Fahrenheit 9/11: A Reivew

The following is a very slightly modified version of an email I sent to my friends on the subject of Michael Moore's new film Fahrenheit 9/11. I share it here with you...

I went to see the film yesterday. I always approach Michael Moore films with a fair amount of sketicism because I know he will be pushing a very particular point of view in his movie and I know that as a viewer I will be more or less manipulated in some way.

That said, I thought the film was reasonably well done. It pointed out many things I already knew, but it did serve to clarify a great many details for me, at least as much as Moore clarifies anything. I think the movie did a nice job in putting a voice to the concerns that many folks have about Iraq, specifically the "Why did we go?" question. What was the real motivation? I also thought it did a nice job of pointing out the nature of military service. Many of the personnel fighting this war are folks who often had few attractive options other than joining the service.

The point that the film really did drive home well, and this was Moore's overall goal, was that Mr. Bush needs to get fired. This man and this administration clearly are not coming clean with the American people and,
more than other administrations, cannot be trusted. Do I believe George Bush went to war in Iraq so he and his family and friends could make a ton of money? No, I don't. But it is a nice little ancillary benefit that he
and his posse are not being very straight forward about. More to the point, Mr. Bush has yet to give a valid reason for invading Iraq. The spin and WMD/terrorist line of explanation obviously works well for the masses,
and I suppose that's all that matters when you're an elected official, but I suspect these lies and half truths have left a bad taste in the mouths of mindful voters. I only hope enough people are as disturbed by the actions of this administration to vote for John Kerry in 2004.

President Reagan's State Funeral

Instead of going to work this morning, I became enthralled with the state funeral of Ronald Reagan. There are few opportunities to witness something like this, so I watched until the homily. I must say I am impressed with the emotion and fondness with which so many people remember him. Growing up, my mother spoke ill of the man as president and so my views were colored a bit. I must also say that, as I grew old enough to begin to understand some things on my own, I too was not impressed with him as a world leader. It is only now, as an educated adult, that I can look back a understand what Mr. Reagan did for the country and the world, and while I disagree with much of it, I at least appreciate it.

I must also say that President Bush's eulogy was in my opinion the best speech I have ever heard him give. His writer is to be commended, as is he for its excellent delivery. I think his words, and the words of the others who spoke, did well to capture and put forth a part of America that we often forget nowadays. That is the power of us as a country to unite. The death and funeral of Ronald Reagan, one of our nation's most important presidents, has united us. In a time of massive political struggle and disagreement in this country, in a time of bitter dispute over the war in Iraq, over the tax cuts, and over the environment, we paused today to remember one of our greatest sons. Today the words of our current president truly reminded me that we are, for all our differences, the United States of America and we, as the citizens of this country, are all in this together.

The [Insert Nation's Name] War Machine

A friend of mine sent me this. I think it is relevant given our nation's current status in Iraq. There are several things that jump out at me as being uncomfortably close to home. I will not list out the things here though, as I would hope a thoughtful person who remembers their history would be able to note them for himself.

From Nuremberg Diary by Gustave Gilbert:

We [Gilbert and Hermann Goering] got around to the subject of war again and I said that, contrary to his attitude, I did not think that the common people are very thankful for leaders who bring them war and destruction.

"Why, of course, the people don't want war," Goering shrugged. "Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship."

"There is one difference," I pointed out. "In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars."

"Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for
lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

Rules for the U.S. Flag

After reading Skippy's interesting post about the possibility of President Bush violating the law, I thought I'd offer up this humble link to the US code regarding handling, display, and treatment of the flag under Title 36, Chapter 10. It should be noted that I could not find this section of the code on any government sponsored web site. Why, I do not know. Food for thought.

Marriage Amendment

As the debate over the Bush administration's proposed amendment to the Constitution heats up, I thought I'd add some food for thought. In addition to my previous discussion of reserved powers, which centers around the Tenth Amendment, I also think that a strong argument can be made for the rights of individuals to marry under the Ninth Amendment. In the case of the Tenth Amendment, I think it is clear that the national government is overstepping its bounds in terms of its rightful power (which is why they need an amendment in the first place). In the case of the Ninth Amendment, it seems to me that even the states must take care in the laws that they make restricting the rights of the people. In either case I firmly believe this is a battle that must be fought in the states.

