Saturday, April 16, 2005

The Bad Magician: A little night music for Senator Frist 

Hello Kitty!

The Bad Magician reaps a whirlwind and flies, digitzed, into the air. Imagining an ear he enters along the inner fold. He grabs hold of Senator Frist's hammer, sings into the stirrup, sounds the anvil. It is the sound of cats being murdered, a tympanic symphony of wails and cries. Tap your toes, Bill. Tap your toes and boogie woogie: wag your whiskers full of woe.

The Bad Magician remembers the nails from Golgotha: they were in a box of notions. A lattice is constructed thereof, and nerves grow upon it, fast and hard in the Senator's hollow. His mind, a piece of string, articulates a bird and is torn to shreds. His soul jumps. He lands in the Ocean of Being.

Bill, face down, opens his mouth on the bank of a musical shore, a dead fish among the singing children. Jesus escapes from the mouth, disguised as a Calico. The doctor's hands grab at air and splinter into broken claws. The armies of the tide are crabs. Cats gather on the sea wall. The Eternal War ends.

The Senator awakes. His hands are bloody. He stares at nothing, the way cats sometimes do.

—preternaturally alert reader MJS

Frist: Christ died for the Republican Party 

Here's what Frist is lending his name to:

The Family Research Council, a Christian conservative advocacy group, has organized an April 24 telecast, "Justice Sunday," which includes prominent conservative Christians speaking by simulcast to churches, Web sites and Christian broadcast networks. Under the heading "The filibuster against people of faith" a flier for the telecast reads, "The filibuster was once abused to protect racial bias, and it is now being used against people of faith."

Dr. Frist will join the telecast through a four-minute videotape, his spokesman said yesterday. Its organizers hope to enlist the grass-roots support of conservative Christians for an imminent Senate battle over Republican proposals to change Senate rules that have enabled the Democratic minority to filibuster, blocking Senate votes on 10 of Mr. Bush's appeals court nominees.
(via Times)

Clever of Frist to not actually appear in person; that way no one can get him and one of these loons in the same photo. But he's saying only Republicans are Christians (and only Christians are Republicans) just the same.

The wingers are really going for broke, aren't they? First, Delay lends his name to a conference where the wingers advocate assassinating Federal judges. Now, Frist comes out of the closet and lends his name to theocracy.

Real mainstream stuff, eh?

Alpo Accounts: Dems about to cave? 

Yeah, the Dems ran some focus groups. Yeah, like that's worked so well for them in the past. Anyhow:

House Democrats have decided to quit emphasizing that they will not negotiate changes to Social Security until President Bush drops his idea for private accounts. The switch in strategy comes after Democrats learned from focus groups that people frown on the lawmakers for being obstinate.

"People feel like it doesn't show a good-faith effort," said a top House aide, who like several others spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the internal data. "It makes us seem like we're 'typical politicians.'"
(via AP)

Yeah, like doing a focus group on FDR's legacy makes you look as if you aren't a typical politician! Gutless, feckless Beltway Dems. They've got Bush on the ropes, so what do they do? They let up.

Meanwhile, Inerrant Boy is still sucking and blowing around:

President George W. Bush encouraged lawmakers to come forward with ideas for restructuring Social Security, urging Democrats and Republicans to end partisan attacks and agree on solutions.

``If I have anything to do with it, there will be political amnesty for people bringing good ideas forward,'' Bush said in a speech at Lakeland Community College in Kirtland, Ohio. ``Now's not the time to play political gotcha.''

Translation: "Honey, I've changed."

And the "amnesty" thing?! Translation: "You're traitors, but for now, we need you, so all is forgiven." (Until Bush gets what he wants, of course.)

A litle reality check here:

1. There is no Social Security crisis. Therefore, there is nothing to negotiate.

2. What would be negotiable is dealing with rising medical costs, since that's the genuine problem.

3. Anyhow, you can't negotiate with people whose word isn't good. There's simply no such thing as good faith negotations with the people who lied us into a war, stole at least one Presidential election, are advocating the assassination of judges, and think Christ died for the Republican Party. In any case:

(a) Bush's word is not good, so what's to negotiate?

(b) Delay's word is not good, and neither is Frist's. Can anyone seriously believe that if a Social Security "reform" bill goes into Conference Committee, it's going to come out looking like every winger's wet dream, with anything the Democrats "negotiated" stripped out?

Just when I was beginning to get to like the Reid/Dean/Pelosi combo, they pull a stunt like this. Straight down that yellow stripe in the middle of the road...

Readers, any more optimistic and hopeful interpretations than mine?

Not content with burning their coffee, Starbucks plans to eliminate baristas 

That didn't take long, did it? Another class of entry level service jobs blasted away...

Starbucks moves to automated espresso machines that tamp and pour espresso shots on their own, leaving the Starbucks barista to just push a button and steam some milk. Lara Wyss, a spokeswoman for Starbucks, said an automatic machine would soon be in each of the company's 6,800 American stores.
(via Times)

The obvious next step is to make the whole operation self-service, eh?

Heck, I can get bad machine coffee at work. Why do I need to go to Starbucks?

Please patronize your local coffee shop. Not only will the coffee be better, they'll definitely have better pastries. And free WiFi.

NOTE Alert reader Frank posts a link to locate non-corporate coffee shops by zip. I tested it for my neighborhood in Philly, and it works!

Let's play Guess Which Country! 

Here's the story. It's real. Can you fill in the blanks?

President __________[1] declared a state of emergency in the capital city of __________ [2] and dissolved the Supreme Court, saying the unpopular judges were the cause of __________ [3] in _________ [4]. __________ [1] said he was using the powers granted him by the constitution to dismiss the justices. In explaining their dismissal, he said opposition to their appointments was causing the protests.

A state of emergency placed the military in charge of public order and suspended individual rights, including the right to free expression and public assembly.

The court crisis was set in motion ... when the former justices sided with opposition politicians in a failed effort to impeach __________ [1] on corruption charges. __________ [1] then assembled a bloc of 52 lawmakers in the 100-seat congress, which voted in December to remove the judges. Legal experts said the vote ran contrary to __________ [5] constitution.
(via AP)

OK, I'll wait ....

Time's up! The country is Ecuador! (Answers below) What country did you think it was?

[1] Lucio Gutierrez (No, not Bush. For heaven's sake.)
[2] this Andean nation
[3] three days of pot-banging street protests
[4] Quito
[5] Ecuador's

Ms. V-Gina is Sad Today 

Mr. P-Niss apologizes for his absence from his usual time slot (ahem) this week, but he was busy yesterday trying to prevent this Revoltin' Development from coming to pass.

Alas, he failed, and is currently curled limply in the corner as teams of Swedish masseusses work frantically to revive him. So it falls to me, Ms. V-Gina, to bring you the following tragic news, whose impact is, frankly, greater on me than it is on Mr. P. anyway:

(via WaPo)
The Food and Drug Administration has ordered drug giants Bayer Pharmaceuticals Corp. and GlaxoSmithKline PLC to immediately pull a television ad for impotence drug Levitra, saying that the commercial does not adequately state the drug's potential side effects and that it cannot substantiate claims that it is superior to competitors such as Viagra or that it improves female satisfaction during sexual activity.

The 15-second ad, called "My Man," which includes the tag line, "Levitra: When it counts," features an actress asking, "In the mood for something different?" She goes on to say Levitra is "the best way to experience that difference."

The drugmakers responsible for Levitra will comply with the FDA's order, said Michael Fleming, Glaxo spokesman.
Damn limp..er, wimps!

Fleming said the commercial in question is called a "reminder ad" and does not include the listing of potential side effects that the longer, 45-second version does. The ad was produced by the Quantum Group.

The FDA said reminder ads can only call attention to a drug, not say how to use the drug or how well it might work.

"The totality of the TV ad also represents or suggests that Levitra will provide a satisfying sexual experience from the female partner's perspective," the agency wrote.
And you know what? They may have a point, unlike Mr. P-Niss at the moment, who becomes only more amorphously spongelike the longer the masseusses work their levitation-free labors on him. Don't think I'll be gettin' any tonight.

Blogaround Swipe 

Mustang Bobby at Bark Bark Woof Woof does all the hard work. And because he's such a nice guy I've taken it upon myself to steal his entire blogaround listing and repost it here as a public service. And, because, since MB is quite possibly the nicest guy in the blogosphere, he won't try to beat me up for doing so. And he could beat me up if he wanted to, because, as I've come to learn over time, he's practiced in the art of lifting heavy stuff.

So then, go read some or all of these blogs listed below. Maybe you're familiar with most of them, maybe not, in any case, wander around, do some sightseeing.

