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Friday, February 29, 2008

There Will Be Blog

The first six weeks of this year were absolutely wretched for me -- kicked off the new year with a massive storm and an extended power outage that left me and my family holed up in a noisy, frozen hotel room for the weekend, while all three of us were battling the flu, then a matching set of nasty ear infections, all without enough PTO to call in sick to work.

(I get sick maybe once a year for a couple of days, and have no patience with even that, so I was about ready to drive an icepick through my second infected ear by the end of it all. One week is longer than any person should have to feel like shit, not be able to taste food, and not feel like sex. Six weeks is ridiculous. It throws me completely off my game.)

So since the last couple weeks have actually been pretty good, it's as if I've forgotten my usual routines, plus having a few medium-sized early-spring weekend projects on the honey-do list, plus having become one of the many folks with newly minted degrees who now have to try to get a much better job in a bad market, in that window before the student loan payments kick in. Hello, American dream; wake me up when it's over.

The thing is, I feel like writing, I just don't feel like sitting down and initiating the process of writing, if that makes sense. A good chunk of what I've thrown down lately has actually been the product of brief spates of cyberloafing at work. What's really dumb about this is that I have cobbled together another epic jeremiad, just needs a quick finish and editing, about two weeks ago. But then Thanksralph came in and set everyone's panties in a wad, and that collective reaction made me rethink some of my premises and observations on the theme of change and whether people really want it -- or would even recognize it as such.

All this is a roundabout way of saying that I should be back scratching some itches over the weekend.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Doughovah's Witlesses

Doughy Ramone drinks our milkshake, eats our Cheetos, and impregnates our Airedale. His carefully crafted arguments have rocked our worldz, virtual and otherwise. He's the rubber to our glue, the umbrella in the fruity drink, the led in the listing conservatard zeppelin. Just ask him; he's totally pwned all us librul fashizznits and our deviously bien pensant ways.

You can just picture poor Jonah hunched at his computer, in his padded helmet, repeatedly yipping, "I know you are, but what am I?" at his monitor, until his mom finally comes down to the basement and threatens to cut off his allowance. Beats working.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Dime and the Difference

Some details to keep in mind as we spend the coming months sussing the important distinctions between and among our corporate-vetted selections:

After the 1994 election, Democrats had just lost both houses of Congress, and President Clinton was floundering in the polls. At the urging of his wife, he turned to Dick Morris, a friend from their time in Arkansas. Morris brought in two pollsters from New York, Doug Schoen and his partner, Mark Penn, a portly, combative workaholic. Morris decided what to poll and Penn polled it. They immediately pushed Clinton to the right, enacting the now-infamous strategy of "triangulation," which co-opted Republican policies like welfare reform and tax cuts and emphasized small-bore issues that supposedly cut across the ideological divide. "They were the ones who said, 'Make the '96 election about nothing except V-chips and school uniforms,'" says a former adviser to Bill. When Morris got caught with a call girl, Penn became the most important adviser in Clinton's second term. "In a White House where polling is virtually a religion," the Washington Post reported in 1996, "Penn is the high priest."

Penn, who had previously worked in the business world for companies like Texaco and Eli Lilly, brought his corporate ideology to the White House. After moving to Washington he aggressively expanded his polling firm, Penn, Schoen & Berland (PSB). It was said that Penn was the only person who could get Bill Clinton and Bill Gates on the same line. Penn's largest client was Microsoft, and he saw no contradiction between working for both the plaintiff and the defense in what was at the time the country's largest antitrust case. A variety of controversial clients enlisted PSB. The firm defended Procter & Gamble's Olestra from charges that the food additive caused anal leakage, blamed Texaco's bankruptcy on greedy jurors and market-tested genetically modified foods for Monsanto. PSB introduced to consulting the concept of "inoculation": shielding corporations from scandal through clever advertising and marketing.

In 2000 Penn became the chief architect of Hillary's Senate victory in New York, persuading her, in a rerun of '96, to eschew big themes and relentlessly focus on poll-tested pothole politics, such as suburban transit lines and dairy farming upstate. Following that election, Penn became a very rich man--and an even more valued commodity in the business world (Hillary paid him $1 million for her re-election campaign in '06 and $277,000 in the first quarter of this year). The massive PR empire WPP Group acquired Penn's polling firm for an undisclosed sum in 2001 and four years later named him worldwide CEO of one of its most prized properties, the PR firm Burson-Marsteller (B-M). A key player in the decision to hire Penn was Howard Paster, President Clinton's chief lobbyist to Capitol Hill and an influential presence inside WPP. "Clients of stature come to Mark constantly for counsel," says Paster, who informally advises Hillary, explaining the hire. The press release announcing Penn's promotion noted his work "developing and implementing deregulation informational programs for the electric utilities industry and in the financial services sector." The release blithely ignored how utility deregulation contributed to the California electricity crisis manipulated by Enron and the blackout of 2003, which darkened much of the Northeast and upper Midwest.

Burson-Marsteller is hardly a natural fit for a prominent Democrat. The firm has represented everyone from the Argentine military junta to Union Carbide after the 1984 Bhopal disaster in India, in which thousands were killed when toxic fumes were released by one of its plants, to Royal Dutch Shell, which has been accused of colluding with the Nigerian government in committing major human rights violations. B-M pioneered the use of pseudo-grassroots front groups, known as "astroturfing," to wage stealth corporate attacks against environmental and consumer groups. It set up the National Smokers Alliance on behalf of Philip Morris to fight tobacco regulation in the early 1990s. Its current clients include major players in the finance, pharmaceutical and energy industries. In 2006, with Penn at the helm, the company gave 57 percent of its campaign contributions to Republican candidates.

