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...a sweatshop of moxie

Monday, October 31, 2005

Take that, it's Alito!

(This story is too important not to keep atop the Halloween Costumes post, but check that out below too!)

After the near-catastrophic appointment of White House counsel, and personal Bush family lawyer, Harriet Miers, today the President of the United States nominates

Samuel A. Alito, Jr.

As his true, genuine, and decisive nominee for the SCOTUS.

Like most people who are not Constitutional experts, I was willing to give Harriet Miers her chance to wow me at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings.

I was not pro-Miers, nor anti-Miers.

This despite being in the minority on Blogosphere at not having an instant aversion or peace-of-mind suddenly overwhelm me at the very thought of her appointment.

But, again like most people with an unvested interest in the matter, I was also quite concerned at the judicial gravitas Miss Miers so obviously lacked.

Her past associations, such as being almost a lifelong Democrat, which could be excused because of an historic Dixiecrat link...

Her wavering stance on being pro-abortion for most of her life, until her born-again Christianity changed her heart...

Her aftertaste of cronyism this appointment left on the palate...

Her unremarkable intellect (her most incisive commentaries in margins of notes seemed to be "Cool!", wincingly bad, compared to the dry wit and monumental grasp of law exhibited in the same, by now Chief Justice Roberts)...

All these reasons made me reconsider my neutrality.

But the most important shift in my mind, was the obvious disgust exhibited by Conservatives at this nomination.

It almost rent asunder Blog relationships, the political commentating world, and core-supportership of these centre-rightists for three weeks.

It was visceral.

Primarily, though it showed that Conservatives were not goose-stepping behind just everything President Bush did.

What one Party, with jealous eyes, calls slavish devotion, the other side can lay claim to loyalty, and commonality of purpose.

They wish they had that unity of philosophy rather than just hatred of a person to unite them.

But the Miers nomination tore into that self-perception most horribly.

It was, as I said at that time, an appointment made out of weakness:

  • A woman to replace SDO

  • An acceptable appointee to the Democrats, to avoid a protracted SJC fight

  • A non-perceptibly originalist candidate; merely a "born again Christian Conservative"

  • That Conservatives would have these qualms is normal.

    But what I perceived is that average Americans, many of whom are not particularly political, and who voted for President Bush in 2004 merely because they judged him to have character and leadership, unpopular though his decisions may be, saw him for the first time flinch, and pander to the other side.

    It doesn't matter what side. The mere fact that he did so was reason enough to reconsider their judgement of him.

    That's when I started to sour on Miers.

    If truth be told, I do not much care for polls, but I am a huge believer in feeling the pulse of average Americans.

    I'm not an average American. I am too foreign, too carefully educated, yes, alas too well-heeled.

    So I paid attention to this recoil-effect Miers had on the "just folks" and realised the appointment was not going to fly where it counted most.

    Again, I am not interested in people loving Judge Alito, or hating him.

    What I'll be paying attention to, in my daily rounds, always keeping my ears open, is whether they feel confident the President chose someone out of conviction.

    That's what they elected him to do, after all.

    Today, he repaid their confidence in him.

    He paid them back. At last.

    (This story will be updated throughout the day. I will be listening to the Diane Rehm Show on NPR shortly. I predict the first question she will ask is about Alito being called "Scalito" because of his alleged judicial resemblence to Antonin Scalia. We'll see)

    UPDATE: Diane Rehm is out until Wednesday, but her replacement started the broadcast by saying last week, in which I was completely unable to watch cable news due to Hurricane Wilma, was the worst week in President Bush's two administrations. With respect, nothing can come close to the week of 9/11.

    As I linked to above, Sam Alito has already been Wiki'ed. But here's a Trivial Pursuit tidbit for you.

    Alito was born on April Fool's Day. And appointed to the SCOTUS on Halloween Day.

    Now all we need, for non-formal holiday symmetry, is his confirmation on Groundhog Day.

    Seeing as how just everyone realises this appointment will take a very long time to confirm, because the opposing Party in the Senate will no doubt filibuster it, and we have three official holidays in between (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's), it'll certainly take as long as 2 February before he's in.

    UPDATE: Some curious factoids for you.

    Name: Samuel Anthony Alito, Jr.
    Born: April 1, 1950 in Trenton, New Jersey
    Family: Almost all are attorneys. His mother, Rose, 91, lives in Hamilton, NJ, still and she fielded questions on her son beamingly today. His late father, Samuel Sr., was the director of the New Jersey Office of Legislative Services. His sister Rosemary, with whom he tag-teamed in the High School Debate team, is a top employment lawyer in their home state. He's married to Martha-Ann Bomgartner, and they have two children: Philip, who is in college, and was very visible near his dad today at the Rosa Parks memorial, and Laura, who is still in High School.
    Education: Princeton University, B.A. 1972 and Yale Law School, J.D., 1975
    Hobbies: Gourmet cook. Tennis. Music. And is a Philadelphia Phillies nut (I suppose he was born too late to be a Brooklyn Dodgers fan, or a New York Giants one, since obviously he didn't go with the Yankees. I like him already).

    BACKGROUND UPDATE: Renato, my able co-blogger last week, was able to unearth some background info on Judge Alito's Italian background (see the comments). Being himself of Italian origin, albeit an uninvolved Canadian one, he was curious to investigate where the Judge's Italian provenance was from. Alito's still spry-mother, Rose, was born Fradusco, which Renato researched as coming from the Basilicata region. But the Ellis Island records, where a New Jersey lad may credibly trace his ancestry, was cagey in coughing up names. Alito was present in 7 or 8 entries, including from Argentina, Finland, and Turkey (!), as well as featuring badly-spelt Italian cities. But then we found out that Samuel A. Alito, Sr. was HIMSELF from Italy. So Judge Alito is able to realise the über-classic American Dream -- from immigrant to Supreme Court nominee, and possibly, Justice in one generation. Fantastic!

    I just saw his, may I say, flattering profile on CNN, who were unusually positive in tone, which is rare about anything related to the Republicans.

    Though he keeps his offices in New Jersey, being a thoroughly New Jersey kind of guy, apparently, he works in Philadelphia. This obviously explains his allegiance to the Phillies, but if he grew up to be such a baseball nutter as a kid, I wonder who was his childhood team of choice?

    Here's the now famous Princeton Yearbook entry, which Senator Bill Frist quoted today, during Alito's public meet-and-greet.

    What nuggets of info can the casual reader glean from this?

    Like many men of substance, he was rather geeky as a young man (Debate Club President). He's blossomed, and lost the big black specs for a pair of sleek Armani ones, for one.

    Note also, in the middle of the counter-culture revolution going on around him, he kept his high-and-tight haircut, cutting a very sober dash for the times. Even the socially-conservative, Michael Medved, his contemporary at Yale, grew a beard and let his hair grow out back then.

    The photo of him at the very top shows him being much porkier than he is now, too.

    Today's snaps, which are making the rounds everywhere, and are already being manipulated (sigh), show him much leaner, and even younger, than the first one I posted above. He must've cut down on the gourmet cookery.

    Continuing with the Yearbook info, he speaks fluent Italian, since his thesis is called La Corte Costituzionale Italiana, which he researched in the cafes of Rome and Bologna (obviously a dig at his student travelling ways back in 1971).

    Likewise, his fellow Princetonians recognised that however much of an inside joke proclaiming he might one day warm a Supreme Court bench, it's like Jack Kennedy rigging his "Most Likely To Succeed" nomination at Choate.

    Wish-fulfillments, maybe, but they sure panned out, didn't they?

    And finally, the Yearbook lists his parents' full address. Much more innocent times.

    Speaking of which, his confirmation in the year 2005/6 won't be a cakewalk, like in the 1980's and 1990's, as with Justices Scalia and Ginsburg.

    They received unanimous or near-unanimous confirmations.

    This man, of whom his Yale Law School classmates called Silent Sam, and is renowed apparently for being polite, smart, and kind, will be picked over like carrion by the opposing side of the political divide.

    In the language of baseball, which continues to follow these nominations, as it did with Roberts, I think they will find Sam Alito is a "tough out".

    FINAL UPDATE: Paula Zahn used my April Fool's/Halloween quote on her show! Dagnabbit. Where's my Hat Tip?

    ABSOLUTE FINAL UPDATE: John McCain is on Hannity & Colmes as I type, and he says that the famed Gang of Fourteen will be meeting in his Senate office on Thursday. The outcome of that meeting may determine if the Senate will have a lengthy fight over the nomination. McCain's feeling is that actually, however much certain people want it, he thinks this monimation may not cause such a big ruckus. And you know what? I have a funny feeling he's right about this. I see opposition, sure, but not the knock-down, drag-out fight some people are spoiling for.

    Tricks or Treats

    One of the saddest by-products of Hurricane Wilma, for those of us in South Florida at least, has to be that Halloween has been cancelled.

