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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Buying the Hype

The one and only Billmon pays a visit from the astral plane to patiently lay, plank by plank, the case for how Poor Ol' Straight Talk has cannily and cynically manipulated his personal narrative for so long, starting a generation ago with his Keating Five auto-da-fé, which set the stage for his mavericky maverickness that we've come to know and love.

It doesn't even take a hell of a lot of digging to find the pattern McCain has played all along. He hasn't bothered to hide it so much as count on people not to pay much attention, which is usually a sure thing. He has been very good at picking the issues and events to burnish his high-profile party heterodoxy, while maintaining full establishment cred. He's about as much a "truth to power" threat to The Man as a warm apple pie on a window sill, but he's managed to ride that pony forever.

Much of it hinges on McCain's sharp wit and ability to engage individuals in the press, who are as subject to flattery and off-color witticisms and in-crowd clubbiness as anyone, maybe more so given the nature of their subjects. But they are also frequently lazy or at least diffident when it comes to countering conventional narratives, and having to ask more pointed questions of people they have come to know and like on even a small personal basis. It is at that point that the responsible press person might want to remove themselves from the proximity of that person, if they can't maintain their objectivity.

Since about the Great Applesauce Avalanche of last week, a parallel meme to Obama's presumptuousuppity demeanor is that of McCain being too "real" for the baroque fripperies of modern politicking. Indeed, at that very event, people were attributing McCain's wooden, awkward body language to an obvious discomfort for these silly teevee contrivances.

My friends, that is some grade-A industrial strength bullshit. McCain, like Obama, like Bush, like Al Gore and both Clintons and anyone else who has attained political office and plans to hold it or advance, is in the game fully knowing. No sane person would enjoy the gladhanding tedium of artlessly staged props and handpicked shills; if they did they'd have made a career of selling Flowbies and Shamwows in the first place.

But this weird notion that after thirty years in national politics, McCain is still just too real, man, to avoid showing disdain for what is inherently disdainful, is moronic. Look, a real straight-shooter would not bother standing in the applesauce aisle with some handpicked milf pretending he knows the price of milk in the first place. By definition he would call the set piece for what it is and refuse to do it.

Only the most gullible chump could possibly think it has anything to do with his reg'lar-guyness. These are the same halfwits that believed that George Walker Bush, son of a president, grandson of a senator, distant cousin of another president (Franklin Pierce), was a Washington outsider. There's no convincing someone that fucking stupid of anything otherwise.

McCain, as Billmon and others have pointed out, appears awkward because he doesn't feel like he should have to do these things, because it's beneath him. And it is, but at the same time it really isn't. I think most of us would just as soon see these cheesy photo-ops abandoned at once and just concentrate on substantive policy issues, but clearly a lot of people still need to be stroked. And considering that we're talking about a very select group of people whose every move is within a tightly controlled, rarefied environment, maybe even contrived minglings with the peons are better than nothing at all.

And maybe there's a glimmer of hope, as Billmon says, that some of the media goons are finally getting wise to McCain's M.O., and might even start acting accordingly. Things toughen up after the conventions usually, and come debate time it's going to be ugly; if anything, Obama will probably have to hold back so as not to look like he's beating the shit out of an angry, incoherent codger. Not that that matters terribly, as we saw Dubya flail like Ralph Wiggum against Kerry and Gore in debates past, and still somehow come out relatively unscathed. But this time, as Obama is not charisma-challenged the way his Donk predecessors are, it may turn out different.

In the meantime, Obama's crew would counterintuitively (for them) win some major points by smacking back against the barrage of cheap baiting McCain's camp has deployed. Comparing Obama with Britney and Paris, thus implying he's a vacuous retard and he wants to fuck all the white women? Respond not with a whinging J'accuse, but with a quick-cut Daily Show montage of Junior's greatest misses, eight goddamned years of them, ending with Straight Talk's big ol' bear hug of Captain Fuckup. A couple verses of Dido's White Flag or something similarly schmaltzy playing in the background. Easy money.

No more crying, Donks. It sucks getting kicked in the nuts by these paste-eating douchebags, but no one respects the guy who just grabs his nuts in pain and complains about getting cheap-shotted. You get cockpunched, you fucking punch back right in the throat, and then go Mike Tyson on his ass while he's trying to breathe. The only thing these Marquess of Queensberry rules get you is either a narrow sliver of compromised victory, with the attendant ankle-biting throughout the term, or ignominious loss. You gotta stop trying to squeak by on a fucking field goal and throw the ball deep once in a while, especially against an opponent with such a suspect defense.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Special Message From John McCain

My friends, when I said a few months back that I would run a dignified, honorable campaign against my opponent, I had no idea that people would remember that down the road. I barely remember what I had for breakfast, but it's usually oatmeal. These people with The Goggle on those internets, they bring up this old stuff we were all supposed to have forgotten by now. I don't think that's fair. Who cares if I said 100 years or 10,000 years before? Now I'm saying 16 months, but Maliki's 16 months, not Obama's 16 months. Fuck it, it's done when I say I want it to be done.

It's Mother Nature's practical joke on men that as the hair on our heads thins out and disappears, it shows up everywhere else in bunches. I had no idea my ass could get so hairy; every time I take a dump and go to wipe, it's like trying to get peanut butter out of a shag carpet. You just gotta run the bidet for about ten minutes and hope for the best. My campaign is a lot like that.

The thing is that it turns out to be a bit more difficult than I expected, to run on premises of "change" and "big ideas" when neither one is really on the table. But folks, the simple fact is that if my opponent would stop hating the troops, would stop babbling like a retard in the presence of foreign leaders, would stop flashing his snatch in public, losing custody of his kids to K-Fed, and hanging out with Nicole Richie, I'd stop picking on him. But he continues to do those things, so I will continue to hold them against him, even though Cindy was a Simple Life fan from day one. I myself did not really get it.

I do not think America needs a president whose life is a well-known celebricircus, and who is coddled and pampered by the media like I wish I could be. Otherwise, we might as well just vote for one of The Two Coreys. I can never tell those two apart, but one of them does that Sunglasses at Night song that I do sometimes for Senate karaoke night. And the day Ted Stevens' Tainted Love fails to make me pitch an old man tent in my undergarments is the day I give all this up, my friends. One thing I know about those Coreys is that their antics would have gotten them killed in the Hanoi Hilton. Charlie doesn't do rehab.

Bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran.

And what my esteemed and unspeakably naïve opponent fails to realize is that it's a world full of Charlies out there, waiting to fuck your shit up just for bombing a few villages. Iran is Charlie Central right now, a Third World butthole that poses an imminent existential threat to us. The only thing standing between this Imadinnerjacket fellow and domination of the region is a few hundred Israeli nukes and the promise of American backup.

Only a fresh-off-the-turnip-truck dipshit like my honorable opponent would fail to recognize the unique mortal peril Iran, with its vehemently pro-American populace and regional self-interests, presents to us at this late hour. The only thing these people understand is a swift kick in the ass, and I promise you, my friends, that I am a giant foot, and I will drop a bunion on them that will set them straight.

That reminds me. Have you heard the one about the Iranian terrorist who tried to blow up a bus? He burned his lips on the exhaust pipe.

And my distinguished rival, who lets out big ol' wet beer farts in his commie church and tells his fellow congregants to "smell the change comin'", is as treacherously ignorant about domestic policy as he is about foreign policy. He doesn't seem to understand the success of the current monetary policy we have, that the only way to make sure that there is a class of people who will pay twenty or fifty grand to have a rubber-chicken dinner with me at some glamorous hotel, is to make sure that they remain obscenely wealthy enough to have that kind of money to throw away.

My friends, it is quite a tribute to our greatness and opportunity that a small, insular class of people with their own systems of education and health care can come to a fundraiser and drop three to ten times what the average Joe makes in a year. Only by maintaining our return to Gilded Age levels of economic disparity can we insure that millionaire hedge-fund managers can sink and loot mortgage funds and send their kids to prep school. This is important, at least as important as keeping those towelheads in line.

They say that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's momma is so fat, she uses pillowcases for socks. I nailed a huge chick like that once on leave in Subic Bay, a 400-pound Filipino broad. It was like throwing a hot dog down a hallway made of sweaty cookie dough.

Rock the Casbah, rock the Casbah.

In conclusion, my friends, let me just say that I have all the respect in the world for my opponent's integrity and love for his country. I just don't get why he has a Che Guevara poster above his bed, or why he sired a quadroon love child at the Playboy Mansion last summer. But that's the business of him and that wife of his, and I suppose these questions are for you, friends, to resolve at the ballot box. I have every faith that you will make the right choice, especially when I blow your minds and grit my teeth, and pick Jesus as my running mate. Let's see the Appeaseocrats top that one. This is Johnny Mac's time to shine!

