Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A Modest Prediction

I think it's great -- and newsworthy -- that Warren Jeffs has been caught and arrested. There are some fundamental misapprehensions about the FLDS that, in a responsible media climate, would be rectified, which means that one of us stupid uncredentialed crazy-eyed nutroots is going to have to get the ball rolling. So I'll step forward. Or maybe everyone else just wisely stepped back.

I can see two primary ways in which this story will be approached, both of them grievously erroneous, and tactically useless, unless your goal is to perpetuate a soap-opera understanding of an issue and stoke a false debate. Not that that would ever happen.

One is that this gets framed as an issue of religious tolerance and persecution, of mean ol' secular America picking on an essentially harmless group of somewhat odd people. This is just flat wrong. Even characterizing the FLDS as a "cult" falls well short of the practical truth of the matter. Obviously, there are cult-like tendencies and mores, strict mind and behavior control, and a rigid hierarchy. And it's easy to get bogged down in the minutiae of intermarriage, incest, polygamy, and weird little inbred towns that have festered along the Utah/Arizona border for several generations.

But what Jeffs' cult really is, when you get right down to it, is a crime syndicate. It's easy to get caught up in the earnest, prayerful trappings of Big Love, but consider.

The self-proclaimed prophet of a polygamous sect was arrested yesterday in Nevada when a state trooper pulled over his flashy red 2007 Cadillac Escalade for a minor traffic violation.


In the vehicle, they found a lavish assortment of goods and shopping bags from Target and Old Navy.

Recovered were stacks of $100 bills, two long-haired wigs -- one blonde and one auburn -- and a range of technical gadgets, including four Sony Vaio laptops and multiple new-model cellphones, a video iPod, GPS navigation systems and what appeared to be portable scanners.

"Stacks of $100 bills" understates it -- there was reportedly north of $50K in that brand-new Escalade. That's an awful lot of cash for a guy who's been on the run for over a year. In a brand-new Escalade.

And Jeffs' lunatic strictures rival those of Kim Jong-Il, when you get right down to it. Except even Kim Jong-Il isn't trying to marry all of his 14-year-old nieces. But like Kim, Jeffs is nothing but a thug who uses cheap mind-control techniques to leverage absolute power over a great number of people, and lives like a king by shaking down the lower-level earners. So framing this story purely as a religious issue misses the bulk of it.

Talking to the cops and prosecutors about the facts will help avoid such problems in reportage, and while finally nailing Jeffs is sweet, finding and focusing on middle management is going to be key to getting rid of these creeps once and for all. You don't have to go Branch Davidian on them, just follow the money. Like all cults, FLDS is more than just a cult, it's a grift. And when you have 10,000 people involved -- most of them either children or uneducated women -- you have a real problem that can no longer be ignored under the false flag of "religious tolerance", which I'm sorry, does not extend to a 60-year-old man taking his 13-year-old grand-niece as his tenth wife.

Second, I have argued this point in the past with people who try to conflate the idea of gay marriage with that of polygamy, as if the two were merely equal yet different modes of approaching a common civil institution. This, of course, is absolute nonsense, yet it gains traction as a talking point from time to time. Usually it's put forth in the tone of impugning the supposed high-mindedness of the gay-marriage supporter by pointing out their hypocrisy at not supporting another "different" lifestyle.

The short answer is that, while I certainly support the idea of gay marriage, I would not support gay multiple marriage arrangements any more than "conventional" straight ones. The obvious power dynamic between the sole husband and his multiple brides (note that it's never the other way around) may not directly be a societal interest. But there are, especially in these shithole border compounds where these people multiply like inbred rabbits, all-too-frequent patterns of what amounts to child abuse, rape, incest, coercion, and more.

And these multiple wives, with their teeming litters of inbred offspring, are frequently on the dole. Think about it -- it's hard enough for a regular working Joe to support a wife and 2.3 children. There is simply no honest way an average person can support 3 or 5 wives and a dozen or so children, I don't care how much you buy bulk. And the women are essentially chattel, uneducated because they're married off at 13, and thus unemployable and entirely dependent on the "man". It's as unethical and immoral as most of the other lurid elements of these arrangements, and the state certainly sticks its nose into far less egregious examples of questionable morality and ethics.

It seems like thus far, the media is keeping a small if wary distance from the ugly details of these weirdos (and they are weirdos, but that should not be taken as a specific disparagement of mainstream Mormonism). So it remains to be seen if the saga of Jeffs and his cult -- which, it bears mentioning, is almost entirely descended from six men less than 100 years ago -- has legs. If it does, I would bet money that the media will latch on to exactly the wrong end of one of the two scenarios I've mentioned.

I actually hope I'm wrong about that, but my track record is a helluva lot better than theirs on such things.

Snacks On A Plane

Via Atrios we are apprised of yet another ranty little column, presumably offering itself as sensible, relevant opinion, bravely taking on yet again those upstart bloggerses. See if you can follow the clunky, lurching narrative therein.

If ever America needed a wake-up call about the mythology of blogging, we got it this month.

On Aug. 8, Connecticut businessman Ned Lamont defeated U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman in the Democratic primary, a triumph widely credited to the rah-rah racket produced by pro-Lamont armies stationed along the Internet.

Indeed, the bloggers had scored big. They had helped vault a local politician to national prominence and cemented the Iraq war as Issue No. 1 in the congressional elections. Not a bad day.

But their victory was short-lived. Even before the primary, Lieberman announced that, should he lose, he'd still run in November as an independent. This electoral chutzpah effectively rope-a-doped the bloggers and recharged the senator's fabled Joe-mentum. Lieberman's still the man to beat in the general election.

Obviously I read a good number of blogs regularly, some widely known, some not as much. I don't recall any of them taking the tone of empty triumphalism imputed to them by this dope. The attitude was more one of understanding that primaries have low turnouts, and that any tilt at a three-term incumbent was going to have to be a serious, organized undertaking. And that's what they did -- they organized. They served as a virtual megaphone to spread Ned Lamont's message early on. They explained exactly what their manifest discontents were with Joe Lieberman's officious, off-putting enabling of the Chimpco regime. They took both the issues and the people very seriously, if not as solemnly as the jerkoffs in the "official" media would like it.

Does Kluger convey any of that? No, he dismisses a record voter turnout and a huge upset of an incumbent as a "rah-rah racket" in a virtual milieu. No word of the people who actually went to Connecticut, knocked on doors, talked to people, went to events and chronicled them as they saw them. They didn't need to resort to the corporate media patterns of taking out the jeweler's loupe and the apothecary's scale of harrumphing "objectivity", carefully pinching out drams of sober nonsense and baffling leaps of willful stupidity.

There was a time when such efforts would have been hailed as the noble travails of the hallowed "grass-roots" -- otherwise loosely associated people coming together for common cause, not for profit or show, but out of idealism and political unity. Now such undertakings are routinely dismissed as a "racket", by sniveling little assholes who haven't the guts to pick out their own shoes without a nod from above.

Kluger seems almost gleeful that Lieberman has decided to betray his own party and his previous principles in order to retain his limp, clammy grip on what he thinks is power. It's appalling to watch Lieberman, who has all but received an official endorsement from the Republican Party, strut and preen about like he's God's own gift to sober "bipartisanship". The "racket" Kluger smarmily decries is nothing more and nothing less than the collective discontent of Lieberman's own consitutents, who rightly realize that something's seriously wrong when their Democratic senator has the imprimatur from a deeply unpopular, polarizing Republican administration. It's really unfortunate that neither Lieberman nor Kluger has the basic common sense to just be ashamed of themselves, but I guess that's what separates them from us "unserious" people.

Then Kluger's train of crap really starts derailing.

If this wasn't enough to drain the effervescence from the blogger bubbly, America's noisy Web wags were dealt an even more sobering blow 10 days later when Snakes on a Plane opened nationwide to a decidedly flat $15.3 million box office.

Before its premiere, Snakes had been the latest blogger darling, as swarms of online film geeks prematurely crowned it the summer's big sleeper. This hyperventilating fan base even convinced Snakes' distributor, New Line Cinema, to up the movie's rating to R, to ensure a gorier, more venomous snake fest.

But all that clapping and yapping couldn't put enough fannies in the seats. Ticket sales for Snakes' debut barely topped those of Talladega Nights, which was already in its third week.

It appears that Kluger's knowledge of viral marketing rivals Chimpy's profound understanding of Camus. Snakes seems to me to be just one of those dumb fun things that comes along once in a while. What screws it up is that whenever it happens, companies instantly assume they can bottle it and replicate it. And there are certain things you can do to use the medium to enhance your chances, with well-placed, well-timed bursts of viral and niche marketing. But I don't recall anyone on the internets ever proclaiming that the profound burble over some motherfuckin' snakes on a motherfuckin' plane was ever going to be anything more than a fun afternoon watching Samuel L. Jackson do his thang.

