Monday, June 30, 2008


Diaper Dave and Larry the Wide Stance Guy team up to desecrate irony's long-dead corpse again, this time for them fambly valyews.

Two United States Senators implicated in extramarital sexual activity have named themselves as co-sponsors of S. J. RES. 43, dubbed the Marriage Protection Amendment. If ratified, the bill would amend the United States Constitution to state that marriage “shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman.” Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID), who was arrested June 11, 2007 on charges of lewd conduct in a Minneapolis airport terminal, is co-sponsoring the amendment along with Sen. David Vitter (R-LA).

Wonder if Larry was back in the stall looking for anniversary trade a couple weeks ago. But hey, as long as Mesdames Craig and Vitter are cool with this ridiculous horseshit, who are we to snicker uncontrollably? The only people these cocksuckers are fooling are the ones who want (need) to be fooled in the first place. They deserve each other. Thanks girls. I consider my marriage protected at long last.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Fear and Loathing

Holy Joe makes the rounds on the Sunday morning rubber-chicken circuit. This just in -- he thinks the Democrats are pussies. Since they continue to let him caucus with them, maybe they are.

In describing the reasons he believes the Republicans' presumptive nominee for president would be better prepared than the Democrats' to lead the nation next January, Sen. Joe Lieberman said that history shows the United States would likely face a terrorist attack in 2009.

"Our enemies will test the new president early," Lieberman, I-Conn., told Face The Nation host Bob Schieffer. "Remember that the truck bombing of the World Trade Center happened in the first year of the Clinton administration. 9/11 happened in the first year of the Bush administration."

Yep. And when the first WTC bombing happened, without warning, the perpetrators were rounded up, brought to trial, and dispatched to Club Fed. Done and done. Compare and contrast to this administration's responses, after Fredo had been duly warned by an eerily prescient memo, but could not be bothered to interrupt his vacation.

Preparedness is only part of the equation; knowledge and judgment are equally important. McCain makes jokes about starting yet another war, and cannot be bothered to know basic differences between Sunni and Shi'a that every third DFH blogger knows by now. These are only questions of "preparedness" if you think that the appropriate response to a strange noise in your yard is to immediately strafe it with an assault weapon, rather than flip on the light or, god forbid, call the cops.

Also, I think there is a very strong case -- which I have yet to see in our esteemed media -- to point out that Obama is much more likely to know his limitations and stock his cabinet accordingly, whereas McCain is notorious for not playing well with others and has become an all-too-willing butt-boy for an administration that positively drips with contempt for any remotely dissenting piece of advice.

Lieberman also assailed Obama and fellow Senators who called for a timetable of withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and opposed the "surge" of additional U.S. forces pushed forth by President Bush.

"It's now working," Lieberman told Schieffer. "If we had done what Senator Obama asked us to do for the last couple of years, today Iran and al Qaeda would be in control of Iraq. It would be a terrible defeat for us and our allies in the Middle East and throughout the world. Instead, we've got a country that's defending itself, that's growing economically, where there's been genuine political reconciliation, and where Iran and al Qaeda are on the run. And that's the way it ought to be."

Setting aside the fact that the region -- and the U.S. -- would be much better off if we had done what Obama had said in the first place and not invaded Iraq, Lieberman's assessment is truly bizarre. Not one of those assertions appears to be true -- the country's government cannot even defend itself from internal strife, insurgents are ramping back up in Afghanistan, and Iran indisputably has come out ahead in all this. The only way they'll get the Iranian war they crave is if Israel initiates a bombing run on facilities, at which point the inevitable retaliation becomes a pretext for more death and, to use a metric that seems paramount to the American heart, higher gas prices.

A couple days ago I saw yet another one of these ridiculous "news" pieces showing reg'lar folks at gas stations, ranting that Congress is not doing enough to counter the financial impact on their blessed entitlement. Whether this is in fact a common sentiment (and of course it probably is), it was presented as if it were. Coupled with both McCain and Obama recently making the usual "if I had a magic wand" trope on the stump, it appears that there are too many people who need a crash course in what's going on here.

The main thing is that no single entity -- not Congress, not Obama, not McCain, not Bush -- can swoop in and right this situation with a single solution. There are simply too many extenuating factors, too many externalities. Perhaps if were weren't treated like children, and were permitted to view what took place in Big Time's Energy Task Farce back in the day, we'd have some more clues as to what the hell's going on. In the meantime, the factors that we have some control over -- fuel economy standards; demand, consumption, and waste; investment in alternative energy sources -- should be identified and made the focus of a comprehensive policy. Instead, we are treated to stupid people saying ignorant things, like a "gas tax holiday" or some such will solve anything. This is retarded.

And because it's retarded, there's a better-than-decent chance that escalating gas prices will become part of a late-summer marketing campaign to start a war with Iran, even though that would send barrel prices over $200 overnight, and gas probably to $6/gallon. But hey, as long as Joe Lieberman's doing a solid for his good buddy, rather than for his former party or his country, I guess it's all good. It's what we've come to expect.

For added entertainment value, do check out the comments on the CBS News link. It's a wonder and a shame that some of these yahoos are allowed to breed.

Ring of Fire

Been an interesting past couple weeks, here and everywhere else. You may have seen that the northern half of our fair state has been aflame lately, probably as divine retribution for allowing homosexuals to have basic civil rights. First was the Humboldt Fire a couple weeks ago (so called because of the street in Chico near where it originated), which raced up the back of the canyon to Paradise and burned through several dozen homes and back down the other side of the ridge before it was finally contained, thanks to the tireless efforts of fire crews from all over California.

Then last weekend, just as that blaze was under control, freak thunderstorms hit, lightning sparking something like 800 fires across more than a dozen counties all over the north, in a very crude giant circle a couple hundred miles in diameter. The town I'm in is not far from the center of that circle, so we were fortunately unscathed by any actual fires. Instead, for the entire week we were treated to a massive grey smoke curtain extending in all directions. Air quality was bad but livable, but the really strange thing was the unrelenting greyness, for this time of year.

Since we had originally been forecast for around 100º weather, it was strangely relieving to have cool mornings that oddly replicated some of the mildly foggy mornings we normally get in October. This would be followed by muggy afternoons, the only evidence of heat coming from the sun glowering through the smoke overhead, white with an unpleasant orange corona. This went on all week, with the attendant low visibility and funky air quality. Finally it's starting to dissipate, so it will be nice to get some outdoor walking in before the July/August heat waves.

It's way better than what people along the Mississippi are having to deal with; we got flooded back in 1998, only a foot or two, but even that sucks to all hell. At least we were able to save our house, although tearing out a house full of saturated carpet (and there are several ranches nearby, so there were ample amounts of cow shit, firewood, and diesel fuel in the floodwater) and having industrial dehydrators dry out your house (and your sinuses) for six weeks is no picnic. But there are entire towns in Iowa and Illinois and Missouri that are completely wrecked. They will go back in and rebuild and get back to their lives as best they can, and good luck with that. A friend of mine in Iowa was fortunate in that he lives up a hill, so his house escaped flood damage. But he works at the Winnebago plant nearby, and as you might expect, the company has experienced catastrophic losses due to gas prices, so they're shutting down the plant. Perhaps he can help with the rebuilding.

And what of that, the rebuilding? This is the second time in fifteen years that the Mississippi has experienced "100-year" or "500-year" flooding. So either their metrics are way off, or something is happening. Soil erosion seems to be a tremendous problem in that part of the country; excessive farming has leached and destroyed the topsoil. Non-replenishable fossil aquifers are being tapped at record rates for agriculture, and even as the Midwest learns to swim yet again, California is having another drought year (last year was not quite dry enough to be technically a drought year, but was very close; this year is the real deal).

And as the desertification and massive globalization of China continue apace, you wonder where it all intersects, and where it will culminate fifteen or even five years down the road. Some of your more, let's say, strident environmental advocates equate humanity with a virus afflicting the planet. Certainly in its more extreme manifestations there's a strong case to be made there, though instead of making it about us one way or the other, we just have to look at it as ecosystems reacting to imposed conditions of unsustainability, and whether we will adapt or revert accordingly, or continue to proceed blindly.

But the real problem is that there is no political means on any scale for dealing with the inevitable fallout of those destructive practices. Whether the scarce commodity is food, fuel, money, land, or water, the problem is usually not production but almost always distribution, coupled with the failure to recognize and adapt to severity.

The favored political mechanism for dealing with the people who are adversely affected by these shortages the most severely, and have been disempowered from any real role in their own lives, is walls. Walls to keep people out, to keep them in, to manage and direct their lives for them, since they are not permitted or entrusted to do so themselves. It deceptively grants the soothing sense of security; whether it's a gated community or a ghetto, everyone knows where their assigned places are and are not.