It's time consuming putting together a blogaround list and I'd even be tempted to give it a go once in a while myself if I wasn't such a lazy self-absorbed loser trying to draw attention to important me - oh, vainglorious me. Plus I have to fly to Wisconsin over the weeked with Dr. Bill Frist, Hal Turner, Ted Nugent, and several rotting emphysemic dignitaries from Klaus Barbie's old Thule lodge, where we will mow down a dozen, or perhaps several dozen dozen, feral federal judges, i mean kitty cats! - rogue activist kitty cats of terror! - with our gas operated M-249's. Whew. Afterwhich we will all hoist a cold one to Jesus Christ and Milton Friedman and piddle away whatever free time we have left grooving to Live At Hammersmith '79.

Ok, like I said, in the meantime... (thanks to Bark Bark Woof Woof):
Welcome another Florida blogger -- Julien's List -- to the blogroll. Who knew there were so many women bloggers?

Here's what's happening in The Liberal Coalition:

All Facts and Opinions is back on-line after a short interruption.
archy covers the bunker mentality.
Bark Bark Woof Woof sees deeper meaning in a radio station format change in Miami.
blogamy tells of a murder of a reporter.
moi at bloggg joins an autism blog ring.
Chris reviews Velvet Revolver.
Collective Sigh is pissed at the Missouri state legislature.
The Farmer at Corrente finds a historical precedent to government "redesign."
NTodd is the podcaster...or is that NToddcaster?
Echidne mulls on the role of women as targets of the right wing.
edwardpig considers the Independent Home.
First Draft on the president actually speaking to reporters.
The Fulcrum mines the field of mines.
The Gamer's Nook picks up the story of soldiers getting the shaft in Florida.
Happy Furry Puppy Story looks at the bankruptcy bill through the eyes of Gordon Gecko.
Iddybud reports on John Edwards' visit to Harvard.
In Search of Telford has good and bad news about bio-fuels.
The Invisible Library reflects on the passing of the pope.
Did you know there was an oil spill in Alaska? Left is Right did.
Make Me A Commentator invokes the Bard to describe two scandals.
Mercury X23 is back... or he was for a little while.
Michael needs some new meds. *ouch*
Pen-Elayne notes the little flu virus oops.
Rivka at Respectful of Otters welcomes the latest new otter. Congratulations Mom and Alexandra! Rick has his lastest gig schedule.
Rook's Rant (a fellow Practical Press writer) admires Kevin Drum's coffee choice.
rubber hose takes a longer look at a David Brooks column.
Scrutiny Hooligans on the new leader at PBS.
Sooner Thought reports on a union filing suit against Wal-Mart.
Speedkill takes on the AFA.
Steve Gilliard predicts the future for Bernie Kerick.
T-Rex presents evidence that the Republicans hate veterans.
Trish has a look at people other than pharmacists who invoke the "conscience clause."
Wanda has found a Social Security plan she can support.
WTF Is It Now reports that Scalia got asked The Question.
The Yellow Doggerel Democrat chuckles over the Unitarian Jihad.

Original Friday Blogaround roundup via Bark Bark Woof Woof is HERE


Goodnight, moon 

So, what's next for the wingers after the nuclear option, and they get their ten loons in the court system for life?

Expand the Supreme Court from (say) 9 to 16?

Outsource the work of the Appeals Courts to the Federalist Society?

Move the entire court system to Gitmo?

Who knows with these guys? Doubtless it's all been planned for some time...

Bubble boy: Republicans drop the pretense that Bush is president of all the people 

That didn't take long, did it?

After mounting criticism that the White House has been shattering presidential precedents, wrapping Bush in a bubble and possibly even violating free-speech rights by keeping dissenters out of Bush's so-called public events, the Bush team is trying something new today.

For today's event, the White House has eliminated any pretense that the events are open to the public, instead making it clear that the events are invitation-only.
(via Washington Post)

And guess who they outsourced the ticket distribution to?

The White House is apparently now outsourcing ticket distribution for presidential events to the local Chamber of Commerce.

Funny, I don't remember voting for the Chamber of Commerce.

Leave aside the issue that all the taxpayers are paying for events that only those who agree with Bush can attend. Let's ask the big question:

In what way is Bush a legitimate President if he doesn't fulfill his oath of office and govern Constitutionally? The First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
US Constitution, Amendment 1

Surely the "right of the people peacably to assemble" means that you, as a citizen, can wear a Kerry T-Shirt to a Bush Partei rally?

And surely "petition the Government for redress of grievances" means that people who disagree with Bush—that is, those who have a grievance—can get to see Him?

That would seem to be the common sense view, but apparently the Republicans disagree.


Read the essential Orcinus on vigilantes n the Mexican border.

Of course, these guys don't seem too organized. Even the ones carrying shotguns. So I'm sure they'll stick to patrolling the border, and never go after any legitimate citizen... And I'm sure they'll never get organized, either.

And I'm sure that ending the state's monopoly on violence, and allowing self-appointed guardians of racial purity to go on armed patrols has no unfortunate historical precedents at all. None whatever. That I can think of. Right now, I mean. I think I'll have another mai tai.

Friday, April 15, 2005

"People of faith," my Aunt Fanny 

Let me be more direct:

If these are "people of faith," fuck 'em:

BLOOMBURG, Tex. In this rural East Texas town, where news spreads among the 375 residents through phone calls and gossip-gathering trips to the Shell Mart, Merry Stephens knew the rumors about her.

Stephens is a lesbian, the townsfolk whispered.

Though it was true, Stephens denied it for five years while she was the coach of a championship high school basketball team in Bloomburg, afraid the truth would cost her a job.

Last December, the board of the Bloomburg Independent School District, in a 4-3 vote, began proceedings to fire Stephens for what she said was homophobia veiled as unfounded allegations of insubordination. She was put on administrative leave.

The district will buy out the last two years of Stephens's contract, amounting to about $100,000, one of her lawyers said.

In 1999, Stephens, who grew up in a small town in Arkansas, started coaching at the Bloomburg Independent School District, which is only one building, kindergarten through 12th grade, and last year had 264 students.

In 2000, Stephens moved in with Sheila Dunlap, the school's bus driver and a teacher's aide. Dunlap, whose family has lived in Bloomburg for more than 100 years, had two children and was in the process of divorcing her husband of 25 years.

In the meantime, Stephens was building the high school girls basketball squad into one of the best teams in school history.

Last year, it won the area, district and regional championships, coming within one game of the state tournament, and was given a parade in town. Even then, there was talk that the school board was trying to fire Stephens.

Some parents of Stephens's players wanted her gone. Craig Hale, who owns an oil company, said he does not want a lesbian teaching his children and possibly influencing the way they think.

"I had nothing against her as a person," Hale said, but if he stood up for "one [Jew] lesbian" that would mean he was "for [Jews] them adopting kids, and my morals and the Bible doesn't allow that."
(via the look for actual news in the Sports section New York Times)

Right. Your "morals." 'Scuse me while I go vomit.

OK. I feel better now. Mr. Hale, Stephens and Dunlop lived in your town. Dunlop lived in your town for 100 years.

Do you know what that makes them?

I'll spell it out for you, Mr. Hale. It makes them your n-e-i-g-h-b-o-r-s. And somebody... Who is it, now.... Somebody long ago... Somebody had something to say about neighbors... I know it will come to me... I know! The Bible!

"28": And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?

"29": And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:

"30": And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.

"31": And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
(Mark 12:28-21)

Well. I guess these people must hate theirselves pretty badly, eh? (Since, if they are Christians, they must love Stephens as they love themselves?)

The print version has a very nice little kicker, that I think we should take up:

Stephens is happily out as a lesbian, even buying two stickers for her pickup truck. Two have rainbows, the traditional symbol of lesbian and gay pride. The other says: Focus on your own damn family.

Amen, sister.

NOTE Of course, the bumper sticker is a pointed reference to Focus on the family, James "D/s" Dobson's theocratic front organization.

This picture needs a caption! 


NOTE The male model furrowing his brow—at what, one wonders—is, of course, the poster boy for the Family Research Council's pro-nuclear option circle jerk conference—the conference Bill "Hello Kitty" Frist is planning to attend. You know, the one that says Democrats are against Pharisees hypocrites "people of [cough] faith.")

UPDATE From alert reader John McKay:

"If I hollowed out the gavel, it'd make a bitchin' pipe. If I hollowed out the old book, I could use it as a stash."

