Monday, May 30, 2005

What Can REALLY Make You Go Blind

Now comes word about reports of visual loss among users of Viagra and Cialis (see story here). I'm sure this news is getting a real workout on the late night comedy circuit, so I'll avoid the obvious jokes.

It's the less obvious, and somewhat grimmer joke that I hear in such reports. By a curious coincidence, I happened to write a little piece on Friday night for The Noyse Magazine, an online opinion and entertainment journal (make a note to visit their site on Wednesday, June 1, during their "hit-a-thon" to benefit "The One Campaign"). At the time I was writing it, I had not heard anything about the Viagra-blindness report (and I'm still astonished that these pharm companies continue to get off with nothing more painful than a label notation in consequence of their drugs' "unintended side effects"). I was actually writing about a certain well-known hamburger commercial that's recently hit the airwarves. But a mere glance at the title of this piece will help you to see the serendipity of a discussion of masturbation. Here it is—I called it Masturbation, Paris Hilton, and the Cult of Purity:

I really like to masturbate: it’s a great way to unwind, release tension, and get to know one’s own body. It’s good, healthy, relaxing fun, and it doesn’t cost a dime. In fact, I recommend it, although it seems I don’t have to.

Check this out: Dr. James Dobson (who in the name of the Devil and Dick Cheney gave him a degree?)—the same guy who is trying to help the right-wing neocon hegemony stack the courts of this land with wage-freezing, Bible-beating, union-busting, gay-hating, privacy-invading demagogues—is a friend of masturbation! I found the following comments at his “Focus on the Family” website (I just typed “masturbation” into his search engine):

We can say without fear of contradiction that there is no scientific evidence to indicate that this act is harmful to the body. Despite terrifying warnings given to young people historically, it does not cause blindness, weakness, mental retardation, or any other physical problem....Between 95 and 98 percent of all boys engage in this practice -- and the rest have been known to lie. It is as close to being a universal behavior as is likely to occur.

Very cool, Dr. D.: so why do you have such a problem with Paris Hilton doing it on a Bentley with a hamburger? But you’ve got a “Citizen Link Action Alert” out on your site, encouraging your followers to move heaven and earth to stop Carl Jr.’s from running an ad showing a blond in a swimsuit simulating the same kind of activity that you otherwise call “as close to being a universal behavior as is likely to occur.” (But thanks anyway for letting us know about the extended length version of the ad, viewable here).

“The ad is filled with enough innuendo to make Freud blush,” complains your hilarious excuse for a news report on the Paris ad. Then comes the great revelation, courtesy of Brent Bozell of the Parents Television Council: “This blatant, sexually charged ad has no place on the public airwaves, and especially when children are in the audience.”

Ah, now we understand: kids (some of them—gasp—girls) are going to see this ad on TV, and then what? Daniel Weiss, a media analyst at Focus on the Family, explains what: “recent studies [have] found [that] children who view sexual content on television are twice as likely to act out sexually as those who do not.”

Oh—you mean...they’re going to masturbate? While eating a cheeseburger? In the name of God and Janet Jackson’s right tit, somebody call the police! Thank heaven we can just change the channel over to good old FOX and watch “Stacked” with that gentle ivory-girl slice of cheesecake, Pam Anderson; or a wholesome episode of “Trading Spouses”!

But wouldn’t that leave me open to the charge of moral hypocrisy? As in, enjoying the spectacle of wife-swapping in Kansas or tit-swinging at a bookstore while at the same time I condemn an ad showing a woman fondling herself with a garden hose? Never mind—I’m going with Dr. Dobson’s original suggestion: I’m turning off the TV set entirely, going to my room, and then I’m gonna beat the bishop, shake hands with the general, massage Mr. One-Eye, pump my pomegranate, handle my hamburger.

I only wish I had a Bentley to do it on.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Bushies Unleash Pit Bull in Washington

When you play the role of global enforcer and personal agent of God on earth, sometimes people will call your bluff, and you just have to deal with it. The Senate neocon cronies of the Bush administration found this out today, when their demand that Mr. George Galloway of Great Britain appear before them was brusquely satisfied.

