Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Why Don't Our Troops Support the Troops?

I don't want to turn this beautiful blog into an all-polls, all-the-time deal, but this new survey from Zogby is a real eye-opener:
An overwhelming majority of 72% of American troops serving in Iraq think the U.S. should exit the country within the next year, and nearly one in four say the troops should leave immediately....

The poll ... showed that 29% of the respondents, serving in various branches of the armed forces, said the U.S. should leave Iraq “immediately,” while another 22% said they should leave in the next six months. Another 21% said troops should be out between six and 12 months, while 23% said they should stay “as long as they are needed.”
That part of the poll is getting wide play in the blogosphere, as evidence that not even the troops themselves buy into the administration's arguments for the Neverending War Story. Those are stunning numbers, of course, but I was even more surprised by this aspect:
The wide-ranging poll also shows that 58% of those serving in country say the U.S. mission in Iraq is clear in their minds, while 42% said it is either somewhat or very unclear to them, that they have no understanding of it at all, or are unsure. While 85% said the U.S. mission is mainly “to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the 9-11 attacks,” 77% said they also believe the main or a major reason for the war was “to stop Saddam from protecting al Qaeda in Iraq.”

“Ninety-three percent said that removing weapons of mass destruction is not a reason for U.S. troops being there,” said Pollster John Zogby, President and CEO of Zogby International. “Instead, that initial rationale went by the wayside and, in the minds of 68% of the troops, the real mission became to remove Saddam Hussein.” Just 24% said that “establishing a democracy that can be a model for the Arab World" was the main or a major reason for the war. Only small percentages see the mission there as securing oil supplies (11%) or to provide long-term bases for US troops in the region (6%).
So the troops don't buy the "freedom on the march" rationale of the administration, but they seem to be clinging to the now widely discredited idea that Saddam had a connection to al-Qaeda. Not even the president is sticking by that whopper anymore, but the troops are still holding tight. I'm not sure if that's a result of their isolation from homefront media reports, or if it's a product of wishful thinking, a need to believe that this is part of a just retribution for the 9/11 attacks.

Regardless, it does help explain why the majority wants to go home. They thought their mission was to topple Saddam's regime and bring him to justice, and that part of the job was over a long time ago.

Hmm. I wonder where they got the idea that their mission had already been accomplished?

Monday, February 27, 2006

Free Fallin'

Get ready for the Terror Color Swatch to go all the way to plaid, because the polls are looking absolutely abysmal for the Administration That Couldn't Shoot Straight. Take the new numbers from CBS News:
The latest CBS News poll finds President Bush's approval rating has fallen to an all-time low of 34 percent, while pessimism about the Iraq war has risen to a new high.

Americans are also overwhelmingly opposed to the Bush-backed deal giving a Dubai-owned company operational control over six major U.S. ports. Seven in 10 Americans, including 58 percent of Republicans, say they're opposed to the agreement.

The troubling results for the Bush administration come amid reminders about the devastating impact of Hurricane Katrina and negative assessments of how the government and the president have handled it for six months. In a separate poll, two out of three Americans said they do not think President Bush has responded adequately to the needs of Katrina victims. Only 32 percent approve of the way President Bush is responding to those needs, a drop of 12 points from last September’s poll, taken just two weeks after the storm made landfall.

Mr. Bush's overall job rating has fallen to 34 percent, down from 42 percent last month. Fifty-nine percent disapprove of the job the president is doing.

For the first time in this poll, most Americans say the president does not care much about people like themselves. Fifty-one percent now think he doesn't care, compared to 47 percent last fall.

Just 30 percent approve of how Mr. Bush is handling the Iraq war, another all-time low. By two to one, the poll finds Americans think U.S. efforts to bring stability to Iraq are going badly – the worst assessment yet of progress in Iraq.

Even on fighting terrorism, which has long been a strong suit for Mr. Bush, his ratings dropped lower than ever. Half of Americans say they disapprove of how he's handling the war on terror, while 43 percent approve.
Yikes. At the rate things are going for him in 2006, President Bush may wind up looking back on 2005 with fond memories.

If You Want to Rule the World ...

...you're going to have to be more competent than this.

Two stories from the Moonie Times. If both are true, how pathetic can the opposition party be?

Example #1:
Democratic Rep. Ted Strickland is running for governor of Ohio, vacating his seat representing Ohio's 6th District. Republicans have targeted the seat as one of their best chances for a pickup this year -- President Bush twice carried the 6th District.

Democrats had hoped that state Sen. Charlie Wilson could keep the seat in their column -- the wealthy candidate had contributed more than $250,000 to his own campaign -- but owing to a mix-up, Mr. Wilson won't be on the ballot for the May 2 Democratic primary.

"Wilson failed to make the ... primary election ballot this week after submitting just 46 valid signatures to the Columbiana County Board of Elections," the Wheeling (W.Va.) Intelligencer reports. "A total of 50 of the 96 signatures he submitted -- obtained in Belmont and Scioto counties -- were ruled invalid largely because addresses were listed improperly or because the resident signing Wilson's petition didn't live in the 6th District."

Mr. Wilson told the Intelligencer that he will run in the primary as a write-in candidate, but only four men have been elected to Congress as write-in candidates in the era of printed ballots, the Associated Press reports.
Can you imagine the other party making such a disastrous mistake? (Insert "They don't even leave the voting to chance" joke here.)

Example #2:
Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich wasn't in on the joke.

Mr. Blagojevich, a Democrat, says he didn't realize that "The Daily Show" was a comedy spoof of the news when he sat down for an interview that ended up poking fun at the sometimes-puzzled Democratic governor.

"It was going to be an interview on contraceptives. ... That's all I knew about it," Mr. Blagojevich laughingly told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch last week. "I had no idea I was going to be asked if I was 'the gay governor.' "
So politicians are busy. They don't watch a lot of snarky late-night television. But you mean to tell me that nobody on his staff had heard of The Daily Show? Nobody thought to look into this obscure show before allowing interview the Governor? "Obscure" being relatively subjective since the anchor of The Daily Show is going to host the friggin' Oscars.

The Real Deal

Thanks to the great new PoliticsTV, I've finally had a chance to get a look (and listen) at Ned Lamont, the Connecticut businessman who's bravely challenging Holy Joe Lieberman in the Democratic Primary. Take a look for yourself -- this guy is the real deal.

If you like what you see, go to his site to volunteer your time or at least some cash. As Lamont says, his challenge won't jeopardize our holding this seat in the Senate, but it could mean that we finally get to fill it with an actual Democrat.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Don Knotts, R.I.P.

With the recent passing of Don Knotts, it's only right that we all take a moment to remember his greatest role of all time -- President George W. Bush.

(Thanks to Shakespeare's Sister for dredging this up. Wow, is that a great find.)

Film Forum

Well, it's been a whole damn month since we last had a nice discussion of our favorite lesser-known films. So let's get it on.

Before I get into my own rental activity, I want to give some time to a film that's still in theaters -- Eugene Jarecki's documentary Why We Fight. The lovely and talented Malibu Stacy and I just saw it last night, and we were both incredibly impressed.

The documentary is an exploration of the origins and steady growth of the military-industrial complex and the ways in which that relationship has undergirded the war in Iraq. While that sounds like a recipe for a far-leftist Michael-Moore screed, this flick is a lot more measured in its presentation and, as a result, a lot more effective in the end. It's not simply a villification of the current Republican administration (though there are plenty of eyebrows raised there), but rather a look over the past fifty years at the ways in which militarization has been encouraged by both parties. If the movie has a hero, in fact, it's definitely former Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a career military man who well understood the pernicious influence of the "military-industrial complex," a phrase that he coined himself.

The documentary makes good use of archival newsreel footage and contemporary interviews in equal measure -- including a conman/salesman from KBR, the Halliburton subsidiary, who is shown literally performing card tricks and bragging about "collusion" at an arms show. The film is nicely shot and well paced, and it gets its point across without ramming it down the audience's throats. It's just excellent. Be sure to see it when it comes to your town. You won't be disappointed.

