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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Gutless

Frank Rich is shrill in discussing Cheney's emergence from the bunker, as well as the entities who enable him to do so:

Cheney’s “no middle ground” speech on torture at the American Enterprise Institute arrived with the kind of orchestrated media campaign that he, his boss and Karl Rove patented in the good old days. It was bookended by a pair of Republican attack ads on the Web that crosscut President Obama’s planned closure of the Guantánamo Bay detention center with apocalyptic imagery — graphic video of the burning twin towers in one ad, a roar of nuclear holocaust (borrowed from the L.B.J. “daisy” ad of 1964) in the other.

The speech itself, with 20 mentions of 9/11, struck the same cynical note as the ads, as if the G.O.P. was almost rooting for a terrorist attack on Obama’s watch. “No one wishes the current administration more success in defending the country than we do,” Cheney said as a disingenuous disclaimer before going on to charge that Obama’s “half measures” were leaving Americans “half exposed.” The new president, he said, is unraveling “the very policies that kept our people safe since 9/11.” In other words, when the next attack comes, it will be all Obama’s fault. A new ad shouting “We told you so!” awaits only the updated video.

The Republicans at least have an excuse for pushing this poison. They are desperate. The trio of Pillsbury doughboys now leading the party — Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, Cheney — have variously cemented the G.O.P.’s brand as a whites-only men’s club by revoking Colin Powell’s membership and smearing the first Latina Supreme Court nominee as a “reverse racist.” Republicans in Congress have no plausible economic, health care or energy policies to counter Obama’s. The only card left to play is 9/11.


True enough. If you have a dumb dog who likes to shit on the floor, don't be surprised when he shits on the floor. The dog is only part of the problem.

Yet even before Cheney spoke, Congressional Democrats were quaking in fear, purporting with straight faces that the transfer of detainees to “supermax” American prisons constituted a serious security threat. Many of the same senators who signed on to the Iraq war resolution in the fall of 2002 joined the 90-to-6 majority that put a hold on Obama’s Gitmo closure plans.


Well, of course they did. This incompetent bunch of nellies couldn't get out of their own way if you gave them a map. These people are awful, and terrible at what they do, and now that Hope 'n' Change are in the air but not, they're more than happy to ratfuck Change Man every chance they get. And so far he has refused to whip them into shape, and exercise some discipline. If it doesn't bite them in the ass, it will only be because the knuckle-dragging oafs across the aisle, and the mouth-breathing dipshits who vote for them, are even worse. But it doesn't have to be this way, it really doesn't.

Of course, the Dummycrats are only part of the problem. Our rilly awesome corporate media shares a big chunk o' blame as well.

The déjà vu in the news media was more chilling. Rather than vet the substance of Cheney’s fulmination, talking heads instead hyped the split-screen “dueling speeches” gimmick of the back-to-back Obama-Cheney scheduling. Time magazine’s political Web site Photoshopped Cheney and Obama’s faces atop prize fighters’ bodies.

Most of the punditocracy scored the fight on a curve, setting up a false equivalence between the men’s ideas. Cheney’s pugnacious certitude edged out Obama’s law-professor nuance. “On policy grounds, you’ve got a real legitimate fight here,” David Gregory insisted on “Meet the Press” as he regurgitated the former vice president’s argument (“You can’t compromise on these matters”) and questioned whether the president could “really bring” his brand of pragmatism “to the issue of the war on terror.”


That's because this is all a big game to people like David Gregory, just as it's all a big game to people like Arlen Specter or Ben Nelson or Dianne Feinstein. This is nothing but a spectator sport to them, and they all think they're John Madden. Most of your teevee journamalists are self-absorbed princesses (even the male ones) who want a career with perks and accolades, big money and lots of attention (but only the good kind). They're not quite pretty enough to be in movies, but they're not quite homely enough to fall into politics. So broadcast journalism is an ideal niche for this sort of low-brow, starfucking aesthetic.

But again, the attention they desire is only of the good kind, the kind that keeps the invites to all the beltway 'dos coming. They're not going to go out on a limb for anything. Forget about openly challenging the demi-lich Cheney when he slithers on to the set to lie and calumniate; these people don't even have the nerve to ask themselves before they call Cheney, "Why should I have this person on my show? What informational purpose would it serve to have an agitprop performance artist here?"

Since their goal is only to mine another news cycle's worth of talking points, regardless of usefulness or even accuracy, those questions answer themselves. It's strictly a no-risk endeavor. None of these people would dare risk the harrumphing of their colleagues by asking a guest an untoward question. After all, they all go to the same parties. It would be bad form.

It's a toxic symbiosis, perpetuated by people who don't have the balls to even be perceived as rocking the boat, or actually changing anything. These are issues that can be fixed -- Cheney is a liar, and his arguments have been refuted time and again, by people with more sack but less face time than a preening mule like Gregory. It would be no risk for Gregory to step up and say so on Press the Meat; the biggest risk might be that John McCain might show his displeasure by waiting three months before coming on again, or the Today show might get some angry letters in crayon.

Another example: the economic collapse, really nothing more than straight-up theft, can and should be broken down so that the victims can understand the crime. But since, for example, NBC's financial network seems to be mostly a collection of Wall Street talking points, and Obama has lined his staff with Goldman Sachs flunkies, they're not gonna say shit about any of that. There was a hot week or two of pseudopopulist rhetoric about "retention bonuses" -- and then they walked off with the bonuses. Whoo-ee, that was close. Almost had a revolution there.

I dunno. This is exactly why I voted for Nader in '96 and '00, and it's why a hell of a lot of people don't even bother to vote at all. The Democrats talk big and do fuck-all, even when it's handed to them in a nice gift-wrapped box. The Republicans are liars and thieves, and cater to the basest, most obnoxious core of the American electorate. Two sides of the same debased currency. And the corporate media enables the entire proceedings because they think it's fuckin' Wimbledon or something.

