Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Fuck Fred Phelps

Let's put it this way -- if there really is a God, and He has anything other than blistering contempt for puling fucks like Phelps and his inbred cult, why would anyone want to be on His side?

The father of a marine killed in Iraq was awarded nearly $11 million in damages on Wednesday. A jury found leaders of a fundamentalist church had invaded the family’s privacy and inflicted emotional distress when they picketed the marine’s funeral.


The defense said it would appeal. A church leader, Shirley Phelps-Roper, said members would still picket the funerals. Church members say American deaths in Iraq are punishment for tolerating homosexuality.

There's something to be said for justice being served with a swift and severe ass-kicking, but for some reason that hasn't happened yet. Here's hoping.

Silver and Blackout

Truth hurts.

If enough Raiders fans buy tickets to Sunday's home game against the Texans, the game will sell out, the TV blackout will be lifted - and many Bay Area pro football fans will be crying in their beer.

That's because the alternate game that would be shown in the Bay Area if the Raiders are blacked out is the latest version of the Game of Decade: the 8-0 Patriots against the 7-0 Colts.

I'll be the first to admit it -- I would much rather watch the Pats-Colts game. I live far enough out of the market to where my local CBS affiliate is not ordinarily obligated under NFL broadcast rules to show the Raider games exclusively, but they'll almost definitely show the cellar-dweller game anyway. (It must be embarrassing to work for a TV station that shows fucking infomercials and wacky sports clips during football season. I mean, what the fuck?)

Anyway, despite the braying of the holier-than-thou fanboys in the comments in the Chron article, "loyalty" is a two-way street, especially when you are talking about an entertainment product. The Raiders are "better" only in the sense that last year's joke was literally one of the worst teams ever to take the field in the entire history of the NFL. "Slightly less dismal" does not mean "good" or "fun"; the offensive line is still incompetent on a drive-killing level.

And it's not as if they're finding new and innovative ways to lose, it's the same tedious, incompetent, bonehead shit that does them in. Three-and-out, or a sputter to midfield, then a stalled play and a false start because the canned hams at the line can't fucking count, and then it's third-and-double-digits, which this team simply does not have the tools to overcome eight, ten times per game. And as good as the pass D is, opposing teams know that if they simply run the ball enough, eventually they'll break a big play, because the tackling in the secondary is as bad as their coverage is good. Already second-tier running backs like Larry Johnson and LenDale White have had career days, seven games in.

Put it this way -- they've gotten so pathetic, giving games back to truly bad opponents for no damned reason, that I'm seriously getting over my intense hatred for Randy Moss. Why should he bust his ass, so the play can get called back because the left tackle jumped the snap count again? Why should he let himself get hung up by a quarterback who's scrambling and throwing for his life? Moss is showing that, despite his miserable stint with the Raiders, that he still has world-class skills, he just didn't feel like squandering them on an uninspired crew that kills itself every time with a bunch of Pop Warner mistakes.

The Pats are having fun -- two okey-doke plays in two weeks, on bad teams. That's what good teams do, they fuckin' romp, as Oakland did manage to do over the winless Dolphins. But where the Patriots completely dismantled the 'skins, Oakland would have let them back in the game with a series of stalled drives, fumbled snaps, and a defensive collapse in the final two minutes.

So yeah, since I couldn't afford Sunday Ticket this year, maybe I'll just head to the pub and grab a burger and beer, and watch a couple teams who play like they actually give a shit about the game and the fans. The Colts are very good, and they finally broke their Brady curse long ago and have won the last three matchups, and it's in Indianapolis, but Brady and his crew are bringing in some serious Tecmo Bowl stats.

Prediction: Patriots 49, Colts 31.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Taking a (Wide) Stance

You can set your watch to it -- the more a person bitches about Teh Gay, the more likely it is that they're projecting their own inner struggle.

Doesn't make McClurkin -- or Obama, by association -- necessarily bad people, just ridiculous. This urge to cynically meet the "faith" niche halfway on a playing field that's rapidly changing anyway doesn't seem like the smartest thing to do. De-prioritize it, tell people to grow up and mind their own business already, and re-evaluate what's actually important to the operational ability of the country. Enough of this stupid "my invisible sky friend will immolate us all if we let the lesbians down the street get hitched" nonsense.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Swept Away

Congrats to the Red Sox -- after going the full seven in the ALCS against Cleveland, they pounded the well-rested Rockies like red-headed stepchildren. Not that I give much of a damn if athletes are religious or not, but maybe there is some schadenfreude in all this, and maybe "prayer sessions on the telephone" is not the best way for serious people in any business to spend company time. Just a thought.

Speaking of folks belatedly having the important distinctions between religion and the real world thrust upon them, in case you hadn't already heard, beleaguered evangelicals are apparently having a tough time of it politically. Oh no! Since they thrive on the fantasy of themselves as a persecuted minority, this may work out for them in the long run.

I covered the Christian conservative movement for The New York Times during the 2004 election, at the moment of its greatest triumph. To the bewilderment of many even in the upper reaches of his own party, Karl Rove bet President Bush’s re-election on boosting the conservative Christian turnout, contending that Bush lost the popular vote in 2000 because four million of those voters stayed home. President Bush missed few opportunities to remind evangelicals that he was one of them — and they got the message.

I bowed my head in a good number of swing-state churches in 2004. I saw the passion Bush aroused among theologically orthodox Protestants. And I got to know many of the most influential conservative Christian leaders, most of whom threw themselves into urging their constituents to the polls.

Now, as the 2008 campaign heated up in the months before the first primaries, I wondered how the world was looking from the pulpits and pews. And so I went to Wichita, as close as any place to the heart of conservative Christian America. Wichita has a long history of religious crusades. A hundred years ago, Carrie Nation made her name smashing up Wichita’s bars. More recently, the presence of Dr. George Tiller, a specialist in late-term abortions, has kept anti-abortion passions high, attracting Operation Rescue to Wichita for the Summer of Mercy protests in 1991. Two years later, a lone activist shot and wounded Dr. Tiller. Evolution, the flash point that split mainline and evangelical Protestants in the early 20th century, is still hotly debated in Wichita. The Kansas school board has reversed itself on the subject again and again in recent years.

At the same time, Wichita is also a decent proxy for plenty of other blue-collar but socially conservative places like Allentown, Pa., and Columbus, Ohio — the swing districts of the swing states that decide elections. A center of aerospace manufacturing, Wichita was a union town and a Democratic stronghold for much of the last century. But all that changed when the conservative Christian movement took root in its suburban megachurches three decades ago, turning theological traditionalists into Republican activists. That story was the centerpiece of the liberal writer Thomas Frank’s 2004 book, “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” He might have called it “What’s the Matter With Wichita?”

I arrived just in time for the annual Fourth of July Patriotic Celebration at the 7,000-member Central Christian Church, where Independence Day is second only to Christmas. Thousands of people drove back to the church Sunday evening for a pageant of prayers, songs, a flag ceremony and an American history quiz pitting kids against their parents. “In God We Still Trust” was the theme of the event. “You place your hand on this Bible when you swear to tell the truth,” two men sang in the opening anthem.

“There’s no separation; we’re one nation under Him.”

“There are those among us who want to push Him out And erase

His name from everything this country’s all about.

From the schoolhouse to the courthouse, they are silencing

His word Now it’s time for all believers to make our voices heard.”

Later, as a choir in stars-and-stripes neckties and scarves belted out “Stars and Stripes Forever,” a cluster of men in olive military fatigues took the stage carrying a flag. They lifted the pole to a 45-degree angle and froze in place around it: a re-enactment of the famous photograph of the American triumph at Iwo Jima. The narrator of a preceding video montage had already set the stage by comparing the Iwo Jima flag raising to another long-ago turning point in a “fierce battle for the hearts of men” — the day 2,000 years ago when “a heavy cross was lifted up on top of the mount called Golgotha.”

A battle flag as the crucifixion: the church rose to a standing ovation.

This is exactly the problem that arises when people start deliberately conflating religion with politics (or sports, for that matter). The Battle of Iwo Jima is like Jesus' crucifixion how exactly? Seriously, are these people on glue? It's a jumbled stew of incoherence and creepy symbolism, frankly, and I'm sorry, but I think it's a good thing that these folks find themselves disempowered for a while. Kansas sounds like a swell place to start a pyramid scheme or similar rube-gulling grift, but not much more than that apparently.

They make important decisions on a hodgepodge of selective readings of Bronze Age superstitions, and I'm supposed to wonder how my party can peel off some slivers of that sweet electoral goodness? Uh, no thanks. They can keep fighting the Gog and Magog battles in their fever dreams, with John Kerry or Hillary Clinton or whatever stand-in for the week gets their juices flowing. Or they can believe that God cares two shits about nine guys making lots of money playing a kid's game. Whatever floats your little boats, fellas.

I think that what really bugs me about these people is how they cheapen the notion of the truly spiritual. I don't personally believe this stuff, but it seems that it should be about cultivating a sense of wonder that there might be a binding force out there greater than oneself, not getting balls-up over political circuses and scanning teammates' lockers for Playboys. They belittle their own beliefs far more than we heathens ever could, simply by reducing them to such absurd worldly concerns. As for the ones who voted for Bush in '04 and are now finally having buyer's remorse, fuck 'em. This is what you wanted, this is what you got.