A host of prominent Republicans fall under Penn's purview. B-M's Washington lobbying arm, BKSH & Associates, is run by Charlie Black, a leading GOP operative who maintains close ties to the White House, including Karl Rove, and was a partner with Lee Atwater, the consultant who crafted the Willie Horton smear campaign for George H.W. Bush in 1988. In recent years Black's clients have included the likes of Iraq's Ahmad Chalabi, the darling of the neocon right in the run-up to the war; Lockheed Martin; and Occidental Petroleum. In 2005 he landed a contract with the Lincoln Group, the disgraced PR firm that covertly placed US military propaganda in Iraqi news outlets.

Black is only one cannon in B-M's Republican arsenal. Its "grassroots" lobbying branch, Direct Impact--which specializes in corporate-funded astroturfing--is run by Dennis Whitfield, a former Reagan Cabinet official, and Dave DenHerder, the political director of the Bush/Cheney '04 campaign in Ohio. That's not all. B-M recently partnered with lobbyist Ed Gillespie, the former head of the Republican National Committee, in creating the new ad firm 360Advantage, run by two admen for the Bush/Cheney campaigns. Its first project was a campaign against "liberal bias" in the media for the neoconservative Weekly Standard magazine.

As expected with such a lineup, B-M has a highly confrontational relationship with organized labor. "Companies cannot be caught unprepared by Organized Labor's coordinated campaigns," read the "Labor Relations" section of its website, describing that branch of the company (the section was altered after The American Prospect quoted it in March).


So McCain's campaign strategist works for Clinton's campaign strategist, and both have made careers defending some of the most reprehensible corporate misdeeds, as well as overseen propaganda efforts both domestically and abroad. These guys aren't just in the belly of the beast, they're part of the stomach lining.

While of course there are clear distinctions in ideological principles between Democrats and Republicans, in practice many of these distinctions diminish somewhat. No, Al Gore would not have let 9/11 happen, and thus would not have disastrously invaded Iraq under false pretexts. But he also would not have halted the ongoing bombing campaign, nor the sanctions which were already responsible for hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children dying young, a price which Madeline Albright once smugly stated was well worth it. Well, it's always "worth" it when you aren't the one paying, dearie. And while he's become the demi-god of the enviro movement on his permanent vacation, it is helpful to recall that the CAFE standards were gutted under Saint Albert's stewardship in the first place.

As for the current candidates, one notable assumption has been that Hillary will prevent an escalation of hostilities with Iran, yet she voted for Kyl-Lieberman without batting an eye, and has been consistently emphatic in her unconditional support for Israel. She voted for the PATRIOT Act twice, and has yet to take a stand against the abuses of FISA. There are no guarantees, only bets to be hedged.

And domestically, the distinctions are refined even more tightly; aside from health care, abortion, welfare, and gay rights (the last two of which the Clintons were more than happy to punt on the first chance they got), there's not a whole lot to write home about. Even on health care, you can have all the "universal" happy talk you like, but any plan is going to be underwritten by the insurance and pharmaceutical lobbies right from the start. Instead of taking it out of your hide on the job, it'll just be another taxpayer-funded sop, an across-the-board feel-good boondoggle that will neither improve care, cut costs, nor fix the ruinous shareholder-driven revenue model. Just another spreadsheet adjustment.

Which leaves abortion rights, and if you want to hang your hat on that one, vaya con dios, folks. I would prefer that HRC or Obama pick the next couple SCOTUS justices, rather than Straight Talk, but there are no guarantees there either, especially with Clinton's instinct to always cater to people who will never not despise her. On economic issues, there were decent (if much-delayed) gains in real wages during the Clinton years, which have since been more than offset by huge increases in basic living expenses. This is not a "Democrat" versus "Republican" issue so much as a labor vs. management issue. Guess who's winning.

What always bugged me most about the Clintons and their acolytes back in the day was the ease with which they bought their own hype. They appeared to honestly think that they could rent themselves out to management and still help out the little guy. Sort of like encouraging a vampire to utilize a less painful method of attacking victims.

This shouldn't even need to be said: People who represent military juntas for a living are not typically concerned much with the travails of the commoner, except insofar as there's a buck to be turned acting concerned.

Again, I do still think that there are substantial differences in terms of respective intent, a brief perusal of all the candidates' stated positions makes that clear enough. But if the past year or so has been any indication, good intentions are not enough. Even a clear, consistent mandate by the voters has not been enough to empower the Democrats to simply accomplish (or even make more than a token effort at) what they promised they would do.

The differences do not matter if they are not sufficiently acted upon, and many of us continue to harp on the foolish consistencies of ideological semaphore, when the fact of the matter is that this is all about money. Not the war, not the preservation of choice, not education, not universal health care. The issue is money and who gets to preserve and expand their share of making it, and maintaining access to it.

The recently departed Wire character Omar Little sagely pointed out, as he robbed drug kingpin Marlo Stanfield at a card game, that money has no owners, only spenders. True dat. By the time the election is over this year, over half a billion dollars will have been raised, donated, spent. Much more doubtlessly will have been generated in selling ad space in the corporate media to provide two straight years of horserace coverage, to skew information and consent as needed, to treat the corrupted opinions of known liars and calumniators as received wisdom, to lobby the very same people they talk about.

Whose pockets are the origins and destinations for all these wads of dough, the thick envelopes and four-figure-a-plate rubber-chicken stemwinders; whence does the money come and where does it go -- and for what purposes? Not fucking universal health care, you'd best believe that.

Nader is just the typical blind pig finding the quadrennial acorn, once again, and with none of the intellectual heft or constructive responsibility that should accompany his increasingly strained attempts. But that doesn't mean he's wrong; it doesn't mean we haven't become emotionally invested in gutless incrementalism posturing as "change". The very definitions and perceptions of that word have been compromised.

[to be continued]

Democracy At Work

Here we go -- the endless litany of putative swingers who are going to show those dickheads at the Times, goddammit. I'll be as brief as possible: fuck them and their imaginary swing.

