Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Lions Led By Donkeys

John Rogers of Kung Fu Monkey hits one so far out of the park for Memorial Day, it's still going. Pass it on to the stubborn shrubophile in your family (everyone has one).

What Rogers says is a pretty simple yet ironclad premise: we citizens have a covenant with our service people, and we have let them down, by letting the bums stay in office, by not calling lies exactly what they are, by not crying foul because the illusion of "electability" becomes more seductive than the basic notion of fighting for principle.

We all have a lot of work to do.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Third Time's The Charm

Faithful White House stenographer Elisabeth Bumiller ponders the value of continuing America's favorite underachieving political dynasty.

Those are the questions some Republicans are asking themselves as political talk bubbles up yet again about President Bush's brother Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida and his interest in the White House. The chief driver of the mini-buzz is the current occupant of the White House, who has said twice this month that his younger brother would make "a great president."

Uh-huh. I'm sure that when Himself was matriculating at Yale, he probably thought Steve McQueen would have made a great Gilligan, or Jerry Lewis would have been the ideal Superman. Right now an endorsement of aptitude from this halfwit is not exactly a feather in anyone's cap; if Bush were to publicly surmise that the sun would come out tomorrow, you just might want to prepare for a snowstorm.

No one, the president included, is suggesting that the younger Bush will run in 2008, and Governor Bush, whose second term is up in January, has adamantly ruled it out.

But Republican Party leaders continue to talk seriously about a continuation of the dynasty, a Bush III administration, with Jeb as a candidate in 2012 or 2016, when the memory of the current president's dismal poll ratings will be less of a factor. That, at least, is what happened the last time around: President George Bush's unpopularity at the end of his term in 1992 did not hurt his eldest son when he ran for president eight years later.

Actually, it did hurt him somewhat, but that was offset by the press' childish insistence on braying endlessly about "Clinton fatigue" and Gore playing tonsil hockey with the little woman at the Democratic Convention. Serious policy discussions for them were about whether or not Gore was "alpha" enough for them (though they themselves are all "lambda" at best), and whether or not Gore actually had a hand in inventing the internets that George W. Bush apparently has yet to figure out how to even use.

But worse yet is what Steno Liz intimates, that Bush's "dismal poll ratings" will be but a fading memory by 2012, when "Jeb" would be deemed politically viable by the people who rent families like the Bushes for public cover. Because we are just stupid enough, evidently, to forget everything in just a few short years.

Hell, maybe they're right. The Republicans have already decided to make the midterms about immigration policy, flag burning, and gay marriage (again). As venal as they are, they do have people researching the viability of these "issues". The fact that they are apparently important to enough morons out there to warrant making them a part of the campaign, in the face of everything else that's going on, may be an indicator that there's simply a preponderance of unserious goons out there in the electorate.

If only they could be content with marrying their cousins and sending money to "Pat" Robertson, instead of taking the rest of the country (and the world) down with them.

Meanwhile, Liz does her duty and softpedals the family baggage that the Bushes --like their Kennedy counterparts -- carry with them.

Second, friends of the Bushes say that Jeb does not want the intense focus of a presidential campaign on his wife and daughter, and that his mother, for one, is opposed to a 2008 race. "It's very clear that he knows what he has to do for himself and his family in the immediate future," said Ron Kaufman, a political adviser to the first President Bush.

In 2002, Jeb's daughter, Noelle, then 24, was arrested on charges of prescription fraud, accused of illegally trying to buy the anti-anxiety drug Xanax from a drugstore in the small hours of the morning. In 1999, Jeb's wife, Columba, was fined $4,100 by customs officials in Atlanta for failing to declare $19,000 in clothing and jewelry she bought on a trip to Paris.

She conveniently forgot "Jeb"'s oldest son, George Prescott, aka "P", who went on a New Year's Eve bender while a freshman at Rice, got into a fight with his girlfriend, went to her house, got into a fight with her father, came back at 4AM and trashed their lawn with his Explorer. He's an overprivileged little punk, just like his uncle(s).

Then of course there's the other Bush brothers, including Neil, who has become the traveling scepter receptacle for insane cult whackjob Sun Myung Moon. I suppose it's too much to expect a hack like Bumiller to talk about easily-researched facts like those, so I'll step in and do her job for her. Again.

More here regarding "Jeb", "P", Neil and the rest of this "dynasty" of corrupt grifters.

Riot Act

Afghanistan, judging by its lack of coverage these days, apparently is a success story in the War On Terra.

Or not.

At least seven people have been killed in the Afghan capital Kabul after a traffic accident involving a US military convoy sparked mass rioting.

Hundreds of anti-US protesters clashed with Afghan security forces for two hours, in one of the worst riots since the fall of the Taleban in late 2001.

The protesters moved on to attack buildings in the diplomatic quarter.

There are conflicting reports over whether the US troops in the military convoy fired into the crowd.

Even giving the benefit of the doubt and presuming it to be just an honest accident that sparked the ensuing violence, and even assuming that said violence was deliberately incited by pro-Taliban forces, this still does not bode well for the overall attitude of the Afghan populace. Perhaps we should have put a little more effort into securing this country and getting the people working at something besides producing heroin, before running off to chase shadows in Iraq.

The unrest began after a US military vehicle apparently lost control and smashed into at least 12 civilian cars during morning rush-hour in Kabul's northern suburbs.

Coalition spokesman Col Thomas Collins said a large cargo truck in the US convoy had suffered a mechanical failure, hitting the cars at a busy intersection.

"This was a tragic accident and we deeply regret any deaths or injuries resulting from this incident," he said, adding that a full investigation was under way.

Yeah. Ask Pat Tillman's family about what a "full investigation" entails.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Goldberg Variations

One peruses the missives from the Doughy Pantload at one's own peril, I suppose, but sometimes you just can't help but rubberneck past the car wreck. It is in that spirit that we ponder some of the DP's recent brilliance from his ClownHall archive.

DP on immigration policy:

So this seems like a propitious time to ask: What if illegal immigrants were crack?

It's not such a crazy comparison, by the way. There's a reason why the drug war and illegal immigration have similar scripts, even though the actors reading the lines change.

Well, when he's right, he's right. It's not such a crazy comparison, just a stupid one. But okay. Let's let Jonah run with this insipid analogy, futile as it is.

But for me the most interesting similarity is the issue of futility and will. Drug war doves claim that you can't win the drug war because you can't defeat the laws of supply and demand. As long as there is demand for drugs, there will be a supply, and no acceptable amount of militarization of the drug war will change that. This argument gets flipped on its head when it comes to immigration. Suddenly, militarization is essential to the top priority of cutting off supply.

Notice all the non-sequiturs and inane contentions in just that one paragraph. "Drug war doves claim". Well, no less a conservative icon than Bill Buckley has said that the War On Some Drugs has been an expensive, messy exercise in futility. And the people who have been preaching the gospel of militarization on immigration policy are undoubtedly the same asswipes who think putting up 400 yards of T-posts and three-strand barbed wire out in the desert outside Yuma is a productive way to spend a weekend. Talk about stupid symbolism, the photo-op of Bush fingering that ridiculous fence is one of the dumbest fucking things I have seen in quite some time, and Bush has worked overtime to keep the larder full on that count.

But yeah, if Mexicans were crack, we'd change our attitude about immigration. And if Goldberg's aunt had balls, she'd be his uncle. Or his mother.

The DP on the economy:

Even if you think President Bush deserves the pasting he's getting in the polls on Iraq, domestic spying and other front-page gloom, it's hard to deny he's getting a raw deal on the economy.

This passive-aggressive trope is a staple of the Doughy Pantload œuvre. Implicit in this pastiche is that only a fool or a radical thinks that Bush deserves opprobrium for his handling of Iraq, or for wiping his ass with the Constitution, or for any number of other things which are of Bush's creation entirely. We are at war because Bush insisted he knew where the WMD were, and that their use was imminent. Bush is data mining the electronic comings and goings of millions of Americans -- not just "suspected al Qaeda members" -- because these people have made it abundantly clear that they will only observe the laws they feel like observing, and they are openly defiant of any and all attempts to curb the power of the unitary executive.

Unless and until a Democrat happens to sneak past the Diebold gauntlet, anyway. Then we'll hear nothing but how we must respect the rule of law, the will of the people. Well, two-thirds of those vaunted people think these guys are way out of line. To the Doughy Pantload's way of "thinking", that means we should all move to Utah or Wyoming and get with the program.

Anyway, the economy.

Just look at the numbers. The economy grew 4.8 percent in the first quarter of 2006 (and for the 18th quarter in a row). Manufacturing is surging; construction spending is breaking records. The Dow is surging. Unemployment is 4.7 percent - lower than average for the last four decades. More than 5 million jobs have been created since 2003. Personal incomes are up more than 6 percent in the first quarter, and so is consumer confidence. Housing prices have risen dramatically, and - knock on wood - it appears the boom isn't ending with a crash, which means that all that increased wealth won't vanish the way the 1990s stock market boom did.

It's hard to believe that this column is not even two weeks old; it reads like something from last May. Real wages are stagnant; prices are way up, and not just on gas. Housing starts are fading, and construction is where much of the economic boom was concentrated. The Dow is listing, not surging. The rise in housing prices has stalled in parallel with the number of housing starts, and a lot of families with adjustable-rate mortgages are about to get pinched by all those incremental rate increases over the past year.

