Monday, December 29, 2008

"Barack the Magic Negro"

I wasn't initially appalled when I got word of this piece in the NY Times a couple of days ago. After all the garbage that was slung on the campaign trail by the McPalin consortium, this sort of radical, racist horseshit was par for the course from conservative extremists. I was, however, absolutely flabbergasted that the GOP would give this racist bullshit mixed reviews.

It's unfathomable to me, now almost a decade into the 21st century, that this despicable act is not unanimously condemned by all. "Barack the Magic Negro" (sung to the tune of "Puff the Magic Dragon") was distributed by Chip Saltsman, a candidate for GOP party chairman from Tennessee. The offensive jingle was of course broadcast on Rush "Is a Big Fat Idiot" Limbaugh's radio show.

Speaking to The Hill newspaper on Friday, Saltsman described it as a “light-hearted” gift that would be received in “good humor” by members of the Republican National Committee.

Thankfully, more than a couple of important party handfulls---Newt Gingrich and RNC party chairman Mike Duncan among them---have condemned the parody, declaring themselves shocked and appalled. However, on Saturday, black candidate for RNC chairman, J. Kenneth Blackwell (a former Ohio secretary of state) dismissed the hoopla as “hypersensitivity.”

“All competitors for this leadership position are fine people,” he wrote in an e-mail message.

Are they now? I bet they brush their teeth with Darkie Toothpaste and get served breakfast by Mamie The House Negro every morning before they head out to that sacred institution on the Hill to pass their legislative, racist nonsense.

For a party that had huge losses this year among minority voters, this ought to be the last, revolting straw that brings down the house. But fine, call me a humourless twit. I can get down with the best of the cockroaches and play that game too. I move for a counter-version titled "God The Magik Cracka" sung/rapped by Chuck D. from Public Enemy. That ought to take care of all GOP-ers and evangelicals alike, and ensure all-out, Bible-thumping riots throughout this great virtuous land of ours.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

It's Over!

Never mind the honeymoon, the whole bloody thing is off.

I've been on the brink of dropping The Huffington Post from my daily reading/list of sources for a few weeks now, but yesterday's retarded lead piece did it. As I read through, my blood started boiling. You know, figuratively an' all. This kind of mindless fluff is for the likes of the National Enquirer or People magazine--definitely not my cup of reading tea. It's quite a shame; Arianna started off on the right foot on May 9, 2005 when she launched the site billed as an "intellectual blog," but something has gone awry the last six months in particular.

A scroll down through the initial couple dozen comments accompanying this piece finds nothing but "oohs" and "aaahs" and "Man, I'd do him" - type declarations. Not to be a prude, but I truly was expecting at least a handful of people basically calling Arianna on the shit of a story this truly is. No suh, nothing even remotely close. We're neck-deep into a devastating recession, industry going down le proverbial toah-leh, and people are more interested in O's perfectly-sculpted man tits and gym habits. Holy Time To Recalibrate Your Priorities, Batman!

This is the usual, infernal mantra of news outlets "giving the people what they want" bullshit. Numbers, kids, numbers! Right? For shits and giggles, how about giving the reader quality, fact-checked journalism? Actually SET THE AGENDA instead of feeding the mediocre tastes of the masses who are willing to swallow anything you hand out anyway. Why not serve some real meat and potatoes?

So then...that's that. We're through, the two of us. I'm breaking up with The Huff Post. To paraphrase George Costanza: (S)wine has hand, baby! And there's nothin' anybody can do about it.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

I Don't Really Understand The Thinking Here...


I'm still scratching my head with the news of who was named to be the Secretary of Transportation. I can't fathom why Obama has gone with Republican Congressman Ray LaHood from downstate Illinois.

Now, having lived in Illinois, I know LaHood's name. But I didn't really know that much about him. A little bit of Internet searching and I find nothing in his credentials that makes him a good choice for the Transportation Secretary. Let's look at the House committees he's on:

Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies
Subcommittee on Legislative Branch

Even the non-legislative caucuses he is on don't really give him any transportation experience. The only thing that comes close is the Congressional Travel and Tourism Caucus, and that's not really about transportation. Who knows, maybe he is in charge of renting the bus, as the co-founder of the Congressional Bipartisan Retreat Committee, for their outings to Atlantic City.

He has been the director of a planning commission before, but that's about as close as he gets at all.

Obama has said he is going to push for a huge infrastructure project when he takes office. That means, if you don't already know, fixing bridges and roads, building new public transit systems and expanding old ones, among other things. If you are going to have the biggest infrastructure project since the Great Depression, don't you want a guy running the Department of Transportation who really knows what he's doing?

I'm mostly disappointed by who didn't get it. After the election, when all the newspapers started speculating who would get each position, the short list for Transportation included the name James Oberstar. He's a Democratic Congressman from Minnesota. Let's take a look at his committees. First and foremost, he is the Chair of the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee. And he also sits on the all the subcommittees for Transportation & Infrastructure:
een wheels, four wheels, two wheels, feet, rubber on asphalt, steel on steel, electric power, combustion power and human power. Oberstar knows it all when it comes to transportation.

Now it is quite possible that Oberstar was asked and he declined. It could be that he is more valuable in his current position than as the head of the president's department. I would have to agree, generally. But Obama could find somebody in between a guy who knows it all about transportation and a guy that knows nothing?

My big fear is that Obama sees this department the same way that Bush does, as an unimportant one. One that he uses as a bone to throw at the other party so that he can claim to have a "bipartisan" cabinet. This is exactly how Bush used it, putting the only Democrat in his cabinet in this post. Though at least I'm fairly confident Obama won't use it to try to kill Amtrak.

But the Senate should have some questions ready for Mr. LaHood. I have a few I would ask, and they are not even political or agenda questions. He has a record of voting for funding for Amtrak and transit, so I'm not against this appointment on ideological grounds. But I want to know if he has the basic knowledge to run this department. So here are my suggestions to the senators who will be in the confirmation hearing:

Congressman LaHood, can you tell us what a catenary is and how it is used in transportation?

If he misses the first question he should get an automatic "no" vote. If he can answer it correctly, then continue down the list:

What are the benefits and downsides to running electric trains on overhead catenary wire versus third-rail power?

What is the fundamental difference between light rail transit and heavy equipment rail transit? Can you give examples of why you would choose one over the other in specific situations?

How many track miles does Amtrak serve? Which states are not served by Amtrak?

What is Amtrak's yearly operating subsidy and ticket revenue? How did 2007 rank in Amtrak ridership levels compared to past years?

How much federal money was spent last fiscal year on mass transportation and how much on roads?

What are the fundamental differences between commuter rail, regional rail, long-distance trains and the passengers they serve?

These are a few of the questions I would ask just to see if he knows what the hell he is doing at all. I would also ask about long-term plans for Amtrak expansion and urban mass transit, as well as his thoughts on the plans for a nationwide high-speed rail network and what timeline for its implementation he would like to see.

If LaHood could answer the majority of these questions I would feel a lot better about him running such an important department.

But as it stands right now, I think this is by far the weakest cabinet appointment Obama has made.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Maybe Not A Lame Duck, But Lame?

It's pretty low on the totem pole, in terms of progressive politics, but the annual Bush White House Xmas video has provided brief tiny prismatic windows into the minds of the first family.

Each entry has gotten progressively loopier and this year's no exception, what with canine-centered summer Olympic events, slumming athletes and the stiffest line readings this side of local TV commercials (Laura makes Michael Phelps look like Dustin Hoffman).

Marvel at conservative humor. Makes you wonder how strong their medication is doesn't it?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Obama's Spiritual Choice Causes Major Progressive Rift

Ladies and Gents, here's the first major rip in the Progressive fabric of hope and feel good ga-ga, which President-Elect Obama has so far woven: on Wednesday, the transition team and Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies announced that Rick Warren, pastor of the almighTAY powerful Saddleback Church, will give the invocation on January 20th.

Although the selection may not have been incredibly surprising---Obama and Warren are reportedly close; Obama praised the Megachurch leader in his second book "The Audacity of Hope"---this Progressive and humble contributing writer is mega-church-pissed. Warren is deeply entrenched in the religious right, and his position on social issues like gay rights, stem cell research, and women's rights are all out of the mainstream and are very much opposed to the progressive agenda on which Obama ran. As expected, the announcement of his selection yesterday set off a round of criticism by gay rights groups angered by Warren's support for California’s ban on same-sex marriages.

The choice of Warren is presumably an olive branch to conservative Christian evangelicals, which at first thought might make sense when looking toward re-election in 2012, but on closer inspection it's somewhat of a lost cause as the conservative Christian movement is highly unlikely to vote for Obama, no matter the state of the country in four years.

Or, perhaps, as another esteemed contributor to this site suggested privately: this is Obama's way of shoving the middle finger up the evangelical posterior, basically saying it doesn't much matter who makes him put his hand on the Good Book--as the Good Book ain't gonna be much help to those half-mil (and growing) unemployed waiting in line for their monthly check.

