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11/08/2002

 

"the severest consequences"



why do people believe that it's george w. bush who's driving us to war? there is only one man on earth who can force war between the united states and iraq: saddam hussein. today's rather unsurprising u.n. resolution makes that painfully clear: if saddam doesn't cooperate, he will be made to pay. saddam, not george w. bush, has made the case for war against iraq, and it will be saddam, not george w. bush, who provokes war if it should come to that.

the newly-passed u.n. resolution is a summary of all those which came before. you know, the ones saddam has been defying for the last ten years. if he will not relent to weapons inspectors now, in the face of a certain full-scale military response which will in all likelihood cost him his throne, then there can be no course but war. for if saddam hussein would sooner go to war with the most powerful military in history than turn over his weapons of mass destruction, that in and of itself is all the justification we could ever need to go to war with iraq: saddam would not risk so much on those weapons if he wasn't planning on getting some even bigger return from them down the road.

seeing as it is probably going to come to war--does anyone really believe saddam is going to cooperate for any length of time?--i can't for the life of me figure out why one of his own generals doesn't take hussein out now. war with the united states means certain defeat. iraq's generals have to know that--after all, saddam may be mad but that doesn't mean everyone who works for him is. furthermore, the united states has told them in no uncertain terms that they will be held personally responsible for using chemical weapons whether they were obeying saddam's orders or not, thus eliminating the only conceivable scenario in which they could win. so what options do they have? to obey saddam means an unwinable war and the tens of thousands of needless deaths it would bring. since one way or the other saddam is history, why not overthrow him themselves? not only would the generals be spared any potential war crimes charges, but they would be the heroes of the iraqi people. and if they call up kofi annan and tell him where he can find all of saddam's WMD caches, they'll be the heroes of the world. seems like a pretty simple choice to me. is the president playing the old brinkmanship game to force a coup d'etat? if so, let's hope his ploy works.

locdog believes the writing on the wall is plain enough to give it a good chance




 

ten best films of the last 25 years



cnn's got a story on a top ten list put together by british film-critics. the list stretches back from the present to january of 1978, where its statute of limitations runs out. making the cut are:

1. "Apocalypse Now" (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979)

2. "Raging Bull" (Martin Scorsese, 1980).

3. "Fanny and Alexander" (Ingmar Bergman, 1982).

4. "GoodFellas" (Martin Scorsese, 1990).

5. "Blue Velvet" (David Lynch, 1986).

6. "Do the Right Thing" (Spike Lee, 1989).

7. "Blade Runner" (Ridley Scott, 1982).

8. "Chungking Express" (Wong Kar-Wai, 1994).

9. "Distant Voices, Still Lives" (Terence Davies, 1988).

10. (tie) "Once Upon a Time in America" (Sergio Leone, 1983).

10. (tie) "Yi yi (A One and a Two ... ) (Edward Yang, 1999).


a few nits to pick. first, apocalypse now?

Nick James, editor of Sight & Sound, said "Apocalypse Now" topped the list because it's a richly complex, madcap experiment in war film-making that "never falls from the tightrope it walks between extravagance and profundity."

apparently mr. james fast-forwarded through the ending, where the film not only fell off its tightrope, but plummeted ten stories to the jagged rocks below. on fire. with no parachute. marlon brando's performance was a travesty, dennis hopper was...well...dennis hopper--which begs the question: why in the blue hell did coppola ever let him into his movie in the first place? the writing in the film's final sequences came completely unhinged and it leads one to believe that the filmmaker had lost all control over his creation--not that i would hasten to find fault: who could conceive of an ending that would do it justice?

"apocalypse now" was a triumph of experimental filmmaking. clearly it's one of the best of the past twenty-five years, but does the film's imagination and artistry outweigh its significant flaws, particularly when so many of the films below it would rival its style while avoiding its mistakes? an olympic gymnast could give the finest performance ever offered in world competition, but one ill-timed fall could cost him the gold. perhaps the reason AN is so frequently forgiven of sins that would be mortal in lesser films is its disjointed nature: various and sundry chunks of movie hastily spot-welded with narrative. a person could take the those chunks, shuffle them, and still have a movie which is just as good after only a few minor changes--not that there's anything wrong with that: virtually all quest films play out the same way, with the hero wandering through a strange and mysterious fantasy land with all sorts of unrelated adventures awaiting him as he seeks the castle where his maiden fare is being held captive. AN's plot is driven by sheen's quest to assassinate a mad colonel, but just as with the princess in the tower, it's a mere pretense. watching the film, one never gets the impression that it’s going anywhere--but it's so darned fascinating along the way that it doesn't bother you. enter marlon brando in the final sequences, and some sort of vague suggestion that he (or men like him) is the product of the war, or the cause of the war, or both. it's a half-hearted attempt to tie everything together into a cohesive whole, but it's largely ineffective. like our gymnast, the film passes through the tumbling runs and rings and parallel bars with flying colors, but all of those wonderful elements won't help when AN crashes to the mat on its final dismount--that isn't the sort of final impression one wants to leave with the judges.