It would appear that Mr. Galloway, a member of Pariliament in his home country, either didn't get the memo on how to behave oneself before the powerful leaders of the GOP-dominated U.S. Congress; or he got it and ignored it. Galloway's remarks during his appearance before the august American Senatorial inquisition (which had demanded his presence to answer to charges that he was involved in siphoning oil profits during the Saddam era in Iraq) comprise some of the most delightfully potent rhetoric to be heard from Washington since the Clinton administration. The video and sound files of the Galloway testimony are here; and here's some text of Mr. Galloway's comments:

“I am not now nor have I ever been an oil trader and neither has anyone on my behalf. I was an opponent of Saddam Hussein when British and American governments and businessmen were selling him guns and gas...I gave my heart and soul to stop you from committing the disaster that you did commit in invading Iraq...And I told the world that the case for war was a pack of lies...You have my name on lists provided to you by the Dopher inquiry, provided to him by the convicted bank robber and fraudster and con man Ahmed Chalabi, who many people, to their credit, in your country now realize played a decisive role in leading your country into the disaster in Iraq...In these circumstances, knowing what the world knows about how you treat prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison, in Bagram Air Base, in Guantanamo Bay -- including, if I may say, British citizens being held in those places -- I'm not sure how much credibility anyone would put on anything you manage to get from a prisoner in those circumstances...I know that standards have slipped over the last few years in Washington, but for a lawyer, you're remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice...On the very first page of your document about me, you assert that I have had many meetings with Saddam Hussein. This is false. I have had two meetings with Saddam Hussein, once in 1994 and once in August 2002. By no stretch of the English language can that be described as many meetings. In fact I’ve met him exactly the same number of times as Donald Rumsfeld met him. The difference is that Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns and to give him maps the better to target those guns...Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong, and 100,000 people have paid with their lives — 1,600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies...Senator, this is the mother of all smokescreens. You are trying to divert attention from the crimes that you supported from the theft of billions of dollars of Iraq's wealth. Have a look at the real scandal, revealed in the earlier testimony in this committee that the biggest sanctions busters were not me, or Russian politicians or French politicians, the real sanction busters were your own companies with the connivance of your own government."

If I should ever find myself—either physically or metaphorically—in a foxhole, I think I'd opt for George Galloway of Great Britain as my partner. Incidentally, it appears that Galloway so unnerved his accusers with his feisty self-defense that all Norm Coleman, the Minnesota senator who led this inquisition, could say afterward was, "Mr Galloway's credibility is certainly suspect and if in fact he lied to this committee then there will have to be consequences to that." He seemed to have made no particular mention of specific evidence against Galloway. But as we all know, evidence doesn't mean much in American politics anymore.

Nevertheless, it would seem that Mr. George Galloway is not exactly intimidated by the might of the U.S. Neocon Senate. I guess they don't make their liberals as mealy-mouthed and sedate in Scotland as they do in Washington. Fortunately, the few Texas liberals we have left are just as pugnacious as Galloway—I am thinking specifically of Bill Moyers, Jim Hightower, and Molly Ivins.

But note one thing that Galloway and Moyers have in common in their respectively bold but perfectly-targeted keelhaulings of the Bush/Neocon Empire, which Barbara Boxer and other left-wing politicians could learn from: the relative absence of the word "fight." Moyers used it but once in his recent speech to the National Press Club, to describe the deleterious effect of a government propaganda machine on a people's will to defend itself—contrast this with statements from the likes of Boxer and Harry Reid, who talk, rather vainly, of fighting in every other sentence.

But George Galloway didn't talk about his "fight" against the Neocon march to war: instead, he described himself as having given "my heart and soul" to stop the evil that was concocted under deceitful pretenses at the White House and No. 10 Downing St. We can learn a lot by listening to people like George Galloway, who even in a highly emotional moment and under extreme pressure, retreated from the use of power-rhetoric and spoke instead from the depths of his heart. Thus also did Lao Tzu, some 2,600 years ago, advise us to speak and act:

For there is no greater error
Than looking outward for enemies.
To look outward for enemies
Is to estrange your only true self.

This is why two sides opposed
Will fight to a bloody draw,
Where sorrow is the only victor.