The nice thing about the ceremonies on January 20, however, is that in a departure from past inaugurations, which usually feature mundane, suicide-inducing operatic soloists, Aretha Franklin will perform. To that I tip my nonexistent fedora and give an un-affiliated and non-denominational AMEN MOTHA-SISTAH!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008



I was watching a lot of the news shows over the weekend and there were several of the pundit types asking a similar question. They were speculating whether or not Rod Blagojevich might have a mental disorder, citing the brashness of his demands and thinking he could get away with it.

Really? Have we really gone this far in our call-everything-a-disease society that we now consider being a narcissistic prick a mental diagnosis?

You know, sometimes an ass hole is just an ass hole.

Circus, Circus

Take two women who haven't had a real job in years, one open, highly-visible Senate seat, throw in a blind governor with his own personal problems, a strong dash of nepotism from the closest royal family we'll ever claim, and you have yourself a show worth getting the big tub of popcorn and large soda for.

Yesterday, Caroline Kennedy ended weeks of silence with a series of rapid-fire phone calls to New York state’s leading political figures, including Gov. David A. Paterson, in which she emphatically and enthusiastically declared herself interested in Hillary Clinton's Senate seat.

Governor Paterson, who has sole authority to fill the Senate vacancy, insisted that he had not yet chosen a successor to Mrs. Clinton and said that Monday’s conversation with Ms. Kennedy was the first he had had with her since an initial discussion almost two weeks ago. Meantime, "CK" is now launching a public effort to demonstrate that she has both the ability and the stomach to perform the job, with plans to visit parts of the upstate region--although as of today I imagine she and her overzealous team of politicos are still waiting for the roads to be salted and cleared up around Utica and Rochester.

But hold the equines Pointdexter; coming up strong down the stretch in this mondo bizarro of politics is Fran "Da Senate Nanny" Drescher who also believes she's qualified. And why not? If Stuart Smalley née Al Franken can contest the Minnesota seat, why not Tony Manero's dance partner representin' proper? Hae-hae-hae-hae-hae-hae-hae-hae.

According to New York magazine:
"I've just been given the appointment of U.S. diplomat," (Drescher) said at a party for dining establishment Le Cirque: A Table in Heaven on December 3. "My title is public diplomacy envoy for women's health issues, and I just got back from a four-country European tour of duty. I believe next I'll be sent to the Middle East." What else makes her a good candidate? "I'm an authentic and honest person," she said. "And I think Capitol Hill needs more of that."

She was either eloquent or drunk; I'm not yet sure which. For those who've been out of the entertainment loop (present company included), Drescher was diagnosed with uterine cancer several years ago and has been in remission for a while.

According to The Huff Post:
Along the way, (Drescher) says she won first lady Laura Bush's help in supporting women's health issues, and was rewarded with a nomination to be a special U.S. envoy. Her appointment is stuck in the usual bureaucracy, but she swears there are no skeletons in her closet. "I'm a good girl, I am," Drescher says.

Meantime, Caroline Kennedy has moved aggressively into campaign-like mode, albeit with careful attention to political protocol. Besides Mr. Paterson and Christine C. Quinn, the New York City Council speaker, Kennedy called upstate officials like Representative Louise M. Slaughter and Byron Brown, the mayor of Buffalo; the Rev. Al Sharpton, and Charles E. Schumer, New York’s senior senator.

Stay tuned for the Bad Craziness. Perhaps we can lure Jesse Ventura out of retirement to add an extra pinch of spice to this pot of jambalaya.

(sources: NY Times, The Huffington Post, New York Magazine, Mediabistro)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Not Quite a Lame Duck Yet


Hey, you got to at least give it to the man; he's leaving office with his reflexes sharp as hell. I mean, it took less than a second for Iraqi journalist Muntadar al-Zaidi to hurl his weapons of locomotion at our man's head, but Señor Jorge came out unscathed. True, on the second try (the right shoe?) Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki intervened and blocked the projectile (we used to call that a Yo Mama moment on the playground), but the first duck was Bush all by himself. There's a good joke in here about the outgoing Prez being used to successfully dodging flying shite and various other detritus flung in his direction, but I'll leave that to the commenters (commentators?).

As the recipient of many a flying shoe in my boyhood, I am somewhat jealous. Slippers, galoshes, boots, and even wooden clogs were Mummy's weapon of choice as I was growing up and frequently pissing her off. To my defense, however, she always chose to pelt me with these missiles while my back was turned, but still. I should've heard them coming--if thrown with enough passion (and believe you me, they were), those things whistle through the air like Nazi .88s. I'm still envious, though. But I suppose if you're launching objects at a former baseball team owner you're bound to miss here and there. I mean you know Georgie took at least a couple of batting practice sessions with the Rangers, during the time he co-owned them.

Apparently White House Press Secretary Dana Perino may have suffered a black eye in the wake of the shoe-throwing incident. "Politico" is reporting that Ms. Perino was injured by a microphone in the ensuing melee.

This makes the inner, repressed 5th Grader in me giddy. I don't know, as a former TV audio guy there's something about being whacked upside yo' head with a flying mic that makes me laugh. That and seeing people slip on ice. I know, I know! I am striving to be more compassionate, more empathetic, a better human being, but I have been a Pavlov's dog for too long. Suppressing my idiotic, childish impulses has been a hard struggle. But I ain't giving up. No sir.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Well done, Guv'nah

I've never been a fan of governors, really. I imagine it has a lot to do with those I've had. I grew up in NY and blame Cuomo's state tax policies for reducing towns like Rochester and Syracuse into post-industrial wastelands with soaring unemployment. When I relocated to Washington, I liked Gary Locke alright, but he was followed by a thrice-recounted election that put that paragon of all inaction associated with Democrats, Christine Gregoire, into office, where she sat motionless for her first term. And though she won re-election with comparable ease, it was after one of the most bumbling, directionless campaigns I've ever seen (she would have lost if not for Obama, I believe).

From Huey Long through Ronald Reagan and Ahnahld right up to and including Sarah Palin, the office of state governor seems to attract a special brand of douchebaggery.

But, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich takes the friggin' cake. Or, have you been absent from this news cycle? I heard it all over Air America this afternoon, and found it quickly on HuffPo once I arrived home.

Well done, Rod. Way to smear your own party through your very affiliation. Extortion, pay-to-play politics, an attempt to sell Obama's Senate seat to the highest bidder.

And now it looks likely that his corruption will lead to a special election for Obama's seat, instead of a Democratic apppointment. How disposed to putting a Dem in that seat are Illinois voters likely to be while they're following the continuing investigation of Blagojevich.

I actually can see just one tiny sliver of silver in the dark cloud over Illinois. Perhaps this, combined with Obama's willingness to veer away from prescribed "progressive" politics (see: Cabinet) and his stated goal of ending partisanship, will help lead all of us away from party politics. Because, when it comes right down to it, Dems make just as good criminals as the Elephants do.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Meet the Press Meets New Host

As reported here (and broken by the Huffington Post) on Tuesday, Dec. 2, David Gregory will become the permanent moderator of “Meet the Press.” NBC News officially made the announcement on Sunday morning.

The network used the appearance of President-Elect Barack Obama on Sunday's program to name Mr. Gregory, who will start next week. Tom Brokaw, the interim moderator, formally introduced the new host at the end of his interview with President-Elect Obama.

Mr. Brokaw announced that this Sunday would be his last as what he called “the temporary moderator” filling in for his longtime friend, Mr. Russert, who died of a heart attack in June, and praised Mr. Gregory as both a great journalist and personal friend.

Mr. Gregory called the appointment “an incredible honor,” and promised to follow Mr. Russert’s advice to “hold leaders accountable.” He added, “It’s all about preparation” and said he would take on the job “with great purpose.”

A personal note here about Mr. Gregory: I had the pleasure of working with him in the mid-90s before his assignment to the White House and the meteoric rise to his career. He was an occasional substitute host for Chris Matthews on what was then called "Politics with Chris Matthews" on CNBC (before it became "Hardball" and moved over to MSNBC). Along with Tim Russert, I considered him a fair, hard-working journalist. He was always respectful toward members of the crew and took care to personally thank everyone at the end of each live show.

He also had an endearing, comedic propensity for tripping over camera and audio cables, as well as the assorted detritus of television studios in general, even though they were secured to the floor with gaffer tape. We always chuckled and passed it off on his oversized foot---Mr. Gregory is upwards of 6'5" and possesses at least a 14 shoe size. It's hard to navigate studio materiel with snow shoes, you know.

(sources: NY Times, AP)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Senator Kennedy (D), NY?

Will Caroline Kennedy follow in her family's historical footsteps and fully enter the political arena?

According to ABC, Ms. Kennedy---a fervent Obama supporter---is said to be considering the possibility. New York Gov. David Patterson, the man tasked with picking Hillary Clinton's successor, has not yet issued a statement on the process. Earlier, similar rumors circulated that former President Bill Clinton might be interested in the job, but his office quickly released a statement saying he was not willing to consider any offers. Caroline Kennedy's cousin, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., was also discussed as a potential successor, but formally took his name out of the running earlier this week.

It's a big job and somebody has to do it. Despite the high-profile recusals, Gov. Paterson still has a strong team of candidates from which to choose. There are a number of contenders, including several members of New York's delegation in the House of Representatives, New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion, and Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi.

