Is Smoking Rated R?

The AP reports the lastest front in the war against smoking.

LOS ANGELES — If Nicolas Cage lights a cigarette in a movie, Hollywood’s ratings board should respond as if he used a profanity, according to authors of a new study that criticizes glamorous images of smoking in movies rated for children under 17.

“No one is saying there should never be any smoking in the movies,” Glantz, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, said Tuesday at a press conference at Hollywood High School. “What we’re simply asking for is that smoking be treated by Hollywood as seriously as it treats offensive language.”

Some people think smoking is offensive, obviously. But is it really comparable to profanity?

What would the authors of this study rather have me do? Like up a smoke on a street corner? Or say eff you in front of their kids?

Since R-rated films typically earn less money because they are not open to most teenagers, Glantz said he hoped such a policy would discourage filmmakers from depicting unnecessary smoking, such as the nicotine-addicted worm aliens in “Men in Black.”

This is just bullying and control freakery, a way to impose an agenda on artists by threatening to cost them millions of dollars if they don’t comply.

Why stop with smoking? If we’re going to protect The Children from seeing bad adult habits on screen, we might as well restrict the number of Twinkies, french fries, and Froot Loops an actor or actress can eat in a movie.

Here’s another AP headline for you: Obesity May Pass Smoking As Top Killer

Maybe next the MPAA will slap an R rating on a movie if an actor or actress is fat.

In the meantime, I think kicking smokers out of every bar in New York and California ought to be enough micro-management for now.

From Iraq to Haiti

Those who care about both human rights and consensus in the international community owe it to themselves to read Carroll Andrew Morse’s piece in Tech Central Station: The Bias Towards Brutality and Totalitarianism.

Free Advice

Pejman gives some advice to the Democrats and tells them how they could win. He’s right, but they won’t listen or understand.

Maybe next time.


This is the dumbest criticism of John Kerry I have ever read.

Deborah Orin in the New York Post:

Democratic presidential nominee-to-be John Kerry called Yasser Arafat a “statesman” and a “role model” in a 1997 book that Kerry cites as proof of his own foresight about foreign policy.

So far, so good, right? Kerry admires Arafat. That’s bad.

Keep reading.

Kerry expressed the opposite view eight days ago, when he told Jewish leaders in New York that he shares President Bush’s belief that Arafat must be isolated because he’s not a “partner for peace” – much less a statesman.

Okay, so Kerry is waffling again. But, hey, at least he learned something in the meantime, perhaps. Lots of people thought ol’ Yasser was worth something before the second intifada, and if Kerry wised up (as I did), good for him.

“Terrorist organizations with specific political agendas may be encouraged and emboldened by Yasser Arafat’s transformation from outlaw to statesman,” Kerry wrote in “The New War,” now out of print.

Kerry added that terrorists “whose only object is to disrupt society require no such ‘role models [as Arafat].’ “

Well, look at that! Kerry didn’t say the Palestinian terror-master was a statesman or a role model. He criticized other people for saying so.

Deborah Orin can’t read her own sentences. And neither can her editors.


New Column

I have a new Tech Central Station column up: Liberalism in the Balance.

Comeback for Baby Doc?

In my last Tech Central Station column I argued that Saddam Hussein should be executed because former dictators are potentially dangerous as long as they are alive.

This is what I’m talking about.

Baby Doc Duvalier wants to go home to Haiti. Nice timing on that one.

Duvalier said he wants to help Haiti in any way he can.

”This is my country. . . . I’m ready to put myself at the disposal of the Haitian people,” he told Gillen, who also interviewed him in December 2002.

Duvalier called the recent events ”a dark chapter in Haiti’s history” and said he felt anguish and concern for his homeland.

”I’m shocked by the situation my country is in,” he said.

Give me an effing break.

Duvalier claims there is no legal obstacle blocking his return, a wish he has been expressing since the late 1990s.

He’s living as a free man in Paris. If the French government cares about Haiti, if they care about human rights and democracy at all, they will find a way to put that man in a cage.

(Via Randy Paul.)

Hitch on Gay Marriage

Dennis Prager sees the fight for gay marriage as a war of “secular extremism” against Western Civilization, and he compares those of us who support gay rights to Al Qaeda. (Thanks, Dennis. You’re a pal.)