I'm John McCain, and I approve this message.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Professional Courtesy

More shocking revelations about your librul media. For Jeebus' sake, don't let Jim "Ambushes Old People and Children in Church" Adkisson hear 'bout this 'un.

Despite yesterday’s explosive report confirming that top Justice Department officials, including Monica Goodling and Kyle Sampson, had violated federal law, the White House press corps has not asked White House press secretary Dana Perino a single question about it. Both yesterday’s and today’s press briefings included no discussion of the report, nor a question on whether Attorney General Mukasey would follow through on a criminal perjury referral from Congress.


Well, of course not. They're waiting for Drudge to tell them about it. Some of the questions are real fuckin' beauts, man. I'd be most proud of myself if I'd waited around to launch this potent scud:

Is the President pleased that Americans are driving less, to the tune of maybe $10 billion -- 10 billion fewer miles a month? Does he think that's a positive development? Is it conservation? And is he worried about the Highway Trust Fund?


To be fair, Perino sock-puppets Mister Embeeayyy's "markets work" schtick with a surety of rhythm and cadence that almost makes you forget that, properly phrased, the question might have had some actual utility in limning the administration's sneering contempt for any actual conservation measures, as well as its continuing neglect of the national infrastructure. Doesn't matter much if gas hits ten bucks a gallon if the roads are full of neck-deep chuckholes and bridges are falling apart, now does it?

But at any rate, way to phrase it as obsequiously as possible. "Is [Junior] pleased that I'm not wearing underwear?" Who the fuck cares what pleases him? Tee-ball pleases him, sweet cheeks. Driving around his ranch pretendin' ta be a cowboy pleases him. That help ya with the turn-on list yer puttin' together? He's six years old; he's not particularly dialed in on the economic ramifications of drastic resource constraints during a recession. But I'm sure that he's pleased that you wonder if he's pleased. That much you can count on.

Kee-rist. What have these people been doing for the past eight years, sniffing each others' asses? It's as if they still haven't quite figured out who and what they've been dealing with for nearly a goddamned decade. Perhaps a nice diagram would help.

Not that I'd do much better if I were there; every time Dana Perino appears on my teevee, I start grinding the screen like I'm cuttin' a big ol' hog in the ass, and the next thing I know, I wake up on the floor several hours later with my footie-jammies around my ankles. Same thing happens when Scrubs reruns come on. Can't decide whether it's a curse or a blessing sometimes.

Universal Health Scare

It's all a matter of perspective, I guess:

It got some notice yesterday when Sen. McCain had what was described as a "mole-like" growth removed during a routine exam.


Yeah, well....maybe he was being removed from the mole, see? You know, that line would have worked much better if it were about a certifiable barking-at-the-moon dipshit asshole like Ted Stevens, who is finally, blessedly being put to pasture a generation or so late.

Today the benign mole, next week rectal polyps, aka Lieberman. Good times.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Bushonomics

Even with all their accounting prestidigitation and sideshow trickery, the best these bozos could leave us with was a half-trillion-dollar deficit. That's if you accept their numbers at face value.

Next year's record figure includes only $70 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which could cost three times that much, and it is based on economic assumptions that could prove unrealistic. The White House is assuming economic growth next year of 2.2 percent, down sharply from the 3 percent estimate of February but still brighter than the 1.7 percent growth estimate of many private-sector economists. The White House is also assuming rosier numbers for inflation and unemployment rates.

"That's not the real number," former Bush Treasury secretary Paul H. O'Neill said of the $482 billion deficit forecast. "It's upward of $500 billion and counting. It's a mind-boggling number."

Measured against the size of the economy, next year's mark, at 3.3 percent of the gross domestic product, is still eclipsed by the deficits of Bush's first term, as well as the deficits of George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan.


[emphasis mine]

Lotta caveats there; considering that this administration's overall management style has been similar in attitude and efficiency to lighting an enormous bag of dog shit on the nation's front porch and running, the idea that we're all supposed to just take their word for it on all the estimates -- which have yet to have been right or even close -- is ridiculous. And are we including what the housing fiasco will cost the taxpayers, the tens of billions for Wall Street bailouts and repaying the European central banks for their massive loans earlier in the year?

Measuring deficit spending as a percentage of GDP, as with assessing the defense budget, is a handy way to get the numbers to tell you what you want them to tell you, without going into the larger ramifications. It tells you nothing about growing economic disparity, or wage stasis in the face of extensive price hikes, while the people at the top take home more and more and more. It tells you zip about the deterioration of the infrastructure, or the rising tide of poverty that is being studiously ignored.

As with Saint Reagan and Poppy Bush, we are once again in the midst of a great upward wealth transfer, done pretty much right out in the open at that. Their automatic excuse is always that the market will sort itself. How's that been working?

Unclear on the Concept

Here's a cruel irony that this deranged piece of shit is about to find out the hard way: Those goddamn faggot heathen libruls, bless their pointy little heads, are the only people who might give half a shit when your creamy white ass is being churned into prison butter, or even just getting spooned in county lockup. Conservatives, on the other hand, don't.

Sweet dreams, asshole.

Termites

This stupid cow and every one of her retard cohorts needs to spend the rest of their lives asking people if they want fries with that at the local Sonic. I mean, it's not terribly farfetched to wonder if she has a fucking shrine to this clown in her home, maybe a W-shaped dildo.

It's going to take at least two presidential terms to undo what all these assholes have done to the country, in so many different areas. And that's just what we know about.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Fanatics

They isolate themselves from society, holing up in villages. They treat women like another species, keeping them fully covered, separate, subordinate, dependent. They enforce their ridiculously medieval morality with the fervor that only a true fanatic can possess. They believe rainbows are a threat from God, dinosaurs are a trick played by God, and that the celestial firmament is merely an elaborate ceiling in their solipsistic diorama. Every waking hour is to be spent pondering ancient texts; anything else (besides purely procreative sex) is a distraction or an abomination.

Resurgent Taleban in Afghanistan? Another boy-buggering Pakistani madrassa? Evangelical numbskulls whooping it up at Jeebus Camp and the Creation Museum? Colorful Amish folk culturally walling themselves off from the corrupting influences of the "English"? Inbred child-bride FLDS compound out in the Texas scrub? Nope, this time it's the upstate New York shtetlers, the hardcore Hasidim who resolutely, forcibly shun all the trappings of modernity -- unless, of course, there's money to be made or power to be obtained. Then it's $6000 hats and local donsrebbes apportioning towns among their sons.

I dunno. They mind their own business and keep to themselves, generally. And at least they're not strapping themselves with Semtex and ball bearings and heading for the marketplace. Live and let live, even if your "contemplative" life seems like a tragic waste of poring over dead scrolls of authoritarian mysticism. But I recall reading in the late '90s about how the Taleban treated women and children, beat and humiliated and terrorized them into submission, to be unthinking, obedient automatons for Allah, their Allah. The sexual hangups in particular of this cult give me the same creepy feeling. But just in general, they seem so determined to suck all the joy out of life.

Even if the violence in this instance is emotional and spiritual (what sort of bastard teaches a four-year-old to fear rainbows?) rather than physical, it's still repellent. That's not life, that's just existence, lifelong indentured servitude to a capricious Levantine phantom. Gitty Grunwald puts it most aptly in the article, that these people never have to make another decision in their lives. I might hack on the bozos who waste their evenings watching fools humiliate themselves for money, but this shit is truly sad.

On the other hand, the Feinmans are great, almost enough to make up for the insular, overbreeding weirdness their goofball daughter got herself caught up in. Hopefully more of the grandkids follow their example.

Depends, My Friends

Enjoying the infamous Applesauce Avalanche video immensely. They can't even stage a transparently phony supermarket photo-op competently, but they're going to straighten out the terrists and show everyone who's still boss. Right.

This is never not going to be funny. The only way it could have been a more appropriate metaphor for this sclerotic campaign is if it had been a bunch of adult diaper boxes or a couple cases of milk of magnesia. Three months is a long time; there's bound to be plenty more Maalox moments. POST may want to rethink his current whinging about suddenly not getting enough media attention.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

This Week In Stupid

This was the highlight of Obama's week:


This was the high point of Saint Barbecue's week:

Although McCain did meet with the Dalai Lama. See you at the Beijing Olympics, Senator Straight Talk!

And exactly what is the purpose of that stylish windshield sticker on Poppy Bush's (I refuse out of principle to refer to either him or his offspring by these twee numerical nicknames they so adore) golf cart? Is there an epidemic of golf-cart joyriding at the millionaires' compound in Kennebunkport? Or is this a feeble attempt at WASP humor? Probably all of the above; I imagine the kitchen help are constantly tempted by their employers' preening narcissism to add special sauces to the cuisine. Weekend amusements probably feature the Filipino houseboy dipping his uncircumcised cock into Bar's fourth Manhattan, before mercilessly banging the maid on the seat of Poppy's precious golf cart. "Hands off!"

