Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Winamp Shuffle

Haven't done one of these in a while, so here ya go:

Eidolon -- The Parallel Otherworld
30 Seconds to Mars -- Edge of the Earth
Primal Fear -- Thunderdome
Iron Maiden -- Sea of Madness
Sparta -- Taking Back Control
Muse -- Map of the Problematique
Motorhead -- In the Name of Tragedy
Bruce Dickinson -- Power of the Sun
Kyuss -- Green Machine
Mastodon -- This Mortal Soil
Tool -- Right In Two
Geto Boys -- Die Motherfuckers

This must be one of those eat-shit-and-die playlists that come about subconsciously. I love it when that happens.

Some of these bands, such as Eidolon and Mastodon, have been thrashing around for a while, and deserve greater recognition. Everything I've heard from them is great. Actually, all of them have been around for some time, and all deserve more play. Check 'em out. I'm not trying to out-hip you with the next Aztec Camera, I just think that if you're into heavy music, you'll like all of these bands. This is how the new revenue model is going to roll, just you watch.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Breast Defense

The latest bit of entertainment in our little blogonaut meta-ecosystem, the recent Althouse temper tantrum, really captures something special. Her unprovoked tirade against Garance Franke-Ruta (who, incidentally, kinda scratches a hot-librarian itch I didn't even realize I had, sexist pig that I am) has become the butt of many well-deserved pokes. Dave Neiwert has the transcripted rundown of the hissy-fit.

Here's the thing. Paranoid temper tantrums aside, what really gets me about Althouse's bluster is the persecution complex she works herself into. All the horrible, mean things the evil bloggerses on the left -- who, naturally, are much bigger meanies than those warm and fuzzy gents on the right, paragons of virtue, reason, and inventive spelling that they are -- are saying about her. So cruel, so terrifying.

Bullshit. I remember the original kerfuffle she stirred up, talking about Jessica Valenti's so-called breast-blogging, and her supposedly provocative pose in front of that awful Clenis, and on and on, how it set back the cause of feminism six generations, blah blah blah. As if stocking the courts with evangelicals and Opus Dei retreads, or spasms of stunt legislation from the prairie states weren't doing exactly that on an actual policy level. Anyway, it's not to hard to dig up the original posts Althouse launched to get this all going, which sorta cinches the deal.

(I'm not exactly Phil Donahue when it comes to feminism and decorum, nor have I ever pretended to be. I'm not going to turn away in horror if I see an attractive woman with a nice body. Nor am I instantly going to assume it either endorses or repudiates feminist orthodoxy. Maybe she's heterodox in how she expresses her feminism. Maybe she doesn't want to hide her light(s) under a bushel. If good-looking women embracing their assets is wrong, then I for one don't wanna be right. If a man can't have the freedom to grind his loins against his monitor every so often, what's the point of the internets in the first place?)

So anyway, this is indeed a spat of Edna Krabappel's (brilliant coinage, that) own creation. That she prefers to run from it is unsurprising. But again, Krabappel's main problem is this ridiculous notion that she's had to endure some sort of vicious slander, rather than just a lot of jokes made at her expense, mostly with her own unwitting help.

Let me tell you something, honey. Having people tell you for four goddamned years that you're a traitor, that you hate your country and are rooting for it to fail, that you want American soldiers to die and your country to be embarrassed by a bunch of creeps who decapitate contractors and blow up children -- that's some truly messed-up shit. Watching pile-on after pile-on at numberless right-wing boobyhatches, "joking" about lynching journalists for not being propagandistic enough, laughing at Ann Coulter's vicarious sadism, guffawing and nodding at Rush Limbaugh's empty-headed spiteful bullshit, that's creepy, that's the ugly taint of American soapboxing.

These are the internets. They're not a bunch of trucks, nor are they a lawn party with king-size martinis and cucumber-and-watercress sandwiches, and a bunch of douchey pecksniffs playing bocce. They're a series of tubes, sure, but they're a playground, first and foremost, and when someone consistently engages in smug, ill-informed narcissism to make poorly-considered brownie points, they should not be surprised when the inevitable electronic pimp-slap stings their cheek.

Snide comments about one's personal appearance is about the least one expects, especially when the argument in question was initiated by comments about someone else's appearance. Perhaps Althouse thought the breast-blogging controversy was dead and buried; you'd think she'd have gotten the memo by now. Nothing stays buried forever, not here, not when it's an episode that so richly informs the context of one's own complaints about civility. Civility is for suckers with selective hearing, who still take people like David Broder seriously.

It's pretty simple. If you don't want people to accuse you of being a goofball, then quit saying goofy things, and maybe don't drunk-vlog yourself watching American Idol. Don't start fights you don't really have the stomach for. And for Christ's sake, grow a hide already. Jesus, it's just a blog.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

According To Jim

You know, just the fact that the Redneck Pope has a problem with Fred Thompson not being Christian-y enough -- not even as good of a Christian as Newt Gingrich, if you can believe that motherfucking bullshit and I'm sure you can -- actually makes me have a little grudging respect for Thompson.

Of course, that will quickly fade as one of two things (or, more likely, both) happen: Thompson has to genuflect before the little douchebag to get some evangelove; and Thompson turns out to be little more than a CPAC stalking horse to keep the kids from jabbering too much about the unelectability of their current front-runners, or the utter paucity of actual ideas not based on comic books or Ayn Rand fever dreams.

Even better, someone actually steps in and defends Dobson, apparently confusing Dobson's right to speak his mind with the rather despotic wielding of his unelected influence. There's nothing to confuse with "Christianity" or even "conservatism" here. Gingrich made haste to kiss Dobson's ass and seek his benediction; Thompson's been a bit slow on the draw(l), seeing as how filling Paul Harvey's sans-a-belts for a lunar month has got to be about the most mind-numbing experience this side of watching Dennis Miller scrounge for work.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Tool Time

Joan Walsh damns Politico with faint praise, I suppose, which sounds about right. The first couple times I came across the site, I was seriously underwhelmed at the pure fluff I encountered.

I don't want the E! channel covering politics. There are enough ninth-grade Heathers out there in poli-journo land trying to out-cat each other and figure out who next to paste up in their slambook. If I want that shit I'll just go read Perez Hilton or some such. Seriously. It's not that I'm above gossip per se, but I do expect serious people to cover serious issues in a serious (though not solemn) manner. I've got hands; I can jerk myself off.

I will say that the site looks better now than it did several weeks ago, when I last checked it out. But I can see where people would be unhappy with this sort of thing. It's a stretch, especially this early in what shouldn't even be a campaign yet. Allen's trying to make something out of nothing, and it shows, especially when Allen himself acknowledges that "[Obama's] rhetorical miscues have been more curiosities than obvious political blunders", in apparent contrast to the rather problematic verb of the article's title. One is not typically "plagued" by "curiosities" and "rhetorical miscues", unless one is trying to inflate the usefulness of one's tenuous evidentiary connections.

It's hard to fault Politico, really. They're a natural symptom of the smug, insular dynamic of horse-race journalism, whose grand priority in life is to Be Objective At All Costs. They're not bullshitting about that, either. That's why you get Dean Broder harrumphing at what is and is not acceptable discourse, that no matter how factually correct the vituperative ruffians of the blogosphere might be, he will have none of it, because it would interfere with his incessant poll-stroking and What It All Means For The Democrats.

That's how you get Andrea Mitchell lying through her teeth about what polls reported on a majority of Americans supporting the prosecution of Scooter Libby for his clear misconduct. That's how you get an editor from Time lying about the proportion of Americans who actively support the current investigations in Congress, and then lamely whinging that he said that in his capacity as a citizen. Fine. I'm a fucking citizen, too; strangely, I have yet to get an invite from Tweety in such a capacity.

And it's how you get Sunday morning circle-jerks apparently trying to help a thuggish piece of shit like Tom DeLay rehabilitate himself by getting his side of things. Great, maybe we should get Dracula's side of things while we're at it, or Henry Lee Lucas' (the only death sentence commuted by G. W. Bush as Texas governor, incidentally) side of things.

Objectivity, like civility, is nice to have, but is somewhat overrated in terms of necessity. Sometimes "objectivity" just means giving the cold, hard truth and a flat-out lie equal time. We used to count on journalists to exercise such discretion competently and professionally; now we just cross our fingers and hope they get it closer next time.

And they wonder why we don't want to pay for content anymore.

Update: Perhaps I gave Politico a bit too much benefit of the doubt, as they have apparently ingratiated themselves to Matt "80% accurate; close enough!" Drudge, who, to put it mildly, is part of the fucking problem.

This is also part of the problem, this schmoozy, boozy, self-indulgent kabuki of collegiality they indulge in periodically. Hey, assholes, politicians are not your friends. The fact that you even need to be told that explains a lot.

Surge And Destroy

More of that good news they keep holding out on us:

Shia police rampaged through a Sunni district in the north-western city of Tal Afar killing at least 33 people in the streets and in their homes in revenge for devastating car bombs in a nearby Shia neighbourhood earlier in the day.


