Our president speaks

I just watched a newsclip of Bush answering questions at a rare press conference yesterday. I am not exaggerating when I say I wanted to cover my face in embarrassment.

I think of the way Tony Blair, through a contagious passion and the confidence of a born orator, can inspire a crowd. I think of Clinton and Reagan, the two greatest American communicators of my lifetime. I think of Churchill. And Hitler (the man could talk, I’ll give him that).

Then we come to Bush. As he coughs and sputters and stammers and stutters, trying to decipher his torturous syntax becomes an exercise in sheer futility. He is fine when he has a prepared speech in front of him. But when he’s on his own, forced into spontaneous dialogue, all we see is this fat head with two frightened eyes swimming helplessly in their sockets, an obvious “fight-or-flight” dread emanating from his pores; he clutches at phrases, for some banal platitude that will be uncontroversial enough to get him out of the vice alive. When he isn’t uttering incoherent gibberish, he’s spewing out the tritest and blandest of cliches. It is painful watching him flounder to keep afloat.

More than anything else the president is a communicator. In this regard, Bush gets the lowest marks ever. He is the anti-communicator, the Great Obfuscator, the tongue-tied village idiot. That’s the best I can say for him. Watching him simply makes one’s skin crawl, in several different directions at once.

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More double standards

About a month ago I complained that Andrew Sullivan was unfairly singling out Hillary Clinton for being “against gay marriage.” I wrote at the time:

Politicians know that their critics hang on their every word and, wishy-washy as it seems, they have to measure what they say carefully, especially when it comes to super-charged issues — and Sullivan knows it. Would he apply the same litmus test to George W. on gay marriages? Because if he did, I suspect he would be mighty disappointed.

Looking at what he has to say about this very topic today, it appears I was right:

It seems clear to me that we are now headed toward a terrible and possibly definitive tempest on the issue of gay equality. President Bush said yesterday, in so many words, that he is considering amending the constitution to deny gays legal equality in their relationships – indeed to enshrine second-class citizenship for gays in the sacred words of the founding document. It is very hard to think of any act any politican could endorse that would alienate and marginalize gay citizens and their families more.

What bothers me but certainly doesn’t surprise me is that his tone throughout this very long post is one of guidance; he is offering his friend George counsel on how to deal with the issue.

When Hillary Clinton was put on the spot on the same issue, Sullivan was far less charitable; in fact, he lashed out at her, and sneered, “”So there you have it. The Senator from New York State is opposed to equal rights for gays and lesbians.”

Bush went way further than Hillary did, and actually suggested he had legislators working on an amendment to ban gay marriages. Yet Sullivan makes no such pronouncement, no categorical condemnation, no “So there you have it….”

An glaring example of double standards.

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Australia implements mandatory contraception

To keep them from breeding out of control, horny koala bears are put on the pill.

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More terror in store for SE Asia?

Those irrepressible psychopaths of the Jemaah Islamiah terrorist network are apparently preparing another Bali-sytle massacre to show the world they are still alive and well.

An article in today’s Straits Times paints a vivid picture of just how nasty these guys can be and how Indonesia sits in the epi-center of Southeast Asian terror. Reading it, one comes to the depressing conclusion that no one in the region is safe.

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Bad timing

It’s almost funny, that on the very day I received that warning from the US embassy on increased threats of terrorism, the US government announces it will be cutting back on air marshalls on many flights. This represents a major disconnect.

You simply have to ask, “What were they thinking?” Grist for the Democrats’ mills.

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Could it be?

So tell me, is this a joke, or a hoax put out by the Dean people? Can it possibly be for real?

[Courtesy Silt.}

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Do people choose their sexuality, like they choose a car or a sweater?

I read a troubling commentary piece in Singapore’s Straits Times today on a topic that has become quite hot recently, with the government’s announcement that it was scrapping its long-standing ban on hiring gays.

The commentator reflects:

Choosing whom to like and love, whom to feel close to – surely something emotional and psychological – seems less likely to arise from the biological traits of one’s object of affections, and more likely her emotional and psychological characteristics.

In short, gays choose to be gays given their individual life histories within their cultures because they prefer it to heterosexuality.

I think there is a fundamental error in this equation, if not a gross misunderstanding. I believe that that there is no conscious choice. There is no discussion along the lines of, “Do I want to be heterosexual or homosexual? Hmmmm.”

If, at the time most gays realized their sexuality, they were free to make a choice, I believe most would opt for heterosexuality. But it isn’t like that. Most gays at some point resist their fate, even take drastic steps to fight it, to “overcome” what they see as a terrible problem. (And in many ways, it is; in terms of shame, in living in a society that you know does not accept you, in knowing you will disappoint your parents, etc., etc., etc.) But it’s not something you can choose, like a Rolex over a Patek Phillipe.

Reading this sort of article makes me infinitely frustrated and saddened. Even though the writer tries to show sympathy and understanding, his conclusions are entirely wrong. There is no choice. There is no deciding. There is no comparing, no writing up checklists of pluses and minuses. Did any of you one day decide to be heterosexual? Was there any choosing involved? “That which we are, we are,” as Tennyson tells us.