Christopher Hitchens provides some perspective.

It demonstrates the spread of conservatism, not radicalism, among gays.

When I become bored or irritated by the gay marriage battle–and I do, I sometimes do–I like to picture the writhing faces and hoarse yells of the mullahs and the fanatics. Godless hedonistic America, not content with allowing divorce and pornography, has taken from us our holy Taliban and our upright Saddam. It sends Jews and unveiled female soldiers to our lands, and soon unnatural brotherhood will be in the armed forces of the infidels. And now the godless have an election where all they discuss is the weddings of men to men and women to women! And then I relax, and smile, and ask my [gay] neighbors over, to repay the many drinks and kind gestures that I owe them.

Tom Cole: Right-wing Punk

This election is going to suck.

Republican Congressman Tom Cole claims a vote against the re-election of President Bush is like supporting Adolph Hitler during World War Two.

There really isn’t much to say about this except that Tom Cole appears to be the right-wing equivalent of an anarchist punk. For those who can’t see what’s wrong with his statement, well, there isn’t anything I can say to help.

He later said his quote was mischaracterized.

Who knows? He was bound to say so whether his quote was mischaracterized or not. And since his original words aren’t published online, I can’t check.

But he did say this. Quote.

If George Bush loses the election, Osama bin Laden wins the election.

Osama bin Laden is not on any ballot.

I’d say Osama, if in fact he’s still breathing, would probably prefer a John Kerry victory. After all, the Bush Administration, as Christopher Hitchens put it, “wakes up every morning wondering how to take the war to the enemy.” John Kerry sees this sort of thing as “the most arrogant, inept, reckless, and ideological foreign policy in modern history.” So, yeah, Osama bin Laden might prefer a US president who is a little less…enthusiastic about taking the war to the enemy.

But boy oh boy is that a different statement from what Cole said. He said, in a roundabout way, that John Kerry is Osama bin Laden. Perhaps I’m splitting hairs, but Cole said this in a prepared speech. It wasn’t an off-the-cuff slip-up.

He turned around and said Kerry is a “patriotic individual.” Well, that’s good. At least he knows the First Rule of Holes.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Robert Matsui responds:

Congressman Cole’s comments are disgraceful and must be repudiated by Republican candidates from President Bush on down the ticket…Congressman Cole should apologize to Senator Kerry and the millions of Americans whose patriotism he has impugned.

In a country where Ann Coulter sell millions of books peddling Cole’s brand of shtick, I’d say Mr. Matsui is right on the money.

(Via Kevin Drum.)

Bush Vs. Kerry

So it looks like John Kerry is it.

And therefore I’m out.

I would have voted for John Edwards had the Democratic Party chosen him as the nominee. Heck, I would have voted a straight-Democratic ticket next year if that’s how it went down. But it didn’t, and so I won’t. I can’t.

Until further notice, this blog officially supports George W. Bush for president in 2004.

I will not be his cheerleader. Though I will defend him from scurrilous charges, I don’t like the man, and I never have. I appreciate very much what he has accomplished in the realm of foreign policy, as anyone who reads this blog with any regularity knows. And there is simply no way I can vote for his opponent who has spent the past year whining about every good thing we are doing and have done in the Middle East. This is by far the most important task now and ahead of us.

I am not about to join the right-wing bandwagon. I will support a Democratic Congress as I always have.

The Christian Right can take its hysterical reactionary agenda and stuff it. They are not my comrades, and they should not come looking to me for support. They will get none.

I cannot and will not be a team player for the Republican Party. None of the partisan “responsibilities” apply to me because I do not accept them. When I side with the liberals I am not a “traitor.” I could be plausibly accused of heresy for siding with conservatives as a Democrat. But that’s because I actually was a Democrat. I am neither a Republican nor a conservative. I will vote a split ticket this year because the way I see it, each party gets some things right. The inverse of that statement is obvious. Each party gets some things wrong.

I hope the Democrats spend the next several years, whether in the White House or out of it, getting themselves a serious foreign policy. Right now they don’t have one. Some individual Democrats are exceptionally sharp on this subject. But the party as a whole is lost. It hasn’t always been this way, and there is no reason to expect it to remain this way forever. I may very well support the Democratic candidate in 2008. It depends on who they nominate, and it depends on what happens between now and then.