Estimates of the number killed vary. "I wish you could come and see all the bodies," said a doctor at the local hospital. "They are lying in the grounds. We don't have enough space in the hospital. All the victims were shot in the head. Between 50 and 55 people were killed. I've never seen such a thing in my life."

The killings went on for two hours as policemen roamed the streets looking for Sunni men to kill. Later army troops arrived to stop the massacre.


There has been a reduction in the number of sectarian killings in Baghdad since the start of the US security plan for the capital. This is largely because the main Shia militia the Mehdi Army has been stood down by its leader Muqtada al-Sadr. Observers believe that sectarian warfare could explode again if the Sunni fundamentalists continue to detonate large bombs in Shia districts without US and Iraqi government forces being able to stop them.

The claim by the Republican Senator John McCain that an American could now walk unharmed through several districts of Baghdad was heard with bemusement by Iraqis. He would certainly be murdered or kidnapped by Sunni insurgents, Shia militiamen or criminal gangs before he had taken more than a few steps.

This is the "stand up/stand down" plan, and it appears to be going just as predicted. Just one or ten more Friedman Units, and all will be well.

It's My Party And I'll Cry If I Want To

Shorter Little Lord Pissypants: I'm the Decider, not you! I don't have to do what you say! Waaaahhh!!!1!@!

Whatever, cuz. You can get as tough as you like with the beef association (or as Jon Stewart hilariously referred to them, MOOBLA). But Nancy Pelosi's got five kids. She sounds like she's got your number there, Chief. When you stop throwing cereal in the supermarket aisle and stamping your feet, then maybe you can get a nice cookie next time if you behave. Till then, no one wants to look like a hapless parent, but it beats the hell out of acting like a spoiled little brat.

Monday, March 26, 2007

War On Error

The friendly-fire killing of Pat Tillman was bad enough, but it was not the biggest crime here. The Pentagon's investigation of itself changes nothing. The real crime all along was the Pentagon's and the administration's ease in continuing to use Tillman's genuine sacrifice as a sordid prop, knowing full well what had really happened, cocnealing the truth even from Tillman's own family.

And if not for his family's diligence and insistence on getting to the bottom of all this, the Pentagon and the Army would never have fessed up. Tillman's death could perhaps be charitably attributed to "error", in that his platoon-mates certainly didn't mean to shoot him, but there was no mistake about what the Army and Pentagon did and tried to do in the immediate aftermath and ensuing weeks. They knew what they were doing when they tried to destroy the evidence, and they knew what they were doing when they were handling the media during Tillman's funeral service.

There was no mistake about any of that. They meant to do that shit. Let's at least be clear about that, before the Pentagon gets too caught up in absolving itself.

Sunday, March 25, 2007


Why do I know who this person is? Why is it considered newsworthy when dippy 13-year-old girls act exactly as you'd expect them to?

What sort of weirdos and morons are asking her for her autograph? Television appearances, "news" articles acting as if something that sensible people would be embarrassed for is somehow noteworthy, free shit, free notoriety -- for what? For crying like an idiot at some goofball's god-awful rendition of You Really Got Me? Are you fucking kidding me? Of course you're not kidding me; why would I even bother asking such a dumb question anymore?

I'm past the stage of wondering why I bothered to learn how to write; I pretty much have no idea any longer why I learned how to read. The whole thing, this is just flat-out retarded. I have no doubt that if some reality-show whiz decided to air this kid doing nothing but picking her nose and sorting her sock drawer, people would watch it, and worse yet, so-called "news" people would write about it.

At least I now have a better idea of what to watch out for with my own kid in about seven years. Maybe I can train her to do something utterly pointless, and parlay all that free publicity into some coin. Oh yeah.

Saturday, March 24, 2007


Ahmed Rashid lays out the scary scenario currently forming in Pakistan, for those of us who had quite enough of this Sanjaya person just from watching him on The Soup:

Since March 9, when Musharraf suspended the chief justice of the Supreme Court, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, public protests have escalated every day -- as has a violent crackdown by the police and intelligence agencies on the media and the nation's legal fraternity.


Musharraf's desire to replace Chaudhry with a more pliable judge has badly backfired. After just 10 days of protests, lawyers around the country have made it clear to the senior judiciary that they will not tolerate further legal validations for continued military rule or tolerate Musharraf remaining as president. At least seven judges and a deputy attorney general have resigned in protest.

It would be helpful if Rashid would provide some clarity as to whether Chaudhry represents the sharia/Taliloon brand of "law", but he sticks with the power-struggle nature of the feud, that Chaudhry refuses to serve as Musharraf's rubber-stamp, and that the players in the legal system are backing Chaudhry over Musharraf.

Still, the sharia question is important. We have allowed Pakistan a lot of leeway as we conduct our War on Some Terror, because even a military despot like Musharraf is far preferable to the scores of Taliscum sympathizers waiting in the wings.

But Pakistan, given its geopolitical importance and steadily increasing population, needs to get serious about modernizing outside the cities. This tribal troublemaking in the hinterlands is not going to cut it for much longer, and Musharraf has been about the only outlet for us to exercise even modest (if expensive) amounts of relatively soft power. So, given its developed legal and judicial system, it is critical that it does not get stocked with a bunch of retrograde medievalist sympathizers.

The second element is the country's three intelligence agencies, which are at loggerheads over control of Musharraf, Pakistan's foreign policy, its political process and the media. Military Intelligence and the Inter-Services Intelligence are military agencies, while the largest civilian agency, the Intelligence Bureau, is now run by a military officer. Ironically, Inter-Services Intelligence, the most powerful agency in the country, has been the moderate element urging Musharraf to open up the political system to the opposition parties. The other two agencies are the hard-liners and are urging Musharraf to adopt even tougher measures.

I imagine that characterizing the ISI as the "moderate element" in all this is comparative; the agency has been notorious as a hotbed for extremist sympathizers, some of whom aided the 9/11 attackers directly, and still walk the planet as free men.

The third loss for Musharraf has been the unqualified international support he has received since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Anger in the U.S. Congress and media, and particularly among members of the Republican Party, toward Musharraf's dual-track policy in Afghanistan -- helping to catch al-Qaeda members but backing the Taliban -- is making it difficult for President Bush to continue offering Musharraf his blanket support.

That was the tough-love message that Vice President Cheney delivered to Musharraf in Islamabad last month: Unless Musharraf goes after the Taliban, the Bush administration can no longer protect him.

Any loss of Western support will be critical to the army, which is on an arms-buying spree and depends on annual U.S. military aid of about $300 million. Musharraf has balanced the pro- and anti-American factions in the army's officer corps, but if both sides see him as a lame duck, unable to deliver the goods or stabilize the country, their support will dwindle.

I've picked on Musharraf a bit in the past, but I certainly realize that he's by far the best out of a lot of bad options there. We tend to view Pakistan, like we view every other country, primarily in terms of anti-American sentiment, and what we can do to advance our own interests there. But obviously, given the region, there are a lot of externalities in play. Both Pakistan and India view Afghanistan as a buffer state, and so engage in proxy machinations over it, while that poor country itself continues to drift back toward civil war and barely-controlled chaos. Russia and Iran are constantly maneuvering over commercial and geopolitical interests. And no one in the area seems ready to moderate their sectarian/cultural hostilities.

And if Musharraf goes, and Pakistan and its nukes and madrassas and seething populace fall to the wrong hands, some shit will roll down somewhere along the line, probably sooner rather than later. I don't know what the answer is to this one, but I do think that in the general sense, awareness turns into concern, and thence to some sort of meaningful, comprehensive actions or policies somewhere down the line. Right now the region seems caught in its own peculiar inertia, settling back into old ways and bad habits. We need to provide some positive momentum to get the ball rolling in the right direction.

The trick is that actual democratic elections would likely bring another set of mullah assholes to power. But Musharraf is no longer seen as his own man by his own countrymen, and perhaps allowing real elections to take place, coupled with a plan to immediately start dealing proactively with the winner, engaging rather than further isolating them, is going to be the only meaningful solution beyond the very short term.

Friday, March 23, 2007

American Grandstand

My favorite part of Gore's appearance before Congress to discuss global warming and communicate ideas has to be this little stunt by noted stunt legislator Lynn Westmoreland:

As Gore visited with former colleagues on the House floor around lunchtime, Rep. Westmoreland argued that the Democrat was violating recently enacted ethics rules rescinding floor privileges for former congressmen working as agents of a foreign government.

Because Gore serves as an adviser to Britain on climate change, Westmoreland said, he shouldn't have been allowed.

"It is in total violation of the House rules," Westmoreland, a third-term lawmaker from Grantville, said in an interview after raising a parliamentary inquiry on the issue. "They don't even pay any attention to their own rules."

Democrats called Westmoreland's interpretation absurd, saying Gore works with Britain in an informal, unpaid role and is not a registered foreign agent with the Justice Department, as the rule requires.

You might recall Westmoreland as the bozo who was unceremoniously exposed on The Colbert Report as a typical grandstanding little weasel poseur:

Imagine you are a rookie congressman with nothing to show for your first term in office just as elections are set to take place in the fall. Finally, you get a brilliant idea that you know will sell well in your socially conservative district: make it a law to have the ten commandments posted in all federal buidlings. And, just when you're set to go, someone asks you to name the 10 Commandments. Don't you hate it when that happens?


