Curveball
  Curveball  

"Irreverence is the champion of liberty and its only sure defense."
- Mark Twain

"Anyone who combines politics and baseball is an idiot, because everyone knows that ping-pong is the greatest sport. Oh, and I'm really a Communist who hates NASCAR and listens to Joan Baez in the dark.
-- Glenn Reynolds

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Andre Vladimir Sebastian is a figment of your imagination. Honestly, you really could have done better than him, now couldn't you? Next time, put a little effort into it.

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Art Or Porn?
Two days ago I posted about a sex show called XXX masquerading as art in London's West End. Today I ran across a blurb from Sky News in which a co-producer of XXX claims his show isn't porn because all the sex is simulated. "The sex in XXX is not real but virtual," he said. "It is all theatre. It looks like real sex and the actors are often naked but it is just touching and kissing." He added: "It's not pornography, it's art."

This guy is pathetic. Larry Flint and Hugh Hefner understood that one can't hide behind the first amendment if one publishes only dirty pictures. So they run articles in their magazines. Likewise, most shock artists who put on sex plays or smear chocolate on themselves onstage go to the trouble of inserting some plot or social or political statement so the performance can be defended as having artistic merit. In the art world there is a general consensus that unless it shocks, offends, or expresses a point of view, it isn't art -- which is why works of beauty in the classical tradition aren't considered art by the post-modernist crowd.

This clod hasn't the cleverness to do don any of those masks. He simply throws a bunch of naked people (and unattractive ones at that, judging by the pics on Sky's Web site) on stage, has them simulate sex acts before the audience, which is exactly what softcore porn "actors" do, and calls it art. For all that effort, the only difference between his show and softcore porn is that one is performed on a high-rent West End stage and another is performed in a second-rate soundstage in Southern California. The key to not being porn is that the sex or nudity you show is not intended to sexually excite. Webster's defines pornography as "the depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement." This show has one objective: to arouse the audience. That's porn.

XXX would have a better shot at qualifying as art, with the shock-the-establisment crowd at least, if it were actually hardcore. At least then it could be said to be truly shocking, maybe even "socially relevant". When you put on a show called XXX, but it isn't triple-X at all, and even the police declare it isn't obscene, all you've managed to do is make some cash by showing some skin. If that's not pornographic, nothing is.

  posted by AVS @ 25.4.03


25.4.03  

 
Wishful Thinking At The Guardian
Some Brits covering American politics, such as Alistair Cooke and Christopher Hitchens, pay attention, do their homework, and have come to understand America and her political scene as well as anyone. Others, such as The Guardian's Gary Younge, have absolutely no idea what they're talking about. I just ran across Younge's fawning profile of Carol Mosley-Braun from March 3. It's a hoot. It is titled, "It's time to take the men-only sign off the White House", and it includes this lovely bit of misanalysis designed to show that America is finally ready for a black woman president, and that president is Carol Mosley-Braun: "And all this comes at a time when George Bush is threatening to remove affirmative action, there is the prospect of an anti-abortion judge being nominated for the supreme court, and the possibility that a presidential campaign will take place in the wake of an unpopular war." Whoops.

  posted by AVS @ 25.4.03



 
Chicken Strips


  posted by AVS @ 25.4.03



 
Saddam Aide: Galloway Documents Real
Saddam's former scheduler says he recognizes the handwriting on the documents naming George Galloway as a recipient of payments from Saddam, The Daily Telegraph reports.

"As Mr Galloway continued to denounce the letter as a forgery, Mr Wihaib said he recognised the "clear and distinctive" handwriting as that of Tahir Jalil Habbush Al-Tikriti, head of the Iraqi intelligence service, who is number 14 - the jack of diamonds - on America's "most wanted" list."

