Friday, June 30, 2006

Pardon the Interruption

The (parenthetical remarks) World HeadquartersTM is pulling up stakes and moving (barely) across the Mississippi. Assuming I don't crash the truck, expect more of my wit early next week. My wisdom, well, that comes when it comes.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Bloggitus Interruptus

Lighter than normal bloggery this week due to external circumstances. My apologies to the Hearty Handful. In the words of California's governor, I'll be back (to grope you).

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Cheney's Progress Report

In a Q&A at the National Press Club, Dick Cheney claimed that we're winning the war on terror and that aggressive U.S. actions are responsible for keeping us safe since 9/11.
The fact of the matter is we have been safe and secure here at home. That's not an accident [like, say, shooting a hunting buddy, —ed.]. It didn't happen just because we got lucky.
By that logic, the Clinton administration was far more successful than the Bush administration has been thus far, and Carter was an absolute dream. I'm not sure that's what Cheney meant, though.

Cheney also defended his claim that the Iraqi insurgency was in its "last throes", which he originally made over a year ago. That officially makes this the most protracted death scene in the history of political theater. Funny, those death rattles sound an awful lot like explosions.

Pentagon Brings Up the Rear

The AP reports that a Pentagon document classifies homosexuality as a mental disorder on par with mental retardation and personality disorders. The American Psychiatric Association, which criticized the so-called Defense Department Instruction along with other medical professionals and members of Congress, declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1973.

Doublethink, or the ability to hold two contradictory ideas to be simultaneously true (think "humane torture"), is a mental disorder that positively cries out for a dose of Thorazine, but it didn't even make the list. In the current administration, it's grounds for promotion.

On a Related Note: Contrary to what the Pet Shop Boys may tell you, the new leader of the U.S. Episcopal Church (who's a chick, man—boo!) has declared that homosexuality is not a sin (nor, presumably, is it a mental disorder). According to Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, homosexuals, in the immortal words of the Spinal Tap hotel receptionist who was also that guy from The Jeffersons, are just as God made them.

The denomination's first female leader puts less emphasis on the abominations enumerated in the Bible and more on such pansy nonsense as love and including the unincluded. Lucky for her, they don't burn witches at the stake anymore. Would be right-wing attackers may be disappointed to learn that her daughter is a pilot in the U.S. Air Force. And mom's not a lesbian.

Monday, June 19, 2006


Well, the ACLU looks stupid.

The Corner reports on a New York Times article about the ACLU's attempts to put gag orders on its board members. Several board members spoke to the Times on condition of anonymity because they were afraid to speak publicly. Afraid of the ACLU. John Miller proposes a new motto for the rights group: Do as we say, not as we do.

It's certainly not the first time the ACLU has looked like a pack of hypocrites (which I generally believe they aren't). My favorite moment was when they had Courtney Love present a First Amendment award at a Hollywood banquet despite the fact that she is widely known to have made death threats to journalists (some of which were left on an answering machine, fer chrissakes). That sort of behavior is generally a no-no in ACLU circles, but this is America, after all. Celebrity trumps everything.

Dieting Just Got a Lot More Fun

There is word today that Nestle will "fatten up its weight-loss business" by purchasing Jenny Craig Inc. for $600 million.

I can't wait for the new Jenny Craig CaramelNutBlast DrumstickTM weight loss supplements. Mmmm ... reducing aids!

Combine that with a new line of FitKatsTM (with whole grain wafers) and you've finally got a diet that Americans can stick to.

Now I Feel Much Better

The Peninsula, an English daily from Qatar, is reporting that North Korea has threatened to "mercilessly wipe out" US forces in the event of a war.

Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves. They really just said they would "erase us from the page of time," which isn't nearly as bad.

(Sorry, Juan; I couldn't resist.)

Friday, June 16, 2006

Out of Their Gourds

I caught a few hours of the vaunted VH-1 series The Drug Years last night, and it left me with the taste of stale bongwater in my mouth.

I was put off by the documentary's self-congratulatory pro-drug message. I'm not a prude or a "social conservative" in the least, but there's something unseemly about the celebration of unchecked hedonism (whether of the dirty hippie variety or the slick Wall St. variety). The program appears to suffer from a sort of cultural amnesia brought on by the handful of burnouts and has-beens who made the narrow roster of raconteurs (one exception is the generally thoughtful commentary from Columbia professor Ann Douglas).

"Celebrities" like Ray Manzarek of the Doors (who actually uses the word "Squaresville" in earnest), actor Peter Coyote (who has apparently forgotten that he was in E.T.) and Country Joe McDonald (sans Fish) wax nostalgic about those great days of yore when everyone who was anyone was wasted and spinning around barefoot in the park and they really changed things, man!

And it's true, they did change things. They brought drug use into the mainstream. Hippie political and social utopianism was a failure, however, and the flower children of yesterday are less concerned with expanding their minds today than they are with maxing out their 401(k) contributions.

The thing I hate most about The Drug Years is that everything that happened in the 60s is seen through a haze of psychedelia and pot smoke. Sure, this is inevitable given the documentary's subject matter, but not everything that happened in the second half of the 60s can be boiled down to drugs. The show gives the impression that everyone under the age of 30 was on drugs—and better off for it. Drugs were what made events like the Monterrey Pop Festival enjoyable and drugs were responsible for all the good music that the stoned kids were grooving to.

It would be naive to say that drugs did not influence the great musicians of the era, but that's not enough to make the case. Tons of people took acid and smoked pot, but there was only one Jimi Hendrix. Drugs colored his life and style, to be sure, but they didn't create the talent (of course, in reality, they killed it). The Drug Years essentializes drug use, making it the sine qua non of the 60s experience. Druggies are hip, and anti-drug people are Jack Webb from Dragnet—the dividing line is that stark. We don't get to hear misgivings about drug use from the hipsters until, predictably, it all goes horribly wrong with Charlie Manson and Altamont. The Summer of Love, as always, is sacrosanct.