Although Connecticut and Hollywood are a continent apart, the two events speak volumes about the capriciousness of the blog culture.

Lieberman's boomerang reminds us that voters represent a meager percentage of the total populace — and that bloggers are an even tinier subset of that group. Consequently, what appears to be a coast-to-coast juggernaut on a 17-inch monitor is, in the real world, simply an elaborate PC-to-PC chain letter — enthusiastic, but not necessarily the national mindset.

“There isn't much point in detailing the chest thumping of the various blognut extremists,” wrote Time's Joe Klein in his analysis of the Lamont victory. “Their reach is minuscule.”

For those who think Klein is underestimating the power of the blog, I have four words: Howard Dean for president.

But it is the underwhelming response to Snakes that reveals the real peril in relying on bloggers to take the nation's pulse.

“There were a lot of inflated expectations on this picture, with the Internet buzz,” New Line's David Tuckerman told The New York Times after Snakes' lukewarm bow. “But it basically performed like a normal horror movie.”

There are multiple conflations here, misapprehensions within misapprehensions. Chief among them is the notion that Joe Klein has anything to say worth taking seriously. The fact that Howard Dean did as well as he did almost exclusively via internets support says almost as much about the sick paradigm at hand as the fact that the corporate media were able to fuck Dean raw just by playing the same stupid three-second clip over and over and fucking over again.

The idea that there is some sort of correlation between Lieberman's primary defeat and Snakes' net-marketing (some of which New Line itself undoubtedly had a hand in at some middle stage at the very least) is retarded, frankly. The only people that had any investment, emotional or otherwise, in Snakes on a Plane work for New Line Cinema. That is a difference on an order of magnitude from people connecting and working together to utilize the democratic institutions at hand, in order to create sensible change. That such a tremendous difference completely passes by Kluger explains a lot about why he thinks it's a good thing that he uses Joey Klein as a reference.

But this is not about Joe Lieberman, nor is it about Snakes. What it is about is how once again, a craven, dickless utensil of the corporate media obliges his low standing by bashing those darned nutroots. How tiresome. How stupid.

How hypocritical. Because, you see, Kluger is happy to inform us that he writes for Huffington Post, which is simply a blog for famous people, which I suppose sort of gives it a revenue model. Kluger also writes for a "newspaper" which, like all dead-tech dinosaurs desperately seeking new-millenium relevance, has a blog page of its own, featuring hard-nosed fact-filled looks at American Idol updates and such.

And, you know, it's not as if the vaunted mainstream media -- including Kluger's own paper -- didn't just get its collective face rubbed in John Mark Karr's hoax shit.

In the 12 frantic days between his arrest in Bangkok and his release after DNA testing in Boulder, Colo., John Mark Karr was linked to JonBenet Ramsey's slaying by his public confession, handwriting and an especially eerie connection: The letters "SBTC" found on a ransom note at the crime scene in 1996 seemed to match a phrase Karr had inscribed in a high school yearbook 23 years ago.
Until DNA testing failed to put Karr at the scene, the other evidence looked "a whole lot worse for Karr," says James Cohen, who teaches criminal law at Fordham University in New York City. "You could see it being used to try and possibly to convict someone who turns out to be a false confessor."

Some criminal law specialists say that even before the DNA test, the confession, handwriting and "SBTC" were weak links in the case against Karr, 41.

Well fucking duh, and you know who was saying so from the git-go? Those silly rah-rah bloggers. "Serious" news orgs were breathlessly camped outside LAX for most of Karr's extradition flight back from Thailand, regaling us with newsy exploits of prawns and champagne. Because nothing's more newsworthy than knowing what some sick fuck is eating on a 12-hour flight, right? Indeed, even falsely characterizing Ned Lamont as some silly rich-boy dilettante in over his head -- unlike, say, George W. Bush -- took a back seat to two weeks' worth of spelunking Karr's pervert ass. They couldn't even be bothered to investigate anything in Boulder.

The whole thing reminded me of William F. Nolan's classic short story The Strange Case of Mr. Pruyn, right from the start, even though unlike the eponymous character in the short story, Karr really didn't commit this particular crime, though it's likely he'll end up convicted of something else somewhere. But like Pruyn, Karr got some sort of frisson from the act of confession, of dangling himself in danger's way, tantalizing and gulling the cops with his tidbits, all along knowing the ultimate evidential demurral of provable guilt.

Except in this case, the perp not only baited and bagged the law enforcement professionals, but also the "professional" journamalistas, colleagues of smug little pricks like Bruce Kluger. People who get paid to sneer and snicker at the inherent silliness of the unwashed rabble trying to make an actual difference, while they get led around by their dicks for two weeks by a piece of shit child molester. And now they're all trying to straighten their ties and look dignified and such, as if they meant to do that shit.

To steal an old Hitchens line, some people never learn, but then, some people never intend to. In the meantime, these tools need to internalize the fact that corporate employment does not automatically confer legitimacy and seriousness. The people who went and supported the grass-roots efforts for Ned Lamont were serious, informed, dedicated, purposeful -- and they did it for reasons other than a paycheck. And this little chump sees fit only to shit on them, their ideals, and their efforts -- and, to add dumb insult to slight injury, lamely attempt to conflate all that with a viral meme for a silly summer movie that, without internets buzz, probably wouldn't have even gotten made in the first place.

On the other hand, here's a fine example of how employees of corporate media organizations (aka "professional journalists") behaved themselves over the past two weeks:

Now let's hear again from these unserious little pissants about the silly nutroots. If the corporate media peer-reviewed themselves and each other even half as rigorously as the blogosphere does, people like Bruce Kluger and Rita Cosby (and sadly, many others) would be asking us if we want fries with that.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

One Year Later

Whether you're a self-styled "small government" conservative (except, of course, when it comes to defense spending boondoggles), or a smug, tiresome "values voter", this is what you wanted:

This is what you got:

Frank Rich has some specifics:

A year after the storm, the reconstruction of New Orleans echoes our reconstruction of Baghdad. A “truth squad” of House Democrats has cataloged the “waste, fraud, abuse or mismanagement” in $8.75 billion worth of contracts, most of which were awarded noncompetitively. Only 60 percent of the city has electricity. Half of the hospitals and three-quarters of the child-care centers remain closed. Violent crime is on the rise. Less than half of the population has returned.

It remains to be seen whether I'm just being paranoid, or if someone's really up to something, but it sure as hell seems to me that this lackluster restoration effort in New Orleans is by design. Debris everywhere still, with even private citizens organizing into groups to clean up lots and blocks.

If I were of a mind to change (or perhaps more accurately, allow to change) the socioeconomic demographic of a disaster-stricken metropolitan area, I'd do what's been done in New Orleans -- nothing. Leave it so the poor black Democratic bloc stays dispersed; let them resettle elsewhere. Stick the remainder in FEMA camps, surrounded with barbed wire, closed from the media, little better than criminal detention facilities, until they take the first opportunity to just get the hell out. Leave the crap and muck and debris around for a while, let the property values continue to drop.

I would be very surprised if next spring does not turn out to be billed as some sort of New Orleans renaissance, with development and rebuilding and gentrification. The "right" people will see their profitability go through the roof, while the "wrong" people will be priced out of ever returning. And the demographic transformation -- perhaps really just a somewhat less vicious form of ethnic cleansing -- will be complete. Literally without doing much of anything.

In the meantime, heckuva job. Kanye West was only partly right. It's not that George W. Bush doesn't care about black people, it's that he doesn't care about people who are no political utility to him. If they're not gonna vote, donate, or evangelize for him, then they're of no use.

Sunday, August 27, 2006


So it now appears that one of Israel's self-defense tactics involved hitting civilian areas with cluster bombs, naturally purchased from us.

The U.S. State Department said Friday it is investigating whether Israel may have used cluster munitions in Lebanon in violation of agreements with the United States restricting their use. A United Nations agency said earlier this week it has found abundant evidence that Israel used the bombs against Hezbollah guerrillas, some in populated areas of southern Lebanon.

The Bush administration defended Israel's overall military campaign against Hezbollah as an act of national self defense. But officials here acknowledge that an inquiry is under way as to whether the Israelis used U.S.-supplied cluster munitions in civilian areas in violation of unpublished agreements with Washington.

Inquiry, shit. ABC News showed UN workers digging unexploded bomblets out of apartment rubble, holding up to the camera to see. Unless that was a far more extreme version of news-faking than the faked smoke in the infamous Reuters photo. But it fits the pattern established by us in Iraq -- indiscriminate cluster-bombing in or near civilian areas, knowing full well that 20-25% of the bomblets don't explode upon impact, and are found later, frequently by hapless civilians, many of them children. Functionally, they're essentially mines.

I suppose this is just another of those "hard decisions" that "serious people" have to make for "freedom". It's always someone else's kid, after all.