Alright, on to the main purpose of this post, here's some of my recent rental activity:

Point Blank (1967): This is a classic slice of Lee Marvin, who stars here as a criminal who's doublecrossed by his partner and left for dead, but comes back to get the money he's owed. This was remade not too long ago as Payback, a fair enough film with Mel Gibson in the lead role, but seeing Marvin work his magic here really puts that film to shame. The other roles are all filled with terrific actors -- John Vernon as the two-timing partner who gives new meaning to "double secret probation," Carroll O'Connor as a mob boss, and Angie Dickinson as the new love interest. Great work all around.

Master of the Flying Guillotine (1975): This was a recommendation I got from iRod, our resident kung fu expert, and it certainly didn't disappoint. Aside from the odd fact that the "hero" of the film is an insane blind bastard who slices the heads off chickens and loud restaurant patrons, while the "villain" is a kind martial arts instructor, the film is pure kung fu goodness. A large portion is essentially Mortal Kombat come to life -- a tournament in which a badass variety of martial artists go Ming Dynasty on each others' asses. Good stuff.

Mean Streets (1973):
This isn't exactly obscure or new even to me. But I recently gave this classic flick another viewing, and I was surprised at how new it seemed. I suppose the first time I saw the film, I was really preoccupied by the performance of Robert DeNiro, who made his Scorsese debut here not in the cool and calculating roles he would later play in films like GoodFellas and Casino but as a colossal screw-up. But this time I was struck by how incredible Harvey Keitel was in that kind of role instead. Plus, Scorsese's considerable chops as a director are already on display, with plenty of classic-rock slo-mo camera pans and nice wiseguy dialogue. If, like me, you haven't seen this in a while, I'd recommend giving it another look.

Logan's Run (1976): I'd never actually seen this sci-fi classic before, so I thought I'd take a look. The basic plot is an interesting one -- a utopian future where people are killed when they reach the age of thirty -- but dear Lord is it all ruined by the cheesy sets and the cheesier acting. Michael York is the lead character here, a cop who hunts down the "runners" who refuse to go to their deaths quietly, and it's like watching a lobotomized Ken doll in community theater. Ugh. Apparently, Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, X-Men) is working on a remake of this, and if anyone can make the most of a good premise, it's him.

Alright, your turn. 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? Any old favorites worth another look? What should we, the Netflix Members of North America, have queued up?

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Requiem for a Lightweight

Keith Olbermann just dropped a thunderous smackdown on Bill O'Reilly.

Mission Accomplished

I'm thrilled to announce that the Global War on Terror has finally closed in on two of the top threats to the Free World -- Henry Rollins and Morrissey.

No word yet on which one of them is the current Number Two Man at al-Qaeda, but it's got to be one of them. We haven't caught a Number Two Man in several weeks now.

Friday, February 24, 2006

National Insecurity

Just 17% of Americans believe Dubai Ports World should be allowed to purchase operating rights to several U.S. ports. A Rasmussen Reports survey found that 64% disagree and believe the sale should not be allowed....

From a political perspective, President Bush's national security credentials have clearly been tarnished due to the outcry over this issue. For the first time ever, Americans have a slight preference for Democrats in Congress over the President on national security issues. Forty-three percent (43%) say they trust the Democrats more on this issue today while 41% prefer the President.

The preference for the opposition party is small, but the fact that Democrats are even competitive on the national security front is startling. In Election 2002, the President guided his party to regain control of the Senate based almost exclusively on the national security issue. On Election Day that year, just 23% rated the economy as good or excellent, but the President's Party still emerged victorious.
As anyone who hasn't spent the past five years in a coma will know, Bush has consistently trumped up the foreign dangers we face and consistently puffed up his own record as a danger-facer-downer. No matter what happened domestically -- the NCLB disaster, the 2003 blackout, the economic slump -- Bush's supposed strengths on national security always remained a saving grace at the polls.

But recently, we've seen a steady erosion of Bush's security credentials -- first, with the incompetent handling of Iraq and the inability to get Bin Laden; then, with the botched DHS response to Katrina that showed they couldn't even handle a disaster that they'd seen coming for weeks and even held a dress rehearsal for; and finally, the UAE port security screw-up, and all the light it's shed on how casually the administration handles the nuts and bolts of our national security infrastructure.

It took a while to shake Bush's ill-gained reputation as a strong defender of America, but we're finally here. The American people are starting to think the Democrats are a better option on national security, a trend that's only going to pick up speed as the Fighting Dems take to the campaign trail.

This could be a big year for the Dems. Gabby Hayes big.

Dark Days at the Corner

The Corner, 4:07pm:
ON TOPIC [Ed Capano]

I just want to let all the crunchy cons in Texas know that they won’t be required to wear ties at the NR shindig in Houston.
The Corner, 4:25 pm:

This reader is on to something:

The downfall of civilization can be traced directly to the practice of putting televisions in taverns. Men stopped talking to one another. Then they went home and started talking to their wives to whom they hadn’t talked in centuries. This led immediately to wholesale divorce, which in turn led to women in the workplace and juvenile delinquency. Other ills too numerous and horrible to mention followed until men stopped wearing ties so they wouldn’t hang themselves.
Yeah, if I were a conservative these days, I'd probably want to hang myself too. Good thing they ditched the ties.

Friday Random Ten

Because all of us here at LLatPoN are Southerners, I thought it was about time we showcased an album devoted to the true spirit of the region -- Lenny Dee's Down South.

And as we all know, there's nothing more stereotypically Southern than a piano being towed by a speedboat with a Vegas showgirl doing ski tricks alongside. Robert E. Lee would've wanted nothing less. Sure, ideally, there would've been a bassett hound named Flash riding on top of the piano, but as anyone who's ever tried that can tell you, it's a hard trick to pull off.

In any case, the appearance of the Waterskiing Rebs can only mean that it's once again time for the Friday Random Ten.

Fire up the iTunes, set it to random, and let loose the first ten songs that are brave enough to show themselves. And, if you're feeling saucy, Bernaise, then go ahead and give us a Coolness Self-Audit. (Check out this classic edition of FRT for a guide to that. Or don't. See if I care.)

Here's my list:

1. Stereolab, "Transoma Five" -- A mellow bit of background music from the finest English-French collaboration since the completion of the Chunnel. Not their best work, but some passable synthesizing goodness. 5/10

2. Hank Williams, "Settin' the Woods on Fire" -- This is a great bit of classic country, but it's been warped in my mind by the fact that the PBS "American Experience" series used this song for the theme and title of their documentary on George Wallace. Now every time I hear this, I don't hear Hank's dulcid tones but a redneck's cries of "segregation forever!" instead. That's gotta lower the score a bit. 6/10

3. Howlin' Wolf, "Evil" -- The bluesman born as Chester Burnett gives us a particularly gravely-voiced tune here about yet another woman who done him wrong. How come we never hear about all the good things that happen in the love lives of blues musicians? How come we never get to hear the other side of the story? 6/10

4. Radiohead, "Nobody Does It Better" -- This is a live version from the B-Sides collection. Thom Yorke introduces it as "the sexiest song that was ever written," and dammit, I'm inclined to agree. Not even Roger Moore's stiff-assed Bond could rob this song of its sultriness. 8/10

5. Pavement, "Silence Kit" -- I fell in love with Pavement when their first album came out, but everything since then seemed a little like diminishing returns. The Crooked Rain Crooked Rain CD was a bright spot though, and this tune was a big reason why. 7/10

6. Uncle Tupelo, "Acuff-Rose" -- A nice hat-tip from the alt-country kids to their old-country ancestors. The Acuff-Rose label was a prime force in the classic era of Nashville country, and this is a nice tribute. 6/10

7. Mudhoney, "Pump It Up" -- That's right, the masters of Seattle grunge covering an Elvis Costello tune. Somehow it actually works. 9/10

8. Velvet Underground, "What Goes On" -- While the live version from 1969 is probably my favorite rendition of this song, this studio version still has everything I love about VU -- driving guitars, a little background organ, and lots and lots of Lou Reed. They always seemed to do their best when Andy Warhol was somewhere else. Go figure. 8/10

9. Betty Bonney, "Joltin' Joe DiMaggio" -- This is a cute novelty swing song about the Yankee Clipper's slugging streak. However, I hate the Yankees. 3/10

10. Jets to Brazil, "Perfecting Loneliness" -- I really loved their first album, but everything since has been pretty weak. Especially this. Bleh. 1/10

Well, it looks like I drifted from mediocre to craptacular. (Insert your own joke about the Bush administration here.) We all know you can do better than this, so have at it in the comments.