Unfortunately, for someone so enthusiastic about getting on TV and promoting his very own bill, Westmoreland was only able to name three of the ten.

I think that's flat-out hilarious pathetic. Even on half a bottle of anything, I'm good for at least eight of ten, at the drop of a hat. It's not that complicated, godless heathen atheist sumbitch that I am.

Yet a representative from one of the buckles of the bible belt can't even be bothered to be marginally competent at comprehending the scope of his own piece of two-ply legislation? Why we are where we are is not secret; why we keep allowing morons like this guy to lead us further down that road is the question.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Sponge Logic

It's been a while since we've taken a run at DoughBob LoadPants™, who appears to more adept at making excuses for failing to complete his long-awaited opus, the serendipitously-titled Are You Gonna Finish That?, than much of anything else. And when it comes to critiquing the Democrats -- who, mind you, have been in power all of about twelve weeks -- he has his rubber-glue shields at the ready:

So here’s the ironic part. Suddenly, it looks as if the Democrats are the Republicans on fast-forward. It’s early yet, and the Democrats did finish their mini-Contract with America — the so-called first 100 hours — with mixed success on the substance but great fanfare in the media. Yet items like upping the minimum wage and shafting oil companies, although certainly not insubstantial, were primarily symbolic.

"Shafting" oil companies? Seriously? The most rapacious, profiteering club of hustlers to set hoof on the planet, and they're being shafted? Hey asshole, I'm paying forty-five bucks to fill up a fucking Honda Accord so I can get to work, you want to talk about "shafting". I got your symbolism right here, Lunchbox.

Things like "defending" marriage and taking on the growing threat of flag burning or video games are "primarily symbolic". In fact, they're totally symbolic -- they serve no practical utility whatsoever. Helping out the growing underclass just a sliver, and taking a mild run at an industry that gives its CEOs half-billion dollar golden parachutes -- they're not enough, but they're a start.

But look at how the Democrats are behaving. They’ve completely failed to stop the surge, and their latest efforts to derail the war are so convoluted — timetables on top of timetables — that even House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, a co-sponsor of legislation to withdraw troops by September 2008, can’t explain them.

CNN’s John Roberts played a clip on Late Edition from a news briefing in which Obey muddled nearly every detail of the Democrats’ plan. Roberts then asked Sen. Joe Biden, “How do you pass or enforce something you can’t even explain?” It’s a good question.

Uh-huh. This is sort of like how we've been hearing about "winning" for four years going now, without much in the way of an explanation or definition, much less a plan.

He goes on like this, reciting the usual litany of "they do it too" tropes, again ignoring that the Democrats have had a congressional majority for all of twelve weeks, after twelve years of post-Trotskyite Gingrichism. The permanent revolutionaries have finally been kicked out on their snouts, and they're still trying to steam-clean the hoofprints out of the furniture, and here's Helpy Helperton smugly asking why everything's the same as it ever was.

Don't you have a book to finish, Jethro, or were they just expecting you to design the cover, and let the lower-rent hacks take it from there?

Wanted: Fred Or Alive

This is what happens when conservatives try to be funny and/or invent new facts to confirm their political stances:

NASA says the Martian South Pole’s “ice cap” has been shrinking for three summers in a row. Maybe Mars got its fever from earth. If so, I guess Jupiter’s caught the same cold, because it’s warming up too, like Pluto.

This has led some people, not necessarily scientists, to wonder if Mars and Jupiter, non signatories to the Kyoto Treaty, are actually inhabited by alien SUV-driving industrialists who run their air-conditioning at 60 degrees and refuse to recycle.

Heh-indeedy. If only we could have every drowned polar bear carcass deposited on Fred's doorstep, or on the hood of his Suburban. Look, despite the valiant efforts of Phil Cooney to favorably edit the facts, the data's in, and the results are observable. The only question is what's to be done, which in Thompson's case is to slap together smartass retorts that don't even seem to have a point, much less a joke.

Which makes him a natural to continue hosting Paul Harvey's show, and I think his bumptious retrograde muse will serve him well on the campaign trail. It's looking to be quite the lineup for the Republicans next year. Time to stock up on popcorn, and maybe a dog-whistle/English dictionary.

Where There's Smoke

So just yesterday I was presuming, given its track record, that the administration was frantically trying to cover for a lot more than just the attorney purge, that that was just the tip of the proverbial corrupt iceberg.

I suppose this will suffice as initial confirmation of that fairly obvious presumption:

To recap, the White House awarded a one-month, $140,000 contract to an individual who never held a federal contract. Two weeks after he got paid, that same contractor used a cashier’s check for exactly that amount to buy a boat for a now-imprisoned congressman at a price that the congressman had pre-negotiated.

Coincidences abound, do they not? And this one has Big Time's hoofprints all over it. The cover story has been that Lam had gotten stuck in some sort of ex post facto pissing contest with Darrell Issa over whether she was prosecuting immigration cases aggressively enough, because that was their hobby-horse issue for the last election cycle. Now it turns out that it was the Dukestir case after all.

Perhaps if Cunningham is tired of being traded around the cell block for packs of smokes and jugs of pruno, he might want to do some talking. It doesn't sound like the chain ends with lackeys like Dusty Foggo and Mitchell Wade.

Bush can whine about this being a "fishing expedition" all he wants, but it's undeniable that this is rapidly turning into a busy hole to start reeling in some bigger fish. Time to start casting a wider net.

I Got Your Varnish Right Here

One cliché that I've been beyond sick of since literally the first days of this administration is the ugly notion that the people -- you know, the putative bosses of the country -- should simply expect not to be entitled to basic notions of accountability and probity when it comes to the frequently suspect advice exchanged in the decision-making process.

This began most notoriously during Big Time's much-vaunted Energy Task Farce, which included such forward-thinking luminaries as Ken Lay. And we were told, right up through Cheney taking Combover Tony Scalia pheasant hunting, that it was none of our business, that the only way the panel could be successful is if its members could count on their advice remaining off-the-record and confidential. It was the only way the Deciders could ever count on receiving "unvarnished" advice.

I seriously don't get how they keep getting to foist that nonsense, even now with the U.S. Attorney purge. Does anyone really believe such a thing, and if so, what the fuck are they doing working in government? We are not talking about classified information with national security ramifications; we are talking about policy panels being larded with people whose financial and power interests lies in said panels going in certain directions. We may never know what took place in Cheney's ETF, and if we ever do find out, by then Cheney himself will have long since taken his eternal place shoveling shit in hell.

This is a very dangerous, fundamentally undemocratic sentiment, that every policy-making decision is somehow exempt from basic oversight and due diligence. And when there is just cause, as there is now (yet again), scrutiny is reasonably expected.

It is about high time that the obvious starts being more publicly acknowledged and re-iterated -- that these people are liars and hypocrites. They were all very much for sunshine and openness during the awful, awful Clenis era. Now, not so much. We children are not supposed to expect a forthright explanation from the adults.

And that's worked out pretty well, hasn't it?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Binge And Purge

I haven't really chimed in on the Da Abu G purge of Outer Party members in the DoJ, primarily because Josh Marshall has pretty much covered every factual base worth noting. It's a real example in how and why the small furry mammals of the internets can and should have old media dinosaurs looking over their shoulders, and the TPM crew deserves a hell of a lot of credit for laying such a solid case, plank by patient plank.

Too many of these stories can get lost (for non-political junkies, anyway) in all the inside-baseball esoterica. Even many people who pay attention to current events and such may tend to subconsciously write off stories like the attorney purge as just more internecine kremlinology. TPM's coverage, I think, has helped keep the facts vital and interesting, and moving the narrative forward with considerable (and increasing) momentum.

Another reason I hadn't bothered with the story yet is that, well, it just seemed so "water is wet". This is the same administration that vetted contractors in Iraq on their views on Roe v. Wade. It would be more surprising if they hadn't tried to stuff every available orifice in the bureaucracy with outright hacks and toadies. And it would be even more surprising if all the executive privilege reasoning they bitched about during the Clenis era weren't suddenly rendered inoperable. There may have been some point in time when I posited that these people about nothing at all besides the retention of pure power, and perhaps at least hoped that I was being a tad polemical or satirical. Obviously, even being perfectly literal about such a fundamental observation anymore is a tragic understatement.

And as this thing spreads and continues to envelop the moldering carcass of this administration, it becomes clearer that the problems are systemic, that they run much deeper and throughout the operational "principles" of this gang of buffoons. Toadyism is how they've done everything all along, from energy task farces to war planning to disaster relief.

As such, they are now beyond simple damage control on this (if that were the case, they would have dumped Gonzales by now and found some other lackey to serve as a buffer for the duration) and into crisis containment mode. All that is left is to find the chain of documentation between Rove, Miers, and Gonzales. And chances are that that will abut yet another festering scandal waiting to be brought to light.