Fast forward a decade or two in all those places:
  • a Mexican nation with a dead infrastructure, a desperate population, a dry oil supply, and drug cartels directing a failed government;

  • the Baghdad maze of sectarian ghettos, protecting neighbors from neighbors and cordoning them all off for supervision, whether by wearied and dismayed American troops or revanchist sectarian squads;

  • Palestinian refugee camps teeming with poverty and rage and despair, unable to live with dignity in Israel, unwanted by their fellow Arab nations;

  • an economically stratified America, run by multinational merchant princes for their own benefit, throwing us a bone or a distraction to keep us at bay for one more profit-taking, one more empty financial speculation to be ultimately bailed out by the taxpayer, islands of gated communities and two-tiered education and health systems in giant lakes and oceans of people just trying to dog-paddle to shore.

We've spent a trillion dollars in Iraq so far, in five years, with nothing to show for it but skyrocketing food and fuel prices; how much infrastructure, how many college educations and fully-funded health-care programs would a trillion dollars have covered for the next generation? That openly upward wealth transfer, that theft of opportunity in an economically pyramidal society, necessitates the walls, if only to add insult to injury.

With regards to the environment, in many cases we have done things as if we would always be able to control the consequences, as if nature couldn't simply shrug her shoulders once in a while and knock things down again, for us to rebuild newer and better diversions and obstructions, with newer and worse consequences. The political side of that coin has that same inexorability in many places and social groups, an opaque curtain of smoke, obscuring truth and relief, but only temporarily.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Ladies Man

If only I had gone with the "Vatican banker" story more often, I might have hooked up with Anne Hathaway at some point. So close, and yet so far away.

Now that she's single again, I have to make a pitch to the fair Anne. Don't let the 5'2½", 310# physique fool you, baby, I'm a fucking sex walrus with ribbed tusks. You will not be disappointed, especially if you are not disappointed by erectile frustration and shortness of breath. I'm tellin' ya, I'm hung like a manatee and I got fewer legal problems. I have not recently tried to bilk the pope. If you dig Peter Griffin, I sorta look like him in a certain light.

She probably gets this sort of shit all the time. It never hurts to try.

Jesus Brings the Pork Chops

I am not going to bullshit you with some "George Carlin made me who I am" anecdote, but I'd be lying if I said there wasn't an influence there. As a kid, my favorite performers were comedians, and spending large chunks of those formative years in largely black areas of LA, I became attuned to black musicians and comedians pretty early on.

For comedy it was Richard Pryor and Redd Foxx that I heard most often, and when I finally heard the seven dirty words that Cracker America was up in arms about, I loved it, yet found it even funnier that Pryor's and especially Foxx' stuff was much filthier, gleefully so, and without the pretensions of guilt. Which of course was Carlin's point all along.

Once Carlin had passed through the corporate sphincter and had become truly embittered and imbued with his peculiar genius, he just got better and better. I love that his approach never faltered, never softened as he got older; if anything it was the opposite. This was especially gratifying as the '90s progressed, as true geniuses Sam Kinison and Bill Hicks fell, that Carlin was there to step in and take the fury further.

He was, to lamely coin a pun (truly the lowest form of humor), the very model of a modern major misanthrope. And it was that vein of misanthropy that I connected with in my earliest attempts at internets tomfoolery a decade ago. It was rambunctious, boisterous anarchic syndicalism, but rigorously so, with an impatience for intellectual laziness and braindead lovefests. Either put out, put forth, or fuck off, was the operative thrust of this ethos, and I could swim in that lake for a good long time.

Carlin's strength wasn't the old "truth to power" schtick; it's that he spoke truth to bozos. It is not, if you haven't noticed, a terribly lucrative market in telling Americans that they are fat and lazy and stupid, and easily bought off. Yet Carlin was able to do it with missionary zeal, yet not have it come off like a tedious lecture. That's an art, partly given credibility by his status as an elder statesman, but also by the clear joy he had in nailing people with their worst habits. The mastery of wordplay and pop culture and current events established genuine credibility to his caustic perorations, beyond any "contemporary" "comedian".

Puncturing social mores, or at least pretending to do so, is a staple of comics far and wide, but none can do it with the unblinking contempt, yet sympathetic heart, that George Carlin brought to it. I'm not a fan of too many people (in every sense of that phrase) -- fewer and fewer as I grow older -- but you could do worse if you were looking for someone to emulate. Carlin was nothing short of a modern-day Mencken, unfortunately in a world that seems to have forgotten many of H.L.'s psalms, only to live them out.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Lowered Expectations

I'd say Perrin has a decent handle on the masochistic nature of the Dem die-hards accepting Obama's capitulation on the FISA immunity bill. Although the "where ya gonna go" attitude obviously pervades both parties to some extent (though the Republicans have generally given more latitude to the fundie wing because they bring in money and voters with consistency), and Obama clearly believes this to be a tactical stance.

Who knows? Given the demonstrated brainpower of the creamy center of American political life, where people only comprehend a one-dimensional energy policy and the media still wonder aloud if some inbred Appalachian rube can handle a black preznit, there's not much to dispel the notion.

Then there's stuff like this, which sorta makes you wonder if giving women the vote was such a great idea:

So close and yet so far - that is the major stream of female thought in 2008 America. And nothing shows this better than two current cultural phenomena, Hillary Rodham Clinton's run for the presidency and box office hit "Sex and the City."

As phenomena go, Hillary's 18 million Democratic primary votes were an impressive feat, but the glass ceiling remains intact. Electing Hillary Clinton president would have been the single most powerfully liberating moment for American women ever. It was not to be. And while she scored many more female voters than her rival, that rival earned a whopping 90 percent of the vote cast by his own affinity group, African Americans.

Meanwhile, more millions of women (by a factor of four) have rushed to the nation's theaters to see "Sex and the City" than the millions of women who voted for Hillary in the primaries. And yes, it's mostly women and gay men who are "Sex" fans - most straight men wouldn't admit they saw the film, if they saw it at all.


More realistically, or at least seemingly so, traditional feminists tend to be armed with age and experience and sturdier shoes. They've been aiming for a bigger prize of elective and executive power much of their lives. They are determined to finally smash that barrier to the nation's highest office, for all it represents. They are the ones who laid the difficult groundwork for many of the workplace and lifestyle benefits that enable the younger, nontraditional types to go for the glass slipper instead.

Many of these women were ardent Hillary supporters. They are still suffering from shellshock. One of them tells me that it may be a while before she can clearly voice the depth and shape of her feelings. She feels both a profound sadness and a hot rage at the injustices she saw Hillary endure for months from both the media and from the Democratic Party. She says she feels like she has witnessed a metaphorical witch-burning over the past months, an event from which she cannot turn her eyes away. She feels that the party coddled a less experienced man into position while simultaneously shredding Hillary's character in the public imagination.

Kee-rist. "Suffering from shellshock". "It may be a while before she can clearly voice the depth and shape of her feelings". "Metaphorical witch-burning". Oh my. It goes on like that. Somewhere in sitcom heaven, Archie Bunker is rolling his eyes with a pained, dyspeptic expression, uttering those immortal words.

"Wouldja please stifle yaself, dingbat?"

Funny how we've heard so many of these tedious plaints about how poor Hillary was mercilessly calumniated by her own party, by a feckless media, by her naïve whelp of an opponent, yet there never seem to be any specifics, just these handwringing histrionics about how unfair it all was, and how all these would be Lysistratas are going to get back at us by voting for Poor Old Straight Talk. Never mind that Hillary, a lifelong pro as we were incessantly reminded, gave as good as she got every step of the way, wielding the smarmy innuendo club with barely-concealed passion.

Bullshit. Look, you really feel all that worked up from your "shellshock" and what-not over the "witch-burning", then fucking do it already. Vote for McCain, see what that gets ya. Climb out of everyone's ass and get on with your lives already. Go watch Sex and the City again or something.

That rage is particularly acute when discussing both mainstream and "progressive" media. Traditional feminists expected sexist attacks from the right, but not alleged lefty Chris Matthews saying that Hillary would never have been elected to the Senate had her husband not cheated.

The wound is opened anew when one of the most well-known exemplars of mainstream television suddenly dies and is revered as a "colossus" of journalism. This is the same man, the late Tim Russert, who chuckled benevolently when one of his guests, Christopher Hitchens on "Meet the Press," repeatedly called Hillary Clinton a "bitch." This is the same news icon who was satirized on "Saturday Night Live" as pitching softballs to Barack Obama and double whammy corkscrew change-ups to Hillary when he moderated a nationally televised debate. Women won't forgive him, even as he's laid to rest.