Argentina gets its groove back. Good luck fending off Hugo Chàvez, though -- they say he's all hands.

Symptom of the Universe

Juan Cole, per usual, is absolutely correct:

The Bush administration's entire Middle East policy is coming undone -- if it even has a policy left, other than just sticking its fingers in the multiple, and multiplying, holes in the dike.

That sort of ad hoc pseudo-policy is to be expected from people whose criteria to team-building is and was completely political. They were clearly much more concerned with loyalty and ideological compatibility than anything resembling, say, knowledge and expertise. So no surprise that things have turned out this way.

Couple things, though, regarding Turkey and Pakistan specifically. Turkey has been given a pass on its ethnic cleansing of its own Kurds for years, to the point where we even sold them the artillery with which they decimated thousands of villages and killed tens of thousands of people. They have suddenly gotten pissy and more brazen with the misbegotten attempt at drafting a resolution condemning the Armenian genocide. Many things are the fault of Bush's incompetent handling; this specific episode is actually not one of them.

Even without screwing our national interests for more of this non-binding resolution bullshit, the problems with Turkey run much deeper. The Dummycrats who pushed this thing through simply gave the Turks handy pretext. And if Turkey, which has been humping everyone's legs for EU membership for years now, still harbors any hope at all of getting in within the next generation, they'll stop for a moment and think seriously about thier next move.

As for Pakistan, it's pretty much out of our hands, and has been since day one. All we can do is what we've been doing, which is give Musharraf more money to work with, and stay out of his way as much as possible. But the people who have been causing problems there ignored the Durand Line long before Musharraf, and will continue to do so. And bringing back a corrupt door-stop like Benazir Bhutto solves nothing.

Obviously the biggest mistake here was invading Iraq. But most of us agree that invading Afghanistan was entirely justifiable, and even had we stayed and committed the necessary troops and done everything we needed to do, it would have become even more of a flashpoint for the crazy bastards in the region whose hobby is inflaming these tensions. So it seems Pakistan was going to be a huge problem any which way it was handled; perhaps we should simply be grateful that these inept tools largely kept their mitts off it. Whatever his faults, Musharraf appears to be far and away the best of a lot of bad options.

At the risk of overstating the painfully obvious, none of the options in the region are good. Even if it were economically possible to totally disengage from the region overnight, then what? Geopolitics, like it or not, has never favored power vacuums. You are left either with squabbling states jockeying for regional position, an acceleration of the hollowing-out of Iraq and Afghanistan by the sectarian gangs posing very real threats to their respective central governments, or most likely, the great powers of the region -- Russia and China -- swoop in and offer to "help".

Again, this administration's predictable incompetence and venality certainly compounded the mess, perhaps irretrievably. But there was never a cut-and-dried solution or even recommendations; if Cole offers any I missed them. Maybe these are simply the natural questions of an overextended empire, of a society that refuses to even consider living within its means and consuming at a more realistic rate.

Turkey is a country that frets constantly and violently over its official legitimacy, and is facing increasing internal and external pressure. We have never done anything about that except make sure that we could make a buck. Pakistan has always been a country that, even in the best of circumstances, is problematic because of its mutual hostility with India. There's no doubt that the Cheney administration, in its evangelical zeal, could find a way to fuck up a baked potato, as the saying goes. But neither country was exactly a bed of roses during the Clinton years, nor were they going to be after the Cheneyites have toddled off to the conservatard rubber-chicken circuit.

Since Cole actually does have profound knowledge of the region and people in question, it might be more helpful if he simply proposed some ideas that he thought could work, and get the discussion going from there. Even Bush's supporters know that he's screwed the pooch royally; the question even before 9/11 was always how to bring large societies of virulent traditionalists along without exploiting their resources and discarding them and needlessly enraging them.

Writer's Block

No doubt the link will be de-hacked as soon as Jonah gets wind of it and rouses some increasingly disgruntled intern, but in the meantime, here's a handy screen capture:

I think the current over-under on how many dippy "from X to Y" combinations they'll come up with before finally settling on one is eight. I believe they actually have changed it three times already, seriously. Don't they have marketing weasels and ghost-writers to handle that shit?

Maybe DoughBob is the paws-on type, Funyun fragments spraying hither and yon as he squawks orders at hapless peons to "kern the font" and "man the jib". Basically the wingnut welfare editorial version of some America's Cup fop, spending way too much on a fiberglass sloop and a Captain Stubing hat, and nothing on the Filipino day laborers unlucky enough to crew the whole mess.

If all else fails, Goldberg can always retreat to his standard M.O. and bleg his readers for help with the title. I still think my earlier suggestion, Are You Gonna Finish That? The Deep-Fried Temptation from Colonel Sanders to Applebee's, has a certain insouciant je ne sais blah to it, but aside from regrettably having to excise that misbegotten chapter about the Colonel's military service, I suppose that's why our boy gets the large dollars.

It never seems to occur to these morons who prattle on about the oppression they face in the debauched institution where they ply their make-work, whether academia, intelligentsia, or punditardia. If those places truly functioned by the words they throw about as if they knew what they meant -- you know, fascism and all -- they would have been mau-maued long ago and been replaced by a chimp with a dartboard, which would have at least had the ancillary benefit of being more accurate.

The Invisible Finger

I got your meritocracy right here:

Merrill Lynch’s directors may be weighing E. Stanley O’Neal’s future, but one thing is already guaranteed: a payday of at least $159 million if he steps down.

Mr. O’Neal, the company’s chairman and chief executive, is entitled to $30 million in retirement benefits as well as $129 million in stock and option holdings, according to an analysis by James F. Reda & Associates using yesterday’s share price of $66.09. That would be on top of the roughly $160 million he took home in his nearly five years on the job.

Under Mr. O’Neal, Merrill moved aggressively into lucrative businesses like the packaging of subprime mortgages and other complex debt securities. That led to a string of blow-out quarters — and blow-out paydays. Last year, Mr. O’Neal’s $46.4 million pay package made him Wall Street’s second-highest paid chief executive, behind Lloyd C. Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, who was paid $54.3 million, according to Equilar research.

But those big bets appeared to go bust this week. Merrill announced an $8.4 billion write-down, raising questions about whether Mr. O’Neal will keep his job. One thing that he surely will hold onto, though, are the giant paychecks he has collected.

“I lay the blame at the foot of the board,” Frederick E. Rowe Jr., a money manager and president of Investors for Director Accountability. “He was paid a tremendous amount of money to create a loss that is mind-boggling, and he obviously took risks that should never have been taken.”

Taking risks with other people's money, as with other people's lives, rarely imparts even a modicum of similar risk to one's own situation. The next person who smugly lectures you about how these CEOs earn every dime because of all the value they add, punch 'em right in the throat.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Desktop Publishing

I don't know what to make of this, except that if the video excerpts of the handout are accurate, a chimp with a copy machine could have done the same thing. Jesus, pal, why not just drag out a hand-crank mimeograph and go completely old-school?

Nor is any context provided to the story itself; the officer is married to a black woman, which seems to negate the likelihood of racism. And no one bothers to confirm, deny, or even assert the possibility that the handout might have had genuine intent to inform beat cops. Just strange.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Potemkin Government

Love it. It was only a matter of time.

Tuesday the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced it was holding a news conference to answer reporters' questions about the federal agency's emergency response to the Southern California wildfires.

The agency gave reporters just 15 minutes notice to attend, and those members of the media who called in via phone lines could listen to the event but were not able to ask questions.


The event went smoothly. That is, until the news media discovered that the press conference wasn't exactly a press conference at all.


No reporters? No problem for FEMA. The agency filled the press room with its own public affairs personnel who asked questions.

It looked real enough for cable networks to briefly air the live event.

"I'll be glad to take some of your questions," Johnson said.

"Are you happy with FEMA's response so far?" one staffer asked.

"I'm very happy with FEMA's response so far," Johnson replied.

And so it went for more than 10 minutes, without any journalists.

Even as the White House feigns indignation, you know they're trying to find a way to do this with everything. Saves a lot of trouble giving the same non-answer to pesky questions. Heckuva job, Harvey.

Famous Last Words

Highly edifiying. And here I'd have assumed it would have been more along the line of "Leave me the fuck alone, you bastards."

The comments are extra fun. I mean, I yell at my dog for eating her own (or our other dog's) shit, but I'm not sure what you can do about these folks, besides cross your fingers and pray to your invisible sky friend that they don't breed.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Amused to Death

Pete Stark had it all wrong, but only by one word. He should have said "delusion" rather than "amusement".

Even so, he's not incorrect, except perhaps politically so. Bush clearly is amused, or at least occupied, by the pageantry of the office, the stature and the ability to not only make decisions, but to finally thwart the second-guessers with a variety of pithy "fuck you"s to choose from. Nobody can tell him nothin', not Dad, not Jeb, not those smart-ass Yale profs.

Power corrupts--that's a bland nostrum hiding a more interesting truth. Why does power corrupt? Because it removes others from consideration. To whom does the President answer for his actions? History? God? Here, friends, I have a fine piece of swampland to sell you.

