Monkey Media Report

The Triangle's near-daily
news and arts Weblog

December 2002

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Double billboard photographed 12/29 near Chillicothe, Ohio by Kevin Darbro. [link]


12.30.02 - Here's what you don't know about the"Islam Exposed" mess. The story's in newspapers from Long Island to Seattle, so I'm sure you're aware that the Guilford County Republican Party has removed the link to a ridiculously anti-Muslim site from its home page. Once the national press and the Council on American-Islamic Relations began calling, Guilford HQ finally noticed it had - oops - prominently linked to a site that smears the entire Muslim world as evil savages in its first paragraph. Lord knows how they missed that minor detail.

But the geniuses over in Greensboro missed a lot more than that. Scratch below the surface at and you'll find an atheist newsfeed and approving links to groups like the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Internet Infidels and The Happy Heretic, where the monthly columns include "An Atheist Christmas," "WHAT Ten Commandments?" and "Religion's Evil Core." Turns out a local branch of the Republican Party, in its rush to share the "good news" about Islam, has instead been quietly funneling its members toward one of the most aggressively anti-religious corners of the Web. What a hoot. Satan sure does work in mysterious ways. There's also a link to a now-defunct sister site, (available as a print-on-demand book), that this Christian site attacks for 1) saying that "Jesus did not teach anything new and original at all," 2) offering analysis of "the reason so many morons believed and still believe Paul," and 3) asking, "How can anyone in his or her right mind believe this sh#t?" You can imagine the looks on those Guilford faces when they finally realized what they'd done. Any takers on a bet that it was the anti-Christian and atheist stuff that really got the GOP to remove the link?

County chair Marcus Kindley told the N&O he was unaware of the site until recently, but there's room for skepticism on that one. When the story first began bubbling on Democratic sites in late October, a UCLA professor named Mark Kleiman wrote in his Weblog that he'd emailed Kindley directly about this very issue and gotten no reply. The link stayed, but a few days later, the GOP's bizarre disclaimer went up: "This site was introduced to readers of The Guilford GOP does not endorse the opinions expressed on this website, nor have we fully researched the site. It is presented as interesting reading material relating to the War on Terrorism. We have received a few emails from Muslims who indicate that this material misrepresents their religion."

How nice. Calling Islam a religion "invented by savages for savages" now counts as "interesting" reading. Kleiman helpfully suggests the next sentence: "But, they might add, we're having too much fun pushing religious prejudice to stop now, and we're too *^@+!#$% stupid to follow the link to ""

You're not going to believe it, but the story gets even better. A five-minute 'Net search reveals that the man behind, Solomon Tulbure, is currently in the process of earning quite a reputation as a 'Net crackpot. At one point a self-described "homeless bum," he's also apparently a telepath and a Grand Master of the Illuminati. There's even a Yahoo! group devoted to laughing at him (I can't vouch for the claims there).

Whatever oddities Tulbure might have are irrelevant to the deeper questions here, of course. This little agnostic is more than willing to critize any religion for its excesses, and Islam certainly has more than its share of those. But using pictures of Taliban executions to argue that Islam is inherently "evil" - at a time when popular Iranian intellectuals like Hashem Aghajari are braving death sentences to call for an Islamic Protestantism - is hardly the way to do it. Grow up, Guilford GOP. [link]


12.23.02 - U. S. Representative Cass "When a black person angers me I long for Jim Crow" Ballenger is backpedaling hilariously. He just painted the little black lawn jockey in his front yard white. "My wife said I was a coward," noted the Congressman, who recently told the world there are times he might be expected to have "a little bit of a segregationist feeling." You can imagine the screaming that one caused at Republican Party headquarters.

The Charlotte Observer and N&O both dutifully pass on the news that Ballenger is "proud of my civil rights record," but neither story bothers to give readers even a cursory look at that record. We do get this, however:

The episode Friday was not the first time Ballenger has been accused of racial insensitivity. During his 1996 campaign, he was criticized for his refusal to remove a black lawn jockey from the front of his Hickory home. Ballenger said the piece was a family heirloom. In a 1999 speech, he complained about his redrawn congressional district, saying: "[They] took away the country club and gave me South Statesville and the blacks." Ballenger, 76, easily won a ninth term in November with 60 percent of the vote.

