Sunday, April 30, 2006

To NOLA and back

I thought back in September that I would never get the chance to ever see New Orleans. Thankfully, I was wrong. Le Sweetie suggested a fun-filled four-day weekend at NOLA's Jazz and Heritage Festival, and I jummped at the chance.

Just one thing... "Where will we be staying?" I asked Le Sweetie.

"In a hotel," he replied.

Nice. "A hotel where?"

"In the French Quarter, which wasn't damaged so badly," was his reply.

Driving to and from the festival grounds, I saw lots of beautiful old houses reduced to hollowed-out husks, the words TFW scrawled in red paint on the front. I saw other houses completely destroyed, and the occasional FOR SALE or FOR RENT sign (good luck guys). I saw debris scattered on the lawns and piled up on the curb. The bus driver commented--somewhat snarkily--that the presence of all the debris stacked up in front meant that FEMA was actually doing a good job of clearing away the rubble.

Speaking of FEMA, everywhere you looked you could see T-shirts for sale that read "FEMA: Federal Employees Missing Again." Also, "Katrina: That Bitch" and "I Stayed in New Orleans for Katrina and All I Got Was This Lousy T-shirt, a New Cadillac, and a Plasma TV." There were "Meet the Fockers" t-shirts with Michael Brown, Ray Nagin, Kathleen Blanco, and Aaron Broussard. Broussard, Blanco, and Nagin were portrayed as a "wrecking crew" on yet another shirt. (Blanco and Nagin I can see, but what's wrong with Broussard, anyway? What did he do that was so bad?)

Meanwhile, in tribute to Johnny Depp and Tim Burton, T-shirt makers wheeled out "Willie Nagin and the Chocolate City," amidst a backdrop of "Landrieu for Mayor" and "Re-elect Ray Nagin" posters. Yes, it's election time in NOLA, even though only 50 percent of the city has moved back. The Landrieu in question is Mitch Landrieu, brother of Senator Mary Landrieu. Mary is a deeply unimpressive politician who found herself at a loss for words last year when being questioned by Anderson Cooper. She's the quintessential milquestoast "can't-we-all-just-get-along-so-you-won't-hit-me" Democrat that the party definitely needs less of. Will her brother roll over for Dubya in case another disaster hits NOLA? Maybe that wacky Willie--erm, Ray--Nagin would be a better choice if such is the case.

But enough about that. Jazzfest was way fun for this first-time Jazzfester. Warm but not overwhelmingly so. There were lots of craft and souvenir stands, plenty of good food, and, of course, kick-ass music. Etta James and the Panorama Jazz Band were highlights. Etta can still sing, people. However, these days she sits down for some songs, 'cause she's pushing toward 70. Meanwhile, sixtysomething Bob Dylan played keyboards--not guitar--for his set because he's got arthritis in his shoulder. Dylan, unlike Etta, cannot sing anymore. He managed a decent semblance of singing in the 1960s and 1970s, but his voice is shot to pieces by now. The Panorama Jazz Band was pretty awesome, and so were the Mardi Gras Indian tribes with their brightly colored costumes and feather headdresses.

After being in New Orleans, I've suddenly developed an interest in Dixieland jazz, of all things. That, along with Irma Thomas and NOLA funk. I'm going to be listening to my new Papa Grow Funk live CD, and will possibly check out the Nevilles and Meters.

One neat part of Jazzfest: the book tent, where I recognized some NOLA-based mystery books that I'd worked on! I mentioned this to the cashier and he told me that one of the authors had just been in the tent about 10 minutes ago, but had left! And I didn't get to meet her! Darn.

Speaking of the Panorama Jazz Band, they have a Web site! Yay! I'm trying to find out if the Hard Headhunters, that cool band of Mardi Gras Indians, has a Web site, but no luck thus far.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

And you thought David Lee Roth vs. Sammy Hagar was ugly...

