Saturday, September 27, 2008

Master Debaters

As tempting as it was to have a debate drinking game last night, I figured I'd be face-down 45 minutes into it. So I just caught some of the end, knowing I'd be making the rounds of postmortem entrail-reading over the weekend. Of course it's too soon to tell much of anything, but Nate Silver has some perceptions and observations that jibe pretty well with the limited amount I saw. Obama wisely played to his strength and addressed the camera/nation directly as much as possible, while McCain was in town-hall mode, still trying to win back his dwindling coterie of pundits and rubes, after spending the second half of the week looking like an erratic, tornado-chasing oaf.

The statistical jumps Silver cites, if they hold, may prove to be the most crucial in the end. I beat on McCainiacs for being dopes and idiots, and I haven't wavered in that assessment, but what we bloggerses and political junkies frequently forget -- or at least I do -- is that most people are not too wrapped up in these things, arguments over policy and such. They may tell themselves that both sides are ripping them off to equal degree or whatever, but they do not involve themselves much until the very end. And that coveted "low-information voter" swath is McPalin's sweet spot; by definition, they have to count on obstinate, ignorant people to get their backs up over perceived slights and imaginary grievances.

And they might have gotten away with it, if it hadn't been for that meddling economy. The prospect of Wall Street weasels threatening us if we don't help them cover their lousy bets and unchecked greed to the tune of thirteen figures (if $700 bn was the figure they pulled out of their asses, the real number is probably at least double that) tends to wake up even the most reality-teevee-addled doofus. Even the dimmest bulb looks at these million-dollar clowns, with their crummy track records and ludicrous side bets, and wonders why we should believe them -- not only this time, but right now, and they need it all or we're gonna die!!1!Z0MG!1!1!!

It's pure gall and avarice, and the low-info demo know it, just as they figure that even though Obama has actually taken more Wall Street money, and despite the fact that at least some of this Goldman Sachsification of the financial superstructure originated and perpetuated under Bob Rubin's tenure as Treasury Secretary, the Democrats are still slightly less likely to tell them to go fuck themselves in hard times. Oddly, this makes a tangible perceptual difference.

One of the cooler observations is that of McCain's lack of eye contact being described in terms of monkey politics. I think it's probably more contempt than fear; more and more McCain comes off as the sort of person who feels that he's above having to explain shit to people. But considering he has two main policy advisors (Georgia lobbyist Randy Scheuenemann and UBS banking bigwig Phil "Whiners" Gramm) caught up in two major current issues (Russia and the bailout, respectively), and his "game-changer" running mate has been exposed as a pathological liar and a blithering, sorely unqualified moron, he has quite a bit of 'splainin' to do.

As for the next round, Obama's team is smart in refusing the bait of lowering expectations for poor ol' Punxsutawney Palin.

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe told reporters Saturday that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential nominee, is “a terrific debater” who could give Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden (D-Del.) a run for his money when they meet Thursday.

“We’ve looked at tapes of Gov. Palin’s debates, and she’s a terrific debater,” Plouffe told reporters on a conference call. “She has performed very, very well. She’s obviously a skilled speaker. We expect she’ll give a great performance next Thursday."

Nice. They're not giving Open Mike Allen even a toehold here. She's expected to perform well, period. And if Biden's smart (which, depending on the day, can itself be open to debate), he'll let her do as much talking as possible. She may internalize a few important names in her frenetic cramming sessions, much as Will Ferrell's Bush parody in the 2000 debates showed him confidently reeling off "Obasanjo" and such. But there's a lot of specialized knowledge involved, and she clearly seems to be starting from scratch. A week might be just enough time to explain basic geopolitical ramifications to someone who isn't up on any of it, but it's not enough time for her to make it convincing.

Palin's numbers haven't dropped because of Democrats armed with facts -- her devoted cultard followers have no use for such things -- but because of her. Every time she tries to think or speak extemporaneously, a few more people wonder what they were thinking -- which, if they ever voted for George W. Bush and are seriously considering voting for John McCain, they should have been asking themselves in the first place. There is no "Palin Derangement Syndrome", it's all in their feverish pea brains. She's probably a perfectly nice person, but we're not voting for a neighbor, so grow the fuck up already.

Added fun: Perrin nails it. Even the most ardent Obama supporter should understand that the choice is not between Satan's Spawn and the Bringer of Light (which, after all, was Lucifer, n'est-ce pas?), but between an almost 100% assurance of further catastrophe, and a small but worthwhile chance to mitigate ongoing crises. As always, it matters less who wins than what all of us do the day after, the week after, the year after the election. As long as we put up with mal-fee-ance from either party, we're just as guilty as our electoral vessels of collective absolution.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Smell Test

So a couple weeks ago the wife decides she wants to pick out some perfume for her birthday. Off we go to the department store scent counters to see what's what. I am intrigued by the number of boutique fragrances abounding these days. Are there really people willing to part with their cash in order to smell like Paris Hilton? The mind boggles.

Anyway, passing the mens' cologne counter, my wife and I spot the boutique scent from my good friend Pee Diddly. I believe the product is called "Skid Mark" or "Taint Sweat" or some such. The missus turns and says, "Oh boy, I wonder what that smells like." Without missing a beat, I responded, "Eh, I dunno, prob'ly purple drank and an unearned ego trip," prompting a snicker from the counter girl. Who says youth is wasted on the young?

The thing is, while I crack wise at Diddly's expense, I'm not really kidding. Well, maybe about the purple drank. If Diddly drinks at all, it's not the oxy-and-tussin plastic-cup cocktails the street crowd partake of, it's bound to be something ostentatious and vulgar, to let everyone else at his table know how much money he rolls in. He'd pay 300 bucks for flat horse piss, as long as it came in a Cristall bottle.

But the other part, the inflated self-regard, I'm dead serious. The guy started as a "musician", and the examples I've heard of his efforts in that field suck dead rhino cock. I've been playing a long time, and I like a lot of different kinds of music, and I'm enough of an adult about my likes and dislikes without undue prejudice. And the guy fucking sucks at music, in a way that only a true perpetrator can. He does seem to know how to dress himself, I'll give him that. But there's an unearned smugness to the whole packaging vibe I could do without, like he thinks no one ever got laid before he came along to tell them what to consume -- or more importantly, to be seen consuming.

Yet he's turned himself into a brand, through sheer will, and moved on to other things. It's marketing 101, getting people to identify the association of the person, rather than the product and its specifics. And he's been enormously successful at it. People will buy anything, so long as you make them feel validated for it.

Which brings us to Punxsutawney Palin, slowly emerging from her campaign-imposed chuck-hole for more and dumber photo-ops. As if to prove that her stilted, aggravating turn with Charlie Gibson was no mere aberration, but only an appetizer, Palin went full-bore suck on Katie Couric. It is a stark measure of Palin's abject worthlessness as a reasonable candidate for office, when Katie Couric comes off like a justifiably aggrieved Rhodes scholar.

Couric: Have you ever been involved in any negotiations, for example, with the Russians?

Palin: We have trade missions back and forth, we do. It's very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia. As Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border. It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there, they are right next to our state.

Certainly Fredo's stubbed-toe syntax has kept us all in stitches lo these many years, but in spite of his best efforts you can usually at least dope out the general thread of what he's trying to say in his inimitable way. But I'll be damned if I can tell what Palin is saying here. "As Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where do they go?" I honestly have no idea what that is supposed to mean.

Notice also that Couric asked her a fairly simple yes-or-no question there. Either Palin has been personally involved in diplomatic negotiations with figures in the Russian government, or she hasn't. It's a clear pattern with how Palin dodges and obsfuscates simple questions, mad-libbing her way into nonsensical blather.

COURIC: Why isn’t it better, Governor Palin, to spend $700 billion helping middle-class families who are struggling with health care, housing, gas and groceries? Allow them to spend more, and put more money into the economy, instead of helping these big financial institutions that played a role in creating this mess?

PALIN: That’s why I say I, like every American I’m speaking with, we're ill about this position that we have been put in. Where it is the taxpayers looking to bail out. But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health care reform that is needed to help shore up our economy. Um, helping, oh, it’s got to be about job creation, too. Shoring up our economy, and putting it back on the right track. So health care reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions, and tax relief for Americans, and trade — we have got to see trade as opportunity, not as, uh, competitive, um, scary thing, but one in five jobs created in the trade sector today. We’ve got to look at that as more opportunity. All of those things under the umbrella of job creation.

Jesus. What in the fuck is she talking about, seriously? None of these sentences mean anything. As everyone else has noted, this is that Miss Teen Vegetable South Carolina dingbat all over again, except Miss Teen Vegetable isn't auditioning to run the freakin' country. Palin has yet to give a substantive answer in an actual interview thus far, this being 0-for-2 (no, Hannity's hair doesn't count, unless you're Colmes -- and by God, why would you be that?). So she's incoherent, and she lies like a bearskin rug, which makes her an ideal successor to Bush.

And yet, her newfound fans still lurve them some Sarah. She's standing up to the librul media, babbling incoherently for all of them, man, speaking for the little guy, or the small town, or something.

Bollocks. If anything, this assumption that people who live in small-towns always speak and think in butt-simple, unsophisticated platitudes is much more condescending than what the supposed elitists conjure up.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Deep Thought

When McCain said he was "suspending" his campaign, he really just meant the debate part, where he'd have to explain to everyone -- not just self-selecting gaggles of Sarah Palin's moron fan club -- what he thinks he's doing when he's not bounding from stunt to stunt.