But since the DP's entire existence is expensed, you wouldn't expect him to know any of that. Like his holy wampeter in the White House, the DP has led a charmed life, going from a celibate matriculation at Goucher to a sinecure at various founts of conservatard wisdom. This tends to render null and void any economic insights he might pretend to have.

The DP on the media's Katrina calumny:

On a recent edition of "Larry King Live," liberal Republican Congressman Christopher Shays, eager to put some distance between himself and the president, explained what he thinks is George Bush's real albatross.

"Let me just say that I think the thing that has hurt the president most is not Iraq. It's Katrina," Shays said. "People saw an arrogant but confident administration, but when they saw Katrina, they saw arrogance and frankly incompetence, and that was very unsettling."

This sentiment is pervasive among Democrats and the press. Time magazine writes matter-of-factly that "the government's inept response to Hurricane Katrina" is a major liability for Republicans in '06. Howard Dean and other Democrats mention Katrina as a staple talking point.

First is Goldberg's dismissive reference to Shays as a "liberal Republican", since in his parlance, moderates are "liberals". Only someone who has allowed themselves to be radicalized by the current skew to the right, where the previously marginal is now de rigueur, could have such a bizarre worldview.

But whatever. In the DP's world, the notion that the feds response to Katrina was inept and incompetent is just a creation of Howard Dean's fevered imagination, aided and abetted by the notorious lefty libs at Time, where a kneepad appeaser like Joke Line is the house liberal.

But it is worth reminding people that the Katrina they think they remember wasn't the Katrina that actually took place. In fact, it is difficult to think of a bigger media scandal in my lifetime than the fraudulently inaccurate coverage of Hurricane Katrina.

Where to begin? As I've written before, virtually all of the gripping stories from Katrina were untrue. All of those stories about, in Paula Zahn's words, "bands of rapists, going block to block"? Not true. The tales of snipers firing on medevac helicopters? Bogus. The yarns, peddled on "Oprah" by New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and the New Orleans police chief, that "little babies" were getting raped in the Superdome and that the bodies of the murdered were piling up? Completely false. The stories about poor blacks dying in comparatively huge numbers because American society "left them behind"? Nah-ah. While most outlets took Nagin's estimate of 10,000 dead at face value, Editor and Publisher - the watchdog of the media - ran the headline, "Mortuary Director Tells Local Paper 40,000 Could Be Lost in Hurricane."

In all of Louisiana, not just New Orleans, the total dead from Katrina was roughly 1,500.

Was the initial coverage of Katrina breathless and sensationalistic, given to outrageous claims and spectacular body count estimates? Sure. So was 9/11; I distinctly recall initial estimates of up to 25,000 potential dead. Considering some 50,000 people worked at the WTC, that was not a terribly farfetched speculation, given those initial moments of uncertainty and apprehension.

And considering that New Orleans was not considered fully secure until the Blackwater guys got there and imposed a martial-law lockdown on the place, I doubt we'll ever know 100% of the facts and statistics about Katrina. A lot of people are still missing; there may be many who are presumed to have moved in the sudden diaspora, but died and were never found. We don't know, and neither does the Pantload, not that it stops him.

One thing people know for sure, that no amount of Doughy circumlocution and obfuscation will ever repair: when the whole country was waiting with bated breath for a certain Category 5 storm to hit New Orleans, knowing full well that a lot of people simply would not be able to get out in time, their preznit was in San Diego, comparing Iraq to World War 2 and pretending to play a fucking guitar. Just as he sat in a classroom waiting for someone to tell him what to do when he first heard that the World Trade Center had been hit.

Yessirree, that there smell is the smell o' leadership.

It is dishonest and disingenuous, to tragically understate the case, that Goldberg persists in this fantasy scenario where this administration has not been either indifferent or incompetent (or both) about every major challenge they've encountered, and that a consistent majority of the American people are just not being fair in their dwindling estimations of Bush, both as a man and as a leader. Goldberg's only fallback, the same as that of his cohorts, is that we've all been duped by the pernicious liberal media.

Can't have it both ways, son. If we're so stupid that we can be gulled by the likes of Soledad O'Brien and Wolf Blitzer, then how can we be so all-fired smart and wise about everything else? It's a conundrum that these simps have never quite been able to answer.

Finally, the DP on Al Gore:

In a recent write-up of Gore's visit to the Cannes Film Festival to promote his new film on global warming, which premiered Wednesday in Los Angeles, Huffington hailed the "new Gore" as the "hottest star in town," beating out Bruce Willis and Tom Hanks.

Gore told Huffington that this was his second trip to Cannes. "The first was when I was 15 years old and came here for the summer to study the existentialists - Sartre, Camus. ... We were not allowed to speak anything but French!" This, gushed Huffington, "may explain his pitch-perfect French accent." Perhaps. Though according to David Maraniss' biography of Gore, the former vice president's 15th summer was spent working on the family farm. Remember those stories about how Al Sr. said, "A boy could never be president if he couldn't plow with that damned hillside plow"? That was the same summer.

Apparently, Poppa Gore thought a boy who couldn't both plow a field and parlez French existentialism could never be president either. Then there's the fact that young Al got C's in French at his tony Washington high school, St. Alban's. That's some school if a kid who can intelligently discuss Sartre's "La Nausée" and Camus' "Betwixt and Between" in apparently pitch-perfect French still can't earn a B in French class. Mon dieu!

Oh, snap! A chance to slam Al Gore, environmentalism, and the French all at once? For the likes of the Doughy Pantload, this is like having a bottomless bag of Cheetos and an endless Simpsons marathon and a Kate Mulgrew blow-up doll with working orifices. Life just doesn't get any better, which is actually the problem.

In fact, there have been lots of new Al Gores. In 1987, Dick Gephardt groused that "maybe the next debate should be between the old Al Gore and the new Al Gore." In 1992, the press spotted the new Al yet again. The New York Times noted that "in Campaign '92, there is a new Al Gore - crisper, animated, more to the point, leavened with a bit of impish humor." In 2000, the new Al Gore did leave out his apocalyptic environmental messianism. But now the thinking seems to be that strident, green finger-wagging environmentalism would help him in '08. Good luck.

The truth is that there's always been just one Al Gore, a man betwixt and between his head and his heart, wanting to be both nerd-philosopher and poet-warrior - and coming up short on both counts.

It's almost as if Goldberg's a bit jealous, seeing as how he's always been his own impotent combination of those things -- a nerd-warrior, armed only with bad posture, a pocket protector, and an inexhaustible supply of cartoon arcana.

The fact is that Gore's film, especially considering its limited distribution, has gotten remarkable response, and is apparently quite valid scientifically. I'm not sure how many Rhode Island-sized glaciers falling off the antarctic ice shelf, how many drowning polar bears, how many inundated American cities Goldberg needs to see before he acknowledges that maybe Gore's three decades of study on the subject count for more than Goldberg's years of sneering commentary. But then, Goldberg's excuse for a brain, much like his doughy ass, has always been for rent, so it doesn't really matter what Goldberg actually may or may not believe. He believes whatever he's been paid to believe; the fact that he stays bought at least makes him something of an honest pundit, I suppose.

It's reminiscent of another existential play, originally written in French, so Gore no doubt knows it well. In "Waiting for Godot," Godot never comes - and we are never even sure who Godot is. But we get the sense that the nonexistent Godot is really a Rorschach test of sorts, revealing more about what the audience wants him to be than anything else. So it is with those waiting for Gore.

No doubt when Sartre opined "L'enfer des autres", he had useless douchebags like the Doughy Pantload in mind.

Update 5/29/06 7:46 AM PST: As Greg Sargent points out, Gore was telling the truth about spending time in France during his youth in the first place. Not that it matters. Like the memes about "inventing the internets" and "discovering Love Canal", what the Doughy Pantloads out there have figured out long ago is that accuracy is for suckers. The main thing is that you get the story out there and circulating, before the truth has a chance to get its shoes on. That what "serious" commentators do.

[Epilogue: Keep in mind, whenever you hear those plaintive cries for "civility" enjoined by the usual liars, that this is Goldberg's next magnum opus.]

A Hitler smiley-face, and an open-ended comparison between Mussolini and Hillary Clinton, as well as Mussolini and "liberals" in general. This is what counts as intellectual probity and/or humor in the conservatard playbook. You can take your calls for "civility", and you know exactly what you can do with them.

Life During Wartime

Just so we're clear on this, when Dear Cheerleader rambles on about the Freedomocracy™ we've sacrificed for in Iraq, this is the reality of what's happening:

The coach of Iraq's tennis team and two players were shot dead in Baghdad on Thursday, said Iraqi Olympic officials.

Coach Hussein Ahmed Rashid and players Nasser Ali Hatem and Wissam Adel Auda were killed in the al-Saidiya district of the capital.

Witnesses said the three were dressed in shorts and were killed days after militants issued a warning forbidding the wearing of shorts.


Two of the athletes stepped out of the car and were shot in the head, said one witness. The third was shot dead in the vehicle.

"The gunman took the body out of the car and threw it on top of the other two bodies before stealing the car," said the witness, who requested anonymity.

He said leaflets had been recently distributed in the area warning residents not to wear shorts.

That's right, people are being murdered in the street for wearing shorts. Even Saddam Hussein didn't do that shit.