Let's look at this from the other end of the coin for these halfwits. Say one of the numberless scrivening retards at the NYT penned some gushing panegyric to Poor Ol' Straight Talk -- would these stout defenders o' freedomocracy then rush to tell the world about their plan to hold a grudge for eight months and then vote against POST because of the intellectual dishonesty and shameless inaccuracy? Is that how they would tell those NYT smart-asses -- who think they're soooo fuckin' smart, smarter'n yew, bunky -- what they think?

More importantly, is that what the ballot box is for, for a bunch of self-indulgent, barely cognizant, sanctimonious asshole "swing voters" to validate their petty grievances over something they essentially grabbed the wrong end of the stick of? Well you know what, you tell 'em, Tonto, and when your kid or your grandkid gets sent over to keep Tehran British, you can explain your pretzel logic to them. Show the New York Times what's what, little fighter! Don't let Big Ink keep you down!

You know, having read the Mencken Chrestomathy a couple times, I initially found myself somewhat unsettled at his utter loathing for actual democracy. But more and more, it makes sense.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Omar Dead

Big night on The Wire, though you could see it coming. Even a bit of foreshadowing, by first showing that little psychopath fucker getting ready to burn a cat in the alley (a similar scene in The Corner literally caused me to give up on that book, and I have a pretty strong stomach).

Tim Goodman has been bringing the noise on this show since day one, so if you're a fan of the show, check out the de-co. I don't really have much to add, except to comment on how such seemingly unrealistic story arcs (McNulty faking a serial killer to get funding; Omar leaping five stories and limping away) have resolved with such relentless, inexorable realism. Two episodes left, and the bodies are dropping, both literally and figuratively.

The Gay Super Bowl

Yeah, I watched about half of it, even though I haven't seen any of the major nominees yet (first time for that in a long time). I'll be Netflixing most of them, and as catchy as it is, "I drink your milkshake" is the gayest catchphrase I've heard in some time, as ripe for corruption by the Other Team as "Where's the beef?".

But I have seen Once, and liked it a great deal, and the obvious connection between Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova is a major reason why. It was a great move to let Irglova come back out and give a proper acceptance speech after being rudely hustled off. Other than that, it's fun as long as the participants don't take it too seriously (actually, that might be the funnest part), and the requisite drinking games don't get out of hand (again, it may be more fun if they do).

Let's All Go to the Lobby (Slight Return)

Well, I'm convinced:

``John McCain does no favors for, nor gives no special treatment to, any lobbyists -- even if they are a friend of his,'' Charlie Black, a longtime Republican strategist, said on CBS's ``Face the Nation'' program. ``He listens to both sides of issues from representatives from both sides, makes a decision on the merits and goes ahead.''

The New York Times raised questions about McCain's relationship with Washington telecommunications lobbyist Vicki Iseman in a front-page story Feb. 21, suggesting that the senator's ties with the lobbyist were behind his decision to write a letter to the Federal Communications Commission on behalf of a company she represented.

``Senator McCain does not act in his own self-interest or in his own political interests in making decisions, but rather in the interest of the country even if there's a cost to him politically,'' Black, now chairman of BKSH & Associates, a Washington lobbying firm, said.


So let's see if we have this straight -- a longtime lobbyist, who is running the presidential campaign of a senator whose claim to fame is exonerating himself of being part of the Keating Five by inveighing against lobbyists, is as sure as sure can be that said senator's junkets on a corporate jet and letters on behalf of the same corporation are just coincidence.

Where the Times really fucked up on this story is by allowing the more salacious allegations creep into the storyline. If you have no corroboration, only anonymous insinuations, that McCain and Iseman had something going on, then don't bother bringing it up.

They allowed Straight Talk to at least feint toward the high ground on the sex aspect, and avoid mentioning the real part of the story, the money. This is the kind of incompetent shit you expect out of the local fishwrap, and instead of pressing the reporters to come up with some corroboration, the editorial staff just instinctively reaches for the kneepads.

Unsafe At Any Spin

So Pumpkinhead hands his show over to Nader this morning to indulge the latter's increasingly malignant narcissism, and predictably folks run to the backyard to dig up their Ralph bone and gnaw on it for the week, which is about how long this will be remotely a news item.

I've rehashed this ad nauseam, but what the hell: Ralph's quest to theoretically heighten the contradictions had some validity in '96 and 2000, but no longer. All the cranky-old-man schtick that gets flung at McCain goes as well for Nader, who is 1½ years older than Straight Talk, but that's really the least of it. Nader did a decent job of maintaining reasonable gadfly viability in the nineties, but now seems to just pop out of his hole every four years to fuck with the process, and as his .38% showing in '04 proves, he can't even do that anymore.

It's just disappointing that Nader feels the need to be part of the circus he spent so many years decrying, because that's really all he's doing here. But in the political sense, if anything it's a boon -- he will probably galvanize the Democratic apparatchiks more forcefully in general, and perhaps they'll bank some of their Nader rage for, you know, Straight Talk McCain. And if the Republicans want to waste money funneling cash to front groups for Nader, let them.

No one's going to vote for Ralph this year, so again, people might want to get off their crosses and be aware that this time around, if Hillary or Obama cannot sufficiently draw serious distinctions between themselves and McCain (and there are plenty of genuine distinctions, don't get me wrong, but there are also plenty of retards who are unable to get that, which explains why so many more registered Democrats voted for Bush than for Nader in 2000), there won't be any protest vote to whine about for the next decade. People just won't bother.

That's the biggest untapped pool out there anyway -- the non-voters who refrain not because they're too stupid or lazy, but because they are frustrated with choosing between someone bought by the telecom lobby, and someone bought by the insurance and pharmaceutical lobbies.

Maybe if the pelf were taken out of it, and the lobbyists and horse-race announcers were forced to find real work instead of contriving and milking a permanent campaign season, more people would feel like their government actually works for them, instead of around them. I think if there were a referendum for Russert and Tweety and the rest of the assorted weasels and loobyists to spend the rest of their lives asking us if we want fries with that, it would pass roughly 99-1%.

