Friday, November 30, 2007

Did Mitt Romney Deny His Faith?

In the middle of the Republican debate on Wednesday night, an online version of Joseph Dearborn held up a copy of the King James version of the Bible and asked “Do you believe every single word of this specific book?”

Three candidates Giuliani,Romney, and Huckabee answered the question and all three ignored the “King James” bit. The King James or authorized edition of the Bible was the first royally endorsed English language version of the Bible. While Christianity was more than sixteen hundred years old, the Catholic Church did not believe that ordinary believers should have access to the Bible in their native language. The King James version is thus both a decidedly Protestant document that was published well after the church determined that God was no longer sharing new scriptures. That's at least according to the Catholic Church and mainstream Protestant churches. One of the notable exceptions to the idea that the Christian God’s revelation of his/her word stopped some time during the Roman Empire is the Mormon church’s belief that God spoke to an American prophet, Joseph Smith, during the 19th century in upstate New York. Mitt Romney is Mormon and claims to be proud of it.

I’m not sure that anyone would have known from his oddly nuanced and evasive answer. While the Church of the Latter Day Saints includes the Bible among its holy documents, it also includes the Book of Mormon which purports to supply missing details from the Bible that the other churches missed. This includes a narrative of Jesus’s whereabouts among the Nephites after the resurrection.

Romney replied “I believe the Bible is the word of God and I try to live by it….I might interpret it differently than you interpret it, but I believe it’s the word of God.”

The last bit may have been an allusion to his being Mormon, but I was struck by how embarrassed Governor Romney appeared to be about his own religion. It struck me that a proud Mormon would say that “Yes, I believe that the Bible is the word of God and that word was expanded and clarified by Joseph Smith in the Book of Mormon. As such, I believe that the King James Bible is an incomplete record of the world of God.”

I’m not Mormon, but I would have respected that approach. Instead, he subtly denied his own religion by implying that the King James version of the Bible is the complete word of God and thus suggested that his personal religious beliefs are essentially the same as mainstream Protestants. The irony is compounded by the fact that the Book of Mormon in many ways stylistically parodies the King James version of the Bible. I’m not a theologian, but the similarities between the style of the King James edition and the Book of Mormon are troubling. As a 19th century New Yorker, Joseph Smith did not speak the same dialect as English Biblical scholars in 1611 AD. The oldest sources for the New Testament are written in Greek. Smith thus claims that God spoke to him in a King James (not Lebron) accent. I don’t want to get into the authenticity of the Mormon religion. It’s a long argument and I happen to think that people are free to believe what they want in spiritual matters. It’s more that Governor Romney was awfully reluctant to let America know about Joseph Smith. I’d even go so far as to say that he appeared to be ashamed of his own religion's prophet and its relationship to the evangelical Christianity that forms the voting base of the modern Republican party.

Rudy Giuliani, a Catholic, also slid around the question by selectively ignoring the King James reference and talking about “literal” construction vs. the “spirit of the word.” Again, he did not share any insights about how the Catholics view of the need to read the Bible directly differs from the evangelical view. Instead, he left the impression that he reads and consults the Bible directly without guidance from members of the clergy of his own church.

I’m no fan of Governor Huckabee, but perhaps as the one actual Evangelical of the three, he shared the most “liberal” view of the Bible. He explained that some aspects of the Bible are more important than others, particularly “Love Thy Neighbor” and Matthew 25:40 Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Oddly, Huckabee didn’t quote the King James version in his answer, instead he phrased it “As much as you’ve done unto the least of these, you have done unto me.”

How do I put this? I listened to the Republican debate for two hours and there wasn’t a single candidate who took that proposition seriously including Huckabee. They all hated taxes, they exhorted the crowd to cheer for the notion that the U.S. is going to win the war in Iraq (whatever that means), the need to keep poor immigrants out of the US, and all seemed quite proud to support the right to bear arms. I didn’t exactly hear a commitment to serving the poorest and most vulnerable Americans. Still, what the heck, at least Governor Huckabee did manage to quote the Bible and had compassion for illegal alien children who are honors students.

Btw As a non-Christian, when I was looking up the King James version of Governor Huckabee’s quote, I was struck by the following passage from the same chapter of Matthew.

25:1 Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
25:2 And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.
25:3 They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:
25:4 But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
25:5 While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.
25:6 And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.
25:7 Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.
25:8 And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.
25:9 But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.
I know there’s probably some rational translation of this, but you know how Americans always make a big deal about Islam promising Virgins if you die for your faith. Anyway, all this talk about trim your lamps and Virgins having enough oil. Anyway, it sure can be read in some pretty interesting ways. By the way, the passage I found in the Qur’an that ties to this “Western” version of Islamic fantacism is about as ambiguous as this bit of Matthew and its ten virgins going out to trim and oil the bridegroom's wick.

If Governor Romney’s views on the King James’ version of the Bible came off as a bit selective or tortured, his view on actual torture was even less forthright. First he claimed that he would defer to Senator McCain as the expert on such matters, but he refused to condemn waterboarding. Then Senator McCain (in one of those moments where you actually respect the guy) came straight out and said that waterboarding is not only torture it’s simply un-American. Thrown by this, Romney protested that he didn’t want potential torture victims to know what Americans would and wouldn’t do to them. Somehow it isn’t presidential to discuss the sort of things you would do to drag information out of someone, whether the technique has any proven interrogation value or not. Maybe they should have threatened to "pluck out the eyes" of the interogee, which according to Governor Huckabee does have some basis in the Bible. On the other hand, what would you expect from a guy who strapped his dog to the top of his car for a four hundred mile long trip then got his wife to lie about it. Romney then put the cherry on his torture sundae by invoking the authority of his security adviser, Cofer Black, the vice-chairman of Blackwater.

I’ve never read all of the Book of Mormon. I have read the Bible and there’s a fair amount of torture in the Bible including some by God, still I like Governor Huckabee’s other take on the so called "Good Book" that the part of the Bible we should worry about is “love thy neighbor” and “What one does to the least of these, one does unto me (Jesus)”. I was expecting Governor Romney to offer some Biblical justification for his refusal to condemn the practice of drowning someone until he/she essentially has a nervous breakdown. I would have thought the Republican God whose word these folk claim to revere so much might have said something like, “Yep, it’s a war crime if the Japanese do it in World War 2, but you Americans are doing it for the right reason and I’m certainly not one to make your interrogation practices potentially less effective.”

Of course, that’s my loose translation from the Aramaic, unless of course God is still speaking in 17th Century scholarly English.

Just as amazing, William “Mr. Virtues” Bennett praised Romney’s performance after the debate and pointed out that his torture exchange with McCain was a show that Romney was strong enough to disagree with McCain on a security matter. Who would have bet on that?

No shock, the mainstream media hasn’t much commented on Governor Romney’s tacit denial of Joseph Smith. I’d say that’s a little tortured, though no more than mentioning Hillary Clinton four times and the sitting Republican President George Bush not at all. You wanna talk about denial!

note: Ironically, George Romney, Mitt's father, unfairly fell out of presidential contention in 1968 when he decided to oppose the war in Vietnam. Unfortunately, he used the term "brainwashing" to epxlain his conversion.

Romney to discuss his faith.