The creeping desperation was most abundantly on display in yesterday's hissy fit/press conference, in which Bush acted like he seriously thought that, at ~30% for the past 18 months, he was in any position to bully or even negotiate over any of this. The only game the guy knows is Texas Hold 'em, and it's much too late for that. His magnanimous offer of an off-the record handjob from Miers and Rove has already been tossed aside like the used spunk rag it was. There will be no constitutional showdown, podna; there will only be disclosure and retreat, and endless re-circling of wobbly wagons. Even the press has started getting up on their hind legs about this, openly challenging Phony Blow for being the sniveling, hypocritical shit he's always been.

The temper tantrums and bluffs about constitutional showdowns are no longer anything more than a sideshow. It's pathetic to watch a snotty third-grader swaggering and expecting people to believe he's Gary Cooper or something. Mister Man can smack his wittle spoon on the high chair all he wants, but after six years of insular clubbiness and incompetent nepotism, the actual adults are re-asserting themselves.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Subprime Homesick Alien

I live in a town where you can't smell a thing.
You watch your feet for cracks in the pavement.

Up above aliens hover, making home movies for the folks back home,
of all these weird creatures who lock up their spirits,
drill holes in themselves, and live for their secrets. -- Radiohead

There's a crisis looming, and we spent part of our afternoon Saturday looking at new houses. Bad, bad liberals. We are in an odd spot, economically, geographically, demographically. Being in a small town that has decided that it is happy with being a bedroom community has some advantages. I would rather not have to commute roughly 90 minutes per day to work a job where I can make a living wage, but there are worse things.

Anyway, one thing that has worked out advantageously is that, as a bedroom community, developers swooped in during the boom of a couple years ago. Prices have not collapsed around here the way they have in many areas, but they have stalled. And now that developers have suddenly realized that they overbuilt and saturated the market, many partially-developed lots lie incomplete, many houses half-finished, and the developers are looking to unload.

Living in casino country, I know all too well that there are some industries out there that count on, that thrive on people being ignorant with money. Subprime lending is one such industry; credit cards are another. Even car companies, to a certain extent, fall into this category -- people don't need a new car, they want one. And the vehicles themselves are something of a loss-leader at this point; the real money is in financing.

Many of these companies, even though they rely on people to be suckers and operate on the margin of scruple at times, do actually prefer that their customers remain on board. It's a pain in the ass to foreclose on a house and turn it around, generally at a loss. But these companies -- and again, their customers -- have played into market forces that are beyond their control. It is not the customers' fault that their wages don't keep pace with price increases, particularly energy and food. Nor is it their fault that the companies turned around and bundled their securitized subprime loans, and sold them to investment firms, who promptly bought sacks of magic-bean derivatives that didn't quite pan out. Obviously, the investment weasels are not going to bear the brunt of their speculative decisions; they never do. Ask the LTCM boys.

It's a tricky bet, no matter how you slice it. Companies are simply not going to enter into higher-risk loan markets if they can't fob off the risk to taxpayers when shit doesn't roll their way. And there are tragic stories of people who did their level best and still lost everything, but I also personally know people whose household income is double my own, and they're on the verge because they keep fucking around with their finances, refi-ing their houses to buy new cars, using high-interest credit cards to go shopping, stupid shit like that. They're murdering their equity by leveraging non-fungible assets, and wondering why they're weeks away from a cardboard box on the sidewalk. You feel for them, and yet you recognize that they need an intervention.

Instead, we'll bail them out, modify a few things here and there that will take another few years for predatory lending companies to work around, and go right back to where we were -- glutting the market with McMansions and SUVs and unecessary toys, enabling Wall Street wizards to make imaginary billions by diddling percentage points and screwing people on the margin. Except this time, since it's becoming more and more clear that the economic "boom" or "recovery" has been mostly air and squinting, and that the housing slump very likely gives momentum to an impending recession, one with gas already over $3.00/gallon here in California.

Me, I just want a decent 1800-sq. ft. house closer to where I work, in a neighborhood, where my kid can ride a bike without some inbred cocksucker screaming by at 70 mph on a country road. Twenty years ago, I had greater aspirations and dreams, but I can live with fulfilling this one now, and doing it without letting some pencil-pushing thug hose me with Tony Soprano interest rates.

There is a kind of devil-take-the-hindmost resignation to all that, but as long as we keep our priorities clear, as long as we figure that if we can give Paris Hilton multiple tax breaks while fighting two wars, then we can make the effort to help the people at the bottom of the ladder. The trick is to give them another chance without putting yet more money in the pockets of point-stroking weasels and grifters, glorified bookies.

We might even have to get the big bad gubmint involved in this, as we typically do when the vaunted privateers screw the pooch, and everyone pretends it was accidental.

It's A Miracle

By the grace of God Almighty, and the pressures of the marketplace,
The human race has civilized itself. It's a miracle. -- Roger Waters

Good luck with that.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Vote Different (Hillary 1984)

This is not an endorsement of Obama, nor a slam at Hillary. I just thought it was an innovative effort at cultivating a new electoral dynamic, one that might even affect the urge (or need) to spend half a billion dollars to get elected to a $400K/year job.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

An Inconvenient Truth

Led Zeppelin didn't write tunes everyone liked.
They left that to the Bee Gees. -- Wayne Campbell.

Really, I thought I'd had my fill of the N8r-b8ing the last ten days or so. I guess I genuinely am simply surprised that anyone is still fretting over Big Bad Ralph's refusal seven long years ago to understand his place in the food chain, and just leave the Serious Parties to their Serious Discussions. Such as whether Algore wore too many earth tones, or whether a south-of-100-IQ political carny like George W. Bush even had any business whatsoever being fielded as a candidate to run a Serious Country.

But people are still fretting over such things, and God bless 'em, I guess. I certainly understand where The Editors are coming from, and no one loves a gross-out get-into-granny's-panties political metaphor more than I, but it was strange and discouraging to see how quickly the discussion turned into, yes, another round of Nader-baiting. Let's be honest here, the whole point of Nader's candidacy was to hate the game, yet seven years later here we are, still hatin' the playa, even though he has long since been rendered ineffective, while the game trucks on as mighty as ever.

The truly irritating thing about the whole Hillary-responds-to-Pace issue was how something so inconsequential managed to get traction by the candidate's own ineffectual response. What is the complicated fucking problem here? Pace has a right to speak his mind; the candidates have a right to speak theirs. There were a variety of ways Hillary could have gotten a sensible centrist handle on this right from the get-go. None of them would have required catering to some imaginary biddy who is probably going to pull the lever for Fred Thompson (that nice fella from Law & Order) or Sam Brownback (that nice fella from Domino's Pizza) anyway -- unless, of course, Pat Buchanan (that nice fella from Palm Beach) is on the ballot again.

Taibbi sussed this one out right away.

Still, within that comment Hillary managed to call gays and lesbians "patriotic," and she also seemed to come down quite unequivocally on the right side of the nature-nurture question about homosexuality, making sure to identify homosexuality as "who you are," not "who you choose to be." With that statement alone, she basically alienates every born-again Christian in the country. Which makes it all the stranger that, when Tapper asked her if homosexuality was "immoral," she answered as follows:

"Well I'm going to leave that to others to conclude," she said. "I'm very proud of the gays and lesbians I know who perform work that is essential to our country, who want to serve their country and I want make sure they can."

Let me get this straight. Hillary Clinton wants the most powerful office in the world, but she can't make her own decision about the morality of homosexuality? She's got to "leave that to others"?

Let's unpack this a bit. First, the "nature vs. nurture" canard, the eternal question for Serious Thinkers who never seem to want to confront a more central question -- what if, for some people, homosexuality is a choice? What of it? Who gives a shit, besides the usual hand-wringing ninnies? Do consenting adults still have the right to "the pursuit of happiness", or has Cheney wiped his ass with that section of our founding documents as well?

Concerning oneself with whether gay people are "born" "that way" or "choose" it -- it's nothing more than a time-wasting knuckle-shuffle on your piss-pump, podna. There are only political reasons to be dicking around with such questions, and fundamentally, either you believe it's a human rights issue or you don't.

But Taibbi's essential point is correct -- Hillary first dropped just enough rhetorical boilerplate to gin up resentment among the so-called Edith Whitehead vote. Fair enough. It should have been all downhill from there, a smooth coast to a polished finish. When asked whether she, Hillary Rodham Clinton, agreed with General Peter Pace that homosexuality is immoral, all she had to say was "yes" or "no". Again, she had already laid the groundwork for a simple conclusive answer. Instead, she punts on first down.

How's this: "While I certainly feel that General Pace is entitled to his own opinion, official military policy is not generally, as I understand, constructed around personal morality. The current policy against openly gay servicemembers is officially supposed to stem from concerns of unit cohesion. If General Pace has commissioned or wishes to commission a formal study to confirm or debunk that assertion, I endorse such an effort. As far as a question of my own personal morality, no, I am not conflicted or concerned by the existence of homosexuals. I have what is known in some circles as a 'life'."

That supplants her milquetoast dodge with a firm, unequivocal answer on the question of "morality", and pushes the issue forward in a politically utilitarian way. "Unit cohesion" was also why blacks were kept in segregated units until the late '40s, but if proponents of the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy wish to solidify their claims, then they have an opportunity to either shit or get off the pot, and no one has to extend their precious political neck for anything resembling actual principle.