If and when a debate finally does occur, I halfway expect McCain to show up in a cape and wait for a bribed stagehand to display the Bat Signal in the middle of one of Obama's rebuttals. These people are too dumb to see just how ridiculous they are.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Cheap Talk Express

This latest episode is looking like a late-round tactic of a boxing match. Obama is holding McCain close by publicizing his efforts to communicate with McCain on the subject of the bailout, while simultaneously waiting for McCain to tack in a specific direction on it. Obama correctly realizes that if he takes the initiative, no matter what, McCain's people will demagogue and lie about it, because that's all they've got, that's all they do. Wake up, grab a cup of coffee and a danish, drop a deuce, and concoct another round of lies to fool their crowd of rapture-ready dullards with.

And in "suspending" his campaign, and lamely insisting on delaying the debate (to November 5th, one assumes), McCain has again shown the trait that makes him most unsuitable for the office he cravenly seeks. Even George Fwill, bless his pointy li'l head, notices it -- every major decision McCain has made in this campaign has come off as little more than an impulsive gambit, and this is just one more. Typically the nature of campaigning is more impetuous at times than that of governance, but McCain has been so off the charts in every respect, it appears more and more that he is simply temperamentally incapable of dialing it down sufficiently should he squeak in. This is just another cheap stunt, like schlepping Punxsutawney Palin around on her Manhattan meet-and-greet.

Someone's buying it (and I do sincerely wish that the ape in the Post comments posting the same five-year-old Times article like it means something would take a flying fuck at a rolling donut already), but for people not huffing their own methane excretions, it's just another desperate maneuver by a flailing operation with an incomprehensible set of policy positions. I don't want to just squeak by; I want to absolutely bury these bastards, and then perhaps the Democrats will be emboldened enough to grow at least one, if not a pair.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Pox Populi

"Keep this quiet: the world is round." -- Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

Bushtard librettist and freelance peckerhead Michael Gerson scribbles his latest hymn in the key of Bullshit Major -- which, apologies to Nigel Tufnel, is the most pathetic (and frequent) key of all. After a trite overture to the ancient homilies of William Jennings Bryan, Gerson attempts to square Bryan's ultimately tedious rabble-rousing with that of Real 'murka's new pinup gal.

The closest I have ever come to witnessing a Bryan moment was Sarah Palin's speech at the Republican convention—the triumph of another backwoods, highly religious populist. Palin praised the honesty and sincerity of small towns; pressed her credentials as a hockey mom, member of the PTA and small-town mayor; and railed against the "Washington elite," "power brokers" and (a little close to home) "reporters and commentators." If hats had been in style, they would have been thrown.

The response in some quarters to the selection of Palin was sneering. An Obama spokesman immediately called her the "former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign-policy experience." But claims about the importance of experience are inherently complicated for both parties in this election. If Palin's governing résumé is thin, Barack Obama's is thinner. If Palin's lack of experience is meaningless, Obama's case to be commander in chief is strengthened.

As much as Palin's increasingly insipid defenders whinge at the "sneering", they studiously avoid the obvious, because they know better. They cry sexism, knowing full well that any man with Palin's quals would have been laughed off the stage by now. And they would never accept a Democratic contender -- even a veep candidate -- as serious without observable foreign policy cred.

Look, asshole, there are actual differences between the thin résumés sported by Palin and Obama. For one, as Gerson himself admits, Obama's academic history is one of objective substance, as opposed to Palin shuttling between a half-dozen cow colleges to pick up a four-year communications degree in six years.

But more importantly, while Obama's few years in gubmint are constantly being downplayed, the fact is that his every statement has been under intense scrutiny by all sides, and forms an observable body of opinion on actual policy. Everyone knows what they're getting, pro or con. Nobody knows anything about Palin, except that pretty much everything she's said so far has been debunked, yet since she has nothing else to say, she keeps repeating the lies to newer and more obtuse crowds.

And Gerson wonders why rational people might be thinking these new fans are clinically stupid.

Presidential historians count experience as one possible contributing element to presidential success—but there are others. "Experience matters," historian Robert Dallek has said, "but its importance is terribly overstated." Predicting the ideal combination of background, skills and values in a successful president—or VP—is no easy task. And it cannot be argued that elite experience is somehow the key.

Americans who support Palin are not fools, peasants or theocrats. They have reasons, which elites may not agree with, but cannot dismiss. Many are attracted to her because she embodies the values of the American West, which they find superior to the values of coastal elites. This was part of the appeal of Goldwater and Reagan—a log-splitting, range-riding conservatism that emphasizes freedom. (Palin adds moose hunting to the list.) It's not irrational or simplistic for voters to prefer candidates who reflect their deepest values.

It absolutely is irrational and simplistic when it's clear that not only do these voters know precious little about her, but her own campaign insists on keeping her from saying anything at all. It's even more irrational when you consider that probably 90% of these bandwagon idiots had never even heard of Palin until a month ago. Coot jokes aside, the fact of the matter is that John McCain is an old man who has had a hard life and very serious health concerns. There is a better than average chance that he may die or be incapacitated in office, and thus be succeeded by someone whom nobody knows much of anything about, and whose biggest fans appear to be most energetic about her lack of rigorous acquaintance with any substantial aspect of policy.

That is not merely "irrational" nor "simplistic". That is borderline retarded. That makes literally no sense; it's like handing your car keys and the deed to your house to someone you met an hour ago in a bar.

And bringing Goldwater and Reagan into this is pure bullshit, as both men were quite well-known in terms of what they stood for and what they intended to do. Whether or not people agreed with that, they at least had ample opportunity to familiarize themselves with the opinions and positions of each man. None of these idiots knows a goddamned thing about Sarah Palin except that she gives them an excuse to nurse their imaginary grudges at Obama, "liberals", whoever they think is keeping them down.

But if anyone insists on bringing up Goldwater, I double-dog dare them to push that one. "In your heart, you know he's right." How'd that one work out?

Gerson disingenuously perpetuates these ridiculous grudges of the eternally aggrieved. As a speechwriter, he of all people should understand how language is always the first thing to be abused in times of political convenience. Just as "conservative" and "liberal" no longer resemble their former meanings, so does Gerson deliberately conflate "populism" with cheap demagoguery and empty rhetoric. Inane observations such as "simplicity is not always foolishness, just as sophistication is not always wisdom" are decontextualized and slapped with a "Starbucks elitists look down on you" coat of whitewash.

Never mind the fact that frequently simplicity is foolishness (as if the last eight years didn't serve as a stark example of that), and that this is eminently one of those cases. If it weren't, they wouldn't have had to hide Palin from the media all this time, her media-rattled day-trip to the UN today notwithstanding. Wow, a whole 29 seconds for the media to snap a photo and listen to her chat with Karzai about their kids? Gee, I had her all wrong -- if anything, she's clearly overqualified.

You know, ever since Palin was unceremoniously foisted upon this dog-and-pony show, the constant sob-sister refrain, as epitomized by Gerson's meaningless class-baiting, has been that we've been unfair meanies to poor Sarah. As opposed to inbred dipshits like these, just expressing those awesome small-town values:

AURORA, Colo. (AP/CBS4) ― A fifth-grader in the Denver suburb of Aurora says he's been suspended from school for wearing a homemade T-shirt that said "Obama is a terrorist's best friend."

Daxx Dalton, 11, and his father, Dann Dalton, say his First Amendment rights were violated.


"It's ridiculous that we're not able to say the work[sic] 'terrorist,'" Dann said. "What a bunch of bed-wetters we are producing in our public schools. They can't even confront the word 'terrorist.'"

"Daxx Dalton", seriously? Does Dad expect him to become a pro wrestler when he grows up, or will he settle for cooking meth and raising pit bulls? But yeah, while we sit here on the "left" and lob cheap "Klondike Barbie" cracks and make factual points about how she, you know, lies about everything and is clearly underqualified for anything beyond maybe Don Young's House seat, the vitriol coming from the other side is of a much greater magnitude.

I read far too many blogs and news sites, and I have yet to see anything launched at Palin that even approaches the tone of pure venom and spite that is regularly spewed at Obama specifically and Democrats in general. The tell is that a huge chunk of these people are not pro-McCain -- in fact, they hardly mention him. Mostly they either hate Obama and make the usual bad puns on his name, or they love them some Sarah, pretending that they've known her all their lives. They don't know or like McCain or Palin, they just hate the people running against them, and they're willing to fuck their own country up even further to prove it.

That tells you everything you need to know about why McCain had to pick an unknown like Palin, to energize the base, and to dodge and deflect the appropriate levels of research for the sixty-day homestretch. And it tells you everything you need to know about the people who fall for that shit, dive into it head first. Fuck them. If they can't explain themselves any better than "because she's a mooooommm!!1!1", then they deserve every bit of scorn, contempt, and abuse the rest of us can muster.

Sarah Palin may indeed be something of a populist. But the point is that neither you nor me, nor Gerson, nor the hordes of cultish bandwagon-hoppers have any way of knowing one way or the other. Ignorance is not a "value", no matter what a professional turd-polisher like Gerson says. He just wants to gin up a class/culture war while his former employers continue to rob everyone blind. If I were a Christian, I'd pray for Gerson's capricious deity to forgive his calculating transgressions; since I'm not, and I have no reason to believe in karma, we'll just have to hope that there's some smiting somewhere along the line for Mike and his skeevy ilk.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Now He Tells Us

I so enjoyed the latest nugget of EmBeeAyyy profundity to bounce from Himself's nether regions, I had to make it the new tagline (header line, whatever it's called):

It turns out that there's a lot of interlinks throughout the financial system.

