Friday, December 21, 2007

I'll say!

Here is the first line of the latest AP article on the Jamie Lynn Spears' boyfriend:
He's a 19-year-old pipe layer;...

Indeed.

Heh.

Hehe.



Hehehehe.

if it's holy, then why does bad stuff happen on it?

From Rawstory:
According to CNN, the small contingent of churchgoers believe that Interstate 35, a sprawling highway running from Texas to Minnesota, is specifically mentioned in the Book of Isaiah, chapter 35.

"A highway shall be there, and a road," reads a portion of the chapter's verse eight, "and it shall be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean shall not pass over it..."

But if I-35 is indeed the place, some Christians believe there's a lot of work to be done before the road can fulfill it's saintly destiny, according to CNN's Gary Tuchman, who was on the scene in Texas as believers launched an effort to pray for the road.

"Churchgoers in all six states recently finished 35 days of praying alongside Interstate 35, but the prayers are still continuing," reports Tuchman. "Some of the faithful believe that in order to fulfill the prophecy of I-35 being the 'holy' highway, it needs some intensive prayer first.

Eh...what?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

antiestablishmentarianism

Greenwald contributes a great article on the press' inability to take 3 presidential candidates seriously and the possible link between them. Those 3 candidates, by the way? Ron Paul (duh!), Mike Huckabee, and John Edwards. All pretty hardcore anti-establishment types and, interestingly, Huckabee and Edwards are the only 2 candidates who've made income inequality a centerpiece of their campaign. One of Greenwald's best moments:
...whenever these candidates are discussed, it almost never entails any discussion of the critiques they are making. Is Edwards right that corporations and lobbyists dictate legislation in Washington and that this state of affairs is profoundly anti-democratic and corrupt? Are Paul's criticisms of our bipartisan imperial policies and his warnings of resulting financial unsustainability (and increasing anti-Americanism) accurate? Is Huckabee's claim true that the GOP has obliterated the economic prospects of its own middle- and lower-middle-class followers?

Have you ever heard these topics discussed in our "national conversation?" I pay pretty close attention to politics, and I'd actually forgotten about Huckabee's concern for the poor. For all I criticize him, I do have to admit that he actually does appear to be the most genuinely compassionate Republican we've seen in a long time (except when it comes to immigrants, anyway), and he's definitely the first Republican in ages who isn't so much of a "drown government in the bathtub", anti-tax crusader.

These 2 things are, of course, linked, and highlight the strongest division in the Republican party: the one between the corporatists and the corpus Christi, the prophets and the profiteers.

Apropos to this conversation, you may know that Huckabee's been getting hit by Romney for l'Affair Dumond, but did you know that Huckabee today counterattacked by knocking Romney's refusal to grant clemencies?:

And yes, one must admit that for all the bad coverage Hillary and Obama get (and they do both get pretty shitty coverage) they're treated like royalty compared to Edwards.

civil warrior

I saw this in Valley News (NH)'s endorsement of Obama, and I'm pulling it out because I think it's articulates something I've been thinking about:
Clinton is a formidable candidate -- knowledgeable on the issues, a sharp debater, tenacious. She is more polished and more practiced than Obama. But she is less candid and less likely to create the working majority needed to govern effectively. She describes herself as battle-hardened, the candidate most able to beat back the Republicans. But that's precisely the problem: She is an armored warrior in a country weary of partisan and cultural warfare...

That last point is actually a pretty huge reason why I don't support Hillary: I don't want a candidate who's declared war on the press and war on the GOP. Fighting various individual battles is all well and good and, of course, inevitable, and there is a certain element of struggle endemic in politics, I understand that, but after 8 years of George W. Bush the last thing I want is another PR president, another executive who's molds her strategies not as a problem solver or peacemaker, but as a general and lead propagandist in the red/blue kulturkampf.

After all, can you really tell me you don't see where all this us vs. them, militaristic rhetoric ultimately leads?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

an unusual "Beatles" cover

Ok, this will get your wires crossed.

City of Humanity vs. City of God


I remember growing up in the evangelical community that it was pretty common for people to assert that they are "a Christian first and an American second." Sure, people sometimes just said it in public as a way to show off the size of their faith, but judging from some polls a lot of Christians genuinely feel that way, and are likely to minimize the faith of a person who doesn't agree. I wonder if Mike Huckabee believes that? I'm pretty sure that, if he did, people would want to know that.

Think that might make a good debate/interview question? Why do you think no one's ever thought to ask him or any other candidate for any office whatsoever?

what happens if he says, "Make me!"?

dKos takes a break from obnoxious candidate-shilling and sockpuppetry to let Kagro X explain to us just how willing the president is to undermine separation of powers and even the Rule of Law, and not just in order to keep his own fat out of the fryer, but even merely as a guy who doesn't believe he can (or should) be stopped.

Riffing off of what Kagro X is arguing here, I think this is what makes it so difficult for Congress to battle the president effectively on matters of potential criminal misdeeds in the Executive. The president doesn't give an inch, he doesn't compromise, he doesn't believe in comity or bipartisanship, or oversight, for that matter. Every single move they make will be fought to the last man, every request will be denied, every demand will be stonewalled, because George W. Bush doesn't believe in governing: he believes in winning. The federal government, to him, is not a governing body that hammers out compromises in order to work together according to the will of the people; rather, it is a battleground where the Forces of Good battle the Forces of Liberal to the death, where one side must Win and the other Lose, where willingness to compromise is a sign of weakness and the desires of the masses are not something to legislate, but something to be reshaped in the Battle of Messaging that takes place right after the legislative Victory.

It's like trying to run a congress with Beowulf as president.

Furthermore, he has been convinced by the neocon cabal in the White House that, once he sends troops into another country, he is virtually omnipotent until the conflict is over. And enough Republican senators have bought into his bullshit that they will filibuster every bill he doesn't like, and vote however he wants them to on every bill, and use every legislative maneuver in the book to defeat bills he doesn't like.

How do you fight such a monster? One of 2 ways: 1. you capitulate to it, appease it until it leaves, trying to eek out as many little wins as you can get without really angering the behemoth so that it destroys as little as possible in that time-- and pray to God that another monster doesn't take its place-- or 2. you set your jaw, steel your gaze, and resolve to fight it to the death, even if that means jeopardizing the entire system, because you cannot allow it to go undefeated, you cannot allow the theory of the Unitary Executive to go irrefuted, you cannot let future presidents think that this sort of behavior is permitted.

The problem is that, in Congress, where you have to have at least a majority to do anything and nearly half the body is already working for the president, if you can't get your whole caucus to commit to the latter strategy, you're forced to accept the former.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

the torture of abu Zubaydah

my only question is: since when did former Steelers tailback Jerome Bettis become an infamous Iraqi terrorist?

Why so serious?

Apparently there is a reason to see I Am Legend.

Perhaps the best part: the closeup of Rachel Dawes reveals the sneering face not of Katie Holmes, but of Maggie Gyllenhaal. And can you believe that's Heath Ledger?

And to titillate your inner movie geek even more, it's now official: the Greatest Fantasy Book Ever Written will now become the Prequels to the Greatest Trilogy Ever Shot.

Monday, December 17, 2007

stupidest propaganda machine ever

I don't usually use my Myspace account, because, well, Myspace is kind of lame and designed for 16 year olds, but today I happened to jump on it and saw something that made my day. A buddy of mine who's having a rough time lately received some anti-gun control email forward that consisted of a long collection of moronic folk-wisdom-ly aphorisms about gun control (these forwards, as we all know, typically appeal to the lowest common denominator) and he apparently snapped, returning a point-by-point rebuttal to his entire email list.

The last one was priceless:
32. The best defense against tyranny is a well-armed populace.
I thought it was an educated population, not a bunch of ignorant hicks with deer rifles and shot guns.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Is there really no place in this world

for a kitten with a grapefruit helmet?

the connection between violence and stupidity

In the middle of this CNN article about a Muslim who helped the 3 Jews assaulted by a phalanx of Christmas warriors on the subway:
One member of the group allegedly yelled, "Oh, Hanukkah. That's the day that the Jews killed Jesus," she said.

"Mitt Romney: You used to like him"

Heh.

Reuters misses the significance of Wayne Dumond

From the guilty party:
Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas who leads the Republican field in Iowa and is rising in national polls, has his own potential Willie Horton, in the name of Wayne Dumond.

