Volume II, Issue II Summer 2003

The Smoking Section

So now the health fascists at the Centers for Behavior, er, Disease Control are upset because "casual" smoking rates are up.

The latest surveys seem to show that more and more folks, particularly young adults, are now smoking socially – similar to the way they drink.

While the CDC grudgingly admits that smoking once in a while doesn't really hurt you, they still huff that this is unacceptable – and by gosh, they're going to do something about it.

It's long been Turbula's position that while smoking may indeed be a lousy habit, it makes for a fine luxury treat – much like a fine single-malt scotch. And no brown shirt in a lab coat is going to get us to give up that fine a treat ...

Conscience ... without the cost

So it turns out that one of the American "human shields" who went to Iraq to protect the fascist Hussein regime – in the name of peace, of course – is now refusing to pay fines for violating U.N. and U.S. sanctions against the former right-wing Baghdad regime.

Faith Fippinger said she's refusing to pay the approximately $10,000 fine because it would contribute to the buildup of the U.S. arsenal.

Protest This is a familiar refrain from the Left of late – that Americans opposed to our possessing a military shouldn't have to contribute to it. The same goes for the death penalty and scientific experimentation on animals.

Suggest, however, that those opposed to, say, abortion should be able to subtract a portion from their taxes so as not to contribute to government-funded abortions, and the silence is deafening.

Besides, Fippiner et al are missing one of the major underpinnings of civil disobedience. From Thoreau to Gandhi to King, one of the major tenets of civil disobedience is that you follow your conscience, even if it conflicts with civil law – and then accept your punishment without complaint.

Fill the jails with prisoners of conscience, King taught, and soon you'll change the hearts of the rest of the country.

That teaching is derived from Socrates' point that if you choose to live in a free, democratic state – one in which you're free to leave if you don't like the rules – then you implicitly accept the social contract of that state.

Socrates refused to flee Athens to escape an unjust death penalty, because to do so would have been to invalidate all that he'd done.

And Gandhi and King and their followers did, indeed, fill the jails with the just.

But today, such consistency of purpose and sacrifice for cause are too much for our suburbanite protestors. From anti-abortion types to anti-logging squatters, anti-globalization zealots to "human shields," protestors are decrying any punishment from the courts as injust, refusing to pay fines, fleeing to avoid jail.

Which doesn't say much for the faltering moral fortitude of today's protestors.

As for our friend the human shield?

It seems she's expecting to draw on her Social Security in a few years – and she'll get it, all right. As soon as the feds assess her fines.

When is a slur not a slur?

There was a time in the Deep South when suggesting that a white person had some non-white blood in the family was considered the most grievous of slurs on a (white) person's honor.

Today, of course, such a statement would not even be taken as an insult.

So why is it that we still treat accusations of homosexuality as an insult – a slur to be denied?

Jerome Shockey This has been especially true in the sports world of late, but with these stories – from New York Mets catcher Mike Piazza denying he's gay to the football Giants' Jerome Shockey calling his former coach a "homo" – spilling into the non-sports news coverage, it's fair to ask why the media is playing along with this.

To whit – if one accepts the argument that Turbula, along with most Americans accepts, that homosexuality is a naturally occurring phenemenon, then homosexuality is neither shameful nor slur.

Would Piazza feel the need to hold a press conference to deny he's color blind or has A- blood type? Would Shockey try to knock someone down by implying they're Jewish or black? (Okay, given Shockey's repeated public stupidity, that may not have been the best example ...)

Then why the need to deny homosexuality?

And why does the media accept this idea that homosexuality is something to be denied, that a state of homosexuality is in any way an accusation? That it is an insult?

Sure, Shockey is an idiot – but so is every editor who played the story straight ... so to speak ...

Two more icons gone

Bob HopeThe recent passing of both Bob Hope and Sam Phillips the same week was another reminder of the unebbing flow of time. That Hope – a one-time star of vaudeville before conquering motion pictures, radio and television – and Phillips, whose Sun Records helped birth rock 'n' roll, should pass the same week was a bit ironic.

For it was Hope's old-school style of entertainment that the young musicians in Phillips' Memphis studio were rebelling against in the 1950s.

And yet, if Hope was already middle-aged by then, Phillips was only 20 years younger – an observation on the compression of time last century.

Sam Phillips and Elvis Presley For certainly, Elvis Presley, whom Phillips made a star, seemed light years removed from vaudeville. But like Hope, Phillips was able to conquer many styles – before Presley wandered into Phillips' Sun Studios, he recorded blues musicians like Howlin' Wolf, James Cotton and the leader of the Sun house band, Ike Turner. He also was the producer to put Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins on the national stage.

