Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Bush Addresses Issue Of Orgies On Icecaps

Open your minds to W's take on the environment

(Tip of the hat to Mrs. Yossarian for the link)

Falling From Grace

The press has reported that Michael Jackson has offered to build the mother of all mosques in Bahrain "to say thanks" for being welcomed because us Westerners can be so judgmental. Driving home last night, my "oldies hip-hop" station was playing "PYT" (Pretty Young Thing).

Although I was initially enjoying the smooth sounds of a fat nosed MJ, I really started getting creeped out in listening to the lyrics.

And this got me to thinking. In the 80's, MJ was so cool. Sold millions of albums. He had his OWN exhibit at Disney World (Captain EO). And, now, has fallen mightily.

Can you think of anyone else who has fallen so far?

Gary Hart? He was never really up that high to fall. Richard Nixon? He was on his second term and was going to come to Earth anyway. Pete Rose? I don't think his impact was as large as MJ's.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Deep Thoughts

At a recent stop, the President of the United States had this to say:
You know, I just recently came off a trip to the Far East. By the way, representing the United States of America around the world is one of the great experiences of the presidency. And it struck me that I was in a region of the world where there -- where wars had started.
Deep thoughts, there. Hey, man, have you ever looked at your hands? I mean really looked at them?

Seriously, it's nice to see the president getting out there and meeting the global community that hates him.

If only he'd had a chance to visit the Far East earlier, as a representative of the United States of America. He might have even been able to witness one of those wars himself! Too bad that the fickle finger of fate needed him to keep Texas safe from the Viet Cong.

(Hat tip to Atrios, who had the stomach to reprint even more of this brilliant address.)

Caption Contest

It's time for another caption contest.

Set your phasers on "pun."

The Bee Bit My Bottom

In a stunning rebuke to Queen, Spinal Tap, and Sir Mix-A-Lot, scientists in Ireland have found that having a big butt may not be all it's cracked up to be:
. . . bottoms are getting so big they no longer make a suitable target for injections, a study in Ireland has shown.

Many are now so obese that the needles customarily used simply are not long enough to penetrate the fat and reach the muscle, where they are aimed, Victoria Chan told the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of America in Chicago yesterday.

I'm not one of those folks who thinks our society is so venal and hubristic that our sins will or should bring about our downfall (we've got at least 50 more years of hard-core sinning and hubrising, I figure), but wouldn't it be something if one of these pandemic viruses were to break out, our doctors heroically discovered an effective vaccine, but then most of the western world's population died off because their big butts prevented the vaccine from doing its job?

(Thanks to Mrs. T for finding this very important article.)

Monday, November 28, 2005

Film Forum

Last week's post on the worst films ever generated a lot of discussion, so I thought we'd continue the movie magic by turning that question around: Which lesser-known movies -- forgotten classics, obscure indie flicks, foreign films, etc. -- have been a pleasant surprise for you? What should we, the Netflix Members of North America, have queued up?

Here are a handful off the top of my head:

1. The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974): This is a recent rental, and one that's worth it. It's a fairly straightforward '70s crime drama, but memorable for a few reasons. One, Quentin Tarantino stole a lot from this film when he put together Reservoir Dogs, including the color code names of the criminals, like Mr. Blue and Mr. Brown. Two, the casting is incredible. The criminals include a masterful Robert Shaw (Quint from Jaws), a dowdy Martin Balsam, and a young, insane, horny Hector Elizondo; the cops, meanwhile, are an action team composed of Walter Matthau and Jerry Stiller, a.k.a. Mr. Costanza. Three, the entire film revolves around a hostage taking on a New York subway, with Matthau and Stiller as our hero transit cops. (Stiller even appears in dress blues, with his hat pressed down on his orange afro. So good.)

2. Touch of Evil (1958): Easily my favorite Orson Welles film. Again, I have a love for perverse casting, and this one has it. Welles as a fat, drunk and corrupt border sheriff, Charlton Heston as a Mexican District Attorney, Janet Leigh as sex personified, and Marlene Dietrich as a madame. But the directing is what's made this film famous. The opening scene, with a single camera moving through the border crossing, is a classic later copied in GoodFellas and Boogie Nights. And the scene where Welles and Heston confront each other in a room full of bull-and-matador photos may just be the greatest single scene in all of film history. Be sure to get the fully restored original, and not the chopped-up edits that the studio put out as a cruel, cruel joke.

3. La Haine [Hate] (1995): This film should be required viewing for anyone trying to understand the Muslim riots in the French suburbs. Because this film is all about Muslim riots in a French suburb. It's a little bit like Menace II Society, but with a Jew, an Arab, and an African immigrant taking the lead.

4. Foxy Brown (1974): I'm a big fan of blaxploitation films, and this was on the Sundance Channel last night. There's so much to love here, from the Willie Hutch soundtrack to Pam Grier kicking ass twelve different ways. (Thirteen if you count the bad guy she has castrated.) More great casting here, with Antonio Fargas, the original Huggy Bear, playing her piece-of-shit brother.

Alright, that's enough to start the discussion. (But I request permission from the chair to revise and amend my remarks at a later date.)

Please throw your favorite semi-obscure films in the comments below.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Bush Was Against Cutting and Running Before He Was For It

Just how insane is the Bush administration? According to the latest news reports, it is currently at Level Four on the Insanity Meter (Crispin Glover on "Letterman") and moving swiftly to Level Five (Tom Cruise anywhere).
The White House for the first time has claimed possession of an Iraq withdrawal plan, arguing that a troop pullout blueprint unveiled this past week by a Democratic senator was "remarkably similar" to its own. It also signaled its acceptance of a recent US Senate amendment designed to pave the way for a phased US military withdrawal from the violence-torn country.

The statement late Saturday by White House spokesman Scott McClellan came in response to a commentary published in The Washington Post by Joseph Biden, the top Democrat of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in which he said US forces will begin leaving Iraq next year "in large numbers."

According to Biden, the United States will move about 50,000 servicemen out of the country by the end of 2006, and "a significant number" of the remaining 100,000 the year after. The blueprint also calls for leaving only an unspecified "small force" either in Iraq or across the border to strike at concentrations of insurgents, if necessary.

In the White House statement, which was released under the headline "Senator Biden Adopts Key Portions Of Administration's Plan For Victory In Iraq," McClellan said the administration of President George W. Bush welcomed Biden's voice in the debate. ... McClellan said the White House now saw "a strong consensus" building in Washington in favor of Bush's strategy in Iraq. ...

Less than two weeks ago, McClellan blasted Democratic Representative John Murtha for calling for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. McClellan accused Murtha of "endorsing the policy positions of Michael Moore," a stridently anti-war Hollywood filmmaker.

Biden's ideas, relayed first in a November 21 speech in New York, however, got a much friendlier reception. Even though Bush has never publicly issued his own withdrawal plan and criticized calls for an early exit, the White House said many of the ideas expressed by the senator were its own. ...

The measure was largely seen as a reprimand to the Bush administration, which has often been accused of lacking a viable strategy in Iraq. But the White House insisted again the Senate was reading from its own playbook. "The fact is that the Senate amendment reiterates the president's strategy in Iraq," the statement said.
Where to begin?

First, I love the sudden change in both their policy and politics. For the last two weeks, we've been hearing nothing from the administration but assertions that anyone who dared to call for a troop reduction or withdrawal from Iraq was "despicable," "reprehensible," and borderline treasonous. And now, suddenly, in what would be derisively termed a "flip flop" if the perpetrators were Democrats, the Bush team has decided that it was for troop reduction and withdrawal all along!

And that is the proper phrasing -- "troop reduction and withdrawal." It's only proper to characterize this as a cowardly call to "cut and run" if the person proposing it is a Democratic veteran who spent 37 years in the Marines. If true patriots like President AWOL, Vice President Deferments and their Purple Heart Band-Aid Brigade make the same suggestion, it's a much more dignified and reasoned call for "troop reduction and withdrawal."

Finally, lest the liberal academics engage in even more "revisionist history," the fact that John Murtha and Joe Biden announced their plans for troop withdrawal several weeks before the administration doesn't mean that they somehow provided leadership on this issue. As the White House has made clear, Bush and his associates were kinda sorta thinking about this too, long before Biden announced his plan. Therefore he is following them. This is, after all, the brave leadership we've come to expect from this administration -- boldly leading the American people to the decision they made on their own several months ago.

Any minute now, we should see the president come out and condemn his plan for the privatization of Social Security. Seriously, who thought up that stinker?

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Arbeit Macht Freeper?