"I am 100 per cent certain that this document is genuine," he said, his eyes still fixed on the letter. "As soon as I saw the document I knew it was Habbush's handwriting because it is so distinctive and unusual. This is not ordinary writing. The words are very big, just like sculptures. He writes very well."

  posted by AVS @ 25.4.03



 
Explain these, George
When a reporter for The Daily Telegraph uncovered Iraqi documents listing payments from Iraq to Labour MP George Galloway, Gorgeous George denounced the alleged discovery as a right-wing conspiracy against him. "This attack is part of a smear campaign, against those who stood against the illegal and bloody war on Iraq and against its occupation by foreign forces," he said. "As I am out of the country, writing a book about Iraq, I have not seen the so-called 'documents' the Telegraph - a highly partisan source - claims to have access to." So I wonder what he'll have to say about a new report from The Christian Science Monitor, which found documents belonging to Qusay Hussein detailing payments to Galloway. In one of the documents, Qusay writes, "issue the check and deliver to Mr. George Galloway. Do this fast and inform me."



  posted by AVS @ 25.4.03



 
More On George Galloway
Did Galloway profit from Oil for Food program?, from The Independent. The coverup, from The Daily Telegraph. "Years in the Commons defending Saddam's regime", from The Daily Telegraph, includes this nugget: In 1994 Galloway went to Iraq, where he praised Saddam's "courage and indefatigability". The quote was reported by the BBC, and Galloway denied it -- until the BBC produced the tape. Galloway's Saddam link held in Amman, from Gulf News. Galloway claims he's a "victim of the war against the Iraqi people", from The Independent. Galloway claims some of his staff may have taken money from Iraq, but he never did.

  posted by AVS @ 24.4.03


24.4.03  

 
Debauchery Masquerading As Art
British theater sinks to a new low as a Spanish performing troupe, aptly named "Fury from the Sewer", has found a West London theater to provide them with a stage on which they simulate sex for two hours and call it art. No kidding. The show is called XXX. Of course, if pretending to have sex is art, then the back-seat adventures of millions of teenage couples worldwide could conceivably qualify for NEA funding. And you thought you had no artistic talent!

  posted by AVS @ 23.4.03


23.4.03  

 
Mad About Rick
Blogger Bryan Preston has a great angry rant about the Rick Santorum flap. For a contrast in styles, see also Andrew Sullivan's very thoughtful (isn't he always) recent post on the affair.

  posted by AVS @ 23.4.03



 
Commies For Saddam
I completely stole this from blogger Harry Steele. It's an April 3 commentary on the Iraq war from Ian Donovan of the Weekly Worker, the British Communist Party rag. It's fun to read with the knowledge that Baghdad fell six days after the piece was published. Choice quotes include:

"Evidently, a popular movement now exists, with a real democratic thrust: it is not fighting so much for the existing regime, with all its undoubted barbarities and atrocities, but rather for the right of Iraq to be free from foreign invasion and domination - despite the regime. This is an entirely progressive aim that all class-conscious workers, socialists and communists should support. The defeat of coalition forces, including, if necessary, inflicting massive casualties, and their expulsion from the territory predominantly inhabited by the Arab Shi’a majority and Arab Sunni minority, would be a massive victory for the working class of the world."

and

"In fact, while American and British military spokesmen have spent a fair amount of time in the last two weeks squirming and having to make damaging admissions about the previous day’s briefings, at times their Iraqi counterparts have exuded a certain confidence and bravado. Iraqi information minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf’s briefings of the international media have attracted attention for their informative and often cogent content, in contrast to the contradictions of the coalition spokespersons, who have had to field numerous questions regarding the misinformation they were spinning the day before."

  posted by AVS @ 23.4.03



 
More On Arab Racialism
Is Arab culture more race-conscious than Western culture? It certainly seems so. This Washington Post story documents the feeling of collective disappointment in the Arab world at the Iraqi army's collapse. One would think Arabs would be happy that their brothers had been freed. But many were upset, even angry, that their fellow Arabs had been freed by white people.

"People fed themselves spontaneously on that resistance. It was a kind of catharsis for the humiliation of setbacks over the last 50 years," said Abu Odeh. "It was a catharsis cut short by the fall of Baghdad." He added sadly, "We wonder now whether we'll ever be able to recover and be respected worldwide."