The rumours don't seem to sit well with a small faction of Obama supporters who feel the change they were promised comes in the form of long time Clintonites and White House insiders, as well as savvy party satellites such as Ms. Kennedy.

In any case, whoever is chosen would have to be ready for hard core, non-stop campaigning and fundraising over the next four years. Clinton's successor will face a hotly-contested campaign in 2010 to fill out the remainder of her term, followed by a re-election bid jut two years later.

The Killing Fields South of the Border

If you've been able to stand a break from following the beautiful collapse of our economy and have been willing to turn your eyes down south for the occasional disheartening diversion from the insular American news cycle, you've no doubt noticed the alarming, increasing reported carnage left in the wake of brutal warfare between Mexico's drug cartels.

But before you get glazed over and dismiss this issue as irrelevant and unimportant (cockroaches killing cockroaches in another country), remember how this bled through the border into Vegas, in one of the better-covered stories of October.

This issue is personal to this household in that two of our close friends living in Tijuana are constantly affected by the violence that has erupted recently. So much so that even the tough-local cookies they both are, they've advised us to postpone an upcoming trip to visit them.

The explosion of violence connected with Mexico’s ruthless drug cartels has left more than 5,000 people dead so far this year, nearly twice the figure from 2007, according to unofficial tallies by Mexican newspapers. The border region of the United States and Mexico, critical to the cartels’ trafficking operation, has been the most violent turf of all, with 60 percent of all killings in the country last month occurring in the states of Chihuahua and Baja California, the government says. And it has raised fears that violence will consistently spill across the border, because dozens of victims of drug violence have been treated at an El Paso, TX hospital in the last year.

The federal government argues that the rising death toll reflects President Felipe Calderón’s aggressive stance toward the cartels, which has forced traffickers into a bitter war over the dwindling turf that remains. So far the feds have no concrete answer other than the fact that dealers are being squeezed and so this is all collateral damage.

True, most of the deaths do appear to be the result of infighting among traffickers. But plenty of innocent people are caught in the crossfire, and the spate of brutal, disfiguring killings — bodies are routinely decapitated or otherwise mutilated and left in public places with handwritten notes propped up nearby — has left people from all walks of life worried that they might be next.

The savage madness has permeated almost all aspects of Mexican daily life. From the New York Times:

Hit men (are) pursuing rivals into intensive care units and emergency rooms. Shootouts (take place) in lobbies and corridors. Doctors are kidnapped and held for ransom, or threatened with death if a wounded gunman dies under their care. With alarming speed, Mexico’s violent drug war is finding its way into the seeming sanctuary of the nation’s hospitals, shaking the health care system and leaving workers fearing for their lives while trying to save the lives of others.

“Remember that hospital scene from ‘The Godfather?’ ” asked Dr. Héctor Rico, an otolaryngologist (in a Tijuana hospital), speaking about the part in which Michael Corleone saves his hospitalized father from a hit squad. “That’s how we live.”

Doctors are particularly vulnerable. When they leave their offices, they say they face the risk of being kidnapped and held for ransom, as about two dozen Tijuana physicians have been in the last few years. Doctors also complain about receiving blunt threats from patients or their relatives. “Sálvame o te mato,” save me or I will kill you, is what one orthopedic surgeon said he was told by a patient, who evidently did not grasp (or care for) the contradiction.

Adding to the madness, hospitals and health care workers have to legally notify the authorities when a patient comes in with a gunshot or knife wound, a requirement of which traffickers are fully aware. That leads to further threats.

Hospital General de Tijuana, the city’s main public hospital, has twice been raided by police officers and soldiers in the past two years. The first time, in April 2007, gunmen stormed the building either to rescue a fellow cartel member who was being treated in the emergency room or to kill a rival, said the police, who were not certain which scenario it was. Two police officers were killed, and all but one of the gunmen got away. The second time was this past April, when soldiers in camouflage ringed Hospital General de Tijuana, shutting it down to allow doctors to treat a handful of traffickers wounded in various shootouts throughout the city. The Mexican Army was apparently trying to prevent a repeat of the 2007 shootout.

The problem everyone in Tijuana faces is that they might be indirectly associating with traffickers without even knowing it. You're headed out to the supermarket where, unbeknown to you, the son of a rival cartel bodyguard is also shopping. The opposition decides to take him down with a flurry of Uzi lead at around the same time you're picking fruit from a bin, standing next to him. This is happening more and more.

Doctors in private practice now screen their patients carefully. Traffickers usually pay well and in cash, but they are not worth the trouble they bring, doctors say. But general hospitals do not have that luxury. They have to treat everyone. They are morally obligated to do so.

(sources: NY Times, CNN, AP)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

No Confidence: No Shit!

A little news from Canada, where for once, the political news is a little more interesting than it is in the US. That'll change soon enough, but for now, indulge me and read a little about how our Prime Minister is using the financial crisis to dupe and railroad the rest of us.

Read this from Naomi Klein

I don't even particularly want to talk about this but I don't suppose it would be responsible to completely ignore. It's totally ridiculous how something so monumental has all but forced me into a news coma. For all those out there who aren't aware of what's happening in the Great White North right now, I'll say this: our dastardly leader is decidedly close to destruction. 

I'm not even going to provide a link to the news. Google any Canadian news source (CBC, Globe and Mail, The National Post) and every story is another aspect of this coalition take-over. I'm going to sidestep a lot of complicated political mumbo jumbo and say simply that I'm glad that Stephen Harper is getting torn out of office (it seems). All of the opposition parties are on board with a coalition that will take power and see soundly defeated Stephane Dion of the Liberals take power if the Governor General decides in the direction of the non-confidence motion. A new leader will take his place early next year. The Liberals are sorting that out.

It's hard to make this simple. Yes, I'm glad that Harper will likely be removed. His tactics and policies are intolerable. But, really, I'm not jumping for joy that a coalition that includes a destroyed party (Liberals had the worst showing since confederation in the last election), a soft-left down-home party (NDP with folksy, energetic Jack Layton) and a separatist party (the Bloc Quebecois who was formed for the sole purpose of removing Quebec altogether from the Canadian political landscape) will take the power and have to govern making decisions that haven't been smooth between them before now. They have to do something. As Ms. Klein indicates, the Conservatives were taking insidious advantage of the global financial crisis and their recent and dubious election win to "push through a more radical agenda". But, this is politics after all. It's apparent that the Bloc and the NDP have had this in the works for quite awhile and the Liberals were included recently as the timing looked perfect for the non-confidence motion to pass. Dirty work. 

There you have it. I'm sick of trying to sift through the smoke screens. You'll find me turning to the silent simplicity of photographs soon enough. I'll pop my head in to see who's winning some time later and let you know. 

Prop 8 Hunh! What Is It Good For?

I was hoping the artistes would come up with some kind of response.

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Slow Faulty Leak?

Extry, extry, read all about it! The Huffington Post has tapped its hush-hush source at NBC, a poor man's version of Deep Throat, and is announcing that Nice Guy cum Frankenstein's Monster David Gregory has been picked to host "Meet the Press."

Gregory will take over from interim moderator Tom Brokaw, who is now free to retire again and pursue his childhood dreams of fighting in WWII. Or writing about the men who died in it. Either way, we are happy Mr. Brokaw will have ample time now to extricate that very long pole from the inside of his posterior, and perhaps take care of those pesky, blocked nasal passages (during the Presidential debate, momentofchoice was somewhat bewildered: "Is he drunk?").

From the Huffington Post:
"In recent weeks, a short list including Gregory, Andrea Michell, Gwen Ifill, and Chuck Todd had been considered the top candidates for the position, while Katie Couric and Ted Koppel were viewed as dark horses.

Brokaw will conclude his duties as interim moderator this weekend, when he will interview President-Elect Barack Obama."

We can only hope that in his last interview on "Meet the Press," Mr. Brokaw will this time allow the Prez-elect to actually expound on his queries, and not cut off the man because his two-minute window is up.

Meanwhile, mum's the word for NBC. And when contacted by the New York Observer, Gregory's agent said he could neither confirm nor deny the report.

How Much Is Enough?

Hey! Good morning sunshine. Have you heard? The Man just announced we're in a Recession. Twelve months and counting, no less. Wake up! Up you wake. Do you see it all around you? Blink it into focus. You see? I don't. I look for it, but I can't quite grab it. Maybe The Man is lying. Not like he's got a great historical track record, this Man.

"...probably one of the top five Recessions in history..." is what I heard this morning from the brilliant mind of Joey "Da Mayor's Son" Scarborough. Really? People must not be hurting all that badly, seeing how they're willing to stomp a man to death in order to get their hands on toxic, plastic, Chinese shit discounted at Walmart. Some of my friends on the social network I recently joined boasted that they were out there at 3 a.m., wallets in hand, ready to go at it. How's that? Shop 'till you...

