recommended that City Council member term limits be extended to eight years and that they be paid $31,000 per year ($41,000) for the mayor.
Personally, I would like to see the term limits go away altogether because I believe they are undemocratic. People should be allowed to vote for whoever they want for as long as they want (provided that person is not in jail).
Likewise, the pay issue seems obvious to me. For a city the size of San Antonio, the city council and mayoral jobs are pretty much full-time. If the people holding down the jobs are independently wealthy or have other jobs that make the supplemental income unnecessary then they could donate the money back to the city coffers or give it to a charity. We should at least pretend to make it so that anybody can be on the city council. As it is now, I could never afford to do it (not that anyone would ever vote for me) and I'm sure that goes as well for the vast majority of citizens living here.

Pink Panther revival

I was happy the other day to see that Steve Martin is planning to revive The Pink Panther series by taking over the role of Inspector Clouseau from the late Peter Sellers.
I've been a big Steve Martin fan since I was in junior high school and had the entire "Wild and Crazy Guy" comedy album memorized. A friend and I were even planning to do a record mime of 'King Tut' for a school drama class before my family moved that summer.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Interviewing the President

During his trip to London, President Bush has agreed to give an exclusive interview to a tabloid newspaper - The Sun - which regularly features photos of topless women and National Enquirer-type journalism. The The Washington Post reports thusly:

“After coming to office with a vow to restore dignity to the White House, the president yesterday took a brief sabbatical from that effort: He granted an exclusive interview to a British tabloid that features daily photographs of nude women and articles akin to those found in our own National Enquirer...

“Bush, meanwhile, has given no solo interviews this year to the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Time or Newsweek. And he hasn't given an exclusive interview in his entire presidency to the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe and dozens of other major publications....

“Word on Fleet Street is it's an obvious payoff to the Sun's owner, Rupert Murdoch, the conservative publisher behind many Bush-friendly news outlets such as Fox News. Officials at the White House acknowledge that it was a reward to the Sun for its unstinting support of the United States regarding the war in Iraq.”

The one thing you can say about Republicans is that they are consistent when it comes to money. They love money above all else. It doesn’t matter if someone deals in smut, alcohol, tobacco or gambling. As long as they are willing to give lots of money to the GOP they will be embraced just like Rupert Murdoch whose Fox TV network consistently pushes the boundaries on good taste and morality. Nor does it matter if someone is the leader of a cult and thinks of themself as the second-coming of Christ like the Rev. Sun Myung Moon. Just give lots of money to the GOP and all of that can be overlooked. Why, I’m sure that if Larry Flynt were to change his party affiliation tomorrow and start giving money to Republican candidates he would probably be an invited guest at next year’s Republican National Convention.
Now to be fair, I have to admit that the Democrats can grub money right along with the best of them, but at least they are not as self-righteouss about it.

But enough of that rant. I couldn’t help but laugh at the outraged tone in the article above from all of the major newspapers that haven’t had an “exclusive” sit-down interview with the President lately. I do think it is sad that the Bush administration is so paranoid that they feel the only news outlets that they can trust are the ones owned by Rupert Murdoch (Fox News) and the Rev. Moon (Washington Times). But at the same time the President isn’t going to run all over the country granting exclusive interviews just to soothe some of these overgrown journalistic egos.

It didn’t use to be so hard to get an exclusive interview with Bush - at least before he became president. I’ve done two of them myself - first at the Kerrville Daily Times when Bush was running for governor the first time (not available online); and then at The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal right before Bush announced his intention to run for president. It was clear at the time that Bush was going to run, but unfortunately he wouldn’t give me the scoop and instead made the formal announcement a couple of weeks later. Oh well.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Errors of omission and commission

Things aren't going very well in Iraq. If that isn't already obvious....

We've lost four Black Hawk helicopters since Nov. 2 sending 39 U.S. soldiers to their deaths. The total of military casualties in Iraq is now well past 400 and climbing.

We've launched a new offensive campaign against the insurgents, but the stepped up tension could also lead to more tragic mistakes such as this which is not likely to endear us to the Iraqi people.

The Iraqi governing coalition is a mess. But that isn't stopping the Bush administration from demanding that the transistion process be sped up.

Meanwhile, war critics such as myself have to contend with insults and slander from people like Jonathan Gurwitz who implies that I am somehow "delighted" by U.S. failures in Iraq and view it as an ideological victory.

"The search for Saddam himself and the remainder of his Baath loyalists also continues, to the satisfaction of those who consider each American casualty an ideological victory."

There may indeed be a few sorry people out there who would fit that description, but Gurwitz is painting with a broad brush here by implying that anyone who has been critical of the war in Iraq shares this view.

I am not happy, pleased or delighted everytime the U.S. is dealt a setback in Iraq. I am, however, angry and upset.

Interestingly enough, Gurwitz actually levels a serious charge at the Bush administration in this article:

"Of the Bush administration's errors of omission and commission in Iraq, the most glaring is the failure thus far to initiate a human rights tribunal for Iraqi war criminals."

Of course, he doesn't go into detail about what these "errors of omission and commission" might be. But I can give him a reason why the U.S. has "failed" to push for a human rights tribunal of Iraqi war crimes.
The reason is because so many of the crimes occurred more than 15 years ago when Saddam was buddy buddy with Gurwitz' hero President Ronald Reagan. Many of the mass graves that Gurwitz cites are filled with people who were killed with weapons supplied by the U.S. or purchased with U.S. funding during the time that Iraq was our little pawn during and after the Iran-Iraq war. And another of the big mass graves occurred shortly after the first Gulf War when it is alleged that Bush the elder's administration had encouraged the Kurds and the Shias to rise up against Saddam with the false assumption that we would be there to back them up.
The U.S. obviously is not eager to have a tribunal for these crimes because it would highlight our "errors of omission and commission" that led up to them.