    Okay, not cancelled outright. But it's definitely not the same as in years' past.

    Because over 6 million people were affected the week before Halloween, a lot of wacky office parties won't take place, as people mill back to work in trickles, soberly dressed no doubt.

    A lot of invites to Halloween parties in people's homes also won't take place, as folks still uncover themselves from the mess the storm left behind.

    But worst of all, the kids won't be enjoying this Halloween.

    There's still a midnight curfew in all of Miami-Dade County, and it's even earlier in Broward.

    Most businesses are therefore closing at 6 PM EDT, which means most people have about 1 hour to get home from work, if they can, before heading out to party with their kids. It's just not feasible.

    So many Haunted Houses were cancelled here, inluding the really cute one at the Metro-Zoo in the Country Walk neighbourhood, now a National Guard POD, who give out ice, water, and food to the affected populace.

    Poor kiddies.

    And loving Halloween as much as I do, it's hit me hard too, though fortunately, I was able to take out some great scary DVDs to keep me creeped out for tonight.

    But other people aren't roughing it at all. Oh no!

    They're having a whale of a time with their ghoulish costumes, and their cocktail party circuits of Halloween fests.

    Here are some of the costumes I've found, which are a heck of a lot more inventive than my famous pregnant nun outfit.

    (It wasn't so funny when I saw my parish priest was at the same party...)

    You'd be surprised at the famous people who took time out to let it all hang out this 31 October.

    It's...Judith Miller!

    Come on. You have to admit that's really well done even though the blogger who linked to his friend's photos said no one knew who Judith Miller was.

    By the way, the guy next to her is listed as "Ben, the French skeleton". WTF?

    It's...Bob Dylan!

    Minimalist. But yet oh so recognisable. That's a smart costume.

    It's...Katie Holmes!

    This costume isn't remotely like Katie Holmes. But the reason I put it here, is that the caption to go alongside is genius:

    "Preggers Katie Holmes fighting her inner thetans"

    Any costume which makes fun of Scientology, is the costume for me.

    It's...Donatella Versace!

    I laughed and laughed, and laughed, almost as much as when I saw that Paris Hilton-SNL skit where she met up with the Italian fashion diva skiing on the slopes in St. Moritz, desperately hanging unto her chihuahua, Donatella Verpucci.

    It's...Cyndi Lauper!

    Or Courtney Love, I haven't decided which yet.

    Mind you, the guy next to her has Orson Welles dead to rights.

    ADDENDUM: If you find more Halloween costumes like these, post them. I'll update it here. Happy Halloween!

    Sunday, October 30, 2005

    Thank you, Renato!

    Thank you for your invaluable help in blogging in my stead this week, after Hurricane Wilma!

    I never thought I could miss blogging so much, but I truly have. I was even desperate enough to go on public transport to the University, before I got my internet early early Sunday morning.

    In the past two days, when we haven't had petrol enough to be able to move around, I have devoured 8 books at one go, cover-to-cover.

    2 days - 8 books.

    That's my personal best.

    But it shows you how much cabin fever I must have today, so much so, that I will be going to volunteer at the Red Cross shelter in North Miami Beach (having found a Mobil station, and filled the tank).

    I figure if I have to do something outside today, at least let me help others at the same go, right?

    Thanks again, Ren!

    Saturday, October 29, 2005

    Spring Forward, Fall Back

    Don't forget to turn back your clocks at 2 am tonight, or tomorrow morning depending on how you view things. Daylight Saving Time will be back on the first Sunday in April (April 2, 2006) next year but things will change in 2007.

    The 2005 Energy Policy Act mandates that DST will begin on the second Sunday in March and end on the first Sunday in November. It can apparently be changed back if studies show that it has no energy saving effects. I hope my province of Ontario knew that before joining in because I didn't.

    If you need an accurate clock try the Official US Time or the World Clock site.

    P.S. Don't forget to change your smoke detector batteries!

    Friday, October 28, 2005

    Is Blatter Muslim?

    I first read about this article on the Soccer Fatwa by Geoff D. Porter about a week or so ago and had a good laugh before realizing that it was indeed true.

    IN the name of God the merciful and benevolent:

    1. Play soccer without four lines because this is a fabrication of the heretics' international rules that stipulate using them and delineating them before playing.

    Have you seen the price of chalk these days? Some NFL teams are having to use leftover cocaine for line making!

    2. International terminology that heretics and polytheists use, like "foul," "penalty," "corner," "goal," "out" and others, should be abandoned and not said. Whoever says them should be punished, reprimanded and ejected from the game. He should be publicly told, "You have imitated the heretics and polytheists and this is forbidden."

    Oh no, all we'd be left with is Tommy "bulge in the old onion bag" Smith.

    3. Do not call "foul" and stop the game if someone falls and sprains a hand or foot or the ball touches his hand, and do not give a yellow or red card to whoever was responsible for the injury or tackle. Instead, it should be adjudicated according to Sharia rulings concerning broken bones and injuries. The injured player should exercise his Sharia rights according to the Koran and you must bear witness with him that so-and-so hurt him on purpose.

    Let's call this the Gattuso rule.

    4. Do not follow the heretics, the Jews, the Christians and especially evil America regarding the number of players. Do not play with 11 people. Instead, add to this number or decrease it.

    Juve already plays with 12 players so it's been done.

    5. Play in your regular clothes or your pajamas or something like that, but not colored shorts and numbered T-shirts, because shorts and T-shirts are not Muslim clothing. Rather they are heretical and Western clothing, so beware of imitating their fashion.

    We really don't need to see this. Who says you're too old to dress up fro Halloween!

    6. If you have fulfilled these conditions and intend to play soccer, play to strengthen the body in order to better struggle in the way of God on high and to prepare the body for when it is called to jihad. Soccer is not for passing time or the thrill of so-called victory.

    So that is what Inter has been doing all these years...

    7. Do not set the time of play at 45 minutes, which is the official time of the Jews, Christians and all the heretical and atheist countries. This is the time used by teams that have strayed from the righteous path. You are obliged to distinguish yourself from the heretics and the corrupted and must not resemble them in anything.

    Typical, he forgot about injury time.

    8. Do not play in two halves. Rather play in one half or three halves in order to completely differentiate yourselves from the heretics, the polytheists, the corrupted and the disobedient.

    Yes, soccer needs a 1st intermission for Coach's Corner.

    9. If neither of you beats the other, or "wins" as it is called, and neither puts the leather between the posts, do not add extra time or penalties until someone wins. No, instead leave the field, because winning with overtime and penalty kicks is the pinnacle of imitating heretics and international rules.

    I think England may agree with this one.;)

    10. If you play soccer, do not appoint someone to follow you called a "referee," since there is no need for him after doing away with international rules like "foul," "penalty," "corner" and others. His presence would be in imitation of the heretics, Jews and Christians and would follow international rules.

    How about intimidation of heretics, Jews and Christians?

    11. Young crowds should not gather to watch when you play because if you are there for the sake of sports and strengthening your bodies as you claimed, why would people watch you? You should make them join your physical fitness and jihad preparation, or you should say: "Go proselytize and seek out morally reprehensible acts in the markets and the press and leave us to our physical fitness."

    This guy has way too much time on his hands, there must a heretical Family Guy or something on...you can comment on the rest.

    12. If you finish playing soccer, do not talk about your game and say, "We were better than the opponent," or "So-and-so plays well" and so on. Instead be concerned with your bodies and their strength and muscles, and say, "We played only to drill in running, attacking and retreating, and to prepare for jihad in the name of God on high."

    13. You should spit in the face of whoever puts the ball between the posts or uprights and then runs in order to get his friends to follow him and hug him like players in America or France do, and you should punish and reprimand him, for what is the relationship between celebrating, hugging and kissing and the sports that you are practicing?

    14. You should use two posts instead of three pieces of wood or steel that you erect in order to put the ball between them, meaning that you should remove the crossbar in order not to imitate the heretics and in order to be entirely distinct from the soccer system's despotic international rules.

    15. Do not do what is called "substitution," that is, taking the place of someone who has fallen, because this is a practice of the heretics in America and elsewhere.

    These are some conditions and precepts so that morally aware youth do not inadvertently imitate heretics and polytheists when playing soccer ... Hell awaits those who die playing soccer according to rules established by heretical countries, at the head of which is America.

    Great, but can we get an answer on whether it's alright to call football, soccer?

    Thursday, October 27, 2005

    MSM trying to Katrina Wilma

    Watch out, people!

    It was only a matter of time before the insidious members of the national news media tried, in incremental stories, to compare the State/Federal "under"-reaction to Hurricane Wilma to that of Hurricane Katrina.

    As I was watching NBC6 -- our channel 6 morning news show, co-anchored by long-time hometown boy, Bob Mayer, and Pam Giganti --, they showed a reportage which was completely twisted by everyone's favourite flood-stager, Michelle Kosinski.

