Tell it like it...uh...hmmm.

The single most incomprehensible review of Brokeback Mountain I've ever read.

Seriously, folks: worth a look. Even I, who spend a frighteningly large percentage of my time reading the ravings of Town Hall columnists, can't begin to figure out what this guy's point is.


This war brought to you by the Small Government Party

I've said for a while now that the worst scandal of the Iraq War is the one that's getting talked about the least. There's so much to hate about the invasion: the trumped-up pretexts for a war of aggression; the blatant fabrications about weapons of mass destruction; the paper-thin commitment to democracy and the freedom of the Iraqi people; the way that we're hanging the whole country out to dry now that things look less rosy than the unconscionably ill-planned pre-war predictions indicated; the near-universal scorn and ill will it's generated amongst our allies; the bitter division it's created within our own country; the way it's shown us to be weak at a time when we need to be seen as strong; the way it's involved us in torture, murder and false imprisonment; the necessity it's generated of making allies of some of the worst people in the region; and the incalculable cost in money, material and human lives.

But worse than all of that is the grotesque looting of public money by the very people who pushed for the war in the first place. The G.O.P. talks a high-minded game of democracy, freedom, and protection against terror, but their real priorities can be seen in the way profiteering businesses have taken the billions of dollars in taxpayer money earmarked for the war and stuffed it into their pockets -- and then going back to do it again and again and again. One compelling reason to think that George W. Bush is the worst president in American history is the way he combines elements of other rotten leaders in a repulsive synthesis: he blends the 'bog-America-down-in-an-unpopular-and-unwinnable-war' quality of Richard Nixon with the 'hand-over-as-much-public-money-as-possible-to-your-crooked-cronies' quality of Warren Harding. Independent estimates by non-partisan groups have indicated that the amount of money mismanaged, overcharged, or outright stolen by American forces, contractors and corporations in Iraq is far and away the largest in the history of the United States. Dozens are on trial or in jail already, but government prosecutors say that most cases aren't pursued and most guilty parties will never be charged (how much of a role political pressure plays in this reluctance to prosecute is unknown, but it doesn't take a genius to guess that it's a big factor).

The most recent audit is just that -- the most recent. Not the most damaging, not the worst, not the widest or the most damning; simply the latest. And even though it's less horrific in the picture it paints of American businessmen using taxpayer money meant for Iraq as a personal feeding trough than certain previous audits, it's damning enough:

- Desks at the Provisional Authority's Hillah office were stacked a foot high with $100 bills; Coalition authorities -- many of them young interns with no experience, hired because they put their resumes on Heritage Foundation job sites -- took them out of the central vault at their leisure, with no documentation of where the money was going. The amount of money taken out of the vault with no paperwork indicating who took it, who deposited it, or where it was spent may be as much as $20,000,000.

- One PA agent kept three-quarters of a million dollars -- money earmarked for Iraq reconstruction -- in an unlocked foot locker. An American soldier took over $50,000 of it to use on a gambling junket in the Phillipines.

- A large amount of Iraqi oil revenue, meant to be used to finance reconstruction, has gone missing -- auditors could account for only $23 million of a total of $120 million in revenue. (Beyond the missing $97 million, only $8 million of the $23 million accounted for was documented in a proper manner.) Many of the agents in charge of the money were former Bush campaign workers.

- American contractors fattened themselves off of gargantuan contracts but did little actual work. One received over $600,000 to repair an elevator at Hillah's General Hospital, but he didn't do the work, and three Iraqi orderlies fell to their deaths when the elevator collapsed. Another American contractor received over $100,000 to replace the plumbing at a public pool in Hillah; he merely polished the old pipes to make them look new and pocketed the money. And another was paid $14,0000 four times for a job he only did once. (Auditors estimate that for every case of contractor fraud of this nature they discover, there are possibly as many as a dozen more they don't.)

- Two PA agents simply absconded with nearly a million and a half dollars. Their manager, when confronted with evidence of the loss, tried to clear them using fraudulent paperwork. (None of the three have yet been referred for prosecution.)