In the 1930s we had soup and bread lines. In 2008, in the middle of a Recession, we have iPhone and iPod lines. Wake up! I am beyond disgusted at this time of year, watching B-roll of grinning, agitated consumers pressed flat against locked Walmart/Target/Macy's/Whateverthefucktheretailername's double doors, buzzing to get in. You've seen these hordes. News outlets cover them every year in the Ha-Ha Holiday Vibe and Cheer segments with which they jam the airwaves. These shopping machines have the same feverish, glazed with adrenaline look in their eyes the Hutu militia carried while chopping down the Tutsi with machetes in '94. I'm not reaching. Look at them. They're in a savage, weird shopping trance. Up you wake!

This Black Friday cash-strapped consumers spent 7.2% more on things they didn't need than last year. $10.6 billion in just one day, according to figures released by RCT ShopperTrak, a research firm that tracks total retail sales at more than 50,000 outlets. It's hard to stand it when even my close friends drop the age-old excuse of having held out all this time...all these years until it was beyond finally buy new shit. Because for being prudent and frugal, Bhasundara the Goddess of Prosperity is rewarding them with up to 75% off that plastic garlic press made in China. And don't even get me started on the futility of "stocking stuffers."

Please excuse the Scrooge-like rant. I am usually more level-headed and methodical in my pieces for this esteemed site. I'll try to calm down and stealthily exit stage left, eeeven. But not without leaving you with one of my all-time favourite scenes from cinema history. It can applied to everything:


Sunday, November 30, 2008

"Por Ahora..."

Last year, Venezuelan voters rejected a sweeping package of constitution changes put forth by president Hugo Chávez, which would have ended presidential term limits. On the heels of that narrow defeat, Chavez proclaimed that, although the people had spoken, most of them would need to be further educated (Communist re-education campspeak comrades?), but that he would respect their choice. "Por ahora." For now.

Chávez, the paratroop commander who co-led a failed military coup in 1992 and who was democratically elected in 1998 is back again, asking supporters one more time to amend the Venezuelan constitution and allow him to seek indefinite re-election. Opponents have again raised concerns that Chávez intends to be "el Presidente" for life---as most dictators wish---however, Chávez on Sunday said he would stay in office only until 2019 if voters abolished the term limits. He said he needs more time to build a socialist economy in Venezuela.

As the leader of the Bolivarian Revolution, Chávez promotes a political doctrine of democratic socialism and Latin American integration. He has also been a fervent critic of neoliberalism, globalization, and United States foreign policy. But for all the talk of cooperation among the world's poor nations, especially those in Latin America, and his actions against the Washington Consensus by supporting alternative models of economic development, Chávez is a Castro wannabe in socialist sheep's clothing.

And despite the muscle flexing, tough talk, and anti-American rhetoric, Chávez knows full well he's engaged in an interdependent political game with the United States to buy his country's oil. What most people don't realize is that Venezuela has no other market for the greater part of its oil: heavy crude.

Heavy crude is special stuff and is not for the average refinery. The majority of Venezuela's oil can only be processed in the specialist refineries run by Hovensa (a joint venture between US refiners Hess Corp and PdVSA) located in the US Virgin islands, among other places. Meanwhile, the U.S. readily accepts the Venezuelan heavy crude because without it the heavy crude refineries would close. There is no other supplier of this special crude available, so the U.S. would lose around 11% of its total domestic oil products supply in one fell swoop.

The result is of the 2.15 million barrels per day (mbpd) Venezuela pumps presently, 1.35mbpd has to go to the U.S. Simply put, without Venezuela, U.S. refineries will close and the country will have an oil supply crisis. Meanwhile without the United States, Venezuela will have no market for the lion's share of its crude, and thus Señor Presidente would be voted out.

In the Nov. 23rd elections, the pro-Chávez United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) won 72% of the governorships and 58% of the popular vote, dumbfounding the predictions of most of the pro-capitalist pollsters, and the vast majority of the mass media who favored the opposition. The election results point to deepening polarization between the centrist right and the socialist left. The centrist social-democratic ex-Chavista governors were practically wiped from the political map.

For now, Chávez' term expires in 2013.

Por ahora.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Shame On You Jacques Rogge


The International Olympic Committee has released a review of the Beijing Games that gushes over how well China ran the games. It even says that China made great improvements in the areas of press freedom and the environment.

It completely ignores that there were major human rights violations during the Games themselves, with the government arresting anyone who tried to protest or even applied to demonstrate in one of the "protest areas" set up by officials. For the record, also ignored by the I.O.C., not one single person was given permission to demonstrate in those designated areas. Many who applied were instead sent off to reeducation camps, including two elderly women.

Even the claim of improvement in press freedom is a lie, with access to web sites blocked and many incidents of journalists being harassed by authorities.

The I.O.C. said that giving the Olympics to Beijing would improve human rights there and bring China into the mainstream.

It didn't.

But the I.O.C., taking a page from the George W. Bush playbook, just issues a report claiming that that's what happened, so no problem.

It is bad enough that the International Olympic Committee has turned the original spirit of the Olympic Games into a corporate whore full of bribery and corruption. Now they also capitulate to evil regimes like a 21st-century version of Vichy France.

I.O.C. president Jacques Rogge is an evil man, interested in his own power and prestige than the rights of his fellow human beings. While human rights violations were happening in the midst of the Beijing Games, the only thing he ever really spoke out on was to bitch about the way some kid was celebrating after races.

It's all about priorities, eh Jacques?

This was the final straw for me. I really used to like watching the Olympics, but I certainly won't ever again after this fiasco.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Bad Craziness in Mumbai

At this point in the morning I should be jamming clothes into a weekend bag in preparation for my trip up to D.C. in order to partake in the culinary family festivities which I loathe so much, but I feel compelled to bang this out as a sort of know, just in case I get bumrushed by some overzealous jarhead in his SUV on 95 North 'round Quantico, VA.

At this writing no one is really sure what the terrorists ransacking Mumbai want or whom in particular they are targeting. We know that about 100 hostages have been killed and that upwards of 300 are injured. There have been no demands yet. And most "experts" looking at the trend, seem to find no preliminary connection to Al-Qaida. Although reports of sequestering "Westerners" based on their passports have been coming in, an equal amount of questions regarding the dispute of Kashmir has been floating around the buzzing news outlets.

The half-century struggle for control of Kashmir between India and Pakistan is a complicated issue---one that for some odd reason has interested me for a while. To try to simply break it down into black and white might do no justice to history or to the Indian and Pakistani people, but since I'm paid no stipend for this, and since there's no tyrannical Managing Editor to hold my livelihood over my head, I'll attempt a quick and dirty version here.

In 1947 when the Brits high-tailed it out of India (and the region), the Hindu and Muslim states had a choice to make. Hindu provinces aligned themselves with India while Muslim territories amalgamated into Pakistan. The Kashmir region (northwest of India and northeast of Pakistan) was predominantly a Muslim inhabited land. However, it was ruled by a Hindu Maharaja who pledged allegiance to India. Three organized wars were fought over Kashmir; one in 1947, another in 1965, and the last in 1999. Currently, India has control of about half the area of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir; Pakistan controls a third of the region, the Northern Areas and Azad Kashmir. To complicate things, there's a third angle to this. There are separatists pining for an independent state. These boys aren't necessarily well-organized, but nevertheless they're working hard to see their version of the dream come true. And to throw one more little detail into the whole messy pot: both India and Pakistan have nuKular weapons.

I suppose an omniscient "to be continued" would be an appropriate close here, as details of this terrorist action are still coming in and the story is developing. Is this the prophetic action the White House and the McPalin campaign warned the incoming administration would have to face in order to be tested? What we do know is that Obama is mulling over the appointment of Bubba Clinton as some sort of official envoy to the Kashmir region. Maybe preliminary word of this has stirred the separatist faction, and what we're seeing is an extremely organized attempt to derail future talks or negotiations between India and Pakistan. Maybe.

Happy Thanksgiving to all the jive turkeys reading this site, when they should all be with their warring, bitching uncles and grandparents, stuffed with tryptophan and shaking their fists at some crooked college zebra who just made a bullshit holding call.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Holidays Are Upon Us

Truly, the news cycle is generally slow. When the number one story on Countdown is Olbermann's visit on the Martha Stewart show, there's really not much going on.

Oh sure, there's activity: We have a president-elect determined to ride the middle way, and he may just be crazy enough to do it. The Cabinet's being picked; the economy does its silly little dance; all of these big companies lining up for the government dole; and everybody is essentially bracing for the madness to begin when January 20th rolls around.

There are little gems to be found. For example, tired of hearing all of the center-right nonsense? Here are the results of a Media Matters report subtitled "Why Conservative America Is A Myth;" and the results of another study showing the spike in the phrase "Center-Right Nation" in the printed media since the election of Barack Obama.

Doldrums. These be they.

It's the holidays...Things are bound to pick up after New Year's Eve.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bailed Out Corporations Still Spending Millions on Sports

Despite billions in taxpayer handouts...uh, bailouts from the (averted gaze) Socialist government, Citibank and AIG will continue to flush down millions of dollars on big sports naming rights, logo placements, and sponsorships.