I think we'd all be pleasantly surprised if people in positions of high responsibility simply performed their duties and did the things they said they would do. You could fix a lot with just basic professional integrity. Clearly this is expecting too much out of everyone.

The Magnificent Bickersons

Okay, just to prove we're not above a little celebritardery ourselves here, and to throw some smackdown in a well deserved direction, here's a little shout-out to the Gosselins, who are apparently 'murka's favorite couple since the Lockhorns. I'm aware of these awful people via The Soup, where the exposure is mercifully brief, but tells the viewer quite enough about the dynamic.

(I am only half-joking when I say that The Soup may really be the closest thing we have to an anthropological documentary on working-class mores in end-stage capitalism. There are some freaky-ass motherfuckers out there, and they're not even doing porn. Jerry Springer only scratched the bumpy rash on the surface.)

So, you know, I'm personally not in favor of cheating on one's spouse, but in Jon's case, it's understandable. (And admirable in a way, since we all just figured Kate had cut off his balls and buried them in a coffee can in the backyard.) Domestic violence is bad, but if Jon finally loses it and smacks that Dennis-the-Menace haircut of hers sideways, it wouldn't be entirely unforeseeable.

At the same time, hopefully Jon realizes that if that's his game, he'd best get all the groupie trim he can right now, because ten years down the road, when he's just some schlub with a psycho ex and child-support garnishments and a bunch of kids who hate both their parents for turning their lives into a hillbilly circus, that well will be long dry and he'll need some memories to spank his monkey to. He'll be jostling with former Real World contestants in line at the food bank.

This is a genre of "reality" teevee that entirely escapes me, really. Your Survivor or Amazing Race type thing, played-out as they are, at least there's the pretense of competition, sort of a game-show-for-morons aesthetic. But these ones with uncomfortably dysfunctional families -- hell, I thought that's what Thanksgiving was for. It seems like a very strange, unfortunate thing to actually sit down and watch all the way through. Someone should do a reality show about the people who watch these reality shows; it might be just meta enough to blow your mind.

News You Can Lose

Really great that every "serious" news agency out there thinks its role is to serve as a conduit for a contestant on some interchangeable limey Gong Show retread. Jesus. Maybe she'll move to Iowa and marry Adam Lambert or something, and we can all tweet each other about it.

Serious question for serious journamalists: Why should we know or care who Susan Boyle is? Why should people who've never even watched the show she's on know far too much about her personal life? It's sick. I mean, she looks like Shrek and sings show tunes; we get it. We got it a month or so ago. I'm not above the celebritard reportage, but there's a time and a place for it, and "all the time" and "everywhere" are not that time and place. This is what Us and People exist for.

The intartubez are only half the dinosaur media's problem; the other half is that flagship print entities are doing the work of glossy tabloid magazines.

Heartland Values

Headline in the Wichita edition of Variety: Hix Nix Dox Stix.

George Tiller, a Wichita doctor who was one of the few doctors in the nation to perform late-term abortions, was shot to death on Sunday as he attended church, city officials in Wichita said.

....

Wichita police said that the shots were fired from a handgun in the church lobby during the morning service. The authorities gave few details, but said they were searching for a powder blue Taurus made in the 1990s that had been seen leaving shortly after the shooting. They said witnesses had described seeing a white man departing.


Awesome. Ordinarily you'd just assume it was one of Fred Phelps' merry band of inbred toads, but that bunch barely has the brains among them to work a placard at a soldier's funeral, much less a church assassination and a gitaway car. This crime is just sad and awful, as are its perpetrators and supporters, as is our inability to have a more constructive conversation about this issue.

It's revolting to think that, at a practical level, anti-abortion protesters have been at least as effective in their guerrilla tactics as they have been in their tedious attempts to reverse Roe v. Wade, which may be about #100 in terms of practical importance of issues that are affecting their lives, especially in the vaunted heartland.

The smart kids are leaving and never looking back; the dumb ones are staying to knock each other up, work at either Wal-Mart or the feedlot, and get hooked on crank. The handful of doctors who haven't yet been terrorized away from performing an entirely legal medical procedure shouldn't even be on their list of concerns. But when one major political party continues to indulge this violent, reactionary nonsense it shouldn't be a surprise. This is the harvest they've actively cultivated for decades.

The Purpose-Driven Statement

Been winding up my statement of purpose for grad school, and I guess it's an indication of how much of the process I was unaware of, that I had no clue about this part of it. Even websites devoted strictly to that goal, didn't know they existed.

Why does anyone fork over another twenty grand and two years of their lives? I mean, duh. To learn more, to add more value to their skill sets, to bring that to the table where they work and make more money, blah blah blah. I felt like being a smartass and calling it a "Statement of Porpoise": I am not a dolphin. Oh, the grad-school comedy that can be mined there.

Am I telling them anything they don't know? Of course not; it's about the process itself, and how you can bring your personal experiential style into it. But it's also a huge industry unto itself -- the applications process; the test-taking companies; the $120 textbooks; etc. As with health care, education seems to be something that the Euros got right, and Americans tend to get soaked for.

But all in good cause, I suppose, as this should give me the leg up to be upwardly mobile at a job that I am enjoying immensely and seem to be pretty good at, thus providing more opportunities. This state may be going to hell in a handbasket, but it's got some distance to fall before it approaches about forty-four other states that immediately come to mind. There may be a better, more productive, more equitable, and ultimately more fruitful way for American citizens to get a post-secondary education -- and then turn around and utilize that for their own and the common weal -- without going into hock for the following decade. I'm just sayin'.

But for now, I'm really chomping at the bit to get this party started come August. The statement is polished, the app is done, next week is the GRE and onward to the financial aid funhouse. Good times. It's going to be an interesting summer.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Buyer's Remorse

The Rigorous Intuition blog may be done, but the discussion fora live on and a rather interesting thread has formed therein, claiming that Obama is as bad or worse than the Cheney regime. The premise seems to be that at least you knew what you were getting with the latter, that they were as gleeful and unrepentant as you could ask for out of a group of sociopaths. The devil you know and all.