Another off-putting aspect of The Drug Years is its cultural and racial narrowness. For all intents and purposes, these are the White, Middle Class Drug Years. Apart from a fleeting reference to jazz in the 50s, black American culture is invisible. This is extremely odd considering that so much of what became "cool" (including that word itself) percolated up to the folkie/hippie set from black culture.

I'll have to reserve final judgment until I see the whole program, but from what I saw, The Drug Years is nothing more than an endorsement of drug use. They rip away the cultural and intellectual core of the 60s youth movements, leaving nothing but slogans, a pile of chemicals and pastel body paint. The only really compelling argument against drugs comes from repeatedly looking into Joe McDonald's creepy, vacant eyes.

Who's Evil Now?

The Prince of Darkness is trading in his horns to become the King of Compassion. Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who is the world's richest man, is stepping down from the computer Goliath to concentrate on charity work.

In 2000, Gates and his wife started the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which focuses on providing vaccinations to people in the developing world, AIDS research and supplying computer technology to libraries and schools. The foundation, which has $26 billion in assets, has "given away more money than Andrew Carnegie and John Rockefeller put together, even when adjusted for inflation." Not bad for the devil.

Perhaps Gates will extend his commitment in Africa by financing a state-of-the-art OBGYN center in Namibia, complete with paparazzi sensors and an ample supply of Cheetos.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Destroying America to Save It

Quick! Put it out with the Constitution!

Why is it that whenever the Republican Party wants to "protect" America they break out the scissors and head straight for the Constitution? First it was the vital mission of denying equal rights to gay people. Now it's flag burning. Again.

Flag burners are obnoxious attention-seekers, to be sure. They may be offensive to some people, but they're not dangerous (unless you stand too close, that is). It's certainly not worth debasing the U.S. Constitution to get rid of them.

As with the failed anti-gay amendment, this flag burning measure is not intended to pass. It's there to give the Republicans a boost in the polls. More specifically, these measures are introduced so that Democrats will be on record voting against them. The fact that the so-called champions of American values would be willing to endanger the Constitution—and the freedoms it guarantees—for so much political vaudeville speaks to their desperation—and their moral bankruptcy, too.

Down in the Desert

Is immigration status more important than human life? For some people, evidently, it is. A group called Humane Borders has been placing tanks of water out in the Arizona desert in an attempt to cut down on the number of illegal immigrants who die from dehydration while trying to sneak into the country. Vandals have been draining those tanks.

I can understand that some people are uneasy with the idea of a group helping illegal immigrants make it safely into this country. Trying to get those immigrants killed, however, is a blatant erosion of the very American values these anti-immigrant types pretend to uphold. How far are they willing to go to "protect" America?

The Blind Leading the Blind

Yesterday, Wonkette reported a strange exchange between President Bush and LA Times reporter Peter Wallsten, who was wearing sunglasses, at a Rose Garden news conference. (After a few fits and starts, Wonkette published an accurate transcript of the exchange.)
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, Peter. Are you going to ask that question with shades on?

Q: I can take them off.

THE PRESIDENT: I'm interested in the shade look, seriously.

Q: All right, I'll keep it, then.

THE PRESIDENT: For the viewers, there's no sun. (Laughter.)

Q: I guess it depends on your perspective. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: Touché. (Laughter.)
It turns out that Wallsten suffers from a rare form of macular degeneration and is legally blind. Oops.

It should be noted that Bush was not aware of Wallsten's condition, but when he found out later, the President called the reporter and gamely apologized, telling him, "I needle you guys out of affection." Wallsten, ever the good sport, brushed it off and told Bush to "needle away." Bush agreed and said, "next time I'll just use a different needle."

Such love and affection between Bush and the press corps! If Helen Thomas would just divulge her Tourette's diagnosis, everything would be wonderful. Wallsten did manage to get the last laugh, however. He said he appreciated the joke, and "his only complaint is that the president didn't answer his question at the news conference." Ah, the more things change...

It was certainly an embarrassing moment for the President, but he didn't really do anything wrong. I guess he can just be thankful that Wallsten couldn't see him blush.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Last Laugh

Sullivan writes about a disturbing video that has popped up on YouTube showing an American Marine "letting off steam" by singing a song about killing two little Iraqi girls to a group of cheering soldiers. One of Sullivan's readers, an American Muslim, responds by saying he understands "that this is gallows humor," but it doesn't reflect too well on our men in uniform (to put it mildly).

It's a magnanimous response, but he's got it wrong. It's not gallows humor when you're the executioner.

The Golden Dunce Award

Sometimes you hear something so spectacularly stupid that it makes you choke on your morning coffee. I've created the Golden Dunce Award to give these utterances the honor they so richly deserve.

Andrew Sullivan has a post this morning that quotes from an email sent out by Lanier Swann, the Director of Government Relations for a group called Concerned Women for America. Since, as Sullivan puts it, "the fag-bashing and flag-waving didn't go over so well," right-wing Christians are looking for other ways to foul up our culture. Swann's email was written in support of the Pledge Protection Act, a piece of legislation that would protect the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. Sounds useful. Here's the award-winning passage from the email:
Our country's founding fathers were men of faith who intentionally included the phrase "under God" in an oath that serves as a symbol of loyalty and patriotism to our great country.
My brain hurts. First, the Founding Fathers largely followed a religion that modern-day Christianists would regard as the basest heresy. Second, as Sullivan tells us, the Pledge was "invented by a socialist in 1892." No matter how early to bed or early to rise, none of the FF had quite that kind of longevity. Finally, the phrase "under God" wasn't added to the Pledge until 1954, where it has made agnostics and atheists uncomfortable and—worst of all—ruined the poetic rhythm ever since.

Congratulations, Lanier Swann, you have won the Golden Dunce Award! (You're also on the short list for WASPiest Name honors.)

