31 July 2003
It's been right there in front of the Administration's face for nearly a year now: you devote a shitload of resources to fighting the war in Iraq, and you derail the search for international terrorists. It's ever-so-clear to me now, thanks to the feel-good article of the summer. However, let me issue the appropriate caveat-- the following sources of information are no doubt motivated by some sort of irrational hatred of the Bush Administration, and I wouldn't trust them to tell me that it's hot in Phoenix:
(1) Former CIA counter-terrorism official: The effort to find bin Laden had “lost at least half of its original strength.” He added, “Arabic speakers are in short supply. You still have some intelligence-collection assets in Afghanistan, but mostly it’s just small teams looking for signals. That’s because of Iraq.”
(2) Sri Lankan terrorism/al-Qaeda expert: “I feel that if they had not gone to Iraq they would have found Osama by now. The best people were moved away from this operation. The best minds were moved to Iraq. It’s a great shame. It’s the biggest military failure in the war on terrorism so far. The Americans need more resources, and more high-level people exclusively assigned to this task.”
(3) Former NSC official: “I have worried for some time that it became politically inconvenient” for the Bush Administration to “complete operations sufficiently in Afghanistan.”
(4) Numbers out of Afghanistan: For instance, a recent U.N. report found that the average number of attacks per month on coalition forces rose from around nine last year to more than thirty since the beginning of 2003.
The article goes on to assert, in a most counter-intuitive fashion, that Clinton actually wanted really badly to kill bin Laden, but that his efforts were initially derailed by the CIA and Pakistan (using unsympathetic Afghani warlords to carry out the task), and later the Pentagon's inept planning (deploying surface ships instead of submarines in the Tomahawk missile episode). However, the source for this absolutely ludicrous, unpatriotic, and bizarre claim is only the nation's first counter-terrorism czar and former Reagan Administration official Richard Clarke. So erase it from your mind, and focus on that haircut in the airport.
Postscript: And now the British are confirming this new inverse link! Bastardos! Didn't the War of 1812 teach these snaggle-toothed reprobates anything?
In my effort to become the world's biggest pain in the ass; or, put in a more highbrow fashion, in an effort to become the Zelig of the blogosphere, I am willing to comment on other people's better weblogs, without provocation, factual basis, or regard for my own safety. Here are a few you might have missed:
(1) North Korea going nuclear (Heretical Ideas): "Great news, Fearless Leader! The People's Nuclear Committee reports that we are about to become 'preemptive-war-proof' in 6 months! I'm going to boil a shoe for the celebration banquet!" Don't worry, I'm sure we're about to get a detailed realpolitik explanation from the National Review about why this result is preferable to the chickenshit appeasement of the Clinton Administration.
(2) The Lakers’ free agency moves (Kevin Holtsberry): The Jazz were my most hated of NBA teams for years. This makes the 2003-2004 most hated team and easy call (even though I love the way Gary Payton looks cocky even while he's getting schooled). Malone's numbers will hit the sewers, and he will be an unbridled fountain of bitchitude for the entire season.
(3) On soldiers’ declining morale (Democratic Veteran): Jeez, you would think that these uniformed ingrates would be completely enthused about implementing the dystopian vision of dishonest freaks like (William) Kristol and his PNAC/AEI cohorts.
(4) My most disturbing moment (Gut Rumbles): At age 9, I picked up a dog by the hind legs and pushed him around like a vacuum cleaner. Remember, it all goes on your permanent record. Oh, and one time, while ripped to the gills on mescaline and the pineal extract of the nine-banded armadillo, I discovered the key to interdimensional travel by listening... with my MIND... to Huey Lewis and the News' "If This Is It" for 43 consecutive hours. Try it if you dare.
(5) On the revelation that Detroit once gave the key to the city to Saddam Hussein (Tacitus): I must be missing something here. Wait a minute, I'm feeling a sense of... what do you call it... outrage! Yes, OUTRAGE!! How DARE they? Give 'em back to those Labatt's drinking surrender monkeys in Canada! And then our beloved leader Reagan, utterly powerless to contain the groundswell of objectively pro-Saddam sentiment, follows Detroit's lead and goes and does something like this: "As part of its opening to Baghdad, the Reagan administration removed Iraq from the State Department terrorism list in February 1982, despite heated objections from Congress." Sons of BITCHES!
30 July 2003
It's very rare that our President calls a press conference. When he actually assumes responsibility for one of the many falsehoods that let us to war (presumably to protect against having to fire Condoleeza Rice), the odds against go to about 1.4 billion to 1, or the chances of the Dallas Cowboys winning the Super Bowl this year. However, the odds that he would make most of us utter "What was that, now?" or completely mishandle a whole slew of not-very-tough questions are about even. My personal highlights:
(1) "The American people are proud of our Armed Forces, and we are grateful for their sacrifice and their service in fighting the war on terror. We also appreciate the military families who share in the hardship and uncertainties of this essential mission." Of course, if you were a POW tortured in the first Gulf War, this doesn't really apply to you. Take your gratitude stamps to the VA and hush up.
(2) "The United States and our allies will complete our mission in Iraq, and we'll complete our mission in Afghanistan." As previously mentioned, if this Afghani mission includes (a) letting warlords funded by the booming drug trade terrorize the populace and (b) letting the remnants of the Taliban mass in Pakistan to destabilize the region... then Mission Accomplished! Next!
(3) "We're beginning to see hopeful signs of faster growth in the economy, which over time will yield new jobs. Yet the unemployment rate is still too high. We will not rest until Americans looking for work can find a job." See you in a month! I've got some Lonesome Dove videotapes waiting for me back at the ranch, suckaz!
(4) Can I buy a verb? Or Military Strategery 101: "And, by the way, as we rotate, we'll be changing the nature of the military configuration to be more of a -- to have more of a -- the capacity to move very quickly and to strike quickly, because our intelligence is getting better on the ground, as we're able to pick targets, able to enrich targets and move quickly on the targets."
(5) "Of course, it's important that the -- that Saddam's sons were brought to justice." And by justice, we mean Mussolini justice, not the kind of justice that involves a courtroom or obtaining valuable intelligence. That's French justice, and I won't stand for it.
(6) "Now, what we can do is we can be -- obviously, at home, continue to be diligent on the inspection process of baggage, as well as making sure those who board aircraft are properly screened." And by properly screened, we mean not screened at all as we let a boatload of screeners frolic in the exciting world of unemployment.
(7) Question: "Can you finally offer us some definitive evidence that Saddam was working with al Qaeda terrorists?" Let me save you the trouble of wandering through the answer to this question. No, he can't.
(8) "And I'm confident that our search will yield that which I strongly believe, that Saddam had a weapons program." Boy, we're really raising the bar on this one.
(9) "I believe in the sanctity of marriage. I believe a marriage is between a man and a woman. And I think we ought to codify that one way or the other. And we've got lawyers looking at the best way to do that." Well, codify isn't really the right word here, Mr. President. I think you're grasping for "amend the Constitution for no good apparent reason, and waste taxpayer money in doing so." However, he did promise to safeguard the sanctity of marriage by stoning adulterers and divorcees (I think Newt Gingrich volunteered), as well as killing network executives that offer reality shows where the outcome is marriage.
(10) "My attitude is, a deeper recession means more people would have been hurt. And I view the actions we've taken as a jobs program, job creation program." In the words of Butt-head: "Uh-huh-huh-huh.... what?"
(11) "I take personal responsibility for everything I say, of course." You know what to do, electorate!
Well, that's enough. My eyes are bleeding.
29 July 2003
(a) "Because of some combination of bureaucratic inertia, political caution and unrealistic expectations left over from the war, we do not appear to be confident about our course in Iraq"
(b) "We just haven't seen any proof of linkages between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda," said [blank], who said Liberia had much clearer ties to terrorists.
(c) "Congress has been a co-conspirator with the administration in failing to advance a predictable, multiyear budget for operations in Iraq that would demonstrate American vision and commitment, attract allied support and clarify the scope of our mission."
(d) Regarding Iraq costs: "You and Mr. Bolten need to be more forthright in how long and how much"
(e) And again (to Wolfowitz): "Oh, come on now. Does anybody here think we are going to be down below 100,000 forces in the next calendar year? Raise your hand, anyone of you. You know it is going to be more than that, you know at least it is going to be $2.5 billion a month. Give me a break, will you? When are you guys going to start being honest with us?"
(f) Regarding the terrorist futures program: "I cannot conceive of any reason why the United States government should be involved in a project of this nature''
(g) And again: "It's totally unauthorized as far as we're concerned. No funds should have been used for it at all. It's really a serious mistake on the part of DARPA.''