Duuuude. Fuuuuck. I mean, dude, really? Are ya fuckin' sure about that one, the heretofore undetected interdependence among the diseased strata of corporate bookies and the paper-swapping monetary system? Yeah. "It turns out." Awesome. There has to be some point in his misbegotten life when Fredo went to a county fair and lost to a tic-tac-toe-playing chicken. But to be fair, the chicken's coke habit probably wasn't as bad.

More brilliance:

At first I thought we could deal with this -- deal with the problem one issue at a time. We made the decision on Fannie and Freddie because there was systemic risk to our mortgage markets. And then obviously AIG came along -- and Lehman came along and it was -- it declared bankruptcy; then AIG came along and it -- the house of cards was much bigger, beyond -- started to stretch beyond just Wall Street, in the sense of the effects of failure. And so when one card started to go, we were worried about the whole deck going down, and so therefore moved, and moved hard.

Seriously, it's like he's stoned, except not quite as coherent. He's basically tripping out on his fingers, man, have you ever thought about how no two fingerprints are alike, dude? He's lost like a wayward toddler at an Orange County galleria. I suppose golden parachutes require golden showers, but damn, he clearly didn't even bother to skim the bullet points of the executive summary.

This guy shouldn't be trusted with a child's piggy bank, and he wanted to put Social Security in the hands of these goons. The Democrats will really have to put in the extra effort to fuck this one up.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


As one might assume, I tend to have the usual lefty insouciance toward sacred icons, including flags and anthems and ceremonies and such. Not that I dislike or disrespect those things themselves; I'm not talking about throwing on a Free Mumia shirt and lecturing passersby about Columbus exterminating the Indians, man, every time I see the Stars and Stripes.

What I have little patience for is the way in which many people choose to mindlessly hump these totems, as if to absolve themselves from the arduous work of, say, paying attention or being honest with themselves. The thing becomes a substitute for thinking, and turns into a mere accessory for the lifelong spectator. It becomes empty symbolism in those circumstances. I would, for example, be in favor of a flag-burning amendment, so long as it was taken to its logical conclusion, and also prohibited competitive eaters and assorted losers from using it as a t-shirt or a doo-rag. But then, for people like that, concepts such as patriotism and national pride are merely accessories to be worn at convenient moments.

Such is the contrived hoo-ha over NBA forward Josh Howard being caught on a cell phone disrespecting the national anthem before a charity game. Does Howard come off as a spoiled, ignorant asshole? Sure. Is it a big deal? Um, no. Don't tell anyone, but the world happens to be full of assholes.

And the writer makes a very good point about the overt conflation between organized sports events and nationalist rituals, which in a mob can be rather coercive in nature. But you wouldn't know it from reading the "comments", most of which are barely literate, and some which read as if they were cribbed from the wall of an Aryan Nations outhouse.

There's no logical reason to precede every game with these rituals, nor is there any reason for the Yankees to compel participation by chaining off the stairs during the seventh-inning rendition of God Bless America. But we go through it because we're told to, because everyone else is doing it, etc. And instead of finding meaning in these compulsory doxologies, we then go right back to whatever we were doing.

Maybe it would be better if we were left the hell alone at recreational activities, and were pestered at home to do meaningful things on an individual level, instead of engaging in these collective distractions. None of these things mean anything if people don't actually live them.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Branding Cattle

Sometimes you encounter a conservatard writer whose renderings of the official hymnal are so overwrought, you wonder about them. Is it a put-on, do they roll their eyes and snicker as they type each laboriously-crafted tautology? Are they counting the zeroes on their paychecks as they lovingly polish every rhetorical turd? Or worse, are they serious, so mindlessly wedded to their ridiculous tropes, lacking in self-awareness in a way normally attributed to one of the blow-up dolls from The Hills?

As is his wont, Fred Barnes invites us to speculate as to worst-case scenarios.

It took Conservatives in Great Britain a decade to restore their party's good name. It is taking Republicans a far shorter time--perhaps only two years--to begin a significant comeback. Who's responsible? For sure, John McCain and Sarah Palin have played major roles. But so has a Republican who was one of the causes of the party's decline--President Bush.

Republicans suffered from the same ailment as the Tories. In the minds of millions of voters who once supported them, Republicans had become the political equivalent of socially unacceptable people. They were disliked, personally as well as politically. Republicans had no one but themselves to blame.

The Tories lost three elections before changing the face of their party with new leaders who stressed fresh issues (while muting but not abandoning their core conservative principles). In 2006, Republicans lost Congress and numerous statehouses. Now McCain and Palin have supplanted President Bush and Vice President Cheney as the party's leaders. They're stressing a pair of new issues: political reform and fixing a "broken" Washington. Actually, those may be a single issue.

Whatever post-convention bounce McPalin enjoyed appears to be gone, supplanted by a sense that their American Idol dog-and-pony show is worth fuck-all in the face of a potentially catastrophic economic situation. These people are clowns and liars -- showboating buffoons with no ideas, no knowledge, and no curiosity as to how to handle problems. Over the past month or so, McCain has insisted that he knows how to find bin Laden, win wars, and fix the economy. One asks politely why the hell he has yet to do any of those things then, or to even proffer any viable solutions to his colleagues in the Senate or the current occupants of the office he seeks.

(And really, the next time McCain asserts that he "knows how to win wars", it would be helpful if the person he's speaking to responds with a request for him to produce an example. That should be entertaining, though not quite as entertaining as Barnes trying to convince his hordes of saps that empty jabber and listing approval ratings are good things.)

Other factors have also been crucial in the Republican rise. Recall what caused the party to tank in 2006: corruption and scandal in Congress, excessive spending, a losing war in Iraq, unpopular leaders. The party had a bad odor.

Those problems either don't exist any more [sic] or aren't as significant in 2008. Congressional Republicans who were caught up in scandal or outright crimes are gone or soon to leave. The one exception is Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, who is under indictment and awaiting trial as he runs for reelection. Yet he's running even with his Democratic opponent.

Which proves only that Alaska Republicans are as obstinate and irrational as their continental counterparts. And it's nice that Barnes thinks that the problems he listed "either don't exist anymore or aren't as significant in 2008". It's not as if the perpetual election campaign hasn't sucked all the oxygen out of all those other stories, which are indeed still relevant and significant.

Barnes goes on to talk about the British Tories' rejuvenation against a stagnant Labour Party, as if Tony Blair's association with (and steadfast refusal to repudiate) Fredo hadn't tainted that brand sufficiently. It is, Fred may have noticed, the same reason Bush has only appeared in public to stroke everyone over the impending economic collapse, and hasn't been seen in public with McCain in months. Cheney is also nowhere to be found. These are not the actions of the incumbent leaders of a resurgent brand.

Barnes is bold in putting the date of September 29 on his column. McCain has already been uncomfortably exposed as an increasingly empty candidate in genuine danger of being overshadowed by his neophyte running mate, who in turn has been overexposed as a typical backwater cronyist who knows nothing about the world beyond her state broders, and who is clearly in waaaayyy over her head, no matter how much or how desperately they try to prep her. Most people with an IQ above room temperature are already at the point of asking "what next" when they hear Palin's name, just three weeks into her "getting to know you" phase. They know her now, and while she might be a perfectly good neighbor or mayor, she is not qualified to occupy the newly-empowered office of vice-president. Barnes can thank Cheney for that one.

By the time Barnes' pro-forma date rolls around, the first debate between Obama and McCain will have been held. And while Obama's supposedly professorial demeanor may still be off-putting the emotionally unstable who project their anxieties and ignorance upon their political representatives, the fact is that he is a much better extemporaneous thinker and speaker than McCain. And now that people are losing their homes and jobs and pensions in droves, more of these chuckleheads are starting to pay attention past the peripheral nonsense they've been indulging in.

We'll see -- the older I get, the more I believe that Mencken was an optimist -- but if I were Barnes, I wouldn't be counting my Palins before they're even incubated, much less ready to hatch. People are starting to figure this broad out, and the numbers show it.

The Swirling Sound

More often than not, I find myself disagreeing with Niall Ferguson, but it's probably more a matter of ideological incompatibility than anything else. Ferguson is certainly not a showboating neocon bozo, does not hail from that inbred tribal stripe that boasts truly incompetent thinkers such as Jonah Goldberg. And yet, Ferguson seems to be engaging here almost ritualistically in glossing over some very profound structural issues in the American economy, and in turn its geopolitical stability.

In fact, in enumerating the various ways in which our consumerist economy is unraveling, Ferguson effectively refutes his own argument, which is that rumors of our demise may be premature after all. You know, as disciplined as the Roman historians were in chronicling every episode of indulgence, every quirk of imperial overreach, I doubt they ever transcribed an incident of one citizen asking another as the barbarians were at the gate, "Think the empire's falling?".