    I am sad to say, she is a local reporter, for the self-same NBC6, now plying most of her "tailored" stories at the Today Show.

    The Today Show itself has been pre-empted by our more local coverage of Hurricane Wilma, since they show the all-important advisories about PODs (points of distribution -- for ice, water, and hot meals), as Governor Bush has called them.

    But since Michelle's Today Show clip had to do with our recovery efforts here in South Florida, they showed it in its entirety.

    Her report made it seem as if Governor Jeb Bush was taking absolute blame for the problems incurred in the "mishandling" or "mismanagement" of supply distributions, which if you were to hear the report, were considerable.

    Then our Miami-Dade County mayor, Carlos Alvarez (a very competent and organised administrator, who has been praised locally for his efficient updates to the public), was heard in the piece saying that the Federal Government had trucks of supplies on "their way", making it seem as if he were unaware exactly of the routes and times of their arrival.

    Furthermore, Kosinski's report implied that there was considerable local dissatisfaction at the slow Federal response.

    That's when Bob Mayer surprised us viewers by saying, "We love Michelle a lot, but there are some inaccuracies in that report", which saw Giganti nodding resignedly alongside him.

    First of all, the Homestead Sports Complex (which is the hub of FEMA during all hurricane disasters) has over 118 trucks filled with supplies which are being distributed to all the PODS today, the locations of which are here.

    There is no lack of supplies, and any FEMA convoy coming is there to resupply BEFORE the supplies run out, not because we ALREADY have run out.

    The Kosinski reportage made it seem like the Orange Bowl POD had run out of food at 6 PM EDT, which is a tweak at the truth again, since they close the OB because we have a local curfew at 8 PM.

    Thus, there is food available until that time only.

    If I didn't live here, and hadn't caught this Kosinski spin on the facts, in other words, if I were a regular American watching the Today Show, I'd probably be thinking right about now that the State/Feds have again bungled up, or at the very least, not really prepared well enough for another hurricane.

    It's difficult to truly anticipate every contigency for any catastrophic event, but our one major concern locally is our dire need for petrol.

    However, the tankers were positioned in waiting post-Wilma, but we can't access the blessed petrol because we have no electricity to run the pumps!

    It takes time people -- still 3 million people are offline without power.

    According to FPL estimates, there are some poor beggars who won't have their power back until until the week of Thanksgiving (November 22).

    Power grids, sub-stations, downed lines, all of these have to be addressed, and even 23 states who sent their Utility workers to help us out, can only do so much to fix what is a major catastrophe.

    But noooo. MSM won't have it.

    Someone, and we all know who that will be, MUST be blamed, even if it's in small doses, tweaking, framing stories as ever.

    I'm genuinely disgusted at this story this morning, and though I still do not have 'net access at home, I ran to the University, with my own limited petrol, to post this story, so the insidious whisper-campaign can be headed off.

    I hope the Political Teen has this video so you can see it for yourselves.

    P.S.: Why does Site Metre say I am accessing the blog from Key Biscayne?? Our Uni is no where near Key Biscayne! Oddness.

    Wednesday, October 26, 2005

    Alive And Blogging

    Which is more than I can say for this poor SOB-SUV, even if it could find the petrol to blog.

    My situation is the following:

    We in my part of South Florida got power yesterday, huzzah!

    First of all, since I get no signal in the computer lab where I am at, I didn't get my mother's frantic calls to my mobile, notifying me that Florida Power & Light (FPL) had reconnected our area.

    LOTS, and I do mean lots, of people all over South Florida are still without this all-important necessity: power.

    The myriad of tie-ins to electricity in our common lives is truly mind-bending. That's what keeps the soi-disant Developed World humming, and producing, after all.

    Secondly, we can now go to the supermarkets and re-stock, since unless you made provisions for your, erm, provisions, everyone lost their refrigerated items in TOTO.

    My entire condo dumped the contents of their fridges this morning, and consequently, not only is there a stench I will not forget any time soon (as in Katrina), now the dread raccoons are having a feast downstairs! How raccoons got into this area, an island, I'll never know. Maybe they jet-skied on over...

    Thirdly, the queues to get petrol in the stations are OVERWHELMING.

    I saw FIVE separate rows of cars in one station, tailing back two blocks away, which a very organised proprietor was taking names of each driver, so no one jumped the queue!

    Now that's a savvy businessman, brother.

    Another petrol station wasn't so thorough, and obviously, this resulted in a bit of road-rage:

    Listen, I have to be allowed a wee joke to take the edge off, right? Thanks.

    So I can take a hot shower, eat hot food, watch DVDs, and style my hair with my blow-dryer -- but I still don't have 'net access or digital cable television access.

    At least, when I left home.

    Now I'm about to return, to brave the manic roadways ahead, during rush-hour traffic, but content in the knowledge:

    There really is no place like home.

    UPDATE: The rake-thin girl in front of me in the Publix supermarket queue this morning had on a white tee with the word MOTHERF*CKER on it in red-and-blue sequins; was sporting an orange feather boa that kept getting in my mouth, making me Pffut! everytime she moved her neck (she was at least, 1.85m), and got endless calls in French on her mobile from a person called "Minouche". If you are reading this, and you are that girl, dude, your seams were crooked. Get that fixed before Elaine Ford sees you.

    H/T for the Post Title: My blog-buddy, Ron.

    The Scary Of State

    Condi Possessed

    Let me help out the manipulating MSM with my handy University's Photoshop.

    Please, don't thank me. Send out my CV to the NYT instead. I heard they have an opening.

    Tuesday, October 25, 2005

    Safe as Houses

    Courtesy: The Miami Horrible

    As Renato, who is seconding me ably on the blog until I can get back online, put it: I am well, but tired.

    Hurricane Wilma was at least 2 times worse than Hurricane Katrina, for us down here in South Florida.

    Now that I am able to compare these two recent events, I can see what we went through with Katrina was truly just inconvenience.

    Sure, we sweated a lot, and sure we were without power and water pressure at times, but at least we had minimal structural damage, and restoration of services was within a week, tops. Not to mention, only one county in Florida was truly affected -- Miami-Dade.

    This Wilma aftermath will be much, much trickier.

    For one, there are 4 immense counties affected:

    1) Miami-Dade -- where Miami, Miami Beach, are located
    2) Monroe -- the home of the Florida Keys
    3) Broward -- Ft. Lauderdale and environs
    4) Palm Beach County -- where West Palm Beach and the toney Palm Beach proper are located.

    All 4, plus most of Okeechobee County, where the lake which is our water source lies, of us making over 6 MILLION residents without power, and a great many of us without running or potable water.

    That's 98% of us, folks -- a full 1/3 of the state of Florida.

    Miami Beach, this time, was not so fortunate.

    As I conjectured in my recent reply in the thread below, I think the quick pickup, removal of detritus, and restoration of services were due to two things, which we don't have going for us today:

  • Hurricane Katrina was a Category 1 storm when she hit South Florida. Borderline 2, but still, not a MAJOR hurricane. This is what Wilma was, since she was a scary Category 3. That's three times the damage over Katrina.

  • Hurricane Katrina hit us on the Thursday before the MTV Video Music Awards Ceremonies that very Sunday. With all the star-studded events, and general hoopla attached to the prestigious awards' ceremonies, including the massive amounts of VIPs we had in South Beach especially, it was inevitable they tidied up and powered us very quickly.

  • As I said, this time, we are not this lucky.

    There are no Puff Daddies and Missy Elliots this time to the rescue.

    But also, we are not forgotten -- the local, State, and Federal governments have done a tremendous job in rallying locals with supplies, and information.

    The first and most important thing after a hurricane is to keep the populace secure: to that end, both Miami-Dade and Broward County mayors declared a curfew, which for us in Miami-Dade starts at 8 PM EDT.

    No one who isn't going to or from work, will be allowed outside, to minimise not only looting concerns (which are considerable, seeing as how there are already reports of sporadic looting up in Broward), but to assure that traffic accidents are at a minimum, seeing as how there are NO overhead lights, or indeed, traffic signals working ANYWHERE.

    Courtesy: The Miami Horrible

    Here I'd just like to say that you can see what a contrast it is, when you have a people like South Floridians who are used to hurricanes, pre-and-post, have reacted like, to the pandemonium seen by those of poor unfortunates in New Orleans, especially.

    There, neither local, nor State, nor Federal reactions were conmeasurate with their positions of importance -- one of which is to have free-flowing and well-directed management of emergency responses to a catastrophic event.

    Almost as a matter-of-course, the Governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, positioned himself here in Miami, so that he could be a visible and immediate presence to his fellow Floridians. He had, after all, lived most of his adult life in this city, in the upscale neighbourhood of Pinecrest (where O.J. Simpson lives today).

    And the Miami-Dade County mayor, Carlos Alvarez, started the morning, afternoon and evening with a press conference giving us counsel about water distribution, and general updates ON THE DOT, daily.

