Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Mars, Bitches!

The State of the Empire address is beginning shortly. Feel free to leave your thoughts and snark in the comments below.

State of the Soundbites

The White House press office has just released the soundbites from tonight's State of the Monarchy address.

In case there's something else you'd rather be doing than listen to the same presidential rhetoric for the millionth time, here are the stirring pieces of rhetoric that the White House thinks are the best parts of the speech, with my rapier wit providing some preliminary commentary.

Take it away, Your Highness:
"In this decisive year, you and I will make choices that determine both the future and the character of our country. We will choose to act confidently in pursuing the enemies of freedom - or retreat from our duties in the hope of an easier life."
As we all know, the leaders of this administration would never ever retreat from their duties in the hope of an easier life. No matter how many "other priorities" they might have, no matter how much they'd rather be in Alabama instead of Texas, they will not cut and run! Well, they won't do it anymore, that is.
The President will talk about America's leadership role in the world, and the importance of working together to better protect our country, support our troops, and advance freedom:

"Abroad, our Nation is committed to an historic, long-term goal - we seek the end of tyranny in our world... the future security of America depends on it."
However, because of the laws of tyranny-dynamics, the destruction of tyranny elsewhere must lead to the creation of tyranny at home. They're not spying on your phone calls, snooping on your internet records, shuttling protestors into Orwellian "free speech zones," detaining people in Gitmo for years on end, and torturing whenever they can because they want to do all that. Oh, no. They have to do all that to maintain the cosmic tyranny balance. Call it the backwash of freedom.
"In a time of testing, we cannot find security by abandoning our commitments and retreating within our borders. If we were to leave these vicious attackers alone, they would not leave us alone. They would simply move the battlefield to our own shores."
And anyone who would point to the Madrid train bombing or the terrorist strikes against the London Underground as proof that this simplistic fightin'-'em-there-so-we-don't-have-to-fight-'em-here argument is pathetic and laughable, well, those people hate America. And Jesus.
"...Ultimately, the only way to defeat the terrorists is to defeat their dark vision of hatred and fear by offering the hopeful alternative of political freedom and peaceful change."
A hopeful alternative coming to a war theater near you, in the form of cluster bombs and nipple clamps. Remember: They'll love us if we just hurt them enough.
To keep America competitive in a dynamic economy, the President will set out an agenda focused on the priorities that families are most concerned about. He will talk about the importance of having an educated, skilled workforce, reducing our dependence on foreign oil, and making health care more affordable, accessible, and portable.
And I'm sure he'll have as much success in pushing through those SOTU promises as he did with past promises to privatize Social Security, overhaul the tax code, send Americans to the moon and Mars, and catch that Osama bin Laden fellow.
"The American economy is pre-eminent - but we cannot afford to be complacent. In a dynamic world economy, we are seeing new competitors like China and India."

"We must continue to lead the world in human talent and creativity. Our greatest advantage in the world has always been our educated, hard-working, ambitious people - and we are going to keep that edge."
Yes, the new Republican education program with its lesson plans drawn directly from the Book of Leviticus and old episodes of "Davey and Goliath" will certainly keep America on pace with the godless Chinese and the heathen Indians who put their trust in science and technology instead of the Lord Almighty.

And the White House's policy of crushing all scientific research which does not adhere to the One Truth of the Republican Party will make sure that our scientists remain focused on the important issues of the 19th century, like evolution and the latest advancements in steam power.
"America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world... The best way to break this addiction is through technology."
Yes, technology like the Abrams tank and the Stealth Bomber.
"Our government has a responsibility to help provide health care for the poor and the elderly, and we are meeting that responsibility. For all Americans, we must confront the rising cost of care ... strengthen the doctor-patient relationship ... and help people afford the insurance coverage they need."
Not the insurance coverage they want , with all its fancy coverage and protection against incursive hospital costs. No, they'll get the insurance coverage they need, which is apparently a first aid kit from a Toyota Camry and a bucket of wishes. Good luck!
Finally, the President will speak to the character and compassion of America: "...our greatness is not measured in power or luxuries, but by who we are and how we treat one another. So we strive to be a compassionate, decent, hopeful society."
Except, of course, for the homos. They're going to burn in hell.

(Thanks to Daily Kos for posting the preview.)

Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them

If you missed the Daily Show last night, you missed a brilliant segment comparing the ways in which Oprah handles lying bastards and the way "serious journalists" handle them.

As always, Crooks and Liars has your back.

Speak Up

Assuming that he doesn't dissolve Congress and install his dog Barney as High Chancellor between now and tonight, Our Lord and Ruler King George IV is scheduled to give his State of the Monarchy address to his loyal subjects this evening.

Personally, I tend to prefer the president in more informal settings. When he's out on the stump, speaking to a carefully pre-selected crowd of adoring fans in a hermetically-sealed environment, he tends to relax and fall into his patented I-Think-You're-Retarded speaking style. You know, the one where he repeats the same statement over and over again with just the smallest grammatical variations? ("I'm a problem solver. In other words, I solve problems. There's a problem, see, and I solve it.")

Sure, there are some weaknesses in that approach. There's always an awkward silence when the president removes his coat and dress shoes and puts on his colorful sneakers and sweater, before heading off to consult with his counterpart, King Friday of the Land of Make Believe. But the appearance of the magic trolley helps dispel that.

The formal structure of the congressional address lends itself to a completely different style. Unlike the circle-of-trust rallies that Bush holds to make himself feel better, these audiences contain actual, certified Democrats and, as a result, the president gets a little skittish. He falls out of his comfort zone and has to rely on a different approach altogether.

All evidence to the contrary, the president will begin by declaring that "the state of our union is strong." The body of the speech will consist of variations on six or seven phrases, and at least three of those will be the word "freedom." There will be a couple shout-outs to his homies in the crowd -- Mrs. Alito, in tears; an Iraqi woman, in tears; the Constitution, in shreds; etc. -- and standing ovations from the GOP robots every time he manages to get through a sentence without swallowing his tongue.

Even though I know all this will happen, I keep watching the State of the Union addresses for one reason -- I know there's a slim, slim chance that some enterprising young computer hacker, whacked out on Cheetos and Mountain Dew in his mom's basement, is going to figure out a way to hack into the TelePrompTer. Will the hacker replace the text with, say, a Letter to Penthouse, and trust that President Ron Burgundy will simply read along? Or will the hacker just let the screen go dark, and thereby ensure that a slowly spreading circle of darkness also appears in the president's codpiece zone? Either way, hilarity will ensue.

Please drop your own hopes, fears, and over/under predictions about the State of the Union in the comments below. We can get through this together, people.

Hard to Take This Man Seriously

What are you laughing at, punk?

Cuts Like a Knife

A freaky Friday accident left Lindsay Lohan in stitches.

The Mean Girls star was rushed to a London hospital last week after she sliced her leg open while breakfasting at the home of Bryan Adams, according to published reports.
Bryan Adams?

Monday, January 30, 2006

C-Plus Augustus

I don't read Fafblog too often, largely because the green-background-and-purple-font layout makes my eyes bleed. But I should. And you should, too, because it's damn funny.

Check out the recent Q&A they provided on the omnipotence of Our Lord and Ruler King George IV:
Q. ... Now some crazy people say the president broke some silly old laws like FISA and the National Security Act and the Fourth Amendment. Are these crazy people crazy?

A. They sure are! Maybe those laws worked back in 1978 back when Leonid Brezhnev was snortin coke with Ayatollah Khomeini and groovin' to the hits of the Bee Gees, but in today's dark and dangerous times they just aren't enough.

Q. Things sure have changed since the innocent days of mutually assured destruction! But is it legal for the president to ignore the law?

A. Maybe not according to plain ol stupid ol regular law, but we're at war! You don't go to war with regular laws, which are made outta red tape and bureaucracy and Neville Chamberlain. You go to war with great big strapping War Laws made outta tanks and cold hard steel and the American Fightin Man and WAR, KABOOOOOOM!

Q. How does a War Bill become a War Law?

A. It all begins with the president, who submits a bill to the president. If a majority of both the president and the president approve the bill, then it passes on to the president, who may veto it or sign it into law. And even then the president can override himself with a two-thirds vote.

Q. See it's the checks and balances that make all the difference in our democratic system.
Mmmmmm. That's some mighty good snark there.

(Thanks to the presumably colorblind Kung Fu Monkey for catching this post, and to firedoglake for the lovely photo of President Bush. He really does love to play military dress-up, doesn't he?)