Thanks to the arcane machinations of international finance, that fall is now somewhat cushioned by our collective counterparts abroad. However, it is also because of that financial system that we find ourselves in this fix. When people who create nothing of value convince other people to invest money they don't have in their Ponzi scheme, you're headed for a fall. It may take a year or a decade, but it's going to happen at some point. How long did anybody think that selling East Bay tract homes for $800K (plus side overbids of as much as $50K) to people making $40K/year was going to last? Well, these geniuses were so convinced that it couldn't possibly end, they put all the liar loans in a big pile, bought derivatives on the margin, and staked everyone's pension funds on it.

Still itching for those supercool Social Security private accounts?

So even though our defense budget is typically estimated at around 5-6% of GDP, the finance fiasco should be a clear indication that some portion of said GDP is largely fictitious, or at least tied up in some suspendered asshole's highfalutin' scam. Of course Wall Street breathed a sigh of relief as the week ended -- who wouldn't under those conditions? These fuckers made ridiculous money running a numbers racket, and when the Jets finally failed to cover the spread, someone still shows up to bail them out. We should all have that kind of luck.

Ferguson correctly asserts we have gotten out of previous crises before. But we recovered from the Great Depression with a shitload of wartime spending and domestic projects. After bailing out the scam artists and pouring a trillion or so into a bloody hole in the desert, we're going to be cash-poor for quite some time. And we've been borrowing from China in order to buy shit from them, which as Ferguson acknowledges, is going to change as China engages in some economic re-stratification. They're cultivating other markets, and beating us to the resource-rich African continent.

We've gotten away with this stupid, reckless behavior because we've always been too big to fail. But we've been our own worst enemies for so long, that may have changed. And like many important econometrics, it's something of a lagging indicator. We find out for sure the hard way.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

House of Cards

So the financial chickens are finally roosting, and the serious hand-wringing has begun. Who woulda thunk that a fourth-order Ponzi scheme (subprime loans granted with no collateral, bundled into mortgage bonds, used to leverage arcane derivatives, which were insured by massive financial groups) could backfire? Getting greedy is one thing; getting greedy by selling millions of wildly overpriced houses to seriously underqualified customers and betting billions of dollars on a perpetual bubble is just stupid.

So what are we going to do about it? Well, seems one straight-talkin' maverick has had his come-to-Jeebus moment.

A decade ago, Sen. John McCain embraced legislation to broadly deregulate the banking and insurance industries, helping to sweep aside a thicket of rules established over decades in favor of a less restricted financial marketplace that proponents said would result in greater economic growth.

Now, as the Bush administration scrambles to prevent the collapse of the American International Group (AIG), the nation's largest insurance company, and stabilize a tumultuous Wall Street, the Republican presidential nominee is scrambling to recast himself as a champion of regulation to end "reckless conduct, corruption and unbridled greed" on Wall Street.

Which is funny, because his own main economic advisor and former colleague, Phil Gramm (R-Draaawwwlll) was a prime mover behind many of the deregulatory schemes which resulted in what you have now -- a bunch of nervous bookies expecting the peons to bail them out.

Klondike Barbie gets in on the game, adding to the usual "thanks but no thanks/I put the plane on E-Bay" cheer lines for the credulous morons in the audience. She talks a good game about "reforming" the "mismanagement" of those Wall Street fat-cats, and returning it to the shareholders, evidently via a complex process of "shakin' things up" and "fixin'" and other vague actiony phrases.

She makes it sound as if this was all just a tragic accident, and not crooks taking advantage of intentionally lax policy. Palin has already characterized herself roughly as a Reaganite economically, a bunch of vague platitudes about government getting out of the way of people and letting the market work its magic. Which is how we got here in the first place. This makes her just as vague, when you come right down to it, as the nominal head of the ticket, whom she has been noisily superseding over the past week.

McCain's flip-flops this morning can be chalked up to misspeaking, but in the larger sense, his sudden opportunistic embrace of regulatory reform contradicts his earlier stated positions, as well as that of his main economic policy advisors. To be fair, it's not entirely clear what Obama can and will do about it either, but at least his stump speeches aren't rotely peppered with egregious, repeatedly debunked tropes and hysterical hypocrisies about lobbyists. And notice that no one's even bothered to ask Fredo what he thinks about any of this.

Regardless, it might be a good time to hold off on any major purchases, learn to grow your own food, and walk or ride a bicycle whenever possible.

Defcon Borgnine

Holy crap. I don't know what to say.

The candid 22-year-old "Transformers" star, who's currently engaged to actor Brian Austin Green, opened up to GQ about her love life, telling the magazine she was once in love with a female stripper. Fox, who appears on the October cover in a black bikini, said she was in the relationship when she was 18 and first living in Los Angeles alone. "Well, that year my boyfriend broke up with me, and I decided - oh man, sorry, mommy! - that I was in love with this girl that worked at the Body Shop," said Fox. "I decided that I was going to get her to love me back, and I went out of my way to create a relationship with this girl, a stripper named Nikita."

Seriously? She's engaged to the little rapper dude from 90210? My friends, that is some wickety-wack shit I just cannot believe. It would upset the delicate balance of this entropic void/womb we call the universe. Though I have to admit, Vanilla Ice Jr. seems to have gotten himself some top-shelf ass over the years -- well, aside from Tori Spelling.

Oh, and Megan Fox with a Russian stripper. I may have to take the rest of the week off work to recuperate. How come there's no tape of that, instead of Paris Hilton and Pamela Anderson? There's no justice in this world, I tells ya.

Monday, September 15, 2008

It's Always Sunny In Wasilladelphia

Hey, if we're gonna make this thing about petty grievances, they don't come much smaller:

This morning NarcoNews reported that that a tanning bed had been installed in the governor's official residence in 2007, sourcing a Department of Transportation employee familiar with renovations at the mansion. This evening, Politico's Ben Smith reported that Palin had paid for the tanning bed with her own money.


The news of Palin's luxurious purchase -- beds can cost as much as $35,000 -- presents a sharp contrast to the blue-collar persona she projects on the campaign trail.

Meh, whatever. It does sort of belie the blue-collar pose, but I imagine their household income is several times what blue-collar families make in the first place. It's all a lame pose, with or without the tanning bed. It's just mildly funny, is all.

You think the tanning bed's bad, wait till they find the sex dungeon in the basement.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

They Write Letters

First two letters to the editor of the SF Comical's ironically-dubbed "Insight" section today:

Editor - Thank you very much for Tammy Bruce's article about Sarah Palin ("A feminist's argument for McCain's VP," Sept. 7). When Sen. John McCain first announced Palin, I knew she had to be a special woman. Alaska, the last American frontier, must be a guy's dream state in many ways. So, any woman who could get elected there sounded like she might be someone worth considering.

I also agree with Bruce regarding abortion rights. It is one thing to give a woman the choice to abort. But how about giving women the backup and support they need if they decide to have their baby? To me, that is true choice. I know many women who had children in their late teens and went on to raise good kids and pursue other interests and careers as well. As women, we have had to deal with many tough decisions and overwhelming barriers to fight for ourselves and our families. Despite Sarah Palin's recent appearance on the national stage, I wonder if she might not be a better president than McCain!

ANNE DUNEV, Valley Village (Los Angeles County)

It is indeed "one thing to give a woman the choice to abort". But per the scribbler's followup, Palin cut precisely the "backup and support" for teen mothers -- aside from her own daughter, who is quite well taken care of -- this person so sincerely endorses.

Amazingly, that appears to be the most lucid point of the entire letter. The rest of it reads as muddled and incoherent as one might find in a vodka-and-Vicodin fugue. I'm actually surprised the newspaper saw fit to bother with it, except maybe as a "see what I have to deal with?" cry for help from the beleaguered editor. This is the sort of moron that falls for Nigerian e-mail scams and work-at-home commercials.

Letter #2 opines thusly:

Editor - Regarding "A feminist's argument for McCain's VP" (Sept. 7): I, too, am a feminist. I, too, would be delighted to see many more women in higher office, including the presidency. But not just any woman, just as I wouldn't want just any man to lead our country.

Rather, a woman who understands the importance of protecting the environment, ending the war that has so damaged our economy (and the country of Iraq and our international reputation), and any number of other so-called "liberal" issues. Not just a good speaker with a colorful background, but a woman of proven experience and a specific platform of positive ideas and policies to help the have-nots and those who are struggling to hang on to what they have.

And, since Sarah Palin would breach the privacy of millions of American women, I do feel free to comment on her personal life: I don't trust a woman - or a man, for that matter - who would even consider subjecting her young and pregnant child to massive media scrutiny. Sarah Palin may be a feminist of sorts, but she's also a mediocre small-town demagogue. Our country deserves, and desperately needs, much, much better.


Fair enough, up to the last sentence. I think we get what we deserve, even indirectly. As long as we put up with destructive policies, as long as we fail to turn off and tune out the cable and talk-radio screamers, as long as vast swaths of the country continue to wallow in collective spite and ignorance, as long as we continue to think that the act of voting is the extent of our responsibilities, it's not entirely undeserved. And if it takes a slap in the face to jar the right forces into appropriate action (or even inaction), it might be what is needed as well.

That all might sound cryptically counterintuitive, but it's a reasonable interpretation of this cognitive dissonance that pervades, this destructive perplexity we all feel. You can only ask "what the fuck are these morons thinking?" for so long. It no longer matters what they're thinking, to the extent that they are thinking at all, or to the extent that you can do anything about it.

