Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Another Reason Why They Hate Us

There is something so aggressively vile about the very concept of "competitive eating", it's difficult to put it into words. Fortunately the San Francisco Comical has graciously decided to help. Putting it in the guise of a poorly-written cultural pride puff piece is just gravy, so to speak.

For those unfamiliar with this sport, competitive eating is just what it sounds like: Contestants sit down in front of a huge pile of baked beans or matzo balls or pulled-pork sandwiches, the timer starts and they eat as much as they can, as fast as they can, until the time is up.

Lest you think this is some cheesy county-fair sideshow, know that competitive eating has become a hugely popular sport (a designation some observers object to) with its own governing body, the International Federation of Competitive Eating (IFOCE).

Uh, yeah, "lest" you get the crazy idea that wolfing down hot dogs and matzo balls is some kinda freak show, the IFOCE is here to set you straight, and to ask you if you're going to finish that.

Frankly, I would have thought that IFOCE would be on temporary hiatus while Revenge Of The Sith is in theaters, but maybe the lines moved fast for them.

The number of contests has grown from 12 eating events in 1997 to more than 100 last year, 20,000 people show up to watch the Wingbowl each year and Nathan's Coney Island Hot Dog Eating Championship, the Super Bowl of competitive eating, appeared on the Jumbotron in Times Square last year. According to Richard Shea of the IFOCE, competitive eating is the fastest-growing sport in the world.

Second-fastest. The inadvertent winner is the natural by-product of this goon-fest, competitive shitting. You have any idea what eating 62 hot dogs in five minutes will do to your cloaca? Try passing a Volkswagen through your asshole and tell me that's not a sport, Champ.

Competitive eating has spawned its own celebrities as well. The No. 1 eater in the world, Takeru "the Tsunami" Kobayashi, won the last Nathan's contest by eating 50 hot dogs in 12 minutes, doubling the previous record. The 5-foot-7-inch, 145-pound Kobayashi also blew away the elephantine competition on "The Glutton Bowl" by outscarfing them and wrapping up the proceedings by slurping down 50-plus cow brains.

The diminutive Thomas is second in the world only to the similarly slender gobblemeister, the latest and greatest in a tradition of Japanese eaters who pose an ever increasing challenge to American eating supremacy. (The Coney Island title went to a Japanese eater in 1997, and the Japanese have owned it ever since).

This actually does qualify as strange, that slender Asians are world-beating trenchermen, but so what? What kind of fucking loser jerk watches this crap, much less participates in it? Jesus H. Christ, don't you morons have sock drawers to sort out or something?

You know, I'm not a proponent of suicide or anything, but when your life has devolved to such a useless cesspool that you will waste your God-given moments watching some skinny freak (that you would normally sidestep on the street) scarf several dozen hot dogs in a few minutes, it may be time to consider the therapeutic benefits of eating a bullet. Hell, make a competition out of it, see who can eat the most bullets before time runs out. Whatever floats your leaky boat, retard.

On the IFOCE Web site is a proclamation: "There is an century-old prophecy within the competitive-eating community, dismissed by most, that foretells the rise of the One Eater, a woman who will electrify America's gurgitators and lead them to international victory once again. Like Joan of Arc before her, this eater will be slender of stature but mighty in strength. In recent months, the prophecy has been mentioned more and more frequently as the eaters have watched Sonya Thomas excel in nearly every contest she enters."

Jeebus. So it's really just pro wrestling with nitrates. Sweeeeet. And it seemed at first like it was all about the strategery. I, for one, am shocked.

Thomas, who grew up poor in South Korea, was born competitive. "I hate to lose," she said. "I hate to lose." Thomas moved to the United States in 1997 and settled in Alexandria. Back then, she had little else in her life besides a job, and her spirit continued to, well, hunger for more. It was so bad, Thomas said, that she became depressed and even considered suicide. But everything changed in 2002, when, on television one day, she saw Nathan's Coney Island Hot Dog Eating Championship. She knew in a split second it was for her. "It was my dream, " she said. "I just wanted to be there. They looked like celebrities because they were on TV eating."

It goes on, for far too long. Oh, the competitive yearning and striving. Look, you dumb cunt -- if you're such a fierce competitor, why not become competitive at something useful? Huh? Hmmm? Am I supposed to be uplifted by a woman being rescued from the throes of suicidal depression -- by a hot-dog-eating competition? Are you fucking kidding me?

God, does it get worse, and interminably longer. It's like watching grass grow -- mutated, awful, weedy grass. Come-from-behind stories of derring-do that are supposed to be somehow heroic or inspiring -- but they're eating fucking hot dogs! Oy, it makes your head swim just thinking about it. I hope they're so proud of this they televise it on Al Jazeera. Democracy Hot Dog Sexy!

More nuggets of wisdom from this stupid sack of shit:

You can bet she'll put every ounce of steely determination she has into trying, though. "Koreans care about winning," she told me. "Korean people, their mind. Do you see that? In all sports, they try to be the top one. They care only about top one; they don't care about second one, third one. You know, it's Korean style. That's why I learned that, too. In my life, I have to be top one -- you know, that's me. I cannot take second place, third place."

You know, there is an old saying, from the wonderful Larry Sanders Show, where Larry remarks about somebody as "he'd suck a dick to win a sack race". It's a clever shorthand to refer to someone who is hyper-competitive over things that mean absolutely nothing. Sonya, I'm not at all impressed by your eating "prowess". I couldn't possibly care less if you sucked down 100 hot dogs in two minutes flat. Really. It's eating, stupid.

This whole "Korean gotta be top one" bullshit -- gimme a fuckin' break. Name one thing that Koreans dominate in, besides nail salons in Garden Grove. One thing. This is not to say that they, like many ethnicities, don't have a perfectly fine work ethic. But this broad is positively delusional. Take a quick straw poll of Korean citizens -- Say, would you folks rather have the world's fastest hot dog eater, or the #1 economy? "B", you say? Well, come on! This chick can suck down six dozen hot dogs in ten minutes. Aren't you impressed?

And so forth. This is the epitome of abject, pathetic gluttony, of hopeless losers who should have cultivated a useful and productive talent, but instead are content to gorge themselves in front of throngs of braying retards in wife-beater T-shirts and flag doo-rags. Meanwhile, significant chunks of the human population around the world starve, or are chronically malnourished.

Worse yet, they seriously seem to think they're doing something besides engaging in mere food porn.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Sore Loserman

Remember a few years back, the endless taunts of "get over it" from the Bush claque? Remember when we were all just supposed to magically forget that W's dad's friends on the Supreme Court handed the gig over to him, thanks in no small part to the tireless efforts of paid GOP hacks protesting at the recount site, and harassing and intimidating the vote officials?

Well, that was then and this is now, bub. Now we have a situation where a Democrat won a closely contested election, and they just can't seem to get over it.

Wenatchee, Wash. -- A judge declined Friday to dismiss a Republican lawsuit seeking to remove Gov. Christine Gregoire from office because of alleged fraud and illegal votes in her election last year.

The judge, John E. Bridges of Chelan County Superior Court, said Democrats would have to present their case before he ruled on the merits of either party's arguments.

In denying the Democrats' request for a dismissal, which came immediately after Republicans rested their case here Friday, Bridges said he was seeking to create a robust record in a trial that could have repercussions that might include the removal of a sitting governor or a change in the state's election procedures. Whatever the outcome, the decision is certain to be appealed to the State Supreme Court.

As always, IOKIYAR. Goddamned crybabies.

Fallen Heroes

Hopefully we're all sparing a few thoughts and prayers for the service people who have given their lives overseas for us, regardless of particular political opinion about the war itself. I believe the vast majority of us are. There have been no major protests since the start of the war; there certainly aren't Vietnam-style confrontations between civilians and soldiers.

(Though there weren't really any then, either; any dirty hippie would have been literally risking his life spitting on a returning soldier. It just didn't happen. Jane Fonda has been spit on more times than any returning US soldier.)

We should also remain vigilant about the schemes our government concocts, and the jingoistic frenzy it whips us into as it serves its purposes. It has to do such things; how else do you talk people into letting their kids sign up to go kill or be killed?

We should also reflect a bit on the sort of people running the government and armed forces, which in turn inform how those organizations and institutions themselves are run. It takes a certain sort of person to be willing to cynically use the stories of Pat Tillman and Jessica Lynch for propaganda purposes -- to lie about how Tillman died and withhold the truth about his friendly-fire demise from his family until after his service, so as not to disrupt their recruitment drive/feelgood moment; to lie and whip up a made-for-TV movie about "rescuing" Lynch from armed killers and rapists, when in fact she was in an unguarded hospital. Of course, showing a commando-style raid through night-vision goggles always amps up the entertainment value, no?

This is an unconscionably ugly use of very personal events, for rather selfish, pernicious purposes. I seriously cannot believe that these acts by the military and civilian authorities have not caused greater outcry. Are we merely distracted by all the gewgaws and knick-knacks; are we dumbed down by the constant electronic pummeling of shit like American Idol and Rob and Amber Get Married; or are we just beaten, given up at any hope of openly confronting our masters?

Maybe all of the above; maybe we are destined (doomed) to spend our lives feeling like heavily mortgaged hamsters, never quite able to get off the wheel, never quite resourceful enough to get off the grid, never quite courageous enough to confront and depose the people who really need to be confronted and deposed. We allow our trust and good faith to be abused because we take it for granted that they will be abused no matter what, so we may as well get something out of the bargain.

We should think about the soldiers still over there, trying to do their jobs in an insane situation, sandbagged and sabotaged by their so-called leaders, wondering how the hell they'll ever rotate home when recruitment is nil and Iraq keep quickly descending into chaos and civil war.

Bush supposedly had his accountability moment, or not.

MIAMI - Miami-Dade County's elections chief has recommended ditching its ATM-style voting machines, just three years after buying them for $24.5 million to avoid a repeat of the hanging and dimpled chads from the 2000 election.