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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Searching for the Perfect Caesar

A few weeks ago, I was sitting at a new “old” restaurant, one of those places we used to eat at then just stopped for some reason, and I was poking at a quarter heart of romaine lettuce still on its stem. Someone had dribbled a white vinaigrette dressing across the lettuce in a zig zag pattern and little clumps of homemade croutons hung from the sides. This Caesar salad was served on a white oval plate.

For seventeen years, my wife and I have been searching for the perfect restaurant Caesar salad. We had it once, actually a few times. When we were first married and my wife was expecting or our daughter was very very young, we used to go to a steakhouse called “Alfred’s”, which was somehow related to the more famous Alfred’s in San Francisco though no one ever explained just how close the connection was.

The Caesar at Alfred’s was part of a show with the salad cart, the big silver bowl, the salad guy mixing the dressing by your table, and the waiter circulating at the end with the pepper mill the size of a baseball bat. I don’t normally respond to restaurant service as circus act. I don’t like flambed desserts, refuse to call Benihana food, but there was something mesmerizing about the Caesar salad show at Alfred’s.

The actual salad was always memorable as well. The romaine leaves were hand ripped. The dressing was just spicy and oily enough. My wife even got to the point where she didn’t order an entrée. Naturally, Alfred’s closed down. The 1980’s were not a good time to be a steakhouse in Sonoma County, the center of the gourmet-vegetarian universe. I imagine that pregnancy-influenced food craving also played some role in our fixation with the Alfred’s Caesar Salad, but ever since they closed we’ve been looking for a replacement.

Yes, one day we did get the waiter at Alfred’s to give us the recipe for the dressing. The key ingredients turned out to be Dijon mustard, cream of tartar, and worchestershire sauce. Fancy salads just happen to be one of those things that never taste nearly as good when you make them yourselves. Oysters tend to be the same way. It’s simply better not to know what all the parts looked like pre-assembly. In any case, we’ve been searching for a restaurant that makes our ideal Caesar salad ever since. Just in case you’re wondering, we’ve never solved the problem by simply going to the Alfred’s in San Francisco.

In the process, we’ve learned that “Caesar salad” is a label that’s very loosely applied. I’ve even been offered bleu cheese dressing on a Caesar salad. One particularly unhappy experience involved an upscale restaurant where the chef decided to dose the Caesar salad with ginger. At its worst, it’s a collection of wilted romaine, sometimes mixed with other lettuces, packaged croutons, seemingly thrown in a food processor with a jar of mayonnaise. Dressings range from nearly transparent to textures stiffer than yoghurt. Some places toss the salad while many leave it on the leaf and hand you a fork and knife. Anchovies are one of those religious questions as is the application of grated parmesan cheese. There even seem to be debates about the use of an egg white in the dressing or the addition of items like red onion slices, hard-boiled eggs, and jalapeno peppers.

The whole Caesar salad issue got even weirder in the middle of the nineties when it became trendy to turn the thing into a “meal” by adding chicken, salmon, strips of tri-tip, and I’m probably hallucinating but do vaguely remember bits of meat loaf. In the process, it became a standard boxed lunch choice. They’d get one of those big plastic salad containers, stick the dressing in a plastic container, dump some chicken strips on it, and “god only knows for what reason” tell you it was a chicken Caesar. If I ever run for office (there’s no chance of it btw), one of the first things I’d do is pass a law to change the name of some of these variants to “Caligula”. “Nero”, or “Messalina”. That poor guy Caesar gets enough blame.

Actually, one of the odder aspects of Casesar salad lore is that many people assume that the name refers to Julius and that the dish is therefore Italian. There are a couple stories about its origins, but the Caesar Salad is most likely Mexican. Caesar Cardini was a chef in Tijuana. Much like chop suey, also a North American dish, it’s believed that the salad was the result of a culinary emergency. The ingredients were basically what Cardini had available when a customer came in late one night and demanded a special salad.
I rather liked the image of Roman legions marching on the Appian highway then breaking for lunch with clear plastic containers filled with romaine leaves and croutons. I’ve also never seen Casesar salad on the menu of a Mexican restaurant, yet oddly it does show up at any number of faux Italian restaurants. Food is weird that way. Fwiw, the evidence suggests that Cardini’s version was not tossed nor did it include anchovies except for the traces of anchovy in the Worchestershire sauce in the dressing. The Alfred’s version that we came to think of as real “Caesar Salad” isn’t all that close to the original.

I imagine that somewhere out there someone’s come up with a taxonomy of food. As in when do you abuse the notion of a Casear salad so badly that it become say a variant of the Chef’s salad, the cob, or just a bunch of stuff mixed with some romaine leaves? The other thing is that restaurant’s generally charge a slight premium for a Caesar as opposed to a generic “tossed” or “dinner” salad, yet hardly anyone still makes the stuff table side any longer. I’m not sure why this is or why we accept it. I think it has something to do with the notion that the Caesar is vaguely continental and somehow more gourmet, but I doubt that anyone really knows. In the meantime, the evolution of food and/or specific dishes remains fascinating. If it were up to me, I'd merge the food network with the history channel. btw I think the Caesar really hit bottom when McDonald’s started selling them.

My wife and I continue our search for our perfect Caesar. We have our template in mind, whatever we had at Alfred’s in Petaluma more than fifteen years ago. We’ve had versions of Caesars that have been good even great, but because of that template we consider Caesar’s that aren’t tossed or that have a creamy instead of a spicy dressing impostors. A few weeks ago, I figured out why we simply don’t go to the real Alfred’s in San Francisco. Even if it’s the same as what we remember, we’re bound to be disappointed. The pleasure we took in the salad back then is tied to our having the baby, it being early in our relationship, etc. We know no restaurant can reproduce those parts of the recipe, yet we keep looking because it reminds us of those times and the search more or less maps the entire history of our marriage.

I kind of think of it as the Decline and Fall of the Romaine Empire.


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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Butterflies Womack (Bachelor 11 After the Final Rose)

I wasn’t going to write anything about the After the Final Rose show, but between plates of turkey and mashed potatoes I’ve kept thinking about those darned butterflies. No, it’s not in a “I still think of you every day, Deanna” kind of way or even in an “I miss you more than you’ll ever know” fashion. It’s more like Brad Womack and I have a totally different understanding of the life cycle of the butterfly. When I was a child, my first grade teacher spent all this time walking us through the life cycle. There’s the egg, the caterpillar (larval), the cocoon, then finally the butterfly. If butterflies in the stomach are going to be your metaphor for love, then love is something that happens in well-defined stages.

I don’t blame Brad for this, lots of people use the “feeling butterflies” cliché as a way to suggest that the romantic process is somehow beyond analysis and thus not a matter of choice. Still, it strikes me that a careful analysis of the butterfly metaphor would suggest that real love grows, changes, and develops more or less gradually but in well-defined stages, before it transforms into that colorful-fluttery thing that glides through the air. By the way, the life cycle of a Monarch butterfly is six to eight weeks, roughly the same as the Bachelor.

Of course, the show isn’t premised on the metamorphosis of the butterfly. One reason, most Bachelor couples wind up as moths instead of butterflies (I’m not even sure I want to talk about whatever happened between Mary Delgado and Byron Velvick after the show) appears to be this notion that one can “pick” the right woman off the car lot of love after half a dozen test drives. Most of us know that the measure of a car we actually buy is not how it drives off the lot, but how you like it after it becomes your “used” car, (not in the Hillary Reisinger sense though).