Dumond was serving a life prison term for raping a 17-year-old cheerleader in Arkansas in 1984. In 1996 his appeals for clemency attracted the attention of Huckabee, a Baptist preacher, after the inmate was said to have found religion.

Dumond gained freedom when paroled by the state's parole board -- with Huckabee's endorsement -- and moved to the Kansas City area in 1999.

Less than a year later, Carol Sue Shields died of suffocation, and Dumond was convicted in her murder. He died in prison of natural causes in 2005.

The case roiled Arkansas politics at the time and now that Huckabee's presidential campaign is rising, it is getting national attention.

Of course, it wasn't the fact that Dumond supposedly "found religion" that attracted Governor Huckabee's attention; it was the governor's need to please the rumormongering anti-Clintonites of the right wing. Wayne Dumond had become something of a cause celebre on the Right, and they had constructed an entire alternate narrative of his circumstances that they could gather in their seedy little corners of the internet and froth over. You see, it all hangs on one little detail about this case that this piece never bothered to mention: that first victim of Dumond's was a distant cousin of then-governor William Jefferson Clinton.

Now do you see where this is going?

According to the reality-challenged version concocted by conservative ideologues, Clinton then put Dumond, a father and Vietnam veteran, on trial for rape just because he wanted revenge and to advance his career. And Dumond was probably totally innocent anyway. Even worse, while he was awaiting trial, Clinton even sent some of his goons to go castrate Dumond for his alleged crimes! That sick, sick troop-hating pinko!

Well, these wankers eventually caught the ear of Clinton's successor, who was looking for some opportunity to step out from under the shadow of the Big Dawg, and he went to the mat for these guys. He pulled strings, bent the rules, and lobbied the parole board hard for his release. Huckabee was so far in the tank for these guys that he assumed they were right about Dumond without really investigating the matter for himself; people who spoke with him about it noted his ignorance of the details of the case, and at times he would even cite exculpatory evidence that only existed in conservative mythology, to the bafflement of the other actors in this play. From a fantastic Arkansas Times story:
“He [Huckabee] kept insisting that there was DNA evidence that has since exonerated Dumond, when that very much wasn’t the case,” recalled Long. “No matter that that wasn’t true … we couldn’t seem to say or do anything to disabuse him of that notion.”

In fact, there had never been any DNA testing in the Ashley Stevens case.

Had he not been blinded by desire to appease the darker elements of the Right, maybe he wouldn't have so easily dismissed evidence everyone else, included the jury that convicted him, found to be pretty compelling: Wayne Dumond had a string of crimes of this sort on his rap sheet, was suspected in a couple of other sexual assault cases that were not yet adjudicated and was positively IDed by the victim of the crime for which he was serving time. Sometimes men with these demons abuse their own bodies out of guilt or self-hatred or whatever; it's not exactly unheard-of for sex offenders to castrate themselves.

Of course, the jury, the victim, and the parole board's instincts (they originally wanted to deny parole) were proven right, and Huckabee and the ultraconservative ideologues wrong, when Dumond got out of prison, moved to Missouri, and raped and murdered a young woman there. He was also suspected in a second rape and murder in Missouri, but died in prison before the case could go to court.

Huckabee is now denying that he had a hand in Dumond's release, pinning it instead on the parole board. Tristero dispenses with that argument easily enough. It appears, however, that Huckabee doesn't really have to deny it or parse or dissemble on his role of l'Affair Dumond because our media will never get the story right.

Why is that, you may be asking? Because the underlying narrative of the story is one that the national press has considered verboten for the last 30 years: it's about the incredible disconnect from reality under which the far right labors, and the individual conservative ideologue's inability to see facts that don't support his worldview. The story is significant and noteworthy in a presidential race because it shows just how far in the tank Mike Huckabee is for far-right conspiratorialists. He doesn't just listen to them, he trusts them and believes whatever they tell him so implicitly that he'll make major governmental decisions based solely on their advice and without ever looking into the matter for himself. It's about a presidential candidate who's a terrible judge of character, who has trouble discerning truth from myth (especially when said truths seem to contradict his movement conservative, Christian fundamentalist worldview), and is easily manipulated into making poor decisions even by people with little or no credibility.

Sound at all familiar?

Yet in order to highlight this main point of the Dumond episode, you have to be willing to point out that right wing crazies seized upon Dumond's story, metamorphosed it into a sob story about the evil, conniving Bill Clinton and his heroic victim, and sold it back to a pitifully uninformed and gullible Huckabee. And you will never see a major news channel, newspaper, or magazine portray the far right in such a way. After all, we already know that the media is so scared of right wing retaliation that they'd rather let an egregiously unqualified man win the presidency than disclose his numerous flaws and risk their ire.

This is the same reason why Huckabee's evolution gaffe in the first GOP debate is so important. If you'll remember, Brian Williams (I believe) asked the entire field to raise their hand if they do NOT believe in evolution, and Huckabee raised his hand. He knew he'd screwed up afterwards and tried to dissemble on his answer, focusing instead on human evolution and abiogenesis, but the damage had been done.

Evolution, as a biological principle, is indisputably true: not only can you watch bacteria evolve in a petri dish in an afternoon, but there's a mountain of scientific evidence that evolution happens. For instance, scientists recently found that people of Germanic/northern European descent are more resistant to bubonic plague than others (and, interestingly, HIV, because it attacks cells in a similar way) because of their higher exposure to the Black Death in the Middle Ages. We have to develop new flu vaccines every year because influenza evolves, becoming more resistant to old vaccines. Conagra and Monsanto forcibly evolve corn and soybean plants, annually releasing new seeds that grow stronger, hardier, more productive crops. To deny evolution as a principle, even in the case of humans, requires a particularly acute fear of reality, a willingness to ignore an overwhelming array of evidence in order to hold onto a position that won't force you to ask uncomfortable questions.

Do we really want another president who so flagrantly denies reality when it's uncomfortable for him?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Hillary Clinton, the best Republican candidate of this cycle

So here's Hillary, willing to make a nonsensical argument in favor of disenfranchising college students:
In a jab at Obama's efforts to encourage out-of-state students who attend college in Iowa to caucus, Clinton said the caucuses are only for people who live in this state.

"This is a process for Iowans. This needs to be all about Iowa, and people who live here, people who pay taxes here," she told the Clear Lake crowd.

So people who reside in Iowa for 9+months at a time for 4 years (and that's assuming they don't take summer school) don't "live here." And I suppose the college students who work and (one would assume) pay federal AND STATE income taxes, as well as sales taxes, etc. aren't really "paying taxes here."

And what about the working poor, whose taxes are typically refunded by the federal government? Do they deserve to vote if they don't contribute to the annual budget? What about if they actually sap funds via food stamps or WIC?

But Hillary's willing to make these asinine statements and try to discourage youth from voting if it'll cost Obama more votes. Just like she's perfectly willing to deride eliminating the cap on payroll taxes (which is at $90k/year), as a "trillion dollar tax hike on the middle class." Or willing to criticize Obama for having the audacity to say that he wouldn't drop nukes in Pakistan (which, to turn on my broken record, is a nuclear nation) by saying she "wouldn't take any options off the table." Nice FOX News impression there, Hil! Way to fight the good fight against the vast rightwing conspiracy!

Then again, what else should we expect from the candidate who voted for war with Iraq without ever bothering to read the year's NIE and that, even after 4 years of quagmire and staggering incompetence in Iraq, voted to give Bush the crucial pretext for war with Iran. What else should we expect from the candidate who sponsored a constitutional amendment criminalizing flag-burning? The candidate whose campaign is run by union-busting, Blackwater-representing Mark Penn?

Monday, December 03, 2007

Deep thought of the day

Socrates' t-shirt said, "I'm with stupid," but the arrow pointed straight up.

Conan O'Brien: since the writers' strike

On a serious note, Conan is one of the heroes of the strike; he's been paying some of the Late Night crew out of his own pocket. Contrast that with ass-kissing scab Carson Daly. Here, a still-uber-famous but darker, more wizened Conan reflects on his time since the strike:

Friday, November 30, 2007

Oh, snap!

At the last Democratic debate:
Wolf Blitzer: Congressman Kucinich, I believe you're the only person on this stage who had a chance to vote on the Patriot Act right after 9/11 who voted against it right away.