There's a nugget of truth to all that, insofar as Obama has been explicitly empowered and encouraged by his constituency in specific and the electorate in general, and has yet to do any of the things he said he would do. This makes him a politician after all, and perhaps the grandiose claims of Hope and/or Change were a tad overstated, as those things tend to be.

Worse yet, Obama is additionally encumbered by the debilitating condition of being a member of the Democratic Party, a collection of some of the most spineless, undisciplined people to clutter the halls of government since Caligula's day. Notice how quickly the crowing over a filibuster-proof 60-seat majority subsided; a 75-seat majority of these assholes would find a way to fuck up a shit sandwich. Obama plans to close Gitmo; they simply refuse to fund it. All this stem-cell research, still no cure for fuckface-itis.

Indeed, as has been pointed out, the 60-seat majority is as likely as not to turn out to be an albatross for them, for now they have no excuses when Ben Nelson or Blanche Lincoln or whatever cracker DINO strays off the rez to placate this or that group of inbred morons and/or pillars of the "business community". This is a game for them, and while it may or may not be for Obama himself, in addition to making the usual "reach across the aisle" feints, he has to deal with the competing parochial interests among the senators of his own party, each of whom would step on their own grandmother en route to a soapbox.

All that said, as much as I agree with the pox-on-both-houses crowd, I still feel that where Obama may end up being distinguished as Clintonesque in the end, an enormously gifted politician who promised great things and squandered them on small people, the alternative would have been truly catastrophic, and the past was simply unacceptable. That's going to be the refrain of the Dem dead-enders for the duration, at least through 2012, however that turns out. And that's not a good place to be, especially considering the real opportunities Obama has (had) for breaking free of the usual constraints. Instead he has already surrounded himself with Goldman Sachs flunkies, and contrary to the "socialism" goons, the government doesn't run the banks, it's the other way around. Telling ourselves that at least a card-carrying oaf like Sarah Palin isn't a heartbeat away from the White House is cold comfort, true as it is. It's already getting old.

Some perspective, though: At a recent used book sale at the local parish hall, I picked up a copy of Jonathan Phillips' The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople, for a freakin' quarter. Pristine shape, too; in fact, I seriously doubt that the book has ever been opened for longer than a few minutes.

And that's a pity, because it's a fascinating read, and there are plenty of parallels, as you might imagine, between Innocent III's ill-fated excursion into the Levant and Fredo II's attempt eight hundred years later. Not the least of which is the recent "revelation" that Rumsfeld and one of his Jesus-freak generals had made a practice of putting a cover sheet on Pentagon briefings that consisted of a stock photo captioned with some hortatory bible verse. Is that analogous to, say, one of Innocent's laudatory bulls insisting on the liberation of the Holy Land, even as the Venetian doge subverted the crusade for his own means, or to some jihadist's uttering of militant suras, either in a weekly propaganda tape or during the act of separating an infidel's head from his body?

In the midst of all the Cheney chatter (and really, media assholes, if none of you gutless cocksuckers are going to challenge him on his manifest lies and failures, then you're just being his butt-boys), it behooves us to examine this phenomenon more closely. People like Rumsfeld and Cheney invoke religious principles only under duress, and only with the most self-serving of motives. So the only sensible reason Rumsfeld would initiate this weird, atavistic internal agitprop device is that either Fredo demanded it, or Rumsfeld and Cheney thought it was necessary to keep Fredo's head and heart (such as they are) involved in their machinations. As coup d'états go, it's pretty mild, but the hubris and naïveté, knowing that public knowledge would simply confirm every jihad propagandist's assumptions, oddly maintain the power to startle, just when we thought nothing more about these vile people could surprise us.

People sniped here and there about Bush the twelve-stepper, but more and more it appears that that only scratched the surface, and maybe Oliver Stone got it right, that Fredo swapped out his alcoholism and his daddy issues for just another demon. This demon wears the trappings of faith, but demands to be constantly fed and put before even the man's own damned common sense and ability to experience the world for what it is, rather than what his damaged psyche thinks it should be from misreading a much-abused collection of Neolithic legends. It's neither mean nor untrue to postulate that Bush himself and the world at large would have been better off had he just kept drinking, rather than allowing those impulse-control issues to be transmogrified by his brain into the delusion that he was divinely anointed to lawn-dart the country into arguably its weakest condition, internally and externally, since Reconstruction.

Phillips' book is a reminder of whence the "my god can beat up your god" idiots crawled out long ago, that many of them believe their own rhetoric only for the most cynical of reasons. But they're serious about it all the same, and when push comes to shove, they're happy to massacre people of the same faith if they don't get with the program, and all of these ceremonies and rituals are really just about the maintenance of pure raw power and its applications.

Obama has a ways to go to get to that point; I cannot see him needing his advisers to slap anodyne bible verses on policy documents to make the medicine go down for him. He has to stop taking orders from Wall Street grifters, and he has to start pimp-slapping some of his straying party animalsvegetables. And yeah, he suffers from the usual Democrat disorder of needing to prove that he can bomb brown people from afar just as bloodlessly as his elephantine partners in rhyme. But he also needs the citizens who find that shit unacceptable to step up and fucking well say so, because otherwise, there's no real reason for him not to continue on in this direction. And the real danger is that when the pendulum swings back, it could be toward someone who makes Palin look rational and intelligent.

Family Matters

I wonder why Helpy Halperin and the rest of his idiot claque never bother to ask Mary Cheney to shill for her father's brilliant plans to wreck the world. Or hell, maybe someone who isn't related to the Dickster could be consulted for expert analysis. Why not put the Lizard (or Sisters-lovin' mama Lynne) up against Michelle Obama then? Catfight!

It's as if it never occurred to any of these brain surgeons that Darth is just using them to drum up a fat advance fee for his tell-nothing memoir, sure to be a dismal apologia for a career of foul deeds from one of our more notorious wasters of life and limb. Hope it comes in two-ply. I've said it before and I'll say it again -- the continued existence of Richard Bruce Cheney (and the rest of that lot) is proof enough that karma is just wishful thinking.

