Sunday, August 31, 2008

Michael Moore's Letter to God About Gustav

Michael Moore has a great open letter to God that is too good not to be shared.

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

Dear God,

The other night, the Rev. James Dobson's ministry asked all believers to pray for a storm on Thursday night so that the Obama acceptance speech outdoors in Denver would have to be cancelled.

I see that You have answered Rev. Dobson's prayers -- except the storm You have sent to earth is not over Denver, but on its way to New Orleans! In fact, You have scheduled it to hit Louisiana at exactly the moment that George W. Bush is to deliver his speech at the Republican National Convention.

Now, heavenly Father, we all know You have a great sense of humor and impeccable timing. To send a hurricane on the third anniversary of the Katrina disaster AND right at the beginning of the Republican Convention was, at first blush, a stroke of divine irony. I don't blame You, I know You're angry that the Republicans tried to blame YOU for Katrina by calling it an "Act of God" -- when the truth was that the hurricane itself caused few casualties in New Orleans. Over a thousand people died because of the mistakes and neglect caused by humans, not You.

Some of us tried to help after Katrina hit, while Bush ate cake with McCain and twiddled his thumbs. I closed my office in New York and sent my entire staff down to New Orleans to help. I asked people on my website to contribute to the relief effort I organized -- and I ended up sending over two million dollars in donations, food, water, and supplies (collected from thousands of fans) to New Orleans while Bush's FEMA ice trucks were still driving around Maine three weeks later.

But this past Thursday night, the Washington Post reported that the Republicans had begun making plans to possibly postpone the convention. The AP had reported that there were no shelters set up in New Orleans for this storm, and that the levee repairs have not been adequate. In other words, as the great Ronald Reagan would say, "There you go again!"

So the last thing John McCain and the Republicans needed was to have a split-screen on TVs across America: one side with Bush and McCain partying in St. Paul, and on the other side of the screen, live footage of their Republican administration screwing up once again while New Orleans drowns.

So, yes, You have scared the Jesus, Mary and Joseph out of them, and more than a few million of your followers tip their hats to You.

But now it appears that You haven't been having just a little fun with Bush & Co. It appears that Hurricane Gustav is truly heading to New Orleans and the Gulf coast. We hear You, O Lord, loud and clear, just as we did when Rev. Falwell said You made 9/11 happen because of all those gays and abortions. We beseech You, O Merciful One, not to punish us again as Pat Robertson said You did by giving us Katrina because of America's "wholesale slaughter of unborn children." His sentiments were echoed by other Republicans in 2005.

So this is my plea to you: Don't do this to Louisiana again. The Republicans got your message. They are scrambling and doing the best they can to get planes, trains and buses to New Orleans so that everyone can get out. They haven't sent the entire Louisiana National Guard to Iraq this time -- they are already patrolling the city streets. And, in a nod to I don't know what, Bush's head of FEMA has named a man to help manage the federal government's response. His name is W. Michael Moore. I kid you not, heavenly Father. They have sent a man with both my name AND W's to help save the Gulf Coast.

So please God, let the storm die out at sea. It's done enough damage already. If you do this one favor for me, I promise not to invoke your name again. I'll leave that to the followers of Rev. Dobson and to those gathering this week in St. Paul.

Your faithful servant and former seminarian,

Michael Moore

P.S. To all of God's fellow children who are reading this, the city New Orleans has not yet recovered from Katrina. Please click here for a list of things you can do to help our brothers and sisters on the Gulf Coast. And, if you do live along the Gulf Coast, please take all necessary safety precautions immediately.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Less Than Underwhelmed By The Ex-Beauty Queen

I think all Obama supporters should send John McCain a "thank you" note. What a gift, his selection of Sarah Palin, the Alaska governor, to be the Republican vice presidential nominee. In one stroke, he has just given away the biggest argument against Obama, his inexperience. I don't think Democrats need to argue any more that Obama is ready to lead; I don't think they will have to, McCain would be an idiot to keep running ads claiming Obama lacks the experience to be president when his own vice presidential nominee has even less.

Alaskans are shocked. Republican Alaska State Senate president said, she thought it was a joke when someone called her to give her the news. "She's not prepared to be governor. How can she be prepared to be vice president or president?" said Green, a Republican from Palin's hometown of Wasilla. "Look at what she's done to this state. What would she do to the nation?"

Another joke is McCain's apparent belief that the selection of a vice presidential candidate with a vagina will get disappointed Hillary supporters to vote for him. It's an insult to the intelligence of the "PUMA's" to think they're going to support a right-wing, home-schooling, anti-choice ex-beauty queen, just because she's a woman. Gail Collins has a hilarious column here about how the pick of Palin couldn't have been because she is a woman.

For more on what the people who know Palin best are thinking, read this blog from Alaska, Mudflats with its picture of downtown Wasilla, Alaska, where Palin was mayor briefly.

Thank you, John McCain, you've cheered me up about Joe Biden.