Citi, which recently axed 53,000 workers (you wouldn't know it from its gigantic "We're Hiring" sign on its building along Rt. 40 in Burlington, NC), and saw its stock price lose over half its value, is in a 20-year contract to pay the New York Mets $400 million to name the team's new stadium "Citi Field." And insurance giant AIG is paying the British soccer team Manchester United $125 million for the privilege of having its logo appear on Man U's uniforms. That, despite the fact the firm is standing largely thanks to a $150 billion lifeline from the U.S. Treasury.

From ABC News online:
"A spokesman for AIG confirmed that its sponsorship deal with Manchester United remains in place, but that the company is 'reviewing all sponsorships to identify any relationship that might be essential, to maintain the value of the business and service customers, so we can repay the [government] loan.'

Citicorp is not reviewing its deal with the Mets, chief financial officer Gary Crittenden said in an interview Monday. Crittenden told CNBC the contract was 'legal and binding' and 'not an issue.'"


This kind of business model warms the cockles of my almost lifeless, Mr. Burns-like heart. It's good to know these corporations are at least consistent in their awful decision-making processes and by now we've pretty much read the umpteenth version of the script, so we know how it's all going to end. Might as well leave the theatre now and skip out on the denouement in favour of a hefty pint at your nearest pub. Drowning your sorrows is de rigueur at HolidayTime.

And this brings to the table the issue of a bailout for the auto industry and what kind of decisions the Big 3 would make, given a hefty 25, 35, howevermany billions. As you well know, I am vehemently opposed to the rescue package, knowing full well that over 2.7 million jobs potentially stand to be lost (jobs that could be filled given the invention and inception of new technology for fuel-less, non-electric cars). But just last week I spoke with a colleague---a Michigan transplant and a former GM employee---whose father and grandfather are retired from a lifetime of work for the auto giants, and whose various uncles and cousins are still lucky enough to have jobs within the industry. She and her family are unequivocally against this rescue package, fully realizing that auto industry CEOs will mis-spend the loan and "regular blue collar people" (her words) will lose their jobs eventually, as GM, Ford, and the rest of them will move their operations overseas (see GM's new SUV plant just opened in St. Petersburg, Russia).

Just common sense from a family who would be impacted directly by the failure of the industry and who recognizes the bailout as merely a band-aid to a fatal, hemorrhaging wound.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Interview With Weekend America's John Moe, p.1 of 3

[Contributor's Note: It was a harried day and circumstances kept me from being at my best...On top of work demanding that I, you know, worked, the digital recording device I acquired for this purpose was not working as promised. The appointed time for the phone call East was nigh approaching, and I decided to proceed while taking harried notes on the computer; a process that had previously served me well in my daily job. I mention this only because what follows is not a complete representation of the conversation that ensued. Mr. Moe is an extremely amusing man, there were several moments where I was too busy laughing in order to transcribe everything properly (for example, one word: Tinklenberg). All of this simply as a preamble to a disclaimer: If it seems like Mr. Moe is a little stiff, nor as uniquely humorous as you'd expect him to be, the fault lies with the interviewer, and not the interviewee. -- TBO]

For those who wonder about such things, John Moe answers the phone as amiably as you’d expect. It was one full week after the election, and the week leading into November 8th's edition of Weekend America ended up being hectic: Moe had self-produced a segment that focused on stories meant to engender an understanding of Barack Obama the man and his charisma; he also worked on a separate piece asking Alaskan Public Radio's Lori Townsend “what the hell’s going on up there?” [At the time it seemed the Alaskans had voted to send convicted Senator Ted Stevens back to Washington DC, only to have them send him back.]

SEI: So, what the hell is going on up there?

John Moe: Well [according to Townsend], what's happening there is simply that Stevens has been good to his constituents, as well as directing business toward the Native Corporations [Alaska does not have Native American Reservations, instead they use corporations - TBO], and they’re saying “he’s taken care of us, so we’re going to take care of him. And we don’t care what a bunch of guys in suits in DC have to say about him.”

So now, if Stevens goes--they’re still counting votes, the absentees, the undervotes, and the other random uncounted votes that are still trickling in. If Stevens goes, he’s going to get kicked out of the Republican caucus, but that’s depending on the result of his appeal; if that’s denied, he’s going to jail...which is strange to think about, but there it is.

SEI: What’s going on with the Al Franken race?

JM: Right now, after the miscalculated count is accounted for, Franken’s down about 206 votes, with a few ballots from Minneapolis/St. Paul yet to be counted. Those are likely to lean toward Franken, so, we’ll see.

SEI: So, there’s going to be a recount.

JM: Yeah, the recount is going to happen. Judges are making the decisions on how it’s going to happen, and there will be a recount starting in about a week.

SEI: Speaking of “what’s going on up there?” Michelle Bachmann, how’d she win her race?

JM: What you’re seeing there is the power of incumbency, beyond that I’m not sure, I’m not familiar with that constituency. From what I hear, she lives in a very conservative district.

She ran a radio ad in the St. Paul area, where she said that she doesn’t always use the right words, that she was misquoted and taken out of context by the liberal media, which is very hard for her to do with a straight face. She was on MSNBC, with Chris Matthews, plainly and repeatedly stating that Obama was anti-American.

But I think the people there were thinking that their world wasn’t on fire, it was looking like Obama was going to win the White House, and they were okay with that, as long as they send her to DC to keep the Democrats in check.

She did run some negative ads on Tinklenberg (he wasn’t exactly a saint, he did have some strikes against him). He wasn’t like the Lone Ranger or anything.

However, he does have what I think to be the best name ever in the realm of politics: Elwyn Tinklenberg.

It's like his parents were thinking, “well, he already has a funny surname...He’s not gonna run for office with a name like that, so, what the hell? Let’s call him Elwyn.”


His nickname...He goes by El. Which is sort of Spanish sounding, El Tinklenberg. [Radio serial announcer’s voice:] “Don’t worry, miss, here comes El Tinklenberg.”

[More laughter.]

Still, nickname-wise, El is the best he could do; otherwise, he’d have to go with Winnie...or “E”. No, El was the best he could hope for.

Next: Small Town Conservatives & What Barack Obama's About

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Big Three Bailout Update: Strike One

In a move so obvious one wonders why it wasn't done during the first bailout wave, Congress decided against giving the Detroit auto manufacturers the bailout they've been seeking. The reason why is simple: The Big Three didn't show up with a plan as to what they would've done with the money.

Debates over whether the government should give them this money aside (see comments field), let's look at this objectively.

We are taught that corporations should be treated as individuals, as an entity with its own set of rights and privileges. Using that criteria, these goobers went to the bank asking for a $10k loan to pay off its gambling debts without collateral or a feasible plan that they would somehow pay it back.

I suppose we should be grateful that Congress learned some kind of lesson after the banking industry did just that the first time through.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Apres L'Honeymoon, Le Deluge, Oui.

Only two weeks to the day Barack Obama was elected, and it's already happened: Left wing bloggers have gone to Defcon 2.

Getting here was remarkably and understandably easy. First, as Team Obama started getting assembled with familiar names, stories came wafting out of Chicago that raised more than a few eyebrows. Next, the leaking that Obama was considering making Hillary Clinton Secretary of State created an atmosphere equivalent to the blogger version of a PUMA mentality. Then, today, the much anticipated private ballot vote on what to do with Joe Lieberman; which led to results that at best could be called pragmatic, but feel grossly disappointing.

(If the world of politics were the nuclear holocaust, surely Lieberman is the cockroach in that environment.)

Howard Dean capping that adventure by saying he wasn't bothered by the outcome, as it was what Obama had wanted...Well, it was entirely the wrong thing to say.

I am reminded of the episode of Frontline, that aired about a month ago, called The Choice. In the segment dedicated to Obama's stint as the president of the Harvard Law Review, they interview other Review members, liberals and conservatives, first about their surprise, then about the jubilation the liberals felt at finally having a chance to have their views be the prevalent bias of the Review. Only to have those expectations dashed when Obama wouldn't bend to their every whim.

This is the only thing that tempers my reaction to the events described above.

Obama said he wanted to see a government that engaged the populace. Well, he's succeeded with me; I am now paying attention to every damn thing that's coming out of that camp.

All while keeping a close eye on the lame duck as well. It seems he and his minions are going around trying to leave their mark in subtle and insidious ways.

If that's not enough to cause some alarm, here's an example of the kind of thing his administration is capable of when they think no one is watching.

Or there's always Katrina, Gitmo, Plame, etc. etc. ad nauseum.
Bailing Out Detroit

Since the public eye has swung back toward the financial crisis the only thing I hear on the radio are interviews with executives from domestic automakers or the unions. On top of attempting to get government assistance, in both Canada and the U.S., they appear to be trying to make their case to the buying public. We are supposed to soften up and encourage our governments to hand over enormous amounts of "short term" cash to car manufacturers because they are the backbone of our collective economies. 

For now, this is a generally true statement. But who, other than a strict conservative, wants that to continue being the case? The US has already carved out 700 billion to distribute amongst the most guilty parties responsible for this crisis. Now, other than the direct link to the oil industry, the second-most culpable group wants money to stay alive? They don't appear to be even cracking a smile when they ask. The 25 billion dollar figure that keeps floating around, by most estimates, won't even cover GM's troubles over the next two years. Forget about Chrysler and Ford. And what would they do with this infusion of cash that would help them become viable in this new world order? I don't think they have it in them to change this much. They're dinosaurs and have already been out of touch for more than twenty years. May I remind anybody  "Who Killed the Electric Car?"