This is yet another of those little things I alluded to recently, one of those Hume's Paradox deals where the objects of misery are actually the enablers of their tormentor. Just as pro-life rallies don't exist without the help of women, just as teabagger putsches don't roll without a generous helping of fools who suck off the public tit every chance they get (whether they realize it or not), Dick Cheney cannot continue to darken our airwaves with his self-serving calumniations, except with the smiling assistance of so-called journamalists.

May they all lose their jobs, every damned one of them. They're not just part of the problem, they're most of it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

They Come to Snuff the Rooster

Count me in as a fan of the rooster sauce for several years now. This stuff is indeed the bomb for pho, but as the article points out, it goes well with many different foods, and mixes in with a variety of sauces. The kicker (at least to my palate) is the Asian birdseye chili, tiny but hot.

When I grill ribeyes (it's about that season again) we'll make steak fries to go with, and I whip up some "okie sauce" for the fries -- ketchup, Heinz chili sauce, and lots of sriracha. If you haven't tried it, and you like some heat, definitely check it out.

California Reamin'

I have to hand it to my fellow Californicators -- when they get in the mood to debunk other states' perceptions of a bunch of high-falutin', over-edumacated, self-interested smugonauts, they go all in. The fact, as demonstrated yet again yesterday, is that presumptions of political sophistication are wildly overstated; this state still and always has a deep streak of stone yahooism, and is every bit as likely to vote against its own rational self-interest as the usual inbred clan of Appalachian cooters.

Don't get me wrong -- there were no good options in this, the latest iteration of what has long been an over-reliance on a much-abused referendum process. And it came to this because the state legislators are notoriously reluctant to commit to anything that might actually accomplish something, or worse yet, force them to stand for a single coherent principle. They're all for cutting back as long as it's in someone else's district, or somebody else's friend's sinecure. They're even more notorious for simply not voting on anything that they're afraid might be held against them in a future campaign, so maybe that would be a good place to start -- you vote half the time, you get half a fuckin' paycheck.

At any rate, thanks to the hamster-wheel anti-tax gomers, we now get six weeks of nasty cuts, a bunch of prisoners released early as we cut police, and a bunch of fire department cuts as we head into wildfire season in a third year of drought. Then the budget circus begins anew come July 1. Nicely done, folks.

When Arnold Schwarzenegger actually comes out of this mess looking like the only adult, seriously the voice of reason in all this, you know you've got a big problem coming.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Poll Smokers

Let's consider yet another instance of heat without light, a perennial political football being tossed in the middle yet again, for no particular reason.

A Gallup Poll released Friday found that 51 percent of Americans now call themselves pro-life rather than pro-choice on the issue of abortion, the first time a majority gave that answer in the 15 years that Gallup has asked the question.


Yes, and? Who gives a shit, really? Is there some urgency behind the timing of this poll that Gallup graciously "released" from its confinement? It might make more sense to do the poll during the final week of January, that magical time when vanloads of true believers convene in Warshinton to commemorate the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and waste everyone's time once again.

I could deconstruct that introductory sentence all day, from the lack of compelling importance this issue should have, considering all the more serious challenges the country and the world face right now, to the notion that "pro-life" and "pro-choice" should be mutually exclusive, to the fact that in the context of this stupid-ass poll, neither position is terribly well-defined.

I assume most sensible, reasonable people abhor abortion, yet realize that forcing women to have children they do not want is not the solution to the issue. Finding ways to reduce unwanted pregnancies in the first place, starting with economic empowerment of women, might be a better tack to take. Starting with the premise that it is possible to create conditions where the number of abortions can be substantially reduced is far more constructive, but also more difficult than standing around with signs and slogans.

The "pro-life" side are very proud of themselves for their virtue, yet seem unable to answer the simplest questions when it comes to the nuts and bolts of criminalizing abortion. Whom do they want to throw in jail for this -- the doctor or the woman? Perhaps both? And for how long -- after all, if abortion is tantamount to murder, are we then going to prosecute these doctors and/or women for murder, manslaughter, child abuse, what? Shit or git, folks, because once we get past questions of morality, this is what they're insisting on. And if their idea of justice is throwing an abused wife in prison for a few years or a few decades because she didn't want to bring another victim into the world, then they're as insane as the apocryphal women whom they seem to think just run out and get abortions for the fun of it.

But these ridiculous periodic polls enable and perpetuate the meaningless of the conversation. An actual conversation on the issue would be welcome; instead you have one side screaming at the other, almost ritualistically, as if the mere act of hollering were meant to replace answering any of the more difficult questions surrounding the very real changes in public policy they wish to effect. They don't seem to get that part of the debate; they apparently think that just showing up to this or that rally and venting their disapproval is sufficient.

The interesting trap in the abortion debate is that the pro-life stance is commonly perceived among the "pro-choice" side as the systematic oppression of womyn by the patriarchy. Certainly the pro-life/pro-choice spread is higher among men, but the fact is that it's just about an even split among women (actually 49-44 pro-life), which means that we couldn't do it without you ladies.

There is a clear analog to this syndrome in economic debates; frequently the most strident, vocal free-market/anti-tax/anti-government protesters are the people who benefit the most from gov't intervention. This is true even at the operational state level, as we saw with La Palin last campaign season, a person who presides over the biggest welfare state in the country, a state whose inhabitants have so thoroughly deluded themselves with visions of rugged individualism and self-sufficiency there's just no talking them out of their tree.

In the political world, victims and beneficiaries can make for the most surprising converts, vigorously lobbying and voting against themselves, with the helpful folks at Gallup stoking their irrational passions.