- Nearly $2,000,000 of reconstruction funds for the library at Karbala was wasted, with hundreds of thousands still unaccounted for. The American contractor in charge of the project promised to install almost 70 computers, but he only delivered 18, and didn't provide internet access or a LAN; the computers only work as stand-alones and are thus nearly worthless.

- $23,000,000 was given to PA officers and agents to pay contractors. Only $6,000,000 was disbursed.

- U.S. security forces spent nearly a million dollars on seven armored cars; not only did they prove to be too lightly armored to use, but one of them is missing.

Keep in mind, this audit deals only with south-central Iraq -- one of the least hostile, most stable parts of the country following the cessation of active combat. Most auditors expect the amount of fraud, theft and misappropriation in other parts of the country to be much, much higher.

It's too bad that calling this Halliburton's War has become such a leftist cliche. It's never been about oil, but it's always been about money -- and in the end, the war will end up costing hundreds of billions of dollars, not just in legitimate expenses, but in terms of the fraud, overcharging, double-dipping, misappropriation, and outright theft that is being perpetrated by American corporations with a wink and a nod from the most corrupt White House administration since the Ohio Gang. Next time someone tells you they vote Republican because only the G.O.P. can protect us, remember those un-armored cars shuttling around crooked timeservers with their fingers in the till; next time they tell you they vote Republican because they're against big government wasting their tax dollars, remember those 22-year-old Bush interns sitting behind a desk piled high with cash that used to be in your wallet.

Grasping the subtleties since 2000

"I don't see how you can be a partner in peace if your party has got an armed wing," President Bush said Thursday in remarks about the ever-so-unpleasant selection of Hamas to lead the non-nation of Palestine.

The president's failure to appreciate democracy-qua-democracy is legendary; taking his cue from right-wing sock puppet Hugh Hewitt (whose If It's Not Close, They Can't Cheat: Crushing the Democrats in Every Election and Why Your Life Depends on It came out after the 2000 elections), he seems to think that democracy is a sort of public spectacle, an excuse for potato salad and bunting, by which the public is allowed to vote in favor of the correct party. For him, elections are not unlike his service in the Air National Guard: a display, a perfunctory gesture through which one endorses allegience to the proper patriotic values -- but not anything to be taken particularly seriously, and certainly not anything in which an unexpected outcome (say, the fighting of an actual battle, or the election of an ideologically unsuitable candidate) should be allowed. His confounded, resentful reactions to open election results in Europe, Asia, and South America over the last six years tell you all you need to know about the esteem in which he holds the value of democracy; it's a principle worth going to war for, and worth wasting the lives of thousands, but it's not something you want to let decide who will lead a country.

Anyway, just in case the president wants to appear, in the future, slightly more informed about these matters, the reason that Hamas (and Fatah, for that matter) have armed wings is that, since Palestine is not a sovereign nation, it does not have its own military forces. Their armed wings function as combined police and security forces because, as an occupied territory of another nation, they are forcibly denied the opportunity to maintain a standing military. The only reason one does not say that the Republican Party in the United States doesn't have an armed wing is that, controlling the federal government as they currently do, they don't need one. Despite the best efforts of G.O.P. scandalmongers to make an issue out of Hamas' intention to use their own 'armed wing' as a security force, this is in no way different than what Fatah has done for the last fifteen to twenty years.

At any rate, we can all rest soundly at night, knowing as we do that if the President can't convince people that the Mahometan is a dire enough threat, American neoconservatives and lobbyists and the Israeli government can -- even if they have to commit treason to do it.


Hits from the raw

Brent "Walter Peck" Bozell: rappers are dumb.


Hey, my pal Claire Zulkey was on the tee vee yesterday! Check it out.