Rival dwarf KISS tribute bands duke it out.

The LA Times recommends Bush do something that he will, in all likelihood, not do

The LA times kicks things off with a headline that could guarantee nightmares for its readers: "Bush's third term." Relax kids. Nobody's repealed any congressional amendments.

Anyway, the paper suggests the same thing that several men in uniform did--namely, that Rumsfeld be fired. But then they take things a step further:
Suppose Bush didn't stop there. Suppose he also asked Cheney, his mentor and friend but an even more polarizing figure than Rumsfeld, to step down.

We know the objections. The vice president is not a mere presidential appointee but an elected constitutional officer. In choosing a replacement, Bush might be pressured to predetermine the outcome of the 2008 Republican presidential race by anointing one would-be successor over another. Throwing Cheney overboard would be an implicit repudiation of the excessively hawkish foreign policy with which the vice president, even more than Rumsfeld, has been associated.

Which is why Bush isn't going to do it. The paper makes the wacky suggestion that Bush pick a replacement who doesn't have designs on the 2008 nomination, like Bob Dole. The same Bob Dole who's been doing Viagra commercials? Guys, try again. I'd recommend Liddy Dole. She's been doing a miserable job as RSCC head honchette, but maybe she'd be a good figurehead vice president until 2008, clapping behind Bush at State of the Union Speeches and throwing baseballs. Rumor has it that she wants to retire in 2008 anyway.

Of course, it's all wishful thinking. As Sean Wilentz points out in his evisceration--uh, I mean, analysis--of Bush's administration, Cheney is simply too powerful to simply be tossed by the wayside: "Were Cheney to announce he is stepping down due to health problems, normally a polite pretext for a political removal, one can be reasonably certain it would be because Cheney actually did have grave health problems."

In addition to being the real power in the White House, Cheney knows where all the bodies are buried. Ditto Rummy. This is probably the real reason they haven't been sent packing. Bush is now stuck with them.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Reagan conservatives are NOT fond of Bush (and why would they be?)

Take, for example, former CIA analyst Larry Johnson. Johnson knew Valerie Plame back in the CIA. Last July, Johnson found himself wishing aloud that Senator Howard Baker was still in office and that at least some Republican "would stand up and call the ugly dog the ugly dog that it is." Johnson is a registered Republican and comes across as an old-school conservative, one who believes in restraint and keeping the government out of people's faces. So what's he got to say about Bush's meeting with Hu Jintao?
I'm not a hardened Cold Warrior who believes we should not deal with China. But, I am an old fashioned conservative who believes that the United States was supposed to offer an alternative model of government to the authoritarian nations, like China and the old Soviet Union.

***

Where are we today? A protester is forcibly removed from the White House grounds. The White House, a symbol of the American people, became a backdrop for the new authoritarianism of the Bush era. Rather than show the Chinese leader the beauty of tolerating dissent, Bush presided over the arrest of a woman who dared speak out against her country's leader. Bush furthered the insult to American democracy by apologizing to China's leader for the outburst.


Oh, I dunno, Larry. I'm sure Bush is hatching some plan to "liberate" the Chinese right now. He's all about making the world safe for democracy, right? Can't have Hu tossing all those nice Falun Gong folks in jail, can we?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

So THAT'S how you get more blog traffic!

Via (parenthetical remarks), we find that a cannibalistic killer's been getting mucho hits for his blog, Strange Things Are Afoot at the Circle K. Out of morbid curiosity, I took a look at the blog and found it to be a collection of weird news stories and headlines he found on the Web. Nothing gory or violent there...until the guy was arrested. Now, his comments section has exploded, as visitors hope he fries in an electric chair or otherwise dies a horrible death. So I don't think our psychopathic murder has much potential for a second career as a professional blogger. For one thing, who'd want to advertise on his site?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