Another irony – both Hope and Phillips made their initial money in entertainment, only to invest it and become multimillionaires – Hope through Southern California real estate and Phillips by taking his $35,000 from selling Elvis' contract and buying into a new startup name of Holiday Inn ...

Not so ritzy anymore

GuccioneHere's how out of it Turbula's editors are: Penthouse magazine misses three issues, and we never even notice.

Or perhaps it's a sign of how irrelevant Penthouse has become.

While Penthouse founder/publisher Bob Guccione was once considered a savant of the good life, today he seems little more than a pathetic old flesh merchant, a pimp of cheap tastes.

And so the fact that Penthouse is broke and on the verge of being shut down – with Guccioni's beloved Penthouse mansion likely to be repo'd – seems not so much a sign of the times as a sign of what used to be ...

Do the French just not get it?

Le WoodyThe French seemed genuinely taken aback by American outrage to French hostility to the liberation of Iraq. At first, the French government tried to blame the 30 percent drop in American imports of French goods on a Bush administration plot.

Finally, however, it seems to have occurred to the French that Bush doesn't have that kind of sway over American opinion (no president ever has), and that the anti-French tide sweeping the nation is truly a grass-roots reaction.

Might have had something to do with public opinion polls showing that most French wanted to see heavy American casualties in Iraq to teach us a lesson. Given how many wars the French have lost without any drop in arrogance, why they thought a military defeat would teach us some humility is a bit of a mystery.

Regardless, even the self-righteous don't want to suffer financially for their puffery, and so the French are now trying to win back their lost American customers with a public relations campaign. French business interests are running TV, radio and newspaper ads in Eastern seaboard cities to convince Americans to buy French and travel to France once again.

Yet their choice of spokesman has us wondering if they're not yet a bit confused.

For they've selected none other than the disgraced and irrelevant Woody Allen.

Of course, in France, carrying on a longterm affair and then marrying and having children with your stepdaughter might not be seen as aberrant ...

Strom Thurmond is still dead

Strom ThurmondAnd so former Sen. Strom Thurmond is really, truly dead at age 100. While we're sure his family, and perhaps even some constituents, are mourning, his passing partially closes an era when it was still fashionable, even political, to wear racism as a badge of courage.

And while only the passing of Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia, the last former klansman in Congress, will fully close that era, we still imagine that former Senate majority leader Trent Lott is a bit wistful at his mentor's death:

"If only Strom had died a year ago, he wouldn't have had a chance to turn 100, and then I wouldn't have opened my fool mouth about the glories of his presidential bid and I'd still be Senate majority leader."

Indeed, Sen. Lott ...

Angst at the Gray Lady

A good number of Turbula's staff members cut their teeth in the newspapering gig – an odd world, and one that the New York Times has never been bashful about claiming to rule.

The Times Building The recent crisis that led to the ouster/resignation of Executive Editor Howell Raines has left many in journalism – Turbula among them – both giddy and sad.

And it's that giddiness that seems to be bothering New York Times staffers – who wonder why others in the business should take delight in the troubles bedeviling the Times.

But if Times reporters and editors were angry and resentful of Raines' imperious style, then they now know how the rest of working journalists view the Times: arrogant, condescending and rude.

The heavy-handed way in which the Times presumes to try to dictate the rules of journalism (rules that favor large, well-heeled media organizations over struggling start-ups and other independent media, by the way) has long grated many in the business.

And so like the schoolyard bully who's unceremoniously shown up when his mom whaps him in front of the whole playground, the New York Times isn't finding much solace from those forced to endure its lack of grace and class ...

Double standards and the Jews

In the seemingly eternal back-and-forth between the Arabs and the Jews in the Middle East, Turbula sides with most of the world in hoping for peace.

Star of David It's a cheap sop, of course, no matter how sincerely felt, to opine about war and peace from the safety of a home in the United States. But no more cheap than much of what passes for journalism coming out of the Mideast, either.

As we pointed out last issue, the Reuters news agency now refuses, as a matter of policy, to differentiate between terrorists and decent folk. And they're not alone when it comes to coverage of Israel.

More and more, the media treats Arab (which is, after all, how the Palestinians refer to themselves in Arabic) terrorism and Israeli government action as co-equal.

Now, it's hardly in Turbula's nature to grant anyone absolution – last time we checked, the Israeli government was still comprised of human beings, fallible as any others.

But we would point out this: The reason that the shortcomings, even criminal behavior (if any) of the Israeli government can be reported on by the media is that Israel is a free and open democracy. In fact, the only Arabs with the right to vote in the Mideast live in either Qatar or Israel.

Israel believes in, respects and even supports a free press – something few Arab governments currently do. So Western reporters – even those from openly racist organizations like Reuters – are able to move freely in Israel, and to report on events as they see fit.

Try doing that in an Arab nation ...

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