Bush, in his own inimitably incoherent manner, protests too much when it comes to his feigned disinterest in his legacy. His passive-aggressive attempts to slough off the judgments of history ring hollow with feeble hopes of eventual vindication. Look, it's pretty simple -- if he wanted to remain plain and humble, he woulda stayed at the fuckin' tumbleweed farm for the past seven years, instead of playing out his demons at everyone else's expense.

In the meantime, he plays various forms of dress-up to push a preferred point, uses troops as props with alarming regularity, and gives not a hint of acknowledgement to his 25% approval rating. Perhaps this week he will visit San Diego, a reliable military redoubt in supposedly heathen California, and with regimented spontaneity pluck a carefully selected, healthy middle-class Latino urchin from the luckless crowd of Qualcomm refugees. These are the more mindless parts of the job that he may not enjoy quite as much as the more pronounced exaltations of jingoism and unabashed fealty. But it's hard to top the pre-screened gang-snorkelings on How Great Thou Art in the various inbred backwaters, so he settles for what he gets.

And yeah, beyond the usual rote, tedious pronunciamentos about Iraqis findin' them some Freedomocracy™ they can call their own (so long as we can make a buck from it), it's not unrealistic to assume that Junior does derive some level of amusement from all this. As IOZ points out, this does not automatically mean that direct manifestations of obscene cruelty are being deliberately sought. That should be obvious, even to the gutless apparatchiks who forced Pete Stark's tearful auto-da-fé, because they're scared shitless that their upstart cracker contingent won't kick upstairs anymore. What part of "Fuck 'em" are we having trouble with here?

(Funny how whether in politics or popular culture, the climax of the narrative is always the spectacle of cringing, abject apology. People think they need some sense of "closure", even when it has nothing to do with them, even when it's not theirs to "close", even when they can't get past their own sense of smug entitlement to that which is not theirs in the first place.)

But it is the unreasonable person who fails to ask, or at least wonder, just what sort of person causes hundreds of thousands of people to die horribly, millions more to be internally displaced and made desperate, terrorized refugees in their own country (if they have not been fortunate enough to flee), our own country looted, profiteered, and scorned in the process, and just smirk like it's no fucking problem and there's no other way.

Continuing on with the dress-up events and the tough-love speechifying is how Junior keeps it all in the abstract, where by now it is no doubt irretrievably calloused over, only to be peeled away by future cases of Maker's Mark. But those hortatory exercises, enabled by the wretched spinelessness of what was once perceived as an "opposition" party, are about all that's left -- for him, for them, for us.

Really, what's left, when it comes to trying to convince people of what happens in dark places, while they scratch their bellies and watch NASCAR? Given our apparently limitless appetite for "reality" drivel, I'm tempted to suggest picking four of the busiest intersections in Baghdad, setting up cameras, and broadcasting every second of every day in a four-way split-screen format on a dedicated channel. Let everyone see it for themselves, unedited, unfiltered, unvarnished, just like these guys say they like their advice.

I'd suggest it, but the obvious fact is that people who watch reality shows actually want anything but reality; they simply want a carefully contrived veneer, with all the comfortable story arcs built into the narrative, appearing spontaneous. Four-way Baghdad Channel would not give an opportunity for the viewer to hoot, "Oh no they di'unt!" or some such street wisdom.

It certainly would not be "amusing", not even to the vicarious armchair cockpunchers who are so eager to take their A-game onward to Tehran. But it might, for once in this god-forsaken folly, help set at least some of the record straight. It might remind people that the primary rule of any war is that people die, and the people who don't die have their lives violently upturned, and that we are expressly forbidden from seeing any of that.

There's probably a reason for that.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Banana Republic

Just read it. This is exactly the problem with the torturing, smothering security state all the Jack Bauer rejects keep humping our legs over -- nobody ever wants to just admit that they fucked up. Even if it costs a man and his family their lives.

The Baueristas are happy to pay that price, just as they'll be the first to welcome our new insect overlords. What they are proudly ignorant of is that torture has never, not in any context, not in any civilization or regime that has ever utilized it, been used or even considered useful in extracting solid, actionable information. It is used primarily to terrorize and dehumanize, and finally to legitimize the phony excesses undertaken elsewhere by the torturers.

And ultimately, it is the tactic of cowards who have no other way to vent than to strap someone to a chair and beat lies out of them.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Take Your Pick

Some say that Tucker Carlson is a moron, who simply doesn't know anything about the issues and people he talks about. Others say he's the lowest form of shill, a Tony Snow-grade political parasite who masks his contempt for his viewers' intelligence with a veneer of good humor and bonhomie, since it's easier to screw people over when you lull them into a false sense of confidence.

I prefer to think that animals such as Carlson and Snow combine the worst of both worlds, dispensing lies and truth with equal vigor, since they have been conditioned to not worry too much about which is which.

Later in the same show, Carlson made another comment that, while not directly accusing the media of bias, likely led some viewers to conclude that the media inaccurately portray Republicans as the party of the wealthy. Carlson claimed to speak a simple truth that "nobody ever, ever mentions":

CARLSON: OK, but here's the fact that nobody ever, ever mentions -- Democrats win rich people. Over 100,000 in income, you are likely more than not to vote for Democrats. People never point that out. Rich people vote liberal. I don't know what that's all about.

The reason that "people never point that out" probably has something to do with not wanting to be thought of as a fool or a liar. Carlson's claim that people making more than $100,000 a year tend to vote for Democrats is simply false.

In the 2006 congressional elections, Republican candidates won among those making at least $100,000; they won by an even larger margin among those making more than $200,000. The same was true in the 2004 presidential election, the 2004 congressional elections, and the 2000 presidential elections (exit poll data are not available for the 2002 elections, but it's a safe bet that the pattern held, particularly given that Republicans did better overall in the 2002 elections than in any of the others).

Tucker Carlson's entire job is covering politics and has been for years. It would be bad enough if Carlson simply didn't know something so basic about contemporary American politics as the fact that people who make at least $100,000 tend to vote for Republicans. But it's worse than that: He actively believes (unless he is simply being dishonest) the opposite; so much so, that he takes others to task for not joining him in spreading his false claims. And not just once -- he made the same claim in July:

CARLSON: I think this is a longer-term trend that has been unnoticed by a lot of people. I'll never forget that in 2000, exit polls showed that Al Gore won the over-$100,000 income bracket. Rich people are liberal. Rich people vote Democratic. There's this hangover from the 1930s that the Democratic Party is the working man's party. No, it's the party of Silicon Valley. It's the party of rich people. It's the party of the poor and of the rich.

In fact, 2000 exit polls show that only 43 percent of "the over-$100,000 income bracket" voted for Al Gore; 54 percent voted for George W. Bush. That was the income range Gore lost by the largest margin -- but Carlson will "never forget" that Gore won it!

Carlson, if he even bothers defending himself on this, would no doubt say almost reflexively that he simply misspoke. Oh, mea culpa and all. But of course he did not misspeak; he meant to say exactly what he said. They always do.

The market is there, and the viewers and listeners of this drivel are constantly -- and I mean constantly, every minute of every day they choose to watch one of these stupid shows, because it's apparently all they watch -- gulled by this nonsense. A snotty little mezzofanuc like Carlson is there to practice his embouchure on the Gooper skin-flute issue of the week, because he doesn't bother checking his facts, and he knows his viewers don't either. Same with Limbaugh harrumphing about dhimmicrat morality while he himself decides on Bangkok or Santo Domingo for his next travel destination; same with O'Reilly scaring the codgers with lurid tales of lesbo gangs mugging nuns and orphans.

It's no stretch at all for these people to habitually calumniate whoever happens to cross their path. It's not that they don't know they're lying, or even that they don't care. It's that facts are orthogonal to their prime motivation, which is to gin up this incoherent swell of fear and disdain that John Kerry is going to come to your trailer and repo your Beanie Baby and salt shaker collections if you don't get with the program.

It makes sense, perversely. How else are you going to con idiots into voting against themselves, again and again and again, without flat-out lying about what demographic or income level is most represented by which party? Thus Al Gore and John Kerry, both obviously wealthy men, become caricatured as hypocritical, indifferent plutocrats, lighting cigars with million-dollar bills and sleeping on polar-bearskin rugs while lecturing the plebes on environmental and social morality. But George W. Bush, who literally has not succeeded at any point in his entire life without the initial effort of his parents and their "friends", is a man o' the people. Ditto lifelong lobbyist/lawyer Fred Thompson, and all of this nonsense is helpfully recycled by Rush Limbaugh, who makes $25 million per year, and a veritable industry of professional liars.

There's obviously a whole mess to unpack there, which has to do with how Americans view money, which in turn relates to how we've devolved from a culture of entrepreneurialism and innovation to a culture of consumerism and hucksterism. We have a very unhealthy attitude about money in general; most Americans, judging by their actions, are financially illiterate or semi-literate, and apparently view wealth merely as a means to live some cobbled-together fantasy of decadence that seems to be part Cribs and part Scrooge McDuck.

Any time people view an entire class of people with a combination of resentment and envy, the cognitive dissonance is bound to catch up with them. And so it has. Facts get the same short shrift; everybody apparently wishes to appear they know what they're talking about, without having to actually find out the relevant details and put them together.