enough coppola bashing. where's "crouching tiger, hidden dragon"? you would have thought that the next "citizen kane" had just been filmed judging by its initial reviews. guess this is why professional sport leagues make a player wait five or ten years before he's eligible for the hall of fame.

no "schindler's list"? no "amistad"? no "private ryan"? will spielberg ever make an important film? that guy has done more legacy building than bill clinton and jimmy carter combined, but he can't seem to escape his popcorn roots.

no "deer hunter"? finest wedding sequence ever filmed. hands down the most emotionally powerful war film ever made. one of deniro's great performances.

no "pulp fiction"? why not, too pulpy? the chunks of tarantino's film were no less disparate than coppola's but were united with infinitely more aplomb. his choice of subject matter was, in its own funny way, only slightly less grand. the filmmaker made a game of sequential narration but it never came off as being film-schoolish: far from unnecessary clutter or a cheap gimmick, the manner in which the story was told contributed as much as the plot itself. dare i say wellsian? wellsian.

no "shawshank redemption"? when, Lord, will the critics dislodge their craniums from their posteriors and acknowledge that, were a martian to land on the planet earth and demand an explanation for the mystifying concept of "human spirit", no painter, no sculptor, no bard could offer a finer explanation than frank darabont's 142 minute masterpiece? morgan freeman's performance remains one of the most underrated in film history.

no "life is beautiful"? a close second in the "human spirit" category, i found more or less everything about la vita e bella overrated, including its star/director. don't misunderstand: it was a great film by any standard, one which i enjoyed whole-heartedly and would recommend to anyone. but like CTHD, what little history has passed between now and then hasn't been nearly so kind as the early hype.

ah, well. the whole reason they make these things is so that people will have something to bicker over. here's mine, by the way, but feel free to offer your own thoughts in response:

1. raging bull (scorsese, 80)

2. the shawshank redemption (darabont, 94)

3. pulp fiction (tarantino, 94)

4. the deer hunter (cimino, 78)

5. crouching tiger, hidden dragon (lee, 00)

6. blade runner (scott, 82)

7. raiders of the lost ark (spielberg, 81)

8. goodfellas (scorsese, 90)

9. the matrix (wachowski bros., 99)

10. unforgiven (eastwood, 92)


and since the real critics had a tie...

10. (tie) who framed roger rabbit (zemeckis, 88)

locdog would give honorable mentions to "pi", "the usual suspects", and "akira"




11/07/2002

 

can't calvinists and arminians all just get along?



i've been plodding through joseph arminius' thoughts on predestination and in the course of my investigation i unearthed the following account of an interview between john wesley, famed arminian, and a calvinist by the name of charles simeon. simeon, the interviewer, asks a series of questions that i cannot help but think he was wise enough to know the answers to in advance.

"Sir, I understand that you are called an Arminian; and I have been sometimes called a Calvinist; and therefore I suppose we are to draw daggers. But before I consent to begin the combat, with your permission I will ask you a few questions.... Pray, Sir, do you feel yourself a depraved creature, so depraved that you would never have thought of turning to God, if God had not first put it into your heart?"

"Yes," says [wesley], "I do indeed."

"And do you utterly despair of recommending yourself to God by anything you can do; and look for salvation solely through the blood and righteousness of Christ?"

"Yes, solely through Christ."

"But, Sir, supposing you were at first saved by Christ, are you not somehow or other to save yourself afterwards by your own works?"

"No, I must be saved by Christ from first to last."

"Allowing, then, that you were first turned by the grace of God, are you not in some way or other to keep yourself by your own power?"

"No."

"What, then, are you to be upheld every hour and every moment by God, as much as an infant in its mother's arms?"

"Yes, altogether."

"And is all your hope in the grace and mercy of God to preserve you unto His heavenly kingdom?"