Dennis Kucinich: That's because I read it.

He's a snarky little bastard.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

pray for an end to the BCS

Behold the future of college football: the Wetzel Plan. He even shows what the brackets would look like if we had it this year. It's a beautiful thing.

Interestingly, futzing around with this system, if we'd had the Wetzel Plan (which you could also call the "every NCAA sport except Division I-A football" Plan) last year, the brackets would've looked like this:

The good points: as you can see, it would've been much less likely for Ohio St. to have had the chance to stink up the championship game, as they would have had to survive, in all likelihood, Southern Cal and LSU, while I think Florida would still have made it past Michigan and the winner of Oklahoma-Auburn (probably Auburn). Boise St. would've gotten a legitimate, if unlikely, shot at the championship (their first round is against USC, and if they pulled off a miracle there, they'd face the Buckeyes next), as would Hawaii this year under this system. Since we actually saw Louisville and Wake throw down in the Orange Bowl, we'd be looking at a sure 2nd round game between the Cards and LSU, which sounds pretty sweet. And how about that Auburn-Oklahoma game in the first round!

Downers: There's a snoozer of a section in the bottom right quadrant, where Michigan is sure to advance, since they'd be sure to beat Houston in the first round, followed by the winner of Notre Dame-Wisconsin, both of which teams they'd already walloped during regular season play. Also, like the BCS, it turned out pretty Big 10- and SEC-heavy, but that's just the way the rankings shook out last year. The other conferences, frankly, didn't do much to deserve at-large bids, and besides, who would you take out? 11-1 Wisconsin? Auburn, who survived the SEC with only 2 losses and beat Florida? Maybe Notre Dame, but I didn't sneak them in there at anyone else's expense; they actually finished #11, and everyone ahead of them got into the brackets, too. And this still leaves a pretty great Arkansas team out in the cold, but there's no scenario to save them; they just lost too late in the season.

All in all, this would've been vastly superior to what we got last year. Eventually, it will be this way. The system is just too compelling and well-tested in other divisions, and the current BCS one is too dysfunctional and has shut out legitimate contenders far too many times.

"There are internet rumors that Perry Bacon had an affair with a spider monkey, despite Bacon's denials"

This article by Perry Bacon at The Washington Post is disgusting. The Lede?:
Foes Use Obama's Muslim Ties to Fuel Rumors About Him

Hey, anybody want to know what Obama's "Muslim ties" are? Well, he had a stepdad who infrequently practiced Islam and he lived in a majority Muslim country from kindergarten to 4th grade.

That's it.

But despite that, the Washington Post devotes a front page story to telling you that there are... internet rumors that he's actually a radical Muslim waiting to destroy America from the inside. Don't believe me? Here's the third paragraph:
Despite his denials, rumors and e-mails circulating on the Internet continue to allege that Obama (D-Ill.) is a Muslim, a "Muslim plant" in a conspiracy against America, and that, if elected president, he would take the oath of office using a Koran, rather than a Bible, as did Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the only Muslim in Congress, when he was sworn in earlier this year.

That's on the front page of the the Washington Post today.

The evidence that Obama might be Muslim: 2 partisan conservative rags ran hit pieces saying he might be, and some "internet rumors" mentioned on Snopes.com.

The evidence against? Obama's own books in which he discusses his transition from skeptic to Christian in Chicago; his long-time membership in a United Church of Christ church on Chicago's south side and the confirmation of his beliefs by no fewer than 5 of its ministers; the fact that he regularly confesses his Christian faith in public; the fact that said conservative rags are unable to point to any evidence whatsoever that he's Muslim; the fact that the Snopes article mentioned in the Post actually says that the rumors are false (the Post article, by the way, fails to mention that Snopes found the rumors to be false. Ace reporting there, Bacon!); and the fact that we're talking about f*#king chain emails. For God's sake, people, this is the same medium from which we learn that the Qu'ran predicts the American conquest of Iraq in glowing, peaceful terms, where we are shown doctored photos of John Kerry protesting beside Jane Fonda, and tells us that Microsoft is dying to give us a nickel for every person we forward an email to!

Anyone with eyes to see can tell immediately there's no case here, and that all this unsubstantiated rumor has no grounding in reality, in all likelihood having been cooked up by political enemies to sink Obama's campaign. But here's how the Post weighs in on the merits:
Despite his denials, rumors and e-mails circulating on the Internet continue to allege that Obama (D-Ill.) is a Muslim... Obama aides sharply disputed the initial stories suggesting that he was a Muslim,... After Obama denied the rumor, Jeffrey Kuhner, Insight's editor, said Obama's "concealment and deception was to be the issue, not so much his Muslim heritage,"... Conservative talk-show hosts have occasionally repeated the rumor... The rumors about Obama have been echoed on Internet message boards and chain e-mails... Bryan Keelin of Charleston, S.C., who works with an organization of churches there, posted on an Internet board his suspicion that Obama is a Muslim... A CBS News poll in August showed that a huge number of voters said they did not know Obama's faith..."

This is what gutlessness and laziness look like when enshrined in newspaper ink. Isn't the point of the press to find and disseminate the truth? The unwillingness to make at least some judgment call as to what is trustworthy information and what is not (or even just to sift out the basest rumor and innuendo) leads to the reporter wasting his own (and our) time publishing things that are simply not true. Thus the reporter is actually working against his own office.

Digby put it better than I did:
According to the Washington Post "Republicans say Barack Obama is a Muslim and Obama says he isn't" is a legitimate story. Modern campaign journalism in all it glory.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Hey media: Giuliani ain't the frontrunner

From TPM:
On the heels of polls showing Rudy dropping fast in New Hampshire and out of contention in Iowa, a a new poll finds him sinking fast in a third key state: South Carolina. The Clemson University poll finds Mitt Romney now taking the lead with 17%, followed by Fred Thompson at 15%, Mike Huckabee with 13%, John McCain at 11% — and Rudy at only 9%.
...
Rudy's advisors have been pushing a February 5 strategy, positing the idea that his national celebrity and post-9/11 prestige mean he can lose all the early contests but still win big on the national primary day. Romney, on the other hand, has focused heavily on those early states, following the traditionally accepted ideas of how to win the nomination.

Giuliani's advisors should be fired. Like, yesterday. Ru9/11dy isn't even a viable candidate anymore in Iowa or South Carolina, and is looking to get waterboarded by Romney in New Hampshire as well.

And about half of Giuliani's support is gonna bail like rats from a sinking ship, opting for the greener pastures of Romney-ville, while the current Thompsonites are gonna look at the broken, bloody remains of their candidate after he gets splattered all over the pavement in South Carolina and make a b-line for Huckabee (who, by the way, is today for the first time leading in Iowa). And by the end of February, we're going to be talking about the battle between the electoral giants Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, while no one's even gonna remember that Rudy Giuliani or Fred Thompson ever made a run at the Republican nomination.

Big news on the blue side, too: Hillary's lead in South Carolina has dissipated, and she's now statistically tied with Obama. Last time I checked she's hanging tough in New Hampshire, but there are now 2 openings for Obama (or, perhaps, Edwards) to knock off the presumptive frontrunner, as Obama pulled into the lead in Iowa last week. It looks like we're seeing a nationwide drift away from Clinton as the narrative hardens of Clinton as talking out of both sides of her mouth. My suspicion (and hope) is that it continues and one of the other two becomes a giantkiller this February, and again in November.

man tries to deposit $1M bill


But my question is, who'd he put on it? Looks kinda like Teddy Roosevelt. Any guesses?

Carson Daly to cross the picket line

Why am I not surprised? From AP:
NEW YORK - NBC's "Last Call with Carson Daly" is about to become the first late-night talk show to defy the writers strike and resume production.

Daly, who is not a member of the Writers Guild, will begin taping new episodes of his Burbank-based show this week for airing next week, an NBC spokesperson confirmed Tuesday.

The least talented man on late night TV slips the shiv to his writers, who probably are members of the guild, no doubt hoping to capitalize on everyone else being too scrupulous to cross the picket line.

Frakin' vulture.