The people who actually do take the trouble invariably find themselves marginalized for being too partisan, as someone failed to inform the factual data that the appearance of objectivity, however false, is infinitely more important than doing the research and finding out that the truth takes a side. The earth is not flat. George W. Bush is about as good a judge of character as he is a nucular physimacist. The Iraq War is a deadly boondoggle that is going to ruin this country if we don't stop screwing around with phony debates and manufactured outrages.

So maybe the question is not whether Tucker Carlson and Tony Snow and their slimy ilk are liars or fools (or again, both), it's whether the people that enable them to remain gainfully employed are one or the other, or both. It is impossible to have a healthy perspective on what's truly important in a climate where truly useless people are allowed to thrive in this sort of exalted capacity of unearned money and influence.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Return to Sender

Fatboy strikes wingnut gold:

Conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh raised $2.1 million for children of fallen Marines and law enforcement officers on Friday by auctioning off a letter from Senate Democrats denouncing him for a remark about "phony soldiers."

Philanthropist Betty Casey purchased the letter on eBay, which said it was the most expensive item ever sold for charity on the online marketplace.

The letter, signed by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and 40 fellow Senate Democrats, expressed outrage over what they described as Limbaugh's "characterization of troops who oppose the (Iraq) war as 'phony soldiers'."


Casey is with the Eugene B. Casey Foundation, which said in a statement it bought the "smear letter" to demonstrate its belief in free speech and support of Limbaugh.

Alrighty then. And who might this Eugene B. Casey be?

President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Casey as director of the Farm Credit Administration when he was 36 years old and he served there from 1940 to 1941. His annual salary was $6,500. At the same time he was also an agricultural adviser to the White House.

Casey ran into some problems with the IRS during that time frame. According to newspaper articles, the government claimed he didn’t report his total income between 1941 and 1943. Casey reported that his income for the three years was $81,210, but the government said his income was more than twice that amount, $171,780.


A federal judge in Baltimore slapped him with a $30,000 fine, and Casey went to prison in 1946. He served five months of a six-month sentence for evading $70,384 in income taxes between 1941 and 1943. President Harry S. Truman pardoned him of the tax evasion in 1951.

Some would have Casey seen as a respected individual who worked for two presidents, but the transcript from a 1963 interview with Jonathan Daniels, who worked as press secretary to both Roosevelt and Truman, revealed that Casey was a sort of special assistant to the president with no real job.

Roosevelt hired him because Casey did fund raising for one of his presidential campaigns, Daniels asserted in a wide-ranging oral history interview for the Truman Library. Daniels described Casey as "a little wacky" and said some of the White House staff "referred to Casey as the ‘washroom rodent.’"

Daniels recalled during the interview that Casey had been fired from the Roosevelt administration. He cited a 1943 memo from President Roosevelt that referred to the "General Casey impasse." Daniels said that the impasse meant "how the hell are we going to get rid of the son-of-a-b----."

Well, at least he wasn't a drug-addicted sex tourist, or one of the innumerable closet cases prowling the halls of gubmint by day, and your local park bathroom by night. Unless that "washroom rodent" crack means something....

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Dog Days

I have no idea what the fuck this is supposed to be about. I did not realize that giving a dog to a friend was now a criminal act which required some sort of talk-show auto-da-fé, and a long weekend of quiet reflection.

This is the sort of nonsense that makes me nostalgic for the days when Hollywood was up to its neck in coke and booze and silicone hoors. At least you know what the fucking deal is with Charlie Sheen. Now they write about famous people whose mode of misbehavior is spending too much money on pets.

I've been seeing and hearing about this stupid bullshit all week and I still don't understand why. I think I have to go take a Dumpgate; we'll see if some discount journatard can wax rhapsodically about the scandalous aroma for a thousand words and call it a story.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

You Say You Want A Resolution

Yes, this was definitely worth the fucking trouble.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Wednesday said it "remains to be seen" whether a House resolution labeling as genocide the mass killings of Armenians by what is now Turkey will get a vote on the House floor.


Asked about criticism that it could harm relations with Turkey -- a fellow member of NATO -- Pelosi said, "There's never been a good time," adding that it is important to pass the resolution now "because many of the survivors are very old."

"I have always supported it, [the resolution] as did the previous leader of the Democrats in the Congress, Congressman [Richard] Gephardt," Pelosi said. "Almost everybody supports this, because they know it is right. Whether it will come up or not, or what the action will be, remains to be seen."

Pelosi said, however, "other matters on the agenda that have to be dealt with first" -- issues such as modifying the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and overriding the president's veto of a bill expanding the State Children's Health Insurance Program.

Pelosi essentially contradicts herself here, acknowledging that there's never been a good time -- however justified the measure -- to do this, while also asserting that there are other things to attend to. Well, no shit. Do you think your party was sent with an overwhelming mandate to repudiate the evil deeds of a long-extinct empire, or to rein in a corrupt administration, its failed wars, and its Montgomery Burns-esque domestic policies? Or was it for feel-good idealistic pronunciamentos, capped with "there, I said it" rhetorical flourishes?

Now that Turkey feels, let's say, a bit less constrained by the notion of U.S. primacy and support in the region, they may be moving forward with some bright ideas of their own.

The Turkish parliament yesterday gave its government the green light for cross-border attacks into Iraq to destroy Kurdish rebel bases, defying US calls for restraint.

The prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, quickly pointed out that the vote did not signify an operation was imminent. But it does represent a blank cheque for military action at any time within the next year. The authorisation was passed by 507 votes to 19, with only a small Kurdish party opposing it.

Sound familiar? So we have needlessly infuriated one of the few remaining allies in the region, who are now preparing to attack the one major group in Iraq that we were able to count on. Any other bright ideas?

And no, I'm not buying the supposed parallels between the Turkey resolution and Bush awarding the Dalai Lama a medal, although that does also seem like needless provocation of someone we have some critical interdependence with.

Say you're a rich, important man about town. You make friends with another person of some means, find some mutually beneficial ways for him to follow your example. Then, after borrowing money from him with which you buy shit from him, you tell him his wife's ass is big. Possibly not the best idea you've had, even if her ass is ginormous.

But the difference here is that Bush -- and the U.S., for that matter -- has comparatively little to lose with the Dalai Lama thing. Bush is on his way out the door, and China needs some sort of signal over their unconscionable support of the genocidal Sudanese regime. Darfur is something that's happening in the here and now. Here's an opportunity to momentarily quit pretending that it's acceptable since the U.N., per usual, will do fuck-all about it.

Incidentally, if the Democrats felt it so necessary to make some sort of moralistic point about Turkish ethnic cleansing policies specifically, they could have been much more relevant:

Copyright © November 1995 by Human Rights Watch.
For the past eleven years, the government of Turkey has been mired in an increasingly bitter war with insurgents of the Kurdistan Workers Party, the PKK. To date, the war's toll is estimated at over 19,000 deaths, including some 2,000 death-squad killings of suspected PKK sympathizers, two million internally displaced, and more than 2,200 villages destroyed, most of which were burned down by Turkish security forces. In an effort to root out PKK fighters and sympathizers from southeast Turkey, the government has adopted increasingly brutal counterinsurgency measures, in clear violation of international law. The PKK, for its part, has also systematically engaged in violations such as summary executions and indiscriminate fire.

Both before and during this period, Turkey's NATO partners have extended generous political and military support, helping Turkey to develop a formidable arms industry and supplying it with a steady stream of weapons, often for free or at greatly reduced cost. The United States government in particular has been deeply involved in arming Turkey and supporting its arms production capacities. Although several NATO governments have occasionally protested Turkish policies, most have continued to supply Turkey with arms.


The most egregious examples of Turkey's reliance on U.S. weaponry in committing abuses are its use of U.S.-supplied fighter-bombers to attack civilian villages and its use of U.S.-supplied helicopters in support of a wide range of abusive practices, including the punitive destruction of villages, extrajudicial executions, torture, and indiscriminate fire.

I suppose some brave Democrat will get around to condemning this ugliness in, oh, about eighty years or so. High horses are sure fun to hop on, but they can be troublesome when it comes to preening around the ring on one.

Let's take a quick inventory of what the Democrats have done since coming back from summer recess:
  • Cravenly went along with a clownish effort to repudiate a newspaper ad for being insufficiently prostrate before the saintly General NewJesus' sock-puppet report.

  • Cleverly drafted their own resolution to condemn Rush Limbaugh for being his usual retard self, only to be cock-blocked by renowned nozzle-of-douche Jack Kingston's resolution praising the drug-addicted sex-tourist.

  • Talked tough about defunding the war, then went right along with Bush's raise to $2 bn per week.

  • Plans to investigate Blackwater -- this time for real, even though reports have filtered out about these psychos practically since day one.

  • Brayed loudly about the unconscionable, unconstitutional seizing of illegitimate power by the unitary executive branch -- the wire-tapping, the data-mining, the attempts to peruse second-generation phone records -- but when push came to shove, signed off on all of Cheney's proposed expansions. Perhaps the Democrats just want these same superpowers for themselves. To use for good this time, of course.

  • And now this -- unnecessarily pissing off a close ally in a massively chaotic region, with a resolution that they can't even pass! How fucking dumb is that; they don't even have that moral high ground to claim, just a pissed-off, butt-hurt ally and a lot of furtive glances.