Jesus, if this is what it's going to be like on the small potatoes (and don't for a second think that any of this, starting with Pace's statement, is just a coincidence; it's a fucking wedge test for the conservatard claque), can't wait until the heavy questions start rolling in.

I finally got around to getting An Inconvenient Truth via Netflix, and we will be watching it in a couple of hours (please, don't spoil it for me), after I get some black & tans going. Now, it occurs to me that the reflexive Nader-baiting all of a nonce stems from seemingly practical, utilitarian concerns about political realities. It's a cynical notion that claims that the best way to play the odds is to gratuitously cater and genuflect to the most regressive elements in our society. That they do it with their fingers crossed -- or better yet, never quite get around to saying exactly where they stand on something -- is said to be the height of political sophistication. Al Gore is the sine qua non of this carefully-tended school of thought, the prize orchid in the hothouse of poaching demographic slivers with soothing homilies.

Bollocks. I think we can all agree that, whatever misgivings many of us had about Gore's viability and worthiness for the role back in 2000, he has acquitted himself wonderfully. But how exactly has he gone about this task? By saying what he fucking well meant, for Christ's sake. Gore has found his issue, his mission, and has tackled it with guts and honesty. We can say now in retrospect that he could do that because he had nothing to lose, since he wasn't running for anything, but we didn't (and don't) know that for sure. Even with the extended primary and campaign seasons, Gore could very well wait until the end of this year, and then say he's in, and he'd be an instant front-runner. This in spite of him daring not to cower to the mossback vote.

I'm telling you, there is no upside to this tiresome litany of gutless incrementalism and puling half-steps. What if we piss off the Edith Whitehead vote? Well, fuck the Edith Whitehead vote, m'kay? I may not like what the Republicans stand for, but for the most part, I know what they stand for. That's why they keep winning the coveted senile-granny vote, because even people who don't fucking pay attention to anything know what these assclowns are all about. Whether or not they actually mean it is becoming increasingly irrelevant.

Goddammit, if we can't just point at the enormous track record of failure and irrelevance six years of Republican incompetence has put us through, and explain to people how they keep voting against themselves, then exactly how are we being an effective opposition party? Why keep playing these stupid little finger-crossing games, for the sake of people who (as has been said of the Naderistas, but is much more true of the Bushies and swingers) apparently regard the voting process as therapy?

The difference is laid stark; there should no longer be such a need for playing footsie with boobism and slackjawed stupidity. Maybe when the "intelligent design" "controversy" comes up, the Democratic nominee can artfully parse how we should "teach both sides" of the "controversy", and how "both sides" have "valid arguments". It will be at that point that I officially say "fuck this" and throw my endorsement to Donald Duck. As Harry Truman once said, given the choice between a fake cartoon character and a real one, people will usually choose the real one.

Meanwhile, we are all quite resolute about traveling back in time to push Ralph Nader in front of a train so's he can't spoil 2000 for us, even though Fredo and his merry band of swing-voter goobers were the real problem there. Enough already. Get off your fucking cross, folks; the rest of us could use the wood.

[Update: Watched the movie, and came away impressed, feeling like it was everything I'd hoped it would be, and then some. It is by turns sobering, impassioned, serious, some injections of humor, and relentlessly fact-based. It points out the liars and mendacious boobs for exactly who and what they are. It does not attempt to dick around with finding some sort of middle ground with pud-pounding idiots such as James Inhofe, nor should it have. The mossbacks are entitled to their own opinions; they are not entitled to their own facts -- on anything. They do not deserve an inch of ground, nor are they in any position to bargain for it. I'd just as soon tie 'em up in a gunny sack and toss 'em into a ditch as waste time trying to find a way to work with 'em.]

And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Fred

Future preznit and current conservatard darlin' Fred Thompson, sitting in for The Cryptkeeper Paul Harvey (at annual bath in special beads made of breast milk and puppy DNA re-embalming), has some choice words for you damned dirty hippies:

Besides coolers and mattresses, protesters have brought along a giant paper mache statue of Mahatma Gandhi, who is pretty much the symbol of the anti-war movement. Code Pink was founded on his birthday, and when Saddam Hussein was being given a last chance to open Iraq to U.N. weapons inspectors, posters appeared around America asking “What would Gandhi do?”

And that’s a pretty good question. At what point is it okay to fight dictators like Saddam or the al Qaeda terrorists who want to take his place?

It turns out that the answer, according to Gandhi, is NEVER. During World War II, Gandhi penned an open letter to the British people, urging them to surrender to the Nazis. Later, when the extent of the holocaust was known, he criticized Jews who had tried to escape or fight for their lives as they did in Warsaw and Treblinka. “The Jews should have offered themselves to the butcher’s knife,” he said. “They should have thrown themselves into the sea from cliffs.” “Collective suicide,” he told his biographer, “would have been heroism.”

Speaking only for myself, I am not and never have been a pacifist. It has always been left to semiotic tricksters on the right to ascribe such noble altruism to those who simply refuse to allow themselves to be rolled by cheap hucksterism. For the record, if Gandhi did in fact say such things, they deserve repudiation. But those particularities do not necessarily inform nor implicitly ventriloquize the sentiments expressed by the antiwar protesters in question.

I would safely presume that Gandhi was intimating that passive resistance helps enumerate quite clearly exactly which side is responsible for a particular violent incident. Personally, I think this is foolish -- there are few more efficient ways to get your skull bashed in than to tell a pure thug that you love him and respect his feelings as a human being, blah blah blah. As another wise man once said, fuck that noise. This does not obviate Gandhi's general point about violence begetting more violence, but sometimes, people have to make unfortunate choices between survival and death, or even between merely surviving and actually living.

But the bottom line is, the majority of protesters -- and the clear majority of American citizens, including those in the vaunted heartland -- are not ANSWER dupes or Gandhi disciples. They are people who understand fundamentally that a nuisance was sold as an existential threat, and that the world is now worse off for it all, and that the fools who initiated this mess have no clear (nor even a nebulous) plan to end the cycle they started.

And it's not if Thompson doesn't know all this; he may be a lot of things, but he's not an idiot. Yet he counts on his listeners and readers to be exactly that.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


Good for Pete Stark:

Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), a member of Congress since 1973, acknowledged his nontheism in response to an inquiry by the Secular Coalition for America. Rep. Stark is a senior member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee and is Chair of the Health Subcommittee.

Although the Constitution prohibits religious tests for public office, the Coalition's research reveals that Rep. Stark is the first open nontheist in the history of the Congress. Recent polls show that Americans without a god-belief are, as a group, more distrusted than any other minority in America. Surveys show that the majority of Americans would not vote for an atheist for president even if he or she were the most qualified for the office.

This is so painfully obvious that it scarcely merits mentioning, yet it deserves repeating. Americans routinely proclaim just how pious and godly we all are, yet statistically are routinely boggled by even the simplest of questions that even godless atheist heathens like myself know the answer to. And if this whinging response is any indication of the theta patterns over at Jeebus King of America, Inc., it's no wonder that we are where we are.

Well, God is crying, and I can't stand it. All that work for nothing -- trees and flowers, oceans, lakes and rivers, to say nothing of the stars; not even a proper "thank you." The atheists can scurry for proof, but this kind of press coverage tells me they don't know even what they are looking for.

It is precisely this sort of ideological and ontological incoherence they look for in a candidate, which is why we're constantly overrun by moralizing bozos, instead of, say, responsible adults who can keep their crushes to themselves and just attend to the business of running a statist construct for the common weal.

Seriously, this broad would not be out of place on one of The Onion's Two Cents parodies. Her own invocation of the wonderment of the celestial firmament pretty much obviates the necessary singularity of earthly humans being the apotheosis of creation.

The only other possibility is that every other habitable planet is also overrun with hand-wringing, pearl-clutching ninnies who can't get out of their own way, in which case a reverse big bang might not be such a terrible idea.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Movin' On Up

One of Corporate America's most esteemed paragons of virtue and excellence is packing up for -- where else? -- Dubai:

HOUSTON, March 11 — Halliburton, the big energy services company, said on Sunday that it would open a corporate headquarters in the United Arab Emirates city of Dubai and move its chairman and chief executive, David J. Lesar, there.

The company will maintain its existing corporate office here as well as its legal incorporation in the United States, meaning that it will still be subject to domestic laws and regulations.

Although the announcement of the new Dubai arrangement took many by surprise, Halliburton said that the move was part of a strategy announced in mid-2006 to concentrate its efforts in the Middle East and surrounding areas, where state-owned oil companies represent a growing source of business.


The Dubai announcement, which Halliburton made at a regional energy conference in Bahrain, comes at a time when the company is being investigated by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission over allegations of improper dealings in Iraq, Kuwait and Nigeria. Halliburton has also agreed to pay billions of dollars in settlements in asbestos litigation.

Halliburton would not elaborate on Sunday on what the shift of its top executive might mean for some of the issues it faces. The move seemed to raise questions about whether Halliburton might gain tax advantages or other benefits.