Spin the wheel, raggedy man!

Thursday, February 23, 2006


John Avarosis.

Caption Contest

Time for another caption contest.

Release the hounds!

This Dream Date in History

Here's the question: Which historical figure would you most like to spend a day with?

You've got the entire world's history to choose from, anyone dead or alive. (But not zombie. That would be no fun for anyone.)

And you can pick almost anyone you want. In order to prevent President Bush from wriggling away from another tough answer, I'm going to disallow "Jesus" as a valid response here, and we'll declare off-limits all the other celestial deities like "God," "Mohammed," "Buddha," "Ganesha," and, of course, "Heidi Klum."

Also, feel free to set up the scenario. Would you like to spend the day kick-boxing against Gandhi? Cliff-diving with Franklin Roosevelt? Playing the "Match Game" with Charles Nelson Reilly? What?

Make your choice and drop it in the comments.

Cheapshot of the Day

I know it's about Katrina, but this headline in todays' Washington Post made me giggle.

White House To Release Report on Disasters

If the headline really fit the article, it would be a freakin' long article, no?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Compassionate Conservative

"There's only one person who hugs the mothers and the widows, the wives and the kids on the death of their loved ones...Having committed the troops, I've got an additional responsibility to hug." - President George W. Bush, December 2002

"I understand what it means to put somebody into combat. I know what it means to hug mothers and wives." - President George W. Bush, January 29, 2003

"I hug the mothers and the widows of those who may have lost their life in the name of peace and freedom." - President George W. Bush, February 10, 2003

"See, I understand the consequences of war. I understand the risks of war. I understand firsthand, particularly when I go and hug the moms and dads and brothers and sisters and sons and daughters of those who died. " - President George W. Bush, November 17, 2003

"One of my hardest parts of my job is to console the family members who have lost their life. It is a -- it is -- it's a chance to hug and weep and to console and to remind the loved ones that the sacrifice of their loved one was done in the name of security for America and freedom for the world." - President George W. Bush, April 13, 2004

"How do you know his life would have been good?" - President George W. Bush to the mother of a slain soldier, 2004

(Thanks to Shakespeare's Sister for passing this along. I'll be sending her the bill for my blood pressure medication in return.)

. . . Whereas Black Guys Are Named Carl

Mrs. T brought me out of my mid-day torpor (not to be confused with my morning grogginess or my afternoon food coma) with this line from a USA Today article about an olympic skater:
Davis' place in the history books already is secured as the first African American athlete from any nation to win an individual gold medal at the Winter Games. [emphasis mine]
I realize I'm picking a teensy nit here (and perhaps exposing myself as woefully ignorant of racial nomenclature), but don't you have to be from the U.S. to be an African American? Where's Doug Williams when you need him?

(Note: In the course of composing this awesome post, I discovered that the infamous "black quarterback" question Williams was asked is actually an urban legend. My world is in pieces.)

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Hail to the Chief

Bush's national poll numbers are bad enough for him, but if you want to get a sense of just how bad he's doing these days, check out Survey USA's state-by-state breakdown of the president's approval ratings.

Right now, there are only six states where the president's approval rating is above 50%. (And it'll come as no surprise to hear that these six states are the awesome, incredibly progressive states of Utah, Idaho, Alabama, Wyoming, Nebraska and Oklahoma.)

What's really stunning is how low Bush's popularity has sunk in some of the states he won in the last election. He's already below the 40% approval mark in Colorado, Missouri, and Iowa. In the über-battleground state of Ohio, where the national GOP's problems are being reinforced by a state-level meltdown, he's down to a pathetic 37%. Ouch.

Notably, all of these polls were done February 10-12, before Dick Cheney shot a 78-year-old man in the face and, most importantly, before the president announced we'd be turning over port security to a company owned by the United Arab Emirates. If the administration keeps up this pace, the president's approval ratings could soon be down there with pedophiles and telemarketers in every single state of the Union.

Maybe he will unite the nation, after all.

The Bride of Frankenstein

The Smoking Gun has officially come up with the most bizarre documents it's ever had -- a sick four-page "Contract of Wifely Expectations" that an Iowa nutcase designed to keep a leash on his wife.

I don't even know where to begin with this one. You'll just have to read the whole thing yourself.

(Thanks to Atrios for finding this and making me feel like the greatest husband in the world.)

Fighting Dems

Nothing gets me more excited about the upcoming election season than the massive wave of veterans running as Democrats.

Now, I like the "Fighting Dems" for a number of reasons -- they'll give the party new perspectives on military issues and foreign policy, they'll be willing to serve as an actual opposition party, and their sheer numbers will do much to counteract the Bush administration's lies about its supposed edge in military matters.

But I also like the stories that surround these guys. And none is a clearer metaphor than that of Tim Walz. Carpetbagger Report has the goods, and the goods are so good, I'm going to reprint it here in its entirety:
Tim Walz, a high school teacher, football coach, and veteran of the war in Afghanistan, toured his community yesterday to let voters know that he's running for Congress in Minnesota's 1st Congressional District, currently represented by Republican Gil Gutknecht. ... Ordinarily, this announcement may not seem like a big deal, but I have a special fondness for Walz, in part because of what helped convince him to get into the race in the first place.

In 2004, Bush visited Walz's hometown of Mankato, and Walz, a command sergeant and 24-year veteran of the Army National Guard, decided to take a couple of his high school students to see their president. They had tickets and valid identification, and went through the metal detectors like everyone else. Walz and his students, however, were ordered to leave — because one of the boys had a John Kerry sticker on his wallet.
Indignant, Walz refused. "As a soldier, I told them I had a right to see my commander-in-chief," the normally jovial forty-one-year-old recently explained to a Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party dinner in the small town of Albert Lea, Minnesota.

His challenge prompted a KGB-style interrogation that was sadly characteristic of Bush campaign events. Do you support the president? Walz refused to answer. Do you oppose the president? Walz replied that it was no one's business but his own. (He later learned that his wife was informed that the Secret Service might arrest him.) Walz thought for a moment and asked the Bush staffers if they really wanted to arrest a command sergeant major who'd just returned from fighting the war on terrorism.

They did not.

Instead Walz was told to behave himself and permitted to attend the speech, albeit under heavy scrutiny. His students were not: they were sent home. Shortly after this Walz retired from the Guard. Then he did something that until recently was highly unusual for a military man. He announced he was running for Congress — as a Democrat.
Who says Bush can't inspire Americans?
President Bubble Boy's hermetically sealed Cone of Ignorance has caused our soldiers enough headaches and bodily harm these past few years, so it's only fitting that it's coming back to bite him in the ass here.

Steady leadership in times of change

Flip. Flop.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Caption Contest

Now that Watertiger is back from her vacation, the rest of us can continue stealing photos from her.

So, time for another caption contest. Have at him.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Balls as Big as Church Bells

The bribery and corruption scandal involving Republican Representative Duke Cunningham is moving to the sentencing stage. As Josh Marshall reports, the prosecution is looking to throw the book at Cunningham, aiming for the maximum sentence of ten years in prison.

From the details of the case, it seems the prosecution should get its wish. I'd realized that Cunningham was thoroughly corrupt, but I didn't realize just how brazen he'd been about it. Check out this tidbit from the AP report:
The prosecution's sentencing memorandum included a copy of a “bribe menu” written under the Congressional seal on Cunningham's office stationary. One column of figures represented the millions of dollars in contracts that could be “ordered” from Cunningham, according to prosecutors. The right column showed the amount of bribes Cunningham demanded in return.
Yes, you read that correctly. A "bribe menu" on official congressional stationary. I'll give you a second to pick your jaw up off the floor.

TPM has plenty of other particulars in Cunningham's string of "unparalleled corruption." Read 'em and weep.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Breaking Newspeak

Surreal. Absolutely surreal.

Thanks to TPM for this delightful reminder that we're officially living in a George Orwell novel.

Port Authority

I'm glad to see the Bush Administration is finally taking port security seriously:
The Bush administration dismissed the security concerns of local officials yesterday and restated its approval of a deal that will give a company based in Dubai a major role in operating ports in and around New York City.

... Several lawmakers, including Representative Peter T. King of Long Island, who is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, and Senator Charles E. Schumer, have criticized the administration for its approval of the deal, saying it was done too quickly and without enough scrutiny of the ramifications for security at American ports.

