Saturday, June 30, 2007

This Just In

Broderella is having an epiphany, folks.

Years ago Lamar Alexander, the senator from Tennessee, told me of a lesson he had learned as a young man on the White House staff: It is always useful for the president to have at least one aide who has had a successful career already, who does not need the job, and who therefore can offer candid advice. When he was governor of Tennessee, Alexander made sure he had such a person on his staff.

Later, when presidential candidate George W. Bush chose Dick Cheney as his running mate, I applauded the choice, thinking that Cheney would fill the role Alexander had outlined. Boy, was I wrong.

It gives me a headache just to think about all the wrong bundled up in just those introductory paragraphs. Not to beat on poor Lamar Alexander, who is about as odorless as one can hope for from the Republicans these days, but this piece of wisdom is awful thin at face value, especially if you don't consider the nature of the "successful career" the "candid advisor" had. I mean, I get the point of the anecdote, but for Christ's sake, how does it apply to a no-bid contract grifter like Dick Cheney?

Second, the idea that Bush chose Cheney is hilarious. Cheney looked through the list of prospects and chose himself. We should all be so lucky in our job interviews.

But hey, it's just super that it took six years of blind arrogance, secrecy, and utter incompetence to get the scales to fall from our trenchant observer's eyes. Next up: Broder's picks for Super Bowl XXXV. I don't know about you, but I can hardly wait. I hear Baltimore has a good shot at it.

What Gellman and Becker have described is a decision-making process in which Bush has allowed Cheney to play a bureaucratic role inside the White House that Cheney never permitted anyone to employ when he was guarding the door as Gerald Ford's chief of staff.

He could exercise this power only with the compliance of the president and only because he often could bypass the procedures he had put in place in the Ford administration, procedures meant to protect the president's interests. He used his intelligence and his grasp on the levers of power -- and most of all he used secrecy -- to outflank and outwit others and thereby shape the Bush administration's agenda.

It was not illegal, and it was not unconstitutional, but it could not have happened unless the president permitted it and enabled it. And ultimately the president is responsible for what has become, in very large respect, the resulting wreckage of foreign policy, national security policy, budget policy, energy policy and environmental policy under Cheney's direction and on Cheney's watch.

Where I thought, mistakenly, that it would be a great advantage to Bush to have a White House partner without political succession in mind, it has turned out to be altogether too liberating an environment for a political entrepreneur of surpassing skill operating under an exceptional cloak of secrecy.

Gee whiz, ya really think so, Dave? That maybe it's not such a hot idea to have gibbering moron figurehead be sock-puppeted by a scheming fuck with nothing but contempt for democracy and transparency? Well, this is valuable insight, indeed.

And given the sheer scale of secrecy and evasion, I would really hold off on the blanket pre-judgments that "[i]t was not illegal, and it was not unconstitutional". The one thing that has been amazingly consistent about this administration -- and Cheney's subversion of it in particular -- is how readily more and more disturbing facts become unearthed with just the slightest turn of the shovel. I think we're just seeing the tip of the iceberg here with the Poor Ol' Scooter debacle. I'm not interested in cheap speculation or forcing people to prove a negative, but let's face it -- every action from Cheney's office specifically has demonstrated that they have much to hide. Enough of these childish games about whether he just wants everyone to think that's the case; it's time for the actual adults to bust the clubhouse and find out exactly what's what.

What really pisses me off about Broder's analysis is how indifferent it is to the reality. His big revelation is not that Cheney is a shitbird who doesn't belong in a position of control over the lives of others; it's his admission that he, David Broder, dean of the Beltway smart set and plugged-in wankerus emeritus, was wrong. It's like hearing Fonzie stutter out the word with embarrassed reluctance all those years ago on Happy Days or something.

But Broder noticeably proposes no remedy, nor does he acknowledge that maybe all us nasty vituperative bloggerses were right the whole time, and that maybe it's time to do something. No, people like Broder never want to actually do a fucking thing, except tell those damned kids to get off his lawn. But should the Democrats get more serious about getting to the bottom of what ol' Big Time has really been up to all these years, and how their pathetic inability to keep their story straight needs to come to an end, Broder and his ilk will harrumph once more about the partisan incivility of it all, and how Henry Waxman's an asshole.

Whatever. Keep up the superb analysis, Chief; I'm sure we'll all hear about what doo-doo heads those jerky Dummycrats are soon enough. Gotsta remain objective, y'know.

Driftglass has some nice smackdown of Rip Van Broder's narcoleptic wankery, and when you're done checking that out, check out his brilliant photo essay, the final picture of which seriously belongs on the front page of every American newspaper this Fourth of July.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

She Sells Sanctuary

It's impossible to get too worked up anymore over Ann Coulter's toxic buffoonery du jour, without duly acknowledging the context whence it originates.

Elizabeth Edwards pleaded Tuesday with Ann Coulter to "stop the personal attacks," a day after the conservative commentator said she wished Edwards' husband, Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, had been killed by terrorists.

Well, of course she did -- and by "she", I could mean either Coulter or Elizabeth Edwards. Each ably fulfilled their assigned role in this kabuki; Coulter peddling her usual inane rubber-glue blather for the morons who still take her seriously, Mrs. Edwards rightfully articulating the position of the aggrieved wife/mother. There were no real surprises to be had, aside from waiting to see just how much lower Coulter can set her bar for sheer personal indecency. I halfway expected some cancer humor.

What might have been a little more useful would be for the Edwardses to ask Tweety what his fucking problem is, why he persists in having this nasty shrew on his stupid-ass show. There's nothing wrong with wanting some "spice" or "zazz" or entertainment value when discussing ordinarily staid, serious issues. But there is a line between "entertainment value" and being a flat-out pimp or huckster. Tweety decided to have Coulter on for the full hour, why? Because her plagiarized sack o' crap is now out in two-ply paperback. Good reason, right?

If we had something approaching a functioning collective consciousness in this nation's political discourse, it wouldn't even merit pointing out that that alone belies the idiotic myth of the "liberal hate America media" that somehow persists. Even though it's mostly in the tiny minds of the literal morons that Coulter speaks for, the myth never seems to get the final, swift, permanent retribution it has deserved for so long. Tweety lamely tries to say that Coulter is a guest because she moves books (even if it is at bargain-basement prices). Well, Noam Chomsky writes a lot of books too. Unlike Coulter, he even writes them himself, and he attributes his sources. I doubt if Tweety will ever have Chomsky on as a guest, much less for a full hour at a college campus, which is precisely where Chomsky moves most of his inventory. So what are we missing here?

Over the years, Coulter has made herself into the one-word locus of rage and invective from sensible people. She persists in the game because she has no boundaries, and is unafraid to scrap. There is no way Coulter would ever call on to a talk show to berate a guest she disagreed with, without also dragging the host into it. That is the way this game is played; in for a penny, in for a pound.

I understand and respect the Edwardses' effort to maintain some sort of dignity in the face of endless cheap shots from "people" such as Coulter. But that's a sucker's game; they might as well ask the sidewalk loon with the "End of the World" sandwich board to take a bath and find something useful to do. Shame does not work on the shameless; sense has no meaning to the senseless.

The only way there's even the hope of gaining traction in that direction is to clearly discuss how their barmy schtick devalues the shows that traffic in it, and embarrasses the dipshits who actually pay money and spend time to wallow in it. You paid money for what; you stood in the audience for what? No, I don't respect an "honest" difference of opinion, not when you're giving money and attention to someone who lives and breathes total intellectual dishonesty. I just want to know what the fuck is wrong with the people who buy and read the books uncritically, and the media weasels who keep lavishing valuable speaking time on inveterate liars and cranks.

Let's quit yanking our chains, o people of dignity. Forget challenging Coulter on her ruination of even marginally coherent discourse; how about calling her enablers in the media and her retard fans on their bullshit? Either bring in some real smackdown on Coulter, or consider yourself the wiser for not feeding her the troll chow she thrives on. Because she speaks for the remaining dead-enders, the empirically challenged, people who would be doing their country a huge fucking favor by seeing a psychiatrist instead of using the ballot box as therapy for their fever dreams of the liberal Dolchstosslegende. These are just fucking dumb, spiteful people. Her mission is to legitimize and energize them, give them rhetorical cover. The mission of the responsible media should be to strip that cover away.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Top Ten Other Dick Cheney Secrets

10. Hates the itching, but kinda digs the swelling.

9. Say the words "water boarding" or "nipple clamps", and a logjam forms in Cheney's pants.

8. Knows first-hand what the most dangerous game really is: wolverines. Reputedly bitch-slapped Fredo for saying "Parcheesi".

7. Punishment for insubordinate underlings is to change the big man's diaper for a week, and don't skimp on the Gold Bond, you ungrateful little fuck.

6. Keeps a Rolodex of Tony Snow's mostly-leather spank bank in the office safe, just in case ol' Snowblower gets any wise ideas.

5. Even when he's too old to recall what he had for breakfast that day, he'll never forget that magical lost weekend with Ann Coulter and Combover Tony Scalia, a heady brew of animal lust, absinthe, and freshly-harvested puppy blood. Good times.

4. "Pacemaker" actually a remote-control rheostat to monitor and calibrate the lowjack implanted in the base of Bush's skull. Clearly, it's working like a fucking charm.

3. After he told Pat Leahy to go fuck himself, he seriously thought about head-butting him, biting off a chunk of ear, and turning to the rest of the room, trophy hanging from his red, foaming maw, "Okay, who else wants a fuckin' piece of me?"

2. Shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die. And that was after he shot Harry Whittington in that canned hunt.