Despite its recent problems, Halliburton posted record revenue, net income and margins last year.

Yeah, they really took it in the shorts on all those no-bid contracts, didn't they? But I'll wager that at the end of the day, this is not just about oil or profit margins, or even tax advantages. It's about oversight, and staking your claim in this century's Wild West is a great way to avoid the snoops in the SEC, or at least make them work harder.

It's a pretty sweet racket they got going there.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Fatal Attraction

I know I just did some God talk at Doug Giles' expense, but the latest visit by evangelical stadium tour BattleCry featured a, shall we say, unusual concept.

Several popular Christian bands, including POD, Casting Crowns and Unhindered, sang rock songs with choruses such as "I'll never know how much it cost to see my sin upon that cross." A Christian comedian delivered stand-up lines. The crowd did call-and-response chants about Jesus, using the rhythms normally found at a Giants game.

"We will not allow the enemy to steal this generation," Luce said.

He spoke to the audience about levels of belief, dividing Christians into three categories. "Seekers" are Christians who regularly attend church and study groups but waver when it's convenient. "Students" are Christians who aggressively try to read the Bible and learn more about Christ's teachings.

But Luce wanted those gathered to strive for the apex: "stalkers."

As the word "stalker" flashed on the giant video screen, Luce elaborated.

Criminal stalkers, Luce said, "are so committed to finding out information, they find out stuff no one else knows." He said Christians should pursue God with that same passion.

As he read verses from the book of Psalms, Luce said, "That's a stalker talking."

"Will you go way out into the deep and be a stalker, a stalker of God?" Luce asked.

Many shouted with approval.

Lorena Covarrubias, 18, said she identified with Luce's message.

"I consider myself a 'student,' but I want to be a 'stalker,' " said Covarrubias, who attends Servants of Jesus, a Mission District church, which brought 60 teens to BattleCry. "I used to read the Bible a lot, but I never sought God with all my heart the way Ron Luce describes a stalker follower. I want to grow in my love for God."

The first two appellations make sense I suppose, but "stalker"? What kind of goofball wants to "stalk" God or Jesus? Are they aware of what actual stalkers do, which is harass and terrorize their target in increasingly desperate attempts to win them over? Are they planning on driving by God's house at 3:00 AM, to make sure no one else is over there? Maybe go down to Jesus' place of employment and get in His grille while His co-workers back away slowly and one of them tries to dial 911 without you seeing?

Seriously. There are plenty of names and methods one can devise to demonstrate their devotion and commitment to their spiritual beliefs. I think it says more than these people realize that they think "stalker" is the most accurate way of expressing that. It's not just the unhealthy connotation with the real-world definition of the word, but the clear indication that becoming an unquestioning automaton is some sort of spiritual goal.

The Pharisee In The Mirror: A ClownHall Parable

Intellectual proctologist Doug Giles, who must get paid by the forced pop-culture reference, weighs in on the Coulter-CPAC contretemps with his usual tin ear.

When it comes to unleashing humorous and scathing vocal invectives, Jesus was King of Kings. Yes, the Prince of Peace punk’d people like no other could. Would He have used the word “faggot” in one of His verbal chainsaw massacres upon the political and ecclesiastical morons of His day? Absolutely … not.

No, Christ would not have called some soulless, Aqua Net addicted, duplicitous politician who hires anti-Christ, homely bloggers a fag. That would needlessly offend the homosexual community by comparing them to a skanky politician. Having said that, I have no doubt Christ would have cranked out a cut down on a first century Edwardsian equivalent that would have sawn the boy down to the ground—Dorothy Hamill hair cut and all.

Hanh? Ex-squeeze me? What the hell is this guy talking about? Is there some sort of Shecky Christ I missed out on in Sunday school, hurling borscht-belt invective at his opponents? Before he digs himself in any deeper, Doug may want to consider prying the schtick out of his own eye.

Or not. Let's face it, someone has to account for the world's oversupply of stupidade, and let it never be said that Dougie doesn't draw his fair share from the stupid well. So let it be written; so let it be yocked.

If you’re a conservative who purports to be a Christian, then you’re to get your behavioral and communication cues from Christ—not some Politician (past or present). And FYI . . . the Lamb of God was no Lamb Chop in word or deed.

Yea, verily, for when He spake, "Why shouldn't we fight a war for oil? We need oil.", He meant exactly what He said. And it was good.

Look, let's take a quick second and do a snap autopsy on Coulter's little "joke". Far too much attention has been paid to her use of the word "faggot", while ignoring the backstory. The full comment was an oblique reference to a Grey's Anatomy actor basically having a choice of losing his career or getting an attitude adjustment. This was not forced on him by any liberal PC movement; this was a public-relations, human-resources decision made by a business. No political entity that I know of said boo about Washington's comments, which were simply ignorant more than anything else.

But this is where people like Coulter do their best work -- what she did with her "joke" was to associate and conflate the meme of political correctness with another pernicious meme, that of effete Democrats. Neither is true of Edwards, but that doesn't matter; the point of propagandists is merely to caricature straw men and affirm their fans' projected anxieties.

And that is the real crime of people like Coulter. They constantly, consistently keep debate points as specious and irresponsible as possible. Every person at CPAC either has a medical problem, or knows or loves someone who has one. There is a very good chance that, even if they or their loved ones have insurance, said medical issue is extracting a financial toll on their already overburdened personal finances.

John Edwards is trying to make health care reform a cornerstone of his campaign. In the real world, people lose their houses trying to pay exorbitant medical costs. It's an uphill struggle for them, and it's certainly an uphill struggle for Edwards to take on this issue; he has insurance companies, pharmaceutical conglomerates, and rapacious HMOs stacked up against him, cluttering the legislative body with lobbyists and grease and pork. There are a great many people whose paychecks depend on deflecting the debate from these fundamental issues of $150 asthma inhalers and $5K per year insurance policies, while the middle class continues to disappear, the underclass continues to swell, and the income disparity gap widens.

But John Edwards is a big gay homosexual. Oh ho, did I just say that out loud? Silly me, I'm such a cutting-edge provocateur.

And leave it to a knuckle-dragging fool to further clutter the debate with irrelevant nonsense about Jesus' reputed sense of humor. Modern religion is a scam and a joke, because it allows goofballs like Giles to project their own desires and aspirations onto that little-known tabula rasa named Jesus. There's nothing new about that, obviously; what's fairly innovative about Giles' cynical attempt is how utterly useless it is.

Even if one were to accept that Jesus was some sort of Levantine Bill Hicks, unleashing torrents of scathing insight and polemic upon the weasels and hypocrites, at least one assumes that He operated from a factual base. The Pharisees were a bunch of sanctimonious dicks; Jesus said so and challenged them.

Democrats are not a bunch of effete pussies simply because Ann Coulter says they are. They only become so if they continue to let these jerkoffs push them around.

Let me ask the Ann pooh-poohers on the Right a question: What exactly is one allowed to say or not say? Can I say pooh-pooh? What words are verboten? What about phrases? Analogies? What about body parts? Hair? Pot bellies? Tones? Can we have a tone when we talk? Can we roll our eyes? Snicker? Yawn? Can we cough, “bull$#@&” when we hear something ridiculous? Can the British still call a cigarette a fag?

Please, help us endangered brutish beasts of the baser sort to understand the Nancy world of civility that some are sweetly rollerblading into. Also, for clarification, which pundit[s], blogger[s] or radio show host[s] now determines what’s cool and what’s not cool? Will it be a group thing or do you have one Dandy you’re looking to?

I think all the stink that’s been made on the Right regarding Coulter’s joke is simply envious folks trying to get their slice of the Ann power pie. Of course, they’ll never confess that, because envy is the one sin people never like or admit they have.

You know, there are certain phrases one hopes to reach their grave without ever hearing, and "the Ann power pie" is certainly up high in that list. And frankly, I actually agree with Giles on the point civility and "proper" language. I agree that civility is overrated, practically useless these days. It is merely a hedge used by Broderesque idiots to conceal their asinine conciliatory tropes, which do nothing but enable and further embolden the people who got us into this mess.

I don't know how much more clearly I can put it -- I don't want to reconcile with the sorts of people who comprise the CPAC. I want nothing to do with them, and my political choices will reflect that. Period. They are dangerous, contentious suckers, who have gotten this country into the fix it's in. I want them back on the margins where they belong.

And I'm glad Doug brought up Jesus' comments regarding the innate hypocrisy of the Pharisees, because it's exactly what I've been thinking about these professional political evangelicals for years:

"But they do their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries, and lengthen the tassels of their garments." (Matthew 23:5).


"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the Law; justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you ought to have done without neglecting the others." (Matthew 23:23).


"Even so you too outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness." (Matthew 23:26).

Sound like anyone you know? I'm sure that, right up to the bitter end, Ted Haggard considered liberal political correctness to be a Pharisaic interpretation of what they presume to be God's law. Why would Giles be any different?

Right Said Fred

Since the CPAC failed to produce a clear leader in the authoritarian closet-case conservative field, movementarian darling Fred Thompson is exploring his options. Whoever's in the cupcake-ADA role on Law & Order this week will be the running mate, which accounts for the electoral my pants.