It’s also entirely possible that John Kerry will win in November and I will come around to his side. He may win and govern well, and if he does, I will notice. I’ll be grateful and relieved.

Until then I oppose him, and I do it without malice. I don’t hate the man, and I doubt I ever will. Hatred destroys people emotionally and intellectually. The pitched level of anti-Bush hatred is shocking to me, just as the fury from the right against President Clinton was shocking. The asinine bluster from political haters is surely the dumbest commentary on any subject I’ve ever heard and read from adults. Get a life, haters. This is just politics.

I am the same person I was when I wished Al Gore were president. And if I change my mind about Bush in the meantime, or if I warm to a President Kerry, I’ll be the same person then that I am today. Some people make the funniest judgements about others because of who they support as a president. It’s not until you change your mind about a president that you come to realize how petty that is.

Using God as a Club (Update)

Behold the Drudge headline: KERRY NOT SURE GOD ON AMERICA’S SIDE

Perhaps John Kerry thinks God is on Osama bin Laden’s side. Let’s see.

Democrat frontrunner John Kerry is not sure God is on America’s side in the war terrorism. Kerry made the startling comments during Sunday’s Democrat presidential debate in New York City.

Elizabeth Bumiller of the NEW YORK TIMES asked Kerry:

“President Bush has said that freedom and fear have always been at war, and God is not neutral between them. He’s made quite clear in his speeches that he feels God is on America’s side.

“Is God on America’s side?”

KERRY: Well, God will — look, I think — I believe in God, but I don’t believe, the way President Bush does, in invoking it all the time in that way. I think it is — we pray that God is on our side, and we pray hard. And God has been on our side through most of our existence.

It is a pretty weak answer. It’s also a ridiculous question.

Jerry Falwell said God punished America for abortion, feminism, lesbianism, and paganism by unleashing the September 11 attacks. I think it’s safe to assume John Kerry does not share Jerry Falwell’s twisted view of the universe.

Kerry mangled his words, but it’s clear what he meant. Bush brings God into the Terror War too often. I think Kerry is right. This isn’t a war between Christianity and Islam. It’s a war between liberal secular civilization and totalitarian religious fascism.

So let’s not pretend to be “startled,” as Matt Drudge does, because Kerry wants to keep the spirit of the Crusades out of our language.

UPDATE: I’d like to add an afterthought that occurred to me from the discussion in the comments. Israel and India are fighting the same enemy for the same reason. And neither country is Christian.

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan highlights a nasty screed by Dennis Prager:

America is engaged in two wars for the survival of its civilization. The war over same-sex marriage and the war against Islamic totalitarianism are actually two fronts in the same war – a war for the preservation of the unique American creation known as Judeo-Christian civilization.

One enemy is religious extremism. The other is secular extremism.


Dean is Nader

Roger L. Simon speculated a while back that Howard Dean never really wanted to be president. I found Roger’s psychoanalysis intriguing but also a bit much. It was just a gut feeling sort of thing, impossible to back up with hard evidence.

I can’t imagine McGovern reacting to the capture of Saddam by saying it didn’t make America safer. This is one of the more tin-eared remarks I can remember ever being made by someone running for the Presidency.

So why then did Dean say this? Although he’s no genius (few in politics are), he’s plenty intelligent to realize that the vast American middle (the voters who finally elect the President) would roll their eyes at this comment. Why didn’t he say what a normal politican, even a normal person, would say under these dramatic circumstances? It may be that, as Novak indicates, he has simply gotten himself in an impossible box (but there are various ways he could have deflected the situation). Or it may be that deep down Dean does not want to be elected.

Turns out, he was right.

Howard Kurtz says as much in the Washington Post.

In different conversations and in different ways, according to several people who worked with him, Dean said at the peak of his popularity late last year that he never expected to rise so high, that he didn’t like the intense scrutiny, that he had just wanted to make a difference. “I don’t care about being president,” he said. Months earlier, as his candidacy was taking off, he told a colleague: “The problem is, I’m now afraid I might win.”

So Dean was Ralph Nader. At least on some level. He wanted to pull the Democrats to the left, and didn’t really want the responsibility that comes with being the president. (No doubt Nader never thought he would win.)