Monday, August 25, 2008

All You Need to Know About the Election

Okay, no more kvetching from me about Biden. This is all you need to know about the election. The Democrats should stop all other advertising and just run this one; 24/7, from now until November. Want more of the same? Vote McCain!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Underwhelmed by Biden

There is no doubt that Obama is a lot smarter than I am, and he has a political team that has demonstrated its ability to pull off miracles. So there is no reason anyone should listen to me complain about Obama's vice presidential selection. I'm just not very excited about a running mate who is the quintessential Washington insider. Going to meetings is not my idea of accomplishment, and that is essentially what Senators do -- go to endless meetings. Biden strikes me as another preening, self-absorbed Washington politician, with the added disadvantage of being so windy that his talking has become the object of jokes. He's like Joe Lieberman with a chin.

But if Obama has decided that's the running mate who will help win the election, I'll swallow my misgivings. If he thinks Biden will help him win, fine. I'll feel a lot better about the selection if McCain makes the "brilliant" move of selecting Lieberman as his running mate. Biden would look good in comparison.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Ask Aunt Tillie: How Can Amish Be So Cruel?

Blogger's Note: Since this blog is somewhat Amishcentric, I get questions from time to time from readers about Amish life and culture, which I refer to my Aunt Tillie, an opinionated, but humble Amish woman. Here is a recent question and answer. Please leave a comment or email me if you have questions you want me to refer to her in the future.

Dear Aunt Tillie:

I used to admire Amish for their quiet simplicity and peacefulness. But now I am hearing about the two Amish brothers in Pennsylvania who were running puppy mills, and shot 80 dogs after state officials ordered veterinarian examinations of some of the dogs who appeared to be in bad shape. (Blogger's note: See story here.) How can a pacifistic people be so cruel? Will those puppy killers be expelled from the church?

(Signed) Horrified

Dear Horrified:

I hate to be the first to tell you this, but stupidity and cruelty are no respecter of religions. Not all Amish operate puppy mills, and not all of them would rather shoot 80 dogs than have them inspected by a veterinarian. I don't know if their church will excommunicate those brothers, but it should.

This is not an excuse, but Amish do not have the same attitude towards animals that the English do. (Blogger's note: When Aunt Tillie refers to "English" she does not mean people from England. In the Amish world, everyone who is not Amish is "English.") We use animals -- horses to pull our buggies and with which to farm; cows to produce milk and meat; hogs for meat. We rarely make emotional attachments with our animals. Generally, we do not allow dogs and cats into our houses. We have dogs and cats around the farm, but the cats are there to keep the rodent population in check and the dogs are to let us know about any prowlers. I doubt that there has ever been an Amish person who has dressed up a dog in a cute little outfit or calls herself the dog's "Mommie" like I've heard some English people do.

So, for an Amish person, shooting a dog rather than taking him to a veterinarian would be like killing a sick chicken or putting down a horse that broke a leg. I think, however, that shooting 80 dogs just because you might be in trouble with the state for not taking care of them properly is beyond what most Amish would consider acceptable. I certainly don't think it's proper, and I hope those brothers go to jail and stay there for a long time. And the church should excommunicate them, but I doubt that will happen.

I have a great-nephew who raises dogs and sells them. I don't know if he runs what you would call a puppy mill, but he keeps 7 or 8 dogs in pens in the barn, and I have seen them and felt like opening the pen and turning them loose. Even though I would never call myself our Rover's "Mommie," it isn't right to treat a dog cruelly. So, I hope you don't hold it against all of us what those two brothers did in Pennsylvania. But I think our bishops are going to have to get together and talk about whether allowing members of our churches to have puppy mills isn't more sinful than allowing them to have colorful clothing.

(Signed) Aunt Tillie

Monday, August 11, 2008

A House Concert Coming Up

If you're in Central Illinois, you can hear a fine concert by two young musicians on August 24th. Stop by, have some cake and say, "Hi." (Clicking on the image will enlarge it enough to read the fine print.)

Tuesday, August 05, 2008


For some unknown reason, although I was vaguely aware of the author,Joan Didion, and must have read some of her magazine articles, I had never read any of her books until last year when I read The Year of Magical Thinking. It is an account of a harrowing year she spent in which her husband, the writer, John Gregory Dunne, died suddenly of a heart attack and her only child, a daughter, was unconscious with septic shock for a lengthy period, and then, eventually also died. The book deservedly won the National Book Award and was a finalist for many other awards, including the Pulitzer. The book is very good, not only because it is well written, but Didion pulls off a difficult subject with such passion, humor and insight, without ever resorting to self-pity or finding lessons to preach to others.

I didn't give The Year of Magical Thinking my top rating (five stars are very hard to come by from me,) but I raved enough about it that one of my Christmas books last year was a collection of Didion books called We Tell Ourselves Stories In Order to Live.