Elections supervisor Lester Sola said in a memo Friday that the county should switch to optical scanners that use paper ballots, based on declining voter confidence in the paperless touch-screen machines and quadrupled election day labor costs.

Fifteen of Florida's 67 counties chose touch-screen machines after the 2000 election fiasco. The machines have caused problems during at least six elections, including the September 2002 primary, when some polls could not open and close on time and Democratic primary results for governor were delayed by a week.

Call it a conspiracy theory all you like, but the fact is, you'll never know. You want to doublecheck the precincts that voted with touch-screen machines? You can't. There's no paper trail; there's no receipt.

There's no excuse for it, except the obvious one that we don't want to acknowledge. But as Jeff Wells at Rigorous Intuition is fond of saying, not everything is a conspiracy, just the important stuff.

And the whole time, the corrupt clowns running the show look you in the eye and say, "Who you gonna believe -- me or your lyin' eyes?". Let's think about that and do something about it next year at the polls, if for no other reason than to demonstrate that the freedom for which these brave soldiers fought and died still actually means something to us.

Think about it -- they don't even respect us enough to tell us the goddamned truth about anything. When we get tired of them treating us citizens like children, the whole world will thank us for it.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Governor Pothole

Remember back in the day when Al D'Amato was known, frequently through clenched teeth, as "Senator Pothole"? It's a handy bonding-with-common-man trope used by desperate politicans to show that they love The People so much, why they'll roll up their sleeves and go out and shovel shit at the stables. Message: I care.

Arnold Schwarzenegger cares, so much so that he had a San Jose road crew create a pothole just so he could be witnessed grooming it with an asphalt rake.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger traveled to a quiet San Jose neighborhood Thursday, and -- dogged by protesters -- filled a pothole dug by city crews just a few hours before, as part of an attempt to dramatize his efforts to increase money for transportation projects.

The choreographed press opportunity -- at least the governor's fourth recent event involving transportation issues -- seemed aimed as much at thwarting the demonstrators who have followed Schwarzenegger for weeks as grabbing new attention for his proposal.

You have to love the sheer gall of the guy, corralling a well-compensated city PW crew for another one of his dippy publicity stunts. Message sent and received, Chief. You care so much, you have us peons pay these union hacks $35/hr. to turn a crack into a pothole, so the cameras can catch the filling of it.

It's all just another episode in the Kabuki theatre that comprises the life of Herr Gröpenführer. To attempt to ascribe meaning to this nonsense would be like trying to cut through the thicket of jumbled syntax and stubbed-toe oratory of George W. Bush.

Schwarzenegger strode toward television cameras on Laguna Seca Way to the sounds of the Doobie Brothers' "Taking it to the Streets,'' while flanked by 10 San Jose city road workers wearing Day-Glo vests and work gear. After speeches by the governor and city officials, a dump truck backed up and unloaded a mound of black asphalt and, as television cameras recorded the moment, Schwarzenegger joined the work crew, taking up a broom and filling the 10-by-15-foot hole, later smoothed over by a massive roller truck.

The Doobie Brothers? Really? How 1981, dude. It's as if he left this event to put on some medallions, unbutton his silk shirt halfway, do a couple lines, and head to the drive-in to see if he could score any of the babes waiting to see Cooley High.

I mean, half the songs in the rock n' roll canon contain some reference to driving and/or the putatively freeing aspect of same; and this was the song he settled on to get his message across? Jeebus. He might as well have picked Foghat's Slow Ride.

Well, maybe the residents of the neighborhood at least enjoyed the little show. Let's find out.

The governor's brief San Jose appearance, announced at the last minute, left some residents scratching their heads.

"For paving the streets, it's a lot of lighting,'' said resident Nick Porrovecchio, 48, motioning to a team of workmen setting up Hollywood-style floodlights on the street to bathe the gubernatorial podium in a soft glow.

Porrovecchio and his business partner, Joe Greco, said that at about 7 a. m. they became fascinated watching "10 city workers standing around for a few hours putting on new vests,'' all in preparation for the big moment with Schwarzenegger.

But their street, he noted, didn't even have a hole to pave over until Thursday morning.

"They just dug it out,'' Porrovecchio said, shrugging. "There was a crack. But they dug out the whole road this morning.''

"It's a lot of money spent on a staged event,'' said Matt Vujevich, 74, a retiree whose home faced the crew-made trench that straddled nearly the whole street. "We still have the same problems. Everything's a press conference.''

D'oh! Guess not.

Media advisories for the morning San Jose event were not issued until two hours before it started, and -- in an unusual move -- reporters were not provided with a location, but told to assemble in a parking lot where directions were distributed.

Indeed, the traffic event was such a well-kept secret that a row of spectator seats was mostly unfilled. City officials, road workers and media outnumbered neighbors, many of whom said they learned the governor was around only because of heavy police presence.

Rob Stutzman, the governor's communications director, said there was no attempt at secrecy and that the logistics were set up so the event would have minimal impact on the neighborhood.

But the governor's staff was similarly closed-mouthed about his scheduled fund-raiser later Thursday. While Schwarzenegger's chief fund-raiser Marty Wilson acknowledged that the governor would dine with about "40-50 business leaders'' at a private location in the East Bay, he wouldn't reveal the site, saying only that it was "south of Walnut Creek and north of Pleasanton.''

Oh man, this is rich. Too hilarious. So what we've got here is the tough-guy action hero on the run from nurses and teachers. If being a "girlie man" is bad, then what is it when you're the sort of wuss who hides from said girlie men?

Why don't you just run along back to one of your rich out-of-state distributors of thick envelopes, tough guy? You're on your way out; California does not need any more of your mindless catch-phrases and cartoon antics.

I never thought Arnold Schwarzenegger would make me miss a tool like Gray Davis, but then I never thought a mouth-breathing pud like George W. Bush would make me miss an oversexed galoot like Bill Clinton. Truth really is stranger than fiction.

What we are finding out here, both at the state and national levels, is that politics is an actual skill, and that mere soapbox populism gets nothing done once the cameras are off and the crowd has gone home to watch Rob and Amber Get Married. Actual work is involved, actual skill and attention is required, and all the stale script lines in the world won't change that. Davis and Clinton understood that, regardless of how off-putting their respective antics could be at times.

This may date back to Arnold's appearance at the Republican National Convention last year. Until then, he had been very adept at controlling the scope of his appearances and coverage, and managing his talking points very closely. But an event of the scale of the RNC required broader vision, and Arnold failed in that regard.

Oh sure, he talked a good game about poor immigrant kid making good in the land of opportunity. But he also invoked Richard Nixon as his avatar of grand political thought. Nixon was a smart guy, no doubt, and more socially moderate in domestic matters than many of his detractors may think. But he is still the epitome of corruption in government for most Americans old enough to remember.

Further, Arnold embellished his land of opportunity script at the RNC with a story about his childhood in Austria, about being practically surrounded by occupying Soviet tanks. Both Russian and Austrian authorities have said that the Soviets had long withdrawn out of Styria province by the time young Arnold would have been aware of the world around him. So he's a bullshitter to boot, and all this was brought up almost immediately after the RNC.

It's easy to sneak up on rubes at Applebee's and wow them into supporting you while you're in the room, but people who are serious about policy and the formation thereof know a huckster when they see one. And after Schwarzenegger gets voted out next year, and sees his political career die on the vine, I'm sure he will do well helping Bob Dole sell boner pills during nightly network news commercial breaks.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Happy Birthday To Me

The Golden Gate Bridge. St. Petersburg, Russia. Wild Bill Hickok. Christopher Lee. Heywood J.

What do all these places and people have in common? Today is their birthday. It's a holiday weekend full of steak dinners and barbecues for me, and I still gotta go to work today (though they are taking me out to lunch, which is very cool), so I offer something silly and fun for a change, to see what things and people great and dubious took place on this day in history.

Have a great weekend.

The Beginning Of The End

I think a lot of us started smelling the faint whiff of Republican over-reach and future failure several months ago, as the details of the mendacious Bush Social Security road-show/non-plan started leaking out and underwhelming the masses.

The sad demise of Terri Schiavo, with the ugly media circus of losers skulking outside her hospice, and the concomitant exaltation of opportunistic vultures preening alongside them, made that whiff a bit sharper, a bit more pungent.

Still, after a raft of subsequent polls relaying Americans' discomfort with the likes of Tom DeLay both interfering in their personal health-care rights and comparing his own travails to those of Jesus Christ, the Republicans almost seemed chastened for a week or so. Though that may have just been them keeping their powder dry while the world's largest pedophile cult went shopping for a new figurehead.

Well, now we have a new bellwether for the impending demise of Republican control -- a protest at Sacramento's state house of an estimated 10,000 people, most of them public service employees.

Anger at Schwarzenegger ran the gamut Wednesday, protesters objecting to his attack on nurse-to-patient ratios, his discarded plan to limit state contributions to pensions and a budget initiative that would alter voter- approved safeguards for school spending. The governor has said he plans to put his agenda up for a vote in a November special election.

An election which is not needed. None of these issues are so pressing that they can't wait until next June, when the regular election will occur. Schwarzenegger has been traveling to important places in California like Florida and Texas, drumming up money to bankroll this $80 million special election boondoggle.

Now think about this for just one second. You're a businessman in Texas or Florida. You might "donate" to political candidates within your state, expecting perhaps some return on your investment in the future. But what would your interest be in donating to a state pol in California? What could the tangible return on investment be there?

No matter. The honeymoon is long over; the citizens are now throwing the political frying pan at Arnold's head. Even at the height of his unpopularity, Gray Davis never inspired public protests anywhere near this magnitude. And not just the usual malcontent claque, either -- we're talking nurses, firefighters, teachers. Normal, intelligent, accredited people who don't ordinarily have the time or inclination to grind their political axes in public.

Schwarzenegger has motivated them with his gimmicky boilerplate of warmed-over script clichés. Right, girlie man, very cute. Here's a tip, Jethro -- if you want people to work with you, and not against you, don't call them names and demean them in public.