Eventually you come to the conclusion that it's no longer safe nor sane to tie your fortunes to theirs so inextricably, like cinder blocks around your ankles as you dog-paddle endlessly in a diseased electoral swamp. Eventually it's time to quit asking why there are cinder blocks around your ankles, and find a way to cut them loose, and swim to shore. I'm not exactly sure what that is just yet, but I do know that the prospect of a Palin presidency would necessitate something serious, not some ludicrous retrenchment for a 2012 Hillary run. "Fuck that noise" would be a good starting point for a strategy, as well as an apropos motto.

So either a sufficient number of your countrymen have just enough wits about them to see that they're being handjobbed by an angry codger and a pathological liar, or you need to disentangle from them on some level or other anyway.


Have you heard the one about the values voters with the pickaninny merch booth?

Activists at a conservative political forum snapped up boxes of waffle mix depicting Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama as a racial stereotype on its front and wearing Arab-like headdress on its top flap.

Values Voter Summit organizers cut off sales of Obama Waffles boxes on Saturday, saying they had not realized the boxes displayed "offensive material." The summit and the exhibit hall where the boxes were sold had been open since Thursday afternoon.

The box was meant as political satire, said Mark Whitlock and Bob DeMoss, two writers from Franklin, Tenn., who created the mix. They sold it for $10 a box from a rented booth at the summit sponsored by the lobbying arm of the Family Research Council.

David Nammo, executive director of the lobbying group FRC Action, said summit organizers were told the boxes were a parody of Obama's policy positions but had not examined them closely.

Republican Party stalwarts Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney were among speakers at the forum, which officials said drew 2,100 activists from 44 states.

While Obama Waffles takes aim at Obama's politics by poking fun at his public remarks and positions on issues, it also plays off the old image of the pancake-mix icon Aunt Jemima, which has been widely criticized as a demeaning stereotype. Obama is portrayed with popping eyes and big, thick lips as he stares at a plate of waffles and smiles broadly.

Someone must have talked them out of their original idea, "I Hate Niggers Pancake Mix". I'm surprised these comic geniuses didn't think to, for example, PhotoShop the frazzled hairdo of everyone's favorite Little Rascal onto Obama's head, and call him "Barackwheat". That would have been otay.

More seriously, when your own candidate hasn't yet met a major position he couldn't rethink and posture himself conveniently about, it's a fucking stretch to try to find sport in your opponent's "waffling". See ladies, "satire" is not only supposed have an element of truth, it's supposed to highlight a trait which you yourself find abhorrent. It's not a rubber-glue rhetorical device for inbred retards and not-so-latent racists.

Not only were Neuter and Mittens at the rally, presumably leading the audience in several hearty stanzas of the Horst Wessel Song, but according to The Note, Miss Congeniality and the McCains were expected by the god-botherers to also personally appear at the conservatard Walpurgisnacht. Even they had more sense than that, apparently.

What does it say about how things have changed for McCain and evangelicals that he and Palin feel free to skip this weekend's Values Voters Summit?

"Mr. McCain and Mrs. Palin, the governor of Alaska, were invited to address this weekend's Values Voters Summit in Washington but are expected to be no-shows, leaving only Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich as two of the biggest political names scheduled to address the conclave of social conservatives," Ralph Z. Hallow writes in the Washington Times.

The Christian Broadcasting Network's David Brody: "The offer of a short video from vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin to folks at this weekend's Value Voters Summit has been turned down by its president, Tony Perkins. A source inside John McCain's campaign tells me that Palin was set to record the video Wednesday in Virginia before she left for Alaska. But when the McCain campaign approached Perkins about offering the video rather than a personal appearance Perkins said, according to numerous witnesses, 'That's not enough.' "

I guess after Fredo, Poor Ol' Straight Talk is fresh out of awkward bear hugs.

Nice crowd you roll with there, J-Mac.


When even Faux Noise refuses to go along with your bullshit anymore, maybe you really are nothing but a straight-up lying sack, cynically counting on the coveted low-info demo not to question the fact that you are a liar, and a calculating one at that. Not only does Palin know she's full of shit, she knows that the press knows, which means she knows that a lot of people know that she's lying. And it matters not one bit to her, because words mean nothing to these people.

Carson City, Nevada –-

In her first campaign event since she left her native state of Alaska, Sarah Palin brought back some lines to her stump speech that she took out for the hometown crowds in Fairbanks and Anchorage.

She told the cheering crowd of a few thousand here that she and her running mate are reformers. To prove her maverick past she repeated an anecdote wildly told on the trail, but eliminated in Alaska. That she got rid of the Alaska Governor’s private jet and put it on EBay. She does not add that the plane did not sell on EBay and it had to be taken off the website and then sold through a broker.

She also brought back a line about one of the more infamous pork barrel projects in the country, “I told Congress thanks but no thanks on that Bridge to Nowhere and if our state wanted a bridge we would build it ourselves.”

Palin originally supported the so-called Bridge to Nowhere before it became a symbol of earmark criticism in Washington. She later said she no longer supported federal funding for the often-mocked bridge. Alaska collected the funds that would have gone to the bridge and was allowed to spend it on other projects.

Both stories are widely known in Alaska, but may not be in the “lower 48.”

I imagine at some point she'll simply stop repeating these lies, over and over again, exact same phrasing, but only when enough of the morons in the crowd stop lapping it up. And it'll never be acknowledged, that's a given.

But as irritating as it is, I hope she goes on and on and keeps repeating these lies, like the wind-up toy that she is. At some point it might even sink in to some of these people that she's (for the thousandth time) lying to them, even after Charlie Gibson basically pointed it out to her face-to-face, because they have nothing else. They have no plans, no expertise, they stand for nothing, they don't plan to do shit except continue the good times they and their friends have experienced under eight years of Dick Cheney and his bumbling sidekick.

But in the meantime, what despicable, dishonorable people Palin and McCain have truly turned out to be. This is not a "hey, we're all Americans, we can agree to disagree" narrative they're running on, this is a series of wild misrepresentations and mischaracterizations from both of them, counting on stupid people to buy what they're selling. I know, it's a "water is wet" kinda observation, but I think the only sensible tactic is to keep bringing it up, every time they do it, every time they think they're getting away with something.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Serial Drillers

In their weekly radio riposte to Fredo's mindless jabber (full address here), the Democrats launch their usual tepid counter-proposals to the Id Party's longstanding mission statement:

Democrats sought on Saturday to drum up support for compromise legislation on offshore drilling, challenging Republicans to break from Bush administration policies that neglect development of alternative energy sources.


Salazar is part of the bipartisan group supporting a proposal that calls for both limited offshore drilling and taxing the oil industry, while funneling more money into renewable energy. Republican leaders have not embraced the compromise.

And they won't until there's some money in it for them and their fossil-fuel-industry owners. But some fundamental requirements are glaringly absent from Salazar's proposal. What about re-instituting fuel economy standards? How about a gas-guzzler tax? Conservation incentives, not just punitive measures? Research on mixed-use planning to prevent future sprawl, and maybe do something about the current exurban hells dotting the land?

Hell, you do all those things, a modest amount of offshore or ANWR drilling would be a more practical compromise. Needless to say, the Republicans are not looking for compromise; they expect capitulation, and their vivid descriptions of pointy-headed pencil-pushers tellin' good folks how to manage their obese modes of transportation and personal expression is sufficient to rouse the rabble.

Renewable energy and wind turbines and all that are nice, but to paraphrase Jenna Jameson, we're not going to blow our way out of this crisis anymore than we can drill out of it. Anyone can understand why the Democrats don't feel politically confident enough to make that the centerpiece of an energy strategy, even though it needs to be. But as with so many other things, they don't even try, they don't even bring it up.

Palin Truth Watch

I imagine you're as sick of reading and hearing about this dingbat as I am of writing and talking about her, but seriously, I cannot think of even one (1) thing she or McCain has said that has turned out to be even partially true. They're even overcounting their "crowds", and falsely attributing it to unwitting fire marshals.

Is that really even her family, or are they on loan from central casting? Was she ever really the governor of Alaska, or the mayor of Buttfuck, Alaska? Seriously, people, I'm starting to wonder if Sarah Palin has actually ever been to Alaska, or if it was just another refueling stop en route to the desolate Aleutian atoll that passes for her fevered, résumé-padding imagination.

My friends, that sum total of pure lies and the utter absence of a single true or substantive thing, that is desperation you can believe in. It's time to stick a fork in these lying assholes, and pimp-slap the next newbie cultist that proclaims, "I really like her!", because they think they're voting for a wacky new neighbor. Well, common sense, which is what these simps think they rely on, usually dictates that people who constantly lie and exaggerate about themselves are catastrophic when it comes to putting them in charge of anything important. Like, you know, your lives, your health care, job prospects, local/regional/national economy, social/foreign/energy policy, that sort of thing.

So shout it from the rooftops already -- she and Ol' Granddad are pathological liars. Call it what it is.

New Booty Alert

Meet Hugh Hefner's new girlfriend (more here) (both links NSFW). Personally I don't believe it. For one, she doesn't look like Hef's usual inflate-a-date type. I mean, I see Holly Madison and I practically want to check her ass for a valve stem. But Dasha Astafieva's tits appear to be real, which would be a departure for Hef. (I have nothing against fake tits; if I can see them, they're real. Still, natural is preferred. Tara Reid's boobjob (also NSFW), for example, looks like a blind man slung pepperoni at a couple of water balloons.)