"Yes, I have no hope but in Him."

"Then, Sir, with your leave I will put up my dagger again; for this is all my Calvinism; this is my election, my justification by faith, my final perseverance: it is in substance all that I hold and as I hold it; and therefore, if you please, instead of searching out terms and phrases to be a ground of contention between us, we will cordially unite in those things wherein we agree."

those guys had class, didn't they? style, too: simeon's rhetorical point was driven home with delightful tact but more than a little flare, and wesley's simple, sincere responses were the perfect compliment. i'm probably going to be tackling this topic of predestination in the coming days, but before i did i thought that this would be an appropriate way frame the debate.

locdog isn't all snarls and slobber




11/06/2002

 

what surprise republican victory?



is anyone really that surprised by the GOP's big win? if you are an astute observer of the media then you are doubtless aware that they always project rather rather rosy scenarios for the democrats. so reliable is the statistical bias in media election predictions that i've come up with five little correction factors that will never let you down:

1. if the media is projecting a democratic landslide, the democrats will pickup modest gains

2. if the media is projecting modest gains for the democrats, it's a dead heat

3. if the media is projecting a dead heat, the republicans will pickup modest gains

4. if the media is projecting modest gains for the republicans, it's a republican landslide

5. the media will never project a republican landslide


this election was no different than 1994 mid-terms, for example. the press was calling that contest a dead heat between republicans and democrats with the control of congress too close to call, etc. in the 2000 presidentials, virtually all media polls had bush either dead-even or trailing gore right up until the election, a few had gore with a significant lead. in this year's mid-terms, the press was calling it a dead-heat once more, and once more the republicans picked up modest gains--modest in terms of numerical superiority, not in terms of the impact it will have on our nation's future. there's nothing modest about that.

i'm telling you folks, if vegas gave point spreads on election results you could get rich! rich! rich! just by applying these five little rules. either that or you could watch fox news and simply take them at their word. both ways will work.

locdog is glad he could help




11/05/2002

 

vote one's conscience or vote for the guy who can win?



most of the people who read this blog regularly (that is, my wife and mother) are pro-life. most pro-lifers vote on the basis of that issue alone. if there are two pro-life candidates to choose from (and maybe when we get to heaven there will be) they'll pick the one with the better politics, but otherwise it always comes down to the litmus test of abortion.

let us suppose that we have a tightly contested race between a moderately pro-life republican, a vehemently pro-choice democrat, and a third party candidate who is staunchly, brazenly pro-life but who hasn't got a snowball's chance in satan's hot coco of winning an election. what do you do?

"vote your conscience! vote for the pro-life candidate! if we don't, the republicans will never move to the right."

"vote for the guy who can win! don't throw your vote away and help the democrat! if you do, how many more babies will die when he gets elected?"

it's a tough choice since both sides of the debate clearly have their merits. i think it best for everyone to pray about this and then vote the way they think God would have them vote, but i'll give you my opinion as food for thought.

for the foreseeable furure, no candidate who is as staunchly pro-life as most of us are will be elected president. the nation simply won't have it. the media would lash the poor fellow without mercy. he would be the butt of late night jokes and fodder for leftwing pundits railing against the evils of extremism. moderates would flock to the democrats simply to avoid the misogynistic demon who wants to destroy a woman's right to choose. even if exceptions were made for rape, incest, and the life of the mother, most people would still be squeamish about the prospects of revoking what they perceive to be a fundamental liberty. that's not a problem of election strategies, it's a problem with the soul of the american people, with a country that's lost its moral foundation. so even if the religious right, roman catholics, and other pro-life voting blocs were to defect from the republican party en masse to support an alan keyes, it's unlikely that the republicans would be willing to nominate such a candidate themselves. our nation is so closely divided right now that votes of the moderates are too important to risk.