Having not read A Million Little Pieces, I have little to say about it other than the handful of excerpts on Slate were pretty stupid. I am enjoying, as Delia Ephron put it, people's apparently limitless capacity to be surprised by the fact that most memoirs were initially pitched as novels. They end up as memoirs for three reasons: memoirs are hot right now; novels pay shit; and you can get away with being a worse writer if you claim your book is the true story of your life instead of a fictionalized account of what you wish your life was like. At any rate, I was highly amused at Oprah's meltdown yesterday. She continues to be able to make it (whatever it happens to be at any given moment) all about her: despite manifesting a teeny-tiny degree of shame by actually apologizing for her previous defense of the non-true truthiness of Frey's book, she generally took the line that it was all his fault for being a big ol' fibber and not very much her fault for reading the book uncritically and promoting it unceasingly. Mostly she came across as scolding him not so much for writing a ham-fistedly sexed-up version of his own life and presenting it as 'truth', but more for making her look bad.

My favorite moment came when Frey's editor, Nan Talese, slinked out to, among other things, make the claim that she didn't think anything was suspicious about the passage where he claimed to have gotten a root canal without anaesthesia, because she had done the same thing herself. Now, there was nothing unseemly about this blatant heap of bullshit -- editors lie all the time. That's practically their job. What was funny was how Oprah's audience immediately booed and groaned at this patent fabrication, just as they had immediately embraced the dentist story when she read it out of the book the first time. Oprah had declared that the book was true and real and great, and they all cheered; Oprah had declared that the book was false and decietful and wrong, and they all hissed. It must be nice not to have to figure stuff out for yourself.


The whole Palestine election thing is doubly ridiculous. Bush has been pretending for five years that he gives a shit about democratic elections in the Middle East, and now that he's seen one that he can't stage-manage like he did the ones in Iraq, he's acting like someone sent him webcam footage of Jenna throwing up in a toilet.

And everyone -- but especially the US and Israel (in other words, the two parties most responsible for why the average Palestinian is in a near-constant state of rage) -- is acting like it's some kind of tectonic shock that a desperate, angry, poverty-stricken, religiously saturated, and essentially hopeless population just might vote for the party who feeds them a line of reactionary, tough-sounding, violent, defiant hard-liner rhetoric. In other words, the Bush and Sharon governments are expressing surprise that what got them in office also got Hamas in office.

Fucking absurd.


Proud to be an American!

Last Wednesday, New York Knicks forward Antonio Davis was playing a game against the Bulls here in Chic when he entered the stands to confront a fan who he believed was threatening his wife. No punches were thrown, no blows were exchanged, and no violence took place; however, the NBA has a strict policy about players entering the stands. Davis was suspended for five games and will lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary. Even if the player's union (of which Davis is the president) succeeds in reducing or voiding the suspension, Davis will be fined a minimum of $15,000.

Meanwhile, yesterday, Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Weishofer, who in 2003 helped torture to death an Iraqi general -- stuffing him face-first into a sleeping bag, covering his mouth, and jumping on his chest until he asphyxiated -- received a fine of six thousand dollars. When the sentence (the bare minimum, with no jail time, for the charge of negligent homicide, which came after the jury declined to find him guilty of homicide) was read, Weishofer's fellow soldiers stood and applauded. His attorney claimed throughout the trial that Weishofer had only been following orders, a hauntingly familiar defense for anyone familiar with the Nuremberg trials of 1946. Weishofer will not be imprisoned, discharged or demoted, and the Army (who engaged in a cover-up about the death from the very beginning, claiming falsely that General Mowhoush had been captured, claiming falsely that he had given information about insurgent activities, and claiming falsely that he had died of natural causes when the autopsy revealed signs of torture and gave the cause of death as asphyxiation) plans no further prosecutions in the case.

It's too bad Davis can't get a deal like Weishofer. For what it cost him to just walk up into the stands, he could have tortured two, three Iraqis to death.


Might as well face it, I'm addicted to crap

Town Hall today:

Warhammer enthusiast and pundit-by-birth Jonah Goldberg reminds us that there would be no need for lobbying and its concomitant culture of corruption if Washington would just leave businesses alone in the first place.

Full-time scold and professional fretter Debra Saunders says that we can't have gay marriage, because that leads to polygamy, and that leads to Osama bin-Laden.

Humorless Walter Peck impersonator Brent Bozell warns that even though a bunch of fag movies won Golden Globes, we shouldn't think that means anything, because the Golden Globe voters are a bunch of dirty commie Europeans.