Deano Update From Drudge

Picking up on the previous thread regarding Democratic fundraising (success for state parties versus federal panics), The Drudge Report has issued "news" which seems far more like rumor given it doesn't name any real sources only references to what staffers said off the record. For what it's worth:

Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill are privately bristling over Howard Dean’s management of the Democratic National Committee and have made those sentiments clear after new fundraising numbers showed he has spent nearly all the committee’s cash and has little left to support their efforts to gain seats this cycle, ROLL CALL reports.Congressional leaders were furious last week when they learned the DNC has just $5.5 million in the bank, compared to the Republican National Committee’s $34 million.Senate and House Minority Leaders Harry Reid (Nev.) and Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), along with the Senate and House campaign committee chairmen Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), have made their concerns -- directly or indirectly -- known to Dean, claims the paper. Emanuel was particularly upset last week upon seeing the latest DNC numbers.“A lot of people are scratching their heads as to what’s going on,” said one senior Democratic aide.Another Democratic source familiar with the party fundraising apparatus said there is “obvious displeasure” among the leaders. Developing...

Time will tell.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Film Forum

It's been a while since we last opened the floor for a discussion of our favorite obscure films. The responses last time we great, so let's give it another try: 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's some of my recent rental activity:

Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973): While perhaps not as well known as, say, The Wild Bunch, this classic Sam Peckinpah western is every bit as good. The lead roles, played by James Coburn and Kris Kristofferson respectively, are outstanding, but the real surprise is Bob Dylan. I knew he did the music for the film -- this is where "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" first appeared -- but I had no idea he acted in the film. This isn't Jon Bon Jovi making a cameo in Young Guns 2; Dylan has a somewhat substantial role as a quiet cutthroat named "Alias." Sure, the character he plays is a quiet one, but he also throws a knife through a bad guy's throat at one point. Highly recommended. (The film. Not a knife through the throat.)

City on Fire (1987): A Hong Kong classic starring (who else?) Chow Yun-Fat. I'd heard this film was "the inspiration" for Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs, but I spent most of the movie scratching my head about the comparisons. Until the last half hour, when the undercover-cop hero infiltrates a gang of jewel thieves, joins them on a heist that goes awry when one of their members starts shooting people, flees with them as some of the thieves get caught, gets shot himself, holes up in the abandoned warehouse that serves as their rallying point, gets involved in a Mexican stand-off with the other crooks who are suspicious of a leak, and then confesses to another thief that he's really a cop. Other than those minor plot points, I think Tarantino came up with the rest of his movie all on his own.

The Long Goodbye (1973): I'd read the book and seen the original film, but for some reason I'd never seen this Robert Altman remake starring none other than Elliott Gould. Not only does the film noir style work in early '70s Malibu, but it might even work better than the original 1940s setting, since the decay of the city and listlessness of its people are even more apparent. (Alright, I'm sounding like Roger Ebert. Pfft.) Like all great '70s films, this one has some great bits of casting, ranging from Henry Gibson as an albino quack rehab doctor and a fresh-off-the-boat Arnold Schwarzeneggar in an uncredited, nonspeaking role as a hired goon. A hired goon who at one point takes off his shirt and pants to intimidate Elliott Gould. And, apparently, to intimidate the cameraman, since he looks directly into the lens. Twice.

Oldboy (2003): I checked out this Chan-Wook Park film without really knowing much about him or the film. It's a disturbing tale, one that answers the age-old question of what Edgar Allan Poe might have done if he'd been born in late-20th-century Korea. Speaking of legends, it's clear that Park has the Hitchcock knack for suspense and stunning visuals. I wasn't entirely floored by this flick, but I'm sure the director has even better work ahead of him.

Advise & Consent (1962)
: I know I already talked about this in the filibuster post below, but it deserves discussion as a movie unto itself. For a political story, Preminger does an amazing job with the pacing and the plot twists, which keep on coming. Burgess Meredith accuses Henry Fonda of being a communist! Charles Laughton does a dead-on impersonation of a South Carolina Dixiecrat! A secretly gay Mormon senator gets blackmailed! And, hey, was that Betty White? Again, not just a good film, but a good reminder of how the congressional branch once worked.

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974)
: Yes, another Peckinpah film. Apparently, he was churning these out like counterfeit money in the early '70s. I've wanted to see this one for a long time, partly because I've liked Peckinpah's past work, and partly because I wanted to understand a line of dialogue from Fletch. This one's a "modern Western" set in 1970s Mexico and involving an old-school bounty hunt. The weirdest part for me is that the hardcore, jaded, drunk antihero at the center of the story is Warren Oates, an actor who's probably best-known for playing Sgt. Hulka in Stripes. Here, he sticks his big toe right up the Mexican underworld's butt.

Alright, that's enough to start the discussion. But in the spirit of Advise & Consent, 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.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Advise and Consent

Well, it looks like some of the Democrats are going to attempt a filibuster against Samuel Alito's nomination.

The move has been roundly mocked by the Republicans and the media that parrots their point of view. (I heard CNN anchor Betty Nguyen mock Kerry this afternoon, smirking and referring to the Republican response as "giggling" at him, for instance.) True, I doubt the Democrats have the numbers to maintain the filibuster and keep Alito off the bench.

But then again, I don't think they need to do that in order to gain something from the filibuster. Ultimately, I see this not as a battle over the Supreme Court, but a battle over the Senate.

First, a filibuster of Alito would help draw attention to the position of moderate Republican Senators in the Northeast -- like Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins and especially Lincoln Chafee. Chafee's getting pressed from both sides on the matter of abortion rights back home, and forcing him to take a high-profile stance on Alito -- no matter which side he came down on -- would pretty much doom his re-election chances. If he stands against Alito, the Republican primary voters will go to the challenger on his right and that candidate would likely lose in the general election. Or if he stands with Alito, he'd make it to the general election but once more voters would side with the Democratic choice. Either way, the Republicans lose the seat.

Second, in general, it would be nice to show the American people that the Democrats actually do have principles, and that they'll go down swinging to defend them. The Senate Judiciary Committee hearings did little to illuminate all that's wrong with Alito, and the Democrats can use the spotlight of the filibuster to make those matters clear. It would not only help demonstrate all that's wrong with the Bush vision of executive power, but also show that the Democrats can be an effective counterweight to it -- if only they had greater numbers.

Third, and most important, the filibuster would go a long way to reminding the Senate Democrats -- and the public in general -- that the Senate really does have an oversight function. That role's been largely forgotten in recent years, with Senate Republicans serving as a proxy for the president and Senate Democrats hiding from their own shadow. It's time to reassert their proper role and push back against the "unitary executive theory" nonsense that's turning this country into a elected dictatorship.

President Bush seems to think that the phrase "advise and consent" means nothing more than rubber-stamping his edicts. Funny, but just this week I watched the 1962 Otto Preminger film Advise and Consent and was reminded that Congress used to be a fully-developed organism capable of breathing and acting on its own. If you haven't seen the film, it's a great political thriller with strong performances by Henry Fonda, Charles Laughton and Walter Pidgeon. (Interestingly, Preminger had tried to cast Martin Luther King, Jr., as "Senator King" from Georgia. King considered it, but turned him down. Still, Betty White makes an appearance as a senator from Kansas, so I guess it's a wash.)

The political machinations in the movie are fascinating, but what's striking today is something taken for granted by the film's creators and original audience -- the Senate is not only allowed to have a say in presidential appointments, but they're supposed to make it difficult. It's a little thing called "checks and balances," and it worked in this country for more than two centuries. Until King George IV came along, at least.

So, yes, let's filibuster. It may not succeed in keeping Alito out of the Supreme Court, but it'll help keep Alito's ideas about unchecked executive power out of the Senate.

Update: It's looking like the filibuster drive is gaining speed. Check out firedoglake and Daily Kos for tips on how to reach your senators to urge them to join the filibuster movement.

This isn't a quixotic cause, no matter what the media and Scott McClellan might say. Sen. Feinstein was brought back from the brink, and that means anyone can be, too.

State of the Union

If you'd like a sneak peak of the State of the Union address, check out this dress rehearsal over at MyDD.

They apparently use understudies for the dry run, but they're pretty solid. The guy filling in for the president is damn good, especially in the part about Super Jesus. And I like that the Hastert stand-in has a year's supply of Twizzlers.

Friday Random Ten

Yes, Corey Feldman.

