ustoo Dead

Sites to see:

Almost Essential
From the Left
From the Right
Magazines and Journals
Various Weblogs and Pundits
Think Tanks
Vast Right Wing Conspiracy
Shrill Leftist Garbage


Thursday, February 26, 2004

The Great Christ Hype: A few words about "The Passion of The Christ" 

Let me begin by saying that this movie is not anti-semitic. There is some anti-semitism there if you look hard enough, and if you yell loud enough about it, someone might listen to you. But really, it is a literal adaptation of the story I have seen, read and heard for most of my life. If you would call the film anti-semitic, you might as well say the same of the gospels.

I am pretty sure that the anti-semitism rag was all a part of the marketing hype that made me want to see the film in the first place. As long ago as last summer, I read NYT articles whispering about the jews foaming at the mouth and defouling the pure chrust. Jews as the source of all evil. This was followed by rumors of the film being shown only to fundamentalist christian groups and select journalists. Before I knew it, "The Passion" was the film to see. At a certain point, I wanted to see the film for two reasons: to see what the hype was all about and to see if it was any good. I suspect that this was a big part of Mel Gobson's genius in promoting this movie. He let the hype build up to a fever pitch by not allowing us even a glimpse of the thing before now.

The hype was just that: hype. Was the film any good? Meh (m-e-h). It was a brutal film. Brutal in the way that the story told of Jesus' death should probably be told if taken literally. On artistic quality, I will give it high marks for using shots and angles constantly evoking renaissance religious art. On acting and overal movie goodness, this film did not score too high. It was never intended to. Gibson said of the film:
My intention for this film was to create a lasting work of art and to stimulate serious thought and reflection among diverse audiences of all backgrounds...My ultimate hope is that this story’s message of tremendous courage and sacrifice might inspire tolerance, love and forgiveness. We’re definitely in need of those things in today’s world.
Gibson wanted to tell his version of the story of christ and that is exactly what he has done. This is a two hour long passion play. Little more. It is moving and powerful, a fact compounded by the sobbing going on about the theater.

I imagine that this film will become the stock of christian youth groups and missionaries, right next to Peter Sykes' 1979 production "Jesus"; a film that, though never released in thaeatres, has been used so prolifically as a recruitment tool for christianity it is one of the most watched films ever produced.

Some choice quotes from the reviews:
Ebert: "The MPAA's R rating is definitive proof that the organization either will never give the NC-17 rating for violence alone, or was intimidated by the subject matter."

David Edelstein: "This is a two-hour-and-six-minute snuff movie—The Jesus Chainsaw Massacre—that thinks it's an act of faith."

The Onion: "Gibson makes sure that no blow remains unfelt, and his approach can't help but stir the body, but he never touches the soul."

If you want to see a good film about the life of Jesus, rent "The Last Temptation of Christ." If you want to stare at the screen in semi-shock at the brutal end of this prolific historical figure, go and see "The Passion of the Christ"

-Ben  03:54 EST | |

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

New link 

Notice Topix added to the 'websites' section of the links column of this page. This is a comprehensive site that scrapes news items from, well, EVERYWHERE. I am pretty impressed with it and you should be, too.

-Ben  07:35 EST | |

Women's sufferage: I don't get it 

Mark is too chintzy to post this, so I will.

Suffrage doesn't please female Kansas state senator

By FINN BULLERS - The Kansas City Star

A prominent female state senator has said that she does not support the 19th Amendment, which guarantees women the right to vote, and that if it were being considered today she would vote against it.

Sen. Kay O'Connor recently told the co-presidents of the Johnson County League of Women Voters that the amendment was the first step in a decades-long erosion of traditional family values.

The Olathe Republican was in the audience at a public affairs forum on juvenile justice at Johnson County Community College on Sept. 19, when league co-president Delores Furtado asked her if she was planning to attend the league's "Celebrate the Right to Vote" luncheon. "You probably wouldn't want me there because of what I would have to say," O'Connor told Furtado after the forum had ended. "Wasn't it in the best interest of our country to give women the right to vote?" Furtado asked the senator. "Not necessarily so," O'Connor said.

Although she does vote, O'Connor said in two subsequent interviews with The Kansas City Star that if men had been protecting the best interests of women, then women would not be forced to cast ballots and serve in the state legislature. Instead, they could stay home, raise families and tend to domestic duties, she said.

O'Connor, the Senate's vice chairman of the elections and local government committee, said she could not help celebrate the 81-year-old piece of legislation, even though it gave her a statewide soapbox to share her views on everything from tax policy to school vouchers.

Asked if she supports the 19th Amendment, the Republican lawmaker responded: "I'm an old-fashioned woman. Men should take care of women, and if men were taking care of women (today) we wouldn't have to vote.