Thompson, 64, said he was pondering a run after former Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker and other Tennessee Republicans began drumming up support for his possible GOP candidacy, citing his conservative credentials.

``I think people are somewhat disillusioned. I think a lot of people are cynical out there. I think they're looking for something different. ... and I think that they're going to be open to different things,'' he said.

Judging from what's there so far, where ironically enough only the Mormon guy isn't multiply-married or a serial adulterer, he might actually have a pretty easy time of it. His only real competition would be Mrs. Doubtfire Rudy Giuliani, who is simply one of those people who, the more you get to know, the less you like.

Thompson, on the other hand, is a competent enough actor, as was Reagan, which enables them to capture the most retrograde ideas and put them forth in a comfortable, avuncular manner.

On the issues, Thompson said he:

-Is ``pro-life,'' and believes federal judges should overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade abortion rights decision as ``bad law and bad medical science.''

-Opposes gay marriage, but would let states decide whether to allow civil unions. ``Marriage is between a man and a woman, and I don't believe judges ought to come along and change that.''

-Opposes gun control, and praised last week's 2-1 federal appeals decision overturning a long-standing handgun ban. ``The court basically said the Constitution means what it says, and I agree with that.''

-Supports President Bush's decision to increase troops in Iraq. ``Wars are full of mistakes. You rectify things. I think we're doing that now,'' he said. ``Why would we not take any chance, even though there's certainly no guarantees, to not be run out of that place? I mean, we've got to take that opportunity and give it a chance to work.''

-Would pardon former White House aide I. Lewis ``Scooter'' Libby's conviction for perjury and obstruction of justice now, rather than waiting until all his appeals are exhausted. Thompson is a fundraiser for Libby's defense.

There ya go. Some of the commenters here, index fingers jammed into nostrils up to the third knuckle, reflexively opined that Thompson's opinions would get "cherry-picked" and taken out of context in order to inflame librul sensibilities.

Well, here's the full Faux transcript. Judge for yourself.

WALLACE: As we said, perhaps the main reason that people are talking about you is this uneasy feeling among conservatives that there is not one of their own, a true conservative, in the field.

So let's do a lightning round — quick questions, quick answers, a variety of issues — to see where Fred Thompson stands.


WALLACE: Abortion.

THOMPSON: Pro-life.

WALLACE: Would you like to overturn Roe. ...

THOMPSON: You said lightning round, now. If you want ...

WALLACE: Well, let's go.

THOMPSON: ... more, give me another question. I'll work through it.

WALLACE: Do you want to overturn Roe vs. Wade?

THOMPSON: I think Roe vs. Wade was bad law and bad medical science. And the way to address that is through good judges. I don't think the court ought to wake up one day and make new social policy for the country. It's contrary to what it's been the past 200 years.

We have a process in this country to do that. Judges shouldn't be doing that. That's what happened in that case. I think it was wrong.


WALLACE: What would you do now in Iraq?

THOMPSON: I would do essentially what the president's doing. I know it's not popular right now, but I think we have to look down the road and consider the consequences of where we are.

We're the leader of the free world whether we like it or not. People are looking to us to test our resolve and see what we're willing to do in resolving the situation that we have there. People think that if we hadn't gone down there, things would have been lovely.

If Saddam Hussein was still around today with his sons looking at Iran developing a nuclear capability, he undoubtedly would have reconstituted his nuclear capability. Things would be worse than what they are today.


WALLACE: One area where you have been critical of President Bush is that you say that he never spread the burden, he never made all Americans share in the sacrifice.

And you have talked about the fact that we need to end our dependence on foreign oil. Would you impose a gas tax to push us in that direction?

THOMPSON: Well, you're getting a little bit further down in the weeds than I want to go right now. I don't know. I'm studying it. I don't know the answer to that question.

We're going to have to do some things differently. We're going to have to think differently about solutions.

You know, it's a price matter more than anything else. You know, gas is — I mean, oil is fungible. And there's going to be oil in different parts of the world having a price set, you know, that we're going to have to live with one way or another.

We can't ever be totally independent of it, but we can do some things to make it a lot better. We're going to have to look at fuel emission standards and things of that nature, things that we don't like to look at.

Right, which is why in 2002, Thompson voted both to terminate CAFE standards and drill in ANWR. Real strategic thinkin' there, Fred.

And referring to Thompson as merely a "fundraiser for Libby's defense" fails to properly limn his duties. Not to imply that Thompson is a cabana boy for the Cheney gang or anything, but....

WALLACE: You are on the steering committee of the Scooter Libby Defense Fund.

THOMPSON: That's right.

WALLACE: And you helped raise millions of dollars for his extraordinary legal expenses. Would President Thompson — you like the sound of that probably. Would President Thompson pardon Libby now or would you wait until all of his legal appeals are exhausted?

THOMPSON: I'd do it now.

WALLACE: Because?

THOMPSON: I'd do it now. This is a trial that never would have been brought in any other part of the world. This is a miscarriage of justice.

One man and his wife and 14-year-old and 10-year-old children are bearing the brunt of a political maelstrom here that produced something that never should have come about.

These people knew in the very beginning — the Justice Department, this Justice Department and the special counsel knew in the very beginning that the thing that was creating the controversy, who leaked Valerie Plame's name, did not constitute a violation of the law.

And then they knew that it — someone did leak the name. And it was Mr. Armitage. It wasn't Scooter Libby.

Only these people, who continuously rant and rave about the primacy of the law, and the wisdom of the people, and the sanctity of the efforts of war and protecting the people who are imminently endangered by it, would turn unblinkingly into such ginormous, pandering hypocrites.

Libby was convicted in a federal court, by a jury or reg'lar folk, with a heretofore Republican prosecutor whose record of aggressively and meticulously pursuing criminals was absolutely spotless. He is the nexus of a clear-cut whispering campaign to use handy media tools to defame a dissenter, endangering an intelligence agent in the process.

Libby is as guilty as guilty can be, and everyone knows. No, it is entirely unfair that he is the only one going to jail for this, but that is what these people do -- throw their underlings to the wolves and maintain their lies of plausible deniability. Frankly, I don't give two shits if Armitage goes down with the lot of them, but the fact that Libby is the only one convicted (so far), does not mitigate his complicity in the slightest. Justice was done, it just wasn't completed -- again, yet. Only Libby can change that if he decides to drop a dime on his superiors, which is why they're scared shitless and pushing the pardon talk.

Well, I call their bluff. Go ahead and pardon Scooter. Make it damned good and clear exactly what you're all about. And prepare to have another term in the wilderness, à la Watergate.

I'll say this much for Thompson -- he makes it clear exactly where he stands. He is not trying to be everything to everyone. There may be a lesson somewhere in this.

Nader Haters, Continued

Mick LaSalle has responded in his blog, Maximum Strength Mick, to my post from the other day regarding Ralph Nader's supposed role in where the nation stands at this moment.

One of the points made is that, contrary to what I indicated yesterday, it was unreasonable for anyone to expect Bush to be as awful as he turned out to be. If so, then I guess I must be the smartest guy going, because I saw this guy coming from miles off and was always amazed by environmentalists like David Brower who were perfectly willing to let Bush get elected, as though that would somehow energize the Green party or the environmental cause. Far from it.

This needs to be unpacked a bit. LaSalle is correct that some environmental groups associating themselves with Nader's candidacy -- and indeed, Nader himself -- had adopted something of a Savonarola-type stance. They were more than willing to be immolated in their purity, even if it meant that things would get worse. They felt that things would have to get worse to rouse any meaningful action out of people.

Of course they were completely wrong; there is nothing terrible enough to initiate meaningful action, clearly. At the very least, the people performing such acts also happen to own enough media entities with which they can cater to the intellectual boobism and reflexive paranoia that characterize "serious" politics in this country. You will always hear much more about "intelligent design" or Anna Nicole Smith (which are roughly on the same intellectual level) than you ever will about why you can't afford health care, or that the leader of your country thinks that prayer is the most important factor in determining foreign policy and war strategy.

Anyway, it was a committed (if wrongheaded) stance on the part of people like Brower and Nader, to essentially root for things to get worse so that people would have to reform those things. And again, it didn't work. But that's a different matter than being able to suss an empty frat-boy suit in 2000, which in turn is different from being able to intuitively know that not only would the empty frat-boy suit never be a good preznit, but that he'd function as if his mission were to lawn-dart the entire country and enflame the rest of the world.

But even if LaSalle's prognosticating skills are more finely honed than mine, it's only by a matter of degree, and it still fails to address all the "swing voters" that were "supposed" to vote for Gore, but allowed themselves to be poached by the empty frat-boy suit. What of them? Is their role not at least as serious and instrumental as that of Big Bad Ralph?

The above writer also whips out the tired notion that Gore should have won his own state. Sure he should have. And he should have been able to campaign in his own state, instead of having to run to Michigan, Washington, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania in the closing days of the campaign in order to counteract that Nader surge.