For a shining moment, Rolling Stone stops sucking

The Worst President in History? is the cover story, by historian Sean Wilentz. Despite the title, this is not not not not NOT some vitriolic volley of anti-Bush rhetoric, but rather a thoughtfully written, well-rounded examination of the Bush presidency and where it went wrong. Wilentz points out that this country's greatest presidents--Washington, FDR, Lincoln--led the country through the most tumultuous moments in its history while unifying its people. He compares this to Bush's fellow candidates for "worst president": James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, and Herbert Hoover. And he offers the best summation of Bush's failings in this passage:
Calamitous presidents, faced with enormous difficulties -- Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Hoover and now Bush -- have divided the nation, governed erratically and left the nation worse off. In each case, different factors contributed to the failure: disastrous domestic policies, foreign-policy blunders and military setbacks, executive misconduct, crises of credibility and public trust. Bush, however, is one of the rarities in presidential history: He has not only stumbled badly in every one of these key areas, he has also displayed a weakness common among the greatest presidential failures -- an unswerving adherence to a simplistic ideology that abjures deviation from dogma as heresy, thus preventing any pragmatic adjustment to changing realities. Repeatedly, Bush has undone himself, a failing revealed in each major area of presidential performance.

If Rolling Stone does more stories like this, I may forgive them for trying to pretend that Britney, the Backstreet Boys and N'Sync were significant artists.

Happy happy clam families!

Perez Hilton presents the first ever portrait of TomKat and baby, with some fellow Scientologists. Including Rob Thomas. Wait--what's Rob Thomas doing here, anyway?

I'm waiting for, say, Courtney Love or Britney Spears to discover Scientology. C'mon, you know it's coming. Of course, I also suspect that one of these days Madonna, in her never-ending spiritual quest, will convert to Islam and change her name to Madonna Ali. Whaddya mean, I've got too much time on my hands?

Natasha Lyonne heads for rehab

I remember seeing a photograph a few months back of Natasha Lyonne looking like a sad, prematurely aging bag lady. Aaaaaaaack! She was so great in Slums of Beverly Hills and American Pie! She can really, really act! And she's not a famewhore like Lindsay Lohan! Well, it turns out she's a heroin addict. Shit. Not again. Plus, she made her ex-roommate's life a living hell and she's got emotional and/or mental problems. Meanwhile, her dad says there's nothing wrong with her at all. (These young actresses/pop stars always have fucked up, wimpy, or delusional dads. Surprise surprise.)

Anyway, I just read the other day that she checked herself into rehab in Malibu. Which could be a hopeful sign. I mean, I love celebrity snark as much as anyone else, but this chick has waaaaaay too much talent to let herself go to ruin. Here's hoping she can get herself clean.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

"It's Bill Clinton's fault": Generals vs. Rummy edition

Tell me, who didn't see this one coming?

Priceless quote:
Any day I'm expecting to hear that Hurricane Katrina happened because Clinton seeded the clouds.

Mighty Middle has his own take, using a picture of several loose screws to illustrate his point.

Blasphemy!

From the Defeatists' Crusader Axe comes word of a John Lennon seance. Which apparently does not feature Yoko and Sean. Who knows if it was even authorized by Yoko? But that's not the really sacreligious part. No, the really offensive moment is when our dear Crusader proclaims: "They [the Beatles] didn't really do all that great music." Say what (says the person whose parents played the Beatles' red and blue albums nonstop when she was a tyke)?

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Tom Delay is chicken! CHICKEN!

Featuring this priceless quote:
Good Lord, are we Texans ever fortunate that Tom DeLay wasn't at the Alamo. If he had been, when Col. William B. Travis drew that line in the sand, Tom would have said, "Are you crazy? I'm moving to Northern Virginia."

(Via Juanita's.)

It's Superficial Gossip Saturday!