Big deal. So did every other incumbent House member from North Carolina. Three cheers for partisan redistricting. Ballenger's top campaign contributors are listed here, btw. [Oops, that's for 1996 - here's the current list.]

UPDATE: Ballenger actually "calls the statue 'Rochester,' after the black valet in the old Jack Benny show." [via Josh Marshall] [link]


12.23.02 - Unbelievably stupid American foreign policy decision #4,561: The U.S.-operated, Prague-based Radio Azadi (aka "Radio Freedom") has been used for weeks by pro-democacy students in Iran to share information and call in with firsthand reports about the ongoing protests against their country's hardline Islamist leaders. The Washington Post describes our country's latest contribution to the struggle:

Two weeks ago, Radio Freedom abruptly disappeared from the air. Iranians were no longer able to hear firsthand reports of the protests or the nightly think tanks about their country's future. Instead, after two weeks of virtual silence, the broadcasts are being replaced this week with tunes from Jennifer Lopez, Whitney Houston and other soft-rockers.

How did the mullahs pull off this well-timed lobotomy? They didn't: The U.S. government, in the form of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, did it. In an act that mixes Hollywood arrogance with astounding ignorance of Iranian reality, the board has silenced the most effective opposition radio station in Iran at a time of unprecedented ferment. In its place, at three times the expense, the United States now will supply Iran's revolutionary students with a diet of pop music -- on the theory that this better advances U.S. interests. [...]

Incredible, isn't it? Way to support the democratization of the Middle East, Uncle Sam. I can only hope the conservatives who love to shriek that there aren't any democracies in Arab countries are as incensed at this move as I am. Here's the best part, though:

"The assumption of the people who did this back in Washington is that Iranian young people, like young people in most places, don't want to hear news," says Stephen Fairbanks, the ousted director of Radio Freedom. But this is not most places -- this is Iran, where young people are leading a rebellion against a dictatorship that has stifled opposition media. The student leaders who used to phone in, Fairbanks says, now tell him that "they are losing their voice."

The "people back in Washington" Fairbanks referred to are led by Norman Pattiz, a Los Angeles-based commercial radio mogul and generous Democratic contributor who was rewarded by President Clinton with an appointment to the broadcasting board.

Pattiz' general idea - American pop culture is a better advertisement for the United States than "old-style propaganda" - would have a shred of merit if Radio Azadi had been broadcasting, you know, old-style propaganda. But killing a popular, effective outlet for guiding direct democratic action in the streets and replacing it with Whitney Houston songs is just mind-bogglingly stupid. [link]


12.20.02 - It's all over but the career politician's sobbing. Now that Bill Frist -a Tennessee heart surgeon and close Bush pal (without the baggage of a troglodyte like Don Nickles) - is openly running for Senate majority leader, it's bye-bye, Trent, you cute little segregationist you. Better to step down before that Jan. 6th meeting, don't you think?

The only question remaining is whether the dinosaur Senator will lash out like a Balrog as he goes down. If he quits the Senate in a huff, there's almost certainly a lucrative career waiting for him on the Aryan lecture circuit. I'm sure he's considering it. [link]


12.19.02 - Watched bits of Braveheart again as I was flipping through the channels last night and found myself wondering about the real story of William Wallace (I've been on a history kick lately, so indulge me, please, daily news junkies). Of course, the movie - a solid action pic with gruesome, crunching battle scenes and lots of manipulative heart-tugging - had me squirming as queer little Edward II came in for abuse, since the "effeminate male = villain" stuff got old for me ages ago. But Edward II was a pretty weak and corrupt fag whose sexual indiscretions, among other things, cost him his life, so in this case the sneering seems justified. I just don't like that it plays into some of the most obvious anti-gay stereotypes around. Life's tough, I know.