I've been thinking about it quite a bit, because it's unavoidable, and I am personally turning a cold shoulder to all big 3 automakers. We are trying so hard in North America to keep using the broken system because so many are plugged into it and don't know anything else. But, it's time for everyone to reclaim that pioneering spirit that we all grew up learning about in our history books and decide what the new backbone of our economies is going to be. New clean and renewable energy research and infrastructure construction alone would likely replace the jobs lost by the automakers going under. And that's only one new wave of industry (that is being blocked at every turn by the desperate bureaucrats still grasping onto their old world power).

If the governments support this buyout, who is next in line? I'm sure whoever they are, they will make a strong case about their past glories and importance to the overall economy. It's all just too absurd. Whatever happened to competition - fair and square?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Revenge is a dish best served?

I read this article last week in Salon about Obama's plans to investigate torture under Bush with great interest. The torture issue has been a particular sticking point for me, as it flies in the face of what I believe the US can be, dare I say "should" (I have issues with that word) be.

(Another part of this was my frustration and dismay with the rhetoric, which I felt spent too little time on the fact that torture doesn't work. Intelligence gained through torture is always viewed as suspect at best, as it is so reasonable to believe a torturee would say anything to get the torture to stop. That's why we don't torture confessions out of criminals - the Inquisition never became the foundational basis for an effective system of justice for a reason.)

But, it has remained kicking around my head because it begs the question of how much Obama's administration will, and how much we want them to, investigate and potentially prosecute wrongdoing by the outgoing administration. (And, yes, I know the linked article specifically addresses this fact, saying that prosecution isn't the stated goal of the torture commission. But, as an investigation with no possibility of prosecution would be a pointless exercise, would contain the implicit assumption that there is nothing to find heinous enough to warrant prosecution, we can safely consider legal action as a possibility.)

Do we want any measure of revenge for the last eight years of negligent incompetence and possible willful deceit? Would you have pardoned Nixon?

Because, I have to tell you, I want some measure of accountability. In particular, and this is something I wanted more forcefully addressed in the campaign despite the political peril, I want a real accounting of the war in Iraq. I want every supporter or the war and very especially the architects of the war to publicly justify every military death and injury, every taxpayer dollar, every civilian casualty. I want the new administration to force a public dialogue, to put to rest the narratives that the Hawks sling around about our decision to invade.

This isn't a simple question, because it goes beyond any personal ax we might have to grind. To demand accountability for the past eight years puts our focus, the Obama administration's focus, on the past, and we have problems to solve that demand foresight and concentrated effort. Will too much focus on redressing of grievances undermine efforts for change?

Or, will fears that it would undermine those efforts provide a convenient cover for some truly incompetent and downright evil to escape accountability?

Butchering Syntax? Ya Betcha!

"She's Gone Oh I, Oh I'd
better learn how to face it
She's Gone Oh I, Oh I'd
pay the devil to replace her
She's Gone - what went wrong?"

Nothing! Because she's not gone. She keeps popping up like HSV Type 2. She's The Neverending Story. She's excruciating. She's the rock forever rolling down the side of the mountain and I'm Sisyphus. Only I'm pissed. And I ain't finding the peace and inner understanding in the absurdity of it all, Albert baby.


I finally break down and get cable on election night and now, flipping through countless channels full of home shopping networks and Chuck Norris ab contraptions, I feel like I'm part of a sick game of Alaskan roulette. There she is not making sense with Matt. Here she comes running-on her sentences with Larry. Here we have her clad in her (Neiman Marcus?) trademark business suit and rimless glasses, inserting moose hot dogs into cheesy buns, hangin' with Greta. By the way, awful face job Ms. van Susteren. Any more lift and you'd have ended up with a goatee...two, three, four. I'll let that one sink in. I'll be here all week. Tip your servers well.

Exhibit one: "My concern has been the atrocities there in Darfur and the relevance to me with that issue as we spoke about Africa and some of the countries there that were kind of the people succumbing to the dictators and the corruption of some collapsed governments on the continent, the relevance was Alaska’s investment in Darfur with some of our permanent fund dollars."

Pardon my admittedly middle-of-the-road command of the Queen's English but: WTF? The above-listed paragraph ought to elicit a more emphatic what-what-whaaaaat than Mike Barnicle's double take a few days ago on "Morning Joe."

Exhibit two: "Sitting here in these chairs that I’m going to be proposing but in working with these governors who again on the front lines are forced to and its our privileged obligation to find solutions to the challenges facing our own states every day being held accountable, not being just one of many just casting votes or voting present every once in awhile, we don’t get away with that."

Again, excuse my lack of cooth and tact but is it possible our Wild Wordswoman of Wasilla is some sort of retarded person? Not that there's anything wrong with that. I just don't want someone like that in charge of the most influential and powerful country (for now) in the world. Not now, not in 2012, not ever. The language skeelz (or lack thereof) speak for themselves. If the GOP is to re-tool itself into what it once was (see Lincoln), it needs to somehow ameliorate the ambition of this weird woman, and keep her up in Alaska, hunting elk out of helicopters. By the way, hunting animals with high-powered weapons can only be called sport if both sides are equally armed, no? But I digress.

To Matt Lauer, Larry King, Greta van Susteren and the rest of these self-important talking head bozos I bequeath what Dick Cavett once said to an elusive guest: "Were you able to hear any part of my question?"

In closing, I leave you with this gem of an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer:

BLITZER: Let’s talk about some of the current issues on the agenda right now. And I speak to you as someone who is a emerging as a potential leader, not only in the Republican Party, but maybe if you want to run again for president or vice president down the road.

Right now a big issue, should the U.S. government, the federal government bail out the Detroit — the big three automakers?

PALIN: Oh, that is the discussion of the day. And there is going to come a point here where absolutely the federal government must play an appropriate role in shoring up some of these industries that are hurting and will ultimately hurt our entire economy and the world’s economy if there aren’t some better decisions being made.

But we also have to start shifting some debate here in our country and start talking about personal responsibility and responsibility of management in some of these corporations and companies so that from henceforth it’s not assumed that the federal government is going to be bailing out everybody who is going to soon line up, Wolf, for more taxpayer assistance.

And I’m talking about personal responsibility too in terms of homeowners and in terms of folks who maybe have extended their own credit. Sure, predatory lenders are to blame in all of this also, but we have got to make sure, for instance, we’re not talked into buying a $300,000 house, because really we know we can only afford a $100,000 house.

And we’ve got to start living those lessons that we try to teach our children in terms of not living beyond our means and extending our own personal credit to the point of not being able to pay our monthly bills and then expecting government to grow and be the answer.

BLITZER: So, sorry, I’m still waiting for the answer, should the government bail out the big three automakers?


Monday, November 17, 2008

Et Tu, Purple One?

I am not wholly surprised by it, but it still hurts me a little to read that Prince, the freakiest freak that ever freaked, the man responsible for my losing my virginity and much of my sex life in the late 80s to early 90s, has become the kind of prude his early critics would be proud of. Much worse, he's coming out and spouting the sort of homophobic rhetoric that Jehova's Witnessess, the religion he recently converted to, are known for (via Gawker).

When asked about his perspective on social issues—gay marriage, abortion—Prince tapped his Bible and said, “God came to earth and saw people sticking it wherever and doing it with whatever, and he just cleared it all out. He was, like, ‘Enough.’ ”

Simply cutting and pasting that into this entry makes me want to sigh heavily, and there's a part of me that wishes that I could give some leeway to the man responsible for writing such ridiculous-libidinous-over-the-top lyrics as those found in Pussy Control. There's a part of me that understands the only reason he went looking for religion is the pain he went through after losing his son to a rare disease about 11 years ago. There's a part of me that believes that when he talks about "people sticking it wherever and doing it with whatever" he is likely referring to himself, and that he sees the death of his son as "God's punishment."

But none of that can wash. Intolerance is intolerance, and Prince has now officially lost me. To think, I even made it past Emancipation.

On a related topic, the next planned major protest against Prop 8 and similar measures is on Wednesday, December 10th (coinciding with International Human Rights Day), in what is being called A Day Without A Gay. Please do what you can to support our LGBT brothers and sisters.

Media Watch: Business as Usual

Lest we all think media outlets are severely biased and at each other's throats, last week Fox and NBC put our concerns to rest with their announced plans to pool video news gathering á la the Associated Press or Reuters.

Executives from NBC and Fox say the move is intended to save money in the economically-strained business of local news in which costs for a microwave truck and crew sent out to cover stories, can run a station into the red quickly and efficiently. And so, rather than each station sending out the required people and materiel to cover a story, the combined operation assigns just one of each, saving a reporter, a crew, and perhaps even a chopper for each gig. The journalistic Montagues and Capulets say this is a pilot project, hoping to roll it out nationwide.