1. Knows that as long as he has professional nitwits like that fucktard Goldberg on his side, defending him with the usual incoherent flatulence, he can keep trashing the country with his incompetence, his megalomanical secrecy, his ridiculous excuses, and most of all, his abiding, utter contempt for the principles of democracy and the Constitution. And if we don't do anything about it, maybe we deserve it. Hey, look, Paris Hilton picked her nose again!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Scooting The Truth

Esteemed prose stylist and political satirist Richard "Dice" Cohen deserves at least some credit for continuing to find new and innovative ways of cognitive trickery. The latest and greatest is his attempt to split the Scooter baby in two. Everybody wins!

With the sentencing of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Fitzgerald has apparently finished his work, which was, not to put too fine a point on it, to make a mountain out of a molehill. At the urging of the liberal press (especially the New York Times), he was appointed to look into a run-of-the-mill leak and wound up prosecuting not the leaker -- Richard Armitage of the State Department -- but Libby, convicted in the end of lying. This is not an entirely trivial matter since government officials should not lie to grand juries, but neither should they be called to account for practicing the dark art of politics. As with sex or real estate, it is often best to keep the lights off.

Heh-indeedy. Except, you know, even though human history is of course littered with bloody conflicts that were started precisely over sex and/or real estate, the fact is that we're sorta trying to at least give the appearance of running a nation of laws. The real point of a nation of laws, folks, is our old friend Accountability. It's been said a million times by a million diligent observers, many of them unwashed vituperative bloggerses such as myself, but it bears re-iteration yet again: Libby -- and more importantly, the OVP -- was at the heart of a whispering campaign to discredit a person who had damning evidence that refuted the cheap Italian forgeries Cheney's crew were waving loud and long to push us into war. Joe Wilson had the goods on their little chop job, and said so. Libby, among others, happily joined in the effort to retrieve a bungled preventive war from the jaws of sensibility.

Maybe it's not fair that, so far, Scooter is the only humanoid being held accountable for this. That's his own fault. He knows where all the bodies are buried; he knows what sort of underhanded shit his boss has engaged in since the day he oozed into office. It's his choice whether he wants to do the right thing or not.

Accountability is one thing. By all means, let Congress investigate and conduct oversight hearings with relish and abandon. But a prosecution is a different matter. It entails the government at its most coercive -- a power so immense and sometimes so secretive that it poses much more of a threat to civil liberties, including freedom of the press, than anything in the interstices of the scary Patriot Act.

I think this is really what's at the heart of Cohen's discontent with the Scooter narrative, that, gee whiz, our good friends in the responsible media -- you know, like the Queen of All Iraq -- might get cowed by such irresponsible demonstrations of government power. Bollocks. The media, for the most part, happily went along with whatever they were told. Didn't seem like Judy Miller was all that coerced into cozying up to her sources, including one Scooter Libby. That it takes government oversight (here serendipitously termed "coercion", as if the utter lack of cooperation among every major player didn't require exactly that) to start getting to the bottom of this is not a coincidence.

Even funnier is how defensive the Diceman got with commenters who called him on his lame nonsense:

Centreville, Va.: Mr. Cohen -- in December 1998 you wrote in regard to Clinton's perjury: "The condemned man is guilty. He lied in the Paula Jones deposition and he lied to a federal grand jury and, most gallingly if not grievously, he lied to the American people. A hanging of some sort is in order." Given that he was convicted of lying to a grand jury, the American people's representatives as it were, what makes his case so different such that you think Libby should be spared "a hanging of some sort." You must admit you are not being consistent here.

Richard Cohen: No, I admit no such thing. I said in the column that I don't condone Libby's lying -- in fact I'm appalled by it. I didn't condone Clinton's lying, but singling out that one column about Clinton misses the message I wrote in several other columns. This was a perjury trap -- you set him up to ask a question that he almost had to lie about. Once you go past that point and lie to the grand jury, no one can support it, but you can understand the reason for the lie.

In Libby's case, I don't know the reason for the crime. I don't know whether or not he was telling the truth and simply forgot he leaked this information -- it's a remote possibility, but I don't buy it. I don't know if he was covering up for someone else's political embarrassment. But I don't think that's the same thing as actually committing a crime.

Jesus H. Christ. I don't see what's so complicated here. Libby was convicted on multiple felony counts, goddammit, by a Republican prosecutor and a Republican judge. Yet Cohen persists in alluding to "Clinton's lying", the culmination of a concerted partisan campaign to "get" him, versus the unearthing of a very real, concrete scandal revolving around the office of the vice-preznit and, as Cohen himself mentions several times, an office aide nobody had heard of a year or two ago.

But again, Cohen's real issue is with the supposed strain all this government "coercion" inadvertently puts on all the gosh-darn honest-to-goodness shoe-leather journamalists like poor ol' Judy Miller. I mean, if Matt Cooper and Tim Russert can't give voice to anonymous government douchebags who are quite transparently using them to further their own nefarious agenda, what's the purpose of a free press? It's such a reductio ad absurdum argument, it scarcely merits addressing.

And yet, it's simple -- the Libby scandal (which still, despite Cohen's allusions to the contrary, may very well be the thread that unravels all the destructive schemes percolating out of Cheney's office) shows quite clearly how the "legitimate" press got clowned by their own anonymous sources. Anonymity is one thing in the blogosphere; for one thing, quite a few people on the internets know my real-life name, but the fact of the matter is that if Cohen (or any other pundit) has a problem with being hassled by anonymous internets pundits, he can take it up with Publius. Hell, I don't even care if Cohen himself starts peddling his schtick under a crazy 'nets handle.

But anonymously-sourced journalism is a real problem, if the journalists in question are not astute enough to realize -- as was the case with Miller, Russert, and Cooper, for starters -- that they were getting played, and played hard. You would think that just basic professional dignity would require them to turn around and start digging some real dirt on those people who punked them. But they don't, and they won't. Why is that? Is it because they won't get invited to any more cool parties, like Open Mike Allen goes to, where people can just wander up and whisper stupid nothings, and count on it to get stenographed under a "Hot DC Gossip" byline?

Sorry Diceman, but that's not journalism, that's just being a useful idiot for these characters. And it's an abuse of the first amendment, as well as common sense, to continue to harrumph about the horror of it all, when kids are getting blown up every damned day because these fuckheads didn't do their damned jobs. They had to get Al Capone on tax evasion; if they have to frog-march these fuckers out based on Scooter's well-earned four felony convictions, we can live with it, especially if Scooter and well-connected buddies are content to let him play the patsy, instead of coming clean on all this.

Even more damning is the finally-publicized methodology of Cheney's silent coup.

Just past the Oval Office, in the private dining room overlooking the South Lawn, Vice President Cheney joined President Bush at a round parquet table they shared once a week. Cheney brought a four-page text, written in strict secrecy by his lawyer. He carried it back out with him after lunch.

In less than an hour, the document traversed a West Wing circuit that gave its words the power of command. It changed hands four times, according to witnesses, with emphatic instructions to bypass staff review. When it returned to the Oval Office, in a blue portfolio embossed with the presidential seal, Bush pulled a felt-tip pen from his pocket and signed without sitting down. Almost no one else had seen the text.

Cheney's proposal had become a military order from the commander in chief. Foreign terrorism suspects held by the United States were stripped of access to any court -- civilian or military, domestic or foreign. They could be confined indefinitely without charges and would be tried, if at all, in closed "military commissions."

"What the hell just happened?" Secretary of State Colin L. Powell demanded, a witness said, when CNN announced the order that evening, Nov. 13, 2001. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice, incensed, sent an aide to find out. Even witnesses to the Oval Office signing said they did not know the vice president had played any part.

Okay, now that is journalism, even with the anonymous (although apparently independently corroborated) sourcing. It would have been helpful to have some of this concrete info on Cheney's shadow government, say, four or five years ago, but here it is, now. I don't see how any serious person can take a look at all that, in the context of just the things we know about with regard to operational policy, and consider the entirety of Scooter Libby's role in the propaganda run-up to the war, and still think "poor Scooter". Fuck Scooter Libby; considering the damage that's been wrought by the shenanigans from his office, he's getting off easy. Couple years in Club Fed and then his conservatard asshole buddies will send him on the lucrative rubber-chicken circuit for six months, while he writes his seven-figure advance memoir and they pay his legal bills.

A prodigious appetite for work, officials said, prepares Cheney to shape the president's conversations with others. His Secret Service detail sometimes reports that he is awake and reading at 4:30 a.m. He receives a private intelligence briefing between 6:30 and 7 a.m., often identifying issues to be called to Bush's attention, and then sits in on the president's daily briefing an hour later. Aides said that Cheney insists on joining Bush by secure video link, no matter how many time zones divide them.

Stealth is among Cheney's most effective tools. Man-size Mosler safes, used elsewhere in government for classified secrets, store the workaday business of the office of the vice president. Even talking points for reporters are sometimes stamped "Treated As: Top Secret/SCI." Experts in and out of government said Cheney's office appears to have invented that designation, which alludes to "sensitive compartmented information," the most closely guarded category of government secrets. By adding the words "treated as," they said, Cheney seeks to protect unclassified work as though its disclosure would cause "exceptionally grave damage to national security."

Across the board, the vice president's office goes to unusual lengths to avoid transparency. Cheney declines to disclose the names or even the size of his staff, generally releases no public calendar and ordered the Secret Service to destroy his visitor logs. His general counsel has asserted that "the vice presidency is a unique office that is neither a part of the executive branch nor a part of the legislative branch," and is therefore exempt from rules governing either. Cheney is refusing to observe an executive order on the handling of national security secrets, and he proposed to abolish a federal office that insisted on auditing his compliance.

