<$BlogRSDUrl$>

30 August 2003

.
A FEW NEWS STORIES TO RUIN YOUR LABOR DAY WEEKEND

(1) Pentagon Counsels Patience in Weapons Hunt: We are now entering the more developed phases of the "Beyond Irony" administration. Remember, the UN Inspections Team had to come up with the actual weapons, now we have to wait for a team of 1,200 to merely come up with programs. A championship limbo athlete couldn't navigate a bar this low. For a further discussion of the fine art of lowering expectations, check out PLA's post on the barriers facing the weapons team.

(2) The Party of Ineptitude? This widely linked article parrots what I've been reading on Talking Points Memo for quite awhile, which is-- regardless of "deception", which is always the sexier claim when trying to play partisan politics, at what point do you question foreign policy competence? Where did this reputation arise? Is it in the color of suits, or grim expressions?

(3) Enron Escape Clause: Apparently, the House Version of the "Class Action Fairness Act" contains a little bit of retroactivity, which would limit the claims of shareholders and employees of fine, upstanding corporations like Enron and Worldcom. If the Senate folds on this, look for the name of this Act to take its rightful place in a list of all-time great oxymorons.

(4) Self-Fulfilling Retroactive Prophecies: Looks like we could cause an Iraq-al Qaeda connection if we tried hard enough. Apparently, Iraqi police have arrested several people suspected in the horrific mosque bombing, and have made the initial claim that the parties involved are tied to al Qaeda. However, to remind you of the concept of four-dimensional space, this is post-war. For a good round-up of the complete lack of evidence of a pre-war connection, review the Left Coaster's list of stories and links.

(5) Medical Malpractice Reform: This is about the best letter to the editor I've read on the subject, and it's even from a physician. The Houston Chronicle has also done yeoman's work in an ongoing series to show that limiting relief for injured and maimed patients does not lead to relief in malpractice rates nor increased acess to medical care. Say those magical two words with me again: insurance reform. Instead of blaming a small number of showcase suits, everyone should use Occam's Razor to come up with a simpler explanation.

29 August 2003

.
PUBLIC ENEMY SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT

Since he's too modest or technologically inept to do it, everyone should know that America's favorite railed vehicle, the S-Train Canvass, has moved. One of his featured posts has to do with America's readiness for a black President. To be perfectly honest, I want Chuck D to start a political career. To be facetious, I left a liberal honky's guide to running as a black presidential candidate in his comments. It borrows heavily from one of the funniest websites in history, Black People Love Us!

"I'd definitely vote for a black President. I mean black, but not black black or too black. I'd like the candidate to be well-spoken, well-mannered, and articulate... but not so out of touch that they wouldn't raise the roof at the appropriate time. That's always enjoyable. See if you can get one of your friends to run in the primary as well. You don't want to be known as 'the black one'.

And don't bring me down with all that racism talk! What's past is prologue! There's no more separated drinking fountains, so it's all good as far as I can see. And I don't mind a little black music on the campaign dais. I like Billy Ocean as much as the next guy. But nothing too political, like early 70s Marvin Gaye or Public Enemy. Remember: you're going to be President of AMERICA, not just black America.

Learn from Lt. Gov. Bustamante: if you were in some sort of all-black club in college, repudiate it! Nobody likes a militant. Stay away from rabblerousers, race pimps, and anything that even remotely smacks of street life. That's all just too depressing.

Finally, it's a well known fact that whatever you say will be imputed to 30 million other black Americans, so choose your words carefully. I don't want to have to stop kind of being friends with that one black dude I kind of know because you made yourself look like a jackass with crazy talk.

I just hope every white guy is as open-minded as I am."

Quick note: I don't want any Lt. Gov. Bustamante is a Latino Klansman comments. Please. For the love of God.
.
.
MUST.... ASSIST.... RE-ELECTION..... EFFORT

Bush-Cheney '04
Chairman Marc Racicot August 27, 2003


If you support President Bush's strong leadership...

Hell yeah I do!

If you're grateful he and Laura have restored honor and dignity to the White House... If you believe it's important for America and the world that he and Dick Cheney have four more years in office...

I think that most of the world would agree that this rises to the level of a categorical imperative. I don't really care about results, it's making Presidential boldness work for me.

...then I hope you let me send you a Charter Member card identifying you as one of the President's key supporters. Please activate it by making a campaign gift of $2,000, $1,000, $500, $250, $100, or even $50 or $25 today at www.GeorgeWBush.com/CharterMember/ using the campaign's secure server.

I'm sure that donating the price of a double-CD to the President's bloated campaign coffers is enough to earn you "key supporter" status. However, activation of this card gives you a 10% discount at Denny's when you purchase at least $20 worth of pancakes, and entitles you to kick a homeless person in the nuts (once) without fear of prosecution.

It's critical to the President you make your Charter Membership gift to his campaign now. For while he's focused on his great responsibilities - winning the war against terrorism and strengthening our economy - he's counting on you and me to get his grassroots campaign off to a strong start.

If that's the product of focus, can we have a little less of it? Meanwhile, his Brown & Root and Halliburton "bloated plutocrat" campaign remains in high gear. In the alternative, please retire the term "grassroots" forever.

And as chairman of the President's re-election, I can tell you we need your financial support at www.GeorgeWBush.com/CharterMember/. Democrats and their allies will have more money to spend attacking the President during the nomination battle than we will have to defend him.

There's nothing quite as headache-inducing as hearing an incumbent GOP President who plans to spend $200 million in his re-election campaign (without any primary challengers) cast as an underdog. Even potential contributors must have a limit to credulity... don't they?

If you need more convincing the President needs your help, consider what Democrats are saying. The race is just starting, but their rhetoric is already red-hot. John Kerry claims President Bush is "stealing from America's children." He compared the President to Saddam Hussein, saying America needs a "regime change" just like Iraq did.

I'm not going to tip which Democratic candidate I like, because I live in Texas, and we could nominate the re-animated corpse of LBJ, and he probably couldn't win this state. As to Kerry's comments: (1) the "stealing from our children" came from a speech about the effect of deficits and debt... a common Perot-like tactic; (2) of course the President is just like Saddam Hussein. Everybody knows that. I won't even dignify that with further response.

Howard Dean said he's heard the President might suspend the 2004 election, called him "reckless" and "despicable," compared our President to the Taliban, and said he was trying to "destroy Social Security, Medicare, our public schools, and public services."

Can you tell who the GOP considers front-runners in this race?

Dick Gephardt said the President's "phony macho business is not getting us where we need to be."

It's not phony if you're stupid enough to believe it, Dickie!

Bob Graham talked "impeachment," accusing the President of "secrecy and manipulation."

The GAO agrees.

John Edwards said the President's plans will "corrupt the American economy."

No, it's positively causing the germination of the heartland with jobs aplenty. Get with it, Senator!

Joe Lieberman said President Bush "has made us weaker" and was "nearly as dangerous to our long-term security" as Iraqi militants.

Don't you remember the 11th Commandment? Thou shalt not criticize another Republican! Stop it, Joe!

The Democrat National Committee depicted the President as a "madman" and a Democrat leader invoked the Holocaust when talking about him and his policies. And another national Democrat leader attacked the President as "the village idiot from Texas."

Depicted, invoked... these may be code words for "what follows is either totally mischaracterized or taken completely out of context". Incidentally, that "national Democrat leader" who called him a village idiot was the vice-chairwoman of the Colorado Democratic Party.

This ugly, overheated rhetoric shows Democrats will say anything and stop at nothing to defeat this President. A slash and burn campaign like this will rally the left wing of the Democrat Party, which could matter in an election where 50% of Americans may not vote.

And we can do more! With your help, we can unleash a torrent of purges and disgusting ads to get that number of Americans who won't vote up to 60%! Ya gotta believe!

Democrats will have the all-out help of some leaders in the AFL-CIO, many wealthy personal injury trial lawyers, and well-funded liberal special interests. The hundreds of millions of dollars they will spend could make the race close. One wealthy currency trader has already pledged $10 million to defeat the President.

This may not be completely constructive criticism, but couldn't you get more money if you replaced "currency trader" with "Jew"? Oh, that's reserved for your other mail-out? Never mind.

(repeated fundraising numbers) There is so much this President has done to lead our country in the war against terrorism, to strengthen our economy, and to help build a more compassionate society.

We won't mention them, because they might get torn apart by some anonymous, unsuccessful blogger from Austin. But you know what we're talking about (wink wink).

George W. Bush has the vision our nation needs, the moral clarity the world has been waiting for and the values we want in our President. If you agree, then help him today. Thank you.

And the kind of results that are just so staggering, that we couldn't possibly even put them in a fundraising solicitation letter to a friendly audience. We are kicking ass!

Sincerely, Marc Racicot

Thanks, Mark. The Monopoly money is in the mail.