Larry Flynt Is Right!

Not to acid-rain on anyone's parade, but one of the world's greatest living astrophysicists thinks we need to leave Earth in order to survive as a species. That can't be good.

The response from the "global warming is a left-wing plot to hand America over to the Red Chinese" set? "Lets make litter of the literati!"

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Anything for a Vote

Gosh, searching for hypocrisy on Capitol Hill is like looking for a logical fallacy in an Ann Coulter book: child's play.

Raw Story is reporting on an article in Roll Call about how a bunch of Republican Senators who have supported anti-immigrant measures such as makingEnglish the offical language of the United States have bilingual websites.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who wrote a resolution on the national anthem being sung in English, has a section of his site titled, "El Senador Alexander." Senators Wayne Allard (R-CO) and Jim DeMint (R-SC), both strong proponents of a 'get tough' immigration policy, also have their sites in both English and Spanish.
Oops. These guys pander to American nativists to capture the anti-immigrant vote, but they don't want to alienate Spanish-speaking voters, either. Are they counting on a wellspring of self-hating Hispanics? ¡Que loco!

What Would Superman Do?

Here's why religion is bad. There's apparently an asinine debate raging on the Internet over whether Superman is supposed to be a Christian or a Jew. Seriously.

Simcha Weinstein contends that Superman and Clark Kent are a "complex symbol of immigrant identity and assimilation, the embodiment of the American Dream, as imagined by two second-generation Jewish kids." The "El" in Kal-El, Superman's real name, means "God" in Hebrew.

Stephen Skelton notes that Jor-El sends his only son Kal-El to spread good and whatnot on Earth. God the father, God the son. Kill me.

The trailer for the new Superman leans toward the latter interpretation. Here's Jor-El talking to his pride and joy: "They can be a great people. They wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you — my only son." Oh, Christ (so to speak).

My question for the pious is this: if Superman is supposed to be some sort of God figure, then why is he named after Nietzsche's post-theistic hero? Huh? And what's kryptonite supposed to be? Dan Brown?

Religious fanatics: stop ruining everything you touch. Thank you.

Hollywood Gives Back

There's a heartwarming AP story on Yahoo! News about a 12-year-old Iraqi girl named Marwa Naim who traveled to Los Angeles to get a new nose, her original one having been damaged in a missile attack.

Oddly, the author of the article, one Alicia Chang, appears to have gone to the Dan Brown School of Journalism. Here's her description of a happy post-op Marwa:
On Monday, Naim showed off her face to others. Dressed in a light green burqa, she hugged and thanked the doctors who performed the operation...
Here's a picture of a burqa. Not exactly the get-up for showing off your new nose, is it? Here's a snippet of inspirational prose from the master, Dan Brown:
...the mountainous silhouette of his attacker stared through the iron bars. He was broad and tall, with ghost-pale skin and thinning white hair. His irises were pink with dark red pupils.
At the DBSJ, they don't have dictionaries, apparently, and all vaguely related words are synonyms. Shadow, silhouette...what's the difference? Burqa, hijab...don't flummox me with details.

Still, it's nice to see LA applying its scalpels and collagen to the forces of good for a change. Here's an inspiring before and after picture of little Marwa.

God bless America!

Ad Infinitum

See, look! I'm not the only one who thinks blog ads matter. Hooray!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Triumph of the Swill

More fun with Google! You may have heard that Brad Pitt and Angelia Jolie are seeing each other. You may even be aware that they just had a baby together. It's not very important in the grand scheme of things, you say? Bosh! Your computer says otherwise.

Type "Brangelina" into Google and you get 4,820,000 hits*, which is an enormous number considering that "Brangelina" is a made-up word for a couple who have been dating for less than two years. That said, it blows other cutesy couple names out of the digital water. Vaughniston only musters a measly 188,000 hits and the once-vaunted Bennifer clocks in at 204,000. What about poor Jen's previous relationship? Don't ask. Pittiston, which looks like it should be the name of an industrial town in Pennsylvania, gets only 369 hits and Bradifer gets 3,340. At least The Break Up is doing well...

By way of comparison, "Brangelina" gets more hits than a number of world leaders. For example, if you Google "Musharraf", who has been the president of Pakistan for ten years and has been in the newspaper virtually every day since 9/11, you get 4,810,000 hits, which comes up just a little shy of everyone's favorite Hollywood baby factory. Stephen Harper, Canada's prime minister, only gets 3,560,000 hits (which is fewer than both Celine Dion and Bryan Adams as well). Hifikepunye Pohamba, whom you undoubtedly know as the president of Namibia, gets an embarrassing 58,700 hits (Namibia +Jolie, incidentally, yields 2.4 million). Condoleeza Rice, who actually has a measurable impact on Namibia, gets only 1,560,000 hits. Maybe she should have a baby.

Brangelina chose the name "Shiloh" for their genetic super-being, which means something nice in some language and also happens to be the name of one of the Civil War's bloodiest battles. Google Shiloh +battle and you get a respectable 1,580,000 hits. Google Shiloh +Jolie, however, and you get 3,280,000. Take that, Ken Burns!

Even when measured against tried and true bellwethers of popularity and importance, Brangelina reigns supreme. The search term easily eclipses the 1,580,000 hits for "more cowbell" and even surpasses the 3,100,000 hits garnered by "Clay Aiken". Oddly, if you accidentally type in "gay Aiken", you only get 791 hits. But if your fingers slip and you end up with clay aiken +gay, you get 740,000, which is fully 24% of the total for Clay Aiken alone. But I digress.

It's clear that Brangelina means a lot to America and the world. That should go without saying. The true tragedy here is that the golden child, Shiloh Brangelina Pitt-Jolie, can never grow up to take her rightful place as President of the United States. Not because she's a bastard (that's never stopped anyone before), but because she was born in Namibia. If ever there was an argument for repealing Article 2, Clause 5 of the Constitution, this is it.