Mai Tai Friday Revelations 

(Warning: this is a long post, but I think it's important. If you are short on time, move along and come back when you have a tall drink in hand.)

recipe_lhmI'm late to the dance (as usual), but that doesn't mean this is out of date. Get over to The Nation archives (circa April, 2002) and read William Grieder:
"Labor and consumer lobbyists felt a chill in early March when Senate majority leader Tom Daschle announced his intention to get "a strong bankruptcy bill out of conference and on the President's desk within four weeks, so the bill can be signed before we go home for the Easter recess." Bankruptcy "reform" is of a different order from Enron fraud or loophole bookkeeping by Arthur Andersen, but it emanates from the same political sources and is, likewise, hideously one-sided in its impact on ordinary citizens. The legislation was written by major banks and the credit-card industry, wishing to tighten the screws on debt-soaked families. No one doubts this measure will make life even more miserable for the people maxed out on their credit cards and on the brink of Chapter 7. Daschle's statement meant the Democratic leader thinks it is now safe to enact the bankers' bill. Last year, a record 1,492,000 Americans filed for bankruptcy protection, but now the recession is over, isn't it? ...
In Congressional circles, a bill like this one is known as a "money vote," because it's an opportunity for good fundraising from monied interests (or, if you vote wrong, you face the risk of those interests financing your next opponent). For six years, the financial industry has lobbied intensively for this measure and both parties have milked it like a veritable cash cow. Contributions from finance companies and credit-card firms more than doubled during the last election cycle, passing $9 million. Commercial banks are the dominant credit-card issuers--led by Citibank, with $99.5 billion in credit-card debt--and this remains their most profitable line of business.
When George W. Bush took office, a bankruptcy bill was the first major legislation passed by the new Congress. Bill Clinton had vetoed a milder version, but in the new circumstances many former opponents scrambled aboard. Only sixteen Democratic senators voted against the bill, led by Paul Wellstone (the measure would have become law long ago, if not for Wellstone's guerrilla resistance). The "yea" votes included a couple of new faces much celebrated as "people" politicians and presidential possibles--Hillary Clinton and John Edwards. Two other potential candidates--Russ Feingold and John Kerry--voted against it.

Senator Daschle's solicitude for Citibank goes deeper than the money, though he gets money, too. Daschle treats the Wall Street behemoth like a hometown industry. Two decades ago, Citibank lobbyists persuaded South Dakota politicians to be the first state to repeal its anti-usury law--an obstacle to charging sky-high interest rates...
In legislative matters like bankruptcy, Daschle plays faithful facilitator for Citibank's interests, while graciously assuring liberal-labor groups he will help them get a floor vote on their amendments (which routinely lose). It is Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, however, who plays tough-cop enforcer for the industry (a role also shared by Senator Robert Torricelli). Delaware is home to six major credit-card operations, led by MBNA America, Chase and Bank of America. Altogether, they process indebtedness of $230 billion. Biden is their guy.

The industry's main argument for relief is that its reckless customers pile up impossible debts, then escape by gaming the bankruptcy system. No doubt this occurs, but the bank lobbyists grossly distort the stressed-out predicament of millions of ordinary working families, some of whom borrow on credit cards to pay the rent. Did the banks themselves have anything to do with fomenting the explosion of credit-card debt? Evidently not, according to Congress, because numerous amendments to impose some restraint and accountability on the lenders were rejected. In a classic twist, Democratic senators instead tossed a couple of bones to the discontented constituencies--one amendment that prevents Texas millionaires from shielding their Enron-size mansions under state homestead laws and another that bars abortion-clinic terrorists from escaping fines and lawsuits in bankruptcy court. Both are meritorious, of course, but neither speaks to the general pain this legislation will inflict on rank-and-file constituents."
This article is particularly damning for Joe Lieberman. You simply must go read it...
All right. Go get a stiff drink. I'll wait.

But now, I want to draw your attention to the article today in the NYTimes:
"Citigroup, the world's largest financial services company, said today that its earnings rose 3 percent in the first quarter, bolstered by higher growth in its consumer banking businesses...
"I feel very good about the numbers we are reporting today," said Charles O. Prince, Citigroup's chief executive said today in a conference call with industry analysts and investors."
So what do you think could have made forging ahead with gouging the hoi-polloi via yesterday's Bankruptcy Bill so attractive, if all these profits are pouring in (mind you, this is info from 3 years ago)?
"Citigroup must contend (with) several regulatory setbacks. In the wake of a scandal in its Japanese offices, regulators there revoked its private banking license. It was prominently named in a Senate committee report for its lax practices in countering money laundering and for its ties to Gen. Augusto Pinochet, the former Chilean dictator. And last month, the Federal Reserve said the company would not be able make any large acquisitions until it tightened its controls and addressed regulatory problems worldwide."
So, when faced with these annoyances, where do you make up the loss? Well, those damned fool saps right here in the US of A, of course! No one gives a shit about them, not even Tom Daschle! Just make a few loud noises about your concern for blastocysts, and they'll let you get away with anything!

We have been so, so sold down the river, friends and lovers. Please hold them accountable, before it's too late.

Starving CEO's Need a Break 

According to Executive Paywatch, an excellent effort of the AFL-CIO,

In 2004, the average CEO of a major company received $9.84 million in total compensation, according to a study by compensation consultant Pearl Meyer & Partners for The New York Times. This represents a 12 percent increase in CEO pay over 2003. In contrast, the average worker’s pay increased just 3.6 percent in 2004.

And percentages of growth don’t tell the whole story, either. Terry Semel, the CEO of Yahoo! Made over $109,000,000 in 2004. Now, will somebody please tell me how it’s not obscene for any one person to make a hundred mil a year? Especially while 45% of the jobs created in 2004 paid an average of $16,000 a year, with no benefits? While Wal-Mart forces employees to work off the clock, this after paying the women 5-15% less than men doing the same job? Forcing injured workers back to the job? Busting unions?

Explain to the $6 an hour “temp” worker whose gig is about to end how a CEO deserves a hundred mil a year, or, hell, even the paltry average of 10 mil. While you’re at it, explain to me how capitalism is better than socialism, again. Explain that part about how capitalism and imperialism don’t mean essentially the same thing again, too. And go over again how redistribution of wealth and putting the means of production in the hands of the workers is bad. I think I was sick that day.

You Vill Paint Vat Ve Tell You 

Having been a commercial artist for over 15 years before expanding my horizons, I was particularly offended by the ham-handed Secret Service visit to Columbia College that I wrote about on Wednesday, and that was highlighted by Lambert yesterday. So I thought I'd pull out a comment from the Wednesday post that seemed important, and reprint both it and my response:

"This could have and would have happened in any administration. The Secret Service have zero sense of humor when it comes to this thing, no matter which party has a man in the White House. Some might remember the time Bill Clinton came to the Taste of Chicago, and a women who yelled “You suck! I was there fault those boys died” was arrested by the Secret Service (for “disorderly conduct” as my memory serves).
That was an extreme example. This incident isn’t so far out of bounds. If my job is to protect someone’s life, and evaluate potential threats against them. And I learn that someone is displaying a painting showing a gun pointed at my protectee’s head, that is something I’m going to want to know more about.
Hell, if someone made a picture with a gun pointed at my head, I would probably consider that a threat against me, and I bet most people reading this would too. It’s not brain-dead to investigate something like that, it’s brain-dead to assume it’s not a big deal.
Free speech carries with it a responsibility. If you use it in a provocative and inflammatory manner that could reasonable create inferences of violent intent, expect to for their to be questions as to just what you meant. That doesn’t mean we live in a police state, it means we live in a state where the social contract is still in force".


"Goldfish, there are cheaper and better uses of taxpayer money for ruling out artists as enemies of the state than sending the Secret Service running around the country. How about a few well-placed phone calls, or the local cops? No, I think this is all about sending a message to the citizenry that we'd best watch what we say, as Ari Fleischer so memorably put it.

Like I said in a comment: When Art Is Criminalized, Only Criminals Will Make Art"

The Stark Frist of Removal 

"As the Senate heads toward a showdown over the rules governing judicial confirmations, Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader, has agreed to join a handful of prominent Christian conservatives in a telecast portraying Democrats as "against people of faith" for blocking President Bush's nominees.

Fliers for the telecast, organized by the Family Research Council and scheduled to originate at a Kentucky megachurch the evening of April 24, call the day "Justice Sunday" and depict a young man holding a Bible in one hand and a gavel in the other. The flier does not name participants, but under the heading "the filibuster against people of faith," it reads: "The filibuster was once abused to protect racial bias, and it is now being used against people of faith."

Organizers say they hope to reach more than a million people by distributing the telecast to churches around the country, over the Internet and over Christian television and radio networks and stations."
Tell me again why we grant these people tax-exempt status?

Sex-you-all Ed-gee-cay-shun Today 

Yes, well, as my grandfather likes to say, "Rome wasn't populated in a day." And he was born in Rome. So he knows what he's talking about.

Visit www.abstinenceonly.com and... Ask Dr. Frist

Dear Doctor Frist, You recently implied it was possible to contract AIDS through tears and that simply touching another persons genitals could result in pregnancy. Is this true?

Signed, Young and Scared

Dear Young and Scared,
When I said that you could get AIDS from tears what I meant was that getting AIDS could make you cry. Also, you CAN get pregnant from simply touching another person's genitals, providing they're ejaculating and you're touching them with your cervix. I hope this clears things up for you. Remember also that whenever you masturbate, God kills a kitten.