As I said earlier, Schwarzenegger is popularly seen as a bellwether for the future of the GOP. He's one of their shining stars. Until a few days ago, so was Bill Frist. That's done now; the weirdos who refuse to budge on non-issues like gay marriage have -- surprise! -- refused to budge on judicial appointments and filibustering, and will not forgive Frist for his perfidy. It's a golem of his own making; Frist thought it'd be a swell idea to whip up a faith-based frenzy by publicly equating the filibuster option with anti-Christian sentiment.

Finally, the big kahuna himself, Mr. twenty-weeks-of-vacation-per-year. Bush seems to think he can lay low and ride this out, and maybe he can. But in the meantime, his poll numbers keep steadily slipping, little by little. People look around and see little to cheer about -- a seemingly endless occupation of a country that we really didn't have to invade; more and more allegations of soldiers grievously abusing people, some found innocent after they were beaten to death; a world that has grown weary of our arrogant bullshit, and is now mustering and mobilizing around us; the realization that they were had with this SUV scam, that oil is not only not cheap and plentiful, but is only going to get more expensive, Baku-Ceyhan pipeline regardless.

The collective malaise that currently manifests itself in feelgood totems like magnetic ribbons and such is also keenly aware of the cognitive dissonance in the arguments that got us to invade Iraq in the first place. If we were so sure that Saddam had WMD and nuclear capability, why did we park 300,000 troops on his doorstep; if Iraq was the "low-hanging fruit", then how could they be such a worrisome menace to require such tremendous action?

Americans know and have known all this, yet they have chosen not to confront it -- justifiably so, to some extent, as we were still legitimately shell-shocked after 9/11, and who wouldn't at least want to believe that some of the more troublesome aspects of Arab culture couldn't be popped loose with a swift right cross? Women in burqas, religious oppression, internecine warfare, fanatic sectarianism -- these are all things that sensible people repudiate, and it felt like a hope-against-hope opportunity to rid the planet of some nasty characters, and eliminate the mafia family running Iraq at the same time.

Still, Americans had understandable misgivings, and the longer the occupation drags out, and the more carnage continues unabated since the umpteenth corner turned on Purple Finger Day four months ago, the more these misgivings and discontents will rise to the surface. Because more and more facts come out demonstrating that we didn't have to go, and that despite the sneering jibes of the chickenhawks, it did not and will not pay for itself, unless you happen to be a shareholder of Halliburton or Bechtel.

A long-term sign that the Republicans also smell that smell is how they've backed off from the notion of an Iran conflict this summer. Remember, it was almost a fait accompli just a few months ago, and seems to have dropped off the radar, despite Iran's growing recalcitrance to negotiate. North Korea, too -- they're openly testing their new-found nukular wares. That Axle of Elvis shit served only to motivate them rather than scare them, as we've seen. They saw us invade Iraq, and instead of knuckling under, they proceeded full-tilt with their respective nuclear ambitions. And now that we're worn down and locked in, they see that and are further emboldened. So much for neo-con gambling. We can't do anything to Iran now without seriously risking Russian and/or Chinese involvement. That window has closed, if it was ever really open.

A more short-term demonstration of this phenomenon can be observed in the coverage of the Newsweek "scandal", which was not at all a scandal. The only reason it even approached scandal was because of Newsweek itself; had they shown the slightest bit of intestinal fortitude and told Scott McClellan to fuck off, the precursory rebuttals by Gens. Myers and Eikenberry and the subsequent rebuttal by Hamid Karzai would have been sufficient absolution.

Even so, notice how quickly the whole thing blew over -- or rather, through, leaving things relatively unscathed? The first two days, the news coverage was in full throttle; by mid-week, it had already died down to a very dull roar. By the time Karzai publicly repudiated the notion that Newsweek's "Periscope" blurb could have sparked deadly riots, the general attitude was, "Oh, that?". That may be an indication that people saw the whole episode as just another cry of "wolf", from an administration that used up its "wolf" cards a couple years ago.

So while Americans generally still ride the last of the jingoistic freedom-on-the-march wave, the tide is about to roll back out, revealing what is at the bottom of it all. I submit that this administration has some real skeletons in its closet, and eventually some enterprising media person will find the courage to do their job and expose one or more of those skeletons. This administration is a house of cards that stands only by its very serious commitment to secrecy; one real scandal, or a bursting of the precarious housing bubble, and they're done.

It won't be overnight, and even when it does happen, it won't be total; the inept Democratic Party will see to that. But it will help. This country functions best on the principle of divided government, as the Republican Party has inadvertently shown. They've had all the cards for years, and 9/11 put a serious political wind at their back. They could have done anything, and they chose to hop in bed with warmongering fantasists, snake-handlers and sexually-obsessed goofballs.

It's been a long time comin'. This is the part at the beginning of The Cult's Sun King where Ian Astbury strides in in Big '70s Rawk fashion, like Robert Plant or Ian Gillan, and says, "This is where it all ends". The past is prologue.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Between The Lines

Much commentary has already been written in regards to the story about the North Carolina church that endorsed flushing the Koran, on the church's outdoor marquee.

Shameful and asinine as it is, it's certainly no surprise. What caught my eye though was a toss-off quote from the "man of God" who put up the sign:

“If we stand for what is right and for God’s word and for Christianity then the world is going to condemn us and so right away when I got a complaint I said ‘well somebody’s mad, somebody’s offended, so we must be doing something right.’”

Very well. I think we should all remember this the next time one of the flock starts braying and baaing about how mightily offended he is that some of us don't want our tax dollars spent pretending one of Cecil B. DeMille's old Ten Commandments movie props is some sort of sanctified relic.

But seriously, this is the kind of retard sound-bite logic that keeps everyone's back up about every goddamn thing. It's the sort of fundamentally fallacious logical reasoning that is expected from a surly, ignorant teenager -- though no less off-putting -- but downright embarrassing to hear from someone who is not only presumably an adult, but supposedly an emissary for his faith.

Keep this asshole in mind next time you hear the whines of the falsely persecuted.

In Defense Of The "Liberal" Media

Amidst the sporadically-growing blogroll you may have noticed Jon Carroll, who is in fact a columnist, and not a blogger. Still, I've enjoyed his columns for many years, and he seems to be a blogger at heart -- the willingness to write about anything and everything, the conversational meter of his prose, the affection for feline companionship -- so he has honorary status in my book. (Indeed, he was infamous among SF Comical readers for his "cat columns" looooong before Friday cat blogging came in vogue for the pajamahadeen.) Carroll has a gentle yet firm and sensible manner of discussing issues, which is obviously a rarity these days in any medium.

Like Christopher Hitchens or Kurt Vonnegut, even when Carroll writes something that I might disagree with (or am not terribly interested in), he does it in such a way that you can still enjoy the rhythms and natural cadences of the prose. It can be almost musical at times (work with me here); if the sturm und drang of Hitchens' literary eviscerations are analogous to Wagner, if Vonnegut's whimsical excursions are Coltrane, then Carroll would be....oh, I dunno, Van Morrison.

Carroll's latest excursion is a two-parter on the beleaguered corporate media. Yesterday's first part is a model of explicative concision, and ought to be tacked up on every media hack's cubicle wall. He very effectively debunks the stupid canard that the corporate media is anything but, well, corporate -- that is, establishment.

The word "liberal" has come to imply wild, outside-the-mainstream ideas and beliefs. Let's see whether the American press can fairly be described that way: The American press supports the idea that democracy is the superior system of government, and if all the nations in the world were democracies, it would be a better place. The American press supports the stock market and believes that it is vital to the continued functioning of the free enterprise system, which it also supports. The American press believes that religion is an important part of American life. The American press supports members of the U.S. military and believes that they are necessary for the maintenance of freedom, which it also supports.

The American press was and is anti-communist. The American press was and is opposed to terrorism. The American press is owned by corporations, mostly large corporations, and supports the continued consolidation of media power. The American press does not use dirty words, does not support sex among underage citizens, does not support illegal drug use and does not support the desecration of any religious institution, building or icon.

He's right. If anything, the majority of the corporate American media goes out of its way to not cross the line on these issues.

It does often give a platform to, and sometimes supports, people who advocate the right to abortion, gay rights, free expression and safe sex. These are not minority or radical opinions. In order to "prove" that the American press is "liberal," you have to select a very few trees from a very large forest.

And yet, a lot of American newspapers and broadcasters are going out of their way to prove that they are not liberal. They are accepting the premise. They are being bullied by zealots and by a few powerful operatives who have slithered into positions of power in the Republican Party. They are not standing firm. Perhaps they are afraid of declining revenues. If they are changing their positions because they fear declining revenues, they are not run by ideologues -- they are run by businessmen. Of course they are run by businessmen. Get a damn grip.

Exactly. The media do not see "red" or "blue" any more than they see "black" or "white". They see green, and they will not do anything that might affect that bottom line. Why the hell do you think a shrieking harridan like Nancy Grace not only has a job, but is extremely well-pimped by what used to be a fairly watchable CNN Headline News channel? No more; it's just crap -- wall-to-wall man-bites-dog bullshit, "runaway bride" this, "Michael Jackson" that. Not one bit of it is "news", in the sense that "news" is defined as information that you and I can use to affect how we run our respective lives. What the hell are you supposed to do with the knowledge that some goofball broad from Atlanta got cold feet and pretended to be kidnapped while she hopped a bus to Vegas? I mean, that's not news, it's a Danielle Steel potboiler.

So what's going on? I think it's possible that any discussion of race, religion or class is considered "liberal." I think the idea that there are two Americas, one rich and one poor, and that in a democracy things should be done that improve the lives of all Americans -- I think that's a "liberal" idea. I think the idea that race is at times an insurmountable handicap in American life is a "liberal" idea. I think that the idea that what class you belong to largely determines your economic future is a "liberal" idea.


Truth is probably not knowable, but facts are knowable. It is either 72 degrees outside my window or it isn't. You can't balance the report on 72 degrees with one that says it's 58 degrees -- that's stupid. And all of the journalists I have known in, oh God, 44 years in the business have wanted to get the facts right. All of them.