"I'm sorry women have not been taken more care of," she said. "We have gotten the short end of the stick."

If the measure were up for ratification today, she said, she would not support it. Furtado said she was dumbfounded by those views.

"If O'Connor was just an ordinary citizen", Furtado said, "I'd say fine. But when she serves in the Senate, she represents many people. She is the beneficiary of a system she doesn't support."

Beginning in the 1960s, O'Connor said in an interview, career doors began to open for women, bolstered by efforts of the earlier women's suffrage movement. The message to women, reinforced by books, television and magazines, O'Connor said, was to abandon more traditional homemaker roles and enter the workplace. And with the onset of higher taxes to finance social welfare programs, said O'Connor, a 15-year homemaker, a second household income was necessary to make ends meet.

Consequently, the 19th Amendment was the beginning of a societal shift that today erodes traditional family values, she said. O'Connor said that in her case, mounting medical bills to care for a sick daughter forced her into the workplace. Rules created by men did not allow her the opportunity to stay at home and care for her child, she said. Searching for something to do in retirement, O'Connor got into politics by accident when she was drafted by a neighborhood gathering to run for theHouse of Representatives in 1992.

O'Connor, who concedes she has a reputation for speaking her mind, said she was not afraid to let her view be known.

"My husband is the head of the household and I am the heart. And the head can't live without the heart," she said during the interview. "I offer my suggestions, but I give (my husband) the right to make the final

As a state leader, O'Connor said, it is more important to stay true to her convictions than simply mirror the views of her constituents.

"And if I don't get re-elected, my only punishment is to go home to my husband and my roses and my children and my grandchildren," she said. "And if the trips to Topeka get to be too much and my husband asks me to quit... I would."

O'Connor has just completed the first year of a four-year term in the Senate after serving eight years in the House of Representatives.

League co-president Janis McMillan also was surprised by O'Connor's views.

"It is mind-boggling," said McMillan. "Kay is proud of (her position) and isn't hesitant to tell anyone.

"To me, it sends the wrong message to women today that you don't need to use your mind -- just become an appendage to your husband."

The League of Women Voters is making final arrangements for its Oct. 9

The league hopes to hold a luncheon every year until 2020 -- the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment.

By then, organizers hope to have raised enough money to throw a yearlong community celebration to recognize women who blazed the trail for equal pay, the right to own property and the right to hold elected office.

My only solace in this is that if she had her way, O'Conner herself would not be able to vote.

-Ben  01:02 EST | |

Monday, February 16, 2004

Could this be true? 

According to the Theater of the Absurd blog, Microsoft has filed suit against the NFL for use of the letters XL for Super Bowl Forty, which is still two years away. Though some of the article is specifically tongue-in-cheek, this item seems to have possible validity. Could someone please find out and let me know if this is actually true? You can read the actual post here.

-Matt  15:46 EST | |

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Binions, The WSOP, and Harrah's 

I know how into poker everyone has gotten lately, and I'm not sure if you already knew this, but I recently found out that Binion's Horseshoe, the site of every World Series of Poker since it's inception, has recently closed it's doors. Seems Becky Behnen, the heir to the throne (so to speak) was lousy with the finances and ran the property into the ground. The casino owed creditors, employees, and gamblers hundreds of thousands of dollars. Thankfully for those of us who are trying to get a WSOP berth, Harrah's Corp. has acquired the property and the rights to the World Series in a very hush-hush deal [Read about it here]. Though it is somewhat sad to see the seminal poker event pass into the hands of a soulless corporation, poker has no soul, so that shouldn't be much of a problem. Harrah's runs great casinos and they will do an excellent job running the World Series. Plus, maybe they'll destroy the old Horseshoe and build a casino that actually makes some reasonable sense to walk through.

-Matt  14:28 EST | |

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

A Response to Ziggy 

The bastards at Blogger won't let me write a comment this long, so I'm making a post (I can't just shorten it: each word is as important as the one that proceeds it. No, more important. No, as important.):

Yes, of course, any rational, moral person should support gay marriage -- including our next president. Should he do it publically? Oh, hell no. It's a political lightning rod and half the ignorant voters in the country will latch on to that one thing and vote based on that (let's assume, correctly, that ignorance=anti-homosexual marriage). Now, I understand that we expect our candidates to possess no moral ambiguity about any important issue, but would it have ever been an option to not answer the question? I don't support him lying about it, but I have to agree that he's a bastard if he seriously thinks that it's wrong. Either way, his opinion is politically advantageous, and isn't that kind of what we're looking for here? I know we feel like whores supporting someone who thinks bad things, but aren't we kind of making this choice anyway? Kerry is not the political golden boy, fulfilling my deepest fantasies about the ideal President; he is simply not-Bush. If we have to choose someone based on how not-bad they are, I'd much rather go with someone who (at least, so he says) is against gay marriage than I would someone who is against homosexuals, the environment, good public education, sensible foreign policy, and proper book-larned english. Someday, we'll have the perfect candidate for President, but until then, I'll keep supporting whoever sucks the least.