Monday, November 26, 2007

car commercials


Has anyone else noticed the bizarre messaging coming out of the auto industry's commercials lately? The values conveyed by commercials generally speaking are always changing, I understand that, but does no one else find it at least a little bit uncomfortable when, for instance, Cadillac asks you if you're sexually aroused by your car? Later I'm told by a truck company that "You may never have to tow a plane, but at least you know you can stop one." What the f*%k are you talking about? Why? Why on earth would I need a car that can stop a frakin' plane? When has a car ever in the whole history of cars ever once had to stop an airplane?

Then there's the "be afraid, buy the biggest f&%king car on the planet!" line of attack evidenced by the Hummer ad above. I also recall a truck commercial where the world is blown up but one dude and his truck still remain, hurdling into space on a little asteroid. When was the last time car companies habitually used fear to sell cars? Did any commercials in the 50's ever say, "Those Commie mutherf&#kers will kill you if you don't buy a Chevy!" or "Nuclear winter will just feel like a chill wind in a Ford?" Have we really become that succeptible to fear, that easy to manipulate? Is this the beginnings of a new advertising-as-mugging business model?

...and it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy

Australian Prime Bush-Ass-Kisser John Howard gets the electoral bitchslap, losing not only his majority in Parliament but his own seat. That's gotta hurt.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

reflections on No Country for Old Men

First of all, the critics are right. This is a fantastic movie: gripping, beautifully shot, and masterfully acted. Brolin, Jones, McDonald, and particularly Bardem nail these roles. It's a movie that affected me as I walked out of the theater and that I'm still trying to parse, to really understand, hours afterward.

This is the kind of movie you wouldn't expect to like; despite the fine cinematography and typical Coen-inspired acting brilliance and the relentless suspense that kept our very full theater breathless for most of the movie, the film absolutely epitomizes the word bleak. That bleakness, however, becomes one of the movie's greatest assets because the Coen Brothers embrace it so completely. It's a movie about the almost comic senseless of human cruelty, where the young slaughter each other with neither conflicted pathos nor psychotic indulgence, and the old can only watch from the sidelines, their only choice in the events being the ability to decide whether to react with horror, abject despair, and amusement at the sheer inanity of the evil unfolding before them. There is no joy in No Country; the only time a character actually laughs in it, it's because of a particularly absurd story of mass murder in the newspaper, and the only smiles come from Wells and Chigurh, the two hired killers.

This is also a movie that requires reflection, however, and this is where I think the critics flubbed it. Granted, I could never do the job they do; most of the time the critics analyze movies with far greater eloquence and awareness than I could ever muster. Perhaps because they have to watch and write about so many movies, they don't have time to reflect on the ones that really need it, and far be it for me to be judgmental about that. That being said, however, the movie benefits from being a literary adaptation in ways the critics either didn't notice or didn't bother to mention. For instance, the Coens effectively marshal a number of symbols to aid in conveying the themes of the film: the antagonist Anton Chigurh's pocket full of coins and the capricious perfidy of fate; milk (which, admittedly, I haven't yet figured out myself); the constant soiling/tearing of clothes; the hundred dollar bills that seem to catalyze every action in the entire movie; and the air pump, normally used for the slaughter of livestock, that Chigurh uses to kill people.

Anton Chigurh also is a little bit deeper of a character than the critics gave him credit for as well, though it is admittedly subtle and perhaps even purely subjective. For most of the movie he seems like a character of pure callousness and sociopathy, someone who answers his victims' frequent entreaties of "You don't have to do this" with a half-quizzical look, as if he doesn't even understand the words. There's a moment, however, when he flips a coin to decide whether one of the characters lives or die, and the character adamantly refuses to "call it." Chigurh asks them again, raising his voice slightly, and for a fleeting moment, they both seem to recognize that Chigurh rationalizes killing people who don't deserve it, who never got in his way or attracted his anger, by relinquishing his own agency to the coin, as if it's not really his choice if the victim chooses wrong. The character, thus, refuses to allow him to pretend like it's not his choice to kill them, and he seemed to me to be momentarily shaken by that epiphany.

There's also the sense of place, upon which there is an almost Clint Eastwood movie-esque fixation. Yes, the scenery is beautful yet bleak, blah blah blah, but in every scene the Coens emphasize the fact that this is taking place in west Texas, not only in the shots of the brushlands and mesas and foothills of the Rockies, but in the license plates and thick Texas twangs. Even the casting choices reflect the emphasis of place, such as San Saba native Tommy Lee Jones, one of whose most memorable roles was in Lonesome Dove, Midland boy Woody Harrelson, and Barry Corbin who hails from Lamesa, Texas, about an hour north of Midland/Odessa. Perhaps the setting could be taken as a microcosm for the world generally, but the movie isn't about that and doesn't try to do that.

Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, the critics to a man missed the "point" of the movie, the moral of the story (if it can called such) as discovered by Sheriff Bell, played by Tommy Lee Jones (with the exception of Boston Globe columnist Ty Burr, who didn't just miss the point but thought the movie was saying the direct opposite). In the beginning Bell has a voice-over in which he talks admiringly about the lawmen who came before him, his father and grandfather and some other more famous ones, who didn't feel the need to carry a sidearm during work hours. Their time was a more peaceful one than ours, and they were greater men than us. "How would those men handle these times?" he asks.

The point of the movie, however, is that he was wrong, as he finds out after all the carnage of the main plot has been cleaned up. That is the whole point of Barry Corbin's scene, in which Bell is enlightened to this point, and the final scene in which he's left to ponder what his subconscious has already figured out. Those who came before us were not better men and did not live in better times; though the commodity in question may be different now, the ruthlessness used to acquire it is nothing new. Before the no-man's-land of West Texas formed a theater for the drug war, farmers fought with ranchers over the fencing of the range, and before that the Yankees battled the Mexicans over political control, and before that the white man coveted the land under the Apaches' feet. Our fathers rode out on our own dark path long before we found it, and we cannot help but follow them into the night.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

"a slow whorification of ladyhood"

A litle something for my feminist readers. Glad to hear UT's molding some of the greatest minds of the 19th century.

Seriously though, it's hard to believe an undergraduate in 2007 would "pen" something so egregiously Victorian.

issues?

Here are the user statistics to the conservative-friendly version of Wikipedia, Conservapedia. Yes, it is a real thing. Yes, I know that's a sad statement about conservatism in itself.

Have a look at the most viewed pages.

fiscal responsibility in George W. Bush's world

Truly sick. From KDKA in Pittsburgh (c/o TPM):
The U.S. Military is demanding that thousands of wounded service personnel give back signing bonuses because they are unable to serve out their commitments.

To get people to sign up, the military gives enlistment bonuses up to $30,000 in some cases.

Now men and women who have lost arms, legs, eyesight, hearing and can no longer serve are being ordered to pay some of that money back.

Dear God, please make Brian Williams run a segment about this tonight.
Dear God, please make Brian Williams run a segment about this tonight.
Dear God...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

the truth behind the housing/lending crisis

Bob Herbert tells a story, and it's unbelievable.

These companies will, in all likelihood, be saved by the government when they should be allowed to drown (or perhaps even thrown an anchor), and Ms. Dailey will get the opposite treatment.

But don't worry, Senate Democrats will burn a couple of weeks strongly demanding George W. Bush accept completely voluntary, advisory timetables for withdrawal in Iraq before completely caving and writing him another hundred billion dollar check.

what you heard last night on NBC Nightly News

(c/o Glenn Greenwald)
Really, marriage is under attack? By whom? And will it hold Charleston?

I have to confess: I actually watched this segment last night and didn't even notice. That's how utterly infected with rightwing tropes our news media is.

And if that surprises you, here's a fun question: What does Brian Williams listen to in his car?

Answer: Rush Limbaugh. No, seriously.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

"Call it, friend-o"

As most of you no doubt know, I'm a huge fan of the Coen brothers, even of their new stuff (I don't care what anyone says, Intolerable Cruelty was a great movie). Even setting that aside, however, I don't remember the last time saw reviews this consistently stellar.

I can't wait for No Country for Old Men.

a review of the greatest pizza ever.

With pictures!

You can thank me in the comments section.

Ru9/11dy!

Rudy Giuliani: "We really don't mention September 11 as much as people think."

What a disgusting little authoritarian.

American Chickenhawks presents:

This week, Mitt Romney, who was too busy braving the dangers of fresh-made coq au vin (it's alcoholic, ya know!) to be bothered with such trivial threats as the Epic Cold War Against the Global Communist Threat.