The key to why the word "liberal" has been so bastardized and demonized is here. The media, in its craven attempt to appear evenhanded on every issue, no matter how ridiculous, has let it happen unchallenged. So, for that matter, have liberals themselves. They have sat back while Oxycontin Limbaugh and the rest of the Hitler Youth have merrily defined terms down, relating most explicitly to the latent and overt feelings of emasculation their fans project.

This is not speculation; this is what's been happening. There is no other reason for it to be on this grand of a scale, but the fact of the matter is, a cornerstone of the Republican propaganda agenda -- since at least the Reagan years -- has been to effectively demonize the Democrats by rhetorically emasculating them, portraying them as effete, feminized pussies.

Sadly, the Democrats and liberals have played right into this nonsense. They either don't understand that politics no longer abides by quaint Marquess of Queensberry rules, or they naively feel that adopting similar tactics would take them down to that level.

It's the quintessential starving musician question -- do you want a hit song, so you can have the long-term financial freedom to do what you want, while still churning out an occasional pop-tart, or do you want to starve with your precious integrity intact?

Guess which the Democrats have chosen, deliberately or not. And it's not as if they got to keep that integrity in the bargain.

As much of a breath of fresh air as Carroll's first part was, it is today's second half which I take some issue with.

Look: Newspapers are a human enterprise run by fallible beings. Surgeons make mistakes; accountants make mistakes; journalists make mistakes. As Steven Winn pointed out last week, we apologize too darn much for making mistakes. Of course we're sorry, but the quest for perfection is just that, a quest. We never get there. You never get there. We hate hate hate it when we get facts wrong, but we are actually after bigger game.

So far, so good, but I submit that one reason the mistakes seem to be piling up these days is because of corporate cost-cutting. Used to be a respectable newspaper would have fact-checkers on staff; it is as boring as it sounds, but it serves a purpose. Corporate news divisions have been eviscerated over the last couple decades, most prominently in overseas news bureaus. You think that if a media outlet is willing to kill off or pare down an entire staff, that the fact-checker -- who is usually a low-rent college intern to begin with -- isn't just about the first one out the door?

Mitch Albom, a columnist in Detroit, was almost fired because he said two basketball players attended a game that they had not, in fact, attended. It was wrong, but -- who was hurt? What damage was done? The United States is hiring untrained teenagers and making them prison guards in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Mitch Albom is the problem? Come bloody on.

Here is where we differ a bit. I wouldn't equate Mitch Albom's transgression with that of murderous prison guards in our Gulag Of Freedom™, but that doesn't mean he's not a symptom of an overall problem with the media. Look, the guy makes his living writing bullshit puff pieces anyway. But the fact is, he wrote a story about the final game of the NCAA Tournament as if he were there. He deliberately gave the impression he was there. We can assume he had a reason for this. Perhaps "flavor" was the reason, but whatever.

The fact is, two players that Albom had talked to on the phone the night before the game, who said they were going to attend, and whom Albom overtly implied in his "you are there" article had been there right near him (Albom), changed their minds at the last minute and did not attend the game, leaving poor Mitch's pecker to the wind, wondering about the next five people he'd meet in hell.

So no, it didn't hurt anyone, but it's the principle of the matter. If you present yourself as a serious writer, a chronicler of factual events, and you get caught with your pants down, don't be so surprised when someone makes fun of the size of your doodle.

Look, it's not a coincidence that Jon Stewart and Bill Maher -- two professional comedians -- are doing more serious news analysis with their respective programs than any mainstream news program out there right now, and it's not even close. Remember 48 Hours the "newsmagazine"? It was originally envisioned as a companion program to 60 Minutes (hence the time-reference name). Long ago they dropped the pretense, and have done nothing but Scott Peterson retreads, long before Peterson ever got the notion to kill his wife. Same with Dateline, a show that originally was supposed to compete against 60 Minutes on its own turf -- it's nothing but crap now. 20/20, same thing.

Maybe you recall a short-lived news show back in the day called West 57th, featuring a fresh-faced rookie reporter named Meredith Vieira. Vieira long ago traded in her dreams of credibility for a cushy seat just out of Barbara Walters' talk-spit-range, a game-show chair, and a comfy cushion for a nation's fantasies of milf pillow fights between Vieira and Paula Zahn.

Again, if you don't want to get called a "media whore", then quit wearing a halter-top and fuck-me pumps. There is a reason the public is giving up on you.

Do the media do awful stuff? You bet they do. Should the media strive to get better? You bet they should. Should they stop cravenly caving in to every hack with a megaphone? Absolutely -- we do our best, and without us, citizens would really be in trouble. We're a goddamn bastion, and it would be nice if we acted proud of that once in a while.

And this, ladies, fish, and gentlemen, is my main beef with the so-called SCLM. They don't seem to realize that the gang of corporate yokels has treed a bear, and that they (the media) are that metaphorical bear. A cornered animal has exactly two options -- fight or die. And the media has demonstrated a complete unwillingness -- if not inability -- to fight.

As Carroll points out, they are the gatherers and collators and distributors of information, in an Age of Information. They must have some dirt, some compelling truth, that would both illuminate the nature of their persecutors and inform the American people, who are being led around by their dicks.

And yet they are craven and corrupt. They think that if they roll over and show their bellies at every opportunity, their attackers will stop baiting them. They think that if they let themselves be co-opted into carrying water for this metastasized tumor of an administration, they'll get great seats at the next press conference. Sure, why not? Hell, maybe if you tongue Rumsfeld's balls, he'll slip you a couple tickets to the next Black Tie & Boots Ball.

The point is, you can't respect someone who has no self-respect. I don't blame Carroll here; I think he's one of the "good guys". But he's out of the corporate loop, willingly. He has no use for the blandishments your average media tool actively seeks out. His entreaties, while valid, are orthogonal to the problem at hand.

Even when the media tries to present "both sides" of a matter, they do it in a ham-fisted manner. They allow the "2+2=6" argument of creationism to be presented right alongside the "2+2=4" empirical argument of evolution, with little or no objective commentary. They are treated equally, as if they were mere differences of opinion, rather than an empirically-based scientific theory versus religious dogma.

The implicit message is that maybe we should just agree that 2+2=5, just so we can all get along. Maybe we should collectively pretend that Hamid Karzai's and Gen. Richard Myers' explicit rebuttals of Scott McClellan's now self-rebutted claims about Newsweek causing deadly riots have no meaning. Words, in this pomo dystopia, are no longer used for meaning, but rather for effect.

Do you think that qualifies as a "liberal" media -- or for that matter, a responsible one? I don't.

A Pleasant Surprise

Sometimes the Site Meter referrals page brings up the oddest things. Case in point: if you type fuck john bolton (no quotes) -- and really, why wouldn't you type such a thing at least once -- you'll find something rather curious.

There are 107,000 results for fuck john bolton. This blog is #2, ahead of actual well-known internet media entities such as Wonkette, The Smirking Chimp, and Air America. Yeah, I couldn't believe it either. Pretty damn cool.

This is #1, and it's a very funny read.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Top Ten Republican Porn Movies

[from the home office in Manchowder, SC]

10. Filibuster Cherry

9. Man On Dog, starring Rick Santorum (and a dog)

8. The Passion Of The Christ

7. Herpes The Love Bug

6. Dobgobblers, starring Bill "Fist"

5. 8" Cut Slumber Party, starring Jeff Gannon, Jim West, Ed Schrock, Scott McClellan, Ken Mehlman and Karl Rove

4. Girls Gone Wild: South Padre Island, starring the Bush twins

3. Girls Gone Wild: Abu Ghraib, starring Lynndie England

2. Altared States (banned in the Vatican -- wink wink)

1. Anal Intruders Vol. 9, aka Bush's Social Security road show

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Another Republican Comes Out Of The Closet

From Wonkette comes the news headline of the month:

Maybe Jim West would like to, uh, handle it.

Partners In Freedom™

Esteemed Partner In Freedom Uzbekistan is fighting off international requests to investigate its military's recent open-air slaughter of political protesters, even as it tries to get its story straight on just how many people got perforated by assault rifle fire.

Uzbekistan has said 169 people died when soldiers put down a "bandit uprising" in Andijan on 13 May. An army source told the BBC that 500 people were killed.

The unrest in Andijan began when a group of men stormed the town's prison and freed 23 businessmen accused of being Islamic extremists. A large protest was then staged, joined by hundreds of residents as well as the freed prisoners.

Witnesses said troops fired indiscriminately at civilians in the crowd.

Hey, it's better than being boiled alive like a fucking lobster, right? Some people just want to complain no matter what.

At any rate, the UN is less than thrilled that their requests have been directly thwarted by murderous scumbag/molester of livestock Islam Karimov.

The call for an international inquiry into the deaths of the civilians was made by Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Philip Alston, the UN's special investigator on illegal and arbitrary executions, also called on the Uzbek authorities to allow him to visit the country. He said he was "gravely concerned about reports that hundreds of people, including women and children, were killed on May 13 when government troops fired indiscriminately to disperse a demonstration".

The Uzbek government denies that police fired on civilians and has blamed the unrest on Islamic militants.

Ms Arbour conceded last night that outside scrutiny was now unlikely. "I think ... the response is not very promising," she said.


The Vienna-based International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights and the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan issued a joint statement saying that security forces may have killed 1,000 civilians and injured 2,000. Human rights groups have complained for years that Mr Karimov has used claims of religious extremism as a pretext to stamp out political dissent.

Even if you were to somehow give Karimov the benefit of the doubt for preserving law and order, just in a practical sense, any fool knows that violent crackdowns on religious extremism just makes them that much more extreme. Karimov has given the "Islamic radicals" a handy rallying cry.

Someone may want to remind Karimov that the only reason the Shah of Iran got to die a quiet death in exile, rather than be literally ripped to shreds by an enraged populace, was because he was our son-of-a-bitch, so we hustled him out of there.