This is what happens when politics, like sex and real estate, gets done with the lights off. Scooter Libby was central to that effort, and while the world reaps the consequences of piss-poor decision-making and concerted attempts to avoid oversight and accountability, people like Cohen ponder what a mess it all is, and can't we just clean it up by cutting poor Scooter a break and making nice?

No. It's why I can't stand those Unity '08 putzes; I don't want to get along, I don't want to make nice. They're law-breakers, they live and breathe total contempt for true democratic process, which can survive only on accountability and oversight. This behavior requires active prosecution from responsible quarters, and unequivocal repudiation from responsible commentators. There's literally nothing to make nice over; you either respect the ideals of democratic tradition, or you think Dick Cheney should be able to pervert the systems of government to conform to his will, and his will alone. (Seriously, you watch how fast all these principled fucks will insist on oversight when a Democratic administration comes in. The difference is, so will I. Intellectual honesty, people; check it out sometime.) Bottom line -- Cheney is not going to have a spasm of conscience and voluntarily stop running the government from his redoubts and hedges of clustered legalese bullshit. We have to decide whether or not we want it back, and then take it back, wrest it from his grasping, scheming little claws.

This story is and always has been so much bigger than Scooter Libby. He got caught up in it because, when presented the opportunity to show loyalty to company or country, he chose company. Very well then, he can reap the whirlwind. He's a coward, and a toady, and his conduct was borderline treasonous (and no, I am entirely unwilling to parse the degree of Valerie Plame's covert status; it's pretty clear that she was, and her assignment was strategically important to the GWOT). Let his GOP butt-buddies chip in and defend him; he does not deserve the approbation of respectable people.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Plus Ça Change

Steve Benen catches Dear Leader in yet another logical inconsistency. Imagine that.

In November, after the election, CentCom commander Gen. John Abizaid rejected the notion of a so-called surge, saying that he "met with every divisional commander, Gen. Casey, the core commander, Gen. Dempsey" and asked them if bringing "in more American troops now, [would] add considerably to our ability to achieve success in Iraq and they all said, 'No.'"

Indeed, Bush fired Gen. Casey, in large part because he neglected to tell the president what he wanted to hear.

And yet, here we are, just a few months later, watching Bush brag about how his policy followed the advice of the generals -- which is "what you want your President doing." Please.

If Bush wants to reject the advice of top military leaders, that's his prerogative; he is regrettably the Commander in Chief. But he really needs to drop this I-listened-to-our-military schtick.

He does? Why on earth would he do such a thing? Because it's transparently false, and hideously stupid? Because it demonstrates his moral cretinism, and that of his remaining supporters?

Please. That's all that's keeping that last 26% of retards going at this point, is schtick pulled straight out his ass. Being caught in a flat-out falsehood has never embarrassed him or them before; why the hell would it now? Words mean what they want them to mean.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Culture? What Culture?

SF Chron Yoostabee columnist Cinnamon Stillwell finds some culturally troubling symptoms in a rather unusual spot.

Those who mistakenly thought television shows geared toward families, such as "American Idol" and its dance version "So You Think You Can Dance," were a safe bet, might want to think again. Last week's "So You Think You Can Dance" featured first-year winner Benji Schwimmer doing his signature ballroom dance-meets-pop culture number accompanied by the 1950s hit "Tu Vuo Fa L'Americano."

Benji was his usual charming self all the way through -- until the end, that is, when he decided to whip his pants off and treat the audience to a view of his red-white-and-blue Speedos. Coming on the heels of his sweet, goofy dance number, it just seemed shockingly out of place, not to mention in bad taste.

Apparently inspired by Benji, Dominic, one of the male contestants, decided to tear his shirt off at the end of his number. Between those two and Faina, the Russian girl doing the striptease-inspired routine in skimpy lingerie, there was more flashing going on than at a peep show. Those watching the show with their kids were likely none too thrilled at all the unexpected raciness.

She's got a point, I guess -- who wants their kids seeing some idiot prancing around in a banana hammock, much less one apparently patterned after the American flag? But it occurs to me that there are other, perhaps more subversive modes of cultural pollution going on here.

I haven't (and won't) see the actual shows, but judging from the incessant commercials for these sorts of shows, part of the entertainment value is derived from watching people make fools of themselves, and then watching other people lard heaps of smackdown on them, for being too fat, too hairy, too clumsy, poorly attired, whatever. I don't really care, but I would think that the moral guardians of the teevee screen might not be wanting to inculcate their impressionable chilluns with such values. It just seems at odds with the virtuous mission so many of them proclaim.

Perhaps even more disturbing is the cultural value limned from the existence of the show itself. Who the hell watches complete strangers audition for a dance competition? I mean, really. I'm not even giving my child the option of considering something like that to be a valid way of spending her time. Not that she needs to be playing Mozart concertos on the violin and speaking multiple languages by the time she's ten or whatever, but you either recognize the artifacts of a debauched culture for what they are, or you swim in the shit and then wonder why everything stinks. You can't take part in these retarded prime-time national rituals, and then wonder why everything seems to be getting stupider. It is all part of the cultural ecosystem.

Television ads have been providing particularly sordid fare. A new commercial for Eclipse Fusion Gum starts out with a young, attractive woman putting a piece of gum in her mouth. Apparently driven mad with lust by the sensual qualities of spearmint, the woman proceeds to lock lips with the nearest male in the vicinity. She then turns to the comely young woman sitting next to him, their eyes meet and the two exchange lascivious smiles. The commercial ends there, thankfully, but the hint at porno-style "girl-on-girl" action remains.

Yes, and? She's saying it like it's a bad thing. Come on. I'm getting wood just reading that.

Seriously, I agree with her that sexualization of young teens and tweens and such is a disturbing trend. It requires awareness of the situation, and the ability to tell your kid "no" and mean it, and steer them in another direction, one without slut clothes with "Juicy" rhinestoned across the ass in some marketed spasm of post-ironic stupidity. Don't buy those clothes; don't watch those shows.

And I agree that there have to be more enlightening subjects to make documentaries about than horse-fucking weirdos who add nothing of value to any coherent debate. But Zoo, however vile and repellent its subject, will never be anything more than a little-viewed cult doc, really. What Stillwell really ought to wonder about is more mainstream fare. Why are torture-porn extravaganzas like Hostel and its sequel making money in every theater? And let's not blame the decadence of big bad Hollyweird here, either -- they are simply giving people what they want.

And that's where I ultimately part company with the culture vultures, no matter how well-meaning. It's the same syndrome as one finds in politics, or drugs, or whatever one's vice is -- instead of concentrating their fury on the producers (who are, after all, capitalists) of "undesirable" commodities, they would serve their cultural mission much more constructively by trying to get to the nut of the demand. What makes someone want to pay money to watch a man sever another man's achilles tendons with a bolt-cutter (or, for that matter, watch Deal Or No Deal)? Popular culture, just like politics, seems to thrive on violence and/or abject stupidity.

The culture is hopelessly debased because people are content to self-medicate instead of reflect. And whether their choice of soma is mainlined snuff films, senseless consumption of status toys, watching rednecks drive in circles all afternoon, alcohol, harder drugs, or any of the legal drugs helpfully (and expensively) provided by Big Pharma to Enhance Your Life, the disease is the same. Banana hammocks on cheesy dance shows is just another symptom.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Night Flight

Good to see the Feebs did some slam-bang work on those chartered Saudi flights immediately after 9/11:

The document states: “ON 9/19/01, A 727 PLANE LEFT LAX, RYAN FLT #441 TO ORLANDO, FL W/ETA (estimated time of arrival) OF 4-5PM. THE PLANE WAS CHARTERED EITHER BY THE SAUDI ARABIAN ROYAL FAMILY OR OSAMA BIN LADEN…THE LA FBI SEARCHED THE PLANE [REDACTED] LUGGAGE, OF WHICH NOTHING UNUSUAL WAS FOUND.” The plane was allowed to depart the United States after making four stops to pick up passengers, ultimately landing in Paris where all passengers disembarked on 9/20/01, according to the document.

Overall, the FBI’s most recent document production includes details of the six flights between 9/14 and 9/24 that evacuated Saudi royals and bin Laden family members. The documents also contain brief interview summaries and occasional notes from intelligence analysts concerning the cursory screening performed prior to the departures. According to the FBI documents, incredibly not a single Saudi national nor any of the bin Laden family members possessed any information of investigative value.

Moreover, the documents contain numerous errors and inconsistencies which call to question the thoroughness of the FBI’s investigation of the Saudi flights. For example, on one document, the FBI claims to have interviewed 20 of 23 passengers on the Ryan International Airlines flight (commonly referred to as the “Bin Laden Family Flight”). On another document, the FBI claims to have interviewed 15 of 22 passengers on the same flight.

Yeah, but did they hold their hands during the interviews?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Designer Vaginas

I just enjoy saying the phrase. Mark Morford handles the actual topic quite nicely.

Fabulous news for victims of birth defects and cancer and rare vaginal disorders? You bet. Intriguing implications for all sorts of cosmetic applications, not to mention what it might mean for transsexuals, not to mention how close we are to doing the same thing with other organs -- and even, eventually, entire limbs? One guess.

It is, we can all agree, a lot to take in. It is a great deal to attempt to process in one tiny and oh-so-fleeting lifetime. The notion of human eugenics alone is, for many, overwhelming enough, the idea that new parents will soon have some sort of checklist at the gynecologist's office wherein, when docs go in to tweak your fetus' DNA to eliminate diseases, you can also easily choose not only its sex, but also the skin tone and hair color and eye tint and muscle dexterity and 0-60 acceleration and number of cupholders and overall genetic propensity toward an IQ that may or may not lead to voting for aw-shucks warmongering neocon imbecile politicians. Neat! Or, you know, not.