    We are the only State, to the best of my knowledge, that has a pet-shelter, where citizens who wish to take their pets with them to a shelter, can do so, if they are caged (that one is located near the Florida International University campus, which is also the shelter all evacuees from Key West use. It must be huge).

    All of this goes a long way to reassuring people that their surroundings may be chaotic, but their elected officials are trying as much as they can, to slowly restore order to the city.

    Poor NOLA residents never stood a chance.

    Well, it's almost 6 PM EDT here, and it should be getting quite dark soon. I will try my darndest to update the blog if I can get net access each day.

    Having something to do each day, like updating my blog (if I can), emailing, and phoning my friends, really gives me a filip, so you can be assured you may just be a passive reader of Sundries, but you are my lifeline to a better world.

    P.S.: RIP Rosa Parks.

    More Wilma Images

    Monday, October 24, 2005

    We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Sundries...

    (Welcome Althouse readers! This is Victoria writing on Renato's post to inform you I am alive, well, and very talkative, comme d'habitude. Check out this more recent post of mine, with pics of the Hurricane)

    Hello faithful Sundries readers, I've heard from Vicky a couple of times today and she is doing well, tired, but well. It unfortunately looks like she might not have power for 2 weeks. There are apparently 6 million people without power in South Florida. Yes, I can hear those sighs too.

    I will try and get an update either tomorrow or wednesday from Vicky on the situation and mood of South Florida and post it here. Keep the people of South Florida in your thoughts and prayers for the next little while as people try and pick up the pieces.

    In the meantime, I will be trying to keep up the spirit of sundries as best I can. Apologies in advance for the excess use of eh and aboot!

    *this blog will now be running on timmies*


    I could not believe this when I first read it.

    The Arab satellite network, MBC, has syndicated what many call American television's best show ever, after I Love Lucy: The Simpsons.

    But to make the show more palatable to Middle Easterners, our favourite blue-haired, donut-eating, dysfunctionally-functional family have gotten a WEE bit different.

    Homer Simpson, now Omar Shamsoon, looks like the same beer-bellied bum, but on Arab TV he's given up alcohol and bacon (which are both against Islam), and no longer hangs out at "seedy bars with bums and lowlifes." In Arabia, Omar swigs fizzy soda, and his hot dogs are barbecued Egyptian beef. The doughnuts he famously salivates over have become traditional Arab cookies called kahk.

    Mischievous Bart is now called Badr, and Moe's Bar has been written out entirely. Others exorcised from the show include Jewish character Krusty [Krustofsky] the Clown and Reverend Lovejoy - apparently to keep them from "corrupting" audiences.

    I'm utterly speechless.

    All I can say is, they touch Apu, and the Kwickie-Mart, and they die.

    TUESDAY UPDATE: One second, and I mean one second, after posting this, I lost power.

    Calm Before The Storm

    Just now, I am about to disconnect the computer, and batten down my hatches.

    Hurricane Wilma hasn't dropped the least bit of rain on us yet, nor furled the smallest leaf, but that should change at 2 AM overnight Monday.

    I've given Renato the keys to my blog, in case I am without power for long, so stay tuned. I'll come up with some great blogposts in the meantime.

    Here's thinking of you, kids.

    Sunday, October 23, 2005


    Finally. A night at the picture palace.

    The day after Hurricane Katrina hit, almost all of South Florida went to the movies, as cinemahouses were the only ones with lights, and the blessedness of air conditioning.

    Packed they were, so I expected no less the night BEFORE a hurricane, as it was Saturday.

    Perhaps it was the lateness of the hour, but the crowds to see my movie of choice were scarce to the point of having the auditorium to myself, joined by a mere dozen others.

    Here I must confess I go to the pictures as much for the communal experience, than to see a film itself.

    I like to arrive early. Grab a capuccino at the Café bar which my local multiplex has inside. And observe people as they mill around, just before the film begins.

    You can always tell the kind of movie on offer, without seeing its name or knowing much about it.

    Older. Distinguished. Elegant. Capote.
    Teens. Sean Johns from tip-to-toe. Fluorescent mobiles. Doom.
    Young parents. Toddlers. Teens. Wallace & Gromit.

    My crowd ran the gamut of styles; always a good sign.

    One lady I observed, looked as if she had just stepped from the pages of Palm Beach Society magazine, complete with the latest Prada handbag (Summer '06, I wonder how she got it, the wench), and wearing enormous Bollé sunglasses at almost midnight.

    If she had had her chihuahua inside a Louis Vuitton carrier, I would've confused her for my mother.

    The Kitty Carlisle clone was standing next to two scruffy Greenpeaceniks, complete with Birkenstocks, and if I'm not very much mistaken, turquoise beads wrought in silver, overcharged in Arizona by Navajos trying to make a buck.

    As for me, I doubt anyone could pin me down for type. Black pipe-leg trousers, black matte ankle-boots, and a darkish tan cord turtleneck.

    Can you guess my film from that? Good Night, and Good Luck.

    I'll spare you the film review, largely because the film didn't inspire me enough.

    No, not the politics. It's just that its tempo was too languorous, saved mercifully by the lead, the fantastic character actor, David Strathairn.

    I've always been a sucker for character actors, and his measured, stately portayal of the measured, stately Edward R. Murrow, surely America's most respected journalist ever, more than made up for the inadequacies of the endless clips, and ANY lack of true feeling, or tension in this film.

    Rarely have I seen an actor carry an entire film on his back, and yet be such a team player in an ensemble cast, as in this film.

    I can sit for hours watching British Pathé or Movietone newsreels, but this film had a surfeit of constant grainy newsreels, which goes a long way to explain the general choppy editing.

    It is easy to conjecture why.

    George Clooney wanted the story to be told, as much as possible, from first-hand accounts so that the events could speak for themselves.

    This would preempt critics' right to call it "typical lefty Hollywood" artistic licence with factual events, but he did himself a disfavour for not going with an actor for Senator Joe McCarthy, or even Roy Cohn.

    It's this remove from the characters who are the centre of the story, that gives the film a lack of true drama.

    This in turn would've gone a tremendously long way to bucking up an already dry storyline.

    Black-and-white modern films are my special delight, but here I felt the hand of Mr. Clooney a little too oppressively.

    As he had Edward R. Murrow via David Strathairn say, there are some issues which do not have two sides of the story. The HUAC hearings is one of them, by implication.

    In other words, it's either black. Or white. You're either for it. Or against it.

    But more than that, it's either wrong. Or right. There are no in-betweens in moral imperatives.

    Obviously, only a dullard couldn't see the underlying message of the film was an allusion to the Iraq War, but especially the pliability of the media, and their lack of standing up for what is "right" in the face of so much popular "wrong".

    Clooney, when questioned about the Iraq War=HUAC inference, said that was not his purpose.

    "My goal is not to attack any administration, my goal is to raise a debate", he said. I didn’t make the film as a political statement, I made the film as a historical reference."

    And no one believes this for a minute, especially when Morrow portentously addresses a receptive audience, past and present:

    We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason if we dig deep in our history and doctrine and remember that we are not descended from fearful men, not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes which were for the moment unpopular. We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of the Republic to abdicate his responsibility.

    The film is told in retrospect, and it's almost as if at the end, the implicit plea from the producers is for the media to finally stand up and to denounce current events, as Walter Cronkite did with the Vietnam War.

    Both Murrow, and later Cronkite used their fatherly perches to condemn points-of-views they didn't agree with.

    But here's a conundrum of the film.

    The presentation is that most of the media then were cowed by the anti-Communist rabble-rousers in power.

    But it's implicit in the film that most of those in the news media had ideals formed by the Great Depression, and were if nothing else, pro-Left. That's never questioned.

    Since the McCarthy Era, media have chastised themselves for dropping the ball. It's an unacountable breach of faith, to have said nothing for so long about a national infamy, in their eyes.

    And since that time, they've been making up for it, by being vocal in their adversarial stance against the US government of ANY administration.

    They are our self-appointed watch dogs. Watergate, they believe, was their finest hour.

    But it's not enough.

    Certain people believe that MSM are too cozy with the goals and directives of the US government, and this film is aimed directly at them.

    If journalists are oppositional to ANY administration, what makes Mr. Clooney believe they are not now? There is no end of attempted opposition.

    Easongate, Rathergate, Plamegate -- just the briefest sampling of attempted MSM shock-stories aimed towards undermining the credibility of the US administration currently in power.

    The problem is that, unlike Ed Murrow versus McCarthy, and Cronkite versus Vietnam, these they were successful fights.

    The litany of 'gates' I listed above all go down as losses. Huge losses. Election-losing losses.

    Worse than that, brought about in large part by the watch dogs of the watch-dogs -- Blogosphere.

    In the 1950's, it was a given there was a news media power structure that dared not be contradicted by outsiders.

    They worked hand-in-glove with each other, a very elite, cosy club.