Patriot Games

Well. So a thoroughly pickled member of our esteemed fourth estate quests intrepidly -- Diogenes-like, even -- to get to the bottom of this ZOMG! Oh noes!!1! Barry Hussein OsamaObama doesn't wear the special pin and whispers "Qaddafi" instead of "Jebus" in the Conformist Fealty OathPledge O' Allegiance e-mail hoax that fooling retards hither and yawnyon.

Naturally, hijinks ensue.

Conservative consultants say that combined, the cases could be an issue for Obama in the general election if he wins the nomination, especially as he runs against Vietnam war hero Sen. John McCain.

"The reason it hasn't been an issue so far is that we're still in the microcosm of the Democratic primary," said Republican consultant Roger Stone. "Many Americans will find the three things offensive. Barack Obama is out of the McGovern wing of the party, and he is part of the blame America first crowd."


Of course, Roger Stone is out of the "shameless cocksucker wing" of his party, and part of the "anally violate farm animals first" crowd, not that that would ever negate his utility to lazy reportage. Really, Nedra, why not just ask Rush Limbaugh what he thinks of Osama 'n' Hitlery's conspiracies to ruin the American Dream, and have done with it?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Iseman Cometh

On the one hand, I suppose most of us -- especially Republicans -- are just relieved that for once, a Republican has a potential sex scandal that doesn't involve diapers or dildos or cruising for man-chowder in a park or airport bathroom. At this point, there's almost something genteel and respectable about boinking a lobbyist on a corporate jet.

If it happened. Eight fuckin' years ago.

And on the other hand, it's almost comforting to see the MSM, Saint Olbermann right along with 'em, scrambling to man the battle stations over this stupid non-story. See, McCain can joke about starting more disastrous wars, talk about being stuck in the desert for the next millennium or so, and have absolutely no comprehensive economic plan as the country veers into recession, and they don't say shit. They hump his leg like a varicose couch pillow.

But the possibility that his advisers thought he might be potentially embarrassed or even tempted -- once again, nearly a damned decade ago, ferchrissake -- and they're on it like the jackals they really are at heart. If they're looking for a way to get a grip on McCain and show his ample feet of clay, he's got handles all over him. Funny how they always only notice the handle that smells like pooter.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

If It Ain't Broke

Shorter Grumpy Old Man: I got your change right here, ya little bastards. Now get the fuck offa my lawn.

[Update: If McCain wants to cut the shit and compare Obama's actual positions and proposals to McCain's own, then he should step the fuck up and do so. Because from all I've seen and heard, McCain's got plenty of high-handed rhetorical bromides of his own, but on actual issues, McCain promises more of the same.

There's a slogan for ya: Like Fredo's crazy uncle.

Anyone who says they're sick of the war, or want a better economy, and still votes for McCain is either an idiot or a lying sack of shit, period. And it will not (well, should not) take long for either Democratic candidate to start picking McCain's substantive positions right apart.]

Monday, February 18, 2008

Titties and Beer




Seems I've gotten a lot of hits already today from folks looking for this layout. And while I'm not a huge fan of Lohan nor Marilyn Monroe, funbags is funbags, and it's a nice break from the usual barrage of political sniping and seething misanthropy. There's plenty more of that coming anyway. Never say I don't look out for y'all, at least once in a while.

(Now, if this were real, and there was a "tape" and all, that'd be a different story. They'd have to drag me out of here feet first.)

Global Warming Upside

Couldn't have asked for more spectacular weather this (quasi-)holiday weekend. There's something about barbecues and beer in February that is wonderfully unsettling. Chicken and linguica skewers Saturday night, surf & turf tonight, all with Sierra Nevada Stout and ESB accompanying, and there's a few eps of Arrested Development second season left on the Netflix disc for tonight. And a friend is bringing back a couple bottles of Patròn from Ensenada, for about a quarter of what you pay at the Costco. Everybody should have weekends like this all the time.

Spins of the Father

As the saying goes, success has many parents, failure is an orphan. Abject, incompetent, ass-pounding failure has a father -- Poppy Bush, who has thrown his coveted endorsement behind our good friend John McCain.

Mr Bush described Mr McCain's character as "forged in the crucible of war" and said he would carry conservative values to the White House in November's vote.



Perfect. So let's deconstruct this a bit -- Poppy is an emeritus of the realpolitik school, and his son has spent the last eight years overwhelmingly, deliberately repudiating and dismantling that legacy. Poppy cries in public when he thinks about all the unfair criticism poor Fredo has had to endure from mean, um, citizens. Fredo talks about how much he prays, and re-reads George Washington biographies, and that damned yellow rug.

John McCain very likely would have been president in the 2000 campaign had Fredo not calumniated him in a most despicable fashion in South Carolina. In retaliation for said character assassination, McCain has been as faithful a lapdog as this fiery wreck of an administration could have hoped for. He's shown quite thoroughly that he'll say and do whatever anyone with a voting bloc wants him to, albeit with an insouciant crack that makes the media's pants wet with excitement.

And this really is the coup de grace, because now the Bushies own McCain's ass. If they want him to wear a gimp mask and a ball-gag on the campaign trail, he'd best start changing outfits, because he's their boy now, and no matter how much he tries to tack center this summer, and weasel out from under his own role in Fredo's follies, he's pinned under them. All that's left is consolidating the retards who would vote for a random farm animal before they'd go Democrat, and peeling off a few more idjits who have somehow conflated honorable service with actual expertise.

But if nothing else comes from this dog-and-pony show, the least we can step up and do is get the Bush family out of American politics, once and for all. Let them be Moonie water-carriers in perpetuity; if they think they're keeping their foot in the door by making McCain their butt-boy, they're mistaken.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Life in the Sausage Factory

Here's the deal, for the thousandth fucking time -- Coulter moves product. If she didn't, she'd be down the road faster than Bushmills and liver paté through Tweety Matthews. Tweety gives her an entire hour because his publishing company owns her publishing company, and chances are either NBC or GE or one of their countless subsidiaries and/or partners owns them both.