Yours Truly,
Senate Majority Leader, Dr. Bill Frist

Run the bases the Faith Based Way:Ask the Bishop

Dear Bishop, my girlfriend and I have an honest, loving relationship and have both agreed we want to wait until marriage to "do it." We like to go on long walks holding hands and kissing sometimes. When we're "in the mood" she'll let me masturbate her through her panties while she jerks me off until I ejaculate on her breasts and face (mouth closed, of course.) Could this be considered as "spilling my seed in vain"?

Yours Truly,

Dear Wondering, Depends on what she looks like... (ha ha, just a little clerical humor there... )... [...read on freelovers]

"Remember also that whenever you masturbate, God kills a kitten." BTW!, just to touch on this: has anyone in Wisconsin given some consideration to, ya know, the master-baiter thing, as a possible solution to the Great Kitty Cat Scare of 2005? Hey, I dunno, just another thang to slap down on the table. So to speak. Heh. Nevermind.


Thursday, April 14, 2005

Goodnight, moon 

Does anyone else feel that they're living not in a bad dream, but in a bad movie? A bad movie with incredibly cheesy production values and a totally implausible script?

The House That Cockroach Built 

"As the wolf bursts into the flock, so we come."

Bold text emphasis below is mine.

Tom Delay:
[DELAY] We have a whole effort that started two years ago called the 21st Century Careers Initiative, which is an effort to use regulatory reform as redesigning government, and we will even get more aggressive in this part of our agenda this year and next.

Limiting the government in your life, regulatory, social issues and all that and shrinking the size of government or reprioritizing - or as I like to say it, 'redesigning' - government to reflect our [sic] values [sic] are very important.

What follows is excerpted from documentation and testimony given before the "The International Military Tribunal Nuremberg: (The Nuremberg Trials): "Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression Volume I Office of United States Chief of Counsel For Prosecution of Axis Criminality United States Government Printing Office Washington * 1946"
Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression Volume I Chapter VII
Means Used by the Nazi Conspiractors in Gaining Control of the German State (Part 8 of 55)


A. First Steps in Acquiring Control of State Machinery.


In September 1931, three officers of the Reichswehr were tried at Leipzig for high treason. At the request of Hans Frank, Hitler was invited to testify at this trial that the NSDAP was striving to attain its goal by purely legal means. He was asked: "How do you imagine the setting up of a Third Reich?" His reply was, "This term only describes the basis of the struggle but not the objective. We will enter the legal organizations and will make our Party a decisive factor in this way. But when we do possess constitutional rights then we will form the State in the manner which we consider to be the right one." The President then asked: "This too by constitutional means ?" Hitler replied: "Yes." (612-PS)

(c) The purpose of the Nazi conspirators in participating in elections and in the Reichstag was to undermine the parliamentary system of the Republic and to replace it with a dictatorship of their own. This the Nazi conspirators themselves made clear. Frick wrote in 1927:

[...] "Our participation in the parliament does not indicate a support, but rather an undermining of the parliamentarian system. It does not indicate that we renounce our anti-parliamentarian attitude, but that we are fighting the enemy with his own weapons and that we are fighting for our National Socialist goal from the parliamentary platform." (2742-PS)

On 30 April 1928, Goebbels wrote in his paper "Der Angriff";

"We enter parliament in order to supply ourselves, in the arsenal of democracy, with its own weapons. We become members of the Reichstag in order to paralyze the Weimar sentiment with its own assistance. If democracy is so stupid as to give us free tickets and per diem for the this "blockade" (Barendienst), that is its own affair."

Later in the same article he continued:

"We do not come as friend nor even as neutrals. we come as enemies: As the wolf bursts into the flock, so we come." (2500-PS)

In a pamphlet published in 1935, Goebbels said:

"When democracy granted democratic methods for us in the times of opposition, this was bound to happen in a democratic system. However, we National Socialists never asserted that we represented a democratic point of view, but we have declared openly that we used democratic methods only in order to gain the power and that, after assuming the power, we would deny to our adversaries without any consideration the means which were granted to us in the times of opposition. (2412-PS)

A leading Nazi writer on Constitutional Law, Ernst Rudolf Huber, later wrote of this period:

"The parliamentary battle of the NSDAP had the single purpose of destroying the parliamentary system from within through its own methods. It was necessary above all to make formal use of the possibilities of the party-state system but to refuse real cooperation and thereby to render the parliamentary system, which is by nature dependent upon the responsible cooperation of the opposition, incapable of action." (2633-PS)

Now where have I heard something like that before? ... for more Delay scroll down - See Lambert's post below titled Then: the party of small government Now: They want to "redesign" the government for more on Tom Delay's "reprioritizing" plans and comments made via the Washington Times.


Then: the party of small government
Now: They want to "redesign" the government 

Tom DeLay interviewed in The Moonie Paper:

[DELAY] I came here to limit government and reduce the size of government. And as important as those two are, what I find the most important is to redesign the government, now that we have the opportunity to do that. On the redesigning government part, it's been my own personal project to redesign government.
(Washington Times via Atrios)

Starting with the ethics committee!

Be afraid. Be very afraid:

[DELAY] We have a whole effort that started two years ago called the 21st Century Careers Initiative, which is an effort to use regulatory reform as redesigning government, and we will even get more aggressive in this part of our agenda this year and next.

Limiting the government in your life, regulatory, social issues and all that and shrinking the size of government or reprioritizing - or as I like to say it, 'redesigning' - government to reflect our [sic] values [sic] are very important.

What do you call $70 million dollars to investigate a blowjob? A good start! [Rimshot. Laughter. Thanks! I'll be here all week!]

Because one of the features of Bug Man's redesigned government will be that there is no right to privacy. No separation of church and state. And no independent judiciary:

[DELAY] The reason the judiciary has been able to impose a separation of church and state that's nowhere in the Constitution is that Congress didn't stop them. The reason we had judicial review is because Congress didn't stop them. The reason we had a right to privacy is because Congress didn't stop them.

And Delay will "redistrict" the judiciary and impeach the judges who haven't been assassinated to complete the Republican coup and final destruction of our Constitution:

How can Congress stop them?

[DELAY] There's all kinds of ways available ... [I]t's a slow, long-term process. I mean, we passed six bills out of the House limiting jurisdiction. We passed an amendment last September breaking up the Ninth Circuit. These are all things that have passed the House of Representatives.

Are you going to pursue impeaching judges?

[DELAY] I'm not going to answer that.

I'll take that as a yes.

Bring it on, you winger piece of shit.

The stamps the Secret Service doesn't want you to see 


(via American Samizdat)

The National Lampoon reference is unmistakable, for those with long enough memories...

NOTE No over the top comments on this one, please.

UPDATE More on the art show that the secret service visited.

Follow This, Mofo 

Well, ol’ silver tongue, sleek daddy tower of intellect is at it again, as the article at Associated Press shows. Down in the body of the article we find that today he told a body of newspaper editors the following:

After his address, Bush answered questions and made these points:

_He has ordered a review of plans to tighten re-entry rules at the Mexican and Canadian borders. He said a requirement to show passports could "disrupt the honest flow of traffic." Bush said he first learned about the new rules by reading the newspaper and his first reaction was, "What's going on here?"

Followup questions? (“You’re saying you now read newspapers?”)

_The government has to judge the need to protect its citizens against the right of people to demand access to government documents. But he said the presumption ought to be that citizens should know as much as possible about government decision-making. Bush said he does not use e-mail because he wants to protect his privacy when communicating with his daughters and others.

Followup questions? (“Um, sir, what is email exactly? Is a part of the Internets?” "Can other Americans email each other without government intrusion?")

_Said there is no inconsistency between his support of the death penalty and his espousal of "a culture of life," which he invoked in trying to get federal courts to intervene in the case of Terry Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman who was at the center of a heated political, legal and medical battle. "The difference between the case of Terry Schiavo and the case of a convicted killer is the difference between guilt and innocence," he said.

Followup questions? (“So the innocent civilian deaths in Iraq fit into this culture of life how, exactly, sir?”)

What questions am I missing?


After reviewing the info and being unable to confirm it with independent sources, I pulled the recruitment piece. I may be a schmuck, but I'm an honest schmuck. I'm curling up with a nice, safe edition of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly and pondering the drop of diptheria over the last year.