Who's alleging that Chris Matthews is a "lefty"? He had Ann Coulter on for a full fucking hour the last time she pumped out another retread two-ply manifesto. And Russert, who knows? He may have voted Democrat if he was serious about his working-class roots, but there's no guarantees there. He may not have even voted; a lot of Serious Journamalists abstain to maintain that veneer of objectivity.

The nut of all these whinges that have been coming out is this -- women will forgive pretty much any transgression imaginable, but if there's a perceived insult to a perpetually aggrieved self-selecting demo, well, it's on, chump. Russert had been a faithful lackey for many a year, allowing any and all sorts of liars and miscreants to snuggle up and peddle their line. But he let a professional contrarian tosspot get away with using the b-word. Now there's a problem.

It's not nice, and it's not fair. But it's also not Obama's doing. Objectively what they're saying is that they'd rather throw the election to John McCain and let him lawn-dart the country for another four years because Tim Russert chuckled when Christopher Hitchens called Hillary Clinton a bitch. Perhaps if they said this aloud to themselves in front of a mirror while trying on the Manolos and the Vera Wang, they would understand better how stupid that is. It doesn't even qualify as a line of reasoning. Why not just break into Obama's house and boil a pet rabbit, and be done with it?

This whole internal monologue about the glass ceiling and the glass slipper or whatever would be more helpful if just one (1) of these angry bra-burners could point to any other female, from either party, who would be a viable presidential candidate. It would be even more helpful if any of them managed to ascribe any level of importance to any one of her actual policies or positions, rather than just her plumbing.

The fact is, whether or not one chooses to believe that Hillary Clinton's political career was launched by the fallout generated by her husband getting blown by the help (but, you know, spanking it out in the sink, because coming in her mouth would have been cheating), her viability as a presidential candidate was in great part fueled by who she is, and by who he is. That's not to minimize her ability as a senator; she has proven to be as intelligent and resourceful a person as one could want in government, though too establishmentarian for her own good in the end. And she was the anointed front-runner for almost all of 2007. If she had gotten the nomination, a lot of people wouldn't have liked it, but they would have voted for her nonetheless. But in the end a narrow margin of people decided they liked Obama just a little better. That's how it works. Deal with it.

I have no illusions about being in the presence of greatness; truly great people tend to avoid the mendacious world of politics like the plague. I want the person who is going to do the least amount of harm to an already grievously wounded country, and right now that person is Barack Obama. I couldn't care less about race or gender. But for those people for whom identity politics trumps common sense, you'd think that having an embarrassment of diverse riches in their party's candidates (not only Clinton and Obama, but Bill Richardson, who is Hispanic, and Dennis Kucinich, who is of either elf or halfling stock) would be enough. Nope. It's all about them.

I have no idea how this all ultimately plays out in an extraordinary American season which is testing the limits of both misogyny and racism and consumerism in our culture. But while thinking about it all, I had the most fabulous phone call from one of the listeners to my radio show.

She and her female friends, most of them Hillary supporters in their 80s, were getting dressed up to go out for cocktails, dinner and a movie. Cosmopolitans, that's what they'd drink, just like Carrie and Samantha.

These women had been friends forever and would wear their fashionable and stylish best, perhaps Chanel vintage and a plumed, bejeweled, velvet pillbox, albeit with comfortable shoes.

You see, they haven't been content, ever, in their lives. They'd always wanted to both shatter the glass ceiling and to possess the glass slipper. They don't know how they'll vote in the fall. They're still trying to figure that out, but I bet you can guess what movie they went to see.

I sure can. I bet it's that one where Brando jams that stick of butter in that broad's poop-chute (which would make her a Samantha, because Charlotte's a good girl and Miranda's too much of a ballbusting control freak and....uh, so I've heard, hey, what about them Celtics?), because of that frisson of sexual liberation it connotes.

No seriously, I can't muster up the energy to give half a fuck why I should care what some addled dowagers who still aren't sure how they plan to vote have to say as they wallow in manufactured self-pity. It is a nice statement that this country can grow up and get over itself to nominate and/or elect a woman and/or a minority as president. It really is.

So if you're so bloody concerned about your precious diversity, why would you even jokingly threaten to go for the old white guy, and a belligerent, ignorant coot at that? Anyone making such a comment, whatever their degree of, ferchrissake, "shellshock", betrays themselves as callow, unserious. Maybe even hysterical and emotional.

And is the world really clamoring for yet another of these warmed-over too-clever-by-half SatC metaphors, another stale panegryic to some post-feminist consumer-fetishist erotomanic version of womynhood? Isn't one Maureen Dowd quite more than enough?

The thing that really pisses me off about the stream of inane anecdotal profiles such as this, aside from the cheesy pop-culture analogies, is how condescending it truly is to women. It emphasizes the perception of superficiality, of vindictiveness, of petty self-aggrandizement and of retributive fantasies. Any demographic painted with such a tendentious broad brush is being unfairly maligned, because anyone conflating a serious decision-making process with a meringue rom-com would have to be a damned fool. Jesus Christ, why not just let Kung Fu Panda make your decisions for you?

Our Little Clubhouse

Well, ain't this cozy? Looks like Pravda's eternally beleaguered ombudsperson has her mitts full with a couple of overpaid hacksesteemed journamalists wetting their beaks on company time. Not that anything will actually be done about it, mind you. After all, accountability is always for other people, whether you work in the White House or, like Woodward and Broder, under it.

Howell acknowledges that Broder and Woodward broke the Post’s own rules and “did not check with editors on the appearances Silverstein mentioned.” She extracts an apology from Broder, and says the Post “needs an unambiguous, transparent well-known policy on speaking fees and expenses. . . . Fees should be accepted only from educational, professional or other nonprofit groups for which lobbying and politics are not a major focus–with no exceptions.”

But Howell goes very easy on Broder—who has been flagrantly dishonest with his own employer and with Howell–and Woodward, who is allowed to glide away from some very embarrassing matters. Also, Howell deals with only a few speeches by Woodward and Broder, even though Woodward gave dozens and Broder gave roughly a score. I understand that she could not deal with each instance individually (nor did I), but she could have mentioned prominently the fact that the two men, and especially Woodward, are regulars on the talk circuit and that the problem is not restricted to the few speeches she discusses in her column.

Broder first told Howell, “I have never spoken to partisan gatherings in any role other than [that of] a journalist nor to an advocacy group that lobbies Congress or the federal government.” That turned out to be false, as Howell discovered, so Broder came back to say, “I am embarrassed by these mistakes and the embarrassment it has caused the paper.”

Broder told Howell he attended an event at the American Council for Capital Formation, “but did not give a speech.” So apparently someone at the ACCF made up this account of Broder’s speech to the group?

I reported that Broder gave a speech at a meeting of the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors (which paid him, he now admits, $7,000), which was a PAC fundraiser. Howell writes: “Mary Beth Coya, the Realtors’ senior vice president for public and governmental affairs, said the event was not a fundraiser but was attended by elected officials ‘to promote our government affairs programs’.” The event in fact was clearly promoted as a PAC fundraiser. And by the way, “government affairs program” is Washington-talk for lobbying.

Oh noes, this will certainly affect Broderella's rep on the appletini circuit. Who will now step forward to funnel unfounded gossip that the next Bush bounce is just around the bend? When in doubt, there's always Karl Rove. He's got the real math.

Woodward's bullshit is even better, as is Howell's own reluctance to demand the same accountability from her own employees as they might expect from their subjects.

Howell doesn’t mention this—Post reporters, it seems, will call people to ask about their actions but won’t take calls about their own. More outrageous is that Broder specifically denied to Howell that I had sought comment from him (which I know only because Howell told me during a phone conversation), even though I contacted him several times, by phone and email, beginning forty-eight hours before posting the first story.

Meanwhile, Woodward told Howell that he turns down “lots” of speech requests and gives “many” for free. That’s nice, but irrelevant, he’s still broken Post policy by receiving payment for a number of the speeches he did accept. He also called Post policy “fuzzy and ambiguous.” So why didn’t he ask anyone at the paper to clear things up for him before accepting so many speaking appearances for fees that apparently top (easily) $1 million?

Finally, Woodward told Howell “all his speaking fees — which range from $15,000 to $60,000 — go to a foundation he started in the 1990s.” He added, “It’s a straight shot into the foundation that gives money to legitimate charities. I think that’s doing good work.”

St. Woodward can don his halo and gaze in the mirror all he likes, but he really shouldn’t treat Post readers with such contempt. The facts are clear. He reaps significant tax savings by giving the fees to a “charity” that gives away a small fraction of its assets, and by far the biggest beneficiary of his foundation is Sidwell Friends, the elite private school sitting atop a reported $30 million endowment and attended by his own children.

[emphasis mine]

Coolness. So these guys, who have clearly spent far too long living off the fat of the land rather than producing anything even remotely useful, have copied the tried-and-true schtick of the hack politician -- go out and line your pockets on the rubber-chicken circuit. The amount of money these people make to show up and burble about who-knows-what -- it's an alien world.