"a lot of good those will do them without their core, locdog."

true enough, but if the GOP moves to the far right on abortion to win their core, what then? why, instead of losing every election 20 to 80, they lose them 40 to 60. and in all cases the democrats gain power. and in all cases more babies are aborted. right now, the best bet is to vote for the guy who can win, any way you slice it. don't believe me? think back to the way we were all hoping for ralph nader to annex al gore's base in the 2000 presidentials. think back to how the press was begging the far left to stick with gore rather than casting a de facto vote for george w. bush. hell, i even flirted with the idea of buying a ralph nader bumper sticker. look, the problem with abortion in this country isn't going to be solved by our government, my friends. it's going to be solved in the hearts and minds of individual americans all across the fruited plains, if ever. when the people of this nation have experienced revival and are once again ready to accept the truth then they will demand change in abortion law, but not until then. if you live in a very conservative state where pro-life third party candidates consistently make strong showings, then you might want to go ahead and vote for him. in such a state, the republicans will probably give you what you want sooner rather than later, or perhaps the third party guy will even manage to pull it off. but on a national level, i think we are stuck with taking the best we can get until the hearts of the american people change, and washington doesn't have the power to change hearts.

locdog has voted for pro-life democrats, by the way




 

big gay sheep and the ethics of choice



why have all of my posts lately been on the topic of roman catholicism or homosexuality? any psychologists our there? on second thought, don't tell me. i'd probably be happier not knowing.

today brings us another story in a string of gay animal reports stretching back over the last decade or so. this time, it's sheep. 27, to be exact, with 10 ewes, 8 straight rams, and 9 big gay rams that baaaaaaaahh’d with a pronounced lisp and displayed an inordinate fascination with interior design. the point of the study? researchers claim that human male homosexuals had different brains than male heterosexuals did, however, these studies were performed on the bodies of men who had died from aids, hence the differences could have been caused by the disease or the drugs used to treat it. the researchers say that they have now found similar differences in the brains of sheep which would indicate that the discrepancies between straight and gay human brains was indeed linked to homosexuality.

my parents have a neutered female dog that will mount furniture, dismayed houseguests, even their two cats. is my dog transgendered? is she a serial rapist male trapped in a female's body? traditionally such behavior is explained as social dominance, but now politics and research are more or less indistinguishable so perfectly workable traditional understandings are flung out the window in favor of someone's notion of social justice--witness the so-called "gay gene" debacle. it's sloppy science to say the least.

must the cause of the rams' behavior be "homosexuality" in the sense humans understand it? a pure attraction to members of the opposite sex with no underlying social causes contributing? gay animal sex, by and large, is like prison sex, but while this understanding accounts for most cases, a few are still slipping through the cracks. some reports i've read indicate that up to 10% of rams may be homosexual even when females are available, and that would indicate that there's more to gay sheep than establishing a *cough* pecking order.

let us suppose for a moment that there is a biological cause for homosexuality not only in animals, but in humans as well--and indeed, if science were to establish said cause in the animal kingdom, that alone would go a long way towards wrapping up the debate as far as homo sapien sapien is concerned. after all, biologically speaking, we are mammals just like our barnyard brethren.

but is biology all there is to the story? some Christians recoil at the thought of a "gay gene" or a biological mechanism that produces homosexual behavior, and there are certainly clinical reasons for their suspicion. the correlation between homosexual behavior and troubled childhoods is well-documented, however politically incorrect it may be. but if there was a gay gene, what then? "God would never make someone gay!" says who? God creates people like this john muhammad character, doesn't He? He creates sociopaths and serial rapists and people with all sorts of mental disorders that give them a taste for savagery. indeed, all of us are created with a sin nature, and whether homosexuality is our sin of choice or not, we all have a very real tendency towards evil nonetheless.

the problem isn't whether or not homosexuality is caused by a person's genes, the problem is how we respond to temptation. i am a heterosexual which means i am tempted to sin with women. before i was a Christian, i indulged in such temptations. does that mean that i had to do so? if not, why not? after all, my genes were working against me! whatever else we know, we certainly know that heterosexuality is biological, but the ability to make a moral choice in the face of our physical urges is precisely what makes us human. why the gay rights crowd thinks the debate is ended once a biological cause has been established is beyond me, but if we as Christians agree with them then we've given up the fight before it's ever even had a chance to begin. this reminds of the sex-education debate in our schools. "kids are going to have sex," we are told. "you can't stop them. all you can do is make sure that they are safe." which, to me, is equivalent to saying that high school kids are dogs. well they aren't dogs. they're human beings with reason and will and the power to make moral choices.