Starring Kevin "The Human Punchline" Federline! From the Daily News:
We in the gossip biz have been blamed for a lot of things recently, but even we have to draw the line somewhere. In the May issue of Spin, Kevin Federline lays the responsibility for his upcoming musical efforts at the feet of the press. "I don't have a choice. It's not like I can go and do construction, start building houses in Malibu," explains Mr. Britney Spears. "They are forcing me to do this, and I am glad they are. I am more than happy to do it."

Yes, you can blame the media for "Popozao"! K-Fed sez so!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Why does (insert name of prominent conservative here) hate America?

Newt Gingrich's recent call for the US to skedaddle from Iraq has been met with chortles and shaking heads. Wow. NEWT. GINGRICH. SAYS. WE. SHOULD. LEAVE. IRAQ. The Mighty Middle asks how Little Green Freeper Limpballs are going to take this short of having their brains go pop.

Once they could just call all the war critics traitors, secure in the belief that they were only denigrating liberals Now on the traitors list: General Zinni, General Newbold, Colin Powell, Francis Fukuyama, Chuck Hagel, Newt Gingrich . . . and, of course, about 60% of the American people.

Of course, war critics on the right have always been there; one of those most notable was Brent Scowcroft, former national security advisor to President Ford and Daddy Bush...and one of Daddy Bush's bestest buds. And on the conservative libertarian side, you have the folks at Antiwar.com. The Little Green Freeperballs just didn't want to acknowledge this unpleasant fact.

Glenn Greenwald isn't ready to forgive Newt or accept him as a valid critic of Bushco, pointing to Newt's appearance on (gack) Hannity & Colmes, where he suggested that bin Laden and al Qaeda "take a great deal of comfort when they see people attacking United States policies." Lovely. God forbid Gingrich suggest that Bush actually concentrate on finding bin Laden, since he seems to have an idea of what bin Laden thinks and how he spends his free time.

So what's with this about-face? Greenwald suggests self-interest--the warmongers are at least bright enough to realize that the administration is sinking, but, as he writes, "they cannot be allowed to distance themselves now from the Administration to which they tied themselves."

Jane Hamsher isn't ready to forgive, either.
Newt didn’t just support the war. In addition to sitting on the Defense Policy Board and being one of its more enthusiastic cheerleaders, he created a climate where it became impossible to question the war, the rationals given for it or any of the disastrous decisions made by George W. Bush by branding people who did so as anti-American turncoats.

The war cheerleaders should never be allowed to live this down. Ever. It should follow them for the rest of their public lives, no matter how much it makes them squirm to be reminded of it. The best they can do at this point is to apologize--right now--to all the war critics they denounced as a "fifth column." They were wrong. Dead wrong. And the war critics were right. Absolutely right. This goes not only for Code Pink and Michael Moore but also for Brent Scowcroft and other Republican war critics. Everyone who ever denounced a critic of the Iraq war as a traitor, a Tokyo Rose, or a fifth columnist needs to come out and apologize for these needless, baseless insults against their fellow Americans. Don't just eat crow. Don't just wipe the egg off your face. Admit you were mistaken.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Yet another reason why you won't see a President Cheney

A president is supposed to be the guy you want to cheer as he throws the first pitch of the season. Cheney, on the other hand...

Monday, April 10, 2006

Impeachment = President Cheney? Not so fast

One lesson Bush learned from his daddy: Pick a vice presidential candidate who'll offer "assasination insurance," so to speak. During Bush 41's administration, many, many Americans joked that Dan Quayle was there to ensure that nobody tried to do a John Hinckley Jr. Similarly, the thought of Cheney stepping into the Oval Office following the possible impeachment of Bush 43 gives people the willies. It could be a lot worse...right?

Except that at least one editorialist has noted that when Bush goes, Cheney goes with him. Part of the problem of the veep having such unprecedented political power is that he has to share the blame for the unprecedented number of scandals. If/when Bush steps down, Cheney would probably resign for "health reasons," leaving us with President Dennis Hastert to bumble his way through the next two years or so. As the editorial points out, Hastert is in hot water himself because of his connections to--who else?--Jack Abramoff.