In truth, NBC and Fox have been passionately romancing one another for more than a year in the carnal bed of business called Hulu, to which they give new episodes of their shows, sell advertising, then innocently tell the actors, writers, and directors of those shows that there's virtually no revenue flow from online ventures. This new alliance involves the very news divisions whose commentators are putting on the unrestrained, brutal show of mutual hatred. Hello Bill O'Reilly and Keith Olbermann!

On CNN Sunday, James "The Ragin' Cajun" Carville reminded us that in terms of what's said publicly, "you have to discount the campaign by 80 percent. That happens in politics." Having been privy to off-air, backstage conversations in the past, my guess is that he's going low with that number. The salacious all-out brawls that are platinum for Fox News and MSNBC ratings are equally insubstantial and ethereal when it comes to the business of making money.

That, dear friends, does not cut down partisan lines.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Transit Wins At The Polls (Mostly)


Still very upset about all the anti-gay ballot measures that passed on election day. But all the anti-choice measures on ballots around the country got defeated, so progressives won on that front.

And on the transportation measures, the citizens of this country have shown that they want quality public transportation, despite all the claims that this is a "center-right" country.

A little roundup of some of the good news on the transit front in America:

Prop 1 in the Seattle metro area passed. Voters in the three-county region agreed to raise their sales tax by half a cent to fund a roughly fifteen-year transit plan that will greatly expand the light rail network that will (FINALLY) open its first line next year, which will include extending it across Lake Washington. Something sorely needed about 30 years ago. Shorter-term benefits of the plan will see added capacity to the commuter rail lines (by a huge two-thirds to Tacoma) and express-bus service, among other improvements.

This one is a little personal to me. I was living in Seattle in the mid-90s when we passed the first big transit plan that created the new agency of Sound Transit to build light rail, commuter rail and create regional express-bus service. Unfortunately, Sound Transit may very well be the model of the absolute worst way to run a transit agency. They have not been able to do anything on time (light rail was supposed to open over two years ago originally) or on budget.

But kudos to the voters there for wanting more. Granted, a lot of this plan has stuff in it that was voted down in the 1995 before the more stripped-down plan as finally passed the following year (hence the one light rail line). But gas was only like a buck back then. Amazing what a difference three dollars can make.

I loved so many things about living in Seattle back then. What I didn't like was blowing through half-a-pack of smokes waiting for the fucking bus.

Rail transit may finally be coming to Hawaii! Voters in Honolulu voted to tell the city to move forward with a $4.28 billion commuter rail project. It was a non-binding vote, and the opposition is fierce (they want another fucking highway), but the voters made their desire known.

New Mexico citizens voted in a one-eighth-cent gross-receipts tax (not really sure what that means) for the operation of the new Rail Runner commuter line, which will expand to Santa Fe next month, and to expand bus service in the northern part of the state.

In San Francisco, measure B has still not been decided. This would expand BART, the region's high-speed commuter network, another 16 miles to Santa Clara, among other improvements, through a one-eighth-cent sales tax increase. The measure needs a silly 66.67% of the vote to pass and it now sits at 66.61% with about 17,000 provisional ballots, which have been running heavy on the yes side, still to be counted. Cross your fingers.

Los Angeles, the land of the automobile, voted themselves a sales tax increase to help fund their transit system, including a planned line to Santa Monica.

Sacramento voted themselves a streetcar that local leaders are saying can be up and running in three years because they are not looking to get any federal funds for it.

The only real losses that seemed to happen (pending the BART expansion outcome) were in Missouri. Kansas City voted down a three-eighths-cent sales tax increase to build a starter light rail line and St. Louis rejected a half-cent increase to help shore-up their local transit agency, despite the fact that it could mean their light rail system will now stop at 8:00pm and the end of extra service for Rams and Cardinals games. I guess they want to be the "show me how to sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic state."

And one of the biggest of them all, California passed a bond measure for a high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco. It still has a long way to go before it becomes reality, but it is an encouraging result. This gives the state the authority to raise actual funds to start planning this thing. Supporters hope for a train that can travel 220 m.p.h. and make the trip between L.A. and San Fran in 2-1/2 hours. Not only could this ease traffic congestion along the I-5 corridor, but it could put an end to flights between these two cities.

One of the goals of high-speed rail is to make flights of less than 500 or 600 miles obsolete, which would really help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

I am certainly one of those that believes that most of these measures are too little and very, very late (especially Seattle). But it's not too late, it's never too late.

I had the opportunity to go to Taiwan recently for work. A country that has been behind for years when it came to public transit. About twenty years ago they decided enough was enough. The very first subway line in Taipei opened just twelve years ago and they are now up to over 50 miles and 67 stations with major expansions under construction. In just over a decade.

In early 2007 they opened a high-speed rail line between Taipei and Kaohsiung, which turned a 4-1/2 hour trip into a less than two-hour one. There were also massive improvements in other rail lines, making them much faster if not completely "high-speed." And Kaohsiung opened their own 25-mile starter subway this summer.

That's the kind of things that can be accomplished in a short amount of time. We just need leaders who want to do it.

We've now proven we have voters who want it and are willing to pay for it.

Interview With Weekend America's John Moe - p.3

SEI: Do you have another book in the works?

JM: Right now I’m talking with a publisher about another book, but that’s not in place...I’ll just say that something is in the pipelines, but nothing is ready to be announced yet. If I get it, I hope to write a funnier and easier book than the first one.

SEI: Yeah?

JM: I did a ton of research for Conservatize Me. Next time, more jokes. Less research. That’s the plan.

SEI: As a recent transplant to the Twin Cities from Seattle, how does the fact that Seattle has had the worst sports year in history impact you?

JM: Being a Seattle sports fan is like getting the lime flavored candy. Nobody wants the lime flavored candy. I’m working on a story right now for Weekend America, about my becoming a free agent NBA fan. I’m putting my loyalty on the market, and see what teams have to offer. So far, I got some feelers from the Timberwolves, the Grizzlies, a couple of other teams.

SEI: They’re starting to talk about bringing another NBA team here.

JM: Jesus, if Seattle gets another team, they will be doing the same thing that was done to them to other NBA fans. That'll suck for those people, just like it did for Seattle.

Then when Oklahoma City Thunder fails, and it will, they will move to Las Vegas, and that will suck for those fans.

And the Mariners, dear God...

SEI: Over $100 million on contracts, over 100 losses.

JM: Then the bottom falls out on the Seahawks this year, Holmgren’s last as their head coach.

I’d say it’s been weird moving out of Seattle, and then having their teams suck so bad. As a sports fan, I feel like the prime example of sports impotency.

I know there’s someone out there right now going “what about the Storm [WNBA's Seattle franchise]? They’re good! They've won a championship!”

SEI: Actually, the Seattle Sounders have been creating a lot of buzz these days.

JM: Oh, right, the Seattle Sounders FC.

SEI: Yeah, the ownership has been doing a good job growing the fan base.

JM: Huh.

SEI: Is there a movie you’d recommend for the current circumstances?

JM: Something to get your mind off of our tempestuous times? Yeah, I just saw this the other day, Stepbrothers.

SEI: Stepbrothers?

JM: Looking at it, you'd think it wouldn't be good. It looks like another Will-Ferrell-acting-dumb movie, but it works really well. It's about the joy of seeing two good comic improvisers, Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, who have great chemistry with each other. It's a very very funny movie.

You get the sense that not much thought was put into putting its elements together, but still, Stepbrothers deserves a shot.

Give it a Netflix.

READ: Conservatize Me: How I Tried To Become A Righty With The Help Of Richard Nixon, Sean Hannity, Toby Keith & Beef Jerky, by John Moe; Harper Collins

LISTEN: American Public Radio’s Weekend America

Interview With Weekend America's John Moe - p.2

SEI: You spent a few days in Rexburg, Idaho for your book, Conservatize Me. [Rexburg is the seat of Madison County in Idaho, which in 2004 voted for Bush at a rate of 92%, the highest in the nation. In 2005, Moe spent the July 4th holiday there, to see if something in the atmosphere could make him more conservative. In 2008, Madison County tied for first in Idaho, with 85% of the vote going for McCain.- TBO] Have you kept track of what’s been happening there?

JM: I kept in touch with the mayor for a while there, we traded emails. I don’t think the book was read all that much in Rexburg, so he’s not in any major kind of trouble.

[Two days after the interview, Moe sends an email with this link to a recent Rexburg news item, regarding an incident on a school bus where kids were chanting "Assassinate Obama." He notes: “I’m equal parts ‘Rexburg Is Crazy’ and ‘Kids Are Idiots’ on this one.” - TBO]

SEI: Obama ended up running on lower taxes, and keeping/creating jobs at home, two concepts known to appeal to conservatives in general. Do you think, should Obama be effective as president, they could grow to, if not like, then respect Obama?

JM: That depends on how things progress...I don’t know.

I think it’s interesting that the Republicans ended up nominating McCain, who was most Democrats' favorite Republican. He’s funny, he’s self-effacing. He was the first Republican to say that Guantanamo needed to be closed down. He was the first Republican to admit that global warming was real. Instead, they oversimplify his brand as a “maverick,” by repeating that word over and over.