Moral of the story: Just do what you were specifically elected to do this time around, no more, no less. Rein in Bush; end the war. Just do that. Can they make it through the next year without stepping on their collective dicks, or do they even deserve to?

Dirty Sanchez

The general's biggest crime, of course, is not so much that he waited too long to speak his mind -- from a careerist's point of view, that's a fast track to Shinsekiville, and from a political purist's p.o.v., it's the first step to a military junta.

Sanchez' criticisms will be swiftly discarded and forgotten, precisely because the people who need to hear them most are already too boxed in by guilt and dismay to ever learn anything or, god forbid, change what's left of their addled minds.

Culture of Life

Shorter DoughBob LoadPants:

I don't really know what I think about this, but I'll tell you anyway. If lovin' me some Rudy is wrong, I just don't wanna be right.

Funny how they're always telling you how sacred life is, until they're haranguing the reg'lar folks about having kids they can't afford. If these people ever actually got the meritocracy they think they're entitled to, they'd be looking for work that didn't involve a familial sinecure.

I don't know what to make of the sheer incoherence of people who talk and write about the destruction and displacement of millions of innocent lives like it's somebody else's fault, and anyway it's just a tactical maneuver from Risk, and then turn on a dime to lecture everyone else on their heathen disrespect for life. I have no doubt that Pantload really thinks that Democrats are the only ones who've ever used abortion politics cynically. It's what makes him "special", in the "wears earmuffs to the food court and harasses neighboring tables by chomping and smacking his Sbarro's" kind of way.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


Is there a reason for Robin Givhan's tedious nonsense to be cropping up in the sports section?

Even those with no interest in sports, who view the Olympics as essentially a travelogue with bad costumes, are moved by the downfall of track star Marion Jones, who recently admitted to taking performance-enhancing drugs after years of public denials.

In part, that's because of the magnitude of her achievement, winning five medals at the Sydney Olympics, three of them gold. But she was also an exemplar of the beauty inherent in female strength, held up as a role model of glamour and womanliness.

But that's not why even non-sports-fans are "moved" by Jones' downfall. It's just another doped-up charlatan getting caught. People seem to be in more of a "who's next" frame of mind about it, to the extent they think about it at all. Aside from the people who play and the people who write and talk about the people who play, there is probably less furrowing of the brows on this issue than the scriveners imagine. It sucks, but lots of things suck. Life goes on.

But of course this is all just a pretext for a misplaced fashionista jeremiad, replete with imprecatory scuds at supposedly dolled-up, less "real" female athletes.

It's not often that athletes such as Jones are celebrated for their beauty and grace in glossy magazines. Indy race car driver Danica Patrick is regularly depicted as sexy and glamorous, but her success on the track doesn't begin to approach what Jones had achieved. She is the Anna Kournikova of the Indy circuit. Olympic swimming champion Amanda Beard posed nude for Playboy magazine. But there is a distinction between celebrating anatomy and venerating the entire package.

Sports publications recognize and glorify both male and female athletes. And men's style magazines regularly use male athletes as models, as examples of the masculine ideal. But there has typically been an uneasy relationship between the kind of female beauty glorified in the mainstream world and athletics.

This is silly. Auto racing bores me to tears, and on the hotness scale, Patrick hits me in the "not bad, but eh" category. As always, your mileage may vary. But she was Indy Rookie of the Year in 2005, leading for 19 laps, and she's finished higher in the Indy 500 than any woman, the only other one I recall finishing in the top ten being Janet Guthrie. She's not "the Anna Kournikova of the Indy circuit"; Kournikova's (and Jones', for that matter) competition was not 99% male, for starters.

Amanda Beard is hotter in my estimation, though her Playboy shoot was regrettably modest. Still, she's won two gold and four silver medals, presumably without "help", and she simply took a different path in utilizing her physical attributes for some commercial presence. Hell, even the much-maligned Kournikova had some actual success, as a 17-year-old beating Lindsay Davenport and Steffi Graf, again without chemical enhancements.

I don't operate under the illusion that Playboy or any of the numerous Maxim-type magazines represent some sort of artistic triumph or even an aspiration for women. But they represent a market, just like Vogue and its literary cousins represent a market. One is whacking material for a testoterone-and-gadget-driven group, the other is whacking material for people who think that paying $900 for a pair of cruel shoes is a good idea. To each their own.

But it's this smug, supercilious 'tude thrown out there, like Marion Jones took some high road while Anna Kournikova or Amanda Beard did not, that bugs me. Subjective looksism aside, I don't buy that some gem-encrusted gown automatically confers some sort of higher standing over women who did not cheat at their sports, but posed for racier photos. It's a very contrived comparison, one that barely belongs in a fashion section, much less a sports page.

Turkey Shoot

I've been wondering about the logic behind the Armenian genocide resolution for several days. Morally, it's an easy mark, until you consider the ramifications of one of our friends going to the trouble of drafting a parliamentary resolution to condemn us for slavery or annihilating Indians. It's a needless political embarrassment to a critical ally in the region, and they're completely pissed about it. And now we're asking for their help with Kurds and border incursions. Smooth move, folks.

So what exactly has been accomplished here, a few Armenian activist groups in L.A. and Fresno are a little happier? Cool. But why now, when it could not possibly be more unhelpful, when we need Turkey's help and cooperation in the region, and they're trying to modernize and get into the EU with their own Islamists mucking around. There is no practical reason to do this at this specific moment in time. (Yes, it should have been done decades ago, but again we have our own ugly reasons why such symbolic face-slaps are rarely undertaken retroactively.)

When buffoons such as Dan Burton and George W. Bush look like the voices of sense and reason, you know something's out of whack. But whatever. Guess the Democrats can put another notch on their bedpost now. Forget about standing tall on current issues such as illegal wiretapping and pouring more lives and money down a bloody hole, but if you need a purely symbolic censure over a century-old atrocity committed by a long-extinct imperial entity, they're all up in that shit.

I suppose by this logic, those of us who have ancestors who were victimized by the Irish Potato Famine are entitled to a resolution as well. After all, one-quarter of the Irish population was decimated, while the country was still a net exporter of food, thanks to British landowning policies. They were literally forced to starve themselves to feed their oppressors. If that's not genocide, if that's not at least worthy of rough verbal condemnation (oh no!), then I don't know what is.

In lieu of such a polemic resolution though, since it's a different day now and there's no point in antagonizing our British friends, maybe we'd all be better off if this glorious revolutionary People's Congress, redolent with righteous mandate from eleven long months ago, could start prioritizing things a bit more sensibly. Such as maybe doing one goddamn thing to help ramp down tensions in the Middle East, before needlessly alienating one of the few remaining countries there who don't completely despise us.

Cunning Stunts

I missed this when it first came out a couple weeks ago, but this Taibbi campaign trail media-weasel parody is pretty hilarious.

A youngish kid with long hair and a red t-shirt in this crowd started telling me his story, about how he’d been busted for possession of drug paraphernalia. “It was a couple of pipes…” he began.

I waved him off and explained that, as a member of the national campaign press, I was here to write about what I wanted him to say, not what he wanted himself to say. “Look,” I said, holding up a bill. “I’m willing to pay twenty bucks to the first person who’ll say whatever I want him to say about Fred Thompson.”

About ten sets of hands flew up, including the kid in front of me. I held up the twenty.

“Name,” I barked.

“Gary Blakeman,” he said.

“Age,” I said.


I wrote that down. “Gary, does Fred Thompson look like a pedophile to you?”

He looked at me pleadingly. “Yes, right?”

“Right,” I said.

“Yes, he does,” he answered.

“So what you’re saying, Gary,” I prompted, “is that you wouldn’t be at all surprised to walk into a room and see this candidate’s penis in a four year-old child?”

“Of course not!” the kid said. “Because he looks like a fucking pedophile, dude!”

“Mmm-hmm,” I said. “And what kind of face would you expect him to be making at that moment?”

The kid grit his teeth and strained his neck muscles. “He’d be like, unnnnhh!” he shouted.

“Thanks,” I said, handing him the twenty. He took it and walked off with his hands over his head in triumph. I looked over at the wire-service girl, who was still humping an old couple about the Hillary thing. Amateur, I thought.

Just think -- by the time '08 is finally, blessedly in the can, two full years of our lives will have been taken up with this shit. I assume this means that the '12 stumping will start in June '09, if only to keep the punditocracy busy.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Hunt for Fred October

Eugene Robinson seems to be taking a pretty accurate pulse of Senator Leghorn's lackluster performance in the debate earlier this week.

Yes, I'm focusing on style rather than substance. Thompson's supporters might think that's unfair, since he was arguably less vague on economic issues -- the intended focus of the debate -- than his major competitors. He offered a specific fix for Social Security, for example, saying he would index benefits to prices rather than wages. The others simply promised to make everything better by growing the economy, which apparently means eliminating all taxation.

But style, or the promise of style, is the only reason Thompson has been able to credibly enter the race so late in the game. If all that Republican primary voters wanted was a reliable social conservative, they could vote for Mike Huckabee, Sam Brownback, Duncan Hunter or Tom Tancredo, none of whom is tainted by long association with evil Hollywood. Thompson's potential appeal to the party is that he can do that "District Attorney Arthur Branch" thing and make people believe in his wisdom and authority.