Americans have a kind of schizophrenic view of science anyway. We view scientific progress not as a barometer of our further understanding of the universe and the world around us, but rather in terms of what cool, frequently unnecessary tricks it can do for us. Merely viewing science as a mode for accomodating our personal issues is not healthy, not as individuals, and certainly not in the aggregate.

And yet, that's where the money is, in enabling our vanity, strengthening limp cocks, fertilizing barren or post-menopausal wombs, and someday soon, allowing us to select from a laundry list of "desirable" traits we wish our offspring to have. Of course, when it comes to utilizing science to further research and help people with degenerative diseases or paralysis, the stem-cell lobby trots out the snowflake babies and bleats about potential life. Well, "potential" is, pardon the pun, a loaded question -- no doubt the average American male has committed several "potential" genocides by his fifteenth birthday, if you want to get reductio ad absurdum about it (and they seem to want to do exactly that).

I can think of few things more inherently dangerous than self-indulgent people contorting science to conform to their desires, but it seems that more often than not, that's exactly what happens.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Tools Of The Trade

The latest Politico opus is perhaps more instructive and informative than even the writers could have hoped for. For instance, Mike Allen apparently talked to a great many people for this splendiferous little gem of an article -- he conspicuously mentions "White House loyalists", "sources", "several Republicans", "a well-connected Republican whose views have reached Bush's inner circle", "several prominent Republicans", "some Republicans", "an adviser to one of the Republican presidential campaigns", and on and on. Plus helpful snippets cribbed from other publications.

In fact, as far as I can tell, the only person directly quoted from Allen's cocktail napkin is the James Carville of the new millennium, Mudcat Saunders, who with his typical subtlety, grabs a headline from the supermarket checkout-line news rack and attempts to twist a funny out of it:

“Scooter Libby is in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Saunders said. “If Paris had to go to the slammer, Scooter should get his pajammers.”

Makes "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit" sound like Yeats. But then, any poetry more complicated than "Here I sit, broken-hearted" is beyond Mudcat's level of cognition.

Anyway, the article. After reading paragraph after paragraph of Allen's anonymously-sourced stenography, we get to the real crux of the biscuit, the open secret of how bidness gets done in this town of Gucci kneepads and Dolce & Gabbana butt-plugs:

The lobbying is subtle, according to participants. They say that making the case directly to the president or his top aides would be insulting and could backfire. Instead, friends of Bush and Libby have been quietly working cocktail parties and other venues, laying out their logic for a pardon.

So let's see if we have this straight -- we have a convicted felon, someone who deliberately betrayed a covert intelligence agent as political retribution for her husband's open dissent against the administration's cherry-picked "evidence" for a preventive war. This person was prosecuted by a lifelong Republican prosecutor with a spotless reputation, and tried, convicted, and sentenced in a court presided over by a judge appointed by Fredo because of his no-nonsense attitude toward criminal behavior.

Now, I understand why all these anonymous sources prefer to remain anonymous, especially if Allen's willing to take dictation for them anyway. But what's in it for Allen? Seriously, what legitimate journalistic purpose is served by merely transcribing -- and really, that's all it is -- the agenda of people who refuse to step up and own their backroom wheedlings? Scooter Libby was convicted in a court of law, period. He has his chance at an appeal in open court, where it belongs; there is no responsible reason to be relaying the gossipy cocktail-party chatter of people who think that they're above the law, and thus entitled to a do-over.

Here's some more samples of Allen's nose for news -- in Dick Cheney's pants:

The Libby Legal Defense Trust, backed by former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson and other prominent Republicans, has raised more than $5 million to help Libby defray his legal costs, The Politico has learned, with contributions of as little as $5 coming from grass-roots conservatives.

This raises far more questions than it answers. When Allen says that the defense fund is "backed" by Thompson and "other prominent Republicans", what does he mean? Is it financial backing, or do they just lend their spotless reputations to his noble cause? Who are these other prominent Republicans, and what exactly is their role? In the $5 million that has supposedly been raised, what is the average contribution? How many individuals have contributed so far? How many commercial or corporate entities? How many of these donors, whether individual or corporate, have any sort of prior or existing association with members of the administration or Republican party interests?

And is there a legitimate reason to tack on the lame "$5 grass-roots contribution" qualifier; in other words, is such a low-ball donation a representative sample, or just a cheap diversion from $1000-a-plate "Free Scooter" dinners hosted by Joe Don Baker Fred Thompson? We can't tell from this article, because Allen is apparently too busy letting his numberless anonymous cocktail-party buddies take turns at the open mike (get it?), to bother elaborating on any of the data in that paragraph, which could have come from Barbara Comstock's letterhead for all we know.

Open Mike also helpfully reiterates a quote from the chairman of the Free Scooter Coalition (or whatever the fuck these animals call themselves), Mel Sembler.

The chairman of the defense fund is Mel Sembler, formerly Bush’s ambassador to Italy, who told The Associated Press when Libby was sentenced: “There really is only one answer. This man has to step up and pardon him.”

Huh. So the guy who chairs the defense fund recently told someone else that his client should be pardoned? Wow, that is like so fucking helpful. Informative, really.

Not as informative as this, mind you:

I'm sure you know who Sembler is, and the mind control atrocity called Straight Inc. he and wife Betty perpetrated on American youth in Florida for nearly two decades. Straight bent itself out of shape in the early '90s and became the "Drug Free America Foundation" only after, finally, exposure and public outcry at its virtual "psychic murder" of kids in its alleged care for addiction recovery. Though it no longer directly treats addicts it still influences US drug policy, and survivors who haven't killed themselves or lost their minds are still living with the trauma of their "treatment," including repeated rape with objects such as curling irons. Arthur Trebach, author of The Great Drug War, said in a recent interview that he "got a call two days ago from a man in Texas who sent his son to Straight, Inc. ten years ago":

The father told me it was an awful mistake, that they imposed sexual activities on the young man, that they peed on him. According to the father, his son still refuses to talk about his experience at Straight, Inc. Dad said his brother, a drug counselor, had recommended the place as the best in the country.


There are political connections here. Straight, Inc. was endorsed by George Herbert Walker Bush, who visited the place with Nancy Reagan and Mel and Betty Sembler and Joe Zappala, who are, as best as we can determine, the founders of Straight, Inc. Both Sembler and Zappala were heavy contributors to the elder Bush's campaign, and both were rewarded with ambassadorships. I saw Ambassador Sembler give a speech in Australia in which he proudly said he founded Straight, Inc. and held it up as a model. More recently, Mel Sembler was the co-chair of finance for the Republican National Committee for the 2000 election.... And Jeb Bush last fall declared a "Betty Sembler Day" in Florida, commending her for her work with drug abuse control, especially with Straight, Inc. Betty claims she has the ear of the president.

Funny how so many of these people seem to have incubated in America's Wang. I'm sure it's just coincidence. But the War On Some Drugs is another of those things that some people made a lot of money from, while others were tossed in prison under mandatory-minimum guidelines, or bought into the hand-wringing Reefer Madness hysteria, or just watched their basic constitutional freedoms get slowly eroded (how 'bout that Fourth Amendment).

For Penis Pump Sembler, offering a boot-camp cure to juvenile delinquents was a ticket to money and an inner circle of power.

Sembler, of course, enjoyed a second ambassadorship at the pleasure of another President Bush. He was sent to Rome, though he can't speak Italian. This White House has a penchant for making excruciatingly inappropriate appointments, doling out ambassadorships to party and family bagmen whose only qualifications are the size of their bags.


Sembler's a busy Bush factotum. He's also recently joined the board of an extremely flush new bank starting up in Florida, a state said to be popular with international crime because of its proximity to the United States.

More on Straight here. Fun stuff. I mean, not to interrupt the clubby retelling of carefully-placed, surreptitious appletini chatter on Open Mike Night, but jeebus, you have to wonder about these professional journamalistas sometimes. If they devoted one-tenth of the time they spent being administration sock puppets, doing even a modest amount of investigating some of the people they write about, they might get somewhere. Maybe they don't really want to get somewhere, or maybe they just want to get somewhere different. It's literally impossible to tell, but one thing that's clear is that "afflicting the comfortable" is no longer part of the job description. That would be a breach of civility, you know.

It's not that hard to connect some of these dots -- Sembler's been a Bush lackey for decades, and was ambassador to Italy at the time SISMI helpfully supplied some Niger yellowcake documents that just happened to be completely fraudulent. And now he's heading the effort to free the guy who exposed the guy who uncovered the fraud.

How do you like them odds?

Monday, June 18, 2007

Kill 'em All

There's a reason I still favor capital punishment in principle:

A team of international investigators infiltrated an Internet chat room used by pedophiles who streamed live videos of children being raped, rescuing 31 children and identifying more than 700 suspects worldwide.


More than 15 children were found in Britain, Gamble said, declining to give further details. A Canadian official said authorities there arrested 24 Canadians and rescued seven Canadian children as part of the probe since late 2005.

Describing it as ``a massive leap forward,'' Gamble said the investigation involved agencies from 35 countries. Investigators made the case public after the sentencing of ringleader Timothy David Martyn Cox on Monday.

Cox, 27, was given an indeterminate jail sentence, meaning he will remain in prison until authorities decide he is no longer a threat to children. One of his accomplices, Gordon Mackintosh, has pleaded guilty to 27 charges of making, possessing and distributing indecent images and videos. He is awaiting sentencing.

Since the British judicial system won't apply the appropriate penalty and just put a fucking bullet into Cox' vile brain, one hopes that the description of the "indeterminate" sentence is merely euphemistic, that he can and will rot in some moldy concrete hellhole, broken and alone.