Who shows up to these things? Are these the corporate conventioneers and PACmen who are simply too dumb or old or fat to head for the bar and look for strange? Really, why on earth would anyone pay money to sit still and listen to Broder or Woodward or Rudy Giuliani or any of these buffoons? The only thing I can think of is that it's someone else's money. It has to be. These putzes are all just paying each other exorbitant sums of money to carry each other's water. Imagine if they had to work for a living.

Wrinkled Beef Curtain

I assume I am in the majority when I say I had no clue that a niche market of elderly Japanese men fantasize about boning their daughters-in-law.

Director Gaichi Kono says the eroticism of elders is captivating to younger viewers. "I think that, as a subject, there is this something that only an older generation has and the young people do not possess. It is because they lived that much more. We should respect them and learn from them," says Kono passionately.

But [adult video actor Shigeo] Tokuda stresses the appeal of his work to an audience of his peers: "Elderly people don't identify with school dramas," he says. "It's easier for them to relate to older-men-and-daughters-in-law series, so they tend to watch adult videos with older people in them." The veteran porn star plans to keep working until he's 80 — or older, as long as the industry will cast him. Given the bullish market for his work, he's unlikely to go without work.

"People of my age generally have shame, so they are very hesitant to show their private parts," Tokuda says. "But I am proud of myself doing something they cannot." Still, he says, laughing, "That doesn't mean that I can tell them about my old-age pensioner job."

Dude, this is so many kinds of wrong, and at the very least a completely unpredictable take on the MILF trend (this would be the GGILF trend I guess). I suppose whatever puts lead in your pencil is okey-doke, so long as it doesn't scare the horses, but I have to wonder about a young person who gets off watching elderly people have sex, and even if the market is actually older folks (which makes more sense), why do they want to bang their sons' wives?

I guess I'll just have to chalk it up to fundamental cultural differences, but while I've always found Japanese people and culture fascinating, they do have their share of rather unsettling trends, mostly it seems in game shows, cartoons, and porn. Weird, wild stuff.

Of course, as Ron at Center Face points out, we 'murkins are certainly no slouches when it comes to whoring out our daughters. I'm not exactly a Mennonite, but the day I see my daughter wearing something like that -- no matter what age she is -- I'm kicking her ass, then I'm kicking the ass of the person who sold it to her. True dat. Ten bucks says that outfit says "Juicy" or "Sassy" or some such across the ass.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Friends With Benefits

Any further questioning of the Tim Russert hagiography seems destined to come across as impugning the man's personal integrity. I think that might almost be by design, insofar as it discourages any speculation about anything useful. But one can certainly acknowledge the decency of the individual while challenging the integrity of the institution, it simply requires extra effort to separate the two.

Why does a journalist get the practical equivalent of a state funeral, with the direct wielders and beneficiaries of power -- the very people whom by definition are supposed to be the primary targets of the institution -- showing up in droves? On one level, we can give them some benefit of the doubt and say that they liked and respected Russert because they felt he treated them "fairly", which is naturally subject to their own peculiar interpretation.

But the anchor-level figureheads are also chroniclers of empire, courtiers occasionally affecting a harmless pose of seriousness of purpose, usually with a safe line of questioning that then gets regarded as "aggressive". Yet it rarely gets beyond the level of getting a guest to offer something resembling a quantifiable opinion on something, and immediately unearthing a quote from that same person on the same subject, from a year or ten years ago, that might seem to contradict the new iteration.

This eventually transforms the designated asker into a star of sorts, and as politics is show business for ugly people, the stars of the Beltway entertainment world come out for their own when the time comes. I'm honestly a bit surprised some enterprising lobbyist hasn't come up with some DC version of the Walk of Fame, though no one wants to see Dennis Hastert accidentally imprint his tits in the wet concrete outside the Morton's on Connecticut.

Real journalism appears to me to be a rather dangerous undertaking, done correctly. You're supposed to be asking questions and researching data about people who would rather not have those things aired. In Russia, for example, this pursuit literally puts your life in danger. Here you can be bought and co-opted, and if you persist in committing serious journalism, it can still be a self-destructive endeavor, whether it's Lara Logan constantly risking her life in war zones only to be told by editors that Americans are bored and inured to the prospect of dead soldiers they've never been permitted to see, or more sinisterly, Gary Webb who, even if he wasn't "suicided", was certainly driven to committing the deed by what he knew, what he sought, the information and knowledge he had amassed, and ultimately how all of it was blithely ignored, dismissed by "serious" people as conspiracy-guy piffle.

None of that is any individual journalist's fault, but rather a collective failure of all the things a genuinely independent entity must do to maintain its separation from its subjects. It's understandable; these are very rich and very powerful people, and they all want to be your friend, because they know it's very difficult for decent people to publicly embarrass their friends with awkward questions. So of course it's turned into a club, one whose standards are simply discretion and palm-greasing.

In the Clinton era, the modus operandi was to focus on the tawdry antics of the chief executive, though you'd think selling artillery to the Turks so that they could decimate Kurdish villagers and slaughter more civilians than Slobodan Milosevic ever thought about would be plenty tawdry. Instead it was this pointless fixation on the very same activity everyone in that town does to each other as a matter of professional courtesy. But they had to maintain the pretense that they regard such things with disdain. Fine. Then explain the continued employment of Bobo Brooks.

In the current era, it consists of ignoring or explaining away the deliberate effort to undermine fairly simple constitutional precepts, and establish a de facto monarchy, euphemistically called a "unitary executive". Instead we've been treated to endless, tedious play-by-play breakdowns of the extended slap fight between the Democratic candidates, any of whom (even Mike Gravel) would have been preferable not only to the current crew, but to any of their would-be Republican replacements. And now that Obama has finally been anointed with the nomination, we'll get a summer of "be careful what you wish for" coverage from the dictators (in both senses of that word) of narrative.

These two groups of people, those aspiring to power and those who chronicle their deeds and words, are supposed to be at least somewhat antagonistic. They should be cats and dogs, or at least cats and mice. Instead they are peanut butter and jelly. Why do you think that is?

[Update: What Thers said (and brilliant Photoshopping from Watertiger). "You went on Meet the Press to have your legitimacy consecrated." That about sums it up, the entire Washington journamalism establishment. Chroniclers of empire, maintainers of acceptable official narrative.]

Knocked Up

It's amusing at least, the alarmist coverage of this week's big "keep 'em scared 'n' stupid" story. Could your kids be part of a covert pregnancy or suicide pact? Why yes, they could. They could also be doing drugs, setting fire to stray dogs, or memorizing Fifty Cent tracks. The world is an oyster when you're young and dumb.

But the article seems hesitant to make any necessary logical leaps here. Technology facilitates many of these little "pacts". Okay then, maybe parents need to monitor those toys a little better, or think twice about them in the first place. Amazingly, kids got along just fine without cell phones and MySpace up till about six years ago. (They also managed to have sex and get pregnant without them.)

Even worse is the "media images" assumption. Someone who patterns their major life decisions after the actions of famous, wealthy statistical anomalies has other issues anyway, among them being dumber than shit. But okay, even if you lend credence to this ridiculous notion, what then? If your kid really is that stupid, then shooting your teevee and making them read books more often is an option worth considering.

Because more dangerous than the whiff of risky sex or even gratuitous violence, what most teevee really imparts is that luck is the only sure way out, that other people are there to grease your climb to the top, whether your dream is making a fucking fool out of yourself for Simon Cowell's amusement, opening a suitacase that might have money in it, being in a bad musical based on a worse movie culled from an even crummier book, or just eating bugs and humping inanimate objects for the opportunity to swap venereal diseases with an internet whore. It's all good.

It makes sense that, in an environment where not only humans themselves but every conceivable aspect of their personalities and desires have been commodified, repurposed, and packaged, a bunch of mediocre students with mediocre aspirations from a dying town would do this. Blaming it on the latest Spears offspring absolves everyone involved, because while the media pretends to blame itself, it's not like they're gonna change a fuckin' thing.

This is an industry specially engineered and constantly tested and refined, to distract suckers into submission, to buy shit they don't really want with money they don't really have. Everywhere these girls will turn -- even if they go to college -- they will be somebody's customer for the rest of their lives. And all of those somebodies have vested interests in keeping the cash flow up.

That these girls chose to make a life-changing decision with peers that they probably won't recognize fifteen years down the road merely proves that youth is wasted on the young, and little more. It's good for whipping up the usual hysteria that teens are having Teh Sex, but guess what? They are. You did. I did. Of course they're going to.

The problem is not that they're bumping uglies, or even that they got knocked up, it's that they went into those things clearly unencumbered with even the basics of making those decisions. Parents, schools, media, themselves, whatever. All of those things are to blame, but only to the extent that no one will ever actually do anything about any of them.