Soul-patched microbiologist/plagiarist Nathanael Blake, like many college students, presents material that is not original where it is good and not good where it is original.

Shameless and talentless former traitor Oliver North proves that there's no slanderous falsehood about Democrats he won't repeat five years or more after it is fashionable.

I'm very, very sorry.


From the Country That Brought You A.Q. Khan

Hey, remember a couple of days ago, when the CIA sent out flying killer robots to annihilate a Pakistani border town because the robots thought there were big-shot terrorists hiding there? Only it turned out he wasn't, and instead the robots killed 18 innocent civilians?

Well, touchy sons of bitches as those Pakis are, they got all bent out of shape and started holding anti-American protests and rallies, which made pet dictator/walking corpse Pervez Musharref nervous. Luckily, he's our boy, and we sent some people to have a word with him. We don't know what they said, of course, but we do know that since that time, a bunch of terrorists have been discovered under the pile of corpses!

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - An al-Qaida explosives and chemical weapons expert and a relative of the terror network's No. 2 leader were among four top operatives believed killed in a U.S. missile strike in Pakistan last week, Pakistani security officials said Thursday.

Well! An explosives expert AND a relative of whoever we're claiming is the Vice-President of Terror Affairs for Al Q'aeda Inc., that's pretty good. To whom should we attribute this glorious news?

The three security officials, all speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media.

Ah. Well, that's okay, though. Anonymous sources are only disreputable when they're alleging misconduct by American or Israeli forces, or saying that President Bush is an idiot. At any rate, at least we have some Islamonazi carcasses we can string up from the nearest light post, right?

said the al-Qaida figures were believed to have been in Damadola village near the Afghan border at the time of Friday's attack but their bodies have not been recovered.

Oh. But, at least, if anonymous sources say we're unconfirmedly killing imaginary terrorists whose bodies haven't been recovered, at least they're bigwigs, I'm sure.

The officials said the operatives included Midhat Mursi al-Sayid Umar, 52, who the U.S. Justice Department calls an explosives and poisons expert. The Egyptian also has distributed training manuals with recipes for chemical and biological weapons and trained hundreds of fighters at a terrorist camp near the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad before the ouster of the hardline Taliban regime in late 2001. Umar is suspected of training the suicide bombers who killed 17 U.S. sailors in the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000, according to Mohamed Salah, a Cairo expert on Islamic extremists.

There we go! And naturally, this must be true, because we've certainly never before reported an infamous al-Q'aeda leader killed when in fact he was still alive. But it seems strange that they've recovered all the bodies of all the innocent people who died, and none of the bodies of the bad guys, doesn't it?

Provincial authorities said al-Qaida sympathizers took the bodies of the foreign militants believed to have been killed to bury them in the mountains near the Afghan border, thereby preventing their identification.

Whew, I knew there was a perfectly reasonable explanation. At any rate, we know this isn't complete propagandist fantasy, because of all the U.S. collaboration of the story.

Pentagon officials said they had no information on the reported identities of the dead, and CIA spokesman Tom Crispell said the agency could not comment.

Which is coming any day now, certainly soon enough to go to press with this unambiguous headline. Ah, the power of the press!

The Seven Things You Can't Say On Television, on the other hand, are pretty ironclad

Libertarian dingbat Larry Elder has a new book out called The Ten Things You Can't Say In America. Strangely, the book was published here in America, and became a best-seller, but he didn't go back and change the title. Anyway, here are the ten things.

Blacks are more racist than Whites

This is highly controversial, indeed, and before Larry had the courage to say it, the only person who dared speak those words was high-profile Oscar-hosting multimillionaire Chris Rock, who said it repeatedly on several of his best-selling comedy albums. Of course, if Larry had phrased it differently, say, "white racism has caused more misery, poverty and death than black racism", it would be even more truthful (as opposed to truthiful).

White condescension is as bad as Black racism

By "condescension", what Larry (who, in case you were wondering, is black) means is "assistance". Larry thinks that if there's one thing worse than black racism, it's white people attempting to correct the harm done by 4 centuries of white racism.