The second image that haunts me is that of Deanna Pappas’s father sitting in some hotel room in California as he waited for the final ring ceremony. Yes, obviously it’s a tv show, but how creepy was Brad’s response? “I can look you straight in the eye and tell you that I’m heartbroken too.”

Brad, feel free to change your mind, but given that circumstance how did you even think to tell America that they should feel sorry for you too. Yes, the production people for the show can manipulate the participants into doing and saying things in front of the cameras, but I’ve never heard of any instance where they tricked anyone into flying a parent out for a proposal. Why didn’t Brad just acknowledge the pain his indecision caused and apologize profusely? You think maybe he could have just admitted being an idiot to Deanna’s dad?

Instead, Brad chose the Butterfly defense. The guy is almost thirty five years old. What the heck was he feeling or not feeling up to that point? Brad was so inept at damage control that Jenni Croft came off as the smartest person on the After the Final Rose. What were the odds of that? I know some of that was sympathy over the death of her Grandmother, and how do Jenni’s grandmother’s warnings to the Bachelor look now? Still, Jenni got to show solidarity with Deanna, asked the logical question about just dating instead of proposing, and got to wish Brad a happy life to boot. In the meantime, she’s back with her original boyfriend. Mr. Butterflies in the meantime sat there blathering about “fairness” and having taken the high road.

There is a school of thought that the ladies needed to make Brad chase them. Looking back, the edit did feel like all the women were throwing themselves and their feelings in front of Brad as he prepared to run over them, back up, ask them “if they’re all right” and tell them “how much he cares about them”, then run over them all over again. It’s possible and that strategy did appear to work for Tessa Horst in the last installment. They were noticeably ahead of him in the romantic rhetoric race. Jenni had been careful until the last chance date, then broke out the journal. Deanna had said “You’re what I want and this is what your life would be with me.”

In the meantime, Brad was answering “Wow, that’s great. I’m so excited.”

In fact, I have a feeling that a tivo of the season would include about seventy instances of Brad talking about how excited he was. Mmmmm! Oh well, I’m still confused about the distinction between thinking about someone every day and feeling butterflies. Brad did mention that whenever he was with one lady he tended to think about the other one. Apparently, that was the romantic equivalent of dividing by zero. Anyone have thoughts about who the zero was?

Oddly, the guy who didn’t like feeling “judged” by Bettina Bell’s parents, wound up getting judged by most of Bachelor America. In the meantime, Deanna Pappas hasn’t ruled out the possibility of being the Bachelorette next summer. Will they bring Brad Womack back the way they brought Mary Delgado back? On second thought, maybe that’s not such a good idea.

Jenn Shefft's take

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Suckiest Bachelor Ever (Bachelor 11-Brad Womack The Final No's)

Jen Schefft

Is Brad Womack the Suckiest Bachelor yet? He was getting a very positive edit until he began circling the altar. First, Jenni Croft had warned him that she was very cautious about declaring her feelings. He encouraged her to do so, letting her read her “private feelings” to him during their last chance date. While the Phoenix Suns dancer kept looking to the Bachelor to stop her if he didn’t want her going there, Brad pushed her towards further vulnerability. Yes, Jenni read the journal like some character out of the Babysitter’s Club or Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, but why the heck would he let her say those things in front of the cameras if he was going to drop her on the big lift?

Next, Brad made what most people would hear as a proposal speech to a constantly blinking Deanna Pappas, “You’re everything I want in a wife”-“I could see you with me until we die”-You’d be an even better mother for the kids”. He then said, “I’ve just said goodbye to Jenni” then suddenly stopped, began walking around the altar, and I wondered if he was going to lift his leg to mark his spot or if Ashton Kutcher was going to show up with his camera crew.

I was waiting for ABC to run a promo for a remake of Great Expectations. Just a few minutes earlier, the show had Brad buying an engagement ring and saying that he had made up his mind. If you’ve made up your mind not to choose anyone, why would you buy an engagement ring and bring it to the ceremony? Deanna’s the one who should have thrown the guy in the pool, not his brothers. Btw What was up with that third Womack brother. No, he didn’t look younger, he definitely wasn’t quite as hot, and he got to say like one thing as Daryl or was it Brad’s other brother Chad?

Okay, Brad kept saying I don’t want to have to send either one of them away. So why not do what Charley did? It didn’t exactly add up to lead them on then dump them both. It made me wonder what Hillary Reisinger was thinking? Was she sitting at home alternately laughing and crying hysterically throughout the super abbreviated finale, "Look, they're getting the friends card too"? The show didn’t even spring for trips to Brad’s mom’s actual home. Maybe that’s a good thing, with all those angry Bachelor fans they probably would have had to put the whole Womack family into witness protection.

About a week ago, there were some anonymous comments on Kate Brockhouse’s blog from someone claiming to be Solisa Shoop of the body shots, lapdance, and Christian values. Kate Brockhouse also got on to say that she had heard that Brad chose no one.
The Solisa/anonymous blogger claimed to have been told the same thing while in the bathroom during the Women Tell All taping, possibly they tap shoes in the stalls or have some other kind of code. A number of others had noticed how cold the edit had been for all the remaining finalists. Jenni had spent most of her onscreen time talking about her dancing career or giggling. Deanna had been called the “b” word by the other women. Bettina Bell had a disastrous home date and was shown still upset at the Brad for his “feeling judged” by her parents.

Based on Brad’s statement that he was “very happy” with his choice and the suggestions that he had indeed chosen someone, I picked Deanna. That said, I had noted that there was more romantic chemistry between Chad and Sheena Stewart on the Women Tell All than there was between Brad and any of the women. There was definitely some “heat” between Brad and Bettina Bell, but at that point they appeared somewhat angry with one another. There was also a rumor that Brad had asked Bettina if he could still call her after the Women Tell All. Similarly, one Women Tell All audience member claimed that Bettina had first answered “He doesn’t choose either one” when she was polled about Brad’s choice during the taping.

I’d say the evidence was there, but I wonder if a “shocking ending” really makes for good tv. Perhaps the famous tv cliffhanger happened almost thirty years ago with the primetime soap opera Dallas and “Who Shot JR Ewing”. The buzz kept the show number one and it got so deeply rooted in pop culture that it was even homaged by the Simpsons more than a decade later with “Who Shot Montgomery Burns”. There is no question that Mike Fleiss caught the vast majority of Bachelor viewers off guard with his non-ending, hyped as the most shocking Final Rose ceremony ever. My question is whether or not it wound up being satisfying entertainment

Let me start with another Dallas season ender that tried to reprise the tsunami of publicity that the show got from Who Shot JR with what became known as Bobby Ewing’s Shower Dream, where a whole year’s worth of episodes got wiped away as just a dream that JR’s brother happened to have. While the show ran for five more seasons, it never achieved the level of popularity it had with Who Shot JR. Bobby Ewing in the Shower was one of network TV’s great jump the shark moments, because the show broke trust with its viewers. People watched and they talked, but they stopped caring about Dallas.