Round Two Hundred and Six, Rich vs. Poor 

Yeah, if you’re not pissed off, you’re not paying attention. And if you’re pissed off but sure that no action will ever bust Bushco or remove them from office, then change your mind. I’m in the camp that thinks not only that we CAN win, but that we MUST win. The future is at stake, as all of the recent apocalyptic writing and blogging indicates. The GOPers are determined to grab as much as they can, stash it and fortify it, so that they can play Prince Prospero, locked away from the plague-ridden masses of poor so they can count their gold and play with their toys without those annoying demands of conscience. They’re vicious, and they’re determined. In some ways, I think we underestimated them in 04. We must be equally determined—if not vicious—in our efforts not to let them get away with it again in 06. As we’ve seen, their success lies in convincing the middle class and lower middle class that they will prosper under GOP control, while simultaneously assuring that dirty tricks keep the opposition out of the field. It is becoming apparent that some of the GOP voters are feeling, well, used and abused. As predicted, some are now asking themselves Why? Why did I vote GOP? This cries for outreach—we’ve got to talk to these folks. And what they understand, even better than gay marriage and abortion, is money. I’m convinced of this—for example, in several local counties where there’s a heavy GOP majority, tax increases for social services and road and infrastructure improvements pass with ease. The need is right there, obvious. Bonds and mill levies pass for schools by large majorities—again, the need is obvious, so even the GOPers don’t mind ponying up.

The trick is to make these same needs obvious on the national level, and to make the fact that the GOP is the party of the rich a piece of common knowledge. We need to make it obvious to Joe and Jane Six-pack that the GOP doesn’t care about them except insofar as they’re useful pawns in their plan to get richer. Hey, Joe—check this out:

…the value of assets held offshore lies in the range of $11 - $12 trillion. We consider this to be a conservative estimate. Welcome to the Taxjustice Network!

Untaxed trillions. Belonging to the rich. The same rich who still need tax breaks, just to be “fair,” you know. Entrepreneurs who get rich selling drugs to willing buyers are criminals (unless working for the government); entrepreneurs who get rich off of iWaq government contracts are not.

Look, Joe and Jane, if America spent $18 billion (what it spends in 3 months or so to occupy Iraq and Afghanistan), the country could wipe out hunger and homelessness in America for ten years. If America took 25% of its annual military budget, which is the largest in the world, and applied it to global poverty issues, that would go a long way towards wiping out hunger and homelessness around the world. 10% of our military budget spent annually on education could give every high school graduate a college education for four years. Your kid graduates from high school this year, doesn't she, Joe? How are you going to pay for college? The military? Ooooh, Joe, is that a good idea?

So, yes, it is about the rich and the poor. And it’s the poor who must be mobilized, alongside the lower middle and middle class who are rapidly awakening to the fact that the party of the rich got—and is getting and staying—that way off their backs. I heard on the radio this morning that around 45% of these “new jobs” being created pay an average of $16,000 per year. Any wonder college grads are living with their parents?

I’m memorizing these numbers and more like them so that I can use them as I stump for our candidates in 06. See National Priorities Project for more numbers of startling mein.

Hey, Joe—didja hear about that Chalmers guy at Bay Oil? Did you know that aWol never had an honest job in his life? How’s that third job working out? Does it have insurance? Did you know that your congressman has hundreds of thousands in oil stocks? Jane, I heard you can't find day care. Did you know that your congressman has two maids and a nanny?

(And, yes, I know most of the national spineless Dems are rich too. Probably accounts for their lack of spine. Out they go, too, unless they change!)

Not Just A Bad Dream Anymore 

Today the House will vote on the bankruptcy bill, and as Forbes observes, it's pretty much a done deal:
"After eight years of failed efforts by banks and credit card companies, the biggest overhaul of bankruptcy laws in a quarter-century has been catapulted toward enactment by a Republican majority buttressed by the fall elections...
President Bush has said he will sign the bill into law. It marks a second victory for Bush this year on pro-business legislation."
And this on the heels of the repeal of the estate tax, that horrid burden on the uberwealthy that affects about 600 families and, according to some, could result in a net loss to the US Treasury of about 745 billion dollars over 10 years. But it's ok, because they'll make it back when they cut services to vets, kids, and the working poor, disabled, and elderly.

Shameless whores. If there has ever been an administration that more blatantly catered to the rich and powerful, I'm at a loss to know of it. And the oddest thing is this is the House, for God's sake, the body supposed to be most representative of the "common people". It seems the only time they represent their constituents is when they get behind some typically hare-brained scheme grounded in people's natural meanness, but when money's in the picture, even the wingnuts gets short shrift.

Please, please, make it stop!

Cat Lovers Dance For Joy 

cats While this is hardly the most earth-shattering event in the news. I must say it made me feel better:
"A proposal to legalize the killing of feral cats is not going to succeed, Gov. Jim Doyle said Wednesday.
"I don't think Wisconsin should become known as a state where we shoot cats," said Doyle, a Democrat who neither hunts nor owns a cat. "What it does is sort of hold us up as a state that everybody is kind of laughing at right now."
He told reporters his office had received calls from around the country denouncing a proposal adopted Monday at meetings of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, a public advisory group, that would classify wild, free-roaming cats as an unprotected species that kills song birds and other wildlife.
Outdoor enthusiasts approved the proposal 6,830 to 5,201 at Monday's spring hearings of the group."
I wrote about this myself, in a post too long to put on corrente, the gist of which was, "What kind of crackpot idea is this?" Good to know there are elected officials out there (somewhere) with a few neurons left. If you're so inclined, send the sensible Mr. Doyle an encouraging word.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Massively Underpaid CEO-entrepreneurs May Get a Break, Finally 

You can’t take it with you, but the millionaires can make sure those doggone welfare moms won’t get it, either.

House votes to end federal estate taxes

No word on how things will go in the Senate. And yes, don’t worry, the millionaires and billionaires are included favorably in the proposed repeal. Not one cent of these “entrepreneur’s” hard earned, fairly gotten, equitably obtained from the sweat of their own brows, money will go into government funded programs for the poor and needy, er, I mean, the welfare cheats dependent on government handouts (GOP code for what was once called the poor and needy). Not one cent to the out-of-work, or working triple jobs, folks who made the wealthy what they are. Nope.

Hey, poor people—this is the GOP. Listen up. Life’s not fair; get over it. Why don’t you work a little harder? Pull yourself up by your bootstraps, like we did. Quit asking for more gruel. Whiners. Here's a dime.

Blame the [expletive deleted] 

The Bugman is careening ever closer to the Nixon batshit crazy edge, it seems. Please, let him lead the house GOP into the 2006 midterms. Please. He will start sounding more and more like Tricky Dick, pacing the oval office, snarling and delusional, ordering his minions to ever-increasing acts of madness, and the public is bound to notice:

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, hoping to hold support among fellow Republicans, urged GOP senators Tuesday to blame Democrats if asked about his ethics controversy and accused the news media of twisting supportive comments so they sounded like criticism.

Officials said DeLay recommended that senators respond to questions by saying Democrats have no agenda other than partisanship, and are attacking him to prevent Republicans from accomplishing their legislative program. One Republican said the Texan referred to a "mammoth operation" funded by Democratic supporters and designed to destroy him as a symbol of the Republican majority. Associated Press

We’re not out to get you, Tommie. We WANT you to stay right where you are, a shining example of the modern GOP in all it’s glory. And yes, please stay off your meds. We want to see that old Bugman we love in all his glory.

Let Me See Your Papers! (Preferably 2-Ply Vellum) 

XSCCM107You'll get my art when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.

The Secret Service, no doubt looking for something to occupy its times, turns up at an art show at Columbia College, considers the exhibits, and offers a critique.
"The agents turned up Thursday evening, just before the public opening of "Axis of Evil, the Secret History of Sin," and took pictures of some of the art pieces -- including "Patriot Act," showing President Bush on a mock 37-cent stamp with a revolver pointed at his head.
The agents asked what the artists meant by their work and wanted museum director CarolAnn Brown to turn over the names and phone numbers of all the artists. They wanted to hear from the exhibit's curator, Michael Hernandez deLuna, within 24 hours, she said."
The Secret service's response? "We're just doing some looking into it."
The Secret Service is the branch of the Treasury Department best known for its support of the arts and frequent forays into the gallery world. Besides being foremost among art appreciators in the Bush administration, they are also avid museum fans, and often join the president himself in contemplative visits to the American Wing of the Smithsonian.

This is what we've come to expect from this brainless government.

Where else are you going to find terrorists except right under your nose, making joke art about Bush, advertising and inviting the public to see it?

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Goodnight, moon 

Eesh, my entire local area network is starting to act like Blogger! And it's not even a full moon.

Hey, the Kossacks are linking to a CNN story that says Inerrant Boy is planning to phase out Social Security by Executive Order. Of course, He would never do that. I mean, that would be like fuhrerprinzip or something, right?

The Bad Magician : Taking lunch with a corporate beast 

The Bad Magician hates doing lunch with a corporate beast, but there he is. The waiter goes backwards and becomes a market share. The Corporate Face devolves constantly, and will not become real. Today's Special is "Demo Graphic Soup": We are given towels and visine, and told to swim.