The answers: (a) Richard Lugar (R-Indiana); (b) Lincoln Chafee (R-Rhode Island); (c) Lugar again; (d) George Voinovich (R-Ohio); (e) Senator Joseph Biden (D-Delaware) -- sorry, he just snuck in; (f) Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee); (g) Ted Stevens (R-Alaska).
Don't tell me someone is taking separation of powers and checks and balances seriously! You bastards!
This is not going to be a fisk (because you need serious formatting skillz to do this), but the apparent antithesis of my original patriotism post (i.e. how to be an unpatriotic patriot) has reared its head in the form of a post over at the fine folks at the Winds of Change. To be perfectly honest, I still don't know whether the article is a satire; if it is, I will obviously look like a (more of a) jackass (than I usually do) here. It begins, un-promisingly enough, with the following premise:
"In conversations with Tom Holsinger, he and I hit on a test that smokes out American haters of all stripes as well as Americans who lack patriotism. It is really simple: 'How does a person react to a public display of American patriotism?'”
I too have had extensive conversations with Tom Holsinger (well, who hasn't?), and somehow it's never come up. This appears to some sort of modified "flypaper theory"-- that an ugly, simple-minded display of patriotism may have a valuable secondary effect in drawing into the harsh light of day those who hate America. Well, at the 4th of July celebration I went to, Lee Greenwood was blared early and often. Me and my treasonous comrades would inevitably respond with an eyeroll, a "fucking sweet" muttered under our breath, and a detailed plan to replace that brain-dead yahoo music with a Buzzcocks CDs.
However, an extended analogy could be made between loud patriots/quiet patriots and, for instance, evangelical Christians and people that actually act like Christians. You don't hear Toby Keith blaring at 120 decibels from the Crown Victoria of a World War II veteran. The latter category has actually proved its patriotic credentials through its previous actions, not impotent raging against the French, boycotting progressive country radio stations, or displaying moronic one-liner bumperstickers. Similarly, people secure in their religious faith don't lash out against other denominations or religions, ask God to bless the package of apple-cinnamon rolls they got for breakfast, or display bumperstickers informing other drivers (quite disturbingly) that their vehicle will go unmanned "In the Case of Rapture", thereby becoming an instrument of death and mayhem on the highway.
Here's a swell game you can play every morning. Type in the word "Afghanistan" into the Google news search engine, and you get a shitload of stories. Strangely enough, none of them seem ever originate from any major US news outlets. I'll usually see some Asian or BBC reporting on an Afghan issue for several days, and about one in ten gets picked up.
However, if you're a newly liberated citizen of Iraq, and you've reacquired your broadband connection, I wouldn't encourage you to look to the shining example of Afghanistan for hope of democracy and self-determination. Running water should be a higher priority; but here are some lessons you can take away like so much Kung Pao Chicken.
(1) Warlords are fun people. Use them.
(2) Nothing says "benign neglect" like large pieces of your former, terrorist government massing along the border. Use this development to get some super-sweet financial aid.
(3) If you can get the U.S. Army to stay in your country for nearly two years, the names for the operations they conduct will become lamer and lamer, and provide a constant source of amusement for you and your terrorized family. "Operation Warrior Sweep"? Man, hire some of Bob Hope's old writers. You DoD comedy writers suck!
(4) If all else fails, start blaming Iran for your problems. If you've really got some leftover WMDs stored in the back-seat of a station wagon somewhere, calmly drive it past the border and start honking your horn.
Look, I know occupation-- er-- liberation isn't easy. I would quote you something inspirational from the theme song of "Growing Pains", but I can't honestly remember how it goes. What Would Kirk Cameron Do?
28 July 2003
Looks like Texas is about to be the center of attention again, and not for anything uplifting. A second special legislative session has been called: not on our looming school finance disaster, our budget deficits that are causing services to be slashed and thousands of health care workers to be laid off. Nope, it's about redistricting again. Public commentary during the last special session ran about 10-1 against redistricting, polls show that the idea is unpopular even with Texas Republicans, and my sprawling mess of a state will continue to be a laughingstock.
Both the Senate and the House Democrats have left the building, there's already litigation to see whether state troopers can be used again, and it looks like the economy of Albuquerque will get a temporary boost.
I'll try not to write too much on this, unless I hear abjectly asinine things spewing forth from our local Republican sock puppets, such as Governor Rick Perry (who continues to erroneously claim that the this is "important to the people of this state"). I suggest tuning to the infinitely more patient and masochistic Burnt Orange Report for ongoing coverage.
Needless to say, I profusely apologize. Allow me to send you a care package full of discounted, day-old meatballs from our local Spaghetti Warehouse.
... has to be Young/College Republicans (warning, this is a Salon link, and you'll probably have to sit through an alarmist ACLU advertisement to get to the article, but it's worth it). People who, with a straight face, utter the following corker: "The life of a liberal is hell. It is not possible to have a debate, a discussion, with someone who at their root, at their core, hates everything this country stands for but doesn't hate it enough to leave." I mean, it's precious.
However, it's too easy to simply dismiss everything you read in this article as hollow, empty-headed verbal droppings uttered by privileged, pasty, fascist-leaning, mouthbreathing cretins. There is an interesting, if slight, ideological diversity to these rallies. The older French conservatives (how did THEY get in there?!?) who are puzzled by the convention's religious fervor and iconography. The delegate of Taiwanese descent who seems to at least think independently about infrastructure and the world economy.
However, when one of the delegates seems to imply that GWB is more of a "uniter, not a divider" than communist dupe Martin Luther King, Jr., you begin to question whether these young conventioneers are pod people or crude cyborgs powered by R. Robot Idiotic Phrase Generator 3.0.
27 July 2003
Apparently there were a whole lotta people generating a whole lotta posts for a whole lotta charities this weekend. I meant to give a donation, but apparently REO Speedwagon trading cards are not donatable via PayPal. I didn't participate, of course, because I don't think the reading public could stomach a tenfold dilution of the quality of my posts without going clinically insane. Here are some things I plan on doing in the next year, regardless of whether anyone pays me to do it:
(1) Eat a Bistro Jack (TM) every hour for 24 hours. This would have the dual effect of (a) raising money for my favorite charity, which refurbishes shopping carts for Austin's homeless and (b) setting a world record for eating those noxious creations, which currently stands at 3/4ths of a sandwich.
(2) Taking a road trip to Houston and reporting a High Occupancy Vehicle lane violations every hour for 24 hours. According to billboards in my fair hometown, this activity makes you a "hero". Audie Murphy may have killed 50 Germans with dental floss, but I will have narced on two dozen soccer moms frantically trying to get to dance practice before their kid calls CPS.
(3) Getting strapped up, Clockwork Orange-style, and watching the "Friends" DVD compilation with audio commentary. This, of course, will make me violently nauseous every time I see David Schwimmer. Wait a minute... cancel this one.
(4) Going to every high school prom in Austin next year and replacing the DJ's crappy dance mix tape with Fear's "The Record". New York's Alright if You Like Saxophones, indeed!
(5) Making a prank call to 24 separate Administration apologist bloggers in 24 hours, offering them a plush job in their respective fields of sycophancy. It's no "Tarbash, the Egyptian Magician", but then again, I can't punch myself in the chest and make myself disappear.
25 July 2003
Liberia is currently hovering between being a "catastrophe" and being "utterly destroyed". This is obviously not good news. A few easily contradictable points on the matter:
(1) Everyone should acquiant themselves with the history of Liberia. It's fascinating, and may provoke a twinge of responsibility in even the most coldly logical neo-con purveyor of realpolitik. I mean, the capital city is called Monro(e)via, for shit's sake.
(2) A lot of people surmised that Colin Powell agreed to take the lead on winning over the United Nations on war with Iraq in exchange for the Administration's support of the African AIDS initiative. AIDS is definitely a pandemic on the continent, but, in the last 20 years, ranks second in terms of destabilizing effects. Think of civil wars in Rwanda, the Congo, Sudan, and Liberia. What good is HIV care and education if there's only a smoldering heap of a hospital where you could administer such care? (BTW, the only hospital standing in Monrovia is called John F. Kennedy, for shit's sake).
(3) While some on the left may be called hypocritical for supporting military intervention/assistance here while opposing pre-emptive war in Iraq (I won't deal with this fallacious argument here), there are pragmatic reasons why joining the pre-existing U.N. effort in that country make sense. As a corollary to point #2, if we want to appear to actually care about the stability of Africa (in the eyes of its citizens), we have to follow Colin Powell's suggestion and try to at least get the shellings to stop.