it always makes me smile when i hear some pagan talk about the Christian's supposed sexual hang-ups, as if we thought of sex as something dirty or demeaning. actually, the Christian takes a very high view of sex: a mystical union whereby two become one and both are elevated to a higher level of existence than either could achieve on their own. it is the world's view of sex that's low: a casual activity pursued with reckless abandon and nary a thought towards the consequences--and if you don't believe me, go watch any sitcom from the last fifteen or twenty years. two persons using each other like pleasure machines then moving on before boredom has a chance to set in, always searching for the next thrill. it's an outlook guaranteed to leave you empty, and in this day and age, it's one that may well kill you. in the end, the world's view of sex reduces us to sheep blindly following a genetic road map that, whether it leads to destinations hetero or homo, is ultimately pointless: either way is a dead end.

then again, this research may turn out to be bunk--locdog wouldn't be surprised




 

victims' groups angry at catholic church's flip-flop on sexual abuse



were the sweeping reforms of last june's highly publicized dallas summit a mere public relations ploy? victims' groups seem to think so in light of a revision released by american catholic bishops yesterday which, according to these groups, undid some of the headline-grabbing changes from earlier this year.

Susan Archibald, president of The Linkup, a victims' group, said the revisions would allow the kind of secrecy that "perpetuated and fostered the abuse."

the biggest complaint is with the revisions' handling of allegations. in the dallas version, if an allegation of sexual abuse was brought against a priest, he would immediately be placed on leave pending the outcome of an investigation. but moday's version has the priest remaining at his post while a "preliminary investigation" is conducted. during this period "his reputation would be protected," in other words, the charges would be kept secret. if it should turn out that the priest was guilty, the one-strike-and-you're-out policy still stands. why the change? the article doesn't say.

all in all this one is a loser for rome. this is unquestionably the biggest scandal in modern church history, with the culture of silence that "fostered the abuse" being a larger issue in the eyes of the public than the very incidents themselves. i'm not saying that rome is attempting to perpetuate this culture, but they need to realize that when they hold big, showy public conventions with splashy headlines and then five months later release the real version low and under the radar, well, they are leaving themselves wide open for attack. it's a fundamental public relations miscalculation, because whether the bishops had good intents or not, the spin will have just as negative an impact. personally, i don't doubt that they had the best intents--under the dallas version priests were totally defenseless. any disgruntled parishioner could make up an allegation, the allegation would be highly publicized and the priest would be temporarily stripped of his duties, and at the end of the day the only thing people would remember would be that he was the priest who was charged by so and so with sexual abuse. a witch hunt is in the best interests of no one.

yet for a roman catholic church desperate to rebuild trust, is this really the best way to handle things? necessary revisions should be made in the full light of public scrutiny and with all explanations provided. i don't think the bishops were really that secretive about it, but compared to dallas they may as well have held clandestine meetings in dimly lit back alleys. would that they had held press conferences, interviews, and even a three-ring circus, if need be, to keep everyone at ease. if the changes can't stand up to that sort of heat, then they aren't necessary. were the bishops fearful of the wrath of a public fed up with priestly sexual abuse? did they want to avoid openly standing up for the rights of the perpetrating class, even when such defense is warranted and in all probability necessary to prevent massive disintegration among catholic churches? in the end, such anger is negligible compared what they'll receive if people get the notion into their heads that this is more of the same old, same old.

locdog hopes that explanations will be forthcoming




11/04/2002

 

baby or fetus?





drudge has a link to this time article on a new technology that produces remarkably lifelike images of infants in their mother's womb. the article is otherwise old news, but remains interesting for its snarky aside concerning the "setback" recently dealt to fetal research by a federal advisory committee's recommendation "that embryos be considered the same as human subjects in clinical trials," and for the...uh...inconsistencies in terminology. from the caption beneath the image:

At eight months, the baby gets ready for its grand entrance into the world

and from a few paragraphs down:

...as he adjusts the sonic scanner to peer under her fetus' skin

emphasis mine in both quotes.

when, i wonder, do we go from her fetus to the baby? according to time magazine, the mystical leap from mere biological property--as one's toenail or tooth would be--to full personhood must occur prior to the eighth month but after the 17th week, which is the age of the fetus in the second quote. they give no exact date, so i'll just suppose that as long as the baby looks like a baby people will be more hesitant to kill it. this same sort of flawed thinking causes animal rights activists to prattle on endlessly about respect for all living things, then load their posters up with pictures of bunnies and puppies and cuddly little kittens. it isn't logic and it isn't medical science. it's public relations. and the same pr game that causes the lefties at time to balk at calling a technicolor eight-month-old her fetus leaves that child wide open to lethal attacks carried out with impunity a scant four months earlier.

locdog doesn't see how something with its own unique dna could ever be her fetus