What's really interesting from the forensic investigation viewpoint is how sophisticated these fuckers are, and (presumably, since authorities didn't disclose specifics) brazen in abducting children. It's an impossibly dark, alien side at work there, one that can hardly be described as human, and thus gets quickly forgotten or discarded as something too abhorrent to be recognized as conspiratorial. But it was exactly that, what Cox and Mackintosh and their evil associates engaged in, a collaborative, secret effort, literally a worldwide network.

Someone made money from this shit, and it wasn't some douchebag living in a bedroom in his parents' house and working at the family microbrewery. Mackintosh is described as "a manager at a video streaming company owned by the Italian Internet company Tiscali", and you have to wonder how many more Mackintoshes and how many more Tiscalis there are, in places with less sophisticated or less scrupulous detective work, but the same level of access to the internets, and nastier organized crime groups. As human trafficking becomes a more recognized issue across Eastern Europe and Asia, the law enforcement tactics appear to be getting more and more refined, and hopefully the penalties are commensurate with the crimes as well. Fuck these bastards.

Religion Of Pieces

By now, most have us have practically grown accustomed to the hysterical whinging of religious fanatics of all stripes, many of whom are hiding behind the anonymity of a masked snuff video. With the knighting of Salman Rushdie comes similar violent rhetoric, but from putatively respectable corners:

The award of a knighthood to the author Salman Rushdie justifies suicide attacks, a Pakistani government minister said today.
"This is an occasion for the 1.5 billion Muslims to look at the seriousness of this decision," Mohammed Ijaz ul-Haq, religious affairs minister, told the Pakistani parliament in Islamabad. "The west is accusing Muslims of extremism and terrorism. If someone exploded a bomb on his body he would be right to do so unless the British government apologises and withdraws the 'sir' title."

Read those last two sentences again, and savor the cognitive dissonance ul-Haq is marinating in. Yes, why would anyone accuse people of "extremism" and "terrorism", when they use their governmental capacity to express that the appropriate response to a perceived insult -- and a ceremonial one at that -- is to fucking explode oneself in a crowd of innocents? Where do these strange ideas come from?

Musharraf's government understandably utilizes some of this moronic extremist sentiment to help ventilate the grievances of the medievalist hardliners in their midst. But in this context, Islam is merely a proxy tool to leverage tribal and political differences with the government. A responsible government would not put up with this bullshit from one of its own ministers; ul-Haq needs to be slapped down and reminded of the idiotic nature of his comments.

Mohammad Ali Hosseini, a spokesman for Iran's foreign ministry, said the decision to honour the novelist was an orchestrated act of aggression directed against Islamic societies.

He said Rushdie was "one of the most hated figures" in the Islamic world.

"Honouring and commending an apostate and hated figure will definitely put the British officials [in a position] of confrontation with Islamic societies," Mr Hosseini said.

"This act shows that insulting Islamic sacred [values] is not accidental. It is planned, organised, guided and supported by some western countries."

"Giving a badge to one of the most hated figures in Islamic society is ... an obvious example of fighting against Islam by high-ranking British officials."

This word "aggression" -- I don't think it means what Hosseini thinks it means. Even if Rushdie's knighting is needlessly, deliberately provocative (a dubious contention at best), so what? How does that legitimize senseless brutality, indiscriminate murder? And does it occur to them that Rushdie has written more than one book, that if they had just let the perceived insult of Satanic Verses go in the first place, it would have long ago been written off as just another book from an established author with a long and varied career? Of course it doesn't. I have no more patience with these fucktards than I do with the Fred Phelpses of the world, but at least no one from Phelps' flock has any position of official responsibility.

Responsible, legitimate governments truly interested in peace and cooperation would perhaps view this as an opportunity to identify and repudiate the genuine radicalizing elements, rather than allowing them to attempt to ventriloquize the sentiments of over a billion Muslims. I hate agreeing with the neoclowns on this subject, though I certainly don't regard it as necessitating harsh actions, as they do. But really, the fact that the supposedly serious governments of Pakistan and Iran continue to utilize this very dangerous political theater -- over a book, mind you -- bespeaks the fundamental problems underlying their societies, and their relations with other societies. Christians may get upset over Piss Christ or what have you, but they're not rioting over cartoons, or advocating violence over heretical novels.

I understand that religion, like war, is simply politics by other means, but I do not understand how these countries expect us to grant them the legitimacy and respect they seek, when they continue to indulge in this self-destructive nonsense. These violent temper tantrums over piddling religious/cultural bullshit, while perhaps orchestrated pushback at the government level, appear a bit more serious and potentially volatile at the street level. And for a government official to actively encourage violent retribution is simply unacceptable.

The thing to fear is that we are also governed by people who allow symbolic provocations to be used as pretext for justification, but perhaps with a bit more discretion (though there are instances of "my god can beat up your god" yahooism emanating from American pieholes as well). And while cartoons and books are nothing to riot about, it seems like this should be -- both there and here.

Rumsfeld was vague, in his appearances before Congress, about when he had informed the President about Abu Ghraib, saying that it could have been late January or early February. He explained that he routinely met with the President “once or twice a week . . . and I don’t keep notes about what I do.” He did remember that in mid-March he and General Myers were “meeting with the President and discussed the reports that we had obviously heard” about Abu Ghraib.

Whether the President was told about Abu Ghraib in January (when e-mails informed the Pentagon of the seriousness of the abuses and of the existence of photographs) or in March (when Taguba filed his report), Bush made no known effort to forcefully address the treatment of prisoners before the scandal became public, or to reëvaluate the training of military police and interrogators, or the practices of the task forces that he had authorized. Instead, Bush acquiesced in the prosecution of a few lower-level soldiers. The President’s failure to act decisively resonated through the military chain of command: aggressive prosecution of crimes against detainees was not conducive to a successful career.

In January of 2006, Taguba received a telephone call from General Richard Cody, the Army’s Vice-Chief of Staff. “This is your Vice,” he told Taguba. “I need you to retire by January of 2007.” No pleasantries were exchanged, although the two generals had known each other for years, and, Taguba said, “He offered no reason.”

Maybe it's time the people at the street level start getting pissed about the important stuff, instead of allowing their governments to distract them with meaningless piffle. The effigy-burning goons in Islamabad are getting played, just as surely as any other mindless jingo anywhere else.

[Update: The Pakistani minister, ul-Haq, is now claiming to have been mistranslated, saying that he had actually said that people would use Rushdie's knighthood as justification for violence, not that they should. Perhaps he could prevent future misunderstandings by appending such statements with even a pro-forma repudiation of such tactics, as would befit his standing in a government that wishes to be a major player in world affairs.]

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Cocksucker Blues

Well I asked a young policeman if he'd only lock me up for the night
Well, I've had pigs in the farmyard - some of them, some of them are alright
Well, he fucked me with his truncheon and his helmet was way too tight.
-- Rolling Stones

Let's see if we have this straight -- a ranking staffer in a doomed, foundering campaign suddenly finds his conscience. It's right down there where you left it, pal. No, over there. No, there. Under those shreds of credibility, asshole.

McKinnon helped organize McCain's last book tour and has traveled extensively with the senator, offering media advice to the candidate for much of the last year. But he wrote a memo to the campaign in January, explaining that he would quit if the general election pitted McCain against Obama. McKinnon wrote that while he opposed Obama's policies, especially on Iraq, he felt that the Illinois senator--as an African-American politician--has a unique potential to change the country. Therefore, McKinnon argued, he wanted no part in any efforts to tear down Obama's candidacy.

Well, isn't that special. Because when I see the name "Mark McKinnon", this is what comes to mind [emphases mine]:

Righteous rage -- that's what Hardy Billington felt when he heard about same-sex marriage possibly being made legal in Massachusetts. ''It made me upset and disgusted, things going on in Massachusetts,'' the 52-year-old from Poplar Bluff, Mo., told me. ''I prayed, then I got to work.'' Billington spent $830 in early July to put up a billboard on the edge of town. It read: ''I Support President Bush and the Men and Women Fighting for Our Country. We Invite President Bush to Visit Poplar Bluff.'' Soon Billington and his friend David Hahn, a fundamentalist preacher, started a petition drive. They gathered 10,000 signatures. That fact eventually reached the White House scheduling office.

By late afternoon on a cloudy Labor Day, with a crowd of more than 20,000 assembled in a public park, Billington stepped to the podium. ''The largest group I ever talked to I think was seven people, and I'm not much of a talker,'' Billington, a shy man with three kids and a couple of dozen rental properties that he owns, told me several days later. ''I've never been so frightened.''

But Billington said he ''looked to God'' and said what was in his heart. ''The United States is the greatest country in the world,'' he told the rally. ''President Bush is the greatest president I have ever known. I love my president. I love my country. And more important, I love Jesus Christ.''

The crowd went wild, and they went wild again when the president finally arrived and gave his stump speech. There were Bush's periodic stumbles and gaffes, but for the followers of the faith-based president, that was just fine. They got it -- and ''it'' was the faith.

And for those who don't get it? That was explained to me in late 2002 by Mark McKinnon, a longtime senior media adviser to Bush, who now runs his own consulting firm and helps the president. He started by challenging me. ''You think he's an idiot, don't you?'' I said, no, I didn't. ''No, you do, all of you do, up and down the West Coast, the East Coast, a few blocks in southern Manhattan called Wall Street. Let me clue you in. We don't care. You see, you're outnumbered 2 to 1 by folks in the big, wide middle of America, busy working people who don't read The New York Times or Washington Post or The L.A. Times. And you know what they like? They like the way he walks and the way he points, the way he exudes confidence. They have faith in him. And when you attack him for his malaprops, his jumbled syntax, it's good for us. Because you know what those folks don't like? They don't like you!'' In this instance, the final ''you,'' of course, meant the entire reality-based community.