28 August 2003

.
DOWNWARD SPIRAL OF CRAPULENCE

No links here, just general impressions. We've had about a year since the Iraq war "product" was initially rolled out. The following is an imperfect line of reasoning that, in my view, makes America look bad the further down you go. In my view, we're somewhere between 4 and 5. Of course, there are trump cards that can be played anywhere down this line, including the "mass graves" trump card or the "flypaper" trump card. However, I fear that these are largely post hoc and don't accurately reflect any workable foreign policy paradigm.

(1) The Administration had objective provable justification to go to war with Iraq.
(2) The Administration did not have objective justification to go to war with Iraq, but this was only because of bad intelligence and self-interest on the part of Iraqi defectors.
(3) The Administration knew it was bad intelligence, but went anyway because of a larger point to prove.
(4) Don't worry about #1-3, all that matters now is whether reconstruction is going well.
(5) We really don't care whether reconstruction is going well, so long as the larger point is proved.
(6) We really don't care whether the larger point is proved, but we can't afford to be seen as half-assing reconstruction because this would cause us to lose faith in a noble cause.
(7) Screw the half-assed reconstruction, did you hear about Iran/Syria?

Can anyone else fill in the gaps?
.
.
HOW CAN UN-AMERICAN FELLOW TRAVELLERS BE PICKING GREAT AMERICANS?

The twenty greatest Americans of all time, as picked by obvious communists (including yours truly). I believe that 28 leftish blogs participated, and here's a list of their selections:

Malcolm X (4), Lucy Stone (4), Elizabeth Cady Stanton (4), Rosa Parks (4), Albert Einstein (4), Eugene V. Debs (4), Jane Addams (4), Sojourner Truth (5), George C. Marshall (5), Mother Jones (5), Lyndon B. Johnson (5), Ulysses S. Grant (5), Margaret Sanger (6), Jonas Salk (6), Cesar Chavez (6), Dorothy Day (6), Teddy Roosevelt (7), Eleanor Roosevelt (8), Harriet Tubman (9), James Madison (9), Thomas Edison (9), Thomas Paine (10), Susan B. Anthony (10), George Washington (11), Mark Twain (11), Benjamin Franklin (14), Frederick Douglass (14), Thomas Jefferson (18), Abraham Lincoln (19), Franklin D. Roosevelt (20), Martin Luther King (22).

Of course, I did up my list in about 10 minutes, so I knew that there would be people on the final list who (1) utterly slipped my mind; like Cesar Chavez and Eugene Debs, (2) I would disagree with, like Ulysses S. Grant, or (3) I had never really heard of, like Dorothy Day or Jane Addams.

The two selections I made not on the master list which surprised me were (1) Thurgood Marshall, if only for his tireless 25+ years work in desegregation cases prior to becoming a Supreme Court justice; (2) Alexander Graham Bell, because I like phones. I was also surprised not to see Native American representation on the list, and then I began thinking who that would be, and then stopped because I would then betray my own stunning ignorance of that history.

For the record, my largely plain-vanilla picks were, in no particular order (other than safest to more obscure): (1) Martin Luther King, Jr.; (2) Frederick Douglass; (3) Thurgood Marshall; (4) Jonas Salk; (5) Franklin Delano Roosevelt; (6) Theodore Roosevelt; (7) Abraham Lincoln; (8) Thomas Jefferson; (9) Benjamin Franklin; (10) Thomas Paine; (11) Thomas Edison; (12) Alexander Graham Bell; (13) Susan B. Anthony; (14) James Madison; (15) Sam Houston; (16) George Washington; (17) Jackie Robinson; (18) Paul Robeson; (19) Duke Ellington; (20) Aaron Copeland.
.

27 August 2003

MEEKLY QUESTIONING ROUSING SUCCESSES

Sorry to question the god-like wisdom of the present Administration. Begging your indulgence, may I humbly request why intelligence officers are being transferred from Kabul to Baghdad? I realize that the Administration, in its infinite benevolence, has rightfully spared the tender ears of the public from the name "Osama bin Laden" for the last 18 months or so. If it's not too hard, could you quickly acquaint us with the name of the head cheese in Iran? I'd like to begin learning his name as the September roll-out for new foreign policy initiatives begins.

I know that Afghanistan is but a minor part, an insignificant speck in the war on terror when compared to the rock-solid evidence of Prague coffeehouse-based terror sponsored by Iraq. I realize that Afghanistan is only experiencing a minor inconvenience in the resurgence of the Taliban, and that press reports of said former government constituting a "menace to stability" are but liberal hyperbole born of a deep, seething envy of the Administration. Surely the halting of international aid and reconstruction in large parts of the country, sponsorship of warlords who terrorize the local populace, the President's inability to remember the paltry number of troops stationed in Afghanistan, and pussyfooting with Pakistan, whose open borders put Tijauana to shame--- this is part of a cunning plan to smoke something out and pursue a noble cause.

I will quietly retreat to read the latest batch of Get Your War On comic strips and amuse myself with inane knock-knock jokes. "Knock knock. Who's there? Afghanistan! Who?"
.
.
SACRIFICE IS FOR CHUMP-ASS BITCHES

It's a good time to be a federal Employee right about now. One could have possibly foreseen lots of Presidential pronouncements concerning the effect of the "costs of the war on terrorism". For instance, "we can't possibly pay for a missile defense shield because....", or "we can't possibly fund all those unnecessary defense projects in Mississippi because..." or "we can't possibly take Air Force One to another $2,500 a plate hot dog dinner because..." or "we can't possibly soak the rich again because...". Nope. It's pay raises for federal employees. Demanding an actual cost of living increase severely crimps our ability to pay for all the unexpected costs of not being greeted like liberators in Iraq, you money-grubbing little union shit-stains!

As for our soldiers from the last Gulf War, I have only this to say: We simply cannot allow greedy trial lawyers and their reprobate Gulf War POW clients to collect from money that rightfully belongs to padded Halliburton contracts. That is SIMPLY not the American way.
--------------------------------------------
UPDATE: When I said "padded Halliburton contracts", I was obviously parroting some leftist nonsense about the obviously non-plutocratic, non-bloated, non-sickening method of awarding money to companies that just happened to have the Vice President as a former CEO. I had no basis to make such a claim about a fine, upstanding corporation, and I profusely... what's that? Never mind. I actually DO mean it. (Via Atrios).
.
.
DOG DAYS OF SUMMER NEW WEBLOG SHOWCASE

Since the Ecosystem is functioning again, the opportunity to showcase new weblogs has re-arisen. I have decided to actually highlight the ones I like this time, although I still maintain that publicity is publicity-- even if I think that your corner of the World Wide Web is vomitous, ninth-rate, puerile reactionary garbage that could easily be replicated with a simple ShareWare program:

(1) Futurballa: I think this was the name of that addictive arcade game with the football-playing robots, wasn't it? Well, this is a nice baseball n' politics weblog, even if the showcased post (disposable digital cameras) reads like a Sharper Image catalog description.

(2) Me And Ophelia: A very interesting blog from the other side of the pond; a lot of useful information on technology, medicine, and world blogs.

(3) Ministry of Minor Perfidy: Although the highlighted post takes a Steven den Beste (my least favorite member of the Musical den Beste Family) theory/unreadable screed and runs with it, the overall blog is interesting and should be successful if more important people than me notice it.

(4) The Notorious B.L.O.G.: Lots of science fiction and pop culture. The highlighted post has to do with boycotting the RIAA, which is fine with me. I haven't bought a CD since Level 42 came out with a boxed set a couple of years ago. It was the same goddamned song in 55 different re-mixes.

(5) Colorado Luis: Very well-designed weblog from up in the Rockies. Apparently, everyone in Colorado is mandated by international law to write about microbreweries; however, the highlighted post is an interesting discussion about the Hispanic vs. Latino label, especially as it pertains to indigenous people.

But don't let me stop you. Check out all of the little foundlings in the showcase.

26 August 2003

_
AND THE YANG...

How about it, newly baptized human rights neo-conservatives?

"Human Rights Watch has followed in detail the armed conflict and human rights abuses in Sudan for many years. Our research shows that the Sudanese government has targeted and bombed civilians and civilian objects, including relief distribution locations, churches, and schools, causing many civilian casualties and damage to the fragile civilian infrastructure of the south. Together with the Sudanese army, the Sudanese government-sponsored ethnic militias have engaged in scorched earth campaigns against Nuer civilians in the oilfields of Western Upper Nile/Unity State in which thousands have been forcibly displaced and scores of civilians (primarily the weak, elderly, women, and children) have been killed, and many women raped. Conspicuously, the government has not captured any combatants during the twenty-year civil war in which some two million civilians have died, leading to the conclusion that it has a policy of summary execution of captured and wounded combatants."

How about it, unbaptized pragmatist terrorist-fighting neo-conservatives?