If anything, Reality Television is more reliant on script than sitcoms or soap operas. Unlike many reality shows like Idol and Dancing with the Stars that depend on a live performance and audience votes, the Bachelor is taped in its entirety a couple months before any footage gets shown. During that stretch, the producers edit furiously to turn the events into a storyline. They pay so much attention to detail that many claim they will even take care to reverse the negative for previews, splice in footage from past shows for promos, and move bits of dialogue out of context with the video. While it’s not scripted, the Bachelor tells stories and records memorable moments. While it sometimes tells a romantic story a la Trista/Ryan or Andy/Tessa, the show still works when it’s not necessarily a love story. Charley O’connell’s season was decidedly silly with lots of dates to bars, even more shots of the Bachelor drinking, and what appeared to be some seriously whacky characters with Kim the final four lady who kept taking her clothes off and the swimwear model spy, Krisily’s grandmother, etc. Even Lorenzo and Jesse Palmer’s seasons had Erica Rose who didn’t get one in the end and Trish the bachelorette who stalked Jesse and Mandy's fantasy date. I don’t really care that Brad Womack didn’t choose anyone. Even if he reverses field in the After the Final Rose Show tonight, the damage is done.

Here’s the problem. Beginning writers love springing surprise endings in their first stories. For some reason, they think it’s supposed to be all about the shock. Stories just don’t work that way though. The storyteller is supposed to drop just enough clues so the reader hits the surprise ending then smacks himself/herself on the side of the head and goes “Damn, I should have known.” You have to earn that ending.

For six weeks, we saw Brad Womack treated as the nicest most level-headed guy in the world, someone who wasn’t necessarily loquacious but who was so sensitive that it pained him at any rose ceremony to have to let anyone go. Combine that with the scruffy look and the chiseled upper body and we were told that every one of the Bachelorettes would do most anything just for a chance to be Mrs. Womack. Also, Brad tells the camera repeatedly that he’s on the show to look for the woman he can marry.

The last five minutes of the thing, they turn the guy into every woman’s nightmare. Not only can’t he commit. While I do tend to believe that he was expecting to give Deanna Pappas that final rose (no other way to explain his speech up to the point where he mentions Jenni), Mr. Sensitive and dignified utterly humiliates both women and doesn’t even cry.

“I just can’t look you in the eye and say the same things,” were his words more or less to Deanna.

Brad’s mom said that he’s very black and white. I have another way to put it. Brad is a hanging Chad, with the whole Bush v. Gore implications fully intended. Where brother Chad probably made millions of women swoon with the way he talked (quite appropriately btw) to Sheena Stewart at the Women Tell All show, Brad just left the whole Bachelor kingdom feeling all but ripped off. In his defense I would say that I doubt that Brad’s going to go out and kill a couple hundred thousand people. Still, he essentially voted, then said "See, it's still hanging there. I didn't really mean to go all the way, except in those fantasy suites of course heh heh."

When it came to showing real sensitivity with either woman, he just left everyone unsatisfied.

It’s women who watch this show. I saw twelve women either look like catty idiots or get embarrassed by the Bachelor. In the meantime, we were told over and over that this was the nicest and sexiest Bachelor yet. When did being an emotional wimp turn into “sexy”?

Again, let me say it real slowly. He could have chosen no one, but you don’t play them like that in the meantime. Was it the edit? Neither woman acted as if Brad had given any warning signs of his drooping last rose. Don’t even get me started on what likely happened during those fantasy dates.

Maybe they’ll have yet another surprise during After the Final Rose, but Bettina Bell’s parents were right to be skeptical of this guy. Maybe it was for the wrong reasons, but should they ever do the show again they need to find a Bachelor with an educated heart.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Rendering Unto Caesar (US Bishop's guide to Citizenship)

Robert Drinan was a priest who was elected to Congress on a platform opposing the War in Vietnam. In 1980, he stepped down when Pope John Paul II demanded that all priests withdraw from politics.

When I was a child, John F. Kennedy became the first Catholic President of the United States. In September of 1960, JFK gave a speech in Houston that essentially put to rest a longstanding political fear about Catholics entering politics, the notion that their decisions would be driven by the pope.

JFK used the speech to quell any doubts that he was “American” first and his Catholicism was part of his private as opposed to his political life.

“So it is apparently necessary for me to state once again--not what kind of church I believe in, for that should be important only to me--but what kind of America I believe in.
I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute--where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishoners for whom to vote--where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference--and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.”

Fast forward to 2007. I’m skimming the yahoo headlines when I come across an article about a November 14 document from the US. Conference of Catholic Bishops (UCCCB) called “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: The U.S. Bishop’s Reflection on Catholic Teaching and Political Life.”

It’s a 34 page guide that tells good Catholics how to vote. The Catholic Church is hardly the only American church playing an overt role in politics. In fact, this may be a matter of America’s largest denominational Church playing catch up with Evangelical American churches that have both grown considerably over the last generation and played a very active role politically. That activism ranges from Pat Robertson and Gary Bauer both having run for the presidency to Karl Rove’s success in the 2004 election in turning evangelical denominations into grass roots Republican precinct headquarters.
The Position Paper takes care not to endorse a particular candidate or party. There’s much about it that I agree with. The Bishops condemn war, torture, and the lack of universal health care. They also oppose profit-motivated control of media and support universal access to an appropriately censored internet. They point out that work is both a spiritual and an economic issue and they say that we should welcome immigrants and treat them with dignity. There are a couple odd items like statements on school choice (Catholic Schools are a source of revenue for the Church) and “contraceptive mandates” for children.

My biggest questions have to do with the paper’s “Culture of Life” rhetoric. The position paper argues that “mortal sin”, which includes abortion, euthanasia, and what sounds like embryonic stem cell research is far more serious and requires much more immediate action than your everyday sins like ignoring billions of poor people, making the planet uninhabitable, or killing thousands of people based on a lie. To their credit, the Bishops don’t like the death penalty either as part of The Culture of Life, but for some reason endorsing the death penalty isn’t as big a no no as being pro-choice. (I don’t want to get into the whole business of how being pro-choice doesn’t necessarily mean that you personally condone abortion). At one point the Bishops make a point of saying that voters should not choose candidates based on a single issue (abortion), but the paper makes it clear that while all that other destructive stuff has to be considered in context, abortion is essentially non-negotiable. Mmmmm….death penalty+ torture =bad, but not the end of the world for a politician. Abortion or choice=insurmountable sin which conscience can not contemplate. Same sex marriage is also treated as a major no no along with abortion.

There are two bits of context missing from “Forming Conscience for Faithful Citizenship”. First the American Catholic Church is still clearing up allegations across the country that members of its clergy sexually molested thousands even tens of thousands of children over the course of the last two generations. The Paper doesn’t bother to mention the scandal nor does it mention the many documented cases of the Church “exiling” pedophile clergy to places where they still had access to children while ignoring the victims. If abortion is such a bad thing, what am I supposed to think about the Bishops, some of whom may have voted in that council, who condoned child molesting. Can you imagine being the parent of a child who was impregnated by a priest and insisting that abortion is unacceptable because it’s a mortal sin?
Second, there’s the matter of the Church’s and Pope Benedict’s in particular response to Liberation Theology. While Pope John Paul II took care to distinguish between his support for addressing poverty and the needs of society’s weakest and most vulnerable, he also expressed clear concern about the influence of Marxism on the movement and the whole notion of members of the clergy playing an active role in politics. Benedict has more openly condemned Liberation Theology due to its support for social change (revolution). It happens that President Bush openly applauded Benedict's ascension to the papacy. Somehow, the American Bishops managed to ignore the whole history of Liberation Theology in the western hemisphere. For whatever reason, they are not endorsing political activism as long as “abortion” and “gay marriage” are high on your list of mortal sins. This is a long ways from Dorothy Day's American Catholic Church.