"In the post-9/11 world, there should have been a presumption against this company," said Mr. King, a Republican. He added that people in the intelligence community had told him they had concerns about how the company operated the port of Dubai, one of the United Arab Emirates.

... The investigation did not include background checks on the senior managers of the company or an evaluation of how the company screens its own employees, Mr. King said. "Certainly, you would think they would talk to the Port Authority," he added.
A foreign-owned company based in the Middle East is going to be in charge of port security in New York City, and they're not even running background checks on the management or employees? Awesome.

Now the Great Taste of Worcestershire Sauce in a Shake!

I'm all for some government intervention when the situation warrants it, but shouldn't the market be able to take care of something like this?
Fort's bill, which was co-signed by several other Democrats and at least one Republican in Georgia's GOP-controlled Senate, bans the sale of any "marijuana or hemp flavored candy" in the state and calls for a penalty of up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine for the second offense.
Next thing you know I won't be able to buy any tobacco flavored candy, either.

Maybe they can do something about the scourge of "Candy Canes" which taste like schnapps.

Friday Random Ten

Nothing quite embodies the wild world of Dixieland jazz like a group of geriatric, white Shriners at a funeral.

Look at them. The liveliest one of the bunch is the dude in the coffin. The rest exude the kind of excitement and joy you'd only see in a urologist's waiting room. (Please insert your own "eight balls" joke here.)

I'd always thought jazz was all about free flowing music and improvisation, but these guys look about as spontaneous as the Nixon Library. Mr. Magoo on the left can't even find the photographer, so how's he supposed to find the rhythm? Welcome to Squaresville, baby. Population: You.

Anyway, the appearance of the mighty mighty Eight Balls can only mean that once again it's time for the Friday Random Ten. You know the drill, so let's do this thing.

Here's mine:

1. Hank Williams, "No No Joe" -- A great little bit of Cold War country, this is Williams' ode to Joseph Stalin. "The Kaiser tried it and Hitler tried it / Mussolini tried it, too / Now they're all sittin' around a fire and did you know something? / They're saving a place for you." Man, I bet Stalin cried like a Trotskyite when he heard that part. 7/10

2. The Flaming Lips, "Pilot Can at the Queer of God" -- I have absolutely no idea what this song's about, and I say that having read the lyrics. Whatever. It's still a nice chunky rocker. 8/10

3. Fishbone, "Subliminal Fascism" -- Once upon a time, these guys seemed to be at the forefront of a great fusion of punk rock, funk, and hiphop, with a sharp political edge. Of course, once upon a time, the Commodore 64 seemed to be at the forefront of home computing, too. 3/10

4. Wolf Parade, "Shine a Light" -- I just scored tickets to see these guys in concert and I am, as the kids say, psyched. Apologies to the Queen Mary is an amazing debut album, and they're supposed to be absofuckinglutely phenomenal live. Here's hoping. 8/10

5. Elvis Presley, "It's Now or Never" -- I have a soft spot for the cheesier songs in the King's repertoire, and this one certainly qualifies, what with the mariachi sounds and the "Five Neat Guys" making an appearance on backing vocals. Still, I suppose this isn't even remotely cool. 2/10

6. Curtis Mayfield, "We People Who Are Darker Than Blue" -- I pretty much love everything Curtis Mayfield ever recorded, but this is a bit of a sprawling Black Power anthem, moving through soul lyrics to congo drums to funk groove to a harp interlude (?) and back again. Not great, but I refuse to give Mayfield anything less than a 5/10.

7. De La Soul, "I. C. Y'All" -- A pretty solid collaboration with Busta Rhymes from Art Official Intelligence. This song has more bottom end than Louie Anderson. Oh, that's right. I went there. 8/10

8. Parliament, "Flash Light" -- The gold standard of funk. I made this my cellphone's ring tone last summer, and ever since, I haven't been able to hear the original without wanting to check the caller I.D. 7/10

9. João Gilberto, "Falsa Baiana" -- A nice bit of classic bossa nova from one of the masters. I may not understand a single word, but my body is still always possessed by the power of Latin rhythms. 6/10

10. Stereolab, "The Seeming and the Meaning" -- One of the most inventive and unique bands around, here with one of my favorites, a tune from the Peng! album. Scorching and sweet at the same time, this is Stereolab at its finest. 10/10

Alright, that gives me an underwhelming 6.4 on the coolness scale. It seems that I, as part of the MTV Generation, really can feel neither highs nor lows. What's that feel like? Eh.

Let's see what you've got. Break out your iPod (or steal a friend's), give us the first ten songs that pop up, and, if you damn well feel like it, throw in a Coolness Self-Audit as well.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Is This The End of Zombie Cheney?

This morning, New York Times columnist Bob Herbert issued a call for Dick Cheney to resign.

While I'd love to see Cheney hounded from office and forced to reprise his film career as the Penguin, I'm not sure this would be a great development for the Democrats. The Republican-led Congress has shown a considerable amount of leeway in letting Bush pick his own appointments to the Cabinet and the Supreme Court, and you've got to think they'd let him appoint whoever he wanted here -- Barney, Harriet Miers, the Rock ....

As Tristero notes over at Digby's place, Bush could use the VP vacancy to anoint an heir apparent. Perhaps an administration insider like Condi Rice, or perhaps a Dubya clone like George Allen. (That possibility seems even more likely when you realize that Allen's re-election to the Senate is now in jeopardy, with James Webb in the race and Allen's support below 50%.) The new VP would become a frontrunner, and help avoid a prolonged primary fight on the Republican side. The Democrats would be in disarray, meanwhile, and unable to stand against the momentum.

Actually, I think such a scenario would cause more headaches for the Republicans than the Democrats. For one thing, picking a contender for the vacant VP spot would make the GOP consensus in Congress disappear, as rival camps in the Republican Party jockeyed for position. If the contender were installed, this pressure would only get worse. All the other Republican candidates would need to run against the administration, and that would likely lead the new VP to do likewise.

This is all speculation, of course. They'll only get the vice presidency away from Cheney when they pry it from his cold, dead hands.

But let's speculate anyway. Should Cheney resign? What would the impact be? Who would replace him? And who would the new VP shoot?


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

So, Honey, How was Work?

I gave at the office.
Spotsylvania County Sheriff Howard Smith said he stands by the practice of allowing detectives to receive sexual services in the course of their investigations so they can catch suspects in the act.

Court documents show that four times last month, county detectives allowed women at a massage parlor to perform sex acts on them. In one case, a lawman left a $350 tip. Smith acknowledged the practice is not new.

Why Don't I Drink out of the Toilet Bowl, Then?

If the current administration's war on science continues apace, we will have to rely on schoolchildren to tell us what is and isn't safe.

Next time you order the jumboburger of your choice, think about washing it down with a tasty beverage from the nearest bathroom.
Jasmine said: "I found that 70% of the time, the ice from the fast food restaurant's contain more bacteria than the fast food restaurant's toilet water."

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Ten Ways to Meet Your Maker

You've been warned, America.

Thanks to the comments over at Balloon Juice for the image.


Now that we're in the brave new world where a majority of Americans think the president is dishonest and incompetent, I'm left wondering how things might have turned out differently if Americans had realized these things a couple years ago.

To be sure, there are some major events like the invasion of Iraq (a.k.a. Operation Awesome Kickass™) that probably never would've gained traction if people hadn't assumed their leaders were telling it to them straight. And the tax cuts might have gone differently, but I think the American people's willingness to be bribed -- "I get a check for $300! That's all I needs to hear!" -- would've pushed that through no matter how obvious it was that Bush was selling snake-oil.

But I'm thinking more and more about an event that's completely disappeared down the memory hole -- the 2003 blackout.

Anyone else remember that? The largest blackout in North American history? It affected a quarter of the country, sending over 50 million Americans and some 10 million Canadians into darkness, and cost businesses about $6 billion dollars in losses. Remember now?

Obviously, a key factor in our nation's collective blackout about the blackout was the timing of it all. Because it happened almost exactly at the peak of public support for the war in Iraq, the media was wrapped up in its embedded love affair with the administration. When reporters gazed lovingly in the administration's sweet, sultry eyes, they could see no wrong.