So when a rented fuckhead like Mark McKinnon suddenly starts talking about his wanting to help change the country and not being part of any divisive rhetoric, it's important to know that he's made a lot of money and sucked up to a lot of power doing exactly that. He made it his mission to vocalize the ludicrous priorities of fag-obsessed, willfully ignorant goobers. He rode the cheap clichés of know-it-all city slickers with their fancy-pants ways pushing the poor-but-honest family farmer around his humble squat. He and his clients rode that schtick right into the White House -- twice -- to the clear detriment of the country, and he got paid. (Incidentally, although everyone's already read the Suskind piece, this Frontline interview with him is also great, and further illuminative of how these fuckers do things and clamp down on message control.)

McKinnon and his fellow putzes gleefully enabled this mendacious little simpleton, who continues to exude sheer contempt for the rule of law and the principles of democracy, who refuses to take the advice of the people's elected (if spineless) representatives on how to run his government. And suddenly these K Street dickheads aren't quite as sure about which way the wind is blowing, that they can't just strap on the kneepads and work the usual poles anymore. McKinnon especially, realizing that Poor Ol' Straight Talk's candidacy is a steaming pile of incoherent policies, obnoxious tics, and dyspeptic eruptions at his douchebag colleagues, has to be searching for higher ground.

And he'll probably find it; you never have to wait too long to find a Democratic contender who confuses "electability" with renting a slug like Mark McKinnon to try to teach them how peel a couple percent of the fucktard vote with the usual pantomimes and mumbo-jumbo. It never works, but they never learn, and the consultants keep getting paid anyway.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Albanian Idolt

What happens when a noted furrin policy expert travels to a developing nation for to make glorious learnings? Well, hijinks, of course.

Evidence of Albania's love for the United States lined the road leading into this capital Sunday. U.S. and Albanian flags flew from lampposts. People wearing cardboard Uncle Sam hats milled in the streets. Oversize billboards and banners heralded the American president's visit.


But in this former communist nation, Bush was accorded a hero's welcome. He was awarded the Order of the Flag medal, the nation's highest honor. His visage is on a new line of commemorative postage stamps, and the street in front of the parliament building has been renamed in his honor.


Military cannons blasted a 21-gun salute as Bush's motorcade arrived at the Palace of Brigades, the 1930s-era building that was once the home of King Zog, who reigned before World War II. Later at a news conference, Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha hailed Bush as "the greatest and most distinguished guest we have ever had in all times."

And then Berisha presented him with the country's hyperinflated currency unit, a frying hen. While certainly a generous gesture, considering the chicken is equivalent to the average Albanian's weekly wages, it's not quite as good as the previous currency, which was a picture of Eliza Dushku.

From the demise of Communist dictator Enver Hoxha through the re-valuation of the currency in 2004, photos of American celebrities of Albanian descent were used as currency. By 2001, an Eliza Dushku (dushki in the native lingo) was worth 10 John Belushis (belushki), or roughly 375 Jim Belushis (jimski). It's a complicated system, made much simpler by the advent of the chicken currency, but seriously -- in 2002, you could buy a subdivision of tract houses outside Tirana with a ½" stack of dushki. Fuckin' A.

Anyway, so Fearless Leader has some momentous words to say about freedomatin' an' democratizin' an' libertatin' an' all that good stuff that everyone envies 'mareka fer. Pay attention here, 'cause he rilly rilly means it:

Responding to a reporter's question in Rome on Saturday, Bush had said a deadline should be set for a U.N. resolution on Kosovo's independence. "In terms of the deadline, there needs to be one," he said. "This needs to come -- this needs to happen."

Asked Sunday about when he would like that deadline set, Bush seemed flummoxed. "I don't think I called for a deadline," he said. Told that he had, Bush responded: "I did? What exactly did I say? I said, 'Deadline'? Okay, yes, then I meant what I said."

See, Harvard, the way it works is that you're not supposed to forget your tiresome boilerplate quote o' the day until after you've departed the corresponding country. I mean, when you can't even capably maintain the pretense of your bullshit that no one believes anyway, maybe it's time to just mosey back to the tumbleweed farm and start drinkin'. Yeah, it's definitely time.

Last Tango In Paris....Until The Next One

Once again, I really don't give two shits about Miss Thang her own bad self, whether she comes, stays, lays, or plays. It doesn't matter to me whether she's really found God, or is simply confessing her neuroses to an imaginary mouse in the corner of her dank cell. I reserve my naïveté and sense of wonder for the cretins who have nothing better to do than, um, lend their support.

I apologize if you were eating, or even considering eating. And I hope that's not a load-bearing wall Rerun's leaning up against. Photo courtesy of What Would Tyler Durden Do? It's been a while since I've seen Fight Club, but "Because fuck them, that's why" sounds just about right, and it certainly doesn't just apply to people who are famous for being well-known.

[Update: One barometer of how diseased the media climate is these days is that Hilton and O.J. Simpson, ferchrissake, can credibly point the finger. The only question anymore is how much of this is market-driven, and how much is simply institutional laziness bordering on culpability.]

Joe To Hell

It's even money on whether Lieberman is trying to be some sort of stalking-horse for what would be a disastrous strategic move, or if he just lives to preen in front of whatever camera will watch him bloviate and smell his own farts:

"I think we've got to be prepared to take aggressive military action against the Iranians to stop them from killing Americans in Iraq," Mr Lieberman told CBS. "And to me that would include a strike over the border into Iran, where we have good evidence that they have a base at which they are training these people to kill our soldiers."


"By some estimates, [Iranian-trained Iraqis] have killed as many as 200 American soldiers," Mr Lieberman said. "Well, we can tell them we want them to stop that. But . . . we can't just talk to them. If they don't play by the rules, we've got to use our force. And to me that would include taking military action to stop them from doing what they're doing."

Asked if he was suggesting an attack by ground or air, Mr Lieberman said he would leave that to the generals, but he thought "a lot of it" could be done from the air. Not to take action would be seen as a sign of weakness, he said.

You know what's also a sign of weakness? Being bogged down in two intractable conflicts at the same time, by militias and disaffected, radicalized sociopaths. If Lieberman doesn't understand that any "evidence" and "estimates" need to be thoroughly scrutinized this time around, then he's an even bigger putz than previously thought.

The worst part of it is that Lieberman's ridiculous assessments are still thought of as "serious" and "respectable", even though he has no credibility.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

On Weird Christian Soldiers

Not to get into the legal details of the current defendant in the Haditha massacre, but I just thought this comment was priceless:

"He's a Christian, an upright man," Col. Brennan Byrne testified Saturday in a telephone call from Saudi Arabia. "As a Marine officer, he has shown impeccable integrity. I would trust him with my life."

All snark aside, this is a perfect encapsulation of what informs the operational logic of this (or any) war -- the idea, mirrored perfectly by the terrorists and suicide bombers, that a person can commit or enable atrocious, vile acts, and still be held up as an example of their faith. It hardly qualifies as tautology, it's so intellectually dishonest and reprehensible, yet it apparently passes for a character reference.

For every person for whom religion and spirituality function as a way to contemplate the unknowable to find a worthy personal moral code, there seem to be countless people for whom it's merely a way to escape such self-awareness.

Sopranos Finale

I'm not going to belabor the minutiae of what has to be one of the more drawn-out and blown-up exits in the history of television -- Tim Goodman has been doing masterful weekly deconstructions of the episodes for quite some time. But there are some things I am still digesting about the episode itself, as well as the series as a whole, and how it's really changed the face of what we have come to expect from that addictive slab of electronica plastered across our living-room walls.

Sopranos was one of those rare shows that genuinely lived up to its hype, albeit imperfectly and on its own terms. And obviously the sheer amount of craft in the acting and writing has transformed the landscape, littered as it may be with the creatively-retarded narcissism of reality shows. James Gandolfini was something of a known quantity from his role in True Romance (a movie that also had some wondrous hidden gems in Chris Penn, Tom Sizemore, and even Bronson Pinchot). But he was nothing short of a force of nature here, exercising seemingly effortless control and interaction with a superlative cast. Michael Chiklis has done much the same thing in The Shield, and it's an amazing thing to watch, these collaborative efforts of genius.

That said, it was probably time to go, before things turned into parodies of themselves, as things have a way of doing. But even in its grand exeunt, the characters and the writers continued to tweak expectations and speculations, a sea of red herrings set free for viewers to follow and guess, if they were so inclined, even though simply observing the unfolding arcs was plenty. Most notable was how Tony's character, long played and written as something of the archetypal "anti-hero", kept getting peeled back further and further, as he continued to decompensate (as Peter Bogdanovich had warned Lorraine Bracco last season), and reveal the cold, hard truth to all except himself and the enablers around him. He never wanted to "get better", much to Melfi's eventual tragic realization; he simply wanted to stop having panic attacks so he could get back to business.

And the mirrored sociopathy in Tony's family, even his children, was what really came full circle in the final episode. It was always even odds that it would end with a bang or an arrest for him, and sure enough, Chase snubbed those predictions as well. Clearly the joy for him was in throwing in the little clues and diversions, the head-fakes and the jokey malaprops, the various Cleaver swag in the background (one of the funniest running gags I've seen since David Cross leaving blue smudges everywhere in Arrested Development).

It was never about the soap-opera elements so much as playing with viewers' expectations of character arcs, and narrative elements. Just when you thought Tony was a fundamentally decent guy in a rough business, they strip away the layers of contrivance and reveal him for himself, vicious, monomaniacal, lying even about insignificant details so as to keep his self-rationalizations straight. And just when you thought that Meadow was the conscience of the show, the idealistic one that would break free of the family and its ritualized displays of mock civility, she turns out to be a typical ball-busting mob princess, jumping into the legal game because of all the mistreatment her criminal father and his thug associates had to endure.