"The country has given shelter to Islamist and Middle Eastern terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda, which used Sudan as its main operational and training base from 1991 to 1996. International investigators suspect it has become a financial hub for the terror network since September 11; al-Qaeda operatives have reportedly spirited large amounts of gold into Sudan. Sudan has also harbored members of the Baghdad-based Abu Nidal Organization, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the Palestinian groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Lebanese group Hezbollah, and others. These terrorists do not carry out attacks within Sudan but plan and support terrorism elsewhere. Hamas and Hezbollah have reportedly maintained training camps in Sudan. The National Islamic Front, the strict Islamist party that governs much of Sudan, does not consider any of these groups terrorist organizations."

How about it, national security-firsters?

"As for Sudan, the CIA said the East African nation "has been developing the capability to produce chemical weapons for many years," and "may be interested in a (biological weapons) program as well."

I know, I should be talking about North Korea and Syria. They just seem so passe.
_
_
THE YIN...

Some of my favorite Deep Thoughts, by Jack Handey. If you ever run across my friend Steve in Cedar Park, TX, get him to read these to you, because he is a vocal doppleganger for Mr. Handey:

(1) If you ever fall off the Sears Tower, just go real limp, because maybe you'll look like a dummy and people will try to catch you because, hey, free dummy.

(2) I guess of all my uncles, I liked Uncle Cave Man the best. We called him Uncle Cave Man because he lived in a cave and because sometimes he'd eat one of us. Later on we found out he was a bear.

(3) The face of a child can say it all, especially the mouth part of the face.

(4) Laurie got offended when I used the word "puke". But to me, that's what her dinner tasted like.

(5) Even though he was an enemy of mine, I had to admit that what he had accomplished was a brilliant piece of strategy. First, he punched me, then he kicked me, then punched me again.

(6) We used to laugh at Grandpa when he'd head off to go fishing. But we wouldn't be laughing that evening, when he'd come back with some whore he picked up in town.

(7) It makes me mad when people say I turned and ran like a scared rabbit. Maybe it was like an angry rabbit, who was running to go fight in another fight, away from the first fight.
_
.
WITH ANY LUCK, WE CAN PRODUCE SOME TRULY MIND-BLOWING NUMBERS

Deficit update time! Here's the first installment, where I actually did some research. Here's the second installment, where I just tacked on a story and got one last dig in at Ari Fleischer for making Baby Jesus cry with his lies. Let's recap:

March 2001: We can pay down debt, even if we go into a recession. November 2001: Sorry, we'll be in short-term deficit until 2005. July 2002: OK, the deficit is $165 billion now. March 2003: I'm sorry, I meant $287 billion ($600 billion for the next two years). Early June 2003: Do I hear $400 billion? July 2003: I lost the link, but apparently it's $1 trillion in additional debt in the next two years.

Now it's August 2003-- one month later. We still haven't figured in the costs of the continuing military operations and reconstruction costs in Iraq or the costs of the Medicare prescription drug privilege, and we're still going rack up a $480 billion deficit in 2004. By the way, the numbers (naturally) don't take into account further innovations in credit-card governance, which include $1.2 trillion in lost revenue if tax cuts are made permanent, and another $878 billion in new tax cuts.

Well, what's the fallout? (1) the GOP should definitely take advantage of the similarities in the words "fiscal" and "physical" to change their slogan concerning types of responsibility; (2) if you ran your home finances like this, you'd basically have a few fingers broken by the local department store credit card company; (3) if you ran a business like this, you'd basically have to rely on a well-placed toady to become a CNBC or Bloomberg TV commentator, or else you'd better have a good bankruptcy lawyer lined up; (4) how many jobs are we getting with this, again?

25 August 2003

CHICKENHAWKS, CHICKENS, VETERANS

Let me first officially throw out this disclaimer: I believe that people who have not served in uniform have a right to express opinions. (Corollary: I can't even claim to be a chickenhawk; I think I'm just a garden variety chicken). However, combine a lack of service or perspective about service with (1) an abundance of zeal to throw troops into harm's way, (2) a proclivity to impugn the patriotism of those who question the widsom of such plans, and (3) ridiculous straw-men arguments that tar anti-war people with a broad brush... and you've got a classic chickenhawk problem.

Your problem is then compounded when your smears are directed at actual veterans. Add two bonus problem points when the veteran served in the First Gulf War. Go ahead and think about meekly shutting up if that veteran was actually exposed to chemical weapons, and your strawman deals with anti-war assertions concerning such weapons. Such were the dizzying odds arrayed against one particular blogger who caught the eye of our erstwhile libertarian ranting vet, James Landrith.

After you're done perusing this particular take-down, perhaps give a thought to the tens of thousands of veterans still afflicted with Gulf War Syndrome. Also remember that the American Legion convention is tomorrow, and the issue of VA funding may arise. Are the people in the latest group of veterans among those who are waiting 6 months for an initial doctor's visit? Is it the height of Old Europe socialism for me to ask whether we, as a country, can do a little fucking better?

.
(RAISING HAND) OVER HERE! PAY ATTENTION TO ME! DAMMIT!

The "resurgent Taliban" (note: this adjective must be used in all news stories covering the matter) find themselves in the same position as North Korea was last fall. While all the talk was on the "March to War" with Iraq, the nutcases in Pyongyang did everything they could to get noticed: threaten to bombard Seoul with mortar-fire, hit San Francisco with an intercontinental missile, hold another massive parade to commemorate the anniversary of Kim Jong Il's first group orgy, etc. The Taliban decided to flex a little bit of left-over, Pakistan-aided muscle last week, only to have their efforts overshadowed by the bombing of the UN building in Baghdad. Apparently their message is "you think the Coalition forces in Iraq are stretched thin? There's only 12,500 in this country, and they're having trouble holding down Kabul!"

Perhaps this will be a slower news week, although the possibility of releasing the arrest record in the Kobe Bryant case is a definite attention-swallowing wild card. If it's not too much to ask, perhaps the following stories could be briefly glanced at: (1) Afghans Report New Attacks by Resurgent Taliban Forces: Please note the sterling cooperation of Pakistan in trying to get this on to the front pages; (2) Pakistan Wants Its Buddies Back: I guess this will only hit the front pages if they stage a daring jailbreak in Cuba; (3) U.S. Soldier Dies in Afghanistan Fighting: Well, this has been happening in Iraq for months, and it still hasn't led to a serious re-examination of troop levels. I'm afraid that even our own self-interest won't cut it.

Finally, if you're really primed to read an article with lots of people and places you can't pronounce and don't recognize, check out The Face of Afghanistan's Resistance, for an actual interview with one of the Taliban's lieutenants in Southeastern Afghanistan. It's obviously a lot of puffery and propaganda, but then again....
.
.
THE "WHAT ABOUT....?" SCHOOL OF CRITICISM

Objectivists have always been ultimately interesting to me. I reflect back to the fascinating documentary "Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life", where one of her acolytes informed the incredulous viewing public that Ms. Rand was as certain of the concreteness of the meaning of the word "justice" as most of us mortal humans are of the word "chair". Whether that is an expression of a highly refined philosophy or mental illness is not my call.

Sorry, that last paragraph had no real point. As I was saying, objectivism and its estranged political cousin, libertarianism (yes, I know they hate each other), are academically interesting, but ultimately impractical for one simple reason: it would be attempting to return us back to a political and/or economic system that never existed. I don't think that you can have the really hard choices made in any modern system that requires voting, because of the title paradigm. What about roads? What about air pollution? What about the Lawrence Welk museum in North Dakota? What about streetlights? What about studies of earthworm populations in Mississippi?

Texas played its own game of "what about...?" this last legislative session, as an all-GOP government clashed with a $10 billion (over 2 years) shortfall and a constitutional duty to balance the budget. My personal, localized "what about...?" would be child abuse prevention and investigation. Doesn't seem to be much of a profit motive in providing such a service, in that the beneficiary is generally a child (unless you want potential foster families to pay private investigators to seek out and remove abused children).

Well, it seems that the twin Bush states (Florida and Texas) are pushing the limits of the "how many lost or beaten children will a state tolerate" envelope. Naturally, it's an imperfect system--- but wouldn't you try to build government services from the ground up, starting with things that don't have an analog in the private sector?
.

21 August 2003

IS THERE A METHADONE FOR INTERNET ADDICTION?

OK, I'm gone, and I'll be back in 72-96 hours. Until then, in addition to the some of the links I've dropped in previous posts, everyone should go ahead and begin thinking about the two following head-scratchers:

(1) Why Are Four 9/11 Widows Asking Better Questions Than The Press? Specifically, (a) How did the FBI know exactly which flight school to go to when it claimed that such places weren't under investigation? (b) How did the FBI know exactly which ATM surveillance camera to look at to find a picture of Mohammed Atta if he wasn't under surveillance? (c) Why was Cheney trying to run Congressional interference into an independent commission? (d) Why was story time for second graders so damned important to the President? (e) Why was regular briefing more important to Rumsfeld? (f) What the hell was NORAD doing? (g) Why was the independent commission denied access to Congressional investigation material, even after independent commission members had testified before it? For additional background, navigate the "ultramercials" and check out additional family and commission concerns here and here.