*Google results will vary according to what regional node you happen to be patched into and whether you're running "safe-search" and whatnot. If you are running "safe-search", you're missing out on a lot of creative Photoshop work.

Victimizing the Victims

Ann Coulter exploded back on the scene last week with her despicable comments about anti-war 9/11 widows. She said, amongst other awful things, "I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much."

I'm sure you'll be shocked and amazed to learn than this line comes from her brand new book, Godless, which accuses liberals of being, well, godless, and which currently sits atop the bestsellers list. The above link is to a Howard Kurtz column in the Washington Post in which he argues that perhaps the media ought to stop feeding this ravenous publicity beast. She might just go away.

Kurtz is entirely correct to point out, however, that there is a tiny nugget of a valid point secreted beneath all those layers of Coulterian boilerplate. Here's how he puts it: "...once widows turn themselves into political activists, their personal tragedies should not shield them from rebuttal..."

As Matt Lauer rightly noted on the Today show, Coulter disproves her own argument by attacking the widows, as many a right-winger has done to Cindy Sheehan as well. The animus directed at Coulter in this case comes not from her temerity in challenging the widows' political views, but from the inhuman callousness of her attack.

Every American has the right to enter the political debate—for any reason. The 9/11 widows and Cindy Sheehan—not to mention Terri Schiavo's parents—have as much right as anyone else to their political views. But, and this is crucial, they have no special right to influence public policy. Their stories may be compelling, even tragic. That might give them a bigger soapbox or a louder megaphone, but it should never give them an extra vote.

Their experiences may well give them a special understanding of the issues. Most people with thankfully never know what it's like to have a loved one die in a terror attack or in battle, but public policy, as the name implies, affects everybody, and no one, regardless of private pathos, has a special right to dictate how other people should feel. This is why the sentencing of criminals is done by a dispassionate judge rather than by the victim's family. Justice is supposed to serve the public good, not the frayed emotions of those personally affected.

Whenever a victim of a tragedy willfully takes to the public stage to advocate policy, they open themselves up to legitimate criticism. If they choose to open up their private tragedy to public scrutiny, they have no right to wear the unimpeachable mantle of the victim. That said, their critics have a responsibility to criticize their ideas without belittling their pain. Ann Coulter serves as a handy reminder that this is not always borne out in practice.

The irony is that Coulter goes ballistic about these women profiting from their pain and bereavement despite the fact that she is doing exactly the same thing, but in an even more underhanded manner. Even if you violently disagree with the political views of the terror widows and Cindy Sheehans of the world, you can at least understand that they are motivated by their pain and grief. Coulter, on the other hand, is motivated by nothing other than greed and vindictiveness. And she's cashing in big-time.

A Storm By Any Other Name...

It's nice to see that the World Meteorological Organization has taken my advice and named the first tropical storm of the 2006 hurricane season Alberto.

Tell the National Guard and the Minutemen that "Alberto" is coming up from south of the border and is trying to cross into America and they'll be swarming all over the Florida Gulf coast in no time. In order to ensure proper response from the U.S. government, they should alternate the Hispanic names with Muslim names—just to keep them on their toes. The next one can be named Bilal.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Well, Duh

Rep. Tim Roehmer, a member of the 9/11 Commission, is the latest to come down on Ann Coulter for her despicable comments about "Terror Wives", as Ted Rall once called them.

Roehmer, a Democrat from Indiana, called her remarks "hate-filled...reprehensible and undignified." (I believe that's actually Coulter's middle name, ellipsis and all.)

Well, guess what? Coulter is on a mission to sell her ridiculous new book. And from the looks of things, she's doing a bang-up job. Roehmer probably helped her sell a couple more.

Let's not forget: the fascist, indefensible, inhuman, cruel, arrogant, whiny, insufferable, anti-intellectual, unpardonable, black-hearted, soulless, mean-spirited, combative, belligerent, hostile, bloodthirsty, callous, sadistic, depraved, philistine, malevolent, unconscionable wheel gets the grease.

Europe in the Grips of Islam

There's a fascinating post over at Random Platitudes that's well worth a moment of your time.

Having a little fun with genealogy, RP looks into the lineage of one Alfonso VI, an 11th Century monarch who was the first to claim the title "king of Spain", and one of his wives, Isabella, who (most likely) bore his only son, Sancho. RP claims (perhaps accurately) that "an index of the descendants of Alfonso VI and Isabella would be a complete listing of every single European royal family, most of the nobility, and many of the prominent families of the élites of other nations (including the United States of America...)" (original emphasis). For example, Isabella is the Great23 Grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II, and the Great24 Grandmother of the unfortunate Princess Diana.

So what? Here's what:
Well, Isabella wasn't born with that name. Actually, her name used to be Zaida. Nor was she a Christian, until she was forcibly converted to Catholicism. She was, in fact, the daughter of the deposed Emir of Sevilla, Abul-Kasim Muhammad ben Abbad al-Mu'tamid...
But wait, there's more:
...the Emir of Sevilla wasn't just a nobody. In fact, he came from a pretty prominent lineage. More precisely, 16 generations before he came along, one of his ancestors had founded a new world religion. That's right, Abul-Kasim Muhammad ben Abbad al-Mu'tamid was a lineal descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. In other words, so is every single royal family in Europe (original emphasis).
Holy caliphate, batman! Forget Kevin Bacon, this is Six Degrees of Separation taken to an entirely new level. (A little more evidence here.)

It's worth remembering the next time people start inveighing against Muslims in European society. Apparently, without Muslims, there wouldn't be European society. Not the way we know it, at least. (Maybe.)

Quote of the Day

I don't believe there's any issue that's more important than this one.
—Republican Senator David Vitter, from the great, sodden state of Louisiana.

Can you guess what he's talking about? Something to do with the challenges faced by New Orleans and the impending hurricane season, maybe? Click on over to The Truffle to find out.