Eh, yes and no. Thompson's appeal was always wildly overestimated, I think, but he has sufficient name recognition that it tends to cloud what the collective perception of his viability is. What it really is is that the authoritarian cultists, who have clung to Bush like the flimsy reed that he is, are finally starting to figure out a couple things.

One is that Bush is not -- was never -- the daddy figure they craved; he simply enjoyed playing dress-up and telling the same hackneyed anecdotes over and over again. Another is that their current prospects consist of a corrupt Count Chocula lookalike who sings the same note and whose own kids can't stand him; a war hero whose declining fortunes track his precipitous fall from straight-talkin' maverick to crazy uncle; a rich guy whose religious mythos read like a pioneer version of Scientology; and an assortment of single-issue clowns who would carry about a two-district radius in a national election. Really, Romney's only viability is his sheer wealth, which leaves Mike Huckabee as their most palatable candidate.

It makes sense they'd place all their hopes on Fred Thompson, and it makes sense that he'd disappoint at least the first time out. I would really keep an eye on how the narrative arc develops in the commentariat after upcoming debates; they are just lazy and unimaginative enough to foist some retarded Comeback Kid story arc on us, while drooling over how tall he is. Saves them from talking about the inescapable fact that Thompson simply promises more of the same, but with more height and better oration.

With or without Thompson, this thing should be a blowout for the Democrats, not that they'd know what to do with it. They can't even disempower a preening twat like Lieberman; what the fuck are they going to do with five more Senate seats and a preznit whose first order of the day is to show the rest of the world what they can't even forcefully demonstrate to the minority-party droogs across the aisle from them -- that they're tough and won't take shit from no tinhorn dicktaters 'n' such.

That would still be better than getting stuck with a man of Thompson's phlegmatic indifference, not to mention the rest of that bad lot. But let's not pretend that a solution is at hand, that a Preznit Hillary would automatically reverse the dangerous unitary executive trends the Cheney junta has initiated. Everybody thinks they could wield more power with the greatest of wisdom. Indeed, a Democratic administration would be less likely to use such power to harass internal dissidents and other such enemies of the state, not to mention kidnapping nationals and furriners and spiriting them off to some hellhole where either the PMCs do the wet work, or the Syrians or Egyptians or whoever just break out the pliers and get serious. But it's like making "not a drunk-driving child-molester" the only job requirement for a school bus driver.

But again, that's not a solution, that's not a guaranteed reversal of potentially catastrophic trends. It's just a temporary dialing down of the heat, at a point in time where Republicans probably figure they could use a break anyway to regroup while the noise machine keeps the victors on defense. Just let the Dems take some heat for a few years while they try to fix Junior's fuck-ups, and come back with a smooth Jeb! run in '12.

And of course, just because it should be a blowout next year doesn't mean it will be, not with gutless incrementalism and focus-grouped tough-guy ploys being the likely order of the day in the eventual Democratic nominee's playbook. I recall this feeling of inevitability back in 2000 when, despite "Clenis fatigue", despite the media mean girlz snotty campaign on Gore and his earth tones, despite the Naderistas' god-awful nerve at thinking that they had a right to be heard in the discussion -- despite all that and more, it was supposed to be a slam-dunk for an intelligent, loyal career politican over a wet-behind-the-ears reformed cokehead and drunk black-sheep son of a one-term preznit, an incompetent speaker with a frat-boy mean streak, whose most notable tasks up to that point had been trading Sammy Sosa for a sack of magic beans and mocking a woman whom he was about to execute.

But something funny happened along the way then, and beyond the media bullshit, beyond the Naderistas, all that, a sizable bloc of reg'lar 'merkins decided that the election was a choice between Eddie Haskell and a drinkin' buddy who had quit drinkin'.

Getting a Republican elected president in 2008 is definitely going to require suspension of disbelief.

emphasis in original

Mm-hm. Heard that one before. Mencken only scratched the surface when it came to chronicling the willful stupidity of the electorate. The modern Republican party figured out how to commodify it. Good teams don't just squeak past bad teams 21-20, they pound the shit out of them, 41-3. If 2000 didn't teach us something significant about "suspension of disbelief" and all, nothing will.

I think Thompson's a joke too, and I don't see him making it through or even deep into the primaries, but I also do not take for granted that there aren't just enough people to vote for him or any other cartoon character just out of sheer spite, if nothing else. At this point, that's all they've got, but they've already proven that sometimes it's enough.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Gore, Gore, Gore! How Do You Like It? How Do You Like It?

The Rude Pundit, in a rare moment of relative seriousness (in tone), hits the importance of Gore's Nobel right on the head.

Back in 2000, because we didn't riot in the streets and shut down the country in the wake of the presidential election debacle, the nation essentially abandoned Al Gore. And while Al Gore didn't totally abandon the nation, he turned his focus to the effort to demonstrate that real leadership need not emanate from the false mandate of a corrupted electoral process. In his crusade for action on climate change, Gore not only remade himself, but he remade the way in which people think about the world at large. Here was not just a cause confined to a specific continent (like African hunger) or a fight against a tyrant like Hitler to catalyze large portions of the population. Here was a way of thinking of the Earth as a whole, a way of seeing the interdependence of each country, of each population, and Gore has shifted a generation's view of itself as part of something larger.

The great failure of the United States to lead on this issue, to be the place where we create solutions that benefit the globe, keep economies humming, and raise humanity up in a way that might, truly, do more for peace than all the pre-emptive wars ever, rests squarely on the shoulders of George W. Bush and his administration.

It's the difference between a man who traveled and studied the world by choice in his life and a man who has to be dragged to different countries like a particularly incontinent dog is dragged out to the sidewalk on a snowy day.

Exactly. And I agree that Gore, despite reasonable expectations to throw his hat in the ring with this under his belt, will probably ultimately sit this one out. I think it's a real measure of the desire for change that so many people wish for him to jump in, that at the very least he could elevate much of the process and dialogue by his earned gravitas.

This is wishful thinking. Every bit of it's a swamp, and most of the commentators are the sort of rubes whose ancestors were up front for a public hanging back in the old days. Does Gore need to maneuver through the endless bickering of legislative simps who, rather than do anything constructive, prefer to engage in meaningless disputes over newspaper ads and junkie sex-tourist radio assholes, or better yet, even more meaningless resolutions to placate the usual squadron of mouth-breathers? Time well spent, boys, time well spent. Nothing better to do than to harass a guy who runs a completely symbolic agency for one word on a fuckin' flag certificate.

Gore should get back into this mess for what, to make us feel better for letting a bunch of crooks and punks get away with running the operation into the ground in first place? So some dipshit reporter can log face time talking about Gore's wardrobe, his weight, how often he bangs his wife, or any other inane minutiæ they can conjure up when they're not fingering themselves over Fred Thompson's height? (In the end, this will probably be Giuliani's undoing. He's simply too short to be preznit in the teevee age. Weird but true. But the Gambino-style corruption, Springer-esque personal life and crypto-fascism, that's no problem.)

Should Gore get back in so that idiotic conservabloggers can lob ridiculous scuds indicative of absolutely nothing (roughly the equivalent of pointing out that, say, the BTK killer was a lifelong registered Republican)? So some interchangeable peroxide viper can slither onto Hardballs or one of the Fox handjob shows and just pull shit straight outta their asses? Look what they've done to John Edwards -- calling him a faggot and effeminizing him wasn't enough, so now they're circulating tabloid gossip about him cheating on his cancer-stricken wife. Who needs that shit?

I thought Gore was a terrible campaigner in 2000, but being cheated (hell, mugged) out of his victory seems to have been a back-handed favor to him in a way. He certainly found a greater, more constructive sense of purpose, and the ability to move forward without having had to constantly stroke a bunch of authoritarian thugs and fend off their media hyenas, decide whether to risk adding momentum to unconscionable lies by trying to dispute them forcefully or not. He's at least tried to make up for his administration's trashing of the CAFE standards, which is something.

Sometimes you have to really wonder why people get into politics at all, given the nature of the people who cover it and participate in it. I suppose if you become a hog farmer, you have to have a high tolerance for the smell of pig shit, even though pigs themselves are much more intelligent and amusing than your average political commentator.

And if Gore decides to use this last best opportunity to take one more shot at the ring, I'll certainly listen to what he has to say. There's no Nader conscience vote this time around, though while I like the field of Democratic candidates, I remain pessimistic about their will to actually do anything that requires a fight. It's galling that a loathed minority party headed by a universally despised 30% preznit can still push anyone around. But knowing what we know, seeing what we see and hearing what we hear, it's not difficult at all to understand if Gore respectfully declines.

As the Rude Pundit points out, it's not that we're not worthy or that Gore is too good for us. It's that there's still too much stupid in the system, in the legislative priorities and will to stand tall, in the mindless horse-race coverage, and in the sizable rump of the electorate that is still apparently okey-doke with all that shuck-and-jive. Maybe the truly smart person knows better than to even bother with it, if he knows he no longer has the stomach for the smell of pig shit.

Let Us Prey

Here's an idea -- what if we were to use schools for learning, and then we could have a whole 'nother type of building, where people could go in on their own time and pray, or meditate, or get their spirit on, or whatever it is they need to do to validate their place in the universe.