I started reading We Tell Ourselves Stories during our Michigan paradise days several weeks ago, and kept irritating the wife by saying "Listen to this!" and then reading passages from the book. If I could write like that, I told The Wife, I would quit everything else and become a writer.

Didion is about 12 years older than I am, and her early writing shows a distinctively conservative slant. She was a Goldwater girl (I won't call myself a "Goldwater boy," but I was a fervent Goldwater supporter in 1964) and over the years, grew wiser and more liberal. But even her early writing shows such sparkle that although I disagree now with some of what she wrote then, it is a delight to read. Her essay, Slouching Towards Bethlehem cleverly skewers the hippie culture of San Francisco in 1967. Which gets me, finally, to the point of my posting tonight. She has an essay, written in 1961 when she was only 27 years old, called On Self Respect, which is so good that I have to share some of it with someone. Not daring to interrupt The Wife again, I will make you, dear reader, the object of my generosity. Here is the quote:
"I faced myself that day with the non-plused apprehension of someone who has come across a vampire and has no crucifix at hand.

"Although to be driven back upon oneself is an uneasy affair at best, rather like trying to cross a border with borrowed credentials, it seems to me now the one condition necessary to the beginnings of real self-respect. Most of our platitudes notwithstanding, self-deception remains the most difficult deception. The tricks that work on others count for nothing in that very well-lit back alley where one keeps assignations with oneself; no winning smiles will do here, no prettily drawn lists of good intentions. One shuffles flashily but in vain through one's marked cards -- the kindness done for the wrong reason, the apparent triumph which involved no real effort, the seemingly heroic act into which one has been shamed. The dismal fact is that self-respect has nothing to do with the approval of others -- who are, after all, deceived easily enough; has nothing to do with reputation, which as Rhett Butler told Scarlett O'Hara, is something people with courage can do without.

"To do without self-respect, on the other hand, is to be an unwilling audience of one to an interminable documentary that details one's failings, both real and imagined, with fresh footage spliced in for every screening. There's the glass you broke in anger, there's the hurt on X's face; watch now; this next scene, the night Y came back from Houston, see how you muff this one. To live without self-respect is to lie awake some night, beyound the reach of warm milk, phenobarbital, and the sleeping hand on the coverlet, counting up the sins of commission and omission, the trusts betrayed, the promises subtly broken, the gifts irrevocably wasted through sloth or cowardice or carlessness. However long we postpone it, we eventually lie down alone in that notoriously uncomfortable bed, the one we make ourselves."

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Movie Report: Not My Mamma's Mia!

I'm afraid someone is going to call me an old sourpuss for being grumpy about Mamma Mia! The movie is a musical, set to the songs of the Swedish pop group, ABBA (interestingly enough, the name is formed from the acronym made by the first letter of each group member's given name. Let's see, what other musical groups do I know who named themselves that way? Oh, yes.) The songs are very melodic and have a catchy beat, if you like the over-produced market-driven sounds of ABBA. The story, if you can call it that, is about a 20-year-old young woman about to be married, who discovers in her mother's diary that her father could be any one of three men, so she invites all three to her wedding on a remote Greek island and they all show up. The young woman has two female friends who show up to be bridesmaids and the mother (Meryl Streep) has two of her friends show up, so there are lots of photo and singing opportunities as the friends and ex-boyfriends go cavorting around the picturesque island singing at the top of their lungs, without getting breathless.

Speaking of picturesque, the only thing beautiful in the movie is the mountain scenery. A 20-year-old young woman on her wedding day should look pretty, but this one, Amanda Seyfried, looks odd. (She does not look as good in the movie as the poster above depicts her.) Her husband-to-be, a Greek islander one takes it, looks positively developmentally-disabled.

I realize that musicals require more of a suspension of disbelief than I like to give anything, but this one makes even less sense. Why is a movie set on a Greek island, about an American woman with English speaking boyfriends called "Mamma Mia!" for example? "Mamma Mia" is Italian for "my mother." No one is Italian or speaks Italian in the movie. The songs were popular ABBA songs before anyone thought about making a musical, so, even though there is an attempt to concoct a story around the songs, there is even more disconnection with the so-called story than is typical in musicals. Across the Universe did the same thing with Beatles songs and did a much better job of crafting a coherent story around the lyrics.

Yes, I agree, Meryl Streep is a wonderfully-talented actress -- or used to be. It has been 25 years since she made such classic films as The French Lieutenant's Woman, Sophie's Choice, and Silkwood. Unfortunately, Mamma Mia! is more in keeping with the recent clunkers like A Prairie Home Companion, The Devil Wears Prada, and Lions for Lambs. In all of those movies, as well as in Mamma Mia!, my criticism is not so much of Streep's performance as that she is in them in the first place. Surely, she doesn't need the work that badly.

The Wife did not want to take me to this movie; she said she knew I wouldn't like it. A friend has seen the movie several times and would like to see it again. I thought if the friend liked it that much, it couldn't be all that bad. And it wasn't all that bad; it just wasn't very good. I gave it two stars