Reading the NYT article, is it just me or does young Mitt Romney sound like the nerdiest little rich kid ever? Writing like a cartoon character... at 19? What's that about?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

culture and politics, a poll

Check out this poll from Zogby and the Norman Lear Center on politics and culture, examining how liberals, conservatives, and "moderates" enjoy TV, the news, movies, music, and video games.

What surprised me most: "Fox, the home of anti-authority satires like The Simpsons, Family Guy and MADtv, draws daily more than three times as many conservatives as liberals." There is such a thing as a liberal who doesn't like the Simpsons? I'd never thought of FOX as particularly ideological, though I do associate it with a certain "trashiness," I guess from the days when it tended to delve further into the risque than other networks.

Nevertheless, rather than "anti-authority satire" being the turn-off for liberals and turn-on for conservatives (since when were "support the troops!" police-state conservatives anti-authority?), I would imagine it's the rest of their programming, nearly half of which consists of reality TV (I counted eight, including COPS and "Are you smarter than a 5th grader?"), that turns off liberals.

What I would really like to know: have we always been this culturally divided? Was it always the case that conservatives and liberals didn't listen to the same music, didn't see the same movies, and didn't watch the same TV (or even the same news, for God's sake!)? Combined with the fact that conservatives are now taking their kids out of public schools, is our society starting to pillarize?

Judi Giuliani: worst. candidate's wife. ever.

Oh my God! From a Salon breakdown of the candidates' spouses:
Judi Giuliani, wife of Rudy Giuliani: Judi is Giuliani's third wife, the woman he left second wife Donna Hanover for in a televised news conference. She sits at the front row of fashion shows, had a secret marriage she only came forward with when her husband announced his nomination, which was around the same time the couple announced that she would sit in on cabinet meetings were he elected. It has been reported that while her husband was still mayor of New York, if aides referred to her as "Judi" instead of "Judith," she would bawl them out. She buys extra seats on planes for her Louis Vuitton handbag. She has inspired an open rift between the candidate and his children: Andrew, who helpfully explained to reporters that he is estranged from his dad because "a problem exists between me and his wife," and Caroline, a Harvard student who demonstrated the froideur earlier this year by admitting on her MySpace page that she was supporting Barack Obama. But it is the fact that Judi Giuliani once held a job in which she demonstrated medical equipment on puppy dogs who often died after or during the demonstrations that really kicks her up a notch and puts her head and shoulders above the rest of the pack.

And to think, Republicans used to bitch about how disagreeable first lady Hillary Clinton was!

the Huckabee files

Here is an article on the problems with Mike Huckabee by an Arkansas journalist. It's mainly small stuff, but there's enough of it, and enough big stuff, that you see certain patterns emerge, particularly 1. a willingness to play the moderate when he's really a hardcore Dobson-style Christian rightist, 2. a certain "moral flexibility" when it comes to other people's money, and 3. an inability to accept responsibility for mistakes.

Monday, November 12, 2007

the Ron Paul phenomenon

Atrios notes some good paradoxes re: the media's treatment of the Ron Paul "issue":
I find the Ron Paul candidacy interesting, but that has nothing to do with support. It's interesting because I don't quite understand it. It's interesting because he highlights the unacknowledged-by-the-Villagers fact that anti-war sentiment has long since spread from dirty fucking hippies like me into other parts of the population. It's interesting because despite having significant fundraising and some early poll (New Hampshire) showing, his candidacy is largely ignored by the Village. It's interesting because Ron Paul is crazy but Norman Podhoretz and Rudy Giuliani are very serious (that is, there are certain types of crazy that the Village loves and certain kinds of crazy they marginalize).

I'll add one: it's interesting because, while the Village (and many blogs, for that matter) have been fixated on whether the hoary old kingmakers of the Christian Right will sit this election out, there's been a burgeoning, well-financed and planned, threatening-to-get-independent libertarian rebellion in that party. I think people just aren't getting the fact that the powerful Republicans contributors of the future-- the young, white, male, upwardly mobile, college-educated technocrats who have taken bought into Reaganite bootstrap theory "hook, line, and sinker"-- are not only being attracted to the Ron Paul movement in huge numbers, but are becoming something like converts to it. They're donating huge amounts of money to the campaign (you heard me, right? They're DONATING money!), they're volunteering time, and then they're harassing anti-Paul bloggers on the left and right in their spare time.

And their own party is bound and determined to beat them down, all in hopes of keeping in tow a fractious and utterly discredited Christian conservative movement whose anti-Roe triumphalism is virtually guaranteed to cost Republicans any hope of winning the presidency. Yes, women will turn out in a BIG way if they know that Roe v. Wade is on the line, which it unquestionably is, and the GOP knows it or they wouldn't suddenly be so minimalist about the end of Roe (I'm hearing a lot of "no, it simply returns it to the states!" b.s. from d-bags like Andrew Sullivan). Which is doubly ironic, because Ron Paul is rabidly anti-Roe (don't ask me how that jives with his "libertarian" cred).

But Bill, you told me you were a libertarian!

From last week's New Rules:
But, you know, the days when a shop girl in the big city could support herself working a full 40-hour week, or a family of four could live off a single blue-collar breadwinner, are as bygone a fantasy as malt shops or heterosexual wizards. If you're living hand-to-mouth, and still buying into the con that the big threats to America are socialized medicine, Mexican immigrants and tax increases, then you're not being kept down by the rich. You're being kept down by you.

In America, it's not the haves and have-nots. It's the haves and the been-hads. If you, the citizen, deliberately vote for someone who won't give you health care over someone you will, you need to have your head examined. Except you can't afford to have your head examined.
...
Now, I know socialized medicine sounds like Stalin himself is going to come over to your house and perform a forced sterilization. But, really all it is, is universal health care. Which means everybody - not just the rich - gets to see a doctor when their erection lasts longer than 72 hours.

And I just hope that one day, ten or fifteen years from now, one of Rush Limbaugh's "Ditto Heads" is going to wake up in his cell in debtors' prison - because that's where President Giuliani throws you when you can't pay your Visa bill - and he'll turn on the Fox Financial Channel, and as he watches some CEO gloat over his $200 million in stock options, he's going to suddenly realize that he's been had. And on that day, that man will begin the great middle class uprising of the 21st century.

Sounds like somebody's seen the light.

"...then we wrap it all in a blueberry pancake..."

Reminds me of the Taco Town commercial from SNL. From Gizmodo:
Pizza Hut Japan's exclusive Double Roll pie is 646 calories per slice, with little bacon wrapped sausages littered across the crust, and mini hamburger patties on top of the mushrooms, soy beans, corn, paprika, garlic chips, green peppers, and pepperoni. As for cheese, it has mozzarella, cheddar and parmigiana. BTW, this comes with ketchup and maple syrup for extra flavor, and is recommended for kids.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Safe home, Grimsaburger

Hope your trip back goes smoothly!

WGA strike, day 3

As explained by Sandra Oh, who is awesome, even if her show's not on my watch list.

Here is a pretty good article explaining the reasons for the strike from Forbes.

Atrios on the emerging argument that you shouldn't support the writers because they are well-paid, and therefore, I guess, greedy:
I'm always surprised how many people fail to be sympathetic to striking workers simply because they perceive them to be "well-paid." Certainly one can always find a more worthy cause, a more desperate case, someone more "deserving." But ultimately this is about whether management gets to screw workers, and that's something we can all be concerned about whether it's janitors, Hollywood writers, or even millionaire baseball players.

Support the strikers. Stop watching TV until this blows over. And especially stay away from soap operas; they've started hiring pseudonymous scabs to replace the strikers until the strike blows over.

you sure 'bout that, Mr. Commander-in-Chief?


President Bush: "You can't be president and head of the military at the same time."

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Lueck'ed

Congrats to Mayor Steve Luecke on his almost overly successful re-election bid, 60%-38%. Anyone else think the South Bend Tribune oversamples Republicans a wee bit?

Congrats as well to Jeff Rea, who isn't too bad as far as Republicans go.

Kucinich introduces resolution to impeach Dick Cheney

Go DK!

Also, looks like other people are catching on to the Kucinich conspiracy to rig online candidate-matching quizzes.

But remember, guys, the important thing about Kucinich is not that this legislation, nor that he's the only candidate who's never voted to fund the war (and is actually for defunding it), nor that he wants to start a "Dept. of Peace," nor that he believes we should pull out of NAFTA or turn Medicare into a single-payer government health insurer of all Americans.