Pity Party

Just when you thought Jim Cramer would have a pretty tough time being more of a whiny, self-serving douchebag than he's been, he finds a way to make it happen:

No one wants to suffer a beat-down. No one wants to be humiliated or embarrassed. I was shocked at [host Jon Stewart's] behavior. I wish he knew about my background, and I wish he knew about a lot of things that I had done, because I think he would've thanked me instead of attacked me...I think the attack on CNBC and the attacks on me were gravely misplaced. It was rather remarkable in that it was so clear that his goal was to just destroy me. One day he'll answer for it.


I think Rick Santelli actually had the most egregious outbursts at the time, pound for pound, but what distinguished Cramer specifically is that he carries Wall Street's water, day after soul-sucking day, and as he constantly reminds everyone, as a three-decade professional in the bidness, he knows better. He knows goddamn well that the bailout and the shenanigans leading up to it constitute the biggest financial crime of this young century, that the unborn grandchildren of the working class will be paying for the thievery and machinations of a greedy, overfed finance sector, that this is all a big confidence game, that Wall Street fucking despises the American working class, and it shows with their every action and deed.

If only Cramer's histrionics were justified, because he deserves to be destroyed by interviewers. But the fact is, Stewart is one host on a basic-cable news satire show, who cold-cocked him on one magical night. And the second Li'l Jimmy got his feathers ruffled, he and Erin Burnett spent the next week or so making the circuit on every single media entity owned by the Sheinhardt Wig Company. Some "beat-down", given those resources with which to rebut, falsely at that, the idea that Stewart using Cramer's own words against him was somehow foul play.

But this is what the "media" exist for these days, cross-promotion well before disseminating useful -- or even factual -- information. Li'l Jimmy's pissed because someone finally called him on his bull dances and his cartoon noises and his cynical nonsense, and it might be nice if the Newsweek interviewer that gave Li'l Jimmy yet another soapbox to whine from turned around and got Stewart's side of the story. I have a feeling his response would end with "and the horse he rode in on."

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Culpability

Jesus H. Christ. Is there really someone over the age of, say, ten who believes Pelosi on this shit? Probably the same sort of numbskull who seriously thinks that the Cheney administration invented torture, or that it has since been completely and utterly discontinued in every way, shape, and form by ourselves and our proxies. As Gob Bluth might say, "Come on!"

The furor was heightened on Friday when the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Leon E. Panetta, pushed back against an assertion by Ms. Pelosi, a Democrat who is the House speaker, that she had been misled by agency representatives seven years ago about harsh treatment of terrorism suspects, a claim that struck a raw nerve at the spy headquarters.

Mr. Panetta, a former Democratic congressman from California and a longtime associate of Ms. Pelosi, issued a statement that said the agency’s “contemporaneous records from September 2002 indicate that C.I.A. officers briefed truthfully,” a rebuttal of Ms. Pelosi’s claim on Thursday that intelligence officials had lied to her.

The deepening dispute over what Ms. Pelosi was told in September 2002 has challenged her credibility and raised new questions about whether she passed up an early opportunity to expose the Bush administration’s harsh treatment of detainees.


Let's recap where Democrats were in 2002, shall we? Operationally, it was essentially an extension of where they were in 2000 -- they fielded a dreadful, awkward candidate who got rope-a-doped by a complete dipshit, they failed to fight sufficiently for what was theirs, preferring to occasionally emit some puling noises from the peanut gallery as Cheney and Bush literally rewrote the country's energy and financial securitization policies.

Then 9/11 occurred, and the Democrats immediately reverted to their natural stance -- a defensive crouch, terrified that any reluctance to go along with the Cheney administration's plans would be perceived as treasonous. The CIA could have told Pelosi straight up that at that moment they had Abu Zubaydah's balls wired to a car battery and half his fingernails removed with pliers, and she would have been both okely and dokely with all that. Anyone really doubting that needs to immediately dismount the unicorn they're riding around Rainbowland, and get in touch with the real world.

Bob Graham, a former Democratic senator from Florida, who as the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee underwent a briefing similar to Ms. Pelosi’s about three weeks after hers, sides with the speaker. He said he recalled a “bland” session.

“I do not have any recollection that day of there being a discussion of something that would have been as neon as waterboarding or other torture techniques,” Mr. Graham said.

He said his confidence in the C.I.A.’s account of the briefings had also been shaken by what he said was an incorrect assertion by the agency that he had been briefed on four dates. Mr. Graham, who famously keeps a detailed record of his daily activities, checked and determined that the agency was wrong about three dates and that he had attended only one session before leaving the Intelligence Committee.

“This is just a small chapter of a long, long book of C.I.A. inaccuracies, particularly in the early part of this decade,” he said.

But Mr. Graham was not present for the briefing with Ms. Pelosi. The only other lawmaker present, Porter J. Goss, then a Republican congressman from Florida who was the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and later became the C.I.A. director, has contradicted her account. He said he and Ms. Pelosi were told that the agency intended to use the harsh methods.


Well, if you can't trust the two men who had breakfast, as the towers were coming down, with one of the motherless fucks who took down the World Trade Center, who can you trust? It is pointless to get into a he said/she said pissing contest between Pelosi and Goss and Panetta or whoever. The fact of the matter is that while we have typically relied on our authoritarian proxies to carry out the real wet work, America's (and Americans', for that matter) discomfort with torture has always been more a matter of circumspection than morality. Obama tacitly admitted as much last week, understanding intuitively that beyond the high-minded rhetoric, the average 'murkin is more worried about photographs than actionable offenses.

You would think that in a country that never misses an opportunity to tout its exalted status with Jebus, the Golden Rule might have a higher priority, that the most pragmatic and patriotic argument against (and barometer for detecting) torture is that we would not tolerate these actions being committed upon an American (though of course, in Pinochet's Chile for example, we did), that we actually executed enemy soldiers in World War 2 for using waterboarding as an interrogation tactic. But the fact of the matter is that we could be using pears on people, and not only would there be animals like Cheney announcing that it was absolutely necessary to do so, but craven opportunists like Pelosi would sit there and parse their own words and actions, when they know full well that they knew what they were doing, and chose to remain politically viable.