(3a) I mean, if you want to hear hypocrisy, read the article on how the Pentagon is hesitant about Liberia because it's "fraught with peril". That may very well be the case. Did they get to speak so freely prior to launching pre-emptive war on Iraq?
(4) Finally, we must be humanitarians. After all, isn't that what the "I don't care if WMDs are ever found in Iraq" crowd is all about these days? I mean, if national security (read: national interest) can't be supported by objective, unpuffed evidence isn't "liberation of oppressed people" all we're left with? I mean, Dick Cheney could have said that Iraq was all about enforcing international respect for human rights, but the words would have congealed in this throat, leaving him gasping for air.
(5) U.N. involvement apparently means legitimacy, American involvement apparently means increased chances of actual success. I think both are needed. My conclusion: I don't know whether we should commit troops to Liberia, but I'm leaning that way. Let the egg-throwing commence!
24 July 2003
Tom DeLay in the Middle East. Sweet. According to the story, he is going to bring along some 700 Club videotapes, a dog-eared copy of one of those "Left Behind" books, some Jesus air fresheners, and two exterminator's tanks full of Palestinian-B-Gone special formula. Can utter contentment and harmony in the region be far behind?
In order to promote democracy as he understands it, expect the following seminars for the provisional Iraqi government: (1) how to shake down lobbyists; (2) how to gain power by introducing the concept of divisive redistricting to the provisional Iraqi government, guaranteeing intra-factional squabbles for the next 100 years; (3) how to mobilize large federal government agencies to track down dissenting lawmakers; and (4) how the "lucky duck" economic theory works, and how you can use it to screw the working poor (especially if they have children) on a regular basis.
Damn, that was shrill.
After looking at Congress' whitewashed behemoth of a report, it's time to sit back with a few brewskis and wait for the Independent Commission's report on 9/11, which should be ready about the first of never. Their interim report seems to indicate that although some federal agencies are starting to assist it, the Departments of Justice, Defense, Transportation, and Homeland Security (obviously all irrelevant to their inquiry) are still providing valuable hurdles, roadblocks, and non-cooperation.
Of course, since the Bush Administration originally opposed the creation of the commission, tried to limit its scope, tried to appoint a somewhat conflicted Dr. Henry Kissinger as its chair, and gave it 1/10th the money that the Whitewater investigation used up, it serves them right. Obviously.
Looks like the Congressional Report on the 9/11 hijackings is finally getting published on the web; I found the full report (5.5 MB worth) on the Findlaw website. I really wouldn't suggest that you read the whole thing, but do wish to point out a few highlights:
(1) Page 3: The ever-important title page. It's dated December 2002. Insofar as the report concludes that there was no link between Iraq and al-Qaeda, it's a good thing it was delayed until after the State of the Union address, past the 3 months of wrangling with UN inspections, past major combat operations, past the aircraft carrier stunt, past the futile search for WMDs, and just past wiping out Saddam's son and grandson. Fortune smiles! Large mammals have gone through entire gestation periods in the time it's taken the Administration and the ever-reliable intelligence community to clear the 9/11 report.
(2) Page 11 will explain the various asterisks and strikethroughs you will have to maneuver around. As you get down to the meat of the report, you'll notice that even the table of comments is heavily redacted. You begin to lose confidence in the enlightenment potential of the document.
(3) Pages 23-31 contain the Cliff Notes version of the unredacted findings. Not looking too good for the CIA, the intelligence community at large, the National Security Council, or the FBI. However, Boy Scout Local #1265 gets major props. The infamous, missing Finding #13 (pp. 29-30) probably has something to do either with Saudi Arabia or Administration insistence on maintaining the integrity of photo opportunities in the face of large, exploding buildings.
(4) Pages 163-178: the recommendations include establishing a "national director of intelligence". This person should independent, forthright, and unyielding concerning the integrity of intelligence work, unless we're talking about attacking Syria or Iran. It also calls for the reports to be sent to Congress on (a) coordination of intelligence activities by the NSA and (b) cooperation of the State and Justice Departments on deportation by June 30, 2003. Oh shit, that was 3 weeks ago! Damn these retroactive deadlines!
(5) Pages 448-474: Utterly blank. I just saved you some time. Pages 518-end. Additional views of Committee members. I heartily encourage to pick the one you least like and make fun of them.
Apparently, Grover Norquist's wet dream of having a state go utterly bankrupt has come to fruition, if only in Onion format. Grover, as you may or may not know, is not a lovable blue Sesame Street character, but rather some kind of hideous ogre who wished for that very result in April 2002.
In Texas (Current Tourism Motto: "Why Go To A Third World Country Halfway Across the World When There's One Right Here?"), the state enacted some pretty draconian cuts to weasel around its $10 billion biennial deficit. Of course, it also employed accounting tricks, outright panhandling of the federal government, raising fees, shifting costs to counties and municipalities--- but it never raised taxes (wink wink). Lots of the cuts were in the health care sector, such as nursing home visits, children's health insurance--- places where demographics put every conservative, stagnant state at an immediate disadvantage. The question always remains: what would it take to get Joe Republican or Joe Blue Dog Democrat to notice that the safety net the state provides even affects them?
Found one! You may in the Houston area and are wondering why there's been an alarming increase in new crystal meth labs, prostitution, and per capita tattoos in your sleepy suburban neighborhood. It may have something to do with the 3,000 parolees in Harris County who are currently unaccounted for by the state's prison system. Don't worry, though, the State has a plan. Call another goddamned redistricting special session (I knew I could work it that in somehow).
C'mon down, folks! Lots of land still available in the Lone Star State!
23 July 2003
My beloved home country of Norbiztania is quickly devolving into a nation that is one part H.P. Lovecraft, three parts Ayn Rand idealized state, two parts crappy Japanimation, one part Beserkley wet dream, and one part apocalyptic prediction by Pat Robertson after the recent Supreme Court sodomy criminalization case. Recent news reports indicate the following disturbing developments:
"Its hard-nosed, hard-working, cynical population of 158 million are rabid consumers, partly through choice and partly because the government tells them to and dissenters tend to vanish from their homes at night.... there have been reports of people marrying housepets, scientists recently cloned the long-extinct feather-bellied pikachu, it is illegal to make racist remarks in public, and organ donation is compulsory."
I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Democracy simply doesn't work.
[Link via Atrios] Not content with intimidating the intelligence community, it appears that the White House is trying to intimidate the Senate Intelligence Committee by floating rumors that Senator Durbin (D-IL) has been leaking specific information that was supposed to be held in closed session, and that other members want him removed from the Committee. Thankfully, it backfired, as everyone in the Senate backed up Durbin, and now appears to be ready to investigate the allegations (posted by me as rock-solid fact, as is my unbalanced prerogative) listed in the "Deep Dark Disturbing Secrets" story.
You know, that Niger story is just such a fart in a hurricane. If the White House considers it so unimportant (going after a Senator and an undercover CIA agent), why can't you? It's like... you know... a third-rate burglary or something.
Look, you hysterical peaceniks and purveyors of incessant envy against George W. Bush, the Niger story doesn't matter. It is so utterly inconsequential, trifling, purportless, dinky, and unimpressive that the Administration will blow the cover off an undercover CIA agent in some child-like retaliatory maneuver agains the diplomat who investigated the claim. Of course, yesterday's White House news conference was dominated by talks of the demise of Saddam's hellspawn (see posting below), but a few journalists managed to actually ask a few questions on the subject (about 3/4ths of the way through):
Q The Robert Novak column last week identified the wife of Ambassador Joseph Wilson as a CIA operative who was working on WMD issues. Novak said that identification is based on information given to him by two administration sources. That column has now given rise to accusations that the administration deliberatively blew the cover of an undercover CIA operative, and in so doing, violated a federal law that prohibits revealing the identity of undercover CIA operatives. Can you respond to that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Thank you for bringing that up. That is not the way this President or this White House operates. And there is absolutely no information that has come to my attention or that I have seen that suggests that there is any truth to that suggestion. And, certainly, no one in this White House would have given authority to take such a step... (break)
Q You're saying, flatly, it did not happen, nobody --
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm telling you, flatly, that that is not the way this White House operates. I've seen no evidence to suggest that there's any truth to that.
Q That's different from saying it didn't happen. Are you saying, absolutely, it did not happen?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm saying no one was certainly given any authority to do anything of that nature. And I've seen no evidence to suggest there's any truth to it. I want to make it very clear, that is simply not the way this White House operates.