When not making guest appearances on VH1's "Whatever Happened To?" or manning the Corey Hotline -- "Here are some words that rhyme with Corey: Gory ... story ... allegory... Montessori..." -- the Feldmeister apparently spends a lot of his time in his mom's basement recovering from a bad break-up with a girl he met at Burning Man. Just sittin' there, recording love songs and creating cover art that looks like it came from the back of a Trapper Keeper.

While I've never heard any of the songs, I'm really hoping there's at least one in there that describes his romance with Michael Jackson. Or at least give us the story about the chick with the scimitar. That has got to be a crazy ex-girlfriend. Or a sad, sad fantasy.

Speaking of musical superstars like Goonies star Corey Feldman, it's time for the Friday Random Ten. Take out your iPod, your iPod Mini, your iPod Nano, your iPod Fetus, or whatever you have; set it to random; and give us the first ten songs that are brave enough to show their faces. And in case you feel compelled by the power of Christ, go ahead and give unto us a Coolness Self-Audit.

Here's mine for this week:

1. Afrika Bambaataa and the Jazzy 5, "Jazzy Sensation" -- A little old school rap from one of the original rulers of the Zulu Nation. The fact that this has been sampled to death (the Beastie Boys got the refrain of "The Ladies! The Ladies!" for "Hey Ladies" here, for instance) removes some of the freshness, but it's still a solid choice for your ghetto blaster and/or boom box. 6/10

2. The Meters, "(The World is a Little Bit Under the Weather) Doodle-Oop" -- The moronic title aside, this is a great bit of New Orleans funk. Sassy guitar riffs, a good walking bass line, and all the Neville vocals you could ever want. 9/10

3. Björk, "Bachelorette" -- I will be mocked mercilessly for this by my fellow bloggers, but I stand by this Icelandic weirdo with all my heart. This is one of the better tunes from Homogenic and, while not exactly cool, it gets the job done. 7/10

4. Johnson Mkhalali, "Joyce No. 2" -- I have a soft spot for the blistering guitar work of African musicians like Malathini and the Mahotella Queens, and this number fits well in that groove. That said, it's an instrumental and a fairly repetitive one. Plus, I'm suspicious about what happened to Joyce No. 1. 4/10

5. Radiohead, "Pearly" -- From the excellent Airbag EP, which is a good indication that the band was really at its peak during the OK Computer era. Seriously, when you can create a masterpiece of an album and then build a great EP out of what didn't make the cut, that's beyond good. 7/10

6. Wilco, "Reservations" -- I just rewatched the documentary I Am Trying to Break Your Heart on IFC last weekend. It's a great rock doc if you haven't seen it (and it's still a great one if you have seen it). The band breaks up with their label, loses a member, and generally basks in the diva genius of Jeff Tweedy. The rehearsal takes on this song, in particular, are great. 7/10

7. The Muppets, "Mahna Mahna" -- Yes, these are random. I don't think any song originally sung by puppets can be considered cool, but if there were a possibility, this song would certainly be the one. It still puts a smile on my face everytime I hear it, even when it's in an ad for the ridiculous Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper. (Seriously, you couldn't cram a couple more fake flavors in there? No?) 4/10

8. Labi Siffre, "I Got The..." -- Well, now, this is a nice rebound. This song isn't just a sweet '70s soul song with lush orchestration and dirty bass lines, it's also the source for the main sample used in Eminem's "My Name Is." I once said a perfect ten on the Coolness Self-Audit would be something you'd want to walk into a bar in slow-motion to, and this certainly fits the bill. 10/10

9. The Postal Service, "Against All Odds" -- Normally, even the most remote, six-degrees-of-separation connection to Phil Collins would merit a big fat zero on the coolness scales, but somehow this one works. Part of me admires the inventive arrangement of a "classic" song, and part of me just admires the balls it took for Ben Gibbard to steer into the mouth of the crapstorm and come out the other side. Well done, good sir. 9/10

10. Kostars, "Hey Cowboy" -- Two members of Luscious Jackson put out this album as a side project, and it's full of nice little treats like this one. A little more low-key than the LJ materials, but it certainly works. 7/10

Well, that nets me a 7.1 average and yet another C-minus on the Cool-o-Meter. With grades like that, maybe I too can one day become leader of the free world.

Do you think you're better than me? Because I will fight you. No, no, wait, that's the liquor talking.

What I meant to say is -- kindly drop your own FRT in the comments, with or without the Coolness Self-Audit.


Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Doctor is In Your Face

If you haven't seen Howard Dean's duel with Katie Couric, the good people at Crooks and Liars have it for you.

A lot has been said already about Couric's parroting the Republican line that the Abramoff scandal is somehow bipartisan. For someone who showed video of her own colonoscopy on the "Today" show, Couric is surprisingly unable to probe the assholes at the center of the scandal and get at the truth. But Dean gave a firm rebuttal -- a flat mantra of "Not. One. Dime." -- and acquitted himself well.

In fact, Dean's entire appearance looked strong. He stayed on message, rebutting Republican claims and always pivoting to the attack, bringing up their incompetence, their ethical scandals, and their corruption at every chance he got. At one point, Couric claimed that "many people" think the Democrats lack a backbone, and Dean promptly reached through the screen, ripped hers out, and beat her on the head with it.

In all seriousness, nicely played. This should be required viewing for Democratic officials before they're allowed anywhere near a microphone.

Bury the Messenger

Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld asked for a thorough study of the Army's strength levels. When he didn't like the report, he took his job title too seriously and got all defensive:
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Wednesday rejected two new reports - including one ordered by his own office - warning that the Iraq war has strained the Army to the breaking point.

In an "interim assessment" of the Iraq war commissioned by the Office of the Secretary Defense, former Army officer Andrew Krepinevich said the strain of keeping large numbers of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan has reduced the Army to a "thin green line."

Recruiting shortfalls the Army suffered last year and potential problems in getting soldiers with families to re-enlist because of repeat rotations to Iraq put the Army "in a race against time" to bring troops home "or risk `breaking' the force," Krepinevich wrote.

"Serious retention problems have yet to materialize," Krepinevich said, "but there are storm clouds on the horizon. For one, Army divorce rates are up sharply, an indication that repeated deployments are placing severe strains on military families."

Rumsfeld said he hadn't read the 136-page report but "it's clear that those comments do not reflect the current situation. They are either out of date or just misdirected."
He didn't even read it? A report that he commissioned himself, a report that cost more than an eighth of a million dollars and took a year to compile? Right into the circular file.

We all knew that the president doesn't like reading -- so much so that at his campaign appearances, they have to repeat one key phrase over and over again on the backdrops, just so he can maintain focus. But I guess we assumed that if Bush wasn't reading up on the pesky details, then at least his Cabinet members were.

Yes, yes, Condi Rice couldn't be bothered to read the entire 86-page National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq. But I guess we were hoping she'd be the exception to the rule.

But wait, that's not the worst part:
He added that the Army exceeded its goal for retention - the number of soldiers re-enlisting and officers extending their commissions - in fiscal 2005, which ended Sept. 30.

"The force is not broken," Rumsfeld declared. Moreover, he said, "It's battle-hardened. It's not a peacetime force that has been in barracks or garrisons."

The Army fell 6,667 troops short of its fiscal 2005 recruiting goal of 80,000 and the Army Reserve missed its goal by 4,626.
It's a sign of the respect that journalists have for Don Rumsfeld that they put two entire lines of text between his lie about reaching the recruitment goal and the facts that so easily refute it.

Of course, the reporter manages to get in a nice point here at the end:
As for Krepinevich's warning that retention problems could emerge if the pace of rotations fails to ease, Rumsfeld said he didn't know if that was the case.

"I suspect the people writing these things don't know, either, because I suspect that they don't have any more insight than the other people around here do," he said.

Krepinevich received $137,000 over 12 months for the report, Pentagon spokesman Maj. Paul Swiergosz said.

Asked why the Pentagon pays consultants such as Krepinevich for such reports if they lack insight, Rumsfeld said: "Well, because the way you get the best knowledge and the best perspective is to listen to people with different views."
Except, of course, when you dismiss their findings without even reading the report. Then it just seems like you're once again sticking your head in the sand and pissing money away at the same time.

Stay the course.

(Thanks to Tim F. at Balloon Juice for the link.)

Warning - Sophomoric Post

Yes, this amuses me greatly. I smell Heaven a callin'!

EDITORS NOTE: Here's the direct link.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Chocolate Factory

This is why I love the internet.