This is not that complicated. This is an ongoing business decision to cater to some sort of toxic Archie Bunker subset which is presumed to watch PMSNBC, at least when the horse-faced tranny is braying. Banning idiotic euphemisms and moronic assertions is not the issue, impacting the profitability of such is.

So make a list of advertisers, check it twice, and start gang-faxing them. That's what they do every time a new teevee show hurts their wittle feewings. And it works. Watch how fast the high-minded idealism about airing both sides dissipates like so many Tranny Annie verbal air-biscuits.

But above all, let's please do disabuse ourselves of the notion that basic cable -- Saint Olbermann included -- exists to inform and edify. Who the fuck do you think is keeping all those Prison Bitch and To Catch a Predator pseudo-docs on after hours at Keith's Network?

Cult of Personality

Yes, folks, it's Obama's acolytes that are the problem, because we haven't been watching and listening to the claque of Reagan necrophiliacs for Jeebus knows how many years now.

Ordinarily I'd just call these media morons "lazy cocksuckers" and leave it at that, but even a passed-out milf puts more effort into it. These are people, quite frankly, who would return their paychecks uncashed and immediately start looking into a different line of work, if they were honest with themselves.

I like Obama more than I did a year ago, though I carry no torch for him nor any other candidate. I think it's silly, just as a matter of principle, to emotionally invest in anyone so heavily, outside of your immediate family. It's emotionally unhealthy and intellectually purblind. But, you know, a "cult" is just a religion that hasn't found its sea legs yet and become a financially viable institution. Obama, in comparison with both the other candidates, appears quite viable finanacially, certainly more so than, for example, Jake Tapper or Carol Costello.

Whom, if anyone, do they plan on casting their vote for, after they finish casting their irresponsibly selective observations? And when can we expect the offsetting barrage of breathless "belligerent codger" pronunciamentos re John McCain?

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Torture Never Stops

Haven't read Kristof (or any of them, really; less volatile emetics and laxatives can be had over the counter) in some time, but he effectively puts a face on all the abstract talk and fake hand-wringing over torture:

The most famous journalist you may never have heard of is Sami al-Hajj, an Al Jazeera cameraman who is on a hunger strike to protest abuse during more than six years in a Kafkaesque prison system.

....

After Mr. Hajj was arrested in Afghanistan in December 2001, he was beaten, starved, frozen and subjected to anal searches in public to humiliate him, his lawyers say. The U.S. government initially seems to have confused him with another cameraman, and then offered vague accusations that he had been a financial courier and otherwise assisted extremist groups.

....

Military officials did acknowledge that Mr. Hajj was not considered a potential suicide bomber and probably would have been released long ago if he had just “come clean” by responding in greater detail to the allegations and showing remorse.

Mr. Hajj’s lawyers contend that he has already responded in great detail to every allegation. One indication that the government doesn’t take its own charges seriously, the lawyers say, is that the U.S. offered Mr. Hajj a deal: immediate freedom if he would spy on Al Jazeera. Mr. Hajj refused.

Most Americans, including myself, originally gave President Bush the benefit of the doubt and assumed that the inmates truly were “the worst of the worst.” But evidence has grown that many are simply the unluckiest of the unluckiest.

Some were aid workers who were kidnapped by armed Afghan groups and sold to the C.I.A. as extremists. One longtime Sudanese aid worker employed by an international charity, Adel Hamad, was just released by the U.S. in December after five years in captivity. A U.S. Army major reviewing his case called it “unconscionable.”

Mr. Hajj began his hunger strike more than a year ago, so twice daily he is strapped down and a tube is wound up his nose and down his throat to his stomach. Sometimes a lubricant is used, and sometimes it isn’t, so his throat and nose have been rubbed raw. Sometimes a tube still bloody from another hunger striker is used, his lawyers say.


In the parlance of current bien pensant activism, I don't think we've "had enough", nor are we insisting on "change", at least not in the conventional senses of those ideas. Maybe if Arlen Specter thought Bill Belichick had taped some of the goings-on in al-Hajj's dungeon existence, he might care enough to grandstand. Anything's possible.

Ninny State

Let's make it an even trifecta of these retards-on-parade stories: The only thing Billy Ray Cyrus should be apologizing for is Achy Breaky Heart. Anyone using Miley or Britney or Whatever-y for anything more complicated than fashion tips or how not to raise Kevin Federline's yard demons, they deserve precisely what they get. Seriously, regardless of your position on automotive safety features and the enforced use thereof, what brand of halfwit is going to say, "Well, Hannah Montana didn't wear a seat belt in that one scene in her movie, so why should I?"

All Choked Up

As if to provide me an opportunity to be an equal opportunity heartless bastard, another thinning-the-herd story comes down the pike.

At least 82 youths in the US have died from a "choking game", according to the first official tally of such fatalities.

In the so-called game, a leash or rope is wrapped around the neck to temporarily cut the blood supply to the brain. The goal is a dreamlike, floating-in-space feeling when blood rushes back into the brain. Up to 20% of teenagers and pre-teens play the game, sometimes in groups, according to some estimates based on local studies. But nearly all the deaths were of those who played alone, according to the count compiled by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).


Actually it's not even the herd-thinning aspect that's most interesting, it's the notion that 82 deaths over the course of thirteen years is somehow statistically significant enough for the CDC to be spending time and effort looking into it. Hundreds of times as many teenagers have died in the same time period from car accidents, gun accidents, off-road vehicle accidents, suicide. And according to Google News, right now there are 319 news articles on this "story" -- nearly four times the number of actual deaths over the past decade-plus. I suppose a sense of proportion is, as always, too much to ask for.