I’m not Catholic, so maybe I shouldn’t say much about this, but I can’t agree with the Church’s political priorities. Put simply, I’d rather vote for a candidate who supports notions endorsed by the Bishops like support for the poor, pursuing peace first before war, the protection of children, health care for all, but who just happens to be pro-choice because he or she believes that it’s a personal question and a matter of individual conscience and not an issue for the state. I wouldn’t vote for someone who endorses mass killing, torture, ignores the needs of the poor and vulnerable, and who prioritizes profit over either the dignity of work and simply having proper health care for one’s self and one’s family, who happens to be “pro-life” (how do you even reconcile that with killing thousands of fully sentient people?) and anti-gay marriage. One could read the Bishop’s directive to conscience as suggesting that a good Catholic could justify supporting the latter. The paper does also suggest that there may be times when one should vote for no one.

When you couple this political position with the Church’s child molestation scandal it does make outsiders like me wonder about moral bankruptcy.

Times have changed since JFK. There’s currently a Catholic Majority (5 justices) on the U.S. Supreme Court. Two members of the court seriously considered the Seminary, Thomas and Roberts. In 2004, the Democrats nominated John Kerrey, another Catholic from Massachusetts for the presidency, who happened to be pro-choice. During the election, a Bishop publicly said that Senator Kerrey should not be given communion because of his stance on the issue. Despite the Bishops protestations of non-partisanship, I'm not aware of any American Bishops threatening to cut off Republicans from communion for condoning torture.

Since the Republican party added a constitutional amendment banning abortion to its national platform in 1976, the party has drawn an increasingly large percentage of Catholic voters despite Republican positions on virtually every other policy matter listed in the Bishop’s Guide to Conscience.

When the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution they included the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment at least partly because they were all too aware of the last two centuries of wars and persecutions that were the direct result of the pairing of two ideas, the creation of the nation state and the belief that religious tolerance essentially condoned immorality. I think JFK was right in 1960. I fear that the Bishops, even though they state their position very very carefully, are headed in a very dangerous direction.

Consider this. They oppose war in general, but don’t necessarily condemn the war in Iraq because they allow for reasonable responses to terrorism. They call for a “responsible” solution. They make no mention of the evidence that our nation was misled into that war, that there’s little evidence to support Iraqi involvement in 9/11, and that the current administration has never specifically proposed a "responsible solution".

The evangelicals like to ask, “What would Jesus do?” The American Empire has come to resemble the middle to latter stages of the Roman Empire. I wonder if the American bishops ever ask themselves “What would Peter do?”

If you're interested in the odd mixture of Democratic Governments and the Catholic Church in Italy, I recommend Charles Lambert's blog where he often writes humorously about the subject. Be warned though, I get the impression that the fellow lives in mortal sin.


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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Women of Match Destruction (Bachelor 11 Brad Womack)

Lancechucky, my identical twin blogger, and I were hanging out in the living room watching the Women Tell All when Lance turned to me and said, “Wow, that had to be about the most romantic moment I’ve ever seen on the show!”

“Lance, you’ve got to be kidding. No one’s said a nice thing about Deanna and they’ve barely mentioned Jenni. On top of that, the ladies are being brutal with one another. It almost makes you wonder if Brad should pick anyone.”

“I wasn’t talking about Brad.”

Lance, as usual, had a point. Why is the romantic chemistry between Chad and Sheena so much better than what Brad has with any of the ladies? Is it the fact that Chad’s already married and thus unavailable? (actually, Chris mentioned Chad's wife, but I'm wondering how either Deanna or Jenni assuming one winds up with Brad are going to react to the Sheena love? "So, you liked Sheena better than me, well it just so happens we can't go on that trip with you guys next month.") Is it that the last time we encountered Brad, he was getting busy with at least two of the ladies in Cabo and talking about the virtues of spending the night together and getting to know one another that way? Was it that weird thing with Bettina Bell’s parents that got even weirder on the Women Tell All?

Call me crazy, but the most striking thing about Chad is that he was talking about Sheena having class and how his respect for her had grown tenfold just from watching the way she handled herself on the show. Chad actually has “game” when it comes to romance, possibly because that’s who he is inside. If Brad says anything romantic, it feels like the producers scripted it for him. Romance may not necessarily be passed genetically.

I don’t doubt that the “sexiest bachelor ever”, at least according to Chris Harrison, is a nice guy. I just think that Brad and Chad aren’t completely identical in ways that go beyond being left in the dryer too long, having a blonde patch underneath one ear, and sounding completely different. Go back to Chad’s proposal to Dillon Womack. Compare that to the attempt to “recreate” that date with Sheena and Brad’s decision a week later that the “chemistry” just wasn’t there. I know it’s a tv show, but Brad has it out of order. The romantic date is the result of the chemistry, it’s not the other way around. It also involves some amount of mutual chasing and doubt which never quite happened on this installment. Of course, Sheena apparently found a boyfriend post-Brad. I wonder how her mom likes the guy?

The rest of the Women Tell All had three basic themes. Hillary Reisinger got major screen time to show America what a good sport she is. Good old Brad even managed to tell her “I think more highly of you than you think.” Whoa! Was that supposed to make her feel better? It’s right up there with Bettina’s “I don’t look so good on paper either.” Hillary was funny at points, “I looked like I needed PMS medication” yet some of the mean girl quality didn’t rub away entirely. I was thinking, “She probably is really fun, but she’s also not all that nice in actuality unless it’s Brad.” I’ve always hated the combination in real life fwiw. “Hey, when I called you a “used car” it was all in fun and when I said that she smelled like old fish, same thing. What’s the matter with you that you don’t want to be friends with me?” For me, it doesn’t help that Hillary does resemble a younger Melanie Griffith, as someone on the boards pointed out.

While he’s limited most of the season to saying “It’s a tough choice” and “This is your last rose” (apparently that was a very critical function when Jesse Palmer did the show), Women Tell All is Chris Harrison’s chance to strut his stuff. He didn’t disappoint especially in the exchanges with Hillary. Chris pushed her about the obviousness of Brad’s signals, comparing it to skywriting “friends” and Hillary thinking the message was a proposal.

Theme two was that most of the women were actually auditioning for a sitcom pilot tentatively titled “Everybody Hates McCarten.” It’s got to be better than that Christina Applegate show they squeezed between Dancing with the Stars and His Bradness. My theory is that the Sam character got amnesia after a disastrous home visit on the Bachelor. If Brad worried that he cut the wrong ladies at those early rose ceremonies, all he needs to do is watch the first seven minutes of the Women Tell All and he’ll never have second thoughts again.

Theme three was Bettina Bell. There was no mention of Sheena’s mother proposing to Brad via horoscope, but we got videotape of Robert Bell “judging” poor Brad because he questioned the show’s unwritten rule that all women must swoon over the sexiest bachelor ever and the amazing catch that is Brad Womack. Something about Georgetown families I guess. Tessa’s family was hardly warm and welcoming.

1) Brad felt “judged” and I would definitely agree that the family could have been a whole lot more subtle with their doubts at least based on the edit.

2) Shockingly, Bettina defended her family. She felt they were just looking out for her and that their questions weren’t out of line. Even more un-Bachelor like, she felt that Brad had reacted poorly in not sucking it up and just answering their concerns.

The audience and Chris seemed to go dead silent at this. I’m not sure any final four lady has ever dared to be mad at anything the Bachelor did other than to fail to offer her a rose. I don’t agree with her, but it was fun to see someone break from the pack.