I Don't Want to Say Mr. Bush is Incompetent...

But Harold Meyerson does in the Washington Post:
Incompetence is not one of the seven deadly sins, and it's hardly the worst attribute that can be ascribed to George W. Bush. But it is this president's defining attribute. Historians, looking back at the hash that his administration has made of his war in Iraq, his response to Hurricane Katrina and his Medicare drug plan, will have to grapple with how one president could so cosmically botch so many big things -- particularly when most of them were the president's own initiatives.

In numbing profusion, the newspapers are filled with litanies of screw-ups. ....

It's the president's prescription drug plan (Medicare Part D), though, that is his most mind-boggling failure. As was not the case in Iraq or with Katrina, it hasn't had to overcome the opposition of man or nature. Pharmacists are not resisting the program; seniors are not planting car bombs to impede it (not yet, anyway). But in what must be an unforeseen development, people are trying to get their medications covered under the program. Apparently, this is a contingency for which the administration was not prepared, as it has been singularly unable to get its own program up and running.

I think the prescription drug plan is going to be a political nightmare for Bush and the Republicans. Their incompetence in implementing the program has been staggering, but even if everything works according to plan, it'll still be a clusterfuck. Why? There's a complete lack of coverage for drug spending between $2,251 and $5,100 -- a "donut hole" in the complicated parlance of Washington -- which means that when (or if) all the angry seniors get their prescription plans in order, they'll almost immediately find themselves abandoned in the woods like Grandpa Simpson. ("I'm cold and hungry and there are wolves after me!")

And for those seniors spending $250 a month or more on prescription drugs, that means they're going to be thrown to those wolves right before the midterm elections. I'm not hanging out at my local phramacy much, but from anecdotal evidence, I think a lot of seniors are going to hit the donut hole before the election. As this piece on the Medicare disaster notes, a common treatment for osteoporosis costs a whopping $500-$600 a month alone. I think we could realistically see a hot summer full of senior disaster stories.

The most bizarre part of all this? Next week, in the State of the Union address, President Bush is going to make another health care initiative -- his asinine Health Savings Accounts -- the centerpiece of his domestic agenda. He's screwed up this small corner of the country's health care, and now he wants to bring his special destructive powers to the entire thing? Awesome.

Neil Diamond - Best of Albums 2005?

Heard about a website (buddyhead.com) this morning from 99x's Fred Toucher - who is amazingly funny and grows on you like that 8th Pabst beer ("I'm never spending more that $14 on a case of beer again!"). This is a quality list which is well worth some time reading their reviews. Here are some highlights:

Best of 2005 (see website for full list)

Neil Diamond - 12 Songs

So he hooks up with the world’s fattest vegan, Rick Rubin, and they rent a
house in the hills where some 70’s hippie orgy that went murderously wrong took
place. They light candles, smoke pot, listen to the reels of “Reign In Blood” at
deafening volumes while Neil plays “air bass” and Rubin watches while he puts
away 8 gallons of Tofutti, grow shitty beards, eat straw and tree bark, and
avoid showering at all costs. Ultimately they end up with a killer record that
brings Neil “back to his roots”. Don’t worry though, he’s not selling out the
scene. He’s still gonna pork moms and feather his hair.

Black Mountain - Black Mountain

More Canadians. I don’t know why we keep letting this shit slide.
Apparently without adequate forms of entertainment, fear of gunshot wounds, and
“modern appliances”, those savages up there have way more free time to make good
music like this while they’re chillin’ in their igloos. Did we mention the
singer looks like “The Dude” from The Big Lebowski?

Fiona Apple - Extraordinary Machine
You know Fiona was chillin’ at home in her huge pad in the hills, naked all
jungle-muffed out, crying at the mirror, listening to “The Chronic”, and totally
bumming that her fan base consisted of a bunch of overweight bedwetting virgins.

Worst Albums of 2005 (see website for full list):

Tommy Lee - Tommyland: The Ride

This guy has 2 brain cells left, and they’re both waging a Mortal Kombat style battle in his head for supremacy. Shitty tattoos, plastic whore wives, and dumbass spoiled kids litter this guy’s life, so of course we have to hear about it. This isn’t even funny like that last band he had; you know the one with that “Get Naked” song? That band was fucking hilarious, total unintentional comedy. This is like Maroon 5 meets a karaoke bar where a group of frat house date rapists intersect with a dozen Korean weekend child molester businessmen. Yeah… it’s brutal in a “contracting STD’s” type of way.

Billy Corgan - The Future Embrace

Speaking of annoying bald singers, it took about 5 minutes after this butt nugget came out and nobody gave a shit, for Billy to announce a Smashing Pumpkins reunion. Hey Billy, Zwan sucks, this shit sucks, and you getting the Smashing Pumpkins back together without any of the original members is REALLY gonna suck. How about you just stay home, count your money, update your blog every 3 minutes, write another Courtney Love album, and cry yourself to sleep every night cos you’re still bitter about not being as cool as Kurt Cobain, and leave the rest of us in peace.

Red Hot Scorpion

At long last, the Jack Abramoff-produced action film "Red Scorpion" has been remastered. It's better than ever.

(Thanks to firedoglake for passing this along.)

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Frogurt is Also Cursed

Good news! You can eat like a pig and still look good naked.
An FDA advisory panel voted 11-3 late Monday to recommend that the regulatory agency approve the nonprescription form of orlistat, which Glaxo would market as Alli (pronounced "ally"). The agency is not bound by the recommendation but usually follows the advice of its expert panels.

"We are excited about the potential opportunity to provide consumers with an FDA-approved over-the-counter option that promotes gradual yet meaningful weight loss," Quesnelle said.

When taken with meals, orlistat blocks the absorption of about one-quarter of any fat consumed.
Less good news. You have to take your underpants off in the dark.
A bevy of potentially distasteful and embarrassing side effects struck about half the participants in trials of the drug. Those side effects, including fecal incontinence, gas and oily discharge that spotted the undergarments of trial participants, are likely to limit the appeal of the pill.


Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Jesusland) has issued a bold call, asking all true patriots to stand up and make the noblest sacrifice for this country in its hour of need:
...we have brave men and women who are willing to step forward because they know what's at stake. They're willing to sacrifice their lives for this great country. What I'm asking all of you tonight is not to put on a uniform. Put on a bumper sticker. Is it that much to ask? Is it that much to ask to step up and serve your country.
As both of our regular readers will attest, I tend to mock people whose support for our troops is limited to slapping a two-dollar, made-in-China, magnetic ribbon onto their SUVs. It is literally the least you can do if you support the war. I mean, the damn thing's magnetic, so you're not even risking your car's paint job, much less risking your own life and limb in support of Operation Awesome Kickass.

But in all that mocking, I never thought I'd see what I've seen here: a Republican politician insisting that bumper sticker politics really does involve a noble sacrifice, one comparable to the sacrifice our troops are making on the battlefield. (And making that sacrifice, we should remember, as Republican politicians like Santorum keep cutting military pay, health benefits, housing, education and equipment.)

I have to give Santorum credit. I didn't think he could find a way to surpass some of his past stupidities, but this one marks a new low.

(Hat tip to Atrios.)

Update: I didn't realize this from reading the truncated quote, but the bumper stickers that Santorum is equating with "serving the country" aren't the "Support the Troops" ones. They're "Support Santorum" ones. That definitely makes this the stupidest thing he's ever said, and that's saying quite a lot.

Et Tu Hoser?

With the results counted and concession speeches made, the Conservative party in Canada has won. Pre-emptive attempts to get the New Democrat party (Green / Socialist) to side with the Liberal party to avoid this have gone the way of Nader and Gore in 2000.

A couple of observations about our brothers’ election to the north:

(1) It was the corruption scandal (paying PR companies to spin positive stories among others) that ended the Liberal party’s 13 year reign. Kinda reminds me of another kind of “payoff” for better PR.

(2) The conservatives hijacked a Liberal party plan for raising healthcare and childcare funding and embraced it as part of their platform. Again, familiar.

(3) Conservatives promised “a new vigour in fighting crime and gang violence.” I know Bill Hicks already did this joke regarding violence in the UK without guns and the outbreak of “hooliganism” – but this pledge makes me smile. They are so cute when they take the streets back from "gangs" who stay out past curfew.

(4) Minority governments never last long since the first bump in the road will sway the fickle votes back. So the Liberals won’t be down long.