So I'm driving home from work, and I see a bumper sticker. It reads: "Piss off a liberal. Work hard and be happy." I live in a red state, so anti-liberal bumper stickers don't usually phase me. Usually they're anti-gun control or anti-non-evangelical christianist. But for the life of me, I can't figure this one out. What, exactly, do liberals have against work and/or happiness? Is there some kind of stereotype that stipulates liberals believe in a world where everyone sits around all day and wallows in misery?

I'd really like for someone to explain this joke to me, cause I don't get it.

After you figure it out, here's something that will really set your mind on fire. On the same car, right beside the "Piss off a liberal" bumper sticker, there was another which read: "Just say no to sex with pro-lifers." A hard-core libertarian, maybe?

Friday, November 25, 2005

Belated Random Ten

Due to triptophan related forgetfulness, we are only now presenting this week's Friday Random Ten. I hope its absence didn't ruin your holiday.

As penance, I'd like to give you a little gift I've been saving for just such an occasion. Joyce, legend has it, is an album of love songs recorded by the frizzy-headed hausfrau pictured so seductively on the cover. This is a rare album for so many reasons; in many of the Midwestern states, the erotic cover has led to the album's complete banning. Sad, really.

Time for the Random Ten. You know the drill, so let's do this thing:

1. Arcade Fire, "Haiti" -- Absolutely gorgeous indie pop from the best thing to come out of Montreal since Rocket Richard. I saw them perform at Summer Stage this year, and this song was one of the highlights. 9/10

2. A Tribe Called Quest, "Electric Relaxation (Propellerheads Remix)" -- My favorite part of the original song is the bass line they sample from Ronnie Foster's "Mystic Brew" in the background, so I didn't think I'd like this smoothed-out Propellerheads remix of the vocals. The original's still better, but this is a nice change of pace. 8/10

3. Johnny Cash, "Five Feet High and Rising" -- Nice Columbia-era Cash, a song that's sampled on De La Soul's debut album. Malibu Stacy and I just saw Walk the Line yesterday, and I have to say we were both pretty damn impressed. Check it out, for a good film and a nice trip through Cash's career. 7/10

4. The Go! Team, "Get It Together" -- Nicely sunny electronica from the UK. This is what it would've sounded like if Moby had done the theme song for the Teletubbies. 9/10

5. Soundgarden, "Black Hole Sun" -- A great song off their best album. (Thrillhous may disagree.) Chris Cornell never sounded creepier, and the video sure didn't help erase any of the bad vibes. 9/10

6. Land of the Loops, "Multi-Family Garage Sale (Bargin-Bin Mix)" -- Mellow sample-heavy electronica that always makes me think of Stereolab on Quaaludes. Somehow, it works. 10/10

7. Esquivel, "Mini Skirt" -- Esquivel is the king of Bachelor Music, that late '50s genre that somehow managed to make the xylophone sound sexist. This song's so deep in bacheloridia that it even has wolf whistles and a chorus saying "Groo-vy!" So bad it's good. 8/10

8. The Amps, "Dedicated" -- A nice little strutter from Kim Deal's post-Breeders, pre-Pixies 2.0 band. She can do very little wrong in my book, and I actually think this is some of her better stuff. 8/10

9. Raymond Wong, "Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained" -- This is the title theme to Kung Fu Hustle, which I finally saw recently thanks to the kind people at Netflix. Excellent movie, with a fantastic soundtrack. If you've seen the movie, this is the song that the Ax Gang sequence is set to. 6/10

10. Paul Stanley, "Strutter '78" -- Not sure why this is credited just to Paul -- and not to Gene, Ace and Peter as well -- since this is from KISS's Double Platinum collection. Maybe only Paul was willing to put in the time to do the remix work. Guess that's why he's the Star. 7/10

Alright, that's a generous 8.1 average. I guess on the gluttony holiday, a little generosity with the portions never hurt.

Please drop your own Random Ten -- Friday, Saturday, or otherwise -- in the comments.

It's a "Jump to Conclusions" Mat!

The Pew Center has released the following findings on attitudes about the Iraq war:
The survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press -- which also plumbed opinions of journalists, university presidents and others in academe, diplomats, government officials, religious leaders, members of the military, scientists and international security specialists -- revealed a marked disconnect between the perceptions of the general public and many of the so-called opinion leaders.

When asked whether they thought democracy would succeed in Iraq, only 33 percent of the journalists agreed that it had a chance. The number was even worse in academe -- 27 percent of respondents thought the effort would succeed. ... Meanwhile, close to half of the American public -- 48 percent -- think the decision to take military action in Iraq was the right one. Among journalists, 28 percent thought the decision was justified. The number was 21 percent among the academic elites and 49 percent in the military.

The public is evenly divided on whether the war in Iraq has helped or hindered efforts to combat terrorism, 44 percent thought the conflict has helped the effort and the same number thought it has hurt. In the press, 68 percent said the war had hurt the effort, and 22 percent said it had helped.
If you're a Bush apologist like John Hinderacker -- "Code Name: Hindrocket!" -- over at the Conspiracy in Mom's Basement that the world knows as Power Line!, then your knee-jerk response would be this:
This confirms what we already knew, that the vast majority of reporters and editors are Democrats and are far to the left of the American people as a whole.
Yes, John. When all the people who make a living reading, writing and thinking about a problem all day long come away with a different conclusion than the people who sorta heard something about it over breakfast from the blow-dried and neutered mimbo anchor on "Fox and Friends," well, obviously it's not because that first group actually knows more about the matter and has what communists call "an informed opinion." Oh, no. It's proof of a vast left-wing conspiracy, working out there to subvert the infallible will of the people.


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Worst. Films. Ever.

Here's a game that's been floating around the lefty side of the internet lately, much like the photo montage of President Bush trapped in his own Chinese finger prison: What ten movies do you absolutely hate, and why?

Here's mine:

10. Independence Day: This movie was such an abomination that I'm fairly certain it violated multiple parts of the Geneva Conventions' provisions against torture. It's like the producers had a bet going to see how many sci-fi cliches, how many factual errors, and how many horrible bits of acting they could cram into a single reel of film. When Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, and Randy Quaid are the stars of the film, you know it has issues.

9. The Other Sister: I'm cheating a little here, since this is the one movie on this list that I didn't actually see. But good Lord, the previews and ads were bad enough. This film was apparently hatched by a soulless, deep-tanned, pony-tailed Hollywood exec who was searching for something to fill a release spot and just said, "What the hell, let's make another movie about retarded people." On the bright side, this role did kill the career of Juliette Lewis.

8. Hudson Hawk: This movie really should've brought Bruce Willis's career to an end. Well, earlier than it did. Here's what passes for the plot: A wise-cracking cat burglar is kidnapped by a bizarre rich couple to steal some of Leonardo da Vinci's art from the Vatican and thereby set in motion a scheme for world domination, but he's thwarted by a sexy nun and some supposedly hilarious hijinks. The low point of the movie -- and that's saying a lot for a film that's well below sea level -- is the torture of Bruce Willis and Danny Aiello singing Bing Crosby's "Swingin' on a Star" as they pull off a heist. The film is billed as an action/adventure/comedy/musical and yet is somehow none of those things.

7. Batman & Robin: As a longtime fan of Batman, it was painful to watch the movie series deteriorate from the excellent original Tim Burton film to this flamboyantly gay farce put forth by Joel Schumacher. Everything about this flick was godawful, from the nipples-and-codpiece dayglo Batsuit to the casting of Arnold Schwarzeneggar as Mister Freeze. I hope Schumacher was deported for this.

6. Godzilla: I'm talking about the 1998 remake, not the original, which is kind of cool. This is the second Roland Emmerich film on the list, and in terms of its sheer laziness and lack of originality, it's somehow even worse than "Independence Day." The entire movie was lifted from other sources, from the rampage-through-New-York scene of "King Kong" to the monster-eggs-are-going-to-hatch scene of the "Alien" movies. Bad, bad, bad.

5. Forrest Gump: I hate this movie on so, so many levels. First of all, the simple-minded schmaltziness of lines like "Life is like a box of choklits" and "Stupid is as stupid does." What do those phrases even mean? Were the writers mentally handicapped as well? Second, and even worse, I hate this movie for the conservative fairy tale it became. Newt Gingrich praised this movie to high heaven when it came out, and it's easy to understand why. Forrest is a simple Southern boy who stays true to Momma, 'Bama football, and the Army throughout the 1960s and is all the better for not thinking too hard. Meanwhile, Jenny gets involved in the counterculture world of politics, feminism, and student rebellion and winds up consigned to a life in hell. Anyone involved in liberal movements is ridiculed, from the SDS leader who slaps the girl, the Black Power figures who leer on, to the antiwar activists who are simplistic morons. I'm surprised they didn't show Martin Luther King pistol-whipping a nun.