Out of the Closet...

...into a cell?

A judge in the R. Kelly child pornography case has ruled that there is no "overarching interest" in keeping a tape, which allegedly shows the R&B star having sex with an underage girl (possibly as young as 13), from the public and the media.

This looks like a devastating blow to Kelly's case and, especially, his public image, since both defense attorneys and prosecutors had argued that viewing be limited to the judge and jury on the grounds that the video is too lewd. Maybe Dave Chappelle really was on to something.

R. Kelly believes he can fly; maybe now we'll know why the caged bird sings.

Christian Jihad Watch

Police in Riverdale, Maryland, arrested a man who planned to attack an abortion clinic with a pipe bomb. He also stole a handgun from a friend to "shoot doctors who provided abortions." According to the story, a car in the suspect's driveway "had a frame around the front license plate that read 'Choose Life' and 'God is pro-Life.'"

I always thought murder was a funny way to protect life. Maybe that's just me. It's always worth pointing out that "Western values" aren't universal—anywhere.

With No Further DeLay

Tom "The Hammer" DeLay signed off yesterday with one final speech to the House—a speech that sent Democrats streaming for the doors by the dozens.

Apparently retirement speeches in the House are supposed to be warm and fuzzy affairs in which the outgoing member waxes nostalgic over bipartisanship and across-the-aisle camaraderie. With DeLay, not so much.
For all its faults, it is partisanship—based on core principles—that clarifies our debates, that prevents one party from straying too far from the mainstream and that constantly refreshes our politics with new ideas and new leaders.
DeLay went on to criticize Democrats for their support of "more government, more taxation, more control over people's lives and wallets." Apparently DeLay is unaware that the most massive expansion of government in recent memory happened under his watch and thanks to his tutelage.

On the issue of partisanship, I have to agree with ex-Speaker DeLay. Partisanship is what politics is all about, and a politician who is willing to sacrifice too many of his or her ideals on the altar of compromise ends up with no ideals at all. Sound familiar?

DeLay was never one for compromise. No, it usually [allegedly] took cold hard cash to get him to budge from his "core principles". Like when the adamantly pro-life DeLay scuttled legislation that would have banned sweatshops in the U.S. Territory of the Northern Mariana Islands that forced workers to have abortions—at the request of one Jack Abramoff.

A healthy partisanship is essential to politics. It's good for politics. But not if partisanship means lying, cheating and bullying your way to the top. And that's why Tom DeLay is delivering his retirement speech to a half-empty room, rather than serving his 11th term in office. So long and good riddance, Mr. Speaker.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Prince of Tides

George Bush said today that the killing of al-Zarqawi may "turn the tide" in the Iraq war, which is slightly odd since the president has never mentioned that the tide was against us in the first place.

As I wrote last month, Bush and his administration have lost any right to such confidence since every "corner" we turn leads to a new one. Perhaps the tide will turn, but I'm not going to trust the White House prognosticators.

Related: Sullivan quotes Juan Cole throwing a wet blanket on the Zarqawi festivities:
...Zarqawi has in my view has been less important than local Iraqi leaders and groups. I don't expect the guerrilla war to subside any time soon.

The Great Obfuscator

Andrew Sullivan links to this astonishing quote from President George Bush:
I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being the president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel I owe anybody an explanation.
No wonder real conservatives are up in arms over the madness of King George. It's gone from the so-called "Great Communicator" to this in 12 short years.

Of course, this kind of explicitly anti-democratic rhetoric may be why his poll numbers are so awful. Bush conquered the White House posing as some sort of plain-talking straight shooter. He has amply proven himself to be not only a mealy-mouthed obfuscator, but a real champion of the public's right not to know.

Participatory democracy is based upon the precept of a well-informed public. When the president of the United States thinks that he answers to no one and is under no obligation to the people who (inexplicably) granted him the power he so jealously guards, our system of government is immeasurably weakened.

I have a sneaking suspicion, however, that the real reason behind this utterance is that Bush needs one of his handlers to explain to him the things that he says. They are, after all, ideas that are undoubtedly conceived and crafted by others.

Either way, Bush 1, America 0.

Senate Bigotry Watch

The Senate vote for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage failed miserably, of course. The final vote was 49-48 in favor, far short of the 67 votes needed to approve the amendment. This is no surprise since no one expected the measure to pass—the vote was just a callous attempt by Republicans to pander to the bigotry of their base, after all.

Of the 49 votes in favor, all but two were cast by Republicans. The "yea" votes cast by Democrats were from former Klansman Robert Byrd and conservative Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson. Plaudits to the following six Republicans for resisting their party's hateful agenda and voting with the Democratic bloc:
  • Chafee (R-RI)
  • Collins (R-ME)
  • Gregg (R-NH)
  • McCain (R-AZ)
  • Snowe (R-ME)
  • Specter (R-PA)
  • Sununu (R-NH)
That's basically all the New England Republicans in the Senate, plus John McCain (and—surprise, surprise—not including Santorum from Pennsylvania). It's nice to see that a few people in the Senate still have a conscience. The fact that they're outnumbered should surprise no one who follows politics.

Karma for Zarqawi

It's a strange and welcome change that the people dancing in the streets with guns in Iraq are on our side for once. The U.S. military finally succeeded in killing al-Zarqawi, which should have an effect on the insurgency. Just how much, nobody knows.

If the insurgency is really on its last legs, as Dick Cheney said a year ago, this should cut them off at the knees. If killings and attacks continue unabated, however, expect a backlash (more so) against Bush, who no longer has Zarqawi to use as an excuse for all the violence. Funny there should be so many double-edged swords in the Middle East.

That said, Zarqawi dying in a huge explosion is the ultimate poetic justice, considering how many people he's dispatched that way.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


Sorry for the light posting today. Either a mainframe over at Blogger blew up or there was a particularly engrossing pool match on in the Google break room. Not quite sure, but the system sure was screwed up.