I can't imagine, say, the English being angered if Australia were ruled by a socialist dictator and the armies of Singapore and India stepped in and ousted the oppressor. The Arab attitude is a sad legacy of post World War I meddling in the Arab world by Western powers as well as the mass turning inward of Arab society after the rise of Islam, and it's a shame. I wonder how much of this sentiment will have to be overcome before there can be any real progress in Western-Arab relations.

  posted by AVS @ 22.4.03


22.4.03  

 
I Was Wrong, But Really I Was Right
New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff has a truly unique column today in which he does something almost never done by a columnist for a major newspaper. He admits he was wrong.

"Since I complained vigorously about this war before it started, it's only fair for me to look back and acknowledge that many of the things that I — along with other doves — worried about didn't happen," he writes. "Despite my Cassandra columns, Iraq never carried out terrorist attacks in the U.S. or abroad, it didn't use chemical or biological weapons, and it didn't launch missiles against Israel in hopes of triggering a broader war. Turkey has not invaded northern Iraq to attack the Kurds. So let me start by tipping my hat to administration planners whose work reduced those risks."

The mea culpa is almost too good to be true. And, you know what? It is. A few graphs later Kristoff is back to bashing the hawks for their supposed fantasies about America's strength and virtue. "The ones who really blew it were the superraptors like Richard Perle, Douglas Feith and, to a lesser extent, Paul Wolfowitz, who over the years had suggested, as Mr. Perle put it in a Washington Post essay in 1998: "It would be neither wise nor necessary for us to send ground forces into Iraq" because Iraqi exiles could do the job by themselves with American weapons and air cover. Fortunately, Tommy Franks and Colin Powell demanded more than an Invasion Lite pipedream," he writes.

As usual, Kristoff pulls an irrelevant statement of overconfidence and blows it out of proportion, using it to claim that his side may have been deluded, but these guys were really deluded. It should say a lot that Kristoff had to dig back five years, and quote a person not employed by the Bush administration or involved in the actual battle planning, to find a quotation that sounded anywhere close to as wildly inaccurate as any number of quotes from doves like himself.

He then takes a few pot shots at people who point to Iraqis happy at being liberated as evidence that the war was justified, saying that in truth there is as much "menace as gratitude", as if the menace counts more than the gratitude. No one ever said every single Iraqi would be happy at Saddam's fall. He then writes, "The hawks also look increasingly naïve in their expectations that Iraq will soon blossom into a pro-American democracy." Who has said this? No one I've read. No one in the administration. There have been some overly optimistic assessments of what may happen in the aftermath, I don't think any serious commentator said Iraq would suddenly become a flawless democracy and America's closest ally in the Gulf. Kristoff, like other doves, acts as if anything but turning Iraq immediately into Candyland is evidence that the hawks were wrong. But on balance the doves were proven wrong on EVERY argument against this war, while the hawks were right on nearly everything, except so far weapons of mass destruction, and those will probably surface in time.

I have to admit I have a newfound respect for Kristoff for writing this column. It's a column Maureen Dowd or Molly Ivins would never write. Still, it would've been nice if he had been able to resist the temptation to say, "yeah, I was wrong, but they were wronger!"

  posted by AVS @ 22.4.03



 
Interesting Political Developmetns in Pakistan
Opposition to President Musharraf is growing more vocal, and opposition leaders are calling for a new presidential election.

  posted by AVS @ 22.4.03



 
The Vast Right Wing Conspiracy
George Galloway blames vast right wing conspiracy and a witch hunt for news reports of financial connections between Saddam Hussein and himself. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

  posted by AVS @ 22.4.03



 
Greedy George
More bad news for George Galloway.

  posted by AVS @ 22.4.03



 
Groundskeeper Willie In The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations
The most memorable catch phrase from the prelude to the war in Iraq was "cheese-eating surrender monkeys," which gathered an amazing currency in the six months or so leading up to the war. Google the expression and you'll come back with more than 12,000 hits. Serious Simpsons fans, like myself, know it as the phrase the Scottish Groundskeeper Willie used when he was called to substitute teach French class. Wearing a beret, Willie opened class by saying, "Bonjourrrrrrr (rolling his Rs), you cheese-eating surrender monkeys!" It is without a doubt the best line ever from The Simpsons.