Karimov is a useful tool in the War On Some Terror™, but he's not our S.O.B., not in the Somoza-Pinochet-Ferdinand Marcos sense.

So what about these supposed "Islamic radicals", anyway? What is the deal with this Bakhtiyor Rakhimov guy? [/seinfeld]

On May 14, Korasuv residents burned government buildings, drove away authorities and rebuilt a bridge leading to a thriving bazaar on the Kyrgyz side of the border. The government had dismantled the bridge two years ago, leaving Korasuv residents struggling for survival.

The government troops swept into Korasuv before dawn Thursday, quickly arresting Rakhimov, his 14-year old son and close associates. Rakhimov's 25-year old niece, Dilnoza, said Saturday that 15 people had been arrested, and Rakhimov, his son and several others remain in custody.

"We will stay here until they free them," Dilnoza Rakhimova said.

Other demonstrators hailed Rakhimov as a respected people's leader who had helped create jobs. "He did everything for the people, he's not against the government," said Aziza Ulukhodjjayeva, 47.

"He gave people jobs and a way to make money," she said, referring to the bridge which Rakhimov and his followers quickly restored after taking over.

Well, he sounds like a right bastard, as our British friends might put it. Fixing bridges and employing people. God, won't someone step in and halt this radicalism? Can't you see -- he restored a bridge!

At this point, let us face our prayer rugs toward Crawford and thank a beneficent Karl Rove for granting Karimov the restraint in dealing with such an obvious terrorist.

In addition to the government-sponsored murder and mayhem, Uzbek refugees are fleeing across the border to peaceful Kyrgyzstan, who wants nothing more than to stay out of this mess (and maybe buy a vowel).

Around midnight on May 12, Atamatov said he heard about 10 shots, then someone opened the door of his prison cell with a crowbar. He and another 11 inmates in the cell came out to the street.

Someone there, whom Atamatov said he didn't know, said: "Those who want can come with us to the governor's office." And so he went, and found himself among thousands of people who demonstrated all day.

Atamatov said government troops shot at them in the morning, killing about a dozen people, and opened fire again about noon, killing a similar number. Two hours later, he said, they took aim from a truck and killed a 5-year-old boy who was running along a street. When his mother ran screaming toward her son, soldiers shot her, too, Atamatov said.

He estimated that 150-200 people died on the square when troops encircled it in late afternoon, and that many more were killed as they ran for their lives down a main avenue, Chulpon Shokh Prospect.

After an all-night trek, they reached the Kyrgyz border. A resident of the frontier village of Teshik Tosh said he would show them a way to cross the border, but he led them into an ambush and was himself killed.

That's the cold hard reality of what's going on there, folks. Now, how many of the crowing smart-asses who just couldn't contain themselves over Lebanon (which turned into a return of the pro-Syrian PM), over Ukraine (which, if it had happened here, would have meant President John Kerry), over Iraq (which is hitting gravitational velocity as it plummets toward civil war), have something fucking smart to say about this?

To our credit, we are now "scaling down" our use of their airbase, and in the near future will probably relocate the 1000 troops we have stationed there. But this is a tacit acknowledgement of every criticism leveled by the most virulent of leftist protesters -- that we only care about vicious thugs when our precious oil is involved, but we have the goddamned nerve to dress up our aggression in noxious fripperies about How Much We Care.

Well, do we care about human rights, or do we care about Hummer rights?

Monday, May 23, 2005

Horse's Head In Karzai's Bed

So Hamid Karzai decided to get a bit uppity after hearing how we've been abusing and torturing some of his citizens, some of whom were declared innocent after we beat them to death, trying to pummel answers out of them that they simply didn't have. So sorry, our bad, wouldn't like it if it happened to us, but that Golden Rule shit's for Sunday school.

Anyway, the Ministry of Truth wasted no time at all pimp-slapping Karzai for having the temerity to speak up in defense of his own countrymen.

United States officials warned this month in an internal memo that an American-financed poppy eradication program aimed at curtailing Afghanistan's huge heroin trade had been ineffective, in part because President Hamid Karzai "has been unwilling to assert strong leadership."

A cable sent on May 13 from the United States Embassy in Kabul, the Afghan capital, said that provincial officials and village elders had impeded destruction of significant poppy acreage and that top Afghan officials, including Mr. Karzai, had done little to overcome that resistance.

"Although President Karzai has been well aware of the difficulty in trying to implement an effective ground eradication program, he has been unwilling to assert strong leadership, even in his own province of Kandahar," said the cable, which was drafted by embassy personnel involved in the antidrug efforts, two American officials said.

Yeah, it's not as if people haven't been pointing out for two years now that Karzai's power is so limited, he's basically the mayor of Kabul. And that's our doing; after taking out the Taliban, we left the provinces to the established warlords. And they've turned the place right back to the previous millennium -- and I don't mean the one we just exited 4½ years ago.

Opium poppies are the only real profitable enterprise. Women are back in burqas; aid workers are getting murdered; womens' rights workers have been getting raped and killed. And we're not gonna do a goddamn thing about it, 'cause it don't fill the gas tank. All that championing of the cause seems to have fallen by the wayside. I, for one, am shocked.

The message being relayed to Karzai here seems pretty clear: Look, asshole, you and the Taliban were useful to us back in the '90s when we were thinking about a nice pipeline for all that Caspian oil, because we loveses our precioussss, yes we does.

But that was then, and this is now, so sit down and shut up, before we knock that hat off your head just to point and laugh while you retrieve it. Got that, Chief?

Remember -- it's hard work, bein' done by good people.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

That Liberal Media

Al Franken reiterates what we've been saying for years, about the callow and lazy nature of the media puds either misinforming us, disinforming us (on the government per diem, of course), or just flat out not doing their fucking jobs because they're too busy Being Seen at all the right parties, sniffing each others' asses.

Right now Coleman is looking into the Oil-for-Food program, which was administered by the Security Council in the U.N., mostly by the U.S. and Britain. That didn’t stop Coleman from demanding Kofi Annan’s resignation without any proof of any wrongdoing on his part. There appears to be anywhere from one to two billion dollars stolen through the program – with most of that going to Saddam. Primarily the U.S. and Britain took it upon themselves to make sure that none of this money went toward making W.M.D.s. They seemed to have done a pretty good job.

Meanwhile, the Coalition Provisional Authority, which we ran, has lost 8.8 billion dollars. By lost, I mean it’s totally unaccounted for. Not only has Congress not "looked into" this $8.8 billion and who might have it now, but it seems that some members are completely unaware that this staggering sum, which was supposed to go toward rebuilding Iraq, is missing. The Sunday morning after the White House Correspondents dinner, I ran into Senator George Allen at a brunch thrown by John McLaughlin and his wife. Allen had never heard of the missing $8.8 billion, or at least that's what he told me. And he's on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Stunned, I went up to Susan Page of USA Today and her husband Carl Lubsdorf of the Dallas Morning News, two veteran Washington political reporters, and told them about Allen’s ignorance of this huge scandal, which has no doubt contributed to hatred for America and the deaths of our troops. There’s less electricity in Iraq now than there was before we invaded Iraq.

Turns out that Page and Lubsdorf had also never heard of the unaccounted-for $8.8 billion. For a moment I thought that maybe I had been imagining things.

Then I spotted my friend Norm Ornstein, scholar from the American Enterprise Institute. "Would you believe it if Norm Ornstein told you about the $8.8 billion?" I asked Susan and Carl.


I brought Norm over, and indeed I had not been imagining things. "It was a huge story," Norm told them.

"Was it in the New York Times?" Carl asked Norm.

"Yes," Norm assured him.

Pathetic. Would it be mean of me to stipulate that useless twits like Carl Lubsdorf are a disgrace to their profession, and need to leave now? This is not a small thing; this is almost $9 billion in taxpayer money, completely disappeared, the biggest heist in history. This story has been circulating the internets for months, and this is the first this useless asshole has heard of it?

Carl, you're so fired, you're fuckin' fired. Clean out your desk, and consider a career where it doesn't matter if you don't show up and do your fucking job.

Christ, with idiots like this supplying Americans with "facts" and "news", it's no wonder we're in the midst of the Third World simmer. Too bad we won't know it's hot until it's too late.

The Cult(ure) Of Life

The Grand Deacon of the Great Theocratic Empire Formerly Known As The United States of America has made it clear that he will veto the latest attempt to join 21st century genetic science.

Worried by news reports that South Korean scientists have created 11 new embryonic stem cell lines for medical research, President Bush yesterday emphatically insisted that he would veto a measure pending in Congress that would ease current restrictions on embryonic stem-cell research in the United States.

The bipartisan bill, which has caused immense fissures among Republicans on Capitol Hill, could come up for a vote as early as next week. Supporters are cautiously optimistic that it will pass; opponents are braced for an emotional battle.

Yes well, by all means, let us inject rank emotionalism into a scientific debate. Hell, it's worked great on our 34th replay of the Scopes Trial down in Kansas, hasn't it? Why, Kansan children will soon infest all our institutions of higher learning with the well-known scientific fact that the Grand Canyon was created by the Noah's Ark flood.

See, you thought you knew different, because you read the atheist textbooks. They don't want you to know the truth, because....well, because they want America to not be a Christian nation no more.

Which has worked out quite nicely for the atheist scientist conspiracy, if you stop to look around and think about it for two hot seconds. I mean, if it weren't for those commie bastards, we'd be able to have the Ten Commandments up in public buildings, and people would suddenly burst into renditions of God Bless America for no good reason at all, and....oh hell, you get the idea already. These whiny pearl-clutching ninnies are full of shit. You can't persecute a majority.

Anyway, back to Science Minute, with Professor/Reverend Cuckoo Bananas:

Bush, who has yet to veto any bill after more than four years in office, told reporters in the Oval Office, "I've made my position very clear on embryonic stem cells. I'm a strong supporter of adult stem-cell research, of course. But I have made it very clear to the Congress that the use of federal money, taxpayers' money, to promote science which destroys life in order to save life is -- I'm against that. And therefore, if the bill does that, I will veto it."