Two Legs Better

In a world full of crises, one of the more neglected ones is that of Zimbabwe, where Mugabe's corrupt intransigence continues to keep an entire nation in tatters. Having completely ruined his country's ability to produce anything, by granting free pass to looters and gangs of thugs, so long as they repossessed white-owned farms, Comrade Bob has finally become precisely what he meant to rise up against a quarter-century ago.

Instead of replacing Ian Smith's brutal regime with a genuinely revolutionary one of his own, Mugabe decided to pass on becoming his country's George Washington, and settled for being its Kim Il Sung. Now, before he has decided on a trusted lieutenant or colonel to pass things off to, Morgan Tsvangirai has presented a real challenge to his power, albeit one without army backing (so far; if African armies have proven anything, it is that their loyalty is always open to negotiation).

Inexcusably, Mugabe has been enormously enabled by a neighbor who ought to know better, South Africa's Thabo Mbeki. Mbeki has made his sad priorities clear, that he would rather deal with a thug he knows, one who has utterly derailed Zimbabwe's economy and driven it to the brink of famine, than someone who might be on friendlier terms with western leaders. The message is clear: better to have black-on-black predation than (falsely) even the hint of yet another round of post-colonialist stooges. This was always the hallmark of the tinhorn despot, communist or otherwise -- they would rather let millions of their own people literally starve (while, of course, continuing to live large themselves) -- than to deal with their useful devils from abroad.

So, what role does a bumbling hegemon have in any sort of reconstructive process?

The Bush administration should quickly designate an envoy, a distinguished former official or public figure, to lead its efforts. It should help the envoy assemble a small team of prominent international figures from Africa, Europe, and the Commonwealth to travel to southern Africa for intensive consultations on ending the crisis in Zimbabwe. That team will need to be in the region for an extended period. Lacking internal consensus, neither the United Nations nor the African Union can mount such a mission. From its position in the U.N. Security Council, the U.S. should work in New York and in African capitals to demand more African involvement in solving the crisis in Zimbabwe.

The U.S. effort should be organized around four pillars.

First, it should create a shared consensus that Mugabe must leave office. This is the sine qua non to any solution. Restoring democracy, respecting human rights and rebuilding a shattered society and economy should be the highest priorities. These steps cannot begin until Mugabe has left the scene.

Second, it should create a shared determination to contain Mugabe's chief lieutenants. As Mugabe exits, some senior security officials may be tempted to replace him. Beginning with southern African states, support must be summoned for possible deployment of a modest African Union or U.N.-authorized monitoring force. Meanwhile, the Bush administration should disclose publicly details of the extensive corruption surrounding Mugabe's inner circle.

Third, it should press for resumed negotiations on constitutional reform, cut short by Mugabe last year, and for an early date for new presidential elections. Zimbabweans themselves will be quick to address these imperatives once Mugabe is gone. Freed of current threats, they are capable of establishing a workable framework for a democratic transition.

Last, if should accelerate international planning and support to rebuild Zimbabwe's shattered economic and social infrastructure. The United States and other donors should deploy credible, coordinated pledges of economic assistance to reinforce the diplomatic push to ease Mugabe out.

The pillars are actually pretty decent -- nothing beyond diplomatic and constitutionalist interference, offer emergency aid where needed, and step the hell back. We don't have any more legitimacy than that anymore. But the opening premise seems remote -- since when does anybody in this administration function past a purely limbic level of partisan ideology? When has there been an appointment that wasn't put there for their utility to the movementarians, people who have never done anything for anyone else without there being something in it for themselves? Seriously, everyone would be better off if we just went over there with a pallet of Franklins, got every inhabitant of the country in an enormous queue, and gave each person a nice crisp $100 bill, and sent them about their way.

Bellamy and Morrison also mention that "[o]nce the South African linchpin is removed, the other external props that sustain Mugabe -- Angola, Namibia, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, and China -- will cease to matter." While this may be true, this also elides past our own involvement with some of those very regimes, most notably Equatorial Guinea, an even more nightmarish despotism than Mugabe's. But they have oil, so we park our platforms out in the Gulf of Guinea, send the ships back and forth to Houston with the precious, and give the murderous Obiang family their cut of the action, which is then laundered through the monkey's uncle. You don't hear too much about that one, because people are making money from it.

So while this is about figuring the right course of moral action to literally save a nation from catastrophe, this is also about the studied hypocrisies undertaken to avoid those same actions. Africa and its resources are rapidly becoming proxies for us and China; regional powers such as India and Brazil may also become involved in the continent. That any data or strategy remotely than comprehensive might be on the head blitherer's radar -- at all -- is something even the most blindered optimist could not realistically hope for.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Kicking Gas

So many reasons to enjoy the WorldNutDaily, from the lists of predatory female schoolteachers to the musings of Chuck Norris. Chuck has some words of wisdom regarding domestic energy production. Let's watch the fun.

As oil and gas prices skyrocket, Congress continues to play the blame game. In April 2006, with the Democrats poised to take over Congress with Nancy Pelosi at the helm, she released a statement saying, "With skyrocketing gas prices, it is clear that the American people can no longer afford the Republican Rubber Stamp Congress." She followed that with the commitment, "Democrats have a common sense plan to help bring down skyrocketing gas prices by cracking down on price gouging." So has the Democrat's [sic] commonsense plan worked? Average gas prices were about $2.50 a gallon at the time. Now they're $4 a gallon and rising. Some crack-down plan.

It's pretty clear right from the start that Norris' intent is simply to place the blame at the feet of feckless Dummycrats. Because, you know, the two Republican oilmen at the head of the executive branch have done so much to tackle this problem. Yes, the Democrats have been full of empty promises on a variety of issues, but that doesn't excuse the ignorance and intellectual dishonesty of people like Norris on this issue. And price gouging is only one of many reasons for the spike in oil prices.

Meanwhile, in the Senate, they are going to discuss this week a cap-and-trade system, something that Obama and MCain [sic] both support. The main problem is official estimates say that it will increase gas by another $1.50 a gallon. Or as Newt Gringrich said in an interview recently with Glenn Beck, "It should be called 'Raise prices and destroy jobs' because that's what it will do. It's going to raise the price of gasoline; it's going to raise the price of diesel fuel for truckers. It's going to raise the price of aviation fuel for an already ailing airline industry. It's going to raise the price of heating oil. It's going to raise the price of natural gas, and it's going to raise the price of coal."

The price for all those things is going to rise whether we like it or not; the only question is if we do things that will help prepare, diffuse the impact and perhaps cushion the blow for the people who can least afford it. I mean, I know that all the oil company executives and oil futures speculators have duly earned their eight- and nine-figure bonuses and all. But all these things Professor Gingrich expounds upon are based on unsustainable premises.

Incidentally, Gingrich was on Face the Nation this morning touting much the same philosophy, with a snappy slogan of "Drill Here, Drill Now, Save Money". Yes, folks, if you let Shell and Exxon drill in ANWR and melt mountains of shale in the Rockies, gas prices will magically return to two bucks a gallon. Jesus, they just count on people to be cartoonishly gullible, don't they? It's an operative assumption for them, because they're rarely disappointed.

Here's where it gets a little weird, with hilarious results:

From the steady decline in the value of our dollar, to trade deficits and oil dependency, our sovereignty is being sold out from underneath us. Might I remind the federal government what one of their original and primary charges is: to protect the American public from the tyranny of foreign powers – which is exactly what is happening through others' financial rule over us. It is sucking the life out of our economy. And Congress is virtually standing by and watching it happen.

Look at the energy chaos that our government has allowed. While we remain at the mercy of oil companies, cartels and OPEC, our government has tied the hands of states and citizens to tap even temporary energy relief from our own land. Here are a few key vistas on the oil and energy landscape at the moment:

Though we have more oil in the shale of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming than combined in the Middle East (800 billion barrels), liberals and environmentalists have made it illegal to touch it.

It's illegal to drill in northern Alaska (Arctic National Wildlife Refuge), or off the coasts of Florida or California.

Oil fields in Colorado are being shut down.

We won't develop shale oil fields in the Western states

It's illegal to explore in the Atlantic.

It's illegal to explore in the Pacific

It's illegal to explore in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico

We're not receiving any more leases to drill in the Gulf of Mexico, while China, Venezuela and Cuba are.

We haven't built an oil refinery in 25 years and reduced in half those we have

There's enough natural gas beneath America (406 trillion cube feet) to heat every home in America for the next 150 years, but we can't tap it all.

We have the largest supply of coal in the world, but it's Germany who is planning to build 27 coal-fired electrical plants by 2020.

American airlines are in danger of going out of business.

American truckers are being stranded on the sides of the road.