Furthermore, since marriage is really more of a religious institution, at least for most people, I would think that this is also a First Amendment issue. Marriage has its roots in religious practices, and therefore the government really can't restrict who gets married at all as long as they offer any marriage contract at all. Dictating who may and may not get married based on sex seems to be more of a religious decision and therefore out of the scope of governmental power.

Any amendment passed that bans same sex marriage would clearly stomp on a whole lot of rights for a whole lot of people, and more importantly, it opens the door for further abuses of power. Banning same sex marriage with this amendment would give the federal government legal grounds for restricting, modifying, and changing many other rights that belong to the people. This is a dangerous slippery slope, and we must, in all cases ere on the side of the people's rights.

Finally, and this isn't necessarily reserved for the debate over gay marriage, aren't we at war? Doesn't our President have something better to do? Can't Congress find something more important with which to concern themselves? How about the mounting national debt, for example? Or maybe the fact that we still have people in this country with no food, shelter, or health care? If the federal government wants to stick its nose in other people's business, can't it at least be over something important? And this leads to an even more ominous question: why now? Why, in the midst of so many other problems, does the Bush administration want to seize this power now? What else are they trying to gain? Could it be a back door to taking away other rights that they can't get at in the name of national security? Is that why they are trying to fight this battle now, when there is clearly a long list of other items that are more important to our country? It certainly makes one wonder.

"The sleep of reason brings forth monsters." -- Goya

By the way, Skippy has been hosting an interesting discussion on his blog about this very issue.

Americans Don't Seem to Care

One of my chief gripes for quite some time now has been the sad fact that a relatively small number of eligible voters actually vote in elections in this country. According to The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance only about 49.3% of eligible voters actually voted in the 2000 Presidential election. I find this statistic, and ones like it, tremendously upsetting. It says to me that most Americans are content to let someone else choose the leader of our country. It says to me that most Americans only care about who's in charge when it affects them negatively, or when times get tough. It concerns me that the majority of Americans happily enjoy all of the freedoms and opportunities this great nation offers, but can't be botherd to particiapte in our government of the people. It seems to me most people are content to sit back and let someone else defend their rights, argue the opposing point of view, and monitor the state of things, all the while enjoying the blanket of protection provided by that vigilance. It is almost tantamount to saying, "Take all the rights and freedoms you want, spend all the money you want, and conduct what ever foreign policy you want, as long as it doesn't bother me." What's more, many people don't even take the time to consider what exactly bothers them until it does and then, of course, it is often too late.

I blame much of this on our educational system and our culture of accumulation and material gratification, but that is another rant. What I would really love to see is a massive voter turnout in this next presidential election. I want the victor to know that he won after the voice of all the voters was heard. Unfortunately I know that most likely won't happen. After all that would require the other 51% of eligible voters to get off their couches, put down the Budweiser, and go to the polls. That would require a huge number of Americans to actually do something they clearly hate doing: think. Who can be troubled to think, or weigh issues or consequences? That is obviously asking too much. The last thing we want to do is bother anyone.

Fascism Update

In the course of my readings and research on the beginnings of an American fascist state - well okay, perhaps I'm being a bit unfair - I'll try again. In the course of my readings and research on the decline of American democracy ala the Bush administration, I found this nifty little item citing the 14 charactaristics of fascism. Not only is it interesting to compare to our current political environment here in the states, but it ties in nicely with my article entitled A Few Notes on Fascism, which is a little something I threw together a while ago.

Now I'm not accusing our president of being a fascist. Frankly, I don't think he's smart enough to consciously understand the ramifications of the actions of his administration. I do think, however that the general decline in the effectivness of American democracy is a dangerous trend of which complacent Americans need to be aware. Food for thought.

Reserved Powers and the Fuhrer

Folks, let me make something very clear to anyone who cares to read this. Let me take you back to 8th grade government. The power to make and control marriage laws is a power reserved for the states. Reserved means that only the states can make marriage laws. Not the federal government. That's why Bush and the boys need to get a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. They aren't allowed to make marriage laws, or interfere with them in anyway. And yet they are going to try. Doesn't this bother people?