I don't have me one-a them fancy pee-aych-dees, but I find it passing strange that otherwise smart people in smart organizations feel the urge to waste time and money and effort compiling data to sound the alarum that, well, dumb people do dumb things. Hey kids, stay safe -- don't pull a fuckin' vending machine on yourself, ai-aight? Let's make a PSA out of it with, say, Hannah Montana or one of the High School Musical kidz, and a snappy jingle.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Up In Smoke

Considering the obvious externalities of a nation of over one billion people still in the process of industrializing and modernizing, with all the messy externalities that entails, I don't think the word "crisis" means what these people think it means.

One million people a year will die from tobacco smoking in India during the 2010s, research predicts.

The New England Journal of Medicine study found smoking already accounts for 900,000 deaths a year in India.

The study warns that without action, the death toll from smoking will climb still further.


Right. The planet is not quite overpopulated enough, so Something Must Be Done about this self-inflicted pandemic. I know they're just doing what doctors are supposed to do, but a "crisis" this is not. More like job security.

Priorities

Maybe if there were some way to make our esteemed legislators think that FISA was using steroids and HGH, they might give enough of a hot monkey-fuck to do something about it.

Then again, Harry Reid couldn't convince a girl scout troop to go out and sell cookies.

CNN Sucks

No news there, right? After all, how can you have Nancy Grace and Glenn Beck (not to mention GOP op-by-marriage Campbell Brown) and not be morally compromised? But here's a new one.

Producer Chez Pazienza, a fine writer and proprietor of the excellent blog Deus Ex Malcontent, has been canned from his CNN producer post -- you guessed it, for blogging unapproved content.

According to Chez, he was terminated for violating network policy by not running what he was writing through their vetting system. So he was fired not for blogging but for the content of his blog. “It’s not that I’ve been writing,” he wrote in an email. “It’s WHAT I’ve been writing.”


Figures. And it didn't matter that he refrained from mentioning CNN at all, but this is the way they operate these days. I'd say boycott, but I honestly don't recall the last time I actually watched either CNN or Headline News.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

This Just In

You know, I vowed to lay off Kanye West after his moms died, but jebus, the guy is an incurable douchenozzle, an incoherent babbler who thinks every turd that tumbles out of his piehole is manna from heaven. Common should kick your ass, son. And Morris Day and Jerome would fuck Kanye's shit up on a bad day.

Didn't people give up on the Grammys back when they gave the Best Heavy Metal award to Jethro Tull?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Deck Chair Shuffle

Despite having an advantage on superdelegates and party machinery, Hillary's campaign manager has been bounced:

Patti Solis Doyle has stepped down as Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign manager, the campaign announced on Sunday.
She will be replaced by Maggie Williams, a senior adviser to the campaign.


That would be this Maggie Williams:

One Secret Service agent alleged that on the night of Vince Foster's suicide, he saw Williams leaving Foster's office with a box of files. Williams denied this, and passed two polygraph tests. She did say, though, that two days after Foster's death, she took some of the Clinton's personal files from his office.


Yeah. No oppo researcher on the planet is going to take this and run streaking through the stadium with it, until everyone recalls how they were so sick of mealy-mouthed caveats and bullshit defenses by the summer of 2000, they settled for an inbred moron over Al Gore.

I've been pretty even-handed in my qualified support for the Democratic candidates, in that I've stressed that even though I think the party as a whole is, well, a hole, even pussified capitulation squeaks ahead of belligerent insanity, which is all the Republicans have had to offer for many years. And I know that there has never been any moment in the history of time when the universe has given the poor Clintons a break, that they persevere into the headwinds of a media conspiracy, right-wing and otherwise.

Still, never let it be said that they don't consistently find ways to make even fence-sitters sick of them. Between this and the possibility of David Shuster getting fired (and hey, ya think Faux Noise isn't drawing up an offer for Shuster right now so's he can spend the entire summer lobbing far more vicious and personal attacks?), I'm already tired of them all over again.

As far as Solis' dismissal in and of itself is concerned, it bespeaks exactly what was apparent in the aftermath of Super Tuesday -- Hillary has peaked, but Obama has not yet. We'll see how Texas and Ohio go, as well as how Michigan and Florida's delegates are counted (after Hillary welshed on the handshake deal she had with Obama and Edwards in those two states), but I'd put money down that this could turn into a nasty intraparty squabble over the role of superdelegates in determining a nominee.

Semper Fried

Here's something the Code Pink bozos need to get through their thick-ass skulls -- your half-witted attempts at street theater are unwelcome, and indeed profoundly counterproductive. These antics are reminiscent of nothing so much as right-wing fringetards such as Operation Rescue and Fred Phelps' Caravan O' Incest. Standing outside with signs and slogans is one thing; chaining yourselves to the door is quite another. These idiots curiously seem to only hold their own rights to free speech sacred.

This is an unpopular war led by an unpopular preznit. And yes, recruiters have been known to use some fairly unscrupulous methods to make their sales quotas. Look, if you are somehow not adequately apprised of what exactly the Marines do, then maybe you deserve to get roped into action. In the meantime, a lot of serious people have made a lot of serious efforts to address this war in a coherent fashion.

I am not opposed to genuine revolutionary tactics, but this is just a sideshow that ends up minimizing serious, principled opposition to a tragically failed policy. It perpetuates useless hippie stereotypes, and further hardens the antidisestablishmentarian bent of the dead-end supporters. They don't have to support the war overtly; all they have to do is point at the Code Pink goofball chained to the door of a recruiting center, calling people "baby killers", and state their case against that. And it doesn't matter if there's only six or seven goofballs at any given moment. It might as well be a thousand, though if it actually were a thousand, someone who could actually do something might pay some attention.

Sometimes people need to think beyond their own individual antics and realize how they can galvanize the very people they're trying to oppose. I'm just saying.

Operation Dumbo Drop

I'm not going to make some phony-bold outta-my-ass claim that Washington is some sort of bellwether state. I do know that the state, like California, is not quite as librul as non-left-coasters assume; the eastern half of Washington tends to offset the tidy corporate liberalism of the SeaTac corridor.