This would be one thing if it were in the service of an actual formative change, or even the mildest of retributive action against the actual perpetrators, but neither of those are any more forthcoming than Pelosi suddenly forgetting to look out for number one, even as she steps into number two.

Fourth Estate Tax

No doubt most conscious, rational people share Jon Carroll's estimable concerns regarding the current plight of American corporate media, even given the inherent parochial interests. And it's true, newspapers do indeed have the power and the space to address interesting stories and angles that other media simply do not have the resources or attention span to hit.

I learned about the cargo ships off Singapore from the New York Times, which published a poignant photograph of all those behemoths, fog-shrouded, hanging around in the Strait of Malacca.

....

The ships are hanging about because there is no cargo for them to carry, because the world economy has basically stopped in some places, notably Singapore. These are really big ships - to quote Keith Bradsher, who wrote the Times story: "Some (weigh) up to 300,000 tons, with many weighing more than the entire 130-ship Spanish Armada" - and they are doing absolutely nothing, and will be doing absolutely nothing for the foreseeable future.

And I was thinking about the Web sites I like best, the Huffington Post and Talking Points Memo and Salon (particularly Glenn Greenwald), and realizing that none of them, as good as they are, would cover the cargo ships idling off Singapore. It's not a sexy story, and there are no bloggers dying to make a name for themselves in the international shipping area, and yet to understand the world, it is important to understand how deep the recession is in Asia, particularly in the famously go-get-'em all-capitalism-all-the-time Singapore peninsula.

That's what newspapers do. They look at stuff that other people don't look at, because someone who is pretty darned smart understands that this is important. Also, someone found a very cool photograph of the foggy ships. And also, someone else had the wit to write that the tonnage of just one cargo ship exceeded that of the entire Spanish Armada. I mean, talk about a cool fact.



That's a very cool fact, and a very cool approach to take on what might otherwise be perceived or presumed to be a "dry" topic. But it's an all-too-brief respite of perspective in a barrage of pure nonsense. Who decides what is "dry" or "sexy" or not, and why, and for whom? Carroll later makes the point that as wonderful as the Web can be in some areas, it is a "reader-driven medium". Fair enough -- then who or what keeps, say, people such as Carrie Prejean or Donald Trump in the media eye? Not to belabor that dreadful non-story, but at this moment, Sarah Palin's endorsement of whatever the fuck Prejean keeps babbling about has been in the Chronicle's top seven stories on the sidebar all week, and is currently #3.

Is that a "reader-driven" decision or an editor-driven one? Obviously, in the electronic media, it's not even a question, it's a mission statement, an official (if not yet officially-stated) quest to herd the cattle from one contrived hot-button issue to the next, with nary a breath in between. And the Web facilitates this instant-asshole nonsense in a way that print never can, yet print journamalists still feel compelled, perhaps even pressured, to me-too their way through these stories, providing helpful recaps of what everyone already gleaned about said contrived hot-button issue, yet still absent appropriate objective analysis. They help to punt the issue on, again and again, with no real resolution. People just get tired enough of reading about it to stop scribbling their tedious jeremiads to the hapless editor. Apparently that's enough of a signal that they don't have to talk about it anymore, which seems like a cumbersome way of determining story direction. Unless, of course, your goal is more to provide narrative than analysis, which seems to be the case, not as much in print as in other media, but still often enough.

So it's a bit of a devil's bargain the print media have struck in forming their intartubez avatars, where ignorant, abusive commenters are enabled -- even tacitly encouraged at times -- to inflict their shoddy reasoning skills on other readers. This cannot help but have an ancillary effect of systematically conditioning otherwise reasonable people to assume the worst -- about the intent and content of a given story, the writer, and ultimately the news organization promoting the sideshow du jour.

Again, using the example of the Prejean "story" which is not and never was a newsworthy story, this is typically the stage of the cycle where "media observers", the humps who make the circuit for these stupid things, assess the "winners" and "losers". This serves as the short-attention-span version of a denouement, while also implying an actual resolution.

You know who the "winner" is of the Prejean story? Donald Trump. Seriously, when was the last time anyone gave a hot monkey fuck about the Miss USA pageant? It's just like the "teabaggers" crap last month, an inordinate amount of time and attention granted to a small but vocal group of morons, most of whom have no familiarity with even their own talking points. All but the personally vested basement masturbators who flocked to Palin will forget about Prejean by summer, but you can bet your ass that come next year, major corporate media entities will be nesting in that fucking thing on Trump's forehead to stir up pre-pageant publicity.

Since NBC has a vested interest in helping Trump out, they've been the worst about it, schlepping Trump and Prejean onto the Today show (which really is just an interminable vestige of what the show originally was) the other day for Matt Lauer to "interview" them. Whatever they're paying Lauer, it's not enough; I don't care how many shower heads the imported glass-block stall has in the Manhattan townhouse or whatever, but it can't be enough to wash away that stink. But like a good whore, he doesn't really seem to mind. Who says J. Fred Muggs is gone?

But again, this is perfect cross-promotion for NBC, which apparently aired a three-hour finale of Trump's stupid-ass "ya fiahed" show last weekend. Three hours of Trump and Joan Rivers screaming at each other, I would assume. And instead of doing the right thing and flying a plane into the building during filming, they air the fucking thing like they're proud of that shit, and then utilize their "news" division as cross-promotion over some fake controversy created and nurtured by a corporate media -- including the hallowed print sector -- that is on its heels not only because it can't figure out a decent revenue model, but because it has long lost sight of its original mission. This is done over and over again, month after month, year after year, and everyone winks and nods and pretends to be professional people doing honest work.

Maybe when the media players collectively decide that they'd rather be professionals instead of vaudeville shills, and quit catering to retards, they might regain their professional integrity, and we can get more thoughtful stories like the one Carroll describes, and fewer sideshows.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Girth of a Nation

Aw gee, what a surprise:

Cheney, appearing on CBS's Face the Nation, said he was taking the side of Rush Limbaugh over Powell in the ongoing dispute in the GOP between the conservative talk show host and moderate retired general.