3) Various ladies expressed their concerns because Bettina said that her date was “boring and sucked” compared to Sheena’s. In Bachelor history, this is up there with the holocaust, 9/11, Darfur, and the Armenian genocide. My god, there are starving Bachelorettes in the Sudan and you can’t appreciate just having one on one time with the Bachelor under any circumstances!

4) Bettina wound up in a montage of losing Bachelorettes describing what she would want in the next Bachelor. She said she wanted hers to be “highly-educated”. Was this a dig at Brad? Did the producers put her up to it?

5) Finally, Brad suggested that Bettina was “retiring” and possibly too aware of the cameras on their fantasy date to be genuinely forthcoming. Did he mean like Jenni Croft forthcoming? Let me make a small point. Most sane people are careful in front of national television cameras. They realize that the Bachelor is less of a “reality” show than it is a game show. You really want to bare your soul to some guy who’s going to dump you before the after the final rose show anyway?

Perhaps even more interesting, Bettina's family was very concerned about the bar lifestyle, specifically mentioning that the owner comes home at two in the morning or later. Brad has said that he's been in long term relationships that didn't work partly because he was too busy with building his business. Given that perspective, Bettina's parents' questions maybe weren't out of line at all. Brad's work may well have gotten in the way of his past relationships.

Actually, my big question about Bettina came when that woman from the audience asked Bettina if she was uncomfortable about Brad having had overnights with two other women. Given how badly it went starting with the home visit, why did Bettin answer “Yes” and “Up to that point, I hadn’t even kissed him," which wasn't exactly a denial. Mmmmm….for two people who seemed that much on the outs with one another, I’m wondering what happened after the hot tub bit. By the way, if you want to find attractive women, I recommend hanging out in the Women Tell All audience. They'll probably assume that any guy there is gay, but you can probably find ways to get around that, maybe tell them that Chad Womack is your best friend.

At that point, my wife came into the living room to complain that Bettina seemed to have stolen Cameron Diaz’s hairstyle from the hair gel scene in Something about Mary and that she’s way dumber than Deanna. Mrs. Chancelucky then restated her preference for Deanna over Dances with Dolphins. Our household’s not really big on giggly-flirty women. She then started flirting shamelessly but without giggling with Lancechucky and I had to remind her that my identical twin blogger sometimes blogs about bars and “Woud she really want to have to migrate her bookmarks host just to be with Lancechucky?”

Probably the single most interesting thing about Bachelor 11 is that there’s so much doubt about how it ends. Those who spend their work days posting about such matters seem genuinely evenly split between Jenni and Deanna. There’s also a substantial number of people who note that Brad seems evasive about having made a choice at all. Bachelor finale security seems to have improved dramatically since the Enquirer used to regularly "spoil" the ending a few days in advance. Maybe there is something we can thank the Patriot Act for? Even the ladies split almost evenly 6-5 Jenni, though there’s a story that Bettina refused to choose until they talked her into a retake.

Looking back, I’m just glad they shortened the show this season. I’m still betting on Deanna because of the soul mate thing. Maybe Jenni will come out on the finale with the entire Phoenix Suns dance squad, half a dozen dolphins, and do that mirror dance she was working on? Maybe Jade and Hillary will do a SWAT team operation to keep Brad from giving the final rose to Deanna? Maybe Chad really is Brad? Why is i that every time I watch the women tell all, I feel like I've lost several thousand brain cells?

I know this is completely inappropriate but has anyone else noticed what TWTA (the women tell all) is an anagram for?

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Barnum and Bachelor Circus (reality thoughts)

The promo just before the rose ceremony a few weeks ago was “See Hillary melt down” with a clip of the nurse from Philadephia crying uncontrollably on the grounds of Bachelor Manor. Throughout her few weeks on the show, Hillary Reisinger was portrayed as equally ready to laugh or cry hysterically at any given moment. In the meantime, she was shown calling her rivals names, engaging in graphic (censored) sexual fantasies about Brad Womack just prior to his attempts to tell her that he thought of her as a “friend”, comparing a divorced contestant to a used car, etc.

When exit time came, Hillary Reisinger had some trouble breathing, and she cried a lot. She was certainly emotional, but it was hardly a meltdown. Four out of five of the women who leave after week three cry a lot afterwards. We’ve also learned from some of the participants that those tears are poked and prodded from them as if they were circus animals. While most insist that the producers of the Bachelor stop short of using steel hooks and tranquilizer darts, the crew will insist on running camera while talking to them about dead relatives and other painful life events until the Bachelorette tears flow. It doesn’t hurt that the ladies are prevented from having any contact with the outside world during their captivity and have little to do other than to talk to one another amidst a copious and constant supply of alcohol. It’s not Guantanomo, but the principle is the same.

By all accounts, Hillary Reisinger is a balanced individual in ordinary life who’s quite capable of laughing at herself. I suspect that the show’s edit of Hillary Reisinger was more embarrassing than permanently damaging. I’m not sure though that that’s always the case.

A few installments ago, Sarah Welch got a first impression rose from Charley O’Connell, which historically had been an invitation for abuse both from the show and the remaining women. In her private interviews particularly after any rough patches on the show including her eventual elimination, Welch kept falling back to a bit about “being beautiful”. In fact, Welch’s exit speech became part of Bachelor lore because she claimed that she had been discriminated against because she was so beautiful.

It came out on one of the message boards that as a teenager Sara Welch had been part of a residential program that serves mostly emotionally troubled teens, some of whom got there because they had attempted suicide. The “I am beautiful” speech was almost word for word a mantra used in the program. Given that, the Bachelor’s edit of Sara Welch was genuinely disturbing.

To be fair to the show, Sara Welch seems to be fine. She’s currently working as a model and even made Youtube recently when she fell through a faulty runway. Still, I have to wonder about what might have happened and if the show even had provisions for dealing with emotional consequences that serious.

Honestly, the embarrassment factor is part of the fun of Reality TV. There are also individuals who certainly earn whatever grief they get on the show, edit or no edit.
At the same time, I’ve been thinking that while the words “ethics” and “Reality TV” might never belong in the same sentence, there has to be a point where “Reality” stops and it becomes a scripted show with non-professional actors. In the movies, they sometimes run a tag at the end saying that “No animals were harmed in the making of this movie”, I could see them running an item during the end credits telling viewers that no contestants were tortured to get them to do and say outrageous things on the show. While they’re at it, they can also include a disclosure that ruthless production assistants (birdies) who are never seen on screen stalked the participants with a single goal in mind, to get them to embarrass themselves in front of the camera.

I could even see something develop like the “organic stickers” in grocery stores, “alcohol free” reality tv with the equivalent of CSPAN say running on some cable channel to show that the video feed hasn’t been adulterated beyond recognition. They banish additives or pesticides that makes fruits appear bigger or juicier than they really are. There’s already outrage in the sports world about players using steroids, human growth hormone, and other performance enhancing drugs. Shouldn’t we feel the same the same way about the Bachelor and so called “Reality Television”? After all, sports is entertainment too.

When I was a child, I enjoyed the first couple times I went to the circus. It was unquestionably a thrill to see lions and tigers jump around cracking whips, dogs ride bicycles, and elephants stand on tables. I was about eleven when I read an article in a magazine about how some circuses managed to get animals to do things like that. It felt too cruel to me and I couldn’t enjoy the show any longer regardless of how spectacular the stunts happened to be. I started refusing to go. As I got older, circuses like the Pickle Family and Cirque Du Soleil came into vogue precisely because they refused to use animals and questionable training techniques.