Perhaps this is one of the "bricks" this asshole is nattering on about:

In the last month, the recorded rants of al-Qaida's cave-dwelling leadership reflect an awareness that their great gambit has failed. Violent political Islamism isn't defeated -- but its al-Qaida avatar is on the ropes.

This week, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki introduced Iraq's new, permanent democratic government. A democracy is emerging in Mesopotamia, altering roughly 7,000 years of recorded history. A predominantly Muslim Middle Eastern state is making modernity work. Though bombs still explode in Baghdad (and those bombs are the 24-7 headlines), Iraqis are slowly taking political and economic control. In historical terms, this is astonishing news, but it is slow news, where the evidence builds brick by incremental brick.

Let's get something straight, once and for all: any current stability in the Iraqi government is afforded entirely to the degree that the religious parties -- the very same religious parties who control the militias murdering people for wearing shorts, or beheading teachers in the middle of class -- hold sway over political life in Iraq. This is not a democracy by any stretch of the imagination, except that people showed up and voted for this violent theocracy, just as they did in Iran.

One more time -- the ceremony of voting does not automatically mean "democracy", no matter how hard one may wish to squint and twist definitions.

The SF Chronicle's Anna Badkhen has been keeping a remarkable journal of daily life in Iraq. This is the sort of thing Iraqi civilians and American troops are facing while the 82nd Chairborne is baying for John Murtha's head on a pike:

When the shroud of dusty night descends on the Iraqi capital Baghdadis pour into streets sodden with sewage to shop, eat and get their late-night haircuts at barber shops that stay open until the midnight curfew.

Fewer roadside bombs or car bombs go off after dark than in the daytime. Families carrying babies in their arms use the relative peace to navigate rancid puddles and gather around bakeries and kiosks that sell freshly squeezed juices.

When the power goes out, shop owners start their generators, and their hum fills the night air.

This is it, day after day after miserable day. Forget al Qaeda, what radicalizes people is the ongoing inability to just live a normal life, and you can't live a normal life when water and electrical power are intermittent at best in 120º summers, when garbage goes uncollected because militias are now targeting even garbage collectors, when sectarian death squads roam villages and neighborhoods seeking violent retribution and imposing vicious terror, when skittish platoons of Marines might or might not just decide to slaughter entire families out of revenge. It's the constant state of fear, of being unable to return to normalcy, that turns neighborhoods into snakepits.

They've been living like that for three years plus now, because the Cheney administration knew better than everyone else, and these people know damned well that we're now just looking for a reasonably honorable exit, a polite handoff to theocratic thugs who will undeniably be influenced heavily by Iran. How's all that supposed to make them anything but apprehensive about their future?

"Leaving aside security," Kassim the carpet salesman asked rhetorically, "when you come home, what do you need?" He ticked off the answers on the fingers on his right hand: "Electricity. Water. Food."

"Getting any of this in Baghdad is a problem," he said.

The Iraqi Shiite's elegant, two-story house in the busy central Baghdad district of Karrada gets power four hours a day -- "one hour on, six hours off," said Kassim, a divorced father of three.

Running water is available for one hour, between 1 and 2 in the morning. Kassim pours the water into giant plastic jugs he stores in his bathroom, kitchen and on the rooftop.

"It's a good thing that I go to bed late," he said.

Three years after the U.S. invasion, during which most of the Iraqi capital's infrastructure collapsed, rudimentary services here remain sporadic at best.

Decades-old water treatment plants that were supposed to have been fixed during postwar reconstruction meet only 60 percent of Baghdad's needs, said Lt. Col. Chris Hall, whose unit, attached to the 101st Airborne Division, is helping Iraqis rebuild power and water facilities.

Garbage chokes the city of 4.5 million people. Trash collection is erratic or nonexistent, depending on which part of the city you live in. Insurgents use heaps of garbage to hide roadside bombs. More than 300 garbage collectors have been killed in Baghdad in the past six months, city officials say. Insurgents target them because they work for the government.

It's impossible to know what the answers are when people refuse to even be honest about the questions.

The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle

The National Review's silly conservative rock list sets a new standard for feckless insouciance. The easy thing to do, which many have already beaten me to, is to excoriate John Miller either for his taste in music (apparently many of the kewl kids have it in for Rush; I have never quite understood the weird animosity they seem to generate among their detractors) or for his complete and utter cluelessness in discerning the rather obvious meanings in many of the songs he has picked. It's either sheer gall or stupidity that allows Miller to unblinkingly praise Won't Get Fooled Again, as if The Who weren't talking exactly about self-satisfied jagoffs like Miller and his cohorts.

But the most telling aspect is, of course, not the music itself nor Miller's choices in particular (though, again in reference to Rush, how the hell can you ignore the obvious libertarian themes of Tom Sawyer, Free Will, Anthem, or 2112 in favor of Red Barchetta?), but what it reveals yet again about the so-called "conservative" mindset.

(One thing we need to start doing is re-establishing terms and definitions of commonly abused words. "Liberal" is a notorious example on such word that has fallen on hard times because of consistently disingenuous misuse. "Conservative" is another that has been misused, because the scope of the American "center" has drifted so far right over the last generation. There is no "left" in America anymore; there is only the center-right and the radical right, and radicalism, by definition, is not "conservative". Hence the quotes.)

Roy Edroso takes the higher ground on the issue, even as he points out exactly what the problem is with these idiot kulturkampfers:

Most of our culture-warriors have a Joe Goebbels idea of art. Some don't even know what it is at all. And some special few of them aren't even aware that they are talking about art, because they see everything for which they have any feeling as an extension of themselves. Thus they spend pages explaining why their favorite dance tunes, or comic strips, or choc-o-mut ice creams are evidence of the superiority of their world view.

They excite our pity more than our contempt, because they have obviously missed a crucial step in their development. They are, as Harry Truman once said about Joe McCarthy, not mentally complete. Were it not for the largesse of Bill Buckley, Richard Scaife, and such like, they would probably be living in institutions.

So let's leave Miller be. alicublog is a straight-up joint; we don't beat up cripples here.

There ya go. These professional crunchy-cons, or whatever the hell they're calling themselves this week to differentiate them from the "you damned kids get the hell off my lawn" paleos, simply can't just watch a movie or hear a song and accept it or reject it on its own merits. Everything has to be screened through this stupid political filter they have invested themselves (and each other, and the rest of us) so heavily in. Everything is defined -- and, in the context of Miller's asinine list, rather creatively redefined -- by its relationship to whatever the rigors of movementarian "philosophy" require this particular week.

It's hard not to feel sorry for people like that, except, you know, they actually get paid for being so fucking obtuse.


God's Favorite Lying Sack O' Crap, Marion "Pat" Robertson, has come up with yet another way to test the gullibility of the simps who still hang on his every word: he has come up with a magic elixir which enabled him to leg-press 2,000 pounds.

The "700 Club" host's feat of strength is recounted on the Web site of his Christian Broadcasting Network, in a posting headlined "How Pat Robertson Leg Pressed 2,000 Pounds."

According to the CBN Web site, Robertson worked his way up to lifting a ton with the help of his physician, who is not named. The posting does not say when the lift occurred, but a CBN spokeswoman released photos to The Associated Press that she said showed Robertson lifting 2,000 pounds in 2003, when Robertson was 73. He is now 76.

The Web posting said two men loaded the leg-press machine with 2,000 pounds "and then let it down on Mr. Robertson, who pushed it up one rep and let it go back down again." The Web site said several people witnessed the event, and shows video of Robertson leg-pressing what appears to be 1,000 pounds.

Clay Travis of CBS called the 2,000-pound assertion impossible in a column this week, writing that the leg-press record for football players at Florida State University is 665 pounds less.

"Where in the world did Robertson even find a machine that could hold 2,000 pounds at one time?" Travis asked.

Andy Zucker, a strength-training coach at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, said leg presses of more than 1,000 pounds represent "a Herculean effort, and 2,000 pounds is a whole other story."

Jesus, the guy's not even trying to be credible anymore. What kind of moron believes this, that a 73-year-old man could leg-press even 500 pounds, much less 2,000?

Robertson has moved beyond the scary-silly foreign-policy idiocy he's become known for the last couple years, and is now in the "annoying jerky kid everyone knows is a lying little shit, but no one wants to bother wasting time with" category. Every time the guy opens his mouth, he marginalizes himself, and his dwindling coterie of follower-morons, a little more.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Beat The Press

As long as the supposed guardians of free speech keep running idiotic shit like this, they and their bullshit "profession" deserve all the contempt sensible people can muster.

The two sides of Hillary Rodham Clinton -- the opposites that make her potential presidential candidacy such a gamble -- came into sharp focus Tuesday morning at the National Press Club.

For the better part of an hour, the senator from New York held forth in a disquisition on energy policy that was as overwhelming in its detail as it was ambitious in its reach.

But the buzz in the room was not about her speech -- or her striking appearance in a lemon-yellow pantsuit -- but about the lengthy analysis of the state of her marriage to Bill Clinton that was on the front page of that morning's New York Times.

The article, by Patrick Healy, was anything but unsympathetic. It touched only lightly on the former president's friendship with Canadian politician Belinda Stronach. It documented that despite their busy separate schedules, the Clintons had managed to spend two-thirds of their weekends together during the past 18 months.