No no no. What is important is that he once saw a UFO with Shirley MacLaine and has a smokin' hot wife. Those are what are important to know about Kucinich, and thus must be the beginning and end of every conversation about him, like Edwards' haircut and Hillary's pantsuits.

"a different experience"

From TPM:
Do you know more about torture than John McCain?

RUDY GIULIANI: ...I have had a different experience than John. John has never been -- he has never run city, never run a state, never run a government. He has never been responsible as a mayor for the safety and security of millions of people, and he has never run a law enforcement agency, which I have done.

Now, intensive questioning works. If I didn't use intensive questioning, there would be a lot of mafia guys running around New York right now and crime would be a lot higher in New York than it is.

Have you ever heard an answer so crammed to the top with bullshit? Rudy was responsible for the safety and security of millions? As the mayor? Are you kidding me? Rudy personally waterboarded mafiosos, chained them naked to the floor while lowering the temperature to 40 degrees, and made them sit in stress positions for 12 hours, pistol-whipping them every time they moved? Does anyone really believe this wanker?

Greg Sargent notes:
"A "different experience" than McCain? Hmmm -- that strikes us as kind of a casual, offhand way for Rudy to be describing what McCain went through. After all, McCain was tortured regularly for five years in Vietnam, while Rudy secured five draft deferments, according to preeminent Rudy biographer Wayne Barrett. Indeed, as Barrett wrote in Grand Illusions, his book about Rudy and 9/11, Rudy got one deferment for every year that McCain was tortured."

That Rudy, he's a real hero.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Hoosier politics: in which Juan Manigault cries me a river

Is it just me, or are these Republican mayoral candidates fragile little wilting flowers? Jeff Rea has at least not been in the mudfight, but for Juan Manigault to cry foul about negative campaigning and "personal attacks" (which is, apparently, GOP-speak for criticizing a Republican's job performance) is pretty rich.

Sauce for the goose, Juan. Sauce for the goose.

[post edited to unmix the metaphors and add clarity.]

Cokie Roberts proves anyone can do NPR

So I'm listening to NPR's Morning Edition on the way to work, and they bring presidential historian and MENSA inductee Cokie Roberts on to talk about whether the Hillary "played the gender card." Rene Montagne basically has to keep supplementing or redirecting Roberts' answers to keep her from sounding like a complete moron (you get the feeling that Cokie just watched CNN and MSNBC and picked up the narrative they developed in the 5 minutes after Tuesday's debate, pretending that conversation has merely been repeating itself in a Groundhog Day-like loop in the ENTIRE WEEK since then) until Montagne asks her (my paraphrase, looks like it's too early to find a transcript):
"So with Senator Clinton talking about how she can survive in an "all boys' club," yet also complaining about the 7 male 'pile on' in this debate, isn't she trying to have her cake and eat it, too?"

...to which Cokie, audibly confused by the question (or, apparently, by the metaphor) answers:
"Well, Rene, every candidate in this candidate has had to 'have their cake and eat it, too.' I mean, they all have characteristics that are sometimes helpful and at other times negative..."

I didn't hear the rest of the interview because I was laughing so hard. Then I remembered that Cokie Roberts is one of the nation's marquee political commentators, and I spent the next 15 minutes lying in the street.

we're all closet Kucinichites

Damnit, she's right. From Salon:
Denial is not just a river in Egypt. It's time to come clean and admit that we are a Dennis Kucinich-loving party trapped in Hillary Clinton-supporting bodies.
...
If you believe in universal, single-payer healthcare and that campaign finance and electronic voting are corrupt; if you hate the Patriot Act and believe it erodes civil rights; if you believe that gay people should have the same rights as straight people, that America should rejoin the Kyoto Protocol and take steps to halt global warming, that we should invest in alternative fuel sources, that our water and air need to be protected from pollution and overuse, that the government should reduce the amount of money it spends on war and instead work to improve the country's education system, and that going to war in Iraq was a terrible and tragic mistake, then you are [a Kucinichite].
...
If you don't believe me, take some of the presidential polls floating around out there, the ones that ask you to answer questions about the issues and then show you a graphic embodiment of the candidate with whom you are best matched. Try this one, for example. Watch as Kucinich's big goofy head floats toward you, taunting you with how far you've strayed from the reasons you originally invested in the democratic process. Here's a different version of it, in which your preferences are tabulated visually after each answer; you can watch for yourself as Denny the K makes his inevitable, inexorable climb to the top. This one and this one aren't as fancy, but answer the questions and see whom you get. Go ahead. And yeah, I know, you're also getting Mike Gravel: Doesn't that just drive the point home, folks?

3 Kuciniches and a Gravel for me. I think there's a conspiracy afoot to recalibrate all online political tests toward DK.

Friday, November 02, 2007

it's NOT because she's a woman

Joan Walsh at Salon mentions this ridiculous defense of Clinton, this attempt to frame Tuesday's debate as men beating up on a woman, and ultimately rejects it. I agree with her (obviously). Alternatively, there's a lot of dissing Obama et al. for insinuating that Clinton "played the gender card," as well, but I think they're wrong as well.

This is a very stupid time for Hillary's campaign and supporters to play the gender card (and yes, Mark Penn, her campaign manager, most certainly played the card, and coincidentally on the same day as her speech about the "all-boys' club" of Washington politics), because it's patently bullshit here. The other candidates piled on her for one reason, and one reason alone: she is winning. They're not scared of a woman running the government, they're scared of themselves not winning. This is not a difficult concept to grasp. How many people would have found it appropriate for Obama, if it were him instead, to play the race card as soon as he got attacked?

And as far as li'l Russ goes, yes, yes he did lay an ambush for Hillary. Yes, he was gunning for her and not the other candidates. No, it wasn't very professional, and yes, he is a douchebag for doing it, but there's a much simpler, more obvious explanation than sexism or anti-Hillaryism for why he targetted Clinton yesterday: ratings. Russ is moderating the 827th Democratic debate on the the least-watched cable news channel in a Democratic primary that's looking increasingly like a cage match between Bruce Lee and Dr. Stephen Hawking; he needed to up the ante here to get some people talking about this one. Meanwhile, Obama's been promising all week that he'll finally start bringing in the heavy artillery, giving Russ a shot to draw out some real fireworks from the candidates, so he does what any irresponsible, ratings-driven pundit would do: he eggs them on.

There's nothing new about this: the primary candidates and media ganged up on Howard Dean just as badly (even worse, in my opinion) once he threatened to sow up the nomination before they'd gotten enough of their precious horse race. Again, it didn't hurt that they actually didn't like him, either, but this is business. And more importantly for this post, it worked. So why wouldn't they try it again?

And look, as far as I'm concerned, a lot of the criticisms leveled at her were absolutely accurate and deserving. The ambush by Russert is thus, in a way, irrelevant, because Obama, Edwards, and Dodd walked into the room intending to beat up on her, and they would have no matter what Russert had asked.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Don Imus back on the public airwaves

No kidding. From Yahoo! News:
NEW YORK - Don Imus will return to the airwaves Dec. 3 on New York's WABC-AM, only nine months after the cantankerous shock jock's career seemed doomed over his racist, sexist remark about a women's college basketball team.

Citadel Broadcasting Corp. made the announcement Thursday, confirming long-rumored reports that Imus was returning to morning drive time in the same city where he was banished in April.

"We are ecstatic to bring Don Imus back to morning radio," said 77 WABC President and General Manager Steve Borneman. "Don's unique brand of humor, knowledge of the issues and ability to attract big-name guests is unparalleled. He is rested, fired up and ready to do great radio."

Thank blond-haired blue-eyed Jesus! All these, err, months we've been denied a radio host with knowledge of the big issues, like how many CBS executives are "money-grubbing Jews" and whether or not Hillary Clinton will pander to African Americans by wearing "cornrows and gold teeth."

I also really like his incisive commentary on the media, like referring to Gwen Ifill as "the cleaning lady." And we need guys like Imus for the hard-hitting interviews with presidential candidates, like the one where he told Gov. Bill Richardson: "besa mi culo" or said that Dennis Kucinich should replace al Zarqawi. That Imus, he's too busy tellin' it like it is to bother with political correctness!