For further analysis, I would suggest checking out Just One Minute and Mark Kleiman. One unasked follow-up question was "Why would we care what a press secretary who's been on the job for less than a week thinks about how the White House operates?" This is truly a Nixonian moment, comparable to the break-in to Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office, but worse for two reasons: (1) what Ambassador Wilson did was not arguably illegal; (2) it did not compromise the ongoing operations of an undercover agent.
As I've previously stated, it just doesn't pay to be a independent-minded intelligence official in this Administration. All spooks, moles, diplomats, and spies should just get out the biz altogether and start buying fast food franchises (except for Arby's-- we need to quash that epidemic tout suite) in the suburban DC area.
22 July 2003
To retain your bona-fide red, white, and blue credentials, all persons running a weblog must do a post on the possibility that Qusay and Uday Hussein are dead by 3:00 p.m., CST. This categorical imperative attaches especially if you are slightly left-of-center, opposed the War in Iraq, or have voiced any of your sniveling concerns about the rock-solid veracity of this Administration and its spokespersons. In rushing to post this bit of news (based on Pentagon sources), you will prove that you do not--- I repeat not--- approve of tortuting Olympic athletes, raping women, killing entire families, or drinking Lite beer. Be sure to entitle your post "A Bit of Good News" or "Thank God!" or "Thank G-d!".
Do not wait for independent confirmation. Immediately speculate about what this means for the war effort. Get inside the mind of a loyal Ba'ath henchman. If you're in the Administration apologeia business, allow yourself a brief moment to gloat over the foolishness of lefties and hippies worldwide. You've earned it.
UPDATE: As if responding to my 3:00 p.m. CST deadline, the military has confirmed it. There's one shopkeeper in Mosul that's going to have a lot of relatives coming out of the woodwork when they find out he just got $30 million ($15 million per son)! A brief word of warning: I may still post in the future concerning the 9/11 report, although my resolve will be sorely tested by the Kobe/PFC Lynch/Uday-Qusay/dead Baylor basketball player news cycle.
21 July 2003
The irony detection meters at the Institute for Unintentionally Funny Shit went haywire today over the remarks by Paul Wolfowitz (Under Secretary of Rubbing-Your-Goddamned-Appeasenik-Noses-In-It) in Iraq. "I think all foreigners should stop interfering in the internal affairs of Iraq," said Wolfowitz, who is touring the country to meet U.S. troops and Iraqi officials. "Those who want to come and help are welcome. Those who come to interfere and destroy are not."
Several of his aides blushed in embarrassment. Several members of the press corps covering his visit wet themselves in anticipation of the follow-up question that begged to be asked. When they finally stopped laughing long enough to ask the question, Wolfowitz (a) turned crimson with rage, (b) immediately ingested his "How To Interfere in The Internal Affairs of Syria For $5 Billion A Month" booklet, and (c) threw down a smoke bomb and beat a hasty retreat in the Wolfowitzmobile. [Sorry if you've now read this pithy scenario twice--- it's in the comments at Oliver Willis' site, but his main page is all jacked up right now]
I then re-checked another article concerning Shiite clerics yelling at us to get on up out their country, and found a fortuitous link. Apparently, many of the thousands of protestors mentioned in the article only started going apeshit after a fleet of helicopters started buzzing around the neighborhood: "There had indeed been Apache helicopters overhead and extra troops on the streets, but that was to provide security for a visit by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz." The clerics replied: "Oh, in that case, it's all good."
Ah, Wolfie. Will you ever win?
Featuring the delicious talents of the criminally underused Princess Kashmir. Features the one Bart quote I use when I really want something: "Where's my spy camera? (10x)"
Marge: Mmmhmmm. Eugene Fisk, isn't he your assistant?
Homer: No! My... supervisor.
Marge: Didn't he used to be your assistant?
Homer: Hey, what is this! The Spanish Exposition?
Marge: Since it's just the four of us tonight, we're having dinner at the Rusty Barnacle.
Bart: Only four of us? Who escaped?
Bart: Jam a dagger in your thigh?
Bart: Eat a horse-manure pie?
Milhouse: [pauses] Yup.
Homer: Look Barney, see the row of tiny lights up there? The middle one is my house. Someone must've left the porch light on.
Barney: Hey, that's rough pal. [using the phone] Hello, Marge? You left your damned porch light on! Homer isn't made of money you know!
(1) Who knew that Afghanistan was going to turn out like... er... Afghanistan always does? For those wondering about the length of and/or resolve for the U.S. troops in Iraq, we've now hit the 20-month mark for operations in Afghanistan. Has it appeared on any national newscast that (a) the Taliban is still killing and being killed, (b) Kabul is itself a minor war zone [running contrary to my previous belief that it was the beacon of calm in a country about to disintegrate into feudal warfare], or (c) that the war in Iraq is providing cover for the Taliban's resurgence?
(2) Is anyone discussing the paradoxical possibility that the war in Iraq created potential terrorist alliances and reduced national security? Are we only left with the "he tried to kill my Dad" justification for pre-emptive war?
(3) Is there any doubt that medical malpractice/tort reform movement is basically a wet dream for the insurance industry, completely unsupported by any objective facts? Florida, which is obviously a communist haven for unscrupulous trial lawyers and malingering welfare cases, reports that their "uncapped" system has not deterred doctors from entering the state or caused huge settlements or judgments. In addition, has anyone explained why the $250,000 figure is the cap for non-economic damages? Wasn't that the number first proposed in 1975 for California? Why not just reduce it to zero, for [censored] sake?
Home to my favorite team, the Houston Astros (or Disastros, or Lastros), this is a division saved only from "utterly non-compelling" status by the amalgamation of crap teams in the AL Central. Instead of touting the virtues of the Astros franchise, here are a list of reasons that none of the other teams in this abyssmal division will walk away with the NL Central crown, which entitles the victorious team to get swept by the Braves in the first round of the playoffs:
(1) St. Louis Cardinals: Albert Pujols, being some sort of advanced cyborg, will experience a run-time error sometime in early August due to the Trojan virus. Jim Edmonds will explode upon hitting the center field wall in pursuit of a long fly ball. Woody Williams will remember that he is a former University of Houston Cougar and lose his next 11 decisions. Rick Ankiel will return to the rotation and accidentally concuss Tony LaRussa with an errant fastball.
(2) Chicago Cubs: Dusty Baker, after consulting with the scientific tracts of the honorable Elijah Mohammed, will inexplicably pull Mark Prior and Kerry Wood from any further day games at Wrigley Field, instead substituting recently-signed warhorses Ferguson Jenkins and "Oil Can" Boyd. Sammy Sosa will be suspended until the 2007 season for using an aluminum bat.
(3) Cincinnati Reds: Ken Griffey Jr. will break both legs after banging his knee on a coffee table (unfortunately, he beat me to it, tearing asunder a bunch of foot tendons trying to run out a double). The starting pitching will become completely demoralized after giving up 13 runs in a charity father-son game.
(4) Pittsburgh Pirates: Randall Simon will be incarcerated after repeatedly running over the Phillies Phanatic with a golf cart and decapitating the San Diego Chicken. Management will trade Brian Giles and Kris Benson to the Dodgers for a Hickory Farms gift basket.
(5) Milwaukee Brewers: Although their winning the division is completely beyond the realm of possibility in this particular known universe, it should be pointed out that the entire team is regularly drunk, coked up, tripping, and clinically depressed while on the field.
18 July 2003
The following chestnut of a list is moldy, dated, and sure to be a future Bonfire of the Vanities entry, but here goes.
(1) Fun with low budget Star Trek: (a) Data with a Speak and Spell voice, or whose right eye lights up green and left eye red like Mr. Owl. (b) Have laser beams simulated with long cardboard tubes covered with construction paper. Have people walk into them. (c) many alien life forms seem to be house pets (d) all remaining life forms, instead of prosthetic foreheads, have Michael Myers masks or Groucho Marx glasses.
(2) "I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!" Part Deux: Drop off Tom Arnold, Carrot Top, MC Hammer, both Coreys, etc somewhere in the Peruvian rain forest. Have one stationary camera. Answer the inevitable query “When is this show going to air?” with “What show?”
(3) Logical extensions of the Great White Fire natural selection paradigm into other forms of mass media: (a) nerve gassing anyone at [insert crappy movie, preferrably one directed by Michael Bay or starring Adam Sandler]. Pump in air freshener. Have ushers remove bodies. Repeat. (b) Plastic explosive in cable box that detonates upon more than 5 minutes continuous viewing of the “Anna Nicole Show” (c) revive recently-scrapped Total Information Awareness program to deport Jennifer Lopez CD purchasers. (d) Have James Earl Jones, in his most apocalyptic baritone, inform viewers of end-times movies [Left Behind series] via their enhanced DVD that the rapture will commence on January 1, 2004. The catch is, the faithful must leave their car engines running in the garage to rejoin Jesus in the sky.