No resolutions (except for Phil), no deus ex machina, no Russian returning from the woods to settle scores, just transparently warped people justifying their self-indulgences, from Paulie's weirdness about cats, to Tony rationalizing his killing of Christopher with getting the gambling hex off his back, for however long. That's not what fans wanted, but if they think about it, they almost never got what they thought they wanted -- they generally got something better, like listening to a song that you expect to resolve to the tonic or the dominant chord, and it hangs on the minor or the subdominant instead. It makes you reconsider what you thought you liked about the song in the first place.

The show has closed off the mob-movie genre for some time to come, no doubt, not only by ensuring that any future attempts will likely suffer by comparison, but also by rooting out and de-romanticizing, de-mystifying the strange fixation Americans have had with it since Godfather and Goodfellas. (Although Goodfellas really did de-romanticize them as well, the specter of Scorsese simply loomed to large over the intricate crafting of that movie to do anything but inflate the cultural stock of the genre.)

I think the show worked as well as it did for as long as it did not only because of the level of craft, but also from the way Chase was so eager to simultaneously use and re-work the tropes of the genre. Taken as a whole, it's a great stylistic revision on the meta level, one that becomes more apparent in repeat viewings, and it's really a tribute to the vision of all involved that they were able to maintain that level for so long. It's got to be damned near impossible to attempt to embrace, repudiate, and re-invent a classic form all at once, but they deserve a hell of a lot of credit just for giving it a shot. That they mostly succeeded, especially compared to most of what else is out there, was just gravy.

Perhaps equally as notable as the passing of HBO's cornerstone series is what follows it tonight, John From Cincinnati. The time slot alone, not to mention the show's pedigree, indicates how important HBO views it in the network's fortunes. Having just watched the first episode, all I can say is, "What the fuck was David Milch thinking?". It's bad enough that this is an incoherent mess of forced, awkward dialogue; what's inexplicable is that Milch strangled Deadwood a full season early to get a jump on it.

HBO's fears of losing subscribers en masse post-Sopranos are well-justified; most of the other new series they've previewed look less than compelling, which leaves them with Entourage and Big Love. (Curb Your Enthusiasm is returning, but personally I found the last season to be tedious and practically unwatchable. I didn't even make it to the season finale.) With DVD cycles shortening up, I think a lot of people -- especially Netflix subscribers such as myself -- might just say "fuck it" and catch those shows upon release a couple months down the road.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Soldiers Of Fortune

It's bad enough that the craven assholes sharpening up their crayons to defend convicted felon and traitor Scooter Libby are couching their lame arguments in "Scooter's just a great family guy" pablum. As hurriedly as they rushed to proclaim Bill Clinton's lying to be an impeachable, unforgivable offense that trashed the integrity of their dirty little town and Duh Peepul's House, so they rush to defend a man who was indisputably at the nexus of a propaganda campaign to push through a tragically flawed, disastrous war. It's a Free Mumia movement for the appletini set of moneyed douchebags who continue to clog our sclerotic political system.

But here we have an atrocious metaphor, one proclaiming poor Scooter as a kind of Private Ryan of the new millennium. While American kids are still getting blown up, day after miserable day, in this scam that Scooter helped pull on his country, these fucktards have the goddamned nerve to talk about them in the same context.

This case has been, from the start, about the Iraq war and its legitimacy. Judge Walton came to it late; before him were laid bare the technical and narrowly legalistic matters of it. But you possess a greater knowledge of this case, a keen sense of the man caught up in this storm, and of the great contest and tensions that swirl around the Iraq war. To Scooter's detractors, and yours, it was the "sin" of that devoted public servant that he believed in the nobility of this war, that he did not trim his sails, and that he didn't duck when the war lost its luster.


Scooter Libby was a soldier in your--our--war in Iraq, he was chief of staff to a vice president who had become a lightning rod to the war's critics.

Oh, indeed. I'm surprised the vast swaths of basement-bound war-bloggerses haven't taken this call-to-arms more to heart, and started demanding military discounts on Cheetos and Mountain Dew. Semper fi, 82nd Chairborne. Death before stale snacks.

A war raged in the inner councils of your administration. The Department of State and the CIA let it be known that they were on the side of the angels, that they harbored great doubts about this expedition into Iraq, that they were "multilateralists" at heart, but that they had lost the war to Vice President Dick Cheney and to the "hawks" around him. In the midst of this, Scooter Libby worked tirelessly and quietly to prosecute and explain and defend this war. He accepted the logic of the Iraq war, the great surprises we met in the course of this war.


The Schadenfreude of your political detractors over the Libby verdict lays bare the essence of this case: an indictment of the Iraq war itself. The critics of the war shall grant you no reprieve if you let Scooter Libby do prison time. They will see his imprisonment as additional proof that this has been a war of folly from the outset.

Okay. And in what way, precisely, has this not been a war of complete folly, both tactically and strategically? Clearly Ajami's issue here is with the politically problematic situation of leaving Scooter in Club Fed sans pardon. The base, such as it is, might disntegrate, presumably resulting in demographic slivers of aimless rubes looking for another rake to step on, for example Mrs. Doubtfire Rudy Giuliani. Well, good luck with all that.

But let's note for the record that Ajami's moral cretinism lies in being more concerned with the bad form of all this unpleasantness, than maybe the simple fact that Libby's "acceptance" -- and, let's face it, covert propagation, to the point of purposefully outing public dissidents with explicit intent to defame and discredit -- of the "logic" of this war was disastrously flawed and intellectually corrupt from the very outset. That supposedly well-meaning people thought it would all turn out so much better does not bring back smithereened soldiers and children, does not reverse the bloodbath of trial by power-drill and gouged eyes, mutilated bodies and renewed grudges.

If you're not going to be man enough to just admit you were wrong -- wrong, tragically, horrifically fucking wrong -- and insist on the perpetrators of massive failures face at least some accountability, the least you can do is shut the hell up and not throw a diversion path of (p)rose petals to impede a tiny measure of recourse.

And again, to bring this forth as if a lackey called "Scooter" was some sort of noble warrior is nothing short of nauseating. It's a disservice to honest bureaucrats, not to mention actual military personnel. That there's some tasty kool-aid.

At the beginning of this ordeal, it would have been the proper thing to acknowledge that this case rested on a political difference over the prosecution of the war, that Valerie Plame Wilson and Joseph Wilson were protagonists in a struggle over the conflict. It was then, it should be recalled, that you, Mr. President, said that any of your staff caught up in that case "would no longer work in my administration."

It's peculiar that Ajami would even bring this up, because it's far more incriminating of how the Bushies conducted themselves, than a vindication of their supposed good intentions. Bush could never have acknowledged anything of the sort that Ajami prescribes, because the marketing campaign explicitly dictated that as an existential crisis in the offing, nothing short of absolute solidarity on the issue would do. Has Ajami not fucking paid attention to four years of self-serving pronunciamentos and challenges to opponents' patriotism and good sense? Really, he ought to be ashamed for even trying to float that one.

As for reminding Bush of what he said about firing anyone found out to be involved with this, tell it to Karl Rove. Bush has been resolutely disingenuous about that statement ever since it saw daylight by crawling out of his lying piehole.

Friday, June 08, 2007


I haven't got enough time or effort in me to bother to truly "care" one way or the other about the daily incarceration status of Paris Hilton. I think it would be mildly interesting if she came out converted to Islam, or even just having a stray thought regarding something or someone outside her own creepy little circle of endless, stupid self-indulgence. But that's never going to happen, so who gives a shit?

Well, apparently this guy does, with hilarious results:

Many of Hilton's several dozen supporters outside the courthouse appeared devastated.

"No! No! No!" Jake Byrd of Chino screamed as a court spokesman delivered the news to reporters outside court.

And then he went home and made tender, yet passionate love to the life-size cardboard cutout of her he keeps under his bed. Seriously, son, get back on your meds, get something resembling a job, get a flesh-and-blood girlfriend, something for fuck's sake, you pathetic loser. Paris can afford to be useless; the other 99.99% of folks do not have that luxury, and life has a way of taking people like ol' Jake there, unscrewing their heads, and shitting down their necks.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Steve Gilliard, 1966-2007

The left side of the blogosphere has lost a tremendous, passionate voice with the passing of Steve Gilliard yesterday. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.

Rest in peace, Steve.

None Dare Call It Reason

Ideally we would all readily agree with Eugene Robinson's plea for a return to at least some semblance of intellectualism in politics:

I want the next president to be intellectually curious -- and also intellectually honest. I want him or her to understand the details, not just the big picture. I won't complain if the next president occasionally uses a word I have to look up.

The conventional wisdom says that voters are turned off when candidates put on showy displays of highfalutin brilliance. I hope that's wrong. I hope people understand how complicated and difficult the next president's job will be, and how much of a difference some real candlepower would make.

I don't want the candidates to pretend to be average people, because why would we choose an ordinary person for such an extraordinary job?

Sounds good, but there are too many handy examples that still indicate something else:

Republican Fred Thompson, making his first appearance since his late entry into the 2008 White House race, criticized the immigration pact in Congress on Saturday and said the United States was battling threats from "forces of evil."

In a speech at a Virginia state party dinner, the conservative former Tennessee senator and Hollywood actor made only passing reference to his presidential ambitions but took a jab at Democrats while praising limited government and lower taxes.


"This is a battle between the forces of civilization and the forces of evil and we've got to choose sides," Thompson said.