To be sure, there were plenty of question marks that the media just let go. Republicans initially blamed Canada, but it turned out to be a problem in Ohio. And when the structural problems behind the blackout first became known, there was little outrage at the federal regulators responsible for keeping an eye on things. We should've seen an investigation into FERC along the lines of what we're seeing with FEMA these days, but the agency got a free pass.

And in a larger sense, when you have an administration that's in bed with energy companies, especially the one that actually caused rolling blackouts in California, doesn't it make sense to probe a little? Maybe see if the complete collapse of a quarter of this nation's electrical grid was in any way the result of this administration letting its energy buddies police themselves?

None of these issues were really asked in a serious and persistent way. Once the power was restored, the media and the public pretty much let the matter drop. I can't imagine that the outcome would've been the same if the blackout had come later, especially if it had come in the wake of Katrina. The media would've pressed to know why it happened, why they shifted the blame, and, most important, what this revealed about the Bush-Cheney connections to the Enron crowd. They would've, you know, done their job.

The Cult of Personality

We're a little late to the game with this one, but Glenn Greenwald has an absolutely brilliant post up about Bush backers, true conservatives, and the wide chasm between them.

As Glenn notes, the dead-enders who are still sticking by Bush as his poll numbers hover around freezing are not true conservatives, but rather part of an authoritarian cult that's betraying some of the principles of conservatism. Go check out the irrational Bush hatred love for yourself.

Go now. We'll wait.

Update: Apparently, Glenn Greenwald doesn't sleep and instead devotes his full attention to kicking ass. While you're over at his site, be sure to read his smackdown of Glenn Reynolds. Daaaaaamn.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot and injured a man during a weekend quail hunting trip in Texas, his spokeswoman said Sunday.

Harry Whittington, 78, was "alert and doing fine" after Cheney sprayed him with shotgun pellets on Saturday while the two were hunting at the Armstrong Ranch in south Texas, said property owner Katharine Armstrong.
It's not often that you get a metaphor gift like this. Enjoy.

Update: Courtesy of Pandagon, I'm happy to present this inside scoop about the true identity of the man Cheney shot: Scooter Libby.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Little Brother

Remember the story about George Deutsch, the 24-year-old Texas A&M dropout who was overriding veteran NASA scientists and making them alter their findings and reports to fit the administration's politics?

Well, it turns out he wasn't alone.
James E. Hansen, the NASA climate scientist who sparked an uproar last month by accusing the Bush administration of keeping scientific information from reaching the public, said Friday that officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are also muzzling researchers who study global warming.

Hansen, speaking in a panel discussion about science and the environment before a packed audience at the New School university, said that while he hopes his own agency will soon adopt a more open policy, NOAA insists on having "a minder" monitor its scientists when they discuss their findings with journalists.
To quote the late great Jim Nabors, "Surprise, surprise."

Tim from Balloon Juice has been all over this stupidity, so I'll let him have the final word:
For your own entertainment, draw two boxes on a white piece of paper. In the left-hand box write down all the countries from the last 100 years which insisted that academics and other citizens only speak to the press when attended by ‘minders.’ The US goes in that box. In the right-hand box write down all of the countries that let academics speak freely, including unrestricted access to international meetings. Use Google if you must.

Done? Now tell me whether you’re comfortable with the kind of company that we keep. Thus endeth the exercise.
(Hat tip to the Propaganda Remix Project for the image.)

Friday, February 10, 2006

The Shroud of Turin

Tonight marks the start of the Winter Olympics in Torino. Personally, I'm having a hard time staying focused. Every time a news anchor mentions the word "Torino," I keep thinking of David Starsky's smooth ride or else the landmark "Torino with no wheels" from National Lampoon's Vacation.

I've never really cared about the Winter Olympics. Sure, we all tune in hoping to see a ski jumper go horribly awry and wind up as the new "agony of defeat" guy or, at the very least, a collection of wacky fish-out-of-water Jamaican bobsledders.

However, as we all know, that never happens. Instead of excitement, we get to watch grown men dressed in skin-tight lycra -- cue Ned Flanders -- bound together on a cafeteria tray, hurtling down an icy chute. Or we get the biathlon, where athletes manage to turn skiing and shooting guns -- a combination that worked incredibly well in several Bond films -- into a tedious chore.

And when the action isn't disappointing the viewers, they're being subjected to endless, weepy "Lifetime for Women" vignettes about the athletes. Sheesh. Cry me a river, then let it freeze and go curling on it. Sweep! Sweep like you've never swept before!

The opening ceremonies -- which take place tonight! -- may be the only thing more boring than the actual sporting events. The media kids have been hyping this all week long, but it's a pretty hard sell. "Will the Latvian luge squad be wearing new parkas this year? And what about the bitter fashion rivalry between the Norwegian and Finnish ice dancing teams? There's a fashion stormfront moving in, Katie, and I forecast a 100% chance of fun!" It's like the pre-game show at the Golden Globes, except instead of Scarlett Johansson and friends, we get to see twelve-year-old skaters and arthritic hockey players bundled up in their finest winter layers. It's like hanging out in the parking lot outside a practice rink.

Luckily, for those of you who aren't middle-aged housewives, there's a nice alternative on TV tonight. In an attempt to end the painful breakup as quickly as possible, the idiots at Fox are dumping the final four episodes of "Arrested Development" on the air tonight at 8pm Eastern. They've been getting better and better ever since they realized they had nothing to lose, and tonight's shows should ramp it up even more.

Executive Privilege

I thought I'd better post this now, while the right wing is temporarily supporting edgy editorial cartoons. Who knows how long that window will be open?

Stolen shamelessly from Freedom Camp, where it was stolen shamelessly from somewhere else. Dirty, thieving liberals. They have no shame.

Friday Random Ten

This week's featured album was apparently the result of some Dadaist art collective, pulling random words out of a hat ("... circus ... polka ... clown ... duck ...") to produce the cover art, and then doing the same with the song titles. How else can you explain titles like "Slap Happy Polka" and "Meet the Missus Polka"?

On second thought, the lead-off songs on side two might give a clue to their creative process: "Green Grass Polka" followed by "Dark Cloud Polka." I think we're going to need a urine sample from Chuckles the Clown. Upon closer inspection, that might not be make-up after all.


The disturbing appearance of the clown from Stephen King's It and the Aflac duck can only mean that it's time for another exciting installment of the Friday Random Ten. You know what to do -- set the iPod to random, and give us the first ten songs that surface. And, if you're feeling competitive, toss in a Coolness Self-Audit, too.

Here's mine:

1. Johnny Cash, "The Ballad of Ira Hayes" -- A Columbia era song-story about one of the four soldiers who raised the American flag on Iwo Jima. The story of what happened to those soldiers after their moment in the sun is a tragic one (soon to be a major motion picture, by the way) but the story of Hayes, a Pima Indian, is perhaps the saddest. Cash's song reveals a lot about his liberal sympathies, but it's not much of a tune. 3/10

2. Blondie, "Hanging on the Telephone" -- Classic. What more can I say? 8/10

3. Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, "Blues Explosion Attack" -- This is a collaboration with Calvin Johnson and, once again, I'm let down. This is pretty much Spencer shouting street-corner insanity over a snare drum. Pfft. 2/10

4. Radiohead, "Rhinestone Cowboy (live)" -- A nice gem of a cover from the B-Sides collection. It's hard to do a lot when your inspiration is schlock, but you've got to admire Thom Yorke for going after Glen Campbell and doing it with a straight face. 6/10

5. Shirley Horn, "Return to Paradise (Mark DeClive-Lowe Remix)" -- This is a fairly innocuous remixing of Horn's original jazz tune, the kind of thing you'd find on a Buddha Bar CD compilation. Nice, but not spectacular. 6/10

6. Southern Culture on the Skids, "Mexy-Melt" -- These folks don't normally do the whole surf guitar thing, but you'd never know from this tune. Guitarist Rick Miller is absofuckinglutely on fire here with some angry, unrelenting riffs. 9/10

7. Rocket from the Crypt, "UFO>UFO>UFO" -- Speaking of angry and unrelenting, here's some in-your-grill post-punk from San Diego. I liked "Sturdy Wrists," but this is the kind of screaming cacophony that my father would've referred to as "narcotic music." Bleh. 1/10

8. Ray Charles, "I Got a Woman" -- How's that for an awkward transition? Straightforward Atlantic-era Charles, this is a good song that I can't hear anymore without thinking of Kanye West's "Gold Digger," and, moreover, the "George Bush Doesn't Care about Black People" remix by Legendary K.O. 6/10

9. Sonic Youth, "Ca Plane Pour Moi" -- An interesting cover of the early '80s pseudohit by Belgium's own Plastic Bertrand. The French lyrics seem fun, until you translate them and realize he's singing lines like "Wham! Bam! my cat Splash lies on my bed with his tongue puffed out by drinking all my whisky." Very deep, Felicity. Thanks for sharing. 7/10

10. Jurassic 5, "Break" -- I was in Austin last spring for a wedding the same time that J5 was in town to play a show at Stubbs. Tragically, the show was the same night as the rehearsal dinner, so we couldn't go. Even worse, a friend managed to chat up Charlie Tuna in our hotel lobby just five minutes before I walked in. Stupid timing. Great song. 9/10

That gives me a pathetic 5.7 average. Since I've burned all of our permanent records, I can't say for sure that that's the lowest score I've ever gotten, but it would have to be close.