(2) Supporting the Troops-- An Officially Dead Slogan: The upcoming American Legion convention ought to be fun. Obviously, supporting the Adminstration and the GOP Congress is indispensable to supporting America and the troops currently in Iraq, so I'll ask the question: why do veterans hate America? And don't hand me that lame "132,000 of them have been waiting over six months for a doctor's appointment" line popular amongst socialists, Lite beer drinkers, and the objectively pro-Saddam crowd.
DON'T BE HATIN' ON THE TEN COMMANDMENTS

Some people actually get angry/riled up when a bunch of fundamentalist yahoos in Alabama form human chains to prevent a 2 1/2 ton slab with the Ten Commandments from being removed from a courthouse. It's personally very amusing, especially when the mysterious connection between the Ten Commandments and American common law is posited. Of course, that's completely specious... we have the Brits and their endless common law commentaries to thank (and in Louisiana, the French. Boo!). What would a set of laws exclusively based on the Ten Commandments look like? I bet it would be pretty sweet.

Commandment 1: Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Let's see. Imprison Zoroasterians, Hindus, and Native Americans. Check.

Commandment 2: Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. This is pretty long and complicated, but I think the upshot is: if you're the great-great-grandson of somebody that salutes the flag (the old Jehovah's Witness argument), kiss your ass goodbye.

Commandment 3: Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. 'Zounds! I think that this may be a good idea, so long as we can include "thanking Jesus for winning a Little League baseball game" as an exercise in vanity.

Commandment 4: Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. I know, smartass. Which Sabbath? I think the more important question is, how exactly do you get a bull not to do what comes natural to a bull on Sunday?

Commandment 5: Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. In other words, you'd better go to medical school, or your moms will narc on you to the Division of Parental Honor at the local law enforcement office.

Commandment 6: Thou shalt not kill. You would think this would be higher up on the list. Please let it be noted that in all the thousands of cultures around the world, this is the only place where you'll find murder condemned (sarcasm off).

Commandment 7: Thou shalt not commit adultery. You would think that the scads of American Biblical scholars would be a little more zealous in enforcing this prohibition, rather than going after gay marriage. I guess you pick your fights.

Commandment 8: Thou shalt not steal. Works for me. See #6.

Commandment 9: Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. I'm assuming this is narrowly construed to deal with property disputes or ass-coveting. I think we can all agree that it can be more broadly construed.

Commandment 10: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor's. Thought-crime! Thought-crime!

It seems that about 2 1/2 commandments (6, 8, and 9) have any reasonable relation to modern law. #7 does in states that don't have no-fault divorce actions, and #9 only works if you have a broad definition of "neighbor". For my purposes, I think that the Code of Hammurabi bears a more rational relationship to our legalistic society. It's long, insanely detailed, and talks about specific fines and punishments. How can you not like Monty Pythonesque trials like this: "If any one bring an accusation against a man, and the accused go to the river and leap into the river, if he sink in the river his accuser shall take possession of his house. But if the river prove that the accused is not guilty, and he escape unhurt, then he who had brought the accusation shall be put to death, while he who leaped into the river shall take possession of the house that had belonged to his accuser." You don't even want to ask what the penalty is for turning somebody into a newt (even if they get better).

20 August 2003

PRE-"VACATION" OLD SHIT CLEAROUT, part 1

About to take off to the pristine beaches of Galveston for a rare three and a half day weekend. Hopefully, Crystal Beach will be a little less crowded with monster F-350s blaring bad country music this year, now that school's in. I appreciate that Galveston was the scene of two out of five battles fought during the Civil War in Texas, but do we really need that many Confederate flags? Just asking. So, I thought I be a little less "today's news" oriented and link to some resources that you may or may not enjoy. However, they're free, a fact we may all take a little for granted:

(1) The Scorecard of Evil: Guess what! I'm one of the people that thinks George W. Bush is the Anti-christ! How you like me now? Sorry, that's just the electoral impotence talking, living in Texas and all.

(2) For the tree-huggers, spotted owl-fondlers, and coral reef-molestors : (a) Rewriting the Rules, an NRDC report; (b) Clearing the Air, or why some deluded fool thought that the words in the acronym "EPA" actually meant something.

(3) As expectations concerning the discovery of Weapons of Mass Destruction rise to fever pitch next month (remember: you never roll out a product in August), an April transcript from Mel Goodman (Center for International Policy, former CIA analyst) may provide a little insight and overview. I won't even bet on the Astros to win the division, so I'm not prepared to make any predictions on this one.

(4) Speaking of the issue of the War, I hardly think that the doctrine of preemptive war has been vindicated. Everyone go to the way-back machine (October 2002) and look at a conservative critique of this Frankenstein of a foreign policy.

(5) We don't hear much about missile defense these days. Do you think the Administration has dropped it? Well, to be on the safe side, read a nice February 2002 article from one of the University of Texas' only Nobel Lauerates, Steven Weinberg.

(6) As the "VICTORY Act" (a/k/a Patriot Act II) tour makes its rounds throughout America with bonafide rock star John Ashcroft, perhaps it's wise to look at an ACLU critique of government power after September 11, 2001. Although you will be providing comfort to our enemies. It can't be helped, I suppose.

(7) In the days of increasingly dire financial straits for states, you're not hearing a lot about voucher programs. Texas, amazingly enough, didn't even pass such a program in the midst of the first all-GOP Legislature since the end of Reconstruction. I want to hear from you, Cleveland!

(8) If you like long, dry, libertarian briefs, then by all means read the Cato Institute amicus brief filed in the Jose Padilla case. I repeat: he's an American citizen.

Only halfway done in the great old-ass article cleanout. I'll try to post the remainder tomorrow, time willing-- but I need to see if Eckerd's has any SPF 250, cause damn I'm pasty (not actually my picture, but approximately my skin tone).
UNFAIR, COUNTER-BALANCED COMMENTS part 4

This should be it for now. Apologies to any threads that were hijacked, to any heads that were slapped in utter confusion, or to anyone who questioned their own mental health if (heaven forfend) they actually agreed with it. I don't know why Pat Robertson gets the business so badly in this batch, or why I can't seem to decide what Hurricane was under his spiritual control:

(16) Pat Robertson and Liberia: Pat Robertson's final evolution: Convinced that America is a cesspool of buggery, feminists-turned-witches-turned-baby-eaters, Lite Beer drinkers, socialists, malcontents, and Catholics, he decides to prop up al-Qaeda-friendly African dictatorships. Or, disappointed by God's failure to obliterate Disneyworld with Hurricane Hugo, he decides to take matters into his own hands, running a complicated diamonds-for-plastic-explosives scheme with some disgrunted Liberian expatriates in Kissimmee-St. Cloud. Or, he's a greedy shit-stain.

(17) On Michael Savage’s Quotes, When he still had a TV job: Seriously, what does 'gargling with Rogaine' get somebody? Circumcision inspector? Is that like Adrian Zmed, bikini inspector? In any event, someone will have to explain to me why a squinting, charisma-less pantload like Joe Scarborough has an hour show in prime-time. Can we take out the telecommunications infrastructure in Scarborough Country?

(18) Pat Robertson and Divine Threats/Wishes Against the Supreme Court: I'm not one to tell the average Christian what to do, but would a boycott of theocratic shitheads like Falwell and Robertson (even a 'show' boycott) by the non-wacko Christians be out of line? Of course, if you're betting on horses, don't go with Pat Robertson's prayer record. He wanted some divine vengeance visited upon Orlando for Disneyworld's "Gay Days"; instead, God warned Pat with Hurricane Bonnie (which pummeled North Carolina) 2 months later. Therefore, I look for Scalia to be hit on the head with a divine anvil when the Court reconvenes.

(19) What's on Norbizness' Dinner Menu?: Same thing as every night. 5 White Russians, a pecan-encrusted cheese log from Hickory Farms, 2 McDonald's Big n Tasties with their patented sweet and sour dipping sauce, an 8-ounce bag of sour cream and salsa pork rinds, a bear claw, a pudding pop, and a piping-hot cup of Ipecac syrup.

(20) Watching Fox morning television: My favorite Fox and Friends moment comes when those three cretins try to interview anybody with over a 4th-grade education. The guest usually has a "holy shit, what am I doing here?" realization that shows up on their face 30 seconds in. Priceless.
SOFT TARGETS: THE NEW JEAN CLAUDE VAN DAMME ACTION THRILLER

(via Matthew Yglesias) My least favorite of all Ralph Peters, the Ralph Peters that is a retired Army intelligence officer who writes bizarre editorials for the New York Post, has written part two of his "terrorists are showing how weak they are by blowing up large buildings" series. The first concerned how the hotel bombing in Jakarta showed how America was triumphiantly conquering terrorism, because the bomb (according to the top link-ee in the blogosphere) only affected "some people having lunch."