American commuters are going bankrupt trying to travel back and forth to work, and are being forced to work locally for lower wages.

If there isn't a conspiracy going on here, someone needs to make a movie about one!

This is going to take a bit to unpack, this feeble nonsense, but bear with me. The first thing you might notice is the sheer redundancy of Norris' bullet points; the third and fourth points merely reiterate the first, and he rephrases the Gulf of Mexico and California (Pacific) and Florida (Atlantic) several times. And even Norris' own link on shale oil, rather than actually claiming greater resources than the entire Middle East, makes the more modest claim that "it could eventually rival the oil fields of Saudi Arabia". What could? Why, the shale on federal land that the oil companies wish to extract. The more exorbitant claim Norris suggests appears to come from Orrin Hatch further down in the short interview part of the article.

Here's a brief rundown on the extraction process for shale oil; it requires intense amounts of heat to be generated to separate the kerogen into refinable oil, has not been sufficiently tested and employed in any substantial ongoing process capacity, and can be environmentally destructive. This is not about a few smug latte liberals preserving the scenic views from their cabins in Telluride, it's about oil companies rushing into public land for penny-ante leases to set up processing and refining infrastructures. And by the time they recoup their R&D and overhead -- and the usual bonuses -- the offset at the pump is going to be minimal. Norris and Gingrich and the rest of them would like you to believe that oil produced domestically stays here, but that's not necessarily so. If the cash-flush Chinese or Europeans are willing to pay more for it, it will go to those places. That's how that free-market thing works, cuz.

As for this "we haven't built a new refinery lately" schtick, what do you mean "we", Chief? The oil companies have let their domestic refinery capability run off. Let's see, why might that be? Because they know that most of the major fields have peaked, and it's not cost-effective to dump billions of dollars into planned obsolescence? Naw, that's too simple -- it must be a conspiracy. Well, it is a conspiracy, Chuck, but not of bien pensant Dummycrats telling everyone how to live virtuously. It's a conspiracy of the bottom line. It's business. And hell, Montana's Democratic governor proposed building Fischer-Tropsch refineries to process the state's enormous resources of coal into oil, since the current price makes it more than cost-effective. But those infrastructural efforts take a lot of time and investment.

Meanwhile, what have Americans done to help economize, to conserve, since as we all know, conservatism is holy? Not a goddamned thing, that's what. The only thing that has finally forced individuals to take the situation seriously and dump their gas-guzzlers for more economical vehicles has been the drastic price increases. I think that sucks, because Norris' final point is actually right on the money -- this crisis most adversely impacts the people who are stuck with it. They have to commute because the local jobs pay for shit (what few of them there are), and they can't afford to move to the city because their houses are now worth maybe two-thirds of what they were two years ago, and would take a year to sell anyway.

And nowhere does Norris (nor Gingrich in his FTN appearance this morning) even mention the option of economizing, of driving smaller and smarter. It's not even on the table. No, they're perfectly happy to misdirect people who should know better but can't admit it to themselves, that the promised land of two-buck gas is theirs for the taking, if only we'll let national forests be plundered for profit.

Anybody who believes that deserves what they get, and if they have to pay six bucks a gallon to fill up their penis-compensating jacked-up F350, so much the better. They can pay twelve bucks a gallon for all I care. But the rapidly rising cost of gas is directly due to ramped-up demand from China and India meeting or exceeding production and extraction capacity, and peak supply. Factor in the risk premium caused by the war, futures speculation, and failure to check consumption, and it's a perfect storm. You could start melting down the Rockies tomorrow, and that oil is not going to hit the market for at least a couple years. And not only, as I pointed out, will it be unlikely to offset significantly after initial costs are recouped, but any cleanup costs incurred would be out-of-pocket for the taxpayers as well, one way or the other.

So is there a real solution? I don't think the usual "one size fits all" approach is going to help anybody, except the people who make a direct profit off of whatever scheme they can rope a career shill like Newt Gingrich into endorsing. But one key to it is, as Orrin Hatch points out, the degree to which oil is required for transportation, and how problematic it is to switch that overnight.

A hack like Hatch instantly translates that into "more oil now". But what about infrastructure; can you get businesses and residences off-line from oil-generated power? How much oil would it free up to invest in solar power across the American Southwest? How much oil would be conserved getting the rail system back together, and letting the airline industry transform into more of a business/short-term travel scenario? How much would these things cost? Who cares; if we can pour $3bn/week into Iraq, we can find some money to do something that will pay direct dividends and free up petroleum resources.

I don't think we should be at the mercy of inbred petrocracies and corrupt dictators either, but the way out from under it is not to drill and melt everything in sight. That might be a miniscule, short-term part of a far more comprehensive energy policy, but it solves nothing. It barely qualifies as kicking the proverbial can. And there's no way it should even be proposed, much less considered, without significant efforts to curb waste and excessive consumption.

People like Chuck Norris and Newt Gingrich shouldn't just be ignored, they should be repudiated at every possible opportunity. This is only the start of a very serious situation looming, one that will require a very patient, committed restructuring of transportation and delivery systems, one that will not kill the economy but actually provide it with a new dimension of potential, one that might undercut the oil oligarchy with more regionalized or even localized systems of energy delivery. Whether or not people are happy with the idea is irrelevant; the continuing rapid depletion of oil resources is indifferent to what you think you're entitled to drive. This "math is hard, let's go shopping" approach to dealing with the real world is over, one way or the other.

The only question is whether this problem gets addressed in time before the next big resource crisis -- potable water -- will have to be dealt with.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Tim Russert

My antipathy to the commentariat is unrelenting, as you know all too well, and Russert was one of many practitioners of the black art whom I pick on for their excessive chumminess and clubbiness with the people they cover. Maybe that makes me one of the stoners in the park making fun of the BMOCs and their daddy's Beemers, while I trudge home in my old clothes and my footmobile, I dunno.

But I just saw the news about Russert collapsing and dying in the studio, and that just sucks. And only 58 years old at that. Very sad. My mother was only 58 when she died eight years ago, and oddly, today is her birthday. Fifty-eight is just too soon to go. Our condolences to his family.

Yet Bill O'Reilly continues to draw breath. What the hell is up with that? Politics and all aside, Russert seemed like an okay guy. O'Reilly seems like a 24/7 garden tool, and proud of it. A bold fresh piece of inanity.

[Update: John Cole puts it pretty well, I think. Certainly it's a sad event, and I don't doubt that the sentiments and remembrances offered by Russert's colleagues are genuine. But tonally, it's hard to escape the impression that this is an industry predicated more on the individuals reading and analyzing the news, than on the information itself and its actual impact on actual lives. Once again, they are talking to each other, an insular claque of courtiers. It's their village, always has been.

I'm wondering which one will take Russert's spot on the show, even though I don't watch it. My guess would be David Gregory, who is reliably housebroken, but smug enough to fancy himself as the real deal. He may be just enough of an ankle-biter to be occasionally entertaining, but there may be more money (and, as always, Meredith Vieira) in the tedious all-morning fluffery of the Today show. Decisions, decisions.]

History's Mysteries

Fredo, currently in Europe on whatever the opposite of a victory lap is, engages in what he seems to think is introspection:

President Bush has admitted to The Times that his gun-slinging rhetoric made the world believe that he was a “guy really anxious for war” in Iraq.


“I think that in retrospect I could have used a different tone, a different rhetoric.”

Phrases such as “bring them on” or “dead or alive”, he said, “indicated to people that I was, you know, not a man of peace”.

Yeah, whatever could have given anyone that idea? Flimsy attempts to paper over past comments are only part of the problem. More disturbing is Bush's utter refusal to admit that Iraq, the U.S., and the world would be better off without his ham-fisted interference. Along with his tiresome insistence that history will vindicate him, it bespeaks a startling lack of basic empathy and intellectual honesty.

Despite his supposed Yale history degree, Bush has never shown even the slightest interest in or familiarity with that subject, nor its ancillary subjects, such as geography or economics. Really, beyond "free trade good" and "democracies never start wars with each other", it's just even more muddled boilerplate.

The history excuse is really just a way for him to punt culpability until long after he's dead. The notion that it would take twenty to forty years or more to figure out that this has been catastrophic for millions of people and is destroying our own economy is ridiculous. If Iraq were to turn around it would be in spite of, rather than because of, any of the bright ideas from this crew. They decided on a snappy marketing campaign for their invasion, on their timetable, of a country they knew nothing about and cared even less. They sent administrative peckerwoods whose priorities for rebuilding the country were political reliability, rather than say, knowing the language or having some familiarity with the culture.

Even if one were to propose that there was a "right" way to pull this off, there is no indication that any of the planners even tried to get it right. They did exactly everything that knowledgeable military and strategic advisors told them not to.