4. Patch Adams: Do I need to explain the reasons behind this choice to anyone? No? Good.

3. Napoleon Dynamite: Yeah, you read that correctly. I hated this movie. Hated, hated, hated. Maybe the visceral reaction came from the fact that good friends -- well, formerly good friends -- claimed it was "the funniest movie" they'd ever seen. Ever! Sorry, but this was just a lame-ass, no-plot, no-humor take on the world of high school loserdom, a topic that's been covered many times before and in much funnier ways.

2. Pearl Harbor: It took a great deal of restraint for me to place only one film by Ben Asslick on this list. But once I decided to place just one of his films here, this was the obvious choice. Horrid history, horrid errors, horrid acting, horrid everything. By the time the bombs started falling on Hawaii, I was rooting for the Japanese.

1. Happiness: This movie was a heartbreaker for me because it had a terrific cast (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Dylan Baker, Ben Gazzara, etc.) in such shitty, painful, disturbing roles. What was less enjoyable? Watching Hoffman masturbate and then stick pictures to the wall, watching Baker rape his son's prepubescent friend, or listening to the hip Upper West Side audience titter amusingly at both scenes? I needed a shower after this one. Ugh.

Alright, that's my list. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, please feel free to add your own list of films you're thankful to never see again, or else take issue with the ones on my Hate List. Have at it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Revisionist History

I've often suspected that Antonin Scalia lived in an alternate reality, but this comment he made last night in New York proves it:
"U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia says the high court did not inject itself into the 2000 presidential election.

Speaking at the Time Warner Center last night, Scalia said: 'The election was dragged into the courts by the Gore people. We did not go looking for trouble.'"
Let's take a trip down memory lane.

First of all, the Gore people took the election problems into the courts because the state official in charge of the election -- the co-chair of the Bush-Cheney campaign named Katherine Harris -- refused their state-sanctioned request for a manual recount. To characterize this as some kind of reckless, wild-eyed lawsuit is insane. (Especially since, as TPM reminds us, the most thorough recount analysis showed that Gore would, in fact, have won the state if he'd pressed for a complete statewide recount.)

Second, the case only leapt from the state courts to the U.S. Supreme Court because the Bush campaign appealed the decision of the Florida Supreme Court. For all of Bush's constant complaining about runaway lawsuits and federal appeals, he surely leapt at the chance to get his own complaints before the High Court. How Scalia can lay this at the feet of the Gore camp is beyond me. (It's called "Bush v. Gore" for a reason, Tony. Bush was the plaintiff, and therefore his name gets to come first.)

Third, the Supreme Court didn't have to take the case. Despite all the pundits' claims that there was a "constitutional crisis" going on with the recount, there wasn't anything of the sort. The Constitution has a specific means of resolution for a contested election, and the path to resolving it goes through Congress, and not the Supreme Court. You think someone who claims to defend the original meaning of the Constitution would understand that. Moreover, Scalia had long been at the forefront of arguing against federal interference in state affairs, especially in the realm of voting. Yet another "principle" that he quickly abandoned in the rush to hand the election to Bush.

I know the 2000 election is old news, and the insanity of Antonin Scalia is even older. But I still can't help getting mad.

Do Not Pass Go

In a news story that must've sent sales of Maalox and adult diapers through the roof in Washington, former DeLay aide Michael Scanlon just pled guilty to attempted bribery of public officials:
A onetime congressional staffer who became a top partner to lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty yesterday to conspiring to bribe a congressman and other public officials and agreed to pay back more than $19 million he fraudulently charged Indian tribal clients.

The plea agreement between prosecutors and Michael Scanlon, a former press secretary to then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), provided fresh detail about the alleged bribes. The document also indicated the nature of testimony Scanlon is prepared to offer against a congressman it calls "Representative #1" -- who has been identified by attorneys in the case as Rep. Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio). [...]

Investigators are looking at half a dozen members of Congress, current and former senior Hill aides, a former deputy secretary of the interior, and Abramoff's former lobbying colleagues, according to sources familiar with the probe who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Because of his central role in much of Abramoff's business, Scanlon could be a key witness in any trials that arise from the case.
With a five-year sentence to Federal Pound You in the Ass Prison hanging over him, Scanlon is almost certain to cooperate with prosecutors and testify against the congressmen in question. I'd say Ney is a lock to go down, and DeLay's certainly in trouble too.

But the problem for the GOP goes much wider than the individual acts of corruption. Right at the moment that the public has decided that the Republicans aren't trustworthy, we're likely to have the single greatest exposure of congressional corruption since the Abscam sting of the early '80s. If the image of Republican corruptiuon dovetails with the reality of Republican incompetence in the minds of voters, we could really be seeing the start of a blue wave in 2006.

But to take back Congress, the Democrats are going to need to do more than simply watch the Republicans self-destruct. If you'd like to help, check out the DCCC and DSCC blogs for local races that you can get involved with, and involved with soon.

Monday, November 21, 2005


In case you missed it, Crooks and Liars has a couple nice moments from this weekend's Saturday Night Live. Bush's press conference in China and the Jean Schmidt meltdown in Congress. Enjoy.

"Religion Has No Place in the Public Schools, Just Like Facts Have No Place in Organized Religion!"

From the New York Times:
Cody Young is an evangelical Christian who attends a religious high school in Southern California. With stellar grades, competitive test scores and an impressive list of extracurricular activities, Mr. Young has mapped a future that includes studying engineering at the University of California and a career in the aerospace industry, his lawyers have said.

But Mr. Young, his teachers and his family fear his beliefs may hurt his chance to attend the university. They say the public university system, which has 10 campuses, discriminates against students from evangelical Christian schools, especially faith-based ones like Calvary Chapel Christian School in Murrieta, where Mr. Young is a senior.

Mr. Young, five other Calvary students, the school and the Association of Christian Schools International, which represents 4,000 religious schools, sued the University of California in the summer, accusing it of "viewpoint discrimination" and unfair admission standards that violate the free speech and religious rights of evangelical Christians. ...

The lawyer for the school, Robert Tyler, said reviewing and approving the course content was an intrusion into private education that amounted to government censorship. "They are trying to secularize private Christian schools," Mr. Tyler said. "They have taken God out of public schools. Now they want to do it at Christian schools." ...

A lawyer for the Association of Christian Schools International, Wendell Bird, said the Calvary concerns surfaced two years ago when the admissions board scrutinized more closely courses that emphasized Christianity. In the last year, the board has rejected courses like Christianity's Influence in American History, Special Provenance: Christianity and the American Republic, Christianity and Morality in American Literature and a biology course using textbooks from the Bob Jones University Press and A Beka Book, conservative Christian publishers. ....

A university fact sheet says publishers sometimes acknowledge their books are mainly to teach religion. The sheet has this excerpt from Bob Jones's "Biology for Christian Schools," used in unapproved courses, "The people who have prepared this book have tried consistently to put the Word of God first and science second."
Where to begin?

Well, first of all, let's start with the student in question. Cody Young wants to become an engineer, but thinks a science curriculum based on the descriptions of Noah's arkbuilding will get him there. He wants to forge a career in the aerospace industry, presumably so he can fly the first manned space flight to Jesus. You know, I remember college science courses with nicknames like Physics for Poets, but I don't remember Physics for Pharisees. Sorry, Hezekiah. No dice.

Second, I am truly moved by the sincere cries of victimization from these poor, persecuted Christians. It must be so hard living in a country that's only about ninety percent Christian! Case in point: The public schools refused to let them force all students to accept their religious views, and therefore they had no choice but to flee. And now that they've built up their own little fiefdoms -- and I use that term literally, given the 13th century view of the world being taught in these places -- they're finding that the "accredited" universities are demanding "facts" and "evidence" be used in their stupid secular science classes. What nerve!

Seriously, "viewpoint discrimination"? Isn't this just like the charge that conservatives love to make about liberals, that we're all hedonistic jerks so paralyzed by our moral relativism that we can't distinguish between right and wrong? Well, there's right and wrong in science and math and history and literature, too, and it's a lot easier for us to fact check your answers on those subjects than it is for you to crosscheck our moral claims against the true feelings of the Almighty. You know why? We have an answer key in the back of our book.

Somewhere, God is trying to tell these people: "You know, I gave you a brain. For the love of Me, use it!"

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Caption Contest

Time once again for a caption contest.

This delightful image is one of a hilarious series of photos up at Atrios's place. Be sure to check them all out.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Armchair Political Consultant

Otto raises a valid concern on voter rights & access as well as the GOP's proclivity to screw the poor. Let us remember what we have seen in recent major elections - the Democrats get cornered on an issue (e.g. gay marriage) which requires more than a 30 second sound bite to explain their position. As a result people either don't understand their position or they alienate/scare the suburban masses who are the critical "soccer mom" swing vote.