The cement pond is tepid pasta, then warm entrails from cold recruits, then blackness. We die in the end that cashes checks, but demand showers. Soap is alive. Numbers clack on the floor, on the ceiling. We run to escape and are given questionaires, and pencils made of dust. "How do you rate the End of Times" and "Would you recommend decay?" Hordes of shareholders stage assemble on the infield lawn, arthritic dances performed by managers as flood waters sink the stage in browns and greens and shimmering steam.

A shaking arm extended from a letter insists upon protocol: A policy wonk greets the blackened sun with a mission statement, a furious unveiling. The World gets up, disappointed with the collective dream. Everyone drinks coffee with an eye to the horizon, suspecting that death is late.

—Alert reader MJS

Grief, Anger and Courage 

It makes me angry and tearful, too, Ms. Sheehan. I wish there was some way to make it better. Of course there isn’t, but I share your anger and grief and desire to see justice done. An iWaq casualty’s mom’s letter:

Dear George and Dick:

I apologize (not really, you don't deserve my apologies) for the familiarity, but I don't call the people responsible for my son's death: Mr, or Sir, nor do I have any respect for the offices that you have defiled. The only thing you both mean to me is pain and devastation. George and Dick, you are both shameful cowards who are sending our brave young people to die to make yourselves and your buddies unbelievably and fabulously wealthy. Neither of you have any idea of the true human, sorrowful cost of war nor do you care that you are ruining lives by the thousands and thousands. You both disgust me beyond belief. You are not, never have been, and never will be my President or Vice President.

This is what your irresponsible and reckless policies took from me: One year and four days ago my son, Casey Sheehan, was one of the consequences of your lies and betrayals. One of the tens of thousands that your arrogant, pre-emptive, imperialistic policies have killed. I don't know how any of you can sleep at night...I know I can't.

I’ve had horrible insomnia now for days. And tonight the whiskey won’t work any better than before. This was just a taste of the letter—the whole thing’s over at Lew Rockwell.

What more is there to say? Imagine the outraged voices of Iraqi mothers we’ll never hear. Imagine the contortions necessary to believe that your son or daughter died for a just cause, or in a struggle for “freedom.” Imagine the courage it takes to accept the truth, painful as it is.

Chafee Today, Tomorrow--? 

We are all disappointed in John Kerry, of course. Mainly because he lost and then didn’t fight the polecats at the polls. But, maybe he’s spending some of that money he had left over for ads that could help. He’s running an ad in Rhode Island supposedly trying to get Lincoln Chafee, according to an email I got today from him. Here’s the link he sent to the ad:

http://www.johnkerry.com/action/chafee-ad.php and he urges us to “see for yourself.”

He then goes on to say:

Why retain and promote those who have failed to make America more safe and secure? Donald Rumsfeld has been a disaster as Secretary of Defense. That's why over 800,000 people have signed our petition supporting my call for Rumsfeld's resignation. Yet the President stands stubbornly by him.

Because he’s a freakin’ psychopath, you might add. But you’re too nice. And then:

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz has made repeated and serious miscalculations about the costs and risks America would face in Iraq. Yet now the Bush Administration wants us to believe he is the right person to lead the World Bank.
And now, the Bush administration wants to add John Bolton to that astonishing list.

I will keep you posted on our efforts to stop this nomination from advancing.

John Kerry

P.S. I'm sharing this with you because I want you to know how hard we're working on this critical vote. But, I also want you to be prepared. Should the Bolton nomination make it through committee, we may have to wage a nationwide effort to defeat it on the floor of the Senate.

Nice. But maybe if you hadn’t been so gracious after getting smeared and after the shenanigans in Ohio and Florida, we wouldn’t have to be fighting these bastards for another four years. Sorry. Of course I’ll support fighting them now, but you gotta remember there are still a lot of people who got kicked in the guts on November 2, 2004. People still recovering. People who have been fighting in the trenches for a long, long time, as well as newcomers to politics who got their first taste of bitter defeat against the forces of the F-word.

Still, you’re a Senator and I’m not. So, go get ‘em, big fella. You might consider getting a loaner on Barbara Boxer’s spine, though. On NPR this morning, Chafee said he'd vote to confirm unless some startling evidence came out today. OK, who's got the pictures of Bolton with the German Shepherds and mayonnaise? The video wasn't enough for Sen. Chafee.

UPDATE: Too late for damning pictures, as it seems no sleaze is too sleazy to serve aWol...Bolton appears headed for confirmation

But we knew that. And so, St. John miscounted. There are going to be how many horsemen (and women) of the Apocalypse? Rummy, Wolfie, Condi, Alberto, Chertoff, Bolton, Hughes, Negroponte...

Book Tag update 

Swan at A Quiet Evening responds.

r@d@r at ex-lion tamer too. Lambert, you'll be pleased with answer #1. Also, to all whom it may concern: update your ex-lion tamer link if you haven't done so already.

Mimus Pauly at The Mockingbird's Medley plays book tag too.

And thanks to Keith at The Invisible Library for the LINK to a volume of all seven Maqroll novellas.


Happy Talk 

James Wolcott has been on a particularly morose kick lately, what with the end of the world as we know it breathing down his neck. After noting the dour summation of the market as seen through the eyes of Buffett, Volker, and Templeton ("nothing worth buying", "disturbing trends", "more negative information than meets the eye"), he sez:

"There's a pattern here. As with Peak Oil, global warming, the real estate bubble, and the various US deficits, there's a general awareness of Trouble Coming and yet no sense of urgency or battle plan. It isn't that the media, the political class, and the media (sic) are paralyzed by fear or overwhelmed by alternative solutions, it's as if everyone is assuming that we can sleepwalk through the next crisis and muddle through as we always have with only minor hiccups, if any, in our lifestyles. As Stephen Roach and others have warned, the American consumer is now so indebted and lacking in savings that there's little cushion for the next reversal of fortune. Almost any soft landing could turn hard."
It's not that I'm such a financial groupie. But I like to keep my ear to the ground. Say I just hate surprises. I've been expecting a housing bubble to burst in the next couple years, and I don't doubt we may end up with a whole new underclass (Deltas? Gammas? God, forbid, Epsilons?!) after Bush has his way with our economy. But it's been a long, long time (art school, maybe?) since I felt the cold fingers of paranoia around my throat the way I did after I read this happy piece, via Wolcott, in Rolling Stone by James Howard Kunstler:

"A few weeks ago, the price of oil ratcheted above fifty-five dollars a barrel, which is about twenty dollars a barrel more than a year ago. The next day, the oil story was buried on page six of the New York Times business section. Apparently, the price of oil is not considered significant news, even when it goes up five bucks a barrel in the span of ten days. That same day, the stock market shot up more than a hundred points because, CNN said, government data showed no signs of inflation. Note to clueless nation: Call planet Earth...
It has been very hard for Americans -- lost in dark raptures of nonstop infotainment, recreational shopping and compulsive motoring -- to make sense of the gathering forces that will fundamentally alter the terms of everyday life in our technological society. Even after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, America is still sleepwalking into the future. I call this coming time the Long Emergency."
Kunstler goes on to explain that 2005 is the year we will probably experience the "global oil-production peak", when the world will produce the most oil it will ever be able to in a given year, after which its production will only go down. He then ticks off the list of implications for our oil-based economy and the ubiquitous petroleum-based goods we produce and use, the reason gas is going to be just as expensive, the reason hydrogen and other alternative fuels won't be practical, the likelihood of wars, the fall of the suburbs, and the return to an agrarian economy where those who hold land and grow food will become the aristocracy:

"The relentless subdividing of land in the late twentieth century has destroyed the contiguity and integrity of the rural landscape in most places. The process of readjustment is apt to be disorderly and improvisational. Food production will necessarily be much more labor-intensive than it has been for decades. We can anticipate the re-formation of a native-born American farm-laboring class. It will be composed largely of the aforementioned economic losers who had to relinquish their grip on the American dream. These masses of disentitled people may enter into quasi-feudal social relations with those who own land in exchange for food and physical security. But their sense of grievance will remain fresh, and if mistreated they may simply seize that land."
Good God, people! Does the fun never end? The full monty can be read in Kunstler's book, The Long Emergency, when it's released. If, like me, you're a bit on the sensitive side, you may want to dust off those old dreams of moving to B.C. and starting a commune on 50 acres. The Mother Earth News is still out there, droogies.