The closing anecdote concerned a December fundraiser where Clinton praised his wife and bestowed a kiss on her forehead, after which she recalled their 30 years together and said, "I'm so grateful to you, Bill."

But for all the delicacy of the treatment, the very fact that the Times had sent a reporter out to interview 50 people about the state of the Clintons' marriage and placed the story on the top of Page One was a clear signal -- if any was needed -- that the drama of the Clintons' personal life would be a hot topic if she runs for president.

You know, if Broder is truly the dean of Washington political pundits, as he is frequently billed, then perhaps he should step up and assumed a more distinguished mantle, and decry this tabloid nonsense. It was bad enough that the "legitimate" media got sidetracked into this crap when times were good; it is absolutely unacceptable now. This nation no longer has the luxury of lending attention to this busybody bullshit.

Whether or not Healy's stupid profile was "unsympathetic" is irrelevant; it could have been a glowing encomium of the Clintons' marriage and it would not matter one bit. Nobody with half a brain gives two shits about "the drama of the Clintons' personal life", and anyone who professes such an interest should immediately be reminded of what a moron they are. That goes double for members of the SCLM.

Enough is enough. This is no longer acceptable, and both the Times and the Post need to fucking grow up already. Then again, this is the true role of the corporate media -- the elites talking to each other, while the peons look in and wonder what the hell.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Pop Rocks

SF Chronicle Sunday columnist Neva Chonin weighs in somewhat Andy Rooney-ish on the eternal cliquishness between popsters and rockers.

I've long loathed rockism, with its hostility to anything new (read: young artists who don't worship at the altar of Dylan) and its obliviousness to anything black that isn't blues (read: hip-hop, new soul). I'd like to suggest -- and I'm sure I'm not the first -- that "rock" is to "popular music" what "male" is to "people." It's a master text that marginalizes other voices with unnecessary adjectives: a "female police officer," a "black science fiction writer," a "digital band." Rock is a great white phallus, and rockism is its language.

Now, "poptimists" -- I can't believe they really call themselves that, so I'll try not to, either, but shorthand labels are my crack -- suggest it's time rockists zip up their trousers and accept the reality that rock is now but one genre among many and that a pristine pop song by Beyonce or Britney can carry the same cultural weight as a ruminative concept album by Neil Young or Bruce Springsteen. I can get behind that: Popular music is the sound of a culture talking to itself, and that dialogue takes many forms. The guitar isn't the only organ for expression, dudes, and it hasn't been for a long time.

Being a long-time "rockist", I suppose, I certainly have spent far more time over the years contemplating this seeming dichotomy than I should have. There is indeed something off-putting about the goofballs who insist that rock music peaked with Blonde On Blonde or whatever. But the thing is that most forms of rock music, whether or not you enjoy them, require a certain level of craft and skill just to get in the ring. This is actually of greater importance to "rockists" than the incipient "cockism" Chonin declaims.

Rockers look down their noses at people like Beyonce and Britney because of the nature of their approach to craft; it's difficult not to get the distinct impression that not only do they not write their songs or play an instrument, but that they don't even really sing their stuff, that they get it "close enough" in the studio so that the producer can take care of the pitch correction and vocal sweetening by tweaking Pro Tools for a couple weeks.

Whether or not you like their music, you know that Yes did their own writing and playing; you know that the guys in Rush each redefined the approach to their respective instruments for literally tens of thousands of musicians, and that's a truly rare thing. Probably only Cream and The Who can make a similar claim, that every single member of those bands forced contemporary and future practitioners of their respective instrument to include their contribution in the overall approach to at least some extent. By contrast, Britney, Beyonce, Backstreet Boys, Spice Girls -- they're all interchangeable, and their level of involvement with the creation of their marketed Art Product is roughly the same as that of Ronald McDonald actually getting in there and whipping up a Big Mac. It's a disposable commodity with a marketing icon used to sell it to the target demo.

That very disposability is what rankles the rockists, whose respect (some might say obsession) with craft and skill requires a need for permanence. And just as the posturing "what-evuh" immature attitude is what undermines the self-satisfied arbiters of kewl, the totemistic collecting, archiving, and cross-referencing of What Has Gone Before is the rockists' achilles heel. Because, as is evidenced by the endless waves of $250/ticket nostalgia tours, what it does is it turns the performers and the fans into little more than curators in a traveling museum. Possibly the only long-running band that overcomes this with regularity is Motorhead, but even they are expected to play Ace of Spades at every fucking show, or fans will decide they've been cheated, no matter how great the show really was.

Which brings me to the true difference between rockists and popists: rockists don't dance. Seriously. I think the respective consumption rituals is what truly defines and differentiates the two. When I think "pop", I think The Beatles, Squeeze, Elvis Costello, The Cars, XTC, that sort of thing, even though I know what the critics mean. But I think songwriting craft that endures and renews itself upon repeated listening in a variety of circumstances. I can't imagine listening to Hit Me Baby One More Time with headphones. That's not a slam, it's just the way it is. And the thing is, there actually are some decent chord changes in that song, as Travis' acoustic version demonstrated. But it does not lend itself well to my particular consumption ritual, which most assuredly does not involve dancing, or consuming ecstasy and Red Bull and vodka in a crowded club. Those days are long gone, and even when I was there, that sort of music was just wallpaper. I had always thought that was a common understanding, but perhaps not. People tend to get a bit precious about their tastes, or perceived lack of same.

There is no solution, no right or wrong, in such a highly subjective discussion, obviously. But my take on it, to oversimplify it, is that rockists get put off by what they see as popists' mindless acceptance of outright crap like the boy bands and such. Rockists are agog that, whatever the inherent humor value, it's an abomination that a weird homunculus like William Hung can get a record contract while thousands of kids out there spend thousands of hours practicing so that they can be good at something, and not just be another disposable jerk-of-the-week in some absurd media circus that seems to actively devalue actual talent.

And popists rightly see that rockists tend to take the whole thing way too seriously, that they can be smug and obsessive over people and songs that, on further reflection, sometimes turn out to be rather mediocre. It is the eternal battle of art versus commerce. As Robert Fripp once put it, in the world of commerce, the musician plays the music, and in the world of art, the music plays the musician. This is an easier way to draw the line, as it does not require quantifying or insulting one taste over another, but merely being honest with ourselves over where we want our consumption rituals to intersect with our particular tastes.

Put succinctly (if that's possible by this point), American Idol is pop; Sopranos is rock. One is forgotten almost as soon as it's over, and will likely never be revisited outside of pathetically lame reunion wankfests, while the other practically requires multiple visits to absorb the multiple levels of nuance, context, narrative, and craft of dialogue.

[more to come]

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

No Habla

You know, when these butt-hurt morons value English enough to use it properly themselves, then maybe they can sanctimoniously lecture the world on whose language it is and where it must be spoken. A great many Americans cannot spell worth a shit, nor can they reliably pronounce even simple words such as "nuclear" or "realtor". Even the use of apostrophes and commas seems to be problematic for some.

Look, I don't much care for having tax dollars used to print voting ballots in Tagalog and Ukrainian either. But I'm a hell of a lot more irritated when I encounter someone who was born and raised here, went through the school system and got a diploma, and still cannot speak or write extemporaneously or coherently. The very least I expect from a self-appointed Crusader To Save The English Language For Jeebus-Fearin' Amerkins is absolute command and control of the sacred mother tongue.

Of course the language issue, like the immigration issue overall, is just a proxy for deeper fears. Not racism or xenophobia necessarily, but more of a general malaise, an apprehension. It's the cognitive dissonance that infuses the air; it's people who may not have a master's in macro, but they know that 4% GDP growth doesn't mean shit when real wages have stagnated and prices have gone up more than 4% (far more, in the case of gas, obviously).

Immigration is just this year's gay marriage, another phony issue contrived to whip up the ignorant cracker sentiment. So much for the GOP peeling off the Hispanic vote from the Democrats. In the meantime, let's find our priorities, people. I find confederate flags a lot more offensive than Mexican ones, and I'm still nowhere near bothered enough to worry about them or vote on them. Get a grip already.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Old School

John McCain still doesn't get it, and as long as he thinks he has a shot at the '08 nomination, he'll never understand what's going on.

Conservative darling Sen. John McCain was harangued by hecklers, booed and even subjected to paper airplanes as he gave the commencement speech for the New School yesterday.
Afterward, the Arizona Republican, who is widely believed to be preparing for a presidential run in 2008, appeared annoyed by the rude reception.

"I feel sorry for people who live in a dull world where they can't listen to the views of others," McCain told the Daily News.

Despite how it's being portrayed, I don't think it's just about McCain's outspoken support of the Iraq War. It's about the politicization of commencement addresses in general; it's about McCain toting his stump speech from Jerry Falwell U (Go Fightin' Faghaters!) straight to the New School. McCain has nothing fresh or insightful to say, he's merely using what's left of his "straight shooter" cred to take his campaign speech to a couple schools.

And it's just not gonna fly anymore. People are realizing that whatever McCain was in 2000, he's just another administration butt-boy now. These guys smeared him and his family, and he doesn't have the goddamned pride to tell them to go fuck themselves? And if anything, he's more pro-war than even the Bushies.