The New York Times account said the charges against Israel are not unprecedented and that that Reagan administration imposed a six-year ban on sales of cluster weapons to Israel in the 1980's, after a congressional inquiry found that they had been used improperly in Israel's 1982 Lebanon invasion.

There have also been a number of U.S. inquiries over the years, all of them apparently inconclusive, into charges of Israeli violations of the 1976 Arms Export Control Act, which requires that American-supplied weapons be used in legitimate self defense.

The United Nations Mine Action Coordination Center said in a report earlier this week that it had found hundreds of unexploded bomblets of American origin in scores of locations in southern Lebanon since hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas ended earlier this month.

A spokesman for the Israeli embassy in Washington said Israel has not been informed of the U.S. investigation, but when and if it is, it would happily respond.

The Israeli military has said it sought to avoid civilian casualties in its drive into Lebanon and that it used all weapons in conformance with international law. Israel officials say that by contrast Hezbollah indiscriminately fired hundreds of rockets into Israeli towns during the 34-day conflict with no other intent but to harm civilians.

Well, then I guess you're even now, aren't you? Southern Lebanon is destroyed, infrastructure (which, you know, enables civilians to do things like go to work and home and school, and lead normal everyday lives) up and down the entire country has been damaged from deliberate targeting, and a quarter of the population was turned into internal refugees.

And now cluster-bombing civilian areas, while smugly denying that civilians are being deliberately targeted, and pointing the finger at Hezbollah for its "indiscriminate" attacks. I dunno, seems like there's some blame to go around on that count.

The Bonnie Situation

Definition here.

Fixer here:

James Baker ponders his next move in getting Junior's dick out of the wringer.

Seems that Corleone Bush family fixer James Baker has assembled a little closed-door task force to try slap some face-saving lipstick on what's left of Preznit Fredo's war pig.

Since March, Baker, backed by a team of experienced national-security hands, has been busily at work trying to devise a fresh set of policies to help the president chart a new course in--or, perhaps, to get the hell out of--Iraq. But as with all things involving James Baker, there's a deeper political agenda at work as well. "Baker is primarily motivated by his desire to avoid a war at home--that things will fall apart not on the battlefield but at home. So he wants a ceasefire in American politics," a member of one of the commission's working groups told me. Specifically, he said, if the Democrats win back one or both houses of Congress in November, they would unleash a series of investigative hearings on Iraq, the war on terrorism, and civil liberties that could fatally weaken the administration and remove the last props of political support for the war, setting the stage for a potential Republican electoral disaster in 2008. "I guess there are people in the [Republican] party, on the Hill and in the White House, who see a political train wreck coming, and they've called in Baker to try to reroute the train."

See, the problem is not the policy, and the war, and the lies, it's the political disaster awaiting them if they were found out. I don't what they're so worried about; everyone already has an instinctive knowledge of the truth, if not the specifics, and there's still no assurance that the Democrats will take back over. And even if they do, how many will take the John Conyers route and call for aggressive investigations, and how many will sit on their thumbs and try to burnish their "serious centrist" credentials for that tilt at the '08 windmill?

Still, it's good to see that Baker, as ever, has his priorities straight. Fuck what's good for the country and the world; what's in it for the Republicans?

Baker's commission--officially called the Iraq Study Group--was created in March by Congress at the instigation of Rep. Frank Wolf, a Virginia Republican. After his third trip to Iraq last year, Wolf started contacting members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, urging the creation of a high-powered, private task force to take a fresh look at the mess in Iraq.


Wolf's motivation in creating the Iraq Study Group seems to be genuine concern that the war isn't going well and that public support for it is evaporating. During his visit to Iraq, where he spent hours with U.S. military officers in the field, Wolf says that his eyes were opened. "Some of the things that were told to me, I had never seen before: the destabilization of the region," Wolf told me. "Some of the scenarios that were given to me [included] the overthrow of the Saudi government, [along with both] the Jordanian government and the Egyptian government.... So I just felt, let's take another look. And no one should be afraid of doing it."

But some people were afraid, above all in the administration. "Reaction was mixed," Wolf told me. "Initially, there was not a lot of support for the idea." Backed by congressional heavyweights, including Warner, Wolf met privately with Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, and others in the administration. His message? "If you're so confident it's going well, why are you so afraid for someone else to take a look at it?"....In June, [Fredo] himself met briefly with the task force. "Iraq is a complex situation," Bush told them. "And the fact that you are all willing to lend your expertise to help chart the way forward means a lot."

So long as you agree with him, that is. Otherwise, fuck you very much, and don't talk to the media or we'll wreck your careers, tie meat to your legs, and send our smear dogs after your asses.

As for Wolf's rhetorical "If you're so confident" plaint, he might as well match that question up to why they've lied, concealed, and elided at every opportunity, and why every human political obstacle has either been fired or smeared. Good luck with that one.

Several of those involved in the task force point out that Baker is perfect for the job. "First of all, he's close to Bush 41," one of them told me. "Second, Bush 43 owes his presidency to Jim Baker because of the skullduggery in Florida in 2000. And Baker is the consummate consigliere. He's utterly ruthless and very effective at what he does. When they [the Bushes] get into an emergency, they call Baker."

The emergency, in this case, is the collapse of public support for the war in Iraq, the president's catastrophic fall in the polls, the growing calls on the left for a pullout of U.S. forces, and the concern at the Joint Chiefs of Staff about the Pentagon's inability to sustain the presence of 127,000 U.S. troops in Iraq indefinitely. "The American people will not allow the United States to stay much longer," a participant in one of the working groups told me. "They're going to demand a phased withdrawal."

Time is indeed running out for Baker, as Bush's feeble defenses against the utility of even a modest, penciled-in timetable wear ever thinner. Baker's real goal here is to save face and put the sacred "bipartisan" imprimatur on it. I don't know if Democratic members such as Leon Panetta and Vernon Jordan think it's just the right thing to do, or if their party will be able to sell the results as their own as efficiently as the Republicans will, but politically for them this is a real gamble played with a marked deck. If everyone's really interested in finding a genuine solution to unshit Junior's bed and keep from wasting any more lives, great. But forgive me for being a wee bit cynical about any project led by the likes of Baker. He and Cheney sold their souls at the same auction long ago.

In any case, the Iraq Study Group won't issue its report until some time early in 2007. In a recent speech, according to a member of the task force, Baker said that to do something before the November 2006 elections would inevitably politicize the report, something that Baker desperately wants to avoid.

But with each passing day, the country is closer to the train wreck that Baker and others are said to fear. In the end, avoiding it might ride on the ability of Jim Baker to persuade the president that it's time to declare victory and exit.

"The object of our policy has to be to get our little white asses out of there as soon as possible," another working-group participant told me. To do that, he said, Baker must confront the president "like the way a family confronts an alcoholic. You bring everyone in, and you say, 'Look, my friend, it's time to change.'"

Yeah, Baker "desperately wants to avoid" politicizing the report before the elections like Paris Hilton desperately wants to avoid random cock. Again, pardon my cynicism, but I would make bank on, at the very least, some sort of October surprise, perhaps an "anonymous" leak, usefully stenographed a scoop-sniffing "journamalist" who doesn't mind being played, and aggressively marketed by the usual echo chamber with suspicious harmony, with perhaps a lilting segue into the next venture next door.

Because it's not just Junior that's in need of the intervention, it's the guys whose first instinct is to threaten to send somebody else's kid over to fight and die.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Through An Ass, Dorkly

The well-known conservabot Buttmissile, from the PowerLie blog (not linking to it) had this to say about his latest private encounter with The Great Communicator:

I had the opportunity this afternoon to be part of a relatively small group who heard President Bush talk, extemporaneously, for around forty minutes. It was an absolutely riveting experience. It was the best I've ever seen him. Not only that; it may have been the best I've ever seen any politician.


The conventional wisdom is that Bush is not a very good speaker. But up close, he is a great communicator, in a way that, in my opinion, Ronald Reagan was not. He was by turns instructive, persuasive, and funny. His persona is very much that of the big brother. Above all, he was impassioned. I have never seen a politician speak so evidently from the heart, about big issues--freedom, most of all.


It was, in short, the most inspiring forty minutes I've experienced in politics.

Of course, this is the same clown who wrote last year that Bush was like a great, underappreciated artist of genius and brilliance, forever condemned to be tethered to an unjustly-earned reputation.

Funny how Bush is always some sort of masterful orator behind closed doors, but then again Buttmissile is the guy who works a corndog like Jenna Jameson.

Practice makes perfect, Jenna. Hey, you got something on your chin.

Plan B From Outer Space

The compromised approval of Plan B is causing the usual kerfuffle in the usual circles.

Federal approval of the "morning-after" pill for over-the-counter sales should make emergency contraception widely available for the first time by the end of the year, but the new policy excludes the group some doctors say might need it the most -- teenage girls who aren't practicing safe sex.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday approved Plan B, casually called the morning-after pill, for sale without a prescription to women age 18 and older. If taken within 72 hours of having unprotected sex, Plan B is up to 89 percent effective at preventing pregnancy.