Let me try to catch up. Hey, isn't the world crazy? Here's some vaguley humorous commentary on the subject.

Yeah, you didn't miss much.

Shock of the New

It's tough going out there in fast food land. Competition is fierce and marketing budgets are immense. In an attempt to get a leg up, fast food outlets are forced to continually update their menus with new—or apparently new—items.

More often than not, the hot new menu items are simply slight variations on a well-worn theme, like a regular chicken sandwich with some sort of Chipotle-Blaster honey mustard or a little extra black pepper to make it "spicy." Other times, they take a regular food item and do something wild and crazy like change the shape, as Burger King has done with their French Toast Sticks, and Arby's with their evidently much wilder French Toastix. Burger King recently set the gold standard for this technique with the introduction of Chicken Fries, which are basically McNuggets shaped to look like french fries—the logic being that they're somehow more "portable."

Other promotions take familiar offerings and super-duper-size them, as Hardees has done with their new gigantic hamburgers and Burger King with their Enormous Omelet Sandwich. Talk about truth in advertising: the latter fare, which consists of bacon, sausage, cheese and eggs on a bun, weighs in at 730 calories, 47 grams of fat (including 87% of the daily allotment of saturated fat) nearly 2,000 mg of sodium and 138% of the RDA for cholesterol. God, it would take Nicole Richie a week to eat this thing.

Things get truly ridiculous, however, when fast food marketers try to think outside the styrofoam box and create entirely new menu items. The McRib sandwich from McDonald's—which I must confess a weakness for—is a classic example. The McGriddle, which takes a slab of sausage and slaps it between two syrup-infused griddlecakes, is another. But originality has its limits, as do the bounds of good taste. Take for example, Arby's new Roast Beef Gyro, or the Crunchwrap Supreme from Taco Bell. Seriously, take them. I'm not going near them.

Other great misses in neo-fast food include the Double Decker Taco, also from Taco Bell, which is a regular taco in a crunchy shell that has then been superfluously smeared with refried beans and wrapped in a flour tortilla—proof that bigger is not always better. Pizza Hut is trying to make inroads with their unappetizing stuffed crust pizzas. They should just go to the inevitable conclusion and offer a Cholesterol Lover's Pizza with stuffed crust and cheese-stuffed pepperoni. I'm sure their food scienticians can figure it out.

By far the greatest sin against the fast food-eating public, however, has to be KFC's brand new "Famous Bowl." (I'm quite convinced a copywriter left the In- prefix off that title.) The Famous Bowl consists of mashed potatoes, corn, bite size pieces of crispy chicken, gravy and a 3-cheese blend. Maybe three of those ingredients would be good together, but all five? Who wants gravy and cheese? This bowl sounds like what you might throw up the morning after Thanksgiving.

The Famous Bowl doesn't seem like it was designed by a chef or even a marketing team. It looks much more like the handiwork of some drunk loser trying to polish off scraps of chicken and leftover side dishes from the back of the fridge without having to wash more than one dish afterwards. This may be something to console you in the dark, lonely hours between 2 and 4 a.m., but it's not something I'd think anyone would ever buy on purpose or eat in public.

But that's the great thing about America: you're constantly amazed at what some people will eat. That and all the freedom.

Season of the Moonbats

Andrew Sullivan has already nominated several people for the Malkin Award (for shrill, hyperbolic, divisive and intemperate right-wing rhetoric) this year. Lucianne Goldberg, Vox Day and Joseph Farah all got the nod for insane rantings against immigrants. Now, unsurprisingly, Rush Limbaugh has gotten in on the act. It's not for immigrant bashing, but for another of his pet causes: belittling atrocities committed in our name in the War on Terror.

The reigning chairman of Club Gitmo couldn't care less about the people killed in Haditha. It's not even about that; it's about the liberal "drive-by" media and the American left (who he portrays as gang rapists). Limbaugh explains the slaughter of civilians thus: "...this is the final big push on behalf of the Democratic Party, the American left, and the Drive-By Media to destroy our effort to win the war in Iraq."

It looks a lot more like an effort by a few jackasses in the U.S. military to lose the war in Iraq, but I digress. Too bad the award explicitly excludes Ann Coulter (to give someone else a chance), because her comments with Matt Lauer on the Today Show certainly would have put her in the running. Speaking about the widows of men who died on 9/11, she said, "I have never seen people enjoying their husband's death so much." Still, even without Raggedy Ann, there are some real thoroughbreds in the running for the Malkin Award this year, and we're not even halfway there.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Thinking the Thinkable

There. Wasn't that easy? The U.S. has reportedly agreed to supply Iran with nuclear technology if they agree to stop enriching uranium on their own. This would give Iran the "peaceful" nuclear technology they claim to want without the specter of a nuclear-armed Iran that the West so fears.

Now we'll see whether President Ahmadnejad will accept the deal or prove that he's the whacked-out lunatic that he so strongly resembles.

Three cheers for the major diplomatic effort on the part of the U.S. and Europe to forge this deal. It's nice to know that the people shrilly raising the alarm about an impending war with Iran—and you know who you are—may have spoken too soon.

So, people seem to be thinking the thinkable. Here's hoping they can manage to do the doable.

This Just In: So far, so good. Iran is cautiously optimistic about the proposal.

More Devil's Day Blogging

We need some violent worship and praise to counteract this.

Overheard on Fox

Bill O'Reilly advocating a far more expansive definition of "marriage" than you'd ever imagine on The O'Reilly Factor last night:
...the traditional family—the married man and woman—are best qualified to marry children in this country. That's the overwhelming issue.
The Truth Will Out: As an added bonus, the "Defense of Marriage Act" was rendered the "Defensive Marriage Act" by the FOX News closed captioning team. Now that's what I call Fair & Balanced!

Happy Devil's Day!