Leaving aside the supreme irony of the "destroy[ing] life in order to save life" sound bite, which he clearly hasn't contemplated very deeply, let's hear it for capital-p Principle. It is truly something to be committed to your Principle so much, that you will subvert your own self-interest. I have no doubt he believes this; watering the potted plants of the Dobsonite faction is as incidental as playing them soothing renditions of Toby Keith in the greenhouse.

So I assume that 10-20 years from now, if Poppy or Bar are in the throes of Parkinson's or Alzheimer's, if W himself were afflicted (though really, how the hell would you be able to tell if George W. Bush had Alzheimers), if one of the twins accidentally got paralyzed during a Spring Break bender, that W will stay the course. In his manly-man demeanor of resolved resoluteness and steadfastery, he will look them in the eye with his steely, Gary Cooper gaze and say, "Sorry. You lose."

Perfect Principle ain't easy, boys n' girls. It's for your own good.

He added that he was concerned about the South Korean research, arguing that unless it were stopped, such projects could lead to a widespread practice of creating human embryos solely for medical experimentation.

The House vote would be on a bill sponsored by Reps. Michael Castle, R-Del., and Diana DeGette, D-Colo., to permit federal funding for research on stem cells from embryos left over from fertility treatments that were already slated for destruction. It would also ban payments to anyone who would provide them.

There is certainly a valid ethical argument against recreational cloning, and unsurprisingly, nobody is proposing anything of the sort. Nobody is proposing "creating life in order to destroy it", or whatever the catchy little feel-good phrase of moral superiority happens to be today. (No doubt the phrase will undergo several focus-group revisions, à la the Social Security scam. Probably the exact same scriptwriting elves.)

I hate being right all the time. I hate pointing out that we are rapidly turning into a scientific and technological backwater, oohing and aahing over our goddamned iPods while the South Koreans make advances in stem-cell research. The South Koreans? Are you fucking kidding me?

Very well. Let W whip out his Li'l Red Pen, and veto this puppy, and all the seniors who let this huckster bamboozle them can see exactly what they're stuck with.

And again, let us operate under the presumption that the high-and-mighty who pass amongst us mere mortals with their perfect ethics n' morals will abstain from any and all fruits of this anti-life technology, should Their God see sufficient to smite them with Alzheimers.

The always excellent Digby has an even more stark and abrupt take on this issue. The Baby Jesus insists that you check it out.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Red Cross Lied, People Died!

Notice how, after all the sound and fury at the beginning of the week, the Newsweek scandal-in-a-teabag subsided all too quickly. Could it be, as we and many others pointed out, that to push this premise would further undermine the credibility of General Richard Myers, who was on record right before this manufactured scandal broke as explicitly saying that the Qu'ran abuse article was not the cause of the deadly riots?

Furthermore, those lying lefty bastards at the Red Cross are coming forth with some details to counter the government-issued brand of official nonsense:

The international Red Cross says it raised the issue of alleged Qur'an abuse at Guantanamo Bay with American officials on numerous occasions and as early as 2002.

Delegates from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) didn't witness any mistreatment of Islam's holy book, but heard reports from a number of detainees, said spokesman Simon Schorno on Friday.


ICRC members have visited the base on the eastern tip of Cuba since the detainees arrived in January 2002.

Schorno told the Chicago Tribune newspaper on Thursday that Red Cross delegates compiled the complaints they received from various detainees and reported them to Guantanamo commanders and Pentagon officials on several occasions.

I should be very clear about one thing -- I don't really care if we did flush a couple copies of the Qu'ran down the toilet. Sorry, I feel like I should care, but I really don't. In the grand scheme of things, in that huge and ever-growing list of ways that man can find to be inhumane and cruel to his fellow man, this is relatively low on that list. If it can save lives to make a violent religious fanatic crack, faced with the desecration of his obsession, better that than, say, chaining them to ceilings for days on end, or sexually abusing them, or beating them to death.

Problem is, some of these guys have turned out to be innocent, after being subjected to horrible physical abuse and torture, sometimes resulting in death. We all know this is war, and we aren't expecting everyone to be Mirandized and coddled, but this is vile and un-American, period. Screw the Qu'ran bullshit, this is what we need to be concerned about; this is what's pissing them off and inciting these riots.

Hamid Karzai will have to stand up for himself, and his people, if he is to retain any credibility outside Kabul, and keep his fragile country together. Clearly we won't do it.

Now a 2,000-page confidential report detailing extensive abuse of Afghan prisoners kept at the Bagram airbase near Kabul has been cited in the Times.

The investigation into the deaths of two inmates in 2002 revealed other sustained cruelties such as prolonged beatings and chainings of prisoners to walls.

The U.S. military, responding to the allegations, defended its treatment of detainees, saying it would not tolerate maltreatment.

Sure they won't. Nobody here but us chickens. Remember -- the only reason you ever heard about Abu Ghraib was because of one military man with a conscience (Joseph Darby) and one journalist who was more interested in investigating actual news than reading Michael Jackson's antics off a TelePrompTer (Seymour Hersh).

There's your fine line between knowing and not knowing; that's the tenuous thread connecting fact with mere conjecture and rumor. That should give us all pause as to just how seriously the media has been co-opted in uncovering these houses of horror and misery we've been running in two misbegotten countries now, as well as rendering sometimes completely innocent men off to miserable holes where they don't torture nearly as "nice" as we do.

More details on some of the abuses:

The report deals mainly with the deaths of two prisoners, one of whom, a 22-year-old taxi driver known only as Dilawar, was said to have been tortured for days by US troops before he died.

Soldiers involved in Dilawar's interrogation later told investigators they believed he was innocent of any involvement in a rocket attack on a US base, but had been unlucky enough to have driven his taxi past the base at the wrong time.

The Afghan president's office reacted angrily to the news today and a spokesman said US soldiers should be punished.


The sworn testimonies used in this latest report tell how Dilawar was chained to a ceiling by his wrists for four days, and then beaten on his legs more than 100 times during a 24-hour period.

Soldiers also detail other abuses, including a prisoner being forced to kiss the boots of interrogators and another being forced to pick plastic bottle tops out of a drum filled with excrement and water.

A female interrogator is also accused of stepping on a man's neck and kicking another in the genitals.

A Pentagon spokesman said the New York Times was trying to make a new story out of old material, adding that the investigation was "very serious and very detailed".

"The standard has always been humane treatment for all detainees. When that standard is not met we will take action," the spokesman said.

Whatever. Six months in the brig is not "action" for beating an innocent man until the tissue around his knees turned to pulp, and he dies from deep-tissue infections. This is barbaric and disgusting, and it will not stand.

How many Iraqi insurgents were motivated by the Abu Ghraib pictures? How many Afghan rebels will be motivated by the horror stories coming out of Bagram?

How many more human beings -- American soldiers, Iraqi and Afghan civilians -- have to die because these bastards eschewed even the barest standards of civilized conduct and decency for their prisoners? Of course they're just wogs, and thus are not entitled to decent, humane treatment, right?

We are at war, but this is not what any of us signed up for. If we're going to point the self-righteous J'accuse finger at Newsweek for their treacherous and tragic incompetence, then save some for these assholes, who are an utter disgrace to their uniform and to this nation.

Frankly, I think the soldiers who tortured Dilawar to death should be shot, and I'm not indulging in polemic here. They've put every one of their comrades in both wars at unnecessary risk, and they are no doubt helping to foment the rage that may very well culminate in the next terrorist attack on American soil.

One thing Bush has made fashionable is the simplicity of choice and result of our actions. It is probably the only thing I have the stomach to agree with the "man" on. But we are either for extracting confessions by these brutal means, or we are not. If we are, then don't be too surprised when a US soldier eventually gets captured, and these fuckers go medieval on the poor bastard out of vengeance.

If we're not, then we're not. This can no longer stand. This is not what America is about.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Ask Heywood

Hammer Of The Blogs is pleased to present our new feature, where we answer actual reader queries in a public forum. It's Ask Heywood!

Dear Heywood:

What do you think Arnold Schwarzenegger's chances are for winning California's gubernatorial election in 2006?

Art Vandelay, San Paco, CA

Dear Art:

Despite his dwindling popularity, he probably has better-than-even odds right now, just because of the sheer lack of name recognition anyone on the Democratic side has thus far. But 18 months is a long time, and Schwarzenegger is giving them plenty to pummel him with.

Arnold's latest antic should come as no surprise to anyone who hasn't been dazzled by his numerous staged appearances at Stuckey's up and down the state (as if the rubes had anything at all in common with a multi-millionaire).

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has embarked on a multistate fundraising swing to raise some of the estimated $50 million his advisers say he'll need to wage an all-but-certain special election campaign.

Schwarzenegger arrives in Tampa on Friday before schmoozing with Gov. Jeb Bush and deep-pocket donors Saturday at a lunch in Miami. He then heads to Illinois and Texas, where he ends with a cocktail and dinner party Monday night in Dallas.

Yes, Ahnult's fighting for us Gullyvornians -- at John Ellis "Jeb" Bush's house.

Hey Heywood,
Is it true that Mexican President Vicente Fox is a racist? How can that be possible? Everyone knows that minorities can't be racists.

Mike Hunt, Bozeman, MT

Hey Mike,
You must be referring to this little fopax:

President Vicente Fox, the champion of Mexican migrants, is taking to the airwaves to convince Americans he isn't racist. An interview on U.S. civil rights activist Jesse Jackson's radio program Sunday will be Fox's first public comments about a firestorm he ignited a week ago by saying Mexicans take the U.S. jobs that "not even" blacks want.


Fox's comment unveiled to the world Mexico's obsession with skin color, which dictates people's status in society in a way few Mexicans are comfortable discussing.

Blacks aren't the only group that suffer from discrimination in Mexico. In a country where much of the population is of mixed Spanish and Indian ancestry, people often refer to one another with nicknames based on skin tone, and Indians are overwhelmingly poor with little access to education.