(4) Roman Polanski as a Star Search panel judge. Keeps referring to any female child performer over the age of 10 as “too goddamned old”. “I am not awarding you any stars. You sicken me!” In the alternative, Arsenio Hall regresses to his high-top fade, comes onstage as an aspiring comic, and it barraged by stale pastries upon performing a “White People Dancing” sketch.
(5) Fun with black evangelical preachers. They should recite entire McDonald’s value menu in a crescendo of holy fervor upon describing the food products Jesus did not have access to while fasting in the wilderness. “The Lamb of God was hongry!” [Karl Malone pronunciation]. Fun with Mexican evangelical preachers. Speaking in tongues (English) during performance. Subtitle any speaking in tongues to accurately reflect gibberish and/or elementary catchphrases.
Well, at least there's been one positive development that's come out of "Shamelessly Politicizing Intelligence, In Effect Lying Your Ass Off To America-gate". The Administration's latest attempt to play three-card foreign policy monty has been temporarily forestalled by the CIA. John Bolton, the Undersecretary in the Department of Making Shit Up, was noticeably crestfallen. Yes, that's really his picture, and yes, he is related to the finest singer of this or any other generation, Michael Bolton. He is kind of both mother and father to Michael, having asexually reproduced and laid the egg that became the pod that became the Michael Bolton pupa in 1954.
Whoops, got off track for a moment. According to the above-linked story, the CIA had a few problems with Mr. Bolton's prepared testimony... to the tune of a 35-paged memorandum. The CIA also looked into Mr. Bolton's previous utterances, which included the widely laughed at and spat-upon claim that Cuba had an advanced biological weapons program, as well as the fact that he was responsible having the CIA investigate Hans Blix. In fact, sources report that the CIA Director personally directed Bolton's report to be branded with the rarely used "NO FUCKING WAY" stamp.
Sorry, Syria. You'll have to wait till election season to become the sideshow distraction we all want and desire.
Sorry to do it, but I tried to identify those persons on my increasingly bizarre list of links to the right who appear to be Texans. I'm sorry I outed you if you wished to remain anonymous. In addition, if I've incorrectly labelled you as a Texan, consider yourself temporarily blessed; however, I will remove the label for the nominal fee of $5. I also added a few links, but I can't honestly remember which ones they are.
17 July 2003
The winner may or may not receive an Air Supply LP and a Delino DeShields baseball card (very good condition, Upper Deck, 1992). Answers appear at the bottom.
(a) "The modern-day limited-government movement has been co-opted. The conservatives have failed in their effort to shrink the size of government. There has not been, nor will there soon be, a conservative revolution in Washington."
(b) "Since the change of the political party in charge has not made a difference, who’s really in charge? If the particular party in power makes little difference, whose policy is it that permits expanded government programs, increased spending, huge deficits, nation building and the pervasive invasion of our privacy, with fewer Fourth Amendment protections than ever before?"
(c) "Interest in personal privacy and choices has generally remained outside the concern of many conservatives—especially with the great harm done by their support of the drug war."
(d) "There is abundant evidence exposing those who drive our foreign policy justifying preemptive war. Those who scheme are proud of the achievements in usurping control over foreign policy. These are the neoconservatives of recent fame. Granted, they are talented and achieved a political victory that all policymakers must admire. But can freedom and the republic survive this takeover? That question should concern us."
(e) "Since 9-11, protection of privacy, whether medical, personal or financial, has vanished. Free speech and the Fourth Amendment have been under constant attack."
(f) "The money and views of Rupert Murdoch also played a key role in promoting the neocon views, as well as rallying support by the general population, through his News Corporation, which owns Fox News Network, the New York Post, and Weekly Standard. This powerful and influential media empire did more to galvanize public support for the Iraqi invasion than one might imagine."
(g) "The majority of Americans became convinced of this threat, which, in actuality, never really existed. Now we have the ongoing debate over the location of weapons of mass destruction. Where was the danger? Was all this killing and spending necessary? How long will this nation building and dying go on? When will we become more concerned about the needs of our own citizens than the problems we sought in Iraq and Afghanistan? Who knows where we’ll go next—Iran, Syria or North Korea?"
(h) "It’s of interest to note that some large Christian denominations have joined the neoconservatives in promoting preemptive war, while completely ignoring the Christian doctrine of a Just War. The neocons sought and openly welcomed their support."
(i) "It is getting more difficult to get fair and balanced discussion on the issues, because it has become routine for the hegemons to label those who object to preemptive war and domestic surveillance as traitors, unpatriotic and un-American. The uniformity of support for our current foreign policy by major and cable-news networks should concern every American."
ANSWERS [click on the link]: (a), (b), (c), (d), (e), (f), (g), (h), and (i). An absolutely sickening, anti-American menagerie of verbal diarrhea!
(1) Currently, the Johnny Cochran (defense) v. Alan Derschowitz (prosecution) mock trial concerning Pete Rose's entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame is about 2/3rds of the way through, and Lord is it boring. ESPN ran a poll concurrent with this event that shows that 81% of the fans out there believe he should gain entry despite (allegedly) betting on baseball. That's enough for me. No way should that asswipe singles-hitter get in. In the alternative, if he does, boot out one of those mediocre Yankees or Dodgers like Phil Rizzuto or Pee Wee Reese.
(2) America is currently working to restore the democratically elected government of Sao Tome, displaced after a military coup. Now really--- with a nearly $500 billion deficit, doesn't the U.S. have better things to do than to meddle in the affairs of an obviously fictitious country?
(3) With nearly $390 billion in the defense budget for this next year, I am ashamed and disappointed the Senate couldn't spare a little change to re-implement the Total Information Awareness system. We seriously risk leaving unfulfilled one of the prerequisites of the coming Apocalypse, leaving us with only Plan 'B': drilling into every American's nasal cavity and installing a tracking device.
(4) To temporarily extend the sham pretense that I'm non-partisan in my outrage, allow me to tell John Conyers (D-MI) and Howard Berman (D-CA) to administer themselves rusty catheters without an anesthetic.
(5) And now to remove the veneer of non-partisan outrage, check out South Knox Bubba's list of Bush Administration accomplishments. Of special note is our President's bewildering willingness to extend outreach to weird, dangerous cults.
(6) I am currently in the midst of reforming the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ): you may ask for the Secretary of Defense's resignation only if the following three conditions have been met: (a) it's been 110 or hotter for 3 straight weeks; (b) conversations with your superior officer have started to vaguely resemble selected portions of "Catch-22"; and (c) you're talking to "Good Morning America". In essence, I believe the combined heat, absurdity, and Joan Lunden's Jedi mind tricks caused these brave soldiers to insanely question the undisputed genius of Donald Rumsfeld. Section 8 for Private Pyle!
16 July 2003
Since my post on how to be a grouchy, misanthropic patriot seems to be generating a fair amount of morbid curiousity in this site, I thought I would mention to all others about this wonderful program called "Carnival of the Vanities", currently hosted by Jeff at Caerdroia.
This poor schlep actually had to read all of the posts sent to him by bloggers from around the world, leading me to believe that Caerdroia means "the state of slowly losing one's mind" in Gaelic. One week in the Carnival (which is persisting like some 19th century boxing gore-fest) is enough to make a hard man humble, and he's handing off Round 44 of this never-ending cycle of nonsense to Da Goddess, who is apparently a minor deity from the Fifth Ward in Houston. I'm sure it will tax all of her supernatural patience.
15 July 2003
... for CIA Director Tenet to fall on. According to the public utterances of the Administration over the last 18 months, "intelligence", "information" and "sources" have indicated, among other things, that:
(1) there is a "mountain of evidence" that weapons of mass destruction were being gathered [Fleischer, Sep. 2002];
(2) that Hussein was authorizing field commanders to use (at this point) non-existent weapons [Bush, Oct. 2002 and Feb. 2003];
(3) there are "thousands" of tons of sarin, VX, and mustard gas [Ibid.];
(4) there was a fleet of aerial vehicles to disperse these thousands of tons of material [Ibid.];
(5) enough biological weapons to dwarf the impact of a nuclear bomb were in the hands of Iraqi leadership [Frist, Jan. 2003];
(6) Hussein had enough material to produce 500 tons of sarin, VX, and mustard gas (ed.: is this in addition to those things cited in #3, or a modification/ contradiction of #3?. For instance, I have enough gasoline in my car to produce some Molotov cocktails...) [Bush, State of the Union, Jan. 2003];
(7) he had reconstituted nuclear weapons [Cheney, Mar. 2003];
(8) we knew where the WMDs were, specifically, in the areas around Tikrit and Baghdad [Rumsfeld, Mar. 2003].