But worst of all is this passive-aggressive trope he's adopted, that he "feels sorry" for people who "can't listen to the views of others". Bullshit. Listen, bub, we've been inundated in this nonsense for a good four years now, if you count the run-up to war. Every opponent, no matter how well-stated, was shouted down, lampooned, called an idiot or a traitor, etc., etc. So you can take that "feels sorry" shit and shove it sideways. Tell the troglodytes on your own side of the aisle how you "feel sorry" for them, if intolerance is your main problem. The opponents were right, the proponents were wrong (and obnoxious about it), none of them has admitted that they were wrong, nor offered any sort of conciliatory talk. Yet it's always (and only) the left that must apologize for their rudeness.

In the meantime, tens of thousands of lives have been lost, hundreds of billions of dollars wasted, two-thirds of the country now consistently disapproves of this administration and its handling of the war, and all we get is this same smarmy horseshit softsoaped as serious foreign policy.

This is not a football game, and we are not required to root for an incompetent quarterback. The fallback position seems to be that the only way we can win is if we hang in there and keep rooting for Brett Fav-ruh to pull out another one of his patented miracles. But we do not have Fav-ruh at the helm, more like Todd Marinovich or Ryan Leaf, a high-priced high-profile flame-out bust. Two-thirds of the team wants to yank the QB and the coach, and change the game plan, because this one has been a spectacular failure.

And we're goddamned tired of all the waterboys coming off the bench to lecture us about our poor sportsmanship. I got your poor sportsmanship right here.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Why We Keep Calling Him "Dear Cheerleader"

As chaos swept Iraq after the American invasion in 2003, the Pentagon began its effort to rebuild the Iraqi police with a mere dozen advisers. Overmatched from the start, one was sent to train a 4,000-officer unit to guard power plants and other utilities. A second to advise 500 commanders in Baghdad. Another to organize a border patrol for the entire country.

Three years later, the police are a battered and dysfunctional force that has helped bring Iraq to the brink of civil war. Police units stand accused of operating death squads for powerful political groups or simple profit. Citizens, deeply distrustful of the force, are setting up their own neighborhood security squads. Killings of police officers are rampant, with at least 547 slain this year, roughly as many as Iraqi and American soldiers combined, records show.

The police, initially envisioned by the Bush administration as a cornerstone in a new democracy, have instead become part of Iraq's grim constellation of shadowy commandos, ruthless political militias and other armed groups. Iraq's new prime minister and senior American officials now say the country's future — and the ability of America to withdraw its troops — rests in large measure on whether the police can be reformed and rogue groups reined in.

-- Misjudgements Marred U.S. Plans For Iraqi Police, New York Times, May 21, 2006.

The state of Iraq now resembles Bosnia at the height of the fighting in the 1990s when each community fled to places where its members were a majority and were able to defend themselves. "Be gone by evening prayers or we will kill you," warned one of four men who called at the house of Leila Mohammed, a pregnant mother of three children in the city of Baquba, in Diyala province north-east of Baghdad. He offered chocolate to one of her children to try to find out the names of the men in the family.

Mrs Mohammed is a Kurd and a Shia in Baquba, which has a majority of Sunni Arabs. Her husband, Ahmed, who traded fruit in the local market, said: " They threatened the Kurds and the Shia and told them to get out. Later I went back to try to get our furniture but there was too much shooting and I was trapped in our house. I came away with nothing." He and his wife now live with nine other relatives in a three-room hovel in Khanaqin.

-- Iraq is disintegrating as ethnic cleansing takes hold, Patrick Cockburn, UK Independent, May 20, 2006.

A suicide bomber killed at least 12 other people and injured 17 when he blew himself up Sunday in a downtown Baghdad restaurant frequented by police. The attack came as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki pledged to soon fill vacancies in his two key security ministries.

The attack against the Safar restaurant was part of a spree of roadside bombs, mortar rounds and a drive-by shooting that killed at least 18 Iraqis and wounded dozens.

The 12 dead in the restaurant attack included three police officers, said Police Col. Abbas Mohammed. The explosion occurred at 1:20 p.m. during the crowded lunch hour in Baghdad's mixed Karradah neighborhood.

-- Bomber Kills Self, 12 Others In Baghdad, Associated Press, May 21, 2006.

The inauguration of Iraq's new government marks a new era in relations with the country that the U.S. has occupied for more than three years, President Bush said Sunday.

"The formation of a unity government in Iraq is a new day for the millions of Iraqis who want to live in peace," Bush said. "And the formation of the unity government in Iraq begins a new chapter in our relationship with Iraq."

Bush briefly spoke to reporters from the White House with his wife, Laura, at his side, to highlight the political development without mentioning the violence that still rages in Iraq.

The president did not speak of the spree of bombing, mortar rounds and a drive-by shooting that killed at least 18 Iraqis and wounded dozens - most of them hit by a suicide bomber who targeted a Baghdad restaurant during Sunday's lunch hour.

Bush said he called President Jalal Talabani, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and parliament speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani to congratulate them on working together.

"I assured them that the United States will continue to assist Iraqis in the formation of a new country because I fully understand that a free Iraq will be an important ally in the war on terror, will serve as a devastating defeat for the terrorists and al-Qaida and will serve as example for others in the region who desire to be free."

-- Bush Praises Political Progress In Iraq, Associated Press, May 21, 2006.

Any questions?

Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Winamp Shuffle

Gnarls Barkley -- Crazy
Flogging Molly -- Black Friday Rules
Clutch -- Drink to the Dead
Taproot -- Birthday
The Who -- Odorono
Oasis -- Live Forever
Jimi Hendrix -- My Friend
Wolfmother -- Tales of the Forest of Gnomes
Toad the Wet Sprocket -- Is It For Me
Deep Purple -- Fireball
King's X -- The Burning Down

Friday, May 19, 2006

Dishonor Before Death

The very real and very disturbing confirmation of the massacre at Haditha comes rather fortuitously for Chimpco, as they have managed to change the subject to the fake crisis over immigration. Rather than listen to John Murtha's disclosure, surely not to be taken lightly at all, we are treated to useless photo ops of the preznit having his Dukakis moment in a dune buggy outside Yuma, proclaiming his affection for fences and such.

But attention must be paid to what happened at Haditha, if we are to start reclaiming what's left of our national soul.

A Pentagon probe into the death of Iraqi civilians last November in the Iraqi city of Haditha will show that U.S. Marines "killed innocent civilians in cold blood," a U.S. lawmaker said Wednesday.

From the beginning, Iraqis in the town of Haditha said U.S. Marines deliberately killed 15 unarmed Iraqi civilians, including seven women and three children.

One young Iraqi girl said the Marines killed six members of her family, including her parents. “The Americans came into the room where my father was praying,” she said, “and shot him.”

On Wednesday, Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., said the accounts are true.

Military officials told NBC News that the Marine Corps' own evidence appears to show Murtha is right.

A videotape taken by an Iraqi showed the aftermath of the alleged attack: a blood-smeared bedroom floor and bits of what appear to be human flesh and bullet holes on the walls.

The video, obtained by Time magazine, was broadcast a day after town residents told The Associated Press that American troops entered homes on Nov. 19 and shot dead 15 members of two families, including a 3-year-old girl, after a roadside bomb killed a U.S. Marine.

It takes a certain kind of person to blow away a three-year-old girl, for revenge no less. Guess they showed her.

Look, no one has any illusions about what the nature of the beast is here. These are men who are trained to kill, and they are in an impossibly tough spot, where they must kill or be killed. Still: a three-year-old girl. Those Marines volunteered for this; she didn't. This is what we've sunk to.

No doubt this will be portrayed, like Abu Ghraib, as an aberration, a one-of-a-kind freak occurrence with no connection to the actual decision-making process or hierarchy. And hopefully a real and thorough investigation will dig into that very thing, whether or not there are more Hadithas we just haven't heard about, or if this was merely a lone platoon of psychopaths that needs to be held accountable for what they've done. This is beyond shameful, beneath despicable.

Military officials say Marine Corp photos taken immediately after the incident show many of the victims were shot at close range, in the head and chest, execution-style. One photo shows a mother and young child bent over on the floor as if in prayer, shot dead, said the officials, who spoke to NBC News on condition of anonymity because the investigation hasn't been completed.

One military official says it appears the civilians were deliberately killed by the Marines, who were outraged at the death of their fellow Marine.

“This one is ugly," one official told NBC News.

Ugly doesn't even begin to describe it, nor the rampant death squad murders carried out by the people we are training to "stand up" so's we can "stand down", without ever ever having to say we were wrong, or that we're sorry for causing all this. All the weasel words from a draft-dodging preznit and the 82nd Chairborne who chronicle his adventures and support his war vociferously and obnoxiously -- yet somehow never seem to show up for it themselves -- don't mean a damned thing to families who were murdered while they prayed for their lives.

Another interesting coincidence is the release of a book chronicling the heretofore unknown exploits of a similar band of men in Vietnam, the Tiger Force.

During the summer of 1967, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Gerald Morse radioed soldiers operating under his command in the central highlands of Vietnam and barked, "You're the 327th infantry. We want 327 kills." It was an unforgivable statement that would eventually lead to one of the most appalling killing sprees of the Vietnam War and the unwarranted deaths of hundreds of Vietnamese men, women and children.
The unit Morse was addressing, his "Tiger Force," was a group of 45 gung-ho soldiers that made up the reconnaissance platoon attached to the 327th Infantry, a battalion of 900 infantrymen that was just one of three in the 101st Airborne. The Tigers were the most bloodthirsty lot of them all.