    And it cannot be understated how much a role newspapers played then, for the elites, and for "the folks" everywhere.

    That's why in one scene, the characters are eagerly awaiting newspaper writers' reactions to the flaming of McCarthy by Murrow.

    They rush out to get and read the New York Times, the New York and Washington Posts.

    What would be the first impulse a person would have today, if say, a noted journalist condemned President Bush's Iraq policy on air? They'd turn to the Blogs. Full stop.

    Firsty, there are no more Morrows and Cronkites in modern-day journalism: the focal point, the above-it-all reporter.

    Jennings is dead. Rather, retired. Brokaw, never really a part of that hallowed club.

    Who would be the Murrow today? Blitzer? Amanpour? Russert? BRIAN WILLIAMS? Come on.

    Even Jim Lehrer, who is now dean of MSM by default, has a limited impact on Americans' minds, being exiled to PBS -- and that would be like preaching to the choir.

    Only a Morrow could have gotten away with such a challenge to McCarthy precisely because he had the gravitas to do so.

    Unestablished journalists in opposition to Bush are a dime-a-dozen. They can't make their name opposing the status-quo.

    They had had to have made it before, for it to be effective and not look to the public like just another hack spewing his views.

    But that's not what Clooneyites want. They want the Voice of Reason. And what they got is the Voice of Partisanship.

    That's just not going to do it.

    Finally, blogs' immediacy and variety in opinions are second-to-none.

    Those are two crucial differences. But here's an even more important one.

    The 1950's lacked blogs, but what they also lacked was a Fox News, or the alternate news outlet where it is not understood those in the news media are pro-Left.

    It's that alternative which holds newsmen back today. The political tendencies they espouse are the same. But when you have a choice, you risk less for fear of losing eyeballs.

    No doubt, it is this which frustrates that side of the aisle the most, and why Blogosphere is the most frustrating part of the modern-day news puzzle to a side used to sententiously condemning from on high, and for everyone to fall in line afterwards.

    I don't see that changing any time soon.

    Good film? It's fine. It drags in parts but has a magnificent soundtrack, and an unusual storyline aimed to a certain kind of person.

    And it would be a very big surprise to Mr. Clooney, to find out I'm precisely that kind of person.

    Suggested Reading

    An excellent site which compares TWO SIMILAR FILMS to each other, called Movie Squared.

    This week: Good Night, and Good Luck (2005) -versus- All The President's Men (1976).

    Smackdown: Edward R. Murrow v. Joseph McCarthy

    Saturday, October 22, 2005

    Brazil's Gun Referendum

    (UPDATE: The Nos won, by a LOT -- 64% No to 36% Yes. Not even close. The No versus Yes vote to ban the commercialisation of firearms in Brazil was overwhelming shot down, with not one of the 26 Brazilian States voting Yes. At the end of counting. The Yes Lobbyists are now claiming the National Rifle Association sent shock troops of helpers to flood Brazil with pro-gun leaflets and general information. But I wonder, even if this is true, what of what I read were the concerted anti-gun organisations around the world? As ever, people who claim it's a hatchet job by a certain political or philosophical ideology just don't get it.

    It's how they represent themselves that is at fault, not the paucity of their opponents' premise, namely, that people prefer to have access to firearms as part of their civil rights. They won't learn any time soon)

    On Sunday, October 23, Brazil will be the first country in the world to ask its citizens to vote at a national level, on a referendum which asks this simple question:

    "Should the commerce of arms and ammunition be prohibited in Brazil?"

    Other countries have indeed banned the sale and commercialisation of handguns and ammo.

    This, however, is the first recorded instance of asking the electorate to decide on its continued legalisation, or immediate prohibition.

    Front Page of Saturday's Globo, the paper of record in Brazil

    I could give you a dozen reasons for either side of the argument in this debate, one which, by the way, has energised the everyday discussion of an already talkative society.

    I know their society very well, which is why I don't encourage people to use their own countries' cultural arguments to weigh in with an opinion.

    Every country has its own delicate social dynamic, based on their cultural norms. I am no relativist, but I tread diplomatically on the feet of countries I respect.

    So hear instead, a viewpoint from a real Brazilian, the blog-owner of Made In Brazil -- a blog for gay males by the looks of it, as a semi-naked Adriano in the frontispiece might confirm.

    This is a case in point.

    Based on your own cultural definitions, or how many gay people might trend in their thinking on certain issues in your country, you might think this Brazilian would be lock, step in line with those attitudes.

    Think again.

    The question to me is whether or not this measure will be effective in terms of preventing real criminals from having access to guns.

    Considering that most guns used to commit crimes or murder are most likely stolen or smuggled into the country, I find that banning guns will simply make it more difficult for a certain segment of the population to protect themselves.

    He continues in his assessment of why guns is a different issue, than say, it is in the United States:

    There are no Columbine-like cases in Brazil. Most often people do not kill because they are crazy (or because they listen to too much Marilyn Manson). Crime has gotten way out of hand because of ineffective public security and a flawed legal system.

    Finally, his conclusion, which is that he'll vote NO to the ban, is very forthright.
    Focusing on this issue alone is simply a way of disguising the real problems that are so apparent to most people who have lived in Brazil: corruption, hunger, drug traffic, poverty, and one of the world's worst income distribution.

    Were I a Brazilian, I would vote the same way, and for almost identically the same reasons.

    I'll update this story with more analysis, with the results as they appear, and with other links of interest, including a rebuttal argument from another Brazilian, in fairness' sake.

    UPDATE: More numbers and stats about the Gun Referendum, from Brazil's most influential newspaper, GLOBO. Note, they're bothersome about signing up for an account, so I'll copy/paste the relevant info below.

    Globo, the equivalent of the New York Times in the US, was founded by Roberto Marinho exactly 80 years ago. It was long considered friendly to the right-wing military of the 1960-80s period. However, since that time, they have a much more open tone.

    As ever with MSM, there are ways of expressing your opinions as a collective body, yet appear neutral. The "framing" of their Referendum Section has several information pieces such as "Veja os números da violência" (Click to see the violence numbers) and "Leia aqui histórias de quem viveu situações com armas de fogo ou envie a sua" (Click here to read stories of those who live through gun-ridden situations or send us your own account).

    To their amazement, I'm sure, the majority of stories are by people who DEFENDED themselves with their guns, and will be voting No.

    Here's one story:

    Meu pai recentemente evitou o roubo do seu carro, que acontecia na garagem do nosso prédio, simplesmente mostrando, da janela, o seu revolver ao bandido. ele saiu correndo e nunca mais voltou. (o mesmo ladrão havia arrombado carros no predio 2 vezes antes de ver a arma na janela) -- Luiz Lozer - vitoria

    Translation mine:

    "My father recently avoided a carjacking which happened in the garage of our building. He simply showed the would-be carnapper his gun, from inside his window and he fled running, never again returning. The same thief had already twice taken cars in the same building, before seeing the gun at the window."

    Number of Brazilians Eligible to Vote: 122,102,746
    Electoral Sections: 368,384
    Municipal Zones: 5,564
    Eligible Voters Abroad: 59,921 (that can't be right -- or, there are a LOT more illegals outside than even I thought)
    Voter Breakdown: Women, 62,743,326; Men, 59,171,986; Not Identified, 187,434 (odd stat)
    Largest "Electoral College" (State): São Paulo, 27,303,895. Rio de Janeiro is a mere 10,645,180
    Largest Demographic: 25-to-34 year olds, 28,772,829

    Voting is MANDATORY in Brazil, and that's taken very seriously. You face fines if you don't, such as not having your passport renewed if you can't prove you voted.

    As for not presenting ID to vote, like in Georgia and other places in the US, that would be laughed out of town.

    You have to present three forms of ID: your National Identity Card, your Voter's Card, and your CIC (a kind of Social Security Card). No ifs ands or buts.

    Rebuttal Piece: A Just Exchange, Arms for Peace by Márcio Thomaz Bastos

    (Registration Required in Portuguese. Here's an extract)
    Levando-se em conta que muitos crimes de morte atingem a população na faixa etária dos 17 aos 29 anos, é importante ressaltar que o desarmamento contribuiu principalmente para a preservação de vidas que representam o futuro do Brasil. Ajudou a evitar assassinatos inúteis, como do menino que discute com um colega, pega a arma do pai e mata seu desafeto.

    Translation mine:

    "Taking into account that many of the crimes that affect a population lie between ages 17-to-29 years old, it's important to highlight this disarmament has already, most importantly, contributed to the preservation of lives which represent the future of Brazil. It helped to avoid useless murders, like that of the kid who has a fight with his pal, picks up his dad's gun and kills his annoyer."

    Mr. Bastos is referring to the year-long Brazilian Government programme which has sought voluntary donations of firearms from all over Brazil (a country larger than the lower 48 United States, it must be remembered). That number is considerable: as of September 2005, there were 451,542 weapons voluntarily handed over. It ends today, the day before the Referendum.