Secondly, I don't believe that Astafieva is actually a Ukrainian Playmate, because she's not the size and shape of a woodstove and pulling a plow. (I keed, I keed; I've always found Eastern European women pretty hot, exotic, though I don't really have a "type". A hot chick is a hot chick, whether she's from Osaka, Mumbai, Kiev, or Laguna Beach.)

Anyway, nicely done once again, Hef. Damn you.

Special Needs Children

The reason Jonah Goldberg is deadly serious about pushing the lamest imaginable theories forward as irrefutable fact is a pretty simple one: he's a fucking moron. He probably has to wear a helmet when he blogs. Motherfucker has to wear either slip-on or velcro-strap shoes because he's too fucking dumb to tie them. And he counts on his audience to believe every stupid thing he says. More often than not, he's right about his audience. Clearly they'll believe anything.

If he was good at counting cards or memorizing addresses it'd be one thing, but he genuinely seems to have no marketable skill besides pulling things straight out of his ass. Get this, Pantload -- everyone knows that McCain is unable to raise his arms above his head to pitch a baseball with sufficient velocity to pitch a baseball. That is an entirely different kinesiological matter than being unable to type, even if you are some sort of moron who mounts the fucking keyboard at shoulder height. You who else can't type? Friend and enabler of Saddam and Osama (according to the people who bought Saxby Chambliss his Senate seat) Max Cleland.

Perhaps more than for any other specific reason, I despise this crowd's instinctive willingness to cynically use war injuries when it suits their purposes, while they belittle and calumniate wounded veterans when they turn out to be inconvenient to their political agenda. Eight years ago they started a whisper campaign that Johnny Mac's time in Charlie's tiger cage left him with snakes in his head, but this year's model is being bronzed alive by them. That's because they've never really fought for anything, and thus have no clue one way or the other. Nor do they care; it's just another cynical attempt to see if Rove and his fellow turd-burglars can regain their mojo and finish their grand project of ruining this country.

Sorry Charlie

Credit where credit is due: count me in as admitting that I misunderestimated Charlie Gibson, or at least he well exceeded my lowered expectations. He did pretty well and, contra my predictions, wasn't a shameless suck-up. He could have been more aggressive -- they can always be more aggressive, and without coming off like pushy assholes. But he got his main points across, avoided being unnecessarily deferential, and helped show Palin as she really is -- clueless, way out of her depth, dangerously ignorant and at least as unprepared for her job interview as Fredo was for his. How'd that one work out, newbie Palin cultists? Shit, Gibson came off as more qualified for the job. None of these humps had heard of Palin less than three weeks ago, and in another two weeks or so, they'll be sick of her and forget her, like whoever won the last American Idol.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Palin Comparison

On the anniversary of the day where, if everything didn't exactly change quite as much as advertised, at the very least our approach to foreign policy was completely upturned, it seems appropriate to peek in on our would-be future assistant decider:

GIBSON: Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?

PALIN: In what respect, Charlie?

GIBSON: The Bush -- well, what do you -- what do you interpret it to be?

PALIN: His world view.

GIBSON: No, the Bush doctrine, enunciated September 2002, before the Iraq war.

PALIN: I believe that what President Bush has attempted to do is rid this world of Islamic extremism, terrorists who are hell bent on destroying our nation. There have been blunders along the way, though. There have been mistakes made. And with new leadership, and that's the beauty of American elections, of course, and democracy, is with new leadership comes opportunity to do things better.

GIBSON: The Bush doctrine, as I understand it, is that we have the right of anticipatory self-defense, that we have the right to a preemptive strike against any other country that we think is going to attack us. Do you agree with that?

PALIN: I agree that a president's job, when they swear in their oath to uphold our Constitution, their top priority is to defend the United States of America.

I know that John McCain will do that and I, as his vice president, families we are blessed with that vote of the American people and are elected to serve and are sworn in on January 20, that will be our top priority is to defend the American people.

GIBSON: Do we have a right to anticipatory self-defense? Do we have a right to make a preemptive strike again another country if we feel that country might strike us?

PALIN: Charlie, if there is legitimate and enough intelligence that tells us that a strike is imminent against American people, we have every right to defend our country. In fact, the president has the obligation, the duty to defend.

GIBSON: Do we have the right to be making cross-border attacks into Pakistan from Afghanistan, with or without the approval of the Pakistani government?

PALIN: Now, as for our right to invade, we're going to work with these countries, building new relationships, working with existing allies, but forging new, also, in order to, Charlie, get to a point in this world where war is not going to be a first option. In fact, war has got to be, a military strike, a last option.

GIBSON: But, Governor, I'm asking you: We have the right, in your mind, to go across the border with or without the approval of the Pakistani government.

PALIN: In order to stop Islamic extremists, those terrorists who would seek to destroy America and our allies, we must do whatever it takes and we must not blink, Charlie, in making those tough decisions of where we go and even who we target.

GIBSON: And let me finish with this. I got lost in a blizzard of words there. Is that a yes? That you think we have the right to go across the border with or without the approval of the Pakistani government, to go after terrorists who are in the Waziristan area?

PALIN: I believe that America has to exercise all options in order to stop the terrorists who are hell bent on destroying America and our allies. We have got to have all options out there on the table.

It would be easier, I suppose, to just have her say "yes" and be done with it, pin that on her outright. But there's no confusion regardless; I don't see how she could be any more clear in enunciating her endorsement of the neocon precepts. Oddly, I keep hearing the voice of Marge Gunderson as I read Palin's responses. It's not nearly as much fun as it sounds.

Later, Palin also makes a point of ruffling Russia's feathers, but not before contradicting herself on a pretty fundamental point.

GIBSON: Have you ever met a foreign head of state?

PALIN: There in the state of Alaska, our international trade activities bring in many leaders of other countries.

GIBSON: And all governors deal with trade delegations.

PALIN: Right.

GIBSON: Who act at the behest of their governments.

PALIN: Right, right.

GIBSON: I'm talking about somebody who's a head of state, who can negotiate for that country. Ever met one?

PALIN: I have not and I think if you go back in history and if you ask that question of many vice presidents, they may have the same answer that I just gave you. But, Charlie, again, we've got to remember what the desire is in this nation at this time. It is for no more politics as usual and somebody's big, fat resume maybe that shows decades and decades in that Washington establishment, where, yes, they've had opportunities to meet heads of state ... these last couple of weeks ... it has been overwhelming to me that confirmation of the message that Americans are getting sick and tired of that self-dealing and kind of that closed door, good old boy network that has been the Washington elite.

Sooo....many foreign leaders come to Alaska for trade talks, but she has yet to meet with any of them, and it doesn't count anyway because the American people are sick of people who have that sort of [contemptuous sneer] experience and expertise. Also, that must be your friend in the, ah, wood chipper.

GIBSON: Would you favor putting Georgia and Ukraine in NATO?

PALIN: Ukraine, definitely, yes. Yes, and Georgia.

GIBSON: Because Putin has said he would not tolerate NATO incursion into the Caucasus.

PALIN: Well, you know, the Rose Revolution, the Orange Revolution, those actions have showed us that those democratic nations, I believe, deserve to be in NATO.

Putin thinks otherwise. Obviously, he thinks otherwise, but...

GIBSON: And under the NATO treaty, wouldn't we then have to go to war if Russia went into Georgia?

PALIN: Perhaps so. I mean, that is the agreement when you are a NATO ally, is if another country is attacked, you're going to be expected to be called upon and help.

But NATO, I think, should include Ukraine, definitely, at this point and I think that we need to -- especially with new leadership coming in on January 20, being sworn on, on either ticket, we have got to make sure that we strengthen our allies, our ties with each one of those NATO members.

We have got to make sure that that is the group that can be counted upon to defend one another in a very dangerous world today.

GIBSON: And you think it would be worth it to the United States, Georgia is worth it to the United States to go to war if Russia were to invade.

PALIN: What I think is that smaller democratic countries that are invaded by a larger power is something for us to be vigilant against. We have got to be cognizant of what the consequences are if a larger power is able to take over smaller democratic countries.

And we have got to be vigilant. We have got to show the support, in this case, for Georgia. The support that we can show is economic sanctions perhaps against Russia, if this is what it leads to.

It doesn't have to lead to war and it doesn't have to lead, as I said, to a Cold War, but economic sanctions, diplomatic pressure, again, counting on our allies to help us do that in this mission of keeping our eye on Russia and Putin and some of his desire to control and to control much more than smaller democratic countries.

His mission, if it is to control energy supplies, also, coming from and through Russia, that's a dangerous position for our world to be in, if we were to allow that to happen.

There are quite a few positions from which to assault this, even from someone like myself, with only a rudimentary knowledge of geopolitics in general and Russian politics in particular. But let's start with the basics -- Russia will not tolerate its closest (geographically, culturally, and politically) former satellites becoming NATO members, for essentially the same reason we wouldn't tolerate Soviet "advisors" in Cuba or Nicaragua. They're just not going to, especially if we don't bother to at least pretend to make it worth their while.

Add to that the fact that, as jingoistic and paranoid as we can be about world affairs (remember, Saddam was on the verge of sending Predator-type drones to nuke Baltimore or something, even while we use actual Predators to bomb villages in Afghanistan and Pakistan), the Russians have had the market cornered on political insularity and paranoia for nearly a thousand years, and not entirely without reason throughout that course of time.