For example, here in GA - access to voting machines, gay marriage, and limiting lawsuit settlements was the call to arms for the Democrats in 2004 - and they got slaughtered.

Meanwhile, Hartsfield / Jackson Airport and the Savannah seaport are drastically under staffed for national security support; the state's "at least we're not South Carolina / Mississippi / Louisiana " education policy backfired are we are now falling behind them; and finally, we have the second longest average commute time (after LA) allowing more time for our kids to be alone at home, gas to be wasted, and overall quality of life to plummet.

Nationally, Bush has taken the Murtha comments as an excuse to frame the Iraq question as (a) "all in without right to question" or (b) "pull out immediately, end the military, egg the soldiers, and send the Statue of Liberty back to France begging for an apology."

Without coming forward now with clear and simple domestic platform, the Democrats run the risk of an "all in" versus "cowards" debate in 2006.

So here goes -the three legs of my domestic platform.

(1) Investment in trade school scholarships versus 4 year colleges and universities. Not everyone needs a BA in Romantic Poetry, but core skills in security, nursing and elderly healthcare for example, are in desperate need.

(2) Energy policy focused on secure nuclear power generation. I would make plant building as critical as any other national security issue. I know, I don't love nuclear byproducts, but we have spent 30 years trying to change consumption habits and this isn't going to change overnight. Dependency on the Middle East with the rise of China scares me to the core.

(3) Make the Peace Corp heavily part of foreign policy /diplomacy. I would be clear to foreign parties of my intent. We are offering this as an act of goodwill, with the hope that American back home begin to better understand the world around them and fear it less.

Feel free and tell me I'm an idiot or let me know yours. None of these require huge financial investments and focus on improving people's lives.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Block the Vote

Earlier this year, Georgia's Republicans pushed through a new "voter identification law" that required every voter to present a valid form of state identification at the polls. When people pointed out that not everyone had a driver's license, especially the poor, the elderly, and urban minority populations -- you know, the core of the Republican voting base -- these same Republicans pushed through a law that required such voters to go out and pay for a state ID card solely for the privilege of voting.

All this was necessary, the Republicans insisted, to prevent a rampant wave of voter fraud. Sure, there was no evidence this had happened and none that it might in the future, but these brave politicians went ahead and screwed over the poor, the elderly and inner-city blacks all the same. They insisted it had nothing to do with race, and got indignant that people would make such a claim.

Well, guess what?
The chief sponsor of Georgia's voter identification law told the Justice Department that if black people in her district "are not paid to vote, they don't go to the polls," and that if fewer blacks vote as a result of the new law, it is only because it would end such voting fraud.

The newly released Justice Department memo quoting state Rep. Sue Burmeister (R-Augusta) was prepared by department lawyers as the federal government considered whether to approve the new law. .... The memo, leaked to The Washington Post, went on to state: "Rep. Burmeister said that if there are fewer black voters because of this bill, it will only be because there is less opportunity for fraud. She said that when black voters in her black precincts are not paid to vote, they do not go to the polls." [...]

The memo also states that in defending the Georgia law, Burmeister claimed the voter IDs would not be as difficult to obtain as critics claim because Gov. Sonny Perdue "had passed legislation to mandate a [state Department of Driver Services] office in every county and that individuals can obtain state IDs in Kroger grocery stores."

"Neither statement is correct," the memo concludes.

Perdue spokeswoman Heather Hedrick said Thursday that memo's claims that the voter ID law would adversely affect minority voting doesn't change the governor's support for the measure.

"This is common-sense legislation," Hedrick said. "Under the old rules, an illegal alien could pick up a library card out of the trash and use it to cast a ballot. Voting is a sacred right and it deserves safeguards to prevent fraud."
Yeah, that's the top priority for an illegal alien. Making sure his vote is counted in the race for city property assessor. Moron.

I can't say I'm surprised by all this. Georgia's Republican party has a nice history of toying with the racist past, from Sonny Perdue riding the Confederate battle flag to the GOP's first gubernatorial win since Reconstruction to the less obvious efforts made by suburban Republicans like Newt Gingrich and Bob Barr to convince their constituents that the evil blacks were taking control of their world. But not since the days of segregation has anyone been as open about their racism. Way to go, Rep. Burmeister.

What's really the outrage here, though, is that Burmeister's racial arguments were reviewed by the Bush Department of Justice prior to the law's approval. They also had a team of Justice lawyers and analysts review the law, and they recommended rejecting it because it was likely to discriminate against minority voters. Despite all this evidence, however, the Bush administration overrode their recommendations and approved the new voting restrictions.

I guess this is the harsh bigotry of low expectations.

(Hat tip to the Carpetbagger Report.)

Friday Random Ten

On this Friday before Thanksgiving, I thought I'd try to put everything in perspective.

Are all of your friends dead? Do you have to go out in public with a white shirt, white tie, and white leather shoes? Do you work for something called "the Pulpit in the Shadows," which I'm assuming is a Christian paramilitary organization of some sort? Have you ever heard this album? No on all counts? Well, then, be sure to count your blessings.

Speaking of counting your blessings, it's time to line up the Friday Random Ten.

You know the rules. Take out whatever it is you keep your music on, whether it's an iPod or an imitation from such brand names as Sorny, Panaphonics, or Magnetbox; set that sucker on shuffle; and give us the first ten songs that pop out. If, in the spirit of Nigel Tufnel, you'd like to take the Random Ten "to eleven," go ahead and throw in a Coolness Self-Audit as well. (If you want a guide on how to handle that, check the comments here.)

Alright, here's my set:

1. The Latin Playboys, "Mustard" -- The Latin Playboys are a side project of sorts from Los Lobos (or "Los Lonely Boys" or whatever their sellout name is now). This is much more stripped-down and quirky-sounding than the usual Lobos fare, and it's catchy as hell. 8/10

2. Death Cab for Cutie, "Earth Angel" -- A cover of the Penguins' classic, taken from the soundtrack to a video game called "Stubbs the Zombie." I'm not sure what alt-rock covers of '50s whitebread songs have to do with zombies rampaging in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, but the soundtrack is brilliant. Bands like Cake, Flaming Lips, the Raveonettes, and Rogue Wave covering classic songs like "Everyday," "Mr. Sandman," and "Lonesome Town." The Death Cab tune might be one of the best, but the whole thing's worth a listen. 9/10

3. Fatlip, "Today's Your Day" -- The new Loneliest Punk CD marks the triumphant return of Fatlip, formerly a prime force in the Pharcyde. This song makes use of the nice hook from Lee Dorsey's "Give It Up," and that earns it major points in my book. And yours, unless you're a communist. 8/10

4. Barcelona, "Kasey Keller" -- I'm an ardent fan of the U.S. national soccer team, so finding a nice tribute to the greatest goalie in American history was a treat. Does Tony Meola have a song named after him? I think not. Well, I hope not. 6/10

5. Jean Grae, "Keep Livin'" -- I found this on a sampler put out by Okay Player, and even with nice cuts from the Roots and RJD2 on the disc, this was a song I kept coming back to. Vocals that are a blend of Jill Scott and Angie Stone, and background samples that sound like something from Dilated Peoples. In other words, good. 10/10

6. José Gonzáles, "Stay in the Shade" -- If you like Sufjan Stevens and Iron & Wine, you'll probably like Gonzáles as well. Nice acoustic guitar work, haunting vocals, and the usual slide-you-into-a-coma stylings that go with all that. 7/10

7. Booker T and the MGs, "Soul Dressing" -- Nicely appropriate for the Thanksgiving theme. This is a sweet soul instrumental, with some brilliant organ and guitar work. If the only thing you know by Booker T is the song "Green Onions" (or the professional wrestler who bears his name) do yourself a favor and dig a little deeper. This cut is a great place to start. 9/10

8. LCD Soundsystem, "Daft Punk is Playing at My House" -- I'm not sure what the current Coolness Rating for this song would be. It was all the rage just a bit ago, but I think it might be following trucker hats and fauxhawks out the door. Hipsters are a fickle lot. Eh. 7/10

9. Interpol, "Untitled" -- Sure, the lyrics make it seem like the theme song for a stalker -- "I will surprise you sometime / I'll come around" over and over again -- but this is still a nice, slow-building bit of indie rock. I tend to like Interpol's slower stuff and this is as good as it gets. 9/10

10. Thelma Houston, "Jumpin' Jack Flash" -- This is a scorching R&B cover of the Stones song by Houston, a singer who's better known for her disco hits like "Baby, Don't Leave Me This Way." The cover is brilliant, and the only thing that mars it for me are the painful memories of that godawful Whoopi Goldberg movie. I'd wish her a trip to hell for that sin, but she's already on the Hollywood Squares. What more can we do? 9/10

Adding it all up, that gives me a whopping 8.2 average. For once, I successfully avoided the cringeworthy stuff on my iTunes and came up with a fairly respectable list. And for that, I'm thankful.

