The Day After

Wish this was a joke, but apparently the Federal Emergency Management Agency decided that it would be a good idea to make a game for kids involving Tsunami cleanup. Crazy old me, I'd call it a tiny bit insensitive, considering the major disaster that just hit Asia, but what do I know?

Mr. P sent me a nice link to Thom Friedman's latest OpEd over at the New York Times. Here's an excerpt from An American in Paris:

Why are Europeans so blue over George Bush's re-election? Because Europe is the world's biggest "blue state." This whole region is a rhapsody in blue. These days, even the small group of anti-anti-Americans in the European Union is uncomfortable being associated with Mr. Bush. There are Euro-conservatives, but, aside from, maybe, the ruling party in Italy, there is nothing here that quite corresponds to the anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-tax, anti-national-health-care, anti-Kyoto, openly religious, pro-Iraq-war Bush Republican Party.

If you took all three major parties in Britain - Labor, Liberals and Conservatives - "their views on God, guns, gays, the death penalty, national health care and the environment would all fit somewhere inside the Democratic Party," said James Rubin, the Clinton State Department spokesman, who works in London. "That's why I get along with all three parties here. They're all Democrats!"

While officially every European government is welcoming the inauguration of President Bush, the prevailing mood on the continent (if I may engage in a ridiculously sweeping generalization!) still seems to be one of shock and awe that Americans actually re-elected this man.

Before Mr. Bush's re-election, the prevailing attitude in Europe was definitely: "We're not anti-American. We're anti-Bush." But now that the American people have voted to re-elect Mr. Bush, Europe has a problem maintaining this distinction. The logic of the Europeans' position is that they should now be anti-American, not just anti-Bush, but most Europeans don't seem to want to go there. They know America is more complex. So there is a vague hope in the air that when Mr. Bush visits Europe next month, he'll come bearing an olive branch that will enable both sides to at least pretend to hold this loveless marriage together for the sake of the kids.

...Funnily enough, the one country on this side of the ocean that would have elected Mr. Bush is not in Europe, but the Middle East: it's Iran, where many young people apparently hunger for Mr. Bush to remove their despotic leaders, the way he did in Iraq.

An Oxford student who had just returned from research in Iran told me that young Iranians were "loving anything their government hates," such as Mr. Bush, "and hating anything their government loves." Tehran is festooned in "Down With America" graffiti, the student said, but when he tried to take pictures of it, the Iranian students he was with urged him not to. They said it was just put there by their government and was not how most Iranians felt.

Iran, he said, is the ultimate "red state." Go figure.

Next up, Democratic Underground was nice enough to point out the most memorable comment about the inauguration over at Salon's War Room:

Meanwhile, our favorite TV nugget of the day so far came courtesy of Barbara Walters, who matter-of-factly informed viewers that Laura Bush recently had her hair done by famed New York City stylist Sally Hershberger, who charges $700 for a haircut. Just take a moment to think back to the go-go '90s, and try to imagine what the press' hysterical reaction would have been if word ever leaked out that Hillary Clinton had sat down for a $700 trim."

Now, I'd rather not speculate about what might have been said, had this happened several years ago. However, I can honestly say that not only does $700 seem just a bit excessive, you have to wonder how that sort of thing is approved, and how often it happens.

More importantly, I don't think an inauguration and its festivities should cost over $50 million dollars:

Estimates on the cost of the Bush inauguration have wavered in the $30 million to $40 million range, maybe as high as $50 million for three or four days of events.

...The inauguration festivities will be supported by private donations from oil companies, insurance companies, investment and mortgage companies and other companies that will be opening up their checkbooks out of the goodness of their hearts, expecting nothing in return, just looking for a chance to jitterbug at any one of nine balls in the nation’s capital, watch fireworks displays, listen to a youth concert, see a parade — and, oh yeah, there’s a swearing-in ceremony, too.

Organizers say the festivities would have a solemnity missing from other inaugurals because the country remains at war.

“There have been 55 inaugurations and very few have taken place during wartime, and this inaugural will reflect that,” said Steve Schmidt, spokesman for the inaugural committee.

Part of that “solemnity” will likely come at the Commander-in-Chief Ball, a new event this time around.

It will be free of charge to 2,000 members of the armed services and their families, featuring those who have recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, or those who will be deployed there soon.

Don’t get too comfortable, taxpayer; you will be paying something. How about a little thing called security?

The $40 million for the inaugural gala doesn’t include the cost of security. While the string quartets fiddle, ball-goers can look at the windows and see evidence of millions being spent for security.

The District of Columbia anticipates spending $8.8 million in overtime pay for about 2,000 D.C. police officers; $2.7 million to pay 1,000-plus officers being sent by other jurisdictions across the country; $3 million to construct reviewing stands; and $2.5 million to place public works, health, transportation, fire, emergency management and business services on emergency footing.

Somehow, I failed to see any sort of "solemnity" in all those huge balls they were throwing. Solemn people would have the swearing-in, hold a somber dinner and then gone back to work helping our troops and rebuilding our poor, broken economy. This was one huge party that lasted a whole three days.

After the party ended, Republicans decided they needed to get back on the offensive. Their target this time: Spongebob Squarepants:

On the heels of electoral victories barring same-sex marriage, some influential conservative Christian groups are turning their attention to a new target: the cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants.

"Does anybody here know SpongeBob?" Dr. James C. Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, asked the guests Tuesday night at a black-tie dinner for members of Congress and political allies to celebrate the election results.

SpongeBob needed no introduction. In addition to his popularity among children, who watch his cartoon show, he has become a well-known camp figure among adult gay men, perhaps because he holds hands with his animated sidekick Patrick and likes to watch the imaginary television show "The Adventures of Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy."

Now, Dr. Dobson said, SpongeBob's creators had enlisted him in a "pro-homosexual video," in which he appeared alongside children's television colleagues like Barney and Jimmy Neutron, among many others. The makers of the video, he said, planned to mail it to thousands of elementary schools to promote a "tolerance pledge" that includes tolerance for differences of "sexual identity."

..."We see the video as an insidious means by which the organization is manipulating and potentially brainwashing kids," he said. "It is a classic bait and switch."

We all remember how Bert and Ernie were accused of being gay. I don't know if I speak for the rest of you, but I know growing up watching them made me queer as a three dollar bill.

Lastly, let's all relax for a moment and thank these patriots, who have stood up for true freedom and the liberty we all hold so dear. They are the true Patriots.
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