Has that time come for the Bachelor? Do we really watch the show to see people who are made to appear to do and say outrageous things in front of the cameras? The people I chat with about the show actually mostly talk about the relationships both between the bachelor and his rosed ones and the ladies themselves. Even if they find some of it funny, as in I’d never be caught doing or saying that and even though they know about the “edit”, it’s the story that matters to them.

Why do Fleiss and company insist on keeping this an updated version of gladiators and lions done with evening gowns and roses? Well, for one thing the guy happens to be Heidi Fleiss's cousin. I suspect that they fear that real people having normal conversations and developing real feelings might be boring as hell. Maybe that says something about the producers? I’m sure they would also defend their approach by pointing out that the participants volunteer for the show, making it the reality tv version of a victimless crime.

I found that I liked circuses that didn’t include animal acts based on cruelty even more than the more traditional version with its cracking whips and the constant smell of fear just below the surface. If the Bachelor took another approach, I suspect that I wouldn’t miss the constant suggestion of manipulation by means of edit and the power of social isolation mixed with alcohol. By the way, this installment of the Bachelor included a trip to the circus. If they got interesting people who could talk on camera and let them interact more or less naturally, the show might actually be far more intriguing. So, if they do another one of these, how about an installment of the Bachelor Unplugged?

You could still have Jenni Croft dancing with Dolphins and Deanna Pappas greeting Brad Womack in Greek. We just wouldn’t be getting invitations to watch anyone melt down on national television and maybe instead more of the ladies will be exiting by saying "Nice to meet you, guy. Best of luck.I can't wait to go home to my boyfriend."
Maybe too, some of the ladies would admit to just not liking the Bachelor. It does happen.

odds and ends: One of the odd things is that the first reality show I remember actually originated on PBS. An American Family aired in 1973 and followed what was supposed to be a typical American family with relatively little intervention from the documentarians. Whether it was because of the tv cameras or not, the parents wound up getting divorced and Lance Loud, the oldest son, turned out to be gay. There was a follow up to the show in 2001 when Lance died.

One of the best reality series ever remains another PBS series borrowed from the BBC. A group of modern families made like 19th century pioneer families living in Montana.

Perhaps the most fascinating of all is the British Series 49 up which follows a group of individuals from a variety of class backgrounds by checking in with them every seven years.

Each of these is every bit as riveting as their more modern more commercial cousins.

btw, apparently Bettina Bell knew Tessa Horst from childhood.

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Friday, November 09, 2007

Ehren Watada Update (Iraq)

His sentence commuted, Scooter Libby is hanging out at home. Various Blackwater contractors were given immunity from prosecution after possibly shooting Iraqi civilians without provocation. In the meantime, the court martial saga of Ehren Watada, the army lieutenant who refused to go to Iraq, continues. In February, 2007 Watada’s court martial was declared a mistrial after considerable confusion around a stipulation that Watada had indeed refused to ship out to Iraq and had in fact spoken out against the war. The army tried to limit its case to that and was trying to keep out any testimony about Watada’s position that the war itself is illegal and that as a soldier he was bound by the Nuremberg standard that a soldier has a duty not to follow an illegal or immoral order.

Strangely, it was the Army that asked for the mistrial. Having charged Lt. Watada for making statements unbecoming an officer, the Army attempted to keep him from using the “morality” of the war as a defense. If Watada could not raise this defense, the stipulation made no sense. The judge then threw out the stipulation and granted the motion for mistrial on the second day of the court martial after opening statements had been made, evidence introduced, and witnesses had testified.

In a non-court martial case, this would almost certainly have resulted in jeopardy attaching for double jeopardy purposes. The army proceeded with a second court martial after the mistrial anyway based on the original court martial judge’s finding that jeopardy had somehow not attached. Lt. Watada’s attorney Eric Seitz then sought a writ from a regular U.S. Federal Court based on the double jeopardy issue. District Court Judge Settle granted a stay/injunction which essentially held that there was sufficient reason to believe that jeopardy had attached to force the parties to pursue that matter to its legal conclusion before the second court martial could begin.

In the meantime, Lt. Watada’s obligation for service would normally be ending very soon. Bottom line, the legal maneuverings in this matter have been extremely complicated and difficult to follow. I’ve still figured out the following.

1) The first Watada court martial in February 2007 came at roughly the time we were debating the “surge”. The Military Judge and the Army worked very hard, even risking the mistrial, to avoid having a public trial that dealt with any questions about the legality of the war in Iraq.

2) It’s fascinating that the army continues to invest so much effort into the matter after Lt. Watada’s service obligation should be over anyway. In other words, it would be relatively easy to settle this. It makes me wonder how many more Lt. Watada’s are out there.

3) Lt. Watada is one of the heroes of this war. I do find it interesting that Valerie Plame, Pat Tillman’s family, and Watada were the victims of very odd, well actually embarrassing, treatment by either the administration or the army.

Why is it that this administration has granted immunity to those who killed civilians without clear provocation and yet it wants to court martial Lt. Watada? At the end of World War 2, the U.S. prosecuted Japanese officers who had participated in waterboarding because they had a moral duty to disobey immoral orders. Which side are we on now?


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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Bettina's Bell Tolls (Bachelor 11 review Brad Womack)

I want to be Brad Womack. Does this guy have it easy or what? You go on dates with three women in three nights and (how do I put this?) it’s like going fishing and having the trout jump into the boat even before you even think about bait much less throw out a line. Sorry, I guess I should have used that metaphor back when it was Byron and Mary’s season. Obviously this fantasy date trifecta thing has happened in most of the earlier Bachelor installments, but having the thing trimmed down to forty five minutes really made you feel the whole slam-bam-thankyou-Chris Harrison effect of what may be the weirdest point in the life cycle of the Bachelor from larva, to chrysalis, to Lounge Lizard Larry gets Lucky, to “you’re the only woman for me, please take this last rose and this ring the show bought for me.”

Usually, the show makes some attempt to play it coy about the prospects of sex in the fantasy suite. As recently as Sadie and Lorenzo, they had long talks about what it really meant to accept the invitation on that card. This time though, it was like Scott Baio wrote the script or something.

Where the heck was Chris Harrison on this installment? Mike Fleiss didn’t want to spring for an extra plane ticket and a hotel room for the guy? Maybe Chris’s wife said no after she got wind of how “ready” these ladies were. Maybe Chris had some sort of visa problem with the Department of Homeland Security. They’re still signing Chris’s name to that card anyway.

Try that one on a real date. “Hey, I’ve really had a good time with you tonight. Here’s a card from my friend Chris Harrison to invite you to spend the night with me. What do you think?”

Brad is 34, can’t he ask on his own behalf? I thought this show was generally pitched at women. Isn’t the possibility of um spending time in the fantasy suite with three different very attractive women in three nights more of a guy fantasy? Not that I ever did such a thing, but the women I know in real life aren’t real keen on finding out that your special night together was one of three in three nights. I guess that’s where Chris Harrison’s name on the card comes in. Brad and his ten predecessors can say, “See I’m no playa. I only broke out the card because that perv Chris Harrison put me up to it. Otherwise, I would have asked her if I could have the privilege of walking her to church on Sunday.”