Alright, pilgrims. Drop your own Random Ten in the comments, and if you'd like, throw in a Coolness Self-Audit as well.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Murtha! Murtha! Murtha!

In case you missed it, Congressman John Murtha (D-Pa.), a Vietnam veteran and a longtime Democratic hawk, has just come out and demanded that Bush withdraw American troops from Iraq:
WASHINGTON - An influential House Democrat who voted for the Iraq war called Thursday for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, another sign of growing unease in Congress about the conflict.

"It is time for a change in direction," said Rep. John Murtha (news, bio, voting record), D-Pa., one of Congress' most hawkish Democrats. "Our military is suffering, the future of our country is at risk. We cannot continue on the present course. It is evident that continued military action in Iraq is not in the best interests of the United States of America, the Iraqi people or the Persian Gulf region."

House Republicans assailed Murtha's position as one of abandonment and surrender, and accused Democrats of playing politics with the war. "They want us to retreat. They want us to wave the white flag of surrender to the terrorists of the world," Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said in a statement.

Murtha estimated that all U.S. troops could be pulled out within six months. A decorated Vietnam veteran, he choked back tears during his remarks to reporters.

Murtha's comments came just two days after the Senate voted to approve a statement that 2006 "should be a period of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty" to create the conditions for the phased withdrawal of U.S. forces.

In recent days, President Bush and other top administration officials have lashed out at critics of the war and have accused Democrats of advocating a "cut and run" strategy that will only embolden the insurgency.

Vice President Dick Cheney jumped into the fray Wednesday by assailing Democrats who contend the Bush administration manipulated intelligence on Iraq, calling their criticism "one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city."

Murtha, a Marine intelligence officer in Vietnam, angrily shot back at Cheney: "I like guys who've never been there that criticize us who've been there. I like that. I like guys who got five deferments and never been there and send people to war, and then don't like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done."

Referring to Bush, Murtha added: "I resent the fact, on Veterans Day, he criticized Democrats for criticizing them."
While I don't agree that an immediate withdrawal is the solution, I admire the hell out of this guy for being able to admit he was wrong, demanding accountability from the no-responsibility administration, and, most of all, for not taking one bit of Cheney's bully routine. Good for him.

I'm sure the Republicans have their usual reasoned response at the ready. We'll soon hear rumors that Congressman Murtha shat on an American flag during his time in Vietnam or that he once spoke kindly to a black child, and the Swift-Boating will be on. But in the meantime, well done.

UPDATE: Crooks and Liars has the video here.

Neuticles No More!

Looks like the press has rediscovered its job description. Here's an example of how the Knight-Ridder newspapers provided actual analysis and fact-checking to Bush's recent "I Am Not a Liar" speech on Veteran's Day:
ASSERTION: In his speech, Bush noted that "more than a hundred Democrats in the House and the Senate - who had access to the same intelligence - voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power."

CONTEXT: This isn't true.
Stunning. Instead of the usual he-said-she-said routine, where the newspapers would counter a Republican assertion that the sky is red with a tepid counterpoint that "some Democrats have argued that the sky is, instead, blue in color," we're actually seeing the reporters step up and call out the bullshit for what it is. Sure, it's about four years too late, but I'll take it.

Of course, to preserve the cosmic balance of media whoredom, someone had to pick up the slack. And who better to do that than Bob Woodward, a man who once risked it all to bring Nixon's cover-up of Watergate to light and who now risks it all to keep his own role in the Bush administration's cover-up of Plamegate secret. His full-on descent into administration shill is pathetic, but the writing's been on the wall -- or rather, on the bookstore shelves -- for years.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

We Need a Name That's Witty at First, But Seems Less Funny Each Time You Hear It

Crooks and Liars has an outstanding segment from Keith Olbermann.

Apparently, there's a right-wing rock duo who call themselves "the Right Brothers" and who've put together a song called "Bush Was Right." You really need to watch the clip to get the full flavor of the song, but it's essentially a watered-down, clumsier version of Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire," just without a sense of rhythm, musical skill, or actual history. And the title would be "Yeah, Bush Started the Fire, and If You Don't Like the Way the Country's Burning, Get Out, Faggot." Otherwise, just the same.

Apparently, the Right Brothers are demanding that MTV play the song, even though they don't yet have a video. (Olbermann's crew has helpfully provided one.) And if MTV doesn't show the song, then it's proof of that dirty librul media. It's the kind of self delusion and paranoia you'd expect from hardcore Bush supporters.

You really need to watch the whole clip. Olbermann's take is, as always, brilliant.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Inside Bush's Bunker

The Washington Times, a.k.a. the Republican National Committee Newsletter, has a disturbing story about the ways in which the already hermit-like President Bush is further isolating himself from the outside world:
President Bush feels betrayed by several of his most senior aides and advisors and has severely restricted access to the Oval Office, administration sources say. The president's reclusiveness in the face of relentless public scrutiny of the U.S.-led war in Iraq and White House leaks regarding CIA operative Valerie Plame has become so extreme that Mr. Bush has also reduced contact with his father, former President George H.W. Bush, administration sources said on the condition of anonymity.
Meanwhile, Matt Drudge, a.k.a. the Republican Stenographer Who Thinks a Fedora Makes Him a Journalist, has this to add:
The sources said Mr. Bush maintains daily contact with only four people: first lady Laura Bush, his mother, Barbara Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes.
So let me get this straight. Right at the moment that the punditocracy has been unanimous in calling for Bush to take the ethically-challenged echo chamber that is his administration and bring in some new, competent, clean figures to make things right, Bush has instead closed himself off even further from his aides and advisors? He's now solely relying on his Xanaxed wife, his harpy of a mother, and his two most loyal yes women? The guy who thought God told him to liberate Iraq and who's looking forward to the Apocalypse is now hunkered down in the bunker getting crazier and crazier?

Yeah, that's not scary in the slightest.

(Thanks to Americablog for bringing this stuff to my attention and thereby ensuring that I will only be able to sleep now with a half-bottle of Knob Creek in me.)

TV, Why Do You Mock Me?

Have you guys heard of this Netflix thing? Okay, okay, you've all heard of it, I'm the last one to know what's going on (as usual). Lately I've been feeling like I'm too much in the thrall of the ComCast cable entertainopoly, so I thought maybe I'd try out this Netflix thing. My secret plan (don't tell Mrs. T this) is to wean us off cable TV by renting lots of TV series and movies from Netflix. We'd still get the broadcast channels for news and Simpsons reruns, but do I really need to pay $70 just to get ESPN? Don't even get me started on all the poopy channels they add on. Dammit I hate the cable companies.

So I signed us up for the flix last week, the primo 3 DVDs at a time plan. (As all red-blooded Americans do, my first order of business was to cue up every single Dr. Who DVD that's been released.) Now, 5 days later, Mrs. T sends me a link to this MSNBC article saying that Netflix may behave just as poorly as any of your big media corporations:

Last year, Netflix was sued by a consumer who claimed the firm had several sneaky ways to limit the number of movies it actually sent home. For starters, those one-day-turnaround deliveries could actually take up to six days. The company didn't count Saturdays or non-postal holidays. And in the lawsuit, the plaintiffs argued that Netflix purposefully tacked on an extra day here or there while handling DVDs. In reality, someone who paid for the "three-at-a-time" movie package could at most rent 10 movies a month, the lawsuit claims, a far cry from unlimited rentals.

What's more, the lawsuit claims, Netflix gave quick turnaround to new customers and consumers who didn't watch many movies -- their most profitable consumers. Avid movie-watchers who burned up the path to the mailbox were selectively penalized, getting movies slower than other members.
Ten DVDs a month? What is this crap? Okay, it was just one consumer, who may or may not be a crackpot. The company admits to nothing, but they did spring for a settlement (for just how corporatastically crummy the settlement is, read the whole article). I had no illusions about the "unlimited" aspect, and it's not like I need a new DVD every day (how many episodes of "What's Happening?" can you watch in one evening?), but I was thinking we could get at least 15 DVDs a month.

What is it about the entertainment industry (specifically the distribution side) that seems to inspire such assitudity? Wait, I think I know the answer to that ($$$). Here's some better questions. Are any of y'all on this Netflix thing? How has it been for you? How about the competitors - I know Blockbuster has a similar plan, for one. They any good?

Bad Faith

E.J. Dionne has another great column out today in the Washington Post:
The bad faith of Bush's current argument is staggering. He wants to say that the "more than a hundred Democrats in the House and Senate" who "voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power" thereby gave up their right to question his use of intelligence forever after. But he does not want to acknowledge that he forced the war vote to take place under circumstances that guaranteed the minimum amount of reflection and debate, and that opened anyone who dared question his policies to charges, right before an election, that they were soft on Hussein.