The media have a liberal bias

Gosh, you sure can't say that! Why, I can't think of more than three, four dozen bestselling books, popular radio programs, nationally syndicated newspaper columns, and highly rated television networks who have even dreamed about daring to think about suggesting such an outrageous thing.

There is no glass ceiling holding women back in the corporate world

Once again, Larry is right. There is no literal, tangible ceiling made of glass which physically holds women workers in place. And once again, his rightness is made even more righteosious by his not having phrased it in a whiny liberal way like "for some reason, women make up almost 50% of the workforce, but make less aggregate income, are passed over for promotion at a higher rate, and make up a disproportionately small number of managers, executives and CEOs despite their increasingly higher levels of education".

America's greatest social problem is illegitimacy

I haven't read the whole book, so I'm not sure what he means here. Is he saying that America is not a legitimately sovereign nation? Is he saying that our society is a fake society? Or is he saying that coloreds have too many babies? Taking bets.

there is no Health-Care "crisis"

By which he means, we have awesome health care in this country, better than any place, if you can afford it and why couldn't you unless you were a bum. Our highest-in-the-First-World rates of infant death, cancer, heart disease, tuberculosis, and diabetes are just coincidence, and our ever-increasing number of uninsured citizens just reflects the go-get-'em attitude of start-up enterpreneurs.

Governmental welfare is neither necessary nor constitutional

I'm not sure how to approach this one. I mean, it's pretty much libertarian gospel that welfare is unnecessary, and that the social upheaval caused by abandoning the lower classes can be dealt with by an efficient police force, but unconstitutional? That's a new one on me, so maybe you CAN'T say that in America. Insofar as it makes no fucking sense.

There's not a dime's worth of difference between the Republicans and the Democrats

Ladies and gentlemen, the common ground where Larry Elder and Ralph Nader meet. Only a few million Democrats have been saying this for, oh, 15 years or so.

We are losing the war against drugs

Maaaan. If Larry really thinks that you can't say this in America, he really hasn't been paying attention. Pretty much everyone on the left has been saying since the war against drugs started way back in the early 1980s. Proof, I guess, that the right wing only listens to itself.

The ultimate goal of gun control is confiscation

Well, I guess if by "ultimate" you mean "final". Even then, you could, I dunno, melt them into plowshares or something. As a pro-gun ownership nut myself, I don't necessarily have a problem with the libertarian proposition that there should be few, if any, limits on firearms possession, but why is it whenever someone meekly suggests that maybe you should have to wait a few days before buying an assault rifle, or maybe we shouldn't sell pistols to a guy who's been in the joint three times for armed robbery, the right starts going down the Turner Diaries path? Calm down, Larry, no one's gonna take your snipe-hunting iron.


Hall Politics

Town Hall (which, in a terrifying miscarriage of truth, I have placed in the bookmarks folder of my browser titles "Culture"; "Kultur" would probably be more apt) is particularly entertaining today.

Torn as he is between his professional and familial obligation to toil as a right-wing gasbag and his own desires to sit around watching Star Trek reruns and rolling up 1st-level elven rogues, it's often hard to tell when Jonah Goldberg is joking. Take his most recent column, where he argues that "what Iran needs is a Saddam Hussein":

A coup by sophisticated and serious members of the military would be great news. Even better would be a popular uprising. And best of all would be a combination of the two. An Iran with an old-style military dictatorship charged with defending democratic institutions would be an enormous, epochal victory for the West and for the Middle East. That would go a long way toward guaranteeing success in Iraq and would neutralize the threat of the Iran's nuclear ambitions, even if they decided to pursue a bomb.

Now, surely, Jonah "We Invaded Iraq To Help Spread Democracy and Freedom" Goldberg isn't suggesting that the best possible thing for both Iraq and the west is for Iran to be taken over in a coup by military strongmen, can he? And am I wrong, or is he seriously forwarding the idea that the government best equipped to "defend democratic institutions" is "an old-style military dictatorship"? I mean, I know that the new right doesn't really give much of a shit about democracy (preferring its ugly but polite cousin, stability), but this is perhaps letting the mask slip a bit TOO much. At a time when the sole purple-finger-thin justification for the war in Iraq is spreading democracy throughout the middle easy, it would seem that the last thing you'd want to do is openly pine for a nice old-fashioned military dictatorhip (like that of our good friend Pervez Mussharaf!) in Iran. Besides, although Jonah doesn't mention it, the last time we had a military dictatorship in Iran was under the Shah, and, well, that didn't work out so well. Indeed, the modern structure of Iran as a Muslim fundamentalist theocracy is a direct reaction to how much everyone hated the Shah. Put that Sliders novelization down, Jonah, back to the history books with you.