Next, despite Palin's claim that Russia attacked Georgia completely unprovoked, that's just not true. Saakashvili -- under urging, it appears, from McCain's own foreign policy advisor, Randy Scheunemann, coincidentally enough a lobbyist for Georgia -- was emboldened to launch artillery strikes on South Ossetian and Abkhazian towns because he was at least led to believe that we would have his back if Russia retaliated. So he did, they did, and we didn't. We couldn't, but Saakashvili was misled to think we could. Economic sanctions? Does McCain or Palin think that Germany and France are going to cast Security Council votes that would affect their energy supplies?

The fact is that Russia is not entirely unreasonable in seeing our actions under the auspices of NATO expansion as provocative and antagonistic. Missile base in Poland to protect from an impending onslaught of Iranian missiles? Should Russia or China then strike a deal with Canada to build a missile base in Saskatoon, on the off chance of a missile strike from Mexico? Would we tolerate that for a split-second?

The thing is, even though Obama and Biden nominally support all these prospective NATO moves, chances are they are also aware of the inherent bargaining power of such proposals. You advance an untenable proposition, and haggle down to something that lets both sides save diplomatic face. Not real complicated. Except you assume that McCain -- and by proxy, Palin -- genuinely accept, from an ideological certainty, the urgency for undertaking such provocative steps.

Finally, as part of puffing up her supposed foreign policy acumen, we keep hearing how close Russia is to Alaska. Well, then why has she never been, not even right across the strait to Vladivostok, which is a tourism-driven boomtown these days? She clearly knows nothing about Russia at all, yet presupposes that mere geographic proximity grants her some keen insight to dealing with them.

I realize all this means nothing to the tedious buffoons who had never heard of Palin two weeks ago, but are already enthused about hitching their lives and sacred honor to her stupid lipstick jokes. But it bears attention from the people who have at least the pretense of serious interest in actual national security. Rule Number One, as Iraq has most recently shown us: Don't start shit with people you don't know a goddamned thing about.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Pig in a Poke

What Obama really meant to say was that he'd never come across such a pair of whiny, butt-hurt, hypocritical bitches like this Retardlican ticket, and that their entire platform and campaign isn't worth anyone wiping their ass with. I mean, Jesus H. Tapdancing Christ, can someone inform Saint Straight Talk and his crew of merry morons about Teh Google and Teh YouTube and such, that it takes about ten seconds to pull up him using the exact same pig line about Hillary Clinton?

And Obama needs to stop explaining shit like this to people. If you're explaining, you're losing the argument. Anyone asks about it, he should just give them a puzzled look and say, "Seriously?". In a more rational world, his proper rejoinder would end with "and the horse they rode in on", but anything communicating bemused contempt will suffice.

Actually, the last few days have been heartening to observe. This is the best they've got heading into the homestretch, this lame-brained American Idol shit, buncha bozos showing up to see her instead of him, even though she's explicitly not allowed to do anything but regurgitate her already shopworn one-liners from the convention? Weird "the scary negro wants to molest your kids at school" ads? Palin repeating her stock lies, which really weren't worth telling in the first place, well after they've been debunked six ways from Sunday. What are they even showing up for, really? "Do that 'hahckey mahm lipstick' joke again!", as if that wasn't old thirty years ago. It's a novelty. She might as well be biting the heads off live chickens for their amusement.

The bounce is already gone, and the bandwagon dupes won't be remember her six weeks from now, and they'll return to their original apathetic stance about him. Some of the slightly less dim planarians among them might figure out through osmosis that she's just a small-town huckster in way over her head, who doesn't really stand for or know much of anything pertinent to the job for which she's applying. Then maybe they'll at least stay the fuck home and let rational adults handle things. That, my friends, is change you can believe in.

Employee of the Month

Clearly I've been in the wrong line of work all these years.

Devaney pointed to one supervisor in the Royalty-In-Kind program — under which oil companies are allowed to pay royalties owed to the federal government in actual oil rather than cash — who "engaged in illegal drug use and had sexual relations with subordinates, and in consort with industry."

Devaney said that between 2002 and 2006, a third of the Royalty-In-Kind staff socialized with, and received a wide array of gifts and gratuities from companies with which the government was doing business.

"While the dollar amounts of gifts and gratuities was not enormous, these employees accepted gives and gratuities on at least 135 occasions from four major oil and gas companies with whom they were doing business — a textbook example of improperly receiving gifts from prohibited sources," Devaney said. "When confronted by our investigators, none of the employees involved displayed remorse."

Remorse for accepting free gifts, money, travel, pussy? Uh-huh. Having never been bribed by anyone with anything of value, I can only imagine what the psychology is there. But if you're a middle-management tool getting a free jaunt to the Houston Hyatt, drinks and meals comped, and not much else to do after the meet-and-greets besides schmooze and get lit -- I mean, you couldn't cultivate this environment any more thoroughly if you tried. Ultimately they figure that it's the way things get done, and if they don't take the perks, someone else will.

Plus, you know, if there are two more egregious examples of the Peter Principle in play than the organizational cultures of federal government and oil companies, I have yet to hear of them. The Mustang Ranch probably has tighter strictures than the little rub-and-tug shows resource extractors run on their government benefactors.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Road to Nowhere

My friends, that is a taxpayer boondoggle you can believe in:

During Palin’s recent convention speech she sharply criticized Senator Barack Obama for wanting to end Bush's tax cuts. She pointed to her sister and husband who are new small business owners in Alaska, “How are they going to be any better off if taxes go up?”

But in fact, the way the hockey rink was built was by raising taxes. Palin funded the project by pushing a special referendum that raised the sales tax by 25 percent. City hall records show the referendum was passed by twenty votes.

One Wasilla resident who voted for the complex is Mike Edwards. He says he spends about an hour a day at the facility watching his son play. He says he’s glad government stepped in to build the new ice because privately run rinks are much more expensive, costing teams as much as $300 an hour to practice compared to $185 at the public rink.

CBS News obtained 86 pages of city council documents that show Palin sought to justify the tax increase to fund the sports complex in part because the private sector had not stepped in to fill the gap. She noted the strong support in the community as a reason to move ahead.

But her most striking argument for raising taxes is one you might not expect from a fiscal conservative. She writes that the rink offers an opportunity for government to stop a social ill like drug abuse or juvenile delinquency before it starts.

So it's like midnight basketball, then. I suppose "community organizers" were involved at some level, not that these bozos would ever admit it.

Even better, media folk are already starting to debunk Klondike Barbie's autopilot "thanks, but no thanks" schtick.

Since McCain tapped her as his running mate on Aug. 29 (hard to believe that was less than two weeks ago) Palin at every opportunity -- using virtually the same phrasing -- has told crowds that as governor of Alaska, "I told Congress, 'Thank but no thanks for that bridge to nowhere.' "

She re-ran the line again today at a rally in Lebanon, Ohio. But she did so in the face of a release from the Obama forces noting that a plethora of reporting shows her stance on the project -- which would have connected the small city of Ketchikan to the even smaller island of Gravina -- isn't so black-and-white.

And now it's a $24 mil road leading to the bridge that was never built, because Palin didn't want to have to give back the money. That's reform we can all believe in, my friends.

Extra points for the scathing ridicule emanating from the Obama camp on this bullshit ("next thing you know, she'll claim she sold [the bridge] on E-Bay"). Seems like after a rather wild week or so, with some oddball weekend polling, the honeymoon is already winding down, pending Granny Glasses Gibson's suckupfest later in the week. She wound up the rubes, but even they have people who might need health care or benefit from stem-cell research, etc. When it sinks into their thick skulls that this crew's answer to all that is "fuck you", it might mean something. Might.

Also, for the Clump for Growth idiots and the retards in the LA Times comments in the linked article, with their "what about Obaaaaama and Biiiiden voting for the briiiidge toooooo!!1!1!" whine, get this, you mouthbreathing fuckheads -- neither Obama nor Biden has staked a mythical maverick claim using this contrived episode as evidence of their ideological independence. Palin, on the other hand, has touted it as a prime character reference at every stop, even though it is not at all true.

Not that any of these, you know, facts stop this broad from repeating it, since she's not allowed to say anything extemporaneous, and her audience doesn't care about facts anyway. They just want a chance to publicly beat off to an image of what they think they are, when not a one of them -- including Palin and McCain -- are remotely the rugged self-made individualists they posture as.

And if they are, then by all means put your money where your pieholes are and quit sucking our tax dollars already.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Moose Droppings

Frank Rich distills the potent argument against Palin pretty well:

We still don’t know a lot about Palin except that she’s better at delivering a speech than McCain and that she defends her own pregnant daughter’s right to privacy even as she would have the government intrude to police the reproductive choices of all other women. Most of the rest of the biography supplied by her and the McCain camp is fiction.

She didn’t say “no thanks” to the “Bridge to Nowhere” until after Congress had already abandoned it but given Alaska a blank check for $223 million in taxpayers’ money anyway. Far from rejecting federal pork, she hired lobbyists to secure her town a disproportionate share of earmarks ($1,000 per resident in 2002, 20 times the per capita average in other states). Though McCain claimed “she has had national security as one of her primary responsibilities,” she has never issued a single command as head of the Alaska National Guard. As for her “executive experience” as mayor, she told her hometown paper in Wasilla, Alaska, in 1996, the year of her election: “It’s not rocket science. It’s $6 million and 53 employees.” Her much-advertised crusade against officials abusing their office is now compromised by a bipartisan ethics investigation into charges that she did the same.

How long before we learn she never shot a moose?