By linking the war on terrorism to a partisan war against Democrats, Bush undercut his capacity to lead the nation in this fight. And by resorting to partisan attacks again last week, Bush only reminded us of the shameful circumstances in which the whole thing started.
Read the whole thing.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Arrest Wing

Breaking news from the journalistic leaders at the Weekly World News:
Top aides can keep working while in jail

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Bush is so worried that many of his top aides and associates in Congress will be imprisoned for assorted wrong-doing that he’s busily converting the West Wing of the White House into an “Arrest Wing” — a row of prison cells from which these aides can keep working if they’re ever convicted.

Recently, House Majority Leader Tom Delay was indicted for money laundering and conspiracy. Karl Rove may be indicted for his role in leaking the name of a CIA operative. Speaker of the House Bill Frist is also under investigation as are several other advisors to Bush.

“Bush can’t function without these people,” a top White House aide told Weekly World News under condition that we not tell Karl Rove. “This way, even if they’re in prison, Bush will be able to pick their brains.”

In fact, the White House is even attempting to put a positive spin on it.

“If all these folks go to jail, this administration will be even more productive since they won’t have anything else to do but work,” said another source close to Bush, frequent Weekly World News source ‘CR.’

While current rules stipulate that felons can’t serve in Congress, Republicans are busy trying to overturn those rules as well.

“Laws the Republican Congress passed during Clinton’s presidency to hurt Democrats are now being overturned to help Republicans,” said ‘CR.’

Still, Republican Senator Burt Stroud of Wyoming is greatly saddened by these plans.

“I’m sure our Founding Fathers never envisioned the day when the White House would become the Big House,” he said.
Great stuff, as always. The crack journalists at the Weekly World News have all the scoops -- the Bat Boy, Clinton's endorsement by aliens, Elvis's triumphant return(s) to life, etc. etc. -- so it's not surprising that they beat out that stodgy old Mainstream Media once again.

On a serious note, this is one of the best signs I've seen so far that the theme of "Bush's people are all crooks" has really spread across the country. When you've tapped into the WWN, you've struck the subconscience of the American people. As sad as that may be.

Development Arrested

In case you missed it, Fox just pulled the plug on Arrested Development due to this season's low ratings.

Despite massive critical acclaim, the show struggled over the last two seasons to build an audience. And just when it had finally done so, the programing geniuses at Fox decided to move it from its comfortable Sunday night spot to a ridiculous perch at 8pm on Mondays. There, it got to compete with mouthbreathing sitcom standards like "The King of Queens" and reality regulars like "Wife Swap" and, not surprisingly, the quirky smart show lost out.

If you're as saddened as I am over the tragic demise of Arrested Development, then you'll enjoy this outtake from the show in which David Cross lays the blame right where it belongs.

Caption Contest

This weekend's caption contest -- featuring President Bush in his ultra-redstate black lycra jazz pants -- received an underwhelming response. I guess all you people have "friends" and "families" and "lives" to attend to over the weekend. Suckers.

Anyway, he's a chance to redeem yourselves. Karen Hughes on the road to Islamabad.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Think He'll Go Eat Worms?

We all knew this already, but it's nice to see the new conventional wisdom taking shape: George Bush's endorsement is the kiss of death. Seriously. We're talking Michael-to-Fredo Corleone kiss of death.

We've already seen plenty of claims suggesting that Bush's involvement in the Virginia gubernatorial race killed Jerry Kilgore's chances there:
Analysts say Kilgore's loss doesn't reflect well on Bush.

"Bush gambled and lost. Now many will say that this is further evidence of the political weakness of the president," said George Mason University professor Mark Rozell. "Sometimes life is all about timing, and unfortunately for Kilgore this election coincided with the low point of the Bush presidency. He could not control that, of course. But aligning himself closely to Bush at the last minute probably helped to mobilize anti-Bush voters, who are much more numerous today than pro-Bush voters. For the short term, the GOP can rightly worry about the meaning of this result."
And now we're seeing the same claims in New Jersey:
It's all George W. Bush's fault.

Doug Forrester, in his first postelection interview, laid the blame for his loss in the governor's race last week directly at the feet of President Bush. He said the public's growing disaffection with Bush, especially after Hurricane Katrina, made it impossible for his campaign to overcome the built-in advantage Democrats have in a blue state like New Jersey.
Personally, I think the argument is overblown. Forrester got his clock cleaned in the Senate race last time around, and didn't seem to be winning over New Jersey's Democratic-leaning voters this time. Kaine, meanwhile, got to ride the coattails of the popular Democratic incumbent in Virginia. Bush certainly didn't help the Republican candidates in those races, but I think it's just the last throes of these campaigns that are suggesting that Bush was the only reason they failed.

Of course, reality doesn't matter in politics, only perceptions. For years, Bush has been given a free pass in the press and an easy road in Congress because everyone has assumed he was a King Midas whose touch turned everything to gold. Well, now the script has been flipped and we're seeing the new theme out there that everything Bush touches turns to shit. (Personally, I find this one more convincing, but that's just me. And reality.)

In terms of the political consequences, this perception means that Republicans are going to be running away from Bush faster than he ran from the draft in Vietnam. What's more, with both the House and Senate leadership in disarray, we're going to see more and more of an every-man-for-himself attitude in the GOP. (We're already seeing it, in fact, with the House leadership unable to pass a budget due to the moderates' revolt and the Senate flailing on the torture issue.)

As the midterms approach, this is only going to get worse for the GOP. Republican incumbents will be faced by independent-minded challengers in their primaries, and then credible Democratic opposition in the main election. Democrats, meanwhile, should be able to nationalize the election into a referendum on the current crop of Republicans in Washington and turn this into a campaign to clean house.

The only real question left is: When Bush sees the Democrats take back one or both houses of Congress, and the impeachment rumors start flying for real, which of his father's friends will buy the White House to bail him out?

Go Cheney Yourself

There's an interesting piece in the Washington Post today, suggesting that the Fitzgerald investigation has had Dick Cheney in its sights from the very beginning:
... In the aftermath of Libby's recent five-count indictment, this curious sequence raises a question of motives that hangs over the investigation: Why would an experienced lawyer and government official such as Libby leave himself so exposed to prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald?

Libby, according to Fitzgerald's indictment, gave a false story to agents and, later, to a grand jury, even though he knew investigators had his notes, and presumably knew that several of his White House colleagues had already provided testimony and documentary evidence that would undercut his own story. And his interviews with the FBI in October and two appearances before the grand jury in March 2004 came at a time when there were increasingly clear signs that some of the reporters with whom Libby discussed Plame could soon be freed to testify -- and provide starkly different and damning accounts to the prosecutor.

To critics, the timing suggests an attempt to obscure Cheney's role, and possibly his legal culpability. The vice president is shown by the indictment to be aware of and interested in Plame and her CIA status long before her cover was blown. Even some White House aides privately wonder whether Libby was seeking to protect Cheney from political embarrassment. One of them noted with resignation, "Obviously, the indictment speaks for itself."

In addition, Cheney also advised Libby on a media strategy to counter Plame's husband, former ambassador Wilson, according to a person familiar with the case.

"This story doesn't end with Scooter Libby's indictment," said Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), giving voice to widespread Democratic hopes about the outcome of Fitzgerald's case. "A lot more questions need to be answered by the White House about the actions of [Cheney] and his staff."
Not only am I glad to see Harry Reid once again pressing the case aggressively -- and can I say one more time how wrong I was about Reid? -- but I also think he's right.

Libby's too smart and too experienced to get caught so easily. I think he's falling on his Halliburton-crafted sword to protect his boss. Such a scenario makes the already unlikely prospect of Libby ratting out his overlords even more unlikely, but perhaps Fitzgerald doesn't need to flip Libby to make the case. We'll see.

In any case, revelations like these can't be good news for Big Time. According to this recent Newsweek poll, only 29% of Americans believe that Dick Cheney is "honest and ethical." Even the hardcore supporters are fading away, with 26% of registered Republicans saying that even they don't trust Cheney. Ouch.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Fool Me Once...

Speaking of journalists who've recently rediscovered their spines and job descriptions, Hardball has been doing great work all week long debunking the various misstatements and misdirections given by the Bush administration in the run-up to Operation Quagmire.

Crooks and Liars has an excellent segment, one that highlights the dissembling the administration did about Saddam Hussein's supposed connections to al Qaeda and supposed involvement in 9/11. Especially nice is the juxtaposition of Cheney angrily denying he said something and then a video clip of Cheney saying it verbatim.