(5) Look for my man Ken Dryden (Stanley Cup winning goalie for the Montreal Canadians in the 1970’s) to lead them. He’s not quite polished like the normal politician -– but hey, it's Canada and hockey. Somethings are more important than politics.

Here's hoping America grows tired of corruption and offers its own regime change.

PS – Previous guidance on the outcome of the election was provided by my father. Apparently, the winters in PEI are getting to him. Luckily, IRod didn't wager this "lock" with Xmas money.

PPS – I bet the people who left the US after the 2nd Bush election feel pretty dumb about now.

Loathe and Behold

Through the insistence of TBogg and Norbizness, I discovered the Beast's 50 Most Loathsome People in America list. Here's a sample:
3. George W. Bush

Charges: Simply put, the stupidest man ever to lead this country. Bush’s lobotomized Will Rogers routine is a satirist’s dream, a European intellectual’s caricature of the dipshit cowboy American, all balls and no brains. Often responds to questions by attempting to define the word he finds the most challenging in them. Thinks press reports of his various crimes are responsible for his waning popularity, rather than the deeds themselves. Interprets the constitution like a Unitarian interprets the bible; for maximum convenience and with no regard to the actual text. Foreign policy vision is less serious and more simplistic than an issue of Captain America.

Exhibit A: “I want to thank the President and the CEO of Constellation Energy, Mayo Shattuck. That’s a pretty cool first name, isn’t it? Mayo. Pass the Mayo.”

Sentence: Trapped for eternity under shoddily manufactured Diebold voting machine, unable to reach nearby refrigerator full of hot dogs and bourbon.
And yes, George Bush is only the third worst on the list. Go see who gets top honors this year.

Give 'Em Hell, Harry

With the president's approval ratings now at an all-time low of 36 percent, it seems he's got a lot to prove in the upcoming State of the Union address.

Too bad he can't give the prebuttal that Harry Reid is trotting out at the Center for American Progress. It's a home run:
"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely."

It's been many years since I graduated college, but I finally understand what Lord Acton meant.

Republicans today control the House of Representatives, the Senate and the White House. They have absolute power, and it has corrupted their Party and led to the culture of corruption that we see now in Washington.

We have the Republican leader of the House of Representatives, admonished three times for ethics violations and under indictment now for money laundering.

We have the White House, where an employee has been indicted for the first time in 135 years.

There's Karl Rove, who is under investigation... and David Safavian, the man appointed by President Bush to be charge in charge of hundreds of billions of dollars in government contracts who was led away in handcuffs because of his dealings with Jack Abramoff and others.

And then, we have the Republican "K-Street Project, which has invited lobbyists inside our nation's Capitol....as long as they are willing to pay the right price.

The Republican abuse of power comes at great cost to our country, and we can see it in the present state of our union. Special interests and the well-connected have grown stronger, while our national security... our economy... our health care... and our government have grown weaker.
Reid only picks up speed from there, calling the president out for his corruption and incompetence and even outright dishonesty, until it reaches the point where the man we once knew as Harry Reid has become nothing less than a whirling dervish of fists and fury.

Read the whole thing, but be sure to set aside a post-coital cigarette for when you're done. It's that good.

That Boy's Got Boobies!!

We've all been embarassed by teachers before. Usually we bring it on ourselves by not doing our homework or falling asleep in class or, in the case of StudioDave, yelling "Star Wars!" as the answer to every question. I don't really have a problem with a teacher busting someone for misbehaving by using a little humor, even if it results in some embarassment for the wrongdoer.

Sometimes, however, the teach can go too far, as seems to have happened at Beaver Falls (insert joke here) high school.
When Joshua Vannoy, 17, a junior from Big Beaver [PA], walked into his honors ethnic relations class Friday and sat at his desk in preparation for a midterm exam, he was told by the teacher, John Kelly, to pick up his books.

Vannoy said it was all apparently over what he was wearing - a No. 7 jersey. . . carrying the logo of the opposing team [the Denver Broncos] set to face the Steelers in the weekend AFC Championship Game.

And because he wore it, Vannoy said he was told he had to lie on the carpeted floor inside a circle of desks if he wanted to get his test. Vannoy said other students were handed their tests; his was thrown at him. Papers flew everywhere, and even after he had them arranged, Vannoy said he was unable to concentrate.
At one point, Vannoy said Kelly handed out notebook paper for a second part of the test and told students to "throw the paper at the Denver fan."

My first response was, "What kind of idiot wears a Broncos jersey in diehard Steelers territory? Seems pretty stoopid to me." But then that annoying part of me that still has principles (847 more beers and it should be gone) piped up and said, "It's a freakin' shirt. Nobody should get that kind of treatment because of their shirt, let alone from a teacher." Once again, and to my utter dismay, the principle thingy won out.

Now that I have self-righteously condemned the teacher without hearing all the evidence (I'm assuming the boy's story is legit), I have to determine what punishment I would like to see meted out. Should the teacher be suspended? Fired? Anything like this ever happen to you? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

(No, Studiodave, "Star Wars!" does not count as a thought. Just make your "Big Beaver" joke and move on.)

Monday, January 23, 2006

Me Worried, Need Money

Today's Washington Post highlighted a disturbing fact for the Democrat's chances in 2006. Unfortunately, as the party wanders the desert looking for a coherent and simple platform, they forgot the money.
For the year just passed, the RNC brought in nearly $102 million -- give or take a few hundred thousand -- and had $34 million in the bank. The Democratic National Committee raised $51 million in 2005 but showed $5.5 million on hand at the end of the year.This is the largest gap between the parties in more than a decade.

This issue is particularly troubling given the DNC traded in Terry Mcauliffe (great fundraiser/poor strategist) for Howard "then we're going to Nova Scotia!" Dean. Dean had his baggage; but was supposed to infuse the party with a focus on policy AND raise money. Now, there seems to be neither. We do know that Dean has been building a local presence in all 50 states and perhaps the money is all in the state's control - I wasn't able to find any information to confirm or deny this theory.

So, is the DNC better off today than it was 1 year ago? For me, it's hard to tell how much gains in Virginia and (somewhat) New Jersey are more in reaction to Bush or influenced/lead by the party itself. But if the DNC doesn't issue a corrective statement on this article (or some serious spin) this doesn't bode well for the Dean administration.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

This Just In

Courtesy of Kevin Drum, I've just discovered my new favorite website: Republicans ... or the Mafia? Brilliant stuff.

Arrested Developments

For those of you who've been monitoring the "Arrested Development" Deathwatch and hoping for a stay of execution, here's the latest news: Showtime is officially in negotiations to pick up the show, but hasn't yet made an offer.

I'm sure Showtime realizes that the dysfunctional cast of "Arrested Development" is a perfect fit for their channel. Showtime is already the home to pot-dealing suburbanites and hot terrorist action, so a show which features an uncle scoring weed for his 15-year-old nephew and a father building homes for Saddam Hussein should be right up their alley. I'm sure they're worried that the show's all-star cast might be too expensive for them, but I hope they're smart enough to take the risk.

Come on, Showtime. Don't be chicken.

Caption Contest

Time for another caption contest, folks.

And what better photo to use than one of President Above the Law behind bars? Bring it.

Friday, January 20, 2006

F*cking Chuck Norris

At long last, all the Chuck Norris facts you'd ever need have been collected in one convenient website. For instance, did you know:
1. Chuck Norris' tears cure cancer. Too bad he has never cried. Ever.
2. Chuck Norris does not sleep. He waits.
3. Chuck Norris is currently suing NBC, claiming Law and Order are trademarked names for his left and right legs.
4. The chief export of Chuck Norris is pain.
And there's more. Enjoy.

Friday Random Ten

"Popular Russian Hits"? For some reason, that reminds me of the moment in Airplane! where the passenger asks for some light reading, and the stewardess offers up a leaflet titled "Famous Jewish Sports Legends."

Seriously, if these are popular hits, someone should get Lenin's corpse off the dance floor. The look of coma-inducing ecstacy on these hip, happenin' Muscovites' faces is amazing. The only ones who even seems to be within striking distance of a smile are the couple up front, and I'm pretty sure they're sharing a laugh over the drowned lemur on that guy's head.

Anyway, the appearance of Soviet Bandstand here at LLatPoN can only mean one thing -- it's time for the Friday Random Ten.

For those of you who are joining us for the first time or, like iRod, have the reading retention skills of a kindergartner with ADD, here's how you play: Take out your iPod or iWhatever, set it on Random, and give us the first ten songs that pop up. (Hence the name, "Friday Random Ten." Get it? OK, it's Friday, too. Get it now?)