Focusing on the Niger uranium connection may be illustrative of the larger falsehoods.. er... intelligence failures. However, now that the 16 words have been reduced to a sickening semantics squabble, remaining on it too long will ultimately be counter-productive. I would begin anew with the "specific quantities" assertions listed above in #3 and #6.
My original deficit timeline, a pale, uninspired attempt to copy the recent success of Billmon's Weapons of Mass Destruction quotes timeline, is in need of update. It seems that the White House has finally closed the circle which began in March 2001 with President Bush's proclamation that $2 trillion in debt could be paid down over the next 10 years even if we went into a 1991-like recession.
Well, it's July 2003 now, and the White House now admits to adding nearly $1 trillion in debt over the next two years. Apparently this record deficit will assure that you are never attacked again, according to the malingering Ari Fleischer:
"Well, I want to remind you: What was the cost of September 11th? What is cost of a country that is attacked? What is the price that the American people would have to pay if something like that were to ever happen again?"
Sounds like a winning campaign theme, you fearmongering cueball! This could could represent the first time the pocketbook test has been trumped in my memory: "So you're employed, your 401(k) has been beat to shit, long-term interest rates are rising, your industry has moved to India, your state government's services have been eviscerated... but look at the Terror Alert Level: niiiiiice and yellow. Niiiiiiiice and yellow. (repeat x8). Vote Bush 2004."
Alternate take: Well, you prevaricating mound of nerdy nonsense, how exactly are we "paying for it"? Wouldn't a $400 billion deficit indicate we're putting it on credit?
I am told by reliable sources that I have thousands of loyal readers in the fantastic Texas communities of Port O'Connor, Indianola, Port Lavaca, Point Comfort, Palacios, Seadrift, Matagorda, Victoria, Edna, Francitas, La Salle, Dernal, Kamey, Tivoli, Refugio, Mission Valley and Vidaurri. Two words for all you shrimp-eating, trailer-park living sumbitches: LOOK OUT!
There are certain movies which I believe are impossible to dislike. It's really not a matter of taste or of conventional wisdom... it's just any right-thinking person cannot help but like the movie. Buena Vista Social Club is one of them, due in no small part to Compay Segundo (born Francisco Repilado), a nine-decade cigar smoker, ladies man, and leading light in Cuban music since the 1940s. Why do the good die so young?
14 July 2003
As usual, the Burnt Orange Report, a Texas-based weblog obviously written by some sort of time-travelling freak, has beaten me to the punch. Lt. Governor David Dewhurst is currently convening a press conference; it is expected that he is going to announce that redistricting is dead because of a solid 11 votes in the Texas Senate to block the matter (The Senate has 31 members, 2/3rds are needed to bring up a matter without general consent in the special session).
This may come as unfortunate news to those billions of Tom DeLay fans that are literally crestfallen every time he doesn't get his way. To the assorted malcontents, Belgians, and pathological Michael Bolton aficionados that are not in said club, I say: Thank God this garbage legislation is dead. Not only will this farce have been prevented, but loyal readers can expect a 84% in redistricting-related posts (at least until 2011).
Update (3:49 p.m., CST): What a non-conference! Essentially, all he said was that "the Senate continues to work on a fair map". Well, we'll have to file away the preceding triumphalism for another day.
Final Update (Tuesday morning): Apparently, Senator Ratliff (R-Mount Pleasant) became the infamous 11th signatory to the "kill redistricting" movement. The battle now shifts to whether the Lieutenant Governor will change the Senate Rules specifically to modify the 2/3rds rule cited above. As for Senator Ratliff, he will soon be forced by Tom DeLay to live like John Connor--- off the grid, always on the go.
13 July 2003
Well, those erotic cakes won't frost themselves on Monday morning, so I'd better offer up a smattering of links to interesting news stories, all but a few of which have already made their way to 2 trillion other weblogs during my period of sloth. Depending on the durability of this stories in today's anything-for-a-thrill media, they may warrant additional snarkiness later on:
(1) Lack of Planning in Iraq: It's a big Steel Cage Match between Defense Department civilians and... well... everybody else not adjudicated insane in the entire known universe. Looks like the plan was short and sweet: (a) bomb the shit out of a lot of things; (b) steamroll into Baghdad; (c) get welcomed with open arms; (d) install Ahmad Chalabi; (e) flip everyone the middle finger; (f) get the fuck outta Dodge. Looks like we're indefinitely on (c).
(2) Iraq Weapons Unlikely to be Found: Looks like the 200+ years of foreign policy experience assembled at the Slumbering Pierrot team blog pays off again! Although it appears that a paper cut epidemic could take root from all of the 'programmes' out there.
(3) CIA Got Uranium Claims Axed in October 2002: I think CIA Director Tenet's apology to the President should now read "I'm sorry I didn't repeatedly tell you not to include the junk every time that cave-dwelling bastard Dick Cheney tried to sneak it into your speeches".
(4) Britain Uneasy About Military Tribunals: I always knew those limeys were soft! Sorry to say, I already shot my wad on this particular topic in the comments section to Kevin Drum's post on the subject.
(5) Iraq To Cost $100 Billion This Year: Looks like those post-war strategists were also in charge of the budget-writing. Round 2: Congressional Republicans vs. civilians at the Defense Department. How long can those human punching-bags hold up? Only George Foreman knows for sure.
(6) Forget Those Erotic Cakes, I'm Moving To Alaska and Getting Baked: Now there's a Constitution and judicial system I can live with. In the words of the Reverend Horton Heat, smoke 'em if you got 'em.
12 July 2003
In which Bart inexplicably decapitates the head of the statute of Jebediah Springfield, who is subject to historical revisionism in later episodes. Nothing on the level of Oliver Stone, though.
Bart: Uh, ma'am? What if you're a really good person, but you get into a really, really bad fight and your leg gets gangrene and it has to be amputated. Will it be waiting for you in heaven?
Sunday School Teacher: For the last time, Bart, yes!
Homer: You're not talking about killing anyone, are you?
Homer: Then run along, you little scamp! [musses Bart's hair] A boy without mischief is like a bowling ball without a liquid center.
Krusty: There is someone out there in Krusty-Land who has committed an atrocity! If you know who cut off Jebediah's head, I don't care if it's your brother, your sister, your daddy, or your mommy, turn him in! Krusty will send you a free slide whistle, just like Sideshow Bob's!
I have been increasingly exhorted in the People's Republic on the Colorado River to "Keep Austin Weird". You see this phrase being used on bumper-stickers on Chevy Tahoes and on T-shirts being worn by fanny-pack-toting couples exiting one of our 1,200 Starbucks franchises. In fact, our local classic rock station is devoting this weekend to the spirit of weirdness by (paraphrasing) "playing music you won't hear anywhere else"-- before launching into "Blue Collar Man" by Styx and "Heartbreaker" by Pat Benatar. I guess "anywhere else" excludes the same tired classic rock format available in every city, or in the 3-for-a-dollar jukebox selections of one of our many mullet-infested poll halls.
I, of course, blame Austin's exponentially rising lameness on the tech industry, which formed a fourth part of Austin culture (government, university, and artist communities) and has in essence supplanted "Slacker"-era (1989-1990) Austin. This infused a lot of capital into the area, but brought a lot of soul-sucking Cailfornians, Dallasites, and Pacific Northwesterners along with it.
Live music venues like the Electric Lounge and Liberty Lunch have been replaced by low-occupancy, high-dollar condominiums and aesthetically displeasing office buildings. Local watering holes and bookstores have been replaced by Barnes and Nobles, Hard Rock Cafes, and shot bars. If it weren't for the local state hospital, Austin would be no more weird than Fort Worth or Houston. Don't get me wrong--- it's still the best place to live in Texas, bar none. However, it lost the fight to remain weird or unique a long time ago.
So, bottom line: don't move here.
I realize that developments in countries with whom we are currently at war are considered unimportant, American-attention-wise. Many of the terrorist hot spots in the world get short shrift because of the mainstream media's insistence that it can only juggle two news stories at once (one of which must, by definition, be a celebrity or high-profile domestic crime). Afghanistan has dropped completely off the map, even in light of recent skirmishes with Pakistan.