Michael Sallah and Mitch Weiss' unsettling "Tiger Force" explains how this motley group of young men from the far corners of the United States became unhinged murderers and why their war crimes went unreported for nearly four decades.

Sallah and Weiss, reporters for the Blade newspaper of Toledo, Ohio, were tipped to the story by a fellow reporter at their newspaper who was bequeathed boxes of secret documents from Henry Tufts, a former head of the Army's Criminal Investigations Command (known as CID), after his death in July 2002.

Their four-part series for the newspaper, outlining the heretofore unknown story, won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. This book offers an even more exhaustive account of Tiger Force's killing rampage and the subsequent efforts by a series of Army investigators to hold the soldiers accountable for their actions.

On the one hand, you have to wonder how these posthumous whistleblowers can live with themselves all these years, just waiting to bequeath all that awful knowledge for someone else to foist on the public and deal with the fallout. On the other, the fact that there's fallout, the fact that there are people who will seriously defend the out-and-out murder of women and children pretty much explains why they just don't want to deal with that level of irrationality.

Sallah and Weiss re-create the events, relying on interviews with 43 Tiger Force veterans. The reporters also went to Vietnam and tracked down now-elderly Vietnamese witnesses and descendants of the victims. Central to their account is the story of Pvt. Sam Ybarra, an American Indian who together with his childhood friend, Kenneth "Boots" Green, joined the Tigers. Initially, the two fought together in the fertile highlands that were one of the principal sources of rice for the North Vietnamese Army. The Army deemed it a strategic necessity for the United States to clear the area of farmers, many of them Buddhists with spiritual ties to the land. Some farmers agreed to be flown to relocation camps, which Ybarra compares to his fellow Indians being relocated. When some of the farmers refuse to leave, the area is deemed a "free-fire zone" -- a confusing designation that still stipulated that soldiers must request permission before shooting. That eventually leads to much unnecessary bloodshed. Typical of these stories is that of an unarmed North Vietnamese soldier taken prisoner whom Ybarra nonchalantly executes by cutting his throat.

The Tigers, forced to remain in the field far longer than others, grow frustrated. Ybarra is among the first Tigers taking trophies, slicing the ears off slain Vietnamese and fashioning them into necklaces. Others collect scalps or teeth. Then, after Green is shot in the head by a sniper, Ybarra snaps. In the most disturbing episode of the book (or frankly almost any book describing American soldiers at war), on the day the Tigers achieved their "magic number" of 327 kills, on Nov. 19, 1967, Ybarra beheads a crying baby.

The review also exceprts passages that purport to describe the physiological changes that occur in combat situations, where basically our vestigial lizard brains take over, and the survival instinct kicks in to such a degree that even basic humanitarian behaviors and restraints (such as, say, murdering little girls) are forgotten. And that too comes at a steep price; Ybarra's Wikipedia entry doesn't say exactly how old he was when he died in 1982, and frankly, I don't want to waste any more of my time reading about that turd of a human being, but from the dates given, it sounds like he was probably about 35 years old, had a long history of substance abuse, probably died hard. Which is fine by me; war is hell, but collecting trophy ears and beheading infants is simply unacceptable. The man was a psychopath and should have died in prison.

But whatever. Let's play devil's advocate here. Let's say that the fog and fury and confusion of war does indeed mitigate even the most horrible of actions to at least some degree. The bottom line is that these men still have to come back home, still have to internalize what they've done, try to get back to the way their lives were before Dubya and Cheney and Rummy and Wolfie and the rest of these morons decided they were smarter than the rest of the world and stepped on their dicks, and sent these folks over there. How does a man come back to normal after slaughtering a family? He may get a pass from the legal system or the military justice system, but not from his conscience. He knows what he did and has to live with that, and there needs to be some sort of support for them to re-enter civilian life, and not inflict their newfound demons on their unsuspecting families.

And maybe some of the folks who are fortunate enough to remain stateside could maybe think twice before blindly supporting a proven idiot who just wantonly throws these lives into a meat grinder, with no plan in place, just arrogance and hubris and meat-headed phony swagger.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


This is probably of little interest to anyone outside of Central California, but it's still interesting as a sort of political man-bites-dog story: a Republican State Assembly candidate is using his Democratic opponent's heart transplant and associated health issues in his campaign.

So you thought you've seen rough politics in Sacramento -- and some nasty attack ads in the Democratic gubernatorial primary?

You ain't seen nothin' yet.

What may be a Hall of Fame moment in the annals of political ads may have come down in the GOP race for 25th State Assembly District race in the Modesto area this week.

We're talking the campaign mailer in which GOP candidate Bill Conrad attacks opponent Tom Berryhill -- for having a heart transplant.

The headline of the direct mail piece -- in blood red ink, no less: "Tom Berryhill doesn't have the HEART for State Assembly."

That's accompanied by a handy list of "Heart Transplant Facts."

Among them:

*"The Average Lifespan of a Heart Transplant recipient is 7 years," followed by the none-too-subtle observation that "Berryhill's transplant was 6 years ago."

*"Heart Transplant patients take Anti-rejection medications for life. (These medications weaken the immune system making the recipient more susceptible to illness and death.)"

And finally:

*"Severe stress SIGNIFICANTLY shortens the life expectancy of Heart Transplant recipients."

And we all know about stress in Sacramento.

But, "Wait! There's more!," as those folks say on the infomercials.

The mailer suggests Berryhill will cost the taxpayers dough if he -- uh, how can we put this? -- doesn't make it to the finish line.

"Can you imagine the costs to taxpayers for a Special Election when poor health renders him unable to fulfill the duties of office?" the mailer says.

If only someone had thought of using that line of attack on our narcoleptic four-heart-attack-having vice-preznit when it could have made a difference.

Waking Up With Fleas

The certitude of having God on one's side apparently gives one a limitless appetite for political demands:

The president of the American Family Association of Pennsylvania (AFA of Pennsylvania) says federal and state amendments protecting traditional marriage should be a campaign issue, regardless of what First Lady Laura Bush says.

Last week on "Fox News Sunday," Mrs. Bush commented that although Americans do want to debate marriage amendments, the issue should be addressed with "a lot of sensitivity" and should not be used as a campaign tool. However, AFA of Pennsylvania president Diane Gramley feels the suggestion from the First Lady is not sound campaign advice -- especially for pro-family candidates.

Gramley feels it is tragic that Mrs. Bush does not see the importance of making the marriage amendment a campaign issue. Marriage is of essential significance to America's citizens, the Pennsylvania pro-family leader says, "because it is the foundation of the nation and of any society -- and that is one of the main issues that got the values voters out in 2004."

Being a cynic at heart, I assume that most of the publicly pious politicians -- including Bush -- are Christian by convenience. They have managed to cobble together scant victories by riding this tent-revival bullshit as far it will take them. They may actually believe to some extent, but these dumb little pet issues have just been handy for them in close elections.

And the extra-chromosomers showed up and did their part, and were amply rewarded. Two -- count 'em, two -- Supreme Court justices, including a Chief Justice, vetted by Dobson and Falwell. That's not a bad deal; even Clinton made sure to let Orrin Hatch in on Ruth Bader Ginsburg's nomination.

But is that enough for them? Of course not. They want the whole enchilada, and their priorities are preposterously skewed. They're fine with multiple wars, bankrupting the country, stepping on the poor to keep the rich happy, just the way Jesus wanted it. It's "protecting marriage" that they're obsessed about. And it is an obsession. If one of these goofballs can tell me why Britney Spears should be able to get married twice in one year, the second time to a clown who has apparently never heard of birth control, but the lesbian couple around the corner from me who've been together for thirty years should get treated like third-class citizens, I'd like to hear it.

Someone needs to sit these morons down and explain to them that straight people have been abusing the institution of marriage for centuries, and that right now, this country has much bigger problems on its collective plate. Then again, I guess that fundamental lack of common sense is what makes them morons.

Either way, it's amusing to watch the Republicans have their rabid pit bull finally start to turn on them, insatiable, slavering, dumb and heedless in its one-track mind. Both sides have burned their bridges with endless arrogance, and neither side has anywhere else to turn anymore, so if we're gonna pray for anything, it's that they go down together.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Immigrant Song

No less an establishment ungulate than Bullwinkle predicted this immigration nonsense we are currently enduring, a good six months ago, and yet I still didn't quite believe it was possible. But this apparently is an issue ripe for ample pushback on both sides. Bottom line, though -- the answer to the usual "why here, why now" question is obvious. Bush's feeble attempt to play Solomon and split the baby sealed the deal, and will please no one. He should get out of his bubble a bit more often; he no longer has nearly the political capital he once had, if he ever really had all that much in the first place. He gave the majority who despise him no reason to change their minds; he gave the few who reluctantly still support him no reason to admit it, nor the red meat they require for sustenance.

