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A Brief Foray Into Primetime: LOST as Shakespearean Drama

| Thu Apr. 5, 2007 2:39 PM EDT

Last night's "Lost" left main gals Kate (brunette) and Juliet (blond) handcuffed together and running through the wilds a la "Charlie's Angels." As the two made their way through the brush, it struck me that their names are both found in Shakespearean works: Kate as the prickly one in "The Taming of the Shrew," and Juliet as the star-crossed lover in "Romeo and Juliet." In traditional Shakespearean fashion, both gals have picked the same man as their ill-fated lover.

As cliché as it is for two women to catfight over a man, I thought the episode was interesting. Kate's tortured relationship with her own mother, and Juliet's work at making women into mothers (she's a fertility doctor) brought an interesting psychological element to the episode. Kate yearned to be supported by her estranged mother, but by killing her mother's husband, she condemned the relationship to failure. Juliet, on the other hand, only wanted to help her sister get pregnant, and was then recruited to work on a fecund, jungle island where no one has any trouble getting pregnant.

It's worth noting that there has been very little female bonding on this male-written show. Although men bro down like there's no tomorrow--trekking into the woods, killing boars, hiding guns--the women are seemingly not very interested in interacting with one another, save when they need to take a pregnancy test. In fact, I can't think of a single episode that's focused on a female-female relationship in the show's three year history.

Ultimately, I don't know if the episode furthered any plot arcs, except for the fact that The Others are now seemingly gone except for Juliet. Quite a few bloggers have suggested that (like Shakespeare's Juliet at the masked ball) Juliet is a decoy, a mechanism for getting inside the Losties once and for all. If she does, I hope she takes the time to make friends with some of the women, because I'm tired of men being the only ones with female friends on the show.

Okay, back to reality, where we have our own ongoing mayhem and tragedies to deal with.

—Jen Phillips

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John Walker Lindh Asks for Shorter Sentence in Light of Hicks Plea Deal

| Thu Apr. 5, 2007 12:42 PM EDT

In light of David Hicks' sentencing to nine months in an Australian prison, John Walker Lindh is requesting that his 20-year sentence be reduced. An entry on Lindh from the Mother Jones Iraq War Timeline:

[Lindh is captured on November 25, 2001 and] will be charged with ten counts, including conspiring to support terrorist organizations and conspiring to murder Americans. Maximum sentence: three life terms and 90 additional years in prison. He will eventually plead guilty to two counts: violating an executive order prohibiting US citizens from giving their services to the Taliban and committing a felony while carrying firearms. He'll be sentenced to 20 years in prison, a long sentence for a nonviolent felony conviction for a first-time offender.

David Hicks is an Australian who was caught fighting for the Taliban by the Northern Alliance. John Walker Lindh is an American who was caught fighting for the Taliban by the Northern Alliance. One could probably argue that Hicks' sentence is too light (and pretty clearly a political move designed to help the unpopular conservative Australian PM John Howard in an election year), and one could probably argue that Lindh's sentence is too heavy. Dude was an incredibly screwed up 19-year-old when he made his way to a Pakistani madrassa and began his journey to "terrorist" status.

Keep in mind that Lindh was tried and sentenced roughly half a year after he was captured, whereas Hicks was held in Guantanamo for almost five years without charge.

And FYI, Mother Jones has done some really good work on John Walker Lindh in the past. See "Trial by Fury" and "Anatomy of a Whistleblower."

Giuliani Flip-Flop-Flips on Flat Tax

| Thu Apr. 5, 2007 12:02 PM EDT

Rudy Giuliani is was one of the GOP's strongest opponents to a flat tax. When Steve Forbes was running for president on the idea in 1996, Rudy "disparaged a flat tax in general and Mr. Forbes's plan in particular," according to the New York Times. Rudy said a flat tax "would really be a disaster."

But what's a disaster between presidential candidates? In exchange for Steve Forbes' endorsement, Giuliani recently announced he was a big proponent of the flat tax. He said of a federal income tax, "maybe I'd suggest not doing it at all, but if we were going to do it, a flat tax would make a lot of sense."

Okay, so that's a flip-flop. Care to reverse your position again, and make it a flip-flop-flip?