But when your party has been given the backhanded gift of an early coronation in what really could be a do-or-die year for significant factions of said party, when the Daddy Warbucks candidate deliberately took a knee to help Grampa Simpson consolidate things and get a little mo', something's up when said front-runner is less than two points ahead, only fourteen points ahead of perennial contender None of the Above, and facing a total 3:1 opposition in the running.

And the Washington state GOP is a bit over-eager in trying to seal this one up for Poor Ol' Straight Talk. I know the Democrats have entire playbooks devoted to the fine Shrumian art of how to fuck up a shit sandwich and snatch defeat from the jaws of sure victory, but damned if you might not be looking at the opening cracks of a summer-long Republican implosion. McCain can't win over the conservatards without openly fellating them and buggering the tiny-pecker-riddled corpse of Saint Reagan, which he just spent the last week doing. And he lost most of the independents a long time ago. He has to shit or get off the pot, and once he does, one of his target demos is going to abandon him.

But never fear. Barack Obama could win with a 75% tally in November, and the Dems will still take Lieberman's shit and let the Blue Dogs push them around. So I wouldn't get too cocky.

Absolute Power

One of the most notable events of the past week, though you wouldn't know it to read the corporate media, was the fiendishly well-timed admission by the Cheney administration that, well, yes we have freedom-boarded several people in our War On Some Terra. Now, we only did it to three people, and all three of them were well-known puppy-killers and child-molesters who were shot-callers for their cells, presiding over ticking-time-bomb scenarios à la 24, blah blah blah. You know the drill, so to speak.

This "news" was followed up, with a rather uncomfortable enthusiasm, of the revelation that by gum the brain-trust reserves the right to do it again. That last was probably the truest thing anyone in the administration has said in months.

The always reliable Charles Pierce gets it way right:

For the past couple of weeks, they've just gotten blatant about it. The administration of George W. Bush is bound by no law, bound by no precedent, bound not even by the forms of democratic self-government, let alone its actual substance, which is being used as a throw-rug in John Yoo's den these days. They will torture and the Congress can do nothing. Their powers to spy, to search, and to seize are unlimited and Congress is not remotely entitled to know even what those powers are. They can imprison without trial. They can force corporations -- and, indeed, individuals within the government -- to violate the law. They are not subject to treaties. They are not subject to oversight, nor even subpoenas. Read this swill from yesterday. Through his actions, and from the mouths of his minions, George Bush is now claiming fully the powers of a tyrant, by any reasonable definition of the term.

This is the only issue in the presidential campaign. It is the only truly existential threat to the country. Everything else -- health care, climate change, campaign finance, the deficit -- mean nothing if we fail on this fundamental issue.


The difference between the Democrats and the current incarnation of the Republicans seems to be this: one group has heard of The Art of War and The Prince, and expends more effort to maintain a noble, dickless veneer; the other has read and internalized both thoroughly, and understands that the lesson of each is simple -- power belongs to those who use it. It is not "earned" through a grinding process, nor "achieved" via pseudobipartisan capitulation, nor "granted" nor "given".

Power is taken, and it is used. It is so simple that even the simpletons clogging the far-right wing (as opposed to the center-right wing, which would be, you know, the Democrats) of the Corporate Party understand it, just as sure as they know that sisters are for fuckin', but first cousins are for marryin'.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Pimp My Pride

Let's have a moment of silence, shall we, for the terrible awful no-good remark uttered by David Shuster regarding the daughter of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Of course, Shuster heretofore has been as reliable a media entity as any good librul could have asked for, issuing pointed questions and observations with an intellectual honesty that puts other attack poodles (see Gregory, David) to shame.

But now Shuster has apparently Crossed A Line, and must satisfactorily perform his auto-da-fé for the baying crowd, because the entire universe has conspired against the Prophet (PBUH) since he was but an uppity hick gubnor. And now, an extemporaneous (and, to be blunt about it, pretty stupid) remark by a basic-cable reporter has the perennially aggrieved up in arms -- which, by definition, is generally where such folks are found.

Here's the thing: once you absorb that every once in a while one of the good guys fucks up, and then check out the transcript of his e-mails with HRC's rep, the bigger picture clarifies. This is by no means the same thing as Rash Limpballs picking on poor 12-year-old Chelsea (as if he's some sort of Olympian stud-muffin, the fat fuck) back in the day.

It's one thing for a candidate's child to simply do the usual schtick of showing up at campaign events and rubber-chicken shows in a general display of support. Tagg and the rest of the OsmondRomney progeny had been doing exactly that for dear ol' dad for some time (though not, more notoriously, expressing their support for Dad's positions in more concrete terms; at least John McCain's sons are actually in Iraq). Giuliani's kids would have supported him on the campaign trail, except they're too busy studying for midterms, and happen to think for some reason that their dad's a skeevy asshole.

But Chelsea has been essentially functioning as a political operative it seems, lobbying superdelegates -- party flacks who are turning out to be hugely critical in determining the eventual nominee, because of the close spread -- to support her mother. Fair enough. It is not too much to ask, as Shuster rightly asserts, that the usual interview bubble on candidate's children (grown children at that) be lifted just a tad. Chelsea Clinton should not be automatically immune from questions, insofar as they pertain to her politicking efforts.

If Shuster had made this comment about Obama's kids, the furor we're witnessing right now would pale in comparison to the shouts for Shuster's head.


Well, Obama's kids aren't in their mid-twenties, with cushy six-figure gigs their parents got them, nor are they working the refs off-camera. Really, maybe it's the superdelegate system that's the problem in the first place. If it weren't set up so that a certain subset of inbred backroom hacks could supersede the actual vote, you wouldn't be having this fucking problem.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Self-Censorship

The reason we can brag about not having state-controlled media is because the state never has to bother with it.