Alaska, despite the claims of many of its inhabitants to be a bastion of rugged individualism, seems to be more of a classic welfare state, enabled by dysfunctionally inbred state politics and a population happy to hold out its collective hand for its annual windfall check. Usually people are not nearly as mavericky as they think they are, and Alaskans in general, and Palin and McCain in particular, prove that rule. They're mavericks like I'm a power forward for the Lakers.

Dead Cat Bounce

Coupla weird polls, and people start panicking. The CBS poll from Friday that showed the candidates tied at 42 had a pretty small sample size, for starters. And even today's Gallup poll showing McCain ahead by three could easily prove to be a statistical outlier as well.

Obviously, in a rational country with a grasp of actual issues, the Democratic ticket, flawed as it is, should be running away with this. They have a golden opportunity to hang Republican failures around McCain's neck, but can't resist the stupid urge to preface their attacks with tedious, predictable caveats about what a great guy he is. Perhaps a diagram would be in order.

It's as if the poll panickers are worried that yet another dirty Republican victory would, at long last, irrefutably confirm their sneaking suspicions that in the aggregate, we are an impulsive, ignorant, easily misled gaggle of miscreants. Well, duh.

This is not a terribly rational country: there, I said it. Look, there's a teevee show premiering tonight called Hole in the Wall, where contestants valiantly try to keep from being swept into a pool by, um, a moving wall with a cutout. I imagine this is Fox' bold attempt to counter the inherently elitist trappings of Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?. It makes sense that a large number of people would be at least momentarily distracted by the shiny penny of Sarahcuda Palin. Such people regard politics as just another iteration of Survivor anyway; actual policies and positions have fuck-all to do with it.

And there have been all too many horserace stories profiling the face-in-the-crowd donut-head, wowed by the newbie's rapier wit and borscht-belt schtick, claiming to have been an Obamanaut but converted literally overnight to a McCainiac. Friends 'n' neighbors, this is what we small-town folk call a crock of shee-yit. Such a person is by definition lying, ignorant, or completely delusional. In any case, good riddance. I think this story provides a more considered profile of what the hotly contested Vaginal-American demographic actually think about McCain's transparently cynical stunt-casting.

Trish Heckman, a 49-year-old restaurant cook and disappointed Hillary Rodham Clinton supporter, watched last week as the country's newest political star made her explosive debut.

She followed the news when John McCain introduced Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate, paid attention to the raging debate over her qualifications, even tuned in to watch her dramatic speech at the Republican convention.

But when it came down to an issue Heckman really cares about -- sending a daughter to college on $10.50 an hour -- her desire to see a woman reach the White House took a back seat to her depleted savings account.

"I wanted Hillary to win so bad, but I saw Sarah, and it just didn't work for me," said Heckman, taking a break in the empty courtyard of J. Paul's restaurant in a downtown struggling to revive. "I have no retirement. Obama understands it's the economy. He knows how we live."

That's it in a nutshell -- The Economy, Stupid. All the major polling sites have accounted for these polling anomalies, and even Real Clear Politics, whom no one is going to confuse as being in the tank for Obama, calls this one for him even on their no toss-up map, which has McCain taking Ohio and Virginia, when one or both are likely to squeak to Obama. Most of the current electoral models have Obama with over 300 electoral votes.

Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight has probably the most reasoned current analysis of what's going on. All conventions, no matter how dismal or meaningless, get some sort of bounce in some poll or other. But it takes some time to see if the bounce is consistent across the spectrum, and the pick of an unknown running mate has thrown the signal-noise ratio out of whack, which is exactly what it was supposed to do. And the media pounce on these things because they have a vested corporate interest in keeping things close. You've been watching this reality show for two years now, folks, gotta stay tuned in for the big season finale.

But they can't hide her in the tundra forever, and while she can warm up her interview chops on the usual chumps and hacks, at some point someone will ask a question she won't like and can't deflect. Palin's record clearly indicates someone who doesn't handle dissent or disagreement well, whose self-styled reformist credentials are bogus, and whose actual executive expertise is grotesquely padded.

The media weasels, because they instinctively went after the soap-opera angle of her family rather than matters of policy, are temporarily thrown off. But a lot changes in two months, especially in the accelerated pressure cooker of the campaign homestretch. The main danger is excessively lowering expectations, thus enabling her to exceed them easily, which is what happened with Fredo. It will be enough to catch her in her lies and misrepresentations, emphasize the increasing unemployment rate, and ask people if they can get over themselves just long enough to not vote against their own self-interest for once in their misbegotten lives.

And if not, if their shameless lies and comical gestures work yet again on the goobers, and you get another round of the same boss? Hell, I dunno. Disengage. Opt out. Get yours and move on. Heighten those contradictions. I still think the system has failed and we are essentially where the British were a hundred years ago, by and large, but at least the Democrats are somewhat more likely to cushion the blow a tad for the peons. If the system hasn't quite yet failed, it most certainly will with clowns like McCain and Palin in charge. And a catastrophically diseased, debauched system will and should ultimately fail on its own terms, so instead of trying to further stand tall against the tide of stupidity in such an aftermath, look around for a board and ride the wave.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Elephant Gun

"My friends, that is a vacation cabin you can believe in!"

[Photo via Talking Points Memo]

Parting thoughts from the Inbred Asshole Club RNC:

  • If the DNC is generally oleaginous piffle couched in encounter-group boilerplate, this is the vicious flipside -- unmitigated gall and inchoate fury; smug, defensive rhetorical gambits (i.e., lying) to impress these drooling chowder-heads with at least the illusion of plausible deniability. With this crowd, there's no doubt it worked. Two out of every three people in any given crowd pan looked like they'd have difficulty putting their fingers together in the dark. When Bob Eubanks asks the magical question, "Where's the most unusual place you've ever made whoopee?", these are the people who say, "Um, in the butt?".

  • Party animals: Considering these people have chosen an elephant to represent the fundamental characteristics of their virtues and values, it's a bit ironic that they appear to be so forgetful about which party got us into this mess. Ah yes, the dhimmicrats, who have controlled Congress for about 22 whole months, and stood up to Bush approximately never.

  • Has anyone ever had a week quite like Sarah Palin's? Sure, the base is energized for now, but it's still not enough. Her speech had 37 million viewers, nearly as many as Obama's 40 million, but what chunk of Palin's viewers were just tuning in to see how badly Straight Talk had stepped in it by picking her? And she raised $7 mil today for the GOP -- and $8 mil for Obama. Right now she's just an unknown milf with some Bushies writing some smartass barbs for her at an event she practically trained for, as a sportscaster/beauty pageant contestant. The novelty will wear off fast, and then she'll just be a hotter Marge Gunderson.

  • Plus her "reform" talking points are already being debunked, pretty much every third word out of her piehole is an exaggeration or flat-out untrue, and some folks from that quaint hometown are already fleshing out the Norman Rockwell narrative she's trying to write for herself. Keep shitting on community organizers, sweetheart. That'll really pay off for ya.

  • Meanwhile, back at the ranch: Noted diplomat and fellow hunting enthusiast Big Time is spending his last-minute vacay from the 'tard party to do what he does best -- stirring up shit. Consider it an extra present in the punch bowl for the next administration to deal with.

  • Party animals, part duh: The other elephant trope is the one in the room -- or rather, the one not in the room. I suppose the Goopers had to ignore Nixon at the '76 convention, though I was too young to know one way or the other. But a sitting two-term head of the party, still inexplicably popular with the dead-enders in this crowd, gets a six-minute wank on an off-night, and that's it. No Cheney, no further mention of Bush by any of the speakers, no burbling by Count Chocula, in between his imprecations at Obama, of his apocryphal claim to have thanked god on 9/11 that Bush was in office. Let's face it, the Democrats could not have done as forceful a job of sheer repudiation as Bush's own party just did.

  • I guess I had assumed at some point that maybe conservatards meant that shit about small-town values, at least to the extent that they might have some familiarity with what small-town governance is actually like. Apparently they don't or they'd realize that almost all a small-town mayor does is break ties in city council votes and cut ribbons for the local Chamber of Commerce. It's generally a ceremonial position. This is not exactly a secret; anyone who actually lives in a small town knows this. These morons would put Mayor McCheese on the ticket if you told them he was a moose-hunting, book-banning creationist.

  • The mayor must overcome a reputation for womanizing before he can be considered a viable contender in the upcoming Oklahoma gubernatorial race, a well-known stepping stone to national prominence.

  • Meanwhile, back at the ranch again: The search for the elusive October Surprise is resurgent. Imagine, this administration taking advantage of Pakistani instability to launch Special Forces incursions into border villages. It can't possibly blow up in anyone's face.

  • For people who have a hotline to What America Wants, they sure do seem hard-headed and thin-skinned. Wonder why that could be.

Already people are waging snark over whether Palin will allow Straight Talk to stay on the ticket, so underwhelming was his speech, to an underpopulated hockey arena, probably one-fifth the crowd Obama got in Denver. Surely Obama and his party do not deserve unthinking adulation, except compared to these knuckleheads. These people and their party just spent a week lamely attempting to spackle over their manifest failures with a lot of wild gestures and mumbo-jumbo. But Bush will become more conspicuous by his absence, the debates should be blowouts, and even the kool-aid chuggers in the Tearoom watching Rudy G and Cowboy Troy and all will realize that a three-peat would pretty much doom what's left of our standing in the world. And even these bozos know who's footing the bills these days.