Pants on Fire

The Washington Post has just declared that the Chimperor has no clothes.
President Bush and his national security adviser have answered critics of the Iraq war in recent days with a two-pronged argument: that Congress saw the same intelligence the administration did before the war, and that independent commissions have determined that the administration did not misrepresent the intelligence.

Neither assertion is wholly accurate.

The administration's overarching point is true: Intelligence agencies overwhelmingly believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and very few members of Congress from either party were skeptical about this belief before the war began in 2003. Indeed, top lawmakers in both parties were emphatic and certain in their public statements.

But Bush and his aides had access to much more voluminous intelligence information than did lawmakers, who were dependent on the administration to provide the material. And the commissions cited by officials, though concluding that the administration did not pressure intelligence analysts to change their conclusions, were not authorized to determine whether the administration exaggerated or distorted those conclusions.

National security adviser Stephen J. Hadley, briefing reporters Thursday, countered "the notion that somehow this administration manipulated the intelligence." He said that "those people who have looked at that issue, some committees on the Hill in Congress, and also the Silberman-Robb Commission, have concluded it did not happen."

But the only committee investigating the matter in Congress, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has not yet done its inquiry into whether officials mischaracterized intelligence by omitting caveats and dissenting opinions. And Judge Laurence H. Silberman, chairman of Bush's commission on weapons of mass destruction, said in releasing his report on March 31, 2005: "Our executive order did not direct us to deal with the use of intelligence by policymakers, and all of us were agreed that that was not part of our inquiry."

Bush, in Pennsylvania yesterday, was more precise, but he still implied that it had been proved that the administration did not manipulate intelligence, saying that those who suggest the administration "manipulated the intelligence" are "fully aware that a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community's judgments."
Nice to see the press is finally moving beyond the fair-and-balanced approach of the last few years and calling the strikes and balls as they see them. You know, like ... uh ... journalists.

And it seems that Bush's big "I Am Not a Liar" speech from the other day has gone over about as well as Nixon's "I Am Not a Crook" statement. This latest Newsweek poll, for which half of the sample was interviewed after Bush's speech, now has Bush down at 36%. Only 42% of Americans still think Bush is not, in fact, a liar and for a president who's built everything on his image as a straight-shooter, that's gonna hurt.

Caption Contest

Bring it.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Friday Random Ten

Part of me refuses to believe that this isn't an elaborate practical joke. I mean, Lord knows that the Swedes have plenty of indoor time on their hands, and coming up with a disco version of SCTV's "Five Neat Guys" sure wouldn't be past them. Each detail is worse than the last. The toupees are so bad they're almost certainly a violation of the Geneva Conventions, and the outfits are more disturbing than Crispin Glover.

Still, all appearances seem to be that this is on the level. The album featured here, "Stuff Party 1," has a sequel called -- get this -- "Stuff Party 2." And the band even has its own website, available for the forward-thinking and Swedish-speaking here.


It's time for the Friday Random Ten. You know the drill by now. Bust out your iPod, bust out the first ten songs that come out on random, and then, my friends, don't just stand there, bust a move. If you'd rather not stand against the wall like Poindexter, throw in a Coolness Self-Audit as well. (And yes, for quoting Young MC at length, I'm starting this week with a -3 Coolness Handicap.)

Here's this week's offering to the Rock Gods:

1. Iron & Wine, "Waitin' for a Superman" -- Sam Beam applies his usual dreamy/slipping-into-a-coma stylings to this Flaming Lips song, and the results are nicely mellow. Do not listen to this tune while operating heavy machinery. 7/10

2. DJ Shadow, "Building Steam with a Grain of Salt" -- This is from DJ Shadow's first album, Endtroducing, and it's about as mellow as it comes. Eh. I think my iTunes needs a shot of espresso or perhaps a handful of Trucker's Helper speed pills. 6/10

3. Berlin, "The Metro (live)" -- Alright, that woke it up. It's sad that most people only know Berlin for the slomo sexiness of "Take My Breath Away" on the Top Gun soundtrack, when this is easily their best song. Damn you, Maverick! Your ego is writing checks your body can't cash! 7/10

4. Edwin Starr, "Big Papa" -- I have a real soft spot for blaxploitation soundtracks, and this song comes from one of the best -- Hell Up in Harlem, the sequel to the illustrious Black Caesar. Originally, James Brown was supposed to do the soundtrack's sequel just as he had done the original, but I'm actually glad that the studio changed their mind and threw the task to Edwin Starr. This kicks more ass than Shaft. 10/10

5. Joan Jett, "Do You Wanna Touch Me" -- Speaking of asskickitude, Joan Jett struts it around here at her absolute peak. Funny, I was recently in Vegas and stumbled across a house band at the Mandalay Bay covering this classic bit of attitude. Not even they could screw it up. 8/10

6. Schooly D, "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" -- I have no idea how they got Schooly D to perform the theme song to this show, but I thank my Mooninite overlords that they did. This is the extended version of what appears on Adult Swim, which means it rolls on for a lengthy minute and a half, making homies say ho! and the girlies wanna scream. 7/10

7. Southern Culture on the Skids, "Daddy Was a Preacher But Mama Was a Go-Go Girl" -- Probably their best shot at a mainstream breakthrough, but sadly it has the sound quality of an international call made from a cell phone inside Dick Cheney's bunker. Invest in some mics, kids. 7/10

8. Replacements, "Lovelines" -- Any song that begins with the words "slightly overweight girls need sex also" and then continues to read nothing but personal ads is fine by me. This was the 'Mats back when they couldn't decide if they gave a shit or not. Which is to say, when they were at their finest. 5/10

9. The Five Du-Tones, "The Chicken Astronaut" -- This is from a great compilation of obscure '60s R&B tunes called "Shakin' Fit." They're not talking about NASA's secret plan to launch poultry into space, but rather a coward who doesn't want to go into orbit. Odd, but surprisingly funky. 10/10

10. Frank Sinatra, "The Coffee Song (They've Got an Awful Lot of Coffee in Brazil)" -- A light-hearted offering from the Chairman of the Board that speaks to the oppressive javocracy that rules many South American countries. Apparently, a politician's daughter was arrested for drinkin' water in Brazil. Who knew? 6/10

Let's see. That's 73 points in all, minus the 3 points for invoking Young MC. That gives me a 7.0 average. I'm steadily slipping from my track record of solid Cs and getting dangerously close to the D range. (Luckily, I'm taking this blog pass/fail.)

Alright, it's your turn. Drop your own Random Ten in the comments below, or else crack wise about the ones I dredged up this week.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Et Tu, Rupert?

Fox News has a new poll out on the president, and it's not looking good.

Vegas Baby!

The official policy of LLatPoN is that we do not encourage people to gamble, unless they want to have fun.

That being said:

Will Warren Beatty declare his intentions to run for Governor of California?
(Current odds: Yes -130, No -110)

Will Samuel Alito be confirmed as US Supreme Court Justice before Dec. 31?
(Current odds: Yes -125, No -115)

I'd really like your opinions. I know this guy who like totally thought Kerry would win so he, like, totally spent his family's Xmas gift fund. His wife was three shades of angry when my wife told her. But that's another story....

"Takedown" Tina Brown*

If you've been looking around for a great writer who can be sympathetic and devastating while also turning some awesome phrases, give the Washington Post's Tina Brown a try. She's classified as an Arts & Style columnist, but she often covers politics too. I'd compare her to Maureen Dowd, but today she rips Maureen pretty good. In fact, she Willy-Lomanizes a few of the "serious" women who are in the public eye today in the course of describing how hard it is for a woman to be aggressive without being labeled with the b- word. Go read the whole thing to get the unity of effect, but here's some choice words, first for Harriet Miers:

The poor drudge is back in her old job mopping up the [Plamegate] mess in the men's rooms, stoically pretending she's not bitter that a stampede of right-wing rhinos just got done stomping her reputation and flattening her future.

It's like Brown is saying "I feel your pain. Here's some more."

She's not partisan, however; she'll lance any boil she finds. She's also got some exquisite and excruciating hugs for Martha Stewart, Judy Miller, and Mary Mapes (editor of Dan Rather's story about Bush and the National Guard). Check out her love for Maureen Dowd:

Dowd's new book, "Are Men Necessary?," is a fun rant about how women have dialed back their hard-won independence to become alpha geishas servicing the craven weenies of inadequate males, but the elephant in the room is the way Dowd's promotion for her book turns on an onerous, retrosexual pitch for what hot stuff the author is. The more her PR plays up the flame-haired temptress angle, the scarier and more desperate it feels. . . . Dowd's hunt for who or what to blame for her vaunted datelessness recalls Bush's correspondents' dinner routine about looking for Iraqi WMD under his Oval Office desk. The thought of Dowd's girls' nights with fellow Times sirens Alessandra Stanley and Michiko Kakutani sounds about as soft and yielding as Macbeth's three witches on a club crawl.
Note to self: if you're gonna call a woman a witch, make sure you do it Shakespeare style.