Redux Redux 

And speaking of election fraud, via Buzzflash, Fairness and Accuracy in Media reports that America's system of elections is broken, and you can just stop whining about it right now. Let's cut to the chase:
"During the period FAIR studied, six editorials in this series appeared, including information and recommendations on “New Standards for Elections” (11/7/04), “Improving Provisional Ballots” (11/21/04) and the need for a verifiable paper trail for electronic voting machines (12/20/04, 12/27/04). (The latter topic was mentioned only in passing in the rest of our sample, despite the open invitation to vote fraud posed by such uncheckable technology—Extra!, 5–6/04.)
Unaddressed electoral system problems will continue to plague us, regardless of who won the White House last year, and the press would do well not to wait until 2008 to notice them again. Democrats and bloggers aren’t the only ones paying attention: A November 4 report by international observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe expressed concern about “significant delays at the polling station” that were “likely to deter some voters from voting and may restrict the right to vote,” as well as “considerable confusion and varying approaches from one state to another regarding the use of provisional ballots.”
Also, as BBC reporter Greg Palast argued in In These Times (12/13/04), the more than 90,000 spoiled ballots in Ohio—mentioned nowhere in our sample but in the New York Times (11/7/04, 12/24/04)—nearly make up the 118,000-vote difference between Bush and Kerry. That fact alone suggests that, just as in 2000, the White House’s occupant may be there due to system failure rather than any mandate. The leading media should not have dismissed this crucial issue of democracy—regardless of how much they, like Senator Kerry, craved closure. "
What, me worry? No way. As long as we've got Rumsfeld setting the Iraqis straight on government corruption, I know all's well here in Mudville.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Goodnight, moon 

Sorry to have been unreliable, lately. I've been feeding the corporate beast more of my psyhic energy than I like...

Phil Carpenter's got a blog! 

Do go visit my old HNN colleague Phil Carpenter's new blog! Phil's a historian like I am.

Phil's got an excellent post up about the New Deal that I heartily recommend.

Farmer, can we get Phil Carpenter's blog up on the blogroll pronto?

Republicans vs. The Constitution: Negroponte and the Contras 

The dead can still speak:

As Negroponte prepares for his Senate confirmation hearing today for the new post of director of national intelligence, hundreds of previously secret cables and telegrams have become available that shed new light on the most controversial episode in his four-decade diplomatic career.
(via WaPo)

And what do those papers reveal?

The day after the House voted to halt all aid to rebels fighting to overthrow the Sandinista government of Nicaragua, U.S. Ambassador to Honduras John D. Negroponte urged the president's national security adviser and the CIA director to hang tough.

The thrust of the envoy's "back channel" July 1983 message to the men running the contra war against Nicaragua was contained in a single cryptic sentence: "Hondurans believe special project is as important as ever."

"Special project" was code for the secret arming of contra rebels from bases in Honduras -- a cause championed by Negroponte...

Let's pause a minute to cite the Constitution:

The Congress... shall have the power to raise and support Armies.
(Article 1, section 8 via FindLaw

That's for all you original intent folks out there...

The bottom line is this: The Republicans have been trying to abolish Constitutional government for a generation. Bush, with the [cough] Patriot Act (trashing the Bill of Rights), the silent re-allocation of billions of dollars from Afghanistan to Iraq (Congressional power of the purse), the institution of torture (cruel and unusual punishment), calling Social Security just an IOU (full faith and credit), and a long train of other abuses and usurpations, is the noxious apotheosis of Republican policies that started with Nixon's Plumbers, and continued through Ollie North's "off the shelf" covert operations and yes, Negroponte's Contras.

Since what is Negroponte proposing but the circumvention of Congress's Constitutional power of the purse? The House says "No more money" as is their Constitutional prerogative. Does Negroponte obey? No. He, and the Republicans, try to rewrite the rules, just like they always do. Except in this case the rules are the Constitution, our Constitution, and the bottom line is the loss of the Constitution and with it, our freedoms.

Negroponte's confirmation hearings give the Beltway Dems an excellent chance to connect these dots and call Bullshit on the way the Republicans are trashing the Constitution.

Will they have the courage?



[Cardinal Bernard] Law resigned as archbishop of Boston in December 2002 after unsealed court records revealed he had moved predatory clergy among parishes for years without telling parents their children were at risk. He has apologized for his wrongdoing.
(via AP)

Hey, maybe if the boys had been dead there'd be some 24/7 coverage...

No, but seriously folks: Doesn't Bernie getting a spot in the Vatican, and offering a homily at the Pope's funeral, remind you of something? Like everyone who was right on WMDs being thrown out of the Bush administration, and everyone who was wrong getting a promotion? Moral values, and all that....

Of course, at least Law apologized. Give him that.

Ah, FrontPage, um, "Magazine" 

Michael Berube has apparently had quite an experience with Crazy Davy's FrontPage Magazine. It reminds me of my little experience over there two years ago. Although I have to say they weren't editing my responses to make themselves look good or anything like Crazy Davey apparently did to Michael.

I tried over and over to make logical arguments and engage the righties in some sort of dialogue. All the righties over there wanted to do was make ad hominem attacks, suggesting that those of us who were against the war really loved terrorists or communists. It was all astonishingly disappointing yet not terribly surprising. They were so intellectually dishonest it was appalling.

The worst of the folks over there for just wanting to mount ad hominem attacks was Judith Klinghoffer who is still taking up space as a blogger at my old digs over at HNN. Interestingly enough, Klinghoffer is listed both at HNN and when she writes at National Review Online as an "associate scholar" at a branch of Rutgers. This is a nice way, I'm afraid, of saying she's both an "adjunct slave" and "hasn't found a job yet but my husband is a full professor so they gave me this title but don't list me as a faculty member so I can say I have something to do with academe when I appear on the web or on television."

But I digress. If you really want to see how little there is to conservative arguments these days, you should go read the exchange. I'll go ahead and post one of my responses just so you can get a taste of what I was dealing with:
Spencer: Dr. Klinghoffer, since when am I "the left?" And when did I mention anything about communist regimes? You don't know a damn thing about me and I can't believe you'd make such bizarre generalizations about me based on so little evidence. I do assume you don't make historical arguments that have this little evidence behind them. Please address my arguments and cease making these sweeping and irresponsible generalizations about my supposed "leftist" tendencies.

Oh yeah. I forgot. It's this sort of junk that passes for reasoned argument in right-wing circles these days. I thought we were in the symposium portion of this website, not the rather irresponsible home page here that includes ad hominem attacks on liberals and leftists in every other story.

What Dr. Klinghoffer is trying to pass off as an argument is perfect evidence of the astonishing disconnect between the rhetoric that many conservatives use and the actual political reality in the United States that probably helps to explain the strange questions that started this forum. She can't believe that someone who was against this war isn't a "leftist" or even a "communist" or a "Saddam-lover" of some kind. That's where she and W go wrong. They can't seem to understand that there are perfectly reasonable people who are against this war on principle and have good arguments against it. In their minds this is impossible so we have to be appeasers and apologists of course. It certainly makes the world a simpler place if you can view your opponents that way, doesn't it? By the way, get off your high horse about how we've helped the women in Afghanistan. It appears that outside of Kabul, women are being treated just as they were before our invasion -- of course everything in Afghanistan outside of Kabul is essentially back to how it was before the invasion, except much more chaotic. Even in Kabul we have to guard President Karzai 24 hours per day to protect him from assassination.

I supported the invasion of Afghanistan but the short-attention-span folks that make up this administration long ago forgot about it as much of a priority. They left aid to Afghanistan out of the last budget after all. We really should be working a great deal more to secure Afghanistan than we are.

The same folks in Iraq who cheered us were the same people who also, I'm afraid to say, were demonstrating against us a couple of days later and, in some places, already demanding an end to our occupation. So much for that point of yours too.

You clearly should read more and get your news somewhere other than the Faux News Channel. That way you'd find out a lot of your statements aren't holding much water and that the world is an awfully messy place that isn't so easily reducible into the battle between "good" and "evil" and the "left" and the "right" as you try to make it. In short, the world isn't the simple morality cartoon that W and the boys are selling to the public on a daily basis even though it's apparent you work really hard to see it that way.
Now that was a tasty slapdown, wasn't it?

And, as you'll see, they carefully try not to respond to any of my meatier arguments all the way through. I've always thought that Josh Marshall described Crazy Davey and his ilk quite well:
But one of the best ways to judge someone's moral and intellectual seriousness -- perhaps also their moral and intellectual caliber, but at least their seriousness -- is to see who they pick as their enemies, who they choose to pick fights with. Someone like David Horowitz is a great example of the effectiveness of this method -- a sorry sort of guy, bubbling on churning rapids of cash, constantly casting about for some new lefty freak to mount a new crusade against, all mixed-up with aggrieved passion and outrage. The whole enterprise is about as grave and righteous as tricking retarded grade-schoolers out of their lunch money.

An April Less Cruel? 

Or maybe more? We question, you decide.

April is National Poetry Month, a fact that had escaped my attention until a visit I made a week ago to Rox Populi.

Roxanne is using her always excellent blog to celebrate poetry by posting some of it through-out the month, and how better to celebrate poetry than to read some of it.

Her selections have been exemplary, starting with a stunning selection from Carolyn Fouche 's "The Country Between Us", and continuing with Yeats' "Second Coming, witr Rox-selected internal links,(do click), and today, she has a wonderful post about Laurie Anderson as poet.