    Latest Poll (8 PM EDT): 10 percentage points favouring "No", a sudden shift upwards from an earlier poll on 14 October. These numbers are via IBOPE, the Gallup Poll of Brazil.

    Numbers Breakdown:

    No 49% then. Now 51%.
    Yes 45% then. Now 41%.
    But the undecideds have shot UP, from 6% to today's 8%.

    My reading of this is that as the rhetoric goes from the idealised to reality, those who were pro-Yes are slowly coming around to Pro-No. But they're not there yet, so they're undecided, hence, the shift upwards in that category.

    Friday, October 21, 2005

    Invasion Sold Separately

    (Welcome Anchoress readers!)

    In the latest escapades of that Capitalist-Fighting Crime Buster, Hugo Chavez, we have the Venezuelan President ordering yesterday the expulsion of US Christian missionaries from his country, effective immediately.

    Also on Thursday, we hear that he's in possession of intelligence about the United States government, where he claims the US is about to invade Venezuela.

    I've said it once, and I'll say it again:

    Hugo Chavez was slipped The Secret "How to Deal with Gringos Hijoputas" Decoder Ring by Fidel Castro.

    Pontelo, y sintonisa a Miquimbim de Miami

    Hugo Chavez may call himself just a "democratic" Socialist, but his pronouncements, his tendencies, and his actions are all that of a totalitarian Communist-just-before-outting-himself.

    Thursday's dual anti-US whammy is straight from Castro's playbook on how to create an atmosphere of tension, fear and animosity in his more uninformed populace -- because the State controls the means of information --, whilst playing the yanqui-imperialismo card for all its worth.


    Because Communism thrives in the foggy world of semi-truth.

    It takes a grain of truth, and mixes it up with a bushel full of lies, all the while claiming they are the alternative to the hypocritical status-quo.

    Its aim? To confuse people. To depress people. To frustrate people. The better to control them.

    (And if you are reminded of some other entity after reading that, it's not surprising, since that's a similar tactic employed by news media. The difference is that the latter seek to control opinions, not people's very freedoms. They also have overseers in Blogosphere now. Mr. Chavez has none)

    The kernel of truths here are that Christian missionaries DO seek to re-educate the populace, and that the current US administration DOES dislike Chavez' regime.

    But it's the same old Marxist talking-points of "religion being the opium of the masses" and imperialism, in the guise of capitalist countries, being unacceptable.

    Of course, imperialism is pretty much acceptable when it's in the form of Communist countries, like that of the ex-Soviet Union or currently the regime of Fidel Castro in Cuba, but that's another matter.

    So let's recap. This is some of what Hugo Chavez has done and said this year:

    July 2005

    Chavez orders 700 dormant and over 1000 semi-dormant private businesses to re-open, saying that all idle businesses will be seized by the Venezuelan government, if not.

    When many Venezuelans claimed this was nothing more than an attack on the right to private property, he said in a televised address to the nation:

    "It's against our constitution," he said. "Just as we cannot permit good land to lie uncultivated, so we cannot allow perfectly productive factories to stay closed."

    For good measure, he said in no uncertain terms:

    "Either capitalism, which is the road to hell, or socialism, for those who want to build the kingdom of God here on Earth," he said.

    Oh, and did I mention that good Communists always use the very language of their enemies, in trying to make a point?

    In this case, the fire-and-brimstone language of preachermen or indeed, missionaries.

    And don't say you weren't warned if he suddenly announces that he's a Communist. The man told us straight-out above.

    July 2005 - Part Two

    Under the imminent threat of the US invading Venezuela, (until that time, just a hunch), President Hugo Chavez encourages his countrymen to form and enter "citizen militias".

    To that end, he ordered the purchase of 100,000 AK-47 rifles from Russia, and military helicopters from Brazil and Spain.

    Then, the citizen-soldiers of all ages in the Popular Defence Units don a uniform of white t-shirts and black trousers, whilst getting military training in carparks, streets, and middle-class neighbourhoods.

    "If somebody meddles with Venezuela, they'll repent for 100 centuries," the President declared. "If we have to fight a war to defend this country, we'll make the blood flow."

    Wow. That's quite graphic rhetoric he used.

    I bet you the international news media had a field day expressing outrage, as they did when President Bush said he would "smoke out" terrorists from their caves.

    Or perhaps not.

    August 2005

    After the US Department of State revoked the visas of 6 Venezuelan officials, claiming they were not co-operating in their joint fight against drug-trafficking, he ordered the visas of 6 US officials in Venezuela to be likewise revoked.

    The reasons given were two:

    The Venezuelan government would institute a policy of "striking back" for every "attack" on their State.

    And that anyway, these officials were sent away because they were really just spying for the US government.

    "The DEA has used the pretext of fighting drug trafficking... to spy on Venezuela's government," he said last Sunday.

    Of course, being resentful and retaliatory towards Americans is nothing new under the sun in South America.

    When the US government instituted a policy of fingerprinting all visitors to the US after the 9/11 attacks, the Brazilian government immediately ordered only US citizens to be fingerprinted upon arrival in Brazil.

    Then-Secretary of State, Colin Powell, called these measures discriminatory.

    President Lula may be a reformed syndicalist in an Armani suit these days, but he still knows how to stick it to the Americans, Castro-style.

    October 2005

    A very busy month for Venezuela.

    Early October marked the expanded transmission launch of Telesur, a new 24-hour satellite news channel, which has been likened to CNN, and less charitably called "Al-Bolivar" in reference to the anti-American attitudes of Al-Jezeera, the Arab-language satellite network.

    N.B.: This Telesur is not to be confused with the Telesur available in many US cable systems. That is a 24/7 network which shows South American news programmes in their entirety to North American viewers. I myself have this cable channel, and watch Peruvian, Venezuelan, Bolivian, etc. news shows all the time. They used to feature Brazilian Band TV, but no longer.

    Telesur, however, is a joint project of the governments of Venezuela, whose input is 51 % of the $10 million start-up capital, and it includes Argentina at 20%, Cuba 19%, and Uruguay 10%.

    This new channel comes on the heels of such community television projects as Catia TV, which puts cameras in the hands of poor villagers to tell their stories. That's a good thing.

    Telesur has different goals.

    Said the Colombian-born news director of Telesur, Mr. Botero:

    "Some news always upsets some people. We'll just have to put up with that and always defend our independence - which does not mean we'll be neutral. Independence, yes. But neutrality, never."

    So they don't even plan to pay lip-service to what MSM at least says guides them, the ethos of impartial news reporting.

    Telesur programming thus far has been described as a "History Channel for left-wing intellectuals".

    It features documentaries on the last days of Che Guevara, Sandinista victories over Anastasio Somoza, the harsh living conditions of Bolivian miners, and that darling of the Nielsen ratings, the unsuccesful revolts of the Montoneros "movement" against Argentine governments in the 1970s.

    (Susan Sarandon would KILL to have Telesur)

    Perhaps it's for the best that Telesur is following a more honest course than many international news outlets do.

    Although of course, it is still run, funded, and staffed by the State, unlike CNN.

    Or, come to think of it, Al Gore's CurrentTV.

    October - Part Two

    President Chavez was deeply chagrined at the continued presence of US Christian missionaries, the Florida-based New Tribes organisation, in his country.

    New Tribes are an international missionary group of some 3200 staffers who seek to evangelise indigenous peoples in South America, and who have bases in 17 countries, including in West Africa and South East Asia.

    But according to President Chavez, New Tribes are nothing more than part of the US government spy network, intent on toppling him from power, or at the very least, are an unwelcome part of Yankee imperliasm.

    They're to be kicked out of their encampments immediately by presidential order.

    Monica la fat cotorra

    "This is an irreversible decision that I have made. We don't want the New Tribes here. Enough colonialism!"

    Of course, it's tough to be a Christian organisation today.

    In 2001, the Russia government of Mr. Vladimir Putin targeted the Salvation Army, claiming that they were a "military organisation" and that they posed a "threat to national security".

    So remember that when you drop a quarter in their hats this Christmas, it may not be going to soup kitchens to feed the poor, but for boot camps to train the hyper-militant.

    October 2005 - Part Three

    In a Paris interview Thursday to the BBC, President Chavez claimed he had "detected intelligence" saying that the US planned an invsasion of Venezuela.

    The BBC reporter, Robin Lustig, called him a "charming provacateur" and said he was "a lamb", for answering his questions concisely.

    A lamb! Digest that for a moment, if you will. Mint sauce to your left.

    This is the lamb who considers himself a friendly ally of Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, who even many leftists denounce as the most brutal of dictators.

    The reporter was absolutely bowled over by the Bolivarian Revolutionary's charm offensive, saying that:

    "Hugo Chavez smiles a lot - or at least he does when he's talking to this interviewer".

    Yes, it's just for you, Mr. Lustig. Only for you.