Indonesia is one of these spots. Here we have a country with the population approaching that of the United States (the largest Muslim country), is triple the size of Texas, and, of course, was the site of the largest post-9/11 terror attack (the bombing of the Bali resort). It is also a republic, struggling to modernize after the ironclad rule of President Suharto. Its dissatisfaction with America has increased by a factor of five since 2000. (Yes, I just linked myself)
Today comes news that it has made a significant breakthrough in its own war on terror, arresting top-level members of the group responsible for Bali, as well as seizing explosives and plans that could have seriously destabilized Indonesian society. Its targets: ethnic and religious minorities (including Christians) and heads of state. It illustrates again the tension of having some level of democratic reforms where the will of the people seems to be to institute Islam-based, anti-democratic reforms (see Turkey and Pakistan).
11 July 2003
As you may or may not know, the proposed Senate action to break a proposed filibuster on national malpractice lawsuit caps failed. Aside from the question of federalism (since when were Republicans advocates of limiting the discretion of state court juries?), it's my relatively unstudied opinion that this is a cheap political stunt, not sound public policy.
According to the conventional wisdom, failing to cap non-economic damages (at the arbitrary level set by California in 1975) is causing medical malpractice premiums to go through the roof, thereby denying medical access to Americans (assuming they have insurance, of course). Who knew the conventional wisdom was wrong, both on a national scale and with California in particular? The California example showed that premiums continued to skyrocket in the era of "malpractice caps alone" which existed from 1975 to 1988. Why take the indirect, faulty approach when direct insurance reform worked so much better?
I think this just may be another example of the "pitting two relatively blameless (civil litigants vs. doctors) parties against each other for the benefit of the culpable party (the insurance industry)" paradigm-- previously seen in the proposed federal bankruptcy legislation (those seeking bankruptcy protection vs. creditors and credit card companies). Does anyone think that bankruptcy reform will lead to a reduction in credit card interest rates or unsolicited mailings? If so, I have some gingerbread properties for sale to you in the newly-developed Candyland subdivision.
For a more detailed analysis of this subject, see the listing of Politics, Law and Autism posts that was dutifully compiled by the Seeing the Forest website.
Some days, you must just wake up as a CIA analyst and wonder whether it's worth getting out of bed, or whether you should just quit and become an elementary school teacher or sandwich artist. You've been asked to clear Bush's State of the Union address. You look at the list of claims concerning Saddam Hussein's weapons capacities, and you think to yourself "Bullshit... not proven... debunked a year ago... where'd they come up with that (?)... nope". You're about to take out the red pen and excise about 15 minutes worth of unverifiable PNAC pipe dream from the speech, when you look at the Commander in Chief. His face is flush with anticipation, his palms are sweating, and his eyes have gone all puppy-dog-big.
Well, you may be a CIA spook responsible for the overthrow of several democracies, a few minor genocides, relentless whoring for Coca Cola and General Motors, and enough Constitutional infractions to choke a woolly mammoth, but you're not heartless. "OK, Mr. President", you say (with a tinge of regret in your voice), "it can all stay in".
And getting blamed by the President and the National Security Advisor (who are 8,000 miles away) is the thanks you get? Fuck that noise!
10 July 2003
I am eternally grateful for the New Weblog Showcase for allowing me to get on the ground back in June with some truly terrible posts that nobody linked to, except out of great pity. I feel I am duty-bound to return the favor by going through this week's weblogs, rated on a 1 to 10 scale (reviewing individual submissions is fascistic, I think). I highly encourage everyone to read Tiger's posting on the subject for an unbiased, fair review. And to all you relative newbies, please remember: a link is a link is a link, even if it doesn't really count in the Showcase.
1. Who Tends the Fires? A 'couple (literally) of Honest Americans who are sick of the BS.' Uses the word 'asshat' and strikethroughs on the first post. 1 (but a 9 if you like baby pictures).
2. Vantage Point by Don Hynes: Two poetic excerpts are balanced out by a link to the Vietnam Veterans of America. 5.
3. Dissento's Culture War Journal: The link to the post doesn't work. Fix it. 0.
4. Precision Blogging: The contents are copyrighted? Feh! 2.
5. One Father for Dean: Hey, I can appreciate that, but a pop-up? 2.
6. Steve Danforth: Confusing site structure. Appears to be a monochromatic tie commune run by Billy Baldwin. 2.
7. DW-i 2 by David Weigel: Disses Jon Stewart, encourages people to drink, goes into the pointless Dowd v. Coulter comparison saga, gives a complete discography of Marshall Crenshaw, reviews 'Bring It On' (?!?!?), but no comments. I mean, what's the point of reviewing 'Bring it On' if I can't give you my own 1000-word take on the subject? Screw you! 4.
8. Bad Money: Mainly deals with graffiti currency and... well... focus on the graffiti currency. 5.
9. Dohiyi Mir by NTodd: Very interesting--- he's really all over the place. The Tour de France, U.N. Resolutions and oil production, and... oh wait. A Vermonter. Hmmmm. Rating pending.
10. Pundit Mania by Andis Kaulins: Essentially, a blog about blogs and the bloggy effect of blogging. 1.
11. Sooner Thought by Alex: Look, don't take this the wrong way, Alex, but my regional prejudices require me to give you a 2, unless UT actually beats OU this year, in which case you could go as high as 8.
12. Priorities and Frivolities by Jeff: Currently #1 in the linkage department. Insofar as my desire to be a sycophant overrides my desire to remain a hypercritical asshole, you get a 10! To be honest, I (1) don't like gratuitously culling from Instameathead or Andrew Sullivan; (2) loathe the Los Angeles Dodgers; and (3) think comparing bodybuilding to politics is a fruitless, hollow venture... but who cares?
You may have found yourself in bed, unable to scream, unable to move, paralyzed by fear, with only a cackling, white-haired freak permeating your dreamscape. I too have been haunted by this sickening apparition, whose name, until now, dared not be spoken: Wim Duisenberg. Slowly but surely, other trauma survivors began coming out of the woodwork to explain this twisted freak's effect on their psyche.
He appears to be some bastard offspring of hideous, moronic malcontent Don Imus and the Tall Man (star of 'Phantasm'). As seen from the links here, Wim exists only to count money, scream obscenities in Dutch, and rob the souls of young children while wearing a hideous grin.
He also has something to do with setting fiscal policy for the European Union, but let's be honest... that's some pretty boring shit.
If you enjoyed being chided for supporting terrorism through recreational drug use by those dopey Super Bowl commercials as much as I did, yesterday's Washington Post article on the resurgent opium trade in Afghanistan should warm your heart.
It seems that the War on Terror is not as gracefully intertwined with the War on Drugs as we might be lead to believe. Freedom from radical Islamic theocrats apparently means freedom to (1) produce enough opium to boot up most of Europe and America; (2) finance warlords to the extent that they can torpedo any incipient democratic reforms; (3) buy off manual laborers so that infrastructure projects go unmanned; (4) restart organized crime efforts, in essence creating another Colombia in certain regions; and (5) turn even the most die-hard mullah into Virgil "The Turk" Sollozzo (seen here meeting with other mullahs).
Isn't the free market wonderful?
09 July 2003
Via our toothless friends at the Appalachia Alumni Association, who picked it up from the grotesquely disfigured creatures at Alas, A Blog! (hereafter AAB) comes a timely examination of patriotism. I may not go as far as AAB in disclaiming the value of national identity altogether. I like a certain team attitude, and I'm definitely provinicial when it comes to things Texan (while at the same time regarding our elected officials as the biggest mouthbreathing jackasses in all Christendom). Insofar as the harshest criticism for a sports team is usually heaped upon it by its fans, here goes:
I absolutely loathe flag decals, flag bumper-stickers, flag window-clamps, proclamations that "These Colors Don't Run" (I'm not sure what that even means), urinating cartoon Calvins, and cartoon Calvins kneeling penitent before a cross. I especially dislike bumper-stickers that proclaim "Never Forget". I am relatively confident that less than 2% of people with this bumpersticker know who the head of the independent 9/11 commission is, the difficulties the commission is having from stonewalling Administration officials, or who authored the definitive pre-9/11 study on national security.
My idea of patriotism is to love the potential of America enough to constantly be bitterly disappointed in its activities, its lunkheaded denizens with the historical memory of a fruit fly, and its mutant, corrosive pop culture that spreads over the globe like a flesh-eating bacteria. Jingoistic country music is, to me, the equivalent of my beloved Rockets paying Kelvin Cato $55 million (or, to a Red Sox fan, trading Jeff Bagwell for Larry Andersen).