"Well if I had to choose in terms of being a Republican, I’d go with Rush Limbaugh," Cheney told moderator Bob Schieffer. "My take on it was Colin had already left the party -- I didn't know he was still a Republican."

A somewhat taken-aback Schieffer asked: "You think he's not a Republican?"

Cheney responded by pointing out that Powell had endorsed President Barack Obama last fall.

"I assume that that’s some indication of his loyalty and his interest," Cheney said.


Awesome. Cheney is certainly doing his part to hang Limbaugh's pendulous moobs and jowls around the neck of what's left of the Republitard party. You want 'em, ladies, choke on 'em. Maybe Powell, like just about everybody with a triple-digit IQ, has no clue what the Republicans stand for anymore -- lying, torturing, stealing, fingerpointing, me-tooing and rubber-gluing their way through policy arguments. He carried their water when they got the war they wanted, but maybe it was simply a bridge too far for him to endorse a woman who makes Fredo look professorial.

If this is what the Republicans want to be, the party of lying radio weasels and meddling ex-veeps, the party of fake plumbers and dipshit beauty-pageant contestants pretending to know something about anything, then they're getting their wish. Funny how when people had questions for Cheney back when he was in office, he was nowhere to be found; now that he has the chance to calumniate and rhetorically undermine the current administration -- an administration that's only been on the job for a dozen or so weeks at that -- you can't get rid of him. He's welcome to try to preserve his place in history, but it is and always will be a stain that will never quite be removed.

As always, great job, objective American corporate media entity! Why not visit San Quentin and ask Richard Ramirez what he thinks while you're at it? I mean, lesser body count, sure, but equally honest and valid opinions.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Beauty and the Beasts

As a lifelong Californian, I can't help but be embarrassed by inflatable pageant dingbat Carrie Prejean. Not because of her incoherent atavism specifically, though that doesn't help.

But this was a question asked by a gay blogger whose stock in trade is drawing fake dribbles of jism on celebrities' faces, at an event owned and operated by short-fingered vulgarian Donald Trump. What kind of narcissistic moron thinks it's a platform to burble some fag-bashing manifesto? And what sort of preening retards would bother to make such a person at such an event their mascot?

Desperate, genuinely stupid people, that's who. I don't think this guy is being serious, but the fact that some people probably would be dead serious about it is bad enough:

Sarah Palin is supporting Carrie Prejean according to Carrie's father, 58-year-old William Prejean. He confirmed that in a show of support Palin called Prejean. Although Mr. Prejean would not reveal the contents of the conversation with his daughter, Carrie Prejean has taken the same position as Ms. Palin against same-sex marriage (or as Ms. Prejean labeled it "other sex marriage").

The two outspoken women have a great deal in common. Both are beauty pageant queens, conservatives and staunch Christians who are not afraid to testify to their beliefs in public. Is this the next home run team for the Republicans? Are we ready for two women in the White House (not as a couple because they oppose that type of relationship)?

The possibilities are endless, and the late-night talk show hosts would love it. In this time of great change, anything is possible, and these two forthright women would be much more interested [sic] to watch than McCain, Obama or even George W.


Really? Why? Neither one of them is able to think or speak competently, even more so than Fredo, which is pretty bad news when you think about it. But it would generate a circus, because their supporters are braying retards, and the media are stupid enough to plug the circus. Everyone should have forgotten who this broad was two weeks ago, and instead she's been allowed to portray herself as a martyr, haughtily sacrificed on the manchowder-encrusted altar of fuckin' Perez Hilton. Bitch, please.

I mean, I recall the days when Republicans and conservatards used to at least pretend that they were the party of leaving people the fuck alone, but this year's model (pun intended) has forgotten even that simple dance.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Let Us Prey

Well, this is certainly a day heathens such as myself have been praying for -- hordes of butt-hurt god-botherers expecting official validation.

Prominent evangelicals, including National Day of Prayer Task Force Chairwoman Shirley Dobson and her husband, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, expressed disappointment in Obama's decision.

"At this time in our country's history, we would hope our president would recognize more fully the importance of prayer," Shirley Dobson said in a statement.


Because it's been so effective up until now.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Bachmann Goofball Overdrive

I admit to being perplexed back in November that estimable Minnesotans chose to send Teh Hottness that is Michele Bachmann, aka Mary Tyler Moron, back to Warshington. But more and more, it's beginning to make sense. They got her out of their local meetings and she's pure comedy gold. It's a win-win (though it still doesn't explain Norm Coleman).

Don't ever stop speed-skimming those history books and acting like you learned something, sweet cheeks. I'm waiting for the Germans to ruffle her feathers so's she can go off on them for Pearl Harbor. Fortunately I likes 'em good and stupid; I'm pretty sure a prowling cougar like Bachmann could be lured into the old darkened-porthole-window blogger van with a shiny nickel and a pixellated photo of Rush Limbaugh's stretch marks.

I'm going to make a mid-year resolution to work "Hoot-Smalley" into everyday conversations at least as much as I use "cup my balls, say my name".

Lunch Room Ethics

I think fewer people give a shit about Obama doing the Notre Dame commencement speech than you might be led to believe if you happened to pay attention to "polls" and such.

Many people are angry at what they see as one of the nation's most prominent Catholic institutions honoring Obama, who supports abortion rights and embryonic stem cell research. But a poll just released by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life shows 50 percent of Catholics saying they approve of the Notre Dame award to Obama, with 22 percent saying they disapprove. Twenty-two percent said they didn't know. That's pretty similar to the views of Americans overall on the issue -- 48 percent of the general public said they approved, 25 percent disapproved and 27 percent said they didn't know.