    (If you are momentarily taken back to the Fidel Castro interview granted to Barbara Walters in 1977, you may be excused. She said he "charmed her", after flirting shamelessly on the Boobtube on prime time)

    As for why the US would want to invade Venezuela? Well, it's as obvious as a boil on your thumb.

    What do they want? Our oil, as they did in Iraq. [...]

    He also denied claims that Venezuela was a threat to the international community, saying that his country wanted open relations with the whole world - a multi-polar world - but "with respect".

    "George W Bush should not have any reason to fear. If he does it is because he has a dark ghost in his subconscious," he said.

    And by transposing the paranoia to another party, rather than admitting it is he who is paranoid, he is taking yet again a twist of that Secret Decoder Ring, since imminent invasions and planned overthrows of Fidel Castro's regime have been a well-worn crowd pleaser in Cuba for years.


    Because, and stop me if you've heard this one before, Communism thrives in the foggy world of semi-truth.

    It takes a grain of truth, and mixes it up with a bushel full of lies, all the while claiming they are the alternative to the hypocritical status-quo.

    The US government did indeed try to overthrow Castro's government, as it no doubt wants Chavez to leave from whence he came.

    Enter Pat Robertson last month, with his "Fatwa" talk against Chavez, and he has his excuse to transform one loon's eye-for-the-ratings hit-talk and then propagate these charges against the US government forever.

    In fact, the only reason this or any other US government would have reason to target Mr. Chavez, is if his government suddenly had a nuclear programme or nuclear bases like in those fateful days of October 1962, when President Kennedy countered a nuclear missile threat to the US mainland, via Cuba.

    But if in the intervening 43 years, the United States of America has not "invaded" Cuba or "toppled" Castro, chances are that charismatic lamb, Hugo Chavez, is as safe as houses.

    Mr. Chavez is enjoying his time on the world stage, and when not charming the pants of off BBC reporters, he is having a magnificent time in the hands of 5 year-old boys.

    Yes. Hugo Chavez is now a doll action figure.

    H/T Babalu Blog

    But for a change, his mentor, President Fidel Castro, is not impressed by his pupil's new-found Mattel-status.

    For as he no doubt emailed Hugo Chavez, upon seeing this doll action figure:

    "Por tu madre, chico. Been there, done that!"


    Thursday, October 20, 2005

    Wilma Confuses Florida For Bedrock

    I have already blogged about Hurricane Andrew, and have even let you hear what Hurricane Katrina, in her category 1 incarnation, sounded like.

    But honestly, those of us in Florida are just sick of this hurricane season. Enough!

    It's the simple pre-annoyingness of it all, really, because when a hurricane actually strikes, the best of people comes out.

    It's actually very touching to see perfect strangers talking to each other, when before, they never would dream of stopping and saying "howdy", plus sharing tips on where to get water or ice.

    During Andrew, for example, I saw more than one person come out of no where, and just stand at the edge of the road, directing traffic, often with their shirts off and a keffiya-looking headscarf protecting their head and face. Just because all the traffic lights were down, and there are only so many coppers who can direct busy intersections. A nightmare for all drivers concerned.

    This in roadside temperatures easily in excess of 104°F/40°C!

    What's more, people obeyed them too.

    And not only that, but most touchingly of all, which I witnessed at least 2 or 3 times, people would slow down during a lull in traffic, and wordlessly reach out and hand over a Coke, or water, or even sandwiches I saw once, which the self-appointed cop would gratefully accept.

    People who are not used to everyday catastrophes are great, I've found.

    And Americans are the best of the best -- they redefine neighbourliness, kindness, and generosity when disaster strikes.

    Maybe living in South Florida has its drawbacks. Maybe we have to duck hurricanes and weave-and-bob tropical storms more than most.

    But man, I wouldn't live anywhere else, since it's the people which make a place what it is.

    Just promise to remind me of my hooray harry attitude come Sunday, yes?


    Babalu Blog
    26th Parallel
    American Future: Live-Blogging (also has great Saddam video links)

    FRIDAY 3:30 AM UPDATE: We must be getting the Wilma feeder bands, because we're being pounded by thunder and rain as I type. Should I disappear for a few days, you know what happened. I'll try to be back as soon as I can, if so.

    Wednesday, October 19, 2005

    The Way I Am

    What is your earliest independent memory?

    You know the kind -- not one which you "remember" because of family anecdotes, or because you saw a video or photograph of it.

    But one which you actually remember inside yourself. When you were aware of your own mental processes churning within, as they received stimulus from the outside world.

    I have many, many memories which fall into the first category.

    I can't properly decide if they are authentic memories, or if I've heard my parents recount the event so many times, that it feels like I really remember it happening.

    Then there's this memory.

    I am 4. Almost 5.

    No more than that, I am absolutely sure, because later that year, my father accepted a position in Canada, and all three of us left England, my parents never to reside there again.

    We're in Carnaby Street, in London.

    I'm holding my father's hand, whilst with the other, he takes our old Bell & Howell Super8, and films the "scene" all around us.

    People mill about, tourists, foreigners, locals, feet, shoes, legs, arms hanging down.

    Everything a child perceives, from this world spent looking up.

    A man with enormous light-blond dreadlocks approaches me, scaring me with his loud voice and manic Viking-reggae looks. He moves on, and I look back at him. He's playing the fool, jumping up and down like a carnival harlequin, aware he's being looked at.

    I grab my father's hand ever more tightly. He doesn't notice. He's too busy capturing the scene, maybe already knowing he'll not return, and that it needs to be recorded for posterity.

    Anyway, he's so tall, and I'm so small.

    I'm disappointed, like children are when they're not the centre of their parent's universe that very second. It passes, but you remember it more intensely when it happens the next time.

    Carnaby St is oppressive.

    Narrow, hung with overarching signs and bunting all around you, buskers sometimes brush against you, advertising their shops on London's most with-it street.

    There's this man I remember, one of those End-of-The-Worlders, who populate the major pavements of every city, their shouted doomsday preaching only surpassed by the John 3:16 signs always mysteriously present at every American sporting event.

    He passes us by too. Dad films it.

    A crowd of young people come towards us. In slow motion in my mind, I remember the taller of the men, with a red t-shirt, sees my father's Super8, and gives him the finger.

    I look up. My father is grinning through the viewfinder. We continue walking.

    My mother enters the memory at this point, the way childhood remembrances have a way of doing, disjointed, and non-linear.

    She sees a boutique which is selling wigs. She takes my hand, and we go inside it, as beads part all around me as if by magic at the entrance.

    The shop smells odd.

    I don't know what that is. It's a little like the smoke in church I know on Sundays. But there is something else added to the mix. Sweat maybe.

    A cat is sleeping by the counter, near which a resentful young girl barely raises her head from a book she is reading.

    My mother gets her attention, and they go to another room to look at a dizzying array of buttercup-coloured wigs.

    I am alone now. I look around.

    Suddenly, a man pops out of the beads, and I recognise my old "friend" the harlequin.

    He doesn't look down at me, making a face this time, and I am relieved.

    He looks at me. No. He looks through me as if I were gauze. I look down at his feet -- he has enormous uncut green-yellow coloured toenails; his arms are covered in tattoos; his eyes are blood-shot and yet register nothing.

    Wild, angry, desperate eyes.

    I look at the shirt with the weird sign. It's torn. It's dirty. I don't like this man.

    I remember thinking to myself, at that moment, aged 4, with a crystal clear memory -- I remember thinking these very words inside me:

    Whatever it is, I don't want to be anything like him.

    Years later, when I was in San Francisco, a city which is majestic in its elegance and cleanliness, I was having a latté at an outdoor café, watching people go by.

    It's one of my favourite activities -- watching, observing, drinking in the moment.

    Suddenly, a skinny guy walks by our table, and I feel winded as if punched in the abdomen, immediately transporting me back to that feeling I had.

    I am 4. Almost 5.

    Telling myself, whatever the mad Viking is, is everthing I don't want to be in life.

    And when I was surfing at a website just now, reading about a Veterans Day event which was canceled Monday, I saw that t-shirt again, making me queasy remembering that moment: alone, in the Carnaby St shop with the funny smells.

    So here it is, just for you.

    Never let it be said that children don't know who they are at an early age.

    They know exactly what makes them feel good, or bad, inside.

    Tuesday, October 18, 2005


    It's happpened. I've finally succumbed to the lure of the moolah, the dough, the cold hard cash of advertising.

    First thing Monday, I took Sundries into the realm of Blogads.

    For those who don't know, Blogads is the premier advertising site for bloggers, acting as a network of the 500 most influential bloggers in our medium.

    At present, it's by invitation only so I was very honoured to be sponsored by a renowned blogger, and hope always to be worthy of that trust and encouragement by posting up a storm of informative, but quirky topics, as is my wont.