I know you folks can do better than that. Give us your own Random Ten, with or without your own Coolness Self-Audit, and with or without your own condolences on my incredible uncoolness.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Thwarting an All-Star Team of European Terrorists

U.S. President George W. Bush disclosed new details on Thursday of a thwarted al Qaeda plot to use shoe bombs to hijack a plane and fly it into a Los Angeles building, as he sought to justify his tactics in fighting terrorism.
Hmmm. Hijacking a plane with shoe bombs? And using it to destroy a building in L.A.?

Sounds like Bush has been jumbling together his memories of Richard Reid and the 9/11 attacks with some late-night viewings of Die Hard on the Superstation. I guess we'll have the proof when he signs off a speech with "Yippee-ki-yay, motherfuckers!"

Just Following Orders

Well, this is an interesting development in the Plame investigation:
Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, testified to a federal grand jury that he had been "authorized" by Cheney and other White House "superiors" in the summer of 2003 to disclose classified information to journalists to defend the Bush administration's use of prewar intelligence in making the case to go to war with Iraq, according to attorneys familiar with the matter, and to court records.

... Libby also indicated what he will offer as a broad defense during his upcoming criminal trial: that Vice President Cheney and other senior Bush administration officials had earlier encouraged and authorized him to share classified information with journalists to build public support for going to war. Later, after the war began in 2003, Cheney authorized Libby to release additional classified information, including details of the NIE, to defend the administration's use of prewar intelligence in making the case for war.
I'm sure in the minds of White House officials, this statement that Libby had secured approval from his masters in the executive branch -- which, as they like to remind us, is the most equal of the three branches of government -- means that he has a bulletproof defense. As long as his Dark Lord Cheney stamped the wax with his royal signet, what more authority could he need?

Now, I'm not a lawyer and, worse, I don't even play one on TV. But I have a hunch that the Vice President of the United States does not have the authority to declassify National Intelligence Estimates on his own, or leak government secrets to selected reporters, just because he thinks it might help out with the public relations campaign. If Libby is going to insist that Cheney told him to break the law, that seems to be less an exoneration of Libby and more an implication of Cheney.

Kos has called this the Oliver North Defense. Me, I'm reminded of the argument made in defense of another patriot.

Caption Contest

Time for another caption contest.

As we all know, the Hanky Clutching Brigade has succeeded in making Coretta Scott King's funeral this week's outrage. I haven't seen this many panties in a wad since I last visited a Victoria's Secret. (Which, as we discussed, is strictly a comfort thing.)

Anyway, since they want to talk about this moment, let's get creative. Have at 'em.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Former Navy Boss Webb to VA Beach Bum Allen: Surf's Up

I could swear he declined to run just last week, but James Webb has decided to run against VA Sen. George "That's not a noose hanging in my office, that's a freedom loop" Allen as a democrat.
Webb, who was secretary of the Navy under Republican President Ronald Reagan, resigned in protest of cutbacks in the Navy fleet. He has been a strong critic of the war in Iraq, saying that the Bush administration has never developed an exit strategy. Webb is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and served in the Marines in the Vietnam War.
There's already some business guy in the dem side of the race, but methinks Webb will be the man. The fact that Webb is a decorated military man means he will come in for some severe swiftboating, but I feel a lot better about our chances in November with him in the running.

(Thanks to the always informative Carpetbagger Report for highlighting the story)

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

In Memoriam

As Digby reports, the conservative complaints about the "politicization" of Coretta Scott King's funeral have already begun.

Kate O'Beirne, a shrill harpy whose publishing record suggests she has no business lecturing anyone about civility, made an appearance on "Hardball" today to clutch her hanky and lecture the King family about how they should celebrate their mother's life. I'm sure the Kings would love to get advice from a National Review contributor like Kate O'Beirne. After all, back when Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King were risking their lives to advance the cause of civil rights in the South, it was the National Review that had the courage to come out and ask:
whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically? The sobering answer is Yes--the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race.
Clearly, the National Review has been on the Kings' side for fifty years, and the family should heed their words now.

Anyway, as we all learned during the Paul Wellstone funeral, conservatives love to lecture liberals on how our heroes (and their opponents) should be remembered. Personally, I think it makes sense when honoring someone who sacrificed all their life for a political cause to mention that cause. (And I seem to remember maybe one or two references to the nuts and bolts of the Reagan Revolution during the weeklong national mourning of Ronald Reagan.)

Given the GOP playbook, I'm sure we're going to hear more along these lines in the coming days. Apparently, this comment is going to get a lot of play:
The Rev. Joseph Lowery, who co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Martin Luther King Jr., drew a roaring standing ovation when he said: “For war, billions more, but no more for the poor” — a takeoff on a line from a Stevie Wonder song. The comment drew head shakes from Bush and his father as they sat behind the pulpit.
All Americans who don't get their history from Bill O'Reilly will remember that Martin Luther King Jr. offered virtually the same criticism of the Vietnam War, noting that the cost of America's overseas adventure was undercutting the Great Society programs meant to help the poor.

While MLK didn't take this stance until 1967, his wife had already taken a public stance against the war in 1965 and had been pushing him to do likewise for years. After his death, she became even more outspoken in her opposition to the war. (The photo here, incidentally, comes from a speech she gave at an antiwar rally in 1970.)

Given her passionate involvement in the antiwar politics of the Vietnam era, it's not surprising that Coretta Scott King continued her activism in our own time. Although you won't hear it mentioned much in the news, she spoke out early and often against the war in Iraq:
On the eve of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Mrs. King celebrated the anniversary of birth of her late husband, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., by recalling that the slain civil rights leader had been outspoken in his opposition to unnecessary and unwise wars.

"We commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. as a great champion of peace who warned us that war was a poor chisel for carving out a peaceful tomorrow. We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means. Martin said, 'True peace is not just the absence of tension, it is the presence of justice,'" Mrs. King told a crowd that had gathered at Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church. She continued, "May his challenge and his example guide and inspire us to seek peaceful alternatives to a war with Iraq and military conflict in the Middle East."
Coretta Scott King devoted her life to taking strong, principled stands against what she regarded as unncessary and costly wars -- first Vietnam and, later, Iraq. Through her own speeches and the work of the King Center, she's been a leading figure in the peace movement for the past forty years. And importantly, she framed her continued involvement in antiwar activism as a way to honor and remember her husband's legacy. Why shouldn't her family and friends be allowed to do the same for her memory?

President Bush invoked the name of Coretta Scott King at the start of his highly political State of the Union address, calling her "a beloved, graceful, courageous woman who called America to its founding ideals and carried on a noble dream." At her memorial service, however, he seemed put off that anyone would dare provide details of her courageous activism, or remind us what ideals she and her husband considered worth fighting and dying for.

If we as a nation are going to memorialize Coretta Scott King, let's be sure to get the memory right.

Update: If you want more evidence of how the eulogies to CSK were exactly the kind of thing the Kings would have done, check out this excellent compilation of politically charged comments made by MLK at several funerals of civil rights activists and similar comments made by eulogists at his own funeral.

Plame Game

This is all over the internets, but be sure to check out John Dickerson's Slate article for the latest word in the Plame Game. Good stuff.