Gore had been representing his state at the national level since 1976. He shouldn't have had to convince anyone of anything. Bush beat him by 4% in TN, so what LaSalle is essentially saying is that, had Gore not been distracted by Nader's rabble-rousing, he could have executed a 4-point swing in the final days of a long campaign. Because apparently he was going to unleash some sort of magic that had evaded him over the previous 24 years, and give Tennesseeans something new to chew on. I suppose anything is possible, but that really is a pretty speculative claim.

But Democracy is about being smart. The religious right, whatever else you want to say about them, they're very smart. They infiltrated the Republican party, to the extent that ostensibly sane men like Giuliani and McCain have to bend over backwards for them. If the Nader people understood American history and understood the fate of third-party movements, they would have just tried to infiltrate the Democrats. Nader should have run in the primary. He might have been Secretary of the Interior in a Gore administration and advanced his causes from inside the government, rather than as some discredited, despised outsider.

This is actually a fair statement, but let's cut to the chase. Nader is and always has been a professional gadfly. A Nader vote was a protest vote, pure and simple. My understanding was that some of his people had tried to work within the Democratic Party, but between the Naderites' dogmatism and the Democrats' complete lack of backbone in dealing with Republicans, it was not a happy relationship. There was simply no role for the Greens within the party, aside from useless tokenism. And really, even the "smart" moves LaSalle describes, such as the ascendance of the religious right as a political force, rely on massive swaths of people being dumb, and essentially voting against their own rational self-interests.

I agree that Nader has become a counterproductive political force. But it is also counterproductive to keep using him as a convenient scapegoat for Everything Gone Wrong. There were a lot of factors in play in that election; Nader was but one of them. If people had paid enough attention to not "accidentally" vote for fucking Pat Buchanan, we also wouldn't be in this fix. Maybe it's Palm Beach's fault.

No, the worst thing about this blame game is that it actively avoids the major causes for how we got here. It lets Gore off the hook for running an inept campaign in 2000. It lets the talk-show Heathers off the hook for their smarmy, insubstantial coverage of Gore's wardrobe over real issues.

And it lets the Democratic Party off the hook for rolling over for the Cheney gang until post-Katrina polls started making it safe for them to do something besides take shit from these people. Not that it's been a momentous improvement anyway. I'm sure if Bush tells them to go fuck themselves just one more time, why, they might just filibuster, and get a resolution passed! And this time, it'll be binding! I'm sure Fredo's soiling his shitkickers just thinking about the consequences.

Most importantly, this cheap scapegoating lets all those swing voters off the hook. They also should have known better, but no one gives them any grief. They are accountable in this as well, and in much greater numbers. But the Serious Parties, instead of trying to give non-voters a reason to vote, are too busy trying to poach one-point slivers of soccer moms and jai alai dads or whatever, with gutless half-measures of incrementalism, while the smart set on the teevee shows have deep discussions about Hillary's pantsuits. The two nominees from the Serious Parties next year are going to spend an estimated $500 million each. Why do you think that is?

Nader was a symptom of a hopelessly debauched system, nothing more, nothing less. It was a blip of misplaced idealism that will fortunately never trouble our political system again. Orange Revolutions are for Ukrainians; here, not so much.

P.S. -- Check out LaSalle's online serialized novel, The Event. It's pretty good.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Master Debaters

So it appears that the Great Debate that was to come on Faux News will never pass. The Nevada Democratic Party was encouraged to retrieve its addled wits after yet another idiotic Osama-Obama "joke" this time by Faux's own president, Roger Ailes, who decided to take a much-needed break from spelunking Rush Limbaugh's ass to drop teh funny bombs. Better late than never, one supposes.

Still, you'd hope that at this late date, people would start understanding the very fundamental concept that there is infinitely more potential upside in cultivating niche markets of non-voters than genuflecting to the far right, vainly hoping to peel away precious slivers here and there from people who viscerally loathe them, because they viscerally loathe themselves.

Already John Edwards had refused to participate in this dog-and-pony show, and it would only have been a matter of time before Obama would have said "fuck it"; these apes have had their little name game for quite long enough, and Obama presumably has his pride.

Anyway, one trenchant observer who knew beforehand why Edwards really dropped out is the one and only Virgin Ben:

Edwards is running scared. Because he's running scared, he's running left. Soon he'll be infringing on Dennis "I've Got No Strings" Kucinich territory.

Edwards hopes to gain votes by outflanking Clinton and Obama. If he can solidify the netroots crowd — the Daily Kosians who despise Fox News' conservative bias more than Al Jazeera's pro-terrorist bias — he may precipitate a groundswell of Huffington Post support.

Yeah, that's what it is, buddy. You just keep telling yourself that, while you flip a coin between Saint McCain and Mrs. Doubtfire Rudy Giuliani. Meanwhile, the rest of us will be clearing our heads with regular infusions of nasty, sweaty, gland-pumping [Grampa Simpson voice] seeeexxx!!1!1!! Haven't you seen the Seinfeld where they give up sex, dude? George becomes the smart one. That should be a clue.

I know, I know. The guy has made a lifestyle choice, and I am being mean and hypocritical by not respecting and embracing it. I mean, they're all virgins by choice, right?

Actually, I can afford to be an asshole about this issue, because I know what pussy feels like. Oh no I di'unt!

Which isn't to say that Edwards' newfound repugnance for Fox News won't win him some supporters. Radical left organization MoveOn Civil Action has already embraced Edwards' newfound hatred of Fox News. "The Fox debate should just be canceled and a more legitimate news source should be found," says Adam Green, MoveOn Civil Action's spokesperson. "[The debate is] a lame proposal that would have multiple Fox personalities joined by one lone Air America panelist. That's a rigged, unfair and unbalanced debate."

Yet, for some strange reason, both Clinton and Obama are considering attending the debate. If Fox News is the cable news right-wing Satan, why would such liberal luminaries even consider sitting on the same stage as a Fox News moderator?

Because they still think there's some sort of magical upside to reaching out to the armchair troglodytes who watch Bill O'Reilly. Look, asshole, you want people to take your toy network seriously, how about just making it less stupid. Not "more liberal", not "less conservative", but just figure out a stupid quota and keep within it for a change. Pound for pound, the only "news" network with a comparable concentration of stupid is the laughably-named Headline News Network, the numbers of which are artificially skewed by the chins on the back of Nancy Grace's neck.

There is no debate because Fox does not even brook the pretense of seriousness. There is no need to have a serious debate on Fox, because they wouldn't know what to do with it.

And Roger Ailes (the Limbaugh ass-spelunker, not the cool one on my blogroll) deserves some credit for making this abundantly clear so early in this already too-long campaign season.

[Special credit also to ABC for having a sidebar link to ClownHall's stable of goobers, one of which I will profile later tonight. Real fuckin' feather in yer cap, fellas.]

Gratuitous Newtity

One thing that speaks volumes about just how far the barmy have fallen in the political arena is that their intemellectual paragon, discredited dung beetle Newt Gingrich is able to scuttle back into the news just long enough to provoke needless speculation about his reputed political viability.

Asked in a telephone interview by the group's leader, James Dobson, whether he had been involved in an affair at the same time as Mr Clinton's "escapade" with Ms Lewinsky, Mr Gingrich replied: "The honest answer is yes."


But he insisted that the relationship with an aide 20 years his junior, his now wife Callista Bisek, had no bearing on the 1999 impeachment of the president, which he insisted was purely focused on the question of whether Mr Clinton had perjured himself in front of a federal judge.

Whatever, fat boy. Don't let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya. What the hell is with these people; what upside is there for a would-be power broker like Dobson to even be bothering with this guy, who probably wouldn't even carry his own state at this point?

Not that I'm complaining; if they want to squander their time and energy pimping that useless sack of shit, I say pimp away. See y'all in 18 months.

A highly divisive figure on the Hill, he remains very popular on the right of the Republican party.

There has been consistent speculation that he may make a late entry into the crowded pool of candidates for the 2008 presidential elections.

Should Mr Gingrich decide to make the late entry, his two divorces and extra-marital affairs may cause him difficulties with Christian evangelical voters, which perhaps explains his attempts now to clear the air.

I am praying as much my atheist sensibilities will allow for. I think it would work superbly -- and by "work", I mean send these blowhard hacks and their extra-chromosome fan base back out on the margins for a good long time. I think anyone who would even consider voting for someone like Newt Gingrich, and has the fucking gall to consider themselves (much less Gingrich) a remotely good Christian deserves to be effectively disenfranchised for a good long stretch.

Any endorsement of Gingrich by any professional evangelical group will effectively and immediately expose themselves and Gingrich for the snake-oil salesmen all of them really are. Really, even some of their own people might be surprised enough to remove their fingers from their hapless nostrils long enough to smell the unholy hypocrisy.

I've been hoping for a nice full-tilt political purge of the neoclown demagogues and their evangelical fan base; it just hadn't occurred to me that Newt Gingrich could end up being the catalyst for exactly that. Because if this is bid toward viability, he's going to be fucking albatross by next year. This moronic notion that he's putting it all behind him by putting it on the table now -- good luck with that, asshole. Have fun on the rubber-chicken circuit come aught-nine.