Now put me down on the list. You know which list I'm talking about.
08 July 2003
You should really use these quotes in everyday life. Spice up your normally bland client interview as a loan officer. Intersperse Lionel Hutz-isms in your open court presentation. Confound the elderly. Attempt to connect to your sullen twentysomething child, still living in the basement. For God's sake, e-mail them to Stuart Scott on Sportscenter and ask him to replace his tiresome "Boo-yahs". For God's sake, e-mail them to the current Simpsons production team, which will hopefully have the effect of shaming them into inactivity.
Nelson: [threateningly] I'll get you after school, man.
Skinner: Oh no no no, he'll get you after school, son. Now hurry up, it's time for class.
Grampa: Dear Advertisers, I am disgusted with the way old people are depicted on television. We are not all vibrant, fun-loving sex maniacs. Many of us are bitter, resentful individuals who remember the good old days when entertainment was bland and inoffensive.
Herman: How many men do you have?
Herman: You'll need more.
I'll be brief: Republicans are attempting this unprecedented mid-decade redistricting ploy due to one reason: the Congressional delegation from Texas is currently 17 Democrats and 15 Republicans. The Republicans want 20-21 seats, and are essentially perverting procedure, history, and their own venerated ideal of competition in order to do it.
The irony, of course, is that they could have them, in that the difference is currently made up of 5 relatively conservative, white Democrats who represent districts that could easily be won by Republicans, if it weren't for the pervasive effects of incumbency and the coalition-building that goes along with it. (The current U.S. Representatives in jeopardy are Charlie Stenholm [Abilene], Chet Edwards [Waco], Ralph Hall [Rockwall], Max Sandlin [Marshall] or Jim Turner [Crockett], and Nick Lampson [Beaumont]). Their districts are relatively rural, have a sizable but not overwhelming minority population, and a lot of conservatives from both parties.
The maps in Texas therefore have the effect of eliminating what are the only competitive races in congressional races, mainly by dicing up these districts--- throwing the conservative elements (rural, small communities) in with existing Republican seats of power (large suburbs in Dallas and Houston), and throwing minority communities in with either safe majority-minority Democratic districts, or utterly diluting their voting power by pairing them with an existing Republican stronghold (Tom DeLay, for instance, gets a small posse of what I'm sure will be eternally grateful African-Americans from Galveston).
The net effect: white, relatively conservative Democrats disappear. The ability of a district to be represented by a small (Rockwall) or even mid-sized (Waco) city-dweller disappears. The combined 80 years of representation and seniority for these 4 million rural Texans disappears. The blue dogs in Texas go from endangered to extinct.
A reminder to keep reading the Burnt Orange Report and Off the Kuff for better, more detailed, more timely coverage of this debacle. Hopefully the Texas Senate will stuff this nonsense away in the "completely unjustified and shitty" ideas cabinet.
Many thanks to my inexhaustible mechanical and flesh-based wellsprings of comic delight. I am convinced that the following phrases and aliases inserted, randomly and Mad Libs style, into an existing format, can write itself for weeks on end:
Handwringing Saddamphiles, nattering apologists, Screaming MoonBats, Idiotarian bureaucraps, depraved Fifth Column, Klintoon, ideological appeasers, Arafish, screeching cultural elite, Sandra Bray O'Slut, dishonest duplicity, Washington Com-Post, bloviating commie gulag-lovers, hysterical peaceniks, objectively pro-Saddam, naked opportunists, mollycoddling negativism, putrescent multiculturalists.
This will allow the blogger to take some well-deserved time off to take that origami class at the local community college, give his/her estranged sibling a call, or take a nice, relaxing walk at the local zoo (sorry, no firearms!)
07 July 2003
The best part of this Simpsons episode was the visual of the family hooked up to a system wherein they could give each other electroshock. RIP, Dr. Marvin Monroe.
Burns: Now it's time to say goodbye. Please get off my property until next year. I suggest you don't dawdle, the hounds will be released in ten minutes.
Homer: Look at that, kids! No fighting, no yelling.
Bart: No belching.
Lisa: Their dad has a shirt on!
Marge: Look! Napkins!
Bart: These people are obviously freaks.
Wife (in commercial): Honey, you have a problem, and it won't get better until you admit it.
Husband: I admit this... You better shut your big yap!
Monroe: Hello, I'm Dr. Marvin Monroe, no doubt you recognize me from TV.
Lisa: We would if we had one.
It's hard to believe that Michael Savage, model of verbal restraint and paragon of anti-litigiousness, could be let go by MSNBC. After all this heroic, iconoclastic figure has had to endure from defecating Turd Worlders, sodomites, feminazis, and ghetto slime, you would think that the brass at MSNBC would give him at least one free pass for wishing AIDS upon one of his gay callers. Why doesn't this fit under the category of a "compelling opinion and analysis with an edge" made by a "brash, passionate and smart" individual? The hypocrisy of these bed-wetting America-haters will not go unnoticed by the racists, gay masochists, robber barons, farm animals, and coma patients that make up the estimable Savage Nation.
The next thing you know, those sniveling crypto-Communists at that cesspool of a cable network will claim that Joe Scarborough is a squinty, charisma-less, moronic ratings killer. Or that Keith Olbermann is a smug, charisma-less, moronic ratings killer. Or that Lester Holt is a creepy, unblinking, alien-cyborg-like ratings killer. It's enough to drive a true American Patriot over to the Home and Garden Channel. A pox on all your houses!
Hope everyone had a safe, profitable, thought-provoking Fourth of July and that all your limbs are still intact. On a related note, I will be looking into establishing a "Save Norbizness' Liver" PayPal account. If Andrew Sullivan can raise $80,000 for absolutely no reason, I can certainly expect to get at least $10-$20 to go towards the down payment on a black market Chinese liver to replace the one I think I irrevocably damaged in weekend festivities.
Brevity is the key to wit, isn't it? Well, as far as I can tell, this is the upshot of the weekend's news:
General Franks to Troops: No reinforcements right now. You understand, don't you?
Troops to General Franks: We sure do! Thanks, asswipe!
Iraqi resistance to Bush: Do you consider it 'brought'?
Administration apologists to the world: Good God almighty, we are not very bright.
03 July 2003
A special shout-out to Kate, who realizes that my new blogrolling technique is, much like Hakeem Olajuwon circa 1994, unstoppable. My new filing and fighting techniques are also unstoppable, but Karate Snoopy will kick my ass for copyright infringement if I mention it too much.
The episode where Mr. Burns and a mysteriously black Waylon Smithers are introduced. Thought this batch of work-related quotes would be appropos in light of increasingly heavy burden borne by today's on-the-go proletariat. Rise up, comrades!
Narrator: When most people think of nuclear energy, they think of this...
A-Bomb: BOOM! [the kids cheer wildly]
Mrs. Winfield: Looks like young Simpson is going to kill himself.
Mr. Winfield: Oh, maybe not. Maybe he's just taking his boulder for a walk.
Homer: Your lives are in the hands of men no smarter than you or I, many of them incompetent boobs. I know this because I worked alongside them, gone bowling with them, watched them pass me over for promotions time and again. And I say... This stinks!
Burns (to Homer): You're not as stupid as you look, or sound, or our best testing indicates.
For the best ongoing factual coverage of the quirks and national repercussions of the redistricting fight in Texas (which has now spilled over into a special session), I would suggest looking at Off the Kuff and the Burnt Orange Report (hook 'em!).
For the most mediocre opinions concerning this continuing farce, I would suggest staying tuned to this webpage for further developments throughout the holiday weekend. Be thankful, regardless of your political hue, that you still live in a country that has the potential to change, and, if you're outside of Texas, be thankful that Tom DeLay isn't fucking with you.
02 July 2003
"There are some that feel like if they attack us that we may decide to leave prematurely. They don't understand what they are talking about if that is the case. Let me finish. There are some who feel like the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is, bring them on."
My questions are:
(1) Who interrupted him so that he was impelled to say "Let me finish?" Was it one of his handlers, sensing that he was about to make an asinine, counter-productive statement?
(2) Will Administration apologists start producing graphs detailing Coalition deaths with this asinine, counter-productive statement as the dividing line?
(3) Will this asinine, counter-productive statement appear in Jacob Weisberg's Bushisms, or it is way too morbid?
(4) Will World Wrestling Federation Smackdown be v-chipped off his bedroom television by an astute Karl Rove in order to prevent future asinine, counter-productive statements?
(5) Did anyone tell him we don't have enough troops?
(6) And, most interestingly, will this asinine, counter-productive statement actually improve his popularity?