Anyhoo, let's dig it. Certainly I'm not helping the Obamanauts repackage any of the Civis Mundi schtick he threw at the Berliners (that would be the humans, not the jelly doughnuts); while I agree with it in principle, he's running neck-and-neck with a guy who in a rational country would be running twenty points behind a stray dog saddled with a sandwich board campaign sign. Most Americans aren't ready to engage as citizens of their own country, at least as the founders envisioned it. Speaking -- or even passably understanding -- French, for example, is in too many circles a sign that you eat snails, hate 'murka, and probably take it up the poop-chute. This, along with the natural angry codger niche, is McCain's natural turf.

Still, Obama stepped up to the "questions" that the "experts" had about him, hung with troops in Afghanistan, talked to most of the important leaders in the region to favorable reviews, and ended it in front of 200,000 people. If McCain and his crew think it's that easy, they are welcome to fucking well try it. He wouldn't draw one tenth of that in any European country without a chunk of them being protesters. No wonder his counter-strategy was to hit American towns called "Berlin" and hang out at sausage restaurants. He didn't have much choice in the matter -- only the "wurst" options were available for his interminable tilt at mediocrity. [Begins self-mortification for excruciatingly bad pun.]



Speaking of taking it in the ass, if Matt in the Hat jumped off a cliff, would the Drudge Packers follow? Pretty please?

Some of the reporters traveling with Obama were surprised upon landing to discover their editors in something of a frenzy. The reason: Drudge is using terms like "chaos" and "mob scene" to describe Obama's visit early this morning to the Western Wall. But that's not the way the pool saw it.


That's because he's a partisan fabulist at best, and a fucking liar at worst. Either way, not so much a journalist as a spoon-fed tipster. Which makes the people who read and regurgitate his "tips" not so much journalists themselves, as bloggers with a fuckin' corporate per-diem. If you ever get tired of letting this asshole send you out on daily snipe hunts, there's plenty of actual news to report on. Just a thought.



Normally when you read something this unspeakably moronic, if you haven't already seen the byline, your first assumption is, "Christ, it's fucking Goldberg again." You can practically smell the Pantload, a heady whiff of popcorn chicken, Hai Karate, and desperation.

But no, it's a different box of rocks. They have an endless supply, you know.

There seems to me no question that the Batman film "The Dark Knight," currently breaking every box office record in history, is at some level a paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W. Bush in this time of terror and war. Like W, Batman is vilified and despised for confronting terrorists in the only terms they understand. Like W, Batman sometimes has to push the boundaries of civil rights to deal with an emergency, certain that he will re-establish those boundaries when the emergency is past.


Also, like W, Batman used his daddy's connections to dodge the draft, skip out on Air National Guard duty, skate on a coke bust, irritate his classmates at Yale with his uppity bumpkin attitude, do more coke, brand some pledges, fail upward through a variety of daddy-initiated "businesses", and lawn-dart the nation. Eerily alike, if you really ponder all the similarities.

Although Preznit Batman probably wouldn't have picked The Penguin as his veep. I mean, this is real-life, people, not a comic book....or, um, the sixth movie derived from a comic book. What the hell is wrong with these people?

Like Bluto ranting about the Germans bombing Pearl Harbor, forget it, he's rolling.

Why is it then that left-wingers feel free to make their films direct and realistic, whereas Hollywood conservatives have to put on a mask in order to speak what they know to be the truth? Why is it, indeed, that the conservative values that power our defense -- values like morality, faith, self-sacrifice and the nobility of fighting for the right -- only appear in fantasy or comic-inspired films like "300," "Lord of the Rings," "Narnia," "Spiderman 3" and now "The Dark Knight"?


The easy riposte is to wonder aloud why "conservative" mores and tropes are so familiarly employed in fantasy and graphic narratives? That's not to denigrate either form; obviously fantasy and sci-fi have always been thinly-veiled allegories, and many of the early comics (Superman especially) use the values of nationalism and patriotism to tell their stories.

And the narratives of graphic novels have improved exponentially just in the past generation. As a young reader of comic books (mostly DC mystery comics, some superhero stuff), I can only assume that some if not all of that improvement came out of a frustration and desire to get out of the swamp that comics (especially the increasingly ridiculous Marvel superhero pro-wrestling matchups) had gotten bogged down into in the late '70s and early '80s.

But how about V for Vendetta, a marvelously written and portrayed narrative about fascism creeping in the name of "security". Security for the state, mind you, not its citizens; they become fodder for the machinations of state power and its corporate donors. Yeah, Klavan left that one out in his litany of purloined classics-for-conservatards. Surprised he didn't throw in Transformers while he was at it.

As ridiculous as Klavan's original "Batman is W" premise is -- and Jeebus H. Christmas, it is fucking ludicrous -- what cannot go unanswered is his revolting attempt to annex "values" (morality, faith, self-sacrifice, nobility of fighting for right) under the "conservative" banner, as if this cadre of draft-dodgers and moral reprobates -- people who have never actually lost or fought for anything in their damned lives -- had some sort of divine right to those ideals. First of all, Bush is not and never has been a "conservative", in any traditionally recognized sense of that term.

Fiscally, he's a checkbook diplomat -- he makes all the mouth noises about tightening spending and such, and if push comes to shove, he'll be happy to take it out of whoever has the weakest (or preferably no) lobby. But most of the time, he's fine with letting earmarks slide, so that his more treacherous policies pass unchallenged. Go ahead and build that shipyard in Pascagoula, and when that Patriot 3 draft hits your desk, just sign the thing.

Which is the other part of Bush that is not conservative, his encroaching authoritarianism. Bush personally may in fact be less of a banana-republic creature than his actual policies might seem to indicate. But the fact of the matter is that he is completely disinterested in facts, nuance, geopolitical interrelationships and repercussions, etc. He doesn't know, doesn't care.

He has ceded the decision-making process on all those things to Cheneyites who are unmistakably devoted to an authoritarian level of force and opacity. Kidnap an innocent man from Canada and send him to a dungeon in Syria to be beaten for a year? No problem. And as Klavan notes implicitly, any second-guessing of this ridiculous, closed-to-the-public process is just tugging on Superman's (or in this case, Batman's) cape.

Besides, as the missing-in-action Jeff Wells points out, "appealing to a vigilante superman who operates beyond the law to restore order out of chaos is the appeal of fascism."

And when our artistic community is ready to show that sometimes men must kill in order to preserve life; that sometimes they must violate their values in order to maintain those values; and that while movie stars may strut in the bright light of our adulation for pretending to be heroes, true heroes often must slink in the shadows, slump-shouldered and despised -- then and only then will we be able to pay President Bush his due and make good and true films about the war on terror.


Oh, I thought that's why they had 24. Very well then, bunky -- make this long-needed epic already. I do wish they'd quit bleating around the Bush, and just fucking do it. Christ. It's bad enough that they can't just go to the theater and watch a goddamn movie without incessantly preening and prattling on about this or that hidden subtext to endorse or decry. They can't just watch something, it's either sainted praise or Entartete Kunst.

Look, pal, if you believe in your cause so much, then just write a goddamned spec script and take points, seek funding, all that shit. Get Mitt Romney and T. Boone Pickens to kick up some venture capital and get rolling. Phil Gramm had a point about all this fucking whining, you know. You'd think people who were okey-doke with starting wars, force-feeding prisoners and torturing people for questionable info would show more initiative. Start a recycling drive or something; Goldberg's Yoo-Hoo empties alone would probably cover Kelsey Grammer's nut for getting in on this future masterpiece.

I'm kinda torn on captions for this beaut, so here's two and please add your own in comments:

Photo Denis Poroy AP
  • Since his recent arrest, Christian Bale has really started to let himself go. Shame on you, paparazzo!


  • The Preznit, unappreciated as always, schleps back from the Kwik-E-Mart with milk and Newports for the little woman, pb&j fixins for himself. Why can't every weekend be Tee-Ball Weekend?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Hair Clubbed

Not that Anna Wintour and David Geffen make a terribly compelling case for Obama, but the fact that comb-forward homunculus Donald Trump is a celebrity bundler for McCain seems pretty damned incriminating. Shouldn't he be building another monument to his tiny penis, or did McCain promise to let him turn Yellowstone into da wuhld's graytis casino wit' da wuhld's greenest and bestest gawf cawse da wuhld will evah see cause dose pharaohs and emperors was all a buncha pussies and Louie da Fourteent' ain't got shit on me?