The decision, which ended a three-year battle within the FDA, was considered a compromise by pro-choice and women's health advocates who had hoped to win over-the-counter approval for all women, regardless of age.

Supporters of Plan B have said making the drug more easily accessible to all women could cut in half the number of unplanned pregnancies in the United States every year -- a statement that some conservative groups don't buy, saying over-the-counter sales could lead to sexual promiscuity and, in turn, more unintended pregnancies.


Plan B, which is distributed by Barr Pharmaceuticals, will be sold only in pharmacies -- including those in grocery stores and convenience stores -- and must be kept behind a counter or in a locked cabinet. The pill costs $25 to $45 now, although pharmacists and doctors say they don't yet know how much it will cost when sold over the counter.

Roughly half of all pregnancies in the United States, or about 3 million each year, are unplanned. About 820,000 teenagers get pregnant every year. The pregnancy rate is much lower among teenagers than among adult women, but supporters of Plan B point out that teenagers are much less likely than adults to have access to birth control.


Barr Pharmaceuticals had asked for approval to sell Plan B to teenagers 16 and older without a prescription, but the FDA argued that it would be too difficult for pharmacies to ensure that teens younger than 16 didn't buy the drug. As part of the FDA approval, Barr Pharmaceuticals must regularly monitor pharmacies to make sure Plan B is not being sold without a prescription to minors.

Plan B has been available in the United States since 1999, but only with a doctor's prescription. In California and eight other states, some pharmacies have been allowed to write prescriptions for the drug in the store if a pharmacist had received special training.

Seems simple enough. It prevents unwanted pregnancies without functioning as an abortifacent, it costs too much to be popped like TicTacs (which ought to assuage at least some of the concerns of our moral guardians), and it's safe.

So of course, there's a problem.

"Plan B can keep the newly conceived embryo from making it to the uterus in time, as well as have an effect on the lining of the uterus to make it inhospitable to the embryo. That would be abortive," said Deirdre McQuade, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C. "It's complicated. It's not like it always causes an abortion or always works as a contraceptive."

This is lunacy, pure and simple. This is something that can literally prevent thousands of actual abortions per year, and these people want to throw it out because, well, there are rare exceptions where a fertilized egg -- keeping in mind that this has to be taken within 72 hours of intercourse -- might be prevented from implantation in the uterus. That is not moral purity, that is simply blind, destructive absolutism. It's not "complicated" at all, it's a choice between thousands of abortions per year prevented outright versus the chance of a few dozen newly-fertilized eggs not being implanted.

PZ Myers has what is the best explanation of exactly how Plan B works, and why it has nothing whatsoever to do with the abortion issue. There's also an update on how the media, "objective" as always, have utterly screwed up the factual narrative to the "prevents implantation" caveat, as if it had some actual clinical basis, which it does not. And as Myers points out, even if it could be empirically shown that 1 (or 10, or even 1000) of every million uses resulted in such a prevention of implantation, so what?

The line of what constitutes "protection of life" gets pushed further and further back toward the very moment of ejaculation, practically. That this nonsense continues to be presented seriously and "objectively" is a disservice to the practical ramifications of the argument, which affect a lot of actual -- not merely potential -- lives.

One side actually wants to get the number of abortions as low as possible; the other wants to eviscerate Griswold and establish an unconscionable level of control over womens' (specifically) sex lives. Perhaps this would be less of a "contentious issue" if the media presented it as such, rather than continuing this noxious pretense that if we squint hard enough, maybe 2+2 really does equal five.

Party Of God

ORLANDO, Fla. _Rep. Katherine Harris said this week that God did not intend for the United States to be a "nation of secular laws" and that a failure to elect Christians to political office will allow lawmaking bodies to "legislate sin."


The fallout follows an interview published in the Florida Baptist Witness, the weekly journal of the Florida Baptist State Convention. Witness editors interviewed candidates for office asking them to describe their faith and positions on certain issues.

Harris said her religious beliefs "animate" everything she does, including her votes in Congress.

She then warned voters that if they do not send Christians to office, they risk creating a government that is doomed to fail.

"If you are not electing Christians, tried and true, under public scrutiny and pressure, if you're not electing Christians, then in essence you are going to legislate sin," she told interviewers, citing abortion and gay marriage as two examples of that sin.

"Whenever we legislate sin," she said, "and we say abortion is permissible and we say gay unions are permissible, then average citizens who are not Christians, because they don't know better, we are leading them astray and it's wrong . . ."

Harris also said the separation of church and state is a "lie we have been told" to keep religious people out of politics.

In reality, she said, "we have to have the faithful in government" because that is God's will. Separating religion and politics is "so wrong because God is the one who chooses our rulers," she said.

"And if we are the ones not actively involved in electing those godly men and women," then "we're going to have a nation of secular laws. That's not what our founding fathers intended and that's (sic) certainly isn't what God intended."

Harris campaign spokesman Jennifer Marks would not say what alternative to "a nation of secular laws" Harris would support. She would not answer questions about the Harris interview and, instead, released a two-sentence statement.

"Congresswoman Harris encourages Americans from all walks of life and faith to participate in our government," it stated. "She continues to be an unwavering advocate of religious rights and freedoms."

-- Orlando Sentinel, 8/25/06.

In Lebanon, the state-society relationship is “confessional” and government power and positions are allocated on the basis of religious background. There are 18 officially recognized ethno-confessional communities in the country today. The original allocations, determined in 1943 in an unwritten National Pact between Maronite Christians and Sunni Muslims at the end of the French mandate, gave the most power to a Maronite Christian president and a Sunni Muslim prime minister, with the relatively powerless position of speaker of Parliament going to a Shi‘i Muslim. Other government positions and seats in Parliament were divided up using a 6:5 ratio of Christians to Muslims. These arrangements purportedly followed the population ratios in the 1932 census, the last census ever undertaken in the country.

This confessional system was stagnant, failing to take into consideration demographic changes. As the Shi‘i population grew at a rapid pace in comparison to other groups, the inflexibility of the system exacerbated Shi‘i under-representation in government. Meanwhile, sect became a means of gaining access to state resources, as the government shelled out money to establish sect-based welfare networks and institutions like schools and hospitals. Because the Shi‘a were under-represented in government, they could channel fewer resources to their community, contributing to disproportionate poverty among Shi‘i Lebanese. This effect was aggravated by the fact that Shi‘i seats in Parliament were usually filled by feudal landowners and other insulated elites.

-- Middle East Report, 7/31/06, Hizballah: A Primer. [emphases mine]

Religion is political, and politics is religious, there, here, everywhere. The only thing that changes is tactics; the rhetoric is almost identical at times. It's just a fulcrum with which to leverage control.

Hitchens A Ride

Although he has certainly devalued his own currency over the past several years, I don't yet have quite the same visceral reaction toward Christopher Hitchens as some do. I keep wanting to give him just one more chance to explain himself, though that continues to rapidly diminish with each successive failure on his part to do so. Maybe it's because I enjoyed the cranky contrarianism of The Missionary Position, or because I can at least appreciate his continuous pamphleteering about historical figures of genuine import.

Whatever his manifest faults and substantive misapprehensions, Hitchens brings a level of erudition to the right's flawed arguments that they sorely lack in their usual screamfest arenas. But as Hitch showed last night on Real Time, in the face of real-world developments, his fancy prattle has unfortunately devolved into ornate furbelows merely designed to distract from the truth and defend the indefensible.

It doesn't bother me in the least that Hitchens repeatedly flipped off Maher's audience; it's even odds that several members of the audience flipped him off either before or after. It's childish either way, but what's worse is the substance of his continued assertions. The only thing Iraq's new vaunted "unity" government can seem to "unify" on is that our continued presence is the defining problem facing their country.

That's actually not 100% true (though of course we initiated all this chaos and destruction), but it doesn't matter anymore; what matters is that they've had enough of us, and all that's left is to figure out how to start backing out with some small measure of dignity intact, before the sects continue slaughtering each other, the country partitions, and Iran and Turkey prepare their own regional power moves. None of these features will be remotely democratic, aside from the slim hope of a successful Iraqi Kurdistan.

Hitchens refuses to acknowledge any of this, to his lasting shame. He continues to have nothing useful to say, and he continues to say it extremely well. But he should remember that he changed his mind once before, as events conspired and developed, which is what adaptive, pragmatic people must do. I distinctly recall one of his toddling, rum-soaked appearances on Dennis Miller's HBO show early in 2001. Both of them sniggered (to use Hitchens' own disdainful epithet) at the inarticulate babble of a clearly-in-way-over-his-head George W. Bush. Hitchens in particular kept making a point of how Bush's defenders kept inadvertently damning him with faint praise by attesting to how "able" and "capable" Dubya was.