Blue Shield screws Kos

Can you believe this crap? And Kos makes pretty damn good scratch and pays $800/mo. in health insurance.

Still confident your HMO won't screw you when the time comes?

is Hillary in trouble? maybe...


So you've probably heard by now that Hillary had a hell of a time in the debate the other day. She got caught faking a position on an admittedly complex immigration issue, and Dodd, Edwards, and Obama ripped her a new one (and are continuing to today). And worst of all, it actually got media coverage; Brian Williams made time to show it, as did Katie Couric, as well as our local news.

On the other hand, I'm always talking about made-up scandals and traditional media values that predispose them to harping on certain (unimportant) issues while glossing over or not even noticing other (actually important) ones. Is this all smoke, just more b.s. from the same Beltway crowd that spent 8 long years deriding and wagging their fingers at her husband because, as David Broder famously put it, "he came over here and trashed the place, and it's not his place?" Will this matter a wit in the primary?

That depends entirely upon whether voters decide it matters. I know, that sounds like a cop-out, but we've seen rhetorical stumbles derail presidential campaigns before. Anyone remember "Actually I voted for it before I voted against it..."? I'm tempted to conclude that the reason that line succeeded so mightily and stood out from all the rest of the chatter so much is because it was something 1. out of Kerry's own mouth that 2. got widespread media coverage when people were listening and 3. perhaps most importantly, fed an already existent, if inchoate, narrative about John Kerry (in this case, the "flip-flopper").

Comparing the two, notice that Hillary's gaffe is similar, but not perfect. It was words that she said herself, and it feeds an emerging narrative about Hillary that she has no core values, but has incredible ambition, and thus will "say anything to get elected." She was confronted with a case where the more popular position was not apparent, and she couldn't find a position. I think that she's vulnerable to such a narrative (as are, frankly, all Democrats simply because they are Democrats), and there is still time to fall.

In fact, I think Hillary is more vulnerable to this narrative because of her electoral strategy. The reason that Hillary is favored among both liberals and centrists, among big business dems and pro-regulation dems, among anti-war voters and defense contractors, is because she's opted to become a cypher. People ridicule Obama for being too vague on policy, but the fact is that Hillary has made it a point to talk big about how the Iraq War should be stopped, or how we need a new health care system, or we need to stop climate change, and then she releases a plan that wows with detail but leaves all the big doors open.

Will Hillary stop the Iraq War? Hillary wants to keep a residual force there; how big would that "residual force" be? 1,000? 10,000? 100,000? She won't say, and that's the $64,000 question that decides whether she is pro-war or anti-war, isn't it? If 100,000 troops remain in Iraq past 2013, in what way has she "ended" the war?

And what about health care? She says she'll set up a government-run alternative health insurance for the poor, but how good will it be compared to private health insurance? That is the central question, because nationalized health care is capable of being far more efficient and negotiating lower prices, which would make it an attractive alternative even for those with private insurance. But if she's had it vetted by the insurance industry, which she says she has, how would they allow such a thing unless it was kept artificially shitty so that no one would actually opt for it unless they had no other choice?

Hillary talks a big talk, talks about change and reform and whatnot, but on every position she's left herself an out to avoid the reformist position if she so chooses, and that makes people able to see in her whatever they want to see. Anti-war democrats will tell you with a straight face that Clinton is the candidate to end the war, and no matter how many times you throw that residual force nonsense in their face, they continue to press the issue because they only see what they want to see. Meanwhile, several prominent hawks have said they support Hillary because she's the one least likely to end the war, and claim she's never said anything about ending the war. They see in her what they want to see because Hillary gives them both options.

That's why this moment in the debate is trouble: she tried to do the same thing here, to give people both options so that everyone thinks she took their own position, but she flubbed it and got caught. I think Edwards' attack was the most damaging ("I think I just heard Hillary give 2 different positions in 2 minutes") because it highlighted her actual strategy. That's exactly what she did.

Hillary's actually lucky that no other moments from the debate went viral, because not long at all before the immigrant driver's license snafu, she was asked to pledge that "Iran would not get nuclear weapons during her administration," and she resorted to dissembling so juvenile that the audience actually laughed at her answer:

It was a stupid move. She should've just pledged.

But I digress. "Will this actually damage her campaign?" is the issue. There's a big reason to believe it won't: the number 2 above--getting widespread media coverage when people are listening. Yeah, Brian and Timmy and Katie and John Stewart all covered it, but there's reason to believe that very few voters have really started paying attention to the race yet. How little attention, you may ask? Well, only 59% of Americans-- slightly over half-- can name even one single Republican running in the primary. And "most" are unable to even name any Democrats other than Hillary and/or Obama. Furthermore, it is still 2 months until the first primary, and 3 or 4 months until most of the country actually votes. Not to mention, the debate itself was on MSNBC, not exactly the most watched primetime spot.

If people did notice, however, I think this could get out of hand for Hillary pretty quickly. Suddenly li'l Timmy (not to mention actual voters!) would be focused on getting specifics out of her that slam the door on all those little outs, and as she's forced to take actual positions on everything, many will become less pleased with her, but any attempts to hedge, even the slightest bit, would further legitimize the narrative and undermine her credibility and perceived integrity.

Then, and only then, will we have ourselves a race.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

a Navy SEAL discusses his experience with waterboarding

and he says it's torture. This is probably the best discussion out there of exactly what waterboarding constitutes, the sensation it creates, and why it's torture.

It sounds horrific.

Fletcher going to get his goose cooked

to the tune of 60-36 in Kentucky's gubernatorial race by Democrat Steve Beshear. Elections are next week, folks; this baby's over. Congrats to our KY friends.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

a biodiesel H3 that gets 60mpg and goes 0-60 in 5 seconds

This guy is unbelievable. He's done what the big 3 claim can't be done, and with an 8th grade education.

Clear Channel gets political?

Clear Channel has decided not to play Springsteen's liberal music despite the fact that it's no.1 on Billboard top album sales. Doesn't necessarily mean it's political, but it's an odd choice, and the company has a history of contributing heavily to Republicans.

Huckabee surging

David Yepsen thinks Huckabee can win Iowa, which would be a pretty stunning coup. It's hard to tell sometimes in these horserace-y elections whether there's a genuine darkhorse, or whether the press is just trying to make it seem more exciting, but I think there's something substantial in Huckabee's surge. For one, it's the Democratic race, not the Republican one, that needs a little injection of excitement; the Republican race is already pretty exciting, what with Giuliani leading national polls but Romney comfortably ahead in Iowa and New Hampshire and Fred Thompson's surging, then stagnating numbers.

Second, the Huckabee surge is confirmed by numerous polling outfits.

Third, Huckabee makes by far the most sense as a GOP candidate. I've been dumbfounded at his lack of support all this time. Look at his credentials: he's a relatively popular governor, a lifelong conservative (and not like a Fred Thompson "I-lobbied-for-pro-choice-groups" conservative, but an actual, bonafide conservative), and a Baptist minister. He's a humble, likable speaker, and has an interesting and endearing personal story: he used to be morbidly obese, and by cleaning up his life he lost 110 lbs. It might not seem like much, but it makes him seem much more "real"-- or to use the political buzzword, "authentic"-- than the other guys.

And don't think for a second that he's unelectable. Huckabee may not be perfect, but he's a hell of a lot more ideologically pure than Romney, Giuliani, Thompson, or McCain, and comes off as more likable than them as well. He'd have no tougher of a time against Hillary Clinton than the others, and unlike some of them, he could actually beat her in a personality contest.

Not that the Huckster isn't without baggage. He suffers from much of the ignorance and sexual Puritanism one would expect from a southern Baptist minister: he doesn't believe in evolution, for instance (you're right, Mike, man didn't come from monkeys. Humans actually descended from primates), which bothers me considering what happened the last time a president refused to listen to information that didn't conform to his beliefs. He also listens a little too much to rightwing conspiracy theories, which ultimately led to make his extremely stupid and myopic decision to free a convicted rapist, against the advice of every advisory position in Arkansas, because he thought Clinton framed the man.

That rapist later raped and murdered a young woman in Missouri, and has since died in prison.

Of course, he's also kind of a dipshit, but let's be honest, Republicans, and some independents, have been falling for the "dipshit with common sense" routine over and over for the last 20 years at least.