I can see it now: "Seriously, we have da club guhrls get you a lime rickey and a handjob at da 19th hole, it's a classy jernt. Eye-talian mahble terlets youse can drop a luxurious deuce into. Gold plated urnals wit' Rosie O'Donnell urnal cakes. Ovahpriced frog paintins evryweah. Dat's why it's got my name on it. Da Trump Golden Pissa." But hey, thanks a gazillion, Apprentice drones, for keeping this hump's name viable. That's worked out superbly for everyone, at least everyone with a small orange woodland critter pelt across their forehead.

Lost Horizons

Oy. So now it's "time horizon" instead of "timetable". Setting a goal is bad, see, because then the bad guys know they just have to wait out the deadline. Which I guess is what they have been doing then. People can call it a "time bench" or a "time sandwich" or a "time buttplug" if it makes them feel better, it's just old wine in dusted-off bottles that kinda look new if they don't look too closely.

The expectations placed on the candidates are unrealistic and moronic. McCain is expected to bray about staying the course and not fixing what isn't broken, even if he knows better. Obama is expected to walk some imaginary fine line between setting public benchmarks for leaving, and making sure the bad guys know he's "committed" to "finishing the task". Of course, what and how to accomplish is never quite defined with any clarity.

The shadows we've been chasing do not particularly care if we stay or go, I wager; in fact, they probably prefer we stay on, assuring them of an endless supply of recruits and generous oil profiteering. And certainly the oil companies aren't bothered by the fat risk and speculation premiums driving prices. But as long as we are able to cobble together yet another useless catchphrase to avoid figuring out exactly what we're doing and when we might be done, I guess it's still mission accomplished.

Goring the Ox

The more I've heard this "at least Saint Algore would've kept us out of Iraq" stuff over the years, the less convincing I find it. Let's at least accept as a given that Gore and his security team would have been astute enough to not blithely ignore a memo telegraphing the culprit and mode of 9/11; i.e., it would have either been prevented or (if you're a LIHOP) not allowed to happen.

(Forget the MIHOP theories; these people couldn't put their fingers together in the dark, much less steer remote-controlled jets into skyscrapers. Still, there are at least as many CYA actions as one might find around the JFK assassination, thus lending empathy if not actual credibility to the more lurid speculations out there. People may be speculating a bit too wildly, but they are probably correct in assuming that they have not been told much of the truth at all.)

Anyway, so no 9/11 perhaps, but that does not automatically translate to no war in Afghanistan and/or Iraq. The Taliban, aided by Pakistan's ISI, were in the process of committing a great many serious human rights violations in any case, well before 9/11. The country was being seriously destabilized, per Pakistan's express desires, as it regards Afghanistan as a convenient buffer state against India. It was a humanitarian crisis waiting to happen, and Gore is exactly the type who would have looked for his own private Kosovo with which to bolster his own humanitarian cred.

As for Iraq, the Clinton administration had ramped up its bombing and strafing runs there in its waning months, and had been studiously indifferent to the damage wrought by sanctions throughout the '90s. Whatever poll ratings Fatboy had managed to retain, it was more from popular revulsion at his hypocritical accusers, rather than any naturally accruing goodwill. He had little or no political capital left with which to operate outside the constraints of the Delay/Gingrich douchebags in Congress.

And that's what a hobbled-from-the-gate Gore would have been dealt anyway, had he chosen to fight a little harder for what was his. Look what insufferable winners the Baker junta turned out to be; what kind of sore losers are they? It would have been a contested victory by a candidate who lost his home state by 4%, paired up with a hostile Congress that would have scapegoated him at every opportunity because that's what they do. And Gore is exactly the type of bien pensant doofus to let himself get rolled into a bad idea for putatively humanitarian reasons.

Of course, a Gore administration would not have gone to war the way the Cheney administration did, especially without having 9/11 as a pretext. It wouldn't have been poaching laundered documents from Italian intelligence to frame Saddam Hussein, or trotting Colin Powell in front of the UN to conjure specters of havoc wrought by remote control airplanes launching out of Basra. It would have been more artfully done, to be sure. With a Chimpco production, the assumption was that the Iraqis would shower us with flowers 'n' candy; with the Gorons, we would have been the ones with treats.

But even the "success" of Kosovo is heavily qualified, with a young, underemployed, seething populace still torn by ethnic strife, no economy to speak of, and an enormous US base plopped in the center of things. It seems to be a great transition point for the trafficking of heroin and girls, but other than that, not so much.

The great thing about speculative history is that anyone can pull pretty much anything out of their ass. I don't know that Gore would have invaded Afghanistan and/or Iraq anymore than they know that he wouldn't have. But conditions in each situation were such that he could have found cause or pretext to do so, and Lieberman has proven to be a complete fucking weasel. There's no point in trying to make one side or the other attempt to prove a negative, but their unconditional presumption of impossibility is really something to behold, given Gore's own track record, and that of the administration he served.

Been close to eight interminable years of this N8r-b8ting schtick, and not once have I ever seen a tacit admission or even acknowledgement of some inescapable facts: that with Gore as president, you would also have had a dickhead like Lieberman as VP; that Gore was a bad candidate with a worse campaign, and would have entered office with absolutely zero juice and a motivated, hostile, radical congress to contend with; and most importantly, that many more registered Democrats voted for George Fucking Walker Bush than their anointed saint.

Senseless, Working Overtime

50-hour work weeks (plus 1½ hours daily commute) are pretty taxing, especially if you're not a morning person. On the other hand, the extra hours are offsetting gas price increases and leaving money for beer and steak and such.

Plus I'm resolutely clawing my way to the middle. In an economic clime where many people are looking over their shoulders, it's nice not to have to, until I fart in front of the boss or something.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Fluff

I think MoDo adequately captures the stench of the celebropoliticojourno wankery being lobbed at us from the media monkey house. Hell, her own body of work is a cornerstone of that lamentable field.

Once you pick your way through the opening belabored thicket of horticultural metaphor, it amazingly gets worse. And yet again, one fears that it's an increasingly accurate characterization both of the retarded political media and the goobers who, assuming the media is in fact market-driven, actually buy into this crap.

They appear genuinely affronted that Obama might, like every other politician in the history of the world, have an opportunistic streak. But they seem even more befuddled at his apparent idiosyncrasies with food and fastidiousness. Have we not just sat through eight years of a belligerent oaf with a clearly unearned Harvard MBA who would rather be fishing and eating PB&Js, or did I fucking dream it?

It's pretty simple: if the media are themselves cultivating this inane feedback loop of useless drivel, then they should be looking for a more honest trade to ply. On the other hand, if any substantial proportion of the electorate, given the direction this country has gone, seriously gives half a shit about Barack Obama not owning a pet or eating ice cream, then perhaps they deserve exactly what they get.

Kicking the Can

Sounds like more of that successmanship we've come to expect from the current gang of knuckleheads:

U.S. and Iraqi negotiators have abandoned efforts to conclude a comprehensive agreement governing the long-term status of U.S troops in Iraq before the end of the Bush presidency, according to senior U.S. officials, effectively leaving talks over an extended U.S. military presence there to the next administration.


Just one of many Fredo messes the next office-holder gets to clean up. Put it in a pile with the Taliban resurgence in the Afghan/Pakistan border areas, escalating food and fuel prices, tanking economy, crumbling infrastructure.

Indeed, I've been wondering for a while if perhaps McCain is being set up by his own party to lose. Why would they want the gig? It would be easier to plan on spending the next four years ankle-biting and obstructing Obama wherever possible (and the Democrats' own utter incompetence will impede Obama as well), not that four years is quite enough to fix everything in the first place, and then swoop in come 2012 with some Romney/Rudy ticket from the netherworld.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Snow Job

The grieving of the media club at the passing of Tony Snow is as predictable as it is ironic. After all, Snow's entire schtick was to play dumb in terms of dispensing anything approaching useful information, but with a knowing tone that could best be described as affable contempt.

Since Snow's brand of "journalism" was really just partisan obfuscation, his skill set translated perfectly into his role in this administration. Unlike radio carnies such as Hannity or Limbaugh, Snow was more adept at concealing the full-bodied disdain he and his fellow travelers genuinely feel for anything less than enthusiastic support. Limbaugh to a great extent is clearly in it for the money; Snow would have carried Dick Cheney's water for free.

At least Snow never made any sloppy, dishonest pretenses to objectivity, unlike so many in his racket. He was as unabashed a shill as any smoke-filled backroom could hope for, shoveling shit with an almost unnerving level of congeniality. And he was that increasingly rare breed of conservative that actually walked the fambly-valyews talk, which is something. Fifty-three is too young for anyone to go, and Snow seemed to face things with a measure of grace and courage. No Lee Atwater deathbed conversions though, apparently; Snow was a company man to the very end.

But tonally, the media encomia almost universally reflect the thoughts of an insular club paying tribute to one of their own, rather than evenhandedly assessing an adversary -- a fairly collegial one, but still a professional adversary -- who was a spokesman for some of the most reprehensible people and policies to infest the American government in some time. Snow clearly understood that his role was as a pitchman in a very high-stakes spectator sport, but you get the distinct impression that most of his colleagues don't quite get that aspect of it.