Meanwhile, John McCaslin, sort of a younger and even more conservative version of Andy Rooney, waxes rhapsodic over Dick Cheney's spell of the gout, then drops this brain-bomb:

Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard and commentator for Fox News, has a witty title for his soon-to-be-published book, "Rebel-in-Chief: Inside the Bold and Controversial Presidency of George W. Bush."

A review by Publishers Weekly notes that the author "preaches to the Crawford choir in this analysis-cum-tribute to the Bush presidency," but praises his "surprising glimpses into the personality" of the president.

For instance, whereas Bush dislikes reading newspapers, he has a copious book-reading habit: "five to every one that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reads."

Now, I'm not calling Freddie Barnes (or, as Bulldog John McLaughlin calls him, "FreddieBAAAAAAARNES") a liar. I'm just saying, this claim is beyond surprising and well into the realms of unbelievable. I wouldn't even imagine that Bill Clinton, who, whatever his faults, seemed like a pretty avid reader, reads more books than Condi Rice (who, whatever HER faults, has multiple graduate degrees, has written four books, and was a professor at Stanford, and seems like she probably reads a great deal). So, if we accept this at face value, how to explain it?

1. Condoleezza Rice has only read one book since becoming Secretary of State, thus making Bush's having read five seem like not that much of an accomplishment.

2. George W. Bush defines "book" downward, so while Condi reads 5 fat, detailed, complex books on history, statecraft and politics, he reads 25 books like Go Dog Go or The Pet Goat.

3. Freddie Barnes and/or his source for this claim is completely full of shit.

Your call as to which is more likely.

Finally, Town Hall has fallen in love with Burt Prelusky, because their latest claim is that conservatives, despite being a numerical majority in the United States and controlling all three branches of government as well as the worlds of business, entertainment, and media, are a tiny, voiceless minority who are constantly shouted down and made to live in fear. So Prelusky lets them indulge this preoccupation, claiming as he does to be the lone conservative voice in wicked liberal Hollywood. His latest column features him bragging about having beat some dame for a movie critic's job back in college by writing a review of a film he hadn't actually seen; he goes on to give Munich and Brokeback Mountain the same treatment. Over the course of the article, aside from the predictable claims that he won't see Spielberg's picture because it appeases those murderous Ay-Rabs and he won't see Lee's picture because no one can force him to look at homos kissing, he leaves the audience wondering (a) how an alleged humor columnist can have so little sense of humor and (b) if there are any movies he actually DOES like, since he decries pretty much ever film genre in existence.

A beautiful day in the Hall, folks.


Ben Shapiro: Answering the Questions No One Asked

Today's unneeded information: Why Ben won't be watching the Oscars. No, it's not because the sight of all the beautiful, fit young movie starlets in their flattering dresses painfully reminds him of his self-chosen chastity. The real reason is far more stupid.

Every year since I was old enough to stay up late, I've watched the Academy Awards.

So, since he was 19, one assumes.

This year, however, I have absolutely zero desire to watch the Oscars. In recent years, lack of quality from Hollywood has turned the Academy Awards into a special-interest-group get-together. If you're crazy, gay, have a disability or are a member of a minority race, you'll likely be nominated for an Oscar; if your film tackles a "deep social issue" (normally an issue dear to the hearts of Hollywood's liberal glitterati), you'll have an excellent shot at grabbing a gold statuette.