And, apropos of the last link, he's the worst kind of anti-Roe: the kind that really just wants women to stop having sex except when called upon to do their duty as baby-farms. He doesn't want abortion to be legal, but he really doesn't want people having safe sex, either, hence the apprehension about condoms. I guess life is a sacred, wonderful thing that comes as a gift from God as punishment for defiling one's body.

the ninja parade


Ninja Parade Slips Through Town Unnoticed Once Again

Friday, October 26, 2007

Dan in Real Life

It's funny sometimes, the things you read that make you want to blog. I just read all about Giuliani wondering aloud if waterboarding qualifies as "torture" and joking about sleep deprivation that it must mean he is being tortured on the campaign trail. Yup, he's our favorite little fascist. Yet what I actually want to talk about is a great little review of the new Judd Apatow movie "Dan in Real Life" in Salon. Two things, specifically.

Stephanie Zacharek talks about how, even though he gets it right in this movie, Steve Carell doesn't normally do "heartwarming" well. I suspect, by the way, that has A LOT to do with our expectations of him; you don't think heartwarming when you think of a comedian who made a name for himself debating Stephen Colbert on Daily Show and as the voice of Gary in "The Ambiguously Gay Duo". Says Zacharek: "When Judd Apatow was making "The 40 Year Old Virgin," a Universal executive, after watching some of the dailies, remarked that Carell looked like a serial killer..."

I got a kick out of that bit.

She also lays into Dane Cook several times in the article. She says early on: "...Dane Cook appears in a fearsomely large supporting role. In other words, there are plenty of things not to like about [the movie]." This just before calling him a "frighteningly uncharismatic faux-comedian." Sounds pretty harsh, but I gotta say I can't argue with her. I've never understood Cook's routine or his following. There have been several moments where I'm watching him on TV and I'm thinking to myself that the joke he told seems like it should be funny, but I'm not laughing. I'm nowhere remotely near laughing. I also inevitably feel the same emotions when I watch him: empathetic embarrassment occasionally mixed with mild annoyance. Yet I know at least one person who's obsessed with Dane Cook and thinks he's the greatest comedian around, and clearly there must be more or he would never have made it off the intarwebz. Maybe Stephanie and I (and almost everyone I know) aren't getting something, because I think he may be the single most unfunny comic I've ever seen.

And I've been to a comedy club.

This can't be blamed on the guy, but here is a snippet from Dane Cook's bio on Yahoo! Movies:
But this “hottest comic no one has heard of,” ended up cold-cocking the comedy world with his rock ‘n’ roll persona and hilarious observational bits on everyday life and pop cultural touchstones.

Mmmm, that's some tasty cliche! Did anyone else roll their eyes so hard they hurt themselves?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

is Ron Paul going to make a 3rd party bid?

From Political Insider:
During an MSNBC interview Wednesday, Rep. Ron Paul was asked if he would run for president as a third-party candidate. Paul replied, "No, I don't plan to run in a third party. That's not my goal. But if we have a candidate that loves the war and loves the neocon position of promoting--" Interviewer Norah O'Donnell cut Paul off at that point, and did not return to the topic during the rest of the interview.

Does anyone else find it so delicious that the reporter cut Paul off right as he was about to bash the kind of people running Giuliani's campaign and Bush's foreign policy? Right as he was getting to the juicy stuff? It was like the whole national discourse in microcosm!

I put the odds at about 1000:1, but it would really be something if Giuliani won, and then both the Christian Right and Ron Paul made a 3rd party run. The one thing that keeps me from saying this definitely couldn't happen is that there is already, in existence and on the ballot in most states, a party tailor-made for each of them.

Then again, I think the last thing anyone wants is for that kind of realignment to stick: that would mean a viable Constitution Party.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

shout out to Barmecide

who's in the hospital having his bionic leg implants replaced. Get well soon, and enjoy your drugs in the meantime!

Take me out into the black

A great piece of Firefly trivia from IMDB:
The DVDs of Firefly were flown up to the International Space Station by astronaut Steven Swanson on board the shuttle Atlantis during it's [sic] June 2007 STS-117 mission.

He also took a DVD of Serenity.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Hoosier politics: Governor Daniels' property tax plan

Here's the text of it. I've also found a pretty good LA Times article on the subject here that focuses on the role of overly numerous and unqualified tax assessors in the problem, an issue Daniels appears to be trying to fix. There's a particularly interesting episode they recount (in maddening little detail) about business properties in Marion County that were significantly undervalued. If this is a common phenomenon, then I suspect that may go a long way toward explaining just why local and state revenues keep falling so short.

What can I say? I have a sneaking suspicion the shortfall isn't due to overly lavish attention being paid to Indiana schools. Nor to cracking down on Indiana's very average crime rating.

I have one serious issue with it, though: what's up with capping taxes on rental property higher than other homes? Is this not asking the poor to carry a disproportionally high property tax burden, i.e., making property taxes regressive? Anyone got an answer for this?

Come to think of it, I'm also surprised about the insistence on a constitutional amendment. Why is simple legislation not good enough, especially in case the government falls on real hard times at some point and needs a temporary increase? Then again, the Indy Star reports that a constitutional amendment would send a tax cutting referendum to the people at the same time as the governor's own election.

Suddenly it all becomes clear.

WSBT (I believe) interviewed John Broden, my local rep, and he had something especially interesting to say: several of Daniels' proposals have already been legislated. So much for the no-nonsense problem solving of my man Mitch.

is that the cousin of Amanda Hugginkiss?

CNN gets the Moe's Tavern treatment.

outed and offed

Oh my God! From Larry Johnson, former CIA agent and classmate of Plame:
In 2004 the FBI received intelligence that Al Qaeda hit teams were enroute to the United States to kill Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, and Valerie Plame. The FBI informed Valerie of this threat... As the mother of two pre-school children, her first thoughts were about protecting her kids. She took the threat seriously and asked for help.

When the White House learned of these threats they sprung into action. They beefed up Secret Service protection for Vice President Cheney and provided security protection to Karl Rove. But they declined to do anything for Valerie. That was a CIA problem.

Valerie contacted the office of Security at CIA and requested assistance. They told her too fucking bad and to go pound sand. They did not use those exact words, but they told her she was on her own.
...
So if you have wondered why Joe and Val are a little pissed off, this might help shed some additional light on the matter. Not only did the Bush Administration out a covert intelligence officer working on the most sensitive national security issues in a time of war, but when that officer faced a direct threat to her life and her family’s safety because of that public exposure, they did not do a goddamn thing to help.

Apparently Plame recounts this story in her new book, Fair Game. I heard Terry Gross interviewing her yesterday, and when conversation turned to the Bush Administration and the exposure of her identity to the Prince of Darkness, Plame actually dropped the T-bomb ("treason"). That's a pretty serious charge to be throwing around,* and I don't know that I've ever actually heard someone in a non-elected, non-appointed government office use that word before.

My guess at the time was that someone she knew and had been working closely with had died because of that exposure. She was mad as hell.

*-- Not that Plame's characterization of the outing of a covert CIA operative is necessarily wrong or right, mind you; it's just that it's much stronger than the language I think most people are accustomed to hearing.

coercing confessions, FBI-style

An amazing story here:
The long and the short of it was that an Egpytian national, Abdallah Higazy, was staying in a hotel in New York City on September 11 and the hotel emptied out when the planes hit the towers. The hotel later found in the closet of his room a device that allows you to communicate with airline pilots. Investigators thought this guy had something to do with 9/11 so they questioned him. According to Higazi, the investigators coerced him into confessing to a role in 9/11. Higazi first adamantly denied any involvement with 9/11 and could not believe what was happening to him. Then, he says, the investigator said his family would go through hell in Egypt, where they torture people like Saddam Hussein. Higazy then realized he had a choice: he could continue denying the radio was his and his family suffers ungodly torture in Egypt or he confesses and his family is spared. Of course, by confessing, Higazy's life is worth garbage at that point, but ... well, that's why coerced confessions are outlawed in the United States.

So Higazy "confesses" and he's processed by the criminal justice system. His future is quite bleak. Meanwhile, an airline pilot later shows up at the hotel and asks for his radio back.

Can you believe this shit? Well, the good news is that he sues, and the judge rules that he is entitled to damages. However, then something strange happens after the opinion is posted online: the court has to take down the opinion and redact it, because the details of the FBI coercion are classified.

Imagine that.