Bleater of the Pack

Because my wife is a Packers fan, and actually helped pull Aaron Rodgers' wisdom teeth, the building Brett Fav-ruh soap opera is tickling my schadenfreude bone, which is second only to the femur in size. Why should Raiders fans be the only ones to have to put up with chronically dysfunctional management and diva players?

Except here, despite Wojciechowski's fanboy lament, Green Bay's management is actually doing what it's supposed to do -- look after the short- and long-term interests of the team. This is a very real concern for them; with the collective bargaining agreement being abandoned, and 2010 being a cap-free year, small-market teams such as Green Bay are going to be hit hard. I don't know what percentage of the town's revenue comes from all the ancillary perks of having an NFL franchise, but come on -- it's a frozen hole in Wisconsin. How much else is going on?

Favre wants to unretire. And yeah, it's a bit of a diva-ish thing to do. Tears in March. Text messages in July.

But Favre has earned his share of diva currency, enough for one Get Out Of Retirement card. He's played hurt. He's played with his heart heavy with grief. And he's played for the moment, not the money. There are bits and pieces of his body all over Lambeau Field.


Oh, boo-fuckin'-hoo. Favre has owned that town for well over a decade, and been well compensated for it. Football is his life because he's made it his life. And this is not a one-time deal; he's been pulling this will-he-or-won't-he shit for at least four years now. He said this time it's for real, they gave him a couple opportunities to reconsider, and they took him at his word. They went and drafted two more quarterbacks to back up Rodgers.

Packers management wants it both ways. It says it wants to protect Favre from himself, but mostly it wants to protect Favre from becoming a free agent, signing with the Minnesota Vikings and possibly kicking the Packers' butts twice in the regular season. That's the reason behind not granting Favre his release -- nothing else.


Well, no shit. That too is part of protecting a team's legacy. Ask Al Davis how he feels now about letting Marcus Allen slide to the Chefs. Better yet, don't -- Davis is incapable of admitting fault, no matter how monumental the screwup.

Favre has made several indications that he wants to go to Minnesota. His former position coach is now the OC there, so he knows the system; they desperately need a competent starter to complement an excellent running game and what may be the best defensive line in the league; and Zygi Wilf can no doubt throw enough money at him to make him forget about the $12 mil the Packers would have to pay him even as a backup. The team has stalled some of its talent development in catering to Favre's confounding decision-making process.

So it's a standoff -- the Packers have him under contract, and can bench him if they feel like burning eight figures, or they can cut him loose, but can get nothing more binding than a handshake agreement for Favre not to go to a division rival. And Favre is cynically using the fans' admiration for him to clown the Packers' management, at the expense of the rest of the team. Rodgers has indicated that he will ask to be traded -- and rightly so -- should Miss Thang change her mind and decide she's entitled to one more go-round.

It's understandable why Favre can't quite face up to things just yet. He's not well-suited to the usual post-career broadcast stint, and he's never done anything else. And he had one of the best years of his career last year, at least until his final pass went to the other team.

But Dan Marino, several of whose seemingly unbreakable records were passed by Favre last year, went out bad also. Marino set single-season passing yardage and touchdown records (the first of which still holds) and got to the Super Bowl in his second season. But he spent the rest of his career struggling to get back, and never did. And his final game was a 62-7 playoff blowout at the hands of a still-young Jacksonville Jaguars team; the game was so lopsided it was 38-0 in the second quarter before Miami could even get on the scoreboard. That's a crummy way to end a great career, and considering that one wild wobble of Favre's came in overtime of the NFC championship game, he has to be thinking that he missed his chance to retire on a Super Bowl by the thinnest of hairs.

Packers fans deserve to not have their team yanked around by a mercurial superstar who feels entitled to change his mind back and forth about a victory lap; Rodgers is a good player who's only going to get better if people (and Favre was notoriously aloof and prickly toward Rodgers) stop fucking with his ability to do his job. And maybe Favre has earned the right to go out in whatever way he sees fit, but he is under contract to the Packers, and pitting the fans against management is going to reverberate long after he finally decides to retire for real. Both sides would be better served if Green Bay just cut him loose already, take their chances on him playing one year tops wherever he lands, and moving on from there. He's always had trouble winning in the Metrodome anyway.

Update: Some clown from the Mistake By The Lake draws what has to be the lamest conceivable parallel, between Favre's relationship with Packers management, and how the Cleveland Browns dismissed center LeCharles Bentley.

To some, the Brett Favre saga unfolding in Green Bay is as perplexing as the LeCharles Bentley drama in Cleveland.

There are major differences, but first consider the general similarity -- both are popular players essentially unwanted by their teams.


Um, no, dude. The two situations have almost zero in common. Popular players are shunted aside all the time, if the team's management determines that the player is past their prime and that it just isn't cost-effective to keep them around. That's universal to the business of sports.

Look, I goof on the Packers and Favre, but let's face it -- in a town that practically embodies American football, the guy is a veritable icon. It has to be excruciating for diehard Packer fans to watch this nonsense, and most other fans, regardless of team affiliation, at least respect what Favre brought to the game. Many of them grew up watching him play. The guy's going out like a thorn in the side, but for nearly two decades, he was the real muthafuckin' deal. It's not an easy decision either way. It's silly and it's just a sport, but it also plays into the self-identification of the town and the team's fans, who do not have much else happening because they live on a frozen prairie pancake.

Bentley, on the other hand, was a very good center who was poached from the Saints for too much money (6-yr./$36 mil), an indication that the team planned to build around him. He torqued his knee on the very first play of training camp, which at least suggests some issues with conditioning.

Bentley claims that a subsequent staph infection nearly killed him and nearly cost him the leg. That may be perfectly accurate, and that's a raw deal for him, but we're talking about a free agent who never played a down for the team, and in fact tied up a significant amount of money and time for them while everyone tried to figure out whether he'd play again. (He probably won't.) Unless Bentley is willing to seriously renegotiate his contract, it's a pretty clear-cut business decision, one that needs no consultation with fans. This isn't even apples and oranges, more like apples and crescent wrenches.

Practical Magic

So this goon murders dozens of women to attain sorcerer powers, and he can't even miracle himself out of jail? That's some pretty weak-ass magic you got there, champ. I mean, even a first-level magic-user usually starts out with magic missile.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Fanatics

Next time we casually use the expression, "Jesus H. Christ on a cracker", we might recall that there are some people who take it way, way too damned seriously.

It's not hundreds or thousands of Muslims rioting in the streets over cartoons or stuffed animals, but it's pretty damned ridiculous. And something doctrinal Catholics do not seem to realize is that the rest of us see how literally they take the notion of transubstantiation, and are completely creeped out by it.

Flipping out over a cracker. Nicely done, folks.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Math Is Hard, Let's Go Shopping

Via The Oil Drum, there's an interesting excerpt in this profile of reg'lar folks hit hard by gas prices:

"I just don't drive as much," said Herman Heaton, a 72-year-old retired lumber mill worker, leaning against a Chevy Silverado pickup that now costs him $80 to fill up. "We don't go to Mobile as much as we used to for shopping." Heaton said he now spends about $600 a month on gas, about 10 percent of his income and about double what he spent last year.



Now, maybe I've forgotten my gazintas over the years, but a couple things seem a tad odd. Let's ballpark a few things -- gas in Thomasville is currently about $3.97, so let's say $4.00 even just to simplify the math. A Silverado gets roughly 16 mpg; this particular model has a 26-34 gallon tank, but let's say Cooter has one-a them 20-galloners, so $80 a fillup as he claims, and roughly 320 miles per tank.

So basically we're looking at a 72-year-old guy in Buttfuck, Alabama who has to fill up twice a week to drive over 90 miles every single day on average, for some bizarre reason. And this $600/month he spends equals 10% of his income as a retired lumber-mill worker. Yes, a retired lumber-mill worker in Alabama is pulling down $72K a year, and spending that time doing nothing but driving. Right. That is one sweet-ass pension, especially in one of the most chronically poor states.

Either this old fart is growing and/or muling large quantities of dope and/or migrant workers to supplement his pension, or someone didn't bother to wonder about those crazy-ass ballpark numbers. Even if the numbers turned out to be accurate, they don't seem to be typical or average in any way. I mean shit, Herman, maybe hang out around the house and read a book once in a while. That's why it's called retirement.