He won a standing ovation from the dinner crowd of more than 450 in Richmond with a call for stronger borders and an attack on the immigration compromise pending in Congress, and backed by President George W. Bush, that would give 12 million illegal immigrants a shot at citizenship.

"This is our home and we get to decide who can come into our home," he said.

He said Washington's partisan politics had bred cynicism about government and there was a "disconnect" between Washington politicians and Americans.

Thompson, a supporter of the Iraq war, also criticized the Democratic-controlled Congress for its debate on bills that would set withdrawal deadlines and timetables for U.S. troops in Iraq.

"The only real debate going on in Congress is what our surrender date is going to be," he said. "This is what passes for policy in the Democratic Party."

Thompson's only reference to his White House run was an aside after saying Republicans were on a comeback that would take "us" to the White House. He explained to laughter that the us meant "Republicans collectively."

Oh ho ho, he got us there, boy. The logical incoherence of that last bit seems lost on Thompson and his audience -- if you have one of your own party in the White House, and he's been there wasting oxygen for six years already, how would that be a "comeback" that would "take" (as in, presumably, a return to or reclaiming of after being away from) that office? What the hell is wrong with these people, really?

The rest of it is all so pat and predictable. Peel away Reg'lar Guy Fred's rote surrender-monkey one-liners and the manichean boilerplate, and whaddya got? Well, you got the classical definition of insanity -- doing the same thing over and over again, and somehow expecting a different result. Fact: even many self-described conservative Republicans concede that what we've been doing has not worked, will not work, can not work. Fact: Fred Thompson wants to continue the current policy. Why? Same reason Bush wants to continue the current policy -- because he says it must work.

That's what Eugene Robinson's sensible plea for a return to reason and logic is up against -- insane tautologies of paternalism and reassurance. Hopefully he's right, that more and more of us are on our way back to being responsible stewards of rational self-governance, because there's still a lot of folks that are just looking for their daddies to tell them what to do and chase the boogeymans from under their beds, at all costs.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

L'État, C'est Merde

The 'nets are abuzz, and rightly so, with the report of Mister Man's megalomania taking hold:

Friends of his from Texas were shocked recently to find him nearly wild-eyed, thumping himself on the chest three times while he repeated "I am the president!"

Context and corroboration would be nice, but the fact that it sounds credible and in character with his actions is bad enough. What may be even worse is this:

He also made it clear he was setting Iraq up so his successor could not get out of "our country's destiny."

This has been obvious for years, even before this week's willfully stupid revelation that Iraq is being envisioned as the next South Korea. It is not for nothing -- despite the empty clichés regarding the "will" of the "people" and "government" of "Iraq" -- that we have been building permanent bases there. We're going to be there for some time to come, in some form. The people may have spoken last November, but Bush has made it quite clear already that he has no regard for democratic expression that does not conform to his delusions of manifest density.

Again, I hope more corroboration and context for this ugly, creepy anecdote comes forth. This is a character issue that deserves to be plastered on the news every night, until even the sad weirdos who still hold out for this goofball get the idea.

Silent But Fredly

It's not exactly a secret that political terms have become hopelessly debauched. The perennial example is the abuse of the word "liberal", of course, generally by inbred radio ravers, masturbating to the sounds of their own specious harrumphing between Husqvarna ads.

But what does "conservative" mean anymore? Neocon, paleocon, "social" and "compassionate" conservatives, and on and on. There was a point in time when I recognized certain precepts cribbed from Locke and Mill, and espoused by what would now be considered "paleocons", as reasonable in conjunction with a balanced perspective on the world. That is, personal responsibility can be mutually enhanced with a certain level of community responsibility, where everyone is theoretically happy and productive, or at least endeavoring to be.

I think Reaganism (or perhaps trudging through Atlas Shrugged in high school) set me straight about just how shallowly these self-professed students of Mill really felt about him, or about Hume and Scottish Enlightment, or whatever unfortunate historical shade they conjure to give the veneer of seriousness. Otherwise it would be too clear that they spend most of their productive time reading the sides of cereal boxes (see Goldberg, Jonah).

Their goal was and is to play on a toxic mix of people's fears, dreams, and carefully-clutched myths to keep themselves in power. Thus vast swaths of rubes were alternately riled and affirmed with the notion of dusky-hued welfare recipients performing an institutionally-mandated smash-and-grab on productive citizens -- which is precisely what those orators and their greaseball benefactors in the defense-contractor class were and still are doing, only with a far larger price tag.

So it should be no surprise at all to see Fred Thompson as the latest conservaclown to enter portentously into what used to be at least a nominally respectable and interesting process. Mind you, I still think that Thompson -- and Newt Gingrich, when he waddles into the fray in four or five months -- represent a sort of briar-patch fringe of acceptability. They're there either to corral certain demographics and then herd them off into more financially-viable candidacies, or simply to circumscribe the boundaries of comically hypocritical rhetoric, toeing a careful line of stupid in the dirt for even the most mindless ruminant to follow. (And let's face it, some folks like their stupid to be paint-by-numbers easy.)

It's a slightly more artful, stylized stupidity. Both Thompson and Gingrich are skilled orators, weaving colorful webs of pure horseshit, preaching the usual gospel of anti-Washington, anti-Hollywood, anti-liberalism boilerplate neither one seems quite ready to apply to their own lives. Of course, Gingrich's high-profile rambunctions eventually undermined any relevant moral standing he might otherwise have tried to evoke, unless you're just a complete potato getting your "news" and "facts" from closet-case evangelists or one of the Faux News fucktards.

But Thompson has not yet been afforded such scrutiny, though there's no shortage of evidence that, well, he's exactly the sort of Washington-fattened, Hollywood-corrupted cafeteria conservative he rails against:

So when longtime lobbyist and Hollywood actor Fred Thompson -- a man who once rented a red pickup truck in order to campaign in Tennessee as a man of the people -- indicated this week that he would seek the Republican presidential nomination, we knew how the media would describe him: Authentic. Folksy.


But Chris Matthews and the Beltway pundit crowd don't encounter many actual working-class voters as they stroll the dunes of Nantucket. A wealthy lobbyist/actor who rents a red pickup truck to play the role of a regular guy strikes them as "authentic" and "folksy." Mark Halperin wrote this week that Thompson won his first Senate race "after driving his trademark red pickup truck all over Tennessee."

It wasn't "his" and he didn't "drive" it, of course, but the illusion of authenticity is all that matters to the pundit class. Thus a wealthy lobbyist in a rented pickup is folksy and authentic. (A Nexis search for "Fred Thompson and (Thompson w/20 folksy)" returns 40 hits since January 1. Several mention the red pickup; only Wonkette bothered to mention it was rented. The Washington Post assured readers that "[t]he signature red pickup truck from Thompson's Senate campaigns will be dusted off.")

As always, I'm not entirely sure what the fucking problem is with these people. I'd hate to think that Tweety Matthews spends his time sitting up in Nantucket beating his teeny meat to the notion of Fred Thompson chomping a cigar, telling Michael Moore to fuck off instead of openly debating him, and renting a fucking pickup truck to troll amongst the goobers who are fooled by such antics. But that's apparently what people like he and Helpy Halperin (another unctuous douche posturing as a serious reporter) do.

I think another problem is that, as their fame and money tend to distance themselves from whatever working-class roots they might have had, as well as actual working-class people now, they reflexively, instinctively conflate all these "folksy" tropes with some sort of Man O' The People personage. Fred Thompson spent years raking in money as a fucking lobbyist, then rented a driver and a red pickup truck to become senator for Cooter's Gulch -- a job which he himself has alluded was too much work, then went back to Hollywood and carved his niche as the NASCAR circuit's thinking man. And married hisself a trophy wife twenty-five years his junior. How the fuck does all that become "folksy"? It's like watching a white person who's uncomfortable around black people, lamely trying to ingratiate himself, transparently grasping at cultural straws. Yeah, sure, I'll bet Tweety down wit' da Fitty Cint too, yo. Jesus, it's pathetic. Perhaps they can't be themselves because they don't know who or what they are anymore.

Fred Thompson's a man of the people all right -- people like Tweety Matthews. People who understand fundamentally that they have long ago abandoned their working-class roots, but need to keep up the appearance. It's the same as the nonsensical genuflection to "social" conservatives, people who apparently are so enamored of the sacred institution of marriage, every one of their leading candidates has been married multiple times. Thompson has made no bones about his marriage interregnum, when he chased pussy, and minded not at all when it chased him. Fine and dandy, but let's not pretend that it has fuck-all to do with any sort of honest description of "social conservatives".

Probably the most strained exhortation against even the notion of gay marriage has been the cliché of the fantastically-promiscuous bathhouse queen, naturally conflating to a blanket assumption of the promiscuity of gays in general; this injunction apparently does not apply, even retroactively, to Bachelor Fred. The problem is not that he fucked a lot of women, the problem is that he acts like he and his prospective constituents have some sort of moral high ground in spite of it.

Again, none of this is a surprise, of course -- it's to be expected in a cultural climate where smart people write books, and stupid people interview them, write about them, talk about them -- and ultimately convince other idiots to vote for the wrong man. Their stupid little orthodoxies are never challenged, because the paychecks of all the players depend heavily on merely maintaining the pretense of it all.

You want more of the same, just six inches taller and with a more authenticated drawl, then Fred's your man. I still don't think he's serious, he's just there to rake in some launderable dough and galvanize the retard vote, but obviously stranger things have happened. Regardless, it would be nice if for once self-professed "moderates" like Tweety would get off their fucking knees and report fully and honestly on these people, instead of getting all swoony and exposing their daddy issues for all to see. Shit, I'm embarrassed for him.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and sometimes it's an excuse for neutered cats like Tweety to reminisce about how much fun it used to be to have a cock.