-Matt  10:48 EST | |

Monday, February 09, 2004

Should Kerry support gay marriage? 

Okay, so my assumption-- not based on much more than hope and Kerry's vote against DOMA in '96-- is that Kerry is not personally opposed to gay marriage. But, like all of the major Dem candidates, he has publicly stated that he is opposed to gay marriage and he has said that the Mass. Supreme Court decision was wrong. It is now being reported that Kerry may come out in favor of the proposed Mass. Constitutional amendment that would limit marriage to differently sexed couples.

Now, of course, I am appalled at this. Gay marriage is obviously the morally correct position

But, assuming that it is the politically smart thing to do, should Kerry cave to the bigotry of the majority in supporting this constitutional amendment? Would he really suffer for making a politically unpopular moral stand? It seems that most persons who are strongly opposed to gay marriage won't be voting Dem anyway (has anyone seen good polling numbers on this?), so the cost would actually be less than assumed and it may have the positive political consequence that Kerry is seen as a man of principle (not that I see this as a weakness), but it may also solidify the growing reputation--deserved or not-- of a Mass. liberal (which is a good thing, morally).

Anyway... I'd love to hear everyone's opinions on this.

-Ziggy Stardust  12:44 EST | |

Thursday, February 05, 2004

The only reason I can think of to get you all to come to LA 

Or: I've been reduced to this.
I was looking at's wonderful interactive Election Calendar (for the less-politically informed -- me), and I noticed that a Democratic presidential primary debate will take place on February 26 at the Los Angeles Times. I'm going and I think anyone who wants to hit the campaign trail this year for a Dem (Ben, I'm looking in your direction) should join me . Everyone else can just watch it on CNN.

-Matt  11:15 EST | |

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

A post that begiins as "more on America's debt troubles," but quickly devolves into an unfocused, angry rant. 

"Mark Kleinman, who runs an excellent blog, has an insightful and worrisome post on the possibility of America suffering an Argentinean-style currency crisis."
-From Ziggy in this post a couple of days ago. I suggest you read it and the Kleiman post to which it refers.

"...spending has increased more rapidly than under any president since Lyndon Johnson, and Mr. Bush refuses to pay for it. I've seen that story before — in Argentina."
-From Nicholas Kristof, In his column today, writing about the scary monster known as the 2005 Federal Budget.

How can it be that the supposedly greatest and wisest nation in all the land suddenly decides to elect leaders who would do their best to ruin our economy, ruin our international standing, ruin our environment, ruin our human rights record and halt the foreward progress of civil rights?

How can it be that we are all just standing by and allowing this to happen? There are so many voices that aren't being heard right now. The unemployed and the long term unemployed who have lost their benefits. The seniors and soon-to-be-retired persons who have seen social security surpluses disappear and who have just seen their prescription drug costs become unaffordable. The children who will have to pay for all of this, this- I want to say fiscal irresponsibility here, but it is so much more than that- in the future. Gays who want little more than recognition of a love that dare not speak it's name. Cancer patients whose disease was hurried along by high environmental levels of Mercury and the cap and trade system that led to a rediculously high concentration of the metal near their home. Native born American citizens held as enemy combatants. Where are they?

Oh yeah, wait. Many have been placated by this administration's policies. By the false security blanket of our invasion of Iraq. By the all time lowest interest rates that allowed them to refinance their home. By the above avrerage tax refund they have gotten, or will get in April. By the new 12-ton SUV in the driveway that was a tax write-off because they own a small business. By...well, that's about it. Forget that their children's schools are failing because of an un-funded mandate called no child left behind. Forget that their pensions and after retirement health care benefit have just disappeared.

Maybe the trouble is that people feel safe under Bush 43. America feels as though he has provided protection from terrorism and now he is improving the economy. We believed him about the WMD in Iraq and now we are there, entrenched in this war of insurgency.

God forbid we should accept that we and the President were wrong about the Yellowcake. Then we might have been wrong to go into Iraq, wrong to have killed so many (note: I would have supported the war in Iraq for other reasons). So, we will continue to believe, ratheer than admit we were wrong. America has believed Bush's lies and because we have believed them, we apparently trust him now. This trust, left alone, will give this president purvue to continue wrecking this country.