Other minorities are fair game as well. During the World Cup soccer tournament in 2002 in Japan, television ads poked fun of Asian culture by having people pull on the corners of their eyes.

Nice, huh? This should not be oversimplified as "Mexicans are racist". That's ridiculous. This is an institutionalized form of racism, in a country that is run by a very very small clique, like most of these backwater Third World banana republics.

One of the ways the .1% exert tacit control over the masses is by traditional legerdemain propaganda -- that is, create a distraction. Point to The Other. Find someone for the downtrodden to kick, because their life conditions make them want to kick someone.

Fox probably doesn't have anything against blacks; he seems to think everyone should own one. Which would qualify him for Senator from Missuhsippuh, I suppose.

You seem so angry. Why do you hate? Don't you really just want to be held?

Gerald Bostock, St. Cleve, UK

I am more frustrated than angry, which is a practical distinction. I don't "hate", but I enjoy verbally pummeling those in the public eye which I find to be undermining what's left of American civil society, as well as the world infrastructure at large. Anyone with an ounce of common sense ought to be pissed about that.

Finally, I do not really want to be held, unless it involves Heidi Klum and an enormous tub of Cool Whip. Mmmm, Cool Whip.

CONFIDENTIAL TO KENTUCKY CORNHOLE: I agree with you -- if you allow him to go anal, the least he can do is meet your parents. Tradition is important.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Manufacturing Outrage

So who's lying about this Newsweek bullshit -- Scott McClellan or Gen. Richard Myers? Well, we'll let you decide (excerpt from end of last Thursday's press conference -- emphasis mine):

GEN. MYERS: It's the -- it's a judgment of our commander in Afghanistan, General Eikenberry, that in fact the violence that we saw in Jalalabad was not necessarily the result of the allegations about disrespect for the Koran -- and I'll get to that in just a minute -- but more tied up in the political process and the reconciliation process that President Karzai and his Cabinet is conducting in Afghanistan. So that's -- that was his judgment today in an after- action of that violence. He didn't -- he thought it was not at all tied to the article in the magazine.

Now, does Michelle Malkin have anything smart and catchy to say about that? Does she want to try " Lied, People Died" out for size? I'm guessing not.

Since Newsweek themselves clearly don't have the fucking balls to stick up for themselves, apparently all us amateur citizen journalists have to do it for them. Again.

Tell you what, you craven jerkoff mealymouthed media weasels. Get out of the game already, and learn an honest trade that you're willing to fight for, because clearly you don't respect the one you're in nearly enough.

Even without the soul of this nation on the line, I have nothing but contempt for people who do not treat their vocations as craft. I believe in the old guild system, where everybody endeavored to produce something of value and worth, upheld its traditions, refined its craft, and constantly looked for ways to innovate and streamline the process. This principle holds true no matter what you do -- plumber, musician,....or journalist.

I do not think these people understand or respect journalism. I don't think they've read Lincoln Steffens or Upton Sinclair. I don't think they realize that Sy Hersh didn't get into it to sell tampons and SUVs and pharmaceuticals between sound bites. I think they look at Screamin' Chris Matthews and Li'l Russ, and try to scheme for themselves an anchor seat that'll get them that bitchin' house in Nantucket. I think they'd rather suck dick for a fake scoop than go out and work for a real one.

The people who are lambasting Spikey Isikoff are the exact same people who sang his praises when he was Linda (Jabba The) Tripp's favorite stenographer. They count on the apathetic non-particpants of this spinner-rim society to not have any institutionalized memory, to discard all these names and faces that can actually affect their lives.

Thanks to their self-immolating enablers in the media, they keep winning, even as we catch them in lie after mendacious lie.

You think in the days of the Roman Empire, one guy turned to another and said, "Hey, you think the empire's crumbling?" No fucking way; even while they were trying to get Germania back from the Alarics and Visigoths, they still thought they'd win....just because they were Romans, fortune's favored.

This is no longer about whether we flushed the Quran down a toilet, if it ever really was about that in the first place.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Beat The Press

The speed with which the Newsweek debacle has gained steam is, to say the least, jarring if not terribly surprising. After all, what better way to deflect growing attention to the Downing Street memo, which will now die a quiet death in the growing pile of lies and elisions this administration has willfully and knowingly distributed about a variety of subjects, some of which have cost a great many innocent lives.

But it's all Newsweek's fault that the US' reputation has been damaged yet again. Uh, okay. Might as well blame them for Abu Ghraib while we're at it. Yes, we sodomized them with glow-sticks and chained them to tables till they shit themselves, and we've even beaten a few dozen of them to death in custody -- but they really hate us because you might have lied about us flushing the Quran. Yeah, that makes sense.

To their detriment, Newsweek has already fallen all over itself retracting and apologizing and genuflecting. Would that this much energy and effort got expended in, say, investigating and vetting one's sources.

Two weeks ago, in our issue dated May 9, Michael Isikoff and John Barry reported in a brief item in our Periscope section that U.S. military investigators had found evidence that American guards at the detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had committed infractions in trying to get terror suspects to talk, including in one case flushing a Qur'an down a toilet. Their information came from a knowledgeable U.S. government source, and before deciding whether to publish it we approached two separate Defense Department officials for comment. One declined to give us a response; the other challenged another aspect of the story but did not dispute the Qur'an charge.

Although other major news organizations had aired charges of Qur'an desecration based only on the testimony of detainees, we believed our story was newsworthy because a U.S. official said government investigators turned up this evidence. So we published the item.


Last Friday, a top Pentagon spokesman told us that a review of the probe cited in our story showed that it was never meant to look into charges of Qur'an desecration. The spokesman also said the Pentagon had investigated other desecration charges by detainees and found them "not credible." Our original source later said he couldn't be certain about reading of the alleged Qur'an incident in the report we cited, and said it might have been in other investigative documents or drafts. Top administration officials have promised to continue looking into the charges, and so will we. But we regret that we got any part of our story wrong, and extend our sympathies to victims of the violence and to the U.S. soldiers caught in its midst.

So, despite the comedically inspired "Newsweek Lied, People Died" riffs from the usual 'tarderati, this is simply not the case. Newsweek certainly deserves a swift kick in the ass for reporting something as confirmed when it was not, but that's about it. They jumped the gun. For the current gang of fools running the show, jumping the gun might as well be an official Olympic event.

Let's break this down: either the "knowledgeable source" was telling the truth, or he was lying. This is a factual matter that a government official is not going to be totally "mistaken" about, unless he's just utterly incompetent; either there is credence to some of the allegations, or there isn't. The source wouldn't have stepped forward if he didn't know one way or the other.

So if he was lying, then one assumes he was trying to sandbag some media assholes. On whose behalf would this be done? If the source was telling the truth, then he is now retracting because his superiors found out he talked, and his ass is on the line. Why else does an anonymous source worry about retraction anyway?

Take your pick. Either scenario has Turd Blossom's fingerprints all over it. Hell, it worked on Dan Rather, why not give it another go-round? This is Memogate all over again, a piece which is most likely accurate in substance, savaged for discrepancies in presentation, to the point that the issue itself just gets dropped, and never followed up for veracity or a proper debunking. The hysterical squawking becomes the story.

Finally, even if this turns out to just be a hi-larious series of honest mistakes and blunders by a well-meaning but darned misinformed government tool, where does this administration and its pajamahadeen bobbleheads get the fucking nerve to point the finger? If this is not a case of the proverbial pot making pronouncements about the pigmentation of his kettle counterpart, I don't know what would be.

No, this is just another obvious, lame attempt to kick an already prostrate and co-opted mainstream media into getting with the program. The conservatards are right about one thing -- this episode could be a death knell for the MSM as we know it, but not because of their dishonesty so much as their sheer gutlessness. Why the hell should we stick up for them if they won't even stick up for themselves?

Remember, the Quran story is still being investigated, and as Newsweek reported, no one wanted to go on record confirming or denying. Pretty circumspect behavior over such a supposedly blatant lie.

How much you wanna bet that, if this turns out to be incontrovertibly true after all, every single one of these sanctimonious douchebags will just brush it right under the rug?

Monday, May 16, 2005

Riffs On Foreign Policy

James Wolcott takes on the chickenhawk brigade, the usual gang of tough guys that is perfectly happy to use other people's kids in a strategic fashion. Hell, someone has to man the battlements at the think tanks and policy fora, right?

It's almost impressive how much militaristic gusto is packed inside the inert biomass of some of our leading neoconservatives. Not only are they avid to have others wage World War IV, the final global battle of good vs evil being promoted by fight managers Norman Podhoretz and James Woolsey, but they're hankering to refight old wars that ended before some of them were born, assuming they were born and not hatched in underground silos. If only it had been George Bush or John Podhoretz sitting there with Churchill, Stalin never would have gotten away with that swindle at Yalta. And of course they wouldn't have wimped out in Vietnam, letting the liberals and peaceniks undermine our will to win. They would have released Slim Pickens through the bomb bay chute atop a nuke no matter how much it would have riled the Chinese.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't John McCain, Chuck Hagel, and Colin Powell about the only Republicans (of national standing) of age who actually went to war? You can make fun of Al Gore's Mickey Spillane duty or John Kerry's Swift Boat patrols all you want, but at least they went. There is a difference, and all the pale, feckless attempts to qualify their service by the armchair generals won't change that.

And any of them that did support Vietnam, and found the usual lame excuses not to go, are utterly beneath contempt, and probably know it, deep down inside. They're cowards who were content to let someone else get forced to fight their battles for them, and cowards die a thousand deaths.

Speaking of contemptible douchebags, Pat Buchanan has some interesting historical revisionism for the kids:

Bush told the awful truth about what really triumphed in World War II east of the Elbe. And it was not freedom. It was Stalin, the most odious tyrant of the century. Where Hitler killed his millions, Stalin, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Pol Pot and Castro murdered their tens of millions.

Leninism was the Black Death of the 20th Century.