The immigration "crisis" has much in common with the gas "crisis". Both are problems which are mostly in Americans' heads. If Americans didn't feel the need to measure their dicks with their vehicles and drive useless gas guzzlers everywhere, aggregate demand would drop, as would prices. Similarly, if Americans were more willing to pay a higher price for produce and meat, the jobs of procuring such items would command a higher premium, and thus be attractive to Americans. Right now, picking strawberries and working in chicken slaughterhouses is pretty much the province of folks whose other main option is staying home and making two bucks a day. You want a 79¢ head of lettuce, there are ancillary costs, just as your $3.00 gallon of gasoline comes with a half-trillion dollar annual defense package tacked to it.

And yes, illegal immigration has an impact on the infrastructure and job market of certain states. Being at the north end of California's great central valley, I know this all too well. I imagine many of these infrastructural costs are absorbed at least in part by the cheaper items produced by the immigrants' labor. Is it a wash? Hell, I don't know. Perhaps someone should do a study. I hear we have a government that does that kind of shit; funny how we never hear any comparative numbers in this here "debate".

What all this is is a contrivance for electoral purposes, pure and simple. Americans who are worried about their jobs in the context of illegal immigrants should perhaps read a book or look at a globe. American jobs that are being outsourced are, by definition, being sent overseas. Duh. That Meskin down the road didn't take your job, pally, he took a job you didn't want. Your job got sent over to Shanghai or Bangalore, so's your former CEO's stock could go up a quarter-point or so.

The real tell in all this is that this was the best Bush and his minions could muster up for the midterms -- misplaced nativist resentment, which is already their deal to begin with. This will not win them back those that left during the great Finally Fucking Came To Their Senses poll shift of the last nine months. Nor will this assuage the evangelicals who live and die on abortion, contraception, and the incipient threat of them thar hommasexshuls bumpin' uglies in fronta The Children.

And all of those issues point to a radically misguided set of priorities, which is really what should undo the Republicans this time around. Think of it; what policy initiatives have they pursued with their legislative and executive (and now judicial) majority? Bogus Social Security reform that they couldn't even get fellow Republicans to back. Bogus Medicare reform that will have to be overhauled yet again. Sabre-rattling toward an Iranian regime that, as intractable as it seems, has actually gone out of its way to be conciliatory on several occasions, while we publicly bluster and fume, even as the whole world watches us bog down in the neocons' Iraqi folly. (Obvious issues of morality aside, the practical fact of the matter is that taking on Iran would require air strikes and bombardment; i.e., lots of civilian casualties. Ready to be an international pariah?)

Now, I'm not saying that there aren't some aspects of immigration policy that need to be addressed, there certainly are. And protesters do themselves no favors with their symbolic antics and La Raza/Aztlan histrionics. But the wannabe Minutemen have no sense of proportion; would that they dedicated half this level of energy to something constructive. Again, this issue is a meringue of a contrivance, whipped up out of nothing, almost entirely air.

There are two sensible ways to handle this situation -- either help immigrants assimilate and become Americans, or make it worth their while to not want to risk their lives to come here. The latter is where the outsourcing comes in; if you want them to stay home, then don't act so surprised when your job is outsourced to a maquiladora. That's how it works. Alternatively, we can help and encourage immigrants to assimilate into American society by enabling their path to the middle class (you know, the rising tide and boats thingy), but since we can't seem to even do that for native-born Americans anymore, I suspect there'll be a lot more sound and fury over this as the summer commences. Wait till the first burned-out National Guardsman dragooned into this nonsense accidentally shoots a pregnant woman, and watch all hell break loose. Then the Codpiece's little prime-time stunt won't look quite so measured and reasoned.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Poll Smokers

Billmon hit with quite the one-two combo this past weekend, and needless to say, he's absolutely right all the way around. This dickering about what useful information can be extrapolated from the so-called NSA wiretapping polls is bogus. Our rights are not up for negotiation or referendum, nor is it necessary to abrogate any of those rights, nor have these people proven themselves remotely trustworthy in such a regard. The question, no matter how delicately phrased, is just a complete loser all the way around.

Say we phrase the next stupid poll question thusly: Given how this administration has handled vital information pertaining to, and organized effective responses to, every major national crisis that has occurred in the U.S. over the past five years, do you seriously think that it's a good idea to let them spy upon and track an untold portions of Americans' private and personal transactions, with no oversight and no accountability whatsoever?

Now, of course we're not naive. Of course we know that even with such a question (which may be loaded, yet is not fundamentally dishonest in scope) there will still be a subset of people who will gladly hand over any and all rights, theirs and ours. Me, I figure it's better to die on our feet than live on our knees, and I don't recall ever ceding my inalienable rights to the whims and fears of some nervous nellie in Topeka who isn't on anyone's radar. (Of course, that's not necessarily true; it is entirely possible that a future terrorist attack might occur in a comparatively sparsely populated area just to send a message. Still, statistically rather improbable. They've already got us whipped into a state of frenzied paranoia; chances are that they find more glory in the numbers of a body count. So I reasonably speculate that I, in California, am in significantly more potential danger than someone in Kansas or Wyoming.)

But I digress. The real issue here is how so many of us got so willing to just hand over what, for all practical purposes, is really an unknown amount and degree of heretofore inalienable rights. It is more likely than not that what we know about the NSA's little data-mining operation is just the tip of it; we won't know about the full scope of the total ass-spelunking expedition until all the systems are already in place. And yet hundreds of people, presumably cognizant and possessed of sufficient short-term memory to see how these people do pretty much everything, just looked into the phone and said, "Yup, s'okay by me."

How did we get to such a point, where our backs are instinctively and constantly up over issues like religion and abortion and guns and gays, yet an authoritarian regime can torture with impunity, lie about the unnecessary war they started, throw yet more money at the one-percenters in a time of record deficits, decide which laws they feel like obeying, and eviscerate the Bill of Rights -- and there's nary a peep from the usual corners?

We know our phone calls and emails may be and often are monitored, that company net nannies will stop us from visiting certain web sites (and not just porn pages: I’ve been blocked out of labor union sites, progressive political sites – even that notorious left-wing web magazine, Slate.) We know that if we say the wrong thing to a company snitch it could be reported to our supervisors, that those reports could end up in our personnel files, and that really serious thought crimes could cost us our jobs. We know the security cameras may record when we walk in the door and when we leave. We know we can’t make certain jokes or raise certain topics because they might be construed as sexual harassment. We know how to smile and feign enthusiasm when the pointy-haired boss has a really dumb idea. We know what a cult of personality looks like, because it looks like our CEO.

Blue collar workers, of course, have always had their own authoritarian regimes to contend with -- tougher in some ways (I’ve worked under both) but easier in others. At least most shops don’t expect the rank and file to act like the smiling idiots in the latest corporate training film (not unless the Total Quality Management gurus have seized power.) But in cubicle world it’s Outer Party rules all the way – even if the cafeteria food and the Victory gin are both better.

It’s true that however bad it may be, the corporate workplace is only an 8-hour police state, one you can tunnel free of every night. But it is a training ground of sorts, a place where habits of thought and social roles are acquired and reinforced – patterns that are then reflected in the popular culture. The lesson learned is submission to authority, or at least the passive acceptance of hierarchical relationships. It teaches people to be good bureaucrats, and good bureaucrats understand that if the organization is tapping phones – or infecting test subjects with syphilis or dumping toxic waste in rivers or shipping undesirable people off to concentration camps – it must have a good reason.

Exactly right. Hell, even applying for a job -- even a shitty one -- requires going through the rather undignified ritual of pissing in a cup and handing it to an indifferent lab technician. People are inured to the notion of faceless authoritarian intrusion pretty early on in the employment cycle. There is always a tradeoff for this or that promotion or perk, as one advances past the initial cup-filling position. The point is that we have already been indoctrinated into the notion that privacy is a luxury, that even what a person does away from the job still is somehow the employer's business. Forget drugs; how many people have lost their jobs because they were blogging about their workplaces and co-workers, even anonymously?

So there is collective precedent for the blasé acceptance of official intrusion into one's private life. We can tell ourselves and each other that it's in the name of safer workplaces, or The Children, or whatever. If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear, etc., etc. You know the song by heart.

But consider the nature of the people running this thing. Consider what you know about what they've done, and just try to imagine what they're capable of. True, their reckless cronyism has made them largely incompetent, but the whole point of mechanization and computerization is to take away human inefficiencies. This is the largest database that has ever been assembled. We know that they have not been terribly shy using the personal lives of political opponents to leverage public policy matter. And we also now know that they are tracking reporters' calls in order to track confidential sources. Where does it stop? Where they say it needs to stop -- or rather, where they tell you it needs to stop; given this administration's loose relationship with facts and honesty, why would anyone take their word on something like this?

It's very simple -- a person who, thinking themselves principled and consistent, would support such a scheme regardless of which party controlled the levers of government, is just a fool, giving away their own rights and that of their neighbors for a false sense fo security. And a person who, on the off chance Diebold fails to do their job and Democrats return to power, decides that maybe all this spying is wrong after all, well, they're nothing but a goddamned hypocrite.

Rights are rights, not political currency to be bartered away by think-tank assholes and smug basement warriors lowjacked into talk-radio lunatics. Nor are they up for popular approval, the collective finger to the political wind. And technology has given the would-be authoritarian corporatists the upper hand here; most of what resistance we might eventually put up is likely to be retroactive. The TIA network really got under way the day after they swore that they were scrapping it. So perhaps we had best start getting serious about whether or not we wish to continue down this road, or if we should perhaps get up on our hind legs and be men.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Fitzmas In May

Can it finally be?