[When asked how he could support a flat tax after long opposition, Giuliani said,] "I didn't favor it, I said something academic... What I said was, and it was not a joke, but it was half-jocular, was if we didn't have an income tax...what would I favor? First I would favor no tax. That would be my first position. My second position would probably be a flat tax."
But, he said, the tax "would probably not be feasible."

I love this attitude. Can you imagine him as president? "Oh, did I say we should bomb Iran? I was kidding. But kidding on the square. I was, like, half kidding. Oh, Ahmadinejad launch an attack on Israel as a response? Crap. You're kidding, right?"

The problem with Giuliani, and maybe this is a good problem, is that he isn't comfortable flip-flopping. McCain panders to people he once despised and Romney has reversed his entire playbook on social issues -- and both are sticking to their reversals, no matter how shameless or false they appear, and no matter how hard they get hammered for it. Giuliani, on the other hand, seems uncomfortable abandoning positions he has long held, and after he abandons them, he claims them back, or gets hopelessly muddled.

Maybe that's to his credit.

More on this at Bruce Reed's space on Slate. Also, Cameron blogged about the flat tax and Giuliani's relationship to the crooked Bernard Kerik in an earlier post titled "Giuliani Meltdown."

Giuliani Flip-Flop-Flips on Public Funding for Abortions

| Thu Apr. 5, 2007 11:39 AM EDT

Earlier, I wrote about Giuliani's flip-flops on public funding for abortion:

A top Rudy advisor has told the conservative National Review that Rudy opposes public funding for abortions. That's very different from Rudy's position in the 90s, when he ran for office touting his support for public funding.

CNN dug further into this recently when it interviewed Giuliani, and some poor writer had to figure out how to transcribe Giuliani's endless maneuvering and non-answers. Check it out.

In a 1989 speech now being widely circulated on the Internet, Giuliani called for public funding of abortions for poor women, saying, "We cannot deny any woman the right to make her own decision about abortion because she lacks resources."
Asked by Bash [the interviewer] if he would maintain that position as president, Giuliani said "probably."
"I would have to re-examine all of those issues and exactly what was at stake then -- that was a long time ago," he said. "When I was mayor, adoptions went up, abortions went down. But ultimately, it's a constitutional right, and therefore if it's a constitutional right ... you have to make sure that people are protected."
Pressed if he would support public funding for abortions, Giuliani said, "If it would deprive someone of a constitutional right, yes, if that's the status of the law, then I would, yes."
After the interview, Giuliani's campaign clarified that if elected, he would not seek to change current federal law, which limits public funding for abortions to cases of rape, incest or where the life of the pregnant woman is in danger.

So within the space of one interview, Giuliani says he would "probably" support public funding for abortions, then says he would have to support public funding because choice is a constitutional right, then says he would not support public funding except in a few instances.

All of this from a guy who has spent his career being a strong pro-choice advocate, and is known for his strength and resolve.

McCain's Bazaar Photo Op Saga Ends in Bloodshed

| Wed Apr. 4, 2007 9:06 PM EDT

God, this is so sad.

21 Shia market workers were ambushed, bound and shot dead north of the capital. The victims came from the Baghdad market visited the previous day by John McCain, the US presidential candidate, who said that an American security plan in the capital was starting to show signs of progress...
Mr. McCain said that the situation was showing signs of improvement and blamed waning support in the United States for the war on the media, which were portraying an overly negative image of the crisis.

I suppose if 21 people weren't killed coming out of the market, 21 different people would have been killed somewhere else, just because violence is that bad in Baghdad these days. But seriously, Jesus Christ.

What a horrible price to pay so an American politican could make a fake point to undergird his fake credibility.

Spotted on Wonkette.

Gingrich: Pie, Meet Boca

| Wed Apr. 4, 2007 8:54 PM EDT

gingrich.jpgAt a speech to the National Federation of Republican Women, Newt Gingrich argued that the United States should abolish bilingual education so that "people…learn the language of prosperity, not the language of living in a ghetto." The likely presidential candidate also said that the government should not require that ballots "be printed in any one of 700 languages depending on who randomly shows up" to vote. (Because non-English speakers do everything without foresight or logic, apparently.) The lady Republicans cheered thunderously.