Oh, and as for the main point of the article, this local incremental boost from the townies staying home 'cause of gas prices seems anecdotal and temporary. As long as people in rural towns have to commute elsewhere to get a living wage, and look out-of-town for basic stores and services, the greater part of their discretionary income is leaving town, and the tax base remains dispersed.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Desperately Seeking Stupid

The truth about the world, [the judge] said, is that anything is possible. Had you not seen it all from birth and thereby bled it of its strangeness it would appear to you for what it is, a hat trick in a medicine show, a fevered dream, a trance bepopulate with chimeras having neither analogue nor precedent, an itinerant carnival, a migratory tentshow whose ultimate destination after many a pitch in many a mudded field is unspeakable and calamitous beyond reasoning.

-- Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian


Where Buttmissile famously chugged the kool-aid, K. Lo also eats the worm.

A totally crazy Saturday-morning thought: Wouldn't George W. Bush make an awesome high-school government teacher? Wouldn't it be something if his post-presidential life would up being that kind of post-service service? How's that for a model?


This has to be the most unironic teabagging in some time, of the most profoundly undeserving person imaginable. What is up with this weird little Mr. Chips daydream? Does she really not realize that Fredo's going to hit the rainmaker circuit? I'm sure Sun Myung Moon's already got a monogrammed recliner ready for him; if not, he can just fight his brother for whatever their dad used when he was the Moonies' shill.

No, Shrub's not gonna bother with any of that Jimmy Carter shit, supervising elections in corrupt backwaters (other than Florida/Ohio/DC), building houses for the homeless. The best way he can fulfill his, erm, "post-service service" is to just mosey back to the tumbleweed farm and find a bottle of anything to swim in. Imagine that, a man who knows nothing about proper government except how to wreck it, passing on his wisdom to the next generation.

Whatever you think of President Bush, he's a likable guy in love with his country with some history and experience to share.


I think he's a guy who lawn-darted his country, and left it, the world, and the office he occupied much worse places than they were when he toddled onto the scene. Most of the country thinks so. Most of the planet thinks so. If K. Lo wants to marry one of her fellow wingnut welfare rats and have Mister Man home school their low-forehead progeny, by all means, have at it.

It's hard not to double-check the post for some evidence of tongue-in-cheek; after all, even a good measure of Republicans are tacitly admitting that they just want this fuckin' guy to go away already, before he babbles incoherently and knocks something else over. Then again, Lopez is the same person who last December quite seriously opined that no matter which of their wretched roster the Republicans picked for their nominee, that man's veep choice should be none other than Sportin' Life Bill Bennett, preacher of morals for thee.

Just when you thought that people couldn't get any weirder, couldn't say anything stupider, there they go and surprise ya. It's like something Britney Spears would have said through a mouthful of Flamin' Hot Cheetos and purple drank.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Technical Ecstasy

I couldn't possibly care less that McCain claims to hate the bloggerses (not to mention, um, "the cables"). I'm more intrigued by the very real suspicion that one of the two men who will be putatively running this country in the next six months probably couldn't find a blog with both hands and a flashlight.

Seriously, my seven-year-old daughter has no trouble navigating and googling (with supervision as to content, of course). And it's not an age thing; my eighty-four-year-old father e-mails and IM's friends around the world. But McCain is a four-term US senator and a presidential candidate. He should know at least something about this shit. Despite the current shortfalls, this is still a modern, post-industrial economy heavily dependent on technological innovation. You can barely get an above-minimum-wage job anymore without at least some computer literacy.

Or you can be a United States senator, apparently. Other than that, not so much. Bosses expect at least modest fluency in Word and Excel if you have any hope of supervisor or manager positions.

Forget whether being shot down is a qualification for the job or not; is it acceptable to have a preznit who apparently can't get the VCR to stop blinking 12:00? Why not just grab a random curmudgeon from an American Legion hall, or a swarm of angry bees? They don't know anything about them durned computers neither.

Chairman of the Freedomboard

Hitchens at least deserves some small credit for acknowledging that the circumstances of his own staged waterboarding were not preceded by, say, being force-fed (which is also torture), blindered, ball-gagged, and/or chained in an excruciating position for eighteen hours in a freezing room while being blasted with Slayer. (Although there is some modest attempts at creating an element of sensory deprivation and disorientation.) Extra points also for attesting to his own status as a "wheezing, paunchy scribbler". Indeed.

One can't help but feel that Hitch might have met his contrived fate with more customary brio if he were being boarded with Johnnie Walker Black instead of mere water. Either way, in spite of his averral of the potency of the method -- to get the person to capitulate, mind you, not necessarily to usefully cooperate -- Hitch still finds himself on the proverbial fence.

It's morally exhausting to hear the thirdhand retellings of the frustrations of the rough men entrusted to guard us while we sleep, as the saying goes. Had the matter been approached with somewhat less opacity, who knows? Hell, you could probably put the matter to an open referendum and have a decent chance of a majority approving any means necessary. Ignorance and fear have never had to walk alone for any meaningful period of time, here or anywhere else.

But they just went ahead and did it, and some are apparently angry that we're not appreciative enough now that we are finally finding out what's been done in our name. Sorry, but some of us feel no obligation to help pave the road to hell. If the incidents are aberrations, then the perpetrators need to be brought to justice; if (as seems far more likely) they are systemic, then the operators of that system need to be excised from their posts, even if the system itself has supposedly been revised since then.

Many Americans seem genuinely besieged and infuriated when their oil and food entitlements go up a tick, while a good chunk of the rest of the planet figures out how to live on less than ten bucks a month in dirt-road military dictatorships. These resentments inform much of their worldview, since they are otherwise largely disengaged from even fundamental aspects of policy that directly affect their lives.

The ease with which people convinced themselves that Jack Bauer techniques girded by purity and righteousness against certain evil are absolutely necessary -- preferable, even -- well, that ease is nothing short of striking. I suppose it helps to convince oneself that it is, again, in the context of a startlingly cheesy potboiler of a teevee show, one in which the person being tortured is never some illiterate shepherd sold to the Americans by a corrupt warlord, or a cab driver yanked off the street for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

We're going to look back at this period in our history with embarrassment, if we can force ourselves to remember long enough. These are techniques for which Germans and Japanese were executed in WW2, techniques which we now discover had been cribbed in part from the Chinese Communists' brutal interrogations of dissidents.

The idea that it's somehow intrinsically different when we do those things is at the root of our moral unraveling. Say my neighbor's house gets robbed by heroin addicts for drug money. Say that after my neighbor replaces all his shit, I decide to rob his house, but with the goal of giving every dime from fencing the stolen property to a children's hospital. I don't have any moral standing over the drug addicts just because my stated intentions for the ill-gotten gain are more ethical. This continuing attempt to render ourselves as exempt from basic morality is already biting us in the ass, and will continue to do so for some time to come.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Birthday Boy

Fredo spends his final birfday in office gladhanding at the G8 Summit, surely not what he had in mind for a holiday/birthday weekend. (As someone whose birthday is also on a holiday weekend -- Memorial Day -- I can relate. I like to make a full weekend of R&R out of it, not just the one day.)

So, because I'm refreshed and full of good food and beer and just sunburned enough to give my pale Scots-Irish-Slav ass some blessed color, I'm feeling a wee bit magnanimous, just enough to acknowledge that he's right about something:

"I also am realistic enough to tell you that if China and India don't share the same aspiration that we're not going to solve the problem," Bush said.


It's true. One in two people -- every second person on the planet -- is in Asia, mostly in either China or India. And everyone's moved operations to those places. Nothing significant can be done without them.

Of course, even when he's right, he's wrong. China and India are still in the mid-to-late stages of ramping up their economies and infrastructures in the process of globalization. They're not going to monkey-wrench their economic development just to make him happy. They may not have immediately followed suit if we had joined in the Kyoto Protocol, but there was never any question about what they would do if we didn't.

That's the thing that should dog him to the bitter end. He didn't even try. Whether the issue has been foreign policy, the environment, or economics, these guys seemed to think that they had swinging dicks they could wave at the problem and scare it away. The fact that problems only worsened in all those areas should be a clue to them that their dicks were never nearly as big as their courtesans told them they were.

Death of a Salesman

I caught the news of Jesse Helms' death on my way out the door on Friday, and the first thing I thought of was this Jon Carroll column from back in 2001, a couple weeks before 9/11 in fact. I read the requisite Times and Post obitcheries over the weekend, but as I had already assumed, Carroll's column still takes the better measure of the man, and the people who kept him in office.

The year was 1995. I was in my hotel room in Cairo watching CNN International, the only English-language television available.

....

I did not recognize the American guest at first. He was owlish and soft- spoken, with only a trace of a regional accent; he seemed to have a good grasp of certain complicated issues, including the budding war between India and Pakistan and the then-strained relations between Egypt and Syria.

His views were moderate; he offered more analysis than bombast. It took me a few minutes to realize that I was looking at Jesse Helms.


During the late '90s, I had CNN International on my satellite system. I was always struck by the clear difference between it and its doofier American cousin. And that was when the American CNN had a recognizable level of integrity.