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald spent more than half a day Friday at the offices of Patton Boggs, the law firm representing Karl Rove.

During the course of that meeting, Fitzgerald served attorneys for former Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove with an indictment charging the embattled White House official with perjury and lying to investigators related to his role in the CIA leak case, and instructed one of the attorneys to tell Rove that he has 24 hours to get his affairs in order, high level sources with direct knowledge of the meeting said Saturday morning.

Robert Luskin, Rove's attorney, did not return a call for comment. Sources said Fitzgerald was in Washington, DC, Friday and met with Luskin for about 15 hours to go over the charges against Rove, which include perjury and lying to investigators about how and when Rove discovered that Valerie Plame Wilson was a covert CIA operative and whether he shared that information with reporters, sources with direct knowledge of the meeting said.

It was still unknown Saturday whether Fitzgerald charged Rove with a more serious obstruction of justice charge. Sources close to the case said Friday that it appeared very likely that an obstruction charge against Rove would be included with charges of perjury and lying to investigators.

An announcement by Fitzgerald is expected to come this week, sources close to the case said. However, the day and time is unknown. Randall Samborn, a spokesman for the special prosecutor was unavailable for comment. In the past, Samborn said he could not comment on the case.

As the Matt In The Hat would say, Developing....

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Diceman Whineth

Question for noted funnyman/tonsorial adventurer/house-liberal-in-charge Richtard Dice Cohen: Sensitive much?

Two weeks ago I wrote about Al Gore's new movie on global warming. I liked the film. In response, I instantly got more than 1,000 e-mails, most of them praising Gore, some calling him the usual names and some concluding there was no such thing as global warming, if only because Gore said there was. I put the messages aside for a slow day, when I would answer them. Then I wrote about Stephen Colbert and his unfunny performance at the White House correspondents' dinner.

Kapow! Within a day, I got more than 2,000 e-mails. A day later, I got 1,000 more. By the fourth day, the number had reached 3,499 -- a figure that does not include the usual offers of nubile Russian women or loot from African dictators. The Colbert messages began with Patrick Manley ("You wouldn't know funny if it slapped you in the face") and ended with Ron ("Colbert ROCKS, you MURDER") who was so proud of his thought that he copied countless others. Ron, you're a genius.

It goes on like that. Jesus, and you thought he was all butt-hurt about the dinner itself just a week or so ago. Now, I'm sure the Diceman gets his share of obnoxious e-mail; fortunately, he is comfortably recompensed, unlike the millions of unwashed bloggers and chat-room denizens who deal with other peoples' shit for free.

I particularly love Digby's take on all this, that Cohen, being neither truly liberal nor conservative but merely another fawning courtier in the Sun King's palace in Crawford East, really doesn't get what this is all about. He doesn't understand that, beneath the hyperbolic virtual drive-bys and e-lynchings (quel dangereuse!), there is a real undercurrent of irritation at Cohen's smarmy condescension.

And because Cohen is an unabashed -- one assumes proud, even -- member of the old school of commentary, he also doesn't realize that his œuvre is that of the journalistic buggy-whip. This is call-and-response in real time, baby; there are tens of millions of us, and we have read books and know shit too. It's just that the dynamics are exponentially exaggerated out here in the wild virtual west.

And people like Cohen have no clue how to keep up with such a dynamic, especially since they're careerist douchebags to begin with. They don't grok that 99% of us don't and can't do this for a living, and even the ones who can would generally (and did) do it for free. So fools like Cohen and Marshall Wittman and the like seize on the most obvious feature of that dynamic, which is the profanity, the strident tone, the verbal pimp-slapping and trash-talking.

They are wounded and mortified by it all, and they needn't be. It's not a barroom brawl; it's a barroom conversation, with all the speed and passion and attention-grabbing histrionics that entails. Sorry if it rankles your sense of decorum, old chum, but this really is how we rabble conduct ourselves at a block party or barbecue or what-have-you. Sorta takes the hokey charm out of it, don't it?

The thing is that Cohen, like Father Tim, like Paula Zahn, like the rest of the overpaid pseudo-journamalists who do precious little actual investimagating of anything but embossed party invites, are already sliding precipitously down the slope of irrelevance and ultimately obsolescence. Don't get me wrong; there will always be a need for actual news gathering, even of the sensationalistic tabloid type. But these people aren't news-gatherers, they're merely news-readers. They're performers, and if the miserable dynamic of American Idol and its ilk have proven anything, it's that pretty much anyone can be a performer. All you have to be is entertaining, and let's face it, the Diceman ain't that, especially when he's got a load of sand in his vagina about something this stupid.

And the more Cohen complains, the more he reminds people that he's said a lot of stupid shit in the past, lent an unpopular administration a lot of unwarranted cover, made a lot of huge bumbles in political judgement, and also floated a lot of fluffy nonsense that inadvertently betrays his thought process. Remember the infamous "Math is hard, let's go shopping" column from a few months back?

I confess to be one of those people who hate math. I can do my basic arithmetic all right (although not percentages) but I flunked algebra (once), barely passed it the second time -- the only proof I've ever seen of divine intervention -- somehow passed geometry and resolved, with a grateful exhale of breath, that I would never go near math again. I let others go on to intermediate algebra and trigonometry while I busied myself learning how to type. In due course, this came to be the way I made my living. Typing: Best class I ever took.

Here's the thing, Gabriela: You will never need to know algebra. I have never once used it and never once even rued that I could not use it. You will never need to know -- never mind want to know -- how many boys it will take to mow a lawn if one of them quits halfway and two more show up later -- or something like that. Most of math can now be done by a computer or a calculator. On the other hand, no computer can write a column or even a thank-you note -- or reason even a little bit. If, say, the school asked you for another year of English or, God forbid, history, so that you actually had to know something about your world, I would be on its side. But algebra? Please.

And that's after Cohen acknowledges (with his usual sniff) that math requirements are "the sort of vaunted education reform that is supposed to close the science and math gap and make the U.S. more competitive." How many typing or English whizzes does he think were involved in designing these calculators and computers he relies on? Plus his ignorant math/English dichotomy bugs the shit out of me; there are plenty of people who are good at both. They are not mutually exclusive, it's just that people like Cohen aren't disciplined enough to work a little harder and gain knowledge of something that certainly does have value, even if one happens not to be intuitively good at it initially. At a time when China and India are kicking our asses at science and math -- which will most certainly set the stage for the power dynamic of this century -- it is flat-out irresponsible to to tell someone it's okay to flunk something (any subject) six fucking times and then just walk away from it. It's just ignorant beyond belief.

Hell, I took typing in high school too. And trig and calculus. History and English as well. Even took a weightlifting class so's I could bulk up and meet chicks. Whoopdee-fuckin'-doo. You can be good at more than one or two things in life. It's this puffy nonsense that leads me to believe that Cohen is just another Bobo, a bland, fatuous milquetoast whose non-threatening, fake-heterodox demeanor lulls the reader into thinking momentarily that he's anything more than a willow in the cultural breeze.

In this column, Cohen actually took the administration to task for its dishonesty and mendacity in several areas, from NSA wiretapping to selling and waging its war:

This is why the war itself needed to be waged for specious reasons -- weapons of mass destruction. There were good reasons -- or, if you will, just plain reasons -- to go to war in Iraq. The president could have built his case around the inhumanity of Saddam Hussein's regime or its refusal to abide by numerous U.N. resolutions or even that the Middle East needed to be thrown up into the air to see if democracy came down -- something like that. But this, as Bush must have known and his associates have sometimes admitted (See Vanity Fair's 2003 interview with Paul Wolfowitz), would not suffice. He needed more: a threat. He needed the nonexistent al Qaeda link and the nonexistent WMD. The two threatened imminence. They justified doing something quickly -- too quickly, as it turned out. Conjecture was embraced as fact.

In order to take a nation to war, you have to believe mightily in the threat you are facing and the virtue of your cause. You have to gin yourself up, pull out all the patriotic stops, inflict the slippery-mouthed Cheney on the pitifully gullible viewers of Fox News. This is why all the rules were thrown out. Restrictions against torture were branded as quaint -- and amended to the point of revolting nonsense: the pain had to be virtually death-like. These prisoners, after all, were not serving nations, as in the good old days, but flagless terrorist organizations. In other words, evil. Bush was merely giving permission to fight fire with fire.

Leaving aside the fact that Cohen supported going to war in the first place, how does the tone of this column square against, say, Stephen Colbert's arch satirical monologue at The Dinner? Cohen's implicitly referring to Bush, Cheney, and Wolfowitz as the liars and fabulists that they are; he inveighs against the "pitifully gullible viewers of Fox News"; he's pissed about our use of torture. So it must simply be that Cohen's problem with Colbert is that Colbert inflicted his gauche yuks upon an unsuspecting audience that was innocently expecting the usual borscht-belt lookin-under-muh-desk-for-them-pesky-WMD, George-milked-a-male-horse family-style humor. Yeah, jerking off a horse=teh funny, but it's bad form to roast a deeply unpopular preznit who has been an unmitigated disaster for this nation. Bad form Steve, you bully, you.

Whatever. It does little good to divine the true Diceman by riffling the archive; like the old one-panel corner cartoons, when flipped quickly in succession, you just see a guy dancing in place, juggling lemons and such for the amusement of passersby.