The truths bravely declared by Bush at Riga, Latvia, raise questions that too long remained hidden, buried or ignored.

Ah. And here I thought that was why we spent 40 years fighting a Cold War, under the constant threat of mutually assured destruction.

If Yalta was a betrayal of small nations as immoral as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, why do we venerate Churchill and FDR? At Yalta, this pair secretly ceded those small nations to Stalin, co-signing a cynical "Declaration on Liberated Europe" that was a monstrous lie.

As FDR and Churchill consigned these peoples to a Stalinist hell run by a monster they alternately and affectionately called "Uncle Joe" and "Old Bear," why are they not in the history books alongside Neville Chamberlain, who sold out the Czechs at Munich by handing the Sudetenland over to Germany? At least the Sudeten Germans wanted to be with Germany. No Christian peoples of Europe ever embraced their Soviet captors or Stalinist quislings.

By the time Yalta took place, the world was exhausted, and it is ridiculous to presume that FDR and Churchill should have divined Stalin's intent or willingness to subsequently starve tens of millions of Russians. Buchanan doesn't seem to proffer a viable alternative here. Perhaps we should have just kept going until we pushed the Russkies back across the Urals, or at least to Minsk.

Other questions arise. If Britain endured six years of war and hundreds of thousands of dead in a war she declared to defend Polish freedom, and Polish freedom was lost to communism, how can we say Britain won the war?

If the West went to war to stop Hitler from dominating Eastern and Central Europe, and Eastern and Central Europe ended up under a tyranny even more odious, as Bush implies, did Western Civilization win the war?

These are stupid questions, inaptly framed, perhaps deliberately. Britain didn't "win the war" so much as fight on the side that ultimately won. And the West went to war to stop all the Axis powers, not just Germany. It succeeded in this endeavor, at a tremendous cost. There was simply nothing left with which to turn back the Soviets, and again, hindsight is always 20/20.

In the long run, Western civilization did win the Cold War. Did Yalta give the Soviets an opportunity to rebuild and challenge the West? Sure. It also gave us the chance to do the same, from a better geopolitical position.

Don't worry. Pat is working to his point, slowly, surely, insanely.

True, U.S. and British troops liberated France, Holland and Belgium from Nazi occupation. But before Britain declared war on Germany, France, Holland and Belgium did not need to be liberated. They were free. They were only invaded and occupied after Britain and France declared war on Germany – on behalf of Poland.

When one considers the losses suffered by Britain and France – hundreds of thousands dead, destitution, bankruptcy, the end of the empires – was World War II worth it, considering that Poland and all the other nations east of the Elbe were lost anyway?

If the objective of the West was the destruction of Nazi Germany, it was a "smashing" success. But why destroy Hitler? If to liberate Germans, it was not worth it. After all, the Germans voted Hitler in.

Get that? It wasn't "worth it" to destroy Hitler, because he was democratically elected. And the objective of the European campaign most certainly was to eliminate the vicious, aggressive, vile Nazi regime. That Pat even has to ask this question speaks volumes. Yes, stupid, Hitler had to go. He was a pretty bad guy, as you may have heard.

If it was to keep Hitler out of Western Europe, why declare war on him and draw him into Western Europe? If it was to keep Hitler out of Central and Eastern Europe, then, inevitably, Stalin would inherit Central and Eastern Europe.

Was that worth fighting a world war – with 50 million dead?

Hitler was already ramping up the Wehrmacht to start encircling Western Europe by the time we got in. Buchanan is asking circular, tautological questions. The only real question here is whether he's too ignorant to realize it, or too venal to care.

FDR -- and subsequently, Truman -- knew they were in for the long haul with containing communism and Soviet expansionism. One could hypothesize that if not for the Cold War, Stalin and Mao would not have starved tens of millions to feed their own war machines and revolutionary expansionism.

One can play these "what if" games forever. The bottom line is that Buchanan's scenarios veer between preposterous and repulsive, and his over-arching contention that a fourth-rate intellect like George W. Bush would have any merit in second-guessing FDR and Churchill sixty years later -- on anything whatsoever -- is utterly ludicrous and self-serving.

The bodaciously talented and propitiously named Lance Mannion has an excellent Oedipal take on all this.

Freedom continues to march in Uzbekistan, uncomfortably, inexorably, toward a confrontation with the vile dictator who runs the place. Chances are there are more Uzbeks than Iraqis involved in anti-US terrorism, as Uzbekistan is considered something of a hotbed of Islamic radicalism.

(Afghan warlord Rashid Dostum, also a murderous scumbag who is known for fun things like skinning people alive, or strapping them to tank treads and driving the tanks forward a foot or so at a time, is an ethnic Uzbek. But he, like Islam Karimov, is working with the big dog, so we leave him be.)

Then again, Karimov considers growing a beard "Islamic radicalism". Uh-oh. Guess I better cross Tashkent off my list of travel destinations.

Pravda takes a break from sniffing Condi Rice's unmentionables and actually reports something useful. Surely a plague of locusts and a mark of blood on the door of every male Midianite can't be far behind.

Who are the suicide bombers of Iraq? By the radicals' account, they are an internationalist brigade of Arabs, with the largest share in the online lists from Saudi Arabia and a significant minority from other countries on Iraq's borders, such as Syria and Kuwait.

So the majority of the jihadists is not Iraqi at all? Well, I suppose the braintrust deserves some credit for so-called "Operation Flypaper" -- the notion that the occupation of Iraq is more likely to send terrorists there than to the US. Fine by me -- the world won't miss these assholes, and it's hard to argue that we're making them crazy. They're crazy to begin with, though the occupation is inciting them to act.

The hardcore jihad brigade supposedly makes up only 10% of the overall insurgency, but accounts for a majority of the suicide bombing attacks. The real problem here is the civilian toll these bastards take -- again, the world is better off without fundamentalists of all stripes, but these fuckers don't care whom they take with them, or whom they behead on camera.

The thing that really gets me is the preponderance of Saudis involved in this shit. Our good buddies, once again. Well, not really -- the House of Saud are our good buddies, but the civilian population is much more conservative and militant, rightly sees their rulers as decadent and corrupt, but unfortunately sees us as the enablers of this decadence and corruption.

The silver lining of rising gas prices is that Americans may finally be seeing the light here -- the demand for the gargantuan fuck-you-mobiles has dropped off to the point where General Motors and Ford are trading at junk-bond status, and GM is going to close either the Buick or Pontiac division by the end of the year. Which is too bad -- thousands of jobs will be lost, and none of the gas-guzzlers were rolling out of Buick or Pontiac.

The demise of the American auto industry should be a cautionary tale for the country at large. Our current rate of consumption is simply unsustainable with finite resources. The free market does not always know best, if it is simply used to exploit and profit from hopelessly self-destructive, short-sighted trends.

Right now we are operating on the principle that we are simply too big to fail; as the #1 economy, we are the engine that drives the rest of the world. But that's right now. This will not always be true. We need to start making hay while the sun is still shining.

Finally, you may recall in our recent deconstruction of Pat Sajak's font of political wisdom, we mentioned the likelihood of a South American power bloc forming that could serve to effectively counter our interests in the region, and indeed thwart our already waning hegemony.

Well, that didn't take long.

The United States is nursing a bruised ego. After decades of funding malleable regimes, fomenting right-wing coups and building economic hegemony in the Americas, Washington just found itself locked out of its own backyard.

This week saw leaders of the Latin American and Arab worlds meet in a historic summit in Brazil - and the US was denied even the courtesy of observer status. Washington is outraged, fearing that this was more than just a diplomatic slight: it sees it as the latest gesture of defiance from the two regions that bear the deepest grudge over recent US foreign policy.

Yeah, I'd guess that when they won't even let you observe, much less participate, it's not just a diplomatic slight. ¿Como se dice "fuck you Yanqui" en Español?

The Summit of South American-Arab Countries, which concluded on Wednesday and was attended by Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, furthered Latin America's drive to strengthen relationships away from the United States. Brazilian President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva led moves by South American states to cement alliances outside the US, which has traditionally held the South on a short leash economically.

Somehow, Talabani's attendance seems huge. I find it hard to believe that we'd sign off on him attending something in our backyard that we'd been overtly disinvited from. This is something that merits further watching, one of those little things that's bound to develop.

The State Department dismissed suggestions that the US' continental dominance is under threat. "We hope our friends in the hemisphere do not fall back on the failed policies of the past," said a State Department official, who declined to be named. "We will work with any country, provided its leader is democratically elected," he said. " We urge them to crack down on corruption and promote free trade."

That exhortation seems to fall on deaf ears. Washington's grand plans for a Free Trade Area of the Americas have stalled after Latin American leaders objected to proposals restricting access to US markets and continued subsidies for US industry. The rhetoric of the Brazilian summit will do nothing to quell fears that the FTAA is dead in the water.

Washington's most throbbing Latin American headache takes the form of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. Birns believes Chavez, a man who has publicly called President Bush a "dickhead", was "instrumental in orchestrating the summit".

Venezuela, which controls 40% of the US' oil imports, has moved closer to Cuba, the bête noire of US-Latin American relations, since Chavez was elected president in 1998. He survived a US-backed coup in 2002 and, with the example of his radically socialist "Bolivarian revolution", is giving the rest of the continent a lesson in bucking the north's neo-liberal agenda.

Dickhead, eh? Hey, what a coincidence -- that's what we call him!

This is no doubt the main reason behind the attempted Chavez coup in 2002 -- because his prickly autocratic methods provide a bad example for neighboring regimes that we've just taken for granted as being in our orbit.

Da Silva seems intent on turning Brazil from a quaint, overly religious Carnaval backwater into a technological and economic dynamo, and he has his country behind him. He could be a real force to reckon with, especially if Brazil escalates its tech development to the extent it becomes an infotech destination like India, or even a stem-cell R&D base.

Regardless, in diplomatic terms, it's like having your neighbor shove you and pimp-slap you in front of your wife and the whole neighborhood. It ain't good. It's another regional headache, in a world already chock-full of them. Stay tuned.