Maybe I'm missing the over-arching point here. I think terrorists hit soft targets for a reason: they're soft targets. These murderers don't care to go toe-to-toe with American soldiers who have superior weaponry, they don't care that blowing up the United Nations makes them seem more monstrous, and they probably welcome the assessment of retired army intelligence officers that this (1) shows they're "desperate" and (2) confirms the ludicrous "flypaper theory" [see below].

Speaking to the above two points, I guess the re-grouping Taliban in Afghanistan must be completely desperate: after all, they're only shooting up police stations, international aid worker caravans, and civilian buses. To be perfectly blunt, I'd prefer non-desperate but inactive terrorists to the active, desperate ones-- mainly because I don't think the pool of recruits is drying up any time soon.

19 August 2003

NOW GET ON THE ABDOMINATOR WHILE I SHOUT SLOGANS AT YOU

I have a feeling we could all use a little distraction, given the events of the day. Here's my lame attempt...

Perhaps it's just me, but seeing clips of Arnold Schwarzenegger's upcoming television ads was a deeply moving, deeply sublime experience. I half-expected him to actually address the camera without a thick Austrian accent for the first time... but then remembered that he's the Sean Connery (Scottish-Russian submarine captain) of Teutonic crossover (Austrian-American kindergarten cop, helicopter pilot, spy, eraser, commando... as well as an Austrian-Russian city cop in the unforgettable "Red Heat"). The text of the advertisement is here. If you have a link to the video, please put it in the comments.

Something about seeing/hearing the star of The Last Action Hero utter "tremendous disconnect", "forefront of innovation", and "fiscally responsible" is funny to me on too many levels. I, of course, prefer "let off some steam, Bennett", "I eat Green Berets for breakfast", and "don't disturb my friend, he's dead tired."
==========================
UPDATE: How about this for a ad script? "The politicians in Sacramento have not been telling you True Lies and giving you a Raw Deal. Therefore, on this, the 6th Day, I have taken taken advantage of the Total Recall to become The Running Man. The other politicians are like a Predator, exacting Collateral Damage on the populace, while I am a Commando who must Stay Hungry to capture the governor's seat. I will take an Eraser to the state budget, or else this will be the End of Days-- or at the very least, Judgment Day. Maria, my mighty heart is breaking. I'll be in the Humvee." Sorry, Conan the Destroyer and Jingle All the Way can't be wormed in there, no matter how hard I try.
WITH A KNOTTED STOMACH IN TOW....

This is my first time to publicly call out and de-list somebody on the blogroll, and I hope that I'm doing it with an appropriate level of reflection and without ulterior motives. If you scroll down my pithy descriptions on your immediate right, you can see that I have at least a nominal range of political thought represented, and I try to read them all on a regular basis, regardless of how much I disagree with some of their posts (which I usually try to tactfully express in their respect comments).

Some things, however, are beyond the pale, especially when I am left to wonder what could lead to a basic absence of humanity, wit, or understanding. Example 1. Example 2.

Of course, this will invariably lead to counter-examples regarding posts on other weblogs to whom I continue to link, and I hope that I can at least subjectively maintain a lack of hypocrisy here (but I'm doubtful that I can). In addition, if I ever exhibit warning signs of posting something like the two things linked above, let me know, and I'll quit the weblog "business" without a second thought.
---------------------------------------------------
UPDATE: So that there's no misunderstanding, I don't believe that the creator of that site has a lack of humanity or wit generally, and I share in/sympathize with his outrage over the recent murders in Israel. However, I stand by my belief that, at the very least, Example 1 cited above (variants of which, unfortunately, have become pandemic on hyperbolic sites that I never linked to to begin with) is beyond the pale.
FOR THE BEST IN RETINAL SEARING-- UPCOMING MOVIES

I have taken the following tidbits from the indispensable Weekly Recap. If you want to know which actors and directors are attached to the following tripe-filled plot summaries and factoids, you'll have to visit Ain't It Cool News.

1. "…about a group of scuba divers who uncover the sunken wreckage of a plane that contains missing cocaine. The divers then find themselves involved with a dangerous drug lord." [In other words, it's just like A Simple Plan crossed with Blow, but with exciting CGI-generated barracudas and that one guy who always plays the Latin American drug lord.]

2. "…the tale of Lancing, a government agent-turned-survivalist from Northern Alaska who works on a wildlife refuge and sponsors a young girl named Irina in the international foster program. Lancing uncovers that the foster program is really a human trafficking operation, disguised as Irina's orphanage." [OK, OK, it's a Steven Seagal movie. Too easy. Glad to see he's still inexplicably getting work]

3. "…to be written by (x) (SANTA CLAUSE 2, JUMANJI 2, AGENT CODY BANKS 2)." [Sounds like this crap-mongering writer has found his niche!]

4. "…the story centers on the sibling rivalry between an irresponsible and sometimes-employed party girl and her older sister, an ambitious attorney. The two move in together and ultimately find a connection they never thought was there." [Did NOT see that one coming.]

5. "Chris Kattan is attached to star in… written by (x). It's about a young man neglected by his parents. Through the teachings of his Mexican nanny -- who is obsessed with soap operas and swashbucklers -- he comes to believe that he is the modern-day Don Juan searching for his one and only true love." [The first seven words in this blurb should have scared away any semblance of financial backing, but here it is.]

6. "…have tapped writer/producer (x) to script the remake of BYE BYE BIRDIE for newcomer (x) to direct. The new treatment for the pic uses a contemporary setting with an urban, hip-hop feel." [Does somebody bust a cap in Paul Lynde's character's ass in this one? By the way, "urban, hip-hop feel" is code for rotisserie chicken-eating writers from suburbia cannibalizing WB sitcoms.]

7. "When all the workers disappear, police sent in to investigate realize the missing have been absorbed by the walls and then released in a horrifically mutated form." [Sherwin Williams vs. Freddy: A New Nightmare?]

8. "It's a wish-fulfillment adventure set in the world of monster trucks. The pic is described as being in the vein of SPY KIDS meets HERBIE, THE LOVE BUG as the truck -- though it is non-speaking -- has its own distinct personality." [Well, Herbie was non-speaking, if I remember correctly. And while we're at it, where's "Knight Rider 3-D"?]

9. "It's about a retired special agent who is drawn into the treacherous world of the yakuza in order to protect his family." [OK, I can't lie again . This is ANOTHER GODDAMNED Steven Seagal vehicle. What in the holy hell is going on?]

10. "…about a band of bloodsuckers who are turned into special operatives for the FBI. Given the bloodlust they show for their work, the vampires are closely monitored by the government agency." [Yes, this is a real plot summary describing the splicing together of Blade and The Recruit. It may do for FBI/vampire movies what Zorro: The Gay Blade did for swashbuckler movies.]

And now, to avoid terminal snarkiness, the only upcoming feature out of about 50 that I am actually looking forward to, the presence of nice-guy-but-shitty-actor John Cusack notwithstanding: "Cate Blanchett, John Cusack and Kevin Spacey are in talks to star in a new feature adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's A DOLL'S HOUSE for director Liv Ulmann. Production will begin in 2005. She has written a script based on the 1879 play about a woman who leaves her husband and children to seek a new life. The movie will be released in 2006, the 100th anniversary of the playwright's death. Before then, Ullmann will direct THE JOURNEY HOME from her own script based on the book by Icelandic author Olaf Olafsson."
A FISKING BEFORE FISK'S DADDY WAS BORN

If you want to find out about the perpetrator, victim, year, and context of this particular woodshed moment, scroll down to the end. None of the words in the numbered paragraphs are mine, naturally.

1. "Those are most truly free who have passed through the greatest discipline."

Then slavery was the best condition of society, for all admit it was the severest discipline yet experienced by man. Was it not wrong in Lincoln to deprive our race thus of the highest freedom?

2. "My request to the white men of the North is that they bring more coolness, more calmness, more deliberations and more sense of justice to the Negro question."

The coolness is needed in the South, not in the North; this section (the North) needs to warm up a little in the interest of its former ideals.

3. "As soon as our race gets property in the form of real estate, of intelligence, of high Christian character, it will find that it is going to receive the recognition which it has not thus far received."

As to the question of wealth and character, etc., winning one recognition, we see quite the contrary in the South. These things are damned there for Negroes. For proofs see the efforts there to keep all Negroes from places of preferment...

4. "We have never disturbed the country by riots, strikes, or lockouts; ours has been a peaceful, faithful, humble service."

Now, it is a doubtful compliment to have said this about us; for the reason that strikes and lockouts are sometimes necessary conditions in society, and people who brag that they do not resort to these necessities are not always to be commended. In fact, the Negro in any and all professions and callings is safest in doing just the same, and no different than his white brother.

5. "One farm bought, one house built, one home sweetly and intelligently kept, one man who is the largest taxpayer or who has the largest banking account, one school or church maintained, one factory running successfully, one garden profitably cultivated, one patient cured by a Negro doctor, one sermon well preached, one life cleanly lived, will tell more in our favor than all the abstract eloquence that can be summoned to plead our cause."