But there's hope. G.W.'s approval rating has dropped below 50% for the first time in his presidency. A majority of 562 people asked said they would vote for John Kerry, even John Edwards, over our current president. If election season does what it does best, namely drag Bush's (apparently) good name through the foulest, darkest, mud, then maybe more people will begin to distrust this man. Maybe someone can have a chance to undo some of this mess and get this country back on track again.

I can imagine better candidates than John Kerry for a November run. But my god, I don't care anymore. Just give me someone who will win.

-Ben  17:03 EST | |

Kicking Ass 

I am certain men as learned as yourselves know that the DNC's new blog is called Kicking Ass, but when I found that out today, I laughed out loud.

-Matt  13:11 EST | |

Monday, February 02, 2004


Mark Kleinman, who runs an excellent blog, has an insightful and worrisome post on the possibility of America suffering an Argentinean-style currency crisis.

A currency crisis is scary and I hope to god is doesn't happen, but it isn't the real point of this point. You see, Mark and I were talking the other night about current account balances (yes, we're lame, but if you're reading this you already knew that) and we both realized that we didn't really understand this element of intl. econ (Mark had the better excuse since he didn't take the class; my excuse is a pretty girl in class, not the most compelling mitigating factor ever presented). And thus the larger point: a lot of political/economic issues are really fucking complicated (RFC if you will) and if Mark and I- being fairly non-representative regarding our interest in political issues as well as our education (not that this is any sort of normative claim)- often don't understand the RFC issues... HOW THE HELL ARE OTHER PEOPLE SUPPOSED TO KNOW?

So this is why we have representative government and even more so why we have the administrative state (technocrats in agencies doing the expert work). But here's the rub: the systems of governance that we've developed depend on the good faith of the actors (both political and technical) and, importantly, the watchdog function of the press to call the foul when good faith is breached (and by good faith I mean more than technical honesty, but the intention of acting with integrity and with a public purpose).

America is no longer being governed in good faith. The revised Medicare costs is just the latest sign of an administration that no longer even attempts to govern in a fashion that is transparent or responsible. And Congress and the vast majority of the press are complicit in the Administration's failure.

And Bush et al are getting away with it because the issues are, again, (usually, not always) RFC and so the lies will be claimed to be non-lies and the public can't really tell the difference. And the media, with the god-bless-him-exception of Dana Milbank at the Washpo and "crazy-fanatic" Krugman, plays the "he-said, she-said" game and no one who doesn't spend an inordinate amount of time following the details knows who the hell is telling the truth. And, since it is RFC, people just split the difference since there still exists the presumption of good faith.

So, basically, I don't think Bush et al will get caught until they do something really stupid and that is there seemingly only skill: their lies and mistakes are usually complicated enough that they can sufficiently muddle the picture and cast doubts upon their accusers.

Oh god.

-Ziggy Stardust  17:05 EST | |

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Necessary TV watching (that isn't the West Wing) 

Ok, all you political junkies, movie buffs and moviepoliticos(I think I made that word up), get ready to watch Tanner'88 on Sundance. They will start showing this on tue, 3 Feb at 9pm eastern time.

Why should you watch this? 1: It is directed by Robert Altman. 2:It is written by Garry Trudeau. and 3: It is supposed to be a very insightful, funny, even delightful take at presidential politics. Good fun for anytime, especially election season.

-Ben  20:29 EST | |

the grinch who stole the party? 

Look out, Democrats. Did you know that the Clintons are the architects of an insudious plot to maintain a grip on the democratic party, all the while sinking the ships of Dean and others? It's all right here at OpinionJournal. Sheesh! I expect that Hillary Clinton may be moving in to position for a 2008 presidential run, but this piece is just rediculous. I guess the Clintons remain polarizing figures even without the presidency.

-Ben  10:56 EST | |

About us:

This weblog is an ongoing, if periodic, effort by several friends to stay in touch, in reading material, and in ideas.

Lucky Luciano is a former Italian Stallion real estate hustler and Benedict Arnold CEO turned shady lawyer-to-be. He lives in Denver.

Ben is a Paramedic and would-be philantropist who lives in Denver. He knows everything about nothing.

Fuzzy Dunlop lives in Manhattan. He is more than capable of standing up to the stresses of a high crime urban environment.

Jess is a teacher. But have YOU given her an apple? No, you haven't. You should be ashamed of yourself. This crazy feminist currently rests her copy of Awakening in Jersey City.

Matt is a pariah, iconoclast, and professor of gambling living in Oakland.

Miguel Sanchez is not Lionel Hutz.

Daddy Brooklyn lives in Brooklyn. He hates Republicans, though he wouldn't mind being ensconced in the landed elite of New York City.

Paul just smoked my eyelids and punched my cigarette.

Ziggy Stardust has no past.

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