You could call these buildings, let's say, "churches". Or, for that matter, homes.

Nobody is fooled by these seemingly harmless half-measures, people. Outside of school, children have a good eighteen hours a day for religious indoctrination at their family's discretion. There is no harm per se in having a moment of silence every day at school, but there is also absolutely no need or practical use for one either, and considering how the American public school system has been eviscerated over the past couple decades, one would think that people would have more realistic priorities.

As always, one would be completely wrong.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Feeding the Trolls

It seems pretty simple to me, but then I am but a simple man: if you really don't want vile things to be said on your teevee show, then stop inviting vile people on. Is that really so complicated?

Apparently it is for Donny Deutsch, whoever the hell he is. On the off chance you recognize him, maybe slap some sense into him.

Deutsch told Adweek magazine that he had invited Coulter on to discuss her "brand strategy" but that the topic drifted into politics. After Deutsch was offended by Coulter's remarks, he said, "I think she got frightened that maybe she had crossed a line, that this was maybe a faux pas of great proportions."

Seriously, Donny? Do we take the short bus to work or something? Being obnoxious and offensive is her "brand strategy", dipshit. This is not exactly a secret. Crossing lines is pretty much all she does, besides rewriting the same plagiarized tripe over and over again (which at least saves the trouble of explaining the premise). She plays the role of the oh-so-naughty id of her knuckle-dragging fans to the hilt, voicing their darkest impulses, like an emaciated horse with Tourette's blurting out a well-worn Polack joke, culminating in a stupid shit-eating grin like it's grade-A fresh material.

She takes this cheesy sideshow around like clockwork, the same circuit of the same media assholes -- who, given the incestuous nature of media in the first place, are frequently either owned or "partnered" with the conglomerate that owns her publisher. Lather, rinse, repeat. So she finally got around to Jews. Hey, it was bound to happen eventually.

And they go through this song and dance every time like it's the first, acting "shocked" that she said something "controversial", thus ginning up a fake "controversy" for the retard claque who only buy books when there's a contrived scandal attached to it. Yeah, the "topic" "drifted" into politics.

Imagine that. You bring on Ann Coulter -- who, coincidentally, has written yet another nominally political book, indistinguishable from her last dozen or so political books and years of political columns and appearances on political talk shows -- to discuss brand strategy and the whole thing goes sideways into politics, right out of the blue. Holy fucking shit, how did that happen?

Reminds me of the time I struck up a conversation with Jenna Jameson about history and economics, but for some reason she just kept talking about three-ways and ass-fucking and taking countless wads of monkey-chowder in her face. Just weird, is all I'm saying. Jesus H. Christ.

Seabiscuit Coulter at least makes no pretense about what sort of beast she is. The real trolls are the Donny Deutsches and Matt Lauers of the Serious Media scene, who pull this disingenuous horseshit every fucking time, like they're high-minded journamalists or something.

Sad to say, I'm starting to have a sliver less sheer disgust with Coulter, than with the puling media humps who continue to help her push her two-ply screeds. If you can't beat 'em, fuck 'em.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Big Apples and Oranges

Alicublog links to an interesting harangue over a sad, brutal street crime. Apparently the lack of prompt, forceful action by adjacent citizens indicates a resurgence in the sort of indifferent behavior made notorious in the Kitty Genovese case.

What's interesting about this particular tirade is how quickly it devolves into some blanket indictment of New York mores. There is a strange cognitive dissonance with these people -- on the one hand, they are always the first to 9/11 their way through every argument, to excuse every incident of malfeasance, corruption, torture, indiscriminate bloodshed, what have you. Literally everything is excusable under the 9/11 banner. They Will Not Forget, nor will they ever stop humping your leg over it.

But conversely, though they still (and always) fetishize the day and the event, they long ago kicked the actual city to the curb. Now that Count Chocula Mrs. Doubtfire Giuliani has hit the rubber-chicken circuit, the city he left behind has returned to being the source and sum of all their projected fears and misplaced anxieties. Even though it seems that the vast statistical preponderance of lurid crimes tend to come out of the vaunted heartland, some of the denizens of Bobo's world wish to impute the disparity onto a city with a larger population than many states, which is just asinine.

Yes, it sucks that some crazy bastard walked up and stabbed an old woman in the face, and yes it sucks that no one apparently did much to help her initially. But giving everyone a concealed handgun, while it might have resolved that problem, would more likely create a host of others.

Spending a significant part of my childhood in the grubby underbelly of Los Angeles schooled me pretty well to what people are capable of when they're packed together like rats in a cage. But living in the sticks is not a bowl of perky tits either. I can afford (just barely) to get by, but only because I drive 1½ hours each day for a living wage.

It's not news that most of small-town America has been sucked into the low-wage sweaty scrotum of Wal-Mart, and that just as the peculiarities of city life can attract certain "undesirable" elements, so can the low cost of living in the boonies. Gang activity rolls through small towns, as do crank cooks, dope dealers, and other assorted vermin. All underpinned by anti-growth codgers who figure that their government-subsidized family ranches are their stake, and everyone else is on their own, with many business opportunities voted out from sheer intransigence.

And then you have characters like this holy diver (sorry, but it was there for the taking), self-indulgent closet-cases turning up in the strangest of places -- cruising for head in a public restroom, drunkenly offering to blow a cop at a car wash, or in this instance, a Friend of Falwell accidentally asphyxiating himself while wearing two wet-suits.

With a dildo in his ass. With a condom on the dildo. No, really.

This sort of thing actually would make more sense in the stereotypically decadent urban milieu; the fact that such weirdness and awfulness seems to occur in places of less population density and greater proclaimed moral density (heh-indeedy) ought to be food for thought, for careful eaters.

So maybe our indignant provincials should consider plucking the condom-covered dildo out of their own eye before scrawling incoherent tirades indicting millions of their fellow citizens for the reprehensible actions of a few statistical outliers. Of course, that's difficult to put in their usual cap-strewn style, but one always hopes, even when one knows better than to hope too much.

Better Late Than Never

When I do get the chance to read John Cole, he generally comes off as a reasonable person. So it is heartening to see him finally take the plunge, over the Graeme Frost dust-up.

My bad- they don’t have any advice other than “SUCKS TO BE YOU” or “SELL YOUR HOUSE” or “GET ANOTHER JOB.” Because, as we all know, the hallmark of responsibility is making your children homeless so they can maybe get healthcare. Nobody even pointed to the numerous charities that we conservatives are supposed to expect to fill the gap so the government doesn’t have to pay for things. Instead, it was taunts, catcalls, contempt, and jealousy (because these folks are in SUCH an enviable situation).

I simply can not believe this is what the Republican party has become. I just can’t. It just makes me sick to think all those years of supporting this party, and this is what it has become. Even if you don’t like the S-Chip expansion, it is hard to deny what Republicans are- a bunch of bitter, nasty, petty, snarling, sneering, vicious thugs, peering through people’s windows so they can make fun of their misfortune.

I’m registering Independent tomorrow.

I'm sure he realizes that the people running the party currently are neither Republican nor conservative, in the traditional sense. They are authoritarians, through and through, and with that cryptofascist mentality comes a certain amount of cult-like baggage. Facts mean very little, except that they can be distorted for maximum utility. Words mean even less; more accurately, they mean whatever these people want them to mean, neither more nor less. Hysterical emotionalism, bald hypocrisy, years of ad hominem inventions followed by insincere cries of incivility, it's all part of the neoclown bloodsport, and the only objective is to continue their government grifts and pundit sinecures.

And rule #1 has always been that nobody, not even children severely injured in an auto accident, is off limits. I do not think the authoritarian cultists are kidding or being facetious when they imply, for all practical purposes, that the Frosts should upturn the lives of their entire family rather than get even a drop of government assistance. Have any of these stalking harpies commented once on an inept government that has literally dropped entire pallets of $100 bills in the fucking Iraq desert, that still cannot (and will never) account for at least $10 bn, that has been grifted raw by every piece-of-shit subcontractor building piece-of-shit structures for cost-plus contracts?

And they're worried about this kid and family? Naw. It's more limbic than that. Someone pokes them, they poke back. It's how they've always operated. But when poking back involves crawling up a regular family's collective ass with a goddamned microscope, it massively crosses the line of basic common decency.

At least no one can say that haven't been given fair warning. This is what they do; this is how they conduct business. They outsource manufactured outrage to a despicable moral reprobate like Rush Limbaugh, to beat on a family which Cole correctly points out would be a veritable model for all their handy social engineering policies (married; straight; own their own business and home; chose private school for their children), all the while basking in the reflected glow of their own self-serving version of morality.

It's nauseating. One almost hopes that there is a god, so that these animals ultimately get what's coming to them. I can't think of a better punishment than to make them work their asses off for all eternity, only to find themselves always on the margin, always just a paycheck from the street. Welcome to America, fucko.

In Case You Were Wondering

For the record, even though I abhor "reality" shows as a general rule, I'd watch MILF Island. Shit, if I were 19 years old, I'd audition for it. I'm just sayin'.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Can't Get You Out of My Fred

D. Sidhe, in this comment at TBogg's, provides as astute an explanation for the appeal of Fred Thompson as I have heard or read anywhere:

He's the perfect candidate for K-Lo. He tells her everything's fine, and that's what she wants to believe anyway. I was pondering this earlier and it occurs to me that Fred is handling this campaign as though America has asked him if this dress makes us look fat. "No, honey, you look great, I still love you. The girls at the office are just jealous of how pretty you are. Hey, let's go have ice cream, whaddaya say?"