All of this last is mere claptrap. All the wealth, skill and intelligence acquired and accumulated by Negroes prior to '61 did not do half so much toward freeing the slave as did the abstract eloquence of [Frederick] Douglass, [Samuel Ringgold] Ward, [William Lloyd] Garrison and [Wendell] Phillips... This habit of belittling agitation on the part of Washington, that very thing which made him free, and by which he lives and prospers is one of his great faults if a man with such a blundering can have any degrees in stupidity.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The italicized portions were taken from Booker T. Washington's speech before the Twentieth Century Club at the Colonial Theatre in April 1903. The fisking was administered by William Monroe Trotter, a contemporary of W.E.B. DuBois, in an editorial to the Boston Guardian several days later. It's 100 years later, and we still hear variants on the same themes.

18 August 2003

A RELATIVELY SOLEMN PLEDGE, BUT READ THE DISCLAIMERS

I probably won't have any special speech, memorial, or misdirected rants to commemorate the second anniversary of 9/11. Even typing my rememberances (as somebody safely in Austin who didn't know anyone who lives in New York, much less anyone hurt or killed in the attack) is an empty, pithy exercise. All I can hope is that the Independent 9/11 Commission gets the funding and cooperation it needs, and that it produces a report acceptable not to the pundits or the blogosphere, but to those people whose lives were directly affected by the tragedies. Anything less, in the words of a Charles Barkley shaving commercial, would be uncivilized. Hopefully, on that day, there will be no I'm-more-outraged-than-you pissing contests, no invocation of the tragedy to suit a current political or war-mongering impulse, and, most importantly for me, no cheap shots at people on the other side of the fence. Not on that day.

Strictly apart from the appropriate level of sobriety on that day, trying to maintain accountability for improving American security is still warranted. I know that the word nobody likes to hear is infrastructure. It's a boring word for those things we take for granted... which in itself is amazing to me (I'm thinking of David Thewlis' character's speech in Mike Leigh's Naked: "you've had the miracles of nature explained to you, and you're bored!"). However, cities, counties, and states all seem to be laboring under massive deficits (Austin, for instance, just went to a leaner, meaner Fire Department that eliminates back-up teams). The emotional resonance of "no new taxes" is still stronger than "fully-funded first responders", leading me to believe that America has only superficially accepted the "security first" paradigm of the post-9/11 world. Not to be overtly partisan, but this attitude comes from the top down. There's no sense of shared sacrifice, no actual communitarian bonds, no inter-governmental cooperation without actual scandals... it's nothing but bland, infuriating, undocumented, and unhelpful platitudes.

Pick a section of the original Hart-Rudman report on National Security. I'm starting on page 141 of 156, where the recommendations are summarized. Enhanced border patrols, especially where transportation of large amounts of material are involved. Anyone in Laredo want to back me up on the assertion that it's business as usual here? National laboratories for analysis of chemical or biological attacks? A national science educational policy? Reorganization of the State Department? Institutional reform of the Department of Defense (instead of dumping another $100 billion on an already wasteful and mysterious agency)? Re-emphasis on human intelligence, instead of firing gay translators? Strengthening veterans benefits?

I'm pretty sure that we've foregone any claim of seriousness in the foreign policy arena, when Afghanistan/Pakistan, the still-hotbed of terrorism, has 12,500 troops, and Iraq has 150,000 (and THAT'S still not enough). Apart from our color-coded nonsense and creation of the Department of Homeland Security, what are we going to use as an example to show that we're domestically serious?
THINGS I PUT VERY LITTLE THOUGHT INTO MONTHS AGO ON STORIES NOBODY IS INTERESTED IN ANY LONGER

Until I can get rid of the summer-induced vapor lock in my brain to produce something resembling original, it's old comments time again! Hell, I even cut and pasted 10 more horrific movie production notes just from one week, but I don't want to crush the human spirit before Monday lunch. The first two parts are here and here, if you desire continuity in your reading this junk.

(11) Unsolicited Advice for the Bush Administration: In times where entire chunks of the State of the Union address seem to be falling to earth like so much dandruff, the only "Head and Shoulders" that can save the Administration's credibility (and garner it no small amount of sympathy) are not 16 words, but 6 little words: "He tried to kill My Dad". Scott McClellan should answer every 9/11-report question with that retort. Bush should have a neon sign made with that phrase for each press availability session. Soothe every CIA inquiry, White House leak, or pragmatist revolt with the rich, luxurious balm of dad-killing.

(12) German/Italian dust-up: I find it unbelievably fortunate that no one has pointed out the obvious. Mr. Schulz' uncle, in fact, WAS Sergeant Schulz, and he had no clue that Hogan was digging tunnels all under the camp! And, of course, Berlusconi did not help the Godfather comparisons when, in response to questions about concessions on EU-licensed casinos, said to the Belgians: "Here is my offer. Nothing. Not even the price of the gaming license."

(13) The Segway Incident: I'm sure that our infallible leader had to be forcibly removed, kicking and screaming, from the Oval Office desk as he was in the middle of studying Medicare actuarial tables. He then proceed to sulk all the way up to Kennebunkport, and was coaxed out of the Presidential jet-black Chevy Tahoe with a shiny new Segway his pops got him. His mind still reeling with aging statistics and their effect on the prescription drug benefit for seniors, he forgot to turn the damned thing on and fell off.

(14) Nancy Grace and the Scott Peterson case: Seriously, is Larry King Nancy Grace's work-release sponsor from her stint at the local state hospital? I may not be the world's leading neurologist, but I don't think her brain is working.

(15) The Niger Flap/The President’s Credibility: My favorite quote from Kevin's post was the Administration official who was just flummoxed over how the President was allowed to be embarrassed. I mean, if that's your standard of success, suspend him in a viscous fluid for the remainder of the term and have an animatronic or CGI President make public appearances and speeches from here on out.

16 August 2003

POP CULTURE OBSERVATIONS FROM ONE SPIN MAGAZINE: THE FINAL CHAPTER

Previous installments, complete with caveats, apologies, explanations, and disclaimers, can be found here and here.

21. A rollerskating schematic? Say what you want about this list. Maybe I’m not getting paid for this. But somebody did research that graph.

22. There is no way Jason Lee is a Scientologist. Starring in “Kissing a Fool” with David Schwimmer is enough to convince anyone that there’s no L. Ron Hubbard.

23. Radical cheerleaders. Either so played out in “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, or the 21st century’s answer to the question: What happens when PETA turns into the Symbionese Liberation Army?

24. 5 hours of bonus DVD material. I saw that movie. It was about 90 minutes too long on its own.

25. Jimmy Fallon observation #3: I reiterate. Computer Guy Movie. Then recurring role as white neighbor on lesser Wayans’ Brother sitcom. Then the real obscurity kicks in.

26. Please cancel my subscription to SPIN. I really really have no fucking idea who Sum 41 is. Please substitute a subscription for A & E’s “Biography” magazine.

26a. Ditto the prettyboy from Incubus.

27. I won’t listen to anything Alanis Morrissette until she reconciles with “Moose” from “You Can’t Do That on Television”. Canada’s dirty little secret.

28. Whoa Nellie! It's Bad Religion! It’s been far far too long since I’ve heard a crisp, 2:12 punk song about international finance.

29. Holy crap! A record review for Leonard Cohen! A true bard from the Great White North! And alive, no less!

30. Come to think of it, there may be something to the regenerative internal powers of Scientology. This could be the only rational explanation for "Losin’ It" alumni Tom Cruise becoming an international superstar while Jackie Earle Haley languishes on page 116.

15 August 2003

THE BILL LUMBERGH WEATHER REPORT

Hey there, Brownsville. What's happening? Tell you what. We're going to go ahead and need you, Harlingen, San Benito, Port Isabel, Los Fresnos, Edinburg, McAllen, Weslaco, Sebastian, Raymondville, Port Mansfield, Combes, Mercedes, Donna, Armstrong, Norias, Red Gate, Lyford and Willamar to start thinking about buying some batteries, bottled water, plywood, playing cards, spare gasoline for your generator. Yeah, it seems that Tropical Storm Erica is heading your way, so let's go ahead and get started on being a team player, O.K.? And did you get the memo on the new cover sheets for the TPS reports? Grrreeeaaaattt.


FRIDAY "NOT IMPORTANT ENOUGH TO GET THEIR OWN POSTS" POST

1. I. must. see. American. Splendor. now. It's not coming to Austin for another month, but I hear there are premieres in Los Angeles and Cleveland (electricity willing) today. Someone hook me up with some goddamned plane tickets and a fabricated press pass STAT.

2. When is a dropout not a dropout? When it's a "temporarily displaced juvenile school attendee". If anyone was wondering whether educational miracles happen in Houston, wonder no more.

3. Neither you, I, or the smartest people in the blogosphere are qualified to rationally examine the claims of a conscientious objector who is being currently court-martialled. However, this case does provide a roadmap on how to successfully and creatively evade active duty. If you take quietly off for a year or so while you're dad is the Chair of the Republican National Committee, it's no problem. If you have the unmitigated gall to criticize what you feel to be an unauthorized military activity, you, my friend, are screwed.