To no one's surprise, whingeing adult acne sufferer Ben is denying the Academy Awards his pair of eyes because far too little praise is being heaped on white people. He would clearly be far happier if "minority race" actors went forever unrecognized for their inferior efforts. (As an aside, it's pretty indisputable that lots of disease/disability roles are meant as pandering Oscar-bait. But you can handle it like Extras does, with nasty good humor and a show-stopping performance by Kate Winslet, or you can handle it like Ben does, by cementing his reputation as a joyless ass.)

The Virgin Ben goes on to complain that everything has gone to Hell in a complimentary muffin basket since 1994, when Liam Neeson lost the best actor statuette to Tom Hanks pretending to be a homo. He explains:

"Philadelphia" is, clinically speaking, a maudlin, ham-handed attempt at social commentary.

Uh...clinically? There's a clinical definition of "ham-handed" that doesn't involve having actual ham for hands? I think Ben got so goosed up for his economics classes at UCLA that he slept through freshman comp.

The remaining 1990s were filled with weak movies and weak performances. On average, high-school audio-visual clubs make better movies than Hollywood put together in the late 1990s.

Well, he's got me there. Goodfellas, Fargo, Being John Malkovich, Pulp Fiction, Lone Star, Dead Man, Malcolm X, The Silence of the Lambs, Unforgiven...what a bunch of dreck Hollywood spewed out in the barren nineties. But according to Ben, the 2000s have been even worse, bringing us such anti-American fare as American Beauty ("repulsive" and "pro-homosexuality"), Boys Don't Cry (Oscar voters "disturbingly" handed Hilary Swank the Best Actress award for her role as a he-female), Training Day and Monster's Ball ("overrated" films which won "African-American honorary Oscars"), The Hours and Frida ("homosexual agenda films"), Million Dollar Baby (a "forgettable pro-euthanasia film"), and Monster (where Charlize Theron played an "ugly lesbian").

But this year is even worse, and there's one reason why:

"Brokeback Mountain," the stomach-churning story of two 1963 cowboys who get cozy while bunking down in Wyoming and then carry on their affair over the course of decades, is likely to grab Best Picture honors. The critics love it, mostly because critics love anything that pushes homosexuality as normal behavior.

I'm going to forego a discursus about why conservatives seem to be falling all over themselves to manfully assert their intention of not seeing Brokeback Mountain, largely because the inimitable James Wolcott has already done such a good job of it.

The New York Times raves about it, mostly because the Times has always wanted to carry a ridiculous story proclaiming that "there has always lurked a suspicion that the fastidious Eastern dude of Owen Wister's 'The Virginian' harbored stronger than proper feelings for his rough Western compadres, and that the Red River crowd may have gotten up to more than yarning by the campfire whenever Joanne Dru was not around." Maybe that's what Pinch Sulzberger thinks about when he watches John Wayne on screen, but the Times should be more careful when speaking for the rest of us.

Of course, no one other than Arthur Sulzberger has ever, ever detected elements of homoeroticism in a Western movie before. Remember, though, that Ben here cautions the liberal media not to speak on behalf of "the rest of us". There'll be a quiz at the end.

By the way, don't believe the "hit movie" hype -- this supposed blockbuster has netted a grand total of $8 million. "Hostel," last week's No. 1 movie, a cheap horror film, has already netted almost $15 million.

Ben, of course, is lying. Hostel (which cost $5 million; I'm not box-office-savvy enough to know if that's considered "cheap" in today's Hollywood) has, in fact, made $19.6 million so far; but Brokeback Mountain has made $22.4 million, more than triple what the Virgin Ben claims for it.

Aside from pimping for GLAAD, the Oscars will provide a platform for other leftist talking points. "Good Night, and Good Luck," George Clooney's blatant attempt to bash the Bush administration through the mouth of Edward R. Murrow, and "Munich," Steven Spielberg's attempt to equate Arab terrorism with Israeli self-defense, will likely garner nominations. And to top it off, Comedy Central partisan hack Jon Stewart (who is less and less funny each day) hosts this self-congratulatory leftist feting.

That partisan hack! I'm sure he'll do nothing but tell jokes about what a clown Tucker Carlson is, because that's really all he knows how to do.

I won't be watching. Neither will most Americans.

"The Times should be more careful when speaking for the rest of us." (Ben Shapiro, two paragraphs ago)