I remember reading an interview in which the Grande Dame of intolerance herself, Phyllis Schlafly, said matter-of-factly that gays always need to swell their ranks so they go out and recruit. Recruit. Can you imagine someone approaching you and trying to convince you to adopt for the rest of your life this sexuality or that sexuality, as if they were trying to convince you to join the navy? And yet people still believe nonsense like this.

I reflected the other day on my decision in January to discuss this topic in my blog. All in all, I am glad I did. To my true sorrow, I must admit that at least two of my friends in America have stopped communicating with me since that day. But then again, maybe this is just the sort of thing you need to do to discover who your true friends really are….

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New terrorism alert

Just got this email from the US Embassy; a little more intense than usual:

PUBLIC ANNOUNCEMENT – WORLDWIDE CAUTION

This supersedes the Worldwide Caution dated April 21, 2003.
It is being issued to remind U.S. citizens of the
continuing threat of terrorist actions that may target U.S.
citizens, and to update these potential threats. The U.S.
Government remains deeply concerned about the security of
U.S. citizens overseas. U.S. citizens are cautioned to
maintain a high level of vigilance, to remain alert and to
take appropriate steps to increase their security
awareness. This Worldwide Caution expires on
January 26, 2004.

Tensions remaining from the recent events in Iraq may
increase the potential threat to U.S. citizens and
interests abroad, by terrorist and other groups. Terrorist
actions may include, but are not limited to, suicide
operations, hijackings, bombings or kidnappings. These may
also involve commercial aircraft. Other potential threats
include conventional weapons, such as explosive devices, or
non-conventional weapons, such as chemical or biological
agents. Terrorists do not distinguish between official and
civilian targets. These may include facilities where
American citizens and other foreigners congregate or visit,
including residential areas, clubs, restaurants, places of
worship, schools, hotels, outdoor recreation events or
resorts and beaches. U.S. citizens should remain in a
heightened state of personal security awareness when
attendance at such locations is unavoidable.

U.S. Government facilities worldwide remain at a heightened
state of alert. These facilities may temporarily close or
suspend public services from time to time to assess their
security posture. In those instances, U.S. embassies and
consulates will make every effort to provide emergency
services to U.S. citizens. Americans are urged to monitor
the local news and maintain contact with the nearest
American embassy or consulate.

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Yet another new kid on the blog

While I think this relatively new blog may be a bit overzealous at times, it’s definitely a very interesting read. Most of his points are well taken and the book reviews are great.

My main problem with it: the writer points out all the sins and hypocrisies of the Bush Kingdom, and concludes that they are so serious and ugly they will end up rising to destroy Bush in the future.

I think this is wrong. From what I am reading, no matter how much we whine about Bush, the fact remains that in Middle America and among the far right he has taken on the aura of a true demi-god (see the previous post for proof). For some inexplicable reason, the more rational the arguments against him, the more they fall on deaf ears. The more articles that pour forth on Niger uranium and outing CIA agents and limiting citizens’ rights, the louder these groups laugh at us and ignore the evidence. Since I am so far away, I can’t say what effect this phenomenon is having in America, but I see it certainly as a potentially dangerous recipe.

For now, I see Bush as virtually unbeatable. There would need to be a true catastrophe that affects the average voter to reverse this. Maybe Iraq will ultimately provide this, but I don’t think so. Right now, the right has near total command of the media, from the blogs to the newspapers to TV. No, I am not saying the media are necessarily conservative. I am saying that the Republicans have figured out how to use them to transmit and reinfore their messages — even many of the “liberal” media. When it comes to blogs, it’s the libertarian/conservative bloggers whose voices dominate. These super-bloggers are tending to minimize if not totally ignore recent evidence of Republican foul play; often they just laugh at it and say, “Who cares? Look at how successful we’ve been in Iraq!” And I worry that this is an extremely powerful message. A little bloodshed or unfairness are acceptable; these crimes are merely ancillary — we are at war and we’ve got to be “tough.” The complainers are weak-kneed, whiny Democrats — imagine if they had been in office when 911 occurred!

I didn’t mean to veer off like that; the way the Republicans have mastered the art of communication is a whole other post, soon to follow.

Back to topic: check out Northwest Citizen. His review of Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest really got me thinking.

[Thanks to David for leading me to this blog.]

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Coulter Contagion

You really have to see this to believe it. There really is a whole body of ignoramuses out there who have willingly surrendered their critical faculties to embrace idiocy, xenophobia and a cult-like devotion to their very own Dear Leader (GWB). Shocking.

Here’s just a small sample; it gets worse:

Erickson was followed by Jack Abramoff, a powerful right-wing lobbyist and former College Republican chairman, who exhorted the next generation to fight hard, lest “the ascension of evil, the bad guys, the Bolsheviks, the Democrats return.”

That equation — evil = communist = Democrats — was nearly axiomatic at the convention. Ann Coulter’s latest book, “Treason,” which tarred virtually all Democrats as traitors, may have been denounced by conservative intellectuals, but its message has pervaded the party. Gene McDonald, who sold “No Muslims = No Terrorists” bumper stickers at the Conservative Political Action Conference in January, was doing a brisk trade in “Bring Back the Blacklist” T-shirts, mugs and mouse pads. Coulter herself remains wildly popular — Parker Stephenson, chairman of Ohio College Republicans, calls her “one of my favorite conservative thinkers.”

I’ve been away for a couple of years; is this mentality shared only by a tiny, contained fringe group or has it seeped into the mainstream?

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