Rex Banner

Meet the new mascot for the Department of Homeland Security.

While many people assumed that the striking resemblance of DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff to the Muppets' Sam the Eagle would make the bald eagle an obvious choice for the DHS mascot, the good people there decided instead to go with a different animal. So say hello to Rex the Mountain Lion.

Rex, as you'll notice, is a perfect symbol for this administration's approach to homeland security. He's dressed in military garb and posturing like a tough guy, and his name evokes the royal aspirations of this crowd. But beneath all the posturing, you can see he's just a big pussy.

(Hat tip to Dependable Renegade.)

The Moron Twins*

Although I love slapstick comedy, I sadly wasn't able to watch the "Yes, We Have No Dictators" song and dance routine from Attorney General Alberto Gonzales this afternoon.

But I've had the pleasure of looking over some of his statements, and it's clear just how much he has in common with our president omniscient and wise leader, King George the Awesomest.

At times, Gonzales echoed the president's tried-and-true method of talking to his critics as though they're severely retarded six-year-olds:
"Our enemy is listening," he said. "I cannot help but wonder if they aren't shaking their heads in amazement at the thought that anyone would imperil such a sensitive program by leaking its existence in the first place."
That's right, Timmy. Old Osama didn't even dream that we were using this new-fangled "eavesdropping" technology -- until some sad sack Democrats and Al Qaeda lovers let the secret slip. Let's hope they don't spill the beans about our new "aeroplane" either.

But at other times, Gonzales shifted gear, and spoke to the senators as though they were only mildly-retarded eight-year-olds:
President Washington, President Lincoln, President Wilson, President Roosevelt have all authorized electronic surveillance on a far broader scale.
If the first statement didn't make it obvious, this one sure did -- President Bush wrote this speech himself. The logic is bad enough, but the grasp of American history is even worse.

First of all, I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that perhaps Presidents Washington and Lincoln didn't do electronic anything while they were in office. Second, in his fuller statement, Gonzales smirkingly invoked General Washington's interception of British communications. Hmmm. Didn't that come during the Revolution and before the Constitution? (The Constitution? You know, the guiding legal document of this country? The one you're in charge of?) And third, if you think anything electronic was done on a wider scale in the Victrola era of Woodrow Wilson or the radio days of FDR than it can be now with all of our internets and such, you're insane.

This is the best they've got? Take One: "The terrorists are so relentless and diabolical that we have to destroy our Constitution to stop them, but at the same time, they're so stupid and lazy that they didn't think we'd be eavesdropping." Take Two: "We didn't break the law because other presidents broke it first, even though it hadn't been passed yet."

Right. Again, I sleep the sleep of angels knowing these functional illiterates are in charge.

(* They're not really twins.)

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Caption Contest

Time for another caption contest.

Our photo is, as always, shamelessly stolen from Dependable Renegade. She's looking to get a million hits before her first blogiversary, so go take a look.

But do that later. First, try to give this photo of Action Rumsfeld a caption. Remember: You go to sarcasm with the photos you have, not the photos you'd like to have.

It's a Real Base Irony, But It's Still a Hoot

So someone makes a crude stereotype that Muslims are intolerant and violent. How would one react to this? With intolerance and violence, of course.

Yes, I know that it's verboten to draw images of Mohammad and all, but I find it hard to work up much sympathy for the whole "death to anyone who insults my religion" attitude.

What's next? Riots when someone implies the Bible isn't the literal word of God? Smashed windows if one questions the divinity of the Dailai Lama? Widespread looting if someone says the Pope wears a funny hat?

I don't want to dismiss anyone's religious beliefs. I know the issue is complicated and all.

I guess I should not be surprised, however, by the Bush administration's position. When forced to choose between freedoms protected by our Bill of Rights and a bunch of religious extremists, one guess who they side with:
Inserting itself into a dispute that has become a lightning rod for anti-European sentiment across the Muslim world, the United States sided with Muslims outraged that the publications put press freedom over respect for religion.

"These cartoons are indeed offensive to the belief of Muslims," State Department spokesman Kurtis Cooper said in answer to a question.

"We all fully recognize and respect freedom of the press and expression but it must be coupled with press responsibility. Inciting religious or ethnic hatreds in this manner is not acceptable."

I don't think it too far of a leap for them to apply the same logic to a cartoon depicting Jesus decrying the injustice of tax cuts for the wealthy or for starting an unprovoked war.

The world sure has changed since Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses unleashed the fatwas. The death sentence for an author writing a book was fodder for late night TV jokes. Now such anti-humanist attitudes are endorsed by the U.S. government.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Stupor Bowl

As TBogg and Alicublog have both pointed out, the twits over at the National Review Online's aptly-named Corner have overwhelmingly picked the Pittsburgh Steelers to win this weekend's Super Bowl.

Not surprisingly, they've sided with the Steelers not because of any opinions they might have about the team's offense, defense, coaching, etc., but because of the fossilized worldview from the culture wars:
William J. Bennett: Super Bowl? Who am I for?! Seattle is the home of Starbucks, and 38 kinds of designer coffee. Pittsburgh's best sandwich shop serves a huge sub with French fries and gravy inside the sandwich. Who do you think I'm for?

Denis Boyles: I'll sit in Kansas, eating BBQ and wishing for a Penn Pilsner, but happy and certain that the Steelers will completely overwhelm the Starbucks or whatever that team from the capital of soggy self-righteousness is called.

E. D. Hill: After watching my Tom-Brady-idolizing boys start wearing Big Ben jerseys under their shirts to school, I have to go with the Steelers to win 28-21. Scientific, huh?
Now, compare the reasons conservatives use to the ones used at the liberal TAPPED:
Matt Yglesias: With a hurt ankle, Troy Polamalu isn't going to be his usual beastly self on the defensive end. Fullback Dan Kreider plays an underestimated role in the Steeler offense and he, too, will be playing hurt if at all. Last but by no means least, the fact that Pittsburgh is favored at this point largely reflects the statistical naiveté of MSM sports commentary. Yes, Ben Roethlisberger has been awesome so far this postseason. But that's actually the problem. The Steelers' success has relied on Big Ben playing way over his head. If he had turned in an average-for-him performance in any of their three playoff games, they would have lost. And even the best players have below-average games fifty percent of the time. We'll probably see some regression toward the mean, and with it a Seahawks victory.

DJ Francis: The “Stillers,” as they are pronounced, will indeed triumph on Sunday. Led by Big Ben, they will take a commanding lead right from the start, not letting that other team catch their breath. Polamalu will smother the offense like fries on a Primanti Brother’s sandwich. Randle El will wear down the defense and the Bus will simply run over them. And there’s no better figurehead than Coach Cowher. A true bad ass with a chin that could crush small children, he is sure to be covered in Gatorade before that last whistle blows.
Hmmm. Let's compare and contrast.

The conservatives base their argument on tired Red State vs. Blue State cliches from the culture wars. (Tired and inaccurate cliches, I should say, since the heartland heroes that the NRO folks are assuming are part of their world are actually hard-core Democrats. Allegheny County voted 57% for Kerry and Gore in the last two elections.) The liberals, on the other hand, base their argument on an understanding of the game, the teams and the individual players; the histories of each team; and their current state of health.

Hmmm. Conservatives trusting their ill-informed gut. Liberals relying on facts and information. Sounds about right.

As a lifelong Chiefs fan, I don't have a dog in this fight. And on the merits, I'm torn. I think the Seahawks passing game is woefully underrated, and both Holmgren and Hasselbeck know that this is a make-or-break year for the 'Hawks. With Shaun Alexander's contract up for renewal this year, they're either going to lose him or lose some of the supporting talent. The Steelers, meanwhile, are a bit overhyped on offense (Big Ben and Bigger Bettis, especially), though they have amazing talent on defense. This is going to be a close one, but I think the Seahawks will win.


As we all know, the media has a chronic inability to call Bush out when he makes a bold-faced lie. They always seem to dance around it. This statement is "technically incorrect," that one is "somewhat misleading," and, of course, "some Democrats disagree" with the president's claims that clouds are made of cotton candy and the oceans are filled with nothing more than cold, crisp Budweiser beer.