(*P.S. No relation to Downtown Julie Brown.)

Bedtime for Bongo

While the Plame scandal has been a fun one to follow, with its cloak-and-dagger intrigue and the prospect of Karl Rove becoming a "prison bride," there's another developing scandal out there that promises to be even more spectacular -- the activities of sleazeball lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

The Abramoff scandal is important because it reaches not just into the White House, but into virtually every corner of the Republican Party. Tom DeLay is already up to his helmet hair in this scandal, and as the lower level threads are untangled, I think we'll see tons of other Republican congressfolk involved as well. If that's not exciting enough for you, it looks like the White House is involved too:
"The lobbyist Jack Abramoff asked for $9 million in 2003 from the president of a West African nation to arrange a meeting with President Bush and directed his fees to a Maryland company now under federal scrutiny, according to newly disclosed documents."
This is going to get ugly. Especially once the Republican spin machine starts pushing back. For starters, I'm sure we'll hear that $9 million for a meeting between Bush and a West African leader named, in all seriousness, "Bongo" is really no big deal, because Bill Clinton let Barbara Streisand spend the night in the Lincoln Bedroom.

From there, the GOP hacks will turn into a whirling dervish, coming at your sense and sanity like a tornado of teeth and elbows. I suspect this hunch is right, and we'll soon see the tried-and-true argument that anyone who is outraged by the Abramoff scandal is simply an anti-Semite. Or possibly a communist. Because who but a communist could be angry about all this money changing hands? Think about it.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

A New Guber's in the Commonwealth

It's Tim Kaine!

I, For One, Welcome Our New Overlords

Christian Science Monitor has published a preposterous commentary on how wonderful gi-normous companies are for society. (Their prime example is Toyota and their hybrid Prius. They say the fuel-saving Prius shows that Toyota is striving to fulfill the societal good of conservation. Of course, it couldn't be that Toyota saw the writing on the wall and decided to go hybrid ahead of everyone else purely for profit.) In the course of not proving their point, the authors do provide some very interesting factizoids:
A few facts explain why corporations may even supersede governments and religions when it comes to providing the economic - and in some cases social - tools and services necessary to survive in the 21st century:

• Fifty-two of the 100 biggest economies in the world are now corporations.

• The 100 largest multinational corporations, such as GE, DuPont, Hewlett Packard, Home Depot, and Wal-Mart, now control about 28 percent of global foreign assets.

• Three hundred multinational corporations now account for 25 percent of the world's total assets.

• The annual sales revenue of each of the six largest multinational corporations now exceeds the GDPs of all but 21 countries in the world.

Don't you look forward to a world where all our social needs are met by Wal-Mart and DuPont? Makes you feel all fuzzy inside.

(hat tip to Mrs. T)

Caption Contest

Time for another caption contest. Bring the pain.

Monday, November 07, 2005


On a lighter note, the Daily Show has just released an investigation of all the disaster that's befallen Massachusetts in the year since it legalized gay marriage. The horror, the horror....

Tortured Logic

Wrapping up his incredibly awful tour of South America, today President Bush insisted, "There's an enemy that lurks and plots and plans and wants to hurt America again. So you bet we will aggressively pursue them but we will do so under the law. We do not torture."

I'd rant against the idiocy of his statement, but Andrew Sullivan has beaten me to it:
If "we do not torture," why the memos that expanded exponentially the lee-way given to the military to abuse detainees in order to get intelligence? The president's only defense against being a liar is that he is defining "torture" in such a way that no other reasonable person on the planet, apart from Bush's own torture apologists (and they are now down to one who will say so publicly), would agree. The press must now ask the president: does he regard the repeated, forcible near-drowning of detainees to be torture? Does he believe that tying naked detainees up and leaving them outside all night to die of hypothermia is "torture"? Does he believe that beating the legs of a detainee until they are pulp and he dies is torture? Does he believe that beating detainees till they die is torture? Does he believe that using someone's religious faith against them in interrogations is "cruel, inhumane and degrading" treatment and thereby illegal? What is his definition of torture?
I don't agree with Sullivan much, but he's got this one absolutely right.

Last Throes?

In case you've forgotten, tomorrow is Election Day in a handful of states. At the top of the list are the gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia.

The New Jersey race has gotten a little bizarre lately, as the campaign of Republican Doug Forrester has tried to throw everything they can at Democrat Jon Corzine, from his ex-wife's claims that Corzine would "let down the state" the same way he let down her family to recent charges that Corzine had an affair with a staffer and then paid her to get an abortion. Man, I am so glad that Republicans have brought honor and integrity back to politics. The groin-punching has taken a bit of a toll, with Corzine's lead down to five points in the latest Rasmussen poll, but it still seems likely he'll pull out a win.

Meanwhile, in Virginia, the Republicans have tried similar dirty tactics, with the Kilgore campaign sending out deceptive flyers and misleading robo-calls in a misinformation campaign. Despite the dirty tricks, Kaine is widening his lead in the Rasmussen poll, with the latest showing him up by three points.

While the Republican tactics are despicable, they're not exactly surprising. As this Time piece on the Virginia race notes, if they lose these races, then the GOP will know it's in for some serious trouble. Because if the gubernatorial races can be tainted by the stigma of the Washington establishment, then you know the Washington establishment is going to feel a hell of a lot of heat when they're up for re-election themselves in 2006.

If you live in these states, see what you can do to help out on election day.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

The Shiite Hits the Fan

Last week, I was thrilled to see Harry Reid retrieve the Democrats' testicles from the blind trust they've been in since 9/11 and put them to good use in demanding answers about the case for the war in Iraq. But it was hard to tell if this was simply hard-nosed politics, or if Reid actually had the goods on the administration.

Well, according to this E&P piece, it looks like the Democrats may actually have the goods:
Ever since the Democrats briefly closed the U.S. Senate from view earlier this week, to protest alleged Republican foot-dragging in probing Bush administration pre-war manipulation of intelligence, the press has been asking: So what new evidence do the Democrats have in this matter?

Tomorrow, The New York Times starts to answer the question, with reporter Doug Jehl disclosing the contents of a newly declassified memo apparently passed to him by Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

It shows that an al-Qaeda official in American custody was identified as a likely fabricator months before the Bush administration began to use his statements as the foundation for its claims that Iraq trained al-Qaeda members to use biological and chemical weapons, according to this Defense Intelligence Agency document from February 2002.

It declared that it was probable that the prisoner, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, "was intentionally misleading the debriefers" in making claims about Iraqi support for al-Qaeda's work with illicit weapons, Jehl reports.

“The document provides the earliest and strongest indication of doubts voiced by American intelligence agencies about Mr. Libi's credibility,” Jehl writes. “Without mentioning him by name, President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Colin L. Powell, then secretary of state, and other administration officials repeatedly cited Mr. Libi's information as ‘credible’ evidence that Iraq was training Al Qaeda members in the use of explosives and illicit weapons.

“Among the first and most prominent assertions was one by Mr. Bush, who said in a major speech in Cincinnati in October 2002 that ‘we've learned that Iraq has trained Al Qaeda members in bomb making and poisons and gases.’”
A White House spokeswoman said she had no immediate comment on the D.I.A. report.

“Mr. Libi was not alone among intelligence sources later determined to have been fabricating accounts,” Jehl continues. “Among others, an Iraqi exile whose code name was Curveball was the primary source for what proved to be false information about Iraq and mobile biological weapons labs. And American military officials cultivated ties with Ahmad Chalabi, the head of the Iraqi National Congress, an exile group, who has been accused of feeding the Pentagon misleading information in urging war.”

Libi is in custody, apparently at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where he was sent in 2003.

According to Jehl, Secretary of State Colin Powell relied heavily on Libi for his speech to the United Nations on Feb. 5, 2003, saying that he was tracing "the story of a senior terrorist operative telling how Iraq provided training in these weapons to Al Qaeda."
For years now, the Republican line has been that everyone thought Iraq had WMDs and therefore the administration was wholly justified in rushing to war. Leaving aside the important point that it's one thing to think they have them and another to use that hunch to launch a massive, expensive, interminable war, it now seems that the administration knew full well that its claims about Iraqi WMDs were, in the one-time words of Colin Powell, "bullshit." This new evidence demands a fuller probe into the run-up to the war, and we may finally get to know everything about Curveball, Chalabi, and others.

I do love that this evidence is coming out in the Times, the same paper that was used by Judy Miller as a pipeline for the Curveball and Chalabi bullshit in the first place. As Bart Simpson would say, the ironing is delicious.