Hispanics, however, were predictably peeved by these comments, and Gingrich was asked about them in an appearance on Hannity & Colmes. I'm not sure if his response there was anti-Semitic or just stupid, but he said, "Frankly, ghetto, historically had referred as a Jewish reference originally. I did not mention Hispanics, and I certainly do not want anybody who speaks Spanish to think I'm in any way less than respectful of Spanish or any other language spoken by people who come to the United States."

Finally, he faced the music and apologized to the Hispanic community—I mean, obviously, he meant no harm and doesn't hold any negative stereotypes or anything. What a bunch of oversensitive, hot-blooded, bean-eating, lazy, sombrero-wearing landscapers to think otherwise!

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Critical Mass Hysteria?

| Wed Apr. 4, 2007 8:43 PM EDT

When does activism go too far? That question was raised last Friday night when Critical Mass cyclists in San Francisco intentionally rammed their bikes into a kid-filled minivan, banged on the windshield and smashed the rear window wide open.

Critical Mass, for those who don't know, is a national, metropolitan-based movement where, on the first Friday of every month, hundreds of cyclists converge en masse and ride through city streets as a group. These routes are unannounced and often violate traffic signals and signs, immobilizing vehicular traffic and inspiring the ire of inconvenienced motorists. Critical Mass's message is not clear (due to the number of local groups) but centers around support for alternative, eco-friendly transportation.

Generally, Critical Mass events are peaceful. On this Friday ride, allegedly, the clueless, suburban driver had accidentally tapped the wheel of a cyclist (who, by his own admission, was not injured). The cyclists struck back for this slight, slamming into the minivan and eventually throwing a bike through the back window. The kids in the attacked minivan, out for a birthday dinner, were terrified, and the vehicle damage tops $5,000.

Thanks, Critical Mass, for literally making little girls cry, and for giving the conservatives another glob of mud to sling at the environmentally-conscious.

—Jen Phillips

More Neato Viddys on the Intertubes

| Wed Apr. 4, 2007 8:19 PM EDT

Cover/Parody/Mashup/Goofy Concept Edition!

Life After Cars

| Wed Apr. 4, 2007 8:03 PM EDT

Unlike the rest of the chorus chanting that Americans should drive less, James Howard Kunstler—the author of The Geography of Nowhere and The Long Emergency, an exploration of what life will be like after oil ceases to be plentiful and cheap—actually provides specifics.

Learn what they are on our environmental blog, The Blue Marble.

Life After Cars

| Wed Apr. 4, 2007 8:00 PM EDT

James Howard Kunstler, the author of The Geography of Nowhere, a history of suburbia, and The Long Emergency, an exploration of what life will be like after oil ceases to be plentiful and cheap, spoke at San Francisco's Commonwealth Club yesterday. Kunstler, unlike the rest of the chorus chanting that Americans should drive less, actually provides specifics. He argues that Americans are so reluctant to give up driving—despite the hassles of parking, long commutes, expensive insurance, and the fact that cars are killing us and the planet—because of the perverse human tendency to throw good money after bad. In this case, the bad money is 50 years of building suburbs.

Kunstler also has some relatively sane ideas about how we might start preparing for the time when we will have to drive less. We will have to rethink our industrial agricultural system, which has been accurately described as "The Oil We Eat." We should invest in rebuilding railroad and shipping infrastructures, to replace trucking.

The weird thing is, Kunstler's view is rather utopian. Giving up oil will cure what ails us about modernity: Locally owned small family farms will replace industrial agriculture, small businesses will replace Wal-Mart, and home schooling will replace public schools to which students are brought in a fleet of buses.

But alongside these heart-warming predictions, Kunstler also tells us to brace ourselves for serious battles over remaining resources, which, in the absence of mega-productive oil-fed agriculture and our most common forms of transportation, will need to be redistributed one way or the other. As to how to ensure that the redistribution will be equitable, not a peep.

So: Brace for a revolution, after which things will be surprisingly pleasant because they just will. Sounds kinda like Marxism, doesn't it? Even so, I think he's onto something with smart growth and railroads (to which I would add mass transit).