Inspired by Roxanne's example, as of today and through-out the rest of the month, Corrente will be joining the party.

"In Praise Of Ironing"

Poetry is pure white:

it emerges from the water covered with drops,
all wrinkled, in a heap.
It has to be spread out, the skin of this planet,
has to be ironed, the sea in its whiteness:
and the hands keep on moving,
smoothing the holy surfaces.
So are things accomplished.
Each day, hands re-create the world,
fire is married to steel,
and the canvas, the linens and the cottons return
from the skirmishing of the laundries;
and out of light is born a dove.
Out of the froth once more comes chastity.

Pablo Neruda, "A New Decade, Poems, 1958-1967

I'm Taking My Toys & Going Home! Oh, Wait... 

A coupla things.

First, humble props to Barbara Ehrenreich writing in the March 05 issue of The Progressive about the tsunami and gods. One nine-inch nail, hit squarely on the head:

What it comes down to is that we're up shit creek here on the planet Earth. We're wide open to asteroid hits, with the latest near-miss coming in October, when a city-sized one passed within a mere million miles of Earth, which is just four times the distance between the Earth and the moon. Then, too, it's only a matter of time before the constant shuffling of viral DNA results in a global pandemic. And 12/26 was a reminder that the planet itself is a jerry-rigged affair, likely to keep belching and lurching. Even leaving out global warming and the possibility of nuclear war, this is not a good situation, in case you hadn't noticed so far.

If there is a God, and He, She, or It had a message for us on 12/26, that message is: Get your act together, folks--your seismic detection systems, your first responders and global mobilization capacity--because no one, and I do mean no One, is coming to medi-vac us out of here. Barbara Ehrenreich demands an apology from God.

And mama earth sends another little reminder… Strong earthquake rocks Tokyo region

Of course, the GOP response to such global knowledge is to tighten up Fortress America so that we can play with our toys right up until the end, when the good guys get raptured anyway, or at least when Bruce Willis saves the planet with good old American oil know-how, or something, so what’s to worry? We’re fighting over our toys while the playroom is gliding closer and closer to the edge of the falls.

If that thought doesn’t give you nightmares, give me two of what you’re taking before bedtime.

Second, it’s so good to see that GOPers are having second thoughts about killing the filibuster (called, in the usual kneeslapping apocalyptic parlance of the GOP the “nookyoolar option”) not because they’re sincerely worried about losing it (tho maybe some are, but most realize that if they take away they can also give back) but because it seems to be becoming a dead issue with nobody willing to push it. Thus, when the Dems use it, who can reasonably complain? And use it they must, what with so many of the Supremes that sing the right (left) notes having one foot on a banana peel and the other in, well, you know… McCain sees 'slippery slope' in filibuster ban

But, then, anything to keep the public’s eyes off of the fact that, as the good doctor says, if we don’t all learn to live together as brothers and sisters, we’ll all perish together as fools.

Oh, wait. It’s gonna be okay after all: U.N. nominee Bolton vows to 'work with all'

And In Other Vote-Rigging News... 

Remember Clint Curtis, the software designer for Yang who raised allegations last December that he was asked by U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney (R-FL) to create an electronic vote-rigging software prototype in 2000? ("Curtis filed a sworn affidavit which was then followed up several weeks later with sworn testimony under oath to members of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee.") Over at The Brad Blog, they're reporting that he passed a polygraph test.

There has been considerable flak back and forth about this issue, and the whole thing is a mess of accusations of conspiracies and attempts to paint Curtis as a wild-eyed wack. As usual, those making the accusations are portrayed as unstable or laughable, the blogs who report the stories are described in comic terms, and the mainstream media spends more journalistic energy guffawing than actually investigating.

I'm not saying Curtis is the poster boy for truth, here, but neither do I think his story has ever been given the serious investigation it should have. But more to the point is that despite many, many charges leveled and much evidence compiled of voting irreglarities all over the country, none of them has ever been picked up and followed through by the media, with the result that the papers were peppered with little blips of notice, immediately followed with the trademark silence that so characterizes journalism in these dark days. As long as mainstream journalists can marginalize concerns about vote-fraud by making them sound absurd, they can avoid having to do the hard ethical work of actually finding out if those concerns have a basis, which then has the chilling effect of essentially discrediting every later individual who may have dared to level a charge.

Very gratifying to the powers that be, and very easy on the careers of those who may fear ostracization if they make waves.

Now He Tells Us 

Tucked below the NYTimes' virtual fold, we read this bizarre statement from erstwhile candidate and former savior-in-waiting, John Kerry:
"Last year, too many people were denied their right to vote; too many who tried to vote were intimidated," Mr. Kerry said at an event sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts.
He cited examples of trickery. "Leaflets are handed out saying Democrats vote on Wednesday, Republicans vote on Tuesday," Mr. Kerry said. "People are told in telephone calls that if you've ever had a parking ticket, you're not allowed to vote."
Gosh. "Denied their right to vote." Excuse me, Mr. Kerry, but where the fuck where you after the election when the people who believed in you were waiting to have their own knowledge of these activities given credence by your protests of the election results...protests, we know now, that never materialized. No, you just put your tail between your legs and slunk off into the night like a good little aparatchik and let these powermongers bulldoze their way through the electorate again, and despite all the folks trying to fight the good fight, here, and at Kos, and elsewhere, eventually people lost interest and yawned politely and said "oh, well, back to busines as usual", and Diebold and the men in black won the day.

Now that no possible difference can be made by your bland, weak-ass little protests, you feel free to voice your concern, and the Repugs counter with a predictable response:
"...it's disappointing that some Democrats are focused on rehashing baseless allegations more than five months after the election," said a committee spokeswoman, Tracey Schmitt."
Yes, it's disappointing, all right, but not because Schmitt puts on a doleful face and mourns the lost gravitas being accorded to the Chimp by his ungrateful hoi-polloi. It's disappointng because we thought we may have had a champion with balls, but all we got was another politician.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Book Tag endnote 

Just for the record, I've decided to ammend my contribution the the deserted island book lift effort. Aside from my silly and embarrassingly obnoxious presentations (below) on the subject I did give some gen-u-ine thought to the puzzle. Although I still have no idea whether it would be best to be stranded with five books that you had previously read (and therefore be stuck reading nothing new under the sun - pun intended) or to take along five books that you had never read before; risking the possibly that you will be disappointed by your choices and stuck on a deserted island with five books you find unreadable. Or, whether it would be best to take along five books filled nothing but blank white pages which you yourself could fill to your hearts delight. In any case I suspect it would be combination of all three.

So... just as a kind of public service I'd like to offer the following for those who may be interested in some really good deserted island reading this summer.

Two volumes by Alvaro Muti titled "Maqroll: Three Novellas" (1992) and "The Adventures of Maqroll" (four novellas - 1994). I've always really liked these stories. Which consist of a kind of epic voyage in seven novellas -- The Snow of the Admiral, Ilona Comes with the Rain, Un Bel Morir, Amirbar, The Tramp Steamer's Last Port of Call, Abdul Bashur: Dreamer of Ships, and Triptych on Sea and Land -- When it comes to castaways and rogues of every sort, including mysterious ports of call and exotic island desserts, you can't beat the wanderings of the Gaviero. Review clips:

Magroll the Gaviero - a personage of romantic ancestry with a poet's consciousness - scans the horizon from the mainmast. What his eyes discover - quicksand, the dense, dwarfed vegetation of malaria, immense salt marshes, obelisks and squared towers, a geometry of prisons, offices and slaughterhouses - is not so much a physical world as a moral landscape... the wondrous created in an abrupt shower of images that are gratuitous, meaningless, yet unexplainably spellbinding." ~ Octavio Paz

As the novellas move through time they have the cumlative effect of a single novel - one complicated by many stories and, within the stories, dreams, hallucinations and reflections, as Maqroll finds himself in every climate, in exotic places, amid characters of unpredictable, psychopathic violence... a fascinating and original work, rich in thought and action. ~ New York Times Book Review

...Maqroll is an adventurer, a wanderer, going from one shady occupation to another. ...one is reminded of Machado de Assis, Alejo Carpentier, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and perhaps Thomas Mann of Felix Krull ~ Los Angeles Times Book Review

Recall Joseph Conrad. And one can think of Maqroll himself not only as a Byronic figure but also as a male counterpart of isabel Allende's Eva Luna; both are spellbinding storytellers. ~ Boston Globe

You get the idea.
More about the author here: Alvaro Muti

I think these books are now out of print but I know you can find used copies.

I'll also tag Swan at
A Quiet Evening

Q1 - You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be [saved]?
Q2 - Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?
Q3 - The last book you bought is?
Q4 - What are you currently reading?
Q5 - Five books you would take to a deserted island?


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