But his April 2004 statement that all wiretaps on terrorists were done with warrants, well, that's a flat-out lie. Even by the president's current pathetic defense of the illegal wiretapping program, that's a flat-out lie. So what are the odds the media will describe it as a flat-out lie?

Crooks and Liars has the video. If the Democrats had any sense, they'd talk about this lie nonstop and get this clip running every thirty minutes on the cable news outlets.

Update: I see from C&L that Dan Froomkin is making the same point. Good for him.

Update 2.0: And now I see from Atrios that Eric Alterman is on this too, with an excellent column for the Nation. Must be something in the water.

Update the Third: Sorry to keep adding onto this, but the links keep on coming. I just found an even better video clip at PageOneQ. It has more of the C&L piece, including a prelude where Bush shrugs and says he doesn't understand the law and the audience actually applauds him for his ignorance. Unreal. It also has a press conference where Bush insists he has all the power in the world but, no, he's not a dictator (and shuts up a reporter to say so). Finally, it has a terrific response to it all by Russ Feingold. Worth another look, trust me.

CIA Director Goss: the Turdiest Turd Who Ever Turded

CIA Director Porter Goss, February 2006, regarding leaking of classified CIA information:
"The damage has been very severe to our capabilities to carry out our mission," CIA Director Porter Goss told the Senate Intelligence Committee, citing disclosures about a variety of CIA programs that he suggested may have been compromised.

Goss said a federal grand jury should be empaneled to determine "who is leaking this information."

House Intelligence Committee Chair Porter Goss, October 2003, regarding leaking of classified CIA information (specifically, the outing of Valerie Plame):

"Somebody sends me a blue dress and some DNA, I'll have an investigation."


Friday Random Ten

Yes, folks, it's true. God isn't dead, and the lovely Getrude Behanna is here with the proof.

While I haven't listened to the album myself, I'm assuming from the unusual cover art that she's arguing that the antidote to atheism is alcoholism. True, many people end a night of drinking by crying out "Oh God!" when they're embracing a drunken conquest or, alternately, the toilet. But I think she means that the path to salvation comes at the bottom of a bottle. Or ten. As we all know, President Bush only found Jesus after his long sojourn in the shadow of the valley of Schlitz.

Anyway, the ascension of Gert Behanna can only mean that it's Friday, and the workweek is almost done. In no time at all, you'll move from working for the weekend to just plain working the weekend.

With that in mind, it's time for the Friday Random Ten, our little recognition that the light at the end of the tunnel is a cigarette dangling from Keith Richards' leathery lips.

Unless you've been in a coma, you know the rules by now. Take out your iPod -- or your iPod-like knockoff from one of those competing brands like Sorny, Panaphonics, or Magnetbox -- put it on random, and give us the first ten songs. And if you're feeling frisky, throw in a Coolness Self-Audit as well.

Here's mine:

1. Talib Kweli and Hitek, "Move Something" -- When Black Star broke up and Mos Def and Talib Kweli went there separate ways, I thought it was clear that Mos Def would emerge as the Darryl Hall to Kweli's John Oates, the George Michael to his Andrew Ridgley, the Paul Simon to his Art Garfunkel. I've heard nothing since the breakup to convince me otherwise, and this certainly isn't it. 4/10

2. Bravo Silva, "400 Days" -- I have absolutely no idea where I got this. It's fairly bland "alternative" music, the kind that would've made an appearance as the bad band of the week at 90210's Peach Pit. Eh. 3/10

3. Zero 7, "Salt Water Sound" -- The nicely atmospheric electronica of Zero 7 is the musical equivalent of really nice wallpaper. You don't really notice it, but it adds a little color and texture to the background while you're focused on other things. 6/10

4. The Roots, "Respond-React" -- An excellent track from Illadelph Halflife. With odd bits like the out-of-key piano at the start and the sparse instrumentation of the main song, this one was an early sign of the inventive approach the Roots would bring to later albums. And it's still damn good. 9/10

5. Wolf Parade, "Lousy Pictures" -- According to the information I've been able to piece together from old oatmeal packets, this band was formed to open for Arcade Fire in 2003 and then toured with them for a while. Apparently, the newborn band must've imprinted on its surrogate mother, because Wolf Parade still sounds a lot like Arcade Fire. And that, of course, isn't a bad thing. 8/10

6. Sonny Boy Williamson, "Ninety Nine" -- Every time I hear Williamson I'm reminded of this story: When I worked as a DJ in college, a friend of mine and I once co-hosted a three hour show on postwar Chicago blues. At one point, he couldn't find his Sonny Boy Williamson discs in the chaos of the studio and, like a three year old, went on air to announce that we would defiantly sit in silence until they were returned to him. Another DJ came running in with them within seconds, but the Sonny Boy tantrum had been displayed. (I never said it would be a good story. But it's still the first thing I think of when I hear SBW.) 6/10

7. Tami Lynn, "Mojo Hanna" -- Good Lord, this is a scorching soul song. If this does not, in fact, make you shake your groove thing, then I'm afraid you're clinically dead. Sweeeeeet. 10/10

8. Marlena Shaw, "Woman of the Ghetto" -- Apparently, Tami Lynn shook my iPod's groove thing, because it's keeping up the relentless rhythm here. This song has been mined to death by hiphop acts -- from the blistering "ging, ginga-ginga-ging-ging" chant at the start of the song all the way through her closing cries of "remember me, I'm the one who had your baby!" And with good reason. Alternately angry and sultry, this is soul at its finest. 10/10

9. Editors, "Munich" -- The Editors, a.k.a. I Can't Believe It's Not Interpol!, are a UK band who sound strikingly like everyone's favorite group from late 2003. If you don't mind generic knockoffs of brand-name products, you'll love this. 7/10

10. Uncle Tupelo, "We've Been Had" -- This is a good enough rocker off Anodyne, but the dueling vocals make it seem like a preview of the imminent Son Volt-Wilco separation. Hmmm. Looks like I've come full circle, back to another band's breakup. 6/10

Alright, that gives me a 6.9 average. Sheesh, if it weren't for Lynn and Shaw, I'd be even lower. I'm imminently beatable this week, so ahead and drop your own random ten in the comments, with or without a Coolness Self-Audit.

In the meantime, I'm going to get started on my own path to salvation. (Let it be noted for the record that the blogger made the "drinky-drinky" motion.)

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss

In an attempt to replace Tom Delay and thereby remove the stench of corruption, D-Con roach killer, and Consort Hair Spray from their ranks, the House Republicans have been engaged in a search for a new Majority Leader.

Hilariously, the first ballot this afternoon had to be scrapped because there were more votes than there were House Republicans at the meeting. I guess it's a little harder to hide the election fraud when you're doing it by paper ballot and Diebold isn't around to help.

But in later ballots, the Republicans picked their man. Roy Blunt, a clone of Tom Delay right down to his helmet hair, had been assuming he'd coast to a victory today, but the ultimate winner was his rival John Boehner.

While Boehner lacks the clammy reptilian creepiness of Delay and Blunt, he does have a last name that should keep Jay Leno's hack writers giggling in glee for a week. More importantly, he doesn't exactly sound like the right man for ridding the Republican House of its taint of corruption:
Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), a likely candidate for a position in the House Republican leadership if former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) does not return, has assembled a loyal and effective network of lobbyists.
Boehner formed his alliances on K Street when he served as chairman of the GOP conference from 1995 to 1998, when his portfolio included working with lobbyists on K Street.

“He was a policy traffic cop for the business community,” one of Boehner’s allies said. “When [former Rep. J.C.] Watts [Okla.] won [the election for conference chairman], DeLay, in the whip position, vacuumed in the policy and business outreach. He added staff and translated business outreach into votes, which is something [Missouri Rep.] Roy [Blunt] is doing now.”

Many GOP sources say Boehner would receive strong support from his so-called K Street Cabinet if he decides to run for another leadership post.
So a man who's completely tied up with the K Street Project is going to lead the charge against the K Street Project? Awesome.

Update: I finally figured out who John Boehner reminds me of -- the actor David Garrison.

While I knew and loved Garrison as the comic foil to a young Justin Bateman on the classic '80s crapcom "It's Your Move," he's probably best known for his role as the emasculated and cuckolded neighbor to the Bundy family on "Married, With Children."

Hmmm. I guess that means he'll be deposed by Ted McGinley any day now.