While we’re at it, how does the whole fantasy suite thing fit into the oft-repeated central Bachelor notion of “the right reasons” which I assume has something to do with choosing one woman rather than getting down with three of them.

Anyway, if in my single life I ever had a run like Brad, I’d still be remembering it with a smile and thanking Mr. Rourke and his friend Tatu. Brad goes on three dates and doesn’t have to show any game whatsoever. The ladies all sit down to dinner with the guy and you have Bettina Bell telling him that “she’s already head over heels and even her family knows it,” Deanna volunteering that “Ever since they met, she’s known that Brad’s the one and the ouzo-swilling-dance party with grandpa there only confirmed it,” and finally Jenni Croft playing pocket pool with the bar-owning Bachelor because she just can’t give it up fast enough with this guy. No seduction needed here. Geez, it looked like some after shave commercial where the guy uses the stuff and becomes irresistible.

Jenni: It’s probably just the cheerleader thing, but Jenni Croft looks and acts like a much hotter version of Cheri Oteri from that Saturday Night Live nerd cheerleader routine with Will Ferrell. She also vaguely looks like Tina Fey to me, something about the chin line. Anyway, Jenni dancing with the dolphins was a great-goofy -reality tv-moment. So far she’s danced at the initial cocktail party, done the tumbling run at the circus, danced on the home visit. Dolphins just seemed like the natural extension. We know more about her dancing than any of her actual feelings. Was it just me or was it really really hard to tell whether we were hearing Jenni laugh or the dolphins squeal? I say, you could have run the sequence on Saturday Night Live and no one would notice, particularly if you include the dolphin kissing bit.

Once they sat down to dinner, they sure got to the point. When Brad told Kristy Katzmann that he had rough edges, this might have been one of them. You know it’s not good to go on national tv and essentially talk about looking forward to boinking your date, not that Jenni seemed to mind.

Yes, it’s possible that Jenni will get that final rose and Brad and Jenni can announce their engagement at halftime between spectacular passes from Steve Nash to Amare. I would say though that the body language at the end of the show when the three were toasting one another said Deanna all the way. Also, if Jenni would talk half as passionately about Brad as an individual as she does about dancing, I’d give it more of a chance.

Bettina: Okay, my hunch was wrong. They finally got to kiss in the hot tub and it wasn’t all that passionate. When Bettina Bell insisted on talking about the home visit when they sat down to dinner, I had my hopes up. All the air went out of the Bettina balloon though when she chose the oblique route by telling Brad that her family just wanted to make sure that he was as into her as she obviously was into him. When Brad came back with “I felt rejected after meeting your family” or whatever he said exactly, I was sort of impressed with his directness. It didn’t appear like Bettina ever answered.

At least based on the edit, I don’t see how Brad struggled at all with this decision. He’s telling Jenni how into her she is and telling Deanna how she’s his soulmate, how could you not give them roses? Fwiw, Bettina was the one fantasy date that arguably didn’t go beyond kissing in the hot tub.

Bettina’s exit was very reminiscent of last season’s number three, Danielle Imwalle. Both took the high road. That and Bettina did look good in the bathing suit (yes, I am that shallow and my wife still tries to get me to admit that that’s the real reason I watch this show). So she didn’t kiss the guy once they swam to “Makeout Beach” or whatever that place was called, but I think there were good reasons. The two never did seem completely comfortable with one another. I have no idea why Brad even checked in with her about moving to Austin. Brad is a bit like Andy Baldwin in that body language has consistently been much more telling than what’s said verbally for them. Whatever verbal indications Bettina was giving of her readiness to be Mrs. Bar Owner Womack, Brad was going on the “I’m holding back” messages that they don’t teach you to read in college that she was still sending.

Deanna: Have you noticed how competitive this woman is? First she treats her two on one date as a contest to see if she can outdo all of Jade Beazley’s answers. Next, they stick her in a dune buggy and she has to makes like Danica Patrick. They get some alone time at dinner and Deanna starts talking like she’s closing a real estate sale. I wouldn’t like it, but it appears to work with Brad.

Some random things. I didn’t realize that Deanna was that much shorter than the other two women. Does anyone else wonder why they didn't use the fact that all the fantasy dates were in one place to have the ladies run into one another the way they did with Krisily during Charley O'connell's season? In Bachelorese “Soulmate” means lock for the final rose, but this has been a very oddly edited season. My wife is the Deanna fan. She insists that Bettina came off as “dumb”. I have no idea how much that relates to the fact that I kept freeze framing that moment when she jumped off that sailboat. Mrs. Chancelucky keeps saying that Deanna is the one who projects any kind of emotional maturity. Women are so shallow sometimes. Last couple shows, Deanna definitely has gotten the winner’s edit though.

So why does the Women Tell All have a swimsuit phase this year? Did they merge with the Miss America Pageant? I’m also wondering about this decision to keep up the suspense at the expense of giving us someone to root for. About the only thing I do know for sure is that Jenni Croft can use that clip to get a job as a Miami Dolphins cheerleader any time she wants. In the meantime, I'm imagining an ending where Jenni winds up telling Brad that Deanna's really the right one for him and that she must get back to her life's mission of bringing Balanchine to NBA dance teams. Mmmm...Isn't that how Paula Abdul got started?

Sirlinksalot bachelor stories

Other Chancelucky Bachelor reviews

other Chancelucky reviews


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Sunday, November 04, 2007

American Water Torture

Michael Mukasey on the right won't say that the practice on the left is a form of torture.

Back when I was a kid, I used to wince whenever other kids would mention “Chinese Water Torturee”. According to the Wikipedia, the Chinese may never have engaged in the practice of randomly dripping a single drop of water onto a victim’s forehead until he went slowly insane. Calling it “Chinese” just made it seem that much more insidious. The name implied that Chinese cruelty knew no limits nor did their creativity when it came to forcing information out of others. The other implication was that Americans were far too civilized to do anything of the sort.

Let’s jump ahead forty plus years. America is actually debating whether or not “waterboarding”, a form of water torture that ups the physical danger level while not giving up any of the psychological terror, should be legal. At the end of World War 2, we labeled the practice a war crime when the Japanese did it. There have also been occasions when it was used to get confessions in our own penal system. American courts have consistently ruled that the practice is “torture” as well. In the meantime, the Bush administration hasn’t defended their practice as much as they’ve tried to keep it a “secret” option. Only those who have been “read into” the program are allegedly sufficiently qualified to evaluate the ethics of the practice.

I have to say that I’m disappointed. It strikes me that Americans should be proud of their war on freedom or is it our war in defense of freedom? That means the Bush administration should take the credit it’s due. The world needs to start referring to the practice of drowning people until they think they’re going to die as “American Water Torture”.

The practice isn't strictly American in orgin. Apparently it was used by the Spanish Inquisition, the Nazis, the Japanese Kempaitai during World War 2, the Khmer Rouge, and the Dutch East India Company. It would be a real coup, if America can have the honor of having the practice named for our much younger culture. In the meantime, the other cultures that have practiced it aren't especially anxious to take ownership of the tradition. That's lucky for us, I guess.

Maybe then, a generation from now, children all over the world will be playing soldiers and they can threaten one another with “American Water Torture”. They will say, “When Americans go to war, they’re as cruel as any other culture. They observe no limits.”

American children will then feel as good about the name “American Water Torture” as I did when the other kids used to refer to “Chinse Water Torture.”

Dick Cheney's view


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