4. Why Working in the CIA Doesn't Pay, Example #28,583: A couple of think-tank bookworms say "cakewalk" and "welcomed as liberators". You, based on available real-world say "amalgamation of Saddam loyalists, religious extremists, and outside influences = armed resistance". You are laughed at, and start preparing your sandwich artist resume.

5. Afghanistan is a Kick-Ass Place to Live, Example #11,930: Well, were it not for the blackout, the Schwarzenegger gubernatorial campaign, the Kobe Bryant case, the Scott Peterson case, the weed-eating in Crawford photo opportunity, the Wild Card race in the American League between the A's and the Red Sox, Jude Law's impending divorce, and a local news story about which backpack to purchase for your child--- this could conceivably be considered news-worthy.

14 August 2003

GOT NOTHIN' RIGHT NOW BUT SOME ENTRY-LEVEL SIDESHOW BOB

In the words of the immortal Cole Porter: "Every time we say good-bye, I cry a little... every time we say good-bye, I wonder why a little". My favorite quotes from 1.12, a/k/a "Krusty Busted":
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Krusty: How much do you love me?
Kids: With all our heart!
Krusty: What would do if I went off the air?
Kids: We'd kill ourselves!

Bart: Dad, you're giving in to mob mentality!
Homer: No I'm not, I'm hopping on the bandwagon! Now come on, son, get with the winning team!

Foreperson: We find the defendant, Krusty the Clown... guilty (crowd gasps)
Defense Attorney (not Lionel Hutz): Ugh! [bangs the table] I knew it! This happens to me every time!

Apu: Hey, hey, this is not a lending library! If you're not going to buy that thing, put it down or I'll blow your heads off!

13 August 2003

WHO POLICES THE POLICE? I DUNNO... THE COAST GUARD?

OK, so I'm a partisan. However, I do have a small problem with hypocrisy (except when I'm the hypocrite), especially when it pertains to actually investigating the legitimate functions of government when they become corrupted. For example, one need only go back in time 14 months (blogosphere time equivalent: 2 million years) to read about Administration opposition to an independent 9/11 commission, the piss-poor funding thereof, the non-cooperation by many government agencies once it started, etc.

No Administration is immune from scandal or perceived scandal. However, where those scandals tend to impugn the actual public policy function of the government, one would expect investigation and findings by non-partisan agencies, even if the independent counsel statute has (thankfully) expired. Well, don't hold your breath, at least until January 2005. The previous Administration was examined on travel agency firing (dubious), FBI file transfers (topical, but exonerated), the ever-morphing Whitewater-into-oral-sex scandal (the historical apex of national sublimity), and payments to mistresses by HUD Secretaries (which still, despite a plea agreement years ago by Henry Cisneros, hasn't concluded yet).

The topics of potential investigation in this Administration are a bit more germane to the business of governance: industry influence in developing a national energy plan (still in litigation; the General Accounting Office just gave up), disputed intelligence claims (we're still checking to see how many times Tenet can blame himself), industry donations and influence in securing exemptions from environmental regulations (Westar, still nary a peep), classification of Saudi ties to the worst terrorist incident on American soil (when hell freezes over), and the dismissal environmental science in favor of industry-friendly regulations (see here for the report on faith-based governance).

Don't mistake my wish that the present Administration be accountable with my belief that they're actually guilty of the above offenses, although they most certainly are, and you can take that to the federally-insured banking institution of your choice. I'm just wondering when the current mantra--"honor and integrity in the White House"-- is going to be laughed at as much as the previous Administration's lamentable talking point-- "the most ethical Administration in history".
-------------------------------------------------------------------------
Absurd coda: In the main USA Today article, Ari Flesicher, Jr. (a/k/a Scott McClellan) rationalizes the immunity of the Adminsitration from outside scrutiny thusly:

"White House spokesman Scott McClellan says Bush has delivered on his campaign promise to 'change the tone' in Washington. ''The American people want us to be forward-looking and want us to work together to get things done, not to continue to settle political scores from the past or score political points.'''

Consider the tone changed, washed, and put out to dry, Skippy! Please excuse me while I stare blankly at the ceiling for the next 16 months.
VOTE FARMING

As everyone knows, most state governments are set up so that power is vested in a bicameral legislature, a governor who is the head of the executive branch, and a generally independent, non-elected judiciary. In Texas, we have wisely decided to scrap this system in its entirety and implement a new system of Farmerocracy. This is not where citizens from our agrarian sector get together in some form of grassroots democracy. This is where the Farmers Insurance Company tells the legislature and executive branch what it wants, throws a little money at them or their campaigns, and magically gets what it wants. Of course, this story is as old as the hills, but it's currently fresher in Texas newspapers than the ongoing, boring standoff over redistricting:

(1) Favoritism to Elected Officials: Claims managers at Farmers' have filed wrongful discharge lawsuits, basically because they narced on the practice of paying non-covered claims to public officials, including $300,000 in mold-related payments to Representative Joe Nixon (R-Houston) when it wasn't on his homeowners policy.

(2) Representative Nixon, to his eternal hell-bound credit, is the primary champion of tort reform in Texas. Apparently, he thinks that the investigation of the above payments represents payback for his role in screwing patients and physicians in favor of malpractice insurance carriers. No, payback for that would be to convert your mold-free home into a Ronald McDonald House for sick children, you black-hearted reprobate.

(3) Why all the favoritism? Well, a small amount of weak insurance reform was finally on the Legislature's plate this session, thanks in no small part to citizens howling about huge, unjustified overcharges over the last two years (ironically, due to mold remediation claims). Most homeowners' insurance companies were forced into a settlement by the Department of Insurance; Farmers', of course, is appealing. According to a news article on the subject: "[In 1999], the U.S. average homeowner policy cost $487. Double that for Texas... In 2002, the average countrywide rate rose eight percent. It rose an average of 35% in Texas." Farmers is appealing their 17% ordered cut.

(4) Senate Bill 14: The final chapter in this sordid tale has to do with the actual bill implemented insurance reform in Texas. It took quite a while, but a bipartisan bill (yes, bipartisanship sometimes occurs, even here) was ready to go out of conference committee. There was one small sticking point concerning the Texas Department of Insurance's jurisdiction over "management fees", which was in the agreed bill, but which Farmers' opposed..... well, read the rest of the story. Wanna guess who wins out?

12 August 2003

QUICK UPDATES IN OUR WAR ON THE CONSTITUTION

Here's a brief account of the travails of Jose Padilla's criminal attorney, whom he has been without since June 10, 2002. Again, the differences between this guy and all of the other cases you've read about in triumphant Department of Justice press releases: American citizen, not apprehended on the battlefield, and, of course, not charged with a crime. In addition, the brief memorandum used by the Department of Defense to hold him has largely been discredited.

Not that it matters to the current Administration, but the American Bar Association has come out against the numerous restrictions that would be placed on a lawyer appointed by the Pentagon to defend an "enemy combatant", including allowing the government to eavesdrop on conversations and limiting outside statements. Of course, this only really applies to those 660 detainees in Cuba, who wouldn't be there if they weren't obviously guilty of something. So quit yer bellyachin'!

11 August 2003

BACK FROM SYNDICATION HIATUS.... THE SIMMMMMMPSONS

1.11 “Crepes of Wrath” (exchange student)... this is one of the great episodes, featuring Adil, the cutest little Albanian Communist spy ever drawn up in a Korean animation studio.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Homer (after being apprised of the exchange program): Wait a minute, Skinner. How do we know some principal over in France isn't pulling the same scam you are?

Skinner: You'll be getting an Albanian.
Homer: You mean, all white with pink eyes?

Homer: Please kids, stop fighting. Maybe Lisa's right about America being the land of opportunity, and maybe Adil's got a point about the machinery of capitalism being oiled with the blood of the workers.

Cesar: Whenever my faith in God is shaken, I think of the miracle of anti-freeze.

Homer (opening wine): Some wise-guy stuck a cork in the bottle!
A FISK, A RANT, A LOAF OF BREAD, AND THOU

Sorry, this may be a little long. Apparently the speech in question was made in March 2003, so I'm sure that the pro-war rhetoric is a little more overheated than usual for the following reasons: reaction to the worldwide peace protestors, we're talking about Alabama here, the speaker is the State Auditor who probably harbors political ambitions (although the connection of a podunk state's head bean counter to international foreign policy is a bit tenuous), and not with the benefit of observing certain ironic developments that we have the benefit of drawing upon now. That being said, I'm sure this post is totally unnecessary and non-topical:

"I'm here because men and women of the United States military have given their lives for my freedom. I am not here because Sheryl Crow, Rosie O'Donnell, Martin Sheen, George Clooney, Jane Fonda or Phil Donahue, sacrificed their lives for me."

