19 July 2006


For five and a half years, Bush didn't veto a single bill.  Not one.  Not even a spending bill was sent back to Congress (some fiscal conservative, huh).  But now he's finally used his first veto.  What was so important to Bush that he'd break his Cal-Ripken-like no-veto streak?  He sent back a bill that would relax restrictions on federal funding for stem-cell research.

Actually, as it happens, I agree with the veto itself.  Any restriction on federal funding is good if you ask me.  But, as is usual when Bush happens to do the right thing, his reasoning is wrongheaded:  "This bill would support the taking of innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others.  It crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect."  So he regards using human cells that have no more personhood than protists to make medical advancements and better the lives of real people as unacceptable.  Would he also support a murder charge for any woman who naturally flushes out a fertilized egg?  Maybe he should create a new federal department to inspect every woman's menses.  Or he could assign the duty to the Department of the Interior.

Anyway, even though Bush's reasoning is ridiculous, I can't fault him for the veto itself, though I don't see the issue as a very important one.  Michael Tanner's excellent article in the San Francisco Chronicle makes this point better than I could.  He writes, "Despite the impression left by some of its supporters, stem-cell research is not banned.  In fact, not only is it legal, it is thriving in the private sector. . . . If the government were to simply get out of the stem-cell research business and let the private sector continue its good work, medical science would do just fine."  Damn straight.

17 July 2006

Puffy chairs and dark scanners

I miss living in Austin for many reasons.  One is that it has a fantastic independent movie scene.  Right now I'm in Austin for a few days visiting my mom, and today I saw The Puffy Chair, which won't be released in St. Louis (at the Tivoli) until September.

The movie is about a relationship of two twenty-somethings in the context of a road trip to buy a nostalgic recliner.  I think the male lead looks like a cross between me and Jim on The Office, though his future seems even less certain than mine or Jim's.  The relationship in the movie feels like a slice of a real relationship, and their conversations sometimes remind me of conversations O and I have had.  In fact, what I loved most about the movie is that it never felt much like a movie.  It's the realest movie I've seen in a while, even realer than The Squid and the Whale and Me and You and Everyone We Know.  And, like those movies, it's richly funny.

I also saw A Scanner Darkly a few days ago, which I recommend to anyone who enjoyed Waking Life.  It's a grim view of the consequences of a government that tries to regulate its citizens' lives to such an extent that the lines between "good" and "evil" are blurred away to nothing.  Don't mind surveillance because you think you have nothing to hide?  Glad to give up some freedom and privacy for hope of greater security?  See A Scanner Darkly—it's a powerful argument against the drug war, the USA PATRIOT Act and all similar attempts at top-down control.

04 July 2006

Explosions in the Sky

Happy Independence Day!  To me, the 4th is a day to celebrate independence and freedom, not nationalism or domestic spying or secret military tribunals or national IDs or wars of conquest or hired killers overseas.

But whatever is celebrated today, there will be Explosions in the Sky.  One of my favorite bands has released a new album called The Rescue as free MP3s on www.explosionsinthesky.com.  Check it out, and also be sure to hear their album The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place, especially if you loved the music in the movie Friday Night Lights.