Disaffected liberals of the goodbye-to-all-that stripe, when challenged on Bush's continued babbling inarticulateness, invoke various tropes that generally revolve around Bush's avowed unwavering singularity of purpose, as if being steadfast about sticking your hand -- or more accurately, other peoples' hands -- into a garbage disposal is "purposeful". Hitchens being Hitchens, he naturally relies on the headiest of this sort of cliché, the contrast of the hedgehog and the fox. But as Billmon amply shows, Bush is a hedgehog, but in exactly the wrong way.

People like Hitchens and Miller used to know better. Bush did not get any more intelligent or perceptive because of 9/11, it just made him even more hard-headed, even less susceptible to reason and persuasion, even less likely to adapt to real-world developments on the ground. Worse yet, it has not made him any more eager to learn anything useful about the region which he believes he not only can reinvent, but should. Hitchens also knows that salient fact, which he conveniently elides on each and every broadcast call to arms.

I don't know how old Hitchens' kids are, but when the time comes, I have no doubt that he will gladly consign them to their fate, running herd on the grand scheme of a fool and his cadre of enablers, of which he has proudly been one of the more prominent.

Sticks On A Plane

I suppose the month's not quite over, but our nominee for Dipshit O' The Month for August 2006 is this moron:

HOUSTON - A stick of dynamite was found in a college student's checked luggage on a Continental Airlines flight from Argentina, authorities said, in one of six security incidents Friday affecting U.S. flights.

Federal authorities were investigating why the student, who got off the Continental plane in Houston before it continued to Newark, N.J., had the explosive, FBI spokeswoman Shauna Dunlap said. She said the student did not appear to be connected to terrorism.

Houston Fire Department Assistant Chief Omero Longoria said the man told authorities he works in mining and often handles explosives. Longoria said federal officials were investigating whether the explanation was true.

Even in checked luggage, even if the guy's really not a terrorist, this is just unutterably stupid. At the very least, his college oughta consider kicking his dumb ass out. On the good foot, I guess it means the security checking system worked, sort of. Not a huge story, it seems, but the sheer cluelessness of it all really just boggles the mind.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Bobo's World

Old times there really aren't forgotten:

COUSHATTA, Louisiana (AP) -- A Louisiana school district suspended a white bus driver while it investigates complaints that she ordered nine black children to sit at the back of the bus.


"In all these years, I've never had a problem like this," said Janice Williams, whose four children ride public school buses.

One of her children, Jarvonica Williams, 16, said the bus driver allowed many white students to have seats all to themselves while some blacks were forced to stand or sit in others' laps.

Iva Richmond, whose 14- and 15-year-old children were on the bus, said Thursday that they previously had a black bus driver, but their bus assignment changed this year. When school started this month, the white driver told them she had assigned them seats, with the black children at the back of the bus.

Richmond said she complained to a local principal, who told the driver that if any children were assigned to seats, all would have to be.

Early last week, the driver assigned black students to two seats in the back of the bus, Richmond said.

"All nine children were assigned to two seats in the back of the bus and the older ones had to hold the smaller ones in their laps," she said.

According to esteemed conservative thinker Rush Limbaugh, the seat assignment was actually for the benefit of the aggrieved black children, because that's where the emergency exit is located, and should the bus capsize in a body of water, they can get out quickly and not worry about having to swim to safety.


This next jam goes out to all my muthafuckin' homiez at the N-R-muthafuckin'-O!
Yeeahh, yo....come on now, lemme hear ya....
When I say "Byron", you say "York"....Byron....[crickets]....Byron....

K-Pod rocks the mike at the Teen Choice Awards.

Were it not for K-Lo's hourly pantomimes, The Corner would be but a mere husk patiently awaiting the noon burnoff of the other kids' Vanilla Coke/Mike 'n' Ike/Pop Rocks hangovers. It's like watching virtual grass grow.

Exhibit A is the aforementioned K-Lo's endorsement of a rather silly press release from noted metal crank Dave Mustaine of the band Megadeth. Mustaine is one of the more literate metal musicians out there (and no, I'm not going to damn him with faint praise by slamming the genre by association -- there's a hell of a lot more reading there than in the world of "popular" music), but it's not by any stretch a political endorsement either way. Last I heard, despite his sobriety and conversion to Christianity, Mustaine was still essentially a libertarian-leaning Democrat.

"I was watching TV and saw the trucks that said 'UN' on them and said, 'Man, you are so uncool, ineffective, anything," the singer/guitarist said in a recent Billboard interview.

"I thought, 'Wow, I've got to run with this. I got it -- United Abominations, 'cause it's an abomination what they're doing!"

See, that's just not fair, 'cause I was planning to title my next album Untied Seminations, and that may confuse all the kids out there. Oddly, I got my title the same way Mustaine got his -- jerking off in front of the TV.

Anyway, apparently K-Lo's tepid gushing (can you gush tepidly?) prompted a small, sputtering barrage of electronic Katyushas from the wankerati, which of course she had to post. Just had to.

Next is CNBC econ-tool Larry Kudlow, who may be the only economist I've ever seen who just refuses to let all those silly numbers and projections curb his enthusiasm.

Will business pick up the economic slack created by the housing drag? That’s the big question separating economic optimists from the cult of the bear. Today’s factory report on the production of durable goods answers that question with an emphatic yes.

Spurred by record profits and low tax rates on capital, business other than the ailing Ford and GM looks really strong. Major categories of new orders, shipments, and unfilled orders for non-defense non-aircraft capital goods surged in July at a double digit annualized pace. Over the past year, orders are up 13 percent, shipments increased 10 percent, and backlogs rose 14 percent. These are very big numbers.


There’s no question that the housing boom is leveling off. But supply-siders know that it is business that creates jobs and consumer incomes for spending.


It is also worth noting that while housing construction is in the doldrums, business building of plants, equipment, office buildings and shopping stores is booming.

Congressional Republicans should heed President Bush’s advice by emphasizing the strong low tax economy. And here’s an added bonus for that argument: gas prices in the futures markets are falling on a daily basis. Pump prices are just beginning to reflect this. By the time we get to November, pump prices could be down to $2.75.

Think of it.

Kudlow's "economic optimism" might be roughly compared to the PNAC's "foreign policy optimism". We can see the results of endless foreign policy cheerleading; why would economic cheerleading be any better? The scenario he envisions is possible, but it's also "possible" that Katherine Heigl shows up on my doorstep tomorrow, buck-ass naked and mistaking me for Brad Pitt. Shit happens, but we're talking about a lot of things having to go just right.

Barry Ritholtz has been featuring some fairly scary news in the housing market. Sales of existing homes are way down, because of the glut of new construction, which in turn accounted for some of the low unemployment rates. Now new home sales are down as well, and building is also plummeting, despite what Tigger the Economist tries to bounce past you.

Saying "business except for Ford and GM" is like saying "TV networks except for NBC and CBS". It's just dumb. There's been what, 35,000 layoffs in the past nine months from those two companies? That's huge, and even without that, the monthly new-jobs added rate hasn't met the over-under all summer. Consumer confidence is waning, and the real war on Christmas this year may be people just keeping their wallets shut, sensing bad times on the horizon.

Kudlow's solution, natch, is to just keep them tax cuts hummin'. And if he's right about gas futures, then that just means that something else is getting sold short. I don't buy it. There's no reason for gas prices to come down in the foreseeable future; between infrastructural repairs and risk premiums for Middle East instability, any downward adjustment is just going to be a short-term lagging indicator, a mild market correction for six quarters of record profits. Gas is not coming appreciably down for any significant period of time, possibly ever, and certainly not in the near future.

Or so we sang in unison at the last Cult of the Bear Country Jamboree.

Cliff Clavin -- uh, I mean, May, registers his disclavin -- no, dammit, his dismay -- at a sorta kinda friend colleague person he thought he knew.

[Saad] begins by railing against what he calls the “cynical exploitation” of post-9/11 sympathy for the United States by “so-called neoconservatives to advance hegemonic designs.” Bush’s statements about "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq were, he asserts, “dishonest.”

In his view, it is not the Islamists who are hostile to the U.S. and Israel but quite the reverse. He adds: “Now the cold war on Islamists has escalated into a shooting war, first against Hamas in Gaza and then against Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

He goes on, atonishingly [sic], to call Hezbollah a “model actor in Lebanese and Middle Eastern politics.” He has kind words, too, for both Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Hamas. These “groups, parties and movements are not inimical to democracy,” he says, adding: “They have accepted electoral systems and practiced electoral politics, probably too well for Washington's taste.”

This does not sound like the Saad Eddin Ibrahim I have heard and read before. Maybe his views have changed and he is simply calling it the way he now sees it. If so that is distressing. Or maybe he feels the winds blowing from a new direction now and has trimmed his sails to weather the coming storms. That, too, would be an ominous sing [sic].