    (We will now pause for a brief chorus of "The Girl Guide's Hymn")

    You know, I had to think about it longer than I thought, though.

    Not because of the money itself, as I am a not a guilty white woman with hang-ups about the free-market system, and the selling of my "soul" by going corporate. Oh please.

    But rather because I wanted to prove to my parents that writing pays, even if it's babysteps at first.

    Short of writing a novel or memoirs, or biography, which takes years to do, and still one is not guaranteed of being published, bankrolling your blogging activities is a happy compromise.

    And when I told my parents of this new state of affairs, I confess the look of pride was a boost to my ego.

    I just didn't know how they would react, since both of them want me to carry on with my budding medical career, from which I have taken a leave of absence for a year. So their positive reaction was everything I had hoped for, and more.

    I am still feeling my way on Blogads, trying to create a snappy ad and then buy space at the best sites, targetting the savviest "bang for your buck" prices. And I'm eagerly awaiting a sponsor, making it possible by keeping my prices modest until I can legitimately ask for more.

    (Few people can afford to charge U$18,000/3 mos. for a Premium ad like Instapundit can, though...I almost fainted when I saw that)

    You know, despite the exponential growth of Blogosphere this past year, I think we're still at the cusp of a major internet revolution. Lots of people, LOTS, still haven't a clue about blogging.

    My parents themselves would fall into that category, if not for my little "hobby". They still don't access their email accounts (which I created for them), regularly. And they're hardly rubes or Luddites either.

    It's just that blogs haven't hit critical mass. Yet.

    And I think, like many people reading this post now, that we all want to be a part of something really big, where we can say one day to our grandchildren:

    Yes, I was a part of that brave new blogosphere.

    And I got paid for doing something I really love: writing.

    POST DEDICATION: To the unrivalledly generous Renato, for his encouragement and always cheery warmth. And to my readers, all 3 of you, for your indulgence. If it's true you get what you pay for, there are some things in this world above price. Satisfying people is one of them.


    The Third Rail
    The Liberty News Blog
    The Celebrity Baby Blog
    Proud To Be Canadian.ca

    Monday, October 17, 2005

    And Now For Something Completely Delicious

    Guess what I am eating right now, at this odd time? Why beignets, naturellement!

    Not just any beignets, mind, but allegedly Cafe du Monde beignets, from the heart of New Orleans.

    The story is long, perhaps interesting, but never mind, as it pales in comparison to their chewy goodness.

    Every winter here, the Cuban-Americans make a pilgrimage to buy churros and chocolate in some godforsaken part of Sweetwater. An ex-boyfriend took me once, and I'll never forget it.

    You and dozens of others stand in the queue to buy just a handful of these doughnutty Latin American delights, which cost almost nothing, but taste magical in hot chocolate against the rare freeze of SoFla nights.

    So obviously, when I bit into my authentic beignet tonight, I decided to crack open another tablet of Abuelita, and dunk to my hearts content.

    Mmm. Utterly delicious. Want?

    Sunday, October 16, 2005

    Grand Ole Oprah

    Predictions, like peanuts, are persnicketty things.

    A: You can never have enough of them.
    B: You look a fool publicly if they go down the wrong way.
    C: They're worth almost nothing.

    Nevertheless, I've decided to go to way of Jeanne Dixon and The Amazing Kreskin, and get into the predictions game on my blog.

    Are you ready? Good.

    Prediction: Oprah Winfrey will run for a Senate seat from Illinois one day.

    Possibly for Dick Durbin's seat, or even Barack Obama's seat, should either make a serious bid for the US Presidency in 2008, or more to the point, 2012, one year after Oprah's contract is set to expire.

    Barack Obama's seat would be doubly meaningful, not because she harbours any anti-Obama sentiments, au contraire!, but because it's the seat once held by Oprah's old friend, Carol Moseley-Braun.

    Although Miss Winfrey's first political contribution on record is to a Republican, Susan Engeleiter's Wisconsin senatorial bid in 1988, to which Oprah contributed U$1,000, her second was to Carol Moseley-Braun (ten more Benjamins), in 1992.

    Moseley-Braun famously went on to lose her bid for re-election to Peter Fitzgerald, who, in turn, opted not to run for his seat in 2004...which Barack Obama then won.

    It's coming home, mama, it's coming home.

    So, reason why I think Oprah is running for office one day?

    Well if "just a gut instinct" is not good enough a reason for you, hear this:

    Do you remember when Oprah was a likable, down-to-earth television personality, who took herself just seriously enough to be respected in what is surely one of the least respectable professions on TV: afternoon talk show host -- the preserves of the Rickis, the Sally Jesses, and especially, the Jerrys?

    I do too.

    Her feel-good shows were a good momentary diversion around 4 o'clock, should you be channel-surfing at home at that time.

    Talking of transformations...

    Then something changed.

    Her manner became a little more posed.

    Her accent a little more WASPy.

    Her dress and look a little more polished, and her attitude a little more condenscending, in that same plastic way Barbara Walters, Andrea Mitchell or Starr Jones have.

    She even looked a little whiter. Somehow.

    (There's an untranslatable word in Spanish which describes this type of woman very well, and that word is creida -- a cross between stuck-up and phony, but also that they think they are, in what I can only describe on this family blog, as hot excrement)

    It wasn't that Oprah had suddenly discovered her power. I'm sure she knew she always had that.

    But what happened to her was that she discovered her celebrity.

    This is the death knell for famous people in the United States.

    The moment an actor or actress goes "Hollywood", they stop being a good actor and actress, and start being celebrities -- with all the cloying silliness that entails. The same is true of singers, dancers, or indeed, news anchors...

    She was the perfect talk show host, for the perfect era, too.

    The 1990s transformed America from a culture which of the rich and famous which Robin Leach had made so alluring, to the celeb-papparazi culture which cannot convict a famous person for murder or child molestation even if there is a papertrail of evidence which would make the Library of Congress swoon.

    (And, of course, one which ultimately cost a beautiful, if troubled young woman her life in the Pont d'Alma, since the syndrome is world-wide)

    If we're living in that Warholian world that gives everyone 15 minutes of fame, Oprah Winfrey has discovered the secret of endless exposure.

    It's unthreatening exposure at that, which combines the tasks of genteel benefactress-cum-hostess to a very receptive audience.

    Which brings us to the second reason.

    My mother once observed that Oprah Winfrey can make white women jump through a hoops of fire for her.

    For I've met more than one African-American person who disliked her (I never knew why, and felt too uninterested to ask), but I've yet to meet a white woman who doesn't like her.

    That's a very important "base" waiting to be exploited, or more charitably, waiting to be led.

    Where Oprah goes, women follow. Perhaps an exaggeration, but not by much.

    And finally, the last reason.

    Ever since Oprah's tussle with the Beef People, she's been careful to construct her image as a populist, who despite her billions, is just one of "us":

    Just the granddaugher of Mississippi sharecroppers born in Koscuisko, who was sexually abused, and went on to daily smoke crack inside her beat up old car.

    All this before, in classic Americana Horatio Alger fashion, pulling herself up by her bootstraps to become the 9th most powerful woman on the planet -- at least according to Forbes Magazine.

    Why even the French give her a hard time! Of course, she's just folks, right?

    And it was all these reasons primed her for latest media adventure, as a kind of celebrity Eliott Ness.

    Yes, Oprah Winfrey is getting into the criminal-napping game!

    She's just launched "Oprah's Child Predator Watch List".

    For every successful capture of a child predator, she is giving the tipster U$100,000 hard cash.

    Unsurprisingly, her Watch List has already bagged two sex offenders, WITHIN 48 HOURS OF ITS DEBUT, courtesy of two viewers who turned the fugitives in.

    This is how she announced her plans, on her Tuesday 4 October 2004 show.

    "Today I stand before you to say, in terms that I hope are very certain, that I have had enough.

    "With every breath in my body, whatever it takes, and most importantly with your support, we are going to move heaven and earth to stop a sickness that I believe is the definition of evil that's been going on for far too long. Children of this nation, the United States of America, are being stolen, raped, tortured and killed by sexual predators who are walking right into your home.

    "How many children have to be sacrificed? What price are we as a society willing to continue to pay before we rise up in the streets and say, 'Enough! Enough! Enough!'"

    Watch the video of her announcement here. Now tell me her cadences are not that of a politican making a speech.

    All it needed was "My Fellow Americans", and some babies to kiss, and it would've been a proper campaign launch.

    That she would be elected, goes without saying for all the reasons I've mentioned.

    Oh, she might be corporate, but she's not MacHalliburton corporate. She might not have much political experience to be a Senator (or anything else), but she can run a billion-dollar business, especially without those annoying barnyard sayings of H. Ross Perot.

    And she's bright. And generous. And you get the point.

    I'm not sure if the world will ever see a Condi v. Hillary race.

    But those of you who collect political memoribilia will have a "Vote for Oprah!" bumper sticker at your eBay mercy before long.


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