I voted for Ralph Nader in the last election, though I certainly won’t do it again this time. I was as frustrated with Clinton and Gore as the next person, but I had no desire whatever to vote for George W. Bush. I’ll admit that one of the reasons I pulled the lever for Nader was to punish the Democrats for being lame. (I also didn’t expect Bush to win, or I surely would have voted for Gore.)

I like to think I’ve changed since 2000. I won’t be supporting this year’s Ralph Nader (not the real one or the one from Vermont), but I have to admit my desire to punish the Democrats once again for being lame. Only this time the lameness is of a different variety. A vote for Nader was supposed to be a vote for Bush. So perhaps I haven’t changed at all and I’m just reverting to form.

Digging Holes

Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Florida) dug one heckuva hole.

She ripped into Bush’s policy on Haiti and called it “racist” (for some inexplicable reason) and said his administration is “a bunch of white men.”

Last I checked, Colin Powell was not a white man. Condoleeza Rice isn’t even a man, let alone a white one.

Oh, but it’s plenty worse than that.

Her outburst was directed at Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega during a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill. Noriega, a Mexican-American, is the State Department’s top official for Latin America.

Now. Anyone who has visited Latin America knows it isn’t a racially homogenous place. Argentina, for example, is more caucasian than the United States. Mexico is much less so, but still there are white Mexicans, just as there are white Mexican-Americans.

But it doesn’t look as though Mr. Noriega is one of them.

Noriega later told Brown: “As a Mexican-American, I deeply resent being called a racist and branded a white man,” according to three participants.

It’s always a good idea to remember the First Rule of Holes. When you’re in one, stop digging.

Brown then told him “you all look alike to me,” the participants said.

Rep. Brown hasn’t studied that rule. Someone ought to help her out after she apologizes.

And perhaps while she’s at it she could spend a few minutes brushing up on foreign policy so she doesn’t drag the Democratic Party further into the hole it dug for itself. The First Rule of Holes applies to political parties as well as to people.

Required Reading

Read Sullivan now.

Freedom and its Discontents

Like Andrew Sullivan, Sheila O’Malley, and Roger L. Simon, I am frustrated but not at all surprised by George Bush’s support for a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage forever.

The very idea of using our Constitution the ban anything is viscerally repulsive to me, especially when we’re talking about the harmless pursuit of happiness.

You don’t have the freedom to rape and murder and steal, nor should you. That is universal. We do not, or at least I should say that we should not, limit the freedom of our citizens unless that freedom will be used to harm another. That is revolutionary.

Neither side in our binary political system gets it quite right. Some on the left, when they can, won’t let you smoke in restaurants or voice your opinion on campus. A large swath of the left was content to let Iraqis rot for the rest of their lives in a totalitarian dungeon.

Many people on the right really do want to tell me what I can and cannot do in my own bedroom. They would, if they could, force my children (if I had any) to pray to their God in school.

On some days I feel pulled to the left, and on other days I feel pushed to the right. It mostly depends on what’s in the news that day. Today I’m feeling left.

As frustrating as this is, there is an upside. There is a Glass Half Full way of looking at it.

When I find myself wishing we had a political party that consistently stood for freedom and against authoritarianism so that I might find a home there, I remember that our political system is binary. If one of our parties were truly liberal (broadly speaking), that would mean that the other would necessarily be an anti-liberal party. Freedom wouldn’t be an American value after all. It would only be a sectarian partisan value. And if that were the case, we’d be looking at civil war.

The left specializes in promoting certain kinds of freedom. And the right chooses to focus on different varieties. They balance and make up for the blind spots of the other. It’s not a bad system, really. But it’s awfully disconcerting to be in the middle of the vortex.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum points out that Bush supports five new Constitutional amendments, not just the gay marriage ban.

He really seems to think the constitution is just a rough draft, doesn’t he?

Just think. If every president supported five new amendments and they all passed, how many would we have?

Bush and Gay Marriage

Well, he did it. George W. Bush decided it’s a good idea to use the U.S. Consitution to deny freedom to American citizens.

I wish I had time to write about this in detail tonight, but I don’t. So let me send you over to Sheila O’Malley. She said it for me.


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