That brand started falling apart when he softened his stance on torture. After being tortured himself, after fighting against and denouncing the use of torture, to then have him say that some torture is all right; at that point, he stopped being a maverick and became just another politician seeking approval.

Obama ran as a social-liberal, but economically conservative. Once the Republicans abandoned fiscal prudence, the ball was the Democrats’ for the taking.

Obama ran on essential tax cuts for the populace, and gained the middle of the ground on a conservative philosophy. For example, he also said he was opposed to dumb wars, which, as rhetoric, is at the heart of conservative philosophy...

How all of that stacks up to the obstacles coming his way is up in the air. There’s still plenty of room for Fox News or the Limbaughs of the world to have an effect.

What he has going for him is that he is a skilled communicator. Between him and McCain, Obama was the more reasoned, he promises to bring less of a gut level approach to governance. And we saw that, we saw Obama weather the storms that were the primary and election processes, and we saw him keep to his message all the way through the campaign.

So, yeah, who knows?

The main thing you need to know in order to understand Obama is that he lists The Wire as his favorite show, which is pretty telling. He plays basketball really well, he makes Jay-Z references during his speeches, and his favorite show is The Wire.

Obama had this bit on Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me ...This young reporter had called in to the show and told them that Obama had ruined a romantic possibility for him; he was trying to impress this woman, and Obama, not knowing what was going on, made a joke and the reporter never saw her again. Obama ended up calling the reporter and apologized by saying "I didn't mean to mess up your game."

Not just the fact that he would call, we now have a president who can say “I didn’t mean to mess up your game” and actually mean it. I guess change has come to America.

[This story can be found here, approximately 11m50s in. - TBO]

Next: Book Deals, A Movie Recommendation and Sports Impotency

Grasping At Straws

Glenn Greenwald is finding all sorts of silver lining in the cloudy murk that is the Bush legacy.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

We come a long way, baby.
And we've got a long way to go.

I was already done with the Bradley Effect, convinced as I was that the Bradley election after which it was named was victim to as much poor polling as it was racism. Then, yesterday, I catch wind of a hypothesized Huxtable Effect, in which Bill Cosby's TV family of respectable black folks gets credit for Obama's win by "presenting an appealing black family."

My response to all of this was to wonder whether Obama would have won were he the same in every way except his skin color. Did we elect him because he's black? And had he lost, would that have also been because he was black? Really? His policies had nothing to do with it? His cool, focused campaign had nothing to do with it?

I was angry. Angry that evidence was stacking up that we would never see past his color, that he would be not our president, but our black president. And I asked aloud if we weren't past this, if this talk was really necessary in today's world.

Then Lindsay Lohan opened her mouth. And I had to respond, "Oh. Right."

Followed by a deep, depressed sigh.

Journalism 101: Sources of Misinformation

From Billy Wilder's Ace in the Hole to the final season of HBO's The Wire (with the chillingly prophetic Network in between), there has been a large number of narratives spelling out the numerous dangers that can occur when members of the free press lose sight of the discipline their vocation requires and start playing havoc with the rules. Think about this, the journalists' role as laymen who speak truth to power and the populace is so vaunted that they have become an archetype that could be used in cautionary tales.

Given that, how did we come to this?

For the click-averse, the link leads you to Richard Pérez-Peña's NYT article about the, admittedly brilliant, hoaxters Eitan Gorlin and Dan Mirvish, who have created a conservative mouthpiece (serving several roles in the movement, from simple Giuliani supporter, to McCain advisor) out of whole cloth. With this simple, yet elaborate, ruse, they managed to snooker a surprising number of political publications and legitimate news sources; this list includes MSNBC, The New Republic, the LA Times, and Mother Jones.

What's alarming about all of this is that the tenet being ignored here is one of the most basic in the world of journalism: Verify Your Sources. Here's a question: If this essential step is being played fast and loose with, what else is going by the way side?

Obviously, there are many factors at play here. The institutional desire not to miss out on a hot story, and the 24 hour news cycle's dependence on said hot story in order to remain relevant play a large part in the problem. So does the Atwater/Rove/Cheney/Schmidt school of manipulating the media; and it's doubtful that we would be this far gone without the existence of Rush Limbaugh, G. Gordon Liddy, Ollie North and FOXNews.

However, the real problem here is that it's been around for so long that we have become somewhat inured to it. This problem first reared its head when Rush and Newt's army caused a stir with Vince Foster's suicide and other Whitewater insinuations; they took a situation that looked somewhat hinky and turned it into Something Very Shady. The media bought in not long thereafter by colluding with the right wing and creating the hugely overblown Lewinski scandal (no pun intended), where an intern's stain on a dress almost got a president impeached. The French still chortle about this one.

From there it was a mere hop, skip and a jump to having Rove and Cheney feed items like "flip-flopper," "invented the internet," "president you could have a beer with," "Hussein supports Al Quaida," "yellow cake," "mission accomplished," Valerie Plame, "Swiftboat Vets," et. al. directly onto the front page.

You'd think with this track record, in addition to the enormous embarrassments that were Jayson Blair, Stephen Glass and Jeff Gannon (along with the recent bit of Bush White House chicanery, the placing of Pentagon mouthpieces in positions to spout right wing propaganda directly to news organizations), that responsible journalists in the media would've learned their lesson. Alas, as Salon's Glenn Greenwald often points out, there are no repercussions for these failings.

What used to be grounds for dismissal is now dismissed with a shrug and a handy platitude for an excuse; either "we should've done our job better" or "we only report this because it's what people want to know," depending on the situation. Then it's only a matter of coasting along until the next kerfuffle pops up.

Seems like all of that fun had at Sarah Palin's expense for not verifying they were speaking to Sarkozy was a bit premature, eh, guys?

Then again, if offenders were forced to adhere to a month of Limbaugh's diet, we wouldn't have to worry about the problem for too long. (See what I did there?)

Update - For the record, Gorlin and Mirvish did not fabricate the "Sara Palin did not know Africa was a continent" story. Apparently, that is still all too real. - TBO

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

From The Grave: Lee Atwater

I watched Tuesday night, fueled by a couple of thimblefuls of Courvoisier, the delineation of Lee Atwater’s Machiavellian short life on PBS’ “Frontline.” The film was helmed by Emmy-nominated director Stephan Forbes, known for his documentary “One More Dead Fish,” about renegade anglers in Nova Scotia struggling to survive globalization.

I was quite familiar with Mr. Atwater’s controversial, sometimes racially-charged political tactics that helped elect H.W. Bush and inspired protégés like Karl Rove and Robert Edgeworth. Atwater’s fierce methods transformed politics into ultra blood sport, and his blueprint was perfectly, albeit unsuccessfully, carried on by the McCain/Palin campaign just recently. What I didn’t realize, after having been exposed to twenty-plus years of unfair and dirty Republican vitriol toward progressive adversaries, was the absolute, almost perfect Dickensian tragic flow to Mr. Atwater’s life. In fact, before last night I wasn’t even sure he had died. Shame on me, I know.

Disgusted by Atwater’s tactics, I truly believe I relegated him to the cellars of my political and social consciousness, refusing to follow any subject related to him or his life. But something odd happened to me. During the ninety minutes that outlined his meteoric rise and deplorable demise, I went from visibly flashing the middle finger to the screen, several times calling him a despicable parasite and a first-class dick, to a deliberate pause and reflection on the always personal tragedy that is one’s life. There is no doubt he was a complicated man---as most successful political operatives are---and I realized that banishing him to a one-dimensional monster would only confirm a personal blind allegiance and heavy bias.

In his last days, pumped and swollen to an unrecognizable cyclopean appearance by steroids and chemicals used to treat a malignant brain tumor, Lee Atwater renounced his aggressive, mud-slinging tactics, and sought repentance. Some (like me, initially) will say this request for providence may have come too late. In fact, mercy from above via men and women of cloth is almost always sought on deathbeds, but more reflection upon an individual life is needed in order to pass final judgment. Personally, the single most eye-opening realization came when Ed Rollins, former Reagan campaign director and long time Republican political advisor, described how a dying Mr. Atwater asked for a copy of the Bible---to the surprise of all who knew him. But how, in the hours following his death, gathering up his personal belongings and items, they found the holy book untouched, still wrapped in sealed plastic. In the end, Lee Atwater was true to his religious beliefs (or lack thereof).

I felt the same strange, forgiving sensibility watching the execution of Saddam Hussein, as well as the demise of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu before the firing squad in December of 1989. Without argument these three were despicable human beings who ruthlessly murdered hundreds of thousands---if not millions, yet I somehow felt melancholic and sullen watching their final moments of life taken by perhaps equally-flawed judge penitents. I suppose a fundamental sadness and sorrow for humanity’s fierceness either way will always be present within me. I suppose in a strange way I should rejoice at that---it proves I still have a heart. And hope for an advanced civilization.

"Lee Atwater made himself a figure of demonology to psych out his opponents and anesthetize people to his tactics. And the sad part -- some people would say the justified part -- was that the role that he made for himself literally ended up imprisoning him."
--Howard Fineman, Senior Editor, Newsweek.