As always, if those of you at home would like to play the advanced version, throw in a Coolness Self-Audit as well. (Check out last week's FRT for a friendly guide to that. Or don't. See if I care.)

Alright, here's mine:

1. Billy Paul, "Am I Black Enough For You?" -- Some classic Philadelphia Sound soul from the early '70s. While Paul is probably best known for "Me & Mrs. Jones," this is actually a much better tune. It starts with a scorching organ intro that sounds like it should've been on Stevie Wonder's Talking Book, and then edges into some sultry Teddy Pendergrassish vocals. Sweeeeeeeeet. 10/10

2. Shirley Bassey, "Big Spender (Wild Oscar Remix) -- This is from an entire CD of remixes of Shirley Bassey tunes. Her name may not be familiar to you, but you've certainly heard her stuff, whether it's one of the many '60s Bond movie theme songs she recorded ("Goldfinger," "Diamonds Are Forever") or the brassy showgirl numbers like this one. Not a bad remix, but it gets a little cute at times. 7/10

3. Dub Narcotic Sound System, "Fudgy the Whale" -- You think I'd like a campy Calvin Johnson tune about a crappy Tom Carvel ice cream product, but you'd be wrong. The only time I like to listen to insane nonsense for ten full minutes is when Bill O'Reilly lays down his talking points. 3/10

4. Django Reinhardt, "Saint Louis Blues" -- The greatest guitarist of all time. Period. I'm not sure how he did it -- maybe it was the Belgian-gypsy blood, maybe it was selling his soul to Satan -- but dear Lord can this man play. 9/10

5. The Replacements, "Can't Hardly Wait" -- This may be the perfect distillation of the Replacements, in both sound (right at the peak of Pleased to Meet Me) and style ("Jesus rides beside me / He never buys any smokes"). 7/10

6. The Flaming Lips, "If I Only Had a Brain" -- Absolutely unlistenable. The English language lacks the adjectives to describe the awfulness of this song, which may very well be the worst thing I own. Seriously, boys, lay off the LSD before you're consigned to the care of Nurse Ratchet. 0/10

7. TV on the Radio, "Ambulance" -- It sounds like Peter Gabriel has teamed up with an a capella group, and yet it somehow works. 6/10

8. MC Chris, "Fett's Vette" -- The man who made a splash as MC Pee Pants on "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" appears here with a blistering gangsta-rap boast from the baddest bounty hunter of all: Boba Fett. The entire song is pretty damn funny, with MC Chris delivering lines like "Jabba has a hissyfit / Contact Calrissian / Over a Colt, the plan unfolds / No politic is legitl" in a voice that sounds like Chris Tucker's Smokey character from Friday. This is one you really need to hear yourself, and since MC Chris has the entire album available for free download here, you have no choice. 8/10

9. KISS, "Rock and Roll All Nite" -- You know, I used to rock and roll all night and party every day. And then it was every other day. And now I'm lucky if I can find half an hour each week in which to get funky. 4/10

10. Junior Varsity KM, "Fourshadowing" -- I tend to find most drum'n'bass stuff fairly repetitive, but these folks always come up with something interesting. This song, from their 1999 release, sounds like blissed-out Aphex Twin or some sort of wonderful walking coma. 9/10

You know, I made a remark in the comments last week that I rarely got a song with a rating under five because there were so few of those songs on my iTunes to begin with. Looks like I spoke too soon, since this week I was blessed with a subpar song not once, not twice, but thrice! There was some good stuff in there too, though, so I'm left with a 6.3 average. At least the passing grade means I won't be held back in Coolness School (official motto: "Whatever").

Let's see what you folks can do. Give us your own Friday Random Ten in the comments and, if you want to take this relationship to the next level, add in a Coolness Self-Audit as well.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Reason # 346 Why The Bush Administration Sucks

(AP) The Bush administration, seeking to revive an online pornography law struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, has subpoenaed Google for details on what its users have been looking for through its popular search engine.
Google has refused to comply with the subpoena, issued last year, for a broad range of material from its databases, including a request for 1 million random web addresses and records of all Google searches from any one-week period, lawyers for the U.S. Justice Department said in papers filed Wednesday in federal court in San Jose, California.
I understand the public intent is to prevent the child stuff; but this tactic sounds like the tactic used in overturning abortion laws- first scare them with the "partial birth", then scare them with "what do your kids do without your permission?"....

If the government can get the data from Google, who is a massive data warehouse of what you do and think, combined with the "we don't need no stinkin' wiretap court order" - this is really creepy.

I Don't Mean to Say Neo-Cons Are Incontinent, But . . .

I know most of y'all read Digby anyway, but I really liked his ending to a recent contemplation of our problems with Iran as a result of our invasion of Iraq.
Immature political thinkers that they are, the Bush administration and the neo-con cabal had been aching to prove America's manhood (and their own) to the world for so long that they prematurely ejaculated. Now we are spent, at least for a time, and the whole world knows it.
My feelings exactly. I think it's easy to devolve into petty ad hominems when you try talk about manliness issues in politics, but I strongly believe that those kinds of issues need to be addressed in the context of our recent foreign policy adventures. How much of our Iraq strategy, and our war on terror policy in general, has to do with our leading power players' sense of manhood? Am I way off on this? Is this something that can be addressed without getting into a pointless "you're less of a man than I am" shouting match?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Chickenhawks Coming Home to Roost

During the 2004 campaign, I was stunned at the ways in which Republican operatives attacked John Kerry's military record.

It was a bold move to smear a decorated combat veteran of the Vietnam War, given the fact that their own ticket consisted of one man who spent those same years keeping the skies of Texas safe from Oklahoma kamikaze pilots and another who smugly insisted he had "other priorities" during the '60s. (Apparently, the Intelligent Designer made the "shame gene" an optional feature, like rack-and-pinion steering or a moon roof.)

While I was impressed by the party-über-alles attitude of the modern GOP, I couldn't help but think that their nonstop mockery of our military veterans might somehow chip away at the loyalty of military voters. The shabby treatment they've received at the hands of the Bush administration -- ranging from poor planning for the war, to the extended tours of duty, to the massive cuts in pay and benefits -- couldn't have helped either. And then a longtime supporter of the military like Jack Murtha speaks up on their behalf and what happens? More swift-boating of a military vet.

With all the disrespect shown to our military men and women by the Republicans -- notwithstanding the noble sacrifice made by putting a "Support the Troops" magnet on their SUVs -- you'd think that the troops might start reconsidering which party they support. And it seems they have.

In an op-ed piece in today's New York Times, former Reagan-era Secretary of the Navy James Webb notes that we're seeing a sea change in the party identification of rank-and-file soldiers:
The political tactic of playing up the soldiers on the battlefield while tearing down the reputations of veterans who oppose them could eventually cost the Republicans dearly. It may be one reason that a preponderance of the Iraq war veterans who thus far have decided to run for office are doing so as Democrats.

A young American now serving in Iraq might rightly wonder whether his or her service will be deliberately misconstrued 20 years from now, in the next rendition of politically motivated spinmeisters who never had the courage to step forward and put their own lives on the line.
Well said. And, given the massive numbers of Iraq veterans who are running for office this year as Democrats -- and the nearly complete lack of ones running as Republicans -- you've got to think he's onto something.

While the ascendance of a new generation of Democratic veterans is a great thing for the party in terms of its attitudes towards foreign policy and national security, the three dozen "Fighting Dems" who are being promoted by Kos and Air America aren't just strong voices on foreign policy. They also seem to be strong voices for a liberal vision of America at home, too.

Check out what Iraq veteran and candidate for the U.S. Senate Paul Hackett has to say:
Hackett said he opposes capital punishment – too much risk of executing an innocent person – for everybody except the fool who violates his family and home. "Break into my house, we won’t have to worry about the application of the death penalty. It’s going to be a simple 911 call: Come pick up the body."

With succinct coherence, Hackett said: “I’m pro-choice, I’m pro-gayrights, I’m pro-gun-rights. Call me nuts, but I think they’re all based on the same principle and that is we don’t need government dictating to us how we live our private lives.”

Asked to define being pro-gay rights, Hackett said anybody who tries to deny homosexuals the same rights, including marriage, as every other citizen is un-American. Are you saying, he was asked, that the 62 percent of Ohioans who voted in November 2004 to constitutionally deny same-sex marriages are un-American?