Oh god. "Many" (how many?) people are "angry" (how angry?) at "what they see as" blah blah blah. Three milquetoast qualifiers in less than ten words. An undefined quantity seem to share an emotion, to some degree or other, regarding an interpretation. Well, I'm sure I should probably give close to half of a fuck, but I guess I don't really understand why. Especially when this portentous opener is undone in the same paragraph by the usual heterodox misgivings of cafeteria Catholics, the white uptight American types who, unlike their swarthier Euro counterparts, believe this mumbo-jumbo.

Actually, the issue is less with the $8.2 million the disgruntled donors claim to have withheld in protest, than what exactly these donors think they got with Bush beyond lip service. He made some noise about sharing their concerns, but when push came to shove, nothing changed. It's not like any legislation or a Constitutional amendment got passed or even seriously proposed. He made just enough noise to get them excited was all. Hell, now they know how Democratic constituencies feel, aside from the small "stuff that actually affects your life" part.

In the end, cafeteria Catholics -- even when they're Democrats -- are an awful lot like cafeteria Republicans, in that they profess to align with a certain doxology that has been rigorously defined, yet scribble and quibble all along the margins with things that don't quite suit their sensibilities. And neither group ever seems to get around to defining and explaining the discrepancies between their club's professed rules and their individual sentiments, and shed some light on what is really the political equivalent of battered-wife syndrome.

Friday, May 01, 2009

The Audacity of Dope

Remember when Arlen Specter defected to the Democrats and that gave them a magickal filibuster-proof majority and now they were really gonna change some shit? Yeah, that was awesome.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) introduced legislation in the Senate Thursday which would allow homeowners in bankruptcy to renegotiate -- or cramdown -- mortgages with banks.

....

The measure is widely expected to fail, as crucial Democratic senators, whose votes are needed to overcome a filibuster, have publicly declared their opposition.

Democratic Sens. Ben Nelson (Neb.), Mary Landrieu (La.) and Jon Tester have indicated they plan to vote against the amendment.

....

The banking and real estate industry has funneled roughly $2,000,000 into Landrieu's campaign coffers over her 12-year career, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. Bayh has taken in about $3.5 million. The financial sector is Nelson's biggest backer; he's taken $1.4 million from banks and real estate interests and another $1.2 million from insurance firms. Tester has fielded roughly half a million in his two years in office.

That's about nine million dollars -- far, far less than one percent of the amount taxpayers have spent to bail out the financial industry.


Specter also voted against the bill, by the way. Gee, that didn't take long. Talk about your return on investment. Not sure how "Once bought, stays bought" shakes out in Latin, but it's as good a national motto as any.

The Democrats may want to be careful about getting what they wished for, because 60 votes leaves them with no fucking excuse for this kind of shit. Assholes like Nelson and Landrieu are DINOs anyway, and always have been. The supermajority just makes them slightly more transparent for the few folks who hadn't already noticed. This is a party with less discipline than your average cheerleader squad. Forget the magic number of sixty, these clowns couldn't even get a simple majority. What kind of weak-ass flaccid bullshit is that?

At the very least, maybe this will debunk some of the teabagger myths of a sinister Democrat conspiracy to socialize the country. The finance sector owns them, and they don't have the balls or the party discpline to buck that influence. These people could fuck up a shit sandwich; exactly how are they supposed to go about confiscating everyone's guns and socializing their assets?

Days of Swine and Bozos

As if there aren't enough bullshit non-stories floating around these days to make sensible folks wonder what the fuck is up with some people, along comes this swine flu nonsense. It's bad enough to frequently lambaste morons for turning their brains to soup with reality teevee, but even worse to actually wish they'd turn the news off and go back to watching Erik Estrada and Gary Coleman swap wives and/or sock drawers.

So the genuises in the media spent all last week stoking the panic and hysteria, and all this week pretending to talk the idjits out of their trees, that gee, maybe it's not the return of the 1918 Spanish flu after all. Well, no fucking shit, Columbo. It ain't The Stand either, much as you might like it to be.

The coolest news segments have been the ones with the field reporter going to a local feedlot, or better yet, the animal husbandry unit at the local college. Standing near or even in a pen full of pigs, mumbling stupid nothings about a flu whose most notable characteristic is that it's out of season, ending the segment with an ominous still shot of biosecurity warnings over the pen.

What they consistently fail to explain is that those warnings are there to protect the pigs, not the humans. See, flu kills in places that either have completely inadequate medical care, very high population densities, and/or subpar animal housing conditions. So with humans, it's in Third World shitholes where people breed like rabbits and sewage flows through the streets and they have open-air live-animal meat markets with no pretense of basic sanitation. In other words, Texas.

But since factory farming dictates that livestock be housed cheek-to-jowl and knee-deep in their own filth, their health is compromised very easily, even with all the antibiotics they're fed. So hog and chicken farms have to post biosecurity warnings and screen visitors -- except, apparently, when some knucklehead camera crew shows up to get a new angle on their ongoing scare-the-fuck-out-of-the-rubes series.

Don't get me wrong -- the danger from a quickly-transmitted virus is very real, and has catastrophic potential. But this isn't it; when the real deal occurs, you'll know it, and there won't be time to do these jive-ass hand-wringing news updates and school-closings. And if people really wanted a smart takeaway from this latest round of scaremongering, they'd consider their food and its sources, the interdependence of their commodities suppliers and the far-flung just-in-time system that trucks Smithfield hams 2,000 miles to the Piggly Wiggly and gets them NAFTA-berries from Chile in the middle of December.

But that's an awfully big if. People were getting buttfucked at the gas pump last summer, and resolutely vowed then and there to drive smaller and smarter -- until gas came down. They've already forgotten, and will continue to do so until the price heads back up, which is about the only reliable indicator (and maybe not even then) that the economy might actually improve. They're getting robbed blind by crooked financiers and their congressional cronies, but instead of taking a few Madoffs out feet first, what you get is a bunch of dead-enders teabagging each other in the park and shouting meaningless, ass-backwards slogans at each other. Why should this be any different?

Few plagues have ever been as contagious and as ultimately destructive as pure stupidity.