It all hinges on who's running the House at the end of 2006. In this hypothetical impeachment scenario, if the GOP is still in charge and Hastert's in the clinker, his successor as speaker becomes the new president. If the Democrats are in charge, we get President Nancy Pelosi. Not the greatest scenario, but hardly the worst. Right now, Democrats should come down on this administration like a ton of bricks, support Feingold's censure, and focus on taking back the House and/or Senate. Just letting the GOP dig its own grave isn't enough.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The obligatory online personality test results that somehow find their way to everyone's blog at one time or another

Your Theme Song is Back in Black by AC/DC

"Back in black, I hit the sack,
I've been too long, I'm glad to be back"

Things sometimes get really crazy for you, and sometimes you have to get away from all the chaos.
But each time you stage your comeback, it's even better than the last!

Sunday!

It's Sunday. Alas, I slept through the morning, which means I missed the Sunday blabfests. This means I missed watching the bloviators on the right face questions about Leakgate. Ah well.

I have a column coming up in a local paper this week, and I've submitted another piece to another paper. And things are still going well with Le Sweetie. Can't complain there. On the other hand, Sy Hersh reports that Bush is planning to nuke Iran. Oh crap. This isn't good. At all.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

'Splanin' the 36 percent

The other day I asked who these people were among the 36 percent who still approved of Bush. Here's a clue, offered by a Kansas native who's run into plenty of 36 percenters lately.

Raising the next generation of abortion-clinic bombers

This dude explains how it's done.

Via Democratic Underground.

Friday, April 07, 2006

When you have a slow news day, do a story about a cat terrorizing an Avon lady

More here. This is one badass cat.

Thirty-six percent.

That's Bush's new approval rating. And who are these people who still approve?

How much more can Scott McClellan take?

Today's press conference has Scotty boy repeating himself.

Q: "What can you tell us about this leak case?"
A: "This is an ongoing legal proceeding."

Q: "Did the president authorize it?"
A: "As I said before, it's an ongoing legal proceeding. It was mentioned in a filing by Patrick Fitzgerald."

Q: "The president has been very critical of leaks himself, though."
A: "As I mentioned before, it was mentioned in a filing by Patrick Fitzgerald. I can't comment on it. It's related to an ongoing legal proceeding."

Q: "When was this information considered to be declassified anyway?"
A: "Again, it's an ongoing legal proceeding, in a filing by Patrick Fitzgerald, and I can't comment on it."

Q: "Can you give us the date it was classified?"
A: "I can't. It's related to an ongoing legal proceeding. I can't comment on it."

Q: "Is the president really okay with having declassified information leaked to reporters?"
A: "This is all part of an ongoing legal proceeding, so I can't answer that question."

Q: "Hey, where's the men's bathroom in this place anyway?"
A: "I can't answer that."
Q: "Why not?"
A: "It's part of an ongoing legal proceeding? Oh, wait! Never mind. The bathroom is down the hall to your right."

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Wow. What a fucking surprise.

Scooter says Bush gave the go-ahead to leak information about Iraq.

Now what's that about keeping this nation secure?

Oh, this is just super ducky

Tom Delay wasn't content with just resigning from Congress. He wasn't satisfied with blaming the Democrats for making his re-election "a referendum on me." He wasn't going to go quietly in the night, lest he get his ass whooped by Nick Lampson.

No.

He had to have his supporters (yes, believe it or not, he has supporters) crash Lampson's press conference and physically assault Lampson supporters. Including a 69-year-old woman.

Who are these mouthbreathers who still think Delay is the bee's knees? And how do they justify a man could be spending his days in an orange prison uniform soon? Good question. From that same linky-winky:

Albert calmly asked her, "Why would you do that? He doesn't stand with you. He cut and ran from you." Good point, Albert. She didn't have an answer.