Anyway, the scene where Edward I threw his son's lover out a window was just one of the more egregious historical distortions written into Braveheart. Left out was the real reason Wallace won his first big battle at Stirling in 1297: English troops made an ill-advised river crossing and were slaughtered:

Against advice, Surrey follows Cressingham's idea to cross the narrow bridge, which can only take horsemen abreast. The Scottish troops wait until the trumpet call from Wallace on the Abbey Craig above. They have the English in a trap of their own making, and at the right moment, they strike. The English who have crossed to the north side of the bridge have no room to manoeuvre, and those on the other side watch on helplessly. The massacre brings a victory that sees Cressingham killed and Surrey flee.

As usual, the full details about the battle are far more gripping than the Hollywood version. Also, check this description of the film, from a more academic debate about the various versions of the Wallace legend:

In other words, what we have here is: a late 20th century film inspired by (but not faithful to) an early 18th century poem inspired by (but not faithful to) a late 15th century poem inspired by (but doubtless not faithful to) unknown and/or lost earlier sources (of unknown reliability) about a historical figure who died in 1305.

Yeah, like that's gonna be accurate. [link]


12.16.02 - So it turns out that Mr. Al "I'm not really cut out for this stuff" Gore is coming to my neighborhood a day after announcing his welcome decision to not run for President. Tonight's latest stop on his book tour is just a few blocks away from my apartment. Hope I get a chance to ask why he became a leftist only after losing in 2000. I won't be too hard on the guy, since his attack on Bush's handling of the War On Some Terror was a nice kick in the ass to Democrats like John Edwards a few months back (chew for a moment on the fact that Gore pulled out just before visiting NC), and he could turn out to be useful in the campaign. But it sure is tough to shed too many tears for someone who lost a gimme election to a clown like our current leader.

My dream autograph? "Keep left, monkeys. Love, Al." Should be able to get a few bucks for that one. [link]


12.16.02 - A week and a half without an Internet connection. You have no idea. I'll be back in full effect shortly but here's all you need to know: The ice storm that swept the South last week left me with a cracked windshield and no 'Net, on top of the furnace fire that left me with no heat last month. Trust me, I'm soul-searching to figure out why my karma's been so bad lately. As far as politics goes, 1) Trent Lott's racist sympathies couldn't be more obvious and it's disgusting that the pols and press have let him get away with it for so long, 2) the only smart reaction to Al Gore's announcement is "Yay!" and 3) the people who okay'd the Durham curfew that included a ban on alcohol sales should be run out of town.

Who do these people think they are, suspending the Constitution just to "send a message?" "This is really more of a plea," said Durham's Interim Police Chief Steve Chalmers. If that's true, then why wouldn't a plea have done the job? Suspending the Constitution and banning alcohol sales at a time when many citizens were without power is patronizing, insulting and sets a horrible precedent for the future. Basic respect for the citizenry should mandate that warnings, encouragement and common sense should be used first, and curfews only in response to actual trouble rather than as a preventive measure. Raleigh mayor Charles Meeker and the rest of the Triangle's leaders deserve kudos for not attacking citizens' Constitutional rights unnecessarily. [free reg'n required for Herald-Sun links, remember] [link]


12.4.02 - Planet Earth as abstract art. [link]


12.4.02 - Nice to see a real apology from a public figure, even if it was late. After getting smacked down by his Board of Governors, UNC-CH chancellor James Moeser finally admitted he was wrong to give a ridiculous sweetheart deal to outgoing General Counsel Susan Ehringhaus. Scroll down here for the full text of Moeser's letter to the community, which is a great example of the right way to apologize for a major screw-up: Abjectly and at length.

The worst thing about this mess - which isn't over, since questions remain about the deal Moeser offered to outgoing vice chancellor Susan Kitchen - is that it serves to confirm the spin from religious conservatives that Moeser somehow handled last summer's Qu'ran reading episode poorly. Moeser fought back beautifully against a completely absurd lawsuit in that one - without any assistance from the Board of Governors, thank you - but after this tone-deaf reading of the state's budget situation, folks who want to punish Moeser for forcing students to read about Islam will be better able to paint that principled stand as another example of his out-of-touch arrogance. Thanks a lot, James, for your inability to anticipate the reaction to an Enron-esque golden parachute for a staff member you wanted to get rid of. What a shame. [link]



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