The phrase so perfectly captured America's impression of the French, and so many of today's pundits and commentators are Simpsons junkies, that it was immediately injected into common parlance when France began throwing up obstacles to Amerca's efforts at the United Nations. (Incidentally, seeing as the phrase is now associated with the war to disarm Iraq, the episode on which it aired began with Bart writing on the blackboard, "Nerve gas is not a toy.")

Now, the editors of the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations have announced that the phrase, mentioned 63 times in the British press alone before and during the war, probably merits inclusion in the famed quotation source book. Other phrases that may make the cut: "Old Europe" and "The enemy we are fighting is different from the one we’d war-gamed," which is actually a misquote from The New York Times. Lieutenant-General William Wallace actually said the enemey was a little different, not different, than the one war-gamed against. What do you want to bet the editors use the Wallace misquote and attribute the Groundsekeeper Willie quote to Bart?

  posted by AVS @ 22.4.03



 
Saddam's Little Helper
This is from The Daily Telegraph's lead editorial about George Galloway's possible treason.

"Speaking from abroad yesterday, Mr Galloway was reduced to suggesting that the whole thing was a Daily Telegraph forgery, but the files could hardly be more specific. One memo comments: 'His projects and future plans for the benefit of the country need financial support to become a motive for him to do more work, and because of the sensitivity of getting money directly from Iraq it is necessary to grant him oil contracts and special commercial opportunities to provide him with a financial income under commercial cover without being connected to him directly.'

"It is hard to think of a graver setback to the British anti-war movement. How would you feel if you were one of the many well-meaning peace protesters who had followed Mr Galloway's lead? What would your emotions be if you had given money to his Mariam Appeal, thinking that you were paying to treat a young Iraqi girl for leukaemia and wondering now how your money had been used?

"For months, anti-war campaigners have been imputing the basest of motives to their adversaries. The whole campaign, they argued, was really about money and oil.

"Yet what if it turns out that they, rather than their opponents, had hidden pecuniary motives? What if it was actually the supporters of the campaign who were acting on behalf of Iraqi civilians, while antiwar activists - or at least their leaders - were acting for profit?"

Here is Daily Telegraph reporter David Blair's account of how he found the Galloway documents in Iraq.

  posted by AVS @ 21.4.03


21.4.03  

 
TRAITOR!
You may remember George Galloway, the British Labour Party MP who earlier this month, in the midst of the fighting in Iraq, called on British troops not to fight. Well, London's Daily Telegraph says its reporter David Blair took documents from the Iraqi Foreign Ministry that detail payments to Galloway from Iraqi intelligence. The Telegraph quotes extensievly from the documents, which clearly imply that Galloway, Parliament's staunchest opponent of economic sanctions and war against Iraq, was being bought off. The only way Galloway could possibly clear his name if he is innocent, which looks very doubtful at this point, is to be brought to trail, which is an eventuality clearly merited by the discovery of these papers. Lucky for Galloway that, to conform with European standards, Tony Blair had the death penalty removed as a punishment for treason.

  posted by AVS @ 21.4.03



 
What's Going On In The FBI?
Another FBI espionage scandal. Is anyone minding the store over there? Yet another agent publicly exhibits highly unusual behavior that could suggest he's leaking information, and no one checks it out until it's too late. This agent, J.J. Smith, may be a dupe. Or he may be a double agent. He and his informant, Katrina Leung, have only recently been arrested. This will be one to watch in the coming months.

  posted by AVS @ 20.4.03


20.4.03  
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