The most offensive thing about Bush's puling excuses is not his failure to see himself and the events he personally drove as they really are, but his total disinterest in even bothering with such a task. He thought it was more important to tell people how often he dropped to his knees on that stupid rug and prayed. Prayer, whether you think it works or not, is the expression of hope over events that are beyond one's control. But Bush was always in control of events; that's kinda part of the job description. They bullied and rolled and intimidated and calumniated all who objected, and got to do what they wanted in the way they wanted. To blame the failure for all that on the tone of the marketing campaign is so far past missing the forest for the trees, it beggars belief.

Which makes it par for the course for these guys. And all the revisionist mea culpas by all the no-longer-gruntled former waterboys won't change that.

Like Rosa Parks, But With Chlamydia

I'm only marginally aware of whowhat this Tila Tequila bobblehead homunculus is because of The Soup, which is essential viewing. I did not realize that Miss, erm, Tequila fancies herself something of a trailblazer:

"It is because of me — I definitely think [my show] has helped the movement," she told "Before it came out, everyone was still a little apprehensive about [same sex relationships]," she said. "Then they realized, 'Wow, everyone is really into this stuff, and it is fine.' The next thing you know, [gay marriage] is legal."

Uh-huh. So that's what all that competitive deer-penis-eating and self-abasement was all about. Yes, the inbred mossbacks who have an obsession with teh gay are this skank's target demo. Right, honey.

Somebody needs to tell this broad that fucking anything that moves is not the same thing as a "same-sex relationship". If anything, it seems like gays -- or hell, anyone in an actual relationship of any kind -- might be insulted and/or nauseated by her nonsense.

Hogan's Zeroes

There's no getting around the fact that Nick Hogan is a smug, overprivileged brat who shouldn't have a driver's license or a car (the pictures on the secondary link are horrifying; his friend's forehead is caved in), and who will probably end up doing real time in the future for some poor-impulse-control-related offense. But considering Hogan and his blow-up doll sister had parents who think it's okay to fuck their kids' friends, the poor bastard was probably just predestined.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Are You There, God? It's Me, Broder

Broderella is doing exactly what he's supposed to do. This is his job -- to represent the institutional stasis and intellectual calcification of the holders of power and their courtiers, to facilitate their internal dialogues under the guise of talking to us peons. Although they barely bother to keep up even that pretense anymore.

Occasionally he and his esteemed colleagues might swap or share their man crushes, like the seventh-grade girls they really are deep down inside, getting giggly and wet and tingly when the BMOC struts by, then regaining composure enough to pick on the girls who study and get good grades.

It's nobody's fault but their own that Broderella and Tweety and the rest of the Appletini Gang let the jocks talk them into putting out. But now they have, and now they realize too late that they gave it up too early, and since they can't undo it, they have to keep up the lies they tell themselves and each other. It does no good to remind them that when dealing with neoclowns and conservatards, they should at least insist that someone wear a condom.

Would that they had barebacked themselves into irrelevancy at this point, but since they run the airwaves and control who is allowed on to talk about what, the goal merely shifts a bit to keeping the horserace as tight as possible. It doesn't matter that one candidate has the potential to be a thoroughbred, and the other is a pale imitation of the current administration dog food, the appearance of a race is the thing, the better to distract from the maintenance of ossified, self-perpetuating power structures.

News You Can Lose

It occurs to me that, since the 'tards at Fux News will believe pretty much anything as long as it's wrapped in the right color bow, that maybe the best way to dilute their credibility is to just mass-bombard them with dozens, hundreds of Daily Show/Onion-style parodies in varying degrees of obviousness and ridiculousness.

Obama spotted entering a Des Moines Motel 6 love nest with Parker Posey, Kathy Bates, and an unidentified Filipina with a four-pack of wine coolers and a case of raging herpes? Sure. Hillary Clinton wipes ass with confederate flag at South Carolina rally? Why not? Al Franken's Playboy parodies turn out to be plagiarized from Ben Stein's old Penthouse columns? Run it up the flagpole; you know at least half these clowns are just dumb enough to salute it.

Between the half-hearted vetting and refuting of these nuggets, then running and eventually retracting at least some of them, it might interfere with their mission statement of making shit up and bamboozling their audience of self-selecting morons.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

A Thousand Words

The post is actually speculating as to whether America's Snack Queen is (ulp!) knocked up yet again with some mystery lowbrow demon seed, but the photo itself is mightay-mightay:

Wow. Just wow. And this is on a shopping trip in LA. Does she own a mirror? I just got back from the recycler and dressed up more than that, seriously. I'm from hick stock and live in a hick town, and I can't conceive of even hanging out in my own house like that. Maybe if I'm massively hungover and it's a rainy day in December, maybe then I pull out the Bedazzler and some old sweatpants and get biz-zay for an afternoon. Sheesh. Extra points if she does turn out to be bearing bubba fruit, by the way, since she's smoking with her free hand. Because picking your pajama-clad, K-Fed-ruined ass in a doorway doesn't quite put the "k" in "klassy".

Amazing how fast she went from this.... just another Bakersfield chickenhead.

Stop Apologizing

I thought these people were supposed to have some idea of what they had gotten into:

In the latest bit of trouble in Al Franken's quest to pick up a blue-state Senate seat for the Democrats, Franken has apologized for offending anybody with his 2000 comedy essay in Playboy.

The essay, entitled "Porn-O-Rama," was hammered by state Republicans, who charged that Franken had no respect for women or family values in light of the piece's series of dirty jokes. Their condemnations were then followed by Democrats, starting with Rep. Betty McCollum and then Sen. Amy Klobuchar and the state Planned Parenthood, many of whom saw it as a political liability that Franken would have to address.

Jesus, did they just fall off a fuckin' turnip truck or something? "Forcing" political opponents to apologize for ridiculous shit is the most time-tested of campaign gambits. They just want to see if you're enough of a pussy to do it. You remember Arnold Schwarzenegger ever apologizing for smoking a fattie in Pumping Iron, much less for making Junior or Twins? Me neither. He just gives people that "what the hell is wrong with you?" look and a shit-eating grin and moves on. He doesn't give a shit what ankle-biters think, nor should he -- nor should anyone.

Franken should just look 'em dead in the eye and say, "Seriously, you people are worked up about a satirical essay from eight years ago? You have a problem with it, Planned Parenthood? Fine, then endorse a Bush butt-boy like Norm Coleman. See what that gets you, see how fucking 'planned' your 'parenthood' is then. Any questions?"

Anything else is playing the other side's game. It takes time and momentum away that might be spent on chipping away at Coleman. That's all this is, and they bought into it anyway. Now that they know that Franken and Klobuchar and the rest of the MN Dem posse are straight-up suckas, they can set a couple interns loose in the SNL archives to see if Franken ever made fun of Ronald Reagan or something. Why not?

Way to circle the wagons, folks. These bozos, to paraphrase David Mamet, could fuck up a baked potato.

Money, It's a Gas

Via IOZ, we find out that maybe the rich are just like you 'n' me after all:

They seem to have nothing to fret about: their net worths range from $5 million to $1 billion. A blip in the markets shouldn’t send their chateau-size Park Avenue co-ops to foreclosure or exile them to Payless Shoes.

But Ms. Chemtob’s clients are concerned all the same, she said, because their incomes have shrunk, say, to $2 million a year from $8 million, and they know that their 2008 bonus checks are likely to be much less impressive.

One of her clients recently confessed that his net worth had decreased to $8 million from more than $20 million, and he thinks that his wife will leave him. He has hidden their fall in fortune by taking on debt to pay for her extravagant clothes and vacations.

“I literally had to sit there and tell him that he had to tell his wife that she had to stop spending,” she said. “He was actually scared she would leave him because their financial situation changed so drastically.”

Everybody now -- Awwwww. Let's all chip in and buy these poor saps a giant fucking hug, shall we? Even in the best of times, I could never muster a glimmer of sympathy for these conspicuous-consuming leisure-class bozos; in current conditions they are welcome to divvy up their remaining net worth among the soup kitchens and animal shelters, and die broke like the rest of us.

It would at least be helpful to get an idea of how these douchebags earn their incomes and bonus checks. Experience tells most of us that, even if they're not out-and-out hedge-fund bookies who create no actual wealth, but merely sift and maneuver other people's money and divert the inevitable collapse downstream, these would-be captains of industry probably do less actual work than any of their hopeful subordinates.

“Most people won’t go to their banker and say: ‘You know I’m in desperate trouble. I need funds,’ ” said Andy Augenblick, president of Emigrant Bank Fine Art Finance, which allows clients to borrow against art collections worth more than $2 million. Mr. Augenblick said that the number of requests for these types of loans is five times higher than a year ago. He said that while these borrowers claim that they don’t need the money, their latest financial statements show that their net worth has withered in the past year.