Now, of course, CNN is very much the MTV of the news game. The erstwhile Music Television now no longer shows hardly any actual music at all anymore, just a parade of indistinguishable "reality" shows with interchangable emcees doing things that are scaracely worth filming in the first place. Similarly, CNN and its drooling stepchild, Headline News, grant ample blocks of time to fluffing celebrities, braying morons such as Glenn Beck and Nancy Grace, and tedious repetition of the most inane items imaginable. MSNBC is no better; whatever good-lib scrip it manages to print by airing Olbermann's daily pronunciamentos are offset by interminable prison docs and To Catch a Predator perv-a-thons, the sort of shit even Geraldo Rivera doesn't have time for anymore.

And none of the putatively objective encomia for the would-be statesman from Mayberry will offer any depth to Helms' political character beyond perhaps his twilight friendship with Bono. As Carroll points out, there are bits of information packaged for domestic consumption, and there are other bits from the same people repackaged for the rest of the world. So what Americans mostly knew of Jesse Helms was the drawling buffoon from Deliverance country, a divisive totem meant to rally yahoos and rile liberals who could never quite actually do anything about him.

The new gang in Washington, the ones who swept in 1994 and the ones who swept in with little George Bush in 2000, do not seem to be curious about anything. They are Values guys. People with Values are not curious, because their minds are made up. What's to be curious about?

They are not curious about the rest of the world, because the rest of the world lacks Values. The United States should serve as a moral beacon and, like a beacon, be utterly immobile, a distant point of light. Who cares about politics, art, culture, ideas, the smell of a foreign city, the sound of boats on an alien river? We do Values.

George Bush never thought it important to go anywhere. ....He arranged his trip to Mexico so he did not have to spend a night on Mexican soil. On his Europe trip -- I have a vision of the leader of the free world doing sit-ups in his hotel room, while his older advisers met with actual foreigners.

Americans are famously provincial. Americans are famously indifferent to their own ignorance. The new breed of Values pols panders to that, believes in that. Jesse Helms at least knew where Kashmir was and why it was important.


And yet Helms knew exactly who and what he was working, who and what had sent him there. It's a cliché that southerners are one of the few remaining groups that are still okay to stereotype in this country. But that's because they continue to play to those stereotypes, deliberately, proudly, defiantly. I don't mean the usual over-the-top Boss Hogg/Junior Samples cousin-fuckin' caricatures; I mean the real crackers, the ones who seriously try to debate the merits of honoring confederate banners and military leaders, the ones who still think racist jokes are funny, the ones who plaster weird, creepy bumper stickers on their jacked-up 4x4's, maybe keep a noose in their office to amuse visitors, the ones wallowing in their ignorance like it was grade-A pig shit. Either Helms knew better and played to that contemptible element anyway, or he was one of them from the get-go.

Probably a bit of both; most things in life are. But Helms is not some totem of absolution, carrying away the sins of his constituents with his own death. They voted him in, again and again, and hopefully what's left of that mossback legacy continues to die off with him. Helms wasn't a good guy, but you can't say he didn't give his people what they wanted. They own it as much as he does. It would have been something if just once Helms had felt it was as important to challenge his drooling demographic with the more sophisticated analysis that he had available, than to constantly play to easy type.

Back in the Saddle

And we're back from our whirlwind weekend at the coast. It's always too short, but part of the fun is getting the most out of the time. Fort Bragg, like most of the coastal Mendocino towns, has people who take food seriously enough to have fun with it, and plenty of cool local restaurants. If you happen to be driving up the coast that far, always a spectacular drive, here's some places to check out:

  • Breakfast. I've been here a few times over the years, and it's always great. This time around it was an omelet with lots of fresh crab and garlic, with champagne hollandaise sauce. Amazing.


  • Beer and fish-and-chips. Sitting astride the main drag at the north end of town, the brewery/gift shop (on the ocean side of the highway) and the pub/restaurant (on the inland side) complement each other very well. We go here at least once every time, and the food and beer are always excellent.


  • Ice cream. Another place we always hit (this time twice), Cowlick's is the bomb. No, I did not try the mushroom ice cream; two rules I have about food is that I don't do rabbit food (which is probably 75% of vegetables) and I don't do fungus. However, the coconut and the blackberry (there are blackberry bushes along many beach trails, ripening in a few weeks) ice creams are highly recommended.


  • Pizza. This was a new place for us, and I wish we had known about it on previous visits. Piaci's is a great little place tucked right off the highway in the middle of town, cool atmosphere, excellent microbrews on tap, outstanding pizza.


Topped with a scenic drive back down the coast to Navarro and inland along 128 through the redwoods and Anderson Valley, and you got yourself a pretty reasonable weekend getaway. Of course, now we're back in the smoke zone with temperatures expected to be in triple digits all week, but even a short break is good.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Weekend Warriors

Off to the coast for the holiday weekend, to get a break from the smoky air, decompress, watch the ocean, check out the fireworks show (I can generally take or leave fireworks shows and such, but the one in Fort Bragg is really excellent) and hit the salmon feed, with all-you-can-drink Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Good times. Whether you're going somewhere or having one of these cool staycations the kids are talking about, have fun.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Unclear on the Concept

The El Lay Times has an interestingly conjugated simile for our troubled times:

Israel and the United States are starting to look like two anxious children trying to decide how to deal with a schoolyard bully, Iran. Each appears to be whispering encouragement to the other to go kick the bully in the shins, but each is so terrified of the consequences that neither wants to go first.


A more accurate way of putting it is that Israel and the U.S. are a couple of vicious alley punks who have been kicking and teasing a stray animal, and are now concocting a scheme to douse the miserable beast with kerosene and set it afire, and convince any passersby or cops that the animal had them cornered. The editorial's conclusion is essentially correct, but their setup is still wildly inapt. Ahmadinejad's antic bluster, however offensive, is no match for even Israel's military, much less ours. It's not even a knife-to-a-gunfight mismatch; as with Iraq, 99% of the carnage would likely be civilians, this time killed in retaliatory strikes on both sides.

And Russia and China have significant deals with the Iranians. It's not 2003 anymore. If we think we're going to cut them out the way we cut Old Europe out of Iraq, and set up sweetheart no-bids with our own guys, we may be in for an unpleasant surprise. They're holding the cards these days -- ask the Euros how they'd feel about Gazprom shutting the valves this winter. Clearly we gave up on morality some time back, but this is also bad business.

We're going to be seeing a barrage of nonsense and lies this summer regarding Iran, and the one thing everyone should keep in mind is this: we do not have to go to war with Iran; if we do so, it will be because we want to. There is no compelling reason, even if their nuclear program were nearing completion, which by our own estimates it is not. Pakistan has nukes and a virulent anti-American power bloc. Somehow it's not an imminent threat to our very existence. We don't like it, but we find a way to work with it.

Yet rather than even talk to Iran, we simply demand that they capitulate at gunpoint. The mullahs may be assholes, but they're not stupid. They can see by how other players in their region are treated whether or not it's in their interest to continue their program. Threats will only disincentivize a rational actor so much, especially when they can plainly see that you will only follow through if the target looks like a pushover and has something you want.

The purpose of the marketing campaign right now is twofold -- to goad Iran into doing something foolish or reckless, and providing us or Israel with sufficient pretext; and to inure the public to the idea of starting a third war that will almost certainly accelerate the economic catastrophe that has been triggered by oil prices and assorted financial shenanigans. Why would they do this? Why not? Because they can, because they think they should.

Hell, because the idea of chucking a Molotov cocktail over their shoulders as they leave the office of power is like Viagra to them. Because while the smart set likes to tease Obama about how "messianic" he supposedly thinks he is, these guys really think they're on a divinely ordained mission, only it's American Exceptionalism rather than the usual dunderheaded premillenial dispensationalism the megachurch saps roll over for. This is the real deal, the essence of true believerism.

As Obama starts veering predictably rightward, in an effort to flash his security quals to this or that designated peel-off niche of ignorant assholes, you wonder if that'll be enough, or if he wins, will he be boxed in by a December surprise, the action phase of the current gang's long flight forward, and we can all start hoarding gold and ramen and heading for the hills.

Fightin' Words

As a general rule, the Sunday morning schmuckfests are not on the viewing schedule, but the wife likes the CBS Sunday Morning show, and until football season starts, there's rarely anything worth enduring on the however many dozens of channels I have on the DirecTV. So it was that we happened to let it go into Face the Nation, where I instantly noticed the supposedly intemperate remarks of Wes Clark vis-à-vis John McCain as being accurate for one thing, and automatically controversial for another.

Since almost no Republicans other than McCain and Chuck Hagel have actually served in combat duty, especially during Vietnam, they have long cultivated this phony-tough, crazy-brave veneer for themselves, and hung a Superman cape upon all matters military, persons and objects alike. And since the media weasels are by and large skittish herd animals, many of whom have built up their mancrushes on McCain in print and video, they have a personal investment in things, and are not about to backtrack.