Monday, June 05, 2006

Shout at the Devil

According to an AFP report, a Dutch Christian group is hoping to combat Devil's Day (6/6/06) with a 24-hour prayer vigil against "Satanic forces."
We believe that the plans the enemy has for this date (June 6, 2006) will be destroyed through violent worship and praise.
It's nice to know that the United States doesn't completely corner the market on Christian lunacy. I only wonder if Ambassadors Ministries is lumping Ann Coulter in with the "enemy."

Quote of the Day

Ages of experience [sic] have taught us that the commitment of a husband and wife to love and to serve one another promotes the welfare of children and the stability of society. Government, by recognizing and protecting marriage, serves the interests of all.
—President George W. Bush, from his weekly radio address.

What Bush insinuates but doesn't have the guts to say is that he believes gay marriage does not promote the welfare of children and the stability of society. There has been no evidence whatsoever to suggest that homosexual parentage is detrimental to the welfare of children. Bush and his Christianist ilk, however, prefer foster care to gay adoption, which should send the bullshit detector off the charts every time they talk about child welfare. Furthermore, wouldn't accepting gay people as full human beings in society promote the welfare of children who (gasp!) happen to be born gay? Or does that nullify their right to welfare?

So, what exactly about good old-fashioned boy-girl marriage promotes the stability of society? There are a number of factors at play here. Committed married couples are able to share resources and responsibilities. They can share health insurance and other such benefits. Their union allows for the smooth transfer of wealth and property when one member of the couple dies, and it allows for humane and loving care in the final days of an illness. A government that promotes marriage promotes monogamy which itself benefits society by buffering it somewhat from the effects (health and otherwise) of rampant promiscuity.

According to Bush, the same things that are beneficial to society because of a traditional marriage become detrimental with homosexual marriage. Why would society not be further stabilized by the acceptance of gay marriage? Allowing a larger pool of people to share in the society-bolstering benefits and responsibilities of marriage should make things better, not worse. Right?

There's no point in asking logical questions about this issue, however, because it's not an argument based on logic. It's based on fear, homophobia and bigotry. Nothing Bush said in the above quote is exclusive to heterosexual couples. Nothing. The only difference is that Bush, because of his Christian fundamentalist principles, thinks gay people are sinners and undeserving of the rights and responsibilities of full-fledged human beings. It's as simple as that. And he'd like nothing more than to see this horrible sentiment enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, which means he wants to trivialize one of the fundamental, stabilizing building blocks of the very society he's so concerned about.

The irony of the situation is only heightened by the fact that Bush is totally oblivious to the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of his position.

The Republican Cliché

When the chips are down—when backs are against the wall—that's when you can get a glimpse of the mettle people are really made of. Facing a power hemorrhage in the 2006 midterm elections, President Bush and the Republicans are pulling out all the stops, going the extra mile and giving 110% to "energize" their base.

And just how do they hope to do that? With a double-edged sword of bigotry that may just prove to be a Sword of Damocles in the end. As if throwing red meat to a pack of jackals, the Republican leadership has decided to play off of the hatred their base has for gays and foreigners. (If it ain't true, then why are they humming this tune?)

The right-wing "batten down the hatches because here come the Mexicans and your town will never be the same" forces have been in full swing for some time now, exploiting a mixture of racial hatred and economic fear to get people to vote GOP in November. Now the "batten down the hatches because here come the fags and your son will never be the same" forces are in attack mode as the Republican majority pursues a Constitutional amendment they know will never pass just to score easy political points with the bigots in their midst.

Only one question remains: will people see the Republicans' biennial two-minutes hate as the grotesque cliché that it is? Will the GOP base rise to this tried and true appeal to their prejudices?

Only time will tell. Perhaps the GOP will ride a groundswell of intolerance and hatred to the polls in November. Or, maybe the Republican base will resent being treated like performing monkeys. If that's the case, then, to quote George Orwell quoting some political hack, the fascist octopus has sung its swan song.

Either way, this electoral desperation has opened up a window on the Republican soul and it's as black as night, or coal, or ink...

Friday, June 02, 2006

Opus Gay

Andrew Sullivan linking to a defense of Opus Dei in the New York Times:
Let's just say it's the gayest op-ed I've read in a very, very long time.
The author is finishing a book called Modernist Aesthetics and Consumer Culture in the Writings of Oscar Wilde.

Presidential Pandering

President Bush proves that he's neither compassionate nor conservative (surprise!) as he voices his support for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

It's not compassionate because the measure is a hateful, bigoted attempt to deny rights and protections to loving couples simply because their relationships do not fit the narrowly proscribed Christian definition of marriage.

It's not conservative because it is, amongst other things, a "radical intrusion on the nation's founding commitment to federalism." For the conservative case against the FMA, see Dale Carpenter's post on the Volokh Conspiracy.

The Economy, In Rosy Hues

Apart from demonizing immigrants and gay people who want to get married, Republicans have little to get excited about these days. But that doesn't mean they're going to stop trying. The top headline on Drudge right now is the cryptic "4.6%", which is the May jobless rate, down from 4.7% in April. Sounds like good news, and it is. But it's not the whole story.

Drudge's link points to a CBS News story with the following headline: "Unemployment Dips, But Hiring Slows." The good unemployment percentage (the best since the summer of 2001) is what Drudge chooses to focus on. What he doesn't mention is that only 75,000 new jobs were generated, which is the worst performance in seven months. CBS News says the Labor Department report presents a "mixed picture of the jobs climate."

An AP report on the economy casts the situation in an even dimmer light, saying that the "U.S. economy appears to be shifting into a lower gear." This assessment is based on wage inflation numbers, residential home market data and several manufacturing indices.