“If what they believe is that we’re going to have a scale on judging which Americans have equal rights, yeah, that’s un-American. They’ve got to accept that. It’s absolutely un-American.”
Heh. Fighting Dems, indeed.

Of all the miracles that Karl Rove and his associated assclowns have pulled off in the last few elections, we might just be seeing the greatest this year -- a new wave of Democrats who embrace liberal politics without hesitation or qualification. The Swift Boat guys sunk the hemming-and-hawing approach of John Kerry, and it looks like they might have just bought themselves a couple decades of Paul Hackett and his fellow veterans as a result.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Caption Contest

Making up for lost time, here's another caption contest. Have at him!

Monday, January 16, 2006

Chocolate Fudge

Among the multitude of speeches which federal, state, and local leaders pointed to Martin Luther King's values for easy political points, I believe one politician went too far.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has obviously had an exceedingly difficult job this year, and he had his share of mistakes in preparing for and managing the Katrina damage. But something about his statements today struck me as profoundly "un-MLK."
"It's time for us to come together. It's time for us to rebuild New Orleans _
the one that should be a chocolate New Orleans," the mayor said. "This city
will be a majority African American city. It's the way God wants it to be.
You can't have New Orleans no other way..."

Now, my recollection of MLK is that he didn't want to see lines between races. He didn't want race to be part of people's decisions for hiring employees, giving loans, or whom to live next to. Is this "racist"? I don't really know.

I do know that if Lincoln, Nebraska was it by massive tornados and the mayor said we needed people to return to make the city "Lilly White" again that would strike me as odd.

I understand his point, that they need people to return to get things back to normal (and help him win re-election) ; but the "chocolate" word strikes me as folksy in a sense and, I believe, alienates the non "chocolates."

Also, does God REALLY want it?

Dogs and Cats, Living Together

In a point that underscores how little traction the issue of impeachment has right now, Al Gore gave a major speech today in which he essentially called the president a criminal.

You'd think such a charge coming from a former Democratic candidate for the presidency would be incredibly newsworthy, especially since Gore was introduced by former Republican congressman and Clinton impeachment manager Bob Barr. Of course, you'd be wrong. Not even the sight of powerful politicians from opposite ends of the spectrum coming together to condemn the president could stir the media from their apathy.

I Against I

The blogosphere is all atwitter with two different I-words this weekend -- Iran and impeachment.

As far as the new hand-wringing over Iran, it's hard to tell how much of this is a genuine crisis and how much is just another political smokescreen put out by the Republicans to distract from everything going wrong in their world -- the president's approval rating sinking back below 40, congressional Republicans dropping like flies, Brokeback Mountain winning critical acclaim, etc. etc. I'm having a real sense of déja vu these days, with the 2002 script coming back in 2006 with the only real change being that someone changed all the q's to n's. Otherwise, it's feeling a lot like the last midterm election strategy.

Impeachment, meanwhile, is the new topic for everyone from the full-throated advocacy of issuing articles of impeachment coming from The Nation to the reserved recognition on the part of Arlen Specter that if the president really did cross the line in the NSA wiretaps, then "the remedy" is impeachment. I certainly agree with both of them that there's a solid constitutional case for bringing articles of impeachment against Bush, given the fact that he's wholly admitted to acts similar to those outlined in the second impeachment article levied against Nixon. But in political terms, I think it can't happen. I essentially agree with Kevin Drum on this one: if the Democrats issue articles of impeachment now, it'll seem like an act of desperation and, worse, it wouldn't even get out of the House Judiciary Committee.

I think we're going to hear "Iran" and "impeachment" quite a bit on the coming year, as conservatives try to shift the conversation to another foreign policy crisis that merits the president's patented approach of bold incompetence and liberals push back with talk of domestic retribution for his record of incompetent boldness. Personally, I think the Democrats should steer a middle course between the two I's.

On the one hand, they should keep up the tough talk about the president's many misdeeds and demand real answers. Hold off on actual impeachment charges, and instead just keep drawing attention to the Republican scandals in Congress and the administration. If they can maintain a drumbeat on "Republican corruption" and "Republican incompetence," we'll see some results on election day.

On the other hand, the Democrats need to take a strong defensive stance on Iran, one that takes the threat seriously, but doesn't simply write the president a blank check for more bold incompetence. In short, Democrats need to demand congressional oversight and congressional approval every step of the way. This is an attitude that's in keeping with their status as the opposition party and, furthermore, one that will resonate with voters who are starting to realize that Bush Unchained isn't the best approach.

At its highest levels, a strategy of strict congressional oversight would mean that if Bush wants to take military action, then he'd need a formal declaration of war. He doesn't get to do anything pre-emptive or pro-active or whatever he wants to call it without running the reasons, the strategy, and the goal by Congress first. Sure, such a formal declaration hasn't really happened since World War II, but looking over our track record in undeclared wars like Korea, Vietnam and Iraq, I think that's a tradition constitutional requirement that we just might want to bring back.

Personally, I hope it won't get to the point of declaring full-blown war, but that end point needs to be highlighted now by the Democrats in order to get the president to think clearly about options that stand just short of war -- economic sanctions, diplomatic pressure, etc. If he has his eyes set on another fun postwar photo op, he's going to do everything he can to make that happen. The Dems need to make it clear now that the road to war in Iran isn't going to be as easy as the road to war in Iraq.

If the Democrats can steer between these two I's -- keeping up a tough front on the president without going so far as impeachment, while keeping a firm stance on Iran without ceding their congressional duties -- it could bode well for the party in 2006. Having proved that they can act as a strong opposition party without overreaching, the Democrats might finally become an attractive option for voters turned off by the status quo.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Caption Contest

The last one was fun, so here's another caption contest to kick off the weekend.

Not that it matters, but the guy getting the Charmin treatment from the president is Boysie Bollinger, head of Bollinger Shipyards of Louisiana. I guess with a name like Boysie, you're practically asking President Touch-and-Rub to reach out and grab you.

As always, the photo is shamelessly stolen from the brilliant Dependable Renegade.

Hired Goons

Harry Reid once again steps up to the plate and proves that there are some Mormons you just don't mess with. Here's a nice piece he wrote for the Houston Chronicle about one of their local lawbreakers:
In 1977, I was appointed chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission. It was a difficult time for the gaming industry and Las Vegas, which were being overrun by organized crime. To that point in my life, I had served in the Nevada Assembly and even as lieutenant governor, but nothing prepared me for my fight with the mob.

Over the next few years, there would be threats on my life, bribes, FBI stings and even a car bomb placed in my family's station wagon. It was a terrifying experience, but at the end of the day, we cleaned up Las Vegas and ushered in a new era of responsibility.

My term on the gaming commission came to an end in 1981, and when it did, I thought I had seen such corruption for the last time. Unfortunately, that has not been the case. It is not quite the mafia of Las Vegas in the 1970s, but what is happening today in Washington is every bit as corrupt and the consequences for our country have been severe.

Our nation's capital has been overrun by organized crime — Tom DeLay-style.
Daaaaaaamn. I think the Bugman is about to get exterminated.

(Thanks to Atrios for the link, and American Idle for the image. An image that burns my retinas, but a nice image all the same.)

Friday Random Ten

I can't say for certain, but I'm fairly certain that this album cover from Butch Yelton and Upbound was the inspiration for the movie Frailty, in which Bill Paxton swings his own little gospel axe and sends a bunch of demons back to the fiery depths of hell. Or maybe it was Bill Pullman. Hard to say.

Anyway, the appearance of supergroup Butch Yelton and Upbound -- man, that name just rolls off the tongue and right to Jesus's ear, don't it? -- means that it's time once again for the Friday Random Ten.

Audience participation has been slacking, as you people have devoted your attention to time-wasters like "work" and "family." So here's a refresher course on the FRT.

First of all, get out whatever thingamajig you use to play those new-fangled electronic songs, set it on random, and give us the first ten songs that come forth from the spirit world.