I don't care if you think gay marriage is a good thing or not. It should bother you, really fucking concern you, that the federal government is trying to take this power from the states. What other powers are next? The whole point of federalism and the Constitution is to divide the powers between the federal government and the states and the people. The federal government is delegated - notice the usage - powers. It is given powers by the Constitution. All other powers belong to the states and the people. It should scare the crap out of people that the Bush administration is so paranoid, so hateful, that they want to take power from the states to mandate marriage laws. I am really surprised people aren't more up in arms about this. Is America's fear of homosexuality so intense that we are willing go surrender power to the federal government just to say gay people can't get married? Or is it that no one is paying attention? The founding fathers are rolling over in their graves, I am sure.

You know, Hitler got his start like this. Nice, quiet moves in the Reichstag. Playing on the fears of the majority, until he had seized all power and made himself supreme ruler. Then he killed six million men, women, and children. Teddy Rossevelt said that education was key to America's democracy, as was participation. It seems to me no one here is remembering their history, or caring enough to get involved. Well, it's time to get involved, because before you know it, we won't be allowed to. Our democracy depends upon the involvment of its citizens. When was the last time you wrote a letter to your Congressman or Senator, or the Preseident? When was the last time you voted? Americans need to start excerising their rights and standing up for them before they are gone. Government will continue to grow in power until it is checked, in this case by the people, which if you haven't noticed is you and I. It's time to step up, before it's too late.

I Love a Straight Answer

One of the biggest problems I have with all politicians is the fact that they rarely just answer a question. Some try to answer a simple question by including a defense against all possible avenues of attack. Some try to shift the emphasis of the question to another issue. This is sort of understandable, especially when dealing with reporters like Tim Russert who only go after pointless issues, or something to get ratings. That's no excuse, but it is somewhat understandable.

Then there's the President and his staff. Check out the shuck and jive in the link below. I've got 7th grade students who can evade a question and sound more convincing that this guy. Scott McClellan, though, is a master at confusion. Even if the press corps didn't buy it, most Americans will, if they even pay enough attention to look. Our leadership in action, ladies and gentlemen. Yeah, we ought to keep people like this in office.

Press Briefing by Scott McClellan, Feb. 10, 2004

Okay, I got on a rant...

Alright, perhaps I sounded a bit harsh in yesterday's entry about certain things. I tend to do that when I get on a roll. Allow me to clarify a point or two. People who watch the Super Bowl, or professional sports in general, are not evil. The Super Bowl itself is not inherently bad. I watched a great deal of it myself with a group of friends this year, as in past years, and I very much enjoyed all the food, beer, and beer that went with it. My problem is really with a couple of things. One, I am bothered by the fact that the starting salary for a rookie NFL player is $225,000 a year, while many other (and let's be honest here) more important and valuable professions go totally unpaid (like teachers). I mean, there are doctors who don't make that much for fuck's sake! And let's not forget that while brand new, rookie NFL players get paid serious bank, there are hungry, homeless, and impoverished people in our own country who get jack. And I'm not talking about "the lazy ones," I'm talking about the poor fucker who's just out of work and seriously down on his luck. Pay him half that 250 grand. I guess my bitch here is that many professional athletes get paid huge amounts of money, mostly coming from advertising and marketing dollars, and, of course, TV, while many other people who have and have had meaningful, worthwhile jobs get paid much less, or nothing. Where are out priorities?

My last big beef is that whole television vs. FCC thing. I mean here we are, crap abounds on the air and they're going after the fucking Super Bowl Halftime show. My buddy put it a better way. The FCC jumps on the chance to investigate Janet Jackson's boob, but no one wants to censure, let alone investigate, President Bush's blatant lies to the country. Now, I too would rather look at boobs, even Janet Jackson's, before I looked at President Bush, but what the hell is Congress doing? I like how our independent government agencies will protect us from the dangers of indecency, but no one wants to take on Mr. Bush and his abuse of power to get revenge. Who's a bigger danger here? Be honest. Janet's boob or a president who lies to the people to start a war? I've got to go with the lying president. Again, another case of messed up priorities.

I guess we might as well get lost in the world of make believe and bad TV, because with leadership like this, the TV world, indecent as it may be, is better.