Awww. Or, perhaps Ibrahim is technically telling the truth. Yes, Hezbollah and Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood are radical organizations with fundamentalist aims. But they have dipped their toes into populist politics, and found that they likes the water just fine, much to our democracy evangelists' disclavin. It's about the only realistic shot at co-opting them from violent terrorism. We keep thinking al-Qaeda with them, when we should be thinking IRA.

In the Arab world, the mullahs push candidates into councils and parliaments, or just get in themselves, and try to impose their regressive morality on the poorest, most ignorant members of the population. Here we have Sam Brownback and James Inhofe, and we dare not float a nominee for the nation's highest court without first receiving the imprimatur of James Dobson and Jerry Falwell. We have Pat Robertson, a certifiably insane man who set up sweet little extraction deals with animals like Mobutu Sese Seko and Charles Taylor, and who ran for president not twenty years ago, and still feels free to weigh in on vital issues from time to time.

But they're all fuckin' cray-zay, man.

Finally we have the Little Daddy himself, the hair that launched a thousand quips. Sir Byron of York weighs in on Mark Warner's pimptabulous party at the Yearly Kos convention. You know, back in June.

Well, it turns out Warner was trying even harder than anyone knew. Recently-released campaign finance reports indicate Warner's political action committee spent nearly $70,000 on the affair, writing a $25,000 check to the Stratosphere on June 2, and another for $44,588.95 on June 9. And that was just the Stratosphere. Warner clearly spent money in other ways — T-shirts and the like — trying to win Kossack favor, so it's not completely clear what his final YearlyKos expenditure was.

Well Byron, he could have rented you to piss Ketel One into a giant gold tureen all night, and still come in roughly $2.25 million under Dennis Kozlowski. Rush Limbaugh blows seventy grand on a Dominican sex tour, not including oxy and Viagra.

So there's your tour of the neighborhood for this week, folks. Tune in next time for more comedy hijinks, when K-Lo gets her Romney on, and York loses his coke-bottles and briefly can't tell the difference between J-Pod and Pantload (not that we can tell much difference anyway).

[Update: Scarcely 12 hours later, K-Lo takes our advice. Now it's Little Lord Dorkleroy's turn.]

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Rockey And Bushwinkle Show

Hey, Rocky! Watch me pull a lame photo-op out of my ass!" "Again?!?"

What kind of mouth-breathing simp still falls for this transparent bullshit?

THE PRESIDENT: I just had coffee with Rockey Vaccarella, St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana. He caught my attention because he decided to come up to Washington, D.C. and make it clear to me and others here in the government that there's people down there still hurting in south Louisiana, and along the Gulf Coast.

And Rock is a plain-spoken guy. He's the kind of fellow I feel comfortable talking to. I told him that I understand that there's people down there that still need help. And I told him the federal government will work with the state and local authorities to get the help to them as quickly as possible.

Okay, we get it, Harvard. You care so very much. Have a cookie and quit wasting everyone's time.

Oh wait -- looks like our little astroturf "concerned citizen", who drove all the way up in a mocked-up FEMA trailer to film some sort of dorkumentary for his next run at local office in the new, improved, and denegrofied New Orleans, wants to rock the mike a few.

MR. VACCARELLA: But now, I wanted to remind the President that the job's not done, and he knows that. And I just don't want the government and President Bush to forget about us. And I just wish the President could have another term in Washington.

THE PRESIDENT: Wait a minute. (Laughter.)

MR. VACCARELLA: You know, I wish you had another four years, man. If we had this President for another four years, I think we'd be great.

Wow. On the one hand, I guess it is a skill that the guy can enunciate that clearly with Bush's cock embedded so deeply in his throat. I bet he could suck a dick and eat a hero sandwich at the same time, balls slamming into his chin and all.

But seriously, even most Republicans wouldn't give Bush another four years at this point. I seriously can't imagine what sort of havoc these bastards would wreak upon the world, given yet another chance. I fucking despise this ridiculous little man just for floating such a destructive idea. Stunt photo-ops are bad enough; slavish on-camera ball-licking is just nauseating. I always figured that if there was ever gay porn at the White House, it would at least involve Jeff Gannon™.

Besides, if Bush served a third term, he'd never finish that fucking salt book.

Jungle Fever

Holuh mack'el deah Rushbo, I'se Suhvivahmatin'!

Big Pharma steps on his oxy/viagra-engorged thumb-dick yet again. The whole thing is pretty abysmal, made even more so because Limbaugh, the ultimate insider's lackey, thinks he's being so politically incorrect by jokey-joking the racial stereotypes.

On the August 23 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio program, Rush Limbaugh suggested that the competition in a new season of CBS' reality TV program Survivor, in which contestants are reportedly divided into competing "tribes" by ethnicity, "is not going to be fair if there's a lot of water events." In support of this assertion, he cited a March 2 HealthDay article reporting that "young blacks -- especially males -- are much more likely to drown in pools than whites."

During the program, Limbaugh suggested that "people at CBS" are "scratch[ing] their heads" and asking whether "the swimming portion" of the new Survivor competition is "going to be fair." When pressed by an African-American caller to identify "[w]hich team ... would be the worst swimmers and why," Limbaugh stated that "the white tribe would be the best swimmers" based on the performance of white athletes at "the Olympics." After apparently disconnecting or cutting the volume level of the caller, Limbaugh said: "[Y]ou're saying I'm being racist because I'm saying blacks can't swim." He further protested: "I mentioned the swimming comment only because it's not going to be fair if there is a lot of water competition in this. It just isn't. It is not a racial or racist comment at all."

You know, Fatass, "they don't have the buoyancy" is much shorter. Jesus. It doesn't even seem to occur to him that it might be an issue of economic class -- and thus frequent access to safe swimming areas -- instead of race. If anything, given the level of competition in most sports by black athletes, one might just as well assume that, given the same opportunities, they'd be better swimmers than white people.

That is, if one really felt that much of a compulsion to break every damn thing down by race, instead of just letting motherfuckers swim or whatever they want to do. It's not as if Limpballs hasn't gone down this sordid road before.

How'd that turn out, anyway?

But don't let that stop Big Pharma. He's rolling.

Limbaugh also asserted that "the Asian-American tribe" -- whom he called "the brainiacs of the bunch" -- "probably will outsmart everybody," but while "intelligence is one thing ... raw, native understanding of the land -- this is probably why the Native Americans were excluded, because they were at one with the land and they would probably have an unfair advantage."

Or, because the contest is being held in the Cook Islands, why the Pacific Islanders are not represented in this.

And for the record, I can't believe this asinine idea ever made it through the pitch meeting. I've never watched Survivor (seriously) and I never will, but I know enough about it to know that it's all gimmicks and contrivances. When the gimmick is, say, weapons, then I'll check it out. In the meantime, ethnic tribes is about as unnecessarily ugly a gimmick as I can think of. How about straights versus homos, while you're at it, or in a lighter vein, jocks versus nerds? I mean, how stupid. How has this piece of crap idea for a show lingered this long; does America really need to just unplug and go sort its sock drawer for a while?

[Limbaugh] added that "the white tribe," "if it behaves as it historically has," will "bring along vials of diseases" and "will wind up oppressing" the other tribes by "deny[ing] them benefits" and "property," but will later "try to put [the other tribes] on some kind of benefit program." He further asserted that if CBS "allows ... cheating" and "oppression," "then of course the white tribe is going to win."

I honestly don't get this. Is this one of those "funny because it's true" deals or something? Smallpox blankets and welfare programs? Hello? Is this thing on? What's wrong with "you people"? And what is the deal with airline peanuts, anyway?

I have an idea I'd like to pitch to the humps at the Survivor company, should their piece-of-crap show limp to yet another crappy season. Drop Limbaugh, Coulter, Hannity, Savage, Malkin, Beck, and the rest of the useless radio-show hacks on an arable island in the South Pacific with, say, one month's supplies, and some rudimentary tools to build shelter. Initially there might be some Gilligan's Island hijinks with Limpballs and Hannity-Boy fighting over who gets the top hammock in their love hut, but things should rapidly deteriorate, much to our amusement.

Between the Lord of the Flies savagery, the nascent power structure hinging on multiple sexual hangups and (ahem) lack of virility on the part of the wannabe alpha males, and the eventual starvation and cannibalism, you'd be getting mega ratings and doing the world a huge fucking favor.

Feeding Frenzy

The latest episode in Why We Have No Interest In "Working With" The Corporate Media is the JonBenét Ramsey story -- or rather, the sifting through of the excruciating minutiæ of the life and times of John Mark Karr. He ate prawns and drank champagne on the extradition flight back from Thailand. He wore his hair in a mullet back in the '80s, and once played the guitar at a friend's wedding. And so on.