Other wealthy clients are cutting luxuries that they think their friends and relatives won’t notice, according to Mr. Del Gatto of Circa. At Circa’s midtown offices, he said, the seven consultation rooms have been busy with customers selling their precious gems. Some older couples, he said, are selling estate jewelry to help support their children who have lost Wall Street jobs. Bankers are paring down their collections of Patek Philippe watches. Wives from Greenwich and Scarsdale are selling 2-carat to 35-carat single-stone diamond rings. One recent client explained to Mr. Del Gatto that she was selling $2 million in diamonds she rarely wore, because her friends wouldn’t notice that they were gone.

“She said, ‘If I sold my Bentley or my important art, they would notice,’ ” he said. “That we hear, in differing examples, every day.”

Oh, it's just all so horrible. Truly we are living in the end times. Until the guillotine once again becomes socially acceptable, it's hard to go beyond a reflexive "fuck 'em". Cry me a river.

Friday, June 06, 2008

668 -- The Neighbor of the Beast

Christ, what a week, not just in the news, but in real life. Nothing too traumatic, just more of a burnout week. The added news of impending economic collapse is gravy. Time for some serious thinkingdrinking, and since this weekend figures to have just enough wind to fuck up my plans to barbecue some nice London broil, maybe I'll take a break from trying to reorganize my impending student loan payments and write something constructive. Or not.

Ah well, at least I'm not one of these incoherent Clinton Kool-Aid kampfers getting thwacked in the head with reality and finding it cold, so very cold....

Jennifer in Full

Dear screaming moron: Undo your Caps Lock, and back away slowly from your computer. You are a fucking idiot. You are embarrassing your candidate and yourself. Ask your doctor for a new prescription, perhaps Xanax or Vicodin. Go back to watching Celebrity Circus or cartoons or something. Catch up on what Lindsay Lohan is doing this week. Anything but politics, since you clearly cannot handle it. Please do not breed. That is all.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Caveat Blecchtor

It occurred to me while I was unwinding on Geritol Ferraro's steamy load of bag-lady rhetoric that it helps to iterate periodically just what my angle is, what my interest happens to be. From consistently picking on McCain's and Clinton's respective shortcomings as candidates, while leaving Obama relatively unscathed, one might reasonably infer that I heart me some Barry Hussein, 4evah an evah.

To the extent that I can still philosophically maneuver in the fractured carapace of a sham corporatocratic political system, there may be a sliver of truth to that. It does not, per the usual snide parlance, peg me as an unthinking Obamaton. It simply means that I have far fewer misgivings about Obama than the other two. I believe that a McCain presidency would have at least a 50-50 chance of being even more catastrophic for this country's interests than the current junta.

I believe that a Clinton presidency, while not catastrophic, would simply veer between venal and ineffectual, doing nothing significant to change course that hadn't been thoroughly vetted either with corporate benefactors, virulent opposition thugs, or a team of safely "bipartisan" hacks in an advisory capacity. If I thought she was the better candidate, I'd say so. She isn't.

I don't get the Beatlemania surrounding Obama's appearances; as I've said time and again, I think there are too many people who really just want to be seen clamoring for change, endorsing a change avatar, rather than actually making comprehensive changes that mean anything. But I do think he will make better, fresher choices for advisors, and bring a level of intellectual rigor and honesty that escapes her decision-making process.

The thing about HRC's campaign is how tiresomely her vast experience has been touted (excluding, of course, her early years as a Goldwater/Rockefeller Republican). But it's that very experience that informs the perception that neither Clinton ever met an issue they couldn't triangulate, tediously unraveling lightly-clutched principles, knowing that the base has nowhere else to go.

Still, even craven political stasis would be notably better than what Straight Talk would have in store for us. The man has been brought to heel by the Bush machine in a way even Charlie couldn't, bereft of any discernible belief beyond unsustainable exceptionalist fantasies, the violent daydreams of a bankrupt, overextended hegemon. It's almost inconceivable that in picking advisors and associates, he wouldn't dip into the same rotten talent pool as Bush and Cheney did, giving unrepentant felons, thugs and killers such as John Negroponte and Elliot Abrams continued employment.

So that's where I'm at. I voted for Edwards in the primary, and would still welcome his appointment in an Obama administration, whether as VP or AG or whatever. He has been a reasonable advocate for socioeconomic justice, in an environment increasingly characterized by pyramidal economic disparities, the sort of thing we used to see routinely in Latin American oligarchies. But if Clinton had been the clear nominee, I would have voted for her in November. I wouldn't have liked it, but I feel strongly enough about McCain and the sort of creeps who would infest his administration that the differences are sufficiently distinct. And if she and Obama make peace by him offering her the VP slot on the ticket, that's fine too.

Which makes the increasingly petulant wiggery of the Clintonistas that much more irritating.

"I won't cast my vote in the general election for the first time in my life, primary or general," said Mike Grady, 53, a factory worker from Scranton, Pa. "I don't understand why the DNC hasn't received that message yet."

Calling Obama a "rookie" who lacks the experience to be president, and complaining that Clinton has been treated unfairly by the news media and party officials, Grady said that if she is not at the top of the ticket or in the vice-presidential slot, "John McCain will win the presidency."

Is the media trying to stir up a fight, or is this a fair representation of the sentiments of Clinton supporters? It's up to them to endorse or repudiate this nonsense. The thing is, nearly all of the fools threatening to defect or take their ball home if they don't get their way cite the media as a major source of Clinton's woes. Following that logic, not only are they holding Obama accountable for the media's perfidy (conveniently forgetting that if their candidate were Hillary Smith instead of Hillary Clinton, she'd never have run) rather than "the media", but they are objectively implying that Obama's supporters have been addled by media tubthumping away from the "better" candidate.

So what are they going to do about it? Do everything they can to tank the election for Obama, even if it means voting for John McCain. On the one hand, they have several months to cool off and pull their heads out of their asses; on the other, they clearly aren't the sharpest tools in the shed, and any infighting between the final primary and the convention officially constitutes a complete waste of momentum from the eventual nominee.

Every candidate has their share of weirdo hangers-on, but Clinton seems to have an unusually loud and tendentious swarm of cretins threatening to botch the process.

Why? Because they're good Democrats, and they're sick of what Bush has done to this country. Fuck, who knows? These people are either stupid or crazy, swimming in a sea of cognitive dissonance. Look, you dipshits -- either you are for a continuation of the current administration's policies, or you are against such a thing. John McCain, to his credit, has made no attempt to hide his agenda, save trying to sneak Bush in and out of his fundraisers. He'll take the money Fredo can drum up, but he's embarrassed to be seen with him.

Too late for that, chump.

Some of this obnoxious skullfuckery can be attributed to the heat of the moment, that they have allowed their candidate to convince them that she's been jobbed by the media, and that they best serve their civic purpose by functioning as obstacles at this point. And from Clinton's point of view, it makes sense. This cornered-animal strategy is her last best hope.

But supporters, after this farce is over, get to live with the consequences of the decisions they've made. Hillary Clinton will not have to live with anything, in any serious capacity; her campaign has put a mild dent in the $120 million she and her husband have accumulated this decade, and if she ends up being an obstructionist super-Nader this time around, worst-case scenario is that she loses her Senate seat in '12 and retires to Westchester County.

We should all have the opportunity to fail so gloriously. But her health care is taken care of; her job is secure for now, and sinecures await should she be voted out; her child and future grandchildren will not be sent to Iraq or Iran to make old men and armchair generals feel tough. Her future is secure, win or lose. It is these vituperative fanatics, these goofy iconodules who have tethered themselves to a person come what may, who put their own futures on the line with their antics.

At this point, they want to either decide this on some bullshit tuck rule or suck up any momentum Obama might have in the summer, in the eight weeks between the last primary and the convention. It is not unreasonable, given their quotes and their actions, their responses and the narrative they have set, to presume that if their candidate cannot win, they would rather have the Republican candidate win and continue policies they profess to hate. That, to belabor the obvious, is an incoherent and delusional state of mind.

Perhaps it's time to grow the fuck up, acknowledge defeat with what grace they can still scrape up, and get with the program. There might even be a conceivable scenario in which they can constructively continue their tilt at the electoral windmill. Clinton has generated an enormous measure of support in very strategic states, obviously, and as such, Obama owes her and her supporters some tangible consideration. And if they'd cut the shit, he'd probably come correct and make her a reasonable offer.

But the ones who claim to be Democrats, who claim to be Sick Of This Shit, yet proclaim to any who'll listen how they'll monkey-wrench the whole thing because their wittle feewings are hurt.... will retain full ownership of the consequences. Feel free to take up your health-care, job security and safety, and foreign policy concerns with whatever Liberty University termites Saint Straight Talk decides to park in those posts.