I know from my own relationship that this is a winning strategy from day to day, but over the long term it's a disaster. But all Fred has to do is get people to vote for him once.

That seems to be pretty much it, especially when you peruse the hostile, vituperative (as Dean Broder might say, when he's not busy transcribing the NRCC's sales pitch) nature of Thompson's brand of nutroots supporters. Once you get past the heavily worn rhetoric and straw-man arguments, it all boils down to everyone else being wrong and out to get us for no good reason at all. It makes sense that they would jump through hoops and lick the spaces where their own nuts used to be, just for the opportunity to pimp (much less vote) for someone who affirms those fantasies.

As for Thompson himself, I still stand by all my previous prognostications, that he'll hang in just long enough to generate some cash, and then duck out abruptly. Originally my over/under date for that probably would have been between Thanksgiving and the end of the year, but I can actually see him riding it to the first or second primary. The competition is certainly weak enough to give him some added longevity, but it's still hard to imagine a more temperamentally ill-suited person for the rigors of campaigning, much less occupying office.

(Intellectually, you could obviously say the same about Bush, though Bush's stupidity is his strength here -- Thompson seems intelligent enough to have genuine disdain for the pud-pounding nonsense of whistle-stop campaigning and sound-bite regurgitating, where Bush clearly enjoys any and all opportunities to have his ego stroked or to play dress-up, all the while actin' like it don't make no never mind diff'rence anyhoo, he'd jes' rather be a-chasin' tumbleweeds.)

From all the reportage I've read so far on tonight's "debate", it seems a predictably dismal affair, a bunch of armchair tough-guys lobbing homilies and bromides as if they were spitballers from the Casey Stengel era. If you're into empty qual-flashing -- and your modern conservatard is certainly that -- then you may have a tough time eeny-meeny-miney-moeing your way through this collection of fartknockers.

But it's time someone told the truth, girlfriend, however diplomatically -- that dress has shrunk and faded, and your ass is looking like two hundred pounds of chewed bubble gum. It doesn't hurt to change once in a while, maybe even shower first. It's the people who actually care about you who tell you the truth; if you want your fake friends who tell you what you think you want to hear, you know where to find them.

One Flew Over the Pundits' Nest

Why are these chumps allowed to drive our political narrative?

Todd and Simon are so locked into the same narrative here that both of them actually use the same formulation -- that all Thompson has to do is not "drool" for them to say he defied expectations.

Some follow-up on that might even be in order -- Todd's and Simon's respective wordings are eerily similar. I mean, Thompson does, for all his size and perceived gravitas, also project a vibe of "withered coot", but for two hacks to latch on to the exact same Grampa Simpson meme simultaneously is passing strange. At the very least, it says more about them than it does about Thompson.

I think that what's most irritating about these smug little fuckers is the way they blithely whistle past their own tautological feedback loop. They create the spin on candidates; they are not the helpless passengers they portray themselves as. They helped Bush in 2000 with the soft bigotry of their lowered expectations, while the bar was heightened on Gore. They smeared Howard Dean in 2004, because his intense nutroots support threatened to seriously cut their lobotomized horse-race bullshit right out of the loop.

Kerry they damaged simply by being gulled into stenographing the Swift Boat smears just long enough to kill his momentum. God forbid they should find respectable work. Instead they pretend that the dumb people are smart, and the smart people are assholes. Why? Because that's how they perceive the vaunted heartland -- as a bunch of inbred yahoos who don't cotton much to no one with a fancy triple-digit eye-kew.

And as long as they keep falling for George Bush's schtick, or Fred Thompson's happy horseshit, maybe there's some degree of truth there. Maybe they could do some reportage on why that is, why people continue to vote against themselves just because a lifelong lawyer/lobbyist/actor slaps on a flannel shirt and rents hisself a pick-em-up truck and a driver for the hunnerd-yard drive from the nearest parking lot to Cooter's Stump.

But that's beside the point here. The problem is that these would-be prognosticators think of this in terms of narrative, rather than fact. What does Thompson say at these speeches; what is the substance of it? Well, we never hear that, we just get goober-on-the-street endorsements of how Thompson made them feel, which we already fuckin' knew.

I'll even be intellectually consistent here and posit that if Thompson is passable at the debate, and the media weasels do exactly what they said they were going to do -- that is, praise him because he doesn't drool and dig in his ass while he's on stage -- they would be doing a disservice to Thompson himself, on the off chance he actually said something worthy and substantive.

Since this collapsing circus tent of a party has nothing new to say or offer, that's not going to happen, but since the media have already decided what this year's storyline will be on our groovy campaign reality show, we'd never know it in the first place.

Monday, October 08, 2007

PMS (Private Military Superfriends)

Da-na-na-na na-na-na-na na-na-na-na na-na-na-na-Blackwater!!1!

“I think that he thinks he is like Bruce Wayne in Batman,” said Robert Young Pelton, the author of “Licensed to Kill” (Crown Publishing Group), a book on contractors in Iraq, who is one of the few journalists to have interviewed Mr. Prince extensively. “Bruce Wayne lives in a mansion and then at night he is out in the bat cave with the Batmobile. And that is Erik. I think he is conflicted.”

That explains a lot. It's only a matter of time before Prince starts getting pestered with phone calls from Jonah Goldberg to let him drive the Batmobile -- or worse yet, offer to be Robin.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Born to Snooze

So let's see if we have this straight -- by talking to the pimp entrusted with congressional Republican fortunes next year, Broderella reasonably concludes that a change is a comin' back, that elephant futures are imminently ascendant.

I mean, seriously? What's the GOP guy supposed to say, that his roster of punch-drunk losers is going to get plastered next year, except in the most retarded and entrenched incumbent districts? That aside from the most stereotypically podunk areas where people will always vote against themselves so's long as you wave the flag and talk about Jebus sufficiently, most people at this point would rather vote for an illegal alien pulled out of a Home Depot parking lot queue than any of these interchangeable public bathroom closet cases?

Here's Cole's -- and thus Broder's -- rationale:

Cole, who admits Republicans hurt themselves in 2006 with scandals and out-of-control spending, said the poll confirmed for him a comment he heard this week from a Republican colleague. Speaking of the Democrats, he said, "My God, they're dragging themselves down to our level."

It all adds up, Cole said, to a political environment reminiscent of 1992 -- a tough year for entrenched incumbents of both parties who suddenly saw their margins shrink or disappear. "The American people are rising up in disgust," Cole said, "and incumbents will pay. It's not anti-Republican anymore. It's anti-Washington."

I'm always bemused by voters who still manage to fall for the Heroic Outsider trope. It's the political equivalent of falling for the hallowed Nigerian-prince-in-distress e-mail scam. But every election season some subset of goobers willingly falls for Candidate X's cheesy brew of bumptious populism and crusader rhetoric. And then they're shocked and pissed that they got exactly what they deserve -- either a lying hack or a complete dipshit, frequently both.

But in this case, Broder completely ignores the obvious, that the Democratic Congress' record-low approval ratings are coming from the left. I assume Cole knows better; at the very least, it's his job to know better. (It's Broder's job to know better as well, of course, but look where that's gotten him.) But because Broder and his colleagues prize mindless capitulation and compromise, disguised as "bipartisanship" and "cooperation", it is the "polarization" that is most damaging.

This is simply untrue. It is indisputable that, if anything, Congress' poll ratings would climb if they were more combative, less inclined to give Mister Man whatever he wants. It may as well be a mathematical axiom; The People want their legislative representatives to be either more or less "cooperative". While occasionally crafting no-brainer domestic bills such as SCHIP, designed to force Bush into politically unsavory tactics, they have yet to stand their ground on a single meaningful Iraq bill. So if we take Cole and his helpful transcriber Dean Broder seriously, then we presume that standing their ground would have given them an even lower record-low rating. Quite literally a no-win situation, if true.

But it is hard to imagine such a situation even being possible. Think about it: Democrats let themselves get rolled by Bush, they garner a grotesque 11% approval rating; but if they had fought harder and meaner, they'd be rated even lower. That is the thesis presented here, in the guise of responsible political journalism. That literally means that there is nothing Congress could do that would secure a reasonable amount of approval.

But that's what you get when you turn your column over to the NRCC chairman, transcribe his sales pitch, and give it the imprimatur of serious analysis. I mean, shit, why not interview Dick Cheney and punctuate it with a "What he said" every paragraph or so? Seriously, why precisely doesn't the NRCC have to buy ad space like everyone else?

These people churn out this tiresome, ridiculous crap, over and over again, sleepwalking through their professional obligations, and then they pretend to wonder why we vituperative bloggerses hold them up as wankers emeritii. They are remarkably disingenuous in their pretense; every column and every word they write, dumber and more obtuse than the last, makes it clearer that they are really just talking to themselves, to each other, around us.

It's just the Village Newsletter, is all, telling the people who actually bankroll this failed system how to skew their marketing for the next go-round.