It is vile; it is galling; it is profoundly, unforgivably ghoulish. And not because there's no story here. There most assuredly is. People have understandably become desensitized to the onslaught of shameful sensationalism, but the fact of the matter is that a little girl was raped and murdered in her own home on Christmas. Of course, it's more of a story because her family is wealthy and the murder occurred in the cushy enclave of Boulder, Colorado. Statistically, every night some inner-city kid meets a terrible fate, usually at the hands of his own parents. That, apparently, is not a story. Not as much soap-opera minutiæ for the intrepid investimagators to root their snouts through. Something. I don't know, and the perpetrators in the media are about as forthcoming as the scumbags they so breathlessly cover.

But again, there is a story to be covered in the Ramsey case, for the people who are serious about their profession. There are facts and data, there are conjectures from various people to weigh and compare. Evidence, scenario, timeline. Motive, means, opportunity. I have made no secret of my distaste for the goo-coated forensic porn shows that litter the landscape, but I do believe that there is some reason for their popularity aside from the obvious salacious trappings. This is borne out by those shows' slightly less-popular (but much longer running) Law & Order shows, though those too have devolved into Emmy-humping scenery-chewing showpieces with trick endings tacked onto them. People are interested in mysteries, even bad ones, and the process of solving them.

From what little of the coverage I've stumbled across en route to something else, and been able to stomach, MSNBC seems poised to capture the prize for quantity of crap. (Though, since I rarely watch CNN, I can only assume they're at least doing their damndest to keep up.) But here's the thing: on MSNBC, Keith Olbermann seemed really positioned for a while to be grooming a true flagship political show, with informative scoops, knowledgeable guests, and uncompromising commentary. Lately though, it's had a real dead-fish whiff about it, and the second half of each show has essentially dumbassified to a starfucking feedback loop. Olbermann looks like every mention of Tom Cruise or American Idol or now John Mark Karr brings him one step closer to sticking a gun in his mouth. And who could blame him? He didn't get into the business to shovel that kind of shit. Nobody in their right mind would.

Either there is pertinent information as to how, where, and why this little girl was viciously murdered, or there isn't. And cheap TV psychoanalysis does not lend clues on the "who" part. Karr is either a child murderer, a child molester, or a viewer of child pornography -- or more likely, some combination of the three. But breathless exposés on every dump the sick fuck takes are utterly without value, even the pathetic ephemeral "entertainment" value generally peddled by the offical starfuckers at Access Hollywood and the like. It's abuse, and it borders on the pornographic.

I understand that getting actual information relevant to the crime would require getting someone out to Boulder, and hoping that they can cultivate a useful source. But that's the gig, and you know what? Failing that, there's lots of other stories worthy of investigation; the fucking world's blowing up around you, and you're standing in the lobby of LAX yapping about fucking prawns and champagne.

And if that's what you consider earning an honest living in journamalism, maybe you should blow your brains out.

[Update 8/26/06 11:00AM PDT: A reader e-mails me with the somewhat reasonable imputation that I'm telling Olbermann to blow his brains out. Not the case. The point was that for the first half of the year, Olbermann was really giving "serious" newsies like Tweety and Scarborough a run for their money in getting guests and hitting serious topics, with just a modicum of culture fluff. I realize August is naturally a fluffy month for journamalists, and I submit that that is partly their own doing. If you're in the arena, and you think there's a problem, you're the one with at least a small opportunity to do something about it, besides trading fart jokes with Mo Rocca for five-minute segments and giving us John Mark Karr updates. Leave that lame shit to the Rita Cosbys of the world, and bring back the wood.]

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Five Stages Of Stupidity

  1. Ridiculous.

  2. Ridonculous.

  3. Ricockulous.

  4. Retardulous.

  5. Republican -- especially James "Plants Cheerios in his backyard because he thinks they're donut seeds" Inhofe:

In a wide-ranging interview in today’s Tulsa World, in which Inhofe also reiterates his support for the “Bridge to Nowhere” as “one of the few things in Washington that works,” gets wistful for the Cold War and claims that global warming is merely a front for “international economic movements”(??), Inhofe saves his most insane salvos for the situation in Iraq.

“What’s happened there is nothing short of a miracle,” said the Senator, who is also very proud to tell you that in the recorded history of his family, there has never been a divorce or homosexual relationship, and that if you believe in global warming, well, you’re sort of like a Nazi.

Yes, Tulsa World, despite the cosmopolitan pretensions in its name, sounds like it'd be outclassed by Field & Stream or Cowpie Quarterly, but still, Inhofe is a United States Senator, putatively the world's greatest serious deliberative body.

We may have to put the Sooner State up on the "On Notice" board, and try to talk Missouri into reading it to them. In the meantime, with jerkoffs like Inhofe dragging the GOP down, Schwarzenegger's pretty much looking like the professor emeritus of that clown tent.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

You're On Notice

Dumb but cool fun. Create your own "on notice" magic. I may have to move that asshole from traffic up a couple notches.

Say It Ain't Joe

"I've voted with my party 90% of the time, and Ned Lamont is bankrolled by terrorist-enabling blogofascists."

It's as if Holy Joe is setting out to prove that his middle initial "I" stands for "Cock-knocker":

Lieberman holds a 53 percent to 41 percent lead over Lamont among those most likely to vote in November, while Alan Schlesinger, the Republican candidate, gets just 4 percent. The survey was conducted by Quinnipiac University.

Lieberman's continued viability as a candidate was underscored Friday with his announcement that he had brought on two new campaign hands. One of the most sought-after Republican pollsters -- Public Opinion Strategies' Neil Newhouse -- has agreed to handle the survey research for Lieberman's general election campaign. Newhouse also polls for Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell (R) and Rep. Rob Simmons (R-Conn.) but has never worked for a Democratic candidate. Lieberman's media campaign will be overseen by Josh Isay, who advised New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (R) in 2005. Isay's move isn't likely to sit well with Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) -- chairman of Senate Democrats' campaign arm -- for whom Isay worked in 1998.

The Quinnipiac poll also showed that Lieberman has become the de facto Republican nominee. Seventy-five percent of Republicans backed the incumbent, compared with 13 percent for Lamont and 10 percent for Schlesinger. Asked whether Lieberman deserves reelection, 80 percent of Republicans said yes, compared with 57 percent of independents and 32 percent of Democrats.

The real test is no longer for Lieberman -- he's taken it, failed miserably, and doesn't even care. If he wants to believe that a rag-tag cadre of blogofundamentalist nutroots infiltrated Connecticut and bamboozled a preponderance of Democratic voters to accidentally vote for Ned Lamont, good luck with that. At least we all know where he really stands on the crazy-ass notion of democracy, whether in Hartford or Baghdad.

No, it is now up to Howard Dean and Chuck Schumer to step up, and now, and demonstrate to their base just what it is they stand for -- representing the will of registered Democratic voters, or catering to Holy Joe's ignorant ego and sense of entitlement. Either he's a member of the Democratic Party, or he isn't. If he is, he needs to be pressured to acknowledge defeat and step the fuck off, and do his part to help ensure that precious resources -- which could be better channeled toward sending George Lincoln Rockwell Felix Allen back to his plantation -- aren't instead wasted in a Nutmeg State pissing contest over "Joe's seat".

And if Joeblivious isn't a member of the Democratic Party anymore, then they obviously owe him nothing. (They owe him nothing either way, but still.) It's time to get off the field, Joe. Do it now and maybe your party works with you to find you some sort of intraparty sinecure; keep wasting finite time and resources, and you wait and see what a pyrrhic victory you get with your new Rovian buddies.

I still think there's a better-than-decent chance that he's angling for Rumsfeld's job anyway. I have no idea why he would, but this morning on Face The Nation he was adamant in his insistence that Rummy had had enough chances to get it together. Without proffering a specific replacement, given all the rumors for the past months, it's reasonable to assume that Joe, as always, is keeping his options open.

Lieberman must hope that most Republican voters stick with him rather than defect to Schlesinger, who, despite President Bush's neutrality in the race, is offering himself as the real Republican.

The more important question in deciding Lieberman's fate is whether the 35 percent of Democrats supporting him in the Quinnipiac poll will abandon him in favor of Lamont. Given Connecticut's Democratic tendencies, if voters perceive the race to be between a Democrat who opposes the war in Iraq (Lamont) and a Republican-leaning independent who supports it (Lieberman), the challenger is the favorite, analysts say.

Right now Lieberman has around a 10% lead overall, but part of this is undeniably due to a divergence in campaign strategies; Lamont went on vacation in Maine immediately after the primary, while Lieberman, desperate to get the word out that he was determined to monkey-wrench this cakewalk election at all costs, mounted an aggressive publicity tour the very next day. This is going to even out over the coming weeks as Lieberman has to rely more and more on the help of his new friends in the GOP, but at what cost overall?

Joe and his supporters should be proud of themselves. They are willing to undermine party strategy for the sake of false political comity. Lieberman again piously proclaimed the need to "work with" Republicans in the classic "bipartisanship" spirit. How's that been working for you, Joey?