So it is that Clark's fairly tepid and obvious comment is utilized by the very same party who had the fucking balls to dismiss and betray John Kerry's combat service, even as they ran the two draft-dodging incumbents. And so it is that a lazy, coddled, incompetent political media corps -- every one of whom should be sent to Iraq and Afghanistan for a while to help them reprioritize and maybe acquire a more meaningful skill set for their supposed profession -- finds another chew toy to occupy them for a week or so. Kerry's service did him no favors, and became fodder for professional liars. McCain's is not only sacrosanct, but his most distinct job qualification. That sounds about right.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Merit Pay

Congrats are in order to the drug-addled sex tourist, fabulist, calumniator, model husband, foe of cripples and women. Limpballs has made a real mark on the already seedy world of talk radio, and somehow managed to make it -- and the world of politics -- an even worse place than it was before.

Choke on it, asshole.

Pants Afire

Looks like Doughbob broke out the industrial shovel for this one.

Breaking news! The ultimate White House insider plans a tell-all book about the Bush years. Boasting unprecedented access to the president's thinking, it will run counter to almost everything we've been told about Bush's radical presidency.

Who will be the latest to break the code of silence after former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan? George W. Bush.

At least that's what went through my mind listening to the president during a meeting with a small group of journalists in the Oval Office on Monday. The session, maddeningly and often foolishly punctuated by long, off-the-record musings and soliloquies, mostly dealt with foreign policy.


I despise smirky tropes and devices like the one above. It doesn't even qualify as "clever" or "deceptive"; it's just an empty, weird attention grabber. "Breaking news! Gas prices back to $1.00/gallon! Heh, at least that's what went through my mind the last time I used half my Cheeto per diem to fill up my hooptie." Unprecedented access to Junior's thinkamatin' sounds about as inviting as watching Tony Blankley assault a defenseless ham hock.

Seriously, from an operational standpoint, this has been the most deliberately opaque administration since Nixon. Here's the thing if you fancy yourself a "journalist": if a prominent figure -- and I don't care of it's Dubya Bush, B. Hussein Obama, or whoever -- convenes a gaggle of you and your colleagues behind closed doors and tells you everything is off the record, you are being used. You are not reporting anything, you're just a PR stooge, nothing more. It's a circle jerk.

As for why Bush's maddening foolishness (to use Goldberg's own descriptives) focused on foreign policy, what the fuck else is he going to talk about? How completely, catastrophically ineffectual he has been in having an economic policy that benefits anyone but the top of the pyramid? How we have to start drilling and perforating every square inch of federal land so's the oil can come online in six years, when gas is seven bucks a gallon? I don't know what's worse, that Goldberg knows better, or that he might actually believe what he writes.

"When I write my book," the president teased, people will understand how much behind-the-scenes diplomacy went on during this administration.

I'm sure he's right. In fact, if only a fraction of what he had to say was remotely accurate, then the conventional bleats about unilateralism, war lust and cowboyishness will go down in history as the excessive caterwauling of an imaginative and hyper-partisan opposition.


Riiiight. Look, fool, if/when he writes his book, only two things will be notable about it -- one, nothing in it will be remotely true nor accurate (nor, for that matter, controversial), and two, people may idly wonder who actually wrote the damned thing for him. We've heard about the "behind-the-scenes diplomacy" plenty, the stovepiping of bullshit information, the secret meetings to force facts into preconceived conclusions, the Iranians quietly reaching out in 2003 only to be smacked down by "diplomats", etc. If someone wants to plunk down thirty bucks for tissue-thin rationales and shopworn, self-serving homilies, they're probably not working hard enough for their money.

Indeed, President Bush's reputation is not as solidified as his detractors and fans think.

If Iraq becomes a stable and democratizing nation, his presidency will look much better than it does today. But if Iraq Balkanizes or Lebanon-izes, then Democratic rhetoric about the "worst foreign policy blunder in U.S. history" will gain descriptive heft. Only time will tell.


Ah, the old "if" gambit, tethered to the usual cheap open-ended timeline. Awesome. See, if we check in five or ten years hence, and Iraq is still a sectarian charnel house, we just haven't let the Gumbo O' Freedomocracy™ simmer quite long enough. No matter how bad it continues to get, it will never be quite long enough to know for sure. If Doughboy's aunt had balls, she'd be his uncle. Or his mama.

On the other hand, if the country has exhausted itself into some semblance of stability, it won't be because the sectarian cleansers ran out of people to slaughter, or that Baghdad has been walled into a lockdown Habitrail, or that the Iranians are puppeteering whatever passes for a central government. It'll automatically be because of Dear Cheerleader's singular vision and resolve, his patience in staying the course, no matter how many people had to get butchered in the process, and how much it cost.

Having principles is a tough gig, as you can see by all of Pantload's sacrifices. Why, he braved a trip into the Oval Office, kneepads and all, for the chance to come away with vivid descriptions of Fredo's wardrobe, and impossibly vague "impressions" of what the man actually said. Again, even celebrity journalists have higher standards than this. Jesus, I'm embarrassed for this clown at this point. He's so far in the tank he has to wear scuba gear.

The Jonanism continues on to its inevitable climax, a torrent of flop sweat and Funyun crumbs:

Many of its supposedly radical features fit neatly in the mainstream of American presidential history. Extraordinary rendition? That practice (in which we send terrorists to foreign countries to be interrogated under laxer rules) began under President Clinton. Aggressive interrogations, for good or ill, surely predate 2001. Holding prisoners indefinitely at Guantanamo without benefit of a trial? As terrorism expert Andrew C. McCarthy notes in National Review, we were doing that under the first President Bush and under Clinton to innocent Haitian refugees, who got even less due process than we give captured enemy combatants.


Yeah, I'm sure you heard about all those Haitians Clinton had holed up in Gitmo for half a decade, unable to communicate with anyone in the outside world or have representation, subjected to humiliation and aggressive interrogation tactics. You know, all those Haitians that were waterboarded and force-fed and stuck in sensory deprivation holes until they lost their minds? And as loathsome a practice as extraordinary rendition is, Clinton used it exclusively against perpetrators and suspects of the 1993 WTC attack. They weren't kidnapping German and Canadian citizens who had the wrong name and shipping them to black sites to be broken.

Indeed, this administration and its surrogates have brought a heavy-handed glee to these extralegal ops that would normally be associated with banana republics and communist dictators. They've literally pulled innocent people off the street, chained them to a dungeon ceiling, and beat their legs until they died in agony. They let the Chinese visit Gitmo to turn the screws on a Uighur prisoner. They turned Saddam's most notorious hellhole into a playground for a bunch of inbred psychopaths. And that's the shit we know about. Put that in your fuckin' memoir, son.

Already, Obama is changing his tune from his old, and irresponsibly heated, rhetoric about "immediate" withdrawal to talking about the need for policies that would adapt to the improving conditions in Iraq. Given Obama's ideological leanings and inexperience, there's clearly plenty of room for him to make costly mistakes. But odds are he too would come to realize that America needs to win the war on terror and succeed in Iraq. Hence the greatest irony. A successful Obama presidency would have the unintended consequence of making Bush's memoir a success story.


Oh, so it's Obama's "ideological leanings and inexperience" that would leave him room for mistakes. Fat fucking chance. Should Obama actually win the election (a dubious assumption considering the insatiable need for a certain portion of the citizenry to stick their thumbs in their asses and call it good), Goldberg and his ilk will be all over him the second the final vote is tallied. Any missteps, no matter how small, real or contrived, will be blown to monumental proportion to the same degree they were willing to overlook the ones their boy made every step of the way.

Make no mistake. Any successes Obama has regarding Iraq will be in spite of what these eternally damned buffoons have wrought. He is in the running because he has promised to clean up Fredo's mess, not extend it or endorse it. To the extent he actually does continue any of the current policies, chances are it will be primarily because the lame-duck termites are working furiously to lock the successor in.

It's just too bad that neither Bush, his associates, nor his florid defenders will ever face a fraction of the karma they've earned, for their smug indifference to the misery they've inflicted here and abroad. Absent actual justice, the sooner these weasels are repudiated, the sooner they can be marginalized and blessedly ignored.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Winamp Shuffle

Kevin Gilbert -- Suit Fugue
Cake -- Comfort Eagle
Hendrix -- Room Full of Mirrors
Montrose -- Space Station #5
Megadeth -- Looking Down the Cross
Jellyfish -- New Mistake
Queens of the Stone Age -- Go with the Flow
Voivod -- Sub-Effect
Van Halen -- Could This Be Magic?
Paul Gilbert -- Paul Vs. Godzilla
A Perfect Circle -- Gravity