The overall picture is by no means grim, but it's nothing to crow about either. There seems to be an emerging philosophy on the right: if it's not a total disaster, it's a victory. And sometimes even the disasters are victories. Hey, I think we just turned another corner in Iraq.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Fog of Punditry

Glenn Reynolds quotes an amazing bit of moral relativism from one Peter Ingemi over on Instapundit:
Our press and the anti-American left both in this country and outside of it has been reporting "Hadithas" over and over again over the last three years.

Time and time again our friends have accused us of every possible atrocity that there is to the point that internationally people are already able to believe this or the 9/11 stuff or all the rest.

Because of this, internationally it is totally irrelevant if the Marines actually violated the rules of war. Our foes are going to say that we've done things if we do them or not, so the only people that it really matters to will be; the people killed (and family) and the people in our own country who support the military.
In other words, it doesn't matter whether the Haditha massacre actually happened so long as people think it did. I am reminded of the argument Arthur Koestler gave to the Soviets in Darkness at Noon whereby Rubashov was "objectively" guilty of treason—even if he wasn't literally guilty of anything.

His ignorant, bogus rant assumes that there are only two sorts of people: Americans who support the military and leftists who believe any rumor they hear about atrocities in Iraq. If the Haditha massacre really did happen, it matters to a whole hell of a lot more people than Ingemi says it does. It matters to every American who pays taxes to fund the U.S. military; it matters to anyone who believes in justice; it matters to anyone who cares how the United States is perceived here and abroad; it matters to anyone who values the truth; it matters to everyone who believes that the United States should live up to its own high ideals.

I can't believe Reynolds gave a platform to this patently offensive nonsense.

Man's Inhumanity to Man

First Michelle Malkin described her political opponents as "cockroaches"; now the Chairman of the Board of VeriChip Corporation has gone to his natural constituency at FOX & Friends to propose implanting tracking chips in immigrants and guest workers, as if they were dogs or livestock. He’s been shopping the idea around Capitol Hill, too.

Sometimes I feel like we've learned nothing from history.

Bring On the Arctic Riviera

The headline emblazoned above the scroll on Drudge Report reads Scientists Say Arctic Once Was Tropical — Before Mankind! Alack and alas! This must mean that global warming really is just liberal fiction and Al Gore is a servant of Satan himself. Right?

Far be it from me to suggest that Drudge runs misleading headlines, but Drudge runs misleading headlines. The link points to a New York Times article about how scientists have discovered that the arctic was a tropical paradise with average year-round temperatures of 74 degrees 55 million years ago. That's before mankind, so it must mean that global warming can't be caused by man.

You'd think that, unless, of course, you actually read the article. If you did, you'd learn the findings of the study "suggest that scientists have greatly underestimated the power of heat-trapping gases to warm the Arctic." Apparently there was some sort of huge global warming incident called the Paleocene Eocene Thermal Maximum in the long long ago, and this new study leads scientists to conclude that it "must have been caused by an enormous outburst of heat-trapping, or greenhouse, gases like methane and carbon dioxide."

They don't know where those gasses came from 55 million years ago, but they sure know where the buildup of such gasses is coming from today: us. According to Penn State geoscientist Richard Alley, discovering that greenhouse-gasses were responsible for changing climate history "strengthens the argument that greenhouse-gas changes are likely to control much of the climate future."

In which case, Drudge and the global warming deniers better buy themselves some Bermuda shorts and start looking for prime real estate on the Greenland coast. After all, if it's 74 degrees in the arctic, how hot do you think it's going to get down here?

Keep Hurricanes South of the Border

Today is the first day of the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season and all is clear—for now. But experts—and Pat Robertson—are predicting an above-average storm season for this year.

This augurs poorly for local, state and federal officials charged with storm preparedness and public safety. Thanks to Hurricane Katrina, public confidence in these agencies is at an all-time low. Thanks to massive incompetence at all levels of government, their level of readiness is, too. But I have a solution.

There's no need for America to be threatened by killer hurricanes sneaking up on us from the south. All we need to do is give the storms Hispanic names. If Hurricane José, Ramón or Rosalita was threatening to cross into America, the National Guard and the Minutemen would be there in a snap building walls and doing whatever they could to protect sacred American soil. Republicans in Congress would stand up and pontificate on the evils of hurricanes and pledge to keep the invaders at bay.

Maybe throw a Hurricane Muhammad in there, too. It couldn't hurt.

More Migranes for Moore

It comes as absolutely no surprise that Michael Moore is being sued for misrepresenting facts in one of his films. That is, after all, his bread and butter.

Sgt. Peter Damon is asking for $85 million due to "loss of reputation, emotional distress, embarrassment, and personal humiliation" because he says the documentarian falsely portrayed him as expressing anti-government sentiments in Fahrenheit 9/11. Damon lost both of his arms in Iraq when the tire of the Blackhawk helicopter he was servicing blew up. Moore's film uses a clip of Damon that originally aired on NBC Nightly News in which he complains about the pain and gives a (metaphorical) thumbs up to a new pain killer the military gave him.

The crux of Damon's argument is that his clip was situated soon after a clip of a U.S. Representative accusing the Bush administration of "leaving veterans behind," thus implying that Damon was one such veteran. In his lawsuit, Damon avers that he supports Bush and the war, and he points to the extensive treatment he got at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the house that was built for him by Homes For Our Troops as evidence that he wasn't left behind.

Michael Moore is always getting caught playing fast and loose with the truth, largely because he seems to work backwards. He arrives at a conclusion (Bush is evil, Bush is white, guns actually do kill people, etc.) and then assembles his hand-picked evidence. I often agree with Moore's conclusions, but I would never endorse his methods, which give journalism—if this is even possible—a bad name.

Conservatives will be quick to jump on the Moore-bashing bandwagon, and you can see this story getting prominent attention on Drudge right now. They'll have to do some Michael Moore-style obfuscating, however, to justify the preposterous award Damon is seeking. $85 million for "personal distress" hardly fits in with the philosophy of tort reform. But hey, what's another hypocrite?
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