It's pretty simple, Connecticut voters. You can either vote for a battered wife of an incumbent who is just sure as shit that her husband's going to therapy this time, or you can register your disapproval with the way things are. It is being portrayed as an "anger vote", and what's wrong with that? Exactly why shouldn't sensible people be angry at what Chimpco has done to this country, and how they've gone about it?

Despite Lieberman's nonsensical entreaties, there is nothing to "work with" them on -- they don't think there's a problem. Destabilization is a feature, not a flaw. Bush is never wrong, even when he contradicts himself. Oceania has always been at war with Iraq Syria Iran. Americans are just supposed to shut the fuck up and be grateful they can still afford to drive their Hummers.

And as for Lieberman's own feints toward other Democratic planks like health care reform, fine. Let's hear your plan, buddy. Because last I heard, both you and your wife were in the hip pocket of Big Pharma, and until they and the insurance companies are reined in, nothing is ever going to change in that area. As the baby boomers continue to approach their dotage, this crisis looms ever larger, and if someone serious and unfettered by corporate ownership doesn't step up and actually do something about it, rather than just humping Bob Schieffer's leg and whining about doing something about it, the shit's gonna pile up pretty fast.

So there's your big choice, Connecticut voters. You got about ten weeks or so to sort it out, whether you want a "same as it ever was" jerkoff who only shows up when it's time to criticize his own party, or at least a shot at real change, and a chance to move on to other states and send some worse people home.

Accountability Moment

In ancient Rome, there was a pawn who followed along and watched it fall.
He cast a stone, he felt secure, he thought that his voice would never be heard.
Freedom of choice is what you've got. Freedom from choice is what you want.
-- Devo/A Perfect Circle, Freedom Of Choice

In chronicling Ehud Olmert's precipitous post-conflict freefall, and imminent collapse of his coalition government, Wolcott compares Olmert's travails with those of The Decider:

One admirable aspect of the Israeli political system is that there's a degree of accountability completely absent from American politics.

That's true, and it's directly proportional to the degree of accountability to which the respective constituents are held. Israeli citizens simply cannot afford to be as ricockulously stupid and complacent as Americans. It's literally a matter of life and death to know who their representatives are, and vote accordingly. They cannot get away with knowing more about cartoon characters than who their policymakers are and what they stand for. It's that simple.

It's appalling to even think of trying to find any sort of silver lining in the wake of 9/11, but let's be honest -- it could have at least been an opportunity to start asking questions, getting answers, and addressing real "root causes", in the hope of finding actual solutions to imminent problems. But no. The party in power decided to politicize and stonewall at every opportunity, resorting to cheap traitor-baiting at the slightest hint of even principled opposition from the craven "opposition" party. And we didn't do one single thing to change the paradigm of being recklessly overdependent on a resource concentrated in regions that violently despise us.

Consequently, everything that has changed has changed significantly for the worse. The party in power has no excuses for its manifest failures of policy and principle, and yet it is still going to be a horse race for the opposition party to be able to back into any real victory. Indeed, even with Bush languishing at or below 40% approval for almost the entire year thus far, every policy in tragic disarray, and no proferred solution besides the shopworn refrain of staying the course, there has been no real momentum generated by the Democratic Party. The one exception, Ned Lamont's primary win over doormat incumbent Joe Lieberman, was almost immediately negated by Lamont taking a week off in Maine, while Lieberman instantly seized the opportunity and hit the ground running.

So while 9/11 has been portrayed as a true paradigm shift in America's sense of security, our actions have consistently belied that theory. This has been borne out by the practical ramifications of our choices. There's just no two ways about this. We can point the finger at feckless, lying leaders, and their sniveling enablers in the corporate media, but ultimately the fault lies with the 51% of fools who refused to acknowledge that they fucked up the first time with Bush, the weirdos who worry more about gay marriage and flag burning than anything else, the morons who can't bring themselves to turn off the TV and read a goddamned book once in a while.

And the accountability moment, like it or not, will come all the same, though perhaps not in a spasm of violence amidst mindless hysteria over mascara and bottled water. It will come in the form of foreclosures and higher unemployment, in the wake of a housing bubble that burst from a glut of construction and usurious financial speculation. It will come in the form of the central banks of ascendant Asian economies selling off American T-bills to bring the record current account deficits back to a more manageable level. It will come in the form of ignorant assholes clogging up our educational and political systems, spouting false populist nonsense while they line up at the public trough with the rest of the pigs.

Maybe at such a dismal point, Americans will start holding their politicians accountable the way Israelis do to their politicians. But as long as they are willing to let themselves be convinced by some interchangeable huckster that they can have their Hummers and flat-screens for just one more day, they'll continue to let a third-rate doofus like Bush walk all over the Constitution just as much as he pleases.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Born To Be Mild

Because when you can't even keep a bicycle upright, you should definitely consider riding a 900-pound Softail.

Jesus. This one's a trifecta -- not only does he manage to make Bono glasses and Harleys incredibly uncool, but he also launches one of his trademark wobbly rhetorical Katyushas:

President Bush said critics of his Iraq policies are advocating a "cut and run" strategy that would draw terrorists to American soil.

"Leaving before we complete our mission would create a terrorist state in the heart of the Middle East, a country with huge oil reserves that the terrorist network would be willing to use to extract economic pain from those of us who believe in freedom," Bush said Wednesday.

It's easy to do when you refuse to define "completion", your policies and people are totally inconsistent as to whether stability or instability is the desired outcome for the region, you have no understanding of the culture or history of the players there, you're willing to waste a trillion dollars and ten thousand American lives if that's what it takes to do this thing that you refuse to define, and you periodically take the time to stamp your wittle feets and declaim those ungrateful Iraqis for all we've done to them. For them. Whatever.

Just think. Some people actually meant to vote for this guy. Twice. Let's work together with them!

Sandwich Boards And Brown Tides

I'm obviously not much for principle, but one I strictly adhere to is never linking to a righty blogger. If they say something stupid -- which is like saying, "If George W. Bush says something stupid"; it's only a matter of time -- I might quote it, and attribute it, but I'm not giving them any traffic, meager as it would be.

Ironically, I came across this principle from the righty blogs, some of which I used to peruse in moments of supposed political equanimity. This was back before they devolved from mere triumphant assholes to rabid cornered animals, caught in a trap of their own poor workmanship.

Anyway, two things I noticed was that they very rarely linked to any lefty blogger to prove their point, and that they incestuously link to one another, even the exact same story. They have A Cause, and right or wrong, they promote one another in service to that Cause. Even if it's a brown tide, they make an effort to make sure that even the small fry get lifted a bit by the rising of said tide.

There is a righty blogger who has attracted the attention of many on the left lately, through his relentlessly vituperative rantings, his incessant howls of execration, to very loosely paraphrase The Decider's recent fave read. I happen to have become acquainted with this person some years ago, in three separate chat fora, so I am all too familiar with his barmy schtick, which has not changed appreciably.

So the sensation of observing this recent wave of snarky infamy is not terribly unlike, say, being a club rat in Liverpool and Hamburg in the early Sixties, and then six years later hearing the hype about the Beatles. That is, if the Beatles were incredibly shitty and aggressively bugfuck insane. Perhaps I finesse the issue.

Let's say that one day on your daily stroll to work, you encounter a raving meth junkie, filthy and unkempt, babbling a few phrases over and over again. He has a sandwich board proclaiming "Death To Muslims!" or some such. He carries the proverbial tin cup, which rattles with coins and bristles with a few bills of uncertain denomination. The backside of the sandwich board has been festooned with advertisements.

Maybe this speed freak is really just crazy like a fox, with his undeniably entertaining antics. Even a grisly, bloody car wreck can get a rubberneck rise out of a saint, at least once. But, you know, you get the idea pretty quickly of each situation. Meth Junkie Sandwich Board Guy is still going to be Meth Junkie Sandwich Board Guy tomorrow, next week, next year. It's not like he's ever going to take a look at himself and get his shit together.

It is helpful to be reminded once in a while just how crazy some of the folks on the other side of the political impasse really are, how intractable they are, and the nature of their assumptions. Sometimes the root of their discontent is not even really political; perhaps they have projected their own shortcomings and insecurities onto The Other. Perhaps they find more comfort in affirmation and false certitude than in realizing the true nature of the vile people and policies they so vociferously support; it's certainly a much easier path. Maybe some smug asshole from the Dukakis campaign was a little snooty with their Aunt Millie that one time, and so they've forever condemned the entire past and future of the Democratic Party and all of its associates, in their self-righteous indignation.

Whatever the case, when all is said and done, they are still just raving meth junkies with sandwich boards and ad space, but they make money every single time we walk by and laugh at them. It's just a thought.

Even though a chimp's goals may be little more than to masturbate, throw feces, and fuck the nearest chimp, you can't say they're not goal-oriented. Humans who keep showing up outside the monkey cage, pointing out the slinging of feces and the constant masturbation, maybe not so much.