And, as always, if you're ready to run with the big kids, give us a Coolness Self-Audit as well. Remember, the audit is an optional feature for the FRT, sort of like power windows and curly fries. But if you decide to go with it, here's a handy rule of thumb:
0: painfully uncool, the musical equivalent of losing bladder control
1-4: bad, the kind of song you'd get out of bed to turn off
5-6: classic tune, but one everyone knows
7-8: somewhat cool, a little off the beaten track
9-10: so cool you want to walk into a bar in slow-motion to it
Got it? Alright, here's mine:

1. Ray Charles, "Tell Me How Do You Feel" -- Some classic Ray Charles from the late Atlantic years. The song starts with a blistering bit of Hammond organ, and then segues into the usual Ray-and-the-Rayettes call-and-response rhythm-and-blues. (I think I just sprained my hyphen button with that last sentence.) Anyway, solid stuff. 7/10

2. Smashing Pumpkins, "Ava Adore" -- I'm a little ambivalent about late-career Pumpkins, but the chunky bass line in this song always works for me. There are rumors the Pumpkins might be getting back together, but it'll probably be some bastardized version that includes Billy Corgan, Tommy Stinson on guitar, some guy from the laundromat on bass, and a drummer to be named later. Eh. 6/10

3. Handsome Boy Modeling School, "The Truth (featuring Roisin and J-Live)" -- This is one of my favorite HBMS tunes, largely because of the odd stuff it combines -- a spare piano and drum background, the sultry vocals of Roisin Murphy of Moloko, and a jargon-filled hiphop interlude by J-Live. "Now presiding in this court of hiphop / Justice, my rap forte/ Is judge, jury and prosecuting D.A./ Et ceteras, paraphrase / My modus operandi / is carpe diem / whether de facto or de jure / Comprende?" Never has making no sense sounded so cool. 10/10

4. The Radio Dept., "Against the Tide" -- This song is so ethereally dreamy it even has chirping birds in the intro. Breathy lyrics, lush instrumentation, and sugary soft beats. WARNING: Should not be listened to while operating heavy machinery. 6/10

5. Jets to Brazil, "I Typed for Miles" -- Off their first and best album, this song is angst set to 4/4 time. You've got to wonder the story behind a song that ends with screams of "You keep fucking up my life!" repeated over and over again. 8/10

6. Lou Rawls, "Season of the Witch" -- Apparently, Lou is reaching out to us from beyond the grave. This is one of his many excellent, velvet-voiced covers of counterculture rock tunes. Beautiful stuff. (If you'd like to hear more from Lou, check out the commentary on the DVD for "Anchorman." He makes an appearance about halfway through, and has no idea why he's there. Will Ferrell and company just ask him about his singing career and completely ignore the movie. Terrific.) 7/10

7. The Velvet Underground, "Oh! Sweet Nuthin'" -- This is an early rambling tune from VU, one that sounds like it could've been performed by the Grateful Dead or another late '60s jam band. Pretty good stuff. 8/10

8. The Killers, "Under the Gun" -- Normally, the Killers' new New Wave revival is something I enjoy, but this particular song just seems a little empty and trite. I guess that's a pretty accurate representation of a lot of the original New Wave stuff, but it doesn't work any better now than it did then. 6/10

9. Jerry Reed, "Another Puff" -- I always had a soft spot for the Snowman, so this monologue-song about his lifelong love of cigarettes may be higher in my book than most people's. Still, you have to love a song that has Reed greeting his nic fits with an "IloveitIloveitIloveit." If only his dog Flash was involved somehow. 7/10

10. John Lee Hooker, "Key to the Highway" -- From the otherwise great album Burning Hell, this is a fairly standard blues strummer from Hooker. Not bad, but not great either. 6/10

Alright, that gives me a 7.5 on the coolness scale. I'm not sure what three-quarters coolness means -- I've got an image of Fonzie strutting out of his office/men's room with toilet paper on his boot heel -- but that's apparently where I'm at.

Let's see where you're at, too. Drop your own FRT in the comments below and, if you've got the stones, throw in a self-audit as well.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Shut It Down

Apparently, Joe Lieberman is feeling the heat. He's reportedly said that a filibuster of Alito is a real possibility. And if Holy Joe is on board with a filibuster, you've got to think virtually all Democrats might be too.

Personally, I think the use of the filibuster here is completely warranted. Alito has been less than forthcoming in the testimony before the Judiciary Committee -- dodging questions on everything from his past associations to his present ideology -- and the little light that has shone through has only revealed a jurist with a paleolithic view of civil liberties and a faith in executive power that would've made Henry VIII pause.

Now, there are those on the Democratic side who've argued that the Democrats shouldn't filibuster Alito because it will make the public think they're "obstructionists." Screw that. That is cowardice at its worst, and it's precisely that clutching-the-hanky, what-will-the-neighbors-think? attitude that makes the party look like it has more wusses than a squad of mathletes. The only people who buy the "obstructionist" schtick are those already brainwashed by Faux News. The people in the middle seem to like it when the opposition party actually does a little opposing, as we saw all too well when the Democrats pulled their testicles out of cold storage and defied the president -- stubbornly and successfully -- when he tried to dismantle Social Security.

The filibuster would be a great way to highlight what Alito -- and the president who nominated him -- really believe. As long as the American people are hearing about peripheral crap like Alito's failure to recuse himself in a case or his association with a group of curmudgeons at Princeton, this isn't going anywhere. But take the time to spell out what they want -- a political philosophy that puts the president über alles, pure and simple -- and the American people will sit up and listen.

And it would also do a great job of showing people what the Democrats believe. The government doesn't have the right to ride roughshod over the people's rights and invade their privacy. The government does have a duty to provide equal justice to its people and provide for their safety and security, two things that this administration is pretty horrible at. And in sticking to these principles, the Democrats could show that they do, in fact, have core beliefs that they're willing to fight for, and that they'll fight for ordinary Americans too.

Shut it down, people. Shut it down.

"What About Those Four Years You Spent at Clown College?"

Between the important issues of executive power and abortion rights, the Senate Judiciary Committee has been ducking into Sam Alito's connections to the Concerned Alumni of Princeton (CAP). As multiple accounts have made clear, CAP was first and foremost an organization dedicated to keeping down the numbers of women and minorities on the Princeton campus. The claim that it was focused on anything else is ludicrous. That attitude was very much in keeping with the conservative movement of the 1970s, which is why Alito highlighted his membership on a 1985 application in the Reagan administration -- to prove that he had that GOP-style Wall Street Cred.

But these days, Alito remembers his CAP connections about as well as Jack Abramoff's old pals remember him. His excuse for CAP -- he doesn't remember joining it, but he joined it because they wanted to restore the ROTC to campus -- is a little bizarre. He graduated in 1972, at which time the ROTC had already been restored. So, of course he would join CAP to make sure that something that had already happened would someday happen.

It's becoming a bizarre sideshow for the hearings, and even prompted a sequel to the Coot-Off, as Ted Kennedy laid a smackdown on Arlen Specter about the CAP records, and the Specterman gaveled back like he'd never gaveled before. (Video here.)

If the CAP records are made public, and it's looking increasingly likely that they will be, I don't think you're going to see much there that implicates Alito -- no photos of him and his ROTC friends cracking down on the rowdy riff-raff of Delta House -- but it will shed light on the core interests of this group. I don't know why Alito's denied it so much, but he's backed himself into a corner and it could likely prove embarrassing.

Personally, I would've loved to see these hearings turn into a reasoned debate on the limits of executive power. That's where the issues that matter lie, and that's where the Democrats could've gotten the most traction, especially with libertarian independents. Instead, the confirmation hearings have been reduced to the usual infotainment stuff of cable news. This is what we get for having our national dialogue hosted by emcee Wolf Blitzer and the Where-Da-White-Women-At? dancers. All spectacle, all the time.

Frontline's "Country Boys"

PBS' "Frontline" is a national treasure. Frontline has recently ended a 3-part, 2-hour series on poverty and growing up in Appalachia called "Country Boys." Produced by the same team that did "The Farmer's Wife," this story is remarkable powerful, engaging, and real.

The stories follow two teenage boys who each have been handed troubles. One had his father shoot his stripper girlfriend at the bar, only to turn the gun on himself. The other has an alcoholic father and (my guess) a crystal meth using mother. Both share the goal of graduating from high school but due to discipline problems and learning disabilities, ended up at a private special needs school called "The David School." The David School was founded by an grad student from Brooklyn answering President Johnson's call to the war on poverty.

The insights are profound. You see able bodied whites milking the Federal social security and welfare systems. You see the alternatives to them not doing so. You see the damage drug abuse can do to an entire family. You see the value of family and people who will support you. And you see that even the most minor of financial setbacks (i.e. car breaking down) can be the difference between a future and suicide.

Most importantly, you see the desire of the human spirit to succeed and the power of strangers who care. Catch it in reruns or watch it at www.pbs.org.

Again, great work Frontline.