Don't pin the blame for your existence on our brave fighting men and women! They've got 122 degrees in the shade to contend with, and you drop THAT on them?

"If my memory serves me correctly, it was not movie stars or musicians, but the United States Military who fought on the shores of Iwo Jima, the jungles of Vietnam, and the beaches of Normandy."

Jesus, Ashton Kutcher was (negative) 37 years old when Iwo Jima went down. He may be able to date Demi Moore, but he can't time-travel, goddamn it!

"Tonight, I say we should support the President of the United States and the U.S. Military and tell the liberal, tree-hugging, Birkenstock-wearing, hippie, and tie-dyed liberals to go make their movies and music and whine somewhere else."

What happened, did the theatres in Alabama finally get a copy of Easy Rider after 34 years?

"After all, if they lived in Iraq, they wouldn't be allowed the freedom of speech they're being given here today. Ironically, they would be put to death at the hands of Saddam Hussein or Usama Bin Laden. I want to know how the very people who are against war because of the loss of life, can possibly be the same people who are for abortion?"

There is no good answer for this, of course, which is why I was personally pushing for as many civilian casualties as humanly possible during the War in Iraq. Frankly, the cutting down of an occasional protestor iin Baghdad or Tikrit isn't satisfying my Roe v. Wade-driven bloodlust.

(long, snipped rant about movie stars wanting to be human shields). "Throughout the course of history, this country has remained free, not because of movie stars and liberal activists but because of brave men and women who hated war too -- but lay down their lives so that we all may live in freedom. After all -- 'What greater love hath no man, that he lay down his life for his friend,' but in this case a country."

Honestly, the last sentence deserves honorary "Bushism" status. As for the connection of liberal activists to human freedom in Alabama... well, those were just bus-boycotting darkies.

"I thank God tonight for freedom -- those who bought and paid for it with their lives in the past -- those who will protect it in the present and defend it in the future. America has remained silent too long. God-fearing people have remained silent too long. We must lift our voices united in a humble prayer to God for guidance and the strength and courage to sustain us throughout whatever the future may hold."

And, in doing so, violate the Biblical prohibition against praying aloud in public like a hypocritical Pharisee. Of course, the fact that you hold a state-wide position may tend to suggest to some reflective people an agnostic/atheistic alternative.

"After the tragic events of Sept. 11th, my then eleven-year-old son said terrorism is a war against us and them and if you're not one of us, then you're one of them."

Thank you for distilling the Administration apologist talking-points to the appropriate 6th-grade level. Of course, I'm sure that he'll be one of the very first volunteers in Operation: Chechnyan Freedom for President Jeb Bush in 2009.

"So in closing tonight, let us be of one accord, let us stand proud, and let us be the human shields of prayer, encouragement and support for the President, our troops and their families and our country. May God bless America, the land of the free, the home of the brave and the greatest country on the face of this earth!"

On that we can heartily agree.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
UPDATE: Not to be outdone, my friend and sometimes incoherent commenter Capital P has contributed a fine, frothy, NC-17 rated rant to celebrate this weblog's flirtation with true American patriotism. I take absolutely no responsibility for it. Here it is, (basically) uncut and (totally) unfit for human consumption:

"where did you find that festering pile of botfly larvae? man, that thing just exudes rationality, intelligence, and of course, good grammar. i am getting so fucking sick of people just asserting that america is 'free' as if that is some universal and unqualifiable description. exactly how free are you talking about? more free than what? less free than... (impossible!) and how about after mr. ashcroft and the rest of the 'god-fearing' people get finished with it? no, mrs. chapman, you are not here tonight because men and women of the united states military gave their lives for your 'freedom.' you are here because no one has yet managed to strangle the bible-thumping, fascist, dumb-fucking life out of your miserable sack of bones."

"how hard is it to see that whatever the reason, any military action not engaged purely for self-defense is necessarily a curtailment of their beloved 'freedom.' am i free to assume my $35,000 share of this year’s national debt? fantastic! let’s see, mortgage...check, credit card debt...check, student loan...check, iraqi child clusterbomb fund...chiggity-chizz-neck! oh yeah, 'operation: fleece the taxpayers' is in the motherfucking house. oh, and also 'operation: talk all kinds of shit about illegal-but-non-existent weapons of mass destruction and then leave 500 tons of depleted uranium scattered all over populated areas of your target nation to seep into the groundwater and cause rampant escalation in cancer rates in innocent, liberated, and oh so free civilians for generations to come' is also in the house."

"and what ever happened to 'liberty'? it gets shouted down in the name of this elusive, undefined 'freedom' and no one seems to know the difference. when someone attacks us, we can talk about fighting for freedom. until then, (and even after) don’t talk about the heroic us military men and women giving their lives so that i can wear birkenstocks and tie-dye. and your eleven year old son can go suck a turd out of tom ridge’s ass. let it be said once and for all, i am NOT with you, i am against you! maybe you should try to separate the principles and ideals that america was based on (see constitution, bill of rights, i.e. john ashcroft’s target dummy) from the sick, bloated, corporate pig that our government has become. if i believed that there was a real and imminent threat to my loved ones, way of life, and ideals, i would personally fight for them. on the other hand, fighting to protect the freedom of corporate america to suck huge profits out of economic globalization is not exactly worth my life. and i feel just a little sorry for any sad sacks that had the poor sense to enlist not knowing that this is what the us military’s primary mission is."

"and for the last time—there. is. no. motherfucking. god! get it through your thick motherfucking skull! no motherfucking god whatsoever! no god, no allah, no vishnu, no zeus, no easter bunny, no santa claus, no compassionate conservative, not even satan! take your head out of your ass and look around, damn it."

"rant over."
CRIMINAL (DETAINEE) JUSTICE (INJUSTICE)

The age old question persists: why are some of our arrests/detentions in the "war on terror" front page news, replete with lots of prosecutorially-leaked salacious details, while others are seemingly immune from outside scrutiny, requiring heavyweight legal maneuvering just to find out what the hell is going on. Let's check out the scorecard any see if any sense can be made of it:

(1) The Lackawanna Six: Six small-town Yemeni residents in upstate New York accept criminal accept prison sentences ranging from 6 1/2 to 9 years for having travelled to Afghanistan six months before the 9/11 attack. There appeared to be no ongoing "plan" on their part. Yet, they plead guilty-- primarily because they were implicitly threatened with "enemy combatant" status, or, for lack of a better word, utter disappearance for an indefinite period of time, followed by "trial" in front of a military tribunal. No jury trial, no right to choose your own attorney, no right to access evidence, no attorney-client privilege. All things considered, I guess they made the right decision.

(2) Richard Reid, Zacarious Moussaui. Not American citizens. One pled guilty and was sentenced to life, the other is slowly winding his way through open court. Same for Mike Hawash, a naturalized American citizen who pled guilty (whether this was influenced by the "enemy combatant" status threat).

(3) This brings us to Jose Padilla, who received "enemy combatant" status in June 2002 and who has been held incommunicado ever since. The government isn't crowing about this too much, other than to slap the title "dirty bomber" on him and ship him out to a military prison in South Carolina. His appellate attorneys actually won a right to have a preliminary hearing, but this was appealed by the government, and the earliest date of argument is next month, bringing his detention up to 15 months.

I realize that the last case is a little fuzzy in our collective memories, but there is movement afoot to see whether the Constitution means what it says, or whether will continue to follow the Ashcroftian model of Constitution by convenience. A bipartisan set of judges and jurists has filed briefs in the above-referenced appeal, as has the largely libertarian Cato Institute. The Administration position?

(Brit) HUME: I understand that, but, I mean, someone could -- presumably someone less scrupulous than I'm sure you feel this administration is being could pick me up and hold me as an enemy combatant, could he not?

(John) ASHCROFT: Well, I don't think there's any basis for doing that.


How would we know THAT, jackass?
FIVE QUESTIONS FOR OUR INTREPID GUESTS

We have four weblogger participants for the five questions. Each of the following people will post responses to the following questions on their own weblog (Kriselda of Different Strings, Seb of Sadly, No!, Gary of the TFS Reluctant, and our Aussie homeboy Jon of G'Day Mate.) I think these are the four, but I'm doing it from memory, because the comments are broken right now. Remember the ground rules, posted below.

(1) If you could have dinner with four contemporary public figures, where everybody's entree (except for yours) was heavily flavored with strychnine, who would the guests be and why?

(2) If you could learn a musical instrument that you don't currently know, what would it be and who would be your ideal instructor?

(3) Old Uncle Giblet up and died and left you $3 million tax free bucks, which can only be spent on a piece of property (land, house, business). What do you spend it on?

(4) What's the one thing you think you offer on your weblog that zillions of other weblogs don't? Really?

(5) If you were limited to only reading three weblogs a day, who would they be and why? Please don't mention me, unless it's some sort of pity-based "honorable mention".

Sorry I couldn't make it more person-specific, but hey, there's four of you and I'm lazy. Now spread the disease!

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?