Director Alex Gibney agreed to sell the rights of Taxi to the Discovery Channel because executives convinced him they would “give the film a prominent broadcast.” Now, however, Discovery has dropped its plans to air the documentary because the film is too controversial

....

It’s ironic that Taxi’s content is too “controversial,” considering it depicts real acts perpetrated by the current Bush administration. In an interview with the Center for American Progress, Gibney noted that Americans are excited about dramatizations of torture, such as in the show 24, but uncomfortable “with the reality of torture.”


Yes, and? If it makes Gibney feel any better, chances are that everyone who was ever going to give a shit about this story already knows about it. I certainly recall it, but don't know exactly where it would be in the archives here. [Update: Here.]

But I remain unconvinced that even airing on one of the big three networks during prime-time would motivate anyone. Might interrupt the latest Survivor iteration, or the fake pieties about "change", as if anybody really plans on changing a fuckin' thing.

Still, nicely done, Discovery Channel. Wouldn't want to break up the monotony of chasing monitor lizards and eating grubs, or whatever it is they're about these days. Discovering the bottom of one's own stomach, it seems.

Mitt For Brains

You know, I was sort of half-heartedly pulling for the Stormin' Mormon, if only because he appeared to be the least insane of a bad lot. But after his weird departing tirade at the Conservatard Political Action Conference (better known as NAMBLA), I'm just sorry he didn't blow the rest of Tagg's inheritance on his little tilt at the douchebag windmill.

In his speech, Romney couched his decision to suspend his campaign in terms of what's best for the party and the country.

Staying in, "I'd forestall the launch of a national campaign and, frankly, I'd make it easier for Senator Clinton or Obama to win," he said. "Frankly, in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign be a part of aiding a surrender to terror."


No, folks like the Mittster would much rather be an accessory to vicious stupidity, and project their daddy issues onto everyone else.

Sounds familiar.

Although he did not explicitly mention Sen. John McCain, President Bush on Friday sought to unify the Republican Party behind its eventual nominee, describing the election of his successor as president as a stark ideological choice.

Mr. Bush’s remarks, delivered in an early morning speech to the Conservative Political Action Committee, presaged the role his aides said he would play all year: using the power of the presidency to shape the agenda and attack his Democratic critics.

“We have had good debates and soon we will have a nominee who will carry the conservative banner into this election and beyond,” Mr. Bush said to a boisterous audience. “Listen, the stakes in November are high. This is an important election. Prosperity and peace are in the balance.”


As the saying goes, every word in the above excerpt is a complete lie, including "and" and "the". Yes, the party of miserable failure has certainly earned another four years, haven't they? It'll be fun, after watching them swift-boat the one guy among them who actually served in combat, to see them spend the coming weeks trying to wrap their pouty lips around the m-word (that would be "McCain", for those having trouble keeping track of all the various political sausages these goobers smoke), or to just eat this one and spend the next four years in a more reality-based adversarial stance.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Nazi Punks Fuck Off

Roy unearths yet another conservatard tuber who wants to chuck Hitler grenades and then run from the blast radius. Personally, I'm fairly squeamish at any expression of potential mob mentality or groupthink, whether it's a political rally or a megachurch -- either way it's usually twenty-thousand blissfully unconscious assholes who drove there in SUVs with "Earth First" stickers on the never-used tow-bar, to express in unison their love for this or that icon. Hell, it's why I don't see rock bands or sports events in large arenas anymore, to be honest. It creeps me the fuck out, regardless of whether I personally like the team/band/political message. It's unnecessary; it's the antithesis of critical thinking.

But that is a different matter altogether than these puling little assholes trotting out their Triumph of the Will comparisons and their Hitler smiley-faces and such, and then backing away, lamely muttering, "Well uh, heh, see, we're not saying that you guys are, like, Nazis or anything, it's just that Hitler liked organic food and the environment, you know."

No, I don't know, you dumb motherfuckers, and if you're going to have the goddamned nerve to keep up with this shit, at least have the fucking balls to own it. Whatever nasty little scuds I launch at the people who are ruining this country, you can bet I fucking well mean it. Which is why I've never used that particular n-word on them, and probably never will. Some of us still have enough respect for the English language to not pull cheap imagery out of our asses, put it on the shelf, and tell everyone it's a nice collectible, when we can all see perfectly well what it is.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Instant Karma



I was hoping to embed the Family Guy video of the song Shipoopi, where Peter, as a member of the Patriots, gets a bit overexuberant in his touchdown dance. YouTube has taken most of the Family Guy clips down over copyright issues, so the link will have to suffice.

The Giants got away with some stuff in the first half, but nothing game-changing. In the meantime, perhaps Messrs. Brady and Moss, et al, can consider this one payback for various past bullshit. The Tuck Rule, Moss playing when he wants to play and screwing the Raiders out of $15 mil, that sort of thing. (No ring for you, dickhead.)

Somewhere out there, Mercury Morris and Nick Buoniconti and the rest of the '72 Fins (perhaps the most overrated team ever) are getting 'faced and restocking the shelves for next year's party. Their time will come eventually, but for now, it was time to take the piss out of the Patsies.

Update: ProFootballTalk.com has the perfect shirt:

Friday, February 01, 2008

Last Throe Update

Second verse....

More than 70 people have been killed by two bombs in Baghdad, attached to two mentally disabled women and detonated remotely, says a security official.

"The al-Qaeda terrorists and criminals are proud of this method," Brig Qassem Ata al-Moussawi told the BBC.

The death toll in Friday morning's attacks at two animal markets was the highest in months in Baghdad.



(Jesus Christ, now they're strapping up retarded people.)

....same as the first.

Nine bodies and 10 severed heads have been discovered near Miqdadiya, north-east of Baghdad, Iraqi police say.


It's going to take a lot more than just bribing Iraqi MPs to vote our way on the oil contracts. What's the over/under on estimated American troop levels by 2012? At least 60,000.